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China: President Xi Jinping to continue Socialist path

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Highlights:  1. Chinese President Xi Jinping described a two-stage plan for China’s “socialist modernisation” by 2050, which would see it become more “prosperous and beautiful” through environmental and economic reforms;

2. He warned against separatism – in an apparent reference to movements in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong – and reiterated the government’s principle that Taiwan is part of China; 3. Xi made it clear that  China would not close its doors to the world and promised to lower barriers for foreign investors.

President Xi’s address at Chinese party congress

With thrust on a new era of Chinese power under President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party congress as China’s biggest political event, has begun in Beijing on October 18 under tight security. Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed more than 2,000 delegates in the capital for more than three hours, dwelling on the problems and prospects in China. . In his speech, Xi listed China’s recent achievements, saying that “socialism with Chinese characteristics in this new era” meant China had become a great power in the world, and the country would not copy foreign political systems. He briefly described a two-stage plan for China’s “socialist modernisation”, to be achieved by 2050. Xi also said China would further advance market economy and would not close its doors to the world, maybe an attack on Trump’s strict immigrations policy. .

Speaking in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, at the start of the week-long 19th party congress, Xi told delegates that thanks to decades of “tireless struggle” China stood “tall and firm in the east”. Now, Xi said, it was time for his nation to transform itself into “a mighty force” that could lead the world on political, economic, military and environmental issues. “This is a new historic juncture in China’s development,” China’s 64-year-old leader declared in his bold 3hr 23 minute address outlining the party’s priorities for the next five years. “The Chinese nation … has stood up, grown rich, and become strong – and it now embraces the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation … It will be an era that sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind.”

The country’s rapid progress under “socialism with Chinese characteristics” shows there is “a new choice for other countries”, he told the Communist Party congress,  the country  has played “an important role in the history of humankind”.. More than 2,200 delegates have poured into Beijing for the week-long gathering, bringing with them an effervescence of political tributes.

The closed-door summit, which takes place once every five years, determines who rules China and the country’s direction for the next term. The congress also decides on a roadmap for China for the next five years. Shortly after the congress ends, the party is expected to unveil the new members of China’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, who will steer the country.

The Communist party of China is a great party; it has the fight and mettle to win.” “The Chinese nation is a great nation; it has been through hardships and adversity but remains indomitable. The Chinese people are a great people; they are industrious and brave and they never pause in pursuit of progress,” he said. Xi said that the Chinese model of growth and socialism under Communist rule was “flourishing”, and had given “a new choice” to other developing countries.”It is time for us to take centre stage in the world and to make a greater contribution to humankind,” he added.

In the surprisingly long speech – titled “Secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” – Xi struck an upbeat tone that contrasted with the grey skies and drizzle outside. He introduced measures to increase party discipline, and touched on his wide-reaching corruption crackdown that has punished more than a million officials, report BBC correspondents in Beijing.

Xi warned that corruption remained the greatest threat to the party’s survival despite a five-year war on graft that he claimed had been “built into a crushing tide”. “We must remain as firm as a rock … and secure sweeping victory,” he said, warning that “pleasure-seeking, inaction and sloth” were no longer acceptable. “We must … rid ourselves of any virus that erodes the party’s health.”

Xi warned that achieving what he has hailed the “China Dream” would be “no walk in the park”: “It will take more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there. But our mission is a call for action, let us gets behind the strong leadership of the party and engage in a tenacious struggle.”

Jinping Xi also warned against separatism – in an apparent reference to movements in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong – and reiterated the government’s principle that Taiwan is part of China.

Commentators say Chinese President Xi Jinping has heralded the dawn of a new era of Chinese politics and power at the start of a historic Communist party congress celebrating the end of his first term in office on October 18.

Beijing is decked out in welcome banners and festive displays for the congress. However, the capital is also on high alert. Long lines were seen earlier this week at railway stations due to additional checks at transport hubs. The congress has also affected businesses, with some restaurants, gyms, nightclubs and karaoke bars reportedly shutting down due to tightened security rules. An austerity drive, instituted by Xi, has meant a more pared down congress, with Chinese reports this week of delegates’ hotels cutting back on frills such as decorations, free fruit in rooms and lavish meals.

Meanwhile, state media have said the Party is expected to rewrite its constitution to include Xi’s “work report” or political thoughts, which would elevate him to the status of previous Party giants Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Some see Xi as accruing more power than any leader since Mao, and the congress will be watched closely for clues on how much control now rests in the hands of just one man

Corruption – enemy of Socialism

 China’s president, Xi Jinping, called corruption the greatest threat to the Communist party’s survival in his opening speech to the week-long congress meeting on Wednesday. However, the problem is largely a product of the one-party political system he leads. Three decades of breakneck development has produced vast wealth in China – and much of this is controlled directly or indirectly by the party. That means there are eye-watering money-making opportunities for cadres looking to supplement their modest salaries by cashing in on their positions and their contacts. 

At the same time, the party’s stranglehold on the media means that independent reporting that might expose high-level corruption is all but non-existent, unless authorised by the party itself. Impunity, therefore, has traditionally been almost guaranteed. Xi now hopes to change that with his war on graft.   “Great changes have occurred in China and we are so proud of it,” said Xue Rong, a delegate who had travelled to the capital from Henan province. “Xi Jinping is a great man. He is down-to-earth, too. He carries the people in his heart.”

Zhao Yongqing, the propaganda chief of the north-western region of Ningxia, said he had been inspired by Xi’s opening pitch to the congress. “I feel a big responsibility. As a delegate, I must study and understand Xi’s speech thoroughly, and publicize and implement it well when I return home.”

The event, which Xi will use to pack the Communist party’s upper ranks with allies, marks the official end of what is expected to be the first of his two five-year terms in power. For some though it has come to represent the advent of a new political era that could extend well beyond the originally anticipated end of Xi’s second term, in 2022.

The congress heralded the start of China’s third great political epoch since Mao Zedong’s communists seized power in 1949. The first epoch was Mao himself, a revolutionary standard-bearer who helped the country find its feet; then came Deng Xiaoping, the reformer who masterminded China’s economic opening and helped it grow rich. “Now it’s Xi Jinping’s turn to usher in … the Xi Jinping era,” said Chen.

China’s economy has continued to grow rapidly. The correspondents say the country has also become more authoritarian, with increasing censorship and arrests of lawyers and activists. Economy compared Xi’s bold political vision to a pyramid: “Xi Jinping sits on top of the Communist party, the Communist party sits on top of China, and China sits on top of the world.”

 Xi Jinping

Chinese president Xi Jinping is to be given his own political theory as the Communist Party of China has created “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”. The theory is likely to be incorporated into the constitution of the ruling Communist Party, which would strengthen Xi Jinping’s position at the top. He would be the first leader to lend his name to a political theory since Deng Xiaoping, who retired in 1989. The only other leader to do so was Mao Zedong.

Xi Jinping became president of China in 2012 – ushering in an era of increased assertiveness and authoritarianism. He has been front and centre of China’s push to cement its position as a global superpower, while also launching crackdowns on corruption and freedom of speech. A consummate political chess player who has cultivated an enigmatic strongman image, the leader of the ruling Chinese Communist Party is widely expected to stay at the helm until at least 2022.

Born in Beijing in 1953, Xi Jinping is the son of revolutionary veteran Xi Zhongxun, one of the Communist Party’s founding fathers and a vice-premier. Because of his illustrious roots, Xi is seen as a “princeling” – a child of elite senior officials who has risen up the ranks. But his family’s fortunes took a drastic turn when his father was purged in 1962 prior to the Cultural Revolution and imprisoned. At the age of 15, the younger Xi was sent to the countryside for “re-education” and hard labor in the remote and poor village of Liangjiahe for seven years – an experience that would later figure largely in his official story.

Far from turning against the Communist Party, Xi embraced it. He tried to join it several times, but was rebuffed because of who his father was. Once he was finally accepted in 1974, he worked hard to rise to the top – first as a local party secretary in Hebei province, before moving on to more senior roles in other places including party chief of Shanghai, China’s second city and financial hub. His increasing profile in the party propelled him to its top decision making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, and in 2012 he was picked as president. The Tsinghua University chemical engineering graduate is married to the glamorous singer Peng Liyuan, and the two have been heavily featured in state media as China’s First Couple. It’s a contrast from previous presidential couples, where the first lady has traditionally kept a lower profile. They have one daughter, Xi Mingze, but not much is known about her apart from the fact that she studied at Harvard University.

Xi has vigorously pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” with his China Dream vision. Under him, China has enacted economic reform to combat slowing growth, such as cutting down bloated state-owned industries and reducing pollution, as well as its One Belt One Road trade project. The country has become more assertive on the global stage, from its continued dominance in the South China Sea despite international protestations, to its exercise of soft power by pumping billions of dollars into Asian and African investments. This has been accompanied by a resurgence in patriotic nationalism whipped up by state media, with a particular focus on Mr Xi as China’s strongman leader, leading some to accuse him of developing a personality cult like that of former leader Mao Zedong.

Xi, who has sought to portray himself as a strong and stable international statesman since last year’s election of Donald Trump, also painted China as a responsible global power that was committed to tackling shared dangers such as climate change.  “No country alone can address the many challenges facing mankind. No country can afford to retreat into self-isolation,” he said.

Since becoming president, Jinping Xi has tightened control within the Party and also in Chinese society, with increasing censorship and arrests of lawyers and activists. Under Xi, China’s modernisation and reform has also accelerated, as has its assertiveness on the world stage. He continues to enjoy widespread support among ordinary citizens in China.

Xi Jinping is a much more assertive leader than his predecessors. In a long and confident speech, he looked back on his first five years in office, saying the party had achieved miracles and China’s international standing had grown. But the most striking thing in his mission statement was ideological confidence. Recently Party media have talked of crisis and chaos in western democracies compared to strength and unity in China. Xi Jinping said he would not copy foreign political systems and that the communist party must oppose anything that would undermine its leadership of China. Xi also mentioned his wide-reaching corruption crackdown within the Party that has punished more than a million officials, report BBC correspondents in Beijing.

Xi became the Communist party’s general secretary – and thus China’s leader – at the last party congress in 2012, and has since emerged as one of China’s most dominant rulers since Mao Zedong. Xi has been consolidating power and is expected to remain as party chief. Since Xi took power in 2012,

Xi Jinping is a much more assertive leader than his recent predecessors. In a long and confident speech, he looked back on his first five years in office, saying the party had achieved miracles and China’s international standing had grown. But the most striking thing in his mission statement was ideological confidence. Recently Party media have talked of crisis and chaos in western democracies compared to strength and unity in China.

At home, Xi has waged a ruthless war on corruption which has punished more than a million “tigers and flies”- a reference to both high and low-ranking party officials. Some observers believe that the campaign is aimed at rooting out opponents, and is part of a series of political manoeuvres by Xi aimed at consolidating his power. Meanwhile China has seen increasing clampdowns on freedoms, from rising online censorship to arrests of dissidents and human rights lawyers, leading some to describe Xi as “the most authoritarian leader since Chairman Mao”. Despite this, Xi is still thought to enjoy reasonably widespread support among ordinary Chinese citizens – and is expected to keep shaping the country for the next few years.

The party will reveal the new members of its pinnacle body, the Politburo Standing Committee. Xi is widely expected to remain as party leader, while prominent Xi ally and anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan has stepped down and will not be in the next formation of the committee. Those in the Standing Committee will be especially scrutinized. Analysts say its make-up may give signs of how long Xi plans to stay on at the top of the party – he is expected to remain at the helm until at least 2022 – or any possible successors.

Foreign relations

Xi Jinping said he would not copy foreign political systems and that the Communist Party must oppose anything that would undermine its leadership of China. Fighting USA or capitalism or imperialism is not on the agenda of China and therefore it does not claim any leadership of communist international.

China is eager to expand its ties across the globe and use its money power to  influence Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Xi was similarly uncompromising on China’s overall political model, offering no hint that democratic reform was on the horizon or that the party was considering loosening its grip on power. “No one political system should be regarded as the only choice and we should not just mechanically copy the political systems of other countries,” said Xi, who has overseen one of the most severe political chills in recent Chinese history. “The political system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is a great creation.”

Xi insisted China did “not pose a threat to any other country” but his speech chimed with the increasingly assertive – some say domineering – foreign policy that has emerged on his watch. He cited Beijing’s highly controversial island-building campaign as one of the key accomplishments of his first term. “Construction on islands and reefs in the South China Sea has seen steady progress.”

Without directly mentioning Trump, he noted how China had “taken a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change”. He added: “Only by observing the laws of nature can mankind avoid costly blunders in its exploitation. Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us. This is a reality we have to face.”

Xi took a harder line on Hong Kong, which witnessed an unprecedented 79-day pro-democracy occupation and the birth of a nascent independence movement during his first term.  He vowed that Beijing would not allow the “one country, two systems” model, under which the former British colony has operated with relative autonomy from the mainland since handover, to be “bent or distorted”. Nor would independence activists be tolerated. “We will never allow anyone, any organisation, or any political party, at any time or in any form, to separate any part of Chinese territory from China.”

Beijing did not seek global hegemony but “no one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests”.

IMF warns on China’s credit boom

President Xi Jinping government’s early pledge to enhance market forces – giving them a “decisive role” has remained just that, a pledge. Thousands of factories have been closed but that’s as much about their polluting effect than their productive inefficiency. There have been consolidations in various sectors of the myriad state-owned enterprises. The (almost all state-owned) banks have come in with debt for equity deals – something close to a bail out – for the most troubled companies. But there hasn’t been a wave of bankruptcies. Preserving social stability is likely to be the main reason for this. A wave of concentrated unemployment could see protests that could threaten order.

Debt and risk are the two things that some think will combine to produce an economic catastrophe in China but the growth is still there to be able to pay off debt. When the debt gets so large it crowds out growth because of the cost of that debt – that becomes a problem. And China’s debt is huge; it is currently about 260% of annual economic output and is predicted to rise. What makes it particularly worrisome is that the bulk of this is held by state-owned corporate entities.

Risky practice has been growing too, particularly around the so called “shadow banking” sector. So much so that Beijing cracked down on the insurance market in particular, and went after some of China’s best known private firms who were deemed too risky in the way they raised money.

Firms who owned or had stakes in New York’s Waldorf Astoria, Deutsche Bank, Club Med and Wolves FC were all targeted. It’s steadied the boat, but that appears all. Other far more significant reforms have not yet happened; financial market reforms, substantial rural land reform, changes to the internal passport-like hukou welfare system.

One thing that is happening though is a deepening of the role of “the party” at the top of China’s state firms. There were reports this summer that foreign owned firms or joint ventures have been asked to give the Communist Party equal say over their major corporate decisions.

In a new report, the IMF says there is an increasing risk of a “disruptive adjustment” and/or a marked slowdown in economic growth”. The agency calls for decisive action to deflate the credit boom smoothly. Without the boom, the report suggests, China’s recent economic expansion would have been significantly slower. Since the global financial crisis, China’s economic growth has slowed, from an average of 10% a year in the previous three decades to a rate of 6.7% last year. The Chinese government expected a slowdown, since the earlier double-digit rate was not sustainable over the long term.

China has been trying to manage a transition to slower growth with a different pattern, one that is less dependent on industry and exports and has a greater role for consumer spending at home and service industries.But the IMF’s report says the slowdown would have been more pronounced, were it not for a boom in credit. It suggests that over the years 2012-16, a more sustainable pattern of debt and credit would have led to economic growth that was slower by two percentage points.

The IMF sets out some disturbing evidence from previous credit booms with similarities to China’s. It says that out of 43, only five were not followed by either a financial crisis or a major slowdown in economic growth. The report does set out a number of features of China’s situation that it says reduce the risks. One example is the surplus in China’s current account, which is its international trade plus some financial transactions. That makes it less dependent on borrowing from abroad and so less susceptible to a sudden loss of confidence on the part of foreign lenders – something that happened in many emerging-market financial crises. But for each of these relatively favourable factors, the report sets out reasons why the protection they provide may be limited.

The biggest single group of debtors are state-owned enterprises (SOEs), although there have also been large increases in the debts owed by the government, other businesses and households. SOEs are a long standing issue in China. Many are what are called zombie companies that are not financially viable and are often in industries where there is excess capacity. They account for the most pressing corporate debt issues, the report says.

There is also a warning about the housing market. A sudden “correction”, or in other words, a fall in prices, could pose a risk to financial stability. The report says that decisive action is needed.

The most general recommendation the IMF makes is that China should put less emphasis on targets for economic growth (this year it’s 7.5%), as it says these “have fostered an undesirable focus on short-term, low-quality stimulus measures”. Many of the other problems reflect that feature of China’s economic strategy. The report says the government has had the tendency of boosting infrastructure spending, real estate activity and credit during economic downturns to meet growth targets.There is also a menu of other more specific initiatives the IMF suggests, including a renewed effort to deal with the zombie companies, many of which are likely to go out of business. It says the government should consider restricting the use of unsecured loans to pay for down-payments by home buyers.

Millions of workers the Chinese government plans to lay off from failing state owned companies will be “abandoned”. China’s mountain of national debt is real worry, the possibility of bankruptcies and – ultimately – what it might mean for the thousands his multinational firm employs in China. They support reforms to overhaul China’s mammoth economy; but their stories, from three very different parts of China, reveal the consequences and anxieties associated with the changes.

The complex is home to the world’s biggest manufacturer of electric cars. BYD is a global leader in a technology that China hopes it can dominate; electric vehicles, and specifically the batteries that power them. The big push towards electric isn’t just about industrial strategy; it’s about trying to tackle China’s immense pollution problems – the most obvious of which is dirty air.

With incentives for infrastructure and aggressive quota demands for, mostly foreign, manufacturers, this is part and parcel of Beijing’s effort to make China’s economy less focused on government investment and cheap exports – and instead to one that is technologically advanced, with a sustainable base and driven by consumer spending.

Observation

Corruption is a serious crime in socialism. The mighty Soviet Union collapsed and eventually disintegrated, entire socialist system in East Europe got  wound up because of rampant corruption in Russia eating away the very system of equality. Last Soviet president Michael Gorbachev made sincere efforts to fight corruption by Perestroika and Glasnost but he failed. Corruption had reached very high level as the CPSU tolerated corruption as a necessary evil to be allowed initially but it got strong and became an institution by itself.

President Xi would be remembered as the leader who made China a strong and powerful nation: Being strong first of all means being a global power: being a world leader and therefore leading the world. It also means that the Communist party must be strong and corruption free even while maintaining one-party rule.

President Xi knows corruption in China is deep rooted and has initiated steps to contain it. Whether Xi would be successful in making China corruption free – remains to be seen. As China tries to tackle chronic over-capacity in its traditional industries it’s also moving away from dirty coal to heat homes and power its economy. Many mines are being mothballed.

President Xi is seen as a transformative figure that saw himself in the same tradition as Mao and Deng. There’s no lack of confidence in Xi Jinping. In order to reclaim China’s historic greatness, its centrality in the world China needs a strong leader – and he is the person for the job.”

Xi Jinping faces a multitude of challenges in his country’s economy as he embarks on his second term at the top. Strengthening the party’s hold on the means of production is one of Beijing’s responses.

Meanwhile, China’s ruling Communist Party has voted to enshrine Xi Jinping’s name and ideology in its constitution, elevating him to the level of founder Mao Zedong. The unanimous vote to incorporate “Xi Jinping Thought” happened at the end of the Communist Party congress, China’s most important political meeting.

Xi has steadily increased his grip on power since becoming leader in 2012. This move means that any challenge to Xi will now be seen as a threat to Communist Party rule. More than 2,000 delegates gathered in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People for the final approval process to enshrine “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” into the Communist Party constitution of China. At the end of the process, delegates were asked if they had any objections, to which they responded with loud cries of “none”, reported journalists at the scene.

The expression “new era” is the party’s way of saying this is the third chapter of modern China. If the first was Chairman Mao uniting a country devastated by civil war, and the second was getting rich under Deng Xiaoping, this new era is about even more unity and wealth at the same time as making China disciplined at home and strong abroad. Enshrining all of this under Xi Jinping’s name in the party constitution means rivals cannot now challenge China’s strongman without threatening Communist Party rule.

US led capitalist world has pinned hopes on China to finally close socialism-communism as being utopia but the news form  the CPC Congress is not encouraging to them as China under President Xi Jinping would consolidate the gains of socialism and push further to achieve maximum for the people and nation. Unlike Soviet Russia that hurried up to end socialist ideology due to rampant corruption that had crept into  the national body, China perused, albeit slowly, the process of socialist  construction in a sustained manner. 

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China’s soft power and its Lunar New Year’s Culture

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Authors: Liu Hui & Humprey A. Russell*

As a common practice, China has celebrated its annual Lunar new year since 1984 when the leaders of the day decided to open mysterious country in a more confident and transparent way. So far, the lunar new year gala has become a part of Chinese cultural life and beyond. The question then arises why China or its people have been so thrilled to exhibit themselves to the world, as its economy has already impressed the world by its rapid pace and tremendous capacity.

As it is well-known, in international relations, peoples from different cultural and ethnical backgrounds need to enhance their understanding which eventually leads to mutual respect and tolerance as the key to the world peace and stability. China is well-aware of this norm. As a rising power with 1.3 billion people, it is necessary for China to introduce its culture and notion of the peaceful rise to the audiences globally. Joseph Nye, Jr., the founder of the concept of the soft power, has argued: “The currency of soft power is culture, political values, and foreign policies. During the information age, credibility is the scarcest resource.”In light of this, China has been steadily involved in cultural promotions abroad.

China is an ancient civilization but diplomatically it is a new global player in terms of its modern involvement into the world affairs, particularly in terms of reform and openness. Yet, since China has aspired to rejuvenate itself as one of the leading powers globally, it is natural for the world en bloc to assume Beijing’s intention and approach to the power transition between the rising power like itself and the ruling powers such as the United States and the G-7 club. Consider this, China has exerted all efforts to project but not propagate its image to the world. Here culture is bound to play the vital role in convincing the countries concerned that “culturally China has no the gene of being a threat to other peoples,” as Chinese President Xi has assured. The annual lunar gala is evidently a useful instrument to demonstrate Chinese people, culture and policies as well.

Culturally speaking, the Chinese New Year celebrations can be seen as follows. In a general sense, similar themes run through all the galas with the local cultural and ethnical ingredients, for instance, Chinese opera, crosstalk and acrobatics, as well as the lion-dancing or the dragon-dancing from time to time. Yes, the galas play the role of promoting the Chinese communities over the world to identify themselves with the Chinese culture which surely strengthen the cultural bonds among the Chinese, in particular the younger generations. Moreover, the dimension of the Chinese culture can be found beyond the country since its neighbors like Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and Malaysia, as well as Chinese communities in many other areas also perform those arts at the holiday seasons. The message here is clear that China, although it is a rising great power, has never abandoned its cultural tradition which has emphasized the harmony among the different races and ethnics.

Recently, the lunar new year celebrations across China have invited professional and amateur artists from all over the world. Those foreign guest artists and many overseas students studying in China have been able to offer their talents in either Chinese or their mother tongues. No doubt, this is a two-way to learn from each other because Chinese performers are benefited from the contacts with their counterparts globally. In terms of public diplomacy, Beijing aims to send a powerful and sincere message to the world: China can’t be in isolation from the world because it has aspired to be a great and inclusive country as well. To that end, the rise of China is not going to challenge the status quo, but will act as one of the stakeholders.

As usual, realists have difficulties and even cultural bias to accept the rhetoric from a country like China since it has been regarded by the ruling powers of the world as an ambitious, assertive and communist-ruled country with its unique culture. To that challenge, the Chinese government and the people have done a great deal of works to successfully illustrate Chinese practice of harmony at the societal level idealized by Confucius’ doctrines. This social harmony is made possible only by the realization of the Taoist ideal of harmony with nature – in this case, harmony between humans and nature. This explains why panda and many other rare animals are now viewed as new national symbol of China. Although they are unnecessarily an indispensable part of the lunar new year gala, the viewpoint is that the rise of China would not be completed at the cost of the ecological environment like many other countries did in history.

Practically speaking, the lunar new year celebrations are being conducted in a rich variety of ways such as concerts, cuisines, folk entertainments and even forums and receptions around the world. Major global commercial centers have also served to create a Chinese holiday atmosphere, adapt to the needs of Chinese tourists, attract active participation from local residents, and provide such diversities of cultural and social events. What is worth mentioning is that some Chinese-North American non-profit, non-partisan organizations are beginning to celebrate Chinese lunar gala in partnership with other local counterparts. For instance, the Chinese Inter-cultural Association based in California, recently hosted a Chinese New Year party in a Persian restaurant in partnership with a local non-profit, non-partisan organization called the Orange County Toastmaster Club, part of Toastmaster International. Also, in another Chinese New Year celebration that was open to people of all races in Pasadena, two Americans played the guitar and sang songs in fluent Chinese! Both galas were attended by people of all racial backgrounds around the world. Given this, it is fair to say that China’s soft power supported by its annual lunar new year festival is on the rise globally with a view to promoting mutual respect and friendship among the peoples of various cultural, ethnical and racial origins.

Yet, though the impressive feats are achieved, it has noted that China still has a long way to go in terms of its twin-centennial dreams. First, as a developing country with its unique culture, it is necessary for China to promote its great ancient culture abroad, but it is also imperative to avoid “introducing” China rashly into the globe. Essentially, soft power is more the ability to attract and co-opt than to use force or give money as a means of persuasion. Thereby, it is the very ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. As cross-cultural communication is a long process, Nye admitted a few years ago, in public affairs, “the best propaganda is not propaganda.”

This is the key to all the countries. In 2014,President Xi formally stated, “China should increase its soft power, give a good Chinese narrative, and better communicate its messages to the world.” In light of this, Chinese lunar new year gala surely acts as soft power to project the image of China internationally.

* Humprey A. Russell (Indonesia), PhD candidate in international affairs, SIPA, Jilin University.

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China’s step into the maelstrom of the Middle East

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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The Middle East has a knack for sucking external powers into its conflicts. China’s ventures into the region have shown how difficult it is to maintain its principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

China’s abandonment of non-interference is manifested by its (largely ineffective) efforts to mediate conflicts in South Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan as well as between Israel and Palestine and even between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is even more evident in China’s trashing of its vow not to establish foreign military bases, which became apparent when it established a naval base in Djibouti and when reports surfaced that it intends to use Pakistan’s deep sea port of Gwadar as a military facility.

This contradiction between China’s policy on the ground and its long-standing non-interventionist foreign policy principles means that Beijing often struggles to meet the expectations of Middle Eastern states. It also means that China risks tying itself up in political knots in countries such as Pakistan, which is home to the crown jewel of its Belt and Road Initiative — the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Middle Eastern autocrats have tried to embrace the Chinese model of economic liberalism coupled with tight political control. They see China’s declared principle of non-interference in the affairs of others for what it is: support for authoritarian rule. The principle of this policy is in effect the same as the decades-old US policy of opting for stability over democracy in the Middle East.

It is now a risky policy for the United States and China to engage in given the region’s post-Arab Spring history with brutal and often violent transitions. If anything, instead of having been ‘stabilised’ by US and Chinese policies, the region is still at the beginning of a transition process that could take up to a quarter of a century to resolve. There is no guarantee that autocrats will emerge as the winners.

China currently appears to have the upper hand against the United States for influence across the greater Middle East, but Chinese policies threaten to make that advantage short-term at best.

Belt and Road Initiative-related projects funded by China have proven to be a double-edged sword. Concerns are mounting in countries like Pakistan that massive Chinese investment could prove to be a debt trap similar to Sri Lanka’s experience.

Chinese back-peddling on several Pakistani infrastructure projects suggests that China is tweaking its approach to the US$50 billion China–Pakistan Economic Corridor. The Chinese rethink was sparked by political volatility caused by Pakistan’s self-serving politics and continued political violence — particularly in the Balochistan province, which is at the heart of CPEC.

China decided to redevelop its criteria for the funding of CPEC’s infrastructure projects in November 2017. This move seemingly amounted to an effort to enhance the Pakistani military’s stake in the country’s economy at a time when they were flexing their muscles in response to political volatility. The decision suggests that China is not averse to shaping the political environment of key countries in its own authoritarian mould.

Similarly, China has been willing to manipulate Pakistan against its adversaries for its own gain. China continues to shield Masoud Azhar (who is believed to have close ties to Pakistani intelligence agencies and military forces) from UN designation as a global terrorist. China does so while Pakistan cracks down on militants in response to a US suspension of aid and a UN Security Council monitoring visit.

Pakistan’s use of militants in its dispute with India over Kashmir serves China’s interest in keeping India off balance — a goal which Beijing sees as worthy despite the fact that Chinese personnel and assets have been the targets of a low-level insurgency in Balochistan. Saudi Arabia is also considering the use of Balochistan as a launching pad to destabilise Iran. By stirring ethnic unrest in Iran, Saudi Arabia will inevitably suck China into the Saudi–Iranian rivalry and sharpen its competition with the United States. Washington backs the Indian-supported port of Chabahar in Iran — a mere 70 kilometres from Gwadar.

China is discovering that it will prove impossible to avoid the pitfalls of the greater Middle East. This is despite the fact that US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman seem singularly focussed on countering Iran and Islamic militants.

As it navigates the region’s numerous landmines, China is likely to find itself at odds with both the United States and Saudi Arabia. It will at least have a common interest in pursuing political stability at the expense of political change — however much this may violate its stated commitment to non-interference.

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East Asia

Chinese extradition request puts crackdown on Uyghurs in the spotlight

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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A Chinese demand for the extradition of 11 Uyghurs from Malaysia puts the spotlight on China’s roll-out of one of the world’s most intrusive surveillance systems, military moves to prevent Uyghur foreign fighters from returning to Xinjiang, and initial steps to export its security approach to countries like Pakistan.

The 11 were among 25 Uyghurs who escaped from a Thai detention centre in November through a hole in the wall, using blankets to climb to the ground.

The extradition request follows similar deportations of Uyghurs from Thailand and Egypt often with no due process and no immediate evidence that they were militants.

The escapees were among more than 200 Uighurs detained in Thailand in 2014. The Uyghurs claimed they were Turkish nationals and demanded that they be returned to Turkey. Thailand, despite international condemnation, forcibly extradited to China some 100 of the group in July 2015.

Tens of Uyghurs, who were unable to flee to Turkey in time, were detained in Egypt in July and are believed to have also been returned to China. Many of the Uyghurs were students at Al Azhar, one of the foremost institutions of Islamic learning.

China, increasingly concerned that Uyghurs fighters in Syria and Iraq will seek to return to Xinjiang or establish bases across the border in Afghanistan and Tajikistan in the wake of the territorial demise of the Islamic State, has brutally cracked down on the ethnic minority in its strategic north-western province, extended its long arm to the Uyghur Diaspora, and is mulling the establishment of its first land rather than naval foreign military base.

The crackdown appears, at least for now, to put a lid on intermittent attacks in Xinjiang itself. Chinese nationals have instead been targeted in Pakistan, the $50 billion plus crown jewel in China’s Belt and Road initiative that seeks to link Eurasia to the People’s Republic through infrastructure.

The attacks are believed to have been carried out by either Baloch nationalists or militants of the East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM), a Uighur separatist group that has aligned itself with the Islamic State.

Various other groups, including the Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have threatened to attack Chinese nationals in response to the alleged repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

ETIM militants were believed to have been responsible for the bombing in August 2015 of Bangkok’s Erawan shrine that killed 20 people as retaliation for the forced repatriation of Uighurs a month earlier.

The Chinese embassy in Islamabad warned in December of possible attacks targeting “Chinese-invested organizations and Chinese citizens” in Pakistan

China’s ambassador, Yao Jing, advised the Pakistani interior ministry two months earlier that Abdul Wali, an alleged ETIM assassin, had entered the country and was likely to attack Chinese targets

China has refused to recognize ethnic aspirations of Uyghurs, a Turkic group, and approached it as a problem of Islamic militancy. Thousands of Uyghurs are believed to have joined militants in Syria, while hundreds or thousands more have sought to make their way through Southeast Asia to Turkey.

To counter ethnic and religious aspirations, China has introduced what must be the world’s most intrusive surveillance system using algorithms. Streets in Xinjiang’s cities and villages are pockmarked by cameras; police stations every 500 metres dot roads in major cities; public buildings resemble fortresses; and authorities use facial recognition and body scanners at highway checkpoints.

The government, in what has the makings of a re-education program, has opened boarding schools “for local children to spend their entire week in a Chinese-speaking environment, and then only going home to parents on the weekends,” according to China scholar David Brophy. Adult Uyghurs, who have stuck to their Turkic language, have been ordered to study Chinese at night schools.

Nightly television programs feature oath-swearing ceremonies,” in which participants pledge to root out “two-faced people,” the term used for Uyghur Communist Party members who are believed to be not fully devoted to Chinese policy.

The measures in Xinjiang go beyond an Orwellian citizen scoring system that is being introduced that scores a person’s political trustworthiness. The system would determine what benefits a citizen is entitled to, including access to credit, high speed internet service and fast-tracked visas for travel based on data garnered from social media and online shopping data as well as scanning of irises and content on mobile phones at random police checks.

Elements of the system are poised for export. A long-term Chinese plan for China’s investment in Pakistan, dubbed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), envisioned creating a system of monitoring and surveillance in Pakistani cities to ensure law and order.

The system envisions deployment of explosive detectors and scanners to “cover major roads, case-prone areas and crowded places…in urban areas to conduct real-time monitoring and 24-hour video recording.”

A national fibre optic backbone would be built for internet traffic as well as the terrestrial distribution of broadcast media. Pakistani media would cooperate with their Chinese counterparts in the “dissemination of Chinese culture.”

The plan described the backbone as a “cultural transmission carrier” that would serve to “further enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples and the traditional friendship between the two countries.”

The measures were designed to address the risks to CPEC that the plan identified as “Pakistani politics, such as competing parties, religion, tribes, terrorists, and Western intervention” as well as security. “The security situation is the worst in recent years,” the plan said.

At the same time, China, despite official denials, is building, according to Afghan security officials, a military base for the Afghan military that would give the People’s Republic a presence in Badakhshan, the remote panhandle of Afghanistan that borders China and Tajikistan.

Chinese military personnel have reportedly been in the mountainous Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of territory in north-eastern Afghanistan that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan since March last year.

The importance China attributes to protecting itself against Uyghur militancy and extending its protective shield beyond its borders was reflected in the recent appointment as its ambassador to Afghanistan, Liu Jinsong, who was raised in Xinjiang and served as a director of the Belt and Road initiative’s $15 billion Silk Road Fund.

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