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The 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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When, in 1972, Nixon pointed out to Mao Zedong that “the Chinese President changed the world”, Mao just answered “no, only something on the outskirts of Beijing.” In the mind of the Chinese President, a Taoist poet, that was the sense of the natural centrality of the “Middle Empire” compared to the First World (the United States and the USSR, namely “the barbarians of the North”), to the Second World (namely the  servants of either power) and to the Third World, the region that was bound to be represented and dominated by China.

 Currently, after the Long March of the “Four Modernizations” launched by Deng Xiaoping, China is the world’s first economy and is becoming one of the first powers – and, in the future, it  will be the hegemonic military power at least in the Asian world.

 In the 1950s, however, an old map of the CPC’s Central Committee considered Japan, the Philippines, all the South Pacific islands, South and North Koreas and Vietnam as areas of Chinese hegemony.

  This project will not be implemented – if ever – with weapons, but with the economy and with strategic and cultural dominance, which will be protected by weapons.

 Hide a knife behind a smile is one of the Thirty-Six Stratagems used in politics and war.

 In China’s traditional culture, war is not “the continuation of politics by other means”, but simply politics tout court.

 The splendid isolation of Mao’s China was fully realistic: the country was poor but, in spite of the failures of the “Big Leap Forward” of the 1950s and of the “Great Cultural and Proletarian Revolution” between 1966 and 1976, the per capita GDP denominated in power purchasing parity (PPP) doubled.

 Not falling  into the Cold War trap that Mao Zedong considered a “paper tiger” – which, in fact, was at the origin of the USSR’s economic and military collapse – is the basis of this slow, but relentless economic and international status growth.

 But without the very strong traditional Chinese nationalism, combined with the Marxist-Leninist ideology, that Mao’s project  – which is currently being achieved with Xi Jinping – could not be implemented.

 From the rejection of the bipolar international order to the construction of a new multipolar order, with China at the core – this is the geopolitical pathway from Mao’s slogan of 1949 “the Chinese people have stood up” to the 19th CPC Congress led by Xi Jinping.

 Furthermore, even under Deng Xiaoping and his successors, China has never accepted a role as “revisionist power”, thus  maintaining the request for a new international order and even strengthening the polemic against the United States and Russia in favor of Third World’s rights.

 Nor should we forget the long coldness vis-à-vis the old post-World War II economic alliances, such as the World Bank and the Monetary Fund, seen as “instruments of American imperialism” and relics of a bipolar era that ended just when China – still following Mao’s cry on Tien An Men Square in 1949 – “stood up”.

 In 2012, however, Xi Jinping did not inherit a “developing” China – just to use the compassionate jargon of international bankers.

 In 2012 Communist China had recorded two decades of double-digit GDP growth and was already the second global economy. It was also the world’s largest exporting country and finally recorded a stable commercial surplus of over 4-5 trillion US dollars.

 Since the beginning of the Four Modernizations, China has been the largest trading partner for the whole Eastern Pacific region and has been pushing upwards – for years – the prices of raw material  it badly needed.

 Also the Chinese Armed Forces are closely following economic development.

 Currently China has already declared its Air Defense  Identification Zone (ADIZ) operational throughout the East China Sea, in view of full control of the Western part of that sea.

 A change of the US strategic equation in the Pacific entailing a  radical transformation of the US geopolitics: either still accepting China’s investment and the much needed purchases of US Treasury bonds or the net decrease in financial trading and Communist China’s greater military and economic presence in the Pacific – with the related loss of hegemony.

 With a view to masking and concealing – in a world still linked to the Cold War – the growing phase of China’s economy and military strategy (which are always two sides of the same coin) and not to alarming its neighbouring countries, Deng Xiaoping coined the “tao wang yang hui” (韬光养晦) policy line, namely hide your light under a bushel or conceal your strengths and bide your time – Taoist terminology relating to the tradition of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” and the Thirty-Six Stratagems.

  The sense is easily understandable.

   Deng’s Taoist policy line implied some successive rules: 1) avoid leading or forming faction in any international conflict and stay neutral in all circumstances; 2) do not try to lead an opinion in international politics; do not try to represent any interest group and stay away from any sphere of influence; 3) avoid any trouble, controversy or antagonism in world politics; be humble, but try not be humiliated and even accept minor humiliation if you have to; 4) concentrate on economic development, 5) focus on establishing a friendly relationship with all countries in the world, irrespective of the ideology of the countries you deal with.

 Indeed, Xi Jinping is fully heir to this policy line and, in the early years of his leadership, he focused on carefully hiding his light under a bushel and remaining in the “dark”, namely what does not concern or is not immediately seen by the “Western devils”, as Europeans were called during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 – a fight that was later mythicized precisely by the Red Guards.

 The rapid development of the economy, from Deng to Xi Jinping, has led to inevitable imbalances in Chinese society: 12 million migrants moving from rural to urban areas every year, with almost all rural migrants heading for the coast from Fujian up to Laoning.

 Other major unavoidable problems are the decrease of the population replacement rate, which leads to severe shortcomings in the search for new workforce; widespread corruption, another predictable phenomenon in a fast-growing command economy and finally the average age increase.

 Currently the average Chinese aging rate is the highest in recent world history.

 In 2050 the cost of pensions could rise up to 44% of the current one.

 As some Western sources say, currently China’s public debt is approximately 60% of GDP, while some other Western observers even maintain that the Chinese debt is equal to 110%.

 China’s official sources maintain it is equal to 46.5% and has been stable for two years.

 Probably the truth lies somewhere in between, although considering the Chinese scarce willingness to resort to the debt lever.

 Hence Xi Jinping wants to face all these new situations in the CPC tradition.

 A “strong and prosperous China”, in the tradition of Sun Yat Sen, the father of nationalism and constant point of reference for Chinese Communists, as well as Xi’s continuity with the reforms which – as maintained by the CPC Third Plenum of 2013 – view the “market as the decisive engine for economic development”.

 Xi Jinping also wants to create a strong and stable internal market to counterbalance the First World’s financial and economic crises.

 Xi Jinping’s main economic challenge lies in doing with the domestic market what has been done so far in China with exports, while maintaining a good level of exports.

  Not to mention pollution, which can block both domestic production – especially in the agricultural sector, by stopping exports – and foreign investment.

 Xi wants to upgrade the exporting companies in order to make them adapt to international quality standards and improve their  price level. The Chinese leader also wants to build an effective and profitable internal market, albeit targeted to social and political stability.

 With specific reference to internal market reforms, one of the Thirty-Six Stratagems is particularly appropriate, namely “cross the sea without the emperor’s knowledge”.

 The room for the market-world within future China’s internal market will be little and well-defined.

 The fight against corruption, which is the natural corollary of this strategy devised by Xi Jinping, was and is still massive and fast.

 It is also based on the old Plenum of 2013.

 It was in the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC that the idea of ​shifting from a phase of fast capital accumulation to a phase of gradual internal redistribution emerged.

 Hence Xi Jinping is currently defending the Party from the slow erosion of the Chinese social system.

 Today the block of social and economic innovation lies in the hidden interests of Chinese State-owned enterprises and in their monopoly or monopsony markets.

 Since he rose to power, Xi has entrusted approximately 800,000 State and Party officials only with the task of fighting against corruption.

 A dual structure, namely the CPC leadership and the local units, controls the inspectors’ activity, and in the first half of 2017, over 210,000 State and Party officials have been investigated.

  Last year the total number of officials investigated was 415,000.

  As reported by Chinese internal sources, only in the first half of 2017, 38 national leaders and 1,200 prefecture officials have been judged corrupt by the central authorities.

 In August 2013, in the framework of a careful analysis of the Chinese oil system, Jiang Jiemin, the CEO of China National Petroleum Corporation, was removed from his post, followed by Xu Caiohu, the Vice-President of the Central Military Commission and later, in March 2014, by Liu Yuan, the son of Liu Shaoqi, while the illegal outflow of Chinese capital is approximately 60 billion US dollars a year.

 Xi Jinping’s hard line, namely “governing the nation according to law”, follows the tradition of Shang Yang’s legalist school of the 3rd century BC, as well as the ancient Taoist and State policy line followed by Shi Huangdi, the founder of the Qin dynasty and the first Emperor of a unified China and of the famous Terracotta Army.

 Shi Huangdi was one of Mao’s favorite quotes: “Remember I am a thousand times fiercer than Shi Huangdi,” he used to say to his aides.

  Furthermore, in keeping with a policy line set in a secret circular letter of the CPC Central Committee, Xi Jinping is promoting the struggle “against the seven problems”: the promotion of constitutional democracy; the propaganda of universal rights as Western-style “civil rights”; the promotion of citizens’ movements  destroying the Party’s foundations; the dissemination of the neo-liberal ideology; the promotion of press freedom; the support for the traditional nihilism on New China and finally the ban on defining the current Chinese economic system as “State capitalism” or “new bureaucratic capitalism”.

 At strategic security level, as leader not yet in power, Xi Jinping supported Putin for the launch of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and hence proposed a pan-Asian view of military security and economic development to the other Heartland countries.

 A vision that is currently based on the fast implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, which will reach the Mediterranean and the core of Europe.

  Hence this is how Xi Jinping is approaching the 19th CPC Congress since its foundation in Shanghai in 1921 – a Congress that now gathers 2,338 delegates, while there were only fifty in Shanghai.

 The goals are now well-known.

To achieve the “Two Centennial Goal” successfully: firstly, the issue lies in completing the process of building a moderately well-off society and accelerating Socialist modernization so as to turn China into a “great modern Socialist nation”.

 The two dates set are 2020, the centennial (one year before) of the CPC foundation, and 2049, namely the centennial of the People’s Republic of China.

 The terminology often used by Xi, “a moderately well-off society” must not make us think of mediocre and modest goals.

 Conversely, it is a typically Confucian expression, where moderation implies wisdom and hence the balance between human passions and their reflecting on interpersonal relations.

 In Xi Jinping’s policy line, the practical measures envisaged by the leader to achieve these goals will be, first of all, improving the people’s living conditions –  but the masses’ best living conditions assume and imply Socialist democracy – then complying with  laws and finally ensuring security, safety and the protection of the environment.

 Besides modernizing domestic laws, Xi Jinping’s China will avoid the sale or sell-off of State-owned enterprises, which will maintain and increase their value, while their reform is implemented.

 Hence a market-based reform, but also controlled by the Party as to the mix of factors of production in the medium and long term.

 Again following the line of “hiding your light under a bushel”, China will maintain its strategic profile which does not seek hegemony and – again in Xi’s words – will carry out military actions outside its territory.

 Hence, according to Xi Jinping, China will continue its policy of welcoming foreign capital and foreign companies – albeit more carefully. As meant by Xi between the lines, China will continue to pursue its project of becoming the global manufacturing hub.

  Nevertheless, most of the capital generated by the Four Modernizations will lead to such an internal social stability in China, which is  now unthinkable also in Western societies and to a rational rebalancing of China’s productive forces, which will have a strong domestic market while the export market will shrink due to the Western structural crisis.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs "La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa", he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d'Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: "A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of "Honorable" of the Académie des Sciences de l'Institut de France

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East Asia

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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East Asia

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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