Globalization has also played a vital role in integrating the world and economic dependence of countries. For instance, in case of Sino-US they are dependent upon each other in economic sector. They avoid direct confrontation with each other. They have experienced period of good and bad relations and the distrust is major cause of conflict between the two parties. The high diplomatic visits in 1960s reduced the tension between Sino-US relations and marked beginning of new chapter of good relations. US is not ignorant about the growing role of China in global politics especially within in Asia-Pacific region. This research focuses on Sino-US rivalry over South China Sea; the comparison of strategies of both and how they have developed overlapping interests in Asia-pacific region. Usually states have good or bad relations with each other, but in this case what is unique to note is that they (Sino-China relations) had phases of cordial and strained relations. As a consequence, they keep check on each other power to safeguard their area of influence in the world by using military, economic and political means.
This paper is divided into five main parts. The first one deals with the historical background of conflictual relations between US and China. Second section concerns with the significance of South China Sea in Asia Pacific Region. Third section is about Chinese strategies over South China Sea. Fourth section explains the strategies of USA in the Asia Pacific region. Fifth section is mainly a comparative analysis of their strategies which seems to be influenced or derived from offensive and defensive realism. Last and sixth section deals with conclusion and recommendation to resolve this conflict in an effective manner.
It is believed that the rivalry between US and China is not a current phenomenon. It has its roots that can be traced back since the inception of PRC. The US initial reluctance to recognize the communist China is often quoted as one of the major impediment that laid the very foundation of strained relations from the beginning. Furthermore, China remained suspicious of US true intentions as they have been deceptive in their policies especially towards China and their increasing economic growth. Similarly, US support for nationalist against PRC proved to be another obstacle that tarnished the relations between China and US until Nixon came to power in US during 1960s; this paved the path in normalizing relation with China in form of various confidence building measures.
Open policy towards rest of world can be safely called as one of the most defining moment for the future of China that was envisaged by Deng Xiaoping. Basically, Deng’s policy involved a drastic shift from an Isolationist policy of Communist China to more of an open system that embraced the changes of the modern world. The policy of openness has helped to change the fate of China from an internally conservative and weak state to a leading economic power of the Asia Pacific region.
Significance of South China Sea
South China Sea basically consists of four groups of islands. First, the Pratas Islands are (located 200 miles to southwest of Hong Kong) claimed by both China and Taiwan. Second, although the Parcels Islands are located in the northern part of the South China Sea and near from the coastlines of Vietnam and China (Hainan), however, these islands are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan. On the other hand, China took control of Paracels in 1974, by using the means of force from South Vietnamese troops. It is a main reason of conflict between China and Vietnam. Fourth, Saparatly Islands (are located in the centre of the South China Sea. to the north of the island of Borneo [which comprises Brunei Darussalam and the east Malaysian States of Sarawak and Sabah]. The east of Viet Nam, and west of the Philippines and south of Hainan) are claimed in their entirety by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, while some islands and other features are claimed by Malaysia and the Philippines. Brunei has established a maritime zone that overlaps a southern reef, but it has not made any formal claim. Therefore, the intense competition among states has become a main source of concern and even potential conflict as it consists of cluster of small islands that have distributed claims by almost all ASEAN states.
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
UNCLOS provided a framework in 1982 on how to use oceans that came into force on 1994. It was ratified by China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and Brunei except for Taiwan as it was not recognized as a state. It is a convention related to laws of sea, navigation, fishery and using natural resources for energy production in form of hydrocarbons.
(UNCLOS) establishes a legal framework to govern all uses of the oceans. UNCLOS was adopted in 1982 after nine years of negotiations. It entered into force in 1994 and has been almost universally accepted. China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and Brunei are all parties are signatory of UNCLOS. Taiwan is not able to ratify UNCLOS because it is not recognized as a state by the United Nations, but it has taken steps to bring its domestic legislation into conformity with UNCLOS.
Chinese Strategies for South China Sea
In Deng view, China always pursued a policy of delay to respond to any foreign stimulus. The application of this policy can also be seen in implementation processes of the final choices or decision. Since the policy of delay is all about concealment of China’s true intentions to prevent any kind of escalation and stresses the maintenance of a cooperative policy with rest of the world. As a result, it helps to accelerate the development and prosperity of China in term of utilizing economic means to the fullest.
Politics of claims and counter claims
South China Sea had been one of the most contentious areas of world. Most of the states involved in this area claim certain area, while rest declares their open claims on the other part in Asia –Pacific region. The policy of claims and counter claims is the main source of conflict. Despite many efforts of ASEAN and regional players, the South China region continues to be matter of contention and a major impediment in bringing peace and stability in the region.
Although the nature of warfare has changed to a large extent, however, the significance of military means cannot be denied in contemporary world. For instance, the defense budget of countries has increased from 1980s to 1990s in accordance with the technological advances and revolutionaries in weapons. The military agreements between US and Taiwan and US and Japan in Guam is another example that established military buildup against Chinese expansion in the region to secure an array of states from any potential Chinese attack. According to Andrew Erickson, China is also increasing its defense budget to secure its territory of East and South China seas and their airspace above this area. This implies that the reliance of states on traditional means or military continues to play an important role in providing security to states.
US Strategies for South China Sea
The term pivot was coined by Leon Panetta, who is US secretary of defense. He had used the term to explain the adversarial interactions between rising and falling power. In this context, a rising power refers to a potential power that is China in this paper and falling power is an entity that confronts challenges to maintain its power. So, US can safely be claimed as a state falling in the latter category. Theoretically speaking, offensive realism most appropriately explains the US policy behavior in South China Sea, their attempts to undermine the Chinese potential hegemonic power in the Asia-Pacific is a proof of that. As per offensive realism, a hegemonic power cannot stand any rising power. It further explains the inevitability for two hegemonic powers to co-exist with each other that can be seen in case of US and China rivalry over South China Sea. Although offensive realism is presented by John Mearsheimer, but contribution of Organski and Gilpin cannot be ignored. Similarly, Chinese strategy can be understood with the help of defensive realism that concerns with increase of power to secure the interests from any threat or foreign intervention that is often taken as offence by US. Consequently, it results in security dilemma that leads to a never ending game of power politics
Generally speaking, USA National Strategy for South China Sea consists of five main points. First deals with their official stance over South China Sea. Second one is about legality of the nine-dash line claim of China. Third one concerns with freedom of navigation in South China Sea and fifth deals with supporting Philippines in their arbitration case against China. The United States developed a policy document—a National Strategy for the South China Sea (NSSCS)—that contains:
An official position regarding the nature of the disputed land features in the SCS;
A legal memorandum concerning U.S. military activities in the SCS, including military surveys;
An opinion on the legality of China’s “nine-dash line” claim;
An affirmation of U.S. “freedom of navigation” operations in the SCS; and
A statement of support for the Philippines in its arbitration case against China
In 2010, the Obama administration declared what was then referred to as the “US pivot to Asia,” that consists of multi-faceted strategy of US policy in the Asia pacific region. It includes shift of 60% of the United States naval assets to the pacific region reversing a policy that had been exercised in Europe since the Second World War. In November 2011, US president Barrack Obama announced in his speech to the rotational stationing in the Australian city of Darwin in front of 2,000 marines. The strategy was supposed to go beyond the military means. The Obama administration began to define its non-military aspects. These included an emphasis on the trans-pacific partnership (TPP), a club of high-performing economies in the region intended to push economic agenda beyond the pace set by the Asia pacific economic cooperation (APEC).
Support of Arbitration cases against China
The United States reluctance to remain merely an observer in the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China is evident and a matter of their interest. Since arbitration in favor of the Philippines can play a vital role in discrediting the nine-dash line that is of utmost significance to China. Similarly, US pressurize other states in South East Asia, for example, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia to support Philippines arbitration request against China. The main purpose of this pressure is to undermine the power of China as per UNCLOS that encourages states to resolve disputes by peaceful means and prohibits use of force.
The United States Official Stance in 2011
In 2011, Hilary Clinton believed that US policy towards South East Asia is not limited, but it is multifaceted policy that includes six main issue areas namely; bilateral security alliances, involving international organizations, expanding trade, providing military assistance, promoting human rights and democratic values. According to my understanding initially US used the pretext of war on terrorism to shift their attention towards Asia-Pacific region by announcing and diverting all their efforts and resources to secure South East Asia from potential threat of terrorism and providing security to region. Alongside they made military agreements with countries especially with Taiwan and Japan .US attempts to exploit the grievances of countries against China for the sake of undermining Chinese power within the region cannot be denied either. The security umbrella to weak states against any potential attack from China is one of the many examples; however, the shift of policy towards efficient utilization of both means (force and flexible measures) to accommodate the concern of china is evident in American policy.
It also reflects in President Obama’s long-held view, expressed even before his election, that the “center of gravity in this world is shifting Towards Asia,” requiring the U.S. to “look east” and “take a more active role,” as well as his identity as “America’s first Pacific president.” Obama in his election campaign expressed that attention of world is diverting to Asia-Pacific region.
Pentagon has adopted an Air-Sea Battle (ASB) strategy. Its main purpose was to restore the ability of the US to provide security to its allies in the region and to the international order (including freedom of navigation), and maintenance of status as the world power. ASB explains that, in case of conflict with China. American forces will attack on the Chinese mainland to neutralize the A2/AD weapon systems that is, an escalation to total war. It involves a coordinated attack using bombing, missile and cyber-attacks, and space weapons among others.
On the contrary, skeptics are of the view that use of force in form of ASB strategy (Air-Sea Battle), support of allies in region by US and counter attacks against Chinese aggressive policies over South China on the principle of collective security would be a mistake, because both states (US and China) are nuclear and any miscalculation or overestimation could lead to escalation or war in the worst case scenario. Therefore, there is a need to exhaust diplomatic means to resolve matters related to South China Sea and myriad of other issues between two states.
Overview of US policy
In my understanding, US is pursuing a policy of ‘smart diplomacy’. In simple words, smart diplomacy entails the effective utilization or use of force along with economic means to keep a firm check on Chinese potentials capability to challenge United States hegemony in three main aspects; economic, military and political spheres. Although China and US are economically depended upon each other, both continues to have a clash over the South China Sea.
The two main questions that emerge from this research are; can the rivalry between US and China continue and can it transform in a beginning of a new cold war? Can China rise peacefully without any conflict with US? First off, it would be implausible to say that it is a start of new cold war as the conditions and scenarios ware quite different during cold war between USA and Soviet Union. They were not economically integrated as US and China is in the contemporary times. Second, cold war was more of power rivalry that had not much to do with economic ties. During cold war, USA and Soviet Union were two states having different ideologies. US were a capitalist state that believed in free trade. On the hand USSR was a socialist state that advocated nationalist economy under the government control. One can say it was clash of ideologies between two powers. It was more about acquiring more territory to increase their sphere of influence in global politics and becoming sole power of world. On the other hand, the conflict between China and US cannot be equated to cold war between US and USSR. Since the rise of USSR was not peaceful, it was attained by Stalin expansionist policies; whereas China’s rise was not only peaceful, but it took time to become a potential power of the world.
According to offensive realism, states acquire hegemony to dominate the rest of world and prevent the emergence of any potential power to share their superiority in the world politics. Defensive realist assert that a state cannot lead to conflict as state try to increase power to provide or ensure security to state instead of dominating the world or becoming a hegemon.
According defensive realist, states try to maintain status quo and ensure their security instead of direct confrontation that would make them vulnerable and expose their weaknesses. In case of Sino- US conflict, China pursues a policy of non- confrontation, but it is often considered to be an offence by others states in the region. In this paper, Chinese defensive policies are taken as offensive by US and they try to limit their power in region and at global level. US on the other hand, pursues a policy of an offensive realist that curtails a rising power from emerging in terms of any compromise or tolerance to competition or sharing of the power as it would undermine their hegemony and their status of sole power in global politics.
According to offensive realist, the conflict between US and China would eventually lead to a complex scenario as hegemonic power cannot co-exist peacefully together. The aim of hegemonic power is to curtail potential power from rising by use of economic, military and all available or possible means. Therefore, it would be safe to claim that US is following a policy of offensive realism to suppress China’s growing power in form of exploiting the countries in Asia Pacific who have resentment and envious attitude against China. This implies that the main aim of American policies is to limit Chinese ever increasing power especially their economic growth.
On the other hand, China is hesitating to declare its policy for coming years over South China Sea and in Asia-Pacific region. In my understanding, it is yet to be seen if or whether China employs military means or force to tackle the issues with other states within region, especially, with Taiwan and Japan or to predict the future of Asia-pacific region and outcome of the conflict between US and China.
1-Global institutions can help them to bridge the gap between US and China by promoting cooperation
2-Engagement in a dialogue process can help to reduce the tension between the two states (US and China)
4-Chinese perspective should be projected equally in global arena.
5-US should not involve herself in to the regional politics, rather china should be given adequate time to sort out their issues themselves.
6-In case of war like situation, US should encourage the role of global institutions rather than indulging into conflict unilaterally.
7-China should focus on building and strengthening good relations with its neighbors and with international community to minimize chances of conflict or escalation of conflict in the region or at the global level.
China’s soft power and its Lunar New Year’s Culture
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.
China’s step into the maelstrom of the Middle East
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.
Chinese extradition request puts crackdown on Uyghurs in the spotlight
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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