The fight against corruption, officially launched six months ago by President Xi Jinping in all the Chinese government’s and Party’s apparata is a strategic and geopolitical fact of extraordinary importance.
The CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping wants a radical war against corruption especially for some important reasons, which regard both China’s current position in the world and its unity and stability.
Let us analyze them: a) all corrupt power networks, in China and elsewhere, distort the fundamentals of the economy and facilitate the penetration of foreign speculative capital, as well as the transformation of incomes in speculative, unearned and unproductive rente.
In addition, b) corruption makes the various peripheral or secondary power circles autonomous from the national and Party central leaderships. Corruption is the expression of an illegal rebellion of peripheries against the political and administrative Centre.
As always happens in these cases, every corrupt Chinese leader is a power autonomous from the Party’s and State’s chain of command.
Moreover, each corrupt network creates hidden power centers which do not respond to the Chinese Party’s and State’s normal channels of communication and control.
Finally, c) the corrupt networks deplete the Chinese cash reserves because, as always happens in these cases, they are interested in the outflow of their illegal funds from the country as quickly as possible, by also bearing high costs.
Every kind of corruption generates an uncontrollable irrationality in the cost-benefit analyses.
Moreover, China’s public accounting is based on Leontief’s cycles – namely the criteria of general equilibrium and input-output analysis – and each hidden or illegal transaction distorts this type of calculations.
Therefore President Xi Jinping really wants to free China from its ancient tradition of confusion between private interest and public offices. A country where the Centre does not know its peripheries and hence is bound to weaken ever more, as in the traditional imperial dynasties.
Mao Zedong – of whose political choices even a reformer like Deng Xiaoping used to say that “70% of them were right and 30% wrong” – was a staunch supporter of centralization, along the lines of the Emperor Shi Huangti, whom the Great Helmsman liked very much – the Emperor of the “Terracotta Army”, the first who unified Han China under one Empire after the “Warring States” period.
President Xi Jinping does not want China’s fragmentation and this is the reason why he fights so hard against corruption.
President Xi Jinping wants to fight corruption because he wants to build a united and strong political system, capable of facing the economic and political-military tensions looming on the horizon, in Asia and in the rest of the world, operating with a streamlined and centralized chain of command, without personal economic interests which may be used and exploited by China’s competitors or opponents.
For President Xi Jinping fighting corruption means above all to restore the primacy of national interest.
As the current economic theories – from Lambsdorff to Wade – teach us, each corrupt action leads to a dangerous and irrational allocation of the resources available, which pushes the best options and the most rational investment out of the market so as to favour the “intermediation and brokerage costs” and, finally, unearned and unproductive income and rente.
Hence every economic and political system generating a high level of corruption is doomed to self-destruction.
Obviously President Xi Jinping unites both struggles, namely the one against corrupt bureaucrats and the other against his enemies within the Party and the State.
Probably only Mao Zedong, during the “Cultural Revolution”, had succeeded in concentrating in his hands as much power as Xi Jinping’s today.
It is a phase in which China is ready for finally opening to the market-world and, as evidenced by what happened in Italy after 1992, corruption favours bad globalization as against “good” globalization”, the one which fosters nations’ economic and productive expansion.
Hence the more China shall open to the market-world, the more it shall build a reliable and centralized political system, not influenced by blackmail, bribes, corruption attempts, as well as autonomous centres of legal or illegal power.
The survival of the State and, above all, of the Communist Party of China depends on it.
President Xi Jinping’s policy line was made explicit in his recent year-end speech: to ensure the success of economic reforms which enhance the interaction between China and the West; to stabilize the yuan as a global reference currency; to reduce the Chinese economy’s dependence on public and private debt, as well as support the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Clearly none of these objectives can be achieved without a strong and continuous fight against corruption.
Corruption increases the economic activities’ dependence on public and private debt, stultifies the infrastructure investment which will be decisive for making China come out of its geostrategic isolation and finally does not allow to exert a joint and vertical control over the country, which will be essential to prevail within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and over the West.
The “Twenty Years of Opportunities” proclaimed by Deng Xiaoping are now over and, if corruption were to permeate society, China’s politics and economy would go back to the “hundred years of national humiliation”.
The data and statistics of the anti-corruption campaign launched by President Xi Jinping are already remarkable: over 100,000 Party’s and State’s officials have already been inquired and investigated. In 2014 the share of cadres against whom sanctions and penalties were applied amounted to 3.14% and this means that 232,000 local and central officials were judged corrupt.
The “Eight-point Regulation” stipulated and announced by President Xi Jinping is now well-known throughout China: it imposes restrictions on the excessive use of funds for food and beverages; on the use of public funds for private travels, in China or abroad; on the improper use of vehicles made available and supplied; on unauthorized construction of buildings; on improper payments or illegal advantages and benefits; on luxurious gifts made or received; on too expensive weddings or funerals; on the breach of discipline and rules at work.
These are the guidelines used by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the CPC’s agency which operates autonomously and independently, but following the directives of President Xi Jinping’s leadership team.
Without a firm and definitive fight against corruption, China’s globalization will mark the end of its national autonomy and of government’s ability to manage its economic choices. As at the time of the “Opium War”.
As we have witnessed also in Italy, it is worth reiterating that corruption makes a country leave “good” globalization and pushes it into bad, self-defeating and self-destructive globalization.
But what is the extent of corruption in China? It arises from the fact that the development resulting from the “Four Modernizations” was driven by public bodies and by government spending, the only available in China at that time.
In the 1980s some economic analysts even maintained that corruption itself was a kind of stimulus for the economy, since it obviously increased the aggregate demand and the level of consumption.
Nevertheless corruption blocks stable growth, while favouring unproductive spending and accelerating economic and business cycles.
According to most Western experts, corruption in China accounts for 3% of the current GDP.
Hence President Xi Jinping is right in fighting to eradicate corrupt practices inside and outside the Party because, considering the size of the phenomenon, they are carried out both by high-raking officials (the so-called “tigers”) and by the low-ranking ones (the so-called “flies”) who lurk in the apparata and, in all likelihood, are the cause of the recent decline of the GDP growth rate.
Therefore if the growth rate of the Chinese economy were to decrease further, also due to the 6% fall in foreign direct investment recorded in recent months, the very legitimacy of the CPC to rule China may fade away: it is precisely thanks to its extraordinary economic growth that the Party retains its large base of popular support, which could shrink if corruption were to block the rapid expansion of China’s GDP.
Hence, for President Xi Jinping, the fight against corruption is the most important part of the current reform of the Chinese economy and of China’s integration into the market-world.
Importance of peace in Afghanistan is vital for China
There are multiple passages from Afghanistan to China, like Wakhan Corridor that is 92 km long, stretching to Xinjiang in China. It was formed in 1893 as a result of an agreement between the British Empire and Afghanistan. Another is Chalachigu valley that shares the border with Tajikistan to the north, Pakistan to the south, and Afghanistan to the west. It is referred to as the Chinese part of the Wakhan Corridor. However, the Chinese side of the valley is closed to the public and only local shepherds are allowed. Then there is Wakhjir Pass on the eastern side of the Wakhan corridor but is not accessible to the general public. The terrain is rough on the Afghan side. There are no roads along the Wakhjir Pass, most of the terrain is a dirt track. Like other passages, it can only be accessed via either animals or SUVs, and also due to extreme weather it is open for only seven months throughout the year. North Wakhjir Pass, also called Tegermansu Pass, is mountainous on the border of China and Afghanistan. It stretches from Tegermansu valley on the east and Chalachigu Valley in Xinjiang. All of these passages are extremely uncertain and rough which makes them too risky to be used for trade purposes. For example, the Chalagigu valley and Wakhjir Pass are an engineering nightmare to develop, let alone make them viable.
Similarly, the Pamir mountain range is also unstable and prone to landslides. Both of these routes also experience extreme weather conditions. Alternatives: Since most of the passages are risky for travel, alternatively, trade activities can be routed via Pakistan. For example, there is an access road at the North Wakhjir that connects to Karakoram Highway.
By expanding the road network from Taxkorgan in Xinjiang to Gilgit, using the Karakoram Highway is a probable option. Land routes in Pakistan are already being developed for better connectivity between Islamabad and Beijing as part of CPEC. These routes stretch from Gwadar up to the North.
The Motorway M-1, which runs from Islamabad to Peshawar can be used to link Afghanistan via Landi Kotal. Although the Karakoram highway also suffers from extreme weather and landslides, it is easier for engineers to handle as compared to those in Afghanistan.
China is the first door neighbor of Afghanistan having a common border. If anything happens in Afghanistan will have a direct impact on China. China has a declared policy of peaceful developments and has abandoned all disputes and adversaries for the time being and focused only on economic developments. For economic developments, social stability and security is a pre-requisite. So China emphasizes peace and stability in Afghanistan. It is China’s requirement that its border with Afghanistan should be secured, and restrict movements of any unwanted individuals or groups. China is compelled by any government in Afghanistan to ensure the safety of its borders in the region.
Taliban has ensured china that, its territory will not use against China and will never support any insurgency in China. Based on this confidence, China is cooperating with the Taliban in all possible manners. On the other hand, China is a responsible nation and obliged to extend humanitarian assistance to starving Afghans. While, the US is coercing and exerting pressures on the Taliban Government to collapse, by freezing their assets, and cutting all economic assistance, and lobbying with its Western allies, for exerting economic pressures on the Taliban, irrespective of human catastrophe in Afghanistan. China is generously assisting in saving human lives in Afghanistan. Whereas, the US is preferring politics over human lives in Afghanistan.
The US has destroyed Afghanistan during the last two decades, infrastructure was damaged completely, Agriculture was destroyed, Industry was destroyed, and the economy was a total disaster. While, China is assisting Afghanistan to rebuild its infrastructure, revive agriculture, industrialization is on its way. Chinese mega initiative, Belt and Road (BRI) is hope for Afghanistan.
A peaceful Afghanistan is a guarantee for peace and stability in China, especially in the bordering areas. The importance of Afghan peace is well conceived by China and practically, China is supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan. In fact, all the neighboring countries, and regional countries, are agreed upon by consensus that peace and stability in Afghanistan is a must and prerequisite for whole regions’ development and prosperity.
Shared Territorial Concern, Opposition to US Intervention Prompt Russia’s Support to China on Taiwan Question
The situation around the island of Taiwan is raising concerns not only in Chinese mainland, Taiwan island or in the US, but also in the whole world. Nobody would like to see a large-scale military clash between China and the US in the East Pacific. Potential repercussions of such a clash, even if it does not escalate to the nuclear level, might be catastrophic for the global economy and strategic stability, not to mention huge losses in blood and treasure for both sides in this conflict.
Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Moscow continued to firmly support Beijing’s position on Taiwan as an integral part of China. Moreover, he also underlined that Moscow would support Beijing in its legitimate efforts to reunite the breakaway province with the rest of the country. A number of foreign media outlets paid particular attention not to what Lavrov actually said, but omitted his other remarks: the Russian official did not add that Moscow expects reunification to be peaceful and gradual in a way that is similar to China’s repossession of Hong Kong. Many observers of the new Taiwan Straits crisis unfolding concluded that Lavrov’s statement was a clear signal to all parties of the crisis: Russia would likely back even Beijing’s military takeover of the island.
Of course, diplomacy is an art of ambiguity. Lavrov clearly did not call for a military solution to the Taiwan problem. Still, his remarks were more blunt and more supportive of Beijing than the standard Russia’s rhetoric on the issue. Why? One possible explanation is that the Russian official simply wanted to sound nice to China as Russia’s major strategic partner. As they say, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Another explanation is that Lavrov recalled the Russian experience with Chechnya some time ago, when Moscow had to fight two bloody wars to suppress secessionism in the North Caucasus. Territorial integrity means a lot for the Russian leadership. This is something that is worth spilling blood for.
However, one can also imagine that in Russia they simply do not believe that if things go really bad for Taiwan island, the US would dare to come to its rescue and that in the end of the day Taipei would have to yield to Beijing without a single shot fired. Therefore, the risks of a large-scale military conflict in the East Pacific are perceived as relatively low, no matter what apocalyptic scenarios various military experts might come up with.
Indeed, over last 10 or 15 years the US has developed a pretty nasty habit of inciting its friends and partners to take risky and even reckless decisions and of letting these friends and partners down, when the latter had to foot the bill for these decisions. In 2008, the Bush administration explicitly or implicitly encouraged Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili to launch a military operation against South Ossetia including killing some Russian peacekeepers stationed there. But when Russia interfered to stop and to roll back the Georgian offensive, unfortunate Saakashvili was de-facto abandoned by Washington.
During the Ukrainian conflicts of 2013-14, the Obama administration enthusiastically supported the overthrow of the legitimate president in Kiev. However, it later preferred to delegate the management of the crisis to Berlin and to Paris, abstaining from taking part in the Normandy process and from signing the Minsk Agreements. In 2019, President Donald Trump promised his full support to Juan Guaidó, Head of the National Assembly in Venezuela, in his crusade against President Nicolas when the government of Maduro demonstrated its spectacular resilience. Juan Guaido very soon almost completely disappeared from Washington’s political radar screens.
Earlier this year the Biden administration stated its firm commitment to shouldering President Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan in his resistance to Taliban advancements. But when push came to shove, the US easily abandoned its local allies, evacuated its military personal in a rush and left President Ghani to seek political asylum in the United Arab Emirates.
Again and again, Washington gives reasons to conclude that its partners, clients and even allies can no longer consider it as a credible security provider. Would the US make an exception for the Taiwan island? Of course, one can argue that the Taiwan island is more important for the US than Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ukraine and Georgia taken together. But the price for supporting the Taiwan island could also be much higher for the US than the price it would have paid in many other crisis situations. The chances of the US losing to China over Taiwan island, even if Washington mobilizes all of its available military power against Beijing, are also very high. Still, we do not see such a mobilization taking place now. It appears that the Biden administration is not ready for a real showdown with Beijing over the Taiwan question.
If the US does not put its whole weight behind the Taiwan island, the latter will have to seek some kind of accommodation with the mainland on terms abandoning its pipe-dreams of self-determination and independence. This is clear to politicians not only in East Asia, but all over the place, including Moscow. Therefore, Sergey Lavrov has reasons to firmly align himself with the Chinese position. The assumption in the Kremlin is that Uncle Sam will not dare to challenge militarily the Middle Kingdom. Not this time.
From our partner RIAC
Russia-Japan Relations: Were Abe’s Efforts In Vain?
Expanding the modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward.
One year after the end of Shinzo Abe’s long period of leadership, Japan has a new prime minister once again. The greatest foreign policy challenge the new Japanese government led by Fumio Kishida is facing is the intensifying confrontation between its large neighbor China and its main ally America. In addition to moves to energize the Quad group to which Japan belongs alongside Australia, India, and the United States, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has concluded a deal with Canberra and London to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines which in future could patrol the Western Pacific close to Chinese shores. The geopolitical fault lines in the Indo-Pacific region are fast turning into frontlines.
In this context, does anything remain of the eight-year-long effort by former prime minister Abe to improve relations with Russia on the basis of greater economic engagement tailored to Moscow’s needs? Russia’s relations with China continue to develop, including in the military domain; Russia’s constitutional amendments passed last year prohibit the handover of Russian territory, which doesn’t bode well for the long-running territorial dispute with Japan over the South Kuril Islands; and Russian officials and state-run media have been remembering and condemning the Japanese military’s conduct during World War II, something they chose to play down in the past. True, Moscow has invited Tokyo to participate in economic projects on the South Kuril Islands, but on Russian terms and without an exclusive status.
To many, the answer to the above question is clear, and it is negative. Yet that attitude amounts to de facto resignation, a questionable approach. Despite the oft-cited but erroneous Cold War analogy, the present Sino-American confrontation has created two poles in the global system, but not—at least, not yet—two blocs. Again, despite the popular and equally incorrect interpretation, Moscow is not Beijing’s follower or vassal. As a power that is particularly sensitive about its own sovereignty, Russia seeks to maintain an equilibrium—which is not the same as equidistance—between its prime partner and its main adversary. Tokyo would do well to understand that and take it into account as it structures its foreign relations.
The territorial dispute with Russia is considered to be very important for the Japanese people, but it is more symbolic than substantive. In practical terms, the biggest achievement of the Abe era in Japan-Russia relations was the founding of a format for high-level security and foreign policy consultations between the two countries. With security issues topping the agenda in the Indo-Pacific, maintaining the channel for private direct exchanges with a neighboring great power that the “2+2” formula offers is of high value. Such a format is a trademark of Abe’s foreign policy which, while being loyal to Japan’s American ally, prided itself on pursuing Japanese national interests rather than solely relying on others to take them into account.
Kishida, who for five years served as Abe’s foreign minister, will now have a chance to put his own stamp on the country’s foreign policy. Yet it makes sense for him to build on the accomplishments of his predecessor, such as using the unique consultation mechanism mentioned above to address geopolitical and security issues in the Indo-Pacific region, from North Korea to Afghanistan. Even under Abe, Japan’s economic engagement with Russia was by no means charity. The Russian leadership’s recent initiatives to shift more resources to eastern Siberia offer new opportunities to Japanese companies, just like Russia’s early plans for energy transition in response to climate change, and the ongoing development projects in the Arctic. In September 2021, the annual Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok did not feature top-level Japanese participation, but that should be an exception, not the rule.
Japan will remain a trusted ally of the United States for the foreseeable future. It is also safe to predict that at least in the medium term, and possibly longer, the Russo-Chinese partnership will continue to grow. That is no reason for Moscow and Tokyo to regard each other as adversaries, however. Moreover, since an armed conflict between America and China would spell a global calamity and have a high chance of turning nuclear, other major powers, including Russia and Japan, have a vital interest in preventing such a collision. Expanding the still very modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward. The absence of a peace treaty between the two countries more than seventy-five years after the end of the war is abnormal, yet that same unfinished business should serve as a stimulus to persevere. Giving up is an option, but not a good one.
From our partner RIAC
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