[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap]t the outset it should be made clear that none of the nuclear nations is eager to achieve total denuclearization and disarmament and none wants to dismantle its own nuclear arsenals after having spent so much hard resources on their development and tests. But America does not want those countries that do not obey the Pentagon to have nukes as deterrence.
America continues to beat about the bush with its usual double–speaks on crucial issues like disarmament and denuclearization; It actively supports nuclearization of its allies and “friends” while opposing and threatening some select countries like North Korea purely on ideological grounds. USA decides which country should have nukes and which not.
USA does not consider nuclear arsenals of Israel, obtained illegally from USA against the will of the IAEA and UN, but objects the nuclear weapons of North Korea and Iran. So long as Israel is allowed by USA, EU, UNSC, NATO etc to maintain nuclear weapons to threaten Arab nations and Palestinians (indirectly even European nations), any attempt to stop North Korea form manufacturing nukes to defend itself from enemy misadventures is illogical and sufficiently foolish.
North Korea has a right to have nukes for security purposes at par with other nations, including Israel. North Korea has been an ally of Russia and China. USA has an obligation to protect its NATO allies like South Korea and pretends to unhappy about North Korean efforts to testing their latest missile systems and pursuing its nuclear objectives.
A close ally of China and Russia, tensions have risen in the region amid fears the North is planning new weapons tests. The Americans are deeply concerned about advances in North Korea’s weapons technology; they believe it could well be capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear warhead before the end of President Trump’s first term. North Korea’s missile arsenal has progressed over the decades from crude artillery rockets derived from World War II designs, to medium-range missiles able to strike targets in the Pacific Ocean.
North Korea’s latest efforts appear focused on building reliable long-range missiles, which may have the potential to reach the mainland United States. Two types of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) known as the KN-08 and KN-14, have been observed at various military parades since 2012. Carried and launched from the back of a modified truck, the three-stage KN-08 is believed to have a range of about 11,500km.The KN-14 appears to be a two-stage missile, with a possible range of around 10,000km.
Neither missile has yet been flight tested, but recent images have shown engine trials under way and what appears to be a heat shield for a warhead being tested. Despite this apparent progress, North Korea is still thought to lack the ability to accurately target a city with an ICBM, or miniaturize a nuclear warhead.
Other developments have escalated tensions in recent weeks: North Korea executed a failed missile launch and held a massive military parade in an apparent show of strength; The US has deployed a group of warships and a submarine to the region; Pyongyang has reacted angrily to this, threatening a “super-mighty pre-emptive strike”; The US has begun installing a controversial $1bn (£775m) anti-missile system called Thaad in South Korea – which Trump said South Korea should pay for. Seoul said on Friday that there was “no change” in its position that the US pays for it; Tillerson and US Vice President Mike Pence have visited South Korea, reiterating that “all options are on the table” in dealing with the North; Earlier on Thursday, Tillerson said China has again urged North Korea to refrain from carrying out more tests.
Earlier, Russia’s Vladimir Putin called for the resumption of talks with North Korea as tensions on the peninsula continue to escalate. Speaking in Moscow, where he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he urged those involved to “refrain from using belligerent rhetoric”.
US hit list
USA wants every nation to work under the Pentagon-CIA supervision and does exactly what Washington asks them to do. North Korea has been among its hit list nations. In 2012, North Korea has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, as well as nuclear and long-range missile tests, following talks with the USA.
North Korea has carried out repeated missile tests in recent months and is threatening to conduct its sixth nuclear test.
The US State Department said Pyongyang had also agreed to allow UN inspectors to monitor its reactor in Yongbyon to verify compliance with the measures. In return, the US is finalizing 240,000 tonnes of food aid for the North. The move comes two months after Kim Jong-un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il. The move could pave the way for the resumption of six-party disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang, which last broke down in 2009.
Earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said the US still had “profound concerns” over North Korea, but welcomed the move as a “first step”. “On the occasion of Kim Jong-il’s death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by living up to its obligations.”Today’s announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction.”
North Korea confirmed the move in a foreign ministry statement released in Pyongyang. The statement, carried by the KCNA news agency, said the measures were “aimed at building confidence for the improvement of relations” between the two countries, and said talks would continue. “Both the DPRK [North Korea] and the US affirmed that it is in mutual interest to ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, improve the relations between the DPRK and the US, and push ahead with the denuclearization through dialogue and negotiations,” it said. Yukiya Amano, director general of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the announcement was “an important step forward” and that inspectors stood ready to return to North Korea, Reuters reports.
Earlier, a senior US military official said the issue of food aid for North Korea was now linked to political progress – contradicting earlier policy. The North has suffered persistent food shortages since a famine in the 1990s, and relies on foreign aid to feed its people. North Korea agreed in 2005 to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and political concessions, as part of a six-nation dialogue process involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan. But progress on the deal was stop-start, and the agreement broke down in 2009. Contact between the US and North Korea aimed at restarting the talks began in July 2011. A meeting last week between US and North Korean officials in Beijing was the third round of talks aimed at exploring how to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.
Shortly after being elected, Trump had accused China of not doing enough to rein in North Korea, and suggested the US could take unilateral action.
But in a wide-ranging interview with Reuters inside the Oval Office, Trump – who met Xi earlier this month – said the Chinese president “certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death”. “He is a very good man and I got to know him very well. “He loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t,” he said. Of Kim, he said: “He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age.” But he stressed he was “not giving him credit”, and added: “I hope he’s rational.” “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” said Mr Trump.
The USA is to tighten sanctions on North Korea and step up diplomatic moves aimed at pressuring the country to end its nuclear and missile programs. Trump’s strategy was announced after a special briefing for all 100 US senators. Earlier, the top US commander in the Pacific defended the deployment of an advanced missile defence system in South Korea. “The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” said a joint statement issued by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. “We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.”The president’s approach aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners,” the statement added.
Democratic Senator Christopher Coons told reporters that military options were discussed at the special presidential briefing for senators. “It was a sobering briefing in which it was clear just how much thought and planning was going into preparing military options if called for – and a diplomatic strategy that strikes me as clear-eyed and well-proportioned to the threat,” he said.
Earlier Admiral Harry Harris, head of US Pacific Command, said the US would be ready “with the best technology” to defeat any missile threat. The deployment of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in South Korea was aimed, he argued, at bringing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “to his senses, not to his knees”. Adm Harris said he believed that North Korea would try to attack the US as soon as it had the military capabilities.
The latest US statement on North Korea this week squarely put the pressure on China to act, or otherwise suffer on trade with the world’s largest economy. Implicit in the statement is the assumption (correct, I think) that China is willing to tighten the screws more than the halfway steps they have done in the past, and that as a result, new pain will be inflicted on Pyongyang. “We are engaging responsible members of the international community to increase pressure on the DPRK,” the official name for North Korea.
President Donald Trump’s policy towards North Korea is not different from his predecessors. A White House official said an option under consideration was to put North Korea back on the state department’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, imposed sanctions over a year ago following a nuclear test and satellite launch by the North.
President Trump has repeatedly said that a China trade deal with the USA will be better for Beijing if they act on North Korea. China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea and so if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will. China is committed to upholding U.N. sanctions on North Korea.
Korean missile milestones
For decades North Korea has been one of the world’s most secretive societies. It is one of the few countries still under nominally communist rule.
North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have exacerbated its rigidly maintained isolation from the rest of the world. The country emerged in 1948 amid the chaos following the end of the Second World War. Its history is dominated by its Great Leader, Kim Il-sung, who shaped political affairs for almost half a century.
Decades of this rigid state-controlled system have led to stagnation and a leadership dependent on the cult of personality. The totalitarian state also stands accused of systematic human rights abuses.
North Korea’s own missile program began with Scuds, with its first batch reportedly coming via Egypt in 1976. By 1984 it was building its own versions called Hwasongs. These missiles have an estimated maximum range of about 1,000km, and carry conventional, chemical and possibly biological warheads. From the Hwasong came the Nodong design – effectively an upscaled Hwasong / Scud with a extended range of 1,300km. In an April 2016 analysis, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said the missiles were a “proven system which can hit all of South Korea and much of Japan”. More capable missiles followed with the development of the Musudan range, which was most recently tested in 2016.
Estimates differ dramatically on its how far it can fly, with Israeli intelligence putting it at 2,500km and the US Missile Defense Agency estimating about 3,200km. Other sources suggest a possible 4,000km. Another development came in August 2016 when North Korea announced it had tested a submarine based “surface-to-surface, medium-to-long-range ballistic missile”, called the Pukguksong. A second was launched from land in February 2017.
China does have economic leverage over North Korea as the rogue state’s largest trading partner. For its part, China is the United States’ largest trading partner — the US imports far more from China than it exports to the country, creating a $347 billion deficit last year. Trump has made narrowing that deficit a major goal of his presidency.
As for trade with the USA, he said, “the Chinese side is ready to work with the U.S. to push forward sustained, steady and sound development of the bilateral relationship on the basis of mutual respect and win-win cooperation.”
With the pressure on China, fears of a militaristic breakout may not be realized. “What this is really clear about is all the talk about war was press talk and not serious,” Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project.
After a missile test this February, China banned coal imports from North Korea in February for the rest of the year. Recent reports also show Beijing may also be closer to cutting oil exports to the rogue state, which would be crippling for North Korea. Coal is one of the country’s key exports – and is reportedly also considering restricting oil shipments if Pyongyang continues to behave belligerently.
China says the deployment of Thaad will destabilize security and there have been protests in South Korea itself, where three people were injured in clashes with police as the system was being delivered to a former golf course.
Intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen as the last word in power projection because they allow a country to wield massive firepower against an opponent on the other side of the planet. The only real reason to spend the money, time and effort building them is to fire nuclear weapons.
During the Cold War, Russia and the United States sought different ways to protect and deliver their missiles, which were hidden in silos, piggybacked on huge trucks or carried by submarines.
All ICBMs are designed along similar lines. They are multi-stage rockets powered by solid or liquid fuel, and carry their weapon payload out of the atmosphere into space. The weapon payload – usually a thermonuclear bomb – then re-enters the atmosphere and detonates either above or directly on top of its target. Some ICBMs have a “multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle”, or Mirv. This has multiple warheads and decoys to allowing it to strike multiple targets and confuse missile defence systems.
In the Cold War period, the range and potential threat of ICBMs were seen as key to the concept of “Mutually Assured Destruction” or MAD. MAD supposedly helped maintain peace because neither side could “win” without suffering incalculable damage.
The UN Security Council is meeting to discuss North Korea on Friday. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said China has told the US it will impose sanctions on North Korea if it conducts further nuclear tests. Tillerson is due to chair a UN Security Council foreign ministers meeting on Friday, where he will lobby for existing sanctions against North Korea to be fully implemented to “increase the pressure on the regime.
Donald Trump has praised China’s President Xi Jinping for his handling of North Korea, calling him “a very good man” who loves his country. The US president said he would like to solve the crisis diplomatically but that it was “difficult” and a “major, major conflict” was possible. He also said it had been “very hard” for Kim Jong-un to take over North Korea at such a young age.
The senators received a highly unusual briefing by the Trump administration on the seriousness of the threat from North Korea and the president’s strategy for dealing with it.
Seeking to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, the USA should be sincere to its claims and be open to negotiations towards the peaceful denuclearization of the Middle East. Russia should also first make the ME region free from nukes as a starting point to denuclearize the world.
North Korea is under US sanctions. North Korean government property in America was frozen and US exports to, or investment in, North Korea was banned. The order also greatly expanded powers to blacklist anyone, including non-Americans, dealing with North Korea.
Of course, the road to denuclearization starts from Israel. If USA thinks Israel should possess nuclear weapons to threaten West Asia and Europe, then every country, including North Korea, also should have nukes in plenty- why not?
Assuming that North Korea has nukes already, world needs not get unnecessarily worried about that because many countries have them- USA has the largest nuclear arsenal and it does not want to dismantle nay of them, except those that are dangerously outdated. .
Maybe for USA illegal nuclear weapons of Israel is matter of prestige. But that the IAEA and UNSC refuse to act on the illegally obtained Israeli nuclear weapons is a serious matter of concern for any nation that seeks genuine denuclearization and disarmament.
Any US military intervention to pre-empt that would be fraught with risk, but Trump has toughened his rhetoric to drive home a message that it’s a credible threat. A key part of his plan is to pressure China to lean more heavily on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. The statement says the USA is open to negotiations towards that end, but many even in Washington doubt the regime could ever accept such terms.
The USA already has extensive sanctions in place on North Korea, including a blanket ban on trade and a blacklist of anyone dealing with North Korea. It is not clear what further sanctions Washington could still impose.
Possibly, USA expects a lot of money and services from North Korea as charges for letting it to have nukes. In fact every country pays huge sum to USA to get their things done. However as super power USA never demands bribes openly. Countries understand from its action to a crisis what USA wants.
If USA and its Western allies are sincere about disarmament and denuclearization they must proceed systematically. First, the powerful UNSC and NATO should try and dismantle the nuclear arsenals Israel possesses illegally. Then they should try to apply the existing laws on denuclearization and disarmament on entire world. Those countries that got nukes early must dismantle them soon after Israel is freed from its nuclear weapons.
It is wrong and absurd that in modern times USA dictates its terms to one setoff countries on the issue and another on other nations.
Obviously, neither Iran nor North Korea would have any objections to dismantle their own arsenals.
Russia and the end of North Korea’s Tong-mi bong-nam strategy
North Korea’s decades old strategy of ‘Tong-mi bong-nam’ (Engage the United States, Block South Korea) and its rare variant ( ‘Tong-nam bong-mi’ or Engage South Korea, Block the US) of breaking the Washington-Seoul axis by alternatively cooperating with one in order to isolate the other so as to manoeuvre its way through it has seen a shift recently as Pyongyang moves closer to Russia.
Tensions have been high on the Korean Peninsula since the election of the conservative President Yoon Seok-youl, who has adopted a “Kill Chain” strategy to preemptively target the Kim regime in the face of an imminent nuclear threat. Cooperation has been restricted to calls for reunion of families across the border along with disarmament linked “audacious” economic aid in order to denuclearise Pyongyang, which stands at the cusp of its worst economic crisis post the pandemic. However, surprisingly, North Korea has not only rejected the offer but has declared itself a nuclear state by adopting a law which rules out the possibility of denuclearisation by allowing Pyongyang to conduct preemptive strikes to protect itself. With a possible nuclear test on the cards, the Russian hand behind such bold moves cannot be overlooked.
Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has emboldened North Korea in more ways than one: it has not only challenged the invincibility of the Western powers whom Pyongyang defines as “hostile” but has also created demands for North Korean weaponry for a sanction pressed Russia to continue the war, promising to fill Pyongyang’s coffers with much needed foreign reserves. While North Korea has denied these claims, its increased proximity with Moscow is too conspicuous to gloss over. The most significant consequence however has been a change in North Korea’s policy towards Seoul and Washington.
Efficiently using it to challenge Seoul’s participation in any peace negotiations since the Korean Armistice Agreement of 1953, the strategy of Tong-mi bong-nam was employed again in 1994 when faced with recurrent famines and massive food shortages, Pyongyang agreed to denuclearise under the Agreed Framework and eventually normalise its relationship with the US. The idea was to extract economic aid while isolating Seoul after tensions soared over the latter not sending official condolences on Kim il-Sung’s death.
The strategy was reversed in South’s favour when relations with Washington soured after it imposed a fresh series of sanctions against Pyongyang’s nuclear proliferation programme in April 1998 and North Korea positively responded to Kim Dae-Jung’s Sunshine Policy which resulted in the historic June 15 summit of 2000, where the the leaders of the two Koreas met for the first time post the division in 1945. President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” comment further worsened US-North Korean ties which led Pyongyang to not only break off contacts with both the US and South Korea but also withdraw from the NPT in January 2003. Although South Korean efforts and North Korea’s mounting economic crisis succeeded in bringing Pyongyang to the Six Party Talks where Seoul argued that North’s security concerns be taken into account before pushing for denuclearisation, Washington’s rigid stance that North Korea denuclearises first resulted in a stalemate. Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 inviting more stringent sanctions and eventually withdrew from the Six Party talks in 2009. After successive conservative governments which favoured a hard stance towards North Korea virtually stalled negotiations, President Moon Jae-in’s friendly approach resulted in a major breakthrough in Inter-Korean relations in the form of the 2018 Panmunjom Declaration which called for phased disarmament, at a time when Pyongyang’s economy was at its lowest in the past two decades and tensions with the Trump administration soared high. The breakdown of the 2019 Hanoi Summit between North Korea and the US finally ended cooperation.
The above cases illustrate how efficiently North Korea has used Tong-mi bong-nam as a manoeuvring tool where negotiations were undertaken only during times of economic crisis while nuclear proliferation continued to remain a priority to achieve reunification of the peninsula in a way favourable to Pyongyang. Moreover, Kim Jong-un has learnt from the case of Gadaffi’s Libya that engaging the West in denuclearisation would only provide limited respite while possession of nuclear weapons not only creates a strong deterrence against attacks by much powerful adversaries but also fuels nuclear nationalism thus reproducing regime legitimacy even at its weakest moments. Hence, he has nipped all chances of achieving complete denuclearisation in the bud. While China has so far played a major role in moderating Pyongyang’s aggression by prioritising regional stability considering its own geopolitical and economic interests over countering the US; Russia’s bold violation of UNSC sanctions by not only trading with Pyongyang but also demonstrating active interest in employing North Korean workers and labelling the bilateral relationship as being of “mutual interest” speaks volumes about the greater latitude it is willing to provide its anti-American ally in pressing forward with its agenda.
Though Tong-mi bong-nam has served North Korea’s interests by aiding it in extracting economic benefits while dodging commitments over complete denuclearisation, it has simultaneously acted as the only window for Seoul and Washington to negotiate with Pyongyang. As its raison d’être, namely North’s economic and diplomatic isolation, wanes with Moscow’s support; the hope for denuclearisation might be lost forever specifically as the US and South Korea continue to seek “overwhelming” military response to resolve the crisis which might lead to unimaginably dangerous consequences. The need of the hour is to multilaterally engage with both Russia and North Korea on disarmament and lift sanctions in a phased manner while ensuring that the two abide by their commitments.
The SCO seeks for a new role in the post-Ukrainian crisis world
During the Samarkand summit which was held during September 15-16, the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) signed the landmark Samarkand Declaration, advanced Iran’s accession, start the process for Belarus to become a full member, while approving Bahrain, Maldives, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Myanmar as dialogue partners. Additionally, the SCO issued groundbreaking statements and documents, marking the first time that member states have jointly spoken out on emerging issues, such as climate change, supply chain security and international energy security. All of these progresses verify that the SCO has come of the age over the past two decades. There is no question that the SCO is now the largest regional cooperation organization in the world. Over half of the world’s population lives in its member states, accounting for about 25% of the global GDP—and those states have a powerful intellectual and technological potential and a considerable part of the global natural resources.
As one of the two leading drivers of the SCO, Russia has played the tremendous role in its development and solidarity of all member states in principle and in reality as well. This year, despite the Ukrainian war drags on for over 200 days, Russia still acted influentially to promote Iran’s “earliest possible accession” to the SCO legally and Belarus’s beginning the accession process. As President Putin said during the summit, “There are many more countries that seek membership in or association with the SCO. All are welcomed because the SCO is a “non-bloc association and rather working with the whole world.” It is also true that in a very complicated international situation, the SCO is not “marking time,” but rather continuing to develop and build its role in addressing international and regional issues—maintaining peace and stability “throughout the vast Eurasian space.”
Echoing the coming changes in global politics and the economy which are about to undergo fundamental and irreversible changes, it is obvious that there are new “centers of power” emerging, and the interaction among them is inclusively based on universally recognized principles of the rule of international law and the UN Charter, namely, equal and indivisible security and respect for each other’s sovereignty, national values and interests. Given this, this article aims to argue what role the SCO would be able to play in the next twenty years?
The SCO holds tremendous potential for the future of international community and particularly in the fields of ensuring energy security and food security. Accordingly, the latest joint statement proposes to avoid excessive fluctuations in the prices of international bulk commodities in the energy sector, ensure the safety and stability of international food and energy resources’ transportation channels, and to smooth the international production and supply chain. To insure these ends, the statement also underlines adherence to the principle of technology neutrality as it is the key to encourage the research and application of various clean and low-carbon energy technologies. Given this, the Samarkand summit is a milestone both in the development of the SCO and building of a SCO community with shared future. Accordingly, the SCO will adhere to the principle of not targeting third parties as the Final Declaration states that the SCO seeks to ensure peace, security and stability. In reality, SCO members intend to jointly further develop cooperation in politics and security, trade, economy, finance and investments, cultural and humanitarian relations “in order to build a peaceful, safe, prosperous and environmentally friendly planet Earth.”
In the overall terms, China has played the significant role in joint promoting of the SCO as Russia admitted that in unison with the Chinese side, the existence of a unipolar world is impossible. Moscow and Beijing have agreed that it’s an impossible situation when the wealthy West is claiming the right to invent rules in economy, in politics and the right to impose its will on other countries. The foundation of the unipolar system has started to seriously creak and wobble. A new reality is emerging. Now it is more apparent that the obsolete unipolar model is being superseded by a new world order based on the fundamental principles of justice, equality, and the recognition of the right of each nation and state to its sovereign path of development. Put it more precisely, strong political and economic centers acting as a driving force of this irreversible process are being shaped in the Asia Pacific region.
Echoing the consensus among the SCO member states and their partners in the Eurasian domain, President Xi spoke at the summit that the successful experience of the SCO has been based on political trust, win-win cooperation, equality between nations, openness and inclusiveness, and equity and justice. They are not only the source of strength for the development of the SCO but also the fundamental guide that must be followed strictly in the years to come. Given that under the volatile world, the SCO, as an important constructive force in international and regional affairs, should keep itself well-positioned in the face of changing international dynamics, constantly enhance strategic independence, consolidate and deepen solidarity and cooperation, and build a closer SCO community with a shared future.
More specifically, China has not only presented the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative, but also carried out the initiatives with real actions. In addition, the SCO greets the new round of the largest expansion of the SCO membership has consolidated its status and influence as the most populous regional cooperation organization with the vastest territory in the world. The expansion fully demonstrates that the SCO is not a closed and exclusive “small clique” but an open, inclusive “big family”. As a new type of international organization comprising 26 countries, the SCO is increasingly showing strong vitality and bright prospects for development including that it will inject new impetus into peace and prosperity in Eurasia and beyond and play an exemplary role in building a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind.
In sum, the SCO has gained greater significance with the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, where an economically weaker Russia is turning to East in general and China in particular as Beijing and Moscow vow to be a partner with no limits and leading coordination over the SCO. In addition, the comprehensive strategic partnership of China and Russia covers a bilateral agenda, multilateral trade and economic cooperation and shared security concerns of all concerned. In the face of outrageous Western sanctions, the SCO demonstrates stability, continues to develop progressively, and gains momentum. China is sure to play the constructive role of promoting their business to the global level, including strengthening the basis of economic cooperation among SCO member states, allowing the launch of free economic zones, and implementing large-scale infrastructure projects globally.
Factionalism in the Chinese Communist Party: From Mao to Now
With the crucial 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) set to commence on October 16, here’s a look at the different factions that have historically existed within the Party, otherwise considered a highly centralised and monolithic organisation.
Described by Lenin as “freedom of discussion, unity of action”, Democratic Centralism is a Marxist-Leninist theoretical concept which attempts to strike a balance between inner Party democracy and organisational unity as an assurance that decisions could be efficiently made without stifling ideological struggles within the Party which emerge in the form of dissent. It was first specifically adopted as the organising principle of a Marxist party in the Soviet Union by both Bolshevik and Menshevik factions of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) at their separate conferences in 1905 and was unanimously adopted at the Party Unity Congress in 1906. Initially seen to be compatible with the existence of factions, a more rigid idea of Democratic Centralism was adopted at the 10th Party Congress in 1921 when all factions were outlawed in the name of Party unity. While the intention was not to wipe out the democratic discourse altogether, ‘monolithic unity’ vertically imposed by the late 1920s supplanted all free debate.
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) at its 17th Congress in 1934 defined the four cardinal points of Democratic Centralism as follows:
election of all leading bodies of the Party; their periodic accountability to their respective organisations; strict party discipline & the subordination of the minority to the majority and decisions of higher bodies to be absolutely binding on lower bodies and on party members.
In other words, free debate and discussion would be allowed to exist within the ranks of the Party till a decision is taken by the higher body after which it must be faithfully followed and implemented by all lower ranks in the name of Party discipline without any collective attempts to block the decision. Factionalism thus, came to be seen as a serious offense of sabotaging Party unity. The Third Communist International (1919-43) called for Democratic Centralism to be strictly implemented by all fellow Communist parties across the world which continued even after its dissolution in 1943.
The Chinese Communist Party, through the slogan ‘Centralism based on Democracy and Democracy Under Centralist Guidance’ (《民主基础上的集中，集中知道下的民主》), describes its role as focused on the inclusion of popular opinion which is considered extremely important not just for the successful implementation of its policies but also as the raison d’être of its rule however concurrently, it considers them too vague to be implemented as they exist. The CCP thus sees itself as the central sieve through which mass opinions would be filtered off their vagueness and effective policies could be formulated as it is considered to be in best possession of both the knowledge of Marxism-Leninism and interests of the masses. Party cadres would go to the masses and raise their demands at the Party meetings followed by a debate, also known as the Mass Line approach. Once the decision is taken, there would be no further discussion and the cadres would faithfully implement the policies among the populace with iron discipline.
After a brief period of decentralisation post the 1978 Reform and Opening up, Centralism was reintroduced following the Tiananmen Square Movement of 1989 and more so after the fall of the USSR in 1991 in order to avert a possible legitimacy crisis. Since then streams of Centralism and Democracy have alternatively dominated leadership views. In his speech at the 17th Party Congress, Hu Jintao emphasised on the need to strengthen intra Party democracy as a part of Democratic Centralism. In contrast, Xi Jinping in 2016 emphasised on the need to integrate centralisation on a democratic basis while urging the members to display “pure and utmost” loyalty to the Party.
Though Articles 3(5) and 10 of the CCP Constitution prohibit factionalism within the Party in the name of Democratic Centralism, interest groups nevertheless exist through informal networks based on personal ties called Guanxi (关系). Guanxi has its roots in the Confucian tradition which emphasises on the feeling of belongingness among members of a family or an organisation. Such a nexus functions in a reciprocal way where the followers look for career security and advancement under the protection of a senior leader who ensures their interests are served in the upper rungs in exchange for their support, for instance, Hu Jintao was known to have led a group of his comrades from his Communist Youth League (CYL) days called Tuanpai (团派) in his entourage. While in itself testifying the presence of factionalism, this relationship often results in emergence of factions due to its unstable nature. All chosen successors to the General Secretary in the Party’s history have been purged by their own patrons (Mao and Deng) with the sole exception of Deng Xiaoping’s protégé, Jiang Zemin. Inconsistent leadership decision making, with opinions swinging between “Left adventurism” and “Right opportunism” under Mao and “Emancipation of Mind” and “Socialist Spiritual Civilisation” under Deng too has given rise to interest groups within the Party.
Other features of China’s political system which give rise to factionalism include power entrusted to individual leaders in a hierarchical context; the monopoly of the Communist Party over all legal channels of expression of diverse interests; absence of a formal structure of decision making and interference of the military in politics.
Factions at a glance
The origins of Guanxi networks can be traced back to Shantou (山头）or “mountain top” alliances which date back to the Party’s early days. Facing a hostile Nationalist Party (国民党) and Japanese forces, the CCP was nurtured in independent and isolated rural basecamps which were often located in rugged hilly terrain. Thus, each Shantou became a locus of its leader’s power. The hostile and dangerous conditions necessitated a close bond between leaders and their followers which fragmented member’s loyalty towards the CCP as a Party as the primary allegiance was paid to the leader and not to the organisation.
Though Mao in his On Contradiction (1937) defined intra Party differences and discussions as a symbol of its vitality and liveliness, he was very strict about expression of dissent outside the Party apparatus which was seen as an attempt to break away from the Party and resulted almost always in purges. Even as Mao successfully established his line of thought as the single ideological core of the Party during the Yenan Rectification Campaign of 1942, ground realities built conditions for the existence of factions which continued as external channels of communication among political associates, outlets of their diverse interests and command system of their forces. Informal Factionalism continued to drive the Party’s inner politics even after the victory in the Civil War in 1949. While Mao could establish himself as the Chairman, his sole legitimacy to rule still faced challenges since all his associates had comparable experience and contribution to enlist. As a result, though working under Mao, leaders such as Zhou Enlai and Peng Dehuai continued to remain influential in a system where they were not expected to do so. Cautious of not upsetting Mao,these leaders often collaborated amongst themselves to weather any crisis which Mao read as a threat to his own power and hence, he launched the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) as an anti-organisation movement so as to tie all strands of loyalty to himself and not the Party where other leaders still exercised influence.
Interestingly, a penchant for a similar policy did not always translate into unity among members, the classic example being the fallout between Liu Shaoqi and Mao Zedong who did not just share policy preferences on most issues but had also joined the Party at the same time and worked together. Similarly, both Lin Biao and the Gang of Four (四人帮) were on the same page in the trajectory of the revolution but it was the power struggle amongst them which ultimately led to Lin’s fall. During Deng’s regime, Chen Yun and Peng Zhen’s shared conservativeness did not prevent Chen from blocking Peng’s path to the Politburo Standing Committee. Both Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang were reform minded but Zhao held his silence when Hu was ousted. Similarly, it was on the basis of personal networks that Deng Xiaoping and Chen Yun remained the most powerful leaders throughout their lives without holding any official position.
The economic reforms of the post Mao period further split internal unity into those who continued to stick with the Maoist line, demanding strict obedience to the socialist model of development and those who believed in inching closer to an open, market oriented economy. Economic interests thus play a major role in guiding factionalism, with the emergence of a ‘Petroleum faction’ within the CCP of those associated with the crude oil industry being a noticeable example.
Common political origins have also formed a ground for development of factions. Like Hu’s Tuanpai, Jiang Zemin was known to promote those who had worked for him previously in the Shanghai administration which led to the rise of a “Shanghai Clique” when he ascended the top position. Xi is similarly known to be leading a “Fujian Clique” as his ascension to power was soon followed by the promotion of his former associates Wang Xiaohong and Deng Weiping to senior positions. He has also promoted his protégés from his home province of Shaanxi. Xi is not only known to secure the interests of “Princelings” (太子党 or children of high ranking Communist leaders as himself) but to also further promote a “Tsinghua Faction” of his alma mater which is known to have existed since 2008 when 1 of the 7 members of the Politburo Standing Committee and 3 of the 25 members of the Politburo were alumni of the prestigious Tsinghua University. Xi Jinping has also actively promoted leaders such as Ma Xingrui and Zhang Qingwei from the Defense-Aerospace industry (军工航天系) to top civilian positions. Perhaps the starkest episode of factionalism within the CCP was the fall of Bo Xilai, Xi’s contender to the position of the General Secretary in 2012, which not just revealed the fault lines within the Party but also brought into question the fragmented loyalty of the military as many senior PLA officers closely associated with Bo such as Zhou Yongkang were found to have actively aided him in securing the most coveted position and were later tried and arrested for charges of corruption and abuse of power.
With speculations high that Xi is likely to evade the “seven up, eight down” (七上，八下) rule which restricts reappointments of senior leaders above the age of 68 and the retirement of Li Keqiang as the Premier, groups such as the CYL faction are likely to be further marginalised while the prominence of those close to Xi Jinping is bound to prevail at the upcoming Party Congress which might result in the likely promotion of leaders like Chen Min’er and Ding Xuexiang.
Factionalism within the CCP does not just stand as the testimony of the dynamics in Chinese politics but also provides a window into the otherwise opaque world of its functioning.
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