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China & France vow to forge strong partnership in the “Belt and Road Initiative”

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Authors: Wang Li and Raphael Lissillour

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] C [/yt_dropcap]hinese presidents usually reserve phone calls to heads of foreign countries for use in case of emergency, such as the Korean peninsula crisis. However, on May 7th 2017, President Xi Jinping immediately extended his warm regards to French President Emmanuel Macron after his election, and two days later, they talked to each other again over the phone.

According to Chinese media, both leaders expressed their shared interest to strengthen the Sino-French strategic partnership, to boost both countries’ global economic growth and promote peace. Now the question arises as to why China is so keen on the recent election of new president Macron, despite the fact that the Fifth Republic is not considered a global power on the same level as the United States and Russia, or as the emerging powers like Brazil and India. To answer this question, it is necessary to explore the issue from three perspectives: historical, geopolitical, and economic.

As acknowledged by Chinese officials, France was the first Western great power to recognize the People’s Republic of China in 1964. At that time the United States had retained strong sanctions against the Beijing government for 15 years and continued to reject the legitimacy of P. R. China. Since then, France and China have enhanced their strategic consensus and their cooperation to new levels, accordingly with the volatile modernizing world. For instance, during President de Gaulle’s tenure in office, France and China pursued independent nuclear capacity. During the presidency of Jacques Chirac, the two powers promoted their bilateral relationship and global partnership. From the Chinese perspective, France is still a great power with global dimensionality, especially in the fields of culture, education, and technology. President Xi formally invited France to participate to the “Belt & Road Initiative”. As a token of friendship and mutual respect, former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was chosen by president-elect Macron as special representative to the “Belt & Road Initiative” Forum held 14-15 May 2017.

Diplomatically, China has not only cherished their bilateral ties with France, but also endorsed European integration from its inception. After Brexit became a reality in 2016, China consistently and clearly supported “the EU speaking with one voice”. Indeed, a French version of Brexit would have disastrous consequences for the Euro currency. As a rising power and simultaneously a developing country, it is the priority for China to maintain more open and stable financial markets as a proper environment for its economic development. It is important to note that 1/3 of Chinese foreign currency reserves are held in Euros. This substantial currency reserve implies potential risks for the Chinese economy. Indeed, a fall of the Euro’s exchange rate would lower the value of Chinese foreign currency assets, along with the value of all investments made in the Euro-zone. China tends to view the Euro as a balancing currency against the U.S. dollar. Although Beijing has no need to be involved into the entanglements of EU member-states, it is in China’s core interests to sustain strong overall relationships with the EU in strategic terms. As the largest integrated entity in the world, the EU has sufficient resources to surpass the United States in terms of GDP and global economic influence. Since it has been one of the key co-players of the EU, France welcomes a prosperous and dynamic China, which emphasizes that “the huge Eurasian region between France and China should become a community of interests, responsibility and shared destiny”.

In terms of international strategy, it is worth remembering that China and France are both nuclear powers and members of United Nations’ Security Council. As President Xi reiterated over the phone with the newly-elected President Macron, China would like to cooperate closely with France to support global governance efforts and contribute to its major achievements, such as “the Paris Agreement” which deals with the mitigation of global greenhouse gas emission. In October 2016, several EU member states ratified the agreement. As a result, the ratifying states’ production of green-house gases went over the agreed threshold and the agreement could finally enter into force. The Paris agreement went into effect in the same year, and France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called this ambitious and well-adjusted plan, “a historic turning point in the goal of reducing global warning”. Considering global governance in the 21st century, China has advocated globalization since it is the framework under which its unprecedented development continues to unfold. Unlike the other presidential candidate Le Pen, Macron does not consider globalization to be a negative force, but rather a phenomenon which provides many opportunities for growth and development. Due to this, during the electoral campaign in France, Chinese media, such as Weibo and Wechat, displayed expressions of the Chinese people’s consistent preference for Macron by depicting Le Pen as a proponent of the extreme right, whose racist tendencies would be a menace to foreigners, including many Chinese who would like to live and study in France. Conversely, Macron has been viewed favorably in China’s eyes, because France under Macron may promote stronger cooperative links between China and the EU. In this setting, France may be more instrumental in balancing against the U.S. hegemony, thus contributing to the strategic goals of China. In addition, Macron as the newly-elected President has positive perception of the leading role that China plays in the world’s economy. In consideration of disputes related to China, he openly accepted to bring Chinese dumping practices to the negotiation tables at the G20 and OECD. Given the popular sentiment against Chinese dumping in France and the EU, Macron, then the Minister of Economy, famously stated: “you can’t dislike the Chinese who buy airbus, and dislike those who invest in the airport.” In the aftermath of the privatization of Toulouse Airport, Macron was highly praised as a standard-bearer of the European Union and a promoter of globalization. Both the continuity of European integration and the perception of globalization as a positive force in the EU are important factors for China. Indeed, the return on investment of the “Belt & Road Initiative” may sink drastically if the EU were to collapse.

China has consistently endorsed France to be involved in global governance, for both countries have global dimensions including their seats at the UN, G-20 and other international forums. Since China has dedicated itself to the “project of the century” initiated by President Xi, the “Belt & Road Initiative” represents a substantial economic potential and welcomes any country including France to join the project. There is no doubt that in West of Europe the “Belt & Road Initiative” does not receive the same attention as it does in East European countries and Stan countries. Unlike other innovative 21st century ideas, it is not a speculative or virtual project, but rather an opportunity for many developing countries to develop their infrastructure and trade facilities. On one hand, the romance of the ancient Silk Road has fed local imagination for centuries, but few people know that the term Silk Road was coined by German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877. Today, with substantial currency reserves and geopolitical ambitions, China is making the New Silk Road a reality by employing sufficient financial and structural means to match its ambitions. Meanwhile in Europe, the “Belt & Road Initiative” is mostly perceived as a distant curiosity and limited to mere cultural exchanges. On the other hand, more and more people have become aware of a new growth potential in the world’s economy, to the extent in which this economic growth has been accelerated by China. This new setting contributed to the initialization of a deep strategic reflection by President Xi himself.

Even though China has long been the world’s largest manufacturing power, it is now seeking access to new markets for its industrial products and strategic partnership to boost its innovation capacity. Indeed, because of the shrinking gains generated by the manufacturing industry, innovation has become crucial to add value. Since the start of the “Belt & Road Initiative” in 2013, huge financial and multilateral tools have been invested to give shape to the project, which may contribute to the reform of global governance. It will not only be significant for global balance and sustainable development, but also important for France and the European Union as well. As a well-established industrial power and a mature source of advanced technologies, France follows the initiative with strong interest. France will have the opportunity to contribute to China’s innovation drive via technology transfer, to strengthen vibrant economic and cultural exchanges and to promote a comprehensive partnership between China and the EU, the former being the largest rising power and the latter the largest ruling stake-holder. More than that, as Rafarin put it, “France and China have always placed a major interest in bilateral relationship, putting aside […] internal political differences between various parties. To that end, the priority of the project is global equilibrium for peace and development because both sides have trust in a common vision for a multi-polar global system and multilateralism, not to mention their strong relations with African nations.”

(*) Raphael Lissillour, PhD candidate in IR at SIPA, Jilin University

Wang Li is Professor of International Relations and Diplomacy at the School of International and Public Affairs, Jilin University China.

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East Asia

The Problem of Uncontrolled Nationalism: The Case of Japan before the WWII

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Authors: Chan Kung and Yu(Tony) Pan*

Throughout the modern history of the world, Japan is undoubtedly an interesting country: it went from the edge of becoming a colony to one of few independent countries in Asia before World War II, and after the Great War, Japan even became a great power. From a broader level, Japan’s success at that time showed that Asians were not inherently inferior to Westerners. Unfortunately, Japan which was supposed to be the leader of Asia to a bright future, chose the path fascism and imperialism. Eventually, Japan became the source of the Pacific War.

It is undeniable that from the Meiji Restoration until the early Showa period (the end of World War II), Japan adapted an expansionary policy, which brought deep suffering to its neighboring countries and ultimately dragged itself into the abyss of destruction. When World War II ended, nearly 70 years of development achievements were utterly wiped out by the war.

In this context, an important question we need to ponder is: What led Japan to embark on an expansionary and self-destructive path? At what point in time did Japan’s policymakers start to lose its mind? What can future generations of nations learn from Japan’s tragic experience to prevent the same fate from happening again? As a country that has been entangled with Japan for generations and has a complicated relationship with Japan, these issues are of even greater relevance to Chinese researchers today.

Fortunately, there is actually a fair amount of scholarly research on the subject, and there exist four main explanations. The first is the “international structure theory” most commonly used by IR scholars (especially the realists), and the second, more common among Western scholars, is the “weak democratic government theory. The third is the “Pan-Asianism,” which focuses on the constructivist perspective. Finally, there is the political economy explanation of expansionary policies.

At the first glance, it seems that each of these explanations has its own rationale. Of the four, the view that the navy and the military were increasingly extreme in their struggle for policy dominance is the most possible explanation. However, it seems that each of the four existing explanations can, in fact, be incorporated into a new one, namely, that Japan’s self-destructive expansionary policies prior to World War II were the material manifestation of an uncontrolled nationalism. More specifically, these four explanations answer why the Showa government was unable to control the nationalist forces in the country. On the other hand, however, the question of whether nationalism would necessarily expand without outside interference and lead to expansionist policies was left unexplained.

Because of the natural characteristics of nationalism, it seems to us that there is a natural tendency for nationalism to expand in the course of its development. The main reasons for this phenomenon are not complicated. First of all, nationalism is a group ideology, which means that nationalists have a common goal at the macro level, but the boundaries of national interest are not consistently defined by different individuals. On this basis, because of the unreliability of group rationality, nationalism as a groupthink is prone to overstretch in the course of its development. Moreover, when such currents are not rationally controlled and end up holding state policy hostage, the state tends to follow a self-destructive path of expansionism. Pre-World War II Japan is a classic case in point.

It should be noted that the positive effects of nationalism is not being denied here, but it is crucial that a country’s policymaking process should not be ultimately being a hostage to nationalist forces. The question then, is how to prevent nationalism from spiraling out of control. From an empirical point of view, there are two different directions to prevent nationalism from getting out of control at the macro level: first, to eliminate “group irrationality” in nationalism; Second, to establish a corresponding gatekeeper between nationalism and state policymaking.

The first direction is essential to improve the thinking capacity and cultural literacy of society as a whole. This is a radical way to solve the above problems, and the improvement of the education system is the most crucial part of it. However, for reasons that are easy to understand, this approach often takes too long to implement, and the process is not really controllable. As a result, this approach, while very important, is often insufficient for policymakers.

The second approach, on the other hand, is a short-term solution (relatively speaking). To use the common metaphor of treating a bodily disease, a gatekeeper-kind-of-approach is not to eradicate the disease but rather to prevent it from damaging health amid acceptance of its existence. There are two other ways to establish gatekeepers: one is to establish a mature political system that uses institutional factors to insulate people from the negative effects of nationalism. This is also the more popular approach in developed Western countries. It should be noted that this approach has proven itself to be effective, most notably in the case of the United States, which also has two populist leaders, as opposed to Brazil, where institutional constraints and the resulting establishment have been significantly more effective in containing the negative effects of nationalism on the policy.

The alternative is to rely on a small number of political authorities within society to isolate the scourge of nationalism through the elite’s prestige and quality. Again, this is also an approach that has worked before. The best example is the significant role played by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the “reform and opening-up” process.

So, which is more effective, institutions or authority? This is not a question that can be easily answered. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, and because every country and society is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

First of all, the main advantage of institutional gatekeepers is that once established, the containment is apparent and fairly solid; however, the disadvantage is that institutions may take a long time to develop and may come at a cost (e.g., the French Revolution). An authoritative gatekeeper’s advantage is its high degree of operability, while the disadvantage is the unsustainability and instability of the individual factor. On this basis, the realization of either approach needs to be linked to local realities; in other words, neither is necessarily successful. However, despite the different possibilities of approaches and paths, one issue is certain: in this day and age, uncontrolled nationalism is still a problem that threatens national interests, and this issue must be given sufficient attention and focus by policymakers.

Lastly, for contemporary China, the case of Showa Japan has another area of critical research value: how to deal with the current international order? History has shown that almost every attempt to challenge the existing international order independently has often ended in self-destruction. Successful transformations of the international structure tend to be incremental. In the case of pre-World War II Japan, the immediate effect of nationalism was to push the Japanese government to place itself on the opposite side of the prevailing international order. Today’s China has certainly not come that far. In fact, as Professor Wang Jisi says: “In those days, Japan was an ‘institution’ in the international order, while China was rejected and discriminated against by the West as an ‘other.’ Today, Japan is still ‘within the system’ of the international order, while China has risen to become the world’s second-largest economy and its military power is not what it used to be, but there is still the question of how China views the existing international order and how to deal with its relationship with the existing international order. ” In dealing with this problem, preventing the negative effects of nationalism on state policy is undoubtedly an important aspect.

*Mr. Yu(Tony) Pan serves as the associate research fellow and the research assistant of Mr. Chan Kung, Founder, Chairman, and the Chief Researcher of ANBOUND. He obtained his master’s degree at George Washington University, the Elliott School of International Affairs; and his bachelor’s degree in University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. Mr. Pan has published pieces in various platform domestically and internationally. He currently focuses on Asian Security, geopolitics in Indo-Pacific region and the U.S.-Sino Relations.

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East Asia

CCP’s Motives for the Cultural Genocides in Tibet and East Turkestan

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Despite more than sixty years military invasion of independent Tibet and East Turkestan (Ch. Xinjiang) by People’s liberation army of Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  Gross human rights violation, massive crackdown and mass internment of Uighur Muslim peoplecontinue unabated. Prominent scholars and experts have debated in recent years over the motives and the implications of such oppressive policies. Months ago, yet another new reports and finding have revealed the implementation of military-style coercive labor programs in Tibet. A better understanding can be made by discerning the roots of such oppressive policies adopted by, and to find the connection between the mass internment camps in Xinjiang and the forced labor programs that Beijing has been implementing in Tibet. From a broader perspective, it would not be an overstatement to call the Beijing actions in Tibet and Xinjiang as imbued with genocidal intent. There are underlying similarities between the Mass internment camps in Xinjiang and the forced labor programs, as a fact that the Tibetan, Uighur, and other minority’s population are the victims of similar severe forms of repression due to their belief and securing Beijing’s rule over it. Both the Tibetan people and the Uighur are currently facing severe threat of identities extinction.

Beijing’s Final Solution in East Turkestan (CH. Xinjiang) and Tibet

The definition of the Cultural genocide is when there is a systematic effort carried out to exterminate the identity of a group through the means of destruction and annihilation of culture, language, religious institutions of that targeted group. The act of cultural genocide is generally carried out accompanied with infliction of violence and oppression.

 For a long time, both the Uighur and Tibetans have been at the receiving end of the repressive policies of CCP, which aims to eradicate their religion, culture, language, and distinct identities. Recent uncovering of rising numbers of mass internment camps in East Turkestan (Ch. Xinjiang) and the military-style coercive labor programs in Tibet has brought more spotlight on the clear indication of the cultural genocidal attempt of the Chinese regime. Chen Quanguo is currently the party secretary of the region of East Turkestan (CH. Xinjiang). As soon as he took over as the party leader of the region in 2016, the persecution of the Uighurs and other minorities through mass internment camps escalate. It is not revelation that the architect of the internment camps in East Turkestan (CH. Xinjiang) Chen Quanguo was the former party secretary of Tibet for five years, where he has formulated and implemented similar draconian measures.

2018 was a big year, when United Nation has revealed the reports of hundreds of mass internment camps being built by the Chinese government in the region of Xinjiang. Ever since the reports of mass internment of Uighurs Muslims and other minorities in the prison-like establishment came to the light of the international community, Beijing has received extensive criticism and pressure likewise. Nonetheless, this pressure from the international community doesn’t seem to have stopped the cultural genocidal pursuit of the Chinese government as they have remained more resilient and repugnant. There are a spiking number of the new mass internment camps established during 2019-20. Through the intensive use of satellite images, records of the survivors and escaped victims, and other important tracking programs, research institutes such as the Australian Strategic policy institute in the recent month of September has present a database of around 380 internment camps build across the region till now.

Surge of Forced labor programs in Tibet in the midst of strong criticism on Mass internment camps in East Turkestan (CH, Xinjiang)

In the wake of strong criticism and backlash, the Chinese government has appeared to bring up yet another new repressive policy in the region of Tibet. Which evidently have a resemblance to that of Mass internment camps. Adrian Zenz, a leading researcher on East Turkestan’s mass internment has disclosed through the reports and the findings of investigations undertaken dating back to 2016 about the establishment of forced labor programs in Tibet. Researcher Adrian Zenz was one of the earliest groups of researchers, who have alerted the world about the existence Mass internment camps. According to the reports published by Jamestown Foundation in “China Brief Volume” dating September 22 have shown that in just the first seven months of 2020, there were more than half a million Tibetan mainly consisted of the population from the rural area registered into the forced Labor programs. The forced labor program in Tibet shows the similar tendency that the Chinese government has adopted towards the Uighur. Under the guise of vocational training and labor training, the Tibetans enrolled in the programs have to strenuously undergo thought transformation and adoption of the Chinese identities. The Tibetans were forced to abandon their way of livelihood, thought and culture. In the words of Adrian Zenz  on the Coercive labor programs in Tibet and the Mass internment camps in Ch. Xinjiang “In the context of Beijing’s increasingly assimilatory ethnic minority policy, it is likely that these policies will promote a long-term loss of linguistic, cultural and spiritual heritage.” 

A month ago, the House of the Representatives of the United State has passed a resolution with overwhelming support in an outcry against the Human rights violation in Tibet. The resolution has conveyed a clear message of the urgent need to protect the identity, religions, and culture of the Tibetans. As elaborated in H. Res. 697 that the House of Representatives “affirms the cultural and religious significance of the goal of genuine autonomy for the people of Tibet” 

Beijing’s logic behind their actions in Tibet and East Turkestan (CH. Xinjiang)

The current patterns of the actions that the Chinese government is following in the Tibet and East Turkestan (Ch. Xinjiang) can be drawn parallel to actions of the Nazi government before the horrendous Holocaust took place. It is an undisputedly fact that Nazi Germany led by Hitler thrived on an extreme form of anti-Semitism and that the wrongful hatred towards the Jewish people has played major factor leading to the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism itself is engraved with inherited stereotypes, prejudice, and false generalization of the Jewish people. It wouldn’t be so far fetch to say that the Chinese government has adopted a similar sort of generalization and stereotypes towards the Uighurs people and the Tibetan people. Uighur have been generalized by the Chinese communist party as bewitch with extremist thoughts. The religion and the identity of the Uighur people have been labeled as a form of extremism and need eradication by the CCP. In the words of the CCP officials, they compare the implementation of Mass internment camps as “washing brain” to cleanse the extremist thoughts.

The lack of urgency from the international community

The situation in East Turkestan (Ch. Xinjiang) and Tibet is a bit more nuanced, but if history has taught us anything then the Holocaust didn’t happen overnight but rather it was the culmination of decades of discrimination and repressions towards the Jews. The forced labor programs in Tibet and the mass internment camp campaign is only one of the Chinese communist party latest attempt to Sinicize and dismantle the Tibetan and Uighur’s  culture, language and religion. Unless and until, the international community will urgently considered the issues of East Turkestan and Tibet more than just a side topic to discuss with China, the Chinese government’s cultural genocide actions will remain steadfast.

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East Asia

China according to Pascal Gauchon

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There is no doubt that the United States wants to safeguard its global hegemony but this does not mean that the United States will remain first permanently, power will perhaps be shared in a world of permanent conflict. As for China, it does not have the ambition to rule the world. He wants to serve his interests, turn things to his advantage. However it has no missionary or proselytizing instinct, its culture does not have a purpose of global domination. Chinese emigrants who left for the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries brought with them a clod of earth to maintain the link with the country of birth. This is not what the European or American pioneers in search of the New World did.

The Chinese dream, like the Japanese dream of the past, would be to be the absent masters of the world, without having to administer it. Take advantage of it, take advantage of it, defend yourself from the risks that can come from the outside, say the Chinese but without governing it. This I believe is Chinese philosophy. In short, there is no global ambition in Chinese culture.

For example, on the maritime power front, there is no doubt that they want to develop a maritime power, intervene where their interests are at stake, defend themselves from threats, have a say in the rules that govern the world economy but this has nothing to do with American hegemony after 1945. China rejects the idea of ​​world domination, even for itself.

The idea advanced by the Chinese nationalists is very different. They refer to the period of the Warring States, between the fifth and third centuries BC, a period in which no power, no order prevailed. In such a disputed world, China could carve out its own way without trying to impose any system.

Now, that China will succeed in becoming a great power is obvious. That it becomes such a dominant power as to create an order that replaces the existing order, it is legitimate to doubt it. Rather, the multipolar world will also be characterized by the presence of a certain disorder, in which Western countries no longer have the means to maintain the old order and China is likely to move away from its global responsibilities.

Having said that, we must not forget that China is a system of power in permanent mobilization and it is increasingly so with Xi Jinping marking a return to the spirit of Maoism. It has the advantages of an authoritarian and planned country, capable of pursuing long-term strategies without worrying about short-term profitability. In fact, the Chinese party state is restructuring the economy and society to capture innovation, to acquire it abroad by buying companies or stealing technology or even recruiting engineers. It is doing everything it can to remedy the lack of this fertile ground for freedom that we see as essential for innovation. Mobile telephony, the Internet and the so-called sharing economy have developed here faster than elsewhere. There is more social freedom in China – license, it should be noted – than the outside world believes, but certain things shouldn’t be touched. Criticism of the party state is not tolerated.

As far as Europe is concerned, this has proved to be very naive.

He hoped, for example, to rely on China to further his environmental goals, so much so that he had prepared a joint declaration to be proclaimed at the EU-China summit last June. But Beijing refused at the last minute due to the trade disputes between it and Brussels, confirming that Europe is not an essential strategic partner, but a market, a high-tech area where help can be found as in an open bar safe place to invest your capital.

As for the conflict in the South China Sea, Beijing, at least at present, has won the essential: the militarization of several coral reefs and the construction of artificial bases. The United States carries out many tests to show that access to its ships remains possible, but they are the only ones or almost the only ones, with France joining. China can therefore take a break to consolidate what it has earned, but of course there is a price to pay for Beijing: the rapprochement of Australia, India, Japan and Singapore.

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