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Dialogue, Mutual Respect & Mutual Trust bracing Sino-U.S. Relations

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Authors: Wang Li & Fan Yao-tian

During August 15-17, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited China, which was followed by the signing of the framework to build a new dialogue mechanism between two joint staff departments.

Since the JSD plays a crucial role in actual combat operations, experts said the mechanism would strengthen effective communication between the two powers, reduce miscalculations on both sides and improve risk management in view of Asia’s increasingly complex geopolitical climate. Equally, top military officials of the two countries agreed to develop military relations and exchanges amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula along with South China Sea and the Taiwan issue.

Gen. Dunford was not only the first top U.S. military official to visit China since Trump came to office, but also the timing of his visit is highly complex and sensitive due to the provocative moves by the DPRK (North Korea), deployment of THAAD by the U.S in the ROK (South Korea), and President Trump’s order on August 14 to investigate China’s trade practice, heralding a possible trade war. Considering all the happening, Dunford’s visit to China has drawn keen attention around the world.

Over the past months, a series of nuclear and missile tests conducted by the DPRK and the looming threat have left the United States frustrated; and Japan and the ROK worried. The complaints over the restlessness of the DPRK emerging from the nuclear-related tests have consistently embarrassed China since it is the only de jure ally of Pyongyang. In early August, the DPRK military stated it would complete a plan to strike the sea around Guam by mid-August. Following that, the US responded firmly if the DPRK does anything against or attack its allies or the US itself, things will happen to the DPRK like it never opined possible. Given this, Chinese President Xi Jinping made phone call to his U.S. counterpart to assure Trump that China was willing to keep all communications with the U. S. on the basis of mutual respect and jointly work for the proper resolution of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.

As always in international relations, diplomacy makes farce if no force is backed up; but force only makes catastrophe with no sound diplomacy. Since China has disputed with the United States and the ROK on the THAAD issue, the leaders of Beijing have smartly and swiftly approached their closest strategic partner — Russia. On the same day of Gen. Dunford’s arrival in Beijing, Chinese FM Wang Yi held phone talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia at request, mainly exchanging views on the current Korean Peninsula situation. The two FMs reiterated that the peaceful settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is the only way acceptable to both China and Russia; and vowed to permit no one to stir up incidents on China and Russia’s doorstep. Yet, both powers would make joint endeavor to cool down the “August crisis” including to “put the brakes” on mutually irritating rhetoric and actions between the DPRK and the U.S.A. Afterwards, FM Wang Yi also made phone talk with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who indicated full supports to China’s “suspension for suspension” proposal and called on all parties concerned to strive to promote a peaceful settlement of the issue.

With Russia and Germany standing behind, China confidently approached the United States to discuss the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. Frankly speaking, while Beijing and Pyongyang enjoy political and cultural proximity, there have been no meetings between the leadership of the two sides since Kim came to power. It should be recalled that when Kim conducts missile tests, the security of northeast China is obviously menaced. The Chinese media openly criticize Kim for jeopardizing his country’s future. A recent Global Times editorial asserted clearly, “At least for now, what North Korea is doing goes against China’s strategic interests.” In order to keep the public opinion informed of Chinese position on the issue, Beijing agreed to the toughest UN Security Council sanctions to date against the DPRK; and its Ministry of Commerce and customs administration have jointly enforced the sanctions by fully banning imports of coal, iron, lead, ores, and seafood from the DPRK. Yet geopolitically, China is concerned about chaos on the Korean Peninsula for the U.S. military presence expands and the “regime change” prescription gains ground.

No doubt, a war on the Korean Peninsula would be anathema to China, which does not want to see North Korea completely devastated. The regional and international implications of such an outcome cannot be foreseen, the scale of the conflict cannot be anticipated, and a huge flow of refugees from North Korea to China would lead to more potential problems. China is mostly wary of the ambition in Washington to achieve “regime change”, a development that could – in its view – bring about greater instability in the whole region. As the U.S. military presence is steadily increasing—its fleet in the South China Sea and around the Pacific is growing, and the THAAD system has been deployed in the ROK, China proposes instead that the Six Party Talks be relaunched and its long-term goal would be to bring the DPRK to the negotiations table by offering it motivation to cooperate. Beijing holds that at present, the most pressing thing is to stop the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs and the vicious circle of escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula. To that end, it is worthwhile to put aside the contention over who should take the first step.

Dunford’s visit to China came on the heels of intense exchanges between President Trump and the DPRK. Would China be able to persuade the United States, in particular the military groups, to listen to Beijing-initiated proposal of “suspension for suspension” that means both the DPRK and the U.S (and its ally) agree to suspend provocative military drills? This is the key reason that Chinese leaders paid high attention to Gen. Dunford’s visit to China.

While in Beijing, Dunford met President Xi Jinping who is also the chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission. During the meeting, Xi stressed that China and the U.S. share common interests in achieving the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and maintaining the status quo there. To resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, it is ultimately to stick to the tenet of opening negotiation and political settlement. China is ready to keep communication with the U.S. on the basis of mutual respect, so as to jointly promote the proper settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. Xi spoke highly of the new progress made in relations between the two armed forces, such as enhanced dialogue at all levels and improved military confidence-building mechanisms.

Also during his visit to China, Gen. Dunford and his team were invited to visit a military base in PLA Northern Theater Command on August 16 to interact with Chinese soldiers and officers, as well as to observe a military exercise by the Chinese soldiers. Tactically, this episode aims to show publicly Chinese military more open and transparent than expected. And a sound relationship between the two militaries should be founded on consistent dialogue, mutual respect and mutual trust. During all the meetings with Chinese command-in-chief, Chief of Joint Staff and chief of the Northern Theatre Command, Gen. Dunford was reported to say that the United States was willing to work with China, to follow the framework planned by and the consensus reached between the two heads of state, jointly to expand the areas for cooperation. He held that the militaries of the two countries should build and give play to the communication and coordination with a view to constructively resolving the current issues and moving towards mutual trust and interaction.

It is true that the DPRK nuclear issue has dominated the agenda of Sino-U.S. relations recently. And the cliché goes that President Trump has abandoned the “strategic patience” ethos of the Obama’s administration and criticizes Beijing for not putting greater pressure on Pyongyang. However, the United States, an established global superpower, and China, a rising power with global interests, are attempting to find a modus vivendi that will define the Korean nuclear issue. Although the situation remains highly complex and sensitive, the tensions on the Korean Peninsula have shown signs of abating. During his short stay in Beijing, Gen. Dunford stated once again that “to peacefully achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the common goal of both China and the U.S., and a military solution will be terrifying.“ The reasons behind his remarks are various, but one thing is clear that Washington and Beijing agree on the urgency of mitigating risks stemming from the unpredictable behavior of the DPRK government. To achieve that end, both sides need to make all efforts to keep dialogues open in light of mutual respect and mutual trust. For sure, China and the United States would not share the same perspective on many of the thorny issues involving the Korean Peninsula nuclear test issue, yet they do have the consensus in preserving the peace and stability of the world.

(*) Fan Yao-tian, MA in Finance & International Affairs Commentator

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East Asia

Bushido Spirit Resurrected? Japan publicly bared its swords against China

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Recently, Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso declared that Japan will join forces with the US to “protect Taiwan.” There has been a lot of turmoil, but even though the US directly announced that it will follow the “One China policy,” Japan has not given up its secret intentions. Japan’s new “Defense White Paper,” which was just approved, not only continued to link the US, but also displayed greater animosity toward China.

The Japanese government just finished the 2021 version of the “Defense White Paper,” according to the Global Times, but both the cover and the substance of the white paper are full of “provocative” meaning. The first is the front cover. According to the image released by Japanese media, the cover of Japan’s new “Defense White Paper” is an ink drawing of a warrior on horseback. According to a spokesperson for Japan’s Ministry of Defense, the horse samurai on the cover represents the Japanese Self-Defense Force’s commitment to defend Japan. However, after seeing it, some Japanese netizens said that it was “extremely powerful in fighting spirit.”

From a content standpoint, the white paper keeps the substance of advocating “China menace,” talking about China’s military might, aircraft carriers, Diaoyu Islands, and so on, and also includes the significance of “Taiwan stability” for the first time. A new chapter on Sino-US ties is also included in the white paper. According to the Associated Press, the United States is expanding its assistance for the Taiwan region, while China is increasing its military actions in the region. This necessitates Japan paying attention to it with a “crisis mindset.”

Japan has recently grown more daring and rampant, thanks to a warlike cover and material that provokes China and is linked to the US. Japan has recently bared its swords against China on several occasions.

Not only did Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga take the lead in referring to the Taiwan region as a “country,” but after meeting US President Biden, he issued a joint statement referring to the Taiwan region, and tried his best to exaggerate maritime issues such as the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, Deputy Defense Mizuho, and Deputy Defense Mizuho. It has all made inappropriate statements on Taiwan and publicly attacked the “One China Principle.”

After China clearly voiced its disapproval, Japan not only refused to be constrained, but actively increased its antagonism toward China. Do they truly believe China is simple to provoke? The tensions between China and Japan will undoubtedly worsen as a result of Japan’s publishing of this white paper. Although Japan has the bravery to provoke, it lacks the guts to initiate an armed war with China. After all, even the United States, on which they have traditionally counted, would not dare.

It is simple to employ force against China, and if the Japanese Self-Defense Force want to fight the People’s Liberation Army, it is preferable for them to be prepared for any catastrophic outcomes. Furthermore, China has long been Japan’s most important commercial partner. Even with Japan’s sluggish economy, they should be wary of challenging China. If they refuse to examine this, China may let them face the consequences of economics and trade.

Furthermore, the US has declared unequivocally that it will pursue the “One China Policy” and has intimated that it will not “protect Taiwan” with Japan. The stance of the United States demonstrates that, despite Japan’s determination to constrain China on the Taiwan problem and invitation to the United States to join in “safeguarding Taiwan and defending Japan,” the United States is hesitant to offer such refuge to Japan. As a result, Japan should be clear about its own place in the heart of the United States and attach itself to the United States, although it may be beaten by the United States again in the end.

In reaction to this event, the Hong Kong media stated that Japan should focus on making friends and generating money rather than intervening in Taiwan’s affairs, saying that “provoking Beijing is a fool’s errand.” As a result, if Japan continues to challenge China, they will be exposed as a total fool. And how good will a fool do in a game between countries?

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Hong Kong Issues & the Impact on China’s Domestic Politics

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Hong Kong after years under British colony was handed over to China after the leash period was over and China being the governing state swore that it will protect the uniqueness of Hong Kong and let it function under its established capitalist system under “one state, two system” policy for the period of 50 years. These 50 years ensure Hong Kong to enjoy the freedom under the China security Umbrella. In contrast to China, the Hong Kong political system consist of multiple parties. Some of these political parties fall under the Pro-democratic camp as they supports the positive reforms in democracy. The other camp is of Pro-establishment, they are known for their support for the mainland China as they consist of basically people from the business sector. In the Hong Kong the Pro-Business supporter or pro establishment are known to be more of the dominant group because of their relation with the China but they have less support of the voter in contrast to the Pro-democratic camp.

Though in the wake of the recent Issues and the conflict with the mainland China it seems that the promises that were made at the time of handover are just fading away. Recently China decided to take some bold steps as it decided to intrude and intervene in the political system practiced In the Hong Kong which seems to a crackdown by Mainland China against its opposition. These audacious step of China triggered the massive protest in the Hong Kong driving international attention and Condemnation. What prompted and highlighted the situation more was when China in 2020 passed a national security bill and implemented an extremely comprehensive definitions for crimes such as terrorism, subversion, secession, and collusion with external powers. This bill was said to be controversial as it was a strain for the Hong Kong to establish itself as a full democracy. China also further accelerated the situation by arresting many pro-democracy activist and lawmakers which were protesting against the bill. What factors lead China take such steps was when the political groups in Hong Kong became more radical and formed Anti-Beijing parties threating the China Position and its control over the Hong Kong?  Student and youngster took the street to protest for the establishment of the political system that is more democratic in nature, starting to call themselves Hong Kong Nationals rather than identifying themselves as Chinese National.  Several of these groups separated in 2020, as Beijing cracked down on political opposition. This all threaten the Chinese position and control over the Hong Kong and its political setup. These steps by Mainland China have hushed many Hong Kong citizens who was fighting for democracy and encouraged others to abandon their lifestyle and escape the city.

If we see the motivation of the China Communist Party after consolidating power was to ensure and invest on the stability, CCP does everything and take every measure they have to in order to preserve the Stability of the Country so for this purpose most of the spending by the party was for the stability that is on the police system, training centers and national defense system that ensure the preservance of stability internally. If we study the CCP history, the power tenure of Xi Jinxing was clearly marked with the same preservance of stability as well as consolidation of power. He did it by benefitting those who were loyal to his leadership for example the pro-business man group in Hong Kong or Pro establishment camp. He sidelined those who were in the opposition as he did with the Pro-democratic wing that were protesting in the Hong Kong. China while introducing the National Security bill right after the massive protest did fuel the situation but it is also clear that China was somehow successful in inflaming the nationalism among people and pitting it against those who ever criticizing in and out of the country. China used the coincidental and the inflamed nationalism for its own benefit. Xi Jinxing handling of situation by doing massive arrest and crack downs on the opposition clearly reflects that regardless CCP and the XI jinxing knowing that such move will prove to be disastrous either seen from the diplomatic, geopolitical of economic lenses still go for it. It shows that the leaders only cared about the political requirements and reinforce inner control ignoring the damages it can have on the geopolitical or the economic situation of the country. All over in the history it had been debated that one day Chinese leadership might implement an aggressive foreign policy or even go for a war just for the sake to distract the public and international attention from their domestic issues. Hong Kong offered that very opportunity that could benefit the Chinese leadership, but without the risks and costs of a war. So I must say the situation handled by the Xi Jinxing was merely motivation but the thirst for consolidating power over Hong Kong rather than benefitting either of the mainland China or Hong Kong.

This situation had also impacted the internal politics of the China both diplomatically as well as economically. Diplomatic in a sense that the world had witnessed the massive protest in Hong Kong and a little later China decided to implement the National security Bill just gathered the Attention of the supranational actors and countries. Due to the Pandemic and its origination from China, it was exposed to the world and all the things happening in China was keenly observed. In such a scenario taking such rigid steps brought the world Attention not in the favor of the Country. Admits the Pandemic as well as the crackdown many countries including USA start to reinvent their policies for China. It was a great chance for the Rivals of China to hit it where it hurts. As Hong Kong served as a great technological hub for the China, deteriorating situation and implementation of such broad definition of terrorism compel many business to close down or relocate themselves thus negatively impacting the already crumbling economy due to pandemic. For example the head office of New York Times announced its relocation to Seoul amidst the deteriorating situation in the Hong Kong. Other than that many technological firms relocated themselves as there were facing restriction and censorship in their activities from China.  This happened due to the constant threat of arrest if they did not comply with the demands and the instruction given by the authorities. So Hong Kong issue and the handling of it by the Chinese Government did have many repercussion for the domestic politics of the China. If China keep following on this step and keep seeing Hong through thorough the Nationalist perspective it will Sabotage China Fight for freedom at the larger scale and Hong Kong will time to time rise up again to mold the domestic narrative build by the China and to break its monopoly, which will be a constant threat to China.

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100 Years of the Communist Party of China: A Glorious Journey

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As the Communist Party of China (CPC) marks its centenary, it gives a very strong message to the whole world. The message is: an alternative system is not only possible; it exists, it is working and it is thriving.

During past 100 years of its existence as a political force, CPC has achieved marvels on all the fronts that it had to deal with. The journey started, in my view, by giving Chinese people a confidence that ‘we can do it; we can deal with internal and external challenges successfully.’ That is how the CPC got itself established in the minds and hearts of Chinese people in its foundational decades – 1920s. Through 1930s and 1940s, the party – though young and fragile at that time – registered a phenomenal role against the Japanese aggression.

The proclamation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, 1949 indeed was the most important feat in the history of the CPC and Chinese people at large. Yet, as is globally realized, the tough task starts after the establishment of the state – its preservation, its development and making it a nation known globally for its mettle. CPC performed exceptionally well on all these counts.

Through initial decades of founding of PRC, the Party worked very hard to ensure well-being of Chinese people – the world’s most populous nation – and meet their needs of livelihoods, food, education, health and other amenities. The journey was slow, but steady. Through this pre-reform and opening up period, dealing with calamities like famine as well as negative fallouts of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ was not easy; yet, CPC showed that the Party and its leadership can steer the country through these difficult times.

Obtaining the rightful place for PRC at global fora such as the United Nations, strengthening the country’s defence including making it a nuclear power, and establishing a leadership role for the country among the developing world were momentous achievements of that time.

The post-reform and opening up period started a whole new chapter in the history of CPC and China – one that the world knows today as miracle. Today, the People’s Republic is one of the strongest and most important nations on the face of the earth. Be it economic growth and development; poverty reduction and social uplift; scientific advances and innovation, as well as a potent role for global development, China is visible as a force to be reckoned with.

This has been possible with sincere, well-thought-out, responsive and forward looking strategies and policies of CPC’s central leadership, implemented through its provincial and lower local cadres, across the country.

Lifting more than 800 million people out of absolute poverty and now being a country free of absolute poverty, having achieved a level of modest prosperity – and that too within given timeframe despite the challenges posed by globally-threatening pandemic – is a feat that humanity, not only China, should write with golden words in its history. CPC has made it clear that with dedication to people, engaging them constructively in the process of national development, and giving them confidence, everything is possible.

The advent and successful moving forward of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) now becomes the most promising feather in the cap for CPC, today led by visionary Xi Jinping and his able comrades.

My study of China in general and the Communist Party of China (CPC) in particular, over past about two decades, makes me say with conviction that the whole edifice of the Party and its work are truly people centric. Its selection of the cadres, from bottom to the top, is based on qualification, dedication, integrity and capacity to deliver. You get what you deserve. You have to deliver, or else, pave the way for others to do the same better than you. This is a system that brings the cream of the society to the top.

A distinctive feature of CPC’s strategic planning, functioning and deliverance is adaption to changing ground realities and trends. Thus, the Party – as I have observed – beautifully blends change and continuity it its system and structure of the governance of the country.

As an international observer, the way CPC has ensured equitable distribution of the benefits of growth and development, amongst it regions as well as ethnic groups, is profoundly impressive, for me. It is inclusive. The beauty of it is that no one feels left behind. Even in case of selection and promotion of its cadres, CPC ensures inclusiveness and representation. Not only all the regions of the country but its various ethnic groups are duly represented and become part of the decision-making for the nation.

CPC, the world needs to know, also follows a constructive consultative mechanisms with eight other political parties of the country – it is not a one way traffic or a one party show. Input and feedback from other parties is incorporated, where so needed and feasible. The Party is now fostering linkages and collaboration with political parties across the globe, sharing experiences mutually.

The notion that western democracy is the only workable political model for the world holds no ground. 100 successful years of CPC become one of the strongest reminders for the world that alternatives not only exist but have proven feasible; much more successful than disruptive, destabilizing, distorted ‘democracy’ that the west continues to experiment with and wishes to impose upon the rest of the world.

With close to 91 million members, CPC becomes that largest political party on the planet. Yet, my exposure of China gives me reasons to say that every single citizen of China has immense confidence in CPC – believing that the Party is taking their nation in the right direction, in a glorious manner.

It is time for the CPC experience to be showcased to the world, prominently. In coming years and decades, CPC is all set to take China towards unprecedented heights – domestically and internationally.

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