The Communist Party of China (CPC) – in the phase in which it is governed by Xi Jinping and by Prime Minister Li Kekiang – is changing rapidly. This is a geopolitical and strategic factor of great importance also for Europe and the United States.
Just a few years before its centennial, the Party founded in Shanghai in 1921 is still a “hircocervus”, both for the Communist tradition resulting from the Third International and for the evolution and, sometimes, the disappearance of the Communist Parties in power in the Soviet Union, in its Eastern European satellite countries and in many Asian countries.
Indeed, the CPC is both a large mass Party and a political organization that, following the Third International’s tradition, presides over the State and defines its political direction.
Lenin thought of a small Party of militants and officials who developed the policy line and, through the State, imposed it on society.
In fact, in the Soviet Union, the CPSU destroyed itself by entering civil society. Conversely, in China, the CPC grows stronger by acquiring and selecting the best elements of society and representing the great masses inside and above the State.
We can here recall the sarcastic smiles and the biting jokes that the CPC leaders – and, at the time, the Deng Xiaoping of the “Four Modernizations” was already in power – reserved for Gorbachev paying an official visit to China while the “Tien An Mien” rebellion of the students who wanted “democracy” was underway.
As is well-known, the repression was very harsh. The CPC does not delegate to others the power to reform the Chinese society.
Hence a Party like the CPC, which is fully traditional in its relationship with the State and the masses, appears to be completely new in turning itself into a mass organization, thus also remaining the source for legitimacy of the Chinese State.
The Chinese official sources tell us that, when it was founded in 1921, the Party counted only fifty members.
Today – considering that the CPC has been able to understand the new phase of globalization – it counts 87.7 million members, one every sixteen Chinese citizens.
More than the population of the whole Germany.
75% of the current members are male; 43% have at least a high school diploma; 30% are farmers, shepherds and fishermen; 25% are employed, 18% are retired, but only 8% are civil servants.
On the contrary, the 50 or more probably 57 founding members of the CPC in Shanghai were all members of the ruling classes, with 27 students, 11 journalists and 9 professors.
In 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party was already controlled by Mao Zedong and took power by wiping out the nationalists, the members were almost four millions.
From the outset the CPC has chosen the best of the Chinese society, by changing its targets year after year: sometimes intellectual elites or, in other years, rural masses and working classes.
The traditional dilemma of “Red” versus “Expert” that the CPC would never solve, not even in the harshest moments of the “Great Cultural and Proletarian Revolution”.
With Deng Xiaoping, who put an end to the phase of the “Red Guards”, by often sending them to terrible work camps, the CPC reached a 50% of technicians, specialists, teachers and “experts”.
Currently the university students are 40% of the Party’s new recruits.
A CPC that does not renounce at all to be a mass Party, but also organizes the elites: it is one of the most significant traits of what the Chinese leaders called “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”.
Furthermore, Xi Jinping no longer wants a Party “taking everyone on board” or joining militants without qualifications, but he tends to gradually turn the CPC into a more selective organization than it currently is.
The selection is always conducted silently by the Party that listens to the candidates’ friends and colleagues and asks them whether they are “frugal”, “honest” and “correct”.
For the sources of the CPC inspectors, silence and secrecy are a must.
Otherwise, the Party will “not forget this.”
All State companies and all foreign companies have a Party unit inside them and this allows better relations between companies and State power.
Hence if we were to analyze the CPC according to Giovanni Sartori’s modern theory of political Parties, we should say that the Chinese Communist Party is both a “social brokerage body” and a “mechanism of representation”.
The Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) collapsed because it played only a social brokerage role, but was not representative, while the CPC is expanding because it plays both roles effectively.
The goal set by Xi Jinping is to create a “moderately prosperous society”.
It is the evolution of Xi Jinping’s theory of the “Four Comprehensives” announced in early 2015.
The Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy is based on the following Four Comprehensives: “comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society”; “comprehensively deepen reform”; “comprehensively govern the nation according to law” and “comprehensively strictly govern the Party”.
It is worth recalling that moderate prosperity is a fully Confucian concept. Said moderation is that of the equilibrium of man’s faculties and of the relationship between mind and desire. It is not an anti-Epicurean “moderation” in the Western sense.
Hence the primary factor is prosperity.
According to the usually reliable Chinese official statistics, over the past thirty years 700 million Chinese have come out of poverty.
Currently this happens mainly in rural areas, after Deng Xiaoping’s dismantling of rural communes – indeed, the First Modernization was the agricultural one.
Chinese farmers, however, account for 56-68% of the total population or for 12-14% of the world’s population.
Nevertheless Deng’s modernization of rural areas did not fully work and, in the early 1990s, the Chinese rural society was still stratified, impoverished and characterized by low productivity, while the cities grew disproportionately and weighed ever more on rural resources.
Cities and rural areas, the two terms of Mao Zedong’s theory both within Communist China and in foreign policy – the two extreme of the Third International’s eternal dilemma, from the 1932-33 rural crises in Ukraine until Stalin’s famine of 1950.
Hence Xi Jinping, who knows that the crisis of the Chinese rural world has certainly not disappeared with the semi-privatization of land and prices, has sent 770,000 officials and Party leaders to Chinese rural areas to eradicate poverty and hence stabilize said areas even politically and socially.
This avoids the excess of rural population reforming a kind of Lumpenproletariat in the urban suburbs.
With terrible effects on China’s political and social stability.
A society with excessive income differences is never “harmonious” – just to use a Confucian concept that has now become typical of the CPC.
And the operation has worked – at least for the time being.
In fact, from 2013 to 2016, other 56 million people living in rural areas came out of poverty – and the process to which Xi Jinping attaches particular importance is going on.
With a view to having a CPC functioning as a backbone of the State and, at the same time, of civil society, corruption must be eradicated – as we have seen since Xi Jinping has been in power.
Approximately one million Party officials punished, in various ways, for corruption until 2016 and as many as 210,000 already punished in 2017 alone.
Currently Xi Jinping is the ultimate arbiter of the Party and its members’ careers – perhaps even Mao Zedong never had such power.
However, instead of destroying all his competitors, Xi Jinping is creating a new blood of young executives, all coming from the CPC, who will quickly replace the old satraps of bureaucracy.
Besides repressing corruption however, the mechanism of political scrutiny needs to be renewed and strengthened, as the CPC is doing.
Created when the CPC was founded, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) has always had very strong power, but it was abolished in 1969 following the Party’s well-known internal struggles.
It was revived in 1977 and – as happened since 1949 – it has been included in the Party Constitution.
Even before Xi Jinping’s rise to power, from 1982 to 1986 the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection expelled 25,000 Party members and imposed a series of disciplinary sanctions on other 67,000 CPC members.
A structure that has never reduced its specific powers and is the arbiter of the main careers inside the Party and the State.
In Xi Jinping’s mind the fight against corruption – which, with his leadership, has reached unimaginable levels and has hit high-ranking executives, such as Bo Xilai and Ling Jihua – the cleansing inside the Party combines with the refoundation of the Party’s working style and the strengthening of internal discipline.
The Politburo’s “Eight Guidelines” of December 2012 already pointed to a sober and modest lifestyle for all officials and leaders. Furthermore, Li Keqiang has imposed new standards for the transparency of public budgets and reduced the number of government approvals and authorization for spending, thus eliminating evident possibilities of generating bribes.
Currently the CPC inspectors are included – often secretly – in all government bodies and in all regional and local structures.
The system is such that the inspectors are directly responsible for the mistakes or “oversights” of the various Party and government members’ behaviours.
Before Xi Jinping’s rise to power (and before Wang Qishan, his anti-corruption Chief) the incentives to national or local officials and leaders were based on reaching specific economic targets. Nowadays the granting of cash prizes or of career advances is linked to the overall behaviour of officials and, above all, to their honesty – which overlaps with loyalty and obedience to the Party, the Central Committee and, obviously, Xi Jinping’s line.
Moreover the inspections have the strictly political purpose of safeguarding the Central Committee’s joint and centralized authority and leadership.
Xi Jinping knows all too well that any corruption activity is a de facto form of secession from the “political centre” – as demonstrated by the studies on organized crime in the South of Italy.
Hence return to the Party’s centralism, without the “federalist” nonsense that is destroying Europe; maintenance of the CPC leadership role on the whole Chinese society and of Xi Jinping’s role as undisputed leader of the Communist Party of China.
Three factors which are closely interwoven.
So far there have been 12 cycles of inspections within the Party – inspections regarding the CPC organizations at all levels, State companies, banks and financial companies, as well as universities.
The revision of part of the Constitution has started from this process of political and moral restructuring.
The next 19th National Congress will constitute the last and final Sinicization of Marxism.
A stronger and more authoritative CPC, but, above all more integrated in civil society – and here is the novelty compared to the Third International’s Western tradition.
Hence development of Socialism “with Chinese characteristics”, which means Socialism in a society that has not been industrialized by the national bourgeoisie, but by foreigners – a society which is largely rural, while Marxism thinks above all of industrial workers (that is highly traditional), while Western socialism has inherited the most radical aspects of the bourgeois Enlightenment.
The aim of this CPC exercise – made authoritative by the struggle against corruption – is that of Xi Jinping’s “moderately prosperous” society, namely a balanced progress of the economy and of political organization, as well as of the cultural, social and environmental evolution.
Hence self-control of the Party, and – for the first time in the CPC history – reaffirmation of a typical concept of the Western political tradition, namely the “rule of law”.
As recently stated by Xi Jinping at the Interpol General Assembly in Beijing on September 26 last, China’s inclusion in Interpol is a tool for building a world integrated collective security system both strategically and for the repression of personal crimes and offences.
The new security – and here Xi Jinping spoke of international policy between the lines – shall be common, global, cooperative and sustainable in the future.
Hence support for the security of developing countries and perception by all actors of the others’ interests.
We could speak here of Confucian geopolitics.
Thinking also of the others is not a difficult process. The issue lies in changing the thinking style and putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, to avoid excessive reactions and, above all, dangerous for the best interest of nations, i.e. world stability.
Hence, stability and security at internal level, with the centralization and moralization of the CPC; security and stability in the international context, with Xi Jinping vigorously defending globalization in Davos, against the resurgence of economic nationalism in the United States; security and centralization of the Chinese interests in Central Asia, which will soon become the launching pad of China as great global power, far beyond its already significant economic potential.
Shared Territorial Concern, Opposition to US Intervention Prompt Russia’s Support to China on Taiwan Question
The situation around the island of Taiwan is raising concerns not only in Chinese mainland, Taiwan island or in the US, but also in the whole world. Nobody would like to see a large-scale military clash between China and the US in the East Pacific. Potential repercussions of such a clash, even if it does not escalate to the nuclear level, might be catastrophic for the global economy and strategic stability, not to mention huge losses in blood and treasure for both sides in this conflict.
Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Moscow continued to firmly support Beijing’s position on Taiwan as an integral part of China. Moreover, he also underlined that Moscow would support Beijing in its legitimate efforts to reunite the breakaway province with the rest of the country. A number of foreign media outlets paid particular attention not to what Lavrov actually said, but omitted his other remarks: the Russian official did not add that Moscow expects reunification to be peaceful and gradual in a way that is similar to China’s repossession of Hong Kong. Many observers of the new Taiwan Straits crisis unfolding concluded that Lavrov’s statement was a clear signal to all parties of the crisis: Russia would likely back even Beijing’s military takeover of the island.
Of course, diplomacy is an art of ambiguity. Lavrov clearly did not call for a military solution to the Taiwan problem. Still, his remarks were more blunt and more supportive of Beijing than the standard Russia’s rhetoric on the issue. Why? One possible explanation is that the Russian official simply wanted to sound nice to China as Russia’s major strategic partner. As they say, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Another explanation is that Lavrov recalled the Russian experience with Chechnya some time ago, when Moscow had to fight two bloody wars to suppress secessionism in the North Caucasus. Territorial integrity means a lot for the Russian leadership. This is something that is worth spilling blood for.
However, one can also imagine that in Russia they simply do not believe that if things go really bad for Taiwan island, the US would dare to come to its rescue and that in the end of the day Taipei would have to yield to Beijing without a single shot fired. Therefore, the risks of a large-scale military conflict in the East Pacific are perceived as relatively low, no matter what apocalyptic scenarios various military experts might come up with.
Indeed, over last 10 or 15 years the US has developed a pretty nasty habit of inciting its friends and partners to take risky and even reckless decisions and of letting these friends and partners down, when the latter had to foot the bill for these decisions. In 2008, the Bush administration explicitly or implicitly encouraged Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili to launch a military operation against South Ossetia including killing some Russian peacekeepers stationed there. But when Russia interfered to stop and to roll back the Georgian offensive, unfortunate Saakashvili was de-facto abandoned by Washington.
During the Ukrainian conflicts of 2013-14, the Obama administration enthusiastically supported the overthrow of the legitimate president in Kiev. However, it later preferred to delegate the management of the crisis to Berlin and to Paris, abstaining from taking part in the Normandy process and from signing the Minsk Agreements. In 2019, President Donald Trump promised his full support to Juan Guaidó, Head of the National Assembly in Venezuela, in his crusade against President Nicolas when the government of Maduro demonstrated its spectacular resilience. Juan Guaido very soon almost completely disappeared from Washington’s political radar screens.
Earlier this year the Biden administration stated its firm commitment to shouldering President Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan in his resistance to Taliban advancements. But when push came to shove, the US easily abandoned its local allies, evacuated its military personal in a rush and left President Ghani to seek political asylum in the United Arab Emirates.
Again and again, Washington gives reasons to conclude that its partners, clients and even allies can no longer consider it as a credible security provider. Would the US make an exception for the Taiwan island? Of course, one can argue that the Taiwan island is more important for the US than Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ukraine and Georgia taken together. But the price for supporting the Taiwan island could also be much higher for the US than the price it would have paid in many other crisis situations. The chances of the US losing to China over Taiwan island, even if Washington mobilizes all of its available military power against Beijing, are also very high. Still, we do not see such a mobilization taking place now. It appears that the Biden administration is not ready for a real showdown with Beijing over the Taiwan question.
If the US does not put its whole weight behind the Taiwan island, the latter will have to seek some kind of accommodation with the mainland on terms abandoning its pipe-dreams of self-determination and independence. This is clear to politicians not only in East Asia, but all over the place, including Moscow. Therefore, Sergey Lavrov has reasons to firmly align himself with the Chinese position. The assumption in the Kremlin is that Uncle Sam will not dare to challenge militarily the Middle Kingdom. Not this time.
From our partner RIAC
Russia-Japan Relations: Were Abe’s Efforts In Vain?
Expanding the modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward.
One year after the end of Shinzo Abe’s long period of leadership, Japan has a new prime minister once again. The greatest foreign policy challenge the new Japanese government led by Fumio Kishida is facing is the intensifying confrontation between its large neighbor China and its main ally America. In addition to moves to energize the Quad group to which Japan belongs alongside Australia, India, and the United States, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has concluded a deal with Canberra and London to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines which in future could patrol the Western Pacific close to Chinese shores. The geopolitical fault lines in the Indo-Pacific region are fast turning into frontlines.
In this context, does anything remain of the eight-year-long effort by former prime minister Abe to improve relations with Russia on the basis of greater economic engagement tailored to Moscow’s needs? Russia’s relations with China continue to develop, including in the military domain; Russia’s constitutional amendments passed last year prohibit the handover of Russian territory, which doesn’t bode well for the long-running territorial dispute with Japan over the South Kuril Islands; and Russian officials and state-run media have been remembering and condemning the Japanese military’s conduct during World War II, something they chose to play down in the past. True, Moscow has invited Tokyo to participate in economic projects on the South Kuril Islands, but on Russian terms and without an exclusive status.
To many, the answer to the above question is clear, and it is negative. Yet that attitude amounts to de facto resignation, a questionable approach. Despite the oft-cited but erroneous Cold War analogy, the present Sino-American confrontation has created two poles in the global system, but not—at least, not yet—two blocs. Again, despite the popular and equally incorrect interpretation, Moscow is not Beijing’s follower or vassal. As a power that is particularly sensitive about its own sovereignty, Russia seeks to maintain an equilibrium—which is not the same as equidistance—between its prime partner and its main adversary. Tokyo would do well to understand that and take it into account as it structures its foreign relations.
The territorial dispute with Russia is considered to be very important for the Japanese people, but it is more symbolic than substantive. In practical terms, the biggest achievement of the Abe era in Japan-Russia relations was the founding of a format for high-level security and foreign policy consultations between the two countries. With security issues topping the agenda in the Indo-Pacific, maintaining the channel for private direct exchanges with a neighboring great power that the “2+2” formula offers is of high value. Such a format is a trademark of Abe’s foreign policy which, while being loyal to Japan’s American ally, prided itself on pursuing Japanese national interests rather than solely relying on others to take them into account.
Kishida, who for five years served as Abe’s foreign minister, will now have a chance to put his own stamp on the country’s foreign policy. Yet it makes sense for him to build on the accomplishments of his predecessor, such as using the unique consultation mechanism mentioned above to address geopolitical and security issues in the Indo-Pacific region, from North Korea to Afghanistan. Even under Abe, Japan’s economic engagement with Russia was by no means charity. The Russian leadership’s recent initiatives to shift more resources to eastern Siberia offer new opportunities to Japanese companies, just like Russia’s early plans for energy transition in response to climate change, and the ongoing development projects in the Arctic. In September 2021, the annual Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok did not feature top-level Japanese participation, but that should be an exception, not the rule.
Japan will remain a trusted ally of the United States for the foreseeable future. It is also safe to predict that at least in the medium term, and possibly longer, the Russo-Chinese partnership will continue to grow. That is no reason for Moscow and Tokyo to regard each other as adversaries, however. Moreover, since an armed conflict between America and China would spell a global calamity and have a high chance of turning nuclear, other major powers, including Russia and Japan, have a vital interest in preventing such a collision. Expanding the still very modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward. The absence of a peace treaty between the two countries more than seventy-five years after the end of the war is abnormal, yet that same unfinished business should serve as a stimulus to persevere. Giving up is an option, but not a good one.
From our partner RIAC
Kishida and Japan-Indonesia Security Relations: The Prospects
In October, Japan had inaugurated Fumio Kishida as the new prime minister after winning the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election earlier. Surely this new statesmanship will consequently influence Tokyo’s trajectory in international and regional affairs, including Southeast Asia.
Not only that Japan has much intensive strategic cooperation with Southeast Asians for decades, but the region’s importance has also been increasing under Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP). Southeast Asia, as a linchpin connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, is key to Japan’s geostrategic interest and vision.
Since the LDP presidential election debate, many have identified Kishida’s policy trajectory, including in the defense and security aspect. Being bold, Kishida reflected its hawkish stance on China, North Korea, and its commitment to strengthening its alliance with Washington. Furthermore, Kishida also aimed to advance the geostrategic and security initiatives with like-minded countries, especially under FOIP.
One of the like-minded countries for Japan is Indonesia, which is key Japan’s key partner in Southeast Asia and Indo-Pacific.
This article maps the prospect of Japan’s security cooperation with Indonesia under the new prime minister. It argues that Prime Minister Kishida will continue to grow Japan’s security cooperation with Indonesia to adjust to the changing security environment in Indo-Pacific.
Japan – Indonesia Common Ground
In its basic principle, Japan and Indonesia shared the same values in democracy, rules-based order, and freedom of navigation in developing strategic cooperation, especially in the maritime security aspect.
In the geostrategic context, Japan and Indonesia also have significant similarities. Both countries are maritime countries and seeking to maximize their maritime power, as well as having formally synchronized geostrategic vision. While Japan has FOIP, Indonesia has Global Maritime Fulcrum (Poros Maritim Dunia) and leading initiator for ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP).
In capitalizing on this shared vision, since Shinzo Abe and Joko “Jokowi” Widodo era, Japan and Indonesia have initiated much new security cooperation ranging from a high-level framework such as 2+2 Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting in 2015 and 2021 to capacity building assistances and joint exercises. Furthermore, defense equipment transfers and joint technology development were also kicked off under Abe-Jokowi.
Kishida’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Profile
Compared to his predecessor, Suga Yoshihide, Prime Minister Kishida is more familiar with foreign affairs.
Personally, Kishida comes from a political family and spent several years living in the United States, reflecting his exposure to the international and political environment from an early age. This is significantly different from Suga, who grew up in a strawberry farmer family in a rural area in Akita Prefecture.
Politically, served as foreign minister under Shinzo Abe, Fumio Kishida is the longest-serving foreign minister in Japan’s history. This reflects his extensive understanding of current world affairs, compared to Suga who spent most of his prime political career in the domestic area such as being chief cabinet secretary and minister for internal affairs & communication.
Specifically, in defense and security posture, Prime Minister Kishida is willing to go beyond the status quo and not blocking any key options in order “to protect citizens”. During his policy speeches, he stated that he is not ruling out the option to build attacking capabilities due to the severe security environment surrounding Japan. Also, Kishida will not limit the defense budget under 1% of Japan’s gross domestic product if necessary.
Future Security Cooperation Trajectory with Indonesia
In short, policy continuity will play a huge role. One of the reasons why Kishida was able to win over more popular Kono was due to his moderate liberalness, demonstrating stability over change. This was more preferred by faction leaders in LDP.
In defense and foreign affairs, the continuity is boldly shown as despite appointing entirely new ministers in his cabinet, the only two ministers retained by Kishida are Foreign Minister Motegi and Defense Minister Kishi. By this, it sent the narrative to the international community that there will not be significant turbulence caused by the changing leadership on Japan’s side.
As a background context on Indonesia, Fumio Kishida was the foreign minister from the Japanese side behind the 2+2 Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting with Indonesia in 2015. Indonesia is the only country Japan has such a high-level security framework within Southeast Asia. This framework has led Japan and Indonesia to have a second edition of the 2+2 meeting in 2021, resulting in many practical cooperation deals in defense and security.
The other setting supporting Kishida’s policy continuity, especially in the context with Indonesia is that his foreign minister’s counterpart, Retno Marsudi, was still in charge from the last time Kishida left the foreign minister post in 2017, until today. Initiating the 2+2 framework together, it will be easier for Kishida to resume his relationship with both President Jokowi and Foreign Minister Retno in advancing its strategic cooperation with Indonesia, especially in the defense and security area.
The prospect of continuity is also reflected in Kishida’s commitment to continue the geostrategy relay of both his predecessors, Shinzo Abe and Suga Yoshihide, in achieving the FOIP vision.
Not only that Indonesia is having a similar vision of maritime prosperity and values with Japan, but Indonesia is also concerned with South China Sea dynamics as it started to threaten Indonesia’s remote islands, especially Natuna Islands. As this is a crucial cooperation opportunity, Kishida needs to continue assisting Indonesia to improve the security and prosperity of its remote islands. Thus, as Kishida also admitted that Indonesia is a major country in ASEAN, having favorable relations with Indonesia is important for Japan’s geostrategy.
To capitalize on the potentials with Indonesia, Kishida needs to support Indonesia’s strategic independence as well as to make the best of his position as one of the United States’ allies in Asia.
Despite his tougher stance on China and Taiwan issues, Kishida cannot fully project Japan’s rivalry with China to Indonesia. In addition to its strategic independence, Indonesia has and needs strong strategic relations with China to support many of the vital development projects surrounding Indonesia. This cannot be touched.
Also, Japan needs to bridge Indonesia, as well as other like-minded Southeast Asian countries, with the Quad and AUKUS proponents. Indonesia is formally stated that it is concerned about the ownership of nuclear-powered weapons by its neighboring countries. On the other side, Japan supported AUKUS and is a close ally of the U.S. Kishida’s ability to grab this opportunity will solidify Japan’s credibility and position among Southeast Asians.
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