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China’s strategy in Africa: Thinking deeply but moving cautiously

Paul Wang

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In just one week from March 29 to April 4, Chinese President Xi Jinping has warmly welcomed head of state of Namibia and Zimbabwe. Both countries are located in Southern Africa with huge potentials to become great and wealthy players. In addition, two countries have agreed with China respectively to establish or to upgrade bilateral comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership. It is self-evident that Africa has been one of the key parts of China’s overall strategy in foreign affairs.

Now the question is why the leaders of both Namibia and Zimbabwe visited China closely one after another, and then what they can do to enhance China’s growing interests and influence in the African continent since Beijing’s intention has been questioned by the West?It was reported that former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Africa during his last trip in March when he openly attacked China’s investment policy in Africa aiming to promote its own interests rather than the interests of African states. Undoubtedly, his remarks were declined by the A.U. Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Historically speaking, China and majority of African states have been good partners and some of them are called all-weather friends. Both Namibia and Zimbabwe are among the latter group. For example, President Mnangagwa came to China in the 1960s for military training. As he told the Chinese media, he had great admiration for Chinese leaders’ efforts and courage to combat corruption and to eliminate rural poverty. During his visit in Beijing, President Xi admitted to Mnangagwa that the two countries have since supported each other, no matter how international relations changed. The two sides vow to continue high-level exchanges, draw the blueprint for cooperation in all areas and keep supporting each other on issues related to their core interests and major concerns. Consider that there are new opportunities for the development of China-Zimbabwe relations, Xi said to make joint efforts with Mnangagwa to draw a new blueprint of bilateral relations and bring more benefits for the people of both sides.

More specifically, the two countries should enhance their strategic interconnection, deepen cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and continue to cooperate in such areas as infrastructure, agriculture and finance. In response to Xi’s remarks, Mnangagwa said that he hoped to develop socialism with Zimbabwean characteristics in his country in light of Xi’s vision on China’s. To that end, Zimbabwe seeks to tap into the huge financial resources, technical expertise and modern technology of its all-weather friend–China. Clearly, China would be able to play the sound role in Zimbabwe as it is seeking deeper economic ties with China to leapfrog its economy battered by years of Western sanctions.

In the same way, China has worked steadily to promote its bilateral tie with Namibia that is a huge land with rich resources and less population. On March 29, President Xi held talks with President Geingob, followed by a joint agreement to establish China-Namibia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership. As Xi recalled that both countries and the two ruling parties have enjoyed a profound traditional friendship which could be traced to their common struggle against imperialism and colonialism, supported each other in national reconstruction, and continuously consolidated friendly cooperation. Now as the two countries have entered new development stages, they share similar governance philosophy and have complementary advantages in their economic cooperation. As an “all-weather” friend of Namibia, China is ready to work with it to boost bilateral relations for continuous steady and positive development so as to better benefit the two peoples.

Here, Xi Jinping smartly stressed that by combining with respective advantages, the two sides would be able to grasp the priority areas and key projects. Xi welcomes Namibia to actively participate in the “Belt and Road” initiative, and is willing to jointly strengthen policy consultation and alignment of plans, and facilitate cooperation in key areas. To that end, China stands ready to intensify cooperation with Namibia in wildlife protection with zero tolerance to illegal activities such as smuggling of wildlife products and others. Meanwhile, President Geingob reiterated that China has never colonized and plundered Africa and always treated small and medium-sized African countries on an equal footing. Due to that China had supported Africa’s just cause in history, and has continuously helped Africa’s development today, China is seen as Africa’s sincere partner and friend. Once again, he said that Namibia actively supports cooperation under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and enhancement of coordination and cooperation between China and Africa in international affairs. It is believed that China and Africa will join hands to build a closer community of shared future for China and Africa and constantly inject new impetus into the development of China-Africa relations.

In sum, both Namibia and Zimbabwe have demonstrated their willing to participate into the historic project of “the Belt and Road Initiative” proposed by President Xi, as Mnangagwa openly hailed it as a grand vision for the future. Due to this, both Zimbabwe and Namibia are among the countries that have embraced it. Undoubtedly, China and its proposed “BRI” will enhance global trade for the benefit of all countries’ economy.Yet, also consider the deeply-rooted legacy of colonialism and neo-colonialism, China’s strategy in Africa is highly advised to think deeply but move cautiously. After all, it is a long-process for China to learn “foreign affairs” in practice.

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 Uyghur issue in early 2020

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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The Uyghur issue is now a very important asset for global anti-Chinese propaganda, both by the United States and by other European or Asian countries.

 If we do not understand the strategic importance of the Belt and Road Initiative, which inevitably passes through Xinjiang, we do not even understand the central role currently played by the Western propaganda in favour of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

 The basic criterion – certainly originally coming from the U.S. State organizations themselves – is that of comparing the Nazi concentration camps to the Uyghur re-education camps in China.

 This is a criterion of “grey propaganda” which is by now very widespread: relatively scarcely widespread news, regardless of its factual truth, is associated with tragically true news, but very widespread throughout the world.

Hence the “truth effect” passes from the “major premise”, which is certainly true, i.e. the Jewish Shoah during the Third Reich, to the minor premise, not fully verifiable, as happens in Aristotelian syllogisms – hence, in this case, the supposed truth of the “repression” (another key propaganda term) of the ethnic group of Turkish origin living in Xinjiang.

By now all open sources – whether journalistic or para-analytical ones – have revised figures significantly: until about a year ago, everywhere there was talk about three million Uyghurs detained in camps, but now all U.S. journalistic sources refer only to one million prisoners, but with the other two million ones of Turkish ethnic origin who are, in fact, “under the Chinese iron heel”- just to use  Jack London’s old metaphor.

However, the matter of the documents coming from “Chinese sources”, translated and published by the main U.S. newspapers in November 2019, makes us revise also this figure: allegedly, in fact, there were about 500,000 Uyghurs in the Xinjiang camps from 2017 until November 2019.

Nevertheless, even this figure should probably be revised, although there are certainly camps in which the unruliest Uyghurs are temporarily interned, and certainly in very different ways from the tragic ones typical of the Jewish Shoah.

 Furthermore, the Uyghur jihad- strengthened with the new displacement of Turkish jihadists, led by the Turkish MIT, towards Libya – has always been a very serious and very dangerous problem.

According to some Russian sources, in late 2016 the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), still based in Munich, directly organized para-military operations against the Chinese territory and positions.

At least since 2015 the WUC has had direct relations with the Turkish government.

Until August 2019 over 18,000 Uyghur Islamists were in fact sent for training in Syria, with the support of the Turkish intelligence Services alone.

 Now a part of these militants is being relocated to al-Sarraj’s Tripolitania, with a view to defending al-Sarraj’s pro-Western and UN-recognized government, which has always been supported by the Muslim Brotherhood.

 The partial and very weak support to al-Sarraj is a perfect fig leaf for the operations of the Muslim Brotherhood and of its reference State, which is currently Turkey.

 Qatar, another State linked to the Islamist Ikhwan, funds operations and arms purchases.

Nevertheless many of these 18,000 “Turkmen” jihadists or, however, from Xinjiang are still in Al-Zanbaki, Governorate of Idlib, supported by German and French non-governmental organizations.

 On December 7-9, 2019 a closed-door meeting was held in Brussels on Uyghur issues, while the following day, on December 10, there was a conference at the European Parliament organized  by the French MP, Raphaël Glucksmann, attended by Dolkun Isa, the current President of the World Uyghur Congress based in Munich.

As can easily be predicted, the EU as a screen for the expansion of a “good” or”moderate” Islamism – as the United States maintains – which the EU believes will serve the interests of a weak, ineffective and misinformed Europe.

 This is very unlikely to happen.

Currently the primary variable to be kept under control is Tunisia.

  On December 25, 2019, in fact, Turkish President Erdogan – who fell in love with the Uyghurs when he was mayor of Istanbul -paid a visit to the Tunisian President, Kais Saied, an “independent” jurist elected also with the votes of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunis and of its political arm, Ennahda.

Turkish President Erdogan was accompanied by the Head of Turkish intelligence Services, Hakan Fidan, and by the Foreign and Defence Ministers.

 The bone of contention was the possibility for the Turkish intelligence Services to use the airport and the port of Djerba for the mass transfer of jihadists, organized by the Turkish MIT, from Syria to Libya and, probably, also to other areas of the Maghreb region, besides Tunisia itself.

 The new phase of Uyghur jihadism will therefore affect the whole Middle East and the Maghreb region, in addition to an increasing share of jihadists of Turkish origin who will be operating in South-East Asia.

At first the Maghreb region will be affected, with a sequence of attacks by the new jihad on the economic, oil and tourist resources of the most modernized countries of the Maghreb region, irrespective of these resources belonging to the West or not. Later there will be a wave of “sword jihad” actions between the Maghreb region and sub-Saharan Africa, with direct effects on the migration routes from “black” Africa, and then sequences of attacks will reach Southern Europe.

The attacks will initially be organized by groups particularly  specialized in “hybrid” warfare and terrorist operations. Later  there will be a resurgence of massive and very low intensity actions so as to cover other types of actions.

These attacks, however, will be different from the old Qaedist logic: the jihadists will target the production, transport and logistics systems, with the least possible impact on civilians.

We cannot even rule out the possibility of an action against the local and foreign Armed Forces, i.e. French, British and U.S. Forces (which have certainly not left Africa) and other countries’ ones.

In this future scenario, there will probably be a new military role for Saudi Arabia which will possibly reactivate its “ad hoc” jihadist networks to counter the “Allah’s warriors ” supported by its strategic competitors: Iran which, however, will not play all its cards here; Egypt, which will protect its Nile Sources and the two Suez canals, the area of Djibouti and the Horn of Africa, where the local jihad will mobilize against Somalia and Eritrea.

 Moreover, as we noted above, the data on Xinjiang’s economy is not at all consistent with what has been propagandized  as “mass detention” of Uyghurs by the Chinese authorities.

 The latest reliable statistics, dating back to 2018,points to an annual GDP of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region equal to 1.22 trillion yuan, with a 0.11 trillion increase compared to  2017.

It is unlikely if we consider the data released by Western media on the Uyghurs detained in various “re-education camps”.

 Moreover, very significant investment has always been made in the Xinjiang region, in three Chinese five-year programmes: the 2006-2010 one and the 12thplan of 2011-2015, as well as the  current one.

 At the beginning of China’s planning policy, about 97% of the population lived in a territory covering only 8% of the  Autonomous Region’ surface.

 The 12thplan focused on 12 Chinese areas and regions, obviously including Xinjiang, with a view to enhancing economic growth, infrastructure and public services, as well as to implementing a  vast environmental protection of the region: since 2015 forests have been covering over 20% of the Uyghur territory.

As we saw during the last years of the Shah’s government in Iran, the fast modernization of the economy often leads to cultural and identity imbalances which may probably explain much of the ideological background of Islamism in Xinjiang.

 An Islam which is, however, a vast operation of some countries against China – obviously not only Western ones.

 Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that the Turkish majority areas in the Chinese Autonomous Region are much less radicalized or even less tied to ancestral religious traditions, precisely in Xinjiang, where the oil and gas fields are located.

However, there is no close and consequential link between the  public security operations in Xinjiang and the progress in oil and gas extraction.

Hence, currently the only possibility to destabilize Xinjiang against China is to put pressure on the Uyghur minorities living in the neighbouring countries, mainly in Kazakhstan.

We also need to carefully consider the cultural, symbolic and historical problems emerging in China with regard to the Uyghur issue.

 China is a powerful culture State: you can certainly be Chinese  from an ethnic viewpoint – han or the other over fifty-five minorities accepted – but obviously what really matters is the sharing of a great cultural, identity and historical heritage.

 From Mao Zedong to date, there has been no political program, nor leaders’ speech, nor CPC messages not referring to facts and people of China’s very long history.

Twenty-two centuries cannot certainly be wiped out.

  The White Paper published in August 2019 by the State Council’s Information Office, regarding Uyghur culture and traditions, also states that, at the beginning, Islam was “imposed by force” on those populations.

 The Turkish minority in Xinjiang has been living there since well before its Islamization. It is also true that currently the customs of the non-han populations in the region are certainly linked to Islam.

 It is equally true, however – and here the White Paper realistically identifies the problem – that the symbolic radicalization of the Uyghur population has come after the often clumsy attempts of forced and violent Sinicization of this Turkish ethnic group.

All those attempts were made before the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The two Uyghur republics, the pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese factions, as well as the divisions between tribes and cities, are all traditions that the Uyghur Islam has had since before the establishment of the han-Chinese Communism.

 Islam has been living in the Uyghur population of Xinjiang for about 900 years.

In other areas, Islam is certainly much older: just think of the Maghreb region, the frontline of the “sword jihad” of the Rashidun Caliphs, the so-called “rightly-guided” ones after Prophet Muhammad.

 Furthermore – and here we find, once again, the Marxist roots of the Chinese regime – the White Paper also maintains that Islam was imposed on the Uyghurs with violence and “by their ruling classes”.

 It is partly true, but not even Muhammad did peacefully impose Islam on his first converted populations.

In the Islamic tradition there are as many as 43 murderers of Prophet’s enemies – all assassinations explicitly ordered by Muhammad himself.

We do not want to focus on the long-standing issue of the violent nature of Islam, in which we are not interested at all.

 The real problem is that the White Paper makes it clear that Communist China is liberating Uyghurs from their Islam and therefore from their old ruling classes.

 It should also be recalled that – even after its Communist revolution – China is still linked to an imperial theory of sovereignty, which emphasizes how power is a “Mandate of  Heaven”. The Emperor is the Party, the Party is the Leader and the  Leader represents – almost mystically – all the people, thus protecting them precisely with his Mandate of Heaven.

 It is evident that such a theory, although secularized by Marxism-Leninism and by Mao Zedong, cannot absorb but only contain  Xinjiang’s Islam.

In the traditional Chinese political culture, the Mandate of Heaven, also in its “materialistic” version, is what saves from civil war, from inter-State and ethnic clashes, as well as from the “period of warring kingdoms”.

 A phase that, in pre-Communist Chinese history, has occurred cyclically every 200-300 years.

Hence the concept of harmony has precise historical and anthropological foundations.

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The Novel Coronavirus and Information warfare

Asad Ullah

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Authors: Asad Ullah and Muhammad Hayat*

Very recently, China confronted a significant challenge, not because of the so-called Novel coronavirus but mostly because of Information Warfare. It’s distinct while reading some western media; they reflect that China is becoming a burial ground where people decease subsequently after every single minute, believing that thousands of people died and thousand are suffered. In the same vein, such information went viral on different social media networks – created massive fear worldwide.

People around the world looking at China with terrified eyes, some of the states suspended their flight and avoided their citizens from traveling to China. China indeed suspended some of the planes after negotiation with other countries only to prevent the spread of the virus, but it never means that all are disappearing here. Instead of spreading false information worldwide to increase information warfare, people around the world must appreciate China’s struggle in the current rampant disease.

It will be no exaggeration to say that in the current situation, people are running away from both Chinese as well as people who traveled to and from China. The question is, why western media, spreading such false information about the current virus while disregarding the noteworthy measures taken by the Chinese government. Western Media used the word “locked down” in the contemporary status quo in Wuhan,  accentuating that most of the Chinese provinces and other big cities are locked down because of the noxious virus, While the Chinese government never used the word locked down; they instead used the word quarantine; it is clear that the two terms are sharply dissimilar and diverse. Besides the next thing I want to reference here is that why most of the people firmly admit as accurate almost everything that Western Media highlight?

Because of the media almost, every person in the world knows about the novel coronavirus (nC-2019). Typically any novel outbreak gets more attention than a common disease, and indeed it is a severe threat to health authorities. However, it could be more crucial if we redirect some of our latest hyper-vigilance towards flu, which is more deadly than the scary coronavirus. But then again, how much we understand about the flue that traumatized the United States?

 In the comparative study, until now, the Wuhan coronavirus has killed 450 people and infected about 25000 people globally. The mortality of nC-2019 is (2.08%) much lower than other SARS and MERS with a mortality rate of 9.3 and 34%, respectively. By contrast, influenza that hit America alone has infected roughly 19 million people and killed more than 10000. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the 2019-20 flu season is nastiest in the last ten years, and will probably continue for several weeks.

Case in point, in 2009, when the H1N1 virus broke out in the United States,  no one called it the American virus or Western virus. Nonetheless, the current coronavirus, when broke out in China, the western media called it China Virus or Virus Red Flag. When the H1N1 spread to the whole world which diseased millions of people worldwide, no one said anything about American people; nevertheless, when the novel coronavirus infected about 300 people externally, the Western media started to censured China as well as Chinese student abroad. When H1N1 infected almost 100,000 Chinese citizens and killed thousands of Chinese, no one painted the virus to call it different names.

Information warfare or acts of revenge, instead of sharing false information to spread chaos and panic, the media must appreciate the recent struggle of China. Pandemic diseases indeed are not very easy to control or develop vaccine at midnight to treat diseases and avoid spreading. The Chinese government has taken a severe step to control the outbreak of the virus. Apart from precautions and quarantine, in the fragile situation, the Chinese government build Wuhan’s Huoshenshan Hospital, one of the two makeshift hospitals dedicated to treating the patients infected with the coronavirus. The hospital covers an area of 34,000 square meters, which provides 1,000 beds.

Another hospital, Leishenshan, which is underway with the capacity of 1,500 beds, scheduled to be put into use on February 5 and take patients on February 6, the Chinese new agency CGTN reported. In such a short time, China is the only country that builds makeshifts for infected people. Through the gigantic struggles of both the Chinese government and the doctors who devoted all their time to overcome the outbreak, this will surely be overwhelmed.

Thus, in such circumstances, the world must come together to fight such diseases not only in China but all around the world. The discovery of vaccines indeed essential for future threats and the same epidemic. Humanity has nothing to do with power politics; the Western world must relief as a substitute for making it more complicated.

Besides, it is indeed more natural to understand, despite the fact of equating the above study.

*Muhammad Hayat. Ph.D., Student at Shandong University, Majoring Microbiology. 

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East Asia

The International Epidemic: Putting perspective on the Wuhan Coronavirus

Sisir Devkota

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Passengers wear face masks while riding the subway in Shenzhen, China.UN News/Jing Zhang

Wuhan is in a lock down. More than 50 million people are masking behind their homes; rarely in recent history, has humankind faced such a viral threat that possesses demonic consequences. The unfortunate people of Hubei province probably know that science would eventually come to their rescue; but the threat of a global epidemic and the stigma that could be associated with exposed population might live on forever. More than a dozen other nations have received confirmed cases of infected human hosts; still, the epidemic has been contained, in terms of its scope. For the first time, the world is witnessing not a global problem, but a globalized mess of what lies ahead. In fact, it is rationally impossible to justify or predict the nature of corona virus that is being understood, or guarantee that infected hosts are not exposed as officials in China and the WHO claim. Such is the nature of a global epidemic; millions of people enter and exit the Chinese mainland; there needs to be a satisfactory perspective over questions that are unquestionably, disturbing.

Soon after the virus broke headlines across the world, British health officials were quick to mention about minimal knowledge sharing by the Chinese counterparts. Other events have testified that China made a good amount of effort to hide significant knowledge of the Wuhan virus. The world also witnessed a grand hospital being built under a week’s time; a medical centre that can now treat thousand patients at the same time. No questions on Chinese efficiency, but there needs to be a simplified information dissemination about the nature of virus; an uncompromising guarantee that there are no possibilities of another epidemic from the world’s most populous nation. Clearly, such interrogations could be offensive, but millions of people are on the line. What would happen if the virus seeps into Hubei’s hideouts? The world can only hope that China is restricting the knowledge to coddle its hegemonic ego.

There is another unambiguity surrounding the rate at which the disease could race towards doomsday; besides the veil of adequate knowledge, language barriers have hindered penetration of international expertise and resources. For nations that have registered cases of the virus, gap will be vital; the mix of Chinese ignorance with the speed of international hustle is also key. Scenarios spring into the picture, forbidding not, what if the virus gets out of control and manages to penetrate through millions or acclimatizes on other hosts that are currently out of consideration. Secondly, how would the world react on such a case, what if rationality came before human ethics? Apart from Hollywood, the human race has no experience of dealing with an apocalypse; however, it would be entirely underestimating to assume that inaction would defy momentary needs.

Reportedly, many countries are manufacturing the vaccines but American leadership in the process is unsurprising. Even convicted pharmaceuticals like Johnson & Johnson have found new causes to toil upon. An American vaccine for a Chinese virus is an example of globalization at extremes; political and financial interests are at stake, eventually, the theory of production will prevail and save lives. The world is anticipating all kinds of consequences based on the economics of unanticipated demand. It is vital to put the epidemic on a perspective, in order to grasp the possibilities of longitudinal consequences. All over the world, gastronomical cultures will be put into question, re-evaluation of hygiene standards will follow suit as well. The Wuhan virus will dump the Chinese economy, but most importantly, with fleeting speculations of international security. Unforgivably, this is an entirely new kind of epidemic.

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