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One China One System? The Geopolitics of Forcing Taiwan’s Hand

Kjell Tengesdal

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On New Year’s Day1979, The Standing Committee of the Fifth National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China abruptly stopped shelling Taiwan’s offshore islands, changed their rhetoric from one of ‘liberation’ to ‘unification’(Laurus 2019) and sent a message of greetings and wishes for a hopeful reuniting of the Chinese people (Fifth National People’s Congress 1979).On the fortieth anniversary of this message, Communist Party Secretary-General Xi Jinping of China in perhaps his strongest messaging to date, warned the breakaway republic of Taiwan that it “must and will be reunited” with mainland China despite interference from foreigners, a not so subtle hint at the United States (BBC News 2019). This strong language was evidence that China was willing to move towards a forceful reunification with Taiwan if efforts for a peaceful reintegration remained stagnant.This paper focuses on what the probable leading indicators are that Japanese and Taiwanese intelligence agencies would focus on to discern signals of Chinese intent to move forward with a forcible reunification of Taiwan. 

The Chinese Perspective

China sees the Taiwan issue as one similar to that of Hong Kong or Macau.  Both islands have been administered under the “One China-Two Systems” approach after returning to Chinese control following agreements with their former colonizing powers.  Macau was released from Portugal in 1987 and Hong Kong from Britain in 1997.  Under “One China-Two Systems,” each territory would be autonomous in all matters except foreign affairs and defense-related activities for a period of fifty years.  China has proposed a similar reunification plan with Taiwan, which has been routinely rejected.  China has always considered the integrity of the nation as a “core interest” which includes “the sovereignty of Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang (Nie 2016).”

China has always maintained that it has the right to use military force to compel Taiwan to rejoin China (Chaudhury 2019). However, it has used many other tactics to undermine Taiwan’s resistance.  China has moved to sever ties with any country that seeks to establish relations with Taiwan and to exclude Taiwan from participating in international organizations that could confer a semblance of national recognition (Brown and Scott 2014, 64).  Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, his language and actions have ratcheted up the calls for reunification with Taiwan and perhaps signaled a stronger possibility for military action.

Xi has made several moves to consolidate his power within the PRC.  Most notably his removal of term limits from the constitution, which will allow him to serve indefinitely (Womack 2017, 402). His ‘anti-corruption’ efforts, which he undertook shortly after taking power (Nie 2016, 426), while billed as an effort to root out corruption within the government.  Xi’s efforts to remove those seen as disloyal in the higher ranks has created a Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) that is both loyal and firmly in the control of Xi with many calling him “the New Emperor(Brown and Scott 2018, 62).”  The PRC has also increased pressure on many fronts following Taiwan’s election of Tsai Ing-Wen: the staging of military exercises including China’s aircraft carrier the Liaoning; live fire exercises near Taiwanese waters; the establishment of a new commercial flight path that encroaches upon Taiwanese airspace; interfering in various non-government and international forums to force the removal of references to Taiwan as being anything other than a part of China (Brown and Scott 2018, 63-65).Under Xi, China appears to be making a full court press to drive Taiwan to what it considers a ‘peaceful unification.’

The View from Taiwan

Taiwan has effectively ruled itself independently of the mainland and has never seen itself as being under PRC control.    Polls in Taiwan have consistently shown very high support for independence, normally in the 70% range (Keum and Campbell 2001, 71)&(Jennings and Lai 2019).  Support for independence among younger demographics is typically higher as they feel less bonding with the mainland than their parent’s generation (Jennings and Lai 2019).   Per capita income for Taiwanese citizens is much higher than that on the mainland(Chiu 1983, 1092).  China’s abandonment of promises made to the Tibetan people after it invaded and the continuing erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong and Macau under the “One China-Two Systems” since reunification has also not gone unnoticed (Keum and Campbell 2001, 73). 

The National Security Policy of Taiwan states in its opening paragraph on cross-strait negotiations that: “mutual non-recognition and mutual non-denial” means “the two sides do not recognize each other’s sovereignty, nor do they deny each other’s authority to govern (ROC).”Like the PRC, Taiwan sees itself as the only legitimate “true” China and will be unwilling to concede its independence and sovereignty to the PRC as it has long seen mainland China as the one that should come under Taiwanese control (Chang 2014, 303). 

Japan Caught in the Middle

Japan has the most complicated position of the three nations, which it must carefully navigate as it has significant military, economic, and diplomatic ties with China, Taiwan, and the United States.  Despite having been a former colonial occupier of Taiwan, its relations by and large have been increasingly beneficial between the two countries.  While Japan has spoken up at international venues on behalf of Taiwan without establishing formal relations and has supported the development of a high-speed rail system on Taiwan, Japan has been careful not to draw too much ire from the PRC (Bartlett 2018).  China views Japan as having fully accepted its One Belt-One Road (OBOR) initiative, despite Prime Minister Abe being somewhat cagy in his meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in May 2018. Abe admitted that “the possibility of cooperation will be explored on a case-by-case basis, under the proviso that openness, transparency, economic efficiency and financial soundness all accord to international standards (Kawashima 2018).”Abe is seen as a strong leader in Japan and despite his attempts to improve Sino-Japanese relations he has moved to strengthen Japan’s position in the region to counter China’s rise. 

While China’s ascendency and the current pre-eminence of the United States as the global power has led many scholars to discuss the impending Thucydides Trap (TT) with the United States (see for example Er 2016), China’s rise also presents a similar TT with Japan.  Until recently, Japan and China have not held positions of strength as regional powers at the same time.  China surpassing a stagnant Japanese economy in 2010 to become the second largest economy poses economic and security concerns for Japan (Yuan 2018, 4).  Additionally, China has announced the planned development of a four-ship aircraft carrier fleet.  In response, Japan has sought to increase its submarine fleet from 16 to 22 and has sought to remove constitutional limitations on the Japanese military to increase its flexibility and allow for the development of increased military capability, all designed to counter the Chinese PLA. This could extend to Japan pursuing its own nuclear weapons program if it sees the United States as becoming an unreliable partner in sharing its nuclear deterrence (Er 2016, 43).  Japansees a reunification of China with Taiwan as not “a good thing for Japan”with respect to its national security and will move to counter such an event.

Taiwanese/Japanese Intelligence Services and the Search for Leading Indicators

In such a complicated region where global and regional powers are intertwined, what indicators should the Taiwanese and Japanese intelligence services be monitoring to provide warning that China may be moving towards forceful reunification?  What capabilities and technologies are these organizations employing in such monitoring?   

National Security Bureau (NSB) – The NSB is the official intelligence agency of Taiwan.  The NSB’s history was shrouded in a dark past of covert arrests and assassinations until 1994 when legislative changes created the National Security Bureau Organization Act.  This act formalized the organization and published the names of its leadership.  The first responsibility assigned to the NSB is the “Security for the Taiwan area, intelligence work for the Mainland area and international intelligence work (ROC 2011).” This is an admission that the ROC intends to conduct intelligence activities inside the PRC but the act does not discuss in detail any capabilities, technologies, personnel strength or other related information. Not much is known publicly about the NSB other than its organizational hierarchy and what is published on its website as the NSB has rarely published documents for public consumption.  However, due to its advanced economy and technological access, the NSB likely maintains comparable capabilities to most western intelligence agencies. It is known that Taiwan has successfully launched several satellites under Taiwan’s National Space Organization (NSO). However, any relation between the NSB and the NSO is not public. The NSB also is likely not adverse to using classical techniques as demonstrated by the PRC accusing Taiwan of using “honey pots” to lure Chinese students into espionage, a charge that Taiwan has publicly denied (NDTV).

Japanese Intelligence Services – Japan maintains a complex organization of several intelligence services including the Naicho – Cabinet Research Office, a small central intelligence agency and coordinating office under the Prime Minister that focuses on foreign intelligence concerns (see figure 1). Japan also has a Defense Intelligence Office and subordinate intelligence agencies in its Ground, Maritime and Air defense forces (fas.org). 

Figure 1: Japanese Self Defense Force Organization (source Fas.org)

Japan’s intelligence capabilities and techniques are similar to its western peers but is smaller in size.  It also does not maintain an organization specializing in foreign human intelligence (HUMINT) akin to the CIA and no internal security organization like Britain’s MI5 (Yoshiki 2015, 721).  China’s increasing regional hegemony has driven Japan to pursue its own military and space intelligence capabilities and to seek closer cooperation with the United States on intelligence matters to fill these gaps (Yuan 2018, 5).

Japan and Taiwan should direct its national technical means towards monitoring the following indicators.  First, since Xi’s anti-corruption campaign resulted in him solidifying control of the military by placing loyalists in leadership roles, any rhetoric from senior military leaders could be perceived as being reflective of Xi’s policies.  Should senior military leaders start calling for increased military action against Taiwan, this would be a worrisome sign.  Secondly, China’s current amphibious capability needed to transport troops and expertise in deployment has been insufficient for a Taiwanese invasion. A sharp increase in amphibious related exercises or calls for an abnormal increase in the acquisition of amphibious ships and landing craft would also be key preparations for an assault on Taiwan.   Third, the PRC has been attempting to isolate the ROC from involvement in international engagements, devaluing Taiwan’s name and image globally (Brown and Scott 2017, 64).  A significant increase in these activities could be a policy shift by Xi’s government away from peaceful unification.

A military venture by China to force Taiwan into reunification could result in swift military action by the United States and subsequently would draw Japan into the conflict through treaty entanglements.  Such a conflict would undoubtedly be devastating for the region.  An uneasy stalemate has existed between China and Taiwan for nearly three decades. Rapprochement between the two respective leaders seems a decreasing possibility and the probability of conflict correspondingly rising.  President Xi’s strongman approach to leadership, a desire for the emergence of a powerful China through the One Belt-One Road initiative, and a willingness to absorb short-term suffering for long-term gain may in fact signal the coming end of China’s patience on the Taiwan issue. We live in interesting times, indeed.

Kjell Tengesdal is a Health Physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and has over 35 years of service in the United States Navy and Navy Reserve. He is currently a student in the Doctorate of Strategic Intelligence Program at American Public University. He holds a Master’s in Engineering-Applied Science from the University of California Davis and a Master’s in Physics and Bachelors in Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Arkansas.

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Deeper meanings of the Hong Kong protests: Is China a gamechanger or yet another winner?

Anis H. Bajrektarevic

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Does our history only appear overheated, while it is essentially calmly predetermined? Is it directional or conceivable, dialectic and eclectic or cyclical, and therefore cynical? Surely, our history warns. Does it also provide for a hope? Hence, what is in front of us: destiny or future?

Theory loves to teach us that extensive debates on what kind of economic system is most conductive to human wellbeing is what consumed most of our civilizational vertical. However, our history has a different say: It seems that the manipulation of the global political economy – far more than the introduction of ideologies – is the dominant and arguably more durable way that human elites usually conspired to build or break civilizations, as planned projects. Somewhere down the process, it deceived us, becoming the self-entrapment. How?

One of the biggest (nearly schizophrenic) dilemmas of liberalism, ever since David Hume and Adam Smith, was an insight into reality: Whether the world is essentially Hobbesian or Kantian. As postulated, the main task of any liberal state is to enable and maintain wealth of its nation, which of course rests upon wealthy individuals inhabiting the particular state. That imperative brought about another dilemma: if wealthy individual, the state will rob you, but in absence of it, the pauperized masses will mob you.

The invisible hand of Smith’s followers have found the satisfactory answer – sovereign debt. That ‘invention’ meant: relatively strong central government of the state. Instead of popular control through the democratic checks-&-balance mechanism, such a state should be rather heavily indebted. Debt – firstly to local merchants, than to foreigners – is a far more powerful deterrent, as it resides outside the popular check domain.

With such a mixed blessing, no empire can easily demonetize its legitimacy, and abandon its hierarchical but invisible and unconstitutional controls. This is how a debtor empire was born. A blessing or totalitarian curse? Let us briefly examine it.

The Soviet Union – much as (the pre-Deng’s) China itself – was far more of a classic continental military empire (overtly brutal; rigid, authoritative, anti-individual, apparent, secretive), while the US was more a financial-trading empire (covertly coercive; hierarchical, yet asocial, exploitive, pervasive, polarizing). On opposite sides of the globe and cognition, to each other they remained enigmatic, mysterious and incalculable: Bear of permafrost vs. Fish of the warm seas. Sparta vs. Athens. Rome vs. Phoenicia… However, common for the both was a super-appetite for omnipresence. Along with the price to pay for it.

Consequently, the Soviets went bankrupt by mid 1980s – they cracked under its own weight, imperially overstretched. So did the Americans – the ‘white man burden’ fractured them already by the Vietnam war, with the Nixon shock only officializing it. However, the US imperium managed to survive and to outlive the Soviets. How?

The United States, with its financial capital (or an outfoxing illusion of it), evolved into a debtor empire through the Wall Street guaranties. Titanium-made Sputnik vs. gold mine of printed-paper… Nothing epitomizes this better than the words of the longest serving US Federal Reserve’s boss, Alan Greenspan, who famously quoted J.B. Connally to then French President Jacques Chirac: “True, the dollar is our currency, but your problem”. Hegemony vs. hegemoney.

House of Cards

Conventional economic theory teaches us that money is a universal equivalent to all goods. Historically, currencies were a space and time-related, to say locality-dependent. However, like no currency ever before, the US dollar became – past the WWII – the universal equivalent to all other moneys of the world. According to history of currencies, the core component of the non-precious metals’ money is a so-called promissory note – intangible belief that,by any given point in future, a particular shiny paper (self-styled as money) will be smoothly exchanged for real goods.

Thus, roughly speaking, money is nothing else but a civilizational construct about imagined/projected tomorrow – that the next day (which nobody has ever seen in the history of humankind, but everybody operates with) definitely comes (i), and that this tomorrow will certainly be a better day then our yesterday or even our today (ii).

This and similar types of collective constructs (horizontal and vertical) over our social contracts hold society together as much as its economy keeps it alive and evolving. Hence, it is money that powers economy, but our blind faith in constructed (imagined) tomorrows and its alleged certainty is what empowers money.

Clearly, the universal equivalent of all equivalents – the US dollar – follows the same pattern: Bold and widely accepted promise. What does the US dollar promise when there is no gold cover attached to it ever since the time of Nixon shock of 1971?

Pentagon promises that the oceanic sea-lanes will remain opened (read: controlled by the US Navy), pathways unhindered, and that the most traded world’s commodity – oil, will be delivered. So, it is not a crude or its delivery what is a cover to the US dollar – it is a promise that oil of tomorrow will be deliverable. That is a real might of the US dollar, which in return finances Pentagon’s massive expenditures and shoulders its supremacy.

Admired and feared, Pentagon further fans our planetary belief in tomorrow’s deliverability – if we only keep our faith in dollar (and hydrocarbons’ energized economy), and so on and on in perpetuated circle of mutual reinforcements.

These two pillars of the US might from the East coast (the US Treasury/Wall Street and Pentagon) together with the two pillars of the West coast – both financed and amplified by the US dollar, and spread through the open sea-routs (Silicone Valley and Hollywood), are an essence of the US posture.

This very nature of power explains why the Americans have missed to take the mankind into completely other direction; towards the non-confrontational, decarbonized, de-monetized/de-financialized and de-psychologized, the self-realizing and green humankind. In short, to turn history into a moral success story. They had such a chance when, past the Gorbachev’s unconditional surrender of the Soviet bloc, and the Deng’s Copernicus-shift of China, the US – unconstrained as a lonely superpower – solely dictated terms of reference; our common destiny and direction/s to our future/s.

Winner is rarely a game-changer

Sadly enough, that was not the first missed opportunity for the US to soften and delay its forthcoming, imminent multidimensional imperial retreat. The very epilogue of the WWII meant a full security guaranty for the US: Geo-economically – 54% of anything manufactured in the world was carrying the Made in USA label, and geostrategically – the US had uninterruptedly enjoyed nearly a decade of the ‘nuclear monopoly’. Up to this very day, the US scores the biggest number of N-tests conducted, the largest stockpile of nuclear weaponry, and it represents the only power ever deploying this ‘ultimate weapon’ on other nation. To complete the irony, Americans enjoy geographic advantage like no other empire before. Save the US, as Ikenberry notes: “…every major power in the world lives in a crowded geopolitical neighborhood where shifts in power routinely provoke counterbalancing”. Look the map, at Russia or China and their packed surroundings. The US is blessed with its insular position, by neighboring oceans. All that should harbor tranquility, peace and prosperity, foresightedness.

Why the lonely might, an empire by invitation did not evolve into empire of relaxation, a generator of harmony? Why does it hold (extra-judicially) captive more political prisoners on Cuban soil than the badmouthed Cuban regime has ever had? Why does it remain obsessed with armament for at home and abroad? Why existential anxieties for at home and security challenges for abroad ? (Eg. 78% of all weaponry at disposal in the wider MENA theater is manufactured in the US, while domestically Americans – only for their civilian purpose – have 1,2 small arms pieces per capita.)

Why the fall of Berlin Wall 30 years ago marked a beginning of decades of stagnant or failing incomes in the US (and elsewhere in the OECD world) coupled with alarming inequalities. What are we talking about here; the inadequate intensity of our tireless confrontational push or about the false course of our civilizational direction? 

Indeed, no successful and enduring empire does merely rely on coercion, be it abroad or at home. The grand design of every empire in past rested on a skillful calibration between obedience and initiative – at home, and between bandwagoning and engagement – abroad. In XXI century, one wins when one convinces not when one coerces. Hence, if unable to escape its inner logics and deeply-rooted appeal of confrontational nostalgia, the prevailing archrival is only a winner, rarely a game-changer.

To sum up; After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Americans accelerated expansion while waiting for (real or imagined) adversaries to further decline, ‘liberalize’ and bandwagon behind the US. Expansion is the path to security dictatum only exacerbated the problems afflicting the Pax Americana. That is how the capability of the US to maintain its order started to erode faster than the capacity of its opponents to challenge it. A classical imperial self-entrapment!!

The repeated failure to notice and recalibrate its imperial retreat brought the painful hangovers to Washington by the last presidential elections. Inability to manage the rising costs of sustaining the imperial order only increased the domestic popular revolt and political pressure to abandon its ‘mission’ altogether. Perfectly hitting the target to miss everything else …

Hence, Americans are not fixing the world any more. They are only managing its decline. Look at their (winner) footprint in former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – to mention but a few.

When the Soviets lost their own indigenous ideological matrix and maverick confrontational stance, and when the US dominated West missed to triumph although winning the Cold War, how to expect from the imitator to score the lasting moral or even amomentary economic victory?

Neither more confrontation and more carbons nor more weaponized trade and traded weapons will save our day. It failed in past, it will fail again any given day.

Interestingly, China opposed the I World, left the II in rift, and ever since Bandung of 1955 it neither won over nor (truly) joined the III Way. Today, many see it as a main contestant. But, where is a lasting success?

(The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is what the most attribute as an instrument of the Chinese planetary posture. Chinese leaders promised massive infrastructure projects all around by burning trillions of dollars. Still, numbers are more moderate. As the recent The II BRI Summit has shown, so far, Chinese companies had invested $90 worldwide. Seems, neither People’s Republic is as rich as many (wish to) think nor it will be able to finance its promised projects without seeking for a global private capital. Such a capital –if ever – will not flow without conditionalities. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS or ‘New Development’ – Bank have some $150 billion at hand, and the Silk Road Infrastructure Fund (SRIF) has up to $40 billion. Chinese state and semi-private companies can access – according to the OECD estimates – just another $600 billion (much of it tight) from the home, state-controlled financial sector. That means that China runs short on the BRI deliveries worldwide. Ergo, either bad news to the (BRI) world or the conditionalities’ constrained China.)

Greening international relations along with a greening of economy – geopolitical and environmental understanding, de-acidification and relaxation is the only way out.

That necessitates both at once: less confrontation over the art-of-day technology and their monopolies’ redistribution (as preached by the Sino-American high priests of globalization) as well as the resolute work on the so-called Tesla-ian implosive/fusion-holistic systems(including free-energy technologies; carbon-sequestration; antigravity and self-navigational solutions; bioinformatics and nanorobotics). More of initiative than of obedience (including more public control over data hoovering). More effort to excellence (creation) than struggle for preeminence (partition).

Finally, no global leader has ever in history emerged from a shaky and distrustful neighborhood, or by offering a little bit more of the same in lieu of an innovative technological advancement. (Eg. many see the Chinese 5G as an illiberal innovation, which may end up servicing authoritarianism, anywhere. And indeed, the AI deep learning inspired by biological neurons (neural science) including its three methods: supervised, unsupervised and reinforced learning can end up used for the digital authoritarianism, predictive policing and manufactured social governance based on the bonus-malus behavioral social credits.)

Ergo, it all starts from within, from at home. Without support from a home base (including that of Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet), there is no game changer. China’s home is Asia. Its size and its centrality along with its impressive output is constraining it enough.

Hence, it is not only a new, non-imitative, turn of technology what is needed. Without truly and sincerely embracing mechanisms such as the NaM, ASEAN and SAARC (eventually even the OSCE) and the main champions of multilateralism in Asia, those being India Indonesia and Japan first of all, China has no future of what is planetary awaited – the third force, a game-changer, lasting visionary and trusted global leader.

Post Scriptum:

To varying degrees, but all throughout a premodern and modern history, nearly every world’s major foreign policy originator was dependent (and still depends) on what happens in, and to, Russia. It is not only a size, but also centrality of Russia that matters. It is as much (if not even more), as it is an omnipresence of the US and as it is a hyper production of the PR China.

Ergo, it is an uninterrupted flow of manufactured goods to the whole world, it is balancing of the oversized and centrally positioned one, and it is the ability to controllably destruct the way in and insert itself of the peripheral one. The oscillatory interplay of these three is what characterizes our days.

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Uyghur asylum seeker puts international community on the spot

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Ablikim Yusuf, a 53-year old Uyghur Muslim seeking a safe haven from potential Chinese persecution, landed this week in the United States, his new home.

But Mr. Yusuf’s perilous search that took him from Pakistan to Qatar to Bosnia Herzegovina where was refused entry and back to Qatar highlighted China’s inability to enforce its depiction of the brutal clampdown on Turkic Muslims in its troubled, north-western province of Xinjiang as a purely domestic matter.

Mr. Yusuf’s case also spotlighted the risk of increased mass migration in a world in which ethnic and religious minorities increasingly feel existentially threatened by civilizationalist policies pursued by illiberal and authoritarian leaders as well as supremacists, racists and far-right nationalist groups.

By choosing Qatar Airways and making Doha his first point of landing after leaving his residence in Pakistan, Mr. Yusuf further underscored the fragility of Muslim acquiescence in the Chinese clampdown and called into question application of Qatar’s asylum law. With the adoption of the law, Qatar last year became the first Arab state to legalize asylum.

While Mr. Yusuf is fortunate to have ended his ordeal with his arrival in the United States, his case accentuated the hypocrisy of the Trump administration that has demonized migrants and refugees and “weaponized” US human rights policy.

Mr. Yusuf’s plight serves the United States as it fights an escalating trade war with China and has made the clampdown in Xinjiang one of the opportunistically selected cases of human rights violations it is willing to emphasize.

Mr Yusuf put Qatar and the international community on the spot when he last weekend posted online a mobile phone video pleading for help hours before he was slated to be deported from Doha’s Hamad International Airport to Beijing.

The plea generated thousands of retweets by Uyghur activists and won him assistance from an American human rights lawyer and ultimately asylum in the US.

If deported to China, Mr. Yusuf would have risked being incarcerated in a re-education camp which has been an involuntary home for an estimated one million Uyghurs in China as part of what amounts to the worst assault on a faith in recent history.

China said last month that the majority of the detainees in what it describes as vocational training facilities had been released and “returned to society” but independent observers say there is no evidence that the camps are being emptied.

Mr. Yusuf decided to leave his home in Pakistan for safer pastures after Pakistan became one of up to 50 countries that signed a letter in support of the clampdown.

Concerned that Pakistan, the largest beneficiary of Chinese Belt and Road-related investment, could deport its Uyghur residents, Mr. Yusuf travelled on a Chinese travel document rather than a passport that was valid only for travel to China. China’s issuance of such documents is designed to force Uyghurs to return.

The travel document provided cover for Qatar’s initial decision to return him to China rather than potentially spark Chinese ire by granting him asylum. International pressure persuaded Qatar to give Mr. Yusuf the opportunity to find a country that would accept him.

China’s clampdown in Xinjiang is but the sharp edge of a global trend fuelled by the rise of leaders across the globe in countries ranging from the United States to China, Russia, India, Hungary, Turkey and Myanmar who think in civilizational terms, undermine minority rights, wittingly or unwittingly legitimize violence, and risk persuading large population groups to migrate in search of safer pastures.

Hate crimes have gripped the United States with critics of President Donald J. Trump charging, despite his explicit condemnation this week of white supremacism, that his hardline attitude and language when it comes to migrants and refugees has created an enabling environment.

Violence against Muslims in India, home to the world’s second largest Muslim community, has increased dramatically with 90 percent of religious hate crimes in the last decade having occurred since Narendra Modi became prime minister.

Some 750,000 Rohingya linger in Bangladeshi refugee camps after fleeing persecution in Myanmar while Islamophobia has become part of US, European and Chinese discourse and Jews in Europe fear a new wave of anti-Semitism.

Italy took efforts to counter migration that are likely to aggravate rather than alleviate a crisis a step further by adopting a law that would slap fines of up to US$1.12 million on those seeking to rescue migrants adrift at sea.

The Chinese clampdown that bars most Uyghurs from travel and seeks to force those abroad to return has so far spared the world yet another stream of people desperate to find a secure and safe home. The risk of an eventual Uyghur exodus remains with the fallout of the Chinese re-education effort yet to be seen.

Mr. Yusuf could well prove to be not only the tip of the Uyghur iceberg but of a future global crisis as a result of an international community that not only increasingly has turned its back on those in need but also pursues exclusionary rather than inclusionary policies.

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China’s risky bets

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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China’s infrastructure and energy driven US$1 trillion Belt and Road initiative involves risky bets across a swath of land populated by often illiberal or autocratic governments exercising power without independent checks and balances.

Seeking to reduce risk, China is bumping up against the limits of its own long-standing foreign and defence policy principles, foremost among which its insistence on non-interference in the domestic affairs of others, the equivalent of the United States’ preference for stability rather than political change.

If popular revolts in Algeria and Sudan as well as smaller, issues-oriented protests elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa are anything to go by, China appears to be betting against the odds.

Anti-corruption sentiment fuelled the 2011 popular Arab revolts that toppled the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen and are at the root of current anti-government protests across the globe in countries as far flung as Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Russia, Zambia, the Czech Republic, Albania and Romania

China’s risks were evident in the wake of the fall in 2011 of Col. Moammar Gaddafi when the post-revolt Libyan authorities advised China that it would be low on the totem pole as a result of its support of the ancien regime.

The risks are also evident with Baloch militants targeting Chinese assets and personnel in Pakistan.

To minimize the risk and expand its aggressive domestic anti-graft campaign, China’s top anti-corruption body, the Communist party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), is embedding inspectors in Belt and Road projects, who will be based in recipient countries.

The move helps China counter allegations that it exploits corruption in recipient Belt and Road countries to further its objectives.

Anti-corruption is a signature policy of president Xi Jinping and has allowed him to purge senior Chinese leaders as well as tens of thousands of low-level bureaucrats.

The CCDI is building on the success of a pilot project in Laos where it embedded in late 2017 inspectors in a US$6 billion railway project being built by state-owned China Railway Group. The anti-graft officials, working with the Chinese company, established a joint inspection team with their Laotian counterpart.

The question is whether the anti-corruption effort in countries like Laos or Central Asian nations that consistently rank in the bottom half of Transparency International’s corruption index will bump up against China’s non-interference principle.

Or in other words, can China successfully guard against corruption in Belt and Road projects without pressuring recipient countries to adopt broader transparency and anti-corruption measures?

How can you strike hard on corruption here at home and give a free hand to Chinese people and business groups [that are] reckless abroad?” CCDI’s director-general for international co-operation La Yifan asked in a Financial Times interview.

Mr. La said China had organized seminars with more than 30 countries to link up anti-corruption regulators. “That is my dream, that we create a network of law enforcement of all these Belt and Road countries,” he said.

Imposing transparency and anti-corruption in Belt and Road partners would be the equivalent of all kinds of environmental, safety and human rights criteria that the United States haphazardly and opportunistically maintains in dealings with foreign countries that have been severely criticized by China.

China has long prided itself on what it terms win-win economic situations in which it imposes commercial terms that often primarily benefit the People’s Republic.

The terms, coupled with the clampdown on Turkic Muslims in China’s province of Xinjiang, has fuelled anti-Chinese sentiment in Turkey and Central Asia with their close ethnic and cultural ties to the troubled Chinese region.

Turkish officials highlighted these sensitivities by denying Chinese media reports that president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had praised the success of Beijing’s brutal approach in Xinjiang during a recent visit to China.

Muslim nations have largely remained silent about the clampdown that amounts to the most frontal assault on a faith in recent history or in some instances even tacitly endorsed it.

In the absence of democracy, “governments can manage their pro-Beijing stance without informing their public, but a pro-Beijing policy over the Uyghur issue can barely be sustained in Turkey. Turkey is still a functioning democracy and total control of the public is not possible. Besides, there is a very strong Uyghur lobby and public sentiment towards the Uyghurs in Turkey,” said Turkish Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies director Selcuk Colakoglu.

Taking its anti-corruption campaign global, raises the broader question of whether it would threaten a pillar of autocracy that China’s non-interference principle has de facto sought to perpetuate.

Political scientists Alexander Cooley and John Heathershaw argue that what they call the instruments of global authoritarianism — an army of largely Western bankers, lawyers, brokers and intermediaries that park illicitly gained monies in off-shore accounts and manage the investment of those funds – help keep autocrats in power.

The success of the globalization of China’s anti-corruption effort as well as its campaign to significantly reduce graft at home, would establish autocrats’ ability to satisfactorily deliver public goods and services alongside brute power as the cornerstone of their sustainability.

In doing so, it would give greater meaning to China’s assertion that it does not want to fundamentally alter the established multi-lateral world order but rather make it more equitable and more a reflection of a world that is multi- not unipolar.

It would also cement China’s model of economic reform and state capitalism without political liberalization as the example autocratic and authoritarian regimes want to emulate even if the jury is out on whether autocrats can remain relatively clean without a system of independent checks and balances.

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