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Xi Jinping’s visit to Italy and the relationship between China and the Catholic Church

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No official meetings between President Xi Jinping and Pope Francis are officially scheduled on the agenda for the Chinese President’s next visit to Italy.

 Neither party wants to jeopardize the agreement reached last September on the appointment of bishops and, however, as is well-known, both diplomacies like silence, long processes and long time schedules.

 Whoever remembers the old diplomatic precedents, also remembers that, just ten years ago, there was the possibility of another meeting between Benedict XVI and Hu Jintao in Italy for the G8 in L’Aquila. The Chinese leader, however, had to return quickly to Beijing, for a revolt in Xinjiang which was – as usual – more dangerous than we could believe.

 From the outset, however, Cardinal Zen opposed the “parallel” appointment of bishops by China and Italy, as  envisaged by the agreement currently in force between China and the Vatican.

  It should be recalled that, from the beginning, Cardinal Zen who was Archbishop of Hong Kong until 2009, dismissed the agreement between the Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, and the Chinese regime as an “incredible betrayal of Faith”.

 The old prelate was born in Shanghai in 1932, just a year after Mao Zedong founded a sort of Soviet republic in Jiangxi.

 Nevertheless, the new strategies and opportunities or new contrasts are beginning to take shape.

 Since January 30 last, for example, Peter Jin Lugang has no longer been a clandestine bishop from Nanyang, while Cardinal Filoni has recently gone to Macao to inaugurate some new facilities of the Saint Joseph University.

 In 2018, as many as 48,365 people were baptized in the churches and parishes of the People’s Republic of China.

 Currently there are almost ten million Chinese Catholics.

  There are also 104 dioceses recognized by the government of the People’s Republic of China, with 30 national provinces.

 Currently the largest number of newly baptized people in China is found in the Hebei province, with 13,000 new people baptized in 2018, followed by Shanxi, with 4,124 new Catholics, as well as Sichuan with 3,707 new people baptized, and finally Shandong with 2,914 new Christians.

 Even in Tibet as many as 8 baptisms were celebrated. In Hainan there were 35 baptisms and in Qinghai 43. This applies even to the Islamic Xinjiang, with as many as 57 new Catholics.

 On point of law – and not only canon law – Cardinal Filoni requires that the members of the unofficial Chinese Catholic communities should not be forced to join the specific “Patriotic Association” – as is instead subtly envisaged by the Chinese government.

 Nevertheless, for the Chinese government, this Patriotic Association is still a “people’s association” and hence has no ecclesial relevance. Moreover, participation in it is always “voluntary and never imposed”.

 This is what China, not the Vatican, maintains.

 Nevertheless, the Vatican precisely knows that in the areas in which – as we have seen above – there is a greater presence of new Catholic vocations, the People’s Association puts strong pressure to make priests and bishops be nationally independent “from the Vatican and from any foreign interference”.

 Without very strong nationalism, however, there is never any Chinese ideology – and certainly not the Communist one born from the Party founded in Shanghai in 1921.

 Hence currently a political and cultural policy – and even a religious, cult and sapiential one, if I may say so – would be needed to make the Chinese regime understand that a Chinese Catholic is all the more Chinese precisely because he is truly Catholic.

  Being Catholic is precisely the moment in which, as Saint Josemaria Escrivà de Balaguer used to say, we understand that “conversion is the matter of a moment, sanctification is the work of a lifetime”.

 And the sanctification of work and daily life applies to everybody, both believers and non-believers.

 This means that the universality of Catholicism includes everything, namely being Chinese, Italian, Indian from America or anybody else.

  For a Chinese, there is not being a Catholic outside being fully and absolutely Chinese.

 Moreover, the current Chinese law does not oblige priests and bishops to join the Patriotic Association, while in all the areas in which the Catholic faith is more widespread, the Chinese government tries to push clerics to join the aforementioned Association, which not too implicitly proposes “independence” from the Holy See.

 In Chinese politics, this is the heritage of a weak and divided Catholic Church, as experienced at the time of the “Chinese Rites Controversy”, which started in the early seventeenth century under the pontificate of Gregory XV and lasted almost three centuries until 1939.

 As you may recall, on the one side there were the Jesuits, who accepted and condoned the pagan practices and beliefs relating to the traditional cult of the dead according to the ancestral Chinese local traditions, but on the other there were the Franciscans and Dominicans, who thought that those practices – essential in the Chinese symbolism and tradition (even at political level) – should be radically changed in relation to the new, but perfect and unique, Catholic faith.

 Hence currently – and here the problem of its Communism is even marginal – China still fears to lose its “soul” and its profound identity, while the Catholic Church cannot certainly afford to be turned into a sort of Protestant Church, also subjected to the political power even in its Rites.

 Obviously the penetration of the Protestant-style sects – often of American tradition – could become dangerous both for the Catholic Church and, all the more so, for the Chinese government.

 There is also the issue of the four priests of the unofficial community of Zhangjiakou, Hebei, who are still detained in a secret place by the People’s Police.

  According to Chinese Catholic sources, the issue began in late 2018.

 Local governments’ factionalism and different CPC configurations in the various regions, as well as a proxy struggle between the Centre and the Periphery, are all factors which could explain the different approach of the various regional governments to the issue of Chinese Catholicism and its official presence in present-day Chinese society (and also in its the power system).

 There is fear for a dangerous competitor in the power game, but it should be clarified – especially at political level – that the Catholic person has not his/her own State, but is defined by the side of the currency in which Caesar is engraved.

There is nothing else – and a true Catholic is not allowed to worship anything else.

 According to some Vatican sources, however, while Pope Francis did not mention the issue of the priests detained in Hebei, the Vatican’s “policy line” could currently be to consider the Patriotic Association an organization to which the adhesion of bishops and clerics is fully optional.

 Again in Hebei, a priest accused his Bishop, Monsignor Agostino Cui Tai, of wanting to “oppose” the Sino-Vatican agreement and even asked the police to arrest him.

 Once again petty internal settling of scores, old tensions, as well as the usual problematic personal relations fit into the grand design of regularization of the Catholic Church in China, as certainly happens also on the government side.

 However, all the Chinese bishops to whom Pope Francis removed excommunication are in favour of abolishing the “Church of Silence” and massively adhering, instead, to the Patriotic Association.

 While recognizing the Chinese government’s full right to control the political activity of the Chinese Church, what about thinking about a very different instrument from the Patriotic Association, which is the obvious heir to an archaic Third International logic, together with the “United Front” and the other organizations that control political, religious and cultural heterodoxy in China?

 This is a topic about which Pope Francis and President Xi Jinping could talk if they met in Italy.

 Nevertheless, also for this negotiation by which China sets great store, there is the key issue of relations with Italy.

 The Chinese media notes that currently Italy has substantially adhered to the One Belt One Road project (OBOR), but that hopefully the agreement should be officially signed during Xi Jinping’s State visit to the country.

 Should this not happen, it would be an irreparable offense for China.

 It should also be noted that the Chinese media’s attention is very much focused on the “Special Working Group on China”, a structure recently organized by the Italian Government. In particular, China underlines the fact that both Greece and Portugal have already agreed to be part of the OBOR project, without the United States having had much to say about that.

Certainly the strategic relevance of Italy in the Mediterranean is very different from Greece’s and Portugal’s geopolitical function for China only regards its Atlantic projection and its traditional ties with Western Africa.

 For the Chinese media, however, Prime Minister Conte’s position is extremely important and, in all likelihood, China will enhance on the media the success it is already expecting to have in Italy.

 According to Chinese analysts, the US nervous reaction to Italy joining the OBOR project stems from the fact that is a crucial and decisive country for the European Union, from both an economic and geopolitical viewpoint.

 China is subtly trying to make us understand that while the United States finally wants to thwart the single currency and weaken the great network of duties and protections that the EU is essentially for it, China has no interest in undermining the EU nor certainly in plunging the Euro area into a further crisis.

 Surely, according to Chinese analysts’ economic projections, the flow of goods and services going from Italy to the United States would decrease – albeit to the benefit of  China – while it is likely that, in the near future, the 5G issue will emerge again, and hence China could have some more chances.

 Hence a clear loss of US relevance in Italy, which would give rise to a long series of very harsh countermoves by the United States.

 Over 60 countries, including 12 European ones, have so far signed a Memorandum of Access to the OBOR network, in whatever manner.

 We enter here directly into the project that Xi Jinping has recently outlined in the “Two Sessions” of the National People’s Congress, which are always held in the first two weeks of March.

  In this year’s two sessions, President Xi Jinping has underlined that the limit whereby the President of the Republic and CPC Secretary, as well as the President of the Central Military Commission, shall serve no more than two consecutive terms has been removed.

 The meaning is clear: my power lasts and is stable, possibly until 2027 – hence the many factional areas of the Party and the State would do well to conform again with the Party’s policy line and not to cause too much trouble.

 President Xi Jinping emphasized once again the importance of the anti-corruption campaign, with 621 civilian officials and military officers punished in 2018 alone.

 He also highlighted the new widespread presence of the Party’s committees in Chinese private companies – a presence that has now reached 70% of companies – as well as the huge reduction of NGOs operating in China from 7000 to just 400. Finally, there was the reaffirmation of the “mistakes” made by the Western propaganda, as well as the reaffirmation of the pillars of the CPC doctrine and practice.

 Certainly this has much to do with the relationship between the Chinese government and the Catholic Church.

 With specific reference to foreign policy, after the “two sessions”, Xi Jinping currently tends to finalize as soon as possible the negotiation for a “Shared Code of Conduct” between China and the ten ASEAN countries, while the Chinese control over the Taiwan and Hong Kong seas is expanding.

 It should be made clear that China will never conquer the Kuomintang island militarily, but it will wait for its internal political transformations to lead to a de facto reunification.

 China also knows that an attack on Taiwan would enable the United States, in particular, to massively and harshly return to the Asian continental region.

 As we will also see in Italy, for President Xi Jinping, China must define – as soon as possible – a “Chinese” model to resolve all current international tensions, so as to ensure that China can become a “contributor and promoter” of both global free trade – in contrast with Trump’s US trade policy – and of multilateralism.

 In the “Two Sessions”, President Xi Jinping also proposed “Xi’s five Study Points”.

 They concern above all peaceful unity, also referring to the fact that Xi in Chinese also means “to learn, to study, to put into practice”.

 As can be easily imagined, peaceful unity is directly related to the Taiwan issue – to which the rule of “one country, two systems” will soon be applied.

  In Xinjiang, the Chinese government will soon accept a UN mission, provided it “does not interfere in domestic matters”.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Do not panic, we are Chinese: China’s response to the pandemic

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In Europe, in the United States and in South America, the feared second wave of Covid-19 epidemic is spreading. It is generating not only panic among the public and the institutions, but it is beginning to put health systems and economies under stress. They were starting to recover with difficulty after the impact of the first wave of the epidemic which, between the winter and spring of this year, made the pace of industrial and manufacturing production and productivity rates in the trade, tourism and catering sectors plummet globally, with figures suggesting a decidedly dark future.

In Italy, faced with the increase in infections which, however, does not mean an increase in the number of sick people, the Government has decided to delegate to the Regions’ Governors the power to implement measures to limit individual and collective freedom in the name of a “state of emergency” which has been going on since last March and seems bound to accompany us also in the coming months. For the first time since the end of the Second World War, an ominous and worrying word, “curfew”, has reappeared in official communiqués and news reports.

Over the next few days, in the Campania and Lombardy Regions, it will be forbidden to circulate in the streets from 11pm to 5am, while the purchase of alcohol and the opening hours of shopping centres, bars and restaurants will be restricted. Just to complete an increasingly tragic scenario, on October 20 last, the Italian Health Minister, Roberto Speranza, urged Italians to “stay at home as much as possible” with a voluntary lockdown that seems to be a prelude to the adoption of measures that could bring us back to the situation of last spring with incalculable social and economic damage.

Curfews, lockdowns, targeted or generalised closures are now common practice also in France, Great Britain, Ireland and Spain which, like Italy, have suffered the devastating economic impact of the first wave and could be brought to their knees by the new pandemic emergency.

At this juncture we have to ask ourselves a question: what happened and what is happening in the country where it all began? How are things going in China that in our media, obsessively focused on domestic troubles, is mentioned only superficially and in passing?

“China is Near” was the title of a 1967 movie directed by Marco Bellocchio, that evoked the unstoppable expansion of the Maoist thinking. Today we must say that “China is far away”, encapsulated in the stereotypes developed by Western culture, which prevent us from seriously analysing its political, economic and social evolution and, above all, from drawing lessons from the political and health model that has enabled China to come out of the Covid-19 emergency with its head held high.

On September 22 last, in a blunt speech – as usual -at the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump accused China of being responsible “for spreading this plague throughout the world” and – to further underline the concept -he dismissed the coronavirus as a “Chinese virus”. In the same forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping soberly urged all countries affected by the epidemic to follow his country’s example and “to abide by the indications of science without attempting to politicise the problem”.

Figures clearly demonstrate that the Chinese model is important and worthy of attention. In China, where it all began in December 2019, out of a population of about 1.4 billion inhabitants, the Covid-19 epidemic has so far caused 4,739 deaths out of 90,604 sick people. In the United States, over the same period, out of a population that is about one fifth of China’s, 7,382,194 cases of infection were recorded that led to the death of 209,382 people (data provided by the English medical journal, The Lancet, October 8, 2020).

Great Britain, with a population twenty times smaller than the Chinese population, had to deal with five times more infections than China and ten times more deaths.

These are the figures of October 20 last, referring to the whole of China: 19 cases of illness, all imported from abroad. 24 asymptomatic infections and 403 cases testing positive kept under observation. All, except one, imported from abroad(!). Figures which, as you can see, are globally lower than those recorded since the beginning of the emergency in one single Italian region!

Faced with these figures, it seems difficult to shirk a simple, dual question: how could China fight the epidemic and keep it under control? Hence why do we not follow its example by drawing on its experience?

China was accused of responding late to the first outbreak of the epidemic in December 2019 and notifying late the World Health Organization (WHO) of a new outbreak. Both accusations are completely false.

After the outbreak of the new virus in late December, Chinese scientists isolated and identified the genome sequence of Covid-19 on January 10, 2020 and a few days later, after alerting the WHO, the authorities started to take countermeasures.

China was ready for the emergency: since the SARS epidemic – a virus similar to Covid-19 – had caused just over 700 deaths in 2002, but very serious damage to the economy due to the stop of flights, tourism and exports, the government had given orders to prepare accurate contingency plans to be activated promptly in case of new epidemics. Those plans, which were not prepared and put in a drawer but updated and carefully tested, were activated immediately after the first alarm.

With its 12 million inhabitants, Wuhan – the epicentre of the first infections – was immediately imposed a total lockdown, while in the rest of the huge country the population was urged (without curfews or states of emergency) to follow the most elementary and effective prevention and self-protection measures: social distancing, use of masks and frequent hand washing. It has been said in the West that China has reacted so effectively because it is ruled by an authoritarian regime. Indeed, Confucius has counted much more than Mao for the Chinese. The Confucian social philosophy that not even 71 years of Communist rule have managed to wipe out, with its basic rules of respect for the natural hierarchical order, makes the Chinese a naturally well-behaved, orderly and obedient people. Suffice it to recall that since the beginning of the new pandemic emergency the protests in Hong Kong have decreased until disappearing, while in Europe we are witnessing massive demonstrations with diehard “no-mask” people.

It is, however, the quick response of the Chinese political and health authorities that is at the basis of the undeniable success in fighting the epidemic, at first, and later containing it.

As stated above, Wuhan was immediately isolated and subjected to total lockdown for 76 days, while targeted closures were imposed in the Hubei Province. Throughout the country, 14,000 health checkpoints were set up at the main public transport hubs and, within two weeks since the “official” outbreak of the pandemic, in the city of Wuhan alone 9 million inhabitants were tested.

As one of the main producers and exporters of health equipment, China was not caught unprepared in terms of hospital supplies and individual protection devices: in short, no mask crisis.

While in the United States and Europe, despite the lockdown, people did not seem to be inclined to wear masks (President Trump wore a mask in public only last September), the Chinese immediately followed the authorities’ guidelines with a great sense of discipline. All the municipal security cameras were “converted” to control citizens’ use of masks, while drones equipped with loudspeakers were flown over all areas of the huge country to check the inhabitants’ compliance with the rules. The Xinhua State agency released the footage taken by a drone in Inner Mongolia, showing an astonished Mongolian lady rebuked by the drone saying” Hey Auntie, you cannot go around without a mask. Put it on right away and when you go back home remember to wash your hands”. Probably media embroidered the episode a bit, but certainly in China they did not witness the summertime movida that took place in Rome, Naples or Milan, which is at the basis of the many troubles with which we are currently confronted.

On February 5, 2020 the first Fancang hospital was opened in Wuhan, a prefabricated structure dedicated to the treatment of non-severely ill people, while traditional hospitals were reserved for the treatment of severely ill people. The use of Fancang hospitals (dozens of them were built) made it possible to limit the staying at home of people with mild symptoms, but anyway sources of contagion, within their families – the opposite of what is happening in Italy where the people with mild symptoms are advised to stay at home -and prevent the quick spreading of the virus starting from families. The Fancang hospital network made 13,000 beds available and was dismantled as from May 10, 2020 when the first wave of the epidemic ended in China and was not followed by a second wave. To avert this danger, the Chinese authorities have relaxed “internal” checks and made the control measures for those coming from abroad very strict. At a time when in Spain and Italy the checks for incoming travellers are practically derisory, in China all those who enter the country, for whatever reason, are subject to tests and strictly controlled quarantine.

In essence, China has first fought and later controlled the spreading of the Covid-19 epidemic, with drastic but rational measures and above all understood and accepted by a population educated by Confucius to respect hierarchies and discipline. China can currently be an example for the rest of the world and it is there to testify that with strict, but intelligent measures even the most dangerous situations can be tackled successfully.

It is an example that should be studied and followed without the typical arrogance of the “white man”, also considering an important fact: while the economy of Italy and of its European partners is hardly growing, China’s GDP growth rate is 4.9% higher than last year.

There is much to learn from China both in terms of managing a health emergency and in terms of protecting the economic system.

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Suga Faces A Tough Road Ahead Without Enough Political Juice

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image source: japan.kantei.go.jp

Authors: Alexandre Uehara and Moises de Souza

The quantity and dimensionality of problems inherited by a sober and discrete Yoshihide Suga as the first new Japanese Prime Minister in almost a decade will demand that “Uncle Reiwa,” as the statesman is known, employ the skills that he has so amply demonstrated in the past: the ability to negotiate and find elegant solutions to complex questions. Suga’s competence as a negotiator was recognized as an important factor behind the success of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which entered into force on December 30, 2018. This agreement—considered doomed to failure after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the TPP in January 2017—succeeded largely thanks to the vital leadership and tenacity of Japan, with Suga playing a key role behind the scenes. Suga also took the lead during the EU and Japan’s Economic Partnership Agreement signed in 2019, considered by many as another example of outstanding negotiating performance. With such a resumé, these skills and experience proved critical in Suga’s victory in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership race, enabling him to garner support from a wide array of sources, ranging from LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai to various factions within the Komeito, a partner in the coalition government.

The question now is whether his past performance can be replicated as Suga targets the current challenges that so recently have fallen into his lap. He is taking the helm at a delicate moment for Japan, with uncertainties that will force him to show, domestically and abroad, what kind of leadership Japan will enjoy after a larger-than-life figure like Abe Shinzo steps down. And these challenges are coming from all quarters: the economy, public health, and regional security, just to name a few. Each of them has the potential to shape the future of the nation and the reputation of its prime minister, and certainly Yoshihide Suga is no exception. On top of that, legacy problems remain. On the one hand, the implicit promise of continuity with Shinzo Abe’s policies played a crucial role in winning the LDP the elections: on the other, this very factor is an element of concern, since opinion polls were already detecting signs of decline in the popularity of Abe’s cabinet. If Suga has any political ambition left, he cannot afford to make any mistakes in the short- and medium-term.

On the domestic front, there are two important and interrelated problems: The COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games. These coterminous phenomena essentially represent a contradiction between uncertainty and reality. While few in Japan are clear about whether the current pandemic will turn into an ongoing ebb-and-flow in terms of virus contagion rates, the economic impact as a result of the response measures is already real. The profound effects have been translated into a new period of recession this year, an experience with which the Japanese a real ready very familiar, given their recent past. To make matters worse, the medicine intended to heal the wounds of economic recession was neutralized by the virus. Operating under the old adage that you have to spend money to make money, Tokyo expended over US$5 billion, with plans to spend US$2 billion more in 2020,to prepare the city to host the Olympic Games. Prospects showed that these investments would pay off. According to a report published in June 2020, it was projected that the Olympics would impact the Tokyo economy alone to the tune of almost US$190 billion, with a spill over effect on the overall Japanese economy of nearly US$300 billion and a potential impact of 0.2% of its GDP. Based on the same prospects, Japan signed an accord in 2013 with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), assuming total responsibility to bear all the costs alone in the (at that time improbable)event that the games would have to be postponed. Well, in what one might call the Forest Gump Effect, to wit: “life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get,” the games were indeed postponed. Investors, according to reporting by Bridgestone, reported losses of around US$3 billion so far as a result of the postponement. It also affected the IOC, which registered losses of more than US$800 million. For Japan’s economy, Goldman Sachs is calculating losses of about US$5.1 billion in terms of domestic consumption alone. Suga will have to find a solution for this imbroglio, which even Abe could not or did not have time to figure out.

In the international arena, Suga—like all Japanese Prime Ministers before him—will have to walk a tightrope, executing a delicate balancing act between Beijing and Washington. So far, his biggest challenge is to find his place amid the rising tensions between Japan’s two most important trading partners. On paper, the logic is simple: Tokyo has developed initiatives to strengthen its alliance with Washington concerning security, without hurting its bilateral trade with Beijing. In recent decades, the latter has become increasingly economically important to Japan. In practice, this is not an easy job for two reasons: First, the erratic temperament of Donald Trump and the tendency of his administration to play hardball even when negotiating with partners. The trade deal negotiated in 2019 stands as a case in point: Essentially, Japan walked away from the negotiating table with a commitment to give the United States access to its agricultural market in exchange for a vague promise that the Trump administration would not consider Japanese auto imports a “national security threat.” On top of that, Trump made it clear that he still wants Japan to pay for the American military bases on Japanese soil.

The second reason comes from Japan’s powerful neighbour, with an increasingly assertive China under Xi Jinping. In November 2019, after China proudly displayed its new ballistic and hypersonic cruise missile system, Taro Kono (then foreign minister and now the minister for administrative reform and regulatory reform) publicly demanded that Beijing make its military budget and strategic goals transparent, to avoid raising the level of alarm and anxiety in the region. In addition, a few weeks after taking the center seat, Suga had to deal with the presence of two Chinese ships in the disputed waters of the East China Sea—a practice that has been taking place more and more frequently since Xi became chairman of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012. It is exactly these episodes of Chinese assertiveness that motivated Yoshihide Suga to choose Vietnam and Indonesia as the destinations for his first official diplomatic trip as prime minister. As much as Abe did, Suga intends to strengthen security ties with both Southeast Asian nations. This, tempered with a degree of restraint in the use of strong anti-Chinese rhetoric, is intended as a clear signal to Beijing: the rules of the game haven’t changed, with or without the presence of Abe Shinzo.

Using the same logic, Suga did not alter the basis of Japan-Taiwan relations that developed so fruitfully on Abe’s watch. In fact, besides working for close relations with Taipei, Abe also developed a friendship with Taiwan’s current President Tsai Ing-wen. Suga’s decision to appoint Abe’s brother, Nobuo Kishi, as defense minister was a clear signal to China that, with regards to Taiwan, it will be business as usual in Tokyo despite the transfer of power. It a secret to no one in Japan (or in China, for that matter) that Kishi enjoys close ties with Taiwan, a place he has visited several times over the years, including meetings with President Tsai, as representative of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The last visit took place on the occasion of the funeral of former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui in August 2020. Such proximity makes Kishi the most trustworthy channel of communication between conservative Japanese leaders and Tsai, as well as with the Taiwanese elite itself. In response to Nobuo Kishi’s appointment, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a statement that the new minister of defense of Japan must “abide by the one-China principle and refrain from any form of official exchanges with the Taiwan region.”

Few specialists in Japan believe that Yoshihide Suga will have as long a mandate as his predecessor Abe Shinzo. Despite being technically qualified, Suga still lacks enough political juice to retain the position of prime minister beyond the general elections that must take place in one year’s time. The tide may eventually turn in favour of Suga-san, depending on how well he and his new cabinet manage the daunting challenges that they inherited from the previous administration. More than mere negotiation skills are needed, however, and there is no doubt that Suga will have to make some tough decisions that will come to define, in a large measure, his political future post-2021.

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Nepal-China Boundary Treaty: An example of peaceful Himalayan frontiers

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image source: Chinese Embassy in Nepal

Chairman Mao: How is everything with Your Excellency? Have all the problems been solved?

King Mahendra: Everything is settled.

Chairman Mao: Fair and reasonable?

King Mahendra: Yes. We all agree.

Chairman Mao: It is good that we agree. There is goodwill on both sides. We hope that will get along well, and you hope we shall get along well too. We do not want to harm you, nor do you want to harm us.

King Mahendra: We fully understand.

Chairman Mao: We are equals; we cannot say one country is superior or inferior to the other.

King Mahendra: We very much appreciate the way of speaking.

This was a snippet of the candid conversation between founding father of People’s Republic of China Mao Zedong and Nepal’s the then king Mahendra on the historic Nepal-China Border Treaty day of 5 October 1961. A book titled ‘MAO ZEDUNG ON DIPLOMACY’ has detailed this conversation. The conversation is mentioned under the topic of ”Talk with Nepal’s king Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Deva and the queen’ (page 366 and 367) in the book.

This famous diplomatic book of Mao was compiled by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and the Party Literature Research Center under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and was published by Foreign Languages Press Beijing on 1998.

This conversation, from the verbatim records, speaks volumes about the level of trust and the height of friendship between two neighbors Nepal and China.

Nepal-China boundary: An example of speedy settlement

Nepal and China boundary settlement has reached 59 years of its signing ceremony at Beijing. It is an extraordinary example of speedy settlement. Nepal and China formally established diplomatic relationship on 1 August 1955.

Few years later on 21 March 1960, Nepal and China signed Boundary Agreement. Nepal’s first democratically elected Prime Minister Bishweshwar Prashad Koirala signed it during the official China visit. The friendly diplomatic dialogue of Koirala and Mao is also included in the book ”MAO ZEDUNG ON DIPLOMACY’ under the topic of ”The Sino-Nepal Border Must be Peaceful and Friendly Forever.”  

On 5 October 1961, Nepal and China signed Boundary Treaty at Beijing during the state visit of the then king Mahendra. The 1414-kilometer-long border treaty protocol was finally inscribed on 20 January 1963.

The adjustment was made on equal footing by land-swapping with Nepal gaining more land than it gave. According to a working paper presented at ”International Cross-Border Conference on Border Regions in Transition (BRIT)-XII Fukuoka (Japan)-Busan (South Korea) 13-16 November 2012” by Nepal’s former Director General of Survey Department and the author of the book titled ‘Boundary of Nepal’, China had given 302.75 square kilometer more land to Nepal.

The paper says, ”the adjustment was made on the basis of ‘give’ and ‘take’ and the inclusion of some pasture land within Nepalese territory. With this principle, Nepal had given 1,836.25 square kilometer of land to China and Nepal had taken 2,139.00 square kilometer, as it has been added 302.75 square kilometer of Chinese territory into Nepal.”

Nepal-China border settlement is an excellent example of speedy border settlement compared to Nepal’s southern neighbor India. Since the formal diplomatic engagement of 1955, it just took around eight years to ink full-fledged technical border adjustment between Nepal and China.

Tragically, Nepal and India are at odds over the border demarked by 204-year-old Treaty of Sugauli. The recent issue of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura and new political map of Nepal unanimously approved by lower and upper houses of the federal parliament point to the long-pending friendly border settlements between Nepal and India.

Media myths on China’s encroachment of Nepal’s territory

Nepal and India has not resolved much of their border tensions since long. Lately, there are some media reports, mainly from India, about so-called Chinese ‘encroachment’ of Nepal’s territory. There was report about missed pillar number 11. However, it came out to be untrue with the finding of the pillar.  After field inspection and technical studies, Chief District Officer of Humla district, Chiranjibi Giri, made it clear that the rumored border encroachment from China was not the fact.

Similar incident was reported few weeks ago when Nepal’s leading daily Kantipur claimed China’s encroachment of Nepal’s territory citing unverified Ministry of Agriculture, the ministry that has nothing to do with border issues. However, after formal clarification from Nepal Government, the report was found to be false and the biggest daily of the nation apologized.

There is a section in Nepal that desperately wants to draw parallel between factual Nepal-India border tensions with fictitious Nepal-China border rows. However, so far, this mission has proven wrong at times.

Nepal does not have any serious border tension with China. The only concern Nepal has it about China-India agreement to ‘boost border trade at Quiangla/Lipu-Lekh Pass’ as said in the 28th point of the  joint communiqué issued by visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on 15 May 2015.

Nepal has diplomatically protested about this agreement by two countries as Lipulekh falls in Nepali territory not only based on the Treaty of Sugauli of 1816 but also the Nepal-China Boundary Treaty of 5 October 1961. Given China’s generosity and friendliness towards Nepal, it is not a big issue to address. Nepalese citizens are optimistic on China’s support on Nepal’s sovereignty over Lipulekh.

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