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China 70 years from now

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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In my opinion, after the 19thCPC National Congress, two changes characterize the new form of Communist China: the amendment to the Party’s Constitution, with the phrase “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” introduced directly by current President Xi Jinping. The other change is the new autonomous dimension of the Party’s ideology and hence of its practice.

 This is the “miracle” promised to China by President Xi Jinping in his speech on the 40th anniversary of China’s Reforms started by Deng Xiaoping. A miracle that has in fact made China ready for a “new start”, while “the Party has strengthened China’s new pride” – after the mistakes of the “Cultural Revolution”, in particular – while the economic and social reforms could anyway lead to “sudden storms”.

 Therefore China will not allow separatisms – “not even an inch of our Motherland can and will be separated from China”. Hence a hegemonic China, but “without seeking hegemony”.

 The instrument to put an end to contemporary hegemonism, in a context in which President Xi Jinping uses again Mao Zedong’s “Three Worlds Theory”. The capitalistic and developed World, which includes the “two empires” -the two superpowers – and the two client States, and finally the Third World that will be led by China.

 Hence China as owner of an economic development that “poses no threats to others”. On the contrary, and precisely for this reason – as President Xi Jinping maintains – “no one is currently in a position to dictate to China what should or should not be done in the world”. In its essence, this is exactly the “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” that President Xi Jinping wants to reaffirm both nationally and internationally.

 Again according to the current CPC’s tradition, the origin is to be found in Marx’, Engels’ and Lenin’s ideology, but above all within the project redeveloped by Mao Zedong, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

 As can be seen, after Lenin the traditional sequence of Chinese points of reference for Marxism-Leninism was over. It continued with Mao and was later resumed – after the Four Modernizations – temporarily a few years ago.

 Nothing has been decided yet. A Great Helmsman is still needed to guide, orient and direct the Socialist modernization of China.

 Hence, there is no actual link between the Russian tradition of Communist revolution and the Chinese one.

 This is also understandable: Russia wanted to follow the capitalist West so as to later destroy it – albeit it failed in this regard – while China was mainly concerned with the Third World, to which Communist Russia certainly did not belong. Later Russia accepted the Cold War, the useless “paper tiger”, in which China has never believed. Finally it imitated capitalism, without ever having a real potential to do so,  while China was building its rational (and national) Socialism in rural areas, without imitating – at least after the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1961 – the European capitalist accumulation, nor the huge massacre of the Russian Bolsheviks’ crazy “rural reforms” between Crimea and Ukraine.

 Hence, currently President Xi Jinping think that the result of implementing his Thought is the definitive “sinicization” of Socialism and the Party.

 The effects of this new operational and political tradition by President Xi Jinping are seen – first and foremost – in the greater efficacy of the Chinese government.

 President Xi Jinping’ Socialist government adapts to Chinese society – in view of transforming it – fitting like a glove on a hand.

 The doctrinal and abstract tradition of Chinese Marxism-Leninism ended precisely with President Xi Jinping’s action. Currently the Chinese Nation and its historical project, namely Socialism, are the same thing.

 Progress towards Socialism -now inherent in the fabric of the Party, of the State and of society – is the same as the peaceful and multilateral reaffirmation of the Chinese Nation as such.

 Pragmatism, above all adherence to the reality of Chinese society, but together with a profound modernization of the system, of society and of the CPC itself.

Hence, President Xi thinks that there are currently four goals at reach. Firstly, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics that now, thanks to President Xi Jinping, is fully embedded in China. Secondly, the Party’s ideology, which is always falling within the State’s competence and is hence responsible for the Nation’s and People’s national evolution, but now merges national interest with Socialism. Thirdly, the reaffirmation of the Party’s role on the State, which may still be lagging behind President Xi Jinping’s project. Fourthly, the Party’s culture, which is the one and only guidance for the Party itself.

 In other words, this means strengthening the Party’s culture to improve its role as an example, as policy line and as future direction.

 According to President Xi Jinping, the Party’s primary goal for the whole Chinese Nation, and not only for its proletariat, is the improvement and, above all, the current consolidation of the People’s living conditions.

 Wellbeing is one of the goalsof “President Xi Jinping’s policy line” that dominates the Party, in addition to the gradual construction of a Great Country for everybody (no limitation to China’s military and strategic prestige) and a Strong Country (no limitation to Socialist China’s geopolitical projection). Also a Civil Country (no limitation to the people’s cultural and ideological evolution) shall be constructed and a Democratic Country (the maximum representation, within the Party, for all the voices of Chinese society), as well as a Harmonious Country, i.e. without the typical imbalance of society with respect to the evolution of its political direction. “Productive Forces” and “Relations of Production”, just to put it in Marxist terms.

   Hence the Party dictates the policy line and the Chinese harmonious society adapts it to every condition and situation.

 It is in this sense that today, under President Xi’s leadership, we can speak about a particular “China’s Renaissance”.

 A mass Renaissance – just to recall Antonio Gramsci’s theories -that hence avoids the problem of being – like the Italian national Risorgimento- a “reform led by the elites alone” and limited in its scope and purposes.

 Hence national and cultural mass renaissance, spread among all classes of the People, the Party and the Nation.

 We should not believe that this historical phase is based on a limited, artificial or ad hoc memory.

 As early as July 1921, when the Communist Party of China was established in Shanghai, the founding members included Li Dazhiao, the founder of the Research Association on Marxism.

 From the beginning, there was an independent study on the dialectic of classes and on historical materialism, based on Chinese material conditions.

 Hence the study was focused on the specificities of the possible Chinese Communist revolution, as well as on the autonomy of the national and social thought. Maximum attention was paid to the classics of Marxism, while the Russian Bolsheviks were still unable to define their own way, between global revolution in capitalist countries and what could already be perceived, namely “Socialism in one country”.

 As early as August 1921, a few days after the Party’s foundation, Zhang Guotao established the Secretariat of Chinese Workers.

 From the beginning – and this is a sign that persists and, indeed, is strengthening even today – the workers’ representation and the Party were almost the same organization that overlapped. It never happened in the history of any Communist Party.

 Hence no Stalinist “transmission belt”: the trade union and the Party were both inside the Chinese society and transformed it every day, without the old-fashioned separation between “reforms” and / or “revolution” – the sign of a rough thought and, to many extents, not typical of Chinese wisdom, in which every change and every revolution are either large or small. It depends but, however, it is not a subjective evaluation.

 Also the relationship between the newly founded Communism and the Chinese national movement strengthened from the beginning. There was not the long discussion between the national and progressive movement and the proletarian movement that was the basis for the evolution of the European, Western and Russian Communist debate.

 Sun Yat-Sen’s Kuomintang immediately opened its doors to Chinese Communist trade unionists, who characterized the trade union movement far beyond the limits of their Party.

Another anomalous tradition of Chinese Marxism compared to the West, as well another root of the bond between the Party and the Masses, that President Xi Jinping still passionately emphasizes.

 In 1922 Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi and Li Lisan organized trade unions and mass strikes, not only of the Communist workers – as in the West – but in the Hunan Province. Again in July 1922, the Chinese Communists decided to collaborate with the then progressive nationalism of Sun Yat Sen and the Kuomintang, even in opposition to Mao, who did not fully agree.

 That choice was at the origin of both the CPC’s nationalist roots – without delays and rhetoric – and of certain ideological infiltrations that Mao Zedong tried to later use or eliminate.

 A problem that President Xi Jinping has definitely solved.

 A very severe problem, i.e. adapting without imitating and, hence, without absorbing the contradictions of Western capitalism, which is still in Xi Jinping’s mind.

 Only in 1923 did the CPC and the CPSU sign a mutual collaboration agreement.

 When, while referring to Russians, Deng Xiaoping spoke about the “enemies of the North”, he was still the spearhead of an old tradition of Chinese Communism.

 In 1923, however, the CPC officially adopted the “Russian policy line”.

  At the time, Mao Zedong joined the Central Committee and actively collaborated with the Kuomintang.

 Nevertheless, the price paid by the Kuomintang was very high: in January 1924 the CPC became part of the Kuomintang itself, albeit with three clauses: the alliance with the USSR; the stable unity of action with the Communist Party; the equally stable mass action with peasants and workers.

 Three factors that led to the end of Sun Yat Sen’s nationalist movement – except for new and powerful allies.

 In that case there was no obvious “entryism”, as we say in the jargon of European Communism: in China, Mao’s CPC was a Party entrenched within the masses it stably represented and connected with what the Marxists – probably somehow naively – still defined “national bourgeoisie”.

 As early as 1924, in Shanghai the CPC decided to step up “mass work”, while preserving its organization independent of the Kuomintang.

 The national bourgeoisie and the so-called “compradora” bourgeoisie merged in China-and hence in the Kuomintang. Therefore the CPC needed to become autonomous and work with every part of the revolutionary bourgeoisie.

 Unlike what happened in Europe during the same period,  when the national Communist Party either stood as the enemy of everyone – and above all of the progressive bourgeoisie – or rendered itself useless by remaining in a sort of splendid and useful isolation.

 Or it accepted unity with everyone, thus starting to lose itself and its political autonomy.

 The Canton Merchants’ Corps Uprising of August 1924 – in which the merchants were supported by Great Britain -was initially a rebellion against a new tax imposed by the government, which everyone also considered an expression of the USSR.

 The uprising was repressed, but the CPC’s struggle to avoid being identified as a simple offshoot of Russia was successful.

 On that occasion, the Kuomintang’s Central Bank was created.

  It happened in Canton, while, shortly afterwards, China found itself in four areas dominated by weak military coalitions.

 That was the real and empirical connection of Socialism with national unity in China.

 Without unity of the Chinese people – apart from the identities imposed by colonialism (and by some “friendly” country, currently as in the past) – there could be no unity of the nation and, hence, of Socialism itself which, if not led by the People’s Party of China, would inevitably repeat the “century of humiliation”.

 Finally, in early May 1925, Mao Zedong was elected President of the rural federation, always under the then national and progressive aegis of the Kuomintang.

Hence without an analysis of the peasant conditions – which is not mere productive “backwardness”, according to the old Russian Bolsheviks – there is no Chinese Communism not referring directly to a specific and material analysis of the peasant conditions.

 Hence we cannot reduce the peasant issue to a trivial theme – not by chance used both by the Russian Bolshevik Communists in their heinous “reforms” and by capitalists of the 1960s, the years of “take-off” and “underdevelopment”.

 Rural areas were not tantamount to underdevelopment. They were tantamount to exploitation, if anything.

 Without underdevelopment, what could we eat?

 Hence, as already seen, the CPC was born within the union and realistic context of the protection of needs of a wide majority of people, mainly rural, while maintaining a sound political and ideological class identity – as is still the case today.

 In 1928, Chiang Kai-Shek’s troops, the Kuomintang, occupied Peking.

 In that year, again referring to the rural masses, the CPC ordered the “Autumn Harvest Uprising”, thus triggering and resolving the problem of the true origin of class struggle in China, i.e. the clash between poor peasants and landowners.

 In 1929, the law confiscating the lands of Xing’guo and the new Civil Code were enacted. Hence the confiscation of State lands and of those belonging to landowners started.

 The war against Japan, which had invaded Manchuria, began.

 In February 1936, the Red Army marched towards Shiensi and recruited thousands of peasants, also with the support of the local warlord.

 The CPC asked not to requisition the lands of those who had fought against Japan.

 Nation and People, but also Socialist transformation of the economy. All three things together – as is currently the case.

 After many acts of war, also the tragic Nanjing massacre took place.

 A cruel slaughter of local inhabitants by Japan.  350,000 civilians were annihilated.

  China’s main cities were conquered by Japan, which meanwhile had established the capital in Peking.

 In 1943 the war was not over yet: the CPC adopted the so-called policy line of the “Resolution of the Many Traditional  Problems”, under Mao’s direct supervision.

  In 1945 Mao’s positions at the CPC Congress gained the upper hand in Ya’an – hence the policy line of the coalition government.

 Therefore the CPC’s essential political issue was solved, i.d. the national bourgeoisie that had become part of the Party. Also the social issue was solved, with the autonomous leadership of the CPC, which dealt with the great agrarian reform. There was also the military and strategic issue that, at the time, was already outside the CPSU scope. Finally uniqueness of power after the evident defeat of the Kuomintang.

 Almost the same as today.

 In 1948, the Chinese People’s Bank was established as issuing bank.

 In particular, it guaranteed the funds necessary for the companies to reach the goals of the five-year plan.

 Autonomy from the global financial cycle, when needed – as is currently the case.

 In 1949 the Red Army returned to the liberated city of Shanghai.

 What about the Belt and Road Initiative? Today’s Long March? What role does it currently play?

 It is largely a legacy of Hu Jintao and of the solution of the Chinese border issue by Jiang Zemin.

 At predictive level, it is a matter of 65 countries with a maximum trade totalling 2.5 trillion US dollars over ten years, with a project like this one that is expected to amount to 26% of the current Chinese foreign trade.

 An opportunity to find a way out, to remove dangerous land borders and to finally put an end to China’s estrangement from contemporary world.

 Not a “Cold War”, but a gradual multilateral and bilateral integration.

 Hence making the energy supply safe for China with the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as getting out of the spiral between monetary QE and commercial expansion, only thanks to the huge dimension of the Belt and Road Initiative, and finally finding an outlet for foreign direct investment that China desperately needs.

 A current sum of factors responding to the three policy lines with which the Party was founded: national interest at first, unity of the Nation and economic development.

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. “

East Asia

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

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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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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East Asia

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

Birat Anupam

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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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