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Tsai’s re-election Poses New Challenge to China

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Taiwan is never out of news. Taiwan-China ties is now a part of popular folklore with Beijing expressing its resolve a number of times to integrate the island nation with the mainland by all means and if necessary by the use of force and Taiwan defying the might of China’s growing military muscle. The political pendulum in Taiwan has swung between parties which are fiercely independent and those which take a softer stance towards Beijing. The latest in this narrative is the resounding landslide victory by the incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) when elections were held on January 11. The landslide victory that the voters delivered is also a stunning rebuke of Beijing’s campaign to isolate the self-ruled island, handing over its first female leader a second term. It was only in November 2019 that Tsai’s DPP suffered a huge defeat in Taiwan’s local elections but the political pendulum swung quickly in her favour, with the political resurgence ensuring her victory and another term at the helm to carve out a course for Taiwan’ future.

Tsai’s victory would surely infuriate China. Soon after her victory, Tsai told the cheering crowd: “Today we have defended our democracy and freedom, tomorrow let us stand united to overcome all challenges and difficulties”. Tsai secured 57 percent of the popular vote with a record-breaking 8.2 million ballots, 1.3 million more than her 2016 victory. Her main rival Han Kuo-yu, from the China-friendly Kuomintang, racked up 39 per cent and conceded defeat. The DPP managed to retain its majority in the island’s unicameral parliament with 61 out of 113 seats, while the KMT took 38 seats. The result is a blow for Beijing, which views Taiwan as part of China and has made no secret of wanting to see Tsai turfed out.

Over the last four years, Beijing had ramped up economic, military and diplomatic pressure on the self-ruled island, hoping it would scare voters into supporting Tsai’s opposition. But the strong arm tactics backfired and voters flocked to Tsai’s DPP, fuelled in part by China’s hard-line response to months of huge and violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The US, the main backer of Taiwan and bound by the Taiwan Relations Act and therefore main military ally, rejoiced Tsai’s re-election as it felt that it would contribute to maintaining cross-Strait stability.

What is that came in Tsai’s favour that led to her victory? She pitched herself as a defender of liberal democratic values against the increasingly authoritarian shadow cast by China under President Xi Jinping. As said, Beijing has vowed to one day retake the island, by force if necessary and loathed Tsai because she refuses to acknowledge the idea that Taiwan is part of “one China”. Though Tsai is committed to dialogue with Beijing and wants peace, she is not shy to urge Beijing to halt its sabre-rattling towards Taiwan. She expects that Beijing respects the idea that only the island’s 23 million inhabitants can decide its future.

There is yet another angle to Taiwan-China relationship. As with many other Asian countries, China has successfully increased Taiwan’s dependence on it economically making the latter as its largest trading partner, thereby increasing Taiwan’s vulnerability. Beijing lost no time in reacting that it continues to stand by its policy of opposing any form of Taiwanese independence and its spillitist attempts and that it  “uphold(s) the basic principles of ‘peaceful reunification’ and ‘one country, two systems’ and the one-China principle.”

Taiwan’s election results showed that Beijing’s carrot and stick policy utterly failed. This was the second major electoral setback for Beijing in recent weeks. In November, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp scored a landslide win over pro-Beijing parties in district elections as the city convulses with months of anti-government protests. Tsai’s landslide victory was indeed a slap in the face to Beijing as Taiwanese voters rejected to its intimidation. In the coming months it is to be seen if Beijing’s hardline position towards Tsai shall continue or if Beijing adopts a more ‘soft sell’ approach that is more carrot and less stick from now on. That is unlikely to happen, though.

For record, Beijing hoped that it could replicate the Hong Kong model of “one country, two systems” in Taiwan with the hope that it can apply the same model on Taiwan if the island ever came to be controlled by Beijing. But as the election outcome demonstrated Taiwanese voters are wary of such a proposal.

What is indeed Tsai’s doctrine? As can be discerned from her address on May 20, 2016 after her victory for the first time as President, her international policy vision clearly intended to drive the country away from its reliance on China and toward the rest of the world. In her speech, Tsai articulated Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy, which implied that Taiwan shall engage with South and Southeast Asian states and share its expertise and democratic values with an international community.

Beijing has successfully worked for Taiwan’s isolation by economic doles to countries that maintained diplomatic ties with Taiwan, leaving only 15 countries now with diplomatic ties from the 22 nations that had diplomatic relations with Taipei when Tsai became President in 2016. Between 2016 and now Beijing successfully campaigned to poach Taipei’s allies and pressured international organizations and corporations to exclude Taiwan, from the World Health Assembly to Marriott and American Airlines. Owing to China’s pressure, the United Nations, which does not recognize Taiwan, has stopped allowing Republic of China passport holders into its New York headquarters.

The DPP does not recognize the so-called “1992 consensus” considered by Beijing to be indispensable for cross-strait exchanges. While Beijing interprets the consensus as the self-governing island and the mainland as part of a single Chinese nation, Tsai refuses to acknowledge it as the “consensus” limits Taiwan’s international space and severs the official cross-strait communications that had thrived under her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou. Tsai has successfully rebuffed the Chinese pressure and bolstered Taiwan’s international presence. Her New Southbound Policy received a boost from the US-China trade war. She realised that by befriending the US, she can garner global support so that she can keep a hostile Beijing at bay and preserve Taiwan’s sovereignty. Thus, Tsai hoped that Taiwan can present itself as a more humane, democratic alternative at the international stage.

From its part, Taiwan has worked hard to retain its remaining diplomatic allies despite Beijing’s attempts to woo them away from Taiwan to China. For example, in May 2018, Taiwan agreed to assist Haiti in securing a $150 million infrastructure loan from Taiwanese banks. Also in May 2019, Taiwan agreed to extend a $100 million loan to Nicaragua and its embattled President Daniel Ortega. Though both Haiti and Nicaragua are serial rights violators, both states are among Taipei’s 15 remaining formal allies. Though the deal is still active, Nicaragua has not yet received its loan as Taiwan has not found a domestic bank to transfer the funds due to fears of US sanctions.   

Though Tsai has spoken of creating an ‘Alliance of Democratic Values’ to stand in opposition to an increasingly overbearing China, some of her diplomatic moves are questionable. This is because Tsai has “rewarded” rights violators like Nicaragua, Haiti, and eSwatini, an absolute monarchy and one of the world’s least free states. King Mswati III rules all branches of national government, and critics of the king are subject to imprisonment. In 2018, the king received an honorary degree from a Taipei university, where Tsai thanked eSwatini “for speaking up for Taiwan and always being by our side.” Such conduct on the part of Tsai can have few supporters. While continuing her fight to keep Taiwan’s remaining allies, Tsai might toy with the idea of replacing Republic of China (ROC) with a “Republic of Taiwan” in preparation to a future declaration of Taiwan independence. Beijing has warned that any such move could trigger a use of force against Taiwan. 

Instead, it could be more desirable if Tsai continues to pursue her New Southbound Policy, seen as deepening Taiwan’s ties with other Asian states and as a way to build more sustainable ties so that Taiwan could survive as a peaceful nation without worrying much about pressure from China. The New Southbound Policy has won praise for assisting Taiwanese businesses in China in returning to Taiwan. These companies have benefited from government incentives and for relocating to Southeast Asian states. Coming in the wake of the ongoing US-China trade dispute, the initiative announced in 2016 has motivated Taiwanese companies to leave China and avoid high export tariffs. With her re-election, Tsai is expected to continue with her engagement with neighbouring countries and drive Taiwan’s foreign policy and trade away from the cross-strait paradigm. What probably is lacking or weak is to inject the new dimension of ethics-based foreign policy in Tsai’s narrative. 

A lot was at stake for Tsai when she sought a second term. And, now with her win, the global impact of the result is going to be huge. Taiwan has played a key role in the global supply chain as a high-tech manufacturer, mostly notably as an Apple Inc supplier. Its strategic location just off the coast of China and on the edge of the Pacific is equally important. Taiwan is also a potential military flashpoint between the US and China as the former sells arms and provides other assistance to Taiwan. The island nation also lies on major shipping lanes between Southeast Asia and US allies Japan and South Korea, and on the disputed South China Sea, where China has built artificial islands and air bases. Taiwan is also close to a major US military base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.

Leading democratic nations honour Taiwan’s democratic credentials despite not maintaining official diplomatic ties. It is therefore for this reason when Tsai says it is up to Taiwan, not China, to decide the island’s future, and warns of the Chinese threat to democracy and liberty, the world listens. It was also a reason why her main opponent Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang party, which ruled China until 1949 when forced to flee to Taiwan after losing a civil war, lost as he favoured close ties with China and believed that it was the only way to ensure Taiwan’s security and prosperity. His double-speak was that he also claimed to defend the island’s freedom and democracy.

Though China was closely watching the elections and expected a Han victory, the people of Taiwan thought otherwise in reposing faith with Tsai. What China is likely to do now is that it would further ratchet pressure on Taiwan, perhaps even by conducting military drills close to the island to intimidate. China needs to be mindful that a conflict would hugely damage both China and Taiwan that it can ill afford. The real test/danger would come if Tsai declares formal independence and term Republic of Taiwan and if so, if Beijing would use force to reclaim the island as mandated by its 2005 law authorising the use of force against Taiwan if China judges it to have seceded.  

Positions of the US and China

As expected, the US rejoiced in Tsai’s victory, hailing it as a demonstration of the island’s “robust democratic system”. Although the US has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is bound by law to provide the island with means to defend itself. The US State Department issued a statement, saying that “under her leadership, we hope Taiwan will continue to serve as a shining example for countries that strive for democracy, prosperity, and a better path for their people”.

The US saw the election results as a blow to China. Though it did not take any open position, it expressed concern at Chinese efforts at intimidation and influence. When Beijing successfully wooed some of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in Central America and the Pacific, the Trump administration was dismayed, which is why it approved billions in new arms sales to Taiwan so that it can defend its sovereignty when needed. The US is concerned that Beijing has been trying assiduously to wean away Taiwan’s remaining allies, trying to see that they stick with Taipei and not give Beijing further foothold.

Even when the US-China trade stand-off continues and elections in Taiwan over, the US transited one of its warships through the Taiwan Strait, a move that irked Beijing. The passage of the USS Shiloh guided-missile cruiser through the narrow waterway, separating the island from the Chinese mainland, was announced by the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense and confirmed by the US Seventh Fleet as a “routine visit”, demonstrating the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Interestingly, the development came a day after President Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping sealed a “phase one” trade deal as part of a broader bid to reduce trade tensions that have stirred up global markets for more than a year. The deal, however, is unlikely to resolve persisting and much wider strategic tensions between the US and an increasingly powerful China.

Though Beijing did not react on the passage of the US warship through the Taiwan Strait, it said that it does not oppose “normal passage” of foreign vessels through the strait, though it censures trips aimed at sending a geopolitical signal. Beijing is paranoid that Tsai is getting cosy with Washington, accusing the latter as the main reason for sowing rising discord between the mainland and Taiwan. Beijing is further dismayed that diplomats from Britain and Japan congratulated Tai on her re-election.

Writing in Japan Forward, Robert Eldridge says that like the US, Japan should have its own Taiwan Relations Act. The administration of Abe Shinzo is openly cozy with the Tsai administration. He and his brother Nobuo Kishi are known to be highly pro-Taiwan. There have been a variety of formal and informal interactions between the two countries. In March 2017, Senior Vice Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Jiro Akama travelled to Taipei for one day to promote tourism. He was the most senior Japanese official to visit Taiwan in 45 years. In response to criticism from China, Abe later responded that Taiwan is “an important partner that shares Japan’s values and interests.” In addition, Keisuke Suzuki, the director of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s youth division and a member of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso’s faction, visited Taiwan. He again visited Taiwan to attend a Taiwan-US-Japan security-related conference at which he argued for a Japanese version of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

Japan, which chose diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China over Taiwan, has no such TRA governing its relations with Taiwan, despite the historic, geographic, and socially close ties it has with Taiwan. However, while the US passed the TRA in a matter of weeks, Japan has been unable to do it over the course of decades.

Reactions in Hong Kong

Expectedly, Hong Kong protestors feted landslide election win for Tsai. They saw this as a fillip to their movement that puts pressure on China. The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 amid promises it would be granted a high degree of autonomy and eventual universal suffrage. But China’s tightening grip on the city and Beijing’s failure to live up to its promises have fed the unrest. This is one of the biggest popular challenges to the ruling Communist Party since the return.

There is a growing opinion within the DPP that Taiwan owes Hong Kong more concrete support. The election outcome demonstrates that it is a proof that Xi Jinping’s strategy of keeping Hong Kong and Taiwan under control is a total failure. The 23 million people of Taiwan are not willing to give up their sovereignty and subject to the authoritarian control of the Chinese leadership.   

Taiwan was part of Japan for 50 years before being handed back to the 1911 regime, and has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, nor has it formed part of the People’s Republic of China. Tsai argues that the erosion of democratic progress and civil liberties in Hong Kong under China’s “one country, two systems” means that Taiwan should never take Beijing seriously when it talks about “unification.” Taipei expects Beijing should respect the popular will of the Taiwanese people as reflected in the election outcome. Viewed from all perspectives, Tsai’s re-election could prove to be a fundamental turning point for Taiwan. This does not mean to suggest that Beijing would soften its stance any time soon as Beijing made it clear that its position would not change even if Tsai is re-elected. China is committed to promoting “one country, two systems” for Taiwan, a model under which Beijing runs Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy. Tsai has openly rejected such a system. Given the divergence of positions by both sides, the future is full of complexities with no ready answer in sight. 

Professor (Dr.) Rajaram Panda, former Senior Fellow at IDSA and ICCR India Chair Professor at Reitaku University, Japan is currently Lok Sabha Research Fellow, Parliament of India, and Member of Governing Council, Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi.

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East Asia

The Global-south Geopolitical and Geoeconomic Landscape and China’s Growing Influence

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The importance of China’s CPEC project in the region and the obstacles it faces. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, is an international economic project for China that China has been pursuing for years and wants to maintain good economic, diplomatic and military relations with Pakistan. In addition, terrorist activities have been going on in Pakistan and the region for years against this project in order to stop this Chinese economic project. This is because the East Asia trade route connects to Central Asia through China’s CPEC project and for China, energy enters China through this alternative trade route, and trade goods from China reach the Gulf countries and Africa. In addition, the Central Asian states benefit greatly and Central Asia is further liberates from the Western political and economic network. The economic and political significance of the CPEC project, the obstacles it faces, the impacts of CPEC.

On the West led- by US, and the elements that create the barriers to CPEC prevention will be scrutinized later, it is worthwhile to briefly discuss the introduction and background of the CPEC project. The China International Economic Project or China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC is a set of basic economic projects, which was first established on May 22, 2013 between the two countries, China and Pakistan, for the purpose of lasting political and economic relations. Under the project, China will invest 62 billion USD in the CPEC project in Pakistan, building economic zones, trade roads, railways, dams and bridges across Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project is essentially a one-belt, one-way BRI initiative for China’s next international economic project, The BRI project is once again seeking the restoration of China’s historic Silk Road and the sea “String of pearls.”

What is the significance of the CPEC project for China and why does China want to invest so much in a country that is a puppet of the West?

 The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) serves as an alternative economic transit route for China connecting West China to Central Asia. In this way, China will be able to import raw materials from Central Asia and Africa at low cost and as a result, it shipped its goods from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa via the Pakistani port of Gwadar via highways and high-speed trains. In this way, China will expand and strengthen its trade relations with Europe, and China will strengthen its strategic horizons through projects such as CPEC.

Through this project, China can push Pakistan into economic poverty, which will be under the economic domination of China for all ages, and China will gain world-class economic power. China will provide employment to about 80,000 Chinese nationals in Pakistan and the Chinese people will be rich along with the Chinese government through this project. China, as an industrial base in the region, needs huge amount of energy and to meet this need, China wants to first activate China’s economic and industrial zones in Pakistan.

And then using Pakistan’s hot water to get energy from the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, China’s energy needs are being met by the CPEC project, which is therefore of strategic importance to China. The China’s CPEC project will lead to economic integration with China in the Middle East and Central Asia, both of which have vast oil reserves, And China will be a big market for them, and as a result, China’s influence in both areas will increase. Through China’s CPEC project, China will not only strengthen its economic infrastructures in Pakistan, but Pakistan will repay the Chinese loan to China with interest, In such a case according to the SBP’s May 2022 report, Pakistan’s total of former debt stood at Rs 53.5 trillion.

What is the political significance of CPEC project for China?

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, which is being implemented in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang, and then will connect the economic corridors to the Pakistani port of Gwadar. Xinjiang province, a strategic region in western China, has been plagued by Uyghur terrorist activity for years. The inhabitants of the area are Uyghur Muslims, who have long been oppressed and persecuted by the Chinese government and trained in forced camps.

Chinese police have imposed various restrictions on Uyghur Muslims, and there are reports that Uyghur Muslims have been banned from buying knives. China’s security services claim that Uighur Muslims are inciting public people to extremism and war in Xinjiang province to stop China’s economic projects in the West. In short, the region can pose a potential future threat to develops China, and China’s future aspirations for an economic empire could be shattered. In short, the region can pose a potential future threat to develops China, and China’s future aspirations for an economic empire can be shattered. However, China’s CPEC project against the West not only thwarts this Western conspiracy, but also promotes development in the Xinjiang region and stabilizes the region and brings lasting peace to the region. In order to hinder China’s economic development, international rivals have been trying to train terrorist groups in the region through Pakistan and destabilize the region in order to block China’s international economic projects.

But that both China and Pakistan have a central role in the CPEC project and both countries want stability in the region, So security barriers against China and the potential threat of China’s secession of the western part of the country or Xinjiang will be eliminate. Under the pretext of protecting the CPEC project, China will build a large military base in the hot water at the port of Gwadar, through which China can bring the countries of the region, especially India under its naval control; And Chinese naval forces will conduct naval patrols near to the India water. Through the CPEC project, not only China can able to  strengthen its foreign policy, but also the strengthening of China’s most important and significant domestic policy in relation to Xinjiang.

For years now, Uighur Muslims in Kashgar, Xinjiang, have been fighting at home and abroad to establish a state called East Turkestan in Kashgar, And the Kashgar region is the center of implementation of the BRI project and one of the most important and strategic areas for China. Uighur Muslims are being trained in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria to liberate Kashgar and are waging an armed struggle against China through the ETIM group. Nevertheless, if China implements the CPEC project, Xinjiang will have great economic value; And Uyghur Muslims living in the area will be offered jobs in modern factories in order to find work. And the people of the region will not only stop fight in Kashgar for love of money and wealth, but will also fight against other foreign groups in Xinjiang to bring stability to Kashgar. In addition to domestic policy, the CPEC project is also a major contributor to China’s foreign policy.

As China expands its economic presence in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, it will also expand its military and intelligence presence in areas that are a major victory for China against the West.

What is the economic and political significance of CPEC project for Pakistan?

Pakistan has been a Western colony since 1947 and to this day has been used exclusively for the benefit of the West and has reached the last level of debt owed by the West economically. Through the implementation of the CPEC’s project, more areas of Pakistan are gaining economic value, where trade routes reach Gwadar port, such as: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, Punjab, Baluchistan, Sindh and occupied Kashmir or PoK. In addition, the project will activate about 37 economic zones in all cities of Pakistan, employ 40,000 Pakistani workers and reduce poverty in the country. From China’s Xinjiang to Pakistan’s Gwadar port, major trade routes and roads for vehicles, railways, electricity import systems and agriculture will be included. With the implementation of the CPEC project, various development projects will be needed in the un-promoted areas of Pakistan, such as Baluchistan and Sindh, and the poor people of these areas will become rich. Residents of Pakistan’s Baluchistan and Sindh are facing severe water shortages, the heat in these areas is much higher than in other parts of Pakistan, and many parts of these provinces are facing power shortages to provide cool air systems. However, through the CPEC project, the import power companies will be activate in these areas and the dams will be activate to prevent water shortage and the residents of these areas will have a comfortable life.

In addition, business professionals will be train in Pakistan and the development of skilled business people will be another objective of the project. Under CPEC project, 21 large and small energy projects are being implemented in Pakistan, which will enrich the country in the field of energy. On March 19, 2021, the Voice of America or VOA released a report stating that (Pakistan had connected its new Chinese-built nuclear power plant with a capacity of 1,100 megawatts to the national network. Islamabad now plans to generate about 8,800 megawatts of nuclear energy by 2030 and 40,000 megawatts by 2050. China has also built at least nine coal-fired power plants in Pakistan over the past six years, with the rest under construction, which helps the South Asian country effectively overcome the years of energy crisis). Based on these reports and political analysis, China plans to activate more nuclear power plants in and around Karachi, which could reduce India’s role in the region. What is the political significance of this CPEC project for Pakistan? Pakistan, which has been a Western colony for many years, and in addition to its political independence, its economic independence is also under US-led Western domination.

Pakistan’s military, religious and political parties, commercial companies and Pakistan’s land operate dependently under the leadership of Britain and the Western community. Through the CPEC project, Pakistan is gaining some leeway in all these areas and is also using China as a powerful trading and military power in Asia as a partner in the PoK dispute against India. Pakistan can rid Pakistan of the presence of pro-Western terrorist groups and militants who have been trained in Pakistan for years to control China and Russia in the region such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, TTP, Baloch separatist group under the umbrella of BLA. And Pakistan will also eliminate terrorist groups that have been trained by the Pakistani military and the ISI network against India and Afghanistan, and have been largely funded by Pakistan’s military budget.

What are the disadvantages of CPEC for Pakistan?

1. China will first activate its military bases near the Economic Corridor in Pakistan to protect CPEC and will deploy its troops at those bases. However, China will secretly increase its military presence and reach out to the Gulf region, Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics, making Pakistan a Chinese military colony in the next few years. 2. The large presence of Chinese troops in Pakistan will accuse Pakistan of being against India as it is clearly besieging India. 3. China will have a naval base at the Pakistani port of Gwadar that will occasionally enter the Arabian Sea, thereby straining relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. 4. Under the guise of jihad and the history of extremist militants under the umbrella of Islam, it is clear that they will rise up against the large Chinese presence on Islamic soil and declare jihad against the Chinese troops. In addition, there, Pakistan will bring in Chinese troops in direct combat with Islamist militias.

The Chinese military is ruthless and can destroy groups that not only provoke Middle Eastern sentiment but also worsen the situation inside and outside Pakistan. The importance of CPEC and the support of CPEC for the countries of the region. In the region, Iran, Afghanistan and Russia also support CPEC because the benefits of this project not only reach China and Pakistan but also all the countries in the region. Such as Russia and Russia supports this project. This is because after Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, the CPEC project became important as an alternative trade route for Russia. Because Russia has always wanted to find its way to Pakistan’s hot water through war, but now there is a golden opportunity for Russia to reach Pakistan’s hot water without a fight. The CPEC project is also important for Iran and it wants to play a significant role in the implementation of this project in the region. Iran has been a country under economic sanctions imposed by the West for years, but the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project can ease the pressure on Iran. China and Iran have enjoyed good diplomatic relations for years and on March 27, 2021, a 25-year cooperation agreement called P.R. was signed between the Foreign Ministers of China and Iran in Tehran. It includes political, military and economic cooperation between the two countries for 25 years.

China wants to invest 400 billion in Iran in response to Western economic sanctions on Iran, as well as build a large market for Iranian oil in Xinjiang. The CPEC project is also beneficial for Afghanistan as Afghanistan is important for connectivity between Pakistan and Central Asia. In addition, there is an excellent motor transit route from Kandahar province to Gwadar port through which Pakistani goods can enter Central Asia within a short distance. In this way, more taxes can be collected for the Afghan government and thus Afghanistan can and will be able to transport its goods cheaply through Gwadar port. John Achakzai’s article, published by CPEC Research and Development Foundation on September 20, 2021, states: (Imran Khan, after returning from a visit to Tajikistan, spoke to the Afghan Taliban administration that it should immediately look for a separate route from the Gwadar corridor to connect Islamabad with Dushanbe.

This is how it should look: The handover of trade routes along the Wakhan Strip in return for the Kandahar-Dalbandin Gwadar corridor. With the Wakhan Strip in exchange for corridor between Kandahar and Herat through Balochistan’s Dalbandin–nearer to Ahmadwal/Noshki (for Afghan transit trade) to Gwadar as part of CPEC/BRI, Pakistan and Taliban-led Afghanistan can create a new geo-economic alignment never seen before). The CPEC project is also important for India, but the PoK dispute between India and Pakistan has remained unresolved for years, so India opposes its implementation.

Which countries and elements obstructing against the CPEC Project?

The United States is the first country to oppose the China-Pakistan economic project, which it does not want to implement. Because the implementation of this project not only liberates the Middle East from American control but also reduces the role of the American empire of many years in the African countries, In contrast, the Middle East and Africa will be under Chinese economic and military domination. The United States has been waging an economic war against China for years to give China an economic blow, but the implementation of the CPEC predicts US defeat. The United States will never support activities that empower China, and the United States wants to maintain financial instability in Pakistan so that Pakistan remains a US-led Western ally for time.

 The United Arab Emirates, along with the United States, has secretly opposed China’s CPEC project to protect the importance of its trade ports, because they fear that if the port of Gwadar becomes an economic and clean port, it will affect the ports of the United Arab Emirates. They also fear that if Gwadar becomes a global deep-sea port it will become a hub for global maritime trade and the UAE’s commercial ports will lose their former economic status. India also opposes CPEC because the China-Pakistan International Economic Corridor project is also being implemented in PoK and Pakistan and Indian border forces have been fighting in this area for years. In addition, Pakistan has been supporting terrorist groups for years to maintain the PoK, and it wants to use terrorist groups against Indian forces in addition to its own troops.

India, on the other hand, is the only country in Asia to compete with China in terms of economic and military strength, and with the implementation of the CPEC project, China will become much more economically strong than before. Under the CPEC project, China will activate its military base at the port of Gwadar and occasionally conduct maritime patrols in Pakistan’s warm waters, which is essentially a blockade of India. These are the reasons why India opposes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and also India does not want to participate in the BRI project. Obstacles to China’s economic project are extremist groups seeking to take action against China from northern Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Baluchistan, moreover, the liberation of Kashgar and the creation of a country called East Turkestan in Kashgar.    

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Five key challenges awaiting Hong Kong’s incoming leader John Lee

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Hong Kong’s leader-in-waiting John Lee has officially been appointed as the sixth-term chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) after receiving his appointment letter from second-ranked leader and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his four-day trip to Beijing late last month.

During the trip, Lee also met Chinese President Xi Jinping who praised him for defending national security and expressed confidence in the city’s next chief’s ability to take Hong Kong to new heights.

Lee is scheduled to assume office on July 1, which marks the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule and the halfway point of its “One Country, Two Systems” political model, which originally aimed to safeguard the city’s freedoms and way of life for at least 50 years. As he prepares to take up the top job next month, there are five major challenges awaiting the 64-year-old chief executive-elect.

Healing a divided society

One of the biggest challenges facing Lee is how to heal and repair social divisions after the massive and violent anti-government protests in 2019, which have left many people in the city disappointed, upset, frustrated, and angry. David Dodwell, chief executive of Strategic Access, said the new leader must deal with the divisions that sit “at the heart of Hong Kong,” which have not gone away.

Lee has vowed to repair ties with the younger generation and the anti-government camp by “using his actions to persuade them and win their trust”. In his election manifesto, Lee also put forward the notion of “young people are our future” as he seeks to regain the youth’s trust. However, it will be a challenging task for Lee who is most remembered for his prior role as former security chief in suppressing the 2019 anti-government protests and implementing the controversial national security law imposed by Beijing. The national security law has caused concerns among people in the city to a certain extent, as they feared the law would curb many freedoms granted to them.

While it remains a significant challenge for Lee to curb dissent, his new administration must make continuous efforts to heal the social divide and unite all sectors of society in the city in order to forge ahead as a whole.

Enhancing the sense of patriotism and national identity

Strengthening patriotic education and national identity in Hong Kong, especially among youths, also poses a great challenge to Lee who is praised as a “firm patriot” by Xi. The city’s national education has always faced resistance since returning to mainland China. For instance, in 2012, tens of thousands of people took to the street to protest the implementation of the national education in the city as many Hong Kong parents, students and teachers feared that it would “brainwash” impressionable young minds with pro-mainland-Chinese propaganda.

According to a survey by Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) in 2021, more than 70% of respondents aged 18 and above identified themselves as “Hongkongers” while 26% identified themselves as “Chinese”.

In recent years, the city has implemented patriotic education in schools, such as launching courses related to national security and requiring schools to hold weekly flag-raising ceremonies. The move was described by critics as ‘indoctrination’, ‘dangerous’, and ‘ineffective’. It remains a challenging task for Lee to enhance the national identity among young Hongkongers as they could be misled by some external forces attempting to distort the curriculum of patriotic education in the city.

Solving the housing crisis

The housing crisis in the city is yet another pressing challenge Lee is going to face as he takes up the top job on July 1. The Asian financial hub, home to 7.5 million people, has consistently been named the most expensive city in the world when it comes to renting a luxury apartment or buying a house.

According to a recent study by ECA International, the city has once again maintained its position as the most expensive location in the world. This year, the city also remained the world’s least affordable housing market for the 12th consecutive year, according to a survey by Demographia.

Lee has pledged to make the city’s housing crisis a top priority. In his election manifesto, Lee said he would set up a “Task Force on Public Housing Projects” and a “Steering Committee on Land and Housing Supply” to speed up construction and develop private lands.

“All chief executives pledged to solve housing and livelihood issues when they came in. In the end, the problem of inequality and unaffordable housing continued to worsen,” said Hung Ho-fung, a political economy professor at Johns Hopkins University. It remains to be seen whether Lee will be able to address the deep-seated housing problem more effectively and successfully than his predecessors.

Reviving the economy

As Hong Kong emerges from more than two years of political crackdowns and strict pandemic measures, Lee will face the challenge of reviving the city’s battered economy which contracted 4% in the first quarter of 2022, one of its worst performances in the past 30 years.

To revive the city’s economy, Lee must relax border control measures to reconnect the city with the world. But Lee will be in a dilemma to balance between restoring cross-border travel with the mainland, which requires zero-Covid, and reopening internationally.

Given his extensive background in policing and security, critics have pointed out that Lee lacks the experience of his predecessors in handling financial and economic affairs. Tara Joseph, former president of the city’s American Chamber of Commerce, said Lee would be the first leader of the city who does not have much experience in business or managing an economy.

“Hong Kong has a lot of working to do in regaining the respect and admiration of the international business community, and it desperately needs to revive its economy,” she told the South China Morning Post, “so it will be interesting to see how a security-focused leader handles this.”

Recreating the image of Asia’s world city

Hong Kong has long been recognized as “Asia’s world city” that has built its reputation as a global financial and trading centre on the doorstep of China while maintaining its key freedoms and autonomy. However, the city’s global standing has taken a hit in recent years, especially after a series of traumatic events such as the 2019 social unrest, the passing of the controversial national security law, and the government’s handling of the pandemic. Some people in the city have even feared that the city will lose its competitive advantages to Shenzhen, China’s southern tech and economic powerhouse.

“It is one of John Lee’s major challenges to keep Hong Kong’s status as a financial center and global metropolis,” said Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy. In his policy plan, Lee vowed to repair Hong Kong’s standing as a global financial hub and bolster its competitiveness. To restore the city’s global status, it requires the opening of borders with the mainland and the rest of the world.

But Lee will still face the challenge of restoring business confidence after the city’s recent political turbulence and in the wake of current stringent quarantine measures. The city’s next chief will have to restore public trust in government and maintain the city’s stability and prosperity in order to increase the city’s global competitiveness in the foreseeable future.

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East Asia

A Vision of Regional Order by China: Security, Development and Prosperity

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Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe delivered a speech on “China’s Vision for Regional Order” at the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 12th, 2022, in which he expressed China’s willing of promoting a community of a shared future for mankind that based on multilateralism. Also the United States Secretary of Defense also send his remarks on the dialogue. Brookings called the two defense ministers of America and China presented a dueling narratives at Shangri-La dialogue.[1] As a matter of fact, Sino-U.S strategic competition is entering a new phase of strategic stalemate that both sides have no power to change the status quo, while keeping their own institutional confidence.

Kenneth Waltz argues that great powers enjoys more security space than weaker powers and has more discourser power on setting rules in terms of competition games. The United States has been in dominated position in East Asia region since the end of the Cold War with its strong economic, military and political strength. With its unstoppable development, China shows more determination in promoting a regional order that engaged multilateralism, shared prosperity and collective security, by which contrasts to the security idea that proposed by the United States, namely, U.S. and allies security first. The two different approaches also reveals their competition in regional and global governance.

The U.S. Secretary General Antony Blinken visited George Washington University and delivered a speech and declared that “China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it.” last month. [2] This clearly shows that the United States views China as a threat to international security. According to CNN, in his address to the Shangri-La, The U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin also accused “China was engaged in coercive, aggressive and dangerous actions that threatened to undermine security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific”.[3]The United States will continue to strengthen Indo-Pacific security and seek an Indo-Pacific region “free of aggression and bullying”. It is worth noting that Blinken also put forward a new concept of “integrated deterrence” to concretely explain America’s strategic deployment. This includes at least three aspects: maintaining strong military superiority and deterrence; Strengthening and integrating global alliances; The full range of overall containment, including economic, technical, diplomatic, and even the full range of military confrontation. In Singapore, Austin also pointed out that “the more China pushes boundaries in the region, the more the U.S. and its partners will tighten their bonds to deal with Chinese assertiveness”.[4]

But it is an obvious fact that China is not a threat to international security, this could be proved by history. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has never started a war on its own initiative. Instead, China has always adhered to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and settled disputes through dialogue and negotiation. China promotes economic and social development by integrating into the international community, and its international economic activities are based on the rules of the market economy. From that end, it is meaningless for China to become a “threat and challenge” to the current world order. In a 39,000 words article that published on June 19th, Chinese Foreign Ministry pointed out fallacies of the United States perception towards China and the truth, in which China firmly denounce the accusation from the U.S. that China poses the most serious long-term challenge to the international order and is undermining it.[5] China was, is and will always be a defender of the international order.

China should keep its strategic focus to avoid making misjudgment and to realize its great rejuvenation. Firstly, China should manage and govern its own domestic affairs to remain an absorbed attention on its economic development. With the abrupt outbreak of the COVID-19 and various mutant strain, from the perspective of protecting vulnerable groups, elders and children, China insists on dynamic zero clearance policy, which provides a stable environment for its domestic economic development and people’s health. Though temporary economic increasing speed appeared slight downgrading, China’s economic growth speed still remains one of top countries around the world, let alone its giant economic aggregate. Its economic development quality and speed would back to normal status with the recovery of the global market.

Secondly, China should process its diplomacy to contribute more in regional and global governance. In the International Forum for Trilateral Cooperation 2022 that held in Seoul, guest speakers from China pointed out that a secure, developed and peace environment for East Asia is needed, multilateral trade has bolstered common prosperity, and friendly atmosphere among East Asian countries is the spring and source of the cooperation. Under this circumstance, China’s diplomacy, especially building relations with neighboring countries based on friendship, good faith, mutual benefit and inclusiveness is critical.

Thirdly, China is supposed to embrace multilateralism and increase regional order resilient. Nowadays, international cooperation at the global level lacks momentum and positive feedback. It is more important than ever for the international community to strengthen cooperation in order to address the huge challenges facing mankind, such as COVID-19 and climate change. These challenges are not only difficulties that international community encounters, but also an opportunity to expand international cooperation and multilateralism. China has been insisting the multilateralism that centered on the United Nations, which is contrast to the United States approach that focus on traditional alliance foreign policy. Further, more flexible regional order could provide extra resilient and space for competition and cooperation. 

With the foundation of the abovementioned creed points, a vision of regional order by China has been vividly portrayed. Collective security rather than “U.S. and allies first”, common development other than “containment” and “trade war”, lasting prosperity of the region instead of “forging an Asian NATO”, China’s vision based on its developing power and ideas, embodied on its foreign policy and mutually benefited initiatives. Development and security of the region require all stakeholders to participate and endeavor to form a system that function well with effective international coordination and transnational collaboration. Reform that adapt to the new situation is necessary, and some attempts are achieving positive results. For example, collaboration with the framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which covers all central Asia countries, is playing a significant role in maintaining peace cooperation and peace governance. Moreover, the international community should be vigilant against the actions that utilizing interdependence as a toolkit to contain others.

In a nutshell, the stalemate of Sino-US competition has been an important part of the regional security, different approaches that proposed by them should not embrace contradiction and conflict, but focus on coordination and collaboration, and most importantly, and restrain the former with the latter. All regional stakeholders ought to play a role in a more inclusive, and fair regional order. Only in this way, the new vision of regional order could be realized.


[1] Ryan Hass, America and China present dueling narratives at Shangri-La Dialogue. Brookings, June 14th, 2022. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2022/06/14/america-and-china-present-dueling-narratives-at-shangri-la-dialogue/

[2] Antony J. Blinken, The Administration’s Approach to the People’s Republic of China. May 26th, 2022. https://www.state.gov/the-administrations-approach-to-the-peoples-republic-of-china/。

[3] Brad Lendon and Heather Chen, China blasts US ‘bully’, says it will ‘fight to the end’ for Taiwan, CNN, June 12th, 2022. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/06/12/asia/us-china-defense-shangri-la-dialogue-intl-hnk-ml/index.html

[4] Ryan Hass, America and China present dueling narratives at Shangri-La Dialogue. Brookings, June 14th, 2022. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2022/06/14/america-and-china-present-dueling-narratives-at-shangri-la-dialogue/

[5] See Chinese Foreign Ministry website, Fallacies of the United States perception towards China and the truth. June 19th, 2022. https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/wjbxw_new/202206/t20220619_10706065.shtml

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