Find out how by contacting us at:
China Church Solidarity(CCS)
12 Blakesley Avenue
Tel: 078 7622 8664
Thanks for visiting our new website. Browse it to find out more about us and China.
CHINA TODAY UPDATE
1. China: The Re-Emergence of the Middle Kingdom.
2. The religion behind a divided America and its conflict with China.
3. 'New research has found that Beijing is keen to reduce the population of mainly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
4. Beijing allows up to three children per married couple.
China: The Re-Emergence of the Middle Kingdom.
Article published in Doctrine & Life, vol. 70, no. 5
ALMOST 50 years ago, on February 23, 1972, to be precise, President Richard Nixon made a visit to China. The trip was the culmination of a period of intense diplomatic activity led on the American side by Henry Kissenger and on the Chinese side by Zhou Enlai. The objective from Nixon’s viewpoint was to establish a détente that would enable a US withdrawal from Vietnam and achieve, at least, a tacit alliance that might compel the Soviet Union to engage in arms control talks. Up to that point, China was second only to the Soviet Union on the American ‘bad guys’ list. China became a nuclear power and a serious threat to the West when it detonated an atom bomb on October 16, 1964.
The Chinese leaders, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, were motivated to talk because they needed US help to deal with a number of serious problems. First, the economy was in bad shape and there was even the very real prospect of famine. The country needed fertiliser, farm machinery and technology and was not getting any help from Russia. Second, security was actually at risk from an enormous buildup of Soviet forces on the Manchurian border while China was being continually harassed by the Taiwanese from the South. Finally, Mao desperately needed to erase the ‘humiliation’ China suffered in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries at the hands of Europe and Japan by bringing Taiwan back under Beijing’s control. It could not achieve
david begg served as secretary general of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions from 2001 to 2015.
Re-Emergence of the Middle Kingdom
these objectives without American agreement and support.
The veteran trade negotiator and sometime presidential advisor, Clyde Prestowitz, maintains that Nixon and Kissinger were outplayed by Mao and Zhou. He blames Kissinger, in particular, for conceding that American support for Taiwan had been a historical mistake and for promising to withdraw from the Western Pacific.1 Of the negotiations, Nixon stated, ‘This was the week that changed the world’.2 It was a claim not borne out in the passage of time since. The intention in this article is to explore the basis of Chinese exceptionalism and to explain why, despite its embrace of market capitalism, China has not joined the liberal international order as Presidents from Nixon to Obama had hoped it would.
Relations between the West and China are today arguably worse than they have ever been. The first high-level meeting between China and the new Biden administration held in Alaska in March 2021 produced an extraordinary public spat. The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, and his opposite number, Yang Jiechi, are reported to have disagreed strongly over China’s policy towards Hong Kong, the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and the status of Taiwan.3
This was quickly followed by a co-ordinated EU, US, UK and Canadian imposition of sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on key Chinese officials because of the persecution of the Uyghur population. China responded by imposing bans on ten EU individuals, including some MEPs, British MPs and academics.4
Doctrine & Life
The government also incited a boycott of foreign retail brands such as H & M and Nike.
The Economist is not generally a publication given to hyperbole but in a feature on China it opines that we are facing into an epoch-de- fining contest between autocracy and liberal values. This presents the free world with a challenge: how should it best secure prosperity, lower the risk of war and protect freedom as China rises? The imme- diate manifestation of this challenge is Hong Kong. In March 2021 China slapped down democracy there effectively repudiating the ‘one country, two system’ agreement reached with Britain in 1997. This is not just a tragedy for the 7.5 million people who live there; it is also a measure of China’s determination not to compromise over how it asserts its will. 5
Chinese leaders are increasingly confident that their model of techno-authoritarian state capitalism is superior to the partisan squabbling, short-termism and selfish individualism they see in the democratic West. There is not much evidence in the reaction of big business to gainsay that conclusion. One might think that the death of liberalism in Asia’s financial centre, which hosts $10 trillion of cross-border investments, would trigger panic, capital flight and a business exodus. Instead, Hong Kong, according to the Economist, is enjoying a financial boom. Banks like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are deeply invested in a hub for the world’s reserve currency which last year hit a record $11 trillion cleared in Hong Kong. Hong Kong issues its own hard currency, the Hong Kong dollar, which is freely convertible against the American dollar, and offers Chinese firms access to some of the deepest pools of capital on earth.6
Nevertheless, Clyde Prestowitz believes that China’s efforts to control Hong Kong will ultimately undermine its status and value as a major international financial centre. His conclusion is based on the fact that its status was predicated on the rule of law left behind when the UK turned the territory over to Beijing. Now that Beijing has made its disregard for the agreement clear, he believes the money will move to safer territory.7 Time will tell.
In their first conversation in 1972 President Nixon is reported to have asked Zhou Enlai what he thought of the French Revolution. The answer was revealing. ‘It’s too early to tell’, replied Zhou. It was an indication that China frames its polity taking account of the long sweep of history.
LEADING THE WORLD
It is China’s interpretation of history that conditions how it relates to the modern world. Samuel Huntington, writing in the 1990s, felt able to assert even then that the diffusion of technology and the eco- nomic development of China was producing a return to an historical pattern in which, for most of its history, China had the world’s larg- est economy.8 Certainly it is the view of China’s leader, Mr Xi Jinping, that ‘the East is rising and the West is in decline’.9
As articulated by Mr Xi, the Chinese dream is not to become a ‘responsible stakeholder’ in a global rules-based system created by the United States after World War II and the Cold War. It is, instead, to return to the grandeur of a 5,000-year-old civilisation that was the supreme world leader – militarily, culturally, technologically, admin- istratively and artistically – until the mid-nineteenth century, when the opium wars initiated ‘a hundred and fifty years of humiliation’ by the West. In Mandarin, the characters for ‘China’ literally mean Mid- dle Kingdom. The dream evokes the notion of restoring a globally dominant country surrounded by vassal states and barbarians from whom tribute may be exacted. This is what is behind China’s aggres- sive international relations posture towards the West and especially in its near region of the South China Sea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.10
While China’s sense of historical grievance against the West is not without justification, it tends to obscure some enormous unforced errors by the Communist Party since it came to power in 1949. Be- tween 1958 and 1960, China embarked on the Great Leap Forward. By requiring people to melt their household utensils, factory tools and farm machinery to make steel in backyard furnaces, it rendered itself unable to plant and harvest enough food for its population. As a result it suffered a famine which killed more than 40 million people.
It also experienced the Cultural Revolution, in which Mao tried to erase Chinese civilisation, with terrible consequences in terms of social upheaval. It was only with the death of Mao in 1976 and the subsequent rise to power of Deng Xiaoping that the country adopted the doctrine of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ which allowed the country to begin to modernise and prosper. Even so, the Commu- nist Party still ruled with an iron fist, epitomised by the massacre of protesting students in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Deng was succeeded by Jiang Zemin for 10 years and by Hu Jin- tao, also for 10 years. During this period, China experienced very rapid economic growth, hugely boosted by inward foreign direct in- vestment and by China’s accession as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). In permitting China to join the WTO in 2001, Western leaders believed that free trade and globalisation would in-evitably liberalise and democratise China. They were wrong.11
The Communist Party has total control of the economy and soci- ety in China. It is no longer a Marxist party in that it has embraced capitalism and inequality, but it is a Leninist party in that it follows Lenin’s concepts of how to obtain and maintain absolute power. Power is its highest priority. The Party is not subject to the rule of any laws, and it brooks no opposition. It monitors people constantly and comprehensively. It does not confine itself to the political sphere but enforces its will in art, religion, philosophy and all other aspects of life. For instance, China is the only country in the world where the government (that is the Party) names the priests in the Catholic Church.12
China’s international relations outlook does not formally admit of any allies except North Korea but in recent times it has repaired re- lations with Russia, which were broken in the split with the Soviet Union in 1960. In September 2019 their respective air forces engaged in joint operations over the Takeshima Islands near South Korea. Moreover, China has substantial economic influence in a large num- ber of states and regions.
For example, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia and Myanmar are al- most extensions of China, and the recent military coup in Myanmar would not have happened without its approval. China practically owns sub-Saharan Africa and has been strengthening many dictators there. It also has a strong security partnership with Pakistan. Even in Europe its investments in Southern and Eastern countries have cre- ated a dependency. As a result the EU, which requires unanimity on foreign policy matters, has found itself somewhat disempowered in criticising China.
As Clyde Prestowitz argues, the long and the short of it is that, any country, company or person with any dependence on China may find itself compromised. This is a great problem with the global sup- ply chain much of which runs through China, because many corpora- tions and countries are vulnerable to coercion by Beijing.
China’s global strategy for challenging US global hegemony has two main components. One is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) fa- cilitated by global investment by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in infrastructure like pipelines, roads, ports and telecommunications. The other is a massive military build-up that includes naval vessels, missiles and copies of the most advanced US military aircraft. As of 2018 the Chinese navy has 300 ships as against 290 for the United States.13
However, a recent article in Foreign Affairs argues that, while the Belt and Road Initiative is likely to enhance Beijing’s global influ- ence, it will not necessarily damage the United States and its allies directly.14 It also makes the case that, according to the 2016 China Statistical Yearbook, the United States and seven of its allies made up eight of China’s top ten trading partners. Given that the Commu- nist Party’s legitimacy at home is predicated on maintaining strong economic development, it would seem foolhardy to jeopardise these trade relationships. On that basis the article concludes that calls for a cold-war style decoupling from the Chinese economy is not only unrealistic but unwise.
Given that the growing military and economic strength of China is now seen as an existential threat to the West, it is an irony of his- tory that American presidents from Nixon on have facilitated that growth. In particular, Bill Clinton persuaded the advanced liberal market economies to allow China to join the World Trade Organi- sation (WTO) in 2001. This was done on the naïve expectation that China would play by the rules and liberalise its economy, including by privatising its state owned enterprises (SOEs). It was also believed that economic liberalisation would lead to democracy but the Com- munist Party (CCP) never had any intention of playing by WTO rules or of democratising the country. Why would they when the arrange- ments entered into gave them the best of both worlds – economic growth that legitimised the Party’s political dominance?
Thomas Orlik, former Chief Asia Economist for Bloomberg, writes that WTO entry was a more or less unalloyed positive for China. For the multinational corporations that gained access to the country, the price was being compelled to participate in joint ventures with Chi- nese partners, with forced technology transfers and export quotas of goods made in China.15 Nevertheless, these multinationals were willing to accept any number of impositions in order to benefit from cheap labour and freedom from regulation.
They had no qualms either about outsourcing jobs to China. Pre- stowitz points out that more than five million US jobs were lost be- tween 2001 and 2006, while wages stagnated in the European Union, the United States and Japan. Median US household income, which had grown at a rate of 5.3 per cent in the last 30 years of the twentieth century, fell 10 per cent in the decade after China’s entry to the WTO. Over the same period, US corporate profits doubled. Obviously, the creation of a China-centric supply chain was a great boon to big business, but not for ordinary citizens of the West.
It was initially cheap, unorganised, quasi-indentured labour, and
later other inducements like free land, reduced utility prices, capi- tal grants and the growth of Chinese markets, that led to the great wave of offshoring of US, European, and, to some extent, Japanese manufacturing to China between 1991 and 2018, and the great ex- pansion of what is now known as the global supply chain. It is this global supply chain which now makes decoupling of the West from China so difficult. A shortage of containers from ships has seen a huge increase in rail freight between China and Europe. In the first two months of this year, more than 2,000 freight trains ran from Chi- na to Europe. In 2020, China overtook the US to become the EU’s largest trading partner in terms of goods, with total imports from China rising 6 per cent.16
This presents a huge dilemma for the West. The vulnerability of a global supply chain so dependent on China was exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. More importantly, the current structure of cou- pling feeds capital and technology to a China that is actively opposed to Western values and concepts of human rights. Multinational cor- porations and their customers are directly complicit in a system that suppresses Tibetans in Tibet, Uyghurs in Xinjiang and demonstra- tors in Hong Kong. Moreover, it is now abundantly clear that Nixon’s hubristic declaration following his 1972 visit to China – ‘This was the week that changed the world’ – and all the wishful thinking of his successors, was wrong. It is critical to understand that the West cannot change China, neither can we easily decouple from her. We may have to wrestle with this dilemma for some time.
There can be little doubt that for the next 30 years or so, China will pose a challenge to the West greater even than the old Soviet Un- ion ever did. The Communist Party is not likely to be displaced as it was in the Soviet Union and it will continue to pursue an aggressive mercantilist high-tech import-substitution industrial policy. The It’s Made in China in 2025 policy statement issued by Prime Minister Li Keqiang in 2015 is intended to make the country a self-sufficient au- tarky in key technological and industrial areas.
In the longer run, though, China faces some serious problems. The most challenging is that of an aging population. China’s labour force is already shrinking and its total population will begin falling after 2029. This is likely to act as a drag on economic growth and the optimistic projections which sees the economy surpassing the United States may not be realised. The country may also be affected by water-supply problems. By 2050, Tibet’s glacial water supply will have fallen by two-thirds. Global warming and attendant rising sea levels could compound this problem and cause difficulties for a num- ber of coastal cities.
In the short term, the big concern would be an attempted inva- sion by China of Taiwan or some other incident in the South China Sea that could provoke a hot war with the United States. American military leaders have warned that this could happen within six years and are increasing their military build-up in the region against this possibility. Notwithstanding that Chinese nominal naval strength overall slightly exceeds that of the US, the latter has many allies and mutual defence treaties. It also has 11 major aircraft carriers to Chi- na’s two, and one each possessed by the United Kingdom, France and India. Overall, the US has the superior military capability and it ac- counts for about half of all defence spending in the world. China may calculate that America would not respond militarily to an invasion of Taiwan so far away but it is hard to see how it could credibly abandon a long-standing ally and still preserve its mutual defence treaties. The consequences for us all of a misjudgement could be catastrophic. Be-ware the Thucydides Trap.17
The case of China would appear to disprove the utility of Liberal
Internationalism as a theory of international relations. It looks as if the future will see relations between China and the West conducted on the basis of balance of power realism. It is a bleak prospect.
The renowned French Jesuit theologian, mystic and scientist, Teilhard de Chardin, lived, on and off, in China from 1923 to 1946. While working there on his scientific tasks in geology and palaeon- tology, his mind was asking profound questions about the nature and direction of cosmic and human evolution, the meaning and goal of life in the universe. He produced in his work one of the strongest affirmations of the Christian faith in the incarnation – the presence of God in all things through Christ. Sadly, he was treated with suspi- cion by the Church for most of his life. During a scientific expedition to Xinjiang in 1931 he wrote:
The more scientifically I regard the world, the less can I see any possible biological future for it except the active consciousness of its unity. Life cannot henceforth advance on our planet .... except by breaking down the partitions which still divide hu- man activity and entrusting itself unhesitatingly to faith in the future.18
It is, I think, a more hopeful note on which to conclude.
In my next international relations article, I will discuss what the terms of engagement with China might look like in a balance of power paradigm.
Clyde Prestowitz, The World Turned Upside Down: America, China, and the Strug- gle for Global Leadership (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2021), Chapter 6
Alfred E. Eckes Jr. and Thomas W. Zeiler, Globalisation and the American Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 169
Demetri Sevastopulo and Tom Mitchell, ‘Alaska meeting ends without break- through in US-China relations’, The Financial Times, March 20, 2021
Michael Peel, Christian Shepherd and Demetri Sevastopulo, ‘China retaliates after sanctions move by US, EU and UK’, The Financial Times, March 22, 2021
5. ‘The way it’s going to be: China is not just shackling Hong Kong, it is set on re-
making it’, The Economist, March 20, 2021, pp. 14-16
7.Prestowitz, p. 222
8. Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order
(London: Simon & Schuster, 1997) p. 88
9. The Economist, March 20, 2021
10. Prestowitz, p. 5. The Opium War was caused principally by British merchants trading opium for Chinese goods during the period of the Qing Dynasty. This opium trade created millions of drug addicts and many of China’s largest coastal cities were devastated. In an effort to rescue the situation, the Emperor Daguang ordered the seizure of all the opium in Canton, including that held by foreign governments. Britain responded by sending in the Royal Navy which quickly de- feated the Qing army. The war ended in 1842 with the signing of the Treaty of Nanking, which forced China to cede Hong Kong Island in perpetuity to Britain.
11. Prestowitz, p. 42
12. Ibid, p. 224
13. Centre for Strategic and International Studies. csi.org/china-naval-moderniza- tion/.
14.Thomas J. Christensen, ‘There will not be a new Cold War: The Limits of US-Chi- nese competition’, Foreign Affairs, March 24, 2021. Christensen suggests that the BRI may hamper Western diplomacy against China. As an example he cites the case of Greece, a NATO member, which blocked an EU human rights complaint against China after the Chinese shipping giant COSCO invested heavily in the Greek port of Piraeus as part of the BRI. Yet he concludes that this is more about defending the Chinese system at home than turning Greece into an offensive plat- form against NATO’s security interests.
15. Thomas Orlik, China The Bubble That Never Pops (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020) Chapter 9
16. Thomas Hale, ‘China embraces rail to transport good to Europe’, The Financial Times, March 28, 2021
17. The Thucydides Trap is a term popularised by the political scientist Graham Al- lison to describe an apparent tendency towards war when an emerging power threatens to displace an existing great power as the international hegemon. Thu- cydides was an ancient Greek historian and general who wrote a history of the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens in 411 BC
18.Cited in Ursula Kind, Spirit of Fire: The Life and Vision of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (New York: Orbis Books, 1996), p.141
The religion behind a divided America and its conflict with China.
26th June 2021
South China Morning Post
The religion behind a divided America and its conflict with China
* The crises the US faces at home and abroad are the outgrowth of a peculiar American world view shaped by Christianity’s monotheistic belief system
* Until Americans are willing to move past the myth of ‘American exceptionalism’, the US is unlikely to be able to coexist peaceably with the outside world
By: Peter T. C. Chang
US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas reported last month that domestic terrorism was now the top threat to American national security. This real and present home-grown danger is an accretion of a toxic body polity mired in mistrust.
America’s democratic institutions, battered by misinformation and conspiracy theories, have suffered seriously diminished credibility and legitimacy. Take, for example, form president Donald Trump’s extraordinary assertion that the 2020 election result was valid only if he won.
The United States is deeply polarised and its social fabric looks to be fraying at the seams. Yet, a divided America appears united in confronting China. Purposefully anti-Trump in almost every other way, US President Joe Biden seems to have chosen to retain his predecessor’s China policy.
Not surprisingly, the US-China relationship continues to deteriorate, compounded by the White House’s decision to continue investigating the Covid-19 “lab leak” theory.
Identifying the origins of the virus is vital for dealing with future pandemics, but the scientific process has become so politicised that any “independent” investigation is unlikely to yield a result that will be accepted by both sides.
Trust between Washington and Beijing has hit an all-time low and the risk of open conflict is a real and present danger.
The crises the US faces at home and abroad have a common thread. They are the outgrowth of a peculiar American world view shaped by Christianity’s monotheistic belief system.
To begin with, the American faith in liberal democracy is the secular adaptation of the monotheist world view.
Just as most Christians believe there is no salvation outside the church, most Americans regard liberal democracy as the only pathway to a free and just international order. This has propelled the US into a global push to liberate and democratise the world.
Next is the American sense of manifest destiny as the “shining city upon a hill”. The doctrine has origins in the Jewish people’s self-identification as God’s “chosen people”. Later, Christianity universalised the elect, whereupon Jews and Gentiles alike could be converted into God’s chosen people.
These Christian beliefs underpin Americans’ view of themselves and the world. It is this monotheism-inspired world order with which China has run into conflict.
The Communist Party’s rebuff of liberal democracy is seen as an affront to what Americans regard as their divinely ordained global leadership.
The US is determined not to let China challenge or dilute its peculiarly unreserved self-belief.
In March, during his first extended discussion on US-China rivalry as president, Biden vowed not to allow China to surpass the US as the most powerful country in the world, saying: “That’s not going to happen on my watch.”
For conservative evangelicals, Communist-Party-led China poses an ominous existential threat to Western and Christian civilisation. In Christianity’s dualistic moral universe of good versus evil, the atheist Chinese regime has found itself on the wrong side of the moral divide.
But the Christian right is also vexed by an enemy lurking within, namely the liberal left and its seeming irreverence for and assault on the American way of life. The feeling of hostility is reciprocated.
The secular left is as agitated by the religious right’s purported contempt for American core values such as inclusivity, diversity and care for the marginalised.
America’s founding fathers envisioned a new world anchored on the Enlightenment principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. Of course, as slave owners, some of these framers of the constitution lived a life of contradiction.
Still, the ideals enshrined at the birth of the republic did pave the way for a more open and freer America, transforming it into a land of opportunity for many.
Last week, the US made Juneteenth a federal holiday to commemorate African-Americans’ full emancipation from slavery.
The context and backdrop of this celebration is telling, though – the “Unite the Right” rally at Charlottesville and the murder of George Floyd, among other things, point to a country still haunted by its original sin.
The recent spike in anti-Asian violence underscores the convoluted dynamics threatening America’s race relations.
In his testimony to the US Senate, Mayorkas warned that white supremacist militias represented the most persistent and lethal threat to the country.
Republican lawmakers quickly responded with claims that some of the recent unrest was linked to far-left extremists.
Unable to reach a consensus on the nature of the domestic danger confronting them, a fragmented America faces an increasing risk of descent into ethno-political tribalism and religious sectarianism.
The US is trapped in a religion-induced crisis at home and abroad. The republic has slipped into an era of absolutist, monotheistic morality with little room for nonconformity and ambiguity.
Unless Americans can find a way out of Christianity’s binary, puritanical world view, the country’s diverse constituents are unlikely to be able to sustain the enlightened common space needed for coexistence.
Until Americans are willing to move past the myth of “American exceptionalism”, the US is unlikely to be able coexist peaceably with the outside world, and with China specifically.
* Peter T.C. Chang is deputy director of the Institute of China Studies, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
'New research has found that Beijing is keen to reduce the population of mainly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
8th June 2021
UCA News - www.ucanews.com
Chinese policies 'may prevent millions of minority births
'New research has found that Beijing is keen to reduce the population of mainly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang
AFP - Published.
Chinese policies aimed specifically at reducing the population of mainly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang could prevent the birth of around 4 million babies over the next two decades, new research has found.
Projections show reduced minority birth rates could raise the proportion of Han Chinese — a majority in the rest of China — from the current 8.4 percent to 25 percent in the region.
Beijing has for years sought to tighten its grip on the vast border area historically marked by economic inequality and sporadic outbreaks of unrest.
Millions of Han Chinese relocated to Xinjiang in recent decades to find work in the coal- and gas-rich region in a settlement drive that has caused friction on the ground.
German researcher Adrian Zenz said publicly available papers by Chinese security researchers blamed the density of minority communities as the "underlying reason" for unrest and proposed population control as a risk reduction method.
At the same time, documented official fears about the arid region's lack of natural resources to support an influx of Han settlers suggest that Chinese authorities see birth suppression as a key tool for manipulating the area's demographic makeup, Zenz said.
China last week announced a major reform of policy governing the number of children a couple can have, increasing it to three as the country grapples with an aging population.
But scholars say Beijing does not view all babies as equally desirable in Xinjiang and is actively pursuing a policy of decreasing the number of children born to ethnic minorities.
Strategies include ramped-up birth control policies in the region, including imprisonment for having too many children and claims of forced sterilisation.
Focusing on four prefectures in southern Xinjiang and using models recommended by multiple Chinese scholars, Zenz calculated Beijing could aim to raise the number of Han in these "traditional Uyghur heartlands" to a quarter of the population.
Zenz said he found "an intent to reduce ethnic minority population growth in order to increase the proportionate Han population in southern Xinjiang."
Official data shows Xinjiang's birth rates nearly halved between 2017 and 2019 — the steepest drop of all Chinese regions and the most extreme globally since 1950, according to an analysis by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
Zenz calculated the natural ethnic minority population growth in southern Xinjiang would have reached 13.14 million by 2040, but that suppression measures could prevent up to 4.5 million births among Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.
China has faced mounting international criticism over its policies in Xinjiang, where the United States says Beijing is committing genocide.
At least one million people from mostly Muslim minorities have been held in camps in the region, according to rights groups who also accuse authorities of imposing forced labour.
Beijing has hit back at the accusations, touting its counter-terrorism and economic achievements in Xinjiang, applying tit-for-tat sanctions, and supporting lawsuits against its loudest critics, including Zenz.
Beijing allows up to three children per married couple
31st May 2021
AsiaNews - www.asianews.it
Beijing allows up to three children per married couple
The measure lifts the limit of two children per family unit. Decades of one-child policy have contributed to the country's demographic slowdown. Unspecified aid is provided for those who want to have children. Chinese youth do not want to procreate in order to maintain their current standard of living.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Chinese Politburo has decreed married couples can have up to three children, according to reports by state news agency Xinhua, noting that the decision was taken during a meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping.
The country is facing a very real demographic challenge. On 11 May the National Statistics Office revealed 2020 data according to which the population exceeded 1.4 billion, but compared to 2019, new births fell by 18%: from 14.65 to 12 million.
At the current rate, demographers expect a decline in the number of inhabitants shortly, with a sharp decrease in those of working age and eligible for recruitment. To remedy the problem, according to Xinhua, the Politburo has also decided to gradually increase the age at which a worker can retire.
In April, the Central Bank of China recommended that the government abandon birth control policies, because without such action the country will lose its economic strength. Economic researchers have essentially confirmed the failure of the past one-child policy. Its easing in 2016, with the possibility of having two children per family, did not change the situation.
Pregnant Chinese women give birth to 1.3 children each, far from the 2.1 needed to keep the population stable. The figure is also lower than that of Japan (1.37 children per woman), one of the fastest aging nations in the world. Some researchers estimate that over the next 10 years the percentage of Chinese women between 22 and 35 will decline by more than 30%.
The new family policy provides aid for couples who want to have children: however, the nature of the support is not specified. Experts suggest that women should receive subsidies to compensate for the expenses and professional sacrifices they face as a result of motherhood. Financial support should be concentrated in large cities, where housing and maternal care costs are higher.
Young Chinese people don't want to have children because it costs too much and the state doesn't help them enough. The new generations prefer to give up becoming parents to maintain their own standard of living. This is also the problem faced by many Western societies, which moreover have welfare systems that are far more generous than the Chinese one.
A survey on Xinhua's Weibo profile reveals that 29,000 out of 31,000 users replied that they did not want three children.
CHINA TODAY UPDATE
1. EU Parliament puts investment deal on halt until Beijing lifts sanctions.
2. China tells UN Africa needs more support in fighting Covid-19.
3. China offers to host Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
4. China's repression sparks exodus from Hong Kong to Taiwan.
5. China is the Myanmar Coup’s ‘Biggest Loser’. China is walking a tight rope in Myanmar.
EU Parliament puts investment deal on halt until Beijing lifts sanctions.
21st May 2021
AsiaNews - www.asianews.it
MEPs freeze the ratification process by an overwhelming majority vote. Even Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic MEPs elected with the European People's Party back the resolution; the German chancellor is the real sponsor of the agreement. The European Commission is criticised for its weak stance vis-à-vis China, especially over human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
Brussels (AsiaNews) – The European Parliament has frozen the ratification process for the investment agreement with China. This decision will remain in place until Beijing lifts sanctions against European individuals and entities.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution to this end yesterday afternoon by an overwhelming majority: 599 votes in favour, 30 against and 58 abstentions.
The European People's Party, which includes Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU) led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also voted in favour of the resolution. Driven by her country's exporters, the German Chancellor is the real sponsor of the agreement reached with China last December following negotiations that began in 2013.
MEPs strongly condemned Beijing's punitive measures, which were seen as an attack on fundamental European freedoms. China has imposed sanctions on five MEPs, the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, as well as a number of European academics.
Beijing’s move came in response to EU sanctions against four senior Chinese officials, believed to be responsible for suppressing the rights of Turkic-speaking Muslims in Xinjiang.
Supporters of the resolution have made it clear that lifting sanctions is a condition for starting the ratification debate, not for giving the green light to the agreement.
MEPs have reminded the European Commission – which is responsible for the negotiations – that they will take account of the human rights situation in China if they have to give their opinion on the deal.
This will also involve Hong Kong. Many MEPs have criticised the European Commission's inaction vis-à-vis the suppression of pro-democracy movement in the former British colony, especially its inability to overcome Hungary's opposition to targeted sanctions against Beijing.
The government of Viktor Orban is China’s best ally in Europe, as well as one the beneficiaries of its financial largesse.
Most MEPs also want the EU Commission to open trade negotiations with Taiwan, which China consider a “rebel province,” and address Beijing's “cyber” and “hybrid” threats.
In a tweet, Reinhard Bütikofer said that yesterday's overwhelming vote is not only a signal sent to Beijing, but also to the European Commission. The Green leader, head of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, is one of five MEPs blacklisted by the Chinese Government.
EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis appears to have heeded the message. Yesterday, at a press conference, he said that China’s retaliatory sanctions are “certainly not a conducive environment for working towards the ratification of the deal.”
China's Foreign Ministry has called on MEPs to “reflect deply” and ratify the agreement as soon as possible. However, Europeans seem bent on taking a tougher approach to Beijing. Earlier this month, the Commission announced a new law against foreign investors subsidised by their government and a review of industrial strategy to reduce dependence on imports in strategic sectors – two clear jabs at China’s large government-owned corporations.
China tells UN Africa needs more support in fighting Covid-19.
20th May 2021
South China Morning Post
* International community ‘should give more help in pandemic prevention materials, medical supplies, technology and funds’, Foreign Minister Wang Yi tells UN meeting
* Less than 2 per cent of the Covid-19 vaccines administered around the world were in Africa, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says
By: Rachel Zhang in Shanghai
China has urged countries around the world to provide more vaccines and more support to Africa to help build a “defence line” against Covid-19.
The international community should help ensure the “accessibility and affordability of vaccines” in the continent, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday while hosting a virtual meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
China holds the 15-member council’s rotating presidency for the month of May.
“The international community should give more help in pandemic prevention materials, medical supplies, technology and funds, especially through free assistance, preferential procurement, technology transfer, cooperative production and other means to ensure the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in Africa,” Wang said.
“Africa is an important part of the global anti-pandemic effort. An urgent task now is to build a defence line against the pandemic in Africa … China calls on all countries with the ability to provide vaccines to Africa urgently,” he said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said at the meeting, titled “Peace and Security in Africa”, that of the 1.4 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses administered around the world, only 24 million, or less than 2 per cent, had reached Africa.
Wu Peng, director of the Chinese foreign ministry’s Africa department, said on Thursday that China had provided vaccines to nearly 40 African countries.
The shots were donated or sold at “favourable prices”, he told a press conference.
In an apparent dig at the United States, Wu compared China’s actions to those of “some countries that have said they have to wait for their own people to finish the vaccination before they could supply the vaccines to foreign countries”.
“We believe that it is, of course, necessary to ensure that the Chinese people get vaccinated as soon as possible, but for other countries in need, we also try our best to provide vaccine help,” he said.
According to Bridge Consulting in Beijing, African nations have ordered about 33 million vaccine doses from China and been gifted 5.45 million by Beijing. China has also donated 10.5 million vaccines to countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Most of the Chinese vaccines sold overseas are made by Sinovac, while most of the donated shots come from Sinopharm, whose product was approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization on May 7.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, about 40 million Africans have been pushed back into extreme poverty during the pandemic.
The continent’s economic growth is forecast to be 3.4 per cent this year, against a global figure of 6 per cent.
“Equitable and sustainable vaccine roll-out worldwide is the quickest path towards a fast and fair recovery,” Guterres said.
“This requires sharing of doses, removing export restrictions, ramping up local production and fully funding the ACT-Accelerator and its Covax Facility.”
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that Western countries, especially the US, had stockpiled excess vaccine doses and should “immediately lift export restrictions and increase supply to make up for the shortfall in developing countries”.
The US said on Monday it would share an additional 20 million vaccine doses in the coming six weeks, but did not say which countries would receive them.
* Additional reporting by Associated Press
* Rachel Zhang focuses on diplomatic reporting. She graduated with a Master’s degree in journalism from Boston University, and previously worked at an international relations think tank at Tsinghua University.
China offers to host Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
17th May 2021
South China Morning Post
* Beijing uses chairmanship of UN Security Council to press for immediate ceasefire and resumption of dialogue on two-state solution
* Foreign Minister Wang Yi also urges the US to stop obstructing the council’s role in taking action on the conflict
By: Sarah Zheng and Rachel Zhang in Shanghai
China’s offer to host Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is a bid to expand its influence in the Middle East as the new administration in Washington works out its playbook, analysts said.
During a virtual meeting of the 15-member UN Security Council on Sunday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi again called for an immediate ceasefire between the two sides and for Israel to lift its blockade and siege of Gaza as soon as possible.
Wang also urged the US to stop “obstructing” the council in taking action on the conflict, and to support its efforts to ease tensions and to find a political resolution. China took over as rotating chair of the council at the beginning of May.
“We will continue to increase our efforts to urge for peace and promote talks, and fulfil our responsibilities as chair of the Security Council,” he said.
“We reaffirm our invitation to peacemakers from Palestine and Israel to come to China to open up dialogue, and we welcome negotiators from both sides to engage in direct talks in China.”
Wang said talks should resume for a two-state solution that would include the early establishment of an independent Palestinian state, based on the 1967 border with the contested East Jerusalem as its capital, that would coexist with the state of Israel.
He also said Israel needed to stop expelling Palestinians from their homes, to stop violence and threats against Muslims, and to respect the status quo of religious sites in Jerusalem. At the same time, the Palestinian side should avoid escalating the situation, including by firing rockets towards Tel Aviv, he said.
Along with Norway and Tunisia, China has sought a more active role in easing tensions between the two sides, with the three countries pushing for two earlier rounds of closed-door Security Council consultations. The three also released a joint statement calling for an “immediate cessation of all acts of violence, provocation, incitement, destruction and eviction plans”.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian did not directly condemn Israel when asked to comment on Monday, but stressed that the “vast majority” of the UN Security Council had a common voice on the issue and that the US needed to “fulfil its due responsibilities”.
Zhao said China strongly condemned violence targeted at civilians and said Israel should exercise restraint.
In the midst of their rivalry for global influence, Beijing has contrasted its diplomatic efforts with those of the United States – a close ally of Israel, saying Washington had blocked the Security Council from issuing a joint statement for the “immediate cessation of hostilities” between the two sides.
China has also come under greater pressure for its repression of Muslims and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
Li Weijian, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Middle East Studies, said Wang’s remarks were more specific than on previous occasions, when China had “stayed more at the level of rhetorical appeals”.
“In the past, China has always called for a ceasefire, but it rarely mentions how and who would provide the platform for negotiations,” he said.
“Because China is now positioning itself as a global power, it needs to take up the responsibilities of a major power, so it cannot be absent on hot global issues.”
Li said Arab countries had also expressed the hope that China would play a greater role in the region.
Israelis and Palestinians have previously been invited to hold talks in China, including during Wang’s trip to the Middle East in March, but observers said the offers had not been taken seriously because Beijing was not considered an important actor in the conflict.
Huang Minxing, a professor at Northwest University in Xian, said China lacked experience in the region’s politics but its neutral stance could be effective.
“China has long pursued a policy of non-interference in other country’s affairs, and Middle Eastern affairs are also overly complex, so China would be more cautious about getting involved,” he said.
But Huang added that China had a chance to take on a greater role in the region, as US President Joe Biden was still developing his policy on Israel, and Europe had long had concerns over Washington’s bias towards Israel. While China maintained a neutral position, and tried to bring up a solution in terms of international justice, such a position may be objectively more inclined towards Arab countries, he said.
“As long as China actively communicates with the international community, there is an opportunity for practical action if it works to speak in a collective voice with the international community,” Huang said. “When the US is forcing the entire world to choose sides between China and the US, China would want to expand its own circle of friends and would work hard to do so to cope with US pressure.”
While Biden spoke separately with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on the issue, Wang conveyed his position on Saturday in a phone call to his counterpart in neighbouring Pakistan.
The US also said on Sunday it was willing to lend its support if the two sides decided to seek a ceasefire. It has also repeated its support for a two-state solution.
Guy Burton, an adjunct professor at Vesalius College in Brussels, said he was sceptical of China as an alternative influence in the conflict.
He also said the two-state solution was becoming irrelevant as an option for many Israeli Jews and Palestinians.
“Despite its rhetoric, its actions haven’t shown an interest in taking on a more active role or in providing a different path or outcome,” Burton said.
“There’s been no meaningful negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis for almost a decade. There’s no unified or representative leadership on the Palestinian side that could hold their own with the Israelis even if talks were to restart.”
Burton said Beijing struggled to get representatives from the two sides to sign a non-binding declaration at a peace symposium it organised in China in December 2017.
“While the Palestinians have always been keen to open up the peace process to other countries, Israel is less keen,” he said. “It has a good arrangement with the US in its corner, so why would it abandon that to invite an untested mediator like China?”
The hostilities in the last week have been the worst between the two sides in decades.
Israel has warned it would continue to bombard Gaza “for as long as necessary” in response to rockets fired from Hamas. At least 192 people have died in Gaza, including 58 children. In Israel, 10 people have been killed, including two children.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres raised concerns at Sunday’s meeting that the conflict could cause an “uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis” and a “new locus of dangerous instability” in the entire region.
* Additional reporting by Catherine Wong
China's repression sparks exodus from Hong Kong to Taiwan.
12th May 2021
News - www.ucanews.com
Christians among 10,000 seeking new lives to escape persecution by communist authorities
UCA News reporter, Hong Kong
About 10,000 Hong Kong residents including members and leaders of Christian churches have moved to Taiwan this year after being accused of inciting subversion of the state under the repressive national security law in the former British colony, says International Christian Concern (ICC).
The mass exodus is another vivid example of how the communist regime in China has continued its persecution of religions within its borders and is determined to expand its reign of persecution beyond the mainland and even outside the country, ICC said in a press statement on May 10.
The global Christian body that documents Christian persecution across the world expressed grave concerns over the recent arrest, jailing and denial of bail to radio host Edward Wan, who launched a crowdfunding project last year to support Hong Kong protesters to study in Taiwan in collaboration with the Presbyterian Church.
Hong Kong police blocked access to the church’s website for breaching the national security law. Wan had raised funds through his programs and some funds were channeled to the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan to support asylum seekers in the country.
ICC lamented that since Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing administration of Carrie Lam, its Catholic chief executive, passed the national security law last June at the behest of Chinese authorities, religious leaders who had long supported democracy and freedom of speech in the city have faced significant pressure.
The law criminalizes a wide range of activities as subversive and seditious and against the interests of the hitherto autonomous city. It sparked a global outcry as it is deemed a blatant betrayal of China’s promise of greater autonomy and freedom under the “one country, two systems” framework when the British handed over the city in 1997. Critics described the law as the last nail in the coffin of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong.
Dozens of pro-democracy activists and politicians including Christians have been arrested, prosecuted and jailed under the law.
Many Christian leaders and church members have been accused of subversion and sedition under the law, triggering the exodus to Taiwan.
“Hong Kong pastors and Christian professors have sought refuge in Taiwan and more continue to come. Others have gone elsewhere, with some settling in the UK,” Pastor Huang Chun-seng of the Chi-Nan Presbyterian Church in Taiwan told ICC.
For years, China has been aggressively persecuting religious groups including Christians who are not associated with state-approved religions and religious bodies.
Hundreds of members of Christian churches including Catholics have been arrested and tortured for choosing to worship in institutions and house churches outside the state-run Three Self-Church and Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
Churches have been raided and closed, church leaders jailed and church members harassed and intimidated for practicing faiths deemed illegal by the state.
Chinese authorities have also continued to crack down on Christian charities including orphanages for poor and disabled children, accusing them of being illegally associated with religious groups and “indoctrinating children” for conversion.
A 2020 ICC report documented how China uses legal mechanisms including administrative decrees to suppress religions and religious practices in the guise of the Sinicization of religion — the imposition of strict rules on societies and institutions based on the core values of socialism, autonomy and supporting the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.
A Freedom House report ranks China among the worst 10 offenders against religious freedom in the world. In 2017, Freedom House found that “at least 100 million believers belong to groups facing high or very high levels of religious persecution, namely Protestant Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims and Falun Gong practitioners.”
China is the Myanmar Coup’s ‘Biggest Loser’. China is walking a tight rope in Myanmar.
22nd February 2021
A relationship decades in the making is now in jeopardy.
Protesters in yangon have in recent days gathered near the imposing red doors of the Chinese embassy in the city, denouncing China for what they say is its support of this month’s military coup in Myanmar. Conspiracy theories have swirled about the arrival of Chinese technicians to help Myanmar’s new junta build its own “firewall” to control the internet. Rumors abound about what is being transported on nightly flights between Yangon and the southern Chinese city of Kunming. Online, amateur sleuths have pored over photos of the protests, looking for Chinese military insignia on uniforms and even fair-skinned soldiers among the armed forces that have been deployed to the streets.
China, Myanmar’s largest neighbor, maintained cozy relations with the previous junta for decades, even as Western countries cut off contact and imposed withering economic sanctions, isolating the country and throwing unwavering support behind the opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. When Myanmar’s generals began cautiously opening up the country a decade ago, the move brought a rush of new foreign businesses, eager to move into a long-closed, underdeveloped market, as well as renewed diplomatic ties. China’s near monopoly on Myanmar appeared all but finished.
Thus, the military’s return to power in the country, popular thinking seemed to go, would be welcomed by China, happy to see itself again as Myanmar’s staunchest ally in a drastically depleted pool of diplomatic friends. The United States has already imposed targeted sanctions in response to the coup, as have Canada and Britain. Myanmar is a pariah once more, and Beijing should be freer to pursue its agenda with a leadership that seems willing to cast aside the concerns and misgivings of its population, forcibly if needed. Business competition will again fade. The more isolated Myanmar becomes, the better for Chinese exploitation.
Yet this narrative, although enticingly straightforward in a country where little is, is a dramatic oversimplification that ignores numerous factors: the coup’s destabilizing effects, including on major Chinese-backed projects; the Burmese military’s long-held wariness of China, including the junta leader’s personal distrust; and perhaps most important, the surprisingly friendly relationship that the National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi’s party, had cultivated with Beijing. A sharp rise in anti-Chinese sentiment in the days since the military’s takeover has made quick work of years of confidence building between Suu Kyi, a once-vaunted prodemocracy icon, and her authoritarian neighbor. The undercurrents of Sinophobia held at bay as she touted China as an ally have come flooding back with her detention by the military.
Southeast Asian countries are often painted with broad brushstrokes when it comes to their relationship with Beijing and Washington: that democracy in the region will always be considered dangerous and bad by China, and that earnest American officials will always flock when they see a country making decisions based on the will of the people. But this binary—that China “wins” under authoritarianism and “loses” under democracy—misses layers of complexities and nuance. The Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte, who is wildly popular and democratically elected, has moved the country closer to Beijing, while Thailand’s junta-backed government remains a staunch U.S. ally.
Geopolitically, “China is the biggest loser from this coup,” Enze Han, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong who studies China’s relationship with Myanmar, told me. “The PR that it has done to improve its image over the past five years working with the NLD has all gone to waste.” Last Tuesday, the Chinese ambassador to Myanmar appeared to back this position, saying “the current development in Myanmar is absolutely not what China wants to see,” though, as is common with Chinese diplomatic statements, he left room for interpretation. He also dismissed rumors that China had aided the military, saying he hoped people could “distinguish right from wrong and guard against political manipulation, so as to avoid undermining the friendship between the two peoples.”
he accounts and experiences of Cheng Ruisheng, a former Chinese ambassador to Myanmar, illustrate the two countries’ complex ties. By the time Cheng arrived to serve as China’s envoy in 1987, he was well versed in their relationship, referred to in Burmese as pauk-phaw, a title denoting special, familial ties. Cheng had spent nearly two decades as China’s most senior Burmese-language interpreter, sitting alongside the likes of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping as they met their Myanmar counterparts. China’s foreign policy as it applied to Myanmar, Cheng wrote years later, could be summed up simply: “non-interference, non-involvement and keeping aloof.”
A year after Cheng’s arrival, a popular uprising vaulted the then–largely unknown Suu Kyi to seraphic stature, before it was put down by the military. Cheng kept in contact with Suu Kyi, even after acknowledging and beginning to work with the new military government, providing her husband with Tibetan language books and attending the funeral of her mother. Only when Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest in 1989 did Cheng cease contact with her, though he visited her party’s headquarters in 1990 to offer congratulations on its electoral victory that year. (The military tossed out the results and kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for some 15 years in total.)
Through the more than two decades that followed—years marked by worsening economic conditions, horrific armed-forces campaigns, a stunning military purge, another uprising followed by another crackdown, a devastating cyclone and the disastrous response to it—China remained the junta’s staunchest backer. Then, prompted in part by a wariness of China’s dominance, the military began a calibrated reentry into the broader world. The generals understood that “the more isolated they are, the more dependent they will be [on China] and the more influence China will exert over their country,” Yun Sun, the director of the China Program at the Stimson Center, in Washington D.C., told me. In 2011, a year after a quasi-civilian government was elected, the administration suspended a highly contentious Chinese-backed dam project that had met fierce resistance from ethnic groups and Suu Kyi. The same year, Suu Kyi met a Chinese ambassador for the first time since her final meeting with Cheng. Ambassadorial appointments are rarely noteworthy affairs, but the discussion garnered headlines in the international press and Chinese state media.
Cautiously, China began to adapt. Yang Houlan, a bookish and soft-spoken diplomat who became the Chinese ambassador to Myanmar in 2013, told me that year that Chinese companies in the country had adopted a mantra of “Do more, speak less,” that had grated on and alienated many citizens. Beijing, perhaps sensing that Suu Kyi’s immense popularity would translate into victory at the polls two years later, began courting members of her party. While not as brazen as other countries, which seconded diplomats to Suu Kyi’s office and had little time for the ruling administration, China invited NLD officials on nationwide tours. Beijing also undertook public outreach, much of it around highly contentious projects, and although not always the most sophisticated or successful, those efforts marked a change in tactics. When Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide, China’s outreach accelerated. “It turns out that China can work very well with the NLD government,” Sun said, “probably even better than with the military government.”
The NLD’s enthusiasm was not matched by the military’s, however. Although China is the largest arms supplier to Myanmar, the military suspects Beijing's involvement in the country’s multitude of internal conflicts. The issue is particularly personal for Min Aung Hlaing, the junta leader and commander in chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, who in 2009 commanded forces along the Chinese border against an ethnic Chinese minority rebel group, driving tens of thousands across the border into China. The group’s leader resurfaced five years later in The Global Times, a Chinese state newspaper, sparking speculation that Beijing was providing a haven for him and his troops, who launched renewed attacks against Myanmar shortly after.
Min Aung Hlaing “chafed at China’s role in Myanmar’s ethnic armed organizations,” a former senior diplomat who has met him on multiple occasions told me, asking not to be named because of the current political situation. “I did not see him as particularly friendly to China.” The suspicion extends beyond just one general: The military complained last year to Chinese President Xi Jinping about China’s financing of rebel groups, a charge that Xi denied.
There are, however, points of agreement: When Myanmar was receiving full-throated criticism from other countries over its treatment of the Rohingya minority in Rakhine State, China backed the military and Suu Kyi’s narrative that the allegations were overblown and the authorities were responding to a terrorist threat (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary). “Myanmar values China’s understanding of the Rakhine issue, which is complicated and delicate,” Suu Kyi said during a trip to China in 2017. Beijing, along with Moscow, stood by Myanmar at the United Nations, shielding it from the harshest condemnation. China’s position appears to have been doubly beneficial to Myanmar, as the U.S. was reportedly reluctant to declare the Rohingya crisis a genocide for fear of driving Myanmar toward China. Myanmar, for its part, aligned with China on Beijing’s priority issues of Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan, and last year threw its support behind China’s implementation of a sweeping national-security law in Hong Kong, meant to snuff out the city’s prodemocracy protests.
This lack of “moral judgment,” as Sun described it, offered Beijing an economic opening. In March 2018, I sat in the conference room of a luxury hotel in Yangon as a speaker urged the audience—about 80 Western and local businessmen and women concerned about Myanmar’s international reputation and economic climate—to take it upon themselves to bolster the country’s image. “Go out and tell a positive story about Myanmar,” he urged from a small stage as the seminar wrapped up.
Among those in attendance was Henry Tun, whose firm works extensively in the country’s power sector. Later, over coffee, Tun told me that in meetings with senior officials and members of the NLD, he was encouraged to pursue deals with Chinese firms, instead of European or American ones. Officials explained that deals done with Western businesses could fall apart if companies were spooked by sanctions, or the threat of them. The view, he said, was that “the only one to turn to is China.”
The government at the time signed highly secretive contracts for dozens of projects as part of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, a grand plan of connectivity meant to link China to strategic points via Myanmar. These projects, worth billions of dollars, are now likely facing delays as the country roils with protests and civil-disobedience movements meant to disrupt government operations and services, again raising questions as to why Beijing would prefer working with the military.
The tensions, and the opportunities, between Myanmar and China are particularly pronounced in Kachin State, where logging and jade mining of varying degrees of legality are prevalent, and the spoils spirited over the border. Recently a border dispute with China and ever-expanding banana plantations run by Chinese firms have caused consternation.
Many in Kachin felt that Suu Kyi’s government was “selling out the whole country” to China, Khon Ja, a longtime activist who lives in the area, told me. But at the same time, she said, Myanmar had to deal with the economic realities of being a poorer, less developed country in the shadow of a rising power. “They don’t like Chinese companies,” she said, “but there are no other options.”
Outside the embassy on Wednesday, protesters were unswayed by the Chinese ambassador’s statement. Su San, a 24-year-old medical student, told me that no one should trust what China says and that the military wouldn’t have dared act without China’s blessing. As long as Myanmar was moving toward democracy, she said, Beijing would try to forestall it. “It is,” she added, “a curse for Myanmar to be a neighbor of China.”
Also unimpressed was Sandar Min, an NLD member who spent three months in China studying the Belt and Road Initiative, and who is now a member of the parallel government formed by the party in the aftermath of the coup. Beijing, she told me, should recognize only the elected, and now overthrown, government. China and Myanmar “cannot run away from each other,” she said. “So if China is a really good neighbor, now is the time to prove it.”
Additional reporting by Kyaw Ye Lynn in Yangon
CHINA TODAY UPDATE
Book Review : Stein Ringen, The Perfect Dictatorship
Hong Kong, HKU Press, 2016, 193 pp.
With The Perfect Dictatorship, Stein Ringen proposes to explain how a regime built on “much that is unpleasant” (p. 135) manages nevertheless to carry on, imposing on its population a form of compulsory arrangement that is unmistakably a silent victory for totalitarianism (p. 143). It is indeed intellectually uncomfortable to conceive that a country seemingly developing its way toward economic capitalism – so it is said – may continue to be politically Leninist (p. 165). We believe this book deserves our attention for three main reasons. First, each page denounces the complacent view that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is only a regime that is economically successful and efficient in what it delivers. This is not to take the country seriously, says the author. Second, devoid of sentimental bond to his subject, Ringen is rather immune to the often blinding glitter of the Chinese “state civilisation.” And third, the book pays serious attention to the political questions raised by the genuine economic rise of the country and to the no less genuine desire for power of its leadership in considering the Chinese state as a mature state. It therefore takes the Party at face value, cleverly avoiding the twin pitfalls of Chinese “otherness” and “political culture,” two trendy discourses seemingly incapable of sharply defining the reality of the present. Ringen, a professor at Oxford University and renowned specialist in state analysis, contributes to the debate on the nature of the Chinese state by bringing together scattered known arguments in an intellectually dense interpretative essay without concession.
2The first advantage of the book is that it is extremely clear about its own perspective, claiming from the outset that “China analysis should be grounded in an undisguised awareness that we are dealing with a dictatorial state” (p. viii). The objective of the book, says Ringen, is an attempt to analyse the Chinese regime from outside the box of China Studies. Ringen believes that the distance of detached observation remains an advantage, evoking the self-deception of the Mao era and pointing out some more recent publications, naïve or slavish to the point of embarrassment (p. 39). Ringen defends himself from any further Chinese ambition and sees himself as a social analyst and a methodological individualist. For him, a state manifests itself in what it delivers, down to the lower reaches of its population (p. 41).
3In the case of the PRC, if the term “authoritarian” is too accommodating, the terms “dictatorship” and “totalitarianism” are problematic and seem primitive and oversimplifying in defining the actual current nature of the regime, which must be reconsidered in the light of contemporary reality (p. 2). The PRC is a sophisticated dictatorship under which citizens are granted many liberties, but only up to a certain point, beyond which the Party intervenes with all the force considered necessary. The Party is here and everybody knows it. If it doesn’t tell everybody what they can do, it controls in detail what they cannot do, read, or listen to. Obviously, this subtle system of indirect control is more profitable in the long run than the mere application of brute force (p. 137). However, Ringen reminds us, “the threat of punishment, harassment, detention, the loss of job or home, retribution against family and friends, violence, and ultimately death” remain persistently present. It is totally possible to get on with life in the PRC today as long as the rules – the boundaries of which remain strategically obscure – are understood, integrated, and accepted. The pages devoted to the law are edifying and remind the reader of a fact commonly overlooked: in the PRC, the prevailing legal theory is that the law is in the service to the Party that makes the rules and that can consequently override legal decisions. The law exists only as long as it does not disturb the one who wrote it. Moreover, it is never clear what a law actually is (p. 79).
4The regime’s totalitarian essence permeates everyday life so deeply that the space of the political is shrunk to nothing. In the PRC, what remains of political life is “forced underground and into privacy, secrecy, and isolation” (p. 139). The in-depth study of the individual and corporate taxation mechanisms, social services, public sector, and social insurance and assistance offers a rational cartography of the regime’s capacity; if it possesses the necessary ability to uphold state determination, it remains “more effective than efficient” (p. 115). Following a thorough analysis of the state, its economy, and its power matrix (Party, military, executive, legislature, police, and administration), the author reaches the slightly ironic conclusion that if Chinese leaders undeniably invented a form of political regime, they actually reinvented dictatorship. He coins the neologism “controlocracy” (p. 138).
5The memory of the “three ghosts” haunting the leadership is the only mention of history in the book: the century of humiliation (1842-1949), the destructive excesses of the Mao era, and the fall of the USSR (pp. 2-3). From this triple determination was born the absolute priority of the party-state: to ensure its own perpetuation. The post-1978 reformed state operates therefore on a twofold agenda: on the one hand, economic growth must be secured to noticeably reward the population; on the other hand, for its own survival, the Party must rebuild the “machinery” of social control (p. 6). From this perspective, “reform” is not a mere copy of Western modernising mechanisms, but rather a strengthening and perfection of the regime (p. 166). Skilfully using official data, Ringen rapidly shifts from analysis of the political system and its social impact to a critical interpretation of the “model,” citing other examples of modernisation where political and social progress accompanied economic development. In Taiwan and South Korea, complementing economic growth allowed the governments to obtain the compliance of their populations. They purchased legitimacy through investment in education and social protection (p. 35). Ringen questions the motivation and objective of a reform project that in the PRC is obviously reduced to a heedless quest for economic growth devoted purely to the objective of national might. Nevertheless, in this pursuit of “greatness,” the PRC strives to impress only by a display of “bigness” (p. 35), a “growth-ism” confirming the feeling that if Chinese leaders understand the meaning of growth, they no longer know what growth is for (p. 48). Yet, Ringen adds, power without purpose is “a threatening constellation” (p. 49).
6The chapter focusing on the reality of poverty is eloquent. The perspective imposed on statistical tools permits the author to argue that if many people were lifted out of poverty, “many, very many were left behind in destitution” (p. 120). And the lives of those who, according to official data, emerged from poverty have probably not evolved very much; China remains a country of “massive and oppressive poverty” (p. 148). What Ringen adds accurately is that for poverty as for growth, the regime claims more than it deserves, and that the effective reduction of poverty has come on the back of economic growth that the state merely follows, rather than as a “result of redistribution through social policy” (p. 148). In terms of what it takes, the Chinese state is highly developed, while in terms of what it delivers, it is still underdeveloped (p. 164). For Ringen, the Chinese state “does less for its people than it would be able to and could afford to because it has other determination and priorities than to work for the good of the common people” (p. 166). Ringen’s book is then a meticulous deconstruction of the clumsiness of the “liberal myth” that relates the necessity of Chinese development to the inevitability of the political liberalisation of the country – a myth, he says, that should not have survived the drama of June 1989.
7Ringen divides the phenomenon of corruption into three levels. The lower one, present everywhere in everyday life, is diffuse: services, authorisations, stamps, contracts, certificates, business, licenses, schools, hospitals… The second level, within the bureaucratic apparatus, corresponds to the buying and selling of position and promotion. Finally, at the highest level of the state, it is not embezzlement anymore; it is “organized crime” (p. 24-25). Consequently, for him, the present governmental campaign against corruption is invigorated by a dual ambition: the Party needs to purge its internal opposition, after which the competition of a parasitic oligarchy must be eradicated to reaffirm the Party’s direction in the political and economic realms, and ultimately in society (p. 28). Ringen extends the analysis by pointing out the radical inversion of priorities systematically corroding the entire bureaucratic apparatus. Civil servants do not serve the public anymore. They have to cultivate the upper stratum of their hierarchy, generally in charge of their position, in a never-ending game of obligation and reciprocity where the mere idea of public service is overturned to become a tool at the sole service of the Party.
8In terms of control, the author points to the co-optation of all civil society organisations. This takeover of potentially critical social movements is an important feature of the admirable dynamic stability of a regime frightened most of all by any social activism able to organise and to create networks (p. 140). It is not the organisation toward such objectives that poses a problem, but rather it is organisation itself (p. 141). The space the regime leaves to the people, and that gives the impression of a form of normality to everyday life, is composed only of areas of indifference conceded by the state, often to compensate for its continuing disengagement from the social realm: a retreat of the state that is not – never is – a retreat of the party-state (p. 137). The relationship of domination between the leadership and society has not fundamentally changed, even if it has been softened, and the totalitarian ambition seems not yet even questioned. It is obvious here that controlocracy is the most perfect dictatorship: it does not depend on the omnipresence of terror, and the regime can even afford to be parsimonious in its use of brute force. Nevertheless, the threat is ubiquitous (p. 141).
9The Chinese, like all human beings confronted with a state that is strong, cumbersome, and intrusive, have no other choice than to compromise. Strategies to respond and adapt are abundant: “by courage, by ingenuity, by helping and protecting each other, by opposing and protecting, by organizing, by subverting, by pretending, by surviving (…) as well as by acquiescence and obedience, by collaborating in oppression, by opportunism and cowardice.” Ringen adds: “the rich tapestry of the human condition (…) for the good and for the bad” (p. 40). Here we see the cultural alibi as well as the historicist excuse, both essentialising a so-called Chinese specificity, brushed away with convincing eloquence. The author further questions the ultimate primacy of stability. He argues that political opening could have unleashed more energy and creativity. And even if it might not have been workable, the official litany of its potential demise to justify the current state of affairs “is not credible” (p. 146). What remains true is that each and every attempt at political opening was immediately translated into claims for more democracy. The Party knows it does not have the genuine support of the population in a society that has become one of the most unequal on earth. The few reports available on the quality of life and happiness of the population completes a bleak portrayal of reality in today’s PRC. It proves again that there is no correlation between economic growth and the well-being of a population (pp. 149-150).
10To conclude this enlightening essay, Ringen engages the “China Dream” (Zhongguo meng) of the present leadership.1 He picks up a recent press article allowing no doubt of the link between national greatness and the individual happiness of each and every Chinese. Beyond the customary nationalist celebration, the Chinese leadership’s rhetoric seems aimed solely at the subordination of individual autonomy to the national might in a re-enactment of the terrible idea of the “People-as-One” coined by Claude Lefort, who defined the totalitarian phenomenon as the consubstantiality of state and society.2 An essential characteristic of totalitarianism, this fantasy of the unity of the people with their leader (be it an individual or a group), of a homogeneous organic society, pure and unique, is grounded on the denial of a divide between state and society. Fundamentally, repeats Ringen, the idea of unity between a nation and a person is a fascist idea, “the fascist idea,” he even insists (p. 176). The cold radicalism of this depiction of the Chinese regime will obviously generate criticism, disagreement, and debate. This may also be the reason why this book is essential reading.
1 To translate Zhongguo meng using “China Dream” rather than “Chinese Dream” makes sense if we accept that the dream of Chinese leaders may not be the dream of all Chinese.
2 Claude Lefort, Le Temps présent. Écrits 1945-2005, Paris, Belin, 2007, p. 268. Michel Bonnin developed Lefort’s idea in relation to China in “Comment définir le régime politique chinois aujourd’hui,” in Yves Michaux (dir.), La Chine aujourd’hui, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2003.
David Bartel, « Stein Ringen, The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century, », China Perspectives, 2016/4 | 2016, 90-91.
David Bartel, « Stein Ringen, The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century, », China Perspectives [Online], 2016/4 | 2016, Online since 01 December 2016, connection on 01 April 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/chinaperspectives/7146 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/chinaperspectives.7146
David Bartel is a PhD candidate at the EHESS, and an associate researcher at the CEFC (email@example.com).
special issue of Agone, No. 52, 2013, 232 pp.
Published in China Perspectives, 2014/1 | 2014
Paris, Demopolis, 2014, 270 pp.
Published in China Perspectives, 2015/1 | 2015
The Confucian revival and the “China model” in the work of Arif Dirlik
Published in China Perspectives, 2013/1 | 2013
Celebrating 20 years of the Hong Kong journal
Published in China Perspectives, 2011/2 | 2011
Paris, Gallimard, 2010, 776 pp. + 35 pages of illustrations.
Published in China Perspectives, 2011/3 | 2011
Published in China Perspectives, 2009/3 | 2009
CHINA TODAY UPDATE
1.Freedom in the World 2021 - China 9/100
2. Pope blesses Taiwan for lunar new year
Freedom in the World 2021 - China 9/100
Freedom in the World 2021 - China 9/100
China’s authoritarian regime has become increasingly repressive in recent years. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is tightening its control over the state bureaucracy, the media, online speech, religious groups, universities, businesses, and civil society associations, and it has undermined its own already modest rule-of-law reforms. The CCP leader and state president, Xi Jinping, has consolidated personal power to a degree not seen in China for decades, but his actions have also triggered rising discontent among elites within and outside the party. The country’s human rights movements continue to seek avenues for protecting basic liberties despite a multiyear crackdown.
Pope blesses Taiwan for lunar new year
11th February 2021
News - www.ucanews.com
Pope blesses Taiwan for lunar new year
Island's president takes a dig at China by highlighting Hong Kong's struggle for democracy
UCA News reporter
Pope Francis has met with Taiwan’s ambassador to the Vatican to extend his special greetings and blessings to Taiwanese people for the lunar new year.
Ambassador Mathew Lee met the pope on Feb. 8 on the sidelines of the Vatican’s annual meeting with the diplomatic corps and conveyed new year greetings on behalf of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and the Taiwanese people.
“Pope was in good spirits, wished a good start to the lunar year and promised to continue to pray for Taiwan,” Lee reportedly said.
During the meeting, the pope described 2020 as the year of “despair” that saw the world fall “seriously ill” due to the coronavirus. He said religious freedom is a “primary and fundamental human right” that must be protected as the world races to protect lives from the virus.
Meanwhile, President Tsai extended a lunar new year message on Feb. 10 that had a special focus on Hong Kong and its struggle for democracy.
Tsai said that “though democracy is not perfect, it is mankind's best system and they should keep the faith on it.”
On Feb. 9, Tsai conveyed best wishes to China for the new year but also called for a resumption of dialogue with Beijing over unresolved bilateral issues.
Tsai’s government has offered support to the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong since massive protests erupted over the draconian national security law introduced last year.
Taiwan has also offered sanctuary to many Hong Kong citizens who fled the massive crackdown in the former British colony, much to the chagrin of Beijing, which accused Taiwan of endorsing violence and crimes.
The East Asian island, officially called the Republic of China, is an independent democratic nation that borders China, Japan and the Philippines. Communist China claims it as its own territory but Taiwan maintains sovereignty thanks to considerable global support, especially from the West.
Taiwan has maintained non-diplomatic relations with the Vatican since 1922 and entered full diplomatic relations in 1942. The first Taiwanese ambassador to the Holy See was posted in 1943.
Taiwan has a population of about 24 million. Buddhists account for about 35 percent, Taoism for about 33 percent and Christians are estimated at about 4 percent, while some 18 percent of Taiwanese identify themselves as non-religious, according to the Index Mundi website.
Catholics in Taiwan are estimated to number more than 220,000 and covered by one archdiocese and six dioceses.
CHINA TODAY UPDATE
1. Biden bans linking Covid-19 to China in bid to quell racist backlash in US
2. Xi Jinping and Biden servants of the same economic power
3. Chinese bid farewell to Trump with mixed sentiments of criticism and sarcasm
4. China-US relations: Beijing says ‘new window of hope’ is opening as it offers Biden administration an olive branch
Biden bans linking Covid-19 to China in bid to quell racist backlash in US
27th January 2021
South China Morning Post
* Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders put ‘at risk’ by inflammatory and xenophobic descriptions of coronavirus, memo says
* No political leaders named but Donald Trump’s rhetoric was blamed for soaring attacks on minority groups last year
By: Teddy Ng
US President Joe Biden has banned references to Covid-19 by geographical location, after labels like “China virus” and “Wuhan virus” led to a racist backlash.
“Inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric has put Asian-American and Pacific Islander persons, families, communities and businesses at risk,” Biden said in a memorandum released on Tuesday.
“The federal government must recognise that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the Covid-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin,” he said.
“Such statements have stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders and have contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI persons.”
The memo said executive departments and agencies would ensure that official actions, documents and statements “do not exhibit or contribute to racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders”.
No political leaders were named in the memo, but Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump repeatedly used terms like “Wuhan virus”, “China plague” and “kung flu” to describe the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
One week after testing positive for the coronavirus last year, Trump said he was “in very good shape” and that “I beat this crazy, horrible China virus”.
He heard earlier said China would “pay a big price” for the pandemic.
These descriptors were blamed for a rise in attacks and abuse targeting minority communities in the US.
In the memo, Biden pointed out that 2 million Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders worked as health care providers and in other supporting roles, contributing to the effort to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the US.
Asian-Americans reported more than 2,600 hate incidents in just a few months last year, compared with a few hundred in most years going back to 1999, said Aryani Ong, an Asian-American rights activist and former civil rights lawyer.
Trump’s descriptions of the pandemic were furiously rejected by Beijing, which denied his allegation that the coronavirus might have emerged from a lab in Wuhan. Earlier this month, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Washington’s narrative – put forward by former secretary of state Mike Pompeo – was “full of fallacies” and “madness”.
China is also recasting the coronavirus narrative, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi suggesting the pandemic was likely to have been caused by separate outbreaks in multiple places around the world.
Chinese diplomats have promoted unfounded theories linking the virus to US military athletes, while state media has reported the virus could have entered China through imported frozen foods, following cases in Chinese ports and among cold storage workers.
Xi Jinping and Biden servants of the same economic power
26th January 2021
AsiaNews - www.asianews.it
By: Bernardo Cervellera
In his Davos' speech, Xi asserts the winning strength of the "China model". Political stability at the cost of repression. Even the "US model", with its "democratic virus", has victims: immigrants, African-Americans, but also whites, small business owners, workers. Many victims of the globalized system were among the Washington demonstrators. The stock exchanges and the financial world are profiting from the Covid crisis. Financial power pulls the strings of both the "China model" and the "US model".
Rome (AsiaNews) - In the aftermath of Xi Jinping's irenic speech in Davos, there are those who once again assert the winning strength of the "China model". In his 20-minute speech, the Chinese president filled the atmosphere of the international trade elite with popular slogans: no to the "cold war"; yes, to "dialogue and collaboration"; "Multilateralism" and no to "domination over each other"; aid to poor and developing countries; etc…
A similar etching of so many clichés is evident from the very fact that Xi's own country refuses to sign the treaty banning nuclear weapons; that China continues to build military bases in the South China Sea, regardless of the claims of other Southeast Asian countries; that its military jets - and Xi Jinping himself - are threatening Taiwan with a possible recapture by force.
But the fiery sweet intervention had a clear message, or rather two. The first is that China alone can guarantee "political stability". Xi said: "The best criteria [in deciding the merits of a political system] is whether a country’s history, culture and social system fits its particular situation, enjoys people’s support, serves to deliver political stability, social progress and better lives, and contributes to human progress”.
The second, very similar to the first, is: do not choose the US model, still recovering from the assault on Capitol Hill a few weeks ago and marked by the virus of democracy.
The "value of the China model" has been discussed among economists, politicians and entrepreneurs for years. After the 2008 crisis, China alone has been able to show an impressive growth of its GDP. Moreover, as the pandemic has slowed its pace, it has been the first to recover. The fact that Taiwan has done better than Beijing is barely even considered: what really matters is applauding the economic and pandemic successes of an authoritarian system, a system that does not waste time listening to the different voices of society and the freedom of expression, so tied to freedom of trade.
The fact that this system produces victims is apparently unimportant. Entrepreneurs like Jack Ma find themselves held back in their globalization momentum; Uyghur Muslims are imprisoned in forced labour and de-Islamization camps; Christians are accused of being Covid infectors; intellectuals, dissidents, new citizens, journalists are silenced by throwing them into misery and prison. All of this is considered mere "collateral damage" in the name of the supreme good of "political stability".
Yet despite all of this, neither are we supporters of the "US model" or even the "Trump model": neither has the United States signed the anti-nuclear treaty and is in first place for the sale of arms worldwide (China is right behind it) ... Even American society has its "collateral" victims: immigrants, African-Americans, but also whites, small business owners, workers, ... As several scholars and observers have pointed out, the same assault on Capitol Hill cannot be dismissed as a subversive and presumptuous attempt by supremacists.
Many - most - of those who demonstrated on January 6 in Washington were the victims of a system that, under the guise of globalization, has forgotten their needs for healthcare, dignity, culture, work. From this point of view, Biden's attempt to bring everything under the inflexibility of the law, as if to erase these elements of civil society, is very similar to the "political stability" desired by Xi.
The real problem is that both in the United States and in China - as throughout the world – one power dominates, the financial one, which pays no heed to what happens in reality and detaches itself from it using Biden's law of "politically correct" or the despotic one of the Chinese Communist Party.
In 2020, nearly 2 million people died from the pandemic; millions of individuals have lost their jobs; the new poor have grown by at least 100 million; the global economy has lost a tenth of its wealth. Yet it is impressive that in the same period, the world of finance has gained more than ever: the stock exchanges have been positive, shares have grown in value. As economist Andy Xi notes and, “Tesla has grown 10 times; bitcoin five times and the Nasdaq almost doubled ". At the same time, in China, house prices have soared, just as cities were deserted with the lockdown.
We continue to argue about the tug of war between supporters of the "China model" or "US model", but in reality we should think about how to change this economy which is overly dependent on finance and not on the real production of wealth. It is this financial power that exploits first one, then the other model and finally both to increase its dominance, which is in turn good for Biden's power and for Xi's.
Chinese bid farewell to Trump with mixed sentiments of criticism and sarcasm
20th January 2021
By: Yang Sheng and Wang Qi
As the end of Donald Trump's presidency draws nigh, thousands of Chinese netizens have commented and interacted with a Global Times post that asked them to describe the controversial outgoing US president and his contentious tenure in a few key words or phrases, with the overwhelming consensus one of negativity and mockery toward the 45th president of the US.
Experts and journalists reached by the Global Times also gave their thoughts on the eve of the inauguration of Trump's successor, president-elect Joe Biden.While they expect a much steadier administration, many admitted that it would not be as entertaining or interesting. Others warned that the effects of Trumpism will cast a shadow as Biden attempts to rebuild shattered US relations and heal a nation in turmoil.
The most common words and phrases mentioned under the Global Times posts include destruction, dishonest, selfish, populism, McCarthyism, unilateralism, protectionism, anti-globalization, untrustworthy, messy, crazy, arrogant, uncertainty, low-credit, funny, laughable, gravedigger of US hegemony, and enemy to pro-US sycophants. As of press time, the online quiz has received about 700 comments and 3,000 likes on Sina Weibo.
Chinese experts said it is unlikely many will make many compliments or positive comments regarding Trump, whether in China or in the US, because the changes that he has made to the US, China-US relations and international relations have been largely negative and destructive, and his governance has caused unprecedented and irreversible consequences.
But some journalists of international politics and China-US ties have mixed feelings about him because they no longer need to stare at his Twitter feed 24/7 in case of shocking tweet storms. The flip side is that Chinese journalists have lost a treasury and a comical window to observe US politics directly.
President of destruction
Many who commented on the Global Times post mentioned the word "destruction" in connection with Trump, as he has destroyed and broken many established rules, constructions, agreements, deals, and ties with other countries, and especially he has damaged the soft power and image of the US.
A web user said in a comment with more than 500 likes, "He just uncovered the dark side of 'democracy' in capitalist countries for us. So the sacred presidential election is actually full of fraud and cheating." Another joked, "Why didn't they let him be reelected? Then he can probably become the last president of the US."
Chinese experts have summarized Trump's legacies in the aspects of politics, economy and foreign affairs. He further divided American grass roots and establishment elites, failed to realize the promise of getting manufacturing industry back to the US from overseas, caused "post-traumatic stress disorder" to US-led alliances and made China-US ties worsen to the brink of a new cold war despite the administration launching no war, they said.
Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Trump represents a division of the US and a resurgence of McCarthyism regarding the international stage, especially toward China.
Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, summarized the Trump administration as one of "subversive destruction" in general and "fundamental regress" when it comes to China-US ties. "He has blocked the trend toward integration between China and the US, turning the certainties of both countries into uncertainty," Li said.
Almost no one on social media remembered that at the beginning of Trump's term, he had expressed a friendly stance toward China and its top leadership. He showed video clips of his granddaughter, Arabella Kushner, daughter of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, singing a Chinese song and reciting Chinese poems on diplomatic occasions, and he praised China's assistance publicly on issues like mediating the US-North Korea tension.
The images that have most stuck in the minds of Chinese people are when he hyped Sinophobia and racism during the COVID-19 pandemic. He sought to assign blame and stigmatize China on almost everything to cover his failed governance, and he launched a trade war to the detriment of not only Chinese firms but also American interests. The US under his governance continues to become more hostile toward Chinese nationals and immigrants, more unequal between the black and the white and the rich and the poor, more incapable of protecting its own people from the coronavirus epidemic, and more divided and violent, even though the election is a done deal, said Chinese analysts.
"During his presidency, China-US ties reached the lowest point in [modern] history. Any worse situation would be unimaginable, so this could be good news for the future, because no matter what changes Biden is to make, they will at least be better than Trump's policies," Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
"Although Trump has wrought some damage on China, the losses he inflicted on the US are much greater. Trump has brought unprecedented destruction to the legal legitimacy and moral legitimacy of the US. The huge damage to the credibility of the country will seriously undermine the US's status as a leader of the Western world," Lü noted.
The US is becoming increasingly unreliable and uncertain, and this is not an asset of a supposed leader of the world, Lü said. The Biden administration will inherit the fallout as well, because even though Trump's rules and policies will be overturned, if Trumpism returns, everything will revert. This uncertainty will make many countries, even loyal US allies, distance their own interests from the US.
During the Trump presidency, especially amid the pandemic, the world has seen grievous levels of individualism and brusque arrogance among the US. Trump's destruction of US-led alliances, of the system of global governance and of the system of capitalism, would be catastrophic. He has not only ruined the reputation of the US, but that of the whole Western world, as well as capitalism, Wang noted.
Although US allies are saying "welcome back" to the US, on concrete issues like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Iran nuclear deal, European countries and Japan are exercising caution. They decided to reach historic agreements on trade and investment with China as soon as possible despite the Biden team asking them to wait, and the China-EU investment agreement is evidence of this, Chinese analysts said.
The impact of Trumpism, which represents populism, anti-establishment, anti-elitism, and even encouraging overturning the election results with use of force, will be lingering and lasting long, Li said, noting that Trump's stepping down was a setback for the far right, but that Trumpism still has chance to rise in both the US and Europe again. Problems like immigration, ethnic and sectarian conflicts, and uneven development during globalization remain unresolved, he said.
Some Chinese netizens are still trying to have some fun on the last full day of Trump's presidency. Comments under the Global Times' online quiz include phrases describing Trump as "Comrade Jianguo" and "undercover agent of the Party." Jianguo literally means "build the country," but in this case, they mock that Trump is doing his best to build up China to the detriment of the US.
These words refer to a popular meme on Chinese social media that says Trump is "an agent sent by China to win the election in 2016 and disrupt the US to make it as messy as possible, so China can distract US suppression against China and win the competition easily."
One of the comments with more than 1,200 likes under the Global Times' quiz mocked that "His loyalty will be remembered in the East, as he brought disaster to the West."
This meme has become even more popular after the January 6 Capitol riots. Some netizens said they are reluctant to bid Trump farewell, hoping he will remain in the White House to wreak more trouble on the US and bring more advantages to China. Some Chinese web users suggested Trump should open an account on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like popular social media platform, after he leaves office, since all US social media platforms have blocked him.
"If American media, officials or people learn about this meme, they should not be surprised and angry, as this is the sense of humor of Chinese people to ease the pressure and anger against the US amid the unprecedented hostility from the Trump administration. The majority of us don't like Trumpism at all, and we hope the Biden administration can fix [bilateral] ties," said a Beijing-based journalist on China-US relations who asked for anonymity.
In a December 2020 survey conducted by the Global Times, 31.7 percent said they believe Biden will bring certain opportunities to ease China-US tensions, with 28.5 percent pessimistic about the new US administration, and 39.8 percent found the situation unclear.
Trump was thanked by many web users as he made many Chinese people become more informed on US politics. They said that Trump is "the enemy" to Chinese "public intellectuals" and sycophants who frequently flatter, with strong bias, the US and trumpet Western democracy to stigmatize the socialist political system of China.
Trump caused the fairy tales about US democracy created by Chinese "public intellectuals" to collapse, because his poor handling of the pandemic, his dishonest and anti-intellectual statements, faithless behavior on the international arena, and the riots incited by him to challenge the election made the puffery of US democracy increasingly unconvincing, and in comparison, more Chinese feel confident on China's path of socialism.
Li Xiang, editor-in-chief of the Wiews, a Beijing-based online media outlet, said "emotionally, I am a little bit reluctant to bid farewell to him, because we need a mighty internet celebrity like him to make the political news more popular and entertaining, but rationally, I hope he and his sidekicks like [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo will go away as soon as possible, because the world doesn't need liars to be celebrities."
China-US relations: Beijing says ‘new window of hope’ is opening as it offers Biden administration an olive branch
2nd January 2021
South China Morning Post
Minister Wang Yi urges incoming president to try to get relations back on track
* Wang says efforts to ‘start new cold war’ have hurt both countries after ties worsened under Donald Trump
By: Shi Jiangtao
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has offered an olive branch to the incoming Biden administration, saying a “new window of hope” is opening.
In a wide-ranging interview with state news agency Xinhua published on Saturday, he urged the Biden administration to adopt a sensible approach and restart engagement with China to get bilateral ties back on track despite “unprecedented difficulties”.
“China-US relations have come to a new crossroads, and a new window of hope is opening,” Wang said. “We hope that the next US administration will return to a sensible approach, resume dialogue with China, restore normalcy to the bilateral relations and restart cooperation.”
Wang and other Chinese officials have appealed for a fresh start on several occasions after President Xi Jinping congratulated Joe Biden on his victory in late November.
Relations between the two countries have deteriorated sharply amid growing economic and technological decoupling; clashes over Taiwan, the South China Sea, Hong Kong and Xinjiang; and rows over issues such as the origins of the coronavirus and US sanctions on Huawei.
While China’s nationalist shift under Xi and its increasingly aggressive diplomatic approach are seen by many as contributing to the breakdown of bilateral ties, Wang put the blame squarely on deep-rooted bias and misperceptions about China’s rapid rise.
“What has happened proves that the US attempts to suppress China and start a new cold war has not just seriously harmed the interests of the two peoples, but also caused severe disruption to the world. Such a policy will find no support and is doomed to fail,” Wang said.
He also sought to address fears among American elites about Washington’s relative decline as the world’s dominant superpower, which showed signs of accelerating under Donald Trump, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“[The] best way to keep one’s lead is through constant self-improvement, not by blocking others’ development,” he said. “We don’t need a world where China becomes another United States. This is neither rational nor feasible. Rather, the United States should try to make itself a better country, and China will surely become its better self.”
Observers said the conciliatory remarks may offer some hopes for many countries torn between economic dependence on Beijing and their ties with Washington, but warned China remained downbeat about relations in the future.
Pang Zhongying, an international affairs specialist at the Ocean University of China, said: “Few people in Beijing are actually optimistic about the US-China relations under the Biden presidency, with most expecting bilateral tensions to last, if not get much worse.”
He said the message was also intended for many other countries, which may also need to reconsider their stance on the US-China rivalry once Biden takes office. “His remarks are largely reminiscent of the good old days … during the pre-Trump era that are gone for good,” Pang said.
For Beijing’s perspective, one of Trump’s biggest mistakes was his disdain for dialogue and diplomatic exchanges, which led to the demise of America’s decades-long policy of engagement with China.
Wang suggested the two sides should still be able to resolve their differences through dialogue “as long as the United States can draw lessons from the past and work with China”.
He said: “This will allow the two major countries to establish a model of coexistence that benefits both countries and the world, and open up new development prospects in line with the trend of history.”
Wang, also put a positive spin on China’s troubled relations with its Asian neighbours, Europe and Africa.
China’s traditionally trade-driven relations with the EU have taken a drastic turn for the worse this year in the wake of the pandemic, as Beijing’s increasingly assertive diplomacy, its trade practices and repressive domestic policies faced tighter international scrutiny.
The two sides finally agreed an investment deal last month after years of negotiations – a development that prompted Wang to call for Brussels to work with China to tackle global challenges instead of “serving bloc politics”.
But Duncan Freeman, a visiting professor at the Free University of Brussels, said that while the deal helped balance China’s rapidly deteriorating relations with the US, it “does not fundamentally change either the economics or politics of the EU-China relationship”.
Wang also praised Russia, which has moved closer to China in recent years, saying there was “no ceiling to how far this cooperation can go” and said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership was a “historic breakthrough” in China’s relations with its Southeast Asian neighbours.
Philippe Le Corre, a non-resident fellow in the Europe and Asia programmes at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said China appeared to have been emboldened by its success at controlling the coronavirus despite feeling besieged as the rivalry with the US intensified.
“China aims at gathering third countries behind its banner – mainly in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and various parts of Asia, whenever possible. It is trying to secure support over its foreign policy, while the West is divided, at least in Beijing’s eyes,” he said.
“The reality is that many countries are not comfortable with China’s policy – not just in the West, but outside, as various surveys have demonstrated.”
Pang also said Wang’s remarks had largely glossed over the problems and challenges Beijing faced in the post-coronavirus world. For instance, he made no mention of Japan and India, which have an increasingly tense relationship with Beijing.
“We don’t see serious self-reflection or any signs of policy adjustments, which may be necessary to counter an emerging anti-China coalition,” he said.
But he said Beijing still had cause for optimism because of the disenchantment among US allies over Trump’s unilateral and confrontational approach to China.
“Wang’s remarks, especially his insistence about China’s success in making more friends, were also meant as a warning to Washington that it too faces an imminent turning point as countries may choose to stay further away from an increasingly populist and nationalist America,” Pang said.
* This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Wang holds out olive branch to Joe BidenWang holds out olive branch to Joe Biden
CHINA TODAY UPDATE
1. The importance of respecting the rights of the weakest
2. China finally waves goodbye to family planning as country gets old, but is the damage already done?
The importance of respecting the rights of the weakest
20th November 2020
Agenzia Fides - www.fides.org
ASIA - The importance of respecting the rights of the weakest within the framework of the trade agreement in East Asia, a driving force for development
Hanoi (Agenzia Fides) - The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the newborn economic cooperation agreement between 15 Asian nations representing globally about a third of the GDP and the world population raises hopes and concerns among civil society in the various countries of Asia. In the intentions of its creators, the pact will become a driving force for development in East Asia. But the official birth of the agreement - with the signing during a virtual conference on November 15 in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi - has also aroused concern, especially among civil society organizations because of the effects the agreement could have on the most fragile and weakest segments of the population such as farmers or craftsmen.
"The Covid crisis should be an opportunity to realize how important farmers, fishermen and other food producers are", commented the Indonesian NGO "Solidaritas Perempuan". Asian human rights monitoring networks and platforms such as "Focus on Global South" highlight dangers for people working in the informal sector, small manufacturing businesses and for farmers: all people who live on minimal profit margins with mediators who then export the goods. Drastically reducing tariffs on agricultural products, for example, could have tragic consequences for small producers and for women who work for the subsistence of their families in the context of small-scale agriculture. The situation, the NGOs warn, is aggravated by the presence of Covid-19.
The Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (Apwld), based in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), referring to Rcep said. "In Asia, the pandemic has taken so many lives, destroyed economies, swept away millions of jobs and livelihoods in ways never seen before. Right now, any economic, fiscal and political decision must reflect the needs and priorities of the peoples".
From Manila, the NGO "Trade Justice Pilipinas" has also joined the chorus: "In the years in which we have followed the negotiations, we have constantly expressed our concerns about the negative implications of Rcep on the Philippine economy". The concerns are shared by trade unions in Indonesia, South Korea, Australia, Malaysia and Cambodia which, as stated by the trade union platform "Public Service International" have expressed their reservations about the effects of the agreement on jobs.
The Rcep negotiation marathon began 8 years ago with a negotiation started in 2011 in Bali during an ASEAN summit. Last year India, initially involved, withdrew, thus delaying the official inauguration of the agreement for a year. Rcep includes all ten ASEAN countries (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations which includes: Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia) and five countries of Oceania and East Asia: China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
The agreement intends to gradually reduce custom tariffs on many goods and services, integrating the commitments already established with the World Trade Organization, by taking into account sectors such as e-commerce or intellectual property rights. Even if it will not be easy to align very different economic situations, the 15 signatory states which launched the Rcep have provided for safeguard clauses aimed at protecting specific products or countries. Rcep was also born as a multilateral cooperation structure in the search for mutual economic advantage. (MG-PA) (Agenzia Fides)
China finally waves goodbye to family planning as country gets old, but is the damage already done?
9th November 2020
South China Morning Post
China finally waves goodbye to family planning as country gets old, but is the damage already done?
* China’s ‘Jihua Shengyu’, or family planning, policy was not included in the latest national plan released by the ruling Communist Party
* China’s one-child policy, which became a two child policy in 2016, was in place for four decades until the social and economic costs became just too obvious to ignore
By: Zhou Xin
The era of family planning through birth restrictions is ending in China. This was made clear by the fact that the four character Chinese phrase, Jihua Shengyu, was not included in the latest 20,000 character national plan released by the ruling Communist Party.
I was born in 1979 and so was part of China’s first “only child” generation as Beijing rolled out its one-child policy across the country.
Jihua Shengyu meant that many of my classmates from primary school to university had older sisters and brothers, but few had younger siblings. It also meant my mother repeatedly telling me what a pity it was that she could not have a daughter. It meant that for my generation and the ones that followed, the default family size was three – a couple and one child. While it is a universal law to see family size shrinking and population ageing as a result of economic growth, China’s family planning policy has greatly accelerated the process.
After four decades of ruthless implementation, the family planning policy has left a collective mark on the Chinese people, profoundly changing their views of family.
There are many horrible stories related to Jihua Shengyu, including forced abortions, mandatory sterilisation, infanticide and hefty fines. For most Chinese families, the cost was just too high to challenge it. People just got used to it. As a result, the one-child policy, which became a two child policy in 2016, was in place for four decades until the social and economic costs became just too obvious to ignore.
Some Chinese officials had trumpeted the value of family planning in helping China’s economic miracle. It may be true that there were “demographic dividends” as young couples saved more, spent more and allocated more time to work – especially for young women – but the short-term gains came with long-term consequences that have just started to emerge.
The number of people over 65 will rise above 300 million in 2035, creating a huge challenge for China’s already underfunded state pension and health care systems. The country’s labour force will keep shrinking and consumer demand is likely to decline, as well, as older people generally consume less.
The problem of “shrinking cities” in many places is already obvious, especially in the northeast, as young and ambitious Chinese people increasingly seek opportunity in big cities and regional economic hubs.
In hindsight, Jihua Shengyu probably did more harm than good. Although it is a bit late, it is still good to wave a goodbye to the policy.
* This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Family planning backfires in ageing China
PRESIDENT XI JINPING, CHINA: HIS SPEECH IN FULL TO THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM AT DAVOS: JANUARY 2017