Showing posts with label China. Show all posts
Showing posts with label China. Show all posts

26 August 2019

The Dictators’ Last Stand

By Yascha Mounk

Why the New Autocrats Are Weaker Than They Look

It has been a good decade for dictatorship. The global influence of the world’s most powerful authoritarian countries, China and Russia, has grown rapidly. For the first time since the late nineteenth century, the cumulative GDP of autocracies now equals or exceeds that of Western liberal democracies. Even ideologically, autocrats appear to be on the offensive: at the G-20 summit in June, for instance, President Vladimir Putin dropped his normal pretense that Russia is living up to liberal democratic standards, declaring instead that “modern liberalism” has become “obsolete.” 

Conversely, it has been a terrible decade for democracy. According to Freedom House, the world is now in the 13th consecutive year of a global democratic recession. Democracies have collapsed or eroded in every region, from Burundi to Hungary, Thailand to Venezuela. Most troubling of all, democratic institutions have proved to be surprisingly brittle in countries where they once seemed stable and secure.

Beijing Is Shooting Its Own Foot in Hong Kong


As protests continue to rock Hong Kong, Beijing’s efforts to contain the unrest and impose its narrative on the unfolding events, both at home and abroad, are beginning to have an impact—but perhaps not in the way that the Chinese leaders intended. Hong Kong just celebrated its first tear gas-free weekend in a month. Vast crowds—police estimated 128,000 protesters within Victoria Park alone, while organizers said a total of 1.7 million people marched on the day—braved tropical downpours in an entirely incident-free and peaceful march that demonstrated that enthusiasm for the movement has not waned.

This proved inconvenient for Beijing, as the official propaganda machine has continued to portray the protesters as violent rioters unrepresentative of the wider Hong Kong community. Beijing’s official media is becoming increasingly shrill and unhinged, with the state news agency Xinhua and tabloid the Global Times adopting Cultural Revolution rhetoric in depicting four key Hong Kong pro-democracy figures as a “‘Gang of Four’ endangering Hong Kong.”

Trump’s trade war with China is all about national security

By Myron Magnet

Anyone who says that President Trump is unable to learn on the job hasn’t been paying attention to how much his insight into a host of key problems has deepened over three years. But the president would do us a favor if he would clearly explain, above all, just how his thinking about China has changed since he took office. That intellectual evolution lies at the heart of what might make him a more consequential president than even those who voted for him ever imagined.

He started out as a mossbacked mercantilist, fuming about the trade imbalance between the world’s two biggest economies. Why was China selling us so many pots and pans, lightbulbs, TVs and computers, while buying a much smaller dollar amount of pork bellies, cars and tractors? Surely improper currency manipulation and state subsidies must account for so large a trade deficit, and surely, he imagined it was sucking the wealth right out of our nation.

Though sophisticated economists countered that it benefits rather than impoverishes us to have another country sell us goods we want for less than it would cost us to make them, Trump sensed the social costs of this imbalance with an acuity the economists lacked. It was killing our factory towns, weakening our social fabric and transferring abroad important skills and capabilities that we might someday regret having lost, especially if we needed to scale them up quickly. The gain in these transactions was easier to quantify than the loss.

U.S. SAYS CHINA IS BLOCKING TRILLIONS IN OIL AND GAS, WILL SEND NAVY FOR ASIA DRILLS

BY TOM O'CONNOR 

The United States has accused China of preventing Southeast Asian countries from accessing trillions of dollars worth of untapped oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea as the Pentagon planned to hold its first exercise with regional powers near the strategic region.

In a press statement, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Thursday that the "United States is deeply concerned that China is continuing its interference with Vietnam's longstanding oil and gas activities in Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claim" following recent incursions there by Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and an armed escort. Beijing has laid vast claims to the South China Sea and does not recognize boundaries established there by a number of Southeast Asian nations who are supported by the U.S.

The most recent incident occurred last week near Vanguard Bank, a Vietnam-administered outpost in the contested Spratly Islands, and Ortagus attributed the move to China "pressuring Vietnam over its work with a Russian energy firm and other international partners."

Beijing Is Shooting Its Own Foot in Hong Kong

By Antony Dapiran

As protests continue to rock Hong Kong, Beijing’s efforts to contain the unrest and impose its narrative on the unfolding events, both at home and abroad, are beginning to have an impact—but perhaps not in the way that the Chinese leaders intended. Hong Kong just celebrated its first tear gas-free weekend in a month. Vast crowds—police estimated 128,000 protesters within Victoria Park alone, while organizers said a total of 1.7 million people marched on the day—braved tropical downpours in an entirely incident-free and peaceful march that demonstrated that enthusiasm for the movement has not waned.

This proved inconvenient for Beijing, as the official propaganda machine has continued to portray the protesters as violent rioters unrepresentative of the wider Hong Kong community. Beijing’s official media is becoming increasingly shrill and unhinged, with the state news agency Xinhua and tabloid the Global Times adopting Cultural Revolution rhetoric in depicting four key Hong Kong pro-democracy figures as a “‘Gang of Four’ endangering Hong Kong.”

25 August 2019

A Marriage of Convenience

Brahma Chellaney
Source Link

The partnership between the world’s largest autocracy (China) and the Mecca of jihadist terrorism (Pakistan) has been cemented on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), 55% of which the two together occupy. As revanchist states, Pakistan and China are still seeking to grab more of J&K.

Like a typical school bully, China doesn’t have a lot of friends. Having joined with the US to impose international sanctions on its former vassal, North Korea, China has just one real ally left — an increasingly fragile and debt-ridden Pakistan. China, however, has little in common with Pakistan, beyond the fact that both are revanchist states not content with their existing borders. Despite China’s brutal repression of its Muslims, Pakistan remains Beijing’s tail-wagging client. The marriage of convenience between the world’s largest autocracy and the fountainhead of jihadist terrorism is founded on a shared strategy to contain India.

What I Saw in Hong Kong

by Brenda Hafera

The people are fighting for their rights and institutions, but things are only getting worse.

I spent July in Hong Kong. It’s a regular part of my year, as the director of an international program for undergraduate students. But this summer the city was immersed in protests. And I witnessed something inspirational, disquieting, and foreboding. I saw people fighting for the character of their country. 

Background

Hong Kongers have been protesting since the introduction of an extradition bill which would have allowed citizens, residents, and potentially visitors to be sent to China for trial. The public reaction was as immediate as the implications were recognizable. Under that bill, political dissenters could be handed over to a regime which dubiously defines crimes and where prisoners are made to commit suicide. In the face of such a reality, two million of Hong Kong’s seven million came out in protest. 

China Urges Dialogue During Trilateral Meet With Japan, South Korea

By Shannon Tiezzi

Ongoing tensions between Tokyo and Seoul cast a notable pall over the foreign ministers meeting.

Even as South Korea announced it was withdrawing from an intelligence sharing agreement with Japan, amid broader tensions in that bilateral relationship, the foreign ministers from both countries were in China for an annual trilateral dialogue. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted his counterparts from South Korea and Japan, Kang Kyung-wha and Taro Kono, respectively, for a ministerial dialogue on Wednesday, with a bonus meeting between Kang, Kono, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday.

Japan-South Korea ties are locked in a downward spiral. Prior to today’s announcement about the scrapped intelligence agreement, Japan had placed export controls on materials critical to South Korea’s high-tech industry and removed South Korea from its “white list” of trusted trade partners. South Korea responded in kind. Japan’s trade restrictions are widely understood to be retaliation for 2018 court rulings that hold Japanese companies liable for Koreans’ forced labor during World War II (although the Japanese government has officially denied any connection). As always, historical issues continue to haunt Japan’s relationships with its neighbors.

The Sources of Chinese Conduct


In February 1946, as the Cold War was coming into being, George Kennan, the chargé d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, sent the State Department a 5,000-word cable in which he tried to explain Soviet behavior and outline a response to it. A year later, the text of his famous “Long Telegram” was expanded into a Foreign Affairs article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct.” Writing under the byline “X,” Kennan argued that the Soviets’ Marxist-Leninist ideology was for real and that this worldview, plus a deep sense of insecurity, was what drove Soviet expansionism. But this didn’t mean that outright confrontation was inevitable, he pointed out, since “the Kremlin has no compunction about retreating in the face of superior force.” What the United States had to do to ensure its own long-term security, then, was contain the Soviet threat. If it did, then Soviet power would ultimately crumble. Containment, in other words, was both necessary and sufficient. 

Kennan’s message became the canonical text for those who tried to understand the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. Always controversial and often revised (not least by the author himself), the containment strategy that Kennan laid out would define U.S. policy until the end of the Cold War. And as Kennan predicted, when the end did come, it came not just because of the strength and steadfastness of the United States and its allies but even more because of weaknesses and contradictions in the Soviet system itself. 

Bailing Out China’s Belt and Road


On August 3, in his first visit to the Asia-Pacific region, new U.S. secretary of defense Mark Esper called out several examples of aggressive conduct by China, including “using predatory economics and debt-for-sovereignty deals.” The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has created some conflicts between recipient governments and international institutions in the past. Perhaps the latest and starkest example is in Pakistan, where a wave of BRI projects was followed by this summer’s bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

When the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was announced in 2015, it should have been easy for followers of the BRI to foresee where the initiative was heading. Even at its initial announced value of $46 billion, the initiative would have amounted to more than 20 percent of Pakistan’s GDP. While details were unclear, as they often are with the BRI, the majority of lending would inevitably come in the form of direct bilateral loans from The Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM) or the China Development Bank (CDB). This was the case for Pakistan’s precedents in Sri Lanka, Kenya, Montenegro, Congo, and other recipients of ambitious bilateral lending initiatives, each of which led to a debt crisis several years later.

Rare Earths: Next Element in the Trade War?

When Chinese President Xi Jinping toured a rare-earth processor a week after the Trump administration blacklisted Huawei in May, he highlighted the importance of rare earths in global supply chains—a statement widely interpreted as a threat to restrict Chinese exports to the United States. Since then, Chinese government organizations and state media have indicated that China is prepared to follow through on that threat as economic tensions between the world’s two largest economies continue to escalate. With the trade war having moved beyond tariffs and into issues such as currency, rare earths could be the next salvoin the conflict.

Q1: What are rare earths and what are they used for?

A1: Rare-earth elements are a group of 17 metals that includes the 15 lanthanides of the periodic table as well as yttrium and scandium, which possess similar chemical properties. As an input for a variety of advanced industries, rare earths play an integral role in the modern economy. Together, these elements are found in everything from LED displays to weapons systems. For example, europium and terbium are a key component found in televisions, while neodymium and samarium are used to guide precision missiles and smart bombs.

Selling to Huawei


The announcement by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross extending a license that allows Huawei to purchase from U.S. suppliers should not be that baffling nor does it reflect contradictions in U.S. policy. The items sold to Huawei do not pose a national security risk. In fact, banning these items would harm national security by unnecessarily damaging U.S. companies.

Most of the items that can continue to be sold are "end items," final products like semiconductors. Huawei cannot make modern mobile phones without these chips. But refusing to sell them does not mean that Huawei would go out of business. It will develop alternate sources of supply, and in the interim, the Chinese government is not going to let its favorite national champion collapse because of U.S. pressure. China will pay what it takes to keep Huawei going. At the same time, Huawei will find less advanced replacement technologies that will let it keep selling, at least to the lower end of the market. If there is any harm, it is will fall on U.S. companies.

The Sources of Chinese Conduct Are Washington and Beijing Fighting a New Cold War?

In February 1946, as the Cold War was coming into being, George Kennan, the chargé d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, sent the State Department a 5,000-word cable in which he tried to explain Soviet behavior and outline a response to it. A year later, the text of his famous “Long Telegram” was expanded into a Foreign Affairs article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct.” Writing under the byline “X,” Kennan argued that the Soviets’ Marxist-Leninist ideology was for real and that this worldview, plus a deep sense of insecurity, was what drove Soviet expansionism. But this didn’t mean that outright confrontation was inevitable, he pointed out, since “the Kremlin has no compunction about retreating in the face of superior force.” What the United States had to do to ensure its own long-term security, then, was contain the Soviet threat. If it did, then Soviet power would ultimately crumble. Containment, in other words, was both necessary and sufficient. 

A Malaysian Rare Earth Processing Plant Looms Large in the U.S.-China Trade Spat


The extension of Lynas' mining permit removes a key threat to the global supply of rare earths from outside China — at least for now. Domestic Malaysian political maneuvering could jeopardize the project, as Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad maintains a tenuous hold on his coalition government. Additional rare earth processing plants are likely to come online in the coming years, especially if tensions remain high between the United States and China, thereby slowly reducing the significance of the Malaysian facility. 

A key link in the global rare earth supply chain is set to stay in business — albeit perhaps not for very long. The Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board officially decided on Aug. 15 to extend an operating permit for Pahang state's Australian-owned Lynas Advanced Materials Plant, which processes rare earths that the company mines in Australia, for an additional six months ahead of a Sept. 2 expiration date. The decision addresses an eight-month dispute between Lynas and Kuala Lumpur regarding the processing and disposal of low-level radioactive materials like thorium that are mined alongside rare earths but become waste after the rare earth elements are separated. 

The Big Picture

Hong Kong: Despite a Lull in Violence, the City Remains on a Knife-Edge


Anti-government protests in Hong Kong that erupted over a now-suspended extradition bill and escalated dramatically and violently over the past few weeks have put the city's all-important business and transport activities at risk and raised the prospect of direct intervention by Beijing. Protests over the weekend, although sizable, remained relatively peaceful. But given the general course of the protest movement and the demonstrators' deep — and unaddressed — grievances, the path to a resolution is far from certain.

What Happened 

Hong Kong's standoff is no closer to resolution — this weekend's otherwise peaceful protests notwithstanding. On Aug. 17, teachers rallied against the government and the actions by the city's police before opponents gathered in support of the security forces. Another protest in the city's Mong Kok neighborhood nearly touched off clashes between police and protesters before cooler heads prevailed. Far larger protests followed the next day, as hundreds of thousands of people, many clutching umbrellas, rallied peacefully at an event organized by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), which previously staged several peaceful protests, including two large gatherings in June against the extradition bill that ignited the territory's unrest in the first place.

What’s in it for China? A Beijing Insider’s Surprising Insight on Nuclear Arms Control

GEORGE PERKOVICH

If bookies took wagers on nuclear weapons, the odds would be very high that in eighteen months all legal controls on nuclear arsenals will have ended. That’s because the smart money says that Washington and Moscow will not extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) before it expires in February 2021. This means that the United States and Russia, like China and the six other nuclear-armed countries, will be free to build and deploy as many of these weapons as they want.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration—perhaps against the odds—says its top priority is to establish a new “twenty-first-century model of arms control” that would include China, as well as Russia and the United States. But Beijing declined an invitation to discuss these issues with U.S. and Russian diplomats in Geneva in July 2019. (The U.S.-Russian talks ended with no report of progress).

To learn why, I called a highly regarded nuclear expert in Beijing. Though no one outside the Chinese leadership circle knows what the main considerations are, this expert is generally well informed. In the end, I was surprised by where he took the conversation.

What Trump Doesn’t Get About the Chinese Economy

By ZACHARY KARABELL
 
The president likes to say that his tariffs are hurting China and no one else. But if China is feeling the pain, so will the United States.

As President Donald Trump escalates his trade war with China, the administration is adamant that China is bearing the brunt of the tariffs. “They’re not hurting anybody [in the United States],” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “They’re hurting China.”

Trump and his defenders quite often use this rationale for the tariffs currently imposed on nearly $250 billion of Chinese exports to the United States. The tariffs, they say, will cause economic pain to China and force the Beijing government to make concessions on things like market access and stronger protections for intellectual property. When China recently announced that its quarterly economic growth had slowed from 6.4 percent to 6.2 percent, Trump tweeted that the slowdown was a direct result of his tariffs and would compel China to make a trade deal. The administration routinely claims that it wants to make a trade deal, but Trump especially seems to delight in evidence that his policy is causing economic suffering in Beijing. As a recent analysis in Foreign Affairs put it, “it has become clear that the administration is bent on severing, not fixing, the relationship.” 

24 August 2019

China’s Belt and Road ‘Reboot’ Is Really a Foreign Influence Campaign

Zach Montague 

Of the many paradoxes surrounding China today, the trajectory of its massive Belt and Road Initiative has become one of the most puzzling. Even as the expansive plan has become essentially synonymous with Chinese foreign policy in general, it remains increasingly difficult to nail down with precision what, exactly, it is. 

The Belt and Road Initiative today is most readily identifiable as an infrastructure development program, since media coverage tends to focus on flagship projects like ports and power plants, as well as the fallout when some of them go awry. But while Chinese Communist Party leaders hail the scheme in lofty economic terms, in practice, it has become something of a catchall for an almost catholic variety of loosely connected projects and initiatives overseas, all bearing its name. 

Can China be a responsible power in a new era?

FRANK CHING

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based journalist.

Tensions over Kashmir, the border region that’s contested by India and Pakistan, have simmered and flared for more than seven decades. But earlier this month, India’s government decided to strip the special region of the autonomy guaranteed to it in its constitution since Kashmir became quasi-independent in 1947 and institute a two-week military lockdown. Pakistan, which claims the region as its own and has fought three wars with India, has predictably pushed back.

And stepping into the breach, urging multilateral peace, is China.

The fact that Beijing wants to involve itself in finding peace between two other countries dealing with governance problems may be something of a surprise, given the international attention currently being paid to the still-roiling pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. But on Aug. 16, the United Nations Security Council held a meeting on the Kashmir issue, the first in more than 50 years. Pakistan had requested the meeting, and it was backed by China, wielding its permanent Security Council membership.

Information operations directed at Hong Kong

By Twitter Safety

We are disclosing a significant state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong, specifically the protest movement and their calls for political change.

What we are disclosing

This disclosure consists of 936 accounts originating from within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Overall, these accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground. Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation. Specifically, we identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protests.

As Twitter is blocked in PRC, many of these accounts accessed Twitter using VPNs. However, some accounts accessed Twitter from specific unblocked IP addresses originating in mainland China. The accounts we are sharing today represent the most active portions of this campaign; a larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts — many created following our initial suspensions — were proactively suspended before they were substantially active on the service.