Category: Chinese Politics (Page 1 of 3)

Climate leadership passes to China?

Questions about the rift between liberal institutionalism and sovereignty became deeper with US President Donald Trump unilaterally announcing withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Climate agreement. Trump’s argument is that the deal wasn’t fair, and disadvantages US businesses and workers. Trump also mentioned that this deal throws a spanner in American oil and coal industries, even when the world is cutting down on coal. The opposition to this move has been global so far. The Paris agreement commits US and other countries to keep global temperature rising to pre industrial level. While there are valid questions about the implementation of the deal, it is widely accepted as a necessity for the planet by every country and every major powers of the globe. US now stands essentially against the entire world when it comes to climate change.

Trump stated that his goal was to renegotiate the treaty. It is understood that’s an impossible task, to have 193 different bilateral treaties and then ass them with Senate. Already, Italy, Germany, and France, the big three have jointly stated that this decision was regrettable. “We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni stated in a joint statement. Japan hasn’t signed the statement, but has echoed similar sentiment, while May of UK said that while it is regrettable it’s a decision by Washington and not London. Canada’s Trudeau has also regretted the decision. “The US decision can’t and won’t stop all those of us who feel obliged to protect the planet” the chancellor added. Her counterpart, Macron of France, went on even further, stating there’s no Plan B, as there’s no Planet B. And invited US businesses to France, potentially starting a small scale trade war initiation.

According to Daily Mail reports, a planned U.S. pullout from the Paris climate deal would be a further 0.3-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by 2100. However, Deon Terblanche maintained that due to other factors, that might not happen. However, hidden in all the outrage, a simple thing is lost. This is not about climate. Trump’s withdrawal was purely geopolitics. 

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First thoughts on election of Moon Jae-in as president of Korea

The election turned out just as expected. Moon Jae-in won with just over 40 percent, right around where the final polls predicted. The moderate and conservative split the hard-on-North-Korea vote. In fact, the next three candidates combined, conservative Hong Jun-pyo (KLP), moderate reformer Ahn Cheol-su (People’s Party), and reformist conservative Yoo Seoung-min (Baerun), combined for over 50 percent.

While Moon has expressed the desire to visit North Korea “if the time is right” and talk, he might be constrained by the political and security situation, I write in a forthcoming column I will link to.

UPDATE: My article is now published: A new president and new opportunities in Korea

To continue growth, keep out of conflict

When the Soviet Union was there, a field called Kremlinology was prevalent in the West. It was the study of the secretive Kremlin to understand and fathom what was happening behind the iron curtain. Things such as chair placement, who sits next to whom, etc was supposed to give an idea on how Soviet economy is supposed to perform. It was pseudoscientic, and most of it was of course threat inflated guesswork. Obviously sitting arrangements might give a hint of who within the Kremlin walls are falling out of fashion or not, but in no way can it give any hint about the overall direction of the country. Naturally the Kremlinologists couldn’t for the love of God, predict anything about Soviet economy, and couldn’t foresee the primary reason behind Soviet collapse.

In recent days, something similar is back in vogue. There is a steady stream of prediction about Chinese economy. As recently as in Davos forum last year it was predicted that Chinese economy was in for a hard landing. It wasn’t. China’s economy actually grew 6.9 percent in the first quarter from a year, which was slightly better than expected, as well as predicted. 

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Quick early take on the Xi-Trump meeting

Compromises and grand bargain time ahead

 

The State Department briefing on North Korea was a diplomatic equivalent of a mic drop, the thing when hip hop artists do when they drop their microphone after a particularly pithy innuendo laden verbiage. That’s what I am told, I am obviously too old for hip hop. Anyway, after North Korea launched another missile, the state department said in a statement by Secretary Rex Tillerson, that they don’t have anything more to say. “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.” Short, pithy, ominous. Nothing like this have been seen in a diplomatic communique before, which are mostly long drawn, and vague. This means that the time for talk is up.

Almost within hours, President Donald Trump in an exclusive interview with Financial Times stated the often-pronounced charge, that it’s time push comes to the proverbial shove with regards to North Korea. “China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.” Trump said in the interview. But this is clear, Trump is readying himself, and US for a grand bargain with China. And in politics, every offer of bargain, implicitly comes with a threat of noncompliance. “Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.” This time, the threat is real. The time for talks is over, at least from the US side.

This is a huge change. Forget everything that one can read in op-eds in newspapers, about how the upcoming meeting is a clash of differing values, ideologies etc, about how everything will be hinged on the personal chemistry of the leaders. Nothing like that will matter in the long run. The visit of President Xi to US is considered to be a power politics, as old as the 18th century. This is international relations at its earliest form, this is the language of realpolitik, at its peak and prime, at its most raw.

Let’s simplify the situation then.

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The long legacy of the Nanjing Massacre on Asian politics

“When will Japan’s war with China become history?”

Today, as with every December 13 for the past four years, Chinese officials gathered at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall and rang the bell for the up to 300,000 killed by Japanese imperial soldiers who invaded and captured Nanjing in 1937.

The conquest of the Republic of China’s capital six months after the Second Sino-Japanese War started inspired joy and complacency in Japan. Just weeks earlier the Japanese had completed their capture of Shanghai, a three month battle. Nanjing fell in less than two weeks. General Iwane Matsui was confident that taking Nanjing would result in China’s surrender. (It didn’t, and the war went on for seven more years before Japan surrendered.)

Upon victory on December 13, soldiers committed random acts of violence throughout the city. Civilians fleeing were shot in the back. Homes were invaded, women raped and then stabbed. Pregnant woman were bayoneted in the stomach. Dead bodies were thrown in rivers. Much of the city was destroyed by looting and arson.

Japanese soldiers rounded up masses of men on the grounds they were suspected of being soldiers. Some soldiers had indeed thrown off their uniforms and tried to blend in with civilians, but many more of those taken out to be executed had never fought in the first place. Hundreds of POWs were tied up and shot to death by the Yangtze River on December 18.

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Taiwanese are becoming more pro-independence–with or without Trump’s call

Having analyzed the dynamics of how the precedent-breaking phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen played out between the U.S. and China, I now place my gaze on Taiwan itself.

In my observations visiting the island during the cross-straits meeting in 2015 and interviewing academics, I found Taiwanese youth especially likely to be pro-independent, and moreover the ethnolinguistic divides that used to animate their parents’ politics in the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War are becoming less intense.

I wrote about it in detail for Red Alert Politics:

For all the focus on how Donald Trump’s phone call with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen has outraged China, the point of view of the country whose leader was on the other side of the phone has been neglected.

The Taiwanese people have lived for centuries in the shadows of foreign powers, having faced colonialism, invasion, and martial law, before winning democracy. Now, they face missiles pointed at them from an ascendant Communist state intent on eventually conquering them.

For Taiwan and its new pro-independence president, speaking directly to America’s incoming leader was a bold display of its autonomy in the face of Chinese threats.

It wasn’t an overnight shift in Taiwanese policy, but rather the culmination of a trend that has been underway for years. And Taiwanese millennials have played a significant role in that change.

Millennials helped propel Tsai to a resounding 25 percent victory in January’s general election and gave her Democratic Progressive Party its first legislative majority in history.

Read the rest: What Trump’s call meant to Taiwan’s “strawberry generation”

China is laughing at Trump’s Twitter feed

After phone call with Taiwan’s president, Trump tweets undiplomatically

Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s president Tsai Ying-wen upended 37 years of precedent in U.S. foreign policy and potentially raised tensions with China, but his tweets afterwards didn’t help matters.

Since the phone call made the news, Trump tweeted, “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME” in an attempt to deflect some of the responsibility, and then added, “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.” (Taiwan’s government said that both sides agreed to the call ahead of time and agreed that Tsai would formally initiate the call, according to the Straits Times.)

What these tweets show is Trump is ignorant of world affairs and doesn’t give much consideration to how his words could affect foreign relations. Does he not know the rest of the world can read his Twitter feed, too? More likely he just doesn’t care.

Since 1979, the U.S. has had diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. China demands that any country with whom they have diplomatic relations not recognize Taiwan as an independent country. While America continues to have under-the-table relations with Taiwan, America doesn’t openly recognize Taiwan as a country and doesn’t have an official embassy on the island. (The American Institute in Taiwan, technically a non-profit organization, serves the functions of an embassy.)

To call Tsai the President of Taiwan is taken by many in China as to imply that Taiwan is a sovereign nation.

Next he tweeted about the fact that America sells weapons to Taiwan. (He could have also mentioned the fact that his company is trying to develop hotels in Taiwan.)

Of course everyone knows that Taiwan has a defacto president and that America sells them weapons–he’s not sharing confidential information. But such comments and actions could unnecessarily provoke China. He could start a conflict through his own ignorance.

Moreover, the DPP, which supports greater autonomy from China and pushes for formal recognition of independence, could use Trump’s ignorance to push for its own agenda. A DPP legislator praised the call as a breakthrough in the Straits Times.

His tweets were widely shared on China’s Weibo microblog:

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The broad impact of Chinese hukou on education restrictions

Children of white collar workers, college graduates denied education along with migrant laborers

Mr. Li digs the tunnels for Beijing’s subway system, but Beijing won’t let his daughter attend school. Mr. Li is one of the over 8 million people living in Beijing without a Beijing residence permit.

On October 12, they were among a group of parents of children without Beijing residence (hukou) who gathered outside a courtroom to support a fellow parent who had sued over access to education. News of the court date was censored after spreading online.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the hukou system has regulated where Chinese citizens can live and work and allowed for the government to have a great level of control over the economy and labor. While the system has been relaxed since the pre-reform days of a control economy, it still impacts access to public services, including education.

It’s not just temporary migrant workers, who provide much of the labor needed to build cities and keep them functioning, who are discriminated against. Some who have lived in Beijing for decades, including white collar workers and graduates of top universities, cannot enroll their children in local schools.

This could be a growing problem as the economy becomes more and more service-oriented and the population more and growing share of the population obtaining higher education and moving to cities to work.

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I got quoted in FT

So, I got quoted in FT on On Chinese alliance formation and militarisation.

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Read the whole thing HERE and let me know what you think?

Protests in China over fraudulent investment schemes

A report on Chinese protests against a fraudulent investment company stealing millions of yuan by B+D editor Mitchell Blatt.

On July 16, law enforcement officers were stationed outside the iapm mall on Huaihai Road in Shanghai and an ambulance was parked in front of the door. Exactly one month ago, the chief financial officer of Jinxing Investments (Shanghai Uprosper Asset Management Co) Ji Jianhua appeared at the firm’s offices and admitted that the firm’s boss was nowhere to be found.

Ever since then investors have been protesting. Inside the mall, which is home to luxury brands like Prada and Givenchy, a line of officers stood at attention in front of the escalators. Mall officials in blazers and ties milled around. A crowd of spectators had gathered at the edge of the second, third, and fourth floors, looking down into the atrium.

A group of retired Chinese people came marching out into the first floor, carrying signs, some with images of Xi Jinping, and waving Chinese flags. A protest. In Chinese, wei quan—“protecting [our] rights.”

”Come out, boss, and return my hard-earned savings!”
”Jinxing committed fraud, the common people suffer; Honest Judge Gongbao, uphold justice.”
[Under a picture of Xi Jinping]: “Weiquan is actually truly maintaining stability.”

Over ¥400 million Chinese yuan (US$60 million) have been stolen from about 2,500 investors who were attracted by street fliers and seminars. When it opened in November 2015, Jinxing/Uprosper Assets promised to be a safe investment option dedicated to “creat[ing] the top service brand in supply chain finance industry in China.” On its website it claimed to have partnerships with Chinese state-owned banks like China Construction Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Its boss, a 37-year-old man named Wang Jian, held glitzy events at 5 star hotels and invited celebrities like 2008 and ’12 Chinese gold medalist boxer Zou Shiming to his offices. On its opening day it held a flamboyant ribbon-cutting ceremony with a dragon dance and flowers gifted by Shanghai district administrative governments.

Read article at ChinaTravelWriter.com blog.

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