torsdag 18. april 2019

Has Duterte’s China pivot backfired?

During a trip to China in October 2016, which was depicted by some of his countrymen as a tributary mission by a Philippine sultan to a Chinese emperor rather than a state visit by a sovereign leader, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte offered the “Middle Kingdom” two precious “gifts.” The first was his solemn announcement at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing that he would “separate” from America, his country’s only formal military ally, and to align himself with China’s “ideological flow,” on which he “will be dependent … for a long time.”

The second, and probably more valuable, “gift” was the maverick president’s willingness to play down the South China Sea arbitration case against China his country resoundingly won in July 2016 and to resolve the Philippines’ maritime disputes with the Asian behemoth through bilateral talks.

30 years after the Tiananmen massacre, Taiwan shows another way for China

Thirty years ago, the most important Chinese mass movement of the last half-century began when Beijing students gathered to mourn Hu Yaobang, a reformist official. Soon, massive crowds calling for change were converging on the central plazas of dozens of Chinese cities. On May 20, the government imposed martial law in Beijing, whose Tiananmen Square was the site of the largest rallies. Two weeks later, on June 4, the movement ended after soldiers fired on unarmed civilians on the streets of the capital. 

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has ruled the People's Republic of China (PRC) since its founding in 1949, has never allowed an official investigation into the killing. The massacre's death toll remains unknown, but at least several hundred civilians and perhaps ten times that were slain. 

Thanks in part to the iconic photo of the "Tank Man" standing up to the armed might of the CCP, June 4 is famous around the world, but discussion of what happened on 6/4 -- known as liusi in Chinese -- remains heavily censored in China and public mourning of the victims is forbidden.

VW boss 'not aware' of China's detention camps

Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess has told the BBC he is "not aware" of reports about detention camps holding thousands of Muslims in parts of China, a country where VW has been operating and producing cars for more than 30 years.Rights groups have accused China of forcibly detaining and sometimes abusing Uighur Muslims in dozens of camps in Xinjiang province. Beijing denies this, saying people willingly attend special "vocational schools" which combat "terrorism and religious extremism".

VW employs hundreds of people at its Xinjiang production plant. Mr Diess spoke to the BBC's Shanghai correspondent, Robin Brant.

The odd reality of life under China's Orwellian propaganda app

Labelling China Orwellian is often a blunt attack, one that misses the diversity and dissent of its 1.4 billion population. But when the state compels you to play video games designed by the government’s propaganda department, Orwellian is appropriate.

China’s Study the Great Nation app, launched earlier this year, does what the name suggests: it helps you to study, via news articles, videos and quizzes, the People’s Republic of China. The app is more dystopian, though. Party cadres and students are mandated to play the game, and have their points – earned by reading articles to the end and watching a video for at least five minutes – monitored by their bosses and teachers.

So what is inside this digital version of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book? For starters, rather than Mao being the subject of scholarship, this time round it’s Xi Jinping, the Chinese president who has hoarded power like no other since the revolutionary zealot. Many observers have noted that Xi also seeks to build a Mao-like cult of personality; the Chinese name of the app is Xuexi Qiangguo – a pun on Xi’s name.

European Union must ‘play offence’ to offset China’s rising influence in Africa and Asia, insiders say

The European Union must adopt a more attacking strategy if it wants to compete with China on infrastructure development projects and promote its values in Africa and Asia, according to two of the bloc’s leading authorities on Beijing policy.

Reinhard Bütikofer, a member of the European Parliament and deputy chairman of its delegation for relations with China, said that after the promises made at last week’s EU-China summit the time was ripe for Brussels to push ahead with its global “connectivity strategy”. The bloc had been playing “defence” to check China’s influence in its own backyard, he said, citing the introduction of anti-dumping measures and a new investment screening mechanism on April 1.

Xi Jinping’s intolerance heightens the risk of policy mistakes

Lou Jiwei may not be a household name in the West, but the former Chinese finance minister is well known and highly respected among financiers and economic policymakers. Yet, earlier this month, China’s government announced that Lou was being replaced as chairman of the country’s national social security fund. The move reflects a change in the Chinese leadership’s approach to governance that is likely to have profound implications for the country’s future. 

The removal of Lou from his post represents a break from precedent: his three predecessors served 4½ years, on average, and all retired after reaching 69. The 68-year-old Lou served for just a little over two years. China’s leaders did not provide a reason for his departure, but a likely explanation stands out. Lou has recently emerged as an outspoken critic of China’s ambitious industrial policy agenda, “ Made in China 2025”, calling it a waste of money.

onsdag 17. april 2019

US firms less keen to make China’s case because of Beijing’s failures to live up to its promises, American Chamber of Commerce warns

American businesses in China can no longer be relied upon as “positive anchor” in relations between the two countries after years of unfulfilled commitments, a report has warned. The American Chamber of Commerce in China said on Wednesday in its newly published white paper on China’s business climate that restoring trust will be critical to overcome problems such as long-standing complaints about market access and the discriminatory barriers faced by foreign firms.

“As foreign companies have seen their prospects in certain industries narrowed because of China’s own goals for Chinese companies to take a certain market share in domestic markets, they have felt less enthusiastic about the opportunity to invest here,” Tim Stratford, chairman of the group and a former official at the US Trade Representative’s office (USTR), said.

Inonesia elections 2019: How many Chinese workers are there?

The presidential campaign has been mainly fought over jobs and the economy against a backdrop of rising nationalism. President Joko Widodo, who is seeking re-election, has embarked on an ambitious infrastructure push. To do it he has welcomed Chinese investment and accepted loans and partnerships with foreign companies.

His rival, former military general Prabowo Subianto, has accused the president of selling out the country to foreigners, and opposition lawmakers are claiming Indonesia is facing an influx of Chinese workers.A long and occasionally violent history of anti-Chinese sentiment means these are contentious issues, especially in an election year. Social media is king in Indonesia and in the lead-up to the vote it has been awash with rumours over rising numbers of Chinese workers in the country.

China’s complicated role in Indonesia’s future

Beijing is a crucial player in the country's economic growth but increasingly unpopular with voters.  Indonesia's economy is South East Asia's largest. It has a population of 250 million and an average annual growth rate of about 5%. By 2050 it is expected to be the fourth largest economy in the world, after China, India and the United States, according to PwC .  But analysts routinely say that Indonesia isn't punching its weight, because it's been plagued by decades of under-investment in infrastructure, as well as suffering from corruption and red tape.So, for the 193 million going to the polls next week to choose their next president, economic growth is a key election issue.

Indonesia's biggest election under way as 193 million march to polls

Tens of millions of Indonesians have started voting for a new president and more than 20,000 legislative seats in the nation’s biggest – and one of the world’s most complicated – ballots. In the world’s third-largest democracy and largest Muslim-majority nation, almost 193 million Indonesians are registered to vote across 17,000 islands. On Wednesday morning voting kicked off at 7am local time in restive Papua. It will end at 1pm in Sumatra.

Voters are flocking to more than 800,000 polling stations where they will punch holes in ballots – to make clear their candidate choice – and then dip a finger in halal ink, a measure to prevent double-voting.

U.S. - Taiwan Relationship Couldn’t Be Stronger

Diplomatically speaking, relations between the US and China are “official” and those between the US and Taiwan are “unofficial”. But this does not prevent Washington and Beijing from seeing each other as major adversaries and rivals while Washington and Taipei treat each other as trusted friends and allies. This is despite Washington switching its diplomatic recognition of China from Taipei to Beijing 40 years ago.

The US-China relationship is now often deemed the world’s most important and complicated bilateral relationship, featuring both deep and wide engagement and intense competition. In comparison, since the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act four decades ago, the US-Taiwan relationship has never been stronger.

Switzerland to sign belt and road deal during President Ueli Maurer's China trip

Switzerland will sign an accord backing China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” when President Ueli Maurer visits China this month, cementing ties with a major trading partner as other Western countries view the gargantuan project with scepticism. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s New Silk Road initiative has been controversial particularly in Washington, which views it as a way to spread Chinese influence abroad and saddle countries with unsustainable debt, a charge Beijing rejects.

Locked in a trade war with China, the US has been particularly critical of Italy’s decision to sign up to the plan, the first for a G7 nation. Others in the West are less keen to jump aboard, although many have kept an open mind.Neutral Switzerland sees the belt and road accord to be signed during Maurer’s trip as a way to support economic development, especially in central Asia.

US and China in ideological battle for the future, defence official says

The US is in an ideological battle with China and needs to devise an effective, coordinated strategy with its allies to counter the rise of the Asian giant, according to a senior US defence official. China’s use of “predatory economics” and its growing military clout threatened to worsen corruption, undermine the sovereignty of smaller nations, erode human rights and weaken free trading systems, said Randall G. Schriver, assistant secretary of defence for Indo-Pacific security affairs at the US Department of Defence. “We don’t want to see any coercive approach to resolving disputes,” Schriver told a conference on US-China-European Union relations sponsored by the Washington-based Hudson Institute think tank.

tirsdag 16. april 2019

Donald Trump, China Savior? Some Chinese Say Yes

Donald J. Trump has referred to China as “our enemy.” He has called it “a major threat.” “Remember,” he once wrote on Twitter, “China is not a friend of the United States!” Some people in China have their own label for the polarizing American president: savior.

At dinner tables, in social media chats and in discreet conversations, some of the country’s intellectual and business elite are half-jokingly, half-seriously cheering on the leader who has built a large part of his political career on China-bashing.  “Only Trump can save China,” goes one quip. Others call him the “chief pressure officer” of China’s reform and opening. Their semi-serious praise reflects the deepening despair among those in China who fear their country is on the wrong track. An aggressive outsider like President Trump, according to this thinking, can help China find its way again.

Duterte now ‘effectively’ invokes UN ruling vs China on South China Sea

Despite his previous statements that he would set aside, for now, the United Nations-backed arbitral ruling against China, President Rodrigo Duterte has now “effectively” invoked the ruling after he told Beijing to lay off Pag-asa Island, Malacañang said on Monday. In a speech in Palawan on April 3, Duterte told China not to “touch” Pag-asa Island following the surge of vessels from a Chinese fishing fleet believed to be maritime militia.

Academic who blew the whistle on China's influence on Australia says Canada is in even worse trouble

Silent Invasion, Clive Hamilton’s ground-breaking book about China’s covert influence on Australian society, has been both applauded as an overdue exposé and criticized as an exaggeration of the problem. But when he finished the book, he received some unwanted validation of its central thesis: three Australian publishers declined to publish it, citing fear of retribution from Beijing or its allies.

Hamilton, a professor of public ethics at Canberra’s Charles Sturt University and former executive director of progressive think-tank The Australia Institute, eventually found a willing publisher, and now is working on a sequel dealing with similar issues in North America. What he’s discovered so far makes him very concerned for Canada. He spoke with the National Post during a visit to Toronto.

With New South China Sea Tensions With Philippines, China Overplays Its Hand

The South China Sea is heating up once again. This time, tensions are rising between China and the Philippines, with echoes of their 2012 stand-off over the Scarborough Shoal. However, unlike then, the Philippine leadership – specifically President Rodrigo Duterte – has, for some time, been expressing favour towards Beijing.

The current crisis concerns the Philippines’ most significant military outpost in the Spratly group – in waters that China claims under its capacious nine-dash line that covers nearly 90 per cent of the South China Sea. According to official Philippine government statistics for the first quarter of 2019, there were 657 sightings of 275 distinct Chinese vessels in the waters around Thitu Island, which is not far from one of China’s largest artificial islands in the Spratly group, Mischief Reef.

These vessels encompass the gamut of Chinese capabilities, including so-called “maritime militia” vessels – commercial ships tasked with asserting Beijing’s interests. In recent years, China also has supported the operation of these vessels with warships and maritime law enforcement vessels.

Malaysia: Revised China Deal Shows Costs Were Inflated

Malaysia’s prime minister said Monday a Chinese company building a rail link across the Southeast Asian nation will jointly help to manage and operate the network, part of revised deal that will get the stalled project off the ground at a lower cost and ease strained relations.

The East Coast Rail Link across peninsular Malaysia was suspended after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s alliance swept into power last May and said it would review large-scale infrastructure projects to rein in surging national debt that it blamed mostly on corruption. Canceling the project risked alienating China, Malaysia’s largest trading partner, which considered the railway connecting Malaysia’s west coast to eastern rural states a key part of its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.