Posts tagged ‘Vietnam’

Friday, October 4, 2013

Obituary: Vo Nguyen Giap, 1911 – 2013


Vo Nguyen Giap worked as a teacher, journalist, historian and revolutionary, a Voice of Vietnam newsarticle says. The following are newsarticles or excerpts in Chinese (from CNA, Xinhua, and Ta Kung Pao). Subtitles and links within blockquotes added during translation.

1. CNA, Taiwan, 22:49 Taiwan local time

Independence Hero

CNA Hanoi, October 4, summary report

Reuters reports that according to his family people, Vietnam’s highly respected independence hero, General Vo Nguyen Giap has died, aged 102. A government source [in Hanoi] told AFP that “I can confirm that General Vo Nguyen Giap has died today at 18:06″. A military source confirmed the time of death. Vo Nguyen Giap had been receiving treatment in a Hanoi military hospital for several years in a row.

Vo Nguyen Giap was one of Vietnam’s best-known personalities of the 20th century. The guerilla tactics he adopteddefeated France in 1954 and American-supported South Vietnam in 1975, and historians see him among Montgomery, Rommel, MacArthur, and similar military giants.

Vo Nguyen Giap was one of the main founders of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam [North Vietnam], the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and of the Vietnam People’s Army. He also served as a general of the People’s Army, as defense minister, as member of the politburo, and in other functions.


2. Takungpao, Hong Kong, October 4, 23:12

“An old Friend of the Chinese People”

Vo Nguyen Giap, Vietnamese important military leader in the wars of resistance against France and America, died on October 4, aged 102.


Vietnam came under control of groups leaning towards the Soviet Union and opposing China, but because of Vo Nguyen Giap’s position, there remained a balance between leaning towards China and the USSR. When overseas Chinese people [in Vietnam] were treated unfairly after 1975, Vo Nguyen Giap criticized this as “overbearing”. When the rift between China and Vietnam grew after 1978, he suggested “to ease the conflict with China”. he was dismissed [from his political functions, apparently] in February 1980, and made efforts for improvement of Sino-Vietnamese relations in 1990. Relations were normalized one year later [in 1991]. Vo Nguyen Giap was warmly referred to as “an old friend of the Chinese people”.


3. People’s Daily online, via Xinhua,

Not a Soldier from the Beginning

October 4 (same news article published by Huanqiu Shibao)

According to American media reports of October 4, the important military leader in Vietnam’s wars of resistance against France and America, Vo Nguyen Giap, has died aged 102.

Vo Nguyen Giap was born in Vietnam’s Quang Binh Province, on August 25, 1911. According to Vietnam Newsagency VNA, he is among the longest-living personalities in worldwide military history. He wasn’t a soldier from the beginning, having studied law and political economics, and later joined Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam Independence Alliance.

After the outbreak of the war of resistance against France, Vo Nguyen Giap directed military operations for several years, as defense minister and chief commander. The Vietnamese army’s victory over the French aggressor troops in the battle of Dien Bien Phu astonished the world. In his own words, it was “[Vietnam's] first victory over the West”.


Giap lived in Chinese exile for some time as Japan invaded Vietnam, writes the BBC. His first wife was arrested during that time, and died in a French prison.

In his late years, Giap was a critic of bauxite mining in Vietnam.



» Threat of Invasion, April 29, 2009


Friday, January 11, 2013

Rising China, Rotten Diplomacy: No Game-Changer in Sight

Chinese leaders established a China Public Diplomacy Association in Beijing on December 31 last year. English-language party mouthpiece China Daily carried a news article on page 4 one day later, either because of the expected importance the new organization might carry, or because of the relative prominence of at least two participants in the event, foreign minister Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪) and former foreign minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星, now chairman of the National People’s Congress foreign affairs committee).

What strikes me in the article is that Yang Jiechi isn’t his own party boss in the foreign ministry. His vice minister, Zhang Zhijun, is. Wu Bangguo on the other hand  is both chairman and party secretary of the National People’s Congress (see notes underneath that post). Not sure how many ministers (if any) double as minister and their ministry’s party secretaries. At the ministry of health, it is also the vice minister who doubles as party secretary, while at the ministry of culture, the minister takes both the state and the party function. Minister of Public Security, Guo Shengkun, also doubles in both functions. He took both the positions in December.

Does this indicate something about Yang Jiechi, or about the importance of his job as foreign minister – i. e. the importance of irrelevance of diplomacy? Not necessarily. But there are other indicators, too. Yang wasn’t even a member of the 17th politbureau (let alone its standing committee). Late in November, in an article for CNN, Linda Jakobson pointed out that the power status of diplomacy within the Chinese leadership was unlikely to rise.

So, one shouldn’t expect the China Public Diplomacy Association to become a game-changer. It’s nice for the (public) diplomats that the 18th National Congress – referred to by Yang Jiechi as quoted within the article translated below – gave public diplomacy a mention in its report. But if that’s something to celebrate, it sheds a sad light on the discipline as a whole. No wonder that Zhao Qizheng, director of the CPPCCs foreign affairs committee, longs for the good old days of Zhou Enlai‘s “convivial diplomacy” (official, semi-official and people-to-people diplomacy). Zhou, after all, was a member of the politburo’s standing committee – and for the first nine years after the establishment of the PRC, he was also its foreign minister. In the 1970s, foreign relations were still a job for the top, and in February 1979, Deng Xiaoping celebrated the improving Sino-American relations with an attack on Vietnam.

We probably have to see the inaugural session of the China Public Diplomacy Association in the light of those glory days – it’s a contrast that doesn’t make either official or unofficial diplomacy look important these days.

Maybe the new situation, frequently mentioned by Yang in his congratulatory speech, is just that situation. But then again, maybe not.

Form your own opinion if you can.

Committee for Friendship with Foreign Countries of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Shanghai Committee, January 8, 2013.

Main Link: Tell China’s story well, let China’s voice be heard. China Public Diplomacy Association established, Zhou Taitong attends. (讲好中国故事 发好中国声音 中国公共外交协会成立 周太彤出席)

On December 31, 2012, the China Public Diplomacy Association inaugural meeting was held at Diaoyutai Guest House, with foreign minister Yang Jiechi, foreign ministry party secretary and vice minister Zhang Zhijun and other leaders participating and unveiling the association’s nameplate. Shanghai Municipal People’s Consultative Conference vice chairman and Shanghai Public Diplomacy Association’s vice director Zhou Taitong represented Shanghai’ Public Diplomacy Association at the meeting.


At this first general assembly, the “China Public Diplomacy Association charter (draft) was passed, National People’s Congress foreign affairs committee chairman and former foreign minister Comrade Li Zhaoxing was elected as the association’s first president. [1] Former ambassador to Britain and to the Council on Security Cooperation in Asia and Pacific Region Ma Zhengang; [2] China Museums Association deputy director, China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification director, and [3] Central Research Institute of Culture and History staff member Comrade Shu Yi were elected as deputy presidents, and China Institute of International Studies fellow Song Ronghua was elected secretary-general.


Minister Yang Jiechi delivered the congratulatory speech. He pointed out that public diplomacy, in a new situation, is an objective requirement for perfecting the design of our country’s diplomacy, and important in broadening our country’s diplomatic work. The 18th National Congress report says that “we must sturdily promote public diplomacy and cultural exchanges”. This exacts higher demands on the promotion of public diplomacy under the new situation. In the new situation, promoting public diplomacy and cultural exchanges means putting efforts into mutual knowledge between China and the world, deepening China’s relations with the world, as well as promoting China’s and the world’s benign interaction and common development. We must develop and expand equality and mutual trust, be tolerant of each other and learn from each other in the spirit of win-win cooperation, we must strengthen dialog and exchange with the peoples of the world, promote mutual understanding, trust, friendship, and cooperation. Developing public diplomacy requires ample use of resources from all walks of life and bringing all factors from society into play. We hope that the China Public Diplomacy Association will carry out and implement the spirit of the 18th National Congress, make major contributions to the cause of China’s public diplomacy, and build fine foundations for the public-opinion environment and the will of the people.


Yang Jiechi emphasized that public diplomacy absolutely needed innovating ways and means, strengthened communication and exchanges with the masses, it needed to draw on the wisdom and the will of the people, domestic and foreign coordination, wholistic planning of the overall domestic and foreign situations, it needed to tell China’s story well and let China’s voice be heard, it needed to explain a real China to the world, and to establish a just and comprehensive view of China.




» Destined to Fail, The Diplomat, January 7, 2013
» A related discussion, Peking Duck, Jan 7, 2013


Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Presidential Debate and Voice of America: “Very Rusty Tonight”

“He was very rusty tonight” – that’s how the BBC quotes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof as he “rated”  U.S. president Barack Obama‘s performance.  Mitt Romney‘s performance, on the other hand, was probably a positive surprise to many of the Republican supporters.

For cultural reasons probably, I wouldn’t have been able to tell who of the two candidates did better – except that Obama occasionally seemed to lack concentration or focus -, but many commenters seemed to see that lack throughout the debate. Romney had his share of stutters, too, but he seemed to be more focused. And as for my lack of cultural insight, Michael Moore filled some of my gaps – because he criticized the moderator, Jim Lehrer:

Eastwood’s chair would do a better job moderating this debate. Romney is both candidate and moderator. Has Clinton arrived yet???!

Maybe Moore would “stop the subsidy to PBS”, just as Mitt Romney would. Anyway – Moore’s criticism of Lehrer seems to suggest to me that he sees Romney as the winner of this debate. But then, maybe Lehrer did a lousy job. Again, for cultural reasons, I can’t tell.

They say that presidential debates don’t sway many voters either way in America. Television debates in Germany don’t either – at least that’s what German television watchers say themselves. Either way, I remember a German television debate where the incumbent looked unusually tired during the first debate, and then went on to “win” the second and last debate: that was Gerhard Schröder, against his challenger Edmund Stoiber, in summer 2002. Similar to Romney, nobody ever expected Stoiber to do well in a debate – that worked to his advantage, at least in the beginning.

What I can tell though is that the Voice of America (VoA) did a lousy job. I tried all their far-Eastern frequencies at 01:00 UTC, and got nothing but international news there – I stopped trying at 01:25 UTC and then watched the debate on the internet. Granted – 09:00 a.m. local time in China or 08:00 a.m. in Vietnam may not be a time when too many people would listen to the radio anyway. But then, why would they bother to broadcast to the region at that time of the day at all?

No matter if Jim Lehrer did a good or bad job, presidential debates are a proud institution – something VoA should cover live – on shortwave.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What the Dalai Lama’s (potential) Travels may have to do with Soviet History, Oil Prices, and the South China Sea

The Dalai Lama hopes that the new, coming leadership would be more lenient, according to Reuters. Reuters writes that

[i]n the early 1950s, the Dalai Lama knew Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun, one of the most liberal leaders of the Chinese revolution, who was known to have had a less hardline approach to Tibet.

Xi Zhongxun (习仲勋) is said to have opposed the 1989 Tian An Men crackdown, about a year after his retirement in 1988. The article suggesting this stance by Xi Zhongxun also suggests that Xi Jinping himself is the only leader who served in the military. If true, this could mean that he has a more realistic view of the limited use of violent crackdowns. However, according to a Singapure National University document, Xi Jinping’s military role was rather political:

Unlike other frontrunners of the fifth generation leadership, Xi has had some
military service before. Upon his graduation from Qinghua University in 1979, he worked for Geng Biao (耿飚), the then secretary general of the Central Military Commission (CMC), for about three years.

Meantime, Huanqiu Shibao is quoted as having reported on an eleven-day visit by the Dalai Lama to Japan, scheduled for November this year. The article can currently not be found on Huanqiu (only the search results seem to be available at Google). Beifang Net apparently republished the short news article. It closes with quoting the foreign ministry’s standard condemnation:

Concerning the Dalai issue, the FMPRC has expressed many times that Tibetan affairs are China’s internal affairs. The Dalai has for a long time been a political exile under a banner of religion, engaging in anti-China splittist activities. China resolutely opposes any country and any person making use of Tibetan issues to interfere in Chinese internal affairs.


Russian president Vladimir Putin told Buddhist citizens on July 31 that the Russian government worked in the direction of inviting the Dalai Lama to Russia. Feng Chuangzhi, a regular congtributor to, a website operated by the state council, wrote in an editorial on August 8 that given many years of friendly cooperation between Putin and Beijing, Chinese reactions to Putin’s comment eight days earlier had been low-key, just its reaction to the Russian shelling of a Chinese fishing boat had not been radical (过激). After a short re-cap of the usual allegations against the Dalai Lama, Feng writes that

under such circumstances, the likelihood of a Dalai visit to Russia as expressed by the Russian president does, of course, hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, and can lead to contradictions emerging between the two sides [China and Russia].


However, the ways in which Putin and Western countries invite the Dalai are different. Putin spoke about the possibility, but didn’t make it definite. People know that a so-called possibility is no official decision. It should also be said that he made these remarks in a discussion, saying that “we obviously understand the hopes of our people living here in [the Republic of] Kalmykia that the Dalai Lama comes to them”.

但是,同样说邀请达赖,普京与西方等国邀请达赖的口角就有所不同。普京只是说到创造达赖访俄罗斯的可能,并未把话说死。人们知道,所谓可能性,只是一种预 测,不是正式决定。还应一提的是,所说的邀请达赖来的是在同论坛与会者们交谈时的表示,“我们当然理解我们那些生活在卡尔梅克并期待达赖·喇嘛到来的 人”。

The following lines explain the history of the “so-called Kalmyks” (所谓卡尔梅克人). Feng then returns to the present tense:

Putin promised the Kalmyks to invite the Dalai Lama to alleviate their historical wounds.  One can imagine that for some time, the Kalmyks raised the invitation of the Dalai, and as a Russian politician, [Putin] can’t ignore their wishes, but he also can’t be unaware of the Chinese government’s attitude towards the Dalai, and therefore can’t simply do things that would lead to tensions in Sino-Russian relations. Agence France-Presse said on August 1 that Putin had always acknowledged China’s position concerning the Tibetan issue, and believed that the Dalai was “a politicial personality engaging in secession”, and that the Dalai’s announcement of abandoning the political role had perhaps changed Russia’s traditional approach. “The Australian” said that perhaps, Putin’s remarks on July 31 marked “a turning point in attitude”. There are Western media that say that if Putin, only for a single day, allows the Dalai Lama to visit Kalmykia, it would put Sino-Russian relations to a direct test. Therefore, Putin’s invitation to the Dalai Lama is rather to curry favor with the Kalmyks, and also rather makeshift.

普京面向卡尔梅克人承诺邀达赖访问一事其为平抚卡尔梅克人历史创伤之意。可以想到,一段时间以来,卡尔梅克人早就发出了邀请达赖来访的声音,身为俄罗斯政 治家,不能不顾及卡尔梅克人的意愿,但普京也不可能不知道中国政府对达赖的态度,决不会冒然做令中俄关系紧张的事情。法新社1日说,普京一直认同中国西藏 问题立场,认为达赖是“从事国家分裂的政治人物”,去年达赖宣布放弃政治角色,或能让俄改变传统做法。《澳大利亚人报》称,普京7月31日的发言或是“态 度转变的契机”。有外媒称,普京一旦允许达赖访问卡尔梅克,将“对俄中关系构成直接考验。因此,普京发出邀请达赖访俄更多是讨好卡尔梅克人之意。也就是权 宜之计。

It wasn’t clear if Putin also “played the Dalai card” to put pressure on China in negotiations about the price for Russian oil, where there was disagreement between the two sides, writes Feng, and also gives Russia’s alliance with Vietnam a mention. Feng doesn’t describe Russia as a foe, but uses quotes instead to whip up  readers’ paranoia. Referring to Cam Ranh Bay, among other recent issues in the news, Feng quotes analysts:

Russia’s president Putin wants to tie China down and weaken it by inviting the Dalai. It wants to slow Chinese action against Vietnam down, thus giving Russia the opportunity to arm and support Vietnam, and to build military bases in Vietnam.


China and Russia are friendly neighbors, and to promote Sino-Russian friendship is the mainstream volition of the people on both sides. The most important thing in their relations is to respect territorial sovereignty and integrity, and each others core interests. If core interests are involved, contradictions will arise. This author [Feng] believes that both countries’ politicians, facing a complicated international situation, will handle sensitive issues, including those of  the “Dalai Lama card” type, appropriately. Floating clouds won’t blind them, and they will maintain and promote the general situation of Sino-Russian friendship.


I’ve sometimes wondered what it may feel like, for the Dalai Lama’s emissaries, to “negotiate” with Chinese cadres. Articles like Feng’s seem to give me a vague idea.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Huanqiu Shibao: is South-East Asia replacing “Made in China”?


The following are loosely translated extracts from an article by Huanqiu Shibao, published on Friday, and authored by several Huanqiu reporters.

It refers to an UNCTAD 2012 Investment Report, apparently this one, officially published on July 5, 2012.

There is a rising trend at Huanqiu Shibao to provide emoticon votes, rather than opening a commenter thread. This article doesn’t appear to allow online readers’ comments either (there is a button, but it leads nowhere, and there are indeed no comments), although it is hard to see how its topic should be particularly sensitive.

Links within the following paragraphs were added during translation — JR

Main Link: Is South-East Asia replacing “Made in China”? (Huanqiu Shibao, August 10, 2012)




From Adidas to Oclaro [currently Shenzhen, scheduled to leave for Malaysia within three years], foreign manufacturing investors announce relocations from China to South-East Asia, write the Huanqiu reporters. And a recent UNCTAD report said that in 2011, foreign direct investment (FDI) to South-East Asian nations had reached 117 billion US dollars, an increase by 26 per cent, far more than a rise by less than eight per cent in FDI to China. And Vietnam’s state news agency excitedly announced that the scale of NIKE trainers made in Vietnam now exceeded that of those made in China, making Vietnam the world’s biggest NIKE trainers producer. Currently, Vietnam’s share in NIKE trainers global production was at 41 per cent, with China’s only at 32 per cent. Previously, Adidas had announced it would move its only wholly-foreign-owned factory in China to [correction - 20130729] Cambodia Laos. This causes worries to people at home that international investors could be moving from China to South-East Asia, in terms of manufacturing, writes Huanqiu.


Souvenir from Turkey, made in China

Souvenir from Turkey, made in China

The article then quotes a Chinese garment manufacturer who is sympathetic towards European and American buyers’ demands that he relocate his production to South-East Asia. “I find that understandable – who wouldn’t want to buy at low prices?” (我很理解,谁不希望以更低价格拿到进货呢?) The European Union had allowed duty-free imports from Cambodia from January 2011.

However, a Standard Chartered Bank analyst is also quoted, with more encouraging news for the readers: It was difficult to determine if this was a real shift from China to South-East Asia, as foreign investment in China was rising, too.
A major reason for the slowdown in foreign investment in China was that the global economy had slowed down, and China’s economy along with it, but that didn’t mean that South-East Asia would replace China. Some international companies were seeking diversification, especially because of rising costs in China, and to avoid risks of protectionism against China in some [importing] countries.


After a discussion of Japanese investment in South-East Asia, the article addresses the challenges it sees for South-East Asia.

Vietnam’s 41 per cent share in Nike’s trainers’ production didn’t spell great practical benefits for the people. A Nike trainer on the Vietnamese market costs about as much as one anywhere else, according to Huanqiu Shibao’s research, and would therefore be out of reach for normal Vietnamese buyers.Besides, Huanqiu’s Hanoi correspondent quotes a 28-year-old worker from the 10th Garment Factory in Hanoi’s suburbs, the monthly income is at 2,500,000 Vietnamese Dongs (1 USD about 21,000 Dongs). That is above the state-defined minimum wage standard, and a free lunch is included as another benefit, but that is mostly spent on her motorcycle rides to and from work (500,000 Dongs monthly spent on gasoline), a monthly flat rental (1,200,000 Dongs), water, energy etc. at 300,000, etc.. Even her and her husband’s incomes combined didn’t pay the bills, when they both worked at the garment factory, and extra jobs needed to make ends meet.


Companies like Nike had moved to South-East Asia mainly for lower labor costs and to achieve a maximum profit, writes Huanqiu. Adidas, one of the biggest London Olympic Games sponsor, was facing investigations by the London Organizing Committee not long ago, for allegations that factory workers only earned ten British Pounds a week, and their factory therefore being called a “sweat shop”.


Dissatisfaction with wages had led to protests among workers in many South-East Asian countries, and after the “Adidas sweat shop” incident, the Cambodian minstry of labor had stipulated that from September 1, factories in the Cambodian textile and shoe industry had to provide an extra amount of five US dollars, a non-leave pay (or attendance bonus) of ten US dollars, seven dollars for transport and living costs etc., which would then amount to 83 US dollars a month as a minimum wage. The Vietnamese government had also adjusted the minimum wages several times in recent years, most recently in October 2011, stipulating that foreign-invested companies needed to pay 2,000,000 Dongs as a monthly minimum, instead of only 1,550,000. But this still didn’t meet the demands of Vietnamese workers. According to statistics by the Vietnamese garment-industry “labor union”, fluctuation within the workforce at state-owned companies was at 15 to 20 per cent, it was at 20 to 30 per cent in some small and medium-sized companies, but at 40 per cent in foreign-invested companies.


Also, Huanqiu quotes Jiang Jianhua, the Cambodia Wenzhou Chamber of Commerce’s deputy managing director, as saying that while labor costs in some South-East Asian countries were relatively low, Vietnam’s garment industry’s management costs were close to those in China, and that they didn’t provide a great advantage. Besides [it isn't quite clear from the article if the following should still be attributed to Jiang], Vietnam’s legal system was rather backward, its taxation system not transparent, and these, too, were hampering factors. In Thailand, garment manufacturing costs were too high, frequently higher than even in China, and while Cambodia’s political environment was rather stable and labor costs cheap, investors in Cambodia needed to be mindful about backward infrastructure and a usually low quality among the workforce.


It was quite true that the textile industry was gradually shifting to the entire Asia-Pacific region, the article quotes a KPMG report. Rising labor costs in China had compelled multinational companies to look to other parts of Asia, and a number of South-East Asian countries were going to profit from regional integration and preferential terms of trade. But from consumer electronics to furniture and other hardware products, China remained the country of origin. Besides, a Chinese consultant is quoted, most of the South-East Asian countries were rather small, and none of them provided the entire industrial chain. In that regard, there were complementary relations between China and South-East Asia.



Unctad’s latest report also believed that while there was stagnation in foreign direct investment to China in the short term, China remained the place with the highest attractiveness for foreign investment. Some people in the market had also said that the absolute majority of the Made-in-China industry was looking for its own road, i. e. upgrading production or moving to hinterland provinces in China, seeking development there. There were close customer and supplier links between China and other regions, and some manufacturers would continue to rely on China even after relocation, in that they needed to import production equipment from China, or in that they needed China as an export market, for example.


And a Standard Chartered Bank analyst is quoted as saying that if the manufacturing industry was actually moving to South East Asia still remained unclear. China was more competitive than many South-East Asian nations in terms of logistics infrastructure, and Chinese manufacturers no longer produced for export markets only, but for growing domestic demand, too. Rather than reductions in foreign investment in China, there might rather be more rapid investment in other east Asian markets. Some European and American market participants also said that it was too early to talk about a large-scale manufacturing relocation to South East Asia. However, they also suggested that China should address improvement issues among its suppliers, as timely adjustment from passive to active patterns would be helpful for China’s development.


In the words of the report – apparently this one,

FDI flows to China also reached a record level of $124 billion, and flows to the services sector surpassed
those to manufacturing for the first time. China continued to be in the top spot as investors’ preferred
destination for FDI, according to UNCTAD’s WIPS, but the rankings of South-East Asian economies such
as Indonesia and Thailand have risen markedly. Overall, as China continues to experience rising wages and production costs, the relative ompetitiveness of ASEAN countries in manufacturing is increasing.

FDI outflows from East Asia dropped by 9 per cent to $180 billion, while those from South-East Asia rose
36 per cent to $60 billion. Outflows from China dropped by 5 per cent, while those from Hong Kong, China, declined by 15 per cent. By contrast, outflows from Singapore registered a 19 per cent increase and
outflows from Indonesia and Thailand surged. [page xvi - xvii]


FDI inflows to developing Asia continued to grow, while South-East Asia and South Asia
experienced faster FDI growth than East Asia.
The two large emerging economies, China and India, saw inflows rise by nearly 8 per cent and by 31 per cent, respectively. Major recipient
economies in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) subregion, including
Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, also experienced a rise in inflows. [pages 3 - 4]

As indirectly quoted by Huanqiu Shibao, the report states that

Among the economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), four – Brunei
Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – saw a considerable rise in their FDI inflows. The
performance of the relatively low-income countries, namely Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic
Republic and Myanmar was generally good as well, though Viet Nam declined slightly. Although natural
disaster in Thailand disrupted production by foreign affiliates in the country, particularly in the automobile
and electronic industries, and exposed a weakness of the current supply-chain management systems,
FDI inflows to the country remained at a high level of nearly $10 billion, only marginally lower than that of
2010. Overall, as East Asian countries, particularly China, have continued to experience rising wages
and production costs, the relative competitiveness of ASEAN in manufacturing has been enhanced.
Accordingly, some foreign affiliates in China’s coastal regions are relocating to South-East Asia,2
while others are moving their production facilities to inland China. [page 43]

Addressing FDI into Chinese manufacturing in particular, the report states slowing growth as a short-term prospect:

FDI growth in the region has slowed since late 2011 because of growing uncertainties in the global economy. FDI to manufacturing stagnated in China, but the country is increasingly attracting market-seeking FDI, especially in services. According to the annual World Investment Prospects Survey (WIPS) undertaken by UNCTAD this year, China continues to be the most favoured destination of FDI inflows. FDI prospects in South-East Asia remain promising,
as the rankings of ASEAN economies, such as Indonesia and Thailand, have risen markedly in the survey. [page 44]

The report doesn’t only discuss China’s (and other developing countries) as recipients, but also as sources of foreign direct investment.

All in all, the Huanqiu Shibao article appears to be basically assuasive, but still somewhat more “alarming” than the UNCTAD report would seem to warrant. It’s conventional wisdom that China is moving up the value-adding chain, and rising wages are a logical phenomenon in this process. The main goal in terms of propaganda appears to be that the laobaixing, the common people, should continue to push ahead in terms of personal education and qualification, in a competitive global economy. In this context, it also makes sense that websites like “Utopia” remain closed down – a measure which was reportedly criticized, among others, by some 1,600 cadres and scholars who accused chief state councillor Wen Jiabao in particular for closing these sources down, and of subverting the socialist market economy. That Huanqiu Shibao may distrust the outside world appears to be an intended goal (no cohesion within China, without such distrust) – but another intended goal is that the readers accept the challenges posed by global competition, rather than rejecting them in favor of, for example, Maoism.

I hadn’t been a regular reader of Utopia, one of the websites that have been closed since spring this year, but came across an article there some six months before the closures. The article’s author was Gu Genliang, a People’s University (aka Renmin University) professor, and it wasn’t exactly globalization-friendly:

We are mired in heavy dependence on foreign resources and on on our own cheap exports. Large-scale low-end exports consume a lot of energy and natural resources, which led to our country’s dependence on foreign energy and resources which not only made the prices for these sources explode, which transferred the fruits of our people’s hard work into the hands of energy-exporting countries, but also has the potential of making us suffer from foreign countries’ embargos, thus carrying a huge security risk. At the same time, while our country is so reliant on foreign resources, it is ridiculous that we are exporting large quantities of rare earths and minerals coal, etc. at low prices.

The topic of Huanqiu Shibao’s article on ASEAN as a competitor for efficiency-seeking FDI doesn’t look exactly sensitive, but a current anti-”Maoist”, anti-”utopian”, or simply anti-”nostalgia” struggle might help to explain why there is no room for readers’ comments underneath. Such comments could spoil the article’s intended pro-competition message.



» UNCTAD World Investment Report 2012


Sunday, August 5, 2012

What Syria and the South China Sea may have in Common

China’s foreign ministry summoned the U.S. Embassy’s deputy chief of mission, Robert Wang, to make “serious representations” about remarks by the US State Department raising concerns over tensions in the disputed South China Sea. The statement by the State Department had been published on Friday, and was authored by Patrick Ventrell at the office of press relations.

Lin Zexu says

Lin Zexu says

While urging all parties to take steps to lower tensions in keeping with the spirit of the 1992 ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea and the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, the press release does, in its criticism of recent developments, emphasize China’s upgrading of the administrative level of Sansha City and establishment of a new military garrison there “in particular”. The statement doesn’t include remarks about the passage of a Vietnamese law earlier this summer, declaring sovereignty over areas of the Spratly and Paracel Islands and to come into effect at the beginning of next year, or the initiation of Vietnamese patrol flights in June this year, for example.

We do not take a position on competing territorial claims over land features and have no territorial ambitions in the South China Sea, says the State Department’s press release of Friday, however, [...]

It’s a pretty elaborate However.

More to the point, the statement does also urge all parties to clarify and pursue their territorial and maritime claims in accordance with international law, including the Law of the Sea Convention.

With the statement, the U.S. positions itself on Vietnam’s side – hence Beijing’s representations -, but stops short of committing itself to practical or military measures that would support Vietnam.

It would help if all claimants were prepared to accept a verdict from the  International Tribunal For the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) – and Xinhua happily points out that not only China is cherry-picking when it comes to international law. If the case was brought to the court by all parties involved, however, and if all parties were prepared to accept the court’s verdict, the judges could hardly refuse to accept the case.

And the mention of international law by the State Department is crucial: after all,  Beijing wants to negotiate with every single claimant, one by one. It wants to control the process not only bilaterally, but in effect unilaterally.

Is it wise for the U.S. to position itself as clearly as the Ventrell statement does? That’s no easy question – and the answer would need to include hints to an American ability not to “disappoint” Hanoi, as this would probably damage the limited and informal alliance with Vietnam.

But anyone who demands or welcomes steps towards democratization in international relations should – logically – welcome both China’s and Russia’s role at the UN when it comes to Syria, and America’s role in the South China Sea.



» China doesn’t object to Hegemonism, July 13, 2012
» Vietnam’s Contributions, Greatly Appreciated, State Department, July 10, 2012


Monday, July 30, 2012

Cam Ranh Bay: Nothing to Deploy


The following are translations from People’s Daily and from the Voice of Russia‘s German service.

Links within blockquotes added during translation.


People’s Daily, July 30, 2012

Russian president Vladimir Putin said on July 27 that Russia would provide ten billion US dollars in loans to Vietnam, eight billion thereof for the construction of nuclear power plants in Vietnam. Vietnamese state chairman Truong Tan Sang said on the same day that Vietnam will allow Russia to build a ship maintenance base in Cam Ranh Bay. Truong Tan Sang clarified that Russian use of the bay didn’t amount to a military base, but it could help to improve “military cooperation” between the two sides, and agreed with Russia’s proposal to upgrade the two countries’ relations to a a strategic-partnership level.


In fact, Putin’s generous loan for Vietnam means to counter American encroachment on Cam Ranh Bay. In June this year, American secretary of defense Leon Panetta made a high-key three-day visit to Vietnam, after participating in the Shangrila Dialog Forum. On June 3, Panetta visited and inspected Cam Ranh Bay’s former American base, thus being the first American secretary of defense after the Vietnam war to visit Cam Ranh Bay. He then separately met with Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung and defense minister Phung Quang Thanh, to explore the prospects of military cooperation between the two countries.


At a joint press conference with the Vietnamese defense minister, Panetta publicly said: “Only if Vietnam or the Philippines become powerful, there will be stability in the South-East Asian region.”1) Panetta also said that Cam Ranh Bay was an important harbor bay, and if Vietnam wanted to improve the Cam Ranh Bay area and needed help, America would like to provide help. The U.S. Navy would be interested in visiting Cam Ranh Bay regularly in the future. Panetta emphasized that the purpose of his trip to Vietnam was to establish mutual trust between the two countries and their militaries. America and Vietnam should continue to develop their bilateral relations in all fields, especially in defense and security cooperation. Panetta’s visit, full of symbolic meaning got [a lot of] attention and was seen as a prelude to growing warmth in comprehensive U.S.-Vietnamese military cooperation.

在与越南国防部长冯光青举行的联合记者会上,帕内塔公开表示:“只有越南或菲律宾变得强大,东南亚地区才会稳定。”帕内塔还表示,金兰湾是一个重要的港 湾,如果越南有意改善金兰湾地区且需要帮助,美国愿意提供。美国海军未来有意再次赴金兰湾做定期访问。帕内塔强调说,他越南之行的目的是建立两国和两军之 间的互信。美越应该继续发展各领域的双边关系,特别是在国防和安全合作方面。这次充满象征意义的访问备受关注,被认为是美越军事合作全面升温的前奏。


Cam Ranh Bay in itself isn’t significant for Vietnam. Its navy currently only has less than ten frigates, and isn’t able to build frigates by itself. Therefore, no matter how beautiful its harbors might be, Vietnam’s navy is also just a theoretically-existing navy. Therefore, the significance of Cam Ranh Bay lies in the stationing of big powers’ fleets there.

对于越南来说,金兰湾本身的意义并不重大。现在的越南海军只有个位数的轻型护卫舰,而且本国连制造这种护卫舰的能力都没有。所以,不管拥有何种良港,越南海军也只是一支理论上存在的海军。所以,金兰湾的意义在于被大国舰队进驻 。

Ever since normalization of its relations with Vietnam, Cam Ranh Bay has been on the Americans’ minds, and they made demands to have Cam Ranh Bay leased to them. Especially in 1992, when America withdrew from its last stronghold – Subic Bay and Clark Air Base in the Philippines -, America wanted to return to Cam Ranh Bay even more. In 1994, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Richard Macke addressed the issue of re-opening Cam Ranh Bay as a military base.



It seems that by now, America and Vietnam have made up their minds to cooperate. Panetta said in June that to deploy its warships from its West Coast to the Asia-Pacific region, it just needed to be able to use harbors like Cam Ranh Bay. [...]

目前看来,美国与越南合作的决心已定。帕内塔今年6月份访问越南时表示,美国在把部署在美国西岸的战舰调至亚太地区时,就需要能够使用像越南金兰湾这样的港口。 [...]

As it gains national strength, Russia also prepares to return to Cam Ranh Bay. On October 6, 2010, the Russian Naval Inspection Department “suddenly” said that the Russian Navy bad recently completed its work on material relating to a restoration of Cam Ranh Bay. If possible, Cam Ranh Bay should be used as a naval base again within three years. Russian paper “The Independent” quoted naval sources as saying that would enter a leasing contract to return to Cam Ranh Bay. The leasing period should have a duration of at least 25 years, with a possibility to extend the duration after those 25 years.


Vietnam’s foreign ministry said many times that it wouldn’t lease Cam Ranh Bay to foreigners, asserting that “Vietnam emphasized many times that it won’t use Cam Ranh Bay for military purposes in cooperation with foreign countries, and will develop the Cam Ranh Bay region’s potential for serving the cause of construction and defense of the country”. But there are also views that when it comes to the fengshui treasure of Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam is waiting for the best bid and has turned Cam Ranh Bay bargaining chip in its game with America, Russia, and even China.

越南外交部多次表示,不会对外出租金兰湾用做军港,声称“越南多次强调不会与外国合作使用金兰湾用于军事目的,而将开发金兰湾地区的潜力,服务于建设和保 卫国家的事业”。但有评论认为,面对金兰湾这块风水宝地,越南是待价而沽,越南已把金兰湾当作与美国、俄罗斯甚至中国博弈的筹码。


Voice of Russia (German service), July 30, 2012

Russia, or its official media, seem to see Cam Ranh as a future naval base, anyway. At least, that’s how a Russian press review by the Voice of Russia’s German service comes across (even if with one or two side blows at the Russian navy). However, the story may already be superseded by more remarks from Moscow which deny that Cam Ranh Bay would become a full military base, and from Vietnamese state chairman Truong, who remarked (also to the Voice of Russia, reportedly) that the ship repair and maintenance facilities at Cam Ranh Bay will be available to all friendly navies and can be used to deepen military cooperation between Hanoi and Moscow. Anyway, the Voice of Russia reported [earlier] that

Russia intends to establish as many as three naval bases abroad. [The return] to the Vietnamese harbor Cam Ranh and to the Cuban harbor of Lourdes are planned. The admirals may rather prefer the Seychelles, which are popular with tourists. Experts view this as future plans, however, as currently, the country [Russia] has nothing to deploy there.

Russland hat vor, gleich drei Marinestützpunkte im Ausland einzurichten. Geplant ist [die Rückkehr] in dem vietnamesischen Hafen Cam Ranh und den kubanischen Hafen Lourdes. Die Admiräle werden wohl die bei den Touristen populären Seychellen-Inseln vorziehen. Experten bewerten dies aber als Zukunftspläne, weil heute das Land einfach über nichts verfügt, was es in den ausländischen Stützpunkten stationieren könnte.2)



1) From the U.S. Department of Defense transcript:

And the goal of the United States — let me make clear — is to advance exactly what the general referred to, advance the independence and the sovereignty of all nations in this region. It is in the interest of stability — it’s in the interest of stability to have a strong Vietnam, a strong Indonesia, a strong Philippines, a strong Singapore and strong nations throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Frankly, the most destabilizing situation would be if we had a group of weak nations and only the United States and China were major powers in this region.

2) Voice of Russia (Stimme Russlands), July 30, 10:10 GMT, 15700 kHz.


» Not a Military Base, Vietnam Net, July 29, 2012
» Keeping an Angry Readership posted, July 28, 2012
» Cam Ranh Bay, Wikipedia, accessed July 30, 2012


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Keeping an Angry Readership Posted: Will Vietnam become an American Ally?

Soft power is something China’s leaders want to build both abroad and at home – those among China’s leaders who care about the concept, anyway. Huanqiu Shibao, the trade journal for angry nationalists, tries to involve its angry readers, and is quite probbly following a consensus between a number of stakeholders (not least the propaganda department).

When reading Huanqiu Shibao these days, it feels a bit like reading a copy of Reader’s Digest from the 1960s (I still got some on the attic), and I’m pretty sure that Huanqiu’s more recent approach is modelled after that perfect exemplar of the monolithic conformist Eisenhower ’50s – only from a very different kind of conservatism.

In short, and only my personal, rough working hypothesis of course, Huanqiu has begun a shift away from angry articles on how to become America’s adequate adversary, to the sedate, even-handed and self-confident voice of a rising superpower.

The readership, however, may not change that easily – not if the commenter threads are anything to go by.

It may not exactly be the approach Cheng Tianquan suggests – making Chinese “citizens” participate in foreign affairs -, but at least a try to calm netizens down when it comes to diplomatic issues, as Zhao Qizheng, a public-diplomacy expert, advised earlier this year.

The following are excerpts from a Huanqiu Shibao interview with Qi Jianguo (齐建国), China’s former ambassador to Vietnam.


Main Link: Vietnam won’t become America’s “ally”, published by Huanqiu Shibao on July 26, 2012. Links within blockquote added during translation – JR


[Editor's note]

Editor’s note: Recently, the establishment of Sansha City in the Paracel Islands was officially established. This lead to “protests” from the Philippines and Vietnam. America also expressed “concern”. The South China Sea situation once again attracted attention. Looking at the entire South China Sea dispute, people can’t help but ask themselves this question: if the Philippines become America’s ally, with American forces protecting it, thus being “able” to deal with China, couldn’t Vietnam, a country from the “socialist camp” and with intense and deep-seated hatred for the U.S. thirty years ago, do likewise?


After Vietnam and America established diplomatic relations, their relations warmed quickly during the past few years. On the South China Sea dispute, America also openly expressed support for Vietnam, and Hillary Clinton openly praised Vietnam’s reforms. One could see Vietnam and America approaching this point of “ability”. However, what is the current situation like? Could Vietnam throw itself completely into America’s arms and become America’s “ally”? Concerning Vietnam’s foreign and domestic political issues, Huanqiu Shibao’s review channel recently interviewed China’s former ambassador to Vietnam, and Asia-Pacific Research Center director Qi Jianguo. The record of the interview will be published in instalments.



[The interview]

Q: After the establishment of diplomatic relations between America and Vietnam, the relations between the two countries have become warmer. Which factors brought the two countries closer together?


A: Vietnam and America established diplomatic relations in 1995, 17 years ago. Objectively speaking, their relationship went from a mutually cool attitude to a warm one. Two examples: trade and politics. As for trade, America has lifted the trade embargo since 1994, but up until 2000, after only six years of diplomatic relations, a trade agreement was signed. That’s to say, relations wer very normal then. Politically speaking – I had become ambassador in Vietnam by then – American president Clinton visited Vietnam to promote progress in their relations, but because Clinton talked a lot about so-called democracy, human rights etc., points of view Vietnam couldn’t accept, then Vietnam CP secretary Le Kha Phieu criticized these views in their meetings with Clinton, and the meetings ended on rather bad terms. Later, America’s ambassador to Vietnam held an informal meeting. He wasn’t satisfied at all, and said that the last meeting had been “stupid”. He called secretary general Le Kha Phieu a “conservative, tough old man”. This shows that in fact, from 1995 to 2000, through all those years, the bilateral ties had been rather cold.


Only another five years later, in 2005, ten years after the establishment of diplomatic relations, Vietnam’s prime minister Phan Van Khai visited America. It was the first visit by a Vietnamese leader after the end of the Vietnam war thirty years earlier, and this marked the complete normalization of Vietnamese-American relations. In 2006, as Vietnam hosted the informal meeting of APEC leaders, American president Bush visited Vietnam. After that visit, America gave Vietnam the most-favored nation status (MFN), a status of permanent normal trading, and after that, Vietnamese-American relations moved to a stage of rapid development. Particularly during the past two years, as America accelerated the pace of its return to the Asia-Pacific region, the relations clearly warmed.


Generally speaking, the warming relations between the two countries were a matter of the past few years. It should be said that the background reason was America’s strategic adjustment. The two sides both hope to develop the relations continuously, with both sides having certain requirements [to each other], which led to the relations as they are today.


Q: What do the two countries want to get from each other? And can they obtain these things?


A: This needs to be looked at from the background of America’s strategic adjustment. What America wants to get in its shift to the East, or its return to the Asia-Pacific region, is – besides strengthening relations with allies like Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand – the strengthening of relations with “new partners”. That’s America’s new need. As for Vietnam’s relations with America, a strategic position is very important. In America’s view, Vietnam is a new partner. At present, the two sides both prepare the advancement of their relations to “strategic cooperation and partnership”, and make efforts to these ends. For America, the main issue isn’t what to get from trade, but it mainly shows in how it uses Vietnam’s important strategic position.


Vietnam wants to get a lot from America, both politically and economically. Vietnam hopes that America will gradually abandon its peaceful-evolution towards it, it hopes for support concerning the South China Sea, and of course it also hopes for economic advantages. Currently, America is Vietnam’s biggest export market, and Vietnam’s biggest foreign-trade surplus is the one with America. China has been Vietnam’s biggest trading partner for seven consecutive years, and Vietnam’s biggest trade deficit is the one with China. Vietnam’s trade surplus with the U.S. can’t make up for the deficit with China.


When it comes to what the two sides can or can’t get from each other what they hope to get, this can’t be considered all at once. This needs to be analyzed issue by issue. What can Vietnam get? It can get advanced technology from America, more investment, even American support concerning the South China Sea. As far as that’s concerned, America is already openly supportive. But it can’t get promises and assurances from America to the end that America “won’t overthrow the communist leadership, and won’t change its socialist system”.


As for America, it can use Vietnam’s strategic position to broaden its influence in South-East Asia, make it serve its strategic adjustment, but it won’t get a promise to establish its military bases there. At best, their navy will have so-called supplies from Cam Ranh Bay. I experienced something about Cam Ranh Bay myself. It was an American naval base, originally. After the Vietnam war, the Soviet Union took it over, and by 2004, the Russians had completely withdrawn, as the Vietnamese defense ministry itself officially informed me: “From now on, Cam Ranh Bay won’t be leased out to any third country, our Chinese comrade can be at ease about that.” In my view, this Vietnamese commitment has not changed. Cam Ranh Bay won’t be what some people believe it could be – there’s no way that, in the wake of the warming ties, the U.S. navy would use Cam Ranh Bay the way they used it in the past.


[Further remarks on two further questions: U.S.-Vietnamese ties will remain close for the foreseeable future, but ideologically, there is no difference between the way America views China and Vietnam respectively.]

Q: There are views that America wants to use the South-China-Sea dispute and the resulting warming relations with Vietnam to change ["evolutionize", 演变] Vietnam – that it wants to achieve what they didn’t achieve with the Vietnam war. How do you view this?


A: I can’t really agree with this view, because the relations and the ideologies between the two countries are different in character: one is about the way the two countries’ relations would develop further, and one is about another country’s nature. The latter issue, for the Vietnamese CP, is one of life and death. Generally speaking, these to issues are different in that one is about benefit, and one is about life and death. Even if America should have these ideas, to achieve peaceful evolution by supporting Vietnam in the South China Sea dispute, it will find it hard to achieve.


I believe that the ideological influence on both countries is big, and fundamental. To use an example from my time as ambassador to Vietnam: after the establishment of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and America, the period when America wanted to achieve evolution, relations became cold. During the first years of the 21rst century, America supported independence for Vietnam’s four western provinces by preaching the gospel of freedom etc. Several thousand people came to the provincial parliaments for so-called establishment of national parliaments. This resulted in bloodshed and were then suppressed. It is said that America had supported those people financially. [...]


Neither will, for a long time to come, America give up its plans to change Vietnam’s socialist system, nor will Vietnam give up [or in, to these American plans]. Ideological differences remain the biggest restricting obstacle in the two countries’ relations.


[Further remarks: the shadows of the Vietnam War keep lingering, even if "hate-America" feelings in Vietnam aren't particularly strong (在今天的越南,“仇美”的社会情绪应该说有,但不是特别的强烈。). Vietnam attaches importance to developing ties with big countries in general, among "three priorities, since the beginning of the century: ties with neighboring countries, ties with traditionally friendly countries, and with big countries - 三个“优先发展”:优先发展同邻国的关系、优先发展同传统友好国家的关系、优先发展同大国的关系 - Vietnamese-U.S. ties would continue to warm as the America made its return to the Asia-Pacific region.]

Q: How much potential is there in Vietnam-U.S. economic relations? How much benefit can America provide for Vietnam?


A: I believe there’s great potential with broad perspectives. Two examples: one big obstacle in Vietnamese-American trade was removed in 1994, the trade embargo. After that, the trade cooperation went through three stages. From 1994 to July 2001, it was the first stage. Then, after the removal of the embargo, the two countries signed their bilateral trade agreement, that was the second stage, from July 2001 to May 2006. Then the two countries signed an agreement for Vietnam’s accession to the WTO, which meant permanent normalization of Vietnam’s position as a trading partner. From 2006 to now, with most-favored-nation status for Vietnam, their trade cooperation entered the phase of quick development.

我认为,越美的经济合作潜力巨大,前景广阔 with broad perspectives。我举两个例子:一个是越美开展经济往来的障碍彻底消除了,1994年美国取消对越南的贸易禁令 Embargo 以后,两国的经贸合作关系经历了3个阶段:1994年到2001年7月份,这是第一个阶段,从取消贸易禁令到越美两国签订“双边贸易协定”;2001年7月到2006年5月,是第二个阶段,越美签了越南入世的协定,这意味着美国已经给了永久的“正常贸易关系地位”;2006年到现在,是第三个阶段,美国给了它最惠国待遇之后,越美经贸合作进入快速发展时期。

Also, Vietnam’s and America’s economies are highly complementary to each other. Goods Vietnam imports from the U.S., like planes, machinery and electronic products, chemical fertilizers, cotton, etc., and exports of textiles, clothing, footwear, frozen shrimps and petroleum products, that’s highly complementary. From 2000, when the bilateral trade agreement was signed, to 2005, within those five years, their trade went up from 1.4 billion to 7.6 billion dollars, of which 6.5 billion came from Vietnamese exports to America. As soon as in 2005, Vietnam’s trade surplus with America reached 5.4 billion US dollars.


In 2011, Vietnam-U.S. trade exceeded twenty billion dollars, and Vietnam’s trade surplus with America was biggest, ten billion dollars. Besides, there is foreign direct investment from America, at least twelve billion U.S. dollars. Therefore, America isn’t only Vietnam’s biggest export market, but also one of its biggest investors.


Interview conducted and edited by Wang Jingtao (王京涛).



» Only a Great Importer is a Great Power, May 17, 2012



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers