Posts tagged ‘foreign investment’

Friday, October 2, 2015

Leadership Styles: No Meeting without Substance

The Taipei Times compared Pope Francis‘ and Xi Jinping‘s leadership styles: the Chinese traveller to America was outwardly strong and internally weak, while the Roman-Argentinian was the exact opposite, the paper wrote in an online article on Tuesday. As a man who kept close to the public, was met with large crowds of people wherever he went and held Mass for almost 1 million people, the Pope had been a perfect example of soft power.

That was a bit like lauding a model mineworker for churning out tons of coal every day, and criticizing a goldsmith for not doing likewise – or vice versa.

Soft power abroad? Quite a number of Chinese people – especially Chinese people with some exposure to foreign cultures and hurt feelings – may long for it, and the Economist logically threatened Xi with something worse than criticism: neglect. But the politburo could care less. As long as the results are satisfactory – and as long as people at home can be made believe that Americans (not just at Boeing) could hardly wait for the Chinese visitor, everything is staying the desirable course.

But what are the results?

The two sides reached broad consensus and achieved a number of positive results, Ta Kung Pao (Hong Kong) wrote on Sunday:

According to a list published by the Chinese ministry of commerce on September 26, the major consensus and results reached by the two sides can be counted as 49 points, fitting into five big categories. Obama, on his own initiative, reiterated that America maintained the one-China principle and did not support “Taiwan independence”, “Tibet independence”, “Xinjiang independence”, and that America would not get involved in Hong Kong affairs.*)


According to Xinhua reports, Xi Jinping made important suggestions concerning the next stage of Sino-American relations, emphasizing the need to promote Sino-American relations that would always develop along the correct track. The two sides agreed to continue efforts to build Sino-American great-power relations of a new type. He [Xi] also emphasized that the Chinese nation was highly sensitive about matters concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He hoped that America would scrupulously abide by the relevant promises, not to support any action aimed at harming China’s unity and stability.


In this regard, Obama, on his own initiative, reiterated that America maintained the one-China principle, scrupulously abided by the principles of the three Sino-US Joint Communiqués, and that this position would not change. America did not support “Taiwan independence”, “Tibetan independence”, and “Xinjiang independence”, and would not get involved in Hong Kong affairs. This is the second time after denying American connection to Hong Kong’s “Occupy Central”, during the APEC summit last year, that Obama stated his position.*)


The 49 projects, results and consensus concern the five great fields of Sino-American great-power relations of a new type, practical bilateral cooperation, Asia-Pacific affairs, international affairs, and global challenges. Among these, nearly twenty negotiation points pertaining to financial and trade cooperation and the Sino-American Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), awaited by all circles, have made progress. The information published by the Chinese ministry of information pointed out that both the Chinese and American leader had reiterated that to reach a high-level investment agreement was “the most important economic issue between the two countries”, and that both sides had agreed to strongly push the negotiations and to accelerate the work.


The Chinese achievement list unequivocally mentions: “The two countries’ leaders reiterate that to reach a high-level investment agreement is “the most important economic issue between the two countries”, and both sides agree to “strongly push the negotiations and to accelerate the work, so as to reach a mutually beneficial, double-win, high-level investment agreement”.


China Institute of International Studies researcher Yang Xiyu says that this position [held by] the two heads of state was of historical significance, meaning that the world’s biggest developed and the world’s biggest developing country could, as fast as possible, achieve BIT, and that the world’s two biggest economic entities achieving BIT will raise the long-awaited effects, further solidifying the foundations of mutual trust in trade.



Within the list of achievements, several points of consensus have been reached concerning Sino-American network security cooperation, such as China and America agreeing that each country’s government must not engage in, or knowingly support, the stealing of intellectual property rights, including trade secrets, and other classified trade information. China and America committed themselves to jointly define and promote appropriate standards of international society conduct on the internet, and to establish a high-level, joint dialogue system between the two countries, to strike at cyber crime and related issues. A number of American experts said that this was an important outcome of this [Xi] visit, and that strengthening cooperation about network security was a really important field of work in Sino-American relations. Indiana University professor and high-level Council of Foreign Relations network security researcher David P. Fidler believes that the two countries’ having achieved this consensus is “of major significance, and welcome news”.


The two sides will also strengthen anti-corruption cooperation, strengthen high-speed rail cooperation, strengthen cultural exchange cooperation, and reach consensus in reaction to global challenges, broaden practical cooperation on bilateral, regional and global levels, and manage and control differences and sensitive issues in a constructive manner, continuously achieving new positive results.


A benevolent label for these outcomes could be progress, and an accurate one would be unverifiable progress. It’s sort of obvious that Washington and Beijing wouldn’t issue a snafu statement at the end of the talks. What Beijing might consider a real achievement, however, is the prevention of an exchange of sanctions in the wake of the “network security”, i. e. hack-and-spy, controversies. That doesn’t go without saying – news coverage during late summer pointed to a chance that this could happen.

Hong Kong website Fenghuang (or Ifeng), in an article on September 22, attributed much of the success in defusing the conflicts to a visit by a delegation to Washington from September 9 to 12:

China attaches great importance to Sino-American relations and their future development, and does not ignore the concrete problems that occupy America.


From September 9 – 12, politburo member and the central committee’s political and judicial committee secretary Meng Jianfu visited America in his capacity as Xi Jinping’s special envoy, together with [a delegation of] responsibles at offices for public security, the judiciary, network communication, etc.. He had talks with secretary of state John Kerry, homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson, national security adviser Susan Rice, and other central [US] authorities, to exchange views about cyber crime and other outstanding problems, and to achieve important consensus. Meng Jianzhu’s trip broke with old habits. Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China’s diplomacy has become more direct and more practical.

9月9日至12日,中共中央政治局委员、中央政法委书记孟建柱以 习近平特使身份,率公安、安全、司法、网信等部门有关负责人访问美国,同美国国务卿克里、国土安全部部长约翰逊、总统国家安全事务助理赖斯等核心部门举行 会谈,就共同打击网络犯罪等突出问题深入交换意见,达成重要共识。中央政法委书记作为特使,打破以往惯例,习近平治下的中国外交更加直接务实。

That, and some more soothing soundbytes from Beijing, appeared to have had their effect on Washington, suggests Fenghuang:

On September 16, Obama made remarks about cyber security again, but according to Reuters, America will not impose sanctions on so-called “cyber attacks” before Xi Jinping’s visit, and maybe not afterwards either.


After all, the main goal of the Obama administration had been to put pressure on Beijing, and to address domestic complaints, the Fenghuang article believed.

What looks credible – because it’s said to be long-established practice anyway – is that whatever consensus was indeed there between Washington and Beijing had been reached before Xi Jinping even set foot on American soil.

When he reached the American West Coast from Beijing, he meant business, not soft power – although there’s probably something charming to a 300-aircraft order form, at least among the stakeholders. The traditional microcosms were also conscientiously cultivated, even if Winston Ross of Newsweek was not convinced:

[Xi Jinping’s] handlers, who had corralled me and the reporters from the Associated Press, Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times for the previous hour in anticipation of this exchange, apparently assumed we all spoke Mandarin. The Times reporter shot me a bewildered look. I shrugged. Xi said something to Oregon Governor Kate Brown that she found hilarious. We asked for a transcript of his remarks. We were not given one.

That occasion, Xi’s first stop – i. e. the meeting with American governors and Chinese provincial governors -, wasn’t (much) about substance, Ross alleged. He could have known better, even without translation: maintaining contacts between many layers of business and politics – not just the top echelons – is both a Chinese move to keep contacts going even if top-level relations between China and another country should deteriorate. Besides, while Confucius Institutes and other means of  indoctrination soft power may face some scrutiny at federal or central governments of democratic countries, regional authorities may lack the resources that such scrutiny would require.

Chinese central leaders waste no time with unsubstantial meetings. They waste no time with soft-power ambitions either. It’s the technology, stupid.



*) VoA has a somewhat different take on this: according to their newsarticle on Wednesday, Obama referred to both the Three Joint Communiqués, and the Taiwan Relations Act, and that had been the only public remarks made about Taiwan during Xi’s state visit in Washington. Ta Kung Pao omitted the mention of the TRA.



» Joint Press Conference, White House, Sept 25, 2015
» Six-point proposal, Xinhua, Sept 25, 2015


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weekend Links: O2O Business in China

Warning: JR is trying to explain the economy to himself. His word pool and previous knowledge about this topic are shaky, and the following may or may not make sense – you’ll have only have yourselves to blame if you base your homework (or investment decisions) on this post.

Going “Brick-and-Mortar”

Let’s get industrial. O2O is about [people] buying things online, but collecting them from a shop on their side of the computer or smartphone – or having the stuff delivered to their doorstep. But China’s woefully inefficient logistics network .. acts as a brake on e-commerce growth, the Economist wrote in August, and that leads to online retailers seeking “brick-and-mortar” outlets to increase the points of delivery and to make their goods more accessible for their online customers.

Dalian Wanda Group’s (万达集团) and Suning Commerce Group (苏宁云商) are a recent example in the news. Wanda’s property development section (the company’s other major trades would be culture and tourism)  provides department stores or plazas all over the country, and Suning Commerce Group is a retailer with reportedly more than 1600 stores across mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japan. The two have signed a cooperation agreement: Suning will open stores at Wanda Plazas throughout the country, Reuters wrote on September 6.

National Soft Power, too

China News Service (CNS) explained, on September 7:

Suning coming into play is a direct result of an upgrade at Wanda. Wang Jianlin has long indicated that the answer would be revealed on this day.


The adjustments had been watched by many skeptical observers for about half a year, without Wang Jianlin providing much of a response during all the time, according to CNS. But as for Wanda’s department stores, or plazas, CNS has reassuring news:

Are Wanda’s stores really as bad as comments from outside suggest? Not at all. One one occasion, in an internal meeting, Wang Jianlin revealed that nearly half of the Wanda stores were incurring losses, but that the other half of them were profitable. He was in a position to cut the outlets that were incurring heavy losses, optimize the portfolio, and then have a attractive story to tell to the Hong Kong capital markets, with a beautiful financial report.


The CNS article also points out that Wanda became involved in the culture industry in 2012.

Compared with real estate business, the contribution the culture segment could make to [the Wanda group’s] revenues and profits was very low, but it perfectly fitted into the strategic requirements of the national advancement of soft power, and its synergy effects with real estate, tourism, and other trades was obvious. As big onlooking companies  from the real estate began to recognize [Wanda’s approach], they scrambled to emulate it.


CNS also refers to the acquisistion of AMC Theatres (AMC Cinemas), and Infront Sports and Media, and offers an explanation as to why such acquisitions would make sense, and concludes:

There are many more such examples. Every draw in this game of chess was made not from a spur of the moment, but as a move taken after careful consideration, serving the transformation plan for the entire Wanda group. This is also true for the adjustments of the stores, and the introduction of Suning.


The message provided by CCTV’s website for the foreign audience is equally heartwarming:

The Wanda Group, headed by Asia’s richest man Wang Jianlin, seems unstoppable.

Complementary illustration ...

Complementary illustration …

The Financial Times, in an online article published on August 6, isn’t quite that enthusiastic – although, it should be said, their misgivings aren’t about the Wanda-Suning romance which was only made public in September, but about the O2O industry in general. Rising labor costs could hamper the business model, and it is not entirely clear what lasting new business models will emerge.

That said, if O2O is really a lifestyle, as suggested by Chinaskinny, the question might come up, sooner or later, if and how costs play a role in that customer “hobby”, and if the promises it makes to the supplier side are sustainable, For sure, the example of the nail specialists who can make so much more per hour, if based on O2O, is all over the internet, as observed by the FT.



» Baidu Q3 forecast, TechCrunch, July 27, 2015
» Traditional Industries, new Bones, April 17, 2015
» Central Committee Cultural Decision, Oct 28, 2011


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Economist: CCP is “Plundering History to justify its Present-Day Ambitions”

Granted, this may become the first time after World War 2 that China commemorates the occasion with a big military parade, rather than with a solemn remembrance ceremony. But did it really take this upcoming September event to make The Economist aware that the Communist Party is plundering history to justify its present-day ambitions? That the Xi leadership is showing a blatant disregard for the fact that it was not the Chinese communists who bore the brunt of the fighting against Japan, but their sworn enemies, the nationalists (or Kuomintang) under Chiang Kai-shek? This is by far the most serious criticism of Beijing that I have seen in the Economist ever since I started reading about a decade ago. And it has been overdue.

To be clear: the Economist has been critical in the past, too. When China (apparently) slowed exports of rare-earth minerals to Japan after the arrest of a Chinese crawler crew by the Japanese coastguard, the paper referred to that as an especially nefarious turn. But that was at a time of open crisis. The real problem isn’t that there are occasional outbursts of Chinese wrath against once criminal or now obstinate neighbors. The problem is the daily mass indoctrination in Chinese schools and media.

The German press also appears to have become more critical. Random choice: “Doubtful of China”, a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung headline a week ago, on August 12. The short leader on page one suggested that

for years, the Chinese government has marketed itself that successfully that one almost believed it could walk on water. Whatever unpleasant things it would do in terms of human rights, the economy worked out, and that was/is the real bottom line for many abroad. For a few weeks now, the high-gloss storefront is getting scratches. Another rather big one has been added by the Chinese central bank now. It has devalued the national currency as much as never in two decades, which is being analyzed on page 15.

In short, the paper quotes “observers” who doubt that the devaluation is a step towards liberalizing the exchange-rate regime, and hence a concession to IMF demands.

The quarrels about Beijing distorting economic competition isn’t new. But how the CCP is distorting history have hardly been a regular issue in the mainstream press. All the same, such views, publicized in no uncertain terms, should be welcomed and encouraged by all people who believe that truthfulness about history is important.

Truthfulness also requires self-criticism. Yes, Beijing is pretty good at selling itself and its record, as noted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. But most of the successful propaganda work abroad hasn’t been done by Chinese propagandists or “public diplomats”. It has been done by the international press. And if China’s economy should become the big economic attraction again, be it for an unlikely return to double-digit growth rates or for any other reasons, expect the foreign adulation of the incredible strategists to resume.



» Do markets determine …, M. Pettis, Aug 18, 2015
» CCP should face history honestly, July 7, 2015
» China Cultural Year 2012, March 1, 2012
» Message to a Barbarian, June 26, 2011
» Fragility of Truth, Economist, Oct 8, 2009
» Covert business lobby, Project Censored, 1996/2010


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Former leading Tianjin Cadre: Beijing won’t cover up Causes of Disaster, because there isn’t much to Lose

Asked by the BBC‘s Mandarin service if he believes that a former member of the politburo standing committee had been a patron for Ruihai Logistics, the company on whose premises the Tianjin explosions occurred last week, Dr. Zhang Wei (张炜), an economics lecturer at Cambridge University, said that this couldn’t be ruled out, but that the lawlessness that had led to the disaster could just as well be the fault of low-ranking local “snakes” (地头蛇). Both explanations were equally likely, he suggested.

Nextmedia, a magazine published in Hong Kong and Taiwan, had allegged in an online article on Saturday that a major shareholder of Ruihai Logistics were a nephew of former permanent politburo member Li Ruihuan (李瑞環) – this name, however, wasn’t repeated or quoted in the coverage mentioned in this post. Links to any former politburo heavyweights could be touchy information, given that citizens in Tianjin are demanding answers from the authorities as to why cargo of this accident level had been stored less than one kilometer from residential areas, and in apparently illegal quantities. Laying out a possible lawless structure that would be in line with the “local” theories, Time (online) quotes Chinese magazine Caijing as suggesting that one of the Ruihai stakeholders, Dong Mengmeng (董蒙蒙) had been the son of Dong Peijun (董培军) former public security director, an allegation also addressed by Zhang Wei, as quoted by the BBC.

But even if investigations should find traces to a former member of the politburo’s standing committee, Zhang thinks it unlikely that the current central leadership in Beijing would try to cover up the truth. A former member, rather than an incumbent, wouldn’t be of great use to the current government any more, and there would be no reason to halt the investigations.

According to the BBC, Zhang once served as secretary of Tianjin’s municipal Communist Youth League committee (共青团天津市委书记), as director of Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, as director for external economic matters at Tianjin municipal government, and in other functions. Zhang’s view of Chinese economic reform in the 1980s – and the slowdown or even reversal in reform during the 1990s – also influenced Huang Yasheng as he wrote Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics.

The explosions and the authorities’ difficulties in handling communication with the public didn’t reflect a public relations crisis (公关危机), the BBC quotes Zhang, but rather a problem rooted in the CCP’s belief in propaganda. Local officials and media in Tianjin had no powers to disclose information to the local public, but had to wait until Xinhua issued an integrated story. This seriously impaired or blocked flows of information.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ma Ying-jeou: “A Considerable Threat Continues to Exist in the Taiwan Strait”

Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou spoke about cross-strait relations in an interview with the BBC‘s Carrie Gracie this month. There is a three-minutes’ video on youtube, and Radio Taiwan International‘s (RTI) Chinese service has a transcript of the interview.

I have based my following translation – not necessarily accurate – on the RTI transcript. Links with in the following Q & A were inserted during translation.


[Asked what his feelings are about China being both an important trading partner and a cause of security threats]

A: We are only some 100 nautical miles away from mainland China, and to us, China is a big risk risk, and also a big opportunity. Any leader of the Republic of China should learn to reduce risks and to expand opportunities, and what I have done during the past seven years is exactly that.


Our economic relations with mainland China, (language and culture), coincide in fairly many ways, while the developmental stages of both sides aren’t identical. Over the past decades, our trade volume with mainland China has continuously risen, and our trade surplus has been huge. The goods we sell to mainland China can be processed further there, be sold to Europe and North America, and this stage has been of mutual benefit in the past.


Of course, mainland Chinese threats stem from the military and the political field, and some people believe that deepening trade and investment relations with mainland China leads to excessive dependence on mainland China. To consider and weigh political and military threats, the mode our government adopted has been to find some consensus that is acceptable to both sides, and to shelve differences. In terms of the economy and trade, obviously, Taiwan can’t avoid some dependence on mainland China, but since I took office, dependence on mainland China has actually decreased, because the government has started the work of market diversification, leading to Taiwan’s trade dependence on mainland China not increasing further, but rather slightly decreasing.


[Asked if he believes that China is moving towards democratization, in a long-term trend]


A: During the past few years, I have constantly reminded the mainland Chinese authorities that if you want to narrow the psychological gap between the Taiwanese and the mainland Chinese people, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, these core values of Taiwan, are important factors.  If mainland China were more active concerning these issues, the distance could be narrowed, but also, if there wouldn’t be more positive activity, the distance could also widen. In the past few years, the trends and changes in the psychological gap have also clearly reflected the actual attitude of mainland Chinese authorities in recent years.


On these issues, mainland China has seen good and bad times, sometimes somewhat better, sometimes worsening somewhat, thus remaining in a state of uncertainty.

When I was running for re-election four years ago, mainland Chinese people were able to watch our elections on the internet, which was unprecedented. But recently, we have also seen many arrests of human rights activists, making everyone feel worried about mainland China’s human rights situation. Therefore, the feelings their situation causes us are sometimes good, sometimes bad.


[Asked if he feels angry about not having had an opportunity to met Xi Jinping after his efforts to improve relations]

A: Since I assumed office, one can say that cross-strait relations have improved, no matter if we look at economic aspects, cultural aspects, etc.. Therefore, a meeting between the leaders of the two sides would be a natural thing.  During the last two years, we have thought about the APEC summits as an opportunity to meet, but always without success, and of course, that’s a pity. Our current position is to neither rule a meeting out, nor to insist.


[Asked if he thinks that not to meet is Xi Jinping’s personal decision, taken from a too arbitrary  (過於獨斷) position]

A: We don’t know their decision-making process, of course, but certainly, the final decision lies with Mr. Xi. Maybe some of our views just differ, because we feel that in the process of developing cross-strait relations, some encounters on international occasions are unavoidable, but mainland Chinese leaders may try their best not to appear with us on international occasions, as they worry this could be against the so-called “One-China policy”. But what I would like to emphasize is that we have said clearly on many occasions that when we reached the “1992 consensus”, it just meant that the two parties both maintain the “One-China principle”, but the meaning we give to it is not identical. Only with this flexibility, the two parties can establish better relations. However, once it comes to international occasions, mainland China remains very unflexible in this regard.


[Asked if Xi Jinping’s statement that the cross-strait issue couldn’t be dragged from generation to generation constitutes a threat to Taiwan]

A: I believe that this way of putting it, makes things look as if they had been delayed for a long time. In fact, the two sides having relatively close and friendly relations has only been going on for these seven years. I often say that seven years can’t count as a generation. Patient handling is required. The two sides have been apart for more than sixty years. The atmosphere can’t be changed over night. We believe that cross-strait relations should be promoted patiently and diligently, to let the fruits gradually emerge.


In fact, the fruits brought about by the cross-strait relations’ development during the past seven years have already surpassed those of the previous fifty years which is very fast, but in the view of the Taiwanese people, they do not wish to move too quickly but to gradually achieve the goal of improved relations.


[Asked if recent mainland Chinese military exercises and their use of the Republic of China’s presidential palace as an imaginary target made him feel uneasy]

A: According to intelligence we’ve collected in the past, they have used mock objects for simulated attacks for a long time. When we conduct military exercises, we also put out defense against such designs. [Mainland Chinese] action of this kind just reminds us that in the Taiwan Strait, in the military field, a considerable threat continues to exist, against which we must prepare.


[Asked if the threat against Taiwan doesn’t rise with mainland Chinese military and economic strength]

A: In fact, the balance across the Taiwan Strait, in military terms, has tilted in favor of mainland China, beginning in 2005. Because very year, at a pace of double-digit numbers, and even at a pace of twenty per cent, they increase their national defense budget. It would be difficult for us to engage in an arms race with the mainland in this regard. Therefore, our principle in defense combat is to create a bilateral situation in which any party that wants to use one-sided, non-peaceful means to change the status quo must pay a price it doesn’t want to pay. That’s the only feasible major principle to prevent a cross-strait military conflict. Peace and prosperity have always been the goals of our efforts.


What I mean is that cross-strait relations exist into all kinds of directions. As for military threats, we must think about ways to reduce them, but in non-military fields, we also want to think about ways to increase them. Therefore, in our dealings with mainland China, we will always see these different directions.


What we prepare for our annual Han Kuang military exercises is just that kind of defense operations, and we have exactly these points in the Han Kuang military exercises. I’m sorry that we can’t disclose these to you. I can’t disclose related details, but we do prepare for conflict scenarios.


[Asked if he feels unsatisfied with this.]

A: Of course.


[Asked if given mainland Chinese military budget increases, and American strategic ambiguity concerning Taiwan, America shouldn’t be more clear about its attitude towards Taiwan, or guarantee support for Taiwan under certain circumstances – and if Obama would be in a position to do this]

A: As for America, the “Taiwan Relations Act” regulations are plain. Of course, we cannot rely on American law and regulations, but on our own preparedness. And our preparations aren’t just about adopting defense measures, but we should, by means of politics and cross-strait relations, eliminate chances for this situation [of military conflict] to occur. Therefore, as for the Taiwanese defense lines against mainland China that I’ve just mentioned, the first line is not about aircraft and artillery, but about reconciliation [or amicable settlement], and thus reducing the risk of conflict erupting, and only this is one of the highest strategies. This is also exactly what Sunzi’s “Art of War” means when saying that  the highest form of generalship is to balk [or counter-attack] the enemy’s plans”.


[Pressed on whether he would hope for a clear American presidential defense statement in favor of Taiwan if attacked by mainland China]

A: In fact, this problem has always existed during the past sixty years. But during the past seven years, America didn’t need to issue these statements, but could also make the Taiwan Strait maintain peace. The most important key is that this risk is reduced after improving relations with mainland China. The official in charge of cross-strait relations in the U.S. State Department has repeatedly reiterated that stable development of cross-strait relations is an important factor of maintaining constructive relations with Taiwan. In other words, simply relying on America to come to our help to fight this battle. Rather, by lowering this risk to the lowest possible level, by reducing the risk of conflict to a minimum, that’s the highest strategy, and also exactly about “balking the enemy’s plans”.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

China’s One-Belt-one-Road Initiative: Your Sea is our Sea but My Sea is my Sea

Visiting Xuanzang's library in Xi'an - Xinwen Lianbo, click picture for video

Visiting Xuanzang’s library in Xi’an – Xinwen Lianbo, click picture for video

Former Chinese consul general to Kolkata, Mao Siwei (毛四维 毛四维) was optimistic about China-India relations in a India Today Global Roundtable event in Beijing in May 2015, suggesting that there was an expectation in China that Modi would usher in a new model of relations: “India-China 2.0”, according to the Daily Mail. While conceding that border issues, including China’s claim on Arunachal Pradesh, and Chinese investment in the Kashmiri regions controlled by Pakistan “challenged” the relationship, he expressed hope that during Indian prime minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to China would usher in the second stage where the focus will be on Chinese investment and making in India, thus succeeding the “first stage model” of 1988, which had been about “not letting the border issue getting in the way of overall relations”.

While the Roundtable apparently kept things nice, not everyone in Beijing agreed with Mao.

China’s state paper and website “Global Times” wrote on May 11 that

Modi has been busy strengthening India’s ties with neighboring countries to compete with China, while trying to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities for economic development created by China, as Beijing is actively carrying forward the “One Belt and One Road” initiative.


Due to the Indian elites’ blind arrogance and confidence in their democracy, and the inferiority of its ordinary people, very few Indians are able to treat Sino-Indian relations accurately, objectively and rationally. Worse, some Indian media have been irresponsibly exaggerating the conflicts between the two sides, adding fuel to the hostility among the public.

Modi visited contested areas under Indian control to boost his prestige at home, the “Global Times” wrote, and Delhi was reluctant to admit that a widening trade deficit with China – its biggest trading partner – was its own fault.

The paper’s advice:

The Indian government should loosen up on the limits of cross-border trade with China, reduce the trade deficit, improve the efficiency of government administrations, and relax the visa restrictions, in order to attract more Chinese companies to invest in India.

On June 17, on his personal blog, Mao Siwei wrote about China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. India’s geographical position was a motivation for the initiative and needes a response from India, Mao wrote, and tried to answer the question why India was not taking part in the initiative.

Mao looked at what he sees as at least four views among India’s elites, concerning One Belt, One Road, and he cites four Indian commentators as examples for these views. However, he does not link to their articles in question, even though they are all available online, and of course, he leaves out much of the more controversial content there.

While Mao cites Sino-Indian relations expert Raja Mohan as showing the most constructive opinions of all  (quoting an Indian Express article of May 10 this year to prove this point), he writes that there are  also a very negative positions, as taken by Brahma Chellaney (in the context of Chellaney, Mao mentions a China-US Focus article of May 11, 2015).

Indeed, Mohan had warned in March that [as] Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares for his China visit in May, New Delhi can no longer delay the articulation of a coherent strategy to restore the subcontinent’s historic connectivity,

and rejected Indian anxieties as stemming from the error of viewing China’s Silk Road initiative through the narrow prism of geopolitics.

Mohans conclusions:

That India needs greater connectivity with its neighbours is not in doubt. All recent governments in Delhi have identified it as a major national objective. If China has economic compulsions of its own in putting money in regional connectivity, it makes eminent sense for Delhi to work with Beijing.

There was no either-or when it came to working with Beijing or – or rather and – with Tokyo and Washington.

Chellaney on the other hand sees colonialism looming from the North:

One example of how China has sought to “purchase” friendships was the major contracts it signed with Sri Lanka’s now-ousted president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to turn that strategically located Indian Ocean country into a major stop on China’s nautical “road.” The new president, Maithripala Sirisena, said on the election-campaign trail that the Chinese projects were ensnaring Sri Lanka in a “debt trap.”

In his election manifesto, without naming China, Sirisena warned: “The land that the White Man took over by means of military strength is now being obtained by foreigners by paying ransom to a handful of persons. This robbery is taking place before everybody in broad daylight… If this trend continues for another six years, our country would become a colony and we would become slaves.”

Besides, Chellaney accuses Beijing of operating a double standard:

China is also seeking to tap the Indian Ocean’s rich mineral wealth, and is inviting India to join hands with it in deep seabed mining there. Yet it opposes any Indian-Vietnamese collaboration in the South China Sea. “Your sea is our sea but my sea is my sea” seems to be the new Chinese saying.


Shyam Saran, a former foreign secretary, is cited by Mao Siwei as an example for a moderately positive stance. While Saran sees China and India as competitors in a very complex relationship, and one where China’s navy has not-so-friendly ideas (and ones that correspond with the “One-Belt-One-Road” initiative), Chinese surplus capital was still good for India’s infrastructure, Saran argues. The initiative could also help India to offset the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. At the same time, India should strengthen its security links with America, Japan, ASEAN and Australia, without signing on to a containment strategy against China.
Another rather critical commentator cited by Mao is Jabin T. Jacob, Assistant Director and Fellow at the Delhi Institute of Chinese Studies. Putting aside disputes as advocated by China was easier to practice for larger, than for smaller countries – indeed, the approach constituted a form of hegemony. Besides, China’s focus on initiatives like these was both exceptional among Asian countries, and also failed to acknowledge other maritime traditions and powers.
Jacob doesn’t mention the worn and corny Zheng He narrative, to which even the most benevolent listeners to the CCP tales might feel overexposed, and he doesn’t use the term arrogance either, but then, he hardly needs to. Anyone familiar with the subject can – probably – relate to what he writes.
In short, Jacob sees a new version

of the ancient Chinese political governing philosophy of tianxia. While the concept has been variously defined over history, at its most basic, it represented the rule over peoples with different cultures and from varied geographical areas by a single ruler.

Practically none of these points are mentioned by Mao; he just writes that Jacob doubts China’s ability or preparedness to understand India’s position in the historical Silk Road, and its practical implications, as well as as India’s interests and sensitivities on the Asian mainland and its waters.

It is obvious, writes Mao, that India does not want to respond to Xi Jinping‘s One-Belt-one-Road call, but it is just as obvious, that India is interesting in doing business with China. It could even become the second-largest shareholder in the Asian International Infrastructure Bank (AIIB). India also promoted Sino-Indian railway and port construction (Mao mentions Mundra Port in particular).
However, Mao writes, there is a lack of political and strategic consensus with China (在政治上和战略上与中方缺乏共识). China was focused on economic cooperation, India was focused on border disputes. Regional rivalries – not necessarily recognized by Mao as such – and America’s Asia-Pacific Rebalance (亚洲再平衡) and Narendra Modis Act East policy (向东行动) were connecting to each other on a global level.
And China’s economic involvement in the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir regions – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – constituted a flagship of China’s One-Belt-one-Road initiative. Nothing to please India.
In short, India’s non-participation in the One-Belt-one-Road initiative just reflects the objective fact of a “new bottleneck” in current Sino-Indian relations. The author [i. e. Mao Silwei] believes that as long as the two sides can gradually broaden a consensus concerning the handling of border issues, and pay attention to communication concerning maritime security, there should be hope for finding links between the two countries’ development strategies.


Updates / Related

» Small Country Diplomacy, Sino-NK, June 22, 2015
» Staying Alive in Tibet, March 31, 2012
» Two Divisions Wanting to Die, Aug 24, 2010


Monday, May 18, 2015

Eurasian Challenges (1): Belittling Taiwan to Please China

Following his attendance in Moscow at the commemoration of the 70th VE Day anniversary, Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping paid a three-day state visit to Belarus. Tokyo-based online magazine The Diplomat published a summary of Xi’s visit on May 12, quoting Belorussian president Alexander Lukashenko – as, in turn, quoted by Xinhua newsagency -, as saying that

I adopted China’s step-by-step economic reform style in Bearus and believe that the most important prerequisite for economic development and economic reforms is social stability.

The Diplomat article also quoted Xi Jinping, again via Xinhua, as saying that the “Chinese president” wanted to turn a joint Belarus-Sino industrial park into a pearl on the Silk Road Economic Belt.

The article points out that public attitudes in Eastern Europe were generally more open toward China than in Western Europe, and describes how Beijing tunes its policies and institutions on these two regions, depening on the degrees of openness.

Both Lukashenko and Xi noted that Belarus, thanks to its geographical placement as the gateway between Eurasia and Europe, has a major role to play in bringing the Silk Road Economic Belt to Europe, according to The Diplomat.

As on May 8 in a ceremony in Moscow, Xi also presented medals to World War 2 veterans in Belarus. In both ceremonies, the veterans had reportedly fought in the Japanese War.

Belarussian English-language media – there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of them – appear to remain silent on a joint statement published by the two heads of state, which includes a regular Belarussian political tribute: belittling Taiwan to please China, as Taiwan News put it on Tuesday.

According to the Chinese version of the joint statement,

Belarus reiterated that it it adhered to the one-China policy, acknowledged that the People’s Republic of China represents the entirety of China as its only legal government, that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China’s territory, that [Belarus] opposes any kind of “Taiwan independence”, promises not to establish official relations with Taiwan or to officially interact with Taiwan, that it opposes the accession of Taiwan to any international or regional organizations [where participation is limited to] sovereign states, that it will not sell arms to Taiwan, that it will support peaceful development across the Taiwan Strait and all the Chinese government’s efforts to achieve national reunification.


According to the Taipei Times on May 13, Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) said the ministry “deeply regrets” that Minsk reiterated the position it had long held for the sake of “ingratiating itself with mainland China”.

Radio Taiwan International (RTI) also reports the reaction from Taiwan’s foreign ministry:

Concerning the content of mainland China’s and Belarussia’s joint joint communiqué, the Republic of China’s [Taiwan] foreign ministry said yesterday evening (May 12) that when mainland Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao visited Belarus in 2007, and when the Belarussian president visited mainland China in 2013, all joint communiqués signed by the two sides mentioned “opposition against Taiwan joining any international and regional organizations [with participation limited to] sovereign states”. This time’s repetition of the old tune shows Belarus’ [is prepared to] curry favor with mainland China by issuing this statement which is ignorant of international realities and which inappropriately affects our country’s legal interests, on which the foreign ministry expressed regret.


The foreign ministry reiterated that the Republic of China [Taiwan] is a free, democratic sovereign state with the right to apply, in accordance with the people’s wishes, for membership in international organizations in accordance with its legal interests. This decision and approach is unaffected by any individual country’s talk.


The foreign ministry said that after the Soviet Union’s disintegration, the Republic of Taiwan [Taiwan] had established a representative office in Belarus, but because of the low volume of business, decided to close it down in 2005. Business was taken care of by the representative office in Russia. Had there ever been arms trade between Taiwan and Belarus? Chiang Su-yih, former representative to Belarus, said that this was “absurd. That has never happened.”


In an editorial on May 14, the Taipei Times cited the Belorussian-Chinese joint statement as an example of how President Ma Ying-jeou‘s concept of a “1992 consensus” had failed:

In view of Beijing’s continued denigration of Taiwan’s status, it is obvious that such a cross-strait consensus does not exist.

The Taipei Times’ Chinese-language sister paper, the Liberty Times, questions that a meeting between Eric Chu, chairman of president Ma Ying-jeou’s KMT, and Xi Jinping, in China earlier this month, was showing any positive effects, and quotes KMT legislator Johnny Chiang‘s (江啟臣) interpretation of the joint statement:

[Chiang said] Xi Jinping wanted to turn the cross-Strait- bottomline into an international bottomline, as a foretaste for Taiwan’s general elections next year, as a “warning” for Taiwan. The [oppositional] Democratic Progressive Party’s China Department director and [the party’s] legislator Chao Tien-lin believes that dignified and meaningful participation in international organizations was the common position of the Taiwanese people and should not be affected by unreasonable suppression and restrictions. Beijing should respect the Taiwanese peoples’ will and expectations, and “should not deepen Taiwanese society’s negative impression of Beijing”.

對於上述聲明,國民黨立委江啟臣認為,習近平把兩岸關係的底線,放在 國際上變成底線,有針對台灣明年大選情勢的味道,這是對台灣的「示警」。兼任民進黨中國事務部主任的立委趙天麟則認為,有尊嚴、有意義參與國際組織,這是 台灣人民的共同主張,不應遭受不合理的打壓與限制,北京應尊重台灣人民的意志與期望,「不要讓台灣社會加深對北京的負面觀感」。

Now, if you wonder how Beijing likes Taiwanese coverage of Chinese policies, Xinhua provides the answer. They aren’t happy at all.

Whenever that happens, and when criticism right from the CCP’s mouthpieces themselves would appear unbelievable even to a, by now, pretty conditioned Chinese public, one should look out abroad for a voice sympathetic to ones’ own position. Xinhua has found that Taiwan’s Want Daily (旺报) – apparently, according to Xinhua’s excerpts, anyway – commiserates with China, an innocent victim of Taiwanese media aggression.


An editorial published [by Want Daily] on May 14 points out that Taiwanese media, when reporting or commenting on mainland or cross-strait news, are often full of bias and errors, having misguided Taiwanese peoples’ knowledge of mainland China and of mainland Chinese policies towards Taiwan. When influential Taiwanese media always report mainland Chinese and cross-strait news based on wrong understanding and with a partial attitude, how can the two sides of the Taiwan Strait ever open exchanges further up, and deepen goodwill and understanding, and how can the two sides of the Strait move from confrontation to reconciliation and blend with each other?

14日发表社论指出,台湾媒体报道或评论大陆与两岸新闻时经常充斥偏见与错误,长期误导台湾人对中国大陆及大陆对台政策的认知。如果有影响力的大众媒体总 是以错误的理解与偏颇的态度报道大陆与两岸新闻,两岸怎么可能借着交流的开放与深化增进善意与理解,两岸又怎么可能从对抗走向和解与融一?

Coverage on the joint statement with Belarus is among the list of media sins:

[…] The third is about the joint statement issued by the mainland and Belarus on May 10. A television station’s horse race was that “Belarus opposes Taiwanese participation in sovereign states’ organizations”.

[…..] 三是大陆与白俄罗斯于10日发表联合声明,一家电视台的跑马是“白俄罗斯反对台湾参加以主权国家参加的国际组织”。

But even in the eyes of somewhat critical Chinese readers, the way the Taiwanese paper – allegedly – defends the joint statement might come across as pointless:

As for Belarus’ and Beijing’s joint statement’s wording, it was used as early as in the two sides’ 2007 and 2013 communiqùés, and to keep playing the same tune is without much significance. The expanded interpretations by the media is only needed for internal political struggles.



» Quoting Ma Ying-jeou, May 20, 2011


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to talk to Pakistan: Xi Jinping’s Speech in Parliament

Wellness for Pakistan’s International “Face”

Pakistan is both an old and a youg country. This warm soil gave birth to shining old civilizations, and in the modern era, it recorded the glorious poetry of national independence and self-reliance. The people of Pakistan are kind-hearted and gallant, self-respecting and and believing in themselves, and they never give up, staunch and unyielding as their national qualities are. During the past sixty years, the government and people of Pakistan have faced complicated domestic and foreign conditions, calmly reacted to all kinds of serious challenges, and have made remarkable achievements on the road of defending the independence and sovereignty of the country, building the country, and developing its economy. Since the beginning of the new century, Pakistan has been in the first line of the international fight against terrorism, has made huge efforts, has made huge sacrifices, and made outstanding contributions for regional and global peace and stability. The Chinese people deeply respect the people of Pakistan.


Emphasizing “Common Struggles”

As early as 2000 years ago, tbe Silk Road established a friendly bridge between our two old civilizations. China’s Han dynasty’s envoy Zhang Qian, the monk Fa Xian of the Eastern Jin dynasty era, and the monk Xuan Zang all once left their footsteps here. Pakistan believes that “credibility and integrity are of better use than wealth”, and China believes that if someone lacks trustworthiness, you can’t know what he may be good for. The concepts of our two countries’ traditional cultures are in accordance with each other. In the recent past, China and Pakistan have suffered imperialist and colonialist aggression and oppression, sympathized with each other, and supported each other. During the 1930s, the great Pakistani poet Iqbal wrote that “as the sleeping people of China was just awakening, the springs of the Himalya mountain were starting to boil”, speaking highly of the struggle of the Chinese people for national independence, its struggle against foreign aggression, and supporting [the Chinese people’s struggle]. With similar historical experiences and a common history of struggles, the peoples of China and Pakistan can easily relate to each other’s feelings.


Only the toughest grass can stand high wind, and people show their moral qualities during times of hardship. We will not forget that Pakistan was one of the first countries that recognized New China, and the first Islamic state that established diplomatic relations with New China. At crucial moments, when New China broke the external blockade, retook its legitimate seat at the United Nations, and explored the issues of reform and opening up, Pakistan always stepped forward and gave us selfless and valuable help. When China suffered natural disaster challenges, Pakistan always provided help. During the big Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, Pakistan gave us generous support, mobilized all strategic airfreighters, and took its entire strategic reserves of tents to the disaster area right away. To save space on the flights, medical staff removed the chairs on the planes and set on the floor during the flights. As of today, thousands of Pakistani workers are working with Chinese workers night and day, on projects shouldered by China, from which many touching stories have emerged.


And when Pakistan was in need, China always gave strong backing, too. China firmly supports Pakistan’s efforts for its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. When Pakistan suffered particularly heavy floods in 2010, China in the first place provided help with rescue forces from the air and on the ground, sending the biggest medical force in history, and dispatching, for the first time, convoys and helicopters, thus creating a precedent in China’s foreign rescue support. At the end of 2014, after the terrorist attack incident in Peshawar, China invited injured students from Pakistan, and their family people, to get treatment in China, to let the young minds feel the genuine friendship of the Chinese people.


Following remarks about deepening strategic cooperation and the establishment of a Sino-Pakistani “economic corridor” (中巴经济走廊), Xi turns to public diplomacy, or “people-to-people diplomacy”:

Thirdly, China and Pakistan will be of the same mind, and maintain their friendship from generation to generation. The people are the decisive force behind the promotion of national progress and the development of history, and the support of the peoples of the two nations is the driving force behind our weather-proof friendship and comprehensive cooperation. 2015 is the year of Sino-Pakistani friendly exchanges. We want to have exchanges by friendship cities [友城?], cultural centers, platforms provided by the news media, to carry out festive activities rich in content, form, and shape. We want to continue the mutual exchange of young people, encourage the young of both countries to have more contacts with each other, and more exchange. During the coming five years, China will provide 2000 training places, and help Pakistan to train 1000 Chinese teachers. We welcome Pakistan’s active participation in the China South Asia Cultural Exchange Program, to make Sino-Pakistani friendship enter the hearts of the people yet more deeply.


Disinterring an old Promise

The Chinese nation cherishes peace. For more than two-thousand years, Chinese people have known the truth that “Even if the state is great, if [the commander] loves war, [the state] will certainly be destroyed”. The Chinese people value [the principle of] “What you do not wish yourself,do not do onto others”, and do not identify with the idea that strong countries should be hegemons. To take the road of peaceful development is beneficial for China, for Asia, and for the world, and no power can change China’s belief in peaceful development. China adheres to the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal political affairs, will not impose its own will on others, and even if more powerful than now, it will never seek hegemony.




» An Upbeat Visit, New York Times, Apr 21, 2015
» Widely hailed, Radio Pakistan, Apr 21, 2015
» 中巴关系有多铁, CNS, Apr 21, 2015
» India monitoring, Times of India, Apr 20, 2015
» Economic Corridor, Times of India, Apr 18, 2015
» AIR re-tweets Pakistan Bashing, The Hindu, Febr 16, 2015
» Strongest Supporters, Pew, July 14, 2014
» Few Americans trust Pakistan,Pew, Oct 23, 2013
» Should you ever …, May 24, 2011

» Muhammad Iqbal, Wikipedia, accessed 20150422



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