Posts tagged ‘military’

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Mass Line and the Common Netizens: Where You go, We will go (to Listen to You and to Correct You)

An apparently centrally compiled news article on Tuesday, published or aired by Xinhua newsagency and CCTV‘s Xinwen Lianbo evening news among other media outlets, provided details from a Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Informatization conference in Beijing on Tuesday morning. The session was chaired by Xi Jinping (referred to in the article in his capacities as secretary-general, state chairman, central military commissions chairman, and central lading group for internet security and informatization group leader), and the list of attendants included both his informatization group deputy leaders Li Keqiang and Liu Yunshan, other leading party members, and/or experts or stakeholders like Wu Manqing (吴曼青, a Chinese Academy of Engineering fellow as well as a chief engineer at China Electronics Technology Group Corporation), and Jack Ma (马云), Alibaba Group CEO.

As China Media and Copyright notes, the full text of Xi Jinping’s speech wasn’t published, but the blog, apparently run by a Dutch Master of Chinese studies, provides a full translation of the a/m news article. The newsarticle had also caught the attention of The Independent and Reuters.

From the article, as translated by China Media and Copyright:

Xi Jinping pointed out that our country has 700 million netizens; this is an extraordinary number, and an extraordinary achievement. Our country’s economic development has entered a new normal, the new normal requires new drivers, and the Internet can have great potential in this area. We must strive to promote the converged development of the Internet and the real economy, let information flows drive technology flows, financial flows, talent flows and material flows, stimulate the optimization of resource allocation, stimulate the increase of productivity of all factors, and let it play a positive role in promoting innovation and development, transforming economic development methods, and adjusting economic structures.

习近平指出,我国有7亿网民,这是一个了不起的数字,也是一个了不起的成就。我国经济发展进入新常态,新常态要有新动力,互联网在这方面可以大 有作为。要着力推动互联网和实体经济深度融合发展,以信息流带动技术流、资金流、人才流、物资流,促进资源配置优化,促进全要素生产率提升,为推动创新发 展、转变经济发展方式、调整经济结构发挥积极作用。

[…]

Xi Jinping pointed out that we must build a good online ecology, and give rein to the network’s role in guiding public opinion and reflecting the popular will. To realize the “Two Centenaries” struggle objective, it is necessary that all of society acts with one heart in all aspects, and it is necessary that the people of all ethnicities in the entire nation think in the same direction, and devote their energies in the same direction. Netizens come from among the common people, once the common people went online, popular sentiment also went online. Wherever the masses are, there our leading cadres must go as well. All levels’ Party and government bodies, as well as leading cadres, must learn how to march the mass line through the network, regularly go online to look around, understand what the masses think and want, collect good ideas and good suggestions, and vigorously respond to netizens’ concerns, relieve their doubts and dispel their worries. With regard to the broad netizens, we must have more tolerance and patience, we must timely take up constructive opinions, we must timely help where there are difficulties, we must provide timely propaganda and explanation to those who don’t understand the situation, we must timely clear up matters for those with muddled understandings, we must timely resolve grievances and complaints, we must timely guide and correct mistaken viewpoints, to let the Internet become a channel to understand the masses, stay close to the masses, and get rid of worries and overcome difficulties of the masses, and let it become a new channel to carry forward the people’s democracy and accept the people’s supervision. To those online criticisms that stem from good intentions, to Internet supervision, regardless of whether they concern Party or government work, or whether they concern leading cadres individually, regardless of whether they are gentle and mild or whether they are hurtful truths, we must not only welcome them, we must also earnestly study and learn from them.

习近平指出,要建设网络良好生态,发挥网络引导舆论、反映民意的作用。实现“两个一百年”奋斗目标,需要全社会方方面面同心干,需要全国各族人 民心往一处想、劲往一处使。网民来自老百姓,老百姓上了网,民意也就上了网。群众在哪儿,我们的领导干部就要到哪儿去。各级党政机关和领导干部要学会通过 网络走群众路线,经常上网看看,了解群众所思所愿,收集好想法好建议,积极回应网民关切、解疑释惑。对广大网民,要多一些包容和耐心,对建设性意见要及时 吸纳,对困难要及时帮助,对不了解情况的要及时宣介,对模糊认识要及时廓清,对怨气怨言要及时化解,对错误看法要及时引导和纠正,让互联网成为了解群众、 贴近群众、为群众排忧解难的新途径,成为发扬人民民主、接受人民监督的新渠道。对网上那些出于善意的批评,对互联网监督,不论是对党和政府工作提的还是对 领导干部个人提的,不论是和风细雨的还是忠言逆耳的,我们不仅要欢迎,而且要认真研究和吸取。

Much of the news article reflects comments by Xi Jinping about global competition and China’s position there, and even expresses an interest in foreign talents, in that not only we welcome foreign Internet enterprises, as long as they abide by our country’s laws and regulations, but

We must establish flexible talent incentive mechanisms, let talent making contributions feel a sense of achievement and a sense of gain. We must build talent structures and systems with global competitiveness. Regardless of from which country or region they come, as long as they are excellent talents, they will be usable to us.

要建立灵活的人才激励机制,让作出贡献的人才有成就感、获得感。要 构建具有全球竞争力的人才制度体系。不管是哪个国家、哪个地区的,只要是优秀人才,都可以为我所用。

As usual, Xi is presented as a people person, and his academic and professional interlocutors play along pretty well in the CCP choreography:

Xiao Xinguang shaking hands with Xi Jinping

Click above picture for video

Xiao Xinguang in particular can hardly secede from part with his secretary-general.

And Tang Xujun (唐绪军), head of the news and propagation research institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, counted himself lucky to have been there, as he wrote in an article for People’s Daily:

I was fortunate to attend the Internet Security and Informatization conference chaired by secretary-general Xi Jinping, and, with my own ears, listen to secretary-general Xi Jinping’s important speech, from which I benefitted. As an internet and new media researcher, I was deeply impressed by secretary-general Xi Jinping’s elaboration detailed remarks concerning the construction of a good internet ecology and guidance of public opinion, and [the internet’s] reflection of the popular will.

有幸参加了4月19日习近平总书记主持的网络安全与信息化工作座谈会,亲耳聆听了习近平总书记的重要讲话,受益匪浅。作为互联网和新媒体的一个研究者,我对习近平总书记关于要建设网络良好生态,发挥网络引导舆论、反映民意作用的阐述印象深刻。

What is the popular will? Although academic views of the definition of popular will are varied, with different emphasis, there is this fundamental consensus: the popular will is the masses’ public expression, in particular places at particular times, of basically unanimous viewpoints and opinions concerning particular public affairs. [Popular will] is a form of democracy.

什么是民意?尽管在学界对民意的定义五花八门,各有其强调的重点,但基本一致的共识是:民意就是人民群众在特定的时空,对特定的公共事务公开表达的基本一致的观点和意见,它是一种民主的形式。

The Chinese Communist Party is the vanguard of the Chinese working class guided by Marxism. It’s objective is to wholeheartedly serve the people. Therefore, it pursues no personal interests. As early as in 1945, Mao Zedong, answering Huang Yanpei‘s question about how the CCP could escape the [defining treadmill of successive dynasties- my interpretation of 历代王朝兴亡周期率问题], pointed out that “we have already found a new road. It’s democracy. Only when you let the people supervise government, the government will not dare to become compacent. Only when people assume responsibilities, the problem of good governance dying with its founder will no longer emerge. From there onwards, all generations of CCP leaders have always emphasized the mass line of listening to the voice of the people, and to undertake great work to investigate and research its manners. [This last sentence is my very vague and hardly accurate translation of what it probably means – JR.]*)

Since the CCP’s 18th national congress, the CCP’s central committee with Xi Jinping as the secretary-general, mass line education and practice has become a more important starting point for the new era’s state affairs management, with the people at the center, listening to the popular will, and being in tune with the popular sentiment.

中国共产党是以马克思主义为指导的中国工人阶级的先锋队,其宗旨是全心全意为人民服务,因此她没有自己的私利。早在1945年,毛泽东在答黄炎培关于 中国共产党如何跳出中国历史上历代王朝兴亡周期率问题时就指出:“我们已经找到新路,我们能跳出这周期率。这条新路,就是民主。只有让人民来监督政府,政 府才不敢松懈。只有人人起来负责,才不会人亡政息。”从那以后,中国共产党的历代领导人都始终强调“倾听人民的呼声”“大兴调查研究之风”“走群众路 线”。党的十八大以来,以习近平为总书记的党中央更是以“群众路线教育实践活动”作为新时期治国理政的抓手,一切以人民为中心,听从民意、顺应民情。

Tang tries to reconcile the variety of opinions expressed on the internet with the party’s goals by basically re-stating Xi Jinping’s demand that it is necessary that the people of all ethnicities in the entire nation think in the same direction, and devote their energies in the same direction (see blockquotes further above), and that cadres listen to online opinions.

The internet being the biggest variable (最大变量) party cadres face, the internet must be “embraced” to achieve the “postitive energy” [do a browser search →there] mentioned by Xi Jinping, writes Tang.

All the same, Tang seems to like his secretary-general better than the internet and, in perfect internet-ecological terminology, expresses his misgivings about the latter:

This particular feature of the internet [that everyone can be a communicator] has greatly widened individuals’ and all kinds of societal organizations’ channels of expression. Any individuals’ or groups’ information and opinion can disseminate quickly and broadly, and even exceed the disseminational and expressonial powers of traditional media. A tiny event can become big through the internet, and an incident with great influence on the real world, and some grass swaying in the wind online may affect social stability online.

互联网的这种特性,极大地拓宽了个人及各种社会组织的表达渠道,某些个体和团体的信息传播与意见表达可以更迅捷地广泛扩散,甚至具有乃至超过传统媒体 的传播力和表达力。一个微小的事件通过互联网的放大,有可能成为现实中的一个影响巨大的事件,线上的风吹草动也可能影响到线下的社会稳定。

The answer? The main point in “guidance of public opinion” by the respective party and government levels, according to Tang, is to seize (issues? movements?) in a timely manner, while they are still small (因此,各级党和政府应对网上民意、引导网络舆论最重要的就是要做到“及时”, 抓早抓小).

Countless incidents in recent years have restated one lesson over and over again: delayed responses have lead to loss of control. Another point is categorized treatment [of online events]. The demands from the masses are various. There are reasons for all of them – the constructive and interest-led ones, the ridicule, and the angry ones. As service providers, all party and government levels must have a focused “fitting key” [for all situations], to respond in an appropriate way.

近几年无数网络事件反复验证了一个教训:贻误时机往往就意味着失控。其次是要分类对待。人民群众的诉求各种各样,有提出建议性意见的,有维护个 人权益的,有吐槽的,有骂娘的,各有其缘由。作为服务者,各级党和政府就必须有针对性地“一把钥匙开一把锁”,做到应对有方,举措得当。

____________

Notes

*) Two notes here.

  1. The last above sentence is a very vague and hardly accurate translation of mine – corrections and suggestions to improve it are welcome.
  2. What Tang Xujun refers to as Mao’s reply to Huang Yanpei is translated as the “Cycle” conversation in this Wikipedia article [accessed April 22]:

In 1945, Huang travelled to Yan’an to meet Mao Zedong and they had a conversation. In this dialogue, Huang noted that history is a testament to an observation that no form of government — an empire, a kingdom, a republic, and so on — had ever been able to break out of a cycle of rise and fall.

Huang said,

I’ve lived for more than 60 years. Let’s not talk about what I’ve heard. Whatever I saw with my own eyes, it fits the saying: “The rise of something may be fast, but its downfall is equally swift.” Has any person, family, community, place, or even a nation, ever managed to break free out of this cycle? Usually in the initial stage, everyone stays fully focused and puts in his/her best efforts. Maybe conditions were bad at the time, and everyone has to struggle to survive. Once the times change for the better, everyone loses focus and becomes lazy. In certain cases, as it has been a long time, complacency breeds, spreads and becomes a social norm. As such, even if the people are very capable, they can neither reverse the situation nor salvage it. There are also cases where a nation progresses and prospers — its rise could be either natural or due to rapid industrialisation spurred by the yearning for progression. When all human resources have been exhausted and problems crop up in management, the environment becomes more complicated and they lose control of the situation. Throughout history, there are various examples: a ruler ignores state affairs and eunuchs use the opportunity to seize power; a good system of governance ceases to function after the person who initiated it dies; people who lust for glory but end up in humiliation. None has managed to break out of this cycle.

Mao replied,

The people form the government; the government is the nation’s body. A new path lies ahead and it belongs to the people. The people build their own nation; everyone has a role to play. The government should pay attention to the people and the political party should perform its duty to its utmost and govern with virtue. We will not follow in the footsteps of those before us who have failed. The problem of a good system of governance ceasing to function after its initiator’s death can be avoided. We’ve already discovered a new path. We can break out of this cycle. This new path belongs to the people. The government will not become complacent only if it is under the supervision of the people. If everyone takes responsibility, a good system of governance will prevail.

Footnotes and the translated text can be found →there.

____________

Related

→ Successes to the Grassroots, January 29, 2014
→ Open the Skies for the Young, May 5, 2013
→ Become a Network Security Advisor, July 31, 2009

____________

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Germany: Is “The Ivan” Back?

The Russians are coming was a standard line when I was a child. Sometimes, everyone into the blockhouses would be added. it was meant to be fun, but there was an underlying fear in it.

Another term for Russians in general would be The Ivan*) (probably an echo from “Ivan the Terrible”). At least in West Germany, fear of Russia was part of collective post-war identity – much more so than in Britain or France.

There may be many possible explanations for this, and I tend to believe that it was a combination of several factors (Germany being subject to allied, including Soviet, control being one that lasted particularly long) was one of them. West Germany’s existence and raison d’être as a frontline state was another. And then, there was a widespread inclination among many Germans to see their country as a victim in the first place, rather than as an initiator of Nazism and boundless war.

By 1983, it had become evident, at least in certain quarters, that the USSR had lost most of its expansionary power. In terms of soft power, Moscows message had become about as attractive as athlete’s foot, and in military terms, the “Evil Empire” was grossly overestimated.

But there was a narrative, and as usual (when the narrative is well crafted), it prevailed over facts. On March 31, 1983, US president Ronald Reagan told a Los Angeles World Affairs Council Luncheon that

In the last 15 years or more, the Soviet Union has engaged in a relentless military buildup, overtaking and surpassing the United States in major categories of military power, acquiring what can only be considered an offensive military capability. All the moral values which this country cherishes-freedom, democracy, the right of peoples and nations to determine their own destiny, to speak and write, to live and worship as they choose—all these basic rights are fundamentally challenged by a powerful adversary which does not wish these values to survive.

Der Spiegel, back then a center-left and liberal German newsmagazine, took issue with Reagan. While the USSR was certainly no paper tiger, and while it was true that Soviet military had seen a huge push during two decades under Leonid Brezhnev (with American military budgets being  reduced by some 2.5 percent per year during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter presidencies), the USSR’s military power wasn’t as strong as first reported.

Shortly before a paper was published by US secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger (also in March 1983, and supportive of Reagan’s March-31 remarks), the CIA had retracted all its US statements concerning Moscow’s military budget:

military expenditures had been overestimated by fifty percent. Rather than by three, four, or more percent, there had been growth by a maximum of two percent since 1976.

Such subtleties, however, didn’t put Ronald Reagan off-message. His story remained the same; the Soviet Union was about to put an end to [a]ll the moral values which this country cherishes.

Fourty-year-old statistics like those debted in the early 1980s are hard to verify (or falsify). But in at least one respect, the Spiegel authors, in 1983, were wrong: contrary to what they believed (quoting “experts”), America proved able to finish the USSR off in a gargantuan arms race, and the factors that lead to the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991 were pretty much the weaknesses that the Spiegel authors themselves had pointed out less than a decade earlier.

The rest, as they say, is history. The world, from Alaska to Siberia (the long way round, of course), and from Pole to Pole, happily awaited huge peace dividends. After all, we had reached the end of history.

But Russia felt squeezed by NATO – understandably, the Baltic nations and Poland had felt rather urgently that they needed a strong reassurance against potential future Russian expansionism. (Not everyone appeared to trust the story about the end of history, and besides, a democratic society doesn’t necessarily live in a peaceful, unaggressive state.

Germans have viewed Russia – and the Soviet Union – differently since the mid-1980s. By 1987, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had overtaken Ronald Reagan, in terms of popularity here. That didn’t change after the USSR’s demise: while Gorbachev was seen as a failure, or even a “sellout” of sourts, among many Russians, Germans considered him “the” man who had made German unification possible. And Boris Yeltsin‘s Russia, even if not looking terribly respectable at the time, certainly didn’t look like something to fear either.

In an article in Germany’s weekly Die Zeit, a Moscow correspondent stated in May 1994 that once again, a majority of Russians considered the end of the USSR a greater calamity than its beginnings, and that Russian reformers had not been successful in “learning from the West”, as stipulated by Yeltsin two and a half years earlier.

Yeltsin had to accept that the safeguarding of authority, which had for centuries been based on expansion rather than on enlightenment, could not be redesigned with a new constitution alone.

Jelzin hat einsehen müssen, daß Herrschaftssicherung, die seit Jahrhunderten durch Ausdehnung statt durch Aufklärung erfolgte, mit einer neuen Verfassung alleine nicht umgestaltet werden kann.

Only pacts and compromises with conservative forces could save the “autumn” of Yeltsin’s presidency, the correspondent wrote.

In economic terms, a Stratfor paper dating from November 1999 suggested that veterans of perestroika, such as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, could strip the oligarchs of their wealth and influence, and enact more centrist policies.

To quite an extent, this seems to be what Vladimir Putin‘s presidency has done. In its early years, it continued the ideological consolidation started by Yeltsin himself, and his administration began to implement a policy that the “Zeit” Moscow correspondent described as west-oriented as a matter of principle, but moving away from America in particular. […] In America, however, the “Zeit” article quoted Yeltsin, forces were concentrating that would like to keep Russia in a state of controllable paralysis. That said, Putin  – in the eyes of investors – may have arrived at a point similar to Yeltsin’s, by now. Too little appears to move, economically.

When reading the press these days – certainly the German press -, you might be forgiven if you think that Russian policies had fundamentally changed since the 1990s. But they haven’t. There has been a remarkable Russian continuity – and a tendency in the West to disregard realities in Russia, and in its remaining sphere of influence.

When late German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle told Moscow in December 2013 that it was “not appropriate” for the EU “to ask third parties for permission before inviting the Ukraine to develop into Europe’s direction”, this represented widespread western- and central European illusions.

Russia, too, is a European country – most Russians live on the European continent, and Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Volgograd not least, are European cities. The discriminatory – and self-centred – approach of equating Europe with the EU has done much to its recent crises, be it on its eastern, be it on its northwestern boundaries.

There is an important difference to make: it would have been unethical if NATO had refused Polish or a Baltic country’s accessions, and it would have been particularly unethical if Germany a main author of Polish partition and loss of the Baltic states’ sovereignty,- had demanded such a refusal.

But in Ukraine, there had been no consensus to join an alliance with the West. In a row, administrations closer to Moscow or closer to the West had been elected, but there had been no continuity. There was Russian intervention, but there had been unwarranted Western interference prior to that. I have no doubt that any Russian leader, be it Putin, Yeltsin, or Gorbachev, would have reacted just the way Putin did. That was no matter of conviction; it was a matter of geopolitics.

Now, Germany’s federal government intends to counter Russian espionage, propaganda, and disinformation in Germany, writes German daily Die Welt. What they mean is, that Russian and pro-Putin publications have blown several issues in the news – issues that have recently troubled many Germans – out of proportions, or given them a slant that favored narratives from the fringes, rather than the much-conjured “center” of German society.

If the German public can be persuaded by domestic propaganda to swing back from a rather “russophile” (since the 1980s) to a rather anti-Russian attitude again (as from the 1940s to the 1970s) remains to be seen. But if the political class have their way, it is going to work that way.

That said, there are surprises, once in a while. In May 2015, Joachim Gauck, not particularly famous for being a friend of the Russian people, gave a speech in the Westphalian town of Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock, a prisoner-of-war campsite during World War 1 and, more notoriously, World War 2. What Gauck said, was this:

We have gathered here today in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock to recall one of the worst crimes of the war – the deaths of millions of Red Army soldiers in German prisoner-of-war camps. They died in agony without medical care, starved to death or were murdered. Millions of prisoners of war for whose care the German Wehrmacht was responsible under the law of war and international agreements.

Saying that was laudable, especially as most Germans I know aren’t even aware of this chapter in their history. But there is a catch: to say something only once hardly changes anything. Only regular repetition – as anyone with just a faint idea of how propaganda works can tell you – will make sink inconvenient truths like these sink in. Most Germans I know aren’t actually aware of the scale of German warcrimes against Soviet war prisoners. And to make the warprisoner story sink in isn’t deemed desirable: neither by most of Germany’s media, nor by the German population in general, many of whom would like to see a Schlußstrich, a “final stroke” underneath the complete chapter of Nazism.

Some time in the early 1980s – prior to Gorbachev’s tenure as Soviet party secretary -, the West German foreign office published a booklet for use in school classes. Our school was a rather conservative environment, but the booklet made it into our classroom anyway. Titled “Aufrüsten-Abrüsten” (Armament-Disarmament), it was a try to educate us in foreign politics, and I don’t remember much of it. But there was a remarkable line in it which basically said that, no matter to which conclusions we, as school students, might come concerning the Soviet Union’s role in Europe, we should develop some sympathy – even if not necessarily acquiescence – in the light of the past.

I guess that this booklet had much to do with the man at the helm of the foreign office at the time – Hans-Dietrich Genscher, German foreign minister from 1974 to 1992, who died on Thursday. As phobic as West German feelings against the “East” might have been back then, there seemed to be an understanding, at least in some substantial quarters of the political class, that you can’t have peace without trying to understand those who may (or may not) become your foes, and that your own decisions may matter in the process.

This understanding may no longer be here, and I’m wondering how much misery it may take before we will regain some common sense.

____________

Notes

*) Max Frisch, in his novel “Homo Faber”, raised a modest monument for German anti-Russian sentiment, in the shape of an, as it turns out later, otherwise/actually/mostly quite likeable German philistine:

No German desired re-armament, but the Russian forced America into it, tragically, which I, as a Swissman […], couldn’t judge, because I hadn’t been to the Caucasus, he [the German] had been in the Caucasus, he knew the Ivan, who could only be taught a lesson with weapons. He knew the Ivan! He said that several times. Only possible lesson through weapons!, he said, because nothing else would impress him, the Ivan —

I peeled my apple.

Distinction between Herrenmenschen and Untermenschen, as advocated by the good Hitler, was, of course, nonsense; but Asians remained Asians —

I ate my apple.

Kein  Deutscher  wünsche  Wiederbewaffnung,  aber  der  Russe zwinge  Amerika  dazu,  Tragik,  ich  als  Schweizer   (Schwyzzer, wie  er mit Vorliebe sagte)  könne  alldies  nicht   beurteilen,  weil  nie im Kaukasus gewesen,  er sei  im  Kaukasus gewesen,  er  kenne den Iwan, der nur durch Waffen zu belehren sei. Er kenne den Iwan!
Das  sagte  er mehrmals. Nur durch Waffen zu  belehren!  sagte  er, denn alles andere  mache  ihm keinen Eindruck,  dem  Iwan   –

Ich  schälte meinen Apfel.

Unterscheidung   nach  Herrenmenschen   und   Untermenschen, wie’s  der  gute  Hitler  meinte, sei  natürlich  Unsinn;  aber  Asiaten bleiben Asiaten –
Ich  aß meinen Apfel.

____________

Friday, February 26, 2016

Korean Peninsula: Deploy THAAD if you have to, but provide China with an Explanation

The prospect of a North Korean nuclear arsenal can’t be promising in Beijing’s view – but appears to be preferrable to a scenario where the regime in Pyongyang would collapse and give way to South Korea’s political system, with US military close on its heels.

Given that, it is no great surprise that China doesn’t agree to sanctions that could endanger the very survival of the North Korean regime. And given that, the sanctions Beijing agreed to anyway, in negotiations with Washington’s mission to the UN that were concluded on Thursday, look as if they were unusually biting after all, even if stopping short of causing Pyongyang fatal or near-fatal calamities. After all, the sanctions’ effect depends not only on what the Security Council agrees to, but also on how far North Korea’s trading partners, including China, are prepared to go in implementing them.

What made Beijing agree to the resolution draft that should be voted on shortly? Not least fear of a regional arms race.

A Foreign Ministry official confirmed that China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin requested a meeting with South Korea’s Ambassador to Beijing Kim Jang-soo,

KBS World Radio, South Korea’s foreign broadcasting service, reported on Febuary 9.

The official told Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency that China conveyed its stance on the launch of the THAAD negotiations during that meeting. Asked about what stance China had expressed, the official said it is not appropriate to reveal content from consultations held via diplomatic channels,

the KBS report continued.

The confirmation came as China’s Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that Liu urgently summoned the South Korean ambassador and protested the launch of South Korea-U.S. negotiations on deploying the U.S. THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula.

In her speech to parliament, South Korean president Park Geun-hye also conjured THAAD:

The Government is making sure our military readiness posture is solid and is also making thorough preparations for nonmilitary provocations including cyber- attacks and acts of terrorism in public places.

To maintain robust deterrence against the North, the Government is enhancing the Korea-U.S. combined defense capability and engaging in consultations with the United States to improve our alliance’s missile defense posture. The start of formal consultations to deploy the THAAD system to US Forces Korea, as announced on February 7, is also part of these efforts.

Eleven days earlier, Park had been on the phone, talking to Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping. The conversation didn’t appear to bear fruit, and certainly not the way Park had hoped for. China was “still unprepared” to “think about this in larger strategic terms”, Yonhap newsagency quoted Jonathan Pollack of the Brookings Institution. Pollack was also quoted as pointing out

how much effort Park has put in to strengthen relations with China and build personal ties with Xi, including her attendance at a massive Chinese military parade in September that was shunned by Western leaders.

“President Park’s expectation, I think legitimate expectation, was that she wanted a different answer from China. She’s made a lot of commitment to China,” the expert said, noting that Park risked domestic and international criticism to attend the September parade.

“She expected something in return, and so far, she has not received that,” he said.

Broadly speaking, Seoul’s plans for tough sanctions against Pyongyang had been frustrated. But there was a pressure point on Beijing. While Seoul had reportedly long been reluctant – or ambiguous – about the idea of deploying THAAD as part of American military defense, the South Korean leadership quickly warmed up to it during the past six or seven weeks.

And Beijing – not terribly successfully, it seems – tried to find an effective line in its communications with South Korea. In a meeting with Kim Jong-in, leader of South Korea’s largest opposition party, Chinese ambassador Qiu Guohong (邱国洪) – quoted by Chosun Ilbo as in turn quoted by Huanqiu Shibao

[…] emphasized that Sino-South Korean relations could thus be negatively affected, as mentioned at the beginning of this [Huanqiu, that is] article. The [Chosun Ilbo] report says that Qiu Guohong had expressed the Chinese position in three points. Firstly, the South Korean government says it would limit the radar reach and lower the performance of ‘THAAD’, but the Chinese government cannot possibly believe that. As a friend, China can believe South Korea’s promises, but the problem is that America has all powers in the deployment, the upgrades, and adjustments made to ‘THAAD’. In the end, China and Russia would become target objects, too.” Secondly, this [THAAD] issue would destroy the regional strategic balance, cause an arms race, and fire up nervousness and disquiet.” Ambassador Qiu reminded the South Korean side of the question of how South Korea’s seucrity should, under such circumstances, be guaranteed? His last point was that “the South-Korean-American consultations concerning ‘THAAD’ had, to some extent, dispersed the international community’s unanimous reaction concerning sanctions against North Korea. Without this issue, maybe there would be a new, passed, UN resolution already.”

[…..] 强调,中韩关系可能因此受到负面影响,这就出现了本文开头的一席话。报道称,邱国洪就中方立场大致说明了3点:首先,“韩国政府虽然声称会缩短预警雷达的探测距离,降低‘萨德’性能,但中国政府无法相信。作为好朋友,中国可以相信韩国的承诺,但问题是美国拥有部署、升级、调整‘萨德’的所有权利,最终中国和俄罗斯也会成为瞄准对象”;其次,该问题会“打破地区的战略均衡,引发地区军备竞赛,助长紧张和不安”。邱大使提醒韩方,如果出现这样的局面,韩国的安全是否能得到保障?最后一点是,“韩美协商‘萨德’问题相当于分散了国际社会对朝鲜制裁的一致应对。如果没有该问题,新的联合国决议案可能已经获得通过”。

The South Korean government wasn’t amused and summoned Qiu to the foreign ministry on Wednesday to discuss his comments during his talks with the country’s opposition leader. This was no dramatic response to a questionable Chinese move, but an unusually strong reaction by South Korean standards, in its relations with Beijing. And there is no indication that Seoul will drop the idea of THAAD deployment again, after what appears to have been a successful game of hardball with Beijing, forced upon the clestial kingdom by three unruly barbarians: America, South Korea, and – not least – the North Korean “ally”.

On Thursday, the day when Beijing’s and Washington’s missions to the UN agreed to the resolution draft on sanctions against North Korea, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi apparently struck a more conciliatory tone, saying that the decision was ultimately up to South Korea, and China understood the desire of the United States and South Korea to ensure the defense of their own countries. However, China’s legitimate security concerns also needed to be taken into account, Reuters quoted Wang as saying – an explanation must be provided to China.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Korean Peninsula: no Pain, no Denuclearization

North Korea’s “Historical Moment”

On February 7, North Korea launched a missile. Pyongyang referred ot it as a satellite launch, and that’s how they had registered it with the International Maritime Office in London, a few days earlier.

But the world appeared to be in disbelief. One month earlier, on January 6, North Korea had conducted a nuclear test, and given that space rockets’ and ballistic missiles’ technological platforms are quite similar to each other, it is believed that Pyongyang chose the space option (a three-stufen rocket) rather than a (two-stufen) missile so as to circumvent UN Security Council restrictions on its missile program.

Beijing, too, expressed disbelief and “regretted” the satellite launch which, as the foreign ministry spokesperson emphasized, had been based on ballistic-missile technology.

Pyongyang’s claim that it had tested a hydrogen bomb was met with skepticism in the West, in Japan, and South Korea, and at least semi-officially – via the world of Chinese science, as usual – Beijing expressed doubt, too.

He wouldn’t rule out that North Korea mastered a bit of hydrogen-bomb technology already, PLA Academy of Military Science researcher Du Wenlong told CCTV, but the available data “didn’t support a ‘hydrogen-bomb test’”.

There were no such doubts about North Korean television’s wonderweapon: “Heaven and earth are shaking because of the historical moment”, announced Ri Chun-hee, a veteran presenter, re-emerged from retirement for the festive occasion.

South Korea’s Reaction

And South Korea’s leadership was steaming with anger. If it was up to the South’s foreign minister, Yun Byung-he, the North Korean leadership would be entering a world of pain:

“I believe it is time for the international community to show zero tolerance to North Korea’s uncontrolled provocations”, he told the Munich Security Conference in Munich on Thursday, and: “it is time now to inflict unbearable pain on Pyongyang, to make them take the right strategic decision, as Iran has done.”

South Korea sees itself affected by Pyongyang’s nuclear test more immediately as other neighbors or opponents taking part in the six-party talks on the Korean peninsula’s denuclearization. Different from the world outside the peninsula, reunification of the two Koreas is on the agenda, even if outside the South Korean government, considerable doubts are expressed concerning the use and feasibility of such unification.

There was a special relationship between South Korea and Germany, because of the painful experience of division, South Korean president Park Geun-hye said during a visit to Berlin, in March 2014.

Her demand that “meticulous preparations” should be made for making Korean unity happen was probably meant seriously then, and still is. Basically, the situation on the Korean peninsula isn’t that different after the North’s fourth nuclear test, anyway: America and China can agree to a common denominator concerning sanctions against Pyongyang, but no sanctions that would call the continuation of the North Korean regime into question.

Besides, flashes of official Korean anger – northern or southern – might be considered a ritual. As German sinologist Oskar Weggel observed decades ago, student protests in [South] Korean cities always took the same shape and followed the same script, while life continued as normal just next to where young people were battling it out with the police. 1)

But for some South Korean companies, life may be anything but normal now. An industrial park jointly run in Kaesong, by North and South Korea, has ceased operation last week. On Thursday, Pyongyang deported all the South Korean employees to the South, after South Korea had stopped production. The South Koreans’ apparent attempt to take their assets and stock across the border to the South reportedly didn’t succeed: according to Radio Japn news on Friday, the North Korean committee for reunification announced that South Korean assets in Kaesong would be frozen, and also on Friday, China Radio International’s Mandarin service reported that the South Koreans had only been allowed to take personal belongings with them. The industrial park had been sealed off as a military zone – chances are that this halt will last longer than a previous one in 2013.

Valued more than 500 million USD in 2015, inter-Korean production in Kaesong may be considered less than decisive, in macro-economic terms. However, according to South Korean broadcaster KBS’ German service, South Korean opposition criticized the production halt in Kaesong as the governing party’s “strategy” for the upcoming parliamentary elections in April. Also according to KBS, Seoul feels compelled to take relief measures for companies invested in Kaesong. All companies residing in the industrial park are granted a moratorium on loan repayments, and companies who took loans from an inter-Korean cooperation fund may also suspend interest payment.

Chinese-North Korean Relations

China had “total control” of North Korea, Donald Trump claimed in a CNN interview – there would be nothing to eat in North Korea without China. If you go by statistics, Trump appears to have a point.

From 2009 to 2011, North Korean exports (imports) to (from) China rose from 348 mn (1.47 bn) USD to 2.5 bn (3.7 bn) USD. In total, North Korea’s exports (imports) reached a value of 3.7 bn (4.3 bn) USD.2) Even after a contraction of North Koran-Chinese trade in 2014 and 2015 to 2.3 bn (2.6 bn) USD by 2015, there’s hardly a way to reject the notion of North Korean dependence on China.

North Korea also depends on China in military terms. An American-led attack on Pyongyang – be it to occupy the North, be it for the sake of “regime change”, is hardly conceivable – directly or indirectly, Beijing’s nuclear umbrella protects the regime.

All the same, it is wrong to believe that Beijing wielded substantial influence over Pyongyang’s behavior. Neither economic nor military support from Beijing has been able to satisfy Pyongyang. Given Chinese reform and opening up “to the West”, or to international markets, since 1978, China’s leaders are considered weaklings by North Korean peers, despite some private-economy tries of their own. To consider oneself an economic or military dwarf, but a giant of ideological purity vis-à-vis China has some tradition in Korea.

That China has joined several initiatives – resolutions and sanctions – against North Korea hasn’t been a confidence-building measure for the neighbor and ally either.

That Pyongyang, under these circumstances, keeps striving for nuclear arms, come what may, is only logical – at least by the regime’s own interest –, and not negotiable, unless the regime falls. There are no conceivable guarantees – be it from Beijing, be it from Washington – that could make the North Korean political class abandon their nuclear goal.

American-Chinese Relations

No matter if there ever was or wasn’t a Western “guarantee” to the former USSR not to expand NATO eastward: a precondition for any feasible arrangement of that kind – in east or west – would be a situation where all parties involved would see themselves in a position to enter a non-aligned status, or to maintain one. There is no way that this could currently be done in East Asia. Even as there is no structure comparable to NATO in East Asia – and South-East Asia, for that matter -, none of China’s neighbors will discard the option to play America and China off against one another, thus increasing its own leeway – neither North Korea as China’s current “ally”, nor any other state within the former Chinese imperial state’s range of influence. And neither America nor China – strategic rivals of one another – would abandon the option to establish or to maintain alliances in Asia, based on partnership or on hegemony.

If the North Korean regime collapsed, there would be no guarantees for China that a North Korean power vacuum wouldn’t be filled by South Korea and the United States. And if China invaded Korea’s north preemptively, it wouldn’t only violate its own attitude of non-interference, but it would risk war, or at least a crash in its economic relations with America and many other countries. Not least, a Chinese invasion would harden an antagonism against China that already exists among former tributary states.

From China’s perspective, there is therefore no convincing alternative to the incumbent North Korean regime. The status quo costs less than any conceivable alternative scenario.

America knows that, too, and a newly lected president Trump would get real very quickly, or America would lose a great deal of influence in the region.

Frustrations

Last week’s developments will be most frustrating for the South Korean government, particularly for president Park. Her public-support rate will hardly depend on national reunification drawing closer, but it will depend on a reasonably relaxed co-existence with the North, including at least a few fields of cooperation, as has been the case in the Kaesong Industrial Park. The South Korean opposition’s accusations against the government to have stopped production carelessly or intentionally, it’s exactly because levelling such accusations can damage the government’s reputation with the electorate.

A phone call between Park and Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping didn’t provide Park with good news either, let alone progress in her efforts to influence the North through international channels. China was still “not prepared” to change its …. Toward North Korea, an editorialist for South Korea’s Yonhap newsagency stated cautiously, adding a quote from Jonathan Pollack who had emphasized how Park had made efforts for good relations with Beijing, even by attending the Chinese military parade in September, commemorating the end of World War 2.

Pyongyang is hardly at risk to suffer from unbearable pains, as demanded by South Korea’s foreign minister in Munich.

But Beijing, too, can’t be happy with the situation. It offends face-conscious Chinese people to be fooled, on the world stage, by a gang – that’s how many Chinese view North Korea’s “elites”. The effects of North Korea’s behavior also strengthen the hand of the US in the region. Just as Pyongyang helps itself to a Chinese military umbrella without much cost (if any), most other neighbors afford themselves, to varying degrees, an American umbrella. Even Japan and South Korea, facing North Korean nuclear armament, might work to defuse mutual antagonism, as feared by Chinese military professor Zhang Zhaozhong, in 2010. Preparedness to improve Japanese-South Korean relations appears to be on the increase.

Besides the – aggressive indeed – role played by China in the South China sea, North Korea’s attitude remains another strong anchor point for America’s military and political presence in the Far East.

___________

Notes

1) Oskar Weggel: “Die Asiaten”, Munich 1989, 1994, 1997 p. 148
2) FAO/WFP Group and Security Assessment Mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Rome, Nov 28, 2013, p. 7

____________

Friday, January 8, 2016

Human Rights and Economic Records: Botched Measures and Terrible Occurrences

Before the old (lunar) year leaves and a new comes in, things need to be tidied up in China. However, efforts to calm the stock markets by new management measures appear to have been unsuccessful. And in Hong Kong, where RMB trading, is unrestricted, people pay less for China’s currency, according to the New York Times.

There’s still other bad news, and the indicator in this case, too, is Hong Kong.

“Something terrible has happened. We are all afraid. We are leaving now,” an employee told me a few hours before locking the doors for the foreseeable future.

That’s how the BBC‘s correspondent in the former British colony, Juliana Liu, concluded an entry in the broadcaster’s China blog on Monday, and the topic, of course, is the case of five Hong Kong citizens, all associated with the Causeway Bay Bookstore, who have gone missing since October last year. The latest case is Paul Lee, and he went missing late in December.

Hong Kong’s SCMP, one of East Asia’s leading English-language papers, but one with an uncertain future, reported on Monday the first precept speech by a Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. The guy who’s imitating the late great dictator is, of course, current party secretary general, state chairman, and the central military commissions’ (CMC) chairman Xi Jinping. The speech is seen as part of Xi’s efforts to reform China’s military, but obviously, the – probably intended – signal goes beyond the armed forces project.

Given that no other former CMC chairman, from Deng Xiaoping to Hu Jintao, had given a military precept, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law concludes that Xi’s power and authority is even higher than them.

This may or may not be true. If  Wang Qishan, rather than Li Keqiang, ranks second in terms of power or influence within the party, the assessement may be correct. But then, maybe Deng Xiaoping, who faced open ideological competition at times by more conservative party veterans like Chen Yun, simply didn’t need to show off his autority by admonishing the military.

Back then, too, the party was corrupted. But that was at a time when – or that’s how it felt, anyway – everyone had a chance to become rich. Now, there’s a two-fold challenge of corruption and slowing growth.

This could mean that Xi has powers because potential rivals do not want to challenge him, so as not to rock the not-so-stable boat.

If China’s regime manages the switch from an export-led economy to a more services-oriented economy successfully, the doubts in Beijing’s macro-economic control of the economy won’t persist – some disappeared people, in China or elsewhere, have never been a great concern to business.

All the Xidadamania aside however, confidence in mainland China, in Hong Kong, and abroad, appears to be slipping, at least currently.

In an interview with German national radio on Thursday, Markus Taube, a professor at a university in Germany’s Ruhr region, stated “a massive loss of confidence” in China:

What we see in China at the moment, definitely, is a massive loss of confidence. All market actors can see that the CCP has clearly lost its former control capacity. Until now, the Chinese market was always a very [unreadable] […]. Now, this ability to lead isn’t in place and that the state has failed several times, on its own promises.

Das, was wir in China momentan definitiv sehen ist ein massiver Vertrauensverlust. Alle Marktakteure sehen, dass die Kommunistische Partei offensichtlich ihre frühere Steuerungskapazität verloren hat. Bislang war der chinesische Markt immer ein sehr [unreadable] … Fundamentaldaten haben da kaum eine Rolle gespielt, und es war das Vertrauen einfach da, dass die Partei, der Staat, im Endeffekt die Richtung vorgibt [unreadable]. Jetzt ist es so, dass diese Führungsfunktion fehlt und dass der Staat mehrfach versagt hat, auf seine eigenen Versprechen hin.

Not least, Taube said, the “anti-corruption campaign” has discouraged Chinese decisionmakers in charge of approving (or delaying) investment projects.

Given that Chinese control mechanisms – concerning the financial markets – are out of order, Taube, with an audible sigh, introduces an old friend from the 2009 tool cabinet:

It sounds unorthodox, but probably, in the current situation, it would be more appropriate to issue another stimulus package, in that the state, again, to a great extent, pumps money into the economy. A classical Keynesian stimulus package to create state-induced demand so as to restore the economic dynamics on a basic level.

Es klingt sehr unorthodox, aber wahrscheinlich ist es in der momentanen Situation tatsächlich eher angesagt, ein klassisches Konjunkturpaket wieder aufzusetzen, einen Stimulus, in dem der Staat einfach in großem Maße wieder Geld in die Volkswirtschaft hineinpumpt. Also ein klassisches keynesianisches Konjunkturprogramm, in dem einfach staatlich induziert Nachfrage geschaffen wird, und damit einfach die volkswirtschaftliche Dynamik auf einem grundlegenden Level wieder stabilisiert wird.

That said, Taube doesn’t judge the situation by standards of five-year plans, or by taking the long view, as recommended by the Lord of the Confucius Institutes. Taube advocates a stimulus because the methods tried more recently haven’t worked and wouldn’t turn the tide for the coming six months.

____________

Updates/Related

» Executives Disappearing, HP, Jan 8, 2016

____________

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Big Musical Statement: Pyongyang pulls the Plug on Beijing Performance

It had been no small affair: when the Moranbong Band’s train entered China on Wednesday, passing through China’s border city Dandong, the Korean Workers Party’s deputy propaganda director was on board, the “political knowledge office” (政知局), particularly designed by the Chinese authorities to disseminate truth, knowledge and common sense through the “social media”, reported on Friday. Some time earlier, a number of North Korean officials, Kim Ki-nam and China’s ambassador to North Korea, Li Jinjun (李进军), among them, had seen the military pop band off in Pyongyang. In August, the “political knowledge office”, republished here by the Shenyang Daily website, had successfully performed in Moscow.

It’s seen as the latest sign that the two countries’ longstanding alliance is on the mend again, after being strained by North Korea’s third nuclear test in 2013,

the BBC wrote on Wednesday.

On December 10, one day after entering China through Dandong, a city right on the Sino-Korean border, the troupe reached Beijing. The visit, originally scheduled to last from December 10 to 15, had been announced on very short notice, and surprisingly, according to the “political knowledge office” who reportedly said on their Weibo account that they had only got the information when the Moranbong Band, and their colleagues from North Korea’s State Merited Chorus, were already travelling.

After Liu Yunshan‘s visit to Pyongyang, the highest level of North Korean culture was now visiting Beijing, Shenyang Daily online wrote on Friday, still leaning on the correct information from the “political knowledge office”.

Maybe next time, China’s media should only get and publish the information once the two North Korean bands are on their way back to Pyongyang – and only after having performed on all agreed occasions.

The coming hours or days may tell what went “wrong”, be it on the “working level”, as stated by Xinhua, be it at the Chinese and North Korean top level – if the North Koreans had planned the propaganda implosion from the beginning.

When it comes to the spoilt bunch that claims to be North Korea’s rightful leaders, and their funny stuff, Beijing’s face skin is already very thick. But it can’t be stuff of dreams to be China’s ambassador to the mysterious northeastern neighbor.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

We vow to Thee, Big Neighbor (maybe next time)

Newsflash: The long-awaited performance of North Korea’s Moranbong Band in Beijing has been cancelled. Xinhua newsagency reportedly cites communication reasons on the working level (因工作层面间沟通衔接原因) as causing the abrupt cancellation.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Must-Ask Question: China’s Missiles targeting Taiwan

Radio Taiwan International (RTI) quotes Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou as saying in a press conference after his meeting with Chinese state chairman Xi Jinping that he brought up the issue of Chinese missiles aiming at Taiwan. According to Ma, Xi said that the missile deployments were a comprehensive arrangement and not targeted at the people of Taiwan [「部署是整體性,不是針對台灣人民」].

RTI also quotes from a Central News Agency (CNA) interview with the founder of a Canadian military magazine, Kanwa (漢和防務評論), Andrei Pinkov (平可夫). Pinkov reportedly said that clearly, China’s missiles, and land and naval forces were targeting Taiwan.

To expect Beijing to remove these deployments would be difficult:

[Pinkov] said, if you want the removal of missiles be implemented, the mainland will certainly demand the building of mutual military trust. “If there’s no trust built, how can the missiles be removed?” Also, where to store the removed stuff? Just a while ago, the mainland has announced to cut 300,000 military staff. That needs to be digested. If you make more cuts, how should they deploy the staff?

他說,撤飛彈的事情若要實際落實,大陸一定會要求建立雙方軍事互信,「互信沒建立,怎麼撤飛彈?」此外,撤除的東西要往哪擺?大陸先前宣布裁軍30萬人,人員都可能還在消化,若又再撤,人員要怎麼安排?

Pinkov said that although most of the international community viewed the Ma-Xi meeting favorably, but, he concluded, if this was really followed by the two sides establishing some military interaction, America might increase its restrictions on arms sales to Taiwan, and Japan, too, could become more vigilant about Taiwan. All these were problem Taiwan could face [under such circumstances].

平可夫表示,雖然國際社會對馬習會多是樂觀其成,但兩岸雙方若隨後在軍事上真的有一些互動,他推論,美國對台軍售的限制可能會更多,日本對台灣也會開始有戒心,這都是台灣可能面臨的問題。

____________

Related

» More sophisticated, Jamestown, April 1, 2010

____________

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 54 other followers

%d bloggers like this: