Posts tagged ‘negotiations’

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Angela Merkel’s 8th Visit: another two Days in China

Angela Merkel was to meet Xi Jinping on Thursday, her office’s website wrote earlier this week, referring to the state chairman and party secretary general as “president”. That’s routine in German federal and regional authorities’ contacts with China; party affiliations and roles are mostly ignored.

It was Merkel’s eighth visit to China, Xinhua newsagency informed statistics-obsessed readers. She first visited in August 1997, then as minister for environment protection and nuclear reactor safety. Visits as chancellor followed in May 2006, August 2007, October 2008, July 2010, February 2012, August 2012, and in July 2014.

An End to the “Golden Decade” of German-Chinese Cooperation?

Germany’s press is diverse at first glance, but much of what ends up in regional papers is written by relatively few correspondents or editorialists in Berlin, pooled in news agencies and correspondent’s offices that offer their services to any paper in the market. “Die Krisen reisen mit” (Crises travel along), written by two Deutsche Presseagentur (DPA) correspondents, was published by a number of small or medium-sized regional papers. Sebastian Heilmann, a sinologist, is quoted as saying that London had assumed the leading role in relations with China (this probably refers to the leading role in the European Union).

But the DPA article doesn’t want to leave Heilmann’s remarks uncontested:

That Cameron, all of a sudden, only leers at business doesn’t necessarily suggest convictions and reliability, as can be read from internet users’ sardonic remarks. The chancellor enjoys much greater esteem. But Xi was probably happy to see the human-rights topic basically dropped under the table in London, and the Europeans being split. The [German] federal government takes no stock in this kind of policy changes and remains firm in its critical China policy. Chinese people appreciate reliability. Even the strength of Germany’s industries alone would ensure Germany’s position as China’s “definitely strongest trading partner”, the chancellery believes.

Dass Cameron plötzlich nur noch auf das Geschäft schielt, spricht auch aus chinesischer Sicht nicht unbedingt für Überzeugungen und Verlässlichkeit, wie aus hämischen Kommentaren von Internetnutzern erkennbar wird. Da genießt die Kanzlerin viel größere Wertschätzung. Aber Xi dürfte sich gefreut haben, dass das Thema Menschenrechte in London praktisch unter den Tisch gefallen ist und hier ein Keil zwischen die Europäer getrieben werden konnte. Die Bundesregierung hält von solchen Kurswechseln aber nichts und bleibt in ihrer kritischen China-Politik standhaft. Die Chinesen wissen Zuverlässigkeit zu schätzen. Schon wegen der Stärke der deutschen Industrie werde Deutschland auch “mit Sicherheit der stärkste Handelspartner” der Chinesen  bleiben, glaubt man im Kanzleramt.

Deutsche Welle’s Mandarin service is more elaborate, drawing on a press release from the Mercator Institute for China in Berlin, r rather on the institute’s trade magazine “China Flash”. In an interview with the magazine, Heilmann, the institute’s director, said that Chinese demand for industrial commodities was going down, and at the same time,

there’s a certain disillusionment on the Chinese side, because jointly agreed projects are stagnating: from the Chinese perspective, German industry is too passive in technological cooperation, and the federal government has given too little profile to the issue.

auf chinesischer Seite eine gewisse diplomatische Ernüchterung, weil gemeinsam vereinbarte Projekte stocken: Aus Sicht der Chinesen ist die deutsche Industrie in der Technologiekooperation zu passiv, und die Bundesregierung hat das Thema Innovationspartnerschaft zu niedrig aufgehängt.

As for an action framework for innovation partnership, adopted in Berlin in October 2014, with Chinese chief state councillor Li Keqiang and Merkel in attendance, Merkel would “need to cheer up disappointed interlocutors in Beijing”:

Peking had hoped that German companies would procure Chinese companies with innovative know-how on networked production. However, German companies are understandably skeptical: Industry 4.0 is about fundamental, sensitive future technology. The question if this kind of know-how can be protected in the Chinese context must be answered in the negative, at present.

Peking hatte gehofft, dass deutsche Unternehmen chinesischen Firmen innovatives Wissen zur vernetzten Industrieproduktion beibringen. Doch deutsche Unternehmen sind verständlicher Weise skeptisch: Bei Industrie 4.0 geht es um elementare, sensible Zukunftstechnologien. Und die Frage, ob solches Know-how im chinesischen Kontext geschützt werden kann, muss man derzeit klar verneinen.

In Heilmann’s view, Germany losing its status as an “anchor state” for Chinese engagement in Europe shouldn’t simply be attributed to London’s “fulminant diplomatic campaign”, but to intensifying Chinese interest in international financial markets and tertiary-industry-related know-how.

Meantime, the federal government, in its announcement of Merkel’s visit to China, stated that Berlin’s goal was a balance between economic/technological, and social issues, and to include issues of global order, as well.

Human Rights: “Huanqiu Shibao” pities Merkel

Heilmann doesn’t seem to agree that China’s leaders would appreciate the federal government’s “critical China policy” (see first blockquote). It would be quite possible, Heilmann told “China Flash”, that Chinese government representatives wouldn’t listen to German expostulations “as patiently as they did last year”.

One had to pity Merkel, Huanqiu Shibao wrote in a slightly satirical article, republished here by Guanchazhe (Shanghai) on Thursday:

Today and tomorrow; German chancellor Angela Merkel visits China. So-called human-rights organizations like Amnesty International responded right away, on receipt of the news. This organization, which frequently causes China trouble, as well as the disreputable organizations “World Uyghur Congress” and “International Campaign for Tibet” recently published a joint open letter to Merkel and demanded that she should voice “concern regarding the situation in Chinese judiciary” and to voice her “support for suppressed Uyghur human rights lawyers”.


“Tibetan-independence” and “Xinjiang-independence” organization in Western exile have apparently learned something new, adding new concepts like “situation in Chinese judiciary” and “Uyghur human rights lawyers”. That’s very amusing.


From the perspective of the large public in mainland China, Western leaders who sing the praise of human rights every time when visiting China, come across as somewhat strange. Above all, what they mean by human rights is often different from what Chinese the common people mean. For example, Chinese people are above all concerned by social justice, with educational justice and fair access to medical treatment, home ownership, care for the elderly, etc..


Chinese people also want rule by law, they hope for unrestricted freedom of speech, and more democratic government. As far as these [issues] are concerned, the country has a diversity in practice, keeps summing up experiences, and indeed, there are problems on government level that need to be solved. Concepts like democracy and rule by law have found their way into socialist core values. In fact, Chinese society, more than any external force, is more concerned with doing this well, and engages in exploring these issues.


When foreigners talk to China about human rights, this frequently refers to the tiny minority of people who are in jail for challenging China’s political system, defined by the constitution and rules, in a way that  is relevant under criminal law. Our strong impression is that they [foreign visitors] aren’t concerned about Chinese human rights which are constantly improving, that they aren’t concerned for the growing prosperity of a majority of Chinese people, but that they [my translation for the rest of this line may be rather vague or inaccurate – JR]  want to help those who seek confrontation with the Chinese system. By this, they want to cause China trouble and force China to adopt government methods that don’t fit this country.

外国人向中国一谈人权,指的往往是为挑战中国宪法规定 的政治制度而触犯刑法,并因此坐了监狱的极少数人。给我们的强烈印象是,他们不是关心中国人权基本面 的不断改善,不是关心绝大多数中国人的福祉,而是要帮助能数得过来的与中国体制搞对抗的人,他们是要以这种方式找中国麻烦,逼中国采取不适合自己的国家治 理方式。

 Many people from the West say that they are sincerely concerned about human rights and that they can’t ignore the arrests of “dissidents”. But apparently, they don’t understand what those “dissidents” did, that they weren’t seized for “differing opinions”, but for doing things, because of their “different opinion”, that are banned by Chinese law.1)

One had to understand that China frequently gave cause to misunderstandings, Huanqiu Shibao wrote. After all, this was a big world, and far-away China was therefore not easy to understand. However, Western people with strong views about intervention in China should know how to behave in delicate situations. This wasn’t the era of the eight-nation alliance, and China wasn’t in the [weak] position anymore to beg for capital or technology.

Self-confident as Chinese society is today, people know that there are individual Western leaders who visit China with the tic of discussing “human rights”. Therefore, [Chinese people] feel a bit sorry and pity visitors who need to grit their teeth and shoulder the task of discussing “human rights”, so as to report to their superiors at home afterwards. Apparently, Chinese society is more generous than societies that exert pressure on their leaders, and are at times understanding.


If the Western societies didn’t know how rotten the game in question was, remained unknown, wrote, Huanqiu Shibao. But if the window speeches absolutely had to continue, China would be of help.

“People’s Daily”: Japan should learn from Germany, and from Britain, too

If the Sino-British era is to become about as successful as the preceding Sino-German tandem, remains to be seen. Either way, much seems to suggest that human rights issues are now considered useless obstacles for relations with China.

Hua Yiwen (华益文), an author for the party’s central newspaper People’s Daily, thinks that both sides, Beijing and London, have given a sincere representation of Sino-British relations, with a strategic positioning and a harmonic diversity that made the Chinese public’s positive view of Britain rocket upwards.2)

That said, Hua isn’t as dissatisfied about Germany either. The really bad guys are the Japanese. If one saw how actively both Britain and Germany developed their ties with China, one couldn’t help but think of Japan. Different from Germany, Japan hadn’t dealt with its history, and that was affecting Sino-Japanese relations. And while London’s policies were marked by strategic far-sightedness and political courage, the Abe government had decided “to join the US and to bang the gong of a ‘Chinese threat’, thus paving the way for a Japanese military security policy of its own, and thus adding a complication factor to Sino-japanese relations.

Human Rights: Merkel meets Activists

Angela Merkel reportedly held a private meeting with nine activists at the German embassy in Beijing on Thursday evening, risking host’s ire.

The risk of the CCP leadership’s ire is exaggerated: after all, this isn’t the first meeting of this kind, and if China’s leaders had seriously objected, and considered it worth the price, they could have barred all nine activists from the meeting, as Mo Shaoping, who was invited to such a meeting in February 2012, can tell from his own experience.

Next in the visitors’ line is French president Francois Hollande, scheduled to arrive in Beijing on November 2. State council foreign-language website quotes Zhou Yongsheng (周永胜) of the Chinese University for Foreign Affairs. interprets the visits, closely following each other, as “illustrating the growing influence and the position of power held by China, as acknowledged and appreciated by numerous great countries”.



1) Probably, the Chinese dissident who is most prominent abroad should be Liu Xiaobo. (He’s hardly known or remembered within China.) He has been under arrest continuously since December 2008, and was sentenced in December 2009, for “inciting subversion of state power”. As far as I can tell, there were no clear-cut reasons given for the judgment. A conjecturable motive for seizing Liu Xiaobo could be the Charter 08, co-authored by Liu and about to be published at the time.

2) How sustainable “the Chinese public’s benevolence” and the foundations of the “British-Chinese Golden Decade” can be will also depend on a factor that could sound familiar to a message London received from Washington nearly three years ago. Back then, US president Barack Obama had informed David Cameron that he valued a strong UK in a strong European Union. Same message from Xi Jinping, according to Xinhua last week:

Xi Jinping emphasized that the European Union was China’s partner in a comprehensive strategic partnership. China hoped for a prospering Europe, a united Europe, and for an important EU member country, Great Britain, playing an active and constructive role in promoting and deepening Chinese-European relations.




» Internet Revolution, Chinese concept, April 17, 2015
» Hometown Diplomacy, China Daily, Oct 30, 2015


Sunday, October 11, 2015

This Week (2): If you are Chinese today, can you become Taiwan’s President?

Probably not. But then, especially in Taiwanese politics, everything depends on definitions. If you think – and publicly state – that there is one China with different interpretations (一中各表), and if you add that this means that China is in fact the Republic of China (RoC), and that the constitution doesn’t permit a concept of two Chinas, that might work for a president, or for a presidential candidate, especially when your opponents are in disarray. That was the case with the (governing) DPP when Ma Ying-jeou himself was elected RoC president, in 2008. Back then, and in an article that didn’t necessarily describe Taiwan’s legal status accurately, the Washington Post referred to the president-elect as a smooth Harvard law graduate.

There’s a problem with Chineseness in Taiwan however when your opponents are well-organized and pretty much in tune with the majority of the country. And there’s a problem when you, as a candidate, are anything but smooth. Her Hong Hsiu-chu‘s political career was, but apparently, she owed that to herself, friends, and her wider family, rather than to her party, the KMT. And she is said to be very outspoken – that makes for a difficult relationship with a party that is hardly known for non-conformism.

There’s also a problem with Chineseness in Taiwan when you create the impression that you can’t wait for Taiwan’s “reunification with the mainland”, with mottos like one China, one interpretation (一中同表). Yes, you can afford some non-starters when there is no real opponent, as was the case for Ma Ying-jeou from about 2005 to 2010. All the same, telling an international audience via CNN that Taiwan would never ask the American to fight for Taiwan was too smooth to become acceptable.

Tsai Ing-wen, the oppositional Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) nominee, has managed to convince much of the centrist political spectrum in Taiwan that she is not, like former president Chen Shui-bian, a “troublemaker”. In 2011, during her first candidacy for presidency, then against incumbent Ma Ying-jeou, she acknowledged the Republic of China’s significance for Taiwan, even if Taiwan had its own history. That was on October 10, Taiwan’s national day. This year, she agreed to an invitation by legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng to attend the official “double-ten” celebrations.

In this context, Hung Hsiu-hong became the actual “radical” in the election campaigns, and her apparent closeness to China only helped Tsai.

Just how much the KMT is in disarray can be seen from this well-meant, but delirious advice as from the KMT-leaning China Post in summer this year:

The Taiwanization faction is wrong. Hung’s China policy can be a weapon with which she can fight Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the DPP who bears its standard. Tsai is far outdistancing Hung, according to polls conducted by pro-Taiwan independence think tanks. Instead of attempting to copy the DPP’s pro-Taiwanization stance, Hung can try to narrow Tsai’s lead by telling eligible voters that her policy is to build a roadmap to eventual Chinese unification. She has to only explain it is a Chinese version of the Commonwealth that is an evolutionary outgrowth of the British Empire and that relations between the Republic of China in Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China would be like those between the United Kingdom and Canada or Australia or New Zealand.

This read as if Kang Youwei had been at work again.

To cut a long, miserable story short: yes, you can (become Taiwan’s President if you are Chinese today). But not if you are too Chinese.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Emphasizing District-Level Cooperation and Mass Work: Xinhua reviews Xi Jinping’s State Visit

The following is a translation of an article published by Xinhua news agency on Tuesday. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Chairman Xi Jinping’s first [update/correction: state] visit to America has been successfully concluded. It hasn’t only brought the nervous talk about qualitative changes in Sino-American relations to an end, but it also provided the global economy with positive expectations, successfully managed differences and risks, and to the Asia-Pacific and even to the world’s peace and stability, it has brought positive energy.


This shows once again that the new type of big-power relations between China and America are possible, feasible, and projectable. On the road of building [these relations], some indications can be found:


— From the bottom to the top. America’s elites, particularly its strategic elites, are worried about China, talk negatively about the direction of Sino-American relations, while the the district levels and common people are less affected by ideological and national-security interference, with a positive development for Sino-American relations. As for American diplomacy, Chairman Xi therefore particularly emphasized regional and local cooperation and doing mass work, to explore how the roads of the Chinese dream and the American dream are interlinked.


— Adding to the existing quantities. Bilateral Sino-American trade is at an annual average of six-hundred billion US dollars, and Chinese investment in America is expected to rise to 200 billion US dollars by 2020. American diplomacy constantly digs into the potentials of economic cooperation, [no translation found]. The Sino-American Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) is considered important by both sides.


— Shelving smaller differences from common ground. China and America are the world’s leading powers, and interest conficts are inevitable. What matters is mutual respect, to follow the principles of no clashes and no confrontation [or antagonism], to strive for common ground while setting small aside differences. For example, in the previous stir about internet hacking issues, the theft of trade secrets was a small [legal] case, while the common ground is about rules for an open internet, with great peace and security. Having grasped this trend, through the U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum and other activities, and the promotion of network cooperation, had become a highlight of Chairman Xi Jinping’s visit to America. Arriving at consensus concerning the joint statement on climate change and other issues, and having built a solid foundation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris at the end of this year, are commended by the world.


[Global order issues / One-Belt-one-Road initiative / U.S. concerns alleviated]

[global governance]

The Chinese and American path of establishing new-type big-power relations is constantly explored further. Chairman Xi Jinping’s visit to America has provided an example for this kind of exploration, directing the focus on the future development of Sino-American relations, and an example for the new-type big-power relations of the 21rst century.




» Safe for democracy, Wikipedia, acc. Oct 6, 2015
» Safe for authoritarianism, FP, June 4, 2015
» No meeting without substance,Oct 2, 2015
» Your sea is our sea, July 16, 2015


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


Friday, September 4, 2015

Old Friends: No you Can’t, Yes we Can

1. You can’t invite that (alleged) War Criminal, can you?

Granted, there were a number of good reasons to stay away from the CCP’s military parade, and the falsification of history that marched among the ranks – after all, it was the Republic of the two Chinas that won the war -, was one of them. But then, Japan, too, cooks history books, and that would deserve more attention, too – I haven’t heard of any Western leader recently who’d cancel a meeting with Japanese prime ministers because of such issues. Maybe it is because history as a science isn’t considered to push economic growth, and therefore deemed useless. But then, history probably wasn’t a main driver of disharmony anyway.

Rather, what seems to have bugged a number of world leaders was Beijing’s guest list, which included Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan’s president. A scandal?

Not if you ask Hua Chunying (华春莹), spokeswoman at China’s foreign ministry. Some Q&A from the ministry’s regular press conference on Tuesday:

Q: Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir will attend the September 3 activities. President Xi Jinping will also meet with him. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. Is there a contradiction that China invites him to attend activities marking the victory of World War II?


A: African people, including Sudanese people, made important contributions to the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War. It is reasonable and justified for China to invite President Bashir to attend the commemorative activities. China will accord him with due treatment during his stay in China.


Being not a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, China will deal with relevant issue on the basis of the basic principles of international law.


Now, one might ask why China is no signatory to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court. That would go to the heart of the matter, while the spokesperson’s statement remains at the surface. The underlying answer may well be that to Beijing, Omar al-Bashir is primarily the president of Sudan, and only secondly, Beijing’s son of a bitch old friend. That al-Bashir’s immunity is, to Beijing, a matter of state sovereignty, not of personal responsibility or guilt. That aside, the attitude is best compatible with China’s interests in Africa – and maybe, there’s still a bit of a fear among China’s elites that they could, in a worst-case scenario, become targets of the ICC.

In a case like al-Bashir’s, Beijing’s critics are wrong, and Beijing is near-absolutely right. There can be no justice if leaders of small countries can be taken to court, and leaders of great powers remain immune. Peace may be “a journey” and “a never-ending process”, because dialogue is a voluntary choice. But when it comes to justice, tougher standards need to be applied. Unequal justice is an oxymoron.

Hua Chunying’s reference to the Rome Statute is also an elegant swipe against U.S. critics in particular: Washington has signed the Statute, but never ratified it.

2. You can’t Invite Shen Lyushun, can you?

Yes, we can, says Washington D.C., and so it happened on Wednesday. Taiwan’s English-language paper,  The China Post:

In a highly symbolic move, Taiwan’s representative to the United States attended an event in Washington D.C. Wednesday to commemorate the Allied Forces victory in the Pacific and the end of World War II.

Shen Lyushun’s (沈呂巡) attendance was the first time Taiwan’s top diplomat had been invited to attend similar events in the United States.

Now, guess what – Beijing reportedly didn’t like the guest list:

China’s ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai did not attend the event even though he had been invited. Chinese officials have protested the inclusion of Taiwan’s presence at the event.

Which is fine. Dialogue remains a voluntary choice.



» Failure to Arrest, The Guardian, June 24, 2015
» CIA & Hundesöhne, Tagesanzeiger, Feb 7, 2013
» Not a party to treaty, John Bolton, May 6, 2002


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



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