Posts tagged ‘statistics’

Monday, November 13, 2017

Cybercrime Report: “Major targets”

The following is a translation of an article by Xinhua newsagency. The cybercrime report reproduced by Xinhua on November 13 was apparently published nearly two weeks earlier, on November 1, with the keywords online fraud (网络诈骗), pretended moonlighting (虚假兼职), false shopping items (虚假购物), red envelopes (红包), finance (理财), cash returns (现返), and false identities (身份冒充).

While the reporting units are located in Beijing, the statistics refer to cases from all over China. According to the report, Guangdong, Shandong, Sichuan, Jiangsu, Henan, and Zhejiang provinces topped the list with 13.4%, 6.4%, 5.6%, 5.5%, 5.0%, and another 5.0% respectively.

Main Link: Men most easily fooled online, young users as fraudsters’ major targets

Xinhua Tianjin, Nov 13 2017 (Zhou Runjian reporting) — Online fraud reporting website Liewang’s1) “2017 third-quarter report on online fraud research” points out that there are more men than women among the victims of online fraud, especially men born from 1990 to 19992).

新华社天津11月13日电(记者周润健)国内网络诈骗信息举报平台——猎网平台最新发布的《2017年第三季度网络诈骗趋势研究报告》指出,在网络诈骗中,男性受害者占比大大高于女性,90后受害者最多。

The report says that among the accounts that reported cases, 67.4 percent were men, and 32.6 percent were women. However, men reported an average loss of 13.404 Yuan RMB, while women reported an average losso f 17.522 Yuan RMB.

报告指出,从报案用户的性别差异来看,男性受害者占比大大高于女性,分别占67.4%和32.6%;但从人均损失来看,男性为13404元,女性为17522元。

The report’s analysis says that in cyberlife, chances that women would be fooled are much smaller than with men, but that once women do trust a fraudster, they will frequently pay much more.

报告分析说,在网络生活中,女性的上当几率其实要比男性低得多,但女性一旦相信了骗子,往往会比男性付出更大的代价。

The report also points out that there are also significant differences between the occasions on which men and women are cheated. Those cheated in online gaming transactions, gambling, lotteries and establishing contacts, nearly 80 percent of those cheated are men, while most women become victims of refunding fraud and schemes that seem to offer moonlighting opportunities.

报告进一步指出,男性和女性在不同类型的网络诈骗中被骗几率也有明显不同。其中,在网游交易、赌博博彩、交友诈骗中,被骗的几乎80%都是男性,而退款诈骗、虚假兼职类诈骗是女性被骗比例最高的诈骗类型。

It is worth noting that there are also big differences in the ways men and women are cheated. Faked concurrent-job offers are the ones that most women are cheated with (28.3 percent), while the most frequent fraud reported by men is financial fraud (19.4 percent).

值得注意的是,男性和女性在被骗类型方面也有很大的区别。虚假兼职是女性被骗最多的类型,占比28.3%,男性被骗举报数量排名第一的是金融诈骗,占比为19.4%。

The report also says that 42.0 percent of online fraud victims are 1990ers, 29.7 percent are the second largest group with 29.7 percent, and 11.8 percent of the overall number are 1970ers with 11.8 percent. The specific age group focused on by online fraud are those aged between from 18 and to 31.

报告还指出,从被骗网民的年龄上看,90后的网络诈骗受害者占所有受害者总数的42.0%,其次是80后占比为29.7%,再次是70后占比为11.8%;从具体年龄上来看,18岁至31岁的人群是网络诈骗受害者最为集中的年龄段。

The report believes that young people with particular internet skills and extensive online time who, at the same time, lack sufficient social experience, are major targets and victims of online fraud.

报告认为,即具有一定的上网能力,上网时间较长,同时又缺乏足够社会经验的年轻人是网络诈骗的主要对象和主要受害人群。

____________

Notes

1) “Liewang” (“internet hunt”) is a cybercrime reporting website run by the “Beijing Alliance for Online Security and against Cybercrime”, which in turn is co-run by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (PBS) and Qihoo 360, an (apparently privately-owned) online security company.

2) 90后 (1990ers) refers to people born between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 1999

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Monday, August 21, 2017

In the News & Blogs (Aug 1 – 21): Beijing’s Little Helpers abroad

“China Quarterly” cooperates with China censors / Taiwan hosts 2017 Summer Universiade / Kim spoils Fun for Chinese Guam Visitors / Red-noticed police / The First “Five Marvellous Years” / Want to be Chinese?

Doing Beijing’s Dirty Work (1): Academic Institutions

Update: Cambridge University Press restores articles, Washington Post, Aug 21, 2017

China Quarterly apparently cooperates with Beijing by blocking access to articles and e-books on their website.

Can we expect them to do better? I have my doubts. Their topic is China – and if they don’t cooperate, others will, and might replace the renowned magazine. That’s no excuse, of course, and they could still display character rather than opportunism, but one has to admit that they are facing a tough choice. If they decided otherwise, there would be no academic solidarity – alternative opportunists would chum up to Beijing.

What is therefore needed is a political answer. British legislators will need to make censorship cooperation of this kind illegal, and legislators in other free societies will need to do likewise.

You can’t do Beijing’s dirty work yourself, and remain democratic, liberal, or free.

The public needs to push a political decision. People who care about human rights (those of others, and of their own), should consider to join or support relevant pressure groups, rather than political parties.

If Chinese readers can be blocked from servers in free countries, there is no good reason why we, people who live in (still) relatively free societies, should keep access to them, when Beijing demands otherwise.

This scenario may appear far-fetched now – but what happens at Cambridge now would have been unfathomable two or three decades ago, too.

Besides, no man or woman in a free country should vote for political parties who are prepared to tolerate this kind of practice. Totalitarian challenges must be met with political answers.

Taiwan’s Twelve Days of International Fame

The 2017 Summer Universiade started in Taipei, on Saturday.

Chinese Holidaymakers: Kim spoils the Fun

Huanqiu Shibao (the Global Times‘ Chinese-language sister paper) worried about unwelcome side effects of the US-North Korean war of words during the first half of the month: More than 26,000 Chinese tourists had travelled to Guam in 2016, the paper noted in an article published online on August 11 – an increase by 11 percent compared to 2015. Huanqiu numbers reportedly provided by the Guam Visitors Bureau‘s China Representative Room, an organization that runs offices in mainland China and in Hong Kong.

Guam is an island in the western Pacific. It is U.S. territory, reportedly within reach of North Korean missiles (provided that the missiles are lucky), it hosts a naval base, an air base, a religious shortwave broadcasting station, and thousands of tourists annually.

The Huanqiu Shibao article also quotes from “Sina Weibo” exchanges between Chinese netizens and the Guam Visitors Bureau, where Bureau staff reportedly posted reassuring replies to questions like “will you soon be hit by missiles?”

Probably given the incomplete state of North Korea’s striking force (God knows where the missiles would actually go if the army tried to fire them into Guam’s adjacent waters), or Donald Trump‘s notoriety as a bigmouth with little consistency, no travel warning appears to have been issued by Chinese authorities. According to the BY article, the China Youth Travel Agency told reporters that

the company hadn’t received a political-risks warning notice to suspend departures to Guam until then, and reminded journalists to monitor the China National Tourism Administration’s travel risk reminders.

….. 公司还没有接到因政治风险暂停前往关岛的旅游团的通知,他提醒记者应及时关注国家旅游局的旅游风险提示。

According to statistics quoted by the article, most tourists visiting Guam are from Japan and South Korea, with rapidly rising numbers from mainland China.

Doing Beijing’s Dirty Work (2): Red-noticed Police

The arrest of a German citizen of Turkish origin, Dogan Akhanli, made it into German news during the weekend. According to GfbV, a German organization that keeps track of cases where authoritarian regimes use Interpol to harrass critics abroad, Akhanli was arrested by Spanish police in the city of Granada. Reportedly, Turkey had requested Interpol  to issue a read notice to Spain. The dust appears to settle now, and Akhanli is free again, but the organization calls for reforming Interpol and to make sure that it doesn’t become (or remain) a tool for silencing regime critics abroad.

In the same press release, GfbV notes that Dolkun Isa, secretary general of the World Uyghur Congress, had been arrested in Rome, on July 26 this year. Isa was on his way into the Italian senate when he was arrested. According to GfbV, Chinese authorities are now using Interpol’s “red notice” mechanism systematically, to restrict movement of the regime’s critics abroad, and thus creating a de-facto occupational ban against them (Chinas Behörden nutzen die „Red Notice“ inzwischen systematisch, um die Bewegungsfreiheit von im Ausland lebenden Menschenrechtlern einzuschränken und de facto ein Berufsverbot gegen sie zu verhängen).

It certainly wasn’t the first time that Isa had been arrested. In 2009, South Korea arrested him, apparently on arrival at the airport, and refused him entry into the country. Previously, he had been arrested by the UN security service when visiting the Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

The First Five “Marvellous Years”

China’s state television (CCTV) website reminds the public of CCP secretary general Xi Jinping‘s feats during his first five marvellous years (不平凡五年) in office. On August 14, the media organization published statistics of Xi’s speeches on foreign policy.

So: Want to be Chinese?

Given that under the secretary general’s correct leadership, China is becoming the marvel of the world (an unscientific condensed international press review by JR with no further sources), it should be no surprise that Daniel Bell wants better international access to Chinese citizenship, for meritorious citizens of the world who would like to share in that glory.

Ji Xiang posted some thoughts on that, early this month.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

RFA Report on a June-4 Commemorative Ham Radio Broadcast

The following blockquote is a translation of an article / news program by Radio Free Asia (RFA). Links within blockquotes were added during translation.

Main Link: RFA, June 5, 2017 – Democracy Movement People in South Korea carry out Commemorative June-4 Broadcast […]

Democracy movement activists in South Korea constructed a shortwave broadcasting station on Sunday [June 4], the 28th anniversary of the June 4 [incident], to broadcast the truth about June 4 to a wide range of Chinese listeners. This way, they evoked peoples’ attention and demanded the political rehabilitation of June 4.

周年的星期天架设短波无线电台,向广大的中国听众广播了六四真相。他们通过这种方式纪念六四,唤起人们的关注,并且要求平反六四。

Democrats led by the Democracy Party of China‘s South Korea branch hold some commemorative activities or meetings on every June 4, or distribute leaflets. However, since last year, they have felt all kinds of restrictions by South Korean police. They can understand the South Korean government and its hope that foreigners wouldn’t carry out anti-Chinese democracy movement activities within South Korea’s borders, but they cannot rule out that these kinds of restrictions may be caused by the Chinese embassy in South Korea.

以中国民主党韩国党部为首的韩国民运人士每年在六四都会举办一些纪念活动,或聚会纪念,或散发传单。但是,自从去年开始他们警感觉到韩国警察机构的各种限制。他们可以理解韩国政府,不希望外国人在韩国境内进行反对中国的民运活动,但是,无法排除这种限制受到中国驻韩使馆唆使的可能性。

To free themselves from South Korean police interference, Democrats in South Korea didn’t even give interviews with journalists this year, and secretly built a shortwave transmitter somewhere in South Korea, to broadcast to listeners in China. The broadcast said that “on June 4, 1989, in Beijing and China’s other major cities, repressive measures of unprecedented brutality occurred, with use of tanks and machine guns against defenseless students and patriotic citizens.”

为了摆脱韩国警察的干扰,韩国民运人士今年甚至没有接受记者的采访,以秘密行动的方式,在韩国某处架设无线短波电台,面向中国听众进行了广播。该广播说,“1989年6月4日的中国的北京及各大城市,发生了惨绝人寰的镇压行动,中共军队动用坦克机枪向手无寸铁的学生和爱国民众进行了残酷的镇压。”

Reportedly, the democrats used the popular amateur radio frequency of 7050 kHz to carry out a test transmission and reception tests, and then carried out their broadcast – all these combined took about one hour. The broadcast said that “on this particular day, we have set up a amateur radio station to broadcast the truth to a wide audience.”

据介绍,民运人士利用无线电爱好者最常用的7050千赫(kHz)频率进行广播测试,再经过国内的收听测试,然后进行广播,测试和广播一共进行了约一个小时。该广播说,“在今天这个特别的日子里,我们特设业余电台,向广大的听众播送真相。”

Although 28 years have passed, the democracy activists said that in their opinion, there was a need to commemorate June 4, as this was the starting point of Chinese democracy. Although trottled, the calls for democracy had since strengthened. One should not, because of the Chinese Communist Party’s meticulous concealments, leave the sacrifices for democracy wasted.

虽然已经经过了28个年头,民运人士表示,他们认为仍有必要纪念六四,因为这是中国民主的起始点,虽然遭到扼杀,但是要求民主的呼声却从此日渐壮大。不能因为中共的刻意掩盖,而让呼吁民主的牺牲付诸东流。

They commemorated the June 4 democracy movement and the victims with a broadcast, hoping that a wide range of listeners would be able to learn the truth about June 4, moving a step further in understanding the phony appearance of communist China’s ruling class. The broadcast said that “the lifespan of communist government is nearing its end, young friends, and hopefully, you will stand on the righteous side when the time for its tyranny has come to fall apart.”

他们通过广播纪念六四民运,缅怀六四的牺牲者,希望广大的听众能够了解六四的真相,进一步了解中共统治阶层的虚假面目。该广播说,“共产主义政府的寿数已尽,年轻的朋友们,当暴政崩溃的时候,希望你们能站在正义的一面。”

The broadcast also said that “CCP rulers, CCP accomplices, listen well: sooner or later, you will be exposed and criticized, and pay a bloody price.”

该广播还说,“中共的统治者们,中共的帮凶们,你们听好了,你们早晚要受到清算,你们早晚要付出血的代价。”

According to non-official statistics, there are about 800,000 mainland Chinese people in South Korea. Most of them only hold residence rights and need to keep their criminal records clean to obtain an annual extension of their right of residence. Therefore, although the South Korean branch of the Democracy of China has many members, they aren’t communicated publicly. For the above reasons, democracy activism in South Korea faces restrictions. The June-4 shortwave broadcasts are a courageous breakthrough in a restrictive environment.

据非正式统计,韩国境内约有万来自大陆的中国人。他们大部分只拥有居住权,需要维持无犯罪记录,才能获得每年的居住权延期。所以,中国民主党韩国党部虽然有众多党员,但是不对外公开其人数。由于以上的种种理由,韩国的民运活动受到限制。上述的六四短波广播是在受限的范围内的一次勇敢的突破。

Special correspondent: Liu Shui. Editor: Kou Tianli. Online edition: Guo Du.

特约记者:刘水 责编:寇天力 网编:郭度

Monday, March 27, 2017

Populism in China (1): The Downfall of Bo Xilai

There is no Weltinnenpolitik yet, but there are cross-civilizational trends.

The City of Red Songs

There would be no second chance. Gerhard Schröder, former chancellor of Germany, was in a hurry in June 2011, on the sidelines of a forum in southwestern China’s metropolis of Chongqing. He was therefore lacking the time to attend one of the red-song nights that were customary there. But he still pleased his interlocutors with a German proverb: Where people sing, you can settle down – wicked people sing no songs.

In full, the red-songs custom advocated by Chongqing’s party chief Bo Xilai was Singing revolutionary songs, Reading classic books, telling stories and spreading mottos. There would be nine more months of that before Bo Xilai was toppled by his CCP comrades.

A Hudong article explained the activity at the time. It was a mass concept, started in Chongqing in 2008, which was greeted with enthusiasm there, and elsewhere in China. The concept wasn’t outdated, because

if a country and a nation have no correct thought and advanced culture, it will lose its backbone. The current deep changes of the economic system, the structure of society, and the profound adjustment of interest patterns must be reflected in the ideological field. There is diversity in peoples’ minds, and although the mainstream is positive and healthy, while some peoples’ material life conditions have improved, spiritual life is somewhat empty. To change that condition, and to ensure a safe passing of the torch in the cause of the party and the country, the red flag must be righteously upheld, the ideology of Marxism must be consolidated in its guiding position within the ideological field, and the attractiveness and the cohesive power of socialist ideology must be strengthened.

一个国家和民族没有正确的思想、先进的文化,就会失掉主心骨。当前,经济体制深刻变革、社会结构深刻变动、利益格局深刻调整,必然反映到意识形态领域。人们的思想日趋多元多变多样,虽然主流积极健康向上,但一些人物质生活改善了,精神生活却有些空虚。为了彻底改变这种状况,保证党和国家的事业薪火相传,必须理直气壮地举红旗,不断巩固马克思主义在意识形态领域的指导地位,增强社会主义意识形态的吸引力和凝聚力。[Links within these lines omitted.]

According to the HuDong article, CCP politbureau member and Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai (薄熙来) had deplored the phenomenon of young people who sang decadent songs (唱 .. 靡靡之音, chàng mímí zhī yīn), who were reading “fast-food” kinds of literature (读 .. 快餐文化, dú kuàicān wénhuà), told “low and vulgar stories” (讲 .. 低俗故事, jiǎng dīsú gùshì), and “spread pornographic or dull scripts/pieces” (传 .. 黄段子、灰段子, chuán huáng duànzi, huī duànzi).

So, apparently, there were dirty songs, too. Maybe things weren’t as simple as Schröder had believed. At least one  reader and forum commenter of China’s Huanqiu Shibao didn’t trust Schröder’s expertise and wrote:

OK, listen [to the red songs], you won’t comprehend them anyway. It will be as if you were listening to folk songs.

听吧,反正听不懂,就当听民歌了

The “Chongqing Model” was controversial, at least in the perceivable medial public of China. The party elite wasn’t entirely in love with Bo’s pretentious neo-Maoism. A vice president of Law School at China University of Political Science and Law was quoted by the English-language party mouthpiece “Global Times”:

There have been 104,000 “Red Song Concerts” in Chongqing, with 80 million participants. It cost 1,500 yuan ($231) per person for onsite renting and costume expenses, 210 million yuan in total. Adding in the offwork compensation and transportation the final cost is 270 billion [sic – probably means million – JR] yuan. Why don’t they use the money for health insurance?

Bo Xilai’s “Populism”, 2007 – 2012

At the grassroots, however, Bo’s leadership style appears to have worked (maybe it still does). The Chongqing Model wasn’t just about folklore, red or otherwise.

Chongqing (Sichuan province) residents set off firecrackers today, celebrating the execution of the provincial-level city’s former chief justice Wen Qiang (文强), cqnews.net reported in July 2010. The Wall Street Journal explained:

Wen Qiang was put to death following the rejection in May by China’s Supreme Court of an appeal of his conviction on charges including bribery, shielding criminal gangs, rape and inability to account for millions of dollars in cash and assets, according to Xinhua news agency. Xinhua didn’t say how Mr. Wen was executed.

Punching black crime and uprooting vice (拳打黑除恶) was the name of the campaign that cost Wen his life – according to the historical records as Bo would have it, he and his police chief Wang Lijun not only battled against gangs, but infiltrated cadres, too.

The now defunct website Chinageeks published an English translation of Zhang Wen, a former chief editor of the Xinhua magazine Globe:

Bo Xilai and the “northeast tiger” Wang Lijun entered Chongqing and started a war and began a “battling corruption and evil” movement that has gradually begun to spread nationwide and worldwide. This action is in line with the people’s wishes, and at the same time, also in line with what central authorities wish.

At first, the public opinion was very one-sided; no one could find any fault with Bo. The controversy and difference of opinions came with the case of Li Zhuang. Proponents of the democratic rule of law questioned and criticized the legality of Chongqing [court] proceedings, but Bo Xilai’s supporters hold that punishing lawyers who defend “bad people” is appropriate.

Bo Xilai’s wife Gu Kailai is a high-level lawyer who has been working for many years. The two have been together for many years and Bo himself was once the head of the Ministry of Commerce, and thus often negotiated international legal issues with foreign opponents. Because of this, Bo Xilai should have a solid conception and knowledge of the law.

But in the end, in the Li Zhuang case, the organs of justice in Chongqing left a bad impression that they might violate legal procedures. Precisely because of this, some people’s opinions on Bo Xilai changed dramatically. I myself once wrote an essay expressing pity that Bo Xilai hadn’t turned out to be the sort of high-quality modern politician [we had hoped].

Chongqing was a small pond for a big fish – Bo Xilai appeared to have hoped for a permanent seat in the CCP’s central politburo, but landed the job as party secretary of Chongqing instead. Chongqing wasn’t an insignificant city, but it was far from where central Chinese power was. Only an alernate politburo membership linked him to Beijing. From 2008, his Maoist song events raised nationwide attention, and even beyond China – Henry Kissinger apparently leapt at the chance Schröder had missed.

In 2011, Bo Xilai started his second campaign for a permanent seat at the CCP’s top table. While the Economist found Bo’s style refreshing, it noted nervously that

The region’s party chief, Bo Xilai, is campaigning for a place on the Politburo Standing Committee in next year’s leadership shuffle. He looks likely to succeed. Like every other Chinese politician since 1949, he avoids stating his ambitions openly, but his courting of the media and his attempts to woo the public leave no one in any doubt. Mr Bo’s upfront style is a radical departure from the backroom politicking that has long been the hallmark of Communist rule and would seem like a refreshing change, were it not that some  of his supporters see him as the Vladimir Putin of China. Mr Bo is a populist with an iron fist. He has waged the biggest crackdown on mafia-style gangs in his country in recent years. He has also been trying to foster a mini-cult of Mao, perhaps in an effort to appeal to those who are disillusioned with China’s cut-throat capitalism.

Bo didn’t appear to aim for the top job as secretary general, the Economist noted, as that position appeared to have been reserved for Xi Jinping. Indeed, Xi succeeded Hu Jintao as party secretary general in autumn 2012, and as state chairman in March 2013.

Bo Xilai’s plans didn’t work that smoothly. In November 2011, a British citizen, Neil Heywood, died in a hotel in Chongqing. Given that Chinese courts don’t work independently from the party, the circumstances of his death can’t be considered resolved. A Chinese court found Gu Kailai, Bo Xilai’s wife, guilty of killing Heywood, and after only one day in court, she got a suspended death sentence.

The BBC‘s China editor Carrie Gracie tried to shed light on the circumstances of Bo Xilai’s rise and fall, and the role Heywood’s death played in the latter, but didn’t find too many interlocutors. Instead, she presented a Rocky Horror Picture Show of elite power struggles with Chinese characteristics. Bo Xilai as the avenger of the common man, a crashing, media-savvy scourge of organized crime, who addressed the public directly, without party media filtering. That hadn’t happened since Mao’s days – “think Donald Trump”.

With support from local police chief Wang Lijun, who fancied leading roles in martial-arts television, too, Bo had exercised a regime that labeled opponents as mafiosi and not only jailed them, but expropriated them too, in favor of Chongqing’s budgets.

It isn’t contested that Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun prosecuted the real or supposed gangsters’ advocates, too, with questionable means. Gracie quotes one of these advocates, Li Zhuang (see above, Zhang Wen’s criticism of Bo Xilai), as Li describes how he was arrested by Wang Lijun personally:

The scene was so over-the-top, loads of police cars surrounding the plane, riot police in helmets and camouflage, armed with submachine guns. I asked, “Why the big show? Is it Obama’s state visit or are you capturing Osama Bin Laden?”

We were surrounded by a huge scrum of reporters. He wanted to show his authority on camera. He was in a trench coat, hands in his pockets. He said: “Li Zhuang, we meet again.”

There were admirers of Bo and Wang, there were critics and enemies, and there were people who detested the two. But at the grassroots, the fans appeared to be numerous. According to Gracie, there are still many.

Making inconvenient lawyers disappear was no unique feature of Bo Xilai, however. The party leadership with Xi Jinping at the core has been proving for years that to them, the rule of law is a theroretical nicety they may or may not care about.

Gracie reduces the causes of conflict between the noisy polit-soloist Bo Xilai and the basically “collectivist” leadership in Beijing on a personal rivalry between princeling Bo and princeling Xi.

Certainly, top politicians’ egos can hardly be overestimated, and when they are Chinese, ostentatious modesty shouldn’t fool anyone.

But Xi alone wouldn’t have gotten Bo under control. Neither with the sudden Neil-Heywood scandal – that became known as the Wang-Lijun incident in China after the police chief fled into the next US consulate and being passed on to the central authorities from there (but only after having spilled the beans). Nor otherwise.

The question suggests itself if Bo Xilai’s career wasn’t finished in summer 2011 anyway, given wide-spread disapproval among the party elite, of his egotistic leadership style in Chongqing.

“Unity is strength” was one of the “red songs” Bo Xilai had them sing in Chongqing (above: October 8, 2009). But it wasn’t only the Xi faction that saw a lack of just that on Bo’s part. Bo was putting himself forward, and that had been a taboo during all the post-Mao years.

He didn’t denigrate his leading comrades – appearances like that of Donald Trump as a campaigner, cursing fellow members of his political class, would have been inconceivable. But putting himself into the limelight (and casting it away from others) amounted to the same thing, by Chinese standards. Besides, given his anti-corruption renown, sanctimonious as it may have been, could have threatened his “comrades”. A tribun within their ranks – that couldn’t work.

Xi Jinping and his predecessor Hu Jintao are said to be rivals. But within the Hu camp, Bo’s populism didn’t seem to resonate either. On the contrary: Wen Jiabao, chief state councillor (aka “prime minister”) during the Hu Jintao era, had been a tireless, even if unsuccessful, advocate of political reform, way beyond economics or technology.

At a press conference in March 2012, after the closing ceremony of the annual “parliament” plenary sessions, Wen warned that China wasn’t immune against another cultural revolution. That John Garnaut, an Australian correspondent in Beijing, got the opportunity to talk with Hu Dehua, one of Hu Yaobang’s sons, may also count as an indication that the comparatively liberal factions in the party leadership were at least as sick of Bo Xilai’s revolutionary operas, as were the Xi supporters.

Garnaut, two weeks after Wen’s press conference, in an indirect account of his conversation with Hu Dehua*):

Hu Dehua told his father how pessimistic he felt about his country’s future. Hu Yaobang agreed that the methods and ideologies of the 1987 anti-liberalization movement came straight from the Cultural Revolution. But he told his son to gain some historical perspective, and reminded him that Chinese people were not joining in the elite power games as they had 20 years before. He called the anti-liberalization campaign a “medium-sized cultural revolution” and warned that a small cultural revolution would no doubt follow, Hu Dehua told me. As society developed, Hu Yaobang told his son, the middle and little cultural revolutions would gradually fade from history’s stage.

From there, everything went fast. Still in March, Bo was dismissed as Chongqing’s party chief. He also lost his alternate membership in the politburo. In summer 2012, his wife Gu Kailai got her commuted death sentence, and in September 2013, Bo was sentenced to life in prison – based on the usual charges for unrigged politicians: corruption.

Is there a Chongqing Heritage?

At first glance, Bo Xilai’s “populism” or “Maoism” is finished. But Bo counted as a champion of many Chinese from the political left. A comment in German weekly Die Zeit, in September 2013, saw the verdict against Bo as a signal from the top that resistance against economic reform was futile.

To assess Bo Xilai’s political heritage objectively. The CCP may be beyond the era when beaten opponents were airbrushed from all photos and records. But the question about how publicly or privately-owned China’s economy should be might impose itself with any questions about Bo Xilai, and the now seven-member standing committee of the politburo can’t use such questions.

A political scientist of Beijing University, He Weifang (贺卫方), hinted at problems in assessing the Chongqing Model’s performance, from 2007 to 2012:

It is generally believed that the so-called “Chongqing Model” is mainly shaped by three aspects: “red culture” on the political level, “targeted actions against dark and evil forces in Chongqing“, and the reduction of the income gaps between the poor and the rich. The most criticized aspects are the former two, although there is support for the two of them in Chongqing and elsewhere. The third aspect isn’t that controversial. However, all data published concerning the efficiency of the measures taken to narrow the income gap are actually issued by the Chongqing authorities, and therefore lacking neutral assessment. Also, we can see that the whole process is strongly government-led, whose focus isn’t on creating a market logic of equal opportunities. If this approach will or will not lead to mistakes in financial policies, including the rural land policies‘ impartiality, is also questionable. And then there are concerns about life today being lead on future earnings, short-term inputs being made to curry favor with the public, which may come at high future costs.

答:一般认为,所谓的重庆模式主要由三方面内容构成:政治层面上的红色文化,执法层面上的“打黑除恶”以及民生方面的缩小贫富差距。最受诟病的是前两者,虽然在重庆和其他地方,似乎也有一些人人对于“唱红”和“打黑”表达支持。第三方面内容相对较少争议。不过,那些举措究竟对于缩小贫富差距产生了怎样的效果,目前得到的信息都是由重庆当局发布的,缺少中立的评估。另外,我们可以看到整个过程是在政府强势主导下进行的,其重点并非创造机会均等的市场逻辑。这种做法是否会带来财政决策中的失误,包括重庆所推行的农村土地政策的公正性,都是大可怀疑的。还有寅吃卯粮的隐忧,短期内的高投入讨好了民众,但是却需要未来付出巨大的代价。

If Bo Xilai was a populist, one of Donald Trump’s kind, or Putin’s, or Neil Farage’s, or whoever, one has to ask oneself how much influence he has maintained over Chinese politics to this day. After all, populists like Geert Wilders aren’t ineffective, merely because they can’t lay their hands on the imperial regalia.

When looking at European populism – that’s only a snapshot, of course -, one can get the impression that populists may not be elected, but they do leave marks on politics, from Merkel’s Willkommenskultur back to the traditional Christian Democrats’ policies, and Britain’s Brexit, implemented not by its original proponents, but by Theresa May, who had used to be a lukewarm supporter of Britain’s EU membership.

Populism is hardly ever the common peoples’ business, but that of the elites. The battles are fought within the political class, as observed by Hu Yaobang in the late 1980s. That is about as true in Europe. However, these battles within the superstructure may create or intensify certain trends in the public mood – and once policies have moved sufficiently into the “populist” direction, the support for these parties wanes, and the electorate turns back to the long-established parties. After all, Joe Blow doesn’t want to look like an extremist.

When Xi Jinping announced China’s new role as a guardian of free trade at the Davos forum in January, German Handelsblatt China correspondent Stephan Scheuer hailed the party and state leader’s “dressing-down for populists”. In Davos, Xi had become “a pioneer of fair-minded globalization”.

What could be beginning to show in China is a comparatively strong Maoist component in propaganda, as long as this doesn’t come at the cost of China’s privileged, and as long as this doesn’t require substantial reallocation of means or wealth to poor classes of population, or laggard regions. But whenever the name “Bo Xilai” should appear in any token event, the exorcists will be just around the corner.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Shijiazhuang: Falling over each other to Express their Love for the Motherland

Thirty flag communities were created in Shijiazhuang, and along with more than ten flag streets, they attracted participation by a hundred-thousand citizens, Shijiazhuang Daily, the local party newspaper, reported on September 30.

Tomorrow is national day, with the provincial capital’s big roads and small alleys, communities and schools all flying the bright-colored five-starred red flag, spreading deep patriotic feelings in every place! Organized by the Shijiazhuang Municipal Committee’s propaganda department, the flag-raising activity carried out by Yanzhao Evening Post continued from September 19 until now and earned positive responses from all parts of society, with numerous citizens raising or hanging out the national flag in a wave of enthusiasm. In less than half a month, a total of fifty-thousand national flags were given to the provincial capital’s citizens, and the creation of thirty flag communities, five national-flag schools, more than ten flag streets etc. attracted onehundred-thousand citizens’ passionate participation. It is worth mentioning that when a huge 38 meters long and 25.3 meters broad flag with a weight of two-hundred kilograms appeared at a rebuilt school in the Liangxiang disaster area, all teachers’ and students’ eyes were brimming with tears of emotion, and they loudly exlaimed: “Motherland, we love you!” These words, so plain and sincere, were an expression of all the citizens’ good wishes and ardent love for the motherland!

明天就是国庆节了,省会大街小巷、社区、学校都飘扬起鲜艳的五星红旗,处处传递着浓浓的爱国情怀!由石家庄市委宣传部主办、燕赵晚报承办的“五星红旗飘起来”活动从9月19日启动至今,得到了社会各界的积极响应,广大市民升国旗、挂国旗的热情如潮。不到半个月时间,共向省会市民赠送50000面国旗,打造了30个国旗社区、5个国旗学校、十余条国旗街道等,吸引了10万市民激情参与。值得一提的是,当长38米、宽25.3米、重200公斤的巨幅国旗亮相灾区重建学校时,全校师生激动得热泪盈眶,高呼:“祖国,我爱你!”这句最真挚、最质朴的话语也说出了全市人民对祖国的祝福与热爱!

This year’s “flying the five-starred red flag” activity, from the start, ignited the enthused participation of citizens. Day after day, this newspaper received three-hundred registrations from community neighborhood communities, properties, schools, companies, citizens, etc.. They fell over each other in their eagerness to apply for a flag, to create “flag communities”, “flag streets”, etc., in their desire for practical action to express their deep good wishes for the land, their mother. The most enthusiastic among those registering were the community neighborhood communities.

今年“五星红旗飘起来”活动一启动,就点燃了市民的参与热情,连日来,本报共接到报名电话三百来个,涉及社区居委会、物业、学校、企业、市民等。他们争相来电申领国旗,打造“国旗社区”“国旗学校”“国旗街”等,想用实际行动表达对祖国母亲的深深祝福,其中报名最踊跃的就是社区居委会。

There are tons of trivia and atmospheric fuel for the reader, before the article returns to the monster flag, which was apparently taken to several schools in a row, among them the once disaster-stricken, rebuilt school, previously mentioned within the first blockquote:

The way the huge flag was passed on was a wonderfully vivid lesson in patriotism for the children, but it also touched every teacher. […..]

巨幅国旗的传递,给孩子们上了一堂精彩生动的爱国主义课,也感动着每一名参与传递的师生。[…..]

In addition, different from past years, under the unified arrangements of the City Transportation Department, [Shijiazhuang’s] more than 6,000 cabs and buses also flew the flag, becoming the most beautiful circulating sight in the capital city’s streets.

此外,与往年不同的是,在市交通局的统一安排下,今年全市6000多辆出租车和公交车上也悬挂起国旗,成为省会街头最美的流动风景线。

[…..]

Monday, May 30, 2016

Neighborhood: No Vietnamese Communist Party without the Chinese Communist Party?

U.S. President Barack Obama visited Vietnam from May 22 to 25. In news coverage, TTP and the complete lifting of an arms embargo that had been in place since 1984, topped the American-Vietnamese agenda.

On May 23, Xinhua‘s English-language website quoted a Russian official, Anatoly Punchuk, as saying that the lifting of a decades-old U.S. arms embargo on Vietnam wouldn’t affect Russia’s weapons sales to Vietnam.

Also on May 23, Xinhua quoted foreign-ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying (华春莹) as saying that China was glad to see Vietnam develop normal cooperative relations with all other countries, including the United States. China hoped the lifting of the arms embargo was a product of the Cold War and should not continue to exist.

In more detail, Hua said that

As a neighbor to Vietnam, we are glad to see Vietnam develop normal relations with all countries, including the United States, and we hope that this will benefit regional peace, stability, and development.

作为越南的邻国,我们乐见越南同包括美国在内的所有国家发展正常关系,希望这有利于地区和平、稳定与发展。

Another question concerning Vietnamese-U.S. relations followed up on the topic:

Q: Vietnam is a close neighbor to China. Why has Vietnam, in recent years, kept calling for a lifting of the U.S. arms embargo? What kind of influence will America’s decision have on U.S.-Vietnamese relations?

问:越南是中国近邻,为什么越南在过去几年一直呼吁美方解除武器禁运?美方的这个决定会对美越关系有何影响?

A: I understand that you are touching on the considerations behind this issue. But you should ask Vietnam this question, not me. I said a moment ago that we are glad to see America and Vietnam develop normal relations, and hoe that this will benefit regional peace and stability.

答:我理解你提这个问题背后的考虑。这个问题你应该去问越方,而不是来问我。我刚说了,我们乐见美越发展正常关系,希望这有利于地区和平稳定。

In October last year, Hua had answered questions about the Trans-Pacific Partnership project, or TPP. Beijing believed that development levels among Asian-Pacific economic entities weren’t entirely the same, Hua said, and that on the basis of special needs, all agreements should help to advance all sides involved. And asked if the American-led TPP could have an effect on China’s promotion of RCEP, she said that

The particular diversity and pluralism of the Asia-Pacific region’s economic development are obvious, and all sides’ bilateral and mutilateral free-trade arrangements are also lively. As long as this is conducive to the Asia-Pacific regional economy’s prosperity and development, we maintain a positive and open attitude. China will continue to work together with countries in the region, based on the spirit of mutual trust, tolerance, cooperation and win-win, and will continiously promote all kinds of free-trade arrangements in the region. At the same time, we hope that both TTP and RCEP will be mutually complementary, mutually promotional, and beneficial for the strengthening of a multilateral trade system that will make a long-term contribution to the prosperity and development of the Asia-Pacific region’s economy.

亚太地区经济发展多样性、多元化的特点十分突出,各种多边、双边自由贸易安排也很活跃。只要是有利于促进亚太地区经济繁荣发展,有利于促进亚太经济一体化 的区域贸易安排,我们都持积极和开放态度。中方将继续与地区国家一道,本着互信、包容、合作、共赢的精神,推动区域内的各种自由贸易安排不断向前发展。同 时,我们也希望无论是TPP也好,RCEP也好,都能够相互补充,相互促进,有利于加强多边贸易体制,为亚太地区经济长期繁荣、发展做出贡献。

In an interview with Guanchazhe (Observer), a privately funded paper and website in Shanghai, Pan Jin’e (潘金娥), a researcher, discussed the future of Vietnam-U.S. relations.

Pan is a vice director at the Marxism Research Institute’s International Communist Movement department. The Marxism Research Institute is part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, CASS. Her doctoral thesis, around 2012, was titled Research on Vietnam’s socialist transition period’s economic and political innovation (越南社会主义过渡时期的经济与政治革新研究).

Zhonghua Net (中华网, china.com) republished the Guanchazhe interview on May 25. It was first published by Guanchazhe, apparently one day earlier.

The first question of the Guanchazhe reporter (or reporters) contained the allegation that TPP was “anti-China” (排华的) by motivation. Pan did not comment on the allegation but said that Vietnam was the only country that America had invited on its own initiative. This had made Vietnam very proud of itself. In harder terms, TPP was seen by Vietnam as an opportunity to move its economy forward, to alter the model of economic growth, and to change the structure of the national economy. It was also seen as a way to reduce an excessive dependence on the Chinese economy.

However, bilateral Sino-Vietnamese trade amounted to more than 90 billion USD according to Chinese statistics, or over 80 billion USD according to Vietnamese statistics. Vietnam’s bilateral trade with America was only at over 40 billion USD. China was a neighbor that wouldn’t go away.

In an apparent reference to the No-New-China-without-the-Communist-Party propaganda song, Pan said that Vietnam’s Communist Party relied heavily on the Chinese Communist Party, and asked if the Vietnamese Communist Party would still exist without the CCP. No matter how important other Vietnamese considerations were, the only problem that currently existed between the two countries was territorial maritime sovereignty issues.

On the other hand, Hanoi’s political order was continiously challenged by Washington’s “so-called human-rights” issues (所谓的人权问题).

Asked about how far Vietnamese-American cooperation could go, Pan said that while it had been said that Washington had refused Hanoi a comprehensive strategic partnership and kept to a smaller-scale comprehensive partnership only, it was in fact the differences in America’s and Vietnam’s political order that had led to the omission of “strategic”:

… they [Vietnam] are aware that America continiously attacks their political system,even with human-rights issues. During his visit, Obama has, this time, also clearly stated that both sides needed to respect each others’ political systems. That’s to say, America currently respects the socialist road taken by Vietnam. But this doesn’t mean that America would abandon [the concept of] peaceful evolution towards Vietnam. This is something the Vietnamese Communist Party is well aware of.

… 它也知道美国一直是攻击它的政治制度 乃至人权问题的。这一次奥巴马来访时,在发言中也明确指出要彼此尊重政治制度。也就是说,美国尊重目前越南走的社会主义道路。但是并不意味着美国放弃对越 南的和平演变,这一点越南共产党也是心知肚明的。

Concerning the complete lifting of the U.S. arms embargo on Vietnam, Pan said that this was something Voietnam had long waited for. She also touched on the U.S. economic embargo on Vietnam (in force from the 1970s to 1995).

Asked if Russian arms supplies – currently at least eighty per cent of what Vietnam imported – would undergo changes, Pan said that Hanoi was most interested in advanced military technology, not in buying old gear. Imports from Russia would continue, and only a small share of imports would come from the U.S., particularly radar and communications technology, so as to fit into military cooperation with America, Japan, or Australia. However, she didn’t expect that this could lead to a Vietnamese force that would be a match to China’s.

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Related

Even worse than TPP, eff.org, June 4, 2015
Competing or complementary, Brookings, Febr 14, 2014

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Friday, April 8, 2016

The Panama Papers: Invested, but not Koppied

You needn’t be there yourself, but should your money? Those places are beginning to look like those parties you simply have to get an invitation to, if you want to matter: the “havens” where (many of) the rich and beautiful put their money. The Virgin Islands, for example. Or Panama. Or Luxemburg? Not sure. Ask a bank.

Reportedly, some members of Vladimir Putin‘s tight-knit inner circle do it. Reportedly, Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan (成龍) does it. So do Thais. Lots of Indians, too. And maybe many Americans, but elsewhere.

Others, also reportedly, did so in the past. One of them even says that he lost money in the game.

But not so fast. Media tend to scandalize everything, don’t they?

According to ICIJ, the documents make public the offshore accounts of 140 politicians and public officials. The documents don’t necessarily detail anything illegal, but they do shine a light on the shadowy world of offshore finances,

National Public Radio (NPR) informs its listeners.

So, let’s not jump to conclusions. The problem, either way, is that the investors’ countries’ governments can’t get a picture of what is there. And once an investor is found on a list like the “Panama Papers”, with investments or activities formerly unknown to his country’s fiscal authorities (and/or the public), he’s got something to explain.

Like Argentine president Mauricio Macri, for example.

So, it’s beautiful to have some money there.

Unless the public begins to continuously ask questions about it.

Timely Exits from Paradise

If British prime minister David Cameron is right, the money he and his wife earned from an offshore trust were taxed. His problem, then, would be the general suspicon of the business.

The Cameron couple reportedly sold their shares in question in 2010, the year he became prime minister.

“Best Effect” and “Wealth Ming” reportedly ceased operations in 2012 and/or 2013. That was when CCP secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping took his top positions. The two companies had been run in the Virgin Islands, and Deng Jiagui (邓家贵), husband to Xi’s older sister, had been the owner, Singaporean paper Zaobao reported on Tuesday.

And then, there’s Tsai Ying-yang (蔡瀛陽), one of the 16,785 Taiwanese Mossack Fonseca customers, the law firm the “Panama Papers” were leaked from. According to his lawyer, Lien Yuen-lung (連元龍), Tsay Ying-yang terminated his Koppie Limited company as soon as in 2009, the year following its establishment, so as to cut the losses – 30 percent of the investment, according to a phone interview Lien gave Reuters, as quoted by the Straits Times.

Tsai Ing-wen hasn’t commented herself, and maybe, she won’t any time soon. It doesn’t seem that too much pressure has mounted so far. But questions are asked all the same. On Wednesday, KMT legislators William Tseng (曾銘宗), Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), and Lee Yan-hsiu (李彥秀) told a press conference that in the “many cases” where the Tsai family had encountered controversy, Tsai Ying-yangs name had emerged, and this “gave cause for doubts” (會起人疑竇).

An Emerging KMT Opposition Pattern

William Tseng may become a regular questioner, concerning the financial affairs of Tsai’s family people. One of the “controversies” he had quoted had been the issue of a press conference on March 24. There, with different KMT colleagues,  but the same kind of artwork on the wall behind the panel, showing the suspect of the day, Tseng dealt with the issue of Academica Sinica president Wong Chi-huey‘s daughter’s role as a shareholder of OBI Pharma Inc..

KMT legislators press conference artwork

KMT representations:
Mind the guys in the background

One of his fellow legislators, Alicia Wang (王育敏), raised the issue of the company’s shareholder structure (and neatly placed Tsai’s brother there, too, maybe just to make his name available for quote by Tseng on other occasions:

“President-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) brother and sister-in-law are also shareholders, and so is Wong’s daughter, Wong Yu-shioh (翁郁秀). Are others involved?”

Diplomatic Relations, but no Tax Treaty

The “Panama Papers”, as far as they concern Taiwanese customers, contain not only individuals, but companies, too: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (founding chairman Morris Chang, who served Taiwan as APEC representative in 2006), TransAsia Airways (more recently in the news for the tragic Flight 235 crash), Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation, Wei Chuan Food Corporation (in the news since 2013), and the Executive Yuan’s National Development Fund.

The Development Fund was not a taxable organization, Taiwan’s foreign broadcaster Radio Taiwan International (RTI) quotes finance minister Chang Sheng-ford. He used the example to make the point that to suggest that some 16,000 keyword search results for Taiwan in the “Panama Papers” did not signify 16,000 cases of tax evasion. That’s just not the way to look at it.

Chang reportedly also said that while, “if necessary”, Taiwan would establish a Panama Papers working group and start investigating the most high risk people and agencies for tax evasion, the country had no tax treaty with Panama. Also, a Taiwanese anti-tax evasion law had not yet been passed.

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Related

The Panama Papers
Achselzucken schadet, Der Freitag, Apr 7, 2016
The Panama Papers, FoarP, Apr 6, 2016

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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.

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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

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