HONG KONG (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected troops based in Hong Kong on Friday as he asserts Chinese authority over the former British colony China took control of 20 years ago.
Xi rode in an open-top jeep past rows of soldiers lined up on an airstrip on his visit to the People’s Liberation Army garrison. He called out “Salute all the comrades” and “Salute to your dedication” as he rode by each of the 20 troop formations.
Armored personnel carriers, combat vehicles, helicopters and other pieces of military hardware were arrayed behind the troops.
It was a rare display of the Chinese military’s might in Hong Kong, where it normally maintains a low-key presence.
Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects Chinese troops of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison at the Shek Kong Barracks in Hong Kong, Friday, June 30, 2017. Xi landed in Hong Kong Thursday to mark the 20th anniversary of Beijing taking control of the former British colony, accompanied by a formidable layer of security as authorities showed little patience for pro-democracy protests. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Xi, wearing a buttoned-up black jacket in the steamy heat, spent about 10 minutes reviewing the troops at the Shek Kong base in Hong Kong’s suburban New Territories. It’s part of a visit to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, when Britain gave up control of the Asian financial hub to China on July 1, 1997.
The troops have been dispatched to handle North Korean refugees and ‘unforeseen circumstances’, such as the prospect of preemptive attacks on North Korea, the news agency said.
Meanwhile, the US Navy has moved the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group from Singapore to North Korea after the country conducted more missile testing.
China’s top nuclear envoy arrived in Seoul Monday for talks on the North Korean threat, as the United States sent the naval strike group to the region and signalled it may act to shut down Pyongyang’s weapons program.
Speculation of an imminent nuclear test is brewing as the North marks major anniversaries including the 105th birthday of its founding leader on Saturday – sometimes celebrated with a demonstration of military might.
Wu Dawei, China’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, met with his South Korean counterpart on Monday to discuss the nuclear issue.
The talks come shortly after Trump hosted Chinese leader Xi Jinping for a summit at which he pressed Pyongyang’s key ally to do more to curb the North’s nuclear ambitions.
‘(We) are prepared to chart our own course if this is something China is just unable to coordinate with us,’ US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after the summit.
He added however that Beijing had indicated a willingness to act on the issue.
‘We need to allow them time to take actions,’ Tillerson said, adding that Washington had no intention of attempting to remove the regime of Kim Jong-Un. Read the rest of this entry »
From China Digital Times:In recent cartoons for CDT, Badiucao puts a Valentine twist on President Trump’s emerging relationship with President Xi Jinping, which took a step forward in a recent phone call:
Valentines, by Badiucao:
A second drawing focuses on Trump’s effort to patch up relations with Beijing by acknowledging the “one China” policy, which declares that Taiwan is part of China. Trump had earlier stated that he was “not committed” to the longstanding policy.
One China, by Badiucao
In a statement issued late Thursday, the White House said the two men had held a lengthy and “extremely cordial” conversation.
“The two leaders discussed numerous topics and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our one-China policy,” the White House statement said.
In return, Xi said he “appreciated his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, for stressing that the U.S. government adheres to the one-China policy,” which he called the “political basis” of relations between the two nations, state news agency Xinhua reported. [Source]
The call has been taken by many as a sign of acquiescence by Trump to Xi, as he acknowledged that his mention of the “one China” policy was at Xi’s request. From Jane Perlez of The New York Times:
But in doing so, he handed China a victory and sullied his reputation with its leader, Xi Jinping, as a tough negotiator who ought to be feared, analysts said. Read the rest of this entry »
More Chinese newsrooms are starting to use so-called “robot reporters,” but developers say their capabilities remain limited.
Te-Ping Chen reports: China has found itself in the midst of a full-blown robot obsession in recent years, with everything from robot monks to robot waiters grabbing headlines.
Now, the robots are writing the actual headlines, too — in certain newsrooms, anyway.
Last week, the Southern Metropolis Daily published its first-ever report written by what the newspaper describes as a “robot reporter.” The story, clocking in at just over 300 words, summarizes what train tickets are most in demand over the Lunar New Year holiday, during which millions of Chinese workers travel home to see their families. It discusses which routes are selling out fast and advises travelers to buy tickets soon, cautioning that for certain routes, all seats are sold out.
“You’ll have to stand the whole way, the route will be more exhausting,” it advises. The Southern Metropolis Daily story is bylined “Xiao Nan Robot,” or ‘Little South’ robot and accompanied with a picture of a white, rotund robot riding atop a thick black pen.
So far, though, the scope of robot reporters is limited, says Wan Xiaojun, a computer-science professor at Peking University who worked to develop the newspaper’s program.
Mr. Wan explains that Xiao Nan is currently programmed only to analyze train-ticket sales, which accounts for the somewhat monotonous nature of its reporting. “There Are Still High-Speed Rail Tickets From Guangzhou to Numerous Destinations for Lunar New Year’s Eve,” ran one robot-produced headline today. “Hard-Seat Tickets on the 26th From Guangzhou to Zhengzhou Are Still Available,” ran another yesterday.
Sports are another fertile area for robot coverage: another robot-reporter program Mr. Wan worked on was used by news publisher Toutiao during the Rio Olympics last year, producing more than 400 news briefs, he said. Those briefs were built off published game statistics or summarized the transcribed narration of sports broadcasters, seeking out keywords such as “goal,” “red card” and more. Read the rest of this entry »
While Americans embrace their reinstated confidence in both economics and international affairs, China seems to be going the opposite direction.
Helen Raleigh writes: Before China’s paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997), passed away, he left a four-word Chinese idiom: Tao Guang Yang Hui(韬光养晦, which is roughly translated to “be humble with your strength and focus on overcoming weaknesses,” as a strategic policy guidance for his successors. Like many Chinese words, this four-word idiom has multiple meanings.
Deng probably hoped future Chinese leaders would be humble and restrained, keep a low profile, and instead of broadcasting China’s ambitions or showing off China’s economic or military muscles, quietly focus on overcoming China’s weaknesses, such as economic development. In international affairs, Deng probably would have liked to see China avoid acting like an aggressor. Instead, he would have preferred China shun either causing any international conflict or serving as a leader of any faction within an international conflict.
When Deng passed away in 1997, China was still in its first decade of economic reform and its per-capita gross domestic product was less than $800, so the kind of restrained policy approach he advocated made perfect sense. No one knows how long Deng intended for this policy guidance to last. But Deng’s successors, from Hu Yaobang to Hu Jingtao (they aren’t related), pretty much followed Deng’s policy guidelines until President Xi Jinping assumed power in 2012.
No More Humility and Restraint
It seems President Xi has abandoned Deng’s strategic policy guidelines. On the domestic front, he focused on ensuring his power by purging many political rivals through the anti-graft movement. In October, he was declared the “core” leader of the Chinese Communist Party, a title last used by Chairman Mao.
He coined the term “China dream” to counter “American dream.” While “American dream” is about any hard-working individual living to his or her full capacity in a free society, “China dream” means Chinese people can only live a better life by subjecting themselves to the Communist Party’s absolute rule. Under President Xi, the Chinese government has ruthlessly cracked down on dissidents, including Chinese nationals and foreigners, and China has become a much less friendly place to foreign investors and companies.
On the foreign policy front, China doesn’t lay low any longer. President Xi has been very vocal about China’s ambitions. He seems to believe that China’s rise to replace the United States as the next superpower is unstoppable and the time is now.
He sees at least two trends in his favor. First, there’s a consensus within the Chinese leadership and public opinion that the 2008 economic crisis has produced long-lasting devastating effects to the West: most countries in Europe are still struggling economically while the United States has experienced a very timid recovery. Since China emerged from the 2008 economic crisis relatively unscathed, many people, including Xi, believed that free market economics have reached their end and it’s time to adopt the Chinese-style authoritarian mercantile economic model. Thus, China should replace the United States to set a new economic order.
Second, based on a misguided belief that the world is a better place when the United States gives up its power and authority in a global system established since World War II, President Obama has been ready and willing to acquiesce America’s leadership in international affairs in the last eight years. President Xi quickly sized up president Obama as a weak leader, and sought to expand China’s influence and challenge America wherever opportunities rise. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Clauss hits out at lack of progress in market reforms and a reality that contradicts Beijing’s declared intentions.
Wendy Wu reports: China isn’t following through on its market reform pledges as quickly as desired, German ambassador to China Michael Clauss said in an interview.
“I regret to note that the reform initiatives taken at the third plenum apparently have lost momentum,” Clauss told the South China Morning Post in Beijing.
The Communist Party, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, pledged three years ago that China would allow the market to play a “decisive” role in resources allocation. But the promises of adopting more market-oriented changes have mostly been shelved as Beijing beefs up intervention in economic activities, from coal mine operations to capital account controls.
“It seems that preserving social stability and discipline are the order of the day much more than implementing the necessary economic reforms,” Clauss said.
“Officially, China propagates a policy of open markets and unfettered access for foreign trade and investment. However, we note that very often [the] reality on the ground does not correspond to the declared intention of the Chinese government to facilitate foreign direct investment.
“On a long-term perspective, we sense a growing tendency in China towards market closure and favouring of indigenous production,” he said.
At a key policy meeting that ended on Friday, the leadership again highlighted “stability” and “financial risk prevention” as priorities for the coming year, sending a clear message that bold moves in market opening or liberalisation were off the table, observers said.
They are worried that Beijing is also unlikely to make painful cuts in the bloated state sector, for fear of possible social unrest, before the top leadership reshuffle at 19th party congress in the autumn.
Survey results of commerce chambers of China’s major trading partners have underscored the increasing difficulties of doing business in China, including ambiguous security laws, limited market access and an official favouring of domestic technology.
Last year Beijing launched “Made in China 2025” – a campaign to revamp its manufacturing sector, and establish a home-grown hi-tech powerhouse.
“We wonder whether this is what in the end China 2025 is all about: a future Chinese economy relying on its own, leaving no room for exchanges with its partners,” Clauss said, adding that plans for German companies to expand investment in China had fallen to a three-year low.
Since late last year, Beijing has strengthened controls on individuals and companies transferring funds overseas to stem capital outflows and defend the yuan’s exchange rate. Read the rest of this entry »
Hong Kong is reminded that the freedoms it enjoys are ultimately at the whim of Beijing.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is an 18th Century trumpet call for free speech, one often repeated by parliamentarians around the world… but never in China.
The message from Beijing to its unruly territory 2,000km (1,350 miles) south is, by contrast, “we disapprove of what you say and we hereby decree that you have no right to say it”.
China has now spoken on the question of whether elected members of Hong Kong’s legislature can use that public platform to campaign for ideas offensive to China and the answer is a resounding no. In a unanimous decision by a panel of the Communist Party-controlled national parliament, Hong Kong has been reminded that the freedoms it enjoys are ultimately at the whim of Beijing.
Today’s “interpretation” of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution is one of the most significant interventions in Hong Kong’s legal system in two decades of Chinese rule. It is the first time China’s parliament, without the request of either the Hong Kong government or Court of Final Appeal, has interpreted the mini-constitution at a time when the issue is under active consideration in a Hong Kong court.
Newly elected lawmaker Yau Wai-ching displays a banner before taking oath at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China October 12, 2016. Yau Wai-Ching had used her oath-taking attempts to insult China. – Reuters
Why didn’t China’s politicians wait till after a court ruling on whether two legislators might be allowed to retake their oaths? Li Fei, the chairman of the Basic Law Committee of China’s parliament, made the logic clear when he said the Chinese government “is determined to firmly confront the pro-independence forces without any ambiguity”.
The interpretation is a highly confrontational move which plunges Hong Kong into a new phase of its long running political and constitutional crisis. But Beijing’s move comes in response to an equally confrontational move from the other side.
The two lawmakers, Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching, who used their swearing-in ceremony to insult China and talk of a “Hong Kong nation” should have known that a Chinese government so sensitive to questions of national pride and dignity would feel it had no choice but to act.
Ms Yau (left) and Sixtus Leung (right) have refused to pledge allegiance to Beijing
It was no surprise when China’s parliament said their words and actions had “posed a grave threat to national sovereignty and security”, with Li Fei adding: “The central government’s attitude is absolute. There will be no leniency.”
A price worth paying
The scope of Monday’s interpretation will raise inevitable questions about whether China is interpreting Hong Kong law, which is allowed, or re-writing it, which is not. And apart from disqualifying the two young legislators at the heart of the crisis, it will raise a raft of questions about the way in which some of the other newly elected young democracy activists took their oaths.
The democracy activists could now capitalise on anger in Hong Kong – AFP
For example, does reciting the oath in slow motion or using eccentric intonation contravene the interpretation’s insistence on “genuine” sincerity and solemnity? Who will decide? And if Beijing doesn’t like the decision of a Hong Kong court, what will it do next? For that matter, where does Beijing’s intervention leave the ongoing review of the oath taking question in Hong Kong’s courts? Read the rest of this entry »
ZHUHAI, China (Reuters) –Tim Hepher and Brenda Goh report: China showed its Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter in public for the first time on Tuesday, opening the country’s biggest meeting of aircraft makers and buyers with a show of its military clout.
“It’s a change of tactics for the Chinese to publicly show off weapons that aren’t in full squadron service yet, and demonstrates a lot of confidence in the capability, and also a lot of pride.”
— Sam Roggeveen, a senior fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute
Airshow China, in the southern city of Zhuhai, offers Beijing an opportunity to demonstrate its ambitions in civil aerospace and to underline its growing capability in defense. China is set to overtake the U.S. as the world’s top aviation market in the next decade.
Two J-20 jets, Zhuhai’s headline act, swept over dignitaries, hundreds of spectators and industry executives gathered at the show’s opening ceremony in a flypast that barely exceeded a minute, generating a deafening roar that was met with gasps and applause and set off car alarms in a parking lot.
“I think we learned very little. We learned it is very loud. But we can’t tell what type of engine it has, or very much about the mobility. Most importantly, we didn’t learn much about its radar cross-section.”
Experts say China has been refining designs for the J-20, first glimpsed by planespotters in 2010, in the hope of narrowing a military technology gap with the United States. President Xi Jinping has pushed to toughen the armed forces as China takes a more assertive stance in Asia, particularly in the South China and East China seas.
“It is clearly a big step forward in Chinese combat capability,” said Bradley Perrett of Aviation Week, a veteran China watcher.
State-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) was also bullish on China’s appetite for new civilian planes, estimating the market would need 6,865 new aircraft worth $930 billion over the next 20 years.
The COMAC forecast – similar to long-term outlooks from well-established rivals Boeing Co and Airbus Group – said China would make up almost a fifth of global demand for close to 40,000 planes over the next two decades. Read the rest of this entry »
The Chinese government likes to control social media and what people do with it—but Facebook looks willing to launch in China anyway.
Emily Parker writes: For U.S. Internet businesses, China is the land of moral defeat. Many people hoped that Western technology companies would loosen China’s control over information. Instead, those companies have willingly participated in efforts to censor citizens’ speech. Yahoo gave Chinese authorities information about democracy activists, landing them in jail. Microsoft shut down the blog of prominent media-freedom activist Michael Anti. Google censored search results that were politically sensitive in China. In 2006, those three companies came before Congress and were accused by a subcommittee chairman of “sickening collaboration” with the Chinese government. Google shut down its mainland Chinese search engine in 2010, publicly complaining about censorship and cybersecurity.
“The number of Chinese Internet users has surged to some 700 million, and they represent a valuable untapped resource for American companies with saturated, highly competitive home markets. But the Communist Party’s attempts to control information have also grown more intense.”
Facebook has been blocked in China since 2009, and its Instagram photo-sharing service was blocked in 2014. I once thought that it would be disastrous or impossible for the social network to try a Chinese adventure of its own, and some China experts still believe that to be true. But a Facebook launch in China now looks probable.
A decade after Google’s hopeful but ill-fated entry into China, U.S. Internet companies may see the Chinese market as even more tantalizing—yet impenetrable. The number of Chinese Internet users has surged to some 700 million, and they represent a valuable untapped resource for American companies with saturated, highly competitive home markets. But the Communist Party’s attempts to control information have also grown more intense. In addition to the “Great Firewall” that blocks access to foreign websites, legions of human censors, many employed at Internet companies, police domestic blogs and social networks. And a U.S. company would now have to compete with China’s own Internet giants. WeChat, a messaging app from the behemoth Tencent, has hundreds of millions of users.
Zuckerberg clearly thinks China is worth the trouble, even if that means leaving some “Western values” at the door. Earlier this year, he traveled to Beijing and had a high-profile meeting with China’s propaganda chief, Liu Yunshan. Chinese state media reported that Facebook’s founder praised China’s Internet progress and pledged to work with the government to create a better cyberspace. Liu highlighted the notion of Internet governance “with Chinese characteristics.” The translation was clear: a Chinese version of Facebook would definitely be censored. This year’s trip was something of a sequel. In 2014, he hosted Lu Wei, minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China, at Facebook’s offices. President Xi Jinping’s book The Governance of China just happened to be on Zuckerberg’s desk.
This courtship hasn’t been without some awkward moments. When Zuckerberg posted a photo of himself cheerfully jogging through the polluted haze of Tiananmen Squarethis year, he was mocked on Chinese social media. But overall he has made the right moves, says Cheng Li, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. “Chinese leaders pay a lot of attention to personal relationships,” he says. “They think Mark Zuckerberg is a friend of China. He’s successful. He’s very China-friendly. He has a Chinese wife. He speaks Chinese. So what else do you want?”
At your service
Facebook will still have to overcome Beijing’s suspicions that American Internet companies could destabilize the Communist Party’s rule. Media outlets that described the Arab Spring as the “Facebook Revolution” didn’t do the company any favors. And documents leaked by the former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden fueled Chinese suspicions that American technology companies had “back doors” for U.S. government surveillance. Read the rest of this entry »
The sweeping ban gives authorities near-absolute control over online news and political discourse, in keeping with a broader crackdown on information increasingly distributed over the web and mobile devices.
China’s top internet regulator ordered major online companies including Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. to stop original news reporting, the latest effort by the government to tighten its grip over the country’s web and information industries.
“President Xi Jinping has stressed that Chinese media must serve the interests of the ruling Communist Party.”
The Cyberspace Administration of China imposed the ban on several major news portals, including Sohu.com Inc. and NetEase Inc., Chinese media reported in identically worded articles citing an unidentified official from the agency’s Beijing office. The companies have “seriously violated” internet regulations by carrying plenty of news content obtained through original reporting, causing “huge negative effects,” according to a report that appeared in The Paper on Sunday.
The agency instructed the operators of mobile and online news services to dismantle “current-affairs news” operations on Friday, after earlier calling a halt to such activity at Tencent, according to people familiar with the situation. Like its peers, Asia’s largest internet company had developed a news operation and grown its team. Henceforth, they and other services can only carry reports provided by government-controlled print or online media, the people said, asking not to be identified because the issue is politically sensitive.
The sweeping ban gives authorities near-absolute control over online news and political discourse, in keeping with a broader crackdown on information increasingly distributed over the web and mobile devices. President Xi Jinping has stressed that Chinese media must serve the interests of the ruling Communist Party.
The party has long been sensitive to the potential for negative reporting to stir up unrest, the greatest threat to its decades-old hold on power. Regulations forbidding enterprise reporting have been in place for years without consistent enforcement, but the latest ordinance suggests “they really mean business,” said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Center for China Studies. Read the rest of this entry »
An outspoken Hong Kong bookseller who has become a symbol of opposition to China’s authoritarian government has accused Chinese security agents of behaving like the notorious triad gangs in a bid to silence the publishers of provocative books about the country’s leaders.
Lam Wing-kee shot to prominence in June when he revealed how he had been spirited into secret detention in eastern China by a mysterious group of agents supposedly acting on the orders of the Communist party leadership.
Writing in the Diplomat, Amnesty International’s China researcher William Nee said Lam’s testimony had provided “a blow-by-blow account of the abusive tools that have become Chinese authorities’ modus operandi to silence critics since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012”. Read the rest of this entry »
Christianity is Stigmatized, Feared, and Marginalized, in China as well as in the United States, because the Idea that Rights are God-Given Undermines Government Authority.
SHUITOU, China — Ian Johnson reports: Along the valleys and mountains hugging the East China Sea, a Chinese government campaign to remove crosses from church spires has left the countryside looking as if a typhoon had raged down the coast, decapitating buildings at random.
In the town of Shuitou, workers used blowtorches to cut a 10-foot-high cross off the 120-foot steeple of the Salvation Church. It now lies in the churchyard, wrapped in a red shroud.
About 10 miles to the east, in Mabu township, riot police officers blocked parishioners from entering the grounds of the Dachang Church while workers erected scaffolding and sawed off the cross. In the nearby villages of Ximei, Aojiang, Shanmen and Tengqiao, crosses now lie toppled on rooftops or in yards, or buried like corpses.
On a four-day journey through this lush swath of China’s Zhejiang Province, I spoke with residents who described in new detail the breathtaking scale of an effort to remove Christianity’s most potent symbol from public view. Over the past two years, officials and residents said, the authorities have torn down crosses from 1,200 to 1,700 churches, sometimes after violent clashes with worshipers trying to stop them.
A Sunday service at a state-sanctioned church in Wenzhou in 2014. There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China. Credit Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times
“It’s been very difficult to deal with,” said one church elder in Shuitou, who like others asked for anonymity in fear of retaliation by the authorities. “We can only get on our knees and pray.”
The campaign has been limited to Zhejiang Province, home to one of China’s largest and most vibrant Christian populations. But people familiar with the government’s deliberations say the removal of crosses here has set the stage for a new, nationwide effort to more strictly regulate spiritual life in China, reflecting the tighter control of society favored by President Xi Jinping.
In a major speech on religious policy last month, Mr. Xi urged the ruling Communist Party to “resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means,” and he warned that religions in China must “Sinicize,” or become Chinese. The instructions reflect the government’s longstanding fear that Christianity could undermine the party’s authority. Many human rights lawyers in China are Christians, and many dissidents have said they are influenced by the idea that rights are God-given.
In recent decades, the party had tolerated a religious renaissance in China, allowing most Chinese to worship as they chose and even encouraging the construction of churches, mosques and temples, despite regular crackdowns on unregistered congregations and banned spiritual groups such as Falun Gong.
Hundreds of millions of people have embraced the nation’s major faiths: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity. There are now about 60 million Christians in China. Many attend churches registered with the government, but at least half worship in unregistered churches, often with local authorities looking the other way. Read the rest of this entry »
Just last week, Beijing further tightened the screws on US companies when it imposed a ban on Apple’s online book and film services. The order came as part of a broader set of regulations, introduced in March, which established strict curbs on all online publishing.
Claude Barfield writes: For the first time this year, the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) “National Trade Estimate Report” took note of China’s Great Firewall. Granted, it was with this tame statement: “China’s filtering of cross-border Internet traffic has posed a significant burden to foreign suppliers.” The report did not indicate what steps, if any, the US plans to take against the People’s Republic of China’s heavy-handed and economically damaging censorship regime. But it is high time for the US, possibly in conjunction with other major trading partners, to test the legality of China’s sweeping Internet censorship system.
The nature of Chinese censorship
Chinese online censorship operations are not new, and they have been well-documented for over a decade. But the situation has grown worse since President Xi Jinping took office in 2012. Today, the USTR reports that eight of the 25 most trafficked websites worldwide are currently blocked by the Chinese government. Especially targeted are popular search engines such as Google, as well as user-generated content platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Sometimes, the blockade is permanent — Google formally withdrew from China in 2010 — but more often it is intermittent and random, as has occurred with increasing frequency with Gmail and Hotmail. The New York Times has been banned since 2012, and recently (as a result of reporting on the misdeeds of President Xi’s relatives) the Economist and Time magazine have also secured spots on the honored block list. Just last week, Beijing further tightened the screws on US companies when it imposed a ban on Apple’s online book and film services. The order came as part of a broader set of regulations, introduced in March, which established strict curbs on all online publishing.
A Chinese news portal’s publication of a mysterious letter calling for President Xi Jinping’s resignation appears to have triggered a hunt for those responsible, in a sign of Beijing’s anxiety over bubbling dissent within the Communist Party. As WSJ’s Chun Han Wong reports:
The letter, whose authorship remains unclear, appeared on the eve of China’s legislative session in early March, the most public political event of the year.
Since then, at least four managers and editors with Wujie Media—whose news website published the missive—and about 10 people from a related company providing technical support have gone missing, according to their friends and associates, who say the disappearances are linked to a government probe into the letter….(more)
Beijing (AFP) – The website of the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper being bought by Internet giant Alibaba, has become inaccessible in China during a series of high-level government meetings in Beijing.
Attempts by AFP in China on Friday to open the newspaper’s English and Chinese-language websites returned only error messages saying that the pages could not be displayed.
The scmp.com website was blocked starting on March 3, according to the security website GreatFire.org, which monitors online censorship in China.
China’s Communist Party oversees a vast censorship system — dubbed the Great Firewall — that aggressively blocks sites or snuffs out Internet and TV content and commentary on topics considered sensitive, such as Beijing’s human rights record and criticisms of the government.
South China Morning Post Tai Po Office and Printer in Tai Po Industrial Estate. SCMP/ May Tse
Popular social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter are inaccessible in the country, as is Youtube.
Several Western news organisations have accused China of blocking access to their websites in the past, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Reuters. Read the rest of this entry »
‘The chaotic propagation of grandiose, West-worshipping, weird architecture.’
Josh Chin reports: A new blueprint for the future of China’s sprawling cities promises to demolish two towering symbols of the country’s runaway growth: eye-catching architecture and gated housing complexes.
About the latter at least, Chinese urbanites appear none too pleased.
“You have to get public safety fixed first. Get rid of thieves, advertisers and scam artists, then you can open up the residential compounds.”
— From the comments under the Sina survey
The guidelines for development of China’s cities, released over the weekend, are the outcome of a high-level government confab held in December to address the challenges of managing the rapid, at times haphazard urbanization that is one of the most visible expressions of the country’s economic transformation over the past 35 years.
“New Century Global Centre” building in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan province. /AFP/Getty Images
“Whoever came up with this idea is a pig brain.”
— Another comment from the Sina survey
The last time such a meeting was convened, in 1978, less than a fifth of the country’s citizens lived in cities, according to a report by the official Xinhua news agency (in Chinese). Now more than half do. The breakneck pace of urbanization has produced a variety of problems the guidelines seek to address. According to a copy posted to Xinhua’s website (in Chinese), key aims include reducing construction waste, improving traffic flows and raising air quality.
“The document is a wake-up call for those places where there’s has been a one-sided pursuit of architectural form over function, where cultural orientation has been compromised by an excessive desire to show off.”
Then there’s the problem of “the chaotic propagation of grandiose, West-worshipping, weird architecture.” The proliferation of fanciful, and sometimes downright bizarre, buildings has captured attention at the highest levels in Beijing. The vertiginous boxer-shorts tower designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas to serve as the headquarters for China Central Television in Beijing is the most frequently cited example, but others abound.
And the most contentious deal so far might be the Chinese-led investor group Chongqing Casin Enterprise’s bid for the Chicago Stock Exchange.
A deal spree
To date, there have been 102 Chinese outbound mergers-and-acquisitions deals announced this year, amounting to $81.6 billion in value, according to Dealogic. That’s up from 72 deals worth $11 billion in the same period last year.
And they’re not expected to let up anytime soon. Slow economic growth in China and cheap prices abroad due to the stock market’s recent sell-off suggest the opposite.
“With the slowdown of the economy, Chinese corporates are increasingly looking to inorganic avenues to supplement their growth,” Vikas Seth, head of emerging markets in the investment-banking and capital-markets department at Credit Suisse, told Business Insider earlier this month.
Kim Kyung-Hoon/ReutersPresident Obama and President Xi Jinping.
The law firm O’Melveny & Myers recently surveyed their mainly China-based clients and found that the economic growth potential in the US was the main factor making it an attractive investment destination.
Nearly half of respondents agreed that the US was the most attractive market for investment, but 47% felt that US laws and regulations were a major barrier. They’d be right about that.
“This proposed acquisition would be the first time a Chinese-owned, possibly state-influenced, firm maintained direct access into the $22 trillion US equity marketplace,” the letter reads. Read the rest of this entry »
Stanley Lubman writes: A trio of recent repressive actions by the Chinese party-state represents a disturbing three-pronged attack that treats legality as an unnecessary burden on governance over society, and illustrates how far China is willing to go to snuff out dissent.
The actions include the arrest of seven lawyers accused of “subversion” and four others charged with lesser offenses; the televised “confession” of a China-based Swedish citizen who worked for a rights NGO and has been charged with “endangering state security;” and the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers and publishers One reemerged on CCTV to confess to a prior crime years earlier, and a second has written to his wife from Shenzhen to say that he has been “assisting in an investigation.”
Arrests for “subversion of state power”
The lawyers who have been arrested have all been in the forefront of defending controversial activists. Seven are accused of “subversion of state power,” an offense that has been on the books since 1997 but infrequently used. More commonly, activists such as Pu Zhiqiang have been convicted for the lesser charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels.” (Pu received a three-year sentence that was simultaneously suspended for the same length of time; however, because of his conviction, Pu is barred from practicing law.) Conviction for subversion can lead to a sentence of anywhere from three years to life in prison.
Three of the other lawyers were charged with the lesser offense of “inciting subversion against state power” which, according to a recent posting by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, is used against individuals who “express criticism of the government” and is punishable by a sentence of up to five years. One other person, a paralegal, has been charged with “assisting in destruction of evidence; other lawyers have been detained incommunicado or forcibly disappeared for at least six months.
The arrest of the human rights lawyers is a continuation of the crackdown that exploded in July, but the rise of the accusation of “subversion” raises the odds of harsher punishment.
Arrest and televised “confession” of Swedish citizen affiliated with a human rights NGO
A Swedish man in his 30s, Peter Dahlin, a co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action) that organizes training programs for human rights defenders, was detained in early January, on a charge of “endangering state security.” On Wednesday, he was paraded on China Central Television and shown admitting to have broken Chinese laws, in a televised “confession” that has been denounced by rights advocates as coerced.
According to a statement from China Action, the NGO focuses on land law and administrative law and trains non-lawyers to provide pro-bono legal aid to victims of rights violations. Dahlin is in need of daily medication due to affliction by a rare disease; Chinese state media reports say he is receiving it, but no other information has been available. China’s Foreign Ministry says it is granting Swedish consular officials access to him, although no information has been available on his whereabouts. Read the rest of this entry »
In 2015 we witness a rare geopolitcal power shift – and in the face of every kind of new external challenge the leaders of the EU and the USA have never looked weaker or more bemused.
Christopher Booker writes: As we enter this new year, what is the most significant feature of how the world is changing that went almost unnoticed in the year just ended? Two events last autumn might have given us a clue.
One was the very peculiar nature of that state visit in October, when the president of China was taken in a golden coach to stay at Buckingham Palace, down a Mall lined with hundreds of placard-waving pro‑China stooges, while the only people manhandled away by Chinese security guards were a few protesters against China’s treatment of Tibet and abuses of human rights.
Everywhere we see Western illusions colliding with reality, as when the reckless bid to suck Ukraine into the EU and Nato inevitably provoked a response from President Putin and a Russian sense of national interest that has left us looking pathetically impotent.
Queen Elizabeth II and President of The PeopleÕs Republic of China, Mr Xi Jinping, ride in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach along The Mall Photo: PA
Led by David Cameron, our politicians could not have fawned more humiliatingly on the leader of a country whose economy, before its recent wobbles, was predicted by the IMF to overtake that of the US as the largest in the world in 2016. While Britain once led the world in steel‑making and the civil use of nuclear power, the visit coincided with the crumbling of the remains of our steel industry before a flood of cheap Chinese steel, as our politicians pleaded for China’s help in building, to an obsolete design, the most costly nuclear power station in the world.
On Monday, the state broadcaster released a 2:44-minute rap to celebrate the achievements of everyone’s favorite party organ, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform, which will mark its two-year anniversary on Dec. 30.
The song — which struck China Real Time as more Skee-Lo than Kendrick Lamar – reminds the Chinese public to “trust the government” and look at China’s progress on advancing education, combating smog and reforming the health care system during 2015.
It also features voice clips from President Xi Jinping (although the soundbites appear to have been sampled from Mr. Xi’s speeches rather than performed by the Chinese leader live in-studio).
The rap was released in conjunction with a special program on CCTV called “The Power of Deepening Reforms.” It comes on the heels of the second year of Mr. Xi’s far-reaching anticorruption campaign, which has snagged, as the song says, hundreds of “flies, tigers and large foxes.”
It also touts China’s establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the International Monetary Fund’s move to accept the yuan as its fifth reserve currency and the progress made by the “One Belt, One Road” network of infrastructure projects.
Xi makes his debut at around 49 seconds with the phrase: “To turn the people’s expectations into our actions.” Ten seconds later, he comes back, saying, “An arrow will never return once it’s shot.” Read the rest of this entry »
GUIYANG, China —Emily Rauhala reports: Pastor Su Tianfu slides into the back seat and tells the driver to hit it.
He looks over his shoulder: “Is there anybody following us?”
It is days before Christmas, but instead of working on his sermon, Su is giving his tail the slip.
The slight and soft-spoken Protestant preacher is no stranger to surveillance. Su has worked for years in China’s unregistered “house churches,” and he said he has been interrogated more times than he can count.
But even Su is surprised by what has happened in Guiyang this month: a crackdown that has led to the shuttering of the thriving Living Stone Church, the detention of a pastor on charges of “possessing state secrets” and the shadowing of dozens of churchgoers by police.
A local government directive leaked to China Aid, a Texas-based Christian group, and reviewed by The Washington Post advises local Communist Party cadres that shutting down the church is necessary to “maintain social stability”— a catchall phrase often used to justify sweeping clampdowns.
The Dec. 9 raid on the church in a relatively sleepy provincial capital is conspicuous because of the timing — about two weeks before Christmas — and because the government’s tactics were revealed.
But it also speaks to a broader pattern of religious repression that is playing out beyond China’s mountainous southwest, as the officially atheist Communist Party struggles to control the spread of religion amid a broader push to thwart dissent.
“The overall environment in the past few years has been harsh,” said Yang Fenggang, director of Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society. “There’s a tightened control over civil society in general, including churches.”
Unlike in many parts of the West, Christianity is thriving in China.
In this photo taken July 15, 2014, Pastor Tao Chongyin, left, speaks with church member Fan Liang’an in front of the Wuxi Christian Church with the words “Church of Jesus” in red, in Longwan, Wenzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang province. Across Zhejiang province, which hugs China’s rocky southeastern coast, authorities have toppled, or threatened to topple, crosses at more than 130 churches. “I won’t let them take down the cross even if it means they would shoot me dead,” said Fan Liang’an, 73, whose grandfather helped build the church in 1924. (AP Photo/Didi Tang)
Because of tight restrictions on religious practices, reliable figures are hard to find, but the Chinese government generally puts the number of Protestants (a group it calls “Christians”) at 23 million and the number of Catholics at more than 5 million.
Foreign scholars estimate that there are 67 million to 100 million Christians in China — compared with 87 million Communist Party cadres. Yang estimates that China will be home to 250 million Christians by 2030. Evangelical Protestants, like Su, are the fastest-growing group.
The Communist Party has a complicated, often contradictory, view of faith: The constitution protects the right to religion, but the state is unwilling to relinquish control.
Russell Leigh Moses writes:The People’s Daily is the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper. It announces what the party sees as the major issues of the day and the current direction of the nation. It’s also the main platform for political discussion, marking out initiatives and identifying the parameters for debate. Like many other party newspapers, People’s Daily is required reading for party members.
It is also, for too many new party members at least, increasingly irrelevant.
With articles on a typical day involving discussions of party doctrine, dogma and jargon abound. Major stories often include grip-and-grin accounts of Chinese leaders meeting obscure peers from faraway nations.
That makes the People’s Daily no different from newspapers around the world struggling to stay significant during the digital revolution. But for the Communist Party, the stakes are arguably bigger: Its power and legitimacy depend on party leaders getting the word out and those words being taken seriously.
That unease was on display in an editorial in an edition of People’s Daily last month titled, “Is It OK for Party Members Not To Read Party Newspapers?” Yan Jin, an official in Changsha, the capital of China’s southern province of Hunan, noted that these days “some cadres do not bother to even read party newspapers and spend that time browsing through gossip instead.”
Yan concedes that this situation shouldn’t be a surprise as “current party members born in the 1980s and 1990s haven’t grown up with the habit of reading actual newspapers and now have more ways of getting information from the computer or their phone.” In his own district, Yan said, cadres between 22 and 30 years of age comprised 25% of the membership, suggesting that this problem of paying less attention to party news will grow as older officials retire and younger ones join the ranks.
Yan said that party newspaper readership has also declined because a growing number of cadres “justifiably criticized party newspapers as boring.” Many party members simply haven’t wanted to devote the time to wading through the heavy political prose even though, as he contends, party newspapers have “tried to write more and more lively sentences, and attempted to adopt a new style that’s both shorter and addresses real issues.” Yan notes that party newspapers are now easier to access online and at news kiosks, which should help their appeal to younger officials.
The DF-ZF is an ultra-high-speed missile allegedly capable of penetrating U.S. air defense systems based on interceptor missiles.
The launch of the DF-ZF took place at the Wuzhai missile test center in central China’s Shanxi Province. A ballistic missile transported the DF-ZF HGV near the edge of the atmosphere, where it separated from its launcher and then glided to an impact range a few thousands kilometers away in western China, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
“The DF-ZF flight was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies and flew at speeds beyond Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound,” Gertz notes. Previous tests of the DF-ZF took place on June 7, January 9, and August 7, 2015, and December 2, 2014. Read the rest of this entry »
Islamic State’s slaying of Fan Jinghui, right, who was executed along with a Norwegian hostage, left, has put pressure on Beijing to step up protections for Chinese citizens abroad. Photo: Associated Press
Deaths, image of bloodied hostage speed up calls for Chinese intervention in world’s trouble spots.
Andrew Browne reports: A self-described drifter and thrill-seeker, Fan Jinghui didn’t fit the typical profile of Chinese victims of terrorism overseas.
“To an extraordinary degree, China’s international security policy in recent years has been driven by the political imperative to be seen doing everything it can to protect an estimated five million Chinese nationals living and working outside the country.”
Among the scores of Chinese expatriates who have met violent deaths in the past decade at the hands of extremists, most have been workers in state companies drilling for oil, operating mines or building highways, hospitals and other infrastructure in unstable parts of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
“In response to Mr. Fan’s execution, don’t expect Chinese fighter jets to join bombing runs against Islamic State; China lacks the ability to project force in that way, even if it wanted to. It has no overseas military bases, and shuns military alliances.”
“Beyond that, what else can it do?” scoffed one Internet user.
Police escort a Chinese hostage in Bamako, Mali, where three Chinese rail executives were killed during a hotel siege. Photo: Panoramic/Zuma Press
“But it’s only a matter of time, say security analysts, before China sends in special forces to free hostages or rescue Chinese civilians trapped in a crisis.”
Any accusation of impotence abroad, when Chinese lives are at stake, stings Beijing’s leadership. Almost certainly, Mr. Fan’s brutal slaying, together with the deaths of three Chinese rail executives gunned down in the Mali hotel siege, is likely to accelerate a trend for Beijing to intervene in lawless areas of the globe to protect its own nationals and massive investments.
President Xi Jinping vowed to strengthen collaboration with the world community “to resolutely fight violent terrorist activities that hurt innocent lives.” A foreign ministry spokesman said Monday, “In light of new circumstances, we will come up with new proposals to ensure the security of Chinese citizens and institutions overseas.”
To an extraordinary degree, China’s international security policy in recent years has been driven by the political imperative to be seen doing everything it can to protect an estimated five million Chinese nationals living and working outside the country.
In a frenetic commercial district of Hong Kong, sandwiched between shops selling vitamins and clothing to tourists, the Causeway Bay Bookstore touts itself as the authority on Chinese politics.
Juliana Liu reports: The tiny shop specialises in selling gossipy paperbacks that are highly critical of China’s leadership. They are particularly popular with mainland Chinese visitors who cannot buy the banned books at home.
But two weeks ago, four men who work for the bookstore and its affiliated publishing house went missing. Their colleagues believe they have been detained by Chinese officials because of their work.
One of their associates, Mr Lee, told BBC News: “I suspect all of them were detained. Four people went missing at the same time.”
Among them is Gui Minhai, a China-born Swedish national who is the owner of Mighty Current, the publishing house that owns the bookstore.
According to Mr Lee, who declines to give his full name for fear of reprisals by Chinese officials, the publisher last communicated with colleagues via email on 15 October from the city of Pattaya in Thailand, where he owns a holiday home.
Mr Gui had written to tell printers to prepare for a new book and that he would send the material shortly. He has not been seen since.
The others are Lui Bo, general manager of Mighty Current, and Cheung Jiping, the business manager of the publishing house. Both have wives who live in Shenzhen, and were last seen there.
Lui Bo, general manager of Mighty Current publishing house, is among those missing
The fourth missing man is Lam Wingkei, manager of the bookstore, who was last seen in Hong Kong.
“I am quite certain that the main target was Mr Gui. They wanted to prevent him from publishing that book,” said Mr Lee, who was not privy to what the publisher had been writing about.
“I think the others were taken because they thought the contents of the book had already been distributed.”
Mr Lee said Mr Lam’s wife had filed a missing persons report with the Hong Kong police, who have confirmed the case to the BBC.
Calls to China’s Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong have gone unanswered. Attempts to reach the relatives of the four men have been unsuccessful.
The tiny shop sells paperbacks that are highly critical of China’s leadership and banned in mainland China
The tiny shop sells paperbacks that are highly critical of China’s leadership and banned in mainland China
Sources close to the families fear international attention may hurt more than help.
Rights groups have expressed concern about the disappearances.
“We think that if the information is true, it is a deeply troubling case and it will have serious implications about the deterioration of freedom of expression in Hong Kong,” said Amnesty International‘s China researcher Patrick Poon.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed in Hong Kong. But many in the publishing business say the Chinese government has begun to exert its influence in the industry. Read the rest of this entry »
“Good evening to the great people of China. I am the 45th president of the United States, Frank J. Underwood. And tonight, I wanted to take a moment to say hello to all of you out there to wish you a happy Singles’ Day.”
“Good evening to the great people of China. I am the 45th president of the United States, Frank J. Underwood. And tonight, I wanted to take a moment to say hello to all of you out there to wish you a happy Singles’ Day,” Mr. Spacey says in character in the video, which shows him seated at a presidential desk….(read more)
Four people linked to a Hong Kong bookstore which has stocked titles highly critical of the ruling Chinese Communist Party have been “delayed,” believed detained by Chinese authorities, while on a visit to Thailand.
Owner Gui Haiming, general manager Lu Bo, store manager Lin Rongji, and staff member Zhang Zhiping of publisher and bookstore company Sage Communications are believed to be in China after having been detained there or in Thailand, their associates told RFA.
Gui and Lin called their wives to reassure them on Friday, but little information about their whereabouts was forthcoming, according to a fellow Sage shareholder surnamed Li.
“They said they were OK, but they’re not OK,” Li said. “They just told their loved ones they would be coming back a bit later than expected, and told them not to worry.”
“But they didn’t answer any questions about where they were or what they were doing,” he said.
Gui, who holds a Swedish passport, went missing in mid-October while on a trip to Thailand, where he owns a holiday home, while Lu and Zhang stopped communicating around Oct. 22-24 after trips back to their family homes in mainland China, Li said.
Li only discovered that Gui, whose company publishes 3-4 books a month on Chinese politics and current affairs, was incommunicado after being contacted by the printers of the next book.
“Usually, he would get back to the printers by the following day if it was urgent, but the printers had been looking for him for a week,” he said.
It is unclear where Lin was when he lost contact with friends and family.
“He used to sleep over at the bookstore a lot, so his wife didn’t know he was missing,” Li said.
Gui has previously published titles critical of the administration of President Xi Jinping, including The Great Depression of 2017, and The Collapse of Xi Jinping in 2017.
Calls to Lu Bo’s and Zhang Zhiping’s cell phones rang unanswered on Friday, while Lin reportedly owns no cell phone.
Repeated calls to the Shenzhen municipal police department, just across the internal border from Hong Kong, also rang unanswered.
An employee who answered the phone at the Swedish consulate in Hong Kong said the consulate was unaware of the reports.
Gui and his colleagues wouldn’t be the first in their profession to be targeted by Beijing.
In May 2014, a court in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on Wednesday handed a 10-year jail term to 79-year-old Hong Kong publisher Yiu Man-tin after he edited a book highly critical of President Xi Jinping. Read the rest of this entry »
Through his work and activism, Chen Guangcheng has helped expose the crimes of the Chinese Communist Party, including forced abortions and corruption, and has given voice to China’s disabled population.
Through his work and activism, Chen Guangcheng has helped expose the crimes of the Chinese Communist Party, including forced abortions and corruption, and has given voice to China’s disabled population.
Chen was born in China’s Shandong province in 1971, in the midst of the country’s violent Cultural Revolution. Chen became blind when he was five-months old because of an untreated fever. This life-changing event categorized him as one of China’s greatest discriminated groups—the disabled.
In China, as Chen once explained, the disabled are not considered fully human. Until the 1980s they were referred to as “useless.” Since the 1990s China’s law guarantees employment, education, welfare, and access to the country’s disabled, but they still continue to encounter difficulties in society. Disabled children are usually kept confined at home, most schools do not allow disabled students, and figures showthat only a quarter of the country’s disabled meet any form of employment. Even the cities are a struggle to those who manage to get out—pathways for the blind often lead to dead ends or trees, and other help, such as guide dogs, are forbidden.
Chen was bound to follow the same fate. However, his fate changed when he was 17 and enrolled in a school for the blind 40 miles away from his hometown. Chen spent the next decade of his life studying, rapidly moving from primary school to the university, where he studied Chinese medicine and massage. It was during this time that Chen started fighting against the injustice he saw. He would speak against teachers and government authorities that mistreated him because of his condition. Read the rest of this entry »
In The Wall Street Journal, Information Age columnist Gordon Crovitz writes about how China censors your Internet—Beijing thinks Taylor Swift’s “1989” is code for Tiananmen Square and must be blocked….(read more)
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Greg Torode reports: U.S. plans to send warships or military aircraft within 12 nautical miles of China’s artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, possibly within days, could open a tense new front in Sino-U.S. rivalry.
A range of security experts said Washington’s so-called freedom of navigation patrols would have to be regular to be effective, given Chinese ambitions to project power deep into maritime Southeast Asia and beyond.
But China would likely resist attempts to make such U.S. actions routine, some said, raising the political and military stakes. China’s navy could for example try to block or attempt to surround U.S. vessels, they said, risking an escalation.
Given months of debate already in Washington over the first such patrol close to the Chinese outposts since 2012, several regional security experts and former naval officers said the U.S. government might be reluctant to do them often.
U.S. allies such as Japan and Australia are unlikely to follow with their own direct challenges to China, despite their concerns over freedom of navigation along vital trade routes, they added.
“This cannot be a one-off,” said Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
“The U.S. navy will have to conduct these kinds of patrols on a regular basis to reinforce their message.”
The Obama administration has said it would test China’s territorial claims to the area after months of pressure from Congress and the U.S. military. It has not given a timeframe.
“I think we have been very clear – that we intend to do this,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters last Monday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry officials said this month that Beijing would “never allow any country to violate China’s territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly islands in the name of protecting navigation and overflight”.
Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, 12-nautical mile limits cannot be set around man-made islands built on previously submerged reefs.
Four of the seven reefs China has reclaimed over the last two years were completely submerged at high tide before construction began, legal scholars say.
China claims most of the South China Sea. Other claimants are Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Read the rest of this entry »
Mass trolling of government Weibo accounts, once common, has become rare in recent years as authorities have tightened their grip on the platform.
Josh Chin reports: With China’s guardians of taste cracking down on everything from televised cleavage to the lyrics of Taiwanese rapper MC Hotdog, Chinese Internet users were provided with alternate entertainment this week: watching the country’s culture ministry get eviscerated on social media.
“You manage what we read, what we watch on TV, what movies we see, what we do online, when we drive our cars, what we say, but you don’t manage the quality of our food or housing, our health, or our children’s ability to attend school. Everything you should manage, you don’t and what you shouldn’t manage, you do!”
The Ministry of Culture, which is responsible for the protection and promotion of Chinese traditional culture, launched its official account on the popular social-media platform Weibo Thursday and almost immediately it found itself drenched by a firehose of vitriol. Three messages posted to the feed since Thursday afternoon had attracted over 100,000 comments a day later, most of them unfavorable or outright hostile.
“You manage what we read, what we watch on TV, what movies we see, what we do online, when we drive our cars, what we say, but you don’t manage the quality of our food or housing, our health, or our children’s ability to attend school,” read one comment that attracted more than 23,000 likes. “Everything you should manage, you don’t and what you shouldn’t manage, you do!”
Mass trolling of government Weibo accounts, once common, has become rare in recent years as authorities have tightened their grip on the platform. The response reflected widespread frustration with increased censorship and cultural tightening under Mr. Xi, including harsher restrictions online that led to the banning of several popular foreign TV shows and cartoons. Read the rest of this entry »
The mysterious shift in venue took place the week before China’s president, Xi Jinping, is scheduled to make a state visit to Britain, the first by a Chinese leader in a decade.
HONG KONG — Michael Forsythe reports: China’s leaders have long behaved as if nothing could daunt them. But an 800-year-old document written in Latin on sheepskin may have them running scared.
“Magna Carta is widely considered a cornerstone for constitutional government in Britain and the United States, and such a system is inimical to China’s leaders, who view ‘constitutionalism’ as a threat to Communist Party rule.”
Magna Carta — the Great Charter — is on tour this year, celebrating eight centuries since it was issued in 1215 by King John of England. It is regarded as one of the world’s most important documents because of language guaranteeing individual rights and holding the ruler subject to the law.
“They fear that such ideology and historical material will penetrate deep into the students’ hearts.”
— Hu Jia, a prominent Chinese dissident
One of the few surviving 13th-century copies of the document was to go on display this week from Tuesday through Thursday at a museum at Renmin University of China in Beijing, the British Embassy said last week on its WeChat account. But then the exhibit was abruptly moved to the British ambassador’s residence, with few tickets available to the public and no explanation given. (The document is also set to go on display at the United States Consulate in Guangzhou and at a museum in Shanghai, the embassy said.)
It is not clear why the public showing was moved off the Renmin University campus. But Magna Carta is widely considered a cornerstone for constitutional government in Britain and the United States, and such a system is inimical to China’s leaders, who view “constitutionalism” as a threat to Communist Party rule.
In 2013, the party issued its “seven unmentionables” — taboo topics for its members. The first unmentionable is promoting Western-style constitutional democracy. The Chinese characters for “Magna Carta” are censored in web searches on Sina Weibo, the country’s Twitter-like social media site.
Hu Jia, a prominent Chinese dissident, said he was not surprised that the exhibit was moved off the campus. He said that Renmin University had close ties to the Communist Party’s training academy and that the principles the document stood for were contrary to the party’s. More important, he said, Chinese leaders may have been concerned that the exhibit would be popular and that “many students would flock there.” Read the rest of this entry »
Henry Kissinger long ago recognized the problem: a talented vote-getter, surrounded by lawyers, who is overly risk-averse.
Niall Ferguson writes: Even before becoming Richard Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry Kissingerunderstood how hard it was to make foreign policy in Washington. There “is no such thing as an American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger wrote in 1968. There is only “a series of moves that have produced a certain result” that they “may not have been planned to produce.” It is “research and intelligence organizations,” he added, that “attempt to give a rationality and consistency” which “it simply does not have.”
“It is clear that the president’s strategy is failing disastrously. Since 2010, total fatalities from armed conflict in the world have increased by a factor of close to four, according to data from the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Total fatalities due to terrorism have risen nearly sixfold…”
Two distinctively American pathologies explained the fundamental absence of coherent strategic thinking. First, the person at the top was selected for other skills. “The typical political leader of the contemporary managerial society,” noted Mr. Kissinger, “is a man with a strong will, a high capacity to get himself elected, but no very great conception of what he is going to do when he gets into office.”
Second, the government was full of people trained as lawyers. In making foreign policy, Mr. Kissinger once remarked, “you have to know what history is relevant.” But lawyers were “the single most important group in Government,” he said, and their principal drawback was “a deficiency in history.” This was a long-standing prejudice of his. “The clever lawyers who run our government,” he thundered in a 1956 letter to a friend, have weakened the nation by instilling a “quest for minimum risk which is our most outstanding characteristic.”
“Nearly all this violence is concentrated in a swath of territory stretching from North Africa through the Middle East to Afghanistan and Pakistan. And there is every reason to expect the violence to escalate as the Sunni powers of the region seek to prevent Iran from establishing itself as the post-American hegemony.”
Let’s see, now. A great campaigner. A bunch of lawyers. And a “quest for minimum risk.” What is it about this combination that sounds familiar?
I have spent much of the past seven years trying to work out what Barack Obama’s strategy for the United States truly is. For much of his presidency, as a distinguished general once remarked to me about the commander in chief’s strategy, “we had to infer it from speeches.”
“Today the U.S. faces three strategic challenges: the maelstrom in the Muslim world, the machinations of a weak but ruthless Russia, and the ambition of a still-growing China. The president’s responses to all three look woefully inadequate.”
At first, I assumed that the strategy was simply not to be like his predecessor—an approach that was not altogether unreasonable, given the errors of the Bush administration in Iraq and the resulting public disillusionment. I read Mr. Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech—with its Quran quotes and its promise of “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world”—as simply the manifesto of the Anti-Bush.
“Those who know the Obama White House’s inner workings wonder why this president, who came into office with next to no experience of foreign policy, has made so little effort to hire strategic expertise.”
But what that meant in practice was not entirely clear. Precipitate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq, but a time-limited surge in Afghanistan. A “reset” with Russia, but seeming indifference to Europe. Read the rest of this entry »
China said on Friday it would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation, as the United States considers sailing warships close to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea.
“I simply won’t discuss future operations. With regards to whether we are going to sail within 12 miles, or fly within 12 miles, of any of the reclaimed islands that China has built in the South China Sea, I will reserve that for later.”
— Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific
A U.S. defense official told Reuters on Thursday the United States was considering sending ships to waters inside the 12-nautical-mile zones that China claims as territory around islands it has built in the Spratly chain.
Western media reports quoted U.S. officials as saying the action could take place within a matter of days, but awaited a decision by U.S. President Barack Obama.
U.S. Navy exercises last week in the South China Sea (Naval Surface Forces)
“We will never allow any country to violate China’s territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly Islands, in the name of protecting freedom of navigation and overflight.”
The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral Harry Harris, declined to say on Friday whether the United States would carry out the plan. But he made clear it was an option he had presented to Obama and said the United States must carry out freedom of navigation patrols throughout the Asia-Pacific.
“I simply won’t discuss future operations,” Harris told a Washington seminar. “With regards to whether we are going to sail within 12 miles, or fly within 12 miles, of any of the reclaimed islands that China has built in the South China Sea, I will reserve that for later.”
Earlier on Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying warned against any such patrols.
“We will never allow any country to violate China’s territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly Islands, in the name of protecting freedom of navigation and overflight,” she told a regular news briefing. Read the rest of this entry »
Jeremy Page reports:The head of the secretive bodyguard unit that protects Chinese President Xi Jinping made a rare foray into the public spotlight on Friday, being put on the guest list for the state dinner at the White House.
Maj. Gen. Wang’s appointment to the bodyguard post has never been announced publicly by Chinese authorities, although Hong Kong media reported it in March, citing anonymous sources. The White House list confirms Maj. Gen. Wang’s position within an inner circle of trusted aides and advisers to Mr. Xi who see him almost every day and play an increasingly important role in Chinese politics.
The Central Security Bureau, also known as the Central Guard Bureau, is thought to command several thousand elite troops who protect top leaders and their families, according to experts on the Chinese military.
Its commander has always occupied a politically sensitive and influential position, given the bureau’s access to the top leadership. The post is considered to have become more so since Mr. Xi launched an anticorruption campaign that has led to the detention of more than 30 generals and several senior civilian Communist Party figures. Read the rest of this entry »
Like wedding anniversaries, state visits by foreign leaders are occasions to celebrate the positive, and that’s what the Obama Administration will stress as Chinese President Xi Jinping tours the U.S. this week. Get ready for an announcement about arms-control in cyberspace, a progress report on a bilateral investment treaty, and bromides about mutual friendship.
“Under Mr. Xi, Beijing sees itself as a strategic rival rather than a partner. Its foreign policy is increasingly aggressive, sometimes lawless, a reality that’s become clear even to the Obama Administration.”
These columns have rooted for China’s emergence as a major U.S. trading partner and responsible global power since Deng Xiaoping became the first Chinese Communist leader to visit the U.S. in 1979. And we’ve had more than a few occasions to score China-bashers in Washington, whether over protectionist steel tariffs or allegations of Beijing’s “currency manipulation.”
“China’s lawlessness is most obvious at sea and in cyberspace. Since 2010 Chinese leaders have claimed ‘indisputable sovereignty’ over most of the South China Sea, covering an area more than twice the Gulf of Mexico and among the world’s most heavily trafficked commercial waterways.”
But it is now impossible to ignore that China is attempting to redefine its relationship to America and the rules of world order. Under Mr. Xi, Beijing sees itself as a strategic rival rather than a partner. Its foreign policy is increasingly aggressive, sometimes lawless, a reality that’s become clear even to the Obama Administration. The U.S. needs to show that it will resist this behavior—even as it seeks to steer China’s leadership back toward global norms.
China’s lawlessness is most obvious at sea and in cyberspace. Since 2010 Chinese leaders have claimed “indisputable sovereignty” over most of the South China Sea, covering an area more than twice the Gulf of Mexico and among the world’s most heavily trafficked commercial waterways. The dubious basis for this claim is a dotted-line on a 1947 Chinese Nationalist map—the same Nationalists Mao Zedong exiled to Taiwan in 1949.
Beijing’s leaders have used this map to assert maritime claims against Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. They also make claims against Japan. Their aggressive island-building, which has created 2,900 acres of new land, is the most visible example. Read the rest of this entry »
Shootings are rare in China, which largely outlaws private gun ownership. But knifings have occurred there with some frequency in recent years, including an assault at a school in central China in December 2012 that injured 22 children and one adult.
Bethany Allen Ebrahimian writes: On the morning of August 26, a reporter and a cameraman for a local Virginia television station were fatally shot during a live television interview. The alleged gunman, now dead, apparently shot himself before being apprehended by police.
“The tragedy occurred shortly after 6:45 in the morning, Eastern Standard Time, or around 6:45 p.m., Beijing time. That’s significant, because despite the evening hour, media outlets across China were quick to provide front-page coverage of the breaking story.”
— Weibo user
The shooting quickly made national news in the United States, and outlets across the country have provided regular updates. The tragedy occurred shortly after 6:45 in the morning, Eastern Standard Time, or around 6:45 p.m., Beijing time. That’s significant, because despite the evening hour, media outlets across China were quick to provide front-page coverage of the breaking story.
State new agency Xinhuafeatured the shooting among its online list of top ten news items. By 10:30 p.m. in Beijing. Chinese news website NetEase had created a separate live-update webpage for the shootings. By 11 p.m. in Beijing, the state-run, often fervently nationalist Global Times had made a related photo its website’s cover photo, accompanied by a report with details of the shootings.
“The United States is a major preoccupation within China, often as a geopolitical rival held up as a kind of foil. It’s a focus for many everyday Chinese, as an object of scorn, an object of desire…or both.”
The United States is a major preoccupation within China, often as a geopolitical rival held up as a kind of foil. It’s a focus for many everyday Chinese, as an object of scorn, an object of desire — even Chinese President Xi Jinping sent his daughter to Harvard to study — or both. Within China, the high rate of gun violence in the United States is widely known and often seen as a flaw in the U.S. political system, a criticism repeated after the Virginia shooting.
Though Chinese media reports on the Virgina incident were strictly factual, the accompanying social media commentary quickly became a domestic political battleground. Around 9:20 p.m., Beijing time, Chinese web giant Sina began live-blogging about the shooting on its official news account on microblogging platform Weibo, with one post garnering more than 570 comments. Read the rest of this entry »
“A fugitive is like a flying kite. Even though he is abroad, the string is held in China.”
WASHINGTON — Mark Mazzetti and Dan Levin write: The Obama administration has delivered a warning to Beijing about the presence of Chinese government agents operating secretly in the United States to pressure prominent expatriates — some wanted in China on charges of corruption — to return home immediately, according to American officials.
“American officials did not disclose the identities or numbers of those being sought by the Chinese in the United States. They are believed to be prominent expatriates, some sought for economic corruption and some for what the Chinese consider political crimes.”
The American officials said that Chinese law enforcement agents covertly in this country are part of Beijing’s global campaign to hunt down and repatriate Chinese fugitives and, in some cases, recover allegedly ill-gotten gains.
The Chinese government has officially named the effort Operation Fox Hunt.
The American warning, which was delivered to Chinese officials in recent weeks and demanded a halt to the activities, reflects escalating anger in Washington about intimidation tactics used by the agents. And it comes at a time of growing tension between Washington and Beijing on a number of issues: from the computer theft of millions of government personnel files that American officials suspect was directed by China, to China’s crackdown on civil liberties, to the devaluation of its currency.
“That reluctance reflects divisions with the Obama administration over how aggressive to publicly confront China on a number of security issues.”
Those tensions are expected to complicate the state visit to Washington next month by Xi Jinping, the Chinese president.
The work of the agents is a departure from the routine practice of secret government intelligence gathering that the United States and China have carried out on each other’s soil for decades. The Central Intelligence Agency has a cadre of spies in China, just as China has long deployed its own intelligence operatives into the United States to steal political, economic, military and industrial secrets.
In this case, said American officials, who discussed details of the operation only on the condition of anonymity because of the tense diplomacy surrounding the issue, the Chinese agents are undercover operatives with the Ministry of Public Security, China’s law enforcement branch charged with carrying out Operation Fox Hunt.
“For instance, the White House has gone out of its way to avoid making any public accusations that the Chinese government ordered the computer attack on the Office of Personnel Management, which led to the theft of millions of classified personnel files of government workers and contractors.”
The campaign, a central element of Mr. Xi’s wider battle against corruption, has proved popular with the Chinese public. Since 2014, according to the Ministry of Public Security, more than 930 suspects have been repatriated, including more than 70 who have returned this year voluntarily, the ministry’s website reported in June. According to Chinese media accounts, teams of agents have been dispatched around the globe.
American officials said they had solid evidence that the Chinese agents — who are not in the United States on acknowledged government business, and most likely are entering on tourist or trade visas — use various strong-arm tactics to get fugitives to return. The harassment, which has included threats against family members in China, has intensified recently, officials said. Read the rest of this entry »
China has been strengthening its control over its technology industry, as it seeks to avoid infiltration by foreign spies and build up globally competitive tech companies.
Eva Dou reports: China is curbing its exports of advanced drones and supercomputers, in the country’s latest move to tighten control over technologies linked to national security.
Starting in mid-August, Chinese makers of super-powerful drones and some advanced computers will have to obtain an export license, according to a statement from China’s Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs on Friday.