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China

Tag Archives | China

China and the International Antipiracy Effort

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Chinese Navy

Writing for The Diplomat on 1 November 2013, Andrew Erickson and Austin Strange discuss China’s engagement in countering piracy in an article titled “China and the International Antipiracy Effort.” The analysis emphasizes the importance of this activity for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), especially in the Gulf of Aden.

China’s Central-Asian Game

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

The US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan poses an important geopolitical dilemma for China.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing

With Xi Jinping’s recent meeting with Hamid Karzai in Beijing and his assurance that China would continue to support Afghanistan’s reconstruction as well as remain a “stable, strong friend and neighbor,” it is worth taking a look at China’s relationship with Afghanistan’s southern neighbor, Pakistan.

Over the last several years China has built a “special” relationship with Pakistan, largely in response to US support for India. Up to this point, the relationship has proven beneficial for both sides. Pakistan was able to secure a strategic ally against India, as well as allowing it to play a double game between the US and China, whereby it could leverage one against the other in order to achieve a more favorable outcome for itself.

China on the other hand supported Pakistan to balance the US support for India, as well as to prevent itself from being surrounded or “contained” as the US continued to court its neighbors, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.  China also gains security and economic benefits, with Pakistani cooperation in helping secure Xinjiang province by capturing Uyghur separatists on its territory, and China’s investments in Pakistan, especially its $1.6 billion deep water port project at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.

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Spain’s Indictment of Hu Jintao and International Justice

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Pictured: Hu Jintao with Xi Jinping

Earlier this month, Spain’s Audencia Nacional accepted an appeal by a Spanish based Tibet advocacy group claiming that the Chinese government had supported “genocidal policies” in the Tibet Autonomous Region and initiated a probe.

Hu Jintao pictured with Xi Jinping

Among those indicted is Hu Jintao, the former President of the People’s Republic of China (2003-2013), who the appellants allege supported the policy while he was the Secretary of the Communist Party in Tibet from 1988-1992 and President of the nation almost a decade later. The court cites two factors for the basis of Spanish jurisdiction in the matter, invoking the controversial doctrine of universal jurisdiction, which is recognized by the Spanish legal system. Firstly, one of the complainants, Thubten Wangchen, is a Spanish citizen and secondly there is no evidence that any Chinese authority or court has initiated an investigation into the complaints made initially in 2008.

The lawsuit claims that during the years Mr. Jintao led the administration in the Tibet Autonomous Region, many of the policies and measured implemented were aimed at “eliminating the idiosyncrasies” of an independent Tibetan identity and existence. The policies stated include the “implementation of Martial law, forced displacement, mass sterilization campaigns and the transfer of a large number of ethnic Chinese people to gradually dominate and displace the indigenous Tibetan population.”

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Is the U.S. Losing Saudi Arabia to China?

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China's Hu Jintao with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah

Saudi Arabia’s declared intention to pivot away from the U.S. in foreign policy implies a shift toward Beijing, which predates both the Obama presidency and the Arab Awakening. While a full-fledged “divorce” from the U.S. appears highly unlikely at this juncture, there is genuine cause for concern in Washington.

China’s Hu Jintao with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah

The Saudi government’s decision has potentially profound implications regionally, as cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. has been a hallmark of the Middle East’s political landscape for the past 80 years.  The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have maintained a strategic partnership since World War II based on a common understanding — Saudi Arabia provides the U.S. with oil and the U.S. in turn provides a security umbrella to the Kingdom. The two have for many years also shared mutual interest in containing Communism and Arab nationalism, which has led to many joint U.S.-Saudi campaigns throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Washington and Riyadh’s shared objective of countering the influence of post-revolutionary Iran has also served to strengthen their ties.

Part of what is at issue here is a simmering, lingering tension between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. The U.S. has beaten the ‘democracy’ drum in the Middle East for decades, particularly since 9/11, which has not sat well with the distinctly undemocratic Saudi polity. The fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudi nationals prompted greater scrutiny in Washington about the nature of the bilateral relationship, as have questions about human rights in the Kingdom since that time. Saudi officials view U.S. hegemony in the post-Cold War era as having a destabilizing impact on the Middle East. Saudi Arabia sees itself as paying a price for reckless and poorly executed U.S. foreign policy, with the U.S., for example, having refused to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians (consistent with the Saudi Initiative of 2002) and having toppled Saddam Hussein against Riyadh’s advice.

The Saudis saw the U.S. decision to remove Saddam as misguided from the beginning, and anticipated that any democratically-elected national Iraqi government would be Shi’ite-majority and politically tied to Iran. However, when protests erupted in Bahrain in 2011, the Saudis did not wait for a permission slip from the White House before waging a harsh crackdown to defend the Sunni-dominated monarchy in Manama. Riyadh views the prospects of political change in Bahrain as another potential Saudi loss and Iranian gain, rooted amid concern that Saudi Arabia’s own Shi’ite community would rise up against the House of Saud, in response to a Shi’ite take-over of Bahrain.

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Torpedoing the U.S.-Iran Nuclear Talks

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President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel hold a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 30, 2013.  Pete Souza/White House

As the U.S. and its allies prepare for another round of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, powerful and wealthy opponents—from the halls of Congress to Middle East capitals—are maneuvering to torpedo them. At stake is the real possibility of a war with consequences infinitely greater than the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel hold a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 30, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

When the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany—the so-called “P5+1”—sit down with Iran’s negotiators in Geneva on Nov. 7, those talks will be shadowed by an alliance of hawkish U.S. Congress members, an influential Israeli lobby, and a new regional alliance that upends traditional foes and friends in the Middle East.  The fact that the first round of talks on Oct.15 was hailed by Iran and the P5+1 as “positive” has energized opponents of the negotiations, who are moving to block any attempts at softening international sanctions against Teheran, while at the same time pressing for a military solution to the conflict.

Current international sanctions have halved the amount of oil Iran sells on the international market, blocked Teheran from international banking, and deeply damaged the Iranian economy. The worsening economic conditions are the backdrop for the recent election of pragmatist Hassan Rowhani as president of Iran. Hassan’s subsequent efforts to move away from the confrontational politics of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears a signal that Iran wants to peacefully resolve a crisis that has heightened tensions in the region and led to everything from the assassination of Iranian scientists to the world’s first cyber war.

The central issue is whether Iran is constructing a nuclear weapon in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a charge Teheran denies. Iran is a NPT signatory and UN inspectors regularly monitor the country’s civilian power plants and nuclear facilities. Enhanced fuel is required for civilian power plants and medical research, but it is also an essential ingredient in a nuclear weapon. Iran enhances some of its fuel to 20 percent. Bomb fuel must be 90 percent pure.

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Saudi Arabia’s Message to the United States

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The Saudis have said they disagree with the U.S. approach to Syria

Last week’s decision by Saudi Arabia to pass on an opportunity to become a member of the UN Security Council speaks to the Council’s perceived ineffectiveness on a host of issues, and what comes with membership — the need to take a public position on sensitive issues in international relations.

The Saudis have said they disagree with the U.S. approach to Syria

This is contrary to the Saudi approach to influencing its neighbors, which is essentially to throw money their way and presume doing so will result in policies that are in line with that of the Saudis. To many countries this would seem an odd approach to conducting international affairs, but it actually makes a good deal of sense given the context. Saudi Arabia has the money, and they use it, often obtaining the desired effect. The Kingdom’s decision vis-à-vis the UN seat does not have a major impact on its relations with its neighbors and allies, but rather preserves it.

However, the Saudi announcement that it will implement a major shift in its relations with the U.S. should serve as a major wake-up call for Washington — not only in terms of bilateral relations, but for what it implies about the Kingdom’s relations with other nations in the Middle East and beyond. In essence, the Saudis have said they disagree with the U.S. approach to both Iran and Syria, and plan to ‘go it alone’ in addressing Iran’s nuclear program and the ongoing Syrian conflict. They are betting that they will do no worse by embarking on an independent path than they did in achieving their objectives by being aligned with the U.S. The Saudi government not only sees the Obama Administration as ineffective on both subjects, but acting in a manner contrary to their own interests and policies.

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Paths to Achieve Peace and Security in Africa

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A Somali woman waiting for medical treatment from AMISOM. Stuart Price/UN

It is impossible to separate peace and security in Africa from economic development, democratic governance, and improvement in the daily lives of Africans, including those from ethnic and religious minorities.

A Somali woman waiting for medical treatment from AMISOM. Stuart Price/UN

A significant failing in any one of these three areas will put in serious doubt the ability of a country to maintain peace and security. Africa has experienced impressive economic growth in recent years. That is the good news. At the same time, too many African countries continue to experience conflict. That is the bad news. Conflict can quickly reverse the benefits of even strong economic growth. Fragile states are especially susceptible to conflict.

The African Development Bank estimates there are 20 “fragile states” today in Africa. Almost half of these states qualify as “middle income,” a shift from a decade ago when most were low-income countries. The African Futures Project, a collaborative effort involving the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa and the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, uses criteria that identify 26 fragile African countries. It projects that 10 of these countries will remain fragile until at least 2050. Whether the number of fragile states in Africa is 20 or 26, the large number is of concern for many reasons. Adding to the concern is the estimate that by 2050 some 23 percent of the world’s population will be living in Africa.

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A View from Tehran, Iran’s Nuclear Program

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Secretary of State John Kerry

With the recommencement of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, hopes have been revived that after more than two decades of enmity between the two sides they can finally come to an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.

Secretary of State John Kerry

International observers hailed the latest round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 on October 15 and 16 in Geneva as constructive, calling it a step forward on the path of finding a conclusive and definite resolution to Iran’s nuclear standoff.

The Iranian negotiators demanded that the contents of the talks remain undisclosed until an agreement is reached. Their demand sounds reasonable as it will prevent the mass media from spreading falsehoods regarding the details of the agreement yet to be reached and also impede the efforts made by neo-conservative elements in the West to bring the negotiations to a premature end without a negotiated settlement.

During the talks, Iran presented a three-phased proposal entitled “Closing an Unnecessary Crisis, Opening New Horizons” which drew a roadmap for the future of the talks. According to the proposal, Iran would remove the concerns of the P5+1 through confidence-building measures and increased transparency in its nuclear activities, and in return, the Western powers will offer incentives to Iran by lifting the sanctions on a step-by-step basis.

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What Xinhua and China Got Wrong with Calls for “De-Americanized World”

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Pictured: President Barack Obama, U.S. Capital and Speaker of the House John Boehner

“There are no winners” – stated an exasperated President Obama as he signed the bill that ended the 16-day partial government shutdown. Although Obama admonished his political adversaries, the government of China received an underlying message too.

Pictured: President Barack Obama, U.S. Capital and Speaker of the House John Boehner

As Washington floundered to come to an accord on breaking the economic deadlock, Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, smelled blood. Often regarded as the official mouthpiece of the China’s communist government, Xinhua published an astringent commentary last week calling for a “de-Americanized world”.

Strenuous effort notwithstanding, the author’s claim to rid America of the global leadership is somewhat contradictory. Perhaps, it is the reason why such an alarming call can easily be discounted not only in Washington but also in Beijing as well. China watcher Peter Lee penned a dismissive account of the author’s role at Xinhua, “The offending piece in Xinhua was not an editorial, and not an op-ed; it was a signed commentary by one ‘Xinhua writer Liu Chang’. It seems that Liu (if that’s his/her real name) has written occasionally on US finance and represents Xinhua’s contribution to the near universal trend to inject bloggy goodness into mainstream journalism. This article is probably the most recent sign of the apocalypse: not the Gotterdammerung of the US-debt fueled fiscal firestorm, but the Global Times-ization of the Xinhua web presence.”

“Emerging from the bloodshed of the Second World War as the world’s most powerful nation, the United States has since then been trying to build a global empire by imposing a postwar world order, fueling recovery in Europe, and encouraging regime-change in nations that it deems hardly Washington-friendly,” argued Liu Chang. Thus, the writer displayed somewhat a poor historical knowledge. The United States, it could be argued, was already a major world power long before the Second World War. It is the United States involvement in the Second World War that turned it into a wider war. The unfortunate bloodshed in the war brought no fortune for America and the rest of the world; nor was it the culmination of any Machiavellian American foreign policy.

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Chinese Multinationals Score Low on Transparency

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Transparency

A new report from Transparency International rated Chinese companies lowest among 100 companies from the emerging market countries for levels of transparency. This has implications for African countries and civil societies.

Beijing has required little of its firms. Yet what is also interesting is that two Chinese firms were among the five best performers, with regard to transparency (below). Unfortunately for Africa, two of the firms that operate on a large scale across the continent, Huawei and CNOOC, are also among the firms that scored 0 on TI’s scale (below). Add to this the zero rating of Brazil’s huge engineering firm, Odebrecht Group, and the challenges for transparency in Africa are apparent. It would be interesting to study the “best” and “worst” Chinese firms on this list to discover why some have chosen to adhere to a growing international norm, while others choose to remain opaque.

Transparency
Source: Transparency International. 100 = most transparent. 0 = least transparent.

Syria’s Civil War Deepens Political and Religious Divisions in Yemen

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Displaced Yemeni refugees at Mazraq refugee camp. Photo: Paul Stephens

The violent clashes that erupted last month between Sunni Islamists and Shi’ite rebels in Yemen’s Amran province were partly a reaction to U.S. President Obama’s declaration of his intention to launch a military strike against Syria.

Displaced Yemeni refugees at Mazraq refugee camp. Photo: Paul Stephens

This violence was illustrative of the ability of the Syrian crisis to polarize and destabilize a country more than a thousand miles away. The geopolitical ramifications of the conflict, and its direct impact on Yemen, have compelled many Yemenis to abandon neutrality on the subject. Indeed, the Syrian crisis has served to highlight Yemen’s deep ongoing political and religious divisions.

The Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supported the rebellion in Syria at the outset, taking into account the legacy of the Hama massacre in 1982, in which tens of thousands of civilians were killed in a crackdown the Assad regime waged against the Syrian MB. The Yemeni MB considers Assad to be a war criminal, views the Syrian regime as sinfully secular, and resents Damascus for being an ally of Tehran, which wields considerable influence in Yemen. Like its counterparts in other Arab states, the Yemeni MB supported a U.S. military strike against Damascus.

Yet Assad is strongly backed by Yemen’s Houthis, who supported Assad in the conflict at an early stage. This rebellious minority formed the political party Ansar Allah (“party of God”), which maintains deep bonds with Tehran. Many Houthis are staunchly anti-American and perceive the Syrian uprising as a conspiracy plotted by NATO, al-Qaeda and Arab gulf monarchies. In late August the Houthis gathered by the thousands in Sana’a and Sa’ada to make their position on Syria clear to Yemeni authorities. As members of the fragile coalition government hold polar opposite positions on how the international community should respond to the use of chemical weapons inside Syria, President Hadi has sought to play down the Syrian crisis fearing that greater focus on the conflict could further weaken the government’s cohesion. Thus the government did not provide an official statement in response to the Houthis’ demonstration.

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Nuclear Actors: Rot in the U.S. ICBM Forces

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Pictured: Vice Admiral Tim Giardina and Major General Michael Carey

The U.S. Air Force has fired both Major General Michael Carey and Vice Admiral Tim Giardina for misconduct, reports Binoy Kampmark. Both were in charge of U.S. ICBM forces.

Pictured: Vice Admiral Tim Giardina and Major General Michael Carey

Imperial powers can be the greatest moralists. The Roman Empire projected the ius gentium as a principle of collective worth, the fictitious laws of the peoples that remains the cornerstone of international law. As much as one believes it, it remains a belief, the spirit written into conventions with the hope that states will follow a form of good conduct, provided they are compelled to do so. At the end of the day, please don’t ask one to prove it. The pudding is presumed to be there.

This might explain why the U.S. military complex, for all its heavy handedness, remains one of the world’s most morally inclined establishments, a murderous outfit policed by misguided Boy Scouts and bible bashers. They might kill, maim and violate their own ethical frameworks, but that need not matter. The principle is clear: bad behaviour is not tolerated. Especially in the nuclear forces.

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Chinese Foreign Aid: How Much?

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Chinese yuan bills.  faungg/Flickr

We anticipate the publication this month of a new report from China on its foreign aid program. In the meantime, we have yet another media-report based study with outlandish numbers. In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal researchers at Rand gave the highlights of their two year “research project” on “Chinese aid”. I hoped this would not attract much attention, but people are starting to send it to me for comment…so here goes.

Chinese yuan bills. faungg/Flickr

There are so many things wrong in the WSJ op-ed that I hardly know where to begin. Most importantly, the study followed the same deeply flawed methodology (and indeed, used the data from) the notorious 2009 Congressional Research Service study that relied on a group of students at the NYU Warner School to collect media reports on any story of direct investment, trade finance, bank loans, equity funds, and so on, that appeared to have anything to do with the Chinese government.

Adding all of this together, and without apparently investing much in checking the media reports for accuracy, or thinking much about why the purchase of an oil well should be counted as “aid”, Rand has come up with some truly preposterous figures. According to Rand, China is budgeting more than twice as much on aid as on defense: $189 billion in 2011 alone. Can these reseachers be serious? This report was done, in part, for the US Department of Defense. I have to wonder what they will do with these ridiculous figures. Will DOD relax, because a generous China appears to be spreading aid around the world rather than building its military? Or will they demand a bigger share of our own aid budget in order to counter all of this nefarious “Chinese aid”?

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Karzai’s Taliban Solution

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A tribal elder in Paktia province, Afghanistan

Just six months before he steps down from office and a year before NATO concludes its operations, Afghan president Karzai last week criticized the outcome of Western military operations in his country saying that it had failed to achieve absolute security.

A tribal elder in Paktia province, Afghanistan

Mr. Karzai noted in particular the failure to secure Afghan villages and flush out Taliban bases in Pakistan, and that military operations had often caused civilian casualties. Foreseeing a possible role for the resurgent Taliban in a future Afghan government, Mr. Karzai suggested that such an eventuality would not undermine democratic progress or the plight of women, and reaffirmed his desire to forge an agreement with the Taliban during his remaining time in office. On one hand, this certainly sounds like capitulation to the Taliban. On the other, an admission of the difficult choice Afghanistan faces after 2014.

A number of Western diplomats and human rights advocates have voiced fears that the Taliban would do just the opposite of what Karzai suggests, believing that a Taliban presence in the Afghan government would strongly inhibit future democratic progress, making a meaningful dialogue difficult between domestic institutional and social actors, and greatly complicating regional international relations.

The very idea that, after a decade of sustained action against the Taliban it would be so resurgent, and that Mr. Karzai appears to be favorably inclined toward their active participation in government, raises fundamental questions about the viability of the entire peace process, and Mr. Karzai’s credibility as the West’s interlocutor with the Taliban. Mr. Karzai’s tendency to be defiant toward the West has in recent history caused great consternation in the U.S. government and its coalition partners.

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China’s Exports of Small Arms and Light Weapons

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The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released in October 2013 its China’s Exports of Small Arms and Light Weapons by Mark Bromley, Mathieu Duchatel and Paul Holtom. China is one of the world’s most significant exporters of small arms and light weapons (SALW). It is also among the least transparent. At least 46 states imported military SALW from China during 2006-2010. African states account for the largest share of reported imports of military SALW. A number of exports of Chinese SALW to Africa that have involved European arms brokers have caused concern with regard to their potential impacts on peace, stability and security in the importing state.