February 22, 2018

Still room for at least 40 million more

by biglychee / Yesterday, 11:26

Hong Kong’s officials forecast tourist numbers will rise to over 60 million this year. Yet they whine that visitors are staying for ever-shorter periods. And publicly-subsidized Disneyland makes a loss yet again(HK$345 million – peanuts compared with the billions in land value and opportunity costs the white-elephant Mouse has swallowed).

It seems the more tourists we cram into Hong Kong, the more trouble the industry is in. And that makes perfect sense: tourism is undermining itself.

The obsession with tourist numbers arose from an obsession with Mainlanders-as-buyers-of-luxury-crap hoovering up Euro-trash brands and enriching the city’s landlords. As Mainlanders move on to more sophisticated vacationing, visitors are on average staying for less time and spending less – but all the tourism sector can think up is increasing throughput or adding increasingly desperate ‘attractions’.

Meanwhile, Hongkongers with sense, taste and a few days to spare head off to Taiwan or Japan. They are mostly not going for phony, culturally alien theme parks or tourist magnets (though some exist). They are not going to buy overpriced junk. Many are not even drawn specifically by scenic countryside or historic sites (though both countries have them). They go because they are nice places.

The transport is great. The food is great. The environment is clean, quiet, safe and pleasant – genuine communities with relaxed people enjoying a high quality of life in accordance with their own standards and customs. They are nice to live in, and as a result they are nice to visit.

All Hong Kong’s greedy, parasitical tourism industry and frenzied bureaucrats know is pushing up landlords’ rents and developers’ profits. And that means eradicating street markets and street food, and local stores, and replacing them with malls, malls and more sterile malls.

Having swamped Central and Sheung Wan with Koreans promised a fake ‘Old Town’ experience, officials are now set on wrecking poor Shamshuipo. After replacing the old hardware stores and groceries with international ice-cream, cake, perfumed-candle and other chains, the slash-and-burn tourism industry will move on to pulverize and ethnically cleanse another neighbourhood into a concept-theme-zone-hub.

Obviously, the ‘tourism’ lobby couldn’t care less that they are wrecking Hong Kong as a place for the city’s own (irrelevant) people to live in. But they’re so dumb, they’re wrecking it as a place worth visiting, and ultimately being a landlord in. The only silver lining: the selfie-snapping guidebook-obeying North Asian zombies will probably finally go away.

February 21, 2018

Academics Protest China’s Censorship Requests

Scholars have formed a peer-review boycott to encourage journals to take a firm stance against requests to cull sensitive articles. By Shawna Williams | February 20, 2018 More than 1,000 people from around the world have signed a petition calling on major journal publishers not to censor their offerings within China in response to governmental pressure. The petition pledges a peer-review boycott, stating, “we will not agree to provide peer review service until editors confirm that their publications do not censor content in the [People’s Republic of China], and we call on all others to do so as well.” The petition, launched in October 2017, followed news last summer that some publishers and databases based outside China had received requests from Chinese importers of their print and digital content to block online access to certain academic articles within the country, says the petition’s creator, Charlene Makley, an anthropologist at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Cambridge University Press revealed in August that it had been ordered by its Chinese importer to block access to hundreds of articles in its The China Quarterly journal within the country; it reversed course following an outcry from academics. In October, the Financial Times reported that some articles in Springer Nature’s journals cannot be found within China, including many with terms such as “Tiananmen,” “Taiwan,” and “Tibet.” Read “Springer Nature Blocks Access to Sensitive Articles Within China” The Cambridge University Press revelation “was kind of a watershed event in my mind . . . it brought to my attention that the reach of China had extended beyond its own borders,” Makley says. “I contacted some colleagues informally to talk about what they thought folks should do, and to me peer review is the very foundation of academic publishing . . . If we start there, then that is one way that individual scholars can have some leverage.” The idea is not so much to force change by making it hard for journals to find willing peer reviewers, but more to prompt awareness of and conversations about the issue among journal editors. Makley says some editors may not be aware of their companies’ practices, and she hopes her initiative will prompt managing editors and publishers to establish a position on censorship if they haven’t already. Before she agrees to a request to peer review a manuscript, Makley now asks the journal editor whether the journal or its owner censors content in China, and “in multiple cases they’ve come back with strong statements saying that they don’t censor,” she says. James Millward, a historian at Georgetown University and supporter of the petition, also sees withholding peer review as a particularly fitting way to respond to censorship. “It’s not perfect, but [peer review] is the system that we have evolved over centuries, and that is what makes academic speech different,” he says. Given that journals are curated by peer review, for an outside entity “just to come in and pick and choose [which articles to make available] is actually to violate this process at a very fundamental level,” he says. Our Chinese colleagues in China are at risk of not having full access to all research that’s available. —Charlene Makley, Reed College A spokesperson for Sage, which publishes more than 1,000 journals in the natural sciences and other fields, writes in an email that, “We have not received a request from the Chinese authorities or other entities to remove or block access to certain documents or content within China. . . . As a matter of general principle, SAGE Publishing does not block or remove content in response to such a request.” In response to a request for comment, Elsevier spokesperson Tom Reller responded in part, “Elsevier believes in the freedom to publish and read scholarly content anywhere across the globe.” But Reller did not say whether the publisher had received requests to censor comment, nor how it would respond. The UK-based publisher Taylor & Francis declined to comment, and Wiley (whose more than 2,000 journals include the Chinese Journal of Chemistry, published in cooperation with the government-affiliated Chinese Academy of Sciences) did not respond to requests for comment. Springer Nature defended its move to make some content unavailable in China, stating in an email to The Scientist, “we are required to take account of the local rules and regulations in the countries in which we distribute our published content. . . . This action is deeply regrettable but has been taken to prevent a much greater impact on our customers and authors. . . . We do not believe that it is in the interests of our authors, customers, or the wider scientific and academic community, or to the advancement of research for us to be banned from distributing our content in China.” Springer has offices in Beijing and Shanghai and publishes more than 100 journals in partnership with Chinese academic societies and institutions, according to its website. For Millward, who specializes in China and Central Asia, Springer’s argument doesn’t hold water. “They publish Nature, they publish Scientific American, they publish among the most important scientific journals. China is not going to block access for its scholars from all of those journals,” he contends. That said, access to many other major sites, ranging from Google to Facebook to The New York Times, has been blocked by China’s “Great Firewall.” For residents willing to go to the trouble, virtual private networks (VPNs) have long been used to circumvent these restrictions, but the government has recently cracked down on those too, according to The Guardian and other outlets. As of the deadline for this article, China’s Foreign Ministry had not responded to a request for comment. Makley says it’s important that academic publishers not accede to governmental pressure. “This is not just about China or China-related research,” but about the expansion of state power, she says. “Our Chinese colleagues in China are at risk of not having full access to all research that’s available.”

The Backlash to Belt and Road

February 16, 2018 A South Asian Battle Over Chinese Economic Power By Andrew Small When Beijing announced its One Belt, One Road initiative five years ago, the global reaction was immediate and pronounced. OBOR, as it became known, was hailed as a transformative effort to deploy China’s economic might in service of its strategic goals. By going out of their way to reject analogies to the United States’ Marshall Plan in Europe, Chinese leaders in fact invited the comparison. Chinese ports, pipelines, roads, and railways would expand commercial, investment, and infrastructure linkages from Asia to Europe. They would build new markets, integrate poorly connected regions, and stabilize the Chinese periphery. Ultimately, they would lay the groundwork for a Sinocentric global order. No region seemed to make a more promising target for such ambitions than South Asia. Sparsely populated Central Asia is a transit route and energy source rather than a serious market. East Asian trade and infrastructure connections are already well developed. EU public procurement rules preclude a privileged role for Chinese companies. Russia is in economic decline. South Asia, by contrast, appeared to have all the right ingredients for the Chinese economic model: large populations, fast-growing economies, GDP per capita comparable to China’s a decade earlier, weak connectivity, and major infrastructure deficiencies. When Chinese Premier Li Keqiang undertook his first overseas visit in 2013, South Asia was the location he picked to tout two new economic corridors, a version of OBOR avant la lettre. But five years on, such hopes have proved unfounded. The region has instead become the main battleground for OBOR’s future—with India as its chief opponent, Pakistan as its chief enthusiast, and, in between, countries from Nepal to the Maldives facing economic choices that have become highly politicized. While the hope may have been that Chinese investment schemes would help mitigate competition in the region, the result so far has been precisely the opposite: OBOR has fused with and reinforced existing divisions. If China wants the economics of the initiative to achieve its intended strategic effects, it will need to square the politics first. South Asia illustrates the obstacles Beijing will face when it fails to do so. CHINA AND INDIA AT A CROSSROADS At the crux of this contest is the Sino-Indian relationship, which has deteriorated sharply in the last few years. In other regions, Beijing offered careful reassurances to countries that might try to frustrate Chinese investments in their backyards. With Russia, for example, China noted that OBOR would complement and reinforce Moscow’s own connectivity plans. Beijing made no such efforts with India. New Delhi had been willing to join earlier Chinese-led initiatives, such as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), when Chinese diplomacy displayed deftness and a multilateral spirit. China’s conduct around OBOR in South Asia took a clumsier and more unilateral form. Its quasi-official maps of the initiative included Indian ports, despite the lack of any consultations between the two sides. The economic corridor linking Bangladesh, China, India, and Myanmar was likewise folded into the scheme without Indian agreement. Most controversially, China announced that OBOR would include the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an investment scheme potentially worth tens of billions of dollars, which India has formally objected to on the grounds that the route passes through disputed territory. In practice, the cross-border aspects of CPEC are modest—some fiber optic cable installations and road upgrades had already been under way—and the projects in the contentious region of Gilgit-Baltistan are similarly small in scale. CPEC is essentially an investment package rather than a serious transit route. But the “corridor” terminology and ambitious claims from the Pakistani side about future railways and pipelines implied a more significant change to the status quo. This only deepened New Delhi’s long-standing anxieties over Sino-Pakistani relations, which have for decades been built around the common security goal of counterbalancing India. While China has sought to portray CPEC as a means to stabilize Pakistan, India sees it as emboldening Islamabad. OBOR’s takeoff in the rest of the region triggered a fresh round of concern about the security risks of China’s growing economic reach. For India, Sri Lanka exemplified its gravest fears. Beginning in 2007, China began supplying arms and diplomatic cover to the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which played a crucial role during the brutal denouement of the country’s civil war. Beijing also lent an already indebted government funds to pursue several vanity projects, which enabled Rajapaksa to woo his political base. Alarm bells went off in New Delhi when China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) submarines paid port calls in Colombo without advance notice, the last straw that prompted Indian efforts to bolster the opposition to Rajapaksa in the 2015 election. But the new president, Maithripala Sirisena, who wanted to extricate Sri Lanka from some of the Chinese contracts, quickly found that the terms were inflexible and had left the country with virtually unserviceable levels of debt. China was willing to negotiate but sought a debt-for-equity swap that would give Chinese companies a long lease on Hambantota port. Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during the Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 15, 2017. In spite of this, India has maintained the upper hand politically. The 2015 elections proved that there was a price to be paid by Sri Lanka for ignoring New Delhi’s redlines. With the Hambantota lease deal, the Sri Lankan government carefully assured Indian officials that sensitive port operations, including security management, would be controlled by a Sri Lankan company and that the port would not be used for military purposes. It also denied subsequent requests from the PLA Navy to make port calls in Colombo. New Delhi’s message resonated throughout the region, prompting other governments to provide private reassurances that Chinese investments would not be a prelude to militarization. Beijing may find friendly governments to work with temporarily, but with the exception of Pakistan, it will find it very difficult to establish a dual-use port in South Asia that the PLA Navy can count on. But Sri Lanka’s case also offered a warning to India of the economic realities working against it. Colombo was forced back to the negotiating table with China for lack of any better options. India has since improved its efforts to offer countries appealing economic alternatives. But its various limitations—in its resources, its capacity for direct investment, its significant infrastructure needs at home—have necessitated partnerships with other concerned countries. The most important of these has been with Japan, which created in 2015 the new “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure,” an expansion of the infrastructure resources provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and in cooperation with India developed an “Asia-Africa Growth Corridor.” Perhaps the most telling Indo-Japanese intervention was in Bangladesh, which in 2015 was in the advanced stages of agreeing to a package of Chinese financing for a new deep-water port. But political pressure and economic incentives (including the largest yen loan that the Japan International Cooperation Agency has ever offered for developmental assistance) pushed Dhaka to opt for a Japanese deal instead. Almost as important, Sri Lanka handed India a propaganda coup. In Colombo, a convincing story has taken hold, one that paints OBOR as predatory, a debt trap, and a route to military expansionism. In reality, the new Chinese highways have been beneficial; and the expansion of the Colombo port has been an economic success, with the overwhelming majority of the port’s activity consisting of trans-shipment to India. Yet that more nuanced picture is overshadowed by the evocative sight of Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, a gleaming, fully staffed building with virtually no passengers, no planes, and an empty departures board, surrounded by sweeping highways on which cars are outnumbered by auto rickshaws, cows, and elephant dung. It is that image that has come to embody OBOR in Sri Lanka, much to India’s delight. A ZERO-SUM FUTURE? Beyond South Asia, India has been notably effective in influencing the debate over OBOR by consistently raising its concerns at the highest political levels to countries with plenty of reservations of their own. It was no coincidence that in October 2017, fresh off a trip to New Delhi, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about OBOR “going through disputed territory.” India, alongside Japan, has reinforced the Trump administration’s competitive stance toward China and encouraged the adoption of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategy that is partly intended as a counterpoint to OBOR. When the newly resumed security “quad” (Australia, India, Japan, and the United States) met in November 2017, these strategic economic issues took up much of the agenda. Clearly, none of these developments will stop China’s economic advances in South Asia. There are over $20 billion worth of projects moving ahead on the ground in Pakistan. The Southern Expressway in Sri Lanka is progressing ineluctably to connect Hambantota and Colombo. China has just ended India’s Internet monopoly in Nepal. And states elsewhere in the region will continue to take advantage of China’s growing role to gain leverage in their dealings with New Delhi, the traditionally dominant power in their neighborhood. But alongside its partners, India does place certain limits on OBOR in the region by creating an environment in which it is politically costly to pursue various projects without taking Indian interests into account. This puts OBOR at a crossroads in the region. There are three potential scenarios for what could happen next. Beijing could make a unilateral course correction, opting to have a greater portion of its efforts in South Asia look more like those of the AIIB: more transparency, less onerous loan terms, a closer partnership with multilateral institutions, and more focus on regional connectivity than bilateral links to China. Beijing is not going to turn the whole of OBOR into the AIIB—it wants to preserve its prerogatives to pursue politically targeted projects with narrower bilateral benefits—but a shift would reduce the levels of criticism and opposition. China and India could also reach an informal agreement over the scope of OBOR, given that there is still considerable room for negotiation, even over Indian sensitivities about CPEC. Particularly if China made progress on other thorny issues, such as on India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, New Delhi’s stance on OBOR could end up resembling Japan’s: retaining economically competitive elements while identifying targeted areas for cooperation. As former Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon has argued, India’s interest is in seeing more projects like Colombo port and fewer projects like Hambantota. If India more actively engaged China on the rules of the road, its capacity to shape OBOR would arguably be greater. The most likely scenario is that the competition continues and hardens. Dynamics in South Asia are increasingly taking on a zero-sum quality. And with improving U.S.-Indian and Chinese-Pakistani relations set against a decline in U.S.-Pakistani and Chinese-Indian relations, such dynamics are becoming mutually reinforcing. This is an unhealthy trend, given the pressing need for a better economically integrated region. The connectivity deficit in South Asia remains significant: the World Bank estimates that intraregional trade accounts for only five percent of the total, compared with 25 percent in Southeast Asia, 35 percent in East Asia, and 60 percent in Europe, while intraregional investment stands below one percent overall. Although in East Asia, rivals have been able to sustain mutually beneficial economic relationships, in South Asia, security rifts have stymied trade and investment. Outside parties, including the United States and China, still have an interest in alleviating this problem rather than allowing the economics of the region to turn into an extension of political and military rivalries. The window for doing so is now closing. So far, OBOR’s rollout in South Asia demonstrates the barriers Beijing will face unless it makes adjustments. Beijing pushed the narrative that growing Chinese trade and investment would spur development, stability, and a more integrated region. But the project’s early promise has been soured by China’s failure to reach a consensus with the region’s major power and to answer serious questions about whether its handling of Sri Lanka is sui generis or symptomatic of its general approach. Even in sympathetic Pakistan, similar concerns are quietly expressed, and the Maldives is shaping up to be the regional test case for 2018. There is still an opportunity for Beijing to push forward a version of OBOR that is likely to command broader support and consent, including from competitors and rivals that can still see benefits in certain Chinese investments. But token efforts, such as recent offers to rename CPEC, are not enough. If Beijing wants a clearer run to advance the economic and strategic goals that underpin OBOR, it needs to do its political homework first.

A Weapon Without War: China’s United Front Strategy

June Teufel Dreyer February 6, 2018 Less headline-grabbing than China’s military advances and expanding economic reach is China’s united front activities, which have become an increasing cause for concern among countries in Asia, particularly U.S. allies. Not as benign as the name might sound, united front work aims to influence the policies of foreign states toward Chinese ends, through means that may be legal, illegal, or exploit gray areas. The term has a long history, going back to Vladimir Lenin’s desire to unite all enemies of colonialism and imperialism as an intermediate stage toward the ultimate triumph of communism, after which the colonialists and imperialists could be discarded. In his successor Joseph Stalin’s colorful phrase, they would have been squeezed out like lemons and dropped into the dustbin of history. The early history of united front work in China was not a happy one: ordered by the Communist International to ally with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on two separate occasions, the infant Chinese Communist Party (CCP) found that the KMT, too, was capable of squeezing and discarding; many CCP members, including Mao Zedong’s wife, were executed in what became known as the White Terror. After its victorious conquest in 1949, the party adapted the united front concept to suit the new circumstances: China, led by the party, would unite people from all social classes and walks of life. The concept was given concrete institutional form with the creation of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Externally, the party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) coordinated visits by sympathetic non-communist leaders, professional groups such as doctors and professors that they wanted to establish rapport with, and cultural exchange programs. The UFWD also established contacts with Chinese diaspora communities. After Deng Xiaoping’s opening to the outside world in 1978, more Chinese left the PRC, usually to study or conduct business. Many stayed, becoming citizens of those countries while retaining varying degrees of ties with their native land. The party’s popularity suffered a sharp downturn after its brutal suppression of demonstrators in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere in China in 1989, with international opinion critical of its actions as well. The leadership’s feeling of isolation deepened when, a few months later, the Soviet empire began to crumble, leaving the concept of communism itself discredited at the same time. The leadership found nationalism a useful substitute to bolster its legitimacy at home and abroad. As part of this outreach, it became more interested in cultivating overseas Chinese communities and mobilizing them in support of PRC goals. With more and more young Chinese choosing to study abroad, Chinese student associations proliferated and could be mobilized to support the party’s policies. Non-Chinese, particularly those who enjoyed positions of respect in their communities and varying amounts of wealth, were sought out as well, earning the honorary title of “Friends of China.” Apart from minor incidents, like protesting the arrival of visitors from Taiwan, the organizations had little salience. This changed with Xi Jinping’s ascension to the leadership of party and government in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The time had come for China—now strong and confident—to move beyond Deng Xiaoping’s advice to hide its assets and bide its time. Delegates to the Party Central Committee’s 18th National Congress were lectured on the importance of united front work, and the bureaucracy hastened to comply. Soon, there were signs of alarm in several Western countries at the forms this was taking. Australia: Infiltrating Society at All Levels A joint investigation by journalists from Australia’s Four Corners and Fairfax Media exposed what it called a campaign by the Chinese government and its proxies to infiltrate the country’s political process, its targets including universities, local student and community groups, the Chinese language media, and some of the nation’s leading politicians. And Duncan Lewis, head of the Australian Security Investigation Organization (ASIO) warned, with clear if unspoken reference to China, that “espionage and foreign interference are occurring here on an unprecedented scale, with the potential to cause serious harm to this nation’s sovereignty, its security, and . . . the integrity of our political system.” In 2015, a team of counterespionage officers raided the Canberra home of a Chinese woman married to a former high-ranking Australian intelligence official, seizing classified Australian intelligence documents. The woman, identified as Sheri Yan, was described as a socialite with connections to senior levels of government in both Australia and China. Her husband, Roger Uren, had until 2001 been Assistant Secretary at Australia’s Office of Net Assessments, the agency that provides secret intelligence briefings to the prime minister. Ms. Yan was also said to have been the intermediary in the transfer of $200,000 into the bank account of a United Nations official whom another wealthy Chinese-Australian donor said he wanted to become his “sincere friend in [China’s] Guangdong Province.” This was clearly illegal: Ms. Yan was charged, pleaded guilty to bribery charges, and served a jail term. In the weeks before the raid, ASIO analysts had been tracking the links between political donors in Australia and the CCP, with Lewis warning the heads of major political parties that, although no laws had been broken, the donations might come with conditions attached. According to Australian academic Clive Hamilton, Allen & Unwin, a publication company in Australia, delayed publication of his book, Silent Invasion, detailing these and other activities to influence politics, as a result of pressure from China. In the same time frame, Senator Sam Dastyari was forced to resign when it was revealed that he had allowed a company owned by Huang Xiangmo, a Chinese billionaire with close connections to the highest levels of the CCP, to pay a legal bill for his office. Later, in a clandestine meeting with Huang, Dastyari warned Huang that his phone was likely being tapped in connection with an investigation into his activities. Additionally, at a Chinese media conference, he had endorsed China’s stance on the South China Sea, contradicting his party’s policy. These revelations prompted the introduction of new laws barring contributions to Australian political parties and individuals. A former senior intelligence analyst called for an urgent review of an arrangement whereby a Confucius Institute was embedded inside the New South Wales Department of Education, citing the words of a Chinese official that the Confucius Institutes are an important part of China’s overseas propaganda establishment. Others objected to emplacement of an Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) inside the University of Technology Sydney: ACRI was founded by donations from the aforementioned Huang Xiangmo. Clive Hamilton testified at an Australian parliamentary hearing on national security legislation that UWFD efforts aimed as well at intimidating and coercing the Chinese Australian community, not just persuade them to advance the PRC’s interests.[1] The Chinese foreign ministry’s response was that its activities do not constitute interference in the domestic affairs of other countries and that these allegations are baseless creations of the biased Australian media, and prompted by racism. New Zealand: Accessing Sensitive Government Information In New Zealand, the issue of Chinese interference in politics came to a head with Member of Parliament Yang Jian. Yang, born and educated in the PRC, had omitted to mention on his application for New Zealand citizenship that he worked in China’s military intelligence sector for fifteen years. The People’s Liberation Army would not have allowed anyone with his background to go overseas to further their studies unless they had official permission; even so, Yang would have had to wait at least two years and to obtain permission from his former employer to leave China. This apparently did not happen. Having entered parliament, Yang accompanied two successive prime ministers in meetings with visiting senior Chinese leaders, which gave him privileged access to New Zealand’s China policy briefing notes and positions. Normally, someone with a foreign military intelligence background would not have been given the security clearances necessary for this access, but elected members of parliament need not apply for such clearances. Taiwan: New Parties and Education Opportunities According to the Taipei Times, in 2005, Wang Huning, then-director of the CCP’s Central Party Research Office and now a Politburo member, targeted more than 20 political figures from Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who had been marginalized by their respective parties and invited them to serve as organizing central committee members of a new, pro-Beijing, party. A book by exiled Chinese dissident Yuan Hongbing, The Taiwan Crisis, provided corroboration, stating that in June 2008 the Politburo had passed a political strategy for settling the Taiwan issue that listed organizing a political party in Taiwan as its most important united front tactic. In late 2017, investigators searched the residences of four prominent members of the New Party. The party, which espouses policies that echo those of the CCP, is legitimate under Taiwan law. The content of the materials seized in the raid has not been disclosed, but it has been alleged that the New Party had founded a paramilitary New China Youth Association with the goal of “wartime control.” Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui has stated that China’s united front work in Taiwan includes sponsoring organized criminal activities to stir up inter-ethnic conflict and destabilize society. A spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office compared the raid to Chiang Kai-shek’s White Terror and condemned the authorities for “wantonly suppressing and persecuting the forces and people who advocate peaceful unification of the two sides of the Strait.” The UFWD also sponsors “exchange” tours to China by Taiwanese students, their teachers, and principals. It has established a Student Baseball League in Shenzhen—the game being very popular in Taiwan—in which players compete against the backdrop of a large banner reading “both sides in the Taiwan Strait are one family.” At the tertiary level, students from Taiwan are offered scholarships at China’s most prestigious universities. Already, according to China’s official press agency, two Taiwanese studying at China’s highest rated institution, Beijing University, have applied to join the CCP, one of them vowing his fervent desire “to become a participant in the mainland’s joint rejuvenation.” The large number of PhDs from Taiwan universities who have not been able to find employment there have been offered jobs in China. In January, Taiwanese-born Hsieh Kuo-chun was selected to the top advisory board of the CPPCC, the non-party institutional face of the united front. The target of China’s UFWD work appears to be the “independence by nature” generation, meaning those who came of age after the lifting of Taiwan’s emergency decrees, sometime referred to as martial law. They have no memories of life in China, have grown up under a democratic system, and see no need to declare an independence the country already enjoys. Since the bulk of Taiwan’s trade is with China, special attention has been devoted to business people. Those who endorse policies favorable to China receive appointments to PRC organizations and favorable treatment; those who do not find opportunities cut off. The Role of Chinese Students’ Associations A major conduit for transmitting the Beijing government’s policies has been Chinese students and scholars associations (CSSAs) at universities. An Australian professor was forced to apologize to students for a map that showed Arunachal Pradesh, contested between China and India but under Indian administration; another for referring to Taiwan as a country. In the United States, the CSSA vigorously protested the University of California at San Diego’s invitation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to give the 2017 commencement address, with an interviewer for the Voice of America—a U.S. government-funded organization—asking this author if she did not think it reasonable that, because Chinese students “paid so much money to the United States [sic]” that their wishes be respected. There are links between consulates, Confucius Institutes, and student associations. The CSSA at the University of Miami encouraged students to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping to Mar-a-Lago in 2017—while also counter-protesting pro-Tibet and pro-Taiwan demonstrators—offering transportation, banners, and signs subsidized by a local China-funded Confucius Institute. In early January, responding to a letter from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the University of Texas at Austin decided it would not accept funding from the China-U.S Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) for its newly established China Public Policy Center. Senator Cruz’s letter referenced conversations with American intelligence officials, saying that the foundation is affiliated with China’s united front system. He pointed out that CUSEF is headed by Beijing’s hand-picked first governor of Hong Kong and now a vice-chairman of the CPPCC and that its board members are well-known supporters of Beijing. The UT Austin center was founded with a mandate to make “fresh and enduring contributions to the study of China-related policy topics while advancing U.S.-China relations,” though its first event was described as infused with propaganda. The university president’s has vowed to seek funding for the center elsewhere. Post-Employment Opportunities for Officials Sympathetic to China Another development of concern has been former high-ranking officials or parliamentarians taking jobs with Chinese companies after leaving office. Former Foreign Minister of Australia Bob Carr became chairman of the Australia China Research Institute, whose director and major donor is the aforementioned politically suspect billionaire Huang Xiangmo; Mr. Carr has been a reliable defender of Beijing. As a case in point, Carr responded to charges of PRC intervention in Australian affairs, by saying “we are in danger of being ‘hung out to dry’ if we listen to the ‘China hawks’ and don’t more fully engage with China.” A member of the New South Wales parliament, Eric Roozendahl, went to work for Mr. Huang after leaving government. Former New Zealand Prime Minster John Key acts on behalf of U.S. media giant Comcast on its business projects in China; he refused to answer New Zealand media questions about the sale of his property to an undisclosed buyer at prices described as well above market rates for the area. Former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley chairs the New Zealand branch of the China Construction Bank, one of the PRC’s largest, and former National Party leader Don Brash chairs the board of another large PRC financial giant, the Industrial Bank of China. According to intelligence analysts cited by London’s Financial Times, relatively soft targets like Australia and New Zealand serve as testing grounds for China’s global espionage activities, which have in the past five years massively expanded. Though the majority of cases have concerned those two states, examples in other countries have surfaced as well. For example, David Cameron, former British prime minister, created a sensation when he took a job supervising a £750 million fund to improve ports, roads, and rail networks between China and its trading partners. However, said the Financial Times, British banks were reluctant to participate due to concerns about the lack of transparency in the finances of the projects and their heavy reliance on Chinese contractors. At the end of January 2018, ASIO deputy director Peter Vickery told a parliamentary inquiry that “espionage and foreign interference activity against Australian interests is occurring on an unprecedented scale. . . . Foreign intelligence services [have] used Australian proxies to clandestinely seek classified and/or privileged Australian information at the expense of our national interest. . . . A foreign intelligence service . . . collect[ed] information about the diaspora community in Australia” and described these activities as the most extreme threat to Australian security. [2] Although Vickery did not name the country, Beijing’s People’s Daily immediately denounced the report as a hysterical reaction to China’s peaceful rise and development. Racism is a frequently invoked charge when China’s activities are revealed. Another recent case in point occurred when Chinese Canadians demanded a further investigation into an incident of a Muslim girl wearing a hijab alleging that she had been attacked by an “Asian” man. After a police investigation ascertained that the girl was lying, the case was closed. Although the girl had said only that the man was Asian, the still dissatisfied demonstrators demanded an apology from the prime minister, claiming that “there is always discrimination visible or not, against Chinese people in Canada.” People’s Daily cited the view of a Canada specialist at Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Social Sciences that because Chinese “are not good at participating in politics [this] makes them the target of attacks,” in effect arguing that Chinese need a greater voice in Canadian politics. Greater Vigilance Needed to Combat China’s United Front Strategy The sum total of these developments is worrisome. It is only right, fair, and reasonable that as the numbers of those from other countries who settle in Western democracies increase, they are entitled to representation in the institutions of government. Reciprocally, it is right, fair, and reasonable for these democracies to expect that the new citizens are loyal to their adopted country and that they are not acting as tools—willing or otherwise—to advance the interests of any other state, particularly when that state challenges the values of openness, diversity, and tolerance that democracies consider to be their core values. China is using the openness of democratic societies as a method to exploit them, while denying that it interferes in the domestic affairs of other countries and attempting to deflect criticism by charging that it is prompted by racism and fear of China’s rise. Until democracies see these charges for the distractions they are and pay close attention to the conditions attached to the apparent largesse of China’s development plans, we are complicit in our own demise. A founding signatory of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, the PRC frequently cites its commitment to avoid interfering in the domestic politics of other states. It is up to those states to call China out when it fails to live up to its principles. Sadly, we do not. [1] Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017, National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill. 2017. Canberra, Australia, January 31, 2017, p. 55 [2] Ibid, p. 18.

February 01, 2018

In China eyeing post-Brexit trade links, British PM under pressure to discuss Hong Kong

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrived in China on Wednesday as she seeks to bolster her country’s global trade links ahead of its contentious divorce with the European Union. May began her visit in the central industrial city of Wuhan and will be in China until Friday in what the Chinese foreign ministry has touted as a “historic visit”. Later on Wednesday, May will head to Beijing, where she will meet Premier Li Keqiang. “My visit will intensify the ‘Golden Era’ in UK-China relations. The depth of our relationship means we can have frank discussions on all issues,” she said earlier this week. May was travelling as she battles criticism over her Brexit strategy back home, where the House of Lords is scrutinising a key piece of legislation on leaving the EU and a leaked government report showed only economic downsides to leaving the bloc. Britain’s ties with China have grown in importance as London contemplates its economic future after it officially leaves the EU in March 2019. May travelled with her husband, Philip May, along with a delegation of 50 businesses and organisations, which her office said was “the largest” Britain has ever taken overseas. “The visit will focus on exploring new opportunities for British business, both now and post Brexit, maximising the benefit to the UK from China’s economic opening,” a Downing Street spokesman said. May will also take the opportunity to discuss a wide range of other issues, including climate change and North Korea, but she was also under pressure to address the political situation in former colony Hong Kong and human rights abuses in mainland China. China also has high expectations that London will endorse its Belt and Road initiative, a massive infrastructure project aimed at reviving ancient Silk Road trade routes and creating greater market access for Chinese companies. “It’s natural that Belt and Road cooperation is an opportunity for the two sides to tap into our cooperation for win-win results,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday. The British government, however, has been less sanguine about the project, with May’s spokesman saying that while the idea holds promise, it is “vital that BRI projects meet international standards”. She will hold talks with President Xi Jinping on Thursday and finish her visit Friday in the eastern business hub of Shanghai. Rights and Hong Kong Before her trip, the former British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, urged May to address concerns about the political situation in the semi-autonomous city, which London handed back to Beijing in 1997. In a letter to May’s Downing Street office, Patten said Hong Kong was facing “increasing threats to the basic freedoms, human rights and autonomy” that its people were promised at the 1997 handover. Human Rights Watch also urged the British leader to “get tough with China” on rights. But business is the focus of her trip. Britain has said it will leave the EU’s single market and customs union so that it can strike its own trade deals with countries outside the bloc, making China’s huge market an attractive target. In preparation, a parade of British officials travelled to China in recent months. Trade minister Liam Fox discussed market access for British exports, including its key sector of financial services. Finance minister Philip Hammond worked on final preparations for a “stock connect” linking the London and Shanghai exchanges, and mulled the possibility of connecting their bond markets as well. The post In China eyeing post-Brexit trade links, British PM under pressure to discuss Hong Kong appeared first on Coconuts.