Posts Tagged ‘Chinese Dream’

China’s creditor imperialism — Nations Become More Aware of “Debt Trap” Bondage

December 22, 2017

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 By Brahma Chellaney
Japan Times

This month, Sri Lanka, unable to pay the onerous debt to China it has accumulated, formally handed over its strategically located Hambantota port to the Asian giant. It was a major acquisition for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — which President Xi Jinping calls the “project of the century” — and proof of just how effective China’s debt-trap diplomacy can be.

Unlike International Monetary Fund and World Bank lending, Chinese loans are collateralized by strategically important natural assets with high long-term value (even if they lack short-term commercial viability). Hambantota, for example, straddles Indian Ocean trade routes linking Europe, Africa and the Middle East to Asia. In exchange for financing and building the infrastructure that poorer countries need, China demands favorable access to their natural assets, from mineral resources to ports.

Moreover, as Sri Lanka’s experience starkly illustrates, Chinese financing can shackle its “partner” countries. Rather than offering grants or concessionary loans, China provides huge project-related loans at market-based rates, without transparency, much less environmental or social impact assessments. As U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson put it recently, with the BRI China is aiming to define “its own rules and norms.”

To strengthen its position further, China has encouraged its companies to bid for outright purchase of strategic ports where possible. The Mediterranean port of Piraeus, which a Chinese firm acquired for $436 million from cash-strapped Greece last year, will serve as the BRI’s “dragon head” in Europe.

By wielding its financial clout in this manner, China seeks to kill two birds with one stone.

First, it wants to address overcapacity at home by boosting exports. Second, it hopes to advance its strategic interests, including expanding its diplomatic influence, securing natural resources, promoting the international use of its currency and gaining a relative advantage over other powers.

China’s predatory approach — and its gloating over securing Hambantota — is ironic, to say the least. In its relationships with smaller countries like Sri Lanka, China is replicating the practices used against it in the European-colonial period, which began with the 1839-1860 Opium Wars and ended with the 1949 communist takeover — a period that China bitterly refers to as its “century of humiliation.”

China portrayed the 1997 restoration of its sovereignty over Hong Kong, following more than a century of British administration, as righting a historic injustice. Yet, as Hambantota shows, China is now establishing its own Hong Kong-style neocolonial arrangements. Apparently Xi’s promise of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” is inextricable from the erosion of smaller states’ sovereignty.

Just as European imperial powers employed gunboat diplomacy to open new markets and colonial outposts, China uses sovereign debt to bend other states to its will, without having to fire a single shot. Like the opium the British exported to China, the easy loans China offers are addictive. And, because China chooses its projects according to their long-term strategic value, they may yield short-term returns that are insufficient for countries to repay their debts. This gives China added leverage, which it can use, say, to force borrowers to swap debt for equity, thereby expanding China’s global footprint by trapping a growing number of countries in debt servitude.

Even the terms of the 99-year Hambantota port lease echo those used to force China to lease its own ports to Western colonial powers. Britain leased the New Territories from China for 99 years in 1898, causing Hong Kong’s landmass to expand by 90 percent. Yet the 99-year term was fixed merely to help China’s ethnic-Manchu Qing Dynasty save face; the reality was that all acquisitions were believed to be permanent.

Now, China is applying the imperial 99-year lease concept in distant lands. China’s lease agreement over Hambantota, concluded this summer, included a promise that China would shave $1.1 billion off Sri Lanka’s debt. In 2015, a Chinese firm took out a 99-year lease on Australia’s deep-water port of Darwin — home to more than 1,000 U.S. Marines — for $388 million.

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Similarly, after lending billions of dollars to heavily indebted Djibouti, China established its first overseas military base this year in that tiny but strategic state, just a few kilometers from a U.S. naval base — the only permanent American military facility in Africa. Trapped in a debt crisis, Djibouti had no choice but to lease land to China for $20 million per year. China has also used its leverage over Turkmenistan to secure natural gas by pipeline largely on Chinese terms.

Several other countries, from Argentina to Namibia to Laos, have been ensnared in a Chinese debt trap, forcing them to confront agonizing choices in order to stave off default. Kenya’s crushing debt to China now threatens to turn its busy port of Mombasa — the gateway to East Africa — into another Hambantota.

These experiences should serve as a warning that the BRI is essentially an imperial project that aims to bring to fruition the mythical Middle Kingdom. States caught in debt bondage to China risk losing both their most valuable natural assets and their very sovereignty. The new imperial giant’s velvet glove cloaks an iron fist — one with the strength to squeeze the vitality out of smaller countries.

Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research and a fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, is the author of nine books, including “Asian Juggernaut,” “Water: Asia’s New Battleground,” and “Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis.” © Project Syndicate, 2017


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 PLA personnel attend the opening ceremony of China’s new military base in Djibouti in August. Photo: AFP

TPP leaders’ meeting fails to materialise amid disputes

November 10, 2017

DANANG, Vietnam (Reuters) – A planned meeting of leaders of the 11 countries in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to decide on the fate of the trade pact did not take place on Friday, amid disagreements over how to take it forward without the United States.

The leaders were set to meet on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam to discuss how to push ahead with TPP.

Their meeting was preceded by conflicting comments from their delegations on Thursday, when the trade ministers met to firm up a plan to present to the leaders. Japan had said an agreement in principle had been reached, but Canada disputed that.

The spat highlighted the continuing challenge to reviving a pact whose survival was thrown into doubt when President Donald Trump ditched it, in one of his first acts in office, in favour of bilateral deal-making by the United States.

The leaders’ meeting had been scheduled for 0145 local time (0645 GMT), but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to show up, according to people familiar with the matter.

“The meeting did not happen, work remains to be done and that’s what’s happening now,” a Canadian official said.

“We need to get this right and that will take the time it takes. We have to remember, the task officials had going into this week was to present options,” the official said.

Even before the planned meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had told the president of Peru – a TPP member – that he welcomed a broad agreement reached at the TPP ministerial meeting.

Canada, whose economy is the second biggest among the TPP-11 after Japan, said on Wednesday it would not be rushed into a revived TPP deal. Like Mexico, its position is further complicated by renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the Trump administration.

A Vietnamese soldier stands guard at the airport upon arrival of the U.S. President Donald Trump for the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

The TPP aims to eliminate tariffs on industrial and farm products across a bloc whose trade totalled $356 billion last year. It also has provisions for protecting everything from labour rights to the environment to intellectual property – one of the main sticking points.

The original 12 countries had reached agreement on the TPP in 2016, but Trump withdrew, throwing its very survival into doubt.

The absence of the United States had made TPP unattractive for some countries, but Japan had lobbied hard to proceed with a pact that could help to contain China’s growing regional dominance.

TPP countries are discussing suspending certain provisions of the original agreement to avoid having to renegotiate it and potentially, in the long term, to entice the United States back.

Earlier on Friday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he was “reasonably confident” a deal could be reached without the United States. Malaysia is one of the 11 TPP countries.

“We believe TPP is important for the region… The 11 countries led by Japan, we are trying to come up with our new version,” Najib said at a separate panel discussion at the APEC summit.

“I am reasonably confident. I am quite sanguine that we will get a deal but of course it has got to go through the process of ratification,” he said.

Trump set out a strong message on trade at the APEC summit on Friday, saying the United States could no longer tolerate chronic trade abuses and would insist on fair and equal policies. Redressing the balance of trade between Asia and the United States is at the centre of Trump’s “America First” policy he says will protect U.S. workers.

Countering Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Asia-Pacific nations must “uphold multilateralism”. Globalisation was an irreversible trend, but the world must work to make it more balanced and inclusive, Xi told leaders.

Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Richard Borsuk and Nick Macfie


BBC News

Trump at Apec summit: US will no longer tolerate trade abuses

Donald Trump said he would put “America first” at the Apec summit

President Donald Trump has said the US will no longer tolerate “chronic trade abuses”, in a defiant address at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit in Vietnam.

He said he would always put US interests first and Apec nations should “abide by fair reciprocal trade”.

In stark contrast, China’s Xi Jinping said globalisation was irreversible and voiced support for multilateralism.

Mr Trump is currently on a five-nation Asia tour, with China one of his stops.

Apec brings together 21 economies from the Pacific region – the equivalent of about 60% of the world’s GDP.

Since taking office, President Trump has pursued his “America First” agenda and pulled the US out of the regional Trans-Pacific Partnership – a major trade deal with 12 Apec nations – arguing it would hurt US economic interests.

What did Trump say?

In a speech in the Vietnamese port city of Da Nang on Friday, President Trump railed against the World Trade Organization, which sets global trade laws, and said it “cannot function properly” if all members do not respect the rules.

He complained about trade imbalances, saying the US had lowered market barriers and ended tariffs while other countries had not reciprocated. “Such practices hurt many people in our country,” he said, adding that free trade had cost millions of American jobs.

But he did not lay the blame on Apec countries, and instead accused earlier US administrations of not acting earlier to reverse the trend.

He said America would make bilateral agreements with “any Indo-Pacific partner here who abides by fair reciprocal trade”, but only “on a basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit”.

China's President Xi Jinping (C) arrives to speak on the final day of the APEC CEO Summit ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders summit in Danang, Vietnam, 10 November 2017Image copyrightEPA
Image captionXi Jinping is promoting China as the champion of free trade

Mr Trump has repeatedly referred to the region as “Indo-Pacific”, a term used to define America’s new geopolitical view of Asia.

The US president had travelled to Da Nang from Beijing, where he had also discussed America’s huge trade imbalance with China. There too, he said he did not blame the country for “taking advantage”.

How did his speech compare to Xi’s?

Speaking minutes after his American counterpart, Chinese President Xi Jinping took to the podium to espouse his country’s credentials as the new champion of world trade.

Globalisation, he said, was an “irreversible historical trend” but the philosophy behind free trade needed to be repurposed to be “more open, more balanced, more equitable and more beneficial to all”.

In contrast to President Trump, the Chinese leader defended multilateral trade deals, which he said helped poorer nations to benefit.

“We should support the multilateral trading regime and practise open regionalism to allow developing members to benefit more from international trade and investment.”

America First, or the Chinese Dream?

By Karishma Vaswani, Asia business correspondent

President Trump was clear – he wants bilateral trade deals and large, multilateral arrangements don’t work for him. This was a speech saying that America is open for business, but on America’s terms.

Contrast that with China’s Xi Jinping, who spoke about the digital economy, quantum science, artificial intelligence – presenting a vision of the future that is connected, and comprehensive.

Increasingly whenever you see Mr Xi on the international stage he is the poster child for free trade and globalisation. Ironic, given that China itself has yet to become a fully free economy.

The US was the architect of many of the multilateral and free trade agreements for Asia. Under its tutelage, many of these countries opened up and reformed – playing by America’s rules.

But under Donald Trump, that role has gone into reverse. Which has left China with a gaping hole to fill – and one it is only more than happy to take on.

Read more from Karishma

How are US-China trade relations?

The total trade relationship between the US and China was worth $648bn last year, but trade was heavily skewed in China’s favour with the US amassing a nearly $310bn deficit.

Mr Trump has in the past accused China of stealing American jobs and threatened to label it a currency manipulator, though he has since rowed back on such rhetoric.

Bar chart shows US trade with Asia market
Graph shows US trade with China since 1985

During the US president’s visit on Thursday, China announced it would further lower entry barriers in the banking, insurance, and finance sectors, and gradually reduce vehicle tariffs.

Mr Xi promised “healthy” and “balanced” economic and trade relations.

Deals worth $250bn (£190bn) were also announced, although it was unclear how much of that figure included past agreements or potential future deals. At the same time, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told journalists the deals were “pretty small” in terms of tackling the trade imbalance.

Before the Beijing talks, Mr Trump in Tokyo lashed out at Japan, saying it “has been winning” on trade in recent decades.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also be making a speech at the Apec summit. Japan had a $69bn (£52.8bn) trade surplus with the US in 2016, according to the US Treasury department.

It’s unclear whether Mr Trump will address human rights issues in Vietnam

After attending the Apec summit, Mr Trump will pay a state visit to the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Mr Trump will end his 12-day Asian tour in the Philippines on 13 November.

Coming to a Chinese cinema near you: ‘Core Socialist Values’

July 4, 2017


© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Actor Jackie Chan will star in Chinese public-service adverts promoting “core socialist values”

SHANGHAI (AFP) – Chinese cinema-goers now have to sit through a short clip promoting “core socialist values” and President Xi Jinping’s “Chinese dream” political credo before the show starts — and some aren’t happy about it.
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Authorities enlisted action star Jackie Chan and domestic film idols as part of the public-service adverts, which have been ordered shown at cinemas in China since July 1 and last a few minutes apiece, state media said.

Four videos were made under the title series “The glory and the dream — our Chinese dream”, borrowing from Xi’s vision of a revitalised China, and were an initiative of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, said the official Beijing Youth Daily.

“The purpose is to help people better understand and accept the (ruling communist) party’s principles and policies,” it added.

The state-aligned Global Times quoted one of the videos as saying: “No matter what you do, as long as you respect the country, our society, our nation and our family, you are helping us to realise the Chinese dream.”

The newspaper said Beijing cinemas were required to play one of the short videos before screenings, but theatres in other parts of the country also confirmed to AFP that they too had been showing the clip, suggesting the edict is country-wide.

“Many came late for the movie just to avoid the short video and others complained about the video after watching the movie,” the Global Times quoted one cinema employee as saying.

Users on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, expressed mixed feelings.

“Had planned on going to the cinema but heard there is now a China dream trailer at the beginning, forget it,” wrote one.

But another, named Good Netizen from Henan, wrote: “Three generations of film stars spreading positive energy in society. They expressed the aspirations of a Chinese person, every ordinary Chinese person’s Chinese dream.”

Since taking office in 2013, Xi has consolidated control to become one of China’s most powerful leaders in decades, exalting the Communist Party and cracking down on its critics.




Time is running out for China to pay off its bad debts — Is the era of borrow big to earn big ending the Chinese dream?

September 19, 2016

Time is running out for China to pay off its bad debts, 101 East investigates if this could be the end of China Inc.

15 Sep 2016 20:30 GMT

Al Jazeera

There’s a magic formula to becoming a millionaire in China – borrow big to earn big.

For years, individuals, state-owned companies and municipalities have taken massive loans to chase the Chinese dream.

Now it’s payback time, but a severe economic slowdown means many are struggling to pay their debts.

Entire neighbourhoods have become “ghost towns”, industrial companies sit idle and the unemployed are growing desperate.

Government economists claim China has enough in its coffers to cover the bad loans, but defaulting on it could send the world’s economy into a tailspin.

101 East asks, is this the end of China Inc?

Join the conversation @AJ101East 

Watch the video:



China’s ultra rich

Kevin K Li, director of reality show Ultra Rich Asian Girls, speaks to Al Jazeera about China’s wealthiest 1 percent.

They own multimillion-dollar properties, go on designer shopping sprees and even star in their own reality TV show, Ultra Rich Asian Girls.

Chelsea, Pam and Diana are the children of China’s elite, and they’re stirring envy and anger as they live the high life in Vancouver.

The girls are what is known as “fuerdai”, or rich, second-generation Chinese. They have become notorious for their extravagant antics, from crashing sports cars to burning wads of cash.

Many of the fuerdai are spending their families’ wealth in North American cities, purchasing high-end real estate. The influx of foreign cash has sparked protests in Vancouver, which many wealthy Chinese now call home.

Residents leading the #DontHave1Million campaign complain that rich Chinese are inflating property prices and pricing them out of the market.

Yet, the success of Ultra Rich Asian Girls suggests that many can’t get enough of these young Chinese elite and their extravagant spending habits.

The show’s creator, Vancouver-born Chinese-Canadian Kevin K Li, says there is more to this new wave of wealthy Chinese than meets the eye.

Here, Li discusses the city’s Chinese history, his identity and how the girls are shaking up stereotypes.

Al Jazeera: What inspired you to create the reality TV show Ultra Rich Asian Girls?

Kevin K Li: I was born in Canada, and over the 37 years that I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed that there has been three different waves of Chinese, each one more successful than the last. First was the working class from the villages of Guangdong province. They worked in the kitchens, operated laundry mats and sold produce. Many of them were uneducated and lacked trained skills.

The second wave was in the 1980s and 1990s, and mostly comprised those from Hong Kong. They were university-educated, worked in offices and started their own small businesses. Their kids drove Mercedes and BMWs to school.

‘People hungered to know more about who was buying the exotic supercars, exclusive handbags and multimillion-dollar properties,’ says Li [Steve Chao/Al Jazeera]

Now, from mainland China, the Chinese own major companies, are involved in world trade and fuel our economy. Many of their kids go to school in supercars and wear the latest in luxury fashion.

This show was created to celebrate the evolution of Chinese in Canada. My co-producer, Desmond Chen, and I are currently working on Season 4 and talking to co-productions in the US and distribution in Asia.

Al Jazeera: The show quickly went viral. Why is the world interested in following the lives of affluent Chinese girls?

Li: To be honest, my co-producer, Desmond Chen, and I didn’t expect it to go viral outside the Chinese community, but the show came at the right time and the right place. People hungered to know more about who was buying the exotic supercars, exclusive handbags and multimillion-dollar properties.

This show puts a face to those questions and provides a secret window into the lives of ultra-rich Asian girls. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the girls are university-educated, beautiful and charming.

Al Jazeera: Some say that wealthy Chinese are inflating house prices in cities such as Vancouver. Is this an accurate assessment or is this a form of Sinophobia?

Li: I am not an economist, but as a Canadian, I believe that there are three factors increasing the prices of homes: historically low mortgage rates, the low Canadian dollar, and Vancouver is always rated as “the best place in the world to live”.

I know a lot of Canadians who hugely profited from the sale of their homes in Vancouver, downsized to a condo and gave the rest to their kids to buy their first home. It’s supply and demand from local and foreign buyers, not just Chinese. Yes, a small percentage of complaints stem from Sino- and xenophobia. This small group is looking for someone to blame and wealthy Chinese are an easy target.

Al Jazeera:  You grew up in a working-class Chinese neighbourhood in Vancouver. How have you seen attitudes towards the Chinese population change over time?

Li: The biggest change I’ve seen is how people view Chinese women today. Even in my generation, many of my female friends were told to just “find a nice rich boy to marry”. Now, women are in control of their own destiny. The girls on my show can choose who and when they want to marry, start any business they want and continue to break down traditional stereotypes of Chinese women.

‘There’s so much misunderstanding and misinformation about Chinese Canadians,’ says Kevin Li [Steve Chao/Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera:  The Hon Hsing Athletic Association in Vancouver’s Chinatown has played a significant role in your life. Why is this?

Li: Hon Hsing is the reason I proudly say I’m Chinese-Canadian. But it wasn’t always like that. I remember a dark phase when I was around 14, when I didn’t consider myself Chinese because I felt that I was better than my Hong Kong classmates. Their fashion styles were different, they always spoke Cantonese, and they were seen as the “uncool” kids in school.

I went out of my way to make sure my Canadian classmates knew that I was different from “these immigrants”, from the way I talked, dressed and ate. I thought everything was great, until one day I found racist writings in my school books saying “Chinks, Gooks and Chinamans should die”, with a drawing of a gun to the head.

‘The girls on my show … break down traditional stereotypes of Chinese women,’ says Kevin Li [Steve Chao/Al Jazeera]
It was directed at a group of us, Canadian-born Chinese. We learned it was actually from a group of white guys who we used to hang out with and considered to be our friends. I was so upset, angry and confused. I felt like I did everything right to separate myself from these “immigrants”, but the reality was they still saw me the same way. I knew that just because I was born in Canada, I would never be seen as an equal.

Then one of my friends brought me to a Hon Hsing Athletic Association, an activity club for Chinese youth, founded in 1939 by the Wong’s Benevolent Association. I learned Chinese lion dancing, kung-fu and Chinese-Canadian history.

This is where I found myself. Instead of ignoring and looking down on my heritage, I began to embrace it. I’d never felt happier. I was so interested in discovering my heritage that I even went to Beijing to learn Chinese for three months and learned about the history of China.

WATCH: China’s fake boyfriends

Al Jazeera:  How justified is the concern about the rise of wealth in China and its expansion into places such as Vancouver in North America?

Li: In the 1980s, Japan had a strong economy, and in the 1990s, it was Hong Kong and the US. While property prices are increasing in Vancouver, it’s also generating a lot of economic opportunities for jobs, development and growth. Things always come in waves, and I have a lot of faith in our government to know when the rise of Chinese wealth becomes a threat in our country. Personally, I’d rather it be today than back in 2008 when jobs were lost and no one was spending money. The houses were cheap then, but we didn’t have the money to buy them.

Al Jazeera:  Do you feel that Asians are accurately represented in the Canadian media?

Li: Asians are hugely under-represented in mainstream TV, film and media. And the programmes that do have Asians in them are stuck in stereotypical roles – asexual Asian males and hypersexualised Asian females.

When my show first came out, I received a huge backlash from the Asian community who felt that it “made them look bad”. It’s frustrating that as a producer, who is Chinese, I’m limited to producing “nice Asian shows” when other producers can produce anything they want without having to represent any race but themselves. There needs to be more shows that push the boundaries of mainstream Asian programming and challenge the model-minority stereotyping.

No mainstream broadcaster in Canada has an accessible programme that correctly reflects the multicultural faces of Canada. This is a failure and this is why there’s so much misunderstanding and misinformation about Chinese Canadians.

The show’s creator, Vancouver-born Chinese-Canadian Kevin K Li, left, and Desmond, right [Steve Chao/Al Jazeera]

READ MORE: My time as a fake boyfriend to China’s ‘leftover women’

Click here to watch the 101 East documentary, China’s Rich Girls.

G20: China’s century means more global leadership for China — Only China is a reliable engine of growth — IMF urges G20 leaders to boost demand, make case for trade

September 2, 2016


China mobilises for a big event like nowhere else.

Hangzhou on the eve of the G20 is a certain kind of awesome. A city rebuilt.

Filled with brand new security kit and locked down manhole covers, it has been emptied of a third of its population.

The switch was flicked to off in factories for hundreds of miles around, the pollution haze dispersed and the sky turned ‘G20 blue’.

This weekend’s G20 is a demonstration that the one party state decides on a goal, it can call the country to attention and command its people to get behind it.

Bid for economic leadership

The G20 really matters to China. Since the first such summit in Washington in late 2008, these occasions have mostly been forgettable.

But that year was a watershed for the Chinese leadership.

With the global financial crisis, Beijing stopped believing there was something immutable and dependable about the way the western powers had wired the global economy.

Talking points

The summit explained – in dolls

G20 warns Brexit adds to global economic risks

China calls on G20 to lead over global economy

Why is the South China Sea contentious?

China’s Island Factory

As others floundered, China began its lightning move up the GDP hierarchy to second place, and simultaneously launched a campaign to move from outsider to central player in global economic governance.

Despite the slower growth of recent months, Chinese purpose has not wavered.

In fact, events since have only strengthened the conviction that economic power is moving east, and that this, if not the Asian century, is at least China’s century.

Qianjiang New Town performs light show to welcome the upcoming G20 Hangzhou Summit on 28 August 2016 in Hangzhou,

Hangzhou’s future as a centre of innovation will be part of the PR narrative at the summit. Getty Images

The list of evidence for this faith is long and conveniently includes Hangzhou’s own global brands.

Eight years ago, most foreigners would have been hard pressed to name any Chinese company, but now this city alone is home to several giants, including Alibaba.

They are among China’s corporate miracles which have worked out how to leverage an immense domestic market, hungry workforce and almost limitless capital, while absorbing abroad whatever growth nutrients they are missing at home.

So this week’s PR narrative around the G20 host city is a Hangzhou which balances a glorious imperial past with a glorious innovative future.

The sharper strategic narrative around China’s G20 moment is about the decline of the West, which began with the 2008 financial crisis, but is now gathering pace amid the distractions of a US presidential election and the disarray in Europe over Brexit, migrants and recession.

An employee is seen behind a glass wall with the logo of Alibaba at the company's headquarters on the outskirts of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, 23 April 2014.

Hangzhou is home to the world’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba. Reuters

In this triumphal narrative, only China is a reliable engine of growth, its politics less populist, its leadership farsighted.

And according to the official New China News Agency, it is now time to take that leadership global.

The host is ready to share its time-honoured wisdom and up-to-date solutions with the world.

Put bluntly, China hopes the world will look back and identify the Hangzhou G20 as the moment when China looked like a better guardian of global economic governance than a US paralysed by poisonous politics at home and handicapped by distractions abroad.

China’s dilemma

But will the Hangzhou summit be remembered like that? Will it be remembered at all?

After all, leaders have to lead and this is hard for China on economic issues, let alone security.

At a time of struggling growth and protectionist backlash across the world, President Xi will try to present himself in Superman pants, urging his guests to defend free trade for the sake of all our futures.

But talk is cheap. Many of those in President Xi’s audience have been complaining of Chinese protectionism for decades, the joke among their trade negotiators that for China the slogan win/win means heads I win, tails you lose.

Security personnel ride bicycles on an empty road near the West Lake, as police closed off many roads before G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China 31 August 2016.

Security personnel ride bicycles on one of many roads closed off for the G20 Summit. Reuters

Certainly China has been a great beneficiary of globalisation and the commitment of others to free trade.

It would have much to lose if the rest of the world started closing its markets.

But both the German ambassador to China and the European Union Chamber of Commerce complained only this week that their companies face an unlevel playing field in China and that some feel ever less welcome.

There is no sign of a last minute Superman-style intervention that might translate Chinese talk about free trade into spectacular action.

Meanwhile the theme for China’s summit is “Towards an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy”.

But as well as being the master of top down mobilisation, China is often the master of meaning-light slogans.

A paramilitary policeman stands in front of a temple near the West Lake, before the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. 31 August 2016.

The summit, as always, will be heavily guarded. Reuters

What would really help an innovative and invigorated global economy is fundamental structural reform from China, the dismantling of large parts of the sclerotic and monopolistic state owned economy.

A dramatically freer Chinese economy with fair access to key sectors for private enterprise and foreigners would enormously enhance China’s credibility as a leader on global governance.

It stands to reason that if you play by fair rules, you have got a better chance of being invited to set them.

But it will not happen or will not happen fast because of perceived political risk.

A freer economy would get in the way of the Party’s number one objective, political control.

And this desperate political fragility has other painful consequences for China’s dream of leadership.

People pose, seated, for photos on an empty road near the West Lake, as police closed off many roads before G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. 31 August 2016.

With the roads closed, some visitors took the chance to pose for a photo in the middle of the street. Reuters

Exactly a year ago, the last huge international set piece in China was a giant military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Japan in WWII.

Many of the world leaders now gathering in Hangzhou were invited to attend that too, but most stayed away because the exercise was framed in a narrative of China’s historical victimhood and 21st century return to greatness.

It was a hard power message calculated to unite the domestic audience firmly behind the Communist Party.

But by moving towards an increasingly strident nationalism complete with territorial ambitions and military build up, Beijing has placed itself in a zero sum leadership dilemma.

It can either lead at home or it can lead abroad but without a more liberal political agenda, it cannot do both.

In a region, where so many nations still have wounds from history, China’s nationalist politics are toxic to its hopes to lead internationally.

A Chinese military brass band (front) and choir stand in position ahead of a military parade later in the morning at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on 3 September 2015, to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan and the end of World War II.

Most western leaders stayed away from the military parade to marking the end of WWII in 2015. AFP

In July, Beijing’s furious denunciation of an international court ruling on the South China Sea put it on the wrong side of international law.

And if there are no accepted rules of the game, then the game is not about leadership but about my will against yours and ultimately about brute force.

When you resort to that game, Superman pants can only be worn in the privacy of your own home.

All those gathered for the G20 are keenly aware of these realities. They will note the slogans, the songs and the speeches.

But when we look back in years to come and remember the Hangzhou summit, I suspect we will still be remembering the awesome mobilisation involved.

China has not yet found the language to lead a troubled world.



Diplomats who have discussed the sea disputes with Peace and Freedom say that China’s strategy is to prevent any alliance of neighbors to interfere with China’s sea expansion….



WASHINGTON  (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund called on Thursday for G20 leaders to take much stronger action to boost demand, revive flagging trade, make long-delayed structural reforms to their economies and share growth more broadly.

In a briefing note to heads of state of the G20 group of leading economies ahead of their summit in Hangzhou, China, on Sunday and Monday, the IMF said they had fallen far behind in their 2014 goals to boost collective growth by two percentage points within five years.

The IMF said its own research showed the growth of goods and services trade volumes had slowed in most countries since 2012 to a rate half of the pace in the two decades to 2007.

“While three-fourths of this drop can be traced to weaker economic activity, notably weak investment, the waning pace of trade liberalization and a recent uptick in protectionist measures have added to the downward momentum,” the IMF said. “Such reductions in global trade can feed back to lower GDP growth.”

The IMF urged the leaders to “make the positive case for globalization” and portray trade as “a tool to improve lives.” It said they should adopt policies that foster innovation and new industries and improve labor mobility.

“It is easy to blame trade for all the ills afflicting a country, but curbing free trade would be stalling an engine that has brought unprecedented welfare gains around the world over many decades,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a blog posting accompanying the note.

“However, to make trade work for all, policymakers should help those who are adversely affected through re-training, skill building, and assisting occupational and geographic mobility,” Lagarde said.

She told Reuters in an interview that the IMF is nonetheless likely to downgrade its economic growth forecasts further.

The IMF also repeated its view that monetary policy be kept accommodative to fight low inflation and said countries with the fiscal space should pursue needed public investments in infrastructure and support growth by avoiding direct tax increases on consumers. Some countries should also use public funds to help rebuild financial sector balance sheets, the IMF said.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)


BBC News



China’s rise to power can no longer be seen as friendly — Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream is an imagined world where China is the dominant power in all things — and over everybody else

September 1, 2016


Beijing justifies its actions by “creating an imagined universe” in which its actions are never at fault. Often China plays the victim. “Trying to get back their right to global governance.”

Gavin Fernando

A PROMINENT commentator specialising in Chinese affairs has warned there is nothing remotely peaceful about Beijing’s rise to power.

As the emerging superpower prepares to host the international G20 summit this weekend, veteran columnist Frank Ching says China has well and truly emerged as “the dominant power”.

In an article posted by the South China Morning Post, he said the international tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea last month would do nothing to deter China from its plans to increase its dominance of the region.

“In its imagined world, the realisation of Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream will place China once again at the centre of the world, after a couple of centuries of being disrupted by Western imperialism,” he writes.

“In the Chinese imagination, this is not subjugation of neighbours but simply restoration of the normal order. To some, this is a return to the traditional concept of tianxia, with barbarians benefiting from Chinese civilisation.”


Xi Jinping, China’s President, wants the country at the centre of the world, Frank Ching argues. Source: News Corp Australia

We’ve already seen evidence of China disobeying the West and its allies in this regard.

Since the international ruling on the South China Sea in July, which found there was “no legal basis for China to claim historic rights” over the nine-dash line, China has notably stepped up its presence in the disputed zone.

Pentagon officials say the number of Chinese maritime security vessels near the area has risen sharply over the past month, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Meanwhile, satellite photos have recently emerged revealing reinforced hangars designed to house combat jets on several of Beijing’s artificial outposts.


The images, distributed by the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, showed military infrastructure being built on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs, which are all part of the various disputed territories.

The report stated each island would soon be capable of housing 24 fighter jets along with three or four larger aircraft, such as those with surveillance, bomber or tanker roles, allowing Beijing to stage a force of some 70 combat aircraft in the area.

A spokesman for the CSIS said even the smallest hangars are larger than needed for civilian purposes, saying the hangars were “reinforced to take a strike”.

The way Ching explained it, Beijing justifies its actions by “creating an imagined universe” in which its actions are never at fault.

“What China thinks is right must be the law”, he writes. This explains the country’s unruly dominance in the South China Sea, which it continues to claim ownership of.

In mid-August, the state-run Study Times wrote that Western countries were trying to deliberately exclude a rising China and deny it a proper voice on the world stage with schemes like the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Trying to get back their right to global governance, they are forging a new ‘sacred alliance’, striving to establish new rules,” the influential paper, published twice a week by the Central Party School, wrote in a G20 commentary.

“These new rules will exclude China.”


China looks set to disobey international rulings over the South China Sea.Source:Supplied


Amid all this, China will hosts the international G20 summit for the first time in its eight-year history.

The summit, which will be held in Hangzhou, will be an occasion of huge importance for President Xi Jinping, for it will give him and his government the chance to cement China’s status as a global power.

According to The Economist, Hangzhou has been like one big construction site for the past year, with work crews paving new roads and building new hotels ahead of the prestigious gathering.

There are rumours the city is spending up to 160 billion yuan (more than $A30 billion) on refurbishments, although Hangzhou has denied this.

But despite all the fuss, the Chinese government suspects the West and its allies will undercut its discussions on the economy based on the increasingly tense climate around territorial disputes right now, Reuters reports.

“From where China sits, it looks like the Americans are trying to encircle them,” said a senior Western envoy, describing conversations with Chinese officials ahead of G20 as being dominated by the South China Sea row and an advanced US anti-missile system to be deployed in South Korea.

China is vehement that such issues should not overshadow the meeting, which will be attended by US President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and other world leaders including Malcolm Turnbull.

Meanwhile, tensions are still simmering between Australia and China over Australia’s recent decision to block the $AU10 billion sale of Ausgrid, the country’s biggest energy grid.

Reuters quoted another Beijing-based Western diplomat familiar with the summit as saying: “China is angry with almost everyone at the moment.”

Tensions are already simmering between Australia and China over the Ausgrid block.
Tensions are already simmering between Australia and China over the Ausgrid block.Source:News Corp Australia


China may be ramping up its attempt to reclaim the Scarborough Shoal, a key disputed territory in the South China Sea, in what would undoubtedly be a provocative move.

Earlier this month, it was reported that China could begin reclamation work as early as next week.

A source, who requested anonymity, said: “Since the G20 will be held in Hangzhou next month, and regional peace will be the main topic among leaders of the great powers, China will refrain from (acting on the) reclamation plan.”

It said construction could begin anywhere between the end of the G20 summit and the start of the US presidential election in November — the timing of which could make strategic sense, as it’s likely the country would not wish to risk exacerbating tensions at the prestigious G20 summit.

Whether any attempts at reclamation will guarantee military conflict is another question. Ching argues that, despite what many people think, China sees no need to challenge the US militarily, and would prefer to avoid confrontation at all costs.

Likewise, despite some heavy rhetoric last week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared that war is not an option.

Today, he made a somewhat heartfelt plea to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua to the Philippines to allow Filipino fishermen to fish in the waters over the disputed area on the Philippines border.

“I hope the Chinese may find a place in their hearts for the Filipinos,” Duterte said in front of the ambassador during a speech. “I hope you treat us [as] your brothers and not enemies and take note of our plight.”

He also stressed the need for civil discussion, saying “I don’t go to war… If I am not ready for war, then, peace is the only way.”
— with Reuters

Read Frank Ching article:



China and Russia conducting military exercises together

US Secretary of State John F. Kerry gestures as he addresses a gathering at The Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi on August 31, 2016. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US was united with its allies in upholding freedom of navigation rights in the South China Sea following a tribunal’s decision on the contested waters. AFP

In this Aug. 17, 2016 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte chats with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua at the 115th anniversary of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame.PPD/Toto Lozano


President Rodrigo R. Duterte shakes hands with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua during the celebration of the National Heroes’ Day at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City on August 29. KING RODRIGUEZ/PPD


Vietnam fishing boat — A fishing boat from Quang Ngai province with six sailors on board was sunk by Chinese vessels on  while fishing near the Paracel (Hoang Sa) Islands, on or about 10 July 2016. Than Nien photo

China has a record of treating Vietnamese fishermen (and Filipino fishermen) with contempt and violence.

Sinocentrism (中華思想) Criticized — “Chinese have a casual Disregard for Vietnamese and Filipinos as Human Beings”




The Greatest Admiral Spread Islam, Trade Across Southeast Asia — The Inspiration of Xi Jinping’s Present Day “Maritime Silk Road” and the “China Dream”

August 20, 2016

By Chow Chung-yan
South China Morning Post

Saturday, August 20, 2016, 6:23 p.m.
 Near my childhood home in Kunming (昆明), Yunnan (雲南) province, is a park dedicated to its most famous son: Admiral Zheng He. Our teacher would take us to pay tribute to the great eunuch of the Ming dynasty, recounting his legendary seven expeditions that brought glory to the motherland.

The marble bust of Zheng He shows the face of a typical Chinese, with a square chin, brushy eyebrows and a flat nose. My father joked it more resembled comrade Lei Feng than the admiral. Not until years later did I realise how true this was. The statue was erected in 1979 – a year after Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) launched his open-door policy. Zheng, barely mentioned during the Cultural Revolution, was plucked from obscurity and hailed as a national hero who embodied China’s open spirit. A park near his ancestral home was dedicated to him. The same craftsmen who churned out revolutionary statues were employed to build his.

 Statue of Admiral Zheng He in Nanjing, where his fleet was built

In real life, Zheng probably looked very different. My school textbook mentioned only that he was a Hui minority (Muslim Chinese). In fact, the admiral was a descendent of a powerful Persian family. Records discovered in 1913 trace his lineage to Sayyid Ajall, who was sent by Kublai Khan to conquer Yunnan and became its first governor. In 2014, Chinese scientists at Fudan University in Shanghai put the theory to test. They examined DNA samples collected from descendents of the admiral’s close kin and found they originated from Persia, modern-day Iran. In addition to Zheng He, most senior officers of the storied Ming armada were also Muslims.

Over the past decades, researchers have concluded Zhang and his armada were the key force behind Islam’s spread in Southeast Asia. The Arabs established settlements in Southeast Asia from the eighth century. But Islam did not become dominant there until the 15th century – around the time Admiral Zheng began to sail in the South China Sea. Historians found evidence of Zheng’s missionary work in documents discovered in Semarang, Indonesia, by Dutch officials in 1925. This prompted Indonesian religious leader Hamka to write in 1961: “The development of Islam in Indonesia and Malaysia is intimately related to a Chinese Muslim, Admiral Zheng He.”

Zheng He’s fleet

A crowning moment of Zheng’s expedition was converting the King of Malacca, Parameswara, to Islam shortly after he paid homage to the Yongle Emperor in Beijing in 1411. The conversion played a crucial role in the spread of Islam in Southeast Asia, according to Professor Xiao Xian of Yunnan University.

 Replica of one of  Zheng He’s ships

Xiao was one of the scholars who presented research work on Zheng He at an international symposium in 2005. They painted a vivid picture of the Ming armada, which had all the elements of a multinational enterprise.

The 300 ships – many twice as big as the largest European vessels of the time – were constructed in dry docks in Nanjing ( 南京 ), Jiangsu ( 江蘇 ) province. Building materials were sourced from across the Ming Empire. The 27,000-strong crew included Han Chinese, Muslim Hui, Arabs, Persians, and peoples from Central and East Asia. The lingua franca was Persian or Sogdian – a language used for centuries by merchants of the ancient Silk Road, according to Professor Liu Yingsheng of Nanjing University.

Size was not the only difference between Zheng’s fleet and that of Christopher Columbus 70 years later. The Europeans aboard the Santa Maria were exclusively Catholic – the Ming fleet was culturally and religiously diverse. Zheng was a Muslim but he was fluent in the teachings of Confucius, Buddhism and classic Chinese philosophy. The fleet included many Buddhist missionaries. Many regard his expeditions as the high-water mark of Chinese civilization. The Ming armada’s true greatness lay not in its size or sophistication but in its diversity and tolerance.

 Statue of  Zheng He at Nanjing

After the Yongle Emperor’s death, the Ming court lost its global vision. Power was in the hands of the Confucius gentry-class, who jealously guarded against other schools of thoughts. China became increasingly introspective and insulated. The court stopped further expeditions and banned seafaring. The Chinese civilization gradually lost its vigour and started a long decline.

Today as the new “Silk Road” and “soft power” become China’s new catchphrases, it is important to remember what makes the Chinese civilization unique in the first place. Its greatest strength lies in its people’s amazing ability to absorb, adopt and assimilate different cultures.

Buddhism, which originated in India, flourished in China. The Zen school – a hybrid of Indian Buddhism and Chinese Taoism – spread to East Asia by monks in the Tang dynasty and became mainstream. Islam arrived from Central Asia and the Middle East during the Yuan and Ming dynasties. It took root in western China before spreading to Southeast Asia with Zhang’s fleet. We should remember that until 100 years ago, China was not a nation state in the Westphalian sense. Narrow-minded nationalism and xenophobia are the exception rather than the norm of the world’s oldest surviving civilization.

This fortnightly column looks at patterns from the past to understand the present. Chow Chung-yan is executive editor of the South China Morning Post, overseeing daily print and digital operations

For completeness, a friend of Peace and Freedom recommended we add the following:

Zheng He’s initial trip took him from the South China Sea through the Indian Ocean to Calicut, India, and back. The emperor’s purpose for this expedition seems to have been to obtain recognition and gifts from other rulers. The voyagers did not intend to conquer or colonize, but they were prepared to use military force against those who refused to respect them.

Near the end of the voyage Zheng He’s ships encountered pirates in the Sumatran port of Palembang. The pirate leader pretended to submit, with the intention of escaping. However, Zheng He started a battle, easily defeating the pirates — his forces killing more than 5,000 people and taking the leader back to China to be beheaded.

Five more voyages followed before Emperor Yongle’s death in 1424; they included excursions to Hormuz — the Arab port at the mouth of the Persian Gulf — and the coast of eastern Africa, from which He returned with giraffes, zebras, and other items unfamiliar to the Chinese.

On his seventh and final voyage, from 1431 to 1433, Zheng He apparently died at sea and was likely buried off the coast of India, although some of his descendants believe that he made it back to China and died soon after his return.



See also: The Great Adventures of Zheng He

Some Compare China’s Current Economic Challenges To Japan in The 1990s — But China is in much worse shape than Japan was — Could China’s Communist Party Be A Hindrance and Not A Help?

July 17, 2016


Robert Boxwell says despite some similarities – slowing economies, bad debts and bad demographics – today’s China and the Japan of the 1990s differ in important ways

By Robert Boxwell
South China Morning Post

Sunday, July 17, 2016, 7:23 pm

When Japan’s economy stalled, its homogeneous society was better suited than China’s, culturally and economically, to “keep pedalling”, as they said, even if they weren’t making progress into the winds of a new economic reality.Open a newspaper nowadays and you’re bound to find comparisons of China with early-1990s Japan: growth slowing, monetary stimulus leading to bad debts and financial bubbles, demographics heading inexorably towards a population that won’t match the required long-term repairs. The similarities seem apt, but two salient differences also exist. One could make it harder for China to sustain export growth; the other makes the need for a solution more urgent than it was in Japan. Both aggravate the challenges facing China’s leaders.

Post-war Japanese companies competed largely on quality and had built global brands that consumers sought by the time Japan slowed. Chinese companies compete primarily on cost; the attractiveness of their products are often largely based on lower prices. And when Japan’s economy stalled, its homogeneous society was better suited, culturally and economically, to “keep pedalling”, as they said, even if they weren’t making progress into the winds of a new economic reality. The same can hardly be said for mainland China, a diverse mix of cultures, economic orthodoxies, and haves and have-nots, all not long removed from decades of civil strife. In fact, one of the biggest challenges facing China seems to be getting top leaders to agree on what to do.

Japan’s post-war recovery was driven at first by a combination of cheap exports, helped by a cheap yen, and a focus on heavy industries like energy, steel, shipbuilding and chemicals. But quality was always present. In 1950, an American, William Deming, brought his quality control expertise to Japan, where leaders adopted it wholesale and initiated a national quality award, named for him, in 1951. By the ’80s, Japan’s manufacturers were famous globally for their innovative, high-quality products. They still are.
How China can avoid a replay of Japan’s lost decades
When it comes to economic challenges, is China more like 1990 Japan than 1997 Thailand?

 A woman is reflected on a screen showing Toyota Motor Corp’s Prius hybrid car at the company’s showroom in Tokyo. Photo: Reuters

Take automobiles. While Detroit was tweaking the size of fins on Cadillacs, Japanese engineers were lowering production costs of vehicles that were reliable, pleasing to the senses and economical. Distribution complemented product. American consumers were delighted to learn they could buy a car without haggling and have it serviced without being cheated. Japanese autos’ US market share rose steadily, even as the yen went from 300-something to 80-something per dollar. Americans wanted their Toyotas and Hondas. They also wanted their Sonys, Panasonics and Nikons.

China Inc hasn’t quite captured Western imagination the same way

When a political backlash hit from Japan’s trade surplus, Japanese auto manufacturers moved assembly to the US, answering the complaint they were taking American jobs by making American jobs, transferring technology along the way. Businesses from all over made their way to study Japanese methods at the first plant, a 1984 Toyota-GM joint venture at a shuttered GM factory in Fremont, California. Business schools added quality to their curricula. Books flooded bookstores. President Ronald Reagan announced a national quality award in 1987, helping institutionalise a movement that swept over American business. I spent several years on the front lines of this. The benefits to American industry proved real and durable.

China Inc hasn’t quite captured Western imagination the same way. While the perception of Japanese products progressed from “cheap” to “wow!” over a couple of decades, the perception of Chinese products progressed from “cheap” to “what happened to my job?” Chinese shoppers coming home from Japan and Hong Kong laden with everything from rice cookers to baby formula puncture the perception about quality. Even basics like food safety and pharmaceuticals often don’t meet minimum standards.

Visitors, some wearing masks to protect themselves from pollutants, share a light moment as they take a selfie at the Jingshan Park on a polluted day in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Because much of China’s “miracle” came simply from mobilising a massive low-cost labour force, moving production to the West won’t help. And there’s not only no movement among US businesses to study Chinese businesses, there’s a sense that they might find their own tech, stolen, if they did. Beijing’s recent propensity towards confrontational talk won’t help either. Japan was a staunch ally through the cold war. Beijing talks like another cold war is coming.

A migrant worker carries a bag of garlic at a garlic trade centre in Jinxiang county, Shandong province. China, the world’s largest socialist country, somehow now has the most billionaires, while migrant workers work in conditions that would never be acceptable in developed economies. Photo: Xinhua


Beijing talks like another cold war is coming.

 A migrant worker carries a bag of garlic at a garlic trade centre in Jinxiang county, Shandong province. China, the world’s largest socialist country, somehow now has the most billionaires, while migrant workers work in conditions that would never be acceptable in developed economies. Photo: Xinhua

But Beijing has to do something soon to revive the Chinese Dream. While 25 years after the economy stalled, life is still pretty good in rich Japan, the same can’t be said about China, whose economy is just about a fifth of Japan’s on a per-capita basis. The poor in Japan don’t have electronic toilet seats; the poor in China don’t have toilets. The ratio of management pay to frontline worker pay in Japan’s egalitarian society presents no focal point for grievance. But China, the world’s largest socialist country, somehow now has the most billionaires, while migrant workers work in conditions that would never be acceptable in developed economies. Approximately 70 million Chinese live a short walk from destitution.

Japan was a staunch ally through the cold war. Beijing talks like another cold war is coming

In short, a cultural harmony that has helped the Japanese endure their stagnation doesn’t exist in China. And while the Japanese can use the ballot box to express dissatisfaction, mainland Chinese can’t even talk about dissatisfaction.

Beijing’s moves have been jumbled. Talk of a “new” economy of consumption and services makes a nice sound bite, but probably just means a microcosm of globalisation within China’s borders. Increasing productivity is usually good, but it isn’t the answer in China’s state-owned heavy industries with excess capacity. The world hardly needs more steel or cement from China, even if it is produced more efficiently. And restructuring this, swapping that, telling shareholders they can’t sell, and reminding everyone to think positive thoughts hardly seem like technocratic solutions.

Chinese leaders’ confusion was on stark display recently, when a warning by an “authoritative figure” about increased debt was followed by the announcement of 5 trillion yuan (HK$5.8 trillion) more in infrastructure spending. This was seemingly cleared up by the publication of the text of a 20,000-word speech given by President Xi Jinping (習近平), explaining that what people thought he meant last year by “supply-side structural reform” wasn’t really what he meant. The upshot of the clarification of this confusion is that President Xi is in charge of the economy now.

Living in Asia for the past 20 years, including several in Hong Kong and Japan, I haven’t come across many people who aren’t pulling for the people of China. Economies around the region are heavily tied to China’s growth and millions of families, including mine, are tied to the people themselves. Even if you’re not a fan of Beijing, you wish them success because so much is riding on their ability to fix things. But “keep pedalling” probably isn’t the right exhortation. “Get on with it” seems more like it, assuming they can figure out what “it” is. China is in much worse shape than Japan was. This has little to do with debt policies or a hopeful conversion to a new consumer society and everything to do with half a billion Chinese wondering what’s happening to their share of the Chinese Dream.

Robert Boxwell is director of the consultancy Opera Advisors

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:
Tale of two nations


Could China’s Communist Party Be A Hindrance and Not A Help?

Many economic experts tell us at Peace and Freedom that China’s Communist Party makes it more difficult for the people of China to adapt to the new world marketplace and to become an innovation powerhouse. The difficult situation of human rights in China will increasingly create problems and social instability for China.

China’s Communist Party Congress, Great Hall of the People


Vietnam asks China to handle its misbehaving tourists — Adding to recent complaints by Hong Kong, Thailand and elsewhere

July 7, 2016

Thanh Nien News

HANOI – Thursday, July 07, 2016 11:08

Chinese nationals are fined for working illegally as tour guides in Vietnam. Photo credit: Doan Cuong/Tuoi Tre
The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism has asked Chinese officials to strictly deal with tourists who misbehave or break local laws when visiting the country.
Director Nguyen Van Tuan said tourism cooperation between the two nations has improved recently, with a significant increase in the number of Chinese arrivals.
Around 1.78 million Chinese tourists visited Vietnam last year. In the first six months, that number was 1.2 million.
But some Chinese visitors did not leave a very good impression. In a recent case, a group of Chinese tourists made a scene at a bar in the central city of Da Nang and one of them burned a Vietnamese banknote. That man was deported.
Tuan said to prevent similar situations, Chinese tourism officials need to coordinate with relevant agencies to issue strict punishment and manage tourism activities more effectively.
In related news, Da Nang authorities have issued fines of VND20 million (US$897) each against six Chinese nationals who were caught working illegally as tour guides in the city.
The city also issued a fine of VND20 million against Landscape travel agency and suspended its license for two years, saying it was opened as a front for illegal tourism services.
A Vietnamese official told Peace and Freedom, “The Chinese have money and they are very rude and arrogant. Everyone is reminded of how bad Chinese people treat others.”

Chinese tourists visiting South China Sea islands that  may not be owned by China. But might seems to make right and trumps international law.

Chinese tourists have been accused of fishing for endangered species in the South China Sea

Chinese women in military service beckon tourists to come visit the South China Sea islands.

Cruise Ship “Coconut Princess” — one of China’s new “Love Boats” for South China Sea tourists

Anti-Chinese feelings grow wherever China’s tourists go

ASEAN rebukes Beijing in South China Sea dispute

June 14, 2016


China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi at Tuesday’s Special Asean-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Reuters photo


BEIJING (AFP) – Countries in Southeast Asia have “serious concerns” over recent events in the disputed South China Sea, an unusually strongly worded communique issued by their foreign ministers in China said Tuesday.

In a rare diplomatic slap in the face for Beijing — issued on its own territory — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) offered a sharp rebuke over China’s actions in the waterway.

“We expressed our serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and which may have the potential to undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea,” its communique said without mentioning China by name.

“We stressed the importance of maintaining peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

The bloc’s finger-wagging, after a Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Kunming, comes as the region braces for a ruling by a UN tribunal on a claim brought by the Philippines against China.

“We articulated ASEAN’s commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the UNCLOS and the UN Charter,” the statement said.


Chinese fishing vessel Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186 detained in South Africa during the second week in May, 2016


 (Contains links to several related articles)

 (Cyber Security is a Global problem)



 (Links to several related articles)