Posts Tagged ‘Imperialism’

Sad lessons of WWI a sober warning for US vs. China

November 12, 2018

One hundred years ago today, the guns of Flanders Fields fell silent. Although the messy business of peace remained, the Tommies, Doughboys, Jerries and Poilus gained a reprieve from their march to the slaughterhouse. “The Great War,” it was hoped, would end all others, suppressing what is base in our natures and promoting what is tranquil.

That expectation of peace and coexistence failed, of course; conflict is part of human nature. But as the century-old echoes of artillery and machine-gun fire resonate with us today, they should pressure us to action, as another great-power rivalry returns in a different global theatre.

By Seth Cropsey
The Hill

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Each generation assumes that it lives in the most important era. The generation that repulsed Nazism and Japanese imperialism justifiably understood the significance of its task; its descendants held fast against communist totalitarianism and, after 50 years, were rewarded with victory. Any man or woman who came of age before Sept. 11, 2001, understands they now live in a different time.

In the West, at least, history seems to build to a conclusion, its highs more triumphant, its lows more violent. Such teleology is a product of the West’s Christian heritage. The modern Englishman, German, Frenchman, Italian or American may be less religiously observant than his pre-20th century counterpart, but his worldview remains colored by the New Testament’s eschatology.

This understanding feeds into contemporary man’s natural hubris. His self-importance is a contrast to the heroism and challenges of his predecessors. More worryingly, it gives him an unwarranted sense of confidence in his permanence.

Our ancient antecedents possessed their own hubris. But their eschatology lacked the beckoning green light of a luminous future that Jay Gatsby saw. The ancient Greeks saw no such light. They hoped for the triumph of good over evil but saw existence as a brutal power struggle between man and fate. Almost invariably, their greatest heroes — Heracles, Jason, Achilles and Agamemnon, among others — met tragic ends.

For civilizations like ours that expect ever-increasing prosperity and better lives for future generations, the shock of conflict can be debilitating. Before 1914, Britain, France and Germany formed the West’s vibrant core; each provided its citizens with a standard of living previously unknown, produced seminal artistic and cultural works. Four years later, Britain and France were psychologically shattered, while Germany began its slide into Hitlerite tyranny.

Even for societies prepared for cyclical violence, great-power conflict remains traumatic. Thucydides’ “Peloponnesian War” reminds us of polarization’s danger to political systems: For nearly 30 years, oligarch and democrat slaughtered one another throughout Greece’s city-states; friend and neighbor turned on one another. Thucydides would not have been surprised that neither party recovered; just over half a century after Sparta’s ostensibly final triumph, both it and Athens were forced to submit to Macedon’s hegemony.

What, then, can we learn from the past?

While England slept before WWI, its rivals grew in power and ambition. Too proud to accommodate Germany, but too miserly to confront it, Britain and its empire finally were served with a butcher’s bill of one million souls. (While 4,809 coalition soldiers died during the entirety of the Iraq War, France and Britain lost the same number of young men, on average, every three and a half days in WWI — nearly 900 Frenchmen and more than 500 Brits per day.)

Today, Americans risk the same mistake. China’s aggression mirrors Germany’s; its economic expansion has translated into political ambition – Beijing seeks to bend the world to its will. More important, China lacks easily acquirable territory. President Xi Jinping is no longer content with his predecessors’ slow, incremental expansion of Chinese territorial influence. In the final week of October, the South China Morning Post reported that Xi told his military that “it’s necessary to strengthen the mission … concentrate preparations for fighting a war. We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance … preparations for war.”

China has built an ocean-going navy capable of outclassing nearly all of America’s Pacific allies. Its objective is constructing a force capable of challenging the U.S. Navy for control of the seas. Just as Germany’s kaiser and his allies probed in Africa and the Balkans, China today presses America and its partners throughout the Western Pacific. If American power and global engagement do not meet the challenge, China, like Germany, increasingly will be tempted to act.

Of course, China’s relative power position will not persist indefinitely. More dangerous, and more likely than an American resurgence, is a global anti-Chinese coalition. China’s Central Asian expansion could encourage Russian paranoia; the potential for an encircling alliance between India, Japan and Russia will increase with time.

Germany’s leaders, particularly Moltke the Younger, knew that Russia’s economic and military modernization would tip the European balance of power away from Berlin by the 1920s. Like Germany, China may be tempted to act before it is too late.

China’s leaders are more farsighted than Germany’s. They are creating multiple “windpipes” for crises, allowing them to manipulate future confrontations in their favor. Another round of American tariffs will be much less effective if China can rely on Latin American raw materials, Central Asian and African minerals and energy deposits, and European markets. China is using its wealth and political weight to transcend geographical limits, from Burma to the Suez, the Mediterranean to northern Europe, and throughout Latin America.

If history provides lessons, one is that man frequently ignores the counsel of the past. Whether nations confront their enemies or rationalize their fears, the reckoning comes.

Ironically, the West today may avoid the trap of great-power conflict — by effectively surrendering preemptively. If the generation that led Europe into, and throughout, WWI was incomprehensibly willing to accept slaughter, today’s West is roiled by self-doubt and losing the introspection to understand what is worth fighting for.

Some in the West need no help from China, Russia, Iran or North Korea to list the West’s innumerable crimes, to judge that it no longer deserves to exist. They are more interested in defending ethnic identity than Western values.

Institutions are fragile. Absent men and nations willing to fight for and preserve them, they vanish. But within our countries, particularly our democracies, this is a truth easily forgotten.

The screams of Corcyra’s warring factions are a warning of what happens when a civilization commits suicide; the war that ended a century ago today is a testimony to brutality and stupidity. It also is a witness to the spiritedness of societies that believe in themselves.

Seth Cropsey is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and director of Hudson’s Center for American Seapower. He served as a naval officer and as deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Navy in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations.

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https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/415970-sad-lessons-of-wwi-a-sober-warning-for-us-vs-china
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South China Sea: Do China and the U.S. Know Each Other’s Intentions

September 26, 2018

Mark J. Valencia says Washington and Beijing both act as though they know what the other wants in the South China Sea, but may be falling victim to worst-case thinking that risks further conflict

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 2:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 6:19am

 

The visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month to MalaysiaSingapore and Indonesia signals a new era of competition between the United States and China in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea.

China critics in the US frequently warn of what they assume are China’s dangerous intentions regarding the South China Sea – and what it may do to achieve its goals. They say it wants to dominate the sea militarily as part of its ambitious and aggressive expansionism and that, therefore, it will continue to militarise the features it occupies and undertake major naval exercises there.

They say China may interfere with freedom of commercial navigation and essentially control all activities there, including fishing, and oil and gas exploration and development. To accomplish this, it will continue to intimidate rival claimants, coerce them via economic aid and “debt traps” and defy – and change – the existing applicable intentional rules.

Reinforcing these warnings, the US has officially declared China a “strategic competitor” and a “revisionist nation”. It has thus made clear it considers China a potential enemy, and it is presumed that “the gnomes in the basement” of the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department are constructing and planning for worst-case scenarios – including war.

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China has built seven military bases near the Philippines

More specifically, the US has repeatedly criticised China’s claims, actions and policies in the South China Sea and has even publicly embarrassed it by barring it from the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises until it has “ceased all land reclamation activities in the South China Sea” and “removed all weapons from its land reclamation sites”.

But we do not read as much about what China’s strategic thinkers believe the US intentions are in the South China Sea and what they think the US might do to achieve its goals there. Indeed, because of this information deficiency – or what the US calls “lack of transparency” – US strategic analysts are left to speculate on China’s intentions.

However, in doing so, they may be underestimating China’s ability to project and plan for what it views as worst-case scenarios regarding the US “threat”. Therefore, it may be useful to begin a discussion of China’s perspective regarding the South China Sea with a hypothetical tapestry of China’s thinking.

Some strategic thinkers in China have concluded that China and the US are almost certain to clash militarily because of “civilisational” and ideological differences – as well as the sheer desire of both to dominate. Indeed, some think the US wants to continue to dominate the South China Sea militarily as part of its overall strategy to contain and constrain China. They expect various specific US moves to try to reach this goal.

From their perspective, the US is trying to prevent its rightful domination of its “near seas” like the South China Sea and in doing so is supporting former Western colonies that have been “stealing” its fish and petroleum for decades in collaboration with outside Western entities.

Much to their chagrin, they point out that after agreeing in the 2002 China-Asean Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea to resolve the disputes “through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned”, some of the other claimants have welcomed the US and even their former arch-enemy Japan to “intervene” in the issues.

In the military sphere, they expect the US to increase its operations there, as well as exercises with, and port visits to, allies and friends in the region, and to attempt to obtain access to more places for refurbishing and refreshing its military. They also expect the US to increase the frequency and scope of its freedom of navigation operations challenging China’s claims, and to try to persuade its allies to participate – or at least to undertake their own.

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Japanese warship KAGA

Validating these fears, US freedom of navigation operations targeting China’s claims in the South China Sea have already increased under President Donald Trump’s administration. And, Japan’s largest Maritime Self-Defence Force naval vessel – the helicopter carrier Kaga – and its escorts recently held exercises with the US Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier strike group in the South China Sea. Moreover, earlier this month, a UK warship challenged China’s claim of baselines around the Paracel Islands.

These analysts also project that the US will continue to interfere in the Asean-China negotiations to formulate a code of conduct for the South China Sea. They also expect the US to increase its efforts to pull China’s rivals like the Philippines and Vietnam deeper into its orbit with economic and military help, as well as veiled threats of “punishment” if they stray too far towards China.

In one worst-case scenario, they think the US will encourage these rivals to take unilateral action against China’ claims and actions in the South China Sea, with vague hints of backing them up if they are attacked. In another, they project that the US will implement a blockade of its economic lifeline – particularly its oil and gas imports – traversing the Malacca Strait and the South China Sea.

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China is interested in exploiting the oil reserves and other natural resources of the South China Sea

In the broader strategic arena, these analysts expect the US to stoke the Taiwan issue and encourage Japan to step up its military activities in the East China Sea as ways of distracting and pressuring China on the South China Sea. They also see the US Indo-Pacific Strategy and the Quad, a potential – but unlikely – partnership between AustraliaIndia, Japan and the US – as a means to contain it, both in general and in the South China Sea.

One may argue that some or all of this is paranoia on both sides – and it may well be. Nevertheless, this is a realistic hypothetical description of the strategic view from China. You may have a different set of assumptions and hypotheses, but the point is that a one-sided perspective is unhelpful and only stimulates a spiral of worst-case-scenario thinking and formulation of plans to counter them.

Yes, China has behaved badly in the South China Sea. So have other claimants – including the US. All need to tone down their rhetoric, incorporate balance in their strategic analyses and be realistic in diagnoses, prognoses and prescriptions. Above all, there is a need for China, the US and their strategic analysts to understand how the other sees the problem. They should look for areas of compromise rather than simply spin out worst-case scenarios based on questionable assumptions.

Mark J. Valencia is an adjunct senior scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Haikou, China

https://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/united-states/article/2165653/south-china-sea-how-well-do-china-and-us

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior. The U.S. views China’s base building in the South China Sea as unlawful and similar to Russia’s incursions into Georgia, Crimea and Ukraine.

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Why China Is Brutally Suppressing Muslims

September 18, 2018

The assault on the Uighurs serves Beijing’s imperial ambitions, which require stable land borders.

Outside a mosque in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, 2017.
Outside a mosque in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, 2017. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGE
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The repression of the Turkic Uighur Muslim community in western China—including the reported internment of up to a million people in secret camps—is a key part of Beijing’s new imperial policy. Only by understanding the dynamics of Chinese empire can one grasp this brutal campaign.

Xinjiang, a province home to millions of Uighurs, translates to “New Dominion.” The area has been historically and geographically known as East Turkestan. Though the Chinese state has existed for more than 3,500 years, Xinjiang first became part of China’s Qing Dynasty only in the mid-18th century. Since then it has often been in a condition the British explorer Fitzroy Maclean labeled as “sustained turbulence.”

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When I first traveled through Xinjiang and interviewed Uighurs in 1994, their hatred of what they considered ethnic Han Chinese occupiers was complete. “This is Turkestan, not China. Chinese don’t learn our language, and many of us don’t learn theirs. Even on a personal level, relations are bad,” one young Uighur man told me.

Relations have worsened since. A deep, unspoken reason why China has never liberalized is its authoritarian leadership fears ethnic rebellion. Uprisings of this sort happened in the outer reaches of the Soviet Union after it liberalized in the 1980s. So China has kept its political system closed, while simultaneously pushing into Central Asia through diplomacy and economic interventions. It is building vast infrastructure projects in the region to ally with the Turkic Muslims of the former Soviet Union and deny China’s own Muslims a friendly rear base for future rebellion. China’s push beyond its borders ultimately has to do with demons within.

Because China historically has never been secure on land, particularly in this western region, it has not had the luxury of going to sea. Except for the Indian Ocean exploits of Adm. Zheng He during the early Ming Dynasty, China has had a demonstrably weak naval tradition. Yet China, mostly secure on land today, aims to posses the world’s largest navy. The intensifying suppression of the Uighur Muslims is the final act in this process. The Belt and Road Initiative—forging transportation corridors by land and sea across Eurasia—requires the complete subjugation of the Uighur population.

The heart of this 21st-century Silk Route is Central Asia. By building roads, railways and energy pipelines across the former Soviet Turkic republics, China will connect with Iran. A Chinese-Iranian economic and infrastructure alliance has the potential to dominate Eurasia, sidelining Russia. But this requires a compliant Uighur population, since all these road and energy pathways between coastal China and the Middle East must pass through Xinjiang.

The Chinese plan is to dilute traditional Uighur culture by forcing people into regimented apartment blocks and modernizing folkloric markets. They also seek to connect towns with new highways and high-speed rail, as I saw on a return visit to Xinjiang in 2015. And they are placing many thousands of Uighurs in internment camps while raising living standards for others—classic carrot-and-stick tactics. All this is designed to end Uighur Muslim culture as it exists today, to complete the Han Chinese domination of its most contentious borderland.

The media have focused on China drowning countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka in debt, so that it is awarded control of the ports and highways it builds there. Undercovered is the ethnic dimension of Chinese grand strategy across Eurasia. It deserves more attention: The desert home of the Uighur is the potential weak link in China’s Silk Route nexus.

Don’t underestimate national pride and resentment in this process. Hong Kong and Macao have been taken back from the European colonialists, formally ending an era of humiliating foreign intrusion in China’s core. Outer Mongolia’s sovereignty has been undermined significantly by Chinese economic interests. Tibet has been subjugated. Xinjiang now looms as the last holdout before Greater China is truly realized on land, allowing China to concentrate fully on dominating the East and South China seas. In turn this will open up the Indian Ocean, where China has been building and helping develop new ports between Myanmar and Djibouti. Who says that the age of empire has passed?

Because the U.S. is located half a world away, it is at a distinct disadvantage in thwarting this new imperial rise. Washington still has a geopolitical interest in making sure no individual state holds sway over the Eastern Hemisphere as the U.S. once influenced the Western Hemisphere. A Chinese Silk Route that runs through Iran and beyond, with a naval presence over the navigable southern rimland of Eurasia, would do that.

A policy of zero-sum bilateralism—the current American approach—forfeits the strongest asset the U.S. has in this struggle: a system of alliances undergirded by the American ideals of free markets, civil society and human rights. In this competition, holding China to account for its human-rights violations against the Uighurs is a component in a realist approach that also seeks to limit the Chinese navy in the South China Sea. Just as China’s suppression of the Uighurs is part of its grand strategy, America’s commitment to human rights in China should be part of its own approach.

Mr. Kaplan is author of “The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First Century” (Random House, 2018). He is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a senior adviser at Eurasia Group.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-china-is-brutally-suppressing-muslims-1537129695?mod=cx_picks&cx_navSource=cx_picks&cx_tag=contextual&cx_artPos=4#cxrecs_s

Imperialism Will Be Dangerous for China

September 18, 2018

Beijing risks blowback as it exports surplus economic capacity to Africa and Asia.

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A man walks by a propaganda poster in Beijing, Aug. 28.
A man walks by a propaganda poster in Beijing, Aug. 28. PHOTO: ANDY WONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

China’s real problem isn’t the so-called Thucydides trap, which holds that a rising power like China must clash with an established power like the U.S., the way ancient Athens clashed with Sparta. It was Lenin, not Thucydides, who foresaw the challenge the People’s Republic is now facing: He called it imperialism and said it led to economic collapse and war.

Lenin defined imperialism as a capitalist country’s attempt to find markets and investment opportunities abroad when its domestic economy is awash with excess capital and production capacity. Unless capitalist powers can keep finding new markets abroad to soak up the surplus, Lenin theorized, they would face an economic implosion, throwing millions out of work, bankrupting thousands of companies and wrecking their financial systems. This would unleash revolutionary forces threatening their regimes.

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Under these circumstances, there was only one choice: expansion. In the “Age of Imperialism” of the 19th and early-20th centuries, European powers sought to acquire colonies or dependencies where they could market surplus goods and invest surplus capital in massive infrastructure projects.

Ironically, this is exactly where “communist” China stands today. Its home market is glutted by excess manufacturing and construction capacity created through decades of subsidies and runaway lending. Increasingly, neither North America, Europe nor Japan is willing or able to purchase the steel, aluminum and concrete China creates. Nor can China’s massively oversized infrastructure industry find enough projects to keep it busy. Its rulers have responded by attempting to create a “soft” empire in Asia and Africa through the Belt and Road Initiative.

Many analysts hoped that when China’s economy matured, the country would come to look more like the U.S., Europe and Japan. A large, affluent middle class would buy enough goods and services to keep industry humming. A government welfare state would ease the transition to a middle-class society.

That future is now out of reach, key Chinese officials seem to believe. Too many powerful interest groups have too much of a stake in the status quo for Beijing’s policy makers to force wrenching changes on the Chinese economy. But absent major reforms, the danger of a serious economic shock is growing.

The Belt and Road Initiative was designed to sustain continued expansion in the absence of serious economic reform. Chinese merchants, bankers and diplomats combed the developing world for markets and infrastructure projects to keep China Inc. solvent. In a 2014 article in the South China Morning Post, a Chinese official said one objective of the BRI is the “transfer of overcapacity overseas.” Call it “imperialism with Chinese characteristics.”

But as Lenin observed a century ago, the attempt to export overcapacity to avoid chaos at home can lead to conflict abroad. He predicted rival empires would clash over markets, but other dynamics also make this strategy hazardous. Nationalist politicians resist “development” projects that saddle their countries with huge debts to the imperialist power. As a result, imperialism is a road to ruin.

China’s problems today are following this pattern. Pakistan, the largest recipient of BRI financing, thinks the terms are unfair and wants to renegotiate. Malaysia, the second largest BRI target, wants to scale back its participation since pro-China politicians were swept out of office. Myanmar and Nepal have canceled BRI projects. After Sri Lanka was forced to grant China a 99-year lease on the Hambantota Port to repay Chinese loans, countries across Asia and Africa started rereading the fine print of their contracts, muttering about unequal treaties.

Meanwhile, China’s mercantilist trade policies—the subsidies, the intellectual-property theft, and the coordinated national efforts to identify new target industries and make China dominant in them—are keeping Europe and Japan in Washington’s embrace despite their dislike of President Trump.

China’s chief problem isn’t U.S. resistance to its rise. It is that the internal dynamics of its economic system force its rulers to choose between putting China through a wrenching and destabilizing economic adjustment, or else pursuing an expansionist development policy that will lead to conflict and isolation abroad. Lenin thought that capitalist countries in China’s position were doomed to a series of wars and revolutions.

Fortunately, Lenin was wrong. Seventy years of Western history since World War II show that with the right economic policies, a mix of rising purchasing power and international economic integration can transcend the imperialist dynamics of the 19th and early 20th centuries. But unless China can learn from those examples, it will remain caught in the “Lenin trap” in which its strategy for continued domestic stability produces an ever more powerful anti-China coalition around the world.

Appeared in the September 18, 2018, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/imperialism-will-be-dangerous-for-china-1537225875

Oliver Stone, American Liberals Give Warning To Japan

August 18, 2013

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On tour: Director Oliver Stone drops by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo to hold a press conference with historian Peter Kuznick. | AFP-JIJI

by Philip Brasor

Special To The Japan Times
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It’s August, when the Japanese media’s attention turns to peace, or, at least, the absence of war. The anniversaries of the atomic bombings and subsequent surrender occasion print and broadcast discussions of what Japan learned from its bloody mid-century military campaign. For most people the fact that the country has enjoyed stability and prosperity since then is proof that lessons were learned.But this year reminiscence has taken on greater meaning with the resurgence of the Liberal Democratic Party and its drive to revise Article 9, which prevents Japan from remilitarizing. By coincidence, the press has been covering the visit of filmmaker Oliver Stone and American University historian Peter Kuznick, whose 10-part documentary “The Untold History of the United States” was shown on NHK earlier this year.
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Though ostensibly in Japan to promote the series, Stone and Kuznick have been more than willing to comment on Japan’s position vis-a-vis American military power. At the pair’s press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club last week, Stone was vehement in his condemnation of U.S. foreign policy since World War II. Japanese reporters have fixated on his assertion that the atomic bombings were carried out for racist and strategic reasons, and not to save lives, which is the accepted American narrative, but Stone’s main message is that Japan should not join the U.S. in what he characterized as the latter’s mission to make the world safe for American wealth.
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Besides, as Kuznick pointed out, Japan already has one of the largest militaries in the world in terms of spending (it ranked fifth in 2012). This money has been used to bolster Japan’s self-defense capabilities, but America wants Japan to eliminate restrictions on the country’s right to participate in collective self-defense, meaning coming to the aid of the U.S. if the U.S. or its “interests” are attacked.
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In a recent editorial, the Yomiuri Shimbun summed up the LDP’s position not as caving in to American pressure but rather as owning up to the obligations of a “real country,” as former LDP honcho Ichiro Ozawa used to put it. The Yomiuri was hailing the appointment of Ichiro Komatsu to the post of director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau.
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Komatsu is in favor of participating in collective self-defense, and his taking charge of the office that interprets the Constitution for the administration is a sign the government is getting serious about moving beyond the “minimum action required for the nation’s self-defense.” Yomiuri approves of the appointment based on the same reasoning the American military has cited since the 1950s in its bid to re-arm Japan, namely that Tokyo must respond to “changes in the security environment” of East Asia.In other words, Japan must be ready to fend off attacks from North Korea and China.
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The paper contends that such capabilities are “the right of every country,” though it doesn’t mention attendant responsibilities. Collective self-defense, according to the Yomiuri, “ensures Japan’s peace,” avoiding the stickier but more desirable aim of ensuring peace throughout East Asia, something an offense-capable Japan would undermine, as Stone pointed out. Though Stone doesn’t deny that North Korea and China have belligerent tendencies, Japan’s position as a beacon of hard-won peace in the region is undeniable despite its occasional nationalistic eruptions and reluctance to come clean on its imperialist past. Besides, if Japan fights alongside the U.S., it is joining the most belligerent power in the world. How many foreign wars has the U.S. fought since 1945?
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Stone speculated it’s only a matter of time before Japanese soldiers “are being sent home in body bags.”

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Komatsu’s appointment means that the LDP hopes to get around the Constitution. Asahi Shimbun recently interviewed Shinichi Kitaoka, the head of the prime minister’s panel on security issues, who says Japan can participate in collective self-defense while still keeping its military capability “to a minimum,” but legal restrictions may already be meaningless. An expert quoted by the Tokyo Shimbun called the recent Red Flag Alaska exercises, in which the Self-Defense Forces provided backup for American B-52s, a violation of Article 9 since B-52s are offensive aircraft.

If there’s any reason to hope that Article 9 remains in tact it’s the fact that it still is. In 2002, NHK aired a documentary (available on-demand) about the Y committee, a group of former Imperial Navy officers who met secretly in 1951 to revive Japan’s navy with the backing of the U.S. The committee despaired that “no one is willing to sacrifice themselves to protect Japan” anymore, without contemplating why that was. Public sentiment came to the fore after the Japanese coast guard was commandeered by the U.S. for minesweeping duty in the Korean War and a boat was sunk. The coast guard quit the war immediately. Eventually, the Y committee helped form the Marine Self-Defense Forces with all the old navy trappings (prewar military flags, bugles, elitist attitudes) but no offensive capabilities. It was a play version of the Imperial Navy.

Another NHK documentary aired last week described the pressure the U.S. brought to bear on Japan at the start of the 1991 Gulf War to provide combat personnel. Japan sent only money thanks to then Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu’s strict interpretation of Article 9. Conservatives in the government groused at the humiliation. Former U.S. Ambassador Michael Armacost, whose main job was apparently getting Japan to remilitarize, said that the U.S. should take advantage of “Japan’s fear of being left out,” but in the end Kaifu acknowledged that the people still had “a strong mistrust of the military.”

There’s no reason to think that feeling has significantly changed. In May, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was asked if he might also revise Article 18, which prohibits “involuntary servitude,” since it could block the institution of a military draft. Abe said no, apparently confident that young Japanese will volunteer in sufficient numbers once the country can wage war again. It all depends on what lessons they’ve learned from history, and not just Japan’s.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe Torn Between “The Honorable” in Japan What China Sees As Signs of Moving Toward International War

August 16, 2013

By Martin Fackler

Official visits to Yasukuni have long been a tense point in  regional relations because victims of Japanese wartime aggression

Anti-Japan protesters demonstrate with Japanese military flags with Chinese words, " Down with Japan militarism "  in Hong Kong.
Anti-Japan protesters demonstrate with Japanese military flags with Chinese  words, ” Down with Japan militarism ”  in Hong Kong. Photo:  AP

Tokyo: Japan’s hawkish new prime minister, Shinzo Abe,  observed the anniversary of his nation’s defeat in World War II by sending an  offering to a controversial Tokyo war shrine instead of visiting it himself, a  compromise move meant to try to satisfy his right-wing base without inflaming  passions in the region.

Mr Abe’s deliberations on a possible visit to the Yasukuni Shrine – which he  had promised before becoming prime minister in December – were closely watched  as an early test of whether he would revert to the strident nationalism of his  first troubled tenure as the country’s leader. Critics said the prime minister  had been holding back for months to help appeal to a wider audience before  parliamentary elections, which his party won in a landslide last month.

A war museum on Yasukuni’s premises casts Japan instead as the liberator of  Asia from Western imperialism

The prime minister’s balancing act highlighted his struggle since taking  office to juggle two conflicting political goals: a deeply felt personal desire  to revise what his supporters call an overly negative postwar portrayal of  Japan’s conduct during the war, and an effort to solidify ties in the region to  help the United States offset China’s growing strength.

Members of the nationalist movement "Ganbare Nippon" march  with Japanese national flags while paying tribute to the war dead near Yasukuni Shrine.
Members of the nationalist movement “Ganbare Nippon” march  with Japanese  national flags while paying tribute to the war dead near Yasukuni Shrine.  Photo: Reuters

Mr Abe has largely avoided touching on delicate historical issues since he  took office, with the exception of another offering he made to Yasukuni in  April. Mr Abe’s supporters say he is responding at least in part to pressure  from US officials, who fear that historical issues may isolate Japan, the United  States’ largest Asian ally, at a time when the US must cope with China and a  nuclear North Korea.

Mr Abe had refused to say clearly for days whether he would go to the Shinto  shrine, which honours the nation’s war dead, including executed war criminals.  The offering of an envelope full of cash was signed by Abe and delivered by an  aide, Koichi Hagyuda, who said that Abe regretted not being able to come, a  secretary for Hagyuda said.

The Japanese government’s chief Cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, described  Mr Abe’s offering as a personal gesture, not an official one. Separately, three  low-level Cabinet members paid what they called private visits to the  shrine.

Official visits to Yasukuni have long been a tense point in regional  relations because victims of Japanese wartime aggression, including China and  South Korea, view the site as a potent symbol that Japan remains unrepentant for  its past.

Mr Abe’s gesture failed to mollify China, which is locked with Tokyo in a  bitter standoff over islands that China says Japan claimed in the late 1800s as  one of the aspiring imperial power’s earliest attempts to impose its will on the  region.

On Thursday, China summoned the Japanese ambassador in Beijing to “express  strong protest and stern condemnation” over the Cabinet members’ visits, said  Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Hong called the shrine  visits a “brazen challenge to historical justice.”

Many Japanese conservatives insist they have the right to visit the shrine to  pay respects to their nation’s war dead, including the 3.1 million military  personnel and civilians who perished in World War II. But the shrine has also  become a rallying point for Japanese nationalists who dispute the historical  view of Japan as an aggressor that they say was a product of the postwar Tokyo  war crimes trials.

A war museum on Yasukuni’s premises casts Japan instead as the liberator of  Asia from Western imperialism, a portrayal that has drawn protests from Asian  neighbours and liberal scholars. Several years ago, the US Embassy also quietly  protested the museum’s description of Japan having been lured into attacking  Pearl Harbour in 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The shrine’s conflicted symbolism also leads many Japanese to stay away. That  includes Emperor Akihito and his wife, Empress Michiko, who instead presided  over the Japanese government’s official ceremony, which was held across the  street from Yasukuni at the Budokan martial arts arena. Standing below a large  Japanese flag, the emperor and empress observed a minute of silence before a  crowd of about 6000 people, including family members of fallen Japanese sailors  and soldiers.

No Japanese emperor has visited Yasukuni since the mid-1970s, when Emperor  Hirohito objected to the decision to enshrine the souls of top war criminals,  according to documents made public in the mid-2000s.

Mr Abe, who was at the Budokan ceremony, laid flowers at Japan’s grave for  its unknown soldiers and pledged to contribute to world peace. However, his  speech there failed to express remorse for the suffering that Japan inflicted on  other Asian nations during the war, something that previous prime ministers have  included in their anniversary speeches.

The visits on Thursday by the three Cabinet ministers received intense media  attention in Japan and abroad. Other lawmakers from the conservative governing  party, the Liberal Democrats, also visited the shrine.

In a televised speech on Thursday in Seoul to observe the end of the war and  of Japanese colonial rule, South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye, warned that  it would be difficult “to build trust for the future if Japan doesn’t have the  courage to face history” and consider “the pain of others.”

New York Times

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/world/japans-pm-shin
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Vietnam: Playing With Fire — Facing Down China Can Mean Dire Consequences

July 7, 2013

Facing off against China

By David Brown
Asia Sentinel

Follow America and save the country; follow China and save the party. This saying, heard everywhere in Vietnam, distills the geopolitical dilemma facing its ruling Communist Party.

Forty years after the last American troops left Vietnam, the party that won independence and unified the nation has lost much of its legitimacy. No amount of harking back to the virtues of Ho Chi Minh and his comrades can restore its élan nor, it seems, root out systemic corruption. The regime’s biggest liability is its failure to right a faltering economy. But public opinion is also scornful of its inability to defend Vietnam’s interests against China. 

From the perspective of the man in the street in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Beijing has thrown off the cloak of “peaceful rise” and reverted to its historic role of regional bully. Its farcical claim to the marine and mineral resources of the entire South China Sea is only the most prominent example. China’s construction of a cascade of dams on the upper Mekong in Yunnan province and support for a plan to build a further 11 dams downstream in Laos threaten to wipe out the annual flood surge that sustains the fertility of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region.

Chinese enterprises are also pursuing Laos’ mineral and lumber resources, challenging Vietnamese hegemony in its backyard. In Vietnam itself, growing investment by Chinese engineering, construction and mining firms—notably Chinalco’s multi-billion dollar bauxite project in the central highlands—has drawn heavy criticism. Cheap and often shoddy Chinese goods have flooded Vietnam’s markets, crushing local manufacturers.

The Trung sisters ran off the Chinese. Can Vietnam do it again?

The man in the street wants to hit back. It doesn’t occur to him that Vietnam’s armed forces are no match for China’s or that Vietnam is highly vulnerable to economic retaliation. Western analysts typically attribute Chinese “assertiveness” to surging popular nationalism and to over-zealous security agencies, but to ordinary Vietnamese it is obvious that Chinese aggression is coordinated in Beijing. That is nothing new: the grand theme of the nation’s history, everyone learns in school, is dogged and ultimately successful resistance against invaders. And most of the armies sweeping across Vietnam’s borders for the past 2000 years have been Chinese. There is no reason why it should be different this time.

Prickly partnership

Vietnam and China share a 1,350-km border and much more. Both countries are Leninist states with a political culture shaped by neo-Confucian ideas of merit-based hierarchy and well-tended relationships. Their ruling Communist Parties have survived by shedding Marxist economics while nurturing a pervasive state-security apparatus. Their “socialist market economies” allow vibrant free markets to exist alongside thousands of state-owned enterprises, which dominate heavy industry. Both Beijing and Hanoi are tormented by the lively criticism of internet-enabled dissidents.

These shared cultural and political factors underpin a web of party-to-party and state-to-state consultations aimed at sustaining cooperation between the regimes. Nonetheless, bilateral relations have normally been prickly. China’s far greater geopolitical and economic weight means its relationship with Vietnam is fundamentally unequal. When Chinese people pay attention to Vietnam at all, they often regard it as a willful province that somehow slipped loose from its moorings.  

Conversely, Vietnam’s 90 million residents are always uncomfortably aware of their northern neighbors, who are 15 times more numerous and whose economy is 50 times larger. Yet the Vietnamese will not kowtow to Beijing when territorial integrity is at stake. Ho Chi Minh excepted, their greatest heroes are generals who forced dynasty after dynasty of Chinese invaders to withdraw.

As recently as 1979, some 20,000 Chinese soldiers died when Deng Xiaoping sought to “teach Vietnam a lesson” for toppling Beijing’s Maoist protégés in Cambodia and forging an alliance with the Soviet Union.  By the mid-1990s, China and Vietnam had slipped back into a relatively comfortable relationship. Both nations were preoccupied by internal economic reform, the Soviet Union had disintegrated, and China was advertising its “peaceful rise” to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which now included Vietnam. Bilateral trade was expanding, there was discussion of upgrading “trade corridors” from landlocked southwest China to Vietnamese ports, and negotiations to demarcate the land border were progressing well.

Even the rival claims to ownership of the reefs, rocks and shoals of the South China Sea seemed under good management, if no closer to solution. All that changed, however, in 2009. Whether by design or diplomatic mishap, China was no longer content to leave the overlapping claims on the shelf.

In May that year, China presented a crude map at the United Nations claiming “indisputable sovereignty” over 80 percent of the South China Sea.  Tensions escalated sharply thereafter, drawing in non-regional nations—including the United States—and challenging Asean cohesion.

Map locator

Vietnam and the Philippines have borne the brunt of the Chinese drive to create “facts” that, although incompatible with international law, are difficult to rebut. Nationalist passions are boiling in all three nations, threatening armed skirmishes at sea. Hanoi’s policy of deferring to China is in tatters. 

Many of Vietnam’s non-party elite, as well as some within the party itself, believe the solution is to seek a de facto economic and military alliance with the US. Yet senior members of the party remain highly skeptical of US intentions, viewing themselves as locked in an existential conflict with Western liberalism, capitalism and imperialism. They have yielded only grudgingly to reforms aimed at establishing the nation’s global economic competitiveness and engaging the US as a counterbalance to China.

Party stalwarts gag on American demands that Vietnam allow greater democratic freedoms, fearing that Washington’s true objective is to bring down the Communist regime. For all the recent frictions, they do not believe China’s leaders will betray a ruling Communist Party so like their own. 

Still waiting for a free lunch

In truth, China these days cares a lot less about helping its fellow Communists cling to power than it does about exploiting regional resources and extending its economic tentacles. With a sackful of export credits and eligibility for concessional loans from state-owned banks, Chinese firms have become major players in infrastructure development in Vietnam, particularly construction of thermal power plants. 

By and large the Chinese firms are not squeezing out Vietnamese contractors, instead grabbing business from Japanese, South Korean, US or European competitors by entering bottom-dollar bids. But critics accuse Chinese enterprises of employing their own countrymen and producing work of low quality, with frequent missed deadlines and cost overruns. Vietnamese security hawks further assert that dependence on Chinese contractors in strategic sectors like energy undermines national security.

Another bone of contention is Vietnam’s mounting trade deficit with China, its largest trading partner, which economist Tran Van Tho calls an “industrial tsunami.” Vietnam’s trade with the other nine Asean countries and with Japan is roughly balanced, and it has a huge surplus with the European Union and the US. But with China it ran a US$16.4 billion deficit in 2012, giving China a bilateral trade surplus of 40 percent.

The bulk of Chinese exports are intermediate goods for assembly in Vietnam’s export processing plants: fabric, zippers, buttons, wires, circuit boards, and assorted widgets. But China also provides more expensive capital goods—machinery to equip Vietnam’s factories and build infrastructure.

A third and very visible component is consumer goods, priced to undercut domestic competitors. Vietnamese newspapers regularly feature stories alleging that China dumps dangerous or shoddy goods, and provocative moves by Beijing in the South China Sea reflexively result in calls to boycott Chinese wares.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. According to economists’ predictions, Vietnam should be eating Guangdong’s lunch by now. With its much lower labor costs, Vietnam was the logical destination for factories from China’s export-processing center migrating to cheaper climes. The labor-intensive garment and footwear industries have long accounted for about 20 percent of Vietnam’s exports; they got their start in the 1990s when China’s garment and footwear exports were capped under EU and US quota schemes.

Yet labor productivity remains low, real wages rose at 10 percent a year in 2006-11, and Vietnam has largely failed to lure manufacturers from their bases in China. As labor costs continue to rise in both China and Vietnam, factories are migrating instead to Cambodia, Bangladesh and even Myanmar.

It is not all bad news. As the global economy slowly recovers, Vietnam’s foreign-invested sector is growing once again. Rather than shifting factories from China, some multinationals and their contractors have diversified their manufacturing bases by opening additional plants in Vietnam. Anecdotal evidence suggests a pronounced trend toward higher quality investments, which can benefit from substantial tax breaks.

Firms establishing or expanding assembly plants include household names like Canon, Samsung, Intel and IBM, Hitachi, Panasonic and Nokia. Yet nearly all the inputs to Vietnam’s manufactured exports are imported, some from China. All that is added in Vietnam, typically, is labor—something China can do more efficiently and on a much larger scale.

Comprehensive strategic blunder


In 2008, capping a warmer phase in relations, Chinese party chief Hu Jintao and his Vietnamese counterpart, Nong Duc Manh, declared a bilateral “comprehensive strategic cooperative relationship.” And if China is truly interested in nurturing a special relationship with Vietnam – and thereby strengthening its diplomatic muscle in Southeast Asia – Beijing is in a position to help.

Although Vietnam’s rulers admit to no anxiety over the bilateral trade imbalance, it is nevertheless a chronic political liability. China imports plenty of rubber, coal, oil, lumber and agricultural products, but is uninterested in Vietnam’s industrial goods. Friendly moves to pump up industrial imports would cost China little and be very good news for Hanoi.

Above all, a sincere proposal for joint development of mineral resources and co-management of fish stocks in the disputed area of the South China Sea could be a game-changer—both for relations with Vietnam and with Asean.

Yet the reality is that the relationship between Beijing and Hanoi has become dangerously unstable since the agreement in 2008. Chinese pressure on political and strategic issues has boxed in Vietnam’s leaders, arguably threatening their survival. Beijing has bolstered its standing among Chinese nationalists by flexing its muscle in the South China Sea, while Hanoi’s ineffectual attempts to fend off Chinese provocations have steadily eroded its position among nationalists at home.

Short of armed conflict, it is hard to imagine what more China could do to hasten the downfall of its would-be friends and ideological allies in the world’s only other “market socialist” regime. In all probability, this would bring in new leaders looking to cozy up to the US – an entirely self-defeating result.

More worrying, an armed conflict between is not out of the question. China has vastly more firepower than Vietnam, but Hanoi is ramping up its air and sea deterrent capabilities. If pressed against a wall, history suggests that the Vietnamese will hit back. A miscalculation by either side could result in a clash. This would be sharp and bloody, with unpredictable consequences. China can continue playing the bully – but it is playing with fire.

(David Brown is a retired diplomat and regular contributor to Asia Sentinel. He wrote this for the Hong Kong-based Gavekal Dragonomics’ China Economic Quarterly.)

In Vietnam, Anti-China protesters made China’s flag into a pirate flag

Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, back center, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, back right, watch as military officers shake hands during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday, June 19, 2013. AP/Mark Ralston, Pool

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Saigon’s Chinese–going, going, gone

Written by David Brown

When the Vietnam War finally ended in 1975, roughly 4 percent of Vietnam’s population was of Chinese extraction. Perhaps 1.5 million were citizens of the defeated southern regime, of whom more than half lived in Cholon, Saigon’s Chinese quarter. Only around 300,000 lived in the victorious northern half of the country.                                 

Vietnam’s Chinese community had prospered over the years. Merchants of Chinese origin monopolized wholesale trade in the south and dominated manufacturing and retail trade. The descendants of refugees from the collapsing Ming dynasty, who settled in Vietnam in the mid-17th century, were substantially assimilated. Yet the majority, offspring of much more recent migrants, maintained their regional Chinese cultures. As in many other parts of Southeast Asia, their outsider status and economic success created resentment among locals.

Greed, ideology and paranoia made the largely bourgeois Chinese community a natural target for the victorious northerners. Within a year of Saigon’s fall, the Communists singled out Chinese immigrants as a principal obstacle to Vietnam’s construction of a Soviet-socialist economy. As Hanoi’s relations with Beijing deteriorated, it began to regard Vietnam’s Chinese as a potential fifth column. Although there was little to no evidence of their guilt in either respect, the Chinese community’s relative wealth was an irresistible target for the cash-strapped victors in the civil war.

Late in 1976, the regime closed all Chinese language schools and newspapers. In 1978, private enterprise in the south was nationalized. Members of the Chinese community who could afford to flee the tightening noose did so, abetted by officials who extorted their dollars, gold and jewels. First a trickle, then a flood of “boat people” washed up on the beaches of neighboring countries. Up to 1982, two-thirds of the half-million refugees who survived storms and pirate attacks were Chinese.

The anti-Chinese contagion spread to the north. Exasperated by Beijing’s support of the stridently anti-Vietnamese Pol Pot regime in Cambodia and perhaps anticipating an attack by China’s People’s Liberation Army, Hanoi pushed Chinese families across the border into Guangxi. Others left voluntarily. Ironically, many had fought for the Viet Minh against the French and for the Hanoi government against the Americans.

By the 1989 census, the number of Chinese in Vietnam had halved to 900,000; today they make up less than 1 percent of the population. A handful of Chinese temples and clan houses in Cholon and the restored 17th century trading port of Hoi An now welcome tourists. And since 2007, the Ho Chi Minh City government has sponsored an annual Chinese Cultural Festival.

But these are exceptions: for the most part, Chinese cultural life has gone indoors. Southern Vietnam’s gold dealers and wholesale traders are still overwhelmingly of Chinese extraction, but they have assimilated. Their children are rarely literate in Mandarin; often they do not speak their ancestors’ dialect. Many have married out of minority status, taking on their spouse’s Vietnamese ethnicity.

In important respects, Vietnam’s Chinese have become indistinguishable from their neighbors—so successfully that, although crowds may form to protest against Chinese behavior in the South China Sea, no one thinks of taking revenge on the Chinese merchant family next door.

Related:

Above: China bauxite mining in Vietnam

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Notes:

Called the Nansha Islands by China, the same Islands are called the Spratly Islands by most of the world, Meiji Reef  is Mischief Reef,  Ren’ai Shoal  is Second Thomas Shoal. The South China Sea is now often called ”West Philippine Sea” by Filipinos– in Vietnam it is often called the “East Sea.”  Scarborough Shoal or Scarborough Reef is often called Panatag Shoal by Filipinos, and what China calls Xisha  is often called the Paracel Islands.

Vietnam often calls the South China Sea the “East Sea”, the Paracel Islands are Hoang Sa, the Spratly Islands are Truong Sa.

What Filipinos call Panganiban Reef is called Mischief Reef by most.

As seen in the article above, Panatag Shoal is  also known as Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines. Many others call this Scarborough Shoal or Scarborough Reef.

CHINA-BEIJING-CHINA-VIETNAM STEERING COMMITTEE-6TH MEETING (CN)

China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi (R) shakes hands with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan during the sixth meeting of the China-Vietnam steering committee on cooperation in Beijing, capital of China, May 11, 2013. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen)

Photo: Chinese officers stop and question fishermen in the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and others have had trouble with China’s aggression in the South China Sea.

Photo: China  marine surveillance ship on patrol

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

Photo: Captain Pham Quang Thanh on the fishing boat that was fired at by a Chinese naval boat off Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands of Vietnam on March 20, 2013

Above map: This is how Vietnam views the South China Sea; often called the “East Sea” in Vietnamese

Vietnam maintains that China’s claim of sovereignty in the South China Sea is a “sudden” and “new” idea

China and Friends in Africa: New Imperialism and Exploitation?

March 26, 2013

A man walks past a floral display announcing the 5th BRICS Summit in Durban, March 25, 2013. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

A man walks past a floral display announcing the 5th BRICS Summit in Durban, March 25, 2013.  Credit: Reuters/Rogan Ward

By Pascal Fletcher

DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) – “BRICS, Don’t Carve Africa” reads a banner in a church hall in downtown Durban where civil society activists have gathered to cast a critical eye at a summit of five global emerging powers.

The slogan evokes the 19th Century conference in Berlin where the predominant European colonial states carved up the African continent in a scramble historians see as epitomizing the brash exploitative capitalism of the time.

Decades after Africans threw off the colonial yoke, it is the turn of the blossoming BRICS group of Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa to find their motives coming under scrutiny as they proclaim an altruistic-sounding “partnership for development, integration and industrialization” with Africa.

 
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Talks on bilateral issues … China’s President Xi Jinping (left) and his  Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete in Dar es Salaam. Photo: ReutersRead more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/world-b
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Led by that giant of the emerging powers, China, the BRICS are now Africa’s largest trading partners and its biggest new group of investors. BRICS-Africa trade is seen eclipsing $500 billion by 2015, with China taking the lion’s share of 60 percent of this, according to Standard Bank.

BRICS leaders persist in presenting their group – which represents more than 40 percent of the world’s population and one fifth of global gross domestic product – in the warm and fuzzy framework of benevolent South-South cooperation, an essential counterweight to the ‘old’ West and a better partner for the poor masses of the developing world.

In his first trip to Africa as head of state, China’s new president Xi Jinping expounded this line in Tanzania on Monday, saying his country wanted “a better life for African people” and was offering a relationship of equals.

“We think there’s too much back-slapping,” said Patrick Bond of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s center for Civil Society, who helped to organize an alternative “BRICS-from-below” meeting in Durban to shadow the BRICS summit on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Bond and other critics of the BRICS’ South-South pitch say developing countries that receive investment and assistance from the new emerging powers need to take a hard, close look at the deals they are getting.

Beneath the fraternal veneer, Bond sees “incoherent imperial competition” not unlike the 19th Century scramble, saying that BRICS members are similarly coveting and exploiting African resources without sufficiently boosting industrialization and job-creation, all much needed on the continent.

This view has gained some traction in Africa as citizens from Guinea and Nigeria to Zambia and Mozambique increasingly see Brazilian, Russian, Indian, Chinese and South African companies scooping up multi-billion dollar oil and mining deals and big-ticket infrastructure projects.

Many of these deals have come under scrutiny from local and international rights groups. More than a few have faced criticism that they focus heavily on raw material extraction, lack transparency and do not offer enough employment and developmental benefits to the receiving countries – charges often leveled against corporations from the developed West.

“NEW FORM OF IMPERIALISM”

Anti-poverty activists say the profit motivation of large BRICS corporations working in Africa is no different from that of Western companies.

“Matters of greed are universal and their actors come from both the North and the South,” said Wahu Kaara, a Kenyan social justice campaigner and coordinator of the Kenya Debt Relief Network who attended the “BRICS-from-below” meeting.

This wariness of the new players in Africa has even permeated some government circles on the continent.

Warning Africa was opening itself up to “a new form of imperialism”, Nigerian central bank governor Lamido Sanusi accused China, now the world’s No. 2 economy, of worsening Africa’s deindustrialization and underdevelopment.

“China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was also the essence of colonialism,” Sanusi wrote in a March 11 opinion column in the Financial Times.

“Africa must recognize that China – like the U.S., Russia, Britain, Brazil and the rest – is in Africa not for African interests but its own,” Sanusi added.

Chinese and other BRICS leaders indignantly reject the criticism their group represents a kind of “sub-imperialism” in their growing economic and political engagement with Africa.

Zhong Jianhua, China’s special envoy to Africa, told Reuters that China and Africa’s common history of resisting colonial pressure put their relationship on a different level.

“China was bullied by others in the past, and so was Africa. This shared experience means they have a lot in common. This is China’s advantage and the reason why many Western countries are at a disadvantage,” he said in an interview with Reuters.

Zhong added that China should encourage its companies to train and employ more African workers, responding to complaints that Chinese investors often brought in their own workforces.

Catherine Grant-Makokera of the South African Institute of International Affairs said BRICS governments did noticeably operate differently from the West in the way they offered financing and aid to nations in Africa.

“You’ve seen a greater willingness from the newer players to invest in things like hard infrastructure, either through financing mechanisms, or simply grants or gifts,” said Grant-Makokera, SAIIA’s program head for economic diplomacy.

But she acknowledged the BRICS development aid approach, while offering faster turnaround times for projects, was often less restrained by labor and environmental considerations.

This has opened BRICS companies up to charges that in their haste to develop resource projects in Africa they flaunt local communities’ rights and ride roughshod over the environment.

Brazilian mining giant Vale, named in 2012 by the Swiss non-profit group Public Eye as the corporation with the most “contempt for the environment and human rights” in the world, defends its record in Mozambique, where it is investing billions of dollars to develop coal deposits and infrastructure.

It has faced violent demonstrations from Mozambicans protesting forced relocations and demanding greater benefits.

Vale’s head of Africa operations, Ricardo Saad, said the fact the company had experienced “problems” did not mean it could be accused of “neo-colonial” behavior in Africa.

He said colonial powers just came and took the continent’s resources, without asking its people, whereas contracts today were closely negotiated with governments and communities.

“From the moment that I seek a license to operate, where you talk to a community, where anything you do has authorization and previous planning with the government, I can’t say that’s neo-colonialism,” Saad told Reuters.

NEW VOICES

Development analysts say the BRICS, with their radically different economies, governments and competing priorities, still need to demonstrate that they can change global power structures to the benefit of the world’s poor and underprivileged.

“The fact that they are pressing for a new balance of power in the world has to be stressed as a positive thing…they have new voices,” said Nathalie Beghin of the Brazilian pro-democracy and rights organization INESC.

But she added in a jab at what activists say is the BRICS’ leadership-focused, top-down mode of operating so far: “They say they are the voices of the poor. But where are the poor?”

SAIIA’s Grant-Makokera says the BRICS offer developing states other options for aid and investment as an alternative to the old Western partners.

“At least you’ve got a diversity now, I don’t think that can be underestimated,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Marina Lopes in Maputo and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Chinese President Xi Jinping began on Sunday a tour of Africa that underlines  the continent’s strategic importance to China both for its resources and as a  market place, signing more than a dozen trade and cooperation deals with  Tanzania.

Visiting, Tanzania, South Africa and Republic of Congo on his first trip  abroad as president following a visit to Russia, Xi is expected to build on  expanding economic relations that many Africans see as a healthy counterbalance  to the influence of the West.

He will be looking to tone down the feeling that China is just here to  exploit resources. I think that is going to be his main  job

He might also address concerns in Africa that the continent is exporting raw  materials while spending heavily to import finished consumer goods from the  Asian economic powerhouse.

“He will be looking to tone down the feeling that China is just here to  exploit resources. I think that is going to be his main job,” James Shikwati,  director of the Nairobi-based Inter Regional Economic Network think tank, told  Reuters.

The agreements with Tanzania included plans to co-develop a new port and  industrial zone complex, a concessional loan for communications infrastructure  and an interest free loan to the Tanzanian government. No details were given on  the size of the loans or the monetary value of the projects.

On Monday Xi will deliver his first policy speech on Africa.

He will then head to South Africa for a summit of leaders of the world’s  major emerging economies, known as the BRICS, on Tuesday and Wednesday, and  could endorse plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool and an  infrastructure.

The proposal underscores frustrations among emerging markets at having to  rely on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which are seen as  reflecting the interests of the United States and other industrialised  nations.

The east African seaboard is hot property after huge gas discoveries in  Tanzania and neighbouring Mozambique. Chinese oil company CNPC this month  acquired a 20 per cent stake in the Eni Mozambique offshore project worth  $US4.21 billion ($4.03 billion), linking one of the planet’s biggest untapped  gas resources with the fastest growing gas consuming country.

Oil strikes in the region have also caught China’s eye. But across eastern  Africa, poor infrastructure and inadequate regulation risk delaying large scale  oil and gas production.

ROMANCE

China has built roads, railways, and landmark buildings across Africa to win  access to its oil and minerals like copper and uranium.

“China is what we call an all-weather friend,” said teacher Mwajuma Swai.  “They don’t flip-flop like the West and they don’t give us a string of  conditions for aid and trade.”

But China’s increasing presence in Africa has prompted concern as well as  gratitude.

Nigeria’s central bank chief, Lamido Sanusi, said Africans should wake up to  the realities of their “romance with China.”

“So China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was  also the essence of colonialism,” Sanusi wrote in the Financial Times this month. “Africa is now willingly opening itself up to a new form of  imperialism.”

“We must see China for what it is: a competitor.”

Sanusi’s comments were echoed in the streets of Dar es Salaam, decked out  with Chinese flags for Xi’s visit. Businessman Hamisi Mwalimu said: “We need a  smart partnership where both Tanzania and China benefit. Right now, they’re  getting a much better deal than us.”

china africa.jpg

Chinese President Xi Jinping began on Sunday a tour of Africa that underlines the continent’s strategic importance to China both for its resources and as a market place, signing more than a dozen trade and cooperation deals with Tanzania.

At a China-Africa summit last year, Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao pledged to  help Africa export manufactured products, not just raw materials, and to import  from the continent.

Hu also offered $20 billion in loans to African countries over a three year  period, boosting China’s good relations with the continent and unsettling the  West which criticises Beijing for overlooking human rights abuses in its  business dealings with Africa.

Such criticism draws rebukes from China that the West treats Africa as though  it were a colony.

“Africa wants to be treated as an equal, and this is what many Western  countries do not understand, or are at least are not willing to do,” Zhong  Jianhua, China’s special envoy to Africa, told Reuters in an interview this  month.

Zhong acknowledged Chinese companies faced criticism for using Chinese  workers on African infrastructure and mining projects. Beijing estimates almost  1 million Chinese are working in Africa.

“We have told Chinese companies that they cannot just use Chinese workers,”  Zhong said. “I think most Chinese firms now realise this.”

Yet not all African governments appear that worried with the use of Chinese  workers, especially for infrastructure projects.

“China isn’t coming to Congo to create jobs,” Republic of Congo Ambassador to  China, Daniel Owassa, told Reuters. 

Reuters

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Oliver Stone’s new book rips President Obama

October 29, 2012

 

A new book from filmmaker Oliver Stone offers a scathing critique of President Barack Obama’s time in office.

Stone, who wrote “The Untold History of the United States” with historian Peter Kuznick, puts forth a liberal interpretation of American history from the turn of the last century to present day. The 618-page book, slated for release Tuesday – a week before Election Day – from Gallery Books, slams Republicans and Democrats alike, and the authors’ assessment of Obama’s presidency is tinged with disappointment.

(Also on POLITICO: 4 possible freak election outcomes)

“The country Obama inherited was indeed in shambles, but Obama took a bad situation and, in certain ways, made it worse,” Stone and Kuznick wrote. “…[R]ather than repudiating the policies of Bush and his predecessors, Obama has perpetuated them.”

Obama’s election “felt like a kind of expiation for the sins of a nation whose reputation had been sullied, as we have shown throughout this book, by racism, imperialism, militarism, nuclearism, environmental degradation and unbridled avarice,” they wrote.

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But on subjects from Wall Street reform to health care to Afghanistan, Stone and Kuznick rip Obama for breaking campaign promises and continuing the policies of President George W. Bush — who’s roundly condemned throughout the book. In some instances, they write, Obama went further than Bush’s White House toward anti-progressive policies.

“Obama asserted presidential power in ways that must have made Dick Cheney jealous,” they wrote.

“In 2011, Obama defied his own top lawyers, insisting that he did not need congressional approval under the War Powers Resolution to continue military activities in Libya,” they continued, in their write-up of Obama’s handling of intervention in that country.

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An accompanying documentary series is set to air on Showtime starting Nov. 12.

Stone said in 2008 that he backed Obama, but earlier this year said that he would support GOP Rep. Ron Paul over Obama if he could.

The biting criticism from Stone and Kuznick includes:

On Wall Street reform: “The biggest winner under Obama was Wall Street.”

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On health care: “Obama’s failure to articulate a progressive vision was also apparent in the fight over health reform, which was to have been his signature initiative…Obama’s health care reform effort, marked by the inability to even refute Republican charges of death panels, was so unpopular that it became an albatross around the necks of Democrats in the 2010 election.”

On a troop surge in Afghanistan: “When it finally came down to decision time, Obama didn’t have the courage or integrity of a post-Cuban Missile Crisis John F. Kennedy. He settled on a 30,000-troop increase, giving the military leaders almost everything they wanted and more than they expected.”

On civil liberties: “Among the greatest disappointments to his followers was Obama’s refusal to roll back the expanding national security state that so egregiously encroached on American civil liberties.”

On ‘imperialism’: “[He] was not offering a decisive break with over a century of imperial conquest. His was a centrist approach to better managing the American empire rather than advancing a positive role for the United States in a rapidly evolving world.”

On defense spending: “While cutting defense spending, pulling combat forces out of Iraq and beginning the drawdown in Afghanistan represented a welcome retreat from they hypermilitarism of the Bush-Cheney years, they did not represent the sharp and definitive break with empire that the world needed to see from the United States.”

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Chavez: Venezuela is no threat, Obama is a “good guy”

July 14, 2012

CARACAS (Reuters) – President Hugo Chavez denied on Friday thatVenezuela was a threat to anyone, after U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney criticized Barack Obama for playing down the risk posed by the socialist leader.

Obama told a Spanish-language television station in an interview screened this week that Chavez’s actions over recent years had not had a serious impact on the national security of the United States.

By Daniel Wallis | Reuters

Romney said Obama’s comments were “stunning and shocking” and showed a pattern of weakness in the Democratic president’s foreign policy.

In an interview with a local Venezuelan television station on Friday, Chavez dismissed the allegations he posed any danger.

“The Venezuela of today is no threat to anyone,” he said.

“It has all been a hoax by the imperialists and global far right: that uranium is being enriched in Venezuela, that we’re setting up missiles here, that we’re supporting terrorism.”

Whenever there were efforts to improve relations between Washington and Caracas, Chavez said, they were criticized by powerful “snipers” who issued threats in the U.S. media.

Chavez, whose stridently anti-Washington politics are highly popular in his OPEC nation, has expanded ties with Iran while the United States and other nations have increased their pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

Iran denies Western charges it wants to build nuclear weapons. When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Caracas in January, he and Chavez lavished praise on each other, mocked U.S. disapproval and joked about having an atomic bomb.

Late last year Obama told a Venezuelan newspaper the United States had no intention of intervening in Venezuela’s foreign relations – but he believed the government’s ties with Iran and Cuba had not benefited the Venezuelan people.

TWO CANDIDATES

With both Chavez and Obama running for re-election this year, Chavez struck a conciliatory tone, saying the latest comments by his U.S. counterpart needed to seen in context.

“Obama is campaigning. He’s a candidate. I hope the real revolutionaries understand well. I think thatBarack Obama – aside from ‘the president’ – is a good guy,” he said.

Chavez is trying to appeal to the third of Venezuelans who may not have decided yet who to vote for in the October 7 election, when he will seek a new six-year term despite undergoing three cancer operations in Cuba over the last year.

That means being more moderate. Chavez also cited his friendship with Juan Manuel Santos, the conservative leader of neighboring Colombia, as proof of his benign influence on Latin American affairs.

“The president of Colombia has said it, twice: Chavez is a factor of stability for the region, a factor of peace, a facilitator of integration. That is Chavez’s role.”

Obama’s campaign team has accused Romney, the likely Republican nominee in the November 6 election, of playing into the Venezuelan president’s hands by giving him the international attention he wanted.

Chavez frequently lauds Fidel Castro’s communist-led revolution in Cuba, and Romney’s comments could cheer Cuban-American voters in Florida, where many oppose Castro and Chavez.

There was a window to improve ties between Caracas and Washington after Obama took office in 2009 and promised more engagement with foes. Chavez toned down his tirades against the “Yankee empire” and shook hands with Obama at a summit.

But within months, Chavez said the U.S. leader was disillusioning the world by following his predecessor George W. Bush’s foreign policies, and he cranked up his rhetoric again.

On Friday, Chavez said Obama’s troubles began with that handshake. “They fell on him: saying he’s a socialist, a communist. … The personal war against Obama started, including looking for a way to get him out of office by any means.”

(Additional reporting by Diego Ore; editing by Mohammad Zargham and Todd Eastham)

******************

From 2009:

Khomeinist regime-run newspaper Rehsaalat reports: Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela speaking in Moscow on the subject of “friendship between our two nations” emphasized the need to free the world of American domination. According to the Bolivarian news agency of Venezuela, Chavez who travelled to Russia last week, reiterated that now more than ever people are becoming aware of the need to free the world of American sovereignty. Chavez who spoke at the University of Friendship University of Russia, in Moscow assured that the American “Empire” will be wiped off the planet during the present century. He added: “If the United States does not collapse humanity will and therefore a choice must be made. Most of the countries of the world are allied empires which devour people; now a new unity has developed among countries that is to their advantage. If we do not destroy the political, economic, military rule that Imperialism wishes to impose on the world, we will slip into barbarism. Russia has risen to this occasion and things must continue as such.”