Posts Tagged ‘state security’

VPN law latest step in Kremlin online crackdown — Following China…..

October 29, 2017


© AFP / by Theo MERZ | A protester with tape covering her mouth takes part in the March for Free Internet in central Moscow in July.

MOSCOW (AFP) – A law coming into force on Wednesday will give the Kremlin greater control over what Russians can access online ahead of a presidential election next March.

Providers of virtual private networks (VPNs) — which let internet users access sites banned in one country by making it appear that they are browsing from abroad — will be required to block websites listed by the Russian state communications watchdog.

The law is the latest in a raft of restrictions introduced by President Vladimir Putin’s government and is expected to affect journalists and opposition activists, even though several VPN providers say they will not comply.

Videos by the punk band Pussy Riot and the blog of opposition leader Alexei Navalny have in the past been blocked under a law that allows authorities to blacklist websites they consider extremist.

“Journalists and activists who are using this to put out messages anonymously will be affected,” Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, told AFP.

Even if they are able to work around the new restrictions, the law will send a powerful message to activists, she said.

“If you’re thinking about taking the steps that you need to stay anonymous from the government, you think maybe it’s not worth it.”

The law will likely be selectively applied and will probably not affect foreign business people using company VPNs, she said.

The measure is part of a wider crackdown on online communications, which this month saw the popular messaging app, Telegram, fined for failing to register with the Roskomnadzor communications watchdog and provide the FSB with information on user interactions.

Starting from 2018, companies on the Roskomnadzor register must also store all the data of Russian users inside the country, according to anti-terror legislation which was passed last year and decried by the opposition and internet companies.

On Thursday, the Russian parliament’s lower house approved a draft law that would let the attorney general blacklist the websites of “undesirable organisations” without a court order.

– ‘Less safe, less free’ –

While falling short of a blanket ban on virtual private networks, the new law undermines one of their key purposes and “essentially asks VPN services to help enforce Russia’s censorship regime”, Harold Li, vice president at ExpressVPN International, told AFP by email.

“VPNs are central to online privacy, anonymity, and freedom of speech, so these restrictions represent an attack on digital rights,” Li said.

“We hope and expect that most major VPN services will not bend to these new restrictions.”

Providers ZenMate and Private Internet Access — which said it removed all of its servers from Russia in 2016 after several of them were seized by authorities without notification — have already announced that they would not enforce the list of banned websites.

Companies that do not comply are likely to see their own websites placed on the Russian blacklist.

Amnesty International has called the new legislation “a major blow to internet freedom” and Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who lives in Russia, said the measure “makes Russia both less safe and less free”.

Laws curbing internet freedoms were drafted following mass protests in 2011 and 2012 against Putin over disputed election results.

The new measures come into force ahead of presidential elections next March, when Putin is widely expected to extend his grip on power to 2024.

Russia’s opposition groups rely heavily on the internet to make up for their lack of access to the mainstream media.

– ‘Complete control’ –

“The path that Russia chose four years ago is founded on the concept of digital sovereignty,” said Sarkis Darbinyan, lawyer and director of the Digital Rights Centre.

“It’s the idea that the government should control the domestic part of the internet. Western countries do not support this concept and so what we are seeing today is an Asian-style development of the internet,” along the lines of China and Iran, he said.

But Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted that even if the Kremlin’s end goal is “complete control of communications on the internet”, its technical capabilities still lag way behind China with its “Great Firewall”.

Many of the invasive measures pushed by the Kremlin are comparable with the snooping powers demanded by Western governments, she said.

“Russia will frequently point to the fact that the FBI and (British Prime Minister) Theresa May want these powers as reasons why they should have them, and why they’re compatible with human rights.”

by Theo MERZ

Paris gunman who killed police officer known to security forces — Spent 15 years in prison for shooting officers — On watch list after recent arrest — Informants last month said he was ‘seeking to obtain weapons to kill policemen’

April 21, 2017


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Paris Police secure the Champs-Elysees after one police officer was killed and another wounded in a shooting in Paris, France, April 20, 2017. REUTERS – Christian Hartmann

French security services are today facing troubling questions as to how they failed to prevent an ISIS gunman from slaughtering one policeman and wounding two other officers when he was already on a terror watch list.

Champs-Elysees killer Karim Cheurfi had been detained only last month, it has emerged, after informants said he was ‘seeking to obtain weapons to kill policemen’.

But the 39-year-old, who used the war name ‘Abu Yousuf the Belgian’, had to be released because anti-terror police did not have enough evidence to hold him.

The homegrown fanatic, who officials confirmed was a French national despite his nickname, had also been released early from prison – where it is thought he was radicalised – having been jailed for 20 years in 2005 for trying to kill two policemen.

Cheurfi opened fire five times with a .38 revolver following a car chase in 2001, leaving the officers and a third victim wounded.

He had fled on foot before the driver of the other car and the passenger – a trainee police officer – caught up with him. He fired twice, seriously wounding both men in the chest. All three survived the attack in Roissy-en-Brie, in the Seine-et-Marne department of northern France.

Cheurfi was arrested and placed in custody under a false name. Two days later he seriously injured an officer who was taking him out of his cell, seizing his weapon and firing several times.

Two French officials said this morning that Cheurfi was detained in February for threatening police before being freed, although a warrant for his arrest is dated March 6.

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The killer was known to security services in France, according to reports this evening

The killer was known to security services in France, according to reports this evening

One police officer was shot dead and two more seriously injured by a gunman carrying a Kalashnikov in Paris this evening

One police officer was shot dead and two more seriously injured by a gunman carrying a Kalashnikov in Paris this evening


Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for France's Interior Ministry, confirmed that one police officer was dead and two seriously wounded following the 'targeted attack'

Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for France’s Interior Ministry, confirmed that one police officer was dead and two seriously wounded following the ‘targeted attack’

The arrest warrant issued for Cheurfi before he was detained at the beginning of last month

The arrest warrant issued for Cheurfi before he was detained at the beginning of last month

The ISIS killer is believed to have been released in 2016 following the triple assassination attempt, at a time when he was known for drug offences, car theft and robbery.

Despite having the nickname ‘Abu Yousuf the Belgian’, Cheurfi was a French national, Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon told public broadcaster VRT.

It has been claimed Cheurfi was making dark threats on messaging app Telegram before launching his attack on the Champs Elysees in Paris last night.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the atrocity, which was carried out with a Kalashnikov weapon. A female foreign terrorist was also injured when a bullet ricocheted off the police car before Cheurfi was shot dead.

The fatal incident unfolded as presidential candidates, including National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, debated on a TV show nearby before Sunday’s election.

French President Francois Hollande said he was convinced it was a terrorist attack, adding that he would hold a security cabinet meeting this morning.

The French-born killer lived in Chelles, a commuter town close to Paris in the Seine-et-Marne department.

In 2003 he was sentenced to 20 years inside a high security prison following the attacks in Roissy-en-Brie, also in Seine-et-Marne.

But he was let out early following an appeal ruling, giving him the freedom to carry out tonight’s attack.

Gunshot-like noise forces BBC crew in Paris to run off the street


The app makers have boasted of security settings which keep messages safe from 'snoopers'

The app makers have boasted of security settings which keep messages safe from ‘snoopers’

Telegram is a messaging app which focuses on speed and security, according to its makers.

It allows users to send messages, photos, videos and files to groups of up to 5,000 and broadcast to unlimited audiences.

A statement on Telegram’s website about security says: ‘Big internet companies like Facebook or Google have effectively hijacked the privacy discourse in the recent years.

‘Their marketers managed to convince the public that the most important things about privacy are superficial tools that allow hiding your public posts or your profile pictures from the people around you. Adding these superficial tools enables companies to calm down the public and change nothing in how they are turning over private data to marketers and other third parties.

‘At Telegram we think that the two most important components of Internet privacy should be instead:

  • Protecting your private conversations from snooping third parties, such as officials, employers, etc
  • Protecting your personal data from third parties, such as marketers, advertisers, etc

‘This is what everybody should care about, and these are some of our top priorities. Telegram’s aim is to create a truly free messenger, without the usual caveats. This means that instead of diverting public attention with low-impact settings, we can afford to focus on the real privacy issues that exist in the modern world.’

Cheurfi was the registered keeper of the grey Audi used in last night’s attack. A raid on his home later found guns and ammunition, intelligence sources said.

He had targeted a parked patrol car full of traffic control officers working to the Paris prefecture.

The officer killed was at the wheel and was having an evening snack at the time of his death.

French television network BFMTV reports that Cheurfi had used the Telegram internet messaging service, which extremists have previously been claimed to favour because of its encryption.

Police are searching the home of the shooter in eastern Paris, and following the attack French presidential candidate Francois Fillon has called for the election campaign to be suspended.

Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for France’s Interior Ministry, confirmed that one police officer was dead and two seriously wounded following the ‘targeted attack’.

He said a ‘car pulled up just after 9pm’ next to a police patrol car which was parked up on the busy avenue.

Police search the car reportedly used in Paris attack

Intelligence sources said the dead assailant was a known radical on a so-called S-file, for 'State-security'

Intelligence sources said the dead assailant was a known radical on a so-called S-file, for ‘State-security’

Police officers searched the home of the suspected gunman in east Paris following the attack in the capital on Thursday 

Police officers searched the home of the suspected gunman in east Paris following the attack in the capital on Thursday

Officers searched the home of the suspected gunman on Thursday evening after they travelled to his home in the east part of the capital 

Officers searched the home of the suspected gunman on Thursday evening after they travelled to his home in the east part of the capital

A man jumped out with a weapon and started firing indiscriminately into the police vehicle, hitting the unidentified officer who died directly in the head.

The assailant then ran off, pursued by other officers. Two of them were wounded as they killed him.

Mr Brandet said ‘all lines of investigation were being pursued’, while intelligence sources said the dead assailant was a known radical on a so-called S-file, for ‘State-security’.

This means he would have been under surveillance, because he was a known risk to the country.

Mr Brandet later said a possible accomplice had turned himself over to Belgian police, but it was ‘too early to say’ if he had played a significant part in the attack.

President Hollande, speaking from the Elysee palace close to the scene of the shooting, said: ‘A national tribute will be paid to this policeman who was killed in such a cowardly way.

‘A passerby was hit. The assailant was neutralised by other police officers. The entire area has been cordoned off. The people present have been evacuated.’

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Updated 9:35 PM ET, Thu April 20, 2017

Paris (CNN)  A man who killed a police officer on the Champs-Elysees Thursday night was known to French security services for radical Islamist activities and had shot and wounded an officer in the past, a source close to the investigation told CNN.

The suspect, who was shot dead by French police, was the subject of a “Fiche S” surveillance file and was on the radar of the French domestic security service DGSI, the source said.
The man was a French national who shot two officers in 2001 after being stopped by a police car, the source said. He was taken into custody but while being questioned grabbed another officer’s gun and shot him three times, the source said. He was convicted in that attack and had a criminal record because of involvement in violent robberies, the source said.
The source said French investigators now believe this was in all likelihood a terrorist attack. They believe there was just one attacker, and the danger is likely over, the source said.
ISIS issued a statement saying an Islamic State “fighter” carried out the attack. The ISIS claim comes via a statement released by the group’s media wing, Amaq. The ISIS statement identified the attacker and called him “the Belgian.” CNN has not confirmed the attacker’s association with Belgium.
Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said he will reveal the shooter’s identity on Friday at a news conference. He said officers are searching the man’s residence in Chelles, Seine-et-Marne, a Paris suburb, and are trying to determine if he had accomplices.
The shooting has not officially been declared a terrorist act but anti-terrorist forces are leading the investigation, French President Francois Hollande said.
“The people who were present have been evacuated and we are convinced that the leads which point us to this case, and which will allow us to uncover the truth, are of a terrorist nature,” he said.

Elections on Sunday

The shooting happened about 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) when a car stopped at 102 Champs-Elysees in front of a police van, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre Henry Brandet said.
A man emerged from the car and opened fire on the van with an “automatic weapon,” killing one officer instantly, he said. The man “then ran away, managing to shoot and wound two other policemen. Other policemen engaged and shot and killed the attacker,” Brandet said.
The slain officer was 30 years old, Molin said. One of the wounded officers was critically injured but is improving, he said. Also wounded was a female tourist.
The shooting shut down the famed Champs-Elysees, one of Paris’ top tourist attractions and home to the iconic Arc de Triomphe monument. The avenue was clear of residents and tourists but teeming with security officers Thursday night.
It comes three days before French voters start elections for a new president. Candidates went ahead with a debate Thursday night.
France has been in a state of emergency since the 2015 Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead. Parliament voted in December to extend the extraordinary provisions to ensure the protection of upcoming presidential and general elections.
Security has been tight because of the vote. Just two days ago French authorities arrested two men in Marseille who were allegedly planning an attack in a run-up to the election.

Police officers block access to the Champs-Elysees.

At least three underground train stations of the Paris Metro — the Champs-Elysees-Clemenceau, George V and F. Roosevelt stations — have been “closed off” near the site of the police operation on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, BFMTV reported.

Trump: ‘What can you say?’

Paris resident Daoud Kal, 29, said he was walking in the area near a metro station when he heard four to five shots. He looked around, but couldn’t identify where the shots were coming from. People panicked and ran away from the scene and he joined them.
The CNN Paris bureau is on this street and staffers reported hearing a dozen shots. At least 20 police vehicles were seen on the street.
Officers could be seen forcibly removing innocent citizens from the area as they attempted to get them to safety.
President Donald Trump, speaking at a news conference in Washington with the visiting Italian Prime Minister, offered condolences to the people of France after the shooting, saying it “looks like another terrorist attack.”
“What can you say? It never ends,” the President said.
The Champs-Elysees is a main road lined with restaurants, cafes, exclusive designer boutiques and tourist shops. At one end is the Arc de Triomphe, surrounded by a several-lane-wide roundabout, and the other end stops at the Place de la Concorde, known for its obelisk monument.
The presidential palace, the Elysee, is a few blocks away.
French police tweeted, “Police intervention underway in the area of the #ChampsElysees avoid the sector and follow the instructions of the police forces.”

French candidates respond

The US State Department put out a cautionary tweet, saying: “If you’re in #Paris, monitor local news. #ChampsElysees has been closed. Authorities are telling people to avoid the area after a shooting.”

One police officer was killed in a shooting on the Champs-Elysees.

The shooting comes three days before French general elections and Paris was already in a state of heightened alert. French politicians immediately reacted on social media.
French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen tweeted, “My emotions and solidarity for the police, once again targeted.”
Conservative French presidential hopeful Francois Fillon tweeted, “Paying homage to police who give their lives to protect ours, #ChampsElysees.”
Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve tweeted: “Paying homage to the policeman killed on the champs elysees. Thoughts are with his family. Solidarity with his injured colleagues and those close to them.”
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy tweeted: “To our law enforcement: support, strength, courage. They are paying again a heavy price. Our Nation’s tribute must be total NS”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted: “We won’t give up, not bow and remain united facing these odious and insidious threats that weigh on our cities.”
She also extended a message of solidarity and thanks to the retailers on the Champs-Elysees who gave people shelter during the attack.
This developing story has been updated to clarify details about the attacker’s nationality.

How a powerful tycoon had a Chinese spy master in his pocket

April 20, 2017

‘Shared interests’: Jailed spy master’s tale of how he and businessman friend looked out for each other’s interests


By Nectar Gan
South China Morning Post
Thursday, April 20, 2017, 11:16pm
It sounds like the plot to a political thriller or a Hollywood spy film – in which a self-made business tycoon manipulates the country’s secretive state security agency for business gains and has a spy chief at his beck and call.

Can China Be Contained?

June 12, 2015


As tensions with China rise, U.S. foreign policy thinkers are dusting off ideas from the Cold War—and questioning the long-standing consensus for engagement with Beijing

For many Americans today, the promise of being diplomatic partners with China seems more remote than ever before.
For many Americans today, the promise of being diplomatic partners with China seems more remote than ever before. PHOTO: PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Wall Street Journal
June 12, 2015

Writing in 1967, at the height of the Cold War, Richard Nixon proclaimed a new American ambition: to “persuade China that it must change.”

“Taking the long view,” he wrote, “we simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors.” Four years later, having ascended to the White House, Nixon engineered an “opening to China” that promised to turn the communist giant into a diplomatic partner, one that would adopt America’s values and maybe even its system of democracy.

For many Americans today, watching the administration of President Xi Jinping crack down hard on internal dissent while challenging the U.S. for leadership in Asia, that promise seems more remote than ever before. In his recently published book “The Hundred-Year Marathon,” Michael Pillsbury—an Asia specialist and Pentagon official under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush—writes that China “has failed to meet nearly all of our rosy expectations.”
U.S. foreign policy has reached a turning point, as analysts from across the political spectrum have started to dust off Cold War-era arguments and to speak of the need for a policy of containment against China. The once solid Washington consensus behind the benefits of “constructive engagement” with Beijing has fallen apart.

The conviction that engagement is the only realistic way to encourage liberalization in China has persisted across eight U.S. administrations, Republican and Democratic alike. Jimmy Carter bequeathed Nixon’s policy to Ronald Reagan; George W. Bush to Barack Obama.

The turmoil in U.S. policy has been especially evident in recent months. An unprecedented stream of advisory reports from leading academic centers and think tanks has proposed everything from military pushback against China to sweeping concessions. The prescriptions vary, but their starting point is the same: pessimism about the present course of U.S.-Chinese relations.
The mood shift in Washington may end up being every bit as consequential as the one that came over the U.S. immediately after World War II, when it dawned on America that the Soviet Union wasn’t going to continue to be an ally. That is when the legendary U.S. diplomat and policy thinker George F. Kennan formulated his plan for containment.

In a 1947 article in Foreign Affairs, he wrote that the U.S. “has it in its power to increase enormously the strains under which Soviet policy must operate, to force upon the Kremlin a far greater degree of moderation and circumspection than it has had to observe in recent years, and in this way to promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the breakup or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.” Kennan’s strategy—to bleed the Soviet Union through nonprovocative resistance—offered comfort to Europeans who feared that they faced a stark choice between war and capitulation.

A similar anxiety about China’s actions and intentions has now taken hold among many Asians. U.S. friends and allies in the region are flocking to America’s side to seek protection as Mr. Xi’s China builds up its navy, pushes its fleets farther into the blue ocean and presses its territorial claims. In what is just the latest assertive move to alarm the region, China is now dredging tiny coral reefs in the South China Sea to create runways, apparently for military jets.

The U.S. is resisting. President Obama’s signature “pivot” to Asia—designed both to calm anxious U.S. friends and to recognize the region’s vast strategic importance in the 21st century—is bringing advanced American combat ships to Singapore, Marines to Australia and military advisers to the Philippines. Japan, America’s key ally in Asia, is rearming and has adjusted its pacifist postwar constitution to allow its forces to play a wider role in the region. The purpose of much of this activity is to preserve the independence of smaller Asian nations who fear they might otherwise have no choice but to fall into China’s orbit and yield to its territorial ambitions—in other words, to capitulate.

For its part, China is utterly convinced that the U.S. is pursuing a policy of containment. Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister (and himself a China expert), summarized Beijing’s perception of U.S. goals in five bullet points in a recent Harvard study: to isolate China, contain it, diminish it, internally divide it and sabotage its political leadership.

To be sure, the new tension in U.S.-China relations is not anything like the Cold War stare-down that preoccupied Europe for decades, when NATO and Warsaw Pact tanks faced each other across lines that neither side dared to cross. But in one important respect, history is repeating itself: Both China and the U.S. have started to view each other not as partners, competitors or rivals but as adversaries.

China’s missile and naval buildup, as well as its development of new cyber- and space-warfare capabilities, are aimed squarely at deterring the U.S. military from intervening in any conflict in Asia. Meanwhile, many of the Pentagon’s pet projects—Star Wars technologies such as lasers and advanced weapons systems such as a long-range bomber—are being developed with China in mind.

So what, specifically, should America do? In one of the most hawkish of the recent think-tank reports, Robert D. Blackwill, a former U.S. deputy national security adviser and ambassador to India under President George W. Bush, and Ashley J. Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who also served on the National Security Council staff under President Bush, write that engagement with China has served to strengthen a competitor.

It is time, they declare, for a new grand strategy: less engagement and more “balancing” to ensure the “central objective” of continued U.S. global primacy. Among other things, America should beef up its military in Asia, choke off China’s access to military technology, accelerate missile-defense deployments and increase U.S. offensive cyber capabilities.

For Michael D. Swaine, also of the Carnegie Endowment, this is a certain recipe for another Cold War, or worse. He outlines a sweeping settlement under which America would concede its primacy in East Asia, turning much of the region into a buffer zone policed by a balance of forces, including those from a strengthened Japan. All foreign forces would withdraw from Korea. And China would offer assurances that it wouldn’t launch hostilities against Taiwan, which it regards as a renegade province.

Such arrangements, even if possible, would take decades to sort out. Meanwhile, warns David M. Lampton, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, U.S.-China ties have reached a tipping point. “Our respective fears are nearer to outweighing our hopes than at any time since normalization,” he said in a recent speech.

The West has been in this position before. Optimism about the prospects of transforming an ancient civilization through engagement, followed by deep disillusion, has been the pattern ever since early Jesuit missionaries sought to convert the Chinese to Christianity. Those envoys adopted the gowns of the Mandarin class, grew long beards and even couched their gospel message in Confucian terms to make it more palatable. The 17th-century German priest Adam Schall got as far as becoming the chief astronomer of the Qing dynasty. But he fell from favor, and the Jesuits were later expelled.

The disappointment in the U.S. today is heightened by the fact that engagement with China has promised so much and progressed so far. Trade and technology have transformed China beyond anything that Nixon could have imaged, and the two countries are each other’s second-largest trading partners. China is America’s biggest creditor. More than a quarter million Chinese students study at U.S. universities.

But the ideological gap hasn’t narrowed at all—and now Mr. Xi has taken a sharp anti-Western turn. Mao Zedong made the bold decision to cut a deal with Nixon, confident enough to embrace American capitalists even while pressing the radical agenda of his Cultural Revolution. Later, Deng Xiaoping struck a pragmatic balance between the opportunities of economic engagement with the West and the dangers posed by an influx of Western ideas. “When you open the window, flies and mosquitoes come in,” he shrugged.
Today, Mr. Xi is furiously zapping the bugs. A newly proposed law would put the entire foreign nonprofit sector under police administration, effectively treating such groups as potential enemies of the state. State newspapers rail against “hostile foreign forces” and their local sympathizers. The Chinese Communist Party’s “Document No. 9” prohibits discussion of Western democracy on college campuses. And as Mr. Xi champions traditional Chinese culture, authorities in Wenzhou, a heavily Christian coastal city dubbed China’s “New Jerusalem,” tear down crosses atop churches as unwanted symbols of Western influence.

The backlash against the West extends well beyond China’s borders. For decades, China accepted America’s role as a regional policeman to maintain the peace and keep sea lanes open. But in Shanghai last year, Mr. Xi declared that “it is for the people of Asia to run the affairs of Asia, solve the problems of Asia and uphold the security of Asia.”

Washington feels a certain sense of betrayal. America’s open markets, after all, smoothed China’s export-led rise to become the world’s second-largest economy, and the two economies are now thoroughly enmeshed.

Still, it would be a mistake to assume that mutual dependence will necessarily prevent conflict. Pre-World War I Europe was also closely entwined through trade and investment.

Even the U.S. business community, once Beijing’s staunchest advocate in Washington, has lost some of its enthusiasm for engagement. James McGregor, a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China and now the China chairman of APCO Worldwide, a business consultancy, recalls helping to persuade U.S. trade associations to lobby for China’s admission to the World Trade Organization, which happened in 2001.

That unity of purpose, he says “has been splintering ever since.” Today, “they all believe that China is out to screw them.”

China’s fears notwithstanding, the Obama administration remains very much in favor of engagement. Last year’s high-profile deal on climate change showed that cooperation is still possible. Ahead of a planned summit in the U.S. in September, the two countries are hammering out an ambitious bilateral trade agreement. And it is often pointed out that not a single problem in the world, from piracy to pollution, can be solved without their joint efforts.

In an increasingly awkward dance, however, the Obama administration is trying to sustain this policy of engagement while also ramping up its military options in Asia. China is playing a similar game. And it is not clear how long both sides will be able to continue before there is a clash, by accident or design.

Mr. Obama himself sometimes strikes adversarial postures on China. In trying to push a massive Asia-Pacific free-trade zone through a resistant Congress, he has been invoking a China threat. “If we don’t write the rules, China will write the rules out in that region,” he told The Wall Street Journal in April.

He also has pursued a campaign—ultimately futile—to prevent allies such as Britain and Australia from signing on to a Chinese regional development bank. Although the bank will help deliver much-needed infrastructure, the White House interpreted it as part of a bid to undermine America’s leadership in global finance.

For its part, China believes that the U.S. will never accept the legitimacy of a communist government.

Mr. Xi has proposed a “new model of great-power relations,” designed to break a pattern of wars through the ages that occur when a rising power challenges the incumbent one. But America has turned him down, unwilling to accept a formula that not only assumes that the two countries are peers but seems to place them on the same moral plane.

Appropriately, perhaps, tensions are coming to a head in the Spratly Islands, an archipelago of reefs and sandbars in the South China Sea so hazardous that old British Admiralty sailing charts marked the entire area as “Dangerous Ground.”

In this mariners’ graveyard, China has massively expanded several reefs through dredging; one boasts a runway long enough to land China’s largest military planes. China’s neighbors regard them as outposts for an eventual Chinese takeover of the whole South China Sea. The Pentagon presents them as a threat to the U.S. Navy’s unchallenged right to sail the oceans.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is considering a show of force—and is under political pressure to do so. Last month, Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, complained that the U.S. response to the island-building has been too passive. “I see no price whatsoever that China is paying for their activities in the South and East China Seas,” Mr. Corker said. “None. In fact, I see us paying a price.”

Neither side wants a war. Mr. Xi is not anti-West in the manner of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and so far, he has not acted rashly, as Mr. Putin has by grabbing territory in Ukraine. China still needs U.S. markets and know-how to rise. A war against America would be an economic catastrophe for China.

The U.S.-China relationship has weathered storms before. Recall the days following the Chinese army’s 1989 assault on pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square, when cooperation between the countries went into a deep freeze. But President George H.W. Bush calculated that the U.S.-China relationship was too important to sacrifice, and he quickly sent emissaries to Beijing to ensure that it remained intact.

Today, surely, that calculation carries no less weight. Moreover, trying to contain China would be immensely costly: Neither country can succeed economically without the other. Kennan’s containment strategy worked against the Soviet Union because it was economically weak, with almost no commercial ties to America. But today’s China is an economic powerhouse, and its double-digit military budgets are supported by a deep and diversified industrial base.

Set against these realities, however, is the fact that the U.S.-China relationship has lost its strategic raison d’être: the Soviet Union, the common threat that brought the two countries together.

Opposition to Moscow was the logic that drove Nixon’s opening to China. But even Nixon, a tough-minded realist who was focused on the balance of power, wasn’t sure how his opening to China would ultimately play out. As he told the late New York Times columnist William Safire not long before Nixon’s death in 1994, “We may have created a Frankenstein.”


 (By David Shambaugh, The Wall Street Journal)


Mr. Xi at the Schloss Bellevue presidential residency during his visit to fellow export powerhouse Germany in Berlin on March 28, 2014.  
Mr. Xi at the Schloss Bellevue presidential residency during his visit to fellow export powerhouse Germany in Berlin on March 28, 2014.Photo:Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Something Is Very Wrong In China: Xi Jinping demands loyalty from state security agencies

May 19, 2015

Call comes in light of corruption scandals that toppled some of the sector’s most high-profile figures

By Mimi Lau in Guangzhou
South China Morning Post

President Xi Jinping  has demanded absolute loyalty from state security agencies in light of recent scandals that toppled some of the sector’s highest profile figures.

The remarks came during a meeting with several top national security agents in which Xi called for “firm faith” and “absolute loyalty ” to the Communist Party in the face of threats to national security and social stability, Xinhua reported yesterday.

National security agencies should enforce strict discipline and forge teams that were “determined, pure, trustworthy, devoted and competent,” Xi said.

Top intelligence official Ma Jian  was placed under investigation in January on suspicion of discipline and legal violations by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in a widening of the anti-corruption campaign.

He is closely linked to Ling Jihua, the ex-aide of former president Hu Jintao. Ling was himself brought under investigation last December also on corruption charges.

Former security tsar Zhou Yongkang is another top official to have been snared in the anti-corruption campaign started by Xi, and some of Zhou’s former associates have also been implicated.

During yesterday’s meeting, Xi said China was being confronted with complicated and rapidly changing domestic and international environments.

A Chinese military policeman stands guard outside the portrait of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square.Photo: Getty Images

He said these environments contained huge uncertainties and risks, and security agencies faced tough tasks in safeguarding state security and social stability.

The central leadership placed great importance on national security and the country would step up efforts to prevent and crack down on activities that compromised national security, Xi added.

He called on all Communist Party and government departments to value, understand and support the work of the agencies.

Meng Jianzhu, head of the party’s Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of Central Committee, pledged that national security agencies would carry out Xi’s instructions and follow the undivided leadership of the Communist Party’s Central Committee.

National security agencies are responsible for intelligence gathering and spying operations.


 (By David Shambaugh, The Wall Street Journal)


Mr. Xi at the Schloss Bellevue presidential residency during his visit to fellow export powerhouse Germany in Berlin on March 28, 2014.  
Mr. Xi at the Schloss Bellevue presidential residency during his visit to fellow export powerhouse Germany in Berlin on March 28, 2014. Photo:Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Release of China’s draft security law sparks fears of further erosion of citizens’ freedoms, human rights — Experts “alarmed at the “strong ideology pronouncements”

May 7, 2015


China’s new security law is aimed at preservation of the Communist Party’s political regime

By Verna Yu
The South China Morning Post

Paramilitary police officers stand guard near Tiananmen Gate in Beijing. Photo: Reuters</p>
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The newly released draft of China’s national security law, which covers a range of topics including stressing the preservation of the Communist Party’s political regime, has stoked fears citizens’ freedoms will be further eroded under the pretext of state security.

The full text of the sweeping draft law, which underwent its second reading during a session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee last month, was revealed for the first time late Wednesday after being posted on the legislature’s website for public consultation.

The first clause of the law stated that the purpose of the law was to “safeguard national security, defend the people’s democratic dictatorship and the socialist system with Chinese characteristics”, to protect the people’s fundamental interests, the smooth-running of economic reforms, the modernisation of socialism, as well as the “realisation of the great rejuvenation of the nation”.

Corruption is hot topic at Chinese Communist Party congress

The draft law defined in its second clause that “national security” meant that the political regime, sovereignty, national unification, territorial integrity, people’s welfare and the “sustainable and healthy development” of its economy and society, as well as other unspecified “major national interests” should be “relatively free from danger and not under internal and external threats”.

Efforts on national security issues would adhere to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party to establish “a centralised, efficient and authoritative national security leadership system”, the draft law said.

Moreover, it said the safeguarding of national sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity was also the responsibility of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwanese compatriots.

Joshua Rosenzweig, a law researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he was alarmed at the “strong ideology flavour” of the draft law and the fact that “a strong link has been drawn between the nation and the one-party political system”.

“[The idea that] the challenge and threat to the political regime is a threat to national security is being reinforced,” he said.

The sweeping law covers a wide range of areas, from ideology and religion to military and technology. It also deals with the threat of terrorism, religious cults, interference of religious issues by “overseas forces” and stresses the importance of ethnic harmony.

One clause deals with the strengthening of socialist core values, “the grasping of initiatives of ideological sphere” and the prevention of the infiltration of “harmful moral standards”.

Other clauses deal with the protection of industries and sectors deemed vital to the economy, the economy and socialist market economy systems, grain security, the establishment of systems for the protection of cyber and information security, as well as the prevention of social conflicts, including food and drug safety issues.

President Xi Jinping , who is the head of the newly established National Security Commission, has said national security should cover a wide range of areas, including politics, culture, the military, the economy, technology and the environment.

William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said national security laws, according to international law and standards, should be drawn “narrowly” and “with precision” with reference to specific threats, but this draft law would solidify many problematic concepts that have little connection to national security, such as maintaining “internet sovereignty” through censorship, promoting socialist core values, defending against “unhealthy” culture, and limiting freedom of religion.

“Over the past 30 years or more, the Chinese government has gradually given more freedom to people in areas of life deemed to be non-sensitive. However, this law seems to be seeking to aggressively reassert control over many aspects of Chinese life in the name of national security,” he said.

While the draft said “socialist rule of law” principles, human rights, citizen’s rights and freedom should be respected, Nee said the law lacked accountability mechanisms to safeguard against violations of human rights.


Hong Kong democracy banner at Lion Rock, Sunday, February 22, 2015


Hong Kong police use pepper spray on democracy protesters October 16, 2014


Political reform supporters stand outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu