Posts Tagged ‘Taiwan’

China Is Winning in the South China Sea

July 18, 2018

The U.S. should respond more vigorously to Beijing’s violations of international law.

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Two years after an international tribunal rejected expansive Chinese claims to the South China Sea, Beijing is consolidating control over the area and its resources. While the U.S. defends the right to freedom of navigation, it has failed to support the rights of neighboring countries under the tribunal’s ruling. As a result, Southeast Asian countries are bowing to Beijing’s demands.

The tribunal’s main significance was to clarify resource rights. It ruled that China cannot claim historic rights to resources in waters within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone of other coastal states. It also clarified that none of the land features claimed by China in the Spratlys, in the southern part of the South China Sea, generate an exclusive economic zone.

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In late July 2017, Beijing threatened Vietnam with military action if it did not stop oil and gas exploration in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, according to a report by the BBC’s Bill Hayton. Hanoi stopped drilling. Earlier this year, Vietnam again attempted to drill, and Beijing issued similar warnings.

Other countries, including the U.S., failed to express support for Vietnam or condemn China’s threats. Beijing has also pressured Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines to agree to “joint development” in their exclusive economic zones—a term that suggests legitimate overlapping claims.

Meanwhile China is accelerating its militarization of the South China Sea. In April, it deployed antiship cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers to artificial islands constructed on Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef. In May, it landed long-range bombers on Woody Island.

Chinese envoy to the Philippines Xiao Jinhua, right, said that the Philippines was not and would not be a province of China.  Presidential Photo/Simeon Celi Jr., File

Beijing says it can do as it wishes on its own territory. But under international law, Mischief Reef isn’t Chinese. The 2016 tribunal decision made clear that jurisdiction over a low-tide elevation lies with the country in whose territorial sea or exclusive economic zone it is located, and no other country can claim sovereignty. Because Mischief Reef is located in the Philippines zone, the Philippines has jurisdiction over it.

Sovereignty over the rest of the features in the South China Sea continues to be fiercely contested. As I wrote in these pages last year, international law on the responsibility of an occupying state in a disputed area is far from clear, so Beijing’s actions are at best in a legal gray zone.

While Beijing’s dramatic military buildup in the South China Sea has received much attention, its attempts at “lawfare” are largely overlooked. In May, the Chinese Society of International Law published a “critical study” on the South China Sea arbitration case. It rehashed old arguments but also developed a newer one, namely that China is entitled to claim maritime zones based on groups of features rather than from individual features. Even if China is not entitled to historic rights within the area it claims, this argument goes, it is entitled to resources in a wide expanse of sea on the basis of an exclusive economic zone generated from outlying archipelagoes.

But the Convention on the Law of the Sea makes clear that only archipelagic states such as the Philippines and Indonesia may draw straight archipelagic baselines from which maritime zones may be claimed. The tribunal also explicitly found that there was “no evidence” that any deviations from this rule have amounted to the formation of a new rule of customary international law.

China’s arguments are unlikely to sway lawyers, but that is not their intended audience. Rather Beijing is offering a legal fig leaf to political and business elites in Southeast Asia who are already predisposed to accept Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. They fear China’s threat of coercive economic measures and eye promises of development through offerings such as the Belt and Road Initiative.

Why did Washington go quiet on the 2016 tribunal decision? One reason is Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s turn toward China and offer to set aside the ruling. The U.S. is also worried about the decision’s implications for its own claims to exclusive economic zones from small, uninhabited land features in the Pacific.

The Trump administration’s failure to press Beijing to abide by the tribunal’s ruling is a serious mistake. It undermines international law and upsets the balance of power in the region. Countries have taken note that the tide in the South China Sea is in China’s favor, and they are making their strategic calculations accordingly. This hurts U.S. interests in the region.

The U.S. still has a chance to turn things around. It must coordinate a regional and international effort to insist that Beijing abides by international law. Coastal states must be supported in standing up to any incursions into their exclusive economic zones, including through coastal state-initiated legal action.

There must also be greater pushback against Beijing’s claims that China is entitled to do as it likes on its own territory. In all of this, the U.S. will have greater credibility if it finally accedes to the Convention on the Law of the Sea. These efforts will be critical to defend a rules-based order against China’s bid for hegemony in the region.

Ms. Kuok is an associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies-Asia and a senior research fellow at the Centre for Rising Powers, University of Cambridge.


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See also:

China won’t allow Philippines to fall into a ‘debt trap’: envoy



Zhao: China’s loan to finance infrastructure projects will not make the Philippines fall into debt trap



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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.


China has Plenty of Ideas on How To Win Trade War

July 18, 2018

Private investment and the European Union could be two sources of strength to counter China’s row with the United States, a report says

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 10:16am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 11:42am

China should spur private investment and consumption at home and ally with the European Union and Japan to help win a trade war against the US, a Chinese think tank has said, as Washington and Beijing engage in tit-for-tat tariffs.

In a report on Tuesday, Renmin University’s National Academy of Development and Strategy also said China should increase the dependence of multinationals on the Chinese market “by importing their products to China or enabling their localised production and sales” as another way to counterbalance the unilateralism of US President Donald Trump.

At the same time, China must be “flexible” in its tariff retaliation list and tighten controls over cross-border capital flows, it said.

Many of the suggestions are in line with China’s existing playbook and action taken since Trump escalated the hostilities with threats of another US$200 billion of Chinese goods with a 10 per cent tariff. China and the US had already exchanged 25 per cent tariffs on US$34 billion of each other’s goods.

China has taken the case to the World Trade Organisation for arbitration, but it has not yet announced any specific countermeasures.

“To fight US trade protectionism, [we] should make use of the different interests among countries to deepen economic cooperation with Japan, the EU, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan and Russia,” the report said.

The report was released a day after the annual China-EU Summit in Beijing, where there were signs of progress on a bilateral investment treaty.

But Renmin University professor Yu Chunhai, who co-authored the report, cautioned that the basis of cooperation between China and the EU cooperation was “not solid as we thought” because there was not much European involvement in the value chain of US-bound Chinese products.

On the home front, the think tank suggested that China boost domestic consumption by freeing up restrictions on private investment in areas like health care, education, tourism and social security.

China should also make the yuan exchange rate “more flexible” – a hint that Beijing might allow a greater yuan appreciation – and improve capital account controls to minimise impacts from “the US dollar and US monetary policy on Chinese monetary, financial and economic situation”.

Mei Xinyu, a researcher affiliated with China’s Ministry of Commerce, agreed with the suggestions, saying China had to improve its economic ties with the EU and Japan and use the trade war as a “pressure test” to spot economic vulnerabilities.

Renmin University vice-president Liu Yuanchun said the country had entered a “real period of difficulty” because the trade war came in the middle of “painful” structural adjustment for the country.

Liu said the row had already put a dent in investor confidence in the Chinese stock market and currency.

“We need to fine-tune our policies to offset a series of shocks, particularly external shocks … The trade war [with the US] is absolutely not based on economic but political logic. It won’t end immediately but to escalate step by step,” he said.



European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP File Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Taiwan’s Apache fleet goes into service amid China tensions

July 17, 2018

Taiwan on Tuesday put into service its fleet of US-made Apache attack helicopters, upgrading its defences against a growing military threat from China.

The US sold 30 Apache AH-64E — also known as the “tank killer” — to Taiwan as part of a $6.5 billion arms deal announced in 2008 that angered Beijing.

© AFP | Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen waves during a ceremony to commission new US-made Apache AH-64E attack helicopters at an military base in Taoyuan

China sees the self-ruled island as part of its own territory to be reunified, by force if necessary, and opposes any weapons sales to Taiwan.

Washington is the biggest deterrent against any Chinese invasion. Although it does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it is required to supply defensive weapons under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

The Taiwanese military was the first force outside the US to use the latest variant of Boeing’s Apache AH-64, which was delivered to the island between November 2013 and October 2014.

Boeing describes it as “the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopter” and it has been sold to countries including Japan and the UK.

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President Tsai Ing-wen hailed the commissioning of the fleet as “a very strong line of defence” at a ceremony Tuesday at a military base in the northwestern city of Taoyuan.

“The excellent combat skills we see today are the result of such difficult training,” Tsai said, adding 84 weeks of flight training are required to qualify as an Apache pilot.

The Apaches were joined by other aircraft in performing flybys and in-air manoeuvres.

But only 29 were commissioned as one was damaged when it crash-landed on a building during training in April 2014.

Taiwan’s military also introduced Asia’s first female Apache AH-64E pilot. Yang Yun-hsuan, an army major, said she was following in the footsteps of her father, who was also a pilot.

China has stepped up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan since the Beijing-sceptic Tsai took office two years ago, including staging a series of military exercises near the island.

Beijing is also incensed by recent warming moves between Washington and Taipei. These include approval by the US State Department of a preliminary licence needed to sell submarine technology to the island.


Hong Kong police seek landmark ban on pro-independence party

July 17, 2018

Police in Hong Kong sought to ban a political party which promotes independence for the city Tuesday citing it as a potential national security threat as Beijing ups pressure on challenges to its territorial sovereignty.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland including freedom of expression but concern is growing those rights are under serious threat from an assertive China under President Xi Jinping.

It is the first time such a ban has been sought since Britain handed sovereignty of Hong Kong back to China in 1997 and is the latest move to stifle any calls for independence, which have infuriated Chinese authorities.

Hong Kong’s secretary for security John Lee said Tuesday he was considering the request made by police to ban the Hong Kong National Party, one of the leading groups calling for the city’s independence from China.

“In Hong Kong we have freedom of association, but that right is not without restriction,” Lee told reporters.

© AFP/File | Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland but concern is growing those rights are under threat from an assertive China under President Xi Jinping

Questioned how the Hong Kong National Party was damaging national security, Lee said he could not comment on the details.

However, he added that under Hong Kong law, national security meant “safeguarding of the territorial integrity and the independence of the People’s Republic of China”.

Under the city’s societies ordinance, groups can be banned in the interests of national security and public safety.

Asked repeatedly by reporters whether the request was politically motivated, Lee said “any person or any society in Hong Kong must act within the law” and that any request for a ban was based on facts and evidence.

Lee said he would give the party 21 days to make representations as to why it should not be prohibited.

Hong Kong National Party leader Andy Chan told AFP police went to his home on Tuesday and handed him documents citing the requested ban, asking him to respond to the security secretary within the time limit.

“They just handed down the documents and left,” he told AFP.

Chan said the documents included records of his speeches and Facebook history, adding that he thought the requested ban may be linked to a recent trip he made to Taiwan where he spoke about Hong Kong civil and political rights at a public forum.

China sees self-ruling democratic Taiwan as part of its own territory to be brought back into the fold.

Activists calling for Hong Kong’s independence from China emerged after mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014 failed to win reforms.

But there have been increasing attempts to muzzle any talk on the topic, with pro-independence activists including Chan blocked from standing for office and others disqualified from the legislature.

Leading independence activist Edward Leung was jailed for six years in June on rioting charges after clashes with police in 2016.



Taiwanese academic: US likely to withdrawal from Taiwan’s immediate surroundings to placate China

July 17, 2018

US will withdraw from Taiwan’s immediate surroundings, accommodate China according to Kung Chia-cheng

Donald Trump waving, July 15. (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Former head of the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (國家中山科學研究院), Kung Chia-cheng (龔家政) said that the U.S. will withdraw from the first island chain and Taiwan should begin to plan for a new strategic context at a conference in Taipei on July 15.

Kung said that the U.S.’s pull-back from Taiwan’s immediate surroundings would weaken its strategic positioning and diminish Taiwan’s international importance during the “New Cross-strait Relationship” conference put on by the Democratic Pacific Union (民主太平洋聯盟) in Taipei.

The “first island chain” is a strategic demarcation from Japan’s southern tip, moving southward between Taiwan’s east coast and the Philippines’s west coast, and follows the southern boundary of the South China Sea around to Vietnam.

First and Second island chains. (image courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense)

The first island chain is followed by two more island chains which are progressively further east to Taiwan. The island chain concept is used by the Chinese military and U.S. military, as well as other regional actors.

Kung said that the decision by the U.S. to suspend its joint military exercises with South Korea, represents the U.S.’s military withdrawal from the first island chain to the second island chain, reported the China Times.

South Korea and the U.S. agreed to postpone scheduled war games for August 2018, as a sign of goodwill towards North Korea as talks about denuclearization of the Korean peninsula continue. It is unclear if a one-off postponement of military training equates to wholesale forfeiture of the U.S.’s strategic foothold in east Asia.

Kung speculates that China President Xi Jinping (習近平) believes the Pacific Ocean is big enough for both China and the U.S. and America will withdraw its presence from the first island chain as a sign of goodwill and to avoid conflict.

Since President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” speech in Canberra, Australia on 17 November 2011, the U.S. military has been fully committed to maintaining its current strategic footprint in the region through their public communication.

Kung said that the recent passage by two U.S. warships through the Taiwan Strait was not as meaningful as in previous times. For Kung, the move was to pacify U.S. Congress, rather than signal to China and the broader region of the U.S.’s intent to continue its presence in the Asia Pacific.

Pacific Fleet spokesman Captain Charlie Brown said the passage was routine. “U.S. Navy Ships transit between the South China Sea and the East China Sea via the Taiwan Strait,” he said, “and have done so for many years” to CNN.

Due to China’s growing military strength, Kung believes that Taiwan cannot rely on a security blanket provided by U.S. aircraft carriers, as it had done so during the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis.

Kung said that the next steps depend on two factors. First, the political situation in Taiwan and potential moves towards Taiwan independence, of which China views as a precursor to remove diplomatic resolutions. Second, how the U.S. government’s Taiwan Travel Act and the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is interpreted by China and its so-called “one China” principle.

China’s Global Media Machine

July 12, 2018

China and the world: how Beijing spreads the message

More than 200 Chinese-language publications reprint content from state media. The Communist party believes the coverage helps mute opposition from the diaspora

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© FT montage / Dreamstime

By Emily Feng in Beijing

The latest issue of the UK-Chinese Times, one of the mainstays of Britain’s nearly 400,000-strong Chinese-speaking community, splashed on the House of Fraser’s plan to close more than half of its department stores in the UK. The news organisation, with a print circulation of 40,000, has been providing news and information to its readers since 2003.

But the nature of that news has changed over time. Since 2010, the UK-Chinese Times, which is based in the southern commuter town of Milton Keynes, has partnered the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the ruling Chinese Communist party. The result is that, as well as publishing an insert from the People’s Daily, the UK-China Times runs dozens of articles identical to those printed by official Chinese media.

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After the Communist party decided last year to abolish presidential term limits, thus allowing Xi Jinping to remain as head of state for life, the UK-China Times ran a series of stories justifying the constitutional revision.

“The adoption of constitutional amendments by the National People’s Congress will surely bring happiness and wellbeing to the Chinese people in a new era,” one netizen gushes in a People’s Daily article republished in the publication.

The shift in content at the UK-Chinese Times is part of an aggressive push by Communist party-backed outlets in print, radio and television to establish co-operation agreements with overseas publications, which allow them to publish party-approved content under the masthead of other news outlets.

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A Financial Times investigation found that party-affiliated outlets were reprinting or broadcasting their content in at least 200 nominally independent Chinese-language publications around the world. Under such agreements, these publications now reach millions of readers outside China each year, rivalling the subscription pools for all of the world’s largest newspapers.

“Chinese-language media and the Chinese people are one,” Lu Hao, the managing editor of the American newspaper Sino-US Times, told editors at a forum promoting China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative last year.

When it comes to promoting the Communist party’s geopolitical interests abroad, he added: “Chinese-language media have an incomparable advantage, due to a shared language, culture, and customs.”

Using third-party outlets to mask party content has become such a common tactic that party officials have even given it a name — “borrowing boats to go to sea”, meaning to use another’s resources to fulfil one’s goals.

As China has ramped up its soft power efforts over the past decade in an attempt to shift the international image of its authoritarian system, much of the attention has focused on its investment in English-language content in the US and Europe.

A newspaper stand stocking the UK-Chinese times © Tolga Akmen/FT

However, the authorities have also been conducting a co-ordinated effort to influence the media groups that cater to the approximately 60m ethnically Chinese people who live overseas, especially communities in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Chinese officials worry that diaspora communities — many of which have longstanding ties to Taiwan— could help foment opposition to the Communist party.

“The CCP is trying to ‘merge’ or ‘fuse’, in their own words, overseas Chinese media content with its own or with some of the people that are in key roles with domestic media in China,” says Anne-Marie Brady, a China expert at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. “This is a really well established phenomenon. It is just that the outside world hasn’t noticed.”

In 2005, Chinese-Canadian publisher Jack Jia was invited to attend, expenses paid, a conference blandly called the World Media Forum that was to be held in the Chinese riverport city of Wuhan.

After being wined and dined by high-level Chinese editors, he was approached with a tempting offer: free content from China News Service, a wire service that primarily caters to Chinese audiences in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

But Mr Jia, the publisher and editor of Chinese News, a Chinese-language newspaper in Canada, felt something was off. “When we took a look at their content, we saw it all read like Xinhua, the government mouthpiece,” Mr Jia told the Financial Times, referring to the state news agency. “We did not use the content at all.”

China News Service is controlled by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, a key organisation behind the Communist party’s influence operations abroad. Once created to reach readers in Hong Kong and Taiwan, CNS has since focused its attention on ethnic Chinese communities living outside China.

Overseas Chinese newspapers and media outlets long maintained a connection almost exclusively with Hong Kong and Taiwanese media outlets, many of whom adopted an anti-party stance. That changed in the early 2000s, say Chinese publishers, as Beijing’s economic clout grew. Publishers like Mr Jia were aggressively courted. The outreach is part of a larger effort to draw those communities politically closer into the Communist party’s orbit.

“China has money and force now, and so in our time its media penetration of western countries, especially [Britain], Germany, the US and Canada, has increased,” says Cao Changqing, a Chinese-American commenter who currently works for a Taiwanese broadcaster.

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Around the same time, revenues in the global print industry nosedived as a result of the distribution of news on internet. That gave Chinese party media an opening: it would offer its content completely for free, keeping struggling publishers afloat while widening its own readership.

Outlets such as the party-run People’s Daily and China News Service supply free content that is then published under the masthead of the overseas news organisation. The articles are usually published with a small dateline identifying its source but can easily be mistaken for being native to the overseas publication. Sometimes these agreements also oblige the publishers to run the overseas edition of the People’s Daily as a separate insert.

Since 2003, China News Service has hosted annual conferences in China to which hundreds of editors from overseas media organisations in print, television and radio are invited. The People’s Daily and CGTN, the international arm of state broadcaster CCTV, have since begun their own media forums. On the sidelines of these forums, foreign publishers are approached with offers of free news copy or television programmes from state media sponsors.

“The overseas edition of the People’s Daily is one of the most authoritative newspapers in China. Its rich and detailed content is obvious to all. Therefore, I volunteered [to publish People’s Daily content], and I look forward to joining the ‘big family’ of its overseas edition,” the editor-in-chief of Austria’s Huaxin Newspaper told the People’s Daily after attending its 2007 forum.

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A man reading a Chinese newspaper in Toronto’s Chinatown © Alamy

China’s state media is trying to export its model of carefully controlled news, but Gao Bingchen, a Canadian-Chinese columnist who writes under the pen name Huang Hebian, says it is not a two-way relationship. “The biggest problem is the lack of reciprocity. Western society helps Chinese culture and content by freely disseminating it, but China is completely closed off to content from western countries,” he says.

Mr Gao was fired in 2016 from Canadian newspaper Global Chinese Press after writing critically of a state visit to Ottawa by foreign minister Wang Yi and China’s human rights situation on his personal social media account.

Independent Chinese-language writers find it increasingly difficult to publish work not sanctioned by party-backed media, says Jonathan Fon, a Chinese-Canadian television commentator.

“[Censorship] does not stop at [other publications] rejecting these sorts of stories. In today’s environment, you do not even have the ability to publish things yourself, because no one will help you publish those essays,” says Mr Fon, who says he has been blocked from appearing in several Chinese-language Canadian news outlets after writing negatively about Sino-Canadian trade.

Beijing’s increased global economic clout has put additional pressure on Chinese-language media abroad. In Canada, companies that depend on cultivating business relationships with the mainland also enforce compliance to China’s party line by dangling much-needed advertisement money in front of Chinese-language media.

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Foreign minister Wang Yi was criticised by independent Chinese language media during a state visit to Canada in 2016 © AP

“[The companies] won’t place ads in so-called ‘hostile’ media. Even if the paper is neutral the consulate will quietly notice and direct companies or patriotic associations not to place ads in those papers. So if you are neutral, the source of revenue will disappear immediately,” says Chongyi Feng, an associate professor in China studies at the University of Technology Sydney.

A Canadian-Chinese writer who goes by the pen name Xin Feng says: “The Chinese-language media here are sometimes run by mainland business people using their media as a platform for attracting business or to actively disseminate propaganda.” In 2016, he received death threats after writing critically about the same state visit by Mr Wang that resulted in Mr Gao’s firing.

Chinese supermarkets, which rely on good relationships with local officials and wholesalers in China to import most of their products, have been particularly vocal in linking ad-buying to political correctness, two Chinese-Canadian publishers in Toronto say.

“The risks of speaking out are obviously getting worse, especially since the 19th party congress,” says Mr Jia, referring to the party meeting in October that ended term limits for Chinese presidents. “The fear is there, and it’s getting worse.”

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A man picks up a free Chinese-language newspaper in London’s Chinatown © Tolga Akmen/FT

In some cases, the threats against reporters for non-compliance are less than subtle. The Chinese wife of Chinese-American reporter Xiaoping Chen was detained in September while working in an airport in southern China. She was released earlier this year, according to friends, but Mr Chen has not been able to contact her directly.

A video of his wife surfaced shortly before she was released, published on a YouTube account with audio files hacked from Chinese and foreign journalists. In the video, she stated she was voluntarily leaving her husband but appears to be reading off a script.

Mr Chen is the New York-based editor of Mirror Media Group, a Chinese-language website that publishes sometimes-speculative articles documenting the intrigue of China’s political elite.

He believes it was his numerous interviews with Guo Wengui, an exiled business magnate who threatened to leak politically sensitive secrets about some of China’s most powerful leaders, that put the authorities on edge.

China’s public security ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

“[My wife] has basically no interest in my work. Even when I tell her the truth [about China], she still does notquite believe what I say,” he told the FT via email. “But honestly, I never thought they would kidnap my wife.”

Additional reporting from Lucy Hornby in Beijing


Expansion News groups refine their global reach

Among the new generation of international broadcasters, the Russian television station RT receives a lot of attention for its raucously anti-western viewpoint. Given their considerable international reach, there is far less recognition of the foreign-language push of the Chinese media groups.

In the early 2000s, state news agencies Xinhua and China News Service, state broadcaster CCTV and the party-run People’s Daily newspaper began refashioning themselves as international outlets rather than purely domestic news providers.

All four established or beefed up bureaus. In 2016, CCTV rebranded its international networks as CGTN, a network with more than 70 overseas bureaus broadcasting in five languages across more than 180 countries.

According to CCTV, it also provides free video footage and television scripts to 1,700 smaller foreign news organisations and media groups. State radio company China Radio International broadcasts in more than 60 languages from 70 overseas stations.

However, CCTV, CRI and China National Radio were merged this year into an English-language behemoth, the Voice of China, aimed specifically at spreading more positive stories about China internationally.

Xinhua has even bigger plans for itself. Last year, three of its largest financial publications were placed into a new subsidiary, China Fortune Media Group. The plan is to turn China Fortune into a rebranded global financial information company. In addition to licensing text and video content to other news organisations, China Fortune Media Group would also sell access to state-owned enterprises and banks to foreign investors through a Bloomberg-like terminal as well as run offline events, according to two people familiar with its strategy.

China Fortune hoped to list by the end of the year, but the long-delayed IPO has again been held up in part because of disagreements about what to do with hundreds of Xinhua-affiliated employees who would have to be let go.

U.S. warships pass through the Taiwan Strait

July 7, 2018

Two U.S. warships passed through the Taiwan Strait on Saturday on a voyage that will likely be viewed in the self-ruled island as a sign of support by President Donald Trump amid heightened tension with China.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the ships were moving in a northeastern direction, adding that the situation was in accordance with regulations.

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Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help it defend itself and is the island’s main source of arms. China regularly says Taiwan is the most sensitive issue in its ties with the United States.

The U.S. military declined to comment. U.S. officials told Reuters a Strait passage had been planned but declined to elaborate on the timing of such an operation, which would be the first by a U.S. Navy ship in about a year.

The mission follows a series of Chinese military drills around the island that have stoked tensions between Taipei and Beijing.

China claims Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring under its control what it sees as a wayward province. Taiwan has shown no interest in being governed by the ruling Communist Party in Beijing.

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89)

The move comes as a U.S.-China trade fight is seen as dragging on for a potentially prolonged period, as the world’s two biggest economies flex their muscles with no sign of negotiations to ease tensions.

Friday marked the start of the U.S. duties that were promptly met with retribution by China, as Beijing accused the United States of triggering the “largest-scale trade war.”

Reuters first reported last month that the United States was considering sending a warship and had examined plans for an aircraft carrier passage, but ultimately did not pursue that option perhaps because of concerns about upsetting China.

The last time a U.S. aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait was in 2007, during the administration of George W. Bush, and some U.S. military officials believe a carrier transit is overdue.

U.S. overtures towards Taiwan, from unveiling a new de facto embassy to passing the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages U.S. officials to visit, have further escalated tension between Beijing and Taipei.

China has alarmed Taiwan by ramping up military exercises this year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island and sending its carrier through the narrow Taiwan Strait separating it from Taiwan.

In recent months, China’s air force has held military maneuvers near the island, which Taipei has called intimidation.

China’s hostility toward Taiwan has grown since Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won presidential elections on the island in 2016.


Reporting By Jess Macy Yu; Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Peter Graff and Helen Popper


USS Benfold (DDG-65) and Republic of Singapore Navy’s (RSN) RSS Endurance (LST 207), participate in a PHOTOEX during Exercise Pacific Griffin 2017. US Navy Photo

Taipei Times (Taiwan)

Two US guided-missile destroyers, the USS Mustin (DDG-89) and the USS Benfold (DDG-65), transited the Taiwan Strait and Taiwan’s southern exclusive economic zone earlier yesterday on an apparent northeasterly course, the Ministry of National Defense said last night.

The ministry in a news release said that the Republic of China Navy monitored the passage of the two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in accordance with regulations.

Military personnel remain vigilant and are at their stations, the ministry said, adding that it is confident of its capability to maintain regional stability and protect the nation.

The crossing follows a statement by US officials last month that the US was considering sending warships through the Strait.

As far as is known, US Navy ships last crossed the Strait under then-US president George W. Bush in 2007, when the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and its battle group sailed through the waterway.

The Presidential Office last night said that Taiwan has always valued peace and stability in the Strait and in the region.

As a responsible member of the international community, Taiwan will continue to work to maintain the “status quo” with China and to ensure peace, prosperity and development in the Asia-Pacific region, it said.

The passage of US military vessels through the Strait and the USS Ronald Reagan previously patrolling the South China Sea are strategic preventive actions adopted by the US under its Indo-Pacific strategy, an anonymous source familiar with the matter said.

The purpose is to draw a line to prevent China from damaging the regional “status quo,” as Beijing attempts to challenge it, the source said.

The American Institute in Taiwan was not available for comment as of press time last night.

Additional reporting by Stacy Hsu

China Seeks Individuals to Develop South China Sea Islands Claimed, But Not Owned By China

July 7, 2018

China’s southern Hainan province, which administers the country’s claimed islands and waters in the contested South China Sea, is allowing individuals to use uninhabited islets for tourism and construction purposes for up to 50 years, state-run media has reported, citing an official document.

The document, revealed Wednesday, says that “any entity or individual” who wishes to develop uninhabited islands can apply and provide development plans to provincial ocean administration authorities, according to Hainan’s Department of Ocean and Fisheries, the state-run CGTN website reported Friday.

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The development would focus mainly on uninhabited islands in the Paracel chain, home to hundreds of undeveloped islets. The Paracels, which are occupied by China, are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, and is home to Woody Island, the nerve center and administration post for much of China’s operations in the strategic waterway.

According to the report, the time frame for developing the uninhabited islands varies depending on use. For aquaculture, they can be used for 15 years, tourism and amusement projects allow for 25 years, salt and mineral industry projects for 30 years, public welfare projects for 40 years and harbor- and shipyard-building projects for 50 years.

It said developers will have to pay the government for the use of the islands, which would also benefit Beijing’s goal of building a free trade zone for economic development.

“The development on uninhabited islands will maintain stability of (the) South China Sea and dispel other countries’ attempts to invade and occupy our territorial sovereignty,” the report cited Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the state-backed Hainan-based National Institute for the South China Sea, as saying.

Beijing has built up a series of military outposts in the South China Sea, which includes vital sea lanes through which about $3 trillion in global trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims.

As part of what some experts say is a concerted bid to cement de facto control of the South China Sea, three of Beijing’s man-made islets in the Spratly chain south of the Paracels — Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs — all boast military-grade airfields.

In May, the Chinese Air Force landed bombers on Woody Island as part of a training exercise. Satellite images taken May 12 showed China also appeared to have deployed truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles at Woody, while anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-air missiles were also placed on its largest bases in the Spratlys.

All of these moves came despite a 2015 pledge by President Xi Jinping not to further militarize the islets.

Washington has blasted Beijing for the moves, fearing the outposts could be used to restrict free movement in the waterway, and has conducted a number of so-called freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the area, including one near several islets in the Paracels in May.

It has also flown bombers on training missions over the South China Sea — including a “routine mission” that was “in the vicinity of the South China Sea,” according to the U.S. military.

India Denies Visas to Pakistanis for Academic Conference, Igniting Discussions

July 7, 2018

NEW DELHI: In protest against the decision of Ministry of External Affairs to deny visas to Pakistani academics for attending a seminar in New Delhi, nearly 80 scholars from several universities such as Yale, Harvard and Princeton have mooted a resolution to not hold conferences in such countries any more, The Indian Express has reported.

India had banned the scholars from attending the conference organised by the Association for Asian Studies and Ashoka University in New Delhi. The Association for Asian Studies, since 2014, has been holding an annual conference called AAS in Asia. The previous conferences were held in Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, while this year’s event is scheduled to be held from July 5 to 8 at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.

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About 80 scholars attended a protest meeting, which raised enough funds to rent a hall at the conference’s venue in New Delhi so that the banned academics could join them digitally.

“As a scholar of Pakistani origin working on Pakistan, I received the AAS’ reply to the Indian government’s restrictions on Pakistani scholars [including those who are dual nationals but originally from Pakistan] with deep concern and disappointment,” a statement by Salman Hussain from The Graduate Centre, CUNY, read. Hussain is one of the academics who was not allowed to travel to India.

“I am dismayed with the AAS’ tepid response to the blanket ban — based on the association’s presumption that this reaction was expected of the Indian government given the tense relations between the two countries,” Hussain added.

The academics, at the meeting, mooted four resolutions. One of them was to demand that all future conferences by the Association of Asian Studies should be in countries that “do not have official or unofficial policies” to exclude people based on their nationality. Another resolution urged the Indian government to reconsider its ban on the scholars.

Independent researcher Sinjini Mukherjee, one of the organisers of the protest meeting, said there has been no final decision yet.

In a letter to Ashoka University dated February 19, the Ministry of External Affairs had reportedly told the organisers explicitly not to include Pakistani scholars at the event.

“The ministry has no objection from the political angle for the proposed event with foreign participants [except participants from Pakistan], as stated in your aforesaid communication, subject to the clearance of Ministry of Home Affairs as applicable and nodal ministry,” the letter read.

Several academics have criticised the Association for Asian Studies for failing to inform the participants about the ban.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2018

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South China Sea: Time for a different Philippine narrative on maritime dispute with China

July 7, 2018

Since the stunning victory over China in 2016, the official story has been defeatist

Soon, it will be two years since the Philippines overwhelmingly won in its maritime dispute against China. But during this time, the official narrative in the Philippines has been one with strong defeatist tones.

By Marites Dañguilan Vitug


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From Day 1, July 12, 2016, when the international arbitral tribunal issued its decision invalidating China’s 9-dash line and clarifying the status of certain features in the South China Sea, this ruling has never been given the national attention it deserved. It has not been used as leverage in the country’s dealings with China. It has not been in the Department of Foreign Affairs’ talking points.

It has not been part of the country’s diplomatic arsenal.

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Yes, we won, officials say, but…

  • China is our source of economic deliverance. China will rebuild war-torn Marawi. China will invest heavily in the government’s “Build, Build, Build”
    program. Millions of Chinese tourists will boost our tourism industry. China is our new source of weapons.
  • China is a dear friend who, unlike the European Union, is nonchalant about the deadly drug war that has killed thousands and has led to a crushing wave of impunity.

These buts drown out the gains of July 12, 2016, weakening the Philippine position, making our country’s voice part of the chorus of approval of China in the region.

Let us not be taken by the official story. It’s time to talk about a different narrative.

Let’s go back to the story of Philippines vs. China, the historic arbitration case that reverberated in various parts of the world. As a law professor from the University of Geneva said, “July 12, 2016 is a date that will remain etched in the history of international adjudication.”

Let’s go back to the almost two decades of back-and-forth with Beijing when our diplomats asserted Philippine rights over parts of the South China Sea – only to be rebuffed with its stock response that China had “indisputable sovereignty” over this vast area.

Let’s hear from our scholars, experts, and diplomats on how to make use of our legal victory and start a national conversation on this crucial issue.

Historic case

In my new book, Rock Solid: How the Philippines won its maritime case against China, I tell the story of this victory that gave the country so much – a maritime area larger than the total land area of the Philippines, rich in resources – but has since been disregarded by the government.

First of all, the case is historic. It is the first to interpret the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) definitions of rocks, islands, and low-tide elevations; the first case to be filed by a South China Sea claimant state against China; and it is the first case to address the scope and application of the Unclos provision on protection and preservation of the environment.

This book addresses why President Benigno Aquino III took China to Court. Among others, he particularly remembered the quip of one ASEAN senior leader: “There are big countries and there are small countries. That’s the way of the world.” He mulled over this and thought that it was precisely the law that would serve as the great equalizer.

With this as anchor – the law as the great equalizer – Aquino decided, with the approval of the Cabinet, the leaders of Congress and two past presidents, to sue China.

In January 2013, the Philippines began its legal battle. It filed a “notification of statement and claim.”

More than year later, the Philippines submitted its memorial, like a plea, which reached more than 3,000 pages. It was a product of massive research in history, international law, geology, hydrography, marine biodiversity, and cartography. This included 10 volumes of annexes, which contained maps, nautical charts, expert reports, witnesses’ affidavits, historical records, and official communications.

Almost two decades of written exchanges between the Philippines and China, including notes verbale, were made public. Intelligence reports of the Navy, the Western Command of the Armed Forces, and the Department of National Defense were also submitted to the tribunal.

This was a first in the country: that diplomatic cables and intelligence documents were revealed to the public, a fascinating trove of our diplomatic history.

The Philippine story also unfolds in the transcripts of the oral hearings in The Hague which capture the essential points of the case. Paul Reichler and his team at Foley Hoag used the richly-documented diplomatic history of the Philippines-China dispute in their arguments before the tribunal.

These transcripts, the Philippine memorial, the awards (or the tribunal’s decisions) on jurisdiction and merit are accessible reading to non-lawyers like me. They can be downloaded from the website of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

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Despite the stunning victory, why was the Philippines so glum about a historic ruling that was on its side? Why did it choose to bury a euphoric moment instead of using the victory to galvanize a nation?

The answer lay in the country’s new president, Rodrigo Duterte. He held a different view: his heart and mind were with China.

The Duterte government has taken a defeatist stance despite the immensity of what the Philippines had gained from the ruling. Duterte once said that the Philippines was “helpless” in the face of China’s might. For him, the choices in dealing with China were extreme, either to talk or to go to war. He has framed foreign policy in a false dichotomy.

While the story of Philippines vs. China offers hope and inspiration, it is the aftermath that offers more challenges. Rock Solid gives a few prescriptions on how to make the tribunal’s decision work, but there are definitely more ideas out there worth exploring.

Many have said that international pressure can encourage the implementation of the award – but friendly countries have to take the lead from the Philippines.

In the region, the award benefited not only the Philippines but other Southeast Asian states which have made claims to parts of the South China Sea. It was clear from the ruling, as Reichler explained, that “if China’s nine-dash line is invalid as to the Philippines, it is equally invalid to other states bordering the South China Sea like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, and the rest of the international community.”

Making the tribunal ruling work and seeing it come to fruition, partly or fully, will take a long time, way beyond a single president’s term. It will require strategic thinking anchored on a strong sense of justice, equity, and sovereign rights. –


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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.

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