Posts Tagged ‘Xi Jinping’

The Rudderless West — Failing to effectively govern undermines democracy, freedom

January 18, 2019
Preserving the foundations of free government is difficult, necessary work

We are drifting, in the absence of mind and will, toward a moment of civilizational self-negation.

By Bret Stephens

Opinion Columnist

In August 1990, George H.W. Bush met Margaret Thatcher in Aspen right after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The pair resolved not to allow Iraq’s “naked aggression” to stand, and it did not. This was how the West was supposed to work — and how, sometimes, it did.

Image result for George H.W. Bush met Margaret Thatcher in Aspen, photos

Today the U.S. and Great Britain scarcely govern themselves, never mind shape world order. Theresa May, who as prime minister resembles Thatcher in no respect other than gender and party, just suffered the worst parliamentary defeat in nearly a century over her Brexit deal. Donald Trump, who as president resembles Bush in no respect other than gender and party, presides over a shuttered government, a revolving-door administration, a furiously divided nation, and a mistrusted and mocked superpower.

The West is now rudderless. To be rudderless puts you at the mercy of elements. The elemental forces of politics today are tribalism, populism, authoritarianism and the sewage pipes of social media. Each contradicts the West’s foundational commitments to universalism, representation, unalienable rights, and an epistemology built on fact and reason, not clicks and feelings. We are drifting, in the absence of mind and will, toward a moment of civilizational self-negation.

When did the drift begin? Probably in 1989, when Francis Fukuyama published his landmark essay “The End of History?” and a decade of democratic complacency took hold. Why worry about the health and fate of liberal democracy when its triumph was inevitable and irreversible? Why teach the benefits of free markets and immigration — or the dangers of socialism and nativism — when history had already rendered a verdict?

And why do the tedious work of preserving the foundations of free government when it is so much more interesting to reinvent it?

Complacency breeds heedlessness. Liberals were heedless when they wrote off moral character as an essential trait of a good presidency. Conservatives (like me) were heedless when we became more concerned about the state of democracy in Iraq than in Iowa. Liberals were heedless when they embraced identity politics without ever thinking it could also be used against them. Conservatives (again, like me) were heedless when we downplayed the significance of the populism and scaremongering infecting the movement via talk radio and Fox News.

The heedlessness occurred on the other side of the Atlantic, too. European integration is a blessing; integration without genuine democratic accountability and consent isn’t. Similarly, immigration is a blessing; immigration without assimilation is a curse. Two generations of European leaders allowed the former without requiring the latter, and then airily dismissed public discontent as politically insignificant and morally illegitimate. Now they are living with the consequences.

From left, Reps. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., and Katie Hill, D-Calif, after delivering a letter to the Russell Building office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.Getty Images

As for Brexit, the 2016 decision by 52 percent of the British electorate to leave the European Union over the vehement objections of the 48 percent (details to be hashed out later, if ever), must surely count as one of the worst considered in the island’s storied history. But not as foolish as the decision by former Prime Minister David Cameron to put a foundational question up for a popular vote — just as he had put another foundational question, the independence of Scotland, to a vote two years earlier — without seriously considering the consequences of things going the wrong way.

 

The problem here wasn’t a failure by Cameron and the “Remain” camp to make a stronger case for staying in the European Union, or to read the polls better. It was a philosophical failure — a failure to understand that the purpose of representative government is to save democracy from itself. I now find myself vaguely rooting for a hard Brexit, on the theory that lasting lessons are only learned the hard way.

Or not. Bad typically begets worse, and a hard Brexit will most likely accelerate every other fissiparous and dangerous trend in British politics: a new push for independence by Scotland and possibly Northern Ireland and Wales; a greater chance of NATO-skeptical, anti-Semitic Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister; Britain’s extended absence as a meaningful and active presence on the world stage.

What about the United States? Among many conservatives I know, the view of Trump is that chaotic management, clownish behavior and ideological apostasies are irritants, not calamities, and prices worth paying for deregulation, tax cuts, and conservative courts.

Really? These same conservatives spent the past 30 years preaching the importance of judgment, good character, and respect for institutions in the person of the president. They were right. What will they say when they find these attributes missing in the person of a president whose policy preferences and political affiliation they don’t share?

The West is not adrift in placid waters. With limited resources but ruthless methods, Vladimir Putin has gone about undermining democracy from Kiev to Kansas. With equally ruthless means and far greater resources, Xi Jinping has raised the banner of efficient authoritarianism as the preferred model of 21st century governance.

Image result for Xi Jinping Waving

What does the West have to say in its own defense? Who does it have to say it? And who will fix the rigging and reset the rudder in time for the next squall?

Image result for erdogan, rouhani, putin, picture, al jazeera

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on FacebookTwitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Bret L. Stephens has been an Opinion columnist with The Times since April 2017. He won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary at The Wall Street Journal in 2013 and was previously editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post.

Related:

Related image

Yellow Vest protest in France.  Photographer: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

Related:

Advertisements

Trump team weighs surprise tariff cut in hopes of securing China trade deal

January 18, 2019

The Trump administration is considering eliminating tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese imports to spur progress toward a trade deal, less than two weeks before a high-level delegation from Beijing is scheduled to arrive in Washington for talks.

Xi Jinping

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in recent weeks has proposed a tariff reduction as an incentive for China to sweeten its offer to the United States, according to two people familiar with the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Image result for Liu He, pictures

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is scheduled to lead the Chinese side in the next round of trade talks starting Jan. 30 in Washington

Administration hard-liners, including U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, are opposed to eliminating the tariffs before China has taken irreversible steps to meet U.S. demands.

President Trump last year imposed tariffs on Chinese industrial and consumer goods as leverage in talks aimed at shrinking the U.S. trade deficit and forcing China to abandon discriminatory trading practices.

If negotiations do not succeed by March 1, tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese products are scheduled to rise to 25 percent from 10 percent. Officials now are debating whether to instead eliminate the levies on some or all of the affected Chinese goods.

Robert Lighthizer

Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg

 

After years of tough talk toward China, the president in recent months has warmed to the idea of striking a deal with Beijing. The idea of an early tariff cut has not yet reached his desk, with the administration scrambling to manage a government shutdown that was in its 27th day Thursday.

But weakness on Wall Street — where the Dow Jones industrial average has lost more than 9 percent since its Oct. 3 peak  and mounting unease among Trump’s political supporters hurt by the tariff war are triggering the president’s dealmaking instincts, the people familiar with the discussions said.

“He’s driving toward a deal,” said one business executive who asked not to be named, to avoid angering the administration. “He wants a deal and may be willing to settle for not very much to get it.”

Trump agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping over dinner in Buenos Aires on Dec. 1 to delay a scheduled tariff increase and launch renewed talks aimed at a comprehensive trade deal.

The administration has insisted for months that it would not remove tariffs unless China agreed to significantly higher purchases from U.S. businesses and sweeping changes in its state-dominated economic system.

Wang Qishan

Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg

 

In talks in Beijing this month, Chinese officials offered to increase annual purchases from the United States by about 30 percent, or roughly $40 billion, the business executive said. That figure is consistent with internal administration estimates of U.S. capacity to fill new Chinese orders, the executive said.

Even if they materialized, those new orders would leave most of the annual $375 billion U.S. trade deficit with China untouched — and the president with a key campaign promise unfulfilled. Chinese officials also expressed doubt that U.S. businesses could meet a sudden spike in orders, especially for liquefied natural gas and crude oil, according to two business executives familiar with the talks.

There has been little progress on U.S. demands for “structural” changes in China’s economy, including a reduction in government subsidies, limits on foreign companies’ market access and compulsory technology licensing requirements.

The administration has long been divided over the best approach to China, with Mnuchin preoccupied by the impact on markets and the economy of a prolonged trade conflict and Lighthizer and White House adviser Peter Navarro determined to force what they see as long-overdue changes in relations with Beijing.

“Mnuchin’s position is not at all new, nor is his utter lack of authority on the issue,” said Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute, alluding to the U.S. trade representative’s responsibility for import taxes.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is scheduled to lead the Chinese side in the next round of talks starting Jan. 30. Lighthizer will head the U.S. delegation.

Liu He

Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

 

“Neither Secretary Mnuchin nor Ambassador Lighthizer have made any recommendations to anyone with respect to tariffs or other parts of the negotiation with China,” said a Treasury Department spokesperson who works with the negotiators, speaking on the condition of anonymity under guidelines set by the administration. “This an ongoing process with the Chinese that is nowhere near completion.”

The president has oscillated between his team’s hawks and doves and could do so again, according to a former Treasury Department official. The president’s use of tariffs has been controversial even among those who agree that China cheats on its trading obligations. The import levies have raised costs for businesses that buy parts from Chinese factories and cast a shadow of uncertainty over future investment plans.

“We disagreed with the use of tariffs going into this, but there’s no denying that China is willing to talk because they are under pressure,” said Erin Ennis, senior vice president of the U.S.-China Business Council.

By David Lynch

David J. Lynch is a staff writer on the financial desk who joined The Washington Post in November 2017 after working for the Financial Times, Bloomberg News and USA Today.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/trump-team-weighs-surprise-tariff-cut-in-hopes-of-securing-china-trade-deal/2019/01/17/cbf3bc7e-1a9b-11e9-9ebf-c5fed1b7a081_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.666759d819f0

See also:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2019-01-17/u-s-china-trade-war-unlikely-to-end-soon-bofaml-s-harris-says-video

and

Trump’s Tariffs Are Producing Billions, But China Isn’t Paying

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-17/trump-s-tariffs-are-producing-billions-but-china-isn-t-paying

Taiwan holds large-scale military drills to deter China

January 17, 2019

Amid heightened tensions in cross-strait relations, Taiwan’s military is starting a series of newly designed large-scale military drills. Taiwanese analysts say the island should enhance its combat preparedness.

    
Jährliche Militärübung Han Kuang in Taiwan (Taiwan Military News Agency)

Taiwan’s armed forces are on Thursday holding their first live-fire drill for this year, an exercise aimed at improving their military readiness. It comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping recently reasserted Beijing’s right to use force to unify the self-governing island with mainland China. Thursday’s drill is part of the large-scale military exercises designed to counter the growing threat from China.

Even though Taiwan’s military holds such exercises regularly, this year’s training adopts new tactics aimed at “defending against a possible Chinese invasion,” said Major General Yeh Kuo-hui, the Taiwanese defense ministry’s planning chief.

Read more: How powerful is China’s military?

According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA), the military drills are divided into four components. A month of combat readiness training is to be held in the first quarter, followed by the month-long Han Kuang live-fire exercise in the second quarter and joint anti-landing operations in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the military plans to hold joint anti-airborne exercises.

Taiwan’s defense ministry has stressed that the exercises are not a direct response to Xi’s recent speech, pointing out that planning for the drills began as early as mid-2018. But experts say threats coming from Beijing must have played a major role in Taipei’s decision to expand the scope of the drills. China’s ongoing military modernization and improving capabilities have been a source of concern for Taiwan.

China Rede Xi Jinping (picture-alliance/Xinhua/J. Peng)The drills come after Chinese President Xi Jinping recently reasserted Beijing’s right to use force to unify the self-governing island with  mainland China

China enjoys an overwhelming military edge over Taiwan, with Beijing boasting the world’s second-biggest defense budget, estimated at over $170 billion (€149.2 billion), and an over 2.5 million strong military.

“It is in Taiwan’s interests to have as advanced and capable a military as possible to protect its future and political self-determination,” said David An, a senior research fellow at the Global Taiwan Institute. “[Since] China has advanced [its military capabilities] so much in the past several decades, we can’t say there is a cross-strait [military] balance today.”

Credible deterrence

The situation has prompted Taiwan to alter its military strategy. While the island previously focused on defending itself from a Chinese landing force, its focus now has expanded to repelling an invasion on sea and in the air.

Read more: Taiwan rejects China’s ‘reunification’ proposal

Andrew Yang, a former defense minister of Taiwan, told DW that the shift represents Taiwan’s adoption of multilayer deterrence, and that the live-fire drills offer a chance for Taiwan’s military to demonstrate how they would execute their strategies during wartime.

“Even though Taiwan’s current military capability is not able to fully execute the new strategies, this year’s broadened plan shows that our military is working towards that goal,” Yang noted.

Ian Easton, an expert on cross-strait defense issues at Project 2049 Institute, an American think tank, argued that it’s crucial for Taiwan to develop credible deterrence to keep potential Chinese invasion forces from getting close to its territory.

“It’s always much better to strike an invading enemy at the greatest possible distance,” Easton told DW. “Taiwan’s military strategists will naturally seek to expand the battle space and [developing the ability to do so] is critical for deterrence and crisis management.”

Related image

Upgrading fighter jets

Apart from the scheduled military exercises, Taiwan is also planning to spend about $3.64 billion to upgrade its existing 144 F-16 A/B fighter jets, and it is expected to receive four of them later this year. According to CNA, the converted fighter jets will have capabilities that are equivalent to the higher end F-16Vs. While talks are also being held about acquiring the advanced F-35 fighter jet, experts believe it is more practical for Taiwan to replace the island’s two-decade-old Mirage 2000 jets with the upgraded F-16 fighter jets because the F-35 is both expensive and difficult to train the pilots on.

Image result for F-35, pictures

“Acquiring new F-16 aircraft makes sense in the near term,” Easton said. “Taiwan could invest in a larger fleet of land attack cruise missiles, attack drones and cyber weapons to respond to China’s ballistic missile threat.”

So far, Taiwan’s defense ministry has confirmed the upgrade of the F-16 fighter jets. It has also not ruled out purchasing the F-35 fighter jets. The ministry spokesperson Chen Chung-chi told DW that while upgrading F-16 fighters is the priority, they are also considering the acquisition of other advanced planes. “As long as the fighter jets can fulfill Taiwan’s need to defend its airspace, we will consider acquiring them,” said Chen.

China Militärmanöver (picture-alliance/Photoshot/M. Xiaoliang)China’s ongoing military modernization and improving capabilities have been a source of concern for Taiwan

Restarting the military conscription debate

Analysts say one of the key issues for Taiwan’s self-defense is keeping control of its territorial waters and airspace while ensuring Taiwan’s military can withstand China’s advanced firepower. Yang argues that Taiwan should put more emphasis on developing advanced missile capabilities and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology as these can satisfy Taipei’s needs to safeguard the island’s outer perimeters.

Additionally, he sees the need for Taiwan to restart the debate over military conscription, as voluntary enlistment, in his view, isn’t enough to sustain the size of Taiwan’s military.

“Judging from the result of voluntary enlistment, I think it’s time for the government to start a national debate about reviving compulsory enlistment,” Yang said.

Taiwan Militärübung (picture-alliance/AP Photo/C. Ying-Ying)Even though Taiwan’s military holds such exercises regularly, this year’s training adopts new tactics

Can Taiwan count on US?

Apart from Taiwan’s own military upgrades, Washington’s level of involvement in a potential cross-strait military conflict will be key to determine its outcome, say observers.

Despite repeatedly promising to respond if China used force against Taiwan, Yang said, the US government has never clearly defined how it would respond. The expert is of the view that Taiwan cannot completely count on the US to come to the island’s defense. That’s why Taipei should focus on strengthening its defense capabilities, stressed Yang.

Easton, however, argues that based on past record, “the US would move toward a formal military alliance with Taiwan” if a major crisis broke out. “In peacetime, Washington tends to be extremely cautious,” Easton said. “It is far less constrained when a friendly democracy like Taiwan is taking enemy fire.”

China’s The Belt and Road Initiative Is a Corruption Bonanza

January 17, 2019

Despots and crooks are using China’s infrastructure project to stay in power—with Beijing’s help.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the welcome ceremony for the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on May 15, 2017. (Kenzaburo Fukuhara-Pool/Getty Images)

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the welcome ceremony for the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on May 15, 2017. (Kenzaburo Fukuhara-Pool/Getty Images)

When former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was ousted from office in May 2018, it’s possible that no one was more dismayed than officials in Beijing.

After all, Najib had granted China extraordinary access to Malaysia. Across the country, huge China-backed infrastructure projects were being planned or breaking ground. But as China’s presence in Malaysia swelled, a scandal was engulfing the prime minister’s office. Najib was accused of massive corruption linked to the development fund known as 1MDB. As the election neared, his opponent, Mahathir Mohamad, alleged that some of the Chinese money pouring into Malaysia was being used to refill the fund’s graft-depleted coffers.

Now, Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission is investigating those claims. And last week, an explosive Wall Street Journal report exposed the most damning evidence yet: minutes from a series of meetings at which Malaysian officials suggested to their Chinese counterparts that China finance infrastructure projects in Malaysia at inflated costs. The implication was that the extra cash could be used to settle 1MDB’s debts. According to the report, Najib, who has denied any part in corruption, was well aware of the meetings.

If true, the report puts tangible proof behind widely held suspicions that China exploits corrupt regimes to propel its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI requires China to build infrastructure in other countries—a process that’s fraught with official approvals, feasibility studies, stakeholder engagement, and other bothersome procedures. In corrupt countries, however, many of these obstacles can be bypassed with bribes and back-room dealing—in fact, some of the red tape exists primarily to extort money from businesses. For this reason, it’s easy to understand why China might prefer working with corrupt regimes.

But not just China benefits from corruption in BRI projects. In many cases, the leaders of BRI-recipient countries see the projects as opportunities to sustain and legitimize their own corruption, as well.

Many countries that receive BRI investments suffer from high levels of corruption. On the TRACE Bribery Risk Matrix, most rank in the lower 50 percent, and 10 are among the riskiest 25 countries in the world. They often have opaque legislative processes, weak accountability mechanisms, compliant media organizations, and authoritarian governments that don’t permit dissent.

For politicians in these countries, the BRI offers an array of tools for enabling corruption: injections of easily diverted cash, dazzling infrastructure to placate the citizenry, and the imprimatur of a cozy relationship with one of the world’s most powerful nations—all of it wrapped up in a virtual guarantee that their wealthy benefactor will, at the very least, look the other way if any improprieties should surface, so long as the project in question gets built.

Malaysia has come to embody this dynamic. The new government has unearthed what it says are numerous abnormalities embedded in the previous administration’s deals with China. For instance, a Chinese state-owned enterprise was paid $2 billion in advance for two Malaysian pipeline projects that it had barely started construction on. Another BRI project, Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Link, was so expensive that authorities suspect its cost was artificially inflated. All of these projects have been suspended while the new administration reviews them.

The excess money generated by these projects was allegedly siphoned off by the Najib administration to pay down 1MDB’s debts. But while Chinese largesse may have kept these deals in the dark for a while, Malaysian voters were ultimately able to hold their prime minister accountable at the ballot box.

Not every country has that option. China’s investments in oil- and gas-rich Central Asia have allowed autocratic regimes in that region to flourish. A prime example is Kazakhstan. The Kazakh government, a veritable kleptocracy, is extremely corrupt. On Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index, Kazakhstan ranked in the bottom third of 180 countries.

Not only have BRI projects financed this government, but they’ve helped make its leadership genuinely popular as ordinary Kazakhs interpret the flashy new infrastructure as a symbol of progress. This has been crucial for the country’s rulers, since the health of the Kazakh economy is highly dependent on oil prices and economic fluctuations in Russia. In an analysis of Chinese investment in Kazakhstan, a study from the George Washington University found that “Chinese aid, loans, and partnerships … enhance the Kazakh leadership’s ability to stay in power.”

China, of course, struggles with its own share of corruption. In fact, some of China’s own infrastructural marvels have been built through means that were less than scrupulous. President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption purges have frozen some of that at home. In its construction projects abroad, however, Beijing’s approach seems to be “whatever works.” In no part of China’s lengthy declaration of the BRI’s principles is any attempt made to discourage corruption. And according to a report by Transparency International, no charges have ever been brought in China against a company, citizen, or resident for corrupt practices committed overseas.

If anything, the BRI has revealed that, for Chinese officials acclimated to corrupt environments at home, executing overseas projects through unsavory means comes somewhat naturally. Like many undertakings in China, BRI projects are subject to the slippery Chinese concept of guanxi—systems of mutually beneficial relationships that grease the wheels of many a business transaction. In China, bringing a sprawling, unwieldy infrastructure project to completion without guanxi can seem an impossible task.

But without proper policing, these mutually beneficial relationships are ripe for corruption. A recent study found that “guanxi has profound influence on almost all social interactions in China, whether it is in the government or in business. As such, it blurs the line between normal guanxi relationships and corrupt practices, making corruption an intrinsic characteristic of the Chinese government, as well as the Chinese society.”

While Chinese corruption at home doesn’t threaten to bankrupt the government, Chinese corruption in smaller, poorer countries sometimes does. For some of these countries, China’s BRI project is the biggest infrastructural endeavor they’ve ever attempted—a high-stakes gamble collateralized with mountains of debt. When such projects are approved by local leaders more interested in enriching themselves than in weighing the cost for their country, locals can find themselves crushed beneath the weight of white elephants.

Laos may face this fate. At China’s behest, Laos is building a railway from its northern border to Thailand with a large loan from a Chinese bank. The $6 billion project was championed by the country’s former deputy prime minister, Somsavat Lengsavad, a fluent Mandarin speaker with close ties to Beijing. Somsavat almost single-handedly ushered the project through the Lao bureaucracy, despite warnings from the International Monetary Fund that it threatened the country’s ability to service its debts.

Image result for Xi Jinping, Duterte, pictures

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shows the way to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.   AP/Ng Han Guan, File

Why Somsavat was so keen on the railway remains unknown, though corruption is rife in Laos, and bribery in foreign-built Lao development projects is common. One foreign diplomat working in Laos says the regular visits to Vientiane by Chinese emissaries “don’t just flatter Lao officials—concrete things get exchanged between Chinese and Lao delegates at these meetings.”

Laos should look to Sri Lanka, where Hambantota Port was built by China under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. When Rajapaksa faced an electoral challenge in 2015, money earmarked for the port’s construction somehow found its way into the president’s campaign coffers. In the end, Rajapaksa lost the election, and the port proved so unprofitable that the new government was forced to hand it over to China in a debt-for-equity swap.

Deals such as this are a reminder that, for China, the BRI is as much a foreign-policy instrument—and sometimes a domestic political move—as it is an economic program. BRI projects that are aimed at advancing China’s strategic goals, or that are launched by party officials chiefly interested in signaling their loyalty to Xi, will often not produce the kind of economic returns that would pass muster in a cost-benefit analysis. This is why China needs leaders like Najib, Somsavat, and Rajapaksa to get such projects approved, despite their dubious value to the country they’re built in.

But just as China needs these politicians, they need China, too. The relationship between China and corrupt BRI partners is symbiotic and, often, more complex than simple bribery. In Malaysia’s case, it increasingly appears that the Najib administration’s defining aspect, the 1MDB fraud and its subsequent cover-up, relied heavily on infusions of BRI cash. Indeed, if Najib had not been voted out of office last May, his alleged rerouting of Chinese investments might be ongoing to this day. But the problem with leveraging BRI projects to enable homegrown corruption is that once you’re caught, you’re on your own, and China is on to the next big thing.

Will Doig is a journalist covering urban development, transportation, and infrastructure. He is the author of “High Speed Empire: Chinese Expansion and the Future of Southeast Asia.

Image result for Xi Jinping in Africa, pictures

Xi Jinping (R) is discussing ways to improve bilateral ties with Tanzanian President Jakaya

Image result for Xi Jinping in Africa, pictures

President Xi Jinping met in Xiamen with President Jacob Zuma of South Africa

Intimidation: Nike, Apple, Amazon among top firms named by China for ‘misidentifying’

January 17, 2019

China’s psychological bullying campaign…

Dozens of transnational companies accused of violating Chinese law

Taipei condemns Beijing report as latest effort to pressure self-ruled island into unification talks

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 January, 2019, 5:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2019, 5:47pm

Taiwan has condemned a Beijing effort to pressure foreign companies – including Nike, Apple and Amazon – to list the island as part of China, in what observers said was a fresh attempt to force Taipei to the negotiating table for unification talks.

A total of 66 international firms were singled out for “misidentifying” Taiwan on their websites, in an annual report on cyber rule of law in China published this week by the Social Science Academic Press in Beijing.

The report, which covered 500 top transnational companies based in 32 countries, including the US, Japan and Germany, also named 53 firms for “misidentifying” Hong Kong.

The 2018 Annual Report on Cyber Rule of Law called for the relevant authorities to punish the companies by either removing their licences or suspending their operations on the mainland if they refused to correct their mistakes.

Image result for apple in china, pictures

The report said the companies had either deliberately violated or were not aware of the one-China principle, which it said was backed by international and domestic law, adding that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China must be protected.

The fresh effort to pressure international companies follows a call by Chinese President Xi Jinping for cross-strait unification talks based on the Hong Kong model of ‘one country, two systems’.

Alex Huang, Taiwan’s presidential spokesman, said on Thursday that Beijing’s actions could in no way remove Taiwan from the sight of the world.

The island, he said, had forged close links with the international community and was backed by countries which shared its values of democracy and freedom.

“Regardless of whether to use ‘one country, two systems’ to coerce Taiwan, or to resort by political and economic means to pressure international enterprises to change our title, what China has done would not only impact regional stability, but would also make China lose the world’s trust and respect,” Huang said.

“It would also serve to sabotage the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.”

Image result for apple in china, pictures

Here’s the Latest on How Apple Is Expanding in China

Huang said the Taiwanese people would not give up their belief in freedom and democracy and bow to pressure from the mainland over its demands.

Washington – which recognises Beijing diplomatically instead of Taipei – came to the aid of its unofficial ally, telling Beijing to stop its coercion and resume a dialogue with Taiwan.

Image result for Tsai Ing Wen, taiwan, pictures

Amanda Mansour, spokesperson for the American Institute in Taiwan – Washington’s de facto embassy in Taipei – said last week that the US had a “deep and abiding interest in cross-strait peace and stability”.

“Any resolution of cross-strait differences must be peaceful and based on the will of the people on both sides,” she said.

Image result for Taiwan military, photos

Mansour’s comments followed a similar statement in support of Taiwan on Twitter by Garrett Marquis, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, on Monday.

The latest pressure from Beijing follows a demand, in mid-2018 from Chinese aviation authorities, that 44 international airlines stop referring to Taipei as being located in Taiwan and instead update their websites to say that Taipei was part of China.

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/2182534/nike-apple-amazon-among-top-firms-named-china-misidentifying

Related:

Image result for Marriott, signage, photos

See also:

US report says rapidly modernizing Chinese military has set sights on Taiwan

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/15/politics/china-military-report/index.html

Image result for Taiwan fighter jet, china bomber, photos

A Taiwan fighter jet keeps watch on a Chinese mainland bomber.

Related:

.
.
.
.
Huawei's Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada and faces extradition to the United States

Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada and faces extradition to the United States. AFP/File

China’s loan policy under scrutiny — Belt and Road “Debt Trap”

January 17, 2019

The German development minister has warned African businesses against taking out loans from China. At the same time, the German Finance Ministry is hoping Beijing will be using more financial services from overseas.

    
German Development Minister Gerd Müller talking to Zambian miners

It’s not exactly true to say that the German government has been speaking with one voice when it comes to assessing the chances and the downsides of China’s growing financial and economic might. And perhaps, speaking with one voice has never been Berlin’s intention anyway.

When German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz visits China on Thursday, he will be skating on thin ice.

Germany’s largest trading partner used to be a good customer, but now China has turned into one of its strongest competitors on the global market and has been protecting its own market rigorously.

During his two-day visit, the German minister wants to help the finance sector in his country get a foot in the door in the Asian nation. “The German government wants to enhance bilateral cooperation in the finance sector,” a spokesman for the Finance Ministry told reporters in Berlin ahead of Scholz’s visit.

“We’ll need to debate how to open the Chinese market for our banks and insurance companies,” the spokesman added. Scholz is hoping for a constructive round of discussions, which are also to focus on credit rules set by the Paris Club. This is to make sure that loans granted by China for building projects in poorer nations do not turn into huge debt traps.

The Paris Club is a group of officials from major creditor nations that have agreed to find sustainable solutions to payment difficulties experienced by debtor countries, with a focus on transparency.

Hidden costs

Transparency in financial dealings was also high on the agenda of German Development Minister Gerd Müller when he visited Africa last week. He warned emerging economies against becoming too dependent on loans from China.

“Chinese investments in developing nations and emerging economies are often rather untransparent with regard to the strings attached to granted loans,” Müller told the news agency DPA. But he, too, reserved some praise for China, saying it was good to see the country showing such a great interest in Africa. But that interest had to result in sustainable investments, he demanded during his visit to Zambia.

Zambia, he added, had profited from a debt cancellation scheme, but was now highly indebted again, the minister pointed out, saying he was worried about this development.

Chinese-funded bridge building project in MaliChinese-funded bridge building project gets underway in Mali

According to unconfirmed reports, Zambia had used its state-owned electricity supplier Zesco as collateral in its loan deals with China. Back in 2014, Zambia’s debt amounted to 36 percent of its gross domestic product. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the figure will rise to 77 percent by the end of this year.

China has invested heavily in African infrastructure projects over the past few years. More often than not, those projects were carried out by Chinese firms and staff. Sometimes China granted loans which were contingent on the fixed-price sale of natural resources. Experts have frequently branded such deals as being detrimental to the credit recipients.

A mind-boggling sum

It’s not that easy to find out exactly how much money the Chinese have pumped into Africa. This is because Beijing doesn’t transfer loans from banks or companies through any established channels such as the Creditor Reporting System, the OECD or the International Aid Transparency Initiative. In addition, Chinese banks are usually cagey about any credit agreement details.

However, John Hopkins University researchers estimate that between 2000 and 2017 credits worth $143 billion (€125.5 billion) have been pumped into Africa — provided by Chinese government offices, lenders and companies. Chinese loans peaked in 2016, the researchers said.

Angola alone received almost $43 billion in loans from China in the 17 years under review.

Port in a storm

The German development minister mentioned Sri Lanka where the government had agreed to make a new port a Chinese-owned property for 99 years in a debt-balancing maneuver.

Warning voices are now also being heard from African leaders themselves, and the message has reached Beijing. During his trip to Ethiopia earlier this year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi emphasized that “we know about some African nations’ financing difficulties,” adding that his country had nothing to do with them, though.

“Africa’s debt issue dates far back in history — neither is it a new phenomenon, nor is China to blame for it.”

Between 2000 and 2014, Ethiopia borrowed $12 billion from China, and counting. During last year’s China-Africa summit, President Xi Jinping said in Beijing his country would invest another $60 billion in Africa in the next three years. A good proportion of this sum is bound to be loans again.

https://www.dw.com/en/chinas-loan-policy-under-scrutiny/a-47118123

Related:

Kenyan fisherman pull up their nets in the early morning as they fish on Lake Victoria.

.
.
.
.

US, UK hold rare joint drills in the South China Sea

January 17, 2019

The US and the UK finished six days of coordinated drills in the South China Sea on Wednesday, in a move likely to antagonize Beijing, which views a large swathe of the contested sea as its territory.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the US military announced the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell, and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll conducted operations in the South China Sea between January 11 and 16.
.
According to the US, the two vessels conducted communications drills, division tactics and a personnel exchange during the week, to help “develop relationships” between the two navies.
.
“Professional engagement with our British counterparts allows us the opportunity to build upon our existing strong relationships and learn from each other,” US Cmdr. Allison Christy said in the release, adding it was a “rare opportunity” to work with the UK navy.
It is only recently that the UK has ramped up its military presence in the South China Sea.

The US regularly holds freedom of navigation operations and exercises in the South China Sea to emphasize its rights to travel in the region, but the UK has only recently ramped up its presence in the contested sea.
.
UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson even floated the idea of a new British military base in the Asia region in an interview earlier this year with the Sunday Telegraph.
.
The Chinese government would likely take a dim view to an increased UK presence in the region, given historical tensions between the two countries’ navies and the intimate role the UK played in China’s “century of humiliation.”
.
The release said the Argyll was deployed to the region to “support … regional security and stability.” Both the US and the UK conducted anti-submarine warfare drills with the Japanese military in the region in December.
.
Tensions have been steadily rising again in the South China Sea in the past year after a period of calm following US President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
.

Related image

Red dots show Chinese military bases in the South China Sea

.
At least five countries claim territory in the highly strategic region, but Beijing has reinforced its wide-ranging claims with militarized artificial islands which are capable of hosting missiles and bombers.
.
The news of the drills comes less than a week after Beijing reacted furiously to the USS McCampbell sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-claimed territory in the Paracel Islands. The Chinese Foreign Ministry accused the US of trespassing in its territorial waters.
.
Image result for DF-26 ballistic missiles, china, photos
.
On January 8 Chinese state media CCTV announced Beijing had deployed DF-26 ballistic missiles to China’s remote northwest plateau, which it claimed were “capable of targeting medium and large ships.”
.

Former US Diplomat in China Says Trade War Nearing End

January 16, 2019

Andy Rothman thinks domestic issues on both sides lead to increased motivation to make an agreement — However, not everybody thinks an agreement is imminent.

Rothman was head of macroeconomics and domestic policy office of the US Embassy in Beijing.

Image result for Andy Rothman, pictures, bloomberg
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2019, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2019, 1:21pm
.
South China Morning Post

A former US diplomat and China strategist has added his voice to the growing chorus of experts who believe a short-term resolution to the trade war can be reached within months.

Andy Rothman, who spent 17 years in the US foreign service, focused on China, and is now an investment strategist, thinks a deal could be struck by the summer, with domestic issues leading to increased motivation on both sides to make an agreement.

China is facing an economic slowdown that is beginning to show up in regional growth data, while the US stock market has been under-performing, as the long-running federal government shutdown continues.

China’s Vice-Premier Liu He is set to visit Washington before the end of the month, as both sides look for some good news, as challenging economic data continues to rain in.

Rothman was head of macroeconomics and domestic policy office of the US Embassy in Beijing. In the 1990s, he was involved in US efforts to negotiate China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. He expects the current negotiating deadline of March 1 to be extended.

“Now that a negotiation is seriously underway, there is no reason for the US to go back and put more tariffs in place, as long as progress is being made towards a deal,” he said. “It is rare that a trade negotiation gets finished on time and President [Donald] Trump can extend the deadline.”

In this respect, he agreed with Robert Zoellick, former US Trade Representative under president George W Bush and former World Bank president who also told the South China Morning Post this week that a deal could be struck.

Zoellick said that such a deal would be “transactional” and implied that it would not address long term structural issues in the Chinese economy.

Rothman, however, thought that some significant changes could be achieved within months.

In an interview in Hong Kong this week, he said that a deal might include better market access for American companies in China; better protection of intellectual property (IP) rights; and an agreement by Beijing to stop requiring American companies to transfer technologies to their Chinese partners.

Rothman, who now works for investment company Matthews Asia, which has US$27.4 billion in assets under management, suggested that these changes would also benefit the Chinese economy.

For one, better market access for foreign companies would likely improve the competitiveness of Chinese firms, he said.

“China’s WTO accession led to foreign competition, which in turn helped Chinese companies become more efficient and innovative,” Rothman said.

The period of WTO negotiations that led to China’s accession in 2001, Rothman recalled, led to foreign companies like General Motors selling more cars in China than in the US. However GM’s success also strengthened China’s automotive industry, as Chinese car makers subsequently improved their own models.

Rothman also claimed that China’s economy suffers because of IP theft, with many Chinese companies stealing from each other. This has prevented China from developing strong software, music, film and pharmaceutical sectors.

Accusations of technology theft by China are not new. Rothman recalled that former US president Barack Obama raised a similar issue with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in 2015.

Obama said he and Xi reached a “common understanding” on curbing economic cyber espionage, with the two leaders agreeing that neither government would knowingly support cyber theft of corporate secrets or business information. The agreement stopped short of any promise to refrain from government-to-government cyber spying for intelligence purposes.

“The US would like the Chinese government to follow the American practise of spying solely for government purposes instead of having the Chinese government stealing technology from foreign companies to give to Chinese companies for commercial reason,” said Rothman.

However, the Trump administration says there has been renewed Chinese hacking over the past two years.

Rothman said that since Xi had previously made an agreement with Obama to end state-sponsored espionage attacks on US corporate secrets, it should be relatively straightforward for him to resume that agreement with Trump, especially since China is also facing pressure from other nations to change its behaviour.

“Xi understands this is not just an American problem. German companies do not like this and Japanese companies do not like this. In the end this is not a sustainable way for Chinese companies to grow,” he said.

President Xi understands that other countries including Japan and Germany also believe that China should develop its own technology or license technology properly for the sustainable growth of Chinese industries, Rothman said.

Eliminating such hurdles would set the framework for the longer-term US-China relationship, Rothman said.

However, not everybody thinks an agreement is imminent. Many believe that nothing of substance can be agreed between the world’s two largest economies within three months, including Tommy Wu, senior economist at Oxford Economics, a research house, who said yesterday: “We are unlikely to see negotiations completed before March 1, but because of the progress expected to be made in these talks, the US is likely to postpone the tariff hike again.”

https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/2182293/china-expert-and-former-us-diplomat-believes-deal-end-trade

U.S. eyes Taiwan risk as China’s military capabilities grow

January 16, 2019

The United States is closely watching Chinese intentions toward Taiwan, concerned that Beijing’s growing military prowess may increase the risk it could one day consider bringing the self-ruled island under its control by force, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

The senior U.S. defense intelligence official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, did not predict that China’s military, known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), would take such a step but said such a possibility was the top worry as China expands and modernizes its military capabilities.

Image result for china, u.s., flags, pictures

“The biggest concern is that … they are getting to a point where the PLA leadership may actually tell Xi Jinping that they are confident in their capabilities,” the official said, referring to China’s president.

Pressed on whether the official was referring to Chinese confidence in its capabilities to be able to successfully win a battle with Taiwan, the official said, “Well, specifically that would be the most concerning to me.”

Taiwan is only one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, including a trade war between the countries, U.S. sanctions on the Chinese military, and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea.

However, in meetings with Pentagon leaders, PLA officials have long described Taiwan as China’s most sensitive issue.

China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills in the past few years and worked to isolate the island internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.

It has also strongly objected to U.S. warship passages through the Taiwan Strait this year, and issued a terse warning about Taiwan after talks in Beijing on Tuesday with the U.S. Navy’s top officer, Admiral John Richardson.

‘WHATEVER IT TAKES’

In the talks, Chinese General Li Zuocheng, chief of China’s Central Military Commission Joint Staff Department, stressed that Taiwan was “China’s internal affairs” and that Beijing would allow “no external interference.”

Image result for Li Zuocheng, photos

General Li Zuocheng

“If someone tries to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will do whatever it takes to safeguard national reunification, national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to an English-language statement here by China’s defense ministry on the talks.

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. The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taiwan more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.

Image result for john richardson, china, photos

U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson

Xi has stepped up pressure on the democratic island since Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party became president in 2016.

Image result for China, Navy, BBC, pictures

On Jan. 2, Xi said in a speech that China reserved the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but would strive to achieve peaceful “reunification.”

Still, the U.S. defense intelligence official cautioned against over-reacting, noting Xi could believe he has plenty of time to achieve reunification with Taiwan.

The official also cautioned that China’s military still faced gaps in its capabilities.

“They could order them to go today, but I don’t think they’re particularly confident in that capability,” the official said.

Also on Tuesday, the Defense Intelligence Agency released a report describing Taiwan as the “primary driver” for China’s military modernization, which it said had made major advances in recent years.

U.S. defense officials have become particularly alarmed about China’s advances in super-fast “hypersonic” technology, which could allow it to field missiles that are far harder to detect.

Image result for china, hypersonic, photos

Artists depiction of a possible China hypersonic missile

“The result … is a PLA on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world. In some areas, it already leads the world,” the report said here

Reporting by Phil Stewart; editing by Will Dunham and James Dalgleish

Reuters

Related:

See also:

US report says rapidly modernizing Chinese military has set sights on Taiwan

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/15/politics/china-military-report/index.html

Nearly 140 million Christians persecuted in Asia — China seems to be forcing Christians into ‘the North Korean model’

January 16, 2019

Asia is ‘new hotbed of Christian persecution’ with situation in China worst since Cultural Revolution, report claims

Nearly 140 million Christians suffered high levels of hostility in Asia last year, a region the report describes as ‘the new hotbed of persecution’

Experts say China seems to be forcing Christians into ‘the North Korean model – weak, small and invisible in the deep underground’

cchristian communist china

Christians in China — China Photos/Getty

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2019, 11:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2019, 11:48am

South China Morning Post

Nearly 140 million Christians suffered high levels of persecution in Asia last year, according to a new report, which described the situation facing the faith in China as the worst since the Cultural Revolution.

Image result for christians in asia, pictures
Christians in China

The annual Open Doors World Watch List, released on Wednesday, said Asia is “the new hotbed of persecution for Christians”.

It noted a sharp increase in the persecution of Christians in Asia over the past five years – but with a dramatic spike in 2018, driven by the likes of a rise in Hindu ultra-nationalism in India, radical Islamism in Indonesia and tougher religious regulations in China.

North Korea was ranked as the world’s most anti-Christian country for the 18th consecutive year. Pakistan and India were determined to have “extreme” levels of Christian persecution, with the Maldives, MyanmarLaos and Vietnam rounding out Asian countries in the top 20.

An aerial view shows members of hardline Muslim groups attending a protest against Jakarta’s incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian running in the upcoming election, in Jakarta, Indonesia, November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Beawiharta
Image result for anti-christian protest
*

Image result for Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia, photos

Indonesia has become anti-Christian

Open Doors defines persecution, in simple terms, as “any hostility experienced as a result of one’s Christian faith. This can include hostile attitudes, words, and actions towards Christians”.

China and Indonesia, both entering the top 30, were singled out for a drastic deterioration in the treatment of Christians.

A protester holds a placard during a rally in Mumbai by hundreds of Christians against attacks on churches nationwide.Danish Siddiqui/ReutersA protester holds a placard during a rally in Mumbai by hundreds of Christians against attacks on churches nationwide.

“The report confirms my impression of what’s going on around the world and confirms my knowledge of what has been happening in China,” said Yang Fenggang, the founder of the Centre on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University in the United States.

“Under Xi Jinping, the suppression of Christian churches and other religious organisations is being carried out nationwide with unprecedented determination.”

Of about 403 million Christians from Afghanistan to the Korean peninsula, an estimated 139 million – or one in three – were found to live under “high persecution”, or where “prominent Christians are targeted, churches themselves subject to significant restrictions, and the culture remains largely hostile to a Christian presence”.

Image result for anti-christian protest

‘ALL AT ONCE’

Militant atheism, radical Islamism and nationalism are three basic motives for Christian persecution, said Nina Shea, the director of the Centre for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, a US think tank. Asia, in her words, is exhibiting all three.

“There are different reasons for it in each country. It’s baffling that they have all come at once,” said Shea, a former head of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. “Intolerance is gaining strength, but these trends are not consistent with each other or any pattern. You certainly can’t say it’s from one source.”

Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion, said he was “very concerned” about the rise of religious intolerance. “Freedom of religion is routinely violated across much of Asia,” he said in a speech in Bangkok in August.

“In many countries, the civic space is closing and restrictions on expression and other civil liberties are rising. The persecution of religious minorities is increasing, a worrying trend confirmed by the 2019 World Watch List report,” Shaheed, a former Maldivian foreign minister, told the South China Morning Post. “Governments need to recognise the close links between respect for freedom of religion or belief, and societal peace and economic prosperity.”

Open Doors, a Britain-based charity, was founded in 1955. In 1981, the group smuggled 1 million outlawed Chinese Bibles to a beach in southern China. Its yearly watch list compiles field interviews and reports, questionnaires and news reports, scoring countries out of 100 for “persecution points” to determine their rank on the list. The watch list is independently audited by International Institute of Religious Freedom.

NATIONALISM AND IDENTITY

Myanmar, home to more than 4 million Christians, went up six places due to Buddhist-led sectarian repression, and Laos rose one spot but increased on the persecution scale by four points out of 100. Indonesia, which suffered a triple bombing of churches in May, jumped eight places, with the report citing intolerance linked to the upcoming election.

Other Southeast Asian nations fared better. Malaysia improved dramatically, dropping 19 places. Vietnam dropped two places and Brunei fell 10 spots.

Terence Chong, deputy director of the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, said that in some parts of Southeast Asia nationalism was synonymous with ethnicity.

Such “exclusivism”, in his words, becomes problematic in multicultural societies, and he cast doubt on the methodology of the Open Doors watch list.

“Christian persecution is nowhere as intense in Southeast Asia as it is in China or some parts of Africa,” Chong said.

“For the most part Christians and Muslims coexist in harmony. There are occasional tensions, but it’s hardly persecution. It would be a mistake to identify single incidents, such as the persecution of [Christian ex-mayor of Jakarta] Ahok in Indonesia, and extrapolate from it.

“Many such incidents are triggered by local politics and forces resistant to a personality who happens to be a Christian. As such, religion becomes embroiled by way of local politics and may not signal a concerted persecution of Christianity.”

Papang Hidayat, an analyst for Amnesty International in Indonesia, agreed persecution in the country had become politicised.

“I would not say the Christians being ‘persecuted’ because of their belief in the country,” he said. “It is more that politicians use religious identity as their arsenal for their political campaigns. In many districts and some provinces, it is the logic of majority against minority, although in most cases it is Muslims being the majority.”

Even so, he conceded that the harassment, discrimination and attacks against religious minorities were troubling.

“The situation is clearly worsening,” he said.

A faded photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen near a Christian poster with the word “Grace” outside a house church near Nanyang in central China’s Henan province. Experts and activists say that as he consolidates his power, Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982. Photo: AP

‘HALF EMPTY OR HALF FULL?’

The report’s toughest comments were aimed at China, where by some estimates the country’s 97 million Christians outnumber the membership of the Communist Party.

By Open Doors’ reckoning, more than 20 million Christians experienced persecution last year, and it forecasts that number to increase to 50 million in 2019. It cited the country’s revised Religious Affairs Regulations, which have governed the practice of all religions since the 1980s; an array of crackdowns and raids; and a wave of church closures such as that of Beijing’s Zion Church in September.

“In China, our figures indicate persecution is the worst it’s been in more than a decade – alarmingly, some church leaders are saying it’s the worst since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976,” said Henrietta Blyth, chief executive of Open Doors UK and Ireland, in a statement.

Shea, of the Hudson Institute, called the situation in China a turning point.

“China had been on the trajectory of being the biggest Christian country in the world in a decade or two. It now seems headed towards forcing its Christians into the North Korean model – weak, small and invisible in the deep underground,” Shea said.

“Remnants will survive but the community will be vastly diminished and facing an existential threat. The officially tolerated Christianity will conform with the teachings of Xi and the Communist Party.”

Yang said persecution reached Chinese Christians worshipping in both official and unsanctioned churches – but that it’s important to look at the other side. Beijing has also worked to mend relations with Chinese Catholics, as evidenced last month when it recognised two previously excommunicated Chinese bishops.

“Is the bottle half empty or half full? Almost half of the estimated 90 million Chinese Protestant Christians did not feel the persecution,” Yang said.

Open Doors, a Britain-based charity, was founded in 1955. In 1981, the group smuggled 1 million outlawed Chinese Bibles to a beach in southern China. Its yearly watch list compiles field interviews and reports, questionnaires and news reports, scoring countries out of a possible 100 persecution points to determine their rank on the list. Photo: AFP

He also that he believed the intensity of the Chinese crackdown against Christians had reached its peak and was unlikely to be sustained because of its astronomical costs.

“It is simply impossible to return to the Cultural Revolution to completely eradicate religions, because there are simply too many Christians today,” he said.

Pastor Eric Foley is the chief executive of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, the Asian sister mission to Release International – which monitors and reports international persecution of Christians – and a member of the International Christian Association (ICA).

The missions of the ICA, called the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), work with persecuted Christians. For 18 years, VOM Korea has worked with underground Christians in North Korea and China.

“For governments and activists, religious freedom is a kind of ‘canary in the coal mine’ for human rights issues overall,” he said.

“In wealthy nations, religion is often regarded as simply as a matter of private devotion, and so religious persecution can seem only to affect zealots. But careful studies, like the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, continue to demonstrate a correlation between failure to protect religious liberty and systematic human rights abuses.

“So where Christian persecution occurs and certainly where it is on the upswing, even non-Christians should be motivated to take notice.”

Additional reporting by Mimi Lau

https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/2182260/asia-new-hotbed-christian-persecution-situation-china-worst

Related: