Iran seen from Beijing

Author: Kevjn Lim Source: Think tank Published: 16 June 2015

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and China's President Xi Jinping in Shanghai on May 22, 2014

China views Iran as a central element in its much-touted Silk Road Economic Belt, which aims to extend Beijing’s influence overland through Central Asia to the Persian Gulf and Europe.

Also available in Arabic. Although China has long been Iran’s largest oil customer, international sanctions recently relegated the Islamic Republic from third to sixth place among Beijing’s suppliers — a list consistently topped by Iranian rival Saudi Arabia. Similarly, while China’s bilateral trade with Iran reportedly expanded to around $50 billion by late 2014, it remains dwarfed nearly elevenfold by its trade with the United States. Continue reading

Dispatch from Beijing: PLA Writings on the New Silk Road

Publication: China Brief Volume: 15 Issue: 4

February 20, 2015 02:12 PM Age: 1 day By: Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafag

Major General Ji Mingkui, a professor at China’s National Defense University and a   prolific writer on the New Silk Road.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “New Silk Road” has become a signature policy initiative, with over 50 countries participating and a new $40 billion Silk Road Fund to ensure its success (see China Brief, December 19, 2014; Xinhua, February 5). First espoused in 2013 by President Xi, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, also known as “one belt, one road,” places China’s growing economy at the center of a global trading network. While there is no public military component to the New Silk Road, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has become an active participant in China’s internal debate over its future shape and implications. Continue reading

Chinese Grand Strategy Is Not Absent, Just Contradictory

Chinese Industry, courtesy of  AK Rockefeller
Creative Commons - Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons - Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Why do so many analysts insist that China has no grand strategy? Denny Roy thinks it’s because Beijing’s behavior is governed by a basic contradiction – Chinese leaders would like to avoid the responsibilities that come with being a great power, but their country’s growing status makes that unavoidable.

By Denny Roy for East-West Center (EWC)

This article was originally published by East-West Center on 3 December 2014.

Many observers, both Chinese and non‐Chinese, say China’s foreign relations indicate that Beijing has no grand strategy. The term grand strategy means a national government’s plan for fulfilling its national interests. Officially, Beijing’s announced grand strategy is “peaceful development,” but this does not tell us much about what really matters. Everyone wants peace and development. The interesting parts are what a government sees as the real threats and opportunities, what tradeoffs the national leaders will make in employing limited resources, and which courses of action are chosen and which rejected. Governments are never completely open about these calculations because deception is an unavoidable aspect of politics, and especially of diplomacy.  But we outsiders can try to filling the missing information on through observation and analysis. I argue that Beijing does have a grand strategy, but that it has some elements that contradict each other. The result is that a specific Chinese foreign policy might support one objective but at the same time work against another objective. Continue reading

China building airstrip-capable island on Fiery Cross Reef

Country Risk
20 November 2014

Airbus Defence and Space imagery dated 14 November 2014 shows Chinese land reclamation operations under way at Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea. Multiple operating dredgers provide the ability to generate terrain rapidly. Operating from a harbour area, dredgers deliver sediment via a network of piping. (© CNES 2014, Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image / IHS)

Key Points

  • China is reclaiming land at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, according to satellite imagery
  • The reclamation, which started in August, is creating a land mass large enough for a 3,000 m-long airstrip Continue reading

China’s Dangerous Game

The country’s intensifying efforts to redraw maritime borders have its neighbors, and the U.S., fearing war. But does the aggression reflect a government growing in power—or one facing a crisis of legitimacy?

Brian Stauffer

In the tranquil harbors that dot the coastline of Palawan, a sword-shaped island in the western Philippines, the ferry boats are crowded with commuters traveling back and forth between sleepy townships, and with vendors bearing fresh produce. On Sundays, they fill with people dressed up for church. From nearby berths, fishermen set out to sea for days at a time aboard their bancas, the simple, low-slung catamarans they have favored for generations.

Just inland from the shore, narrow, crowded streets thrum with the put-put of motorized rickshaws. The signs on the small shops and restaurants that line them are almost as likely to be in Korean, Vietnamese, or Chinese as in the Filipino language Tagalog.

The shore-hugging seas of this part of the world, from the southern tip of the Korean peninsula to the Indonesian archipelago, have always served as a kind of open freeway for culture, trade, and ceaseless migration. In past times, historians of the region went so far as to call the long waterway that encompasses both the East China Sea and the South China Sea the Mediterranean of East Asia. But more recently, it has begun to earn more-ominous comparisons to another part of Europe, a fragmented region that was the famous trigger for the First World War: the Balkans. Continue reading

China’s Information Management in the Sino-Vietnamese Confrontation: Caution and Sophistication in the Internet Era

Publication: China Brief Volume: 14 Issue: 11
June 4, 2014 05:02 PM Age: 16 days By: Andrew Chubb

 

Protests and rioting against foreign companies in Vietnam created a challenge for China’s information control system (Source: Thanh Nien News)

Files:China_Brief_Vol_14_Issue_11_____.pdf

After the worst anti-China violence for 15 years took place in Vietnam this month, it took China’s propaganda authorities nearly two days to work out how the story should be handled publicly. However, this was not a simple information blackout. The 48-hour gap between the start of the riots and their eventual presentation to the country’s mass audiences exemplified some of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) sophisticated techniques for managing information during fast-breaking foreign affairs incidents in the Internet era. Far from seizing on incidents at sea to demonstrate China’s strength to a domestic audience, the official line played down China’s assertive actions in the South China Sea and emphasized Vietnamese efforts to stop the riots, effectively de-coupling the violence from the issue that sparked them. This indicated that, rather than trying to appease popular nationalism, China’s leaders were in fact reluctant to appear aggressive in front of their own people. [1]

By framing the issue in this way, China’s media authoritiescultivated a measured “rational patriotism” in support of the country’s territorial claims. In contrast to the 2012 Sino-Japanese confrontation over the Diaoyu Islands, when Beijing appears to have encouraged nationalist outrage to increase its leverage in the dispute, [2] during the recent incident the Party-state was determined to limit popular participation in the issue, thus maximizing its ability to control the escalation of the situation, a cornerstone of the high-level policy of “unifying” the defense of its maritime claims with the maintenance of regional stability (Shijie Zhishi [World Affairs], 2011).  Continue reading

Review: The Tiananmen Papers

INSIDE CHINA’S POLITBURO

For the first time ever, reports and minutes have surfaced that provide a revealing and potentially explosive view of decision-making at the highest levels of the government and party in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The materials paint a vivid picture of the battles between hard-liners and reformers on how to handle the student protests that swept China in the spring of 1989. The protests were ultimately ended by force, including the bloody clearing of Beijing streets by troops using live ammunition. The tragic event was one of the most important in the history of communist China, and its consequences are still being felt.

The materials were spirited out of China by a sympathizer of Communist Party members who are seeking a resumption of political reform. They believe that challenging the official picture of Tiananmen as a legitimate suppression of a violent antigovernment riot will help unfreeze the political process. The extensive and dramatic documentary picture of how China’s leaders reacted to the student protests is revealed in The Tiananmen Papers: The Chinese Leadership’s Decision to Use Force Against Their Own People-In Their Own Words. This article is adapted from the extensive narrative and documents in that book.

THE STUDENTS’ CHALLENGE

The 1989 demonstrations were begun by Beijing students to encourage continued economic reform and liberalization. The students did not set out to pose a mortal challenge to what they knew was a dangerous regime. Nor did the regime relish the use of force against the students. The two sides shared many goals and much common language. Yet, through miscommunication and misjudgment, they pushed one another into positions where options for compromise became less and less available. Continue reading