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

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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)

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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

Lessons from the Battle of the Paracel Islands

English: Paracel Island map Source: Adapted fr...

English: Paracel Island map Source: Adapted from image from CIA World Factbook vi:Hình:ParacelIslands.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forty years on, the battle has enduring lessons for Vietnam’s naval

 

 

 

modernization.

By Ngo Minh Tri and Koh Swee Lean Collin

January 23, 2014

On January 16, 1974, the Republic of Vietnam Navy (RVN) discovered the presence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Crescent Group in the western Paracel Islands, which was held by South Vietnam. This was an unexpected development, because notwithstanding the reduced U.S. military assistance to Saigon after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, and subsequent reduction of South Vietnamese garrisons on the islands, the Chinese had not taken unilateral actions to subvert the status quo – by which the Amphitrite Group in the eastern Paracels and the Crescent Group were respectively under Chinese and South Vietnamese control.

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Five Myths about the Chinese Internet

The Great Firewall is neither great, nor a firewall. Discuss.

BY EVELINE CHAO | NOVEMBER 20, 2012

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Last week, Xi Jinping‘s chairmanship of the Communist Party was announced, and collectively, the Chinese Internet breathed a sigh of relief. Netizens rejoiced as the web returned to its normal speed, while censors, government officials, and Internet companies finally allowed themselves to stop fretting about making any missteps during the highly sensitive week-long, once-in-a-decade political meeting — the 18th Party Congress — which decided China’s new leadership structure.

Within a few hours, the top trending topics on Sina Weibo, China’s homegrown equivalent to Twitter, included political topics like incoming Premier Li Keqiang’s resumé and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s November 15 comments that he isn’t bothered by online criticism because such things are normal in a democracy. But for most of the week-long Party Congress, however, the top Weibo chatter (part censorship, part apathy) had focused mostly on Chinese pop celebs.

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Is China Trying to Split ASEAN?

By Trefor Moss May 30, 2012

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Defense leaders from around Southeast Asia are meeting in Phnom Penh this week for the 6th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM). The theme of the get together – “Enhancing ASEAN Unity for a Harmonized and Secure Community” – smacks of doublespeak: unity and harmony within ASEAN are sorely lacking at the moment, and no-one really thinks the ministerial meeting is going to rediscover them.

In the anarchy of the international arena, a club like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ought to be a reassuring place to be. The organization gives its ten members – small or medium-sized players in geopolitical terms – the opportunity to close ranks when dealing with the greater powers, and to speak with one voice loud enough to be heard in Beijing, Washington and any other place that needs to listen.

Unfortunately, ASEAN doesn’t work like that: individualism swiftly trumps collectivism whenever contentious issues arise.

In particular, ASEAN has a China problem. Ask the ten members about China, and you’ll get a kaleidoscope of opinions about what that country represents. Some ASEAN countries are very much pro-China: their own economic development is tied closely to Beijing’s, and they are comfortable with the political implications of their China connections. Others are cooler on relations with Beijing: they balance a wariness of Chinese influence with the obvious benefits of a healthy trading relationship. And finally, there are those that feel threatened by China and regard themselves as targets (or at least potential targets) of Chinese assertiveness.

Unity on the question of how to handle China has therefore eluded ASEAN. And given the association’s nature, this is unsurprising: neutrality and non-intervention, not unity and collectivism, are ASEAN’s most cherished principles.

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Why Philippines Stands Up to China

May 14, 2012 By James R. Holmes

The Philippines is hopelessly mismatched against China in pure military terms. But there are historical reasons why it won’t back down in the South China Sea.

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Last month, I wrote a column for Global Times in which I observed that a dominant Chinese Navy lets China’s leadership deploy unarmed surveillance and law-enforcement vessels as it implements policy in the ongoing stand off at Scarborough Shoal. It can flourish a small, unprovocative seeming stick while holding the big stick – overwhelming naval firepower, and thus the option of escalating – in reserve.

That, I wrote, translates into “virtual coercion and deterrence” vis-à-vis lesser Asian powers. If weak states defy Beijing, they know what may come next. Global Times readers evidently interpreted this as my prophesying that Southeast Asian states will despair at the hopeless military mismatch in the South China Sea – and give in automatically and quickly during controversies like Scarborough Shoal.

Not so. Diplomacy and war are interactive enterprises. Both sides – not just the strong – get a vote. Manila refuses to vote Beijing’s way.

Military supremacy is no guarantee of victory in wartime, let alone in peacetime controversies. The strong boast advantages that bias the competition in their favor. But the weak still have options. Manila can hope to offset Beijing’s advantages, and it has every reason to try. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? China has been the weaker belligerent in every armed clash since the 19th century Opium Wars. It nevertheless came out on top in the most important struggles.

That the weak can vanquish the strong is an idea with a long pedigree. Roman dictator Quintus Fabius fought Hannibal – one of history’s foremost masters of war – to a standstill precisely by refusing to fight a decisive battle. Demurring let Fabius – celebrated as “the Delayer” – marshal inexhaustible resources and manpower against Carthaginian invaders waging war on Rome’s turf.

Fabius bided his time until an opportune moment. Then he struck.

Similarly, sea power theorist Sir Julian Corbett advised naval commanders to wage “active defense” in unfavorable circumstances. Commanders of an outmatched fleet could play a Fabian waiting game, lurking near the stronger enemy fleet yet declining battle. In the meantime they could bring in reinforcements, seek alliances with friendly naval powers, or deploy various stratagems to wear down the enemy’s strength. Ultimately they might reverse the naval balance, letting them risk a sea fight – and win.

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China: Icebreaking in the Arctic

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Chinese vessel ‘Snow Dragon’ in action (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

When we think of Chinese foreign policy most of us picture foreign direct investment in Africa and assertiveness in the Near Seas (Yellow, East China and South China). Few of us think ice breakers. China’s application to join the Arctic Council as permanent observer however suggests the Chinese are now looking north.

Careful Diplomacy

Estimates have it that half of China’s gross domestic product is dependent on export. If the Arctic would become navigable during summer months, as a result of climate change, and shorten the trip from Shanghai to Hamburg by taking the Northern Sea Route instead of 6400 kilo-metres longer route via the Strait of Malacca and the Suez Canal, then it seems justifiable, even for a non-Arctic state, to have some interest in High North policy.

However, says Linda Jakobson at SIPRI, despite strong incentives, Chinese officials will opt for a cautious ‘wait-and-see’ approach to Arctic developments. For obvious reasons, China’s foreign policy rests on a profound respect for territorial integrity and deters it from questioning the territorial rights of Arctic states.  At the same time China thinks Arctic multilateral forums should leave the door open for actors who have natural interests in the development of the region.

Permanent Observer Status

The Arctic Council is a multilateral forum for discussions on Arctic shipping, energy, environment and security. With its eight full members (Norway, Canada, Russia, the US, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark) Chinese diplomats have knocked on the door for permanent observer status. If accepted, they would like other observers (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the UK) participate in discussions on policies for the region.

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