vendredi 16 février 2018

Europe needs to step up vigilance on China’s influence

Beijing’s authoritarian brand presents a direct challenge to liberal traditions 
By Thorsten Benner and Kristin Shi-Kupfer


Complacency with Chinese tyranny: French President Emmanuel Macron with Xi Jinping in Beijing in January

Mike Pompeo, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, said last month that Beijing’s efforts to exert influence in liberal democracies are just as concerning as those of Moscow, citing China’s “much bigger footprint”.
Indeed, China’s rapidly increasing political influencing efforts and the self-confident promotion of its authoritarian ideals present a fundamental challenge to western democracies. 
 Drawing on its economic strength and a Communist Party of China apparatus that is geared towards strategically building stocks of influence across the globe, Beijing’s efforts are bound to be much more consequential in the medium to long term than those of the Kremlin. 
Nowhere is the gap between the scale of China’s efforts and public awareness of the problem larger than in Europe.
EU member states urgently need to devise a strategy to counter China’s authoritarian advance. 
 As we detail in a new report, Beijing pursues three related goals.

  • First, it seeks to weaken western unity within Europe and across the Atlantic. One aim of this is to prevent Europe from challenging China’s human rights record and its hegemonic ambitions in the South and East China seas. 
  •  Second, it aims to build European support on specific issues such as market economy status and a free pass for Chinese investments. 
  •  Third, Beijing pushes hard to create a more positive global perception of China’s political and economic system as a viable alternative to liberal democracies. 

To further these goals, China commands a comprehensive and flexible influencing toolset in Europe, ranging from the overt to the covert and strategically deployed across three arenas: political and economic elites, media and civil society & academia. 
 Beijing uses investments in infrastructure and public utilities to create political leverage in Europe’s periphery. 
In Greece, for example, it controls the port of Piraeus, leading the government in Athens to torpedo a joint EU resolution on human rights in China in the Human Rights Council. 
In the Czech Republic, it placed an adviser in the president’s office. 
Across Europe, it buys the services of former politicians such as Philipp Roesler, the former German vice-chancellor who was hired by HNA, the Chinese conglomerate, and David Cameron, the former UK prime minister, who has signed up to lead a joint UK-China investment fund. 
Many smaller eastern and southern EU members align with China in fits of “pre-emptive obedience”. 
They try to curry favour with China and lure investment by supporting China’s political positions. 
Some illiberal governments, such as that of Viktor Orban in Hungary, do so all too happily.
They see China’s authoritarian model as attractive and a convenient source of leverage against Brussels and western EU members pushing back against their illiberalism. 
Orban has already played the China card to put pressure his EU partners who are considering reducing structural funds in response to his authoritarianism and a post-Brexit recalibration of the EU budget. 
“Central Europe needs capital to build new roads and pipelines. If the EU is unable to provide enough capital, we will just collect it in China,” Orban said in Berlin this year.
To sweeten the deal for China, Orban is gladly working to prevent a strong EU stance on China’s territorial advances in the South China Sea. 
In parallel, Beijing has invested in shaping the narrative on China.
Across central and eastern Europe, China-supported Confucius Institutes, as well as China-linked think-tanks and university scholars dominate discussions, while an increasing number of journalists go through training programmes designed and funded by the Chinese Communist party. 
In Brussels and other capitals, China funds think-tanks and pays lobbyists to project a favourable image. 
It spreads Chinese official views and creates subtle dependencies by paying for inserts in European quality newspapers. 
It uses the lure of the Chinese market to encourage self-censorship in film, art, and academic publishing. 
Springer Nature, the German group that publishes Scientific American, has removed content in China that was deemed politically sensitive by the party. 
China even went as far as demanding that Germany ensure that its visiting football teams are not met by protests about Tibet during paid friendly games on German soil. 
In part, China uses covert methods, such targeting German lawmakers and government employees via fake social media profiles. 

But most influencing comes through the front door.
Beijing takes advantage of the EU’s one-sided openness. 
Europe’s gates are wide open whereas China seeks to tightly restrict access of foreign ideas, actors and capital. 
Beijing profits from willing enablers among European political and professional classes who are happy to promote Chinese values and interests. 
They do so mostly for financial or other advantages but at times also out of genuine political conviction or convenience.
Rather than only China trying to actively build up political capital, there is also much influence courting on the part of those political elites in EU member states.
China has already made significant progress toward a more fragmented and pliant Europe that better serves its authoritarian interests. 
If Europe intends to stop the momentum of Chinese influencing efforts, it needs to act swiftly and decisively.
In responding to China’s advance, European governments need to make sure that the liberal DNA of their countries’ political and economic systems stays intact.
 Some restrictions will be necessary, but Europe should not copy China’s illiberalism.
While staying as open as possible, Europe needs to address critical vulnerabilities to Chinese authoritarian influencing through a multi-pronged strategy that integrates different branches of government, businesses, media, civil society, culture/arts as well as academia. 
 To better leverage the collective weight of EU member states, larger member states, such as Germany and France, need to take serious steps towards putting their privileged bilateral relations with China in the service of common European interests.
Complaining about the 16+1 format China uses to interact with smaller EU members in central and eastern Europe while engaging in 1+1 formats with Beijing undermines a common EU response to challenges from China. 
In addition, European governments need to invest in high-calibre, independent China expertise. Raising awareness about and responding to China’s political influencing efforts in Europe can succeed only if there is sufficient impartial expertise on China in think-tanks, universities, NGOs and media across Europe. 
 Furthermore, the EU needs to continue providing alternatives to the promises of Chinese investments in European countries.
It also needs to enable EU members and third countries in the neighbourhood to properly evaluate, monitor and prepare large-scale infrastructure projects, including those financed by China.
 The EU and its members must be able to stop state-driven takeovers of companies that are of significant public interest.
In addition to high-tech sectors as well as key parts of public infrastructure, this notably includes the media, as an institution of critical importance to liberal democracies.
 Foreign funding of political parties from outside Europe, not least from China, should be banned across the EU. 
European intelligence services urgently need to enhance co-operation on Chinese activities to arrive at a common understanding of the threat and to deliver joint responses. 
 EU members should put additional awareness-building measures in place sensitise potential targets of Chinese intelligence activities. 
In particular, decision makers and scholars should be briefed more systematically about common patterns of contact-building and approaches by Chinese intelligence agencies or related actors.
 For the wider public to get a full picture of authoritarian influencing, liberal democracies need to leverage one of the key assets of open societies: the power of critical public debate.
Implementing transparency requirements concerning collaboration with Chinese actors for media agencies, universities and think-tanks, among others, would help raise awareness of the various influencing mechanisms Chinese state actors employ. 
 “Vigilance is wise; confidence a useful adjunct,” the Economist counselled recently in a piece on China’s influence in Europe.
With the necessary defensive mechanisms in place, confidence should come more easily.

Not For Chinese

SEC blocks Chicago Stock Exchange sale to Chinese investors
By John McCrank

The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission hangs on the wall at SEC headquarters in Washington, U.S., June 24, 2011. 

U.S. regulators on Thursday killed the politically sensitive sale of the Chicago Stock Exchange (CHX) to a group led by China-based investors, saying a lack of information on the would-be buyers threatened the ability to properly monitor the exchange after the deal.
The move by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ends a two-year battle to gain approval for the sale and underscores the more hostile environment facing Chinese buyers under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump brought the CHX deal up twice during the election campaign as an example of how jobs and wealth were leaving the United States.
SEC staff initially approved the sale of the privately owned exchange in August, but within minutes of the announcement SEC commissioners, led by Chairman Jay Clayton, a Trump appointee, put the decision on hold for further review.
U.S. lawmakers from both parties had harshly criticized the deal in joint letters to the SEC, arguing that it would give the Chinese government access to American financial markets and questioning the SEC’s ability to regulate and monitor foreign owners.
This has been a long fight, and I am grateful we now have a President who recognizes the national security threats of allowing a Chinese government-affiliated company to own the Chicago Stock Exchange,” Republican Congressman Robert Pittenger said in a statement on Thursday.
“We must continue to be vigilant, with thorough oversight, to prevent the highly-coordinated and strategic efforts of the Communist Chinese government to threaten our national security through malicious business investments.”
CHX is a niche player in the industry, handling just 0.5 percent of U.S. equities trades.
The acquisition, which was proposed in February 2016 and worth around $25 million, was led by Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group, a privately held company that invests in real estate development and financial holdings.
CHX declined to comment on Thursday on the final decision.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

The SEC’s decision comes at a time of rising trade tensions between China and the United States.
In the latest signs of friction, Beijing earlier this month launched an anti-dumping investigation into U.S. sorghum shipments following the U.S. Commerce Department’s ‘self-initiated’ dumping probe into Chinese aluminum imports in late November.
The Chinese foreign and commerce ministries did not respond immediately to emailed and faxed questions requesting a comment. 
Friday is Lunar New Year’s day, a public holiday in China.
Casin had said it saw potential in CHX and that its long-term goal was to list Chinese companies in the United States on the bourse. 
It also planned to eventually build an exchange in China using CHX technology.
If the deal had been approved it would have marked the first time Chinese investors had been direct owners of a U.S. stock exchange, although not the first time a U.S. exchange had foreign owners. Deutsche Boerse AG bought the U.S.-based International Securities Exchange for $2.8 billion in 2007, before selling it to Nasdaq Inc for $1.1 billion in 2016.
The CHX deal was approved in December 2016 by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which scrutinizes deals for potential national security concerns, but also needed SEC approval.
The Wall Street regulator on Thursday did not mention the China connection, but said it found several reasons why the deal did not meet laws governing the ownership of U.S. exchanges, which are stricter than usual ownership rules due to the role they play in the economy.
Critically, the SEC said in a filing posted on its website that it was not satisfied about the source of funds for the deal and who the ultimate consortium owners would be, raising worries the structure of the deal could allow new, unknown entities to assume stakes over time.
The SEC, which conducted its own extensive due diligence when reviewing the case, said that the CHX was not able to provide key information it had requested, including access to the potential owners’ books, “leaving various questions unanswered.”
The CHX’s inability to verify the ultimate potential owners would also make it difficult for the bourse to satisfy its ongoing compliance monitoring obligations, and would obstruct the SEC’s own capacity to oversee CHX, it said.
In particular, the SEC said it was not satisfied it would have full access to the exchange’s books and records if the deal were to go through.

FUTURE IN DOUBT

After a two-year delay, the SEC’s decision puts CHX’s future in doubt. 
The exchange said it needed the infusion of capital to invest in its operations and attract business.
CHX’s other key initiative to boost its volumes centers around giving certain trading firms faster access if they agree to strict trading obligations aimed at making it easier for others to buy and sell stocks on the exchange.
SEC staff approved that plan in October, but the SEC commissioners also put that decision on hold and there is no deadline for a further ruling.
Technically, CHX could still resubmit its proposal or seek other buyers.
CHX competes against the New York Stock Exchange and its three affiliated exchanges, all owned by Intercontinental Exchange Inc, and Nasdaq Inc and Cboe Global Markets Inc, both of which own four U.S. stock exchanges.

Sina Delenda Est: The Necessary War

Admiral Harry Harris warns US must prepare for war with China
By Ben Doherty
Harry Harris says China’s military might could soon rival US power across almost every domain, and warned of possibility of war.

The navy admiral nominated to be the next US ambassador to Australia has told Congress America must prepare for the possibility of war with China, and said it would rely on Australia to help uphold the international rules-based system in the Asia-Pacific.
In an excoriating assessment of China’s increasingly muscular posture in the region, Harry Harris said Beijing’s “intent is crystal clear” to dominate the South China Sea and that its military might could soon rival American power “across almost every domain”.
Harris, soon to retire as the head of US Pacific Command in Hawaii, told the House armed services committee, the US and its allies should be wary of Beijing’s military expansionism in the region, and condemned China’s foreign influence operations, predatory economic behaviour and coercion of regional neighbours.
“China’s intent is crystal clear. We ignore it at our peril,” he said. 
“I’m concerned China will now work to undermine the international rules-based order.”

Admiral Harry Harris is named US ambassador to Australia

Harris also warned of a “cult of personality” developing around Chinese dictator Xi Jinping.
Harris praised Australia as one of America’s staunchest allies in the Asia-Pacific region, noting existing military cooperation at air force bases in the Northern Territory, joint naval exercises and the regular rotation of 1,500 marines through Darwin.
“Australia is one of the keys to a rules-based international order,” Harris said. 
“I look to my Australian counterparts for their assistance, I admire their leadership in the battlefield and in the corridors of power in the world.
“They are a key ally of the United States and they have been with us in every major conflict since world war one.”
Harris, the Yokosuka-born son of an American naval officer and a Japanese mother, has been nominated by President Donald Trump as the next ambassador to Australia. 
His appointment must be confirmed by the Senate.
Australia has been without a US ambassador since John Berry departed in September 2016.
Harris said he was alarmed by China’s construction of military bases on seven disputed islands in the South China Sea that neighbouring countries lay territorial claims to.
In 2016, the permanent court of arbitration in The Hague, sided with the Philippines in the dispute it brought, saying there was no legal basis for China’s claim of historic sovereignty over waters within the so-called nine-dash line in the sea.
Regardless, Chinese military build-up continues in the sea.
“China’s impressive military build-up could soon challenge the United States across almost every domain,” Harris said.
In a separate answer, he said of the risk of conflict with China: “as far as the idea of deterrence and winning wars, I’m a military guy. And I think it’s important you must plan and resource to win a war at the same time you work to prevent it.”
“At the end of the day the ability to wage war is important or you become a paper tiger. I’m hopeful that it won’t come to a conflict with China, but we must all be prepared for that if it should come to that.”
Should Harris be confirmed as the next ambassador to Australia, his position would present a challenge for Canberra, as it seeks to navigate an increasingly delicate diplomatic and economic relationship with Beijing.
Ties were severely strained last year after a backlash against China’s influence on and infiltration of Australia’s political system, highlighted by the resignation of Labor senator Sam Dastyari over accepting cash from Chinese businessmen for private debts and his position, at odds with his party, on the South China Sea
The Australian government has proposed new espionage laws and tightening of rules around foreign donations to political parties.
China is Australia’s largest trading partner, but the US is its primary defence and security ally, and Australia has been a vocal defender of the US alliance network over issues such as the nuclear weapons ban treaty, which the US opposes.
The Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who has previously met Harris in Hawaii, has publicly welcomed his nomination. 
“Great to see Admiral Harry Harris nominated by [Donald Trump] as US ambassador to Australia. Look forward to seeing you in Canberra, Harry,” Turnbull said on Twitter on February 10.
Turnbull will meet with Trump in Washington next week. 
It is not known when Harris’s confirmation hearing will take place.

The Vatican's Quisling: Francis Is Playacting Realpolitik

The Vatican’s diplomacy with authoritarian China is based on a century-old fantasy of its worldly power.
BY GEORGE WEIGEL
Xi Jinping's Pope or Vatican's Quisling?

In recent weeks, many observers have been deeply disturbed by what appears to be an impending deal between the Vatican and the People’s Republic of China. 
The agreement would concede a significant role to the Chinese Communist regime in the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops in China, as a step on the path to full diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Holy See. 
More than a few questions have been raised about such an arrangement.
Why would the Vatican trust any agreement cosigned by a totalitarian power, given its previous unhappy experiences with Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Third Reich, both of which systematically violated concordats they concluded with the Holy See?
Why have the Vatican’s diplomats (and Francis himself) dismissed warnings from within China, and from the retired bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, about the negative impact of such a deal on those Chinese Catholics who have remained loyal to Rome rather than to the regime-sponsored Patriotic Catholic Association?
Why would the Church violate its own canon law (according to which “no rights or privileges of election, appointment, presentation, or designation of bishops are conceded to civil authorities”) as a step toward full diplomatic exchange with a regime that routinely violates human rights with great cruelty?
What has motivated the dogged pursuit by Vatican diplomats of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and China over the past four decades?
Answering these questions requires three steps back: first to 1870, then to 1929, and finally to 1962.
In 1870, when the forces of the Italian Risorgimento captured Rome and made it the capital of a unified Italy, the last vestiges of the old Papal States (which once encompassed all of central Italy) disappeared, and Pope Pius IX retired behind the Leonine Wall, styling himself the “Prisoner of the Vatican.” 
The Holy See, which international law and customary diplomatic practice have long recognized as the juridical embodiment of the pope’s role as universal pastor of the Catholic Church, continued to send and receive ambassadors even as it lacked any territory over which it exercised internationally recognized sovereignty. 
But Pius’s four successors tried nonetheless to reach an agreement with the new Italian state that would guarantee the pope’s independence from all earthly powers.
That goal was finally achieved by Pius XI in the 1929 Lateran Accords, which created the independent Vatican City State on a 108-acre tract surrounding St. Peter’s Basilica.
But while the Lateran Accords assured the pope’s freedom to conduct his global ministry without interference from another sovereign, the reduction of the pope’s sovereign territory to the Vatican City microstate underscored that, in the future, Holy See diplomacy would have to reply on the exercise of papal moral authority, not the usual tangible instruments of state power.
The largely Italian Vatican diplomatic service never quite grasped this implication of the Lateran Accords, though. 
Rather, it seems these foreign-policy professionals continued to think that the new Holy See/Vatican City was something like the old Holy See/Papal States: a third-tier European power. 
And as Italy itself became a less serious actor in world politics, it was natural for Italian papal diplomats to seek some significant role for “Rome” on the global stage, working the system as other third-tier powers did.
Then came October 1962. 
It has been insufficiently remarked that the opening of the Second Vatican Council — the four-year meeting of all the world’s Catholic bishops that became the most important event in Catholic history since the Reformation and set the foundations for Catholicism’s current role as a major institutional promoter and defender of human rights — coincided precisely with the Cuban missile crisis. 
Pope John XXIII and the Vatican diplomatic corps were sufficiently shaken by the possibility of a nuclear war that might have ended Vatican II before it got underway that they devised a profound redirection of Vatican diplomacy toward the European communist world. 
This became known as Vatican Ostpolitik, and its principal agent was the career Vatican diplomat Archbishop Agostino Casaroli.
Casaroli’s Ostpolitik, which unfolded during the pontificate of Pope Paul VI (1963-1978), aimed at finding a modus non moriendi, a “way of not dying” (as Casaroli frequently put it), for the Catholic Church behind the Iron Curtain. 
In order to appoint bishops, who could ordain priests and thus maintain the Church’s sacramental or spiritual life under atheist regimes, the Vatican ended the anti-communist rhetoric that had characterized its public diplomacy in the 1950s, removed senior churchmen who refused to concede anything to communist governments (like Hungary’s Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty and Czechoslovakia’s Cardinal Joseph Beran), discouraged any public role for exiled Catholic leaders like Ukrainian Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, urged underground Catholic clergy and laity to cease their resistance to their local communist regimes, and diligently sought various forms of agreements with communist governments. 
One premise informing this remarkable volte-face was that the Vatican’s once-harsh anti-communist rhetoric had been at least partially to blame for communist regimes’ persecution of the Church; the theory was that if the Vatican showed itself more accommodating (the buzzword was “dialogue”), such mellowness would be reciprocated.
It wasn’t. 
And by any objective measure, Casaroli’s Ostpolitik was a failure — and in some instances a disaster.
In Rome, it led to the deep penetration of the Vatican by East bloc intelligence services, a counterintelligence debacle (now fully documented from original sources) that put the Church’s diplomats in an even weaker position in negotiations with their communist counterparts, who frequently knew the Vatican game plan thanks to the work of well-placed moles and informers inside the Roman Curia.
In the countries that were to be the putative beneficiaries of the Ostpolitik, there were no improvements of consequence as a result of Casaroli’s shuttle diplomacy, and in fact more damage was done. 
The Hungarian Catholic hierarchy became what amounted to a wholly owned subsidiary of the Hungarian state, which of course meant the Hungarian communist party. 
Repression increased in what was then Czechoslovakia, with regime-friendly faux-Catholic organizations achieving public prominence while underground bishops and priests worked as janitors, window-washers, and elevator repairmen, conducting clandestine ministries at night. 
The Ostpolitik did nothing to improve the situation of Catholics in the Soviet Union: The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church remained the world’s largest illegal religious community, and Lithuanian Catholic resistance leaders found themselves doing hard time in gulag labor camps.
The Ostpolitik had no serious effect in Poland, however, where the wily primate Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski and the charismatic archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, nodded politely to visiting Vatican diplomats but continued to confront the Polish communist authorities with vigorous public protests when they thought that necessary to preserve the Church’s tenaciously held free space in a communist state. 
That strategy, in turn, strengthened the most vigorous national Catholic community in the Soviet sphere, even as the Vatican Ostpolitik was weakening local Churches in other Warsaw Pact countries.
When Wojtyla was elected pope in 1978, taking the name John Paul II, the Casaroli Ostpolitik was quietly buried — although the shrewd John Paul appointed Casaroli his secretary of state, thus creating something of a good cop-bad cop strategy. 
Casaroli would continue his shuttle diplomacy in east-central Europe. 
But that, John Paul understood, would provide him useful cover as he, using the megaphone of the papacy, boldly challenged communist human rights violations in his pilgrimages all over the world, most notably on his first papal visit to Poland in June 1979, and then in October of that year from the rostrum of the General Assembly of the United Nations. 
That two-track strategy was instrumental in igniting the revolution of conscience that shaped the Revolutions of 1989 and the self-liberation of east-central Europe from communism.
Yet the lessons that ought to have been learned from all this — that the Ostpolitik was a failure because the appeasement of communist and other authoritarian regimes never works, and that the only real authority the Holy See and the pope have in world politics today is moral authority — were not learned by the heirs of Agostino Casaroli, many of whom are influential figures in Vatican diplomacy today. 
At Rome’s Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Ostpolitik is still presented to future Vatican diplomats as a model of success, and at no level of the Vatican Secretariat of State has there been an intellectual reckoning with the evidence demonstrating the failures of Casaroli’s diplomacy.
The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as Francis in March 2013 has not changed the “Casarolian” cast of mind dominating Vatican diplomacy; quite the opposite, in fact. Bergoglio brought to the papacy a record of resistance to the authoritarian Kirchner regime in his native Argentina, with which he had tangled on several issues. 
But he had no experience of world politics, and from the outset of his pontificate, Francis made it clear that he believed that “dialogue,” perhaps his favorite word when speaking of international affairs, is possible with the likes of Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, Nicolás Maduro, and Raúl Castro.
Thus under Francis, the accommodating Casaroli approach to Vatican diplomacy has made a great comeback, while the world-changing achievements of John Paul II, the result of charismatic moral leadership, seem to be virtually ignored by the Church’s senior diplomats. 
And one result of that comeback is the new démarche with China, which the senior Italians among the Vatican’s diplomats regard as a rising world power with whom they must be a “player.”
John Paul and his successor, Benedict XVI, could have had the deal now being proposed by Beijing, or something very similar to it. 
Both declined, because they knew it was not a step toward greater freedom for the Catholic Church in China but a step toward greater Catholic subservience to the Chinese Communist regime, a betrayal of persecuted Catholics throughout the People’s Republic of China, and an impediment to future evangelism in China. 
Both may also have weighed the fact that any formal Vatican diplomatic exchange with Beijing would necessitate ending diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the first Chinese democracy in history — and that would be a bad signal to the rest of the world about the Vatican’s commitment to Catholicism’s own social doctrine.
Vatican diplomacy today rests on shaky and insecure foundations — and on Italianate fantasies that the 21st-century Holy See can act internationally as if this were 1815, when Cardinal Ercole Consalvi, Pope Pius VII’s chief diplomat, was a significant actor at the Congress of Vienna. 
Those shaky foundations and that fantasy are not a prescription for diplomatic success. 
They are, rather, a prescription for both diplomatic and ecclesiastical failure, which is the likely result of the deal now being bruited between the Vatican and China.

Vatican's Crypto-Communism: Francis Kowtows to China

In capitulating on the issue of bishop appointments, the Vatican loses a 1,000-year struggle.
BY WILL INBODEN

Henry IV, king of the Germans, surrenders his crown to Pope Gregory VII, who sits enthroned. (Woodcut by John Foxe/Rare Books and Manuscripts Library/Ohio State University Libraries/Wikimedia Commons)

While the Winter Olympics in South Korea are dominating the headlines from Asia this week, surreptitious negotiations now taking place in Beijing may prove more consequential for the eventual course of the 21st century. 
According to news reports, the Vatican might be nearing an agreement with the Chinese government that would lead to mutual diplomatic recognition between Beijing and Rome. 
However, the agreement would be entirely on Beijing’s terms, with the Holy See ceding authority to the Chinese Communist Party for the appointment of bishops and granting the party effective control of the Catholic Church in China. 
If true, that would amount to a stunning unilateral concession by Francis rather than a negotiated compromise.
The geopolitical stakes are enormous, embroiling the world’s largest nation of 1.4 billion and the world’s largest religious group of 1.2 billion. 
The population overlap between the two is small — there are only 10 million or so Catholics in China, split between the underground church and the one church controlled by Beijing — numbers that pale in comparison to the estimated 70 million or more (perhaps many more) Chinese Protestants.
Yet the resolution of this dispute will do much to shape whether China continues to be ruled by an officially atheistic and increasingly aggressive government, or begins to evolve in a more pacific and liberal direction.
For readers unfamiliar with Catholic theology and church governance, this is not a mere administrative trifle but an issue central to Catholicism’s beliefs, identity, and history going back millennia. 
One of medieval Europe’s most cataclysmic events came with the investiture controversy of the 11th century over whether emperors or popes had the authority to appoint bishops and priests.
The dispute climaxed in 1076 and 1077, when Emperor Henry IV, the German monarch, failed in his challenge to Pope Gregory VII, and the humiliated emperor found himself instead a supplicant standing in the snow outside the pope’s palace at Canossa, groveling for forgiveness and conceding the church’s authority over religious offices.
The issue lies at the core distinctions between church and state.
Churches and other religious organizations have the authority to choose their own clergy, determine their theology, and govern themselves in spiritual matters, while respecting and deferring to the authority of the state in political matters.
In the case of bishops and priests, Catholic teaching holds them to be Christ’s representatives here on earth, the successors of the original Apostles, whose highest loyalties are to the Pope and ultimately to Christ in heaven.
As a Protestant in the reformed tradition who holds to the priesthood of all believers, I myself do not have any ecclesial stake in the current negotiations between Beijing and the Vatican.
But as an American who believes in religious liberty, human rights, and not capitulating to the pretensions of an aggressive atheistic government that seeks to squelch any independent civil society, I find the Vatican’s reported concessions of serious concern.
So do many Catholics.
The estimable George Weigel, a leading Catholic intellectual and a biographer of Pope John Paul II, wrote in a piece for Foreign Policy:
John Paul and his successor, Benedict XVI, could have had the deal now being proposed by Beijing, or something very similar to it. 
Both declined, because they knew it was not a step toward greater freedom for the Catholic Church in China but a step toward greater Catholic subservience to the Chinese Communist regime, a betrayal of persecuted Catholics throughout the People’s Republic of China, and an impediment to future evangelism in China. 
Both may also have weighed the fact that any formal Vatican diplomatic exchange with Beijing would necessitate ending diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the first Chinese democracy in history — and that would be a bad signal to the rest of the world about the Vatican’s commitment to Catholicism’s own social doctrine.
Weigel’s points highlight the especially sensitive issue of the seven Chinese bishops who had previously been appointed by the government over the fierce objections of previous popes who actually excommunicated at least some of those faux-bishops.
The provisional agreement between the Holy See and Beijing would reverse those excommunications and affirm those bishops as legitimate appointments. 
This is why so many Catholics who have stayed faithful to the Vatican through supporting China’s persecuted underground Catholic Church are remonstrating against the proposed deal.
Witness this open letter to Francis, for example.
One of those faithful Chinese Catholics who has maintained his loyalty to Rome and been a courageous voice for democracy and human rights is Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong.
Based on decades of firsthand experience trying to shepherd his flock and protect it from Beijing’s encroachments, the wily cardinal has spoken out against the Vatican’s concessions, and even reportedly traveled to Rome the other week to appeal to Francis.
I was privileged to meet Zen in 2007 when as a National Security Council staff member I helped set up a visit between him and President George W. Bush in the White House residence.
Their meeting sparked the ire of Beijing, which then as now regarded the cardinal as an irksome troublemaker, but it also helped demonstrate to China that the United States stood with those around the world advocating for democracy and human rights in their own countries.
Previous American presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush enjoyed close relations with their papal counterparts, especially when John Paul occupied the papacy.
Unfortunately Francis does not inherit his predecessor’s steadfast opposition to tyranny, nor has President Donald Trump yet taken up the mantle of America’s historic support for freedom abroad.
The distaste the two hold for each other also limits the White House’s ability to quietly sway Rome away from its embrace of Beijing.
The newly confirmed ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, Sam Brownback, is a devout Catholic with strong Vatican ties, so hopefully he is already engaging in some vigorous quiet diplomacy with the Holy See to forestall this looming capitulation to China.
Meanwhile, perhaps Trump could also invite Zen back for a return visit to the White House.

jeudi 15 février 2018

Chinese Peril: Huawei and ZTE Smartphones

Six top US intelligence chiefs caution against buying ZTE and Huawei phones
  • The directors of the CIA, FBI, NSA and several other intelligence agencies express their distrust of Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE.
  • During a hearing, the intelligence chiefs commended American telecom companies for their resistance to the Chinese companies.
  • Huawei has been trying to enter the U.S. market, first through a partnership with AT&T that was ultimately called off.
By Sara Salinas

Chinese esionage: Six top US intelligence chiefs caution against buying ZTE and Huawei phones

FBI Director Christopher Wray (L) and CIA Director Mike Pompeo (2nd L) testify on worldwide threats during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 13, 2018.

Six top U.S. intelligence chiefs told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday they would not advise Americans to use products or services from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei.
The six — including the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA and the director of national intelligence — first expressed their distrust of Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE in reference to public servants and state agencies.
When prompted during the hearing, all six indicated they would not recommend private citizens use products from the Chinese companies.
"We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to Chinese government that doesn't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," FBI Director Chris Wray testified.
"That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure," Wray said.
"It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage."

Huawei and ZTE smartphones are Chinese espionage's favorite tools.

Huawei has been trying to enter the U.S. market, first through a partnership with AT&T that was ultimately called off
At the time, Huawei said its products would still launch on American markets.
Last month, Huawei CEO Richard Yu raged against American carriers, accusing them of depriving customers of choice. 
Reports said U.S. lawmakers urged AT&T to pull out of the deal.
At the hearing, the intelligence chiefs commended American telecom companies for their measured resistance to the Chinese companies.
"This is a challenge I think that is only going to increase, not lessen over time for us," said Adm. Michael Rogers, the NSA's director. 
"You need to look long and hard at companies like this."

American Hero

Adm. Harry Harris, Trump's pick for Australia envoy, slams Beijing's Asia ambitions
By Ben Westcott

China is seeking to "undermine" the international order in the Asia Pacific, Adm. Harry Harris, US President Donald Trump's nominee for ambassador to Australia, said in Washington on Wednesday.
Addressing the US Committee on Armed Services on the challenges facing the US military in the region, Adm. Harris, the highest commander of US forces in Asia Pacific region, said the Trump administration must work to counter Beijing's influence in the region.
"China's intention is crystal clear. We ignore it at our peril," he said in public testimony. 
"I'm concerned China will work to undermine the international rules-based order."
Plain-spoken and well-known in the international community for his remarks on US policy in the Asia Pacific, Harris has often provoked a vitriolic reaction from Beijing, in particular for his passionate calls for action in the South China Sea.
His appointment would raise the stakes in the battle for influence in Asia, with experts saying Harris could push the Australian government to tighten military cooperation with its traditional ally.

US President Donald Trump meets with Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr. in Hawaii on November 3, 2017.

The head of US Pacific Command, Harris was announced in early February as US President Trump's pick as the next ambassador to Australia.
The ambassadorship to Australia has been empty for almost 18 months following the end of the former incumbent John Berry's term in September 2016 -- one of a number of key Asia roles that haven't been filled by the Trump administration.
Harris' appointment must be confirmed by the US Congress, and it's not clear exactly when that will happen.
During his testimony to the committee on Wednesday, Harris said China was trying to reorder the Indo-Pacific through "military modernization, influence operations and predatory economics."
"China's impressive military build up could soon challenge the US across every domain ... If the US does not keep pace, (US Pacific Command) will struggle to compete with the People's Liberation Army on future battlefields," he said.

Taking the gloves off
Born in Yokosuka, Japan, the son of an American naval officer and a Japanese mother, Harris ascended through the ranks of the US Navy to become the highest commander in the Asia Pacific region.
Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the US Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center, told CNN that Harris was greatly respected by the armed forces and in political circles in Washington DC.
"He may be a good advocate for Australia's interests and position ... He has credibility with the Trump administration so he could very well be viewed as two-way conduit," he said.
Australian leaders warmly welcomed the news of Harris' appointment, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who has met with the admiral in Hawaii on at least one occasion.
"Great to see Admiral Harry Harris nominated by (Donald Trump) as US ambassador to Australia. Look forward to seeing you in Canberra, Harry," Turnbull said on his official Twitter on February 10.

Schuster said Adm. Harris was an "innovative and flexible thinker," who was a strong advocate for a strong advocate for tighter ties between the US and its allies in Asia.
The admiral's harsh rhetoric comes at a time when Australia finds itself caught between its longtime ally the United States and its major economic partner China.
Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at Sydney's Lowy Institute, told CNN Harris could help the Trump administration put more pressure on Australia to follow the US line.

Trump picks top Pacific commander to be Australia ambassador

"Australia can't continue to expect that it will be able to have its cake and eat it too when it comes to the economic relationship with China and (its US ally),"
"(Harris) is someone who is prepared to take the gloves off when it comes to making hard choices in the relationship between China and the US."
Australia could be more receptive than usual to US persuasion -- in recent months, the government has been taking a hard look at Beijing's influence in Australia, after an opposition Labor Party senator stepped down over taking large donations from a Chinese businessman.
The admiral could push Canberra to show greater enthusiasm for ongoing talks between India, Japan, Australia and the United States about taking part in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Graham said, with the aim of containing China.
"His nomination singles an interest on the part of the administration to make sure that Australia steps up on questions of defense cooperation, alliance cooperation, where China is concerned," he said.
Harris has been a longtime critic of the Chinese military's island building campaign in the South China Sea, a position he continued on Wednesday citing Beijing's aggressions in the area.
In a lecture in Sydney in December 2016, Harris said the US would not give up "shared domains" at sea, "no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea."
Schuster said rather than having an aggressive attitude towards Beijing, Harris instead had a realistic approach to China.
"He sees China as a strategic competitor to the US ... he looks at the South China Sea and thinks if we keep ignoring what China is doing there, then China will win by default," he said.
The Chinese government has expressed its open dislike for Harris on multiple occasions in state media and is unlikely to be pleased at the news of his ambassadorship.
In February 2016, Chinese state media Xinhua infamously questioned whether Harris' Japanese ancestry, on his mother's side, had influenced his opinion on the South China Sea.
"Some may say an overemphasis on his background as a Japanese-American general is a bit unkind .. But to understand the Americans' sudden upgraded offensive in the South China Sea, it is simply impossible to ignore Admiral Harris' blood, background, political inclination and values," the piece read.
Graham said any loud protests by the Chinese government could backfire, particularly given the recent atmosphere of outrage in Australia over allegations of attempts by Beijing to influence domestic policy.
"I think the response, by and large, in Australia would be to swing behind the US alliance," he said.