samedi 30 décembre 2017

Traditional Chinese Hygiene

China's hotel cleaning crews caught using toilet brushes to clean drinkware
By Michael Bartiromo

An undercover investigation revealed the cringe-worthy cleaning practices at the Sheraton (above), the Kempinski and the Shangri-La hotels in Harbin. 

Forget about bedbugs or mysterious stains — some of the practices at a trio of Chinese hotels are far more disturbing.
The cleaning crews at three high-end hotels in northern China were caught using several less-than-sanitary methods to clean their guests’ rooms, including scrubbing out mugs with a toilet brush, washing the bathroom floors with toilet water, and folding clean towels on the bathroom floor.
Hidden-camera footage of the incidents was shared to the Chinese streaming site Pear Video on Tuesday, and confirmed to be genuine by the city of Harbin’s department of tourism, the South China Morning Post reports.
The offending hotels include the Kempinski Hotel Harbin, the Harbin Shangri-La Hotel and the Sheraton Harbin Xiangfang Hotel, all of which are located in Harbin, the capital city of the Heilongjiang province in northwest China.
Each hotel has also been fined by the city and told to correct the issue, the Post adds.
The Shangri-La has since stated that it plans to “cooperate with local government to properly implement all hygiene measures,” and also vowed to conduct its own investigation into the staff’s practices.
“If what was shown in the video was proved to be true, it would be a serious violation of our hygiene standards and it would not be acceptable,” a representative of the hotel told the Post.
The Kempinski Hotel Harbin has called the cleaning habits “unacceptable,” and confirmed that the Kempinksi worker shown in the video had been fired, The Sun reports. 
The Sheraton, too, has since addressed the video, writing that it is "deeply sorry" for the actions of its cleaners, which the hotel re-trained on Wednesday, according to Beijing-based media outlet Caixin.
The footage, which was reportedly shot by an undercover journalist for Pear Video, had also revealed a number of cringe-worthy cleaning methods. 
Among other nasty practices, these included: cleaning drinkware and a bathroom sink with a toilet brush, then immediately using the same brush to clean a toilet; dipping a towel into toilet water before using it to scrub the floor; using a single rag to clean glassware, a garbage can and the toilet bowl; and folding blankets and towels on the floors of the rooms.
The undercover reporter had even asked one of the hotel’s workers if the rest of the cleaning staff used the same practices, and was told that they did, but that “We just never talk about it,” the Independent reports.
According to the South China Post, rooms at the three hotels range from about $105 to $410 per night.

Palau holds out as China squeezes Taiwan’s allies

Tiny tourism-reliant Pacific nation defies pressure from its biggest source of visitors
By Edward White in Taipei and Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong

Tommy Remengesau, Palau's president, and Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the Democratic Progressive party, which has replaced the more China-friendly Nationalist party in power in Taiwan.

Palau, a tiny Pacific nation of just 21,500 people, has vowed to resist renewed pressure from Beijing to cut its diplomatic links with Taiwan.
 One of just 20 nations keeping formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, Palau was named in a notice issued by Chinese officials last month warning travel agencies that it was illegal to advertise group tours to destinations not on China’s approved list.
 But while a clampdown on Chinese visitors would hurt the Palau economy, the nation said it had no plans to switch its allegiance away from Taipei.
 “Palau is a country of laws, it is a democracy and we make our own decisions,” said Olkeriil Kazuo, spokesperson for Palau’s president, Tommy Remengesau.
 China is the biggest source of visitors to tourist-dependent Palau, comprising roughly half the 113,000 visitors to the archipelago so far this year, according to the Asian Development Bank. Tensions between China and Taiwan, a self-governed island that Beijing regards as a renegade province, were heightened last year when the Democratic Progressive party led by Tsai Ing-wen won power, replacing the China-friendly Nationalist party, or Kuomintang.
 The republication of China’s list of approved travel destinations reflects Beijing’s toughening approach towards Taiwan’s allies, experts said.
 Mr Kazuo said Beijing’s exclusion of Palau from its list of approved destinations — a measure in place for several years but to date not strictly enforced — has “never affected” the country.

Tourism growth “largely determines economic performance” — the sector accounted for more than half of Palau’s gross domestic product in 2015 — and a “significant” decline in visitors from China, Japan and Taiwan this year has already caused “uncertainty over near-term economic prospects”, according to the ADB.
 Dilmei Louisa Olkeriil, Palau’s ambassador to Taiwan, said that, if the number of Chinese visitors suddenly fell, “of course the [tourism] industry will hurt”.
 “If China says, ‘no tourists go to Palau’, then no tourists will come to Palau, we need to be aware of that,” she said, adding that Palau must further diversify its source markets to “protect us from something like this”.
 In the decades since China was admitted to the UN in 1971, most countries withdrew recognition of the Republic of China, as Taiwan is formally known, to establish relations with Beijing.
In a dogged battle for recognition, both sides have long used promises of financial aid and infrastructure spending to attract allies.

But policymakers in Beijing have now decided that China’s political objectives are not “something they can obtain purely by soft power alone”, said Lauren Dickey, a researcher in cross-Strait relations and a visiting fellow at National Chengchi University in Taipei.
 “Even when China has relied on the carrot, the threat of the stick has always been there. The difference is the stick is actually being used this time,” Ms Dickey said.
 William Stanton, former head of the American Institute in Taiwan, the unofficial US embassy in Taipei, said it was clear China was “stepping up pressure” against Taiwan.
 “It seems to be an important shift,” he said, noting that Chinese dictator Xi Jinping had signalled a toughening foreign policy at the Communist party congress in October.
They are a bully and they are going to get worse unless people stand up to them,” said Mr Stanton, who now lectures at National Taiwan University.

The Iron Lady

Taiwan’s president pledges stronger defense to counter China
By Ralph Jennings 

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech during the year-end media event at the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science & Technology in Taoyuan county, Taiwan, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. Tsai pledged Friday to step up military spending to defend the self-ruled island’s sovereignty in the face of China’s growing assertiveness in the region. 

TAOYUAN CITY, Taiwan — Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen pledged Friday to step up military spending to defend the self-ruled island’s sovereignty in the face of China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Beijing has rattled its neighbors including Taiwan, which communist mainland leaders claim as their territory, as well as Japan and South Korea by sending military aircraft close to their airspace in recent months.
“China’s attempt to expand militarily in the region is more and more obvious,” Tsai said at a news conference at a military research center.
“Taiwan needs to stand up for its sovereignty, and it wants to protect regional peace, stability and prosperity.”
China and Taiwan split in 1949 after Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled the mainland following a civil war. Beijing insists the two sides must unite, but surveys show most Taiwanese oppose that.
The mainland is expanding its regional reach by developing aircraft carriers and building artificial islands to enforce Beijing’s claim to large swaths of the South China Sea.
“This situation is, put simply, not just a problem facing Taiwan,” Tsai said at the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology. 
“It’s one that countries are facing around the whole region.”
Tsai gave no details of possible military spending increases, but a national security official said in October that the government would seek at least 2 percent each year.
Beijing increased military spending by 7 percent this year compared with 2016. 
For much of the past two decades, the People’s Liberation Army has been awarded increases of at least 10 percent each year.
Tsai has emphasized domestic development and production of weapons. 
The U.S. government approved a $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan in June but, in an effort to mollify Beijing, has been reluctant to supply everything the island’s leadership wants.
“We can’t rely on others,” said Tsai. 
“As the president, I have the responsibility to protect our sovereignty and the responsibility to maintain peace and stability in the region.”
Tsai, a 61-year-old law scholar who took office in May 2016, has irritated Beijing by rejecting its idea that both sides belong to “one China” as a condition for formal dialogue.
China has tried to punish the island by scaling back tourist travel to Taiwan, according to travel agents in Taipei. 
The island’s government also suspects that Beijing has persuaded two foreign governments to end diplomatic recognition of Taiwan since 2016.
The institute where Tsai spoke has developed missile and radar systems and was picked by the defense ministry this year to develop trainer jets. 
The ministry also has signed up Taiwanese manufacturers to develop a $3.3 billion submarine.
“Don’t for a minute underestimate Taiwan’s domestic ability” to develop weaponry, the president said.
Tsai suggested that countries in East Asia “with similar ideas” communicate about China’s military movements. 
But she expects officials in Beijing to shun the use of force.
“I believe any reasonable policymaker — and I believe the current Chinese leader is a reasonable policymaker — would not want to use military force at this time or at any time to resolve the Taiwan issue and that this wouldn’t be his current strategy,” she said.
Over the past two years, Chinese warplanes have flown near Taiwan’s military defense zone some 10 times, according to a former Taiwanese defense minister, Andrew Yang.
In November, bombers and other aircraft were spotted in the Miyako Strait north of Taiwan and in the Luzon Strait separating the island from the Philippines, the defense ministry said. 
It said Chinese aircraft flew through the two straits again on Dec. 11.
“Psychologically and politically, it certainly sends a message,” Yang said.
China’s aircraft are testing Taiwan’s resolve to defend itself, said Shane Lee, a political scientist at Chang Jung Christian University.
After President Trump signed a law this month that opened the way for U.S. Navy ships to visit Taiwan, a Chinese diplomat quoted by state media said the mainland would attack the day that happened.

vendredi 29 décembre 2017

Rogue Nations

Chinese Ships Spotted Selling Oil to North Korea
By Yu Yong-weon, Kim Jin-myung

U.S. reconnaissance satellites have spotted Chinese ships selling oil to North Korean vessels on the West Sea around 30 times since October.
According to South Korean government sources, the satellites have pictured large Chinese and North Korean ships illegally trading in oil in a part of the West Sea closer to China than South Korea.
The satellite pictures even show the names of the ships. 
A government source said, "We need to focus on the fact that the illicit trade started after a UN Security Council resolution in September drastically capped North Korea's imports of refined petroleum products."
The U.S. Treasury Department placed six North Korean shipping and trading companies and 20 of their ships on sanctions list on Nov. 21, when it published spy satellite images taken on Oct. 19 showing a ship named Ryesonggang 1 connected to a Chinese vessel.

The department noted that the two ships appeared to be illegally trading in oil from ship to ship to bypass sanctions.
Ship-to-ship trade with North Korea on the high seas is forbidden in UNSC Resolution 2375 adopted in September, but such violations are nearly impossible to detect unless China aggressively cracks down on smuggling.
The problem is that any oil embargo imposed on the North in the event of further provocations will probably be futile as long as illegal smuggling continues.
It is uncertain whether the Chinese government is deliberately looking the other way, but it seems unlikely that it is unaware given the sheer volume.

Axis of Evil

South Korea seizes Han ship transferring oil to North Korea
By Jake Kwon and James Griffiths
The Lighthouse Winmore filled up with oil to take to Taiwan but never went there.

Seoul -- South Korea has seized a Hong Kong-registered ship that transferred oil to a North Korean vessel in violation of United Nations sanctions.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry said the Lighthouse Winmore left the port of Yeosu in South Korea carrying refined oil which was then transferred to a North Korean ship in international waters on October 19.
The US Treasury Department released satellite imagery in November of two ships performing an illegal ship-to-ship transfer in international waters on the same day.

Satellite imagery the US says shows a ship-to-ship transfer, possibly of oil, between two vessels in an effort to evade sanctions on North Korea.
It identified one of the ships as a sanctioned North Korean vessel, the Rye Song Gang 1, but did not name the other. 
South Korean officials could not confirm Friday if the second ship was the Lighthouse Winmore.
"UN Security Council sanctions prohibit the transfer of anything to a North Korean ship," a South Korean Foreign Ministry official told CNN, adding the Lighthouse Winmore was seized when it re-entered Yeosu on November 24.
President Trump said Beijing had been "caught red-handed," after the satellite images were republished in South Korean media earlier this week.
South Korea said the Lighthouse Winmore and its crew were still in South Korean custody and under investigation. 
There were 23 Chinese nationals and two Burmese nationals on board the ship, officials said, adding they would be permitted to leave only when the investigation was concluded.
China has denied breaching UN sanctions on North Korea.
The Lighthouse Winmore was one of 10 ships the US asked the UN to ban from international ports this month over its dealings with North Korea, according to Reuters.
That move came after the UN blacklisted four ships in October, including one that was caught smuggling 30,000 North Korean-made rocket-propelled grenades in 2016.
According to South Korea, the Lighthouse Winmore was being leased by a Taiwanese company, the Billions Bunker Group, and was en route to Taiwan when it made a ship-to-ship transfer of its oil cargo to four ships, including one North Korean ship.
"This is one of the main ways in which North Korea uses an illegal network to circumvent UN Security Council sanctions," the South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said. 
It is customary in South Korea that officials do not give their names.
The Hong Kong government said in a statement Friday it had noted media reports that the Lighthouse Winmore had been seized. 
"We are liaising with the Korean parties concerned to obtain further information about the incident, and will take appropriate actions as necessary," the statement said.

'Very disappointed' in China
In an interview with the New York Times published Thursday, Trump claimed "oil is going into North Korea" and appeared to blame China, saying if Beijing fails to put pressure on Pyongyang then the US may take punitive economic actions against Beijing.
"China on trade has ripped off this country more than any other element of the world in history has ripped off anything," Trump said.
"If they don't help us with North Korea, then I do what I've always said I want to do. China can help us much more, and they have to help us much more."
He added: "China's hurting us very badly on trade, but I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war."

Trump: 'disappointed' China allowing oil into North Korea

A senior US State Department official told CNN Thursday the US is "aware that certain vessels have engaged in UN-prohibited activities, including ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum and the transport of coal from North Korea."
"We have evidence that some of the vessels engaged in these activities are owned by companies in several countries, including China," the official said. 
"We condemn these acts and hope that any UNSC members, including China, work more closely together to shut down smuggling activities."
Pyongyang has for years used deceptive shipping practices to help bring in revenue for the country's regime, analysts say, and the US has called for more to be done to crackdown on ships transporting goods to and from North Korea.
UN Security Council resolutions passed this year stipulate "all Member States shall prohibit the entry into their ports of such designated vessels," save for some circumstances, including in emergencies or if they are granted humanitarian exceptions by the UN.

Two-Face China

China Caught Red-Handed Selling Illegal Oil To North Korea By Spy Cameras
By Nathaniel Artosilla
North Korea's military personnel parade with a portrait of North Korea's late leader Kim Il-sung in central Pyongyang April 25, 2007.

China appears to have a soft spot for its neighbour North Korea as the country was spotted selling oil to the country in spite of sanctions levied by the United Nations. 
Images from a spy satellite revealed Chinese and North Korean vessels illicitly linking up at sea for the purpose of selling oil to the rogue state.
The images, which were published by a South Korean newspaper, led US President Donald Trump to condemn China as ship-to-ship transfers are prohibited under the UN-imposed sanctions. 
Trump added that such a move would prevent "a friendly solution" to the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear program
"Caught red-handed," Trump wrote on Twitter. 
"Very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea"
The revelation happens just after Trump's state visit to China which gave the impression that the US finally managed to win Beijing's support in the war of words with nuke-nut Kim whom he dubbed "Rocketman." 
This is a massive setback for US foreign policy in the region at a time world edges closer to a new world war.
China had already denied using its ships to sell oil to its neighbour. 
The imagessuggest otherwise, however, revealing that trading has been going on for three months with at least 30 shipments being delivered.
Back in September, the UN Security Council unanimously decided to impose new economic sanctions on North Korea after a recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test. 
The sanctions aim to further limit the country's access to refined petroleum products and crude oil by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year.
The US-drafted resolution aims to stifle as much as 90 percent of oil supplies to the hermit kingdom threatening further reductions should the North conduct another nuclear test or launch another ICBM. By illegally selling oil to the country, it gives a massive boost of confidence in their dream of wiping out the US by aiding to the communist country's nuclear missile program.

jeudi 28 décembre 2017

Rogue Nation

China's Secret Weapon: Hacking
By Peter Pham 

Everywhere around the world, we hear many David and Goliath stories of the small defeating the big. We’ve read about how smaller groups of determined soldiers, such as those in the battle of Marathon, were able to beat larger armies. 
As a result, this topic was milked by the movie industry.
But more often than not, it’s the bigger guy who wins.
But how can the smaller guy beat the bigger fella? 
Simply by turning the table around. 
Facing someone twice your size head-on is usually a bad idea, so if you want to win, you’ll have to outsmart and outmaneuver your opponent.

No More Analog Weapons

Conventional warfare is when two armies meet each other on the battlefield.
But the time for conventional warfare is over.
After the U.S.S.R. collapsed (following the end of the Cold War), the United States became the sole superpower. 
Winning against the U.S. through conventional warfare is a lost cause, simply because facing American troops head-on is suicidal.
That means other countries have to use other methods when facing Uncle Sam.
Yet Asia-Pacific had done so, including Japanese kamikaze pilots during WW2 and Vietnamese guerillas during the Vietnam War. 
Nowadays, China is following an entirely different route as it builds tension in the South China Sea.

China and “acupuncture” warfare
Although China’s military is growing quickly, it pales against the U.S. regarding defense spending and conventional weapons.
From what we wrote before, China’s defense budget is only a third of that from the U.S., and it’s naval and air power clearly lag behind.
Then what can China do in order to build up its influence in the South China Sea while holding back U.S.’s power? 
Despite having 2.3 million troops, China isn’t looking to send its soldiers all over the world, the way America does. 
That means it doesn’t have to compete against that U.S. in the same weight class, specifically in terms of number of aircraft carriers or other ships.
What China is after is called “acupuncture” warfare. 
This includes researching and developing weapons that can disarm and disable threats with pinpoint accuracy.

Digital warfare in the South China Sea

To project power to the world, every superpower, from Ancient Rome to the British Empire, built huge armies. 
But that isn’t the case anymore. 
China doesn’t want to follow the U.S.’s footsteps and station thousands of soldiers overseas.
China is investing in technologies and tactics that can neutralize enemies. 
Even though it has the world’s largest armed forces, China wouldn’t want to light a cigarette with a blowtorch.
China has a wide variety of weapons in its arsenal, from ballistic and cruise missiles to high-tech air platforms and other precision weapons. 
But these analog weapons won’t stand a chance against digital warfare. 
Therefore, China is also investing in electronic-based weapons that can deactivate enemies’ communications and computer networks.
So far, there are groups in China who specialize in digital espionage: government specialist teams, non-governmental forces trained for covert network-warfare operations and a specialized network from the Chinese military. 
The graph below points out that China is the world’s second biggest source of digital espionage.
Chinese hackers mostly target Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and every country involved in the South China Sea conflict.
These three groups are able to hack and digitally cripple networks from other countries. 
That means China can separate foreign networks and steal vital information from its enemies.
What’s worth noting is that top-secret digital espionage is meant to be secretive. 
There’s a reason why James Bond is an undercover agent. 
However, what we learn from the media about China’s capabilities is just the tip of the iceberg.
In 2013, the Australian news broadcasted that Chinese hackers had obtained blueprints of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization headquarters (Australia’s version of the FBI). 
Chinese hackers were also to blame for hacking India’s National Security Council.
The United States has also pointed fingers at China for digitally spying on many American commercial, industrial, research, armed forces and other interests. 
Meanwhile, China (unsurprisingly) dismissed these accusations and claimed that the U.S. has “Sinophobia”.
China’s digital espionage does not just target the United States. 
In fact, this is one of China’s most useful weapons against countries in the South China Sea region. 
Reuters reported just a month ago that Chinese digital attacks against the Vietnamese government and local companies has become more frequent.
South Korea saw over 8,000 hackings for the first six months of 2017. 
Yet that was equal to the total number of hacks in 2016! 
South Korean news reported that from 2016 to 2017, the percentage of hackings from China rose from 50 to 75 percent. 
This was China’s retaliation towards South Korea, because the latter decided to protect its homeland by having a controversial anti-missile defense on its norther border.

Warfare Has Evolved

The graph below points out that companies that operate in the field of tech and innovation (whose tickers are tracked by the Nasdaq Cybersecurity Index) have performed better since 2016, even outpaced S&P 500 Index:
Unsurprisingly, the tech and innovation sectors are getting more profitable, because not only are there more hackers, but also that states and firms have to purchase a way to protect themselves against hacking. 
The table below lists out companies that are operating in the Asia-Pacific region:

Asia-Pacific pioneered guerilla tactics in the past. 
Now, it’s developing a unique form of warfare, where enemies can be neutralized thousands of miles away (possibly from an office building in Beijing). 
Just a flip of a switch can turn trillions of dollars of U.S. hardware into scrap metal.
However, this also allows us to profit from tech companies that are involved in the South China Sea.

The Iron Lady

Taiwan ready for battle as fears grow of Chinese invasion

Taiwan has warned about China's military drills

Beijing’s communist leaders have never renounced their claim that the island is China’s territory and have not ruled out the use of force.
And Beijing has taken an increasing hostile stance since President Tsai Ing-wen, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, won Taiwan’s elections last year.
It suspects Tsai of pushing for formal independence, a red line for China, and has held 16 rounds of military exercises close to Taiwan over the past year.
Tsai has now warned the drills are leading to mounting instability and Beijing’s military threat is growing by the day.
The president said Taiwan wanted peace but could "not have a single day without combat preparedness” and would fiercely defend the state’s security and way of life.
Tsai told senior military officers in Taipei: "In this period of time, the frequent military activities of mainland China in East Asia have already affected safety and stability in the region to a certain extent.
"Our country has always been a contributor to safety and stability in the region, this is why the national army has to keep an eye on movements of the Chinese military and take appropriate actions when needed to guarantee the safety of the country and region.”
Beijing has repeatedly claimed its drills, which have also taken place in the disputed South China Sea and the Sea of Japan, are routine and not aimed at any third party.
President Tsai Ing-wen has vowed to protect Taiwan

But it has warned Taiwan against "using weapons to refuse reunification" and its state media has given high profile to images of Chinese jets flying close to the island.
Earlier this week, China said Taiwan would have to “get used” to the “island encirclement” drills.
And tension rose this month when a senior Chinese diplomat threatened that China would invade Taiwan if any US warships made port visits there.
Taipei is well equipped with mostly US-made weapons, but has been pressing Washington to sell more advanced equipment.
China is modernising its army

The US is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, much to China’s annoyance.
News of the latest war threat comes at a difficult time for US relations with China as Washington pushes Beijing to take firmer action against sabre-rattling ally North Korea.
China has also taken steps to modernise its army in recent years and announced this week that its paramilitary force, the People’s Armed Police would be brought under the control of the Central Military Commission.
The People's Armed Police serves as a backup for the military in times of war, and domestically has a role in putting down protests and counter-terrorism as well as border defence and fire-fighting.
Both Taiwan and China have held military drills

Xi Jinping leads the Central Military Commission in his role as armed forces chief and commander in chief.
Xi has steadily consolidated his power over the military, and has appointed allies to key positions of power in the armed forces.
And he has radically overhauled the old Soviet-era command structure of the military to make the armed forces nimbler and better able to respond to crises at home and abroad.
That has included condensing the command structure and giving greater emphasis on new capabilities including cyberspace, electronic and information warfare.

Rogue Nation

China's crackdown on Uighurs spreads to even mild critics
In this photo taken early Dec 27, 2017 and released by China Aid, Li Aijie poses for a photo with one of two photos she has of her husband Zhang Haitao after authorities confiscate her electronic devices after arriving in the U.S. in Midland, Texas. Li is seeking political asylum in the U.S. Zhang who was sentenced to 19 years in prison had been a rare voice in China, a member of the Han ethnic majority and salesman by day who complained on social media about government policies he said were unfair to Muslim minority Uighurs. 

Zhang Haitao was a rare voice in China, a member of the ethnic Han majority who for years had criticized the government on social media for its treatment of the minority Muslim Uighurs.
Zhang's wife had long feared some sort of backlash despite her husband's relative obscurity. 
He was a working-class electronics salesman, unknown even to most Uighur activists. 
So she worried that authorities might block his social media accounts, or maybe detain him. 
Instead he was arrested and prosecuted for subversion and espionage. 
His punishment: 19 years in prison.
"They wanted to make an example of him, to scare anyone who might question what they do in the name of security," Zhang's wife, Li Aijie, told The Associated Press earlier this week, one day after she arrived in the United States and asked for political asylum. 
"Even someone who knows nothing about law would know that his punishment made no sense."
Elsewhere in China, Zhang would have been sentenced to no more than three years, said his lawyer, Li Dunyong, and may not have been prosecuted at all.
But East Turkestan, the tense northwestern region where most Uighurs live, has been enveloped in recent years in a vast dragnet of police surveillance, which authorities insist is needed to root out separatism and Islamic extremism. 
Zhang, who moved to East Turkestan from central Henan province more than a decade ago in search of work, wondered in his social media posts whether these policies were stoking resentment among Uighurs. 
He warned that China's restrictions on the Uighurs' religious practices risked sparking an insurgency.
But questioning government policies in Xinjiang has become an untouchable third rail in today's China.
Court records say Zhang was convicted of sending 274 posts from 2010 to 2015 on Twitter and the Chinese social media service WeChat that "resisted, attacked and smeared" the Communist Party and its policies, earning him 15 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power. 
He was given another five years for talking to foreign reporters and providing photos of the intense police presence in the streets of Xinjiang. 
That, the court said, amounted to providing intelligence about China's anti-terror efforts to foreign organizations.
The court said it would combine the two punishments and sentence him to 19 years in prison.
He was convicted in January 2016. 
An appeals court in December 2016 refused to hear his petition, noting he had never expressed regret or admitted guilt.
Hoping to draw attention to Zhang's plight, Li provided her husband's court documents and letters from jail to the AP, as well as her own account.
The daughter of a farming family in Henan's hardscrabble hill country, Li met Zhang in 2011 after stumbling across a personal ad he had arranged to have placed in a local park where singles sought partners. 
The flier said he sold wireless routers and listed his modest height: 168 centimeters (5-foot-6). 
On their first date, when Zhang was back home in Henan, he wore a jacket with threadbare cuffs but showed Li his identity card in an awkward attempt to prove he was genuine.
That simple directness was something she grew to love, Li said, but it was also Zhang's downfall. 
He had been repeatedly warned by police about his social media activity, but he always ignored them.
When the authorities finally arrested him in 2015, they told Li he was suspected of inciting ethnic hatred. 
The charges were raised to subversion and espionage, Li suspects, after he refused to confess. 
In a letter he wrote to Li and his sister earlier this year, Zhang described how Nelson Mandela, who spent nearly three decades in prison, had become an inspiration.
"Life must have greater meaning beyond the material. Our mouths are not just for eating, but also for speaking out," Zhang wrote.
While the severity of Zhang's sentence stands out, others in the region have been punished for mild criticism.
Ma Like, a Muslim hostel owner in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, was accused in April of "propagating extremism" because he had retweeted two Weibo posts — one about how Chinese policies were alienating Uighurs, the other a veiled reference to restrictions on the Islamic headdress — according to two of Ma's friends, who provided copies of Ma's indictment and spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government retaliation.
The prominent Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti was handed a life sentence in 2014 on charges of fanning ethnic hatred, advocating violence and instigating terror on a website he ran. 
He, too, was known as a moderate who argued against Uighur separatism and stressed the need for dialogue.
But when it comes to East Turkestan, calling for public debate amounts to an intolerable act of defiance, said Wang Lixiong, a Han Chinese writer and dissident.
"The government removes the middle road so it leaves two extremes," Wang said. 
"You're either their mortal enemy or their slave."
Zhang was arrested when Li was three months pregnant. 
She gave birth to their son two years ago, while he was being held in a desert prison. 
She returned home to Henan to raise him and began blogging and speaking to the overseas media.
The authorities tried to silence Li, pounding on her front door as she did a phone interview, for example, and threatening to derail the careers of her two brothers, low-level government workers.
Li's family begged her to divorce Zhang, even give up their child.
When words didn't sway her, in October her siblings and parents beat her, leaving her bruised on the family home's floor.
"I cannot hate them," Li said. 
"They were trying to resist enormous pressure. But after that, I had nowhere to go."
A month ago, she sneaked away and made her way to Bangkok. 
With the help of the U.S.-based organization China Aid, she flew to Texas, where a host family had been found for her, and where she hopes to start a new life with her son.
When she files her asylum paperwork, she lists the boy's legal name.
But in quiet moments, she calls him by his nickname: Xiao Man De La.
"Little Mandela."

Tibetan Filmmaker Flees to U.S. After ‘Arduous’ Escape from China


Protesters demanding the release of the Tibetan movie director Dhondup Wangchen protest outside the Chinese embassy in Tokyo in 2009. 

A prominent Tibetan filmmaker, who was jailed for making a documentary about Tibetans living under Chinese rule and had been under police surveillance since his release three years ago, has fled to the United States after an “arduous and risky escape” from China, according to his supporters.
Dhondup Wangchen, 43, arrived in San Francisco on Dec. 25 and was reunited with his wife and children, who were granted political asylum in the United States in 2012, according to Filming for Tibet, a group set up by Mr. Wangchen’s cousin to push for his release.
“After many years, this is the first time I’m enjoying the feeling of safety and freedom,” Mr. Wangchen said in the statement issued by the group. 
“I would like to thank everyone who made it possible for me to hold my wife and children in my arms again. However, I also feel the pain of having left behind my country, Tibet.”
Mr. Wangchen was a self-taught filmmaker from China’s western province of Qinghai who had spent five months in 2007 interviewing Tibetans about their hopes and frustrations living under Chinese rule. 
In his documentary, “Leaving Fear Behind,” many Tibetans talked about their love for the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and how they thought the 2008 Beijing Olympics would do little to improve their lives.
Mr. Wangchen was detained in 2008 after his footage was smuggled out and shown at film festivals around the world and shown in secret to a group of foreign reporters ahead of the Olympics. 
He was later sentenced to six years in prison for “inciting subversion.”
During Mr. Wangchen’s time in prison, many rights groups, including Amnesty International, campaigned for his release, saying that he was denied medical care after contracting hepatitis B in jail, was forced to do manual labor and was kept in solitary confinement for six months. 
The United States raised Mr. Wangchen’s case with Beijing “at the highest level,” according to the International Campaign for Tibet, a Tibetan rights group.
Mr. Wangchen’s flight from China comes at a time of growing authoritarianism in the country under Xi Jinping
Two rights activists have been tried and one more is expected to go on trial on subversion charges this week. 
Since Xi came to power in 2013, his administration has imprisoned human rights lawyers and cracked down on civil society.
Mr. Wangchen’s supporters did not provide details of his escape and he could not be reached for comment. 
Police officials from Xining, the capital of Qinghai, and the Qinghai government did not answer multiple telephone calls seeking comment.
After his release from prison, Mr. Wangchen remained under heavy surveillance and his communications were monitored, according to Filming for Tibet. 
Mr. Wangchen’s fellow filmmaker, Golog Jigme, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, fled China to India in 2014 and was granted political asylum in Switzerland a year later.
Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, whose district covers San Francisco, said on Twitter on Wednesday that it was an honor to welcome Mr. Wangchen to “our San Francisco community.”
Many Tibetans have complained about repressive conditions under China, which has ruled Tibet since 1950. 
Among their list of complaints: They are barred from publicly worshiping the Dalai Lama, who Beijing reviles as “a wolf in monk’s clothing”, and say that their language and culture have been suppressed. 
After widespread protests by Tibetans in 2008, China imposed a security clampdown.
More than 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against Chinese rule, according to the International Campaign for Tibet. 
On Wednesday, a young Tibetan man set himself on fire in the southwestern province of Sichuan, the group said. 
China has called the self-immolators “terrorists” and blamed exiled Tibetan rights groups and the Dalai Lama for inciting them.
“The six years Dhondup Wangchen had to spend in jail are a stark reminder of the human costs that China’s policies continue to have on the Tibetan people,” Matteo Mecacci, president of International Campaign for Tibet, said in a statement. 
“Dhondup Wangchen should have never had to pay such a high personal price for exercising his freedom of expression.”

mardi 26 décembre 2017

Rogue Nation

China Sentences 'Vulgar Butcher' Rights Activist to Eight Years in Prison
BEIJING — A prominent activist who called himself the Ultra Vulgar Butcher as he mocked and pressured Chinese officials was given an eight-year prison sentence Tuesday for "subversion", the harshest sentence handed down in a sweeping crackdown on rights campaigners.
The Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court handed down the sentence after finding activist Wu Gan guilty of subverting state power. 
Wu will appeal the sentence, his lawyer Ge Yongxi told The Associated Press.
Wu had become known among rights advocates and lawyers for his attention-grabbing campaigns. 
In one, he posed for online portraits brandishing knives that he said he would use to “slaughter the pigs” among local officials who’d done wrong.
In court on Tuesday, Wu struck an irreverent note in his remarks following the sentence, saying he was “grateful to the party for granting me this lofty honor,” according to Ge, who was in court.
“I will remain true to our original aspiration, roll up my sleeves and make an extra effort,” Wu said, playing on well-known phrases Xi Jinping often uses to exhort Communist Party officials to improve their work.
Wu was among the first activists and lawyers caught up in an intense crackdown by authorities that began in 2015. 
His secretive one-day trial was held in August after a detention of more than two years.
Activists like Wu focused on individual cases instead of challenging Communist Party policy at the national level, making them a greater headache for local officials than for Beijing. 
But their ability to organize and bring people out on the ground apparently made authorities nervous.
Human rights groups have said that the authorities are persecuting Wu and that it is ironic that his fight for justice for others had cost him his own freedom.
“With extraordinary courage and disdainful words, Wu Gan set the tone for this so-called ‘trial’ against him,” said his friend and fellow Chinese activist Wu Yuren
“It will inspire more and more people to stomp on this government that seems powerful yet doesn’t have the authority of the people.”
The court said Tuesday in an online statement that Wu Gan had made many remarks online that “attacked state power.”
It accused him of hyping cases that “discredited state organs” by organizing illegal public gatherings, causing trouble, and making abusive comments online about other people. 
It said such actions were part of a series of criminal activities seeking to “overthrow state power and the socialist system.”
Wu had also worked as an administrative assistant at the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, which had worked on sensitive cases and became the focus of the authorities’ crackdown that began in July 2015. 
Hundreds of lawyers, activists and others were detained in a coordinated nationwide sweep that sent a chill through China’s activist community. 
Many were later released.
Vaguely defined subversion charges are frequently leveled against human rights activists and perceived political foes of the ruling Communist Party.
Wu had been detained in May 2015, after traveling to the southeastern city of Nanchang to put pressure on a judge. 
Defense lawyers had been denied access to files in a case in which four men were serving prison time for a double murder despite a later confession from a fifth man. 
Wu had said on social media that he planned to hold a mock funeral for the judge, and was arrested after unfurling a banner that insulted him.
In a separate case Tuesday, a court in central China convicted the lawyer Xie Yang for inciting subversion of state power but said he was exempted from criminal penalties.
Xie had been detained for two years before he was released on bail in May after he admitted to the charges. 
Even after his release, his wife said, Xie was followed by security agents everywhere he went.
Four months prior to his release, Xie’s family had released a jailhouse statement from him saying he had been tortured in custody with repeated beatings, starvation and dehydration. 
It said that if he publicly confessed at any point in the future, it would be because he broke down under enormous government pressure and coercion.
In May, Xie pleaded guilty at his trial to inciting subversion of state power and read from a prepared statement denouncing his past activism. 
He also recanted the allegation of torture, which had gained international attention.
Xie said he accepted the verdict and would not appeal, according to a video of part of the hearing posted on the Changsha City Intermediate People’s Court’s official microblog site.
Amnesty International’s China Researcher Patrick Poon said it was “disgraceful” that the Chinese authorities chose to deal with Wu and Xie’s cases the day after Christmas — when diplomats, journalists and the public are less likely to respond.
“By trying to avoid scrutiny from the press and the international community, the Chinese government betrays the fact it knows well these sham trials cannot withstand scrutiny,” Poon said.

Chinese barbarity: At least 10000 people died in Tiananmen Square massacre

Chinese Army Spared No-one in 1989 Mass Killings in Beijing: UK cables 
By Lin Ping

Diplomatic archives recently declassified by the U.K. government have shed further light on the horror of the military crackdown on student-led protests in Tiananmen Square, describing troops of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) 27th army as being ordered to "spare no-one" as they used dum-dum bullets, automatic weapons and armored vehicles to carry out mass killings in Beijing.
After decades of secrecy and suppression of public debate on the massacre by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, the documents give a harrowing and bloody account of what happened on the streets of Beijing on the night of June 3, 1989 and in the days that followed, the Hong Kong news site reported.
"On arrival at Tiananmen troops from [the northeastern city of Shenyang] had separated students and residents," then British ambassador Alan Donald wrote in a diplomatic cable dated June 1989 detailing how the Shenyang troops had been sent in unarmed to disperse the crowd, followed up by a fully armed 27th Army that rampaged through the city killing civilians and other soldiers alike.
"Students understood they were given one hour to leave square but after five minutes [armored personnel carriers] APCs attacked," the cable said.
"Students linked arms but were mown down, including soldiers."
"APCs then ran over bodies time and time again to make "pie" and remains collected by bulldozer. Remains incinerated and then hosed down drains," it said.
The cable, which described the 27th Army as illiterate "primitives" from the northern province of Shanxi, commanded by the nephew of then Chinese President Yang Shangkun, said the heavily armed troops were kept without news for 10 days and told they were to take part in a military exercise.
An earlier cable dated May described Beijing as encircled by at least 10 different armies from elsewhere in China, at an estimated strength of 100,000.
"The leadership keeps 27th Army on the move so that it can attack from a different direction each time," the June cable said.
The documents also describe pitched battles between "enraged" crowds and troops in the western suburb of Muxidi, and Shilipu, to the east of the diplomatic quarter in Jianguomenwai.
"The first three waves were held by the demonstrators and [Shenyang] troops tried to push back the crowds to let 27 Army through," the cable says.
"They failed and 27 Army opened fire on the crowd (both civilians and soldiers) before running over them in their APCs."

'Enraged masses'
At Muxidi, "the enraged masses followed ignoring machine-gun fire to next battle at Liubukou," the description reads, in a reference to a district of Beijing just west of Tiananmen Square.
"APCs ran over troops and civilians at 65 kilometers/hour in same manner," it said.
"One APC crashed and driver (a captain) got out and was taken by crowd to hospital. He is now deranged and demands death for his atrocities."
It said the 27th Army was ordered to spare no-one, and "shot wounded Shenyang soldiers."
In Liubukou, "four wounded girl students begged for their lives but were bayoneted," it said.
"A three-year-old girl was injured but her mother was shot as she went to her aid as were six others who tried," the cable said.
The account, which gives an estimate of 10,000 civilian deaths, suggests premeditated killings on a mass scale on the streets of Beijing.
"1,000 survivors were told they could escape via Zhengyi Lu but were then mown down by specially prepared machine-gun positions," it says, adding that any ambulances trying to rescue the wounded were also attacked and their crews killed.
"With medical crew dead, wounded driver attempted to ram attackers but was blown to pieces with anti-tank weapon," it says. 
"In further attack APCs caught up with Shenyang military straggler trucks, rammed and overturned them and ran over troops."
It said a 27th Army officer was shot dead by his own troops, "apparently because he faltered."
"Troops explained they would be shot if they hadn't shot officer," according to the cable, which said the Chinese leadership was protected by two rings of tanks and armored personnel carriers, one inside the walls of Zhongnanhai, and another outside.

Target practice on civilians
The embassy said the 27th Army were likely used because they were the most "reliable and obedient," adding that many in China believed civil war was an imminent possibility.
"Some considered other armies would attack 27 Army but they had no ammunition," Donald's cable reads, adding that many military commanders had refused to respond to a summons to a meeting with President Yang Shangkun, while the Beijing military commander had refused to supply outside armies with food, water or barracks.
"27 Army snipers shot many civilians on balconies, street sweepers etc for target practice," the cable says, adding that hospitals in the capital had been ordered to accept only security force casualties.
Former Tiananmen student protest leader Xiong Yan, who was a Beijing University law student at the time, said he was at at the battle of Muxidi.
"I think this is a pretty true account," Xiong told RFA on Wednesday.
"Government departments have ways of finding out military secrets, and they are more likely to have the bigger picture."
U.S.-based former student activist Fang Zheng, who lost both legs in the crackdown, said he was at Liubukou, where he was was run over by an armored vehicle, but was more skeptical about the cables having a big impact.
"There are a lot of things about June 4, 1989 which have yet to come out," Fang said.
"If we ever get the whole truth, I think it can only come from the Chinese government."
"But that's unlikely to happen, because the current regime is still covering it all up and distorting the facts," he said.
"This is still the post-June 4, 1989 government in power."

jeudi 21 décembre 2017

Chinese Aggressions

The Arms Race In East Asia
By Peter Pham

A South Korean soldier stands behind a machine gun aboard a tank during a military exercise near the border in Paju, South Korea, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017.
China’s increasingly assertive attitude in the South China Sea has its neighbors worried.
Vietnam, Japan and other countries that claim parts of the region are all expanding their defense spending in an attempt to keep up with, what they perceive as, an increased threat from the regional superpower.
As a result, U.S. defense and aerospace companies have done very well recently, with record international sales in 2016. Asia-Pacific was the second largest destination of U.S. weapons, just after Europe.
The trend has continued into 2017, with South Korea announcing last September that it would spend an extra 4% on defense, hitting a record US$36.5 billion.
December then saw Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signing an unprecedented defense budget of US$43.6 billion, indicating that his government was not going to continue its normally modest military stance in the face of a more aggressive China and North Korea.
Taiwan is taking things even further, increasing its defense spending by 50% in 2018.
The cash windfall to the U.S. defense industry is not only coming from foreign governments. 
The U.S. State Department itself asked for US$1.5 billion for the “Pivot to Asia” we covered last week, spending the money on securing U.S. partnerships and maintaining access to important trade routes.

2016 also saw Obama announcing the end of the embargo on U.S. arms sales to Vietnam. 
Along with effectively creating a new market for the U.S. defense industry, it also sent the message that the U.S. is strongly committed to countering China’s increased assertiveness in the South China Sea by providing arms to the nations that it has territorial disputes with.
While Vietnam spends relatively less on defense than other nations in the area, it still accounts for 8% of its GDP (US$4.4 billion) and is growing. 
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, it has expanded by more than 400% since 2005, when the nation spent just US$1 billion on its military.
We’re now going to take a look at what these increases in state defense budgets mean for investors and the companies that are set to benefit from this increased geopolitical tension.


As we explored in a previous post, six countries claim part or practically all of the South China Sea. Each of these countries, bar Brunei, has placed troops or military installations on a minimum of one of the disputed landmasses. 
With diplomacy seemingly reaching a stalemate, defense and arms spending has boomed.
China is a clear leader in this arms race, with a stunning expansion in military spending witnessed since the turn of millennium. 
The regional giant will have doubled its defense budget in only a decade, hitting an enormous US$233 billion by 2020.

To grasp just how much money that is, it’s more than the whole GDP of Vietnam, and nearly the same as the US$250 billion the entire Asia Pacific region combined will spend on arms in 2020. 
That being said, it is also still three times less than the U.S. defense budget.
There is a simple reason China is spending so much on its military: it has serious aspirations to be a global superpower that can counter U.S. influence and curb its ability to affect regional politics and conflicts. 
The main arena where this contest will be either won or lost is the South China Sea.


Taiwan has plenty of reasons to fear the rising power of China. 
The biggest threat for the island nation is not China projecting its power in the region, but the prospect of a blockade that could severely hurt its heavily trade-dependent economy.
Taiwan is also not recognized as a sovereign country by China, which essentially views it as part of its own territory.
This situation was thrust into the spotlight in late 2016 when Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen made a congratulatory phone call to Donald Trump after his election. 
It was a clear snub to China, which was enraged at the sudden breach of a decades-old protocol, and added to the tension that has led Taiwan to increase its defense spending to 3% of its GDP (or US$11.6 billion) in 2018.
As we’ve written before, war (or at least the threat of it) can be good for growth, and this increase will likely boost Taiwan’s economy, which has been predicted to expand by 1.9 percent in 2017).
It’s even better news for Taiwan’s defense industry, with a few local companies well placed to profit from the boost. 
Aerospace Industrial Development (Taiwan Stock Exchange; ticker: 2634) builds aircraft for the Taiwanese Air Force, and CSBC Corp (Taiwan Stock Exchange; ticker: 2208) develops the submarines the country will need for countering an aggressive Chinese Navy.

Japan has recently made the headlines for having North Korean test missiles fired over its airspace. The rogue nation’s acquisition of nuclear weapons – and unpredictability of leader Kim Jong Un -- has forced Japan to revise its normally reserved approach to its military.
Defense Minister Tomomi Inada asked the state for US$44 billion in 2017 with the aim of strengthening Japan’s defensive capabilities, both in the face of an increasingly volatile North Korea and to match the huge increases in China’s spending. 
That was Japan’s biggest-ever defense budget and it looks to be expanding further in 2018.

The majority of that budget will be channeled to realizing two objectives: shoring up defenses on the Senkaku islands – which China also claims – and buying the latest U.S.-developed ballistic missile interceptors to counter North Korea’s growing threat.
Japan’s domestic arms industry has been reliant on its own state budget for decades, as its pacifist constitution prevented companies from selling weapons to foreign countries. 
That’s now changed, and Japanese companies can now sell to the country’s allies, presenting a huge potential for growth in that sector.

North and South Korea
If any country should be really worried about a nuclear North Korea, it’s South Korea. 
Even though open hostilities ended with the Armistice Agreement of 1953, the war between the two sides is still officially active. Both sides have since been engaged in a never-ending arms race to keep up with one another.
North Korea has been largely reliant on China – and previously the Soviet Union – for its conventional weapons, which are mostly outdated. However, it has counterbalanced this disadvantage with a massive amount of troops and an obsessive focus on building a nuclear arsenal.
The ‘hermit kingdom’ expends over 20% of its GDP on its offensive capabilities, which it views as imperative for its survival. 
And even though millions of its citizens living in abject poverty, it has ten times more troops per capita than the U.S.
Its southern neighbor has meanwhile attempted to counter this threat with a focus on cutting-edge technologies. 
At US$38.7 billion, the 2018 defense budget announced by President Moon Jae-in is the biggest ever.
The lion’s share of this will be spent on the ambitious and controversial “Kill Chain” strike and Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMAD), which are intended to incapacitate North Korean attack capabilities and leadership, and to intercept any missiles it fires.
The North’s nuclear tests have also spurred the South to put in an order for advanced THAAD missile defense systems from the U.S.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is an organization of countries that includes Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand. Nations of this size typically don’t possess the capital or ability to run their own military industrial complex, and therefore need to import their military hardware.
Many ASEAN countries are also on the frontline of China’s recent push into the South China Sea, and their spending amongst foreign arms manufacturers has unsurprisingly gone up as a result.

While foreign defense companies have been having a bonanza from ASEAN country purchases, Japan and China have focused on increasing their ability to build their own arms at home.
Make the Most of War
Rising tensions in the South China Sea have led to a massive increase in defense spending. 
As old treaties and alliances that have safeguarded peace in the past become more fragile, profits at defense companies will continue to rise. 
While the situation may lead to war, it also presents big opportunities for investors who take the time to comprehend the complex politics of the region, and where governments are going to spend their cash.

Third Sino-Japanese War

  • A territorial dispute between China and Japan in the East China Sea carries more risk of an international conflict than the South China Sea
  • One big factor that increases the threat of conflict is repeated close encounters between Chinese and Japanese vessels
By Nyshka Chandran 

When it comes to territorial disputes in Asia, the South China Sea typically commands the bulk of attention. 
But the East China Sea, a lesser-known hotbed of tensions, might be more likely to trigger an international conflict.

A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force flying over Japan's Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.

"Despite the lower profile, the dispute in the East China Sea carries greater risk of drawing the United States into conflict with China than the various disputes in the South China Sea," Ryan Hass, David M. Rubenstein Fellow at Brooking's foreign policy program, wrote in a note on Wednesday.
Both China and Japan lay claim to a set of islands in the East China Sea that cover around 81,000 square miles. 
Called Senkaku, the area is near major shipping routes and rich in energy reserves.
"There is greater risk of an unintended incident between Chinese and Japanese forces operating in the East China Sea," Hass explained, citing "the frequency of close-in operations involving Chinese and Japanese assets, the absence of mature risk- reduction mechanisms, and the lack of consensus between Beijing and Tokyo on acceptable behavior."
Japan is a close ally of the U.S so if a Chinese-Japanese conflict occurs, the world's largest economy may have to step in given that it seeks to protect allies as well keep sea and air space open, Hass explained. 
If Beijing were to deny access to ships or planes which are operating in accordance with international law, that could also trigger a reaction from the White House, he added.
Barack Obama was the first U.S. leader to state that the disputed East China Sea islands were covered by the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. 
President Donald Trump meanwhile, has frequently criticized Beijing's aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.
For China and Japan, "events in the East China Sea take on heightened significance because the dispute is perceived in both countries as a proxy for how they will relate to each other as Asian powers," Hass explained. 
Previous flare-ups have rapidly roused public emotions, resulting in "limited political space for leaders in Beijing and Tokyo to de-escalate," he continued.
In 2012, Tokyo's decision to purchase three of the five islands from their Japanese owner triggered violent anti-Japanese protests in China, forcing Japanese firms to shut down businesses on the mainland. 
The following year, Tokyo lodged a protest following Beijing's declaration of a formal Air Defense Identification Zone over parts of the East China Sea.
Moreover, "the frequency of close encounters between Chinese and Japanese ships and aircraft in the East China Sea is intensifying" and will likely continue as both countries look to improve their respective air and maritime capabilities in the zone, Hass noted.
Chinese vessels have repeatedly sailed near the islands in recent years, according to Japan's Coast Guard, while Japanese fighter jets have conducted joint drills with U.S. aircrafts over the territory.

This is in contrast to the South China Sea, where matters appear to have reached a stalemate, Hass argued.
"Washington cannot force Beijing to abandon the artificial islands it has constructed or stop China from deploying military assets on them without risking a military conflict," he said.
"By the same standard, China cannot stop the United States from operating in the area without risking a major conflict that would expose Chinese forces to significant risk of defeat and potentially result in the rapid destruction of its artificial islands."
Research last week revealed Beijing has built several new facilities around the Spratly and Paracel islands recently.
In addition, the threat of conflict in the resource-rich zone is mitigated since "risk-mitigation measures are more mature" than the East China Sea, Hass pointed out, noting that Washington and Beijing have protocols to prevent unsafe encounters. 
Japan and China, meanwhile, only just agreed to set up a communication mechanism to prevent clashes in the East China Sea, Kyodo News agency reported earlier this month.

mercredi 20 décembre 2017

Tensions rise again between China and South Korea

Beijing bans its tour groups from holiday visits after brief period of detente 
By Bryan Harris and Kang Buseong in Seoul and Charles Clover in Beijing

The ephemeral friends: South Korean President Moon Jae-in meeting Li Keqiang in Beijing last week

China has once again banned tour groups from visiting South Korea, signalling that a brief period of detente between the two nations is already coming to an end.
The development underscores the geopolitical complexities of north-east Asia, a region increasingly overshadowed by the threat of a conflict between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang’s development of strategic nuclear weapons.
The ban on tour groups by China, confirmed by two South Korean tourism groups, comes less than two months after Beijing agreed to cease harsh economic retaliation against South Korean companies and organisations over Seoul’s decision to a host a US-operated missile shield.
It also comes less than a week after Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, went to China on a state visit that was hailed by officials as heralding a “new era” in ties between the two Asian neighbours. However, the visit was marred by a series of unfortunate incidents, including the hospitalisation of a South Korean journalist who was kicked in the head by a Chinese security guard at one of the official events. 
Mr Moon and Xi Jinping also failed to make a joint statement, a clear indication of the lingering tensions between the two nations over Seoul’s decision to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence platform, better known as Thaad.
After its deployment earlier this year, China launched stinging economic retaliation against South Korean interests, including a ban on tour groups that officials in Seoul calculated cost the tourism industry about $7bn.
In October, the two countries agreed to bury the hatchet after South Korea offered assurances that it would not enter a full military alliance with Japan and the US nor deploy another US missile battery to defend against North Korea. 
China fears the installation’s powerful radar may be used to monitor its own military activities. However, since the agreement China has renewed complaints about the shield and on Tuesday revived the ban on organised groups vacationing in South Korea.
“From yesterday, the Chinese tourism organisation has rejected agencies’ tour group applications, meaning the Chinese government is refusing approval for group tours for no reason whatsoever,” said Jang Yoo-jae, head of the Korea Culture and Tourism organisation, which is comprised of inbound tourism agencies.
Another group representing travel agents added that the Chinese authorities had also rejected its applications.
Shares in South Korean tourism companies and makers of cosmetics, which are popular with Chinese shoppers, fell on Wednesday when reports of the Chinese ban first emerged.
The development comes just four days after Mr Moon left Beijing. 
Since then, relations have quickly turned sour. 
On Monday, five Chinese military aircraft, including two bombers, entered South Korea’s air defence identification zone, prompting Seoul to scramble fighters. 
Two days later, the South Korean coast guard fired more than 200 rounds at dozens of Chinese fishing boats that had violated Seoul’s exclusive economic zone.  
The two nations share deep historical and commercial ties as well a common interest in preventing a US war with North Korea, which could threaten the entire region. 
However, China is wary of South Korea’s close military ties with Washington as well as the presence of the almost 30,000 American troops on the peninsula.
Japan and South Korea are Washington’s key allies in north-east Asia.

Chinese Peril

Decoding President Trump’s Plan to Rein In China

President Trump introducing the White House’s national security report in Washington on Monday. The report included details of China’s rising technological prowess.

BEIJING — It isn’t just about missiles and militaries anymore.
President Trump’s national security blueprint released on Monday lumped economic challenges posed by the United States’ foreign rivals, particularly China, with the sort of traditional notions of national security that have long driven American policy.
Much of the document focused on brewing disputes between Beijing and Washington over emerging industries of the future — and who will control them.
Trade disputes between China and the United States are nothing new.
But couched in the technical terminology and bureaucratic jargon is a fight over the new ideas that could shape industries and economies for decades to come.
Here’s how to read Mr. Trump’s national security plan, and what it means.

Intellectual Property Is King

“Every year, competitors such as China steal U.S. intellectual property valued at hundreds of billions of dollars. Stealing proprietary technology and early-stage ideas allows competitors to unfairly tap into the innovation of free societies.”

For years, the United States battled China over pirated movies and counterfeit sneakers.
Today, the stakes are bigger.
Businesses and Trump administration officials are expressing increasing concern about China’s efforts to buy up technologies and ideas abroad. 
China’s hope is to become largely self-sufficient in crucial technologies like semiconductors, artificial intelligence and electric cars, both to upgrade its economy and to free itself from technological dependence on the West.
To get there, Beijing has unveiled its “Made in China 2025 program, an ambitious plan to foment homegrown firms that will compete with American companies with the help of state support and cheap loans.
Western businesses complain that, to do business in China, they are required to form joint ventures with Chinese companies, or to otherwise share technology with Chinese partners who may someday become rivals. 
And the Pentagon has warned that China is taking stakes in innovative American start-ups.

Deals Get a Closer Look
“While maintaining an investor-friendly climate, this Administration will work with the Congress to strengthen the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to ensure it addresses current and future national security risks. The United States will prioritize counterintelligence and law enforcement activities to curtail intellectual property theft by all sources and will explore new legal and regulatory mechanisms to prevent and prosecute violations.”

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is a panel that reviews proposed deals between an American company and a foreign buyer on the grounds of national security and makes recommendations to the president.
But critics say the panel should extend its mandate and assess deals based on economic security concerns.
In its annual report to Congress this year, for example, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a group created by Congress to monitor relations between the countries, said that Washington should block Chinese state-owned enterprises from acquiring American companies.
One particular sector that has been in China’s sights is the semiconductor industry, a linchpin of Made in China 2025.
For years, Chinese companies have tried and failed to buy stakes in or to acquire entire American semiconductor companies, such as Fairchild Semiconductor, Micron Technology and Lattice Semiconductor

Watching Its Citizens
“China combines data and the use of AI to rate the loyalty of its citizens to the state and uses these ratings to determine jobs and more. Jihadist terrorist groups continue to wage ideological information campaigns to establish and legitimize their narrative of hate, using sophisticated communications tools to attract recruits and encourage attacks against Americans and our partners.”

First unveiled a decade ago, China aims to roll out a nationwide social credit system by 2020 that aims to reward trustworthy individuals but put perceived miscreants on a blacklist.
By giving each citizen a credit score based on a range of behaviors such as abiding by traffic laws and paying fines, the government aims to “create an honest and faithful society”.
As part of the plan, which has been introduced in several cities, China’s top court maintains an online blacklist of people who are unable to pay their debts.
People on the list are barred from taking flights, trains or making big purchases.
Human rights groups have criticized the system, saying it has been used unfairly on rights lawyers and investigative journalists and that the penalties are arbitrary.

Globalization 2.0
“Although the United States seeks to continue to cooperate with China, China is using economic inducements and penalties, influence operations, and implied military threats to persuade other states to heed its political and security agenda. China's infrastructure investments and trade strategies reinforce its geopolitical aspirations.”

China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” is a central part of Xi Jinping’s economic and geopolitical strategy to increase the country’s sway by building infrastructure projects such as railways and ports across Africa, Asia and Europe.
Beijing has pledged to support $1 trillion in infrastructure projects that would span 60 countries.
In so doing, Xi is trying to rewrite the global economic order — an adviser to the government called the plan “the new globalization 2.0” — drawing companies and countries into Beijing’s embrace.
The plan has left some countries increasingly concerned about becoming too dependent on China. The United States and many of its major Asian and European allies have taken a cautious approach to the project, wary of becoming too beholden to China’s strategic goals.
Some, like Australia, have turned down Beijing’s overtures to sign up for the plan.

Rogue China is trying to gain political influence abroad

  • Officials in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Germany are questioning the extent of political interference by Beijing in their home countries
  • China's Communist Party is using education, spying, political donations and people-to-people diplomacy to influence decision-making within these counries
Nyshka Chandran

Western countries are growing increasingly cautious of China's Communist Party.
Officials in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Germany — major recipients of Chinese foreign direct investment — have been questioning the extent of Beijing's interference on their home turfs amid recent developments that suggest rising Chinese clout.
Last Wednesday, the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) held a hearing on Beijing's influence-wielding attempts states-side.
That same week, China summoned Australia's ambassador after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cited "disturbing reports about Chinese influence."
Meanwhile, security experts in New Zealand warned Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about Chinese attempts to access sensitive public and private sector information, according to a Financial Times report last week.
And in Germany, intelligence officials recently revealed how Chinese spies used LinkedIn to snoop on politicians, according to Reuters.
Beijing is using education, spying, political donations and people-to-people diplomacy to gain a greater say in local decision-making in these countries. 
And at a time when Beijing is dominating the global trade conversation, the issue threatens to strain bilateral relations between China and Western economies.
China has vehemently rejected all claims of political interference, referring to them as "symptoms of McCarthyism" in a recent Global Times editorial.
That said, Chinese money can be found across the world in the form of loans, acquisitions, currency swaps, foreign direct investment and infrastructure projects as Xi Jinping's government emerges as the world's largest provider of capital.
Xi's team also has spent billions "to shape norms and attitudes in other countries, relying on the cultivation of relationships with individuals, educational and cultural institutions, and centers of policy influence," Shanthi Kalathil, director at the International Forum for Democratic Studies, the National Endowment for Democracy, said at the CECC hearing.
This complex network of liaisons falls under the domain of the United Front Work Department, a Communist Party agency driving the nation's push for global sharp power.
Confucius Institutes, Beijing-sponsored educational organizations aimed at promoting Chinese language and culture on global university campuses are a major example of how Beijing is looking to alter global narratives.

Created as an arm of the Chinese state, these institutes are controversial due to a lack of transparency and constant self-censorship on China-related topics, which is a clear disregard of academic freedoms. 
"Confucius Institutes are far and away the best known vehicle by which the Chinese government is carving out a space in American education," Glenn Tiffert, visiting fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, said at the CECC hearing.
The Chinese state also monitors foreign academics, he added.
"We are routinely targeted by malware, phishing schemes, and fake social media profiles designed to compromise our information security, and our Chinese informants. In many instances, our Chinese colleagues are already under surveillance, and face far more harrowing constraints."
Down Under, there are similiar fears.
The head of Australia's domestic intelligence agency warned in October that Canberra must be "very conscious" of foreign interference in universities," which includes the behavior of both Chinese students and foreign consular staff in relation to university lecturers.
"Chinese security forces have engaged in a campaign to monitor Chinese nationals, including students — even warning them not to offer any criticism of Beijing lest their relatives in China be harmed," Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a recent note.
That's led Australian officials to consider "whether the threat of monitoring students and tactics taken by Chinese officials to scrutinize teaching on China in classrooms has censored debate about China within Australian higher education," the note continued.
In New Zealand, links between local politicians and Beijing have also stirred concern.

China's most dangerous mole in New Zealand: Jian Yang

Australia's Manchurian Senator Sam Dastyari.

Member of parliament Jian Yang came under scrutiny in September following revelations that he once worked at the Luoyang Foreign Languages Institute, a Chinese military-linked academy.
Meanwhile, Australian senator Sam Dastyari recently resigned over a scandal concerning his links with Chinese donors.
Beijing has also provided financial support to former New Zealand politicians in an attempt to promote Chinese interests, according to a September report by Anne-Marie Brady, a professor at the University of Canterbury.
Xi's administration, "which is encouraging more overseas Chinese to become engaged in politics," also funds interest groups abroad, Brady said.
One of them is the Peaceful Reunification of China Association of New Zealand, which "engages in a range of activities which support Chinese foreign policy goals, including block-voting and fund-raising for ethnic Chinese political candidates who agree to support their organization's agenda," Brady explained.
In Australia, about 80 percent of foreign political donations to national political parties came from China during 2000 to 2016, according to a recent report from the University of Melbourne's law school.
Turnbull has proposed a ban on overseas donations in an effort to limit overall foreign influence in Australian politics.