mardi 28 février 2017

Xi Jinping's Pope: As Francis warms to atheist China, religious persecution intensifies

"Jesus said one person cannot serve two gods, now the Vatican is willing to serve God and the Communist Party." --  Paul Dong
By James Griffiths and Matt Rivers
Résultat de recherche d'images pour "xi jinping's pope"
Francis as Pius XII bis

From an altar in a dingy backyard four hours from Beijing, Paul Dong is conducting mass.
He's also breaking the law. 
Dong and his parishioners are among millions of illegal Christians worshiping in officially atheist China.

According to a new report from US-based NGO Freedom House, persecution of Chinese Christians and other faith groups has intensified in recent years.
"Combining both violent and nonviolent methods, the (Communist) Party's policies are designed to curb the rapid growth of religious communities and eliminate beliefs and practices," the report said.
Its release comes amid hot speculation over whether the Vatican and Beijing will strike a potentially historic deal on the ordination of Chinese bishops, ending decades of frosty ties.
Such a deal would not be welcomed by Dong and many of his fellow illegal worshipers.
"Jesus said one person cannot serve two gods, now the Vatican is willing to serve God and the Communist Party," he said.


Since Xi Jinping came to power in late 2012, Freedom House said, the scale of religious oppression has increased at all levels of society, despite widespread resistance from believers of all stripes.
"The scale and severity of controls over religion, and the trajectory of both growing persecution and pushback, are affecting Chinese society and politics far beyond the realm of religious policy alone," researcher Sarah Cook said in a statement.
Religious practice in China is tightly controlled by the government, with the five recognized faiths -- Chinese Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism and Taoism -- supervised by official organizations such as the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement or the Buddhist Association of China.
"Places of worship are registered, religious leaders are monitored, theological content is managed, and annual festivals or pilgrimages like the Muslim Hajj are organized under official auspices," Freedom House said.

Chinese Muslims have faced restrictions on traditional practices in recent years.

The report documented particularly onerous restrictions on Muslims -- who have been prevented or discouraged from fasting for Ramadan or wearing veils -- and Tibetan Buddhists. 
The Dalai Lama is regarded as a separatist by Beijing, and sharing his teachings has landed Buddhists in jail, according to Tibetan human rights groups.
Falun Gong -- a banned spiritual movement Beijing regards as a "cult" -- has been subject to an intense crackdown for decades. 

Freedom House said the number of prisoners of conscience in China is in the tens of thousands, with the majority of those being Falun Gong practitioners.
"Many spiritual activities practiced freely around the world -- from fasting during Ramadan to praying with one's children or performing Falun Gong meditation exercises -- are restricted and can be harshly punished in China," Cook said.

Christian crackdown

There are an estimated 72 to 92 million Christians in China, the second largest faith group behind Chinese Buddhists.
The majority of those are unaffiliated with the officially-sanctioned churches. 
More than half of Protestants are unregistered, according to Freedom House.
According to US-based Christian NGO ChinaAid, this leaves them vulnerable to oppression and abuse. 
In Zhejiang province alone, the group has documented the forced demolition of more than 20 Protestant and Catholic churches, and the removal of more than 1,000 crosses in recent years.
Hundreds of Christians have also been detained or arrested attempting to resist those demolitions.
As the larger of the Christian denominations in China, Freedom House said Protestants had been "particularly affected by cross-removal and church-demolition campaigns, punishment of state-sanctioned leaders, and the arrest of human rights lawyers who take up Christians' cases."

There are millions of Catholics in China, but around half practice their religion outside the government-run church.

Warming ties

As the situation has worsened for Protestants, relations between the Vatican and Beijing are at their strongest level in years.
Francis has expressed his desire to visit China, and reports last year suggested the two sides were moving closer to a deal on the ordination of bishops, long a sticking point.
Beijing does not recognize the authority of the Pope, and requires bishops to be appointed by local Chinese Catholic bodies. 
The Vatican refuses to permit bishops ordained without papal approval to take part in liturgical acts and has excommunicated Chinese bishops who do so.
Asked about the potential for a deal, the Vatican would not comment, with a spokesman saying it was a "work in progress."

Cardinal Joseph Zen, former Bishop of Hong Kong, has criticized a potential deal between the Vatican and Beijing.

But leading Catholics in the region have been less supportive. 
Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen, former Bishop of Hong Kong, told CNN such a deal risked "selling out" underground Catholics and undermining the authority of the Pope.
Zen said that the situation for Catholics in China has worsened in recent years as the Vatican has sought compromise with Beijing.
"We are afraid it's going to be a bad deal," he said. 
"There's no reason to hope the Communists will change. They already have very tight control of the above ground church, their hope is to have the underground church under their control as well."
Any deal by which the Beijing-dominated Chinese bishops conference nominated candidates for the Pope to appoint would be unacceptable, Zen said: "How can an atheist government choose bishops for us?"
But he suggested that the reverse method, in which bishops put forward by the Pope could be vetoed by Beijing, offers a potential way forward.
"If they veto (the candidate) it is still up to the Pope to suggest another name," he said. 
"The initiative always comes from the Pope."

Christians, and other believers, have long faced oppression within China.
Flawed policy
While the Freedom House report documents widespread abuse of religious practitioners, Cook said Beijing's continued difficulty in controlling the spread of religion shows the "remarkable failure" of its policy.
"It would appear that in the longterm battle for China's spirit, an unreformed Communist Party will ultimately lose," she said.
US Senator Marco Rubio, chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, told CNN that "despite Beijing's recent crackdown on human rights lawyers and civil society, and the deteriorating situation for religious freedom, faith communities continue to grow in China."
Millions of Chinese -- particularly Christians -- practice their religion outside the control of the Party, worshiping in private or at so-called "house churches" like Paul Dong's.
Dong ministers to hundreds of underground Catholics, some of whom were dismissive of the officially sanctioned body.
"I would never join the 'patriotic' church," one elderly parishioner told CNN. 
"They aren't real churches."

Chinese Bully

China reacts with rage, threats after South Korean missile defense decision

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency.

Chinese state media have reacted with rage and boycott threats after the board of an affiliate of South Korea's Lotte Group approved a land swap with the government that allows authorities to deploy a U.S. missile defense system.
The government decided last year to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, in response to the North Korean missile threat, on land that is part of a golf course owned by Lotte in the Seongju region, southeast of Seoul.
The board of unlisted Lotte International Co Ltd approved the deal with the government on Monday.
China objects to the deployment in South Korea of the THAAD, which has a powerful radar capable of penetrating Chinese territory, with Beijing saying it is a threat to its security and will do nothing to ease tension with North Korea.
Lotte should be shown the door in China, the influential state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial on Tuesday.
"We also propose that Chinese society should coordinate voluntarily in expanding restrictions on South Korean cultural goods and entertainment exports to China, and block them when necessary," it said in its English-language edition.
The paper's Chinese version said South Korean cars and cellphones should be targeted as well.
"There are loads of substitutes for South Korean cars and cellphones," it said.
China has already twice issued "solemn representations" to South Korea about the most recent THAAD-related developments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily briefing in Beijing.
But it welcomes foreign companies to operate in China, he said. 
"Whether or not a foreign company can operate successfully in China, in the end is a decision for the Chinese market and consumer," he added.
Late on Monday, the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily said cutting diplomatic ties should be considered.
"If THAAD is really deployed in South Korea, then China-South Korea relations will face the possibility of getting ready to cut off diplomatic relations," it said on the WeChat account of its overseas edition.
The official Xinhua news agency also said in a commentary late on Monday that China "did not welcome this kind of Lotte".
"Chinese consumers can absolutely say no to this kind of company and their goods based on considerations of 'national security'," it said.
South Korea's defence ministry said on Tuesday it had signed a land swap deal, with Lotte exchanging the golf course for military property. 
A South Korean military official told Reuters the military would begin area patrols and install fences.
The Lotte Group said on Feb. 8 Chinese authorities had stopped construction at a multi-billion dollar real estate project in China after a fire inspection, fuelling concern in South Korea about damage to commercial ties with the world's second-largest economy.
Asked if South Korea had demanded the Chinese government suspend any economic retaliation, South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun said: "We have continuously persuaded China so far and will keep continuing efforts to do so."
South Korean government officials have said THAAD is a defensive measure against North Korean threats and does not target any other country.
South Korea's central bank said this month the number of Chinese tourists visiting the tourist island of Jeju had fallen 6.7 percent over the Lunar New Year holiday from last year, partly because of China's "anti-South Korea measures due to the THAAD deployment decision".

China-Taiwan Diplomacy Falls To New Low With Latest Spain Deportation Incident

By Ralph Jennings 

After a tour bus crashed two weeks ago along a freeway ramp in Taipei and killed 33 people, China expressed condolences and Taiwan said thanks for the thought. 
The two hadn’t exchanged basic pleasantries like that since May, when a new Taiwan president took offices and pushed China relations way down the list of government priorities after eight years of brisk, upbeat dialogue. 
But the condolences were just Taiwan’s proverbial sunny day before another typhoon.

Pro-independence activists gather in 2003 outside a park in Taiwan to mark the anniversary of the bloody 1947 military crackdown that left thousands of people dead.

China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, which is self-ruled. 
Most people here say in opinion surveys they oppose China’s ambition to unify the two sides. 
A lot of those people voted for President Tsai Ing-wen, who's cold to the unification idea herself.
China and Taiwan began arguing through statements from government agencies last week after Spain agreed to deport more than 200 Taiwanese fraud suspects – to China. 
Like Kenya, Malaysia and other countries that have done the same with Taiwanese fraud suspects over the past year, Spain made the move because it backed Beijing’s political idea that people from both places belong to China and should be prosecuted there. 
They were suspected of using Spain as a base to defraud people of a combined $17 million in China, not in Taiwan where citizens are used to the scam because they were once the victims. 
Taiwan’s governmental Mainland Affairs Council slammed China for a “unilateral” decision that could damage prospects for trust and cooperation. 
China is likely to give the fraud suspects a harsher trial than what they would get in Taiwan, where judges might order one to five years in prison.
“This has taken place before, for sure,” says Alexander Huang, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan. 
This case stood out for Taiwan partly because “Spain is a larger country in Europe," he says. 
Taiwan said it had expected Madrid to take a more humanitarian approach. 
"But the thing that really triggered a nerve is China saying the suspects are not Republic of China citizens,” Huang says, using the legal name of Taiwan’s government.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office touched off another storm last week when it said would hold formal events to mark the 70th anniversary of the “228” incident in Taiwan. 
On Feb. 28, 1947 a dispute between a cigarette vendor and an enforcement officer in Taipei ignited an anti-government rebellion. 
Strongman Chiang Kai-shek violently repressed it for years, killing tens of thousands. 
Feb. 28 is now an annual public holiday held in Taiwan, democratic for 30 years, to oppose any authoritarian rule. 
Beijing casts the Feb. 28 chain of events as part of a struggle to break free of Chiang’s then-ruling Nationalist Party, which had governed all of China before losing a civil war to the Communists.
But Taiwanese "secessionist forces" have "distorted facts of the uprising to stoke conflict and split public opinion on the island," China's official Xinhua News Agency said last week, citing a Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson. 
"Secessionist forces" probably refer to advocates of Taiwan's legal independence from China, and those advocates tend to support Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party
Taiwan, though self-ruled, still claims mainland China in its constitution as Beijing claims Taiwan. Beijing prefers that tethering over independence. 
The Taiwan government’s Mainland Affairs Council on Thursday asked China to be fair, “understand the essence of this event correctly” and share Taiwan’s experience in remembering the date.
These rows between China and Taiwan will pass but pile up on other problems between the two sides. China didn’t like Tsai talking to Donald Trump by phone in December because it feared a stronger U.S.-Taiwan relationship despite a formal China-U.S. diplomatic alliance. 
Taiwan didn’t care for China’s passing its aircraft carrier near the island in December and January. Those are just two examples. 

Cultural Genocide

U.N. Human Rights Experts Unite to Condemn China Over Expulsions of Tibetans

Buddhist monks at Larung Gar last year. A half-dozen United Nations experts have condemned the expulsions of monks and nuns from two Tibetan religious enclaves, Larung Gar and Yachen Gar.

A half-dozen United Nations experts who investigate human rights abuses have taken the rare step of banding together to condemn China for expulsions of monks and nuns from major religious enclaves in a Tibetan region.
In a sharply worded statement, the experts expressed alarm aboutsevere restrictions of religious freedom in the area.
Most of the expulsions mentioned by the experts have taken place at Larung Gar, the world’s largest Buddhist institute and one of the most influential centers of learning in the Tibetan world. 
Officials have been demolishing some of the homes of the 20,000 monks and nuns living around the institute, in a high valley in Sichuan Province.
The statement also cited accusations of evictions at Yachen Gar, sometimes known as Yarchen Gar, an enclave largely of nuns that is also in Sichuan and has a population of about 10,000.
“While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, grave concern is expressed over the serious repression of the Buddhist Tibetans’ cultural and religious practices and learning in Larung Gar and Yachen Gar,” the statement said.
It was signed by six of the United Nations experts, or special rapporteurs, who come from various countries. 
They each specialize in a single aspect of human rights, including cultural rights, sustainable environment and peaceful assembly. 
It is unusual for so many of them to collaborate in this manner.
The statement was sent to the Chinese government in November, but was made public only in recent days, before the start of this year’s session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The session began Monday and is scheduled to end on March 24.
The United Nations experts have asked Beijing to address the reports of evictions and demolitions. The release of the statement before the session in Geneva puts more pressure on China to explain the actions taking place at the two Tibetan Buddhist institutions. 
China says matters related to Tibet are internal affairs, but Chinese officials in Beijing have privately expressed some concern over outside perceptions of the demolitions and evictions at Larung Gar and related Western news coverage.
Over the summer, Chinese officials began deporting monks and nuns living at Larung Gar who were not registered residents of Garze, the prefecture where the institution is. 
Since then, hundreds of clergy members have been forced out, and workers have demolished small homes clustered along the valley walls. 
One day last fall, I watched workers tearing and cutting apart wooden homes, sometimes using a chain saw.
Official reports have said the demolition is part of a project to improve safety in the area because people live in such tight quarters there. 
In 2014, a fire destroyed about 100 homes.
Residents said the government planned to bring the population down to 5,000 from 20,000 by next year. 
The government evicted many clergy members once before, in 2001, but people returned. 
The encampment was founded in 1980 near the town of Sertar by Jigme Phuntsok, a charismatic lama, and is now run by two abbots. 
The United Nations experts said in the statement that while they awaited China’s response, they “urge that all necessary interim measures be taken to halt the violations and prevent their reoccurrence.”

lundi 27 février 2017

The Chinese Thief Crying about Theft

China ratchets up criticism of US missile plans, while speeding up its own arsenal
By Jeff Daniels
Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense

China's military stepped up its criticism this week of South Korea's plans to deploy an advanced anti-missile radar system.
Xinhua, the official press agency for China, also vowed that its "armed forces will make the necessary preparations and resolutely safeguard the nation's security."
The THAAD missile defense system, manufactured by U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin, is expected to be deployed on the Korean Peninsula to defend against the threat of a North Korean missile attack. 
Earlier this month, North Korea test fired a ballistic missile as President Donald Trump was meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
THAAD, which stands for Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, is designed to protect against both short and medium-range ballistic missile attacks.
Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Seoul where he reiterated American support for South Korea and defensive measures such as deploying THAAD to protect against the growing nuclear and ballistic missile threat from North Korea.
The first THAAD missile battery could be in place this year. 
The Seoul government gave the green light to deploy the system last summer but that was before the impeachment of Park Geun-hye, South Korea's suspended president. 
The political crisis and change in leadership could ultimately result in a change in policy.
China's press agency on Thursday quoted a spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense as saying the THAAD system "will gravely undermine the regional strategic balance and the strategic security interests of countries in the region, including China and Russia."
The comments come as a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group patrols the South China Sea to improve "readiness," according to the U.S. Navy.
The Chinese navy also is in the region to carry out a "counter-attack drill," according to the newspaper run by China's People's Liberation Army. 
The same paper reported that China is close to completing its second aircraft carrier.
Meantime, China is rapidly developing missile technology of its own as a potential threat to the West, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a global defense think tank.
Missile destroyer Guangzhou launches an air-defense missile during a military exercise near the Spratly islands, July 8, 2016.

"China is developing what could be the world's longest range air-to-air missile," said John Chipman, director-general and chief executive of the IISS.
Chipman made his comments at a press conference last week highlighting IISS's annual Military Balance report, a global assessment of military capabilities and defense economics from IISS.
Overall, IISS believes China is gaining significant ground in the air arena. 
It pointed out that China's budget on military expenditures in 2016 of $145 billion is about 1.8 times higher than South Korea and Japan combined.
"Western technological superiority, once taken for granted, is increasingly challenged," said Chipman. 
"We now judge that in some capability areas, particularly in the air domain, China appears to be reaching near-parity with the West."
According to IISS research, at least one of the missile systems China is developing have no Western equivalent.
The Chinese air force's PL-10 dogfighting missile is seen as one of the country's most potent guided weapons. 
There's also China's long-range PL-15 advanced missile, which has been tested on fighters and destroyed drones.
"When it enters service, this new system will hold at risk large, high-value targets like tankers and AWACS aircraft platforms that would traditionally safely loiter outside the rage of current air-to-air weapons," Chipman said.
The PL-15 developmental missile is longer than China's current air-to-air radar-guided weapon system known as the PL-12, a missile developed more than a decade ago with help from Russia.
China's domestic military development and advanced research has grown in the past few years to the point where the communist nation is developing and manufacturing its own weapon systems, no longer relying as much on Russia, according to IISS.
The air-to-air PL-15 missile's main rival in the U.S. arsenal is the AIM-120, also known as AMRAAM (or Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) and manufactured by Massachusetts-based defense contractor Raytheon.
Even America's next-generation F-35 stealth fighter — a fifth-generation fighter — could be put to the test by some of the advanced weapons under development by China.
Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow for military aerospace at IISS, said the pace and introduction of China's development of air-to-air missile technology is "almost unheralded." 
He said China's military has "a very, very capable palate of air-to-air weapons. In terms of what this means for the F-35, well it makes the air environment that much more difficult."
China also has been developing its own fifth-generation fighter, the J-20. 
The first two J-20 stealth fighters are now in test units, according to IISS.
A second stealth fighter is getting tested in China, the FC-31 Gyrfalcon. 
The plane is expected to eventually become available for overseas exports.
"Beijing is now beginning to offer for export some of its modern military systems across the globe," said Chipman. 
"There is a growing proliferation of lethality, and the increasing sophistication of these systems risks complicating Western states' military options."

Nation of Thieves

Chinese counterfeiters and hackers cost US up to $600 billion a year
By Paul Wiseman
Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Chinese counterfeiters and hackers"
Counterfeit goods, software piracy and the theft of trade secrets cost the American economy as much as $600 billion a year, a private watchdog says.
In a report out Monday, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property says the annual losses range from about $225 billion to $600 billion. 
The theft of trade secrets alone costs the United States between $180 billion and $540 billion annually. 
Counterfeit goods cost the United States $29 billion to $41 billion annual; pirated software costs an additional $18 billion a year.
The findings echo those of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which in 2015 pegged the annual cost of economic espionage by computer hacking at $400 billion.
The commission labels China the world's No. 1 culprit. 
China accounts for 87 percent of counterfeit goods seized entering the United States. 
The report says the Chinese government encourages intellectual property theft.
The commission is led by former Republican presidential candidate and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who also served as U.S. ambassador to China, and Adm. Dennis Blair, a former director of U.S. national intelligence.
"The vast, illicit transfer of American innovation is one of the most significant economic issues impacting U.S. competitiveness that the nation has not fully addressed," Huntsman said. 
"It looks to be, must be, a top priority of the new administration."

27 Days of Hell: When China and Vietnam Went to War

By Xuan Loc Doan
Résultat de recherche d'images pour "sino-vietnamese war"
Several of Vietnam’s state-controlled news outlets have in recent days recalled the country’s 1979 border war with China, until now a strictly taboo topic. 
Such a recollection may signal that the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam has finally eased censorship of the short-lived but bloody military conflict.
The war between the two communist neighbors broke out in the early hours of February 17, 1979, when China launched a full-scale military invasion into Vietnam’s northernmost provinces. 
Though the skirmish lasted only 27 days, the devastation it caused was colossal.
Casualty figures are still in doubt, as they have never been released by either Beijing or Hanoi. 
Some have estimated that Chinese casualties ranged anywhere between 21,000 and 63,000. 
It is also thought that tens of thousands of Vietnamese died and suffered, most of them civilians because the war was fought exclusively on Vietnamese soil.
The brief but fierce war heralded a decade of hostilities between the ideological bedfellows. 
Besides numerous skirmishes on their shared border, a one-sided naval encounter in 1988 resulted in the death of 64 Vietnamese sailors and China’s occupation of several islets and rocks in the Spratly Islands.
After Vietnam’s withdrawal from Cambodia and the collapse of the Soviet Union and other communist regimes in Europe in the early 1990s, Hanoi and Beijing sought to end their animosity. 
In 1990, they held a secret summit in Chengdu, China, and formally reestablished diplomatic ties the following year.
As with the 1988 massacre, the 1979 border conflict was subsequently no longer taught in schools, raised in political discourse or mentioned in Vietnam’s highly censored state-dominated media. 
Vietnamese leaders decided to cast aside historical grievances and hostilities, and concentrate on political and economic cooperation with Beijing.
China’s official stance on the border conflict was even more muted because Beijing had greater reasons to forget the war, some analysts have argued.
In an article in the New York Times in 2005 entitled “Was the war pointless? China shows how to bury it,” journalist Howard French reflected on China’s many losses in the conflict: “China initiated hostilities [… and] if the war did not produce an outright defeat for China, it was a costly mistake fought for dubious purposes, high among them punishing Vietnam for overthrowing the Khmer Rouge leader of Cambodia, Pol Pot, a Chinese ally who was one of the 20th century’s bloodiest tyrants.”
Until now, Hanoi and Beijing have maintained an official wall of silence on the war, a joint bid to erase a painful chapter in the two communist countries’ history. 
That’s included sharp crackdowns on any attempt to stir memories of the war. 
When a group of Vietnamese citizens in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City attempted to gather to mark the event’s 38th anniversary last Friday, they were forcibly dispersed by police. (A small commemorative event was allowed in Hanoi on the anniversary.)
Unlike in previous years, the military combat has been recalled by a number of Vietnam’s leading state-controlled media outlets, including Thanh Nien, VietnamNet and VnExpress. 
Though the country’s top newspapers, notably Nhan Dan, the Party’s official mouthpiece, still remain silent on the war, it is notable that others have been allowed to address it.
Such an editorial shift would only have been possible with the pre-approval of the Party’s top hierarchy. 
This new permissiveness reflects a gradual but notable recent change in Hanoi’s attitude toward past conflicts and present relations with China.
Like the 1979 border war, the 1988 naval skirmish had been tightly censored. 
On its 28th anniversary last March, however, memorial services for the 64 fallen sailors were organized across the country. 
Vietnamese news outlets, including Nhan Dan, recalled the sea clash, explicitly depicting it as a battle against “Chinese invasion forces” while respectfully referring to its casualties as “heroes” or “martyrs.”
Beijing’s rising assertiveness in the South China Sea in recent years and growing pressure from the Vietnamese public to assert sovereignty over contested maritime territories are no doubt key push factors behind the changed narrative. 
The easing of censorship is welcome to many Vietnamese, even though for some it is too little, too late to address the war wounds.
By publishing photos, stories and interviews with veterans, witnesses and experts about Vietnam’s border war with China, Thanh Nien, VietnamNet and VnExpress not only recalled the conflict but emphasized that it must be remembered.
Vietnam fought wars against Japan (1945), France (First Indochina War, 1946-1955), and America (Second Indochina War, 1954-1975). 
While the country proudly celebrates its war wins against foreign invaders, it had been mostly silent on its 1979 conflict with China, known as the Third Indochina War.
While Vietnam’s battles against Japanese, French and Americans feature prominently in the country’s national curriculum, its fights against the Chinese, including the 1979 war, are still remarkably absent. 
There are only 11 lines about the Sino-Vietnamese war in state-censored high school history textbooks.
Given its omission from official memorials and historical texts, as noted by VnExpress, the war remains unknown to many Vietnamese, particularly among the younger generation. 
There were more than 500 comments as of February 21 on one of VnExpress’ articles about the military confrontation.
Many of the posters thanked news outlets for publishing the piece with photos from the war, which many indicated they were unaware of. 
Others called for it to be included in history textbooks. 
They also expressed their gratitude to those who fought in the confrontation with China.
It is often said that the Vietnamese government does not mark – or allow the people to commemorate – the event because such an action could irk China and harm Vietnam’s relations with its giant neighbor. 
Despite its commemoration and celebration of war victories against the Japanese, French and Americans, Vietnam’s relations with these three powers today are largely unaffected by the nationalistic events. 
Like China, Japan and the US are among Vietnam’s top partners.
As such, the Party’s suppression of the devastating border war has led Vietnamese to believe that their leaders are submissive to Beijing
This, in turn, has fuelled antipathy towards both the regime and China.

Per un pugno di renminbi

With an eye on China, greedy Hollywood is already self-censoring in its pursuit of profits.
By Matt Lewis
Résultat de recherche d'images pour "chinese hollywood"
President Donald Trump has spent a significant amount of time talking about our trade balance with China and how American businesses have shipped jobs overseas. 
However, the real story may be about our stories.
I’m speaking of Hollywood: the industry that has done more to promote and export American culture than any government program ever could. 
But that could be changing.
Few Americans realize that a Chinese company, Dalian Wanda Group, is the world’s largest cinema operator (the company owns AMC Theaters and Hoyts Cinema). 
Even fewer probably realize that this same Chinese company owns Legendary Entertainment (Jurassic World and Interstellar)—and that their plans include the acquisition of one of the “Big Six” movie studios.
It doesn’t take the imagination of a La La Land auteur to envision the potential negative consequences.
Last September, 16 members of Congress sent a letter to the head of the Government Accountability Office, asking this question: “Should the definition of national security be broadened to address concerns about propaganda and control of the media and ‘soft power’ institutions?” 
And they’re not alone in their concern. 
A clandestine group called “Wolverine Entertainment” created a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary about Chinese influence in Hollywood.
While there are reasonable concerns about China exporting overt propaganda via their increasing control (through a private company) of production and dissemination, we are already witnessing a less-paranoid scenario: self-censorship in Hollywood in pursuit of profits.
Hollywood is understandably interested in reaching an audience of more than a billion Chinese consumers, and China’s increased media presence is already affecting the types of movies that are green-lighted. 
As the Washington Post reported, “the Chinese government and its support of censorship now has a surprisingly big hand in shaping the movies that Americans make and watch. Films like ‘Transformers IV,’ ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past,’ ‘Looper,’ ‘Gravity,’ ‘Iron Man 3’ and many more have adapted their plots to woo Chinese censors and audiences.”
Comedian Stephen Colbert has mockingly named this phenomenon the “Pander Express.” 
But he wasn’t joking when he said that “It’s only natural for American movie makers to try to please the cultural gatekeepers of the Chinese government.”
In The Martian, China saves Matt Damon—a plot point that spurred Colbert’s commentary. 
In fairness to the filmmakers, the Chinese involvement tracks well with the book’s narrative. 
However, this likely made for a nice selling point when it came time to pitch the film to investors.
Interestingly, Damon is now starring in a Chinese production called The Great Wall. 
As Forbes contributor Scott Mendelson notes, “the entire arc of the movie is watching a white American realize that [the] Chinese army and the Chinese culture is [sic] inherently superior.” 
He continued: “It’s amusing to see a Chinese/American blockbuster where the would-be virtues of western individualism are all-but-villainized.
What we are seeing is a feedback loop where American movie producers are attempting to appease the Chinese market. 
Why else would the remake of Red Dawn voluntarily swap villains, replacing the Chinese with North Koreans?
Part of the reason for this is that there is a lot of competition, not merely to reach China’s large population of moviegoers but also because China has a quota for how many foreign films they allow in. 
This might change. 
According to a recent report, “government officials and industry representatives from China and the U.S. meet to renegotiate trade terms later this month… .”
But who is empowered to negotiate such a deal? 
“This is exactly why General Michael Flynn is in trouble,” a film producer, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of backlash from studio executives, told me. 
“It is against the law for American citizens to negotiate deals with other countries for this very reason—these deals could have a catastrophic impact on the American economy [speaking here of unionized movie crews] and the best and brightest example of our First Amendment to the world.”
It is highly unlikely that anyone will face prosecution for violating the Logan Act, but the notion that a single entity could own both movie studios and theaters might be seen as a violation of anti-trust laws.
Regardless, concerns about incipient propaganda and censorship are the big story. 
The media we create and consume inform our perceptions about life. 
Stories matter. 
Narratives help develop our worldviews; over time, these narratives could even influence our decisions.
This is why Joe Biden believes Will & Grace “did more to educate the American public [about marriage equality] more than almost anything anybody has done so far.” 
It is why The Cosby Show gets credit for helping elect Barack Obama. 
This is also why some people worry about violence in movies. 
People who argue that media doesn’t inform our worldview can never fully explain why businesses spend so much money on advertising.
For better or worse (and sometimes both), popular culture changes our perception. 
So what happens if a few generations of Americans are fed a steady diet of films portraying the Chinese as heroic and superior? 
American public opinion is eventually swayed.
Losing jobs to China is a standard talking point for protectionist politicians, but preserving culture is hardly mentioned.

dimanche 26 février 2017

Sina Delenda Est

China Wants to Turn Water Into Territory in the South China Sea (and Beyond)
By James Holmes
An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

China’s longstanding campaign to redefine water as territory—territory where the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) fiat is law—proceeds apace. 
Lovers of maritime freedom must reject this campaign in all its forms. 
In other words, all nations that use the world’s oceans and seas to transact diplomacy, trade and commerce, and martial enterprises must rally against it.
Exhibit A: last week the CCP-affiliated tabloid Global Times reported that Beijing plans to amend its Maritime Traffic Safety Law (1984).
The revised law will empower the authorities to “designate specific areas and temporarily bar foreign ships from passing through those areas according to their own assessment of maritime traffic safety.” Among other provisions, it will require foreign submarines to pass through “China’s waters” on the surface while flying their national flags to identify themselves.
CCP potentates are apt to take an extravagant view of what constitutes “China’s waters.”
The Legislative Affairs Office of the ruling State Council further declared that the amendments conform to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), often dubbed a “constitution for the oceans.” 
And so they may—if China restricts the law to the territorial seas authorized by UNCLOS. 
For instance, Article 20 of UNCLOS explicitly states: “In the territorial sea, submarines and other underwater vehicles are required to navigate on the surface and to show their flag.”
Then why bother tinkering with domestic law? 
Two possibilities: one, China is making a minor modification to the law to conform to the law of the sea, or two, it has ulterior motives. 
If the first holds, there’s little point in ballyhooing a banal restatement of international law. 
But if the second scenario holds, this represents yet another attempt to extend Beijing’s territorial sway through lawfare. 
Chinese leaders, that is, are shrouding their creeping encroachment in concern for maritime safety.
And that’s the case in all likelihood. 
If nothing else, Occam’s Razor should incline observers toward the latter reading of Beijing’s motives. 
China has typecast itself in recent years: everything it does ends up being geared to political ends—ends that typically involve expanding its authority seaward while banishing painful memories. 
Past performance may be no guarantee of future results, but it’s the safest way to bet. 
Especially when past performance has been so consistent.
So it’s doubtful in the extreme that China will confine its lawmaking endeavors to the territorial sea, the twelve-nautical-mile belt of sea just off its coasts. 
What will it do? 
For one thing, it may apply the law to the seas adjoining underwater rocks that engineers have manufactured into fortified outposts—even though such features are entitled to no territorial sea by treaty. 
Dredging up seafloor confers no legal prerogatives.
More likely, though, CCP officialdom will try to enforce the law throughout the South China Sea, and probably elsewhere in the China seas to boot. 
Until Beijing proves otherwise, consequently, we should interpret its latest move as yet another effort to project the force of Chinese domestic law throughout the waters and skies within the “nine-dashed line” inscribed on China’s map of the South China Sea.
Thus the Maritime Traffic Safety Law represents a small part of a larger bid to repeal—not reinforce—the law of the sea in some 80–90 percent of a major waterway.
In other words, it will define the South China Sea—high seas, exclusive economic zones, and all—as territorial waters. 
After all, if China commands “indisputable sovereignty” (or sometimes “irrefutable sovereignty”) within the nine-dashed line, as spokesmen incessantly claim, then it stands to reason that CCP chieftains are the lawgivers there. 
Making rules and compelling others to obey is what sovereigns do.
Using the law of the sea to subvert the law of the sea would constitute an impressive if nefarious sleight-of-hand.
Nor are these shenanigans necessarily confined to Southeast Asia. 
It’s easy to imagine, say, Beijing’s insisting that maritime-safety rules apply to traffic in the waters lapping against the Senkaku Islands. 
If China considers the archipelago its rightful property despite Japan’s longstanding administrative control—and it does—then it only makes sense that Chinese domestic jurisdiction extends there.
If China did seek to enforce its rules around the Senkakus, it might well try to evict any Japan Coast Guard and Maritime Self-Defense Force ships patrolling there. 
It has already deployed massed fleets of fishing craft and China Coast Guard vessels to the archipelago, mounting a challenge to Tokyo’s administrative control. 
Chinese warships skirted within twelve nautical miles of the islets earlier this month—broadcasting a message of defiance to Japan and its superpower patron, the United States, which have vowed to defend them against attack.
What to do about all this? 
First of all, recognize what China is up to. 
Even Beijing’s most inconsequential-seeming moves are meant to advance the larger agenda. 
Governments, then, must pay even an apparently routine action like amending a maritime-safety law close scrutiny lest they lend credence to—or even abet—China’s high-seas encroachment.
Second, stop affording China the benefit of the doubt when it does something to expand its power at fellow Asians’ expense. 
A weird syllogism seems to underlie commentary on Chinese sea power and the purposes impelling it: if there’s one scintilla of doubt about China’s motives, we must scratch our chins, ponder and refuse to draw conclusions lest we anger Voldemort
Résultat de recherche d'images pour "Voldemort"
Call it Voldemort’s Razor.
Meanwhile China goes about its business—and leaves commentators and strategists flailing to catch up by the time its actions remove that last scintilla of doubt. 
Deliberately putting yourself behind the times represents faulty foresight and bad strategy.
No more. 
Let’s scrap Voldemort’s Razor. 
If Beijing wants others to assume the best about its purposes, let it conduct itself as such. 
Let it earn back the benefit of the doubt by keeping its international commitments over a long stretch of time. 
Let it disavow the nine-dashed-line map, rededicate itself to upholding the law of the sea, and cease claiming the marine commons as sovereign territory.
And third, resolve to comply with precisely zero excessive demands emanating from Beijing. 
Indeed, the seagoing world must flout such demands early and often to avoid the semblance of accepting them. 
Perpetual vigilance and resolve constitute the price of freedom of the sea. 
Preserving freedom to use the maritime commons is America’s top priority in maritime Asia—and it should be fellow seafaring states’ top priority as well.
So be very pessimistic toward China’s intentions. 
Be very pessimistic and China will constantly prove you right! 
Or, in the doubtful event Beijing mends its ways, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when proved wrong.

Chinese Peril

U.S. Wary of Its New Neighbor in Djibouti: A Chinese Naval Base

The United States established Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
DJIBOUTI — The two countries keep dozens of intercontinental nuclear missiles pointed at each other’s cities. 
Their frigates and fighter jets occasionally face off in the contested waters of the South China Sea.
With no shared border, China and the United States mostly circle each other from afar, relying on satellites and cybersnooping to peek inside the workings of each other’s war machines.
But the two strategic rivals are about to become neighbors in this sun-scorched patch of East African desert. 
China is constructing its first overseas military base here — just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, one of the Pentagon’s largest and most important foreign installations.
With increasing tensions over China’s island-building efforts in the South China Sea, American strategists worry that a naval port so close to Camp Lemonnier could provide a front-row seat to the staging ground for American counterterror operations in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.
“It’s like having a rival football team using an adjacent practice field,” said Gabriel Collins, an expert on the Chinese military and a founder of the analysis portal China SignPost
“They can scope out some of your plays. On the other hand, the scouting opportunity goes both ways.”
Established after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Camp Lemonnier is home to 4,000 personnel. Some are involved in highly secretive missions, including targeted drone killings in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, and the raid last month in Yemen that left a member of the Navy SEALs dead
The base, which is run by the Navy and abuts Djibouti’s international airport, is the only permanent American military installation in Africa.
Beyond surveillance concerns, United States officials, citing the billions of dollars in Chinese loans to Djibouti’s heavily indebted government, wonder about the long-term durability of an alliance that has served Washington well in its global fight against Islamic extremism.
Just as important, experts say, the base’s construction is a milestone marking Beijing’s expanding global ambitions — with potential implications for America’s longstanding military dominance.
“It’s a huge strategic development,” said Peter Dutton, professor of strategic studies at the Naval War College in Rhode Island, who has studied satellite imagery of the construction.
“It’s naval power expansion for protecting commerce and China’s regional interests in the Horn of Africa,” Professor Dutton said. 
“This is what expansionary powers do. China has learned lessons from Britain of 200 years ago.”
Chinese officials play down the significance of the base, saying it will largely support antipiracy operations that have helped quell the threat to international shipping once posed by marauding Somalis.
“The support facility will be mainly used to provide rest and rehabilitation for the Chinese troops taking part in escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian rescue,” the Defense Ministry in Beijing said in a written reply to questions.
In addition to having 2,400 peacekeepers in Africa, China has used its vessels to escort more than 6,000 boats from many countries through the Gulf of Aden, the ministry said. 
China’s military has also evacuated its citizens caught in the world’s trouble spots. 
In 2011, the military plucked 35,000 from Libya, and 600 from Yemen in 2015.
As China’s navy has assumed these new roles far from home, its commanders have struggled to maintain vessels and resupply them with food and fuel.
Capt. Liu Jianzhong, a former political commissar of a Chinese destroyer plying the Gulf of Aden, said the lack of a dedicated port in the region took a toll on personnel forced to spend long stretches at sea.

Chinese workers in 2015 at the construction site of a railway linking Djibouti with Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. China has financed this and other critical infrastructure projects in Djibouti.

“For six months, we didn’t reach the shore, and a lot of sailors had physical and psychological problems,” he told the state-run China Military Online
To that end, the new base will include a gym, the ministry said.
Professor Dutton said Beijing would most likely try to “acclimatize” the world by using the facility for commercial purposes when it begins operating this year and then gradually increase the number and variety of warships that dock there.
“It will be relatively incremental in the forward deployment of naval power. You are not going to see a Yokosuka,” he said, referring to the base for the United States Seventh Fleet in Japan.
In its written answers, the ministry said that China was not budging from its “defensive” military policy and that the base did not indicate an “arms race or military expansion.”
In recent years, China has moved aggressively to increase its power projection capabilities through the rapid modernization of its navy. 
Military spending has soared, with Beijing’s defense budget expected to reach $233 billion by 2020, more than all Western European countries combined, and double the figure from 2010, according to Jane’s Defense Weekly. 
In 2016, the United States spent more than $622 billion on the military, Jane’s said.
These days, Chinese naval vessels, including nuclear submarines, roam much of the globe, from contested waters of the Yellow Sea to Sri Lanka and San Diego.
China’s decision to establish an overseas military installation comes as little surprise to those who have watched Beijing steadily jettison a decades-old principle of noninterference in the affairs of other countries.
The shift is an outgrowth of China’s evolution from an impoverished slumbering introvert to deep-pocketed mercantilist with economic interests across the globe.
Half of China’s oil imports sail through the Mandeb Strait, the choke point off Djibouti that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. 
Across Africa, state-owned companies are investing tens of billions of dollars in railways, factories and mines.
And the millions of Chinese citizens who live and work overseas have come to expect that the government will look out for their interests — a point driven home in recent years when Beijing was forced to rescue Chinese nationals from strife-torn Libya and Yemen.
“The facility in Djibouti is a very interesting lens through which to view China’s growing capabilities and ambitions,” said Andrew S. Erickson, an expert at China’s maritime transformation at the Naval War College and the editor of the book “Chinese Naval Shipbuilding.”
“Not only will it give them a huge shot in the arm in terms of naval logistics, but it will also strengthen China’s image at home and abroad.”
A low-rise encampment built adjacent to a new Chinese-owned commercial port, the 90-acre base is designed to house up to several thousand troops and will include storage structures for weapons, repair facilities for ships and helicopters, and five berths for commercial ships and one for military vessels.
At the base’s front gate recently, Chinese workers in construction helmets waved away a reporter who tried to ask questions. 
China’s Defense Ministry declined a request to tour the site.
American officials say they were blindsided by Djibouti’s decision, announced last year, to give China a 10-year lease for the land. 
Just two years earlier, Susan Rice, the national security adviser under Barack Obama, had flown here to head off a similar arrangement with Russia.
Shortly afterward, the White House announced a 20-year lease renewal that doubled its annual payments for Camp Lemonnier, to $63 million, and a plan to invest more than $1 billion to upgrade the installation.
If the Pentagon’s current base restrictions are any guide, American and Chinese troops are unlikely to be sharing beers any time soon. 
American officials, citing security threats, keep most personnel confined to the 570-acre rectangle of scrubland, which is a 10-minute drive from the center of Djibouti city. 
It is a policy that stirs some discontent among those who often spend yearlong stints at Camp Lemonnier without venturing outside.
By contrast, French military personnel can often be seen jogging through the city and socializing with locals. 
Americans who work for the United States Embassy also live in the community and say they feel little threat to their safety.
Life on base can be monotonous, broken up by visits to the fitness center or meals at the camp’s Subway sandwich outlet. 
Capt. James Black, the camp’s commanding officer, said one of his primary challenges was to provide salubrious distractions for those stationed here. 
The distractions include free Wi-Fi, a movie theater, Texas Hold ’em tournaments and the occasional soccer match with Italian and German troops.
“We’re like a landlocked aircraft carrier,” Captain Black said during a recent tour of the installation, which is blasted in summer by broiling heat. 
“Part of my job is to create opportunities to give people a break and attend to their mental health needs.”
Local residents also crave more face time with the Americans. 
Some say Camp Lemonnier personnel could play a more active role in helping to alleviate Djibouti’s crushing poverty by building schools, painting hospitals or simply taking part in language exchanges.
Others, like Mohamed Ali Basha, the owner of a Yemeni-style restaurant that serves grilled fish and massive discs of baked flatbread, said he would welcome business from military personnel.
“I don’t understand why the Americans are so obsessed with security here, but I would be happy to close the restaurant for them if they would come,” Mr. Basha, 26, said. 
“Just call in advance.”
In interviews, Djiboutian officials expressed little concern that two strategic adversaries would be sharing space in a country the size of New Jersey. 
It helps that the Chinese are paying $20 million a year in rent on top of the billions they are spending to finance critical infrastructure, including ports and airports, a new rail line and a pipeline that will bring desperately needed drinking water from neighboring Ethiopia.
Critics say the surge of loans, which amount to 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, raises concerns about China’s leverage over the Djibouti government should it fall behind on debt payments.
“Such generous credit is itself a form of control,” said Mohamed Daoud Chehem, a prominent government critic. 
“We don’t know what China’s intentions really are.”
But on the city’s dusty, potholed streets, most people are pleased to see China joining the club of a half-dozen foreign militaries that have a presence here, among them Japan, Italy and Britain
Also here is a large contingent of French soldiers who stayed on after 1977, when the colony formerly known as French Somaliland gained independence.
Abdirahman M. Ahmed, who runs Green Djibouti International, an environmental social enterprise, said many people viewed foreign militaries as a stabilizing force, given their country’s diminutive size, its lack of resources and the potential threats from neighbors like Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea, where expansionist sentiments continue to burble.
“We don’t see any problem having the Chinese here,” he said. 
“They provide revenue and help play a deterrence to those who would love to annex Djibouti.”
The plethora of foreign troops, some say, also served as a bulwark against the jihadist violence that has destabilized other countries in the region. 
Djibouti, whose population of 900,000 embraces a moderate form of Sunni Islam, has not been entirely spared: In 2014, a double suicide bombing at a downtown restaurant popular with foreigners killed a Turkish national and wounded 11 people. 
The Shabab, the Somali-based militant group, later claimed responsibility, saying the attack was motivated by the presence of so many Western troops in Djibouti.
For American military strategists, the security implications of the Chinese base are unclear, though practically speaking, many experts say the military threat is minimal.
“A port like this isn’t very defensible against attack,” said Philip C. Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the National Defense University. 
“It wouldn’t last very long in a war.”

Silk Road Fiasco

China's Belgrade To Budapest High-speed Rail Line Is Probed By Brussels
By Wade Shepard

China may be hitting another snag in the fulfillment of its Belt and Road ambitions. 
The much-anticipated Belgrade to Budapest high-speed rail line, which was touted as China’s “express lane” to Europe, is being reviewed by Brussels for potential infringements of the EU’s requirement that public tenders are offered for such large-scale infrastructure projects.
At a 2013 meeting of the 16+1 in Bucharest, China, Serbia, and Hungry signed an MOU to build a $2.89 billion, 350 kilometer high-speed rail line that would go from Belgrade to Budapest, the first stage of a project that would ultimately connect the China-run Piraeus port in Greece with the heart of Europe. 
This rail line was to be a hallmark project of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative — a shining example that China could carry out massive infrastructure projects in Europe the right way (i.e. the Brussels way).

In this photo taken on August 13, 2015, Indonesian models look at scale models of Chinese-made bullet trains on exhibition at a shopping mall in Jakarta. Chinese and Indonesian state-owned companies on October 16, 2015 signed a USD 5.5 billion deal to build the first high-speed railway in Southeast Asia's top economy, after Beijing beat Tokyo to win the construction project. 

In September 2016, it was looking as if this international HSR line was gaining momentum, and that construction would soon commence. 
But now there is a slight bump in the path that may grow into a roadblock.
According to the Financial Times, Brussels is looking into the possibility that the deal to build the Belgrade-Budapest rail line may have broke the EU rules on public tenders. 
None were offered for this project. 
This probe is mainly directed at Hungary, being a full-fledged EU member, rather than Serbia, whose “prospective member” status shields it from all of the EU’s regulations. 
Hungary’s deal with China had the development of the rail line going to China Railway International Corporation with financing coming from China’s Export-Import Bank.
Hungary and Serbia both have track records of engaging in large infrastructure projects without offering public tenders. 
The former was the recipient of Brussels’s ire in 2014 when it granted a $13 billion Russia-funded nuclear power plant project to a Russian company without making the bidding public, while Serbia has come under a large amount of internal criticism for just giving the Belgrade Waterfront Project to a company from Abu Dhabi without any type of public competition or even input.
While China has proved itself to be the undisputed greatest high-speed rail developer ever, having constructed over 19,000 kilometers of such lines in their own country in under 15 years, actually getting over the legal and political hurdles to take their HSR-building prowess international seems to have been a far more challenging pursuit. 
The Singapore to Kunming HSR line has been replete with delays and funding conflicts, Mexico City to Queretaro imploded, Los Angeles to Las Vegas didn’t happen, Moscow-Kazan is still speculation, and while after many delays Jakarta to Bandung appears to be getting ready to go, construction has not yet commenced.
While physical development across the broader New Silk Road — the pan-Eurasia mega-project that’s increasing infrastructural, economic, and political connectivity between countries from Europe to China — is currently booming, China’s participation via their Belt and Road initiative hasn’t always been very smoothly implemented.

Dances with Wolves

Sri Lankans who once embraced Chinese investment are now wary of Chinese domination
By Jessica Meyers
Fishing boats line the beach in downtown Hambantota, Sri Lanka. 

A highway built by China threads almost all the way from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, to this scruffy fishing town on the country’s southern tip, where Buddhist chants mark the time of day and wild elephants occasionally lumber through.
On the way, drivers pass a quiet international airport, a cricket stadium that holds wedding receptions more often than sporting matches, and a foundering deep-sea port — all produced with Chinese loans or construction.
The thoroughfare has yet to reach Hambantota, whose dusty main road hugs the sparkling expanse of the Indian Ocean. 
But it’s here where Chinese ambitions to develop a maritime Silk Road have run up against Sri Lanka’s tangled politics and identity, stirring distrust and creating an unlikely symbol of Beijing’s global leverage.
Violent protests broke out in January after the government announced a deal with China to develop the port and build a massive industrial zone. 
Officials agreed to lease 80% of Hambantota harbor to state-controlled China Merchants Port Holdings for 99 years. 
Officials also plan to set up a 15,000-acre zone for factories.
Sri Lanka’s government marketed the $1.1-billion framework deal as a bailout that would help pay the multibillion-dollar debts it owes China and transform the struggling port in this impoverished region of brush and jungle.

A car transporter docks at Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. 

“No negative force can stop the cooperation between China and Sri Lanka,” Chinese Ambassador Yi Xianliang said at the zone’s opening ceremony, as government supporters threw rocks at villagers and Buddhist monks protested nearby. 
They fought back until police unleashed tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd.
“If everything goes well,” Yi said, China would invest $5 billion in three to five years and create 100,000 jobs.
Yet details are murky and suspicions run deep. 
Environmentalists worry about elephant habitats; locals fear losing their homes to development. 
And the political party that once embraced Chinese money is now fighting the deal as too expansive for the former British colony.
“It’s been 69 years since we got our freedom, we don’t want to be under any other country,” said D.V. Chanaka, a Parliament member for the district who helped organize the protests. 
“People here fear it will lead to Chinese colonization.”
This marked the first time the country’s dependence on China clashed so openly with its sense of sovereignty. 
But like much in Sri Lanka — a picturesque island nation ruled by three European countries and then ruptured by nearly three decades of civil war — tensions built over time.
The Colombo skyline is a testament to China’s role in Sri Lanka, whose 21 million people total less than the population of Beijing. 
Chinese companies are building luxury apartments with views of the water and constructing an entire business district on land reclaimed from the sea.
Sri Lanka owes China, its largest lender and trading partner, more than $8 billion.
Hambantota port is particularly significant because it lies along one of the world’s busiest trade routes, connecting Asia with Europe. 
This spot, about 100 miles southeast of Colombo, plays a key part in China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative that seeks to revive ancient trade routes and spread influence.
“The Indian Ocean is going to be one of the most strategically contested in the future, with a rising India and a rising China making inroads into Africa and the Middle East,” said Kadira Pethiyagoda, visiting fellow in Asia-Middle East relations at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center. 
“Sri Lanka is right in the center of that.”
The tear-shaped island lies off the southern edge of India, but it was China that offered the military and diplomatic support the previous government desired.
Chinese money poured in after Mahinda Rajapaksa became president in 2005, while the civil war against the Tamil Tigers guerrilla organization still raged. 
He welcomed Chinese jet fighters and ammunition when concerns about civilian casualties kept many Western countries from offering assistance.
Rajapaksa sought Chinese loans even after the war ended in 2009, as he tried to transform his poor hometown district of Hambantota into an international destination. 
He created a convention center in his name and a cricket stadium that rose out of the jungle. 
China spent nearly $2 billion building Hambantota port and the nearby airport.
It didn’t work.
The port has hemorrhaged more than $200 million, and the country’s second international airport rarely handles more than three outbound flights a day.

The international airport in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, sees three outbound flights on its busiest days. 

President Maithripala Sirisena beat Rajapaksa two years ago on a platform to loosen ties with China. 
It didn’t take long to change that view. 
Administrators estimate Sri Lanka owes China and other debtors $65 billion, with 90% of government revenue going toward repayment.
Essentially, officials said, they had no choice.
“Hambantota port can contribute immensely in the journey towards making Sri Lanka one of Asia’s modern, economic success stories,” the Development Strategies and International Trade Ministry said in a full-page note last month in local papers.
“Given the weaknesses in the government budget and the entire fiscal system in the country, the government … will not be able to finance the required investments to achieve this objective.”
Leaders see the deal as an opportunity to establish a thriving maritime hub for an economy driven largely by tea and tourism.
The government’s tone toward China has shifted from indignation to appreciation. 
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe plans to visit Beijing in May, where he will participate in a Silk Road summit. 
Officials also aim to complete a free trade agreement with China this year.
His visit could provide an opportunity to finalize the port deal, which faces more delay with domestic pushback and a court challenge.
The trade minister was unavailable for comment. 
China Merchants Port Holdings did not respond to an interview request.
Residents around Hambantota, which has yet to rebuild seaside houses swept away in a 2004 tsunami, are caught between a desire for development and an uncertainty about the cost.
“I don’t know why we need 15,000 acres for industry,” said Prithiviraj Fernando, chairman of the Center for Conservation and Research in Hambantota district. 
“It would rank among the world’s largest” industrial zones, he said.
Wildlife roams the region; peacocks strut on orange-tiled roofs and trucks stop for iguanas in the road. 
Fernando worries the industrial zone will disrupt habitats of about 400 elephants that live outside the region’s national parks.
This isn’t the first time China’s Silk Road hopes have fueled backlash. 
In Bangladesh, one person died this month protesting a Chinese-backed power plant. 
Beijing has run into tensions in Laos and Thailand, where it wants to build a rail line.
China has tried to allay fears of displacement. 
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that discussions with Sri Lanka occur “in the spirit of equality and mutual benefit, and following market rules.”
The Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka recently helped open a vocational training center near the airport, where workers can develop construction skills. 
They also learn Chinese.
“We just want to let local people know Chinese regulations because they will be working for Chinese companies,” said Andrew Gao, who runs the center.
India also is eyeing the port deal. 
Some fear China’s Silk Road plan resembles a “string of pearls” meant to choke its neighbor. 
India fumed in 2014 when a Chinese submarine docked twice in Colombo. 
The Sri Lankan ambassador to China this month promised the country would not allow Chinese military into the port.
With China, “there’s no question there’s a strategic angle,” said Sasha Riser-Kositsky, Asia analyst at Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy in New York. 
The problem is “untangling how much.”
Residents are just as confused.
Aruna Shantha Sayakkara spent one morning chatting with auto-rickshaw drivers outside the small, neat home he might lose.
“Seventy percent of people like this area getting developed,” said the Hambantota municipal council board member. 
“The deal will bring more.”
Down the road, S. Rushaun Dean slumped in a plastic chair.
“Twenty-five percent like the deal,” said the 37-year-old laborer, whose concrete walls held posters of Mecca and roses. 
“I’m worried we’ll have to leave. I was born here.”
Armed guards patrolled the port entrances nearby, where a lonely cargo ship docked. 
Another Chinese company is building the final stretch of highway that will connect the capital to Hambantota — and, quite possibly, its future.
“Sri Lanka can’t not take the deal,” Eurasia’s Riser-Kositsky said. 
“The Chinese are the only game in town.”

The Bitter Legacy of the 1979 China-Vietnam War

Officially, both sides have tried to forget the bloody conflict. Unofficially, bitterness still runs deep.
By Nguyen Minh Quang

Almost 40 years after a short yet devastating war launched by China in 1979, there has been not any official commemoration of the war in Vietnam.
The fierce fight from February 17 to March 16, 1979, claimed tens of thousands of lives, soldiers and civilians alike, in Vietnam’s border provinces, but the conflict hasn’t received the same level of attention as wars against the French and Americans.
Yet since the escalation of tensions with China in the South China Sea in recent years, the Sino-Vietnamese war has begun receiving renewed media attention.
For this year’s anniversary, Vietnamese people used social media to vocally commemorate martyrs and civilians who died in the war, followed by debates criticizing the government for remaining silent and neglecting the war in high school history textbooks.

The Road to War
On February 17, 1979, hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops crossed Vietnam’s northern border to invade the country, waging a bloody strike along the 600-kilometer border that the two nations share. From the standpoint of historians, China’s month-long invasion of Vietnam is understood to as a response to what China considered to be a collection of provocative actions and policies undertaken by Hanoi.
Historically, China had previously given Hanoi steadfast support against U.S. forces in the Vietnam War. But their comradeship swiftly began to deteriorate in the mid-1970s, especially when Vietnam joined the Soviet-dominated Council for Mutual Economic Cooperation (Comecon) and signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union (USSR) – then China’s greatest rival – in 1978.
China called the treaty a military alliance and branded Vietnam the “Cuba of the East,” pursuing hegemonistic “imperial dreams” in Southeast Asia.
In December 1978, Vietnam began a full-scale counter-attack against Kampuchea (today’s Cambodia), whose armed forces had launched a number of unilateral clashes along the Cambodia-Vietnamese land and maritime boundaries between 1975 and 1977, leaving more than 30,000 Vietnamese civilians dead.
Vietnam’s incursions into China-friendly Kampuchea, which quickly eradicated the genocidal pro-Beijing Khmer Rouge regime, coupled with its intimacy with the Soviet Union, which was massively building up forces on China’s northern border, appeared to threaten China’s security and interests in the region.
Thus, China’s leader at the time, Deng Xiaoping, had good reason to urge the government to teach a proper lesson to the Vietnamese.
It’s worth noting that, even prior to the war proper, incidents along the Sino-Vietnamese border had increased in frequency and violence since mid-1978 when Deng came to power and began consolidating his paramount leadership by creating an effective tripod – control of the state, control of the Communist Party, and control of the military.
Deng had seen off the rival threat posed by the ultra-Maoist Gang of Four (headed by Mao’s fourth wife, Jiang Qing) and his well-reasoned strategy to modernize China required the removal of obstructionist Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) cadres.
Thus, some historians have speculated that a war was necessary to support Deng’s modernization plans by highlighting the technological deficiencies of the PLA and keeping the army preoccupied. The war brought Deng precious time in his first full year in charge to cement his own power in Beijing, eliminating leftist rivals from the Maoist era.
Combat with the Vietnamese proved to be the PLA’s blood test.
On August 25, 1978, Chinese troops crossed the border to Vietnam to assault officers, women, and local people.
Le Dinh Chinh, a local policeman, fought back with his bare hands and was stabbed to death by a group of Chinese.
Chinh is thus known as the first Vietnamese soldier who fell in Vietnam’s fight against the Chinese invasion.
This incident sent an ominous signal of a looming armed conflict between the two brothers.
After a few months of serious and careful preparation for a military ground campaign against Vietnam, in the pre-dawn hours of February 17, Chinese spearheads, supported by 400 tanks and 1,500 artillery pieces, concurrently attacked in the direction of Vietnam’s border provincial capitals, when residents living there were still sleeping.
Owning to its large population and the huge disparity in economic and military capacity vis-à-vis Vietnam, the PLA relied on “human waves” of ragtag soldiers, a tactic used nearly three decades before during the Korean War, and a “scorched-earth” policy to conquer Vietnam.
These tactics enabled Chinese soldiers to completely destroy everything in their paths, overrun population centers, and occupy strategically important mountainous areas and high spots along the boundary.
These areas then became sites of low-profile yet deadly conflicts, which took place throughout the following decade.
In early March 1979, China suddenly declared its “lesson” to Vietnam was finished and began to withdraw completely on March 16.
But, in fact, its campaign was not over.
Right after the war, China launched another semi-public campaign that was more than a series of border incidents and less than a limited small-scale war.
On the one hand, the PLA maintained a level of steady harassment through artillery fire, intrusions by infantry patrols, naval intrusions, and mine planting both at sea and in inland waterways.
On the other hand, China pursued psychological warfare operations to sabotage Vietnam’s attempts to restore its war-torn border economic centers by igniting anti-Vietnamese sentiments among the border ethnic minorities and encouraging them to engage illicit activities like smuggling.
The 1979 war and armed clashes that flared over border disputes in the subsequent years resulted in a heavy toll in terms of both casualties and economic losses for both sides.
Though neither side publicized its casualties and the exact figures remain unclear, Western estimates run as high as 28,000 Chinese dead and 43,000 wounded, while the number of Vietnamese dead were estimated at under 10,000.
Since the full normalization of the China-Vietnam relationship in late 1991, though Hanoi and Beijing both claimed victory, state media on both sides have remained quiet on the war, barely mentioning it on commemorative occasions and seeking to deflect questions.
But historians, diplomats, veterans, and local civilians in both sides have not forgotten.
Despite official silence, every February debates about the conflict still rage online in both China and Vietnam.
In China, some social media users question whether it was worth sacrificing thousands of Chinese lives to support the Khmer Rouge butchers.
Other ardent Chinese nationalists downplay the Khmer Rouge factor and instead justify the war by citing Vietnam’s oppression of Hoa people (ethnic Chinese living in Vietnam), and Hanoi’s supposed hegemonic dreams of dominating Indochina with the backing of the USSR.
In Vietnam, low-profile anniversaries of the fierce fight against the Chinese invasion are organized each year in local cemeteries in the northern border provinces while small-scale demonstrations have occurred in Hanoi.
Vietnamese veterans, military enthusiasts, historians, and diplomats have also urged the government to reconsider their decades of deliberate silence; such advocates call on Hanoi to highlight the facts of the war to help people all over the world, including the Chinese, fully understand what really happened.
In 2013, Major-General Le Van Cuong, former director of the Strategy Institute under the Ministry of Public Security, and other retired politicians told state media it was time to review the official commemorations of this war.
In particular, the government must include the war in textbooks.
“Thousands of people have lost their lives to protect the land in the north. Why do we have no words for them? It’s late and can’t be later… We cannot have a vague view or ignore this historic issue,” Cuong said.
Young academics are deeply concerned that a majority of students today do not know about this war.
“While information about Vietnam’s just defensive war against China’s 1979 aggression remains little and vague, the Vietnamese youth have long been surrounded by movies that advertise and diffuse Chinese culture and history. It will be the government’s responsibility if this situation lasts longer,” said Pham Duc Thuan, a 30-year-old history lecturer at Can Tho University.
Apparently, both the Vietnamese and Chinese publics are looking forward to clear and straightforward information about the nature of the war from their respective governments.
For the Chinese people, they need to know the actual ambitions behind a war that seems motivated much more by the Deng-led government’s political interests than the excuses offered by pugnacious nationalists.
For the Vietnamese, they want “justice” for those martyrs who lost their lives in the tragic defensive fight, but have since been forgotten by the government.

Whose Victory, Whose Responsibility?
While the Vietnamese government suppressed memories of the war, the Chinese population and leadership seem convinced that China was on the right side in the 1979 war.
China claims the war as “a victory,” with all missions completed.
This view is not supported by evidence and analyses undertaken by outside observers and strategists. Scholars like Gerald Segal, Bruce Elleman, and Carlyle Thayer agreed that China’s 1979 war was a complete failure.
First, Deng and his generals failed to induce Vietnam to withdraw regular forces from Cambodia and thereby relieve pressure on the Khmer Rouge.
Second, Beijing also sought to engage main force Vietnamese units near the border and destroy them. But Vietnam largely held its main forces in reserve and mainly used its militia and local forces to defend against China; thereby China further failed to dispel its image as a paper tiger.
Third, it also failed to draw the United States into an anti-Soviet coalition.
Two other major goals behind China’s attack were to expose Soviet assurances of military support to Vietnam as a fraud and ruin Vietnam’s northern defense system and economic infrastructure.
In this respect, Beijing’s policy was actually a diplomatic success, since Moscow did not actively intervene, thus showing the practical limitations of the Soviet-Vietnamese military pact. 
It also succeeded in totally destroying most of villages and major provincial capitals such as Lao Cai, Cao Bang, and Lang Son, but not in a few days as anticipated and scheduled by Deng and his men.
It took three weeks of heavy fighting and severe casualties.
With the conflict viewed in this light, Thayer told BBC Vietnamese that China was the aggressor, not Vietnam, in the 1979 war.

Final Remarks
Almost four decades on since China waged a massive and costly invasion of Vietnam on February 17, 1979, the deliberate oblivion of this history by both Hanoi and Beijing has triggered growing public disapproval in both countries.
Though both governments claimed victory, the war was a chastening experience for all involved.
Chinese people’s misunderstanding of the nature of the war, mainly caused by Beijing’s steely and unrelenting efforts to control information, and history in particular, appears to be a major obstacle to resolving the debates and alleviating mutually hostile sentiments between the two peoples.
Since the conflict was fought entirely on Vietnamese territory, it runs contrary to the ruling Communist Party’s prevailing narratives of a China that never threatens or attacks its neighbors. China’s propaganda machine has attached an ungainly and unconvincing name to the conflict, the “Self-Defensive Counterattack Against Vietnam.”
It is also generally held by outside scholars that if the war did not produce an outright defeat for China, it was a costly mistake fought for dubious purposes, including Deng’s political ambitions, and a desire to punish Vietnam for overthrowing Pol Pot, a Chinese ally who was one of the world’s bloodiest tyrants.
Thus, the difficulty for China is how to commemorate the controversial war without raising questions about the veracity of Deng’s claim of having achieved all China’s goals.
For Vietnam, even though it has witnessed some relative stability and economic improvement in its war-torn northern border provinces thanks to strongly growing cross-border trade revenue, it pays to remain vigilant.
Because of geographical proximity, the Vietnamese people have been forced to cope with repeated Chinese invasions, followed by centuries-long suzerainty, in the course of history.
Thus, the 1979 border war, once again, reminded the country to keep in mind who the permanent, ominous foe is.
However, remembering the forgotten war in 1979 does not have to mean igniting national hostilities. Rather, commemorations should provide justice for those soldiers and victims of both sides who lost their lives due to misjudgments and miscalculations of ambitious leaders.
Accordingly, China and Vietnam should both pigeon-hole their tragic past and seriously study the dear lessons drawn from the 1979 war to avoid the same mistakes in the future.
More importantly, once the actual facts and nature of the war are acknowledged with constructive and sympathetic perspectives from both sides, the two sides can consider the use of “historical compensation” to adjust public opinion towards each other.
As long as the mutual suspicion between the two peoples remains unsettled, China-Vietnam bilateral ties will be unable to develop substantially and smoothly, no matter how much official jargon glorifies the relationship.