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Chinese Military,Political and Social Superthread

Spencer100

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For those that follow China and these guys. It most likely will not lead to anything but.


Interesting none the less.


Iran, China,.....Russia?

What is the saying....may you live in interesting times....
 

Edward Campbell

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This story, from a few days ago, should scare the livin' bejeezus out of Xi Jinping - not because the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) gave President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) a thrashing at the polls (the Taiwan local elections a bit like US mid-terms and it is chance for the voters to punish the national governing party) but rather because it says that one of his fundamental political assumption is wrong.

That assumption is that Western style democracy is not a good fit for East Asia. The theory, which I am fairly certain Xi Jiinping believes, quite firmly, says that East Asia is conservative in there Confucian sense and that Anglo-American democracy, with its emphasis on the individual as the holder of all rights and society being the result of individuals voluntarily accepting limits on some of their rights for the common good (like everyone driving on this or that side of the road, for example), is ill-suited to Asia. The Taiwan elections and experience in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea suggest that Xi is wrong.

For years and years former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew made regular trips top Beijing where leaders like Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao cleared their calendars for a full day while the old man told them about the advantages of democracy and the way that his Peoples' Action Party had, effectively, achieved one party rule. Some old those leaders listened; Xi Jinping rejects the whole notion ... but the evidence is mounting that a robust multi-party democracy works well in East Asia and that, as Lee forecast, when prosperity rises so does the people's desire to have a greater say in their governance.

I don't think there is a whole lot of distance in real, strategic substance in how the Taiwan's Kuomintang and Democratic Progressive Party view Taiwan's relationship with China. What we have is more akin to Canadian Conservatives and Liberals fighting for public support on, primarily, domestic issues and that's what ought to scare Xi Jinping: Chinese people using politics and democracy to manage their one lives. It goes against everything he is trying to do.

While I agree that East Asia is, very largely, Confucian and, therefore, averse to our sort of liberal philosophy, there is nothing in Confucianism that says that ones personal ethics and morality, including familial responsibility and so on is, in any way, incompatible with conservative democracy.

Xi Jinping has been following a bad assumption. I hope he knows that, for China's sake.
 

Edward Campbell

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This, from Reuters in there Globe and Mail, is worth a read.

China is NOT collapsing; it is still a formidable economy and a great power by most measures.

BUT: China is stagnating. Neighbours, especially Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are eating China's lunch, so to say, by producing more and more cheap consumer good and components for almost everything under the sun. Some of those ASEAN neighbours are outclassing China in technology - producing higher grade components than China can.

While the current unrest in China is 99% COVID related there is also, I suspect (I no longer have a handful of trustworthy sources in China), an undercurrent of middle class angst as the government fails, again and again, make things measurably better for a few hundred million people. IF that angst turns to real anger then Xi Jinping has a HUGE, maybe insurmountable problem. He has promised a lot, publicly, but his deliverology is noticeably weak. His predecessors, for the past 45 years, promised little and delivered a lot; Xi has promised a lot and delivered next to nothing, except a military buildup which doesn't put money into most Chinese pay-packets.
 

Edward Campbell

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Another lengthy but very useful read in Foreign Affairs - you local library should subscribe to Foreign Affairs, if you don't. If you library doesn't then complain loud and long to the base commander or mayor or whoever - a library that doesn't subscribe is not with the name.

Anyway the key takeaway comes early:

"It would be better to constrain and temper Xi’s aspirations now—through coordinated military deterrence and through strict limits on China’s access to technology, capital, and data controlled by the United States and its allies—rather than wait until he has taken fateful and irrevocable steps, such as attacking Taiwan, that would lead to a superpower conflict. The war in Ukraine offers constant reminders that deterrence is far preferable to “rollback.” "

Some insightful ideas about tXi's thinking:

"One key to understanding Xi is to look at his interpretations of history. It is well known that Putin once declared the Soviet Union’s collapse to be the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century. Less well understood is the extent to which the Soviet collapse also haunts Xi and how it functions as a fundamental guide to the Chinese leader’s actions.

In December 2012, just after becoming general secretary, Xi gave a closed-door speech to cadres in Guangdong Province, excerpts of which were leaked and published by a Chinese journalist in early 2013. Xi’s speech, framed as a cautionary tale, provided an early window into his worldview:

Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and beliefs had been shaken. . . . It’s a profound lesson for us! To dismiss the history of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party, to dismiss Lenin and Stalin, and to dismiss everything else is to engage in historic nihilism, and it confuses our thoughts and undermines the Party’s organizations on all levels.
Xi’s mention of “historic nihilism” may have been an implicit criticism of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who had faulted the record of his predecessors. But the explicit villain in Xi’s speech was Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader whose perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (opening) reforms set the stage for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. “A few people tried to save the Soviet Union,” Xi said. “They seized Gorbachev, but within days it was turned around again, because they didn’t have the tools of dictatorship. Nobody was man enough to stand up and resist.” The phrase “the tools of dictatorship”—the idea that it is essential for the party and especially its top leader to control the military, the security apparatus, propaganda, government data, ideology, and the economy—would recur again and again in Xi’s speeches and official guidance over the next decade."

And:

"Xi believes that we are today witnessing a “qualitative leap” in world affairs, where China has moved to center stage and the U.S.-anchored Western order is breaking down. As Xi said in his speech published in April 2021:

The world today is undergoing a great change in situation unseen in a century. Since the most recent period, the most important characteristic of the world is, in a word, “chaos,” and this trend appears likely to continue.
Xi depicts the current historical period as one of great risk and opportunity. It is his “historical mission” to exploit the inflection point and push history along its inexorable course through a process of “struggle,” which includes identifying internal and external enemies, isolating them, and mobilizing the party and its acolytes against them."

The authors conclude that:

"The contest between democracies and China will increasingly turn on the balance of dependence; whichever side depends least on the other will have the advantage. Reducing Washington’s dependence, and increasing Beijing’s, can help constrain Xi’s appetite for risk. When coupled with U.S. cooperation with Australia, Japan, and Taiwan to field an unmistakably superior and well-coordinated military presence in the western Pacific, constrainment offers the best way to prevent the “stormy seas of a major test” that Xi seems tempted to undertake as he begins his second decade as China’s dictator."

So, back tot he main point: "It would be better to constrain and temper Xi’s aspirations now—through coordinated military deterrence and through strict limits on China’s access to technology, capital, and data controlled by the United States and its allies—rather than wait until he has taken fateful and irrevocable steps, such as attacking Taiwan, that would lead to a superpower conflict."

It's called containment ...
 

Kirkhill

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Another lengthy but very useful read in Foreign Affairs - you local library should subscribe to Foreign Affairs, if you don't. If you library doesn't then complain loud and long to the base commander or mayor or whoever - a library that doesn't subscribe is not with the name.

Anyway the key takeaway comes early:

"It would be better to constrain and temper Xi’s aspirations now—through coordinated military deterrence and through strict limits on China’s access to technology, capital, and data controlled by the United States and its allies—rather than wait until he has taken fateful and irrevocable steps, such as attacking Taiwan, that would lead to a superpower conflict. The war in Ukraine offers constant reminders that deterrence is far preferable to “rollback.” "

Some insightful ideas about tXi's thinking:

"One key to understanding Xi is to look at his interpretations of history. It is well known that Putin once declared the Soviet Union’s collapse to be the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century. Less well understood is the extent to which the Soviet collapse also haunts Xi and how it functions as a fundamental guide to the Chinese leader’s actions.

In December 2012, just after becoming general secretary, Xi gave a closed-door speech to cadres in Guangdong Province, excerpts of which were leaked and published by a Chinese journalist in early 2013. Xi’s speech, framed as a cautionary tale, provided an early window into his worldview:


Xi’s mention of “historic nihilism” may have been an implicit criticism of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who had faulted the record of his predecessors. But the explicit villain in Xi’s speech was Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader whose perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (opening) reforms set the stage for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. “A few people tried to save the Soviet Union,” Xi said. “They seized Gorbachev, but within days it was turned around again, because they didn’t have the tools of dictatorship. Nobody was man enough to stand up and resist.” The phrase “the tools of dictatorship”—the idea that it is essential for the party and especially its top leader to control the military, the security apparatus, propaganda, government data, ideology, and the economy—would recur again and again in Xi’s speeches and official guidance over the next decade."

And:

"Xi believes that we are today witnessing a “qualitative leap” in world affairs, where China has moved to center stage and the U.S.-anchored Western order is breaking down. As Xi said in his speech published in April 2021:


Xi depicts the current historical period as one of great risk and opportunity. It is his “historical mission” to exploit the inflection point and push history along its inexorable course through a process of “struggle,” which includes identifying internal and external enemies, isolating them, and mobilizing the party and its acolytes against them."

The authors conclude that:

"The contest between democracies and China will increasingly turn on the balance of dependence; whichever side depends least on the other will have the advantage. Reducing Washington’s dependence, and increasing Beijing’s, can help constrain Xi’s appetite for risk. When coupled with U.S. cooperation with Australia, Japan, and Taiwan to field an unmistakably superior and well-coordinated military presence in the western Pacific, constrainment offers the best way to prevent the “stormy seas of a major test” that Xi seems tempted to undertake as he begins his second decade as China’s dictator."

So, back tot he main point: "It would be better to constrain and temper Xi’s aspirations now—through coordinated military deterrence and through strict limits on China’s access to technology, capital, and data controlled by the United States and its allies—rather than wait until he has taken fateful and irrevocable steps, such as attacking Taiwan, that would lead to a superpower conflict."

It's called containment ...


This lead paragraph deserves highlighting I think

the congress served to codify a worldview that Xi has been developing over the past decade in carefully crafted official party communications: Chinese-language speeches, documentaries, and textbooks, many of which Beijing deliberately mistranslates for foreign audiences, when it translates them at all. These texts dispel much of the ambiguity that camouflages the regime’s aims and methods and offer a window into Xi’s ideology and motivations: a deep fear of subversion, hostility toward the United States, sympathy with Russia, a desire to unify mainland China and Taiwan, and, above all, confidence in the ultimate victory of communism over the capitalist West. The end state he is pursuing requires the remaking of global governance. His explicit objective is to replace the modern nation-state system with a new order featuring Beijing at its pinnacle.

It serves both to instruct on Xi's aims and on the degree of obfuscation it projects.


Interesting in terms of Wolf Warriors, Canadian elections and Canadian universities.
 

daftandbarmy

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Another lengthy but very useful read in Foreign Affairs - you local library should subscribe to Foreign Affairs, if you don't. If you library doesn't then complain loud and long to the base commander or mayor or whoever - a library that doesn't subscribe is not with the name.

Anyway the key takeaway comes early:

"It would be better to constrain and temper Xi’s aspirations now—through coordinated military deterrence and through strict limits on China’s access to technology, capital, and data controlled by the United States and its allies—rather than wait until he has taken fateful and irrevocable steps, such as attacking Taiwan, that would lead to a superpower conflict. The war in Ukraine offers constant reminders that deterrence is far preferable to “rollback.” "

The Spratleys enter the chat:

China's military said on Tuesday it drove away a U.S. guided-missile cruiser that "illegally intruded" into waters near the South China Sea's Spratly Islands, an assertion the U.S. Navy disputed.

"The actions of the U.S. military seriously violated China's sovereignty and security," said Tian Junli, spokesman for the Southern Theatre Command of the People's Liberation Army.

The ship in question, the USS Chancellorsville guided-missile cruiser, had recently sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

 

Edward Campbell

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Good article in The Economist by Aaron Friedberg who is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is a member of the bipartisan US-China Economic and Security Review Commission and the author of “Getting China Wrong.”

"Three times in the past century," he says, "the countries of the democratic West have tried and failed to create a global order built on the same liberal principles as their domestic political regimes":
  • After the First World War - Woodrow Wilson, League of Nation, etc;
  • Starting circa 1948, the creation of a global "liberal" order; and
  • After the collapse of the USSR the US-led West pursued a strategy off enlargement rather than containment.
The first and third failed, the second is staggering along .. sorta.

Professor Friedberg says trying to integrate Xci Jinping's China into our global, liberal world order is a fool's errand.

My take is that it can work ... Xi Jinping is coming up on his 70th birthday; he is, I suspect, facing growing, albeit inchoate, internal opposition questioning because he has promised a lot - by 2025 - and has delivered two third;'s of five eighth's of Sweet Fancy Adams. China is falling behind; cost are rising, wages are static; Taiwan remains stubbornly independent.

My guess, maybe it's just a hope, is that Xi cannot last until his 80th birthday - June 2033 , and his successors will be in the Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, with whom we could deal.

A lot of really smart people seem to believe that the Chinese are too conservative (Confucian) to ever adopt near-iiberal values - I think Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan say that's not true.
 

Good2Golf

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Edward Campbell

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Tanvi Madan, who is a senior fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy in the Foreign Policy program, and director of The India Project at the Brookings Institution in Washington, says, in a useful article in a recent edition of Foreign Affairs (OK, I'm a bit behind in my reading) that "Beijing has called for the [2020 and earlier] border crisis to be set aside and for diplomatic, defense, and economic cooperation to resume now that Chinese and Indian troops have disengaged at some of the points of friction. But New Delhi has called for further disengagement—the standing down of troops from more flash points—and for de-escalation, that is, a reversal of the military and infrastructure buildups that have taken place on both sides of the border over the last two and a half years. China is unlikely to agree to the latter, and India will not unilaterally de-escalate. Moreover, India does not believe the border issue can be set aside. It sees peace and tranquility at the border as a precondition for a normal Sino-Indian relationship. Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not meet with Xi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in September, the first time such a meeting did not occur—a clear signal that India is not yet willing to return to business as usual with China."

The outcome, she says, is that "The heightened concern about China has also manifested in domestic policy. The Modi government has gone from initially seeking increased economic ties with China to imposing restrictions or extra scrutiny on a range of Chinese activities in India. It does not seek to decouple from China so much as it wants to disentangle India from China—an approach designed not to eliminate economic ties but to identify and reduce India’s vulnerabilities in critical sectors."

Dr Madan reminds us that "India has long sought to maintain its strategic autonomy, refusing to be drawn into alliances. Now, however, it is at least aligning with countries to address the threat China poses. India is now willing to cooperate more closely with the United States, even at the risk of angering China. It signed a geospatial intelligence agreement with the United States in October 2020; is conducting high-altitude exercises with the U.S. Army near the Chinese-Indian border this month; has become more involved in the Indo-Pacific partnership known as the Quad (that features Australia, India, Japan, and the United States) despite Chinese and Russian objections; has participated in a range of maritime exercises with its Quad partners; signed a logistics-sharing agreement with Vietnam in June 2022; and in January 2022 reached a deal to sell BrahMos missiles (jointly developed by India and Russia) to the Philippines .. [and] ... India once tiptoed around China’s sensitivities regarding perceived threats to its sovereignty. New Delhi is no longer being as deferential. Modi has publicly acknowledged calls he has made with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, a departure from his past reluctance to do so. And the Indian Air Force facilitated the Dalai Lama’s month-long visit to Ladakh in July 2022. In a departure from common practice, the Indian foreign ministry in September did not punt on a question about Xinjiang, the Muslim-majority province in the west of China. It twice noted that a UN human rights report had highlighted “the serious maltreatment of minorities” inside China. In recent weeks, the Indian government has also spoken critically about the “militarization of the Taiwan Strait,” refused to reiterate a “one China” policy (that would acknowledge Taiwan as a part of China and the People’s Republic of China as the only legal government of China) despite Beijing’s calls to do so, and urged restraint and warned against any unilateral change to the status quo after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August."

In short, "With its 2020 actions at the border, Beijing has stalled, if not reversed, years of deepening Sino-Indian ties. It has also, counterproductively, facilitated the strengthening of Indian partnerships with many Chinese rivals. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the Indian foreign minister, recently alluded to the broad scope of competition between the two countries, sketching a very different vision of Asia than the one proposed by Beijing. On their part, India’s partners, including the United States, have wondered to what extent India can be brought onside in an alignment against China. These countries should approach India with both pragmatism and ambition. They should have realistic expectations about what New Delhi might be able to do in the Indo-Pacific, given its border-related, regional, and domestic priorities. And they should recognize that while India will compete with China, it will not compete in exactly the same way as the United States or Japan do. But they should not have too little ambition, assuming India will reject deeper cooperation—after all, New Delhi’s traditional diffidence has turned to more willing engagement in recent years. India will steer its own ship, but it is tacking in the direction of those interested in balancing Chinese power and influence in the region and around the world." As the title of her article says, "China has lost India," China will come to regret that and it may be another nail in Xi's coffin.
 

Edward Campbell

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"Be prepared to work with the US" is not a bad position to take for any unaligned or semi-unaligned neighbour of China.
And Professor John Ikenberry tells us, in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, why betting against America is not a good idea.

It has become popular, he says, to believe that "The U.S.-led world ... is giving way to something new—a post-American, post-Western, postliberal order marked by great-power competition and the economic and geopolitical ascendance of China." But he says, "the United States is not foundering. The stark narrative of decline ignores deeper world-historical influences and circumstances that will continue to make the United States the dominant presence and organizer of world politics in the twenty-first century. To be sure, no one knows the future, and no one owns it. The coming world order will be shaped by complex, shifting, and difficult-to-grasp political forces and by choices made by people living in all parts of the world. Nonetheless, the deep sources of American power and influence in the world persist. Indeed, with the rise of the brazen illiberalism of China and Russia, these distinctive traits and capacities have come more clearly into view ... [and] ... The mistake made by prophets of American decline is to see the United States and its liberal order as just another empire on the wane. The wheel of history turns, empires come and go—and now, they suggest, it is time for the United States to fade into senescence. Yes, the United States has at times resembled an old-style empire. But its role in the world rests on much more than its past imperial behavior; U.S. power draws not only on brute strength but also on ideas, institutions, and values that are complexly woven into the fabric of modernity. The global order the United States has built since the end of World War II is best seen not as an empire but as a world system, a sprawling multifaceted political formation, rich in vicissitudes, that creates opportunity for people across the planet."

Now, I believe that Professor Ikenberry is a bit too shortsighted. The "ideas, institutions, and values that are complexly woven into the fabric of modernity" go all the way back to the 16th century. They are Anglo-Scandinavian-Dutch AND, quite lately, American ideas, institutions and values that have spread, very, very imperfectly through much of the world. But whether they are American or Anglo-American or Euro-American matters less than the fact, and I agree with prof Ikenberry that it is a fact, that they still animate international relations and grand strategy today.
 

Edward Campbell

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And Professor John Ikenberry tells us, in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, why betting against America is not a good idea.

It has become popular, he says, to believe that "The U.S.-led world ... is giving way to something new—a post-American, post-Western, postliberal order marked by great-power competition and the economic and geopolitical ascendance of China." But he says, "the United States is not foundering. The stark narrative of decline ignores deeper world-historical influences and circumstances that will continue to make the United States the dominant presence and organizer of world politics in the twenty-first century. To be sure, no one knows the future, and no one owns it. The coming world order will be shaped by complex, shifting, and difficult-to-grasp political forces and by choices made by people living in all parts of the world. Nonetheless, the deep sources of American power and influence in the world persist. Indeed, with the rise of the brazen illiberalism of China and Russia, these distinctive traits and capacities have come more clearly into view ... [and] ... The mistake made by prophets of American decline is to see the United States and its liberal order as just another empire on the wane. The wheel of history turns, empires come and go—and now, they suggest, it is time for the United States to fade into senescence. Yes, the United States has at times resembled an old-style empire. But its role in the world rests on much more than its past imperial behavior; U.S. power draws not only on brute strength but also on ideas, institutions, and values that are complexly woven into the fabric of modernity. The global order the United States has built since the end of World War II is best seen not as an empire but as a world system, a sprawling multifaceted political formation, rich in vicissitudes, that creates opportunity for people across the planet."

Now, I believe that Professor Ikenberry is a bit too shortsighted. The "ideas, institutions, and values that are complexly woven into the fabric of modernity" go all the way back to the 16th century. They are Anglo-Scandinavian-Dutch AND, quite lately, American ideas, institutions and values that have spread, very, very imperfectly through much of the world. But whether they are American or Anglo-American or Euro-American matters less than the fact, and I agree with prof Ikenberry that it is a fact, that they still animate international relations and grand strategy today.
I'm sorry for the too many typos, etc. My eyes are not a good as I might wish and my next (semi-annual now) examination isn't until Feb, and I'm not getting any younger and that means, inter alia, that my attention to detail is not what it once was. The only good news is that Xi Jinping is also getting older and older, day-by-day, as it happens, and younger men are sniffing at the edges, looking for the keys to power.
 
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