Tag Archives: Xi Jinping

Beijing tests mettle of Taiwan’s Iron Lady President

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
May 28, 2016

A television in a sales showroom features Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen during a televised political debate in Taipei, Taiwan, January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

A television in a sales showroom features Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen during a televised political debate in Taipei, Taiwan, January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan in January, the Chinese regime of Xi Jinping has done everything it can to inflame cross-strait relations by goading her into making an outraged response.

Tsai, who was inaugurated President of the island nation of 23 million people on May 20, has refused to react in the way Beijing wants. She is far too experienced a politician, especially in dealing with the slippery fish in Beijing, to be easily trapped into saying things that can be use against her, especially with Taiwan’s indispensable ally, Washington.

Xi and his boys certainly didn’t plan it this way, but all that their bully tactics in the last four months have done is reinforce what ought to have been evident to everyone for many years.

The relations between Taiwan and China are not a threat to regional security because Taiwan’s people want to keep their status as an independent country. They are a threat because of the imperialist instincts of the Beijing regime, which, without any historic, legal, moral or political justification, claims to own the island and its people.

The friction in this fault line in Asian security is growing not because Tsai and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won for the first time both the presidential and parliamentary elections in January.

The tectonic plates are grinding because Xi in Beijing is a belligerent and vengeful autocrat who is trying to use manufactured patriotism to divert public attention from the economic, social and political failures of his regime.

Beijing has sneered and questioned the sincerity of Tsai’s commitments to maintain stable relations with China; statements made in both her victory speech in January and at her inauguration a week ago.

A major reason a clear majority of Taiwan’s voters elected Tsai and the DPP was the party’s pledge to revive the economy and lessen its dependence on trade with China. But within hours of Taiwan’s election day Beijing made it clear it intends to use every weapon in its arsenal to foil the new government’s efforts to rebuild the island’s economy. This crass and indefensible attack on the internal affairs of a foreign country has continued Beijing’s bile is not just institutional. It has shown it can and will abduct Taiwanese citizens anywhere and at any time it chooses.

The personal attacks on Tsai have become more and more pointed. A few days ago a senior Beijing official responsible for China’s relations with Taiwan wrote in state-controlled media that Tsai is not fit to lead a government because she is a women, and therefore temperamentally unsuited to the task.

In fact, there are few elected leaders around today who have come to office with as many accomplishments or essential experience as does Tsai. She is a lawyer who got her first degree at Taiwan’s National University, went on to do a masters degree at Cornell and gained her doctorate at the London School of Economics. On her return to Taiwan she taught law for several years before being spotted as one of the brightest and best of her generation by then-President Lee Tung-hui of the Kuomintang party. Lee was the island’s first Taiwanese president and also the first directly elected leader. In the 1990s Tsai worked for him both as a national security adviser and as a drafter of China policy. She also negotiated Taiwan’s entry in 2000 into the World Trade Organization.

When the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian won the presidency in 2000, Tsai became the main adviser on relations with China. This marked Tsai’s transition to political commitment to the DPP. She has been through the political mill, running unsuccessfully both for mayor of New Taipei, and for president, before her victory in January.

She has a wealth of political, economic, diplomatic and administrative experience.

Tsai has taken some risk in the very measured statements she has made about her approach to cross-Strait relations. Tsai has repeated that she wants to maintain the status quo in relations with Beijing and that she will respect the agreements made by the previous Kuomintang government of Ma Ying-jeou with China.

This has been disappointing for many of her supporters, who want to call Beijing’s bluff and move to have the reality of their independence recognized internationally.

But Tsai’s measured caution is not enough for Beijing. It has ranted against the “ambiguity” of her statements. In particular, Beijing officials have railed against her for not explicitly recognizing the so-called “1992 Consensus.” In this agreement Taipei and Beijing said there is “One China,” but without saying what that entailed. For Taipei it meant there is one China, but Taiwan is not part of it. For Beijing it means Taiwan is a renegade province and should submit to China’s sovereignty or risk military invasion.

Tsai comes to office with an ambitious five-point plan to revive Taiwan’s economy and enhance the island’s social structure.

Taiwan has a formidable international reputation for high-tech innovation. But in recent decades Taiwanese companies have followed the international trend and moved their manufacturing and assembly operations to China. Tsai wants to reverse this and to encourage development of new specializations in such areas as biotechnology that are not dependent on supply chains involving China

In the same vein, she wants to lessen Taiwan’s dependence on exports to China by expanding the island’s reach into the Southeast Asian and Indian markets. Tsai is also intent on seeking membership in the U.S.-led, 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which includes the 10 countries of Southeast Asia, China, India and Japan.

Her problem is that Beijing has a long history of using its economic muscle to blackmail other countries not to admit Taiwan to trade or other international organizations without China’s agreement.

Beijing has made it clear it intends to continue its economic warfare against Taiwan. Soon after the DPP’s election victory Beijing announced it was cutting the number of Chinese tourists allowed to visit the island. This did not have the desired effect, as many Taiwanese breathed a sigh of relief. The Chinese visitors have become notorious for their ill manners and arrogance, just as they have in Hong Kong, where the administration had to plead with Beijing to cut the visa quotas so as to avoid a serious backlash against the tourists.

In Taiwan, Chinese tourists had swarmed famous attractions like Sun Moon Lake and the Taroko Gorge in such numbers that local visitors have been driven out. And in the National Palace Museum the ill manners and discourtesy of the Chinese tourists reached the level where museum staff found it necessary to post dozens of notices with information about how to behave in a public place.

If Beijing’s tourist gambit misfired, another ploy did not. Taiwan has formal diplomatic relations with only 21 countries. Most nations have downgraded their diplomatic representation in Taipei as the price of having full bilateral relations with Beijing. Several small countries, however, found regularly switching diplomatic relations between Taiwan and China was a very profitable business. During his eight-years in office former Taiwan President Ma negotiated an unofficial end to this “dollar diplomacy.” But in March, the small African state of Gambia, which had previously recognized Taiwan, announced it was establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing. This move clearly came after pressure from China and is undoubtedly intended as a warning to Taipei that Beijing will step up its efforts to enforce Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation.

There was an even nastier example of Beijing’s vengeful nature in April, when Kenya was persuaded to force 45 Taiwanese on to planes to China. The 45 had been implicated in a fraudulent telemarketing scheme aimed at China. All were tried in Kenya and most acquitted. But China told the Nairobi government it wanted the Taiwanese, claiming they are Chinese citizens. Kenya herded the first batch of eight Taiwanese onto a China-bound plane on April 8. When another 28 Taiwanese, being held in jail, heard what had happened they barricaded themselves in their cells, Kenyan police stormed the prison and took the prisoners to the airport.

Taipei accused China of “extrajudicial abduction,” but Beijing insists it has the right to detain and try the Taiwanese.

Beijing’s abuse has also been aimed directly at Tsai. A long and thorough assessment of her was published this week in the International Herald Leader, a subsidiary of the state-controlled Xinhua news agency. The article was written by Wang Weixing, a council member of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, Beijing’s arms-length organization for dealing unofficially with Taipei. Wang is also head of the foreign military studies department of the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences.

What caught contemptuous international attention this week was that half way through the essay Wang comments that “as a politician who is single, Tsai is unencumbered by feelings of love, and is without constraints of a family or the need to care for children, her political style and action strategy commonly incline toward emotionalism, individualism and extremism.”

The article concludes that “Tsai Ing-wen’s personality is clearly two-faced.”

While the reaction has focused on Wang’s misogyny, his overall judgement on Tsai should give Beijing cause for concern. He described a very tough, determined and experienced person who will not be easily manipulated by Beijing and who is a formidable opponent.

For Tsai, her major day-to-day problem will be satisfying the expectations of the people who voted for her and the DPP. In 2014 thousands of mostly young Taiwanese occupied the parliament, the Legislative Yuan, to block an expanded free trade deal with China planned by the Ma administration. The protesters succeeded, but also established that as well as being deeply suspicious of economic relations with China, young Taiwanese are confident of their own identity and are increasingly frustrated that their nationhood is not internationally recognized.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016
Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com. Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Correction, May 30:  Tsai Ing-wen ran for mayor of New Taipei, not Taipei, as stated in the original column. New Taipei was called Taipei County until 2010 and is in fact the large area around downtown Taipei, the capital.

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Links:

Translation of Tsai Ing-wen profile, by Wang Weixing, International Herald Leader, a subsidiary of the state-controlled Xinhua news agency: http://solidaritytw.tumblr.com/post/144997215206/aratspla-officials-contentious-tsai-ing-wen

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Jonathan Manthorpe is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan.”

 

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. Manthorpe has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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Washington, courts defy Beijing imperialism

Amphibious assault vehicles and USS Denver  participate in an exercise in the South China Sea, 2011.  U.S. government photo via Wikimedia

Amphibious assault vehicles and USS Denver participate in an exercise in the South China Sea, 2011. U.S. government photo via Wikimedia

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs 
October, 2015

Schina_sea_88At long last, the Beijing regime has this week been dealt two significant set-backs to what is the world’s most extraordinary contemporary campaign of imperial expansionism.

On October 29, a tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) decided that Beijing’s claim to own almost all the South China Sea is not an indisputable fact, as the Chinese government contends. The littoral countries that object to Beijing’s imperial grab — the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia — have the right to have their objections heard and judged before a court of arbitration.

The ruling is significant because Beijing has always avoided any binding judicial scrutiny of its South China Sea claim. Beijing’s usual response is to jump up and down, make a lot of threatening noises and insist its claim is beyond dispute.

Typical was President Xi Jinping’s response a few weeks ago when he was challenged about the claims while on a visit to the United States. “The islands and reefs of the South China Sea are Chinese territory since ancient times,” he said. “They are left to us by our ancestors.”

Well, there’s no substantial evidence to support that claim. And now it may well be that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague will adjudicate on the dispute.

It would be pleasant to believe that Beijing’s imperialist march might be halted and reversed by an adverse court ruling. But that is probably a vain hope. The Chinese Communist Party has a lot of problems with the concept of the rule of law, and whatever The Hague says is unlikely to deter it from its territorial ambitions.

Xo Jinping, official photo

Xo Jinping, official photo

Thursday’s legal rebuff to Beijing’s schemes came hot on the heels of Tuesday’s more direct challenge to the Chinese Communist Party’s attempt to establish sovereignty in the South China Sea. For two years, fleets of Chinese dredgers have been at work in the sea manufacturing seven new islands hundreds of kilometers away from China. The finished islands have been equipped with harbours, air strips and military bases.

Beijing says these islands are just a physical expression of its rule over four-fifths of the South China Sea and all foreign shipping should respect China’s sovereignty.

On Tuesday, after years of wavering in the face of Beijing’s evident forward policy, the risk-averse United States administration of President Barack Obama sent a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Lassen, to challenge China’s claims to authority over shipping on the South China Sea.

After giving plenty of warning that this was to be a “freedom of navigation operation,” affirming the right of passage to all navies and merchant marine through what are some of the world’s busiest seaways, the USS Lassen purposefully sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands group.

Beijing’s response was in the best traditions of Communist Party hyper-ventilated outrage. The U.S. action had, said Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, threatened China’s sovereignty and the USS Lassen had “illegally” entered China’s territorial waters.

As is often the case these days, senior officers in China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) took a more jingoistic stance. Writing in the government controlled nationalist newspaper Global Times, Rear-Admiral Yang Yi said the PLA would deliver a “head-on blow” to any foreign forces “violating” China’s sovereignty. “Safeguarding maritime rights,” wrote Yang, “calls for force and power.”

Two years ago Subi Reef was just that; an underwater feature that was usually not even exposed at high tide. But after months of dredging and construction work Subi Reef is now a substantial island with a harbour and a three kilometer-long runway that can be used by most Chinese military aircraft.

Beijing contends that Subi Reef, like all the other reaches of the South China Sea it claims right down to Indonesia 1,200 kilometers from mainland China, is now its sovereign territory. As such, says Beijing, this and the other six manufactured military island outposts warrant recognition under the Law of the Sea as having 12 nautical miles of territorial waters around their peripheries and 200 nautical miles “exclusive economic zones” (EEZ) beyond that.

Beijing’s claim that its construction projects are sovereign territory is absolute bunk, as any reading of the UNCLOS agreements quickly reveals. UNCLOS says that habitable islands attract recognition of 12 nautical miles of surrounding territorial waters and 200 nautical miles of EEZ. Uninhabitable rocks and islets get 12 nautical miles of territorial waters, but not the EEZ. What are called “low tide elevations,” which defines Subi Reef and China’s six other island manufacturing projects, get no sovereignty recognition at all.

Indeed, Beijing’s whole claim to ownership of most of the South China Sea is a feeble modern fabrication without any historic or legal merit. For the most part it has been fashioned since the Second World War and the discovery of seabed oil and gas deposits in the 1970s.

Beijing has produced an elaborate paper trail to support what it says is unshakeable proof of its ownership of most of the 3,500,000 square kilometer South China Sea, which carries a third of global maritime trade. The paperwork has been craftily woven and is now a substantial blanket of documentation. But several careful deconstructions, for example this by former BBC correspondent Bill Hayton have found that what is put forward as evidence of Chinese ownership all reaches back to the writings of two or three nationalist propagandists. There is no unimpeachable firsthand evidence of historic Chinese claim to sovereignty over the islands of the South China Sea.

There has been a sharp increase in Beijing’s often militarily aggressive pushing of its territorial claims since Xi Jinping became Communist Party boss and China’s President in late 2012. His intense appeals to Chinese nationalism and patriotism appear to be an attempt to divert public attention from the declining economy, deadly environmental pollution, the emergence of a socially dominant wealthy elite of friends and relatives of the Communist Party aristocracy, and a steady drum beat of social unrest. (See related columns, below.)

Yet the record of Xi’s four years in power suggests that when confronted he swiftly retreats.

In his first years in office, Xi stoked Chinese nationalism by confronting the old enemy, Japan, over Japanese ownership of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. These five islands, which the Chinese call the Daioyu, have been claimed by Beijing since they were found to be associated with seabed deposits of natural gas. The Senkakus also have strategic importance, blocking the PLA Navy’s access to the Pacific Ocean.

But incursions first by Chinese fishing boats, then by Coast Guard cutters and finally by PLA warplanes over-flying the islands did not force Tokyo to make any concessions. Quite the reverse. Beijing’s antics gave Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the justification he was looking for to remove restrictions on the use of the armed forces that had been in place since the Second World War.

The Chinese incursions also pushed Tokyo and Washington to re-affirm their military alliance. And they raised alarm in the capitals of South East Asia, leading them to wonder if they were next in line for Beijing’s aggressive attentions.

They were right. Xi shifted his focus to the South China Sea where Chinese vessels began confronting the Philippines and asserting ownership of reefs and islands clearly within Philippines’ waters.

At the same time, Beijing began pushing hard against Vietnam, harassing Hanoi’s maritime survey vessels and even ostentatiously sending a massive drilling rig to hunt for oil and gas in disputed waters.

A PLA naval flotilla was even sent to the southern limits of China’s South China Sea claim, right by Indonesia’s territorial waters, where the crews held an elaborate sovereignty ceremony.

Meanwhile, Beijing set up a faux “administration” for the South China Sea on Woody Island in the Paracel Island chain and began manufacturing the seven islands to hold military bases.

All of these moves have been individually too small to trigger emphatic responses from either the United States or China’s neighbours, singly or in coalition.

But the emerging picture is already very clear. Beijing has established de facto occupation and a substantial military presence over territory to which it has no legitimate legal claim. More than that, it is territory of great strategic military and economic significance to the U.S. and its Asian allies.

The push-back by the court in The Hague and the U.S. Navy will give Xi and his admirals pause for thought. They will have immediately noted, however, that Obama’s sending of one destroyer, the USS Lassen, to demonstrate Washington’s resolve is a far less robust response than what Bill Clinton did in 1996.

That year, Beijing tried to disrupt the first fully democratic presidential elections among the 23 million people of the independent island nation of Taiwan, which Beijing also claims to own without any substantial historic or legal justification, by firing unarmed missiles into the sea-lanes approaching the island’s ports. Clinton responded by dispatching a full aircraft carrier battle group, which sailed through the 160-kilometer-wide Taiwan Strait separating the island from China. When the island next held presidential elections four years later, Beijing confined its outrage to verbal bluster.

Beijing is now most likely to return to its salami slicing policy by building up the military resources on the islands its has constructed. It may also try to test Washington’s credibility as a strategic partner by confronting some of the smaller claimants to the waters of the South China Sea to see how strongly the U.S. supports its allies.

On the other side of the equation, the U.S. already has strong alliances with regional nations Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, and Australia. Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia have already shown they want stronger military alliances with Washington to counter the threat from China.

What would send a strong message to Beijing would be a joint “freedom-of-navigation” patrol by ships of the U.S., Vietnam and Philippines navies.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2015

Links:

BBC correspondent Bill Hayton, Asia Sentinel:  http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/fact-fiction-south-china-sea/

Related on F&O:

China manufactures islands to back its sovereignty claims, Jonathan Manthorpe

Not content with stealing other people’s territory, the Beijing government is now manufacturing islands to boost its insubstantial claim to ownership of the South China Sea.

China’s war for Asian domination going well, Jonathan Manthorpe

TOKYO, Japan — China’s war to supplant the United States as the regional super power in the Far East and western Pacific is under full steam and gobbling up its objectives.

Labour unrest surges as China’s economy slows, Jonathan Manthorpe

As China’s economy slows to a crawl, the Communist Party is facing one of its worst nightmares: a militant labour movement.

From our archives:

Beijing takes another major step to control the South China Sea. Jonathan Manthorpe, May 23, 2014
Beijing, not Moscow, is the home of imperialism. March 5, 2014
China set to gain from airspace dispute. November 29, 2013
Chinese airspace claims reminiscent of pre-WW I. November 27, 2013
Political reform in China unavoidable. October 3, 2013
Japan to counter Chinese “provocations.” September 18, 2013

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. Manthorpe has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Thank you for your patronage, and please tell others about us. Most of our pages are not behind a paywall. To help us continue, we suggest a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or for use of the entire site at least $1 for a day pass, and $20 for a year. Please visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters  paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our ability to offer original works.

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Island-building Inflames China-Philippines Dispute

Mabini Reef 2014

Earlier this year the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs released a series of photographs, which it said shows stages of China’s “reclamation” of land on Mabini Reef, also called Johnson South Reef, in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea. Photo provided by Philippines government.

Pursuit of Beijing’s claim to the South China Sea is a major element in the drive by China’s Communist Party boss Xi Jinping to convince the population that the country is re-emerging as the world’s pre-eminent power, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe.. “The prospects are not good.”

An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column, China manufactures islands to back its sovereignty claims:

Not content with stealing other people’s territory, the Beijing government is now manufacturing islands to boost its insubstantial claim to ownership of the South China Sea.

The Philippines government has released aerial photographs of Chinese dredgers and construction teams pulling up millions of tonnes of sand and rock from the ocean floor to create islands on Johnson South Reef, which is claimed by the Manila government.

The new island is one of several being created by Beijing, and is within Manila’s 200 nautical mile “exclusive economic zone,” but about 800 kilometres from the nearest undisputed Chinese territory at Hainan Island.

China’s island manufacturing industry, using reefs and islets as bases on which to create territory, is the latest in a vigorous policy of territorial expansion being pursued by the new Beijing administration of President and Communist Party boss Xi Jinping. Since Xi came to power in late 2012, Beijing has been pushing an evermore aggressive and assertive policy over territorial disputes with its neighbours. In the East China Sea this has seen almost daily confrontations with the Japanese Coast Guards and Air Force around and over the Japanese-owned Senkaku Islands, which the Chinese call the Diaoyu Islands. …. read China manufactures islands to back its sovereignty claims. (Log in first; subscription or day pass* required)

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Zimbabwe’s new colonial master

It looks increasingly as though Zimbabwe’s peasant farmers have simply exchanged colonial masters, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. An excerpt of his new column, China accepts tribute from its vassal, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe:

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That significance is likely to grow early next year, when Mugabe is the odds-on favourite to be selected leader of the 54-member African Union (AU). The stage was set for Mugabe to be given this accolade last week when he was chosen unanimously to be chair of the 15-member Southern African Development Community.

Next year is southern Africa’s turn to provide the AU leadership, and Mugabe’s anti-colonial, freedom fighter history (actually, he was a behind-the-scenes schemer, not a fighter) still resonates with his brother leaders. His gross mismanagement of his own country and abuse of his people, a third of whom have fled abroad, is a secondary consideration.

But it will be a feather in Beijing’s cap to have its own man at the head of the AU …  click here toread China accepts tribute from its vassal, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (Subscription required*).

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China: anti-corruption drive — or bid for unrivalled authority?

International affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe writes in today’s column:

In authoritarian states there is always a fine line between campaigns against social cancers such as corruption, disposing of political rivals in the process, and riding the upheaval to unchallenged personal power. In China the anti-corruption drive of President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is now well on the way to becoming a drive for unrivalled authority. Xi’s ousting of his rivals and gathering of power in his own hands has reached the point where even retired party leaders are voicing concern that he has gone too far. On Monday Xi’s campaign took another significant step …

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China and Taiwan, head to head

A historic meeting between China and Taiwan is taking place this week. Will it become a turning point in relations between the two countries? Jonathan Manthorpe, in considering the history and political factors, is doubtful. An excerpt of his new column:

Manthorpe B&WThis week’s meeting between officials from the Chinese and Taiwanese governments is historic, but more for its symbolism than any prospect of dramatic outcomes.

For Beijing the hope is that after eight years of improving economic ties, the talks are the beginning of a political process that will see the island nation of 23 million people absorbed into China …

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Post updated to clarify timing of meeting.

 

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Analysis: power struggles in Beijing and Pyongyang

In the capitals of China and North Korea ‘tis the season to be merry, but only over the bodies – real and figurative –  of purged enemies and rivals.

Jonathan Manthorpe’s latest international affairs column focuses on the power struggles in the corridors of power in Beijing and Pyongyang. Log in to F&O first to read the column here.*

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Manthorpe on how China changed the security status quo

Even though China’s unilateral declaration of control over airspace off its eastern shores has spurred an unusually united push-back by the United States and its Asian allies, Beijing will be well pleased with the result of its imperial expansion, writes Jonathan Manthorpe in his new international affairs column.

With one small move that is unlikely to generate a sustained counter-attack from Washington and regional allies Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, Beijing has changed in its favour the security status quo in the East China Sea.  read Manthorpe’s column here.*

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Take China’s threats against Taiwan seriously

This time, the world should pay attention to China’s threatening approach to Taiwan, warns Jonathan Manthorpe in his international affairs column today. An excerpt:

Xi Jinping is not the first modern Chinese leader to threaten the island nation of Taiwan with invasion if they do not soon agree to hand their sovereignty to the Beijing regime. 

Indeed, it has become a necessary ritual for Chinese leaders to establish their patriotic credentials by reiterating Beijing’s claim to own the island and its 23 million people.

Usually these pronouncements appear to be largely for domestic consumption, taking no account of the fact Taiwan has been an independent nation since 1949, and has made the difficult transition from a one-party state under martial law to a functional, boisterous democracy.

 Beijing has sometimes gone further than rhetorical bluster. In 1996 China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fired unarmed missiles into the sea on the approaches to Taiwan’s main ports, as the island’s people prepared to vote in their first free and fair presidential elections.

But context is everything in such matters.

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