China Caucus Blog

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | February 02, 2015
How a 120-Year-Old War Is Driving China’s Military Modernization. “China is currently undergoing a new round of widespread and comprehensive military reforms that aim to fundamentally improve the PLA. These efforts, as detailed in the 18th Party Congress’s Third Plenum Decision from November 2013, call for such changes as increased jointness, more realistic training, and better military discipline. As China’s leaders search for guidance on how to enact these difficult reforms, they have looked deep into China’s past — all the way back to the First Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895. The war revolved around control over the Korean Peninsula and included two large naval engagements in which the Imperial Japanese Navy crushed the larger Chinese Beiyang Fleet. China’s defeat was swift and the aftermath was devastating, ceding important territory to Japan and hastening the end of the Qing government’s rule. Especially relevant to the PLA, China’s loss revealed the failures in the Qing’s ambitious military strengthening program, which had begun 30 years earlier, partly to counter foreign encroachment. The summer of 2014 marked the 120th anniversary of the war. China commemorated this occasion with a flood of essays, speeches, and events analyzing the meaning of the war for modern China. During this time, Qiushi, the official journal of the CCP’s Central Committee, published a detailed analysis of the lessons learned from the war. It was written by General Fan Changlong, one of two vice chairmen of China’s powerful Central Military Commission, which exercises control over the entire military. He is second in command only to President Xi Jinping. The importance of both the author and the publication make the article worth examining in detail. Fan begins his essay by acknowledging that China’s defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War “humiliated the nation” and “disgraced” the military. He asserts that it is important to study this painful period of history in order to educate military personnel and provide “historical lessons” that can be applicable to modern times. Fan argues that the major takeaway of the First Sino-Japanese War is that China must build a military that can achieve victory on the battlefield in order to ensure its national security. He goes on to detail the reforms the PLA must carry out in order to reach this goal, using the weaknesses that led to defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War as examples of what to improve.”

Fresh Reports Circulate on China’s Second Aircraft Carrier.
“Fresh reports that China is building a second aircraft carrier circulated over the weekend on a city government microblog and a state-owned newspaper, as the country scrambles to modernize its military. China wants to develop an ocean-going "blue water" navy capable of defending the growing interests of the world's second largest economy as it adopts a more assertive stance in territorial disputes with neighbors in the South China and East China seas. A power cable maker in the eastern city of Changzhou has won a deal to provide equipment for the second aircraft carrier, according to the reports, which appeared on the official microblog of the government of Changzhou and the state-backed Changzhou Evening News, but have since been deleted. Chinese military analysts said the reports were a tacit acknowledgement the carrier was being built. Media reports last year cited the top party official in the northern province of Liaoning as saying that China was building the carrier, and aimed for a future fleet of at least four aircraft carriers. But the government has consistently sought to keep news about a second aircraft carrier quiet, and the military has not formally acknowledged its development. The country's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, a Soviet-era ship bought from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in a Chinese shipyard, has long been a symbol of China's naval build-up. Successfully operating the 60,000-tonne Liaoning is the first step in what state media and some military experts believe will be the deployment of domestically-built carriers by 2020.”

China Takes A Predictably Harsh Line on Obama’s Meeting With the Dalai Lama.
“To Beijing, a breakfast isn't simply a breakfast. It's tantamount to backing Tibetan independence. It took three days for China’s official media to react to the news that the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, will join U.S. President Barack Obama at a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5. But Beijing’s response, now that it has finally come, is not joyous. “Obama is acquiescing to the Dalai Lama’s attempt to split Tibet from China,” went a Monday op-ed in the China Daily, the Chinese government’s English-language mouthpiece. “Tibet is an inseparable part of China,” it continued. “The Dalai Lama’s flight from China’s Tibet in 1959 was because of his failed attempt to maintain the serfdom in the region, under which the majority of Tibetans were slaves leading a life of unimaginable misery.” The official Chinese narrative holds that Tibet trembled under the fist of Buddhist monks before the People’s Liberation Army marched in more than six decades ago. Since then, living standards in Tibet have increased; this year, the Chinese government has projected 12% growth in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, higher than in most other parts of the country. But many Tibetans decry the Chinese government’s systematic repression of their religious and cultural freedoms. Possessing the Dalai Lama’s image can land Tibetans in jail, even though he has repeatedly said he is not calling for an independent Tibet but rather one in which local traditions are respected.”

2 Members of Sect Executed in China for Deadly Beating at McDonald’s. “A Chinese court announced on Monday that two members of a banned religious sect had been executed for the death by beating of a woman at a McDonald’s restaurant in May, an episode that was caught by a cellphone camera and sparked outrage across China. The court, the Yantai Intermediate People’s Court in the eastern province of Shandong, reported the executions of Zhang Lidong and his daughter Zhang Fan in a statement on its official social media account, noting that the two had “committed murder and used a cult to intentionally break the law.” The court did not say when the executions took place. The Zhangs were members of the Church of Almighty God, a Christian sect that the Chinese government outlawed in 1995 and has labeled an “evil cult.” They had entered the McDonald’s with other members of their church, hoping to recruit followers on the evening of May 28 in the city of Zhaoyuan. At the restaurant, they encountered the victim, Wu Shuoyan, 35, who was waiting for her husband and young son, state television reported during the Zhangs’ trial in August. After Ms. Wu twice declined to give her phone number, the group identified her as an “evil spirit” and attacked her with a chair, mops and a storm of kicks that left her dead in a pool of blood on the floor. “I beat her with all my might and stomped on her, too,” said an unrepentant Mr. Zhang in an interview from prison that aired on state television. “She was a demon. We had to destroy her.” The killing was recorded on a cellphone by one of several bystanders who watched the attack but did not intervene. Posted and shared widely online, the video set off a debate about the lack of help from witnesses as well as accusations that the police had been slow to respond. In October, the Zhangs were convicted and sentenced to death, while three other defendants received sentences of seven years, 10 years and life in prison. The executions were carried out after China’s Supreme People’s Court approved the death sentences, as it must for all such sentences.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.
Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | January 28, 2015

China Exerts Pressure on Foreign News Outlets. “China pressured international media outlets to censor their news coverage last year in addition to cracking down on domestic journalists, according to a new report. Conditions for both domestic journalists and foreign correspondents in China have worsened considerably under President Xi Jinping. Journalists surveyed last year said they were increasingly subjected to harassment by authorities, sometimes violent in nature, as well as to visa delays and cyber attacks. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which released its annual report on press freedoms in China on Monday, said intimidation from officials in Beijing has now extended to foreign outlets. Chinese embassy officials in Paris, Berlin, London, and Tokyo all reportedly pressured editors at publications based in those cities to alter their coverage and exert more control over their reporters in Beijing. One Chinese blogger, Su Yutong, was fired from the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle last August after she alleged that directors at the outlet met with the Chinese ambassador and then told their Chinese-language staff to tone down its coverage. A Deutsche Welle spokesman said at the time that Su was terminated because “she tweeted about internal issues” in a manner that “no company in the world would tolerate.” Deutsche Welle gave more prominence last year to columnists such as Frank Sieren, a Beijing-based media consultant who has business interests in the country and is known to be sympathetic to its leadership. The broadcaster has been criticized in the past for coverage that was overly supportive of the Chinese Communist Party. IFJ specifically named three other overseas news services that were targeted by the Chinese government.”

Report: China to Hold Military Parade to ‘Frighten Japan’. “China will this year hold its first large-scale military parade since 2009 to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, reports said Tuesday, with one key goal described as being to "frighten Japan." Communist China generally shies away from the vast annual demonstrations of military might that were a hallmark of the Soviet Union. But it most recently held National Day parades in 1999 and 2009 to mark the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the Oct. 1 establishment of the People's Republic of China. Even now the part played by the People's Liberation Army in China's earlier resistance against Japanese invasion remains a key element of the Communist Party's claim to a right to rule. On its instant messaging WeChat account the People's Daily newspaper, the Party's official mouthpiece, cited a Hong Kong report that a parade would be held this year to commemorate the anniversary of the war's end. One reason for mounting the parade was "to frighten Japan and declare to the world China's determination to maintain the post-war world order," said the article, written by Chinese financial and global affairs commentator Hu Zhanhao. "Only by showing its military capabilities can (China) show Japan its attitude and determination and let it know that whoever dares to challenge the post-war order related to China and touch China's core interests is its enemy and must be psychologically prepared for China's strong counterattack," it said. Other reasons included showcasing China's military strength and increasing Chinese pride. The report did not give a date for the event but said it would mark the first time it was not held on National Day. Several Chinese media outlets on Tuesday described the posting of the article by the People's Daily as a confirmation.”

Why 2016 Could Be a Nightmare for China. “In the late 1990s, former President Jiang Zemin liked to talk of China entering a two-decade era of “strategic opportunity” — a period when China could become a middle income country while continuing the Deng-ist strategy of building up its capacity and strengthening its economy during the era of American hegemony. During this period, China would be low profile, largely free of global leadership responsibilities, and able to plead its status as a poor, developing power focused on solving its own problems as a reason to sidestep heavy diplomatic duties beyond its borders. Three-quarters of the way into this era of “strategic opportunity,” and we might argue that this period has already come to an end. Economically and geopolitically, the China of Xi Jinping increasingly talks and acts like an emerging super power. Xi, with his grand narratives of a “new model of great power relations” for the U.S. and China, and a “New Silk Road” for most of the rest of the planet, seems to have the look, and tone, of someone willing to stand more on the global stage and get attention. It seems like the “era of strategic opportunity,” where the onus was on internal issues and keeping a low profile, has been replaced by a China where, as Xi puts it in a recently collected edition of speeches (The Governance of China), its inward and outward context are intimately linked. For China, the pressure is now on finding “holistic” solutions where it often proactively takes the lead on the global stage and wants to be listened to. Even so, it still makes sense to think along the lines of smaller strategic opportunities. One date in particular stands out – that of only a year hence, when there are perfectly good reasons to predict that the global and regional atmosphere for China will grow a little frostier and less benign. China needs to grab its chances now before they disappear. The first reason 2016 will be a trial for China is the U.S. presidential election. For all his talk of “pivots” and rebalancing, President Obama has been a good president for China. He has been read as weak and overstretched and was treated with staggering disdain during his first visit to Beijing in 2009. Under Obama’s watch, we witnessed the rise of an assertive, pushy China that has been increasingly able to call the shots, at least in its neighborhood. Now, this might be a very unfair reading.”

Communist Officials in Tibetan Region Punished for Separatism, China Says. “Fifteen Communist Party officials in central Tibet who were accused of taking part in separatist activities last year have been punished for violating party discipline, the Chinese news media reported on Wednesday. The officials in the Tibet Autonomous Region, which includes the capital, Lhasa, provided intelligence to the “Dalai Lama clique” and took part in activities that “would harm national security,” according to an article by China News Service, an official agency, that was published by several major news outlets, including Global Times, a populist newspaper, and the website of People’s Daily, the main party newspaper. The report cited officials with the party Commission for Discipline Inspection of Tibet. The report said there had been six cases of party members and civil servants violating party discipline and 45 officials who had abandoned their posts or neglected their duties. Those 45 officials were being “severely punished,” the report said, citing Wang Gang, a party discipline official. It was unclear from the report to what degree the cases of these officials overlapped with the 15 cases involving separatist activities. The report said the officials had assisted a Tibetan independence organization. China often accuses the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, of secretly advocating for Tibetan independence, though the Dalai Lama has insisted he supports only true autonomy for the region. He fled to India in 1959 and lives in a Himalayan hill station above the town of Dharamsala. The Chinese News Service article said the Tibet region’s party Commission for Discipline Inspection received 1,494 complaints last year from residents about misbehaving officials, an increase of 132 percent over the number in 2013. Of those, 329 cases have been investigated, an increase of 161 percent over 2013, the report said.”

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | January 26, 2015

Communist Leadership Approves Security Goals for China. “China’s Communist Party leadership approved a blueprint on Friday setting out national security priorities and warning that the country faced daunting domestic and external dangers. It was ratified by the Politburo, a council of 25 senior officials, and signaled President Xi Jinping’s latest step to put security at the heart of his agenda. The official announcement of the decision from Xinhua, the state news agency, did not disclose the precise contents of the new document, but it emphasized that China’s leaders saw themselves entering perilous times. “Currently, international developments are turbulent and volatile, and our country is undergoing profound economic and social changes,” said the Xinhua report, citing the Politburo decision. “Social conflicts are frequent and overlapping, and security risks and challenges, both foreseeable and hard to anticipate, are unprecedented.” Warnings of looming danger have long been part of Chinese leaders’ political language. But more than his predecessors, Mr. Xi has cast himself as an ardently patriotic defender of unitary national interests, taking a tough stance against neighbors in border disputes and against ethnic discontent in the Xinjiang region and Tibet. Mr. Xi’s catchphrase is “the China Dream,” and the strategy outline expands on his previous efforts to build up a national security apparatus. He has also pursued an intense campaign to extinguish political dissent, which is seen as menacing to one-party rule, and said that control of the Internet is a mainstay of domestic order. In November 2013, a party meeting approved establishing a National Security Commission, broadly similar to the United States’ National Security Council, after over a decade of discussion of the idea. When the commission met for the first time last April, Mr. Xi indicated that the commission would have the power to reach into many aspects of domestic and foreign policy. “There must be constant strengthening of a sense of peril,” said the latest announcement from the Politburo.”

China: The Eclipse of the Politburo. “It is commonly believed that an incoming General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can enact whatever policies he chooses, so long as the top seven or nine leaders of the PBSC agree. If they do not agree, conventional wisdom presumes, then it is unlikely that the leaders will get much done. Such, at any rate, was the prevailing view at the start of Xi Jinping’s tenure. Analyses published at the time of Xi’s ascension confidently predicted that he would prove weak and achieve little, due to the challenge of gaining consensus among PBSC members of such varying backgrounds. Outcomes starkly at odds with such forecasts have done little to deter experts from making additional assertions following the same logic. It is not hard to find analyses today that claim Xi’s anti-corruption drive is fundamentally a power grab that is alienating fellow PBSC members and thus setting Xi up for long-term failure once his peers turn against him. Xi may well fail in his reform agenda for a variety of reasons, but lack of consensus in the PBSC will not be the primary driver. The importance of consensus for enacting policy between the top seven leaders who comprise the PBSC is overstated. Consensus remains necessary, at least on the surface, for the most important policy initiatives such as the pursuit of structural and systemic reforms under which the current anti-corruption drive is nestled. In reality, though, PBSC members are increasingly constrained in their ability to undermine or drastically change the general direction of policy. For the overwhelming majority of the country’s policy directives, what really counts is the degree of consensus within the central party bureaucracy, or staff organizations (i.e., the key staff bodies and organizations primarily in the Central Committee, such as the General Office, Central Policy Research Office, Central Party School, Organization Department, etc.) andbetween the same central party staff organizations and the General Secretary. Individuals who seek to anticipate the future trajectory of PRC policy-making would be well served to master the publicly available documents produced by these bureaucracies in support of the General Secretary. The weakening of the power of individual Politburo Standing Committee members and the growing importance of the relationship between the General Secretary and the central support staff owes partly to Xi’s personal initiative, but primarily to major, long-term changes in the nature of CCP rule.”

Sorry, America: China Can’t Solve Your North Korea Problem. “It’s no secret that China-North Korea relations are extremely strained these days. In recent months, China’s tolerance of Pyongyang has seemed to reach its limit. Increasingly, state media outlets in China have been running negative stories about North Korea, such as the recent killing of Chinese residents by North Korean military defectors and illegal drug smuggling and spying activities by North Korean agents. Meanwhile, North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un has long sought an official trip to Beijing. Thus far, China has rebuffed his repeated requests reportedly because Chinese President Xi Jinping has been annoyed by North Korea’s recent reckless policies and wants to teach it a lesson. Indeed, within China there has been an increasingly fierce debate about how to deal with North Korea. The debate has mostly been limited to retired generals, scholars, and independent analysts, but its potential impact on China’s North Korea policy should not be underestimated. A closer look at these debates reveal three main positions: support North Korea, abandon it, or pressure it. The support camp argues that China and North Korea still share fundamental national interests, which are result of the geopolitical situation in Northeast Asia. If China abandons North Korea, this camp argues, North Korea will seek an accommodation with the United States, giving Washington a tremendous advantage. Therefore, all conflicts between China and North Korea must be managed. On the other hand, a small group of Chinese analysts have advocated abandoning North Korea in recent years, causing fierce debates within scholarly circles. In support of their position, this camp argues that North Korea is of decreasing strategic value to China as a buffer zone, and has a bad international reputation; inherently hostile attitude toward China; and aggressive foreign policy.”

China Blocks Virtual Private Network Use. “China has blocked several popular services that let citizens skirt state censorship systems. Three providers of Virtual Private Network (VPN) systems reported that updates to China's firewall had hindered people using their services. The providers affected are Astrill, StrongVPN and Golden Frog. Many Chinese people use VPNs to visit websites outside the country that they would not be able to reach without the aid of such tools. Sites blocked in China include services operated by web giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. China operates a very sophisticated net censorship system that both limits the places people can go online and what they can search for and discuss. A VPN works by setting up a dedicated, encrypted link between a person's computer and the website or service they want to use and makes spying on the data flowing across the connection difficult. Chinese state media said the blocks had been imposed "for safety". Reuters reported that a cybersecurity expert at a state-backed think tank said the upgrades to the nation's firewall had been carried out to preserve China's "cyberspace sovereignty". The renewed attempt to stifle use of VPNs comes as the ruling Communist party seeks to clamp down on corruption by top officials, Prof Xiao Qiang from Berkeley's School of Information told AP. The clampdown was "a very clearly related fact with the amount of political rumours and information related to China's high politics showing up in websites outside of China,'' he said. The services that have been hit are almost exclusively used by individuals and are often accessed via mobile phones. China has not put any restrictions on the use of VPNs inside large corporations.”

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | January 20, 2015
Japan Says Jets Scrambling At Record Pace to Counter Chinese, Russian Intrusions. “Japanese air force jets are scrambling at a record pace to counter Chinese fighters intruding into its air space along its southern flank and Russian bombers and spy planes probing its northern defenses, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.  Chinese fighter flights have increased in and around the energy-rich East China Sea, where Japan and China both lay claim to a group of islets. In the nine months ending Dec 31, Japanese fighters scrambled 744 times, 32 percent more than the same period the previous year, the ministry said. Encounters with Chinese aircraft, which accounted for half of the nine month total, jumped to 164 in the final quarter of 2014, the most since 1958, when records began. At the current pace, scrambles for the year to March 31 would exceed the 944 encounters logged 30 years ago at the height of the Cold War. "With only three quarters of data available, we can't yet say whether it will be a record year," a spokesman for Japan's Air Self-Defence Force told reporters. In the last three months, Japanese jest scrambled 369 times to meet Russian planes, four times the pace of a decade ago. Japan's Hokkaido island to the north of the country's main land mass lies close to four smaller islands which are claimed both by Japan and Russia. That territorial dispute has prevented Japan and Russia from concluding a formal peace treaty.” 

London Kowtow on Hong Kong.
“Great Britain is shirking its historic duty to speak up for the freedom of Hong Kong. Foreign Office chief Hugo Swire claimed last week that the former colony is “on a journey to greater democracy and accountability.” It would be interesting to know exactly how Mr. Swire defines his terms. In testimony to Parliament, Mr. Swire explained that while the rigged electoral system imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong “may not be perfect,” it nonetheless is “better than nothing.” His Foreign Office colleague Stephen Lillie said Beijing’s system could offer “genuine choice.” More honest diplomats would call the system, which allows Hong Kongers to vote only for candidates nominated by a committee stacked with Beijing loyalists, an Iran-style sham. Britain is obliged to help safeguard Hong Kong’s liberties under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which set the terms for the city’s 1997 transfer from British to Chinese control. The treaty guaranteed that until 2047 Hong Kong would enjoy autonomy in its domestic affairs, with no loss of the rights and freedoms enjoyed under the British. China isn’t abiding by the terms. Some Brits may be bashful about supporting Hong Kong democracy because London didn’t allow self-rule while it was in charge, with legislative elections introduced only in 1992. That delay was a blunder, as we wrote at the time. But London gave Hong Kong honest government and liberal institutions: freedom of the press, independent courts and the rule of law that became the foundation for the territory’s prosperity. Yet London stays quiet. Prime Minister David Cameron last year passed the issue to his deputy, Nick Clegg, who in October did little more than express “dismay and alarm” after Hong Kong police tear-gassed peaceful student-led demonstrators. In November Beijing blocked British lawmakers from visiting Hong Kong, claiming the Sino-British treaty “is now void and only covered the period from the signing in 1984 until the handover in 1997.” That drew some criticism in Parliament but no action from Mr. Cameron’s government.” 

The Dragon’s Eyes and Ears: Chinese Intelligence at the Crossroads.
“A little over a week ago, Hong Kong media reported and, on January 16,Beijing confirmed investigators had detained Chinese Ministry of State Security Vice Minister Ma Jian as part of China’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign. While Ma’s detention gives Xi Jinping and political analysts the opportunity to boast, his dismissal from the Ministry of State Security (MSS) opens a void at the top of China’s civilian intelligence service. Ma is the third vice minister to be shown the door in recent years, and each could have succeeded Geng Huichang, the current Minister of State Security, who is due to retire in the next two to three years. With an open playing field, the choices made by Xi Jinping and his colleagues will go a long way toward deciding the future of Chinese intelligence. The MSS has lost its vice ministers to spy scandals and the ever-widening net of President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign that is sweeping up the debris of former security chief Zhou Yongkang’s network. In 2012, under President Hu Jintao, Executive Vice Minister Lu Zhongwei was disciplined and retired early because one of his close aides reportedly spied for a foreign government. Like the current minister, Lu had worked his way up the MSS ranks in the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations—one of China’s most prestigious international affairs think tanks and staffed entirely by MSS officers. While Lu may only be the second CICIR analyst to rise to the vice-ministerial ranks, he followed a typical MSS pattern of a headquarters bureau director taking the helm of one of the provincial departments, in this case the Tianjin State Security Bureau, prior to being promoted to the front office.”
Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | January 16, 2015
China’s New Flight Routes Rile Taipei. “With China’s unexpected announcement on January 12 that four new flight routes running extremely close to Taiwan proper are to be launched on March 5, Beijing may have dispelled any lingering notion that relations across the Taiwan Strait in 2015 will continue to be as “stable” and predictable as they had been over the past six years of the China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou administration. Though sudden, this development is part of a series of signals that lead us to conclude that the era of détente in the Strait, during which Beijing and Taipei engaged in negotiations somewhat as equals, is over. We are now likely entering a period of Chinese unilateralism. During the six years since Ma became president in 2008 on a platform that emphasized the need to improve relations with China, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait made good use of the many semi-official bodies and Track-1.5/2 forums at their disposal to negotiate a number of agreements, chief among them the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). Over time, those efforts were supplemented by party-to-party and, in some instances, contact between government officials from the two sides, such as face-to-face meetings between the Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council Minister and his counterpart at the Taiwan Affairs Office. In other words, there has been no lack of communication channels between Taiwan and China, and the opportunities to negotiate various agreements were seemingly limitless. Which makes China’s announcement on the air routes — M503, running on a north-south axis west of the centerline of the Taiwan Strait, and the east-west routes W121, W122 and W123 — rather alarming. Judging from Taipei’s reaction, Taiwanese authorities were either not consulted or negotiations on the matter had yet to have concluded. According to Bloomberg News, Taiwan and China had held two rounds of discussions to date. On January 13, Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said that M503, which at its nearest point is only 7.8 km from the centerline in the Strait, was too close to the Taipei Flight Information Region, an important air transport zone in the West Pacific. More than 140,000 international flights pass through Taiwanese airspace annually. The CAA also stated that the three other routes, W121, W122 and W123, risked interfering with air transportation between Taiwan proper and the outlying islands of Matsu and Kinmen.”

Press Freedom in Hong Kong Under Threat, Report Says.
“Press freedom in Hong Kong, long an enclave of liberties in the shadow of mainland China, is increasingly threatened, with journalists assaulted, news organizations censoring stories and advertisers shunning publications that rile the authorities, a new report says. The report by the PEN American Center, a New York-based writers’ group, catalogs developments that it says amount to an alarming erosion of Hong Kong’s tradition of freewheeling news media, including self-censorship: journalists avoiding topics or skewing coverage at the behest of superiors. “We’re ringing an early warning bell to say there are troubling signs,” Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of PEN American Center, said in an interview in Hong Kong. “When you see the pattern that comes together, it’s pretty disturbing, and there’s a sense of a deliberate hand in all of this.” Hong Kong retained a high level of autonomy, with many rights guaranteed by law, after it returned to Chinese sovereignty from British rule in 1997. But many people in Hong Kong see Chinese political and economic power as encroaching on their autonomy. The PEN report warns that media freedom in Hong Kong has become more vulnerable since the street protests last year that exposed public discontent with the city government and the Chinese Communist Party. “A free press is kind of an unnatural state for people who are not free,” said Mark Simon, a senior executive at Next Media Limited, whose flagship Apple Daily newspaper, which supported the pro-democracy protests, was blockaded by pro-Beijing demonstrators. “Over all, I think, it’s not getting better, but it’s not the end of the world, either,” Mr. Simon said in an interview, referring to the state of press freedom in Hong Kong. From late September to December, tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents joined in demonstrations that for nearly three months blocked busy roads in three areas of the city, protesting the Chinese government’s restrictive proposals for changing the electoral system here. Some local journalists complained that the police singled them out for pepper spray or rough treatment, or that opponents of the protests had turned on them.”

China Investigates Senior Military Officials for Graft Amid Crackdown.
“China kicked off investigations into several senior military officials on serious graft charges last year, the Ministry of Defence said on Thursday, as the country works to stamp out corruption in its armed forces. Many of those implicated have ties to the corruption scandal of a former top military officer, Xu Caihou, who retired as vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission last year.China announced last summer it was investigating Xu for graft. The 16 officials accused of "seriously violating party discipline", a common euphemism for graft, include the former commander of the military region of the central province of Shanxi, Fang Wenping, the ministry said. It was the first announcement of action faced by the officials, but did not detail all the charges against them. Liu Zheng and Fu Linguo, former deputy directors of the powerful General Logistics Department, were both placed under investigation. Yu Daqing, former deputy political commissar of the Second Artillery Corps, the military's nuclear and conventional missile division, was also put under investigation, the Defence Ministry said in a statement on its website. But it gave no details of the status of the investigations. Serving and retired Chinese military officers have said graft in the armed forces is so pervasive it could undermine China's ability to wage war. Xu had confessed to taking "massive" bribes in exchange for favors, such as granting promotions. President Xi Jinping, who also serves as chairman of the Central Military Commission, has vowed to eradicate corruption in China's armed forces, which are 2.3 million-strong.”

Taiwan Ruling Party Looks to a New Face.
“Taiwan’s ruling Nationalist Party is looking to a rising political star to broaden its appeal at a time of voter discontent.  Eric Chu, a clean-cut 54-year-old moderate, is running unopposed to be chairman of the party, also known as the Kuomintang, or KMT, and is expected to be named to the post on Saturday. His elevation appeared a foregone conclusion after he was re-elected mayor of New Taipei City—a municipality that surrounds the capital, Taipei—in islandwide local elections in November in which the KMT lost most key races.  In handing a drubbing to the KMT, voters focused on an economy that they see as having failed to deliver broad-based prosperity, analysts said. The loss also further weakened Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-jeou, whose approval ratings in polls were already low and who has pinned the island’s economic revival in part on closer economic ties with China, once a foe from last century’s Chinese civil war.  “Failure to revitalize the economy is the main reason why voters disliked KMT in November, but another reason is people fear that under the KMT, Taiwan was becoming too submissive to China,” said Wu Jieh-ming, a researcher at Academia Sinica, Taiwan’s top academic research institute.  While Taiwan’s economy is growing—it expanded 3.43% in 2014 from 2013—critics say that Mr. Ma’s engagement policies with China has widened Taiwan’s political divide and brought to the fore long-standing issues such as stagnant wages, dim job prospects for the younger generation and lagging competitiveness against a rising China.  Mr. Chu, a former accounting professor and the son-in-law of a prominent KMT figure, has been seen as a level-headed leader who is in touch with grass-root voters. Analysts say that although Mr. Chu has no signature achievements to point to, he has carefully avoided he has carefully avoided offering any firm views on what Taiwan’s relationship should be with Beijing that could mar his image as a centrist politician.  In his new role as party chief, analysts said Mr. Chu will be tasked with burnishing the KMT’s image and fending off the opposition Democratic Progressive Party in next year’s elections.  Disappointment in the KMT government’s China policies has stoked large-scale protests. In March, a student protest dubbed the Sunflower Movement occupied the main legislative building for three weeks and stymied a services trade pact with China. The deal, which aims to liberalize market access in banking and sectors such as publishing, still has no set review date in the parliament.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.
Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | January 13, 2015
The Cracks in China’s Crackdown. “Through the wild swings of Chinese history since its Communist revolution in 1949, there has been one constant: Outsiders have rarely understood what was happening while it was happening. During the Great Leap Forward, from 1958 to 1961, 30 million people or more starved to death in a Mao-created famine. The West had little clue. During the Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976, millions of people were tortured, internally exiled, unjustly imprisoned and otherwise abused in what Paul Hollander, in his invaluable book “Political Pilgrims,” called “a destructive and bloody rampage.” But at the time, most visitors to China had no understanding of what was taking place. The columnist James Reston, for example, was shown a few of the people who had been pried from their families and homes into rural servitude — part of what we have come to know as one of the largest, darkest experiments in forced labor in human history. Reston thought the young people considered themselves to be on “an escape from the city and an outing in the countryside.” Today we believe once again that we know what the Chinese leadership is up to: fighting corruption, tightening political controls in order to promote economic reform, gradually strengthening the rule of law while bolstering national defenses so China can take its rightful place as one of the world’s great powers. Might we be wrong again? Could President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crusade, for instance, be primarily a Stalinist purge of opposing factions in the Communist Party intended to strengthen his own hand? China is far more open to outsiders than in Reston’s time, and Chinese themselves freer to observe and comment on their lives, so maybe grand miscalculations are no longer possible. But the workings of the party remain so opaque, the media so controlled and our record as observers so imperfect that caution is in order.”

Sorry, China: Japan Has the Better Claim Over the Senkakus.
“Commentary on the long-standing contest over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands may be entering a new and more conciliatory phase. A lot of early scholarship focused on the zero-sum question of who has proper title under international law, but more recent analyses have started to explore paths toward a cooperative resolution. Last month, Akikazu Hashimoto, Michael O’Hanlon and Wu Xinbo offered a multipronged plan under which China and Japan would promise not to raise new territorial disputes in the future, the parties would agree to decouple EEZ determinations from sovereignty over the islands themselves, each side would acknowledge the other’s territorial claims and Japan would delegate rights of administration to a joint oversight board with authority to regulate patrols and usage. The authors view their approach as “designed to respect the core interests and nonnegotiable demands of both claimants to the islands.” Under a separate proposal by Mark Rosen, Tokyo would concede that the islands are not entitled to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Beijing would pull back excessive straight baselines along the coast of the Chinese mainland and acquiesce to Japanese effective control over the Islands, and the two sides would divide the sea space opened up as a result of their respective concessions. Rosen frames his plan as a simple application of international law and asserts that it will resolve tension by “tak[ing] the Senkaku off the table in terms of the effect that those islands have in establishing a maritime boundary in the East China Sea.” These scholars share a commitment to the idea that a grand bargain is the most likely path to a peaceful resolution, and their proposals are admirably creative. But they also share a common problem in that they misapply international law in ways that uniformly disfavor Japan. Consider two key points: First, Japan has a superior claim to title over the islands. I acknowledge that it may be difficult for readers to view this argument as anything other than yet another partisan salvo in what has become a tired and seemingly intractable debate. But the characteristics of the debate itself should not obscure the fact that the law supplies a doctrinal resolution. The best answer to the question of title is not an unknowable mystery, obscured by rhetorical heat, high stakes and history, but a simple puzzle very similar to dozens of others that international tribunals have resolved over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”

China Slams Philippines for Criticizing Island Project in South China Sea.
“China on Monday hit back at the Philippines for criticizing Beijing's ongoing reclamation project in the disputed South China Sea, saying that its actions were within the scope of Chinese sovereignty. China lays claim to almost all of the entire South China Sea, believed to be rich with minerals and oil-and-gas deposits. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims. The United States has called on China to stop the land reclamation project that could be large enough to accommodate an airstrip. Beijing has called those remarks "irresponsible", signaling that it would firmly reject proposals by any country to freeze any activity that may raise tension. Last week, Philippines General Gregorio Catapang told reporters that China's reclamation in the area is "50 percent complete". "It is alarming in the sense that it could be used for other purposes other than for peaceful means," he said. China reiterated that Beijing had "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly Islands, where most of the overlapping claims lie, especially between China and the Philippines. "China's actions on the relevant islands and reefs are all matters within the scope of China's sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.”

Firebombing Hong Kong Democrats.
“Hours after world leaders and three million demonstrators declared “Je suis Charlie” in France, masked assailants in Hong Kong threw Molotov cocktails at the home and office of pro-democracy media magnate Jimmy Lai. While the attacks caused no casualties, they underscore the urgency of Hong Kong’s fight for freedom. Mr. Lai has long faced physical and commercial intimidation. In 2008 police foiled a plot to assassinate him and Democratic Party founder Martin Lee. In 2013 suspected gangsters crashed a car into the gate of his home, leaving behind a machete and axe.  Thugs have stolen and torched copies of Apple Daily, the pro-democracy tabloid published by his company, Next Media. Firms with business in mainland China have pulled advertising from his publications, while hackers have stolen his files. One hack last summer led Hong Kong’s anticorruption bureau to raid his home and open an investigation into his donations to pro-democracy politicians. Such abuse is why Reporters Without Borders now ranks Hong Kong 61st in global press freedom, down from 18th a decade ago—the sort of institutional erosion that motivates the city’s democracy movement. As student-led democrats took to downtown streets last September in what became a 75-day protest, the 66-year-old Mr. Lai was with them. Soon Apple Daily was hit by more cyberattacks. In early October mobs surrounded the newspaper’s offices to block distribution. With a tractor-trailer blocking the campus’s exit one morning, staff used a crane to get newspapers over a wall and onto backup delivery trucks. In November two men found Mr. Lai among the democracy demonstrators and pelted him with rotten meat. This history may explain Mr. Lai’s unsurprised response to Monday morning’s firebombs. “I am fine. I am not scared,” he said. “These things always happen. They are only provocations.”  Mr. Lai’s courage is admirable, but Molotov cocktails represent an escalation toward deadly violence. Worse, no reassurance has come from Hong Kong’s leaders. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying offered no comment Monday.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.
Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | January 08, 2015

Collision Course in Hong Kong. “Will Hong Kong’s leaders listen to the people’s demands for democracy? If a government report on last year’s pro-democracy protests is anything to go by, the answer is probably not. The report, issued Tuesday, is part of a promise to transmit the protesters’ views to Beijing. It amounted to little more than a day-by-day chronology of the protests, with some important omissions. Also missing was an explanation of the demonstrators’ objections to the proposed system for electing the Chief Executive in 2017 that would allow Beijing to control the nominations. Meanwhile, police are steadily arresting participants in last year’s protests, including at least two 14-year-old children the authorities tried to remove from their parents’ custody. Protest organizers have been banned from traveling to China and Macau, and one was briefly prevented from returning to Hong Kong from Taiwan. This hard line seems to be directed from Beijing, as evidenced by mainland officials’ comments that Hong Kong people need to be “re-enlightened.” Why Beijing thinks this heavy-handedness makes sense is anyone’s guess. If, as Beijing insists, Hong Kong is to transition to a rigged system of universal suffrage in 2017, the legislation to do so must first be approved by the local legislature. Should the plan be rejected, the existing system will stay in place, something protesters and government agree is unworkable. Yet the government seems to be working overtime to antagonize the pro-democracy camp even as it needs the votes of at least four opposition legislators to pass a bill. In an op-ed published by local newspapers Thursday, Carrie Lam, the territory’s No. 2 official, wrote that if a compromise plan to introduce universal suffrage in 2017 can’t be found, “we will not only end up with a political system in gridlock, but also see even more political arguments and division.” This, she added, “affect governance, irrespective of who will become the next chief executive, causing further disturbance to society as a whole.”

China Leads Race to the Moon. “In October 2014, China’s Chang’e 5-T1 lunar probe, known as Xiaofei or Little Flyer, successfully completed an orbit around the Moon. This was the first time that a trip around the Moon and back of this sort had been made since the USA and Russian trips in the 1970s. The Little flyer is a precursor to Chang’e 5 which will bring back lunar soil (regolith) containing the nuclear fuel helium-3 that can be used for baseload energy production and the next generation of nuclear weapons. The Little Flyer mission lasted eight days and its primary objective was to conduct atmospheric re-entry tests on the Chang’e 5 capsule design which will be launched by 2017. The destination on the lunar surface for Chang’e 5, like that of the Yutu Jade Rabbit rover, is the Mare Imbrium also known as the Sea of Rains, one of the vast lunar crater seas visible from Earth and a known repository of high concentrations of helium-3. This now puts China strongly in the lead in the secret space race between states to secure helium-3, which has one of the highest known energy return on investment ratios while also being a fourth-generation nuclear weapons fuel. In the words of former president of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, “The Moon contains 10 times more energy in the form of helium-3 than all the fossil fuels on the earth.” To put this into perspective one ton of helium-3 can produce 10,000 megawatt years of electricity. This is enough energy to power 80 percent of Tokyo’s energy needs for a whole year, or a city of 7.3 million people like Hong Kong, Hyderabad or Singapore. This much energy is comparable to 315 petajoules released in a nuclear weapon explosion. Compare this to the largest nuclear weapon explosion on record, the 1962 test of the Russia Tsar Bomba, which released 210-240 petajoules. The bomb had a 50-58 megaton destructive capacity, equivalent to 1,350 times the combined power of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ten times the combined power of all the conventional explosives used in World War II. The detonation left behind a zone of total destruction with a radius of 35 km and produced a mushroom cloud 64 km high. The explosion was so powerful that it registered 8.1 on the Richter scale, shattering windows more than 900 km away and sending seismic shockwaves around the Earth three times. It was the largest ever nuclear explosion. One ton of helium-3 has the potential to produce 1.5 times more destructive power than the Tsar Bomba. In other words, the potential to make a nuclear weapon with a 75 megaton yield.”

China’s Xi Woos Latin America With $250 Billion Investments. “Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged on Thursday $250 billion in investment in Latin America over the next 10 years as part of a drive to boost resource-hungry China's influence in a region long dominated by the United States. Leaders of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC - a 33-country bloc that does not include the United States or Canada - gathered in Beijing for the first time for a two-day forum on Thursday. Xi said two-way trade between China and Latin America was expected to rise to $500 billion in 10 years. "This meeting will ... give the world a positive signal about deepening cooperation between China and Latin America and have an important and far-reaching impact on promoting South-South cooperation and prosperity for the world," Xi said. China and Latin America are cooperating on energy, infrastructure construction, agriculture, manufacturing and technological innovation, Xi said. Deng Yuwen, a Beijing-based political analyst, said China was interested in the region's resources and markets. "Obviously, China has the intention to compete with the U.S. for a greater sphere of influence in the region," said Deng. "But whether this strategy will weaken U.S. influence now is hard to judge." Matt Ferchen, resident scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, said China's push would not alarm Washington with improving U.S.-Cuba ties set to boost U.S. influence. "The reality of economic-social ties, people-to-people ties, between any country in the region and the United States are so much deeper than anything that exists with China," Ferchen said. "The Cuba deal changes everything in terms of how the United States can set a positive agenda in the region," he said.”

The False Hope of Chinese Economic Rebalancing. “There is a line of thinking among foreign economists and financial analysts that China is in the midst of a change in direction known generically as “rebalancing,” this based upon statements made by Chinese leaders about emphasizing stronger consumption after years of investment-led growth. We described the wasteful and unsustainable investment strategy embraced by Beijing in July 2014 here in these digital pages: The Beijing Bubble: Will China's Housing Addiction Damage the Global Economy? The alleged move by China involves “a reliance on investment and exports for growth to one where consumption and markets play a bigger role,” Bloomberg News reports. “Economists and analysts are watching seven areas for quickening policy change that could bolster economic restructuring in 2015. They include a pickup in domestic demand, cheaper oil, energy-pricing reforms, improved welfare cover and a wave of privatizations.” Were that it were so. Venerated Western observers such as Stephen Roach, former chief economist at Morgan Stanley, state emphatically that China’s shift to consumption-led growth is part of a dramatic change that will offer “fantastic opportunity” to the developed world. Such views of China reflect the Western dualism between political and economic activities, something that China has still yet to embrace. As an old China hand observed to me years ago, there is no division between Church and State in China, there is only the state. The widely held view that the Chinese economy is headed for an explosion in consumer demand is flawed in several respects. First, it reflects a tendency on the part of foreign analysts to believe that China’s leaders wish to push the country towards a more open, Western-style form of political economy where consumers exercise choice. Second, and more significant, it reflects a sort of wishful thinking that an increase in consumption and, particularly, Western-style consumerism in China will help to improve the overall outlook for corporate profits and world economic growth. And thirdly, it assumes that China’s rulers can make its people increase consumption in the same way that Beijing uses public-sector expenditures to boost the construction of transportation, housing and whole cities.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | January 06, 2015

China Fumes After Taiwan’s Flag Raising in Washington. “China has protested to the United States after Taiwan's de facto embassy in Washington hoisted a Taiwanese flag on New Year's Day, and urged the United States to respect the "One China" policy, the foreign ministry said on Monday. The U.S. State Department said it had not been notified in advance of the ceremony and that it was inconsistent with U.S. policy. China deems Taiwan a renegade province and hasn't ruled out the use of force to take it back, particularly if the island makes a move toward independence. The One China policy holds that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of it.  Taiwan's China Post newspaper reported on Saturday that the ceremony in Washington was the first time the Taiwanese flag had been raised in the United States in 36 years since Washington switched recognition from Taiwan to Beijing in 1979. More than 100 people attended the ceremony on Thursday, including Taiwan's top envoy to the U.S. Shen Lyushun, the China Post said, citing the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington. "We resolutely oppose the so-called flag-raising ceremony by Taiwan's agency in the United States and have lodged solemn representations with the United States," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.  Hua called on the United States to abide by the 'One China' policy and "prudently and properly handle" any issues relating to Taiwan to prevent similar incidents from happening again.”

China’s Military is Not Going Rogue. “China’s assertive behavior along its maritime periphery continues to raise troubling questions about Beijing’s policymaking apparatus and how much control Chinese leaders can exert over the different actors involved. A growing number of studies, including a recently-released report from the Lowy Institute in Canberra, suggest Beijing is incapable of exerting control because of the variety of Chinese foreign policy actors from the central ministries to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to provincial government elements. Nuanced examinations of Chinese security policy are welcome—in part because such nuance invites policymakers to think more clearly about how best to execute China policy—but the pendulum may have swung too far from the outdated perceptions of a monolithic China. Beijing still exerts control (at the very least) the PLA, and this conventional deterrence provided by the military creates space for other Chinese actors to push the envelope in disputed areas. In the early years of the Cold War, China watchers often viewed Chinese policymaking as a monolithic structure, capable of readily translating intention into action with little internal, bureaucratic friction. That view probably persisted longer at senior levels of foreign governments—for example, U.S. officials’ immediate reaction that the J-20 test in 2011 was related to the U.S. defense secretary’s visit—while analysts and scholars swung toward subtler interpretations based on the mechanics of how leaders got things done coordinating among the different stakeholders in the party and the state. In the maritime arena, the modern incarnation of the control school, best represented in the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) report entitled “Tailored Coercion: Competition and Risk in Maritime Asia," bears little resemblance to the old belief of a monolithic China acting in lockstep with leadership intentions, despite critics’ claims to the contrary. The central premise underpinning the CNAS report is that Beijing is capable of internal signaling that changes the permissiveness of the policy environment for different players to take action. The sensitivity of nationalist issues does not affect Beijing’s ability to do so. As Jessica Chen Weiss documented in her book, Powerful Patriots: Nationalist Protest in China’s Foreign Relations, Beijing is more than capable of signaling directly and indirectly to domestic players what behavior is allowable in spite of nationalist sentiment.”

Rare-Earths Resistance. “Beijing bowed to the World Trade Organization Monday and abolished export quotas on rare earths, those elements at the foot of the periodical table that are critical to many high-tech products. But with Chinese officials promising to restrict exports by other means, this won’t be the last time Beijing will have to learn a lesson in basic economics. As recently as 2010 China produced 95% of the world’s rare earths, partly because it has rich deposits and partly because it’s willing to tolerate the pollution that is a byproduct of mining the stuff. That same year Beijing tightened export quotas by 40% in an attempt to coerce technology companies to transfer production, and hence intellectual property, to its shores. It also briefly cut off shipments to Japan in retaliation for a territorial dispute. But the power play backfired. After a brief spike, global prices for neodymium, dysprosium and other rare-earth elements fell to normal levels. Mining companies expanded operations in other countries. Recyclers stepped up the recovery of rare earths from discarded products. Technological innovation allowed manufacturers to find substitutes for the minerals. Chinese smugglers exported the minerals illegally. Such are the universal responses to a cartel: conserve, substitute—and cheat. Meanwhile, the U.S., EU and Japan filed a complaint in 2012 at the WTO, which prohibits export quotas. China lost that case (and its appeal) last year. Yet in October a policy analyst at the Ministry of Commerce told the Journal that if it lost the case “we may remove the export quota policies, but use other methods to control.” Those methods could include permits and other regulation.”

NOAA Employee Charged With Computer Breach Met Senior Chinese Official in Beijing.
“A federal weather service employee charged with stealing sensitive infrastructure data from an Army Corps of Engineers database met a Chinese government official in Beijing, according to court documents that reveal the case to be part of an FBI probe of Chinese economic espionage. Xiafen “Sherry” Chen, an employee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) office in Ohio, was arrested in October and charged in a federal grand jury indictment with illegally accessing the Army’s National Inventory of Dams (NID). The NID is a sensitive database containing information on all U.S. dams. U.S. intelligence officials have said the database was compromised by Chinese hackers in 2013 as part of covert efforts by Beijing to gather sensitive information on critical U.S. infrastructure for possible use in a future conflict. According to an FBI document in the case made public Dec. 30, Ms. Chen and Jiao Yong, an official of the Ministry of Water Resources in Beijing, exchanged a series of emails in May 2012 indicating that the two met in Beijing that year and that she was searching for, and would provide, dam-related information for him. “It was very glad to meet you in Beijing after so many years and impressed with your achievement and contribution to the nation in water resources development and management,” Ms. Chen stated in a May 15 email. “I am back home now and have been looking for the dam related information you are interested” in, she added. The other emails were dated May 21 and May 29. In response to Ms. Chen’s email, Mr. Jiao stated, “Hi Xiafen: Your email received. I am sorry to reply you with a delay as I was on a one-week trip for inspection of flood works. Thanks for the information you forward me. I will go through it. Best regards, Jiao Yong.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

Posted by The Congressional China Caucus | January 05, 2015

China Ends Rare-Earth Minerals Export Quotas. “China has dropped decade-old quotas limiting exports of strategically important minerals that sparked a global trade dispute and led the world to reduce its reliance on Beijing’s control of supplies. The shift signals China’s sensitivity to complaints about its global trade-rule breaches and willingness to jettison a policy that has yielded little value in giving it greater control over a material widely used in high-technology industries, as the world found other sources. The change follows China’s defeat in a dispute before the World Trade Organization over the issue in 2013. “The change is likely because of the pressure from the WTO decision,” said Frank Tang, an analyst at investment bank North Square Blue Oak. “China is saying that as a WTO member, it’ll have to abide by WTO rules.” Chinese officials have ended a quota system on minerals known as rare earths, which are essential for the production of high-technology applications including missile systems and smartphones. Beijing will instead monitor rare-earth exports using a system of permits issued based on trade contracts, without the need for additional state approval, according to a Ministry of Commerce statement. The quota system was once a major global trade issue. In 2010, China pushed global rare-earth prices sharply higher—in some cases tenfold—when it slashed its export quota on the 17 elements by 40% from the preceding year. China has said it was an effort to clean up a highly polluting domestic rare-earth mining industry.”

Maoists in China, Given New Life, Attack Dissent. “They pounce on bloggers who dare mock their beloved Chairman Mao. They scour the nation’s classrooms and newspapers for strains of Western-inspired liberal heresies. And they have taken down professors, journalists and others deemed disloyal to Communist Party orthodoxy. China’s Maoist ideologues are resurgent after languishing in the political desert, buoyed by President Xi Jinping’s traditionalist tilt and emboldened by internal party decrees that have declared open season on Chinese academics, artists and party cadres seen as insufficiently red. Ideological vigilantes have played a pivotal role in the downfall of Wang Congsheng, a law professor in Beijing who was detained and then suspended from teaching after posting online criticisms of the party. Another target was Wang Yaofeng, a newspaper columnist who voiced support for the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and then found himself without a job. “Since Xi came to power, the pressure and control over freethinkers has become really tight,” said Qiao Mu, a Beijing journalism professor who was demoted this fall, in part for publicly espousing multiparty elections and free speech. “More and more of my friends and colleagues are experiencing fear and harassment.” Two years into a sweeping offensive against dissent, Mr. Xi has been intensifying his focus on perceived ideological opponents, sending ripples through universities, publishing houses and the news media and emboldening hard-liners who have hailed him as a worthy successor to Mao Zedong. In instructions published last week, Mr. Xi urged universities to “enhance guidance over thinking and keep a tight grip on leading ideological work in higher education,” Xinhua, the official news agency, reported. In internal decrees, he has been blunter, attacking liberal thinking as a pernicious threat that has contaminated the Communist Party’s ranks, and calling on officials to purge the nation of ideas that run counter to modern China’s Marxist-Leninist foundations.”

China’s Empty Promise of Rule By Law. “During the year that is drawing to a close this week, much has been made of the Communist Party of China’s new emphasis on “governing the country according to law.” But those who imagine that fundamental reforms will flow from this rhetoric would do well to remember the warning that Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu gave in response to questions about the legal justification for a 2011 incident of press mistreatment: “Don’t use the law as a shield.” I don’t understand why some are so willing to believe what the party says while disregarding what it does. This is hardly the first time the Communists have raised the banner of “rule of law.” Even before they seized power and established totalitarian rule, they promised liberty and constitutional democracy. In 1997, the idea was written into the report delivered at the party’s 15th Congress, and in 1999 it was written into the Constitution. But that same year saw the savage repression of the Falun Gong. Since President Xi Jinping came to power, hundreds of rights defenders and intellectuals have been thrown into prison for political reasons. Properties have been expropriated or demolished, free speech has been restricted, religion has been suppressed, women have been forced to have abortions, and torture has multiplied. In Xinjiang and Tibet, the authorities have carried out one shocking human rights catastrophe after another. The abuses have never stopped. To the Chinese Communist Party, “governing the country according to law” does not mean rule of law as you and I understand it. The essential element required for rule of law — using the law to limit the power of the government — stands in ideological opposition to the purpose of the party. In reality, the rule of law that the party talks about is “Lenin plus Emperor Qin Shi Huang” — modern totalitarianism combined with pre-modern Chinese “legalism.” It is nothing more than a tool to further control society. Rule of law is always superseded by the rule of the party, and there is not a shred of doubt about this.”

Taiwan Kicks Off Domestic Attack Sub Program. “After waiting on the U.S. to make good on plans to develop a diesel electric attack submarine (SSK) for almost 15 years, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence announced it was kicking off its own domestic attack submarine construction program this week, the agency told Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan. Defense officials told the legislative body preparation work would begin this year starting with a modest $315,000 start into a $94.46 million four-year effort, beginning in earnest in 2016. The planned result would be around four SSKs to replace the island’s current boats — two Dutch-built, 1980s vintage 2,600-ton Hai-lang-class SSKs and two World War II era U.S. Guppy-class boats used for training. “At present the navy’s demand is submarines ranging from 1,200-3,000 tons,” Vice Adm. Hsiao Wei-min with the Republic of China Navy (RoCN) told the legislator on Monday. The new boats are a long awaited hedge against the expansion of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the looming threat of an amphibious assault from the mainland. “After Taiwan has lost air and sea control, it’s the subs that will still be able to attack groups of amphibious landing aircraft,” Wang Jyh-perng, RoCN reserve captain told the Asia Times in 2011. In 2001, the Bush administration promised Taiwan eight U.S.-built SSKs but the boats never materialized for several reasons. A MND spokesman told Jane’s in October, “that Taiwan would continue to lobby the United States for assistance with a submarine purchase, although the absence of any U.S. experience in conventionally powered submarines of the size and class that Taiwan is seeking suggests it is unlikely to get much in the way of support.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

Posted by Congressional China Caucus | January 02, 2015

How China Sees World War I. “Over the course of 2015, readers can look forward to ever more commemorations of such crucial events from the Great War as the infamous sinking of the liner Lusitania, not to mention the unfolding of the bold and bloody, but ultimately bungled Gallipoli campaign.  From the perspective of Asia-Pacific security, the last year of sober reflection on the cataclysmic First World War has been quite useful for jarring this community of strategists to think about misperception, escalation spirals, nationalism, and offensive-oriented military strategies. A new book from the Belfer Center at Harvard University explicitly links the memory of the Great War with emergent security challenges related to China’s rise. This author undoubtedly looks forward to parsing this new scholarship, but that is not my purpose here.  Much has been made of the analogy between Germany’s rise with the consequent outbreak of WWI and China’s rise with the clouds of uncertainty currently looming over the South and East China Seas. But what of China’s perspective on this much-discussed analogy? As pointed out in a recent edition of Dragon Eye, the much more salient historical event in Chinese eyes is not WWI, but rather the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, a set of events that seems to have been discussed in all major Chinese military and diplomatic fora.  Still, a few Chinese strategists and scholars have taken up the issue of the First World War and this edition of Dragon Eye will survey and summarize these pieces in the hopes of understanding the Chinese view of these momentous events in the European context that reverberated so powerfully around the world. Most of the recent Chinese reflections about WWI have, not surprisingly, taken as their focal point the remarks made by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Davos Summit about one year ago.  Abe observed:  “This year marks the centenary of World War I. Britain and Germany were highly (inter)dependent economically. They were the largest trade partners (to each other), but the war did break out.”  By contrast, Chinese commentators emphasize that neither China, nor Japan can approach this history as disinterested observers.”

China-Japan Dispute Over Islands Spreads to Cyberspace. “In a new effort to bolster its claim to disputed islands in the East China Sea, the Chinese government has endowed the isles with a website under their Chinese name,, for the Diaoyu Islands. Japan, which also claims sovereignty, calls them the Senkaku. Next to the Chinese national flag, the words “Diaoyu Islands — China’s inherent territory” top the website’s home page. Below are photos of the uninhabited, Japanese-administered archipelago with islands identified by their Chinese names, the Chinese government’s statement as to why the islands are an integral part of China and a timeline reaching back to the 14th century with historical documents offered as proof of China’s claim. “The Diaoyu are inseparable parts of Chinese territory,” the website reads. “Whether from a historical perspective or a legal one, they are China’s inherent territory.” The website, currently only in Chinese, was set up by the National Marine Data and Information Service, a department under the State Oceanic Administration. According to Xinhua, the state-run news agency, the website will eventually be available in other languages, including Japanese and English. “This might be a response to Japan’s earlier publishing of its position and related documents about the islands,” said Zhou Weihong, a professor in Japanese studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up a website detailing Japan’s claim to the islands, along with supporting historical records, around the time Tokyo announced it would purchase the islands from a private owner in 2012, Mr. Zhou said. That website, which is available in a dozen languages, including Chinese, declares: “There is no doubt that the Senkaku Islands are clearly an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law.”

China Orders Safety Review After Deadly Shanghai Stampede. “China demanded a review of crowd-safety procedures as dozens of people remain in Shanghai’s hospitals after a deadly stampede on New Year’s Eve killed 36 and caused the cancellation of celebrations across the city. At least 49 people were injured, including 31 still serious enough to require hospitalization, the Shanghai government said on its website. The stampede -- the city’s deadliest disaster since 2010 -- started about 11:35 p.m. as tens of thousands of people crowded into the historic Bund riverside district for a light show. Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered an investigation and told local governments to prioritize safety ahead of the mass celebrations for the Lunar New Year holidays next month. The China National Tourism Administration issued an emergency notice last night requiring its local offices to establish procedures to control crowd flows at tourist spots. While Shanghai authorities said they were still investigating the cause of the accident, eyewitnesses and family members of those injured described scenes where people were impeding the flow of traffic trying to escape the crowds, while others fell on top of each other at a pedestrian platform along the river. Pictures of the crowd that were posted on social media showed people that night packed tightly together in the Bund’s Chen Yi Square, where the incident occurred. “This is a completely avoidable incident, as using today’s Internet and Big Data technologies early warning mechanisms are completely feasible,” said Yi Peng, an urbanization researcher at Pangoal, a Beijing-based public policy research institute. “Doesn’t everyone in the area have a cell phone? Warnings could have been sent through Weibo, WeChat and all kinds of ways to avoid such a tragedy.” Two days after the stampede in the metropolis of 23 million, families and friends of those injured remained at hospitals after spending a frantic day yesterday seeking news in the aftermath of the accident. At Shanghai’s Changzheng Hospital, about 2.4 kilometers from the Bund, Tan Xiuyuan, a mother whose 23-year-old son nicknamed Lei Lei was injured in the melee, said today her son described a chaotic scene on the night of the stampede.”

Taiwan Navy Accepts New Catamaran. “The Taiwan Navy received the first prototype of the stealthy Tuo Jiang-class catamaran corvettes, the PGG 618, in a ceremony Dec. 23 at Suao Port, on Taiwan's east coast. The new 500-ton vessel completed a year of testing, with plans to build 11 follow-on ships after the prototype's evaluation is completed, said Navy sources at the ceremony. The first ship will be based with the 131 Fleet in Keelung on Taiwan's northern coast. The legislature has not allocated the budget yet, a Navy official said. A media tour of the ship revealed it was equipped with eight "carrier-killer" 130-kilometer range Hsiung Feng-3 (Brave Wind) ramjet-powered anti-ship missiles and eight 160-kilometer range Hsiung Feng-2 anti-ship missiles. There were 12 chaff dispensers for both infrared and radio frequency-guided anti-ship missiles (six bow/six stern), one Mark 15 Phalanx close-in weapon system near the stern, four mounts for 12.7mm machine guns, one Otoberda 76mm bow gun, and six Mark 32 torpedoes located inside the stern (three port/three starboard). The stern deck was too small for a helicopter, but a Navy source said it might be used for unmanned aerial vehicles. The ship uses an extensive closed-circuit television system to lower crew numbers to 44. The twin-hulled vessel can handle a sea state of seven (20-30 foot waves). The ship has a top speed of 34 knots and a range of 2,000 nautical miles. The shipbuilder, Lung Teh Shipbuilding, designed and built the ship, with some assistance from the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST). Though details of the water jet engines were not made available, control panels inside the bridge indicate Sweden-based Marine Jet Power was an active participant in providing propulsion technology for the vessel.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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