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Guess Who’s Coming to China’s Military Parade

Tuesday, Beijing revealed the list of countries participating in its military parade, scheduled for September 3rd, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Japan in the Second World War.

Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Pakistan, Serbia, Tajikistan, and Russia will each send about 75 marchers. Afghanistan, Cambodia, Fiji, Laos, Vanuatu, and Venezuela will contribute about seven troops each. The 17 countries, Beijing said, will chip in about 1,000 soldiers.

This is an odd group celebrating the end of World War II in the Pacific. Fiji remained untouched in the struggle, but can at least say it’s in the Pacific. Belarus, on the other hand, resides in Europe. It did not exist 70 years ago. When Japanese diplomats signed instruments of surrender on the deck of the Missouri, the territory that now comprises Belarus was part of the Soviet Union.

Obama Toughens Stance Against China's 'Fox Hunt'

On Monday, Beijing revealed that the US had demanded it withdraw agents from American soil.

The revelation came on the same day of a CNN report saying US officials had confirmed that they had told China to stop covert operations in the US aimed at pressuring Chinese citizens to return to China.

The activity, part of Beijing’s “Fox Hunt” and “Sky Net” operations, was illegal, Washington reportedly told Chinese officials. CNN’s confirmation followed New York Times reporting on the topic Sunday.

China to Build Olympic Site in Nature Reserve

Earlier, outdoor enthusiasts had charged that municipal authorities were planning to build the alpine ski course and sledding tracks in the Songshan National Nature Reserve, considered an “ecological barrier” protecting the urban portion of Beijing from seasonal winds and sand blowing from the north.

Beijing, in its bid documents, apparently told the International Olympic Committee that events would be held adjacent to the sensitive reserve, in the northwest portion of the sprawling Beijing municipality. Yet activists and others, after examining IOC photographs, satellite images, and official Chinese geographic coordinates, determined that the municipality had reserved sites inside Songshan for the Games. Censors took down blog postings on the matter.

Taiwan Students Storm Education Ministry

Students in Taiwan are continuing their occupation of the courtyard of the Education Ministry in Taipei, objecting to changes to textbooks scheduled to be delivered to schools during the week. Talks with ministry officials have gone nowhere.

The students, many of them still in high school, had broken into the compound on Friday following the suicide, a day earlier, of Lin Kuan-hua, a 20-year-old leader of the demonstrators. Students say Lin took his life in “a silent protest.”

An Erosion of Confidence in China

“There is no Alan Greenspan or Mario Draghi in China,” said Peng Junming of Beijing-based Empire Capital Management, referring to the former chairman of the Federal Reserve and the current president of the European Central Bank. Peng, a former official of the People’s Bank of China, highlighted one weakness of his country’s financial system. When stocks started to slide in June, no top official appeared in front of the cameras to reassure nervous investors.

The Wall Street Journal thinks Beijing’s silence is significant. “The rescue effort is missing one feature found in markets elsewhere: a senior figure stepping forward to stop the panic,”  the paper noted on Tuesday.

There are, in fact, leaders who the Chinese people see with some regularity, namely the general secretary of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping, and the premier of the central government, Li Keqiang. Neither Xi nor Li, however, has gone on the record over the stock rout. 

North Korea Rolls Back Economic Reform

Kim Jong Un, the North Korean ruler, has reportedly ordered the removal of foreign products from his country’s markets. Said an official in North Hamgyong Province, “I was told by North Korea’s central authorities not to stop travelers from bringing in products from China through customs, but to strictly prohibit sales of the products in the market.”

The move at first looks like an attempt to target China, the source of many of the goods sold in the North, but Pyongyang could also be trying to implement a broad anti-reform agenda.

China’s Last ‘Immortal’ Dies

Wan Li died last week, according to his son. Bloomberg called him the last of the Chinese Communist Party’s “Eight Immortals,” revered post-revolution-era figures. He was 98.

Wan, a reformer, oversaw the breakup of agricultural collectives in eastern Anhui Province, paving the way for family farming. He retired in 1993 after serving as chairman of the National People’s Congress as well as Beijing party chief, railway minister, and vice premier. In 2004, Wan boldly called for liberalization of the party’s decisionmaking.

Rewriting Japan’s ‘Peace Constitution’

On Sunday, 40 soldiers from Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force participated in the biennial Talisman Sabre exercise in northern Australia, jointly held by the US and Australia.

Japan’s involvement in the massive military event followed a flight on June 23rd of one of its P-3Cs over contested waters. The patrol plane flew about 100 kilometers west from the Philippine island of Palawan into the South China Sea. The craft came close to Reed Bank, claimed by both Manila and Beijing, and then headed back to base. On board, three Filipino military personnel accompanied the Japanese crew of 13.

Obama Breaks Protocol, Slights Top Chinese General

Contrary to Beijing’s expectation, President Obama declined a Pentagon request to receive Chinese General Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, while he was in Washington during his five-day visit in June. Fan, described by the South China Morning Post as “a military heavyweight and one of President Xi Jinping’s most trusted right-hand men,” is the first CMC vice chair in at least two decades—perhaps the first ever, as some report—not to meet with a sitting American leader during an official visit to Washington.

It appears Fan was slighted at the Pentagon as well. The general did not get the usual 19-gun salute at his welcoming ceremony, nor was it particularly well attended by senior American officers. In the end, the delegation was denied the DC pomp and ceremony and those prized White House photo ops that authoritarian regimes crave to show their legitimacy to audiences back home.

Fiasco for China’s Allies in Hong Kong

On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s wealthiest businessman, Li Ka-shing, said he was “very disappointed” over the Hong Kong government’s failure to enact its reform package for the 2017 election of the chief executive, the city’s top political official. When asked who was responsible for what is now widely called a fiasco, Li ducked the question. “Everyone in Hong Kong is discussing this,” he said.

He’s right. Just about everybody in Hong Kong is talking about the events that unfolded last Thursday in Legco, as the city’s Legislative Council is known. The legislators, after a 20-month drama, finally voted on China’s proposal to “reform” the procedures for the election of the chief executive.

Xi's Purge: Anticorruption or Loyalty-Based? Is It Finished Yet?

Thursday, Beijing disclosed the trial, plea, and sentencing of Zhou Yongkang, once the country’s security czar and now the highest official to be prosecuted since Maoist times.

The reviled Zhou received a life term for taking bribes, disclosing state secrets, and abusing power. He was also deprived of political rights for life and forfeited assets.

Zhou, according to state media, admitted his crimes and will not appeal. “The basic facts are clear,” he said according to the official Xinhua News Agency. “I plead guilty and repent my wrongdoing.”

“Zhou’s trial was a symbol of the CPC’s commitment to the rule of law,” Xinhua reported.

China and US Cyber Security

From December through April, hackers exfiltrated personal data on almost 4.2 million US federal employees and contractors.

The attacks, on the network of the Office of Personnel Management, appear to be an attempt, as the Washington Post reported, to build a database on Americans, especially those in sensitive positions. This conclusion looks correct: the same party that carried out the OPM hacks may be behind attacks last year on the health insurers Anthem and Premera Blue Cross.

South Korea Plays China Against America

Uriminzokkiri, the state-controlled North Korean website, recently criticized South Korean President Park Geun-hye for planning to go to Washington in the middle of this month instead of commemorating the 15th anniversary of the inter-Korean summit, which falls on June 15th. Park is scheduled to meet President Obama on June 16th.

“Why does she plan to visit the US, the prime enemy that divided the two Koreas?” Uriminzokkiri asked. “This shows the repetition of Park’s bad habit for making overseas escape.”

There was never much possibility of a joint celebration of the now-maligned summit in 2000, but North Korean propagandists are correct to point out that Park has traveled abroad to great powers. And as she does so, she is controversially changing Seoul’s outlook toward the world.

Gloria Steinem, Nobel Laureates Attempt to Cross the DMZ

On Sunday, Gloria Steinem, two Nobel Peace laureates, and 27 other women crossed the Demilitarized Zone from North Korea into South Korea in an attempt to bring peace to the long-divided and troubled peninsula.

“We have received an enormous amount of support,” said Steinem, the 81-year-old women’s rights activist, on her arrival in the South. It is also true that she and her group, WomenCrossDMZ, also faced a chorus of sharp criticisms.

Much of the criticism centered on Steinem and the others not confronting the North Korean leadership over the horrific plight of women in that miserable state. Yet the group’s activities—both in Pyongyang, where they congregated before the crossing, and during the crossing itself—raised other issues. Among them is the most difficult Korea question faced by countries and international organizations, whether to isolate or engage the regime led by the Kim family.

Continuing Executions in North Korea

General Hyon Yong Chol, North Korea’s defense minister, was executed at a military academy near Pyongyang “around” April 30th, at least according to South Korea’s National Intelligence Service.

Some analysts contend the NIS report is implausible, but, whether it is accurate or not, there has been an evident acceleration in the pace of executions. The deaths suggest to others that the Kim family regime is no longer stable.

There are experts who believe Hyon is still alive. He was featured in a documentary aired by North Korean state media on May 14th. Normally, the airing would be proof the NIS report was false. As Sue Chang of the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch site explains, “That Hyon was not edited out of that production raised eyebrows in light of the regime’s habit of expunging officials from public materials once the officials have been eliminated.”

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