China’s Xi Jinping Creating Succession Turmoil

On Monday, China’s Communist Party began its Sixth Plenum, a closed-door four-day gathering during which the party is considering disciplinary rules and membership standards.

The meeting is also a run-up to next year’s crucial 19th Party Congress, where various succession issues will be decided. And, because some believe that General Secretary Xi Jinping is attempting to break decades-old norms designed to ensure stability and continuity, the meeting will be scrutinized for clues as to the degree to which he has consolidated power inside the ruling organization.

Deng Xiaoping, the successor to founder Mao Zedong, sought to regularize the succession process. He and his successor, Jiang Zemin, put in place various guidelines designed to reduce the scope of disagreement as power passes from one ruler to the next. One such guideline was limiting the party’s general secretary, the most powerful post in China, to two five-year terms.

China Claims Three Straight Quarters Growth at 6.7%

On Wednesday, Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics reported that China’s gross domestic product in the third calendar quarter of this year grew 6.7%. That is the same rate that was announced for the two most recent quarters.

As Mark Magnier reports in the Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, the three quarters of identical growth “was the first time since Beijing started releasing quarterly figures in 1992 that it had achieved such a feat of consistency.” “It’s quite implausible,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics to the paper.

The news, however, is not that the People’s Republic of China is fabricating statistics. That, after all, has occurred almost since the founding of the Chinese communist state in 1949. The news is that the constant repetition of Beijing claims seems to be defining the global narrative even though those claims might brazenly overstate China’s true economic performance.

China’s PLA Faces Budget Cuts, Soldiers Protest

On Tuesday, more than a thousand demobilized soldiers, wearing green fatigues, staged a protest in Beijing across from the headquarters of the Ministry of National Defense.

China’s People’s Liberation Army faces increasingly severe budget constraints, and there has already been grumbling not only from former soldiers but also from currently serving senior officers.

The demonstrators arrived early Tuesday morning and stayed late into the evening. In the interim, they sang patriotic songs, waved national flags, and demanded relief. “They protested because they don’t have a job now after serving a long period of time in the army, some for a dozen years,” said Liu Feiyue, editor of the civil rights Minsheng Guancha website, to the Associated Press. “They are asking for employment.”

Philippine President to Obama: 'Go to Hell' as Asia Alliance Deteriorates

“No, no, no, he did not say that at all,” said Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay to reporters in Hanoi.

Yes, yes, yes, he did. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in fact said this in Vietnam on September 28, addressing the US: “You are scheduled to hold war games again which China does not want. I will serve notice to you now, this will be the last military exercise.”

You can understand Yasay’s attempt to smooth over what could end up the biggest blunder in his country’s post-colonial history. While Beijing threatens to dismember the Philippines, one island, rock, and shoal at a time, Duterte is trying to break the only thing that protects his country from Beijing, his military alliance with the United States. It would, of course, be difficult for the US to defend the Philippines if the Philippine and American militaries did not regularly exercise together.

China's Warplanes Stalk Japan, Unite Neighbors

On Sunday, the Chinese air force flew more than 40 aircraft through Japan’s Miyako Strait into the Western Pacific Ocean.

The exercise, involving H-6K bombers, Su-30 fighters, and tankers, is the largest of its kind for China through this airspace. Previous exercises involved fewer than 20 planes according to Li Jie, a military analyst based in Beijing.

China flew through the strait, an international passageway that separates the Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa, for the first time in May of last year.

China’s Ministry of National Defense, in a statement quoting air force spokesman Shen Jinke, said the planes Sunday flew “systematically” to conduct early warning, sudden assault, and refueling tasks. Shen noted the exercise was to protect China’s “sovereignty and security” and “maintain peaceful development.”

Making Humanitarian Aid Work in North Korea

North Korea is still reeling from what state media is calling the “worst disaster” since 1945.

Floods caused by Typhoon Lionrock at the end of last month have killed 138 at last count. Some 400 are missing, and 68,900 have been left homeless. The UN estimates 600,000 are in need of clean water and other essentials.

The wind and the rain have also split South Korean politicians and raised critical questions about humanitarian relief for horrific regimes.

On Monday, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said, through spokesman Jeong Joon-hee, that Seoul would consider granting aid to the North only if it received a request from Pyongyang and that no such request had been received. Then he said that, even if North Korea asked for aid, it was unlikely the South Korean government would provide it. “God helps those who help themselves,” Jeong added.

US-India, China-Russia Exercises Reflect New Alliances

The US and Indian armies are presently conducting joint exercises in the mountainous state of Uttarakhand, about 100 kilometers from India’s border with China. This is the 12th edition of the Yudh Abhyas drill, and it has never been held in such close proximity to the People’s Republic.

Soldiers often train in regions where conflict is considered most likely to develop. With that in mind, Uttarakhand was not a bad choice. Last July, Chinese troops crossed the border into that state – a border that has been relatively free of such transgressions over the years. Indian defense planners have reason to be alert because the state, which has a 350-kilometer boundary with China, is not far from New Delhi.

India and Vietnam Unite Against China

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, in Hanoi Saturday to discuss their countries’ deepening relationship and sign various agreements. The word “China” rarely passed their lips in public, but that was the topic dominating the get-together. 

Beijing was able to scrub the formal agenda for the G20 of controversial geopolitical issues, like the South China Sea, but that did not mean regional leaders stopped talking about them privately. Modi, before proceeding to host city Hangzhou, stopped off in the Vietnamese capital to discuss the worsening situation in East Asia.

Is the Chinese Military Stirring Conflict in South Asia?

The killing of Burhan Wani, a young militant, on July 8 by security forces has triggered the worst crisis in Indian-controlled Kashmir in a generation. The continuing disturbances—they’ve been collectively called the “Second ‘Intifada”—not only threaten relations between New Delhi and Islamabad but also could draw Beijing into deeper involvement in South Asia.

Kashmir, in ways not evident at this moment, might affect ties between the world’s two most populous states.

China and India are not destined to be adversaries. Madhav Nalapat, the influential Indian thinker at Manipal University, believes they can develop an enduring relationship because Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping look like they share that goal.

How Do We Deal With a Self-Isolating China?

“It’s on China not to be isolated,” said Admiral Harry Harris to David Feith of the Wall Street Journal in an interview published this month. “It’s on them to conduct themselves in ways that aren’t threatening, that aren’t bullying, that aren’t heavy-handed with smaller countries.”

The chief of US Pacific Command is correct, of course. His comment, the WSJ noted, “raises a basic question.” As the paper asks, “At what point is it prudent to conclude that China is committed to the path of bullying and revanchism?”

As early as the beginning of the decade, Beijing has engaged in a series of hostile acts that, with abbreviated time-outs, has continued to this day. Even if one argues that China’s commitment to provocative conduct occurred later or has yet to be made, the country is roiling its periphery at this moment, most notably in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

Xi Jinping Purge of Military Brass Continues

Two former Chinese generals were taken into custody in recent weeks, according to a report that appeared in the South China Morning Post. The detentions look to be in connection with General Secretary Xi Jinping’s campaign to clean house in the Communist Party’s sprawling People’s Liberation Army.

According to “a source close to the military,” former Generals Li Jinai and Liao Xilong were escorted out of meeting of retired senior cadres in July by “PLA disciplinary officers.” The report states the two generals, who both retired in the first part of 2013, were detained for possible “violations of party discipline,” the ruling organization’s code for corruption.

China's Coming Population Crisis: Guns vs. Canes

“It completely baffles me why they are pushing for taking all those islands now,” a friend wrote to me late last month, referring to Chinese adventurism in the South China Sea.

China’s provocations are frequently attributed to President Xi Jinping’s nationalism, and another reason, almost always ignored, is the ascendance of the People’s Liberation Army in Beijing policymaking circles. Howard French, former bureau chief of the New York Times in Shanghai, suggests another often overlooked factor fueling Beijing’s expansionist impulse—China’s accelerated demographic decline.

The End of World’s Rules-Based Order?

On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry, standing next to Perfecto Yasay, his Philippine counterpart, gave strong rhetorical support to the effort by Manila to negotiate with China over their sovereignty and other disputes.

Kerry’s words followed Monday’s statement issued by Australia, Japan, and the US calling for compliance with the July 12 award of the arbitral panel in The Hague on the South China Sea in Philippines vs. China. The ruling, now known in China as the “7.12 Incident,” essentially invalidated Beijing’s “nine-dash line” claim to approximately 85 percent of that vital body of water.

China Defiant in Wake of Int'l Ruling on South China Sea

On the 12th of this month, an arbitral panel in The Hague rendered its award in the landmark case of Philippines vs. China. The decision, interpreting the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, was a sweeping rebuke of Beijing’s position, invalidating its expansive “nine-dash line” claim to about 85 percent of the South China Sea.

Many are hoping that China will bring its claims into line with UNCLOS, as the UN pact is known, and some even think it has actually begun the process of doing so. Unfortunately, a series of hostile reactions in the last few days, including an implied threat to use nuclear weapons to defend its outposts in that body of water, suggest Beijing’s reaction will not be benign.  

China maintains it has sovereignty to all the features—islands, rocks, and low-tide elevations—inside its now-famous dotted boundary. Five other states—Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam—also claim those features, and China’s nine-dash line impinges on the exclusive economic zone of a sixth, Indonesia.

Asia Divisions Deepen after South Korean Missile Defense Deployment

On Friday, Seoul’s Defense Ministry and the US Defense Department announced their joint decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system in South Korea. The first battery will be placed to protect American forces on the peninsula against a North Korean missile attack.

China reacted within hours, lodging protests with both South Korea and the US. Then on Monday the Chinese foreign ministry continued its tantrum, threatening, in the words of spokesman Lu Kang, to impose “relevant measures” against South Korea.

South Korea’s deployment of THAAD, as the Lockheed Martin-built system is known, is a setback for Chinese attempts to move Seoul away from Washington and marks an end of President Park Geun-hye’s moves to entice China to abandon North Korea.


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