Obama Cites Dangers in Xi’s Consolidation of Power

At the beginning of the month, President Obama, in comments to the Business Roundtable in Washington, displayed his command of Chinese Communist Party politics. “He has consolidated power faster and more comprehensively than probably anybody since Deng Xiaoping,” he said of his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. “And everybody’s been impressed by his … clout inside of China after only a year and a half or two years.”

“There are dangers in that,” Obama then remarked.

Yes, there are, and it was important for the president to have said so, even if it was unusual for the leader of the free world to comment on the political standing of an authoritarian supremo.

Taiwan Voters Reject China-Centric Policies

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou bowed for 10 seconds Wednesday as he confirmed his resignation as chairman of the ruling Kuomintang, taking responsibility for the party’s worst drubbing since 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island after defeat in the Chinese civil war. On Saturday, voters thoroughly rejected the KMT, as the organization is known, in elections for 11,130 local posts across the island.

Voters turned down KMT candidates in seats that had been safely “blue” for decades. It was not so much that the electorate had gone “green”—the color adopted by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party and its allies—as much as they had rejected Ma, who was nearing the end of his second and last term.

As the president said while announcing his resignation, “The results of the election tell us our reforms were not made fast enough and have yet to meet the expectations of the people, which is why the KMT failed to win the support of most voters.”

Criminal States Protecting Their Proxies at UN

On November 18, the United Nations Third Committee adopted a resolution recommending the referral of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court, alleging crimes against humanity. This was the first time a U.N. resolution recommended sending North Korea to The Hague.

The General Assembly is expected to accept the committee’s report next month and formally pass the matter to the Security Council.

 China and Russia, among the 19 voting against the Third Committee resolution, will undoubtedly use their Security Council vetoes to make sure the ICC does not get an opportunity to hear the case.

China: Socialist, Democratic, Harmonious by 2050?

“I have never heard a Chinese leader declare that his country would be fully democratic by 2050,” said Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, on Monday evening as he toasted Xi Jinping. “I have never heard a Chinese leader commit so explicitly to a rule-based international order founded on the principle that we should all treat others as we would be treated ourselves.” And Abbott said this: “I thank you, Mr. President, for this historic, historic statement, which I hope will echo right around the world.”

What prompted the effusive compliment? Earlier in the day, Xi had addressed the Australian Parliament, and he did make sweeping statements. “We have set two goals for China’s future development,” the Chinese leader said. “The first is to double the 2010 GDP and per-capita income of urban and rural residents and build a society of initial prosperity in all respects by 2020. The second is to turn China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, democratic, culturally advanced, and harmonious by the middle of the century.”

China and Japan: Breakthrough or Breakdown?

On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his country and China had agreed to establish a “maritime communication mechanism.” The announcement came the day after he and Chinese President Xi Jinping shook hands at a symbolically powerful public event on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing and then met for about 25 minutes. On the proceeding Friday, China and Japan announced a vague four-point plan that looked like a roadmap to improve ties.

Most analysts see a gradual warming in relations between the two nations. Given political distress in Communist Party circles in China, that’s unlikely, however.

Railway Wars in the Himalayas

On October 31st, China’s official Xinhua News Agency announced that the National Development and Reform Commission had approved a new rail line running from Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, east to Nyingchi.

Toward its eastern end, the line will come close to India’s state of Arunachal Pradesh. Beijing claims most of Arunachal as its own, calling it “South Tibet.” Therefore, the Lhasa-Nyingchi section, part of the Sichuan-Tibet railway, is bound to heighten concern in New Delhi.

Beijing has been expending substantial sums for more than a decade on transportation infrastructure in the Tibetan homeland. The new 402-kilometer-long line is billed as Tibet’s second railway. The first one, the controversial Qinghai-Tibet railway, went into operation in 2006.

Countering the Threat of North Korean Warheads

On Friday, General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of UN and US forces in Korea, told reporters that he believes Pyongyang has developed the “capability” to miniaturize a nuclear device. The regime, he said during a Pentagon press briefing, also has the “technology” to deliver that device by ballistic missile. The general did not claim North Korea had actually mounted a warhead on a missile or that it had in fact tested the combination, but of course it is only a matter of time before it does so.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the North likes to call itself, has claimed that its February 2013 atomic test was of a “miniaturized and lighter nuclear device.”

Only Tariffs Will Stop China's Cyber Attacks

On Monday, GreatFire.org, an Internet monitoring group, charged that China launched “a malicious attack on Apple in an effort to gain access to usernames and passwords and consequently all data stored on iCloud.”

The “man-in-the-middle” attack, which deceived users into logging onto a Chinese government-controlled website instead of Apple’s, was directly traceable to China’s central government. “We know that the attack point is the Chinese Internet backbone and that it is nationwide, which would lead us to be 100 percent sure that this is again the work of the Chinese authorities,” said Charlie Smith, GreatFire co-founder, to the South China Morning Post. Only the Chinese government and Chinese Internet service providers “have access to the backbone.”

Indian Economy to Overtake China’s

We are headed to “a world-turned-upside-down moment,” which could come as early as 2016. “That’s when,” Businessweek tells us, “India, always the laggard, may pull ahead of China and become the fastest-growing of Asia’s giants.”

Analysts used to ask, “Can India Catch Up with China?” Now, it looks almost inevitable.

There’s no mystery for the change in narrative. In a five-week-long election ending in May, 541 million voters went to the polls, and most of them demanded fundamental change. They rejected the ruling Congress Party of the Gandhi family, which had dominated national politics since independence in 1947, and gave a newcomer, the charismatic Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament.

China’s Economy Slides—and Capital Flees

In a few days, China’s official National Bureau of Statistics will report the results for both September, the last month of the third calendar quarter, and the quarter as a whole. Analysts generally expect growth of gross domestic product will fall slightly from the second quarter’s 7.5 percent. Bank of China, one of the country’s Big Four state banks, predicts the economy will expand 7.3 percent.

In reality, growth is far less than that. Especially indicative is electricity consumption, often viewed as a proxy for the economy as a whole and widely considered to be the most reliable indicator. Electricity was up 5.9 percent in June from the same month in 2013, up 3.0 percent in July, and down 1.5 percent in August. Notice a trend?

Some analysts are fond of saying that electricity is no longer as indicative as it once was because it tracks manufacturing and manufacturing is no longer the biggest sector of the economy, having been narrowly eclipsed by services, now about 46 percent of GDP.

For Hong Kong, Nothing Is Better Than Something

“Beijing is not going to lose,” said Jeff Bader to the Washington Post on Thursday, referring to the ongoing student-led democracy protests in Hong Kong. Because, as he puts it, people in Hong Kong “have very good lives” and “don’t see democratic development as the key to a good life,” Obama’s former top Asia adviser suggests the protesters accept Beijing’s proposed procedures for the 2017 election for chief executive, the city’s top political official.

His recommendation is wrong on many counts but especially because people in Hong Kong should not legitimize the upcoming electoral contest, the process that leads to it, or the rules that govern it.

Hong Kong’s Massive ‘Grand Banquet’ Protest

“While others are celebrating the big day of the country, we will set up a grand banquet in Central to fight for Hong Kong’s democracy,” wrote Benny Tai in the Apple Daily newspaper on Tuesday. “We welcome all pro-democracy supporters who are willing to devote themselves to this cause to join.”

Tai, a university professor and co-founder of the Occupy Central disobedience movement, was speaking in code. “Banquet” is now Hong Kong lingo for a mass sit-in demonstration; “big day” is October 1st, China’s National Day holiday; and “Central” refers to the city’s main business district. In effect, he was announcing that the long-awaited civil disobedience campaign in Hong Kong was about to begin.

Occupy Central was not always so excited. On September 2nd, Chan Kin-man, another co-founder of the organization, had signaled the defeat of the pan-democrats in Hong Kong by announcing that the movement was “close to failure.”

US Won’t Help Taiwan Build Subs, But Will Japan?

This month, there was a “flurry”of activity in Washington as Taiwan sought help in building submarines. Yet because American policymakers are more concerned about the reaction of the expansionists in Beijing than the needs of beleaguered defense planners in Taipei, Washington remained unmoved by the island’s efforts.

Taiwan, which Beijing views as its 34th province, is putting on a full-court press on subs so that it can remain a free society. In recent days, the American chief of naval operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, said he talked to colleagues in Taipei about submarines; a delegation from Taiwan was lobbying Congress for help; and Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said the US supported the island building its own subs.

Russia’s New ‘Energy Alliance’ with China

On the first of this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli both autographed a pipe section at a ceremony near Yakutsk, the capital of the Russian Republic of Yakutia. By the beginning of 2019, gas will flow through the section—and the rest of the 3,968-kilometer Power of Siberia pipeline—from Russian fields to Chinese consumers. Putin and Zhang called the endeavor, which connects two existing pipeline networks, the world’s largest construction project. 

Russia and China are fast building an “energy alliance,” as AFP termed it this month. Last October, Moscow’s state-owned Rosneft and Beijing’s China National Petroleum Corporation signed a “breakthrough” deal, giving the Chinese an equity stake in an oil field in Eastern Siberia. This May, Russia’s Gazprom and CNPC entered into a 30-year, $400 billion gas deal, another landmark agreement.

North Korea Parades Three American Prisoners

In a surprise move on Monday, North Korea permitted CNN to conduct three five-minute interviews with Kenneth Bae, Matthew Todd Miller, and Jeffrey Edward Fowle, the three Americans Pyongyang is holding for various reasons. In their comments, each of the captives urged Washington to do more to obtain their freedom.

It is virtually certain that the Kim regime arranged the interviews to obtain something from the US. It would seem, therefore, that something is up between Pyongyang and Washington.

As if reading from a script, each of the civilian detainees urged Washington to send a high-profile American to seek their release. This strongly suggests that the regime hopes to break the Obama administration’s sound policy of “strategic patience” with North Korea—a policy that refuses to deal directly with the Kim regime until it shows it can interact with the international community in good faith.


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