Archive for ‘GeoPolitics’


China plans railway to India, Nepal borders by 2020 | Reuters

China plans to extend a railway line linking Tibet with the rest of the country to the borders of India, Nepal and Bhutan by 2020 once an extension to a key site in Tibetan Buddhism opens, a state-run newspaper reported on Thursday.

Tibetan railway bridge

Tibetan railway bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

China opened the railway to Tibet’s capital Lhasa in 2006, which passes spectacular icy peaks on the Tibetan highlands, touching altitudes as high as 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) above sea level, as part of government efforts to boost development.

Critics of the railway, including exiled Tibetans and rights groups, say it has spurred an influx of long-term migrants who threaten Tibetans’ cultural integrity, which rests on Buddhist beliefs and a traditional herding lifestyle.

The Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said that an extention to Shigatse, the traditional seat of Tibetan Buddhism’s second-highest figure, the Panchen Lama, would formally open next month.

That link is scheduled for its own extension during the 2016-2020 period to two separate points, one on the border of Nepal and the other on the border with India and Bhutan, the newspaper cited Yang Yulin, deputy head of Tibet’s railways, as saying, without providing details.

China has long mooted this plan, but the difficulty and expense of building in such a rugged and remote region has slowed efforts.

Tibet is a highly sensitive region, not just because of continued Tibetan opposition to Chinese control, but because of its strategic position next to India, Nepal and Myanmar.

The Chinese announcement coincides with a drive by India, under its new prime minister Narendra Modi, to consolidate its influence with its smaller neighbors.

via China plans railway to India, Nepal borders by 2020 | Reuters.


China and the Arctic: Polar bearings | The Economist

CHINA does not loan out its pandas to just anyone, so a deal in April for two of the bears to head to Copenhagen zoo raised some eyebrows in Scandinavia. Some commentators suggested that this was all about the Arctic and especially about Greenland, which Denmark partly administers, and its mineral resources.

Certainly China is interested in the Arctic. On July 11th its icebreaker, Xue Long (“Snow Dragon”), embarks on the country’s sixth Arctic expedition, with 65 scientists on board. A new 1.3 billion yuan ($210m) icebreaker will soon be launched, and last December a China-Nordic research centre was opened in Shanghai.

New freight opportunities interest China along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as ice recedes. In 2010 four ships took the route. Last summer 71 vessels did so. Each ship that takes the route must, at certain points, be accompanied by an ice-breaker, so it is unclear how soon the NSR will be suitable for mass transit, if at all.

Some climate models predict the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer by the middle of this century. The route cuts the distance between Rotterdam and Shanghai by 22% and Yang Huigen of the Polar Research Institute of China has predicted that 5-15% of China’s international trade will use the NSR by 2020. But Linda Jakobson, of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, says that is a “rather optimistic assessment” and that talk of the NSR as a new Suez Canal is overblown. Weather conditions and environmental sensitivities will make the route a difficult one.

As for energy, China is one of the biggest investors in mining in Greenland. A deal with Rosneft, a state-controlled Russian company, will explore offshore Arctic fields for oil. But the undersea resources in the Arctic are largely within the Exclusive Economic Zones of the littoral states (notably Russia), so if China wants to look for energy it will have to do so jointly.

Meanwhile, other relationships have thawed. A rift with Norway over the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to Liu Xiaobo, a detained Chinese activist, is healing. But the new Chinese presence is not without concerns. Huang Nubo, a tycoon, recently bought 100 hectares (250 acres) of land in northern Norway and has bid for a plot on the island of Svalbard, where China has a research station. He aims to develop a resort for Chinese tourists. Mr Huang had similar plans in Iceland in 2011, but local protests quashed them. A Norwegian newspaper has called him a “suspected imperialist”. Perhaps Norway is in need of some pandas.

via China and the Arctic: Polar bearings | The Economist.


China appoints special envoy for Afghanistan | Reuters

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it had appointed a special envoy for Afghanistan, underscoring Beijing’s concerns that the withdrawal of NATO troops will leave a hotbed of militancy on its doorstep.

English: US Army map of Afghanistan -- circa 2...

English: US Army map of Afghanistan — circa 2001-09. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sun Yuxi, a former ambassador to both Afghanistan and India, has been named to the new position and will have “close communication” with Afghanistan and other relevant parties, the ministry said in a statement.

“China and Afghanistan are traditional friendly neighbors. China pays great attention to developments in Afghanistan and is committed to deepening both countries’ strategic partnership, and so decided to appoint a special envoy,” it added.

via China appoints special envoy for Afghanistan | Reuters.


In First Meeting, Modi and Xi Discuss Decades-Long Border Disputes – India Real Time – WSJ

In their first one-on-one meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about finding a resolution to the long-standing boundary dispute between the Asian neighbors, a goal that has eluded the two countries for decades.

In talks lasting 80 minutes, Mr. Modi told Mr. Xi that “it is necessary to resolve the boundary question,” Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, said in a televised interview after the meeting in Brazil on the sidelines of a summit of BRICS countries. Pending that, Mr. Modi said, “peace and tranquility need to be maintained on the border,” according to Mr. Akbaruddin.

Mr. Xi called for “negotiated solutions” to the dispute at an early date, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. He also said the two countries “should join hands in setting global rules so as to raise the voice of developing countries,” Xinhua said.

China has reached out to the new Indian administration, led by Mr. Modi, at a time when its ties with other Asian countries including Japan and the Philippines have soured over territorial disputes. The Chinese foreign minister visited New Delhi last month, and Beijing’s premier was the first foreign leader to talk to Mr. Modi after his swearing-in as prime minister earlier this year, following national elections.

Ties between India and China have long been characterized by mistrust, and the sentiment appears to linger. More than seven in 10 Indians are concerned that territorial disputes between China and its neighbors will lead to military conflict, according a Pew Research Center survey published Monday.

Nearly half of all Indians think China’s growing economy is a bad thing for their country, and only 31% of Indians had a favorable view of China, the survey showed. By comparison, 55% of Indians had a favorable view of the U.S. and 43% had a favorable view of Japan.

Tensions between India and China boiled over into a brief war in 1962, following which China gained control of a 14,600-square-mile territory known as Aksai Chin. China claims another 35,000 square miles in Arunachal Pradesh, a state in India’s northeast. Relations worsened last year when India alleged that Chinese troops had crossed into Indian-held territory in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, triggering a weekslong standoff.

On the campaign trail during national elections earlier this year, Mr. Modi promised to be tough on security issues. In a speech in February he warned China against having an “expansionist mindset.” In Mr. Modi’s first few weeks in office, his government has taken steps to boost infrastructure and connectivity on the Chinese border.

Mr. Modi’s China policy remains unclear, as does his ability and willingness to negotiate a border settlement, a process that has gone on for three decades. Special representatives appointed to work out a solution have so far held 17 rounds of talks.

The two countries signed an agreement last October aimed at easing hostilities on the disputed and ill-defined border, known as the Line of Actual Control, including commitments to ensure that patrols don’t escalate into military confrontations. But the agreement failed to impress security analysts in India, who said it was little more than a statement of intentions.

India is also worried about China’s growing influence in South Asia where New Delhi sees itself as the regional power. Mr. Modi has moved to revitalize India’s neighborhood ties, inviting South Asian leaders to his swearing-in and choosing Bhutan for his first foreign visit.  The government is also pushing to close India’s $40 billion trade deficit with China.

via In First Meeting, Modi and Xi Discuss Decades-Long Border Disputes – India Real Time – WSJ.


Army chief Bikram Singh to begin rare China visit tomorrow – The Times of India

Chief of the Army Staff General Bikram Singh r...

Chief of the Army Staff General Bikram Singh received by Director for General Staff Duties Sanjeev Chopra (Photo credit: UN Women Asia & the Pacific)

Operationalisation of a new border defence agreement to deal with recurring troop incursions along the LAC besides improving defence ties, is expected to top the agenda of General Bikram Singh as he starts a rare visit by an Indian Army chief to China from tomorrow.

“Currently India and China maintain exchanges and cooperation at various levels. This is very significant for the two countries,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said here today.

“The visit you mentioned will be an important event in military to military exchanges between China and India,” he said commenting on Singh’s visit at a media briefing.

“We wish full success of this visit so that the mutual trust between the two armies can be enhanced,” he said.

To deal with tensions arising out of the incursions by both sides, India and China signed the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) last year.

Singh’s visit was aimed at implementing a number of steps incorporated by BDCA on the ground, officials said.

The Indian Army chief’s four-day visit is taking place after a gap of nine years.

via Army chief Bikram Singh to begin rare China visit tomorrow – The Times of India.


Chinese Vice President hands over new equipment to Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority – Xinhua |

Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao on Wednesday toured the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) in Tanzania and handed new equipment supplied under loan terms of the 15th Protocol of Economic and Technical Cooperation between China, Tanzania and Zambia.

Li handed over the equipment, including six forklifts and four mobile cranes, to Tanzanian Minister of Transport Harrison Mwakyembe on behalf of TAZARA.

The Chinese Vice President, who took a short ride on a TAZARA train to Yombo on the outskirts of the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, commended the authority and its workers for upkeeping the infrastructure which was built four decades ago.

Li, who is on a six-day official visit to Tanzania, promised to hold further discussions with his colleagues when he goes back to China to find more ways to help TAZARA.

Mwakyembe said that the assistance was part of the pledge made by the Chinese government to help improve TAZARA infrastructure and his country would continue to value the assistance rendered by the People’s Republic of China since early 1970s.

“The saying that – a friend in need is a friend indeed – was truly reflected in the assistance provided by China 40 years ago, building the TAZARA railway when Tanzania and Zambia fought to liberate other southern African countries,” said the Tanzanian minister.

Mwakyembe said TAZARA was the largest single foreign aid project undertaken by China and the track was built with the highest standards, as evidenced by the infrastructure which remained in good shape after 40 years.

The 15th Protocol of Economic and Technical Cooperation was signed by the three governments of China, Tanzania and Zambia on March 26, 2012 in the Zambian capital Lusaka, with a value of 270 million yuan (about 40 million U.S. dollars) worth of projects to be undertaken in support of TAZARA.

The protocol, which is an interest-free loan, covers the procurement and supply of 18 passenger coaches and accompanying consumables, four new main line locomotives, two shunting locomotives, two rescue cranes and various lifting equipment.

via Chinese Vice President hands over new equipment to Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority – Xinhua |


China, ASEAN to have South China Sea talks – Xinhua |

China is willing to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to promote a code of conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday.

Map of the South China Sea

Map of the South China Sea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hua’s comment came ahead of the 11th joint working group meeting between China and ASEAN on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct (DoC) of Parties in the South China Sea. The meeting will be held from next Tuesday to Wednesday in Bali, Indonesia. “China is ready to work with the ASEAN for comprehensive and effective implementation of the declaration and steadily push forward consultations on a CoC,” Hua said. Maritime cooperation on navigation security and joint search and rescue will be discussed during the meeting, Hua said. She called for favorable conditions for the implementation of the DoC and formulation of a CoC to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. China and ASEAN officials met in March in Singapore for the 10th joint working group meeting on the implementation of the DoC. via China, ASEAN to have South China Sea talks – Xinhua |


Top China diplomat to visit Vietnam in possible thaw over oil rig | Reuters

China’s top diplomat will visit Vietnam on Wednesday in a sign the two countries want to ease tensions over China’s deployment of an oil rig in the disputed South China Sea, but experts said there were many obstacles to healing the ruptured relationship.

Map of the South China Sea

Map of the South China Sea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The visit by State Councilor Yang Jiechi, who outranks the foreign minister, will be the highest level direct contact between Beijing and Hanoi since a Chinese state oil company parked the rig in waters claimed by both countries on May 2. Yang would attend an annual meeting on bilateral cooperation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing. Vietnamese officials said Yang would meet Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung as well as the head of the country’s ruling communist party. “We hope that Vietnam keeps its eye on the broader picture, meets China halfway and appropriately resolves the present situation,” Hua said, without directly mentioning the rig. Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said the rig would be discussed. Ties between the two neighbours have been largely frozen since early May, with both sides constantly accusing the other of inflaming the situation. Dozens of Vietnamese and Chinese coastguard and fishing vessels have repeatedly squared off around the rig, resulting in a number of collisions. via Top China diplomat to visit Vietnam in possible thaw over oil rig | Reuters.


Japan denies brush with Chinese planes, demands China withdraws footage | Reuters

I sincerely hope China and Japan are NOT sleep walking into a major war.

“Japan on Friday denied Beijing’s claims that its Self-Defence Force planes came “dangerously close” to Chinese aircraft in an incident over the East China Sea on Wednesday, demanding China takes down the footage allegedly showing the incident.

A Chinese SU-27 fighter flies over the East China Sea, in this handout photo taken May 24, 2014 and released by the Defense Ministry of Japan May 25, 2014. REUTERS/Defense Ministry of Japan/Handout via Reuters

The tit-for-tat accusations and denials are part of a long-running territorial dispute between Asia’s largest economies. They follow a similar incident on May 24, when Japan said Chinese aircraft came within a few dozen metres of its warplanes. China, where bitter memories of Japan’s wartime militarism run deep, lays claim to Japanese-administered islets in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. China declared its air defence zone covering most of the East China Sea last year despite protests by Japan and the United States.

On Thursday, China said two Japanese F-15 planes followed a Chinese Tu-154 aircraft and came as close as 30 metres, “seriously affecting China’s flight safety”. It posted a video allegedly showing that incident on the defence ministry website.

“We believe there is no truth in China’s assertions that Japanese fighter planes came within 30 meters of a Chinese plane and severely affected the flight’s safety,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

“The planes (in the video) are different,” he said in response to a reporter’s question about the rationale behind Japan’s assertion, adding Japan lodged a protest late on Thursday and demanded that Beijing take down the footage.

China responded by calling on Tokyo to “immediately stop all its provocative words and acts”.”

via Japan denies brush with Chinese planes, demands China withdraws footage | Reuters.


Does China Care About its International Image? | The Diplomat

China’s global image faces challenges — but if asked to choose between its national interests and preserving its national image, China would choose the former

Does China Care About its International Image?

A recent poll conducted by the BBC World Service shows that China’s international image is not that great around the world. Although this year China’s international image is equally divided (42 percent vs. 42 percent) between those who think China’s influence is positive and those who think it is negative, China’s image in Japan and South Korea (two of China’s most important Asian neighbors) is quite negative. In South Korea, only 32 percent of South Koreans have positive perceptions of China whereas 56 percent of them hold a negative perception of China. In Japan the picture is ugly as only 3 percent (a record low) of Japanese hold positive views of China whereas 73 percent view China as a negative influence in Asia.

However, China’s image in Africa and Latin America is quite positive. All three African countries surveyed have very high levels of positive views of China, with 85 percent in Nigeria, 67 percent in Ghana, and 65 percent in Kenya. Of all four Latin American countries surveyed, only Mexico has more negative views than positive views of China (40 percent vs 33 percent); the other three countries are mostly positive about China (Peru 54 percent vs. 24 percent; Brazil 52 percent vs. 29 percent; Argentina 45 percent vs. 20 percent). Another interesting finding about China’s international image is that most advanced countries hold negative views of China, with the U.K. (49 percent vs. 46 percent) and Australia (47 percent vs. 44 percent) being exceptions. Especially puzzling is Germany, which only has a 10 percent positive view of China against 76 percent negative views of China. This might not be surprising as most advanced countries happen to be democracies and they are often quite critical of China’s lack of democracy and human rights problems.

A natural question that one might ask is “does China care about its international image?” Due to China’s recent assertive actions (here and here) in East China Sea and South China Sea, it might seem like China is not worried about its image among its Asian neighbors. But it is inconsistent with China’s efforts in recent years to enhance its soft power and build a positive national image around the world. Thus, the puzzle is this: if China does care about its international image, why would China behave in a way that hurts its own national image? This is a legitimate question given some evidence showing that many in Asia now see China as a big bully.

There are three possible explanations for the seeming inconsistency between China’s national image campaigns and its recent assertive behavior. First, it could be that China does not genuinely embrace the idea of national image or soft power. According to realist logic which is dominant in China, what really matters in international politics is material power; also, soft power often is a byproduct of material power. Thus, the Chinese leadership might have accepted the idea “it is better to be feared than loved” in international politics. If indeed this is the reasoning behind China’s foreign policy in recent years, then it is not surprising at all that China feels little need to promote its national image.

The second reason could be that China does care about its national image but the problem is that China is inexperienced or even clumsy in promoting its national image. Indeed, in recent years China has put in lots of resources into its ‘public diplomacy’ which has generated mixed results. Just think about how much money Beijing spent on the Beijing Olympics 2008 to promote China’s positive image. It is abundantly clear that Beijing does want to present a positive and peaceful national image to the international community. Nonetheless, it could well be that officials in China who are in charge of promoting national image are incompetent or there is no coordination between different ministries and actors such as the Foreign Affairs ministry and the military. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs finally released a position paper on the 981 oil rig crisis after a month had passed. Although this is helpful, one wonders why China could not have done it earlier. Now the damage is already done. Also, China has maintained that Vietnamese vessels have rammed Chinese vessels more than 1,400 times, but it would be much more convincing if China could release videos showing how the Vietnamese vessels rammed Chinese ships. There are many other examples like this one, suggesting that China’s public diplomacy needs to be more skillful and sophisticated if it is going to win international public opinion.

Finally, China’s neglect of its national image could be explained by a rational choice strategy that puts national interests in front of national image. Thus, China does care about its national image, but it cares more about national sovereignty and territorial integrity. When forced to choose between sovereignty and national image, China will choose sovereignty — and any other country would do the same. As Xi Jinping said earlier this year, China will never sacrifice its core national interests, regardless of the circumstances. Viewed from this perspective, national image becomes secondary compared to territorial integrity.

via Does China Care About its International Image? | The Diplomat.


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