Archive for ‘Politics’

10/02/2016

U.S. and India consider joint patrols in South China Sea – U.S. official | Reuters

The United States and India have held talks about conducting joint naval patrols that a U.S. defence official said could include the disputed South China Sea, a move that would likely anger Beijing, which claims most of the waterway.

An Indian Navy personnel gestures on the deck of the newly built INS Kochi, a guided missile destroyer, during a media tour at the naval dockyard in Mumbai, India September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade/Files

Washington wants its regional allies and other Asian nations to take a more united stance against China over the South China Sea, where tensions have spiked in the wake of Beijing’s construction of seven man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago.

India and the United States have ramped up military ties in recent years, holding naval exercises in the Indian Ocean that last year involved the Japanese navy.

But the Indian navy has never carried out joint patrols with another country and a naval spokesman told Reuters there was no change in the government’s policy of only joining an international military effort under the United Nations flag.

He pointed to India’s refusal to be part of anti-piracy missions involving dozens of countries in the Gulf of Aden and instead carrying out its own operations there since 2008.

The U.S. defence official said the two sides had discussed joint patrols, adding that both were hopeful of launching them within the year. The patrols would likely be in the Indian Ocean where the Indian navy is a major player as well as the South China Sea, the official told Reuters in New Delhi on condition of anonymity.

The official gave no details on the scale of the proposed patrols.

There was no immediate comment from China, which is on a week-long holiday for Chinese New Year.

China accused Washington this month of seeking maritime hegemony in the name of freedom of navigation after a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of a disputed island in the Paracel chain of the South China Sea in late January.

The U.S. Navy conducted a similar exercise in October near one of China’s artificial islands in the Spratlys.

Source: Exclusive: U.S. and India consider joint patrols in South China Sea – U.S. official | Reuters

08/02/2016

Gong Xi Fa Cai! What to expect in China’s Year of the Monkey – SCMP

The Year of the Monkey is expected to be another turbulent year for the world’s second largest economy. Here, SCMP reporters gaze into their crystal balls for what might lie ahead.

An installation celebrates the Year of the Monkey at Ditan Park in Beijing. Photo: EPA

POLITICS: Political jockeying and more crackdowns

The Communist Party will be focused on preparations for a new leadership team, to be unveiled at the 19th Party Congress next year. Apart from President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), the rest of the Politburo Standing Committee will have reached retirement age. The new appointments will be keenly observed for clues as to who Xi intends to succeed him.

Two of Xi’s signature campaigns – the drives against corruption and in favour of frugality in public life – are likely to continue to reshape the nation.

– Cary Huang

DIPLOMACY: Conflicts and tensions to escalate

Following Xi’s maiden presidential visit to the Middle East, Beijing is expected to increase its role as a broker in the region’s conflicts. Beijing has already hosted representatives from Syria and Afghanistan for talks. But other than calling for dialogue, China’s options are limited, partly because it does not want to be seen as interfering in the internal affairs of other nations.

With the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank having just started operations, China is expected to boost its economic diplomacy by funding infrastructure projects overseas.

Tensions in the South China Sea are also expected to rise, as China is likely to continue building structures in the disputed waters. How the United States and China handle the issue – especially the Pentagon’s deployment of warships within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-controlled islands – will be the biggest concern.

– Teddy Ng

DEFENCE: Band(s) of Brothers?

The top priority of the military will be to rebuild morale and its integrity following its restructuring into five theatre commands. Xi set the tone this month by visiting Jinggangshan, the cradle of the communist revolution in China. The Eastern Theatre Command’s land force quickly followed his lead and visited Gutian in Fujian (福建) province, where the Red Army pledged obedience to the party in 1929, and saluted the party flag. Other commands are expected to make similar displays of fidelity.

It will be a bumpy road: the old ways of managing operations, carrying out orders through personal connections and using favoured contractors, has been upended. Xi wants to turn the PLA into a fighting force that meets international standards, with all the efficiencies and accountability that entails.

– Minnie Chan

ECONOMY: Pandora’s Box to open?

There’s actually little disagreement between billionaire investor George Soros and Beijing decision-makers over China’s economic prospects in 2016 – both agree growth will be lower in 2016 than that of 2015. Where they disagree is on how much and how quickly.

One thing is for sure, China will never admit an economic “hard-landing”, though investors may find plenty of evidence for one – from factory closures to rising unemployment and financial strains.

– Zhou Xin

UNEMPLOYMENT: What’s the real picture?

Of all of China’s official economic indicators, the registered urban jobless rate is possibly the least reliable. The rate, released quarterly, has barely ever moved from 4.1 per cent in recent years, regardless of the economic cycle. Another jobless rate compiled by the statistics agency, which is increasingly being cited by the premier, claims a level of about 5 per cent.

Neither of these official rates are likely to change much throughout 2016.

– Zhou Xin

A-shares: Beware the bear!

The mainland’s stock market, after witnessing a sharp fall at the beginning of 2016, is expected to continue a bear run in the Year of Monkey amid a crisis of confidence.

A depreciating yuan, the imminent launch of the new initial public offering (IPO) mechanism and a bleak outlook for corporate earnings are set to exacerbate weak sentiment with millions of retail investors suffering paper losses following a market rout last year.

Local investors are increasingly betting on a further downturn in the A-share market.

Corporate earnings are likely to stay flat in 2016 despite Beijing’s increased efforts to navigate a transition to a consumer-led growth.

– Daniel Ren

Consumption: Bittersweet for retailers

Online stores are continuing to take business from their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

While overall consumption growth is expected to further slow in 2016, bringing problems for both sectors, shopping malls and big stores face their own particular woes.

Hypermarkets could see custom slow, but business at smaller formats such as mini-marts and convenience stores should remain stable.

People will continue to spend more on tourism, leisure, food and health-related products.

Domestic brands will continue to gain ground on foreign ones.

Women will continue to take a greater role in driving spending. Consulting firm Mintel found more than half of Chinese mothers control the family budget and that women are more willing to try new products and experiences than men.

– Mandy Zuo

E-commerce: Click, click, click to buy, buy, buy

The personal computer era is over. Mobile-commerce, which enables people to buy everything from anywhere via the internet, is dominating the online sector and this trend shows no sign of stopping.

Retail on WeChat, the most popular social media platform, is expected to grow steadily. The mobile platform is also becoming an important tool of advertising and communication for businesses.

Online to offline (O2O) business will continue to boom as mainlanders show growing interest and loyalty in professional home services such as home cleaning and massage.

With growing demand from mainland consumers for prime goods overseas, fiercer competition is expected in cross-border business. Internet giants, entrepreneurs and small businesses will flock to the sector, which the Ministry of Commerce projects will grow an average 30 per cent in the next few years.

– Mandy Zuo

P2P lending: More closures, collapses and runaway owners

The long-awaited regulations reining in peer-to-peer lending are expected to bring an industry shakeup that will knock out a significant number of players.

Industry data showed the number of P2P lending platforms dropped a second consecutive month to 2,566 at the end of January from 2,595 in December.

The draft rules, released by the China Banking Regulatory Commission at the end of 2015, define P2P lending platforms as internet financing intermediaries and forbid them from selling wealth management and other financial products that attract investors with promises of high returns.

– Kwong Man-ki

Tourism: Slowdown, what slowdown?

Despite the economic slowdown, the depreciation of the yuan and turmoil in the stock markets, Chinese tourists passed a milestone last year – making a record 120 million outbound trips and spending US$104.5 billion to make China the world’s leading source of tourists.

The boom is expected to continue this year, thanks to a relaxation in visa policies in more countries as well as a strong yuan against the euro and yen.

– Laura Zhou

Childbirth: More buns in the oven

The Year of the Monkey is traditionally regarded an auspicious year for giving birth, so it will prove popular with people planning families. Some of those may have delayed their plans from the Year of the Goat, which is decidedly inauspicious.

More of the newborns are likely to be second children, as parents seek to benefit from the new policy allowing all couples to have two children.

– Zhuang Pinghui

URBANISATION: Millions to relocate

Urbanisation will maintain its pace with millions relocating, most of them rural residents.

They will continue to move to cities near rivers, railway lines and coastlines and more of them will be migrating with spouses and children.

The policy of issuing residence permits to migrants and granting urban household registrations to rural residents are helping them to access public services and integrate in urban life.

– Zhuang Pinghui

ENVIRONMENT: More smoggy days?

As the new five-year plan period (2016-2020) begins, cities will need to set targets on how to improve water and air quality. But whether much can be done to reduce smog problems – especially in heavily polluted city clusters near Beijing and Shanghai – depends largely on how determined local governments are to slash overcapacity in heavy industries.

At the end of 2015, Beijing’s persistent smog pushed the city authorities to pledge better management of small-scale coal burning. If other cities follow suit, the move could impact China’s environmental footprint.

– Li Jing

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/1910019/kung-hei-fat-choy-what-expect-chinas-year-monkey

05/02/2016

‘One family’ not letting Rajya Sabha function, Modi says – The Hindu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday accused Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi of disrupting Parliament to avenge defeat in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and hence blocking the passage of Bills aimed at benefitting the poor. Prime Minister Narendra Modi being presented Jaapi, a traditional hat from Assam at a meeting in Sivasagar district on Friday.

Addressing tea garden workers in Assam, Mr. Modi alleged that “one family” was indulging in “negative politics”, as he claimed that there are leaders in opposition parties other than Congress, who want Parliament to function even though they oppose him.

“Those who have lost the election (in 2014) and have come down from 400 to 40 have decided not to allow Modi to work. They have decided to create obstacles and difficulties. The conspiracy for the same is going on,” he said, referring clearly to Congress.

“They have now decided to take revenge from people, from the poor workers for voting the Congress out of power,” Mr. Modi said.

“There are many leaders and parties even in the opposition who oppose Modi, the BJP and the government but they want Parliament to run and carry out is business. But one family is so rigid that they do not allow the Rajya Sabha to function and let the nation’s agenda of development to be taken forward because people of the country have defeated them,” Mr. Modi said.

“The country is not going to benefit from this politics of negativism and obstructionism. There is only one family with such a thinking, which has brought this kind of destruction. Leaders in the other opposition parties are not like this,” the Prime Minister said.

Mr. Modi urged people to give a chance to the BJP to form a government in Assam.

He contended that laws for the welfare of the State can be put in place only when there is a government in Guwahati, which listens to Centre.

Source: ‘One family’ not letting Rajya Sabha function, Modi says – The Hindu

30/01/2016

China set to participate in India’s smart city mission starting from Solapur – Xinhua | English.news.cn

Solapur, which bore witness to Sino-Indian friendship in history, will soon see a new chapter of cooperation between both countries as China will get actively involved in the city’s smart city mission.

From January 27 to 28, a group of Chinese delegates led by Chinese Consul General Zheng Xiyuan, including representatives from two Chinese high-tech companies, paid a visit to this city.

They saw different projects including sewage treatment plants, textile mills, and sugar mills, and held meetings with local officials and entrepreneurs, exchanging ideas on the smart city planning and progress of Solapur and sharing experiences of both sides in sewage treatment.

The Chinese delegates received warm welcome from the Solapur people. Officials of Solapur showed great interest in the technology of the Chinese companies, and invited them to participate in the sewage treatment projects.

Jiang Konghua, marketing director of Guangdong Sino-Israeli Water Treatment Innovative Industrial Park Co., said he is determined to conduct a comprehensive survey based on the projects he has seen in Solapur, and find the best solution for the development of this city.

Solapur is a city located in the southeastern region of Indian state of Maharashtra. It is the hometown of Dr. Dwarkanath Kotnis, who fought with the Chinese people in WWII, and died in China.

On January 28, Solapur is declared as among the first group of twenty Indian cities to receive funds from the central government to start the smart city mission.

Ever since Narendra Modi took office as prime minister of India and proposed the smart city mission, the enlisted Indian cities have invited various countries to join their mission, including France, Germany, Sweden and the United States.

At the end of last year, Zhu Xiaodan, governor of China’s Guangdong Province, led a group of delegates to visit Maharashtra. During Zhu’s meeting with Devendra Fadnavis, chief minister of Maharashtra, they both agreed on the cooperation in the smart city mission, which led to this visit to Solapur.

Source: China set to participate in India’s smart city mission starting from Solapur – Xinhua | English.news.cn

27/01/2016

India to build satellite tracking station in Vietnam that offers eye on China | Reuters

India will set up a satellite tracking and imaging centre in southern Vietnam that will give Hanoi access to pictures from Indian earth observation satellites that cover the region, including China and the South China Sea, Indian officials said.

The move, which could irritate Beijing, deepens ties between India and Vietnam, who both have long-running territorial disputes with China.

While billed as a civilian facility – earth observation satellites have agricultural, scientific and environmental applications – security experts said improved imaging technology meant the pictures could also be used for military purposes.

Hanoi especially has been looking for advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies as tensions rise with China over the disputed South China Sea, they said.

“In military terms, this move could be quite significant,” said Collin Koh, a marine security expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. “It looks like a win-win for both sides, filling significant holes for the Vietnamese and expanding the range for the Indians.”

The state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will fund and set up the satellite tracking and data reception centre in Ho Chi Minh City to monitor Indian satellite launches, the Indian officials said. Indian media put the cost at around $23 million.

India, whose 54-year-old space programme is accelerating, with one satellite launch scheduled every month, has ground stations in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, Brunei, Biak in eastern Indonesia and Mauritius that track its satellites in the initial stages of flight.

The Vietnam facility will bolster those capabilities, said Deviprasad Karnik, an ISRO spokesman.

Source: India to build satellite tracking station in Vietnam that offers eye on China | Reuters

24/01/2016

Well-wishing | The Economist

SINCE he took over as China’s leader in 2012, Xi Jinping has been a busy globetrotter. Last year he visited more countries than Barack Obama, America’s president (14 against 11).

Heedless of whether his hosts are powerful, puny or pariahs, he has flown everywhere from America to the Maldives and Zimbabwe. Mr Xi wants to project China’s rising power—and his role in promoting that—to foreign and domestic audiences. But until this week, he had not set a presidential foot in the Middle East.

The trip, under way as The Economist went to press, began in Saudi Arabia (whose king, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, is pictured with Mr Xi). He then visited Egypt and was due to finish his tour in Iran. No Chinese president had toured the region since 2009. China’s leaders had worried about getting embroiled in the region’s intractable disputes. But China has a big stake in the Middle East. It is the world’s largest oil importer and gets more than half of its crude from the region (see chart). Mr Xi’s much ballyhooed “new Silk Route”, aimed at linking China and Europe with the help of Chinese-funded infrastructure, runs across the Middle East. Chinese companies are already building expressways and harbours there. In this section Divorce: a love story Well-wishing Reprints Related topics Middle East Politics Government and politics World politics Asia-Pacific politics

The timing of Mr Xi’s tour is tricky. Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran are particularly high after Saudi Arabia executed a Shia cleric earlier this month and angry Iranians responded by storming the Saudi embassy in Tehran. But the lifting of Western sanctions on Iran on January 16th (see article) allowed Mr Xi to display even-handedness by visiting both countries, without upsetting Western powers. Mr Xi, like his predecessors, likes to present China as a non-interfering champion of peace. (Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, said this week that the West’s “meddling hands” were “more of a mortal poison than of a magic potion” in the Middle East.) But Mr Xi is not keen to play a central role as peacemaker. China’s first “Arab Policy Paper”, released on January 13th, is a vague, waffly document. It talks of “building a new type of international relations”, but is devoid of new ideas.

Zhang Ming, a vice-foreign minister, said this week that economic development was the “ultimate way out” of conflict in the region. By expanding its trade and investment links with the Middle East, China hopes discontent and conflict there will gradually dissipate. In addition to crushing dissent, it is trying a similar approach in Xinjiang, a province in western China with a large Muslim population—so far without success.

In the long run, China may find it hard to avoid taking sides. To some extent it has already done so in Syria: it talks to representatives from both the Syrian government and the opposition, but by vetoing UN resolutions on intervention it tilts, in effect, in the government’s favour. The presence of a growing number of Chinese citizens in the Middle East may challenge China’s non-interventionist approach. After a Chinese national was executed by Islamic State in November, China promised to strengthen protection of its citizens abroad. Its new rules of Middle Eastern diplomacy could end up resembling familiar Western meddling

Source: Well-wishing | The Economist

22/01/2016

Chinese president offers remedies for Mideast predicaments, aid to Arab development – Xinhua | English.news.cn

Out-of-the box thinking.  Hope other major powers start to subscribe to this point of view. The current ones  of taking sides and partisan fighting isn’t working.

“Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday prescribed his remedies to restore peace in the Middle East and promote development in the Arab world.

EGYPT-CAIRO-CHINA-XI JINPING-VISIT

While delivering a speech at the headquarters of the Arab League, Xi described the Middle East region, which in many’s eyes is almost an equivalent to wars and tumult, as a “land of abundance.”

PATH TO PEACE

The Chinese leader concluded in the remarks that dialogues and development are the key factors that can help bring peace and stability back in this part of the world.

He said use of force offers no solution to problems, neither will zero-sum mentality bring enduring peace, adding that for the success of talks, there is need for utmost patience and flexibility.

Speaking of the Syrian crisis, he said there will be no winner out of a conflict, and to address the hot-spots, what is the most urgent, is to bring about cease-fire and start political talks.

Xi also believed that turmoil in the Middle East stems from the lack of development, while the ultimate solution will depend on development, saying that only when young people are able to live a fulfilled life with dignity can hope prevail in their heart. Only then will they voluntarily reject violence, extremist ideologies and terrorism.

Mahmoud Allam, former Egyptian ambassador to China, admitted that many of the deep-rooted problems the Arab world is grappling with have been the result of failures to achieve a successful development model, saying development is no doubt the most viable path of mobilizing people toward achieving their common interests and overcoming disagreements.

TANGIBLE HELP

Also in his speech, the Chinese president introduced a host of fresh moves including loans, financial aid and common investment fund to help improve livelihood, fight terrorism and promote development in the Arab world.

The Chinese government has decided to pledge 50 million RMB (7.53 million U.S. dollars) to help improve the lives of the Palestinians and 230 million RMB (about 35 million dollars) for Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen as humanitarian assistance, said Xi.

Beijing also wants to promote the industrialization in the Middle East. To achieve that end, China is going to hand out a number of loan programs, including a 15-billion exclusive loan, a 10-billion business lending, and 10 billion concessional loans so as to facilitate production capacity cooperation between China and the regional countries, according to the president.

Meanwhile, China also prepares to work with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to set up a common investment fund worth 20 billion dollars that focuses on traditional sources of energy in the Middle East, infrastructure, and high-end manufacturing.

Xi also offered in his speech 300 million dollars for law enforcement cooperation, police training so as to help build up the abilities of the regional countries to maintain stability.China also planned to provide 1,000 training opportunities for young Arab leaders, and strengthen exchanges among their think tanks, experts and scholars.

CHINA’S DOS AND DON’TS IN MIDEAST

The Chinese leader also said his country will neither look for proxies nor try to fill any “vacuum” in the Middle East, adding that Beijing has no intention of building any sphere of influence in the region.

“Instead of looking for a proxy in the Middle East, we promote peace talks; instead of seeking any sphere of influence, we call on all parties to join the circle of friends for the Belt and Road Initiative; instead of attempting to fill the ‘vacuum’, we build a cooperative partnership network for win-win outcomes,” he said.

Meanwhile, Xi promised that China will not link terrorism with any specific ethnic group or religion, as doing so will only create ethnic and religious tensions, adding that there should be no double standards in battling terrorism.

Also, he said the Middle East is the meeting place of ancient human civilizations and home to diverse and splendid cultures. China will continue to unswervingly support Middle East and Arab states in preserving their ethnic and cultural traditions, and oppose all forms of discrimination and prejudice against specific ethnic group and religion.”

Source: Chinese president offers remedies for Mideast predicaments, aid to Arab development – Xinhua | English.news.cn

14/01/2016

Xi’s new model army – The Economist

Xi Jinping reforms China’s armed forces—to his own advantage

CHINA’S biggest military shake-up in a generation began with a deliberate echo of Mao Zedong.

Late in 2014 President Xi Jinping went to Gutian, a small town in the south where, 85 years before, Mao had first laid down the doctrine that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the armed force not of the government or the country but of the Communist Party. Mr Xi stressed the same law to the assembled brass: the PLA is still the party’s army; it must uphold its “revolutionary traditions” and maintain absolute loyalty to its political masters. His words were a prelude to sweeping reforms in the PLA that have unfolded in the past month, touching almost every military institution.

The aim of these changes is twofold—to strengthen Mr Xi’s grip on the 2.3m-strong armed forces, which are embarrassingly corrupt at the highest level, and to make the PLA a more effective fighting force, with a leadership structure capable of breaking down the barriers between rival commands that have long hampered its modernisation efforts. It has taken a long time since the meeting in Gutian for these reforms to unfold; but that reflects both their importance and their difficulty.

The PLA itself has long admitted that it is lagging behind. It may have plenty of new weapons—it has just started to build a second aircraft-carrier, for instance—but it is failing to make effective use of them because of outdated systems of command and control. Before any substantial change in this area, however, Mr Xi felt it necessary to strengthen the party’s control over the PLA, lest it resist his reforms and sink back into a morass of money-grubbing.

The reforms therefore begin with the main instrument of party control, the Central Military Commission (CMC), which is chaired by Mr Xi. On January 11th the CMC announced that the PLA’s four headquarters—the organisations responsible for recruiting troops, procuring weapons, providing logistics and ensuring political supervision—had been split up, slimmed down and absorbed into the commission. Once these were among the most powerful organisations in the PLA, operating almost as separate fiefs. Now they have become CMC departments.

Power to the party

The political headquarters was the body through which the party kept an eye on the ranks and ensured they were up to speed on Maoist texts and the party’s latest demands. The loss of its autonomous status may suggest that the party’s role is being downgraded. Far from it. Now the party’s CMC (there is also a state one, which exists only in name) will be better able to keep watch. The body’s 15 new departments will include not only departments for politics but also for logistics, personnel management and fighting corruption. Mr Xi has already turned his guns on graft, imprisoning dozens of generals.

The second reform has been to put the various services on a more equal footing. The land forces have hitherto reigned supreme. That may have been fine when the PLA’s main job was to defend the country against an invasion across its land borders (until the 1980s the Soviet Union was considered the biggest threat). But now China has military ambitions in the South China Sea and beyond, and wants the ability to challenge American naval and air power in the western Pacific. A recent editorial in the Liberation Army Daily, a PLA mouthpiece, berated the armed forces for their “army-centric mindset”.

In addition to those for the navy and air force, a separate command has now been created for the army, which had previously run everything. On December 31st the CMC also announced the formation of a command responsible for space and cyberwarfare, as well as one for ballistic and cruise missiles (previously known as the Second Artillery Force, part of the army). There is also a new joint command with overall control of the various services, a little like America’s joint chiefs of staff.

Big changes are also afoot in regional command structures. China used to be divided into seven military regions. These were powerful and relatively self-contained; sharing or swapping troops and equipment was rare. Now, according to reports in the South China Morning Post, a newspaper in Hong Kong, the number will be reduced to five. Troops will be recruited and trained by the various services before regional deployment. This will ensure greater central control over the regions.

China has been talking about military reform for decades, but change has been glacial. Opposition within the armed forces has been intense. “If [reform] is not done properly,” wrote Sun Kejia and Han Xiao of the PLA National Defence University last month, “it could affect the stability of the armed forces or even all of society.” (The article was promptly removed from the Liberation Army Daily website.) Demobbed soldiers could make trouble—Mr Xi wants the number of troops to be cut by 300,000. State firms have been ordered to reserve 5% of jobs for laid-off veterans.

The recent reforms are more extensive than most Western observers had expected after the Gutian conference. But even so, they are incomplete. The army still holds sway over some appointments (all five chiefs of the new regional commands are army generals, for instance). The PLA has traditionally given higher status to combat units than to those providing communications, logistics, transport and the like, a misplaced emphasis in an age when information and communications are crucial in warfare. The reforms do little to correct that bias. Moreover, many details about them remain unclear. No one knows, for example, where the troop cuts will come from or what units will go into the new space and cyberwarfare command.

The first result of the reforms is likely to be confusion in the ranks, until the new system settles down. Dennis Blasko, an American observer of the PLA, says no one can be sure of the results until they are tested in battle. Amid the murk, only one man clearly seems to have got his way: Mr Xi.

From: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21688424-xi-jinping-reforms-chinas-armed-forcesto-his-own-advantage-xis-new-model-army

08/01/2016

Three political questions looming over China’s leadership in 2016 – WSJ China Real Time

From: http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2016/01/08/three-political-questions-looming-over-chinas-leadership-in-2016/?mod=djemChinaRTR_h

Last year saw more attention to Chinese President Xi Jinping as China’s paramount leader, including what many observers have seen as a cult of personality. The economy may eclipse politics as a concern for Beijing in 2016, but in China the two are always closely intertwined. Here are the three major political questions that will loom over the Xi leadership in the months to come.

  1. Is it time for thelong-running anticorruption campaignto shift its focus?

In laying out a vision for his anti-corruption drive in 2013, Xi Jinping vowed to go after both high-ranking “tigers” and low-level “flies.” So far the campaign has been fueled by the takedowns of a procession of big cats – but there are signs that a change is in the offing.

There’s upside to an increased focus on local cadres and others at the insect level. For one, it would send a signal to doubters that the anti-graft campaign is genuine, not just a way to purge Xi’s political enemies. It would also help Xi score points with regular citizens and reform-minded officials outraged at the pervasiveness of corruption in China.

But there’s also a political risk. Already, the current crusade has compelled many officials to hunker down and sit on their hands to avoid attracting attention – a phenomenon that has slowed policymaking. Likewise, many developers remain wary of starting new projects that might aid an ailing economy because they’re still not sure what’s permissible in the new environment.

Broadening the anti-graft campaign could handcuff policymaking even further, because cadres will spend time looking over their shoulders, and entrepreneurs, wondering about political support, will wait until the dust settles before embarking on new commercial initiatives.

  1. What sort of politics does China want to practice?

Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang agree on a great deal, but they have distinctive notions about how to build a better China.

Xi believes that China’s political future rests on a reassertion of the party’s rule, preventing potential challenges from social groups, and convincing citizens and cadres alike that the government stands for something more than just nationalism — that socialism is still relevant but needs to be recast in ways that appeal to society.

Li appears to see his political mission differently. In his eyes, ideological renovation is far less crucial to the country than administrative restructuring and being a more efficient and approachable government. It’s innovation, not rectification, Li argues, that will secure the Party’s legitimacy. From experimenting with new ways to measure China’s actual economic performance to making bureaucratic requirements easier for citizens to meet, Li has created a profile for himself that challenges the prevailing political course being set by Xi.

While Xi wants more control over society, Li argues for less oversight and regulation in China’s economy and bureaucracy–making it easier for businesses to start up and succeed as a way of preventing social pressure from becoming a political threat.

Thus far, the policy divide between Xi and Li hasn’t resulted in political warfare. But some lower-level cadres are increasingly perplexed about which template to follow: They’ve been quietly pressing for clarification about whether they should be focusing on being better Communists, or on building a more efficient and responsive government. It’s not clear how they can accomplish both, especially when they’re under the anticorruption microscope.

The economy could catalyze conflict here. If slower growth turns into a tailspin, Li and his allies will surely press to have their agenda for change adopted more widely, and argue that the current strategy of “politics before economics” championed by Xi isn’t working. Xi and his comrades won’t concede the political high-ground they currently occupy without a fight.

Xi and Li have been doing a fine job of sharing responsibility up to now, but the divide in their approaches is getting wider, and the challenges China faces will very likely compel one model to be adopted at the expense of the other.

  1. What happens if resistance to Xi’s reforms becomes active political opposition?

Xi’s efforts to centralize party control over the economy and society have been ruthless. Even the hint of organized opposition to party policies has brought out the truncheon swingers, with censorship or jail awaiting those who propose an alternative political path for China.

Observers who see Xi’s main opposition as coming from the Chinese street are looking down a now-empty avenue. They should be paying attention to disquiet within the ranks of officialdom.

The boldness and breadth of Xi’s reforms have led some in the party ranks to wonder privately about—and even openly question—whether his handling of China’s challenges has always been correct. For example, there are some who contend that the anticorruption campaign has placed too much power in the hands of discipline inspectors and unnecessarily disrupted the status quo (in Chinese).

Some of that scrutiny concerns Xi’s efforts to reinsert the Party more fully into economic and social life, a move that risks stoking discontent in a populace that has grown used to a certain level of leeway in recent decades. There are also those within the political apparatus who see Xi’s recent restructuring of China’s military as courageous but more aimed at quelling dissent from the armed forces than rejuvenating strategy and doctrine. Even Xi himself has noted in a recently released collection of internal speeches (in Chinese) that not everything he has been doing has been met with universal acclaim within the Communist party. Murmurs of discord have reached a level in recent months where a number of officials have been punished for “improper discussion” of Party policies.

Thus far, the angst, anxiety and antagonism within the government to Xi’s reforms remain unorganized. That’s because no one has proposed an alternative strategy for dealing with the nation’s many challenges that would unify the disaffected to act against Beijing. Social activists have little political support from above; annoyed cadres are afraid that any move to form a coalition could plunge the country into civil unrest.

Xi and his allies have been as determined as they’ve been daring in following their own reform path—and their success in getting their way politically has been remarkable thus far. The most pressing question for this new year is whether what has worked thus far will continue to do so—or whether the disaffected in China start believing that their leadership may have begun to run out of answers.

 

06/01/2016

Pathankot attack: Congress asks Modi to ‘fix responsibility’ – The Hindu

Scaling up the offensive against the government over Pathankot terror attack, the Congress on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fix responsiblity for the “grave security lapse” and suggested that some heads must roll.

People light candles during a memorial service for the Indian soldiers killed in a militant attack at Pathankot air base, in Mumbai on Tuesday.

“They should realize that it has gone wrong and resignations should happen. If there is a lapse, resignations should happen,” former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told reporters at the AICC briefing when repeatedly asked whether Congress is demanding resignation of Home Minister Rajnath Singh or Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar into the matter.

“This government has totally failed. It has no system in place to protect the nation,” he added.

AICC Communication Department chairman Randeep Surjewala also said that the Prime Minister should fix the responsibility and take action against the Home and Defence Ministers.

“First responsibility is of the Prime Minister as he is the head of the government. Then Defence Minister and Home Minister are also responsible as they deal with the matter.

The Prime Minister should act decisively and not merely talk. “The Prime Minister should fix responsibility for this negligence and he reaches to the same conclusion that the nation has arrived at that there has been a huge lapse in the nation’s security, he should then take action against the Defence Minister and the Home Minister,” Surjewala said.

The party asked whether the Prime Minister and the BJP government would explain as to who was responsible for the “grave security lapse” as terrorists managed to reach Pathankot Air Base despite advance intelligence alert and reporting of prior incident.

Source: Pathankot attack: Congress asks Modi to ‘fix responsibility’ – The Hindu

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