Archive for ‘GeoPolitics’


China launches longest manned space mission | Reuters

China launched its longest manned space mission on Monday, sending two astronauts into orbit to spend a month aboard a space laboratory that is part of a broader plan to have a permanent manned space station in service around 2022.

The Shenzhou 11 blasted off on a Long March rocket at 7:30 am (2330 GMT) from the remote launch site in Jiuquan, in the Gobi desert, in images carried live on state television.

The astronauts will dock with the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, or “Heavenly Palace 2”, which was sent into space last month. It will be the longest stay in space by Chinese astronauts, state media reported.

Early on Monday, Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of China’s powerful Central Military Commission, met astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong and wished them well, state news agency Xinhua reported.

“You are going to travel in space to pursue the space dream of the Chinese nation,” Fan said.”With all the scientific and rigorous training, discreet preparation, and rich experience accumulated from previous missions, you will accomplish the glorious and tough task… We wish you success and look forward to your triumphant return.”

Shenzhou 11 is the third space voyage for Jing, who will command the mission and celebrate his 50th birthday in orbit.

In a manned space mission in 2013, three Chinese astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with a space laboratory, the Tiangong 1.Advancing China’s space program is a priority for Beijing, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power.

China insists its space program is for peaceful purposes.

Shenzhou 11, whose name translates as “Divine Vessel”, will also carry three experiments designed by Hong Kong middle school students and selected in a science competition, including one that will take silk worms into space.

The U.S. Defense Department has highlighted China’s increasing space capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations using space-based assets in a crisis.

China has been working to develop its space program for military, commercial and scientific purposes, but is still playing catch-up to established space powers the United States and Russia.

China’s Jade Rabbit moon rover landed on the moon in late 2013 to great national fanfare, but soon suffered severe technical difficulties.

The rover and the Chang’e 3 probe that carried it there were the first “soft landing” on the moon since 1976. Both the United States and the Soviet Union had accomplished the feat earlier.

China will launch a “core module” for its first space station some time around 2018, a senior official said in April, part of a plan for a permanent manned space station in service around 2022.

Source: China launches longest manned space mission | Reuters


India and Russia to sign air defence deal – BBC News

Russia and India are expected to sign a deal on Saturday for the delivery of an advanced air defence system to Delhi, a Kremlin official has said.

The S-400 missiles are Moscow’s most sophisticated aircraft defence system.Yuri Ushakov said the agreement would be signed at a summit in Goa where President Vladimir Putin will hold talks with Indian PM Narendra Modi.

India is also hosting a Brics summit in Goa this weekend involving Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“An agreement on the delivery of S-400 ‘Triumph’ anti-missile defence systems and other deals will be signed as a result of the talks,” Russian news agencies quoted Mr Ushakov as saying.

Russia’s missiles send robust signal

The Kremlin earlier this week said the talks with Mr Modi would focus on “a wide range of matters of bilateral relations, especially trade and economic ties”.

The S-400 surface-to-air missiles have been deployed to Syria, where Russian forces have been operating in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.Russia and India were close allies during the Cold War, but recently the relationship has become more complex.Talks have been held annually since 2000 and hosted alternately by Moscow and Delhi.

Source: India and Russia to sign air defence deal – BBC News


Chinese people optimistic about the future, says Pew survey – BBC News

At a time of Brexit and talk of a wall between the United States and Mexico, it seems the Chinese are embracing international engagement.

They think their country’s power is rising, that their living standards will keep improving, that corruption is being cleaned up and that air pollution should be fixed even if it means slowing down economic growth.

These are the views which have emerged from a broad survey from Washington-based the Pew Research Center.

Elsewhere there is fear and uncertainty. Here optimism trumps all.

When asked about economic globalisation, 60% of people said it is a good thing and only 23% think it is bad for China.

While some China watchers are warning that this country’s mounting local government debt could mean that a hard landing is on the way, Chinese people don’t appear to share this pessimism.

Nearly 90% of respondents amongst this group of 3,154, interviewed face-to-face in China earlier this year, think that the state of their country’s economy is either “very good” or “somewhat good”.

GETTY IMAGES – Chinese people seem to remain optimistic

Looking into the future things will apparently get even better: 76% of people think the economy will improve over the next 12 months, 70% said their personal financial situation will improve and eight out of 10 people believe that their children will have a better standard of living than they do.

Bread and butter issues

It’s not that people are without concerns.

“Corrupt officials” is at the top of the table when it comes to people’s worries (83% said this was a “very big” or “moderately big” problem) and yet here too we see optimism.

Some 64% of them said that President Xi Jinping‘s massive anti-corruption drive would improve the situation over the next five years.

Running down the concern list, an alarmingly high number of people see income inequality and the safety of food and medicine as “very big” problems.

This should give the Chinese Communist Party pause for concern.

If you enjoy monopoly power on the basis that you are delivering “socialism with Chinese characteristics” then a small group of ultra-rich driving around in their sports cars and showing off their wealth while most struggle to pay the rent is surely at odds with your central message.

Then, if ordinary Chinese people can’t even trust the food and medicine they are giving their children, the possibility for social unrest over bread and butter issues is looming large.

The environment also emerges as a massive challenge with water and air pollution at the front of people’s minds.

Air pollution is so bad in China that half of those polled said their country should fight air pollution harder even if it means sacrificing economic growth.

GETTY IMAGES – Emissions from coal-powered industries, cars and heating systems generate the smog

Only 24% saw air deterioration as a necessary price to pay.

When it comes to the war of ideas in the top echelons of power here, those ministers in favour of tougher environmental protection measures could do worse than table this research.

A “major threat” to China?

The South China Sea and other geo-strategic tensions offer some of the most bleak opinions.

Nearly six out of 10 people think that territorial pressures with neighbours could lead to military conflict; 77% say their way of life needs to be protected from “foreign influence” (up by 13 percentage points since 2002) and only 22% say China should help other nations.

Regarding relations with rival superpower the United States people views are complex and, at times, seemingly contradictory.

Around half of Chinese respondents rated the US favourably but more than half think that Washington is trying to prevent China from becoming an equal power.

About 45% said that US power and influence poses a “major threat” to China. In fact the US came in at number one as the top international threat to the country.

GETTY IMAGES – More than half of Chinese people think that Washington is trying to prevent China from becoming an equal power

It’s interesting that some would see the Obama administration’s so-called “pivot to Asia” as a greater threat than say jihadist extremist groups just across the western border promoting bloody conflict in China’s vast Muslim region of Xinjiang.

Either way, whatever the perceived threat, China is seen as becoming ever more important and with ever more power at its disposal.Information is being controlled here ever more tightly – whether it is coming from the traditional media or sources online – so some analysts will see these views as the inevitable result of messages being delivered to the Chinese people by their government.

This may the be case but, in a world where politicians in various countries are accused of exploiting people’s fear and insecurity, could it be that a quarter of the globe’s population are going around with a smile on their dial because every day they look out the window and to them it just gets better and better?

Source: Chinese people optimistic about the future, says Pew survey – BBC News


Guns and ghee | The Economist

TO MANY Indians, their country’s strategic position looks alarming. Its two biggest neighbours are China and Pakistan. It has fought wars with both, and border issues still fester. Both are nuclear-armed, and are allies with one another to boot. China, a rising superpower with five times India’s GDP, is quietly encroaching on India’s traditional sphere of influence, tying a “string of pearls” of alliances around the subcontinent. Relatively weak but safe behind its nuclear shield, Pakistan harbours Islamist guerrillas who have repeatedly struck Indian targets; regional security wonks have long feared that another such incident might spark a conflagration.

So when four heavily armed infiltrators attacked an Indian army base on September 18th, killing 18 soldiers before being shot dead themselves, jitters inevitably spread. The base nestles in mountains close to the “line of control”, as the border between the Indian and Pakistani-administered parts of the disputed territory of Kashmir is known. Indian officials reflexively blamed Pakistan; politicians and pundits vied in demanding a punchy response. “Every Pakistan post through which infiltration takes place should be reduced to rubble by artillery fire,” blustered a retired brigadier who now mans a think-tank in New Delhi, India’s capital.

Yet despite electoral promises to be tough on Pakistan, the Hindu-nationalist government of Narendra Modi has trodden as softly as its predecessors. On September 21st it summoned Pakistan’s envoy for a wrist-slap, citing evidence that the attackers had indeed slipped across the border, and noting that India has stopped 17 such incursions since the beginning of the year. Much to the chagrin of India’s armchair warriors, such polite reprimands are likely to be the limit of India’s response.

There are good reasons for this. India gains diplomatic stature by behaving more responsibly than Pakistan. It is keenly aware of the danger of nuclear escalation, and of the risks of brinkmanship to its economy. Indian intelligence agencies also understand that they face an unusual adversary in Pakistan: such is its political frailty that any Indian belligerence tends to strengthen exactly the elements in Pakistan’s power structure that are most inimical to India’s own interests.

But there is another, less obvious reason for reticence. India is not as strong militarily as the numbers might suggest. Puzzlingly, given how its international ambitions are growing along with its economy, and how alarming its strategic position looks, India has proved strangely unable to build serious military muscle.

India’s armed forces look good on paper. It fields the world’s second-biggest standing army, after China, with long fighting experience in a variety of terrains and situations (see chart).

It has topped the list of global arms importers since 2010, sucking in a formidable array of top-of-the-line weaponry, including Russian warplanes, Israeli missiles, American transport aircraft and French submarines. State-owned Indian firms churn out some impressive gear, too, including fighter jets, cruise missiles and the 40,000-tonne aircraft-carrier under construction in a shipyard in Kochi, in the south of the country.

Yet there are serious chinks in India’s armour. Much of its weaponry is, in fact, outdated or ill maintained. “Our air defence is in a shocking state,” says Ajai Shukla, a commentator on military affairs. “What’s in place is mostly 1970s vintage, and it may take ten years to install the fancy new gear.” On paper, India’s air force is the world’s fourth largest, with around 2,000 aircraft in service. But an internal report seen in 2014 by IHS Jane’s, a defence publication, revealed that only 60% were typically fit to fly. A report earlier this year by a government accounting agency estimated that the “serviceability” of the 45 MiG 29K jets that are the pride of the Indian navy’s air arm ranged between 16% and 38%. They were intended to fly from the carrier currently under construction, which was ordered more than 15 years ago and was meant to have been launched in 2010. According to the government’s auditors the ship, after some 1,150 modifications, now looks unlikely to sail before 2023.

Such delays are far from unusual. India’s army, for instance, has been seeking a new standard assault rifle since 1982; torn between demands for local production and the temptation of fancy imports, and between doctrines calling for heavier firepower or more versatility, it has flip-flopped ever since. India’s air force has spent 16 years perusing fighter aircraft to replace ageing Soviet-era models. By demanding over-ambitious specifications, bargain prices, hard-to-meet local-content quotas and so on, it has left foreign manufacturers “banging heads against the wall”, in the words of one Indian military analyst. Four years ago France appeared to have clinched a deal to sell 126 of its Rafale fighters. The order has since been whittled to 36, but is at least about to be finalised.

India’s military is also scandal-prone. Corruption has been a problem in the past, and observers rightly wonder how guerrillas manage to penetrate heavily guarded bases repeatedly. Lately the Indian public has been treated to legal battles between generals over promotions, loud disputes over pay and orders for officers to lose weight. In July a military transport plane vanished into the Bay of Bengal with 29 people aboard; no trace of it has been found. In August an Australian newspaper leaked extensive technical details of India’s new French submarines.

The deeper problem with India’s military is structural. The three services are each reasonably competent, say security experts; the trouble is that they function as separate fiefdoms. “No service talks to the others, and the civilians in the Ministry of Defence don’t talk to them,” says Mr Shukla. Bizarrely, there are no military men inside the ministry at all. Like India’s other ministries, defence is run by rotating civil servants and political appointees more focused on ballot boxes than ballistics. “They seem to think a general practitioner can perform surgery,” says Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, who has worked as a consultant for the ministry. Despite their growing brawn, India’s armed forces still lack a brain.

Source: Guns and ghee | The Economist


India signs deal for 36 French fighter jets to counter China, Pakistan squadrons | Reuters

India signed a deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France on Friday for around $8.7 billion, the country’s first major acquisition of combat planes in two decades and a boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s plan to rebuild an ageing fleet.

The air force is down to 33 squadrons, against its requirement of 45 to face both China, with which it has a festering border dispute, and nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed the agreement with his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar, in New Delhi, ending almost 18 months of wrangling over terms between New Delhi and manufacturer Dassault Aviation.

India’s defence ministry said it would confirm the exact price later on Friday, but a ministry official said it was 7.8 billion euros ($8.7 billion).

Air force officials have warned for years about a major capability gap opening up with China and Pakistan without new state-of-the-art planes, as India’s outdated and largely Russian-made fleet retires and production of a locally made plane was delayed.

India had originally awarded Dassault with an order for 126 Rafales in 2012 after the twin-engine fourth-generation fighter beat rivals in a decade-long selection process, but subsequent talks collapsed.

Modi, who has vowed to modernise India’s armed forces with a $150 billion spending spree, personally intervened in April 2015 to agree on the smaller order of 36 and give the air force a near-term boost as he weighed options for a more fundamental overhaul.

The first ready-to-fly Rafales are expected to arrive by 2019 and India is set to have all 36 within six years.

Dassault Aviation said in a statement it welcomed the contract signing.

($1 = 0.8920 euros)

Source: India signs deal for 36 French fighter jets to counter China, Pakistan squadrons | Reuters


China Enter Syria on Assad’s Side: Is This A World War?

The Conversation Room

At what point does Syria become a World War?

News has emerged today that China has joined a tripartite alliance with Russia & Iran to prevent the fall of Assad in the up until now secular and relatively stable Damascus. China has its own fears that the chaos of jihadist factions ruling various clusters of Syria, would become birth grounds for instability, may spill over to Russia & even lead to major trouble with separatist movements in China itself.

Questions have been raised as to whether Syria has become  a Third World War. When examining the power dynamics of The United States, Saudi & Israel on one side with China, Russia & Iran on the other, the internationalization of the conflict is of grave concern.

If diplomatic solution was not already an immediate necessity it certainly is even more so now.

For more in depth analysis, read:


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China says should constructively handle disputes with India | Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday that the two countries should respect each other’s concerns and constructively handle their differences.

The two nuclear-armed neighbours have been moving to gradually ease long-existing tensions between them.

Leaders of Asia’s two giants pledged last year to cool a festering border dispute, which dates back to a brief border war in 1962, though the disagreement remains unresolved.

Meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Xi said relations had maintained a steady, healthy momentum, and should continue to increase mutual understanding and trust.

“We ought to respect and give consideration to each other’s concerns, and use constructive methods to appropriately handle questions on which there are disputes,” Xi said, in comments carried by China’s Foreign Ministry.

“China is willing to work hard with India the maintain the hard-won good position of Sino-India relations,” Xi added.

China’s Defence Ministry said last month that it hoped India could put more efforts into regional peace and stability rather than the opposite, in response to Indian plans to put advanced cruise missiles along the disputed border with China.

Indian military officials say the plan is to equip regiments deployed on the China border with the BrahMos missile, made by an Indo-Russian joint venture, as part of ongoing efforts to build up military and civilian infrastructure capabilities there.

China lays claim to more than 90,000 sq km (35,000 sq miles) ruled by New Delhi in the eastern sector of the Himalayas. India says China occupies 38,000 sq km (14,600 sq miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the west.

India is also suspicious of China’s support for its arch-rival, Pakistan.Modi arrived in China from Vietnam, which is involved in its own dispute with China over the South China Sea, where he offered Vietnam a credit line of half a billion dollars for defence cooperation.Modi’s government has ordered BrahMos Aerospace, which produces the BrahMos missiles, to accelerate sales to a list of five countries topped by Vietnam, according to a government note viewed by Reuters and previously unreported.

Source: China says should constructively handle disputes with India | Reuters


UK’s May to review security risks of Chinese-funded nuclear deal | Reuters

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday she wanted her security advisers to review a delayed nuclear power investment from China – a source of diplomatic tension – as she arrived in the country to attend a G20 summit.

May upset Chinese officials in July by delaying a $24 billion project that would see French firm EDF (EDF.PA) build Britain’s first new nuclear power plant in decades with the help of $8 billion from China.

Speaking during her first visit to China, May was asked whether she would ask the National Security Council, a team of ministers supported by intelligence officers, to look at the potential security implications of the Hinkley deal.

“I will be doing exactly as you’ve said,” May replied, saying it would be part of her decision-making process. The comment marked the first official acknowledgement that national security was a factor in her decision.

The initial delay caught investors by surprise and has cast doubt over whether May, who took office in July following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, will continue to court China as a major source of infrastructure investment.

“This is the way I operate,” May earlier told reporters en route to the summit, which will include a one-to-one with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“I look at the evidence, …take the advice and consider that and come to my decision.

“A final decision is expected later this month.

May, a former interior minister, is wary of the risks of allowing China to invest in nuclear projects, according to a former cabinet colleague. The EDF deal is viewed as a precursor to Chinese involvement in another two nuclear plants.

Asked whether she trusted China, May said: “Of course we have a relationship with them… What I want to do is build on that relationship.

“She also stressed a need to broaden the group of nations that Britain can trade with and tap for cash to help reinvigorate its power, transport and technology infrastructure.”This is the G20, this is about talking to a number of world leaders. I’m going to give the message that Britain is very much open for business… I want to be talking about the opportunities for free trade around the world.”

Source: UK’s May to review security risks of Chinese-funded nuclear deal | Reuters


China’s logistic hub in Djibouti to stabilize region, protect interests – Global Times

About 7,700 kilometers away from Beijing, in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, China’s first overseas installation for naval vessels is under construction.

Scheduled to be completed in 2017, the base is set to resupply Chinese warships, according to government statements.

But despite Beijing’s insistence that the facility will simply help with escort missions, peacekeeping and humanitarian rescues in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia, many have argued this move represents Chinese “military expansion” beyond the Asia-Pacific region.

“Through exaggerating or distorting, they attempt to hype the ‘threat of China’ and tarnish China’s image, so as to suppress China’s efforts to build maritime power,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based maritime expert, told the Global Times.

“The base is far less than a military base in its scale and function,” said Zhang Junshe, a researcher from PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute. “The base will be a logistic hub for Chinese vessels to get replenishment and temporary rest. It differs from US-style military bases, which have become bridgeheads for the country to easily and quickly wield military deterrence or intervention to other territories,” Li noted. The Republic of Djibouti, located in a strategically important position between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, hosts the military facilities of several countries, including the US, Japan and France, the country’s former colonial ruler. Italy and Spain also have permanent military installations in the country, according to a recent report by Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV.

These countries have stationed a variety of assets in these bases, including personnel, ships, UAVs and surveillance aircraft which are used for anti-terror and anti-piracy operations in Africa and the Middle East.

International obligations

The news that China will build a “military base” in Djibouti was first revealed in May last year, when Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh told AFP that “discussions are ongoing,” and China’s presence would be “welcome.

“Since then, it has aroused wide attention and concern. The US even reportedly protested against it. “Washington protested against the China-Djibouti pact and expressed concern over China’s plans to build a military base in the Obock region, but to no avail,” according to an article published in April on, a US-based international affairs news portal.

At a regular press briefing on November 26, 2015, China’s foreign ministry first confirmed that China was negotiating with Djibouti over the construction of a “logistics facility.” Spokesman Hong Lei citied the need to resolve resupply difficulties for Chinese escort vessels, adding “[The facility] will be significant for Chinese army to fulfill its international obligations and safeguard global and regional peace and stability.”

Three months later at a press briefing by Chinese defense ministry on February 25, spokesman Wu Qian told media that China had reached an agreement with Djibouti to build a facility and construction had already begun. According to official figures, China has deployed more than 30,000 personnel on peacekeeping missions, the most of any of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.Since 2008, China has sent 22 escort fleets, a total of more than 60 vessels, to the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters, escorting more than 6,000 ships from home and abroad.

In March last year, hundreds of Chinese nationals threatened by escalating violence in Yemen were evacuated to Djibouti by their government.

But currently, these fleets need to dock in the ports of other countries to get rest and food supplies. “They need to organize people to purchase food locally. Besides, due to different types of fuels, refueling is also a problem,” Zhang said.

The new base will help China save money. Yang Huawen, a captain from China’s Northern Theater Command who joined a 10-month peacekeeping operation in Mali in 2014, is happy this facility is being built.

“In those tropical areas, the food goes bad quickly. The cost of mending equipment and maintenance is high,” Yang told the Global Times. “Building a logistic hub in the region can provide stable supplies efficiently and economically.”

Djibouti, with a landmass of 23,200 square kilometers of which 90 percent is volcanic desert, is poor in natural resources. Its ability to produce fruits, vegetables, and seafood is limited, according to a Chinese national who has spent time in the country. “Most of its vegetables are imported from its neighbor Ethiopia. Vegetables sell for there as much as five to 10 times what they do on the domestic market in China,” said the person.

Zhang also cited another advantage of the new facility – the Chinese government needn’t conduct diplomatic negotiations with the host country each time its vessels dock in their port.


Source: China’s logistic hub in Djibouti to stabilize region, protect interests – Global Times


Iran keen to join China in rival to Panama Canal | Business | The Times & The Sunday Times

Iran has expressed interest in joining forces with a Chinese company that plans to build a $50 billion canal across Nicaragua that links the Atlantic and Pacific and rivals the Panama Canal.Mohammed Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said that business leaders who went with him to the Central American state this week had discussed teaming up with HKND, a private Hong Kong company that has broken ground on the project but made little progress in the past two years.

Iranian involvement in a Chinese-run strategic waterway may raise concerns in the United States, which was instrumental in building the Panama Canal a century ago.

Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s left-wing president, shares Iran’s antipathy towards the US and is favoured for re-election in polls this November.

The project to build the 172-mile waterway has caused controversy at home, where environmentalists say that the route would take supertankers across Lake Nicaragua, bulldoze fragile ecosystems and involve the biggest earth-moving operation in history.

With an estimated 30,000 people likely to be displaced by construction, there have been protests against the canal, although the government insists that more than 80 per cent of the population of the country backs it. Amnesty International has denounced what it called Nicaragua’s “reckless handling” of the project.

There have been doubts about the financial health of Wang Jing, the Hong Kong tycoon behind the canal, and whether he might be backed by the Chinese government, which has massively invested across Latin America and Africa in the past decade.

Mr Wang is understood to have lost more than 80 per cent of his $10 billion fortune as a result of the volatility in the Chinese stock market. The project managers say that it is an international initiative not dependent on the vagaries of the Chinese share prices. After the groundbreaking ceremony in December 2014, the project appeared to have been put on hold, prompting speculation that it had run out of steam.

However, Mr Wang’s HKND group said this year that work on the Pacific terminal and wharf would begin this month, with work on the canal scheduled to start at the end of the year.

Mr Zarif, whose country recently had years of crippling US sanctions lifted, is on a tour of Latin America that began on Monday in Cuba, which has renewed diplomatic ties with the US but has yet to have its own half-century of sanctions lifted.Nicaragua was Mr Zarif’s second stop with an entourage of 120 Iranian business leaders and state economists, and he was scheduled to head on to Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia and Chile.

Source: Iran keen to join China in rival to Panama Canal | Business | The Times & The Sunday Times

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