Posts tagged ‘Philippines’

21/12/2016

China seizes an underwater drone and sends a signal to Donald Trump | The Economist

IT WAS an operation carried out with remarkable cool. On December 15th, less than 500 metres away from an American navy ship, a Chinese one deployed a smaller boat to grab an underwater American drone. The object was then taken to the Chinese ship, which sailed off with it. Point deftly made.

The incident occurred in the South China Sea, in which China says the Americans have no business snooping around. By seizing the drone, it has made clear that two can play at being annoying. Mercifully no shots were fired. After remonstrations by the Americans, China agreed to give the drone back “in an appropriate manner”. It chose its moment five days later, handing the device over in the same area where it had snatched it. The Pentagon, though clearly irritated, has downplayed the drone’s importance, saying it cost (a mere) $150,000 and that most of its technology was commercially available. The drone was reportedly carrying out tests of the water’s properties, including salinity and temperature.

But it may turn into less of a game. Relations between the two nuclear powers, never easy at the best of times, are under extra strain as Donald Trump prepares to take over as president on January 20th. Mr Trump has already angered China by talking on the phone to Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, and challenging China’s cherished “one-China” policy, crucial to which is the idea that Taiwan is part of it.

The capture of the drone took place on the outer perimeter of China’s expansive claim to the sea, about 50 miles (80km) from the Philippine port of Subic Bay, which was once home to a large American naval base (see map).

It appeared calculated to show China’s naval reach, with only minimal risk of any conflict—the American ship that was operating the drone, the Bowditch, is a not a combat vessel. Once in office, however, Mr Trump could face tougher challenges, exacerbated by China’s growing presence in the South China Sea: it appears to be installing weapons on islands it has been building there.

His two predecessors were each tested by a dangerous military standoff with China in their first months in office. With George Bush it involved a mid-air collision in April 2001 between an American spy-plane and a Chinese fighter-jet off China’s southern coast. The Chinese pilot was killed and the disabled American plane made an emergency landing at a Chinese airfield. There the crew of 24 was released after 11 days of painstaking diplomacy. The aircraft, full of advanced technology, was returned—in pieces—months later.

In March 2009 it was Barack Obama’s turn. According to the Pentagon, an American surveillance ship, the Impeccable, was sailing 75 miles from China’s coast when it was buzzed by Chinese aircraft and then confronted by five Chinese ships. First the Chinese forced it to make an emergency stop, then they scattered debris in front of the American ship as it tried to sail away. They also attempted to snatch sonar equipment it was towing. The Impeccable soon returned—this time in the reassuring company of an American destroyer.

For now, feuding between Mr Trump and China is less nail-biting. In Twitter messages, Mr Trump bashed China for taking the drone and later said China should keep it. Chinese media have in turn bashed Mr Trump. One newspaper said he had “no sense of how to lead a superpower”. Global Times, a nationalist newspaper in Beijing, said that China would “not exercise restraint” should Mr Trump fail to change his ways once in the White House. He would be wise to study the form.

Source: China seizes an underwater drone and sends a signal to Donald Trump | The Economist

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21/11/2016

A China-America romance? | The Economist

AFTER the wildest political upsets this year, here’s a prediction for next: China will deem its relations with America to be entering something of a golden period.

The prediction is no more outlandish than others that have recently come true. But is it madness? On the campaign trail, Donald Trump singled out China as the prime culprit ripping jobs and business out of the United States “like candy from a baby”. Mr Trump threatened a trade war. He promised that, on day one as president, he would label China a currency manipulator. He said he would slap a punitive tariff of 45% on Chinese imports. For good measure, he also promised to tear up the climate agreement that President Barack Obama signed with his counterpart, Xi Jinping, in September—a rare bright point in the bilateral relationship.Throw in, too, amid all the disarray inside Mr Trump’s transition team, the names being bandied about for those who will be in charge of dealings with China. They hardly reassure leaders in Beijing. Possibles for secretary of state, for instance, are Rudy Giuliani, New York’s former mayor, who has little experience of China, and John Bolton, a hawk who is actively hostile to it.

And yet China is starting to look on the bright side. Driving the growing optimism in Beijing is a calculation that, if Mr Trump is serious about jobs and growth at home, he will end up in favour of engagement and trade. Put simply, protectionism is inconsistent with “Make America Great Again”. From that it flows, or so Chinese officials hope, that Mr Trump’s campaign threats are mainly bluster. Yes, he is likely formally to label China a currency manipulator. But that will trigger investigations that will not be published until a year later. Even after that, there may be few immediate practical consequences.

What is more, China’s leaders may divine in Mr Trump someone in their mould—not delicate about democratic niceties and concerned above all about development and growth. Reporting on the first phone conversation earlier this week between Mr Xi and Mr Trump, the normally rabid Global Times, a newspaper in Beijing, was gushing. After Mr Xi urged co-operation, Mr Trump’s contribution to the phone call was “diplomatically impeccable”; it bolstered “optimism”, the paper said, in the two powers’ relationship over the next four years. Indeed, thanks to his “business and grass-roots angles”, and because he has not been “kidnapped by Washington’s political elites”, Mr Trump “is probably the very American leader who will make strides in reshaping major-power relations in a pragmatic manner.”

No doubt optimism among more hawkish Chinese is based upon calculations that Mr Trump’s administration will prove chaotic and incompetent, harming America first and playing to China’s advantage in the long game of America’s decline and China’s rise. “We may as well…see what chaos he can create,” the same newspaper was saying only a week ago. And Chinese leaders are delighted to see the back of Barack Obama. They hate his “pivot” to Asia. They are bitter that Mr Obama’s “zero-sum mindset” never allowed him to accept Mr Xi’s brilliant proposal in 2013 for a “new type of great-power relations” involving “win-win” co-operation. How could Mr Obama possibly think that the doctrine boils down to ceding hegemony in East Asia to China?

And so, it is not hard to imagine what gets discussed in the first meeting between the two leaders, after Mr Trump’s inauguration. In his victory speech, the builder-in-chief promised a lot of concrete-pouring: “highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals”. Mr Xi will point out that he has a fair amount of expertise in construction, too. It comes from running a vast country with more than 12,000 miles (18,400km) of bullet-train track where America has none, and a dam at the Yangzi river’s Three Gorges which is nearly as tall as the Hoover Dam and six times its length. Mr Xi will offer money and expertise for the president-elect’s building efforts, emphasising that China’s help will generate American jobs. In return, it would be an easy goodwill gesture for Mr Trump to reverse Mr Obama’s opposition to American membership of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and to lend more support to Mr Xi’s “Belt and Road” plans for building infrastructure across Asia and Europe. Advisers to Mr Trump suggest that is already on the cards.

The other leadership transition

A honeymoon, then, that few predicted. China certainly wills it. A calm external environment is critical for Mr Xi right now. He is preparing to carry out a sweeping reshuffle of the party’s leadership in the coming year or so. His aim is to consolidate his own power and ensure that he will have control over the choice of his eventual successors. That will demand much of his attention.

But don’t expect the honeymoon to last. For one, China may well have underestimated the strength of Mr Trump’s mercantilist instincts. It may also have second thoughts should a sustained dollar rally complicate management of its own currency. And even though America’s panicked friends have been this week, as the New York Times put it, “blindly dialling in to Trump Tower to try to reach the soon-to-be-leader of the free world”, Trumpian assurances of support have been growing for the alliances that China resents but that have reinforced American power in East Asia since the second world war. (As The Economist went to press, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was about to become the first national leader to meet the president-elect; he will reassure Mr Trump that Japan is taking on a bigger role in defending itself.)

And then who knows what might roil the world’s most important relationship? No crisis has recently challenged the two countries’ leaders like the mid-air collision in 2001 of a Chinese fighter jet and an American spy plane. Yet some similar incident is all too thinkable in the crowded, and contested, South and East China Seas. Remember, it is not just Mr Trump who is wholly untested in a foreign-policy crisis of that scale. Mr Xi is, too.

Source: A China-America romance? | The Economist

25/07/2016

ASEAN breaks deadlock on South China Sea, Beijing thanks Cambodia for support | Reuters

Southeast Asian nations overcame days of deadlock on Monday when the Philippines dropped a request for their joint statement to mention a landmark legal ruling on the South China Sea, officials said, after objections from Cambodia.

China publicly thanked Cambodia for supporting its stance on maritime disputes, a position which threw the regional block’s weekend meeting in the Laos capital of Vientiane into disarray.

Competing claims with China in the vital shipping lane are among the most contentious issues for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with its 10 members pulled between their desire to assert their sovereignty while finding common ground and fostering ties with Beijing.

In a ruling by the U.N.-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 12, the Philippines won an emphatic legal victory over China on the dispute.

The Philippines and Vietnam both wanted the ruling, which denied China’s sweeping claims in the strategic seaway that channels more than $5 trillion in global trade each year, and a call to respect international maritime law to feature in the communique.

Backing China’s call for bilateral discussions, Cambodia opposed the wording on the ruling, diplomats said.

Manila agreed to drop the reference to the ruling in the communique, one ASEAN diplomat said on Monday, in an effort to prevent the disagreement leading to the group failing to issue a statement.

The communique referred instead to the need to find peaceful resolutions to disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, including the United Nations’ law of the sea, to which the court ruling referred.

Source: ASEAN breaks deadlock on South China Sea, Beijing thanks Cambodia for support | Reuters

09/06/2016

India plans expanded missile export drive, with China on its mind | Reuters

India has stepped up efforts to sell an advanced cruise missile system to Vietnam and has at least 15 more markets in its sights, a push experts say reflects concerns in New Delhi about China’s growing military assertiveness.

Selling the supersonic BrahMos missile, made by an Indo-Russian joint venture, would mark a shift for the world’s biggest arms importer, as India seeks to send weapons the other way in order to shore up partners’ defenses and boost revenues.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered BrahMos Aerospace, which produces the missiles, to accelerate sales to a list of five countries topped by Vietnam, according to a government note viewed by Reuters and previously unreported.

The others are Indonesia, South Africa, Chile and Brazil.The Philippines is at the top of a second list of 11 nations including Malaysia, Thailand and United Arab Emirates, countries which had “expressed interest but need further discussions and analysis”, the undated note added.

A source familiar with the matter would only say the note was issued earlier this year.New Delhi had been sitting on a 2011 request from Hanoi for the BrahMos for fear of angering China, which sees the weapon, reputed to be the world’s fastest cruise missile with a top speed of up to three times the speed of sound, as destabilizing.

Indonesia and the Philippines had also asked for the BrahMos, which has a range of 290 km and can be fired from land, sea and submarine. An air-launched version is under testing.

Source: India plans expanded missile export drive, with China on its mind | Reuters

06/11/2015

India’s Consumers Are World’s Most Confident – India Real Time – WSJ

India might be facing a slow recovery, but consumers aren’t deterred, putting the country at the top of a confidence survey of major economies.

India came first for consumer confidence among 61 countries in the July-September period in the online survey conducted by New York-based research firm The Nielsen Company.

The country’s positive reading, which measures perceptions of local job prospects, personal finances and spending intentions, comes at a time when confidence declined in eight of the 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Indian consumers continue to declare a resilient outlook in the face of uncertainty in the broader economy,” said Roosevelt D’Souza, senior vice president, Nielsen India Region.

Despite weak economic indicators, a poor monsoon and volatility in the job market, Indians’ belief in the fundamental prospects of the country’s economic future appear unshaken and the proportion of consumers who see brighter days ahead are growing, Mr. D’Souza said.

The Indian central bank’s softer interest rate regime and lower inflation are also likely to brighten the prospects of further improvement in consumer confidence, the survey shows.

This might be good news for the economy and consumer goods companies, who reported slow growth in their revenues for the past few quarters because of lower purchases by rural consumers.

China, India’s bigger neighbor and the world’s second-largest economy, ranked ninth in the survey, while the U.S. occupied second place.

The U.S. showed the biggest quarterly improvement of 18 points in the consumer confidence index, but China showed a decline of one point. Its economy has been racked in recent months by an unexpected slowdown and stock market rout.

Other Asian countries that found a place in the top 10 are the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand.

Source: India’s Consumers Are World’s Most Confident – India Real Time – WSJ

23/09/2015

Command and lack of control | The Economist

IF THE People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were a company, it would be about to lose its position as the world’s largest corporate employer. When troop cuts recently announced by Xi Jinping, China’s president, are completed in 2017, the ranks of China’s armed forces will have shrunk by 300,000 to 2m, putting it just behind Walmart, a retailer (see chart). It would still be by far the world’s largest military outfit.

When the downsizing was announced, at a big military parade on September 3rd, the cuts seemed no more significant than a round of corporate redundancies. Mr Xi’s own explanation—that they would help the PLA to “carry out the noble mission of upholding world peace”—also seemed to come straight from the gobbledygook of corporate obfuscation.

But recent commentary in China’s state media suggests that the reductions may presage something more: a long-overdue reform of the command structure of the PLA and a shift in the balance of the main military services. If so, one of the most important subsidiaries of the Chinese state is in for a shake-up.

The army has long been the senior service. Almost three quarters of active-duty personnel are soldiers. The navy and air-force chiefs did not have seats on the main institution for exercising civilian control over the armed forces, the Central Military Commission, until 2004. It was only in 2012 that an officer outside the ranks of the army became its most senior military figure. The army’s dominance is a problem at a time when China is expanding its influence in the South China Sea and naval strategy is looming larger.

Moreover, there has long been a split within the PLA between combat forces (which kill the enemy) and other operations (logistics, transport and so on) which are regarded as secondary. But in modern, high-tech warfare, non front-line services such as those responsible for cyberwarfare and electronic surveillance often matter more than tanks and infantry.

Embodying these outdated traditions is a top-heavy, ill-co-ordinated structure with four headquarters and seven regional commands. Many Chinese analysts argue that, as now constituted, the PLA would not be able to conduct modern information-intensive military operations which integrate all the services properly.

China has long talked about military reform. In late 2013 Mr Xi told fellow leaders that the command system for joint operations was “not strong enough”. It was duly announced that China would “optimise the size and structure” of the armed forces. China Daily, an English-language newspaper, said that a “joint operational command system” would be introduced “in due course”.

It now appears that these changes are under way. Mr Xi was recently quoted in PLA Daily, a newspaper, saying that “we have a rare window … to deepen [military] reform”. It is possible that Mr Xi’s anti-corruption purge, which has taken aim at two men (one now dead) who were once the country’s most powerful military figures, as well as 50 other generals, may have weakened opposition enough for change to begin.

The South China Morning Post, a newspaper in Hong Kong, recently published what it described as a radical plan devised by military reformers. This would scrap three of the four headquarters, reduce the number of regional military commands to four and give a more prominent role to the navy. It remains to be seen whether Mr Xi will go that far. But there is no doubt that, in order to fulfil what he calls China’s “dream of a strong armed forces”, he wants a leaner, more efficient PLA. To China’s neighbours, that would make it even more frightening.

Source: Command and lack of control | The Economist

12/12/2014

China, Vietnam clash again over South China Sea claims | Reuters

China and Vietnam have clashed again over competing claims in the South China Sea, after Vietnam submitted its position to an arbitration tribunal initiated by the Philippines over the festering dispute that involves several countries.

A crewman from the Vietnamese coastguard ship 8003 looks out at sea as Chinese coastguard vessels give chase to Vietnamese ships that came close to the Haiyang Shiyou 981, known in Vietnam as HD-981, oil rig in the South China Sea July 15, 2014. REUTERS/Martin Petty

China has said repeatedly it will not participate in the case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, branding it an underhand attempt to exert political pressure over territory which is inherently Chinese.

China’s foreign ministry, in a statement released late on Thursday, called on Vietnam to respect China’s sovereignty, which it said had historical basis.

China will not change its position of not taking part in the arbitration, the ministry said.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry said it had submitted its point of view to the court to ensure it pays attention to “our legal rights and interests”.

Vietnam has historical proof and the legal basis to support its claims, and rejects China’s “unilateral” claims, it added.

China has warned Vietnam before against getting involved in the arbitration case, the first time China has been subjected to international legal scrutiny over the waters.

Anti-Chinese violence flared in Vietnam in May after a $1 billion (£635.8 million) deepwater rig owned by China’s state-run CNOOC oil company was parked 240 km (150 miles) off the coast of Vietnam.

Since then, though, China has sought to make amends with Vietnam.

via China, Vietnam clash again over South China Sea claims | Reuters.

13/11/2014

China offers ASEAN friendship treaty as South China Sea tension bubbles | Reuters

China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang proposed a “friendship” treaty with Southeast Asian countries on Thursday but reiterated that territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be settled directly between the countries involved.

(L-R) Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, China's Premier Li Keqiang, Myanmar's President Thein Sein, U.S. President Barack Obama, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak and Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev pose for a photo before the East Asia Summit (EAS) plenary session during the ASEAN Summit in Naypyitaw November 13, 2014. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

China, Taiwan and four Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have competing claims in the sea where concern is growing of an escalation in disputes even as the claimants work to establish agreements to resolve them.

“China … stands ready to become the first dialogue partner to sign with ASEAN a treaty of friendship and cooperation,” Li told leaders at a summit of East Asian countries in Myanmar.

The treaty is seen as an attempt by Beijing to dispel any notion it is a threat.

Li added China was willing to sign legal documents with more countries in the region on good-neighborliness and friendship.

Still, the Chinese premier reiterated Beijing’s resolve to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and its position that disputes concerning the South China Sea should be settled directly rather than collectively or through arbitration.

The competing maritime claims have formed an undercurrent of tension at the East Asian and ASEAN summits in Myanmar this week.

The Philippines, one of the ASEAN claimants, has previously irked Beijing by seeking international arbitration over China’s claims to about 90 percent of the South China Sea.

Diplomatic sources from the Philippines reacted coolly to China’s treaty proposal, saying that it lacked substance and was similar to a 2012 proposal made by Manila and ignored by Beijing.

Li will meet the heads of ASEAN countries behind closed doors later on Thursday, with Southeast Asian leaders hoping to persuade their giant neighbor to take a less bellicose approach to overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

The Philippines and Vietnam have sought closer U.S. ties to counter what they see as China’s aggression in the region.

via China offers ASEAN friendship treaty as South China Sea tension bubbles | Reuters.

02/10/2014

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to Meet Modi in India – India Real Time – WSJ

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, will visit India next week to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and take part in a summit to find ways to get more people online–and probably signed up for his website.

India has around 200 million Internet users, a tiny fraction of its 1.2 billion population, and just over half of them have Facebook profiles. Mr. Modi is one of India’s most social-media savvy politicians and used Facebook and Twitter TWTR -3.04% heavily during his campaign ahead of elections which took place in April and May. But Internet use in general in India is still a minority affair with only 15% of the population online.

A report by McKinsey published Wednesday ahead of the internet.org summit which begins next Thursday said that between 2012 and 2013, the number of Internet users in India grew 22% compared to 9% growth in China and 7% increase in the U.S. over the same period. Over half (59%) of Internet users in India use mobile phones rather than computers to get online.

But, like Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, India faces infrastructure challenges to getting more people online, the report said.

Almost half (45%) of the huge rural population has no access to electricity and further up the chain, the country is only in the early stages of deploying 3G networks.

There are some bright spots on the horizon for Internet usage in India however. The report says that India’s huge young population–around one in three people is currently aged under 15–will push the country online.

“We expect this younger age segment to be a significant driver of Internet adoption in developing countries, given their generally greater familiarity with technology and willingness to adopt it,” the report said.

via Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to Meet Modi in India – India Real Time – WSJ.

07/05/2014

Philippines police capture Chinese fishing boat in South China Sea | South China Morning Post

Philippines police seized a Chinese boat near ‘Half Moon Shoal‘ in the South China Sea on Wednesday after it was found to have hauled in 500 turtles. Philippine police confirmed the capture and said the vessel was being towed to southwestern Palawan province.

island_tt_23706979.jpg

China’s official Xinhua news agency earlier reported contact had been lost with 11 fishermen in the South China Sea after they were intercepted by “armed men”.

The fishermen were on board the boat Qiongqionghai 09063, which was “intercepted by an unidentified armed vessel at about 10am in waters off” the Spratly Islands, Xinhua said, citing a fishing association in Qionghai on China’s southern island province of Hainan.

Reporters were not immediately able to reach officials in Hainan for comment. It was also not clear from the report if the fishermen were Chinese nationals.

China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts or all of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

There are frequent tensions in the South China Sea between China and the other claimant nations, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, both of which say Beijing has harassed their ships in the waters there.

On Tuesday, China warned Vietnam not to disturb activities of Chinese companies operating near disputed islands in the South China Sea, after Hanoi condemned as illegal the movement of a giant Chinese oil rig into what it says is its territorial water.

via Philippines police capture Chinese fishing boat in South China Sea | South China Morning Post.

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