Posts tagged ‘United States ambassador to China’

16/12/2016

Taiwan fears becoming Donald Trump’s bargaining chip | The Economist

BY THE end of this month, say Chinese officials, work will be completed on a big upgrade of facilities at a monument to one of the scariest moments in the recent history of relations between China and the United States: an upsurge of tensions in the Taiwan Strait in the mid-1990s that saw the two nuclear powers inching towards the brink of war.

The structure is a concrete tower on an island in the strait, just off the Chinese coast. Atop it more than 100 generals watched a mock invasion of Taiwan by China’s army on a beach below. “Unite the motherland, invigorate China”, says a slogan in gold characters down the side of the building. The meaning of these words at a place where tanks and troops once stormed ashore with warplanes streaking overhead is: we want Taiwan back, by force if necessary.

The building work involves an expansion of the tower’s car park, improvements to the road up to it and other changes to make the place on Pingtan Island in Fujian province more tourist-friendly. The timing may be fortuitous. On December 11th America’s president-elect, Donald Trump, in an interview with Fox News, questioned what China regards as a sacred underpinning of its relationship with America: the principle that there is but “one China” (which, decoded, means that the government of Taiwan is illegitimate). China, bristling with rage, may well seek to remind its citizens, as well as America, of what happened when that principle was last challenged by the United States with a decision in 1995 by its then president, Bill Clinton, to allow his Taiwanese counterpart, Lee Teng-hui, to pay a private visit to America. Handy, then, that Pingtan will be able to handle extra busloads of visitors to that hilltop where China’s brass surveyed the pretend assault.

Relations between China and America are far less precarious than they were during those tense months, when China fired dummy missiles near Taiwan and America sent two aircraft-carrier battle groups close to the island to warn China not to attack it. China, though enraged by Mr Trump’s remarks (and a congratulatory call he took from Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, on December 2nd), is unlikely to take retaliatory action unless Mr Trump continues to challenge the notion of one China after his inauguration on January 20th.

The chip is down

Taiwan has been in the doghouse anyway since Ms Tsai took office in May. China has cut off channels of communication with the island to show its displeasure with her own refusal to embrace the one-China idea. But Ms Tsai may have reservations herself about the way Mr Trump phrased his one-China scepticism. “I don’t know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” he said. Mr Trump listed ways in which America was being “badly hurt” by China, such as by the fall in the value of its currency and its island-building in the South China Sea. He accused China of “not helping us at all with North Korea”.

Many Taiwanese worry that this could mean their island will be treated by Mr Trump as a bargaining-chip. Memories are still fresh in Taiwan of secretive dealings between America and China during the cold war, which resulted in America severing diplomatic ties with the island in 1979. Ms Tsai’s government has avoided direct comment on Mr Trump’s remarks. Apparently to avoid raising tensions with China, she has also avoided public crowing over her phone call with Mr Trump.

Mr Trump’s remarks would have riled the Chinese leadership at any time. But they are particularly unwelcome at this juncture for China’s leader, Xi Jinping. He is absorbed by preparations for crucial meetings due to be held late in 2017 at which sweeping reshuffles of the Politburo and other Communist Party bodies will be announced. Those trying to block his appointments would be quick to seize on any sign that he is being soft on America over such a sensitive matter as Taiwan. Should Mr Trump persist in challenging the one-China idea, the risk of escalation will be even greater than usual in the build-up to the conclaves—all the more so, perhaps, given Mr Xi’s insistence that differences between China and Taiwan “cannot be passed on from generation to generation”. Hawkish colleagues may say that it is time to settle the issue by force.

Street protests in China against America or Taiwan would also make it more difficult for Mr Xi to compromise: he would fear becoming a target himself of Chinese nationalists’ wrath. But the risk of this may be low. Since Mr Xi took over in 2012 there have been no major outbreaks of nationalist unrest, partly thanks to his tightening of social and political controls (including locking up ever more dissidents).

Sun Zhe of Tsinghua University says people are unlikely to demonstrate over Taiwan “because they understand the new rules, the new emphasis on political discipline in the last few years.” He says a lot of people in China still admire Mr Trump for his wealth and his unexpected political success. They think that “he wants to make a deal with China.”

In Taiwan, some take comfort in the difficulty Mr Trump would face in changing the terms of America’s relations with Taiwan, such as by announcing a permanent end to arms sales. These are guaranteed by the Taiwan Relations Act, which was passed by Congress in 1979 to reassure Taiwan that America still had an interest in the island’s defence, despite the severance of official ties. Many Republicans sympathise with Taiwan and would be reluctant to support any change to that law (itself a challenge to the one-China idea with which China has—very grudgingly—learned to live).

They might also take solace in what appears to be a change in the Chinese government’s tone since the war games 20 years ago. In April Global Times, a newspaper in Beijing, published a poll showing that 85% of respondents supported unifying China with Taiwan by force, and that 58% agreed the best time would be within the next five years. It was reportedly chastised by China’s internet regulator for “hyping sensitive events” by running such a survey.

Source: Taiwan fears becoming Donald Trump’s bargaining chip | The Economist

Advertisements
09/12/2016

China has gained hugely from globalisation | The Economist

LI DONGSHENG, who is 35, says he is too old to learn new skills and too old to get married. Construction and factory work used to be plentiful, he says, as he eats his lunch from a yellow plastic container while sitting on a wall outside a job centre in Hangzhou, a city on China’s wealthy eastern seaboard. But these days he can rarely find even odd jobs. He sleeps rough and has not visited his parents, who live hundreds of kilometres inland, for two years.

Millions of people like Mr Li have powered China’s rise over the past three decades, working in the boom-towns that have prospered thanks to China’s enthusiastic embrace of globalisation. Yet many are anxious and angry.Factory workers in America and Europe often blame China for stealing their jobs. There is no doubt that China has benefited enormously from its vast pool of people, like Mr Li, who are willing to work for a fraction of what Western counterparts might earn. Since 1979 China’s transformation into the workshop of the world has helped lift hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty.

Yet many of the worries that have recently animated Western voters are common in China, too. Working-class Chinese, as well as members of the new middle class, fret about rising inequality, the impact of mass migration from the countryside into cities and job losses. “China will not shut the door to the outside world but open more,” said the president, Xi Jinping, in November. But even globalisation is occasionally attacked. On December 6th Global Times, a jingoistic newspaper published in Beijing, ran an opinion piece blaming globalisation for China’s income inequality, housing bubbles and the ravaging of its environment.

China’s own policy failures are much to blame, too. But the government has sensed the danger of rising public anger created by the divide between rich and poor (in the 1980s China was among the most equal societies in the world; now it is one of the least so). A decade ago it switched its “chief task” from “economic construction” to establishing a “harmonious society”—ie, one with a more even distribution of wealth (as well as a beefed-up police force to keep malcontents in check). China is now becoming slightly fairer overall: thanks to a dwindling supply of cheap labour and government efforts to boost the minimum wage, blue-collar salaries are rising faster than white-collar ones.But many people feel that inequality and social mobility are getting worse in other respects. For example, members of the fast-growing middle class complain about the emergence of a new plutocracy. They say that the wealthiest owe their fortunes to corruption and personal relationships, not hard work. Mr Xi’s waging of the longest and most intense campaign against graft since the party came to power in 1949 is partly (as he admits) a sign of fear that anger over widespread and egregious corruption might imperil the party’s rule.

 

Among blue-collar workers, a structural shift in China’s economy, from labour-intensive manufacturing to higher-tech industries and services, is fuelling job insecurity. In 2013, for the first time, the contribution to GDP from services, such as transport, shops, restaurants and finance, pulled ahead of industry, including manufacturing, mining and construction (see chart).

In the past couple of years, jobs in manufacturing have been declining, partly because globalisation is beginning to play the same sort of role in China as it does in developed countries. Some factories have been moving to cheaper locations abroad.The impact is pronounced in many of the hundreds of towns that specialise in making certain products. Datang, China’s “sock city” near Hangzhou, is a good example: in 2014 it made 26bn pairs of socks, some 70% of China’s production, but many factories are closing as garment-making moves to cheaper countries in Asia. As a local boss explains, “People simply won’t pay more for a pair of socks.”

Millions more jobs are threatened by efforts to reduce overcapacity in bloated and heavily indebted state-owned enterprises (SOEs), such as steelmakers and mining companies. Nervous officials often prefer to prop up such businesses rather than risk an explosion of unrest among laid-off urban-born workers. The government worries more about such people than it does about unemployed migrants from rural areas: they stay in the cities rather than return to the countryside.

The official unemployment rate in urban areas has remained remarkably steady at around 4% for years, even during the worst of the global financial crisis. But those figures are highly misleading. For one thing they exclude migrants from the countryside, who often suffer the worst labour abuses, such as long periods of unpaid leave as well as of unpaid work: bosses often suffer the worst labour abuses, such as long periods of unpaid leave as well as of unpaid work: bosses often hold back wages for months. About 40 construction workers in Beijing protested last month to demand unpaid wages from a project three years ago (pictured above).

Many of those who used to work in factories, such as Mr Li in Hangzhou, are ill-equipped to find new jobs in service industries. Official data show that more than two-thirds of workers laid off in recent years were poorly educated and around half were aged 40 or older. Those are big handicaps. The government has assigned 100bn yuan ($14.5bn) to pay for the resettling and retraining of workers laid off in the steel and coal industries. But the scheme’s details are unclear. Migrants, usually first out of the door, often cannot afford to stay in a city without a job. Those who do find work in service industries are not necessarily happier. In the third quarter of 2016, for the first time, labour unrest in such firms was more common than in manufacturing, according to China Labour Bulletin. The Hong Kong-based NGO recorded 2,271 protests by workers in all industries between January and November (see map). That is more than 14 times as many as in the same period of 2011.

Drawbridge up

As anxieties grow, migrants are likely to suffer. Like those in the West who resent foreign immigrants, Chinese urbanites often blame their cities’ problems on outsiders, albeit on people from other parts of the country (who often speak very different dialects and lack “civilised” city ways). The 280m such migrants in urban China feel marginalised and resented. Weibo, a microblogging site, has accounts dedicated to subjects such as “Beijingers safeguarding the city of Beijing”. In May, 12 city and provincial governments tried to broaden their pool of university entrants by reducing quotas for local students. Parents in three cities staged demonstrations, worried their children would lose a precious advantage (pictured is one such protest in the eastern city of Nanjing).

More often, migrants are subjected to a kind of apartheid, in effect excluded from subsidised urban health care and other public services because they have no urban hukou, or residence permit. Urban schools commonly (and illegally) require that parents of migrant children pay extra fees and produce documents such as rental or job contracts that few of them can supply. Children who do get places are sometimes taught separately from those of urban-born parents. The central government is making it easier for migrants to obtain hukou in small towns and cities where apartment blocks often lie empty but jobs are scarce. But it is getting harder for people from the countryside to settle in megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai, owing to measures such as the demolition of ramshackle housing where many of them live and stricter qualifications for local hukou.

The Communist Party has treated the presidential election in America and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union as propaganda victories. People’s Daily, the party’s mouthpiece, gleefully reported on the “dark, chaotic and negative” election campaign that had revealed the “ill” state of America’s “so-called democracy”. China Daily called the Brexit vote a “political earthquake”. Its message was clear: giving people the freedom to make such momentous decisions can have dangerous consequences. With the West plunged into uncertainty, China has seized the chance to present itself as a beacon of stability.

Yet the party knows that in China, too, the rise of inequality and loss of manufacturing jobs present big challenges. Mr Xi may talk confidently of keeping China open, but the case for doing so is not clear to many of China’s citizens, nor even to the government (ask foreign businesses in China about the difficulties they face). Since the country first launched its “reform and opening” policy in the late 1970s, arguments have never ceased over how far to go. In the 1990s, when the party launched its first wave of SOE closures, resulting in millions of lay-offs, some angry workers even began to embrace a neo-Maoist movement that harked back to the days of guaranteed jobs (and far firmer controls on internal migration). As he prepared to take over in 2012, Mr Xi engaged in a fierce struggle with another leader, Bo Xilai, who had gained huge popularity partly thanks to his Maoist rhetoric. Mr Bo is now in jail, but Mr Xi has adopted his Mao-loving style and has lashed out at Mao’s critics.

Parents want to take back control

Anti-elite sentiment, such as Britain and America are experiencing, is the party’s worst fear. Mr Xi is a member of the party’s upper class: his father was Mao’s deputy prime minister until he was purged. Many of his closest allies are also “princelings”, as offspring of the party’s grandees are often called. That is why he has tried hard to portray himself as a “common man”, highlighting his experiences of living in a cave and working in the fields during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. He is appealing to popular nationalism, too, with talk of the country’s “great rejuvenation” and the “Chinese dream” (shades of Mr Trump’s “Make America Great Again”).

China does not have the complication of free elections, much less referendums. But the party feels that it needs to appear responsive to popular opinion in order to stay in power. That is becoming more difficult as economic growth slows and the main public demand—for greater wealth—becomes harder to satisfy. Even with strong institutions, rule of law and freedom of the press, Britain and America are struggling to contain popular rage. China is dealing with many of these same forces with fewer outlets for discontent. Mr Xi is trying to keep anger from spilling over by locking up dissidents with greater resolve than any Chinese leader has shown in years. He knows that global elites are under attack. That is making him all the more determined to protect China’s.

Source: China has gained hugely from globalisation | The Economist

09/12/2016

Mr Trump’s backing of an admirable but neglected country is worrisome | The Economist

WHEN President-elect Donald Trump tweeted last week that he had spoken to Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen—“The President of Taiwan CALLED ME”—almost all of Washington’s Asia hands suffered palpitations.

It was the first presidential-level contact between America and Taiwan since “normalisation” in 1979, when Jimmy Carter broke off diplomatic relations with “Free China”, as Taiwan was then often known, and recognised the Communist government in Beijing instead.

At the time Congress tried to reassure Taiwan by making provisions for continued weapons sales and hinting that America would step in should the island be attacked. But, under immense Chinese pressure, America has always kept Taiwan at diplomatic arm’s length. China regards Taiwan as one of its provinces, and refuses even to honour Ms Tsai with her title of president. It has long been assumed in Washington that any American move to alter the status quo would so infuriate China that it might wage war on the island, probably dragging in America. Didn’t Mr Trump know he was playing with fire? To Washington’s Asia experts neither possible answer to that question seemed encouraging.

But then, something strange happened: nothing. No explosion of rage issued from Beijing, as many expected. The foreign minister, Wang Yi, dismissed Ms Tsai’s call as a “small step”, or “petty” as it might also be translated—a mild response by Chinese standards. In the lull, some Asia hands allowed themselves to breathe out. Perhaps, even, the breach was not wholly without precedent—Ronald Reagan had invited senior Taiwanese officials to his inauguration, after all, and got away with it.

Perhaps, even, Mr Trump gets grudging admiration for reminding the world that Taiwan deserves more recognition as a peaceful, prosperous democracy. For too long China has controlled the narrative over the island. Far from being a renegade part of China, it has in its entire history been ruled directly from the Chinese capital for not much more than a decade: briefly in the second half of the 19th century, and from 1945-49. Never have the Communists ruled Taiwan, so shouldn’t their bullying be decried more often? As for the “one China” idea that the Communist Party insists upon, America has never agreed to it; formally, it merely “acknowledges” that both China and Taiwan hold to the principle that there is but one China. That acknowledgment was made in the 1970s, with dictatorships in Beijing and Taipei both claiming to rule all of China. Today, a democratic Taiwan has no such pretensions. Why should American policy be set in stone?

For now, many Taiwanese are basking in Mr Trump’s attention. They hope for further gestures when he is president—a free-trade deal, perhaps, which Mr Trump’s advisers say they are keen on striking with Taiwan, and more American weapons. There have been rumours that Mr Trump is mulling another possible flourish before then: a meeting in New York in January with Ms Tsai, who will be travelling to Guatemala, one of a handful of countries that officially recognise Taiwan. Ms Tsai’s office dismisses talk of this as “excessive speculation”. But were such an encounter to happen, it would cause rapture in Taiwan. It would also trigger even greater palpitations in Washington.

China would still play things cool. For a country that craves predictability in its external environment, a Trumpian America has suddenly become the wild card. But, Chinese officials remind themselves, using an old saying, the way to deal with 10,000 changes is not yourself to change. Some Chinese policymakers are pessimistic about relations with America under Mr Trump, noting his staunchly protectionist views and his inclination to improve ties with Russia in ways that might leave China isolated. (Anti-China tweets from Mr Trump reinforce the downbeat view.) Others are more hopeful, seeing a transactional president minded to cut deals with China, America’s essential counterpart on everything from trade to security. The appointment of the China-friendly governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, as ambassador to Beijing is a fillip. For now, the regime will bide its time.

Yet, far from diminishing, the risks will grow. One, in the near term, lies in the nature of Mr Trump’s team. Almost the entire Republican establishment of seasoned Asia experts has refused to serve under him. So those handling policy towards Asia are notable for their inexperience or for their ideological inclination to favour Taiwan over those once disparaged as “ChiComs”.

For all Taiwan’s virtues, this should be a worry. America’s relationship with China is broader, more complex and far, far more vital than its one with Taiwan. Making the running on Taiwan implies disregard for the bigger relationship. China’s help on many global issues, including counter-terrorism, is essential. And there is an urgent need for agreement over North Korea’s nuclear-weapons programme, which is developing dangerously fast. Only China can make North Korea change course. Finding the means to cajole or coerce China to act should be an American priority, from which much of the rest of Asia policy should flow. Yet Mr Trump’s team appears to be giving little thought to this.

Stop that tiger, I wanna get off

And then comes the risk of increased Chinese neuralgia over Taiwan during a Trump presidency. Years of propaganda and “patriotic education” have fuelled an irrational nationalism over Taiwan among ordinary Chinese. President Xi Jinping himself has said that the Taiwan “problem” can no longer be left to future generations. For now, the nationalism is in check. After all, officials claim that, for all the mischief by Taiwan’s splittist politicians, ordinary folk are true Chinese patriots. But should Mr Trump stir things up, it may dawn on the Chinese that the claim is not true, and that Taiwanese politicians promote de facto independence because that is what people want. If public anger grows, Mr Xi will be riding a tiger from which he will struggle to dismount. By then, it will no longer be possible to wait and see.

Source: Mr Trump’s backing of an admirable but neglected country is worrisome | The Economist

06/03/2014

Opinion: China’s awkward banana slip – CNN.com

Editor’s note: Eric Liu is the founder of Citizen University and the author of several books, including “The Gardens of Democracy” and “The Accidental Asian.” He served as a White House speechwriter and policy adviser for President Bill Clinton. Follow him on Twitter @ericpliu The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Watch this video

(CNN) — Have you heard about China’s banana slip?

A few days ago in Beijing, as Gary Locke wrapped up his tenure as United States ambassador to China, he was lambasted in a Chinese state media editorial. The piece called Locke a “guide dog.” It said he had stirred an “evil wind.” Worst of all, it called him a “banana.”

As in yellow on the outside and white on the inside. It’s a slur, akin to “Oreo” for African-Americans or “coconut” for Hispanics, used by people of a given ethnic group to judge another member of that group for being insufficiently, well, ethnic. The point of saying a person of color is “white inside” is to accuse him of being a race traitor, ashamed or in denial of his true heritage.

Eric Liu

In this case, the idea was that Locke, though of Chinese descent, wasn’t Chinese enough. Why? He couldn’t speak the language. Oh, and he apparently didn’t do the bidding of China’s leaders, choosing instead to go to Tibet, work with dissident human rights activists, point out smog levels in Beijing and generally represent the interests and values of the United States.

That’s what the editorialist meant when he called Locke a banana. Many Chinese citizens disavowed the slur, calling it an embarrassment. But what it revealed was that despite modernization and burgeoning wealth — or perhaps because of them — China still has a fragile identity. (And America still has some advantages.)

Let’s start with the fact that the editorial was published in an organ of state media. It got attention because in a country where the government controls the press, editorials are assumed to express the views of top national leaders. They may not, in fact. It’s quite possible this particular opinion writer was just an individual. But in the absence of a free press, who can really tell?

This is the price of propaganda: No one believes what you say, but they believe you meant to say it.

A second notable aspect of the banana rant was that it completely conflated ethnicity and nationality, and in a particularly Chinese way. The Han Chinese are the overwhelmingly dominant ethnic group of China, and their ethnocentrism frames Chinese political culture. (Just ask Tibetans.) It also fuels the nationalism behind China’s territorial disputes with Japan and other Asian nations.

So the premise of the banana comment was that someone of Chinese ethnicity, wherever he may live, should be considered Chinese to the core and therefore in the end loyal to the Chinese nation.

Of course, that’s a notion white Americans have often used to justify mistreatment of “indelibly alien” Chinese immigrants, whether during the era of Chinese exclusion in the late 19th century or the persecution of Wen Ho Lee at the turn of this one.

But it’s as wrong now as then and as wrong here as there. Even if Locke could speak perfect Mandarin, even if he could read the Chinese classics and write calligraphy, this Eagle Scout, child of public housing, prosecutor, state legislator, governor, Cabinet secretary and diplomat was made in America.

via Opinion: China’s awkward banana slip – CNN.com.

See also – https://chindia-alert.org/social-cultural-diff/uncanny-similarities/

Enhanced by Zemanta
Law of Unintended Consequences

continuously updated blog about China & India

ChiaHou's Book Reviews

continuously updated blog about China & India

What's wrong with the world; and its economy

continuously updated blog about China & India