Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Don’t rock the boat

In November 1949, the Tibetan Cabinet in Lhasa wrote to the American Secretary of State, requesting the US’ support for Tibet’s admission to the UN: “As Tibet being an independent state, we have no dangers from other foreign countries but in view of the spread of communism and their successes in China, there is now an imminent danger of Communist aggression towards Tibet.”
Lhasa was advised by the Americans not to ‘rock the boat’.
Later, an officer of the Ministry of External Affairs told Loy Henderson, the US Ambassador to India: “[India] feels that making issue of Tibetan question at present might precipitate Communist decision invade pursuant their declared intention liberating country.”
Around the same time, a cable from Henderson to Dean Acheson, the US Secretary of State stated, “during the conversation, Mr. Graves [of the UK High Commission in Delhi] showed me a Hansard report [verbatim report of proceedings of the British Houses] of December 14, 1949,” to which was attached a 1943 memorandum mentioning the British position with respect to Tibet; the memorandum stated the Tibet was a ‘de facto independent’ country.
However the British too did not want to ‘rock the boat’.
This came back to mind, when the controversy erupted regarding the cancellation of a ‘tourist visa’ for Dolkun Isa, Executive Chairman of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress. Isa was to attend a ‘conference’ at Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh.
The media immediately took up the issue: why was the visa suddenly revoked without reason? Soon the Modi Sarkar was accused of behaving like its predecessors.
Most observers saw a retaliation against China’s decision to put a hold India’s request to add Masood Azhar, head of the Pakistani-based group Jaish-e-Mohammad, to the UN’s blacklist.
On the Isa issue, China was quick to respond: the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the Uyghur leader was under a ‘red-corner’ Interpol notice and should be arrested as he was a terrorist.
The restive province of Xinjiang is an extremely sensitive issue for China, as Beijing believes that Islamist militants and Uyghur dissidents are colluding to establish an independent state, Eastern Turkestan.
Though the Ministry of External Affairs was apparently not aware of the Conference and the visa given to Isa, most observers first thought that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was finally decided to ‘rock the boat’.
It may not be that simple.
First, could Isa have attended the ‘conference’ on a tourist visa (or e-visa)?
Whoever has organized this type of event in India, knows that foreign participants need a ‘conference visa’ which is not easy to obtain.
Further, the Dharamsala ‘conference’ was bound to be controversial; it was organized by the US-based Citizen Power for China, a group led by Yang Jianli, one of the protagonists of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests (incidentally Yang was present in Dharamsala).
Granting Isa an electronic visa made it easier to cancel the permission to visit Dharamsala at short notice. The MEA could show its ignorance of the event.
Cancelling the visa while still holding the meet, even in camera, indicates that the Indian Government was keen to convey the message to Beijing, ‘don’t play with fire concerning terrorism’, and at the same time, allowed Delhi a strategic retreat.
Delhi wanted to ‘rock the boat’ to a certain extent only. It is why visas granted to other Chinese dissidents like Lu Jinghua and Ray Wong were also cancelled.
Lu, also a participant in Tiananmen protests, figures on a Chinese list of ‘major criminals’. She learnt of the withdrawal of her visa only after reaching JFK to enplane for India on April 25. The visa for Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Ray was also reportedly withdrawn around the same time.
Delhi later said that Lu’s visa was withdrawn because her documents were ‘ineligible’ and there was an ‘inconsistency’ about the purpose of her visit. Obviously, she was not going to Himachal for ‘tourism’.
According to the Chinese website of Radio Free Asia, several other activists were banned from the meet, in particular five individuals associated with the World Uyghur Congress.
Hong Kong activist Alex Chow, who co-organized the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014, told Quartz that he too was denied a visa.
But it is not the point; the important point is that the gathering took place.
One may well ask: has Delhi become an adept of Sun Tzu’s Art of War?
The Chinese Master in one of the 13 chapters of the book, writes about ‘Variations and Adaptability’, emphasizing on flexibility during a conflict.
Mao himself explained: “People may ask if there is contradiction to abandon a territory gained by heroic battle. This is to put the wrong question. Does one eat to no purpose simply because he relieves himself later?”
Delhi needed to use flexibility after the high profile visits of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to China (and before President Prabab Mukherjee’s trip to Beijing later this month).
To cancel a ‘tourist visa’ was abandoning a bit of territory, but the main ‘battle’ was won; the ‘conference’ was held, though informally and amidst media blackout.
And before that, 60 participants were granted a two-hour audience with the Dalai Lama to discuss …China and democracy.
Edward Leung Tin-kei of Hong Kong Indigenous was one of them.
Hong Kong radical activist described the encounter with the Tibetan leader as a ‘rare opportunity’: “I’ve never thought I could meet Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader. This doesn’t happen every day,” Leung told The South China Morning Post.
Chow Hang-tung, working for an Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China was another Hongkonger attending the closed-door meet. “It was very inspiring”, Chow said.
Ursula Gauthier, the French correspondent of L’Obs, who was recently expelled from China for questioning China’s interpretation of ‘terrorism’ and Anastasia Lin, Miss World Canada, were also present.
In the meantime, Beijing is nervous about the democratization of the Tibetan society. The Global Times commented on the recent Tibetan elections for a Prime Minister and Deputies: “Although the [Tibetans] resorted to ‘democratization’ after fleeing, this did not mean they would give up their original characteristics. …After all, feudal serfdom under theocracy has long been abandoned by Western countries.”
Who takes this Cold War language seriously today?
Participating in the 5th Moscow Conference on International Security, China’s Defense Minister Chang Wanquan also lectured on terrorism: “a comprehensive approach should be taken through political, diplomatic, economic and cultural means in order to eliminate the root of terror.”
General Chang obviously forgot ‘democratic means’ in his list.
Though the perception in India was that the Modi Sarkar had retreated, it may not be the case. Beijing has got the message loud and clear: India can do it again and the next time, with proper ‘conference visas’.
Beijing knows this.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Living Communist Buddhas

The Chinese Panchen Lama
Soon after the name of the new elected Tibetan Prime Minister was announced and as Lobsang Sangay pledged to be more active on the Tibetan front, the Communist government in Beijing once more demonstrated how hard it works to prepare the post-Dalai Lama era.
One of the modus operandi of the Communist regime is to flood the media with information showing that the Communist Party is a great supporter of ‘pure’ Buddhism.
Of course, ‘pure’ means, a Buddhism non-contaminated by what China calls the ‘Dalai’s Clique’.
The Communist government, through the Buddhist Association of China (BAC) has awarded certificates of ‘Living Buddhas’ (or reincarnated lamas or tulkus) to over 1,300 chosen individuals.
I have already written about Fake Lamas, Communist Lamas.
The biographical details of these Living Communist Buddhas should help the followers of Buddhism in the Mainland to check their authenticity, says Xinhua.
A few months ago, the BAC had released a first list of 870 ‘selected’ ones.
At that time, the BAC had argued that the growing number of frauds was a problem as a number of 'fake lamas' were trying to cheat the Buddhist followers.
The list was intended to tackle this issue.
However the main purpose of the exercise is obviously to keep the Dalai Lama and other high lamas in exile, out of the ‘holy’ list.
Xinhua says that the biographical information of the second batch of 441 Rinpoches “brings the publication of the information of Rinpoches in China almost to an end.”
The Dalai Lama did not make it.
According to Xinhua, it is “a concrete step to implement the guidelines of the national conference on the work of religions held recently.”
The Guidelines say that it is the Party who decides who is a reincarnation and who is not.
Since then the list is online at:
www.chinabuddhism.com.cn,
www.sara.gov.cn
and www.tibet.cn,
According to the BAC, these sites receive an average of 98,000 hits per day.
It shows that China is interested by Buddhism. Isn’t it?
China Tibet Online asserted that the publication of the list will safeguard “the rights and interests of Tibetan Buddhists and also increased public understanding about living Buddhas.”
The 441 lucky new entrants are mainly from Sichuan Province, while the first 870 were from Tibet, Yunnan, Gansu, Qinghai, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Liaoning.
China Tibet Online noted that the publication brought about strong repercussions in religious circles. It quoted Drukhang Thubtan Khedrup, the BAC Vice Chairman saying that: “it helps promote the understanding of the public on Tibetan Buddhism and rinpoches.”
Interestingly the BAC pledged that no major adjustment will be made on this inquiry system in the future: “only the information of the newly reincarnated and deceased Rinpoches will be updated to make the information of every true Rinpoche known to the public.”
Beijing will probably be the first to enter the name and details of the 15th Dalai Lama; it will obviously be Beijing’s own choice …a reincarnation with Chinese characteristics.
Let us hope that Dharamsala will react and publish a White Paper on the issue.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tibetan Democracy: random thoughts

Democracy: something one may not see in Tibet soon
Some thoughts about the recent Tibetan elections

Elections for the post of Sikyong (Prime Minister of the CTA) as well for Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies were recently held.
As someone who has been following ‘Tibetan affairs’ for the last 45 years, I wish put down in writing some my thoughts on the recent election of the Sikyong, which has attracted a lot of ink in the media (and keyboarding on the Net).
Let us start by a small telling observation: the social networks have played a role like never before in the election process. This can have negative or positive features, but, overall, it should be seen as a sign of growing awareness and active involvement of the Tibetan society in their leader’s election. As Tibet-in-exile is a free society, this should be encouraged, with self-restraint, of course.
Looking back, since 1959, His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL) can claim, in my opinion, three great achievements in the political field:
  • HHDL reunited the different parts of Tibet (let us not forget that in October 1950, when the Communist troops entered ‘Tibet’, they crossed the Upper Yangtze (Drichu). It means that, territories east of the Drichu were not de facto under the control of Lhasa). Today, the map of Tibet with the 3 provinces of U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo is accepted by all Tibetans; it was not the case in the 1950s. It is a historic achievement.
  • HHDL reunited the different schools of Buddhism. Historically, Tibet has witnessed a lot of conflicts between the different religious schools. HHDL has given a voice to all the schools (including the Bon faith). This is an important progress.
  • In March 2011, HHDL offered full democracy to the People of Tibet. This is an earth-shaking change for the Tibetan nation.
The recent elections are the result of this gift from HHDL.

Democracy as a system
Democracy cannot be said to be a perfect system, but it has good features as well as not so good ones. It is however far superior to the one-party system prevalent in Modern China.
Beijing is often pointing to the failures of the Western democracies, but its own system is today on the brink of collapsing; as a result, more and more repressions have to be applied to keep it going.
Democracy is sometimes chaotic (we can see this every day in India), but it ultimately brings a sort of stability in the society and the possibility for what Communist China calls ‘the masses’, to express themselves and change their leaders when they are unhappy or deceived. In other words, the voice of the ‘common men and women’ can be heard.
The system of rule by reincarnations was a poor system of governance:
  • It left a gap of 20 odd years between two reincarnations/political leaders
  • It was subject to manipulation by external forces (eg: the cases of the 10th and 11th Panchen Lama)
  • In the interregnum, Tibet has often had mediocre regents, unable to give a lead to the nation (during the interregnum of the 14th Dalai Lama, the power struggle between 2 regents was so bad that it nearly lead Tibet to a civil war).
  • Just take the 19th century, the Manchus fully used the fact that the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Dalai Lamas passed away too early to rule, to ‘return’ to Tibet.
A modern nation can't afford such an antiquated system.
Therefore ‘democracy’, though imperfect, is the best system until the human society reaches the level of a Gnostic or Spiritual Society, where the ‘wisest’ will automatically come to the fore to organize the public life. It may take some time.

Present Sikyong Elections
  • Tibet had the good luck to have a remarkable man elected as the first Kalon Tripa. It was Tibet’s good karma.
  • It is important to keep in mind that this does not mean that the ‘best man’ is automatically and always taking the right decision for his people (remember the Greek Gods who often led their people to their doom).
  • On the other hand, even if an elected leader is not perfect, it does not mean that the system is not good and in this particular case, that Tibet should not continue with this system of governance.
  • Usually, in other societies (for example in India), anti-incumbency plays an important role to bring fresh blood into the system.
  • Things are different in the Tibetan society where there is an immense respect for the established hierarchy. In fact, many believe that the Dalai Lama had to ‘force democracy’ down reluctant Tibetan throats; everybody was quite happy to depend on their wise leader to guide and tell them what to do with their lives; ultimately, it does not empower the ‘people’.
  • It is true that even in exile, a deep veneration for the leader/lamas has remained ingrained in the Tibetan psyche. It should not stop people to have an independent thinking of their own.
  • At the beginning of the campaign of this election, it is interesting to note that there was no anti-incumbency vote; this partially explains Lobsang Sangay’s high score in the first round.
  • During the campaign for the second round, it is regrettable that the debate did not reach the expected level; however, on the positive side, it has been one of the few opportunities for the Tibetan society to debate the functioning of its administration and point a finger at what was considered wrong or unacceptable.
  • At the same time, the election process should not be an excuse for ‘regionalism’ to return as a plague for the Tibetan nation. Regionalism apparently played an important role in the recent election. There is nothing wrong in regional representation, but regional favoritism should be avoided at all cost by the new leadership. It has not always been the case. I believe HHDL said this to the 2 candidates in no uncertain terms.
  • To an outsider, the CTA seems to be a very opaque organization. Instead of openly debating serious (and sometimes negative) issues facing the society in general, these problems are often kept under wraps (I remember the case of a Tibetan who had raped a girl in a Tibetan settlement; the first ‘official’ reaction was to hush up the incident, because “it is not good for the cause”. But a rape is a rape, whether committed by a French, a Chinese or a Tibetan and it should be denounced with full vigour). One could give many other such cases.
  • It is true that some of the arguments/points mentioned during the campaign should have come out earlier during the term of the Sikyong (particularly the issues raised by Kasur Dicki Chhoyang). However, apart from the debate at the Assembly, there are very few opportunities for the ‘common man’ to express himself or know what is happening behind the opaque curtains of Gangkyi.
  • In this context, it is interesting to note that the incumbent Sikyong did not fare well in Gangkyi area. There is obviously a trust issue which needs to be looked at and ironed out.
  • In the future the press should take a more active role and openly speak of the thorny political issues facing the society. For example, the problem of ‘health services’ recently brought up by HHDL should have been raised long ago by a vibrant media.
  • Old Tibet had ‘street songs’ making fun or criticizing the leaders/lamas, what is replacing this today?
  • Personally, I feel that it is wrong for the gods or the ‘protectors’ to interfere in the ‘common man’s elections. Without judging the former’s competence and knowledge of geopolitics (or just in politics), the time has come for ‘common men’ to think for themselves; keeping in mind that in some cases they may take the wrong decisions, the ‘masses’ should be empowered (even if that means having different perspectives than HHDL). It is what China will never be able to do; the present regime can built beautiful modern airports, safe highways or comfortable five-star hotels, but people are not allowed to think on their own.
  • More important than to take the right or wrong decisions, it is essential to learn from past errors and avoid the same mistakes in the future.
  • The Buddha taught his disciples: 'As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it on a piece of touchstone, so are you to accept my words only after examining them and not merely out of regard for me."
  • Democracy likewise should be burnt, cut, rubbed and tested again and again and ultimately perfected. External interference cannot help much the empowerment of the Tibetan society.
It may be possible to avoid the ‘boxing’ encounters during the campaign; it is happening in most democracies: just look at the present US Presidential Elections campaign. It is part of the ‘imperfection’ of the system, simply because our societies (and the human composing them) are imperfect.
One has to make with it, and just get the best of it.

How to make the Tibetan Administration more transparent?
  • The Tibetans should have a vibrant, independent and fearless press (including investigative journalism). For this, the Tibetan mindset has to change; criticism should be taken as an occasion to ‘change’. The society does need to wait to receive ‘critics’ from HHDL or other religious leaders; the Tibetan should become more ‘positively’ critical.
  • Take the example of the recently released ‘Panama Papers’, it is ‘positive’ criticism, which will hopefully help the world to be more just.
  • Implement an RTI Act for the CTA. It would go a long way to better understand the opaque functioning of the CTA. Once again, cases such as the one mentioned by HHDL for the health facilities in the Tibetan settlements could have been raised much earlier and taken care of.
  • Women should play a more important role in the Sikyong elections (why not have 50% female Kalons?). In a modern society, women are often able to give a lead that a man is unable to provide.

Tasks in front of the new Sikyong
  • Hopefully the new Sikyong will be able to fit the description given by Kasur Dicki Chhoyang at the time of her resignation. The Kasur also raised the issue of regionalism vs unity of Tibet; this should be taken seriously.
  • The new Sikyiong’s choice for the next Kalons should be dictated only by what is the best for the Tibetans in exile and the Tibetans inside Tibet and not by personal acquaintances or personal preferences.
  • The new Kalons should be role models for the Tibetans inside Tibet (and the Chinese government).
  • The new Sikyong should establish a close connection and understanding with the Government of India at all levels, in all domains.
  • He should be in touch with what is happening in Tibet and China and provide an alternative to the Chinese schemes or at least comment on it (for example when the Chinese provide a database of the ‘Living Buddhas’ or when the Chinese invade Tibet bringing tens of millions of tourists on the plateau).
  • Why not have a Department headed by a Kalon for ‘Inside Tibet’ Affairs?
  • And if the Chinese do something good, why not say it!
  • Since several years, the Chinese have always been a few steps in advance on Dharamsala in terms of information/propaganda. It is sad.
  • The new Sikyong should take more responsibilities; since HHDL has delegated his political power, the new elected leader should act as a leader on his own (always keeping the general good in mind).
  • Human resources should not vanish under the US/European sky, but remain in India and work for the general good of the Tibetan community.
  • The CTA needs to have a think-tank which ‘thinks’ of solutions for the future of the Tibetan nation
  • The CTA also needs a good professional spokesperson who will be able to articulate the policies of the CTA (after these policies are decided); particularly the policies vis-à-vis China. He should also be able to tackle difficult questions on the life of the society in exile.
These are some of my thoughts.
Tibetan democracy is clearly going through a period of apprenticeship; overall it is doing fairly well.
The most important task is to empower the ‘common man/woman’.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Civilian intrastructure used for military purpose on the plateau

I have often written about the dual use of the infrastructure in China (and particularly on the Tibetan plateau).
Yesterday, Xinhua reported that during their bi-monthly session, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) discussed a new law on national defense transport.
The legislation will cover the use of railways, waterways and air routes for defense purposes as well as civilian purposes.
According to Xinhua: “The new law is expected to regulate the planning, construction, management and use of resources in transportation sectors such as railways, roads, waterways, aviation, pipelines and mail services, for national defense.”
The idea is to integrate military and civilian resources and make sure that the national defense transport network is compatible “with market and economic development”.
It is what Zhao Keshi, head of the Logistical Support Department of the Central Military Commission, told the legislators.
A national authority will be formed with the objective of “overseeing the national defense transport network”.
The main players will be the local governments, military departments and more importantly, the newly-created Theater Commands.
They will be jointly responsible to implement the new law.
Xinhua explains: “A consultation mechanism will be established between local governments and military departments to disseminate and discuss information on construction plans, ongoing projects and demands.”
And when the needs occurred, civilian transport vehicles and facilities will be pressed into service by the PLA.
The concept behind the new law is that the national defense transport should consider the needs of both peace and war times and vice-versa, when the civilian departments plan for a new infrastructure it should be usable by the PLA.
Interestingly, the national defense considerations will include in any technical standards and codes for transport facilities and equipments.
Xinhua adds: “No organization or individual is allowed to undermine the proper use and safety of national defense transport projects and facilities.”
China should be setting up “a strategic projection support force to facilitate efficient organization of long-distance and large-scale national defense transport”.
Though the draft law says that “the expenses for defense transportation missions should be born by their users and the criteria should not be lower than the market price,” it is not clear who will pay the bill as both the PLA and the civilian administration are the ‘users’.
A Joint Command Organization for national defense transport will be set up in wartime or under special circumstances of peacetime, such as armed conflicts that endanger national sovereignty, says the draft.
The Joint Command will have large powers such as coordination of national or regional resources, organization transport operations, repairs and protection of transport infrastructure and facilities, etc.
Those who embezzle defense transport funds or whose dereliction of duty results in severe losses should beware, they shall be punished "in accordance with laws."

Western Theater Command
With the creation of the Western Theater Command, regrouping all the units on the Tibetan Plateau (earlier the plateau depended on two Military Regions, namely Chengdu and Lanzhou), the coordination and management of the infrastructure on the ‘Indian’ front should be much easier and more efficient for the PLA.
And course, the infrastructure built for the Disneyland of Snows can be used in an official and regulated manner by the PLA, People's Armed Police Force (PAPF) and other border forces units.
India should wake up.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Lonely Man of China

My article The Lonely Man of China has been posted on Rediff.com

Here is the link...

What was the need for Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, President of the People's Republic of China and Chairman, Central Military Commission, to don the new role of Commander in-Chief?
Does this mean that the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao faces numerous threats from within the Communist Party?
Claude Arpi decodes the signals coming from Beijing.


Xi Jinping appears to be more and more the lonely man of China.
His latest move to nominate himself as Commander-in-Chief of the People's Liberation Army's Joint Battle Command, while appearing on State media in a camouflage uniform, displays growing insecurity at the top.
According to CCTV, Xi stated that the new command should be 'absolutely loyal (to him!), resourceful in fighting, efficient in commanding, and courageous and capable of winning wars.'
Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA major general, told The South China Morning Post: 'Xi's camouflage military suit showed that he is top commander of the PLA's supreme joint battle command body, and is capable of commanding land, navy and air forces, as well as other special troops like the Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force.'
Why does Xi need put on another hat when he is already Chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission?
Simply because he may not be fully in control of the CMC.
It is true that the PLA 'reforms' are extremely ambitious and changing an ingrained corrupt system is not easy, in China or elsewhere.
To add to the Chinese president's woes, the Panama Papers named his brother-in-law, who is said to have established some offshore firms. Though these companies went dormant before Xi came into power, the damage was done: For the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists who investigated the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, Xi's name is indirectly linked.
Already in June 2012, The New York Times and Bloomberg had exposed Xi's family: 'As Xi climbed the Communist Party ranks, his extended family expanded their business interests to include minerals, real estate and mobile-phone equipment,' Bloomberg noted.
Probably more worrisome for Xi, the Middle Kingdom is sailing through rough weather and in the months to come, we may witness fireworks in the Chinese Communist Party.
The Nikkei in Japan reported a verbal 'jab' between Xi and Yu Zhengsheng, the chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference during the recently concluded Two Sessions at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
During the 19th Congress to be held in November 2017, five of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee -- the highest body in the Chinese Communist Party -- are expected to retire.
The Nikkei quoted an old China hand: 'Signs of discord within the Politburo Standing Committee have now emerged. The rift may come to the surface over the committee seats.'
Does it mean that everything is not harmonious in the Land of Confucius?
On March 14 during the concluding session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Yu Zhengsheng, who is also a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, had apparently fired the first shots at Xi.
During his concluding remarks, Yu dared to deviate from the official line: The Communist leadership had agreed to uphold 'Four Consciousnesses' related to 'politics, the bigger picture, the core and consistency.'
Yu spoke of only three: The need to further enhance the consciousness of politics, the consciousness of the bigger picture and the consciousness of responsibility.
What about the 'consciousness of the core and the consciousness of consistency' (in following 'the core leader')?
Observers believe that Yu showed his disagreement with Xi when he brought up a 'new consciousness,' that of 'responsibility' and omitted 'the core.'
In his opening speech on March 3, Yu spoke of the differences of views and perceptions which can arise over specific issues and stressed the need to seek 'consistency', while respecting 'diversity.' What 'diversity'? Yu left it undefined.
Yu also looks after the United Front Department, whose role is to 'unite' the Party. He is also in charge of Tibet and Xinjiang, China's most restive provinces.
This comes after an open letter attacking Xi and asking for his resignation was published on a website Wujie News. The letter was entitled: 'A Request for Comrade Xi Jinping to Resign from Leadership Positions in the Party and the State.'
It blamed Xi for many negative events in China and asked him to step down. It was, of course, quickly removed from the Wujie website.
Wujie claimed that the article had been posted by a hacker.
Wujie is a joint venture of the SEEC Media Group Limited (the parent company of Caixing magazine), the Xinjiang government and Jack Ma's Alibaba Group.
Was it the act of a hacker?
With Alibaba hosting the site, it is considered the safest hosting service in China. So what happened?
Could Wujie have published the letter on its own? Difficult to say, but the website was subsequently shut down for several days.
Obviously, Xi does not have only friends and comrades in the Communist Party.
According to The Digital Times, on March 29, while Xi was attending the Nuclear Summit in Washington, DC, a second letter calling for Xi's impeachment started circulating on the internet; the letter was titled 'An Open Letter to the Entire Party, the Army, and the People, Calling for the Immediate Impeachment of Xi Jinping and His Removal from All Posts Inside and Outside of the Party.'
For the Mingjing, a weekly magazine, some 171 Communist Party members had signed the letter which was later removed from Mingjing' website, though it continued to be on some Chinese blogs. The petition alleged that Xi had committed five categories of crimes and demanded his immediate dismissal.
Party members were asked to vote for a new leader at the 19th Congress in November 2017.
Should all this be taken seriously?
The speed with which the letters were removed seems to indicate that Beijing takes it seriously.
The reputed China watcher, Orville Schell commented on the present state of affairs in the Middle Kingdom: 'As different leaders have come and gone, China specialists overseas have become accustomed to reading CPC tea leaves as oscillating cycles of political "relaxation" and "tightening:... But what has been happening lately in Beijing under the leadership of Xi Jinping is no such simple fluctuation. It is a fundamental shift in ideological and organisational direction that is beginning to influence both China's reform agenda and its foreign relations.'
Schell's reading is that: 'At the centre of this retrograde trend is Xi's enormously ambitious initiative to purge the Chinese Communist Party of what he calls "tigers and flies," namely corrupt officials and businessmen both high and low.'
Very few observers are, however, ready to criticise him; most of them want to protect their own interests or their opportunity to work in China.
Last year, another renowned American 'China hand' David Shambaugh published an article 'The Coming Chinese Crackup' in The Wall Street Journal, in which the scholar mentioned his worries for Xi's regime.
On March 1, he backtracked in The Global Times.
'In the past year,' Shambaugh now explains, 'because of that article, many Chinese friends no longer treated me as an "old friend." Many Chinese media criticised me. No one invited me to visit China. All of these things upset me.'
Beijing knows how to twist its friends' arms.
Today, Shambaugh conveniently blames the editor of The Wall Street Journal: '(the title) was not from me.... They wanted to attract more readers' eyeballs and create more profit for the newspaper.'
Now, the US scholar is defending Xi: 'I have stated clearly that anti-corruption is good. I am all for it. It is the right thing to do and the public has received it very well. I give a thumbs up to Xi Jinping and Wang Qishan's anti-corruption fight.'
'Corruption is the cancer that erodes the Party, the government, the economy, and society. It must be taken care of otherwise it will lead to the downfall of the CPC.'
Many 'watchers' will follow Shambaugh's footsteps, but the point remains that China is nervous and shaky.
Just take the historical interpretation of the Cultural Revolution; a Global Times editorial, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the political upheaval, warned: 'Reflections are normal ... but they should not add or change the official political verdict.' The Editor insisted that 'the profoundness of the official verdict on history could not be paralleled by sporadic ideas by individuals.'
A few weeks ago, former culture minister Wang Meng argued that the party and Chinese intellectuals had a responsibility to 'further explain' the campaign.
Now The Global Times says: 'If China brings up a wave of reflections and discussions (on the Cultural Revolution) as wished by some, the established political consensus will be jeopardised and turbulence in ideas may occur.' It warned those using the Cultural Revolution by linking it to current issues and those who predict that the Cultural Revolution can return.
Another worrying sign is that China is installing a nationwide system of social control known as 'grid management.' The Financial Times noted that it is 'a revival of State presence in residential life that had receded as society liberalised during recent decades.'
'From smog-blanketed towns on the North China Plain to the politically sensitive Tibetan capital of Lhasa, small police booths and networks of citizens have been set up block by block to reduce neighbourhood disputes, enforce sanitation, reduce crime -- and keep an eye on anyone deemed a troublemaker,' the newspaper explained.
If you don't agree, you may be labeled a 'troublemaker.' Be ready to pay the consequences.
Xi Jinping seems very lonely on the rarefied summit of Zhongnanhai, the secretive seat of the Communist Party of China.
How long he can survive alone is a serious question.

Friday, April 22, 2016

'We must go from words to deeds': The world must unite and sign global climate deal says UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon

My article 'We must go from words to deeds': The world must unite and sign global climate deal says UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has been published in Mail Today.

Here is the link...

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon will request world leaders to sign Paris Agreement on climate change.

April 22 is World Earth Day. On the occasion, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon will request world leaders sign the Paris Agreement on climate change at the UN Headquarters in New York.
After the historic agreement adopted by 195 countries at COP21 Conference in Paris in December, the next step is the signature of the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal.
During a recent press briefing, Ban noted: “It will enable us to increase ambition on a regular basis, which is essential if we are to keep global temperature rise to well below two degree celsius.”
The UN boss emphasised: “It has just begun. In 2016, we must go from words to deeds.”
The Signature Ceremony will be the opportunity for each government to start implementing the Paris Agreement and hopefully save the Planet.
But don’t clap too early. At the behest of the United States, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) may derail India’s ambitious solar power programme.
Responding to a US complaint, a WTO dispute panel recently ruled that several provisions of India’s National Solar Mission were ‘inconsistent’ with international trade norms.

Climate
In 2011, the Congress government plans 100 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2022 under this scheme; it was a way to actively participate in the world effort to slowdown climate change; the scheme envisaged that a large percentage of the cells and panels would be manufactured in India by local companies.
Unfortunately, such provisions, known as ‘domestic content requirements’ (DCR), are prohibited by the WTO under international trade agreements.
A Delhi-based daily observed: “India’s solar manufacturing industry is likely to be in the pits and thousands of job opportunities lost, thanks to a recent WTO ruling..."The worrying bit is also that these module-manufacturing units are low-investment industries that have the potential to employ a very large number of semi-skilled labour.”
With 300 million Indians without access to electricity, the Solar Mission was a win-win project with a dual objective: combat poverty via job creation and add to India’s solar capacity.
But the US manufacturers do not see it from this angle. For them, the scheme led to a 90 per cent decrease in its solar exports to India since the inception of the mission.
Though resolutely opposed by several US environmental groups, the US manufacturers filed a WTO complaint.
In August 2015, a WTO panel released a preliminary ruling against the Indian DCR’s requirements, and early 2016, the ‘final’ ruling was announced.

Co-operation
The BBC asked the right question: “Whatever happened to all the talk of international co-operation to tackle climate change that we heard during the climate conference in Paris just a few months ago?”
Arriving at the end of its term, the Obama administration has probably forgotten ‘Shared Effort; Progress for All’, the US-India joint statement, signed during Barack Obama’s visit to India in January 2015: “President Obama and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi share a deep concern regarding the climate challenge and understand that meeting it will require concerted action by their countries and the international community.”
At the end, business is business, and for the US corporate world, the change of climate can go with the wind, money is its first and last concern.

Self-esteem
Ben Beachy, Senior Policy Advisor, Responsible Trade Program, Sierra Club, said in an Huffington Post report: “Bringing this case is a perverse move for the United States. Nearly half of the US has renewable energy programmes that, like India’s solar programme, include ‘buy-local’ rules that create local, green jobs and bring new solar entrepreneurs to the economy.
"The US government should drop this case to avoid undermining jobs and climate protections not just in India, but also at home.”
It is doubtful if Obama is ready to take on corporate America during an election year.
In the meantime, the Government of India has announced that it will appeal against the WTO verdict.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Of a strong man and a beautiful woman

My article Of a strong man and a beautiful woman appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

Manohar Parrikar's four-day visit to China will accelerate India-China security dialogue, but it’s unlikely the Defence Minister will discuss about the difficult situation faced by people living in border area of Demchok
As Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar arrived in Beijing on a four-day visit, The Global Times asserted: “India would like to continue to be the most beautiful woman wooed by all men, notably the two strongest in the house, US and China.” The mouthpiece of the Communist Party was particularly referring to the Logistics Support Agreement, signed when the US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter came to Delhi a few days earlier.
The usually hard-hitting newspaper explained: “This is not an unfamiliar role to India. We can still recall how its diplomatic manoeuvring had earned itself a special role between the two competing blocs during the Cold War.”
Well, it is doubtful if Beijing will fall in an Indian honey trap during the Defence Minister’s visit and agree to some of the Indian demands. Apart from the usual requests, such as China providing maps of their perception of the Line of Control, the difficult situation of the border populations in Ladakh should be taken up. Let me explain.
While the number of Chinese intrusions across the LAC is slightly less due to the mechanisms put in place between Delhi and Beijing, the Chinese refuse the ‘permission’ to the villagers in the Demchok area to undertake basic work on the Indian side of the border.
On April 13, just four days before Parrikar’s departure, The Daily Excelsior reported: “Frustrated with the Chinese Army’s frequent intervention raising objection on carrying out any kind of developmental activities near the borders areas, the inhabitants of Demchok village, residing on the Indo-China border, have demanded resettlement.”
On April 8, the Scientific Advisory Committee from Nyoma tried to pacify the inhabitants of the 39 households in Demchok who refused to end their dharna; later a delegation approached Prasanna Ramaswamy, the Deputy Commissioner in Leh, demanding to be shifted; the People’s Liberation Army had raised some objection over the villagers laying a pipe line from a hot spring for drinking water. The residents of Demchok listed several instances, when the PLA stopped them to undertake developmental work.
According to The Daily Excelsior: “The residents had put up a tent at bank of Demchok nallah with national flag on its top, insisting the administration to shift them somewhere as the Chinese objected to carry out any kind of developmental activities in their village since 2000.”
On their side of the nallah, which for centuries marked the border, the Chinese do not face any Indian objections. In the last couple of years, Beijing has invested millions of yuans to develop the area along the Indus river from Tashigong, the first Tibetan village, to a place they call ‘Dian-jiao’ (the Chinese pronunciation for Demchok). They have even roped in the Shaanxi Province which provides the necessary funds for development. New buildings (particularly guest houses) can clearly be seen from the Indian side.
Though Demchok has been the first Ladakhi village since immemorial times, during the negotiations for the Panchsheel Agreement in 1954, China refused to acknowledge this. Due to China’s reticence to recognise Demchok, the talks went on for four months (from December 1953 to April 1954), instead of the expected three or four weeks. The main Chinese objection was mentioning Demchok on the route to Western Tibet.
On April 23, 1954, a few days before the final signature of the Agreement, N Raghavan, the Indian Ambassador to China, wrote to RK Nehru, the Foreign Secretary, that Chang Han-fu, the Chinese negotiator ‘vigorously’ objected to the inclusion of Demchok in the Agreement: “(He) conceded that traders customarily using this route might continue such use but said an oral understanding to that effect between two delegations would suffice. We strongly contended inclusion of route in Agreement.”
Very cleverly, another Chinese diplomat ‘privately’ told TN Kaul, his Indian counterpart, that he was objecting because they were not keen to mention the name ‘Kashmir’ as they did not wish to take sides between India and Pakistan. Though Kaul could see through the game, India finally gave in. Kaul later wrote: “However, their real objection was, I believe, to strengthening their claim to Aksai Chin which they needed for linking Sinkiang (Xinjiang) with Western Tibet.”
Finally it was agreed that: “the customary route leading to Tashigong along the valley of the Indus river may continue to be traversed in accordance with custom was worked out and Delhi approved it.”
Demchok was not mentioned. The issue faced by the villagers is the outcome of this formulation. In 1954, instead of using the opportunity to clarify the already contentious border issue, the Chinese were allowed to walk away with a vague statement which opened the door for future contestations.
Already then, the ‘beautiful Indian woman’ was unable to woo the tough Chinese negotiators. It may not be different 62 years later. China has truly a problem with Demchok.
Last year, the Chief Executive Councilor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Rigzin Spalbar wrote to the then Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister  Mufti Mohammed Sayeed to request him to take up with Delhi the re-opening of the Kailash-Manasarovar route via Demchok.
A few months earlier, President Xi Jinping had ‘generously’ offered (as a ‘political gesture’) to open a new route, via Nathu la in Sikkim, for Indian pilgrims wanting to go on the yatra. The Indian Press clapped. It is true that for those who were unaware of the topography of the Himalayas, the Chinese offer to open Nathu-la seemed reasonable.
In his letter to Sayeed, Spalbar, after mentioning the historical background of Demchok, which till 1954, was used by most of the Indian pilgrims wanting to go on pilgrimage to the Kailash, also suggested re-opening the route; the Holy Lake and Sacred Mountain are located at a mere two-day drive from Leh and the route is relatively easy as it does not encounter any major pass. But here too the Chinese are not ready to be wooed.
Will Mr Parrikar’s visit be a success? Perhaps one or two Border Personnel Meeting points may be agreed upon, which is good; Demchok, however, will not be in the list. Perhaps the Joint Tactical Exercise held for the first time last year between the troops of both countries in the Chushul-Moldo area will be repeated on a larger scale. Great!
And in a few months time, a hotline may be established between the two military headquarters as part of an effort to improve border management. This however will not solve more serious issues such as Demchok. It may be left to the National Security Advisor and Special Reprehensive for the border Ajit Doval to raise the issues with his counterpart State Councillor Yang Jiechi. Will Yang be charmed by the NSA and agree to release the tension on Demchok? This will be a meaningful confidence-building measure, but is the ‘strong boy’ interested to please the ‘beautiful woman’?