Sunday, April 26, 2015

I am going to visit the home of my own brother, says Xi

The world press has focused on the enormity of the ‘gifts’ that President Xi Jinping brought in his luggage as he landed in Islamabad.
The Washington Post remarked: “Xi arrived in Islamabad bearing real gifts: an eye-popping $46 billion worth of planned energy and infrastructure investment to boost Pakistan's flagging economy. This would include adding some 10,400 megawatts to Pakistan's national grid through coal, nuclear and renewable energy projects.”
This sounds like a Chinese Dream for Islamabad!
Beijing has decided to help Pakistan to develop a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which will eventually link up its pet project, the two New Silks Roads (also known as ‘One Belt, One Road’).
In other words, the Chinese-sponsored port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea will be connected through the Karakoram Highway, to the Xinjiang province in China’s Far West and Central Asia …and later Middle East, Africa and Europe.
The ‘corridor’ will have railways, roads, optical fiber cables, dams (to produce the necessary electricity), pipelines, you name it!
Observers marveled at Beijing kindness (and wealth), but you should not be fooled by the Chinese generosity: Beijing is investing for Beijing!
China, which is facing financial difficulties at home, with a slowdown of the economic engine, has devised a double Roads scheme to rebalance its own economy and perhaps more importantly, to become the sole leader of Asia. The two Silk Roads project and the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank have to be seen in this perspective.
Pakistan, China’s good friend, is the perfect ‘partner’ (or vassal state, if you look from another angle). It is geographically ideally positioned with an access to the sea in the South and to Central Asia in the North.
In 1946-47, as the British were ready to depart the subcontinent, they devised a way to keep their influence in Asia and the world. During the previous two centuries, the defence of the Empire had been centered on the Indian subcontinent and the Indian Ocean (also known as the British lake). The British chiefs of staff had submitted a report on the strategic consequences of Britain’s departure from India; the generals agreed that Pakistan was crucial for the Empire to keep its influence; more important than the other future dominion (India), was the Islamic State which could provide air bases in the north of the country (to control Soviet Union) and naval bases opening to the Arabian Sea in the south. A brotherly contact with the Muslim states in the Middle East was an added bonus.
It explains why London put its stakes on Pakistan.
The dies were cast in May 1947, when the chiefs of staff filed their final report: "From the strategic point of view there were overwhelming arguments in favour of West Pakistan remaining within the Commonwealth, namely that we should obtain important strategic facilities..."
Subsequently this policy was implemented, partly with the unknowing (not to say foolish) collaboration of the Congress Party.
Today, China is in the same position as the British at the time of India’s independence. By buying Pakistan’s allegiance, Beijing believes that it will be able to control and dominate Asia by linking the Belt and the Road.
A discredited and financially broke Islamabad, is only too happy to rely on their ‘dependable’ friend (as per Nawaz Sharif’s words, when he received Xi Jinping).
Billboards in Chinese and English were seen in Islamabad, the friendship between the Lord and the Vassal is now ‘higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, sweeter than honey, and stronger than steel.’
China plays on the credulity of their all-weather ‘friend’; in an article published in some Pakistani papers before his arrival, Xi wrote: “This will be my first trip to Pakistan, but I feel as if I am going to visit the home of my own brother.” He added that the bilateral relationship ‘has flourished like a tree growing tall and strong’. It is very touching, isn’t it?
The Washington Post sees it differently: “After all, China and Pakistan may share a border, but cultural ties between the two nations and its people are thin, to put it mildly.”
However, there is a far more serious problem faced by Beijing: Pakistan is a haven for terrorists and China likes neither terrorism, nor dissidence.
A couple of weeks ago, Beijing started a crackdown on ‘visible signs of Muslim religious observance’ among the Uighurs, the ethnic minority living in Xinjiang. A man is said to have been condemned to a six-year prison sentence for daring to grow a beard in the Muslim region.
Without even talking of extreme cases like this one, how is Beijing going to tackle the movements of terrorists from Pakistan to Xinjiang, once the ‘corridor’ is wide open to goods and people. Or will it be open only for oil, gas and raw materials? It does not make sense.
The only solution for Beijing is to twist Pakistan’s arm and make sure that terrorism stops or at least is reduced to its ‘export to Kashmir’.
On March 26, when the Chief of Naval Staff of Pakistan, Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah, visited Beijing to prepare President Xi’s trip to Islamabad, the Vice Chairman of China's Central Military Commission, General Fan Changlong pledged to ‘deepen cooperation with Pakistan in anti-terrorism, maritime security and military technology.’ Beijing is clearly nervous that their investment may be jeopardized by the jihadis. Fan told Zakaullah that China hopes to enhance coordination and cooperation with Pakistan on regional security affairs (read terrorism).
As President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan, he immediately met with Pakistani Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Rashad Mahmood and his colleagues of the Army, Air Force and Navy in Islamabad.
Xinhua reported: “Hailing the important role the Pakistani military has played in the development of China-Pakistan relations, Xi said that the understanding and support of the Pakistani military is necessary for the two countries to forge a community of shared destiny,” adding that “Xi spoke highly of the anti-terror cooperation between the two countries ...and staunchly back Pakistan's efforts to counter terrorism and safeguard national security.”
The message is clear, “we are going to help you, we are going to invest billions and billions of dollars to save your economy, but control the terror in your country, we are with you.”
As a bonus, China will sell eight Type 041 Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines to Pakistan for nearly US $ 5 billion. Who will pay for China’s ‘biggest-ever arms export deal’ is irrelevant (Beijing is likely to extend a long-term loan, at a low interest rate, to cover the cost for the submarines).
The sharp-tongued Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying explained: "China and Pakistan are neighbours boasting traditional friendship, and the two sides maintain normal cooperation in the military industry and arms trade."
If Islamabad manages to control terrorism infiltration along the Silk Road, it is worth the investment for Beijing; especially as Pakistan as use the subs to keep a tab on India in the Arabian Sea. If it does not happen, Beijing has a big problem.
The irony is that China may succeed where the United States and India have always failed: to control the Pakistani Army and its different branches and ultimately tackle terrorism, at least in its more blatant forms.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Guess what? The Chinese are coming...

Construction work on the new road Lhasa-Nyingtri
An article, which appeared yesterday in the Chinese ‘Tibetan’ press, put the release of the White Paper (WP) on Tibet into perspective.
I have been wondering about the WP's timing which was obviously ‘synchronized’ with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), but it was also clear that there was more behind the strong attack against the Dalai Lama (and his Group, as Beijing calls the Dharamsala Administration).
An article in China Tibet Online gives a hint of what is up Beijing’s sleeves.
The piece is titled: “Guess what? 6th Tibet Work Conference may be convened this year, netizens say.”
For China, it is new that netizens are aware of ‘State Secrets’ such as holding crucial meetings …and their timings!
But when one watches China, the first rule is not to be surprised by anything.
The announcement of the holding of a Sixth Conference (or Forum) on Tibet Work by ‘netizens’ is clearly a propaganda gimmick.
The previous Forum was held in Beijing in January 2010. Before that, five Tibet Work Conferences were organized in 1980, 1984, 1994, 2001 and 2010: “it has played a significant role in advancing the economic and social development in Tibet”, says the official media.
What is a Work Forum on Tibet?
It is the place where a new Tibet policy is decided.
It is attended by several hundreds of officials, including all the members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo.
The Chinese website says: “Now people are eagerly anticipating the Sixth Tibet Work Conference.”
Who are the ‘people’ eagerly expecting a new direction in Tibet Policy?
The ‘netizens’ (there were called the ‘masses’ under Mao), says the official media which gives a background: “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region. On March 5, during the Third Session of the 12th National People’s Congress, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang highlighted that celebrations should be organized for the 50th anniversary in the government work report.”
To prepare the ground for the TAR celebrations (and the new Forum), the State media explains that from November 2014 to March 2015, “many in the central leadership as well as various government departments went to Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces to conduct research and make inspections, including: Yu Zhengsheng, Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Du Qinglin, Vice Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, and Sun Chunlan, minister of the United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee as well as leaders of the Ministry of Education, the State Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Water Conservancy and Ministry of Agriculture.”
I have reported these visits from time to time on this blog.
China Tibet Online and other ‘Tibetan’ official websites quote a Communist ‘saying’: “the central leadership and relevant departments must conduct in-depth research and inspections before an important meeting is convened and important documents issued.”
Now the ‘masses’ (oops sorry, the ‘netizens’) are guessing: “the central authorities [read Beijing] may initiate a big move to aid Tibet.”
Netizen ‘Costa’ says: "After much research, I think the next conference will be held sometime between August 28 and September 1, 2015"; while Netizen ‘i3broadaxe’ believes that "the reasonable time frame (for the conference) is from June to July".
Of course, adds the Communist mouth piece, “these statements are not necessarily credible,” but, but, but...: “It might be a good news if the Sixth Tibet Work Conference could be held this year. This would comply with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s important strategic ideology.”
What does Xi says about Tibet?
The Chinese President believes that "to govern the country well, we must govern the border areas first, and to govern the border areas well, we must stabilize Tibet first".
Who is on the other side of the border? India, of course!
How does this translate on the ground?
In Tibet, the masses will have to follow Xi’s Four Comprehensives, in other words: “upholding the rule of law in governing Tibet, maintaining a long-term development of Tibet, seeking for public consent, and laying a solid foundation.”
[Officially, Xi’s theory refers to ‘comprehensively’ building a moderately prosperous society, deepening reform, governing the country according to rule by law, and enforcing strict party discipline.]
More Chinese tourists in perspective
But business being business, the national strategy of ‘One Belt, One Road’ should be kept in mind while 'developing' the Roof of the World.
For Tibet, it means: “the promotion of development and stability in Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas in other four provinces. Furthermore, it will help achieve the goal of achieving a comprehensive moderately prosperous society, comprehensively deepening the reform, and promoting the rule of law.”
‘The promotion of development and stability in Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas in other four provinces’ partially answers the Dalai Lama’s demand for a common policy for the 3 traditional regions of Tibet (U-Tsang, Amdo and Kham), now administrated by Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces, (apart from the Tibetan Autonomous Region).
By bringing prosperity and exchanges (with Nepal through Kyirong port, for example), Beijing believes that it can solve the Tibetan issue.
The Sixth Work Forum on Tibet will probably decide to transform the Land of Snows into an important economic (and touristic) hub for the New Silk Road project.
One of the decisions could be to immediately start the Tibet-Xinjiang railway through the disputed Askai Chin area. To complete it at the earliest (see my previous post), could be a major policy decision of the Forum.

"To govern the country well,
we must govern the border areas first", Xi Jinping
Where is India in all that?
Of course, Delhi's permission will not be taken to run the railway through what India considers her own territory.
In any case, India will be nowhere because all Himalayan landports are today closed (except on a very small restricted scale for Nathu-la in Sikkim, Shipki-la in Himachal and Lipulekh-la in Uttarakhand).
If China is truly serious about the New Silk Road, (and wants India’s participation), it should reopen the traditional Himalayan border passes/routes, such as the Karakoram pass and Demchok in Ladakh, Niti, Mana, Darma passes in Uttarakhand, Jelep-la between West Bengal and Tibet, Bumla, Kibitoo in Arunachal.
One should not forget that for millennia, the Himalaya has been a place of passage and exchanges between the Tibetan world and the subcontinent.
It is only because of the irresponsible ‘Panchsheel’ policy of Jawaharlal Nehru policy effectively closed the passes in 1954.
When the former Prime Minister realized his blunder, it was too late, the PLA soldiers were already rolling down the slopes of the Thagla ridge and marching into the high plateau of Ladakh.
For the Tibetans, a Sixth Work Forum does not augur well; it probably means the final integration (Beijing used to speak about ‘Liberation’) under millions and millions of Han tourists and traders.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

For Beijing, Tibetan issue does not exist

Everything is fine?
My article For Beijing, Tibetan issue does not exist appeared today in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

One wonders why the White Paper on Tibet attacks the Dalai Lama when he is China’s best bet. But a perusal of the lengthy document makes it clear that, for the communist regime, there is no ‘Tibetan issue’; all is fine

The State Council Information Office (China’s Cabinet) recently released a White Paper, ‘on the development path of Tibet’. It is not the first WP published by the Chinese Government on Tibet; in fact, it is the 13th since 1992, when the State Council, tried to justify its position about ‘ownership and human rights’. The characteristic of the latest avatar is best described by the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala: “[it] tries to belittle His Holiness the Dalai Lama by questioning his sincerity in dealing with China. His Holiness admired around the world and revered by the Tibetan people, does not need any certificate on his motivation from the Chinese Government.”
One wonders: Why such a violent attack on the Tibetan leader, when many in China realise that he is undoubtedly the best bet if Beijing wants to find a solution to the Tibetan issue. But reading through the longish paper, it is clear that for the communist regime, there is no ‘Tibetan issue’; everything is fine and wonderful on the roof of the world. Beijing, however, warns: “The wheels of history roll forward and the tides of the times are irresistible. …Any person or force that attempts to resist the tide will simply be cast aside by history and by the people.”
One can only agree with Beijing, except for the fact that they mistakenly judge the tides’ direction. Democracy, freedom of thought and speech are accepted concepts everywhere on the planet, except in a Middle Kingdom which seems to have passed into a reverse gear. The WP asks the Dalai Lama to ‘put aside his illusions’ about talks on Tibet’s future status. For Beijing, the Dalai Lama has little understanding of modern Tibet, but keeps ‘a sentimental attachment to the old theocratic feudal serfdom’.
The WP argues: “The only sensible alternative is for the Dalai Lama and his supporters to accept that Tibet has been part of China since antiquity, to abandon their goals of dividing China and seeking independence for Tibet. …The Central Government [Beijing] hopes that the Dalai Lama will …face up to reality in his remaining years.”
Tibet has been part of China since antiquity however raises a serious question: What is China? A few years ago, Ge Jianxiong, Director of the Institute of Chinese Historical Geography, Fudan university in Shanghai stated in an article in China Review: “If we ask: How big was eighth century China and if we speak about the borders of the Tang dynasty, we cannot include the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. [Tibet] was sovereign and independent of the Tang dynasty.”
Mr Ge went further and questioned the notion of ‘China’: “First of all, ‘China’ (Zhongguo) only officially became the name of our country with the founding of the Republic of China in 1912. Before this, the idea of ‘Zhongguo’ was not clearly conceptualised. The concept of ‘China’ has continued to expand. From referring specifically to the central plains of China, the concept has since grown to now refer generally to a whole nation…”
The timing of the WP’s publication is linked to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region. In 1965, Tibet was divided in five areas, with Southern and Western Tibet becoming the Tibetan Autonomous Region, while other parts of historic Tibet were officially integrated in the Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai.
The WP categorically rejects the concept of a historic ‘greater Tibet’, as well as the Dalai Lama’s demand that all the Tibetan-inhabited areas should be incorporated into a unified administrative area. Beijing also condemns the Dalai Lama’s middle way approach which seeks a genuine autonomy for roof of the world, simply because China believes that the Dalai Lama’s ultimate goal is independence, which he has denied time and again. Beijing also can’t accept that the religious leader decides on his own to terminate the Dalai Lama Institution: It is for the party to decide!
In several cases, Beijing put in the Dalai Lama’s mouth statements that he never made: “The Red Han people were snakes in your chest and abominable, …the Han people are like psychopaths, ...they tortured us Tibetans ruthlessly and treat us like beasts”.
More serious is the constant distortion of history. Take the Tibetan uprising of March 1959, in which the entire population of Lhasa participated to protect the Dalai Lama. Beijing says: “In 1959, the Dalai party launched a large-scale armed revolt against officials the Central Government stationed in Tibet, and massacred local Tibetans who supported democratic reform.”
The Tibetans remember the facts differently: “In a crackdown operation launched in the wake of the National Uprising, 10,000 to 15,000 Tibetans [by the People’s Liberation Army] were killed within three days.” Dharamsala quotes a Chinese source (a secret 1960 Tibet Military District Political Department report) which admits that “between March 1959 and October 1960, 87,000 Tibetans were killed in Central Tibet alone.”
Dharamsala affirms that according to the information that they compiled, over 1.2 million Tibetans died between 1949 and 1979. In its report on Tibet in 1960, the International Commission of Jurists confirmed these facts. A couple of decades ago, I remember seeing in Dharamsala the files documenting the casualties of these tragic years; it is perhaps time for the Central Tibetan Administration to come out of its shyness, show the world what really happened in Tibet and publish these records. But there is still some irony in Tibet.
As the WP was released, a Chinese official website,, reported the renovation of a palace in Tronkhang village of Nyingchi prefecture; the building is said to be the house where Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama was born. The Tibetan leader, who is reverently called “The Great Thirteenth” by Beijing, fought all his life to make Tibet an independent nation; this ‘detail’ has now been forgotten by Beijing. Another irony, Lhasa has been awarded by the ‘CCTV Economic Life Survey’, China’s highest happiness index for five years in a row; it is however not mentioned, if the ‘happiness’ is for the migrant Hans or local Tibetans! More sadly, as long as the tide does not change, the doors seem closed for the Dalai Lama.
For India (which is never criticised in the WP), the publication is also significant as it shows that, despite its claim of becoming a ‘normal’ nation, a power which wants to lead Asia (for example in the two New Silk Roads project or with the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank), the Middle Kingdom remains rather feudal as far was freedom, plurality (and history) is concerned.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits China next month, he should go with pride: India has succeeded in growing and developing, with her citizens remaining free human beings. This is not the case in China.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

No tunnel under the Everest ...but a road to Xinjiang?

A railway line through the Aksai Chin?
When one watches China, it is gratifying to be right once in a while.
It does not happen every day.
Last week, I wrote on this blog that I doubted if China would dig a tunnel under the Everest, when it had easy access to Nepal via Kyirong and Zhangmu.
Xinhua has now issued a clarification: "Will China really dig a tunnel through Himalayas?"
I quote from the 'clarification':
Recently a news story titled "China intends to build a railway through the Himalayas to link to its border with Nepal" has been abuzz on western media.
Glancing at publications from AFP to Reuters and from the UK's 'The Guardian' to 'The Independent', one sees the headline: "Qinghai-Tibet Railway on the roof of the world is already a marvel of human engineering, but could it be that China Railway will now 'defy heaven'"? Will they really dig a turnnel through the Himalayas?
Perusing the various media reports, one finds the same source being quoted: Wang Mengshu, a scholar at the China Academy of Engineering and an expert on China's railway tunnels.
What Xinhua does not say is that the agency was the original source of the incorrect news. It now blames Western media and justifies itself:
Aside from quoting secondary sources, western media outlets imply a kind of bitter tone, exaggerating China's wish to build this rail line behind a so-called 'economic and geopolitical scheme'.
As a saying goes that 'no investigation, no right to a statement', and actually the facts and the reports themselves are very different. But the foreign media misinterprets the real intentions, and a nice vision of the future is instead turned into a deceitful story.
Right, but why was it reported in the Chinese media in the first place?
It is however true that the Western (and Indian) media should have done some basic investigations. It was not done.
Now, Xinhua and China Tibet News back out of their own responsibility and question: 'Is the news reliable?'
They explain in detail why the news published by them and distributed by the Western press was not correct.
Firstly, to which rail line are they referring? According to the western media, this rail line is an extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, linking Tibet's second largest city Shigatse with Gyirong near the border between China and Nepal, a distance of 540 kilometers, with completion of the line expected by the year 2020.
However, Wang Mengshu told reporters from Xinhua News Agency that the feasibility of this rail line is still being deliberated, and its construction is most definitely not on the current agenda. Nor has it obtained governmental approval. Therefore, for the line to be "completed by 2020" is highly unlikely.
An investigation by Xinhua reporters found that "China's wish to build an extension line of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway from Shigatse to Gyirong" is in fact old news. Chinese media reported on this tentative plan as early as last August, at the opening of the Lhasa-Shigatse rail line, the first extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It was reported that there is a hope that more extension lines of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway such as a line from Shigatse to Gyirong will begin to be constructed during the period of the '13th Five-year Plan', from the year 2016 to 2020.
Therefore, that the construction 'hopefully will begin' turned out to be that it 'will be opened by 2020'. Perhaps in order to attract attention, western media outlets could not manage to check the facts.
Xinhua further questions: 'Is the construction feasible?' And it answers:
So then, can a tunnel really be drilled through the Himalayan mountains? Is it technically feasible? Chinese tunnel and underground engineering expert, Wang Mengshu has the final say. He says that theoretically, it is technically feasible to build a tunnel through the Himalayas, but there would be a number of practical difficulties.
In order to construct a tunnel in the high mountains, first, the location and elevation must be determined. Should it 'cut through' or 'climb over' the mountain?
Wang Mengshu says that the length of the tunnels can be shortened if they are constructed at an elevation of more than 7,000 meters, but considering the thinness of the air, the low temperatures, and the ground freezing over, it is not possible for passenger cars to pass through. So it is the best if the height of the tunnel is below 5,000 meters. Tunnels built at a height of around 4,000 meters would be more appropriate.
Wang Mengshu said that in order to shorten the tunnel length, they still need to try to find a place in the Himalayas with the thinnest mountain body so that a possible tunnel, similar to a mountain pass, could enter from one 'ditch', then come out through another 'ditch' from the other. Previous surveys conducted by various parties initially selected several potential sites, but all remain in the research phase for the feasibility study. No real action has been taken yet.
Wang, the 'expert' has obviously some explanation to do.
The Chinese news agency asked him: is it expensive?
and again he provides an answer:
Now the world's longest railway tunnel is the Gotthard tunnel in the Alps located in central Swiss. With a total length of 57 kilometers, it took 11 years to be finished. So then, how long would the tunnel under the Himalayas be? How long would it take to build it, and how much would it cost?
Wang Mengshu said that at the current stage everything is hypothetical, which definitely has not reached the policy level yet. So it is difficult to make an exact estimation at this point. As for the Himalaya tunnel, it is estimated to cost 10 billion yuan for the lead engineering and the tunnel itself. 'This is the least amount', he said. As for a schedule, subject to external conditions, it would probably take around 10 years to finish the project.
However, Wang Mengshu held that this plan was unlikely to be approved in the short term because many railway construction projects in China are lacking enough funds, not to mention the vast sum that would be required for this large project.
What was the purpose of this tunnel?
The non sense continues:
Just to promote increased trade between Nepal and Tibet says Wang, who adds:"The scenery at the southern foot of the Himalayas is very beautiful, and the people there are unadorned. It is really worth a visit."
The gentleman, who has visited Nepal on several occasions, confides: "Nepal's cashmere products are really inexpensive, and their lamb is also very delicious."
A tunnel for a piece of lamb? Who is to believe this one?
And Wang Mengshu to conclude about the allegation that China's 'geopolitical schemes' was behind the rail project, he predicts: 'acts speak louder than words. The Nepalese will have the final say on whether China is sincere or insincere'.
Wang says: "A lot of Nepalese told me that they believe the Chinese people speak the truth, do practical things, and are sincere and friendly."
What is the connection with digging under the Everest, when the Zhangmu and Kyirong landports are of easy access.

Another possibility
But it is more plausible that it was just a diversion from far more serious plans to link by rail, Tibet to the new Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Once the train reaches Kyirong, the line can follow the National Highway G219 and continue towards Rutok and Kashgar (via the Aksai Chin).
It will then link up with the Karakoram Highway coming from Pakistan.
The loop will be complete.
How India will react to such a project is another issue.

Monday, April 20, 2015

What is China?

Concluding the recently published 'White Paper on Tibet', Beijing argues that “the only sensible alternative is for the Dalai Lama and his supporters to accept that Tibet has been part of China since antiquity”.
It says:
The wheels of history roll forward and the tides of the times are irresistible.
Tibet's path of development is one imposed by history and chosen by the people. Experience proves to us that only by upholding unity and opposing separatism, only by upholding progress and opposing retrogression, only by upholding stability and opposing turmoil, can the future of Tibet be assured. Any person or force that attempts to resist the tide will simply be cast aside by history and by the people.
The 'middle way' advocated by the Dalai Lama and his supporters, with 'Tibetan independence' as their ultimate goal, is just such an attempt. It places itself in opposition to the prevailing realities of the nation and in Tibet. It contravenes China's Constitution and its state systems. The only sensible alternative is for the Dalai Lama and his supporters to accept that Tibet has been part of China since antiquity, to abandon their goals of dividing China and seeking independence for Tibet, and to begin to act in the interests of Tibet and the country at large.
The future of Tibet belongs to all the peoples of Tibet and to China as a nation. Tibet has every prospect of a brighter future. In the years to come, the people of every ethnic group in Tibet, along with others in the greater family of the motherland, will progress on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, striving to build a new, united and democratic Tibet, to celebrate the brilliance of its culture, to develop a prosperous, harmonious socialist society, and to join with their fellow Chinese in accomplishing the Chinese Dream of the great renewal of the nation.
For the sake of argument, let us accept the Chinese contention.
This however raises a question: what is China?
A few years ago, Professor Ge Jianxiong, Director of the Institute of Chinese Historical Geography at Fudan University in Shanghai stated in an article in The China Review: “It would be a defiance of history to claim that Tibet has always been a part of China since the Tang Dynasty (7th to 10th century).”
But Professor Ge went further and questioned the notion of ‘China’.
When discussing the peaceful rise of China and the history of the great powers of the world, it is natural to think of ancient China. Can ancient China be considered a ‘Great Power’? If so, how big was it? This is a prerequisite for knowing the history and comparing development. But up to now, people have held on to a few misunderstandings.
Prof Ge explains:
First of all, ‘China’ (Zhongguo) only officially became the name of our country with the founding of the Republic of China in 1912. Before this, the idea of China (‘Zhongguo’) was not clearly conceptualized. The concept of ‘China’ has continued to expand. From referring specifically to the central plains of China, the concept has since grown to now refer generally to a whole nation. Even during the late Qing, ‘China’ would sometimes be used as a name to refer to the Qing State, including all the territory within the boundaries of the Qing Empire, but other times it would only refer to the ‘18 Interior Provinces’ and not include Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang. Therefore, if we want to understand the extent of ancient China’s territory, we can only speak of how large was the actual territory controlled by a particular dynasty at a particular moment.
The Fudan professor further argues:
For example: How big was the Qin Dynasty? How big was the Tang Dynasty? How big was the Qing Dynasty? If you want to say how large was ‘China’ at a certain time, you need to explain how ‘China’ is conceptualized, including explaining which Dynasty or regime is being discussed.
Prof. Ge then gives Tibet as an example:

If we ask: How big was 8th century China and if we speak about the borders of the Tang Dynasty, we cannot include the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. This was ruled by Tubo/Tufan (吐蕃), and so does not count. Tubo/Tufan was a sovereignty independent of the Tang Dynasty. At least it was not administered by the Tang Dynasty. Otherwise, there would have been no need for Tang Taizong to marry Princess Wencheng to the Tibetan king; there would have been no need to erect the Tang-Tubo/Tufan alliance tablet. It would be a defiance of history if we claim that since the Tang Dynasty, Tibet has always been a part of China – the fact that the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau subsequently became a part of the Chinese dynasties does not substantiate such a claim. Of course, to look back from the perspective of contemporary borders, China’s current territory contains many areas that, from the perspective of 8th century political control, were independent of the authority of the Tang court including Tuobo/Tufan, Nanzhao [in Yunnan], and Bohai.
Prof Ge continues:
Second, it goes without saying that since the different dynasties lasted both a long time and a short time, it also goes without saying their territory similarly fluctuated. This is especially so of those dynasties that greatly expanded the scope of their borders from the beginning to the end of their rule, the territory under their control could vary considerably over time. Take for example the Western Han. In the beginning, their western border extended to the Hexi/Gansu corridor. Later, it expanded to Lake Balkhash only to then shrink back to the Yumen Pass in the latter years of the dynasty. In the early years [of the Han] the southern boundaries reached only as far as the Southern Ling Mountains. Even what is now Guangxi and Guangdong was under the control of the Nan Yue. Yet by the middle and later periods, control in the south extended as far as what is today Vietnam.
After Tang Taizong defeated the Eastern Turks, the northern reaches of the Tang Empire extended all the way to the area around Lake Baikal. But when the Turks later regrouped, Tang control retreated to the Yinshan Mountains (in today’s Mongolia). Up to the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor during the Qing Dynasty, China’s borders did not include Xinjiang and it was not until the middle of the 18th century that the Qianlong Emperor was able to pacify the regions to the north and south of Tian Shan and extend Qing territory as far as Lake Balkhash and the Pamir Plateau. However, beginning around 1860, the northern reaches of Heilongjiang, the area east of the Ussuri River, and the northwest part of what is today Xinjiang—over 1,000,000 square kilometers of territory—was seized by Russia. In the 20th century, China for all practical purposes lost 1,500,000 square kilometers of territory that is Outer Mongolia.
In other words, the borders of the empire have fluctuated during the successive dynasties and with the rule of a particular dynasty.
Prof Ge provides some other examples, especially about the degree of 'control' a particular dynasty exercises over a territory:
Moreover, we must differentiate between territory that was actually under administrative control of a dynasty, that which was a vassal state, and that which was ‘within the reaches of our prestige’. [Within a dynasty’s sphere of influence?] For example, take the later stages of the Western Han. Even though the leader of the Xiongnu surrendered to the Western Han, Han Wudi was not able to incorporate the Xiongnu into the Han Empire. Moreover, he had to pay off the leader of the Xiongnu in order to have a guarantee that there would be not attacks across a border marked by the Great Wall. As a result, the borders of the Han Empire did not extend beyond the Yin Mountains and the Xiongnu were never a part of Han territory.
In another example, several times the children and grandchildren of Ghengis Khan marched westward, their cavalry sweeping over Asia and Europe. But by the time that Ghengis’ grandson, Khubilai, established the Yuan Dynasty, Ghengis’ other descendants had already split apart his empire, after which they became known as the Four Khanates. These other Khanates and the Yuan court were independent political entities, only that their rulers had the same ancestors. The borders of the Yuan Empire did not include parts of Xinjiang and the southern territory belonged to another Khanate, never mind Central Asia, Western Asia, and Europe.
Another example is Vietnam, the larger part of which was under the administrative control of the Han and Tang Dynasties. But beginning in the 10th century, Vietnam founded its own independent kingdom, after which, during the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, it was a vassal state. Of course, this is not the same as complete independence, therefore before France made Vietnam a French colony, France had to force the Qing government to relinquish its sovereignty and claims over Vietnam. Nevertheless, we are not able–at least after the 10th century—to regard Vietnam as a part of ‘China’. Korea, the Ryukyu Islands, Burma are also in a similar category.
Prof Ge also explains the concept of 'Tributary States':
Now, what of the countries of South East Asia and Japan that have never officially been the vassals of any dynasty? Chinese history books call them ‘Tributary States’. Actually, it was either international trade under the ‘tribute’ banner or else it was only temporary visits. Most of what the books call ‘Tributary States’ are like this. What is more, we have only the one-sided views of the Qing court records that were based on past precedents and written for the court’s own aggrandizement. For example, people also called Russia, France, Portugal, and the ‘Red Hairs’ as tribute states. (During the Ming, Dutch people were called ‘Red Hair Foreigners’. After the mid-Qing they also called the English, ‘Red Hair Foreigners’) Can we possibly accept that these states were also vassals of the Qing?
Until now, there are those people who feel that the more they exaggerate the territory of historical ‘China’ or China’s successive dynasties and kingdoms the more patriotic they are. Actually, it is exactly the opposite. If China really wishes to rise peacefully, we must understand the true facts of history, only then will we be able to know the sum of our history, learn from our experiences, and so be on a solid footing to face the future.
What to conclude of all this?
To accept that Tibet has been part of China since antiquity, is not a sensible alternative is for the Tibetans, simply because 'China' was then not existing as the new Emperors would like it to exist today.
The only alternative seems to me that the present leadership in Beijing should do their homework and start studying the history of their 'empire', before asking the Tibetans to sign on a dotted line.
They maybe be able to realize that sooner or later, the 'Communist Dynasty' will also collapse; then, the Middle Kingdom will shrink again behind the Great Wall.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

'Legal education' on India's border with Tibet

Lebu village, north of the McMahon Line
The Communist website announced: 'Tibet Sets up Night Schools for Monba [Monpa] Ethnic Group’.
It quotes the local authorities in Cona [Tsona] county of Lhoka prefecture, who said that “night schools [will] offer courses on cultural knowledge every Friday, which greatly enhanced the literacy level of the locals.”
The report refers to an area, north of Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh (close to the McMahon line). The last Indian post is located at Khenzimane and the first Tibetan village (mentioned in the article) is Lebu, both villages on the western bank of the Nyamjang chu (river).
The article explains that the Monpa “ethnic group is one of the 56 ethnic groups in China with a population of 50,000. Most of the Monpas live in Tibet’s Lhoka and Nyingchi Prefecture [of Tibet].”
The website does not mention the Monpas living in Tawang district in India.
It however admits that while “the living condition of Monpas has risen considerably due to the development policy for minorities, [however] trapped by the bad traffic and communication [sic], the literacy rate is a little low.”
What is amazing is that this admission comes at time when China speaks of a ‘huge dispute’ with India over Arunachal Pradesh and that it is an ‘undeniable fact’.
The sharp tongue of Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson recently asserted: “There is a huge dispute in the eastern China-India border. This is an undeniable fact. …China always holds a consistent and clear position on the boundary question. The two sides should make joint efforts to maintain peace tranquility of the border area and create favourable conditions for the negotiation of the boundary question."
Though China continues to claim Arunachal Pradesh as an 'undeniable' part of Tibet (and China), it is surprising that local Communist cadres in the border of Arunachal admit ‘low rate of the literacy’ amongst the Monpas.
Wang Weixi, the director of a police station in Lebu Township [village?] of Tsona county told that “the night school established by the police station has made great use of the human resources and facilities. The officers will open courses to promote legal knowledge in the residents’ leisure time.”
What ‘legal knowledge’ is Wang speaking about?
Is the course on the 1962 War (Lebu village is located a few kilometers away from the Thagla ridge, which saw the first Chinese attack on October 20, 1962)?
Does Wang mean ‘political’ literacy?
In what do the Monpas need to be ‘legally educated’?
At the same time, the White Paper 'on the development path of Tibet', praises China for Tibet's progresses in every fields, especially in education:
There has been comprehensive development in Tibet's education, health and social security. The region took the lead in China to provide its residents with a 15-year free education (three-year preschool, six-year primary school, three-year junior middle school and three-year senior middle school); 99.59 percent of school-age children are enrolled at primary level; the gross enrollment rates for junior middle school and senior middle school have reached 98.75 percent and 72.23 percent, respectively. The quality of the population is also improving. Illiteracy has been wiped out among the young and the middle-aged, and the average length of time spent in education for people above the age of 15 has reached 8.1 years.
Illiteracy has been eradicated elsewhere in Tibet, but not for the Monpas?
Why do they need ‘legal knowledge’?
According to, Richen, a 27-year-old Monpa youth, knows little about legal knowledge. He is quoted as saying that after the training at the night school, he learns about basic legal knowledge.
The website adds: “A small library was built in Lebu Township in 2013. It opens to public every Saturday. More and more local people borrow books from the library and most of them form reading habits.”
Could the Monpas tempted to cross over to India, therefore the need to be 'legally educated?
It could be one of the reasons behind the Friday night's classes at Lebu Police Station.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

China’s missing Generals

My article China’s missing Generals appeared in NitiCentral.

Here is the link...

Where have all the generals gone, long time passing?
The CCDI have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?

No, in his grave, Pete Seeger, the American pacifist folk singer could not know that the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) has in the past months decimated the ranks of the Chinese generals of the People’s Liberation Army.
But the question is valid: will they ever learn?
In March, a few days before the opening of the Two Meetings (The National People’s Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference), a second group of 14 Chinese generals was placed under ‘investigation’ by the CCDI.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported: “The most prominent of the officers is Guo Zhenggang, former deputy political commissar of the Zhejiang Military Area Command (MAC), who was promoted to major general in January.”
Incidentally, Guo is the son of a former Central Military Commission (CMC) vice-chairman Guo Boxiong (the 2 vice-chairmen are the higest uniformed officials in China, senior to the defense minister).
Already in January, 16 senior PLA officials of the rank of major general and above had been similarly ‘investigated’. They were all charged with having ‘violated Party discipline and laws’; in other words, they were corrupt, very corrupt.
President Xi Jinping, who is also CMC’s Chairman, announced that Beijing was in the process of ‘cleansing the influence’ of Xu Caihou, another former CMC’s vice-chairman.
It is quite remarkable that for the first time in the history of the Communist Party, during the 2 Meetings, PLA delegates openly spoke to the media about the extent of corruption in the PLA’s ranks.
The SCMP commented: “In a departure from previous years, military corruption is being discussed at the parliamentary sessions in Beijing, with several PLA delegates conducting high-profile media interviews describing examples of misconduct in striking detail.”
The Hong Kong newspaper quoted three retired PLA major generals who told local TV channels about the ‘horrible’ corruption in the military: “All PLA ranks have a price, getting a Communist Party membership has a price, and important military positions are reserved for cronies, senior officers’ children and in-laws.”
Major General Yang Chunchang, a retired deputy head of China’s Academy of Military Sciences, openly affirmed: “Everybody in society knows that in the PLA …you need to pay to join the party. Promotions to become leaders at platoon, company, regiment and division levels all have their own price tags.”
Consequently, several military experts have started asking: is the PLA ready for a War?
Xinhua quoted Communist historian Cai Xiaoxin, who in an interview with Sichuan-based Honesty Outlook, gave striking examples: “Weak-willed cadres of the PLA are treating performance troupes like their own personal harems.” Cai said that the troupes have been prone corruption scandals: “We cannot avoid the fact that some military cadres lacking in self-discipline have indeed treated the performance troupes as their own person harems.”
Cai noted that military corruption dates back to the late 1970s at the beginning of China's reforms and opening up policies, the military was then allowed to engage in business activities.
In The Global Times, Peng Guangqian, also a former official at the Academy of Military Sciences blamed ‘Western Ideology’: “[It] ensnared officials and corrupted their values. …These influences distorted their concept of moral evaluation and value orientation,” wrote Peng. That is too easy!
But with thirty generals fallen in three months, ‘will the PLA ever learn?’
The depletion of generals also raises questions about the Middle Kingdom’s level of military preparedness.
It has serious implications for India. Take Lt Gen Lt Yang Jinshan, a former Commander of the Tibet Military District, located opposite Indian forces in Sikkim and Arunachal. Last year, Yang lost his membership of the CCP’s Central Committee. After becoming Commander of Tibet Military District in 2009, the young general was promoted member of Central Committee in November 2012; by that time, he had been transferred to Chengdu and was holding the powerful post of Deputy Commander of the Chengdu MAC. He was one of the first to fall.
This shooting star in the Tibetan sky had purchased his elevation.
The recent arrests leave the senior ranks not only completely depleted, but also the PLA’s top hierarchy is deeply disorganized.
The People’s Daily mentions the other Military Area Command (MAC) facing India in Ladakh, the Lanzhou MAC, which had been the base of General Guo Boxiong, the senior most general with Cai to be put under ‘investigation’ (on April 11, he was reported to have been arrested).
Lieutenant General Liu Lei, the MAC’s Political Commissar affirmed: “The key to governing a country is to manage its officials, just as the key to governing an army is to manage the generals. Being lax in administering officials would bring endless disasters. …For a general to manage his men, he has to manage himself well first.”
A disaster for China might be a blessing for India, but Xi Jinping and his colleague Wang Qishan seem determined to clean up the PLA and change the stakes. Whether they can succeed is another issue.
Already some positive signs have appeared after the CMC began to reform the system of procurement. The PLA Daily quoted a statement of the PLA general armament department: “Five bidders, both military and civilian, won the first open tender for 2015 organized by the PLA for weaponry purchase. …The total purchase price was ‘significantly below’ the budgets in previous years. …This is the first time that, the PLA military weapon procurement website, has been used for open, competitive bidding.”
It is too early to say if it is just for the show, but “reforms [in military procurement] should promote competitiveness and efficiency,” states the PLA’s website.
A few days ago, China Military Online published an interesting article entitled ‘China can fight modern war for 4 reasons’. It is written by Chen Dingding, an assistant professor of Government and Public Administration at the University of Macau. The first reason was ‘equipment is essential’; the second, training is also important; the third, military experience is overvalued (China has not fought a war for 30 years) and the last one is that ‘resolve is absolutely critical’. The author believes that ‘resolve’ could make the difference in favour of China in case of a conflict with the US.
It is where Beijing fools itself, a corrupt (or recently corrupt) army has no resolve, because it has lost its ‘traditional’ incentive, i.e. money.
In Sinosphere, the blog of The New York Times, Michael Forsythe rightly questioned: “Who could possibly bemoan rising prosperity, greater economic freedom, a declining birthrate and increasing university enrollment?”
His answer points to the crux of the problem for Xi Jinping and his colleagues: “Perhaps a Chinese military recruiter. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a career in the People’s Liberation Army is becoming less attractive for talented young people, even as the country’s armed forces are increasingly in need of educated soldiers, sailors and airmen to operate its rapidly growing arsenal of advanced weapons.”
In the meantime, the PLA vowed to fully implement Xi Jinping’s strategic thought, known as the ‘Four Comprehensives’ in order to build a strong army. Xi’s ‘comprehensives’ are a moderately prosperous society, deepening reform, advancing the rule of law and China strictly being governed by the Party. Nice program, but without ‘incentives’, it may take decades to re-motivate China’s defense forces.