Posts Tagged ‘china’

China: A realistic look at the demonstrations

Posted: November 29, 2022 by chrisharper in Uncategorized
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By Christopher Harper

As the news media focus on stories about Chinese demonstrations against COVID rules, few analysts are looking at the obstacles the protestors face.

President Xi Jinping has installed two of his closest allies as leaders of the Chinese police and security forces.

Wang Xiaohong’s appointment as public security minister in June marked a significant breakthrough for Xi in his consolidation of power.

Xi and Wang have known each other since the mid-1990s when the former rose through the ranks in southeast Fujian province, and Wang was a senior policeman in the provincial capital, Fuzhou.

As China’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong, Xi oversaw a sweeping overhaul of the People’s Liberation Army during his first term from 2012 to 2017 when I first visited the country. t the time, China had a robust economy and little dissent.

Xi, however, locked down the propaganda machine even more than his recent predecessors. The party’s most important propaganda organs routinely offer fawning coverage of his activities, such as triumphal recent tours of Hong Kong and Xinjiang, where the dislike for the party leadership is highest.

But the third traditional pillar of Chinese party power, the internal security apparatus, or the “knife,” has been a relative holdout, Peter Mattis, an expert on China’s security apparatus, told The Financial Times.

In the year before Wang’s appointment as China’s top cop, at least three current or former public security vice-ministers were purged for corruption. Two of them were accused of colluding with each other, criticizing “the party’s major policies” and having “hugely inflated political ambitions.” “This is why [Xi’s] rectification campaign against the political-legal apparatus is so important,” said Mattis. “The progression through these areas is how Mao seized power.”

Xi has also worked diligently to install allies at the party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, which oversees China’s police, state security, and courts. In a measure of its importance, the commission enjoys an official budget bigger than the military. Xi protégé Chen Yixin has been the CPLC’s general secretary and de facto head of operations since 2018.

Chen worked closely with Xi 20 years ago in Zhejiang province, where the future president served as governor and party secretary. Xi brought Chen to Beijing in 2015 and dispatched him to Hubei province, the center of the global coronavirus pandemic, to help stabilize the outbreak in 2020.

In a recent speech to internal security officials, Chen said: “Our party, country, and people are so lucky to have Xi Jinping as the core of the party, as the people’s leader and as commander-in-chief.

“He has the aura of leadership, outstanding intelligence, personal charisma, and the people are in his heart,” Chen added. “The more complicated the situation and the more arduous the task, the more we need Xi Jinping as our helmsman.”

While the media focus on et demonstrations, it’s essential to understand precisely the power of the Chinese state to put down any severe threats to the regime.

A wake-up call in China

Posted: October 25, 2022 by chrisharper in Uncategorized
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By Christopher Harper

Many analysts are wringing their hands about the elevation of Chinese President Xi Jinping to an unprecedented third term as head of the Beijing government.

The United States should worry about his intentions because Xi has made it clear that he’s a bad guy. Our government has failed to see that in Chinese leaders like Xi since we have played footsy with them over the last 50 years, hoping to make friends and allowing them to steal, murder, and pillage at home and abroad.

During the four summers I traveled all over China, I saw the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Chinese build stuff well, particularly roads and bridges. But the country has overbuilt high rises in an investment boom, leaving many vacant apartment complexes.

I remember one Chinese guide asking me: Do you know the Chinese national bird? The crane. The construction crane.

Because of the overbuilding inside China, jobs had to be found for trained construction workers. That helped to create the Belt and Road campaign—a mixture of exporting jobs and gaining allies with massive building projects worldwide. Instead, many developing nations owe Beijing billions of dollars from loans, creating far less benefit than Xi wanted.

Many of my students came from wealthy families who made their money in the private sector. Xi has moved away from the recent trend toward capitalism, potentially alienating those with money.

Although the Communist Party holds almost absolute control over the people, few become members. Virtually all my students hated the mandatory class in the philosophy of Mao, which is required in all universities.

Although the Communist government doesn’t tolerate political dissent, there seems to be a growing resentment of President Xi, particularly after his total clampdown during COVID. Nevertheless, dissidents have become more public, particularly outside the mainland.

More importantly, Xi pushed out or passed over many influential people inside the party. It will be challenging to determine how his actions in the party may ultimately hurt him, mainly since his new economic team seems quite unprepared for the road ahead.

That lack of confidence sent the New York and Chinese markets spiraling downward within hours of Xi’s ascendance.

China also faces some internal economic woes. The one-child policy, which was only recently changed, has left China with an aging population with huge benefits and a dwindling younger population that want office jobs rather than assembly line work.

Although the Chinese military buildup, particularly air and naval, should concern the United States, China hasn’t fought a war in decades. That means no one at the top of the military food chain has experienced the fog of war. That’s a huge minus for China—one quite like what we’re seeing with Russia in Ukraine.

Perhaps most important, the United States knows China is an enemy—not a friend. That’s an important realization. We cannot depend on China for critical minerals. We cannot rely on shipments of anything from China, as we saw during the supply line crisis during COVID.

All told, the elevation of President Xi should worry the United States. But it also serves as a needed wake-up call.

When my dad retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years of service, I don’t think he knew what to do with himself. He legitimately had a mid-life crisis, flipping back and forth a bit until he settled into a job as a program manager for the government. For him, going from a 20 year career that had everything laid out for him to being his own person was a bit of a jarring change.

The United States is having that same jarring change right now. In the past, the US was the world’s only true superpower, and it sought to insert itself into…well, everything. From running banana republics in Central and South America to putting troops in darn near every country in the Middle East and Africa, the US had decided it would be in all places at all times. This was pretty costly and required a lot of defense spending, but it gave the US the ability to respond to any crisis whatsoever.

It also gave every nation aligned with the US the excuse to not have a military. Countries around the world spent their money on universal health care and various forms of social security. Why not? They didn’t need a big defense budget, because the US covered that. These countries tolerated the US essentially running the financial and technology sectors because it allowed them to get rich with little risk. For a while, this worked well, especially as the Soviet Union fell apart, China continued to kill its own people and terrorism remained a local issue.

That’s all changing. The US has embraced a multi-polar world with China as a major player and Russia, the EU, UK, Japan and India as minor players. I say embraced because if the US truly wanted to be a superpower, we’d have built a hypersonic nuclear missile base on the moon and threatened to wipe China off the map if they step too far. Seriously. You can’t tell me that we watched China research weaponry for years that would defeat our defense system and were surprised when it worked? We had to know, and multiple people at high levels of government simply shrugged and said “oh well.”

This multi-polar world runs on different rules though. One rule is that superpowers get a sphere of influence and other superpowers have to stay out of it. China and Russia both consider themselves superpowers, so they take authoritarian actions in what they consider their sphere of influence. They will tolerate some minor transgressions (like US Navy Freedom of Navigation patrols), but ultimately they will do what they want without regard for anyone else.

Why is Putin willing to invade Ukraine and shell cities with no regards for civilian casualties? Because he’s a superpower and he gets to make the rules in his sphere. If you don’t like it, well, too bad.

Most Americans, including most liberals, are operating on rules fit for one superpower. In the past, if we, the US, told two nations to knock it off, they would. With one superpower, you can basically stare down an opponent and make them stop with limited military action. Think Korea and Vietnam, where we stopped Communist governments from expanding without declaring war or using nuclear weapons.

But using this set of rules on Ukraine doesn’t work. We can literally cut Russia off from everything and they will continue to do what they want, because we’re treating them as equals.

This isn’t to say we should send troops to Ukraine. There are good reasons to stay out. I was strongly supportive of President Trump’s decision to stay out of Syria, since we had no real interests there, and far better to let the Russians get bogged down then us. Ukraine might be different, and maybe we have good reasons to go there. If so, we need to be very open about them and understand it will put us in direct conflict with a nation that has nuclear weapons. That’s OK, by the way, if we’re open and honest about it and understand the potential consequences.

We can’t play by unilateral rules in a multilateral world, and we’re suffering consequences for it. Everyone applauded the crippling sanctions, but already nations are finding alternatives to the US Dollar and the SWIFT system of banking. They see whats happening to Russia and they know it could happen to them. Watch how more countries, including non-authoritarian countries, discover how to build their own industries, financial institutions and economies in order to beat future sanctions.

The US forgot that it grew up into a superpower, and now its having a mid-life identity crisis.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you enjoyed this article, please support the author by purchasing one of his books for you or a friend.

One of the major differences between the influence that China wields verses the former Soviet Union relates to China’s use of monetary incentives. The US and British defectors that sold nuclear, diplomatic and other state secrets to the Russians from the 40’s until the Soviet Union collapsed were not normally paid a lot of money. Only four ever made over $1 million, and those were only the ones that sold out significant secrets, such as Aldrich Ames identifying nearly ever top US recruit in major Soviet institutions. Most of these turncoats were motivated by ideology. They truly believed in the Soviet Union, right up to the end, and were quite willing to give our enemies secrets for cheap.

China is different. You don’t have to subscribe to China’s idealogy to be on their doll. China willingly flexes its financial muscles to buy people off. Even worse, China is happy to do this quite blazenly and openly. There isn’t a more perfect example then Hollywood right now. Did you notice the nod to China in the movie Midway? Or the pandering by actors like John Cena to Chinese audiences? Sure, maybe some of these people really believe that China is better than the US, but likely most are simply gold digging, and China offers lots of gold for those that toe the line.

This is coming to a head in the Solomon Islands right now, in this week’s very underreported story. Riots (not of the “mostly peaceful” variety) are happening in the Solomon Islands, an island nation that most Americans only remember from a World War 2 battle on the island of Guadalcanal. Located just north of Australia, the Solomon Islands operated in Australia’s sphere of influence for a long time. Australia provided government support and significant economic investment in mining, forestry and other areas. In exchange, the Solomon Islands were relatively peaceful, at least with their neighboring countries.

That has changed though. Manasseh Sogavare, the current Prime Minister, oversaw the end of the Australian mission to the Solomons in 2017. Not long after, the Solomon Islands stopped recognizing Taiwan and instead recognized the PRC. Almost immediately, Australian investments started to disappear, with Chinese firms replacing them. Everything from gold mines to logging is focused on, or has been purchased by, China. Heck, even China state run media says the Solomon Islands will be a Chinese hub soon.

The point here is China is building its empire with cash. When Japan attempted to invade a large portion of the Pacific, it ultimately lost because it was difficult to pacify that large of a population. Germany had the same struggles, losing significant numbers of troops in the post-invasion peace keeping operations in places like Poland and the former Yugoslavia. China avoids paying in blood for its conquests by simply throwing cash at the problem. Buy off a government, and they’ll let you take their resources via debt diplomacy. What’s not to love? You get what you want without having to use your military power.

If war comes to the Pacific, China won’t need to pull a Pearl Harbor moment to capture territory like the Japanese did in WW2. Instead, we will be the ones paying in blood to recapture territory and resources China simply purchased outright. Sadly, we will likely be seen as invaders, and will suffer the same consequences Germany and Japan did during WW2.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. You can support the author by reading and rating his books on Amazon, and with Christmas coming, every little bit helps!