China cyber theft

 

Mike Mcconell

The former director of national intelligence Mike McConell gave out his assessment on the state of the Unites States private sector’s cyber defenses to prevent the Chinese from doing cyber espionage activities. He used to serve under United States President George W. Bush and now a high-ranking advisor to Booz Allen Hamilton. For the past few months, the Chinese have been able to get inside every major corporation and as a consequence took information. However there have been no findings of Chinese malware. He discussed in his speech in University of Missouri how throughout his last year of serving in the Bush administration, China employed 100,000 hackers whose singular purpose was to infiltrate computers and networks. McConell, who was also the director of the National Security Agency in the 1990s, was known to be a hardliner when it comes to the competition of the United States and China in cyberspace, openly calling China’s behavior as cyber thievery.

James Comey

More recently, in October 2014, FBI director James Comey joined the chorus of worried American policymakers by stating that “there are two kinds of big companies in the United States. There are those who’ve been hacked by the Chinese and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked by the Chinese.” Such claims against China have been questioned by a lot of people. It is questionable whether China has hacked into every single large United States Corporation and more importantly, whether it actively converts the data it extracts to benefit its civil sector companies. Some experts see how Beijing does not attach high importance to “the analysis of its intelligence product on non-military foreign intellectual property rights with a view to passing it out to Chinese corporations to make a profit.” Some think that the Chinese government has only a small office, with somewhere around 20 people actively involved in cyber theft. In fact there has been no evidence in the public domain that such office exist.

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Sri Lanka Project

Sri Lanka favored China

Papers analyze Sri Lanka’s decision to suspend a Chinese-funded construction project. According to reports, newly-elected Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has decided to revisit some deals signed with China by his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa. The suspension of the port city project in Colombo and subsequent protests by Sri Lankan workers have gained wide attention in Chinese papers. Mr Sirisena’s government said that the project was launched “without relevant approvals from concerned institutions”. Some papers report that Sri Lankan workers are very angry over the decision, while other news portals quote foreign media reports saying that the incident is a test of Beijing’s “ambitious overseas ventures”.

 

Port City in Sri Lanka

The Xinhua News Agency highlights Mr Rajapaksa’s criticism of the suspension. “Halting of development projects means that the Sri Lankan workers and engineers working on them will lose their jobs and thereby the cash flowing to villagers will stop,” state media quote him as saying. The Colombo port project is part of Beijing’s Maritime Silk Road initiative, which is aimed at connecting China with the Indian Ocean nations and the larger Asia-Pacific region. Observers in international media outlets say the initiative poses a direct challenge to India. Chinese papers, however, dismiss such views, assuring that the project will benefit every country in the region.”The authorities cite regulations and environment issues as reasons for the suspension… but this is only an excuse,” says the Haiwai Net article. The commentary notes that the new Sri Lankan president is “very pro-India” and suspects Colombo may have been “facing pressure from Delhi”. However, it highlights that India is unlikely to have the economic capacity needed to help Sri Lanka, and predicts that Colombo will “still depend on Beijing for infrastructure investment in the long term”. Turning to domestic news, papers assess “judicial fairness” after Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court Zhou Qiang urged the courts to learn from wrongful convictions. His comments come months after a high-profile case involving a wrongly-executed 18-year-old sparked a debate. An article in the Global Times points out that it is “rare” for judicial authorities to use “such strong words”. The admission shows that the authorities “have been reflecting on their flaws” and “proactively responding” to the public’s doubts about judicial fairness in China, it says.

Images Today Online

Countering Myanmar

 

Myanmar Air Force

Chinese media reported that air strikes conducted by the Myanmar Air Force, purportedly in their efforts to suppress ethnic Chinese Kokang rebels in the country’s northeast, mistakenly struck a sugarcane field across the border in China’s Yunnan province, killing four and wounding an additional nine. The incident represents the most serious cross-border escalation of Myanmar’s internal crisis and has drawn a sharp reaction from China, which warned Myanmar as early as March 10 to ensure that no bombs cross the border. On March 14, members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army establishment chimed in with their views on the situation. As expected, senior PLA officials were outraged and expressed, in no uncertain terms, the need for Myanmar to treat this situation seriously. This has been causing panic towards people affected in the sudden attack of Myanmar.

General Fan Chanlong

General Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC), China’s apex military leadership body, told Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, that the situation was entirely unacceptable and that Myanmar ought to “seriously control” its military. Fan additionally told the Burmese commander that such an incident could never be allowed to take place again. Beyond his condemnation of the Myanmar armed forces, Fan continued and issued a warning, noting that should Chinese civilians face harm as a result of Myanmar armed forces’ actions, the “Chinese military will take resolute measures to protect the safety of Chinese people and their assets.” The statement of General Changlong suggests that the PLA could move to make a military action against Myanmar. This is going to be difficult especially the longstanding relationship of Myanmar and China. The fighting in northeastern Myanmar is beginning to spiral out of control for China. For the past few weeks, over 30,000 Myanmar citizens, most ethnically Chinese, crossed the border into Yunnan, seeking refuge from the fighting. The Myanmar government has additionally accused China of providing covert intelligence and material assistance to the Kokang rebels — a charge China has vehemently denied. Recently, a Chinese general was sacked as part of Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign in the military after he was accused of leaking state secrets to the Kokang rebels back in 2009.

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China trilateral talks

 

South Korea, Japan and China relations

Chinese media had been cautiously optimistic about China-Japan ties after the two nations decided to engage into a first high-level security talks in four years. The meeting in Tokyo comes after recent tensions over territorial and historical issues. They are also about to conduct trilateral talks together with South Korea. The last round of Beijing-Tokyo talks was in 2011, before ties worsened over a row over islands in the East China Sea. Several media outlets have described Thursday’s meeting as “amicable”. Experts interviewed by the newspapers say that the talks show both countries’ “willingness” to improve ties.

 

South Korea and Japan had a bad relation

Yang Bojiang, the deputy director of Japanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, tells the Global Times that a “mechanism [for regular talks] was unlikely to be established immediately”.”But the success of such a mechanism will depends on Japan’s stance on wartime history,” says the pundit, explaining that China will wait for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two. Echoing that sentiment, Zhang Tuosheng, the director of research at the China Foundation for International Strategic Studies, tells the China Daily that the dialogue shows that both are “pressing ahead with capacity building for crisis management in real and concrete terms”. The daily, however, notes that Chinese officials and experts are worried over Tokyo’s plan to change legislative limits on Japan’s Self-Defence Forces and Japan’s arms exports. Meanwhile, a commentary in the Beijing News hopes that the upcoming talks between foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea will pave the way for a top leaders’ meeting in the future.”The foreign ministers meeting is a breakthrough and an attempt to push ahead for regional integration. The talks will provide the opportunity to smooth things out, which will influence trilateral relations and the construction of a better regional order,” it says. An article in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily, which has been carried by various media outlets, observes that the three countries have adopted a “softer approach” to benefit economic co-operation in the region.

Images by DW and Al Jazeera

China’s regional trade

Chinese Economy

The celebrated revival of the Silk Road would seem to herald the return of China’s charm offensive, winning over neighbors and other countries in the region through increased trade incentives and transport connectivity. China lives in a tough neighborhood, sharing a long contiguous land border with Russia and India (with which it has unresolved land boundary disputes) and a common sea boundary with Japan (with which it has unresolved territorial and maritime disputes). As such, SREB/MSR could possibly be seen as a strategy to circumvent any encirclement or containment that a hostile power in concert with other states may undertake to harm China’s interests.

The SREB/MSR project with its land and maritime path components promises to better connect China with the Middle East, Africa and Europe through its landlocked neighbors in Central Asia and the littoral states of Southeast and South Asia. It spreads the risk by multiplying access routes, thus reducing China’s vulnerabilities. The system of ports, railways and roads, which have variously been completed, or are under construction or being proposed, will enable China to diversify the routes by which it can secure the transport of oil and gas and other essential goods needed to sustain China’s economy. It enhances the country’s energy and economic security and mitigates the risks attendant to transporting fuel and goods through unstable, unsecured or unfriendly channelsDeveloping pipelines to get oil and gas directly from Russia and Central Asia  to power western China also reduces its reliance on the volatile Middle East. Meanwhile, by linking the economies of Central Asia with western China, Beijing brings further development and stability to restive and relatively underdeveloped Xinjiang and Tibet and cuts off any potential support that Uygur dissident groups may seek from fellow Muslims in Central Asia. Hence, SREB/MSR goes far beyond simply sharing economic prosperity – it has obvious political and security underpinnings. And viewed from this vantage point, its China-centrism is very evident.

China’s interest in Kazakhstan

 

China-Kazakhstan

Chinese policy toward Kazakhstan has been mainly on the development of Xinjian Uygur Autonomous Region through inter-regional cooperation, roads, and railway construction; and second, obtaining access to Kazakhstan’s resources (oil, gas and uranium) and the reliable transit of Turkmen gas to China. In addition, Beijing seeks to expand the presence of Chinese goods in Kazakhstan’s markets, bind Astana economically with financial aid and credits, deepen cultural ties, and influence the new elite generation with soft power activities.At this stage, economic collaboration between China and Kazakhstan is backed by Beijing’s efforts in oil and gas field development, as well as in constructing or renovating the pipeline network to meet China’s demand for resources. China clearly hopes to be a permanent actor in rich pre-Caspian oil projects and to boost its stake in the Kazakhstan oil and gas industry from the current 22-24 percent. The volume of Kazakhstan oil being pumped through the Kazakhstan-China pipeline is meanwhile on the rise.

Chinese companies in Kazakhstan

China’s national strategy of replacing coal with gas is driving it to diversify its gas supply routes. As a consequence, Turkmen gas is being transported through Kazakhstan on its way to China, which will benefit from less air pollution and a reduced burden on its transportation networks. (Currently, coal haulage occupies 50 percent of China’s  railway capacity. However, China is not focusing on oil-gas negotiations alone; it has its eyes on other sectors of the Kazakhstani economy. For instance, China is an important end market for uranium. This has prompted talks between Kazatomprom, CNNC and CGNPC, which have agreed to export 24.2 tons of uranium to China by 2020 from mining joint ventures. Kazakh officials have also agreed to sell China fuel pellets produced by Ulba metallurgical plant. This has given China the resources it needs for its national program of nuclear power development from 2005-2020, which aims to increase the installed nuclear capacity to 42 GW. Moreover, as part of China’s conception of 2011-2015 energy security plan, CNNC was scheduled to invest more than 500 billion yuan ($78 billion) in constructing nuclear plants, taking nuclear power to 5 percent of Chinese energy demand. This efforts have made the Chinese nuclear sector the most dynamic in the world, and a vast market for uranium.

Images by Xinhua

China bans Under the Dome

Smog has been regular in some cities in China

Chinese government has blocked the release of an investigative documentary on China’s infamous smog. It has been able to garner attraction in the internet with an overwhelming 175 million online viewers. The 103 minute documentary Under the Dome employs simple words to deliver a strong message to call out Chinese people who are consciously or unconsciously immersed in the gains of their economic success. This would likely initiate a new wave of public debate on air pollution once again. The world knows the problem China faces when it comes to air pollution. The city has been experiencing degradation in their air quality since the early 2000s. The public has already been familiar with the technical word PM 2.5 since 2011 when another debate on the toxic air initiated by public figures on Chinese social media Weibo. In the past four years, thousands of news articles on air pollution were published and various NGO campaigns highlighted the effects of pollution after which the government finally announced its war on polluted air in 2014.

Chai Jing was a former reporter who created Under the Dome

Despite the awareness of the Chinese people on the problem of air quality, they still lack in trying to come up with tangible solutions. The sight of people wearing masks outside in Beijing has been a regular thing for the past few years. The documentary has been able to sparked a wide range of public discussion from environmental protection to energy reform, then to science communication even towards humanity. In fact, the Chinese environment minister Chen Jining praised the documentary and said that it reflects the growing public concern over environmental protection and threats to human health. Unfortunately the documentary has been ignored by lawmakers at the annual National People’s Congress (NPC) and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The Chinese government focuses on other issues. Most importantly they focus on their relations with South Korea who also faces scrutiny over the lack of priority over the Korea comfort women issue.

Images by Mashable and chinatopix

One child policy

Relax implementation of one child policy

It might seem impossible that 13 million children could escape the notice of the central Chinese government, but this is exactly what was revealed in the 2010 census. A population the size of a small country has been denied birth registration and the corresponding proof of identity known as the hukou (household registration) by local Chinese governments. This document is usually necessary for children to access education.Most of these children were born to parents that had broken the “one-child policy,” a policy enforcing birthing restriction for all Chinese citizens.

Hidden Children

Defiance of the policy, in itself, will not necessary lead to a child being undocumented. Usually, children denied birth registrations are those whose parents have yet pay a “social compensation fee” – a fine for having their child without permission. Although this is an illegal action by local police bureaus, not only is denial of birth registration prevalent, many state officials see it as a key component of enforcing restrictions on reproduction. The fines parents receive depend on the disposition of their local officers and the parent’s income. Localities show considerable variations in how its calculate fines. Some charge fines parents are unable to afford. Parents unable to pay their fines may face the risk of repeated short-term detention, while others are taken to court or have their assets seized. Parents report daily harassment by local thugs or local government officials. In other locations, parents might receive sympathy from their local cadre, or pull in favors to reduce their fines. Luck, connections and money effectively play a part in determining when a child can become recognized.Only when the 2010 census was conducted did the scale of the problem emerge. The central Chinese government makes it a priority to collect accurate demographic data, so around the time of the census parents are encouraged to admit if their children were undocumented. Parents were promised that the information would not be shared with the local police bureau or the population and family planning department. Consequently, it was revealed that 13 million children were undocumented.

Economic slowdown

China’s stagnant economy

 

The once extraordinary rate of Chinese economic growth is slowing. In 2014, China’s GDP grew at an official rate of 7.4 percent, slightly less than the stated goal of 7.5 percent. Although more recently monthly data have been more robust, the trend towards slowing growth seems inexorable. A decelerating Chinese economy, coming at a time of global economic uncertainty (especially in the eurozone), could have dramatic economic implications throughout the world. However, the repercussions of a Chinese economic slowdown would not be limited to the economic sphere. Given the incredible importance of economic growth to political stability – both within China itself and East Asia in general – adapting to a dampened Chinese economy will be a pivotal challenge in the Asia-Pacific. While an official GDP growth rate of 7.4 percent would be the envy of most major economies, this figure represents China’s lowest economic growth since 1991. And of course, economic data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics is not completely trusted by all observers. Local officials (and the central government itself) have a vested interest in exaggerating their economic performance. Capital Economics, a London-based research group, monitors the Chinese economy by looking at the five factors of electricity output, freight shipmen, construction, passenger travel, and cargo volume. According to this China Activity Proxy, recent annual growth is closer to 5.7 percent.

Political communication in China

Political communication in China

Regardless of the statistical specifics of the Chinese slowdown, this development poses some degree of political risk for the Chinese state. For more than two decades economic growth has been the major factor in ensuring political stability in China. Many Westerners forget that the massive protests that rocked Beijing and other Chinese cities in 1989 coincided with the biggest economic crisis of the post-Mao era, with annual inflation of 30 percent leading to panic buying throughout the country. Since 1990, China has been governed by a social contract in which the material lives of ordinary citizens improve dramatically while the Party keeps a monopoly on political power. Rising wages and standards of living helped ensure political stability. Historically most revolutions, including the recent upheavals in the Middle East, only reached critical mass when a majority of a country’s people lost hope in the economic capabilities of the governing political structure. Recent initiatives by the Chinese state can be understood in light of these economic concerns. Since coming in to power in 2013, the administration of President Xi Jinping has launched several populist measures. Posters throughout the country combine traditional Chinese themes with Communist Party slogans to promote the “Chinese Dream.” Xi’s campaigns against lavish banquets and other government waste led to a significant drop in the price of high-end liquor soon after his rise to power. Perhaps most important has been a massive anti-corruption campaign, which has netted thousands of corrupt officials, from minor bureaucrats to the massively powerful former head of internal security.

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China-Japan People to people Diplomacy

China-Japan Relations

The way international relations being conducted are when national leaders, government officials and diplomats interact each other. The power of citizen to be a part of the diplomatic talks has always been underestimated. However it has been transforming in recent years when citizens has been slowly being heard by diplomats and high level officials. This method has been complimentary with the traditional and formal diplomacy. It has a significant impact on relations between nations since bilateral relations are not sustainable without solid public support. It is well-known that the “Ping-Pong diplomacy” of 1971 helped pave the way for President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China the following year. Less talked about is the indirect role Japan played in the process. Both Chinese and American Ping-Pong players were attending the 31st World Table Tennis Championship in Nagoya, Japan at the time. When American player Glenn Cowan missed him team’s bus, he was invited to ride with the Chinese players. His conversation and gift exchanges with Chinese player Zhuang Zedong are today household stories. The Ping-Pong diplomacy that began in Japan led to the normalization of U.S.-China relations.

 

Improving China and Japan

The tense political relations between China and Japan has focused the attention on national leaders and how their relationship had been greatly changed. Many blamed the political move of Shinzo Abe to revise historical narratives or President Xi Jinping’s tough style and assertive diplomacy for the deterioration of bilateral relations. The recent diplomatic talks only focused on high level officials and disregarded the influence of people in making diplomacy. China used to be a top destination for Japanese tourists and numerous Japanese companies set up businesses in China. Despite political tensions, Chinese tourists continue to flock to Japan. In 2014, 2.4 million mainland Chinese visited Japan, slightly fewer than the 2.8 million from Taiwan and 2.7 million from South Korea, but mainland Chinese spent more than their counterparts from any other place. With Japan’s relaxation of visas for Chinese visitors, a weaker yen, and tax exemptions for foreign tourists, mainland Chinese could easily become the largest source of foreign visitors to Japan in 2015. During the 2015 Chinese New Year break, busloads of Chinese thronged major malls in Tokyo. Many Japanese businesses have hired Mandarin-speaking staff to better meet the needs of Chinese travelers.

Images by Guardian