Winter 2013

Did our cover catch your eye? The image is by Chen Man, a 32-year-old Beijing visual artist whose work has been featured in museum and gallery exhibitions around the world, as well as in leading fashion magazines. She infuses her images with Chinese backgrounds and faces, and strives to bridge both East and West and tradition and modernity. “China should not repeat its ancient art over and over again,” she explains. “I would like to show how contemporary Chinese art can be.” The cover depicts Chinese fashion model Du Juan striking a pose in Shanghai. The image projects a bold, modern vision for the People’s Republic of China—an apt curtain raiser, we think, to our Special Report on China.

Our lead essay is by Cheng Li, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who looks behind the scenes of the 18th Party Congress of the Communist Party and examines how new Chinese leader Xi Jinping will use his mandate. Ying Zhu, a professor of media culture at the City University of New York, profiles China Central Television, a modern media empire that is going global. Joan Johnson-Freese, a scholar at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, RI, reports on yet another remarkable achievement—China’s space program. Ngo Vinh Long, a professor of history at the University of Maine, reviews the growing tensions over the South China Sea.

Orville Schell, one of America’s foremost experts on China, observed that when he first arrived in Beijing in 1975, the then-isolated country had no fashion magazines (and certainly no internationally acclaimed visual artists like Chen Man). Schell is about to publish his tenth book on the country he has closely studied for five decades: Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century. He met in New York for a discussion about China’s “next act” with Dorinda Elliott, who as a Newsweek correspondent (and a fluent Chinese speaker) lived in Asia for fifteen years and reported on everything from China’s economic rise and the 1989 student movement to the Hong Kong handover to Chinese sovereignty. It’s a fascinating Cairo Review Interview.

Scott MacLeod
Managing Editor

The Mission of Middle East Studies

AUC President Lisa Anderson, a political scientist and a past president of the Middle East Studies Association, put the development of Middle East Studies in the context of the evolution of the social sciences. “The social sciences were born as the handmaidens of public policy from the very beginning,” she argued. “The conceit that the social sciences were ever separate from political power is one that we should discard. From the very beginning, questions that were posed by the precursors of political scientists in the 1870s and 1880s in the United States, people who thought of themselves at that time as political economists, were questions of public moment. They were really about the progressive era in the United States at that time, a period of considerable ferment and debate about how the country ought to be run. And that was when the social sciences as we know them were born.” Some have expressed dismay at the failure of social scientists to foresee the Arab uprisings, but Anderson preferred to cast it as a challenge: “Those of us who have been practicing political science, particularly both of and in the region, have found enormous exhilaration in hope—and hope in recognition of how wrongheaded and myopic our disciplines have so often proved to be.”

Bassam Haddad, director of the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University, put forth another challenge, declaring: “The mainstream discourse in the United States on the Middle East can be more important than what is actually going on in the Middle East itself.” By that he was referring to the simplistic and biased narrative collectively written by American scholars and journalists that influences or reinforces American policy for the Middle East and that in turn has had profound consequences for the region. He pointed to cynical shifts in U.S. media coverage of the Arab Spring. “Reports, analysis and writings on the uprisings in the United States during the first few months spoke of masses that defied authoritarian rule by going to streets and risking life and limb,” he explained. “However, there was no pre-designated location or space in the mainstream discourse to put these images, so they floated, un-theorized. No sooner than the uprisings became messy, chaotic, and violent, we began to detect a different trend. The media in the United States went full circle to interpret the meaning of the uprisings through the good old perennial lens.” Haddad told the gathering about an effort he is leading to address the problem of the distorted narrative, the Knowledge Production Project, which aims to accumulate and catalogue all material produced in the U.S. concerning the Middle East. The project will include everything from think tank policy papers and academic analyses to popular films and literature, collected in a database that will permit, he said, new inquiries into the connections between these plural centers of knowledge production and the development of U.S. foreign policy.

Hoda Elsadda, a professor of English and comparative literature at
Cairo University, addressed the underlying question in the discussion: Is scholarship isolated from the real world? For Elsadda, it is essential that Middle East Studies scholars consciously strive to make a positive contribution to the region they study. Quoting South African cleric and Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu, she concluded: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Oriental Hall, etc.

She observed that the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are engaged in an effort to unite Sunni Muslim societies in an informal coalition at the expense of the Shiite-majority nations of Iraq and Iran. Turkey’s decision to join the effort, notably aimed at backing Sunni rebels against the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad, entails a realignment of Istanbul’s relations with Baghdad and Tehran. Speaking in November at Regional Cooperation in a New Middle East, a conference co-sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, Atacan argued that the end of Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy is not to its geopolitical advantage. “Turkey lost the opportunity to lead or to help other Arab states to come together and to sit at the table,” she said, “because Turkey now is a part of the conflict.” Iran, too, may regret how it has played the sectarian card in the Middle East, suggested Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Affairs. While the Iranian regime had sought a “pan-Islamic” approach to regional politics, he said, “Iran failed to form a good relationship with opposition groups, putting the future of its relationship with Syria at risk if Assad falls.”

Over the last twenty-five years, South Korea has moved from a dictatorship to a fully-functioning modern democracy boasting the fifteenth largest economy in the world. At The Arab Spring and Korean Experiences of Political Transition, a conference held at the AUC in December, Jang Ji-Hyang, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, offered some advice for Egyptians experiencing their own transition. “In the Korean economic success model,” she said, “it was quality state institutions that were the key to determining Korea’s sudden growth.” She said that while the World Bank or International Monetary Fund would favor “reform and adjustment strategies of firing employees and shrinking the state,” the lesson from Korea’s experience is to “stick to refurbishing the existing system rather than trying to create something from scratch.” An effective reform process, she argued, should “focus on short-term steps like instituting competitive, merit-based, and transparent civil service exams.”

East and West

Over the past two decades, many predicted the rise of Asia as an economic power to rival the West. Now, as China has become the world’s second largest economy—perhaps to be the largest within the next decade—and Asian tigers such as Korea and Taiwan, and the fast developing economies of South East Asia are also proceeding in kind, Asia’s rise has become a fact. Many have begun to question the political and military ramifications of Asia’s ascendance in the context of weakened Western economies—ramifications that will doubtless redraw the map of international relations in coming years. However, while the consequences of Asia’s rise have been exhaustively analyzed in the global context, relatively few have questioned the effect of a rising East on the rapid transformation of the countries of the Middle East.

This is a question that should not be ignored. First, it is entire political systems, not just political leaders, which have begun to change in the aftermath of the ‘Arab Awakening.’ These changes will loosen, though not entirely shift, the historical baggage carried by the countries of the Middle East and, as governments slowly become more accountable to their people, they may begin to develop more independent, self-interested, and globally-minded foreign policies. This is especially true in the case of Egypt. Another development that will re-shape the Middle East’s relationship with the world is the discovery of massive shale oil deposits in North America and the invention of cost-effective technologies to extract them. As the United States becomes less and less dependent on the Arab Gulf states for its oil supply, those states will need to search elsewhere for buyers. They will invariably turn to the oil-hungry economies of India, China, and greater East Asia to pick up the slack. In turn, Asia and especially China, will feel the need to develop ever-closer relations with African and Arab nations as they increasingly pin their energy needs on Middle Eastern reserves. This is a process that is already well under way in the nations of the Arab Gulf and Sudan, and was in Libya and Syria until recent political upheaval.

All of this will have obvious repercussions for Western relations with the Arab World, particularly Egypt and the Arab Gulf. Concurrently, relations between Egypt and the Arab Gulf and China and other Asian powers will undergo a similar transformation. It is hardly coincidence that the first official foreign visit of Egypt’s new president, Mohammed Morsi, was to China. It is unrealistic to expect the shift in economic, political, and military relationships that will occur from these changes to occur immediately. The tangled web, which binds the Arab World and the West together, is far too dense to come untwined anytime soon. Nor could the military and naval capability of China, or any other Asian nation, ever compensate for the withdrawal of U.S. military support from the region.  Still, it would be shortsighted to ignore that Asia, and China in particular, will become an increasingly important player in Middle Eastern politics over time. One has to look no further than the Obama administration’s “pivot” towards Asia for confirmation of a future Middle East less dominated by American interests.

In fact, the Asian presence in the Middle East and, for lack of a better word, the Middle Eastern “pivot” towards Asia have already started. In the automobile industry, Asian companies have supplanted European auto manufacturers in the Middle Eastern market, just as they did with electronics. This is particularly true concerning South Korean companies such as Kia and Hyundai, but affordable Chinese automobiles such as those offered by Chery have also become increasingly popular. Outside of economic penetration, links between Pakistan, India, and the Arab Gulf have expanded significantly in recent years. Pakistani and Indian expats now constitute a large portion of Gulf populations, which will ultimately have an effect on societal traditions there, while the relationship between Pakistani, Indian, and Arab Gulf militaries have become ever closer in recent decades. On the flip side of the evolving Asian presence in the Middle East, Arab investment in Asia has also increased.

Relations between Asia and the Middle East will become increasingly important to policymakers on both sides in coming years. And this shift will inevitably result in the expansion of, not only economic but also social, political, and military relations. However, these changes will come slowly. While Asian countries will play an increasingly important role in the Middle East, they will not supplant the West in the near future.

Nabil Fahmy,
a former Egyptian ambassador to Japan and to the United States, is the dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the American University in Cairo. 

Waiting for the Next Act

There is hardly any American who knows China as well as Orville Schell. He has been studying the country, visiting it, writing about it, and been fascinated by it, for more than fifty years. He first arrived in Hong Kong, then a British crown colony, in 1961, when China was still an impenetrable, revolutionary nation ruled by Mao Zedong. Even by 1975, when he took his maiden flight into Beijing, China remained, as he would put it, a country lacking advertisements, private cars, fashion magazines, or private property. “There was not a single other aircraft moving on its runways,” he recalled. “It was as silent and dark as a tomb.” The young scholar was able to get a rare glimpse of the isolated country by working for a month at the Communist Party’s model village, Da Zhai.

Schell has been a prolific chronicler of what he considers the “quite epic” accomplishments of the Chinese in the ensuing decades—including the stunning development and modernization that has enabled China to become the world’s second largest economy after the United States. Besides authoring ten books on the country, he has contributed reporting on China to leading newspapers, magazines and broadcast programs, including serving for ten years (1975−85) as a China specialist for the New Yorker. His reporting has earned numerous honors, including an Overseas Press Club Award, an Emmy Award, a George Peabody Award, and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award.

Random House will publish Schell’s latest book on China in June: Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century. Condé Nast Traveler Global Affairs Editor Dorinda Elliott interviewed Schell on January 14, 2013, at the Asia Society in New York, where he is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Chinese with more suggestively liberal tendencies, like former Guangdong Party Secretary Wang Yang, didn’t make it on to the standing committee in the leadership transition last November. How do you view the new Chinese leadership?

ORVILLE SCHELL: You know, the Taoists have always spoken of an un-carved block, and I think that we should look on the new Chinese leadership as being something like that. Both as individuals and as a whole, they are still roughhewn. It’s curious, but it seems that what is required to now get into office in Beijing is not to make yourself distinctive, not to take positions that give out a clear public persona, not to gain popular support, but to be as blank as possible. And, so, it’s really hard to know where this leadership is going to go. Basically, what we’ve had so far, in terms of the leadership defining itself, is very little. We outsiders have engaged in a lot of projections onto them. But, I don’t think anybody knows which projections will end up being correct. It’s quite amazing that this country of such enormous consequence has leaders that have managed to keep themselves so blank. Indeed, it’s truly incredible!

DORINDA ELLIOTT: When [newly elected Communist Party General Secretary] Xi Jinping made his first official trip, to the south, where some liberal economic policies were suggested, lots of people said “Aha! You see, this means he’s a reformer.”

ORVILLE SCHELL: I think it hints that he’s a reformer of a kind—of Deng Xiaoping-type of economic reforms, but not the progenitor of other kinds of reform. And also, I think one can interpret Xi’s actions to date as him seeking to go back to the only source of legitimacy that this dynasty has known, namely, back to its grand progenitor, Deng Xiaoping—to gain some new luster by walking back through that piece of history again. That’s why Xi immediately went to Guangdong, just as Deng did in 1992 when he wanted to re-kick start China’s economic reforms after 1989.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Even Hu Jintao having been in office ten years—

ORVILLE SCHELL: Ten years and we hardly know more about him ten years later than we did when he entered—what he actually believes. We can, of course, see what he did, but even that doesn’t tell us very much about what he believed. It tells us what he was able to do. Most people say it was ten lost years and accuse him of being stiff and rigid, and basically a failure. I look at it slightly differently. I mean, during his tenure China had ten pretty good years! Nothing went too wrong!

DORINDA ELLIOTT: There has been tremendous economic growth—

ORVILLE SCHELL: Yes, but put another way, there was no great disruption, and that’s the name of the game, for these guys. It’s “keep things stable.” So I think, in a certain sense, even though personally I don’t think he was a great leader, you have to acknowledge that at worst he prolonged a big bump, and at best, he enabled China to get ten years further down the line, to get developmental foundations more firmly built.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Some Chinese experts are saying China is facing a crisis, that without further reform, its economy just can’t continue to grow, that the “economic miracle” is going to hit a wall. What does that mean?

ORVILLE SCHELL: Well, we’ve been saying for almost three decades, starting in 1989, that this boom can’t cohere and continue. And yet, somehow it has.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Except now there’s domestic pressure, even sort of officially recognized intellectuals are making these statements—

ORVILLE SCHELL: Yes, echoes of pre-1989. I do feel that they have come to the end of something. And I think many people are now feeling a sort of fin de siècle air about things. The question is, of course, what is the next episode of this long drama going to be? Nobody quite knows. But I have to say, this whole progress with China over the past twenty-five years, none of it quite made sense, and yet it happened.


ORVILLE SCHELL: It just didn’t seem likely. Who among us did not think that the Chinese Communist Party’s days were over in 1989? So, you have to wonder at our abilities at prognostication. I don’t think that Chinese leaders have any great wisdom that we don’t have. And, I think they’ve been incredibly lucky. But, they have evinced kind of an amazing guerilla flexibility. The ability to roll with the punches and to be at once opportunistic and also pragmatic. But how much further can they get on more tinkering? Well, it’s anybody’s guess. But, it seems to me that, at some point, they’re going to have something like an earthquake. Why? Because unrelieved tensions build up on the fault line and inevitably seek release. And then suddenly you get a rupture.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Lots of Chinese economists are saying that China now needs to move away from the state model and so much emphasis on the state-owned sector to promote more private enterprise. But there are so many vested interests, right?

ORVILLE SCHELL: Yes, but it’s frightening to the party to have the state shrink to the point where a tipping point is reached, where the state loses so much musculature that it loses influence. That could happen, if the big state-owned monopolies begin to be challenged.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: So a shift to a more privatized economy could be a scary thing for the leadership?

ORVILLE SCHELL: Yeah. The government loses clout. It loses influence in the resource base and begins to have to contend with too much private power and influence.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: So Americans and Chinese pushing for rapid change should be careful what they wish for?


DORINDA ELLIOTT: A China that collapses because the central government doesn’t have the financial clout to make things happen is not going to be good for anybody.

ORVILLE SCHELL: In that kind of a new situation, it would no longer have that many critical economic levers in its hands—

DORINDA ELLIOTT: And that’s not good for the United States and it’s not good for anybody.

ORVILLE SCHELL: No. Certainly not if it led to struggle and instability. One thing I’ve really come to appreciate writing this book that I just finished, is that it has never been any Chinese leader’s plan to implement democracy early on in the game. No one has been for that over the last century. Starting with Sun Yat-sen, the plan has always been that China would first have a period of martial law or authoritarian tutelage, followed by a protracted period of guided democracy, and then, only very slowly, reach constitutionalism. And of course the process has ended up taking much longer than Sun. And it was Chiang Kai-shek’s plan. Even, in a way, Mao’s plan. But it is certainly the expressed plan of recent leaders. It was everybody’s plan, and they’ve actually stuck to it!

DORINDA ELLIOTT: What China didn’t have back then is a middle class. So, you now have a middle class that has much greater demands. Can China still get away with the idea of, “We have to do everything for the sake of the nation” as opposed to enjoying life as an individual, which would be the Western perspective? Is the middle class going to be willing to accept that? Or is that willingness to accept authoritarian rule dissipating with modernization?

ORVILLE SCHELL: That’s a very good question. I think that the middle class is very ambivalent. On the one hand, they have needs and demands as they get rich and in certain ways naturally come to want greater freedom and openness. But on the other hand, they want government to protect their interests. After all, they now have interests to protect. And their further interest is in getting even richer. Now at some point, some of them will want a little more than just wealth. But that’s not been that strong an impulse to date. However, the spiritual and the democratic urge—and there’s been a current of tradition for these urges—has flowed through modern Chinese history. But, we in the West have often mistaken that current as being the main one. But I think the main current through this period of history could be better described as the quest for a reinstatement of China to greatness, which has had little to do with democracy. In fact, it has had more to do with authoritarianism.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: China is rising and, finally, is achieving that kind of greatness. At what point can China cast off the burden of the 150 years of humiliation it suffered after the Opium Wars, which keeps making China respond in such a paranoid fashion?

ORVILLE SCHELL: It’s not going to be soon. The amazing thing is how far their ability to cast off their victim culture lags behind their actual accomplishment. They’ve accomplished an enormous amount, and history has changed, but their victim culture is as deep as ever.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: And, perhaps, useful at times of political trouble at home?

ORVILLE SCHELL: Indeed! It’s become a whole way of relating to the world! I think eventually they will overthrow it, but you know, we naively thought in the eighties they would leave it behind, that it was over, that the effects of the unequal treaties were gone, there was a feeling, “Let’s get on with it!” But now, we find that they have brought it back. I think it’s very, very deep. So that’s sort of what this book I just finished is about. How deep the humiliation was and how strong nationalism became as a result.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: A lot of people in the States, indeed, in the West, say that China’s rise is a scary thing, that we should be concerned. Is that view misplaced?

ORVILLE SCHELL: I think it’s fair to say, that historically at least, this search for wealth and power has initially been quite defensive—how can we protect ourselves, how can we keep ourselves from being occupied, invaded, etc.? But I also think that there can be a terrible and sometimes inescapable logic that the oppressed yearn to become the oppressor, as a sign of their ending their own period of agonizing oppression. It’s a very understandable human and national urge. But, it’s a dangerous one.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: What’s the evidence of that in China?

ORVILLE SCHELL: You know, when you’ve been pushed around for a long time, or feel you have been bullied, there’s a powerful instinct to want to give some of those people a shove when your time comes to be on top. Just to show them that you have arrived and things have changed. Some of this sentiment can manifest itself in indirect ways, such as in territorial disputes. And I think we see something of this certainly in China’s current relations to Japan over the Diaoyu Islands and the whole South China Sea fracas with Vietnam. The Philippines and Malaysia were like satellite tribute states, and in the case of Vietnam, a country that has recently beat China in a war. And now it could become payback time.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: So that’s a way to view China’s behavior in the Spratlys and the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, where China has been flexing its muscles aggressively?

ORVILLE SCHELL: I think that it gives these disputes a certain dangerous psychological energy. I don’t know how far China will take it, or whether they’ll be able realize that it isn’t finally in their interest to keep pushing this. But, it is a terrible logic in history that, given the chance, the colonialized want to be the colonizers, or the inferior want to be the superior, the dominated want to be the dominators.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: It’s important to remember too that China is not just one China. So many people in China don’t understand how messed up and confused politics is in the United States. The same thing goes for China, right? It’s a whole bunch of struggling forces and factions.

ORVILLE SCHELL: It’s true now more than ever, because China lacks the solvent of a powerful leader, to say: “Listen up guys, I’m the boss! Here’s what we’re going to do!” So, there is now much more of a fractured power structure with a lot more negotiating between everybody. We aren’t quite able to X-ray it and know for sure how the pieces configure themselves, but we have some vague sense.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: How do you think the United States views China right now? Are U.S.-China relations on a pretty healthy footing?

ORVILLE SCHELL: It’s very manic. And I think actually that China would be smart to understand that it’s as good as it’s going to get, with President Obama, Hillary [Clinton] and [John] Kerry—and it’s pretty good, actually. They’re smart, reasonable people, and they’re not trying to push China around, but they are going to hedge their bets a bit. And, it’s not insane that they should.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: By that you mean the so-called “Asia pivot.”

ORVILLE SCHELL: The Americans don’t want to humiliate China, but they’re not going to just say, “Oh, you’re sweet and lovely. We trust you 100 percent. Do whatever you want.” I think they’re smart, realistic people and they’re well aware that when a country is a resurgent power, it sometimes can run off the rails.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: From China’s perspective, of course, it feels like containment. It feels like, “What are you doing in our playground? This is our turf.”

ORVILLE SCHELL: It does. And it’s nothing new! I mean, we’ve been out there since the end of the Second World War! It’s just that we kind of got preoccupied with the Middle East for a while. I think China can make out our Asian presence what they will, and there’s no arguing with someone who has a viewpoint that’s born of an emotion rather than the logic of the situation. They can tease things out of the situation to back up their view of being contained, but it doesn’t make them right. I think the U.S. would far prefer not to have to be wary about China. You know that expression in Chinese to “find bones in an egg”? I think the Chinese do a bit of that. They make the world conform to their view of it. Even though there are technocrats and engineers who believe in science and logic, there’s also a deep emotional fire that still burns within that was born of history. And the Communist Party has tended to excite it and use it, as much as to allay it, and bank it. I think in certain critical ways the Chinese have blown it. You know, in a matter of a few short years, they’ve move from “peaceful rise,” that reassured their neighbors, to a very aggressive forward posture. They’ve completely pissed off everybody. Why do that? Unless it benefits you? I suppose, because you’re getting some charge out of it.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: There’s no logic to what’s going on in the Diaoyu and Spratlys. It’s purely emotional.

ORVILLE SCHELL: It’s not in China’s self-interest, so there has to be some other pay-off, and I think it must be some kind of psychological pay-off­­—at last, being able to throw their weight around a little.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: And that all plays well domestically in China, right? To look like they are playing tough.

ORVILLE SCHELL: It does. But, you know, Deng Xiaoping on the other hand, he was a very able and strong leader, and he was able to counsel: “Keep your head down and bide your time.” The new leaders have sort of cancelled that admonition, and what they say now is: “Well, that that was then and this is now.”
DORINDA ELLIOTT: If I were sitting in Zhongnanhai [the leadership compound], knowing that there are more than 180,000 protests around China every year, probably more, I’d feel pretty nervous about what’s going on.

ORVILLE SCHELL: Nationalism is a little bit like using that fire retardant foam they spray on airport runways before someone crash lands. That’s the way they experience these protests—as a way to extinguish the possibility of further conflagration. This may seem somewhat counter-intuitive from the outside, because they’ve got actually quite a bit going for them. Their recent accomplishments have been quite epic. And yet, because the government has so few sources of legitimacy, it gets panicked by any kind of unrest. It’s so used to controlling everything, that when some things somewhat get out of control, it kind of overreacts. You look at India. The place is blowing up left and right, every day, and people just view it as part of business-as-usual.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: The social tensions that China experiences these days: excessive taxes to forced land grabs; official brutality, rebellions in the countryside; state-owned enterprise lay-offs; loss of retirement pensions, all leading to protests and riots in the cities; demands for freedom of spiritual beliefs; ethnic-minority demands; and even Hong Kong is becoming obstreperous. And finally, growing concerns about the environment. When I look at a list like this, I think, why hasn’t there been another revolution?

ORVILLE SCHELL: The reason for that is that China’s leaders have managed to make so much economic progress. I mean, look what they’ve done. And, whatever you think of their program, they’ve done it. And, it has transformed the face of China from “sick man of Asia” to superpower. There may still be a lot of problems, but many people now have a much better life. Look at all the damn new urban cities and skylines, look at the transportation systems, look at all the infrastructure they’ve built. Even if the whole thing blows up tomorrow, they’ve laid down a century’s worth of infrastructure. It’s an incredible accomplishment.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: It’s beyond imagination.

ORVILLE SCHELL: Indeed! People may still have a lot of grievances, but there’s still a promise of getting in on the spoils of an expanding universe through further development. And that is a powerful promise for many.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: I finished reading Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan, who just won the Nobel Prize for Literature amid lots of controversy. It describes a brutal life in the countryside. I think it’s important to remember just how bad it is in the villages, and just how, even though it may have not looked like much to us Westerners, life has improved a little bit for these people who moved to the cities. Life is tough, but it’s better than being stuck in a truly feudal environment.

ORVILLE SCHELL: True. But, even most of the villages are better than before. It was pretty bad. I mean, if your baseline is the Great Leap Forward, it is far better! I am always amazed when I go out to remote areas like Guizhou, China’s poorest province. It’s still pretty incredible what you find. There are roads and there’s power. The stores are full of goods. Of course, there is also grinding poverty in rural areas. But, it’s materially light years better than before. In these areas the real problem, and this is quite traditional, is the local corruption and local malfeasances in office. It’s pretty extreme in some places. And it’s born of the toxic marriage of the state owning the banks and property. So you get these big land grabs. There’s no private property, no protection. Local officials control property and can get money from the banks, so they take land from peasants for a pittance and make a killing.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: There’s talk of rule of law, but there are no real checks and balances.

ORVILLE SCHELL: When real push comes to shove, for little stuff, the law can work. However, for big things, everybody knows the law is suspended in the interest of the party and the state. And, when corrupt local officials represent both, ordinary people have little recourse to remedies.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Xi Jinping has been pushing the crackdown on corruption. Do you think it will go anywhere?

ORVILLE SCHELL: When you have a system where people are only paid a couple thousand dollars a month at very most, and they have access to all this property and all these bank loans, and they know there’s no way to get things like stock options, it’s an incredible temptation. So, in a certain sense, people are taking what they think they deserve, and then some, by nefarious means. The system is so weird, caught between communism and capitalism. It’s so out of kilter in terms of the norms of the modern world. If you’re working in a state-owned enterprise and you’re making a thousand, max two thousand, dollars a month, and you’re doing deals worth a million dollars, and you could break off a couple of hundred thousand into a foreign bank account, well, you might find it an irresistible temptation.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Like, you’d be an idiot not to do it.

ORVILLE SCHELL: It takes a really moral person, but then you have to ask, toward what honorable end besides their own honor would they be serving? They used to be able to justify such behavior by saying that they were helping the country, building the party, or promoting revolution, whatever. But now, what’s the ethical imperative to be straight? There really isn’t any. People might even consider you a sucker, if you are too upright in this new world where wealth rules.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Is China’s quest for natural resources around the world going to inevitably lead to a conflict with the United States and with the West? How is that going to be resolved?

ORVILLE SCHELL: That doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a conflict, because we’re all sort of in the global market place and in this strange new world where we share so many commons that we actually have a lot of common interest—even though we do not always immediately see it. But, China has a very Victorian notion of sovereignty and national interest. The leaders do not feel they can trust international regimes that encroach on absolute sovereignty. They think: “We need to own the resource we need. We just can’t trust international markets, because they have traditionally been loaded against us. The market might shut us out.” So, they think, we’ll own oil wells in Sudan, copper mines in Afghanistan, other mines in Congo, etc. I think the United States has tried to integrate China into the orderly world market in a somewhat exemplary way. But because of a lot of history, China still distrusts our motives. And so they’re very aggressively moving around the world vacuuming up resources. You can’t fault them for that, actually.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Because they’ve got a big economy they need to keep moving.

ORVILLE SCHELL: Because they’ve got a big economy that needs huge numbers of natural resources from outside of China. And, now that they are wealthy and more powerful, they can do whatever they like. Actually, I think they find this new prerogative quite exhilarating. And, if we Americans don’t want to get into Africa or Latin America, okay, they’ll go. But, of course, there is a danger that they will do so with a sort of muscular bravado that manifests itself in a kind of truculent unilateralism—something in which the U.S. has also excelled. The Chinese look at U.S. behavior and think, “Okay, what’s fair for the goose is fair for the gander.”

DORINDA ELLIOTT: What about Taiwan, which seems to have, under President Ma Ying-jeou, moved a lot closer to mainland China?

ORVILLE SCHELL: Yes. Here we have something of a success story. And, I think if China is smart, they’ll just lay off Taiwan, not push it, and just wait. At some point I do believe Taiwan and China will come back together again. When will that be? When China becomes more democratic. And there’s nothing anyone can say or do before then that’s going to make the Taiwanese feel comfortable. So, Beijing should just forget it for now and be pleased with the status quo with everyone making money. You know, they have a relationship that’s now pretty good. They’re trading like crazy. Beijing ought to count its blessings and recognize that the time for betrothal has not come. They are just living together, and they’re not going to get married for a while.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: There’s an assumption there that China is going to somehow become democratic?

ORVILLE SCHELL: Well, Jeffersonian democracy is not going to spring out like Athena from the head of Zeus any time soon. But, I do think China will eventually have to broach the subject of political reform. That will ripen the situation for a closer reintegration with Taiwan. You also have to hand it to China’s leaders. They have been evincing much forward progress, at least in terms of economic reform. And in what they’ve been doing, albeit with some terribly savage train wrecks along the way, preparing for the next stage of their development. They have been laying the precursor stages for the next act of the development drama.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: What do you mean by that?

ORVILLE SCHELL: They are becoming more unified, building better infrastructure, becoming wealthier, developing a middle class, becoming more worldly, and better integrated into the global economy. They’ve even begun to restore some degree of traditional culture that was so savagely attacked during the Cultural Revolution. When the Qing Dynasty fell, they thought they could have a republic in 1912. But, when you look back on that period now, you realize that such a hope was an absolute pipe dream. They simply were not ready. The pre-conditions had not been laid down. But that is no longer true. It’s still going to be very, very hard, but it is much more likely that constitutional government could take root now than forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety, a hundred years ago. So, in a funny way, I look at China as being kind of right on schedule now—just a very much more protracted schedule than was originally imagined.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Yeah. And as they keep telling us, “We’re a very big country!”

ORVILLE SCHELL: And we’re not ready! And, we have no democratic tradition. And, our people are still poor and backward, etc., etc., etc. But in a certain sense it’s an alibi for the party to remain autocratic. But in another sense, it’s absolutely true.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: It drives me absolutely crazy when Chinese say, to me, “Well, we couldn’t have democracy tomorrow!” That is not even what the pro-democracy activists are calling for. They’re calling for more openness, they’re calling for transparency.

ORVILLE SCHELL: Indeed. As Hu Shi said way back in the 1920s, “The only way to have democracy is to have democracy.” In other words, you learn democracy by practicing democracy. But, it still takes stages.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: They’re talking about a freer media.

ORVILLE SCHELL: Sure. It will come. That’s why I think that right now we’re at the end of something. It’s just that the party doesn’t quite know how to lay down the track for the next phase of China’s transition, without subverting themselves and pushing themselves to the point where they’d be put into the ash heap of history. But, in a certain sense, they have been preparing the country in a lot of very important ways for the next act. I don’t quite know how they get from here to wherever it is they’re going. It’s not clear to me. But, there will be another act! History is not fond of standing still. This is what the new leaders have to figure out.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Deng always said “We’ll grope our way across the stones,” but in some ways it looks like there was a plan.

ORVILLE SCHELL: The plan was “more.” More wealth, more power. And, now that they’ve got “more,” the question is: at what point does this system, as it’s constructed, cease to be able to keep generating even more? They just wanted to get wealthy and powerful. Those are the two characters that just keep recurring throughout modern Chinese history. But having attained these goals in large measure, they’ve got to figure out, what’s the next step? There’s a great paradox that occurs here. It used to be that Chinese reformers thought that if they could get wealthy and powerful, and expel the foreigners, respect would come naturally from the outside world. Then they would no longer be this abject whipping post for the world. But, now that they have gotten wealthy and powerful, they are beginning to find that respect doesn’t necessarily follow simple wealth and power, and they’re somewhat confused. They wonder: “Why the hell don’t you respect us?” And, so what they’re beginning to discover, but still incompletely, is that to win the respect of the world—which is what wealth and power were supposed to gain them—a country must first also treat its own people with respect. And, the party doesn’t quite know how to do that. And they’re frustrated. They came to the end of this Herculean effort to rejuvenate their country, and there are all these rejuvenations, but somehow it still hasn’t done the trick. They finally got a Nobel Peace Prize, but their laureate, Liu Xiaobo, is locked up in jail. People still think Chinese leaders are somehow not respectable, and it makes them completely insane.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Don’t you think there’s a generational thing? Chinese love to say it’s a transitional stage. It’s just hard for me to believe that the next generation does not understand that.

ORVILLE SCHELL: They are very nationalistic! How many generations have we been waiting for China’s self-confidence to reform? But nationalism born of humiliation is something that sticks to all of them. It’s like genetic material you can’t get off the genome. It keeps re-expressing itself. I think in many ways the people of the eighties were more open.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: That’s definitely true.

ORVILLE SCHELL: And they were somehow less stuck in victim culture than people now, even the young people of today.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: That’s why you can argue that the bloody crackdown on the student movement of 1989 is such a tragic missed opportunity. China was at a crossroads and chose the wrong path.

ORVILLE SCHELL: Even though the 1989 demonstrations could be totally justified in terms of rights, the effect of it was to throw China back into the world over there. They were not only again oppressing themselves, but they were seeing the outside world as savagely oppressing them. It was a terrible throwback to the very syndrome from which they were trying to escape. And, they experienced Western criticism as a new kind of Western exploitation, this time via the media.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: On the environment, I’m reading these reports about Beijing, the air quality index is 750 or something like that, on a scale of 1-500. China’s pollution is extreme, fueled by its need for economic growth. On the other hand, the government has implemented policies and is aware of the problems and is trying to do something.

ORVILLE SCHELL: Over the long haul, I worry less about conventional forms of pollution, like air and water and soil, because actually those you can correct, and we know how to do that. It’s a question of galvanizing the country and spending the money. What I’m more concerned about is energy, carbon emissions, and climate change, which are irremediable and which are going to have a more profound and harmful an effect, not just in China, but on everybody on the planet. And, China will get it worse than the rest of us, because they are more people and it is still quite poor. There are two parallel environmental catastrophes going on simultaneously. The first, we’re very familiar with from the industrial revolution. We screwed up the Hudson River, New York air was wicked, London fog was horrible, the Rhine was a sewer, etc., and then we largely cleaned it up. But this new form of global environmental challenge, which involves climatic changes, is something for which we have no immediate remedy. And it is a direct outgrowth of, not only what we have done in our past, but now of what China is doing presently to industrialize. And, it has all largely grown out of the burning of fossil fuels, especially the burning of coal.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: So where do you see that conversation moving China? Do you think that the need for economic growth is so paramount that it will always prevail?

ORVILLE SCHELL: Because economic development is the major source of the party’s legitimacy, we’re stuck with it. The Chinese leadership is also painfully aware of this problem. But they can’t solve it alone. And with the United States so brain-dead [on climate change], we lack a certain essential leadership. We and they are the ones who should be really collaborating on this. But, for too long the United States utterly and totally abdicated its leadership role. The Chinese don’t always like the Americans bullying and hectoring, even leading. But in this case, I think they would welcome some collaborative American leadership. It’s sort of like a child that is always rebelling against the parent, but when the parent leaves, it gets scary and disorienting.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Let’s be a little bit more specific.

ORVILLE SCHELL: On the question of climate change, the U.S. still has an essential leadership role to play. And, we have not played that role. I think China would actually welcome a stronger partnership here. But, we need to be able to put the necessary resources into it. That would enable us to take the leadership position. The Kyoto Protocol calls for this fund of a hundred billion dollars to help developing nations curb their carbon emissions. Well, it’s not there. I mean, these are very symbolic, but they’re also very real, steps. And, the Chinese notice this absence. The United States has really been paralyzed both at home and internationally. We haven’t signed anything. We are the odd man out. The Germans are spending 1.5 percent of GDP on climate change. Our Congress won’t even recognize climate change. So, how are we going to expect to get together with China on this generational issue? I think they’re willing to do a lot, particularly if there be some kind of a concord on this thing, maybe not setting absolute limits the way Copenhagen was calling for.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: What can they do, if they risk having economic growth slowdown?

ORVILLE SCHELL: They’re going to want to continue growth and to burn coal. But on the other hand, I think they’ll also be willing to pitch in on all kinds of accelerated programs, for renewables, green tech, and all of these other things, which in the long run, could be very meaningful. Four years ago, the Asia Society put together a whole report on this—how a U.S.-China collaboration on climate issues would work. How would they get together to test carbon capture and sequestration? China is the place to do it. It’s cheap, and there are fewer environmental regulations to worry about. That’s how we could jointly experiment on a crucial clean coal technology and scale it up. But, nobody is going to act on it because there’s no money. This is just one example of the kind of things, if there would have been U.S. leadership, that we could and should do with China on a large scale. Alas, the yahoos in Congress would never appropriate money to do an experiment in China, even though it would manifestly benefit both countries, that was cheaper, faster, and more efficient. You never could get support for such a project in this country. So, that’s our curse.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: They’re losing over fifty-eight square miles of grasslands per year because of overgrazing, which to me begs the question on many environmental levels: Is this a matter that the central government just doesn’t have control over the local governments anymore?

ORVILLE SCHELL: Overgrazing is part of it, but I also think a lot of China’s desertification problems have to do with climate changes and changes in rainfall patterns. We don’t really know. I mean, the situation probably varies from place to place, but it isn’t simply a question of land use. In China, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has enormous limits on what it can do. In China the main fault line is between the central ministry, which is very weak, and the provinces, which are the places where policy has to be affected. The central government has very little control over what they actually do in the provinces, what monies they appropriate to affect laws, so there’s a real disconnect. It’s sort of an area where authoritarianism doesn’t work as well as it might. This is where regional power is accrued, but to the harm, I think, of the common wheel. So that’s a real problem.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Will there be positive movement in the rule of law?

ORVILLE SCHELL: I think expanding the rule of law is in a state of some suspension right now. It has sort of gotten to a certain point and it has run into conflict with the party’s instinct to control, and the law’s an independent power center and can sometimes be very threatening. So I think that’s part of the reason we have this feeling that something’s got to change, that things have come up against the end of an evolutionary phase in their present scheme of things. You can identify many, many other fronts where this is also true.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: So Xi Jinping has got to move quickly, consolidate his power, and figure this out?

ORVILLE SCHELL: Hu Jintao was lucky to get out of there before the roof fell in, if it’s going to fall in. Xi Jinping has an incredible challenge ahead of him: somehow, not only to keep China from unraveling, but to keep pushing it forward. And, he must do all this at a time when there’s all of this emphasis on not rocking the boat. Deng Xiaoping rocked the boat. But he had a certain, you know, droit du seigneur. He had greater latitude to do what he wanted. In key ways Xi does not have this mandate.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: Although Xi Jinping has a bit of that feeling about him. I’ve been struck seeing him speak at how confident he seems. He’s not reading from a prepared text, and all that stuff.

ORVILLE SCHELL: Well, we will see what he can get away with. If he did prove to be very bold and forward, it will all make sense we’d say, “Oh, yes, and his father, and this and that.” If he can’t, we’d say, “Alright, it makes sense, he just couldn’t do it. The leadership is now too timid, consensual, and paralyzed.”

DORINDA ELLIOTT: His father, Xi Zhongxun, having been stationed on the east coast, pushed reforms, economic reforms, and export economy, and not only that, but he allegedly came out and criticized the crackdown in 1989. So in theory, his father was a real kind of liberal reformer.

ORVILLE SCHELL: Well, in theory more than “in theory,” Wen Jiabao was with Zhao Ziyang his last night in Tiananmen Square. There are a lot of theories that seem to get trumped by the reality of the power-sharing system. Xi Jinping is like a stem cell. He hasn’t developed yet into any discernible organ, or any discernible tissue. And the amazing thing about Hu Jintao was, ten years later, he hadn’t yet either. But, we do not yet know what Xi Jinping may yet become and what political views he may be able to express and act upon.

DORINDA ELLIOTT: How old do you have to be in China to be allowed to actually be yourself?

ORVILLE SCHELL: That’s why I say, I’ve waited through probably three or four generations with people always telling me, “Wait for the next generation.” The next generation comes and things do change, but what is equally as amazing is what has not changed. Truthfully, I don’t know where things are going. In China, things are always going in opposite directions at the same time. And there is no understanding the place, unless you can embrace such contradictions in your head at the same time.

Dorinda Elliott is the global affairs editor at Condé Nast Traveler. She was a correspondent atNewsweek from 1985 to 2000, serving as bureau chief in Beijing, Moscow, and Hong Kong. She was editor-in-chief of Asiaweek from 2000 to 2001, and an editor-at-large and assistant managing editor at TIME from 2003 to 2006. She was the recipient of an Overseas Press Club award in 1996 and 1997 for her reporting on China.

Rule of the Princelings

The much-anticipated 18th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November unfolded according to that classic rhythm in the study of Chinese elite politics: predictability giving way to ambiguity, and optimism alternating with cynicism.

Prior to the announcement of the composition of the new guard, led by new party General Secretary Xi Jinping, many analysts both in China and abroad had believed that the new leadership would continue to maintain the roughly equal balance of power that existed between the Jiang Zemin camp and the Hu Jintao camp. Yet in the end, the results were a huge surprise: the Jiang camp won a landslide victory by obtaining six out of the seven seats on the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) while only one leader in the Hu camp—Li Keqiang, now designated to become premier in March—was able to keep a seat on this supreme decision-making body.

In the wake of the recent Bo Xilai scandal and the resulting crisis of CPC rule, many had anticipated that party leaders would adopt certain election mechanisms—what the Chinese authorities call “intra-party democracy”—to restore the party’s much-damaged legitimacy and to generate a sense that the new top leaders do indeed have an election-based new mandate to rule. For example, some analysts had anticipated that the CPC Central Committee might use competitive (though limited) multiple-candidate elections to select members of its leadership bodies, such as the twenty-five-member politburo or even the PSC. Such high-level elections, however, did not take place. The selection of elites at this congress continued to be done the old fashioned way—through the “black box” of manipulation, deal-cutting, and trade-offs that occur behind the scenes among a handful of politicians (e.g., outgoing PSC members and retired heavyweight figures—most noticeably the 86-year old Jiang).

What is even more troubling is the fact that four out of the seven PSC members are princelings—leaders who come from families of either veteran revolutionaries or high-ranking officials. It has been widely noted that large numbers of prominent party leaders and families have used their political power to convert state assets into their own private wealth. The unprecedentedly strong presence of princelings in the new PSC is likely to reinforce public resentment of how power and wealth continue to converge in China.

Chinese politics thus seem to be entering a new era characterized by the concentration of princeling power at the top. This gives rise to important questions regarding the nature and implications of the new leadership. What caused the dramatic defeat of the Hu camp in this political succession? Does the six-to-one split of the PSC mean a shift from factional power-sharing to a new “winner takes all” mode of Chinese elite politics? Will the factional imbalance at the top seriously undermine leadership unity and elite cohesion, thus potentially threatening the sociopolitical stability of the country at large? What are the main characteristics of this new princeling elite? What should we expect in terms of economic policies, political reforms, and foreign relations under the Xi Jinping administration? And can the identities of newly promoted leaders help us understand where China is headed?

Because of the key role China plays in the global economy and in regional security, the international community needs to grasp these new tensions and dynamics in the Chinese leadership now emerging at a time when the Middle Kingdom is facing many daunting challenges. How the princelings govern China, especially how state-society relations unfold, will undoubtedly have profound ramifications far beyond China’s borders.

One Party, Two Coalitions

Though China is a one-party state in which the CPC monopolizes power, the party leadership is not a monolithic group. CPC leaders do not all share the same ideology, political association, socioeconomic background, or policy preferences. Two main political factions or coalitions within the CPC leadership have been competing for power, influence, and control over policy initiatives since the late 1990s.

This bifurcation has created within China’s one-party polity something approximating a mechanism of checks and balances in the decision-making process. This mechanism is, of course, not the kind of institutionalized system of checks and balances that operates between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches in a democratic system. But this new structure—sometimes referred to in China as “one party, two coalitions”—does represent a major departure from the “all-powerful strongman” model that was characteristic of politics in the Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping eras.

One of the two intra-party groups in China is the “elitist coalition,” which emerged in the Jiang Zemin era and used to be headed by Jiang and is currently led by Xi Jinping. The other is the “populist coalition,” which was led by President Hu Jintao prior to the 18th Party Congress and is now headed by his protégé Li Keqiang.

These two coalitions represent different socioeconomic and geographical constituencies. Most of the top leaders in the elitist coalition, for instance, are princelings. Many of these princelings began their careers in the economically well-developed coastal cities. The elitist coalition usually represents the interests of China’s entrepreneurs and emerging middle class. Most leading figures in the populist coalition, by contrast, come from less-privileged families. They also tend to have accumulated much of their leadership experience in the less-developed inland provinces. Many advanced in politics by way of the Chinese Communist Youth League and have therefore garnered the label tuanpai, literally meaning “league faction.” These populists often voice the concerns of vulnerable social groups, such as farmers, migrant workers, and the urban poor.

Some clarifications about China’s intra-party factionalism are in order. Factional politics and political coalitions in present-day China, although not really opaque to the public, still lack transparency. With a few noticeable exceptions—such as former party chief of Chongqing Bo Xilai and party chief of Guangdong Wang Yang, both of whom conducted distinct self-promotion campaigns a couple of years prior to the 18th Party Congress—a majority of political leaders in China usually take a low-profile approach, lobbying for promotion in a non-public manner. Unlike the decades of Liberal Democratic Party hegemony in Japan (1955–94), for instance, factional politics within the CPC have not yet been legitimated by the party constitution. A few leaders may have dual identities as both princeling andtuanpai, although one can usually identify their factional affiliations by the channel through which they are promoted and who their patrons are.

Leaders of these two competing factions differ in expertise, credentials, and experience. Yet they understand the need to compromise in order to coexist—especially in times of crisis. By and large, these two competing camps have maintained a roughly equal factional balance of power over the past decade. The previous nine-member PSC, for example, was characterized by a five-to-four split, with five seats held by the elitist coalition and four by the populist coalition.

The Hu Camp’s Waterloo

This factional balance of power now appears to be broken. There were three eligible candidates who served on the previous politburo and met the age requirement but failed to be elevated to the PSC at the 18th Party Congress—all were tuanpai leaders. These include the only woman candidate, State Councilor Liu Yandong, and two rising stars, the aforementioned Wang Yang, and former head of the CPC Organization Department Li Yuanchao. All three, especially Wang and Li, are regarded as staunch advocates of political reform.

The Chinese public will likely understand why Wang was not elevated: many conservative leaders saw him as a threat. Wang’s main political rival was Bo Xilai, and the two tended to balance each other in terms of power, influence, and policy agenda. Now that Bo is out of the political game, the conservatives do not want Wang to remain in it. That Li Yuanchao was not elevated, however, was surprising. In charge of personnel promotion within the CPC over the past five years, Li carried arguably the strongest weight in selecting delegates to the 18th Party Congress. An instrumental voice for rule of law, governmental accountability, and intra-party democracy, Li has many supporters, especially among liberal intellectuals. He has also played a crucial role in recruiting foreign-educated returnees and promoting college graduates who work as village cadres.

Furthermore, at the congress Hu Jintao ceded his military position instead of following the practice of his predecessor Jiang Zemin, who retained the chairmanship of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) for two years after resigning from the formal party leadership. Now the number of princelings in this supreme military leadership body is unprecedentedly high. Four of the eleven members of the CMC are princelings, doubling the representation of princelings since the formation of the previous CMC five years ago.

This outcome is particularly startling when one considers the fact that Hu Jintao and his ally Wen Jiabao decisively expelled Bo, a notoriously ambitious princeling, from the party in 2012. This occurred in the wake of the dramatic incident in which former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun defected to the United States Consulate in Chengdu, and the subsequent revelation of the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, carried out by Bo Xilai’s wife. By levying a long list of criminal charges against Bo (presently awaiting trial)—including obstruction of justice, abuse of power, violation of party rules, bribery, and other crimes—Hu and Wen seemed to have won a landmark political battle.

The Bo Xilai scandal was a huge blow for the princeling faction. How is it possible that leadership infighting has taken yet another dramatic twist since his downfall? What has caused this profound change in the power equation? Though full answers to these politically sensitive issues will perhaps take time to emerge, clues have already surfaced.

The first relates to the now well-known Ferrari crash that occurred in Beijing on March 18, 2012, three days after the Chinese authorities fired Bo Xilai as Chongqing party chief. The crash immediately killed the driver, who was the son of Ling Jihua, the then director of the CPC General Office and Hu Jintao’s chief of staff. It also critically injured two young female passengers, one of whom died mysteriously at the hospital months later. It was believed that Ling not only managed to hide his son’s death from the leadership but also asked the CEO of the China National Petroleum Corporation to pay a large sum of money to the families of the two women in exchange for their silence, and even ordered the Central Guard Bureau, China’s secret service corps that manages the top leaders’ security, to handle—and cover up—the incident.

There have been two main rumors explaining how Ling Jihua sought to cover up the crash. One is that Ling helped fabricate information about the incident, which spread by social media, stating that the dead driver was a son of then PSC member Jia Qinglin. Upon hearing such rumors, an outraged Jia brought his grievance to the top leadership, including former party chief Jiang Zemin. The other rumor is that Ling attempted to make a deal with a prominent princeling, then PSC member and police tsar Zhou Yongkang, who was involved in the Bo Xilai scandal. The deal was simple: Zhou would help Ling cover up the car crash incident, and in return Ling would refrain from investigating Zhou’s involvement in the Bo case.

Regardless of which rumor holds the most truth, the Ling scandal was the second earthquake to rock Chinese elite politics last year, second in magnitude only to the Bo crisis. Ling has long served as Hu’s closest confidant and “political fixer.” This episode has severely damaged the authority and credibility that Hu Jintao wields in the leadership. The PSC’s decision in July to remove Ling from his post as director of the powerful General Office and to instead appoint him to a less important post was seen by many as a prelude that the Hu camp would be far less competitive in the power jockeying of the fall congress than had been previously thought.

The second incident was the accusation that Premier Wen Jiabao’s family was corrupt. This charge was widely circulated both by Chinese social media and in the foreign press, notably by the sensational story published by the New York Times in October charging that Wen’s relatives have controlled assets worth $2.7 billion. Whether or not Wen and his immediate family have been involved in illegal business activities is not clear. What is also not clear is whether this accusation against Wen was initiated by his political rivals.

The ideological differences between Wen on one end of the factional spread and politically conservative leaders in the Jiang camp on the other, however, are widely known to the Chinese public. Over the past several years, Wen has consistently emphasized the universal value of democracy, the political bottlenecks that undermine Chinese economic development, and the necessity for fundamental political transformation in the country. In contrast, Wu Bangguo, the second-highest ranking leader in the previous PSC and a heavyweight leader in the Jiang camp, rejected Wen’s call for democratic reform by claiming that the Wen’s appeals (for elections, constitutionalism, and media supervision) would lead the country into an uncharted sea of drastic political change or even chaos, and thus should be resisted at all cost.

The timing of the latest wave of criticism against Wen that circulated in both the Chinese social media and overseas mainstream news outlets has effectively undermined the premier’s reputation and sabotaged his well-known political reform agenda. Wen, potentially the strongest supporter of like-minded political reformers in the fifth generation (such as Wang Yang and Li Yuanchao), was thus forced to fall largely silent during the most crucial period of the leadership succession.

Third, even without these two incidents, the Hu-Wen administration has confronted an increasingly profound sense of public disappointment and criticism as the Hu era wound to a close. Hu has been criticized by the political and economic elites in the country, including the middle class, for his “inaction” (wuwei), a frequently used term in both Chinese blogs and daily conversations in the country. Some critics also portrayed Wen Jiabao as an ineffective premier who is famous for crying in public but not for getting things done. Some prominent Chinese public intellectuals have openly called the two five-year terms of the Hu leadership “the lost decade.”

For many critics, Hu’s rhetoric of a “harmonious society” (a buzzword in the Hu era for the principal policy objectives of reducing social tensions and economic disparity) resonates poorly (and ironically) given that the country’s Gini Coefficient, the standard measurement of the income gap, has worsened. Since 2002 it has risen to 0.48 in 2009 and to 0.61 in 2010, according to two recent studies conducted by the World Bank and China’s Southwestern University of Finance and Economics respectively, far exceeding the 0.44 figure that scholars say indicates the potential for social destabilization. Furthermore, the country’s spending on internal public security has skyrocketed in recent years, for the first time overtaking spending on national defense in 2010 to the tune of $84 billion.

On the foreign policy front, critics have argued that Hu’s “good neighborhood policy” has largely failed because China seems to have generated serious tension or distrust with virtually all of its neighboring countries, including a number of flash points along China’s borders and seas. China confronts an increasingly complicated and challenging international environment yet, despite its growing power and influence on the world stage, has few friends.

Disillusionment over Hu’s leadership is arguably most salient among the vast number of the country’s middle class. Members of this stratum often complain that they (rather than the upper class) shoulder most of the burden incurred by Hu’s harmonious society policies that are targeted at helping vulnerable socio-economic groups. Another thing angering the middle class is the high unemployment rate among college graduates, who often come from middle class families: nearly two million each year fail to find work. The admission rate for civil service exams has fallen remarkably low, reaching just 1.9 percent this year, in sharp contrast to ten years ago when government employees were leaving to “jump into the sea of the private business sector” (xiahai). This change reflects the shrinking of the private sector in recent years.

However, it is too early to hand down a definitive verdict regarding the legacy of the Hu era. For instance, many of the issues that emerged or were not resolved during Hu’s administration may have structural or cyclical origins and thus were beyond his control. The above criticisms also reflect only the views of certain groups such as opinion leaders and the middle class. Hu and Wen may remain popular among the vast number of peasants and migrant workers; and Wen may still have strong support from liberal intellectuals in the country. Many problems might also be attributable to policy deadlock—and political gridlock—caused by the factional jockeying as played out in the collective leadership. It is possible that the situation could have been even worse without Hu and Wen’s efforts to constrain the powerful elitist coalition. Nevertheless, the fact that Hu has been in charge during the past decade has made him the natural target for blame.

More importantly, the argument that factional deadlock was at the root of the Hu-Wen administration’s ineffectiveness has now apparently played into the hands of Jiang’s camp. If a more balanced factional composition at the PSC has often led to policy deadlock, why shouldn’t the 18th Party Congress have a leadership lineup where power is concentrated in the hands of the new top leader Xi Jinping and his team? This is another important factor behind the six-to-one split of the new PSC.

This does not mean, however, that the winner now takes all in Chinese elite politics. Hu’s protégés are still well represented in other important leadership bodies. Although the Jiang camp has dominated the new PSC, the balance between the two camps in the 25-member politburo, the Secretariat (the organization that handles daily administrative affairs), and the CMC have largely remained intact. In fact, many tuanpai leaders have made it into the new 376-member Central Committee. This writer’s research indicates that tuanpai leaders now occupy ninety-six seats in the new Central Committee constituting 25.5 percent of this very crucial decision-making body, a steep uptick when compared with the tuanpai’s eighty-six seats in the previous 371-member Central Committee (23.2 percent).

Prominent tuanpai leaders such as the aforementioned Li Yuanchao and Wang Yang will still be eligible in terms of age for the next PSC in five years. If the “one party, two coalitions” dynamics is a new experiment in Chinese elite politics, the CPC can also experiment with a new mechanism of “factional rotation” (paixi lunhuan). This may explain why the Hu camp quietly acquiesced to its political Waterloo in the latest leadership succession.

Xi’s Mandate

Xi Jinping has had an auspicious beginning as China’s new leader. He enjoys a majority in the PSC and is the top leader in the wake of a complete succession in both the party and military leadership. Xi thus has obtained the power and authority to initiate his new policy agenda. His predecessor’s unpopularity among opinion leaders and the middle class has also enhanced Xi’s public support—giving a sense that he has a new mandate. In the wake of the recent Bo Xilai and Ling Jihua scandals, all party elite regardless of factional affiliation will unite, at least for the time being, under Xi’s leadership in order to maintain CPC rule.

Most importantly, the new leadership seems to be very capable on the economic front and it has strong policy preferences for accelerating market reforms (see chart). Four princeling leaders on the PSC—Xi Jinping, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, and Wang Qishan—all have decades of experience and high levels of competence in economic and financial affairs. Some Chinese analysts argue that due to their princeling background, these leaders have more political capital and resources than did their predecessors Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao (who came from humble family backgrounds) in terms of running the Chinese economy and coordinating various governmental agencies.

Table 1: Policy Priorities and Preferences of China’s Top Seven Leaders (New PSC Members)

NameConfirmed or DesignatedLeadership PositionPolicy Priorities and Preferences
Xi JinpingParty Secretary General, Chairman of CMC, PRC PresidentDevelopment of the private sector, market liberalization in foreign investment, and Shanghai’s role as financial and shipping center
Li KeqiangPremier of the State CouncilDevelopment of affordable housing, basic health care and social welfare programs, and promotion of clean energy
Zhang DejiangChairman of the National People’s CongressDevelopment of state-owned enterprises, promotion of “China’s Go Global Strategy,” and indigenous innovation
Yu ZhengshengChairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative ConferencePromotion of the private sector and urban development, high-rate of GDP growth, and legal development, especially  intellectual property rights issues
Liu YuanshanExecutive Secretary of the Secretariat, President of the Central Party SchoolMore effective control over media and the Internet, and promotion of China’s soft power overseas
Wang QishanSecretary of the Central Commission for Discipline InspectionLiberalization of China’s financial system, high-rate GDP growth, and tax-revenue reforms in central-local governments
Zhang GaoliExecutive Vice Premier of the State CouncilMarket liberalization in foreign investment, economic efficiency, and a high-rate of GDP growth

Xi has long been known for his market-friendly approach to economic development for domestic and foreign businesses alike. Xi’s leadership experience in running Fujian, Zhejiang, and Shanghai, three economically advanced regions in the country, has prepared him well for pursuing policies to promote the development of the private sector, foreign investment and trade, and the liberalization of China’s financial system—all of which have experienced serious setbacks in recent years under the previous administration. Another good example of effective leadership is Wang Qishan, the newly appointed anti-corruption tsar. Over the past few years Wang has served as a principal convener for China in the Sino-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Wang, whose nickname is “the chief of the fire brigade,” is arguably the most competent policy maker in economic and financial affairs in the Chinese leadership. The Chinese public regards Wang as a leader who is capable and trustworthy during times of emergency or crisis, whether it be China’s response to the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, or China’s ongoing rampant official corruption. Based on his previous leadership experiences and policy initiatives, Wang will most likely promote the development of foreign investment and trade, the liberalization of China’s financial system, and tax-revenue reforms, which are all crucial for the maintenance of smooth central-local economic relations.

In spite of (or because of) their weaknesses and liabilities in terms of fundamental political reforms, the new leaders will likely opt for bolder and more aggressive economic reforms to lift public confidence. The upcoming economic reforms will probably prioritize three sets of policies. First, the new leaders will work hard to please the middle class. Such policies would include tax cuts, more loans to private small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and more preferential policies to the services sector. A richer and larger middle class in China would also help to stimulate domestic consumption, the next driver for China’s economic growth. Second, the new leaders will promote financial liberalization by inviting more foreign competition to the Chinese banking sector. Finally, they will accelerate urbanization, especially in second- and third-tier cities, by reforming policies involving both rural land reform and the urban household registration system (hukou).

Xi Jinping’s first domestic trip after becoming the party general secretary was to Shenzhen, the point of origin for Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening” policy in the late 1970s. China’s stock market, after two years of sluggishness, rebounded very strongly after Xi’s symbolic trip. The central question, however, is whether or not Xi and the princeling-dominated PSC can achieve sustainable economic development without pursuing systemic political reform. Can China really adopt an innovation-driven economy while the country’s political system remains as it is?

Daunting Challenges

The ascent of the princelings has occurred at a time when public criticism of rampant official corruption is unprecedentedly high. Some Chinese public intellectuals use the term “statist crony-capitalism” (quangui zibenzhuyi) to refer to the growing phenomenon in which senior leaders and their families control some state-monopolized industries or major state-owned enterprises (SOEs) for their own profit. This cronyism is especially noticeable in the major business domains such as railways, petroleum, utilities, banking, and telecommunications.

The remarkable growth of some SOEs such as China Mobile, for example, has primarily been attributed to the company’s monopoly on telecommunications in the Chinese domestic market. This has two troubling consequences. First, there is no incentive for these flagship companies to pursue technological innovation. While China’s large SOEs have dramatically increased their profitability and standing among the Global Fortune 500 over the past decade, no single Chinese brand has truly distinguished itself in the global market. Second, the real beneficiaries of China’s economic rise on the world stage are not the Chinese people, but merely a small number of corrupt officials and their families.

The state-of-the-art high-speed train system is often seen as the symbol of China’s economic take-off, but the country’s railway industry has been running a budget deficit. China’s official media recently reported that a bureau-level official in China’s Ministry of Railways held Swiss and American bank accounts with assets of $2.8 billion. What is even more astonishing has been the scandal involving the former minister of railways, Liu Zhijun. Liu’s nickname—“Mr. Four Percent”—derived from his reputation for demanding a personal cut of every business deal in the industry. According to the Singapore media, Liu intended to spend two billion yuan ($320 million) to “purchase” the post of vice premiership, and even a seat in the 2012 politburo, before he was arrested on corruption charges in February 2011. Almost two years after the arrests of the bureau-level official and the minister, the two cases have not yet been tried.

According to an internal report by the CPC Organization Department, of the 8,370 senior executives in China’s 120 flagship state-owned companies, 6,370 (76 percent) have immediate family members who live overseas or hold foreign passports. It is also widely noted that a significant number of children and siblings of senior CPC leaders live, work, and study in Western countries. The Chinese public has often linked this trend to the large-scale outflow of capital in recent years. According to a 2012 report released by Washington-based Global Financial Integrity, cumulative illicit financial flows from China (primarily by corrupt officials) totaled a massive $3.8 trillion from 2000 to 2011.

Since a top priority of the CPC leadership is the maintenance of its own rule, it is no surprise that the police have become more powerful, not only in terms of their input into socioeconomic policies but also in terms of budget allocation. For example, the total amount of money used for “maintaining social stability” in 2009 was 514 billion yuan—almost identical to China’s total national defense budget (532 billion yuan) that year. The Chinese government budget for national defense in 2012 was 670.3 billion yuan, while the budget for the police and other public security expenditures was 701.8 billion yuan (an 11.5 percent increase).

Two factors have contributed to the growing power of the police force. First, the Arab Spring led CPC leaders to fear that they could face an outcome similar to that, for example, of the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt. Second, business elites—especially those who work in state-monopolized industries—have often bribed government officials including police officers and formed a “wicked coalition.” This coalition constantly talks about the need for stability in the country but in fact is more concerned about maintaining its own interests.

The oligopoly of SOEs not only jeopardizes the commercial interests of foreign companies but also hurts the country’s own private enterprises, thus detracting from the long-term potential of China’s market economy. A study conducted by Chinese scholars shows that the total profits made by China’s 500 largest private companies in 2009 were less than the total revenues of two SOE companies, China Mobile and Sinopec. Ironically, the private sector’s net return on investment was 8.18 percent, compared to the 3.05 percent return of SOEs in the country in 2009.

All this not only shows that China’s future economic development will increasingly depend on much-needed political reforms, but also reveals the enormous challenge for the new leadership in its pronounced commitment to crack down on official corruption. This commitment is as essential as it is dangerous, because the sociopolitical demands unleashed will be overwhelming. Ultimately, it is a test of Xi Jinping and Wang Qishan’s anti-corruption campaign. Is it driven merely by factional interest in getting rid of political rivals? Will it primarily target “small potatoes”? Will it simply be adopted as a temporary tactic instead of pursuing the institution building necessary to effectively control corruption?

It is interesting to note that within a week after Xi and Wang made their speeches calling for a tougher crackdown on official corruption, journalists in the commercial media and netizens using social media leveled accusations against three senior leaders—one new politburo member and two ministers—of nepotism in elite recruitment, fake academic credentials, womanizing, and corruption. Social media has become so influential that Chinese authorities often shut down domestic micro-blogging services.

China’s various new economic and sociopolitical forces are also becoming increasingly protective of their interests. For example, a manual labor shortage in some coastal cities in recent years has reflected the growing political consciousness of the younger generation of migrant workers to protect their own rights. Migrants, effectively second class citizens in China, are resentful over all manner of discriminative policies. They have moved from one job to the next in order to receive a decent salary. Due at least partly to their repeated demands, China has recently witnessed a dramatic increase in wages.

More broadly, as the American political scientist Minxin Pei has observed, the Chinese citizenry now routinely challenges the party on a wide range of public policy issues, including environmental protection, public healthcare, food safety, social welfare, social justice, rural land reforms, urban development, religious rights, and ethnic tension. Official statistics report that there are on average 500-plus mass protest incidents each day.

The lack of a legal channel for public participation combined with tight police control has created a vicious circle in which the more fiercely the police suppress social protests, the more violent and widespread the protests become. There is a similar vicious circle in the realm of the media: the more that sensational rumors in social media are suppressed by the government, the more influential they become.

Meanwhile, growing popular nationalistic sentiment, particularly xenophobic views against the Japanese government (and perhaps the United States government as well) over the territorial disputes on the East China Sea, also constitutes a major political challenge for the Xi administration. Contemporary Chinese history shows that the practice of trying to distract the public from domestic problems by playing up foreign problems has often ended with regime change. Xenophobic public sentiments can quickly transform into an anti-government uprising. Yet CPC leaders may be cornered into taking a confrontational approach to foreign policy due to the nationalistic appeal from both the Chinese military and left-wing opinion leaders.

All of these sociopolitical challenges are reinforcing the necessity and urgency for profound democratic political reforms. A democratic system, of course, can neither solve social tensions nor the problem of extreme nationalism. Yet, it does provide a much better chance to channel social conflicts through the legal process and provide open debate in search of a more rational foreign policy.

The sense of urgency was bluntly explained on the eve of the 18th Party Congress by Zhang Lifan, a well-known public intellectual in Beijing: “If the next generation of leaders does not pursue political reforms in their first term, there is no point in doing so in their second term.” In his words, “China should witness either reforms in the first five years, or the end of the CPC in ten years.” Interestingly enough, in speeches given after becoming party general secretary, Xi Jinping also talked about the possible collapse of the CPC if the leadership failed to seize the opportunity to reform and revitalize the party.

Some Chinese liberal intellectuals explicitly regarded Xi as mainland China’s Chiang Ching-kuo. Also a princeling (the son of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek), Chiang Ching-kuo surprised many in the mid-1980s with his bold and historical move to lift the ban on opposition parties and media censorship in Taiwan, initiating the island’s transition from authoritarianism to democracy.

The next few years will likely tell whether Xi will be a transformative leader, or merely a transitional leader.

Cheng Li is director of research and a senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. Li is also director of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. He is the author of several books, most recently, The Road to Zhongnanhai: High-Level Leadership Groups on the Eve of the 18th Party Congress (in Chinese), and The Political Mapping of China’s Tobacco Industry and Anti-Smoking Campaign.

Live, from Beijing!

Over the past decade, China has been aggressively exporting media overseas to cast a Chinese perspective on world affairs and project a positive image of China. In 2001, then-President Jiang Zemin urged the Chinese media to bring the nation’s voice to the world. Soon afterwards, Xu Guangchun, who was deputy head of the Propaganda Ministry and the Minister of State Administration of Radio-Film-TV, launched a “going out” project to change China’s international image, which was, and has remained, for the most part, negative. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) told Chinese media practitioners that it would be unrealistic to expect the West to promote China’s cause and perspective. One of the key players in China’s image-lifting campaign is China Central Television (CCTV), the country’s sole national television network, established in 1978, two years after the end of the disastrous Cultural Revolution.

Television was entirely state-subsidized until 1979 when television commercials were introduced. The subsidy began to decrease over the next several years and in 1984, the state began to fix the size of its subsidy to CCTV, which forced the network to cover the rest of the expenditures by pursuing ad revenue. The network scrambled to become self-reliant, and did so quite successfully, quickly turning a profit. As it was weaned from state subsidy, it became able to return a percentage of its annual revenue to the state. Television stations have since become important revenue generating enterprises to local government and broadcasting bureaus. So the economic interest of state regulators is intricately linked to that of the broadcasters they purport to regulate, which leads to state control and monopoly, the foundation of the so-called China Model.

Though owned and controlled by the Chinese state, CCTV is now financially self-reliant and operationally autonomous. It is a public television but for profit, operating according to market principles; or from a different angle, it is a commercial broadcaster receiving little to no state/public funding albeit beholden to the party-state in the name of the public. The seemingly contradictory logic indicates that the party and the market have apparently worked in unison to transform CCTV from a broadcaster of inward-looking party drudgery into a modern media empire seeking international influence and recognition. For the time being at least, market and politics have converged in their common pursuit of prosperity and stability, essential to maintaining the status quo in China’s political structure, and in the case of CCTV, its domestic monopoly/market dominance.

CCTV’s Monopoly

To better see how CCTV operates, one must understand China’s four-tier television structure, where stations are set up at the national, provincial, county, and city levels. Both national and local regulators operate their own stations and serve audiences within their own administrative boundaries. As a result, television stations, broadcasting bureaus, and governments at the same administrative level are closely linked in economic and political exchange. Local television stations depend on local government to protect their local market. Meanwhile, local government relies on television stations to maintain their political influence and to bring in financial revenue. CCTV is the only broadcaster allowed nationwide coverage, although the arrival of cable and satellite television would later complicate this neat structure.

The central regulator that oversees China Central Television is the State Administration of Radio-Film-TV (SARFT). SARFT is motivated both politically and economically to boost CCTV’s market share. For CCTV to maintain its national monopoly, local cooperation remains the key. To ensure local support, SARFT mandated that local stations must carry CCTV-1’s programs in full, including commercials. SARFT emphasizes that guaranteeing CCTV-1’s national coverage is a political mission, an “undeniable” obligation and responsibility of local broadcasting bureaus and television stations. CCTV is further granted exclusive coverage rights to major national and international events, and the CCP regularly leaks exclusive information to CCTV, making it the go-to source for insight on the party. In addition, CCTV has the exclusive coverage rights to national and international sports events, including the Olympics and the football World Cup, which bring in huge profits. Regional sensibilities, including the usage of local dialects, accounted for part of the appeal of non-CCTV programming. But regulations were issued discouraging programming in nonstandard Mandarin.

As the financial stakes become huge, many local stations defied SARFT’s preferential policies. To crack down on local rebellion, a campaign was launched by the state to recentralize what it saw as a “chaotic” and “disordered” landscape of Chinese television media. It ordered the closing down of unapproved television outlets across the country, merged county-level local stations, and tightened control over program sources, requesting that county stations allocate most of their airtime to transmit central and provincial stations’ programs. But local challengers have persisted, particularly in the satellite sector.

In China, each provincial television station is allowed to operate one satellite channel with signal coverage technologically capable of reaching the entire nation. Yet, because of administrative boundaries and local protectionism, each provincial station must negotiate with other provinces to bring its satellite channel to their local cable networks. Most provincial broadcasters have managed to extend their regional reach via independent satellite and cable distribution deals with other provincial broadcasters. The youth and entertainment oriented Hunan Satellite TV (HSTV), in particular, has become a formidable CCTV challenger in recent years. HSTV’s Super Girls, a singing competition show modeled on American Idol with mobile phone voting, became an overnight rating sensation when it debuted in 2004. Feeling the heat, CCTV launched a campaign to attack HSTV, calling it a rogue broadcaster with vulgar taste.

Super Girls
went off the air in 2008 as the Summer Olympic Games hosted by Beijing preempted everything else. In 2009, HSTV made an attempt to re-launch Super Girls albeit under a different name.Happy Girls, as the program was now called, was slapped with draconian restrictions by SARFT: the show was allowed to last for two months and each episode would air only after 10:30 p.m.; judges had to hold themselves to decorum; publicity revolving around private lives of contestants was banned; text-based and online voting systems were no longer allowed; most astonishing of all, competitors were forbidden from hugging each other or expressing extreme emotions on stage, and fans were forbidden to cheer for contestants in the studio. Stripped of its raw emotions, Happy Girls became a far more subdued version of Super Girls.

Overall, competition threatens CCTV’s monopoly, which some see as encouraging a more open Chinese media sphere. Some influential Chinese media policy makers and professionals with whom I have spoken embrace competition and the market mechanism underlying it.1 One high profile news anchor emphasized that the market mechanism has been a positive counterforce to state control. Commercialization, as he sees it, is a liberating force for Chinese media. Competition brings in program innovation and liberalization, but it also propels a race to the bottom line, where ratings become the only indicator of success and programs of popular taste reign supreme. Thus, many at CCTV consider commercialization and marketization a perilous road, detrimental to the network’s overall program quality and reputation as a torch of China’s high culture. In fact, CCTV’s excessive drive for ratings in the last decade was viewed harshly by many seasoned CCTV practitioners who saw their professional standards compromised in the rush to produce programs of popular appeal.

Broadcasting to the World

As CCTV tried to fend off its domestic challengers, it has aggressively pursued international expansion in recent years. Only two and half decades ago, CCTV carried exclusively domestic news. Yang Weiguang, CCTV’s former president, made Chinese media history on January 28, 1986, when he took the risk of running as the lead story the explosion of the Challenger space-shuttle for that evening’s National News Bulletin, the primetime news program carried by all stations in China. The same year the network launched its English language program, English News, a daily fifteen minute news bulletin translated from the Chinese news the night before.

The idea of projecting a Chinese voice beyond national borders gradually took hold in the 1990s. CCTV eventually established its English channel in 2000. The following year the state launched the “going out” project to export China’s media overseas and to project China’s soft power globally. Chinese media would play in the same global arena as CNN, the BBC, and other big Western media firms. Specific “going out” strategies included broadcasting CCTV-4 (the Chinese-language International Channel) and CCTV-9 (then the English-language International Channel) in important regions around the world. CCTV-International rapidly expanded its foreign language services in the next few years, adding Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Africa channels to its cocktail of foreign language services. CCTV-International emulated the style of CNN and built a 24-hour information assembly line and an open platform where journalists, editors, producers, and news anchors could share a large open space that accelerates information flow and unifies production standards.

In February 2012, a week before an official visit to the United States of Xi Jinping, who would become China’s leader later in the year, CCTV launched its American outpost, CCTV-America, which is the network’s first effort in producing English programming from an overseas base rather than from its Beijing headquarters. CCTV-America’s political panel show The Heat, which is hosted by Mike Walter, a former journalist at USA Today, gave a preview of Xi’s schedule that included an upcoming stopover in Iowa. The program revealed that in 1985, as part of an agricultural research trip, Xi spent a week in Muscatine, Iowa. The segment was carefully construed to highlight China’s contribution to the U.S. economy, as Iowa is the leading soybean producer in the U.S. and a big supplier to China. With juxtapositions of old photos from Xu’s previous visit and interviews with local town people who hosted Xu’s visit, the segment suggests an emotional tie between the Chinese and American people.

CCTV-America’s substantial financial resources brought it other veteran news people from the U.S., UK, and Australia. Among the notables onboard are ex-Bloomberg Television anchor Phillip Yin, former CBS60 Minutes producer Barbara Dury, and the Havana-based veteran BBC correspondent Michael Voss. The veteran Asia journalist Jim Laurie is an executive consultant and Beijing dispatched Ma Jing, a young professional woman with an excellent command of English, as the managing director of CCTV-America. Besides The Heat, the channel’s programming lineup includes Americas Now, a Latin America-focused magazine program, General News, which features North and South American perspectives on current events, and Biz Asia America, a daily global business show covering economic and financial issues in North and South America as well as China and the Asian region.

CCTV-America is highly skewed towards reporting economic and financial news. When it comes to political news, it actively engages in major events elsewhere, except those in China. When it comes to major news about China, the Chinese state broadcaster’s America branch is tightlipped, showing little interest in treating viewers with new revelations about the party-state. It falls short of providing alternative narratives about China, allowing the standard mostly negative narrative in the Western media to go unchallenged. Unlike Qatar’s Al Jazeera, which has managed to be a go-to source for information about the Middle East, CCTV-America has yet to be taken seriously as a credible source about China due in large part to the Chinese government’s control and censorship of state media.

Propaganda or Journalism?

The Chinese central government oversees CCTV via two interlocking systems; the ideological system of the party’s Propaganda Department, which provides guidelines and thought directives on the whole, and the administrative system of the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television that performs the actual daily oversight—including censorship of sensitive content. SARFT coordinates and evaluates the network’s key propaganda efforts, regulates its signal coverage, controls its senior appointments, and decides on its organizational structure as well as all of its programming. Within CCTV itself, the internal leadership duplicates this same organizational structure, with a party committee responsible for ideological control and a senior management team overseeing the station’s daily operation. The memberships of these two groups closely overlap, though the party committee ultimately overrules the management team, which is typical of the organizational structure of the Chinese state-run companies, true to the maxim that ‘the Party controls the State.’ In practice, regulatory policies and ideological guidance are routinely handed down from the Propaganda Department. The party committees within media institutions act as censors to re-enforce guidelines and approve proper programs for broadcasting while censoring inappropriate programming.

As the party becomes more sophisticated in its PR effort, it has loosened its top-down grip; self-censorship by media professionals has now become an effective mode of control. Contradictory policies and frequent political swings contribute to the on-the-job training of a new generation of media professionals who are thoroughly invested in the fine art of intuiting what is permissible. If programs deviate from the socialist core, the producer would be fired and the party official in charge of approving the program would also be fired. The system thus encourages self-censorship, and producers and middle level managers can become even more cautious than the state regulators in determining what could or could not be put on the air. So envelope-pushing within boundaries has become the norm among Chinese media professionals. For instance, the management team at CCTV knows better than to run stories about the New York Times report on Wen Jiabao’s family wealth. There is no need for any explicit bans from the party in this regard. Make no mistake though, that despite relaxation and deregulation, the Chinese party-state still filters media content by censorship. Compulsory censorship has been imposed so that all programs must be approved before broadcasting. The party often tightens its control in anticipation of major political events such as the 18th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China in November 2012 when the latest leadership transition took place.

Despite the levels of control and censorship, CCTV launched several investigative news magazine programs in the 1990s, emulating the American-style investigative magazine format and covering cases of corruption and power abuse. Oriental Horizon, a current affairs program that debuted in 1993, endeared itself to audiences by documenting, for the first time on Chinese television, the “real lives” of ordinary people. Focus began broadcasting in 1994 and emphasized investigative, edgy exposé stories. During its heyday, Focus ranked second only to the National News Bulletin in ratings but its exposure of corruption and power abuse touched a raw nerve. As the show began to threaten CCP’s power base, it was told to tone down and exercise greater caution in topic selection and in the timing and intensity of its criticism. Quotas were issued that the program was permitted to do at most two critical reports per week. Another news magazine program, News Probe—launched in 1996—was explicitly designed to be China’s60 Minutes. News Probe was to differ from Focus’s edgier approach and report stories with a calmer tone yet with equal provocation in its choice of content. But when the show started aggressively pursuing corruption related stories, it too ran into obstacles and had to scale back, which incurred criticism from news watch groups outside China.

Zhang Jie, one of the executive producers, defended News Probe’s softer approach, insisting that his program was making a transition from exposé to “enlightenment,” a traditional Chinese intellectual value that sees journalists as enlightened intellectuals bringing information and ideas to the public in order to supervise and mobilize public opinion and to ultimately influence government policies.2 Chinese journalists are supposed to be independent intellectuals, beholden to their cultured aspirations not political or market directives. As CCTV appears to appease the party and the market, Zhang and his team are far from achieving that goal. Despite the ups and downs and muckraking, watchdog-style journalism has captured the imagination of a new generation of Chinese journalists.

Another instance of control pertains to disaster reporting, which was highly restricted in the past. Domestic disasters of any sort used to be highly-guarded secrets by the authoritarian state in fear of projecting a weak national image. Disaster reporting has gradually become less of a taboo since the 1990s, as the rapid flow of information across national borders makes it difficult for the state to exercise full-scale blockage and alternative information channels have become easier to access by savvy seekers. The attempted cover-up of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003, for instance, turned many Chinese citizens away from state-run media as they sought out alternative news sources from overseas. The Chinese state came to the belated realization that too much information management could turn a natural disaster into a credibility crisis. And a milestone in Chinese disaster reporting came in 2008 when an earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter scale devastated China’s Sichuan province killing an estimated 68,000 people.

CCTV reported news of the earthquake minutes after it struck. The swift reporting and frankness of the coverage were unprecedented and surprised everyone, including Western media, especially in light of the tightly controlled media environment in the run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. That period saw Western media blasting China on the Tibet issue, human rights, and the tainted infant formula scandal—a PR disaster for the Chinese state and its media. The government responded with stricter controls on the media but nonetheless, the coverage of Sichuan earthquake was in notable contrast to the habitual cover-ups of the past.

Several factors contributed to CCTV’s swift actions. First, the scale of the earthquake made it impossible for CCTV to not respond—this was not some mysterious disease that could easily be covered up. Also, CCTV was mindful of the competition from a formidable new challenger—the Internet, which has been a positive force in compelling China to open up. Online media have made it much more difficult for Chinese authorities to shut out undesirable news or keep unwelcome news out of the traditional media. Keeping the state media from reporting certain news items when millions of people could access such news online was undermining China’s traditional media by driving people further towards the Internet for their information.

Yet, CCTV’s earthquake coverage was not the result of a sudden change in the state’s regulatory policy. On the contrary, the state was so shocked by the sudden quake that it failed to come up with immediate directives, thereby creating a window of opportunity for journalists at CCTV who strived to provide reputable and respectable news coverage by performing their journalistic duties.  The state soon recovered from its initial disorientation and issued an order to bar news organizations other than CCTV and the official Xinhua news agency from sending reporters to the disaster zone. That gave CCTV an exclusive opportunity in its news coverage, as local news agencies were requested to use only information released by the two state-sanctioned news organizations. Thus, for the next three to four days, CCTV faced little competition and its news crews reported freely the devastating impact of the earthquake. In its initial phase, the open and free coverage on CCTV looked much like the usual coverage in Western media. Some one billion people tuned in to CCTV’s quake coverage between May 12 and May 21. Western media outlets too made extensive use of CCTV reports. It was a redemptive moment for a network long suffering from derision and distrust. It also demonstrated that, when free to follow their professional instincts, the Chinese media professionals were ready and able to work to international standards.

For a moment, the Chinese media appeared to have broken free of their propaganda mandate. The euphoria proved to be short-lived however. On May 17, the propaganda chief Li Changchun paid CCTV a visit, praising and encouraging positive coverage. On the night of Li’s visit, the National News Bulletinadded a new segment, “Heroes in the Disaster.” The free-flowing, broad-ranging early coverage was changed to elaborate narratives about government-led disaster relief efforts. Two weeks later, Li visited reporters in the earthquake zone to encourage more coverage of state-led efforts, and CCTV reverted to its customary mouthpiece mode. Accounts of the deaths of thousands of school children as a result of shoddy school construction went viral on the Internet but appeared nowhere on CCTV. Though mentioning the collapse of school buildings, CCTV avoided covering the topic from the angle of corruption, and any images of death and despair and online complaints and appeals for punitive measures were carefully filtered out. News Probe did produce a story about collapsed school buildings, but the episode never made it to television screens.

Despite its mixed performance, CCTV’s earthquake reporting did help repair its tarnished image. Instead of resulting in instability and turmoil, the relative free coverage of the earthquake promoted national cohesion and international praise. The state saw that policies promoting “the public’s right to know” could project to the international community the image of a respectable press and a responsible and responsive state. Chinese media later reflected upon the benefits of a more relaxed media environment in projecting a credible voice for guiding public opinions.

CCTV and the China Model

Though financially independent and operationally autonomous, CCTV continues to be encumbered with the burden of political water-carrying. In return, it is guaranteed domestic market dominance. To the extent that political and economic interests intertwine in sustaining CCTV’s monopolistic practice, the network becomes a microcosm of the China Model. China has cherry picked among market mechanisms, Confucian ideas, and socialist principles to pursue a hybrid course of development that has so far kept the one-party state entrenched and the masses mostly satisfied with their improving living standards and the invigorating spectacle of China’s rise in the world. Even the anti-communist crusader George Soros marveled at China’s spectacular economic performance and praised China for having a better functioning government than the United States.3

Better functioning indeed as the market and politics have converged in their common pursuit of prosperity and stability to essentially maintain China’s current political structure of one-party rule. But how far can this model carry China? Corruption as a result of inbreeding between money and power is not just rampant, but normalized and acknowledged by many as unavoidable. The shame associated with corruption is replaced by an eagerness to partake, to be part of the privileged few with means to corruption. As one kindergarten girl in China told a reporter in 2009, when asked what she would like to be when she grew up, “I would like to be a corrupt official.”4 This leads to another huge problem facing China, the obscene wealth gap between the rich and the poor that threatens to destabilize Chinese society. The Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, was singled out by the New York Timesfor his family’s enormous amount of wealth, but he is certainly not alone. Wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the politically powerful while political power is handed down within the established political dynasties.

Success is now inherited, and that risks stifling the social mobility that created the vibrant economic growth and cultural flourishing of the last decade. Leaving behind the totalitarian state of Mao’s era, China glided through a relatively open phase with rapid economic growth and political exploration only to wind up with an authoritarian and plutocratic rule anchored on “extractive economic institutions,” to borrow a term from Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson.5 As opposed to inclusive economic institutions that benefit all, the term extractive economic institution refers to a system that is designed and maintained by the politically powerful elite to extract resources from the rest of society. The sustainability of an extractive model, for CCTV and for China at large, is questionable.

  1. See interviews in Ying Zhu, Two Billion Eyes: The Story of China Central Television (New York, New Press, 2012)
  2. Ying Zhu, Two Billion Eyes, 3.
  3. Meredith Jessup, “Soros: Communist China Has ‘Better Functioning Government’ than the U.S.,” The Blaze (November 16, 2010),
  4. Joshua Keating, “I Want to Be a Corrupt Official When I Grow Up!” (September 10, 2009). Retrieved October 16, 2012 from
  5. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (New York, Crown Business, 2012).

Ying Zhu is a professor of media culture at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. She co-produced the 2012 documentary, China: From Cartier to Confucius, which premièred at the Netherlands Film Festival. She is the author of Television in Post-Reform China: Serial Drama, Confucian Leadership, and Global Television Market. Her most recent book is Two Billion Eyes: The Story of China Central Television.

A Long March into Space

In the mid-1980s China began to open its theretofore closed space program internationally, offering commercial launches and seeking opportunities for cooperative programs, even though it still had a steep learning curve to climb in terms of its capabilities. China already had the foundations of a launch vehicle family, the Long March (LM), itself based on the Dong Feng ballistic missile first launched in 1964. Long March launched China’s satellite, East is Red, in 1970 but the political extremism of the Cultural Revolution between 1966−1976 devastated the scientific and engineering communities, dramatically slowing satellite and launcher development.

Qian Xuesen, considered the father of the Chinese space program, was actually educated in America and employed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory before being caught up in McCarthyism. He was deported in 1955 and thereafter, was unsurprisingly bereft of warm feelings toward the United States. While Qian provided the backbone of rebuilding the Chinese space program, he and others suffered harsh treatment—some were even killed or committed suicide—by the cultural revolutionaries who targeted mainly intellectuals.1 Scientists and engineers had to be marshaled and labs reconstructed before China could even attempt to catch up with, or at least lessen the distance between it and other spacefaring nations, such as the United States, the then Soviet Union, Europe, and even Japan. Deng Xiaoping and other Chinese leaders recognized it was important to do so because space equated with technology, technology required industrialization, and industrialization brought economic development as well as international prestige, which translated into geostrategic influence.

China’s timing for re-entering the global space community was propitious. In the 1980s, the space shuttle was the centerpiece of U.S. space efforts; originally intended as a transportation system to a space station, it emerged as an expensive trucking service into orbit after the space station was placed on indefinite hold by the Nixon administration. The Soviet Union was in domestic turmoil and economic free-fall, partially due to trying to keep up with the U.S. military’s Strategic Defense Initiative (dubbed “Star Wars”). The Europeans and Japanese, then as today, had plans for space activity but found it difficult to follow through, largely due to bureaucratic politics and domestic priorities for government funding. Political will in these early front-runners in space was weak or waning.

China, on the other hand, with centralized planning not responsible to fickle politicians or electorates, initiated ambitious human spaceflight and robotic lunar exploration plans in the 1990s that are reaching fruition today. Consequently, as of 2013, China can be said to have “caught up to” or even surpassed other early front-runners in space by some definitions, like current human spaceflight activity. In other areas, however, China is still playing catch-up, hindered by its own domestic foibles and, more recently, hints of the same tentative political will that plagues other countries. Therefore, it is important to separate the fact of its achievements from the fiction often reported by the media, and to understand the problems that make the delineation of future Chinese intentions difficult at best.

The Chinese Moon Goddess

Chinese space activities—all national space activities—are inherently competitive for two related reasons: geopolitics and dual-use technology. Together, these factors create the perfect environment for what is known as a security dilemma, where countries pursue options (often involving technology) which ultimately are not in their best interests because they are seen as provocative to other countries.  These other countries may respond in kind, leading to a spiraling of capabilities, and increased risk. Nuclear weapons are a good example. The challenge for spacefaring nations is to resist the sometimes-powerful temptations to pursue activities that will ultimately lead to such a security dilemma. But military threat calculations are largely based on capability, rather than intent, and dual-use space technology clearly offers capabilities valuable to militaries. That can render questions of “intent” irrelevant in some circles.

China is pursuing development of a full range of satellite capabilities—including communications, navigation, and reconnaissance—and is clearly making significant progress. China’s development of its own satellite navigation system, Beidou (also known as Compass), began operational testing in 2012, and is expected to provide global coverage by 2020 through a constellation of thirty-five satellites. It also has plans for increased earth observation capabilities, including new polar and geostationary weather satellites, high-resolution imaging satellites, radar satellites, and microsatellites for a variety of purposes—most to be developed solely by Chinese manufacturers. Of the just over one thousand satellites currently in orbit, America, Russia, and China own the most: the U.S. has 443, Russia 110, and China 93.2

China is also expanding its launch capabilities. The Chinese Long March 3B is currently its most powerful rocket in use, capable of lifting approximately eight tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The LM-5, currently in development, will more than triple that capability to carry 25 tons to LEO. Development however, has been plagued by repeated delays, with 2014 the latest target date given for its maiden voyage. Besides its three remote launch sites currently in use, China is also building a new launch site on Hainan Island to accommodate the LM-5.

China’s most publicized space activities are those related to the manned Shenzhou and the robotic Chang’e programs. Originally known simply as Project 921, the Shenzhou program was approved as a three-step plan for human spaceflight in 1992. China has been relatively open about it, and has stuck to the plan: send humans into orbit, demonstrate advanced capabilities through a small laboratory (the Tiangong program), and finally, build a large space station. The prototype Tiangong-1 has been and will be used to conduct experiments in conjunction with the Shenzhou 8−10 spacecrafts, with Shenzhou 10 currently scheduled for launch in June 2013. That will be followed by the launch of Taingong-2 (2013−14) and Tiangong-3 (2014−16). The Tiangong spacecrafts are not space stations intended for long-term use, or to be permanently manned, but form the basis for a small laboratory to test technologies similar to those tested by the United States during the Gemini program, including rendezvous, docking, and life support. Tiangong is likely to host manned missions later in its evolution.3 At 8.5 tons, Tiangong is smaller than both Skylab (about 80 tons), and the 30-ton space station China has always planned as the culmination of its 1992 three-step plan.

Launch of the larger space station requires the availability of the LM-5. If China is able to meet an anticipated 2020 date-of-operation for its space station, that will be about the same time the currently orbiting U.S.-led International Space Station (ISS) is de-orbited, making the Chinese version the de facto replacement. There is a certain irony in that, as China had long wanted to participate in the ISS program, but was stymied by the U.S. from doing so; first with the rationale that China had little to contribute as a partner, and later by objections from blustering U.S. politicians of the inclusion of a non-democratic nation in a program symbolizing an “international family of spacefaring nations.”

China is executing the robust Shenzhou human spaceflight program at a pace simultaneously incremental and accelerated: incremental in its timeline milestones and accelerated in its milestone achievements. For example, between Yang Liwei’s first-ever manned flight in 2003 and Zhai Zhigang’s spacewalk in 2008 there was only one other Shenzhou program flight. Compare that to the number of flights that occurred during the Mercury and Gemini programs, and one finds a much higher number of U.S. launches, with smaller steps taken by each. Shenzhou 9, launched in June 2012, included China’s first female taikonaut, Liu Yang.

Chang’e is the mythical Chinese moon goddess for whom the robotic Chinese lunar program is named. Chang’e 1 was launched in 2007 and operated until 2009, and demonstrated China’s capability both to put satellites into lunar orbit and to return imagery. Chang’e 2 was launched in 2010. After flying in a closer-to-the-surface lunar orbit and providing imagery with a high resolution camera—pictures essential for an anticipated soft-landing Chang’e 3 mission in 2013—Chang’e 2 left lunar orbit for the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian Point, to test Chinese tracking and control capabilities. Prior to China, only the United States and the European Space Agency had visited L2. Chang’e 2 then set out for an extended mission to asteroid 4179 Toutatis. Chang’e 3 will be the first soft lunar landing since a Soviet expedition in 1976. Chang’e 3 and 4 are precursors for an intended Chang’e 5 lunar sample return, though that mission also requires use of the still-in-development LM-5.

The complex structure and opaque nature of the Chinese Communist government system and the behemoth bureaucracy that implements government decisions often makes Western analysis of Chinese decision-making a difficult challenge. It is known, however, that while civilian politicians through the state council make decisions about what space programs China will carry out, the military has a significant role in program execution. While partly a function of the People’s Liberation Army having traditionally been entrusted with execution of programs considered of important national interest, the military value of the space technology being developed is key as well.

China is clearly expanding its military space capabilities in areas from command and control and meteorology, which have proved critical in enhancing terrestrial force effectiveness, to space weapons. In 2007, China conducted an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons test, destroying one of its own defunct weather satellites using a direct ascent, kinetic-kill vehicle. Impact resulted in more than 3,000 pieces of space debris being created. The debris will take years to dissipate and in the meantime threatens potentially catastrophic damage if it collides with active spacecraft, including the ISS.

That test confirmed for many countries that space is a congested, contested, and competitive environment, for which they must prepare. Events that followed—the United States conducting Operation Burnt Frost in 2008 to destroy one of its own malfunctioning satellites using missile defense technology, the Chinese “missile defense” test in 2010, and India’s 2011 test of missile technology potentially useful to the development of ASAT capability—are indicators of the kind of security dilemma spiral that can happen. While each of those activities was conducted in ways to minimize debris issues, the potential threat to the space environment in non-test circumstances is clear. If there was any upside to the 2007 Chinese test, it was the frightening realization by all countries of the fragility of the space environment. Mankind’s dependence on space assets—including through GPS (one of only two global utilities, along with the Internet) communications, meteorology and remote sensing—makes it in everyone’s best interest to cooperate to maintain that environment.

China has now recognized this need to sustain the space environment and cooperated on relevant issues, particularly the space debris issue. Given that China was scheduled to host an international meeting on the issue only days after its 2007 ASAT test that significantly worsened space debris, and resulted in China cancelling the meeting out of embarrassment, some analysts see its current cooperation as somewhat hypocritical. At the very least there is a certain irony in that the U.S. military, which has the most sophisticated tracking abilities, has had to warn China of potential collisions between its own space junk and its own satellites.

A New Space Race?

Though China has a robust exploration space program underway, what has not been officially announced is a manned lunar mission. Individuals in China sometimes speak about manned lunar landings as a given (sometimes just to chafe and spin-up U.S. officials), but that is not the case. Outspoken space advocate Ouyang Ziyuan, a geologist and chief lunar scientist for Chang’e, for example, has long and very publicly endorsed a manned lunar mission—his comments are often mistaken by Western media as official government policy. He also hints at exploration of the moon for Helium-3, a potential fuel for a fusion reactor. Mining Helium-3 as an economic rationale for lunar exploration once made its way through Washington circles as well—though no fusion reactor exists where it could be used. This rationalization can signal efforts by scientists to quell political skepticism.

It has only been in recent years that a manned lunar mission has been seriously discussed in China, first within the space community and then among decision-makers. Chinese officials prudently first focused on testing requisite capabilities through the manned Shenzhou and robotic Chang’e programs. While there is certainly enthusiasm among some groups, there is also skepticism—just as there was in the United States regarding the Apollo program—among some scientists and politicians that such a program would require too much focused funding in one scientific area, at the expense of others. Still, Chinese leaders are aware that China has reaped significant regional—and global—geostrategic benefits, including the demonstration of technical prowess and attracting students to science and engineering programs, as well as dual-use military capabilities, from its space efforts.

Even with the planned upgrades and expansion, however, China has not approached or surpassed U.S. technical competence in space across the board—another claim often made by politicians and found in the media. Clearly, however, China is currently more active in exploration than the United States, while the United States transitions to a more public-private approach to space. Contrary to what is often reported, however, there is no space race between the United States and China.

The George W. Bush administration largely ignored China’s human spaceflight accomplishments, though some members of Congress used them to try to generate a new lunar race (along with the requisite funding for NASA to execute its return-to-the-moon Constellation program). Government funding offered for Constellation, however, was nowhere near what was needed to actually implement the program in a timely, effective manner, but rather only enough to keep it alive. When President Barack Obama was left to finally pull the plug on Constellation, his realistic options were few, if any. Now, with President Obama’s 2010 National Space Policy transitioning the U.S. space program into one of more private sector involvement in low Earth orbit activities so NASA can focus on new destinations, China is racing only itself—or maybe India—to the moon, where the United States already triumphantly went more than forty years ago.

The Obama administration has been more open to the possibility of cooperative space activity with China than was the Bush administration. Nevertheless, for reasons including the belief that China will find a valuable military reason for humans in space (something neither the United States nor the Soviet Union was able to do), allegations of spying and even human rights, some members of Congress, such as Dana Rohrabacher and Frank Wolf, have been adamantly against any such cooperation.  Wolf even inserted language into the NASA funding legislation prohibiting bilateral NASA cooperation, or even communication with, China.

Though both India and China deny an Asian techno-nationalist race, where technology becomes symbolic of national power (toward regional and global influence), actions sometimes speak louder than words. India once proudly proclaimed it was interested in space only in ways that would benefit the Indian people, like communications, weather satellites, and remote sensing. More recently, however, India has acquired plans for space that are far more expansive than directly relevant to the Indian people.4 The Indian space program now includes human spaceflight in its plans, as well as the development of significant military space capabilities, including those that could potentially be used as space weapons.

The term Shashou Jian, translated as Assassin’s Mace, often finds its way into analyses of Chinese space ambitions. The term is used in ancient Chinese strategy to reference use of an asymmetric weapon to rapidly and decisively defeat an enemy who relies on conventional strengths. Today, the connotation is the development of a new technology to defeat an enemy. With space technology so heavily dual-use, the idea that China could develop a Death Star or some such fantastical super weapon, is easy to suggest yet is based on little evidence. (Ironically, President Obama was recently presented with a citizen’s petition to have the U.S. build a Death Star. The White House rejected the proposal.) The same, however, is true for any country. Recent U.S. interest in 3D printing to assemble replacement parts and tools for the ISS5could certainly be seen differently by other countries: as the U.S. having the potential to create crude ASATs in space, for example. While the possibility of any country developing an Assassin’s Mace exists—and perhaps because it does so—extra care must be taken to minimize misunderstandings, which could lead to catastrophic events in space that have the potential to threaten space assets valuable to all people in all nations.

Code of Conduct

China is a country of such size and diversity that analysts can find evidence for any hypothesis they seek to prove. Consequently, some analysts see virtually all Chinese space activities as nefarious. Others argue that the Chinese space program is inherently competitive, but with cooperation incorporated as well. (There is a term sometimes used called “coopetition” which, while facile, does convey a likely accurate portrayal of the situation.) Further, Chinese intentions are likely neither entirely benign, nor totally nefarious.

Where China is concerned, because of the dual-use nature of space technology, largely everything it does in space can be—and has been by some analysts—considered a threat, especially in the United States. It is certainly appropriate that U.S. analysts, especially military analysts, consider worst-case scenarios, but political prudence and economic necessity demand careful and thorough analysis, to differentiate wild speculation from valid conclusions. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case.6

The importance of recognizing the frequency with which misperception, miscommunication, and misinterpretation occur between the U.S. and China (and other countries as well perhaps) cannot be overstated. Recently, a short piece on the military affairs website AOL Defense looked at the poor sources used by some U.S. analysts to support claims about the development and testing of a Chinese spaceplane7—the point being that while activity is certain, it is not useful to hype threats. This only adds to the security dilemma problem. The problem is that when everything a country does is considered a threat, the real threats may not be adequately addressed.

Realistically, analyses of the intentions of any country are considered through a nationalistic filter of another country, a filter of geopolitical considerations. Therefore, consideration of the geopolitical relationship between the U.S. and China is useful. The U.S. “pivot to Asia” or “rebalancing” policy that redirects U.S. strategic attention from the Middle East to Asia has resulted in considerable consternation in China. Concerning space specifically, restrictions imposed by Congress on the NASA budget prohibit bilateral interactions of any kind with China—after the Obama administration indicated interest in increased interactions—and baffle the Chinese regarding who makes U.S. policy, and what it is.

On the other hand, Chinese military modernization, seen as expansive and alarming in the U.S. and Asia, generates concerns. Additionally, the techno-nationalist rewards China has garnered can generate regional suspicion, if not rivalry. That is perhaps most evidenced in India’s recent expansion of space goals into heretofore-ignored areas.

It also appears that Japan is going to challenge the “soft power” influence China has garnered from its space program with developing countries, by supporting and funding third party efforts. Initiatives through the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF)8, an eclectic group of thirty-five countries (and even more international organizations) ranging from China, Japan and Myanmar, to Israel, Germany, Canada, and Kazakhstan, serve as an opportunity for Japan to assist developing countries. China has coveted the idea of being the leader of space initiatives in developing countries.

Also on the horizon for consideration is China’s potential perspective on a draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities (CoC), initiated by the European Union in 2008 and conceptually supported by the United States in 2012. Several points can be drawn from that issue regarding apparent Chinese positions about space that are relevant to the future.

China has consistently stated a policy of using outer space for peaceful purposes and opposing weaponization or any arms race in outer space. With Russia, China submitted a draft treaty in 2008 on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT) at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. China clearly prefers legally binding agreements to address multilateral policy questions. The European CoC, however, is part of a “soft law” trend, using Transparency and Confidence Building Measures (TCBM) to deal with threats such as misperceptions and miscommunications that could heighten tensions and lead to escalation—without a legally binding agreement that might be impossible for some countries (such as the United States) to ratify due to domestic politics. Any TCBM that will aid in abetting the many misunderstandings already discussed and those likely in the future will be useful—and China appears to recognize this.

The voluntary nature of the CoC has been cited by Lu Jiqian, professor at China University of Political Science and Law, as a “big obstacle” for China.9 But although China favors a legally binding treaty, Chinese representative Wang Qun stated at the UN that TCBMs are not at odds “with efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space, and such TCBMs are useful supplements to legal instruments.”10 Chinese analyst Jinyuan Su from Xi’an Jiaotong University has suggested that substantive differences between a treaty approach and a CoC approach focus on the failure to ban ground-based ASAT, a lack of a verification regime in the treaty, and the failure to constrain space-to-Earth weapons, and potentially make the CoC unacceptable to China (and perhaps other states).11 China has also made it clear that it won’t agree to any arrangements that will potentially affect its development in the military space domain, a view also likely shared by other spacefaring nations as well. Here is where misunderstandings may arise over dual-use technology and sovereignty to develop capabilities.

Meanwhile, China is forging ahead with space program expansion.12 A massive new factory in Tianjin, a port city not far from Beijing, will be completed around August 2013, and begin operations later in the year.  Floor space of the facility is estimated at about 100,000 square meters, or 1.08 million square feet, big enough to allow for product construction and testing.

The main products to be produced in the facility are modules for China’s space station—the flagship of its currently approved human spaceflight program—and powerful reconnaissance satellites, undoubtedly for military use. Tianjin facility officials say the facility will be capable of producing six to eight large spacecraft each year. These are the space station modules that require the Long March 5 for launch. The location of the facility may be for ease of transporting the module to the new launch facility on Hainan Island.

Representatives of the China’s General Armaments Department, responsible for military satellites (among other areas of spacecraft development, including the anti-satellites weapon developed in 2007), were present at the groundbreaking, evidencing military involvement in the facility. China clearly intends to expand both its overall number of satellites in orbit and the types of satellites. By 2020, China will likely have about 200 satellites in orbit, or about 20 percent of the total. Whether for civilian or military use, or both, remains to be seen. In any event, more spacecraft in orbit raises the potential for collisions, incidents or misunderstanding regarding intent in general, further raising the importance transparency of actions, and a Code of Conduct.

Politically, however, issues of domestic politics must also be considered regarding the potential for China to support a Code of Conduct. Little substantive decision-making can be accomplished on controversial policy issues during periods of political transition in any country, which is currently occurring in China. Initially, it was suggested that China (like India) was not supportive of a CoC because it felt excluded from initial negotiations. However, it has been mostly Indian analysts rather than Chinese analysts suggesting this view.13 China seems to be closely studying the costs and benefits of a “soft law” approach to the multitude of issues (space debris high among them) related to the sustainability of the space environment and it has not ruled out that approach. Part of what China will likely be looking at is whether support for a CoC will weaken or even nullify the PPWT, and with it, geopolitical advantages garnered from co-sponsoring a treaty on a subject of concern to a great many nations—and which the U.S. has consistently blocked. Politics and diplomatic strategy is a many sided prism where gain in one area may have to be weighed against losses in another.

Whether China will lean toward the promotion of cooperation or competition in the future will be known by its adherence to best practices—in other words, actions will speak louder than words. China has shown that it is a spacefaring nation in for the long haul. Its exploration programs will continue and potentially expand to include a manned lunar mission. And its military capabilities in space will expand as part of a general military modernization. For China to continue to reap benefits from space—both in the military and exploration realms—it will have to join with other nations to protect the sustainability of the space environment. That self-interest gives cause for optimism.

The views expressed in this essay are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of the U.S. government, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

  1. For a complete history of early Chinese space efforts see: Gregory Kulacki and Jeffrey G. Lewis, A Place for One’s Mat: China’s Space Program, 1956− The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2009.
  2. Union of Concerned Scientists’ Satellite Database.
  3. See: Amy Klamper, “Official Details 11-year Path to Developing China’s Own Space Station,”Space News, April 14, 2010.
  4. Joan Johnson-Freese, “The U.S.-India Space Partnership: Who Gets What?” World Politics Review, 2011.
  5. Rachael King, “3D Printing Coming to Manufacturing Space—and Outer Space,” Bloomberg Business Week, January 9, 2012.
  6. See, for example, Gregory Kulacki, “Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Technology in Chinese Open-Source Publications,” Union of Concerned Scientists, 2009.; Gregory Kulacki and Joan Johnson-Freese, “Memo to U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission,” Union of Concerned Scientists, 2008.
  7. Joan Johnson-Freese and Gregory Kulacki, “Chinese Spaceplane: Chimera or Object Lesson in Threat Analysis,” AOL Defense, September 27, 2012.
  9. Li Juqian, “The Future of the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities: From Mission Impossible to Mission Sustainable?” in Decoding the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, ed. Ajey Lele (Pentagon Press, 2012), 120
  10. Xinhua, “China Calls for Viable Plan for Complete Nuclear Disarmament,”, October 8, 2011.
  11. Jinyuan Su, “How Far is China from the European Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities,”e-International Relations, July 30, 2012.
  12. Bradley Perrett, “Chinese Factory to Build Outsize Spacecraft,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, January 28, 2013.
  13. Ajey Lele, “Space Code of Conduct: The Challenges Ahead,” The Space Review, July 16, 2012.; Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, “Asia and a Space Code,” The Diplomat, January 4, 2012.

Joan Johnson-Freese is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. She is the author of numerous books on space programs, most recently, ofHeavenly Ambitions: America’s Quest to Dominate Space.

Unhappy Neighbors

Speaking to diplomats, businessmen and journalists at the British Foreign Office in November, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia emphasized the need for “norms and principles” in resolving disputes in the South China Sea. Why did President Yudhoyono, who was spending a week in London at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II as the first leader to visit Britain during the year of her Diamond Jubilee, feel that he had to bring up the South China Sea disputes at such a time?

After a member of the audience asked what Indonesia, the leading nation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could do if China did not share his views, President Yudhoyono recalled what he had said to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at a summit conference in Bali and again to Chinese President Hu Jintao at a meeting in Beijing: without forward movement on a Code of Conduct (CoC) for the South China Sea, the whole region could “easily become a flashpoint.” He added that the two Chinese leaders had concurred with his assessment.

President Yudhoyono added, however, that he had become quite concerned after ASEAN foreign ministers failed to reach a CoC agreement at a meeting in Cambodia in July 2012. He did not mention the role played by China in getting the Cambodian government to sabotage the pact. He only said that since then, Indonesia has done its utmost to bring about a consensus among ASEAN nations on the issue. He also did not mention the fact that at an international conference on “Peace and Stability in the South China Sea and the Asia Pacific Region” held in Jakarta in September, most of the participants expressed pessimism as long as China continued to exert military and economic power in area within the U-shape line demarcating its self-declared zone of sovereignty.

The U-Shape Line

What is the U-shape line and why is it seen as such a threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea area and the Asia Pacific Region?

On May 7, 2009, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) officially submitted—in two separate letters—to the secretary general of the United Nations a map with a nine-dotted, U-shape line with the following identical words: “China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters, and enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters as well as the seabed and subsoil thereof.”

This was the first time China sent the map, without any coordinates, to an intergovernmental body, principally in response to the Vietnamese-Malayan joint submission and Vietnamese individual submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) of the United Nations. Under the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the littoral states of Southeast Asia are entitled to an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in waters up to 200 nautical miles from their coastlines. In order for coastal states to expand the outer limit up to 350 nautical miles, they have to obtain approval from the CLCS.

The origin of the U-shape line can be traced to a map published by the Department of the Interior of the Republic of China (ROC) in 1946. The map included a U-shape line consisting of eleven intermittent dashes enclosing most of the South China Sea, supposedly because Chinese had discovered the area during the Han Dynasty. Even though the dashes in the Gulf of Tonkin were erased from the map presented to the UN in 2009, partly because a bilateral agreement between China and Vietnam on the demarcation of the area had been reached, the U-shape in the latest map still cut deeply into the EEZs of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei.

Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines responded with their own notes to the CLCS to reject China’s claim and its map. Vietnam’s note maintained that China’s claim as represented by the U-shape line “has no legal, historical, or factual basis, therefore is null and void.” Indonesia’s note said that the map “clearly lacks international legal basis” and is tantamount to upsetting the UNCLOS. The Philippines’ note said that China’s claim to most of the South China Sea “would have no basis under international law, specifically UNCLOS.”

Under UNCLOS, the South China Sea is divided into three areas:

—The 200 nautical mile EEZs stretching out from the coastal lines of Vietnam, Chinese Hainan Island/Province, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei.

—The islands, islets, rocks, and reefs in the Paracels and the Spratlys. According to Article 121 of UNCLOS: “Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.” And islands cannot have maritime space beyond twelve nautical miles.

—The international waters area outside of the EEZs, the Paracels, and the Spratlys. Many of the islands, islets, rocks, and reefs in the Spratlys are actually situated inside the EEZs of the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

In 1974, China used force to take over the entire Paracels, which at that time was under the administration of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), killing at least fifty-three Vietnamese sailors. Again, in 1988, China took possession of the Johnson Reef in the Spratlys from the Vietnamese. Chinese gunboats sank Vietnamese transport ships supporting a landing party of Vietnamese soldiers, killing sixty-four Vietnamese soldiers and injuring many others. In 1995, China also took over the Mischief Reef, which is 150 miles west of the Palawan, the Philippines’s nearest land mass, and proceeded immediately with the construction of military structures on the reef.

It is seemingly based on these and other occupations that China claims “indisputable” sovereignty over all the island groupings in the South China Sea and uses them to justify attempts to control maritime space 200 nautical miles beyond them. For example, in response to an official protest by the Philippines following China’s assertive activities in the region, especially in the Spratlys (called the Nansha Islands by China), China sent a note to the United Nations on April 14, 2011, that asserted: “China’s Nansha Islands is fully entitled to Territorial Sea, Exclusive Economic Zones, and Continental Shelf.”

In June 2012, China’s State Council announced the establishment of the City of Sansha (Three Sands), a prefectural-level city to be headquartered on Woody Island in the disputed Paracels, to directly administer “the Xisha, Nansha, Zhongsha Islands and their adjacent islets and waters.” Xisha (Western Sands), Nansha (Southern Sands), and Zhongsha (Middle Sands) are Chinese names of three disputed archipelagos—otherwise known as the Paracels, the Spratlys, and the Macclesfield Banks—respectively. On July 24, 2012, Sansha officially announced that it had established a prefectural government; and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) also said that it would soon establish a military garrison there to serve as the command headquarters for military units operating in the South China Sea area. The headquarters of China’s Southern Fleet—the most powerful of China’s three naval fleets—and China’s entire marine force with some 20,000 soldiers, are presently stationed on Hainan Island, China’s southernmost province.

Many countries in Southeast Asia—among them the Philippines and Vietnam—protested China’s provocative actions, especially the establishment of the new military garrison. In August, the U.S. State Department issued a statement saying that the move risked raising tensions and was “counter to collaborative diplomatic efforts to resolve differences.” On the same day, the Chinese foreign ministry called in a senior U.S. diplomat to protest the State Department’s remarks. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang also issued a statement, which repeated China’s contention that it has absolute sovereignty over the sea and islands in the South China Sea, and so has the right to set up a city to administer the region. In September, the Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, declared flatly during a four-hour appearance with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square that “China has sovereignty over the islands of the South China Sea and the adjacent waters. There is plentiful historical and jurisprudential evidence for that.”

Even if China could rightfully claim sovereignty over the disputed islands in the South China Sea and exclusive zones as well as continental shelf rights around them, this would still not justify the U-shape line given that it cuts deeply into the EEZs and undisputed territories of other countries. Thus, China’s actions raise the question of whether its real intention is to turn undisputed territories into disputed ones in order to flex its muscles and force other countries to yield to its demands, and not only in the South China Sea but also in other domains.

In 2011, for example, Chinese ships twice cut the cables of oil exploration vessels well within Vietnam’s EEZ and drove off an oil exploration vessel in Philippine waters. Then in late June 2012 China’s National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) issued nine exploration leases in blocks that fall entirely within Vietnam’s EEZ. CNOOC executives and officials at China’s Ministry of Land and Resources have given estimates that there are approximately 40 billion tons of oil equivalent in the South China Sea, most of which is believed to be natural gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, one Chinese estimate puts the sea’s gas reserves at 2,000 trillion cubic feet. That would be enough to meet China’s gas needs for more than 400 years based on 2011 consumption levels. According to a May 2012 statement by Zhong Hua, CNOOC chief financial officer, the company aims to produce 500 million barrels of oil equivalent a day from the deepwater of the South China Sea by 2020—up from nothing today.

Oil is but one factor in China’s strategy of roiling the troubled waters. Since 2009, China has also enforced an annual unilateral fishing ban in the South China Sea, confiscating fishing boats from other countries—mostly from Vietnam—as well as arresting and injuring many fishermen. In April 2012, when the Philippine navy prepared to arrest Chinese fishermen who were operating illegally in the Scarborough Shoal, China Marine Surveillance (CMS) vessels arrived on the scene and blocked the entrance to the lagoon thus preventing the arrest of the Chinese illegal fishing boats. During a two-month stand-off, China dispatched nearly one hundred fishing craft to occupy the shoal. In June, the Philippines announced that an agreement had been reached with China for a mutual withdrawal of ships. Later, however, Chinese ships returned and have maintained effective control of the shoal and the waters around it ever since. In addition to the occupation of the shoal, China also applied economic sanctions on the Philippines by banning the import of bananas and cancelling tourist charter flights.

China and Vietnam

For Vietnam, pressures from China have been multi-faceted and more heavy-handed than those applied on the Philippines and other countries in the region. And because of historical, ideological, geopolitical, economic, and cultural considerations, reactions from Vietnam have also been much more circumscribed compared to those from the Philippines. Here it is useful to consider some of the key periods in the history of Chinese-Vietnamese relations since the establishment of the Chinese Communist regime in 1949.

The Vietnamese resistance to the French colonial re-conquest of Vietnam after the Second World War had consistently been interpreted by the U.S. State Department as a case of “nationalist groundswell” under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh. But after the Communist victory in China, it came to be seen by top U.S. leaders as a Communist threat that had to be destroyed. Secretary of State Dean Acheson commented: “The question of whether Ho is as much a nationalist as a Communist is irrelevant.” Consequently, Acheson argued in 1949 that “no effort should be spared” to assure the success of a pro-French Vietnamese government. On the eve of the Korean War in March 1950, Acheson observed that French military success “depends, in the end, on overcoming [the] opposition of indigenous population” and that the U.S. must help the French protect Indochina from communist encroachment. Thereafter, the United States supplied the French with some 80 percent of the total cost of its colonial re-conquest.

In late 1950, Chinese economic and military aid also began to enter Vietnam. Though much more limited in scope than U.S. support for France, Chinese aid enabled China to increasingly exert influence and dictate demands on the anti-colonial front—the Vietnamese League for Independence, or Viet Minh—and provoke factional disputes among its leadership.

French military setbacks by the Viet Minh, such as the humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, led to the Geneva Conference (held from May 8 to July 21 in that year) to provide France with a face-saving means of disengagement. On her part, France did not want anything more than a graceful exit from Indochina. But, after the United States attempted to sabotage the negotiations and create an opportunity for direct intervention in Vietnam, China and the Soviet Union forced the Hanoi delegation to make repeated and significant compromises so that a peaceful settlement could be concluded quickly. These powers were uneasy over the possibility that the United States might intervene massively, with consequences that would extend beyond Indochina. The Chinese and Russian leaders were also afraid that once the United States intervened, nuclear warfare that had begun in one corner of Asia would not be confined there. China’s leaders also wished to avoid giving the U.S. any pretext for introducing forces on her southern flank, especially after as many as one million Chinese “volunteers” had lost their lives in Korea.

As a result of the significant concessions made by Hanoi, the Geneva agreements on Vietnam were reached on July 20 and 21: the bilateral armistice agreement between France and the Viet Minh was signed on July 20, and the multilateral final declaration was signed by all participants—except the United States—the following day. Secretary of States John Foster Dulles had said however, two days before the signing of the agreement by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and France, that the United States “will not do anything to upset any reasonable accord sought by the French.” This promise was no doubt quite instrumental in encouraging the DRV delegation to make its final concessions in reaching the accords. Both accords spelled out in detail a temporary partition of the country, at the 17th Parallel, into “two military regroupment zones” with military forces of the Viet Minh regrouped to the north of those of the French to the south of the line. National elections under international supervision were to be held in two years to reunify the country.

Undersecretary of State Walter Bedell Smith, head of the American delegation, read an official unilateral declaration from the United States saying that it would not do anything to threaten the stipulations of the agreements and that it specifically endorsed the call for elections to reunify the country. In spite of the public promise, the United States immediately went about violating the agreements and promoted the country’s division into so-called “North Vietnam” and “South Vietnam” until 1975. The Second Indochina War fought over this decision would cost more than two million Vietnamese and 58,000 American lives. In a meeting with a group of U.S. scholars in 1971, Premier Zhou Enlai, the head of the Chinese delegation at Geneva, admitted that his “mistake and inexperience” at Geneva had contributed to the Vietnam tragedy.

In the meantime, however, China was able to use the northern half of Vietnam as a buffer zone to protect its territorial integrity from possible U.S. encroachments. Furthermore, in order to secure its “lips-and-teeth” relationship with the Hanoi leadership, China pushed its Maoist model on the northern regime with disastrous consequences for the economic, social, and political structures of the region. As a result, again, many innocent Vietnamese lives were lost.

The most grievous destruction during the mid-1950s was the land reform program carried out simultaneously with the rectification program applied against so-called rightists within the Vietnamese Workers Party and the state bureaucracy. Of course, this was done in the name of building socialism and creating a solid base for resisting imperialist aggression in the south. A report by the politburo to the tenth plenary session of the central committee of the party in October 1956 stated that thousands of lives had been lost as a result of the land reform program, and that “the land reform machine, in fact, became the institution that was placed both above the party and the government.”

The politburo report said that 2,876 village party branches or cells (out of 3,777) were subjected to the rectification program. These branches represented 150,000 out of the total of 178,000 party members. Of the party members who were forced to go through rectification, 84,000 (or 47.1 percent of the total number of party members) were purged. Many village party branches were summarily disbanded, and many good party members were arrested and executed.

The report went on to say that often the best village party branches and the best local cadres were the ones who were most severely punished. Many village party branches that made the biggest contributions during the resistance war against the French were regarded as reactionary and hence their party members and party secretaries were either jailed or killed. One of the aims of the rectification program was to replace party members with those with “property-less peasant background.” As a result, the percentage of members with this background in the village party branches rose to 97 percent.

The rectification program was also applied against sixty-six district party branches and seven provincial branches with similar damaging results. Yet, the land reform and rectification programs enabled China to exert increasing control over the economic, social, and political structures in the northern half of Vietnam. Partly because of their realization of China’s influence over Vietnam and of the China-Soviet split, President Richard M. Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, began to play the “China card” in the early 1970s to get China to apply pressures on Vietnam in favor of American objectives.

Nixon in China

In 1972, President Nixon undertook his historic trip to China, which to the Vietnamese conveyed the implication that the Vietnam question could be settled not via representatives of the Vietnamese people, but between these two great powers. In response to this, Nhan Dan (The People’s Daily), the central organ of the Vietnam Workers’ Party, wrote: “Nixon is heading in the wrong direction. The way out is open, yet he rushes headlong into a blind alley. The time when the great powers could decide the fate of small nations is past and gone.”

Although China was not able to force Vietnam to end the war on Washington’s terms, after the signing of the Paris agreement in late January of 1973 China began cutting all military aid and most economic aid to Hanoi while the United States gave the Saigon regime more than $1 billion a year from 1973 to 1975. After the fall of Saigon and the reunification of Vietnam in 1975, the United States immediately imposed the strictest possible trade embargo under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

Partly because Hanoi refused to heed China’s advice in sparing Saigon from a military takeover as suggested by France and some other countries, China lost face and decided to cut off all aid to Vietnam. Furthermore, while China began to mass several hundred thousand troops along Vietnam’s northern border, it increased both economic and military aid significantly to the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, which also started to build up its forces along Vietnam’s southern border provinces. According to the scholar Damodar Sardesai, “between 1975 and 1978, China supplied Cambodia with 130-mm mortars, 107-mm bazookas, automatic rifles, transport vehicles, gasoline, and various small weapons, enough to equip thirty to forty regiments totaling about 200,000 troops… An estimated 10,000 Chinese military and technical personnel were sent to Cambodia to improve its military preparedness.” Beginning in January 1977, Khmer Rouge forces attacked civilian settlements in six out of seven of Vietnam’s border provinces. Khmer Rouge troops brutally murdered about 30,000 Vietnamese civilians during attacks in 1977 and 1978, and forced tens of thousands to flee the border provinces. Several hundred thousand Cambodian refugees also fled to Vietnam during those years.

It was during these two years that officials from Vietnam and the United States met to negotiate the normalization of relations between the two countries. In meetings between Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke and Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach at the United Nations headquarters in New York in 1978, the two agreed on normalization without any preconditions. According to Zbigniew Brzezinski’s memoirs, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance sent a report on the details of the agreement to President Jimmy Carter and recommended that normalization should proceed immediately after the Congressional elections in early November. But Brzezinski succeeded in persuading Carter against it.

Fearing that the negative position of the United States would encourage Cambodia and China to stage a pincer attack on Vietnam, in November 1978 Vietnam signed a treaty of friendship and mutual assistance with the Soviet Union. On December 15, the United States announced the normalization of relations with China. On December 25, Vietnam invaded Cambodia in order to preempt a pincer attack, publicly saying, however, that it went into Cambodia to save the Cambodian people from the genocidal Pol Pot regime. In January 1979 China’s top leader, Deng Xiaoping, visiting the United States, announced that China would “teach Vietnam a lesson,” and asked President Carter for “moral support” for the forthcoming Chinese punitive war against Vietnam.

In February 1979, with the blessing of the United States, China launched its invasion of Vietnam, laying waste to six northern provinces and killing an estimated 30,000 Vietnamese (Chinese sources have claimed from 60
70,000 Vietnamese were killed.) Brzezinski called this a “proxy war” against the Soviet Union and was satisfied that it imposed “major costs on [the Vietnamese], produced a great deal of devastation, and above all, showed the limits of their reliance on the Soviets.”

For the next ten years, China and the United States exerted maximum economic and diplomatic pressures on Vietnam. China rejected all proposals by Vietnam Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach for a peaceful settlement to the Cambodian conflict under the auspices of the United Nations. The Tiananmen Square crisis of 1989 and Vietnam’s withdrawal of all its troops from Cambodia by September of the same year should have led to favorable international support for such a settlement.

Then came the collapse of communism in Europe. Vietnamese General Secretary Nguyen Van Linh had gone to East Germany to attend the fortieth anniversary of the Democratic Republic of Germany in early October 1989 just before the Eastern European communist regimes began to collapse one after another. Vietnamese Communist officials rushed to reestablish relations with China at all cost in order to defend socialism under the leadership of China. Linh even went so far as apologizing to Chinese leaders for all the mistakes that Vietnam had made in its the relations with China, while proposing a solution to the Cambodian situation that only involved the remaining communist countries in the region (known as the “Red Solution”).

In 1991, Nguyen Co Thach, the foreign minister who had pushed for a multilateral settlement to the Cambodian conflict, was evicted from the Vietnamese central committee and politburo. Later that year, Vietnam signed the UN-sponsored settlement for Cambodia, which represented the positions of China and the United States. In 1992, China and Vietnam established full diplomatic relations and the policy of cooperating closely with China for ideological reasons and for regime maintenance has been reinforced ever since between top Chinese and Vietnamese leaders.

For example, a joint declaration between Vietnamese General Secretary Nong Duc Manh and Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2008 spelled out the details of “total and effective cooperation” between central committee organizations of the two parties to “promote the mechanisms between the agencies of foreign relations, defense, public security, national security, and to expand practical cooperation in the economic, trade, scientific, technological, cultural, educational and other fields.”

It is difficult to know the real extent of Chinese-Vietnamese cooperation. But even official information publicly given by the two countries has shown that Chinese penetration in many sectors has been quite deep and detrimental to Vietnam’s interests. For example, although bilateral trade between the two countries has increased rapidly since 2000, Vietnam’s trade deficits with China have also accumulated to unprecedented levels. In fact, Vietnam’s trade deficits in the last decade have been principally with China. In 2011, Chinese and Vietnamese governments reported in glowing terms expanding bilateral trade of some $40 billion. This represented a 30 percent increase over the 2010 figure of $27 billion. But Vietnam’s trade deficits with China also grew significantly to over $11 billion in 2009 and $14 billion in 2011. In the first seven months of 2012, Vietnam’s trade deficit with China was over $8 billion. According to both governments, this bilateral trade will increase to $60 billion in 2015 when the ASEAN-China trade agreement goes into effect. This is when Vietnam will have to discard trade barriers over almost all items imported from China.

China’s trade surplus with Vietnam will certainly grow significantly after this date. Already, there are three principal reasons for China’s rapid increase in trade surplus with Vietnam in the last decade: 1) most of Chinese exports to Vietnam are manufactured goods while most of its imports from Vietnam have been agricultural products and raw materials; 2) China subsidizes its producers, manufacturers, and traders at all levels and hence the cost of products exported to Vietnam have been much lower than the production costs of most items produced in Vietnam; 3) Chinese exporters resort to a wide variety of questionable means including outright bribery—which are often reported even in the highly-censored Vietnamese press—to penetrate the Vietnamese market.

Bribery has also enabled Chinese corporations to win most of the bids for significant projects in Vietnam. According to many estimates, more than 50 percent of the total value of the all the contracts during the last ten years have been won by Chinese companies. In particular Chinese companies have won 90 percent of all the contracts in the sectors of electricity, oil and gas, telecommunications, metallurgy, machine tools, and chemicals and 100 percent of all contracts in the mining sector. Many of the contracts are worth several billion dollars each.

Vietnamese press reports have also disclosed that Chinese companies, armed with insider information, often tendered bids lower than those by Vietnam or other foreign countries, in order the win contracts. But after they have won the contracts, the companies jack up prices to levels much higher even than those tendered by Western companies whose technology and equipment are much more modern. The Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology disclosed this year that many “turn-key” projects with outdated technology and equipment have been imported from 1,800 dismantled Chinese industrial plants. The ministry added that it has come up with a policy to limit this kind of practice.

It remains to be seen how the ministry will be able to minimize these problems that will certainly grow by leaps and bounds. According to current plans, government outlays for infrastructure alone will be $117 billion by 2025 and many Vietnamese have wondered aloud how much of this money will again end up in Chinese hands. In the meantime, however, implementation of the projects that are already under contract with Chinese companies have been mostly been prolonged because of all kinds of excuses, causing huge cost overruns that the Vietnamese side has had to pay. Completed projects also have to depend on these Chinese contractors for maintenance and spare parts. In addition, tens of thousands of Chinese workers have been brought to projects in Vietnam and have, according to frequent reports in the Vietnamese press, caused many security problems in the surrounding areas.

Partly as a result of the outlays for such projects, the Vietnamese government budget deficit increased 31 percent in 2007, increased 29 percent in 2008, and 46 percent in 2009. Government borrowing from China increased tenfold during those years. In 2009 alone, official borrowing from China was $1.4 billion. Worse, the bad debts to Vietnamese banks from state sectors are threatening a series of bank collapses. According to sources in the financial sector and reports by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Vietnamese press, the 2011 figures for the overall debt of the state sector is $52.2 billion, about 43 percent of GDP. The state sector debts to Vietnamese banks run to $24.5 billion, 47 percent of which is considered bad debt.

Both the IMF and the ADB have issued warnings to Vietnam about the danger of the collapse of its banking system. The IMF also stated in September 2012 that it might have to provide bail-out supports for Vietnam. However, Prime Minister Nguyen Tien Dung announced after a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Xi Jinping in September 2012 that “we will not have to resort to help from the IMF.” Sources close to the prime minister have gloated that this was a meeting between bosom friends and that Chinese leaders were prepared to loan the Vietnamese government $10 billion to shore up its banking system should the crisis worsen.

Cleaning up the Neighborhood

Reporting on the meeting between the Chinese vice premier and the Vietnamese prime minister on September 20, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted Xi Jinping as saying that the South China Sea issue will have a negative impact on bilateral relations if not handled properly. The Xinhua report also disclosed that the two sides reaffirmed the agreement reached between President Hu Jintao and General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in mid-October of the previous year on “finding solutions to maritime disputes based on negotiations and dialogues.”

The Vietnam News Agency’s report of the same meeting quoted Dung as saying that “the two sides need to properly implement the general understandings of the top leaders of the two countries and seriously abide by the agreements on the fundamental principles directing efforts at solving maritime issues and disputes… through friendly negotiations based on international laws, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, as well as on the spirit of the Declaration of Conduct in order to move forward to an effective Code of Conduct (CoC).”

The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea was signed in 2002 by ASEAN countries and China, and committed them to respect freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea in accordance with international laws and UNCLOS, and to resolve their disputes through peaceful means without resorting to the threat or use of force. The parties must also exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability in the region. But the declaration was non-binding, thus enabling activities that have heightened tensions and instability for the entire region. Hence, in 2009 the ASEAN countries decided to come up the idea of the Code of Conduct to create a rules-based framework for managing and regulating the conduct of the parties in the South China Sea. The aim of the CoC is to dampen conflicts and manage disputes, not to solve them. Even so, China has put up obstacles to such an agreement, including providing aid and loans to some ASEAN countries in order to get them to sabotage such an agreement.

A gathering of ASEAN and Chinese officials to discuss the CoC was held in October 2012 in Pattaya, Thailand, to work out the final details of the document so that it could be presented to the ASEAN summit meeting in November for ratification. On October 31, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh stated that ASEAN countries had already reached a consensus of the basic points of a CoC. After the meeting in Pattaya, however, First Deputy Foreign Minister Nopadol Gunavibool of Thailand, the coordinator of meetings between ASEAN and China, said that he did not have much hope for the passage of a CoC at the ASEAN. Then the spokesperson of the Cambodian foreign ministry announced flatly on November 3 that the CoC would not be adopted in 2012.

Recently, China made further moves that alarmed its neighbors. Perhaps the most serious was the announcement in late November by Hainan Province, which administers China’s South China Sea claims, that starting January 1, 2013, Chinese police and coast guard will board ships entering what China considers its territory in the South China Sea. According to a report by Jane Perlez of the New York Times on December 1, the announcement was made by Wu Shicun, the director general of the foreign affairs office of Hainan Province. The article stated: “Mr. Wu said the new regulations applied to all of the hundreds of islands scattered across the sea, and their surrounding waters. That includes islands claimed by several other countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines… The Chinese foreign ministry said last week that China was within its rights to allow the coast guard to board vessels in the South China Sea.”

On January 22, Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters that his country had exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of maritime disputes with China and that his government would take the South China Sea issue to an UNCLOS tribunal. That was a direct challenge to China, whose deputy foreign minister, Fu Yuing, had asked del Rosario not to internationalize their dispute by going to the United Nations, raising it with third parties including allies or holding high-profile press conferences.

China has annexed Scarborough Shoal by maintaining a continuous deployment of surveillance ships there. If the Philippines took no action, it would appear to be acquiescing to the enforcement of Chinese jurisdiction by its civilian surveillance ships. The Philippines is trying to get a ruling on international law on specific matters involving maritime jurisdiction under UNCLOS. The Philippines is making four claims: 1) China’s U-shape line is illegal under international law; 2) China has occupied and built structures on submerged banks, reefs and low-tide elevations in the South China Sea and illegally claims that these are Chinese islands under international law: 3) China has illegally interfered with the Philippines’ exercise of sovereign jurisdiction within legal maritime zones; and 4) the Philippines is seeking a judgment in international law on matters that China has not excluded from consideration in its 2006 declaration exempting itself from compulsory arbitration by UNCLOS.

Although the Philippines has chosen to focus on highly specific legal aspects in its case, any favorable ruling would not only undermine China’s U-shape claim but would also represent a breakthrough for a peaceful resolution to the maritime disputes in the region.

China’s stonewalling and resistance with respect to addressing South China Sea issues come from the confidence that in bilateral negotiations with each of the far less powerful ASEAN countries she can impose her will on them. Vietnam is the most vulnerable to China’s pressures in part because Vietnam has the longest coastline in the region and has had the most maritime territories taken over by force by China. Hence compromises by the Vietnamese government in the face of further Chinese assertiveness inside Vietnam’s EEZs and around the areas of disputed islands would certainly invite further pressures from China as well as strong reactions from Vietnamese citizens.

In 2007, protests against China’s arrest and maltreatment of Vietnamese fishermen erupted at the PRC’s embassy and consulates in Vietnam, but were quashed by the Vietnamese government. In 2011, after Chinese Maritime Administration ships cut the sonar cables of Vietnamese oil prospecting boats, protest rallies were staged again, in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City simultaneously, every Sunday for nearly two months. But arrests and violence against the protestors by security forces again put an end to the rallies.

In September, before going to Nanning to meet with Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Dung ordered a crackdown on blogs that have attacked his leadership and opposed China. Subsequently at least five bloggers were put on trial, resulting in jail terms of up to thirteen years. One of the bloggers had composed a song in which he urged the citizens to rise up against invaders and “cowards who sell the country.” On October 14, ten policemen stormed into the dorm room of the female student, Nguyen Phuong Uyen, at the Ho Chi Minh City Food and Technology University and put her in a jail in Long An province. An open letter for her release, signed by her classmates and addressed to President Truong Tan Sang, stated that she had been arrested because she had been suspected of participating in anti-China activities and joining anti-corruption campaigns.

The Vietnamese government’s repressive activities in the face of pressures from China have exacerbated tensions with its own citizens and eroded its legitimacy. Furthermore, these activities might have soiled the Vietnamese government’s image regionally and internationally and hence weakened its effectiveness in dealing with China’s increasing assertive activities in a region through which 60 percent of the entire global sea-borne trade moves each year.

In order to promote peace and stability in the region, all countries that utilize the South China Sea for trade and other reasons should unambiguously support efforts to settle the disputes.

A Proposal

In the interest of regional peace and global development, this writer made the following proposal based on UNCLOS’s definition of three South China Sea areas at an international conference attended by specialists and officials from most Asian countries, the United States, and many European nations. The conference, “The South China Sea: Cooperation for Regional Security and Development,” was held in Ho Chi Minh City in November. The main idea of the proposal is to open up areas for cooperation among all parties involved:

1. Reaffirm the EEZ of each individual country and negotiate all overlapping claims. Form an international consensus on getting China to abandon its U-shape line.

2. Rally international support to bring all disputed claims in the island areas (islands, islets, rocks, and so on) to an international court for judgment if solutions could not be agreed upon by the claimants. In the meantime, occupants of undisputed areas should be willing to declare publicly that no island should have more than twelve nautical miles of territorial waters around it.

3. In the international area beyond the EEZs and the territorial waters of the islands all resources extracted therein (such as oil, gas, seafood) should be divided to each country in the region, after extractive expenses have been deducted, according to a formula to be negotiated.

Ngo Vinh Long is a professor of history at the University of Maine, where he has taught for more than twenty-five years. He is also a research associate at Duy Tan University, Da Nang City, Vietnam. He has contributed to the Journal of Contemporary Asia, American Historical Review, and other publications. He is a frequent commentator on Asian affairs on the Vietnamese-language broadcasts of Radio France Internationale, the BBC, and Radio Free Asia.

Tibet’s Voice of Realism

“China needs Japan, Japan needs China,” the 14th Dalai Lama declared, with immovable conviction, as I listened to him in a sunlit conference room in Yokohama last November, a great Ferris wheel turning outside and a jungle of high-rising grey skyscrapers presiding over the blue bay. “Every nation on this planet needs others. So a small disagreement or division of interests should not affect basic relations. Of course Chinese people must love their nation, their culture: that is good! But it’s too extreme. It’s almost as if they’re suggesting that, across the planet, Chinese culture is the best. When we were in Tibet, we had some of that same kind of view: ‘Tibet is the best!’ That’s wrong! Too much emotion involved. Too short-sighted.

“In the past, I was sometimes telling people Buddhism was best. But after meeting with different people, from other traditions, now I feel you cannot say one religion is best. It’s like with medicine. In order to administer medicine, you have to look at the individual illness. For each body, according to its circumstances and natural conditions, a different system of medicine may be best.”

The absolute insistence on reason—which is unwavering as the laws of gravity and lasting and objective, as emotions are not—and the readiness to stress his own mistakes and those of his culture, while acknowledging the strengths of its longtime oppressor, the People’s Republic of China, reminded me that I was in the company of an unusual presence who thinks in unexpected ways, and all but remakes the political domain by rewriting its assumptions. For years now, the world has, understandably, concentrated on the Tibetan leader’s belly laughs, his warm charisma, his humanity, and all are compelling indeed, and inspiring; even when I ride with him in an elevator in a shopping-mall in Yokohama, he clutches the elbow of the beaming elevator operator, to give something personal to their brief interaction. Yet all the emphasis on his undeniably kind and tolerant heart often obscures what is to me his most singular quality, especially in the context of history and geopolitics: the clarity of his mind, and his unswerving emphasis on realism.

For each of the past seven Novembers, I’ve spent several days traveling across my adopted home of Japan with the Dalai Lama as the lone journalist in his small entourage. We’ve ended up at roadside convenience-stores where the disarming monk in red robes stands at the door with a can of “hot milk tea” and greets every surprised truck-driver with a smile and an outstretched hand. We’ve gone from fishing villages laid waste in the wake of the 2011 tsunami, where he consoled the recently orphaned, to lunches in central Tokyo filled with figures from the world of fashion; from the tropical graveyards of Okinawa to ninth century temples not far from the Peace Park in Hiroshima.

Almost as soon as the Tibetan leader came into exile in India in 1959, my father, a professional philosopher, sailed back from Oxford to meet him, and so I’ve been visiting the Tibetan leader in his home in Dharamsala since 1974, when I was in my teens. Now, as he goes through his working day in Japan, at once sharing Buddhist teachings with what remains the world’s most powerful Buddhist nation, and speaking for those in Tibet who can’t speak much for themselves, I sit in on almost every one of his private audiences—with politicians, with regular Tibetans, with friends of the Emperor and with long-haired Japanese heavy-metal musicians, who have somehow decided that they want to make Buddhism their message. The more I’ve watched him, the more I’ve come to see that his sovereign qualities are often the ones you don’t see on CNN or in newspapers, which concentrate on his contagious smile: a razor-sharp memory, a deeply practical commitment to something deeper than gestures or words, and a much more rigorous and tough-minded approach to the world than many might expect. As he said at a peace conference in Hiroshima, in 2010, “I don’t believe peace will come through prayer. Peace must come through our actions.”

Beyond Religion
The story of how a small boy born to a farmer’s family in a cowshed was discovered to be the fourteenth Dalai Lama at the age of two, enthroned in Lhasa at the age of four and then given full political leadership over his people as the troops of Mao Zedong flooded into Tibet when he was fifteen, is so colorful and exotic that it’s easy to overlook its hard-core heart: the fact that, from the time he was in kindergarten, the Dalai Lama was put through a grueling, eighteen-year doctoral course specializing in logic and dialectics. And even more than most monks who emerge from that training, he likes to stress that the Buddha—his “boss,” as he calls him—was a scientist, a physician (of the mind), and a regular human being who relied only on empirical data.

“The Buddha himself told us we should not accept his word on faith, or through devotion,” I heard the Tibetan say in November. “We should investigate even his own words and come to an independent conclusion.” Like a Harvard philosopher, the Dalai Lama takes words apart and demands absolute precision: for a teaching in Yokohama on an eight-verse poem, he spent an hour on two words at its beginning, “May I,” to see what the “I” really is. And over and over, ever more as the years go on, he stresses “secular ethics based on scientific findings.” If his most evident passion is the lab research he’s been following and encouraging at M.I.T., Stanford, Emory University, the University of Wisconsin, and many other major universities, it’s because it offers a verifiable, universal measure of how much meditation, say, can lead to happiness, health, and peace of mind. The most recent book by one of the world’s most visible religious figures is called Beyond Religion, and argues that religion is a useful luxury in life, like tea, but what all of us most need is an everyday sense of kindness and responsibility, which lies outside the domain of religion, but remains as indispensable as water.

In the realm of politics, this means that the Dalai Lama is always taking seemingly counter-intuitive positions, based not on ideology but logic, and refuses to toe the line of his more woolly-minded admirers or even the most well-intentioned idealists. When he lived in Lhasa, he’s been telling me (and the world) for more than thirty years, he and his culture were too isolated; exile has, if nothing else, forced him and his people to shed certain illusions and “be more realistic.” People from other traditions should not become Buddhists, he said again in Tokyo last November; they may have much to learn from Buddhism—from everyone—as Buddhists and everyone can learn from them, but it’s “much better, much safer” to keep to their own traditions. As he delivered a talk on an eleventh century Tibetan Buddhist text (and urged those followers in the audience to be “twenty-first century Buddhists”), he said, “Now is the time for scientists to take the lead. Not people like me in robes.”

The essential feature of the Dalai Lama’s life, I often think, is the one fact that so many of us, won over by his charm and unpretentious humility, overlook: he was a full-fledged political leader, in one of the most difficult situations in the world, for 60 years until he effectively deposed himself, and passed all formal political leadership of his people to a democratically elected leadership, in 2011. Opposed and derided by the largest nation on earth, outnumbered by 200 to 1, and unable to visit his homeland or most of his people for more than half a century, he’s never been in a position to entertain romantic or wishy-washy or abstract “spiritual” answers. Pragmatism, what works in the here-and-now, is all that matters for him, as for the Buddha.

When I saw him in November, many were eager to ask him, inevitably, about the tragic rash of self-immolations that had left more than 50 Tibetans dead in recent months; even as he spoke, four more were taking their own lives, some of them as young as fifteen. True to his emphasis on realism, and his commitment to his monastic vows, the Dalai Lama could not endorse suicide even as he pointed out that people would act so desperately only if there was a serious problem in their lives. “Whether the Chinese government admits it or not,” he said, “there is a problem in Tibet. That is good for neither Tibet nor the Chinese government.” Force would only aggravate the problem and, he pointed out, since the self-immolators had not gone the way of suicide bombers or tried to take Chinese lives, they were clearly devoted to non-violence, yet ready to do anything to convey their hopelessness to the world.

In Okinawa, when locals came up to him and asked how he could help them get rid of U.S. bases on their soil, confident they’d find a supporter in a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, he (subtly and sympathetically) pointed out that without the bases, Okinawans might face even more violence. In the world we live in, systems of defense and even weapons can be instruments of peace more than of war. The important thing was to take a wider perspective—see the larger, global picture—and not look for short-term solutions. When the results of the American election came through while we were in Tokyo, he declined to say anything himself, but asked an American nearby what he thought, and said, “That is the most informed response. For an American election, we should ask an American elector.”

Again and again the leader of the Tibetans stresses that Tibetans are and should be grateful that the People’s Republic has brought them so much in the way of much-needed material and modern resources; but China, he says, may have something to learn from Tibet when it comes to more inner resources. China and Tibet will always be neighbors, dependent on one another, so whatever helps Tibet will help China, and whatever hurts China will hurt Tibet; to try to see them as opposed to one another makes about as much sense as telling your right hand to punch your left arm, or vice versa.

It reminded me of when Beijing was building a high-speed train to Lhasa a few years ago. Nearly every Han Chinese person I heard saw this as proof of the magnanimity of the People’s Republic as it “liberated” Tibet and brought the remote and impoverished area closer to the modern world; while nearly every Tibetan I knew saw this as part of the “destruction” of Tibet, a way of flooding it with Han Chinese. The Dalai Lama was the only one I met who said that, now the train was being built, it couldn’t be unbuilt; the only important thing to consider was not the vehicle, but the motivations behind it. If compassionate, it could indeed be a great blessing for Tibetans; and if exploitative, it would be unforgivable. But it made no sense to concentrate on just the external vessel.

As I travel with him, this commitment to realism and universal human logic, outside all ideologies and religions, often takes me aback. One day, as we were riding a train towards Nagoya, I mentioned to him a book I’d just read about in which Mao Zedong had written, “I am the universe… small is big, the yang is the yin, up is down, dirty is clean.” His word, in other words, was everything, and logic be damned! Instantly, the Dalai Lama grabbed my arm, and told me not to criticize the man, only his actions, even though Mao was the man who had worked so strenuously to obliterate Tibet. Actions, after all, are to be held against a universal standard of truth, and are behind us; actors—the people who commit actions—deserve our compassion as fellow human beings, and can always be turned towards more enlightened action.

In the political domain, where most leaders are thinking about the next election and are determined not to antagonize their core constituency, it’s bracing to see someone bring such non-partisan openness and impartial analysis into the White House, the back-rooms of Beijing, and the European Parliament. Even in his teens, in 1954, the Dalai Lama decided to go to China, over the protests of his fearful people, in order to see the land first-hand, to meet in person Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and to observe objectively what was being achieved by the revolution; the many months he spent traveling across the People’s Republic then have made him a much more precise and informed commentator on the subject than he would have been otherwise. And as he stressed again in November, “In terms of social or economic thinking, I am a Marxist. Lenin was too interested in power; but Marx, with his emphasis on equality and the rights of the people, was offering something wonderful.” Sometimes, with his characteristic mischief, he even suggests that he is more of a socialist than the men in charge of Communist China.

A Doctor of the Mind
This unbudging pragmatism is the reason the Dalai Lama has not much heeded the suggestions of well-wishers and agitators within the Tibetan community for purely physical ways to resolve the impasse between Tibet and China. Is a proud nation with a history of resisting suggestions from abroad really going to be turned around by a peace march or a petition, or even a handful of Tibetans knocking out a power station or a road? Such acts may win the world’s headlines for a few days and then lose the world’s good will forever. And they’re likely only to harden Chinese oppression. The Dalai Lama always says that the resolution to this issue, and to many others, may not come in his lifetime, but will come in time, because circumstances always change: centuries ago, Tibet all but controlled China, and at other points in history, China has almost destroyed Tibet. All we can do is work hard so as to be ready for when an opportunity arises.

He says this, of course, as the only Dalai Lama in history to have traveled to Belfast and Jerusalem, to have been at the Berlin Wall at the time it was coming down and to have followed the news with an acuity and attention that puts me and many of my fellow journalists to shame (seventeen years ago he told me he was “addicted” to the BBC World Service broadcast he listens to every morning at 5:30 a.m. during his first four hours of meditation; and it’s true that his talks are always spiced with references to the day’s news and the most current and topical issues). He’s seen his comrade and fellow cleric Desmond Tutu help bring an end to apartheid and build a free (though still troubled, of course) South Africa; he’s seen another close friend, Vaclav Havel, be unanimously voted to the presidency of Czechoslovakia eight weeks after he left prison.

The heart of the Buddhist vision is two-fold: it suggests that everything is impermanent—and so we should always be ready to adapt, to work with, even to embrace change—and that everything is interdependent (a view that the global economy, the planetary environmental situation, and the so-called “butterfly effect” all bear out every day now: what happens in Beijing is felt in Washington within hours, and vice versa). I’m not a Buddhist myself, but in an accelerating and fast-globalizing order, these ideas grow ever harder to challenge; you don’t have to be a Tibetan wise man to see that what happens in the political hallways of Beijing will be felt in New York and Washington minutes later.

One byproduct of this thinking is, of course, that, far more than just China and Tibet, the Dalai Lama is trying to offer concrete suggestions that may be helpful across our divided world—in places like the Middle East (or his adopted home for fifty-four years, India), where violent religious differences go back centuries. For forty years now, he’s watched Japan, parts of Europe, even India develop more and more materially and then wonder why money and opportunity haven’t brought them happiness. It wasn’t surprising to me, the last time I flew to Tibet, to find that many of the passengers on the plane from Chengdu (90 percent of them Han Chinese) were traveling to the remote area not just as sightseers, but as pilgrims, eager to visit Tibetan temples, to seek out Tibetan lamas, to bow before the holy places. If Americans and French people and Australians have turned to Tibetan Buddhism for the sustenance they feel they can’t get at home, it’s hardly strange that Chinese people, denied any spiritual life for sixty years, are gratefully recalling that they have a rich and ancient tradition within their current borders.

Insofar as the Dalai Lama can be seen as a “doctor of the mind”—the Buddha, after all, stressed, like any physician, simply finding the source of our suffering and then coming up with a cure—the image explains many of the features of his thought. A doctor isn’t infallibly right, and he can never protect his patients forever; at some point, he’ll always lose them. He cannot judge his patient on the basis of her nationality or religion or position in the world; the diagnosis should be the same regardless of externals. His is not the only possible response to any situation; another doctor would come up with a different prognosis. And ultimately, a doctor is dealing simply with universal, unvarying scientific laws; he is only as good as his ability to dispassionately assess conditions and then suggest a practical response.

The day after I heard the Dalai Lama address China’s recent differences with Japan in Yokohama last November, I watched him devote two full days of discussions to scientists in Tokyo. Aware of the monastic nature of their visitor, many of the Japanese scientists, often from Tokyo University and the nation’s leading institutes of higher learning, spoke about spiritual healing and ritual trances, about The Tibetan Book of the Dead and the worship of plants. Characteristically, the Dalai Lama seemed a bit put out by this, refusing to hold that plants have minds, and stressing that when some people come to see him because they think the Dalai Lama has “some kind of miraculous power, that’s nonsense!” When people ascribe healing powers to him, he said, he asked them why, if that were the case, he could not heal the itch in his own neck, and the problems he’s been having with his knee.

“Generally, I don’t believe in healing powers and those kinds of things,” he said, “though of course in special cases it may be possible.” He also made clear that we shouldn’t get caught up in talk and thought of spirits or oracles or the like; Buddhism is about analytical philosophy and working hard to transform the mind. When a scientist spoke about happiness during trances, the Dalai Lama responded that happiness based on “sensory consciousness” was as impermanent as everything; the only true happiness consisted in that peace of mind that is not dependent on circumstance.

At the end of the discussion, a Shinto priest—the vice-chief patriarch of a prominent shrine in Okayama who happened to be sitting next to me—leaned over, and, with a hearty laugh the Dalai Lama might have appreciated, pronounced, “The most scientific person on this panel of scientists is the one in monk’s robes. The only one who isn’t speaking about religion is the religious leader!” True enough. It only takes logic—and far-sightedness and empiricism—to see that Beijing has much to gain from loosening up on Tibet and everything to lose, world-wide, from pushing it down; and that whoever succeeds the Dalai Lama is likely to have less first-hand knowledge of China, less experience, and probably less forgiveness and sympathy in his heart than the Tibetan leader we’ve long known. “Once things are open and more information is available in the People’s Republic,” the Dalai Lama said in Yokohama, “these complicated matters can be solved more easily. In the meantime, frankly speaking, even if I make some comment, it’s no use. Nobody listens.”

“Not “nobody,” I thought, but perhaps what we were really listening to was something that had to do with something much larger than China or Tibet: the way each person and each nation might try to deal with opposition and suffering.

Pico Iyer, an essayist and novelist, has written on world affairs for TIME since 1982, and is a regular contributor to the New York Times, Financial Times, New York Review of Books, and many other publications. Among his ten books is The Open Road, an examination of the Dalai Lama’s work in the world from the perspective of a non-Buddhist journalist. His most recent book is The Man Within Me, a study of Graham Greene.

Toward a New American Policy

The United States has invested heavily in Middle East peacemaking for decades. While the strategic goal has been to achieve a peace settlement, the United States has tended to focus on the essentially tactical objective of bringing about face-to-face negotiations between the parties. With some exceptions—for example, the Clinton Parameters in 2000 and the George W. Bush letter to Ariel Sharon in 2004—administrations have eschewed articulating positions on the substantive outcome the United States seeks. Because of the serious problems confronting the region and the peace process today, it is time for the United States to adopt a new policy, a new strategy, and new tactics.

Why Tilt at Middle East Windmills?

This essay argues for the development of a new, comprehensive American policy and a sustained strategy for advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It advocates for American creativity, flexibility, and initiative in crafting the tactics required to engage the parties and help them approach the required mutual concessions. This argument does not rest on either the inevitability or even the likelihood of early success, nor on the readiness of the parties to overcome legitimate concerns and powerful internal opposition to confront the tough decisions required to make peace. Indeed, there are strong reasons to avoid working on the peace process at all.

However, doing nothing or continuing down the same path that the United States has traveled before—simply trying to get to negotiations—not only will not succeed, it will deepen the challenges the United States faces in the Middle East and it will exacerbate the very conflict that the United States has tried to resolve over many decades. There are hard realities in the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that some try to ignore or argue away. It is time to confront those realities and develop a reasonable but also bold policy and diplomatic strategy worthy of American values and interests. Developing a sound policy, a sophisticated strategy, and appropriate tactics to advance the peace process is not tilting at windmills. It is doing what the United States has shown itself capable of doing in the past to advance prospects for peace.

The idea of a two-state solution—the cornerstone of American policy in the region—is now on life support, and its chances of surviving cannot improve without active diplomacy. Not only are governments losing interest, but more importantly, public opinion is losing confidence that such an outcome is achievable. The issues in the peace process are complex, and American policy needs to address this complexity, whether or not there is a promise of immediate success.

Current upheavals in the region argue for investing in Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution. Hunkering down or managing the status quo is not a policy when it assures the United States less leverage and less support for our policies elsewhere in the region. With growing skepticism about and opposition to American policy in the Middle East, a serious effort to advance peace can have a transformative effect on our standing and credibility.

There is no magic formula for success, whether it involves intense American diplomacy or conflict management. Periods of engagement have often ended in frustration, violence, and war. Trying to manage the conflict—for example, by focusing solely on improving the situation on the ground—is not only a recipe for inaction; it is actually far more dangerous than it appears.

Status quos are not static. They either improve or they worsen. The status quo in the West Bank appears to be improving, evidenced by economic activity in Palestinian cities, the relative absence of terrorism, and several important signs of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, for example, in security and in economic affairs. This is, however, a misleading picture. Israeli settlement activity has accelerated in recent years, and the Israeli government’s active support and funding of settlement infrastructure have skyrocketed. As more settlers move into the occupied territories, the area of the prospective Palestinian state is shrinking, becoming less contiguous and less viable. To believe that Palestinians will accept a state limited to their main population centers—so-called Areas A and B in the West Bank—is delusionary. Calm on the surface masks growing frustration and anger below. Any spark can ignite a conflagration that will consume the status quo.

More fundamentally, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict drains energy from the parties and from the United States to deal with more pressing issues in the region, in particular, Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Yitzhak Rabin recognized this in 1992, when he reportedly told then-President George H. W. Bush that Israel required comprehensive peace with all its neighbors in order to free its energies to prepare for the emerging threat from Iran, which Rabin assessed would be evident within ten years. In 2002, Saudi King Abdullah and other Arab leaders also recognized this reality when they adopted the Arab Peace Initiative, a cosmic change in the position of Arabs toward Israel and the conflict. Arabs no longer insisted on dealing with the “problem” of 1948, that is, the very existence of the State of Israel, but rather promised Israel peace, security, and recognition if the 1967 occupation of Arab territories and the persistence of the Palestinian issue could be resolved. Iran was as much on the minds of Abdullah and other Arab leaders in 2002 as it was on Rabin’s in 1992.

So, while some argue that it is a waste of time for the United States to invest in the peace process, the opposite is really true. Such an investment will pay dividends if it moves the conflict toward resolution and allows the region to act in concert to deny Iran its power ambitions. Doing nothing, or doing too little, is a prescription for trouble.

Outmoded Assumptions

In crafting the policy, strategy, and tactics the United States should pursue, it is important to discard outmoded assumptions about peacemaking. First, the peace process is not simply about getting to negotiations. Rather, the goal is a conflict-ending, claims-ending, fair, and just peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Negotiations—that is, fixation on process—must not become the consuming objective. The United States must formulate a policy that treats the central issues in dispute: territory, borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, the nature of peace, religion, ideology, and narratives.

Second, not every idea for resolving this conflict has been created equal. Arguments in favor of one state, three states, long-term interim arrangements, trusteeship, armistice, cantonization, Jordan-is-Palestine, and the like are misleading, dangerous, and wrong. There is no serious, viable alternative to the partition into two sovereign states of the territory that Palestinians and Israelis claim as their exclusive homeland. Partition will not respond to the full aspirations or the entire national/religious/historical narratives of the parties. But partition provides for a historic decision in which both sides will be able to enjoy independence and exercise sovereignty in part of their national patrimony.

Third, the United States must stop viewing the conflict-resolution process as an American monopoly. Israelis and many Arabs still regard the United States as the essential third party. However, the Middle East is in the midst of a radical transformation, and new power configurations require a new way to marshal regional and international efforts on behalf of peace. Palestinians need the support that other actors could provide, and Israel needs the recognition that international interaction could ensure.

Fourth, it’s time to end the silly debate in the United States over “linkage.” Resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict will not in itself transform the region; but, so too, democratic transformations in the region will not necessarily lead to resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. America’s diverse and complex interests demand that we invest in both policy goals simultaneously. Thinking or trying to act sequentially misses the point.


Contours of American Policy: Seven Critical Elements

The United States needs to think strategically and employ wise tactics. Stand-alone tactics, such as confidence-building measures, do not succeed, for they require the parties to pay a heavy domestic political price with no discernible political or substantive payoff. As part of a broader strategy, however, smart tactics can help the parties understand trade-offs and benefits. The first order of business is to construct a cohesive American policy.

1. Create the physical template—borders—of Israel and Palestine. It is illogical that sixty-five years after the UN partition resolution, there is still no agreed border that demarcates the State of Israel and the future state of Palestine. This must be a core component of American policy: to realize the goal of secure, recognized, and defensible borders. President Obama got it right in May 2011 when he urged that negotiations produce borders that are based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps. Israelis and Palestinians need to know where their respective states begin and end.

2. Address Israeli and Palestinian fundamental security requirements. The United Statesshould lead the effort to define and address the security requirements of the two peoples. In 2008, President George W. Bush asked General James Jones—later to become Obama’s national security advisor—to undertake a comprehensive security assessment. Jones’s study was never published, but the work he started should be refined and completed. In parallel, the on-the-ground work of the United States Security Coordinator (USSC)—tasked with interacting daily with both sides, training and equipping the Palestinian Security Force, and rebuilding security cooperation and coordination—should be intensified.

These security requirements and the means to address them are complex. But a security system, composed of many different elements and a heavy dose of American commitments and involvement and a variety of security tools and practices, can work. The United States has always said it understands that the parties need to believe that their security will improve under conditions of a peace agreement; now is the time to demonstrate that with American leadership.

A critical part of this will be the degree to which Israel believes the United States will continue to provide it with the wherewithal to defend itself and the security assurances needed to operate in a hostile regional environment. Israel’s security needs will expand dramatically in the context of an agreement with the Palestinians, and the United States should thus be prepared to address Israel’s legitimate needs. An Israel that feels secure regarding its own capabilities and the constancy of American commitments will likely be more willing to take the serious risks that peace will entail.

3. Adopt an American view of the parameters on the core issues. Negotiations require terms of reference to start and to succeed, but Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) cannot agree on any terms of reference. The irony is that the two sides have narrowed gaps substantially on the core issues in dispute since the Taba negotiations in 2001. None of this progress has been memorialized in an agreed record, but the progress achieved cannot be doubted.

Before deciding whether or how to resume negotiations in a manner that has a chance to succeed, the United States needs to decide for itself its own views on the shape of a final settlement, that is, the parameters for resolving the core issues. Without this, American policy lacks focus and is ineffectual, limited to carrying messages or proposing discrete fixes to negotiating impasses. Just as the parties need to have a comprehensive view of all the issues in the negotiations in order to be able to weigh concessions against possible gains, so too the United States needs an internal policy on the shape of a settlement. Let no one doubt the significance of this tool should the United States decide to employ the parameters as draft terms of reference for negotiations: President Clinton constructed such parameters in 2000, shared them with the parties, then withdrew them when the parties refused to commit to negotiate on the basis of those parameters—but then they went off and negotiated at Taba essentially on the basis of Clinton’s parameters. It is critical for the United States to develop a policy on substance, even if the decision on what to do with the parameters is not taken until later.
The most persuasive reason for the United States to develop its own views on the core issues was articulated by Lewis Carroll: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Not every road will get the parties to the desired two-state solution. On each core issue, there are possible outcomes that fall outside the minimum requirements of one of the parties and that thus endanger a successful outcome. For the United States to be able to act wisely and creatively to help the parties, it has to know where it is going and what road can best take the parties to an agreed outcome. A proposed model of American parameters can be found in the appendix to this essay.

4. Ensure Palestinian institutional and economic capacity. Palestinians have made great strides in creating the institutional and economic structures to sustain independent statehood. The United States and many others have assisted these efforts, but it is time to kick this process into higher gear. The creation of a successful, economically viable, and democratic state of Palestine will serve two critical American interests: it will resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and it will promote democracy in the Middle East. The United States must invest more resources in this effort.

5. Change Israeli and Palestinian behaviors. In 2003, the United States and the other members of the international Quartet (the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations) developed the Roadmap, which required mutually reinforcing actions by Israelis and Palestinians to change bad behaviors—stop settlement activity; permit greater Palestinian mobility; uproot terrorist infrastructure; create accountable institutions; stop incitement. These goals are already part of American policy; as elements in a broader strategy, the United States needs to do more to try to achieve them.

The United States should establish a robust system of monitoring Roadmap performance, hold the parties accountable—publicly—for their actions, and exact consequences for failure to abide by commitments or to change behaviors. The objective is not to be punitive, but to get serious. The parties basically agreed that these are the behaviors that need to change; the United States is the only party with the weight to follow through. To be sure, Roadmap implementation cannot be expected independently of other actions; it makes sense only as part of an integrated American policy.

6. Involve the region in building the infrastructure of peace. In the 1990s, Arabs and Israelis met constantly in a range of multilateral meetings and public-private economic summits. These interactions gave real-life meaning to the more rarefied atmosphere surrounding diplomatic negotiations. They helped build personal and professional relationships between Arabs and Israelis and strengthened the public’s support for the peace process.

Indeed, over the past decades, a cottage industry of people-to-people, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and so-called Track II activities has proliferated. Today, Palestinians and Israelis know each better than almost any other two peoples in the world. The U.S. government helped create many of these opportunities, but over the years, American administrations have paid less attention and devoted fewer resources to maintain these activities to foster Arab-Israeli interaction.

In 2002 the Arab Peace Initiative was adopted at the Arab Summit in Beirut, but thus far, it has had no practical effect—either as a safety net to support the Palestinians or as an inducement for the Israelis to take hard decisions for peace. In the meantime, the region’s problems have worsened: there is a severe shortage of water; arable land is under pressure from growing populations; most countries are food importers; health problems abound across political boundaries; and environmental degradation continues. There is no justification for this situation to continue when regional dialogue and mechanisms for action can be created.

The United States should seek ways to capitalize on the earlier examples of Arab-Israeli interactions: lend support to the Arab Peace Initiative, exploit the contacts that already exist, and broaden the base of public support and activities tied into building a culture of peace. Even modest resources and time devoted to NGO, Track II, and people-to-people activities will pay large dividends.

Doing this will not be easy. Arab governments are very skeptical and suspicious about American (and Israeli) motives, concerned that these processes will substitute for a serious effort to resolve the underlying conflict. Because of this, any American effort to encourage Arab-Israeli interaction will need to be tied closely to progress on the Palestinian-Israeli track. Each element of this integrated policy framework needs to be undertaken in conjunction with the others so that all parties see the larger picture in which they are being asked to move forward. Arab-Israeli cooperation is one important component of this larger policy framework.

7. Don’t ignore religious, ideological, and historical narratives. Under the best circumstances and the smartest American policy, peace will be challenged by mutually exclusive Israeli and Palestinian religious, ideological, and historical narratives. Diplomats traditionally shy away from these issues, for they are not amenable to quick fixes, and they speak to the deepest psychological and emotional instincts of the two peoples. However, as much as policy makers would prefer to ignore these issues, they need to be considered if the goal is a conflict-ending, claims-ending agreement.

Today, there are some modest non-governmental activities focused on fostering internal dialogue within the two communities, involving those who don’t play a direct role in peace talks—especially settlers and refugees. As a matter of policy, the United States needs to pay attention without interfering in these NGO-led efforts. American funding can help these activities expand.

Developing Smart Strategy and Tactics

With this kind of strong, integrated policy, the United States will be better placed to consider the right strategy and tactics for advancing the peace process. Tactical choices are quite important, but the United States should approach tactics with flexibility and avoid confusing tactics with policy.

Do smart diplomacy.
There are many useful guides for what worked and what did not work in the past.A first order of business, as the integrated policy is adopted, is to stand back, assimilate the tactical lessons of the past, and empower our diplomats to act creatively, flexibly, and boldly.

Negotiations will be critical but only when constructed carefully, on the basis of strong terms of reference. Asking the parties to negotiate agreed terms of reference is unlikely to produce results. The United States will thus need to consider when and how to break the logjam. The best alternative at that time might be to offer the U.S. parameters as the terms of reference for the negotiations. In doing so, the United States would describe its approach as positioning the parties as though at the wide end of a funnel. We would direct the parties to, so to speak, the light at the end of the funnel, by helping them navigate the choices required to narrow differences and bridge gaps. The parties would remain the central actors in negotiations, but the United States would not be an absent party when it comes to fixing problems and achieving results.

Public diplomacy.
The United States already invests heavily in public diplomacy. With a good product—that is, strong and determined policy—savvy public diplomacy can focus on bringing the Israeli and Palestinian publics to support the peace effort. From the president and the secretary of state on down, American officials should talk directly to the people in the region about the requirements of peace and all the good that will flow from a peaceful settlement.

Think outside traditional boxes.
At a time when American officials are reaching out to Islamists in the Middle East, it no longer makes sense to maintain inflexible conditions for engagement with Hamas. To be clear, Hamas needs to renounce terrorism and accept Israel’s right to exist as an independent state before the United States enters a formal dialogue. But American and international conditions have been cast in stone so impenetrable that it has been impossible to assess whether change may be under way within Hamas.

One way to test this is to rethink our approach to Palestinian unity and reconciliation. Since 2006, the United States has assigned more value to the choices confronting Hamas than to the continued commitment of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the peace process. If our objective is to strengthen PLO and PA decision makers, and if they believe that a unity accord with Hamas will help them, then we ought to be supportive, provided PLO and PA policy does not change to accommodate Hamas’s wishes. The focus of American policy needs to be on what the PLO and the PA do, not on what Hamas says or thinks. The great irony is that American and Israeli efforts to isolate Hamas in Gaza have weakened the PA financially and politically, while strengthening Hamas’s financial and institutional control. It makes no sense to continue in this direction.

The United States should also reconsider its position with regard to Palestinian diplomatic recognition. There are substantial benefits to be had for both Palestine and Israel in a carefully crafted process of formal diplomatic recognition.2


Realistic Short-Term Outcomes

Rebuild American influence, power, and prestige. The position of the United States in the Middle East is in crisis and is worsening over time. All of our traditional Arab allies are either in the midst of transitions to regimes that are likely to be far less supportive of our interests or are under pressure from populations that see alliance with the United States as part of the problem, not part of the solution to their country’s shortcomings. Events since the onset of the Arab upheavals in January 2011 have demonstrated that the United States has significantly reduced leverage and few assets to bring to bear in dealing with these emerging political constellations. Our assistance does not buy us much anymore, and there appears to be little price to pay for ignoring American advice or preferences. The one issue that can change this—indeed, that can transform American standing overnight—is strong American leadership in Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

A robust American role in the peace process is not a magic bullet, but it is the closest thing to a discrete policy that can have a dramatic, transformative impact on developments elsewhere. Every American-led or American-assisted breakthrough in the past has changed the regional dynamics. As a result of the Madrid process, for example, American influence skyrocketed, and tangible gains were registered for the United States and Israel: Syrian Jews were permitted to emigrate; Israel’s diplomatic recognition and relations expanded, including those with Turkey, India, and China; trade and commercial relations were established with several Arab countries; official contacts with most Arab states were launched in the context of formal multi-lateral negotiations. In other words, American diplomatic leadership achieved substantial results, even though the peace process itself ultimately faltered. Imagine the important and tangible gains possible if progress is achieved in a U.S.-led Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The point is that what the United States does or fails to do in the peace process has an outsized impact on U.S. standing in the region. We benefit when we act confidently and boldly; we are weakened when we don’t.

Provide tangible security and other benefits to Israelis and Palestinians.
The United States spends an extraordinary amount of money, time, and political capital to help Israel achieve the security and well-being that it deserves, and to help Palestinians cope with the challenges of occupation while building the capacity for independent statehood. There is no other country as generous in this regard, and no other country as committed to these goals. Congress and the American people have been supportive of these costs, even at times of economic stringency at home. In other words, we do it because it is the right thing to do.

A peace process—even a peace agreement—offers no certainty that the security or well-being of Israelis or Palestinians will improve immediately. Indeed, the opposite could occur in the short term, as opponents of peace mobilize or engage in violence to try to block negotiations or implementation of an accord. However, the durability of existing negotiated peace agreements argues that security and well-being are deeply enhanced by the peace process. However painful the immediate human and material costs of implementing treaties, the long-term result is an environment less susceptible to the threat of war. Unilateral withdrawals and unilateral actions don’t work, for there is no shared responsibility; signed agreements do work, and their net result is enhanced security and well-being for Israelis and Arabs.

Rescue and possibly advance the prospects of the two-state solution.
The two-state solution is not self-implementing, and the longer the idea does not move forward, the more likely it is to lose ground and become more problematic to implement. The publics in Israel and Palestine are increasingly skeptical of the idea, Palestinian violence is destroying the Israelis’ belief in peace, and Israeli settlement activity is making it more difficult daily to imagine the evacuation of tens of thousands of settlers in the context of an agreement. We are in a race against time to rescue and implement the two-state solution.

It will be very hard to construct, conduct, and sustain a determined and comprehensive peace strategy, even harder to imagine positive results. But doing nothing is the easiest pathway to a deepening crisis for American interests in the Middle East. The United States can do hard diplomacy, and in this case, it must.

The components of a comprehensive, robust, and sustainable American policy and strategy thus represent the best chance for a transformative change in the Middle East and in America’s standing in the region. The time is now for confident American leadership to advance the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Daniel C. Kurtzer, Pathways to Peace: America and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, published 2012, reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan.

1. Daniel C. Kurtzer and Scott B. Lasensky, Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East, (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2008) contains ten critical lessons from American experience since the Madrid conference. See also Daniel Kurtzer, William Quandt, Scott Lasensky, Steven Spiegel, and Shibley Telhami, The Peace Puzzle: America’s Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace 1989−2011, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012) for a detailed analysis of negotiations during the past two decades and lessons learned.

2. See, for example, Daniel Kurtzer, “A ‘Win-Win’ for Palestine and Israel Is Possible,” HuffPost World, August 17, 2011, which suggested tangible ways that both Israel and Palestine could benefit from a well-constructed UN diplomatic scenario. daniel-kurtzer/a-winwin-for-palestine-an_b_928199.html.


Parameters: Possible Terms of Reference for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations

As part of a cohesive American policy and strategy for advancing Palestinian-Israeli peace prospects, the United States should craft substantive parameters for internal use and consider using them as the terms of reference for negotiations. Following is a model of parameters:

  1. Goal of the Negotiations
  2. Territory and Borders

III.           Security

  1. Israeli Settlements and Refugees
  2. West Bank and Gaza “Safe Passage”
  3. Places of Historical and Religious Significance

VII.         Jerusalem

VIII.       Water

  1. Implementation
  1. Goal of the Negotiations

The Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Israel (“the Parties”) seek a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace, consistent with the United Nations Charter, that will fulfill UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and constitute the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and all claims related to it. As a result of negotiations, the State of Palestine and the State of Israel will live side by side in peace and security. Israel will recognize Palestine as the national home of the Palestinian people and all its citizens; and Palestine will recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people and all its citizens. Each State will affirm the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace based on freedom, equality, justice, respect for human rights, and respect for human dignity. Each state will work to eliminate incitement against the other state, as well as efforts to delegitimize it. The Parties agree to the full and orderly implementation of the terms of the agreement, in accordance with agreed means, methods, sequencing, timelines, and provisions.

  1. Territory and Borders

In fulfillment of UN Security Council Resolution 242, Israel will withdraw from territories occupied in the 1967 war. The Parties will negotiate the withdrawal and the border of the two States based on the June 4, 1967, line. The final border will reflect minor, reciprocal, and agreed-upon boundary modifications, including 1:1 land swaps, reciprocal in terms of both quantity and quality. The outcome of negotiations will be a secure, recognized, and defensible border that ensures the territorial integrity, contiguity, and viability of both States.

III. Security

The agreement will base Israeli-Palestinian security relations on mutual trust and advancement of joint interests and cooperation. The agreement will stipulate that each State will refrain from the threat or use of force or weapons, conventional, non-conventional, or of any other kind, against each other, or of other actions or activities that adversely affect the security of the citizens, residents, territorial integrity, or political independence of the other. The two States will also refrain from organizing, instigating, inciting, assisting, or participating in acts or threats of belligerency, hostility, subversion, or violence against the other Party. The Parties shall also agree to take necessary and effective measures to ensure that acts or threats of belligerency, hostility, subversion, or violence against the other Party do not originate from, and are not committed within, through, or over their territory (hereinafter “territory” includes the airspace and territorial waters).

The agreement will provide that all disputes between the two States will be settled by peaceful means, including but not limited to negotiations, mediation, and/or arbitration. The agreement will also provide for a liaison system to facilitate implementation of the security provisions.

The agreement will stipulate that the two States will not join or assist any alliance, the objectives of which include launching aggression or other acts of military hostility against the other State. The agreement will prohibit each State from allowing the entry, stationing, and operating on its territory, or through it, of military forces, personnel, or materiel of a third party, in circumstances that may adversely prejudice the security of the other Party. The two States will agree to take necessary and effective measures and will cooperate in preventing and combating terrorism, subversion, and violence of all kinds or any other act of violence emanating from their territory, and to prevent and disband the formation of any force, militia, or group aiming to incite or carry out violence against the other. The Parties will agree to take necessary and effective measures to prevent the entry, presence, and operation in their territory of any group or organization that threatens the security of the other State by the use of, or incitement to the use of, violent means.

The State of Palestine will develop and maintain adequate internal security forces and will limit arms and equipment to levels and types to maintain internal security and enforce the rule of law within its borders. No armed forces, arms, other implements of war, or dual-use material may enter, be stationed, transit, or be deployed in the State of Palestine except as agreed by the Parties. International monitors will observe, monitor, and report on implementation of these provisions. The monitors will have enforcement authorities as agreed.

The agreement will provide for a timetable for implementation of security arrangements that will, inter alia, include early-warning and related facilities; and international observers, monitors, and forces as required to oversee and ensure implementation of the security provision of the agreement.

The State of Palestine will be responsible for security at its borders and points of entry. Palestinian border security and control over international passages, including future land, sea, and airports, and entry into the State of Palestine will be monitored by an international body, which will work in close cooperation and coordination with the Parties and neighboring states.

The Parties will reach agreement on control over the airspace, maritime areas, and electromagnetic spectrum. Each State shall recognize the right of vessels of the other State to innocent passage through its territorial waters in accordance with the rules of international law.

  1. Israeli Settlements and Refugees

In accordance with an agreed implementation timeline, all Israeli settlers and all Israeli civilians will be evacuated from the territory of the State of Palestine. In accordance with the laws of the State of Palestine, individual Israeli citizens may apply for residency and citizenship in the State of Palestine. The Parties will reach agreement on the disposition of all fixed assets and infrastructure within Israeli settlements, with the goal being the transfer of such assets and infrastructure in good condition to the State of Palestine in return for fair and reasonable compensation.

In fulfillment of UN General Assembly Resolution 194, and in view of the suffering experienced by the Palestinian refugees, Palestinian refugees will have the right of return to the State of Palestine, consistent with the absorptive capacity and laws of that State. Those refugees who choose not to exercise their right to return to the State of Palestine or who are prevented from returning by the State of Palestine will be assisted to resettle in their countries of current residence or in other countries willing to receive them, while respecting the sovereign rights of those states. The State of Israel will offer a program of family reunification, including citizenship, for a limited number of refugees.

An international fund will be established to help defray the costs of compensation and resettlement of Palestinian refugees and Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

  1. West Bank and Gaza “Safe Passage”

The Parties will agree on the size, modalities, and administration of a “safe passage” corridor that links the West Bank and Gaza. The corridor should be of sufficient size to accommodate a four-lane highway, a rail link and underground pipelines, cables, and utility lines. The State of Israel will have sovereignty, but not administrative authority, over the corridor and will exercise control over external security. The corridor will have sufficient access points to ensure effective emergency response, and it will be transected by an agreed number and location of crossings to ensure effective communication for Israel for all purposes. The State of Palestine will administer the corridor, bear responsibility for maintenance and upkeep, exercise control over security within the corridor, and monitor the people and goods transiting the corridor to assure effective security and law enforcement. The passage will operate continuously.

  1. Places of Historical and Religious Significance

Each State will provide freedom of access for visitors and worshippers to all places of religious and historical significance within their territory. The Parties will agree on a list of such places in the two States. The two States will agree to protect and respect all sites of religious, historic, and cultural significance. Each State will ensure adequate protection for freedom of access and worship. International monitors will oversee implementation of these provisions to all the sites so listed.

VII. Jerusalem

The agreement will provide that Jerusalem is a site of sacred, religious, historic, and cultural importance and will provide for the geographic limits of the city. The Parties will agree to act in accordance with the dignity and sanctity of the city.

The agreement will provide that Jerusalem will become the capital of the two States—Al-Quds as the capital of Palestine, and Yerushalayim as the capital of Israel. The city should be undivided and free of permanent barriers and other physical obstructions that impede daily life. The Parties will develop an agreed plan for the control of entry into and exit from the city and for its security.

The Parties will agree to establish a negotiating process and time frame to determine their boundary and to provide that:
—Outside the walls of the Old City, the Parties will define their boundary on the basis of demography, that is, predominantly Jewish neighborhoods will be included in the State of Israel, and predominantly Arab neighborhoods will be included in the State of Palestine.
—With regard to the Old City, pending an agreement between the Parties on the boundary, they will establish by agreement a special regime to administer the Old City under an international administrator appointed by them.

VIII. Water

The Parties will agree on a fair and equitable distribution of water, including but not limited to underground aquifers, desalinated water, and water from the Jordan River system. The agreement shall provide for cooperation in managing existing and searching for new sources of water supply, including development of existing and new water resources, increasing the water availability, including cooperation on a regional basis as appropriate, and minimizing wastage of water resources. The Parties shall also agree to cooperate to prevent contamination of water resources, and to assist in the alleviation of water shortages. An international fund will be established to assist with desalination and other water-supply development and delivery infrastructure to satisfy the needs of Israel, Palestine, and other riparian states of the Jordan River system.

  1. Implementation

The Parties, with the assistance of the Quartet and other international organizations as appropriate, will establish an international mechanism to monitor and facilitate implementation of the agreement, and ensure full compliance with all its terms.

Daniel C. Kurtzer served in the U.S. Foreign Service for twenty-nine years, retiring in 2005 with the rank of career-minister. He served as the American ambassador to Israel (2001−2005) and to Egypt (1997−2001). Instrumental in formulating and executing U.S. policy toward the Middle East peace process, he participated in the team that convened the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991. In 2008, he served as a foreign policy advisor to presidential candidate Barack Obama and subsequently served on the Obama Middle East transition team. He is currently the S. Daniel Abraham Professor in Middle Eastern Policy Studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

The Extraordinary Fall of Bo Xilai

The Bo Xilai Scandal: Power, Death, and Politics in China. By Jamil Anderlini. Penguin Books, 2012. Kindle edition.

The Rise and Fall of the House of Bo: How a Murder Exposed the Cracks in China’s LeadershipBy John Garnaut. Penguin Books, 2012. Kindle edition.

All eyes are on China. Yet, for all the attention the media, politicians, and scholars are paying it, we know precious little about the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party. Synonymous with the state, the party presents a unified face to the world. It appears to be a well-oiled, centralized machine. Thirty years of openness to the world, four U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogues, and hundreds of official press conferences have shed little light on the country’s elite.

In 2012, a crack opened in this façade. The greatest crisis the party has faced since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 burst into the open in Chongqing, a southwestern direct-controlled municipality the size of Austria and inhabited by more than 28 million souls.

On February 2 of that year, Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun was mysteriously demoted to a position overseeing science, education, and the environment. Four days later, Wang drove himself to the American consulate in Chengdu, 200 miles to the northwest of Chongqing, and made a plea for asylum. So began the undoing of Bo Xilai, a member of China’s central politburo and the debonair Chongqing party secretary whom Henry Kissinger had praised just months earlier as “China’s future.”

As the sordid details unfolded from last spring to early autumn, a tale of opulence and revenge emerged that directly contradicted the vision of a unified Chinese party-state. In Chengdu, Wang revealed a story of murder. (After Chinese security police surrounded the consulate, Wang emerged and was immediately arrested.) In 2011, Gu Kailai, Bo’s troubled wife, had lured the family’s British fixer, Neil Heywood, to Chongqing for a special visit. Heywood is credited with getting the Bo’s son, Bo Guagua, into Harrow and Oxford. Gu later would claim that Heywood had threatened her son, and that she had no choice but to do everything in her power to stop him. On November 13, 2011, she poured cyanide down Heywood’s throat at the Lucky Holiday Hotel; his body was found two days later.

The real motive was impossible to discern from Gu’s show trial in August 2012. The court apparently was shown an e-mail from Heywood vowing to “destroy” Bo Guagua if he could not deliver millions of pounds; it is unclear if this e-mail was real. But as a member of China’s “red aristocracy” by both birth and marriage, Gu likely acted on what she believed was her “divine right,” according to an interview with an anonymous Chinese financier in Jamil Anderlini’s The Bo Xilai Scandal: Power, Death, and Politics in China. Gu’s father was a general in the 1979 war with Vietnam; her husband was the son of Bo Yibo, one of the Eight Immortals who held power in the wake of Mao’s death. This family was destined to rule. And the law should have broken down before it reached them—and it would have, if not for Wang Lijun.

Anderlini, the Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times, looks at Heywood’s path from his grooming in London and arrival in China to seek his fortunes, to his life as a moderately successful businessman enmeshed with the Bo clan. Patronage brought him a comfortable existence in Beijing, where he lived with his wife and two children. Fluent in Mandarin and adept at navigating the maze of personal relationships that hold together China’s political elite, Heywood zipped around Beijing in a Jaguar with the license plate N007W3. When his name became a censored search result on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, netizens simply referred to him as “007.” In the halls of Chinese government, Heywood is rumored to have been a spy for MI6.

The Rise and Fall of the House of Bo depicts the “global aristocracy” that includes the likes of Heywood and Bo. John Garnaut, China correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald, describes a network through which Bo Guagua could invite U.S. Ambassador John Huntsman’s daughter to be entertained in Beijing. Within this network, the Bo family embraced British upper class culture, while Western politicians and businessmen, charmed by Bo Xilai’s fluid English and winning smile, looked for ways to capitalize on China’s rise. Few seemed to suspect the dark drama beneath Bo’s shining city of Chongqing.

From his arrival in 2007, Bo made a great show of “cleaning up” Chongqing. To an outsider, his “smash black” campaign against organized crime was a great success. In truth, Bo and his right-hand man, Wang Lijun, were only cracking down on those criminal elements that blocked Bo from tightening his grip on the city. “Bo controlled the mafia by making it his own,” writes Garnaut. Only a select few gangsters stayed in place: notably the “Godfather of Chongqing,” Weng Zhenjie, who was just too connected to the military for Bo to take on.

Beijing was wary of Bo. He behaved too much like a Western politician. Shaking hands, grinning for the cameras, and showing off do not make up the behavior of the typical wooden-faced cadre. Add to that Bo’s “red song” campaign and Maoist rhetoric and former premier Jiang Zemin’s decades-long patronage, and no wonder Beijing was wary. “People inside the party always compared him to Hitler,” one Chongqing official told Anderlini. Yet, if not for Heywood’s murder and Wang’s flight, Bo could have been promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee—from which, many thought, he would jockey with Xi Jinping to become China’s top leader.

The Chinese Communist Party’s stability is threatened by two weak points. The first, more obvious one, is the compact made with the public after the Tiananmen massacre in 1989: the party-state brings you prosperity and you accept the party-state. Economic decline and social pressure threaten this bargain. The other weak point is just barely illuminated by the Bo Xilai scandal: far from a united front, the party is driven by egos, feuds, and factionalism. These two authors provide a rare and useful glimpse into this fractious world.  Anderlini gives insight into Heywood’s voyage while focusing on Bo’s Jekyll-and-Hyde switches; a populist by day, a tyrant by night. Garnaut looks more carefully at the family ties that brought Bo Xilai to power but pitted him against Xi and others. He exposes the mafia-like operations of all party clans, with feuds rooted deep in the past and embittered by the Cultural Revolution.

Gu and Wang have stood trial and received their sentences; Bo was finally “transferred to judicial organs” in early January, where he is most likely languishing under shuanggui, or “double designation,” a special form of punishment reserved for cadres who violate party discipline. His ruthlessness in Chongqing is now condemned by officials and the state media. Yet Bo Xilai, though the most visible example, is by no means the only Chinese politician bending the law to advance his own agenda.

Anne Henochowicz is the translation coordinator at China Digital Times, a bilingual media non-profit, where she writes “Drawing the News,” a biweekly political cartoon round-up. She has contributed to the China Beat blog and Foreign Policy. On Twitter: @murasakint.

Restless Empire

Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750. By Odd Arne Westad. Basic Books, New York, 2012. 515 pp.

Xi Jinping’s rise, Bo Xilai’s fall, Chen Guangcheng’s escape, and maritime crises between China and Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines—and ensuing protests in each nation—kept the foreign news bureaus in Beijing buzzing throughout 2012. The quick succession and at times relationship of these and other dramas with each other left even the most seasoned China-watchers scratching their heads and often reaching for the nearest Asia-Pacific map they could find. Leaders of the People’s Republic hoped it would be a quiet year, punctuated only by celebrations marking the once-a-decade gathering of the Communist Party’s National Congress, held in the capital city last November.

Despite the opaque processes by which their national leaders are chosen and government decisions are made, opinions among mainland Chinese in these first hundred days of Xi Jinping’s term were in abundant supply. Regarding the clout China has attained in global affairs alongside its tremendous economic growth at home, genuine feelings of confidence and positive expectations about the coming years predominate. But nearly just as often—and at times in the very same sentence—feelings of insecurity and mistrust of other nations are expressed as well. This is the paradox of Chinese nationalism. Norwegian historian Odd Arne Westad’s Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750 provides a fine starting point for understanding the manifestation of this paradox today, be it in the PRC’s proud claims over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea or its defiant defense of the Syrian regime at the United Nations.

Westad calls his book a “revisionist take” on the foreign relations of China, in the sense that rather than writing a strict history on war and diplomacy, he aims to highlight “encounters” with the outside world, not only among high officials but also workers and businessmen, missionaries, students, and others. Thanks to this approach, we learn how migrations of mainlanders to distant parts of the Asian continent and across the globe have been critical to the introduction of foreign goods, technologies, and political philosophies to China for well over 200 years. Without this transmitting and domestic refashioning of ideas from overseas—most notably from Japan, Western Europe, Russia, and the United States—China’s historical trajectory would look unquestionably different. For Chinese revolutionaries of every generation Westad notes, “abroad has always been the initial staging ground for their dreams and hopes.”

A second, and equally important argument the author makes by way of illustrating these cross-cultural encounters is that it remains a challenge to this day to articulate just who and what have comprised China. Questions such as “Who counts as Chinese?” or “Where is China?” may appear academic, but try asking a native Beijinger or a Uighur in Xinjiang province or a Taiwanese Canadian, and you will get three different answers. Westad’s narration of clashes along China’s periphery since the Qing Dynasty makes clear the mixed success of rulers trying to promote “one inclusive identity” from afar. The persistence of a certain self-image in light of China’s imperial past—during which the country was central to the natural order of things in the known world and lacked perfectly defined borders—means matters such as where, geographically, China begins and ends, remain fiercely contested even among its own citizens. One need only note the nearly one hundred incidents of Tibetans self-immolating in the past year to recognize this fact. Or how taking a domestic flight or bus ride across Muslim-majority Xinjiang, seems, in a word, militarized in a way that riding the gaotie (bullet train) to Shanghai does not. China is not your typical nation-state.

Restless Empire provides a brisk overview of the most significant diplomatic and military episodes in modern Chinese history. It neatly summarizes the bloody catalog of forced land concessions and other humiliations at the hands of foreign powers, and the intellectual soul-searching and political movements emerging alongside them. Westad highlights points of contact between Chinese and non-Chinese at times and places where we might have hardly expected them. For instance, he tells of some 150,000 Chinese laborers recruited to serve on the Western Front in Europe in the First World War. By the time the war ended, these Chinese had aided the armies of France, Russia, Great Britain, and the U.S. in various ways; at least 3,000 lost their lives in the process.

Back on the mainland during roughly the same period, American missionaries and reform-minded educators were instrumental in establishing and managing Tsinghua University, Nanjing University, and the precursor to Beijing University—among the most elite academies in China today. For Westad, reminding readers of such cooperation with Western actors is not intended to be self-congratulatory. Rather, it is to drive home the point that China’s engagement with the world has run far and long before our own lifetimes—before the Nixon-Kissinger rapprochement or the 2008 Beijing Olympics or other conventional markers of its “opening up” or “coming out.”

If there is a single, overarching theme to China’s history as Westad sees it—whether governed by Qing emperors, early twentieth century republicans or Nationalists, Mao Zedong for a quarter century, or the market-oriented elites of today—it is the “encounter with capitalist modernity and of how Chinese shaped that modernity and were shaped by it” up to current times. He falls short of coming up with a firm definition or contemporary vision of this unique “Chinese modernity.” Linked to the topic is the thorny question of what governing model will prevail, or ought to, in China the years ahead, and Westad has his predictions; for instance, that Beijing might take a lesson or two about “good governance” from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao.

Competing ideas about the proper path of political and economic development for China are as central now in defining relations between rulers and ruled in the country as they have been in the past. The passions that differing views are capable of stirring were on full display to the world recently during the brief censorship scandal involving the outspoken Southern Weekly newspaper, based in Guangzhou. Borrowing a phrase coined by Xi Jinping himself a few days earlier, the paper planned to run a provocative new year’s editorial with the title, “China Dream: Dream of Constitutionalism.” When provincial officials blocked the article from going to press, journalists and other supporters staged a strike. Also appropriating Xi’s phrase, counter-protesters carried signs proclaiming, “We don’t want the American dream—We want the Chinese dream,” and called for the “traitor newspaper” to be shut down. Rather than brushing this off as empty rhetoric, we might consider it to be an expression of the quest for an elusive Chinese modernity that Westad argues has been at the heart of every revolutionary struggle in China’s history. Whether the dream can be converted into a stable reality for 1.3 billion citizens before the end of Xi’s term, and whether the road to it will be an entirely peaceful one, is far from clear.

Ira Hubert is a doctoral student in diplomatic history at McGill University, concentrating on Sino-Arab relations. From 2008 to 2011, he served as an intelligence analyst with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia

The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia. By Gregory Johnsen. W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2012. 352 pp.

Don’t be surprised if Al-Qaeda in Yemen launches attacks against Western targets. It is not a new phenomenon that Yemen is a base for the international terrorist network. And, despite what some may think, nor is the terrorist threat from the country about to disappear. Yemen has long been a refuge for Al-Qaeda when there was nowhere else for the group to turn.

Such is the case made by scholar Gregory Johnsen in his new book on the history of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, The Last Refuge. With a weak central government and tribal sheikhs who distrust authority, Yemen has been a strategic sanctuary for Al-Qaeda almost as long as there have been jihadis fighting alongside their former Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden. When the war against the Soviets was winding down in Afghanistan, Bin Laden agreed with Yemeni tribal leader Tareq Al-Fadhli that the next destination for their jihad would be against the socialists in what was then the independent state of South Yemen.

Johnsen outlines a history of both Al-Qaeda central in South Asia and its Yemeni Branch, providing evidence that the former highly influenced the latter, but that Al-Qaeda in Yemen has become more independent from central command in recent years. The history ranges from the late 1980s, when the Yemeni government supported mujahideen returning from the fight in Afghanistan to the government’s crackdown after the attack on the USS Cole in Aden in 2000, which started Al-Qaeda’s temporary decline as they “didn’t have the infrastructure or the numbers to make good on” their threats within Yemen. And onto a daring prison escape in 2006 that laid the groundwork for the formation of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the organization whose threat to the West is illustrated by the increase of American drone strikes in Yemen over the past year.

Furthermore, Al Qaeda’s existence in Yemen is tied with the country’s domestic conflicts and the messy agendas of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In the 1994 civil war, in which Saleh’s government defeated a rebelling south, Saleh and his loyal generals organized the mujahideen, some of whom would form Al-Qaeda in Yemen, into fighting units against southerners who the jihadis already viewed as godless socialists.

While set on wrecking an uprising of Zaydi Shiites in Yemen’s north known as the Houthi rebellion, Saleh encouraged the establishment of Salafi schools linked with Al-Qaeda in Houthi territory, thus turning his political threat into a sectarian battle. Even during the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, Yemeni leaders encouraged the country’s young men to travel to Afghanistan to fight, as Johnsen puts it, “sending their best and brightest.”

Despite his initial cooperation, jihadis would find Saleh a capricious ally on whom they could not depend. In the same way that he would cozy up to them when it suited his political goals, Saleh would readily abandon Al-Qaeda as soon as the benefits from doing so were presented to him—usually in the form of American aid money. So, in the years following the Cole bombing, the government arrested the group’s members, used deadly force against them, and allowed the U.S. intelligence services to operate in the country.

Nor was Saleh ever the great ally in the war on terrorism that the U.S. government presented him as at times. The former leader ran hot and cold, even at one point refusing the FBI access to prisoners complicit in the USS Cole bombing.

Meanwhile, over the past decade, the U.S. supported the inept Yemeni security apparatus, which turned into one big corruption machine. When Yemeni security forces actually managed a victory in its fight against Al-Qaeda, it was normally one step forward—incarcerating an Al-Qaeda cell in the far flung east, for example—but then two steps back—shortly after, ten prisoners escaped from the political security prison in Aden, including Al-Qaeda leaders Fahd Al-Qusa and Nasr Al-Wahayshi.

Johnsen writes with incredible detail thanks to a meticulous culling of secondary sources, and the personalities of his protagonists, a mismatched band of jihadis, come alive as they plot and train in the mountains of Yemen. However, this also means that in the areas where secondary sources are slim, gaps remain in the story. Little is said about the group’s incredible ability to attract foreigners to their fight, especially Western converts. There could be more analysis on connections between the Yemeni security forces and Al-Qaeda members, and on the lackluster way in which security forces went after Al-Qaeda in Yemen, especially in 2011 when, for the first time, militants affiliated with the group actually took control of large swaths of territory.

Laura Kasinof is a journalist based in Washington, DC. She has written for the Economist, Foreign Policy, Christian Science Monitor, San Francisco Chronicle, and Al Jazeera International, among others. From 2011 to 2012 she reported from Yemen for the New York Times. On Twitter: @kasinof.

Addresses on China and the World

Address at the Politburo Standing Committee Members’ Meeting by Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, Great Hall of the People, Beijing (November 15, 2012)

Source: BBC

Good day, ladies, gentlemen, and friends. Sorry to have kept you waiting. I am very happy to meet with you, friends of the press.

Yesterday, the 18th CPC [Communist Party of China] National Congress victoriously concluded.

During these days, friends of the press have made lots of coverage on the congress and conveyed China’s voice in abundance to every country around the world. Everyone has been very dedicated, professional, and hardworking. For this, on behalf of the Secretariat of the 18th Party Congress, I would like to express sincere gratitude to you.

Just now, we have conducted the first plenary meeting of the 18th CPC Central Committee and elected the new central leadership organization during the meeting. The plenary meeting election has produced seven Standing Committee members of the Political Bureau and elected me as the CPC General Secretary.

Here, let me introduce to you my colleagues, the other six Standing Committee members.

They are: Comrade Li Keqiang, Comrade Zhang Dejiang, Comrade Yu Zhengsheng, Comrade Liu Yunshan, Comrade Wang Qishan, and Comrade Zhang Gaoli.

Comrade Li Keqiang served as a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the 17th CPC Central Committee while other comrades served as members of the Political Bureau of the 17th CPC Central Committee. You have known them well.

Here, on behalf of the members of the new central leadership organization, I sincerely thank all comrades of the party for their trust in us. We will live up to the great trust placed on and the mission assigned to us.

The great trust of all members of the party and the expectations of people of all ethnic groups around the country are not only a tremendous encouragement to our doing the work well, but also a heavy burden on our shoulders. This great responsibility is the responsibility to our nation. Our nation is a great nation.

During the civilization and development process of more than 5,000 years, the Chinese nation has made an indelible contribution to the civilization and advancement of mankind. In the modern era, our nation experienced constant hardship and difficulties. The Chinese nation reached the most dangerous period. Since then, countless people with lofty ideals to realize the great revival of the Chinese nation rose to resist and fight, but failed one time after another.

Since the founding of the CPC, we have united and led the people to advance and struggle tenaciously, transforming the impoverished and backward Old China into the New China that has become prosperous and strong gradually. The great revival of the Chinese nation has demonstrated unprecedented bright prospects.

Our responsibility is to unite and lead people of the entire party and of all ethnic groups around the country while accepting the baton of history and continuing to work for realizing the great revival of the Chinese nation in order to let the Chinese nation stand more firmly and powerfully among all nations around the world and make a greater contribution to mankind.

This great responsibility is the responsibility to the people. Our people are a great people. During the long process of history, by relying on our own diligence, courage, and wisdom, Chinese people have opened up a good and beautiful home where all ethnic groups live in harmony and fostered an excellent culture that never fades.

Our people love life and expect better education, more stable jobs, better income, more reliable social security, medical care of a higher standard, more comfortable living conditions, and a more beautiful environment.

They hope that their children can grow up better, work better and live better. People’s yearning for a good and beautiful life is the goal for us to strive for.

Every bit of happiness in the world has to be created by diligent work and labor. Our responsibility is to rally and lead the whole party and all of China’s ethnic groups and continue to emancipate our way of thinking, insist on reform and opening up, further unleash and develop social productive forces, work hard to resolve the difficulties faced by the masses in both production and life, and steadfastly take the road of common prosperity.

This is a major responsibility towards the party. Our party is a political party that serves the people wholeheartedly. The party has led the people in scoring accomplishments that capture the attention of the world. We have every reason to be proud. However, we are proud but not complacent, and we will never rest on our laurels.

In the new situation, our party faces many severe challenges, and there are many pressing problems within the party that need to be resolved, especially problems such as corruption and bribe-taking by some party members and cadres, being out of touch with the people, placing undue emphasis on formality, and bureaucracy must be addressed with great effort.

The whole party must be vigilant.

The metal itself must be hard to be turned into iron. Our responsibility is to work with all comrades in the party to be resolute in ensuring that the party supervises its own conduct; enforces strict discipline; effectively deals with the prominent issues within the party; earnestly improves the party’s work style and maintains close ties with the people. So that our party will always be the firm leadership core for advancing the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

It is the people who create history. The masses are the real heroes. Our strength comes from the people and masses. We deeply understand that the capability of any individual is limited, but as long as we unite as one, there is no difficulty that we cannot overcome. Individuals have limited time in work, but there is no limit in serving the people wholeheartedly.

Our responsibility is weightier than Mount Tai, and our journey ahead is long and arduous. We must always be of one heart and mind with the people; share weal and woe with the people; make concerted and hard effort with the people; attend to our duties day and night with diligence; and strive to deliver a satisfactory answer sheet to history and the people.

Friends from the press, China needs to learn more about the world, and the world also needs to learn more about China. I hope you will continue to make more efforts and contributions to deepening the mutual understanding between China and the countries of the world.

Thank you everybody!

“Work Together to Achieve Common Security and Development,” Statement by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at 67th United Nations General Assembly, New York, New York (September 27, 2012)

Source: People’s Republic of China, Mission to the United Nations

Mr. President,

I wish to congratulate you on your election as president of the 67th Session of the General Assembly. I am confident that with your ability and experience, you will successfully fulfill this lofty mission. I also wish to thank Mr. Al-Nasser for his positive contribution as president of the last session.

Mr. President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The world is undergoing major and profound changes. The trend towards multi-polarity, economic globalization and the application of information technology are gaining momentum. Countries have never been so interconnected and interdependent as they are today; emerging markets and developing countries have never had such strong influence, and cross-civilization dialogue and exchanges are flourishing as never before. To promote peace, development and cooperation has become the shared aspiration of people across the world and the common pursuit of the international community.

On the other hand, the world is still far from being peaceful. The underlying impact of the international financial crisis and the European debt crisis remains strong. Destabilizing factors and uncertainties affecting global growth have increased. Regional turbulence persists, hotspot issues keep emerging and traditional and non-traditional security issues are entwined. The international security environment is highly complex.

Facing both unprecedented opportunities and challenges, we must not allow the outdated Cold War mentality and zero-sum game theory to stand in our way. We should act like passengers who stick together in a boat when crossing a torrential river and seek win-win progress through cooperation. This is the only option for countries around the world. To ensure one’s own security, a country should respect and accommodate the security of other countries. To realize one’s own development, a country should actively promote common development; and in pursuing one’s own interests, a country should take into account the interests of other countries. Only by promoting common security and development for all of its members can the international community effectively address complex and multiple security threats and global challenges, resolve increasingly serious difficulties facing development and ensure durable peace and sustainable development of the world. With this in mind, China, believes that it is important that we do the following:

We should promote equality and democracy in international relations. Mutual respect and equality are basic norms governing international relations. All countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community. Respect for each other’s sovereignty, core interests and choice of social system and development path is a fundamental principle guiding state-to-state relations. We should vigorously promote greater democracy in international relations. The internal affairs of a country should be handled by itself, and issues involving the interests of various countries should be handled by them through consultation. We should remain true to multilateralism and uphold the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the central role of the United Nations in international affairs. China endeavors to strengthen political mutual trust and address problems and differences with other countries through dialogue and exchanges. China does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries or impose its will on others, and China does not allow outside forces to interfere in its internal affairs.

We should seek win-win progress through cooperation in the course of development. As economic globalization deepens, all countries have a high stake in each other’s success. We should therefore enhance cooperation and expand common interests to achieve win-win and all-win progress. We should tap the potential for cooperation in all countries, expand and enrich cooperation, improve cooperation mechanisms and work together to make economic globalization balanced, inclusive and beneficial to all. We should accelerate the development of developing countries and narrow the North-South gap. We should enhance global cooperation on development to ensure that the benefits of development reach every one. Since the outbreak of the international financial crisis, China has, while maintaining its own robust growth, significantly increased contributions to international financial institutions, extended a helping hand to other developing countries and increased purchase of bonds of some developed countries. All this has helped stabilize the international economic and financial situation and maintain economic and social development of relevant countries.

We should ensure fairness and effectiveness in conducting global governance. Facing growing global challenges, the international community should strengthen coordination and cooperation, establish a fair, equitable, flexible and effective system of global governance, properly address various global issues and promote the common well-being of mankind. China supports the United Nations in enhancing its authority and efficiency and the ability to address new threats and challenges through proper reform as called for. It is important to advance the building of a global system of economic governance with a focus on reforming the international financial system, speedily implement the quota and governance reform plans of the IMF and other financial institutions and increase the representation and voice of emerging markets and developing countries. We should fully implement the outcome and consensus of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, make new progress in international cooperation on sustainable development and discuss the formulation of a post-2015 international development agenda on the basis of actively implementing the UN MDGs [Millennium Development Goals]. We should launch a process of open, transparent and democratic intergovernmental consultation with development and poverty reduction as the core objectives. We should also fully leverage the role of the civil society and private sector in this endeavor. Together with all other parties, China is ready to take an active part in the reform of the international system and in global governance and jointly meet various global challenges.

We should pursue common progress by embracing diversity of civilization. According to ancient Chinese philosophy, the world will be a great place when, “all things thrive without hurting one another, and various endeavors are pursued in parallel without collision among them.” We should encourage exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations and social systems, draw on each other’s strength through competition and comparison and make joint progress by seeking common ground while reserving differences. We should respect the diversity of the world and the right of all countries to independently choose their development paths. China encourages cross-civilization dialogue and exchanges. We should replace confrontation with dialogue and bridge differences with inclusiveness so as to make the world a more harmonious place and ensure common progress for mankind.

We should seek common security amid growing interdependence. No country is immune to the complex and multiple security threats and challenges in the world. We should foster a new thinking on security featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination, take a holistic approach to address both the symptoms and root causes of diverse security challenges and build a peaceful and stable international and regional security environment. The United Nations should fully play its role in safeguarding world peace and security and establishing a fair and effective mechanism for common security. We must resolve disputes through dialogue and negotiation and oppose willful use or threat of force. We must oppose terrorism, separatism and extremism in all forms.

West Asia and North Africa is undergoing profound changes. China respects and supports efforts by countries in this region to independently handle their internal affairs and respects the aspirations and calls of people in this region for change and development. The unique features of this region, in terms of religion, civilization, history and ethnicity should be respected. We hope that the relevant parties will settle differences through inclusive and constructive political dialogue and resolve problems peacefully. Safeguarding peace and stability in the region, upholding the fundamental and long-term interests of Arab countries and ensuring the growth of friendly China-Arab relations will remain a central goal of China’s policy towards this region. We will continue to make unremitting efforts with countries in the region to promote peace and development in keeping with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

China is deeply concerned about the stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and the economic and humanitarian difficulties facing the Palestinian people. The turbulence in the region should not divert international attention from the Palestinian issue. China supports the Palestinian people in establishing, on the basis of the 1967 borders, an independent Palestinian state that enjoys full sovereignty with East Jerusalem as its capital. China supports Palestine’s membership in the United Nations and other international organizations. China urges both Palestine and Israel to take concrete measures to remove obstacles and work for the early resumption and substantive progress of the peace talks.

China is deeply concerned about the persistent tension and worsening humanitarian situation in Syria. We call on all relevant parties in Syria to put an immediate end to fighting and violence, implement the relevant Security Council resolutions, Mr. Kofi Annan’s six-point plan and the communiqué of the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Action Group for Syria, and launch an inclusive political dialogue and a Syrian-led political transition as soon as possible. China is open towards any political plan that is acceptable to all parties in Syria. The relevant parties of the international community should play a positive and constructive role in this regard, support with credible steps Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative, in conducting impartial mediation, and endeavor to set in motion and advance the process of political transition in Syria.

The Iranian nuclear issue has reached a new crucial stage. The relevant parties should remain committed to a diplomatic solution and begin a new round of dialogue as soon as possible. We should, acting in the spirit of respecting each other’s concerns, showing flexibility and pragmatism, expanding common ground and overcoming differences, seek early progress in dialogue and negotiation and, over time, achieve a comprehensive, long-term and proper solution to the issue. China has always supported efforts to uphold the international nuclear nonproliferation regime and will continue to work with parties concerned and play a constructive role in seeking a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiation.

The Asia-Pacific region has maintained general stability and rapid growth for many years, thus making important contribution to global stability and prosperity. Given the growing downward risks in the global economy and increasing volatilities in the international situation, to maintain peace, stability and sound growth in the Asia-Pacific is crucial to ensuring the well-being of people in the region. This also meets the broader interests of the international community. We should fully respect the reality of a diverse and interdependent Asia-Pacific and continue to follow an approach for regional cooperation that has proved effective over the years, namely, building consensus, making incremental progress and accommodating each other’s comfort level. We should promote regional development with greater determination, advance regional cooperation with increased resources and handle differences with longer-term interests in mind so as to uphold peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr. President,

As an important participant which has contributed to building the international system, China is committed to sharing development opportunities with other countries and working with them to overcome various challenges and realize security and development for all.

China will stay on the track of peaceful development. We seek a peaceful international environment in which China can develop itself. By developing itself, China will contribute to global peace and common development. China is firm in upholding its core interests. At the same time, it respects the legitimate right of other countries to protect their interests. We seek to expand common interests with other parties for the sake of common good. China has contributed a total of about 21,000 personnel to UN peacekeeping missions and taken an active part in international cooperation on counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and nonproliferation. In our efforts to resolve major international and regional hotspot issues, we have urged parties concerned to seek peaceful solutions through negotiation and thus played an important and constructive role in easing tensions and achieving political resolution of these issues. China has made remarkable progress in pursuing peaceful development and will continue to follow this path in the years to come.

China will enhance friendly relations and cooperation with all other countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and strive to build a new type of relations between major countries based on mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

Following a policy of building good-neighborly relationships and partnerships with neighboring countries, China has actively expanded exchanges with countries in its neighborhood. China has contributed to over 50 percent of Asia’s growth for many consecutive years. We have endeavored to build political mutual trust and cooperation mechanisms with other Asian countries and properly handle differences and frictions with relevant countries. On the basis of firmly upholding China’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, we have worked with our neighbors to maintain sound relations and overall stability in the region.

China treats other developing countries as good friends and good partners, and we support each other and seek common development on the basis of equality. By the end of 2011, the Chinese government had built over 2,200 projects in relevant countries which are important to local economy and people’s lives. We have cancelled debts owed to China by 50 heavily indebted poor countries and least developed countries. We have trained over 60,000 personnel in various sectors for 173 developing countries and thirteen regional and international organizations. All of this has contributed to economic and social development of other developing countries.

China has taken an active part in reforming the international system and in global governance, and assumed its due share of international responsibilities and obligations as its capability permits. We are working to build a fair, equitable and non-discriminatory global trading system and a more equal and balanced new global partnership for development. We support the G20 in playing a greater role as the premier forum for international economic cooperation and the efforts of emerging markets represented by BRICS countries to explore a new model of global cooperation.

The global economy is in a crucial stage and achieving full recovery and sustained growth remains a long and difficult task. Last year, despite a challenging economic environment both at home and abroad, China registered a GDP growth rate of 9.3 percent and made good progress in adjusting the economic structure and improving people’s lives. Since the beginning of this year, to address some new problems in economic performance, the Chinese government has stepped up anticipatory fine-tuning of the economy and introduced a series of targeted policy measures. This has boosted market confidence and ensured steady growth. China’s GDP grew by 7.8 percent in the first half of the year and the country has enjoyed sound economic and social development. China is still in an important period of strategic opportunities for development. Industrialization, urbanization, application of information technology and the agricultural modernization will continue to unlock great potential of development. We have the confidence, means and ability to maintain steady and robust growth and achieve long-term, sound and sustainable development. During the 12th Five- Year Plan period (2011-2015), China’s domestic market will be one of the largest in the world, its total imports are expected to exceed $10 trillion and direct outbound investment is expected to exceed $500 billion. This will create enormous business and job opportunities for the world and provide good opportunities for other countries’ development.

Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands have been an integral part of China’s territory since ancient times. China has indisputable historical and legal evidence in this regard. Japan seized these islands in 1895 at the end of the Sino-Japanese War and forced the then Chinese government to sign an unequal treaty to cede these islands and other Chinese territories to Japan. After the Second World War, the Diaoyu Dao islands and other Chinese territories occupied by Japan were returned to China in accordance with the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Proclamation and other international documents. By taking such unilateral actions as the so-called “island purchase,” the Japanese government has grossly violated China’s sovereignty. This is an outright denial of the outcomes of the victory of the world anti-fascist war and poses a grave challenge to the post-war international order and the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The moves taken by Japan are totally illegal and invalid. They can in no way change the historical fact that Japan stole Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands from China and the fact that China has territorial sovereignty over them. The Chinese government is firm in upholding China’s territorial sovereignty. China strongly urges Japan to immediately stop all activities that violate China’s territorial sovereignty, take concrete actions to correct its mistakes, and return to the track of resolving the dispute through negotiation.

Mr. President,

The Communist Party of China will soon hold its 18th National Congress. We are confident that this important meeting will lead China’s reform, opening-up and modernization drive to a new stage. Facts have shown and will continue to prove that China’s development is peaceful, open, cooperative and win-win in nature. We will work with the international community to follow the trend of history and the call of the times and build a harmonious world of enduring peace and shared prosperity.

Thank you.


Remarks on “U.S. Rebalance Toward the Asia-Pacific Region” by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Shangri-La Security Dialogue, Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore (June 2, 2012)

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to have the opportunity to attend my first Shangri-La Conference. I want to commend the International Institute for Strategic Studies for fostering this very important dialogue, this very important discussion that is taking place here this weekend.

I am, as I understand it, the third United States secretary of defense to appear at this forum, across administrations from both political parties in the United States. That is, I believe, a testament to the importance that the United States places in this dynamic and critical region of the world.

It is in that spirit that I have come to Singapore, at the beginning of an eight-day journey across Asia that will take me to Vietnam and to India as well.

The purpose of this trip, and of my remarks today, is to explain a new defense strategy that the United States has put in place and why the United States will play a deeper and more enduring partnership role in advancing the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, and how the United States military supports that goal by rebalancing towards this region.

Since the United States grew westward in the nineteenth century, we have been a Pacific nation. I was born and raised in a coastal town in California called Monterey, and have spent a lifetime looking out across the Pacific Ocean. As a fishing community, as a port, the ocean was the lifeblood of our economy. And some of my earliest memories as a child during World War II are of watching American troops pass through my community, trained at the military reservation called Fort Ord, and were on their way to face battle in the Pacific.

I remember the fear that gripped our community during World War II, and later when war again broke out on the Korean Peninsula. Despite the geographic distance that separates us, I’ve always understood that America’s fate is inexorably linked with this region.

This reality has guided more than six decades of U.S. military presence and partnership in this region—a defense posture which, along with our trading relations, along with our diplomatic ties, along with our foreign assistance, helped usher in an unprecedented era of security and prosperity in the latter half of the 20th century.

In this century, the 21st century, the United States recognizes that our prosperity and our security depend even more on the Asia-Pacific region. After all, this region is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies: China, India, and Indonesia to mention a few. At the same time, Asia-Pacific contains the world’s largest populations, and the world’s largest militaries. Defense spending in Asia is projected by this institute, the IISS [the International Institute for Strategic Studies], to surpass that of Europe this year, and there is no doubt that it will continue to increase in the future.

Given these trends, President Obama has stated the United States will play a larger role in this region over the decades to come. This effort will draw on the strengths of the entire United States government. We take on this role not as a distant power, but as part of the Pacific family of nations. Our goal is to work closely with all of the nations of this region to confront common challenges and to promote peace, prosperity, and security for all nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

My colleague and my good friend Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also outlined our refocus on the Asia-Pacific, emphasizing the crucial part that diplomacy, trade, and development will play in our engagement.

The same is true for defense policy. We will play an essential role in promoting strong partnerships that strengthen the capabilities of the Pacific nations to defend and secure themselves. All of the U.S. military services are focused on implementing the president’s guidance to make the Asia-Pacific a top priority. Before I detail these specific efforts, let me provide some context for our broader defense strategy in the twenty-first century.

The United States is at a strategic turning point after a decade of war. We have significantly weakened al-Qaida’s leadership and ability to attack other nations. We have sent a very clear message that nobody attacks the United States and gets away with it. Our military mission in Iraq has ended and established—established an Iraq that can secure and govern itself.

In Afghanistan, where a number of Asia-Pacific nations are playing a critical role in the international coalition, we have begun our transition to the Afghan security lead and to an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself. At a recent meeting in Chicago, NATO and its partners—over fifty nations—came together to support General Allen’s plan to accomplish this goal. In addition to that, we joined in a successful NATO effort to return Libya to the Libyan people.

But even as we have been able to draw these wars to a hopeful end, we are confronted today by a wide range of complex global challenges. From terrorism—terrorism still remains a threat to the world—from terrorism to the destabilizing behavior of Iran and North Korea, from nuclear proliferation to the new threat of cyber-attack, from continuing turmoil in the Middle East to territorial disputes in this region.

At the same time, the United States, like many other nations, is dealing with large debt and large deficits, which has required the Department of Defense to reduce the planning budget by nearly half a trillion dollars or specifically $487 billion that were directed to be reduced by the Congress in the Budget Control Act over the next decade.

But this new fiscal reality, a challenge that many nations confront these days, has given us an opportunity to design a new defense strategy for the twenty-first century that both confronts the threats that we face and maintains the strongest military in the world.

This strategy makes clear the United States military, yes, it will be smaller, it will be leaner, but it will be agile and flexible, quickly deployable, and will employ cutting-edge technology in the future. It makes equally clear that while the U.S. military will remain a global force for security and stability, we will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region. We will also maintain our presence throughout the world. We will do it with innovative rotational deployments that emphasize creation of new partnerships and new alliances. We will also invest, invest in cyber, invest in space, invest in unnamed systems, invest in special forces operations. We will invest in the newest technology and we will invest in the ability to mobilize quickly if necessary.

We have made choices and we have set priorities, and we have rightly chosen to make this region a priority.

Our approach to achieving the long-term goal in the Asia-Pacific is to stay firmly committed to a basic set of shared principles—principles that promote international rules and order to advance peace and security in the region, deepening and broadening our bilateral and multilateral partnerships, enhancing and adapting the U.S. military’s enduring presence in this region, and to make new investments in the capabilities needed to project power and operate in Asia-Pacific. Let me discuss each of these shared principles. The first is the shared principle that we abide by international rules and order.

Let me underscore that this is not a new principle, our solid commitment to establish a set of rules that all play by is one that we believe will help support peace and prosperity in this region.

What are we talking about? These rules include the principle of open and free commerce, a just international order that emphasizes rights and responsibilities of all nations and a fidelity to the rule of law; open access by all to their shared domains of sea, air, space, and cyberspace; and resolving disputes without coercion or the use of force.

Backing this vision involves resolving disputes as quickly as possible with diplomatic efforts. Backing these principles has been the essential mission of the United States military in the Asia-Pacific for more than 60 years and it will be even a more important mission in the future. My hope is that in line with these rules and international order that is necessary that the United States will join over 160 other nations in ratifying the Law of Seas Convention this year.

The second principle is one of partnerships. Key to this approach is our effort to modernize and strengthen our alliances and partnerships in this region. The United States has key treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand. We have key partners in India, Singapore, Indonesia, and other nations. And we are working hard to develop and build stronger relations with China.

As we expand our partnerships, as we strengthen our alliances, the United States-Japan alliance will remain one of the cornerstones for regional security and prosperity in the twenty-first century. For that reason, our two militaries are enhancing their ability to train and operate together, and cooperating closely in areas such as maritime security and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. We are also jointly developing high-tech capabilities, including the next generation missile defense interceptor, and exploring new areas of cooperation in space and in cyberspace.

In the past several months we have strengthened the alliance and our broader strategic objectives in the region with a revised plan to relocate Marines from Okinawa to Guam. This plan will make the U.S. presence in Okinawa more politically sustainable, and it will help further develop Guam as a strategic hub for the United States military in the Western Pacific, improving our ability to respond to a wide range of contingencies in the Asia-Pacific region.

Another linchpin of our Asia-Pacific security is the U.S. alliance with the Republic of Korea. During a year of transition and provocation on the Korean Peninsula, this alliance has been indispensable, and I have made it a priority to strengthen it for the future. To that end, even as the United States reduces the overall size of its ground forces in the coming years in a transitional way over a five-year period, we will maintain the United States Army’s significant presence in Korea.

We are also boosting our intelligence and information sharing with the Republic of Korea, standing firm against hostile provocations from North Korea while transforming the alliance with new capabilities to meet global challenges.

The third shared principle is presence. While strengthening our traditional alliances in Northeast Asia and maintaining our presence there, as part of this rebalancing effort we are also enhancing our presence in Southeast Asia and in the Indian Ocean region.

A critical component of that effort is the agreement announced last fall for a rotational Marine Corps presence and aircraft deployments in northern Australia.

The first detachment of Marines arrived in April, and this Marine Air-Ground Task Force will be capable of rapidly deploying across the Asia-Pacific region, thereby enabling us to work more effectively with partners in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean and tackle common challenges such as natural disasters and maritime security.

These Marines will conduct training and exercises throughout the region and with Australia, strengthening one of our most important alliances and building on a decade of operational experience together in Afghanistan. Speaking of that, I welcome and applaud Australia’s announcement that later this year it will assume leadership of Combined Team Uruzgan, and will lead our security efforts there through 2014.

We’re also continuing close operational cooperation with our longtime ally, Thailand. The Thais annually host COBRA GOLD, a world-class multilateral military exercise, and this year we will deepen our strategic cooperation to meet shared regional challenges.

We are energizing our alliance with the Philippines. Last month in Washington I joined Secretary Clinton in the first-ever “2+2” meeting with our Filipino counterparts. Working together, our forces are successfully countering terrorist groups. We are also pursuing mutually beneficial capability enhancements, and working to improve the Philippine’s maritime presence. Chairman Dempsey will be traveling from here to the Philippines to further our military engagement.

Another tangible manifestation of our commitment to rebalancing is our growing defense relationship with Singapore. Our ability to operate with Singaporean forces and others in the region will grow substantially in the coming years when we implement the forward deployment of the Littoral Combat Ships to Singapore.

As we take existing alliances and partnerships in new directions, this rebalancing effort also places a premium on enhancing partnerships with Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Vietnam, and New Zealand.

In the coming days I will travel to Vietnam to advance bilateral defense cooperation, building off of the comprehensive memorandum of understanding that our two nations signed last year.

From Vietnam, I will travel to India to affirm our interest in building a strong security relationship with a country I believe will play a decisive role in shaping the security and prosperity of the twenty-first century.

As the United States strengthens these regional partnerships, we will also seek to strengthen a very important relationship with China. We believe China is a key to being able to develop a peaceful, prosperous, and secure Asia-Pacific in the twenty-first century. And I am looking forward to traveling there soon at the invitation of the Chinese government. Both of our nations recognize that the relationship—this relationship between the United States and China is one of the most important in the world. We in the United States are clear-eyed about the challenges, make no mistake about it, but we also seek to grasp the opportunities that can come from closer cooperation and a closer relationship.

I’m personally committed to building a healthy, stable, reliable, and continuous military-to-military relationship with China. I had the opportunity to host Vice President Xi and later Defense Minister General Liang at the Pentagon in the effort to pursue that goal. Our aim is to continue to improve the strategic trust that we must have between our two countries, and to discuss common approaches to dealing with shared security challenges.

We are working with China to execute a robust mil-to-mil engagement plan for the rest of this year, and we will seek to deepen our partnership in humanitarian assistance, counter-drug, and counter-proliferation efforts. We have also agreed on the need to address responsible behavior in cyberspace and in outer space. We must establish and reinforce agreed principles of responsible behavior in these key domains.

I know that many in the region and across the world are closely watching the United States-China relationship. Some view the increased emphasis by the United States on the Asia-Pacific region as some kind of challenge to China. I reject that view entirely. Our effort to renew and intensify our involvement in Asia is fully compatible—fully compatible—with the development and growth of China. Indeed, increased U.S. involvement in this region will benefit China as it advances our shared security and prosperity for the future.

In this context, we strongly support the efforts that both China and Taiwan, both have made in recent years trying to improve cross-strait relations. We have an enduring interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. The United States remains firm in the adherence to a one-China policy based on the Three Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act.

China also has a critical role to play in advancing security and prosperity by respecting the rules-based order that has served the region for six decades. The United States welcomes the rise of a strong and prosperous and successful China that plays a greater role in global affairs.

Another positive step towards furthering this rules-based order is Asia’s deepening regional security architecture, which the United States strongly supports. Last October, I had the opportunity to be the first U.S. secretary of defense to meet privately with all ASEAN defense ministers in Bali. We applaud the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus for producing real action plans for multilateral military cooperation, and I strongly support the ASEAN decision to hold more frequent ADMM-Plus discussions at the ministerial level. We think this is an important step for stability, real coordination, communication, and support between these nations.

The United States believes it is critical for regional institutions to develop mutually agreed rules of the road that protect the rights of all nations to free and open access to the seas. We support the efforts of the ASEAN countries and China to develop a binding code of conduct that would create a rules-based framework for regulating the conduct of parties in the South China Sea, including the prevention and management of disputes.

On that note, we are obviously paying close attention to the situation in Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. The U.S. position is clear and consistent: we call for restraint and for diplomatic resolution; we oppose provocation; we oppose coercion; and we oppose the use of force. We do not take sides when it comes to competing territorial claims, but we do want this dispute resolved peacefully and in a manner consistent with international law. We have made our views known and very clear to our close treaty ally, the Philippines, and we have made those views clear to China and to other countries in the region.

As a Pacific power, the United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, in unimpeded economic development and commerce, and in a respect for the rule of law. Our alliances, our partnerships, and our enduring presence in this region all serve to support these important goals.

For those who are concerned about the ability of the United States to maintain a strong presence in the Asia-Pacific region in light of the fiscal pressures we face, let me be very clear. The Department of Defense has a five-year budget plan and a detailed blueprint for implementing this strategy I just outlined for realizing our long-term goals in this region, and for still meeting our fiscal responsibilities.

The final principle—shared principle that we all have is force projection.

This budget is the first in what will be a sustained series of investments and strategic decisions to strengthen our military capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region. I would encourage you to look at the increasing technological capabilities of our forces as much as their numbers in judging the full measure of our security presence and our security commitment.

For example, over the next five years we will retire older Navy ships, but we will replace them with more than forty far more capable and technologically advanced ships. Over the next few years we will increase the number and the size of our exercises in the Pacific. We will also increase and more widely distribute our port visits, including in the important Indian Ocean region.

And by 2020 the Navy will reposture its forces from today’s roughly 50/50 percent split between the Pacific and the Atlantic to about a 60/40 split between those oceans. That will include six aircraft carriers in this region, a majority of our cruisers, destroyers, Littoral Combat Ships, and submarines.

Our forward-deployed forces are the core of our commitment to this region and we will, as I said, sharpen the technological edge of our forces. These forces are also backed up by our ability to rapidly project military power if needed to meet our security commitments.

Therefore, we are investing specifically in those kinds of capabilities—such as an advanced fifth-generation fighter, an enhanced Virginia-class submarine, new electronic warfare and communications capabilities, and improved precision weapons—that will provide our forces with freedom of maneuver in areas in which our access and freedom of action may be threatened.

We recognize the challenges of operating over the Pacific’s vast distances. That is why we are investing in new aerial-refueling tankers, a new bomber, and advanced maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

In concert with these investments in military capabilities, we are developing new concepts of operation which will enable us to better leverage the unique strengths of these platforms and meet the unique challenges of operating in Asia-Pacific. In January, the department published a Joint Operational Access Concept which, along with these related efforts like Air-Sea Battle, are helping the Department meet the challenges of new and disruptive technologies and weapons that could deny our forces access to key sea routes and key lines of communication.

It will take years for these concepts and many of the investments that I just detailed, but we are making those investments in order that they be fully realized. Make no mistake—in a steady, deliberate, and sustainable way the United States military is rebalancing and bringing an enhanced capability development to this vital region.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy. And there I had the pleasure of handing a diploma to the first foreign student to achieve top graduate honors, a young midshipman from Singapore: Sam Tan Wei Chen.

I told that graduating class of midshipmen that it would be the project of their generation to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities that are emanating from the Asia-Pacific region.

By working in concert with all elements of American power, I truly believe that these young men and women will have the opportunity to play a vital role in securing a century of peace and prosperity for the United States and for all of the nations of this region.

Over the course of history, the United States has fought wars, we have spilled blood, we have deployed our forces time and time again to defend our vital interests in the Asia-Pacific region. We owe it to all of those who have fought and died to build a better future for all nations in this region.

The United States has long been deeply been involved in the Asia-Pacific. Through times of war, times of peace, under Democratic and Republican leaders and administrations, through rancor and through comity in Washington, through surplus and through debt. We were there then, we are here now, and we will be here for the future. Thank you.

“Protecting American Interests in China and Asia,” Testimony by Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Washington DC (March 31, 2011)

Source: U.S. State Department


Mr. Chairman, Mr. Faleomavaega, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you very much for inviting me here today to testify about the vital importance of Asia-Pacific countries to the United States and for the opportunity to underscore key aspects of our engagement strategy for the region.

I want to also use this opportunity to underscore the United States’ unwavering commitment to Japan. Twenty days ago today, Japan experienced a “triple blow” from an earthquake, tsunami, and the subsequent challenges associated with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors. By themselves, any of these incidents would have been enough to bring a country to its knees. In Japan, we have seen the opposite. The Government and people have responded bravely and, with the help of the United States and the international community, committed to building an even stronger Japan in the future. Japan is the cornerstone of our strategic engagement in East Asia, and we are committed to standing side-by-side with our ally in its time of need.

It is clear that America’s success in the twenty-first century is tied to the success of the dynamic Asia-Pacific region. As Secretary Clinton has noted, much of the history of the twenty-first century will be written in Asia. There is no question that the region’s influence is growing and holds the key to our shared future. Asian nations are vital to the life-blood of the global economy. Their opinions and decisions have profound influence from Latin American to the Middle East and Africa on addressing complex and emerging transnational challenges, like climate change.

Despite the Asia-Pacific region’s tremendous growth, the region still faces some of the most pressing challenges of the twenty-first century. North Korea and Burma remain outliers to the region’s prosperity and continue to be sources for insecurity and instability. Many of today’s most critical issues—military competition, nuclear proliferation, violent extremism, financial crises, poverty, weak and ineffective governments, unresolved territorial disputes, growing competition over energy and natural resources, climate change, and disease—transcend national borders and pose a common risk in the region. The rapid emergence of transnational security risks and threats demands collective action, and it is critical for the United States to work with our allies and partners in the region to address and meet these significant challenges.

Essential to our long-term national interests is to make sure that the United States remains true to its identity as a Pacific power. The Obama Administration, following a long history of bipartisan commitment to Asia, has articulated a five-part framework for our engagement in the Asia-Pacific: First, deepen and modernize our alliances with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines. Second, broaden our engagement with increasingly important partners like Indonesia, Vietnam, Mongolia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, and most notably India. Third, develop a predictable, stable, and comprehensive relationship with China. Fourth, engage and invest in the region’s burgeoning multilateral architecture. And, fifth pursue a confident and aggressive trade and economic strategy.

Underpinning our strategy is a steadfast commitment to our belief in the universality of democracy and our respect for human rights. The U.S. commitment to these values defines the unique aspect of U.S. relations with Asia-Pacific nations and is an intrinsic and indispensable aspect of our character as a nation. It is one of the best and most important contributions that we can offer the region. We are working to promote fundamental human rights in the region and support the region’s own efforts to promote and protect human rights, democratic principles, and freedom of religion and of expression.

In order to ensure that the promotion of human rights and the rule of law as well as the development of civil society remain strong pillars of our engagement, we will continue to adopt new and creative approaches that seize the opportunities presented by advances created in our dynamic information age. The freedom to speak one’s mind and to choose one’s leaders, the ability to access information and worship how one pleases are the bases of stability. The United States will continue to speak for those on the margins of society, encouraging countries in the region to respect the internationally recognized human rights of their people while undertaking policies to further liberalize and open their states. We will continue to work with countries to combat the scourge of trafficking in persons, to promote the rights of women and children, and foster greater religious dialogue among the many communities of faith in the region. We continue to press for the restoration of democracy in Fiji, as well as to promote good governance, rule of law, and respect for human rights in Vietnam and China. We have already seen positive signs reflecting greater internalization of human rights with the recent establishment of such institutions as Indonesia’s Bali Democracy Forum and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), which we welcomed for an official visit to the United States last November. In Burma, we have intensified efforts to promote human rights and democracy both through diplomatic engagement with key stakeholders in Southeast Asia and by delivering our message to the Burmese government via direct engagement. At the same time, we maintain extensive financial, trade, and visa sanctions that target regime authorities and their cronies who thwart democracy and disrespect human rights. Our message remains clear and consistent: absent concrete progress in key areas of democracy and human rights, our sanctions will remain in place.

I will use the remainder of my testimony to describe how we are implementing this strategy through an aggressive “forward-deployed diplomacy,” and the steps we are taking to ensure U.S. leadership in the Asia-Pacific.

U.S. Strategic Framework for Engagement in the Asia-Pacific Region. The pace of our engagement in this critical region signals the renewed emphasis we place on developing and deepening partnerships. As Secretary Clinton has articulated, our forward-deployed diplomacy in Asia seeks to leverage these relationships to underwrite regional security, heighten prosperity, and support stronger democratic institutions and the spread of universal human rights in the Asia-Pacific region. The region offers the United States tremendous opportunities in a number of areas, including expanding markets for U.S. economic interests and forming new strategic partnerships.

First, our alliances remain the foundation for our strategic engagement in the region, and the Obama Administration is committed to strengthening and modernizing our alliances to address both continuing and emerging challenges. Also, we must recognize that those alliances are, at their core, security alliances. Our alliances have underwritten peace and stability for over a half-century and continue to provide a context for the region’s tremendous economic growth and vitality.

Our treaty alliance with Japan remains a cornerstone of our strategic engagement in Asia. The U.S.-Japan relationship is both strong and comprehensive; it links two of the world’s three largest economies and is supported by our people-to-people exchanges and our shared commitment to democracy and human rights. The cooperation between the Government of Japan and the United States in the aftermath of the March 11 events demonstrates the value of our security alliance with Japan. The United States stands resolved to assist Japan in its reconstruction efforts and to taking steps to further strengthen our alliance relationship. The pictures on the front-pages of Japanese newspapers that show U.S. military forces and Japanese soldiers working hand-in-hand to assist those in need is a potent symbol of the importance of this relationship. As we help Japan in its time of need, our two governments will continue to conduct open and direct discussions on a number of important strategic and alliance issues, including the roadmap for realigning U.S. forces in Japan. In addition, we are working to create a durable and forward-looking vision for the alliance that builds upon Japan’s important global role in several areas, including climate change, non-proliferation, and humanitarian and development assistance programs. We have intensified high-level engagement between our two governments to address regional and global security challenges, and Japan is a lead contributor to the efforts to bring reconciliation and reconstruction to Afghanistan. Secretaries Clinton and Gates look forward to hosting their Japanese counterparts this year for an important “2+2” meeting where both sides will issue a detailed framework statement for the alliance going forward.

We are also working vigorously with our other critical ally in Northeast Asia, the Republic of Korea (ROK), both to modernize our defense alliance and to achieve a partnership that is truly global and comprehensive. The United States remains steadfastly committed to the defense of the ROK and to an enduring military presence on the Peninsula. The relationship continues to evolve from one solely focused on peninsular challenges to an ever more global and dynamic partnership that builds on our shared values and strategic interests. The ROK now has forces deployed overseas in over a dozen countries, with 200-to-300-person peacekeeping and reconstruction contingents in Haiti, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. The ROK understands that global challenges such as counter-piracy, nuclear nonproliferation, and development fundamentally affect Korea’s interests and involve an obligation to be actively engaged around the world.

Our respective alliances with the ROK and Japan, as well as increasing trilateral coordination, play an essential role in maintaining peace and stability in Northeast Asia, including responding to the destabilizing policies and provocations of North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK). The DPRK’s sinking of the ROK corvette Cheonan in March 2010, its November 2010 disclosure of a uranium enrichment program, and its November 2010 shelling of Yeonpyong Island underscore the threat that the DPRK’s misguided policies and provocations, including its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and proliferation activities, pose to regional stability and global security. Effective trilateral engagement in the wake of these provocations demonstrated to North Korea that its belligerent actions will be met with collective resolve. During an important U.S.-Japan-ROK Trilateral Ministerial meeting in December 2010, the three countries jointly declared that the DPRK’s belligerent actions threaten all three countries and will be met with solidarity. The three countries jointly condemned the DPRK’s uranium enrichment program as a violation of the DPRK’s commitments under the September 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks and its obligations under UNSCR 1718 and 1874.

We have also worked closely with Japan, the ROK, and our other partners in the Six-Party Talks to achieve the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner. We are working closely with our partners and allies to make clear to the DPRK that its uranium enrichment program violates its commitments and obligations. We continue to urge the international community to fully and transparently implement UNSCR 1718 and 1874 to curb the DPRK’s conventional and WMD-related proliferation efforts, as well as its illicit activities.

Australia remains a strategic anchor for regional stability and plays an incredibly important role in maintaining global security. U.S. and Australian forces fight side-by-side, extending a legacy of cooperation that goes back a century, and Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to the coalition effort in Afghanistan. The U.S. commitment to Australia was on clear display during the visit of Prime Minister Gillard to Washington last month. Prime Minister Gillard had a very productive meeting with President Obama, in which they reviewed the many areas in Asia and around the world in which our two countries work together. She demonstrated Australia’s respect for our past joint efforts through a generous contribution to the new Vietnam Veterans Memorial education center here in Washington. In addition, Secretaries Clinton and Gates visited Australia for the 25th Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in November. That meeting was essential to our objective of modernizing and deepening our alliance, and our two governments announced the launch of the Australia-U.S. Force Posture Review Working Group, which is now exploring the potential for expanded U.S.-Australia military cooperation to optimize our U.S. force posture in the Asia-Pacific region.

We are also working to invigorate the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue with Japan and Australia, as well as to deepen security partnerships throughout the region. Our alliances with the Philippines and Thailand, our long-time Southeast Asian treaty allies, continue to evolve to meet modern challenges from violent extremism to infectious disease. We are working closely with our Philippine partners to improve maritime security and disaster response capabilities. In January of this year, we launched the first ever joint State-DOD strategic dialogue with the Government of the Philippines to help create a framework to enhance our alliance partnership. In Thailand, our oldest treaty ally in East Asia, we partnered to deploy Thai naval vessels, with U.S. Navy personnel aboard, to join Combined Task Force 151 to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa. Thailand has also provided a full battalion of peacekeepers to Darfur to assist with UN humanitarian relief operations. Our robust and mutually beneficial military relationships with both allies include joint exercises, ship visits, information sharing, logistics assistance, and a broad slate of training and capacity-building activities in such areas as peacekeeping and anti-piracy operations.

Second, the Obama Administration is committed to broadening our relations with growing powers like Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, and most notably India.

India: The Administration has taken significant steps to enhance our engagement with India, which is playing a key role in the Asia-Pacific. We have launched a dialogue on Asia-Pacific strategic issues, and I will travel to New Delhi next week to have further discussions and consultations. As a growing international player, engagement with India on a wide array of global issues is increasingly in the strategic interests of the United States.

Indonesia: Our engagement with Indonesia continues to mature. The President’s historic trip to Jakarta last fall highlighted the broadening and deepening of the U.S.-Indonesia relationship. The launch of the Comprehensive Partnership by President Obama and President Yudhoyono will further boost our growing partnership on bilateral, regional, and global issues. We look forward to working with Indonesia this year in its role as ASEAN chair and host of the East Asia Summit and value its emerging, positive voice on global topics, such as democracy and climate change.

Malaysia: In addition, the Administration is working hard to enhance our bilateral relationship with Malaysia. We are in the process of launching a major English-language initiative that will place more young Americans in Malaysia to teach English and expose primarily rural Malay students to American culture. The Malaysian government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib, has also taken a number of steps to create more stringent export controls and play a constructive role in the international non-proliferation regime. Medical personnel from the Malaysian Armed Forces are currently deployed to Afghanistan. Our two countries are also working together closely in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Mongolia: Recently, I visited Mongolia, an ancient country yet a relatively young democracy on the verge of an economic boom that offers opportunities for American companies. According to some estimates, Mongolia has about $400 billion worth of minerals in the ground. Mongolia provides 190 troops to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and hosts training for peacekeeping operations. Mongolia also cooperates closely with us in international organizations such as the UN and International Atomic Energy Agency. And, Mongolia will chair the Community of Democracies starting this year. Mongolia is a reliable, democratic partner with a bright future.

Vietnam: Over the last several years, we have broadened and deepened our engagement with Vietnam on a wide ranges of issues, including trade, security, nonproliferation, health, education, and the environment. Vietnam is also among our eight negotiating partners in the TPP talks. During their meetings in Hanoi last year, Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Dung agreed to elevate the relationship further by moving toward a strategic partnership. However, we remain deeply concerned about the lack of progress in the human rights front. We continue to make it very clear to the Vietnamese government that political freedoms are not a source of instability but of strength.

New Zealand: Last fall, Secretary Clinton visited New Zealand where she launched the Wellington Declaration. This visit effectively culminated the thaw in our relationship with New Zealand, after a 25-year freeze since the mid-1980s. New Zealand is an important friend and partner of the United States, especially in the South Pacific, and the Wellington Declaration establishes a framework for a new United States-New Zealand strategic partnership that will enhance our practical cooperation and political dialogue. Likewise, the United States and New Zealand are working to deepen our economic relationship through the TPP negotiations. In response to the tragic earthquake that struck New Zealand earlier this year, the United States deployed a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) that included the Los Angeles County and the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue teams (USAR), transferred equipment and supplies, and committed more than $1 million for humanitarian assistance to support relief and recovery efforts.

Singapore: The Administration is also taking steps to enhance our bilateral engagement with Singapore. In addition to being a strong partner on non-proliferation and other regional security matters, Singapore has participated in global security operations, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gulf of Aden counter-piracy efforts for which Singapore will chair the International Contact Group in July. Singapore is hosting the sixth round of TPP negotiations this week.

Third, an important component of our efforts in the Asia Pacific is an approach to China that is grounded in reality, focused on results, and true to our principles and interests. Through this approach, we are pursuing a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China. As Secretary Clinton has said, the U.S.-China relationship is at a critical juncture; how we manage the relationship today—with its elements of both competition and cooperation—will have a large impact on the future of the region.

Over the past year, we have taken solid, tangible steps to translate these words into action. Through steady diplomacy, we worked with Beijing to move the relationship in a positive direction, with President Hu attending the Nuclear Security Summit in April and China voting in favor of strengthened sanctions on Iran at the UN Security Council in June. The success of our approach is most clearly illustrated by President Hu’s January state visit to Washington. Through that visit, China for the first time expressed concern about the DPRK’s uranium enrichment program; we also gained Chinese agreement to respect the results of the referendum in southern Sudan, and strengthened cooperation with the Chinese on Iran through both the P5+1 process and enforcement of UN Security Council Resolutions. We also held firm to the principles that are important to us as Americans, making strong statements in both public and private about our concerns on China’s human rights record. President Hu’s visit was a success in large part because of our concerted effort since the beginning of the Administration to get this relationship right—in a manner that ensures U.S. interests are protected and advanced.

Related to our interactions with China is our consistent approach to Taiwan. As Secretary Clinton has noted, we are encouraged by the greater dialogue and economic cooperation between the Mainland and Taiwan—as witnessed by the historic completion of the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement last year. Our approach continues to be guided by our One China policy based on the Three Joint Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. In the period ahead, we seek to encourage more dialogue and exchanges between the two sides, as well as reduced military tensions and deployments, and we have and will continue to meet our responsibilities under the TRA.

We will continue to make clear our views on the principles of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Recent events in China, including the forced disappearances of rights lawyers and crackdowns on Chinese and foreign journalists, have only further increased our concerns about human rights. And we continue to press China for further action on the DPRK’s actions in violation of the September 2005 Joint Statement and UN Security Council Resolutions, as well as the need to more tightly enforce sanctions on Iran.

On the economic front, we continue to make lowering trade barriers a high priority in all our engagements with China, including the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), and the G-20. Our embassy in Beijing and consulates throughout China reinforce the importance of maintaining a level playing field for U.S. companies on a regular basis and at all levels of the Chinese government. The State Department also works closely with other federal agencies to monitor China’s compliance with U.S. and international trade rules. In 2010, the Department of Commerce initiated six investigations against imports from China (three antidumping and three countervailing duty) in order to provide relief for U.S. companies from unfair trade practices. Moreover, following consultations with the State Department and other Executive Branch agencies, USTR initiated WTO dispute settlement proceedings against China in three separate cases.

As a result of these efforts, during the December 2010 meeting of the JCCT and the January visit of President Hu, China made significant commitments on key trade issues, agreeing to ensure that Chinese government agencies use legitimate software, delink innovation policies from government procurement preferences, and include sub-central entities in its revised offer to join the WTO Government Procurement Agreement. China is a key export market for U.S. goods and services and a focus of President Obama’s National Export Initiative that calls for doubling U.S. exports in five years to support millions of American jobs. In 2010, exports from the United States to China approached $92 billion, an increase of 32 percent from 2009.

An important element of our engagement with China is the S&ED, which brings together cabinet members and agency heads across both of our governments, not only to discuss a range of issues critical to our bilateral relationship, but also to inculcate the habit of cooperation across our two governments. Secretaries Clinton and Geithner will host the third S&ED in Washington in May and will build on the successes of the second S&ED last May, including cooperation in addressing the global economic crisis in the framework of the G20. In our preparation for the next S&ED, the U.S. Government will continue to press China for demonstrable progress on economic issues, including further advancements on trade and investment and full implementation of commitments it made during President Hu’s visit on trade, investment, and economic rebalancing, including exchange rate reform.

Fourth, the Obama Administration is committed to enhancing engagement in Asia-Pacific multilateral organizations. In her speech in Hawaii in January 2010, Secretary Clinton highlighted the importance of the United States’ involvement in the development of the regional institutions and architecture. APEC remains the premier economic organization in the Asia-Pacific region, and the United States remains committed to it. We have also taken a series of steps to deepen U.S. engagement in regional institutions such as ASEAN, which the Secretary Clinton calls “the fulcrum” for the region’s emerging architecture, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (Plus), the East Asia Summit (EAS), and the Pacific Island Forum (PIF).

U.S. membership in the EAS will allow us to work with ASEAN and other EAS members to foster engagement on pressing strategic and political issues of mutual concern, including nuclear nonproliferation, maritime security, and disaster assistance. Last year, Secretary Clinton attended the EAS as the first-ever U.S. representative to the organization. This year, President Obama will attend the EAS in Indonesia and will focus on steps the organization can take to advance regional maritime security, capacity of countries to respond to humanitarian and natural disasters, and non-proliferation. In addition, we will seek to work with ASEAN to identify ways we can supports its Plan of Action. The President will also co-host the third U.S.-ASEAN summit, a regularized feature of our bilateral engagement with ASEAN.

Regional engagement can also be an effective way to enhance our efforts to deal with transnational security challenges such as climate change, pandemics, or environmental degradation, and disaster management. Humanitarian assistance and disaster preparedness will continue to play a role in the region’s economic well-being. With the cooperation of the ARF, we supported the ARF Disaster Exercise in Indonesia earlier this month. We are looking at ways for the ARF to strengthen its capacity in managing crises, which is critically important in light of the spate of recent natural disasters that have battered the region. Another regional effort is the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), one of Secretary Clinton’s signature priorities for U.S. engagement in Southeast Asia. Over the last year, the Secretary convened several meetings of the LMI with her counterparts from Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam to chart the way forward to advance shared goals for the region in environment, education, health, and infrastructure.

In August 2010, I led the largest-ever U.S. delegation to the Pacific Islands Forum Post-Forum Dialogue in Vanuatu. The delegation included not only Department of State officials, but also key defense and development personnel. We plan to take an even larger delegation to the 2011 meeting this September in Auckland to demonstrate our whole-of-government approach to addressing shared concerns in the Pacific. Building on the urgent request for support from the Pacific Small Island States, we have committed funds specifically for climate adaptation projects and related programs in Pacific Island countries. To help administer these new programs, USAID is finalizing plans for a new office in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea this year. Funding to address climate adaptation will be an essential component of our strategy—and a critical element in the regional effort both to meet increasingly severe climate-related challenges and to maintain American pre-eminence in a region wooed by other suitors with deep pockets.

In this regard, the Compact of Free Association between the United States and Palau is a vital component of our growing presence and engagement in the Western Pacific. Our existing defense arrangement with Palau makes a valuable contribution to U.S. and international security. The Administration has submitted to the Congress legislation covering the results of the recently concluded fifteen-year review of the Compact. Enacting the proposed legislation will uphold our partnership under the Compact, underscore the United States’ renewed commitment to the region, and keep Palau allied with the United States at a time when other, international interests are aggressively courting Pacific Island countries.

Fifth, we are pursuing an aggressive economic and trade agenda in Asia. 2011 is a year of consequence for the United States to demonstrate economic leadership in the region and shape the agenda for future years to accelerate regional economic integration. We are taking a three-pronged approach to driving successful engagement with the region: securing ratification of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, achieving milestone progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, and concluding a successful APEC host year.

Today, the 21 APEC economies, with approximately 2.7 billion consumers, purchase almost 60 percent of U.S. goods exports. Seven of the United States’ top fifteen trading partners are in APEC. Strong Asian participation in APEC, the WTO, and the G-20 reflects the increasing importance of Asian economies and their centrality to strengthening the multilateral trading system and sustaining our own economic recovery. We must ensure our competitiveness in this vital region and promote continued integration of the U.S. economy with APEC economies, which will benefit workers, consumers, and businesses in the region and create jobs back here in the United States.

The region is essential to the success of President Obama’s National Export Initiative, and our goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015 to create new American jobs. In the first year of the National Export Initiative, U.S. exports to APEC members grew much faster than U.S. exports to the rest of the world (non-APEC member economies). U.S exports to APEC economies last year totaled $774 billion, up 25 percent from 2009, while U.S. exports to non-APEC member economies grew only about 15 percent to reach $503 billion. We are working with governments in the region to ensure an environment in which this trend can continue.

As we seek to achieve the President’s goal of doubling exports over the next five years, a tremendously important concrete step toward reaching this goal is the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). In December, the Administration achieved important new commitments from the Koreans on outstanding issues that will level the playing field for U.S. automakers and autoworkers, and the Administration will submit the agreement to Congress soon. This agreement represents a major accomplishment for both countries and is an historic opportunity to boost exports, create jobs, and bolster our economy. It eliminates tariffs on 95 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports to Korea within five years and significantly reduces tariffs on our agricultural exports to Korea. KORUS is expected to increase exports of American goods by up to $11 billion based on the tariff cuts alone of KORUS and to support at least 70,000 additional jobs on the U.S. side alone. In addition, this agreement will support many more American jobs by opening Korea’s $580 billion services market to U.S. companies in express delivery, telecommunications, insurance, and other services industries. The economic benefits for the ROK are also considerable. This trade agreement will deliver immediate, significant economic benefits, but will also deepen our engagement and strengthen our partnership with a central ally in a volatile and rapidly growing region. In strategic terms, it will underscore our commitment to prosperity and security in the Asia Pacific and fortify our leadership role and influence in the region.

Another important pathway to expanding U.S. economic engagement in Asia, and increasing U.S. exports to dynamic Asian markets, is the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, or TPP. The nine APEC economies involved – Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States – represent almost 40 percent of APEC’s total goods and services exports. With these economies we are negotiating a new template for a high-quality, high ambition, twenty-first century trade agreement. This is a strategic agreement that is central to enhancing the twenty-first century supply chain and new economies of IT and green growth, and one that supports high labor standards and the environment. We have now had a number of rounds of TPP negotiations, and we look forward to working in partnership with Congress as we continue towards realizing this important agreement.

And, in 2011, the United States is hosting APEC for the first time in 18 years, providing us with unique opportunities to demonstrate our commitment to and engagement in the region and to shape the organization’s agenda in ways that reflect our values, promote regional economic integration, and create opportunities for U.S. businesses and workers in this dynamic region. The first round of Senior Officials Meetings took place here in Washington earlier this month, and we will have a busy APEC schedule as we build to the APEC Leaders Meeting, which President Obama will host in Hawaii in November. We have set an ambitious agenda that challenges APEC to maximize tangible, practical results, particularly in the area of removing trade barriers, promoting green growth, and building regulatory convergence among APEC economies. To that end, the President has laid out three priority areas to guide APEC’s agenda in 2011 to build towards a seamless regional economy: (1) strengthening regional economic integration and expanding trade; (2) promoting green growth; and (3) expanding regulatory cooperation and advancing regulatory convergence. We are looking to conclude specific and ambitious initiatives in each of these three priority areas this year. We want to ensure that APEC will continue to benefit American businesses, especially small and medium size enterprises, and will remain focused on specific, practical outcomes. Through APEC, we can continue to advance regional economic integration, and by reducing barriers to trade and investment in the region, we can increase U.S. exports and support jobs at home at the same time.

American leadership in the Asia-Pacific is essential to our long-term national interests. The Administration is committed to investing in and playing an engaged and active role in the region. The shift of geopolitical forces from the West to the East is a defining feature of the twenty-first century’s international landscape—and Asia will be the main stage for these transformations. These changes will present both tremendous challenges and opportunities for the United States. We are committed to meeting these challenges and seizing opportunities through high-intensity and comprehensive engagement. We have demonstrated to the region that as a global power, we can “walk and chew gum at the same time.” We can, and will continue to be forced to, juggle multiple challenges at once. We are committed to taking steps to further strengthen our linkages to the Asia-Pacific region to ensure the preservation and promotion of our interests.

I look forward to working with you, Mr. Chairman, and with Members of this Subcommittee and Congress to seek opportunities to influence positively the future direction of the region to deliver more benefit to more of our people. Thank you for extending this opportunity to me to testify today on this vitally important issue. I am happy to respond to any questions you may have.

China Since 1898

1898: Emperor Kuang-hsu (1871-1908) of the Qing Dynasty initiates Hundred Days Reform program as reformist movements spread amid foreign interference in China; Empress Dowager Tzu-hsi (1835-1908) has Kuang-hsu arrested and rules until her death.

1900: Anti-foreigner uprising (“Boxer Rebellion”) sweeps China, prompting reprisals and expedition by the Eight-Nation Alliance (Japan, Russia, Britain, France, United States, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy) to protect foreign interests; Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) becomes leader of the Revive China Society and, in 1905, of the United League.

Uprisings with support of military rebels begin in Wuchang and spread widely, culminating in the 1911 Revolution.

Last Qing Emperor of China, Pu Yi (1906-67), abdicates, ending over two thousand years of imperial rule; nationalists proclaim Republic of China in Nanjing; Sun Yat-sen becomes president, and establishes the Kuomintang nationalist party; Sun is pushed out and replaced by military leader Yuan Shikai (1859-1916) as president in Beijing.

Japan imposes Twenty-One Demands on Yuan Shikai.

Revolt of the Generals halts Yuan Shikai’s attempt to re-establish imperial rule.

China declares war on Germany, entering World War I; Sun Yat-sen establishes rival government in Guangzhou, Guangdong; Bolshevik Revolution occurs in Russia, inspires Chinese revolutionaries.

May Fourth Movement student protests occur in protest of the Versailles Peace Conference decision to grant German concessions in Shandong to Japan rather than restoring Chinese sovereignty.

Chinese Communist Party is formed in Shanghai as an outgrowth of May Fourth Movement; Mao Zedong (1893-1976) becomes secretary of Communist Party branch in native Hunan.

Kuomintang first national congress seeks cooperation with Communists and Soviet Union for unification of China.

China experiences outbreaks of anti-foreign strikes and political unrest; Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975), chief of staff of National Revolutionary Army, succeeds Sun Yat-sen as Kuomintang leader.

Chiang Kai-shek launches Northern Expedition against warlords and unifies wide parts of China.

Chiang Kai-shek crushes Communists and consolidates control; Communists form Red Army (later called the People’s Liberation Army).

Chiang Kai-shek establishes Nationalist government in Nanjing.

 Famine in northern China kills 5-10 million.

Nationalists launch Extermination Campaigns against Communists.

Mao Zedong establishes Chinese Soviet Republic in Ruijin.

Fifth Extermination Campaign drives Communists from southern China; Communist army undertakes the Long March to Yenan with Mao Zedong emerging as Communist leader.

Japan invades China, capturing Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing; Nationalists and Communists form temporary united front; Mao Zedong’s party leadership confirmed; Soviet Union aids Chinese resistance.

China joins World War II alliance with United States and Britain against Japan; Chiang Kai-shek attends Cairo Conference with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill; war leaves Nationalists beleaguered while Communists make significant gains in membership and influence.

Mao Zedong elected chairman of the Communist Party and its Politburo; China signs United Nations Charter.

Nationalists and Communists fail to agree on coalition rule and civil war resumes; Communists declare “war of liberation.”

Communists defeat Nationalists and Mao Zedong proclaims the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1 in Beijing; Mao declares intention of creating socialist society and promoting world communism; Chiang Kai-shek and Nationalists flee to island of Taiwan declaring continuity of Republic of China; United States supports Taiwan government and pledges to work towards Mao Zedong’s downfall.

China enters Korean War, supporting Communist invasion of south; a U.S.-led United Nations force repulses invaders; Chinese troops occupy Tibet; China signs Treaty of Friendship with Soviet Union.

China launches first Five-Year Plan, intended to spur economic growth using the Soviet model of centralized planning, state ownership and collective farms.

United States signs Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan.

Mao Zedong launches Hundred Flowers Campaign to encourage criticism of Communist policies.

China begins Great Leap Forward program aimed at rapid industrialization; economic disruption triggers widespread famine, killing as many as 30 million.

Chinese forces crush uprising in Tibet; the Dalai Lama flees to India.

Ideological and strategic tensions escalate between China and Soviet Union.

Clashes over disputed Himalayan border occur between China and India; China increases military aid to North Vietnam.

China detonates a nuclear device, signaling China’s rise as a global power.

Mao Zedong launches Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution aimed at reviving revolutionary spirit and cleansing party of ideological enemies; Deng Xiaoping (1904-97), a pragmatic economic reformer, is stripped of party leadership positions.

United States increases military forces in Vietnam to 400,000 after U.S. President Lyndon Johnson cites need to stop Chinese Communist aggression in Asia.

China experiences widespread violence and economic disruption amid the Cultural Revolution.

China detonates a hydrogen device.

Chinese and Soviet forces engage in border clashes.

China withdraws war support personnel from North Vietnam after Hanoi refuses to cut relations with the Soviet Union.

United Nations recognizes People’s Republic of China, which becomes one of the five permanent members of the Security Council; Taiwan is expelled from the UN.

U.S. President Richard M. Nixon makes historic eight-day visit to China, paving the way for official U.S. recognition of the People’s Republic of China.

Ailing longtime Premier Zhou Enlai (1898-1976) designates Deng Xiaoping as successor; Deng returns to politics as first vice premier.

Zhou Enlai dies; Gang of Four, a militant party faction that includes Mao Zedong’s wife Jiang Qing, targets Deng Xiaoping as counterrevolutionary; Mao Zedong dies; Hua Guofeng (1921-2008) takes over as chairman (position renamed general secretary in 1982).

Deng Xiaopeng (1904-97) becomes de facto leader; launches Open Door Policy and market reforms.

United States and People’s Republic of China establish diplomatic relations; United States commits to military and other support for Taiwan; China launches punitive invasion of Vietnam following Vietnam’s incursion into Cambodia.

Hu Yaobang (1915-89) becomes general secretary; China establishes special economic zones to attract foreign direct investment as part of free market reforms; People’s Republic of China becomes a member of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Members of Gang of Four are tried and given long sentences for usurping power and persecuting thousands; Communist Party denounces Cultural Revolution.

China designates fourteen coastal cities open for foreign direct investment and trade.

Zhao Ziyang (1919-2005) becomes general secretary.

Regulations are enacted for establishment of private businesses and corporations.

Government violently suppresses democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in Beijing; Zhao Ziyang is dismissed and replaced as general secretary by Jiang Zemin (1926-); the Dalai Lama is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “for his consistent resistance to the use of violence in his people’s struggle to regain their liberty.”

Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets open.

Deng Xiaoping calls for more rapid economic growth and reform during visit to southern China; Communist Party endorses “socialist market economy,” calling market economy compatible with socialism; China accedes to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

All regions of China are opened for foreign direct investment.

China mounts war games in Taiwan Strait on eve of presidential elections in Taiwan; United States sends two carrier battle groups into the Strait.

Britain returns Hong Kong to Chinese rule.

U.S. forces bomb Chinese embassy in Belgrade during NATO raid on Serbia during Balkans conflict, triggering diplomatic tensions and anti-American protests in China; Portugal returns Macao to Chinese sovereignty.

China enters World Trade Organization.

Hu Jintao (1942-) becomes general secretary.

China launches its first manned space flight, Shenzhou 5.

Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydropower project, is completed.

China carries out a missile test in space.

Beijing hosts Summer Olympic Games.

Leaders of China and Taiwan exchange messages for the first time in six decades.

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) create a free trade area; China surpasses Japan as the world’s second largest economy after the United States; Chinese literary critic and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights.”

Xi Jinping (1953-) becomes general secretary; China opens world’s longest high-speed rail route linking Beijing and Guangzhou; influential Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai is expelled from party amid murder and corruption scandal; China experiences increased diplomatic tensions with the Philippines and Vietnam over rights in the South China Sea.

Diplomatic tensions escalate between China and Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea.