Government questions whether Dastyari fit to be a senator, in new row over Chinese donor


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is again under pressure over the behaviour of high-profile Labor senator Sam Dastyari, who warned a political donor with Chinese Communist Party links that his phone was likely tapped.

Fairfax Media on Wednesday reported that before Dastyari and Huang Xiangmo spoke, the senator “gave Mr Huang counter-surveillance advice, saying they should leave their phones inside and go outside to speak”.

The story said the meeting last year was at Huang’s home in Sydney and occurred some weeks after Dastyari had to quit the frontbench amid controversy over his dealings with Huang, who is a Chinese citizen and an Australian permanent resident, and his contradiction of Labor policy on the South China sea.

It also happened after ASIO briefed political figures including from Labor about Huang’s opaque links to the Chinese government, the Fairfax report said.

The new controversy about Dastyari comes amid deepening security concerns about increasing Chinese interference in Australia.

The government questioned whether Dastyari should remain in the Senate, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying Dastyari “has very, very grave questions to answer”.

“This is a very, very serious issue of national security.” Dastyari “should really be considering his position in the Senate”, Turnbull said.

Shorten indicated he had given Dastyari a warning but did not suggest he would take any more action against him.

“I have made it clear to senator Dastyari that this is not the first time his judgement has been called into question, but I certainly expect it to be the last,” Shorten said.

Dastyari’s demotion was followed by partial rehabilitation when he became deputy Labor whip in the Senate.

Turnbull asked rhetorically: “Whose side is he on?”

“Here he is, an Australian senator who has gone to a meeting with a foreign national, with close links to a foreign government and advises that foreign national, Mr Huang, to put their phones inside to avoid the possibility of surveillance,” Turnbull said.

“Why is he trying to alert Mr Huang that perhaps Australian security agencies may have an interest in him?”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said if the allegations were accurate, “they will show that senator Dastyari was acting against Australia’s national interest, against Australia’s national security concerns”.

This would make his position in the Senate “untenable”, she said.

Turnbull also challenged Shorten, asking why he told Dastyari “directly or indirectly, about possible interest from security services, in Mr Huang”.

Dastyari argues that his remark about the likely phone tapping was passing on press gallery gossip.

He said he had never been briefed by any security agency, or received any classified information about any matter.

“I’ve never passed on any protected security information – I’ve never been in possession of any,” he said.

He quoted a comment he had made to the ABC’s Four Corners some months ago, when he said: “After the events of last year, I spoke to Mr Huang to tell him that I did not think it was appropriate that we have future contact. I thought it was a matter of common courtesy to say this face to face. Neither my office or I have spoken to Mr Huang since.”

He said this information has been publicly available since June.

Shorten said he had not passed on any information from a security briefing to Dastyari. “However I do not believe the senator is the subject of any national security investigation.”

Dastyari had never made a secret of the fact that this meeting took place, Shorten said. “He has again confirmed that he did not pass on any classified information, because he didn’t have any.”

Peter Jennings, head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the incident was “as serious as it gets” and called for a public investigation.

He said that if, when he was a public servant, he had had a conversation with a foreign national warning them their phone was likely tapped, “it would have been a career-ending moment for me – probably leading to legal action”.

Jennings said over the past two to three years, “we’ve had a number of examples of Chinese involvement at senior political levels that are deeply questionable in terms of appropriateness. For the health of our democracy we have to get to the bottom of these issues.”

UPDATE

Late on Wednesday, in another damaging blow to Dastyari, audio was leaked of his remarks in June last year supporting the Chinese over the South China Sea, in flat contradiction of ALP policy.

Although a report of part of his comments had previously come out via the Chinese media, the audio, following hard on the heels of the revelation of his phone tapping warning to Huang, will be extremely damaging to him and put Shorten further on the spot.

The comments were made at a Sydney news conference for the domestic Chinese media, with Huang standing beside Dastyari.

Later, Dastyari was quoted as having said: “The South China Sea is China’s own affair, Australia should remain neutral and respect China on this matter”.

The audio indicates how deliberate his comments were and gives more precision and detail of what he said.

Dastyari says in the tape: “The Chinese integrity of its borders is a matter for China.

“And the role Australia should be playing as a friend is to know that with the several thousand years of history, thousands of years of history, where it is and isn’t our place to be involved.

“And as a supporter of China and a friend of China the Australian Labor Party needs to play an important role in maintaining that relationship and the best way of maintaining is knowing when it is and isn’t our place to be involved.”

In response to the audio, Dastyari said in a statement: “In September last year, I resigned from the ALP frontbench, over comments I made at a June 17 press conference which were wrong and not consistent with ALP policy.

“I have acknowledged this a number of times previously. I should not have made these comments at the press conference. I have acknowledged this, and I paid a price for this error.

“I expect Turnbull and the Liberals to smear me, but for he and his colleagues to suggest that I am not a true or loyal Australian is incredibly hurtful – and hurtful to all overseas-born Australians. I might’ve been born overseas, but I’m as Australian as he is.”

The ConversationHe said his last contact with Huang was 14 months ago. “I haven’t spoken to him since.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Advertisements

Australia is hedging its bets on China with the latest Foreign Policy White Paper


Remy Davison, Monash University

No surprises: the Foreign Policy White Paper from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is about trade, not guns.

Unlike Defence, DFAT is about quiet diplomacy, not security dilemmas. So this is no reprise of the 2009 Defence White Paper, which infamously canvassed the “China threat”.

But the message in this white paper is undeniably for Beijing’s ears. It tells China that Australia will have polygamous economic relationships with its multiple trade partners throughout the world.

Although it welcomes China’s advances, it will not submit to the monogamous embrace of the People’s Republic of China’s economy. It emphasises that China’s emergence, prosperity and future wealth is inextricably linked with the status quo: a liberal international economic order under the rule of law. The alternative is unpredictability, potential economic chaos and possible conflict.

The paper does not level accusations at Beijing in the ham-fisted manner the 2009 Defence White Paper did. But in a high-stakes game of international poker, there is one certainty: you must hedge your bets.

The revolution has been postponed

In reality, white papers are elite exercises, designed to be pored over by journalists, while strategically engaging a narrow, overseas audience of decision makers. Foreign governments are the real target readership.

There are virtually no parliamentary questions that aren’t Dorothy Dixers about foreign affairs and defence. That is because the Canberra political class are all sailing the same ship.

The Labor Party and minor parties may grumble aloud about free trade details, but you would have to go back many years to witness a collapse in bipartisanship on foreign affairs and defence. To 2003, in fact. To Mark Latham and a war with Iraq.

You will find no revisionism in this foreign policy white paper; the first foreign policy white paper since 2003 is firmly in the camp of the status quo.

From the inception of the Abbott government in 2013, the Coalition endorsed a global strategy to consolidate and extend Australia’s network of bilateral and regional free trade agreements. The objective was to achieve preferential trade access to Australia’s major markets in the Asia, Europe and the Pacific region. This latest white paper emphasises the continuity of this overarching strategy.

The problem is that the status quo that persisted when the Coalition government took office under Tony Abbott no longer exists.

The promulgation of Xi Jinping’s assertive presidency in 2013, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Brexit conflagration of 2016, and the inauguration of US President Donald Trump in 2017 have overturned conventional wisdom about the structure of the future global order.

Inquietude about China is not entirely absent, but the criticism is mild and polite. The white paper expresses concern about Beijing’s aggrandisement of the South China Sea, where China has constructed more than 3,200 acres of artificial land as part of its “Great Wall of Sand” strategy.

However, the paper merely reiterates bland statements of principle, calling for disputes to be settled under international maritime law. Open seas are, of course, the lifeblood of commerce.

A hedging strategy?

The white paper’s economic forecasts are aggressive. It envisages a Chinese economy valued at US$42 trillion in purchasing power parity terms in 2030, almost double that of the US and EU, respectively. Purchasing power parity is an economic measure that compares different countries’ currencies.

Indian purchasing power parity GDP will expand by 250% by 2030. By contrast, Japan is expected to atrophy, with virtually no growth in the next decade. Indonesia will almost double in size, but its growth will be slower than China or India.

Naturally, China dominates the thinking of the white paper’s authors. China is, by far, Australia’s biggest two-way trade partner with A$62 billion in imports and A$93 billion in exports in 2016, an increase of 3.7% since the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement entered into force in December 2015. The paper recognises China will continue to dominate consumption of Australia’s minerals exports, tourism and education services.

There are clues to DFAT’s thinking in the white paper’s terminology, which eschews the traditional “Asia-Pacific” mindset for the “Indo-Pacific”, which manages to integrate both India and Indonesia, while offending neither of them. Australia’s pivot to the Indo-Pacific should not be understated.

Foreign Minister Bishop says the ultimate goal is a Indo-Pacific free trade area, reiterating Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s objective of “a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

The paper recognises its strategic economic partnerships with India, Indonesia and Southeast Asia, noting that in 2016:

Australia’s trade with ASEAN countries was greater than with our second-largest bilateral trading partner, the United States.

More than any previous public government document, the 2017 paper articulates a hedging strategy. It acknowledges China’s centrality to Australia’s trade, investment and prosperity.

But the TPP, the EU and UK free trade agreements, together with this Indo-Pacific free trade area, are clear economic messages to Beijing: there are alternative trade agreements.

Getting real

There has long been an “Australian realism” in international affairs. It’s a realism that recognises Australia is a weak power in a region inhabited by great powers bristling with nuclear weapons, and fragile states (Pakistan and North Korea) possessing baroque. But it also acknowledges these nations’ lethal, nuclear capabilities.

Australian foreign policy has long recognised that as a subordinate power, heavily reliant upon the region’s sea lines of communication and a working peace system to advance its commercial interests, Canberra should maintain great and powerful friends throughout the Asia-Pacific.

In practice, that has meant consolidating and extending the US military alliance, appeasing Indonesia, forming a virtual alliance with Japan, and deepening and widening Australia’s trade and investment links with China.

But despite the fact that Australian budgets are built in Beijing, the white paper is curiously silent about the China-dominated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, with merely one passing reference. In contrast, the paper reinforces Australia’s support for Washington-dominated institutions, such as the World Bank, IMF and NATO.

The ConversationDespite the China challenge, it is clear that in the minds of Canberra, US hegemony is not over, and the Asian century is still to begin.

Remy Davison, Jean Monnet Chair in Politics and Economics, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

At APEC, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping revealed different ideas of Asia’s economic future



File 20171113 27595 1kmzjur.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (front left) joins other world leaders for the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam.
AAP/pool

Nick Bisley, La Trobe University

Donald Trump has just attended his first APEC leaders’ summit following bilateral state visits to Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam. After the NATO summit and G20 earlier in the year, in which he displayed his inexperience and lack of affinity for multilateralism, many feared the worst.

But the comfortable rapport he established with leaders like Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as well as the less formal structures of APEC, meant there was no repeat of the northern hemisphere summer.

APEC was established in 1989 with the leaders’ summit added in 1994, with an ambition to drive economic co-operation and in particular trade liberalisation across the region. While it has been modestly successful in the unglamorous area of trade facilitation – involving largely regulatory streamlining to make the business of international trade smooth – as a co-operative framework it has not achieved any major outcomes.

So when looking at APEC, the real interest is not on the grouping’s economic policy process, but what occurs on the platform that the leaders’ summit provides, as its convening power remains impressive. What did we see in 2017?

Once again, APEC was a forum for discussing a non-APEC trade agreement. The TPP had regularly figured in previous meetings, and this time the 11 remaining members met to try to craft an agreement without the US. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to attend one of the meetings, but it does appear that the 11 have salvaged some kind of a deal.

A string of meetings occurred on the sidelines. Of greatest interest was Trump’s conclave with Russian President Vladimir Putin, mostly focused on relationship-building, particularly important given the slate of new leaders in the club. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Moon, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen were all making their debut.

Despite the evidently warm personal relationship that Trump has developed with Xi, the smiles and diplomatic tourism in Beijing are the pleasant facade of what has become a more overt competition for influence in the region. At the 2017 iteration of the meeting Gareth Evans famously described as “four adjectives in search of meaning”, this was plainly in sight.

At keynote speeches to the APEC CEO summit, Xi and Trump laid out their views on the region’s future. Trump’s speech was the second setpiece, following Rex Tillerson’s speech at CSIS in October, which outlined a belated US strategy to the region. The US aims to sustain a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, and Trump’s focus at APEC was on the economic dimension.

Continuing the themes raised in his UN General Assembly speech of September in which Trump declared he expected all countries to pursue their own interests first, he continued his walk away from core principles of its economic engagement of the region. In the past it had pursued large scale multilateral agreements, initially chasing a big free-trade agreement of the Asia Pacific, and more recently the TPP.

Trump said very plainly that there would be no more big agreements, and only bilateral deals based on strict and fairly narrow ideas of reciprocity. The other notable element was a direct statement that the US would no longer put up with predatory practices of other countries, such as IP theft, subsidies and not-enforced trade rules. While he did not name China as his main concern, he didn’t need to.

Trump’s effort to reconcile US rhetorical commitment to an open economic order in the region with his mercantilism stood in contrast to Xi’s approach. Xi painted a picture that seemed much more in keeping with the longer-run trends in Asia’s economic order.

Xi repeated the promise made at Davos that China was committed to economic openness. More specifically, he said China would seek to make economic globalisation more open, inclusive and balanced.

Interestingly, he said China would uphold regional multilateralism as the best means to advance the region’s common interests that were “interlocked”. He also presented the “Belt and Road Initiative” as an open mechanism that would help advance regional connectivity and even, somewhat surprisingly, described it in fairly economically liberal terms.

To be clear, Xi’s speech was a declaration of what China would do – whether it actually follows through is an open question. Nonetheless, Xi presented a China that would lead an open and inclusive economic order, in some ways as a defender of the status quo. Trump, in contrast, seemed to break with that tradition. Trump’s economic nationalism was on display, and he encouraged others to follow his lead.

Quite where this leaves the region is unclear. We still have to wait to see whether the two speeches of the “free and open Indo-Pacific” becomes an actual strategy. US policy remains hindered by a lack of resourcing in key branches of government.

The ConversationEqually, we have to wait to see what China will actually do. But make no mistake, at APEC 2017, the region’s two biggest powers presented clearly different visions of the region’s economic future.

Nick Bisley, Executive Director of La Trobe Asia and Professor of International Relations, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How should Australia respond to China’s influence in our universities?


Jonathan Benney, Monash University

The federal government is concerned about Chinese influence in Australia, particularly on universities. While we don’t know exactly how deep this influence runs, we do know quite a bit.

Financially, many Australian universities depend on international students from mainland China. It was recently suggested that 16% of the University of Sydney’s revenue comes from these students. Over the past two decades, this rapid change has made universities look and feel different.

From a financial perspective, it didn’t really matter if universities changed; the more enrolments the better. From a social perspective, university administrators suggested that the presence of Chinese students would create mutually beneficial cross-cultural communication and exchange. Academics initially thought that while it might take a while, Chinese students would “adjust” to Australia.

More recently, academics have come to a more pessimistic conclusion: Chinese students in Australia inhabit a “parallel society”, in which they engage with Australian society only rarely.

The combination of these factors — Australia’s financial dependence on China, the increasing Chinese presence in Australia, the disconnection of mainland Chinese students from Australian society and culture, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) increasing global assertiveness — has begun to create conflict.

What are the conflicts?

When university students and teachers discuss contentious issues relating to China, they often face criticism from PRC students. The criticism can be harsh, well-organised, and heavily publicised. Cases at the University of Newcastle, Monash University, and the Australian National University illustrate the scope of the problem.

Nothing about student protest is inherently undesirable. In fact, it is a manifestation of the academic freedom that university students deserve – and would not have in China. But what constitutes a “contentious issue”, and who is orchestrating this criticism? Examining the issues disputed makes two things clear: first, that the issues Chinese students deem “contentious” are exactly the same issues that the Chinese government deems “contentious”, particularly those relating to China’s territorial integrity and history. Second, that the
organisations orchestrating the response to these issues, particularly the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), are funded by and work closely with Chinese state bodies such as consulates.

This runs in parallel with a steady intensification of “ideological education” in the PRC, together with attempts to shape how China is seen by the world through Confucius Institutes, the CSSA, and other “soft power” bodies. At last week’s Party Congress, President Xi Jinping stated China’s priority is to become a globally “stronger” nation.

So, should universities and the Australian government draw the line at some point? Should they ban or restrict contentious organisations? And if these groups cause friction on campus, how should university students and administrators respond?


Read more: Telling Chinese students to conform won’t fix cross-cultural issues


Three main issues in question

Is this really the Chinese government’s fault?

In some ways, yes. The chain of command is clear: from the PRC government to consulates to student organisations to students. On the other hand, students often don’t need to be encouraged to support Chinese interests. Teachers hear spontaneous outbursts of nationalism in class all the time.

Students in the CSSA are being manipulated by the PRC government, but they are individuals too. Universities should set a high standard for suppressing individual views. Supporting one government’s policies does not meet that standard.

Who is really being harmed here?

Broadly speaking, local students and academics are hearing views they don’t want to hear, often inaccurate, and frequently phrased in an inflammatory way. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with that. Student politics is fundamentally confrontational. If local students and academics disagree, we can speak up, as
several students have done.

The more severe harms are to Chinese-background students,
whether or not they are from the PRC. Chinese culture is not the same as PRC culture. It is complex and diverse, and Chinese students have wide-ranging views on many topics. As a teacher of Chinese students, I am not particularly concerned when my students support the PRC. They have many reasons to do so. But I am extremely concerned when students tell me that they are afraid to criticise China, even in essays, because they are worried that their fellow Chinese students will attack them.

When dissenting Chinese students are ostracised by student organisations, this harms the dissenting students, who lose the valuable cultural connections and support that student organisations provide. It also harms the majority of PRC students, who never get the opportunity to debate ideas suppressed in the PRC media, and who accept too frequently that the views of the Communist Party of China (CPC) are correct and normal.

What right do universities have to intervene in student organisations?

As a rule, academic freedom should apply to everyone in the university. While it is reasonable to suggest that it should be restricted in some circumstances (for example, to restrict fascist organisations), the trend towards censoriousness on campus is also concerning. Free speech should be paramount, even when the CSSA says things people don’t like. Banning or restricting the CSSA, for example, would have no effect on the PRC but would irritate and harm many Chinese students.

It should not end there. Universities can actively facilitate diversity in debate. Responsible universities would prioritise funding to the setup of Chinese student groups without political alignment and to facilitating debate about contentious topics relating to China. They would also give prominent dissenters, like Wu Lebao, special support.

What do we need to do?

Australian universities have sometimes been naive about China. Chinese students have been admitted in large numbers without concern for their academic skills, taught without concern for their social and cultural needs, and little has been done to help them adapt to Australia and its culture. Under these circumstances, it’s not surprising that they feel disconnected from universities and turn to student organisations that speak their language and understand their culture.

The ConversationUniversities need to have the courage to do two contrasting things: they should both acknowledge that the opinions of the CSSA are opinions that many Chinese students hold, and provide avenues for alternative points of view. This would allow students to hear debates about China and reflect on China critically — something they cannot do within Chinese borders. This would not create a new band of anti-PRC revolutionaries, but it would do something rather rare at Australian universities — treat Chinese students as humans with the capacity for rational thought.

Jonathan Benney, Lecturer in Chinese Studies, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Xi Jinping unveils China’s new leadership team


Hans Hendrischke, University of Sydney

China’s 19th Party Congress has elected a new leadership team that promises to bring continuity in the country’s gradual domestic reform and stronger focus on internationalism.

Proving many political observers wrong, the new leadership line-up is an A-team in terms of economic and international credentials.

New leadership team

President Xi’s “new era” of Chinese development and economic growth is defined by the reform agenda he laid out when he came to power in 2012. This vision was most clearly articulated in his personal comments on the 60-point policy document that laid out the President’s vision for the governance reform of China.


Read More: China’s ambition burns bright – with Xi Jinping firmly in charge


The newly elected leadership team comprises five new members, all of whom bring economic and international experience to the table that will shape the direction of Chinese policies over the next five years.

Wang Yang and Han Zheng have led China’s most successful and most internationalised province-level economies, Guangdong and Shanghai. Li Zhanshu and Zhao Leji have overseen growth and reform in China’s inland provinces before assuming central party posts. Wang Huning, the chief theoretician, speaks fluent French and has a PhD in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University.

All five newly elected members (they join the existing Premier Li Keqiang) have been groomed for the top positions by serving at least one term on the politburo. The composition of the seven-member standing committee of the politburo is evenly balanced between economic reformers and the political power base.

Premier Li Keqiang’s focus is on economic policy-making, while Wang Yang and Han Zheng have steered China’s most open economies. Together, they represent economic stability and continued globalisation. The other three new members will oversee continuity in domestic policies and the continued role of the party.

Li Zhanshu was in charge of party administration over the past five years and is seen in the role of the party “whip”. Zhao Leji, as a power broker, was running the party’s Organisation Department and served as the second in command for the Party’s discipline inspection system in charge of anti-corruption policies. Wang Huning, who formulates Xi Jinping’s political agenda, has served the previous two leadership groups in exactly the same role.

Together, these six closest associates of Xi Jinping demonstrate the continuity of policies from the first half of Xi Jinping’s five-year term into this second five-year term to a domestic as well as an international audience.

Renewed focus on internationalism

One of the key advantages of the new leadership team will be their solid international credentials.

Wang Yang, former Party secretary of Guangdong Province, has been closely involved in China’s strategic economic dialogue with the United States. At the same time, he was in charge of the internal steering committee for the Belt and Road Initiative. His appointment means that China will continue the balancing act between its own regionally focused strategy and the (western) rules-driven form of globalisation.

Han Zheng, the former Party Secretary and mayor of Shanghai, served during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and oversaw the globalisation of Shanghai with its co-existence between commercially viable state-owned enterprise sector and a growing private sector.

Moving these internationally connected decision-makers to the front line signals pragmatism in China’s economic policies and globalisation. Their experience in dealing with foreign governments and businesses, and their awareness of the interdependence of global markets, suggests that current reforms in financial industries, advanced manufacturing and overseas investment will continue.

A new leadership direction

President Xi’s governance reform is a driver behind his anti-corruption campaign that has been in place for five years. In western terminology, Xi’s contribution to socialist theory is his attempt to institute a “separation of powers” by strengthening the role of the legislative in supervising the executive.

Currently, the party has direct control over the executive through appointments of all relevant government officials and direct interference in detailed government processes. Xi Jinping’s governance reform envisages a rules-based supervision of government through the system of people’s congresses and less direct interference by the party.


Read More: Video explainer: at China’s 19th National Party Congress, Xi’s vision and legacy are at stake


The governance reform includes practical aspects, such as reform of public finance as a precondition for banking reform; further tax reform, social security and medicare reform. These reforms will open new markets and are relevant for foreign economic cooperation.

Xi’s speech to the Party Congress cited unresolved issues, including social inequality, poverty, environmental pollution, health care and food safety. These are urgent matters than affect general public support for his policies and the government.

In view of the urgent need for progress in these areas, he foreshadowed a stronger role of the market and international cooperation in areas such as health care and social services.

Implications for Australia

For Australia, continuity in China’s leadership transition means stability in long-term economic relations, from forthcoming revisions to ChAFTA to Australian involvement in China’s “One Belt, One Road” Initiative.

The ConversationThe new leadership will continue to promote regional economic integration. Australia, with its location between Southeast Asia and the Pacific, is recognised by China as an important economic hub with mature institutions that will underpin regional economic cooperation.

Hans Hendrischke, Professor of Chinese Business and Management, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

China’s ambition burns bright – with Xi Jinping firmly in charge



File 20171025 5863 5lsjjy.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Xi Jinping affirmed that, within a few decades, China would become a prosperous modern socialist society and the world’s most important country.
Reuters/Thomas Peter

Nick Bisley, La Trobe University

The most important political event of 2017, the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress, has concluded. And while there was much to digest, one image above all stands out: Xi Jinping’s political dominance and his burning ambition for China.

The party congress is held every five years and has two main functions. The first is to lay out the policy program for the coming half-decade. The other is to confirm the people who will occupy the key leadership roles within the party. In short, it’s about policy and people.

The tone was set at the Xi’s opening address. Formally presenting the work report of the 18th Central Committee, he outlined the huge steps China has taken over the past five years and his vision for China over not just the next five years, but out to 2049 – the centenary of the People’s Republic of China’s foundation.

He affirmed that within a few decades, China would become a prosperous modern socialist society and the world’s most important country, both in terms of national power and international influence.

Gone is the old dictum that China has to bide its time and hide its power. Humility and caution have been replaced by confident and assertive leadership.

Xi also declared that China would remain economically open and provide leadership on climate change and other environmental concerns. The centrepiece of China’s international policy will be the Belt and Road Initiative that is now part of the party’s constitution.

But Xi was equally stern about threats and challenges, whether from within or beyond – the country would use all means to defend its interests and sovereignty. This means China’s muscular approach to disputes in the East and South China Sea, with India and elsewhere, is certain to continue.

Hard work, ongoing reform and leadership will be needed to bring all this about. The only force capable of doing this, made clear at the congress, is the Chinese Communist Party.

While nods were made toward market forces playing a more important role in resource allocation, the congress’ message was unmistakable: the key player in the economy, indeed in all aspects of Chinese life, will be the party. This is Leninism for the 21st century.

And the party will be unified around an austere vision laid out by Xi. The anti-corruption program that has been such a significant part of his first five years in office will become a permanent campaign.

Xi had launched the anti-graft measures to root out the significant problem of corruption, but also to eliminate rival centres of power. That will be a core element of party business in the future.

In his first five years, Xi focused on consolidating his power base, unifying the party and presenting a more confident face to the world. The congress made clear that the next five are about paramount leader Xi driving China to its position atop the international totem pole.

At the very start of the congress, the opening address gave a clue as to what was coming the work program presented by Xi was “for a new era”.

Xi made clear that the People’s Republic of China’s history can be divided into three eras. The first was the creation of the republic, led by Mao. The reform period, led by Deng Xiaoping was its second. Now the third era, in which the “Chinese dream of national rejuvenation” to be realised by Xi, has begun. With the Leninism of party centrality has also come a disturbing nascent cult of personality.

To formalise this on the congress’ final day, delegates unanimously voted to incorporate “Xi Jinping thought on socialism with Chinese charactersitics” into the party constitution. His is now a core purpose of the party and marks him out as the most powerful figure within the party for so long as he remains alive.

Prior to the congress there was much speculation about whether or not he would seek to break the party norm of two five-year terms as general secretary. By this move he has rendered such questions moot.

Whether he remains in office for more than five years or whether he formally stands down has become almost immaterial: he will be the dominant figure in the country.

To reinforce this, when the new seven-man standing committee of the politburo was announced the day after the congress’ conclusion there was no obvious successor as part of the grouping. All five of the new faces – Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji and Han Zheng – will need to retire at the next congress. So while the leadership is new, it is entirely subordinate to the general secretary.

Xi now clearly sits atop the party and the party commands China. Over the coming three decades China will seek to become the world’s dominant country.

Notwithstanding Xi’s huge confidence there is a very considerable amount of work to be done to realise these ambitions. It is far from certain whether China’s economy be reformed in the ways necessary to drive the levels of growth needed to fuel this program.

Equally, the party will face continual challenges of unity and legitimacy.

The ConversationInternationally, it is difficult to imagine the US acquiescing to China’s desire to supplant it at the centre of world affairs.

Nick Bisley, Executive Director of La Trobe Asia and Professor of International Relations, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Strengthened Xi and Abe could help moves toward peace in our troubled region



File 20171017 5056 197fn83.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Reuters

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

They may not be co-ordinated, nor linked in any way. But two events in Asia over the next week will help define Australia’s political and security environment for the next period.

First is the convening of the five-yearly Communist Party of China congress. This gets underway on Wednesday with a much-anticipated “work report” from party boss Xi Jinping.

Second is the Japanese elections scheduled for October 22. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is bidding to become the longest-serving leader of his country. He seems determined to enlarge Japan’s security footprint by continuing to beef up its defence forces and seek changes to its pacifist post-war constitution.

From an Australian perspective, the North Korean nuclear crisis invests both the reaffirmation – and strengthening – of Xi’s leadership for another five years, and the re-election of Abe, with particular importance.

A glance at the factsheets compiled by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade underscores the overwhelming economic importance of China and Japan to Australia’s wellbeing.

In 2016, China ranked first and Japan second as a destination for Australian merchandise trade exports. Trade in services to China ranked first, and Japan ranked eighth.

Japan’s economic and security importance to Australia tends to be underplayed. But it’s worth noting that Japanese investments in Australia are more than double China’s.

Xi’s signature statement to the party congress assumes critical importance given China’s expanding global leadership amid concerns about the Trump administration’s commitment to such a role. Each word and sentence will be parsed for its implications for regional and global security, and for the direction in which he plans to take the world’s second-biggest economy over the next five years.

This will be a speech – given the circumstances of China’s continued rise – that will rank with a US presidential State of the Union address.

The party congress will stretch over the best part of a week, and will be closely observed for indications of Xi’s continuing efforts to strengthen his grip on China’s leadership. As things stand, he has emerged as the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping.

Given his relative youth in Chinese leadership terms, the 64-year-old Xi may well be ruling for the next decade – in other words an additional five-year term past 2017 to 2022. This is well past a nominal retirement age of 68.

In a paper for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Michael Swaine painted a generally optimistic picture of China’s continued evolution under a dominant Xi. However, he also acknowledged that China’s continued rise would inevitably result in tensions over:

… trade, investment, sovereignty rights, and a variety of anxieties involving Chinese and US or Japanese military forces in the Western Pacific.

There’s no doubt Xi and the Chinese leadership are seeking to more effectively use China’s growing international presence to promote the nation’s interests in such sensitive. As a result, tensions with China will in fact likely increase.

The good news is that, rather than marking a turn toward confrontation between China and the West and Japan, the 19th Party Congress will likely signal a high level of stability and continuity in Chinese foreign policy. The bad news is that this continuity is unlikely to reduce the most serious challenges facing China’s relations with the United States and its allies.

In all of this, Japan’s importance in regional security calculations is likely to come more sharply into focus in the next period. This is investing Abe’s likely re-election with a super majority in the Diet in partnership with his Komeito allies with more-than-usual significance.

Latest opinion polls are predicting a surprisingly big win for the Abe-led Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) after indications he may have been struggling against the New Hope Party, which was formed on the eve of the election campaign by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.

According to a poll in the Yomiuri newspaper and Kyodo news agency, the LDP-led coalition is on track to win 300 or more seats in the 465-member lower house. This would be an improvement on its standing in the previous parliament.

If the Abe-led coalition is returned with a substantial majority, he is likely to push forward with attempts to revise Japan’s pacifist post-war constitution to enable a clearer definition of Japan’s military to enable it to assert itself militarily – if necessary.

Such a development would have implications for Australia’s growing security relationship with Japan. This partnership has not attracted much attention, but it has been substantial and evolving since a Joint Defence and Security Agreement was struck in 2007.

The two countries have progressively upgraded a bilateral Acquisition and Cross Services Agreement that enhances interoperability between the Australian Defence Force and the Japanese Self-Defence Force. Australia and Japan have also declared a Special Strategic Partnership aimed at strengthening security ties in the Indo-Pacific.

What’s driving closer defence co-ordination between the second world war protagonists is concerns about China’s rise, and the implications for a regional power balance. This would seem to be a prudent course.

In the aftermath of the Communist Party congress and the Japanese election, with Xi and Abe’s positions enhanced, it might be reasonable to assume that the sometimes-tense relations between China and Japan will take a turn for the better. Concerns about instability on the Korean Peninsula should provide a catalyst for greater co-operation, and a lessening of tensions over territorial disputes.

An early opportunity for a show of amity will come at next month’s APEC forum in Vietnam. This will also be attended by US President Donald Trump.

Abe is thought likely to press China for a long-delayed summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. North Korea would be a focus of those discussions. For its part, China is anxious that Japan lend its weight to the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

One indication that Abe is anxious to improve ties with China is that no cabinet ministers in Abe’s party visited the Yasukuni Shrine on the August 15 anniversary of the war’s end. China has previously angrily protested these visits.

From an economic perspective, close attention will be paid to statements by Xi and others at the party congress on China’s GDP growth targets and economic priorities for the next five years. Indications from the first half of this year are that China’s growth will exceed a 6.5% target for 2017. The economy has been strengthening in the second half of this year thanks, in part, to a construction boom.

But China’s debt-to-GDP ratio remains a significant concern. In the first quarter of 2017 total debt to GDP reached 257.8%. This is up from 187.5% five years ago.

In the end, China-watchers will be animated by personnel shifts in the Chinese leadership evidenced by announcements of a newly constituted Central Committee, Politburo, and, most importantly, Standing Committee of the Politburo.

The ConversationWhen these personnel shifts are unveiled they will reveal the extent to which Xi has strengthened his power over the party apparatus, and thus over China. The betting is this will be a win-win for Xi.

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

China: Persecution News Update


The links below are to articles reporting on persecution news from China (the most recent are at the top).

For more visit:
http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/71450/20171004/china-detains-two-christian-women-3-y-o-missionary-work.htm
http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/2113277/former-hong-kong-eoc-official-loses-gratuity-fee-retrial
http://www.persecution.org/2017/09/27/china-losing-freedom-in-every-aspect/
http://www.christiantimes.com/article/china-intensifies-crackdown-on-churches-with-new-plans-to-force-registration-with-government/72905.htm
https://international.la-croix.com/news/cross-accidentally-set-alight-as-chinese-officials-take-it-from-church/5963
https://www.ucanews.com/news/chinese-priest-gets-jail-time-for-theft-supporters-say-he-was-framed/80303
http://www.chinaaid.org/2017/09/christian-academy-banned-for.html

As China prepares for its Communist Party Congress, what will it mean for the rest of the world?



File 20171010 10908 16oo0eh.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
This display of Chinese characters represents the Chinese leadership’s ‘Five Major Development Concepts’ ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
Reuters/Thomas Peter

Nick Bisley, La Trobe University

Of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s many achievements in his time in office – about which much will be made in the official propaganda – one of the most surprising was the more confident and assertive approach to foreign policy that he brought about.

As the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China approaches, the five-yearly meeting of the party that signals leadership transition, what will the next five years mean for the outside world?

Intended to oversee leadership change at many levels of the party, the greatest interest is on the upper echelons of the hierarchy. Of particular interest is the make-up of seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, and the 25-member Politburo.

There is a great deal to watch out for: will Xi indicate a preferred successor? Will Li Keqiang, the current premier, be pushed out, demoted, or in some other way weakened? Will he allow Wang Qishan, his closest ally and head of the massive anti-corruption program, to stay on? Wang Qishan is now over 68, the age at which one is normally put out to pasture.

Beyond these obviously important details, the bigger question is whether Xi will adhere to the norms of the party or instead break them, potentially shattering the political system.

No one knows quite how things will play out, but seasoned analysts think it most likely Xi will bend the norms of the party to allow him to place enough supporters in key posts without completely upending the system. However events unfold, it is reasonable to expect that Xi will emerge from the NPC with his domestic hand strengthened.

Internationally, this will be the most closely watched Communist Party Congress yet. In part this is because China is now of huge importance to the rest of the world. China is the most important trading partner of more than 130 countries, it is the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, and has massive and growing military capabilities.

But interest is also strong abroad because the newly confident and at time abrasive China is having a transformative effect on Asia and indeed the world.

In his first five years, Xi confounded expectation by breaking with the cautious approach to Chinese foreign policy that had been the norm since Deng’s time. Xi moved clearly away from the “bide your time and hide your strength” dictum of the past.

But China was not entirely revisionist in its behaviour. As the Brookings Institution’s Jeff Bader rightly observes Xi’s policy involved a mix of status quo adherence to international norms, grievance and a growing confidence and leadership.

Economic growth remains a priority, and interdependence has driven a pragmatic acceptance of existing rules and institutions. Whether at the WTO, the World Bank or the UN, much of China’s international policy operates within existing norms. Interestingly, it contributes more troops to UN peacekeeping operations than any other permanent member of the Security Council.

Other elements are strongly shaped by a strong sense of grievance about an international order that is perceived to constrain China’s potential. China’s behaviour in the East and South China Sea, and claim that this has been purely a reaction to the predatory forces provoking it, is redolent of the early years of the People’s Republic.

Xi has also set out to build new norms and institutions. The most notable of these are the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative, in which China sees itself as providing mutually beneficial international economic leadership.

After October 25, what mix of adherence to rules, grievance and leadership can we expect? Do not expect simple continuity with the past five years. The balance of probabilities is that China will take a more nationalistic path, with a strong party aiming to remake the international environment, where necessary, in ways that will help it achieve Xi’s stated desire to rejuvenate the Chinese nation.

This will not mean we can expect a concerted push for Chinese hegemony in the Western Pacific. Nor will Xi try to recreate the old Chinese tributary system. Rather, we can expect the odd combination of grievance and more confident leadership that produced the South China Sea policy and the Belt and Road Initiative to become more pronounced features of Chinese foreign policy.

While norm adherence will continue, there is likely to be a greater willingness to break with these norms if they conflict with the larger aims.

The ConversationThis Chinese posture, when combined with the trade, finance and strategic trends drawing Asia closer together, is likely to create a China-centred Asian regional order, but one that will not be Sino-centric. Xi’s next five years will make contestation the main feature of Asia’s international politics.

Nick Bisley, Executive Director of La Trobe Asia and Professor of International Relations, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.