Death of Celebrated Conductor Yan Liangkun Marks End of Era in China

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 5, No. 6, June 2017

By Arthur Waldron

Yan Liangkun, last of the legendary conductors of The Yellow River Cantata (1939) the powerful classic composed by Xian Xinghai in wartime, is dead. With him dies a precious and authentic Chinese revolutionary tradition, that of those who once truly believed. Our house echoed with the music all morning. It filled with tears the eyes of me, a simple white boy from the Boston suburbs, still unable to distinguish the five grains, and prompting all sorts of reflections.

We are drawing very near to the end of an era, when people are still alive who remember the radiant vision of the New China that would arise, somehow from the good land and rivers themselves, of war ravaged China (Rana Mitter tells us 20 million dead). In their imaginations that vision still lives, under the layers of tragedy, personal suffering and disappointment, as what guided them and consumed their spirits when they were young and has never died.  Somehow we must capture this, for these were sincere people, whose love of country was simple and absolutely authentic (though few ever carried a gun: that was for the lower orders).

Shanghai, China. Xian Xinghai at about 23 years old in the 1920s. He composed the Yellow River Cantata, a classical work that uses a series of powerful Chinese melodies to evoke the beauty of China and the heroism of the war of resistance against Japan (1937-1945). Source: People’s Republic of China

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Two Decades of Asian Cooperation and Alliance Building, Followed by Retreat

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 5, No. 4, April 2017

By David Wolfe

The recent controversy regarding the location of the Carl Vinson Strike Group is analogous to current US Policy in Asia, rather than just another confusing announcement by the Trump Administration. The dysfunctional appearance is emblematic of a newly adopted regional retreat in many ways by the Trump Administration, and ceding territory throughout the region to Chinese aggression and hegemonic dominance.  The time period between the announcements of the US-India Nuclear Agreement back in 2006, right up to the recent withdrawal of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), saw the United States’ Asian Policy focus towards consensus building, greater regional economic integration and an expansion of security partnerships.  However, given the recent withdrawal from TPP, the Trump Administration is reversing course from those alliances established to counter the hegemonic ambitions by the Chinese to one in stark contradiction of that policy overnight.  The United States’ proposed interests, strategic alliances and most importantly, a check to Chinese expansion throughout the region of South, Southeast and Northeast Asia, is now in jeopardy, and no one is more appreciative of this shift than China.  Unfortunately, given the short-term memory in today’s oversaturated news culture, most are either unaware or have forgotten the long-term strategic goals the US has sought to pursue, and how that is now setting up a dangerous scenario for regional allies.

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Critical Comments On ‘US Policy Toward China: Recommendations For A New Administration’

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 5, No. 2, February 2017

By James E. Fanell

Below are the critical comments I provided to Dr. Orville Schell, the co-chair of the recent Asia Society and University of California, San Diego report US POLICY TOWARD CHINA: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A NEW ADMINISTRATION. While there are sections of the work that I agree with, I still fundamentally disagree with the overall foundation of the document’s recommendations which I believe are designed to sustain the past 40 year of a policy that promotes unconstrained “engagement” with the PRC.  As such, I’ve gone through the entire document and extracted several statements and paragraphs that I disagree with and a few that I agree with.  While I will provide comments for each specific reference issue, I can summarize my dissent of the report in the following major themes:

1.  Unconstrained Engagement.  Engagement with China is asserted to be the primary goal of US relations with China without providing evidence for that assertion.  Or worse, suggesting things are actually going well, contrary to all objective evidence.

2.  “The Relationship” is the #1 Priorty.  “The relationship” is prioritized as being equal to or more important than U.S national security.  There is no clear articulation that U.S. National security should be the #1 national security priority for the US and that our relationship with China should be judged through that lens, not through the lens of sustaining “the relationship” at all costs.

3.  Do Not Provoke.  America should not “provoke” China, but again, there is no evidence to support why this position will benefit U.S. national security interests.

4.  Dissent Not Welcome.  While I appreciate inclusion of Ambassador Lord’s dissenting opinion on North Korea, clearly the study did not value, or include, dissenting opinions, especially in the Asia-Pacific Regional Security and Maritime Dispute sections.

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The Three Oppositions: Chinese Dissident Groups Holding Mass Demonstrations Since 2012

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 5, No. 2, February 2017

By Tom Stern

As President Donald Trump takes command 28 Years after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, there are three prominent groups which are considered by the Communist Party of China (CPC) to be dissident and subversive to its ideals, posing a danger to political stability. Each of these could potentially become the backbone necessary for the expansion of freedoms in China.

  1. the Tuidang Movement, [1]
  2. the New Citizens’ Movement [2], and
  3. the practitioners of Falun Gong [3].

Tuidang Movement

The 退黨運動 (Tuìdǎng yùndòng), or Tuidang movement for short, is one that seeks the abolition of the CPC. Literally meaning “to withdraw from the Communist Party,” its members are bound by their desire to end the corruption tied to the Party. Caylan Ford, in his dissertation “Tradition and Dissent in China: The Tuidang Movement and its Challenge to the Communist Party” notes a key difference between the movement and those before it in that, rather than drawing from western principles and ideals of democracy and free expression, it seeks to act as a mirror to the nation’s idealized past. In its reflexive approach, the movement employs exigent and distinct Chinese language and ways of thought, such as Confucianism. Ironically, Ford also notes that the movement views the Communist ideology as a largely foreign and detrimental one, “which is portrayed as antithetical to true Chinese values, human nature, and universal laws.” Rather than using a geopolitically-charged force behind its espoused arguments, the Tuidang movement draws from both history and morality in its efforts to compel the Chinese public to recognize their unified, and wholly unnecessary, suffering under the Communist Party.

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Ukraine’s Former President Yanukovych Deposited Billions of USD with China

Viktor Yanukovych, Xi Jinping.

According to two independent JPR sources, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, left, deposited billions of dollars before and during his departure from Ukraine in the spring of 2014.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 2, February 2015.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D

Former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych has deposited billions of dollars with the Chinese, according to two independent sources available to the Journal of Political Risk.

President Yanukovych deposited approximately $1 billion USD with China on either his first or second visit to that country, according to one of the sources. Two large pallets of cash, of approximately $1 billion USD, were delivered to China through Hong Kong.

The other source, which we accessed in April 2014 on a visit to Ukraine, said that President Yanukovych transferred most of his deposits to China prior to departing the country and closing the banks with which he was associated. His bankers fled the country at that time.

When President Yanukovych fled Ukraine for Russia in February 2014, he transferred billions of dollars in a hurry. He and his family closed their four banks, according to our source. President Yanukovych’s men stuffed several vehicles full of cash, and drove them to Russia. What is reported here for the first time is that most of his estimated $32 billion in assets were wired to China, according to our source.

Former President Yanukovych denies having foreign bank accounts.

Update (3/7/2015): An email request for comment to the People’s Bank of China was not returned. The JPR was unable to reach Viktor Yanukovych for comment, though he is thought to reside in Rostov-on-Don, Russia

Anders Corr, Ph.D. is the founder and principal of Corr Analytics. JPR Status: Report, archived 2/28/2015. 

China Response to Hacking Indictment Indicates Rash Leadership and Need to Expand NATO to Asia

 

Russia and China are currently conducting naval  exercises near Shanghai. In 2013, Russia and China conducted similar exercises near Vladivostok. From right, China's Yantai Type-054A missile destroyer, Yancheng Type-054A missile destroyer, Wuhan Type-052B guided missile destroyer and Lanzhou Type-052C air defence missile destroyer take part in the fleet review during the "Joint Sea-2013" Sino-Russian joint naval drills at the Peter the Great Gulf near Vladivostok in Russia on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. A Chinese fleet consisting of seven naval vessels participated in the "Joint Sea-2013" Sino-Russian joint naval drills scheduled for July 5 to 12. The eight-day maneuvers focus on joint maritime air defense, joint escorts and marine search and rescue operations. (Photo By Sheng Jiapeng/Color China Photo/AP Images)

Russia and China are currently conducting naval exercises near Shanghai. In 2013, Russia and China conducted similar exercises near Vladivostok. From right, China’s Yantai Type-054A missile destroyer, Yancheng Type-054A missile destroyer, Wuhan Type-052B guided missile destroyer and Lanzhou Type-052C air defence missile destroyer take part in the fleet review during the “Joint Sea-2013” Sino-Russian joint naval drills at the Peter the Great Gulf near Vladivostok in Russia on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. A Chinese fleet consisting of seven naval vessels participated in the “Joint Sea-2013” Sino-Russian joint naval drills scheduled for July 5 to 12. The eight-day maneuvers focus on joint maritime air defense, joint escorts and marine search and rescue operations. (Photo By Sheng Jiapeng/Color China Photo/AP Images)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 5, May 2014.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

China is using a very blunt and escalatory instrument — threatening general deterioration in military relations — to respond to a limited issue of Chinese individuals stealing trade secrets. On May 20, the United States Justice Department indicted five People’s Liberation Army members for hacking United States commercial data.  The remarkable speed with which China responded the following day, and at the highest level, suggests that commercial hacking is an officially-approved state policy on the part of China. The Chinese threat of reduced military cooperation and thereby deteriorating military relations is clumsy in that the Chinese would look better had they simply launched an investigation of the individuals — an investigation that they could later claim shows the indictment as baseless. The broad Chinese threat of deteriorating military relations invites an increase in US military attention to Asia — exactly what the Chinese should be trying to avoid. The clumsiness of the Chinese response to the indictments indicates a rash Chinese leadership prone to irrational military strategies, with consequent market volatility and political instability. The US and its Asian allies should respond with a measured forward deployment of military forces, and redoubled diplomatic energy towards greater alliance cooperation, including between Asian allies and NATO.

For legal and political reasons, the US will not be able to simply withdraw the indictment. It would increase the perception of an increasingly weak US foreign policy. This will lead Chinese diplomats to retaliate in some manner, further decreasing stability between the US and China. Expect mutual diplomatic retaliation to exert downward pressure on the Yuan (compensated by People’s Bank of China buying of Yuan), as well as downward pressure on Chinese stock indexes, including SHCOMP, CSI-300, Bloomberg China-US 55, and HSCEI. Expect Chinese index losses to increase with every additional diplomatic spat that ensues, and to slowly recover during periods of diplomatic quiet. Continue reading

Shale Gas Race: Political Risk in China, Argentina and Mexico

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 2014.

Global shale gas basins, top reserve holders. Source: Reuters, Catherine Trevethan.

Global shale gas basins, top reserve holders. Source: Reuters, Catherine Trevethan.

By Igor Faynzilbert, CFA

As the world continues to embrace cleaner and more efficient sources of energy over the next 25 years, natural gas stands to gain a large market share at the expense of less efficient and more pollutant coal and wood. The United States is currently the biggest winner from hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that allow significantly increased production of shale gas. However, China, Argentina and Mexico are also potential gainers from these new technologies if they manage to overcome political and infrastructure challenges that have considerably slowed development of new gas fields. Continue reading

Rise of Environmental NGOs in China: Official Ambivalence and Contested Messages

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 8, December 2013.

By Ruge Gao

Figure 1. Registered NGOs (Civil Organizations) in China 1988 to 2009. Data source: Xu Ying and Zhao Litao, 2013.

Figure 1. Registered NGOs (Civil Organizations) in China 1988 to 2009. Data source: Xu Ying and Zhao Litao, 2013.

With China’s impressive economic growth over the past few decades has come an environmental cost that reaches from the countryside to the capital.[1]  While some Chinese economists believe the lack of environmental regulation encourages uninhibited growth, the Chinese State Environmental Protection Agency and State Statistics Bureau have produced statistics that indicate that environmental damages have decreased growth by three percent.[2] Triggered most prominently by the 1998 Yangtze River Floods, the number of Chinese environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) began growing around 2000 and experienced explosive growth within the last decade. According to Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs statistics,[3] in 2008 China had approximately 212,000 social groups, with 5,330 being of the environmental variety. Many Chinese ENGOs are in the public eye, but must simultaneously satisfy international donors and local government officials in order to survive. Continue reading

Legal Services Reform in China: Limitations, Policy Perspectives, and Strategies for the Future

Number-Foreign-Law-Firms-in-China-2000-to-2012

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 6, October 2013.

By Julian Yang, Esq.

Précis: Mr. Julian Yang, a practicing lawyer and arbitrator in Beijing, China, describes problems with the Chinese legal system, including bias by courts, corruption, a culture of litigation, and lack of sufficient numbers of lawyers to satisfy market demand. He argues for legal services reform in China, including: 1) allowing foreign lawyers to address Chinese courts, 2) allowing foreign lawyers to practice commercial law, 3) increasing consultation of lawyers in contractual law to avoid litigation, 4) use of arbitration to decrease the quantity of litigation, 5) increasing the rights of Chinese lawyers, such as rights to gather evidence, and 6) increasing the rights of clients, for example the right to freely choose and meet with lawyers without police scrutiny. Mr. Yang argues that these reforms will increase the influence of China abroad, improve legal services in China, and provide a test as to whether greater political reform would be possible without loss of political stability.

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Chinese Political and Economic Influence in the Philippines: Implications for Alliances and the South China Sea Dispute

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 3, July 2013.

By Anders S. Corr, Ph.D., and Priscilla A. Tacujan, Ph.D.

Figure 1: China and Philippines: Military Expenditure and Energy Use, 1989-2011. Shortly after most US forces left the Philippines in 1991-2, Chinese military expenditure and activity in the South China Sea increased dramatically. Data source: Correlates of War Project.

Figure 1: China and Philippines: Military Expenditure and Energy Use, 1989-2011. Shortly after most US forces left the Philippines in 1991-2, Chinese military expenditure and activity in the South China Sea increased dramatically. Data source: Correlates of War Project.

The Philippine government is constitutionally required to craft an independent foreign policy, but it must accelerate cooperation with foreign powers to do so effectively.  China’s growing militarization and energy consumption are fast out-pacing the meager military spending and energy consumption of the Philippines (See Figure 1). This makes China, more so than the Philippines, willing to risk military conflict over disputed energy resources, fishing areas, and transportation routes in the South China Sea.

Since the People Power Revolution of 1986, the Philippines has had a comparatively weak, and sometimes fractious, alliance with the United States, Japan and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean). China, on the other hand, has increased its political influence in the Philippines over the last twenty-five years, through both economic means, and threatening military behavior. China would prefer prolonged bilateral negotiations with the Philippines, as with other small countries, while gradually encroaching on maritime territory. The minor concessions or royalty payments offered by China are in no way commensurate with the energy resources of the South China Sea (also known as the West Philippine Sea). The cheapest approach for China, though one costly in terms of reputation, has been to compromise individual Philippine politicians in exchange for turning a blind eye to encroachments. The belief of China is that such encroachments may cause minor discomfort in Chinese foreign affairs in the short-run, but will eventually be accepted and legitimized as fait accompli. Control over lucrative shipping, fishing, and energy fields will result.

The Philippines could extract far greater ownership rights and royalty payments on the international market by keeping Chinese corruption and military threats at bay. The latter strategy requires political fortitude and strengthened alliance cooperation with the United States, Japan, and Asean. The Philippines can become a leading partner in a developing Asian alliance system[1] geared to contain China and safeguard an UNCLOS determination on the East and South China Seas, but to do this requires safeguards against Chinese influence in Philippine politics. Continue reading