China: government and governance 2016-17

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The 19th Communist Party congress is set to start in Beijing A fresh team of leaders in China’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, is expected to be unveiled, as well as a roadmap for China for the next five years. In the Asia Times, Grant Newsham writes China’s communist party congress stirs echoes of South Africa – The premise underlying both systems? Populations genetically unsuited for consensual government and hence harsh rule by a governing clique being the only alternative to chaos.
Your simple guide to the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th congress
(Quartz) The 19th congress will kick off on Wednesday (Oct. 18), and is expected to last for a week. Around 2,300 party members from across the country will attend the meeting in Beijing to select the party’s top leadership for the next five years. All key decisions, however, have already been decided by top leaders behind closed doors ahead of the big gathering.
Why does it matter?
The short answer is that the congress will determine China’s course over the next five years or even longer. The outcomes of the meeting will “indicate how successfully (or not) Xi has consolidated power, how much support there is for his agenda, and how this agenda will evolve in the coming years,” wrote analysts at Trivium, an Australia-based research group, in a preview of the event.

7 October
China’s 19th Party Congress approaches. Later this month, the Chinese Communist Party will hold its all-important party congress to set national policy goals and elect its top leadership. Ahead of this seminal event, explore a new resource for information on the 19th Party Congress, including an analysis from Richard Bush on how the thorny issue of Taiwan will feature in Xi Jinping’s much-anticipated speech

14 July
Liu Xiaobo’s Dreams Will Never Die
The Nobel laureate may have passed away, but his vision of a democratic China lives on.
(US News) The world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, died of liver cancer on Thursday at the No. 1 Hospital of China Medical University in the northeastern city of Shenyang. Despite a global outcry supporting his dying wish to travel abroad for medical treatment, including by 154 Nobel laureates, the Chinese government stood firm and willfully hastened his death by denying him access to treatments abroad that could have extended his life by several weeks. As his lawyer, I had arranged for a Medevac to take him abroad the moment Chinese President Xi Jinping might relent, but in the end Xi showed no humanity and no mercy.
Liu died totally cut off from everyone but his wife Liu Xia, and was not allowed to receive visits or calls from friends or other family. And as a further affront to his dignity, he wasn’t even allowed to be alone with his wife – a Chinese security official was in the room with them around the clock and even when he died.
The last time the world heard from Liu was in a statement released by his counsel on Dec. 25, 2009, right after he was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power.” Liu said, “I have long been aware that when an independent intellectual stands up to an autocratic state, step one toward freedom is often a step into prison. Now I am taking that step; and true freedom is that much nearer.”

Dissident Liu Xiaobo provoked China’s fury
The country’s most prominent and outspoken political prisoner, he wrote of love, philosophy and human freedoms, and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his long struggle for human rights
(Globe & Mail) His pen was a sword wielded at China’s Communist Party, a spotlight illuminating his country’s social contradictions and a minstrel soothing his wife with poems of tender lament for the woman he loved, and the life they were forced to live apart.
For decades, Liu Xiaobo was one of his country’s most important voices, a critic, thinker and scourge of authoritarianism whose work won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the fury of a Chinese state that repeatedly incarcerated him, making him its most famed political prisoner.

12 July
In the Liu Xiaobo Saga, the World Demands a Kinder, Gentler China
Beijing is foregoing a chance to rebrand itself to the international community as a world leader, rights advocates warn.
(Pacific Standard) China continued on Tuesday to ignore requests to allow long-imprisoned political dissident and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo to leave the country for medical treatment for complications related to liver cancer. China’s negligence stands as a sharp rebuttal to calls from the international community for Beijing to act “humanely.”
Liu is one of many rights advocates who sacrifice their lives to the cause of Chinese human rights; many others like him languish in prison or under house arrest. But attention to Liu’s case has surged abroad—his ordeal is being treated as a litmus test for whether Beijing, empowered by the absence of the United States as a world leader and stabilizer, might ease its approach toward dissenters and try to rebrand itself on the global stage.

January 2017
Brookings: Will Engaging China Promote Good Governance?
Jamie P. Horsley

2016

28 December
Chinese state media are blaming kitchen fumes for smog. Readers are incensed by an editorial attributing the toxic haze that has choked cities partly to greasy cooking.
10 October
Mysterious factory break-in raises suspicions about Chinese visit
A burglary at an innovative Scottish wave-power company went forgotten, until a very similar project appeared in China
It was an unusual burglary, in which four or five laptops were stolen from a Scottish renewable energy manufacturer in the dead of a March night in 2011. So innovative was the company that it had been been visited by a 60-strong delegation led by China’s then vice-premier only two months before.
Nothing else was taken from the company and the crime, while irritating, went unsolved and forgotten – until a few years later pictures began emerging that showed a remarkably similar project manufactured in the world’s most populous country.
6 September
Umbrella Movement logoChina warns Hong Kong democracy activists after election
(BBC) China has warned that anyone advocating Hong Kong’s independence could be punished, state media say.
The stern message came after young pro-democracy activists won seats on Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo).
The Chinese government underlined its “resolute opposition” to any independence activities on the council or outside it.
Many in Hong Kong are increasingly concerned about Beijing’s interventions in its politics.
5 September
Thirty pro-democracy candidates were elected to the 70-seat LegCo on Sunday, up from 27 previously, meaning they retain the ability to veto major constitutional changes.
‘This is our country!’: China makes no apologies on the tarmac or at the bargaining table
China seems determined to challenge the old world powers and to act on its own terms
By Saša Petricic
(CBC) Some dismissed it all as an unfortunate, uncharacteristic misunderstanding. Others, including several diplomats to Beijing, saw it as deliberate, a shocking snub. Obama said the confrontation with the media revealed a difference over “values and ideals,” while Beijing blamed the U.S. for the stairs mix-up.
In any case, it seemed to confirm China’s determination to challenge the old world powers and to act on its own terms. (“This is our country” has since become a popular refrain on social media here.)
Speaking to the leaders, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on G20 countries to work together, to move away from protectionism and to lower trade barriers as a way to jump-start a lacklustre world economy.
“We have come here for closer partnerships,” Xi said. “It is crucial that we enhance mutual understanding, expand consensus and form synergy.”
But for many, it’s China that’s playing by its own rules. U.S., European and Canadian businesses complain they’re unfairly kept out of the Chinese market.
… At the same time as China restricts foreign businesses, European Union leaders say Beijing expects open access to Western economies. At the G20 summit, the president of the European Commission warned China not to dump excess steel in the EU at prices that undercut domestic producers, especially when some Chinese factories are subsidized.
As the meetings wrapped up, there was much talk about reducing trade barriers and increasing co-operation for the sake of the world economy.
But Chinese officials offered nothing concrete to make it easier for foreign firms to thrive in this market.
And  they offered no apologies for  the missing stairs on the tarmac.
Ghost town: how China emptied Hangzhou to guarantee ‘perfect’ G20
Third of city’s 6m people were ‘convinced’ to leave as week-long public holiday was declared, factories were shut and dissidents put under house arrest
(The Guardian) In recent days, foreign journalists have been astonished and bewildered at how China’s authoritarian rulers have managed to transform a usually bustling metropolis of 6 million inhabitants into a virtual ghost town to guarantee a trouble-free summit. … Foreign journalists have spent days trudging through Hangzhou’s eerie and empty backstreets – anxious Communist party security agents trailing their every step – in a luckless quest to find interviewees.
The medal count at Rio Olympics adding fuel to the fire? Hong Kong election results will likely be another aggravation.
Cracks emerge in China’s image as Obama snubbed at G20 summit
(Globe & Mail) “China – connecting with you.”
It’s an image China spends heavily to promote, of a place powerful enough to win respect, but magnanimous enough to use it for good. Selling it is a major reason China is hosting the G20, a massive public relations exercise for which it shut down factories, built a new expressway and emptied parts of one of its biggest cities.
Then Air Force One landed in Hangzhou on Saturday and the picture, once again for China, cracked badly.
In a series of heated disputes that nearly led to blows, Chinese officials harassed foreign reporters and embarrassed U.S. President Barack Obama from the first moments of his arrival.
It all had the look of China’s Communist Party putting the leader of a superpower in his place.
Beijing spends roughly $10-billion (U.S.) every year on “external propaganda,” political scientist David Shambaugh has estimated. … far more than any other nation spends on its external image – and an obvious mark of how badly China covets global affection.
But if the idea is to show an ancient civilization retaking its peaceful place in the world, that effort has struggled against China’s own hectoring. …
China is not what it was five years ago. … In only three countries in the G8 do people look positively toward Beijing, according to Pew Research Center polling, and Canadian ill-feeling, too, has deepened in recent years. Among 30 large nations in an international “soft power” index maintained by communications consultancy Portland, China sits two spots from the bottom – behind Russia (Canada is fourth).
This isn’t how China imagined its future a decade ago.
In the prelude to the 2008 Summer Olympics, it held the world spellbound with the sweep of its modernization, the skill of its planners and the competitiveness of its athletes.
Beijing then won further plaudits for astute financial management as it marched confidently onwards while the financial crisis turned the rest of the world upside down. But it was that moment that observers point to as the turning point, when China began to see its system and governance as superior, and act accordingly.
In 2005, political scientist Joseph Nye – the man who coined the term “soft power” – pointed out that China had begun to attract more favourable perceptions than the U.S.
But “things have changed,” said Prof. Nye, the former dean of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, in an e-mail. Under Mr. Xi, China’s “soft power has suffered from his crackdown on civil society and from the nationalistic response to China’s disputes with its neighbours.”
What the Chinese president wants is cultural and political dominance equal to his country’s economic achievements – superpower status in all arenas.
“They talk about the power of discourse. The very fact this is talked about means China lacks this kind of power. And they want to make up for that weakness,” said Chengxin Pan, a senior lecturer in international relations at Deakin University.
That stems partly from the tone at the top.
“Telling a reporter that she does not have the right to ask about Chinese human rights is akin to denying visas to scholars who criticize China or buying Chinese-language media in countries outside China. They are all efforts to use coercive means to control what is said about China by the international community,” said Elizabeth Economy, director of Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “China buys friends but it doesn’t win them.”
And in some cases, it has alienated them. By flouting international norms and building artificial islands in disputed maritime areas, China has also provoked a military response.
“If the law of the sea is not respected today in the China seas, it will be threatened tomorrow in the Arctic, in the Mediterranean, or elsewhere,” French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said this summer.
Provoking global anxiety and suspicion “could actually constrain China’s increase of influence and ultimately even China’s expansion of investment,” Mr. Pan said. “This may actually come back to damage China’s core interests.”
Mr. Obama, too, has warned China about its conduct. “Part of what I’ve tried to communicate to President Xi is that the United States arrives at its power, in part, by restraining itself,” he said in a CNN interview.
12 August
The South China Sea Ruling: 1 Month Later
One month has passed since the International Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague handed down its historic and sweeping award on maritime entitlements in the South China Sea (SCS), overwhelmingly favoring the Philippines over China. As expected, Beijing refused to accept the PCA ruling, hardened its legal and diplomatic positions, and yet refrained from undertaking provocative actions aimed at changing the status quo as many had feared.

(The Diplomat) Time to carefully analyze the Chinese reaction to determine how best to respond in the coming months.
Now is an opportune time to carefully analyze the Chinese reaction to determine how best to respond in the coming months. The ultimate goal is for China to act as (or become) a more responsible global stakeholder and net provider of maritime security that contributes positively to the international system. Otherwise, Beijing’s attempts to execute its SCS agenda and strategic ambitions in the Indo-Asia-Pacific will continue unabated and unchecked. The worst-case outcome for the region, the international community, and the United States is the emergence of a regional hegemon (and possible future global power), one that disregards the international rule of law and acts without restraint in the foreign policy realm.
Before and after the ruling, Beijing challenged the Tribunal’s legitimacy and authority and framed China as the true standard-bearer of international law and accepted norms. Beijing, through official statements and authoritative media commentaries, is painting Washington’s position as the minority view while also trying to clarify its maritime claims in the SCS. China’s earlier legal position was more ambiguous. Previously, China stated that it “exerts indisputable sovereignty over the SCS Islands and the adjacent waters and… is entitled to relevant maritime rights and interests based on the SCS Islands as well as historic rights in these waters.” Now, rather than speaking of undefined rights and interests in undefined waters, Beijing has adopted the language of UNCLOS in naming the maritime zones it claims, perhaps leaving room for future negotiations. Moreover, Beijing has been creating new domestic maritime law as part of its continuing effort to reset the terms for international legal disputes it expects to grow as China’s maritime reach expands. China’s Supreme People’s Court recently issued a judicial interpretation specifying standards for convicting and punishing those engaged in illegal fishing or entry into Chinese territorial waters and refusing to obey commands to leave.
11 August
China’s Anti-Western Show Trials
A dangerous turn in Beijing’s campaign against dissenters.
(WSJ) Chinese authorities turned last week’s show trials of four legal activists into a multimedia sensation, with forced confessions airing nightly on prime-time news and propaganda videos online. Beyond vilifying the four men, who advocated for dissidents and religious minorities, the trials had a broader purpose: to paint the United States as China’s enemy.
The courtroom drama was highly choreographed, with four trials over four days, each lasting a few hours. The accused, who couldn’t use their own lawyers or have family in the courtroom, were arrested during last year’s sweep of nearly 300 lawyers and legal activists. When they surfaced in a courtroom in the port city of Tianjin after more than 12 months incommunicado, they denounced themselves, praised their jailers and condemned overseas influences for leading them astray…
28 April
China’s Cultural Revolution at 50 (Subscription req’d)
(The Diplomat) Conventional thinking on one of Communist China’s seminal events is often too simplistic.
China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution began 50 years ago. On May 16, 1966, the Communist Party’s Central Committee declared that capitalist agents had sneaked into leading positions

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