We Thought George W. Was The Most Ignorant Fool Ever, Then Along Came Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORKER.COM)

 

Max Boot, a lifelong conservative who advised three Republican Presidential candidates on foreign policy, keeps a folder labelled “Trump Stupidity File” on his computer. It’s next to his “Trump Lies” file. “Not sure which is larger at this point,” he told me this week. “It’s neck-and-neck.”

Six months into the Trump era, foreign-policy officials from eight past Administrations told me they are aghast that the President is still so witless about the world. “He seems as clueless today as he was on January 20th,” Boot, who is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said. Trump’s painful public gaffes, they warn, indicate that he’s not reading, retaining, or listening to his Presidential briefings. And the newbie excuse no longer flies.

“Trump has an appalling ignorance of the current world, of history, of previous American engagement, of what former Presidents thought and did,” Geoffrey Kemp, who worked at the Pentagon during the Ford Administration and at the National Security Council during the Reagan Administration, reflected. “He has an almost studious rejection of the type of in-depth knowledge that virtually all of his predecessors eventually gained or had views on.”

Criticism of Donald Trump among Democrats who served in senior national-security positions is predictable and rife. But Republicans—who are historically ambitious on foreign policy—are particularly pained by the President’s missteps and misstatements. So are former senior intelligence officials who have avoided publicly criticizing Presidents until now.

“The President has little understanding of the context”—of what’s happening in the world—“and even less interest in hearing the people who want to deliver it,” Michael Hayden, a retired four-star general and former director of both the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, told me. “He’s impatient, decision-oriented, and prone to action. It’s all about the present tense. When he asks, ‘What the hell’s going on in Iraq?’ people around him have learned not to say, ‘Well, in 632 . . . ’ ” (That was the year when the Prophet Muhammad died, prompting the beginning of the Sunni-Shiite split.*)

“He just doesn’t have an interest in the world,” Hayden said.

I asked top Republican and intelligence officials from eight Administrations what they thought was the one thing the President needs to grasp to succeed on the world stage. Their various replies: embrace the fact that the Russians are not America’s friends. Don’t further alienate the Europeans, who are our friends. Encourage human rights—a founding principle of American identity—and don’t make priority visits to governments that curtail them, such as Poland and Saudi Arabia. Understand that North Korea’s nuclear program can’t be outsourced to China, which can’t or won’t singlehandedly fix the problem anyway, and realize that military options are limited. Pulling out of innovative trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, will boost China’s economy and secure its global influence—to America’s disadvantage. Stop bullying his counterparts. And put the Russia case behind him by coöperating with the investigation rather than trying to discredit it.

Trump’s latest blunder was made during an appearance in the Rose Garden with Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, on July 25th. “Lebanon is on the front lines in the fight against isis, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah,” Trump pronounced. He got the basics really wrong. Hezbollah is actually part of the Lebanese government—and has been for a quarter century—with seats in parliament and Cabinet posts. Lebanon’s Christian President, Michel Aoun, has been allied with Hezbollah for a decade. As Trump spoke, Hezbollah’s militia and the Lebanese Army were fighting isis and an Al Qaeda affiliate occupying a chunk of eastern Lebanon along its border with Syria. They won.

The list of other Trump blunders is long. In March, he charged that Germany owed “vast sums” to the United States for nato. It doesn’t. No nato member pays the United States—and never has—so none is in arrears. In an interviewwith the Wall Street Journal, in April, Trump claimed that Korea “actually used to be part of China.” Not true. After he arrived in Israel from Saudi Arabia, in May, Trump said that he had just come from the Middle East. (Did he even look at a map?) During his trip to France, in July, the President confused Napoleon Bonaparte, the diminutive emperor who invaded Russia and Egypt, with Napoleon III, who was France’s first popularly elected President, oversaw the design of modern Paris, and is still the longest-serving head of state since the French Revolution (albeit partly as an emperor, too). And that’s before delving into his demeaning tweets about other world leaders and flashpoints.

“The sheer scale of his lack of knowledge is what has astounded me—and I had low expectations to begin with,” David Gordon, the director of the State Department’s policy-planning staff under Condoleezza Rice, during the Bush Administration, told me.

Trump’s White House has also flubbed basics. It misspelled the name of Britain’s Prime Minister three times in its official schedule of her January visit. After it dropped the “H” in Theresa May, several British papers noted that Teresa May is a soft-porn actress best known for her films “Leather Lust” and “Whitehouse: The Sex Video.” In a statement last month, the White House called Xi Jinping the President of the “Republic of China”—which is the island of Taiwan—rather than the leader of the People’s Republic, the Communist mainland. The two nations have been epic rivals in Asia for more than half a century. The White House also misidentified Shinzo Abe as the President of Japan—he’s the Prime Minister—and called the Prime Minister of Canada “Joe” instead of Justin Trudeau.

Trump’s policy mistakes, large and small, are taking a toll. “American leadership in the world—how do I phrase this, it’s so obvious, but apparently not to him—is critical to our success, and it depends eighty per cent on the credibility of the President’s word,” John McLaughlin, who worked at the C.I.A. under seven Presidents, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, and ended up as the intelligence agency’s acting director, told me. “Trump thinks having a piece of chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago bought him a relationship with Xi Jinping. He came in as the least prepared President we’ve had on foreign policy,” McLaughlin added. “Our leadership in the world is slipping away. It’s slipping through our hands.”

And a world in dramatic flux compounds the stakes. Hayden cited the meltdown in the world order that has prevailed since the Second World War; the changing nature of the state and its power; China’s growing military and economic power; and rogue nations seeking nuclear weapons, among others. “Yet the most disruptive force in the world today is the United States of America,” the former C.I.A. director said.

The closest similarity to the Trump era was the brief Warren G. Harding Administration, in the nineteen-twenties, Philip Zelikow, who worked for the Reagan and two Bush Administrations, and who was the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, told me. Harding, who died, of a heart attack, after twenty-eight months in office, was praised because he stood aside and let his Secretary of State, Charles Evans Hughes, lead the way. Hughes had already been governor of New York, a Supreme Court Justice, and the Republican Presidential nominee in 1916, losing narrowly to Woodrow Wilson, who preceded Harding.

Under Trump, the White House has seized control of key foreign-policy issues. The President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a real-estate developer, has been charged with brokering Middle East peace, navigating U.S.-China relations, and the Mexico portfolio. In April, Kushner travelled to Iraq to help chart policy against isis. Washington scuttlebutt is consumed with tales of how Trump has stymied his own Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, the former C.E.O. of ExxonMobil.

“The national-security system of the United States has been tested over a period of seventy years,” John Negroponte, the first director of National Intelligence and a former U.N. Ambassador, told me. “President Trump disregards the system at his peril.”

Trump’s contempt for the U.S. intelligence community has also sparked alarm. “I wish the President would rely more on, and trust more, the intelligence agencies and the work that is produced, sometimes at great risk to individuals around the world, to inform the Commander-in-Chief,” Mitchell Reiss, who was the chief of the State Department’s policy-planning team under Secretary of State Colin Powell, told me.

Republican critics are divided on whether Trump can grow into the job. “Trump is completely irredeemable,” Eliot A. Cohen, who was a counsellor to Condoleezza Rice at the State Department, told me. “He has a feral instinct for self-survival, but he’s unteachable. The ban on Muslims coming into the country and building a wall, and having the Mexicans pay for it, that was all you needed to know about this guy on foreign affairs. This is a man who is idiotic and bigoted and ignorant of the law.” Cohen was a ringleader of an open letter warning, during the campaign, that Trump’s foreign policy was “wildly inconsistent and unmoored.”

But other Republicans from earlier Administrations still hold out hope. “Whenever Trump begins to learn about an issue—the Middle East conflict or North Korea—he expresses such surprise that it could be so complicated, after saying it wasn’t that difficult,” Gordon, from the Bush Administration, said. “The good news, when he says that, is it means he has a little bit of knowledge.” So far, however, the learning curve has been pitifully—and dangerously—slow.

* This post has been updated to clarify the contextual significance of the year 632.

 

China’s Xi Jinping Is A Master Of Propaganda Which Is “Fake News”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)

 

Chinese leader Xi Jinping 
Getty Images

The art of suppressing dissent has been perfected over the years by authoritarian governments. For most of human history, the solution was simple: force. Punish people severely enough when they step out of line and you deter potential protesters.

But in the age of the internet and “fake news,” there are easier ways to tame dissent.

new study by Gary King of Harvard University, Jennifer Pan of Stanford University, and Margaret Roberts of the University of California San Diego suggests that China is the leading innovator on this front. Their paper, titled “How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, Not Engaged Argument,” shows how Beijing, with the help of a massive army of government-backed internet commentators, floods the web in China with pro-regime propaganda.

What’s different about China’s approach is the content of the propaganda. The government doesn’t refute critics or defend policies; instead, it overwhelms the population with positive news (what the researchers call “cheerleading” content) in order to eclipse bad news and divert attention away from actual problems.

This has allowed the Chinese government to manipulate citizens without appearing to do so. It permits just enough criticism to maintain the illusion of dissent and only acts overtly when fears of mass protest or collective action arise.

To learn more about China’s internet propaganda machine, I reached out to Roberts, one of the authors of the paper. I asked her how successful China has been at manipulating its population and, more importantly, if she thinks this brand of online propaganda will become a model for authoritarianism in the digital age.

You can read our full conversation below.


Sean Illing

How does China use the internet to manipulate its population?

Margaret Roberts

With this particular study, we were motivated by rumors of what’s called the “50 Cent Party” in China [more on this below]. People were convinced that China was engaged in a widespread online propaganda campaign that targeted its own population. But we never had direct evidence that this was ongoing.

Then in 2014, there was a massive leak that revealed what China was doing and how they organized their propaganda machine. So that gave us an opportunity to look at the actual posts the Chinese government was producing and spreading on the web for propagandistic purposes.

We gathered up all the data from the leaked email archive, and that allowed us to explore the content of the propaganda, which is something that no one had done before.

Sean Illing

And what did you find?

Margaret Roberts

We had always thought that the purpose of propaganda was to argue against or undermine critics of the regime, or to simply persuade people that the critics were wrong. But what we found is that the Chinese government doesn’t bother with any of that.

Instead, the content of their propaganda is what we call “cheerleading” content. Basically, they flood the web with overwhelmingly positive content about China’s politics and culture and history. What it amounts to is a sprawling distraction campaign rather than an attempt to sell a set of policies or defend the policies of the regime.

Sean Illing

I want to dive deeper into that, but I want to make sure we don’t glide past the “50 Cent Party” reference. Can you explain what that is?

Margaret Roberts

The 50 Cent Party is a kind of informal branch of the Chinese government that carries out its online propaganda campaign — so these are the foot soldiers who post the content, share the posts, etc. The name stems from the rumor that the members were each paid 50 cents for every post that helped the government. We didn’t find evidence that people were being paid 50 cents, however. It turns out posting online propaganda is just part of a government job.

Sean Illing

Do we have any idea how many members there are or how many people occupy these posts?

Margaret Roberts

The rumor before we started studying this is that it’s something like 2 million people, but we simply don’t know for sure. But we estimate that the government fabricates and posts 448 million social media comments a year.

People stage a rare large-scale protest not far from Tiananmen Square in Beijing on July 24, 2017, in connection with a recent crackdown on a company suspected of being involved in a pyramid scheme.
 Getty Images

Sean Illing

So let’s talk about China’s strategy. In the paper, you point out that China’s government actively manipulates its population, but that it doesn’t necessarily appear that way to its citizens. Part of the reason for this is China’s unusual approach to propaganda, which is to avoid refuting skeptics or defending policies and instead flood the digital space with happy news. What’s the strategic logic behind this approach?

Margaret Roberts

We think the purpose is distraction, because these posts are highly coordinated within certain time periods and the posts are written uniformly over time. They’re actually really bursty (meaning lots of similarly themed posts at the same time). The basic idea seems to be to flood the internet with positive noise in order to drown out bad news and distract from more serious or problematic issues.

Sean Illing

And they believe this is the most effective way to control political discourse?

Margaret Roberts

I think they realized that politics is about controlling the narrative and setting the agenda. Politicians and government officials in China want people to talk about the issues that reflect well on them. Their calculation is pretty simple: If they engage critics on issues that are complicated or reflect poorly on the government, they only amplify the attention those issues receive. So their approach is to ignore the criticisms and shift attention to other topics, and they do that by deluging the internet with positive propaganda.

Sean Illing

Are these positive stories actually true, or are we talking about “fake news”?

Margaret Roberts

This is a really interesting question. A lot of what we found in the leaked archive isn’t fake news. What they’re creating are stories that promote patriotism. They want people talking about and responding to content that favors the regime. But they also want people to think that content is coming from civilians and not from the government, which is why most of this is presented as someone’s opinion.

Sean Illing

What form does this cheerleading content take? What kinds of stories do they promote?

Margaret Roberts

The most common articles we found discussed how great it is to live in China or how wonderful Chinese culture is or how dominant China’s sports teams are — that kind of stuff. We’re not really talking about fact-based material here. It’s just positive stories that flatter the regime and the country.

Again, the point isn’t to get people to believe or care about the propaganda; it’s to get them to pay less attention to stories the government wants to suppress.

Sean Illing

Something else that jumped out at me in the paper was this idea that they want to permit just enough criticism to offer the illusion of dissent, but they want to make sure that there’s never enough criticism to spark collective action.

Margaret Roberts

China monitors the online information environment in order to collect information about the public and what they’re thinking. In that sense, they want people communicating freely. But a problem arises when you have too many people criticizing the government at the same time. There’s a constant risk of collective action or mass protest.

China’s government does its best to distinguish between useful criticisms (the kinds of criticisms that help them figure out how to satisfy the citizenry) and dangerous criticisms (the kinds of criticisms that might lead to mass protest events). They usually wait until there is a possibility for major mobilization against the government before they engage in overt censorship.

Sean Illing

Is China’s use of the internet unique or new? Are other governments doing similar things?

Margaret Roberts

I think there are aspects of the Chinese model that are new and unique, and certainly they’ve been at the forefront of trying to figure out how to control the internet. There is some evidence that other countries are learning from China, but nothing definitive.

Sean Illing

In the paper, you suggest this research might lead us to rethink the notion of “common knowledge” in theories of authoritarian politics — what does that mean?

Margaret Roberts

I think historically a lot of people have thought that common knowledge about things the government maybe has done wrong is detrimental to the regime. This is the idea that any criticism is detrimental to the regime. What we find in China is that criticism can be very helpful to the regime because it can allow them to respond.

But the type of common knowledge that’s really dangerous to the regime is knowledge of protests or other forms of collective action activity. That’s a major threat because it can spread so easily. We’ve seen this over and over throughout world history: Regimes are most vulnerable when small protests escalate into something much broader. This is what China’s government is determined to prevent.

People lie on the ground in Beijing on July 24, 2017, in protest against police for closing the road to a gathering where at least several thousand people staged a rare large-scale rally not far from Tiananmen Square in connection with a recent crackdown on a company suspected of being involved in a pyramid scheme.
 Getty Images

Sean Illing

To be clear, you call China’s approach “strategic distraction,” but it’s really about undercutting the possibilities for organized dissent. Regimes have always tried to capture people’s attention and redirect it in less dangerous directions. The only thing new about China’s operation is its use of the internet.

Margaret Roberts

I think that’s exactly right on.

Sean Illing

Do you think China’s approach to suppressing dissent is uniquely effective in an age of “fake news” and “post-truth”?

Margaret Roberts

The internet has created an environment in which there is a vast amount of information. That means it’s difficult for people to separate out “good” and “bad” information. Because many people have short attention spans online, they can easily be affected by information that looks like something it is not. That’s what China’s online propaganda and fake news have in common — they both take advantage of our short attention spans on the web.

Sean Illing

Is this a model for authoritarianism in the digital age? Should we expect more of this from other governments?

Margaret Roberts

The difficulty with online propaganda, and we’re seeing this in the US and other democracies around the world right now, is that it doesn’t function overtly like traditional forms of censorship. Most people object to blatant censorship. But online propaganda is a form of participation as well as form of censorship, so it’s difficult to know what the right policy is.

People want to introduce information on the web en masse, and that means a lot of noise and opinions and bots and commentators. Are there ways of regulating all of this without censoring ourselves? I think that’s a really hard question, and I don’t have the answers. But I think the world will have to struggle with this new reality of online propaganda, because it isn’t going away.

Chinese media to Trump: Stop the ’emotional venting’ on Twitter

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Chinese media to Trump: Stop the ’emotional venting’ on Twitter

Story highlights

  • An editorial in Chinese state media says tweeting won’t solve the North Korea crisis
  • Trump lashed out at China on Twitter for not stopping Kim Jong Un’s missile program

(CNN) US President Donald Trump should stop conducting his international diplomacy on Twitter, Chinese state media said in a widely-published editorial, syndicated across the country.

“Trump is quite a personality, and he likes to tweet, however emotional venting cannot become the guidance for solving the nuclear issues on the Korean peninsula,” said the editorial, first published on Xinhua Monday evening.
The article came days after Trump wrote a series of tweets saying he was “very disappointed” in China for not doing enough to stop North Korea’s missile program.
“Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk,” he wrote Friday night. “We will no longer allow this to continue.”
The United States had for months put pressure on China to rein in North Korea’s increasingly sophisticated weapons program, but Trump’s tweets have indicated he is tired of waiting for results.
In June he tweeted China’s efforts to restrain North Korea had “not worked out” but said he “greatly appreciated their efforts.”
North Korea successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, which it claimed was capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear device.
In its editorial, Xinhua said it was “definitely irrational” to blame China for North Korea’s missile launch.
“It is obvious to all the enormous efforts China has put to solve the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula … China has no magic wand to solve the (problem),” the article said.
Instead, the widely disseminated editorial blamed the US for the increasing tensions with North Korea by flying bombers over South Korea and ignoring invitations to talks.
“It is urgent to stamp out the fire immediately on the Korean peninsula, not to add kindling, or even worse, to pour oil on the flames,” the article said.
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment and has not yet received a response.
Trump’s comments and the subsequent editorial come at a sensitive time in US, China relations.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a briefing to government staff Tuesday the United States was reaching a “pivot point” in its relationship with China.
“How do we ensure that economic prosperity to the benefit of both countries and the world can continue, and that where we have differences — because we will have differences, we do have differences — that we deal with those differences in a way that does not lead to open conflict,” he said.

Putting China’s Goals Into The Context Of Their Ancient History

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

THE WEEKEND ROUNDUP 

In The World Post this week, Oxford historian Peter Frankopan puts into historical context China’s initiative to invest in infrastructure across Eurasia and build out new trading routes that connect continents. “Precedents and parallels are important in providing intellectual credibility and framing the overarching vision of what is at stake,” he writes, referring to what the Chinese call the Belt and Road Initiative. As Chinese President Xi Jinping said in Beijing in May, the “ancient silk routes embody the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit.”

Frankopan goes on to compare China’s initiative to the era of Pax Mongolica in the 13th and 14th centuries. “It is not surprising, of course, that the emphasis should be placed on the positive exchanges that were enabled and facilitated along the Silk Roads, rather than pointing out that disease, environmental change and violence also sometimes coursed along the arteries connecting east with west. Nevertheless, it is striking to note that while the rhythms along the Silk Roads were not always smooth, they compare favorably when set alongside those of Europe, whose history was shaped by almost never-ending confrontation and warfare.”

The road to China’s rejuvenated future inevitably runs through the present, where it must prove its proposition is a “win-win” for all, as it claims. “If the Belt and Road is part of a larger attempt to build out infrastructure, it is good,” Raghuram Rajan, the former governor of the Bank of India, told me in an interview. “Obviously, there is a certain degree of China-centrism in this. But if the capabilities formed while building this infrastructure allow for a further set of ties for development ― logistical networks and citizen networks connecting different places ― it can only help boost economic activity.” But, Rajan warned, “the Chinese do have to be careful about the political implications of this project. It shouldn’t be, and shouldn’t be seen, as isolating certain groups or enabling certain countries at the expense of others. I’m not only talking about India, but globally. When one country pushes for a certain structure, it is important to show inclusiveness and disinterestedness.”

The present also poses challenges to China’s future plans on other fronts, notably the South China Sea, where the U.S. and its allies have been the stabilizing presence since the end of World War II. In a provocative article, Harvard’s Graham Allison also looks to history to show how modern China’s recent efforts to reclaim influence in the South China Sea are tame when compared to how America established its hegemony over the Western Hemisphere in the early 20th century. “American leaders enjoy lecturing the Chinese on ‘maintaining the rules-based international order,’” he writes. “The message is clear: China should be more like us. But Americans should be careful what they wish for. In the United States of Amnesia, very few Americans have any inkling of how we behaved at an analogous period in our history.”

In the decade that followed Teddy Roosevelt’s election as president, writes Allison, “the U.S. drove Spain from the Western Hemisphere, threatened Germany and Britain with war, supported an insurrection in Colombia to create the new country of Panama and declared itself the policeman of the Western Hemisphere, asserting the right to intervene whenever and wherever it judged necessary.” Allison concludes: “If China really follows early 20th-century America’s footsteps, we ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Writing from Manila, Richard Javad Heydarian finds the Philippines smack in the middle of the controversy over a global rules-based system versus China’s assertiveness rooted in the claim of “historic rights.” Even though a United Nations tribunal arbitrating the Convention on the Law of the Sea ruled in favor of the Philippines a year ago and nullified China’s claims, China nonetheless pushes on. In a sign of China’s growing influence, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has not pushed back. On the contrary, as Heydarian writes, Duterte “canceled various joint military exercises with the United States in the South China Sea, while nixing initial plans for joint patrols in the area. In exchange, China has offered a multi-billion dollar package of infrastructure investment and a $500 million loan to the Philippines’ military.” The Chinese, Heydarian notes, are delighted by this improvement in bilateral relations, calling it a “golden period of fast development.”

However, all is not quiet on the home front back in Beijing. Steve Tsang sees recent moves by Xi to demonstrate his resolve in cleaning up the Communist Party as a sign he is compelled to confront resistance in advance of a critical upcoming Party Congress that will put in place the future leadership team. “Xi is seeking to make substantial changes to some of the norms or conventions which were first put in place after the now infamous Tiananmen Square incident in 1989 and the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union that altered many of China’s relations in the region. This is where he faces great resistance,” writes Tsang. “The cornerstone for political stability up until this point was an institutionalized succession process, by which a new generation of top leaders was identified and put in apprenticeship for five years before taking power for a maximum of two five-year terms.” That this process may be flouted by Xi is highly unsettling, according to Tsang, for those who see orderly succession as the basis for the Party’s success over recent decades.

Delving into the deeper cultural and civilizational aspect of modern China, Jenny Bourne asks: Can anyone be Chinese? Her question was prompted by a recent essay by the Beijing-based Canadian scholar Daniel Bell, in which he argues the affirmative. Bourne agrees, embracing Bell’s claim that China once accepted foreigners as Chinese. “During the Tang dynasty (618 to 907 A.D.),” she writes, “this embrace of other cultures was a reality. Often foreigners who had been employed by the Chinese government, such as Turks, Koreans and Arabs, were welcome as members of Chinese society and even allowed to take on public positions in government. If ancient China could stretch the boundaries for Chinese assimilation, why can’t we do that again now with identity?”

Finally, this week we have a video on the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where water and electricity have become desperately scarce, which Fedaa Al Ghussain filmed and narrated.

UK wants to send ‘colossal’ warships to test Beijing’s claims in S. China Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

UK wants to send ‘colossal’ warships to test Beijing’s claims in S. China Sea

Story highlights

  • British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said carriers will embark on freedom of navigation exercises
  •  Beijing says “certain outside countries” attempting to “stir up trouble”

Hong Kong (CNN) China has hit back at the UK after the country’s foreign secretary said two British aircraft carriers could be sent to patrol the South China Sea.

Speaking Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said “certain outside countries are determined to stir up trouble” in the region.
“Whatever banners these countries or officials claim to uphold, and whatever excuses they claim to have, their track record of bringing chaos and humanitarian disasters through their so-called moral interventions in other parts of the world is enough to make nations and peoples in the region maintain high vigilance,” he added.
His remarks come after UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, speaking in Australia Thursday, said “one of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area.”
Johnson did not specify exactly where the carriers would be sent, but added the operation was designed to “vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”
In an interview with the Reuters news agency, UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon said the deployment area was not finalized “but we won’t be constrained by China from sailing through the South China Sea.”

Johnson spoke alongside Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Speaking at an event in Sydney Thursday evening, Johnson urged all parties in the South China Sea “to respect freedom of navigation and international law” and suggested the UK could sail ships through the Strait of Malacca, which connects the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, and has heavily militarized some islands in the region and expanded other territories with major land reclamation work, turning sandbars into islands and equipping them with airfields, ports and weapons systems.
All or parts of the sea are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, which has led to intense territorial disputes and naval stand-offs.

The new UK Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departs Rosyth dockyard in Scotland to be tested in the North Sea on June 26, 2017.

Freedom of navigation

Beijing has accused the United States of creating a “serious political and military provocation” by conducting similar freedom of navigation operations.
US, Canadian, Australian and Japanese warships conducted a freedom of navigation operation this month, according to Canada’s National Post, during which they were shadowed by Chinese naval vessels.
Neither the UK or US recognize Beijing’s territorial claims — which were largely thrown out by an international tribunal last year — and maintain vessels should be able to pass through the waters around the islands occupied by China the same as other international waters.
The South China Sea sees $5 trillion in shipborne trade every year, and also has major fishing and energy resources.
That the UK is apparently taking sides in the dispute is likely to especially rankle in Beijing, where memories of China’s so-called “century of humiliation,” during which it suffered embarrassing defeat to the UK in the Opium Wars, are still fresh — and kept so by state propaganda and the country’s education system.
Speaking in Hong Kong this month to mark 20 years since the city was handed over from the UK to China, the country’s president, Xi Jinping, said that China “was again and again beaten by countries having far smaller territories and populations than itself … the history of China at that time was filled with the nation’s humiliation and its people’s grief.”

Waning ties

Under former British Prime Minister David Cameron, London had warmed to Beijing, and Cameron had hailed a new “golden era” in the countries’ relationship.
The luster has faded somewhat in the wake of Brexit however. The European Union is China’s largest trading partner. The UK’s decision to leave the bloc has shattered any assumptions about a tight London-Beijing relationship acting as a gateway to the wider EU.
Cameron’s successor Theresa May has also brought the UK closer to the US, visiting Donald Trump in Washington and seeking to improve economic ties with the US to make up for lost European trade.
Speaking Thursday evening, Johnson emphasized the deployment of the UK’s carriers — the 280 meter and 65,000 tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, neither of which is yet fully commissioned — was “not because we have enemies in the region … but because we believe in upholding the rule of law.”
The vessels have cost British taxpayers upwards of $8.1 billion and been subject to criticism for taking up a large chunk of the UK’s defense budget. The carriers are designed to support F-35 fighter jets, which the UK will not have until 2020, according to the National Audit Office.
Johnson did not give a timeline as to when any South China Sea deployment by the carriers is likely to start. His comments come after the Royal Navy shadowed a Chinese flotilla through the English Channel on its way to exercises with the Russian fleet in the Baltic Sea.

China Has a Lot of Problems; Revolution Isn’t One of Them

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘RISK/HEDGE’)

 

China Has a Lot of Problems; Revolution Isn’t One of Them

China Has a Lot of Problems; Revolution Isn’t One of Them

There’s a tendency to view every major political scandal in China as a litmus test for the president. So tightly is power held in his hands that whatever happens under his watch is either an indictment of his power, and thus the viability of the Communist Party of China, or a validation of it. It’s a tempting reaction, but it’s also the wrong reaction – China is, after all, a complicated and irreducible country.

Recent events illustrate why this is so. Last week, Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, reported that Sun Zhengcai, party chief of Chongqing, had been removed from office and replaced by someone loyal to Chinese President Xi Jinping. The report didn’t say that Sun was guilty of anything, but multiple sources have since told Western news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and Bloomberg that Sun is being investigated for “serious” violations of Communist Party discipline. While the Chinese government has made no formal statement on the matter, Xi’s chief anti-corruption officer, Wang Qishan, published an op-ed in the People’s Daily the next day excoriating China’s “unhealthy” political culture, despite five years (and counting) of purges under his watch. Like clockwork, the subsequent headlines made Xi and Wang seem all-powerful.

Yet it was not so long ago that headlines painted a very different picture. Before Sun’s abrupt removal, the big scandal concerned Guo Wengui, a prominent Chinese businessman who fled his home country and took to the airwaves to critique China’s government. Guo set his sights on Wang, whose position was believed to be in jeopardy ahead of the upcoming party convention. But then Sun was purged, the story was rewritten, and now Xi and Wang are again paragons of power.

It’s a tired story, so let’s skip to the end: Xi is firmly in control of China. In fact, no one has been more in control of modern China since Mao Zedong. Xi continues to execute his anti-corruption campaign, but at this point it has less to do with purging potential rivals than it does with decking the halls of power with men loyal only to him. There is, by design, no opposition to Xi’s rule. He is unafraid to pursue potentially controversial policies, including economic reform, ahead of the party congress. China has a lot of problems, but revolution doesn’t seem to be one of them.


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What just happened in China is not nearly as interesting as where it happened: Chongqing. Chongqing is one of four Chinese cities that the central government has seen fit to classify as its own individual province. The others – Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai – are all coastal cities, centers of Chinese wealth and power. Chongqing is an interior city, historically isolated despite its proximity to the Yangtze River and comparatively poorer than cities on the coast. Chongqing has experienced remarkable growth over the past two decades and continues to sport some of the highest regional growth rates in the entire country, but it still lags behind the coastal cities in terms of basic metrics like regional gross domestic product and disposable income levels. According to China Daily, Chongqing needs to continue to grow at current astronomic levels for another three years just to get up to China’s national income average.

The story of Chongqing is the story of modern China. It’s where Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Chinese Nationalists, eventually established his new capital after fleeing the invading Japanese army in 1938. Chiang had little choice in the matter. The Nationalists had no real power base in Chongqing or the surrounding Sichuan area, but they could not fight off the invading Japanese forces on the coast. Chongqing’s isolation and destitution made it an unappealing target for direct Japanese assault. Japan instead opted to wait out the Nationalists, assuming it could take over once the city deteriorated economically. After World War II was over and the Communists won the Chinese civil war, Chongqing was again relegated to backwater status. Years later, when China opened up its economy, successive Chinese governments invented various policies to bring the coastal profits to China’s interior. Chongqing began to blossom. Jiang Zemin called his policy “Open Up the West.” Xi calls his policy “One Belt, One Road.” Both are meant to solve one of China’s most enduring problems: massive social inequality.


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But the city is not without problems. Its preternatural growth rates ignore the fact that much of the city’s budget – as much as half in 2012 – comes from the central government. That same year, Xi removed from office a previous party chief of Chongqing, Bo Xilai. Ambitious and charismatic, Bo created what would come to be known as the “Chongqing model,” an economic philosophy that spurred growth through domestic consumption instead of exports – all to ameliorate social inequality. The irony, of course, is that Bo’s reforms are exactly the type of reforms China is trying to implement at a national level today. Bo was removed, not because he was necessarily doing a bad job, but because he became too successful too quickly and because the reforms he authored were associated more with him than with the Communist Party. (He is currently serving a life sentence.)

Sun is not Bo – he has neither the ambition nor the charisma that made a man like Bo so dangerousto the upper echelons of Chinese politics. But there is also no such thing as a coincidence in geopolitics. Sun is the second of the past three people to be removed from this post because of an inability or unwillingness to demonstrate his absolute loyalty to the central government. In itself this is telling.

Sun’s dismissal is not a litmus test for Xi’s power. Chongqing’s status is a litmus test for the viability of the People’s Republic of China. Since it was founded in 1949, China has achieved more than what most could have imagined, but it is still afflicted by problems that cannot be solved by dismissing party officials or by writing heavy-handed op-eds in the People’s Daily. The only way to end this story is to recast Chinese geography entirely.

The post Stories of China: Corruption and the Challenges to Come in Chongqing appeared first on Geopolitical Futures.

In China, Despair for Cause of Democracy After Nobel Laureate’s Death

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

A memorial to Liu Xiaobo in Hong Kong this week. In mainland China, attempts to pay tribute to Mr. Liu, a Nobel Peace laureate, have met with censorship and arrests. CreditVincent Yu/Associated Press

BEIJING — For years, the fiery band of activists pushing for democracy in China looked to Liu Xiaobo, the jailed Nobel Peace laureate, as a source of inspiration. They created social media groups devoted to his iconoclastic poetry. They held up his photos at rallies, demanding justice and transparency.

But Mr. Liu’s death last week of liver cancer, after a final, futile attempt by friends to bring about his release, has dealt a withering blow to the pro-democracy movement. Some say it is now at its weakest point since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.

“It’s a turning point,” said Yan Wenxin, a human rights lawyer in Beijing. “The feeling of powerlessness among activists has peaked.”

Under President Xi Jinping, the government has imprisoned dozens of lawyers, journalists and advocates and tightened controls over the internet. Now, the ruling Communist Party’s feverish attempts to erase Mr. Liu’s legacy have raised fears that Mr. Xi will intensify his campaign against activists pushing for ideas like freedom of speech and religion.

The authorities, wary of turning Mr. Liu into a martyr, have in recent days censored online tributes and arrested activists who have sought to publicly remember him.

“People are full of sorrow, anger and desperation,” said Zhao Hui, 48, a dissident writer who goes by the pen name Mo Zhixu. “We hope the democratic activists who still remain can keep the flame alive. But bringing about change to the bigger picture might be too much to ask.”

Photo

Wu Qiang drove hundreds of miles to be near Mr. Liu as he was dying. Many of Mr. Wu’s fellow dissidents now have a desire to “turn sorrow into strength,” he said. CreditZhu Zhu

The passing of Mr. Liu, who preached peace and patience, has provoked debate about the best path toward democracy. Many activists argue that more forceful tactics are necessary to counter what they see as unrelenting government hostility. Some have pushed for mass protests, while a small number believe that violence is the only option, even if they do not endorse it outright.

“Some have turned to believe in violent revolution,” said Hu Jia, a prominent dissident who served more than three years in prison for his activism and still faces routine surveillance. “It makes people feel the door to a peaceful transition has closed.”

Mr. Liu’s allies remain incensed by the Chinese government’s handling of his case. Officials disclosed that Mr. Liu, 61, had advanced liver cancer only when it was too late to treat it, prompting accusations that his medical carewas inadequate. The authorities have also prevented his wife, Liu Xia, an artist and activist, from speaking or traveling freely.

The scrutiny facing government critics is likely to grow even more suffocating in the months ahead.

The Communist Party will hold a leadership reshuffle this fall, at which Mr. Xi is expected to win another five-year term and appoint allies to key positions. In the run-up to the meeting, the party is tightening its grip on online communications and escalating pressure on critics.

Human rights advocates say that the party appears increasingly hostile toward dissent and intent on quashing even small-scale movements. Over the past two years, dozens of human rights lawyers have been jailed and accused of conspiring with foreign forces to carry out subversive plots. Mr. Xi’s government, wary of grass-roots activism, has also increased oversight of domestic and foreign nonprofit organizations.

Yaxue Cao, an activist who grew up in China but is now based in the United States, said Mr. Liu’s death was “the climax of a long and continuous stretch of ruthless elimination.” She recited a long list of critics who had been sidelined since Mr. Xi rose to power in 2012, which she said had led to a culture of fear and intimidation.

“The party has been working systematically to block the path forward,” she said. “A few hundred or a few thousand activists are nothing for the party.”

Advocates say they were startled that foreign leaders did not speak out more forcefully about the treatment of Mr. Liu. While American diplomats called on China to allow Mr. Liu to travel abroad for cancer treatment, Mr. Trump did not speak publicly about the case.

The Chinese authorities released this photo of Mr. Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, taken as his ashes were lowered into the sea last week. She has been prevented from speaking or traveling freely.CreditShenyang Municipal Information Office, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Western countries have adopted a policy of appeasement,” Mr. Hu said. “The Communist Party has the resources to whip whomever they want.”

The Chinese government has defended its treatment of Mr. Liu and accused foreign critics of meddling in its affairs.

While China has seemed less responsive to foreign pressure on human rights issues in recent years, several activists said they thought it was still important for world leaders to speak out.

“We hope the West can maintain its moral position,” Mr. Zhao said. “Even though the pressure is not as effective as it should be, it needs to be expressed.”

Despite the government’s efforts to limit dissent, some of Mr. Liu’s supporters say they have emerged more energized in the days since his death. They see hope in a middle class that is increasingly outspoken; grass-roots activists who are taking on issues as varied as pollution and forced demolitions of homes; and a generation of young advocates who have taken on causes like feminism and rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens.

“How long can such an approach last before discontent boils over?” said Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong. “One only needs to look at the protests, particularly in the countryside, to see the enormous grievances there are out there.”

In the aftermath of Mr. Liu’s passing, his admirers have found ways around the government’s controls on speech to honor him. Several supporters uploaded photos of the ocean this week as a tribute to Mr. Liu, whose ashes were spread at sea.

Wu Qiang, a dissident intellectual, drove about 400 miles last week from Beijing to the northeastern city of Shenyang, where Mr. Liu was being treated, to be near him in his final days. Mr. Wu, 46, said Mr. Liu’s death had left many of his admirers with a desire to “turn sorrow into strength.”

“On one side is darkness; on the other side is hope,” he said. “We need to find a new way forward.”

U.S. announces sanctions on Chinese bank, arms-sales package for Taiwan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

U.S. announces sanctions on Chinese bank, arms-sales package for Taiwan

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on June 29 announced sanctions against a Chinese bank in relation to the North Korean regime. (Reuters)
 June 29 at 6:08 PM
The Trump administration on Thursday announced new sanctions on a Chinese bank accused of laundering money for North Korean companies and approved a $1.4 billion arms sales package for Taiwan, a pair of measures that is certain to ruffle feathers in Beijing.Officials said the actions were unrelated and emphasized that the administration was not targeting China. But the moves are likely to raise concerns among Chinese leaders who had sought to get off to a good start with President Trump.

Trump has shown signs of losing patience with China after personally lobbying President Xi Jinping to put more pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear and ballistic-missile weapons programs. Trump wrote on Twitter last week that China’s efforts have “not worked out,” a declaration that came after the death of American college student Otto Warmbier a few days after returning to the United States following 17 months of detention in North Korea.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration was moving to cut off the Bank of Dandong from U.S. financial markets in an effort to block millions of dollars of transactions that funnel money into North Korea for use in its weapons programs.

Under the sanctions, U.S. citizens also will be generally prohibited from doing business with Sun Wei and Ri Song Hyok, who are accused of establishing and running front companies on behalf of North Korea, and Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co., which is accused of transporting 700,000 tons of freight annually, including coal and steel products, between China and North Korea.

The administration announced the sanctions just hours before South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, arrived at the White House for a two-day summit with Trump. Moon campaigned on a platform of greater engagement with Pyongyang, and he has questioned the need for the U.S.-backed THAAD missile defense system that is being installed on the peninsula, which Beijing and Pyongyang have opposed.

Mnuchin said that the United States is “in no way targeting China with these actions” and that U.S. officials “look forward to continuing to work closely with the government of China to stop the illicit financing in North Korea.”

Mnuchin added that this “very significant action” sends the message that the United States will follow the money trail leading to North Korea and continue to crack down on those assisting the country.

“North Korea’s provocative, destabilizing and inhumane behavior will not be tolerated,” Mnuchin said. “We are committed to targeting North Korea’s external enablers and maximizing economic pressure on the regime until it ceases its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.”

China has repeatedly made clear it opposes “unilateral” sanctions in addition to those agreed to by the United Nations Security Council. Only last week, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said his country opposed the “long-arm jurisdiction” of the United States in this matter.

“We have repeatedly stressed this stance in our communication with the United States, and the U.S. side is also clear about it,” he said during a regular news conference.

In a separate announcement, administration officials said they had approved an arms package for Taiwan that includes advanced rocket and anti-ship missile systems — another measure China has repeatedly said that it firmly opposes.

The package is slightly larger than one that was put on hold at the end of the Obama administration, the officials said, but includes largely the same weapons capabilities.

The sale is considered relatively modest compared with past arms packages. Still, China views the self-ruled island as part of the country and is likely to oppose any such arms transfers.

As president-elect, Trump broke with protocol and accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in December, angering Xi.

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Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, said Thursday that China had significant economic leverage over North Korea and suggested that it could put more pressure on Pyongyang.

The Trump administration had long signaled that it wanted to move forward with an arms sale to Taiwan but held off because officials worried the sale would make it harder to secure China’s cooperation on North Korea.

“It shows, we believe, our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense policy,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday of the arms deal. “There’s no change, I should point out, to our one-China policy.”

Trump is scheduled to meet with China’s Xi on the sidelines of an economic summit in Hamburg next week, White House officials said.

Simon Denyer contributed reporting from Beijing.

Security Clampdown in Far-Western China Exacts Toll on Businesses

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES AND REUTERS)

URUMQI, China — The economy of the vast Xinjiang region in far western China is officially growing at a robust pace, faster than the country as a whole. That is largely thanks to big investments in infrastructure from Beijing as the region – with its links to much of central Asia – is critical to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s new Silk Road initiative.

But traders, business owners and residents in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, are seeing little benefit from the central government’s cash injection, according to about 20 interviews with people in the city.

One major reason for that, they say, is due to tightened security as the Chinese government seeks to control one of its biggest domestic threats. Beijing accuses separatist extremists among the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority of plotting attacks on the ethnic Han majority in Xinjiang and other parts of China, following a series of violent events in recent years.

As a result, there are roadblocks and stringent security checks across the region, including at restaurants, hotels and shops, making it slow and frustrating to move around.

The new Silk Road, officially known as the Belt and Road initiative, is Xi’s signature foreign and economic policy which aims to increase economic and political ties through roads, railways and other projects that link China to Central Asia and beyond. But the contrast between that ambition and the views at street level in Urumqi reflects the difficulty Beijing faces in trying to balance security against its other top priorities.

This is particularly the case as China is determined to avoid any trouble ahead of a critical Communist Party congress in the autumn at which Xi is expected to consolidate his power, and as it faces the threat from some Uighurs who have become battle-hardened Islamic State fighters in the war in Syria and Iraq and may return home.

DELIVERIES DIFFICULT

The impact of the clampdown is clear at the Frontier International Trade Centre in Urumqi,  where padlocked stores outnumber traders.

“Business became really bad last year. I’ve got nothing to do except a stock-take,” said Wei Chun, a shoe trader, surrounded by piles of high-heels.

She blames poor sales partly on the impact of sluggish economies in neighbours Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, among the eight countries with which Xinjiang has borders.  But she also says the Chinese authorities’ obsession with keeping Xinjiang secure at all costs is making it tough to do business here.

“It’s very difficult to send and receive deliveries because of the security crackdown,” she said, complaining that authorities will often shut down the delivery system for “security reasons”.

The Xinjiang government declined to make officials available for comment for this article. It also did not respond to a series of faxed questions.

Xu Bin, the head of the Xinjiang government’s statistics bureau,  told reporters in February that its growth – which was 7.6 percent last year – is mostly fuelled by fixed asset investment. But he then added: “Xinjiang faces slowing economic growth, falling industrial prices, companies are feeling the pain of falling profits and the growth rate of our tax revenue has dropped off.”

Xinjiang’s trade with other countries fell in the first quarter of this year, according to the customs bureau, and is still below the level it recorded in the first quarter of 2013, the year that Belt and Road launched.

Much of that drop was because a slump in the rouble in 2014-2015 hurt Xinjiang’s neighbours, and following the 2015 establishment of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). That aims to develop Central Asia and lessen its reliance on Chinese goods.

EVENTS CANCELLED

People here point to many disruptions in ordinary life as one reason the economy doesn’t feel buoyant at street level.

Group gatherings, whether for charity fun runs or trade expos, are often banned or cancelled at the last minute, they say. Phone lines sometimes go dead, and there’s no 4G internet because the authorities fear high-speed internet would help militants organize.

While Belt and Road has created opportunities, small businesses complain these projects often reward large state-owned enterprises.

“The Belt and Road Initiative doesn’t help small businessmen like me,” said Zhou Bangquan who sells men’s shoes in Urumqi.

“It helps big state-owned enterprises that do energy or have big infrastructure projects.”

Among the projects financed are a highway to Pakistan and a network of high-speed railroads connecting cities in Xinjiang and the rest of China, with 1.5 trillion yuan (171.69 billion pounds) in capital investment expected in the region this year alone.

But it is unclear how much of the money is used to buy materials from factories outside the region or ends up being sent to other provinces by workers brought in temporarily from elsewhere in China.

It’s not just heightened security measures that concern businesses. People are required to attend flag ceremonies and other patriotic education, instead of working, say locals. Such events are meant to encourage Uighurs to become patriotic Chinese citizens but can also be used to monitor their behaviour.

    PATRIOTIC EDUCATION

    “I’m losing my mind, I’ve already had six staff sent back to their home towns this past month for study,” said a restaurant manager in Urumqi who, like many people Reuters spoke to in Xinjiang, declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

His Uighur staff were required to return home to southern Xinjiang for one month’s study of Mandarin Chinese, another month learning about China’s legal system and a month of vocational training, he said.

“We all spend so much time doing things that aren’t our actual jobs. I have to take my staff to watch a flag-raising forty weeks of the year. If I don’t, I will be taken away for thirty days of study,” he said.

As well as the time spent on such matters, Uighurs – who represent just over 45 percent of the population – are being increasingly marginalized by the Han Chinese, undermining the overall economy.

Three Han Chinese entrepreneurs told Reuters local authorities had told them not to employ Uighurs. And a Han Chinese real estate agent in Urumqi said he had been told not to sell properties to Uighurs from southern Xinjiang.

There has been a change in attitude towards balancing stability and economic growth in Xinjiang since Chen Quanguo became its new Communist Party boss last August in what analysts say was an implicit endorsement of his previous hard-line management of ethnic strife in Tibet.

“Xinjiang used to have a policy of ‘with one hand we maintain stability, with the other hand we grow the economy’ but now it’s just ‘maintain stability with both hands, at all costs’,” said a local businessman and former government official.

Chen said in a speech last September that “all our work in Xinjiang revolves around maintaining a tight grip on stability.”

(Reporting by Sue-Lin Wong; Additional reporting by the Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Martin Howell)

China: Christianity Growing By 100,000 Members Yearly Despite Xi’s Crackdown On Christians

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

The growth of the Christian faith in China continues its remarkable rise, with one pastor reporting as many as 100,000 new followers of Christ per year, despite the worsening human rights abuses and crackdown by communist authorities.

image: http://d.christianpost.com/full/108743/590-443/china-raid-on-christian-gathering.jpgimage: http://d.christianpost.com/full/108743/590-443/china-raid-on-christian-gathering.jpg

(PHOTO: REUTERS) Chinese believers express their faith during a church service.

The Rev. Erik Burklin of China Partner, which trains Chinese Christian leaders, said that God is in the business of “changing lives” and “building His Church.”

“Like Jesus said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my church.’ When He said that, He said, ‘I will build my church.’ Not, ‘You Christians build my church,’ but, ‘I will,'” Burklin told Mission Network News.

He talked of surprising developments, such as a person with the central government donating close to $7.3 million for a new chapel at Union Theological Seminary in the city of Nanjing.

“I was just scratching my head, thinking to myself, ‘How in the world is it possible that in China, where Communism still runs the country, a person in the Central Government would donate so that a local school — in this case, the national seminary in China — can finish constructing their chapel?’ It’s unbelievable,” Burklin stated.

Moreover, the Chinese continue coming to Jesus on a growing basis.

“Then we met with leaders for dinner that night, and we asked the pastors there, ‘How many baptisms did you have last year? How many new converts did you have in your city?’ he then gave us an overview of what God is doing in their whole province. He was proceeding to explain to us that they have up to 100,000 new believers on the average every year. … That’s unheard of,” Burklin described.

The atheistic government of China has for the most part been carrying out a large-scale crackdown on religious belief, especially against underground Christians worshiping in nonsanctioned house churches.

It has been destroying church rooftop crosses, leading to clashes with hundreds of congregants, and arrests of Christian pastors and human rights activists. Leaders of the government-controlled Catholic churches that have spoken out against the cross demolitions have also faced arrest.

Groups such as Freedom House have said that 100 million people face persecution in China, including Christians of various denominations, with Protestants facing “high” levels of persecution.

Although Chinese President Xi Jinping has tried to establish cordial relationships with the West and major institutions, such as the Vatican, persecution watchdog groups, like China Aid, continue sharing the stories of people who have suffered atrocities under his regime.

Li Heping, a Christian lawyer, talked about the “sadistic torture” he suffered following his arrest on July 9, 2015, as part of a crackdown. “There were times that I wanted to commit suicide. I survived because of my Christian faith, the courageous advocacy of my wife and the attention of the international community.”

China Aid President Bob Fu argued in The Wall Street Journal last week that Xi has “sought to eviscerate China’s network of human rights lawyers and rights advocates, viewing their peaceful efforts at legal reform as a national-security threat.”

“Mr. Xi has re-instituted the Maoist practice of televised public confession and embraced a system of torture so horrific it demands an international response,” he added.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/pastor-reports-100000-new-converts-to-christ-per-year-despite-ongoing-crackdown-in-china-186814/#AFMZa6U002Gl8cUQ.99

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/pastor-reports-100000-new-converts-to-christ-per-year-despite-ongoing-crackdown-in-china-186814/#EhZ11LeIVmbDPZES.99

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