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Purge tightens
Xi's grip on reform

First former security czar Zhou Yongkang is put under virtual house arrest; now Central Military Commission generals Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong stand accused of selling promotions. The anti-corruption campaign is gathering pace, giving President Xi Jinping greater control of two pillars of the China Communist Party establishment and the kind of upper hand for enacting reform that the Cultural Revolution gave Deng Xiaoping.
- Francesco Sisci (Apr 23, '14)

Obama runs China's pivot gauntlet
Barack Obama embarks on a pivot promotion tour of Asia today with a certain smugness that the political and economic foundations of a China-containment regime have been laid. But with overt confrontation in East Asia from Beijing signaling its preparedness to manage relations in more hostile ways, the US president has no reason to feel other than the beginning of the end for the American Century is upon him. - Peter Lee (Apr 22, '14)

Japan warns Beijing over ship seizure
Japan has warned that the seizure by China of a container ship owned by Mitsui OSK Lines for its failure to respond to a wartime compensation order may damage bilateral economic ties to the extent that it "may rock the foundation of the 1972 joint statement's spirit that normalized Japan-China diplomatic relations". (Apr 22, '14)

China tightens case against Zhou
Media reports in China suggest that President Xi Jinping's administration is bolstering its case against Zhou Yongkang, the once-powerful security czar, according to analysts. Two officials from the once-powerful leader's days as the party chief in Sichuan and China's largest oil company, headed by Zhou in the 1990s, are be investigated for "serious violations of discipline", the reports said. (Apr 16, '14)

High-level threat to China's party line
China's President Xi Jinping is channeling more powers into secretive leading groups and commissions within the Chinese Communist Party that report directly to him. The increase in top-level bodies raises questions about a lack of transparency and goes against Premier Li Keqiang's pledge that the State Council would be streamlined. - Willy Lam (Apr 15, '14)

Former Zhou aide Guo in graft probe
China's top prosecutor's office is carrying out a criminal investigation into Guo Yongxiang, a former vice governor of Sichuan province who was expelled from the Communist Party this week. Guo was for a time the secretary of Zhou Yongkang, the now retired head of nation's public security affairs. More than 300 people linked to Zhou have reportedly been taken into custody or questioned in the past four months, and assets worth as much US$14.5 billion seized. (Apr 11, '14)

Manila files South China Sea claim
After a year of futile diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the South China Sea disputes, the Philippines has risked estrangement with China by pressing ahead this week with an unprecedented arbitration case before a United Nations court at The Hague. - Richard Heydarian (Apr 3, '14)

China's long view obscured by smog
Beijing's ambitious scheme to move 100 million rural dwellers into cities is about economic stimulus as much as social engineering. The massive infrastructure work involved will help keep the economy growing, and it may even have a green pay-off in the long run. In the near term it spells continued environmental degradation. - Michael Lelyveld (Apr 3, '14)

Jakarta enters South China Sea in earnest
Indonesia has ended decades of strategic ambiguity towards China's nine-dash line map in the South China Sea by formally announcing that it overlaps Indonesian territories. Jakarta had long feared irredentist claims by Beijing towards the resource-rich Natuna Island chain but avoided confrontations that risked its position as mediator. With that placid stance officially abandoned, all regional bets are off. - Ann Marie Murphy (Apr 3, '14)

What's going on in Taiwan?
The brouhaha in Taiwan over a proposed trade pact with Beijing shows that the ruling Kuomintang cannot prevent opposition sabotage of its cross-strait initiatives. Superficially, this looks like a godsend for the US pivot. Practically, it signals further distancing of Asian democracies from the United States, while the day that Taiwan declares de jure independence has probably crept a little closer. - Peter Lee (Apr 2, '14)

Why China can grow without democracy
Under the strict Western dichotomy of authoritarianism versus democracy, China should open up politically as incomes grew. This ignores a historic belief in the benefits of benevolent dictatorship, and a prioritization of economic development over accountability rooted in ancient ideals of hierarchy and collectivism. - Lisbeth Moeller (Apr 1, '14)

Crimean conquest shows China the way
While Chinese hawks know that Russia's annexation of Crimea is not an easily transposable template for forcible takeovers, those advocating a harsher line on maritime territorial claims likely view the crisis as both a precedent and a window of opportunity. With Washington and Brussels focused on Moscow's next move, miniature "land-grabs" could be attempted in the South China Sea at reduced cost. - Euan Graham (Mar 31, '14)

Wang Ping and the kinship of rivers
Chinese poet and activist Wang Ping's most recent project aims to create a sense of connection between the peoples of the Yangtze and Mississippi River valleys - she grew up on the Yangtze's banks and now teaches along the American river. An exploration of immigration, migration, and environmental issues, the project saw Wang take an inspirational journey down the Yangtze's length with 2,000 flags. - Susan Scheid (Mar 28, '14)

Sex, politics and the Chinese city
Selective, high-profile busts of hotels, saunas and massage parlors was how the authorities in China used to give the impression the sex trade was being quashed, at least until a massive raid last month on prostitutes in the southern city of Dongguan, the country's sex capital, was touted as integral to President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign. With the oldest profession embedded in economic fortunes, don't expect success anytime soon. - Kent Ewing (Mar 26, '14)

Families grieve as MH370 'assumed lost'
Chinese families mourned news that the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared from radar 16 days ago with 239 people aboard, "ended" in the Indian Ocean. China's foreign ministry said it has demanded Malaysia make all data and evidence available about how it reached the conclusion, and called for international search efforts to continue. (Mar 25, '14)

Gains for China, India in new cold war
China and India stand to gain significantly from the crisis in Ukraine if they can cherry-pick advantages presented by competing courtships of the United States and Russia. Both must, however, avoid the temptation to gather low-hanging fruit, when with careful climbing, quality produce can be harvested from higher up the tree. - M K Bhadrakumar (Mar 25, '14)

Obama oils China-Vatican links
Barack Obama's visit to the Vatican and his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week assume great significance. Just as Beijing is signaling a potential thaw in relations with the Catholic Church in Rome, the United States president may act as a go-between to bring them closer. In a world where China is attentive to the exercise of soft power, it knows that Pope Francis is perhaps one of soft power's greatest sources. - Francesco Sisci (Mar 24, '14)

Old wine fills Xi's
ideological cup

Chinese President Xi Jinping has emerged as the strongest Chinese leader in decades by shaking up the bureaucracy and taking full-spectrum control of state policy. He is also moving to leave his stamp on propaganda and ideology, accelerating a trend toward replacing socialist doctrine with a nationalist rhetoric that reconciles Mao Zedong with Deng Xiaoping, Chiang Kai-shek and Confucius. - Carl Minzer (Mar 21, '14)

Steering our way to the future
The fall of the Soviet Union gave state planning a bad name, but China's rulers have had considerable success with setting clear goals in national policy. The moribund West needs to mix such an approach with real, participatory democracy via the Internet, and thus get control of its future back from the political class that has hijacked it. - Jan Krikke (Mar 19, '14)

From Kiev to Beijing … and Taipei
If Taiwan were tempted to follow Ukraine's example and disassociate itself from China, the One China policy would become fair game and embolden ethnic regions in their demands for independence. Alarm in Beijing is tempered by the current Taipei government's independence-averse stance. But Taiwan is in play should the geopolitical win in Kiev prove lure enough for Washington to rock the boat. - Peter Lee (Mar 18, '14)

Ukraine offers chance to cage the bear
Events in Ukraine and Crimea represent an opportunity to alter the strategic map to the detriment of Vladimir Putin. That will take more than the paltry cash offered by the US or the EU, but China might have good reasons to consider it money well-spent to pull Ukraine from Russia's orbit - leaving a competitor preoccupied with problems. - Tom Velk and Olivia Gong (Mar 18, '14)

Little faith in China's war on pollution
With a pall of smog hanging over northern China, Premier Li Keqiang declared war on pollution in his first annual work report. But China already has what many observers say is a tough set of pollution laws. The problem is enforcing them in a country where officials are on the take and activists are harassed and jailed. (Mar 17, '14)

Mongolian rivalries deter investors
Competing interests among business factions and politicians are adding layers of complexity to the country's foreign policy and undermining its fledgling democracy. But intense domestic rivaly welcomes assertive Russian interests, increases Chinese dominance, and discourages Western investors. - Mendee Jargalsaikhany (Mar 13, '14)

Asian 'Internet enemies' tighten controls
China and Vietnam have extended controls on the Internet and North Korea is using "increasingly sophisticated" means to spread disinformation through the worldwide web, according to a new report which labels the three nations as the biggest "Enemies of the Internet". Raising concerns about rising cyber-censorship the world over, Reporters Without Borders urged the United Nations to take measures to protect online freedoms. - Rachel Vandenbrink (Mar 13, '14)

Chinese anger mounts over missing plane
Friends and family of Chinese passengers on the Malaysia Airlines jet that has disappeared over the South China Sea are expressing mounting frustration as the international search for the Beijing-bound aircraft widens. Amid growing mystery over what caused Flight 370 to drop off the radar, relatives of some of the missing 239 people on board the ill-fated airliner are flying into to Kuala Lumpur with questions they want answered. (Mar 11, '14)

Dangers in China's Confucianism nostalgia
Scholars in China say President Xi Jinping's crackdowns on corruption and his concept of "the Chinese dream" are nods to the Confucian values believed to underpin an ideal society. Critics say that the sage's teachings praise patriarchy, nepotism, abuse of officialdom and moral dictatorship. The Confucian ideal of a government run by supreme human beings - the junzi - is possibly the greatest corruption of all. - Thorsten Pattberg (Mar 7, '14)

China's Uyghurs fear Kunming backlash
China's mostly Muslim Uyghur minority could face a further backlash of discrimination in the wake of the Kunming railway station killings that left 33 people dead last weekend as the authorities tighten security restrictions based on ethnic profiling, made easier by ethnic identification on all ID cards in China. (Mar 6, '14)

China reels from train station massacre
Police shot dead at least four knife-wielding attackers who killed 29 people and wounded as many as 143 others in a train station in Kunming in southwest China over the weekend, blaming Uyghur "separatist forces" for a slashing rampage which the official news agency Xinhua compared to the deadly 9/11 terror attack on the US in 2001. (Mar 3, '14)

Knifed Hong Kong editor in 'critical' state
The former editor of Ming Pao, a popular Chinese-language Hong Kong newspaper, is said to be in a critical condition after being attacked with meat cleavers. Kevin Lau's ouster in January and other high-profile staffing changes at news organizations in recent weeks have prompted protesters to decry what they claim is self-censorship to avoid angering Beijing. (Feb 28, '14)

A grand new strategy for China
The United States' pivot to Asia has forced China to abandon a defensive stance in the Pacific and instead develop a new grand strategy that rests on projecting national security. Lacking the firepower to do anything other than intimidate its smaller neighbors, Beijing is countering the pivot by masterminding a Bismarckian cobweb of complex alliances. Some salvation lies in stepping more boldly into Central Asia and the Middle East. - Francesco Sisci (Feb 28, '14)

What happens in China stays in China?
China used its hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2001 to showcase a lifting of Internet blocks on foreign news organizations, but imprisonment and expulsion of journalists since then suggest freedoms have slipped as Chinese leaders prepare to host the summit again this year. China could take this opportunity to show the world a more open side, but if some authorities have their way and censorship worsens, what happens in China will increasingly stay in China. - Curtis S Chin (Feb 26, '14)

New fault lines in the South China Sea
The Philippines and Japan are ramping up rhetoric over China's territorial assertiveness in the South China Sea as US President Barack Obama prepares to visit the region, in the belief that the US "pivot" to Asia is taking its preferred shape. But as diplomatic bridges are burned with Beijing, hopes are fading for a maritime code of conduct to dampen tensions. - Richard Javad Heydarian (Feb 26, '14)

China calls for 'unity' on smog
Northern China was under a second day of "orange" alert as smog choked its cities on Tuesday, and with the US Embassy in Beijing tweeting unofficial measures of pollutants at nearly 20 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization, the Chinese government moved to ward off growing criticism, calling for a "united front" against the problem. (Feb 26, '14)

Asia pivot comes back to bite the US
US media are sniping at "provocative" acts by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seemingly ignorant to the fact that Abe's refusal to embrace Asian unity is a direct consequence of the empowerment of Tokyo's hawks by the US "pivot to Asia". Instead of the united front against China the US envisioned, it has an alliance in flux that's ripe for testing by Beijing. - Peter Lee (Feb 25, '14)

Who's afraid of the Dalai Lama?
China feels genuinely upset with the United States over the meeting between President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama in the White House in Washington last weekend, but, nonetheless, will not make a mountain out of a molehill. No matter what Obama discussed with the Tibetan spiritual leader, it has no bearing on China's policies in the region.
- M K Bhadrakumar (Feb 25, '14)

Offense is best defense for China
China regularly reminds the world that alongside a strategy of "non-interference" in the political affairs of other countries it has no intention of exporting its ideology, and it is quick to cite the United States as a serial offender. That masks the maneuvers Beijing is making to put its worldview in the ascendancy. - Nicholas Dynon (Feb 24, '14)

Smuggling charge 'linked to Xi book'
A Hong Kong publisher facing smuggling charges in the Chinese city of Shenzhen after he edited a book highly critical of President Xi Jinping was threatened by someone in Beijing not to release the publication prior to his detention, according to Yu Jie, the US-based author of the book, Chinese Godfather Xi Jinping. (Feb 20, '14)

Chinese rights lawyer vows to keep fighting
Prominent rights lawyer Wang Cheng says after his detention and release over the weekend that he will keep up the pressure on China's ruling Communist Party to ratify an international covenant on civil and political rights. Wang insists that China's citizens have the right to press the government ahead of the annual meeting of its rubber-stamp parliament next month. (Feb 19, '14)

China quashes reports of 'unlivable' Beijing
Internet censors in China have deleted online references to an official pollution report that describes Beijing as nearly unfit for human habitation, while state media have tried to limit the damage. A Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences report on livability ranked the capital city second to last in an index of 40 cities around the world. (Feb 14, '14)

US blind to barbs in Japan defense plan
The United States is supporting Japanese plans for "collective self-defense", which are described as the biggest shake-up in relations since World War II and would permit Tokyo to manage its own security ties with Asian allies. The US believes the plans ensure Tokyo's loyalty to Washington while keeping Japan's military ambitions constrained by the pacifist constitution. This ignores the instrument's potential uses against China. - Peter Lee (Feb 13, '14)

Xi Jinping's clique revealed
China's President Xi Jinping holds more levers giving him direct control the national government than ex-presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao ever did. Even more significant to his entrenched and extensive power is the clique he has built, whose members are ensconced in senior slots in the party, government and military.
- Willy Lam (Feb 10, '14)

US rejects China's nine-dash line
The United States for the first time has explicitly rejected the U-shaped, nine-dash line that China uses to assert sovereignty over nearly the whole South China Sea, experts say, strengthening the position of rival claimants and setting the stage for what could be an international legal showdown with Beijing. - Parameswaran Ponnudurai (Feb 10, '14)

Going public with the China-Japan dispute
A formal diplomatic tool known as "public talks" would give China and Japan a chance to publish their differing interpretations of history worldwide, with "dialogue documents" distributed that also give Tokyo and Beijing an opportunity to pose questions, state negotiating positions and cover international conflicts. Critics may decry the lack of secrecy, but so far, internalizing the national wounds has only helped them to fester. - John Connolly (Feb 6, '14)

Japan hawks ruffle dovish feathers
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's formula to confront China and estrange it from its neighbors by creating security alliances throughout Asia and pushing security concerns to the center of the US-Japan relationship is getting more than a little help from US establishment hawks, who see more money in tension than in peace. But the Obama administration is quietly pushing back. - Peter Lee SINOGRAPH
US pivot chafes at vital Asian ties
As the United States re-examines its strategic rebalancing to Asia, Washington should pay close attention to developments this week that saw China take important steps on the road to reunification with Taiwan and towards convergence with South Korea on dealing with the problem of North Korea. The broad US goal of containing China increasingly runs against some specific and urgent political necessities of China's neighbors. - Francesco Sisci (Jan 29, '14)

A poster girl for torture in Hong Kong
Airport officials turned a blind eye to a bruised and emaciated Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a 23-year-old Indonesian maid who allegedly suffered repeated incidents of torture at the hands of her Hong Kong employer, as she left the city earlier this month. Hong Kong authorities have changed their tune since the claims came to light, putting the spotlight yet again on the employment system in a city where one in five foreign domestic workers reports physical abuse. - Kent Ewing (Jan 28, '14)

Chinese anti-graft campaigner jailed
Chinese anti-corruption campaigner Xu Zhiyong on Sunday was sentenced to four years in jail after a court found him guilty of "disrupting public order" in a conviction seen as punishment for his efforts to expose high-level graft within President Xi Jinping's government. Xu is China's highest profile dissident to be sentenced since Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo. (Jan 27, '14)

India, Japan walk Chinese tightrope
India cemented ties with Japan by making Shinzo Abe the first Japanese prime minister to be chief guest at its Republic Day parade. Yet as Tokyo seeks to rope in Indian support over what it terms "recent Chinese provocative actions", New Delhi's pan-Asian take is not quite what Japan is looking for. - Narayani Basu (Jan 27, '14)

China loses control of its foreign policy
China's foreign-policy setbacks as Myanmar opens up to the West and as Africa presents it with diplomatic struggles illustrate that nationalist-inspired adventurism among its citizens abroad is causing Beijing to lose control of its foreign policy. Global anxiety over China's new zones of control for air passage and fishing in disputed territories underscores the realization that Beijing is incapable of reining in nationalist sentiment. - Terry McCulley (Jan 24, '14)

China's dual response to the US 'pivot'
The US pivot to the Asia-Pacific is both a regional engagement and a China containment strategy, and Beijing has had to develop its own two-pronged response. While one approach envisions two economic new "Silk Roads" - a land route across Central Asia and a maritime link through Southeast Asia - China's other tack emphasizes a swift military response to territorial provocations. - Joao Arthur Reis (Jan 24, '14)

China-Japan rivalry overstated in Africa
Simultaneous visits to Africa this month by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi descended into a fight over who has the continent's best interests at heart. That China is increasingly modeling its economic activities in Africa on what it has learned from Japan suggest their approaches to Africa are not radically different. - Seifudein Adem (Jan 23, '14)

China's rights abuses 'escalate'
Chinese President Xi Jinping's administration is harshly cracking down on dissent and has failed to uphold promises of reforms, according to Human Rights Watch. The US-based group's annual global report underlined a worsening human rights situation throughout East Asia, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-eun having "picked up where his father and grandfather left off" by overseeing a system of public executions, political prison camps, and forced labor. (Jan 22, '14)

China chances a game-changing role
China is far from becoming a key player in the Middle East, where the Americans and the Russians have historically had a better understanding of the region and better ties with its many fighting factions. But as a new force for stability spreading from East to West and through Central Asia, its pragmatic interventions could help change seemingly intractable problems in the long term. - Francesco Sisci (Jan 16, '14)

Homeless freeze as fire wrecks Shangri-La
A fire in the 1,300-year-old Tibetan town of Gyalthang, in an area of China's Yunnan province believed to be the inspiration for James Hilton's mythical Shangri-La, has destroyed two-thirds of the town center, leaving more than 2,500 people in freezing temperatures homeless and without relief supplies. (Jan 14, '14)

China casts red tape in South China Sea
China is pressing home its territorial claims in the South China Sea by requiring foreign fishing-related vessels to secure permission before entering the country's claimed maritime jurisdiction. This does not immediately portend a dramatic escalation in the troubled waters but does indicate Beijing's determination to flex its muscles, regardless of the potential diplomatic fallout. - Richard Javad Heydarian (Jan 14, '14)

Time ripe for US-China space cooperation
As falling budgets and diminishing public support cast a shadow over NASA's future, its Chinese counterpart is forging ahead with expansion and lunar achievements. Space exploration in the US will soon be driven by private enterprises, and in this brave new world there is no place for anti-Chinese scaremongering over technology transfer and cyber-security threats. - Andrew M Johnson (Jan 14, '14)

Kerry missing the message on Asia
Despite the dawning of US energy independence and China's increasing dominance of the global trade balance, the second-term Obama administration has failed to re-focus foreign policy towards Asia and away from the Middle East with the necessary urgency. From dallying on the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership to reticence over Beijing's territorial assertiveness, the leadership of Secretary of State John Kerry is failing to deliver. - Hamza Mannan (Jan 13, '14)

China faces barriers in the Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is a major element in China's grand project to transform itself into a great world power, both to project its naval and continental presence and as a route for energy supplies. However, while the United States has both real allies and partners in the region, China has neither, save for an increasingly dysfunctional Pakistan. - John Lee and Charles Horner (Jan 10, '14)

Common traits bind
Jews and Chinese

It may seem odd to compare the largest of peoples with one of the world's smallest, but Chinese and Jews have something in common that helps explain their success and longevity; the ability to transcend tribalism through a unifying civilization. It should be no surprise that they have enemies in common. (Jan 10, '14)

America: Hooked on hegemony
China expects the United States to gravitate towards a "balance-of-power" arrangement in Asia that recognizes the benefits of Washington occasionally siding with Beijing to moderate the destabilizing actions of Japan and other Asian countries excessively emboldened by the US "pivot". This assumption rests on US reasonableness in the Pacific in late 2013 that was actually motivated by convenience and tactics. American containment is still doomed to create a fatal flashpoint. - Peter Lee (Jan 8, '14)

China sticks to collision course
Belief that China's uncompromising behavior in the South and East China Seas is an expression of national interest that can be softened through cooperation and international mediation is off the mark when Beijing will listen only to military force and political isolation. It should therefore come as no surprise that Japan aims to increase its military options while seeking closer security ties with the US and Asian partners. - Stefan Soesanto (Jan 7, '14)

Abe's shrine visit calls
for wider reflection

As far as acts of reverence go, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recent visit to the Yasukuni Shrine to pray among the souls of 28 war criminals was brazen. Deeper reflection of Japan's imperial past - much as China needs to reassess the influence of Mao Zedong in its present-day affairs - would help reduce bitter memories that stand in the way of a more peaceful balance of power in Asia. - Francesco Sisci (Jan 6, '14)

Japan takes a reckless gamble
The Japanese prime minister knew his visit to the Yasukuni war shrine in December would exacerbate already fraught tensions with China and South Korea; he likely calculated that this was outweighed by the domestic political gains. Formal attendance at the shrine symbolizes patriotic defiance against outside interference, helping build public support that will help in pushing through controversial economic and defense reforms. - Senan Fox (Jan 6, '14)

Erase that war with China 'in 2014'
The 2011 "pivot to Asia" created justification and incentives for military hostilities between the United States and China, with matters possibly coming to a head next year - or so it seemed. Recent developments notwithstanding, Chinese foreign policy and diplomacy are still largely driven by a desire to avoid isolation and dilute the polarizing power of the pivot. War can postponed - at least until 2017. - Peter Lee (Dec 23, '13)

China's champion of modernity
Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China
by Jung Chang

Wild Swans author Jung Chung upturns conventional depictions of Empress Dowager Cixi as a murderous, manipulative ruler to present her as a reformer who pulled China out of medieval feudalism and into the modern age. While detailed research and riveting storytelling help to construct an alluring argument, at times Chang appears too enamored of her subject.
- Kent Ewing (Dec 23, '13)

Uyghurs shot dead in Xinjiang violence
Six women were among more than a dozen Uyghurs shot dead by security forces in Xinjiang, China's troubled northwestern region, in violence that residents and sources say was triggered by the lifting of a woman's veil by a police officer during a raid. The shooting adds to a grim trail of death among the Muslim ethnic minority in recent months as Beijing cracks down on terror suspects. (Dec 19, '13)

China vs US 'sea-to-shining-sea'
Beijing's assurances that there was "effective communication" during the recent near collision between a Chinese navy vessel and a US cruiser had better be damned right because more such confrontations are guaranteed as China does more than just dip its toes into local waters and moves into the oceans beyond. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 18, '13)

Vested interests block reconciliation in Tibet
President Xi Jinping is in the best position to overhaul China's hardline policy on Tibet since he is untainted by any personal history of heavy-handed crackdown on protests. But to develop a robust and healthy Tibet policy, Xi first needs first to overcome resistance from those inside the Chinese Communist Party who have made their careers and fortunes on preventing reconciliation between the Tibetan people and Beijing. - Thubten Samphel (Dec 16, '13)

Canberra risks more by crossing China
Australia was quick to lambast China's announcement of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, as might be expected from America's "sheriff" in the region. But if it wants to remain that, and Japan's "best friend", it may find its relationship strained with a growing and geopolitically ambitious China. Both sides would be harmed in any tiff, but Australia stands to lose more. - Brendan O'Reilly (Dec 16, '13)

China steals a march on Russian arms
The Russian military, faced with severe budget limitations exacerbated by a slowing economy, has little choice but to start selling advanced equipment to China again. Beijing is demanding nothing but the best technology, and as China fills in gaps from the Western arms embargo by covert and overt means, some Russian analysts believe that Russia may be buying weapons from China in the not so distant future. - Loro Horta (Dec 11, '13)

Chinese literature marches West
Mr Ma and Son by Lao She; Cat Country
by Lao She
The first in a set of contemporary and classical Chinese literature to be published in English by Penguin, Mr Ma and Son, is a natural choice due to its Western-style composition as a comedy of manners with social critique steeped in realism. The satirical science fiction novel Cat Country is by the same author, but is an entirely different proposition. - Muhammad Cohen (Dec 13, '13)

South Korea revises its air comfort zone
South Korea this week declared extensions to its air defense identification zone after consulting Japanese, Chinese, and US authorities about overlapping defense measures in the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea. With China's recent actions increasing tension in the region, four reasons explain why South Korea had to take action to stay abreast of worrying provocations. - Sukjoon Yoon (Dec 11, '13)

Beijing hits out at human rights critics
Chinese government officials took the international Human Rights Day as an opportunity to stress that only people in China have the right to speak out on the internal situation. Meanwhile, police in Beijing swooped on thousands of petitioners who thronged the alley outside the complaints offices of the central government, Supreme People's Court and National People's Congress. - Wen Yuqing, Xin Yu and Tian Yi. (Dec 11, '13)

So many secrets in the East China Sea
Reaction to China's declaration of an extended air defense identification zone has been almost universally hostile, in contrast to the largely conciliatory arguments presented by China itself. The solution to this and the related Daioyu/Senkaku issue lies with Tokyo, which could defuse the problem by admitting to its imperial adventures then start behaving like an Asian power - and not some obedient Western appendix. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 10, '13)

China drives US-Japan wedge
China took a calculated step to reinforce territorial claims by announcing its air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, framing it in a way that suggests a deliberate effort to convince Washington that United States' interests are not aligned with Japan's. By consciously seeking to drive a wedge between the two allies, Beijing hopes to undermine the US pivot, but great-power peace is the ultimate goal. - Peter Mattis (Dec 9, '13)

Biden in Beijing: Progress, despite distrust
Mistrust over China's air defense identification zone could not obscure progress in US-Sino relations achieved in United States Vice President Joe Biden's five-hour meeting with President Xi Jinping in Beijing. What really matters is that Washington and Beijing continue to talk, even when they strongly disagree. - Dan Steinbock (Dec 6, '13)

Japan and China rattle ghosts of Nanking
Contrary to irrefutable evidence, some Japanese politicians persist in viewing Imperial Army atrocities in Nanking during 1937-1938 as "incidents" that were exaggerated by Beijing for propaganda purposes. Meanwhile, Chinese political elites exploit the history card to bolster patriotic credentials. While it is too late for justice for the hundreds of thousands killed and raped, breaking the cycle of blame could help populations move on. - Senan Fox (Dec 6, '13)

ADIZ proves hard to fathom
While the borders of China's air defense identification zone do little to reinforce the country's territorial claims in the East China Sea, the timing of the zone's declaration threatens to derail regional trust building launched by Taiwan, South Korea and China itself. In essence, the ADIZ is missing a foreign policy rational that would justify the negative impact it is creating. - Stefan Soesanto (Dec 5, '13)

China needs to change view of Tibet
The Chinese government points the finger for all its problems in Tibet at India and exiled groups, but the problem of Tibet in relations between the two nations is of China's own making. Beijing's policy is based on the faulty assumption that with the passing of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan problem will fizzle out. That trivializes notions of the political identity of the Tibetan people. - Abanti Bhattacharya (Dec 4, '13)

OkinawaHas Abe
overreached on China's ADIZ?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has used China's announcement of its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) to assert Japanese impunity in military flights equal to that of the United States. That won't please China; it may also displease the United States, which prefers Japan to be a tractable ally and not an independent peer. - Peter Lee (Dec 3, '13)

ADIZ posturing shows China's immaturity
Aggressive territorial maneuvers by China such as its unilateral declaration of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea are designed to enhance its reputation as a major power in its zone of direct influence. However, Beijing's meek response to incidents such US bombers flying through the zone makes China look vulnerable, further compromising East Asian stability. - Namrata Goswami (Dec 3, '13)

Pratchett becomes serious in Asia
Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" series is the stuff of fun fiction. Except that at times it has a disconcerting tendency to prefigure reality, never more so than in Jingo, with its stand-off between the Klatchians and the city-state of Ankh-Morpork over a newly surfaced island. Fast-forward to the present day posturing in the East China Sea and comical fiction ceases to be a laughing matter. (Dec 3, '13)

China relies on cooling US hand
The muted response from China after the United States and Japan defied its newly declared air zone seems to support the view that Beijing knows it made a mistake. America proved that its presence in Asia is not only necessary as a check and balance, but that it protects China from itself and from its neighbors. - Francesco Sisci (Dec 2, '13)

China reforms miss the political mark
The third plenary sessions of the Communist Party of China central committee have since 1978 been landmarks for deepening reforms. This month's meeting missed the mark as a confident springboard for change in China. Lacking a revision of the political system, its reform proposals failed a crucial test of courage. - Jinghao Zhou (Nov 26, '13)

China's ADIZ undermines regional stability
Beijing's decision to exercise its "self-defense right" and establish an air defense identification zone - as have Japan, South Korea and Japan - injects new problems into its regional ties and further sours relations with Japan. It appears that President Xi Jinping is willing to fan nationalist flames to ensure the Chinese Communist Party's popularity as he tackles economic reform. - Bonnie S Glaser (Nov 26, '13)

China's defense zone creates a flap
From Beijing's point of view, Tokyo has whipped up hysterics over China's newly announced Air Defense Identification Zone as a challenge intimately linked to hostilities their over competing maritime claims. Look at the facts and it becomes clear that it's a storm in a teacup, dishonestly stirred by the United States' own imperialist desires. - Peter Lee (Nov 25, '13)

Bullish on China
People hoping this month's Plenum would see China's leaders roll out political reforms will have to wait. Political change will come in time. China has delivered an impressive array of economic reform proposals that can be recognized as adding to success story in the context of geopolitical failures elsewhere. - Joseph R DeTrani (Nov 25, '13)

China still doesn't get 'soft power'
China's recently announced plans to become a world "culture power" were accompanied by clunky party language that stressed the soft power mission would "consolidate the guiding role of Marxism in ideological areas". Beijing seems unaware that the cultural influence of Asian rivals blossomed because of less, not more, government interference. - Mark C Eades (Nov 25, '13)

China's top court tweets ban on torture
China's highest court has called for an end to torture to extract confessions from suspects, in line with legal reforms that include the scrapping of "re-education through labor" and a narrowing of the scope of the death penalty. With forced confessions already illegal, yet commonplace, lawyers debate the tweeted guideline's impact. (Nov 22, '13)

Xi's power grab dwarfs market reforms
While the recent Third Plenary Session of the 18th Chinese Communist Party Central Committee was expected to unveil major initiatives in economic liberalization, what has struck Chinese and foreign observers most is the weight that the leadership has given to enhancing state security, particularly centralizing powers in the top echelon of the party-state apparatus. - Willy Lam (Nov 21, '13)

Independence flag among shot Uyghurs
Ethnic Uyghur youths shot dead while storming a police station in China's Xinjiang province last week were trying to fly the East Turkestan flag, mimicking a deadly attack elsewhere in the restive northwestern region. The flag of the republic of East Turkestan, set up in 1933 and 1944, continues to be a symbol of independence for many Uyghurs. - Shohret Hoshur (Nov 20, '13)

Revolutionary reform in China
The rash of intended reforms released by the Politburo, and seen by President Xi Jinping as "openings" to develop China, push the accelerator of economic and social change to shift wealth to those left behind in the economic boom. A major process of wealth transfer through more competition, more welfare and greater efficiency is now underway. - Gabriele Battaglia (Nov 19, '13)

Peking University failing freedom test
A politically outspoken economics professor dismissed by Peking University denies that academic freedom exists in China, while there is little in the way of meaningful research, his colleagues simply busying themselves with lavish banquets and irrelevant conferences. While Western universities may commend Xia Yeliang's courage, they won't risk lucrative ties with China's education system by employing him. - Thorsten Pattberg (Nov 19, '13)

Xi divides and rules
China's leaders have anticipated the strongest opposition to their planned concentration of powers that will come from vested interests at the local level. That is why the judiciary, controlled by Beijing, has been given freer rein and a string of corruption trials can be expected to showcase President Xi Jinping's use of age-old divide and rule tactics. - Francesco Sisci (Nov 19, '13)

Nationalist blowback to China's typhoon aid
The first thought of many angry Chinese nationalists to the increase in Beijing's aid to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines is that the victims don't deserve Chinese money. Netizens who express outrage and derision are themselves victims of a state media that manipulates opinion for short-term political leverage or to punish rivals. - Jack McLoughlin (Nov 18, '13)

Controlling the media is Xi's message
Instead of using the communique of the Third Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee to make rallying cries for greater control, President and General Secretary Xi Jinping plans to use the party apparatus to pursue particularism over universality. Rather than the greater transparency the West expects, his administration will shrink the already limited reach of domestic and international media and take "ownership" of local and national stories. - Peter Lee (Nov 15, '13)

New China law fails 'mentally ill' dissidents
Rights activists claim Chinese petitioners continue to be unjustly labeled as being "mentally ill" and committed to psychiatric institutions in spite of a mental health law that took effect six months ago to protect patients from misdiagnosis and receiving involuntary medical treatment. (Nov 15, '13)

China's market enigma
The enigma enveloped in a riddle inside a Chinese box that passed as the final communique of the much-anticipated meeting of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee came as something of an anti-climax. Yet it will take days, weeks and even months for its detailed implications to sink in. What's certain is that the "decisive role" of market reform implies the CCP at the helm, monitoring every step of the process. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 13, '13)

Vietnam get seats on UN rights body
China and Vietnam have gained seats Asia's representatives on the United Nations' top human rights body. To activists, inclusion of the two countries along with alleged rights violators Russia and Saudi Arabia on a council tasked with protecting human rights is an outrage that deals a blow to the UN's credibility. - Parameswaran Ponnudurai (Nov 13, '13)

New chapter for change opens in China
The concentration of power in the hands of the top leadership, a new phase of economic reforms with more room for market forces to work, and a greater role for the judiciary in China have emerged as main elements from the just-concluded meeting of the ruling party's Central Committee. All point to the opening of a new chapter for comprehensive change. - Francesco Sisci (Nov 13, '13)

Tiananmen crash linked
to Xinjiang mosque raid

Chinese authorities claim the Muslim Uyghur driver of the car that plowed into people in Beijing's Tiananmen Square last week was involved in a terrorist attack. Direct bitter revenge for the partial destruction of a home-town mosque whose building he helped to fund may be a more realistic motive. - Shohret Hoshur (Nov 7, '13)

Re-thinking Taiwan's international role
Taiwan's ambiguous absence from international aviation and trade partnerships undermines those bodies' mandates, while its inability to ratify maritime treaties threatens to destabilize the Asia-Pacific. A re-think of Taiwan's role is urgently needed by international actors, but the strengthening of China's regional position means it will view lenience as a direct threat to the "One-China policy". - Sinclaire Prowse (Nov 1, '13)

SOE links threaten china reform drive
Chinese and foreign observers interested in the future of China's economic reform will scrutinize next month's communique of the Central Committee's Third Plenum communique for clues about how ready the party-state apparatus is to retool some of the biggest companies in the world. The connections of rising political leaders to state-owned enterprises make President Xi Jinping's reform imperative far from a done deal. - Willy Lam (Oct 31, '13)

Taiwan lawmakers push marriage equality
Taiwan could become the first Asian state to legalize same-sex and other "pluralistic" forms of marriage if lawmakers approve a wide-ranging package of changes to the island's civil code. Prospects for early passage of the legislation are clouded amid little enthusiasm from the ruling Kuomintang government.- Dennis Engbarth (Oct 31, '13)

China to reap harvest of NSA scandals
A growing chorus of nations is decrying Washington's unrestrained cyber espionage. However, China is the only one with both the means and motivation for using mounting international resentment to challenge American hegemony. The NSA surveillance of US allies has opened up two vital fronts in which China can erode American global dominance. - Brendan P O'Reilly (Oct 31, '13)

Crash a symbol of China reform struggle
The car explosion in Tiananmen Square that killed five people this week, whether a planned protest or not, takes on symbolic meaning given the many difficulties President Xi Jinping faces in the reform drama now coming to a head in Beijing. If Xi succeeds in creating a strong private economy, rapid-paced growth will continue. If not, some form of Soviet-style implosion could ensue. - Francesco Sisci (Oct 30, '13)

No quick fix for China's mistress culture
The mistress culture of China is thriving, from vulgar to lustrous and glittering, with a set hierarchy serving the pairing of sex and power. The husband and his lovers happily drive the market for luxury goods and hotel rooms, and almost as an afterthought, minister to their ethical ruin. - Thorsten Pattberg (Oct 29, '13)

Internet lessons to learn
The people of China, Europe, or America face the same risks as governments use large and effective internet companies like Google or Baidu to gather politically sensitive information. All would be less exposed if our lives on the Internet weren't such an open book. Learning that lesson starts with children, whose online experience should be better regulated. - Francesco Sisci (Oct 29, '13)

One-child policy shoulders too much blame
The products of China's one-child policy can be selfish, spoiled, and maladjusted "little emperors", but the policy itself should not shoulder all the blame. The cultural norm of children being reared by grandparents and other carers can better account for this phenomenon than explanations based on policy alone. - Toni Momiroski (Oct 28, '13)

A Pax Sinica in the Middle East?
China's interest in a peaceful Middle East is large and growing, notably in its energy purchases but extending well beyond those, just as US energy needs there are waning. Without attributing any geopolitical intention to Beijing, the visible facts make clear that China has the capacity to exercise strategic influence in the region. What China might choose to do in that regard, Washington will learn after the fact. (Oct 28, '13)

Creaks in western China's door to Asia
Xinjiang holds a special place for planners in Beijing who envision the western province as a modern, technological and innovative "door to Asia". Regimented rows of giant wind turbines fit the ideal, but the region's many social problems are hard realities for those who seek to embody the Chinese dream. - Gabriele Battaglia (Oct 25, '13)

China-Vietnam: more carrot, less stick
Tentative agreement between China and Vietnam over developing resources in the South China Sea has been achieved by Beijing's softer diplomatic approach of recent months. China's economic potential may appeal more than a declining US as Vietnam grows aware of its increasingly strong international position, but a stick may lurk among those carrots. - Brendan O'Reilly (Oct 22, '13)

The real script in Xi's foreign hand
Chinese President Xi Jinping's tough stance on international territorial disputes is play-acting for an audience that is entirely domestic. The underlying script is dictated by the interests of the Communist Party, for which there is ample evidence to suggest that a more assertive foreign policy will do more harm than good. - Jinghao Zhou (Oct 21, '13)

Bonfire of the straw men
US commentators found easy targets to mock after a Chinese rating agency downgraded United States debt and a Xinhua article commented negatively on America's role in the world. The reality is more serious than they can acknowledge, and it will take more than misdirection, mockery, and bluster to to turn the situation around. - Peter Lee (Oct 18, '13)

China, US face common challenges
Proposed curbs on the might of China's state-owned enterprises should create a better long-term economic climate for its growth for the next three or four decades. Across the Pacific, though, the possible weakening of America's soft power could bring negative repercussions for both the United States and China, which needs a very peaceful and quite environment to carry out its development for the next decades. - Francesco Sisci (Oct 17, '13)

Birth of the 'de-Americanized' world
China has had enough. A Xinhua editorial makes it plain the (diplomatic) gloves are off to build a "de-Americanized" world, with a "new international reserve currency" to replace the US dollar. The straw that did it - the US shutdown - is a graphic illustration that the US decline is as inexorable as China spreading its wings to master 21st century post-modernity. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 15, '13)

Crushed by the Chinese dream
Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
As this tale of five new arrivals in Shanghai unfolds, the narrative that gradually draws them together builds a picture of the city as a glittering, ruthless devourer of their cash - and fame-fueled dreams. While the book succeeds in showing how the modern "Chinese dream" is as illusory as its American counterpart, an overplaying of coincidences sees it descend into heavy-handed plot manipulation. - Kent Ewing (Oct 11, '13)

Murdered Tibetan Lama mourned
Followers of noted Tibetan religious teacher Choje Akong Rinpoche are mourning after his murder in Chengdu, capital of China's Sichuan province. Choje Akong Rinpoche is best known outside China for founding in 1967 the West's first Tibetan Buddhist center, Samye Ling Monastery, in rural southwest Scotland. (Oct 10, '13)

China strides, US shrinks in Asia
Much of America's continuity in Asia hinges on Barack Obama winning the current debt war with the Republicans in Washington. Loss will make for a lame duck presidency, and the US presence in the region weaker for that. A shrinking US footprint in Asia, as symbolized by Obama's withdrawal from regional meetings, only lengthens China's strides. - Francesco Sisci (Oct 8, '13)

China: We don't
do shutdowns

The bumper-to-bumper debt gridlock in Washington leaves no room for US President Barack Obama to pivot to Asia as he is forced to give regional summits in Indonesia and Brunei a miss. That leaves Chinese President Xi Jinping to bask, unrivalled, in center-stage glow. The no-show only reinforces perceptions that US foreign policy is in a mess - and that while the US does shutdowns, China brings cash to the table. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 4, '13)

No new "Little Red Book" - that's official
News that a Chinese military scholar is working on a new book of quotes from late supreme leader Mao Zedong quickly brought denials from Beijing that a new version of Mao’s "Little Red Book" is being prepared for the presses. While Chen Yu says his book is merely "scientific research", critics claim the project reflects popular sentiment for the past amid rising social tensions. - Xi Wang (Oct 4, '13)

Abe shoots blanks in New York
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's concern expressed at the United Nations over a rise in China's military budget conveniently ignored that the increase is line with the China's economic expansion. Meanwhile, Japan's defense spending is outstripping national growth as it surges to its highest since the Cold War. Little wonder Beijing responded by pointing to Tokyo's imperial past. - Brendan P O'Reilly (Oct 2, '13)

A devious blueprint
to empower the party

Everything has to change in order to change nothing. That is the central message of an ingenious blueprint for the Chinese Communist Party to retain power in the face of worries that reforms may stall and lead back to a Maoist path. According to the blueprint, in charting a course to make China great President Xi Jinping would do well to look to Western democracies for inspiration. Timing is everything. - Francesco Sisci (Oct 1, '13)
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