By Kerry Brown
Beijing Review, February 1, 2016
China's friendly diplomatic links with Middle Eastern countries are not a new phenomenon. Some would argue that they go back centuries to the era of previous imperial trade links, and the Silk Road routes that carried spices, resources and precious metals between the two regions. In modern times, however, China has forged a unique relationship, one in which it has been able to enjoy positive connections with every player across the region, despite the turmoil that has been experienced there.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's first overseas visit this year embraced Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran one after another. Speaking to the 22 members of the Arab League in Cairo, Egypt, on January 21, Xi announced a $20-billion investment fund for the region, and possible major humanitarian assistance for Syria, Jordan and others struggling to cope with the refugee crisis brought on by the war in Syria. To coincide with his visit, the Chinese Government also issued a white paper addressing links with the Arab world, speaking in terms of them being strategic partners.
Points of common interest
Egypt, the second country Xi went to, is a well-established partner for China, having been the first in Africa or the Middle East to recognize in 1956 the People's Republic after its founding in 1949. But Saudi Arabia and Iran matter to China because of the more recent phenomenon that they are important suppliers of petroleum. Of China's energy profile, a tenth comes from the Middle East region, with Saudi Arabia accounting for the largest amount, followed by Iran. This supplies a very tangible common interest. With global oil prices falling, the United States using more domestically sourced natural gas, and other markets diminishing, China really matters as never before as an export user for Middle Eastern powers who are highly dependent on oil revenue.Yet it is clear that the last thing China wants is to be drawn into burgeoning commitments and binding diplomatic dependencies in an area that has some of the most volatile and complex politics in the world. China did not veto the 2011 UN Security Council resolution on NATO involvement in Libya when the regime there was collapsing: It simply abstained. But it felt the subsequent "mission creep" of the NATO-led alliance went beyond what had been mandated, and this caused it to be especially cautious later when a similar resolution was brought forward involving the Syrian civil war, one it did, with Russia, veto on the UN Security Council, despite pressure from the United States.
By Eugene Clark
China.org.cn, February 1, 2016
January 30 is celebrated as 'San Francisco Day'. On that day in 1847, the city changed its name from Yerba Buena to San Francisco. In 1906, San Francisco was destroyed by a devastating earthquake from which it somehow recovered thanks to one of the greatest and most responsive government led relief efforts the world had ever seen. Consequently, San Francisco today has grown to be one of the world's most beautiful cities, attracting almost 20 million visitors each year. San Francisco (and the surrounding region) is the most innovative in the world and features some of the world's best known and largest technology companies and outstanding universities
Major cities involved [China Daily]
Today, Beijing and the surrounding region, is coping with the destruction of a 21st century kind. It is compelled to engage in its own 'creative destruction' in order to both cope with many present challenges and prepare China's capital region to play a leading role in the 21st Century. China is at last putting plans into action, that were envisioned over a decade ago, to create a new super or mega-city in the form of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei integrated development program. This new capital region will extend over an area of some 80,000 square miles, roughly the size of my home state of Kansas, with a population of approximately 180 million people.
What is involved?
The issues and challenges faced in creating such a mega-capital region are hard to imagine because a project on such a scale has never been done before. It will require both the provincial and national government as well as private sector entities to develop policies, capital, technology, laws and coordination required on a mass scale that is unimaginable anywhere else. Management guru, the late Peter Drucker, noted that every organization must live simultaneously in three time zones, namely, the past, present and future. For this project, a major challenge is that the present situation in Beijing and the surrounding region is the way it is for a reason and those reasons must be dealt with if things are to change. At the same time, the current challenges involving pollution, traffic congestion, insufficient schools, hospitals and other amenities, must be tackled. Finally, national and provincial governments must think long-term and act now so that the future vision can be realized. Among these challenges are human capital development, regional governance and planning, community development, health and ageing, food sovereignty, the evolution of art, culture and sport, environmental sustainability, industry and business development and a 21st century rebooting of key institutions such as education, law and government.
By An Gang
Beijing Review, February 1, 2016
Recommendations made by the Asia-Pacific Rebalance 2025 report have outlined a clear goal--the containment of China's growing clout in order to maintain the United States' dominant role in the Asia-Pacific region. The report, unveiled by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on January 20, has reviewed the U.S. Government's Asia-Pacific rebalance strategy. The report was authorized by the U.S. Congress last year, which assigned the U.S. Department of Defense to commission an independent assessment of the U.S. military strategy and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region for the next decade. In the report, the CSIS study team highlighted priorities in four areas: aligning the U.S. strategy in Asia with its allies and partners in the region; accelerating efforts to strengthen capabilities, capacities, resilience, and interoperability of its allies and partners; sustaining and expanding U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region; and accelerating the development of innovative capabilities and concepts for U.S. forces. As a decade-long strategy assessment, the report shows that Washington has been preparing to extend its Asia-Pacific rebalance policy--one of the most important legacies left by U.S. President Barack Obama--to the next president who will take office in 2017.
Daniel Russel, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said that the U.S. Government would not stop the Asia-Pacific rebalance in an interview on January 22. Russel, who was attending the fourth U.S.-Singapore Strategic Partner Dialogue in Singapore, stressed that it is a long-term strategy for the United States, even while the country prepares for a presidential transition.
Since the rebalance policy was launched in 2011, the Obama administration has enhanced its actions in the Asia-Pacific region considerably. Obama announced a new military strategy in January 2012, vowing to deploy 60 percent of U.S. naval ships and 60 percent of its overseas air force to the Asia-Pacific region before 2020. The U.S. Government has made efforts to fulfill that objective in the past years. In 2015, the U.S. Government released the Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy, which clarified that the country's major security interests in the region lie in three fields-safeguarding the freedom of the seas, deterring conflict and coercion as well as promoting adherence to international law and standards.
Who is challenging international order?
The U.S. intrusive move to send a navy vessel without China's authorization into waters adjacent to Chinese-owned islands show that Washington is threatening the sovereignty of other countries and challenging the international order. A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Curtis Wilbur, on Saturday sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Zhongjian Dao in the Xisha Islands, which, according to the U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's office, was "innocent passage" and "consistent with international law." However, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), innocent passage has its conditions -- it should not be "prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State." Besides, the UN law also stipulates that foreign ships exercising the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea shall comply with related laws and regulations the coastal State may adopt.
According to China's law on the territorial sea and contiguous zone enacted in 1992, foreign warships entering China's territorial waters should obtain prior approval from the Chinese government. Obviously, the U.S. warship's incursion into China's territorial sea without authorization violated both Chinese and international law.And this was not the first instance of the U.S. infringement on international law. Just 95 days ago, the U.S. Navy sailed the USS Lassen within 12 nautical miles of the Zhubi Reef, part of China's Nansha Islands in the South China Sea. The U.S. repeated moves have not only threatened China's sovereignty and security interests, but also undermined regional peace and stability. Ironically, Washington unreasonably pointed its fingers at China, accusing Beijing of posing a threat to the "freedom of navigation" in the South China Sea and taking measures of "challenging the international order." Washington's unfounded accusation obviously goes against common sense as the international order should not be unilaterally defined by any single country.
The current international order was jointly established by the international community with the United Nations at its core, on the basis of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. The fundamental principle regarding the international order is based on mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, equal treatment and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. Just as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has said, China has long played an active role in and made remarkable contribution to promoting world peace and development and properly resolving international and regional issues. Under relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, China launched the task of carrying out anti-piracy escort missions in the Gulf of Aden off the waters of Somalia in late 2008. In addition, China has also completed the operations of escorting the shipping of chemical weapons out of Syria for destruction and helped many countries deal with natural disasters.
The Chinese navy's pragmatic exchanges and cooperation with other countries have ensured the safety of some strategic maritime passages in the world. In fact, China, as a signatory to the UNCLOS, has been committed to preserving the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and to safeguarding peace and stability in the region. As most of the region's flow of commerce in foreign trade passes through the sea lanes in the South China Sea, it is in the fundamental interest of all coastal countries, including China, to preserve the freedom of navigation in the area. In order to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation, China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have been endeavoring to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and striving for the signing of a full code of conduct in the waters as soon as possible. Moreover, a lot of countries in the region and the Asia-Pacific as a whole will benefit from the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, a development strategy promoting openness, inclusiveness and win-win results.
Facts have proved that China, instead of doing any harm to the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, has provided public services to ensure the safety of all vessels sailing in the waters.At a time when the whole world is pursuing peace, development, cooperation and win-win results, China will firmly stick to its path of peaceful development, which serves its fundamental interests and meets the common aspiration of all countries and people in the region. It is advisable for Washington to contribute more to regional peace and cooperation, rather than making waves in the South China Sea and then pointing a finger at others on trumped-up charges. Source: www.china.org.cn dated 1 February, 2016.