Tag Archives: china

Paddy Ashdown: China vs Trump could cause Pacific conflict

Paddy Ashdown has been in Hong Kong this week, talking to the Foreign Correspondents Club about international relations and how the relationship between the Chinese leadership and Donald Trump could unfold. It’s not a pretty sight. Here is his speech in full. He revisits the theme of many of his speeches in recent years about the change in the global balance of power as China’s influence increases. He also has some candid and critical comments about the UK’s time governing Hong Kong.

Peace in the Pacific Region, and very probably the wider world, will depend on two questions.

How will the United States cope with decline?

And how will China fulfil her potential as a super power.

Not long after I returned from Bosnia in 2006, in the middle of the era of small wars, I was asked if great wars were now a thing of the past. I replied no; unhappily the habit of war, large and small, seems inextricably locked into the human gene. But I did not believe that, once we were passed the fossil fuel era, the most likely place for a great conflagration would be the Middle East. If we wanted to see where future great wars might occur, we should look to those regions where mercantilism was leading to an increase in nationalist sentiment and imperialist attitudes, as it did in Europe in the nineteenth century. The only region in the world, I concluded, which matched this description, was the Pacific basin. Nothing I have seen in the intervening decade alters this judgement.

We live in one of those periods of history where the structures of power in the world shift. These are almost always turbulent times and all too often, conflict ridden ones too. How new powers rise and old powers fall, is one of the prime determinants of peace in times like this. The Pacific basin is about to be the cockpit in which this drama is about to be played out

The United States is the most powerful nation on earth and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. But the context in which she holds that power is completely different from what it was. Over the last hundred years or so – the American century – we have lived in a mono-polar world dominated by the American Colossus. This is no longer true. We live now in a multi polar-world – by the way very similar to Nineteenth century Europe where balance among the five powers – the so called Concert of Europe – meant peace and imbalance meant war.

We have seen this before. The end of the European empires after the Second World war led to great instability and much conflict, not least in this region. Britain, by and large, accepted her decline and, mostly, dealt with it in a measured and civilised fashion. We will come onto what that means for Hong Kong in a moment. France, by contrast lashed about soaking first Indo China and then North Africa in blood. The Belgians were even worse in the Belgian Congo.

How the United States copes with her relative decline from the world’s only super power, to primus inter pares in a multi-polar world, is one of the great questions which will decide what happens in this region in the next decade. President Obama seemed to understand this. President Trump, it seems does not. His policies of isolationism, protectionism and confrontation towards China are foolish and dangerous. It is foolish because he is abandoning American leadership of the multilateral space and that will not strengthen America as he suggests, but hasten her decline. Its is dangerous because US isolationism will weaken multilateral instruments which are the only means of resolving conflicts and tackling global problems, such as climate change.

China’s position as a mercantile super-power is already established. It was inevitable that she should now seek to consolidate her trading strength by becoming a political and military super power, too. This is a perfectly natural ambition. It’s the way super powers behave – indeed it’s the way they have to behave to protect their position. This therefore, should not, in and of itself, be a matter of alarm or criticism.

It is natural too – and good – that China should seek to fill the vacuum of leadership in regional and global multilateral institutions left by President Trump’s retreat from this space. It is far better for us all to have an engaged China, than an isolated one.

The last great strategic opportunity faced by the West was the fall of the Soviet Union. We should then have reached out to engage Russia, to draw her in, to help her re-build and reform. Instead we foolishly treated Moscow with triumphalism and humiliation, orchestrated largely by Washington. The result was inevitable and he’s called Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin.

We are now faced with a second equivalent opportunity. Can we reach out to build constructive relationships with a rising China?

On the face of it, the signs have been hopeful.

China has seemed keen to be a good world citizen. She has engaged constructively in multilateral institutions – look at the WTO as an example; look at her support for the UN Security Council resolution on sanctions for North Korea; look at her engagement with international forces to tackle the scourge of the Somali pirates around the Horn of Africa; look at her participation in international disaster relief – for instance in north east Pakistan; look at her involvement with UN peace keeping to which she has committed more troops under multi-national command than the United States and Europe combined. Yes, they are mostly in Africa where she has good reasons to want to keep the peace. But there is nothing new in that. Western nations too only send troops to keep the peace, where it is in their interests to do so.

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Observations of an ex pat: China at the crossroads

China is at a political crossroads with a nuclear-tipped Mack truck driven by a suicidal North Korean juvenile threatening to plough into its side with disastrous consequences for Beijing and the rest of the world,

President Xi Jinping can avoid the crash. It is not inevitable. But to do so requires a major change of direction in Chinese foreign policy—with some help from America

Korea’s 38th Parallel is the Asian relic of the Cold War. It is also a highly visible and symbolic border which determines whether China or the United States is the major 21st century power in the Asia-Pacific region.

It was China that saved North Korea from defeat at the hands of the American-led UN forces in the early 1950s. It was China that signed a mutual defence treaty with North Korea in 1961 and it is China that provides the food and energy that enables the hereditary communist country to continue oppressing its 25 million citizens and threatening the world with nuclear holocaust.

Why? Not because of any love for Kim Jong-un or his ancestors or because North Korea is communist.

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Romancing the Silk Roads

As someone fascinated by the Central Asian countries, I was delighted when the All Party Parliamentary Group for China (APPCG) organised a talk this week by Peter Frankopan, author of “The Silk Roads – A New History of the World”.

“The Silk Roads are rising again”, said Richard Graham MP, Chair of APPCG at the end of a fulsome introduction of the Oxford University historian.  Yet, there are not many other Parliamentarians, let alone the British public, who are in tune with the zeitgeist.

Frankopan was keen to put into historical context the dramatic changes that we are witnessing today with a shift in the world order. The declining influence of western colonial powers,  the UK’s vote for BREXIT and the election of Trump, were contrasted against a China growing in confidence and pursuing the “One Belt One Road” initiative, the lynchpin for Xi JinPing’s foreign and economic policies.  

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President Trump’s mode of entrance for his first visit to China?

As a snub, the Chinese once forced President Obama to leave Air Force One via “the ass of the plane“, upon arrival in China

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Do the Liberal Democrats know where Shenzhen is? And why it matters

Have you seen Gary Johnson forgetting ‘what’ Aleppo is? If not I’d recommend it. His baffled expression is hilarious.

But when you have finished chuckling, may I ask you a question? Where is Shenzhen?

My guess is most of you are now stumped. I only know because I once had to catch a train from Shenzhen station. Which is embarrassing because by one definition it is the 8th largest city in the world. It is adjacent to but several times the size of Hong Kong. Which, remarkably, is no longer among the twenty largest Chinese cities. And China is an enormous country in an enormous region:

Credit: Redditor valeriepieris

Credit: Redditor valeriepieris

Despite this the last Liberal Democrat manifesto includes more references to Israel – which has 0.001% of the world’s population – than to all the countries in the Asia-Pacific combined. And they are only mentioned in the context of advocating EU membership. There are (or have been) groups declaring themselves to be “the Liberal Democrat Friends…” There are the Chinese Liberal Democrats but they exist “to promote closer links between the Party and the Chinese and South East Asian community in the UK.” of Israel, Palestine, Kashmir, India and Turkey but not of China, Indonesia or Vietnam. Basically, if a Lib Dem says they care about foreign policy that usually means they are interested in Europe or the parts of the Islamic world somewhat adjacent to it. 

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Rennie: It’s time for answers on China deal

During the election, the Scottish Liberal Demcorats raised questions about a trade deal signed between the SNP Government and Chinese companies with dubious human rights records.

Willie Rennie has now stepped up his quest for more information by tabling  a series of parliamentary questions.

During the election it emerged that the China Railway Group, who own one of the companies involved, had been blacklisted for investment by the Norwegian government’s oil fund over corruption allegations and criticised by Amnesty International over forced evictions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The First Minister admitted that due diligence was not completed on the businesses involved in a deal that it is claimed could be worth up to £10bn. Scottish Government officials failed to respond to Freedom of Information requests from journalists on the deal ahead of the election last week.

Willie said:

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Rennie: Sturgeon must shred China deal after human rights warning

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie today said that the SNP risks dragging Scotland’s reputation through the mud following reports that a Chinese firm at the heart of a controversial £10bn deal with the Scottish Government is tied to human rights abuses.

It was reported in today’s Herald that Amnesty International named China Railway Group Ltd (CRG) and subsidiaries it controls in a report exposing human rights abuses related to the mining industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It had previously emerged that CRG had been blacklisted for investment by Norway’s oil fund over fears that the construction giant was involved in gross corruption.

Willie said:

The last thing that the First Minister did before the election started was sign a £10bn deal with a business directly tied to allegations of corruption.

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Hawks and doves: equidistant foreign policy?

Five years ago, the Liberal Democrats held the centre ground in the coalition formation negotiations between left and right. Equidistance is a loaded word, one that cynics will laugh at as vacuous. However, five years later, neither of the two main parties seem sufficiently interested in foreign affairs.

This party could be equidistant between doves and hawks in foreign policy. To illustrate the dove-hawk twin hybrid, below are three examples. I am not necessarily endorsing the following as solutions and they are not exhaustive in terms of detail. They are merely prompts for a debate.

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The Chinese are coming!

Vince in ChongqingChinese Premier Li Keqiang left on Monday this week on a 5 day visit to Britain and Greece.  With him, according to the press, is a 200 strong business delegation, expected to sign up some £18 billion worth of deals.

Just over 2 weeks ago, I was part of Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable’s business delegation to China, taking in 5 cities in 6 days.  Vince was scheduled to be in Beijing to attend UK-China Joint Economic & Trade Committee (JETC) talks with his opposite number, Mr Gao HuCheng, the Minister of Commerce.

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Nick Clegg attacks human rights abuses in China

Nick Clegg Q&A 12Yesterday we commented on Nick Clegg’s press conference in which he launched the first phase of the manifesto.

We did not then cover the comments he subsequently made about the visit by the Chinese Premier to the UK.

Nick is quoted:

We can’t ignore the large-scale and systematic human rights abuses which still continue in China to this day the very widespread use of the death penalty.

We have seen economic transformation on a scale possibly unheard of in the modern world where millions of people have become economically

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Jeremy Browne’s ‘Race Plan’. I’ve read it, so here’s my review…

Jeremy Browne bookThree points to make right from the start about Jeremy Browne’s new book, Race Plan.

First, it’s a wholly Good Thing that a Lib Dem MP is choosing to think aloud, to set out clearly his views. Nick Clegg having decided that he did, after all, like one of the Beecroft recommendations and decided to fire-at-will his home office minister, Jeremy could have slunk away, tail between his legs, to nurse his bitterness. He’s chosen a rather more constructive outlet for his disappointment. By which I mean this book, rather than his short-lived, C.19th-throwback, gap year beard.

Secondly, there is a fundamental problem with the central conceit of this book: that Britain is in a global race, and that if we don’t get fitter, we’ll be overtaken by or competitors in the coming Asian Century, fall behind, and become poorer.

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Chinese Liberal Democrats publish e-book on twinned cities

In today’s globalised world, twin city links with China can be profitable bridges between knowledge economies if approached in a creative way by local Councils, business clusters, educational institutions and research establishments working together.  But there are many pitfalls and long-term, multi-layered commitments, leveraging existing core strengths, are required to make them work.  This report by the Chinese Liberal Democrats is a useful handbook on how 21st century twin city-led partnerships can bring valuable results in trade, investment, science and education.

Richard Pascoe- Executive Director, Great Britain China Centre

I  welcome this interesting report.  Twinning links with China, with political leadership

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Postcard from China (2): The Pearl of the Orient

alex payton british consulate hong kongShould the Head of State be elected? Who should be allowed to be a candidate, and who should be allowed to vote?

Hong Kong currently faces these questions in its quest for universal suffrage and a democratic future, and was the recurrent theme during the second part of the trip to China organised by the British Chinese Project, in which I and three other Lib Dem delegates – Merlene Emerson, Sarah Yong and Steven Cheung – took part along with representatives from the other two main …

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Postcard from China: Reflections from a visit to Guangdong province (Part 1)

After returning from my first ever trip to China, I felt a ‘postcard’ was in order to summarise this wonderful experience. It was a huge honour to be asked to represent our Party along with fellow Chinese Lib Dems Merlene Emmerson, Alex Payton and Steven Cheung on this visit by official invitation of the Chinese Government in the Guandong province in Southern China. The trip was organised by the British Chinese Project, a not for profit organisation that works to increase awareness and greater engagement in politics by the British Chinese population. Our sixteen strong delegation included representatives from all …

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Opinion: Yin and Yang in China

Images of Mayor Boris Johnson and Chancellor George Osborne in China have featured large in the media over the last week. They have been dubbed Yin and Yang: Boris must be Yin, the softer, cuddlier one, the one that makes school girls giggle over references to Harry Potter and his first girl friend, and Osborne, Yang as he tackles tougher subjects, such as going nuclear with China.

In fact critics such as Will Hutton have been less kind and have instead suggested that the duo have sold out and opened the UK to all manner of risks …

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Opinion: More than a Fly on the Great Wall

Great Wall of ChinaLast November I blogged here about my trip to China shortly before the Chinese leadership handover at the 18th Party Congress.  On Sunday 17 March that hand over was finally completed with Xi JinPing installed as President and Li Keqiang as Premier of the world’s emerging second super power.

China watchers have been keen to study the background of these two men to predict the future direction of the Chinese Communist  Party under  their leadership.  Their fluency in the English language and easy manner might suggest that they are more westernised hence would be “modernisers” or “reformers”.   I believe it is still early days to be using such labels.

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LibLink: Vince Cable – Investors deserve red carpet, not red tape

Vince Cable - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsIn the Telegraph, Vince Cable writes:

Britain is open for business. What we say to the emerging economies of the world is that, more than other Western countries, we welcome their investment, ideas, talent and visitors. We are not economic nationalists. We are not inward looking. That is a powerful message in São Paulo, Moscow, Mumbai and Shanghai.

In the article he concentrates on our trading relationship with China.

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Opinion: A fresh look at China’s road to democracy – the way ahead

Great Wall of China - Some rights reserved by radiowood2000
Is China now on the road to democracy? My answer is “yes”.

I began to observe China’s democratic progress on 5 April 1989. Now, 23 years has past. China is still at the starting point. We know in modern democracy, people can decide their own lifestyle and enjoy their own freedom. How about democracy and people’s freedom in China today?

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Opinion: A fresh look at China’s road to revival

Great Wall of ChinaOn 14 Nov 2012, Xi Jinping was elected as the new Communist Party of China (CPC) General Secretary in the 18th CPC National Congress of the People’s Republic of China.

In his first speech to the press on 15 Nov, Xi Jinping, together with the 6 new elected members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, put his focus on continuous open reform and strong CPC governance responsive to the Chinese people’s needs. Also, he mentioned that China’s revival (China’s rejuvenation) will be a continuous important national goal in …

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A postcard from… China: a fly on the Great Wall

Great Wall of ChinaIt was not my first visit to China (in fact my third time climbing the great wall) but certainly the most intense: ten days from 22nd October to 1st November.  Along with 26 other Overseas Chinese delegates involved in politics from eight nations in Europe and Africa, I was on a study visit at the invitation of the Chinese Government on the eve of the 18th Peoples’ Congress.

Amongst our number were an MP from South Africa, an ex-Minister from Mauritius, a special advisor to the Mayor of Cologne, Germany (twinned with Beijing), Councillors from the Netherlands and France, as well as representatives from all 3 major parties in the UK. Other Liberal Democrats included Councillor Sam Li from Lewes, Jerry Cheung from Sheffield and Anna Lo from our sister Alliance party in Northern Ireland.

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A fresh look at the Diaoyu Islands

On 15 August 2012, 14 Chinese from Hong Kong were arrested by Japanese coastguards in Diaoyu Islands by the East China Sea. Seven of the Chinese were returned to Hongkong by air on 17 August and another seven by boat on 22 August.

Diaoyu (meaning “fishing” in Chinese) Islands are group of 5 very tiny islands situated in the East China Sea between Taiwan and Okinawa. Since the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese have used these islands as a military front against Japanese pirates and 17th century sources showed the maritime boundary to be between the Diaoyu (also known as the “Senkaku” islands to the Japanese) and the Ryukus where turbulent waters mark the edge of the continental shelf (see map).

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Willie Rennie says Salmond should meet Dalai Lama

First Minister Alex Salmond loves to meet international dignitaries and world leaders. Every chance he gets, he’s off playing a larger than life role on the international stage. Just last weekend, he was in Los Angeles promoting Scottish business and schmoozing with celebrities at  a film premiere.  It’s all the more surprising, then, that he can’t find a space in his diary to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits Scotland this week. This is in stark contrast to the reception the exiled Tibetan Spiritual Leader received in 2004 when he addressed the Parliament and met the then First …

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Opinion: Water – time to see it as a national interest?

News that one of China’s leading wealth funds has taken a 9 percent stake in Thames Water is significant. The investment comes quick on the heels of a Gulf sovereign wealth fund taking a similar size stake in Thames Water’s parent company, Kemble.

It’s a measure of confidence in Britain’s infrastructure technology and role in the world as a safe haven for long term investment crows George Osborne. Liberal Democrats may be inclined to take a different view.

What Osborne fails to mention is that because of increased water-scarcity throughout the world – including the UK – water is set …

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LDVideo: Jeremy Browne’s pledge to Sam Fox: I’ll raise issue of tiger farms with Chinese government

As the BBC reports:

The former model and singer Sam Fox challenged foreign office minster Jeremy Browne on the Daily Politics about tiger farms in China which she wants to see closed. Mr Browne told her that he would raise the matter with the Chinese. Fewer than 3,500 tigers remain in the wild around the world.

You can watch the exchange below:

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Opinion: 100 years on from the Xinhai Revolution

Today is 1st October, the National Day of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This year is also the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, which in celebrations in July, was marked by a 90 minute speech by the Party’s General Secretary Hu JinTao.

Perhaps more significantly, this year is the 100th anniversary of the XinHai revolution, that had begun with the Wuchang uprising on 10 Oct and led to the abdication of the last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.

Dr Sun Yat-Sen, hailed by all as the father of democracy in China, had …

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Martin Horwood MP writes: Facing up to human rights in China

Premier Wen Jiabao of China arrived in Britain over the weekend for a series of events culminating in bilateral talks with the Prime Ministers today at Number Ten.

While the discussions will undoubtedly turn to the economy, trade agreements and further cooperation between our two countries, I hope the Prime Minister will also promote our greatest exports: our long held values of democracy, human rights and free speech.

These bilateral meetings offer the British government a chance to place human rights unambiguously on the agenda in our discussions with the Chinese. As William Hague wrote last year, “promoting human rights is …

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Merlene Emerson writes: Reflections on Media Freedom in China

I am writing this on the 22nd anniversary of ‘Six Four’ (the codename for the Tian An Men incident that occurred on 4th of June 1989). Perhaps no better day to reflect on the subject of media censorship in China and to question the role of international broadcasters?

Only yesterday I was with some 200 people at a talk organised by BBC Chinese Service at Chatham House. To my amazement even the English panel speakers such as Dr Kerry Brown (Head of the Asia Programme at Chatham House), Madeline Earp (Research Associate at the Committee to Protect Journalists) and Prof Hugo de Burgh (Director, China Media Centre) all managed to deliver their speeches in Mandarin. Sadly no interpretations were provided at this over-subscribed event.

I attempt here to disseminate some of the content (Chatham House rules have officially been suspended).

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LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott on Ai Weiwei

During the week, Liberal Democrat MEP Edward McMillan-Scott used the pages of The Guardian to take up the case of Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei:

With the world’s attention on the uprisings in the Middle East, Chinese authorities are reacting to the widespread rumblings since mid-February, when a “jasmine revolution” was called across China, and a few brave souls dared to express their protest.

Ai, who is best known for creating the sunflower seed installation in London’s Tate Modern and his work on Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium, is the highest-profile victim in the heavy-handed suppression of political dissidents by Chinese officials…

In the

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Chris Rennard writes… Liu Xiaobo needs to know people in Britain are appalled

I have succeeded in tabling a topical question for the House of Lords tomorrow:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, and if so how, they will raise concerns about the imprisonment of the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo during the Prime-Minister’s visit to China.

This follows me raising the issue on the World at One and in the Guardian because my view is that doing good business in not incompatible with publicly calling for respect for human rights and freedom of speech.

Liu Xiaobo needs to know that people in Britain are appalled that he was sent …

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Cameron admits foreign policy gaffe, mis-speaks that “Iran has got a nuclear weapon.”

There will be red faces in Number 10 tonight after the latest foreign policy gaffe from David Cameron. Speaking today at his one of his PM Direct events, the Conservative leader stuck up for Turkey’s application to join the EU, stating it would be able to help Europe address a number of issues:

I think be a good political influence because they can help us solve some of the world’s problems like the Middle East peace process, like the fact Iran has got a nuclear weapon.”

Except Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon. His advisors later clarified that Mr Cameron …

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