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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