On 27 November, 2014, I spoke on the recent China-Russia energy deals and China's energy dynamics as they impact on Japan and the rest of the Asia-Pacific at a Windsor Energy Group event chaired by Lord Howell and hosted at the Japanese Embassy London by the Japanese Ambassador.
My presentation was based on the following research note.
Live panel discussion on World Insight with Beijing's China Central Television broadcast on 26 October, 2014
At the interview I made the point that China's concept of the rule of law is different from the West. There is no intention of embracing the Western idea of separation of powers between the administration, the judiciary and the legislature. And the rule of the Communist Party cannot be challenged, even as party officials are now held to account according to law. However, there are moves to improve the independence of the judicary by elevating powers to appoint local judges and the funding of the legal system to the provincial level. Additionally, ideas of institutionalizing the current corruption-infested system of "Letters and Petitions" system are beginning to be talked about.
What the promotion of the Rule of Law or Rule by Law actually means in China is further illustrated in the latest leader in The Economist (November 1-7, 2014).
A further article in the same issue highlights the new emphasis on the role in upholding the rule of law of China's Constitution, to which all officials will have to swear allegiance to in future. 4th December would henceforth be made the National Constitution Day.
This debunks the speculation surrounging earlier officially-sanctioned attacks against "constitutionism" that at best lip-service would hence forth be paid to the role of the Constitution in China's politics. What is to be understood is that the supremacy of the Party is enshrined in China's Constitution. That means that the Party's leadership cannot be questioned by China's laws. But that doesn't mean that Party members are above the law, as the recent anti-corruption campaign is at pains to emphasize.
Wikistrat is a proprietary cloud-sourced global strategic consultancy of which I am a Senior Analyst. It has just released a simulation report (October, 2014) looking at various scenarios over tensions in the East and South China Seas.
The following is the Report's Introduction -
""In recent years, the political situation in and around the East and South China Seas (ESCS) has become dramatically more complex. China’s growing power and increasing assertiveness have begun to worry many of the states thatmaintain claims to the waters, islands, and economic resources of the region. Meanwhile, the United States (U.S.)’s commitment to maintaining the international order it has established in East Asia has come into deep question.
A wide range of territorial disputes (among them the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the Spratlys, and the Scarborough Shoal) could spark confrontation between neighboring states. In addition to their significant strategic importance, control of these areas carries great symbolic weight, and has the potential to grant access to significant energy resources.
Regional states have responded to growing tensions with rapid naval and aerospace modernization. China has upgraded the capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) considerably over the last decade, as it has been developing new systems domestically and buying advanced weaponry from Russia. At the same time, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and South Korea have also upgraded their military capabilities. Anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) systems have advanced to the point where some question the ability of the United States Navy (USN) to operate freely.
In June 2014, more than seventy Wikistrat analysts ran a crowdsourced simulation intended to examine the factors that could drive stability and instability in these contested waters. The scenarios and policy options these analysts developed highlight the complexity of the political and economic issues at stake in the ESCS.
At a BBC World TV interview on 6 October, my fellow interviewee mentioned Hong Kong's identity. This I happened to have flagged up in an earlier TV interview on Beijing's CCTV.
As Mainland China's political, economic and social impacts on Hong Kong have grown dramatically in recent years, the perception that Hong Kong's unique identity and way of life may be at risk is feeding much of the passion driving what in many ways is a spontaneous student movement, with no lack of supporters from younger members of the general public.
This rising consciousness of Hong Kong's separate identity is well dissected in an aricle by Wang Gungwu, a celebrated historian who is now chairman of the East Asian Institute and a professor at the National University of Singapore. The article first featured in the Straits Times and was later reprinted in the South China Morning Post of 8 October, 2014. Download South China Morning Post - Wang Gungwu - Test of Wills
At the BBC interview, I referred to the genie let out of the bottle. It's a genie that obeys the dream in Hong Kong's young hearts and minds - the dream of a more equitable and just future where the leader is freely chosen by the people and fighting for their dreams. These aspirations are now famously symbolized by the so-called "Umbrella Revolution". Some jokingly refer to the umbrellas as "Weapons of Mass Democracy" (WMD).
That dream is articulated by a Hong Kong young lady in a video of the New York Times of 7 October and in an anonymous letter to the students by a HK Mainlander which first appeared in the Asia Literary Review and was reprinted in the South China Morning Post on 10 October, 2014. Download Letter to HK students - Tonight I picked a side
It is also captured in the impassioned songs sung loud by the crowds such as the Beatles' (John Lennon's) Imagineand Hong Kong's late pop singer Beyond's Broad Seas and Open Skies (in Cantonese).
These are manifestations of the so-called "Generation Z", born in the internet era and passionate with ideals to change the world, as expounded in a research paper of 22 October, 2014 by the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre, a Hong Kong think-tank. Download Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre 智經研究中心 - Generation Z (in Chinese)
This shows that a powerful driver of Hong Kong's civil disobedience movement is as much the dissatisfaction and frustration with an unequal and unjust society as the perceived erosion of Hong Kong's own identity, which a Chief Executive chosen by a narrow committee is perceived as unable to defend. Hence, the rapid build-up of broad-based support by the younger Generation Z, armed with passion and mobile technology.
Nevertheless, Beijing's worries about a free-for-all universal suffrage system for Hong Kong are well understood. Hence, safeguards in Article 45 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, to ensure what some may regard as wanting to know the outcome before an election is held. Click here
Moreover, there are suspicions that there could be more extraneous influence at work than meets the eye.Click here
On 11 October, the English edition of The People's Daily, China's official mouthpiece, featured a front-page articlesaying that Louisa Greve, Vice President of the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), met key members of the Occupy Central movement several months ago. Greve is responsible for Asia, Middle East and North Africa and was frequently associated with "Tibetan independence", "eastern Turkistan" and other independence movements. The article decries US's vain attempt to trigger a "Colour Revoultion" in China by fermenting an "Umbrella Revolution" in Hong Kong.
The timing of the latest revelations about CY Leung's pre-election deal with an Australian company may invite further suspicions.
Identity aside, social discontent out of unbridled capitalism, of which Hong Kong may be an exemplar, is rising across a globe embracing capitalism with a vengeance. In this regard, the Hong Kong young lady may well be speaking for the rest of the world.
The following are apt illustrations in this regard -
For China, Embarrassing Parallels Between Hong Kong Protestors and America's 99% , Ana Swanson, Forbes Online, 6 October, 2014 Click here
Hong Kong Occupy Central - Globalization, Capitalism, Identity - IMD Professor Jean-Pierre Lehmann, Forbes Online, 5 October, 2014 Click here
With the dynamics playing out for the heart and soul of Hong Kong under the One Country Two Systems formula, Hong Kong is near what I would call a Martin Luther King moment. There comes a time when a society's rift has to be healed. A game of chicken is no substitute. It's time for both sides to explore pragmatic ideas for the way forward. Some are suggested in my Op-ed article in the South China Morning Post of 7 Ootober.
My participation in a radio panel discussion on Voice of Russia on 8 October together with Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World and an RT analyst.
Voice of Russia's brief transcript is here. Please note that the reference to a "Law Arbritration Committee"" is erroneous. If my intervention was carefully listened to, I did refer to a "nominating committee"" under Hong Kong's Basic Law. Naturally, the overall slant of the discussion was not as balanced as I wished.
My live TV interview with Beijing's CCTV English on 5 October, 2014. I ventured to highlight the conundrum of One Country Two Systems as the student and other protests in Hong Kong reflect a growing clash of identities with those in the motherland. My interview slot starts at 16:50 of the recorded TV clip.