A June 2015 issue of China Analysis, a compendium of analyses by Chinese experts on the Mainland and overseas compiled by the European Council for Foreign Relations, a Brussels-based global think-tank, and Asia Centre, a European research body, focuses on the many challenges and opportunities of China's epic New Silk Road initiative of continental proportions.
The Silk Road projects are said to connect countries that represent 55% world GNP, 70 % global population, and 75% of global known energy reserves. They call into question China's possible over-reach, her real intentions, their impact on international relations including neighbors, and the shape of the world order in which the United States and its allies have an immense stake.
The compendium contains various insights on whether, and if so, to what extent, the New Silk Road initiative can be viewed in purely economic and cooperative terms and how China should address a host of practical and geopolitical challenges if the historic project is to realize its full potential as an instrument for global peace and development.
Greetings! My very best wishes to you and your family for an enjoyable and restful summer.
As we go about our daily life and business, the world is becoming increasingly confrontational. Order and trust seem to be breaking down.
A rising Islamic State (ISIS) is occupying a large swathe of territory in Iraq and Syria. Important historical artifacts and heritage sites had been vandalized, pilfered or smashed. No superpower seems able or willing to go all the way to stop it in its tracks.
In the Asia-Pacific, the United States, along with Japan, seems to be intensifying covert or overt tussles with a rising and more assertive China. These manifest themselves in military, trade, economic, and other forms of power rivalry in the South China Sea and beyond.
In Hong Kong, at the time of writing, the impasse over the shape of universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive (top leader) in 2017 is looking increasingly ominous. Lack of sufficient votes in the Legislature for the government’s proposals to pass seems a certainty. The endgame is up on 17 June when the proposals are widely expected to be voted down, barring last-minute black swans.
In a rapidly changing world that is becoming more Monet than Caravaggio, you may wish to visit some of the following for perspectives on what is going on in the world beneath the surface.
Geopolitics and International Relations
Are China’s ambitions in the South China Sea a threat? (A TV panel debate on Inside Story with Aljazeera English during the Asia Security Summit in Singapore, 29-31 May)
Turkish-China Relations: New Silk Road in a Changing World (PowerPoint presentation at the 2015 Forum Istanbul , Turkey on 28 April and at Tsinghua University on 10 April, 2015)
US-China 21- The Future of US-China Relations under Xi Jinping ( A Report for the Harvard Kennedy School by the Honourable Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia)
Explaining China's Foreign Policy Reset (A Paper by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR))
Russia-China relations and the changing world order (Radio interview on The World Tonight with BBC World Service)
Resurgence of Russia and China from an Islamic perspective (2015 Annual Strategic Brief by The Institute for Islamic Strategic Affairs (IISA), a London-based think-tank)
China's Energy Dynamics 2015 (My Paper in Surviving the Storm, The New Geopolitics of Energy published by the Medina Publishing Ltd, United Kingdom)
US forbids Intel from exporting chips to China for updating world's currently most powerful supercomputer (BBC story and live interview on RT) Click here
Europe's Shattered Dream of Order (A Foreign Affairs analysis)
Civil War in Yemen (An ECFR analysis by a seasoned Yemen specialist)
Warnings of China's imminent collapse are - once again - greatly exaggerated (Op-ed in the South China Morning Post)
Communist Youth League to recruit over 10 million volunteer netizens by end of June (An overview)
China unveils roadmap to judicial, social reform (A report in the People’s Daily)
If the above reading appears too serious, you may wish to relax a bit by checking out my website’s repertoire of inspirational music videos,nature at its best, moving songs, words of wisdom, as well as fun and humour, including a collection in Chinese.
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Speaking and lecturing opportunities
Throughout the year, I am open to invitations for speaking engagements, visiting lectures, university summer programs, or tailor-made electives on China as a visiting professor anywhere around the world, using English or Putonghua as a medium of instruction. I am prepared to stay on or near the campus for anything up to several weeks. Please email me with proposals.
A business networking and speaking platform in Hong Kong
As an Advisor to the Denmark-based Executives’ Global Network (EGN) Hong Kong, I wish to extend to you the opportunity of fielding a suitable speaker for an EGN event in Hong Kong. This will be entirely at our own cost with acknowledgement of your support or that of your organization, provided that we are not asked to cover any speaking fee, travel or accommodation expenses.
For background on EGN, please visit the following links -
I will be visiting London from end-June to early-September this year. Up to now, I have accepted an invitation to address the Reform Club, the National Liberal Club, and the Cass Business School. If you wish to make use of my summer stay in London, please give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Separately, my family will be enjoying a week’s relaxation at a small garden villa near Florence commencing Saturday 29 August. You are welcome to visit us for tea or stay with us to share the delights of the Tuscan hills. If you are so inclined, please tell us early so that suitable arrangements can be made. Owing to space limitations, we can take on only up to two couples.
Scam – stolen identity
My identity was stolen by hackers in the wake of my last e-Newsletter. I have since changed to more robust passwords for all my email accounts. There is, however, an impersonation using a make-believe email address email@example.com If you should come across mail from this address, it’s not yours truly.
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Chairman and CEO, Andrew Leung International Consultants Limited (Founded in London, now re-incorporated in Hong Kong) China Futures Fellow, Berkshire Publishing Group, Massachusetts, USA (2011-13) Brain Trust Member, The Evian Group (global think-tank), Lausanne, Switzerland Gerson Lehrman Group (Global Experts) Council Member International Expert, Reuters Insight Community of Experts, Thompson Reuters Senior Analyst, Wikistrat, a cloud-sourced global strategic consultancy Senior Consultant, MEC International (a UK-based global strategic energy consultancy) Distinguished Contributor, Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance (ATCA) (global think-tank) Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA) Elected Member, Royal Society for Asian Affairs Advisory Board Member, The e-Centre, European Centre for e-Commerce and Internet Law Advisory Board Member, The Global Analyst, India Hong Kong Advisory Board Member, Denmark-based Executive Global Network (EGN) Global Commercial Agent, Changsha City, China Visiting Professor, London Metropolitan University Business School (The following until 19 May 2010, on permanent relocation back to Hong Kong) Governing Council Member, King’s College London, UK (2004-2010) Advisory Board Member, China Policy Institute, Nottingham University, UK (2005 -2010) Founding Chairman, China Group, Institute of Directors City Branch, London, UK (2006-2010) Vice Chairman, 48 Group Club, UK (2008-2010) Committee Member of RSA, London Region, UK (2006-2010) Visiting Professor, Sun Yat-sen University Business School, China (2005-10)
Included in UK's Who's Who since 2002 Awarded the Silver Bauhinia Star (SBS) in the July 2005 Hong Kong Honours List
A research note of the European Union Academic Programme (EUAP), Hong Kong (Issue 15, 2 June, 2015) shows how “China’s One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative is poised to link China’s trajectory to become the world’s largest economy to the heart of Europe.
The note, written by a Research Associate (my namesake with no family or other connections) points out that well before the launch of OBOR, direct rail links were rapidly being established between key cities in the heartlands of Europe and China. These include Chongqing to Duisburg, Germany in 2011; Wuhan to Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2012; Chengdu to Lodz, Suzhou to Warsaw, Poland and Zhengzhou to Hamburg in 2013; Yiwu to Madrid in 2014; and Wuhan to Hamburg in 2015.
Most of these routes and new ones through the overland Silk Road Economic Belt go through Central Asia (Kazakhstan),Russia and Belarus.
These rail links cut transport time from 30-45 days by sea to 12-21 days and are 4-5 times less expensive than air freight. They are also greener in carbon footprints.
The Maritime Silk Road will connect China’s south eastern and southern coastal cities with Europe (Venice and Athens) via India and Africa.
Through a $50 billion Silk Road Fund and a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), China will be investing in strengthening much-needed transport infrastructure, including port facilities, that are set to embed China into Europe and Europe in China towards closer partnership and common destiny.
The State Council issued China’s Military Strategy 2015, a White Paper, on 26 May. It gives ample space to clarifying China’s strategic intentions. The Paper makes clear that China continues to vouchsafe never to seek hegemony but will be ready for “counter-attack if attacked”.
It reaffirms China’s strategic goal is to realize a moderately prosperous society by 2021, the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and the China Dream of a “prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally-advanced and harmonious” socialist nation by 2049, the centenary of the PRC.
On the other hand, the Paper stresses that while a world war is unlikely, a rising China now faces a host of uncertainties including “hegemonism, power politics, and neo-interventionism”, "fermented color-revolutions"as well as “international competition for redistribution of power, rights and interests”, terrorism, hotspot issues, and risks of “small-scale wars”.
These challenges are informed by the United States’ “rebalancing” strategy and Japan’s resurgence, some of China’s neighbours’ “provocative behaviour”, issues over Taiwan, and threats to China’s strategic Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs).
China recognizes the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) in terms of long-range, precision, smart, stealth, and unmanned weapons, including outer-space and cyber varieties.
China therefore needs to embrace “Active Defence” pushing from land to “Open Sea Protection”.
In this regard, the PLAA (Army) will focus on “trans-theatre mobility” in “multi-dimensional, multi-functional, and sustainable operations”.
The PLAN (Navy) should develop both “offshore water defence” and “open sea” operations as a “modern maritime military force” to safeguard China’s territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests, including SLOCs.
The PLAAF (Air Force) hould develop into an “Air-Space Defence Force” equipped for “informatized warfare”, “airborne operations”, “strategic projects”, and “comprehensive support”. It will continue to develop early warning, air strike as well as air and missile defence capabilities. While opposing outer-space weaponization, China will continue to secure “space assets” and seek to maintain “outer-space” security.
The PLASAF (Second Artillery) will be fully prepared to deliver “strategic deterrence”, both nuclear and conventional, including medium and long-range precision strikes, missile penetration, rapid reaction, and survivability. However, China unconditionally pledges never to use nuclear arms first nor enter into a nuclear arms race.
The Paper embodies a variety of military concepts such as “Joint Operations”, “Integrated Systems”, “Civil-Military Integration (CMI)”, and “Preparation for Military Struggle (PMS)” including reconnaissance, command and control, Outline of Military Training and Evaluation (OMTE).
The Chinese military is to be equipped with highly-professional personnel, training and “strategic management”, embracing science and technology and productive of forward-looking military theories and strategies. It should also be prepared to undertake Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTWs) as well as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
The Paper also emphasizes all-around, pro-active, non-aligned military-to-military and security co-operations with both Russia and the United States as well as many other countries and regions across the globe, including the hosting of military events.
To avoid unwanted military escalation, attention is to be given to “emergency notification, military risk precaution, crisis management, and conflict control”. The object is to deepen mutual understanding, mutual trust and mutual learning in a spirit of “Mutual Respect, Equality, Mutual Benefit, and All-Win Cooperation”.
N.B. The most tale-telling focus of the new military strategy is the desire to build the PLAN into a blue-water defensive force, stretching from China's littoral waters to the broad swathe of the South China Sea, across the Indian Ocean to China's maritime Silk Road through the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. The latter's inclusion of Djibouti (in the horn of Africa at the entrance of the Red Sea) is instructive.
For background on Djibouti's self-declared role as a rental naval base to the US, France and now China, visit the following expose dated 11 July, 2015 from ChinaSignPost, a strategic consultancy.
There is a great deal of insight in the analysisEurope's Shattered Dream of Order: How Putin Is Disrupting the Atlantic Alliance in the May/June 2015 issue of Foreign Affairs byIvan Krastev, Chair of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, and Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and Mark Leonard, Co-Founder and Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
However, I may enter a caveat on the suggested EU strategy to embrace the Eurasian Economic Union to drive a wedge between Russia and China.
Russia and China now need each other more than before. Russia's sole dependence on energy exports finds a ready and massive customer, unfettered by Western sanctions. Russian energy offers China alternative transit routes against choke points in the unstable Persian Gulf or the Malacca Strait controlled by the US 7th Fleet. (Similar calculations apply to China's leading role in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia.)
Above all, both are feeling that the West, especially the United States, is adopting a covert policy of military and economic containment against both of these perceived increasingly-assertive powers, if not discreet political and ideological subversion. So these common geopolitical calculations are bringing the two countries closer together.
However, Russia and China are not forming themselves into a bloc. Blocs don't often work in an increasingly inter-dependent and interconnected world. Nor are they forming a rigid alliance.
Indeed, there remains quiet suspicions and rivalry on both sides. The scars of history also run deep in China as much of Russia's Siberian East was seized from the Middle Kingdom during the tail end of her dynastic reigns. Now with more and more Chinese settlements in the Russia Far East, the danger for Russia exists that at some future point, a Crimea-style civil referendum may happen spontaneously near China's Siberian border.
Listen to my latest radio panel discussion on BBC Newshour and The World Tonight on 24 April.
As Mark Leonard rightly points out in his FT article, global influence is now more likely to be achieved through geo-economics, rather than the military.
I should add another important dimension for the 21st Century. That is global connectivity.
Apart from the internet, infrastructural links are vital, especially high-speed rail, ports, and trade links. This explains China's epic strategy of One Belt, One Road., which is designed to connect China with Asia, the Indian Ocean, East Africa, the Mediterranean, West Europe, Russia, and Central Asia.
Interestingly, China is also interested in expanding her links with the Eurasian Economic Union, an area rich in resources and a growing middle-class. I alluded to this my recent PowerPoint presentation at the Forum Istanbul, Turkey on 28 April.
In light of the above, I don't see how the EU's best option is to attempt to drive a wedge between Russia and China.
A more effective EU strategy would seem to capitalize on both the Eurasian Economic Union and China's One Belt, One Road strategy by integrating the vast EU market with these initiatives. That way, Russia and China would be drawn more to EU's strengths, in terms of quality standards, regulatory institutions, values, and other norms.
As alluded by Mark Leonard before, the EU's greatest hope to lead the 21st century is through these soft powers, rather than through any Mearsheimerian "Offensive Realism".
My PowerPoint presentation on 28th April at the 2015 Forum Istanbul, a high-level annual conference with a full-length opening address by the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister the Right Honorable Ali Babacan.
The Institute for Islamic Strategic Affairs (IISA), a London-based think-tank with a trans-Islamic and global reach, issues its 2015 Annual Strategic Brief on the Resurgence of Russia and China and what it means for regional and global world order.
The Report concludes -
""2014 has demonstrated that the global power balance has shifted far more quickly than many had predicted, with China beginning to make significant changes to the global financial system, making its influence and presence in Asia more visible. With many Western countries now joining the Chinese led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), China’s challenge to the existing international order has clearly begun. It is therefore clear that the Sino-Russian nexus will be increasingly important in 2015 and beyond, with China moving beyond the peaceful rise of Hu Jintao and embracing a far more involved and assertive foreign policy under Xi Jinping. In the future, 2014/15 will likely be regarded as a defining point in the history of world order."
The following extracts from an insightful analysis by Adam Baron, a seasoned Yemen specialist, in a March 2015 Policy Memo for ECFR (European Council for Foreign Relations), a Brussels-based think-tank, captures the heart of a complex web of rising conflicts between various Yemeni factions as well as their foreign backers.
"Houthis hold the north but hegemony has yet to set in in the bulk of the country. The centre is contested between the rebels and forces deeply opposed to their control, and the south provides a theatre for the various tensions between Houthi expansion, general popular unrest, and Hadi’s attempt to reassert his legitimacy. And even areas to the south of Sanaa where the Houthis have worked to consolidate their power remain far from calm, as resentment and anxiety builds in many parts of the country."
"While there are reportedly divisions in the Saudi royal family, the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs largely view the Houthis as spectres of Iranian encirclement, casting them as a key potential threat to their sovereignty and security. This framework of the conflict in Yemen as a front in a regional battle between Sunni Arab states and Shi’a Iran, while an oversimplification, is increasingly adopted by the Gulf states’ partners within the Sunni-majority country."
".....with the return of key secessionist exiles close to Saudi Arabia, it appears that the Gulf states are treating the secession of the south as a back-up plan, using longstanding relationships to groom a potential leadership."
"If Yemen continues to fracture along regional lines, full-on GCC support for a bid for independence in the south is well within the realm of possibilities."
"But while the Gulf states’ focus on the Houthis’ ties with Iran may be somewhat misplaced, there is little question that a Houthi-ruled or Houthi-influenced Yemen will see the centre of gravity shift towards Iran at the expense of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states."
".... it appears that Iran aims to have a friendly government in Sanaa, albeit not one that is necessarily hostile to Saudi Arabia. And while hardliners within the Iranian government have heaped praise upon the Houthis’ takeover of Sanaa, many have argued that Tehran has ultimately been pleasantly surprised by the extent and speed of the group’s gains."
"The Houthis’ public moves towards Russia and China would appear to underline the shift away from the United States. Former president Hadi’s closest ally, perhaps, was Washington, which saw the government as a key partner in the battle against the Yemen-based AQAP."(al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula)
"Finally, fears over the potential blockage of the strategic Babel-Mandeb strait, an oil transit chokepoint where the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean meet, have led to increasingly bellicose rhetoric from Egypt. Many have expressed worries that the Houthi rebels could directly seize control of the Yemeni side of the strait, and Egyptian officials, most notably the head of the Suez Canal Authority, have explicitly threatened to intervene militarily in Yemen if the strait is blocked."
"European policy in Yemen has often been stifled by key players’ mixed priorities: Germany has maintained a focus on economic development, France has been perceived as focusing on its economic interests in the country, while the UK has focused on political matters and a security agenda that dovetails closer to that of the US than any other partner. Still, despite the challenges represented by these divisions, collective action can allow European nations to potentially shape Yemen’s political path for the better."
"It is worth noting that, among EU states, Germany’s ties with the Houthis do present a unique opportunity for reaching out to the group; Abdulmalek al-Houthi’s brother, Yahya, was granted asylum in Germany and lived there until returning from exile in 2013. Simultaneously, the UK continues to be looked upon positively by most key southern factions, maintaining many relationships dating back to its presence in Aden. London has assumed a leadership role through chairing the “Friends of Yemen”, a grouping of international donors."
"Regardless of anxieties regarding Iran’s increased role in Yemen, simply condemning its influence is far from likely to spur constructive engagement from Tehran while appearing to confirm perceptions that the West is irredeemably biased towards the Gulf states. The EU is in a position to constructively engage with Tehran and try to pursuade the Iranian government to help push the Houthis towards meaningful talks and a power-sharing agreement."
"Thus, European powers must stand firm on the necessity of an inclusive government for Yemen and press (and reassure) their Gulf allies on the point. If war and fragmentation can be avoided, then Europe will also quickly and meaningfully have to invest in securing the peace by helping Yemen address the root of the country’s problems and its next greatest challenge: its moribund economy."
It is clear that the civil war in Yemen, a failed state with a broken economy and society, is as much about factional rivalries as about geopolitical calculations behind foreign levers of power, including Sunni-Shia mistrust, the fight against al-Qaeda, regional security and long-term super-power interests.