CHINA’S PANDA DIPLOMACY

An Instrument in China’s Statecraft Toolkit  

In 2010, China expressed its discontent by recalling its Panda Tai Shan from the United States after the US provided €4.6 billion weapons help package to Taiwan.  The dragon was more infuriated once it learned regarding the visit of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to Washington. This instance amply demonstrates the importance of Panda in Chinese diplomacy. 

However, this was not the first time when Panda was involved in any diplomatic engagement by China.  Mao Zedong, in fact, used Panda in getting into any diplomatic discussions during his time.  The Chinese national animal; Panda has been a key representative of Chinese diplomacy due to its rarity and cultural relevance since the Cold War.

Genesis and Brief History

The saga of China’s rise to attain the status of the world’s leading power is told in many ways. One school of thought suggests that there are several obstacles in the way of that sort of hegemonic change where China assumes the status of a credible and influential alternative to the US.  Issues looming large are civil liberties, demographic issues, and feasibility of communist party remaining in power with a growing middle class.  The instability would render China unable to surpass the United States.

Another school of thought proclaims, China outperforming the US, as inevitable.   The Chinese economy will eventually grow large enough to combat the United States’ economy.  More often than not, economic might also translates into political power.  If ‘Rising and Assertive, Belligerent China’ narrative gains currency, other nations may employ political measures, attempting to limit economic influence from China.  Dragon is trying to get around this picture.  By increasing its attractiveness, China tries to gain trust and ability to get others to become favorable to its so-called narrative of ‘Peaceful Rise.’  This is where the panda enters the picture.

Dragon’s Public Diplomacy


Public diplomacy can be defined as a means of increasing a country’s soft power channelled however through civil society rather than the traditional government to government way.  It includes activities to create familiarity and knowledge about a country and thereafter increasing the appreciation and projecting a favorable image of it.

The practice of using pandas as a gift to other nations is perhaps most famously done in 1972.  An epic meeting between Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong deserves a mention here.  At the time of the meeting, two pandas and American musk ox were exchanged to symbolize the strengthened ties between the nations.  Pandas have since then been given as gifts to countries when different states of heads came to visit China.  This practice, however, invited criticism from international NGOs and environmentalist disagreeing with the handling of an endangered animal.

Since then the pandas are now being loaned to other nations.  Rules were also specified regarding the offspring of any Panda couple gifted by China.  All pandas, even if they are born abroad belong to the Chinese state.  The receiving country must pay an annual fee to the Chinese state for keeping them.   Some zoos even report big loses because of the expensive upkeep. However, the panda giving still remains a diplomatic tool.

Symbolism

The pandas are seen as a symbol of co-operation between China and the receiving country. They are also a depiction for increased scientific and technological co-operation.  However, keeping the pandas are not the only thing negotiated.  Indeed pandas are representing a seal of approval, if a government agrees to take care of the pandas it shows a long-term commitment to the relationship between the countries.

Guanxi (关系) – literal meaning ‘Relationship’-  in Chinese parlance is an important concept.  It attributes enormous credence to personalized social networks of power.  A significant part of Guanxi is gift giving.  It is once the relationship and partnership between China and a particular nation are consolidated, then only the country can be considered to receive a panda.

China-Nordic Relations

It was announced that two out of the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) would receive a pair of pandas. Finland received two Pandas in January 2018 followed by Denmark which received pandas in April 2019.

With China-Iceland, China- Denmark and China-Sweden bilateral trade not exactly significant, no panda diplomacy is visible. 

Japan and the United States

In most countries with pandas, there has only been one instance of panda diplomacy. While in some of them the contract of leasing the panda has been prolonged, such as in Germany which received a pair of pandas already in the 1970s and then again in 2017, although in most cases, there have not been more pandas sent. 

Other exceptions to this postulate are Japan and the United States which also have the most pandas outside of China. Furthermore, they are also China’s biggest trading partners.  A holistic analysis of bilateral relations reveals that whenever engagement between China and either Japan or the US increased the panda diplomacy took place.

Taiwan

In the case of Taiwan, the practice of panda diplomacy could be regarded as a special case. China does not recognize Taiwan’s proclaimed position as an independent nation.  Although there is some agreement on the ‘One China’ concept,    accordingly China and Taiwan both acquiesce that there is only one China.  Taiwan albeit refrains from unequivocally stating, which one it is.

From the official perspective of China, pandas sent to Taiwan could be interpreted as mere relocation domestically.  Aim of giving Taiwan two pandas in 2005 probably was to send them as a gesture of goodwill and to change the negative opinion that the Taiwanese held towards China.

But, the pandas and the intent behind them were met by suspicion and they were not accepted. After several meetings between different organizations, diplomats, and zoologists among many, China continually tried to make Taiwan accept them. The uniqueness of this case lies in the unprecedented participation of the Chinese public.  In an internet event, people could send in name suggestions to name the pandas set for Taiwan, and an estimate is that over 1.3 million Chinese people participated in naming the pandas.

The names were Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan which combined Tuanyuan (团 圆 ) translates to “reunion”.  The sitting president whose party held a pro-Taiwan independence line realized the political implications and refused to accept them.  It was only in 2008 when the more pro-China president Ma was elected into the office, that the not so solemn proposal was agreed upon and pandas were finally accepted by Taiwan.

Epilogue

Panda diplomacy could in some ways be regarded as a source of hard power instead of soft power, which is the opposite of the initial premise. While sending a panda to another consenting country clearly does not have any military implication, it could potentially be regarded as a caveat.

The panda-receiving zoo usually experiences an increase in its visitors as well as tourism in the regions/country. However, the huge cost for both maintenance and care of the pandas, and fees paid to the Chinese state covering the rental cost typically outweighs the income earned from them even in the most popular zoos.

So, the economic burden of caretaking of pandas manifests against the perception of them being a generous gift.  The only exception being in Taiwan where the pandas also carried a political message and is a case where panda diplomacy initially can be regarded as a failure as the pandas did not manage to alter the opinion of China as it was expected to.

Viewpoint

In preceding paragraphs, an attempt has been made to research the role of panda diplomacy as a part of Chinese public diplomacy. The subject evinced enhanced interest from the author especially since the concept of panda diplomacy has been a subject of intrigue and enigma among the public and in the media, especially in the light of a panda arriving at their country.

Panda with their uniqueness and strong ties to China, which through successfully engaging the public continuously manage to connect the animal to the country, are both a useful tool in public diplomacy and a source of soft power.  As could be seen, it is not a typical way of conducting public diplomacy but it is apparent that it is meant to strengthen the relationship between China and the receiving country depicting a long-term commitment between the nations.

The countries chosen as could be seen in the example of the Nordic countries not only are of economic interest to China but also already have a good relationship and strong ties with a dragon.  Trade agreements are still negotiated without having a panda sent and a potential explanation could in the case of too small economies be the lack of resources to be able to commit to taking care of a panda for the required period.

Panda diplomacy seems to be an effective public diplomacy measure as the attention that pandas get in the media projects a benign picture of China.  Owing to the ceremonial and highly official way that panda diplomacy is conducted, through panda diplomacy China strives to create the image of a nation emphasizing the strong bond and exhibiting its deep trust and commitment to long term cooperation with the panda-receiving nation.

29 May 19/Wednesday                                                             Written by Naphisa

CPEC – A TICKING TIMEBOMB

BLA threatens Chinese premier Xi Jinping 

CPEC has become a major trigger for Baloch insurgents, galvanizing their movement as they employ new tactics, including suicide attacks in an escalation that could send China into a frenzy.

Majeed Brigade, also known as the “Suicide Squad” of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) on Sunday in a video threatened Chinese President Xi Jinping to withdraw CPEC from Balochistan or else face dire consequences.

The  masked commander in the video claimed that a special unit has been formed in Majeed Brigade to particularly “attack Chinese officials and installations in Balochistan.”

In reference to the attack on Pearl Continental Hotel in Gwadar a week ago, the commander said, “The motive of our attack was to inflict heavy losses upon both Pakistan and China.” He further added this is a continuous operation that has been initiated to safeguard the Baloch Sea from China and Pakistan.

The Majeed Fidayeen Brigade is well-equipped with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), anti-personnel & anti-tank mines, grenades, RPGs and various automatic weapons as well as BM-12, 107MM, 109MM type rockets.  They also have sophisticated explosives such as C4 for making suicide vests, and they are also equipped with M4 rifles. Therefore these threats cannot be taken lightly anymore, as BLA’s intentions are very clear. Anger against the Chinese and Pakistan Army is for real and powerful. The desire and capacity to attack is highly visible. A timeline of such attacks opposing CPEC are listed as under:

  • The first suicide attack carried out and claimed by the Majeed Fidayeen Brigade was on December 30, 2011, when the group attempted to kill former Minister Nasser Mengal at his house in Quetta with a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED). The attack, which was formally claimed by the BLA, left 13 people dead and 30 more injured.
  • 10 laborers were killed by two BLA gunmen on motorbikes in Gwadar, on 13 May 2017.
  • On 14 August 2017, BLA claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb blast that killed 8 FC troops in Harnai.
  • In August 2018, BLA attacked Chinese engineers traveling in a bus in Dalbandin. Three Chinese engineers and five others were injured.
  • A direct attack against the Chinese consulate in Karachi was carried out in November 2018, in which two police officers and two visa applicants were killed.
  • Last month, an alliance of Baloch separatist groups ambushed a passenger bus en route from Gwadar to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and carried out target killing of 14 Pakistani soldiers.
  • The most recent being the attack on the five-star Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar which left four hotel employees and a Pakistan Navy soldier dead and six others including two army captains, two navy soldiers, and two hotel employees critically injured.

Virgin Economy exploited by the Chinese

The BLA and other armed groups have been demanding autonomy and a fairer share of resources for more than a decade. Their claim that for long they were neglected by the Pakistani state and their virgin economy is now up for grabs by the Chinese cannot be overruled.

The atrocities on Baloch people have only increased as Pakistan further stepped up its systematic violence to pave way for the much-hyped CPEC. Over the past few years, thousands of Baloch political activists and intellectuals have disappeared, many brutally killed by Pakistan’s snooping agency and army. This has intensified their rebellion against the Pakistani state.

Viewpoint

Forceful listing of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist and these threats by BLA have put the so-called “project of the century” under serious threat, giving Chinese officials sleepless nights.  For obvious reasons a lot is at stake for the Chinese and they would not let CPEC drown at this stage. Therefore various possibilities seem to be emerging out of the current scenario:

  • Rise in targeted suicide bombings of high profile Chinese officials.
  • Orchestrated attacks on armed personnel of Pakistan Army & Navy.
  • Counter attacks/ retaliation by Pakistan Army.
  • High possibility of Chinese boots on the ground in Gwadar, Balochistan.

CPEC is the focal point of the economic corridor planned by the Chinese. Gwadar port is a strategic asset for the Chinese as it solves the logistical nightmare of crossing Mallacan straits during the war, which other countries can easily choke off.

So the Chinese will leave no stone unturned to fructify this project even at the cost of bleeding Pakistan’s adopted province – Balochistan.

Whether Chinese forces are already deployed in Balochistan is a mystery since there were a few reports which suggested so.  China expects Pakistan to provide security for CPEC. Ultimately there is no free lunch even in relationships which are “deeper than the ocean, higher than the Himalayas and sweeter than honey”. So Pakistan will have to bear the security costs in an area which is breeding ground for extremist anarchy.

However, it’s an open secret that China is unhappy over the Pakistani Army’s alleged inability to ensure the safety of the project despite repeated assurances. Therefore, in case the Pakistan Army is unable to tackle the deteriorating situation, Chinese forces will most certainly be deployed in Gwadar, Balochistan. The Chinese mean business and any loss of Chinese lives on Pakistani soil imply Chinese military intervention. It would be done either silently or openly with total disregard to the image of Pakistan Army.  Much to their dislike Pakistanis will have to accept this compromise of sovereignty, as beggars are not choosers.

Pakistan in effect is turning into a colony of China – apart from being called so, China exerts a seemingly free hand in Pakistan without the necessary consent of Pakistani people. An economically riddled, puppet government heading Pakistan is not capable of doing much to stop China in favor of the already neglected Baloch people. In short, it’s fait acompli for the already suffering people of Balochistan.  

20 May 2019/ Monday                                                                               Written By Afsana

CHINA’S BALOCHISTAN PROBLEM

On Tuesday, news broke that Aslam Baloch, the mastermind of the recent attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, had been killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan. While no group has accepted responsibility for the attack, the greatest celebrations were seen among Pakistani military officials, the country’s right-wing media, and centrist politicians.

One senator who formerly served as the interior minister in the country’s largest province, Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan, stunned many by calling the suicide attack in the neighboring country and the loss of human lives “great news.” This provided analysts with ample reason to suspect Pakistan or its Taliban proxies in Afghanistan of plotting the terrorist attack.

There are a broader context and background to why a Pakistani politician would rejoice in a suicide attack in neighboring Afghanistan, a country that, ironically, desperately needs Pakistan’s support to achieve peace and stability.

The attack eliminated one of the top leaders of the Baloch Liberation Army, an underground armed group that has been waging an insurgency in Pakistan for an independent Baloch homeland for more than a decade. Although Pakistan has insisted for several years that India was supporting groups like the BLA via Afghanistan, Islamabad has produced hardly any evidence to substantiate the claims of Indian assistance for the Baloch movement, nor could it accurately pinpoint where the Baloch fighters were hiding in Afghanistan.

The only evidence that the Pakistanis keep referring to is the arrest of an alleged Indian spy from Balochistan in March 2016 whom they describe as the architect, master trainer, and financier of the Baloch rebellion. That does not satisfactorily address the remaining question as to why Balochistan had been the epicenter of resistance, unrest, and resentment toward the central government for six decades before this Indian spy was arrested.

The killing of the BLA leader and his colleagues is a big deal for Pakistan because the attack, for the first time, provides evidence that Baloch leaders and activists were actually living in Afghanistan.

In recent years, the Baloch sense of insecurity has dramatically increased because of China’s growing presence in Balochistan under the umbrella of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). While the majority of Pakistanis are excited about the Chinese investment, the Balochs, who have had a horrific history of being exploited and militarily knocked down by the Pakistanis, fear the arrival of the Chinese because they suspect China and Pakistan of collaborating to marginalize them further in the name of “development.”

In a desperate attempt to scare the Chinese or at least convey a warning, three activists from the BLA carried out a failed attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi on November 23. Security officials responded swiftly and killed all three attackers. However, the BLA and its supporters did not necessarily view the outcome as a failure. Since the attack targeted the Chinese diplomatic mission, it drew more media attention than a normal attack by insurgents inside Pakistan; the Baloch guerrillas believed that at least it helped them convey a message to the world that they oppose the Chinese presence in Balochistan.

However, the attack put the Pakistani authorities under pressure not only to make sure that they went after groups that threaten Chinese personnel, projects and interests inside the country but also to take measures to guard China’s multibillion-dollar investment in CPEC.

Apparently, Islamabad isn’t going so far as to take credit for the attack that killed the senior BLA leader, but it will still happily walk up to the Chinese with some “great news,” as the senator from Balochistan put it, that the enemy has been weakened and the mastermind of the consulate attack has been brought to justice.

Coincidently, I had interviewed Aslam Baloch four days before his assassination. He sounded obsessed with and incensed by China and its growing activities in Balochistan. I asked why his organization had executed the Karachi strike; he said, “The objectives were obvious. China and Pakistan are partnering to challenge the future of the Baloch people under the disguise of development. They want to outnumber us in Balochistan.”

Unrepentant of the consulate attack and unafraid to continue the resistance, Baloch, 43, ruled out the prospects of any compromise with the Chinese. All he wanted was for Beijing to “give up all your exploitative developmental projects and get out of Balochistan.” I asked if any terms and conditions could bring all sides to the negotiation table; there was no such hint.

“We are fighting a war for our survival,” he said. “We can’t afford to compromise on the collective future of the Baloch people.”

Deep resentment and genuine grievances aside, the Baloch nationalists do not have a solid game plan to win their battle against Beijing and Islamabad. For years, their under-resourced movement has been based on the false hope that someday the world order will change and global powers such as the United States or India will come to help them win their freedom.

As things stand today, no country in the world, including the US and India, seems to favor destabilizing or disintegrating Pakistan. I talk to a lot of Baloch leaders and activists. They don’t seem to get this reality or at least acknowledge it.

It is indeed unwise to base an entire movement merely on a policy of hope. The miracle of foreign assistance for the Baloch did not happen in the past decade; it will probably not occur any time soon.

With US President Donald Trump’s recent announcement to the withdrawal of 7,000 of American troops from Afghanistan, the Baloch nationalists will have to prepare for harsh days ahead, as Afghanistan under the influence of the Taliban will no longer be a safe sanctuary.

With China, Pakistan, Iran and a Taliban-led Afghanistan, the Balochs will be surrounded by hostile forces on all sides. But while it might seem tempting and comfortable for the big powers to eliminate the Baloch nationalists militarily using proxies such as the Taliban, they must exercise restraint and find a way for a political settlement. There is no shortcut to peace. All stakeholders must commit to undergoing the ordeal of tough negotiations and agree to give up their stated positions on various policy issues.

If proxy groups or local death squads are used to find a prompt resolution in Balochistan, it might lead to a new humanitarian crisis and bloodbath. The Chinese deputy chief of mission in Islamabad has been belligerent, condescending and disrespectful in his public diplomacy and outreach to the Pakistani public in general and the Balochs in particular. This is deeply disconcerting and such behavior needs a quick correction.

The thousands of Balochs who have migrated to Iran or Afghanistan because of the ongoing conflict should be assured that their home is safe and they will not be attacked or harassed if they return. They should be resettled and rehabilitated honorably instead of left at the mercy of the groups that are imbued with a spirit of revenge and punishment toward their enemies.

All parties must listen to one another’s perspectives and find a peaceful solution to the prolonged insurgency in Balochistan, which has claimed thousands of lives. China must do its share to address the Baloch reservations to ensure the success of its engagement in Balochistan. If Pakistan can support talks with the Taliban, why can’t it do the same in Balochistan?

28 Dec 18/Friday                                                                                 Source: Asia Times

CPEC SHOCKER FOR BALOCHISTAN

Pakistan government have come out, probably with a Christmas gift for the people of Balochistan who are fast disappearing without any trace. Gift is a disclosure in one of the recent presentation in Karachi that “CPEC has made no progress in any projects outside Gwadar and there is hardly anything to provide to the province as share in the overall portfolio of CPEC projects.

The fears of the locals, who have been protesting against the CPEC, proved true in the light of facts provided by the “CPEC Cell”, recently established by the Balochistan government with the help from the World Bank, to analyze and monitor the projects under CPEC in the province.

CPEC, which has been touted as a project which will work like a magic wand to control the fast deteriorating economic crisis in Pakistan, has nothing much to offer to the Baloch. The revelation has come as a shocker to the locals. CPEC is more than a US$62 billion flagship project which emphasizes regional connectivity through economic development. The One Belt One Road Initiative (OBORI) is viewed as the revival of the ancient Silk Route connecting mainland China with Asia, Africa and Europe and it encompasses 63 countries of three continents.

However, amongst the tall claims by the last govt and the Pakistan Army that CPEC will prove to be a game changer, the Cell has found that all projects connected with the western route have seen no progress whatsoever. As estimated earlier, Balochistan was ranked second in its share with US$7.1 billion initial investments in energy, transport, development of Gwadar city and port. However, that estimate remains a mere estimate as in reality the overall size of the portfolio of CPEC projects in Balochistan is miniscule where less than 9% of the total committed, around $5.5b billion, is for the province and less than $1bn has been spent in four years. The spending has been termed as a big joke with the total ire of the members of the Cell targeted towards the previous government.

It is learnt that the new governance is likely to revisit the various projects including Quetta Mass Transit and PAT feeder to Quetta water project. Earlier also after taking over as Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan had promised to review the projects to safeguard the interest of the people in Balochistan province, which is yet to materialize.

In the light of Pakistan Army’s ever increasing atrocities towards the local residents and constant protests within and outside the country by various anti-CPEC organizations like Free Balochistan Movement, Baloch Republican Party, and Balochistan Raaji Zrombesh, new government needs to initiate suitable measures to fulfil its promises. Unless that happens, the protests will remain a common phenomenon which could be detrimental to the new government in general and to CPEC in particular.

11 Dec 18/Tuesday.                                                                          Written by Azadazraq

Just how large is China’s ‘hidden’ debt pile? Beijing orders native cadres find out

Lower-level authorities told to assess the degree of back-door funding and suggest methods to deal with the menace 

China’s ruling Communist party and its ministers have ordered the local administration to prevent accumulation of “hidden” debt as a part of Beijing’s larger push to avoid a crisis in money markets.

The order was sent to municipal governments throughout the country, as per official reports of cadres meeting to review and evaluate the threat.

The full text of the order has been kept confidential however the official Hunan Daily reported on 16 Aug 2018, that provincial governor Xu Dazhe ordered cadres “to follow requests from the central leadership for a better estimate of hidden government debt immediately so as to lay down plans to mitigate its ill effects on the economy at large”. 

Officials in Jingzhou and Yunxi county in Hubei province conjointly the county of Kangle in Gansu province also met to study the directions, reports on government websites said.

Zhao Quanzhou, a senior financial researcher working with the Ministry of Finance’s Chinese Academy of fiscal Sciences, said the debt curbs were an attempt to cur leverage within the Chinese economy, listed by President Xi Jinping as the country’s outweighing economic priority.

“The order is meant to rein in hidden debt and pave way for generating mitigating efforts in the near future,” Zhao aforesaid.

Simultaneously, the ministry has told local administrative authorities to sell bonds quickly to boost funds for expanding on infrastructure.

“Speeding up the process of issuance of special bonds to open a wider front door to financing” whereas China slowly closes the rear door to illicit fundraising, Zhao said.
The size of “implicit” government debt – together with credit guarantees for borrowings local government financing vehicles, local state-owned enterprise debt and public-private investment schemes – is unclear however Chinese lawmaker Yin Zhongqing has estimated that it may well be around 20 trillion yuan (US$2.9 trillion).

By comparison, China’s explicit local government debt, together with bonds approved by Beijing, totaled at 16.8 trillion yuan by June end.
Neither the ministry nor the National Audit Office (NAO) has given an estimate of the country’s “hidden” debt however the NAO has named six cities for suppressing a combined 15.4 billion yuan of “implicit” government debt by end of last fiscal year, with Shaoyang City in Hunan alone amassing 7.2 billion yuan.

Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, issued a press release last week stating that it had “implicit” debt of 47.5 billion yuan at the end of the fiscal year 2017, i.e. 72% of its confirmed debt. Huangnan, a locality within the poor province of Qinghai, confirmed that its local implicit liabilities reached 2.4 trillion yuan by end of the month of May – nearly fourfold increase to its confirmed total by end of last fiscal year.

The murky world of local government borrowings has long been cited as a weak link within the world’s second-largest economy. Moody’s and S&P downgraded China’s sovereign credit by one notch last year as a result of their concern over the prevailing situation.

It is also a cradle of vulnerability for Beijing because the trade war with the United States has already brought headwinds. Analysts said confidence in the Chinese economy may well hit if actuality scale of the hidden debt was disclosed.

Li Yuze, a fixed-income analyst at China Merchants Securities, said that if the “implicit” debt was factored in, the national ratio of government debt to GDP may surge from the current 36.7 percent past the dangerous level of 60% set by the Bank for International Settlements.

Li says Beijing may also not have strictly given out the definition of the implicit debt within the government order fearing “it might trigger market expectations of a second wave of debt swaps”.

Larry Hu, the chief China economist at Macquarie Capital in Hong Kong, said there was no immediate answer to the long-standing debt problem, and though deleveraging was a secondary thought for Beijing, the newest order signaled that Beijing needed local administrative authorities to be discreet and accountable in their borrowing.
“Still, we may see the primary debt default of a local financing vehicle in the very short term, maybe a few months away,” Hu said.

 

21Aug 2018/Tuesday              Written by

                                                Mohd Tahir Shafi

AFTER MASSIVE MANHUNT UYGHUR MUSLIM KILLED IN CHINA

An Uyghur Muslim named Pazil Utuⱪ, belonging to an old and well-known Muslim family in Xinjiang province, was shot dead after a intensive manhunt with over 70,000 police officers and political agents

30-year-old Pazil Utuⱪ, an ethnic Uyghur, belonging to an old and well-known Muslim family in the in Xinjiang province, which explains why authorities took extraordinary measures to detain him. He was from the 64th Regiment in Huocheng County, Yili Prefecture. He was hiding to flee from internment in “transformation through education” camps when authorities mobilized 70,000 people in a massive manhunt to find him. On April 1, 2018, the police finally found Pazil Utuⱪ and killed him to set an example.

 

In May last year, Pazil Utuk was arrested by government officials while performing a religious service for “participating in unlawful religious activities,” and was released only in August 2018r. Local law enforcement authorities continued to monitor his activities as a “key target to aid in the control of radical Islam,” and his name was put on a list of people, whom the government tracks at all times, putting him in danger of arrest at any time. On March 16 and 17, 2018, local government officials notified Pazil Utuⱪ twice that he has to report at the “transformation through education camp.” To avoid his forceful indoctrination, he borrowed 700 RMB from his elder sister, left his home at the 64th Regiment by foot, and walked to the neighboring 63rd Regiment to hide.

On March 18, Pazil Utuⱪ decided it was safer to hide in a small island, and asked a Kazakh herder for a horse to cross the river. He agreed to return the horse after reaching the small island. The herder suspected that his horse might be stolen, and decided to consult his family by sending them texts messages via the Chinese social media site WeChat. It is well-known fact that the Chinese government monitors the WeChat. Through the messages, the Regiment leaders, the police, and other government officials learned of Pazil Utuⱪ’s whereabouts and mobilized people to arrest him.

The police first surrounded the island and found Pazil Utuⱪ on the island. They immediately opened fire on him. To escape his arrest, he tried to commit suicide by cutting his own throat with a knife, preferring suicide to detention in the indoctrination camp. However, he was captured alive and admitted in 66th Regiment Hospital for treatment. At the hospital, the Police officials guarded over him day and night as he regained his strength. In the early morning hours on March 27, Pazil Utuk noticed that the on-duty police official was asleep and escaped from the hospital by climbing over the wall.

The Urumqi Party secretary, Chen Quanguo, then issued an order to capture Pazil Utuⱪ dead or alive. The Houcheng County Public Security Bureau then issued an arrest warrant on his name for the crime of “horse theft.” The local government again mobilized over 70,000 people from seven different regiments to contain the entire city to find him. This is a strange move considering Pazil’s crime was a mere “horse theft” only. Schools and hospitals in the Uyghur area were ordered to shut down, factories were closed, and spring farming was halted. The police posted sentries at each and every intersection, avenue, an alley, and ordered the seven regiments’ agents to work double shifts to look in every inch of the area in a blanket search, day and night.

On April 1, Pazil Utuⱪ was found under a culvert over a drain in Liangfanchang, at the Huocheng County border, underneath a bridge. Once the police spotted him, they opened fire and killed the Uyghur runaway on the spot.

It is has learned that, since Pazil Utuk first fled, harassment and arrests were extended to his whole family. After he was shot dead, the police detained all those whose names were found in the contacts list of his cell phone.

It is also learned that the Chinese Communist Party was not happy that it took so long to find and kill Pazil Utuk, and punishments were applied. 32 officials from the leading cadres down to the company leaders of the 64th Regiment were penalized to varying degrees. Police officials were stripped of their positions and Party memberships, and those belonging to Special Police Regiment leaders were all fired. It did not stop there the Political and Legal Committee secretary along with the bureau director also lost their posts. All were given disciplinary punishments, and some were even detained.

However, the friends of Muslims who were to come out and support and speak for Uyghurs in Pakistan have not uttered a single word till date. Of late Chinese have been under pressure due to Uyghur insurgency against oppression by Haans of China.

Shame on such Muslims who treat China as their friends when their Uyghur brothers are being murdered and persecuted for following Islam.

07 Aug 2018/Tuesday                                                                  Written by Mohd Tahir Shafi 

IS CPEC FINANCIALLY VIABLE?

CPEC has been projected in Pakistan as a magic wand to resolve all the issues in that country as it would bring much needed foreign investment, business, and prosperity. Over 30 news channels of Pakistan have been assuring their audience that a golden age is just around the corner. In short, everyone in Pakistan – media, military, politicians, non-state actors (Hafiz Sayeed) are in love with CPEC.

But few sane minds are raising their voice in Pakistan about the economic viability of CPEC. Before we delve into the financial viability of the CPEClet’s check out the detailed analysis of the time and space aspects.

Calculating Container Shipping Time

Let’s assume that a driver drives for 12 hours per day. It would take him 91.57 hours to reach Kashgar from Gwadar, which would be equal to 7.7 days or 8.7 days taking pit stops into account.

Let’s assume that it takes only a day to transfer cargo from a Pakistani to a Chinese truck at Kashghar. That Truck would take 170 Hours to reach Shanghai from Kashghar. ie 14 days of driving and assuming two days for pit stops it would take16 days.

Now if we assume that Gwadar is as efficient as the port of Karachi, it would take 6 days to clear import formalities.

Thus the total time it would need to transport goods from Dubai to Shanghai via Gwadar would be 37 days compared to 15 days it would take to reach Dubai from Shanghai by sea via the Malacca Strait.

Calculations tell us that shipping through Gwadar port is costlier and more time consuming than transporting through seas, and the distance between Pakistani cities and Chinese cities is as much as the distance between Pakistani cities and major European cities. Thus, if there is no land route trade happening between Europe and Pakistan, then certainly no trade will happen between China and Pakistan on a large scale. And anything which is cheaper and quicker is always preferred, which is not the case for transporting through Gwadar and Kashghar by road.

Cost comparison for the viability of CPEC

Distance between Shanghai and Kashgar = 5121 Km

Distance between Kashghar and Gwadar = 2747 Km

Average Trucking cost per Ton per Km in China = 7 cents.

Average Trucking cost per Ton per Km in Pakistan = 3 cents.

This is the most conservative calculation not taking into account Hazard premium that the nature of Terrain imposes on Pakistan (Karakoram Highway is rated world’s fourth most dangerous highway. There’s a hazard premium that China has to pay for transporting goods through Takla Makan Desert, Kulun Shan mountains range, and Altai Shan mountain range).

But still, let us calculate the cost of transporting a Ton of goods from Shanghai to Gwadar.

Cost incurred in Chinese territory = 0.07 X 5121 =$358.47

Cost incurred in Pakistani territory = 0.03 X 2747 =$82.41

So total cost from Shanghai to Gwadar for a ton of goods by road = $440.88 or approx Rs 50,000 PKR per ton.

(Since Pakistan doesn’t export high value goods but mainly low value textiles, the cost of transportation itself will far more than the cost of production! Thus Pak exports to China via the CPEC will be a non starter!)

Now let destination port be Dubai.

Cost of Transporting 1 ton via sea from Dubai to Shanghai via Malacca = $28.93

Cost of Transporting 1 Ton via sea from Karachi to Dubai = $5.787

Therefore, total cost of Shipping a Ton from Shanghai to Dubai via Gwadar = $446.67.

But the total cost of Shipping directly by sea from Shanghai to Dubai via Malacca Strait = $28.93 which is 16 times less than that of Transporting via Gwadar!!!

Thus the total cost of Transport from Gwadar to the Chinese border is more than what would be required for Transport from Dubai to Shanghai by sea!

And then, what none of the Pak ‘experts’ ever discuss is the fact that the  CPEC will be non-functional for 4-5 months a year when the 15,500 ft Khunjerab Pass is closed due to adverse weather conditions.

Under the protocol agreement signed by Pakistan and Chinese authorities, the border is usually closed on Nov 30 and reopened on April 1 every year which could be extended depending on the weather conditions. Therefore, there would be no trade along the CPEC during this period resulting in a massive loss of revenue.

So what is this multi-billion dollar project all about?

The truth is that the CPEC is basically meant as an alternative route to China in case of any disruption in the Strait of Malacca. Despite increased imports through Russia and Kazakhstan, China remains heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil, with up to 80 percent of its energy supply passing through the Malacca Straits.

However, more importantly, Gwadar is being developed by the Chinese to establish a PLA base there and the CPEC is being built basically for its logistics support.

A Chinese naval base at Gwadar will enable them to dominate the Strait of Hormuz as well as the Indian Ocean region.

For Pakistan, it would be an insurance policy against any Indian naval attack on its facilities due to the Chinese naval presence at Gwadar. 

 mohdtahirshafi@gmail.com

CHINA TRYING TO INFLUENCE POLLS IN PAKISTAN

China seems to be more than interested in influencing the out come of elections in Pakistan due on 25 July 2018. The Chinese have so much at stake that they cannot have an unfavorable Government in Pakistan or Balochistan for guarding their investments into CPEC.

 

As an emerging power in the region, China is closely watching all developments taking place in the South Asian region. It is in China’s best interests to have friendly governments in its neighborhood, and to a large extent, Beijing is successful. China, being cash rich has been meticulously trying to attract South Asian countries, by all means. Pakistan, by all means, is one of the friendliest countries in China.

On May 2, 2011, when Osama bin Laden, Chief of al-Qaeda, was assassinated by U.S. forces in Pakistan’s garrison city of Abbottabad, Pakistan abandoned its dependence on the US and had to put all its eggs in China’s basket. As a result, there was a paradigm shift, Pakistan has put the highest priority on its friendship with China. For Pakistan, replacement if the United States with China or not is a separate debate. One thing is surely seen since 2011 i.e. China has increased its presence in Pakistan. It can readily be seen in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a multibillion-dollar project announced in 2014.

 

Ever since the announcement of CPEC, it has been a topic of discussion from common people to businessmen, journalists, politicians, and those belonging to different walks of life.

“A majority of people in Pakistan view this multibillion-dollar CPEC project as key to Pakistan’s economic prosperity,” journalist Shezad Baloch tells The Diplomat. “All major political parties either take credit for initiating it or make promises to bring prosperity and development through CPEC while also safeguarding national interests of Pakistan.”

Politicians, including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his party members, take all the credit for CPEC at functions, seminars, and in the media. They are also highlighting CPEC in the campaign in general elections in Pakistan, which is scheduled for July 25, 2018.

“The launch of CPEC is arguably one of the most popular public policy developments in Pakistan over the last few years. The PML-N party has been highlighting it on the campaign trail and point it as one of the great success stories of its term,” says Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director, Senior Associate and Asia Program for South Asia at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan, of PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf), the arch-rival of Sharif, has been bashing the PML-N and its chief for taking credit for CPEC investments in Pakistan.

CPEC is factoring in local election campaigns as well. Gwadar in Balochistan is the epicenter of CPEC being the exit and entry port at sea. Unsurprisingly, it’s a topic of discussion for candidates in Gilgit.

Balochistan Awami Party, King’s Party

The BAP (Balochistan Awami Party) is a new political party with epicenter at Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province. According to analysts, it is being called as king’s party or the party of the establishment. It is expected to win the elections with great margins in Balochistan, this will, of course, will be pivotal for Chinese future investments.

If the BAP com forms the government in Balochistan, it will be easy for some forces in China to make deals regarding not only CPEC but Reko Diq mine and other oil and gas deals in Balochistan. These political developments in the country in general and Balochistan, in particular, are meant to pave the way for Chinese investments and require Chinese to influence them in their favor.

In fact, China and CPEC were one of the major areas of dispute between the now-ousted Sharif and the establishment – the military and intelligence service. The Pakistan military typically deals with Chinese affairs in Pakistan, but Sharif and the PML-N wanted more of a stake in the CPEC projects.

According to Shezad Baloch, “CPEC is providing a handy slogan for all political parties. People of all political parties can get behind the promise to provide basic necessities, infrastructure, and development that CPEC offers.” However, he adds, “The man or woman on the street, however, is still not fully aware of the ramifications of this massive project, making it easy for any political party to exploit it.”

China tried to influence Sri Lankan Polls unsuccessfully

Average Pakistanis think that CPEC is going to change the fate of not only the country but also the entire South Asia region. On the contrary, educated Pakistanis are alarmed about the ramifications, particularly the high-interest loans coming from China. Those opposing are arguing that Gwadar could meet the same fate as Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, which was ceded to China due to Colombo’s inability to repay the loans that paid for the port’s construction.

Much like Pakistan, Sri Lanka had been heavily dependent on Chinese loans. Former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa was at the forefront of allowing China a greater role in his country. As a result, China increased its footprint in Sri Lanka. Unsurprisingly, then, Beijing was highly invested and interested in keeping Rajapaksa in power.

New York Times report by Maria Abi-Habib found that “In the final months of Sri Lanka’s 2015 election, China’s ambassador broke with diplomatic norms and lobbied voters, even caddies at Colombo’s premier golf course, to support Mr. Rajapaksa over the opposition, which was threatening to tear up economic agreements with the Chinese government. At least $7.6 million was dispensed from China Harbor’s account at Standard Chartered Bank to affiliates of Mr. Rajapaksa’s campaign,” Abi-Habib wrote.

Could China do the same in Pakistan?

As Pakistani columnist for Dawn, Khurram Hussain  “Now that Pakistan is approaching a moment that Sri Lanka passed in 2015, and Malaysia passed in May, perhaps an opportunity to more publicly evaluate the financials of these projects is opening up before us.” China will be hoping to prevent that very outcome, which could be led to public questioning of CPEC projects.

Undoubtedly, Beijing wants to see parties come to power that would welcome future Chinese investments. But according to Kugelman, China doesn’t have much to worry about. “I don’t think China is particularly concerned about the election outcome,” he says. “China knows that Pakistan Army and Deep State call the shots. There is also a strong political consensus in Pakistan for a continued deep Pakistan-China relationship and for continued efforts to build out the CPEC project. No matter what the next Pakistani government looks like, Beijing will be happy to work with it. And the next Pakistani government will be happy to work with Beijing. If not the days of the government will be numbered as Pakistan military wants it that way,” he concludes.

Oxford University professor and author Peter Frankopan predicts that “China will watch the elections in Pakistan closely. But what China concerned is that the election should produce a clear result. Investment and good relations require stability and knowing what to expect in the future. Already the military is coercing Political parties towards a clear winner.”

Elections are always momentous occasions; but given what is at stake Pakistan and China, more hangs on the decisions made by voters in Pakistan on July 25, 2018, than perhaps at any point in the last seven decades of democracy.

13 July 2018/Friday                                                             Written by Mohd Tahir Shafi 

CHINA’S WORRIES FOR CPEC DEEPENS

21 Dec 17/Thursday   

With the latest decision of using Yuan, the Chinese currency, in bilateral trades in CPEC related projects; China has made it clear about its egoistic urgency to have an economic influence over USA. Priority for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) termed as the “flagship” project of ‘One Belt, One Road (OBOR)’ initiative, assumes far more importance for China, as the total cost of the project mounts to $62billion from initial estimate of $46billion.

Another aspect, that China is only bothered about the CPEC and no one else, emerges from the cold response given to Nawaz Sharif, on his disqualification as Prime Minister of the country after the Panama Gate fiasco. On the similar lines why China is saving Azhar Masood, the JeM chief, fully knowing that his outfit has been tagged as terrorist outfit by the UN? It’s because China cannot afford JeM terrorists lurking around the CPEC to avenge their leader, should he be declared a global terrorist by China too.

Even it has been opined that the house arrest of Hafiz Saeed is not because of USA but it may be China behind the entire game plan as he doesn’t want India-Pakistan relations to further deteriorate which may affect the progress of economic corridor.

CPEC, right from the word go, has not been a smooth sail for China. Issues like displacement of local residents along the proposed roads, Collection of Karakoram toll tax, Higher Tariff for the Power plants, Khunjerab railway line and China issuing fresh financial norms resulting in Pakistan pulling out of US$14 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam project, have been complicating the issue. Latest being the stoppage of funding of at least three major road projects in Pakistan, as part of CPEC.

 Another major worry of China is serious security threat from Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other jihadi groups. Therefore China to a large extent depends on Pakistan Army for security.

With all these worries, the recent demarches issued to Pakistan and China by India, conveying its position on the construction of dams on the Indus river in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) by the Pakistani government with assistance committed to these projects by China, will certainly rake up the issue once again. India has vehemently objected to the CPEC as the infrastructures are being built in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan. Such activities are construed as violations of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.   

azadazraq786@gmail.com

CHINA’S U TURN ON CPEC

Amidst reports of China’s central bank warning of financial crisis and Pakistan turning down China’s offer of assistance for the $14-billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam in POK, the Chinese ambassador to India has proposed a face saving measure. In an interaction with experts and students, Beijing’s envoy Luo Zhaohui suggested the alternative routes, and said he was keen on accomplishing a bilateral friendship and trade treaty during his tenure in India. Speaking on sidelines during an event at the Centre for Chinese and South-East Asian Studies in the School of Language, JNU,  the Chinese Ambassador said,

“We can change the name of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor). Create an alternative corridor through Jammu and Kashmir, Nathu La pass or Nepal to deal with India’s concerns,”

Earlier India’s boycott of Belt and Road Forum sponsored by Chinese Government left China red faced in front of the world, who was sure of Indian participation. Since then in order to placate India, China has suggested change of name of POK portion of CPEC through many media channels. This is the first time a senior official has proposed a change in order to assuage Indian concerns.

Wary of Indo-Pacific Alliance, Chahabar Development and growing opposition to CPEC in Pakistan, the Chinese Government have intensified their efforts to engage India. China realizes that no economic activity in the region can be successful without India’s participation.

In November alone, two countries, Pakistan and Nepal, cancelled BRI infrastructure projects due to Beijing’s unacceptable conditions of full Chinese ownership and control. In Pakistan’s case, the now axed, US$14 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam project, represented approximately one-third of the total BRI investment in a country that has so far been the flagship for Xi’s plan. This confirms our previous assessment of CPEC being overly ambitious and unrealizable in nature.

The BRI which has been written, along with ‘Xi Jinping Thought’, into the CCP’s constitution at October’s party congress, has assumed gigantic proportions with CPC throwing its entire weight behind it. The recent developments are definitely a setback to BRI the dream project of Xi Jinping. China has realized for good, that India can no longer be excluded from any development in the Asia-Pacific, be it economic or security related.