GOOD MORNING FROM LONDON
#1 US REFUSES JOSHUA WONG ENTRY TO USA
#2 THE ECONOMIST MISREADS CHINA – AGAIN
#3 JOHN KERRY IN CHINA
#4 MATTHEW PARRIS ATTACKS CHINA
# 1 US REJECTS #1 HK PROTESTOR
SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST 10 NOVEMBER 2023
“Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration refused to help prominent Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong leave the city before the enactment of a draconian national security law imposed by China, resulting in his imprisonment later that year.
Despite Washington’s vociferous support for Hong Kongers’ fight for democracy, the U.S. State Department denied Wong’s request to enter its consulate, where he hoped to seek refuge. Wong met with consular staff in a building across from the foreign mission in Hong Kong at the end of June 2020, according to several people familiar with the situation.
The democracy activist asked for the State Department’s help to leave the Chinese territory after his passport was confiscated as a condition of his bail. But the U.S. diplomats declined his request to enter the consulate. A person familiar with the matter told Nikkei Asia the decision was based on American national security interests. “It would have made the U.S.-China relationship even more contentious,” he said.
Wong became the face of the 2014 democracy protests as a 17-year-old student leader. He was arrested in September 2020 and is awaiting sentencing for conspiracy to commit subversion over his role in an unofficial primary election. He has pleaded guilty but could still face imprisonment for life.
Wong could not be reached for comment through his lawyers.”
GRAHAM PERRY COMMENTS; Joshua Wong came to prominence as the lead spokesman for those people in Hong Kong who protested against the introduction of the new National Security Law. He was always visible – doing TV interviews around the clock. So two questions – first, why did the Trump administration reject Wong’s request for assistance in leaving Hong Kong? Two, why has Wong gone quiet? Are there limits to the extent to which the US takes the opportunity to embarrass China? Is there a split between Wong’s political priorities and the US priorities?
#2 THE ECONOMIST MISREADS CHINA AGAIN
“When Joe Biden meets Xi Jinping in San Francisco next week, the stakes will be high. Fighting in the Middle East threatens to become another theatre for great-power rivalry, with America backing Israel, and China (along with Russia) deepening links to Iran. In the South China Sea, China is harassing Philippine ships and flying its planes dangerously close to American ones. Next year will test Sino-American relations even more. In January a candidate despised by Beijing may win Taiwan’s presidential election. For most of the year, the race for the White House will be a cacophony of China-bashing.
America’s anti-China fervour is partly an overcorrection for its previous complacency about the economic, military and ideological threat the autocratic giant poses. The danger from China is real, and there are many areas where Mr Biden’s administration should stand up to its Communist rulers. But there is also a risk that America’s view of Chinese power slides into caricature, triggering confrontations and, at worst, an avoidable conflict. Even without war, that rush would incur huge economic costs, split America from its allies and undermine the values that make it strong. Instead, America needs a sober assessment not just of China’s strengths, but also of its weaknesses.
What are those weaknesses? Among the least understood are its military shortcomings, which we [The Economist] describe in a special report on the People’s Liberation Army. After decades of modernisation, it is formidable—terrifying, even. With 2m personnel and an annual budget of $225bn, it has the world’s biggest army and navy and a vast missile force. By 2030 it could have 1,000 nuclear warheads. Mr Xi has ordered it to be capable of invading Taiwan by 2027, say America’s spies. And the PLA projects force more widely, too. It intimidates China’s neighbours in the South China Sea and skirmishes with India. It has a base in Africa and is seeking one in the Middle East.”
GRAHAM PERRY COMMENTS; The Economist is no friend of China, having taken a consistently critical approach since 1949. It should always be read and understood because it – The Economist despite its anti-China stance – is a serious publication which carries influence with decision makers. Like many China followers, however, the publication gets China wrong. Nowhere more wrong than with the remarkable role of China’s Billionaires who have the freedom to make money and enjoy their wealth. The Communist Party of China has revealed creativity, initiative and flexibility in allowing 800+ Billionaires to make their business skills serve the nation as a whole.
The Economist also misleads its readers by wrongly categorising China as expansionist, imperialist, and acquisitive. China shares its borders with 14 countries – the US just with two being Canada and Mexico. China has never used its border disputes as a springboard to add mileage and acreage to its land mass. China’s military is developed in order to deter and discourage its neighbours from intrusion and land acquisition. China has one overseas base which services its large international maritime fleet. The US has 800+ bases. The US sends its B-52 Bombers all the way from Los Angeles to buzz China’s airforce. Who is aggressive and who is defensive?
#4 JOHN KERRY ON CHINA AND CLIMATE CHANGE
BLOOMBERG NEW ECONOMY FORUM – SINGAPORE
“In lead-up to UN climate conference, John Kerry tells The Singapore Forum his talks with Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua in California this week yielded ‘positive results’. Of China’s growth in renewable energy, Kerry says: ‘If we can harness that deployment, you will automatically begin to make emissions come down. Beijing is “serious” about its climate change efforts and plans to scale up clean energy, according to US climate envoy John Kerry. At the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore on Friday, Kerry also said he felt “hopeful” about prospects for a major international climate change conference in three weeks.
Earlier this week he wrapped up talks with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua in California, where the two sides yielded “positive results” ahead of the COP28 United Nations climate change conference. He acknowledged that China, despite its coal-dependent power system, was building more renewable energy plants than the rest of the world combined, echoing reports of the country shoring up its position as the world leader in renewable power.
“The Chinese delegation and Xie Zhenhua, who I’ve known for 25 years or so – he’s my counterpart, their climate envoy – they were serious,” Kerry said, adding that the results of their meeting were expected to be released over the next few days.
Xie, a veteran diplomat, was reappointed to his role as China’s special climate envoy in 2021, after holding positions in the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Environmental Protection Administration. The 74-year-old will reportedly step down in December after the COP28 talks in Dubai.
“We have some tough conversations, we have a few moments where, as in any negotiations, you think it’s all despair and not going to get there,” Kerry said, adding that people should “wait and see” on whether the two sides come to an accord on China’s coal power development amid a global decline in coal use.
Last year, China issued the most new permits for coal-fired plants since 2015, according to a report from the Finland-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. The centre noted, however, that the massive additions did not necessarily mean that coal use or carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector would rise in China.
GRAHAM PERRY COMMENTS; There is a historical observation to be made. The US and UK built their empires in the 19th Century on the back of coal. The US railway system – such a key factor in the emergence of the US Empire in the 20th Century – was built on coal as was the UK Industrial Revolution from 1760 onwards. China has been a 21st Century phenomenon because its economic development was held back by the major industrial powers – UK, US Japan, Germany and France – during China’s Century of Humiliation and China has been pilloried by the West for its use of coal in building a new China since 1949. Of all the US leaders, John Kerry has played a leading role in establishing good working relations with his China counterpart – Mr Xie Zhenhua. President Biden, when he does his homework for his meeting with President Xi, would be well advised to listen to John Kerry on how best to make progress with your opponent.
#4 MATTHEW PARRIS – UK OPINION LEADER – ATTACKS CHINA
Matthew Parris is a former Conservative MP who writes an influential column in The Times. He has recently gone on to the offensive saying “China’s iron grip of Africa is vastly overstated. Beijing will learn it can’t buck the market with plans to dominate the global south and throttle the trade in rare metals…China concluded a two-day international conference last week marking the tenth anniversary of the People’s Republic’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The whole idea is facing headwinds. I believe they will intensify.
Invited to the conference were mostly developing countries (China calls them the global south) that Beijing wants to bribe or blackmail into its orbit: the many now-indebted beneficiaries of a sprawling array of massive infrastructure projects, local schemes, cultural initiatives, happy thoughts and all-round Good Thing stuff for which leaders of cash-strapped nations in the developing world have over the last decade been offered BRI funding.
The free world, led by America, worries that behind a humanitarian front China is trying to elbow western liberal democracy aside as a moral force, and turn developing countries into client states, while cornering the market in strategic commodities, essential minerals and rare earths. China’s plan won’t work.
To those many “China hawks” in our own country who see a mortal threat in every Beijing move, dare I suggest that the People’s Republic has got itself out of its depth with a naive, ill-considered and expensive idea?”
GRAHAM PERRY COMMENTs
China has lent more than $1 trillion to more than 100 countries through the BRI scheme, dwarfing Western spending in the developing world and stoking anxieties about the spread of Beijing’s power and influence. Critics of China were quick to damn the initiative as “debt trap diplomacy” giving China the opportunity to seize the infrastructure and resources of the borrowing country. That was never the case and the IMF in a recent report confirmed that there was no evidence to support the “debt trap” assertion.
Parris’s article is post the IMF Report and must be one of the first articles by Western commentators on Belt and Road that makes no reference “debt-trap diplomacy” or “asset seizure”. But BRI is not welcomed in the West because China is not welcomed. China – Billionaires and all – shows no signs of ditching its commitment to building “Socialism With Chinese Characteristics”. Its existence does offer developing countries a new model of economic and political development and that worries the West – hence the ever-present mocking tone of articles by Western commentators. China has existed for 74 years and shows few signs of wilting or looking to adopt Western methods of government – (Is that why US B-52 bombers travel from the US and engages in brinkmanship with China’s air force.
China knows that its BRI has not been trouble free. Loan repayment by the recipient countries has been affected by the negative impact on world trade of Covid; on occasions China’s labourers have struggled to adapt to new surroundings – climate and diet to name just two. China’s own negotiators have had “to learn by doing” and on occasions mistakes and errors (eg the rail gauge on the railway built in Ethiopia) have been caused by inexperience.
With BRI, China has challenged traditional methods of Western funding of developments and it was the former Australian Prime Minister – Paul Keating – who remarked that unlike Western funding, China’s offers of BRI loans are made without political conditions attached. BRI is something quite new – $1tn loaned to 100+ countries. Cynics will welcome mistakes and setbacks and one senses in the writings of Matthew Parris hopes that China’s Belt and Road Initiative will fail. The view of this Column is that China will succeed because the core requirement of every project is that it has to be good for the lender and for the borrower -what the China calls a Win-Win Outcome.
Comments on Rare Earths will be addressed in the following Posts.