Monday, February 29, 2016

Q. and A.: Minxin Pei on the Future of Communist Rule in China



Some social scientists spend their careers researching small-scale topics that may help push forward our understanding of bigger forces shaping our lives. Or not. Many academic papers are never cited.
That’s not an issue with Minxin Pei. He aims high and goes for the jugular, taking on one of the biggest topics imaginable in political science: Will China’s Communist Party stay in power in its present, authoritarian form? Mr. Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, argues that the odds are high that by 2030, China’s government will be quite different, pushed to change by the endemic corruption of the current party system. Corruption is the subject of his forthcoming book, “China’s Crony Capitalism: The Dynamics of Regime Decay.”
In an interview, he discussed why he believes one-party rule in China is unsustainable.
Q. You argue that for the Chinese Communist Party to make it past 2030 in its present form would break a lot of precedents. Why that date?


Chinese President Calls for East Jerusalem as Capital of Palestinian State

Xi Jinping addresses Arab League in Cairo before planned visit to Iran, announces millions in aid to Palestinians.

Hareetz - Jan 21, 2016

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday called for establishing a Palestinian state within the pre-1967-war borders amid efforts by Beijing to assert its economic and political clout in the Middle East.  Addressing the Cairo-based Arab League, Xi said the Palestinian problem "should not be marginalized."  "China supports the peaceful process in the Middle East [and] the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital being eastern Jerusalem," he added through an interpreter. 
Xi announced 50 million yuan ($7.6 million) in aid for the Palestinians.  The United States, an ally of Jerusalem, has unsuccessfully attempted to break a long-standing stalemate in Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking.  Tensions between the two sides have been growing in recent months after a wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks on Israelis and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.


Xi Jinping’s Inner Circle Offers Cold Shoulder to Western Officials


The New York Times - September 25, 2015  

BEIJING — When Wang Huning, a policy adviser to the Chinese president, made a six-month trip to the United States in 1988, he returned with notes for a 400-page memoir.  “The Americans care for strength,” he wrote after watching a football game at the United States Naval Academy. “This reflects the American spirit — that is, to achieve a goal in a short time with power. The Americans adhere to this spirit in many fields, like the military, politics, economics and so on.”  As President Xi Jinping made his first state visit to the United States, including a day of pageantry and diplomacy at the White House on Friday, Mr. Wang was among a small group of advisers at his side.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

A New Article: When a Sleeping Giant Wakes – A Neoclassical Realist Analysis of China’s Expanding Ties in the Middle East



Tugrul Keskin
Maltepe University and Shanghai University
Department of Political and Science and International Relations
Marmara Eğitim Köyü, 34857 Maltepe/İstanbul - Turkey


Christian N. Braun
School of Government and International Affairs
The Al-Qasimi Building
Elvet Hill Road
Durham DH1 3TU, UK
Between 1949 and the late 1970s, interactions between China (PRC) and Middle Eastern nations were limited. After China started to implement economic reforms in 1978, however, the country opened up to the global economy in general and the Middle East in particular. Since the 1980s, the new Chinese economic dynamic, as a result of its economic reforms, has significantly increased China’s footprint in the region. China’s distinct approach has been to secure access to natural resources and new markets while, at the same time, making sure not to get bogged down in the Middle East’s political conflicts. However, as we argue in this paper, China’s role has by now become so prominent that it will be increasingly difficult for China to maintain its low-profile role. By analyzing the development of China’s role in the region generally as well as its specific relations to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Israel, we conclude that China is likely to become a more active player in the region.


Why is China’s role in the Middle East growing?


HURRIYET DAILY - February/19/2016

As the second biggest economy in the world with an official GDP growth rate of 6.9 percent in 2015, China has to satisfy its growing oil and gas requirements. Furthermore, in order to manage the transition to steadier and more sustainable economic growth, it needs to find new markets to export its products. The Middle East is an excellent partner for China to achieve the aforementioned goals.  China is either the biggest or second-biggest trading partner for Middle Eastern countries, leaving Europe and Japan far behind but trailing the United States. In the near future, however, it will overtake the U.S. to top the list of trading partners of the region as a whole.  China-Middle East trade has increased dramatically in recent years, growing by more than 600 percent in the past decade to $230 billion in 2014. The trade is driven by China’s growing oil demand. In 2015, China became the world’s biggest importer of crude oil, more than half of which came from the Middle East. According to the International Energy Agency, by 2035, China’s imports from the region will double.  China’s exports to the region mostly consist of electronic products, clothing, toys, chemicals and even cars.


China’s New Grand Strategy for the Middle East

After decades of distance, China is moving closer to the region’s sectarian feuds — and its vital oil reserves.     

By Gal Luft    

FOREIGN POLICY - January 26, 2016

At the start of 2016, prospects weren’t good for what would later become one of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s most consequential international tours. The January execution of leading Shite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the voice of Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority, and the subsequent severing of diplomatic relations between several Sunni countries and Shiite Iran came at a particularly inconvenient time for Xi. His planned maiden trip to the Middle East was to include stops in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, all majority Sunni countries. Visiting Sunni leaders at a time of great tension with Shiite Iran would have created the impression that China supported one of the two major branches of Islam over the other, undermining Beijing’s long held policy of staunch neutrality in the Middle East.  But postponing the visit for a second time in less than a year would have had consequences too. China had already called off a similar trip scheduled for spring 2015, after a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni states launched a military campaign in Yemen against the Houthis, an Iran-backed Shiite group. Since becoming president, Xi has visited almost every region of the world — but not the Middle East. The same is true for Premier Li Keqiang. Another delay would have signaled that regional spoilers could easily interfere with China’s foreign policy. Instead, Xi decided to use the crisis in the Muslim world as an opportunity to raise the curtain on China’s new Middle East strategy, one that finally involves China getting off the sidelines and plunging into the Middle East’s stormy waters.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

President Xi gives great importance to relations with Pakistan

Islamabad  February 18, 2016

Ambassador Sun Weidong on eve of the launching of a special report based on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s dream and vision for peace and prosperity of China and the region said, “President Xi gives great importance to China relations with Pakistan and socio-economic benefit of the people wants this relation to touch new heights.”
In April 2015, the President of China made a historic state visit to Pakistan. During the visit, both leaders agreed to lift China-Pakistan relationship to all-weather strategic cooperative partnership. He further advanced the bilateral substantive cooperation with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as the main component, which injected fresh momentum into this bilateral cooperation and ushered in a new chapter of brotherly relationship, Sun Weidong recalled.
“As the pilot and major project of the Belt and Road Initiative, CPEC is being advanced with constant progress. Both sides are now working closely together to fully implement the important consensus reached by both leaders,” the ambassador said.
The ambassador said Sino-Pak relations has entered into a new phase of grand development with tremendous opportunities. The Chinese leadership looked forward to working with the Pakistani friends from all walks of life to further promote friendship and cooperation between the two countries so as to achieve the goal of China-Pakistan Community of Shared Destiny at an early date.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

‘Let’s not talk politics’: China builds Middle East ties through business

Amid lower growth expectations, Beijing investing in new Silk Road trading initiative

By Alice Su

Al-Jazeera - February 20, 2016

GUANGZHOU, China — Fahd Ali Esmail owns Saba, the only Yemeni restaurant in Guangzhou. He went to China in 2001 at the age of 18, following his father, who had been working in the garment trade in Indonesia.
Esmail spoke neither Chinese nor English then but picked up both as his family moved its fabric business to Guangzhou, then opened a restaurant in 2002. As China joined the World Trade Organization, Arab businessmen flooded into special economic zones like Guangzhou, ordering everything from lingerie to toothbrushes from Chinese factories to sell in the Middle East.
“China welcomes Arabs more than Arabs themselves,” said Esmail, who grew up in Saudi Arabia but has no intention of returning there or to Yemen, especially with the ongoing civil war. His family has found customers among the Arabs who congregate in areas like Guangzhou’s Xiaobei Lu, a hub for African and Middle Eastern communities. There, cellphone stores selling unlocked SIM cards with Facebook access sit among mini-markets stocked with dates, tahini and chocolate imported from Iran. Chinese waiters serve customers from menus filled with Levantine salads and Turkish kebabs as well as Cantonese dim sum.
Arabs are in China largely for the same reason that China is increasingly going into the Arab world: business. Last month Chinese president Xi Jinping made his first diplomatic visit to the Middle East. Amid heightened regional tensions after Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, Xi met with leaders in Riyadh, Cairo and Tehran. His trip underscored China’s recent attempts to expand its role in conflict resolution, even as Beijing emphasizes its principle of noninterference. China supports peace talks rather than “looking for a proxy in the Middle East or seeking any sphere of influence,” Xi remarked before the Arab League at its headquarters in Egypt.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Situating the GCC in China's Transforming Roles in Asia

By Tim Niblock

Emeritus Professor of Middle East Politics - Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies - University of Exeter - UK

MEI | Feb 16, 2016

As has been widely acknowledged, the balance of the GCC’s external trade has changed fundamentally over the past decade. China and India have been the major beneficiaries of the shift. The significance of the change can be best understood within the context of the Gulf region’s long-term economic and political connections. For the two centuries preceding 2013, the bulk of Gulf trade was with Western countries.[1] Trade with Japan became important from the 1970s onwards, so much so, that Japan became the second largest trading partner for the Gulf region from the late 1970s until 2011.[2]
In 2013, for the first time, China became the largest trading partner of the Gulf region (taking all eight Gulf countries together). Trade with the European Union (EU) was pushed into second position, with India taking the third position. Table 1 provides data on how the Gulf’s trading pattern have changed from 1990—when China and India were relatively marginal in Gulf trade—through to 2013 which was the first year in which China became the leading trading partner of the 8 Gulf states. Figures for 2014 show China pulling even further ahead, with China’s total standing at $255 billion, and the European Union’s at $232 billion.[3]
The European Union remains at present the largest trading partner of the GCC, but current rates of trade growth—and the growing demand for imported Gulf oil in China and India—mean that the China’s trade is likely to overtake that of the European Union by 2020. A study of likely GCC trading developments undertaken by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2014 states:


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Xi concludes Middle East trip with promoted ties, cooperation

Xinhua - 2016-01-24

TEHRAN -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday concluded a two-day state visit to Iran, the last leg of his three-nation visit to the Middle East to upgrade ties and boost cooperation.
Xi discussed cooperation with leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and unveiled cooperation projects in fields including industrial capacity, infrastructure and energy.
During Xi's trip, China upgraded its diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively to comprehensive strategic partnership, a positioning which means closer cooperation in various areas.
Xi tried to promote enhanced dialogue as a means of resolving differences in the Middle East, and unveiled new aid programs to facilitate development, which he said is key to overcoming difficulties.
Meanwhile, the Chinese leader made it clear that his country is not looking for proxies or trying to fill any "vacuum" in the Middle East, but aspiring to build "a network of mutually beneficial partnerships."


Grapes of Wrath: Muslim wine ferments divisions in China

By Benjamin Haas

AFP - June 4, 2015

Awat (China) (AFP) - When Chen Naibao got into the wine business, he left out the pigeon blood and lamb meat that have been hallmarks of vintages in China's Xinjiang region for more than a thousand years.  The animal parts are usually added to enhance flavour and increase the supposed medicinal qualities of museles, a traditional wine raved about in Tang dynasty poetry and long fermented by local Uighurs, despite the prohibition on alcohol of their Muslim religion.  Deep red, its unusual ingredients give it a pungent, musty nose and a sweet-sour, spiced taste, akin to a vermouth.  Chen's recipe has extra sugar and his own production is noticeably sweeter, even cloying, with a more golden-brown hue.  Xinjiang, home to most of China's more than 10 million Uighurs, sees sporadic violence authorities blamed on Islamist separatists, which has increased in intensity and spread beyond its borders in recent years.  Uighurs say they face discrimination and restrictions on language, culture and religion, but China counters it has brought development and raised living standards.


China and Iran: An Emerging Partnership Post-Sanctions By John Garver

MEI | Feb 08, 2016

China was crucial in assisting Iran escape deep isolation and rejoin the global economy through the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), establishing itself as an arbiter between the United States and Iran throughout the P5+1 negotiations. Beijing had placed as a top priority averting a military confrontation between Iran and the United States, or Israel, which it calculated would have been disastrous not only for Iran, but for Chinese interests in the region. But China’s influential diplomacy in the P5+1 talks was also centered on its long-time strategy for Tehran. The Chinese aim to gradually grow with Iran a multi-dimensional partnership based on mutual understanding and trust, and see in Iran a potential power that could act as its partner in an Asian arena where many see China’s own rise as a threat. China’s “positive” and “constructive” role—laudatory descriptions used by Iranian leaders—in achieving the JCPOA will be an important advance toward its strategic objectives.[i] President Xi Jinping’s January 2016 visit to Iran is an attempt to leverage the political goodwill, created by China’s positive role in the nuclear negotiations, into expanded cooperation in other areas.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Opening new era of Sino-Egyptian partnership

2016-01-22 (

On January 20, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Cairo for a state visit to the Arab Republic of Egypt, after visiting Saudi Arabia. Egypt sent eight fighter jets to escort Xi's plane.  Xi was warmly welcomed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi and senior officials at the airport.  Despite weariness, Xi held talks with Egyptian counterpart President al Sisi, Prime Minister Sherif Ismai and other Egyptian leaders to discuss the traditional friendship, as well as the bright prospects for bilateral ties.  Egypt was the first Arab and African country to establish diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China. Beijing and Cairo are true friends and good brothers. Both sides have maintained stable and healthy relations through mutual understanding, respect, trust and support for the past six decades.  Xi's visit reflects that Beijing attaches great importance to its ties with Egypt. His visit is expected to draw a roadmap for future relations between the two countries.  Under the "Belt and Road" initiative, Beijing and Cairo hope to conjoin their development strategies, deepen cooperation on infrastructure construction and industrial capacity in concerted efforts to enhance their comprehensive strategic partnership.  The Sino-Egyptian friendship will develop like the rush of the Nile River to boost a revival for the Chinese and Egyptian people.  Comments by Xu Xiujun, associate researcher with the Institute of World Economy and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; comics drawn by Chi Ying


Monday, February 1, 2016

Yinchuan's NanGuan Grand Mosque: A closer look

CHINA AT THE CROSSROAD - January 30, 2016  |  David R. Stroup

After two weeks here in Yinchuan, the city is starting to make more sense to me. There's a lot to say about this city, and the Hui community here. Before diving into some of these topics, I think it's important to give you, my readers, a feel for the community itself. In Yinchuan, this means taking a look at the NanGuan Grand Mosque. While Yinchuan has many, many, community mosques, the NanGuan is most certainly its largest, and most renowned. It's easily spotted. Unlike many of the mosques in Jinan and Beijing which I've been visiting, the NanGuan Grand Mosque is a recently rebuilt one, completed in 1981. Unlike Beijing's Niu Jie Mosque, or Jinan's Great Southern Mosque, the NanGuan Mosque is not a Chinese-style building, but instead is buit to resemble Middle Eastern style mosques. Its green domes and towering minarets topped with crescent moons are unmistakable.