Friday, March 1, 2019

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Reining in the blustering Beijing bully

Most of us don’t like bullies. We all have memories of them from our childhood, when we were most vulnerable to their thuggery in the school playground, or locations outside school where they would accost and terrorise other kids.

To be a bully, one has to be totally self-centred and commensurately dismissive of the feelings and rights of others. Bullies seek psychological and material gratification through intimidation and violence. Popular wisdom has it that they are cowards at heart, and accordingly ensure that their quarry is comparatively powerless by virtue of physical prowess or being outnumbered.

Bullying is a reality on the international stage too, where the big and powerful coerce weaker countries into making concessions to their own detriment. The price of noncompliance – economic or military action against them – leaves them little choice.

Bullies on the international stage tend to be bullies at home as well. There are invariably those among their own populace who support the thugs that run the place, but woe betide anyone who does not and is thereby seen as a threat by that nefarious ruling clique. This creates a culture of fear and so most people will docilely toe the line.

History tells us that appeasing international bullies, while it may yield short-term  benefits in the form of a temporary lessening of tensions, tends to feed into the self-aggrandising delusions of the gangs calling the shots. They become ever more convinced that they are invincible, and are spurred into committing ever more outrageous acts against other, and their own, people. Eventually, appeasement leads to blows.

The pack that runs the ‘People’s Republic’ (ho, ho) of China is a case in point, and one that is becoming more dangerous by the day to its own people and to everyone else. The new imperialist masters of the PRC are becoming increasingly blasé about thumbing their noses at international law and protocol, as evidenced by the annexation of the entire South China Sea – recall that they said they would not participate in any proceedings and would ignore any ruling of the International Court of Arbitration on the issue even before the court heard the case brought by the plaintiffs (knowing full well which way it would go).

Build some artificial islands and use them to claim territorial sovereignty – in direct contravention of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea – and then cement your claim by turning those ‘islands’ into military bases and threatening anyone who ‘violates’ the space you have illicitly claimed.

On the human rights front – hardly a strength of any ‘socialist’ regime at the best of times – they are adopting the iron fist approach to dissent in ever more blatant fashion. Over the past couple of years, they have built monstrous concentration camps in which hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, a Muslim minority people, are held for ‘re-education’.

 The BBC uncovered massive gulags that have sprung up in a remarkably short time. The Beijing government calls them ‘vocational education centres’ – wouldn’t allow the reporters anywhere near them, though, hence the satellite pictures. Below: one of those ‘vocational education’ classes – participation purely voluntary, of course.

Recall also the crackdown on Falun Gong. The PRC being an explicitly atheist State, the religious are frowned upon. There is only one god allowed in China, and that is the Communist Party – look out any contenders!

Anyone seen as a threat to the primacy of the mob at the top – lawyers and journalists who comment on human rights in particular – is likely to be charged with subversion and appear before a kangaroo court that will put that person away for a long time (assuming he survives at all). How long are we in the West going to sit back and watch all this happening without kicking up a fuss? We’re happy enough to get stuck into regimes who do this kind of thing elsewhere, like in the Middle East. What sort of hypocrites are we?

Dissent in Paradise: a student protestor in Shanghai is bundled away by ‘police’ thugs.

Ah, but of course they have us over a barrel. Globalisation has benefitted the new emperors in Beijing immensely (see my earlier article ‘Protectionism – putting own people first’, Breaking Views 4 July 2018), creating dependency (and trade imbalances) on their manufactured products while our own workers go on the dole. The tentacles of this malign regime are rapidly spreading throughout the developing world, exposing us to the threat of Beijing gaining a stranglehold over international supply routes that bring us essential raw materials.  Then there is what a BBC reporter referred to as the ‘North Korea card’ that Beijing hasn’t used yet – his word. Add to all that the prospect of the Chinese State’s intelligence apparatus infiltrating the world’s information technology systems – an issue that has been receiving a lot of attention of late.

The irony of the situation is that the Beijing government is of debatable legitimacy. The internationally recognised government of the Republic of China, the Kuomintang, were driven off the mainland into exile by a communist insurrection (legend has it that they boarded the boats to the accompaniment of a band playing ‘When the saints come marching in’). For decades, the legislative chamber in Taipei was largely empty – taken up by mainland seats that could not be filled. In my opinion, the government in Taipei has a stronger claim to being the government of all of China than does the one in Beijing.

Still, we must be realistic, I suppose. There will not be a reunification of China under the flag of the ROC and so I suggest we look again at Taiwan’s claim to independence. It would not be an act of secession because Taiwan was never part of the People’s Republic of China, and you can’t break away from what you were never a part of. On the contrary, it was the PRC that broke away from the ROC.

I’m not suggesting starting a war with the PRC. Bullies can be brought into line by means other than engaging in fisticuffs with them. Once it is made clear to them that the game is up and that further provocations will result in actions that will be injurious to them, their self-interest usually drives them to pull their horns in.

Their Achilles’ Heel is that juggernaut economy, relying as it does on mostly extraterritorial demand and consumption. As I have argued earlier, protectionist measures would go a long way towards spiking their guns in this respect. Donald Trump seems to understand this and is playing a cool hand in the trade negotiations – good on him . We also need to help developing countries see what the real Beijing agenda is – some already seem to be cottoning on to the fact that Chinese motives underlying ‘aid’ and ‘cooperation’ projects are anything but altruistic.

We in the West need to stand up for our beliefs with regard to the international rule of law and human rights. We need to more actively support the countries that border the annexed South China Sea and have had their rights under international law over adjoining waters violated. We need to be openly sympathetic towards Taiwan in its desire to not become the next victim of Chinese expansionism through annexation. We need to do some determined table-thumping at the highest levels about those concentration camps and about human rights advocates who have been persecuted by Beijing.

We need to get our act together or we will be paying a very high price for our inaction not so many years down the track. The good news is that, despite a recent show at bridge-building, the leadership in Moscow is as distrustful of Beijing as many of us are – maybe more so. Russia is a potent potential ally against the Beijing imperialists and Western geopolitical strategists would be well advised to bear that in mind before slinging more mud in Putin’s direction.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek BA, BSc, BEdSt, PGDipLaws, MAppSc, PhD is an associate professor of education at the American University of Beirut and is a regular commentator on social and political issues. Feedback welcome at 


Allan said...
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OH! but we can't upset our major trading partners, scream the GLOBALIST Clark then Key, & now the Rabble of Losers that we currently call our government, who are happily trading trinkets for our sovereignty.

Anonymous said...
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Part 1
After the fall of the former Soviet Union, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) adopted the deception strategy designed by Deng Xiaoping, the late Chinese paramount leader of the post-Mao era.

Red China has successfully lowered its Communist profile in the international community and convinced the world it has turned its back on socialism, thus buying the time and opportunity to build up its economic and military power.

As Lenin famously advised his adherents: “Push out a bayonet. If it strikes flesh, push further. If it strikes iron, pull back and wait for another day” and “The capitalists will one day sell us the rope that we will use to hang them.”

These statements should be remembered in the debate over the transfer of sensitive technology to PRC, free trade deals, an open-door policy to PRC students and immigration, and doing business with a one-party state that routinely disregards international human rights norms.

Red China has historically been manpower-rich and technology-poor. After all, Communist economic systems don’t exactly breed entrepreneurial activity and innovation. But by making an apparent U-turn away from a command economy towards free market capitalism, PRC soon lulled the West into a false sense of security, parleying this into a technological parity undreamed of a little over a decade ago.

Commencing in 1994 and continuing right up until he left office in 2001, US President, Bill Clinton progressively lifted embargos over the export to Red China of US supercomputers and other technology with dual civilian and military applications. This was done on the grounds that PRC was no longer a security threat.

According to an Asian Wall Street Journal article of 19 September 2000, this allowed Red China to openly acquire computers up to 14 times more powerful than those it previously been able to access. These US-built supercomputers were exported subject to the proviso that they be used exclusively for civilian purposes. But despite agreeing to ongoing monitoring, PRC has since rejected almost all requests to locate their whereabouts, claiming the checks violate its national sovereignty.

High speed computers are the most powerful tool known for designing and modelling nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. They are also used during the design process to model turbulent flows around the hulls of submarines and surface warships.

Other US technology transferred to Red China once restrictions were lifted includes secure (encrypted) radios, satellites, airborne reconnaissance cameras, weapons delivery systems, target acquisition systems, missile guidance systems, missile warning systems, radio and radar jamming systems, and meteorological information systems. All these high tech items are now working inside PRC to develop or carry nuclear weapons for a modern army.

Western businesses eager to grow profits have seen Red China as a large and untapped new market. But it is foolish to believe that PRC -- the world's third largest nuclear power with a growing economy expected to surpass that of the US sometime this century – will be a transparent and equal partner.

Foreign companies seeking trade deals with Red China are required to transfer high-level manufacturing technology to PRC and teach a Chinese workforce to manufacture certain components, which they can do more cheaply than the West’s heavily unionised and minimum-waged workforce. PRC then uses the fruits of Western trade and technology to bolster its military capabilities for an upcoming war of nuclear annihilation on the West.

Having recently inked a free trade deal with PRC, New Zealand is surely obliged to engage with the agenda behind this technology grab. New Zealand companies lead the world in the development and manufacture of electronic componentry with a wide range of applications.

Anonymous said...
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Part 2
Foreign companies seeking trade deals with Red China are required to transfer high-level manufacturing technology to PRC and teach a Chinese workforce to manufacture certain components, which they can do more cheaply than the West’s heavily unionised and minimum-waged workforce. PRC then uses the fruits of Western trade and technology to bolster its military capabilities for an upcoming war of nuclear annihilation on the West.

Having recently inked a free trade deal with PRC, New Zealand is surely obliged to engage with the agenda behind this technology grab. New Zealand companies lead the world in the development and manufacture of electronic componentry with a wide range of applications.

A free trade deal makes it difficult to argue that certain technology should remain off-limits to a key trading partner, especially since New Zealand has more to lose economically should the arrangement fall over. Newly relaxed immigration controls will also afford Red China’s scientists and technical specialists an inside track into employment with New Zealand companies undertaking militarily sensitive research and development projects.

For example, Wellington company, Surveylab, has developed a small handheld “rapid data device for mobile mapping and damage assessment” known as an “ike.” This device has a “one button push” data capturing capability that can be applied to the gathering of multilevel targeting and terrain knowledge on the battlefield.

Nano Cluster Devices Limited is at the cutting edge of the global semiconductor industry. The company has commercialised a process developed by Canterbury University researchers for manipulating atoms and forming them into electrically conducting wires implanted into computer chips. These chips have a wide range of both civilian and military applications.

Rakon Limited recently opened an office in Shanghai to complement existing offices and technical support staff in Shenzen and Beijing servicing the company’s “significant Asian customers in the GPS, telecommunications network timing/sychronisation and aerospace industries.”

Among other things, Rakon designs and manufactures key componentry for military GPS navigation systems. More importantly, Rakon has for over a decade been the sole supplier of a core component in the guidance systems of the smart bombs made for the US military. Rakon is currently developing a crystal oscillator system for the US nuclear defence programme to enable US missile guidance systems to survive a nuclear first strike, thus allowing retaliatory missiles to be dispatched.

It’s time we woke up.

As Andrew Browne reminds us in a recent Wall Street Journal Asia article on PRC-born migrants: “[W]herever they go, those who depart will be shadowed by the organs of the Leninist state they've left behind. A sprawling bureaucracy—the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council—exists to ensure that distance from the motherland doesn't dull their patriotism. Its goal is to safeguard loyalty to the Communist Party.”

PRC-born migrants grew up in a Communist country, and were indoctrinated into the belief that Communism would one day supplant capitalism by hook or by crook. Despite having been welcomed here with open arms, these people are likely to remain committed to advancing the strategic interests of a foreign power. Even if they are not, the safety of close relatives at home is always a loaded gun to their heads.

Those defending a pro-business policy toward Red China argue that others would gladly trade with it if we don’t. What gets overlooked is that PRC hasn't accepted capitalism as a democratic force, but remains a one-party state steeped in Communist imperialism and centuries-old pre-Communist Chinese dreams of global hegemony.

With little genuine interest in democracy, PRC treats capitalism as a vehicle to strengthen its military and strategic interests, not to empower its people. The only empowered groups in Red China are the Chinese Communist Party and its military-industrial complex.

Anonymous said...
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Part 3
The promise of a large and promising market has driven us to strike a trade deal with PRC. Our failure to recognise that Chinese Communism is the same enemy of peace and freedom it always was means Lenin’s prophecy about the capitalists selling the Communists the rope that they will use to hang us draws ever-closer to fulfilment.

Capitalism and democracy are great equalisers, but we would do well to remember that so, too, is a demographic takeover; and so, too, are nuclear weapons deliverable anywhere in the world at short notice.