Chinese Wisdom

China and Doklam …

Posted on September 16, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Searching for Success |

Pranab Dhal Samanta in ET

How to deal with China? This is easily the biggest foreign policy question for most governments in today’s global power order.

While China’s larger interest on the success of the Brics Summit in Xiamen did help expedite an end to the two-month DOKLAM stand-off, the fact that India could manage to successfully stave off a strong and shrill Chinese challenge has reverberated across world capitals.

The understanding was arrived at after some 13 rounds of negotiations done through established diplomatic channels. No back channel, no false assurances. This is quite an out-of the-ordinary experience for all countries with a Beijing problem, specifically those that share land and maritime boundaries with China.

So, is there now an India model to emulate while dealing with a confrontational China? While that would receive some detailed attention in the days ahead, what’s clear is that there were certain distinctive contours to the Indian approach. And while these worked for India, it’s also a fact that they proved effective because of a larger context that continues to weigh heavily on China.

The context is now becoming increasingly embarrassing for China. The North Korean tests, including the missile that was fired over Japanese territory on the day Doklam issue was resolved, underline the weight of that embarrassment.

The other country pulling down China in a similar manner is Pakistan, which is under fire for sponsorship of terrorism not just by India alone, but by now a growing spectrum of countries. These start with Afghanistan and go on to include countries in West Asia, Europe, and the US, as exemplified in President Donald Trump’s South Asia strategy address.

In short, North Korea and Pakistan are not the best advertisements of friends for a country aspiring global economic leadership. At a time when the US is looking insular as an economic power, China has thrown in its hat to lead the free trade pitch. The Brics, for instance, is a key forum to strengthen this claim. And just then, to have Pyongyang set off a nuclear device doesn’t help matters.

This kind of ‘Notoriety Club’ had a utility for China, but that time may have passed. This is a conclusion only Beijing can make. But it cannot stop other countries drawing their own meanings in their national interest.

It’s in this context that the shrill rhetoric on Doklam did not help. There were very few takers for China’s case, frankly, even before it was articulated. The reason for that being China’s lack of credibility in sub-continental matters, given its own long-term strategic commitment with Pakistan. Further, the tone and content of the official attack did not help either, sending signals that made others equally insecure.

In contrast, India had a more nuanced approach, which can now be fleshed out along few parameters. To begin with, there was a conscious, clear decision to halt Chinese construction activity and stand by Bhutan regardless of how the situation evolved. This was a departure from the past practice to avoid direct confrontation. But this time, the overall military assessment was that China had come too close for comfort.

The initial action was done swiftly. Thereafter, India decided to keep quiet, not aggravate matters. So, New Delhi had, early in the day, recognised the principle that there could be no gain made by humiliating China.

New Delhi followed this edict to the point that it did not allow itself to be provoked by any Chinese humiliation. The next principle at play was that China has much bigger stakes in the international system and the global commons for it to just abandon all of that in favour of military action against a global systems-compliant country and emerging economy like India. That assumption was correct. Which is why China did not cross the Brics deadline.

And, finally, it was assessed that in the bigger picture, Beijing’s aspirations require cultivating more positive relations with New Delhi. Which is why the condemnation of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed in the Brics statement is better understood as a rethink in China than a victory for India.

The Doklam handling tells us that there’s indeed an effective way to talk tough issues with China – and not by giving in or speaking out, but by showing up and conversing relentlessly to find convergences.

China, after all, cannot have an ambition at the cost of everyone else.

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China’s way of Expansion…

Posted on September 13, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Searching for Success |

A New City Out In The Desert Of Oman – Forbes Now: Wade Shepard –
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Oman intends to change things by building an entirely new, $10.7 billion transit-oriented industrial city on the desertified coast of the Arabian Sea, 550 kilometers south of Muscat. More accurately, China is going to do it!
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A year ago, Oman signed a deal and opened the doors for a Chinese consortium to move in and do what they seemingly like to do best: build a new boomtown. After constructing dozens of full-scale new cities and completely re-developing dozens more in their own country, Chinese firms are now moving out along the tendrils of the Belt and Road to construct new cities across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Duqm is among the most ambitious of such projects.
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China’s new city in the Oman desert has been pragmatically dubbed the Sino-Oman Industrial City, and the ambition is to turn a remote and underutilized Middle East seaport into a vital nerve center of global trade and manufacturing.
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The 11-square-kilometer endeavor, which sits within the giant Duqm Special Economic Zone (SEZAD), is expected to have not only a vibrant port but an array of other “mega-ventures,” which include an oil refinery, a multi-billion dollar methanol plant, a giant solar energy equipment manufacturing operation, an automobile assembly factory, an oil and gas equipment production site, and a $100+ million building material distribution enterprise.
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In addition to being a cluster of industrial operations, the Sino-Oman Industrial City will also have a more human element as well, providing homes for 25,000 people, complete with schools, medical facilities, office complexes, and entertainment centers — which includes a $200 million 5-star tourism zone.
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The Chinese consortium has promised to develop 30% of the project area in just five years, with financing and construction firms coming straight from the mainland.
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Oman Wanfang, the Chinese consortium that is putting up the money, know-how, and boots on the ground to carry out this massive endeavor, is made up of six companies, most of which are from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region — which is largely populated by Chinese Muslims, demonstrating a cultural link with Oman that may help facilitate such deals.
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But unlike many other Chinese investor consortiums that are active along the Belt and Road, all of these firms are private, as opposed to being commercial extensions of the Chinese state, and claim that they are not being provided with direct funding from their government to carry out their individual projects in Duqm. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have the full backing of Beijing, who is reputedly supporting the venture via its National Development and Reform Commission, who has oddly already enthroned the project as a “Top Overseas Industrial Park.”
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Laying right on the Arabian Sea between the Gulf of Oman and the Gulf of Aden, the location of the port/SEZ combo at Duqm fits snuggly into the bosom of China’s Maritime Silk Road — Beijing’s vision of three supercharged sea routes between China and Europe and Africa that are serving as a framework for the development of a plethora of Chinese-owned ports and other mega-projects. From an established base camp at Duqm, China will be able to better access and secure their energy and trade supply lines throughout the Middle East and East Africa.
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It is also probably no coincidence that 77.1% (2015) of Oman’s crude oil and condensates exports go to China.
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The Sino-Oman Industrial City is just one of a network of new cities that Chinese firms are currently busy at work constructing along the land and sea routes of the Belt and Road — another entry into a portfolio that now includes Colombo Financial City and Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Forest City and Robotic Future City in Malaysia, a massive port and SEZ project in Abu Dhabi, the $10 billion Kyauk Pyu Special Economic Zone in Myanmar, along with large-scale new developments in western Chinese cities like Horgos, Urumqi, Lanzhou, and Xi’an.
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Via its Belt and Road Initiative, China has become a prime partner of countries that are going through three kinds of economic transitions:
Emerging markets trying to build up their economies and develop a framework of modern transport infrastructure, energy, and technology.
Stagnant or retracting developed economies, like Greece, Spain, and the Brexit-riddled U.K, who are in dire need of additional sources of economic sustenance.
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Energy resource dependent nations who are trying to diversify their economies to bolster long-term sustainability. Oman joins countries like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan right in the midst of the third type of transition.
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Currently, Oman’s economy is firmly entrenched in a cycle of hydro-carbon dependency. In Oman, oil and gas accounts for nearly 50% of GDP, 70% of exports, and 71% of total government revenue.
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This reliance on oil and gas has been posited as Oman’s biggest risk, and the country has been on an all out mission to develop other sectors of its economy, aiming to cut its share of hydro-carbon derived GDP in half by 2020. To these ends, the country has earmarked roughly $106 billion to invest in industries like transportation, tourism, and real estate, with projects to create a new railway network, new airports, enhanced seaports, new cities — a la Duqm — currently underway.

The research firm BMI forecasted that the Sino-Oman Industrial City will be a major factor in the rise of Oman’s construction sector, which is predicted to double its growth rate by 2019.

For the record, Oman didn’t go running straight to China with their economic woes, begging the emerging superpower to the east to step in and fund their diversification program. No, as was the case with Sri Lanka, Oman initially tried to secure additional funding for its big development projects from other countries, like Iran, but it was to no avail.

China was the only taker, and probably the only country in the world with the capital, political will, and motive for carrying out such long-term, costly developmental endeavors.
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Under the framework of the Belt and Road, China is going around salving the world’s economic deficiencies with bags of money and bulldozers in exchange for long-term engagements:
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These new port holdings also further enmeshes China into the political and economic fabric of the world. While seemingly irrational, inflated amounts of money are being passed over the table today, what China is receiving are strong footholds in the international arena that they will be able to stand upon for decades, creating a new geo-economic paradigm in the process.
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While national leaders put on smiley faces and talk about “win-win” partnerships, international infrastructure projects like China’s maritime developments are drawing up the new front lines of the 21st century, where economic leverage is the weapon of choice.

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China – Malaysia Stands Up …

Posted on September 12, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Chinese Wisdom |

When Indonesia recently — and quite publicly — renamed the northernmost waters of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea despite China’s claims to the area, Beijing quickly dismissed the move as “meaningless.” It is proving to be anything but.

Indonesia’s increasingly aggressive posture in the region — including a military buildup in its nearby Natuna Islands and the planned deployment of naval warships — comes as other nations are being more accommodating to China’s broad territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The two countries had three maritime skirmishes in 2016 involving warning shots, including one in which Indonesian warships seized a Chinese fishing boat and its crew.

Indonesia is challenging China, one of its biggest investors and trading partners, as it seeks to assert control over a waterway that has abundant resources, particularly oil and natural gas reserves and fish stocks.

The pushback from Indonesia takes direct aim at Beijing’s claims within the so-called “nine-dash line,” which on Chinese maps delineates the vast area that China claims in the South China Sea. It also adds a new player to the volatile situation, in which the United States Navy has been challenging China’s claims with naval maneuvers through waters claimed by Beijing.

Indonesia “is already a party to the disputes — and the sooner it acknowledges this reality the better,” said Ian J. Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, where he researches South China Sea issues.

The dispute largely centers on the Natuna Sea, a resource-rich waterway north of Indonesia that also lies close to Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.

Before naming part of the contested waterway the North Natuna Sea “to make it sound more Indonesian,” Mr. Storey said, Indonesia last year began beefing up its military presence in the Natunas. That included expanding its naval port on the main island to handle bigger ships and lengthening the runway at its air force base there to accommodate larger aircraft.

For decades, Indonesia’s official policy has been that it is not a party to any territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, unlike its regional neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Last year, however, Indonesia and China had the three maritime skirmishes within Indonesia’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone off its Natuna Islands, which lie northwest of Borneo.

After the third skirmish, in June 2016, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in which it claimed for the first time that its controversial nine-dash line included “traditional fishing grounds” within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

The administration of the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, whose top administrative priorities since taking office in October 2014 include transforming his country into a maritime power, has ordered the authorities to blow up hundreds of foreign fishing vessels seized while illegally fishing in Indonesian waters.

Mr. Joko, during a visit to Japan in 2015, said in a newspaper interview that China’s nine-dash line had no basis in international law. He also chaired a cabinet meeting on a warship off the Natunas just days after last year’s third naval skirmish — a move analysts viewed as a show of resolve to Beijing.

On July 14, Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries held a conspicuously high-profile news conference to release its first national territorial map since 2005, including the unveiling of the newly named North Natuna Sea. The new map also included new maritime boundaries with Singapore and the Philippines, with which Indonesia had concluded agreements in 2015.

Arif Havas Oegroseno, a deputy minister at Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs, told journalists that the new Indonesian map offered “clarity on natural resources exploration areas.”

That same day, Indonesia’s Armed Forces and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources signed a memorandum for warships to provide security for the highly profitable fishing grounds and offshore oil and gas production and exploration activities within the country’s exclusive economic zone near the Natunas.

Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, the commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces, said at the time that offshore energy exploration and production activities “have often been disturbed by foreign-flagged vessels” — which some analysts took as a reference to China.

Although several countries take issue with China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, few do so publicly, and the Trump administration has recently sent mixed signals about how willing it is to challenge China on its claims. That has made the Indonesian pushback more intriguing.

Frega Ferdinand Wenas Inkiriwang, a lecturer at the Indonesian Defense University, said Indonesia’s public naming of the North Natuna Sea “means that Indonesia indirectly becomes a claimant state in the area, perhaps due to territorial integrity issues.”

“It’s in the vicinity of the Natunas,” he said, “and the Natunas contain natural resources which are inherited and will be beneficial for Indonesia’s development.”

Analysts say that the Indonesian Navy would be no match for the Chinese Navy in a fight, although the first of last year’s clashes involved only a Chinese Coast Guard ship and an Indonesian maritime ministry patrol boat. It is unlikely that the two countries’ navies would clash within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, according to analysts.

Members of the 10-state Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, have repeatedly expressed concern about China’s aggressive posture in the South China Sea, including its naval standoffs and land reclamation projects in disputed areas, and the stationing of military personnel and surface-to-air missiles in the Paracel Islands — which are controlled by China but are also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

Indonesia, the grouping’s largest member and de facto leader, had in the past remained on the sidelines of the various South China Sea disputes and offered to help mediate between Asean claimant states and Beijing.

Given that China is among Indonesia’s biggest investors and trade partners, some analysts say Jakarta will go only so far in challenging China’s territorial claims, at least publicly. But its more aggressive military posture and other moves regarding the Natunas are nonetheless sending signals to China.

“It doesn’t make Indonesia a claimant state,” said Aaron Connelly, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, Australia, who follows the South China Sea disputes. “They’ve never accepted the legitimacy of the nine-dash line, which is why they say there’s no overlap” with its exclusive economic zone.

“China says it has ‘traditional fishing rights,’ but Indonesia is doing things in a legalistic way right now,” Mr. Connelly said. “This is a more effective way of challenging it.”

Evan A. Laksmana, a senior researcher on security affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, agreed that the naming of the North Natuna Sea was not specifically done to trigger a dispute with China.

“But the international legal basis underpinning Indonesia’s new map is clear,” he said.

“We do not recognize China’s claims in the Natuna waters — we don’t feel like we should negotiate our map with Beijing or ask their

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Chinese Education …

Posted on September 10, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Personalities, Searching for Success |

Why American Students Need Chinese Schools.

After putting her son in an elite state-run school in Shanghai, an American mother finds that the U.S. education system could learn a few things from China —most of all that teacher knows best

When my little boy was 3, his Chinese teacher forced a bite of fried egg into his mouth. At school. Without permission.

“She put it there,” my first born told me, lips forming an “O,” finger pointing past his teeth.

“Then what happened?” I prodded my son, who despises eggs.

“I cried and spit it out,” he said.

“And?” I pressed.

“She did it again,” he said. In all, Teacher Chen pushed egg into my son’s mouth four times, and the last time, he swallowed.

We are Americans raising a family in Shanghai— China’s megacity of 26 million people—and the Chinese are known to pump out some of the world’s best students. When we realized that a few blocks from our new home was one of the best state-run schools, as far as elite urbanites are concerned, we decided to enroll our son. He would learn the world’s most spoken language. What was not to like?

Plenty – as it turned out. And it was only the first week of kindergarten. The next day, I marched off to school to confront Teacher Chen about the egg episode, brash in my conviction about individual choice.

“We don’t use such methods of force in America,” I blurted in Mandarin, my son clutching my hand. (I was born and raised in America but grew up speaking Chinese at home.)

“Oh? How do you do it?” Teacher Chen challenged.

“We explain that egg eating is good for them, that the nutrients help build strong bones and teeth and helps with eyesight,” I said, trying to sound authoritative. “We motivate them to choose…we trust them with the decision.”

“Does it work?” Teacher Chen challenged.

In truth, no. I’d never been able to get my son to eat eggs. He’s a picky eater. Later, Teacher Chen pulled me aside for a lecture. “In front of the children, you should say, ‘Teacher is right, and Mom will do things the same way,’ OK?”

‘Many studies support the Chinese way of education.’

I nodded, slightly stunned. It was the voice of Confucius, who had staked his entire philosophy on the concept of top-down authority and bottom-up obedience, giving direction to our lives.

Many studies support the Chinese way of education. Researchers have found that 6-year-old Chinese children trounce their American peers in early math skills, including geometry and logic. In the past decade, Shanghai teens twice took No. 1 in the world on a test called PISA, which assesses problem-solving skills, while American students landed in the middle of the pack.

When young Chinese head abroad, the results are impressive. They are earning more spots at the world’s top universities. The Ivy League enrolls eight times more Chinese undergraduates than a decade ago, according to the Institute of International Education, and the Chinese are helping to launch Silicon Valley startups in disproportionate numbers.

Yet, from my perch in Shanghai, I started out with some major objections to Chinese education. Force-feeding would get a teacher dragged into court in the U.S., the land of infant choice, free-form play and individualized everything. In China, children are also subjected to high-stakes testing at every turn, which keeps them bent over books from toddlerhood on.

I began to wonder: What price do the Chinese pay to produce their “smart” kids? And do we really have something to learn from this rigid, authoritarian form of schooling?

For five years now, I’ve parented a child inside China’s school system and interviewed Chinese teachers, parents and students at all stages of education. I’ve discovered that there are indeed some Chinese “secrets” that work and are worth emulating. Most have to do with attitudes about education.

There are real upsides to a mentality of “teacher knows best.” As I worked through my anxieties about submitting to this kind of system, I began to observe that when parents fall in line with teachers, so do their children. This deference gives the teacher near-absolute command of her classroom. My son became so afraid of being late for class, missing school or otherwise disappointing his teacher, that he once raised a stink when I broached the possibility of missing a few school days for a family trip. He was 5.

Having the teacher as an unquestioned authority in the classroom gives students a leg up in subjects such as geometry and computer programming, which are more effectively taught through direct instruction (versus student-led discovery), according to a 2004 study of 112 third- and fourth-graders published in the journal Psychological Science.

A 2014 study of more than 13,000 students in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis found that math-challenged first-graders learned more effectively when teachers demonstrated problem-solving procedures and followed up with repeated practice.

By contrast, Western teachers spend lots of time managing classroom behavior and crushing mini-revolts by students and parents alike.

A Chinese teacher who arrived in the U.S. two decades ago recalled to me her surprise the first year she taught American kids. “I started out very controlling, but it didn’t work at all. My students talked back!” says Sheen Zhang, who teaches Mandarin at a Minnesota high school.

Parents sometimes complained when she assigned too much homework. A mother once asked her to change the way she talked to her classwork-skipping daughter. “She wanted me to say, ‘You can do better!’ instead of ‘You didn’t finish this!’ ” exclaimed Ms. Zhang.

‘Chinese society grants teachers a social status on par with doctors.’

The Chinese parent knows that her kid deserves whatever the teacher metes out, no questions asked. In other words, let the teacher do his or her job. As a result, educators in China enjoy an esteem that’s tops in the world.

Half of Chinese would encourage their kids to become teachers, while less than a third of Americans and Brits would do the same, according to a 2013 study by the Varkey Foundation.

Chinese society grants teachers a social status on par with doctors.

There are also educational advantages to the Chinese insistence on elevating the group over the needs of any individual child. The reason is simple – Classroom goals are better served if everyone charges forward at the same pace. No exceptions, no diversions.

My son suffered from asthma during the winter, but Teacher Chen denied my request to keep his rescue inhaler near the classroom — its use might be a distraction to his classmates. When I loudly protested, I was told I could transfer my son out of the school. In other words, no kid gets special treatment, and if I didn’t like it, I could get out. Ultimately, I found a solution: a preventive steroid inhaler that I could administer at home.

The school’s attitude is draconian. But Americans have arguably gone too far in the other direction, elevating the needs of individual students to the detriment of the group.

Some parents think nothing of sending an unvaccinated child to school—ignoring community health—or petitioning to move school start times to accommodate sports schedules. Meanwhile, teacher friends tell me that they are spending more time dealing with “problem” students, often through intervention programs that whittle away teachers’ time with the rest of the class. Where should we draw the line?

Another bracing Chinese belief is that hard work trumps innate talent when it comes to academics. Equipped with flashcards and ready to practice, my son’s Chinese language teacher knows that he is capable of learning the 3,500 characters required for literacy.

His primary school math teacher gives no child a free pass on triple-digit arithmetic and, in fact, stays after school to help laggards. China’s school system breeds a Chinese-style grit, which delivers the daily message that perseverance—not intelligence or ability—is key to success.

Studies show that this attitude gets kids farther in the classroom. Ethnic Asian youth are higher academic achievers in part because they believe in the connection between effort and achievement, while “white Americans tend to view cognitive abilities as…inborn,” according to a longitudinal study of more than 5,000 students published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014.

Chinese kids are used to struggling through difficult content, and they believe that success is within reach of anyone willing to work for it. This attitude gives policy makers in China great latitude when it comes to setting out and enforcing higher standards.

In the U.S., parents have often revolted as policy makers try to push through similar measures. In part, we are afraid that Johnny will feel bad about himself if he can’t make the grade. What if, instead, Johnny’s parents—and his teacher, too—believed that the boy could learn challenging math with enough dedicated effort?

Americans aren’t afraid to push their children when it comes to athletics. Here we believe that hard work and practice pay off, so we accept scores and rankings.

Eyes glued to scoreboards at a meet, we embrace numbers as a way to measure progress. A ninth-place finish in the 100-meter dash suggests to us that a plodding Johnny needs to train harder. It doesn’t mean that he’s inferior, nor do we worry much about his self-esteem.

My son has been in the Chinese school system now for five years. During that time, he has morphed into a proper little pupil who faithfully greets his teacher each morning — “Laoshi Zao! Good morning, teacher!” —and has developed an unbending respect for education.

In primary school, I watched, a bit dazed, as he prepared his own backpack for school at 6 years old, slotting his English, Chinese and math books into his bag each morning along with six pencils that he sharpened himself.

When his homework books come home — parents in China are required to sign them daily to prove involvement—he brings them to us immediately. He began teaching his younger brother Mandarin, two small heads huddled over a picture book, naming animals. A little older now, he expertly performs timed drills in arithmetic, his pencil traveling down the page, and he gains confidence from his success. He also eats eggs of his own free will.

When I tell the story of my son’s Chinese educational experience to American friends, they gasp. When they spend time with him, they are surprised that he doesn’t cower in the corner or obey commands like a Labrador retriever.

My son is imaginative when he draws, and has a great sense of humor and a mean forehand in tennis. None of these qualities has slipped away, and I now share the Chinese belief that even very young kids are capable of developing a range of demanding talents.

Still, I must confess that I have been paralyzed by anxiety at times over the Chinese way, which demands fealty. Teacher Chen wasn’t just authoritarian; she sometimes delivered very harsh punishments. Once, she isolated my young son and several classmates in an empty classroom and threatened to demote them after they failed to follow in “one-two” step during a physical exercise.

Her power was even more worrisome when coupled with the Communist Party’s political agenda. At 4, my son learned the lyrics to “The East Is Red,” extolling Chairman Mao. The following year, his teachers began running mock elections for class monitor, part of the grooming process to identify star students for eventual Party membership.

At the same time, China’s education landscape is littered with dropouts in a system that perpetuates an underclass: Children who fail to test into regular high schools would populate a city the size of London each year. Because of the high stakes, families sometimes take extreme measures, including cheating and bribery.

And there is no denying that the traditional Chinese classroom discourages the expression of new and original thought. I observed an art class where 28 toddlers were instructed to sketch exactly the same way, with errant drawings tacked to the wall to shame the deviants.

“Rain falls from the sky to the ground and comes in little dots,” bellowed the teacher, as the children dutifully populated their pages. In this classroom, rain did not blow sideways or hurtle to the ground in sheets. There was no figurative rain, such as purple rain, nor did it rain tears or frogs, much less cats and dogs.

There are clear downsides to China’s desire to cultivate a nation of obedient patriots, and Americans naturally resist. We harbor a healthy mistrust of authority, and our freedom to raise a fuss is a right we should celebrate. It’s foundational to our national character.

But the skepticism we freely apply to our political leaders can be destructive when transferred to the men and women who stand at the front of our classrooms. Educational progress in the U.S. is hobbled by parental entitlement and by attitudes that detract from learning: We demand privileges for our children that have little to do with education and ask for report-card mercy when they can’t make the grade. As a society, we’re expecting more from our teachers while shouldering less responsibility at home.

From my years living in a very different country, I’ve learned that wonderful things can happen when we give our educators the respect and autonomy they deserve. Sometimes, it is best when parents—and children—are simply obliged to do as they’re told.

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China Japan Relations …

Posted on September 10, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Chinese Wisdom, Searching for Success |

From WSJ …

Put yourself in the shoes of a Chinese strategist, pondering ways to check and undermine the dominant role that the U.S. has maintained in East Asia since the end of World War II.

Beijing has already built a navy to challenge the U.S. on the oceans and established military bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea. As President Donald Trump causes alarm among U.S. allies world-wide, China is also trying to peel Asian neighbors like the Philippines away from the U.S. and bring them into a new Sinocentric club.

But Beijing has never really tried the one move that could, at a stroke, devastate American interests in the region and, by extension, the world: disentangling Japan from its longtime security alliance with the U.S. If China could reassure Japan about its security, Washington’s standing as Asia’s superpower would be gravely diminished.

Why, then, has China so consistently radiated hostility toward Japan instead of trying to seduce it?

The conventional explanation is that Beijing doesn’t dare reach out to Tokyo because the Chinese remain collectively furious over Japan’s aggression and atrocities during World War II and the country’s subsequent refusal to apologize for them. But this view doesn’t hold up.

For decades after 1945, China didn’t seek an official apology. Beijing changed its tune only when it became more powerful from the 1980s onward and found a source of strategic leverage in reminding Japan of its past crimes. More to the point, since Beijing started demanding apologies for Tokyo’s wartime behavior, Japan has repeatedly given them—but to little effect.

The real obstacle to a reconciliation between China and Japan lies in the way that their toxic wars over history have become caught up in both countries’ domestic politics, exacerbating their natural rivalry as Asia’s two great powers.

In the early 1990s, with China’s Communist Party seeking to rebuild its credentials after the bloody 1989 crackdown on antigovernment demonstrators across the country, Beijing sanctioned a relentless diet of anti-Japanese propaganda. A besieged party eager to rally the masses saw no better vehicle than reviving attacks on the “historical criminal,” Japan.

Over time, policy toward Japan has become so sensitive that any Chinese official who advocates reconciliation risks career suicide. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is also Beijing’s pre-eminent Japan expert, speaks Japanese well— but he avoids doing so in public, lest he draw personal attacks.

Chinese diplomats and scholars know the dangers of advocating rapprochement with Tokyo. “If you [say] any nice words about Japan, then you will get an angry reaction from students,” said Chu Shulong of Tsinghua University.

Studying America is less fraught, he adds: “People might not agree with me, but they never call you a traitor.”

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BRICS – Sep 17 …

Posted on September 3, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

BBC –

The summit of the so-called Brics nations brings together the five fast-growing economies, who are seeking a greater say in world affairs. Economic ties will top the agenda at the three-day gathering in Xiamen, China which began Sunday.

But North Korea’s nuclear test and a border standoff between China and India could also colour discussions. So what are the four key things to watch out for at this meeting?

1. ‘Growing the pie’ without ‘touching the cheese’
While US President Donald Trump has pushed a protectionist trade agenda, pulling the US out of the Trans Pacific Partnership and renegotiating the North America Free Trade Agreement, China is striking a very different tone. Chinese President Xi Jinping told the meeting that there is little to fear from closer trade ties.

“We should push for an open world economy, promote trade liberalisation and facilitation, jointly create a new global value chain, and realise a global economic rebalancing,” President Xi Jinping told Brics business leaders and senior officials in a speech on Sunday. “The development of emerging markets and developing countries won’t touch anyone’s cheese, but instead will diligently grow the world economic pie,” he said.

But many countries have criticised China’s trade policies, saying they discriminate against foreign businesses. Even within Brics, trade is heavily tilted in China’s favour, which has led to complaints from fellow members. China’s vice minister of commerce, Wang Shouwen, also suggested China was interested in establishing a free trade agreement with Mexico.
The Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is attending the dialogue at the invitation of the Chinese president.

2. One Belt One Road

The sheer scale of China’s massive international infrastructure project – known as One Belt One Road – means it is often on the agenda at high level economic meetings like this one. The project aims to expand trade links between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond through infrastructure investments.

“I am convinced that the Belt and Road initiative will serve as a new platform for all countries to achieve win-win cooperation,” said President Xi. But the initiative has made India in particular quite uneasy, as it includes projects worth $62bn (£48bn) to be implemented in its neighbour and rival Pakistan.

Also, tensions between China and India remain high after a border standoff, which was resolved just days before the conference.

3. The New Development Bank

Construction began over the weekend on headquarters in Shanghai for the New Development Bank (NDB), which is the Brics alternative to the World Bank. The NDB was seen as the first major Brics achievement after the group came together to press for a bigger say in the world’s financial affairs.

The bank aims to address a massive infrastructure funding gap in the member countries, which account for almost half the world’s population.
To date, the NDB has invested in 11 projects, lending $1.5bn in 2016 with an additional $2.5bn in loans set for this year.

Still, the bank is small potatoes when compared with the World Bank, and some have questioned China’s commitment, given it heads up the bigger Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

4. The nuclear elephant in the room

The conference had an unwelcome surprise in the form of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test on Sunday. China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines of the Brics meeting, and agreed to “appropriately deal” with North Korea’s nuclear test.

China said it strongly condemned the nuclear test and urged Pyongyang to stop its “wrong” actions.

The US President suggested on Twitter that the US might stop “all trade with any country doing business with North Korea”.

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The Chinese Way of Getting Their Way …

Posted on September 2, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom |

M.K. Narayanan is a former National Security Advisor

Any belief that China has been deterred by India’s firm riposte at Doklam could be misplaced Just when the stand-off between India and China over the Doklam plateau threatened to go the way of the 1986-1987 Sumdorong Chu incident (Arunachal Pradesh), the two sides agreed to step back and disengage, thus avoiding a confrontation.

The Indian side has pulled back its personnel and equipment to the Indian side of the boundary, while China has agreed to make ‘necessary adjustments and deployment’ on its part. It is unclear, however, whether China will patrol the region, which it claims to have been doing earlier. Road construction will not continue for the present.

Behind the scenes, quiet diplomacy by the two sides, no doubt, led to the defusing of what could have been a serious crisis. China’s interest in Doklam is not of recent origin and has a long history. Those on either side of the divide currently claiming victory must, hence, pause to think what the future holds. Jumping to conclusions at this point could amount to ‘missing the wood for the trees’.

India’s actions in Doklam are easy to discern, viz. going to the help of a treaty partner in its time of need, a decision which incidentally has security ramifications for India. China’s reasons are more complex and labyrinthine but, nevertheless, cannot be easily wished away.

Agreeing to disagree: ending the Doklam stand-off

To savour victory without understanding the factors at work would be a serious mistake. Going into the entire gamut of Sino-Indian relations to try to decipher what prompted China to moderate its stand after weeks of high decibel propaganda may not provide all the answers we seek.

To begin with, China and India have a kind of competitive coexistence. While professing friendship, both sides nurse a mutual suspicion of each other — at times prompting several degrees of alienation. Both countries remain wary of each other’s intentions and actions. Yet, and despite the long-time rivalry between the two countries, we may need to look elsewhere for an explanation.

Understanding the way the Chinese mind works is, hence, important. The Chinese mind tends to be relational, i.e. dictated by context and relationship, and its methodology tends to be obtuse. When the Chinese state that they have halted road building in the disputed Doklam area, while adding that they may reconsider the decision after taking into account ‘different factors’, what China means is that it is willing to wait to implement its decision, but at a time of its choosing when an opportunity exists for a settlement suited to its plans. Little finality can, therefore, be attached to any of China’s actions.

Conflict avoidance

Any belief, hence, that China has been deterred by India’s firm riposte at Doklam could be misplaced. Since the China-Vietnam conflict in 1980, China has avoided getting into any outright conflict. It has preferred attrition — a protracted campaign to secure a relative advantage — to forceful intervention.

By stepping back from a confrontation with India over a minor issue at this time, what it had in mind were two significant events, viz. the BRICS summit in China in September and the forthcoming 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. Also, it possibly believes that this would help China dilute global perceptions about its aggressive designs.

PLA’s live drills are meant to reinforce the perception that a military option in Doklam is under active consideration.
Lessons from Doklam

This may not be as far-fetched as it may seem. China is playing for higher stakes in a globalised world. For instance, on the South China Sea, it has preferred to employ confidence-building measures to deal with the U.S. while awaiting a more opportune moment to assert its claims.

China is even seeking more opportunities for cooperation, rather than confrontation, with the U.S. on trade matters. In the case of the U.S., China believes that relations between the two are adequately multilayered, providing scope for mitigating areas of mutual benefit.

The BRICS summit and the 19th Party Congress both have high priority for China today. Nothing will be permitted to disrupt either event. Extraneous factors would not be allowed to affect this situation. For President Xi Jinping, presiding over the BRICS Summit at this juncture will help consolidate his informal leadership of the group. As the undisputed leader of BRICS, China believes it can take a signal step towards global leadership.

China is currently seeking to reshape the regional and international order, and is keen to fine-tune its ‘Great Power diplomacy’. It, hence, needs to be seen as preferring peace over conflict. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a potent instrument in this direction, but needs a peaceful environment to succeed.

Limited wars or conflicts, even with the possibility of successful outcomes, would damage China’s peaceful image globally. Active power projection could at best provide a pyrrhic victory when the goal China has set is much higher.

The 19th Party Congress is even more important from President Xi’s point of view. It is intended to sustain his legacy and leave his stamp on the Party in the mould of Chairman Mao. To achieve comprehensive success, he needs peace to achieve his target. Till then everything else will need to wait.

This is again a delicate moment for China on the economic planes. It needs to redress the economic imbalance between its coastal regions and the hinterland States. One stated objective of the BRI is linking these regions with China’s land neighbours.

China’s growth rate is actually declining, debt levels are dangerously high, and labour is getting more expensive. At this moment, hence, it is more than ever dependent on international trade and global production chains to sustain higher levels of GDP growth. It can ill-afford to be seen as a disruptor rather than a pillar of the existing economic global order. For the present, development, therefore, is the cardinal objective.

The Achilles’ heel of the Chinese economy is the lack of resources, specially oil. Oil from the Gulf region is critical for China’s growth. Peace in Asia is thus vital to ensure uninterrupted supplies of oil. Uncertainties and disruptions across the Asian region would hamper China’s economic progress.

Apart from this, China also faces several cross-border security challenges, in addition to unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang. Embarking on military engagement outside the country’s borders could aggravate China’s problems. At a time when China is intent on sustained economic growth at one level, and aspiring to be a Great Power at another level, this could prove to be a dampener.

For all the above reasons, China currently leans towards the pragmatic when it comes to relations with countries other than those in its immediate periphery in East Asia. It is not keen to follow a policy adopted by its new-found strategic ally viz. Russia which has paid a high cost for its ‘interventionist’ policies.

China tends to take a longer term view of its future and, despite the rising crescendo of nationalism in China today, is anxious not to upset the international political or economic order. For this reason alone, it would shun a conflict with India in the Doklam area.

Not a status quoist power

China is not a status quoist power, and aspires to be a Great Power. It is well-positioned to achieve this if it maintains its present course. Any interruption, by indulging in a conflict with nations small or big, would not only damage but derail the levels of progress that are essential to achieve this objective.

President Xi’s China dream seems predicated on this belief. It implies support for a rule-based international system, linked to ‘Tianxia’, in the belief that this would help China overtake the U.S. as the dominant world power. When China talks of a ‘new type of Great Power relations’ it already envisages itself as Great Power in the making. It is unlikely to do anything to deviate from this goal.

While this attitude cannot be taken for granted for all time, the current Chinese leadership seems comfortable in following this prescription. It appears to believe in the aphorism that ‘the longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward’.

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China ‘changes tack’ to get its way in Doklam …

Posted on August 29, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Searching for Success |

The Asian Review –

Locked in a two-month border standoff with India and tiny Bhutan in the Himalayas, China is offering its little neighbor $10 billion in economic assistance to soften its stance.

Sources say that since the offer, Bhutan has toned down its allegations that China is violating its territorial claims.

The development complicates Bhutan’s relations with India, which blocked Chinese troops after Bhutan — a long-time security ally of India’s — notified New Delhi that the troops were attempting to construct a road in a part of the Doklam Plateau claimed by both China and Bhutan.

India and China have accused each other of violating the border, with troops from both countries in a face-off since June. Winning over Bhutan would lend more credence to their claims, and it appears Beijing’s overture is having the desired effect. Speaking to Indian reporters earlier this month, a Chinese diplomat said that Bhutan clearly acknowledged to Beijing that the area where Indian troops entered is not part of Bhutan.

If the claim is correct, it would signal a weakening of ties between India and Bhutan.

Although a Bhutanese government official immediately issued a denial to Indian media, New Delhi remains unconvinced. A government source told the Nikkei early this month that China’s $10 billion package — which includes a grant, low-interest loans and direct investment — is tempting Bhutan.

When External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met with her Bhutanese counterpart, Damcho Dorji, on Aug. 11 on the sidelines of a regional meeting, she told Dorji not to be betrayed by China, asking further that Bhutan retain its alliance with India. Dorji, however, only said that he hoped the standoff would be resolved peacefully and amicably, refraining from any comment that would provoke China.

In June, Bhutan’s foreign ministry blasted China, saying that the construction work violates an agreement between the two countries.

The Chinese government-backed tabloid Global Times later ran an editorial referencing Dorji’s comment and stating that Bhutan clearly wants to maintain neutral in its criticism of India.

China is wooing Bhutan in order to validate its presence in Doklam. India sent troops only after Bhutan claimed that China had started construction work in Bhutanese territory. Beijing hopes Bhutan will relinquish its claim to the disputed area, thereby obviating the need for Indian troops, which would then be violating Chinese territory.

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South China Sea Jockeying …

Posted on August 9, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Searching for Success |

Vietnam has emerged as the most vocal opponent of China‘s claims in the waterway, where more than $3 trillion in cargo pass every year.

Beijing is sensitive to even a veiled reference by ASEAN to its reclamation of seven reefs and its military installations in the South China Sea, which it claims in almost its entirety despite the competing claims of five other countries.

Tension has risen since June, when Vietnam infuriated China by drilling for oil and gas in an offshore block that Beijing disputes. The exploration was suspended after diplomatic protests from China.

After the ASEAN meeting, China‘s foreign minister had called out “some countries” who voiced concern over island reclamation.

Wang said that China had not carried out reclamation for two years. “At this time, if you ask who is carrying out reclamation, it is definitely not China – perhaps it is the country that brings up the issue that is doing it,” he added.

Satellite images have shown that Vietnam has carried out reclamation work in two sites in the disputed seas in recent years.

On Tuesday, the state-run China Daily cited unnamed sources as saying Vietnam had tried to hype up the reclamation issue in the communique, pointing out that Vietnam has accelerated its land reclamation in the South China Sea.

“Undoubtedly, what Vietnam has done is the trick of a thief crying ‘stop thief,’” the paper quoted one of the sources as saying.

Australia, Japan and the US on Monday urged Southeast Asia and China to ensure that a South China Sea code of conduct they have committed to draw up will be legally binding and said they strongly opposed “coercive unilateral actions”.

China has strongly opposed what it calls interference by countries outside the region in the South China Sea issue.

Meeting Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on the sidelines of a regional security forum in Manila on Monday, Wang urged Japan to respect the efforts of China and ASEAN countries and play a more constructive role for regional peace and stability.

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President Xi’s Other Problem …

Posted on August 7, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Personalities, Searching for Success |

Want China to press North Korea harder? Bring in Japan says William Pesek, a Tokyo-based journalist and author of ‘Japanisation: What The World Can Learn From Japan’s Lost Decades’.

Chinese strongman Xi Jinping has a terrible weakness – and his name is Kim Jong Un.

This is supposed to be the Chinese President’s big moment. Not since Deng Xiaoping’s day has a mainland leader controlled, well, everything – foreign affairs, the economy, the military, censorship policy, you name it.

United States President Donald Trump’s erratic White House and his scrapping of trade and climate-change deals, meanwhile, makes Mr Xi’s team look like the adults in the room.

Except for that Kim fellow, whose antics in Pyongyang have strongman Xi looking befuddled and downright cowed. Mr Xi had better get his mojo back, and soon, to curb the North Korean leader’s provocations the way only he can.

Increasingly, Beijing’s global standing depends on it.

The US President is turning up the pressure on Mr Xi to get tough on his client-state. Mr Trump is inching towards blunt force, too, be it military action on the Korean peninsula or a trade war with China. But greater success might come from pulling Japan into the mix to throw Mr Xi off balance and prod him to use Beijing’s considerable leverage over Mr Kim.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could do just that by urging the US to install a web of Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) systems around his geopolitically vital nation. Mr Abe also could host America’s Aegis Ashore weapons-interception system, which his defence team recently visited Guam to investigate.

China reacted angrily when South Korea welcomed Thaad onto the peninsula, banning tour groups, turning away K-pop bands and shuttering Lotte stores. Imagine the shockwaves through Beijing’s halls of power if Japan followed suit – and the changes to Mr Xi’s North Korean calculus.

Tokyo already has a two-step missile-defence programme. But given Mr Kim’s leaps in intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology, reinforcements are in order. That would surely clarify Mr Xi’s thoughts on the need to dock Mr Kim’s allowance.

The missile-shield hardware is only one half the problem for Mr Xi. The other is considerably more US radar and surveillance technology in China’s backyard. Few steps would shake up the status quo in North Asia, and more quickly.

What could Mr Xi do?

Mr Kim giving up his nuclear warheads is a non-starter. He’s well aware that Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi might still be alive and in power if they’d had nuclear deterrence.

But Mr Trump and Mr Abe are right that China has never tried seriously to tighten the financial screws. Sure, Mr Xi supports the occasional United Nations sanctions. In February, Beijing temporarily banned coal imports after Mr Kim’s half-brother was assassinated. Mr Xi has treaded carefully, though, concerned about destabilising the Kim regime and risking a refugee crisis on China’s border with the North.

It’s time Mr Xi experimented.

Mr Kim gets 90 per cent of his energy from China, which also supplied him with US$100 million (S$137 million) of steel last year. Why not send word to Pyongyang that Beijing is halving those shipments, effective immediately? The same goes for food, to say nothing of limiting Mr Kim’s financial pipelines.

And then there’s the Dandong problem. Mr Trump and Mr Abe favour so-called secondary sanctions against Chinese firms that run factories in this and other border cities. That would work only if Mr Xi clamped down on these specific trade flows. At the moment, they’re working in a huge way for Mr Kim. Last year, his economy grew 3.9 per cent, the fastest in 17 years. Since Mr Trump took office in January, North Korea-China trade has swelled nearly 11 per cent. Figures like this give UN efforts a bad name and bolster Mr Trump’s instinct that China isn’t doing enough.

As Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haas sees it, China is key to “put a ceiling” on Mr Kim’s nuclear ambitions. The question, of course, is how to get China onboard. A good cop/bad cop routine may be just the thing.

South Korean President Moon Jae In wants to engage Mr Kim, resurrecting the 1998-2008 “Sunshine Policy”. Diplomacy, as former US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson says, must accompany whatever Mr Trump and Mr Abe have in mind. As Mr Moon passes out the carrots, Mr Abe can help the US with the sticks.

The risk of military action is too great to contemplate – millions of casualties on the Korean peninsula alone. Japan, a vital US ally that’s an easier ICBM shot than San Francisco, is in harm’s way. So is much of the Asian region, says Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. While calling him a “fool”, Mr Duterte said of Mr Kim, “if he commits a mistake, the Far East will become an arid land. It must be stopped, this nuclear war”. Still, Mr Trump is warning Mr Kim it’s a live option.

Japan’s Thaad gambit is a wiser way to get Mr Xi, and Beijing’s sizeable leverage, on the case. Mr Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has resisted the step, fearing Beijing would retaliate against Japan Inc. Somehow, though, the “lost trade with China” argument loses sway when an existential threat is rising just 1,284km from Tokyo.

Mr Xi talks of making China a bigger stakeholder in global affairs, not just a shareholder. There’s no better way for him to prove it than taming Mr Kim.

If Mr Trump’s bluster doesn’t convince Mr Xi the time is now, perhaps a change in archenemy Japan’s missile-deterrence policy will.

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