Searching for Success

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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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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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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Something for Mankind …

Posted on August 9, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Guide Posts, Quotes, Searching for Success |

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr was a jurist and Supreme Court Justice for 30 yrs. He is famous for his concise, pithy, prescient opinions and remains one of the most widely cited Supreme Court justices. He is the author of the phrase, “clear and present danger.” These extracts are from his thought

ATTITUDE is more important than heritage, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say; it is also more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.

Carve every word before you let it fall. A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used. Don’t be ‘consistent but be true.

Every event that a man would master must be mounted on the run, and no man ever caught the reins of a thought except as it galloped past him. Man’s mind, stretched by a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.

A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience. A new and valid idea is stronger than an army. The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are tending. The rule of joy and the law of duty seem to me all one.

Most of the things we do, we do for no better reason than that our fathers have done them or our neighbors do them, and the same is true of a larger part of what we think. People talk fundamentals and superlatives and then make some changes of detail.

To have doubted one’s own first principles is the mark of a civilized man. Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at the touch, nay, you may kick it about all day like a football, and it will be round and full at evening.

The only prize much cared for by the powerful is power. Yet nothing is so commonplace that it has not the wish to be remarkable.

Beware how you take away hope from any human being.

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Gen Bhimaya on Leadership …

Posted on August 9, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Guide Posts, Searching for Success, Sports |

Here is the noted Thinker and Historian on Matters Military, commenting on a recent ‘Take’ on this riveting subject. Though the US Brigs SLA Marshal’s and Bill Slim’s lecture to West Point Cadets are among the last words on the subject, the field remains wide open for endless discussion. My vote is for Slim’s take!

LEADERSHIP 101 — BACK TO THE BASICS

To revisit a field that is well-beaten is both exciting and challenging. One is excited to find something new that might pique one’s interest, or that might have escaped one’s attention before. One may also find it challenging because, often, the simplest concept is difficult to explain because of the embedded nuances.

Then, there are always the rewards of serendipity to boot. I leave it to the readers to delve deeper into this bold if unverified statement to identify examples from their own experience.

The preceding thoughts were my initial impulses when I came across a research article on leadership of great team captains in sports (The Wall Street Journal, May 13-14, 2017, C1-C2)

To make it easier for the reader, let me follow the bullet format to list important findings, summarized in this article. Against each finding, I have added some brief but controversial comments in parentheses, primarily to provoke a discussion.

v “The leaders of history’s championship dynasties relied on a range of surprising traits, from dissent and rule-breaking to emotional self-control and a low-key communication style.”
(This is the central finding and readers might want to keep this uppermost in their minds).

· True leaders took care of tough, unglamorous tasks. They did not dazzle in the field but labored in the shadows and often led from the back.
(How true! The true leader toils in the background lending a helping hand to the needy, encouraging the weak, while cleaning up their mistakes firmly but unobtrusively. They seldom crave for recognition; the team’s success is their final reward).

· True leaders broke the rules for a purpose. They are not exemplars of fair play. They often test the limits of the rules, but soon after the objective is achieved, they return to normal. (Does the “out- of- the- box leadership of Major Gogoi fit this description?)

· True leaders communicated practically, not in grand speeches (Simple, understandable language that the riflemen understand is important. This implies ruthless elimination of English words that may mean different things to different riflemen; according to some officers who had the privilege of commanding both the Gorkhas and the Garhwalis, important patrol briefing used to be done by the Subedar Major, to combine experience with clarity of thought and expression. It may not be necessary now as most of us, hopefully, understand the language our troops speak. The important thing is grandiloquence and grandstanding are less important than simplicity and clarity.)

· True leaders knew how to use deeds to motivate. (Words are not enough. True leaders should exercise leadership by example of deeds, not merely by words. Deeds by example have tremendous substantive, as well as symbolic values).

· True leaders are independent thinkers, unafraid to dissent. (While dissent is a necessary part of healthy discourse that often leads to robust decision-making, one does not have to dissent as a matter of habit, or on frivolous issues. Dissent must be grounded in solid reasoning (MacArthur’s dissent with the Navy and the Joint Chief of Staff about his plan for the Inchon landings was not based on his ego, but a careful study of the British General Wolfe’s audacious and successful battle against the French in Quebec).

· True leaders are relentless. (In brief they follow the dictum, “Never give up.” And they cling to this spirit until the end: victory, or fighting to the last).

· True leaders possessed remarkable, emotional self-control. (Now, this is a tough one. This implies the ability to block out negative feelings and supplant it with emotional fortitude: courage in adversity, ability to handle panic with whatever it takes, for example, steadfastness, if possible, and humor, if necessary).

I do not wish to paraphrase the concluding remarks of the author.

He states, “They helped their teams to become dynasties by behaving a certain way, by making the right choices on the job—every hour, every day. They were dedicated to doing whatever it took to make success more likely, even if their efforts were unpopular, controversial, or completely invisible. They were not in it for personal glory but for the greater good of the team.” (Can there be a better epitome of selflessness?)

It is important for officers to study leadership in all walks of life, so they can be eclectic in internalizing their virtues. As leaders, it is our indivisible responsibility to identify leadership potential among our men, and help develop it.

It is a continual responsibility that needs to be shouldered with care and circumspection.

Bhimaya

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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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Stranger than Fiction …

Posted on August 7, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Searching for Success, The Germans |

The pilot glanced outside his cockpit and froze. He blinked hard and looked again, hoping it was just a mirage. But his co-pilot stared at the same horrible vision. “My God, this is a nightmare,” the co-pilot said.”He’s going to destroy us,” the pilot agreed.

The men were looking at a gray German Messerschmitt fighter hovering just three feet off their wingtip. It was five days before Christmas 1943, and the fighter had closed in on their crippled American B-17 bomber for the kill.

The B-17 Pilot, Charles Brown, was a 21-year-old West Virginia farm boy on his first combat mission. His bomber had been shot to pieces by swarming fighters, and his plane was alone, struggling to stay in the skies above Germany . Half his crew was wounded, and the tail gunner was dead, his blood frozen in icicles over the machine guns.

But when Brown and his co-pilot, Spencer “Pinky” Luke, looked at the fighter pilot again, something odd happened. The German didn’t pull the trigger. He stared back at the bomber in amazement and respect. Instead of pressing the attack, he nodded at Brown and saluted. What happened next was one of the most remarkable acts of chivalry recorded during World War Il.

Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket. He eased his index finger off the trigger. He couldn’t shoot. It would be murder. Stigler wasn’t just motivated by vengeance that day. He also lived by a code. He could trace his family’s ancestry to Knights in 16th century Europe . He had once studied to be a priest. A German pilot who spared the enemy, though, risked death in Nazi Germany. If someone reported him, he would be executed. Yet, Stigler could also hear the voice of his commanding officer, who once told him: “You follow the rules of war for you–not your enemy. You fight by rules to keep your humanity.”

Alone with the crippled bomber, Stigler changed his mission. He nodded at the American pilot and began flying in formation so German anti-aircraft gunners on the ground wouldn’t shoot down the slow-moving bomber. (The Luftwaffe had B-17’s of its own, shot down and rebuilt for secret missions and training.) Stigler escorted the bomber over the North Sea and took one last look at the American Pilot. Then he saluted him, peeled his fighter away, and returned to Germany .

“Good luck,” Stigler said to himself. “You’re in God’s hands now.” Franz Stigler didn’t think the big B-17 could make it back to England and wondered for years what happened to the American pilot and crew he encountered in combat.

As he watched the German fighter peel away that December day, 2nd Lt. Charles Brown wasn’t thinking of the philosophical connection between enemies. He was thinking of survival. He flew his crippled plane, filled with wounded, back to his base in England and landed with one of four engines knocked out, one failing, and barely any fuel left. After his bomber came to a stop, he leaned back in his chair and put a hand over a pocket Bible he kept in his flight jacket. Then he sat in silence.

Brown flew more missions before the war ended. Life moved on. He got married, had two daughters, supervised foreign aid for the U.S. State Department during the Vietnam War, and eventually retired to Florida.

Late in life, though, the encounter with the German Pilot began to gnaw at him. He started having nightmares, but in his dream there would be no act of mercy. He would awaken just before his bomber crashed.

Brown took on a new mission. He had to find that German Pilot. Who was he? Why did he save my life? He scoured Military Archives in the U.S. and England . He attended a Pilots’ Reunion and shared his story. He finally placed an ad in a German Newsletter for former Luftwaffe Pilots, retelling the story and asking if anyone knew the Pilot.

On January 18, 1990, Brown received a letter. He opened it and read: “Dear Charles, All these years I wondered what happened to that B-17, did she make it home? Did her crew survive their wounds? To hear of your survival has filled me with indescribable joy.”

It was Stigler.

He had had left Germany after the war and moved to Vancouver , British Columbia in 1953. He became a prosperous businessman. Now retired, Stigler told Brown that he would be in Florida come summer, and “it sure would be nice to talk about our encounter.” Brown was so excited, though, that he couldn’t wait to see Stigler. He called Directory Assistance for Vancouver and asked whether there was a number for a Franz Stigler. He dialed the number, and Stigler picked up.

“My God, it’s you!” Brown shouted as tears ran down his cheeks.

Brown had to do more. He wrote a letter to Stigler in which he said: “To say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU on behalf of my surviving crew members and their families appears totally inadequate.”

The two pilots would meet again, but this time in person, in the lobby of a Florida hotel. One of Brown’s friends was there to record the summer reunion. Both men looked like retired businessmen: They were plump, sporting neat ties and formal shirts. They fell into each other’s arms and wept and laughed. They talked about their encounter in a light, jovial tone.

The mood then changed. Someone asked Stigler what he thought about Brown. Stigler sighed and his square jaw tightened He began to fight back tears before he said in heavily accented English, “I love you, Charlie.”

Stigler had lost his brother, his friends, and his country. He was virtually exiled by his countrymen after the war. There were 28,000 pilots who fought for the German Air Force. Only 1,200 survived. The war cost him everything. Charlie Brown was the only good thing that came out of World War II for Franz. It was the one thing he could be proud of. The meeting helped Brown as well, says his oldest daughter, Dawn Warner.

They met as enemies but Franz Stigler, on left, and Charles Brown, ended up as fishing buddies.

Brown and Stigler became pals. They would take fishing trips together. They would fly cross-country to each other homes and take road trips together to share their story at schools and veterans’ reunions. Their wives, Jackie Brown and Hiya Stigler, became friends.

Brown’s daughter says her father would worry about Stigler’s health and constantly check in on him. “It wasn’t just for show,” she says. “They really did feel for each other. They talked about once a week.” As his friendship with Stigler deepened, something else happened to her father, Warner says “The nightmares went away.”

Brown had written a letter of thanks to Stigler, but one day he showed the extent of his gratitude. He organized a reunion of his surviving crew members along with their extended families. He invited Stigler as a Guest of Honor.

During the reunion, a video was played showing all the faces of the people that now lived–children, grandchildren, relatives–because of Stigler’s act of chivalry. Stigler watched the film from his Seat of Honor.

“Everybody was crying, not just him,” Warner says.
Stigler and Brown died within months of each other in 2008. Stigler was 92, and Brown was 87. They had started off as enemies, became friends, and then something more.

After he died, Warner was searching through Brown’s library when she came across a book on German fighter jets. Stigler had given the book to Brown. Both were country boys who loved to read about planes.

Warner opened the book and saw an inscription Stigler had written to Brown:

“In 1940, I lost my only brother as a night fighter. On the 20th of December, 4 days before Christmas, I had the chance to save a B-17 from her destruction, a plane so badly damaged, it was a wonder that she was still flying. The pilot, Charlie Brown, is for me as precious as my brother was. Thanks Charlie.
Your brother, Franz”

__._,_.___

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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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