China: Communists Make A Bold Move

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November 19, 2013: The government very publicly ordered the army and police to carefully study the recently announced reforms and act accordingly in the future. This is an attempt to discourage army and police from cooperating with (and profiting from) corrupt schemes. The security forces are often crucial to many corrupt practices that involve outright theft of land or other property or intimidation of victims. The corrupt local officials share the illicit profits with the people who provide the muscle. This is the cause of much popular unrest, despite the very real threat of retaliation.

Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 8th. This was the strongest known typhoon to hit land and turned out to be something of a disaster for China as well. That’s because the initial Chinese reaction was to offer much less help ($200,000 worth, less than some corporations) than other major (and many minor) nations. China soon increased the aid ten-fold and sent relief workers under pressure from international and Chinese media. China has always used its own military for natural disasters inside China and has gotten much more effective at it in the last decade as the army got better equipment (especially engineering gear and new trucks) and the air force received more helicopters and air transports. Noting how useful, and popular, this sort of relief work was inside China, troops now plan and practice for this kind of work, especially in areas subject to earthquakes or typhoons. As a result of this new capability, and it became international news, much more was expected of China, which has the largest military in the region. But now that military force is being seen as reserved for bullying the neighbors over territorial disputes, not helping neighbors in need. This is a major defeat for China in the diplomatic and image area and will hurt as the territorial disputes between China and the Philippines head for an international tribunal. This is something China always wanted to avoid, but now it really, really wants to avoid it because China is increasingly seen as a regional menace.

Russian and Japanese officials met in Japan during early November and agreed to build military ties between the two countries. This is in spite of an ongoing dispute over some islands between the two nations and Russia’s official alliances with China. Both Russia and Japan realize that North Korea and China are a threat to both of them, and Russia is risking annoying China by seeking regional allies.

In late October China featured its nuclear subs in the Chinese media for the first time. The theme for this media promotion was that in 42 years of operation no Chinese nuclear sub has ever suffered a nuclear reactor accident. This was an indirect dig at the Russians, who are the only nation with nuclear subs to have suffered nuclear accidents. Moreover, in the last 60 years several hundred billion dollars has been spent on developing and building nuclear powered submarines. Some 300 have been built so far, most of them Russian. Nuclear subs have been used in combat only once (in 1982, when a British SSN sank an Argentinean cruiser). When the Cold War ended, Russia began scrapping its large nuclear sub fleet, which included dozens of older boats that were more trouble than they were worth to maintain. Now China has joined this club and retired it’s first “nuke.” With the demise of the Russian sub fleet the U.S. Navy submarine force, which peaked at 100 boats at the end of the Cold War, shrank to about 70 today. China currently has about a dozen nuclear subs in operation (eight SSNs and four SSBNs) and their track record in the last 42 years has been dismal. The Chinese SSNs are noisy (easy for Western sensors to detect) and unreliable. Chinese SSNs rarely go to sea, which is one reason they have had no nuclear accidents. Chinese SSBNs (ballistic missile carrying nuclear subs) are basically enlarged SSNs and have never been on a combat patrol, just brief training missions.

As part of the Chinese nuclear submarine media campaign it was confirmed that it had dismantled one of its SSNs (nuclear attack sub). In fact, the decommissioned sub was China’s first SSN. It took nearly a decade of planning, construction, and tinkering to get this boat, the Type 091 Long March No. 1, into service back in 1974. The first SSN was definitely a learning experience, not entering service until the mid-1980s. The Hans are small (4,100 tons) as SSN’s go and have a crew of about 75 sailors. French sonar was installed and a lot of the other electronics came from foreign suppliers. In the 1980s it was thought the Chinese would just scrap this class, but they kept repairing and updating them. The Hans were always hopelessly out of date but were the only SSNs China had until the new 093 class SSNs begin to appear in 2002. This class was also obsolete at birth and the first of the new Type 095 class was launched in 2010 and is expected to enter service in 2015. China will be playing catch-up in the nuclear submarine area for at least another decade or two.

China and South Korea have agreed to work with North Korea to revive northern forests. Especially since the 1990s illegal tree cutting has become increasingly common in North Korea as people sought fuel with which to survive the cold weather. Satellite photos show the sharp difference between forestation in the north and south. South Korea is the only nation on the planet to have succeeded at artificial reforestation since World War II. Other nations (mainly in the West) have regrown depleted forests but usually as a result of rural populations moving to urban areas and allowing forests to regrow in abandoned fields and settlements. But in areas where huge areas have been stripped of trees, that solution can take centuries, not decades, to work. Both Koreas were heavily deforested in the last two centuries, but South Korea fixed the problem while in North Korea it got worse. Even North Korea recognizes this and is willing to adopt the techniques South Korea has used to try and replace its depleted forests. China is taking the lead here in order to make North Korea less of an economic basket case. China sees North Korea as within the Chinese sphere of influence and wants to reduce the economic risk of having to bail out the shaky North Korean economy in the future.

Taiwan recently admitted that it had suffered some serious damage when it discovered that one of its air force officers (identified only as “Major Hao”) sold many technical details of the new E-2K AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft to China. Hao did it for money and Taiwanese counterintelligence uncovered over a dozen other Chinese intel operatives during the investigation that uncovered the E-2K leaks. Since the E-2K contains mostly American technology and is based on the E-2C used on American aircraft carriers, this intelligence disaster is going to cost America a lot as well. Since China now knows the details of how the E-2 electronics work, they can develop better ways to deceive and disrupt E-2 operations.

November 16, 2013: The government ordered rescue and medical teams to the Philippines to help with the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

After a meeting of the senior leadership (the 18th meeting of the Central Committee) the government announced five major (and many more minor) reforms meant to address the growing popular discontent in China. The “one child” policy has been loosened up. More couples can now have two children. There is a growing need (as opposed to desire) for this because there is a looming labor shortage which, without some changes, will be catastrophic in about twenty years. More children will also help deal with the growing number (and proportion) of retired people. The other reforms largely dismantle the old system where you were technically registered to the area where you grew up and if you moved without permission (which most Chinese do) you lose access to many government services. Farmers are being given more rights to the land they work, to make it more difficult for local officials to simply take land for other uses and enabling farmers to mortgage or sell the land to raise money (for investing or whatever). Also, the government will reduce the use of labor camps (which functioned as a source of slave labor) and the death penalty (which provided a lot of involuntary organ donors and foreign criticism).

State owned companies will be required to pay more (double what they do now) of their profits in taxes. At the same time the laws are being changed to allow more private investment in the economy, mainly in joint ventures with the government. By involving more private investors in government owned companies it is hoped that these firms will become more efficient. The government still resists the idea of privatizing the many state-owned firms even though (or perhaps because) these companies are inefficient and often a source of corruption. The new regulations mentioned the need to address this inefficiency and corruption. That will prove difficult because over a century of experience has shown that the state owned firms are always much less profitable than state owned ones.

Rules are also being changed regarding the construction and sale of housing. There’s been too much speculation and shoddy construction in that area, largely the result of corruption by local Communist Party officials. There were new rules and laws to address just about every major complaint people have. The big problem is with the enforcement. There are a lot of laws in China which exist only in writing and not in day-to-day practice. Announcing reforms is the easy part, enforcing them will be the big challenge.

In the northwest (Xinjiang province) Uighur separatists, armed with axes and knives, attacked a police station. Two police officers died and nine of the attackers were shot dead. The attack occurred while the police station was surrounded by about fifty Uighurs protesting police misbehavior. This was the fifth time this year there has been an attack by Uighur separatists or Islamic terrorists. The unrest has become increasingly common, usually in areas with large Uighur populations (and rarely in eastern China). The last incident was in October, with an attack in the center of the capital. In August a police raid in a rural area left twenty-two Uighurs and one Chinese policeman dead. In June at least fifteen armed Uighurs attacked government buildings in the town of Lukqun and killed twenty-four people (including two policemen). Police killed eleven of the attackers and captured four others. There had never been any Uighur violence in Lukqun before, and this attack came as a surprise to the police. But Xinjiang province has been the scene of more and more of this violence. A similar incident in March in Xinjiang left at least twenty-one dead, including fifteen government employees and police. Eight surviving Islamic terrorists were arrested. After that incident China demanded again that Pakistan shut down camps where Uighur Islamic terrorists are trained. Apparently several hundred Uighurs are operating some camps in North Waziristan, an area in the Pakistani tribal territories (along the Afghan border) where the government allows sanctuary for Islamic terrorists. One thing China and the United States can agree on is the need for Pakistan to shut down terrorist operations in North Waziristan. Pakistan refuses to do this, although it has sought out and arrested some illegal Uighur visitors in other parts of Pakistan and persuaded the Uighur terrorists to send more of their trained killers to Syria instead of back to China. Despite several years of increasingly angry pressure from China, the North Waziristan Uighur camps keep training more Islamic terrorists. In Western China the local Uighurs are under increasing pressure from Han Chinese soldiers and intrusive government officials. Because of that many Uighurs continue to support anti-Han activity, and this makes it possible for Islamic terrorists to survive and operate. Chinese officials have been publicly urging soldiers and police to be more aggressive against uncooperative Uighurs. The government tries hard to suppress the news of Uighur unrest and the incidents receive little coverage in the state-controlled media. The government has been at this for a long time, constantly shutting down web sites that promote Uighur autonomy and other Uighur matters. The government accuses Uighur activists of endangering state security. This is part of an ongoing effort to suppress Uighur unhappiness in the face of the growing number of Han Chinese moving to traditionally Uighur areas and taking over the economy and most of the good jobs. The same thing is happening in Tibet, where the government is using the same tools to keep everyone under control. In the days after each incident police and soldiers are out in force to intimidate the Uighur population and see if any more Islamic terrorists can be found.

November 14, 2013: China has offered to increase investment in and trade with Yemen if the government can protect Chinese working in Yemen. This may be a problem as the Chinese tend to bring in Chinese workers for construction projects. This, to the locals, appears to be taking jobs away from Yemenis who are in desperate need of work.

November 8, 2013: A Chinese KJ500 AWACS (Air Warning And Control System) has been spotted in the air for the first time. This aircraft looks more like the American AWACS (with a round radar dome on top) but is smaller and carried by a four engine turboprop aircraft. Both KJ designs use the same Y-8 aircraft. The KJ500 will supplement and eventually replace the current KJ200 (also called the KJ2000) AWACS that has been in service since 2005. There are eleven KJ200s in service plus four of the export model (ZDK-03) in Pakistan. Pakistan is paying $300 million each for the ZDK-03s.

November 6, 2013: China refused to make any official comment on Indian claims that China is building a radar station near the border opposite the Indian state of Ladakh (northwest India). India claims this radar is meant to monitor the increased activity of the Indian Air Force in that area.

In the north (Shanxi province) eight small bombs went off near the Communist Party headquarters, killing one person and wounding several others. There had been a number of anti-government demonstrations (against corrupt officials) in the area recently.

November 5, 2013: For the first time in five years (because of border disputes) China and India held ten days of joint anti-terrorism exercises. This event was held in southwest China (Sichuan Province). Each nation sent 150 soldiers who are showing each other their drills and procedures (hand signals, radio protocols, combat formations, and methods) so that if both nations are involved in a counter-terrorism situation their troops will be better able to operate together. These exercises were agreed to in 2007 and were to happen each year. But it only worked for two years before Chinese actions over their claims on Indian territory caused the exercises to be cancelled.

The government announced that anti-corruption inspection teams had been sent to visit senior officials all over the nation. The teams will seek out city and provincial officials who have become wealthy and find out why. It was also revealed that anti-corruption inspectors had already discovered that many army units had obtained apartments (8,100 of them) and vehicles (over 25,000) illegally for the personal use of officers and their families. The apartments and vehicles were sold off but those responsible for acquiring and using them were not punished (beyond losing the use of the apartments and vehicles).

November 3, 2013: General Peng Yong, a senior army commander in Xinjiang province, was fired from his army and Communist Party posts in response to the October 28th terror attack in Tiananmen Square. This bold attack killed three terrorists and two civilians and wounded another thirty-eight. Police soon discovered that this was a terrorist attack by Uighurs (ethnic Turks from Xinjiang province in western China) who had planned it for a month. It was also the first Uighur terror attack outside Uighur areas in western China. Peng Yong lost his job because the army was supposed to contain the Uighur violence and eventually eliminate it. A terror attack in the center of the capital was seen as a major failure by the security services, Police responded by arresting over 50 of the usual suspects in Xinjiang.

China will use $20 billion in cash it owes Iran for oil for development projects inside Iran. A lot of the Iranian oil is paid for with barter (sending goods in exchange for oil) and the current sanctions make it impossible to send much cash because of the control the West exercises over the international banking system. Meanwhile, this year Iraq surpassed Iran as the largest exporter of oil to China. This is because of the more severe sanctions imposed on Iran in 2012. Even Iran admits that it’s GDP has shrunk this year as a result. China would like to get more oil from Iran as well, but the sanctions make that difficult.

 

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