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Politics & Law

Under Xi, China seeks to cool row with Japan over islands


In a break from months of sabre rattling, China under new President Xi Jinping appears to be moderating its approach to a potentially explosive territorial dispute with Japan and taking measures to prevent accidental conflict.

Ahead of Xi’s appointment last Thursday, General Liu Yuan, a senior People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officer close to the new leader, warned of the danger of war with Japan in a series of conciliatory commentaries and public remarks at odds with earlier bellicose rhetoric from military hawks.

In addition, maritime experts believe Beijing’s announcement a week ago that it would unify its armada of paramilitary maritime agencies under a single command will tighten control over these forces on the frontline of China’s efforts to enforce claims over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Patrol ships from these agencies are churning up the seas around the islands, increasing the risk of an accidental clash with the Japanese coastguard or military, security experts say. The area around the uninhabited rocky outcrops, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, is believed to be rich in oil and gas.

To be sure, Liu is largely on his own among senior military officers publicly calling for calm, but the volume of his comments, their timing and his close relationship to Xi point to a potential shift, experts say.

“As the new leaders try to figure out their relations with the U.S. and their foreign policy, China is being more restrained on the maritime disputes,” said Sun Yun, a researcher on Chinese foreign policy at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

General Liu, a Communist Party princeling like Xi, said soldiers had a duty to defend the country and must fight to win but this should be a last resort, in comments reported Thursday on China’s official military website.

“Nevertheless, as a serviceman, I need to particularly make it clear to people what a war really is,” said Liu, the son of China’s late president Liu Shaoqi.

“Since we have enjoyed peace for quite a long time, many young people do not know what a war is like. It is actually very cruel and costly.

“If there is any alternative way to solve the problem, there is no need to resort to the means of extreme violence for a solution.”

In earlier remarks to journalists on the sidelines of China’s annual parliamentary session which ends on Sunday, Liu said using peaceful means to solve the island dispute was in the best interests of both countries.

“The friendship between people in China and Japan is everlasting,” he was reported as saying.

These comments from Liu, political commissar of the PLA’s General Logistics Department, are a sharp departure from the steady drumbeat of threats and warnings from a group of about 20 hawkish officers who appear to have clearance to speak out on foreign policy and military issues.

Absent from Liu’s commentaries has been the South China Sea, where China claims large swathes of ocean that could also be rich in oil and gas. The Philippines, Vietnam and other nations in Southeast Asia have challenged Beijing over those claims.

LIU CRACKING DOWN ON MILITARY CORRUPTION

Military analysts say Liu, who was raised in the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing before his father was purged in the Cultural Revolution, is a longstanding personal friend of Xi and shares many of his views.

Xi’s father, the late senior party official and revolutionary military commander Xi Zhongxun, was also purged but became a key leader of China’s economic reforms after he was rehabilitated.

In interviews carried in official state media on Friday, Liu praised Xi, who heads the armed forces as chairman of the Central Military Commission, and said China would continue to strengthen its military under his leadership.

Liu has also led a crackdown on corruption in the armed forces after more than two decades of soaring defence outlays created opportunities for widespread graft and waste in the 2.3 million strong PLA.

In a commentary published last month in the Chinese language edition of the nationalistic Global Times newspaper, Liu said earlier wars with Japan had severely disrupted China’s development at crucial periods in its recent history.

China’s economic revival was now at a critical period and it must avoid being drawn into an “inadvertent” war, he wrote.

“The United States and Japan are afraid we are catching up to them and will do anything to contain China’s development,” he said. “We must not be fooled.”

Liu’s warnings suggest some senior military and political leaders fear a clash with the powerful Japanese military could be politically fraught for the ruling Communist Party, particularly if Washington intervened in support of its treaty ally Japan.

However, decades of strident propaganda have fostered widespread Chinese public hostility to Japan over its wartime aggression in Asia. That has made it difficult for Beijing to make concessions or compromise with Tokyo over the islands without suffering a politically damaging backlash.

Some Chinese defence analysts say Liu’s comments, aimed at a domestic audience, are intended to allow Beijing more flexibility in dealing with Tokyo while the hardline rhetoric from other, publicity seeking officers is to persuade foreigners that China is serious about its territorial claims.

Indeed, until recently, Chinese state media was issuing a daily stream of bulletins announcing ship deployments into the East China Sea, naval combat exercises, the launch of new warships and commentaries calling for resolute defence of Chinese territory.

“The unintended consequences could be just the opposite,” said Shen Dingli, a security policy expert at Shanghai’s Fudan University. “Ambitious generals are well heard domestically and Liu Yuan’s moderate views are overwhelmed.”

HAWKISH OFFICER SIDELINED

In a further sign Beijing wants to curb hawkish sentiment, one of China’s most outspoken military officers, retired Major General Luo Yuan, has been dropped from the government’s top advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Luo, a prolific blogger and media commentator, famously called for China and Taiwan to join forces last year and use the disputed islands as a bombing range.

Despite his regular warlike commentaries, Luo also called for the establishment of a unified coastguard to establish firm control over the paramilitary maritime agencies.

Chinese military and security experts have welcomed Beijing’s decision to combine four of the five big maritime agencies, widely known as the “five dragons”, under the command of the National Oceanic Administration.

General Liu also said the combined law enforcement agency would help avoid military conflict with Japan.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank warned in a report last year that China’s poorly coordinated and sometimes competing maritime agencies were inflaming frictions over disputed territory.

The four agencies to be combined under the single command are the China Marine Surveillance, the Coast Guard, the Fisheries Law Enforcement Command and the General Administration of Customs.

The fifth agency, the Maritime Safety Administration which is under the control of the Transport Ministry, was not mentioned in the official announcement.

“This is a good direction, but completing the task requires more,” said Sun, the Brookings Institution researcher.

Sun and other security policy experts believe Beijing needs to improve coordination between all government actors involved in maritime security including the military, the foreign ministry and lower tiers of government.

Still, the island dispute remains a potentially dangerous flashpoint.

The vice-director of China’s mapping agency, Li Pengde, told state-run television on Tuesday that Beijing planned to deploy a survey team to the islands, a move Tokyo would almost certainly resist.

Source: Reuters – “Under Xi, China seeks to cool row with Japan over islands”
 
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About chankaiyee2

Author of the book "Tiananmen's Tremendous Achievements" about how with the help of Tiananmen Protests, talented scholars with moral integrity seized power in the Party and state and brought prosperity to China. The second edition of the book will be published within a few days to mark the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Protests All the parts in the first edition remain in the second edition with a few changes due to information available later and better understanding. There are also some changes for improvements of style. The new parts are Chapters 12-19 on events in China after the first edition was published: The fierce power struggle for succession between reformists and conservatives; Xi Jinping winning all elders’ support during his mysterious disappearance for 2 weeks in early September, 2012; and Xi Jinping Cyclone. Chan Kai Yee's new book: SPACE ERA STRATEGY: The Way China Beats The US An eye-opening book that tells the truth how the US is losing to China. The US is losing as it adopts the outdated strategy of Air-Sea Battle while China adopts the space era strategy to pursue integrated space and air capabilities: It is losing due to its diplomacy that has given rise to Russian-Chinese alliance. US outdated strategy has enabled China to catch up and surpass the US in key weapons: Hypersonic weapons (HGV) that Pentagon regards as the weapon that will dominate the world in the future. Aerospaceplane in China’s development of space-air bomber that can engage enemy anywhere in the world within an hour and destroy an entire aircraft carrier battle group within minutes. Anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, anti-ASAT weapons, stealth aircrafts, drones, AEW&C, etc. The book gives detailed descriptions of China’s weapon development based on information mainly from Chinese sources that the author monitors closely. U.S. Must Not Be Beaten by China! China is not a democracy. Its political system cannot prevent the emergence of a despotic leader or stop such a leader when he begins to bring disasters to people. A few decades ago, Mao Zedong, the worst tyrant in world history did emerge and bring disasters to Chinese people. He wanted to fight a nuclear war to replace capitalism with communism but could not bring nuclear holocaust to world people as China was too weak and poor at that time. If a despot like Mao Zedong emerges when China has surpassed the US in military strength, world people will suffer the misery experienced by Chinese people in Mao era. China surpassing the US in GDP is not something to worry about as China has the heavy burden to satisfy its huge population, but China surpassing the US in military strength will be world people’s greatest concern if China remains an autocracy. US people are of much better quality than Chinese people. What they lack is a wise leader to adopt the correct strategy and diplomacy and the creative ways to use its resources in developing its military capabilities. I hope that with the emergence of a great leader, the US can put an end to its decline and remain number one in the world. China, US, space era strategy, air-sea battle, space-air bomber, arms race, weapon development, chan kai yee

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