Making waves in West, China luring Pacific islands with Belt and Road


Charlotte Greenfield, Colin Packham November 14, 2018

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) – President Xi Jinping will showcase China’s Belt and Road initiative to Pacific leaders at a regional summit on Friday, diplomats say, with Western countries watching warily for signs of Beijing’s growing clout.

The competition for influence between China and Western allies Australia, New Zealand and the United States, is likely to provide a strong undercurrent at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.

“China is showing a desire for a bigger role in the region, and that is out in the open like it has never been before,” said a senior British diplomat who declined to be named as she is not authorized to talk to the media.

China has said it will announce “important measures for further cooperation” at the summit. Western diplomats believe that probably means formally extending its Belt and Road plans into the Pacific.

First proposed by Xi in 2013, the initiative promotes expanding land and sea links between Asia, Africa and Europe, with billions of dollars pledged for infrastructure development.

Western governments harbor suspicions that Beijing’s professed desire to spread prosperity masks an underlying intention to become a more dominant power.

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva is one of several island nation leaders who will meet collectively with Xi, having already been asked by Beijing to sign up to the Belt and Road.

“We’re discussing that right now”,” Lopeti Senituli, a political advisor to the Tongan premier, told Reuters.

For Pacific nations, China may offer support for much needed infrastructure and development. Xi’s vision to provide links to a bigger marketplace could also prove hard to resist for leaders of the remote, fledgling economies.

WHOSE PATCH?

For China, extending its influence into the Pacific would lessen the sense of maritime containment, and also potentially secure support from grateful, indebted governments at international forums, where numbers can count.

Three sources familiar with the matter, including the British official, said that Western nations had been informed that Vanuatu, the Cook Islands and Niue have agreed sign onto Belt and Road.

Niue and the Cook Islands did not respond to an emailed request for comment, but the Cook Islands’ Finance Minister Mark Brown told Radio New Zealand last week that his government would be signing.

Vanuatu’s Prime Minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu said in a message on Twitter that he “did not believe” Vanuatu had committed to Belt and Road but he would check.

China’s official Belt and Road website reported that Fiji had made a commitment on Monday, joining the likes of Samoa and Papua New Guinea.

China’s footprint in the region has been growing in the past decade. Pacific governments now owe about $1.3 billion in concessional debt to China, raising fears in the West, that the region was becoming more susceptible to Beijing’s diplomatic pressure.

A senior Chinese diplomat said on Tuesday no country can block Beijing’s cooperation with Pacific Island nations.

Xi’s meeting with the island nation leaders, which a U.S. diplomatic source said will be held without observers from the West, comes after a series of Western initiatives to shore up ties in the Pacific.

Australia last week declared the Pacific “our patch” as it offered A$3 billion ($2.18 billion) in cheap infrastructure loans and grants.

Additional reporting by Tom Westbrook in SYDNEY and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Source: Reuters “Making waves in West, China luring Pacific islands with Belt and Road”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

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China says nobody can stand in its way in Pacific island cooperation


Ben Blanchard November 13, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – No country can block China’s cooperation with island nations in the Pacific and the area is no country’s sphere of influence, a senior diplomat said on Tuesday, ahead of a summit between President Xi Jinping and Pacific island leaders.

Australia, in particular, has been vying for influence with China in sparsely populated Pacific island countries that control vast swathes of resource-rich oceans.

Australia will offer Pacific countries up to A$3 billion ($2.18 billion) in grants and cheap loans to build infrastructure, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week.

Xi is due to meet leaders from eight Pacific nations it has diplomatic ties with at the end of the week in Papua New Guinea, where he will offer “important measures” for more cooperation, Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang told a news briefing.

“Other countries should not obstruct China’s friendly cooperation and exchanges with the island nations. Of course, they have no way to obstruct this cooperation and these exchanges,” Zheng said, without specifying any country.

Meeting in Beijing last week, the Chinese government’s top diplomat told his Australian counterpart that Beijing and Canberra should be cooperating in the South Pacific and not be cast as strategic rivals.

Zheng said China was willing to cooperate with other countries in the Pacific, and that everyone should “positively respond to the special difficulties island nations face and urgent needs” and help them to achieve sustainable development.

“The island country region is not any country’s sphere of influence. Everyone should jointly help the island nations,” he said.

“We hope that relevant parties can objectively and positively view China’s relations with Pacific Island nations, and earnestly abandon outdated concepts of Cold War thinking and zero-sum games, and do more to benefit the island nations’ development and improvement of livelihoods and regional peace and stability.”

China has spent $1.3 billion on concessionary loans and gifts since 2011 to become the Pacific’s second-largest donor after Australia, stoking concern in the West that several tiny nations could end up overburdened and in debt to Beijing.

Xi will be meeting the leaders of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Micronesia, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Niue.

Zheng did not give a date for the summit, only saying meetings would be happening in Port Moresby on Thursday and Friday, ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Papua New Guinea on the weekend.

Six other Pacific island nations have diplomatic relations with Taiwan though, which Beijing regards as a wayward Chinese province with no right to formal foreign ties. Their leaders will not be attending the meeting with Xi.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

Source: Reuters “China says nobody can stand in its way in Pacific island cooperation”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


India and China Have Eased Border Tension


Friendly meeting between Indian and Chinese border troops
Times of India’s photo

China and the US both have tried hard to win India to its side.

The US has been exploiting India’s border disputes with China to draw India into its quad to confront China. It promised to provide India with high weapon technology to attract India to participate in its quad, especially to play a major role in containing China.

Indian Prime Minister is very shrewd. He certainly wants to get US weapon technology, but refuses to be in the forefront of quad to confront China; therefore he refused Australia’s requests to join India’s naval drill with the US and Japan.

Sorry there can be no quad to contain China as a part of it Australia is missing. The US is now playing quad as sadly as playing bridge with only three people! Moreover, the other two Japan and India wanted quad to prevent the threat of a rising China while anxious to benefit economically from China’s rise. It seems that only the US sincerely wants the quad.

China has been trying hard to solve its border disputes with India and win over India to participate in its Belt and Road initiative.

Now, according to Times of India report “India, China hold border personnel meet at Chusul in Ladakh”, Chinese and Indian troops have been making efforts to ease border tension since the recent informal summit between Indian Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which the two leaders agree to ease border tension.

The report says, “Armies of India and China on Tuesday held a Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) during which both sides resolved to maintain peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control, besides agreeing to work on additional confidence building measures.”

The BPM was held at Wacha border post in Kibithu, Arunachal Pradesh on Labor Day where the two sides celebrated the festival and exchanged gifts.

The report says, “The two sides hold BPM at five points — Daulat Beg Oldie in northern Ladakh, Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, Chusul in Ladakh, Bum-La near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and Nathu-La in Sikkim.

In fact, the border disputes are easy to resolve as the disputed area are poor barren areas with few natural resources. Sandwiched between China and its iron brother Pakistan, India will find itself lucky if the two iron brothers earnestly want peace with it. In fact, India is very clear that the other three of the quad will not join India in resisting the two iron brothers if they attack it.

Xi and Modi are successful in their efforts to ease border tension.

On the other hand, China’s Belt and Road initiative is very attractive. Can India keep on opposing it when the initiative has brought prosperity to its neighbors Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives?

The US wants to make others believe that China’s Belt and Road is predatory to make its neighbors heavily in debts in order to control them. What will China benefit from such an outcome? It will suffer huge financial losses but get nothing but the troubles to deal with the political instability caused by their insolvency. Only the US wants such control but has ended up in financial difficulties in both itself and the countries under its control.

China wants the countries that have joined its Belt and Road to prosper so that they will provide huge markets for Chinese goods. Moreover, Chinese investments there will bring China windfall returns if they become prosperous.

India will finally join the Belt and Road when it sees with envy the prosperity brought to its neighbors by China’s Belt and Road initiative.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Times of India’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-china-hold-border-personnel-meet-at-chusul-in-ladakh/articleshow/63990171.cms.


Australian businesses air concerns as China strain threatens trade fair


Byron Kaye April 13, 2018

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian businesses which trade with China criticized their government on Friday as the looming cancellation of an event designed to encourage cross-border trade heralded a “low point” in diplomatic relations between the countries.

Relations between Australia and its A$170 billion ($132 billion) a year partner have been tested just two years into a Free Trade Agreement after Australian concerns about Chinese influence led to legislation banning foreign political donations.

As business leaders warned anti-China sentiment was hurting trade with the country’s top trade partner, small exporters and service providers said the prospect of the Australia Week trade fair not going ahead was a sign the tough rhetoric was translating into lost opportunities.

“Australia should look after its national security concerns but the way we present it is not the most diplomatic way,” said Helen Sawczak, chief executive officer of the Australia China Business Council.

“Every relationship has its ups and downs and we’re in a low point at the moment, there’s no doubt.”

The Australian Financial Review reported this week that China denied visas to Australian government officials to attend Australia Week, a biennial event. Sources with knowledge of the event told Reuters it was unlikely to go ahead.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has acknowledged relations are strained, without confirming the visas being denied. He has said he expects the trading partners of half a century to resolve their differences.

But Australian businesses said they were concerned the government’s attempts to calm local concern about China was closing doors.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” said Chris Gregory, managing director of Sydney-based Emu Tracks, which sells emu oil-based health products to China via the internet and is awaiting for regulatory approval to sell the product in mainland stores.

Gregory said he went to Australia Week in 2016 and the event provided “a wealth of experience for potential new suppliers to find potential distributors in China”.

Cancelling the show this year “could well impact us in terms of trying to find our way in dealing with finding new distributors,” he added.

Lisa Hee, an aged care specialist who spoke at Australia Week 2016, said the event offered her many meetings with Chinese businesses interested to learn about the Australian aged care system.

“It would be very interesting to find out why these relationships are strained and whether or not it is directly related to the publicity that’s going out that doesn’t seem to be backing China,” she said by telephone from the aged care facility where she works about 80 kms (50 miles) north of Sydney.

Richard Yuan, chairman of the Australia China Entrepreneurs Club, a trade group for high net worth businesses, said Australia’s anti-foreign influence policy was never directed specifically at China, but that it had been misinterpreted by some media and public figures in both countries.

“All these could impact the decisions and choices of Chinese students, visitors and investors,” Yuan said in an email.

“The Australian economy could feel the pain in not too distant future.”

Still, some industries reported no effects of diplomatic strain, with winemakers experiencing a boom in sales to the mainland, up nearly two-thirds in the past year.

“A fair word is ‘ferocious’ in terms of the appetite for Australian wines,” said Mike Brown, owner and winemaker of Gemtree Wines.

Brown just returned from a major wine show in China and plans to attend several more this year.

“I’ve never seen consumer and trade interest like it.”

Reporting by Byron Kaye. Editing by Lincoln Feast.

Source: Reuters “Australian businesses air concerns as China strain threatens trade fair”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Floating Artificial Island Better than Military Base Abroad


Reuters says in its report titled “Vanuatu and China deny holding military base talks”, “Vanuatu and China on Tuesday denied a media report that Beijing wanted to establish a permanent military presence in the Pacific island nation.”

Reuters quotes Vanuatu’s foreign minister as saying,“No one in the Vanuatu government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort” and Chinese foreign ministry spokesman’ description of the report as fake news.

However, the fake news shows how nervous Australia is about China’s rise. However, it cannot help that and is disappointed that the US is unable to contain China’s rise.

In my opinion, a military base in remote Vanuatu is useless for protection of China’s trade lifelines across the Pacific. Better build a few floating islands in the Pacific. Such islands can be deployed wherever China wants and may earn income from fish farming and tourism while China has to pay expensive rent for a military base abroad.

A floating island will make Australia really nervous, and perhaps the US too, but they cannot oppose as they advocate freedom of navigation. China has surplus shipbuilding capacity and lots of funds for such investment. Why does China not use them for island building? The US only knows to build its navy that costs a lot in patrolling the Pacific. China shall build artificial islands not only for defense but also for exploiting the fishery and tourism resources in the Pacific!

I mentioned China’s “Made in China 2025” program and water diversion project in Tibet that may make the US unhappy. The island building project perhaps will make the US even more unhappy. Poor America, It only knows to waste huge funds on its military that scares nobody but lacks funds even to fix its domestic infrastructure, let alone island building abroad.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-defence-vanuatu/vanuatu-and-china-deny-holding-military-base-talks-idUSKBN1HH019.


Australian media report China proposes military base in South Pacific


Reuters Staff April 10, 2018

SYDNEY (Reuters) – China has approached Vanuatu about establishing a permanent military presence on the tiny Pacific island, Australia’s Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday, a plan that would likely stoke regional tensions.

The report, citing unnamed sources, said no formal proposal had yet been made, but preliminary talks have been held about locating a full military base on Vanuatu. It added that the prospect of a Chinese military outpost so close to Australia has been discussed at the highest levels in Canberra and Washington.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday said she had been assured by Vanuatu officials that there was no formal proposal from Beijing, but she stopped short of addressing whether there had been any unofficial talks.

“The government of Vanuatu has said there is no such proposal, but it is a fact that China is engaging in infrastructure investment activities around the world,” Bishop told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

“I remain confident that Australia is Vanuatu’s strategic partner of choice,” she said.

A spokesman for Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment, telephone calls to the Vanuatu High Commission in Canberra were not answered, and the Chinese Embassy in Canberra did not comment.

The Fairfax Media report said the preliminary discussions involved an initial access agreement, under which Chinese naval ships would dock to be serviced, refueled and restocked, and that would eventually lead to a full military base.

Such a plan would mark an expansion of China’s military aspirations beyond its controversial activities in Asia, particularly the South China Sea, where it has been building artificial islands on reefs, some with ports and airstrips.

Several international nations have accused China in recent months of seeking to buy influence in the South Pacific through international aid, stoking fears that Australia’s long-time influence in the region is being eroded.

China opened its first overseas military base in August 2017 in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. It is China’s first overseas naval base, but Beijing describes it as a logistics facility.

Djibouti’s position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fueled worry in India that it would become another of China’s “string of pearls” military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

China has boosted its naval power in recent years to check U.S. dominance of the high seas and increase its projection of power around the globe.

Reporting by Colin Packham. Editing by Jane Wardell and Michael Perry

Source: Reuters “Australian media report China proposes military base in South Pacific”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Why Is Quad Encirclement Inferior to China’s Encirclement of India?


Quad encirclement of China is a military encirclement. China’s gifted military strategist Sun Tze says, “If your troops are ten times of your enemy’s, then encircle it.” It means in modern warfare that one shall have overwhelming military superiority to encircle one’s enemy.

That is military encirclement and quad is precisely a military one as without participation of Russia, ASEAN, South Korea, Central Asia, etc. it is utterly impossible for India, the US, Japan and Australia to encircle China geopolitically or economically.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership may encircle China economically to its east and southeast but only partially not fully and China can counter TPP with its free trade agreements with the countries in that area including TPP members.

Now, US President Trump has already scrapped TPP and begun a trade war with almost all other countries, He may end up in having the US encircled economically in the world.

Militarily, the four quad members the US, India, Japan and Australia obviously lack the overwhelming superiority to China and its de facto ally Russia; therefore, the encirclement is meaningless.

China’s encirclement of India is a geopolitical one instead of a military one. China has no intention to take any land from India by force. That has been proved by China’s retreat and return of captured Indian troops and weapons in its previous triumphant war with India.

India has already been sandwiched by Pakistan and its iron brother China geographically. Now China’s Belt and Road initiative has been drawing Sri Lanka, Maldives and Nepal from India’s geopolitical influence. China has increasingly great geopolitical superiority to encircle India, which India is utterly unable to break however much military support it can get from other quad members.

Article by Chan Kai Yee