China Weekly Brief
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February 19, 2011 - February 25, 2011

Political and Internal Development

While the entire administration is busy to eradicate a practically non-existent Jasmin Revolution by censoring news of unrest in the Middle East, further controlling domestic internet services, restricting movements of foreign journalists and Chinese intellectuals and right activists, President Hu Jintao on February 19 delivered a long speech on social management at the opening ceremony of a special seminar attended by provincial and ministerial level leaders in Beijing. The main objective of the seminar, as Hu mentioned in his speech, was to grasp the nature of changing dynamics in China and in rest of the world.

The crux of his argument was that China needs to further strengthen its new social management to ensure internal stability and development of a socialist harmonious society. Hu gave a clear indication that many conflicts might arise at this juncture of a primary stage of socialism in the country because social contradictions between people’s increasing need for material culture and backward social production, growing inequality, in-coordinated and unsustainable development has remained unresolved. President Hu put forward working principles for strengthening social management in the areas of poverty reduction; migrant labourers and floating population; food and drug safety; work related safety and emergency response capabilities at the grass-root level; health care; housing supply; social security and social welfare for women, children, aged and disabled people; promotion of social justice system; and better management of “virtual society” and public opinions on the internet.

It is not the first time that President Hu has raised the issue of social management. Since 2002, people-oriented governance, social management, social fairness and social justice have been buzzwords of the party’s central leadership. The fourth generation leadership, despite of differences in their views on the question of political reform, realized the need for innovation of a social control system by taking cognizance of people’s demands and grievances. In this sense, Hu’s idea of social management is different from the ideas of social control and mode of social control practiced by his predecessors. Until Jiang Zemin’s time, the means of social control were ideological indoctrination, system of work unit and residential permit, and ethno-regional autonomy in the minority areas. In the reform period, there has been considerable transformation in people’s attitude towards party’s ideology and indoctrination style. The systems of work unit and residential permit have undergone changes, and are no more effective in controlling individual citizens. Despite repeated mention of changing function of the government, the old social control mechanism in practice however is still prevailing in several areas of social life.

It appears that Hu Jintao’s speech was not well taken by many Chinese who are suffering from increasing cost of living, instability in the food market and gross violation of public authority in the housing sector. This is reflected in the result of a public polling conducted by the China Election and Governance Website, which is been run by Beijing Center for Policy Research since 2004, shows that by February 24 only 10 out of 725 netizens favoured President Hu’s speech. One netizen commented that social harmony and social justice are difficult to be realized as long as party would continue to behave as a shepherd and treat people as sheep.

Professor Yu Keping, responding to Hu Jintao’s speech, commented that emphasis should be given more on social autonomy rather than social management. According to Yu, social autonomy is the self-management of public affairs by individuals at the grassroots level, which he also referred as civic-self management. Whereas social management is a part of government’s functions.

Regions of China

The PLA,the Armed Police Force (APF) and local border security force have launched anti-terror exercises and drills on the snow clad mountains in China’s sensitive marginal zones like Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). According to a report published in the Hong Kong based news paper Dagongbao, on February 21, the training began in the two ethnic regions immediately after the Chinese New Year vacation. As per detail given below:
(a) According to official reports the focus of the combat training exercise carried out in the snow covered Gobi and the Tianshan Mountain of XUAR is to improve the technical and tactical qualities of officers and men in dealing with strong electromagnetic interference, satellite reconnaissance, and high-intensity combat formations in the extremely cold condition. Infantry and tank units have also participated in collaborative exercise.
(b) The fifth detachment of Xinjiang Armed Police Corps stationed in South Xinjiang has launched an elite anti-terrorism combat exercise in tackling hijacking and explosives. Special training is also being given to improve capability in carrying out operations through fire barriers, precision attack as well as alternate terrain operation.
(c) The Xinjiang Military District border units have also stepped up patrols along the northwestern border.
(d) The border command of the Tibet Military Area initiated border patrol exercise including group ambush, outflank, round up of enemies as well as special exercise of seizing favourable terrain while fighting foreign forces.
(e) In order to make security arrangements during the 60th anniversary of so-called peaceful revolution in Tibet, the second detachment of Tibet Armed Police has also been engaged in making detail training programs.
(f) In addition eleven rapid reaction units of Qamdo Tibet Armed Police Corps are undergoing specific training and research in the vicinity of Yela Mountain. The training involved combat operations, simulation exercises, and different mission specific study on geographical location, weather and other tasks.

Interestingly the time chosen for the above training exercises coincide with the public protests and demonstrations in the Muslim countries of North Africa and the Middle East. It appears that the recent training activities by the PLA and other security forces are in preparation against any backlash effect of the Muslim World on Tibet and Xinjiang, where anti-China sentiments are deep rooted.

Foreign Policy/Foreign Relations

The Chinese media comments that the US has been facing challenge of maintaining its pragmatic Middle East strategy vis-à-vis its national interest and ‘so-called universal values’. According to an editorial comment in the People’s Daily Online version, which says that, is it in the face of popular protests against its “reliable” allies in North Africa and the Arab countries that the US has changed its colours? The author claims that in the most critical moment of Hosni Mubarak’s political career, the US abandoned him. This not only disappointed US’s other Arab allies but also helped spreading unrest across the region. It is further observed by the author that the US uses Middle East Muslim rulers for its own interest and abandons them like “worn-out shoes” when they lose hold of political power in the face of popular protest. As far as the Arab people’s democratic aspiration is concerned, the US is selective and capricious.
The news of US decision of opposing Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements established in the occupied Palestinian territory since 1967 as illegal got prominence in the Chinese media. On February 18, the US is the only country among the fifteen members Security Council that vetoed the resolution. Chinese Ambassador to the UN, Li Baodong expressed regret that the draft was not adopted and claimed that China always opposed the construction of settlement in the Palestinian territory.
The Arab countries know very well that China’s support for Palestine is more often symbolic. China and Israel have developed a robust military relationship, much to the chagrin of the US establishment and dismay of the Arab world. On several occasions Israeli arms sales to China caused tension between Washington and Jerusalem at the possibility that China might use many of the Israeli-made or Israeli-modified US defense system against Taiwan. The Arab media usually blame Israel for its double game with the USA and China.
Third World solidarity has long ceased to be the basis of China’s Middle East policy, but many people in these countries still try to see China as a counter-weight against the USA. Whether Chinese influence in these countries would increase or not following the recent political upheaval largely depends on its position on the Arab-Israel dispute and reform in the Arab countries as well as its willingness to confront the USA directly in this region.

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