Martine Bulard

Rédactrice en chef adjointe au « Monde diplomatique »

  • North Korean test unlikely to be hydrogen bomb – Bennett | NK News - North Korea News

    I am skeptical. To understand this, it is important to understand the nature of nuclear weapons. The first generation of nuclear weapons developed by the United States and also by North Korea are referred to as fission weapons. These weapons take very large atoms like uranium or plutonium and split them into smaller parts, creating a significant amount of energy. The nuclear weapons that the United States detonated on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were fission weapons, and had weapon yields (explosive power) in the range of 10 to 20 kilotons (the equivalent of 10,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT).

    The US nuclear weapon developers then pursued fusion bombs that are often referred to as hydrogen bombs because they typically use small atoms like hydrogen to combine together and produce vastly more energy. The US designers anticipated that hydrogen bombs would have far bigger effects—these weapons can have weapon yields in the range of 1 to 10 Mt (the equivalent of 1 to 10 million tons of TNT), or 100 to 1,000 times the yield of basic fission weapons. These hydrogen bombs are far more complex to develop.

    This scale is logarithmic, the fourth test was about 1.5 times as powerful as the 2013 test, or perhaps 10 to 15 kt
    The yield of nuclear weapons is often measured by the size of the earth tremor that they cause during an underground nuclear test. The North Korean third nuclear test in 2013 had a Richter scale tremor reading of about 4.9, or roughly a yield in the range of 6 to 10 kilotons (kt) — smaller than the U.S. Hiroshima weapon. The North Korean fourth nuclear test appears to have had a Richter scale reading of 5.1 (which might still get adjusted a bit).

    Because this scale is logarithmic, the fourth test was about 1.5 times as powerful as the 2013 test, or perhaps 10 to 15 kt. Thus even this fourth test has just barely reached the yield of the US Hiroshima weapon, more than 70 years later. It is not clear whether North Korea has chosen to suppress the yields of its nuclear tests in order to limit international reaction to those tests, or whether North Korea simply has had difficulty mastering the basic technology of nuclear weapons.

    till, to be clear, if this fourth nuclear test was of a weapon that North Korea could put on one of its ballistic missiles, that weapon still might be able to cause hundreds of thousands of fatalities and serious casualties if delivered against a major city in one of the countries surrounding North Korea.

    Its yield should have been about 100 times as large as the yield of this test
    There is, of course, another possibility. As I noted in my recent CNN commentary, there is also a nuclear weapon design referred to as a boosted weapon. A boosted weapon is a largely fission weapon which has a small amount of fusion intended to improve the efficiency of the fission reaction. While not really a hydrogen bomb, a boosted weapon might still be called such because it has a small fusion component. But boosted weapons should have a weapon yield about 5 to 10 times the size of the fourth test, so even if this weapon was only boosted, it did not achieve the designed intent.

    NK News: Is it more complex to test H-bombs?

    Absolutely. North Korean Nuclear weapons tested underground must be buried sufficiently deeply and sealed underground to prevent some of the radiation from breaking through to the surface (so-called “venting”). The bigger the weapon, the more likely that any given underground design will not be adequate to prevent venting.

    That venting could spread radiation to areas dozens to hundreds of kilometers downwind of the test site. In addition, large weapons appear more likely to cause earthquakes in adjoining areas. The North Korean government’s decision to test weapons which may have much larger yields demonstrates its lack of compassion for the safety of its citizens and the people in surrounding areas, to include China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia. In short, the North Korean behavior is irresponsible.

  • Missing Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo ‘doesn’t do evil things’, friends insist | South China Morning Post

    While mystery looms over the disappearance of bookseller Lee Bo, more details are coming to light about the quiet, 65-year-old Hong Kong native who, as his acquaintances remembered, was a “low-profile, intellectual-looking” figure, along with his writer wife.

    “The last time I saw Lee Bo, I remember, was when he visited our bookshop over last Chinese New Year and gave us packs of chocolate as gifts,” said Paul Tang, owner of People’s Recreation Community, a book cafe also selling banned books. “He was friendly, and not high-profile.”

    Compared with more well-established publishers of banned books, such as Mirror Media which traces its roots to the 1980s, Lee’s Mighty Current was new on the scene, said Tang, adding: “And there is little reason for it to be extraordinarily outstanding or insightful among its more than a dozen peers.”

    A news stand vendor near the Causeway Bay bookshop that was taken over by Lee’s publishing house around three years ago, who gave his name only as Billy, said he would have occasional chats with the missing owner.

    “He was slim, often wearing a pair of glasses,” he said. “He was not talkative, and looked like a typical intellectual.”

    “As a friend of Lee, I would say he is an upright man, and doesn’t do evil things,” said Ngan Shun-kau, former chief editor and now senior adviser to Cosmos Books.
    n the early 2012, Lee’s wife, Choi Ka-ping, founded Mighty Current, a publisher specialising in books critical of the Chinese Communist Party, together with a German-based man who later transferred all of his shares to Gui Minghai and Lui Por, company records show.

    Both Gui and Lui are also missing.

    Choi, 61, is a writer who boasts a portfolio of multiple Chinese-language novels, essays and poetry collections.

    Writing under the pen name So Fai, the mainland-educated writer has a regular column in the city’s pro-Beijing Ta Kung Pao newspaper with her latest offering dated January 4.

    She was in the city’s publishing industry as early as 1997, her biography shows. Her name was also mentioned as an editor with Joint Publishing Hong Kong, one of the biggest and most respectable publishing houses in the city, in a few of the culture books published in 2007 and 2008.

    While the city’s banned-book trade became lucrative after the Bo Xilai scandal broke, Billy, who helps with logistics with Lee’s bookshop at times, said he was told that the business wasn’t faring well over the last two years.

    “And that is why he sold some of his holdings of the shop in 2014 to keep it running.”

    The 65-year-old was last seen on Wednesday at the Chai Wan warehouse of Mighty Current, the company that owns his store.

    #HongKong, #Disparitions

  • L’Indonésie dans l’OPEP : les raisons du retour - Asialyst

    Jakarta avait affiché son envie depuis quelques mois. l’Indonésie rejoint officiellement en ce début d’année 2016 les rangs de l’Organisation des Pays Exportateurs de Pétrole (OPEP). Il s’agit d’un retour pour le seul pays asiatique du groupe, sept ans après son retrait volontaire. Quelles en sont les raisons ? Quel intérêt pour les membres du Moyen-Orient ?
    Ce retour de l’Indonésie peut paraître surprenant. L’archipel asiatique produit certes du pétrole, mais il en importe plus qu’il n’en exporte depuis 15 ans pour deux raisons : la production indonésienne décline – ses gisements sont anciens – et le pays a de plus en plus besoin de l’or noir pour faire tourner son économie, très diversifiée par rapport aux économies des autres membres de l’OPEP. C’est d’ailleurs ce qui avait motivé le départ de l’Indonésie de l’organisation il y a sept ans ; la facture pétrolière était devenue très lourde pour l’archipel asiatique. Ses intérêts divergeaient totalement de ceux des autres pays de l’OPEP, qui avaient au contraire intérêt à un prix du baril le plus élevé possible.
    Mais c’était il y a sept ans. Au temps où le membre le plus puissant de l’organisation, l’Arabie saoudite, pouvait à lui seul faire remonter les cours en fermant un peu les vannes. Ce n’est plus possible depuis la révolution des pétroles de schiste aux États-Unis. Désormais, les prix du brut se traînent sous les 50 dollars.

    #Indonésie #Opep

  • Chinese firms learn to cope with resistance to Cambodian projects - Global Times

    The Sesan and Srepok rivers in Stung Treng Province, seven hours’ drive from the country’s capital Phnom Penh, are two major tributaries of the Mekong. Located near the confluence of the two rivers, the Lower Sesan 2 Dam is now 40 percent complete.

    If it begins operation when scheduled in late 2017, it will have a capacity of 400 megawatts that will help satisfy demand for electricity in a country that currently imports much of its power.

    The dam is the first overseas investment project undertaken by Hydrolancang, a subsidiary of China Huaneng Group, one of the largest power companies in China.

    The project was approved by the Cambodian government in 2012. As a build-operate-transfer project, the ownership of the dam will be transferred to Cambodia after 40 years of operation by Hydrolancang.

    However, since the start, it has been dogged by controversies around potential environmental damage and its impact on nearby villagers.

    “There are still people who don’t want to move. More than 5,000 people have to be reallocated. It’s not always very clear what the compensation is and it varies depending on the situation and depending on the individuals,” Stephanie Jensen-Cormier, China Program Director of International Rivers, an NGO that closely monitors the biodiversity of rivers and the rights of communities that depend on rivers, told the Global Times.

    A 2012 study by US and Cambodian researchers estimates that the dam, once constructed, will reduce fish biomass in the Mekong system by more than 9 percent, because it will obstruct the movement of fish and at least 50 species will face extinction.

    Tensions and divisions have sprung up within affected communities among those who want to accept compensation provided by Hydrolancang and those who don’t.

    Srekor 1 and 2 villages are among the affected villages along the Sesan River. In 2014, residents sent an open statement to local authorities, demanding the project halt.

    In the village, red signs with “LSS2” (abbreviation for Lower Sesan 2) can be seen on some houses, which means those households have already been measured and the owners have agreed to accept compensation and move to resettlement areas. Those who are not willing to move have hung a striking sign on a tree, reading, “We will die in the village even if the dam is built.”

    Mekong Sheak, head of Srekor 1 village, told the Global Times that he fears that after the dam is built the area’s deep forests will all be gone and there will be no fish in the river.

    Feng Lin, deputy director of the general department of Hydro Power Lower Sesan 2 Co Ltd, a joint enterprise of the Royal Group of Cambodia and China’s Hydrolancang in charge of the dam project, said the company was aware of villagers’ concerns and has designed a fish passage which will allow fish to move freely.

    But villagers said they have other concerns.

    “We have grandmothers buried in the land. If we leave, they will make us poorer and sick,” said 58-year-old Pha Vy. She was one of the community representatives from Srekor 2 village that favored sending the open statement.

    “Their ancestors are very important. They are unhappy if they have to move and leave their ancestors behind. They say somebody would die because the ancestors would punish them. They believe that the forests have spirits. That’s the way they live their lives,” Jensen-Cormier told the Global Times.

    #Chine #Cambodge #Barrages_hydrauliques

  • An Insider’s View of Chinese-Russian Relations | Foreign Affairs

    Beijing and Moscow Are Close, but 
Not Allies
    By Fu Ying
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    At a time when Russian relations with the United States and western European countries are growing cold, the relatively warm ties between China and Russia have attracted renewed interest. Scholars and journalists in the West find themselves debating the nature of the Chinese-Russian partnership and wondering whether it will evolve into an alliance.

    Since the end of the Cold War, two main views have tended to define Western assessments of the Chinese-Russian relationship and predictions of its future. The first view holds that the link between Beijing and Moscow is vulnerable, contingent, and marked by uncertainties—a “marriage of convenience,” to use the phrase favored by many advocates of this argument, who see it as unlikely that the two countries will grow much closer and quite possible that they will begin to drift apart. The other view posits that strategic and even ideological factors form the basis of Chinese-Russian ties and predicts that the two countries—both of which see the United States as a possible obstacle to their objectives—will eventually form an anti-U.S., anti-Western alliance.

    Neither view accurately captures the true nature of the relationship. The Chinese-Russian relationship is a stable strategic partnership and by no means a marriage of convenience: it is complex, sturdy, and deeply rooted. Changes in international relations since the end of the Cold War have only brought the two countries closer together. Some Western analysts and officials have speculated (and perhaps even hoped) that the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, in which Russia has become heavily involved, would lead to tensions between Beijing and Moscow—or even a rupture. But that has not happened.

    Nevertheless, China has no interest in a formal alliance with Russia, nor in forming an anti-U.S. or anti-Western bloc of any kind. Rather, Beijing hopes that China and Russia can maintain their relationship in a way that will provide a safe environment for the two big neighbors to achieve their development goals and to support each other through mutually beneficial cooperation, offering a model for how major countries can manage their differences and cooperate in ways that strengthen the international system.


    On several occasions between the end of the nineteenth century and the middle of the twentieth century, China entered into an alliance with the Russian empire and its successor, the Soviet Union. But every time, the arrangement proved short-lived, as each amounted to nothing more than an expediency between countries of unequal strength. In the decades that followed, the two powerful communist-led countries muddled through, occasionally cooperating but often riven by rivalry and mistrust. In 1989, in the waning years of Soviet rule, they finally restored normalcy to their relations. They jointly declared that they would develop bilateral relations based on “mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.” Two years later, the Soviet Union disintegrated, but Chinese-Russian relations carried on with the principle of “no alliance, no conflict, and no targeting any third country.”

    Soon thereafter, the newborn Russian Federation embraced the so-called Atlanticist approach. To win the trust and help of the West, Russia not only followed Western prescriptions for economic reform but also made concessions on major security issues, including reducing its stockpile of strategic nuclear weapons. However, things didn’t turn out the way the Russians had hoped, as the country’s economy tanked and its regional influence waned. In 1992, disappointed with what they saw as unfulfilled pledges of American and European assistance and irritated by talk of NATO’s eastward expansion, the Russians began to pay more attention to Asia. That year, China and Russia announced that each would regard the other as a “friendly country” and issued a joint political statement stipulating that “the freedom of people to choose their own development paths should be respected, while differences in social systems and ideologies should not hamper the normal progress of relations.”

    #Chine #Russie

  • North Korea still stable despite external vulnerabilities | East Asia Forum
    North Korea seems to have had an internally stable 2015. Its economy is far from faltering and Kim Jong-un has firmly consolidated his power base. There were no explicit signs of internal challenge. Kim is both reigning and ruling. But Pyongyang’s provocative behaviour in the international domain could produce severe consequences for North Korea. Uncertainty remains high.
    In late October, Pyongyang announced that it will hold the Seventh Congress of the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) in May 2016, 35 years after the Sixth Party Congress in 1980. At the first Inter-Korean Summit in 2000, the late North Korean chairman Kim Jong-il mentioned to then South Korean president Kim Dae-jung that he would convene a congress, but it was never realised. Kim Jong-un succeeded power without the congress ever being held. This announcement is therefore a significant move.

    Kim Jong-un is likely to use the upcoming party congress as a platform to declare the beginning of a new era under his leadership. His 2015 New Year speech had already hinted the possibility of redirecting the governing ideology.

    Kim Jong-un’s previous New Year speeches made it clear that his rule is founded on two pillars: the ideological lines of his grandfather Kim Il-sung and father Kim Jong-il. But in 2015, such ideological edifices did not appear. Instead, Kim Jong-un routinely mentioned old rhetoric such as strengthening monolithic leadership, juche (self-reliance), as well as the importance of songun (military first) politics. The North Korean leader may well introduce his own brand of ruling ideology at the Seventh Party Congress in 2016.

    The decision reveals Kim Jong-un’s growing confidence in economic performance and power consolidation. North Korea underwent major economic difficulties in 2015 — partly because of international sanctions and poor harvests, and partly because of falling prices of coal and iron ore that accounted for almost half of its exports.

    But Pyongyang’s economic performance has remained rather robust, owing to the flourishing informal sector. Since 2009, more than 400 jangmadang (informal marketplaces) have been introduced. They have facilitated the distribution of necessary consumer goods through a quasi-market mechanism. Such informal markets critically mitigated the negative consequences of severe drought and poor harvest. This was a sharp contrast to the period of mass starvation of the 1990s, after which the public distribution system collapsed. Equally important is the advent of donju (money holders) who are serving as new agents of capital accumulation as well as sources of valuable hard currency.
    #Corée_du_Nord #Kim_Jong-un

  • How Clocks Created Time for Sino-European Ties
    Among the first etiquette rules taught to a student of Chinese language and culture is one I have always found curious: never give a clock as a gift. To gift a clock or a watch, we are warned, is to visit bad luck upon the recipient. As often the case in China, this superstition is rooted in language: the words for giving a clock (song zhong) sound like those for arranging a funeral or a burial.
    But gifting a clock has not always been considered bad luck in China. On the contrary, clocks, watches, and elaborate timepieces were among the most valued gifts an emperor or official could receive during the Ming and Qing dynasties. European-made clocks and timekeeping technology played a vital role in the cultural exchange between China and Europe from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Many of them are still on display in the Hall of Clocks and Watches at the Forbidden City, also known as Beijing’s Palace Museum.
    It all started in the late 1500s when Jesuit priests were looking for a way to enter China to proselytize their faith. Italian priest Alessandro Valignano, who headed the Jesuit mission in the Far East, was a great admirer of China and insisted that the only way to approach the nation was through a position of respect. He thus recruited Jesuits who were willing and able to immerse themselves in China’s language, culture, history and philosophy. Valignano likewise decided that the aspect of European culture that would most interest China’s elite was science, since he perceived scientific understanding in China to be much less developed than in Europe. He thus adopted a doctrine known as propagation fidei per scientias, or propagating the faith through science.

  • Inde : pas de « ville intelligente » sans égout qui fonctionne ! - Asialyst

    Le désastre de Chennai, où des pluies diluviennes ont fait des centaines de morts et d’énormes dégâts, montre que l’urgence pour les grandes villes indiennes est davantage de mettre en place des services de base opérationnels plutôt que des solutions high-tech hyper sophistiquées.
    L’Inde a-t-elle vraiment besoin de lancer une centaine de programmes de « villes intelligentes » comme le veut le gouvernement de New Delhi ? Ne devrait-elle pas plutôt essayer de rendre les villes existantes « moins stupides » ? C’est le débat suscité dans le pays par le désastre intervenu à Chennai (ex-Madras), début décembre, quand des pluies torrentielles ont dévasté la ville, causant plusieurs centaines de morts. Une tragédie qui, pour de nombreux observateurs, montre qu’il vaudrait mieux donner la priorité en matière d’urbanisme à des problèmes aussi basiques que les réseaux d’égouts et les permis de construire plutôt qu’à des technologies de l’information d’avant-garde.


    • Dans un texte de l’urbaniste Shahana Chattaraj publié mi-août dernier au titre révélateur : « Quel genre de ville intelligente voulons-nous ? », cette diplômée de Princeton et du MIT s’interroge : « Les entreprises mondiales font la queue en Inde pour vendre des villes intelligentes sur plans, et les médias listent leurs attributs : salles de commandes centralisées avec des données en temps réel, des capteurs numériques pour localiser les points de stationnement... Ces comptes rendus semblent oublier que les villes sont des agglomérations d’êtres humains ; leurs bâtiments et les infrastructures sont importants, mais accessoires. Et ainsi, d’importantes questions restent sans réponse. Qui va vivre et travailler dans ces nouvelles villes intelligentes ? Les migrants pauvres peuvent-ils trouver un logement avec un salon, ou vont-ils avoir des capteurs numériques pour suivre les empiétements ? »

      Source :

  • It’s time for domestic changes in Vietnam | East Asia Forum
    n 2015 was Vietnam’s year to consolidate its diplomatic position in the international arena, 2016 will be crucial for bringing domestic political structures in line with the country’s new position in the global economic and security architecture. With respect to the economy, Vietnam must adapt its regulatory system to this new position; politically, the Party must complete its pivot towards the West. The 12th Party Congress in early 2016 will set that course.

    Economically, the successful conclusion of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations adds Vietnam to a club of 12 nations linked by a set of common trade and investment rules. This club links economies accounting for 40 per cent of world GDP (about US$28.1 trillion), one-third of global trade (US$11 trillion) and about 800 million consumers. Yet membership comes with conditions that require Vietnam delivers significant domestic changes.

  • India to Buy $7 Billion Worth of Russian Weapons | News | The Moscow Times

    ndia to Buy $7 Billion Worth of Russian Weapons

    India is set to buy weapons from Russia worth more than $7 billion, the Kommersant newspaper reported Monday, citing unidentified sources in Delhi close to the government.

    The deal on supplies of military equipment is due to be signed on Dec. 24-25, during the first visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Moscow.

    Military and technical cooperation will be a key issue during Modi’s visit, Kommersant reported.

    Last week, India’s Defense Acquisition Council approved the purchase of Russia’s S-400 air-defense missile systems.

    India, which is planning to purchase at least five of the systems, according to several top-managers of Russian defense enterprises cited by Kommersant, will become Russia’s second foreign buyer of S-400 after China.

    The value of the deal is estimated at $2.5 billion, the newspaper reported.

    In addition, Russia and India are expected to discuss the agreements on the purchase of two Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarines, 48 Mi-17V-5 military transport helicopters, 150 BMP-2/2K armored fighting vehicles and three Project 11356 frigates.
    #Inde #Russie #armements

  • Réorganisation de l’arléPLA to announce overhaul: five ’strategic zones’ will replace regional commands, most army HQ to be scrapped | South

    Réforme de l’armée chinoise
    China Morning Post

    The most striking features of the proposals for the five new military zones are a vast new West zone that makes up more than half the country and a larger North zone that will concentrate on Mongolia, the Russian Far East and the Korean peninsula.

    The Post reported on Tuesday that the changes to the old military command system were expected to be completed by the end of the month and that the new five strategic areas, also referred to as combat zones, could be up and running as early as January 1.

    Sources said plans were nearing completion for the new West zone – by far the largest of the five – to include more than a third of the nation’s land-based military.

    The area is home to only 22 per cent of the country’s population, many from the ethnic minorities groups and non-Han Chinese.

    “The West combat zone will concentrate on threats in Xinjiang (新疆) and Tibet and other minority areas, close to Afghanistan and other states that are home to training bases for separatists, terrorists and extremists,” one of the sources said.
    #Chine #armée

    Another source close to the army said the proposal had been revised in recent weeks to move the West zone headquarters to Urumqi instead of Chengdu or

  • Vietnam : la mondialisation contre la géographie - Asialyst

    Le Vietnam et Singapour sont les seuls pays de l’ASEAN à avoir adhéré au Partenariat transpacifique, le fameux TPP lancé par les Américains, et à avoir signé un traité de libre-échange avec l’Union européenne. La position de Singapour n’étonne pas, celle du Vietnam surprend. Qu’est ce qui la motive ?
    Le diktat de la géographie

    Considérant uniquement les grands pays, on exclut la Mongolie ou la Corée du Nord.
    Qu’est-ce que le Vietnam et le Mexique ont en commun ? Un point qu’ils ne partagent avec aucun autre grand pays. La réponse ne relève ni de la culture, ni de l’histoire, mais de la géographie économique. Tous deux sont voisins d’une très grande puissance
    . Certes, la traversée de la frontière entre Hékou et Lao Cai ou Youyi Guan et Huu Nghi Quan n’est pas une expérience aussi vertigineuse qu’entre San Diego et Tijuana : en entrant au Mexique depuis les lointains faubourgs de cette ville californienne sillonnée de SUV, on « chute » de plusieurs milliers de dollars de revenu par habitant. On n’a pas la même impression lorsqu’on traverse le Fleuve Roue à Lao Cai. Par contre, alors que le PIB mexicain est le dixième du PIB américain, le PIB vietnamien est le cinquantième du PIB chinois.
    A l’heure d’Internet et de la mondialisation, la proximité demeure un déterminant majeur de la géographie du commerce mondial. L’Allemagne est le principal partenaire de la France, les Etats-Unis du Canada ou du Mexique, le Japon de la Corée du Sud. A ce propos, les économètres montrent que l’intensité des échanges bilatéraux obéit à une loi analogue à celle de Newton selon laquelle l’attraction entre deux corps est proportionnelle au produit de leurs masses et inversement proportionnelle au carré de leur distance. Qu’en est-il dans le cas du Mexique et du Vietnam ?
    Alors que l’écart entre les PIB chinois et vietnamien est plus élevé, le poids des échanges avec la Chine pour le Vietnam (50 % du PIB) est déjà supérieur à celui du commerce avec les Etats-Unis pour le Mexique (40 %). Cela suggère que la place de la Chine dans le PIB vietnamien pourrait augmenter, une conclusion contre laquelle les Vietnamiens s’insurgent. Pour des raisons économiques, leur déficit avec leur grand voisin du Nord est abyssal ; pour des raisons politiques, ils n’apprécient pas plus les Chinois que les Mexicains les « Gringos ». Leur histoire a été marquée par plusieurs guerres dont la dernière en 1979, et ils sont confrontés aux ambitions chinoises dans les mers du Sud.
    Pour échapper au diktat de la géographie, les Vietnamiens mobilisent la mondialisation. En Octobre 2015 avec onze autres pays, ils ont signé le TPP qui devra encore franchir de nombreux obstacles pour être mis en oeuvre. Le 4 décembre, ils ont signé un traité de libre-échange avec l’UE sur lequel plane moins d’incertitude.

    #Vietnam #TPP #Etats-Unis #Chine

  • Democracy delayed, democracy denied in Thailand | East Asia Forum

    2015 was a year of stillness in Thailand, at least in the political realm. The military staged a coup that ousted Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government in May 2014. Throughout 2015, the military regime of General Prayuth Chan-ocha — Thailand’s current prime minister — promised a number of projects that claimed to put Thailand back on the democratic track. But these promises proved to be empty.

    wo major events in 2015 in particular served to question the sincerity of the junta in its endeavor to reform Thailand.

    The first was the failure of the constitutional drafting process. Tasked with writing a new constitution, the Constitutional Drafting Committees presented their charter to military-appointed parliamentarians but it was not approved.

    The nature of the new constitution was in itself controversial: it was designed to prevent powerful political parties, like that of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, from easily returning to power. This was because it encouraged independent candidates to run for parliamentary seats. These independents were expected to take a fair share of seats from the Shinawatras.

    The rejection of the constitution, though pointing to the junta’s incompetency in the drafting mission, helps to prolong the life of the military government. This strongly implies that the junta is planning to stay in power at least until after the royal transition. King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been ill. The anxiety that comes with the thought of a royal succession prompted the military to take charge of political power to defend the interests of the royal institution and itself.

    Of course, drafting a new charter is not easy. After all, the military government aims to exploit the constitution to justify its ongoing influence over politics even after it has to step down from power. With this in mind, it seems that the new constitution — which is currently being re-drafted by military-appointed committees — will have little to do with promoting political reform, but will rather empower extra-constitutional institutions.

    So, while the military government has promised to hold an election in 2016, there is little hope that the election will effectively shift Thailand’s political landscape away from the traditional powers. This reality will undermine the confidence of foreign businesses, which fear that a political deadlock in Thailand following the election will push the country further into the abyss.


  • Slow progress for North Korea’s cautious reforms | East Asia Forum

    What does the future hold for North Korea? Sometime ago, I had the relatively rare opportunity to have a free chat with a North Korean merchant. A woman in her forties, the wife of a mid-ranking official, is running an import business dealing in consumption goods. But, unlike the majority of people with the same background, she also has a keen interest in elite politics. When talking about the most desirable future for her country, she said: ‘we do not need reform and opening up like China, all we need is reform’.

    t seems that the Supreme Leader, Marshall Kim Jong-un, shares this idea. Since 2012 North Korea has undergone cautious and slow reforms, without opening the country. The North Korean government is slowly changing how it manages the economy, shifting control away from the state to the market, but it is still maintaining (and, indeed, strengthening) its political control.

    These trends began soon after the ascension of Kim Jong-un. 2015 has not been marked by any significant change in this regard.

    The agricultural reforms initiated by the so-called ‘June 28th Instructions’ of 2012 have continued to yield very positive results. This is in spite of all the uncertainty and lack of uniformity surrounding these reforms as well as a severe drought. While the reforms vary from place to place, all the reform models have one thing in common: farmers no longer work for fixed rations but for a certain share of the harvest. This share is often said to be 30 per cent. The first estimates of agricultural output are quite optimistic — the harvest is likely to be only slightly lower than the record-breaking 2014 harvest.

    News from industry is less encouraging. In 2014, the North Korean government passed a decision, the so-called ‘ May 30th Measures’, about the universal switch to an independent accounting system. In practice, this meant that North Korea’s state-owned industrial enterprises were given the right to choose suppliers for their inputs, sell their produce at market prices, hire and fire personnel at will and pay employees what they considered to be a realistic wage. But, for reasons unknown, the reforms were cancelled in early 2015. Despite this, some factories are still allowed to work according to the new model. The vast majority of these enterprises make money from exports to China and are quite profitable.

    On the political front, economic changes have not been accompanied by liberalisation. This is understandable since it would be politically risky for the regime to be too permissive. Being a divided country with a far richer southern neighbour, the government would struggle to survive with similar levels of openness found in China today — Kim Jong-un seems to understand this situation well.

    So, the year 2015 has been marked by further attempts to reverse the spontaneous political changes that have occurred in the last 20 years. Most policies have sought to counteract the government’s biggest worry: the continued flow of information from overseas into North Korea.

    There has been a further increase in Sino–North Korean border security. Border crossings are now remarkably risky, unless one is willing to pay an increasingly steep bribe to guards.

    There have also been campaigns against Chinese mobile phones that allow a small number of North Koreans — largely traders, smugglers and border-crossing brokers — to communicate with China and the outside world almost freely. Now, such mobile phones are considered to be spying equipment. People found in possession of them face the threat of five to seven years’ imprisonment. Attempts have also been made to crack down on the spread of foreign videos, with renewed inspections of homes.

    At the same time, the world media was busy reporting the untimely deaths of top officials. The most notable was the death of defence minister Hyon Yong-chol in early May (allegedly by an anti-aircraft gun). Then in late September, Choe Ryong-hae, who until early 2015 was seen as North Korea’s second-in-command, disappeared. He has reportedly been sent to work at a farm as punishment for mismanagement. While reports remain unconfirmed, there is little doubt that Kim Jong-un continues to purge the elite and those that were once close to him are especially vulnerable.

    These high-level purges have attracted much attention, but there does not seem to have been any corresponding increase in repression targeting the average person. So far Kim Jong-un’s wrath has been reserved for army generals and party dignitaries, not the common folk — most of whom probably do not feel much affinity for the elite. In this sense, oft-repeated reports of Kim Jong-un’s ‘reign by terror’ are exaggerations.

    The year 2015 has been another year of stuttering reform without openness. Though, on balance, this seems to have been rather good news for the average North Korean.

    Andrei Lankov is a Professor at Kookmin University, Seoul, and Adjunct Research Fellow at the Australian National University.

    This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2015 in review and the year ahead.

  • IMF Move on Yuan Shows That Excluding China Is a Losing Bet

    On Monday, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) voted to add China’s currency, the yuan or renminbi, to a very short list of elite global reserve currencies. Next fall, the yuan will officially be added to the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket of currencies, which presently includes just the dollar, euro, yen and pound sterling. In part, the decision reflects the undeniable reality of China’s economic rise. However, the decision is also a pragmatic, perhaps even savvy, move by the IMF and the United States to further incorporate China into an international financial order that largely reflects Western economic ideas and interests.

    The SDR is sometimes referred to as a “synthetic currency.” Its value changes daily and is based on a weighted combination of the four—soon to be five—currencies that make up the basket. From a practical standpoint, SDRs do not really matter very much. Their most prominent role is as a unit of account for the IMF. For example, the IMF officially reports its own assets and liabilities in SDR terms.

    Despite that, inclusion in the SDR basket has symbolic value. It can be thought of as the IMF’s official endorsement of the yuan as a global investment and trade settlement currency. Central bankers as well as asset managers of private investment funds take the IMF’s opinion on such matters seriously. One major global bank predicts that the currency’s new status will generate $1 trillion in new investments in China over the next year. That could increase to $3 trillion over five years.

    Yet, by some accounts, the yuan is not yet deserving of its new lofty status. One key requirement for inclusion in the SDR basket is what the IMF calls the freely usable standard. As recently as this spring, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew publicly stated that the yuan did not yet belong in the basket because “further liberalization and reform” was necessary to meet that IMF standard. Implicitly, Lew was pointing to two complaints the U.S. regularly makes about China’s currency policy. First, Beijing still tightly manages the yuan’s exchange rate, rather than allowing the market to drive its value. Second, the yuan is not a so-called fully convertible currency, as Beijing limits how much cash can move both in and out of its domestic financial markets.
    Why did the U.S. change its position from opposing the yuan’s inclusion in the spring to supporting it by the fall?
    However, earlier this year, the IMF issued a report that noted that “freely useable” simply means a currency is widely used to make payments for international transactions and widely traded in foreign exchange markets. On these standards, the yuan scores relatively well.

    In recent years, the yuan has surged to become the second most popular currency in international trade financing deals and, overall, is now the fourth most widely used currency in international payments of all types. Nevertheless, the yuan still does not rank as a top five currency in global debt markets, currency trading or foreign exchange reserves.

    In short, the yuan had a solid economic case for IMF inclusion—but not an overwhelmingly strong one. So, why did the U.S. change its position from opposing the yuan’s inclusion in the spring to supporting it by the fall? The answer comes down to politics. 

    Since at least 2009, China’s top central banker, Zhou Xiaochuan, has made getting his country’s currency in the SDR basket something of a personal crusade. Zhou is an economic reformer. In his tenure as governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBC), he has overseen a long list of policy changes that have opened China’s financial markets up to the world—albeit slowly and incrementally.

    Financial liberalization poses some risks for key interest groups in China, not least of which are major export-oriented industries. Despite these risks, Zhou was able to push forward, in part, by dangling the prestige of SDR membership in front of the country’s leadership. Had the IMF thumbed its nose at the yuan—as it did in 2010—Zhou’s reform strategy, as well as his leadership at the PBC, may have been questioned in Beijing. Rejection would have been a blow to the financial reform movement in China and may have brought about backsliding. That was an outcome that the U.S. and IMF leadership wanted to avoid.

    On the other hand, voting to include the yuan in the SDR basket hands a clear victory to Zhou and his vision of a more open Chinese financial system. It encourages continued incremental liberalization by demonstrating that the U.S.-dominated institution is willing to give China more power, so long as Beijing makes an effort to meet the IMF’s standards. This point bears repeating: Demonstrating that the IMF can serve China’s interests as well as America’s is vital for both the IMF itself and the international financial order that it presides over.

    #Chine, #yuan, #FMI

  • Fewer mainland Chinese settle in Hong Kong, leading to cut in population growth projection | South China Morning Post

    Acting Commissioner for Census and Statistics Stephen Leung Kwan-chi told lawmakers yesterday that the lower take-up rate since 2013 could weaken further, with mainlanders expected to use only 100 out of the 150 daily permits available.

    “People coming to Hong Kong under the scheme remain an important driver of population growth,” said Leung.

    Hong Kong has one of the world’s lowest birth rates at 8.6 per 1,000 people last year, down from 13.5 in 2011, according to government statistics. The inflow of one-way permit holders is therefore crucial in adding to the overall population.

    Under the scheme, launched in 1997 largely to allow family reunion, up to 150 permits are available for mainland applicants every day. In the past, many were mainland mothers seeking to join their children and husbands in Hong Kong.

    According to official figures, the use of the daily quota – which dipped in 2007 and 2008 – reached a peak in 2012, with an average of 149 mainlanders admitted into the city every day. However, that number has been slipping since then, with 123 people in 2013 and 111 last year.

    However, a paper released to lawmakers said: “The revised assumption should in no way be construed as any intention to change the [one-way permit] scheme”, adding the mainland authorities had no plan to revise the existing quota. 

    “Given the prevalence of cross-boundary marriages which have made up almost 40 per cent of locally registered marriages, there is a continued need for the scheme to enable separated spouses and their children born on the mainland to come to Hong Kong for family reunion,” said the paper.

    A leading social policy academic and a social worker said better living standards on the mainland had led to fewer applications for one-way permits, while recent anti-mainland sentiment in the city might also have had an impact.

    #Hongkong #Chine #migrations

  • Exclusive: Iran renews oil contracts with China, taps new buyers | Reuters

    Iran is taking steps to ramp up oil exports ahead of an end to U.S.-led sanctions, extending crude contracts with its top two Chinese buyers into 2016 and starting talks with other potential buyers there, sources involved in the talks said.

    Previously OPEC’s No.2 exporter, Iran is keen to recoup oil market share lost during U.S. and European Union sanctions over its nuclear program and is aiming to boost oil output by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) - equal to about 50 percent of current exports - in early 2016.

    Sinopec Corp (0386.HK), Asia’s largest refiner, and Chinese state trader Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp will together lift around 505,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from Iran in 2016, the same as this year when they took roughly half of the Islamic Republic’s total exports, the sources said.

    China bought 536,500 bpd of Iranian crude oil in the 10 months to end-October, down 1.9 percent on a year ago as a third regular client, independent Dragon Aromatics, halted purchases for safety checks after a fire in April.[O/CHINA1]

    Anticipating an end to sanctions at the start of 2016, Tehran last week offered about 50 oil and gas projects to be developed by foreign investors, and over the weekend unveiled much-awaited revisions to its contract aimed at luring back investors.

    Any increase in Iranian exports will be politically sensitive as it threatens oil revenues of other major exporters such as Saudi Arabia and Russia, but the tone of recent comments from Washington and Europe points to a lightening in trade restrictions early in 2016.


    Iranian oil officials have met in the last two months with traders at PetroChina (0857.HK), the country’s second-largest state refiner, and state-run CNOOC, which runs a petrochemical complex with Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), three sources involved in the talks said.

    China’s state-owned energy companies have been reticent to boost contractual volumes or sign up new term deals under the sanctions because of fears about the international repercussions.

    But they are becoming less fearful of the political fallout as the prospect of the ban being lifted draws near.

    “[The] companies are waiting for firmer news on the lifting of sanctions before making any commitments,” said one trading executive.

    #Chine #Iran #Pétrole

  • What Does China’s Rise Mean for the World? — The Future of Conflict*gJgG5bJy6C4lpjn02UQbYw.jpeg

    ❝Crisis Group

    What Does China’s Rise Mean for the World?
    By Frank Giustra, CEO of the Fiore Group

    Frank Giustra, CEO of the Fiore Group
    It seems our world is as unstable as it has ever been. There are brewing conflicts everywhere, in many cases interconnected and with such a cacophony of players that even seasoned diplomats are confused. To make things worse, we have a non-functioning UN Security Council and a lack of will by the international community to resolve conflicts.
    Many of these conflicts have the potential to flare up into truly global problems. The war in Syria, for example, has resulted in confrontations between Russia, Western powers, and competing governments and armed factions across the Middle East. The Syrian conflict has also contributed to the rise of the Islamic State, which in recent weeks claimed responsibility for consecutive terrorist attacks in Egypt, Lebanon and France.
    Over the longer term, however, I am more concerned with the type of tectonic shift in world power that only happens every century or so. The contest between the U.S. and China is worth examining in this regard.
    Unfortunately, the passing of the baton from one global power to the next rarely happens without a major conflict.
    The rise and fall of empires follow familiar patterns. Unfortunately, the passing of the baton from one global power to the next rarely happens without a major conflict. It is not easy on the pride of any reigning nation to cede power. The only recent exception that I can think of was the transition from Britain to the U.S. as the dominant power following World War II.
    The rise of the U.S. and China as industrial powers share similar features, and are separated by only 100 years. During its industrial build up, the U.S. mostly tried to mind its own business and stay out of global squabbles, much like China today. The U.S. focus was mostly economic superiority, again not dissimilar to China. It was not until the introduction of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 that the U.S. began to flex its military muscle to warn off European powers from further colonising within the Americas. Any interference would be seen as an act of war. This was the first of a series of U.S. presidential doctrines that incrementally expanded circumstances in which the nation would engage against real or perceived external threats — culminating with the Bush Doctrine proclaiming that the U.S. has the right to attack preemptively if it feels its security is threatened. I wonder if China is about to proclaim its own Monroe Doctrine as its economic might grows.
    Over the past 35 years, China has transformed itself from a communist society to a state-managed capitalist economy. During this period, it has maintained a fairly low-key foreign policy. Some analysts predict that China will surpass the U.S. as the leading global economic power within the next ten years — and by some measures, China is already ahead. More recently, Beijing has quietly built up its military strength beyond levels that are comfortable for the West. It is also working hard to catch up to the U.S. in its technological capabilities. Some may argue that the U.S. will always maintain its military and technological superiority. Perhaps, but I would never underestimate the Chinese.
    History shows that when countries are busy trading with each other, there is little appetite for conflict.
    The potential decline in cross-border trade, especially between China and the West, is worrisome. Over the past several decades, China achieved explosive growth by focusing on its export economy, with the U.S. as its largest trading partner. Going forward, the U.S. market may become less important. There is only so much that China can sell to an over-leveraged economy such as the U.S. The problem is compounded by the fact that China is the single largest holder of U.S. debt. China knows the risks, and is now attempting to move from an export-led economy to one driven by domestic consumption. History shows that when countries are busy trading with each other, there is little appetite for conflict. People on both sides may prosper by selling or be happy in their hedonistic consumption. It is usually when trade stops that wars start.
    Recently, competing territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea between China and its regional neighbours have prompted a U.S. response. In August, at a regional meeting in Kuala Lumpur, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sharply accused Beijing of violating international maritime law. “Let me be clear: The United States will not accept restrictions on freedom of navigation and overflight, or other lawful uses of the sea”, Kerry said. In response, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi issued a statement that, “China opposes any non-constructive words and acts which widen division, exaggerate antagonism or create tensions”.
    In October, a U.S. navy warship challenged the territorial limits around a Chinese-claimed reef in the Spratly archipelago as part of its Freedom of Navigation program. In November, U.S. President Barack Obama made a point of visiting a Philippine warship soon after arriving in Manila for the start of the Asia-Pacific Summit. He underscored the U.S. commitment to defend the Philippines, one of several South East Asian nations embroiled in the South China Sea dispute.
    America’s willingness to play global cop by way of warnings and displays of military might is something that China looks upon with a lot of trepidation. How far will the U.S. go in drawing a red line, given its alliances in the region? How far will the U.S. push its military might in the face of its economic decline versus China? And at what point does China feel sufficiently equipped to proclaim its own version of a Monroe Doctrine and protect its area of influence?
    If China stays on track to emerge as the leading global economic power, these questions will take on new urgency. The trends may evolve gradually, and recent signs of an economic slowdown in China may mean that things remain quiet for years. However, if my concern proves correct that one day China will decide to pursue a more muscular foreign policy, it will take the involvement of the entire global community and a lot of luck to prevent a catastrophic outcome.

    #Chine #Etats-Unis #géopolitique

  • FT Seasonal Appeal: China’s missing children —
    Zhaoyuan was playing by the village store when he disappeared. His worried grandparents found the toddler’s footprints in the path by the local temple. And then, nothing.

    The villagers waded through ponds and probed wells. They combed through abandoned houses and sugar cane fields. After a few hours, they called the boy’s father home from his factory job in the nearby city. He called the police.

    That was January. Nearly a year later, there are no clues. Every morning before his factory shift begins, Zhaoyuan’s father Chen Shengkuan searches preschools and parks in Zhanjiang, a small city in southern China. Squatting on the kerb he scans passing children.

    “I can only relax if I’ve tired myself out with looking,” says Mr Chen, a 28-year-old whose legs were paralysed by childhood polio. “Every day at work, I am consumed with the thought of him. At night, I lie in bed thinking: ‘How could he have disappeared from the village?’”

    Zhaoyuan’s family has come to the grim conclusion that he is one of the thousands of children trafficked in China. The trade ranges from the informal — babies given up by impoverished rural families — to criminal gangs who kidnap children and sell them. The police are treating Zhaoyuan’s disappearance as a kidnapping.

    In China, babies and toddlers, especially boys like Zhaoyuan, are in demand for adoption. Girls might be raised as future brides. Teenagers can be tricked into prostitution or work as unpaid labourers in low-margin industries like brickmaking.

    For this year’s Seasonal Appeal, the Financial Times is working in partnership with Stop The Traffik, an organisation that raises awareness of this modern-day slave trade, whose victims the UN says have been found in 124 countries. Many cases blur the lines, especially as vulnerable people cross borders to escape conflict or look for work. Forced labour — the main form of trafficking in central and east Asia — accounts for 40 per cent of all cases and, according to the International Labour Organisation, generates $150bn a year in private profits. In China as elsewhere, teenagers lured with the promise of work find themselves uncompensated and unable to escape.
    In 2009 — as fears over kidnapping became a public obsession — police set up a national anti-trafficking task force and a DNA database to match parents with missing children. The task force concentrates on retrieving babies or toddlers passed through trafficking rings. “Police are under pressure to perform well in cracking cases, so it’s unavoidable that they want to see a higher number of rescued children,” Mr Pi says. “However, when people try to assess the abduction situation, they are reluctant to talk about it.”

    Reported trafficking cases and the number of children rescued have both climbed steeply since 2009. While the Baby Come Home site receives about 1,000 appeals for help a year — probably a good proxy for the number of kidnappings — official statistics for trafficked women and children have soared, from 6,513 in 2009 to 20,735 in 2013. Media reports say 13,000 women or children were rescued in 2014, and 24,000 in 2013. The police declined interview requests.

    Advocates argue that criminalising the buying of children will stop kidnapping but the new law is surprisingly divisive. Buying or selling children through informal brokers is a long tradition in the countryside. Only a minority of trafficked children are kidnapped.

    Southern Metropolis Daily, a Guangdong newspaper, analysed 380 trafficking cases tried in provincial courts over the past two years. About two-thirds of the children had been sold by their birth parents or close relations, due to poverty, to avoid fines or because the parents were unmarried.
    #Chine #Trafic_d'enfants

  • A Turning Point in Afghanistan-India Relations? | The Diplomat

    Ever since a U.S.-brokered agreement resolved Afghanistan’s electoral dispute last year, forming an experimental National Unity Government, strategic relations between Afghanistan and India have effectively been stuck in limbo. The primary cause for this was Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s pollyannaish attempt to forge a modus vivendi with Pakistan – a break from his predecessor Hamid Karzai who, despite his mistrust of the United States in his final years at the helm, approached India with ease.

    Afghanistan’s rapprochement with Pakistan was short-lived, confirming the expectations of many who suspected that Ghani would be unable to keep at bay the interests in Pakistan that have historically sought to sow instability and violence in Afghanistan. The first troubling signs were that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Ghani managed to agree to a formal counter-terrorism cooperation mechanism that would see Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security liaise with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

    Ghani’s first mistake was trusting Pakistan’s civilian leadership to speak on behalf of the country’s military-intelligence apparatus. As has been the case throughout most of Pakistan’s history, foreign and security assurances delivered by civilian leaders are subject to the fickle whims of the country’s military establishment.

    To credit Ghani, the arrangement with Pakistan was never entirely comfortable. Critical voices in Afghanistan cried foul when the arrangement for counter-terrorism cooperation was announced, but it was an attempt by the new government in Afghanistan to seek peace. After all, peace talks with the Taliban would be dead-on-arrival without Pakistan’s support.

    Tragically, three months after announcing that the ISI and NDS would cooperate, in August 2015, Ghani found himself mourning the victims of devastating attacks in Kabul which claimed nearly 60 lives. The president, who had months earlier reached out to Islamabad, minced few words in response, accusing Pakistan of sending “messages of war.” He continued that the events in Kabul showed “that suicide bomber training camps and bomb-producing factories which are killing our people are as active as before in Pakistan.”

    To make matters worse, the August attacks came weeks after the Taliban publicly revealed that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the group’s supreme leader and Amir al-Mumineen (Commander of the Faithful), had been dead for two years. The news sparked a short-lived succession crisis, which temporarily raised the question of whether Omar’s successor was beholden to Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus in the same way that Omar had been.

    Ultimately, Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansoor, Omar’s erstwhile second-in-command, prevailed. Mansoor had been pulling the strings and issuing orders in Omar’s name for two years and carried forward the Taliban’s cooperation with Pakistan.

    Following these developments, the Pakistan-backed peace talks with the Taliban, which were sponsored by both China and the United States, have stalled. Additionally, the fall of Kunduz, Afghanistan’s fifth largest city, in late-September emphasized the Taliban’s reversion to bold and ambitious insurgency, determined to seize territorial control of strategic nodes of Afghan territory.

    The fall of Kunduz was perhaps the final straw for Ghani, causing him to fundamentally reevaluate his approach to regional diplomacy with Afghanistan’s South Asian neighbors. Incidentally, Kunduz fell to the Taliban nearly exactly a year after the formation of the national unity government and the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States. (Another significant development during these months is the arrival of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, which announced itself in April 2015 with a deadly bombing in Jalalabad.)

    Ghani’s misguided attempt to forge a workable relationship with Pakistan cost India and Afghanistan a “lost year” that could have otherwise seen real strategic progress. In May 2014, Narendra Modi was elected with a bold vision for India’s neighborhood diplomacy. While economic and cultural interactions between Kabul and New Delhi continued, Afghanistan lost interest in acquiring Indian arms.

    After all, any serious attempt at engagement with Pakistan would necessitate a freeze in strategic and military rapprochement with India. For Pakistan, Afghanistan is a zero-sum game with India.

    Earlier this month, Ghani delivered the clearest signal yet that his brief and ill-fated experiment with Pakistan was over. In early November, reports suggested that Kabul would formally request four attack helicopters from India to bolster the capabilities of the Afghan National Army against Taliban militants.

    Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai arrived in New Delhi shortly thereafter to finalize the deal. Over the weekend, Indian reports confirmed that four Russian Mi-25 attack helicopters will be transfered from the Indian Air Force to Afghanistan. The delivery will come as soon as January 2016. Karzai, the former Afghan president’s cousin, said that the visit had the overarching objective of “operationalizing” the 2011 India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement.

    Beyond the Limits

    For Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the deal demonstrates a willingness to take India’s policy toward Afghanistan beyond the limits that had prevailed during the previous government’s era. Under the United Progressive Alliance-led coalition government, India had approved support and training activities for the Afghan army and security forces, but had stopped short of providing lethal support.

    The closest it got was a May 2014 deal with Russia to finance military equipment, including artillery, tanks, and armored vehicles, that would be delivered to Afghanistan. In late April 2015, just before Kabul announced its counter-terrorism cooperation arrangement with Pakistan, India transfered three light utility, multi-role helicopters.

    The transfer of three Mi-25 attack helicopters won’t be a game-changer by any means, either for Afghanistan’s fight against the Taliban or for its relationship with India in the short-term. What it does suggest is the Ghani government is close to picking up the Karzai approach to Afghanistan’s bilateral relationship with India.

    Before exiting the national stage, Karzai, on multiple occasions, presented a frank wish list of military hardware to his interlocutors in New Delhi. As one high-ranking foreign ministry source in India told The Diplomat in 2013, “Kabul’s wish list keeps on growing every time and before committing to anything we have to keep the larger regional interest and peace in mind.”

    The latter part of the statement, parsed in the context of India’s restrained approach toward Pakistan, applies less to the current government in New Delhi. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Modi’s own attempt at pursuing constructive dialogue with Nawaz Sharif has fallen flat, taking South Asia’s most important and bitter bilateral back to square one.

    For India and Afghanistan, for the first time in recent memory – and certainly for the first time since both Modi and Ghani have been in charge – there is a sense that the door for expanded strategic and military cooperation is open. What is still unknown is if New Delhi and Kabul are willing to expand their cooperation independent of their respective relationships with Islamabad.

    These developments have consequences for the United States as well. After the fall of Kunduz, Washington has reconsidered its timetable for complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. If the transfer of lethal equipment from India to Afghanistan becomes a habit, the United States should be supportive.

    Additionally, though the United States’ track record is shaky on this front, Washington can seek to keep Pakistan’s military in line with deftly structured incentives. For instance, the U.S. Department of Defense has somewhat realigned the Pakistani military’s domestic counterinsurgency efforts with a credible threat to withhold certification that it has adequately focused its efforts on the Haqqani network, thereby threatening a $300 million Coalition Support Fund (CSF) reimbursement tranche.

    Pakistan’s chief of army staff, General Raheel Sharif, arguably the most influential man in the country when it comes to driving its foreign and security, spent the past week in the United States, discussing Afghanistan and other issues with U.S. officials. With reports just weeks before his arrival in Washington that India would transfer attack helicopters to Afghanistan, it is not unlikely that the issue came up during his meetings with U.S. officials ranging from Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Vice President Joe Biden, CIA Director John Brennan, Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley, and his effective counterpart in the U.S. military, General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. (...)

    Ankit Panda is an associate editor at The Diplomat.

    #Inde #Pakistan

  • Gao Yu, Chinese journalist jailed for leaking state secrets, gets prison term reduced on appeal | South China Morning Post

    A veteran Chinese journalist who was jailed for seven years after she was convicted of leaking state secrets had her sentence reduced because she admitted her guilt at her appeal, her lawyer said.

    Beijing’s High Court ruled that Gao will now serve five years after her appeal was heard earlier this week, her attorney Mo Shaoping said.

    Her sentence had been reduced because she had admitted at the hearing that she had done wrong, Mo quoted the court ruling as saying.

    “This is plea bargaining with Chinese characteristics,” he said. “We hoped Gao would be pronounced innocent, but a lighter sentence is better than nothing.”

    Gao, 71, was convicted in April of sharing with an overseas news magazine a document detailing the Communist Party leadership’s resolve to tackle seven subversive influences on society, including “Western constitutional democracy” and “universal values” such as human rights and freedom of speech.

    It is common for convicts in China to be granted lighter sentences or probation once they formally admit their guilt, even in cases that involve dissidents, according to the veteran human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan.

    “It is rare in such cases that the sentence is reduced at appeal as most defendants pleaded guilty at the first trial or remained defiant at their appeal,” he said.

    Gao was among the very few who had formally admitted their guilt at appeal, Liu added.

    “Five years is the minimum penalty for her charge. The court might have given the extra two years so Gao would give in,” Liu said.

    #Chine, #Gao_yu, #libertés

  • Will Putin Use the Energy Weapon Against Turkey? | Foreign Policy

    Just one year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin flew to Ankara to talk up the prospects of a “strategic partnership” with Turkey. Now, furious over Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet, Putin has a different message for Ankara: There are going to be “significant consequences.”

    Tough talk aside, though, the two countries seem condemned to keep working together, even if grandiose dreams of a broader partnership may have been shot down on Tuesday. Turkey gets about 60 percent of its natural gas from Russia, but Moscow can’t easily forsake the one European market where demand for natural gas is growing, especially at a time when low oil prices have hammered its export-dependent economy. The demise last December of Putin’s $40 billion pipeline project, meanwhile, means that the Russian president will not likely want to jettison its successor, a $12 billion project designed to ship gas across the Black Sea to Turkey and eventually onward to Europe.

    “The only place other than China that Russia says it is pivoting toward is Turkey,” said Sijbren de Jong, a Russia expert at the Hague Center for Strategic Studies. “Do they really want to throw that overboard? I sincerely doubt it. Energy has become a really hollowed-out weapon.”

    And for Turkey — which itself threatened to break off the bilateral energy relationship last month after Russia started bombing rebels in Syria and violating Turkish airspace — there simply aren’t many appealing options other than continuing to do business with Moscow. Turkey’s demand for natural gas is growing, and Russia is one of the few genuine options Ankara has to deliver that fuel, at least in the short term. What’s more, Russia is helping to finance and build a $20 billion nuclear power plant in Turkey that’s needed to meet rising demand for electricity. New Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak — son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — said Tuesday that the energy ties between the two countries would not be threatened.

    #Russie #Turquie #Syrie

  • Building the basis for India–China cooperation | East Asia Forum

    Building the basis for India–China cooperation
    25 November 2015
    Author: Sana Hashmi, Centre for Air Power Studies

    Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao paid a high-profile visit to India from 3–7 November 2015. This was the first time that a Chinese Vice President had paid a state visit to India. The visit followed two other high profile events: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in September 2014 and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reciprocal visit to China in May 2015. What explains these recent burgeoning relations between these two former adversaries?

    The number of high profile visits, six within two years, clearly signifies that both countries have started attaching greater importance to the bilateral relationship. India and China cannot afford to ignore each other if they wish to rise in influence at the international level.

    While India and China have different reasons to cooperate with each other, the central objective remains ‘coexistence’. Under Modi’s leadership, India is looking towards China to attract greater investments, which have the potential to play a significant role in his ‘Make in India’ campaign. India is emerging as an important destination for Chinese foreign direct investment. During President Xi Jinping’s visit to India, China pledged to invest US$20 billion in India. And China is now India’s second-largest trading partner after the United Arab Emirates.

    For China, the reasons for working toward greater cooperation with India are numerous and diverse. China’s maritime territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas, as well as continuing tensions over the interpretation of 20th-century history, makes it difficult for China to be assured of a stable, long-term relationship with either Japan, the Philippines or Vietnam. In a situation where the United States was also to be drawn into a potential conflict, China wants to ensure that India will not align itself with the United States and the other claimants in the dispute.

    Engaging India is one way to avoid an anti-China coalition in the Asia Pacific. Xi’s recent meeting with the Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore, the first-ever meeting between leaders of the two countries, may also be a step in this direction.

    The regular exchange of high-level visits between Chinese and Indian leaders may also be perceived as a way of convincing India to get on board with China’s proposed ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative. Chinese leadership has been advocating the OBOR to India since 2013, but so far India has been reluctant to endorse the initiative.

    China is interested in convincing as many countries as possible of the mutual benefits accruing from OBOR in order to promote the idea of China as a great and benign power, not only among regional countries but also globally. If the maximum number of countries possible recognise the benefits of OBOR, it will also strengthen China’s economic and political positioning.

    Given that OBOR does not seem to be a purely economic initiative, India has been reluctant to endorse the project. This is mainly due to the lack of transparency. Clearly, transparency and inclusiveness are prerequisites for the success of OBOR. Though significant inroads have been made, China is still expected to provide the details of sources of funding and the potential stakeholders in the ambitious project. It would alleviate India’s apprehensions if China carved out a transparent and open blueprint for OBOR.

    To further complicate matters, China–Pakistan cooperation under the framework of OBOR is worrisome to India. China has already announced investments worth US$46 billion for the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This is currently the only project under OBOR that is underway. India’s reservations are not simply about the burgeoning cooperation between China and Pakistan. What is worrying for India is that the CPEC passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is still a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. CPEC, once fully operationalised, will link Gwadar to Kashgar through a 3000-kilometre network of pipelines, railways and motorways. India is concerned that this will not only increase Chinese presence near the Indian border, but also that Chinese cooperation in PoK under the framework of OBOR also implies that China is a potential player in the prolonged India–Pakistan territorial dispute.

    But the most significant remaining problem of all is their continued differences over their shared boundary. China seems reluctant to resolve the boundary dispute with India any time soon. India–China symmetric relationship coupled with the presence of Tibetans in India may be cited as important reasons for this. Still, leaving it for the next generation to achieve a resolution will not bring about long-term peace in India–China relations. It is clear that without resolving the more than 50 year old dispute, apprehensions and mutual distrust will continue to occupy centre stage.

    India and China are rapidly emerging as two formidable powers in Asia. It is time for both India and China to seriously focus on resolving on persistent problems in the relationship so as to pave the way for deeper cooperation in the future. Working toward assuaging differences and focusing on areas for pragmatic cooperation are critical to both India and China’s national and economic interests.

    Sana Hashmi is Associate Fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi, and a Research Scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University
    #Chine #Inde

  • Gov’t Announces Plan to Clean Up Rural Areas by 2020

    (Beijing) – China has announced a five-year target to clean up the garbage and agricultural and industrial waste in its rural areas because of the mounting environmental and health hazards they pose, an official from the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development says.
    “Garbage disposal in the countryside was not a problem in the past because nature itself could absorb the impact,” said Wang Xudong, but now the waste “has severely polluted the soil and water in rural areas and has begun to affect the growth of crops.”
    The ministry and other government departments recently issued guidelines on how to handle garbage in rural areas and cleanup goals for the end of the decade.
    The plan addresses the disposal of household garbage – which by the ministry’s estimate totals more than 110 million tons every year, on par with what homes in cities produce – and for the first time sets out targets for the recycling and cutting down of waste materials from agricultural and industrial operations.
    The government wants more than 90 percent of household waste in all rural areas to be “effectively managed” by 2020, a goal that involves developing a financially sound and adequately supervised system that incorporates equipment, facilities and trained personnel.
    The plan also aims to have all waste from livestock utilized, recycle more than four-fifths of the plastic used to build greenhouses, and to decontaminate and dispose of more than 95 percent of industrial waste and hazardous materials.
    The guidelines also say rural areas should establish a garbage disposal mechanism modeled on that which has been tried out in several areas. Those pilots involve having garbage collected from villages, stored in towns and finally shipped to a county facility for recycling or burning.
    The ministry started dealing with the rural garbage problem in 2005, but its efforts have been undercut by the sporadic nature of cleanup campaigns.
    No long-term system for collecting and dispose of garbage has been devised, Wang said. Efforts to clean up rural areas often meant sweeping garbage off roads and into ditches or burying them in farmland, so “on the surface they looked clean, but in essence the problem was not solved at all.”
    Said Wang: “Before long, everything returned to the mess it was.”
    The cleanup efforts have also stalled because collecting and transporting waste is expensive, experts say.
    Also, many villages cannot get service from garbage trucks because their roads are too narrow, said Luan Shengji, an environmental professor at Peking University.
    That means the recent approach proposed by the government will succeed only in better-off villages, he said, and the proposal will fail in other areas without heavy government spending.
    (Rewritten by Wang Yuqian)

    #Chine #paysans #Pollution

  • The Real Drivers of China’s New Culture Movement

    The Real Drivers of China’s New Culture Movement
    One of the most defining cultural movements in China in the early 20th century had values that sharply differed from western liberal thought
    By Yang Songkui

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    Many in China compare the New Culture Movement in the early 20th century to the enlightenment period in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, but the core-values promoted by these two social movements differed sharply.
    The Chinese word Qi Meng, which can be roughly translated as “to become enlightened,” means to dispel ignorance through education, Qin Hui, a well-known historian said. But in western culture, the ideologies that emerged from the enlightenment era attempted to replacing medieval period superstition with rational thinking.
    European Enlightenment thinkers focused on challenging political and religious autocracy. They supported democratic ideas, while opposing Machiavellian views on power. But modern Chinese thinkers are different. Writers like Liang Qichao to Lu Xun, focused on reshaping moral values of individuals.
    “It is wrong to equate the Chinese ideal of attaining individual enlightenment through education and self cultivation with the ideas that emerged during the enlightenment period in the west, which focused on replacing medieval period superstitions with rational thinking,” Deng Xiaomang, a professor of philosophy at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in the central province of Hubei, wrote in an article.
    The real enlightenment should “create a relaxed atmosphere for all thoughts to be freely expressed,” Deng said. “It promotes liberal values and tolerance,” rather than replacing ’wrong ideas’ with ’right ideas’".
    But during China’s New Culture Movement from 1910 to 1920, established writers criticized traditional ethics and western values.
    Historians are now probing into why China’s New Culture Movement took a different course, compared to similar European movement.
    One key difference is in the social conditions that existed at the inception of these different movements .The Enlightenment period in Europe occurred almost at the same time as the Industrial Revolution and the formation of nation states. It came on the heels of other important philosophical trends like the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution that had a profound impact on European society. But the feudal system in China, which survived till the early 20th century, had not been disrupted by similar ideological shifts.
    Hu Shi, a well-known Chinese philosopher and diplomat in the early 20th century used the “Chinese Reformation” to describe the movement.
    More than 90 percent of the population was illiterate, even after the collapse of the feudal system, and writers like Lu Xun and Liang Qichao and saw education as the best weapon to fight ignorance.
    The roots of Chinese enlightenment philosophy can be traced to the work done by Chinese intellectuals and western missionaries several decades before the New Culture Movement.
    In early 19th century, foreign missionaries started to publish books and newspapers to spread Christianity in China, after Qing dynasty emperors prohibited them from preaching in public. Their first newspaper, Chinese Monthly Magazine, was published in 1815, by British missionary William Milne. Foreign missionaries also set up translation and publishing houses to introduce western literatures to China.
    Despite their focus on religion, these publications introduced western ideas to China. They discussed topics like equality and freedom for all and achieving progress through the development of scientific and technology.
    In 1858, the Qing government abolished control on missionaries’ preaching activities under the Treaty of Tianjin. Missionaries were allowed to participate in local cultural activities. They adopted plain, spoken language in their publications and introduced punctuation into Chinese writing, to reach a larger audience. These efforts had an impact on the New Culture Movement and the evolution of the Chinese language.
    Some foreign missionaries also influenced political changes happening in China. For example, the Multinational Communique, founded by U.S. missionary Young John Allen in 1868, became a must-read newspaper for Chinese intellectuals and officials. According to historical records, the Chinese emperor read its political commentary and international affair analysis, after the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894. It served as a model for other newspapers launched by reformists.
    Foreign missionaries also introduced modern education to China. This led to the abolishing of the civil services examination system, which served as the main official selection mechanism for more than 1,000 years.
    The modern knowledge and skills introduced by western publications helped educate many in China at that time, but only a small minority were truly enlightened.
    The author is a professor of history at East China Normal University in Shanghai

    #Chine, #Culture