Monthly Archives: 5月 2016

Heather Williams: ‘China’s Future’ by David Shambaugh

ShambaughDavid Shambaugh’s slim volume, China’s Future, stands in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom on China. Indeed, it is hard to discuss ‘China’s future’ without immediately speaking of ‘China’s rise.’ The majority of contemporary literature on China focuses on its military modernisation and ‘string of pearls‘ expansion into the South China Sea. The Interpreter devoted an entire debate series to unpredictability in China’s maritime strategy in 2014. Continue reading

Chen Pokong : This is How a Bloody U.S.-China War Could Start

carrier_fictionEditor’s note: The following is a translation of Chapter 14 of the book If the U.S.and China Go to War《假如中美开战》 by the author and analyst Chen Pokong. The current volume was published in Chinese in 2013 and was later translated to Japanese.

The chapter sketches the hypothetical beginnings of a conflict scenario between the United States and China. In it, the U.S. responds to provocative Chinese cyberattacks by launching one of its own, tearing down the Great Firewall. In response, Chinese authorities clamp down Internet access completely, which America quickly responds to. Ultimately, regime-organized street violence endangers the lives of American consular staff, and U.S.-China relations quickly descend from the current modus vivendi to outright hostilities.

While both the United States and China can be expected to avoid going to war, it’s by no means difficult to imagine a scenario in which such a war might break out. Let’s consider such a development from the perspective of a young Chinese computer technician named Xiaolu:

After returning home from work one Friday evening, Xiaolu follows his usual practice of turning on his home computer and preparing to access his favorite overseas websites through proxies that will help him break through the Chinese government’s internet firewall. To his great surprise, he finds himself able to freely browse the Voice of America website without a proxy. He tries the BBC Chinese-language website, and then Radio Free Asia, Epoch Times, Boxun, the Chinese-language websites of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. . . surfing all of them with ease, he wonders if there’s some bizarre fluke in the system. He quickly telephones a friend and tells him to give it a try, and the friend reports the same experience. Overjoyed, Xiaolu contacts all of his friends and tells them to log onto the internet as fast as they can.

The situation continues the next day, and China’s streets and microblogs are abuzz with the news. People wonder if the Chinese government has suddenly decided to lift its internet blockade, and if this means political reform has also been launched.

Xiaolu stays glued to the internet all the next day and evening, too excited to sleep until he finally drifts off near dawn. By the time he awakens, the sun is high and the clock shows that noon is approaching. Luckily it’s still the weekend, and Xiaolu doesn’t need to be at work. Rolling groggily out of bed, he slouches over to his computer and goes online again, only to see a blank wall. Not only the foreign websites, but even China-based websites have disappeared and have been replaced with a uniform message of “Page not found.” Shocked, disheartened and angry, Xiaolu wonders what happened. He turns on his television just in time to hear a CCTV presenter read out this news bulletin:

“The United States has used the pretext of alleged Chinese hacker attacks on American websites to blame on the Chinese government and People’s Liberation Army. These baseless accusations originate from the pathological fantasies of certain individuals in the United States, and we have always categorically refuted them. The United States is now using the pretext of ‘freedom of information’ to interfere with China’s normal internet operations and oversight. This is a genuine cyberattack and a blatant cyberinvasion. It is a plot to overturn the Chinese government.

Interfering with and sabotaging China’s internet is a brazen violation of Chinese sovereignty and dignity. It is a last-ditch effort by American hegemonism to obstruct China’s rise following its failure to impose ‘peaceful evolution.’”

Xiaolu now understands that his earlier access to overseas websites was due to the United States playing a technological wild card that destroyed China’s internet blockade. His current inability to go online is due to the Chinese government taking the drastic step of cutting off all internet access after losing its “Great Firewall” to America’s technical superiority.

Through his shortwave radio, Xiaolu hears an announcement by the U.S. government:

“Safeguarding freedom of expression and freedom of information is a universal value. The United States of America firmly upholds the Chinese people’s freedom of information, the deprivation of which is an infringement of fundamental human rights. . . .”

Related reports and discussion show that the cyber operation, codenamed “Airborne Freedom” and launched by the United States, is in fact retaliation for a cyberattack by China. China has for some time been carrying out cyberattacks and cyberespionage against U.S.-based websites, and repeated warnings from Washington to end the attacks have met with only temporary pullbacks by Beijing, followed by renewed onslaughts. Reaching the end of its patience, the United States has finally decided to take action, and a full-scale cyberwar has been launched between China and the United States.

With internet access cut off, Chinese netizens begin taking to the street to express their indignation, their eyes directed straight forward or upward to signify their silent protest. The Chinese government issues an announcement: “The relevant departments have cut off internet access only as a temporary measure and as the only option. The United States, which launched a cyberattack to interfere with and sabotage normal internet operations in China, must take full responsibility.”

On the third night, internet access is miraculously restored. Strangely, however, unlike before, only overseas websites can be accessed, and almost no China-based websites. Xiaolu is initially baffled, but after surfing overseas websites, he gains an understanding of how the situation has developed.

It turns out that after the Chinese government cut off all internet access, the United States used satellite technology to provide wireless internet service to China. Operation Airborne Freedom has entered its second phase. The U.S. government explains its rationale: “We first of all need to ensure that American organizations in China as well as the U.S. Embassy and consulates can continue to access the internet. . . . At the same time, we are helping the Chinese people to freely access information. . . .”

The Sina and Sohu microblogging websites that Chinese netizens normally use have ceased operation, and have been replaced by internationally dominant social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The Chinese Baidu search engine has stopped working, but Google is available as a substitute, and Chinese netizens rejoice.

The next day, the Chinese government plays a new card. The State Council issues a “Notice Regarding the Suspension of Internet Access”:

“Malicious interference and sabotage by hostile overseas forces resulting in severe chaos in the arrangements for our country’s internet management has aroused mass outrage among the people. In order to ensure state security and normal information access, from this day forward the relevant departments will carry out comprehensive inspection, maintenance and rehabilitation of the internet. During this time, internet access will be suspended throughout the country.

Specific provisions are as follows:

1. Any work unit or individual who without authorization accesses the internet will be subject to confiscation of his computer, a fine, dismissal from employment or other penalties.

2. Any individual who uses the internet to create or spread rumors or to transmit reactionary information, and in particular any individual who incites opposition or subversion of the government, will be held criminally liable.

3. All internet cafes will be temporarily closed until further notice.

4. Sales of computers must be registered under the purchaser’s name. . . .”

Over the next few days, China’s netizens continue to enjoy access to overseas websites, and there is an explosive increase in satirical comments about the Chinese government on Facebook, Twitter and overseas Chinese internet forums. Rumors spread of police in some localities going door-to-door to examine internet browsing histories. Official media begin reporting on some people being investigated and having their computers confiscated. Overseas media report that rights defenders are being summoned and warned by the police, while some dissidents have been placed in criminal detention on allegations of using the internet to create or spread rumors to incite subversion of the government.

Mobilized by netizens through Facebook and Twitter, increasing numbers of people begin standing in the streets with their eyes directed forward or upward in what come to be known as “stand-ins.” Internet posting proclaim: “The Chinese people have stood up!” As another day passes, police are mobilized in a massive operation during which they physically push people away from “stand-ins.” Some protesters who resist are arrested. Four police officers grab Xiaolu by his arms and legs and carry him off as he struggles and yells out, “The Chinese people have the right to stand up!”

China’s PLA Daily publishes a commentary entitled “Cyberinvasion is a War of Aggression,” which states:

“We must point out that cyberinvasion is a war of aggression. We sternly warn the American hegemonists that today’s China is not the China of 1840; today’s China is not a China that can be bullied or trampled upon. Under the leadership of the great Chinese Communist Party, we have achieved economic liftoff and military modernization that will bring about the great revival of the Chinese people. Our country and our people have the capacity to defend our homeland. In the face of serious provocation, the full force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will resolutely follow the Party’s command and is prepared to go to war at any time in retaliation against any who dare aggressive action against our country’s sovereign rights and interests. We are prepared at all times to fight and to emerge victorious in repelling a frontal assault by the invaders. . . .”

In contrast to this hard line, the tone of some official scholars is more temperate. In an Associated Press interview, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China appeals for calm on both sides. He urges the Chinese and U.S. governments to sit down for a face-to-face exchange of views on the mutual accusations of cyberattacks, and to resolve the conflict through dialog and negotiation to prevent the conflict from escalating out of control.

Prohibitions on internet access are implemented in government organizations, state-owned enterprises and all schools, libraries and other public bodies. Even so, how can the authorities control 500 million netizens and 300 million bloggers? Most netizens ignore the prohibitions and continue to access the internet at home. Internet access is unstable and intermittent, but the wireless internet service that the United States is providing to China has not been cut off.

After “stand-in” protests against the Chinese government have been suppressed for two days, anti-American protests suddenly break out in Beijing, with hundreds of people gathering around the U.S. embassy, shouting out anti-American slogans, denouncing the United States for sabotaging China’s internet and demanding an end to the U.S. cyberinvasion. Similar protests quickly follow in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan and Shenyang, where people gather around U.S. consulates and yell out slogans while waving the five-starred red flag of the People’s Republic of China. “Down with American hegemonism!” “We vehemently denounce American sabotage of China’s internet!” “Resolutely beat back the U.S. cyberinvasion!” “Creating chaos in China has ulterior motives!” Given the uniformity of the slogans and banners throughout the country, outsiders quickly realize that these protests have been orchestrated by the Chinese government.

Further anti-American protests break out in other cities over the next two days. The number of participants grows from hundreds to thousands, and in Beijing and the rest of China’s largest cities, the protests rapidly evolve into smashing and looting. People begin throwing rocks, bricks and bottles at U.S. consulates; some set American flags on fire and toss them into consulate compounds, while others overturn vehicles and set them alight. Black smoke rises everywhere as cheers break out among the crowds. Bystanders scream in terror and run off.

Apart from occasionally yelling or motioning for people to desist, the Chinese police officers stationed around the consulates spend most of their time standing idly about as rocks, bricks and bottles fly over their heads into the consulate compounds, and no one is arrested.

On Facebook and Twitter, netizens all over China expose the identities of local police officers, city managers and joint defense officers who are masquerading ordinary citizens to lead protests and take part in the smashing and looting.

Washington sends a diplomatic notice to Beijing strongly protesting the violent demonstrations at the U.S. embassy and consulates, and demanding that the Chinese government take measures to protect American citizens and facilities. A foreign ministry spokesman responds that the Chinese government does not approve of the radical actions around the consulates and appeals to the Chinese public for calm. At the same time, he points out, “The problem must be resolved at its source”; the U.S. government needs to immediately cease its cyberinvasion and end its interference and sabotage of China’s internet before peace can be restored.

The news media report that a U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, has led the Seventh Fleet out of Japan’s Yokosuka naval base toward the East China Sea to form a joint force with the USS Nimitz battle group patrolling the South China Sea.

As night approaches, the U.S. consulate in Chengdu comes under siege, and someone starts hurling Molotov cocktails into the consulate compound and main building. The consulate catches fire, and flames spread rapidly as smoke billows against the night sky. Suddenly excited and terrified cries go up: “He’s dead! He’s dead!”

International media report that the U.S. consul general stationed in Chengdu has fallen victim to the violent protests. Foreign governments issue statements condemning the atrocity. It’s reported that he attempted to lead consulate staff out the back door to safety, only to be discovered by the protesting mob. Chinese nationals employed at the consulate came under verbal and physical attack by protesters cursing them as “traitors” and “American running dogs.” When the consul general tried to protect two female staff, he was struck in the head with a brick. Also falling victim were five consular staff, including two Americans and three Chinese, all of whose bodies were set alight by the screaming mob.

The next day, five more American aircraft carriers, including the USS Abraham Lincoln, USS Ronald Reagan, USS Carl Vinson, USS Harry S. Truman and USS George H.W. Bush, converge and move at speed toward Chinese waters.

The Sino-U.S. War has begun. . . .

Chen Pokong is a veteran of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement; he has authored over ten books, writes a regular column for Radio Free Asia, and is regularly invited to speak on Voice of America Chinese. This chapter was translated by Stacy Mosher, a translator and editor based in New York City.

Image: Pixabay/Public domain


China Increases Scrutiny of Internet, Tech Companies


Computer users sit near a monitor display with a message from the Chinese police on the proper use of the Internet at an Internet cafe in Beijing, China.

The Chinese government has proposed taking part ownership of the country’s biggest Internet companies, and is subjecting American technology companies to mandatory reviews.Both moves are raising fears the government is attempting to exert even more control over web and tech firms in China. Continue reading

China: Taiwan’s Female Leader ‘Extreme’ Because She’s Single

Tsai Ing-wen

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen signs her first document at her new desk following the inauguration ceremony at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan May 20, 2016.

Taiwan’s new president is “extreme” in her politics because she’s an unmarried woman lacking the emotional balance provided by romantic and family life, a member of China’s body for relations with the self-governing island wrote in a newspaper opinion piece. Continue reading

China Clamps Down on Memorial Events Ahead of Tiananmen Crackdown Anniversary


A group of activists from the eastern Chinese province of Shandong gathers to mark the anniversary of the 1989 military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, May 15, 2016. Photo courtesy of an activist.

Authorities in China have placed dozens of rights activists and dissidents under house arrest after they tried to mark the 27th anniversary of the 1989 military crackdown on student-led democracy protests on Tiananmen Square, while others have been ordered to leave town ahead of the politically sensitive June 4 anniversary.

Police in the eastern province of Shandong are holding retired university professor Sun Wenguang under house arrest after he tried to meet up with around 10 fellow veterans of the 1989 pro-democracy movement to mark the bloodshed that left an unknown number killed in the crackdown by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops.

Sun said his house arrest started after he and around 10 other activists made plans to hold a public discussion event marking the Tiananmen Square democracy movement and the subsequent crackdown on a local square.

The square was quickly cordoned off by police officers in four vehicles, who whisked Sun back to his home and placed him under house arrest, he told RFA.

“[My fellow activists] tried to come to my house, but there were about four police officers standing guard outside who wouldn’t let them in,” he said.

“Then more people arrived and they pushed their way through, and we held a brief event [in my home], and recorded it on video,” Sun said.

Beijing dinner blocked

In Beijing, police also prevented a group of activists from eating dinner together to mark the anniversary, they told RFA.

Around a dozen scholars, former officials and democracy activists had planned to get together to mark the June 4 anniversary a few weeks early, to avoid tight security in the Chinese capital at that time of year, Beijing democracy activist Zha Jianguo said.

“A couple of days beforehand, they contacted us to say we mustn’t go, and then on [May 19] there were a couple of police officers outside my door who tried to stop me leaving,” Zha said.

“I managed to push past them, but they just followed me.”

Former agricultural official Yao Jianfu said he hadn’t set out for the dinner after he received a message from police ordering him not to attend.

Bao Tong, a former aide to late premier Zhao Ziyang, whose ouster came at the height of the 1989 student movement, said he had no choice but to comply with the order.

“You have to comply; if they want to sentence you to jail, then that’s what they’ll do,” Bao said. “If they say ‘don’t go and eat dinner together,’ then if you do go, they’ll just bring you back again.”

Forced ‘vacation’ for Bao

Bao said in an earlier interview that police have also told him he must leave town with them on a forced “vacation” over the anniversary period.

“I think I’ll be going somewhere else, but where, I don’t know,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “They told me to prepare my things, including medications and the like, but there has been no final confirmation.”

Meanwhile, members of the Tiananmen Mothers victims campaign group said they would be marking the anniversary with a visit to their loved ones’ graves.

Zhang Xianling, who lost her 19-year-old son Wang Nan during the crackdown, said she hasn’t heard from police, who usually accompany the family, about the arrangements yet.

“They haven’t started surveillance yet, nor have they been in touch for a chat,” Zhang said. “In previous years, they would have done so by now; I hope they’ve changed the way they do things this year.”

“But just because they haven’t come yet doesn’t mean they’re not coming at all.”

In the 26 years since the bloodshed, the group has repeatedly called for a reappraisal of the student-led democracy movement, which the government has styled a “counterrevolutionary rebellion.”

They want a public apology, compensation, the release of details of the crackdown held in secret by the government, and the political rehabilitation of victims and their families.

Zhang said she hopes to visit the Wan’an cemetery in a westerns suburb of Beijing, where her son’s ashes are held.

“We are old, and we are dying one by one, or getting sick, but that won’t stop us from carrying out memorial activities and from protesting,” she said.

“We are determined to keep doing that.”

In the central province of Hunan, activists from Zhuzhou city said they were called into a police station for questioning after they planned to wear black clothes with slogans commemorating June 4.

“The police … warned us not to carry out any activities of that kind,” activist Guo Sheng said following the questioning.

The death toll from the night of June 3-4, 1989, when PLA tanks and troops entered Beijing, clashing at times with civilians armed with makeshift weapons, remains unknown to this day.

While the Chinese government once put the death toll at “nearly 300,” it has never issued an official toll or list of names. Other estimates run in the thousands.

A 2009 map published by the Tiananmen Mothers listed more than 250 names garnered from confirmed eyewitness accounts and hospital records of those known to have died in the days after June 3.

Reported by Hai Nan for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


Daughter of Swedish Bookseller Says He is Illegally Held in China on Dubious Charges

Gui Minhai

Placards showing missing bookseller Lee Bo (L) and his associate Gui Minhai (R) are shown by members of the Civic Party outside the China liaison office in Hong Kong, Jan. 19, 2016. AFP

The daughter of a Swedish national, who was detained by China under opaque circumstances, is calling on the United States to press Beijing for his release. Continue reading

Tibetan edition of book on Tibet-China negotiations launched

By Tenzin Monlam

Tenzin MonlamDHARAMSHALA, May 18: The Tibetan translation of the book ‘Dharamsala and Beijing: The Negotiations That Never Were’ by noted scholar Claude Arpi was launched today by the Minister of Education (Kalon) Ngodup Tsering at the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives (LTWA) in Gangchen Kyishong. Continue reading

China Holds Writer, Publisher Over Dissent, ‘Forbidden Books’

Tie Liu1

Sichuan author Tie Liu in an undated photo. File photo

Authorities in China’s southwestern provinces of Sichuan and Guangxi have detained a writer and a publisher who published politically ‘sensitive’ material, as the ruling Chinese Communist Party continues its campaign against any form of political dissent. Continue reading