Multipolarity shows up in Kazakh steppes

5 mins read

The President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev made a tantalising remark to reporters on Sunday that his country will pursue a multi-vector policy. As he put it, “I believe that given our geopolitical situation, given the fact that we have over $500 billion involved in our economy, given that there are global companies operating in our market, we simply have to pursue a multi-vector, as they say now, foreign policy.” 

Tokayev’s remarks hark back to the early post-Soviet era when Russia propagated a multi-vector approach in its foreign policies — de-ideologised, pragmatic and flexible. But Tokayev meant diversified relationships optimal for Kazakhstan’s development.

There is no question that the impact of geography on politics is acute for Kazakhstan, being a land-locked country that also happens to be a powerhouse. Europe, for instance, has turned its sights lately on distant Kazakhstan as it casts around for supplies of rare earth metals to meet its green economy targets.

Besides, Kazakhstan has to contend with the Big Brothers. Tokayev, a career diplomat by profession, has a way of warding off predatory Big Brothers by keep them guessing at the gate while at the same time using them selectively.  

But a challenge gloms ahead as the alchemy between and betwixt the Big Brothers has changed phenomenally during the past year. Against the backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Central Asia is becoming a turf where the West is beating a path to forge closer alliances and build new trade routes. 

The Central Asian states are coming under pressure to make choices and choose sides. The speech made by the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Friday at the EU-Central Asia Connectivity Conference: Global Gateway in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, is particularly noteworthy. 

Borrell made an impassioned plea that the Central Asian states should align with “the rules-based international order” — a codeword for the collective West. He explicitly warned his Central Asian audience, “Having connections and options is good. But excessive dependencies and the absence of choice can come at a cost.”    

Borrell’s speech makes stunning reading. Only the other day, in a neocolonial rant, the plucky Spaniard had said that “Europe is a garden,” which is “beautiful” and superior to the vast majority of the countries on Earth. He claimed, “Most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and the jungle could invade the garden.” Borrell argued that “the world needs Europe,” because it is a “beacon” that must civilise the rest of the world. The enlightened Western “gardeners have to go to the jungle,” he insisted, because if the barbarians are not tamed, “the rest of the world will invade us.” 

But in Samarkand Borrell sang an entirely different song — the garden is apparently inviting the jungle to enter its gates! In a veiled reference to Russia, Borrell endorsed “the natural desire of our Central Asian partners to reject dependency on any single international partner, regardless of history or geography.” 

Borrell travelled to Samarkand via Astana where he had met Tokayev. While in Kazakhstan, Borrell paid fulsome praise to Tokayev’s “serious reform process to transform the country to make it more open, more inclusive, and more democratic,” etc. Presumably, while making the flattering remark, Borrell would have factored in that Tokayev’s victory in today’s presidential election was a foregone conclusion. 

But in reality, a report in the Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, an organ of the US foreign and security policy establishment, roundly debunks Tokayev’s credentials as a liberal, calling them “mainly cosmetic… (which) do not change the nature of the autocratic system in a country that has been plagued for years by rampant corruption and nepotism.” (here and here)

Apparently, Borrell was only indulging in sophistry. Or, more likely, the neocons in the Biden Administration feel frustrated that Tokayev may have pre-empted another potential colour revolution by detaining pro-western opposition and rights activists across Kazakhstan in the run-up to the presidential election scheduled for November 20. The scurrilous pieces that have appeared in the US-based media regarding Tokayev and his family, for sure, suggest that he is keeping the Beltway guessing.

Back in January, faced with sporadic nation-wide protests over a fuel price hike cascading into wider, nationwide anti-government mobilisations, Tokayev didn’t hesitate to get the Kremlin to despatch a CSTO contingent deployed to Astana to keep peace. Tokayev used the impressive Russian deployment to resort to a security crackdown. And it goes to the credit of President Putin that Russian policies toward Central Asian states in general are increasingly characterised by a collegial approach that allows Moscow’s interlocutors in the region enough space to work out their national priorities. 

Tokayev has since consolidated his grip on power. The regime of former President Nurusultan Nazarbayev was penetrated by the western intelligence but Tokayev, although a protege of that regime, has purged the last vestiges of his erstwhile mentor from Kazakhstan’s power calculus. It is a different matter, though, that Tokayev also exploited the Kremlin’s preoccupations over the Ukraine war to strengthen his country’s strategic autonomy vis-a-vis Russia. 

In comparison, with the two Big Brothers, China has done exceedingly well by pursuing an equal relationship with Kazakhstan. The cooperation list between the two countries today includes 52 projects worth a total of more than US$21.2 billion. China paid great attention to the relationship and maintained a high momentum of top-level exchanges. 

While the commentariat largely focuses on the implications of BRI elsewhere in Asia and Europe, the significant influence the project has and will continue to have in Kazakhstan gets overlooked. Lest it gets   forgotten, it was from Nur-Sultan that Chinese president Xi Jinping announced BRI in 2013.

Train lines linking Chinese industrial hubs to European cities have since emerged across Kazakhstan. The South China Morning Post calls Khorgos, the railway crossing at the China-Kazakhstan border, the “world’s biggest dry port.” From that transfer hub, the freight trains run north through Russia to the cities of Western Europe, “hungry for cheaper Chinese goods.” 

Clearly, the West sees a window of opportunity to make inroads into Central Asia while Russia is bogged down in Ukraine. But China remains a stakeholder in preventing a “colour revolution” in Kazakhstan. Unsurprisingly, Xi Jinping made his first foreign sojourn in almost 1000 days since the pandemic began when he traveled to Kazakhstan mid-September where he met Tokayev.

In retrospect, Xi’s meeting with Tokayev was a sort of renewal of vows aimed at revitalising the BRI. Given Kazakhstan’s historical role as a lynchpin of the Silk Road, both Kazakh and Chinese leaders are happy to position Kazakhstan to reap the benefits of increased trade through the Eurasian landmass. 

Significantly, speaking on Friday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering in Bangkok, Xi has announced that China would consider hosting the third Belt & Road Forum for International Cooperation next year.

Russia and China wish to see a stable Kazakhstan, and they play different roles: Moscow works with Kazakhstan on security and political questions, while China generally plays a financial and economic role. The CSTO military presence to quell protests in Kazakhstan in January underscored that Russia’s cultural and security influence remains paramount.

The growth of nationalism in Kazakhstan in a period of more assertive Russian foreign policy might have led to tensions into the Russian-Kazakhstan relationship, but curiously, the high level of Russian-Chinese relations helped to stabilise the political and military climate in Kazahkstan.

Tokayev’s affirmation of a multi-vector foreign policy can be seen as a polite rejection of Borrell’s thesis before the Central Asians that “seeking security in isolation is a fallacy.” 

Exclusive: Sino-Lanka Everlasting Friendship for Greater Rejuvenation

15 mins read

The following essay is based on the speech made by the author at the Parliament of Sri Lanka recently, during his maiden official visit to Sri Lanka

Thank you for your invitation and it is my great honor to deliver a speech about Chinese path to Modernization and Sri Lanka China Common Prosperity here in the Sri Lanka parliament.

This is my first visit abroad since assuming office as President of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), and I choose Sri Lanka for special reasons:

——We come here for our ever-lasting friendship. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Rubber-Rice Pact. In the 1950s, China as a newly founded people’s republic, was facing strict blockade of import by the West and Sri Lanka was facing serious economic difficulties as a result of both a crop failure of rice and the West’s control of rubber export. Under this circumstances, China and Sri Lanka came to the consensus of the Rubber-Rice Pact, which reflects the true meaning of South-South Cooperation and is the symbol of the two countries’ traditional friendship. We hope this visit will strengthen and enrich our ever lasting friendship.

——We come here for win-win cooperation for common development. Development is the key to solve all problems. Nine years ago, President Xi Jinping proposed the “Belt and Road” initiative for building a better world for all. It has now become one of the most popular international public goods and the most extensive international cooperation platform. Sri Lanka is the pearl on the Indian Ocean and an important hub along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Now it is time for us to uphold the principle of Extensive consultation, Joint contribution, Shared benefits, and commit to the “Five-Pronged Approach”(Policy Coordination, Connectivity of Infrastructure , Unimpeded Trade, Financial Integration and People-to-People Exchanges)and the hard connectivity of infrastructure, soft connectivity of laws and regulations and heart to heart connectivity of people-to-people friendship, translating our traditional friendship into win-win cooperation for common development.

——We come here for the better future of the people. China has achieved the First Centenary Goal to get out of poverty in all respects and is marching on a new journey to modernization. China has the strong commitment, ability, experience to share all we have with our Sri Lanka friend to achieve common prosperity. The main purpose of my first visit to Sri Lanka is to learn who you are?what do you have? what do you need and Where can we go something together for a shared future of our two countries and two peoples.

Now, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my views and ideas about China,and the Chinese path to Modernization and where for us to go together in the future for China Sri Lanka win-win cooperation.

  1. Who is China?

——China is Old and Young

• An ancient civilization of more than 5000 years history with Four Great Inventions of printing, paper making, compass and gun powder.

• A young republic of 73 years and 44 years of reform and opening -up to the outside world.

——China is Big and Small

• Over 1.4 billion population with 56 ethnic groups.

• No.3 land size of 9.6 million square km, but less than 1/3 of world average in per capita arable land.

• 17.7 trillion USD GDP in 2021 but every achievement we made shared by over 1.4 billion population is small.

——China is Not Developed but Very Promising

• Per capita GDP 125,50 USD in 2021. Ranking 68th in the world according to the World Bank.

• In most of the ancient times, China was the biggest economy in the world.

• In 1820, China’s GDP accounts 1/3 of the world.

•But unfortunately to say that we closed our eyes and felt sleep when the western industrial revolutions took places. In 1840, China felt into a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country after the Opium War.

• In 1921, founding of CPC and changed the destiny of the Chinese Nation.

• In 1949, founding of the PRC, China’s GDP was only 17.9 billion USD.

• In 1978, China’s reform and opening-up. China’s GDP was 149.5 billion USD( 1.79% of the world, 6.33% of the US, 14.8% of Japan).

• In 2001, China joined the WTO. China’s GDP was 1.34 trillion USD( 4% of the world, 12.7% of the US, 31.2% of Japan).

• In 2010, a year of great significance, China’ GDP was 6.09 trillion USD(9.2% of the world, 40.6% of the US), surpassed Japan as the 2nd largest economy.( 2014_2021)

• In the past 10 years of the New Era, under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has made historic achievements in development and undergone historic changes in the country:

  • China’s GDP has increased by 126% compared with 2012, reached 17.7 trillion USD in 2021(18.5% of the world economy, 77% of the US, 356.7% of Japan), contributing over 30% to the world economic growth annually, more than the combined contribution of all developed countries including the US, the EU and Japan. China has become the largest trade partners with over 140 countries and regions, become one of the largest FDI destination and one of the largest sources of FDI and tourists worldwide.
  • China has applied a new development philosophy. Historically, China felt sleep and missed the chance during the 1st and 2nd industrial revolution, and wake up to follow up in the 3rd industrial revolution. But in the New Era now, China has been catching up and among the first square in the 4th industrial revolution with the lead in 5G, AI and New Infrastructures.
  • China has lifted the last 100 million rural population out of poverty, having made sure more than 1.4 billion people have all gotten out of poverty, leaving no one behind and fared-welling to famine, poverty, war, homelessness and pandemic.
  • China has translated the philosophy of clear water and green mountains as better as gold mountain into reality, contributing 1/4 of the total newly added forest coverage in the world. With strict law enforcement,Air, land and water pollution are forbidden. 
  • China waged a battle against corruption on unprecedented a scale and have achieved an overwhelming victory and fully consolidated the gains in our fight against corruption. According to an opinion poll done by the Harvard University for over 10 years, the Chinese people’s approval rate for the CPC and Chinese government has been maintained over 90%, topped all the world.
  1. Why can China make such great success?

In China, it is our common belief that the key for success is Unity and Stability for Common Prosperity, andhow to get there? At least, there are 3 main reasons worth of mentioning:

(1) Upholding the strong leadership of the CPC and Socialism with Chinese Characteristics                                                                                                                                                                             

• Socialism with Chinese Characteristics not only kept the essence of socialism which is strive for common prosperity, but also solved the question of how to fully leverage the decisive role of the market in allocating resources and give a better play to the role of the government. Adhering to Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, with concerted efforts of the Party, government and people, China has created the 2 miracles of rapid economic development and long term social stability.

• The CPC was founded by the people and is the party of the people, by the people and for the people, always putting people first, the CPC has no selfish interest except the fundamental interests of the nation, country and the majority of the people. It is only such a selfless party that can unite the whole nation as one to the right road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and make sure all the achievement and progress China makes shall be shared by all instead of few and get the true supports from the majority people.        

•There are 2 vivid examples of the CPC’s people-centered philosophy of development:

One is the fight against poverty. Under the leadership of the CPC, China gives full play of the superiority of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, alleviated over 850 million people out of poverty, contributing 70% of the world’s total poverty reduction and achieved the poverty reduction goal of the UN SDGs 10 years ahead of schedule. In the past 10 years in particular, under the strong leadership of Pres. Xi Jinping, China has won the war against absolute poverty and got almost 100 million people out of absolute poverty and make sure that the total population of over 1.4 billion in China out of poverty,left no one behind.

The other is the fight against Covid-19. In responding to the sudden outbreak of Covid-19, the CPC and the Chinese government  insist putting the people and their life above all else, tenaciously pursued a dynamic zero-Covid policy, China has the lowest Covid-19 incidence rate and death toll among the world’s major countries. It is estimated that if adopting to a lie flat policy as the west and US, China’s Covid-19 incidence will reach over 100 million with 1.55 million death.

(2) Adhering to the reform and opening up policy

It is well known that since 1978, China has adopted to the policy of economic reform and opening up to the outside world.

How to develop China? Reform ourselves and open up to the outside world——Why? We need jobs and well being for our people—To develop our country, we need capital input, technology and know-how.

We believe that only economic development can solve all the issues we had and will have.

We believe that only internal and external investment leads to production, only production can create jobs and promote development. Only development leads to a good life for the people.

We also believe grants can survive a country but cannot sustain country’s development, only foreign investment project can create jobs for our people and sustain our economic growth. We also believe that one foreign investment project is one vocational-technical school to train our people and drive our economy to growth.

But how to attract foreign investment to a poor country like China at that time, China is a socialist country to open to capitalist. We have had a lot of concerns and arguments.And we are so lucky to have the Chief Engineer of reform and opening up, Mr Deng Xiaoping.He said, poverty does not belong to socialism, it doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.  

China opened the chapter of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Economic Development become the central task of the CPC since then on.

We have kept reforming ourselves, including our minds, policies, laws and systems of the planned economy that did not fit the market economy nor foreign investors, and opening up to the outside world, so as to make sure the investors’ interests being protected and more coming to China.

In 1980, the 1st Special Economic Zone in China was launched in the city of Shenzhen, a small fishing village at that time, now a big metropolis with more than 17.68 million population and the GDP of 481 billion USD surpassing Hong Kong (368 billion USD).  

From 4 Special Economic Zones (Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou, Xiamen) to 14 Coastal Open Cities (1991), WTO (2001) and to now 21 Pilot Free Trade Zones nationwide and the Hainan Free Trade Port.

How to attract the foreign investment and keep them stay well? To attract the foreign investors, some of their concerns shall be answered.

Business is Business. As we know that investors look like flying birds in the sky, they are looking food to survive and safe places to live.

Preferential Policies &Law Enforcement (Legislation):

In our development process, it is the preferential policies to attract them to come and it’s the laws and Law Enforcement to ensure the investors here is safe for long term development (Legislation is very important)

Now China has the implementation of Foreign Investment Law and the Pre-establishment National Treatment (PENT) with a negative list for foreign investment, to make sure the lawful interests of foreign investors fully protected.

Foreign exchange: lack of foreign reserve and intensively controlled —from a highly controlled foreign exchange management system to the realization of convertibility of Current Account, enabling all the investment & profit been remitted inward or outward China in RMB or foreign currency.

Visas permit: from a single-entry visa for 3 months to multiple entry visa for 3 month/6 months/1 year, to permanent work permit and the permanent residence permit (Chinese Green Card).

Muti-lateral and bilateral free trade arrangements: From joining the WTO to RCEP, China has signed 19 free trade agreements with 26 nations and regions.  

(3) Sticking to the path of peaceful development and seeking for Win-win cooperation for common development

The love of peace is in the soul and blood of the Chinese nation. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius said: No matter how strong a country might be, the aspiration of war will definitely lead to its ruin.The Chinese people are the peace loving one.

After the Opium War, China has been invaded by the western powers and our people keep the memory of being bullied and cherish the value of peace.

Based on the traditional Chinese culture of peace and harmony and Chinese people’s sincere hope for a better world, President Xi Jinping proposed the initiative of Building a Human Community with a Shared Future and 3 approaches to realize this grand vision of building a better world for our future generations:

• The first approach is to hold high Humanity’s Shared Values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom, advancing Whole-Process People’s Democracy, and building a New Type of International Relations. So far, China has established diplomatic relations with 181 countries world wide.

The second approach is to carry out the Belt and Road Initiative and Global Development Initiative so as to achieve win-win cooperation for common development. China has signed over 200 agreements or MoUs with 149 countries and 32 international organizations. More than 60 countries have joined the Group of Friends of the Global Development Initiative. The value of trade in goods between China and the Belt and Road countries exceeds 12 trillion USD. It is reckoned by the World bank that from 2015 to 2030, the Belt and Road Initiative may contribute 1.6 trillion USD to the world and help 40 million people out of poverty.

• The third approach is adhering to the New Vision of Security featuring common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and implement the Global Security Initiative, to build a world of lasting peace and universal security, common prosperity, openness and inclusiveness, justice and equity, cleanness and beauty.

With a strong leadership, unity and stability, economic, social and technological foundation, especially nationwide networks of the modern infrastructures, China gets read to grow faster and run well, providing a new option for our fellow emerging markets and developing countries.

Ⅲ. Where for China to go?

The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which attracts worldwide attention, has come to a successful conclusion recently. As a Party delegate, I’m honored to participated in the congress.

The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is a meeting of great importance,make it clear the road map and blueprint on Where for China to go and how to get there. The meeting has three major important achievements:

The Most Important Achievement is Comrade Xi Jinping was re-elected unanimously as the General Secretary of the Party Central Committee and the new ideas, new concepts and new perspectives of Xi Jinping Though on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era has been written into the Party Constitution. Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole has been established and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has been defined as the guidance of the Party.

This reflects the whole party and nation’s appreciation of the historic achievements and great changes in the past ten years and their expectations for Comrade Xi Jinping to steer the giant ship of China’s rejuvenation through the wind and waves to strive in unity to build China into a modern socialist country in all respects.

The 2nd Important Achievement is the Congress has determined the central task for the CPC for next 5 years and beyond, which is to lead the Chinese people of all ethnic groups in a concerted effort to realize the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization.

Chinese modernization is socialist modernization pursued under the leadership of the CPC. It not only contains elements that are common to the modernization processes of the all countries, but is more characterized by features that are unique to the Chinese context.

——It is the modernization of a huge population. China is working to achieve modernization for more than 1.4 billion people, a number larger than the combined population of all developed countries in the world today.

——It is the modernization of common prosperity for all. Achieving common prosperity is a defining feature of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and the goal of our modernization drive is to bring prosperity for all and prevent social polarization in order to meet the people’s aspirations for a better life.

——It is the modernization of material and cultural-ethical advancement. We will both lay a solid material foundation for our people’s life and a culture of conviction and confidence for our people’s souls, in order to promote all-round material abundance as well as people’s well-rounded developments.

——It is the modernization of harmony between humanity and nature. As Pres. Xi tells us that Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. We shall protect the nature as our own eyes and pursue a sound development path with higher production levels, better living standards and healthier ecosystems to ensure the sustainable development of the Chinese nation.

——It is the modernization of peaceful development. In pursuing modernization, China sticks to following a new path of peace, win-win cooperation for common development, instead of the old path of war, colonization, or plunder. We believe peaceful development is the keys to China’s achievements and development and we will never follow the old and disastrous roads as the west did.

The 3rd Important Achievement is that the Congress has draw the blue print and principles, new philosophy and approaches to realize the Chinese Modernization.

——To realize the Chinese Modernization, we shall adopt a two-step strategic plan: Basically realize socialist modernization from 2020 through 2035; Build China into a great modern socialist country from 2035 through the middle of this century, that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful

——To realize the Chinese Modernization, we must, first and foremost, pursue high-quality development. Development is our Party’s top priority in governing and rejuvenating China, because without solid material and technological foundations, we cannot hope to build a great modern socialist country in all respects.

——To realize the Chinese Modernization, we must follow the worldview and methodology of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era with the following 6 Musts as its core:

⦁ We must put the people first.

⦁ We must maintain self-confidence and stand on our own feet.

⦁ We must uphold fundamental principles and break new ground.

⦁ We must adopt a problem-oriented approach.

⦁ We must apply systemic thinking.

⦁ We must maintain a global vision.

. How to transform our traditional friendship into win-win cooperation for common development?

【In the report of the 20th National Congress of the CPC,  General Secretary Xi Jinping elaborated the founding mission of the CPC in the full context: it is dedicated to pursuing happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation and it is also dedicated to human progress and world harmony.】

Lin Songtian, President of the CPAFFC, talking to the Parliamentarians during the event at the Parliament of Sri Lanka [ Photo: Sri Lanka Parliament/ Sri Lanka Guardian]

The 20th National Congress of the CPC not only opened the chapter of the New Journey of the New Era for China, but also provided New Opportunities and New Options for other countries especially friendly countries like Sri Lanka.

The CPAFFC is China’s national people’s organization engaged in people-to-people diplomacy, featuring “Four Friendships”, namely friendship cities, friendship associations, friendship organizations and friendship personnel.

Its mandate is to give full play to people-to-people diplomacy, mobilizing non-governmental resources to promote mutual understanding, friendship and win-win cooperation between Chinese people and people from other countries.

Next step, we will work together with our Sri Lanka friends to focus on some priority areas, as following:

——Personnel exchanges. Seeing is believing.We will build a platform for exchanges and cooperation between the our two peoples, displaying the essence and fruits of the traditional friendship between China and Sri Lanka and promoting people-to-people exchanges in key areas such as parliament, local government, youth, think tanks, and media to promote and enhance mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples.

——Capacity building. Through “receiving friends in” and “sending professional personnel out”, carry out activities for capacity building. For example, we will try to organize the Chinese young and professional poverty relief cadres to Sri Lanka to stay and have a deep study tour to the village or local governments, look for ways out to fight against poverty. We will also try to organize experts from the National Development and Reform Committee (NDRC) and local DRCs to Sri Lanka to study its national development plans, policies and government services, so as to help promote Sri Lanka to Chinese business and interested parties.

——Win-win cooperation. The CPAFFC is willing to work closely with the Sri Lanka Embassy to China and Sri Lanka friendship organizations to hold promotions and functions for Sri Lanka’s goods, resources, development plans, favorable policies for FDI and government services, so as to encourage and attract more Chinese businesses to invest in Sri Lanka.

——Give full play to friendship cities. China and Sri Lanka currently have 11 pairs of friendship cities. The CPAFFC is willing to:

⦁ further promote exchanges and cooperation between local governments, friendship cities in particular, in the fields of culture, education, tourism, public health, and vocational technical schools in particular etc.

⦁ help to set up new friendship city relations on the premise of complementary and sustainability.

⦁ enrich the content of cooperation between friendship cities, and making friendship city a bridge and a binding force for mutual understanding, friendship and trust between people s of China and Sri Lanka.

To my conclusion, let us to work together to bring our everlasting friendship to a new high and bring more benefits to our two peoples. Thank you all for your attention and hospitality.

Exclusive: China and Pakistan are India’s two major competitors – D Jaishankar

6 mins read

“China and Pakistan are India’s two major competitors with which it has major disputes over territory and other issues,” Dhruva Jaishankar, Executive Director of the Observer Research Foundation America (ORF America) told in an exclusive interview with Sri Lanka Guardian. Mr. Jaishankar is a Non-Resident Fellow with the Lowy Institute in Australia and is a regular contributor to the media.

Jaishankar holds a bachelor’s degree in history and classics from Macalester College, and a master’s degree in security studies from Georgetown University. He has been an IISS-SAIS Merrill Center Young Strategist (2013), a participant in the ORF-Zeit Stiftung Asian Forum on Global Governance (2016), and a David Rockefeller Fellow with the Trilateral Commission (2017-2020).

Excerpts of the interview;

Sri Lanka Guardian:  You are heading ORF America; what is your mission and what are the challenges you are facing in achieving your objectives?

Dhruva Jaishankar: I joined the Observer Research Foundation in 2019 and moved to Washington DC with the intention of building up a think tank focused on policy for the United States, India, and their partner countries. I had worked previously in the U.S. at the Brookings Institution and German Marshall Fund, and in India at Brookings India (now the Centre for Social and Economic Progress), and had had affiliations with think tanks in Singapore and Australia, and hoped to build upon these experiences. I’m proud to say that in two plus years my colleagues and I have set up a small but dynamic U.S.-based institution, working on research and convening in four areas: international security, technology policy, energy and climate, and economic development. Our work is global in scope, including development in Africa, cyber security in Latin America, entrepreneurship in the Middle East, U.S.-India climate cooperation, and strategic cooperation involving the Quad and Europe, and we have a small but growing team of 10 staff. In some ways, ORF America occupies a useful niche, not just on U.S.-India relations but as the only developing world-affiliated public policy think tank in Washington.

SLG:  Who is India’s main enemy in the context of foreign policy?

DJ: I don’t think we’re in a world defined by easy ‘enemies’ and India is not in a state of war with any country at the moment. However, India does have two major competitors with which it has major disputes over territory and other issues: China and Pakistan. In the past, the rivalry with Pakistan was predominant, involving Pakistani revisionism and its support for terrorism against India. However, in recent years, differences with China have become more acute, not just over the disputed border, but on trade and technology, regional politics, and a wide range of multilateral issues. Given that China’s economy and capabilities are significantly greater than India’s, it is fair to say that India’s biggest strategic challenge today is China, not Pakistan. Pakistan remains politically sensitive, but is more an irritant than an existential challenge to New Delhi.

SLG: India, not only, is supporting Quad but an active member. Simultaneously, India is keeping a strong relationship with Russia. However, many small countries in the same region argue that India continues to maintain its hegemony and does not allow those countries to take their own decisions; for example, Chinese investments. May I have your take, please?

DJ: Every country is sovereign and can make its own decisions, but the reality is that decisions made by neighbours do have political, economic, and security implications for each other. India has lots of natural alignments with the Quad on security and non-security issues, including over 20 active working groups. At the same time, India has important relations, particularly on defense trade and technology, with Russia. So it is natural for India to try to improve relations with the Quad partners, while preserving aspects of its relations with Moscow that are vital for national security and for its economy, such as energy costs and food security. Regarding the region, India has interests in a peaceful, stable, and prosperous South Asia, and has been taking steps to improve those relationships. These include greater diplomatic attention, improved connectivity, economic and technical assistance, and regionalism. At the same time, just as India has been sensitive to its neighbors concerns, it expects an understanding of issues that might implicate Indian politics, its economy, and its natural security. As a friend, it is important and healthy for India to voice concerns when decisions made by its neighbors might have negative spillover effects. Overall, India can always do more to treat its neighbors with respect and sensitivity, but that respect and sensitivity must be mutual.

SLG: Compare to other regions in Asia, South Asian countries in particular is having lower socio-economic unity. Many argue that it is because of the rivalry between India and Pakistan. Because of that, organizations like SAARC have become paralyzed. Why can’t these two nations come together for a serious development plan?

DJ: I think there were some integral design flaws in SAARC. In the 1980s because both India and Pakistan had concerns about the body being used to isolate them, it was agreed that it should operate by consensus. Yet on many issues – think for example about the proposed SAARC satellite – Pakistan blocked consensus. Pakistan also blocked connectivity between India and Afghanistan, including during the recent food crisis, before relenting. As a consequence, in recent years, there have been steps by India to operate regionally without relying on consensus. One example involves greater road connectivity between Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. Maritime coordination between India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives has also improved. Barring Pakistan, there have been many positive developments on regional integration and connectivity: India and Nepal enjoy an open border and special relationship, India is among the largest investors and trade partners of Bangladesh, and India has led emergency lending to Sri Lanka. The questions of Pakistan must really be answered by Pakistanis: why has there been so much resistance to normal relations with India? The expectation that normal relations can coexist with state support for terrorists against Indian targets is unrealistic.

SLG: Most Indian media houses have absolute anti-China stances. Isn’t it toxic to the bilateral relationship between the two countries?

DJ: I’m not sure that’s the case. The India-China relationship is mixed. Until quite recently there was cooperation on economic and trade issues, students, and on multilateral issues such as global governance reform and climate change. But under Xi Jinping, China has adopted a very different attitude to international affairs – and not just with India. As Chinese power has grown, its decision-making structures have become more opaque, it has engaged in non-market economic practices such as predatory lending, corporate espionage, and distortive subsidies, it has attempted territorial revisionism in the South China Sea and the disputed boundary with India, and it has made efforts to undermine many global norms and institutions, including on non-proliferation, outer space, and the law of the sea. These concerns are shared by many countries. With respect to India, we have seen China violate almost three decades of written agreements on border management, its dumping of exports while denying Indian companies market access, its undermining of India’s regional security environment, and its blocking India at multilateral forums. Obviously, China deserves greater study and understanding, but some of the frustration reflected in Indian and international commentary reflects the recent actions and behavior of the Chinese government.

SLG: Do you believe the Asian Century is an achievable reality?

DJ: It depends on what is meant by the Asian Century. It is quite clear that the future of global economic growth and international security will be decided in large part in Asia, simply because it is home to more than half the world’s population and because of regional economic dynamism. But questions of whether Asia will be more cooperative or divisive will depend in large part on China’s ability to respect other countries in its periphery. Unfortunately, that has been found wanting, and with slowing Chinese growth, other countries in the Indo-Pacific are naturally attempting to promote alternative values – freedom, openness, inclusivity – that should define an Asian Century.

SLG:  Do you think there will soon be a time when China, India and Russia will work together? If so, how do you formulate India’s strategy?

DJ: China, India, and Russia do have some areas of commonality, and these have been explored in forums such as the RIC, BRICS, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Initially, this involved issues such as greater representation on forums of global governance and managing security in Central Asia. But the past few years have also shown limitations to such cooperation. Differences between China and India have been more acute, with China emerging as India’s most significant strategic challenge. Russia’s actions in Ukraine have presented some dilemmas to China and India. Barring security and some areas of strategic cooperation, the India-Russia agenda remains thin, largely on account of the limitations to the Russian economy. While we are likely to continue to see India engage with these forums, decisions made in Moscow and Beijing will ultimately determine how useful they will be.

Chinese Geopolitical Inroads Into Central Asia Are Coming at Russia’s Expense

6 mins read

At the recent Commonwealth for Independent States (CIS) summit held on October 14 in Astana, Kazakhstan, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon expressed previously inconceivable remarks. His public admonishment of Russian President Vladimir Putin to treat Central Asian states with more respect showed the growing confidence of Central Asian leaders amid Russia’s embroilment in Ukraine and China’s expanding regional influence.

After coming under Russian imperial rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, five Central Asian states—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—emerged independent from the Soviet Union in 1991.

While these countries remained heavily dependent on Russia for security, economic, and diplomatic support, China saw an opportunity in their vast resources and potential to facilitate trade across Eurasia. Chinese-backed development and commerce increased after the Soviet collapse and expanded further after the launch of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013.

Billions of dollars in investment, access to Chinese goods, and opening up China’s enormous consumer market allowed Beijing to restructure Central Asian economies. Soviet-era gas pipeline networks, for example, traditionally forced much of the region’s natural resources to flow through Russia to access the European market. The Central Asia-China pipeline and Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline are just some of the newer pipelines built to transport resources to the Chinese market instead.

These developments have added to friction between Central Asian states and Russia. Disputes between Turkmenistan and Russia over gas prices and a mysterious pipeline explosion in 2009 saw Russian gas imports from Turkmenistan decline until they halted completely in 2016, upending Turkmenistan’s access to Europe. Turkmenistan redirected much of its supply to China for the next three years, before a rapprochement with Moscow in 2019 saw imports to Russia resume.

Billions of dollars in investment, access to Chinese goods, and opening up China’s enormous consumer market allowed Beijing to restructure Central Asian economies.

This affair demonstrated the economic opportunities China could provide to Central Asian states that were previously dependent on Russia. Competing Chinese and Russian attempts to supply Central Asia with COVID-19 vaccines was another demonstration of Beijing’s multifaceted approach to increasing its regional influence.

Sensing the inevitability of Chinese investment in revolutionizing regional economies, the Kremlin announced the “Greater Eurasian Partnership” in 2015. This partnership attempted to integrate the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are members of, with the BRI. Though this partnership has only been partially successful, Putin has sought to use Chinese investment to help develop Russia’s Far East.

Russia’s connections to the remaining Soviet political networks and military power in the region have allowed Moscow to contend with China’s growing economic edge in Central Asia over the last two decades. But the increasing international pressure on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine has suddenly upset the traditional “division of labor” between Russia and China in Central Asia. Though still a vital partner to Central Asian states, Russia risks losing greater economic and security ground to China in the coming years.

After cross-border trade between the EU and Russia and Belarus was reduced following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for example, China placed renewed focus on developing the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), or “Middle Corridor,” of the BRI. Instead of Chinese trade flowing from Russia into Europe, it is increasingly being transported through Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Turkey. The newly built Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, as well as other projects like the China-Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railway, will further erode Russia’s importance to the BRI.

On September 14, 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping traveled to Kazakhstan on his first foreign trip since the pandemic began. His destination was symbolic—the BRI was first announced by Xi in Kazakhstan in 2013, and the country has fashioned itself as the “buckle” of the project.

Alongside signing economic deals during his visit in September, Xi vowed to back Kazakhstan “in the defense of its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.” This contrasts with Russian political figures who have questioned the validity of Kazakhstan’s statehood in the past, including Putin. Xi then traveled to Uzbekistan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit on September 15 and 16 and signed deals worth $16 billion with Uzbekistan, dwarfing the $4.6 billion signed between Uzbekistan and Russia.

China’s auto industry has also increased its manufacturing presence and share of the market in Central Asia in 2022, as sanctions have hindered Russia’s production capabilities.

China’s growing military presence in Central Asia has similarly been a major concern for the Kremlin. Over the last decade, China has rapidly increased its arms exports to the region. And though China has conducted bilateral military exercises in Central Asia since 2002 in coordination with the SCO, in 2016 China held its first antiterrorism exercises with Tajikistan, and held the “Cooperation 2019” exercises with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, “marking the first time their national guard units had trained with China on counterterrorism.”

In 2021, Tajikistan also approved the construction of a Chinese-funded military base in the country near its border with Afghanistan—though China’s focus on Tajikistan is “linked more to Afghanistan than to Central Asia as a whole.” However, the use of Chinese private military and security companies (PMSCs) in Africa and the Middle East has also led to concern in Moscow that China’s PMSCs may expand further across Central Asia.

Moscow’s strained military situation became evident in September, when Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, both members of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance, engaged in deadly border clashes. While Russia and the CSTO were unable to calm hostilities, the leaders of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan met on the sidelines of the SCO summit on September 16 to cool tensions.

Nonetheless, several factors inhibit China from eclipsing Russia’s geopolitical influence in Central Asia. Beijing has typically been hesitant to commit military forces abroad and continues to see the Russian military as an asset against instability in the region. The Russian-led CSTO intervention in Kazakhstan in January 2022 showed the Kremlin was capable of stabilizing vulnerable national governments facing social unrest in the region, as well as cementing their authority and international legitimacy.

Russia also operates a military base in Tajikistan, while Kyrgyzstan hosts a Russian military air base. Kazakhstan’s large ethnic Russian minority, meanwhile, holds local economic and political power, and the Kazakh government remains fearful of a Russian military intervention ostensibly to protect them.

Additionally, Russia retains some economic leverage over Central Asian states. Russia conducts billions of dollars worth of trade with them annually and maintains several Soviet legacy projects that have bound Central Asia to it, such as common gas and oil pipelines, waterways, railway networks, and electricity grids. Central Asian states also have some of the largest annual remittance rates in the world, with the remittances from Russia to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan accounting for roughly 30 percent of their gross domestic product in 2021.

The Kremlin also has the ability to shape local perceptions of Russia through its dominant media and social media channels in Central Asia. But positive public opinion toward China across the region steadily declined between 2017 and 2021 for a variety of reasons, especially in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Many Central Asians are concerned over China’s “debt-trap diplomacy,” while large numbers of Chinese workers brought in to develop BRI projects in the region have resulted in deadly protests and clashes with locals.

Competition between China and Central Asian states over scarce regional water supplies, as well as China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, a Turkic-speaking, largely Muslim ethnic group, who “see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations,” have also damaged China’s ties in the region.

Evidently, China’s own obstacles and Russia’s lingering presence in the region have helped sustain the geopolitical balance in Central Asia. But mutual pledges by China and Russia to respect one another’s core interests, most recently repeated in June 2022, have contributed the most to preventing greater agitation in the region. While Beijing and Moscow are destined to compete in Central Asia, careful diplomacy will likely prolong their cautious cooperation.

Ultimately, China remains more concerned with Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the broader Asia Pacific region, while Russia is more preoccupied in its eastern and southern regions, most notably Ukraine.

Russia has so far borne the brunt of U.S.-led efforts to contain their foreign policies. But the launch of the U.S.-China trade war in 2018 under former U.S. President Donald Trump marked a serious turn in the U.S.-Chinese relationship, which has continued under President Joe Biden. The Biden administration (as well as the EU) has criticized and sanctioned China over its policies in Xinjiang, and most recently imposed significant technology export controls on China on October 7.

Heightened tensions with the West will draw China and Russia closer together. While Central Asia is where their interests collide the most, Beijing and Moscow will continue to avoid conflict there to focus on pushing back against Western power elsewhere in the world.

Historic significance of Xi’s Saudi visit

5 mins read

The report that Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning his first overseas trip after the Party Congress and it may be to Saudi Arabia drips with enormous symbolism. According to the Wall Street Journal, the visit is likely to take place early December and hectic preparations are under way. 

The daily cited people familiar with the preparations that the Chinese leader’s “welcome is more likely to resemble” the 2017 visit by Donald Trump in its pomp and pageantry. 

Predictably, the focal point will be the future trajectory of Chinese-Saudi oil “alliance” — rather, the making of an oil alliance comparable to the Russian-Saudi framework of OPEC Plus. That said, there is a great deal more to the forthcoming visit by Xi in geopolitics in the dramatically shifting alignments in the West Asian region and indeed its impact on the world order can be far-reaching.

The point is, both China and Saudi Arabia are major regional powers and any matrix involving them bilaterally will be highly consequential to international politics. The Wall Street Journal said “Beijing and Riyadh seek to deepen ties and advance a vision of a multipolar world where the US no longer dominates the global order.” 

No doubt, the war in Ukraine provides an immediate backdrop. It is going to be extremely difficult for the United States to extricate itself in a near term from the war without suffering a huge loss of face tarnishing its credibility as a superpower, undermining its transatlantic leadership and even risking the future of the western alliance system as such. 

Both China and Saudi Arabia will have drawn the conclusion that the “bipartisan consensus” over the war in Ukraine may not survive the fierce tribal war among the American political elite that is certain to break out very soon once the midterm elections today get over. If the Republicans gain control over the House of Representatives, they will proceed to initiate proceedings for the impeachment of President Biden. 

Guardian survey of expert opinion on Sunday was entitled These are conditions ripe for political violence: how close is the US to civil war? At its core, therefore, both China and Saudi Arabia see the US retrenchment gathering momentum in the West Asian region.

One major item of discussion during Xi’s visit to Saudi Arabia will be the latter’s “Look East” foreign-policy strategy that anticipated the US retrenchment at least by the middle of the last decade. Xi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 2016 was a landmark event.

No doubt, Beijing has been closely watching the deterioration of US-Saudi relations since then. And it cannot be lost on Beijing that lately, Saudis have been plotting energy cooperation with China amid Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s tensions with Biden. 

The surest signal was the virtual meeting on October 21 between Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Minister of Energy and Zhang Jianhua, China’s National Energy Administrator, a senior politician (who was a member of the 19th Central Discipline Commission of the Chinese Communist Party.) The meeting took place amidst a deep crisis in the US-Saudi relations with the US elite threatening to impose sanctions against Riyadh.  

Unsurprisingly, one of the key issues discussed between the Chinese and Saudi ministers was the oil market. According to the Saudi statement, the ministers “confirmed their willingness to work together to support the stability of the international oil market” and stressed the need for “long-term and reliable oil supply to stabilise global market that endures various uncertainties due to complex and changeable international situations.” Isn’t this more or less what the OPEC Plus (Russian-Saudi oil alliance) keeps saying? 

Meanwhile, the two ministers also discussed cooperation and joint investments in countries that China sees as part of its strategic Belt and Road vision and stated their intention to continue to implement an agreement about peaceful uses of nuclear energy (which Washington has opposed.) 

Without doubt, the meeting of the ministers was a clear rebuke aimed at Washington, designed to remind the Biden administration that Saudi Arabia has other important energy relationships and that Saudi oil policy does not come from Washington. Most important, the calculus here is that Riyadh is seeking a balance between Beijing and Washington. Biden’s vacuous talk about a “battle between autocracy and democracy” would bother Saudi Arabia, but China has no ideological agenda. 

Notably, the Saudi and Chinese ministers agreed to deepen cooperation in the energy supply chain through establishing a “regional hub” for Chinese manufacturers in the kingdom to take advantage of Saudi Arabia’s access to three continents. 

The bottom line is that Saudi political and business elites increasingly perceive China as a superpower and expect a global engagement that is transactional, similar to how both China and Russia generally engage in the world. The Saudis are convinced that their “comprehensive strategic partnership” (2016) with China would enhance the kingdom’s growing geopolitical importance amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, and that it underscores that Riyadh has more choices now and will further seek balance.

Saudi Arabia has increasingly close ties with Russia, too. With one leg inside the SCO tent (having gained observer status), it is now seeking BRICS membership. These are complementary moves but BRICS format is also working on an alternate currency system, which attracts Riyadh. 

Coincidence or not, Algeria and Iran, two other leading oil producing countries which keep close ties with Russia, have also sought BRICS membership for the same reason. The very fact that Saudi Arabia is joining them and is willing to bypass Western institutions and reduce the risk of interaction with them, and is instead exploring parallel ways of conducting financial, economic, and trade relations without relying on US or EU-controlled instruments does convey a big message to the international system.

The paradox is, the Saudi drive to strengthen strategic autonomy will remain fragile so long as the petrodollar ties it down to the western banking system. Therefore, Saudi Arabia has a big decision to make in regard of the continued relevance of its 1971 commitment enshrining the American dollar as the “world currency” (replacing gold) and its resolve to use only dollar for trading in oil — all of which has enabled successive US administrations through the past half century to print paper currency as they pleased, live it up by laundering the money — and eventually to weaponise dollar as its most potent instrument to impose American hegemony globally.  

While reporting on Xi’s forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, The Wall Street Journal added that the “strategic recalibration of Saudi foreign policy is bigger than the recent blowup with the Biden administration over oil production… More recently, their (China-Saudi) courtship has intensified with discussions on selling a stake in Saudi Aramco, including yuan-denominated futures contracts in Aramco’s pricing model, and possibly pricing some Saudi oil sales to China in yuan.” 

Traditionally, things used to move at a glacial pace indicative of Saudi policy shifts. But Crown Prince Salman is in a hurry to rest the Saudi compass and can take difficult decisions, as the creation of OPEC Plus in alliance with Russia testifies. Therefore, the likelihood of Saudi Arabia changing course to do part of its pricing in oil sales in yuan currency is stronger than ever today.

If things indeed move in such a direction, to be sure, a tectonic shift may be taking place — a major geo-strategic recalibration — and Xi’s visit gets elevated as an event of historic importance. 

Sri Lanka: China gifts 10 houses to low-income families in East

1 min read

The handing over of ten houses built under Chinese aid for low-income families living in Batticaloa took place yesterday in Batticaloa in conjunction with Diwali. The newly constructed houses were handed over to the ten Tamil families under the initiative of the Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka.

According to the statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in Colombo, “On the eve of Deepavali and before the rainy season, 10 most underprivileged families in Kaluvankerny, Batticaloa moved into their new houses gifted by Chinese Embassy. Amb Qi Zhenhong today cut the ribbon, handed over keys, food and daily equipment, and wished them Happy Diwali”

Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong and his spouse with family members who received the most precious gift of their lives [ Photo: Chinese Embassy in Colombo ]

Sea Cucumber: Allegory for Security Threat?

5 mins read

Barrel-shaped Holothuroidea, commonly known as sea cucumbers are part of a larger animal group called echinoderms, which also contains starfish and sea urchins. All sea cucumbers are ocean dwellers, though some inhabit the shallows and others live in the deep ocean. There are more than 1,000 known species of sea cucumbers that inhabit the world’s ocean, but only about two dozen are commercially important. 

Sea cucumbers are amongst the highest value seafood available commercially. Sea cucumber has a long history of utilization as a cuisine in the Southeast Asian region, primarily due to their nutritional value and they are considered a delicacy. In some countries, medicines are produced, for example, “gamat oil” in Malaysia. The most important sea cucumber product is the dried body wall which is marketed as beche-de-mer (trepang or haisom).

Sri Lankan sea cucumbers are exported to countries like Singapore, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan where they are highly prized and the delicacy sells for hundreds of dollars per kilo

Sea cucumber farming in Sri Lanka is quite old and was introduced by the Chinese. Sea cucumber was reported to be one of the major commodities taken to China for centuries when the trade existed via the ancient silk route. But the demand has arisen sharply with a high price tag, so farming surged in the 1980s in coastal areas.

Sri Lankan sea cucumbers are exported to countries like Singapore, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan where they are highly prized and the delicacy sells for hundreds of dollars per kilo, bringing the much-needed foreign exchange to Sri Lanka. In 2020, Sri Lanka exported about 326 tonnes of sea worth Rs 1.5 billion and has become an important source of income for fishermen in the north, east, and north-western coastal region.

Since there is a growing demand for sea cucumber in the export market, the Sri Lankan government has taken steps to promote sea cucumber farming among the local fishing communities to support their livelihood and bring much-needed foreign exchange to the country.

Sri Lanka has got favourable environmental conditions to develop a large-scale sea cucumbers industry, however, given the limitations on sustainable production from wild sea cucumber capture, access to a regular supply of wild juvenile sea cucumbers for culture, and limited technical skills and knowledge among intended aquaculture practitioners hindered the long-term sustainable development of sea cucumbers industry in Sri Lanka.

At the time, when many northern fishermen were finding it harder to catch large fish which is blamed on many Indian trawlers entering Sri Lankan waters without a license and using illegal fishing methods like poaching and mechanised bottom trawling. It deprives the livelihoods of Sri Lanka fishermen, national fish production, the export income of fishing, and the rich ecosystem of the Sri Lankan waters and poses a threat to national security. The use of mechanised bottom trawling methods by the Indian fishermen is also a serious threat to the fishing gear of the fishing communities of the coastal areas.

Even sea cucumbers are illegally harvested by Indian bottom trawlers in Sri Lankan water. The secretary of Mannar District Fishermen Federation Union, N.M. Aalam told to a local newspaper that “The Indians are arbitrarily engaged in the harvest of sea cucumbers in our waters in addition to ongoing disastrous bottom trawling activities, then sell us back the same thing with some value addition.”

In 2001, India banned the harvest of all varieties of sea cucumber and declared it a protected species under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, whereas in Sri Lanka it is legal and harvesting can be done under a licensing system.

Local community massively benefitted from the company, by its technological expertise which helped them to obtain bigger harvests and earn more income from exports at higher prices.

To address these needs, with the support of the Sri Lankan government, the Chinese joint venture company, GuiLan (Pvt) Ltd, established an artificial breeding production facility (hatchery) in Jaffna’s coastal village of Ariyalai in April 2016, to provide the necessary juvenile cucumbers stock to support a thriving and sustainable industry which can uphold local community’s livelihood hit hard by illegal Indian fishing. GuiLan (Pvt) Ltd’s operation involves the hatchery and the nursery to meet the locals’ demands and is not engaged in farming.

GuiLan (Pvt) Ltd was a pioneer of mass-producing juvenile sea cucumber in Sri Lanka using their own eco-friendly, artificial spawning technique. Since starting production, GuiLan (Pvt) Ltd nursed baby animals up to four months before they were sold to commercial farms run by locals throughout the entire year.

Earlier farmers used to have sea cucumbers only for six months of the year, now fishermen have them year-round. This has helped many northern farmers grow their businesses without harming the natural sea cucumber population. After a Chinese firm started a sea cucumber farm in the Northern Province, over 600 fishermen switched to sea cucumber farming.

Without a doubt, the local community massively benefitted from the company, by its technological expertise which helped them to obtain bigger harvests and earn more income from exports at higher prices. The Sri Lankan government also earned “a significant amount” of foreign exchange by exporting sea cucumbers to China and other Southeast Asian nations.

The National Aquaculture Development Authority (NAQDA) research shows that farming is the easiest, most lucrative, and more importantly, sustainable way of supporting an industry because wild sea cucumbers have been over-exploited. Hatchery-based artificial breeding is the most environmentally sustainable technique for raising sea cucumbers. Earlier, the Fisheries Ministry has taken steps to ban the overexploitation of wild sea cucumber cultivation from the sea directly to avoid depletion of wild populations in Sri Lankan waters.

In June this year, the Sri Lankan Government informed that they approved a proposal to allocate 5,000 acres of land in the districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, and Batticaloa for large-scale commercial sea cucumber hatcheries. Further government approved to release of 100 acres to set up export villages as well.

Speaking to a local newspaper on 28th September 2022, Minister of Fisheries Douglas Devananda said that sea cucumber farms established by Chinese industries will not bring any harm to fishermen in the Northern Province and some of these industries have been operating in the North for the past four to five years. Further, he said that these investments are much needed for the country.

Minister told an Indian newspaper that “We need both investment and technology in the north to cultivate sea cucumbers. I have been asking India for five to six years but have not had any response. We must explore other options, right? We are only talking to a Chinese firm; no project has been finalised yet,” adding he will “never allow” any threat to India’s security concerns.

Earlier, Sri Lanka suspended a Hybrid Energy system to be built in three northern islands of Sri Lanka by a Chinese high-tech renewable energy company after India lodged a strong protest

So how a Chinese company’s investment in a Sea Cucumber farm in Northern Sri Lanka can become a threat to India? Why India can’t stop Indian trawlers from entering Sri Lankan waters without a license and using illegal fishing methods, crushing the Norther fishing community’s livelihood? Why then India can invest in the Sea Cucumber industry and provide technological expertise same as Chinese companies to support their livelihood and bring much-needed foreign exchange to the country?

Earlier, Sri Lanka suspended a Hybrid Energy system to be built in three northern islands of Sri Lanka by a Chinese high-tech renewable energy company after India lodged a strong protest with Sri Lanka on the award of a tender to a Chinese company owing to security concerns. Now it is embarrassing to see that Sri Lanka needs to buy fuel from the Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) to run thermal electricity generators which also imports fuel by opening letters of credit (LCs) at Sri Lankan banks and using the dollars available in Sri Lanka, which is not helpful to Sri Lanka.

In September, the Sri Lankan government has invited the LIOC to set up Sri Lanka’s second oil refinery in Trincomalee, but until now no positive response given by LIOC. But India will come with another security concern when China agrees to invest and set up an oil refinery in Trincomalee which can provide guaranteed energy security and supply stability to Sri Lanka in the future and make Sri Lanka a petroleum hub in the Bay of Bengal.

India also raised concerns about the Chinese research and survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 docking at Hambantota International Port, however, Sri Lanka allowed entry for Yuan Wang 5 despite India’s concern. 

Views expressed are personal

Yu Enguang: A Man behind China’s Global Spy Game

4 mins read

The following excerpts are adapted from the author’s new book, Spies and Lies: How China’s Greatest Covert Operations Fooled the World published by Hardie Grant Books

Yu Enguang’s story has never previously been told. Before his death in 2013, he rose into the highest ranks of China’s intelligence community. He was instrumental in creating the organisations, practices and culture that make influence operations by today’s Ministry of State Security so successful. The MSS continues to emulate the boldness Yu showed as he engaged directly with an international power player, turning Soros’s dream of an open society in China into a source of funds, legitimacy and cover for influence operations.

The China International Culture Exchange Center that Yu led was an MSS-run front organisation, custom-built for engaging with foreigners like Soros. Nearly forty years later, it’s still in active operational use.

To foreigners who met him, Yu seemed like a man deeply interested in and acquainted with the capitalist world, not some paranoid Stalinist. He was a witty and memorable character, skilled at interacting with targets and adept at English – something that stands out in all accounts. While posted to America undercover as a Xinhua journalist, he charmed a Washington Post reporter with his commentary on the Cantonese meal they were sharing. He’d been trained well – the ability to introduce Chinese cuisine to foreigners was specifically drilled into Chinese spies during their English-language courses.

Yu made a mark on Soros representative Liang Heng too, who was persuaded to accept MSS control over the China Fund: ‘The impression Yu gave me was quite good. He was about fifty, tall, with strong eyebrows, big eyes and a sophisticated manner and he talked pragmatically … he’d been to many countries, seen and experienced much, and spoke fluent English.’3 Soros likewise bonded with him, despite some apprehension about his special background. Both of them had lived in London and Soros liked the British accent of Yu’s English.

Yu was not just any MSS officer. At the time he was a vice minister of the agency and among the Communist Party’s top foreign intelligence officers. Few within the agency could rival the depth of his overseas experience. Most of all, his operations in hostile capitalist nations taught him that loyalty to the Party came before all else. Only a politically secure officer would feel comfortable ‘dropping cover’ by revealing his MSS affiliation to Liang and Soros. This is also reflected in the fact that he was trusted to represent the MSS abroad, where he built partnerships with foreign intelligence agencies such as in Afghanistan.

But who was he, really? The first two decades of his spy career were spent embedded in the state-owned Xinhua News Agency, giving him rare opportunities to travel the world. In the 1970s he worked in Xinhua’s London bureau for eight years. One Thai woman living in London who met him at a Chinese embassy function noted that ‘he often worked at home late at night writing dispatches’. Clearly, he had more on his plate than journalism.

From London he was reassigned to the United States, which had only recently opened diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). During the Carter and Reagan years he headed the newly established Xinhua bureau in Washington, DC, overseeing coverage of the White House. ‘While I tirelessly reported on the activities and speeches of Carter, Mondale, Reagan and Bush and other key White House figures, I also observed many phenomena and gathered many materials,’ he reflected years later in a compilation of his US reportage, which doesn’t reveal his MSS affiliation. Hinting at his dual life as a spy and a journalist, he wrote that it was a job where most achievements were ‘fragile goods, and hard to attach to my name’. By 1985, while he was officially deputy director of the Xinhua department responsible for foreign correspondents, he was in fact probably leading an entire bureau of MSS officers.

Dual identities

Yet ‘Yu Enguang’ may not have existed at all. MSS officers use pseudonyms throughout their careers, even as vice ministers. These aliases often read like puns on their true names, with characters dissected and jumbled into new ones, or surnames replaced with homophones.

Yu is no exception. Though one writer on Chinese espionage assumed they were different people, little-known MSS vice minister Yu Fang looks identical to Yu Enguang. In the only published photo of Yu Fang, taken after his retirement, he stands with the same slouch, wears the same belt and dons the same pair of shaded glasses as Yu Enguang. Both reportedly studied at Renmin University and grew up in Liaoning province in China’s northeast. Yu Enguang was just a pseudonym for Yu Fang.

Among his comrades in the MSS, Yu Fang was just as respected as ‘Yu Enguang’ was by the targets he cultivated. At some point in his career he headed the agency’s important central administrative office, and in the early nineties helped secure the passage of China’s first National Security Law, which expanded and codified MSS powers. The authors of several MSS publications, marked for internal distribution only, thank him for advising on and improving their drafts. He also oversaw MSS production and censorship of histories, TV dramas and movies about spies, which were designed to build public awareness and support for the MSS’s mission.

Ironically for a man who helped bring Chinese intelligence history into the public sphere, Yu’s true legacy is an official secret. Official references to his achievements are brief and elliptical. The authoritative People’s Daily eulogised him in 2013, an honour only a handful of intelligence officers receive: ‘In his sixty years of life in the revolution, Comrade Yu Fang was loyal to the Party, scrupulously carried out his duties and selflessly offered himself to the Party’s endeavours, making important contributions to the Party’s state security endeavour.’ The article also noted that he’d been a member of the National People’s Congress, China’s national legislature, but lists of delegates include only his pseudonym.

The MSS seizure of the China Fund was an impressive display of the agency’s confidence in engaging with one of America’s best-connected and wealthiest men. What it learnt could be applied to future operations as the agency grew more aggressive and internationally focused over the following decade. But it was far from a flawless effort: exposing Yu Enguang and CICEC as arms of the MSS leads to a string of covert operations against the United States, continuing right to the present day.

Soros had at first accepted the management change at his China Fund as a necessary cost of operating in China. Liang Heng claims he told Soros the truth about Yu’s identity in 1988. The MSS and Ministry of Public Security ‘were co-equal and they couldn’t interfere in each other’s affairs’, Soros argued in 2019, but partnering with the MSS offered quite the opposite of protection in the end. He may have thought he could handle the situation, that his ties to Party leaders could override the conservative proclivities of their spies. After all, his political philanthropy was thriving in Hungary and the Soviet Union despite their security agencies having been formed in the same ideological mould as the MSS.

Views expressed are personal

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What should you learn from China?

1 min read

Chinese modernization has broadened the horizon for the development of human society. China’s continuous enrichment and development of new forms of human civilization has inspired more countries and nations to add their own colours to the garden of human civilization, Global Times, a Beijing-based daily newspaper has assessed the historic moment of China, the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), in its editorial.

“Among the five major characteristics of Chinese modernization summed up by General Secretary Xi, there is one that China has repeatedly stated, and has been proven time and time again, that is, Chinese modernization is the modernization of peaceful development,” the editorial noted.

According to the editor, the bloody and criminal history of some Western countries’ modernization through war, colonization, plunder and other means has brought huge suffering to the world, especially the people of developing countries. The CPC leads the Chinese people to firmly explore a new path to achieve national development and national rejuvenation in a peaceful way, and at the same time better maintain world peace and development through its own development. This is one of the important connotations of the “new model for human civilization.”

“The report stressed that China adheres to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in pursuing friendship and cooperation with other countries. It is committed to promoting a new type of international relations, deepening and expanding global partnerships based on equality, openness, and cooperation, and broadening the convergence of interests with other countries. The CPC always honours its promises. Standing on the right side of history, on the side of the progress of humanity’s civilization, the new path of Chinese modernization will become wider and wider,” it further noted.

Anyone who holds a pragmatic and rational attitude toward China and the world’s development will gain a sense of direction and positive energy from the report. With the irreversible process of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, Chinese modernization will increasingly demonstrate its civilizational significance, the editor predicted.

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China: Xi Unvails the Balance-Sheet

3 mins read

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has secured historic achievements and seen historic changes in the cause of the Party and the country over the past decade, Xi Jinping said Sunday.

The CPC has taken China on a new journey toward building a modern socialist country in all respects, Xi said in a report at the opening session of the 20th CPC National Congress.

Under the leadership of the Party Central Committee, the entire Party, the military, and the Chinese people were brought together to carry out a great struggle with many new features of the times, he said.

— We have established the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and achieved a new breakthrough in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of our times.

— We have strengthened Party leadership in all respects. Now, our Marxist party of over 96 million members enjoys greater unity and solidarity than ever.

— We have achieved moderate prosperity, the millennia-old dream of the Chinese nation, through persistent hard work. We have, once and for all, resolved the problem of absolute poverty in China, making significant contributions to the cause of global poverty reduction.

— We have put forward the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and made constant progress in enriching and developing a new form of human advancement.

— We have put forward and applied a new development philosophy, worked hard to promote high-quality development, and pushed to foster a new pattern of development. We have brought about a historic rise in China’s economic strength. China has joined the ranks of the world’s innovators.

— We have comprehensively deepened reform with tremendous political courage. The system of socialism with Chinese characteristics has become more mature and well-defined, and China’s system and capacity for governance has been further modernized.

— We have pursued a more proactive strategy of opening up. As a collaborative endeavor, the Belt and Road Initiative has been welcomed by the international community both as a public good and a cooperation platform. China has become a major trading partner for more than 140 countries and regions, it leads the world in total volume of trade in goods, and it is a major destination for global investment and a leading country in outbound investment.

— We have kept to the path of socialist political advancement with Chinese characteristics. We have comprehensively developed whole-process people’s democracy, and made all-around progress in improving the institutions, standards, and procedures of our socialist democracy. A comprehensive framework for law-based governance has taken shape.

— We have established and upheld a foundational system for ensuring the guiding role of Marxism in the ideological domain. There have been overarching and fundamental changes in the ideological landscape.

— We have implemented a people-centered philosophy of development. We have built the largest education, social security, and healthcare systems in the world. We have made further progress in achieving common prosperity for all.

— We have acted on the idea that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. There have been historic, transformative, and comprehensive changes in ecological and environmental protection.

— We have resolutely safeguarded China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests. National security has thus been strengthened on all fronts. The Peaceful China Initiative has entered a new stage.

— We have set the Party’s goal of building a strong military in the new era and upheld absolute Party leadership over the people’s armed forces. With new systems, a new structure, a new configuration, and a new look, the people’s armed forces have become a much more modern and capable fighting force.

— We have fully and faithfully implemented the policy of One Country, Two Systems. We have upheld the policy of One Country, Two Systems, under which the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong and the people of Macao administer Macao, both with a high degree of autonomy. We have helped Hong Kong enter a new stage in which it has restored order and is set to thrive, and we have seen both Hong Kong and Macao maintain good momentum for long-term stable development. We have put forward an overall policy framework for resolving the Taiwan question in the new era and facilitated cross-Strait exchanges and cooperation. We have resolutely opposed separatist activities aimed at “Taiwan independence” and foreign interference. We have thus maintained the initiative and the ability to steer in cross-Strait relations.

— We have pursued major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics on all fronts. We have promoted the development of a human community with a shared future. China’s international influence, appeal, and power to shape have risen markedly.

— We have made significant advances in exercising full and rigorous Party self-governance. Unhealthy tendencies that had long gone unchecked have been reversed, and deep-seated problems that had plagued us for years have been remedied. We have waged a battle against corruption on a scale unprecedented in our history. We have achieved an overwhelming victory and fully consolidated the gains in our fight against corruption. All this has helped remove serious hidden dangers inside the Party, the country, and the military. The Party has found a second answer to the question of how to escape the historical cycle of rise and fall. The answer is self-reform. We have ensured that the Party will never change its nature, its conviction, or its character.

This story was first published in Xinhua. Click here to read the original post

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