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By Fareed Zakaria
As Moscow continues to send its forces into Ukraine, it seems clear that Putin's Russia presents America and the West with a frontal challenge. But in the longer run, it is not Russia's overt military assault but China's patient and steady non-military moves that might prove the greater challenge.
Russia is a great power in decline. Its economy amounts to just 3.4 percent of global GDP. China's is nearly 16 percent and rising, now almost four times the size of Japan's and five times that of Germany's, according to the World Bank.
Presidents Obama and Xi deserve the accolades they are receiving for their historic agreement on climate change, and it seems to suggest that America and China are moving towards a new, productive relationship.
Except that, even while signing these accords, Xi Jinping's government has been taking steps that suggest it is developing a very different approach to its foreign policy – one that seeks to replace the American-built post-1945 international system with its own.
Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column
By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an adjunct assistant professor in Georgetown University’s security studies program. He is the author or volume editor of fifteen books and monographs, most recently China’s Post-2014 Role in Afghanistan.
The decision by freshly minted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to make his first overseas trip to China is symbolic. Ghani arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, in a visit that underscores both the extent to which Beijing has the resources to be one of Afghanistan’s critical post-2014 players, and also China’s desire to bring stability to its neighbor. But it’s a relationship that the United States should keep a close eye on moving forward.
Afghanistan’s geopolitical landscape is, of course, being shaped by the U.S. drawdown of combat troops, a move that will place a heavy burden on Afghanistan’s already stretched national security forces. After all, these forces have already faced numerous operational difficulties, and the withdrawal of most U.S. troops is widely seen as opening a door to a resurgent Taliban.
Pakistan, whose meddling has done more to damage Afghanistan than any other single factor, is well positioned to remain the most influential player in Afghanistan. But with China likely to end up as Afghanistan’s second most consequential neighbor, it is worth pausing to think about what is shaping Beijing’s calculations. FULL POST
The solution for China is obvious – political reform. This has been seen and advocated by many senior leaders within the party, including Wen Jiabao. In two interviews with me, Wen, premier of China from 2002 to 2012, insisted that political reform had to follow economic reform. But it never happened because reform threatens the party's monopoly of power.
China will not become a Western-style liberal democracy. But it should consider the example of Singapore, a city-state with a strong one party system but one that also has legal opposition parties, reasonably free elections, and real independent courts.
Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping famously visited Singapore in November 1978 and learned about Singapore's free market economic system before beginning reforms at home. President Xi Jinping would do well to take a similar trip to that city state pretty soon.
Fareed speaks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about comparisons between India and China. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
After your election people have begun asking again a question that has been asked many times for the last two decades, which is, will India be the next China? Will India be able to grow at 8 to 9 percent a year consistently, and transform itself and thus transform the world?
See, India doesn’t need to become anything else. India must become only India. This is a country that once upon a time was called the golden bird. We’ve fallen from where we were before. But now we have the chance to rise again. If you see the details of the last five or ten centuries, you will see that India and China have grown at similar paces. Their contributions to global GDP have risen in parallel, and fallen in parallel. Today's era once again belongs to Asia. India and China are both growing rapidly, together.
But people would still I think wonder can India achieve the kind of 8 and 9 percent growth rates that China has done consistently for 30 years, and India has only done for a short period.
It’s my absolute belief that Indians have unlimited talent. I have no doubt about our capabilities. I have a lot of faith in the entrepreneurial nature of our 1.25 billion people. There is a lot of capability. And I have a clear road map to channel it.
By Jamie Metzl, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jamie Metzl is a Senior Fellow at the Asia Society. He served in the National Security Council and State Department during the Clinton administration. You can follow him @jamiemetzl or visit his website. The views expressed are his own.
There are many signs that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s unprecedented anti-corruption drive is serious. In recent weeks, an investigation was launched into former security chief and Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, while former top General Xu Caihou was expelled from the Communist Party. Nearly 200,000 party members of all levels have reportedly been disciplined for corruption over the last two years. But if this top down approach is not matched by a bottom-up empowerment of the people being most harmed by China’s corruption pandemic it will have little chance of success.
China’s leadership faces a crisis of confidence among the Chinese people. Endemic corruption has become the rule rather than the exception, highlighted in the social media the government is straining to contain. Downstream effects of corruption – environmental degradation, food and consumer safety lapses, massive inequality, and thwarted innovation to name a few – are suppressing the natural talents of the Chinese people and causing many of China's most capable to emigrate.
Xi has promised that the anti-corruption campaign will snare “tigers” as well as “flies,” senior leaders as well as smaller fry, and he has been true to his word. Those charged include officials from all levels and associated with virtually all major factions.
But because corruption is so pervasive, it’s difficult not to see political and public relations motives. When Chinese media reports critically on the vast wealth accrued by the families of former Chongqing leader Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, and others, it’s easy to remember the Bloomberg and New York Times reports on the millions of dollars held by Xi’s and former Premier Wen Jiabao’s families. And no one believes that China’s government leaders, among the wealthiest in the world, are getting rich from their salaries alone.
This corruption passes from the top down. Officials in senior positions receive bribes from businessmen they then use to secure their own promotions and strengthen their essential patronage networks according to qian gui ze, the “hidden rules” of the road. It doesn’t end there. Parents in schools across China are expected pay teachers to ensure fair treatment for their children, journalists require envelopes of cash for attending press conferences, doctors in public hospitals demand payment for providing care. Nearly everyone with something to offer can expect additional payments under the table.
For Xi, cracking down on the likes of Zhou in the name of anti-corruption removes his most powerful rivals, demonstrates power consolidation, and is good public relations. But ultimately, corruption in China is not a cancer on the system, it is the essence of it.
Xi and his team are no doubt betting that a top down approach can clean up the system enough, or at least make it look like they doing enough, to prevent the party and government from being delegitimized, while at the same time maintaining the party’s dominant role. But while it might be conceptually possible for China to address its corruption problem with a Singapore-like good governance approach if its leaders were willing to take vows of chastity and poverty, the far likelier bet is that it can’t because the party itself is the problem. As long as the party remains above the law with zero transparency or public accountability, leaders like Zhou are expelled while others have amassed far greater spoils are exempt, and Chinese citizens are sent to jail for protesting official corruption or advocating that China live up to its own constitution, that problem will remain.
If, on the other hand, Xi is serious about addressing corruption, he will need to push the kinds of political reforms required to facilitate bottom-up pressure for accountability and good governance – rule of law, sunshine and disclosure legislation, a free press, conflict of interest rules, supporting non-governmental watchdog groups, empowering the public, etc. Ultimately, but not necessarily immediately, the Chinese Communist Party will need a mandate by the people conferred through meaningful elections.
Although the Chinese government has delivered spectacular results in many areas over past decades, China is now at a crossroads where nearly every major problem stems ultimately from the distortions of its political system. For the country to realize its potential, these distortions must be addressed.
Since taking over two years ago, Xi has moved steadily to consolidate power and isolate his rivals. Up to this point, the anti-corruption campaign can only be seen as part of this process. The big question, however, is consolidating power for what? If Xi proves to be moving strategically towards implementing the political reforms China needs to address its corruption and unlock the great potential of its people in a more open, distributed, and creative system, then the anti-corruption drive will have meaning. The announcement that the party plenum scheduled for October will address legal reform issues is a positive potential step in the right direction.
But if Xi does not push for political reforms, the campaign will simply look like a risky political and public relations maneuver to get rid of rivals, an approach that won’t get China out of its morass.
I hope it’s the former, but the jury is still out.
For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Global Public Square staff
You know countries don't always play by the rules of international trade, especially countries where the government and large companies are really all part of the same team.
Take, for example, China – the most notorious player who hasn't read the rule sheet. The government of China lavishes subsidies on its companies to make their products more competitive in the global marketplace.
And it's not just subsidies that help Chinese companies. Last year, China's government gave its domestic companies $111 billion in guarantees, loans and insurance to help them sell their various products overseas.
And China is just one example – Japan's companies got $33 billion worth of such treatment, South Korea $24 billion. And by contrast, the U.S. total was just $15 billion. Keep in mind that South Korea's economy is less than 1/10th the size of America's!
By Mark N. Katz, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University and the author of the recent book Leaving Without Losing: The War on Terror After Iraq and Afghanistan. The views expressed are his own.
It’s still not certain how the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is going to be resolved, but there already appears to be one clear winner: China. That, anyway, is the view of several Russian observers I met with last week when I was in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to European talk of reducing natural gas imports from Russia no doubt prompted Putin’s recent trip to Beijing and the signing of a mega-deal under which China has agreed to buy a massive $400 billion of Russian gas over a thirty year period.
But while Putin may believe that Chinese support will help him frustrate what he sees as Western efforts to prevent Russia’s re-emergence as a great power, the view among observers I spoke with wasn’t quite so rosy.
For a start, they interpreted the declaration that what China pays for Russian gas is a “trade secret” as a bad sign for Moscow, suggesting that Putin might have been so desperate for a deal that Beijing was able to get him to accept an extremely low price.
Fareed Zakaria speaks with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Tiananmen Square, about the significance of the anniversary. Watch the video for the full conversation.
What do you remember best from that time?
I think that the single most powerful memory for me comes because we always heard how democracy is inappropriate for a poor, developing, poorly educated country. And, of course, there’s some truth to that. Democracy doesn’t take deep roots in such a country.
But that night, when the troops were opening fire, the heroes were these rickshaw drivers who would go and collect the bodies of the kids who’d been killed or injured. And they could not have defined democracy, but they were risking their lives for it.
And that has always chastened me about the notion of being kind of too presumptuous about who is, you know, for whom democracy is appropriate. Because when people are really willing to show that kind of courage, then…
But what happened to those people and the students and that generation of kind of middle class aspiration which said “we have a little bit of money now but now we want a greater voice?” FULL POST
By Trini Leung, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Trini Leung is director for East Asia at Amnesty International. The views expressed are the writer's own.
I'll never forget the morning of June 2, 1989. I was living in Hong Kong and, together with a few fellow activists, we decided there was nowhere else to be but Beijing, near Tiananmen Square. It was a decision that changed my life.
We took a flight to Beijing, and within hours found ourselves surrounded by thousands of Chinese men and women, young and old, activists, students and workers – all making history in Tiananmen Square. They were there defying one of the world's most powerful governments, armed with nothing but words, courage and determination to stand by the students who had for weeks been demonstrating for more open and accountable governance.
The atmosphere in the square was electric – unlike anything I had ever experienced – as groups of students, workers and other ordinary citizens engaged in lively debates about corruption, freedom, their rights and the country's leadership.
By Lauren Dickey, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Lauren Dickey is a research associate with the Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are her own.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to China last week was the capstone on weeks of strategic agreements for Beijing. The successes of Putin’s meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Shanghai – most notably a $400 billion gas deal to transport 38 billion cubic meters of gas yearly into China beginning in 2018 – were preceded by equally significant meetings between the Chinese leadership and their counterparts from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. But while these bilateral meetings point to Beijing’s commitment to the development of the Silk Road economic belt, they also speak to something even more important – China’s interest in bolstering regional security.
In the lead up to the Shanghai Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) the first central Asian leader to signal the strategic depth of central Asia’s ties with China was Turkmenistan’s president, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. A week before Berdymukhamedov’s mid-May visit to China, China opened a new $600 million processing plant at Bagtyarlyk gas field, the location of a major China-bound pipeline. Turkmenistan’s gas exports to China have increased in recent years, with officials aiming to reach 40 billion cubic meters by 2016 thanks to China’s financial backing of Bagtyarlyk. Upon arriving in China, Berdymukhamedov signed a gamut of deals with Beijing, formalizing Turkmenistan’s ascension as the last central Asian nation to sign onto a “strategic partnership” with Beijing. The two countries agreed to strengthen cooperation in areas ranging from natural gas extraction to cross-border infrastructure development and cultural exchanges.
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Last week, we saw a new world of great power intrigue. The U.S. Justice Department filed formal charges against five officials in the Chinese military and detailed the economic espionage that they allegedly have conducted against American companies over the last eight years.
The action is unprecedented, especially since these officials are never going to be arrested – and will probably never leave China. And no one believes it will make any difference because the Chinese officials are unlikely to face any kind of sanction at home. In fact, if anything, they might regard being on this list as a badge of honor…
…Cyber attacks are part of a new, messy, chaotic world, fueled by globalization and the information revolution. In a wired, networked world, it is much harder to shut down this kind of activity. And it certainly will not be possible to do it using traditional mechanisms of national security.
CNN’s Beijing bureau chief and correspondent, Jaime A. FlorCruz, responds to readers’ questions about recent tensions in the South China Sea, China’s relations with its neighbors and what may be behind recent disputes.
What is the dispute between China and Vietnam over the Paracel Islands about? Is it just about resource claims?
It is about resources. Much of the disputed area is believed to be potentially rich in oil and other natural resources. But it’s more than just a fight over resources – it’s the latest episode of a long-running saga of conflicting territorial claims of the South China Sea. China this time is acting aggressively to assert its claim to most of the oil-rich sea while its neighbors with conflicting territorial claims are angrily pushing back.
It’s also about China’s perception that Asian claimants like Vietnam are nibbling away at islands that China claims is its “indisputable sovereign territories”, as Chinese officials say. China insists it is simply defending its territory, sovereignty and security. It denies that it will impede freedom of navigation, an overriding concern of the U.S. and other third party stakeholders.
It’s a proxy fight, and extension of U.S.-China rivalry, taking place while the United States “rebalances” its defense and foreign policy toward Asia. China thinks some of these claimants, like Vietnam and the Philippines, are colluding with the United States, and are ganging up against China.
The U.S. and China find themselves on the opposite side of the existing political world order. The United States is the established power, the sole superpower, although its ability to enforce its will has been eroded lately. China on the other hand is a rising power – it’s gaining confidence as its economy and military might grow.
The Global Public Square is where you can make sense of the world every day with insights and explanations from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, leading journalists at CNN, and other international thinkers. Join GPS editor Jason Miks and get informed about global issues, exposed to unique stories, and engaged with diverse and original perspectives.
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Check out all of Fareed's Washington Post columns here:
Obama as a foreign policy president?
Why Snowden should stand trial in U.S.
Hillary Clinton's truly hard choice
China's trapped transition
Obama should rethink Syria strategy
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