Why tensions are building in Southeast Asia
May 19th, 2014
02:34 PM ET

Why tensions are building in Southeast Asia

By Lord Michael Williams, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Michael Williams is a distinguished visiting fellow at Chatham House and a former senior official in the United Nations. The views expressed are his own.

Five Chinese ships will arrive in Vietnam over the next few days to evacuate thousands of Chinese workers from the country. Hundreds more have fled to Cambodia and many are missing. Another 16 critically injured were evacuated by aircraft. This exodus has followed almost a week of rioting and anti-Chinese demonstrations throughout the country – the most serious such protests in Vietnam for many years, which have also hit Taiwanese as well as mainland companies.

The demonstrations were triggered by an abrupt Chinese move of a giant deep sea oil rig close to the fiercely contested Paracel islands, a move that the United States called “provocative.” For the Vietnamese, the move was a painful reminder of China’s violent seizure of the islands in 1974 in the dying days of the old South Vietnamese government, before the unification of the country. That move, at a time of national weakness, is still remembered forty years on by Vietnamese.

As a result of all this, fears of a clash at sea between Vietnam and China have risen in the increasingly febrile atmosphere evident in the region. Warships from the two countries are reportedly deployed dangerously close to the contested Chinese oil rig. For its part, Vietnam has still not revealed the number of Chinese killed in recent incidents, but it is believed to be as many as twenty.

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Topics: Asia • China
How serious are China's territorial disputes?
May 16th, 2014
06:11 PM ET

How serious are China's territorial disputes?

Reports earlier this week that a Vietnamese patrol vessel had exchanged water cannon fire with Chinese ships was just the latest example of the escalating dispute between China and its neighbors over the South China Sea.

The incident followed Beijing’s decision to start drilling near the Paracel Islands, a move condemned by both Vietnam and also the United States, which argued the “unilateral action appears to be part of a broader pattern of Chinese behavior to advance its claims over disputed territory in a manner that undermines peace and stability in the region.”

What is behind recent Chinese moves? How are China’s territorial disputes viewed in China? And what should we expect next? CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Jaime FlorCruz will be answering readers’ questions on these and other recent developments.

Please leave your questions in the comments section below.

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Topics: China • Readers' questions
May 12th, 2014
05:45 PM ET

Is China really about to overtake the U.S.?

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Global Public Square staff

This month, headlines declared that China could eclipse the United States as the world's biggest economy by as early as this year. But before you start lamenting the end of American dominance – the U.S's 125-year run as the world's economic leader – listen to us. America is still number one. It will be for a while. And, as it turns out, China is OK with that.

Let us explain.

A new report from the World Bank's International Comparison Program says that China is catching up to the U.S. faster than anticipated. In 2005, the ICP estimated China's economy was 43 percent the size of America's. But their latest report, which uses 2011 data, puts China's GDP at $13.5 trillion. That accounts for 87 percent of the U.S. economy, which is $15.5 trillion.

Now, given that China's economy is growing 3 times as fast, it is fair to project that China will surpass the U.S. by year end. So, are we bracing ourselves for a big power shift from West to East, for a new Pacific era?

Well, not exactly. The International Comparison Program based their rankings on a measure called purchasing power parity. PPP, as it's called, estimates the real cost of living – in other words, what money can actually buy you in each country, not how much money you have.

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Topics: China • Economy • United States • What in the World?
How big a threat is nationalism to Asia's stability?
April 25th, 2014
04:50 PM ET

How big a threat is nationalism to Asia's stability?

By Jason Miks

GPS Digital Producer Jason Miks speaks with Robert Kaplan, author of Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, and Geoff Dyer, author of Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China-and How America Can Win, about territorial disputes in Asia, the threat of nationalism, and why the United States should be concerned. Watch both on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

The Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy has in large part rested on its ability to keep its economy delivering double-digit growth. With signs the economy might be slowing, is the government likely to be more tempted to stoke nationalism there?

Dyer: I think you’ve actually been seeing that since Tiananmen Square in 1989. The party lost legitimacy based on the idea of Marxism, and then particularly after Tiananmen it was facing this huge crisis of legitimacy. So really these were the two things that it had based its credibility on – economic competence and a growing economy, and nationalism.

And for a number of years, the Communist Party has been fostering this kind of victim nationalism narrative, this idea of the Century of Humiliation – foreign powers came in and victimized us for a century, and now we’re standing up for ourselves. That’s been really intensified for the past 20 years, and is really coming to a head now in recent years.

One of the problems is that this has really narrowed the space the government has to maneuver in on these kinds of issues. It’s not necessarily that nationalism is dictating the foreign policy. But it gives them much less room to compromise and to make concessions if they ever did get into negotiations.

Kaplan: I think the biggest global question, in my opinion, is not Iran or Ukraine. It’s the direction of the Chinese economy, and whether China is going to have a soft or hard landing. If it’s a hard landing, then the question is how hard, and will this lead to social and political turmoil? And in such a situation, the easiest thing for a regime to do is to dial up nationalism. And if you dial up nationalism, that translates into a more aggressive policy in the South and East China Seas.

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Topics: Asia • China • GPS Show • Japan
Time to double down on the Asia rebalance
April 23rd, 2014
02:06 PM ET

Time to double down on the Asia rebalance

By Daniel M. Kliman, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Daniel M. Kliman is a senior advisor with the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and a fellow at the Truman National Security Project. The views expressed are his own.

President Barack Obama’s Asia trip, which has started with a visit to Japan, will send an unmistakable signal: the United States remains committed to a region that has become the world’s economic and military center of gravity.

Yet once the afterglow of the visit fades, U.S. allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific are bound once again to question American staying power. True, the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy initiative – the pivot or rebalance to Asia – has achieved many of its initial objectives. Countries in the region recognize this. But they are ultimately more focused on what will come next. And with less than three years of Obama’s presidency remaining, now is the moment to lay out a vision for U.S. Asia policy through 2016.

Two opposing sets of forces have long co-existed in Asia. Deepening economic interdependence, a growing constellation of regional forums, and the spread of democratic values promote peace. At the same time, rising nationalism, territorial disputes, military buildups, and the adverse impact of climate change create an undercurrent of instability.

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Topics: Asia • Barack Obama • China • Japan
April 15th, 2014
02:22 PM ET

What's behind China's reforms?

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Global Public Square staff

If Dick Cheney were arrested…and his assets seized…all in an anti-corruption effort by President Obama…you might say "What in the World," right? Well, as the New Yorker's Evan Osnos points out, that scenario is a rough analogy for what is going on in China today.

Some of you will remember that in the first week of 2014, we began the show suggesting that this would be "the year of China," meaning that the country was likely to go through enormous changes that would make or break its rise.

But even we have been surprised at how much has happened on almost all fronts. China is now being ruled by a new generation, spearheaded by President Xi Jinping who has consolidated power and appears to be the strongest and most ambitious Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping. Consider what he has been doing in just one year in office.

First and most significantly is the anti-corruption drive. And at the forefront of that is the expansive investigation into Zhou Yongkang, China's former domestic security tsar, once head of China's National Petroleum Corporation and a former member of China's "untouchable" Politburo Standing Committee. Zhou is the man who has been called China's Dick Cheney by Osnos.

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China or America? Indians pick U.S.
April 4th, 2014
12:52 AM ET

China or America? Indians pick U.S.

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is the director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

During the Cold War, the Indian government attempted to position itself between Moscow and Washington by claiming leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement. As Indians head to the polls over the next six weeks, their country again finds itself in a world with two preeminent powers: this time, China and the United States.

And the Indian public is fairly clear where its sympathies lie: with America. Of course, how such attitudes will influence the views of the next Indian government remains to be seen. But, for now at least, there appears to be no evidence of broad anti-Americanism on the sub-continent.

This might come as a surprise to some. After all, the favorable views of the United States came despite the fact that the Pew Research Center survey measuring sentiment was conducted in India in the immediate aftermath of the controversial December 2013 arrest and strip-search of India’s female deputy consul general in New York on charges of visa fraud. Yet by more than three-to-one (56 percent to 15 percent), Indians express a favorable rather than unfavorable view of the United States.

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Topics: China • India • United States
March 31st, 2014
11:28 AM ET

Osnos: Playing with Chinese nationalism a dangerous game

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos about China's response to the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Watch the video for the full interview.

What do you make of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the nationalism – people worry about the belligerence. Do you think this is part of a kind of a new China, or should we look at the Malaysian Airlines response as a one-off, a very unusual situation?

I think what we see here is an evolving toolbox that the Chinese government is using. Xi Jinping, the new president, has used it very effectively. When he feels trouble and tension at home, it’s convenient for him to push it onto some of the political issues that they've identified overseas. And Southeast Asia, these territorial conflicts – with the Philippines, with Vietnam, and, of course, with Japan in the East China Sea – are hugely sensitive, and they can rally the public easily around those issues.

It's worrisome because the truth is this is a dangerous game. When you get the public mobilized around these issues, it can move in all kinds of different directions. So it may be targeted at Japan one day, but it can easily come around and start to focus on the Chinese the next day.

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Topics: China • GPS Show
Can Asia prevent its own Crimea?
March 26th, 2014
05:55 PM ET

Can Asia prevent its own Crimea?

By Bonnie Glaser and Ely Ratner, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bonnie Glaser is senior adviser for Asia in the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Ely Ratner is senior fellow and deputy director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. The views expressed are their own.

With the world watching Ukraine with wary eyes, the U.S. Navy’s lead admiral in the Pacific suggested Asia could face a similar crisis if the continent’s other major power continues on its current path.

Since 2009, China has stepped up what Philippine officials have called a “creeping invasion” in the South China Sea. Although less dramatic than Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Beijing has been bullying its neighbors to assert and advance an expansive set of territorial and maritime claims encompassed by its “nine-dash line,” which skirts the coastlines of Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines and gobbles up islands, rocks and resources in the process.

Seeking to make new facts on the ground (or, more literally, on the water), Beijing has permitted and encouraged its paramilitary law enforcement ships and navy to engage in persistent harassment and intimidation of non-Chinese fisherman, military vessels and energy companies seeking to go about their business in the South China Sea. Earlier this month, Chinese coast guard vessels reportedly interfered with the delivery of supplies to Filipino marines stationed on Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged reef near Reed Bank that is believed to be rich in oil and gas. If such incidents are allowed to continue, armed conflict could be around the corner.

But what distinguishes the contest over sovereignty in the Asia-Pacific from events unfolding more than 5,000 miles away in Eastern Europe is that hope remains for a peaceful solution that eschews coercion and force in exchange for international law and diplomacy.

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Why Chinese don’t want more children
March 10th, 2014
10:45 AM ET

Why Chinese don’t want more children

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Global Public Square staff

Much has been made of how China recently eased restrictions on having children. Under the old rules, if a couple wanted to have a second child, both husband and wife needed to be the only offspring of their parents.

Under the new rules, a second child could be allowed if just one of its potential parents was an only-child. The change impacts about 20 million Chinese. You'd imagine after decades of restrictions, many of them would jump at the chance to have a second child, right?

Wrong.

An article in The New York Times recently reports that as many as half of the families impacted by the new rules are balking at the idea of a second child. Parents quoted in the article say that children simply cost too much.

Why is this attitude surprising? And what went wrong?

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Topics: China • What in the World?
Will Dalai Lama meeting hurt Sino-U.S. ties?
March 7th, 2014
04:53 PM ET

Will Dalai Lama meeting hurt Sino-U.S. ties?

By Aakanksha Tangri

GPS intern Aakanksha Tangri speaks with Robert Oxnam, President Emeritus of the Asia Society, about the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to the United States, and what it could mean for relations with China.

What are the likely short-term and long-term impacts on U.S.-China relations after President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama?

It’s important to note that every U.S. president from Reagan onward has had meetings in the White House with the Dalai Lama.  Clinton had four meetings with His Holiness during his presidency.  Both Clinton and Bush have had post-presidency meetings as well.  Indeed the Dalai Lama recently said “I love George Bush.” So, in 2009, when President Obama did not meet with the Dalai Lama, he was breaking a well-established precedent; and thus his 2014 meeting simply reverted to an older pattern. It’s worth noting that Obama has now had three meetings with the Dalai Lama.

Of course, the Chinese always protest loudly on these occasions because they have a strong interest in asserting Chinese sovereignty over what they call the Tibetan Autonomous Region.  But since Obama explicitly said that neither the United States, nor even the Dalai Lama, wants full independence for Tibet, the sovereignty issue was sidestepped.

I think that Obama was quite correct in asserting his support for Tibetan human rights issues and also properly calling the Dalai Lama “an internationally respected religious and cultural leader.”  By contrast, the Chinese leadership calls His Holiness a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and head of the “Dalai Clique.”

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Topics: Asia • China • United States
February 17th, 2014
09:10 AM ET

China's bold environmental move

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Global Public Square staff

There has been some surprising good news out of China. As you probably know, China's super-speed growth has produced super-high levels of pollution. Indeed, Beijing's poor air quality has popularized the word "air-pocalypse". There are days when you can barely see more than a few feet in front of you. It got so bad that the U.S. embassy in Beijing posted a real-time measure of air quality on its website; Chinese officials, of course, have disputed the American data as propaganda.

So people, mostly Chinese people, have asked for an accurate reading of pollution levels in China. In recent years, environmental groups have pressured Beijing to release official data on air pollution. But the government, notorious for being tight-lipped, secretive and unresponsive, had declined. In fact, few people actually believed that Beijing would ever accede to their demands.

Well, guess what? Beijing has ordered 15,000 factories to report details about their emissions: in public, and in real-time. The decree also calls for details on the release of pollutants like wastewater and heavy metals. This is a real first in China – an unprecedented mandate for transparency.

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Topics: China • Environment • What in the World?
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