Friday, December 27, 2013

When Mao decided to invade Tibet (updated)

Mao trying a Tibetan cap
The South China Morning Post reported that President Xi Jinping told Party cadres that they should move forward, but not forget the past on the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong's birth.
For the Hong Kong newspaper, Xi Jinping "attempted a balancing act on the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong's birth, praising the late Communist Party leader's teachings while acknowledging he was 'not a god'."
Xi gave his speech in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to commemorate Mao's birth.
Xi told the cadres: "historical failures could not be blamed on individuals, nor could one person be credited with an era's success. Revolutionary leaders are men but not gods. ...We should not worship them like gods … but we should not negate them completely because they made mistakes."
The Chinese President added: "We should move forward, but can't forget the path that we have travelled."
On the occasion, the Politburo's Standing Committee bowed three times before Mao's marble statue.
I am posting below some historical documents from the Russian Archives published  in the Bulletin of the Cold War International History Project a few years ago.
I invite you to read an earlier post on Mao and Tibet, The More Chaotic it gets, the Better.
Today, China still justifies Mao's actions in Tibet.
On the occasion of the 120th birthday of Mao, China Tibet Online quoted from an article written by Vice President of Tibet Academy of Social Sciences "in commemoration of Mao's great contributions to the peaceful liberation of Tibet."
Early 1949 saw almost all the provinces and autonomous regions in China liberated by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. However, Mao Zedong pointed out that it should not be too rash in resolving the "Tibet issue" because it is the religious area inhabited by ethnic minorities.
In December 1949, on his way to Russia Mao wrote a letter to the Politburo of the Central Government making his final decision that "troops should enter Tibet the earlier, the better" aimed to fight against the western imperialists headed by the Great Britain and the United States and part of Tibet's upper ruling class, who jointly schemed 'Tibet independence'. At that time, the Tibet local government, or Gaxag [Kashag] wanted to take advantage of the falling regime of the Kuomintang, or China's Nationalist Party while the U.S. attempted to make Tibet as a base to curb the rise of the People's Republic of China.
Therefore, Mao made a wise decision to drive out the imperialists in order to safeguard national unification and territorial integrity by sending troops to Tibet. And the strategy also complied with the urgent need of the patriotic forces in Tibet. The 10th Panchen Lama sent his greetings to Chairman Mao to show his support to the central government of China and call for the liberation of Tibet at an early date. Tibet is an inalienable part of China and the Tibetan people are the important member of the Chinese nation. Therefore, overthrowing the imperialist and feudalist rule in Tibet and safeguarding China's independence and territorial integrity must be realized by a people's troop.

Where are the 'imperialists' now? The answer is in Beijing!
Here are the telegrams from the Russian Archives:

Telegram, Mao Zedong to CCP CC and CCP Northwest Bureau, 10 January 1950 (Excerpt)
To the Central Committee, and pass on to Liu [Bocheng], Deng [Xiaoping], He [Long] and the Northwest Bureau:
(1) I fully agree to the plan to dispatch troops into Xizang [Tibet] contained in Liu [Bocheng]’s and Deng [Xiaoping]’s telegram of 7 January.
Now Britain, India, and Pakistan have all recognized us, which is favorable to [our] dispatching troops into Xizang.

(2) According to Comrade Peng Dehuai, the four months needed for dispatching troops [to Xizang] will start in mid-May (in the previous telegram I mistakenly wrote “three months”).
[Source: JGYLMZDWG, 1:226-7; translation from Shuguang Zhang and Jian Chen, eds., Chinese Communist Foreign Policy and the Cold War in Asia, 136.]


Conversation between Stalin and Mao, Moscow, 22 January 1950
22 January 1950

Stalin: Any other questions?

Mao Zedong: I would like to note that the air regiment that you sent to China was very helpful. They transported 10 thousand people. Let me thank you, comrade Stalin, for the help and ask you to allow it to stay a little longer, so it could help transport provisions to [CCP CC member and commander of the PLA’s Second Field Army] Liu Bocheng’s troops, currently preparing for an attack on Tibet.

Stalin: It’s good that you are preparing to attack. The Tibetans need to be subdued. As for the air regiment, we shall talk this over with the military personnel and give you an answer.

The meeting took two hours.
Present at the meeting were comrs. Molotov, Malenkov, Mikoyan, Vyshinskii, Roshchin, Fedorenko and Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Li Fuchun, [PRC Ambassador to the USSR] Wang Jiaxiang, [CCP CC member]
Chen Boda, and Shi Zhe /Karskii/.


Telegram, Mao Zedong to Liu Shaoqi, 12 February 1950
From Comrade [Liu] Shaoqi:

Here is an internal party telegram I have just drafted. Please give it some consideration as soon as you receive it and dispatch it quickly[:]
All central bureaus, bureau branches, and front-line committee:
A new Sino-Soviet treaty and a series of agreements will be signed and published in days. Then, when different regions hold mass rallies, conduct discussions, and offer opinions, it is essential to adhere to the position adopted by the Xinhua News Agency’s editorial. No inappropriate opinions should be allowed.

1 After leaving Beijing by train on 6 December 1949, Mao Zedong arrived in Moscow on 16 December and stayed in the Soviet Union until 17 February 1950. Liu Shaoqi was put in charge during Mao’s absence. When Mao was in Moscow, he maintained daily telegraphic communications with his colleagues in Beijing, and all important affairs were reported to and decided by him.

2 After the Burmese government had cut off all formal relations with the GMD government in Taiwan, the PRC and Burma established diplomatic relations on 8 June 1950.

3 During the first two to three weeks of Mao Zedong’s visit in Moscow, little progress had been achieved in working out a new Sino-Soviet treaty that would replace the 1945 Sino-Soviet treaty. This telegram recorded the first major breakthrough during Mao’s visit to the Soviet Union.

4 China’s minister of trade at that time was Ye Jizhuang.

5 The full text of Zhou Enlai’s telegram to the United Nations, which was dispatched on 8 January 1950, was as follows: “Lake Success, to Mr. Carlos Romulo, President of the United Nations General Assembly; to Mr. Trygve Li, Secretary  General of the United Nations; also to the member states of the United Nations Security Council—the Soviet Union, the United States, Great Britain, France, Ecuador, India, Cuba, Egypt, and Norway: The Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China is of the opinion that it is illegal for the representatives of the remnants of the reactionary gang of the Chinese Nationalist Party to remain in the Security Council. It therefore holds that these representatives must be expelled from the Security Council immediately.
I am specially calling your attention to this matter by this telegram, and I hope that you will act accordingly.”

6 In this telegram, Liu Bocheng and Deng Xiaoping reported that they planned to dispatch the 18th Army to Tibet by the summer and fall of 1950.

7 On 24 January 1950, the CCP Central Committee formally issued the order to dispatch the 18th Army to enter Tibet.

[Source: JGYLMZDWG, 1:260-1; translation from Shuguang Zhang and Jian Chen, eds., Chinese Communist Foreign Policy and the Cold War in Asia, 142-3.]


Conversation between Stalin and Zhou Enlai, 3 September 1952
3 September 1952

Present: on the Soviet side
comrs. Molotov, Malenkov, Bulganin, Beria, Mikoyan, Kaganovich, Vyshinskii, and Kumykin.
on the Chinese side
comrs. Chen Yun, Li Fuchun, Zhang Wentian, and Su Yu translated by comrs. Fedorenko and Shi Zhe.

Zhou Enlai says that in their relations with Southeast Asian countries they are maintaining a strategy of exerting peaceful influence without sending armed forces. He offers the example of Burma, where PRC has been trying to influence its government through peaceful means. The same in Tibet.
Asks whether this is a good strategy.

Stalin. Tibet is a part of China. There must be Chinese troops deployed in Tibet. As for Burma, you should proceed carefully.

Zhou Enlai says that the Burmese government is concealing its true position with regard to China, but is actually maintaining an anti-China policy, orienting itself with America and Britain.

Stalin. It would be good if there was a pro-China government in Burma. There are quite a few scoundrels in the Burmese government, who make themselves out to be some sort of statesmen.

Zhou Enlai explains that Chinese troops were deployed in Tibet a year ago, and are now at the Indian border. The question of whether there should be Chinese troops in Tibet is moot.
Emphasizes that maintaining communication with Tibet is difficult. In order to communicate with Lhasa one needs 4-motor transport planes, equipped with oxygen tanks and de-icing devices. Could not the Soviet Union provide such planes? 2-motor planes can go 3/5 of the way, but that’s as far as
they’ll go.

Stalin replies that Soviet Union can assist with this.

Zhou Enlai. In that case could China request 20 4-motor planes from the USSR?

Stalin replies that first we will provide 10, and then another 10.
Points out the importance of building a road to Tibet.

Zhou Enlai says that such a road is being built, but that its construction will take up all of next year and part of 1954.

Stalin notes that without a road it’s difficult to maintain the necessary order in Tibet. Tibetan Lamas are selling themselves to anyone - America, Britain, India – anyone who will pay the higher price.

Zhou Enlai says that, indeed, the Lamas are hostile. This year (February, March, April) they were planning a rebellion, but the Chinese People’s Government was able to suppress the rebels.
Notes that as a result of this, the Dalai Lama’s brother fled abroad.

Stalin says that a road to Tibet must be built, and that it is essential to maintain Chinese troops there.
At the end of the discussion a meeting was arranged for 4 September, at 9 o’clock in the evening.

Recorded by A. Vyshinskii [signature]
N. Fedorenko [signature]
[Source: APRF, f. 45, op. 1, d. 329, ll. 75-87; translation by Danny Rozas.]

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Strategic changes on the Tibetan plateau

One of the bridges on the Metok highway
One of the most strategic developments of the year 2013 has been the opening of the Metok Highway to the civilian and military traffic. The road is located north of the McMahon Line.
During the last 2 years, I have often mentioned the importance of this highway linking Metok to the rest of Tibet.
Yesterday, China Tibet Online published a photo feature of the famous road in winter (photos are taken on December 18).
The article says: "Bome [Bomi] county in Tibet formally opened to traffic on October 31, 2013, ending the county's isolation from the outside world. The 117-km highway, which cost 155 million U.S. dollars, links Zhamog [Chamok?] Township, the county seat of Bome, and Metok in Nyingchi Prefecture in southeastern Tibet. With the opening of the road, people in Metok have higher expectations for their future."
One could add, the People's Liberation Army too.
Truck on the way to Metok
At Km 52 in the early morning
At Km 24
Following the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra)
At the foot of the pass
Commemorating the strategic opening
Another development concerning Tibet
Another serious development, as far as Tibet is concerned, is the successful test flight of an 'home-made' Z-20 utility helicopter. The South China Morning Post reported: "Analysts believe it has an edge over American counterpart in high-altitude regions".
In China, 'high-altitude regions' refers to Tibet.
The announcement of the test flight of the PLA's helicopter 'filled up a blank' in the military arsenal of China, believe the experts.
Maiden flight of the Z-20?
A photo of the aircraft was published on the domestic military forum
It prompted "a flurry of speculation from tech-savvy military enthusiasts about its potential performance and efficiency."
The South China Morning Post added: "Dubbed by amateurs as 'Z-20', a codename that is in line with the naming pattern of previous military helicopter models, the aircraft’s exterior is similar to the US-made Sikorsky UH-60, better known as the Black Hawk”.
During a CCTV programme, Du Wenlong, a military analyst commented that the new helicopter has "a capacity of 10 tonnes, putting it between the categories of agile attack helicopters and heavy transportation helicopters".
Chinese media reports further explained that "its flexibility allows it to be modified to cope with a wide range of tasks such as assault, transportation, electronic warfare and special operations. It can even boost the country's naval power, potentially being able make landings on PLA ships such as the aircraft carrier Liaoning".
Regarding Tibet, the interesting feature is the five-blade propeller: "Unlike Black Hawk’s four, [it] gives more superior performance in high-altitude regions, such as southwestern China’s vast Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which is home to a restive Tibetan population and is flanked by India, with which it has long-standing border tensions", says the Hong Kong publication.
When fully operational, it can certainly used in places like Nagchu or elsewhere on the Tibetan plateau as a new tool of repression.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Diplomatic Immunity in Tibet?

Indian Trade Agency in Yatung
L'affaire Devyani Khobragade, which has been in the news for some time in India, raises the issue of how diplomats are treated while posted abroad, as well as the question of diplomatic immunity.
There is no doubt that the way of Americans treat 'suspects', whether they have a diplomatic passport or not, is rather tough, to say the least.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, although he might not have been a saint, experienced it before Devyani Khobragade.
Without comparing the cases, it is interesting to see how the Chinese treated the Indian diplomats, the staff of the Indian missions/trade agencies in Tibet and even ordinary Indian nationals in the 1950s in Tibet.
The Indian diplomats were constantly harassed by the Chinese authorities who had no clue about what 'diplomatic norms' meant.
One will note the rather weak stand of the Indian Government; instead of 'reciprocating' the harassment, the Ministry of External Affairs just keeps complaining, orally or in writing.
China would have certainly understood the issue better, if the staff of its Consulate in Kolkata or Kalimpong, had been subjected to the same treatment than their Indian counterparts in the Indian Trade Agencies of Yatung or Gyantse.But India is not a bully and the harassment continues till 1962 when the Mission in Lhasa and the Trade Agencies in Yatung, Gyantse and Gartok were closed.

Here are some excerpts from Notes, Memoranda and letters Exchanged and Agreements signed between The Governments of India and China (White Paper II, September to November 1959)
Note given by the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi to the Embassy of China in India, 26 October 1959

The Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India present their compliments to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China and have the honour to refer to the Chinese Government's note presented 10 the Ambassador of India in Peking on the 11th September 1959. The following paragraphs deal with that note in so far as the difficulties of the Indian representatives at posts in Tibet other than Gyantse are concerned. Two separate notes are being simultaneously presented to the Embassy in regard to the difficulties in Gyantse and the difficulties of Indian traders and Indian nationals in general in the Tibet region of China.

The Trade Agency at Yatung

2. The lease of the Trade Agency in Yatung only prescribes that permission of the local authorities should be obtained in respect of the construction or reconstruction of the Agency premises. On no occasion has any construction involving extension of the plinth area been undertaken without due notice to the Foreign Bureau. At the same time the Government of India have to state with regret that whenever permission even for small alterations was sought, considerable time elapsed before it was granted. Requests for such minor alterations and repair works were submitted to the local Foreign Bureau on the 1st January, 6th March, 2nd, 8th and 15th April, 1959 but the approval of the Foreign Bureau was conveyed to these requests by Director Hung Fei only on the 11th July, 1959.
On the 2nd April 1959 plans were submitted for rebuilding the quarters of the sweeper. These quarters had been demolished by the fall of a tree. Since the sweeper and his family had no shelter, a reminder was sent on the 15th April saying that presumably there would be no objection to the work of reconstruction being started.
Since no objection was raised by the Foreign Bureau and no reply was received and since the poor family was in miserable plight, reconstruction was started on the 28th April. Thus, it would hardly be correct to say that no intimation was given to the local authorities or that their permission was not sought.

3. On the 23rd July 1958, the Head Assistant of the Trade Agency in Yatung was informed by Mr. Lu Ching Wu of the Foreign Bureau that unauthorised repairs had been undertaken by the Agency. The only works that had been undertaken were fixing glass panes, white-washing and minor repairs. Mr. Lu stated that even for such repairs prior permission had to be obtained. Objection was also taken to the restoration of a boundary wall which had fallen down and to the erection of a fence around a flower and kitchen garden in the agency compound after the melting of the winter snows. It is difficult to understand why even such ordinary maintenance work or minor improvements or restoration in the existing buildings should be subject to the prior approval of the local authorities. The Chinese posts in India are not subjected to such difficulties of interminable delay. In any case, if previous permission is insisted on by the local authorities, the Government of India would urge that expeditious clearance be given in respect of alterations or minor construction and that a more reasonable attitude be taken in respect of ordinary maintenance and repair works.

4. The primary school to which reference is made in the Chinese Government's note was opened soon after the visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Yatung in 1958 with funds presented by the local Indian trading community. The school is located within the Agency premises and is intended exclusively for the benefit of the children of the staff working in the Trade Agency. The total number of such children is less than 25. It would seem extraordinary to prohibit the children of local staff of the Indian Agency from availing of the facilities of this elementary school. The children are of course free to attend a local school elsewhere if they so wish.
Similarly, the doctor and the dispensary attached to the Trade Agency are intended for the members of the Agency staff and their families. Local people from the neighbourhood however often come to the dispensary for treatment of minor ailments. This has been the practice for years. While no encouragement for the use of the Agency dispensary is given to the local people, the Government of India cannot understand why facilities of treatment should be denied to suffering people who choose to visit the dispensary on their own. Such an attitude seems strange and somewhat inhuman. However, the Government of India will abide by the wishes of the local authorities.

5. The Government of India would like to point out in this context that the school supported by the Chinese Trade Agency in Kalimpong enrols Indian children on its roils and no objection bas been taken to this by the Government. The Government of India can only attribute the hesitation of the Chinese Government to some, unaccountable distrust of the elementary school maintained by the Indian Agency, at Yatung. In such matters full reciprocity is desirable.

Courtyard of the Indian Trade Agency in Gyantse
Local Regulations
6. The Chinese Government in their note have referred to the Indian Agencies not respecting local regulations. In fact, except for ad hoc decisions which are conveyed verbally by the local officials in Tibet, no set of regulations for the guidance of foreign representatives in Tibet has been provided. A request for such codified regulations was addressed to the Foreign Bureau in Lhasa in November, 1956 and repeated in Peking in November, 1957. Whenever reminders were given, the reply was received by Indian officials that local laws were changing progressively and no codified regulations existed. It will be appreciated that in the circumstances it is not possible for the Indian posts in Tibet to know what local regulations they are expected to observe. The Government of India emphatically repudiate the allegation that Indian representatives deliberately flout local regulations.

Restrictions on movements and contacts
7.  The Government of India appreciate that regulations which are imposed by the Government of China in the interest of public security have to be followed. At the same time, if Indian representative to discharge their normal functions they should have reasonable freedom of movement and other facilities. A few instances may be quoted in which such facilities were withheld for no apparent reason. Thus the Trade Agent, Yatung, was prevented from going in the Agency car to meet the Indian Trade Agent from Gyantse at Rinchengang. If it was safe for the Trade Agent, Gyantse and his wife to travel to Yatung from Rinchengang, it is difficult to understand why there was any danger in the Trade Agent, Yatung, meeting them at the same place and driving back with them.

8. There are other similar instances of unreasonable and objectionable restrictions imposed on the movement of Indian officials. In February 1959 the Head Assistant of the Indian Agency at Yatung was refused permission to proceed to Rinchengang which is on a recognised route, to meet another official of the agency in Gyantse. In October 1958 the Trade Agent in Yatung was refused permission to accompany Mrs. Jigmie Dorji, the wife of the Prime Minister of Bhutan, on her way back to Gangtok. The last two incidents took place long before the recent disturbances and at that time no emergency security restrictions were in force.

9. In August 1959 the Consul General designate of India while on his way to Lhasa was held up for nearly two hours by the Chinese check-post at Chumbi despite his possessing diplomatic passport. Difficulties also arose in clearing his luggage even though all items had been declared in advance.
On 8th August Shri S. K. Chakrabarti who was returning to India from Lhasa as a courier holding a diplomatic passport was stopped and harassed for a few hours for some unaccountable reason after he had cleared through Chumbi check-post and before he reached Champithang. As recently as 28th September, the Head Assistant at Yatung, despite a properly visaed official passport in his possession, on his way back from Gangtok to Yatung, was compelled to return to Nathula by the Chinese check-post soldiers at Champithang. The Indian Trade Agent at Yatung is not permitted to move beyond a mile of the Agency towards Chumbi and not even a yard on the road towards Lhasa. The Trade Agent in Gyantse is confined to an area approximately two miles on either side of the Agency. The movement of the Indian Consul General in Lhasa is restricted to the Lhasa township. The sentry guard posted outside the Consulate General prevents all people inc1uding even Indian nationals from having access to the Consulate. It may be added that Chinese nationals of the Tibet region are forbidden even to attend cinema shows and purely cultural performances in the Agency or Consulate General.
Indian Wireless station in Gyantse
Cinema shows attended mainly by Indians are frequently organized by the Chinese representatives in India in their own premises and, with permission in public places outside and no exception has ever been taken by the Government of India to attendance at these . shows by. Indian nationals. In India complete freedom of movement and contact with Indian nationals has been allowed to the Chinese representatives. It is hardly necessary to point out that restrictions of the kind mentioned above are not in accordance with the spirit of mutual trust and friendship which is embodied in the 1954 Agreement.

The tour of the Indian Trade Agent in Western Tibet
10. The Sino-Indian Agreement of 1954 envisages a permanent Trade Agency at Gartok in Western Tibet to assist Indian traders and pilgrims visiting the area. No suitable building is locally available on hire at Gartok and despite the efforts of the Government of India…
…Pending availability of suitable accommodation, the Trade Agent therefore endeavours to discharge his functions by a tour lasting about few months during the summer season every year. It has been the traditional practice for decades for the Trade Agent to enter Tibet by the same pass through which he returned from Tibet at the end of the previous season. All his camping equipment is left at the nearest frontier check-posts and thereby the trouble of bringing the equipment down to the plains at the conclusion of every season is saved. The local authorities are clearly aware of the practice and knew that the Indian Trade Agent who had left We-stern Tibet by Niti pass in November 1958 would re-enter by the same pass in 1959. The Ministry of External Affairs had also forwarded his detailed itinerary for 1959 to the Chinese Embassy at New Delhi and specifically requested a visa for the Niti pass in a note dated the 18th May 1959. As a result the Trade Agent's passport duly visaed for the Niti pass was received from the Embassy on the 29th May 1959. If the Chinese authorities were unable to make the necessary security and communication arrangements beyond the Niti pass and wished the Trade Agent to follow a different route, it would have been expected that information to that effect would be given to the Government of India in time so that the Trade Agent could be asked to proceed through Lepulekh pass as subsequently desired by the Chinese authorities. Thereby considerable delay and great personal hardship to the Trade Agent could have been avoided. For want of timely intimation, the Trade Agent had to retrace his journey when he was already nearing the frontier at Niti pass and there was delay of one month in the schedule of his entry into Tibet.

11. Despite the Trade Agent's compliance with the last minute requirement of the Chinese authorities at great personal inconvenience and hardship he was surprised to find after he had arrived at Taklakot through the new route that he could not proceed further since no mechanical transport was available. He was therefore held up at Taklakot for six weeks. The Trade Agent was willing to avail of animal transport, but even this was not provided by the local Chinese' authorities. In the 3rd week of August he was advised to proceed straight to Gargunsa while his destination in accordance with past practice, which must have been well known to the Chinese authorities, was Gartok. Gargunsa is an important Chinese military headquarters but is of little importance from the point of view of the work which the Trade Agent is supposed to do under the 1954 Agreement. Gartok is the most important market in Western Tibet and is also the administrative headquarters for that region. Finally, w hen transport was arranged by the Chinese authorities, the Indian Trade Agent and his staff had to perform the journey of more than a hundred miles from 5 in the morning till a in the evening on the back of an open truck. This lack of consideration for an official of a friendly country who had been sent to Western Tibet to discharge his normal functions in accordance with an international agreement could hardly be regarded as evidence of friendship or co-operation and the Government of India cannot but express their regret at this strange treatment to which their Trade Agent was subjected.

12. The Chinese Government has suggested in their note that the special facilities which they are called upon to provide for the Indian Trade Agent are unique and extraordinary. This suggestion is obviously misleading. As the Chinese Government must be aware, it had been the practice for the Indian Trade Agent in Western Tibet to take his own rifles for the protection of himself and his party during their long journeys across wild and uninhabited regions. He also used to carry his own wireless set in order to be able to-keep in touch with the Government of India. In 1953 however, the Chinese authorities summarily seized the rifles and the wireless set which the then Trade Agent had been carrying and these were returned to him at the Indian border on his return journey. It was only when the Chinese authorities prohibited the Trade Agent from carrying any weapons in self-protection or any wireless set that the Government of India requested the local authorities 10 provide for security guard and a wireless unit for the Indian Trade Agent. It is of course well known that a regular system of postal communication or even of police protection is not available in that area. If now it is the contention of the Chinese Government that they have no responsibility for providing either escort or wireless facility for the Trade Agent, the Government of India would like to know whether they have any objection to the Government of India themselves arranging for these facilities for their Trade Agent. If the Chinese authorities would neither provide these facilities themselves nor permit the Trade Agent to make his own arrangements, it need hardly be said that the Trade Agent' would not be able to discharge his functions and to that extent the corresponding provision in the 1954 Agreement would be rendered nugatory.

13. The Government of India are anxious to sign the lease for a plot of land for the construction of the Trade Agency in Gartok. They are gratified that the lease has now been all but completed. Information has however been received recently that the local authorities in the Tibet region have been insisting that the rent for the leased property will have to be paid in Yuans. This is contrary not merely to the customary practice but to the specific provision in para 2 (v) of the letter of His Excellency the Ambassador of China in India dated the 25th May 1957 which amplified the Trade. Agreement between China and India signed in October 1954.

Couriers and communications
14. The Chinese Government could not be unaware of the fact, that since the disturbances in Tibet the Indian bag service for all the Indian posts in Tibet has remained suspended for months. In the circumstances a special courier permit was requested as early as the 3rd June 1959 for an Indian official Shri Bhupindra Singh to proceed as courier up to Lhasa. Despite this advance request he had to wait for 18 days at Yatung before any transport was provided for him. It is understood, however, that all this time there was official Chinese transport plying between Yatung and Lhasa. Somewhat earlier than this an Indian engineer who was proceeding to Gyantse in connection with the construction work of the Indian Agency premises there was held up for three weeks for lack of transport. Since officially-owned transport of the Government of India cannot be permitted to ply to Lhasa on courier duty and since private transport is not available on hire, the Indian posts have not rely entirely on the assistance of the local authorities in securing transport. On all occasions Indian couriers are required to sit at the back of trucks and make themselves as comfortable as they can. It appears from the manner in which requests for transport were ultimately complied with that the local authorities were completely indifferent to the requirements of the Government of India and the hardships which are imposed on their staff.

15. It is true that the Chinese authorities had asked the Government of India to discontinue the existing messenger system in 1955. It will be recalled. however, that the road for use of mechanical transport between Lhasa and Yatung was completed only in 1956. In 1957, a detailed scheme for a jeep courier system in replacement of the old messenger system was worked out by the Government of India and requests were made to the Chinese authorities in Lhasa first verbally and then in writing to agree to this arrangement. The Chinese authorities, however, were not prepared to permit the Government of India to run their own jeeps even for the exclusive purpose of carrying official mails and bags to the Indian pools. It was only in these circumstances that the existing system had to be continued but this was done with the full knowledge and authorisation of the local authorities in Tibet. It may be observed' that Article 1 of the Sino-Indian Agreement gives to both the sides the privileges of communication through couriers and of despatch of mail bags containing official communications. Para 7 of the notes exchanged at Peking at the time of conclusion of the Sino-Indian Agreement provides that the Trade Agent may hire employees locally. Thus the continuance of the messenger system with local personnel, pending the institution of modern courier system, is fully in consonance with and in no way contrary to the 1954 Agreement.

16. Nevertheless in view of the objection of the Chinese Government the Government of India are agreeable in principle to start a courier system with Indian couriers which would use transport provided by the Chinese authorities. Such a system will be feasible only if suitable mechanical transport is made available by the Chinese authorities regularly and at reasonable rates. For the safety of bags it may also be necessary to provide transport for the exclusive use of the Indian couriers. Detailed arrangements involved in the system are now being worked out and will be communicated to the Chinese authorities shortly.

17. The attention of the Chinese Government has already been drawn to instances in which the bags of Indian Government were opened while they were handled by the local postal authorities. It will also be recalled that four cases of baby food for the infant child of the Consul General were handed over by the Trade Agent in Gyantse for onward despatch to Lhasa in April. 1959. They were kept for over a month in the sub-office of the Foreign Bureau and there alter returned to the Trade Agent on the plea that no transport was available Finally the food for the child was delivered to the previous Consul General through the local authorities in August, a few days before Consul General left on transfer. The bags, urgent supplies etc., which had accumulated for over 4 months at Yatung were transported by the special courier (Shri Bhupindra Singh) who proceeded to Lhasa in June this year.
With regard to the suggestion to use the local postal facilities, it may be stated that letters sent through the local post office have taken as much as a month between Yatung on the one hand and Phari and Gyantse on the other, when in fact the journey can be performed in one or two days. Ordinary letters from India to Lhasa through Tibetan postal channels have taken even longer. In contrast under the messenger system (which is dependent on animal transport) official bags only took four days from Gangtok to Gyantse.

18. It is also reported that telegrams for despatch are only accepted in Yatung and Gyantse on a days in the week; no telegrams are accepted in Lhasa on Monday and in all cases no telegrams can be sent except during certain fixed hours. On the 6th July, the Indian Trade Agency, Gyantse gave details to local authorities of three specific cases where telegrams were delayed in transmission or never delivered at all. A telegram from Delhi marked Most Immediate was despatched on 3rd, reached Gyantse on 4th and was actually delivered to the Agency on the 6th September.

19. While no reflection on the Chinese Postal Department is intended, it will be dear from the above instances that the normal post and telegraphs facilities are not sufficiently developed in the Tibet region. The Government of India are only interested in ensuring that official communications to and from them reach their posts in Tibet in safety and without delay.

20. The Government of India deplore the arbitrary action of the 'Chinese authorities in stopping the messenger system through which .official communications had hitherto been maintained between India and the Indian trade posts and the Consulate General in Tibet. So far as the Government of India are aware, the system has never been 'misused and even though the messengers were local people, at no time could any exception be taken to their conduct. In accordance with international usage facilities must be given to a foreign representative to keep himself in touch with his Government. The facility 'of a bag service is well recognised and this was specifically provided in the 1954 Agreement. In fact, as the Chinese Government are aware Government of India have been very generous in giving courier permits to the Chinese representatives and as many as 38 Chinese couriers hold multi-entry Indian visas for movement between India and China. It is particularly regrettable, therefore, that before an alternative system with Indian couriers could be worked out, the Government of India should have been deprived by the Chinese Government of the facilities of communication with the Indian posts in Tibet. The bag service to the Indian posts in Gyantse and Lhasa has' remained suspended since July. The difficulties of these posts for lack of suitable bag facilities can well be imagined.

21. The statement of the Chinese Government's note that the Government of India have been maintaining wireless sets in their agencies in Tibet in an unauthorised manner is hardly in consonance with facts. It will be recalled that as early as September 1955 the Chinese Government agreed in principle to the retention of the Indian wireless links at Lhasa, Gartok and either Gyantse or Yatung on a reciprocal basis. Details were being worked out when suddenly, in September, 1957, the Chinese check-post at Yatung summarily seized some .essential parts required for repairing the wireless set of the Trade Agency at Gyantse. This seizure was not even intimated to the Indian Trade Agent, Yatung and only later when enquiries were made by mm was he informed of the detention of the equipment. This, was justified by the local authorities on the ground that it was a prohibited item of import. The seized equipment has not yet been released.
However, in March this year the Government of India made a comprehensive proposal to the Chinese Government for establishment of wireless sets on a reciprocal basis by Indian posts in China and Chinese posts in India. No agreement to these proposals has yet been received from the Chinese Government. In these circumstances, to say that wireless stations are being maintained by the Indian posts in an unauthorised manner does not present the facts of the situation correctly.


22. The Government of India find no pleasure in enumerating the facts given in the foregoing paragraphs. Facts have however to be stated clearly to contrast the treatment accorded by the Chinese authorities to Indian trade posts in Tibet with the facilities and privileges enjoyed by corresponding Chinese posts in India. The Government of India have to say with regret that repeated requests from their representatives in the Tibet region for the minimum facilities of transport, communication and accommodation have not been dealt with by the local authorities in the Tibet region with the sympathy and attention which are due to the representative of a friendly country. They would also like to state that unless these facilities are forthcoming the Indian posts in Tibet cannot function with dignity and discharge the responsibilities intended for them under the Sino-Indian Agreement of 1954.

23. The Government of India take the opportunity of renewing to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China, the assurances of their highest consideration.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Reforms and Funerals

The recent Third Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party admitted that ‘reforms’ would decide the destiny of modern China. A statement of the Central Committee spoke of “the need to deepen reforms in order to build a moderately prosperous society, and a strong and democratic country, as well as realize the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.”
Xi Jinping and his colleagues seem to have seen the darks clouds gathering in the Middle Kingdom’s sky: for the present Emperors, the only way to avoid the fate of former Soviet Union (where the internal security apparatus had become weak, corrupt and ineffective), was to act fast.
Reforms should go deep and wide, believes the leadership of the Party. No domain should remain ‘unreformed’.
Take the Party leaders’ funerals: the leadership in Beijing has decided that Party members and government officials should have ‘simple funerals without any feudal or superstitious elements …extravagance should be curbed’.
When he took over China, President Xi Jinping ordered: “The use of public funds to purchase cigarettes, liquor and gifts for government officials should be strictly prohibited. Public spending on extravagant banquets, travel, entertainment or sporting activities will also be prohibited”.
It was later extended to everything ‘from banquets to bribes’; after the November Plenum, the Party has further deepened the reform campaign, especially after it was noticed that ‘feudal’ activities were resurging.
Regarding the funerals of the Party cadres, the government objected to ‘a return to bad habits for some officials’. It noticed a drop in the number of cremations, while the construction ‘of ornate mausoleums and holding of over-the-top funerals’ had been increasing.
A statement on the Chinese Government website affirms that this “damages the image of the party and the government, and harms social morals”. Apart from ‘permitted State funerals’, Beijing ordered that ‘special mourning memorials should not be held for deceased party members and officials’.
Cremations is also a way to save agricultural land, rightly concluded the atheist (and pragmatic) Party.
Xinhua had earlier reported that funerals were increasingly “a platform to show off wealth and connections, with the degree of opulence and number of mourners symbolising the achievements of the dead, and setting a benchmark for competition among the living.”
Though it is not clear how ‘deceased cadres can show-off’, the government wisely said such practices had to stop: “the gravestones should not exceed set standards. Party members and officials have to proactively promote funeral reform, and guide family members, friends and the masses, to prevent... feudal and superstitious activities.” Well said!
However, as Cary Huang analyzed in The South China Morning Post: “The Communist Party’s latest pledge to increase oversight over its 80 million members is being called a step in the right direction, …the move would do little to root out corruption without better institutional checks on power.”
During the Plenum, the Central Committee announced a five-year plan to fight graft and improve supervision over cadres: the party wants to gradually increase internal regulations and put officials under close watch by the Party’s disciplinary authorities. It was decided that an internal database would be produced to record the personal income and important financial information of all party officials.
The Hong Kong newspaper however commented: “But without institutional checks and balances to counter its power, such as a genuinely independent legislature and courts, this was usually ineffective in reining in abuses.”
The Party is bound to confront a serious paradox, while Xi Jinping tries to strengthen the Party’s grip over the ‘masses’, this runs opposite the instauration of the rule of law, which required an independent judiciary, “particularly when its regulations were in conflict with national legislation”.
Take the shuanggui system through which cadres are detained and interrogated by the Party’s disciplinary authorities, “at an appointed time and place” (it is the meaning of ‘Shuanggui’); the case is not referred to the ordinary law enforcement apparatus and the courts. It is an internal Party process conducted confidentially and independently from the judiciary.
Will the Central Committee relinquish this and allow an independent legal system to function? Though it was rumoured that the Party is thinking of scaling down the shuanggui system, when the Party even controls funerals, one can doubt if it will do so.
To be truly fair, a political system also needs an independent press.
Here too, Beijing seems to have passed into reverse gear.
China-based reporters of foreign news agency had a few tense weeks while waiting for the renewal of their accreditations; particularly The New York Times and Bloomberg reporters and staff who had dared to enquire into the wealth of senior Party leaders’ families.
Finally, Hua Chunying, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told the media that the issue had been dealt with in accordance with the law and the rules: “Any person who speaks nonsense about this or who wants to seize on an incident and exaggerate it, [or if a report] does not accord with the facts, the [reporter] is completely wrong." The accreditation was renewed but the message is loud and clear: the foreign press has to behave.
For the Chinese media the situation is even more insecure.
Recently the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SGAPPRFT) recommended a ‘2013 News Reporters Training Materials’ to all the Chinese media organizations.
In 2014, Chinese journalists will have to go through an examination, if they want to keep their press cards.
Some 10,000 copies of the Training Manual prepared by SGAPPRFT will be distributed to all the nation's news organizations. It will be used for the 2014 examination.
It consists of four parts: training courses, news gathering and editing regulations, regulations on news organizations' management of news gathering and editing, and exercises. The focus is on training using videos; amongst other subjects, it teaches ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, ‘Marxist views of the news’, ‘journalistic ethics’, ‘norms of news gathering and editing’ or ‘prevention of false news’.
Such a program!
The examination will be based on this 700-page manual.
The manual contains advices/orders such as “it is absolutely not permitted for published reports to feature any comments that go against the party line”, or “the relationship between the party and the news media is one of leader and the led”.
And of course, Chinese reporters can’t speak to the foreign media without permission, otherwise…
Let us hope that one day, the Chinese media will report about the funeral of the Party as the reforms seem to me rather ‘feudal’.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dark Days in Lhasa

The Potala Palace
Dark days have come to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.
Do you know how Xinhua news agency usually introduces the Roof of the World to the Chinese tourists?
Read this:
Tibet with its mystery is the spiritual Garden of Eden and is longed by travelers home and abroad.
Only by stepping on the snowy plateau, can one be baptized by its splendor, culture, folklore, life, snow mountains, saint mountains, sacred lakes, residences with local characteristics and charming landscape.
Unfortunately, it is not always true. China Tibet Online reported yesterday:
Dust is obscuring the sights of Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region on Thursday, disrupting flights.
Renowned as 'Sun City', Lhasa normally basks under blue skies with rarely a foggy day.
Liu Yijun, a senior engineer at the local meteorological observatory, said a sharp drop in temperature, lower pressure and accumulated particulates are main causes of the murk which is forecast to last for another two days.
The dust cloud first manifest itself in Lhasa and neighboring counties of Quxu [Chushur] and Gonggar [Gongkar] early on Thursday morning.
Poor visibility at Gonggar Airport in Lhasa meant two flights were canceled and another seven were unable to land. The airport had resumed normal operation by 2 pm.
The article does not say from where the particles have come.
Not from far perhaps.
A few days ago, China Daily proudly announced that "Tibet's Three Gorges Dam starts generating electricity". He mentioned:
Pondo Water Control Project, the largest water control project in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, started generating electricity.
Its first generating unit, with an annual electricity generation capacity of 150 million kilowatt hours, was put into operation at 11:50 am Tuesday [December 18], said Tang Quanyong, deputy head of the project administration bureau.
The other three generating units are expected to start operations in June 2014, said Tang.
The four generating units will be able to generate a total of 599 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually upon completion, which will relieve the tight power supply in the regional capital of Lhasa, he said.
The project will also improve Lhasa's irrigation and flood prevention capabilities, he said.
Dubbed 'Tibet's Three Gorges Dam', the massive project's construction started in July 2009 with an investment of 4.57 billion yuan (748 million U.S. dollars). It is expected to be completed in 2016.
The project is located in Pondo Township of Lhunzhub County and sits more than 4,000 meters above sea level. The project is about 63 kilometers away from Lhasa.
'Tibet's Three Gorges Dam' probably helped to send a lot of particles in the 'spiritual Garden of Eden'.
Here is some pictures of Lhasa.

Friday, December 20, 2013

China innovates

J-31 Prototype
I am posting my article entitled Chinese innovations published in the Indian Defence Review (Vol 28 (4) - Oct-Dec 2103)
The Chinese Dream
A few months ago, The People's Daily provided some details on the Chinese Dream, so dear to President Xi Jinping. The mouthpiece of the Communist Party first explains why a Dream: “The concept of Chinese dream has been widely spread for some time. In the context of weak economic recovery, complicated security situation and accelerated adjustment of international order, the world needs dreams indeed. ”
But who is this Dream for?
Beijing answers that it is for peace, for the world: “The Chinese dream is a dream for peace. Adhering to the peaceful development is China’s choice of the times. China stands for peace settlement for global disputes and issues and the new security concept of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equal and cooperation. The country strives for development under peaceful global circumstance and promotes world peace by self-development. China has actively participated in the dialogue and cooperation for international security. It has contributed to world peace.”
But there is more to the Chinese Dream: “The Chinese dream is a dream for cooperation. The interrelation and interdependency of countries have deepened largely, and cooperation and mutual benefits have become a common view. ”
The new Chinese president Xi Jinping dreams of Harmony for China and the rest of the world: “The Chinese dream is a dream for harmony …the Chinese dream belongs to the world.”
Well, it is unfortunate that recent events on the ground do not reflect these high philosophical objectives. The South China Sea, the East China Sea as well as for the Himalayan borders between India and China, (whether it is in Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Himachal or Arunachal Pradesh), have only witnessed tensions, not harmony.

The Chinese Dream passes through an Innovative China
It is certain that India has to learn something from China in terms of ‘dreaming’. But first Delhi should realize the true objective behind the Chinese Dream which is to make of China a dominant, self-reliant superpower.
Very early in its history, the Chinese Communist leadership realized that the great renaissance of the Chinese nation was dependent on ‘innovation with Chinese characteristics’. Beijing has now taken decisive actions to remedy some of the nation deficiencies in this field. India has not yet.
On June 22, 2013, The South China Morning Post affirmed that “China's top science advisers have listed 19 projects as the research priorities of the next decade. They include quantum telecommunications and a high-performance jet engine that could drastically improve the capacity of its indigenous fighter jets. ”
According to the Hong Kong newspaper, the report was prepared by more than 200 experts associated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It was a road map for breaking into the US dominance in domains as diverse as military, space, new materials, energy or agriculture.
Though not all the projects have a direct military implication, ultimately, ALL the projects will help the progress of the Chinese indigenous technology and most of them, will have a dual use.
The South China Morning Post mentioned: “The most eye-catching one is a new jet engine that promises to deliver thrust equivalent to 15 times its own weight. The thrust-to-weight ratio is a key indicator to measure a jet engine's performance. In comparison, the Pratt & Whitney F119 turbofan engine used in the United States' F-22 raptor fighter has a thrust-to-weight ratio of eight and is widely considered one of the most advanced jet engines today.”
This particular field is usually considered to be the weakest in China's aviation sector. Beijing has had to rely on foreign imports (mainly from Russia) for its fighter jets. Even China’s purported heavy-hacking activities have not so far been able to reduce the dependence on the Russian technology.
Of course, the Chinese plans for the new proposed engine have triggered wide-spread skepticism, but the point is that China has the political will and the economic means to jump into such innovative adventures.
The Chinese Dream goes hand in hand with military modernization. It is not new, but in the recent years and months it has been taken up by the new leadership in Beijing with a renewed vigour

The History of the Chinese ‘Innovations’

Following the ‘Two Weapons, and One Satellite’ program included in the science and technology development plan for 1956-1967, China took the decision to overcome deficiencies in areas critical to its national security and in March 1986, initiated the National High Technology Program (known as Program 863 – for 1986/03).
Program 863 was launched to promote China’s high-tech development in key areas such as information technology, biology, aeronautics, automation, energy, materials and oceanography.
Government institutes, university research labs and state-owned company R&D departments were all asked to participate in Program 863; the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) was the main recipient of the 863 funds.
According to a Chinese official document: “In 1983 the United States put forward the Strategic Defence Initiative (i. e. the Star Wars Initiative), then came the EURICA of Europe, …which are all strategic plans aimed at the 21st century. The implementation of those plans has created impacts on the great development of high technologies in the world. ”
It was enough to convince the Communist leadership in Beijing to undertake a similar ‘indigenous program’, especially after four top scientists, Wang Daheng, Wang Ganchang, Yang Jiachi and Chen Fanyun submitted, in March 1986, a letter to leadership in which they suggested that China should adopt appropriate countermeasures to catch up with the development of high technologies in view of the impacts on China of recent world advancements in the fields of high technologies.
Deng Xiaoping immediately instructed the government “Quick decision should be made on this matter without any delay”.
It was done. The 863 Program with the objectives: “to combine military use with civil use, with stress on the latter and limit objectives and concentrate on focal points”, was soon included in the Ninth Five-year Plan.
Fifteen years later, another landmark document was published, “The National Medium- and Long-Term Plan for the Development of Science and Technology (2006-2020)”, is also known as the MLP.
The MLP describes itself as the ‘grand blueprint of science and technology development’ to bring about the ‘great renaissance of the Chinese nation’.
The preamble calls for the Chinese people to “seize the opportunities and meet the challenges brought by the new science and technology revolution …despite the size of our economy, our country is not an economic power, primarily because of our weak innovative capacity.”
An excellent report China’s Drive for Indigenous Innovation prepared by James McGregor for the Global Regulatory Cooperation Project of the US Chamber of Commerce, says: “The MLP blueprint is full of grand visions, good intentions and gilded rhetoric about international cooperation and friendship. …It also sets goals for expanded cooperation with foreign universities, research centers and corporate R&D centers. ”
The MLP defines indigenous innovation as “enhancing original innovation through co-innovation and re-innovation based on the assimilation of imported technologies.”
What ‘assimilation’ and ‘re-innovation’ means is well-known from those who deal with China; “Importing technology without ‘transforming it into Chinese technology’ is not acceptable to China anymore”, the report states. “One should be clearly aware that the importation of technologies without emphasizing the assimilation, absorption and re-innovation is bound to weaken the nation’s indigenous research and development capacity, ” adds the MLP.
The plan is often considered by many international technology companies to be a blueprint for technology theft on a scale the world has never seen before. That is not true innovation, but re-innovation.

A few innovations
When President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao came into office in March 2003 as PRC’s President and Premier of the State Council respectively, innovation in science and technology was at the top of their minds, particularly as Beijing was to be the center of the world for the 2008 Olympics.
Apart from the launch of Shenzhou V, its first manned spacecraft and a first home grown Chinese microprocessor (with the capacity to process 200 million instructions per second, proudly fulfilling a nearly two decade-long national goal) invented by Chen Jin, a 35-year-old Fujian native with a University of Texas PhD working at Shanghai Jiaotong University, there was little innovation in China in 2003.
At the same time, the US employed some 62,500 Chinese-born science and engineering PhDs. Mainland natives were heading many American research labs and university departments; further most of the 60,000 Chinese students living in the US, had been granted residence permits by President George Bush in 1990 in the aftermath of Tiananmen events.
Interestingly, the ruling 9-member politburo standing committee was composed of 8 engineers and one hydrologist; they could therefore grasp the importance of ‘innovation’.
McGregor explains: “With the rallying cry of ‘innovation’, Premier Wen in mid-2003 used his position as head of the Leading Group on Science, Technology, and Education to bring together the two heavyweights of science and technology in China – CAS and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) – to coordinate an old fashioned Soviet ‘big push’ style campaign. ”
Nature magazine had a special issue (Fall 2004) with a collection of essays from prominent Chinese scientists also criticizing the draft plan for giving bureaucrats of the Ministry of Sciences and Technology (MOST) too much power over scientists. They believed that if megaprojects should remain the central focus, money was bound to be allocated to mediocre projects, based on ‘connections’, a well-known Chinese disease.
It was suggested that the power of MOST over research funding should be reduced, and perhaps the ministry should be disbanded altogether.

Assimilating and Absorbing
The idea of Megaprojects for ‘Assimilating and Absorbing’ technology was mooted. It was an import substitution action plan in order to create Chinese indigenous innovations through ‘co-innovation’ and ‘re-innovation’ of foreign technologies.
The megaprojects have an objective of ‘assimilating and absorbing’ advanced technologies imported from outside China to help the country to ‘develop a range of major equipment and key products that possess proprietary intellectual property rights’. The MLP speaks of ‘major carriers of uplifting indigenous innovation capacity’.
While the MLP identified the goals and specific sectors in which government innovation was of strategic importance, the 11th Five-Year Plan issued in December 2007 formally detailed the 16 megaprojects. While 13 were listed, 3 remained classified .
Michael Raska, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies (IDSS), quotes Prof. Tai Ming Cheung, a leading scholar on China’s defense industries at the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California San Diego, suggesting that the three military megaprojects were :
  • Shenguang Laser Project for Inertial Confinement Fusion:
  • The Shenguang (Divine Light) laser project explores the inertial confinement fusion (ICF) as an alternative approach to attain inertial fusion energy (IFE) – a controllable, sustained nuclear fusion reaction aided by an array of high-powered lasers;
  • Second Generation Beidou Satellite Navigation System
  • According to Jane’s magazine, by the end of 2012, China had 16 operational Beidou satellites in orbit – six geostationary satellites, five Medium Earth Orbit spacecraft, and five satellites in Inclined Geo-Stationary Orbits covering the Asia-Pacific region. By 2020, Beidou 2 envisions a full-scale system of at least five geostationary and 30 non-geostationary satellites providing a global coverage;
  • Hypersonic Vehicle Technology Project:
  • Available data show that China has started developing conceptual and experimental hypersonic flight vehicle technologies such as hypersonic cruise vehicles (HCV) capable of maneuvering at Mach 5 speeds (6,150+ km/h), flying in near-space altitudes.  
Michael Raska says: “Taken together, China’s long-term strategic military programs are deeply embedded in China’s advancing civilian science and technology base, which in turn is increasingly linked to global commercial and scientific networks.”
There is no doubt that even the ‘civilian’ innovations are useful to the defence sector in China.

The Chinese impediments
China has its own problems; one is the rigidity of its bureaucracy functioning under the Communist Party. The Chinese are however serious about tackling the babudom. In April 2007, Party leaders nominated a former Audi engineer with great experience, Wan Gang, as MOST minister; it was the first non-communist party member acceding to minister rank in 35 years.
In June 2007m Wan Gang established a ‘Special Projects Office’, the equivalent of an economic zone headquarters to make sure that the megaprojects would not be buried by the bureaucracy. The megaprojects office was to evaluate applications, approve funding and closely monitor the projects. The budget for each project was specific and identified both central and local government contributions.
McGregor says: “This unprecedented high-level hands-on micromanagement demonstrates that the indigenous innovation program is the government’s highest strategic economic priority.”
Of course, the 16 megaprojects (which, as seen earlier have become 19 in 2013) have been a source of controversy and debates both in China and abroad.
Many observers believe that the present Chinese system is not congenial to innovations considering its structure and the restrictions imposed by the unique Party system.
Though Xinhua announced than more than 1.02 million scientific theses have come from Chinese scientific and technical personnel in the past decade, (the second-highest number of such theses worldwide), doubts still persist about the quality of these theses.
The Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China (under the MOST) affirms that the quality has risen: “Theses published from 2002 to 2012 have been cited a total of 6.65 million times, ranking sixth in the world. ”
The Institute adds that: “More than 7,920 scientific theses qualify as ‘highly-cited theses’, or those among the top 1 % in terms of citations, climbing one place to rank fifth”, but also admitting that Chinese scientists in 2011 published 141 theses on Nature, Science, Cell and other world-class magazines and journals, moving down a spot from 2010 to rank tenth.”
It is not easy to compete with the West in term of innovation in this domain.
On July 2012, an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) entitled “China as an Innovation Center? Not So Fast” warned that ‘innovations’ may take more time.
Anil K. Gupta and Haiyan Wang admitted that the Chinese ‘inputs’ in the field of innovation were very impressive, the R&D expenditure increased to 1.5% of GDP in 2010 from 1.1% in 2002, and should reach 2.5% by 2020. Its share of the world's total R&D expenditure grew to 12.3% in 2010 from 5.0% in 2002, placing it second only to the U.S., whose share remained steady at 34-35%.
But though data looks impressive, “Yet there's less here than meets the eye. Over 95% of the Chinese applications were filed domestically with the State Intellectual Property Office. The vast majority cover Chinese ‘innovations’ that make only tiny changes on existing designs.”
It does not mean that China is not trying hard to innovate. The regime gives itself the means to succeed one day.

An example of China’s re-innovation
The China Brief of the Jamestown Foundation recently mentioned China’s deployment of the world’s first operational anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) which was confirmed “with unprecedented clarity by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). The ASBM’s development path was unusual in many respects, but may increasingly represent the shape of things to come for China’s defense industry.”
The US Department of Defence annual report to Congress on China’s Military spoke of the status of China’s DF-21D ASBM: “China continues to field an ASBM based on a variant of the DF-21 (CSS 5) medium range ballistic missile that it began deploying in 2010. Known as the DF-21D, this missile provides the PLA the capability to attack large ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific. The DF-21D has a range exceeding 1,500 km and is armed with a maneuverable warhead.”
For the US DOD, “it gives the PLA the capability to attack large ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific Ocean”.
But where does this technology come from?
The same article of The China Brief answers this question. Chinese sources themselves have credited the US Pershing II missile with influencing the development of China’s DF-15C and DF-21 ballistic missiles: “Following the Pershing II’s deployment, initial ‘research work’ reportedly was completed in the early 1990s and incorporated into China’s Dongfeng (DF) missiles via a ‘warhead that possesses terminal homing guidance and maneuvering control capability’”.
When they first saw missiles of the DF series, experts realized the relation with the Pershing II. An article published in Hong Kong by a mainland-owned daily stated: “When they saw the new-type intermediate-range missile in China’s ‘Dongfeng’ family during the latest military parade held on the National Day, people would certainly like to compare it with the ‘Pershing II’ missile, wouldn’t they?” This is called re-innovation.

Can India achieve such a feat?
Especially in the defence sector, India depends in a large measure on imports. For many, the main reason is the lack of large-scale Research and Development (R&D). We shall take the example of HAL.
A few months ago, Dassault Aviation, the constructor of the Rafale selected in the MMRCA project, expressed some doubts about the capacity of HAL to absorb French technology; without even speaking about ‘innovations', can HAL ‘digest’ the French technology?
A source who has been associated for decades with HAL explained that tremendous efforts need to be made in the domain of ‘research’, if India is serious about catching up with China and the West in the domain of ‘innovation’.
Today HAL hardly does any R&D other than development connected with a production project. There is no doubt that government- or private-funded laboratories are needed for developing technologies which are comparable to the ones in the West. Unfortunately top ranked Indian students after graduation head for USA where they receive generous offers providing them satisfaction both in remuneration and the quality of work. It is these very talented young persons who need to be retained to do innovative work in Indian laboratories. This will happen only if India is able create world class laboratories and offer competitive remuneration.
Is the Indian system able to be a top-class innovator, is the question?

India’s babudom
India is suffering from the same disease as China, but despite the bureaucratic deficiencies, the leadership in Beijing has a tremendous political will (and adequate economic means) to change this scenario in the years to come; it does not seem the case in India, at least under the current political equation.
Take the case of the HAL’s HPT 32 Deepak trainer plane being discarded by the IAF, which ultimately selected (and now inducted into IAF) the Pilatus PC 7 from Switzerland. The alternative proposal from HAL for the HTT 40 (Turbo-prop trainer) was also not considered as it was still at the initial design stage. This raises serious doubts on the state of Indian research, once again without mentioning ‘innovations’. The lack of good leadership and weak design ability are some of the main HAL’s problems.
When Steve Jobs passed away, experts debated why China did not produce its own Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg? One contributor to Forbes explained that the emergence of such ‘innovative’ entrepreneurs “does not blend well with China’s culture of Confucian conformity to existing norms. Throughout China’s history, the established order saved little respect for inventors, entrepreneurs, and business pioneers.”
There is some truth in this, but the Confucian conformity added to the Communist bureaucracy and the supreme importance of the Party’s diktats is today balanced by a tremendous will to ‘innovate’ in order to materialize the Chinese Dream.
The Indian Dream has unfortunately not even been formulated as yet. It is a great pity, because the ingredients (brains) are very much present.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chinese military may not be ready for war

My column Chinese military may not be ready for war appeared in today's Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

News reports in the local media have criticised the People’s Liberation Army for its low level of defence preparedness and revealed Beijing’s ongoing efforts to restructure the forces

China has once again provoked India by arresting three local porters in the Chumar sector of South Ladakh. But despite these constant acts of bravado, is China prepared for a conflict? The answer is that the Middle Kingdom is far from being ready.
“China’s People’s Liberation Army is striving to maintain its glorious wartime reputation by advancing military reform and putting paid to the ethos of decadence”, said an editorial of The PLA Daily, the day after the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee ended. Beijing was rather frank: “The people have noticed that certain Army cadres have only a vague understanding of their mission after a long break from combat, and have become lazy in their primary tasks,” asserted The PLA Daily in its editorial.
The Army publication criticises officers who lack the ‘awareness of always being ready to fight’; it even admits that some soldiers “have not been trained hard enough and the quality of military training is not good enough. They are just not up for the fight.” The newspaper reminds its readers that “the primary task and ultimate duty of military leaders should be to lead soldiers in battles.”  The fact that this needs to be said probably means that something is rotting in the Middle Kingdom.
As analysts started talking about reforms, The Global Times published a short communique: “The Ministry of National Defence denies rumors of military restructuring.” The Global Times, however, details these famous ‘rumours’; one is “a ground force headquarters will be added to the current Air Force, Navy and the second artillery force (missile force).” A separate ground forces (Army) headquarters makes sense. Traditionally, the other three services come under the PLA.
General Xu Qiliang, one of the two vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission had earlier told The People’s Daily: “The Chinese military will strengthen and enhance the Navy, Air Force and the second artillery force in accordance with the challenges and threats the country is facing.” It clearly means that the prominent role of the ground forces needs to be rebalanced with the other three services. Mr Yang Yujun, the MND spokesman had also spoken of “blazing a trail in reform on joint operation command system …with Chinese characteristics.” He had given some examples to enhance the PLA’s ability of winning battles: “The ratio of officers to soldiers and that of troop units to organs are not reasonable in the PLA; …the scale and structure of the Chinese military should be further optimised and the proportion of combat forces should be raised.”
The fact that Beijing now calls ‘rumours’, some proposed changes is strange; it probably means that President Xi Jinping’s reforms are not unanimously appreciated in the PLA.
Another rumour quoted is more interesting for India: “The military areas in Xinjiang Uyghur and Tibet Autonomous Region will be merged into one force.” In case of a conflict with India, it seems logical for the PLA to have a single Military Area Command facing India, instead of having to coordinate the Western Front (Lanzhou MAC) with the Eastern Front (Chengdu MAC), with all the complications and coordination issues implied.
Another rumour is that the PLA’s garrison in Hong Kong would be withdrawn, and naval and air forces would be administered by other military bases. It would be a step further towards the integration of the former British colony in the mainland. This is also denied.
One often criticises New Delhi for the Indian defence forces’ lack of preparedness, but the Chinese too have their own problems. The PLA Daily published a report highlighting the urgent need for standardisation in the Chinese armed forces. It admitted that the lack of coordinated standardisation among the Army, Navy, and Air Forces could become the Achilles heel of China’s defence system.
The report gives concrete examples: “A brigade in the Second Artillery responded to an emergency with more than 300 vehicles and equipment, but there were as many as 90 different brands and models. The communications battalion alone had 12 different models of generators. The brigade commander complained that if there were a war, they would need to have several truckloads of spare parts.”
The newly-found Chinese  transparency is interesting, though the ‘reforms’ announced after the Third Plenum of the Central Committee may take more time to come.
A week ago, Huanqiu, the Chinese edition of The Global Times, wrote about the internal and external security threats facing China. Of course for Beijing, the ‘external security threats’ are mainly due to what China calls the United States ‘return’ to Asia. The article quotes the unrest in the Arab countries as an example of what could happen in the Middle Kingdom. It ended with a warning to “outside hostile forces” that China has the world’s most powerful conventional ballistic missile, the top killer weapon, “to attack the most stubborn provocateur”. It probably refers to the newly inducted Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles which could be used, when fully functional, against US aircraft-carriers. The problem is that the “stubborn provocateur” is usually China, whether in Depsang Plain, in Chumar or in the East China Sea!
Even ‘unprepared’ China is still far in advance on India as far defence preparedness is concerned, but some good news recently came in (though it remains to be confirmed). While everyone thought that the Ministry of Defence had gone into hibernation before the 2014 general election, it may not be true. Press Trust of India affirms that: “France’s Dassault Aviation and Reliance Industries are planning to set up a facility to produce wings of Rafale combat aircraft selected by IAF for meeting its requirement of 126 fighter planes Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft. The two firms are planning to set up a Rs 1,000-crore facility for producing the wings of the Rafale combat aircraft and it is most likely to come up in Bangalore.” If this is confirmed, it will be great news for India.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited would, however, remain the lead integrator for the MMRCAs: “The differences over the issue have been resolved and Dassault and HAL have started readying their teams for implementing the project after it is signed,” a source told PTI.
It may not be the ‘top killer weapon’, but in case China is tempted by another 1962-like adventure (from a single MAC or two), it can be a serious deterrent. And thankfully, the ‘flying coffins’ (MIG 21) have been towed to the IAF’s garages.