Thursday, January 6, 2022

China shifts into propaganda overdrive in pandemic era but world is beginning to see through it

Swearing by democracy? Or the Party?
My article China shifts into propaganda overdrive in pandemic era but world is beginning to see through it appeared in Firstpost.

Here is the link...

After China was not invited for Biden's 'Summit for Democracy', Beijing issued a 'White Paper' stating that it had a 'democracy that works'
China shifts into propaganda overdrive in pandemic era but world is beginning to see through it

Can we today take Chinese propaganda seriously? I don't think so. Take the issue of democracy.

On 9-10 December 2021, US President Joe Biden organised a 'Summit for Democracy’, bringing together leaders from governments, civil society, and the private sector in a "shared effort to set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies".

Communist China was not invited, but Beijing immediately issued a White Paper stating that it had a democracy that works: "Democracy is a common value of humanity and an ideal that has always been cherished by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese people," it says in the preamble.

Is it believable? It would mean that Mao and the successive leaders of the Middle Kingdom in the 20th and the present century have been great 'democrats' (of course, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution or the Tiananmen events are forgotten).

In a serious tone, the White Paper adds: "Since its founding in 1921, the Party has taken well-being for the Chinese people and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as its abiding goals, and has made continuous efforts to ensure the people’s status as masters of the country. Over the past hundred years, the Party has led the people in realizing people’s democracy in China. The Chinese people now truly hold in their hands their own future and that of society and the country."

The argument developed by the authors of the White Paper is that the Chinese 'people' are the masters of modern China and the Party line represents the essence of People's Democracy.

Unfortunately for the 'people', China has become the most 'monitored' state in the world (with North Korea), with facial recognition reigning over the Communist state and instantaneous censuring of any news or information contrary to the Party line; but Beijing continues to pretend that it is a democratic model for the world.

"Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, with a deeper understanding of China's path to democracy and the political system, the Party has developed whole-process people’s democracy as a key concept and striven to translate it and relevant democratic values into effective institutions and concrete actions," argues the White Paper.

This does not explain why no Tibetan, Uyghur or Mongol has been able to make it as Secretary of the Communist Party in their respective regions; or why the Standing Committees of the regional parties are packed with Han cadres; nor why not a single minority member sits in the Politburo or why the People's Liberation Army has hardly any non-Hans at the senior operational level (without speaking of the Central Military Commission where minorities are banned).

This can probably be called 'democracy with Chinese characteristics'.

Another example, look at the fate of Peng Peng Shuai, the tennis player who disappeared in early November 2021, after writing in a Weibo post that Zhang Gaoli, former member of Standing Committee of the Politburo and and Vice-Premier, coerced her into sex. The story was immediately censored by the Chinese government. Peng dropped out from public view, before resurfacing two weeks later in state media photos and videos only. Later, she apparently denied having accused anyone of sexually assaulting her, but this incident does show China, the self-proclaimed world's greatest democracy, cannot be a role model for other states (including the US and India) as far as the place women have in the society is concerned.

China is a 'democracy' that does not like democratic symbols. In Hong Kong, where elections were recently held, after the pro-democracy leaders were put under house arrest, symbols of democracy have been systematically removed.

According to Hong Kong Free Press: "Two more Hong Kong universities have torn down monuments commemorating the Tiananmen Massacre from their campuses in the early hours. The removals came one day after the University of Hong Kong (HKU) tore down the Pillar of Shame, another Tiananmen Massacre tribute." The government used the pretext of safety issues and legal concerns.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) removed the Tiananmen Lady Liberty statue in the middle of the night. The Hong Kong paper says, "A mobile crane was spotted at the scene, and workers were seen washing the floor where the statue used to stand with a high pressure washer."

There is more. A new invention of the Chinese ‘democracy’ is the emotion recognition software which "reinforces privacy rules to tackle abuse" argues The Global Times' propaganda.

On 3 March, the tabloid and mouthpiece of the Communist Party explained: "Tired and depressed after a long day's work, a man sits down and asks his smart stereo to play a song. The stereo immediately recognises his emotional state and plays him a cheerful tune. In the beautiful melody, the man is slowly rejuvenated, and his mood gradually improves."

This is great, but… worrying.

The Global Times mentions another use: "At a busy highway checkpoint, artificial intelligence (AI) pre-warning systems silently observe drivers and passengers in vehicles passing through. Seconds later, security officers stop a car with passengers looking strangely nervous and discover drugs in the car."

The tabloid admits that this incident, reminiscent of science fiction, is on the increase in daily life. "In China, emotion recognition technology is fast developing in this data and AI era boom, [it] has been widely used in various fields including health, anti-terrorism, and urban security," it says.

The White Paper speaks of a ‘Democracy That Works’. "With complete institutions and extensive participation, whole-process people’s democracy has evolved from an idea into a system and mechanism of governance that has taken root in the soil of Chinese society and become part of people’s lives. The light of democracy has illuminated China’s entire territory, allowing its people to enjoy extensive and tangible democratic rights."

Who will believe this? For decades, China has been a land of dichotomy with the government saying something and doing something else.

The White Paper says that the Chinese Constitution stipulates that all power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the people and “China’s political power is not linked in any way with personal status, wealth, or social relations, but is equally enjoyed by all the people”. In reality, a person’s status is entirely linked to his/her complete allegiance to the Party.

Remember what happened to Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese writer, literary critic and human rights activist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010? Liu was arrested numerous times and described as China's most famous political prisoner for fighting for democracy. As he was dying of liver cancer, he was granted medical parole in June 2017; he left this world on 13 July 2017. He just wanted a bit of democracy in his country; he paid with his life.

Examples could be multiplied.

Having lived 47 years in chaotic, but truly democratic Bharat, every day I appreciate this not-always efficient, but ‘incredible India’.

There is no doubt that the present regime in China is fast losing its credibility and perhaps for the first time after the COVID-19 virus spread its tentacles over the planet, the world has started realising this; no amount of propaganda can cover it any more

Sunday, January 2, 2022

What about Patia-la?

Did Beijing ask the local population if they want to be part of China?

Since 1984, the Chinese and Bhutanese officials have been meeting to discuss their common border. 

The Bhutanese negotiators are usually bullied by the big ‘Northern Neighbour’ (the Bhutanese prefer to call China thus).
A few years ago, in the course of a 'discussion', the Chinese side gave a long presentation about the names of the places which, according to them, proved that Bhutan occupied some Chinese territory at several locations. 

They started arguing the ‘la’ was a Chinese word (it means ‘pass’ in Tibetan and Bhutanese, not in Chinese).  Even after the Bhutanese negotiators told their Chinese counterparts that it was not a Chinese name, the latter continued to insist.
It is then that a senior smart Bhutanese official interrupted the Chinese argument and asked: “What at Patia-la? Is it a Chinese place?”
The Chinese were so much taken by surprise that they kept quiet …at least for some time.
This anecdote came to mind when I read that Beijing had released the second batch of ‘new’ names for places in Arunachal Pradesh.
On December 30, the Ministry of Civil Affairs in Beijing announced that it had “standardized in Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabet the names of 15 places in Zangnan [they now call thus the southern part of Xizang or Tibet], in accordance with regulations on geographical names issued by the State Council, China's cabinet.”
'Zangnan' is probably an abbreviation of (Xi)Zang = Tibet and 'Nan' (south in Mandarin).
China has never used this term before.
Why Beijing has used a Chinese abbreviation for the area and Tibetan names for the 15 locations is not clear.

The 15 Places
According to The Global Times, among the official names of the 15 places, which were given with precise coordinates, eight were residential areas, four were mountains, two were rivers and one is a mountain pass (Sela).
It was the second batch of so-called standardized names of places published by the ministry; the first batch of the so-called standardized names of six places in was released in 2017 (see article below).
Contrary to what the Indian media wrongly mentioned, the names are not ‘invented’ names; they are transcription of the Tibetan names for these 15 areas.
It is far more serious than ‘invented names’ as by ‘proving’ that these places had Tibetan names, China can come to the easy conclusion that they have been Tibetan places and therefore Chinese.
The argument is tenuous, as it is often the case, but it does not stop China from using it.
It however gives a clear message to India: whatever has been Tibetan (or even have a Tibetan name) belongs to China.
One day, places in Ladakh, Sikkim or Kinnaur will thus be claimed.
Lian Xiangmin, from the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing, explained to The Global Times that “it is part of a national effort to standardize the management of place names. The places have existed for hundreds of years.”
Interestingly, as mentioned earlier on this blog, the claim on NEFA as being part of the Chinese territory dates only from the end of 1930s, when the newly-created Xikang Province engulfed some these areas of the North-East.
Lian said: “It is a legitimate move and China's sovereign right to give them standardized names. More standardized place names in the region will be announced in the future.”
Another so-called expert, Zhang Yongpan, from the Institute of Chinese Borderland Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said that these areas were named by the central and local (Tibetan) governments “throughout history, as well as ethnic groups such as the Tibetan, Lhoba, and Monba who have long lived in the region.”
Historically, it is again entirely wrong.
The move is apparently part of the implementation of the new the Land Border Law, which has come into effect on January 1, 2022.
The Global Times explained: “The eight residential places in the second batch are Sêngkêzong [Senge Dzong] and Daglungzong [Taklung Dzong] in Cona [Tsona] County of Shannan [Lhoka] Prefecture, Mani'gang [Manigong], Duding [Tuting]and Migpain [Migpan] in Medog [Metok] County of Nyingchi [Nyingtri], Goling, Damba [Tampa] in Zayu [Zayul] County of Nyingchi, and Mêjag [Mechag or Maja] in Lhunze [Lhuntse] County of Shannan Prefecture. ‘The four mountains are Wamo Ri, Dêu [Deu] Ri, Lhünzhub [Lhungrup] Ri and Kunmingxingzê [Guming Shingtse] Feng. The two rivers are Xênyogmo He [Syiom] and Dulain [Tulan] He, and the mountain pass is named Sê La [Sela], in Cona [Tsona] County.”
This chart shows that the ‘new’ names derive from Tibetan names (click to enlarge).

Why this mixture of different places is not clear.
But what is worrying is that Maja, south of Longju, where China built a new village on Indian territory a few months is included.
So is Tuting (Duding) in the Upper Siang district is also mentioned.
The time has perhaps come for India to reassert its claim on Minsar, the Indian principality near Mt Kailash.

My 2017 article...

China has announced 'official standardised' names for six places in Arunachal Pradesh.
It is a childish reaction to the Dalai Lama's visit to the State earlier this month.
The Chinese media said that Beijing's objective was to reaffirm China's claim over Arunachal, 'South Tibet' for the Chinese.
A few days earlier, Beijing had started naming ‘Tawang’ as ‘Dawang’, according to its pin yin spelling.
The Global Times reported: "China's ministry of civil affairs announced on April 14 that it had standardised in Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabet the names of six places in 'South Tibet', which India calls 'Arunachal Pradesh', in accordance with the regulations of the central government."
The official names of the six places (transcribed in Roman alphabet) are:

  • Wo'gyainling,
  • Mila Ri,
  • Qoidengarbo Ri,
  • Mainquka,
  • Bumo La and
  • Namkapub Ri.
Let us have a look where these places are located.

Wo'gyainling is the new spelling for Urgyeling, the birthplace of Tsangyang Gyaltso, the Sixth Dalai Lama, a few kilometers south of Tawang Town.
One understands the reasons why China is so attached to the place. Beijing is not ready to accept that a Dalai Lama could be born outside Tibet (China).

The second place is Mila Ri.
It is a lake known as Mila Nagula.
Mila Ri is one of the ridges above the lake.
‘Ri’ means ‘mountain’ or ‘ridge’ in Tibetan/Monpa.
It is situated near the famous 'Madhuri' Lake, north of Tawang and South of Bumla. The place is mentioned in the 1962 War records.

The third place is Qoidengarbo Ri, for 'Chorten Karpo’ or ‘White Stupa’.
It probably refers to Gorsam Chorten, the only large white stupa in the area (and the largest in Arunachal).
It is not far from Ziminthang, the tactical HQ of the 4 Infantry Division during the 1962 War.
The name may refer to one of the ridges around the stupa.

Mainquka is Menchuka in West Siang.
China is not happy that India recently landed a C17 Hercules transport aircraft in the area. Watch the video.
I have often written on Menchuka (or Mechuka, alternative spelling) on this blog.
Menchuka was occupied by the Chinese in October/November 1962.

Bumo La is the border post of Bumla where the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA meet several times a year.
Incidentally 'bumo' means 'girl' in Tibetan/Monpa.

Namkapub Ri is probably link to Namkha chu river, the theater of the first Chinese attack in 1962.
It is one of the ridges above the river (Hathungla?).

By naming these six places, Beijing probably wants to remind India of the 1962 War and the fact that the Dalai Lama ‘belongs to China’.
But renaming names is not new.
It has been done by all colonizers.
In this case, it will be difficult for China to convince the local populations to join them under the Communist banner.

Below a map showing the Chinese advances toward Tawang on October 23-24 1962 (courtesy: Maj Gen PJS Sandhu, retd) from the book 1962: A view from the Other Side of the Hill published by United Service Institution of India.
One can see Milakteng (Mila Ri) and Bumla. The stupa is not marked on the map.
Map by Brig John Dalvi, 7 Infantry Brigade commander in October 1962
The Gorsam Chorten (Stupa) and the Namkha Chu are shown.