Thursday, June 15, 2023

China in suspense as Xi, 70, has junked succession plan

My article Claude Arpi | China in suspense as Xi, 70, has junked succession plan appeared in Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

After Xi Jinping was given a third five-year term as China’s president in March 2023, AP News commented that he was “on track to stay in power for life at a time of severe economic challenges and rising tensions with the U.S. and others. The endorsement of Xi’s appointment by the ceremonial National People’s Congress was a foregone conclusion for a leader who has sidelined potential rivals and filled the top ranks of the ruling Communist Party with his supporters since taking power in 2012.”
While a number of analysts like to make predictions about the succession of the Dalai Lama and its immediate implications, very few think of a sudden departure of the ‘Core Leader’ of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
However in a book entitled Party of One, The Wall Street Journal reporter Chun Han Wong documented what could happen in case of Xi’s sudden death or purge.
But before analyzing Wong’s conclusion let us have a look at the death of Zhou Enlai who should have succeeded Mao, the Great Helmsman, …if it was not in China.
By the end of 1975, both were suffering from cancer, but Mao was keen to see his Premier to leave this world before him as the Premier was more ‘popular’ than him with the masses.
Dr Li Zhisui, the Chairman’s private physician remembered that as Zhou Enlai was dying, Mao never went to see him in the hospital.
On November 29, 1975, when Dr Li visited the Premier, Zhou was too weak to even lift his hand: “That was the last time I saw him. Zhou Enlai died on January 8, 1976,” noted Dr Li.
The doctor remembered that there was hardly any reaction in Group One, Mao’s close guard: “Many of the doctors on Mao’s medical team had also treated Zhou, and they wanted to visit the 305 Hospital [in Beijing] to pay their last respects. When I presented their request to Zhang Yaoci [the commander of the Central Garrison Corps.], his response was swift and stern. The doctors were not permitted to go, and no one was to wear the black armband of mourning.” Mao was jealous of Zhou’s popularity.
Dr Li continued: “As Chinese New Year approached, Zhang Yufeng [Mao’s Secretary and female companion] wanted to celebrate. She suggested that Zhang Yaoci set off firecrackers outside Mao’s residence. Zhang was happy to please her, …the area suddenly swarmed with guards and soldiers from the Central Garrison Corps. Zhongnanhai had long had a ban against firecrackers. … [at the same time] a rumor began circulating that the Chairman was celebrating Zhou’s death with firecrackers.”
This shows that succession is always simple in China.
In Axios China, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian analyzed: “After the death of Chinese dictator Mao Zedong in 1976, which resulted in years of instability at the party's highest levels, party leaders eventually developed a relatively stable model of succession in which each top leader served for two five-year terms, with a clear successor already waiting in the wings. …But Xi dismantled that system by abolishing term limits, not designating a successor and assuming a third term.”
That is a serious issue for China today.
Wong believes that a drama looms once again: “Xi confronts a timeless conundrum that scholars call the ‘Successor’s Dilemma’. Dictators prefer to choose their own successors, but Xi has so far avoided this path.”
The WSJ correspondent further elaborated: “as the designated successor tries to build power, the political elite will naturally start realigning their loyalties — a process that can undermine the incumbent leader, who may come to fear that the heir apparent is plotting to usurp power.” This happened with Mao’s once heir-apparent, Lin Biao who disappeared in a mysterious plane accident.
It is also probably why the one-time heir apparent Hu Chunhua was dropped during the last Party Congress.
Wong’s conclusion is: "By remaking the party around himself, Xi may have become the weakest link in his quest to build a Chinese superpower.”
On June 15, Xi will be 70 year old.
According to Wong: “The uncertainty over his succession plans keeps the party elite on their toes. …But keeping the suspense for too long could backfire, alienating protégés and antagonizing enemies enough to undermine the leader or even sow the seeds for a coup d’état.”
The WSJ journalist has a point.
Today China is a country with the world’s second-largest population (behind India) and economy (behind the United States).
Further it has one of the most powerful militaries which could be tempted to grab the power in case of a crisis.
A 2010 study, political scientists Alexandre Debs and HE Goemans looked at the fate of some 1,800 political leaders worldwide: “from the late 1910s to the early 2000s. Some 41% of the 1,059 autocrats suffered exile, imprisonment or death within a year of leaving office, compared with just 7% of 763 democratic leaders,” they noted.
On May 26, Wang Junzheng, Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region gave a speech in Lhasa. Wang asked all cadres to study and implement of Xi Jinping's important instructions on Tibet …and defend the ‘two establishments’, resolutely enhance the ‘four consciousnesses’, firmly stand by the ‘four self-confidence’, achieve ‘two safeguards’, …and promote the strict governance of the Party, in order to vigorously promote the ‘four creations’ and strive to achieve the ‘four leading positions’ and the ‘four in the forefront’.” All this to bring peace and stability on the snowy plateau.
You may not understand this type of Communist jargon, but it hides a real problem, what will happen if the supreme boss goes; this nobody knows.
Ko Wen-je, nominee for the Taiwan's People's Party (TPP) for the next presidential election, recently declared that Xi Jinping's rule over China will not last forever: "If we believe in universal values, then why do we think China will never have democracy and freedom?"
It is fine thought, but it may not happen soon.
Xi himself recently spoke of the complexity and severity of national security problems faced by China: “We must be prepared for worst-case and extreme scenarios, and be ready to withstand the major test of high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms.”
The fact remains that the system put in place by the ‘Core Leader’ seriously aggravates the already difficult internal and external situation.
India and the World should be prepared for the worst.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The Barahoti saga: Failure of 'Nehru doctrine' and deceitful nature of Dragon

My article
The Barahoti saga: Failure of 'Nehru doctrine' and deceitful nature of Dragon  appeared in Firstpost

Here is the link...

Hardly two months after the Panchsheel Agreement was signed, India discovered that all problems had not been solved. The first Chinese incursion took place in Barahoti in June 1954. This was followed by a series of intrusions numbering in the hundreds 

The Hindu recently reported that new posts of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had sprung up some six-seven kilometres north of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Middle Sector on the Indo-Tibet boundary, “while the frequency of patrolling has also significantly increased in certain areas,” it noted.
Citing sources in the Government, the newspaper asserted that China was actively expanding its network of ‘Xiaokang’ model villages (‘Xiaokang’ meaning ‘moderately prosperous villages’), along the Middle Sector of the LAC. These villages are said to be constructed with the main objective of ‘poverty alleviation’, but one could ask: is there a need for hundreds of such villages precisely on India’s northern borders …if there was no other purpose?
Obviously, these villages have a ‘dual use’; further, the fact both that Tibetans and Hans are settled there will quickly change the demography of the border areas, moreover providing bases or garrisons for the PLA when required.
The report also mentioned that the Chinese are “building villages at a rapid pace, sometimes as many as 300-400 houses in multi-storey blocks within 90-100 days. …Construction of a likely border settlement village was observed northwest of Tholing area [north of Chamoli district Uttarakhand] and a military complex is also under construction close by. Superstructures of buildings in both the locations are complete.”
China apparently uses prefabricated parts extensively to construct the houses at a quick pace.

Historical Background
The history of how Barahoti became a disputed area is interesting.
Let us remember that for centuries the Indo-Tibet frontier had been peaceful; however the Indian diplomats who negotiated the Panchsheel Agreement foolishly ‘avoided’ confirming India’s northern frontiers during the talks and in the final accord signed in April 1954. India still pays dearly for this monumental lapse.
The signature of the Panchsheel Agreement with China, through which India surrendered all its rights and responsibilities in Tibet while getting nothing in return, was a complete surrender to China; Delhi did not wait long to see the consequences of The ‘Nehru doctrine’ (to be friendly at any cost with China).

A Historical Background by the Intelligence Bureau
Let us go into the history of the so-called dispute; in July 1952, in a note ‘Border Disputes and Collection of Taxes by Tibetans in Garhwal District’, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) described the topography of the area (today’s Chamoli district of Uttarakhand): “The Garhwal-Tibet border can only be crossed through the Mana and Niti Valleys where there are open places and habitation, while the rest of the border area consists of snow-covered mountains studded with glaciers…”
The IB report continued its descriptions of the area: “There are four passes between Niti Valley and Tibet, namely: Gothing Pass, Damjin [Tunjun] Pass, Hoti Pass and Ghirti Pass. Niti, the Northern most village in the Indian territory, is situated 11 miles from Gothing Pass and Damjin Pass. There are few plains situated near these passes in the Indian territory.”
These passes marked the watershed line: north was Tibet (China after 1951), south was India.
The Intelligence note admitted that once in the 19th century, there was a short boundary dispute about Hoti Plain. Giving the background, it says: “About the end of the last [19th] century, the Tibetans had established a Customs Post at Hoti Plain. To stop this practice, the British Govt. had to send out a detachment of Gurkhas along with Shri Dharma Nand Joshi, Deputy Collector in 1890.”
The Tibetan official (called a Sarji, an emissary of the Tibetan Dzongpon or District Commissioner) usually crossed the border at Tunjun-la pass to announce the beginning of the trading season.
Though the access to the place was difficult, making it hard to keep a tab on the area, the British were quick to understand the plot and stop the Tibetan official to cross the pass.
Soon after the Chinese occupied Western Tibet in the early 1950s, they started claiming Barahoti as theirs. The IB recommended to the Government of India that it was essential that Delhi “should make it clear to the Govt. of Tibet and its Dzongpon that the Hoti Plain is Indian territory and the Tibetans have no right to establish any customs post there; nor can they exercise any authority in the area.”
But the Tibetan Government was fast losing its independence.

The Ink was Hardly Dry
Hardly two months after the Panchsheel Agreement was signed, India discovered that all problems had not been solved, as just announced in Parliament by the Prime Minister. The first Chinese incursion took place in Barahoti in June 1954. This was followed by a series of intrusions numbering into hundreds and culminating in the attack on India in October 1962.
The irony of the story of the first intrusion is that it was China which complained about the incursion of Indian troops… on India’s territory!
Though Barahoti was well inside India’s frontiers (clearly south of Tunjun-la, the watershed), arguments about the new ‘dispute’ continued with the exchange of hundreds of notes during the following months ...and years.
TN Kaul who had negotiated the Panchsheel Agreement, (before being sent back to Delhi for having an affair with a Chinese woman), philosophically explained later: “Territorial disputes have existed between near and distant neighbours through the ages. The question is whether they can and should be resolved by war, threat, use of force or through the more civilized and peaceful method of negotiation... Both sides still profess their faith in the Five Principles, and therein lies perhaps some hope for the future.”
The Five Principles had put Kaul and his colleagues to sleep.

1850 Map of Hoti
Where is Wuje?
In the meantime, the Chinese started calling Barahoti by the name of ‘Wuje’ creating more confusion in the minds of the Indian diplomats (the same tactic of changing the names of places is today used in Arunachal Pradesh).
During the following months, the Chinese would insist on sending a joint investigating team to this spot, something Delhi always refused. The main reason for Beijing to insist on a joint investigation team was that Beijing did not know that Barahoti was located south of Tunjun-la and therefore in India.

A New Note

Over the years, as the situation continued to deteriorate, a note was prepared by Jagat Mehta, Director (China) in the Ministry of External Affairs in 1961. It provides the background of Barahoti saga during the preceding years. Mehta writes: “The Chinese claim to the Barahoti became known to us in 1954, when the Indian and Chinese army faced each other in the small pasture ground. The suggestion for refraining from sending the troops was first made in 1955 and was reiterated in 1956; it was agreed that no troops should be sent by either party in 1957, and a conference to discuss the dispute regarding Bara Hoti was held in April – June 1958.”
At the end of the conference, it was agreed that “neither side should send forces in exercise of its supposed right during the talks and until the question was settled.”
At the same time, the Chinese reiterated again their desire for a joint investigation, while “persistently refused to specify the actual area of Wuje. When pressed, in a vague manner they said that Wuje covered 15 kms north to south and 10 kms, east to west, but no coordinates were given even with reference to this area.”
Mehta explained that India made it clear that Barahoti was a small pasture ground south of Tunjun-la: “during the talks we specified the relevant coordinates and pointed out that the area involved was 2 miles in length and ¾ of a mile in breadth. The Chinese did not agree to our suggestion for the complete neutralization of this area and hinted that they would continue to send civil officials, where upon we also informed them that we were reserving the right to send our own revenue officials to this area.”
The agreement was that the patrols should be unarmed; while India always kept its promise, already in 1958, China sent an armed detachment to the area after the Indian civil party withdrew in September.
Two points should be made to conclude: though it was not necessary for India to participate in a conference for Barahoti in 1958 as the area was clearly south of the watershed and therefore in India, Delhi agreed out of goodwill and for the sake of the ‘friendship’ with China. It did not help to find a solution for the issue.
The second point is that even after agreeing not to send armed patrols to the remote plain, Beijing did not keep its word. It was the beginning of a series of un-kept promises, which continues till today in Eastern Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh.