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China’s string of pearls 7, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China, China and the ME.
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China's string of pearls

This (somewhat amateurish) map shows China’s string of pearls. This refers to ports that China has invested in to refurbish and use at their discretion. Those of a more alarmist nature see these moves akin to the establishment of Chinese naval bases by stealth. The map below highlights the reasoning behind these moves.

string-of-pearls1

China’s desire to secure the route for their ever expanding dependence on Middle Eastern oil and gas is understandable. No country in the world would want such a vital supply line out of their guaranteed control. Whilst China has frosty but reasonable relations with India and America, the only countries with the navy to challenge China in that part of the world, China can not count on these relations for ever. Indeed, with the ever increasing race for the Gulf’s oil and gas resources with India and the always-fractious issue of Taiwan with America, there are without doubt issues that can potentially arise.

Despite how understandable one may think China’s actions are, for India they must be arousing serious concerns. Having China’s potential military bases to close to their mainland, not to mention encircling them, is not something that the Indian government can take lightly. It is, therefore, no surprise that India are the second largest weapons importers in the world presently. As for America, they will not be overly pleased to see China’s reach extending towards the straits of Hormuz. Moreover, their preeminence in blue water is now coming under more and more of a threat. The military and the US Administration need to be aware, however, that these Chinese ports – despite what they might signify – are not, in and of themselves, a threat. America needs to keep any bellicose language to itself at this stage and save it for when it really matters.

Tajikistan pin their colours to the Chinese mast 6, February 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China.
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The Tajik government has spoken out vehemently against Taiwan’s planned referendum on UN membership. Here are excerpts of the statement released by the foreign ministry:

“Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing the whole of China…Tajikistan adheres to the one-China policy, and supports China’s efforts to pursue peaceful reunification and safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity…and it is also opposed to Taiwan’s attempt to join any international and regional organizations, to which only sovereign states are entitled.”

Quite strong stuff. Who will take a bet that Tajikistan have just or are about to seek/receive Chinese investment or aid in some way shape or form? Anyone….

 

The engine of China’s soft power boom 4, February 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China, Soft Power.
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The Taipei Times ran a story today complaining about the pervasiveness and effectiveness of Beijing’s Confucius Institutes. These are a relatively recent foray for China. These centres appear to be run along similar lines to Britain’s British Council, France’s Alliance Française and Germany’s Goethe Institute. This is to say that they are there to promote their home country where ever they may be. This is done in many ways. Activities can arrange from arranging music concerts, literary events, organising language classes to disseminating educational material about the home country.

The nameless official in the Taiwanese government claims that “they [the institutes] are controlled by the Chinese government and aim to use education and culture to gain international influence and promote the viewpoints of the Beijing government.” This is as good a definition of soft power as you can get. Indeed, as I have argued before, China have been significantly investing in this aspect of power in recent years. These Confucius Institutes are but one successful aspect of this. It is unsurprising that Taipei are not happy about their number and effectiveness – both Taipei and Beijing essentially propagate a one-China policy with each seeing itself as the rightful leader of the country.  It is of course possible that China are using such institutions as some kind of ‘front’ for underhand espionage (indeed, they have shown no qualms whatsoever about stealing from other governments in the past) but this does not seem that likely. However, the official is not even inferring this – merely that China are promoting their culture – hardly the greatest of crimes. Indeed, the world will be a much safer place if China continue down this path of expanding their soft power and forgo the hard power route of coercion and threats.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2008/01/31/2003399603