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Thread: China's "small stick" approach to S. China Sea

  1. #1

    China's "small stick" approach to S. China Sea

    China's "small stick" approach to S. China Sea

    Posted at 05/16/2012 10:31 AM | Updated as of 05/16/2012 10:31 AM

    HONG KONG - In a month-long standoff between China and the Philippines over a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, Beijing has so far refrained from sending warships from its increasingly powerful and modern navy to enforce its territorial claims.

    Instead, China has deployed patrol vessels from its expanding fleet of paramilitary ships to Scarborough Shoal, known in Chinese as Huangyan Island. Naval experts say the intent is to minimize the risk of conflict and contain any regional backlash.

    After alarming some of its neighbours in recent years with assertive behaviour in the South China Sea, China has turned to "small stick" diplomacy, using unarmed or lightly armed patrol boats from fisheries, marine surveillance and other civilian agencies rather than warships.

    Shen Dingli, a security expert at Shanghai's Fudan University, said the role of these vessels was to demonstrate "soft power" and avoid the impression that China was engaged in gunboat diplomacy.

    "Therefore, it is more peaceful and moral," he said.

    Beijing, however, has shown no sign of compromise in a standoff that began when Chinese civilian patrol vessels last month intervened to stop the Philippines from arresting Chinese fisherman working in the disputed area. More such incidents are likely unless the Philippines can provide a counterweight to the challenge, either on its own or with allies, security analysts say.

    China's tough stance comes at a time of spectacular political scandal and swirling rumours of high-level infighting over the sacking of the once high-flying Chongqing Party boss, Bo Xilai.

    Political analysts say the ruling Communist Party will be anxious to show that it is has the unity and strength to defend any challenge to the country's territory ahead of the once-in-a-decade leadership later this year.

    Senior leaders vying for top positions will also be keen to shore up their nationalist credentials with the politically powerful military.


    Both nations claim sovereignty over the group of rocks, reefs and small islands about 220 km (132 miles) from the Philippines with patrol vessels and fishing boats from each side deployed to the area in an increasingly acrimonious confrontation.

    China's defense ministry last week took the unusual step of denying reports it was preparing for war, but the People's Liberation Army Daily, the military's mouthpiece, warned the Philippines was making "serious mistakes" in maintaining its claim.

    "We want to say that anyone's attempt to take away China's sovereignty over Huangyan Island will not be allowed by the Chinese government, people and armed forces," it said.

    Manila has called for the United Nation's International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to rule on the dispute in the strategically important and resource-rich sea. Half the world's merchant fleet tonnage sails across the sea and around these islets each year, carrying $5 trillion worth of trade.

    While Beijing has thus far kept its navy at a distance, the Philippines, like most regional nations, is well aware it would be overwhelmingly outgunned by China's powerful military if it came to a fight.

    After more than two decades of double digit increases in defense spending, China has an expanding fleet of advanced warships, submarines -- now the largest in Asia -- and long-range strike aircraft.

    However, if Beijing resorts to force, it would almost certainly drive other claimants to territory in the South China Sea -- including Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia -- closer together. Those three countries, along with the Philippines, are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is creating an EU style-community that also envisions joint security.

    Regional nations also have begun to cement closer military ties with the United States. Starting with a trip late last year, U.S. President Barack Obama has touted a "pivot" toward the economically dynamic Asia-Pacific region in an effort to reassure nervous allies of the U.S. commitment as China flexes its economic and military muscle.


    That means China will likely continue to send a strong message with its civilian patrol boats while keeping its real firepower in reserve, according to security experts.

    "It is much easier for paramilitary vessels to assert sovereignty claims with less probability of escalation to armed violence," said Christian Le Miere, a maritime security researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

    "It allows for more containable events and incidents."

    Other Asian nations have also been expanding their paramilitary fleets in recent years, particularly Japan which has a powerful coastguard. China's use of these vessels, however, is drawing the most attention.

    An early indication of the effectiveness of this strategy was China's sustained harassment in early 2009 of the U.S. spy ship Impeccable in the South China Sea off Hainan Island.

    Chinese patrol boats and surveillance ships buzzed and tormented the Impeccable for days, at one point even attempting to grapple its underwater sonar array used to identify and track submarines.

    "If China had deployed naval ships, the response of the U.S. might have been more aggressive," says Le Miere who has studied the use of paramilitary ships in Asia.

    For China, devoting more resources to these forces fills an important gap in its maritime power between its massive merchant fleet and its expanding, blue water navy.


    Chinese maritime specialists have called on Beijing to devote more attention to the civilian agencies responsible for enforcing domestic law and maintaining order in its territorial waters

    The main Chinese government agencies that deploy patrol vessels in the South China Sea and other coastal waters are the Maritime Safety Administration, the Maritime Police of the Border Control Department, the Fisheries Law Enforcement Command, the General Administration of Customs and the State Oceanographic Administration

    Other, smaller agencies including provincial governments and local police and customs also send patrol boats and surveillance vessels to sea.

    The paramilitaries that China has sent to Scarborough Shoals include the 1,300-tonne Haijian 75 and 1,740-tonne Haijian 84, advanced surveillance vessels from the State Oceanographic Administration.

    Beijing also stationed the 2,580-tonne Yuzheng-310, it's most advanced fisheries law enforcement vessel, off the disputed shoal.

    Some Chinese and foreign experts have criticized the disjointed coordination of these forces.

    Outspoken People's Liberation Army Strategist, Major General Luo Yuan, in March called for China to establish a unified coast guard, similar to those of Japan, the United States and Russia.

    In interviews with state-controlled media, Luo said up to nine agencies were now responsible for enforcing maritime law which sometimes led to waste and inefficiency.

    "If China integrated these forces, it could act more flexibly when maritime incidents occur," he said.

    As tension mounted at Scarborough Shoal, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group warned in a report late last month that China's poorly coordinated and sometimes competing civilian agencies were inflaming frictions over disputed territory.

    "Any future solution to the South China Sea dispute needs to address the problem of China's mix of diverse actors and construct a coherent and centralized maritime policy and law enforcement strategy," it said. Changing The Face of The Game!

  2. #2
    US think-tank warns China spat to worsen

    by Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau
    Posted at 05/18/2012 8:37 AM | Updated as of 05/18/2012 11:05 AM

    WASHINGTON D.C. - China’s growing belligerence in disputed waters of the South China Sea will only grow and worsen, according to testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

    “China has a coherent multi-dimensional approach to global competition which also includes the domination of sea-lanes and civil airspace in East Asia. This is one of Beijing’s top strategic goals, not just for economic and military advantage, but also for domestic political legitimacy and regional diplomatic propaganda,” said John Tkacik Jr., Director of the Future Asia Project.

    The Future Asia Project is part of the Washington DC-think tank International Strategy and Assessment Center that specializes on American security issues.

    “China’s increasingly adamantine territorial sea claims in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and the East China Sea is certain to be resolved only one of two ways: either China gets what it wants or it will use armed conflict to enforce its so-called ‘core interests’,” Tkacik told the congressional panel last March.

    “China’s military has systematically garrisoned several chains of submerged coral shoals in the Spratlys west of the southern Philippine island of Palawan, secretly emplacing huge caissons of concrete in their shallow water and constructing massive platforms and anchorages. The Chinese forcefully ejected Philippines troops from Mischief Reef in 1995, and the Philippines has been complaining about it ever since,” he testified.

    Tkacik said China was tightening its strategic presence in the South China Sea. He quoted China’s East Fleet deputy commander Admiral Zhang Huachen’s explanation: “With the expansion of the country's economic interests, the navy wants to better protect the country's transportation routes and the safety of our major sea lanes.”

    He listed recent incidents involving China and other countries.

    April 2001 – Chinese fighter jet collides with an American “Orion” patrol plane off Hainan Island.

    June 11, 2009 – Chinese submarine cuts the sonar array cable being towed by the USS John McCain about 140 miles northwest of Subic Bay.

    August 2011 – Chinese ships challenged an Indian Navy ship transiting two Vietnamese ports.

    February 2012 – Chinese vessels prevented Vietnamese fishing boats from seeking storm refuge in the Paracel Islands

    A month after Tkacik’s testimony, Chinese ships stopped the Philippines from arresting Chinese fishermen caught harvesting endangered and protected marine life in Scarborough Shoal, about a hundred miles off the main Philippine island of Luzon.

    The stand-off has triggered protests in Manila as well as from Filipinos who picketed Chinese consular offices in major US cities.

    In March 2010, Tkacik said, Chinese assistant foreign minister Cui Tianki told US officials that its claim to the South China Sea was at par with its claims to Tibet and Taiwan.

    “Thereafter, Chinese diplomats proclaimed a ‘core interest’ in the South China Sea to progressively more senior Americans – and Southeast Asians as well. In tandem, Chinese security scholars declared in the official media that “by adding the South China Sea to its core interests, China has shown its determination to secure its maritime resources and strategic waters,” he explained.

    State Secretary Hillary Clinton responded shortly after by declaring “The United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea.”

    Following the Scarborough Shoal stand-off, China abruptly rejected banana exports from the Philippines and discouraged Chinese tourists from visiting the country.

    Tkacik observed China resorts to “economic punishment” of Southeast Asian neighbors that “have the temerity to challenge new Chinese assertions of territorial sovereignty in South China Sea waters.”

    A September 2010 flare-up in the Japanese Senkaku islands that China also claims as hers led to the arrest of a Chinese fishing boat captain who rammed a Japanese coast guard cutter, Tkacik recounted.

    “This was followed by three weeks of steadily escalating diplomatic demarches, protests and threats culminating in a de facto Chinese embargo on exports of Chinese rare-earths oxides (essential in the manufacture of advanced electronic 23 devices) to Japan,” he said.

    “Is China’s expanding security footprint in the South China Sea a problem for the US as well as Southeast Asia?,” Tkacik asked, “As former Asia policy aide to President George W. Bush, Michael Green, put it: ‘The Chinese are elbowing, seeing how far they can go before the referee blows the whistle on them and they get a yellow card . . . This is also a [Chinese] signal to Vietnam, the Philippines, and the smaller countries in the region, that ‘look, if we can do this to the Americans, what chance do you think you have?’” Changing The Face of The Game!

  3. #3
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    Asian territory disputes could trigger war: Panetta

    by Dan De Luce, Agence France Presse
    Posted at 09/16/2012 8:50 PM | Updated as of 09/16/2012 8:50 PM

    TOKYO - China and other Asian countries could end up at war over territorial disputes if governments keep up their "provocative behavior", US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Sunday.

    Speaking to reporters before arriving in Tokyo on a trip to Asia, Panetta appealed for restraint amid mounting tensions over territorial rights in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

    "I am concerned that when these countries engage in provocations of one kind or another over these various islands, that it raises the possibility that a misjudgment on one side or the other could result in violence, and could result in conflict," Panetta said, when asked about a clash between Japan and China.

    "And that conflict would then have the potential of expanding."

    The Pentagon chief's trip coincides with an escalating row between Asia's two largest economies over an archipelago in the East China Sea administered by Tokyo under the name Senkaku and claimed by China under the name Diaoyu.

    Tensions have steadily mounted since pro-Beijing activists were arrested and deported after landing on one of the islands in August. Japanese nationalists then followed, raising their flag on the same island days later.

    On Tuesday, Japan announced it had nationalized three of the islands in the chain, triggering protests in China. Tokyo already owns another and leases the fifth.

    The uninhabited islands are in important sea lanes and the seabed nearby is thought to harbor valuable mineral resources.

    Sometimes violent demonstrations have been held in China near diplomatic missions in the days since Tokyo's announcement, although there have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

    Panetta said he and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "both strongly urge that these countries -- rather than engaging in that provocative behavior -- engage in an effort to find ways to peacefully resolve these kind of issues."

    Panetta, who is due to hold talks on Monday with his Japanese counterpart before heading to China, predicted economic rivalry would lead to more feuds in the future over potentially resource-rich areas in the Asia-Pacific region.

    "We're going to face more of this. Countries are searching for resources," he said, adding: "There's got to be a peaceful way to resolve these issues."

    "What we don't want is to have any kind of provocative behavior on the part of China or anybody else result in conflict."

    Territorial disputes in the South China Sea also have Washington worried, as China has refused to withdraw claims to virtually all of the strategic waterway and has been accused of bullying smaller states in the area.

    The Philippines and Vietnam have alleged Beijing has used intimidation to push its claims in the South China Sea, through which around half of the world's cargo passes.

    The United States has backed an effort by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to seek a code to govern access to the sea, which would establish rules and a formal dialogue to prevent incidents from escalating into full-blown conflict.

    Panetta's trip is part of a bid by President Barack Obama to shift Washington's diplomatic and military focus to Asia, amid concern over China's growing power and assertive stance.

    But skeptics question if the Pentagon has the resources to exert sufficient influence in Asia, especially when it must contend with repeated crises in the Middle East.

  4. #4

    US expert sees fall of China

    By Amando Doronila

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    12:44 am | Monday, September 24th, 2012

    CANBERRA—As the Philippines gets embroiled deeper into conflict with China over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea, a new study by an influential adviser to the US defense department was published in Australian mainstream media on Saturday reporting that Australia has been “quietly building a regional defense coalition to restrain China’s “aggressive” and “autistic” international behavior.

    The provocative book, “The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy,” due for publication in November, is authored by Edward Luttwak, a senior associate for the Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, and consultant to the Pentagon. For scholars on Third World power seizures in the 1970s, Luttwak is noted for the seminal book, “Coup d’État” (Harvard University Press, 1979).

    Writing for the major Australian newspapers (including Canberra Times, The Age of Melbourne and Sydney Morning Herald), correspondent John Garnaut dispatched an exclusive story from Beijing with the headline, “Australia counters Chinese threat.”

    Excerpts of the story are summarized below for the purpose of informing Philippine foreign policy authorities, who have been caught floundering in their response to increasing Chinese maritime incursions into disputed areas in the Spratly Islands and Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), claimed by the Philippines as part of its exclusive economic zone, on how Australia is reacting to this “threat.”

    The Philippines is linked to Australia in a defense arrangement under which the two Pacific allies signed in 2007 the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement.

    According to the report on the Luttwak book, the study contradicts Australian and US denials that they see China as a threat or want to contain its rise, but it also says that the United States should support them.

    Luttwak writes, “Australians view themselves as facing a strategic threat.” According to the report, the book praises Australia’s initiative in forging ties with countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia and India, that lie beyond America’s natural security orbit, as well as broadening the defense networks of close US allies such as Japan.

    “Each of these Australian initiatives derives from a prior broader decision to take the initiative in building a structure of collective security piece by piece, and not just leave it all to the Americans,” the book says.

    But a spokesperson for Defense Minister Stephen Smith dismissed talk of containment, the report said.

    “It is not possible for a country or countries to contain another country with a population of 1.3 billion,” the spokesperson said.

    “The shifting strategic influences must be managed by the international community through constructive and positive bilateral relationship, through dialogue and through regional architecture.”


    Luttwak is a consultant to the Pentagon think tank, Office of Net Assessment, and is reported to have high-level access to Chinese and US military officials.

    According to the correspondent’s article from Beijing, China’s impact on Asia-Pacific security was on display last week after it hardened territorial claims over the tiny Japanese-administered islands known as the Senkaku, or Diaoyu group.

    “If necessary, we could make Diaoyu islands a target range for China’s air force and plant mines around them,” Gen. Luo Yuan said in state-run Global Times.

    The Garnaut article reported that Australian National University’s Hugh White had argued that the United States needs to “share power” with what is going to be “the most formidable power” Washington has “ever faced.”

    Luttwak, however, argues that the “logic of strategy” dictates that “neighbors will naturally coalesce against the new rising threat,” thus preventing China from realizing anything like the relative military power that has been projected.

    This resistance arrived early for China because of the “hubristic turn” it took after 2008.

    “They (the Chinese) have been imbecilic enough to relaunch territorial quarrels with Japan, Vietnam and India more or less on the same day, when those three countries have more people, more money and more technology than China,” the book said.

    “The rapid accession to prosperity has been a very common way for countries to lose their sanity,” Luttwak wrote. China suffered from ancient and new foreign policy weaknesses.

    “The Chinese are autistic in dealing with foreigners, they have no sense of the ‘other,’” he said. “They think they are incredibly brilliant strategists as if they have been conquering other nation, when, in fact, it’s been the other way around for 1,500 years.”

    China heading for fall

    While Luttwak’s critique will challenge prevailing understandings in Western policy circles, the article said, it echoes criticisms in China itself.

    In describing the book before its publication date on Nov. 15, issued this synopsis:

    “As the rest of the world worries about what a future might look like under Chinese supremacy, Edward Luttwak worries about China’s own future prospects. Applying the logic of strategy for which he is well known, Luttwak argues that the most populous nation on Earth—and its second largest economy—may be headed for a fall.

    “For any country whose rising strength cannot go unnoticed, the universal logic of strategy allows only military or economic growth. But China is pursuing both goals simultaneously. Its military buildup and assertive foreign policy have already stirred up resistance among its neighbors. Unless China’s leaders check their own ambitions, a host of countries, which are already forming tacit military coalitions, will start to impose economic restrictions as well. Chinese leaders will find it difficult to choose between pursuing economic prosperity and increasing China’s military strength.

    “Chinese leaders would have to end their reliance on ancient strategic texts, such as Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War.’ While these guides might have helped in diplomatic and military conflicts within China itself, their tactics—such as deliberately provoking crises to force negotiations—turned China’s neighbors into foes. To avoid arousing the world’s enmity further, Luttwak advises, Chinese leaders would be wise to pursue a more sustainable course of economic growth with increasing military and diplomatic restraint.”

  5. #5
    Looking at China as Chinese do


    By Jarius Bondoc

    (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 23, 2012 - 12:00am

    Martin Jacques makes a strong case for Western leaders to not use Western concepts in trying to know China. Those leaders, says the British economist-sinologist, includes many in Southeast Asia who were raised in Western thinking. Rather, he advises, view China the way the Chinese do, in order to plot what kind of global power it will be.

    That shouldn’t be too hard for Filipinos, mostly schooled Western-style but also a fourth Chinese and so revere their heritage. By their surname, eyes and skin, one can tell that the country’s highest political, business and civic leaders have Chinese ancestry. Perhaps they’d be the best appreciators of Jacques’s book, When China Rules the World, his many talks (especially on, and a recent lecture in Manila (sponsored by The STAR).

    Three points account for China’s unity, order and stability, Jacques says:

    • China is more a civilization-state than a nation-state, as the West sees countries. Multicultural, it can concurrently sustain diverse systems, including economic as illustrated by Hong Kong-Macau compared to the mainland. It is so conscious of national history, and aims to correct the century-long humiliation by the West. It knows its place in the world, having been the biggest contributor (over 30 percent) to economic output pre-Industrial Revolution, declining in contrast to the West, but now fast climbing back to the past figure.

    • Relatedly, 90 percent of the Chinese, concentrated in the central to the eastern and southern provinces, are of the Han race. So 1.17 billion of its 1.3-billion population has affinity to the state. Such oneness is the glue that holds the huge country together, unlike fallen empires. In economic terms, cohesive China is using more and more its currency for foreign trade; HSBC foresees half of such trade to be using the renminbi by 2012.

    • The Chinese view the state as extension of the individual, to some degree a member of the family. Unlike Western critics who brand the communist rule as an illegitimate political system, the Chinese credit the Party with their economic leap. (Democracy does not mean stability, Jacques says, pointing to Italy.) The Chinese, surveys show, have higher trust in the central government than provincial or district, and certainly township or village councils.

    Given these, many countries smartly have hitched economic rides with China. Even Korea and Japan that have bitter territorial disputes with China have it as their biggest trade and investment partner. Jacques suggests that Manila too set aside, though not waive, its sea row with the giant neighbor, to invigorate economic ties.

    Jacques fortifies his advice with a point that even Chinese-Filipinos find hard to believe. China, he says, is not imperialistic. It does aim to conquer other lands; the last time it went to war for territory was over seven centuries ago, and supposedly only to regain past possessions of the Middle Kingdom.

    Truly China may not be thinking of military expansion at this point. But that’s only because it is still building up militarily. And yet it has clashed with Korea, Japan and Russia over small islands in the East Sea, as well as Vietnam in the South China Sea. Despite pacts for status quo, it has occupied reefs and shoals disputed with the Philippines. As far back as 1985 China’s People’s Liberation Army sought to establish a new Great Wall two thousand miles from its shores, in the Pacific beyond Japan and the Philippines.

    Looking at the country the way the Chinese do, China can be neo-colonial without being militaristic (yet). It has been bribing despots in Africa with “aid”, in exchange for mines, minerals and timber. It will do anything to get its hands on coal and petroleum resources.

    China can be Cold Warlike too. Its way of subjugating the West is by implanting bugs and malware in telecoms systems and components, as the US Congress subcommittee on intelligence found out about ZTE and Huawei. Recently it withheld rare earth metal exports to Japan due to the sea quarrel.

    And a government that does not fully democratize is liable to militarize. The Beijing government restricts Internet use even for education, research and communication. Weeks ago it jammed Google, just because the Party leaders were transitioning. It is allergic to social media and blogs that are not apparatchik.

    * * *

    About this time of year I’d usually be running the Christmas wish list of the dozens of child patients of Cancer Warriors Foundation. Most of the 168 young cancer victims suffer from leukemia; some from worse, painful, debilitating types. Their gift wishes have ranged from a toy doll to a bike, a family picnic at the Luneta to meeting Kris Aquino, a prosthetic leg to a wheelchair.

    Over the past three years the group has enlisted regular Yuletide donors. Still it is in need of funds to sustain — yearlong — the treatment and, for some, the daily meals and education of the kids. Any amount from abroad or in the Philippines is welcome, in these bank accounts:

    Cancer Warriors Foundation, Inc.

    • UnionBank (UPB) ICTSI Branch

    # 00-157-000-1010 (for Manila patients)

    # 00-157-000-1100 (for Batangas patients)

    • Banco de Oro (BDO) DPC Place-Don Chino Roces Makati

    # 00540-800-8808

    # 5400085084 (dollar)

    • MetroBank Marajo Tower Branch-The Fort

    # 519-7-51901107-3

    • RCBC Don Chino Roces Makati

    # 02-888-037-81

    Know more about the foundation online or Facebook.

    * * *

  6. #6


    By Alex Magno

    (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 22, 2012 - 12:00am

    During the closing ceremonies of the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), some of the attendees were seen weeping unabashedly. It could be they were swept up by the grandness of the event — or maybe they worry about the party’s future in a rapidly changing society.

    The CPC today has 82.6 million members. Compare that with a party membership of just 73.3 million five years ago. No problem with recruitment, apparently.

    At its present size, the CPC is larger than most of the world’s nations. There is a party member for every 15 citizens. They are deeply embedded in every aspect of Chinese society, a strong cadre of the most populous nation’s most talented and most committed to the goal of making China strong.

    It takes months, sometimes years, of training and internship before one’s candidacy for party membership is approved. There is no compensation for the political work a party member does. Party membership hardly enhances one’s career prospects as the CPC guards against discrimination and ensures promotion on the basis of merit.

    The CPC has long moved away from its old role of “arousing and mobilizing the masses.” That has become anachronistic for a ruling party whose principal concern is consolidating stability. No one sees the once ubiquitous hammer-and-sickle logo displayed anymore. Although largely a conglomerate of competing factions, the CPC interprets its role as the bulwark of meritocracy that supplies this large and complex society with leaders.

    Stability is a cardinal concern in China, a complex society of hundreds of languages and a host of ethnicities. For centuries, dynasties and emperors saw as their first duty the prevention of a return to the chaotic conditions of the Warring States. The CPC is heir to this mindset.

    This is a powerful mindset, one that inspired the construction of the Great Wall, a grand public works project that took hundreds of years to complete. It is the same mindset that somehow found the Tiananmen Massacre a justifiable state response. Note that this tragic, universally condemned suppression of student protestors did not result in a massive purge nor did it substantially undermine the CPC’s legitimacy.

    Today, young Chinese citizens even say that if the state did not respond as drastically as it did when a million protestors massed at Tiananmen Square, China would not have achieved the impressive economic emergence of the past two decades.

    The role the CPC’s monopoly of power might be likened to the regnum and sacerdotium — the complementary hierarchies of temporal and Church authorities — that dominated medieval Europe for an entire millennium. The Church hierarchy replicated the aristocratic hierarchy and provided it its legitimacy. That dual hierarchy conserved the feudal order, for better or for worse.

    Critics of this unique complementarity between the CPC and the state in China, however, point to certain drawbacks.

    The promotion of new leaders in the Chinese system is determined more by factional allegiance than by strict merit. Political personalities identified with the Jiang Zemin faction, for instance, dominate the powerful standing committee of the CPC installed at the close of last week’s 12th national congress. Jiang himself, who continues to wield power long after he stepped down as party and government leader in 2002, was a protégé of Deng Xiaoping. The new party leader Xi Jinping is a protégé of Hu Jintao.

    This suggests strong networks of patronage powerful enough to negate claims the party operates strictly by the rules of meritocracy. Family connections appear to be the key factor influencing promotions. Add to that the prevalence of what is called the Red Aristocracy, children of former revolutionary leaders who occupy senior party positions. They are sometimes referred to as the “princelings”.

    Most notable is the recently disgraced Bo Xilai and his wife. The once powerful couple are both children of revolutionary leaders. Xi Jinping himself is a “princeling.”

    Political patronage cannot foster meritocracy. That is the contradiction between what the CPC claims its role to be and how promotion up the ranks actually happens. The contradiction is not about to be resolved in the foreseeable future.

    To be sure, the complementarity between state and party hierarchies allowed a political arrangement that produced great leaps for China. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” lifted 500 million out of poverty in just over two decades of market-oriented reforms. It allowed the nominally socialist state to direct the boundless energies of the markets, creating the economic spectacle that elevated China to the status of the second largest economy in the world.

    China’s economic growth is not about to collapse. In a few short years, China will inevitably have the world’s largest single economy. Some say that in a generation, this populous and diverse nation will be the only true superpower.

    Growth, however, is not just a quantitative phenomenon. It is a qualitative one as well. As the economy modernizes, it generates new social forces that will eventually require a new power arrangement.

    The question is: How will the role of the CPC transform as the social milieu it operates in changes?

    Today, the CPC actually performs as the organized expression of a patrimonial state, attending to the concerns of all constituencies and conveying those concerns to the formal state agencies. It is in fact an apparatus for political communication between governors and the governed, expropriating a function that contending parties play in the more familiar electoral democracy.

    New communications technologies, however, create networks for information and policy formation that are more horizontal. The traditional hierarchical apparatus for political communication the CPC represents will quickly become obsolete.

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