Discourse Power | July 21, 2022
Demanding respect (just a little bit), ASEAN ganging up on China, and introducing the world's dumbest person
Greetings from Jerusalem,
The first item featured today relates to the previous Discourse Power issue. In it, I shared an original essay in response to Xi Jinping's Seeking Truth article on Saturday on how the past can be used to control the narratives that shape our present and future. It also explains why the idea of China as a "civilization nation," as opposed to a "nation-state," appeals to Han nationalists and the leadership.
On a related note, I'd like to recommend the most recent episode of the China-MENA podcast, hosted by my senior Atlantic Council fellow Dr. Jonathan Fulton. In this episode, he is joined by Dr. Mohammed Al-Sudairi to discuss China’s relations with the Arab Gulf, including a look at China-Arab “civilizational” ties.
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Thank you for reading,
“Any nation or individual, including Western powers and their leaders, should show more humility and less arrogance, more respect and less finger-pointing in the presence of nations with such a long history and rich civilization"
In an op-ed published on Monday in Asharq Al-Awsat, PRC Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chen Weiqing argued that the relationship between the Chinese civilization and the Arab-Islamic civilizations can teach the West a thing or two about diplomacy.
"Seek knowledge as far as China," says an Arab proverb. A long history of cordial exchange exists between the Chinese civilization and the Arab civilization. Western Asia (the Middle East) was visited by emissaries from the Chinese Han Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago.
“In his book The Travels of Ibn Battuta, the 14th-century Arab traveler chronicled his experiences while visiting numerous Chinese cities. In the following century, a fleet of ships captained by the Chinese navigator Zheng He traveled to Jeddah, Aden, Muscat, Mogadishu, and other places in the region.
“Inventions such as the compass, papermaking, printing, and gunpowder were spread from China to Europe by Arab traders on the ancient Silk Roads; Arab science, culture, and art were also widely spread to China, and the two civilizations flourished through their interchanges and mutual appreciation.
“In more recent times, Western countries, armed with powerful ships and formidable cannons 坚船利炮, have carried out barbaric invasions 野蛮侵略 against the ancient peoples 民族 of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
“And, in the pursuit of national emancipation and independence, China and the Arab countries have aided each other; in their quest for economic development and social progress, China and the Arab countries have partnered for the sake of their shared interests. It is fair to say that Sino-Arab relations serve as a model of cordial coexistence between different nations and civilizations.
“With history serving as our mirror (guide), the shared history of Sino-Arab relations teaches us about the types of international relations the world needs today.”
What we need is more respect and less finger-pointing
“China and the Arab countries are the cradles of civilization, giving birth to the ancient and magnificent Chinese civilization, the civilizations of the Land Between Two Rivers (Mesopotamia), the ancient Egyptian civilization, the Arab civilization, and the Islamic civilization.
“Any nation or individual, including Western powers and their leaders, should show more humility and less arrogance, more respect and less finger-pointing in the presence of nations with such a long history and rich civilization.
“We never considered them to be inherently better or more moral than others, nor did we think of them as "untouchables" 贱民 because they were going through some sort of civilizational "depression" 洼地.
“Speak nothing of the severe wounds that Western colonizers inflicted upon us over 200 years of religious wars they fought in the Middle East and a century of aggression and pillage in China. This historical debt 亏欠 will never be forgotten.”
What we need is more understanding and less prejudice
“The Western world has always had a distorted perception and strong bias toward the peoples of the East, as Edward Said pointed out in his book Orientalism.
“Instead of addressing the causes of the rise of extremism and terrorism, certain countries have waged wars in the Middle East and engaged in regime change in the name of combating terrorism.
“The "Islamophobia" scare that has become so prevalent in recent years is a continuation of their demonization of Islamic civilization. They are now smearing China's efforts to combat terrorism and extremism.
“According to the Quran, "they...conduct their affairs through mutual consultation" (42:38), and indeed, for over a millennium, Arabs have conducted their affairs through shuras (traditional consultative bodies). “The Chinese say that “only the person who wears the shoe knows if it fits.”
“We encourage open discussion and communication on the subject of democracy and human rights and reject patronizing sermons 居高临下的说教 and accusations. This is also something that China and the Arab nations agree on.”
What we need is more sincerity and less speculation
“Throughout their long history, China and the Arab countries have never waged war on each other, occupied an inch of each other's territory, or supported any agents in each other's countries. China and the Arab peoples have been friends in the past, are friends today, and will remain friends in the future.
“It appears that some Western politicians are still living in the past. They fantasize about renewing the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which would allow them to pursue their selfish interests and carve out spheres of influence in the Middle East. Once they get what they need, they discard regional countries like a worn-out shoe 弃如敝履, but when they want something, they'd be the first to reach out.
“They act like a "ruler" 领导者 returning to his kingdom, while China and other countries are treated as "imaginary enemies," there only to fill a "vacuum." They have overestimated themselves and underestimated the judgment of the Middle Eastern countries and people, forgetting that they are the true masters of this land.
“In the Middle East, the more flowers planted, the stronger the fragrance; however, if you only plant thorns, you will end up pricking your fingers.”
What we need is more open cooperation and less protectionist competition
“It is through openness and tolerance that China and Arab nations have been upholding the philosophy of mutual benefit and win-win results. This has created a strong foundation for our long-term, stable, and amicable cooperation.
“In recent years, Arab countries have advanced a vision of economic diversification and transformation that is highly compatible with China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
“China and the Arab countries have been expanding and deepening practical cooperation in a variety of fields, yielding fruitful results and tangible benefits to both sides' people.
“The Prophet said: "Envy devours good deeds like fire devours wood." Those who are envious of others' success should instead focus on solving their own problems. No country can deny other countries' right to independent development and choice of partners; openness and pluralism are signs of self-confidence, whereas protectionist monopoly is a sign of underlying weakness.
“We welcome the growth of relations between countries in the region and beyond, and we hope that major powers will play a positive and constructive role in regional affairs; however, we oppose the practice of some major powers demonizing China and other countries, and we do not believe that their approach will be successful.
“Earlier this year, President Xi Jinping put forth the Global Security Initiative (GSI), which advocates for common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security.
“He also emphasized the value of respecting each nation's sovereignty and territorial integrity, refraining from meddling in the internal affairs of other nations, respecting the development paths and social systems that different peoples have independently chosen, and upholding the UN Charter's goals and principles, in addition to rejecting all forms of Cold War mentality, and opposing unilateralism.
“At the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly last year, King Salman stated that Saudi Arabia has always followed the principles and resolutions based on international law, respected the territorial sovereignty of all countries, and opposed interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
“International multilateral cooperation must be bolstered to meet the challenges the global community faces. The speeches of Chinese and Saudi leaders clearly demonstrate the two countries' shared philosophy and advocacy for modern international relations and global order.
“China is willing to collaborate with Saudi Arabia and all other Arab countries to maintain a win-win partnership based on equality, mutual benefit, and cooperation, and to contribute to the promotion of global peace, stability, development, and prosperity.” (Asharq Al-Awsat)
“We must develop and improve China's information collection system, and maintain our information security, in order to avoid finding ourselves in a precarious position in the ‘information war’“
Dr. Zhang Qiyue, a researcher at the state-affiliated Shanghai Institutes for International Studies’ (SIIS) center for maritime and polar studies, argues that the Quad’s Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) is designed to undermine China’s legal and legitimate marine activities, and may possess a security threat.
The most recent Quad summit of the leaders between the US, India, Japan, and Australia on May 24, saw the signing of the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA).
According to the official statement, the IPMDA was created "to increase the region's ability to respond to challenges such as natural and humanitarian disasters, and illegal fishing."
Through access to low-Earth orbit satellites that can recognize ships by their radio traffic and automated tracking systems, the IPMDA could aid member countries with limited resources to monitor their maritime borders, exclusive economic zones (EEZs), and international shipping lanes
A White House statement declared that the new program "will allow tracking of 'dark shipping' and other tactical-level activities, such as rendezvous at sea (covert transshipment)."
Zhang adds that the IPMDA is meant to facilitate US maritime security cooperation, maritime security, and enhanced maritime capabilities and situational awareness. She does not rule out the possibility of IPMDA being used for intelligence cooperation in the future in a “network spanning across the Indo-Pacific.”
She cites the following risks posed by the IPMDA to China:
"First, it increases the risk of information and intelligence breaches in the maritime activities of Chinese ships of all types, putting national security and naval defense under greater pressure.
“Second, it could increase public pressure on China and be used to isolate it in the international community, limiting its participation in the global fishing industry and maritime cooperation.
“Third, China's legal and legitimate use of marine resources will be hampered, as will its space and scope of maritime activities.
“Fourth, the US is likely to enter into more agreements with "Indo-Pacific" nations to carry out joint law enforcement operations, creating legal enforcement conflicts and endangering the safety of China’s surrounding water.
She suggests China take the following countermeasures:
"First, we should prepare countermeasures for IPMDA's legal issues ahead of time. The international community should make it clear that foreign monitoring and jurisdiction over Chinese fishing vessels have no legal basis.
“Chinese fishing vessels have the right to fish in their own territorial waters, exclusive economic zone, and unprotected marine areas in the high seas, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “Furthermore, China has territorial jurisdiction and flag state jurisdiction over its fishing vessels' activities in the aforementioned waters.
Foreign countries' jurisdiction over Chinese fishing vessels in the aforementioned waters is not based on law, and supervision and information access to Chinese fishing vessels may pose potential security risks.
"Second, we should respond to ostensible "fishing dispute" cases in advance. This includes disagreements on jurisdiction over fisheries in disputed waters, as well as fishing activities in contested waters, exclusive economic zones (EEZs), and the high seas.
In addition, we should include determining the consequences of damage, liability, and compensation cases involving illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing and forced labor.
"Third, we must develop and improve China's information collection system, maintain our information security, and avoid finding ourselves in a precarious position in the “information war” 信息战.
“We must monitor the activities of foreign vessels in Chinese waters and respond to potential risks ahead of time. China will serve as an accurate and reliable provider of maritime information and public goods and services to the rest of the world by constructing an information system.
"Fourth, we must consolidate and expand China's participation and leadership position in the fishing industry and marine resource cooperation mechanisms.
“The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC. signed by China and the members of ASEAN in Phnom Penh in 2002) and the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea (CoC, on which the DoC is based but now demands an upgraded version) have provided institutional support for China's fishing cooperation with Southeast Asian countries.
“China has established a positive image in aquaculture conservation and maritime cooperation by signing fishing agreements with neighboring maritime countries.
“It implemented regional and global rules on fishing and biological resource conservation, positively guiding international public opinion, better safeguarding national maritime sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, safeguarding China's national security and naval defense, and enhancing peace and stability in the region." (SIIS)
“Due to China's weak discourse power and lack of an objective, fair, and friendly public opinion environment, relevant ASEAN countries are trying to "gang up on us"
Countries outside of the South and East China Sea region, according to Professor Zhang Liangfu of Hainan University Law School and executive deputy director of the Hainan Provincial Policy and Law Research Center, are interfering with the CoC negotiation process (see previous entry)
When I was looking for a photo for the previous entry, I came across a series of lectures on "Asian Maritime Policy" hosted by the Center for Japanese Studies at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The following are excerpts from a June 18, 2021 discussion on "Rule-making and Crisis Management in the East Asian Marginal Seas (EAMS)":
“Prof. Zhang Liangfu discussed the origins of the South China Sea Code of Conduct and the consultation process.
“First...he noted that the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea applies to China and individual ASEAN countries, rather than China and ASEAN as an organization.
“Second...he stated that due to China's weak discourse power and lack of an objective, fair, and friendly public opinion environment, relevant ASEAN countries are trying to "gang up on us" 抱团对我, while extraterritorial players are attempting to interfere with the negotiation process and control the negotiation direction.
“He said that it is critical to respond appropriately to such criticisms and interference in order to promote a successful resolution for the CoC negotiations.
“He stated that the legal status of the CoC should be dealt with pragmatically and openly and that every effort should be made to eliminate the negative effects of illegal rulings, while the legal status of the CoC should be discussed separately.
“He also stated that China must consider the distinct interests of each stakeholder, providing each party with tailored treatment in order to better manage our differences.” (Center for Japanese Studies, SJTU)
“Neoliberalism is a landmine on China's road to progress"
China must "strike hard" against neoliberalism, as well as the individuals and publications that promote it, according to Professor Hu Maoran of the School of Marxism at the prestigious Beihang University in Beijing.
“When the evil wind 妖风 of privatization of state-owned enterprises was prevalent, there was a widely accepted theorem in domestic economic circles named after [British economist Ronald] Coase.
[Investopedia: The Coase Theorem states that under ideal economic conditions, where there is a conflict of property rights, the involved parties can bargain or negotiate terms that will accurately reflect the full costs and underlying values of the property rights at issue, resulting in the most efficient outcome.
The Coase Theorem has been widely viewed as an argument against the legislative or regulatory intervention of conflicts over property rights and privately negotiated settlements thereof.]
“The so-called "Coase Theorem" was used to "explicitize" 明晰化 property rights of state-owned enterprises (SOEs). While SOEs were publicly owned, there had been no clear-cut attribution of property rights, i.e., no one knows who actually owns them.
“Then the Coase Theorem and other concepts have developed an explicit definition of property rights, under which, "explicit property rights" equals "private property rights." According to this, privatization is the only way to determine property rights.
“By that time, the 15th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China's Fourth Plenary Session (held in September 1999) had adopted the Resolution on Major Issues of Reform and Development of State-owned Enterprises «关于国有企业改革与发展的重大问题的决议». The resolution made it abundantly clear that it was vehemently opposed to the privatization of state-owned enterprises.
“At the same time, Zhang Wuchang (Steven N. S. Cheung), who was said to be a disciple of Coase, was a well-known figure in domestic economics circles, and he was frequently invited to give speeches and deliver one fallacious argument after another.
“Zhang Wuchang's most arrogant claim was that Marx was the world's stupidest person 最蠢. Such ignorant and delusory statements sparked not only the rage of anyone with a sense of morality, but people were so enraged that they couldn't help but laugh. Has he ever read Marx? Is he unaware that by making such statements, he demonstrated that he was, in fact, the dumbest of them all?
“Stranger still, our media, including state media, chose to act deaf and dumb in response to Zhang Wuchang's ignorant, arrogant remarks and vile insults. Isn't our media supposed to serve as the Party's mouthpiece 喉舌? Aren't they supposed to stand for Marxism? So why, in the face of such blatantly false claims that denigrated and attacked Marx, did the media show no reaction?
“Is this not a sign that some media personnel who purport to represent the Party have been corrupted to their core 腐蚀掉 by Western ideology and have been beguiled by Western theories like neoliberalism?
“They believe that Marxism, the guiding ideology emphasized in the party constitution and the constitution of the country, has lost its relevance and is now only used for show. Or, to use the old guard's terminology, it has turned "unfashionable." Some economics professors would openly declare in their first class that the "whole Marxism thing" is now passé.
“When did such brazen and unscrupulous talk dare to step into our classrooms and infiltrate ideological and political theory teachings in the People's Republic of China? Now, ain't that something 咄咄怪事?
“Today, Zhang Wuchang and his ilk retain a supposedly sacred status among some so-called economic experts and scholars. Perhaps Coase is a Confucian saint in their eyes, and Zhang Wuchang is like his [top disciples] Yan Hui or Zigong.
“These sages and saints are so holy that they’ve become irreproachable. Although some criticism of Zhang Wuchang's school of thought is not uncommon, there are no signs of it in our media, including state media.
“The central government has made it abundantly clear for a long time that neo-liberal theories and concepts must be severely criticized. And yet, the majority of academics in the field of economics appear to be silent, with the exception of a select few who have been obediently doing the right thing.
“It seems as though they are unaware of the situation or have no intention of actually criticizing it. Maybe they're too ashamed to do it. These are the same people that back in the day were tingling with excitement when they would preach these oh-so scandalous theories which they now criticize. They’re so bloody terrified that it would be like asking them to dig up the graves of their ancestors 这不是跟要刨他们的祖坟一样，跟要了他们的亲命一样了.
“The political, economic, and social theories of the bourgeoisie, such as neoliberalism, must be vigorously, thoroughly, and unwaveringly condemned if we are to firmly follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. This theory must no longer be allowed to harm people in the name of so-called scientific economic theory.
“Neoliberalism is a landmine on China's road to progress. If it is not handled properly, it could blow up at any point, undermining our progress and development. It is essential to completely, firmly, and without exception clear out this minefield - and not just this one.
“Publicly accessible books on neoliberalism must be discarded 清理. The rest, including the touted research works, should be cleared out of our bookstores, with the exception of a small number of the so-called classics that can be kept as the subject of criticism.
“We cannot stand by while fallacies of this nature continue to blight the Chinese landscape and deceive our youth.” (Hu Maoran’s WeChat account via Red Culture Network)
Playing in the Background
Discourse Power is written by Tuvia Gering, a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, and a Tikvah’s Krauthammer Fellow, specializing in Chinese security and foreign policy, and emergency and disaster management. Any views expressed in this newsletter, as well as any errors, are solely those of the author. Follow Tuvia on Twitter @GeringTuvia