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China's Big Picture Objectives

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

North Korea: For the record. Insult and invective against South Korea for disrespecting the North's leaders dominated North Korean media. But nothing the South Korean protestors did to Kim photos last Saturday can match what happened in the town and county seat of Musan on the 14th. Defectors reported that a large mural of the Kims that had been created for the 15 April celebrations collapsed from high winds. Musan is in northeastern North Korea, on the Chinese border.


This supposedly has never happened before. Aside from being a bad portent, the tiles were scattered all over. Apparently some of the cement was sold by workers to make some extra cash. The workers, their families and the county officials all risk execution. Defacing and dishonoring a Kim image is a capital offense.

The incident is under investigation by the highest authorities.

Missiles. They have not been detected in a week.

China-North Korea: At today's Foreign Ministry press conference, a reporter asked about North Korea's conditions for dialogue. The question and official reply are repeated below.

"Question: The DPRK today laid out its preconditions for holding dialogue with the United States and the ROK, including the lifting of Security Council sanctions on the DPRK and a promise to end US-ROK military exercises. Does the Chinese side have any comment on that?"

"Answer: Maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia at large and realizing the denuclearization of the peninsula serve the common interests of the relevant parties and also represent the joint responsibility of all sides. The current situation on the peninsula is highly complicated and sensitive."

"We urge all sides to remain calm and restrained and to jointly push for a lowering of the temperature surrounding the situation as soon as possible."

"We consistently advocate dialogue and consultations as the only correct way to resolve issues on the peninsula. The top priority right now is to step up diplomatic efforts and return as soon as possible to the right track of dialogue and negotiations. We hope for and support the easing of tensions, the improvement of relations, and the appropriate resolution of related issues through dialogue by the relevant parties."

"The Chinese side is ready to make unremitting efforts along with the relevant parties and the international community to maintain overall peace and stability on the peninsula, advance the process of the Six-Party Talks, and realize lasting peace and stability on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia at large."

Comment: The official public position remains unchanged in substance. China's persistence in supporting the Six Party talks' process for terminating North Korea's nuclear programs implies that the Chinese leaders have some expectation that North Korea can be persuaded to give up its nuclear programs.


NightWatch judges that is likely only after a change of North Korean leadership.

On 17 April, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson acknowledged that China is maintaining normal economic and trade relations with North Korea. Inside the Ring reported that the Reuters report was incorrect that China had stopped oil exports to North Korea in February. The Reuters report was based on official export data.

Whatever the case in February, China is not now putting economic pressure on North Korea. It appears more concerned about US military deployments than by North Korean antics. The Chinese oil flows to North Korea as usual. Truck traffic is normal.

China: Defense White Paper. Special comment.

The first section of the white paper corresponds to the US intelligence Worldwide Threat Assessment. That is the focus of this comment.

Section one is a more detailed version of President Xi's discussion of the "new situation" at the National People's Congress. The white paper's list of threats is excerpted below. NightWatch added the highlights and broke the single long paragraph into related parts.

"1. New Situation, New Challenges and New Missions"

"Since the beginning of the new century, profound and complex changes have taken place in the world, but peace and development remain the underlying trends of our times….The balance of international forces is shifting in favor of maintaining world peace, and on the whole the international situation remains peaceful and stable."

"Meanwhile, however, the world is still far from being tranquil. There are signs of increasing hegemonism, power politics and neo-interventionism. Local turmoils occur frequently. Hot-spot issues keep cropping up. Traditional and non-traditional security challenges interweave and interact. Competition is intensifying in the international military field. International security issues are growing noticeably more abrupt, interrelated and comprehensive"

"The Asia-Pacific region has become an increasingly significant stage for world economic development and strategic interaction between major powers. The US is adjusting its Asia-Pacific security strategy, and the regional landscape is undergoing profound changes."

"…China's international competitiveness and influence are steadily increasing. However, China still faces multiple and complicated security threats and challenges.… Therefore, China has an arduous task to safeguard its national unification, territorial integrity and development interests."


"Some country has strengthened its Asia-Pacific military alliances, expanded its military presence in the region, and frequently makes the situation there tenser."

"On the issues concerning China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, some neighboring countries are taking actions that complicate or exacerbate the situation, and Japan is making trouble over the issue of the Diaoyu Islands…."

"The threats posed by "three forces," namely, terrorism, separatism and extremism, are on the rise....Factors affecting social harmony and stability are growing in number, and the security risks to China's overseas interests are on the increase."

"Changes in the form of war from mechanization to informationization are accelerating. Major powers are vigorously developing new and more sophisticated military technologies so as to ensure that they can maintain strategic superiorities in international competition in such areas as outer space and cyber space"

"…The diversified employment of China's armed forces adheres to fundamental policies and principles as follows:

Safeguarding national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, and supporting the country's peaceful development… China's armed forces unswervingly implement the military strategy of active defense, guard against and resist aggression, contain separatist forces, safeguard border, coastal and territorial air security, and protect national maritime rights and interests and national security interests in outer space and cyber space. "We will not attack unless we are attacked; but we will surely counterattack if attacked."

Following this principle, China will resolutely take all necessary measures to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Comment: In classic communist style, section one opens with a statement of the trend:  the balance of international forces is trending towards peace.  The trend is the baseline for evaluating everything that follows in the sense that developments either promote or impede the trend which supposedly is an objective historical imperative.

Chinese official statements make clear that trending towards peace means trending in China's favor, in the sense that the Chinese have long ago judged that international peace is a condition for Chinese development.


No one can quarrel with a world trending towards peace, but the Chinese spin is it is trending China's way. Many policies, including investments in Africa, for example, require that trend. China's self-vision is as an agent of peace for the world. that was a point President Xi made in his speech at the National Party Congress.

Next, section one details the conditions and events that threaten the trend. While the overall balance of forces trends towards peace, the world is not tranquil because of the age-old enemies: hegemonism, power politics and neo-interventionism. Those are references to the United States, though they also apply to China.

A key point is the US and its allies are not agents of peace in China's sphere of influence. The white paper does not offer cooperation or friendship to the US. Rather it promises competition and mentions it several times in section one. Two references concern international military developments and sophisticated military technology, including space and cyber space. Those also are references to the United States.

The three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism refer to the Uighur militants and Tibetans, as well as to threats to Chinese workers overseas. These are old familiar spectres.

The most aggressive points in this section concern safeguarding territorial integrity. This paper does not mention negotiated settlements with its neighbors over territory that China claims. This paper is a warning to its neighbors.

China-Japan: Xinhua reported Chinese marine surveillance ships patrolled waters surrounding the Diaoyu Islands on Tuesday, according to the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) on 17 April.

"A fleet consisting of the Haijian 51, Haijian 23 and Haijian 46 declared to Japanese ships in the area that the Diaoyu Islands are part of Chinese territory and urged them to immediately leave the waters, according to the SOA."

A separate article reported that ships of the People's Liberation Army Navy apparently backed up the maritime surveillance ships.

"A two-vessel fleet of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy patrolled the territorial waters surrounding the Diaoyu Islands on Wednesday morning.

Missile destroyer Lanzhou and missile frigate Hengshui, both from the Navy's Nanhai (South Sea) Fleet entered the sea area via the Miyako Strait on Tuesday night.


The vessels conducted open-sea offense and defense training as well as exercises of intercepting and searching illegal vessels in the western Pacific Ocean on Sunday and Monday.

Wednesday's patrol by the Nanhai (South Sea) fleet ships came after vessels from the PLA Navy's Beihai (North Sea) Fleet and Donghai (East Sea) Fleet had previously patrolled the Diaoyu Islands waters.

Comment: Japanese media reported that the Navy ships did not violate Japanese claimed waters. The Chinese are executing the missions and responding to the challenges of defending national sovereignty prescribed in the defense white paper.

Ships and crews from all three fleets are getting familiar with the waters around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. They will fire back, if fired upon, but won't move without warning shots. This could lead to unpleasantness.

China-India: Diplomats from China and India on Thursday held their first discussion on Afghanistan security issues, according to a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

Both sides agreed that Afghanistan's situation is closely related to regional security and stability and talks between China and India will be conducive to enhancing mutual coordination and cooperation, Hua said.

Both sides reiterated that they would like to help Afghanistan achieve peace, stability, independence and development in cooperation with other countries in the region and the international community, as well as support the country's reconciliation process.

Both sides will continue to discuss the matter.

Comment: This is a delicate issue because neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan attended and because Chinese and Indian interests are not congruent.

China has investments in Afghanistan and is Pakistan's benefactor. Thus it indirectly abetted the Pakistani policy of supporting the Taliban and the Pashtuns in the south.

India supported the northern tribes who resisted the Taliban and the Indian Border Roads Organization has built roads in Afghanistan.

The best outcome is that Afghanistan not become a place where their interests clash and generate wider instability. This is the point they appear to agree on.

Pakistan: During this Watch, former president and Chief of Army Staff Pevez Musharraf was arrested. The Islamabad High Court refused former president Musharraf's appeal of the decision to revoke his bail and ordered him arrested for having illegally detained justices in 2007, including the Chief Justice.


After a court appearance to hear the charges against him, Musharraf was confined to his residence which the court labeled a "sub-jail." His lawyers appealed the decision to the Supreme Court which rejected it, but intend to appeal again.

Comment: It is payback time in Pakistan. Musharraf's charge that the courts have a personal vendetta against him is somewhat accurate in that he personally usurped the Constitution in 2007 and got away with it for five years. Some of them were imprisoned by him.

Musharraf has been an agitator and agent of political instability since his return. Even under house arrest he warned that his arrest "could result in unnecessary tension among the various pillars of state and possibly destabilize the country." His arrest is the first time any chief of army staff, active or retired, has ever been arrested.

Musharraf knew he was subject to arrest before he returned to Pakistan last month. He talked about it with interviewers. Thus, today's drama in Islamabad should be considered part of his scheme for returning to power. He does not play by the rules and apparently expects the Army will stand by him against the courts. He appears determined to disrupt the election campaign period.

The good news is that no groundswell of popular support for him has appeared since his return last month. The Army's reaction will be critical to stability in the weeks ahead.

Venezuela-Iran: For the record. Tehran Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadi-Nezhad has left Tehran for Venezuela to attend the inauguration ceremony of the newly-elected Venezuelan President, Nicholas Maduro.

Comment: Ahmadi-Nejad and Chavez bonded in their hostility to the US. The funeral gives the Iranians an opportunity to check on their interests in Venezuela and ensure that Maduro will not backslide in hostility to the US.

Venezuela: National Guard troops beat dozens of opposition supporters inside a barracks for refusing to accept the government-certified electoral victory of Nicholas Maduro, Chavez's heir, a leading Venezuelan human rights lawyer charged Thursday.

Alfredo Romero said his group's lawyers also compiled evidence supporting opposition activists' claims that National Guard troops had used excessive force against protesters, including shooting some point-blank with plastic shotgun pellets.


Comment: The lawyers seem to expect that they can achieve some redress in some judicial venue. The Venezuelan Supreme Court certified the election and the International Criminal Court relies on host country good will for enforcement of its judgments. Nevertheless, dossiers that document abuses become important after the abusing government falls. They always fall eventually.

End of NightWatch


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