Happy Chinese New Year 2019!

All of at RG 21 would like to wish our friends, subscribers and supporters a very Happy Chinese New Year 2019: Gong Xi Fa Cai.

We wish all of you health, happiness, and prosperityThis year promises to be a challenging and interesting year full of world-class events, breaking news and technological changes.

Stay with RG21 and we will bring you articles filled with the topics that are shaping our world


Photo: IQRemix via flickr

After 47 Years, Is the US “Revoking” the Shanghai Communique?


                  by David Parmer / Tokyo

               A Milestone Series of Agreements

This year marks the 47th anniversary of the monumental Shanghai Communiqué issued by the United States and the People’s Republic of China on February 28, 1972. The document, hammered out by China’s Premier Zhou Enlai and US President Richard M. Nixon and their respective teams has stood for just under half a century as the bedrock for US-China relations, and for a clear and un-ambiguous understanding of the status of Taiwan.

There were, in fact two more communiqués issued by the two parties that form the understanding and intent of China and the United States regarding their interests in the Asia-Pacific region. The second communiqué was issued on January 1, 1979 and dealt with the recognition by the United States of the fact that the PRC was the legal government of China and that there is one China and Taiwan is part of that China. At this time the PRC issued a Message To Compatriots in Taiwan calling for peaceful reunification with the mainland. (The 40th anniversary of the sending of this message was noted in a speech this year by President Xi Jinping who reiterated its message.) The third joint communiqué as issued on August 17, 1982 dealt with arms sales to Taiwan, and while the issue was not fully resolved, the US promised to decrease these sales.

                US Turning Back on Agreements?

Recent actions under the current US Trump administration seem to suggest that the US is turning back on the spirit, if not the letter of the Shanghai Communiqué and the two subsequent communiqués.

The clearest sign of a change in attitude and policy by the US government was the passage and implementation of the Taiwan Travel Act on March 17, 2018. This document states that there have not been enough high-level communications between Taiwan and the US. The remedy is to encourage high-level officials of both the US and Taiwan to visit the other.

Another strong indication of a shift in US policy was the passage and signing, on December 31, 2018, of a bill entitled the Asian Reassurance Initiative Act, which reiterates in detail the US Indo-Pacific strategy and authorizes US$1.5 billion to make the Indo-Pacific strategy a reality. Section 209 of this act specifically deals with Taiwan and stipulates that the US will continue to supply arms to Taiwan to meet “existing and likely future threats from the People’s Republic of China…” This, of course goes against, at least in sprit if not in act, to phase out arms sales to Taiwan as agreed to in the Third Communiqué on August 17, 1982.

Add this to the US$256 upgrade of the American Institute in Taiwan, which Reuters describes as “a de-facto embassy” and you have a pattern where actions seem to speak louder than words.

It is not out of the question for the PRC to look at these actions as a unilateral rolling back of the Shanghai Communiqué and subsequent communiqués by conducting a one-sided re-negotiation and making a U-Turn that negates the “One China Policy.”

What is your opinion on this matter? Please log in and let us know.

Photo: China Daily

Person to Watch in 2020: Beto O’Rourke From Texas

                                   by David Parmer / Tokyo

Time flies, it is 2019, and the US is gearing up for another presidential election. Hard to believe, but the election cycle is about to start all over again. The big question is which Democrat will oppose Donald Trump in 2020 (If he chooses to run).

Early reports suggest a wide Democratic field including senators like Bernie Sanders , Elizabeth Warren, Kamela Harris, and Corey Booker. Former Vice President Joe Biden may also put his hat in the ring. There are also “outsiders” like former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and TV personality Oprah Winfrey who might run.

One name that has risen to the top of that list, seemingly from nowhere is former 3-term congressman Beto O’Rourke from Texas. O’Rourke just lost an election, but instead of being branded a “loser” he has been propelled to national attention. In 2018 he gained 48% of the vote vs. 51% of the vote by his opponent Senator Ted Cruz. The close race itself is interesting, but what is compelling is the fact that Beto O’Rourke did this in a so-called “red” state where Democrats haven’t won for decades. The 2018 Texas campaign featured Beto’s amazing ability to collect campaign funds and his truly skillful use of social media.

Former congressman O’Rourke was born in El Paso Texas in 1972. After a standard public school education he earned a BA in English from Columbia University. After several private-sector jobs including a stint in the music business and  in local publishing he started his public service career as a member of the El Paso City Council where he dealt with local development issues. From 2013-2019 he was a member of the US House of Representatives, resigning in 2018 to run for the senate.

When asked about running for president he said he would not. But a politician’s “no” today can become a “maybe ” tomorrow and “yes” the day after tomorrow. O’Rourke has been described as a “white Obama.” Some on the left of the Democratic Party see this as a negative. They distain his Clinton-Obama centrism. His voting record in congress shows a pragmatist at work, and not a doctrinaire liberal or progressive.

Beto O’Rourke is young, charismatic, telegenic, and available. It is very possible that on the day after tomorrow he will decide to give it a try in 2020. Who know? Best to keep an eye on him.

Photo: Wikipedia

The Speech Wars – January 2019.

                                 by David Parmer / Tokyo

Both China’s President Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen delivered New Years addresses on January 1, 2019. Mr. Xi’s speech was fairly standard; he talked about achievements in the past year and plans for the coming year about China’s achievements in both its economy and its space program and the coming 70th anniversary of the PRC. 

President Tsai’s New Year’s Speech

Tsai Ing-wen’s New Years Day speech recapped 2018, much as Xi Jinping’s speech did. She covered the recent Taiwan elections and said that it most surely was not a referendum on Taiwan sovereignty.

She said cross-strait relations should be conducted in a rational manner. She also noted that Taiwan is strongly affected by the US-China trade friction and is doing what is necessary to cope with this situation. She also proposed four “musts” for equitable cross-strait relations. She said that China must face the reality of the Republic of China, and that Taiwan is a democratic country. President Tsai closed her speech by telling her compatriots that Taiwanese must:

  • Fight for our livelihood
  • Protect our democracy
  • Safeguard our sovereignty

President Xi’s Speech on The 40th Anniversary of the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan ( Jan.2, 2019)

President Xi Jinping gave another speech the following day, January 2, 2019 at the Great hall of The People in Beijing. The occasion was the 40th anniversary of issuing the Message To Compatriots in Taiwan, which was sent by The Standing Committee of The People’s Congress on Jan 1, 1979.

The message basically laid out the blueprint for cross-strait relations, reiterated the one-China policy, called for direct links in mail, transport and trade and carry on Chinese culture and promote cross-strait talks. There were several unambiguous take-aways from Xi’s speech including:

  • China must, and will be reunited
  • There is no room for separatist activities
  • There will be no use of force except against separatists and foreign elements
  • The Taiwan question is an internal Chinese question–a family affair and is to be settled by Chinese
  • Reunification is an historical trend and must be accomplished
  • All parties should send representatives to discuss cross strait-relations and the future of the nation

President Tsai Ing-wen’s Rebuttal to Mr. Xi’s Jan. 2 Speech

On the same day, January 2, Taiwan’s President Tsai delivered a strong rebuttal to Mr. Xi’s comments on the 1979 Message to Compatriots. In her “rebuttal” before the foreign press, President Tsai:

  • Called on the international community to support Taiwan
  • Stated that the concept of “one country, two systems” was unacceptable
  • Urged China to stop bullying Taiwan
  • Stated: “We have never accepted the 1992 Consensus.”
  • Again reiterated that China must recognize the existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan)
  • Stated that all contacts must be government-to-government and not party-to-party as Mr. Xi suggested
  • The results of the 9-in-1 election did not mean the abandonment of Taiwan’s national sovereignty

The first two days of January 2019 seemed to sum up the positions of both Taiwan and the PRC and set the tone for the year to come.It is clear that the PRC is adamant about Taiwan’s re-integration into the Motherland, and Taiwan is equally adamant that this will happen.

How things will move forward is anybody’s guess, and the pressure is rising–it may not be at the boiling point yet, but there seems no chance for cooling off, at least not in 2019. Please let us know your thoughts on Taiwan and the PRC.


Photo: Office of the President Taiwan

Full Text of President Tsai’s “rebuttal” to Xi Jinping

Highlights of  President Xi’s speech on Xinhua

Kim Jong Un Addresses Nation and World on Jan. 1, 2019

                    by David Parmer / Tokyo

On January 1, 2019 the Supreme Leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong Un, sat down to deliver his annual address to the people of North Korea, and by extension to the world. Mr. Kim outlined the various achievements of his government during 2018, noting the 70th anniversary of the country, and then mentioning various sectors of the economy including steel, coal and munitions. He praised the efforts of the agriculture sector that had to deal with severe weather conditions during the year. He even mentioned the areas of art and culture and their work in supporting the idea of juche, or self-reliance.

Following this, like any good manager, Mr. Kim set out targets for 2019 in government and industry. He called for a better life for the people of the DPRK and stressed the need for defense.

He then turned to inter-Korean dialogue punctuated by three summit meetings. He called for making even greater strides in this dialogue with expanded relations.

Finally, Mr. Kim talked about the meetings between himself and the US president, Donald Trump and said he is willing to meet Mr. Trump any time. However he cautioned the US that if it did not keep its promises and tried to influence DPRK policy, then his country “we may be compelled to find a new way of defending the sovereignty of the country…” Mr. Kim closed by noting that great progress had been made in 2018, and that great challenges lie ahead.

Mr. Kim’s speech, despite being filled with rhetorical flourishes and jargon, gives us an insight into the state of his country and its economy. The areas to be improved give us a window into life in the DPRK, particularly in the area of basic infrastructure such as electric power generation and distribution. The real take-away seems to be Mr. Kim’s emphasis on the inter-Korean dialogue which he took time to cover, while giving limited attention to US-DPRK relations. Mr. Kim’s strategy seems to be two-pronged; i.e. improving his relations with the South, and at the same time positioning his country on the international stage.

Pasted below is the full text of Mr. Kim’s speech as reported by the Rodong Sinmun. (Reading time: 12 minutes.)

Photo: Rodong Sinmun


New Year Address by Kim Jong Un  Jan. 1, 2019

Respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un made the New Year Address for 2019.

The full text of the New Year Address reads:

Dear people and service personnel of the People’s Army across the country,

Dear compatriots,

Dear comrades and friends,

Having seen out the year 2018, in which we adorned the history of the motherland, the revolution and the nation with meaningful events leaving another indelible imprint in the history, we are seeing in the new year 2019 full of hope.

As we see in the new year, I extend heartfelt greetings to all the people and service personnel who devoted their all for the cause of socialist construction sharing the same mind and pace with our Party in the eventful days of last year, and wish that homes across the country will brim with affection, hope and happiness.

My warm new year greetings go also to the compatriots in the south and abroad, who shared our will in writing a new history of reconciliation, unity, peace and prosperity of the nation.

I wish success in the work of heads of state and other foreign friends who are making efforts for social progress and development and global peace and justice.


The year 2018 was a historic year, in which remarkable changes took place in the internal and external situations and our socialist construction entered a new stage thanks to our Party’s line of independence and strategic decision.

The Third Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Party Central Committee held in April last year constituted an occasion of pivotal significance in developing our revolution onto a new stage and continuing to speed up the advance of socialism on the basis of the great victory of the line of promoting the two fronts simultaneously. Following the road of arduous struggle with faith in certain victory of socialism, our people provided by their own efforts a sure guarantee for defending their sovereignty and achieving peace and prosperity, and became able to set out on a grand revolutionary advance to attain still higher goals for the construction of a prosperous country.

Thanks to our proactive and positive efforts, a peace-oriented current was created on the Korean peninsula and the international prestige of our Republic continued to be raised, and in the midst of this we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the glorious DPRK in splendour with great dignity and self-confidence.

Through the celebratory events held in September, the might of the DPRK, which achieved the ideological oneness of the whole society and the single-hearted unity of the Party and the people and which possesses a reliable self-supporting economy and self-reliant defence capabilities, and the ardent will of the heroic Korean people to fight to the end for the victory of the socialist cause were fully demonstrated in front of the eyes of the world.

Last year all the people further consolidated the foundations of the self-supporting economy by turning out in the struggle for carrying out the Party’s new strategic line of concentrating all efforts on economic construction.

Meaningful and valuable advances were made in the struggle for implementing the line of making the national economy Juche-oriented. The generation capacity of the Pukchang Thermal Power Complex was increased remarkably, the Kim Chaek and Hwanghae iron and steel complexes and other metallurgical works built on their successes in establishing the Juche orientation in production, and dynamic efforts were made to strengthen the independent foundations of the chemical industry. The quality of various vehicles and light-industry products that give us pleasure at sight as they were made by our efforts, technology and resources was raised to a higher level and their mass production was realized, bringing delight to our people.

The working class in the coal-mining industry, in defence of the lifeline of the self-supporting economy, conducted a do-or-die campaign for production when everything was in difficulty, and the agricultural sector waged an unremitting struggle for increased cereal production, thus producing a large number of high-yielding units and farmers even in adverse weather conditions.

The munitions industry, in hearty response to our Party’s militant call for concentrating all efforts on economic construction, produced a variety of farm machinery, construction equipment, cooperative products and consumer goods, thereby giving an impetus to economic development and the improvement of the people’s living standards.

Last year the gigantic construction projects, geared to adding glory to the era of the Workers’ Party according to the Party’s long-term plan and operations, proceeded in a three-dimensional way and on a grand scale. This demonstrated in reality the stout mettle of socialist Korea that never flinches in the face of any adversity but achieves victory after victory by surging forward more forcefully, as well as the inexhaustible potentials of our independent economy.

True to the decision of the April Plenary Meeting of the Party Central Committee on bringing about a revolutionary turn in science and education, the sector of science and technology presented valuable research findings conducive to accelerating the growth of hi-tech industries and revitalizing the national economy; the efforts to make education modern and scientific gained momentum, the teaching conditions and environment being updated at many universities, colleges, middle and primary schools across the country.

The sector of art and culture produced and staged a grand mass gymnastics and artistic performance, evoking positive response from at home and abroad and vividly showing the advanced level of Juche-oriented art and its peculiar features and advantages.


Through the struggle of last year, which added a new page of proud victory to the annals of our revolution, we have been convinced once again of the validity of our own cause and the invincible strength of our state. Thanks to our people’s indomitable fight against the challenge of injustice, our state’s might of self-development has increased on a steady basis and the cause of building a powerful socialist country is progressing at a faster pace.

Availing myself of this opportunity, I should like to extend my heartfelt thanks, once again, to all the people including the service personnel of the People’s Army for advancing non-stop along the road of victory indicated by the Party and thus performing feats that will shine brilliantly in the history of our country.


Having grown seasoned and powerful amid the struggle to glorify the new era of the Juche revolution, our Party and people are launching the new year march full of greater confidence and ambition.

This year we are faced with the task of expanding the country’s capability of independent development to open up bright prospects for taking a step forward towards socialist construction.

We have the strength and foundations to bring forward a brighter future of socialism by our own efforts, and we have also developed our own strategy and creative methods to this end. When we strive hard with an indefatigable spirit on the principle of self-reliance by adhering to the Party’s new strategic line, our country’s strength will redouble and our people’s dreams and ideals will come true.

“Let us open a new road of advance for socialist construction under the uplifted banner of self-reliance!”–this is the slogan we should uphold. We should bring about a revolutionary upsurge on all fronts of socialist construction by regarding self-reliance as a treasured sword for prosperity, a spirit which has always been a banner of struggle and driving force for a leap forward in the whole course of the Korean revolution.

The might of the independent socialist economy should be further strengthened.

We should rely on our own technical forces and resources and the high creative spirit and revolutionary enthusiasm of all the people so as to succeed in attaining the strategic goals of national economic development and enter a new stage of growth.

We should properly plan and thoroughly implement the national operations aimed at maintaining, reinforcing and reenergizing the national economy as a whole.

Strategic measures should be taken to give full play to the potentials of the self-supporting economy and utilize the new elements and driving force for economic development, and the manpower and material resources of the country should be enlisted in economic construction in a cost-effective way. We should focus on the main link in the national economic work, reenergize the other links of its whole chain and promote the long-term development of the economy, so as to push forward its revitalization.

The management method should be innovated to satisfactorily realize the unified guidance of the state over the overall economy and give fullest play to the voluntary enthusiasm and creative abilities of the working people. The Cabinet and other state and economic guidance organs should improve planning, pricing, and monetary and financial management in line with socialist economic law and make sure that economic levers have a positive effect on the revitalization of production and expanded reproduction in enterprises. They should adjust the structures and system of work to raise the efficiency of economic work and to make enterprises smoothly conduct their business activities.

Talented personnel, science and technology are our major strategic resources and weapons with which to bring about a great leap forward in socialist construction.

The state should promote talent training and sci-tech development purposefully and increase its investment in them.

It is necessary to improve the quality of training talented personnel, who will shoulder the socio-economic development, by improving the teaching contents and methods in conformity with the world trend of developing education and pedagogical requirements. We should set a high goal of developing new technologies and concentrate our efforts on the research into core technologies of great practical and economic significance, so as to secure the leading force of economic growth. We should also take institutional measures so that scientific research institutes and enterprises, in close cooperation, can boost production and technological development and enhance intellectual creativity.

Every sector in the national economy should give impetus to hitting the targets of the five-year strategy for national economic development.

We should direct primary efforts to relieving the shortage of electricity to make a breakthrough in revitalizing the national economy.

One of the most important and pressing tasks in socialist economic construction for this year is to radically increase the production of electricity.

By focusing state investment on the electric-power industry to maintain and reinforce its existing foundation and making maximum and effective use of it to renovate and modernize one by one badly needed sectors and projects, we can, for the present, raise power generation to the peak year level.

We should take the problem of easing the strain on electricity as an undertaking of the whole state, step up the construction of hydroelectric power stations including Orangchon and Tanchon power stations and create a capacity for generating tidal, wind and atomic power under a far-reaching plan. Provinces, cities and counties should develop and utilize in an effective way various energy sources available in their local areas.

The coal-mining industry is a primary front in developing the self-supporting economy.

Only when coal is mass-produced can we resolve the problem of electricity and satisfy the demand for fuel and power for different sectors of the national economy including the metallurgical industry.

The coal-mining industry should channel efforts, first and foremost, into supplying coal to thermal power stations so that they can normalize electricity generation without letup.

The whole country should render active ideological and spiritual, material and technical assistance to coal mines, and the state should take stringent steps to provide in a responsible manner facilities and materials needed for coal production and good living conditions for coal miners.

A greater development should be achieved in establishing the Juche orientation in the metallurgical and chemical industries, the two pillars in economic construction.

The metallurgical industry should lower production cost to the minimum by perfecting the scientific and technological aspects of the Juche-oriented iron- and steel-making processes and ensuring their normal operation, and work out and implement an operations plan for providing them with full amounts of iron ore, refractories and ferro-alloys to meet their increased production capacity.

The chemical industry should step up the building of the phosphatic fertilizer factory and the establishment of the C1 chemical industry, develop the glauberite and synthetic fibre industries and convert the existing equipment and technical processes into energy-saving and labour-saving ones. This year a nationwide effort should be made to run the chemical fertilizer factories at full capacity and boost production at the February 8 Vinalon Complex.

Rail and other transport sectors should launch an intensive campaign to strengthen discipline and increase their carriage and traffic capacities to ease the strain on transport. The machine-building industry should upgrade designing and processing techniques to develop and produce a variety of modern machinery and equipment in our own way to suit our actual conditions.

Improving the people’s standard of living radically is a matter of greatest importance for our Party and state.

The agricultural front, the major point of attack in socialist economic construction, should conduct a campaign for increased production.

The Cabinet and other relevant sectors should give effective scientific and technical guidance for each farming process and supply sufficient amounts of materials needed for this year’s farming, thus increasing cereal production decisively. They should respect the opinions and interests of farmers, masters of farming, and meet the demands of the socialist principle of distribution properly.

It is necessary to adhere to the four key factors set forth by the Party for the development of livestock farming, modernize and reenergize stockbreeding bases like chicken farms, and encourage the joint stockbreeding by cooperative farms and the sideline stockbreeding by individual farmers so as to supply the people with more meat and eggs.

The fishing sector should consolidate its material and technical foundations, put fishing and aquatic culture on a scientific basis and protect and increase aquatic resources, so as to open a new path for developing the fishing industry.

The sector of light industry, by consistently upholding the banner of modernizing production lines, obtaining at home everything needed for production and improving quality, should produce and supply various kinds of consumer goods that are favoured by the people, and ensure that provinces, cities and counties renovate the condiments factories and other locally-run plants and maintain their regular operation by relying on the locally available raw materials and other resources.

This year, too, we should push ahead, in a bold manner, with huge construction projects for national prosperity and the people’s wellbeing.

The whole Party, the entire army and all the people should turn out to transform Samjiyon County into a model of modern mountainous city, an ideal socialist village, and complete on the highest possible level the construction projects that would represent the present era, including the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area and other new tourist areas. It is important to steadily improve architectural designing and construction methods, and ensure domestic production and better quality of finishing materials, so as to build all the architectural structures magnificently and in our own style and provide our people with a cultured, happy life. With the national-level construction projects underway on an extensive scale, we should build up the capacity of producing cement and other building materials as planned.

We should make proactive efforts to implement the tasks for the second stage of the forest restoration campaign, improve landscaping, urban management and road administration, and take every precaution against environmental pollution.

All sectors and all units should fulfil their quotas of the national economic plan in all its indices by identifying and enlisting every last reserve, possibility and potential and by increasing production and practising economy.

The politico-ideological strength of our socialist state should be increased in every way possible.

It is necessary to unite the broad sections of the masses solidly around the Party by thoroughly applying the Juche-oriented view on the people, a people-oriented philosophy, in Party and state activities.

Party and government organs and working people’s organizations should give top and absolute priority to the people’s interests whatever they plan and whatever they conduct; they should lend an ear to their sincere opinions, prioritize their wants and anything beneficial to them, and strive to translate them into reality without any conditions attached. Anywhere, anytime and under any circumstances, they should make selfless, devoted efforts for the good of the people, direct primary attention to their livelihood, and ensure that everybody benefits from the politics of affection and trust, the one of embracing and taking care of them all. They should intensify the struggle to eradicate both serious and trivial instances of abuse of power, bureaucratism and corruption, which would wreak havoc on the harmonious whole of the Party and the masses and undermine the socialist system.

However the situation and circumstances may change, Party members and all other working people should cherish the principle of our state first as an element of their faith and step up socialist economic construction in our own way. They should glorify the country’s great history by working with sincere devotion and a patriotic desire for developing their homeland by their own efforts before the eyes of the world, the precious land of socialism which they have defended from generation to generation.

We should accelerate the building of socialist civilization.

A revolutionary habit of studying and a way of cultural and emotional life should be established throughout society, so that all the people possess versatile knowledge and cultural attainments as required by the developing times. The sector of art and literature should create splendid works including films and songs that reflect the times and reality and touch the people’s heartstrings, thus enriching the spiritual and cultural wealth of the nation and giving a powerful impetus to today’s grand revolutionary march.

We should ensure that all the people realize the advantages of the socialist public health system by modernizing pharmaceutical and medical appliance factories, upgrading medical institutions and raising the level of medical service. Mass-based sporting activities should be conducted briskly and specialized sporting techniques developed to ensure that the whole country brims over with vigour and optimism and the sportspeople continue to demonstrate the wisdom and might of Koreans in international competitions.

We should launch a powerful drive to establish a socialist way of life and ennobling moral discipline, thus ensuring that no immoral and uncultured practices that run counter to our people’s emotions and aesthetic view are revealed. By doing so, we can turn the whole society into a large, harmonious family filled with moral excellence and tender feelings.

The national defence capability should be solidified.

The People’s Army should reliably defend the Party and revolution and the security of the country and the people and continuously perform miraculous feats at all sites of socialist construction as in the past by consistently holding fast to the four-point policy for developing it into a powerful army. By doing so, it should demonstrate to the full the might of the revolutionary army, the invincible might of the army of our Party.

The Korean People’s Internal Security Forces, as befitting the red shield of the revolution, should defend unto death our Party, system and people, and the Worker-Peasant Red Guards should effect a turn in strengthening its combat efficiency in this year of its 60th founding anniversary.

Powerful self-defence capacity is a cornerstone of the existence of a state and a guarantee for safeguarding peace.

The munitions industry should, on the one hand, steadily raise the national defence capacity to that of the world’s advanced countries by stepping up the effort for making the defence industry Juche-based and modern, therefore guaranteeing the peace on the Korean peninsula by force of arms, and, on the other, should actively support economic construction.

In order to successfully carry out the militant tasks facing us this year, officials, leading members of the revolution, should make redoubled efforts and struggle with determination and courage.

It is none other than the masses of the people that constitute the motive force and are responsible for carrying out Party policy, and they know actual conditions better than anybody else. Officials should always immerse themselves in the pulsating reality, seeing everything with their own eyes and conducting a comprehensive analysis of how matters stand; they should go deep among the masses, sharing board and lodging with them and motivating them to resolve bottlenecks if any. They should set their ideals and ambitions in keeping with the Party’s plans, and steadily improve their practical abilities and widen their horizon; in this way they should become competent organizers and hands-on workers who make persistent efforts to achieve everything perfectly at the standard demanded by the Party. They should throw themselves into doing any challenging task, burn the midnight oil pondering on how to bring benefit to the country and people, and find the worth of their work in the people’s happy laughter.

Today young people should play a large part in promoting socialist construction.

With the same spirit and mettle which they displayed in recent years to create legendary tales of the new era in response to the Party’s militant appeal, they should honour their title of vanguard at the revolutionary posts where the Party wants them to be. In the present stirring era they should become pioneers of new technology, creators of new culture and pathfinders for a great leap forward; they should make sure that youthful vigour and stamina are overflowing wherever they work.

It is needed to decisively increase the role of Party organizations.

Party organizations at all levels should conduct political and ideological work in a progressive manner in line with the requirements of the times and the developing revolution in order to make our people give full play to the strength of their indomitable spirit on all fronts of socialist construction. They should give a boost to administrative and economic officials so that they can map out plans and provide guidance for implementing Party policy in a responsible way, and fire a zeal for collective innovation and competition in their sectors and units. Provincial, city and county Party committees should wage a powerful struggle to bring about a turn in the development of farming, education and local industries.


Last year was a stirring year which witnessed a dramatic change unprecedented in the history of national division spanning over 70 years.

With a determination to usher in an era of national reconciliation, peace and prosperity by putting an end to the abnormal state on the Korean peninsula which had suffered a constant war crisis, we took proactive and bold measures to effect a great turn in north-south relations from the outset of last year.

It is unprecedented that three rounds of inter-Korean summit meetings and talks were held in a year amid great expectations and interest of peoples at home and abroad, and this clearly showed that north-south relations entered a completely new stage.

The Panmunjom Declaration, the September Pyongyang Joint Declaration and the north-south agreement in the military field, which were adopted by reflecting the firm resolve and will to usher in an era of peace in which war exists no longer on the Korean peninsula, are of great significance as a virtual nonaggression declaration in which north and south have committed themselves to terminating fratricidal war based on force of arms.

While sportspersons of north and south displayed the wisdom and strength of the nation by jointly entering international competitions, artistes came and went to Pyongyang and Seoul to fire the enthusiasm for national reconciliation and reunification.

We took the significant first step towards common prosperity of the nation by promoting cooperation projects in various fields including railways, road, forestry and public health while resolutely overcoming manifold obstacles and difficulties.

The surprising changes which took place in inter-Korean relations last year convinced all the fellow countrymen that when they join minds and efforts, they can turn the Korean peninsula into the true home of the nation, which is the most peaceful and will prosper forever.

Though it was the initial step, north and south pooled intentions and wisdom to surely reverse inter-Korean relations in the utmost extremes of distrust and confrontation to those of trust and reconciliation and make in a short time eye-opening achievements which were unimaginable in the past. I am very satisfied with that.

In the New Year 2019 we should make greater strides in our efforts to boost inter-Korean relations, achieve peace and prosperity and reunify the country on the basis of the priceless achievements we made last year which was wonderfully adorned with unprecedented events.

All the nationals should hold high the slogan “Let us usher in a heyday of peace, prosperity and reunification of the Korean peninsula by thoroughly implementing the historic north-south declarations!”

It is our steadfast will to eradicate military hostility between north and south and make the Korean peninsula a durable and lasting peace zone.

North and south, as they agreed, should take practical measures proactively to remove military hostility on the whole of the Korean peninsula, including the ground, airspace and sea, as a follow-up to its ending in the areas of confrontation.

Given that north and south committed themselves to advancing along the road of peace and prosperity, we maintain that the joint military exercises with foreign forces, which constitute the source of aggravating the situation on the Korean peninsula, should no longer be permitted and the introduction of war equipment including strategic assets from outside should completely be suspended.

It is also needed to actively promote multi-party negotiations for replacing the current ceasefire on the Korean peninsula with a peace mechanism in close contact with the signatories to the armistice agreement so as to lay a lasting and substantial peace-keeping foundation.

All the fellow countrymen should unite as one, being conscious that the master of peace on the peninsula is our nation, in order to wage a powerful struggle to check and frustrate all the moves that wreck peace and incite military tension on this land.

Inter-Korean cooperation and exchanges should be expanded and developed in an all-round way so that national reconciliation and unity can be consolidated and all the fellow countrymen can practically benefit from improved north-south relations.

For the present, we are willing to resume the Kaesong Industrial Park and Mt Kumgang tourism without any precondition and in return for nothing, in consideration of the hard conditions of businesspersons of the south side who had advanced into the Kaesong Industrial Park and the desire of southern compatriots who are eager to visit the nation’s celebrated mountain.

When north and south join hands firmly and rely on the united strength of the fellow countrymen, no external sanctions and pressure, challenges and trials will be able to hinder us in our efforts to open a broad avenue to national prosperity.

We will never tolerate the interference and intervention of outside forces who stand in the way of national reconciliation, unity and reunification with the design to subordinate inter-Korean relations to their tastes and interests.

North and south should not pass up the favourable atmosphere of today when all the nationals’ interest in and aspiration for reunification are growing unprecedentedly, but actively try to find a peaceful reunification plan based on nationwide agreement and direct sincere efforts to this end.

All the fellow countrymen in north, south and abroad should further accelerate in high spirits the nationwide advance for implementing the north-south declarations, and thus glorify this year as a historic one when another radical change is brought about in the development of inter-Korean relations and implementation of the cause of national reunification.


Last year, our Party and the government of our Republic exerted responsible efforts to safeguard the peace and security of the world and expand and strengthen friendship with different countries.

The three rounds of our visit to the People’s Republic of China and the Cuban delegation’s visit to our country were remarkable events in boosting strategic communication and traditional ties of friendship and cooperation among the socialist countries.

Last year, frequent visits and exchanges were made on Party, state and government levels between the DPRK and many countries of the world, with the result that they deepened mutual understanding and confirmed the stand and will to promote sound development of the international community.

The historic, first-ever DPRK-US summit meeting and talks brought about a dramatic turn in the bilateral relationship which was the most hostile on the earth and made a great contribution to ensuring peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the region.

It is the invariable stand of our Party and the government of our Republic and my firm will to establish a new bilateral relationship that meets the demand of the new era as clarified in the June 12 DPRK-US Joint Statement, build a lasting and durable peace regime and advance towards complete denuclearization.

Accordingly, we declared at home and abroad that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them, and we have taken various practical measures.

If the US responds to our proactive, prior efforts with trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions, bilateral relations will develop wonderfully at a fast pace through the process of taking more definite and epochal measures.

We have no intention to be obsessed with and keep up the unsavoury past relationship between the two countries, but are ready to fix it as early as possible and work to forge a new relationship in line with the aspirations of the two peoples and the requirements of the developing times.

As evidenced by the reality of north-south relations that made rapid progress last year, nothing is impossible to a willing heart, and dialogue partners will reach the destinations that are beneficial to each other without fail if they put forward fair proposals on the principle of recognizing and respecting each other by abandoning their dogged insistence broadmindedly and conduct negotiations with a proper stand and the will to settle issues.

I want to believe that our relations with the United States will bear good fruit this year, as inter-Korean relations have greeted a great turn, by the efforts of the two sides.

I am of the opinion that, while meeting and holding talks beneficial to both sides with the US president in June last year, we exchanged constructive views and reached a consensus of understanding for a shortcut to removing each other’s apprehensions and resolving the entangled problems.

I am ready to meet the US president again anytime, and will make efforts to obtain without fail results which can be welcomed by the international community.

But if the United States does not keep the promise it made in the eyes of the world, and out of miscalculation of our people’s patience, it attempts to unilaterally enforce something upon us and persists in imposing sanctions and pressure against our Republic, we may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state and for achieving peace and stability of the Korean peninsula.

The stabilized situation on the Korean peninsula and in the region is never something that has been created with ease, and the countries that are truly desirous of peace have the common responsibility for setting great store by the current situation. The neighbouring countries and international community have to support our sincere stand and efforts for promoting the positive development of the situation on the Korean peninsula and fight against all practices and challenges that wreck peace and run counter to justice.

Our Party and the government of our Republic will continue to bolster up unity and cooperation with the socialist countries and develop relations with all countries that are friendly to us under the ideals of independence, peace and friendship.


We are beginning the journey of the new year as we brace ourselves once again with the resolve to work devotedly for our country, our motherland, and the happier laughter of younger generations.

What we are convinced of once again as we proudly review the past year when we made rapid progress while paving our way by our own efforts with belief in our own strength in the face of harsh economic blockade and sanctions, is the truth that our state is fully capable of dynamically advancing along the road of development of socialism of our own style by dint of our people’s great strength and efforts, without any external assistance or any other’s help.

This year, too, we will face constant obstacles and challenges in our progress, but no one can change our determination and will and stop our vigorous advance and our people will successfully achieve their beautiful ideals and goals without fail.

Let us all work energetically and with one mind and will for the prosperity and development of the genuine people’s country, the socialist motherland.


VietJet Aims High.

         by David Parmer / Tokyo         

Well, 2019 has  already started, and exactly what trends, events, and happenings  will emerge is not quite clear yet. However, one trend that is pretty clear is the seemingly unstoppable growth of Vietnam’s Viet Jet Air LCC. Coming out of nowhere in 2011, Vietnam’s first privately owned airline has made nothing but headlines and mostly for the right reasons.

Viet Jet was conceived and realized by its dynamic founder, 47-year-old Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao. Ms. Nguyen, who has a personal fortune estimated at $1.7 billion, was educated in Russia and holds a Ph.D. in Economic Management. After graduation she worked at various projects and was a commodity trader before hitting upon the idea of starting a LCC in her home country.

Her timing was good in the macro sense, as she caught a rising trend not only in her home country but also in South East Asia as a whole. Rising fuel prices grounded her dream for a couple of years, but in 2011 the airline took off.

Ms. Nguyen is only one of two female CEO’s in the world’s top 100 airlines. Her style of management echoes another independent CEO and founder, Virgin Atlantic’s Sir Richard Branson. And like Branson, she is not averse to the “big publicity stunt.” In Viet Jet Air’s case it was having the female cabin crew wear bikini swimsuits on flights to beach destinations. This stunt ran afoul of the conservative government bureaucrats in Hanoi who fined the company, but brought her airline worldwide publicity. ( In an interview Ms. Nguyen said that the crew are not forced to wear bikinis.) Bright colors and pretty young cabin crew seem to be the hallmark of the airline’s brand.


A whiff of controversy seems not to have hurt the airline as revenue is now estimated to be between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion with profit of $ 200,000,000. Viet Jet Air runs 300 flights a day in both in the domestic and international markets. The airline flies to several Asian destinations including:

  • China
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • Taiwan
  • Malaysia

Of particular interest are Viet Jet Air’s routes to second-tier Chinese cities, which, of course, will eventually become first-tier cities to which the airline has locked- in routes.

Ms. Nguyen certainly looks like she has big plans for the airline, that is, if aircraft purchases can be used as a measure of her ambition. It was announced on July 18, 2018 that a deal had been struck with Boeing Commercial Airplanes to purchase 100 B737 MAX aircraft for a price of $12.7 billion. And on November 2, 2018 another deal was signed to buy 50 Airbus A321neo planes for $16.5 billion.

Viet Jet Air is already a local and regional player, and from the above purchases it can be seen that it has real plans and capability to extend its reach globally. The airline’s English slogan is “Enjoy Flying!” It looks like in the future more and more people will be flying this airline and perhaps doing just that: enjoying flying at reasonable prices.

Photos and Graphic: Viet Jet Air website.



China’s Belt and Road and the Indo-Pacific.

                            by Philippe Valdois, FRSA

Indo-Pacific and Belt and Road Initiative

In the following essay, I will examine the concerns expressed by the U.S. government in answer to the growing presence of China in the Indo-Pacific, in particular with its Belt and Road Initiative and to what Washington considers Chinese infringements of intellectual property rights. I will consider the validity of those concerns and the possibility that Washington’s reactions are partly motivated by some other factors outside of the usual field of geopolitics. Finally, in the context of a brewing trade conflict, as of mid-August 2018, we will see how the U.S. are engaging into a new strategy to counter Chinese ambitions, quite different from the isolationism advocated by President Donald Trump, while Beijing sets itself apart from the U.S. by focusing as part of its diplomacy with Chinese characteristics on “making contributions to the building of a community with a shared future for humanity.”

The Indo-Pacific as an Area of Increasing Strategic Significance

When looking at world maps, we see the Indo-Pacific encompassing almost two-thirds of the planet. Does it make sense to assign to such a vast zone a similar or greater strategic importance as compared with the Asia-Pacific? I would respond in the affirmative based on various factors. As a side note, the U.S. Navy, as a mobile force active in securing passageways for commercial shipping, has always understood the strategic importance of two communicating oceans. In fact, the area of responsibility of the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) already encompassed most of the Indian Ocean before it was rebranded from United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) on 30 May 2018. It is true that the majority of the countries West of the Indo-Pacific, including in Africa, do not have a capacity to project into the Indian Ocean. Evidently, the same could also be said of many countries of the Pacific Rim. However, to help us understand why the Indo-Pacific occupies a growing place in discussions about international trade and security, we only have to look at India and China and the growing role they will play in the future in the region. The Australian 2013 Defence White Paper published in 2013 already stated it clearly:

China’s continued rise as a global power, the increasing economic and strategic weight of East Asia and the emergence over time of India as a global power are key trends influencing the Indian Ocean’s development as an area of increasing strategic significance. In aggregate, these trends are shaping the emergence of the Indo-Pacific as a single strategic arc.

Elsewhere in the document, we are told that “Growing trade, investment and energy flows across this broader region are strengthening economic and security interdependencies.” One key word is “interdependencies”. In my opinion, it reflects the reality that only recently and by necessity a U.S. administration focused on bilateral negotiations, or one-on-one “deals” as favored by Donald Trump, started to recognize. There are other factors motivating investments in the region. On the positive side, the regional players, after the devastating 2004 tsunami, discussed ways to respond to catastrophes and improve communications. There has been also talks and initiatives about fighting piracy off Somalia and securing the transportation of Chinese products to Europe with China sending its Navy ships to the region and later opening a base in Djibouti. It seems, therefore, that the U.S. cannot claim it has, with its allies, the monopoly of securing free maritime trade routes. China’s plans to open multiple naval bases close to India, in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc., are, however, a matter of concern.

 Growing Power and Influence of China-The Belt and road Initiative

There is no doubt that Beijing is a major player in the Indo-Pacific. As China’s influence grows, concerns are being expressed by other countries, focusing not only on China’s trade ambitions in general and projection of military power in the South China Sea, but more specifically on the Belt and Road initiative (BRI). French medias sometimes translate Belt and Road Initiative as “Nouvelle Route de la Soie” when it should be “Routes” as a variety of development corridors are planned or being established between China, Europe and Africa, including roads, railways and maritime routes with the necessary port infrastructures. We can also mention that Belt refers to the ancient Silk Road and Road to sea lanes including the ancient maritime silk road. It is an ambitious foreign policy launched in 2013 under the name “one belt, one road”.  69 countries have signed up and China is now spending more than $100 billion a year in investments, mainly infrastructure ones. China needs to attain a new level of development and the BRI helps to that effect by serving the country’s economic interests. Both in terms of importations and exportations, better and faster transportation means lower costs and lower prices. If the BRI opens new markets for China, it also helps secure food for delivery to a growing Chinese population. 

Reactions to the BRI and validity of concerns

In an article published on 26 June titled “China’s Belt and Road Initiative paved with risk and red herrings”, the authors explained how common criticisms of the BRI were flawed. However, they point at “empirically supportable objections to the BRI”. Among them are the regional insecurities associated with the projection of military power, both in the South China Sea and in the countries implicated in the BRI eager to see their debts forgiven in exchange for equity in strategic infrastructures control, such as ports and consequent militarization of the region. Another issue is that if the outlines of the initiative are clear, there are no default rules or procedures concerning loans. As the authors say “case-by-case bilateral negotiations with China seem to be the default option” when rules and transparency are most needed with a project on such a large scale.    

The U.S. government tends naturally to focus on the perceived negative aspects of the BRI, but the BRI might have a positive impact on sustainable development and the natural environment as the Guidance on Promoting Green Belt and Road published by the Chinese ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environment in May 2017 shows. Since the beginning of Donald Trump administration, isolationism and the quasi-religious fervor with which the America First movement has been used as a guide for trade policies and environmental policies (with the announcement the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change) have antagonized Washington’s allies. I anticipate therefore that this document will be used in promoting Chinese green technologies in the dozens of countries implicated in the BRI.  

As boycott campaigns targeting foreign products and anti-foreigner protests have shown, Beijing is willing and able to orchestrate such events domestically and put a break to them when and where necessary, relying on contemporary history to exacerbate nationalistic feelings. However, those tactics are not limited to Continental China and its citizens.

As Amy Qin explained in the August 5, 2018 issue of the New York Times online, “China has become increasingly assertive in its efforts to appeal to the vast Chinese diaspora to serve the country’s national interests and gain influence abroad.” She gave us as examples the mobilization of local groups in Western countries in support of Chinese policies regarding Taiwan or Tibet.

Should it be surprising then that countries with an important ethnic Chinese population become suspicious of any attempt by Beijing to promote Chinese identity and culture based on blood, or when Xi Jinping talks about “Chinese sons and daughters at home and abroad” blurring as Amy Qin explained, the distinction between nationality and ethnicity?

If the U.S. is not talking about a fifth column, it is nonetheless increasingly looking for potential spies. Similarly, Donald Trump argues that China is stealing U.S. intellectual properties to justify the opening of a trade war. Fortunately, other less destructive tools are being put to work to counter the growing influence of China in the Indo-Pacific. On the diplomatic front, the U.S. is holding so-called “2+2 meetings” at the Foreign Affairs and Defense minister level with Australia, Japan and India. In addition, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech titled “America’s Indo-Pacific Economic Vision” on 30 July 2018 in Washington in which he announced plans to increase U.S. public and private investments. The $113 million mentioned pale in comparison to the hundred billion of dollars being invested by China as part of its BRI. However, this engagement would serve as a catalyst for more private U.S. investments in the region, which in turn would lead to more clarity and “honesty” regarding contracts and deals than what could be expected from Beijing. It also helps showing other countries that isolationism is not the only policy chosen by Washington. 

In their May 20, 2018 article published in The National Interest “How China Plans to Dominate the Global Economy: Copy America”,  Patrick Mendis and Joey Wang gave us a lesson in history, telling us that “the infringement of intellectual property will fuel economic development” until, in the words of China scholar Frederick Abbott“the country reaches the point where IPR protection becomes economically advantageous to a sufficiently strong set of domestically vested interests.” The authors also reminded us that both the U.S. and Japan went through the same process.

Also, as an observer of American politics and history, I see parallels, in this Trump era, between the deep if not openly expressed fear of the White man to lose his dominant status to expanding minorities, domestically, and the fear of seeing America lose his position in the world, an event or fall that would negate what its citizens had been made to believe under the ideology of American exceptionalism. As we have seen previously, there is also in China a form of exceptionalism instrumentalised by the government in its efforts to rally the support of the Chinese diaspora. However, as the U.S. reacts to fear and a possible loss of status, China is developing a positive long-term strategy of making both its huaqiao citizens abroad and huaren ethnic “sons and daughters” proud and united. If the Chinese initiative might remind us of the MAGA (Make America Great Again) Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, there is no doubt that behind the latest, fear of uncertainty and other negative and divisive feelings are brewing. We also cannot ignore the fact that Donald Trump’s message is addressed to and received as such by less than 50 % of the U.S. population.

From a European humanistic perspective, it is difficult to find any merit in the kind of nationalism expressed by both the Chinese and American powers that be, where exceptionalism, military might and dominance are used a benchmark for greatness. However, Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a major speech on 23 June 2018 clarified China’s major country diplomacy addressing two key themes: “…focusing on realizing Chinese nation’s rejuvenation and promoting human progress, and making contributions to the building of a community with a shared future for humanity.” It is to be seen if the U.S. have been or will be receptive to this long-term vision. However, even if the issues of human rights and “debtbook diplomacy” keep being debated, Europe will see in this effort the recognition by China of the importance of a multipolar, interconnected world, and one more illustration of the position adopted by China both in a phone call to French President Emmanuel Macron in May 2017, concerning the Paris Agreement, and at the Boao Forum for Asia about globalization and free trade in April 2018.

Photo: Chinese freight train from Wuhan to Moscow, Hubei Govt.

China As Seen Through The Eyes of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy.

                              by David Parmer / RG21

 In mid-2018 the most talked-about concept in geopolitics is the Indo-Pacific region. Much has, and is, being written about this section of the Earth’s surface that could be thought of as stretching from the shores of California to the coast of Africa encompassing the Pacific Ocean, the China Seas, and the Indian Ocean along the way. Enormous, diverse, and vitally important to a number of global stakeholders, the Indo-Pacific region offers both the hope for peace and the possibility of bitter and deadly conflict. 

In this brief report we will examine the current situation of the Indo-Pacific in light of the current US Indo-Pacific strategy and how China is viewed in the context of this strategy. We will look at statements by US officials and policy found in three key documents, the US National Security Strategy, and the US National Defense Strategy and the Department of Defense Annual Report to Congress.

The US talks of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) and yet these policy documents and public statements by US officials point to not just a climate of healthy competition with China but to seeing China as an adversary. The “shadow policy” behind the FOIP seems to be a revival of the Cold War where the USSR and the US faced off in a nuclear stalemate for decades. Given such a climate, the question is not whether the US and China can peacefully coexist and cooperate, but rather they can avoid a conflict, no matter how local and limited, that will have tsunami-like effects on the world economy and world peace. This report ends with a look at US policy toward Taiwan vis-a-vis the Indo-Pacific strategy that could potentially create a “1914-moment” plunging the world into economic meltdown and escalating armed conflict.


  1. Positions, Plans, and Perceptions 

“So make no mistake America is in the Indo-Pacific to stay.”(Sec. James Mattis / Shangri-La Dialogue 2018)

 The first clear signal of intent to focus on the wider Indo-Pacific was first put forward by US President Donald Trump at the APEC CEO Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam on November 10, 2017 where he used the term “Indo-Pacific” in the first line of his remarks and said in the closing section of those remarks “Let us choose a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

To further highlight its shift in both policy and emphasis with regard to this vital area, the US, on June 30, 2018, changed the name of the US Pacific Command to the US Indo-Pacific Command.

US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis reiterated and expanded on the US position at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue June 2, 2018 in Singapore.

The contents of Secretary Mattis’ speech were unambiguous. He stated that the US looked for a free, open, and safe Indo-Pacific region (FOIP). He explained what the US would do to support the region, and look after its own interests at the same time by:


  • Expanding attention on the maritime space
  • Enhancing inter-operability with partners
  • Strengthening the rule of law, civil society and transparent governance
  • Promoting private-sector-led economic development

He went on to state:

“A central element of our strategy is the strengthening of our alliances and partnerships in terms of mutual benefit and trusted relationships.”

The areas of interest from Northeast Asia to the Korean Peninsula, to Japan and Taiwan and to Southeast Asia including Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. The US interests and alliances also encompass Oceania and Australia and New Zealand. Not the least of these partners, according to Mattis in India. He concluded:

“We view the US-India relationship as a natural partnership between the world’s two largest democracies based on a convergence of strategic interests, shared values and respect for a rules-based international order.”

  1. The Strategy Vis-a-vis China

While Secretary Mattis paints an optimistic and upbeat picture for the Indo-Pacific region in general, when it comes to China, it is a different story. Mattis said that if China’s policies ” promote long-term peace and prosperity,” then there is no problem. Having said that he quickly reiterates the US position / complaint:

“Yet China’s policy in the South China Sea stands in stark contrast to the openness of our strategy. It promotes — what our strategy promotes, it calls into question China’s broader goals. China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of antiship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island.”

 Mattis sees these actions as a direct contradiction to President Xi Jinping’s promise in the Rose Garden in 2015 not to militarize in the South China Sea. The secretary’s speech was followed by a lively Q&A session where he adds depth of comment to his presentation.

Mattis stated that the US position is based on “freedom of navigation” and that such a position has great historical precedents.

At the Shangri-La meeting he refuted an assertion made by a colonel of the PLA that it was in fact the US that was raising tensions by violating China’s territorial waters. Clearly perceptions differ on this and other points.  

III. The Three Key Documents and China

Secretary James Mattis’s speech at Shangri-La 2018 contained the essence of the US Indo-Pacific strategy and highlighted President Trump’s Da Nang introduction of the strategy, but underpinning it are two important documents to which Mattis made reference in his speech and in his Q&A after the speech and one that was two months later: The US National Defense Strategy, and the US National Security Strategy and Department of Defense Annual Report to Congress. Let us take a brief look at both documents and specifically their references to the People’s Republic of China.

The US National Defense Strategy

The National Defense Strategy, published by the United States Department of Defense on January 19, 2018, consists of five sections:

  • Introduction
  • Strategic Environment
  • Department of Defense Objectives
  • Strategic Approach
  • Conclusion

The document addresses the challenges seen to be facing the United States, and what needs to be done to deal with these challenges now and in the coming years. China looms large in the strategy. It only takes until the third paragraph of the Introduction for China to be mentioned:

“China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing the South China Sea.”

In the Strategic Environment section, the document goes on to further spotlight its emphasis on China and Chinese activities:

” China is leveraging military modernization, influence operations and predatory economics to coerce neighboring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to their advantage.”

“…it will continue to pursue a military modernization program that seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future.”

The document goes on to detail US modernization and relationship building to meet as what it sees as present and future challenges from China and other “competitors”.

The US National Security Strategy

This document, published in December 2017, begins with a preface by “President Donald J. Trump” that lays out his plan, platform, and vision stressing “America First. “ The strategy is divided into four pillars.

Pillar I: Protect the American People, the Homeland,and the American Way of Life

Pillar II: Promote American Prosperity

Pillar III: Preserve Peace Through Strength

 Pillar IV: Advance American Influence

The Strategy in A Regional Context



As for China, in the Introduction to the US National Security Strategy, the US position is clearly laid out:

“China and Russia challenge American power, influence,

and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”

“China and Russia want to shape a world antithetical

to U.S. values and interests. China seeks to displace

the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand

the reaches of its state-driven economic model,

and reorder the region in its favor.”

 “Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others…It is building the most capable and well-funded military in the world, after our own. Its nuclear arsenals growing and diversifying. “

 “Part of China’s military modernization and economic expansion is due to its access to the U.S. innovation economy, including America’s world-class universities.”











Department of Defense Annual Report To Congress

The Annual Report to Congress, Military and Security Developments involving the People’s Republic of China2018 was made public on August 15, 2018. Key points in the report include the following:

  • China is creating a growing regional and global presence
  • China is willing to employ coercive measures both military and non-military to advance its interests
  • China is likely training for bomber strikes at the US mainland
  • China is using coercion and persuasion to inhibit those favoring Taiwan independence

The report also deals extensively with China’s military modernization. This modernization is taken seriously and is seen as an area of concern where China will very soon be able to challenge the US for supremacy on the world stage.

Indexes to the report deal with the question of Chinese bomber activities (This section has been widely picked up by the press after the publication of the report.) There is also a section dealing with relative PLA and Taiwan military capabilities







 III. China reacts strongly to it portrayal in these documents.

If we extract the key points from the three documents, we can then see that the US views China as:

  • Using predatory economics on its neighbors
  • Attempting to erode American power
  • Seeking Indo-Pacific regional hegemony
  • Expanding its power at the expense of others
  • Appropriating US innovation
  • Militarizing the Indo-Pacific region
  • Building a modern force to challenge the US militarily

China’s reaction is not unexpected considering how it is depicted in these documents. A good example of the Chinese viewpoint can be found in an article entitled US Indo-Pacific Strategy is Not What it Appears to Bepublished by the China Institute of International Studies, Senior Fellow Jia Xiudong comments:

“Since China is perceived as such a foe and threat to the US, then it is no surprise to see arguments that future US policies toward China should primarily aim at countering China through a strong US-anchored coalition that keeps tight grips on US allies such as Japan and Australia and brings ASEAN and India into its orbit, boosting quadrilateral cooperation with Japan, Australia, and India, otherwise known as the Quad.”

 “As FOIP has adopted such a blunt, cutthroat zero-sum, ideological, antagonistic, and containment-oriented posture toward China, it’s safe to say that the US strategy, up to now, is inherently anti-China, no matter what shining notions it has used or euphemisms it might apply.”

 As for the Annual Report to Congress published in August 2018, Chinese response was both quick and negative.

On August 8, 2018, Spokesperson Lu Kang of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China was asked about the report. The exchange went as follows:

“Q: The Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2018recently released by the Pentagon played up “China’s military threat and lack of transparency” and expressed concerns over China’s strengthened national defense. What’s your comment?”

“A: China is firmly opposed to the above-mentioned US report which, in total disregard of facts, makes presumptuous and irresponsible comments on China’s national defense development and its legitimate acts to safeguard territorial sovereignty and security interests. 

China stays committed to a peaceful development path and follows a national defense policy that is defensive in nature. It is always a builder of world peace, contributor to global development and defender of international order. China’s development of national defense aims to safeguard its national independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, which is the lawful rights for a sovereign state to exercise. This is entirely legitimate and beyond reproach.”

An article on Xinhua net published on August 19, 2018 quoted spokesperson Qu Qian of China’s Ministry of National Defense as saying:

“The release of such reports by the U.S. side year after year has harmed mutual trust and is not in line with the common interests between China and the United States,”

“We ask the United States to abandon its Cold War mindset, adopt an objective and rational attitude towards China’s defense and military developments, stop issuing such irresponsible reports, and make concrete efforts to maintain the stable development of relations between the two militaries.”

 China clearly rejects the picture painted of it in the three reports, seeing itself rather as a responsible player on the world stage protecting its own sovereignty and performing, when possible, missions of international aid and goodwill.

Clearly both sides are seeing a different world and a different Indo-Pacific.

  1. Taiwan is the Biggest Danger Area Right Now in the Indo-Pacific

While it might look like that the “freedom of navigation” question may cause the most danger in the evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific area, the real danger seems to be the schizophrenic US policy on Taiwan.

In his speech at the Shangri-La meeting laying out the FOIP, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said:

 “We oppose all unilateral efforts to alter the status quo, and will continue to insist any resolution of differences accord with the will of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait

 This is a clear reiteration of the 1992 consensus and the One-China policy. Surely the decision makers in Beijing would have no problem with this statement. The Report To Congress issued in August 2018 also states:

The United States maintains a “one-China “policy that is based on the three Joint Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). The United States opposes any unilateral change to the status quo in the Taiwan Strait by either side and does not support Taiwan independence. The United States continues to support the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues in a manner, scope, and pace acceptable to both sides.

 Next, the Report to Congress clearly delineates the growing Chinese capabilities to take back the island of Taiwan by force is necessary. The report states:

China has never repudiated the use of military force and continues to develop and deploy advanced military capabilities needed for a potential military campaign.

 The report lists China’s options when dealing with Taiwan by force of arms. Possible courses of action by China’s military including air, naval, army and rocket forces are spelled out.

So there seems to be no doubt in US understanding of China’s resolve and military capability when dealing with Taiwan.

To reiterate:

1) The US supports the 1992 consensus and does not support Taiwan independence

2) The US fully understands, in detail,the capability of China’s PLA forces to blockade, strike, or invade the island of Taiwan.

However, it appears that while the US has a keen understanding of these two points, a real and potentially very dangerous policy disconnect exists on the ground.

Trump administration sends dangerous mixed signals on Taiwan and takes provocative actions

 On 16 March 2018 Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act that permits and encourages high-level officials from the United States and Taiwan to make visits to the other’s country. The stated purpose is for exchange and dialogue between high-level officials.

The reason given for the passing of this legislation was that since the US recognized the PRC in 1979 and ceased to recognize the Republic of China, officials from both countries, particularly high-level officials were prohibited from visiting the other’s country.

Now the US congress and the Trump administration feel it is time to update US policy. While the US might think this signals its commitment to its support of Taiwan, it sends a different message to Beijing.

On March 17, 2018 the spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lu Kang, expressed the PRC’s displeasure with the Taiwan Travel act:

 “We firmly oppose the US side signing the ‘Taiwan Travel Act’ and have lodged stern representations with the US side.

“As has been pointed out many times by China, the relevant clauses of the act, though not legally binding, severely violate the one-China principle and the three joint communiqués between China and the US. The ‘Taiwan Travel Act’ sends out very wrong signals to the “pro-independence” separatist forces in Taiwan. China is strongly opposed to that. We urge the US side to correct its mistake, stop pursuing any official ties with Taiwan or improving its current relations with Taiwan in any substantive way, and handle Taiwan-related issues properly and cautiously so as to avoid causing severe damage to the China-US relations and cross-Straits peace and stability.”

 It is not hard to understand the reasons for Beijing’s displeasure from their point of view. When the US recognized the People’s Republic of China, it downgraded relations with the Taiwan. This was in keeping with the three communiqués starting with President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. It is not a stretch of the imagination to see China looking at the Taiwan Travel Act and seeing the US as doing an about-face and beginning to re-recognize Taiwan in violation of the one-China principle.

This is especially true during the Trump administration where President Donald Trump feels that the US has been victimized for years, if not decades, by bad “deals” and that it is his job, no, his solemn duty, to renegotiate better “deals” for the US.

To add a physical underscore to this, on June 11, 2018 the US opened a new $255 million facility for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). The AIT is the substitute for an American embassy in Taiwan. China also sees this as adding fuel to the fire, and the two actions taken together could easily be seen as a re-recognitionof the Republic of China as a sovereign state, and a unilateral “re-negotiation” of the 1992 consensus.

Over the years arms sales to Taiwan have taken place under the Taiwan Relations Act much to Beijing’s annoyance, but there are now further developments being proposed. On July 3, 2018, China’s Global Times reported:

“The National Defense Authorization Act for 2018 even articulated that the Six Assurances and the Taiwan Relation Act are cornerstones of US-Taiwan ties. It also proposed to “consider the advisability and feasibility of re-establishing port of call exchange between the United States navy and the Taiwan navy,” and invited the military of Taiwan to participate in US exercises, such as the “Red Flag” exercise. The US Congress’ version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 stated that US military forces may participate in Taiwan’s annual Han Kuang military exercises and suggested: ‘consider supporting the visit of a United States hospital ship to Taiwan.’ These legislations show deepening US-Taiwan military ties.” 

 “The administration of US President Donald Trump intends to strengthen defense ties with Taiwan. Trump focuses on the military factor in the contest among major powers. The conservatives around him have been calling to give more prominence to Taiwan in the US Indo-Pacific strategy.”

 The actions listed above and the actions proposed above seem to indicate a profound ignorance of Chinese thinking on Taiwan. And finding such thinking at the highest level is not very difficult. A quick look at President Xi Jinping’s 2014 book, The Governance of Chinaspells out simply and in detail China’s position on Taiwan.

“…the most important and most fundamental thing to do is to maintain China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Although the mainland and Taiwan are yet to be reunited, they belong to one and the same China, which is an indivisible whole. “

 ” Forces and activities for ‘Taiwan independence’ remain a real threat to the peace of the Taiwan Straits. It is therefore incumbent upon us to oppose and contain any rhetoric or move for ‘Taiwan independence’ without any compromise.”

And here is, perhaps, President Xi’s strongest and clearest statement of the position of China and the PRC:

“All Taiwanese are our kinsmen including the descendants of those who crossed the dangerous ‘Black Ditch’ hundreds of years ago to see a new life in Taiwan, and those who migrated to Taiwan a few decades ago. We share origins and ancestors and we are one close family. To strengthen these ties has been our common aspiration, and no force on earth can sever the bond between us.”

Taiwan does seem to have a part to play in America’s Indo-Pacific strategy, but a very dangerous one. There are many areas where the US and the PRC are jostling for power in the Indo-Pacific area, and differences may work themselves out, or reach a stalemate or be ignored or rendered unimportant by with the passing of time, but Taiwan is not one of them.

If we but read Mr. Xi Jinping’s words we can understand that there is a red line in China’s thinking regarding Taiwan, and a red line that China will not permit to be crossed. If the Taiwan nationalists were to be emboldened by their new part in the Indo-Pacific strategy, if they were to proclaim Taiwan independence in any way, then Beijing would act swiftly and decisively in a military manner. The cost to the PRC would be enormous in terms of blood and treasure, but once the red line is crossed, Mr. Xi will have no other course of action than to respond militarily and in force.

The real problem is that although the US fully understands China’s military power lined up across the Taiwan Strait and what would probably call for its use, it continues on the course of action moving all three parties to the non-negotiable red line with regard to Taiwan.

  1. Conclusion

While US policy calls for a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” US rhetoric describing China’s actions in the three documents cited suggests that it will be very difficult for the US and China to cooperate in an meaningful way to jointly promote peace and prosperity in the Indo Pacific regions.

Moreover, US actions regarding Taiwan that fail to take China’s solemn and irrevocable commitment to re-unify with Taiwan could easily precipitate a bloody conflict with no winners and only losers. Those who promote the Free and Open Indo Pacific should consider these matters very carefully and find ways to create a Free and Open Indo-Pacific acceptable in part to all parties.

Photo: US Indo-Pacific Command via flickr







Wishing You A Happy New Year 2019!

Well, another year has passed and soon it will be 2019. All of us at RG21 would like to thank you for following us and for sharing your thoughts with us. We look forward to another year of providing you with the information necessary to make sense of what is happening in our ever-changing world. If you have any requests for next year, please log in and let us know. So from all of us to all of you: Happy New Year 2019!

Photo: Winter at the Summer Palace-3  by Liang Cia via flickr

China’s Remote 3000km-Long Kunlin Mountains.

                         by David Parmer / Tokyo

Sometimes we speak of far-away places as being “at the ends of the Earth.” That is, they are far away from what we consider to be civilization, are hard to get to, sparsely populated and may contain natural beauty in abundance. One place that would surely fill those requirements would be China’s remote Kunlun Mountains.

Stretching from west to east for 3,000 kilometers, they touch the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan in the west and extend eastward to the edge of the North China Plain. The Kunlun Mountains also act as a border between the Tibet Plain and the Tarim Basin, which includes the Taklimakan Desert and Qinghai.


The Kunlun Mountains are a majestically beautiful but unforgiving environment; they are both arid and frigid in turns and are known for their extremely high winds. While there is more vegetation at lower altitudes, they are basically rock desert with not much growing there.  

Despite the harsh conditions there is both wildlife and human inhabitants. The mountains are host to the Tibetan Gazelle, Tibetan Goat, wild yaks, Ibex, wolves, and even some brown bear. There are Mongol herders in the Qiadam Basin area who keep horses, sheep, and yak and Tibetan nomads in the Qinghai Lake region. Wildlife was under threat from over-hunting and poaching, but efforts are being made to preserve the ecosystem.

Perhaps because of their inaccessibility, the Kunlun Mountains have played a large part in people’s imagination and mythology. They were first thought to be a Taoist paradise, and King Mu ( 976–­922 BCE) was said to have visited the area and found the Jade Palace of the Yellow Emperor. Legend has it that even the Queen of Sheba eventually ended up among the Kunlun peaks. In modern times the 1933 novel by James Hilton, Lost Horizonhad its mythical city of Shangri-La located in the Kunlun Mountains. There is also a fictional martial arts school called Kunlun Sect that appears in Heaven Sword Dragon Sabreby Jin Yong, and a real martial arts school that still exists called Kunlun Fist.

Physics, philosophy, and common sense tell us that nothing lasts forever, and change is the only constant. This may be true, yet China’s Kunlun Mountains seem to exist in a time frame beyond our everyday understanding and comprehension.

Map: Wikimedia 

Photo: Kunlun Mountains, Yusheng Bai via flickr