Person of Interest: PRC Premier Li Keqiang.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang has been front and center of late due to his responsibility for directing efforts to control the deadly coronavirus that originated in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. Li’s message to Wuhan, to China and the world is that the country will fully support Wuhan with the necessary materials and staff to battle the virus. The crisis is ongoing, but Li being in charge sends a message that the central government has given this situation its full attention.

Premier Li was born on 1 July 1955 in Anhui province and grew up during the time of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Li earned a law degree from Peking University and later a Ph.D. in economics.

 He became a member of the CPC and rose through its ranks. He began as a member of the Communist Youth league and became governor of Henan province and party secretary of Liaoning. Li Keqiang served as vice premier from 2008-2013 and has been premier since 15 March 2013, and was re-elected on 18 March 2018.

Once premier, he began making his presence on the world stage. One of his first platforms was the World Economic Forum in 2010. In July 2019 he was again at the “Summer Davos” event in Dalian where he emphasized the benefits of globalization the interdependence of the global economy where he stated:

” We now live in a world of profound economic interdependence.”

He added: “Openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation are the sure way to lasting prosperity of the world economy.”

Premier’s Li’s speech contained strong praise for free trade and the necessity of taking robust measures to deal with climate change. Such positions are in stark contrast to the “America First” policy of the Trump administration and its climate change denial as witnessed by its withdrawal from the Paris  Agreement on climate change.

Premier Li has his work cut out for him when dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, but it is clear that the Chinese government’s response in spearheaded by a capable and dedicated leader who will bring his influence and experience to create the best possible outcome for China and for the world.

Photo: State Council, The People’s Republic of China

Hong Kong, Summer 2019 – A Thorny Problem for Beijing.

Hong Kong in the summer of 2019 really is a thorny problem for Beijing. All things considered, it looks like there is no “win” for Beijing, only a “not lose.”

                              A “Perfect Storm”

A perfect storm of conditions is coming together to make an almost impossible situation in which the Chinese government cannot get a positive outcome. The Hong Kong government has been tasked with dealing with the massive demonstrations opposing the now-defunct extradition bill. The kidnapping of anti-Beijing booksellers in the not-so-distant past gave demonstrators just the ammunition they needed for their protest, as it proved to them that the true purpose of the bill was not to extradite criminals to face justice, but to smother dissent in Hong Kong.

This has been a near impossible situation to deal with for the government of the SAR considering that university students are on holiday and out in full force, and that the world is watching via international media. While there were accusations of excessive force, the demonstrators did enter and vandalize the Legislative Council Building despite police presence.

As of mid-July 2019, protests continue. The second round of protests have been against mainland traders who buy up huge amounts of goods in Hong Kong for resale on the mainland which drives up inflation in Hong Kong. Police and protesters scuffled at a shopping mall and injuries were reported.

Demands from the protesters, in addition to the permanent scrapping of the extradition bill, now include an investigation into police brutality and the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

                                   The Use of Minimal Force

At present, it appears that Bejing’s decision is to continue to let the Hong Kong government handle the situation. The use of excessive force by the SAR or the Beijing government would damage the “soft power” that the PRC has been developing for decades culminating in the “Belt and Road” initiative.

The specter of the CCP’s handling of the 1989 Tian An Men Square incident also hangs over the Chinese government. Moreover, those “on the fence” in Taiwan regarding re-unification might be pushed to the pro-independence side if they were to see the PRC clamp down.

And the “no win” situation is just not for the government of the PRC.The protesters who are acting in such a way to preserve the freedom of Hong Kong under the One Country-Two Systems arrangement might just be putting an end to it. 

                               Beijing’s Red Line

China’s long-term strategy is not yet clear. In the short term, the strategy is not to use excessive force. However there is a point where protest becomes anarchy. If anarchy were to ensue, then the PLA would be called in to maintain order. Once order had been restored, those “freedoms” that the protesters were fighting so hard to preserve might be lost forever.

No one knows where the red line is with the powers in Beijing and we are not privy to the thinking of the CCP. But be sure, there is a red line. When the passions of the protesters are aroused, it is unlikely that long-term thinking will prevail, and it is highly likely that anarchy will ensue. When anarchy does ensue, the CCP and PLA will act, and act decisively.

The above outcomes are not good for Hong Kong, and ultimately not good for China. But history has a way of being history, and in Hong Kong and other places around the world we can see history unfold from the comfort of our own homes on big-screen TVs.

What do you think about this matter? Please let us know.

photo: Etan Liam via flickr

 

Asian Waters—China’s Venerable Grand Canal

 The Grand Canal represents the greatest masterpiece of hydraulic engineering in the history of mankind, because of its very ancient origins and its vast scale, along with its continuous development and its adaptation to circumstances down the ages. It provides tangible proof of human wisdom, determination and courage. It is an outstanding example of human creativity, demonstrating technical capabilities and a mastery of hydrology in a vast agricultural empire that stems directly from Ancient China.   (UNESCO World Heritage List)

                 by David Parmer / Tokyo

Unlike China’s other great treasure, the Great Wall, the Grand Canal is not only an historical relic, but it is also a vibrant part of China’s culture and economy, important today as it was in the 13th century. The 1776 km Hangzhou-Beijing canal, or the Grand Canal, runs from Hangzhou in Zhejiang province through Jiangsu, Shandong, and Hebei provinces. In the North, its route passes Tianjin and ends up in Beijing.

Modern_Course_of_Grand_Canal_of_China

The Grand Canal was started in the late Spring and Autumn period (770-470 BC). The officially agreed upon date seems to be 486 BC. Various sections were linked together during the Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD) and the project reached completion and its near 2,000km length during the Yuan dynasty (1279-1386 AD). Today only the section from Hangzhou to Jining (see illustration above) is navigable. Some sections in the North have dried up and become impassable or are severely polluted. Historically the canal was used to transport grain from southern China to northern China. The bricks for the Forbidden City in Beijing and the timbers for the Ming Tombs also came north along the canal. Since the end of WWII it has been used to transport building materials and fuel. Estimates are that some 100,000 vessels ply the waters of the Grand Canal every year.

China’s rivers generally flow from west to east, and this is one reason why the south to north flow of the Grand Canal is so important. It not only permits the transport of goods from south to north, but also links five of China’s rivers. In addition to the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, it also links the Huaihe, Haihe and Qiantang rivers.

The Grand Canal is indeed an engineering marvel; it is 10 times longer than the Suez Canal and 22 times longer than the Panama Canal. It is also the longest artificial river in the world. The canal is 1.0m below sea level in Hangzhou but 38.5m above sea level in its modern navigational terminus and Jining in Shandong province. There are 24 locks along the river that make this possible.

Grand-Canal

In 2014, the once-neglected Grand Canal was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is valued for its cultural value as well as its ongoing contribution to China’s economy. Throughout history the canal has brought goods and culture from one part of vast China to the other. Efforts are ongoing to improve not only the maintenance of the waterway but also the communities along its way. It is clear that the Hangzhou-Beijing canal will continue to have a major influence on the region and the country in this century and for centuries to come.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Centre

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1443

China Daily: Multi-part video series on Grand Canal in Chinese with English subtitles

http://video.chinadaily.com.cn/2013/1031/1518.shtml

 

Photos:

Top: China Discovery

Map: Wikipedia

Bottom: CNTO