The Year Begins With A Bang.

Well, 2020 started off with bang. We are not quiet getting back to things as usual but starting things from a very dangerous place. World tensions were ramped right up to a 9.0 over the US airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Tensions have been high since Donald Trump became president, and now they have gone to an all-time high.

As written in an earlier RG21 post, Iran is no match for the US one on one. Iran, however, does have the ability to conduct asymmetric warfare against the US through it naval and Special Forces and its proxies throughout the region.

Even before this, there were signs that things are changing in the region. December 2019 saw the first combined Iranian, Chinese, Russian naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman. If there was ever a sign of the waning and waxing of world powers, this could be it. America’s decline in world power and prestige could be traced to these exercises.

2020 also no relief for China in its ongoing problem in Hong Kong. All indications are that this problem will continue throughout the year although council elections in 2019 might have given the democratic opposition the face it needed to be seen as legitimate and to be taken seriously. China’s best bet is to let Hong Kong air its grievances through the ballot box and to responsibly govern under the One Country, Two Systems scheme.

The British people have sent a clear message about Brexit: it is their will that it happen. Before there was doubt, but the election was a “second referendum” and Boris Johnson is empowered to perform Brexit and bring Britain out of the EU.

French President Emmanuel Macron has his own set of problems and demonstrations on a Hong Kong scale minus the violence. It is just possible that Macron will hold on for a long time and join the ranks of France’s most respected presidents.

And the United States is scheduled to have a presidential election in November that will decide whether Donald Trump and the Republicans get another four years, or whether the Democrats can cobble together a coalition of voters strong enough to gain the White House and the senate. The events of the first week of January indicate that 2020 will be truly memorable–that is, if things continue at the current pace.

What is your opinion and what are your predictions for 2020? Please share your ideas with us.

Photo: Ancient Persian Guardsman via flickr.

Big Story 2019 #1 – Evolution of “One-Country, Two Systems.”

This year has seen severe testing of the One Country Two Systems (OCTS) principle in Hong Kong. While there have been demonstrations in the past (e.g. Umbrella Movement, 2014) there has been nothing on the scale of the protests in 2019 sparked by the government’s proposed extradition bill. And while the bill was later withdrawn, widespread and sustained protests have been ongoing for the second half of 2019.

Protests have been both peaceful and violent with clashes between demonstrators and Hong Kong police. Social unrest and widespread property damage have marked the protests, and some elements have targeted Beijing-affiliated businesses.

The real question raised by these protests is whether OCTS can survive and adapt. The former Portuguese territory of Macau is under OCTS and continues to function without major problems. For strategic reasons it would be to the benefit of Beijing for OCTS to work, as this would be the most painless way that Taiwan could be integrated back into greater China.

For a resolution of the Hong Kong question it seems that Hong Kong people must acknowledge that the former British territory is in fact part of China. For Beijing and its 70-year-old one party system, it might be time to re-think how the system can adapt to this new challenge. Historically China has always found a way to Sinicize peoples and systems and to make appropriate adjustments to new realities. Can Beijing do this with OCTS?

RG-21 will soon be publishing several reports on this topic. In the meantime, please feel free to give us your opinion on this very important matter.

Photo: Etan Liam via flickr

China at 70 – Where From Here?

October 1, 2019 marked exactly 70 years since the late Mao Zedong stood atop the gate at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and declared that the Chinese people had stood up, and henceforth China would be the People’s Republic of China.

The 70 year period was not without its challenges including armed clashed with three other world powers, the US, India and Russia and the growing, flowering, decline and growing again of one of the world’s biggest economies. Add to this the tumult brought about by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which was aimed at revitalizing the revolution and keeping ideology pure, but which resulted in the death of countless citizens and the doling out of large doses of misery to millions of others.

With Reform and Opening up in the early 1980s the pent up energy of the Chinese people was released and the world saw a real miracle as so many in the new China were lifted out of poverty as the economy showed almost unstoppable growth. China rose to be the #2 economy in the world defying all odds.

While economic growth has slowed, China is now set on a course to become a “moderately prosperous society” by the middle of this century. This vision, combined with the establishment of the Belt and Road initiative to revitalize the Silk Road are both visions of China’s future set forth by its president, Xi Jinping.

China is not without its problems going forward however. The ongoing trade war with the United States is one major headache. The Uighur minority in Xinjiang is another matter that must be addressed with wisdom and fairness. And now Hong Kong seems a problem with no easy solution that must be addressed in a creative way to ensure democracy and guarantee the rule of law. China’s claim to the South China Sea and its relations with Taiwan are also thorny issues going forward.

So what will the future be for China? A “moderately prosperous” society for the majority of its people as President Xi Jinping suggests, Or a rethinking of the China Dream in light of 21st century realities?

Please log in and give us your thoughts on this.


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—The Astounding Pearl River Delta

Shunde, Foshan, Guangdong PRC (Photo: topwalls)

                              by David Parmer

Southern China’s Pearl River is 2400 kilometers long, making it the country’s third longest waterway. A glance at the map shows not one river, but rather a river system that becomes the Pearl River. The Liuxi,  Xi (West) Bei (North) and Dong ( East) Rivers join at Guangzhou and flow into the Pearl River Delta (PRD) and the South China Sea.

Just 30 years ago the PRD would have been impressive, and yes historic as China’s gateway to the West. But now,…now the PRD is the Pearl River Delta Economic Zone, and what was once green farmland with blue skies is now an urban megacity. Since 1980 there has been an astounding and amazing transformation that is far from over. Guangdong province has a population estimated at 83,000,000 and an area of 177,600 square kilometers; the area of the Pearl River Delta is estimated to be 55,000 square kilometers.

The Pearl River Delta is composed of 9 cities +2. They are:

  • Shenzhen
  • Dongguan
  • Huizhou
  • Zhuhai
  • Zongshan
  • Jiangmen
  • Guangzhou
  • Foshan
  • Zaoqing
  • Macau +Hong Kong


Pearl River Delta (via wikimedia)

The area has been called the “world’s workshop” for good reason. Simply put, if you use some manufactured product today, whatever it  is, there is a good chance it has been produced in the PRD area. Clothing, electronics, watches, clocks garments, textiles and 60% of the world’s toys – all come from the PRD. And the industries mentioned above form industrial clusters where similar products are made with great efficiency. Couple all this with complete land, water and air transportation and excellent ports and you have today’s PRD.

China’s central government has big plans for this area. Big plans. By 2030 the area will be one big city of 40 million, any part of which can be reached by high speed train in one hour. ( Of note, the government is also planning a mega city in the North, combining Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei. This area will contain the dynamic Bohai Sea economic zone as well). Mass urbanization is clearly the future of China. The land-tilling peasant of past centuries will be but a memory. Within the megacities citizens will be free to move and not be restricted to the city, town or village where they are registered.

Pearl River Night

Pearl River at Guangzhou ( R.Morbach via flickr) 

The Pearl River moves from west to east, gathers and flows into the South China Sea and forms its own amazing delta, and is witness to the ongoing creation of the greatest urban area ever created in China, or on the Earth for that matter.