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East must help West understand #OBOR

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On the occasion to celebrate and reflect the lessons learned and experiences made since the return of HK to China 20 years ago, there was plenty of discussion of past events, current trends and foresight on how to prepare for the future. Much was said in particular about the evolving international relationships between the East and West - writes Ying Zhang, Professor & Vice Dean @ Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

Rotterdam, with its important strategic role on trade and international relationship between Asia and Europe, is an important voice to be heard. On June 30th 2017, the Netherlands Hong Kong Business Association, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Brussels, and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council co-organized the seminar about One-Belt-One-Road.

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Ying Zhang Professor & Vice Dean @ Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

Ying Zhang Professor & Vice Dean @ Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

Having participated in many forums about OBOR, my general observation is: for the West, OBOR is commonly accepted as a great idea. but the topic invokes lots of questions. Nobody seems to grasp that OBOR can function only as a joint project of all the participants involved. OBOR as an initiative proposed by China, is a global and a century project for helping to rebuild a better world order, however the ownership of OBOR rest with all the involved participants and not with China alone. This becomes evident when you look at the OBOR sister-project ---- AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank). This project has always been labeled a “crowdfunding, crowd-owned” project.

Responding to such a concern, I believe that besides the East needs more patient and effort to help the West understand OBOR, including its past evidence, current reality, and the proposed prosperity of the future, more stakeholders need to join, and support more proactively the design of the project. My sense is that most of the audience at current is still confused about the rationale behind it, and couldn’t tell the difference between OBOR economic-social-environment formula and the current ones that each has been used to deal with for the current order of the world; meaning that different parties hold different calculations for OBOR, either desperate to attract Chinese investment, or hostile blaming unbalanced trade with China. Objectively speaking: All of these attitudes are not fact-respecting, with three arguments: Firstly, as for the world order in the past, if accepting the principle of competitive advantage, this opinion shouldn’t be supported, since respecting the rationale of competitive advantage and acknowledging the consequence of competitive advantage for each participants is the condition of free-market market; Secondly, as for the world order in the future, accepting the drive of the change and the consequences of the world order revision is the condition as well. Third, as for the current, accepting emerging countries such as China coming back (or saying catching up) and even leading up especially in terms of economy is the condition for the next round of preparation for globally inclusive growth.

These three conditions going through the fact of past, current, and future have formulated the future order: we must treat each other with the principle of Understanding-Trusting-Supporting-Joint Developing. This principle applies to all parties. The reason is simple: with global economic, social, and climate change, exclusiveness is not an option to deal with all the issues of our human being. An absence of mindful behavior for nurturing a responsibly sustainable society, economy, and environment will be a self-extinction action, rather than to this planet. Honestly, from such a point of view, to be more inclusive is the only way to save our world. As follows, I would like to present some of my further thoughts:

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(1) Conceptually, OBOR is initiated by China, and is a great idea. It is instrumental to UN’s message to build Sustainable Development Society, and to build a new inclusively ordered world for our economy, society, and environment;

(2) Conceptually, OBOR project should be owned by all the participants. It needs more contribution from both the East and the West, to jointly design and plan for our generation and our offsprings.

(3) The East and the West needs to be conscious that OBOR is not only an world initiative, but also a world order revisit. The history of the past gives the glimpse of how this new world order could function, with silk-road-based world trade order and culture communication. Historically, this order had pushed up global prosperity and civilization for hundreds of years. One point must be clear: OBOR shouldn’t be labeled only as a China project, instead it is a global and all inclusive project.

(4) For the West, after hundreds of years of capitalism and technological development, the ceiling of capitalism has been reached. Capital maximization should not remain the main target, instead dealing with the source of the Capitalists' Dilemma by devoting to a social-economic equality community should be an ideal. This applies to both the West and particularly the East. And from this sense, OBOR is initiated at the right moment when we have been questioning and expecting something new to make our world even better.

(5) In terms of reaction and responses that I have seen, I believe that the West has to be more proactive and more enthusiastic about social-economic development by engaging in this global century project, and shouldn't miss this opportunity. Wait-and-see is definitely not a right attitude, instead participating as a shareholder-based stakeholder will be more effective. “Waking up and Moving faster" is the message that I want to give to those who still have the view of "wait-and-see"...

For the East, the discussion implies also many concerns, which I think both sides (the West and East) must not overlook. Both sides need to be more mindful to sync and act with one another. The issues of the East are more on practical and execution level, and involve a lot of discussion on the solution-seeking side. They typically evolve around questions on how to eliminate the defensive and competitive mentality and create a cooperative mindset for the future agenda; questions on how to make a systematic road map for a joint vision and build an inclusive community via OBOR participants contribution; questions on how to be more strategic moving forward to reach an equality-oriented society for both individual side and collectives; and questions on how to include social and environmental requirements into OBOR and its economic projects, most importantly during the negotiation and collaboration...

OBOR is a great idea. It deserves more discussion and contributions. Your insights are always very welcomed at any time!

In any case, this seminar is very insightful, and gave me a great chance to learn from those who have been working at the frontier with markets and clients here and there, for many years. No matter what reasons, their challenges and concerns are my challenges and concerns too. They are quite different from those on the political level and they do deserve us to study and assist.

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Climate Action: EU-China joint press communiqué on the fight against climate change ahead of COP26

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Following their second high-level environment and climate dialogue on 27 September 2021, Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans and Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China Han Zheng reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and a successful outcome of the COP26 in Glasgow. In a joint press release, they stressed the urgency to act immediately, notably in the light of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They also confirmed that that the high-level environment and climate dialogue will continue to be a key platform between the EU and China to enhance actions and bilateral cooperation on environment and in the fight against climate change. During their last meeting, they discussed various aspects of the global climate and biodiversity crises, with a focus on the forthcoming UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow and on COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming. More details on the discussion are available here

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China lodges stern representations with Australia on Taiwan comments

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The Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday (11 October) that China has lodged stern representations with Australia over "inappropriate" comments by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott about Taiwan, write Yew Lun Tian and Ryan Woo, Reuters.

Abbott last week visited Taiwan, which is claimed by China, in a personal capacity, met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, and told a security forum that China may lash out with its economy slowing and finances "creaking". Read more.

"The relevant words and actions by the Australian politician go against the One China Principle and send a seriously wrong signal," Zhao Lijian, a spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry, told a regular media briefing. "China is firmly opposed to this. We have made stern representations to Australia."

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Corruption in China’s chamber of justice

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The CCP’s former justice minister Fu Zhenghua is now under probe for serious disciplinary violations - he had previously launched a politically motivated prosecution against prominent dissident Guo Wengui AKA Miles Kwok, writes Louis Auge.

In recent days the Chinese Communist Party has signalled its intention to pursue its anti-corruption efforts even amidst the higher echelons of the ruling party’s legal and judicial spheres. The campaign, launched by President Xi Jinping in 2018 with the slogan "Saohei chu'e," meaning "sweep away black and eliminate evil", has targeted a staggering number of purportedly corrupt state actors over the course of the past three years.

China's legislature has hailed the campaign as a huge success – having exposed almost 40,000 alleged criminal cells and corrupt companies, and more than 50,000 Communist Party and government officials having been punished for allegedly abetting them, according to official statistics. And Beijing is showing no signs of slowing down its pursuit of individuals they perceive to have fallen foul of the system – even at the top.

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In what is being perceived as the latest show of China's iron fist against corruption in the political and legal system, over the weekend it was announced that Fu Zhenghua, the deputy director of the social and legal affairs committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) - China's top political advisory body - is under disciplinary and supervisory investigation for suspected violations of CCP protocol.

Before taking up his post at the CPPCC, Mr. Fu had served as justice minister and deputy police chief for the Beijing municipal police department, where he was praised by the CCP hierarchy for cracking down on the city's sex industry, earning himself a promotion to executive vice minister for public security.

He was also known for cracking down on prominent and successful families. In 2014, Mr. Fu a conducted what many critics perceived to be politically motivated prosecution against Guo Wengui AKA Miles Kwok, a high profile CCP dissident now living in exile in the United States. Mr. Kwok subsequently revealed that Mr. Fu had ordered an investigation into the family finances of Wang Qishan, the country’s current Vice President, causing rumours to swirl about Mr. Fu’s political future.

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The allegations against him failed to stick however – with Mr. Fu going on to be promoted to the position of Minister of Justice – but his path up the CCP power ranks now appears to have run out of road. He is not the only high ranking official to feel the wrath of Beijing recently. News of the investigation came just days after the CCP announced it was expelling former vice minister of public security Sun Lijun, having accusing him of "forming cliques and cabals to take over a key department," and of keeping a private collection of confidential documents.

Regarding Mr. Fu, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) - the ruling Communist Party's anti-corruption watchdog - announced simply that he is under investigation for "serious violations of party discipline and law." The one-sentence statement did not offer any further details into the indictment.

According to CNN, the announcement was welcomed by a wide range of figures online, from rank-and-file police officers and prison guards to investigative journalists, human rights lawyers and intellectuals. No doubt outspoken CCP critics such as Mr. Kwok will also have felt vindicated by the development, to say the least.

In recent months President Xi has stepped up his party’s clamp down on rising political stars and overly powerful officials. However what is unusual about the fate of Mr. Fu's is how loudly and widely – in other words, unanimously – it is being celebrated, both by people working for the regime, and by those who have been subject to its repression.

Following news of his downfall, several veteran investigative journalists said on social media they had been targeted by Mr. Fu for their hard-hitting reports, on topics ranging from illegal detention of petitioners to local government corruption.

"The targets of Fu Zhenghua's crackdown are people at the core of China's civil society. Therefore, the country's whole intellectual sector and the wider public are all thrilled by (his fall from grace)," said Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing. "His rise to power represented the aggressive iron-fist approach that has shaped China's governance over the past decade."

Mr. Fu's aggressive approach was also applied to police officers and prison guards, many of whom have been celebrating his downfall on social media. Comments make reference to Mr. Fu’s imposition of draconian working conditions for entry-level officers, such as not allowing prison guards to take breaks during night shifts.

Some analysts have suggested that this series of recent purges demonstrate declining trust from the Chinese leadership in the country's domestic security agencies. In the words of Wu Qiang, “It is very difficult for Beijing to have political trust. This is the biggest crisis in its governance". For critics such as Miles Kwok, it is also a sign of that the fractures within the centre of the ruling party are beginning to widen. Whether it is chasm that can be bridged is anyone’s guess.

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