The announcement of China’s far-reaching military reform package on 1 January 2016 set off an avalanche of news reports and scholarly debate. Amid disagreements over the motivations behind the reform initiative and its possible consequences, a dominant narrative quickly took shape: the structural changes to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) amount to a radical break with the past.
In 1971, US treasury secretary John Connally coined this famous statement: “The dollar is our currency, but it’s your problem.” Back then, the dollar’s status as the leading international mode of payment and store of value was unchallenged – and the US enjoyed all the privileges. The US enjoyed – and continues to enjoy – the benefit of paying low interest on its sovereign debt, which is denominated in dollar and therefore faces no exchange rate risks. It can finance domestic consumption through access to external savings, and it can foot foreign bills by printing its own currency.
In 2010, China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi shook up a mostly transatlantic audience when he took the stage at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) and accused the US of violating international law with a proposed arms sale to Taiwan. It was the first speech by a Chinese foreign minister in the forum’s history. Yang returned to Munich in 2015 as State Councillor, coordinating one of China’s small core groups in charge of steering foreign policy.
A sudden, novel use of the term “核心” (hexin, or “core” in English) to describe General Secretary Xi Jinping generated a stir in China-watcher circles recently. The new use appeared early in 2016, as dozens of municipal and provincial cadres employed the novel phrase (坚决维护习近平总书记这个核心, or “resolutely safeguard the core, General Secretary Xi Jinping”) in successive rounds of meetings<
China’s announcement of its planned military spending for 2016 caught many by surprise. The full budget will be released this Saturday at the start of the annual National People’s Congress, but according to Fu Ying, the spokeswoman of this year’s legislative session, spending will rise by only 7 to 8 percent.
A few days ago, reports emerged that the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post (SCMP) has been censored on the Chinese Internet. The newspaper’s accounts on various social media platforms, including Twitter-like Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, and WeChat, are no longer accessible. Web services such as GreatFire and BlockedInChina, which allow users to check whether a particular website is blocked in mainland China, return contradictory results about the accessibility of the SCMP’s English and Chinese web portals.
While the US rebalances east to Asia, China marches west. Beijing’s project to build a “new silk road” connecting Asia and Europe is the most visible statement of its geostrategic interests. The success of the project, officially known as “One belt, one road” (OBOR), depends in large part on developments in the volatile Mideast.
Media freedom in China has suffered under president Xi Jinping. In its latest press freedom index, Reporters without Borders ranks China at the bottom of the list, followed only by Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea. In our MERICS Podcast, Professor Yuen-ying Chan agrees that these are hard times for journalists in China. But the founding director of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at Hongkong University also argues that spaces for independent and investigative journalism in China remain despite tight censorship and increased controls.