Tag Archives: international relations

The Perils and Potential of Visa Diplomacy: The Importance of Waiting Times (Part 2)

The latest piece by Nicholas Dynon in the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy blog…

In January 2012, amid concerns that the U.S. was failing to capitalize on global tourism growth, President Obama issued an executive order aimed at improving U.S. visa processing in Brazil and China. In relation to China, this meant requiring the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security tocreate a plan within 60 days to increase nonimmigrant (NIV) visa processing capacity in China by 40% within 12 months, and “to ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application.”

The following month, the then-U.S. Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, claimed that 50 new consular officers would be dispatched to China and a consular facility in Beijing reopened that would increase interviewing capacity by 50%.  Almost three years on, available evidence from the International Trade Administration suggests that U.S. visa offices in China are meeting President Obama’s targets. Read further at the CPD Blog…

 

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The winds of net-war: China warns of US arms race in cyberspace

Staking territory in cyberspace

In recent weeks the Chinese government has delivered strong messages about internet sovereignty to both international and domestic audiences. Despite confirming its commitment to working with the rest of the international community “to create a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyber space”, Beijing has given every indication that it regards recent acts of US cyber-aggression as signaling the onset of a new internet-based cold war.

Early in June, the Chinese foreign ministry and the UN Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific co-hosted the International Workshop on Information and Cyber Security in Beijing. In his opening address in front of international media and representatives of 20 nations and international organizations, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong launched a blistering attack on the US for turning the internet into a new great power battlespace.

Minister Li condemned the massive-scale surveillance activities by an “individual country”, which have “severely infringed on other countries’ sovereignty and their citizen’s privacy”. “Instead of reflecting on its behaviors that undermine the sovereignty of other countries and privacy of citizens”, alleged Minister Li, “it has painted itself as a victim and made groundless accusations against or defamed other countries”… read on at the DiploFoundation

 

China’s Ideological ‘Soft War’: Offense is the Best Defense

Beijing regularly reminds us that its foreign policy eschews the export of ideology and meddling in the political affairs of other countries. According to its concept of “peaceful development,” China has no intention of exporting ideology or seeking world hegemony, nor does it seek to change or subvert the current international order. In the same breath, Beijing frequently chides the United States as a serial offender in exporting ideology to shore up its international hegemony as the world’s dominant superpower.

China sees itself as the target of powerful Western political, military and media efforts to pursue neoliberal strategies of ideological world dominance.

Beijing thus purports to maintain a defensive posture in relation to the export of ideology by other actors and the United States in particular. It articulates this in terms of safeguarding its “ideological security” against “ideological and cultural infiltration.”

Beijing characterizes its strategic intentions as mainly “inward-looking” while the United States’ are “outward-looking.” Thus, their strategic intentions do not clash (China Daily, September 9, 2013). While this inward versus outward characterisation appears prima facie to suggest a non-competitive arrangement, reality suggests otherwise. In addition to its defensive ideological posture—and as much as Beijing might state otherwise—there is an “outward-looking” element to this posture. While there exists no evidence that Beijing is exporting ideology for the purpose of universalizing its political values, there is evidence that it is doing so to safeguard its own ideological security in the face of a US-led “soft war.”

By examining Chinese discourse on the subject, this paper examines the extent to which Beijing is exporting its ideology to shore up support abroad, most notably among non-Western developing nations. To this end, it will be shown that Beijing is maneuvering to put its worldview forward as an alternative to the ideological hegemony of the West… read more of this article in the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief

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Shanghai 2010 World Expo promoted China and its culture to the world

Online Reputation Management for Governments: in the national interest or out of the dictator’s playbook?

According to media commentary, the flourishing business of online reputation management (ORM) straddles an ethical divide between protecting against falsifications and perpetrating them.  Its techniques inhabit several ethical shades of gray, from reputation monitoring, defamation clean-up and positive content promotion to SEO manipulation, negative review removal and astroturfing practices.  But if ORM poses ethical concerns in relation to its use by private businesses and individuals, how then should its use by governments be regarded?

Thor Halvorssen, president of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation, argues that ‘reputation management’ can be a euphemism of the worst sort.  “In many cases across Africa, it often means whitewashing the human rights violations of despotic regimes with fluff journalism and, just as easily, serving as personal PR agents for rulers and their corrupt family members”.  It can also work to drown out criticism, branding dissidents and critics as criminals, terrorists or extremists… Read more at DiploFoundation

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[Propaganda poster in Beijing reinforcing the CCP’s official ‘harmonious society’ narrative. From the Line 21 Project collection]

The Language of Terrorism in China: Balancing Foreign and Domestic Policy Imperatives

The latest article by Nicholas Dynon for the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief…

In late October, central Beijing tasted terror when a flaming SUV rammed a crowd of tourists at the city’s iconic Tiananmen gate, killing the three alleged perpetrators and two bystanders. Authorities were quick to label the attack an act of jihadist terror.

The ensuing media commentary and controversy prompted questions around how terrorism is defined—and how terror incidents are framed—by Chinese authorities. Were the perpetrators of the attack radicalized Uighur Islamist insurgents or were they just normal folk marginalized and driven to extreme measures by an arbitrary and belligerent state?

Ultimately, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), an extremist group with purported links to al-Qaeda, praised the attack in a speech given by its leader posted online—a move that seemingly vindicated official finger pointing. While this perpetuates Beijing’s narrative of China as victim of international terrorism, it takes the focus away from a more inconvenient truth. Self-immolation, bombings and other indiscriminate attacks have abounded in China in recent years, and most have been carried out by citizens with no known terrorist, separatist or ethnic minority links. Yet as frequent as these attacks are, the use of “terrorism” to describe them in official media reportage has been noticeably absent. Read more

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[Propaganda feature in Beijing Airport’s Terminal 3, where frustrated petitioner, Ji Zhongxing, detonated a homemade bomb last July]

 

Center to Periphery (Part II): territorial sovereignty in Chinese cyberspace

This post is Part Two of a two-part piece, the first of which was posted on 02 December on the DiploFoundation’s Internet Governance channel.

In late November, Reuters reported Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google Inc, as forecasting that the rise of social media in China will lead to liberalization. “You won’t be able to stop it”, he stated, “even if you don’t like it.” In another November report, Reuters quoted Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, as saying that Beijing will ultimately free up China’s internet for economic reasons. “The Berlin Wall tumbled down, the great firewall of China – I don’t think it will tumble down, I think it will be released.”

In the early 1980s, it was Deng Xiaoping’s policies of ‘reform and opening up’ that had prompted foreign commentators to predict that China’s days as an authoritarian state were numbered. Liberal thinkers jumped quickly to the conclusion that China’s experimentation with capitalism in designated zones on its coastal peripheries would lead inevitably to democratization.

That was 30 years ago. Since then, radical economic liberalization has been wrought across China, resulting in historically unprecedented economic and social transformation. But despite the predictions, these winds of change have carried with them not the slightest hint of political liberalization.

It would appear that Schmidt and Berners-Lee see the internet as the missing ingredient. Available evidence would suggest otherwise.

In part one of this post, I used a center-periphery approach to provide an overview of how Beijing controls and utilizes China’s geopolitical space. In this part, I consider how Beijing’s management of geopolitical space is paralleled in the virtual world and in how Beijing controls its cyber borders. Read more…

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[Shanghai – host of a new pilot free trade zone]

 

Season’s Greetings from the Line 21 Project

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Thank you to our supporters for a great 2013. Wishing everyone a safe and prosperous 2014!