A whiff of race-traitorhood: Sohu readers eviscerate a Global Times editorial

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times), on the front cover of Renwu Zhoukan (Personalities Weekly)

The PRC’s internet users frequently serve us with reminders of just how much scepticism we should have regarding the purported market imperatives of the Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times), published by the People’s Daily.

In February 2010, according to a Wiki-leaked cable written by Jon Huntsman, a Huanqiu Shibao editor told a political officer from the US embassy that their newspaper was “market-driven” and therefore had to “reflect public opinion in order to make money”.

The same day, a Beijing University academic told embassy staff that “the Global Times’ more ‘hawkish’ editorial slant [is] ‘consistent with the demands of the readers and normal for a market-driven newspaper.’ “

This view seems to be shared by some liberal Chinese intellectuals, such as Michael Anti, who has been quoted as saying “its position is to make money — nationalism is Global Times’ positioning in the market”.

Susan Shirk, a highly influential US analyst of PRC foreign policy, even claims that Chinese officials somehow see the Huanqiu Shibao as representative of popular opinion, and that they read it to understand the population’s views on hot-button issues. At least, that is what Shirk’s sources in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tell her, and she raises no questions as to this information’s veracity.

Other analysts, however, like those interviewed in this excellent Asia Sentinel article, suggest at least four different domestic and international purposes that Huanqiu may serve — none of them involving monetary profit:

Read the rest of this entry »


Xinhua spreading rumours, unpopular military commentary, and a witchhunt: the Scarborough Shoal media wave Part III (May 11-13)

Loida Nicolas Lewis “exposed” on the front page of NetEase (photo top-left), May 13, 2012. The caption beneath reads, “Identity of Philippines anti-Chinese demonstration plotter revealed”. On the right-hand side is a picture (which remains in the same place as of May 22) of China’s biggest Fisheries Law Enforcement Command ship, the Yuzheng-310, linking to a special saturation-coverage page dedicated to the Scarborough Shoal issue

I’m posting about stuff that happened more than a week ago, so i’ll start by apologizing to any readers who might have come here looking for up-to-date developments. To explain briefly, party-approved waves of media sensationalism, the Chinese public’s reaction to them, and the regime’s reactions to those public reactions, are crucial aspects of my research project, so my task is to document these in as much detail as i can. The PRC’s yearly South China Sea fishing ban, which started last week, has offered a much-needed circuit-breaker to ease the tensions, but even now that the wave has broken and rolled back, i still have a backlog of interesting conversations to discuss.

For those who mightn’t care to read all the way to the bottom to find out what might be buried down there, here’s a summary of what’s below:

  1. Xinhua was the immediate source of war-preparations rumours denied by Ministry of Defense
  2. PLA Daily’s piece on May 12 appears aimed at Dai Xu and his powerful pro-war backers in China
  3. Fenqing witchhunt unmasking the “organiser” of the global Filipino demonstrations, via Weibo, becomes dominant in mainstream discourse

Read the rest of this entry »


The China Energy Fund Committee: mouthpiece of the Ye Jianying clan?

China Energy Fund Committee strategic analyst Dai Xu (戴旭)

After making waves last year with its call for war in the South China Sea, the shadowy China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC, 中国能源基金委员会) is back, going head-to-head once again with former PRC ambassador to the UN, Wu Jianmin, over the issue of “narrow-minded nationalism” in China. This time, however, it seems to have provided an answer to the riddle of last year’s “Long Tao” articles, and perhaps even the true nature of their significance.

On May 3, it appears (i can’t access the digital version), the Huanqiu Shibao ran side-by-side pieces by Wu and the CEFC’s “strategic analyst” Dai Xu, one titled ‘Beware narrow-minded nationalism’, the other ‘There is no narrow-minded nationalism in China’.

The piece by Wu, one of the more prominent doves of PRC foreign affairs discourse, argued:

As recent articles have pointed out, China is now in its third period of ‘letting 100 schools of thought contend’ (百家争鸣). In this process of contention, one thing to be wary of is that narrow-minded nationalism is now raising its head.

This narrow-minded nationalism, according to Wu, has three main manifestations: 1.) the belief that China is being victimised through international cooperation;  2.) challenging Deng Xiaoping’s “shelve differences and jointly develop” approach, advocating military action instead; and 3.) blind rejection of multinational companies.

Dai Xu’s response (one can only presume that he had been supplied with a copy of Wu’s article) was that no xenophobic (排外) incidents have ever taken place in China, so “narrow-minded nationalism” doesn’t exist:

Since the besieging of the Olympic Torch on a global scale in 2008, the encirclement by the US strategic alliance, and the urging on of internal separatists by external forces, voices advocating self-strengthening and vigilance against foreign anti-China forces creating chaos in China have indeed emerged. The author believes that this represents the shining spirit of China’s patriotic tradition. It is a good sign, a sign that China’s people are suddenly waking up from the hallucination of ‘Chimerica’ (中美国). Since Reform and Opening, despite China’s wholehearted constructiveness, we have still encountered much unfair treatment, so the Chinese people obviously have a reason to be angry, and a right to fight back. Chinese people of all strata should support this with voice and action to demonstrate national cohesion, uphold the overall [national] interest. How can this be seen as ‘narrow-minded nationalism’?

Dai goes on to claim that America is trying to build its global empire using the same multifaceted, winner-takes-all approach to China as it did the Soviet Union. However, while the US has no fear of China’s economic might, nor its military development, but what it does fear is China’s “patriotism” (爱国主义). This, Dai concludes, is the only way for China to fight back against America’s imperial ambitions.

In contrast to the almost conspiratorial overtones of the pen-name “Long Tao” (龙韬), Dai Xu is quite famous: he is a PLA Air Force researcher and author with the rank of colonel (上校) — similar to Luo Yuan — who has often appeared in the PRC media. His 2010 book argued that “China cannot escape the calamity of war, and this calamity may come in the not-too-distant future, at most in 10 to 20 years.” That work focused on the need to resist America’s anti-China plotting; two years on, his writing continues on the same theme.

He is also very, very angry about the South China Sea situation, as he demonstrates in this video. His arguments and turns of phrase in the video, make me strongly suspect that “CEFC strategic analyst” Long Tao was, in fact, “CEFC strategic analyst” Dai Xu.

Colonel Dai is a professor at China National Defense University, but this time (and on previous occasions if he is indeed “Long Tao”) he has for some reason chosen to appear on behalf of the China Energy Fund Committee. This brings me full-circle to the question i was left with last time: what exactly is the CEFC?

Last year, when its website actually worked, it was describing itself as a “non-profit, non-governmental think tank devoted to public diplomacy and researches on strategic issues with emphasis on energy and culture”. In February last year it was granted “consultative status” by the UN’s Committee on NGOs, which summarises it thus:

China Energy Fund Committee, an international NGO based in China which aims to gather talents both at home and abroad, and integrate essential information from all over the world, to conduct research concerning energy development strategy, international energy cooperation, and global energy security, and to contribute substantially to China’s sustainable development of energy.

I emailed three of its 38 consultants, asking who set it up and who funds it, and none of the three were willing or able to answer, referring my inquiry to the Head of Communications, who noted that it was “privately funded” and that “we conduct strategic research and public diplomacy focusing on achieving energy security for China and the world at large.”

However, after some more searching this evening, i found the CEFC listed as a “social responsibility” project on the website of one China Huaxin Energy Co. Ltd. (中国华信能源有限公司) , which calls itself “China CEFC Energy Company Limited” in English. In addition to the “CEFC” in Huaxin’s English name, the logos are exactly the same, so i think we can fairly safely conclude that the CEFC is set up and funded by Huaxin.

China Energy Fund Committee logo

Privately-run, and headquartered in Xujiahui, a suburb of Shanghai, Huaxin claims in English to have an annual turnover of more than RMB 30 billion (about US$5 billion) and a workforce of 12,000. In the Chinese version only, it claims that the RMB 30 billion is actually just its domestic turnover, and that it also has an overseas turnover of more than ten times that amount — a staggering US$50 billion, which is just under 1/4 PetroChina’s revenue (and with a workforce only 1/40 the size of PetroChina’s). I’m not saying it can’t be true, but….can it?

So where does this megalith get these billions? The website (in both Chinese and English) says:

CEFC specializes in oil, petrochemical and energy industries, with its mission of safeguarding national energy security, supporting the development of national strategic industries, and assisting national expansion and protection of overseas economic interests.

[. . .]

At present, it has established comprehensive commercial and industrial systems that involve both the upstream and downstream of the domestic oil and petrochemical industries, and cover the geological areas of Southeast Asia, Middle East, Africa and North America.

If it’s an oilfield services company, focusing on security, then perhaps that could explain its pro-war stance?

Or could it be driven by the 34-year-old Chairman of the Board, Ye Jianming 叶简明, who is listed as the founder of a “Fujian Huaxin Holdings”? (Don’t worry about his recent appointment to the board of another company either — he was definitely still in charge at Huaxin as of April 28.)

Chairman of the Board, Ye Jianming

He seems rather young to be in charge of a multi-billion dollar company, and if he’s a self-made billionaire, then he’s done extremely well to maintain such a low profile. Could Ye be a relation of the PLA immortal, and reform-era powerbroker, Marshal Ye Jianying 叶剑英?

The young chairman certainly seems to be somebody, judging by the copious references in the company periodical to “studying Chairman Ye’s” speeches and articles.

According to John Garnaut, one of the most clued-up foreign journalists when it comes to China’s princelings: “Marshal Ye engineered Xi Zhongxun’s appointment as party boss of Guangdong province and probably helped secure a career-building military post for his son Xi Jinping.” As such, Garnaut writes, Xi Jinping “owes a great deal to the families of both Marshal Ye and Hu Yaobang”.

Let me stress: I have scoured the internet for the past 2 hours and found no evidence that Ye Jianming is a member of Ye Jianying’s family. Nevertheless, it really does seem quite plausible. If the company is anywhere near as big as it claims to be, then being part of the Ye clan is probably the most likely explanation for why such a young guy is in charge of such a huge company. If he is, then we are talking about a very powerful guy. As in, really, really powerful — super-rich, with super-strong connections in both party and military.

If this is true, then attaching the CEFC label to a media commentary would put the weight of the Ye clan behind it, at least as far as intra-Party and PLA readers are concerned. And Dai Xu has chosen, probably on numerous occasions, to use his “CEFC strategic analyst” title, rather than his National Defense University position.


“A golden opportunity to use force”: mysterious China Energy Fund Committee attack-dog


UPDATE 6/10: Some interesting tidbits about Long Tao’s name 龙韬 here. Prof. June Dreyer points out that it refers to one of the Six Secret Teachings, which may make it a veiled call to cast aside officials who stand in the way of the suggested plan.

UPDATE 30/9: The Global Times has now posted an English version of Long Tao’s article. Possibly a response to the Japanese- Philippines “strategic partnership” and Japan’s further “wading” into the South China Sea dispute.

Tuesday’s Global Times carried an opinion piece titled ‘The present is a golden opportunity to use force in the South China Sea’. I thought the title would have just about said it all, and was therefore only going to offer some juicy excerpts, but as i read through it i found almost every sentence too good to leave out:

The internationalization of the South China Sea issue is perfectly clear, but it has not completely taken shape yet. The author believes now is a golden opportunity for China to coolly assess, grasp the opportunity, and take swift and definitive action.

At present every country is engaging in an arms race, procuring long-range maritime control weapons. Even Singapore, which is not part of the South China sea dispute, is preparing to introduce advanced stealth fighters. Australia and India’s military plans are in order to make world-class preparations, and Japan doesn’t want to be left behind either. America is energetically selling armaments with one hand and pouring petrol on the fire with the other, and at the same time is preparing to intervene militarily.

[. . .] One should not be afraid of small-scale wars, for they are a good way to release fighting potential. By fighting several small wars one can avoid a large war.

Speaking of war, we can look first at who should actually fear it. The South China Sea region has more than 1,000 oil and gas wells, but none of them belong to China. There are four airports in the Spratly Islands, but Mainland China does not have one. China has no other important economic installations. Leaving aside the issue of winning and losing, as soon as war commences the South China Sea will inevitably become a sea of fire. When those towering oil drilling platforms become flaming torches, who will be hurt the most? As soon as the fighting begins, all those Western oil and gas companies will inevitably withdraw, so who will lose the most? Read the rest of this entry »


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