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Geo-Strategic Trend

“Academic Alliance” of “Belt and Road” Countries

On October 13 and 14, an “Academic Alliance” consisting of schools of political science and international relations in a number of countries along China’s “Belt and Road” initiative was formally established at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Deans of the schools of political science and international relations from 13 countries including China, Russia, India, South Korea, Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Mongolia, Hungary, Poland, and Latvia met together to discuss the “Belt and Road” initiative and the development of a new international relationship, as well as possible international academic cooperation.

Su Changhe, executive dean of the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University, said that emerging countries and developing countries are important forces in the development of new international relations, but these countries lack adequate understanding of each other. Using the means of international cooperation and education in international relations, schools of political science and international relations in these countries can play a leading role in conducting unofficial exchanges, helping reduce the deficit in mutual understandings, and fostering the basis for public opinion for common development.

The School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University initiated the alliance. Su Changhe proposed that the academic alliance should be a network for students and scholars and should adhere to the “4C” concept, that is, “comfort,” “cooperation,” a “community of mutual understanding,” and a “connective network.” Su believes that the alliance is an inclusive and informal organization that puts “comfort” first, meaning that no ideology or political standpoint is imposed in the academic exchanges, and that it’s a pragmatic cooperation on an equal and comfortable basis. The deans attending the conference put forward nearly 40 valuable proposals for the future of the alliance, including strengthening student and teacher communication, credit transfer, multinational dual degree programs, summer schools, scholars’ field research, remote online courses, and an exchange of scholars to give lectures on each country’s governance and politics.

Dody Prayogo, Associate Dean of the School of Social and Political Studies at the University of Indonesia, suggested the creation of a “Belt and Road” international journal. Mohammad Takhshid, from the Faculty of Law and Politics at the University of Tehran, wished that this academic network would be gradually and formally organized in the future.

Source: The Paper, October 16, 2018

BBC Chinese: Africa Begins to Say No – Sierra Leone Called off Chinese Investment Project

BBC Chinese recently reported that the West African country Sierra Leone just announced the cancellation of an airport construction project that China was to fund. The government of Sierra Leone explained that the project is “not economical.” However, the project has already begun and it is unclear if China will, at this time, ask for a fine for breaching the project contract . This is the first instance of an African country announcing the cancellation of a China One Belt One Road project. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) both warned earlier that this project may bring an unnecessary debt burden to Sierra Leone. The Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone told the press that the announcement won’t hurt the relationship between the two countries because China’s principle has always been to look for win-win arrangements. Only last month, China invited a large number of African leaders to China and announced a US$60 billion “aid” plan to Africa. China is currently the largest financial supplier to Africa. The current government of Sierra Leone was newly elected in March.

Source: BBC Chinese, October 12, 2018

Rejecting Corruption from China, Maldives to Abort “Belt and Road” Projects

Maldives, a tropical nation in the Indian Ocean, has just had a presidential election. With a looming sentiment to get rid of China’s control, the new government is about to cancel the “Belt and Road” projects that China has promoted, just like the Malaysian government.

According to an October 9 report in the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, Maldives’ general election took place in September 2018. The pro-China leader Abdulla Yameen stepped down; Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, a politician in favor of cooperation with India, gained support from the opposition and won an overwhelming victory. The election shows a strong nationwide mentality of rejecting China.

In fact, the increasingly corrupt politics that was due to the close ties between Yameen and China pushed the Maldivian people to the limit.

Twice after Yameen was elected as president in 2013 and consolidated his power, he arrested former president Maumoon Gayoom in the name of a “state of emergency,” while suppressing the opposition in the country. The media criticized that Yameen while supporting the Chinese government, learned how not to allow the opposition to speak.

After the election, Yameen was found to have engaged in corruption. In many countries, this has become a common phenomenon for local ruling personnel who got involved in “Belt and Road” projects.

News also emerged that Yameen received $1.5 million in bribes before the election; those who committed the bribery are still unknown. However, the fact that China’s “Belt and Road” projects could go on unimpeded in the Maldives is closely related to Yameen’s having given a green light all the way.

In addition to corruption, being too close to the Chinese government is also a major cause of public dissatisfaction. In the years under Yameen, massive Chinese infrastructure projects were launched. For the Maldives airport expansion project alone, the investment amounted to $830 million. Another project that connects the airport to the sea crossing bridge also cost $200 million. Maldives ended up having deep financial problems.

As of the present time, the Yameen administration has brought Maldives financial liabilities of $1.4 billion, accounting for one-third of the country’s GDP. Seventy-five percent of the debt was generated from the “Belt and Road” projects.

Solih will take office in November 2018. It is widely expected that he will implement a new policy of getting rid of China’s influence, but the huge debt makes the prospect of abandoning the “Belt and Road” project unclear. Leasing individual ports to China, like what Sri Lanka did, may be the last resort.

Solih’s campaign slogan, however, was against Yameen’s China policy and won him public support. How to get rid of China’s huge influence will be a test for Maldives’ new government.

Source: Duowei News, October 9, 2018

BBC Chinese: HK Refused to Renew the Financial Times Asian Editor’s Visa

BBC Chinese recently reported that the Hong Kong government officially refused to renew the work visa rpplication for Victor Mallet, who is currently the Asia News Editor for Financial Times (FT) and was the former FT Bureau Chief for South Asia. He is also the deputy Chairman of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC). Mallet chaired a talk that a Hong Kong independence activist gave in August, despite the objections that came from Beijing. The Hong Kong government refused to comment on the incident. The FCC immediately issued a statement describing the government’s decision as very unusual and demanded an explanation. The British Foreign Ministry also asked for a reason for the rejection of the visa and asked the Hong Kong government to respect freedom of the press – which is part of the core values of Hong Kong society. The latest event triggered widespread discussions and concerns about Hong Kong getting closer and closer to being “like the mainland.”

Source: BBC Chinese, October 5, 2018

European Astronauts Are Learning Chinese

The BBC had published a report that European astronauts received training in China, together with Chinese astronauts.

The training was conducted at the Yellow Sea Training Center, a place close to Yantai City in China’s eastern Shandong Province. For two weeks, German astronaut Matthias Maurer and another astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, both from the European Space Agency, lived and worked with their Chinese counterparts. “We received the training together, lived in the same building with the Chinese and ate the same food. Every day, the schedule was very full,” Maurer told the BBC reporter. “You feel that you are a member of this big family. It’s not like in Houston, where you had to rent a house yourself, and only spent two or three hours of training with your peers.”

Every space agency uses special training to strengthen team spirit, but the Chinese treat the issue in more fundamental way. Maurer said, “Chinese astronauts even go on vacation together. They know each other very well, just like brothers and sisters.” “When we were there, they regarded us as members of a big Chinese space family and we were like one.” Maurer started working at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany in 2012. He had a relationship with the representatives of the once-secret China manned space program. After one year, he visited the training center in Beijing. In 2016, Chinese astronauts took part in an experiment at the European Space Agency, where astronauts conducted a two-week long underground training in the caves of Sardinia. Maurer, Cristoforetti, and a French astronaut, Thomas Pesquet, are now learning Chinese. The European Space Agency still maintains relations with the United States and Russia, but at the same time it has developed a partnership with another future space power. The BBC reported that Maurer hopes to fly to the space station by 2020. Then in about 2023 he will have the opportunity to be a member of the first group of foreign astronauts to fly to the China Space Station together with Chinese astronauts.

Source: Sputnik News, July 3, 2018

Chinese Embassy Demands Apology from Conference Organizer following Arrest of CCTV Reporter

Beijing News reported that the Chinese Embassy in the U.K confirmed that Kong Linlin, a CCTV news reporter, who the police arrested for “suspicion of common assault” during a meeting held by the office of the London-Based NGO Hong Kong Watch and Britain’s Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, on September 30, has been released. According to a Beijing News article, the spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the U.K. made the following statement, “The Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission used the party’s annual meeting to hold an event in which it sided with anti-China separatist forces. China has serious concerns and is experiencing strong dissatisfaction. Our Chinese reporter was obstructed when she asked questions at the side meeting. The Embassy requested that the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and stop interfering with Hong Kong affairs. The Embassy in the U.K. also asked the conference organizers to apologize to the Chinese reporter.”

The article quoted another statement that the CCTV spokesperson made: “Any attempt to advocate the splitting of China is a counter-historical trend and a waste of effort. The spokesperson demanded that the U.K. take effective measures to protect the rights and interests of journalists and to ensure that such absurd incidents do not occur.”

According to a Radio Free Asia article and the embedded video, during the conference, when Benedict Rogers, Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Commission and Founder of Hong Kong Watch, was wrapping up his speech, Kong Linlin suddenly stood up and started yelling and calling Rogers a liar who wants to separate China. She also called the rest of the people spies. The organizers asked Kong to leave the conference. During the confrontation with the conference organizers, Kong slapped one student volunteer twice and insisted that she has the right to protest. The police later took Kong away.

1. Beijing News, October 2, 2018
2. Radio Free Asia, October 2, 2018

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