Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The implications of US Ambassador Verma's visit to Tawang

         On the surface the recent visit of the US Ambassador Richard Verma to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is unexceptionable, for after all he is the duly accredited US Ambassador to India and Arunachal Pradesh is a constituent state of the Indian Union. Ambassador Verma is perfectly entitled to visit any state of the Indian Union in the course of his duties, subject of course to local conditions. The US Ambassador not only “tweeted” his presence from Tawang, but was prominently photographed in the company of the Arunachal and Assam Chief Ministers. These photographs were prominently published in the media. As the MEA spokesman, perfectly legitimately, maintained “there is nothing unusual about it”. But Ambassador Verma is no ordinary diplomat and neither is Arunachal Pradesh an ordinary state of the Indian Union, for China lays claim to almost the whole of the state. China remains vociferous in its belief that this is “disputed” territory and dubs the state as “Southern Tibet”. The Sino-Indian boundary dispute is still ongoing and the subject of negotiations at the Special Representatives level. About nineteen rounds of negotiations have been held so far, but there has been little progress as the negotiating positions of both India and China are as far apart as ever.

   At a most delicate moment in the Sino-Indian border conflict of 1962, in a Telegram sent on 26th October 1962, by the US Department of State authorized the then US Ambassador to India, Galbraith to convey that the US “recognized the McMahon Line as the traditional and generally accepted international border and fully supported India’s position in that regard”. This assertion was indeed very welcome from India’s point of view. This was the first time that the US had given such a recognition to the McMahon Line, for earlier on 12th November 1959 the then acting US Secretary of State, Herter had publicly proclaimed that the US had NOT taken any side in the border dispute and as far as the “legalities of rival border claims were concerned the US had no views”. However, an important point to be noted is that the US, even up to present times, has not taken any position on the western sector of the Sino-Indian boundary. It still maintains a neutral stance.

      The present visit of Ambassador Verma to Arunachal Pradesh and particularly to Tawang drew an anticipated sharp response from the Chinese authorities. The Chinese protested sharply both to the US as also to India on the Ambassador’s visit. But one point is very interesting in the Chinese spokesman Lu Kang’s protest statement. Lu said that “any third party with a sense of responsibility should respect the efforts made by China and India for peace, reconciliation and tranquility rather than the opposite”. Was Lu Kang hinting that the US was trying to create “problems” between India and China and thus retard the progress towards a settlement? If this line of thinking is indeed to be followed to its logical conclusion, then it becomes imperative to examine what recent US policy has been in this regard.

      When the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962 over the boundary issue entered a critical phase, the US administration was debating what policy it should follow as regards the Sino-Indian conflict and on the larger question of relations between India and China. In US Department of State archives, there is an interesting document that illuminates the US position. In Document No 226 [available at FRUS 1961-63, Vol XIX, South Asia], Robert Komer a National Security Council Staff recommends to President Kennedy that thus it is as much in our strategic interest to keep a high degree of Sino-Indian friction, as it is to prevent it from spilling over into larger scale war”.

     The point to ponder is whether US policy has over a period of time undergone a change or is it still the same as recommended by Komer to President Kennedy in 1962? If latter is the case, then the visit to Tawang by the present US Ambassador, where he made every effort to be noticed, assumes a completely different connotation from an ordinary visit by an accredited ambassador. Was Ambassador Verma trying to create “complications” in Sino-Indian relations or was his visit just an ordinary visit by an accredited ambassador? The answer to that question still remains moot.          

Friday, 21 October 2016

President Duterte's visit to China---A Game Changer?

         President Rodrigo Duterte's four day visit to China was accompanied by his very public hyperbole and rhetorical flourishes against the US; that are rarely seen at Heads of State level. Did Duterte really mean what he was saying or was he just trying to please the Chinese leadership? His public outbursts against the US ["Its time to say goodbye to the US"]at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, was said in the presence of the Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli; but it seems that the Chinese leadership was well aware of the volatile nature of the Filipino President. Nevertheless, these statements did create public headlines, sufficient for the leaders of ASEAN countries and the US to take notice. It must also be remembered that preceding Duterte's visit, detailed talks were held between Fu Ying, presently the Chairperson of the NPC Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and the former Filipino President Ramos at Hong Kong in August this year. The positive outcome of these talks led to the Chinese invitation.What then were the main results of Duterte's visit?
      Firstly, both sides decided to shelve the South China Sea [SCS] dispute with the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin maintaining that "both sides agreed that this issue is not the sum total of the bilateral relationship". It was also agreed that the eventual settlement of the dispute would be through "bilateral" discussions. In other words, it seems that the Philippines has abandoned its position on the SCS dispute and ditched the PCA award. This is a huge Chinese gain.To be on the safe side, it would be prudent to await Duterte's visit to Japan that follows almost immediately to see what he says there.
     Secondly, the Chinese appear to be in a conciliatory mood and may allow Filipino fishermen to approach the Scarborough Shoal [Huangyan island] for fishing rights in a calibrated manner.
    But what have the Filipinos gained from this huge concession made to the Chinese on the SCS dispute?
* Both Duterte and Xi Jinping signed 13 Agreements.The Chinese have agreed to extend US$6 billion in soft loans, US$3 billion in credit from Chinese Banks and about US$4.5 billion for fighting the drugs menace etc. A Chinese businessman, Huang Rulan, whose net estimated worth is about US$ 3.9 billion, will also build four more drug rehabilitation centers in Philippines.
* The Chinese will resume importing Filipino agricultural products and indicated that they will lift the travel ban on Chinese tourists visiting the Philippines.
* The Chinese have agreed to undertake a survey for infrastructure projects, including building a railway line in northern Philippines.
* But what is of paramount importance is the fact that there are about 100,000 Filipino maids illegally working in China. There is a high demand for these maids in China, for they are considered much better at their work than locals [yuesaos] and who also teach English to young Chinese children. In any case, the local nannies demand much higher wages as per local law, almost about 10,000 yuans per month; whereas the illegal Filipinos are available at about 6000-7000 yuans per month. There is thus a huge demand for Filipino maids in China. The Chinese government cannot legalize the stay of the Filipino maids, as Chinese law does not permit them to do so and therefore they turn a blind eye to the problem. The Chinese press openly called for some kind of legalization. Nevertheless, this remains an unresolved issue with the Filipino government.
     On the surface, therefore, President Duterte's visit was a resounding success. It boosted China's regional standing and has the potential of weakening the strategic position of the US in the western pacific. In order to secure its position, the Chinese did not yield on the territorial dispute or give concessions, but did indeed give limited economic favors and selected political support. Nevertheless, the Chinese are also conscious that the position of the US is not all that weak in the Philippines and that they have the potential to derail Duterte's efforts. Dutete's posturing in China will certainly stimulate pro-US forces that might fatally undermine his domestic position.
  The bottom line for both the US and China is: How much faith to put in a leader whose views are so obviously volatile? The answer to that key question remains moot.    

Monday, 17 October 2016

President Xi Jinping visibly demonstrates China's growing geo-economic power.

          It is said that the post Cold War consensus on world order rested on the premise that the US would underwrite international peace and advance democracy, the EU would be seen as a model for regional integration and that both China and Russia would recognize national advantage to find accommodation in this new system. However none bargained that the rise of China would make such rapid strides, nor that the US intervention in Iraq would demonstrate the limitations of its power, rather than its potency. The financial crisis of 2008-09 exposed the weaknesses of the western ordained international economic order and further put paid to the concept of total western dominance of global financial institutions.
       But what concerns us the most is the rapid rise of China and the implications that follow. Some of these "new realities" were on full display, when President Xi Jinping visited Cambodia and Bangladesh; just prior to the BRICS summit at Goa.
       Both Cambodia and Bangladesh, not in the very distant past, were totally anathema to the Chinese state for reasons that are well recognized. The Cambodian PM Hun Sen rode to power supported by Vietnamese tanks, against considerable opposition both from the west and from China. The Chinese were totally hostile to and stiffly resisted the birth of Bangladesh as an independent state. Both Cambodia and Bangladesh, should therefore, normally not only be expected to remain conscious of the role played by the Chinese, but were expected to retain a certain amount of reticence and a healthy distance. But in actual fact, the ground realities are so very different today.
      PM Hun Sen's Cambodia today is one of the staunchest supporters of China and resolutely resisted any combined ASEAN attempt to corner China after the PAC [UNCLOS] ruling on the South China Sea [SCS] dispute. It has been well rewarded. During his visit, President Xi has cancelled US$193m of Cambodian debt. Further, soft loans of US$237m and military aid of US$14m were announced. President Xi also promised to double the imports of Cambodian rice from the present 200,000 tons/year, as this is vital for the Cambodians who have seen the international price of rice plummet from US$250/ton to US$193/ton ; thus severely cutting into their foreign exchange earnings. No other state is in a position to bail out the Cambodians and therefore they are wholly dependent on Chinese goodwill and largess. The Chinese leadership knows this and are not averse to playing the economic card to further their strategic ambitions.
      Realizing the strategic location of Bangladesh, the Chinese are aware of the pivotal role that it can play in furthering their ambitious concept of OBOR. President Xi again showed his acumen and signed 27 agreements, funding infrastructure projects worth US$20 billion. It is Bangladesh's largest foreign credit line. In addition, Bangladesh and Chinese private firms signed US$13.6 billion in trade and investment deals. China is Bangladesh's largest trading partner. An economic zone is expected to be set up near Chittagong specifically for Chinese firms. It is not for nothing that the Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina characterized China as a "trusted friend".
     In present times as the US remains convulsed in domestic political agendas, with strident internal opposition to the TPP and the desire to severely limit any foreign military entanglements; the shadow of Chinese economic prowess pervades over South and South-East Asia. The PCA ruling on the SCS dispute seems all but forgotten. The EU seems overwhelmed in trying to maintain internal cohesion, following Brexit and faces the danger of being swamped by ever greater numbers of refugees leading to the rise of extreme right wing political fanatics. It is hard to see the EU, bereft of political cohesion, playing a sterling role again so soon.
     Have other Asian states also seen the writing on the wall? The Philippines President is seen to be moving towards seeking an accommodation with the Chinese leadership. Recently, a Vietnamese official, Tran Truong Thuy stated that Vietnamese foreign policy would consist of three "noes". These were [1] No ally [2] No go with any country to oppose a third country and [3] No foreign military bases. In other words, the Vietnamese were not interested in opposing China.
    It is not for nothing that there is a sense of hardening of Chinese positions on various issues, particularly of those in the Asian region. They sense that the time is ripe for them to play an even more robust role in the affairs of Asia.

Monday, 10 October 2016

China's PR Charm Offensive: Is it Working?

        There is no doubt that the rise of China, both economically and militarily, has caused considerable disquiet amongst its neighbors as well as further afield. The Chinese leadership is aware of this phenomenon and that is the reason why President Xi Jinping, on assuming power in 2012, announced that "we should increase China's soft power, find a good narrative and better communicate to the world". The real question remains on how to translate the President's wishes into reality, for removing apprehensions that exist in the minds of other people, fed consistently by a western controlled media, is easier said then done. But the Chinese have not erred for lack of trying. What then constitutes the main elements of the Chinese effort? And have they succeeded?
           The nerve center for the Chinese effort is the State Council Information office [SCIO]. This office co-ordinates all efforts and has a large staff, a giant budget and a great deal of bureaucratic clout within the Chinese system. Every December, the SCIO convenes a conference in which it outlines the guide-lines for internal and external "propaganda" work. Its principal responsibility is to generate "ideas". Most of the ideas that it generates can be accessed at the China Media Year Book, published annually. It should be noted that in China, the term “propaganda” does not carry any negative connotations, but is considered a positive aspect of governmental work. China spends about US$ 10b annually on external “propaganda” as opposed to the US, which had a budget of only US$ 666m for “public diplomacy” in fiscal 2014.
          The SCIO often holds press conferences, publishes magazines, books and produces films. Recently, both the well known US film personality, Stephen Spielburg and the Chinese entrepreneur, Jack Ma have decided to produce films jointly for the lucrative Chinese market. The SCIO has overseas publishing houses, such as the Foreign Languages Press and newspapers such as the China Daily and the Global Times that cater to foreign audiences. It controls the internet content, including issuing licenses for web-sites.
     The Chinese however realize that without a world wide media empire their efforts may not fructify. Therefore every has been made to convert existing media outlets into world class entitiesTake Xinhua, for example. At present Xinhua, the leading Chinese news agency,
employs about 3000 journalists, of which about 400 are posted abroad in 170 bureaus located in different countries. Xinhua has a very large subscribers list and of this about 80,000 are institutional paying subscribersTo supplement Xinhua' efforts, CCTV has gone global with broadcasts in 6 languages. It has a 24 hour English News Channel, with production facilities located in Washington and Nairobi. CCTV is emerging as a global hub and it has hired some of the highest paid foreign anchors on its staff. Similarly China Radio International, formerly known as Radio Peking, broadcasts 392 hours per day in 38 different languages and maintains 27 overseas bureaus. All this is designed to compete with CNN, BBC, Reuters and a host of other international news agencies.      
     At the same time, Chinese Embassies abroad regularly issue press statements, take out full page advertisements in newspapers and Chinese Ambassadors now regularly contribute to op-eds and personally write articles in the local press.
  Another area that the Chinese have tried to influence to create a positive narrative for themselves is through the medium of "think-tanks" and "track-2 diplomacy". Several institutions have been created. These include China's answer to the Davos Forum, the
Boao Forum for Asia. Several others such as the China Development Forum, the Beijing Forum, Tsinghua University World Peace Forum, the World Forum on Chinese Studies play crucial roles in promoting Chinese interests.
     The Chinese also organize the global "think- tank" summits on an annual basis, where several prominent "think-tanks" around the world are encouraged to send representatives.
China's own "think-tanks" such as the CCP’s International Department's —China Center for Contemporary World Affairs; the  Foreign Ministry's—Chinese People’s Institute for Foreign Affairs; the PLA's—Chinese Institute of International Strategic Studies are not only well funded, but put across China’s point of view consistently and clearly. Another method is to invite foreign strategic scholars and thinkers and initiate them into Chinese thinking on various subjects that are important to China. Hospitality is often fairly lavish
    But despite of all these efforts, China's image does not seem to be moving in the positive direction. In 2014 the BBC held a world-wide poll, where the results indicated that positive views about China had declined by 14% over the same period last year. The same poll indicated that about 49% of the respondents viewed China negatively. But this poll can be misleading, for the views about China differ from those in Latin America, to those in Africa, to those in Asia from those that are more negatively inclined in the US or in Europe. 
    But the central message is: respect and admiration cannot be bought; it has to be earned!


Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Pen Portrait of a President-- Xi Jinping of China

         In a few days time the Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in India attending the BRICS summit at Goa. It would be his second visit to India and it goes without saying that he would be having comprehensive talks with PM Modi; where it is expected that issues that have bedeviled Sino-Indian relations in the recent past would form the prime agenda. Not many in India are familiar with his persona, nor indeed what have been his achievements; since he took over as the Chinese leader from President Hu Jintao in 2012.
     President Xi born in Beijing in 1953 is the third of the four children of Xi Zhongxun, a hallowed revolutionary leader who was with Mao Zedung during the revolutionary period. After the People's Republic was formed in 1949, the elder Xi served in various capacities, including as a Minister for Propaganda and as a Vice- Premier in the Chinese government. He was purged during the Cultural Revolution and had a harrowing time along with his family members. Xi Jinping too did not escape the horrors of the time; having to spend time in a rural community doing manual labor and sleeping on a kang; a traditional Chinese bed made of clay and bricks.With his revolutionary pedigree intact, Xi is often referred to in China as belonging to a group identified as the "Red Princelings" [Children of past revolutionary leaders who are in power today].
     President Xi Jinping is tall for a Chinese leader, nearly 6 feet with his dark black hair neatly pomaded; thereby indicating that he is a northerner. When I met him in Beijing, Xi speaks with a rich baritone and has a confident heft. Xi was married twice. His first wife was Ke Xiaoming, the daughter of the then Chinese Ambassador to UK. They divorced. Xi is now married to the well known soprano singer, Peng Liyuan with whom he has a daughter, Xi Mingze and who has graduated from Harvard University in the US. Peng is considered as a person of considerable elegance, having featured on Vanity Fair's Best Dressed List. Unlike in the past, Xi and Peng often appear together and are considered China's first couple.
     Although China is ruled by the 7 Standing Committee Members of the Politburo, clearly Xi is way above them all. He is not only the President of China ,but holds ten different titles. Almost all important Committee's are headed by him. It is said that after Mao, he is the most powerful Chinese leader to emerge. Xi's great ambition is the rejuvenation of China into a strong economic and military power. It is said that he often emphasizes that 'never again will China be bullied' and that the century of humiliation is over. It is not that he is unaware of the dangers that lurk, for as he told the Politburo members "the tasks that our party faces in reform, development and stability are more onerous than ever before and the conflicts, dangers and challenges are more numerous than ever before".
    Above all else, Xi prizes stability in China. It is for this reason that there has been a crackdown on corruption, environmental pollution, unrest in Xinjiang and pressures imposed by a slowing economy. Xi has strengthened internal security, muzzled the press, re-organized the PLA to fight modern informational wars to win and accepted that economic reforms are necessary. His advocacy of the 'One Road, One Belt' [OBOR] concept and the birth of AIIB and BRICS Banks are all designed to promote China economic and strategic interests. Xi knows how to leverage Chinese economic power in the pursuit of its interests.
    Xi knows that there is only one country that impacts China as none other does--the US. Therefore his foreign policy initiatives are designed to seek accommodation with the US, if possible, through the concept of 'new great power' relationships. Nevertheless, in line with its new policy of promoting nationalism, China will not give an inch where it comes to its 'core interests'. A case in point is the  South China Sea [SCS] dispute, where slowly but surely, China under Xi has proceeded to change the ground realities to its advantage.
    Popularly known in China as "Big Uncle Xi" [Xi Dada], he is known to be direct in his dealings and to say what he thinks. He is not afraid of criticism, but as he himself admitted 'I am not going to lose my appetite over it." On a recent visit to China, I asked one of his staff members what did the President do for relaxation? I was told that the President liked to watch soccer games, but that he hardly had any free time. His great ambition was to see the Chinese football team win the World Cup! Have you noticed in recent times how much effort is being put into making Chinese football teams playing in the home league system world class?     

Saturday, 1 October 2016

The People's Republic of China at 67--What is it like?

      The People’s Republic of China celebrates the 67th anniversary of its founding today. Who can forget Mao Zedung’s stirring words delivered on 1st October 1949, that "today the Chinese people have stood up"! Mao’s words have enthused millions of Chinese throughout this period. But doubts still linger about its survival. It is a matter of historical record that the Soviet Union lasted for 74 years and on its demise the Soviet Communist Party crashed into oblivion. The People’s Republic of China has been in existence for nearly 67 years and therefore if we were to follow the Soviet analogy; the People’s Republic should survive for at least another 7 years, if not more. The Chinese leadership is not only conscious of the analogy, but more importantly also aware of the significance of the dates. It is common knowledge; that nothing concentrates the Chinese leadership’s mind more than to ensure that there is no repeat of the Gorbachov fiasco in China. It is said that the Chinese have commissioned a vast number of studies to determine what actually went wrong in the ex-Soviet Union and what led to its collapse. The Chinese leadership is determined not to commit the same mistakes. 
      The question therefore is: what is China like today? What is the nature of the Chinese state? After so many years of following Deng Xiaoping’s reformist economic policies; it is certainly not any more a Marxist-Leninist State in the pure classical sense of the term, having largely abandoned Marxist-Leninist tenants. It is also not Confucian in nature, nor is it a functional democracy with free elections, free speech as is commonly understood. The present Chinese leaders themselves like to describe China as a ‘Socialist state with Chinese characteristics.’

     A common definition of socialism would indicate that it is a political doctrine under which the means of production should be in public [state] rather in private hands and that it would usher in a classless society, where inequality would be minimized, if not totally eliminated. But that is hardly true of Chinese society today, for under decisions taken at the 3rd Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP], not only is private ownership of the means of production emphasized, but even the pricing policy would have to be ‘market driven.’ At best it can be surmised that China today has a mixed economy, with a large number of state owned enterprises [SOEs], but that which function and are largely capitalist in orientation and practice.

    The other pillar of socialism is that it is supposed to promote a classless society with inequality reduced to a bare minimum. In the China of today, to the contrary, there is increasing evidence of growing inequality. The gini co-efficient for China, the internationally accepted measure of inequality within a country, was between 0.46 and 0.49 in 2007; the highest for any Asian country[i]  and could be approaching 0.61. [ii] According to the UN, if the gini co-efficient touches 0.44, danger signals on internal stability should start flashing. This inequality is further highlighted by the fact that the richest 10 percent in China own 45 percent of the country’s wealth; whereas the poorest 10 percent own only 1.4 percent! [iii] At the same time large income disparities exist between urban and rural residents, between regions and in minority areas. In addition there are about 200 million internal migrant workers that are treated as second class citizens as they are denied health care facilities, on par with local residents, and their children often end up in sub-standard schools. The Chinese National People‘s Congress [NPC] has 83 billionaires as its members, as opposed to none in the present US Senate and House of Representatives. In recent times, both the New York Times and Bloomberg were denied visas for their Beijing staff as they had published articles that highlighted the wealth of family members of former PM Wen Jiabao estimated at US$2.7billion and of other leading personalities of the regime.
      Clearly therefore the China of today is not a socialist country, even though some sections of the leadership may encourage the singing of Maoist songs, glorification of Mao’s memory and the waving of the red flag. But what are the ‘Chinese characteristics’ of socialism that Deng first emphasized way back in 1978? The present governing group too underlines this aspect.

      China is governed by 7 members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo as also 25 members who constitute the larger full Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP]. They are unelected, for they ‘nominate’ themselves from the larger full Central Committee. From the apex level downwards there are thousands of officials, party members who control all the levers of power. They are all members of the CCP, the membership of which is increasingly seen as a vehicle for personal advancement, for pelf and for family gain. Determined not to commit the same mistakes as Gorbachov did in the ex-Soviet Union, the Chinese leaders have further tightened their grip on the levers of power, rather than to go in for even a limited version of liberalism or democracy. The power of local party officials has also not been touched. The People’s Armed Police is increasingly deployed to quell any disturbance or arrest any suspected trouble-makers. The judiciary, subservient to the state, too plays its part in ensuring domestic ‘weiwen’ or the maintenance of stability. It is not surprising therefore that the annual budget of the People’s Police [US $ 124billion] is larger than the budget for the PLA [US $ 119billion].

        In the present Chinese system the armed forces [PLA] are key instruments of the Party and firmly under its control through the mechanism of the Central Military Commission [CMC]. All decisions, pertaining to the PLA, must have the imprimatur of the CMC. And in the past, the PLA has not hesitated to open fire on its own people as we witnessed in the Tienanmen massacre of 1989. It was the PLA that rescued the Party from going the Soviet way. Should the necessity ever arise again in the future therefore, the CCP can rely on the armed might of the PLA to control the situation.
       The CCP also sees itself as a vehicle for the promotion of Chinese nationalism. Since Socialist ideology all but died at Tienanmen, the Party  has latched on to nationalism as its core belief in the hope of retaining the support of the Chinese people. This in turn has led to the adoption of hardline foreign policy postures, as witnessed in the position taken by the Chinese government in the South China Sea issue. This in turn means that China cannot afford to make territorial compromises which impinge on its image of a strong and a powerful country.
        The Chinese leadership also maintains a tight grip on the means of communications. Despite vast technological advances in the field of information technology, the Chinese leadership have instituted what is known as a ‘Chinese firewall’ to prevent the dissemination of information. Information security has been elevated to become one of China’s core security concerns. According to Amnesty International, China probably has the largest number of journalists and cyber journalists in the world that are incarcerated. Although the number of internet users in China in 2015 was expected to reach 750 million or about 52 percent of the population, yet the internet content is vigorously censured. As the Vice-Minister from the State Internet Information Office, Ren Xianliang explained the aim is to have ‘cyberspace with Chinese characteristics.’ In addition all Chinese journalists are required to pass an ‘ideology’ exam before receiving accreditation.  

       However the Chinese state allows its citizens to travel and study abroad. Unlike the Soviet Union there are about 120 million Chinese tourists that travelled abroad in 2015; mainly to Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Singapore and spent about US $215 billion. Similarly, again unlike the Soviet Union, there are about 1.4 million Chinese students studying abroad, of whom about 304,040 are in the US alone. This large turn-over is on an annual basis. Almost all of China’s neighbors that Chinese tourists prefer visiting are practicing democracies. China is the only major state in Asia [Vietnam apart] that is not a functioning democracy.  Similarly while in the US, Chinese students would undoubtedly imbibe the spirit of democratic functioning and witness at first hand the respect for individual freedom and rights. A fairly large number of students do return home and they could become, in the future, the agents for change.
       Till China’s economy gallops along developing at 7 per cent annually, there is little chance that domestic dissidence will get out of hand. The dream of China emerging as a strong and one of the most powerful states in the world, has strong and a very wide resonance amongst the Chinese people. It is a proud moment for them. But China’s Gorbachov moment will arrive, if either the economy starts to slow down irretrievably and begins to show signs of faltering or if China suffers a major foreign policy and military fiasco as the Soviet Union did in Afghanistan.

[i] Asian Development Bank Report, 2007.
[ii] The Economist, 15 December 2012.
[iii] The China Daily, 19 June 2005.