Posts tagged: Xi Jinping

Xi-Obama Agenda: Time to Talk Press Freedom?

Sunnylands’ golf course – will this lady be President Xi’s caddy?

President Obama and China’s new president, Xi Jinping (pronounced See Gin-ping) have much to discuss in their two days of informal meetings scheduled to begin Friday in Sunnylands, California.  Economic ties, cyber-espionage, North Korea, the United States’ “pivot” to Asia, will all likely be on the agenda.

One small critical item that needs to be on that agenda: China’s increasingly hostile treatment of foreign journalists, especially those foreign journalists whose stories the Chinese government does not like.

Freedom of the press is limited for the Chinese domestic media.  The Chinese government still supports certain state-run media outlets which serve as its mouthpiece and even the independent, commercial media is subject to censorship, including daily instructions on what not to report.  It likely comes as a shock to the Chinese government that it cannot control the foreign press in quite the same way.

But that doesn’t mean it does not try.  Over the past year, in response to critical articles and coverage, the Chinese government has attempted to censor the press with something that many fear most: a denial of a journalist visa during the annual renewal period or a visa renewal that is conveniently not processed.  In 2012 alone, four journalists, Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan, the Washington Post’s Andrew Higgins, the New York Times’ Philip Pan and also Chris Buckley, have either been forced to leave China or not allowed to enter because of visa issues.

Buckley’s visa problems are likely attributable to his colleague, David Barboza’s hard-hitting series on the then Vice Premier Wen Jiabao’s family’s inordinate amounts of wealth.  Although Barboza’s visa was renewed, when Buckley’s visa expired on December 31, 2012, even though he put in for a renewal months prior, the Chinese government was still processing his paper work.  Without a valid visa, Buckley and his family were forced to leave China.  As of today – six months later – Buckley is still reporting from Hong Kong and waiting on his visa.

China’s visa vendetta diplomacy may seem minor but it doesn’t have to stay that way.  Right now, the Chinese government has decided to deal with recalcitrant foreign journalists by not renewing their visas or in some cases toying with their visas (in a 2012 survey, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China found that a third of its members surveyed stated that they had difficulty renewing visas.  The majority of those journalists believed – or in some cases were told – that their difficulty was a result of specific reporting).

But each one of these reporters are also subject to Chinese law, including Chinese criminal law.  Articles 102 to 112 of the Criminal Law criminalize behavior that is a threat to national security.  In particular, Articles 105 and 111 are commonly used to censor dissent and carry prison terms of 3 years, 5 years, 10, life or death depending on the severity of the circumstances.

  •             Article 105: “Whoever instigates the subversion of the political power of the state and overthrow the socialist system through spreading rumors, slandering, or other ways….”
  •             Article 111: “Whoever steals, secretly gathers, purchases, or illegally provides state secrets or intelligence for an organization, institution, or personnel outside the country….”

Article 4 of the Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on News Coverage by Permanent Offices of Foreign Media Organizations and Foreign Journalists (“Regulations”) makes clear that foreign journalists are subject to China’s laws, including its criminal law.  Although the Regulations were amended in 2008 to take out specific prohibitions against endangering China’s national security and using foul means to carry out news coverage (see Article 14 of the earlier regulations here), the fact that these provisions were deleted does not shield foreign journalists from those provisions of the Criminal Law dealing with the same issues – Articles 105 and 111.

As the cases against Stern Hu – a naturalized Australian business man and Rio Tinto executive – and Xue Feng – a naturalized U.S. citizen and geologist – demonstrate, China will bring criminal charges against foreign citizens. Hu, whose case began as a “state secrets” case, was given 10 years; Xue was given 8 years in his “state secrets” case.

So far, the Obama administration has remained publicly silent about China’s attempted censorship – through the visa process – of American journalists and American media companies.  Hopefully there is behind the scenes discussions about this issue and that it will be discussed during the next two days.

If the issue is not raised and highlighted as a priority, that silence will come with a price.  As foreign journalists continue to write hard-hitting exposes on China, the Chinese government will begin to realize that its visa vendetta diplomacy has not had the intended effect and might resort to another tool in its tool box against foreign journalists – China’s vague and expansive “endangering national security” provisions of its Criminal Law.

2012 An Election Year…..In China

By , September 21, 2009

The United States is not the only country that will face a potential leadership change in 2012.  Under the Chinese Constitution, the President of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) is limited to two consecutive five-year terms,

Heir Apparant?  Current Vice President of China, Xi Jinping

Heir Apparent? Current Vice President of China, Xi Jinping

forcing the current Chinese president, Hu Jintao (pronounced Who Gin-Tao), to step down in 2012.  This past weekend saw a setback for his presumed successor, Xi Jinping (pronounced She Gin-Ping).

Unlike the U.S., a change in leadership in China is anything but apparent and requires the successor to simultaneously hold three positions:  General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (“CCP”); President of the PRC, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.  Only by filling these three roles is the individual considered the paramount leader.  The person to fill these posts is hand-selected by the current CCP leadership, even for President of the PRC, which is arguably not a party position.  But in a country with one-party rule, the National People’s Congress of the PRC (“NPC”) merely confirms the successor chosen by the Party leadership.  Click here for an in-depth illustration of the Chinese government and party structure.

While the next leader of the PRC will be only the fifth since the PRC’s founding in 1949, the road to that position is fairly settled.  First is the presumed leader’s appointment to the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee.  The Politburo Standing Committee, currently made up of nine members, is the highest-ranking decision making body of both the Party and the Chinese government.  Second is the individual’s “election” by the NPC to the position of vice-president of the PRC (again more a rubber stamp of the Party’s selection than an actual election).  Finally, the individual, usually three years prior to the change in leadership, is appointed to the vice-chairmanship of the Central Military Commission (CMC) by the CCP.  The CMC controls the People’s Liberation Army and while there is a Party CMC and a government CMC that is supposed to be independent from the Party CMC, the two are identical, with the same people filling the same positions in both CMCs.  Although nominally accountable to the NPC, in reality, the government CMC answers to the Party.

Xi Jinping, 56, just needed the final appointment of vice-chair of the CMC to be solidly on the road to paramount leader.  In 2007, he was appointed to the Politburo and 2008, elected vice-president.  But this past week, in a shock to most China-watchers, the CCP closed its annual meeting without designating a new vice-chair of the CMC.  Current President Hu was appointed to the vice-chairmanship of the CMC three years prior to his accession to top leader.  The same was true of his predecessor, Jiang Zemin.  Is China in the wake of a succession crisis?

Some argue no; that the pattern established by Mr. Xi’s predecessors is not set in stone; perhaps he will be appointed vice-chair of the CMC next year.  But what is causing this delay?

Many speculate that there is dissension amongst the top ranks of the Party as to who should be the paramount leader in 2012.  Underneath the veneer of uniformity and consensus that the Party maintains to the outside world, lies at least

Looking over the rice fields, Vice Premier Li Keqiang - President Hu's Protegee

Looking over the rice fields, Vice Premier Li Keqiang - President Hu's Protegee

two factions that often wrestle for control.  Interestingly, Mr. Xi is not the chosen heir of President Hu Jintao.  Instead, President Hu’s protégé has been Li Keqiang (pronounced Lee Kah-Chiang), a mentee of his from when he headed up the Chinese Communist Youth League.  Mr. Li was appointed to the Politburo at the same time as Mr. Xi but was ranked lower in command of that body.  Then in 2008, when Mr. Xi was elected to the office of Vice President, Mr. Li was elected as Vice-Premier, signaling that Mr. Li would take over the premiership in 2012.

While Mr. Li is a member of President Hu’s faction of “Youth Leaguers,” Mr. Xi is a member of former President Jiang Zemin’s “Shanghai Clique.” As Cheng Li of the Brookings Institute points out, there is a big difference between the two factions.  The Youth Leaguers are more concerned about the growing inequities between the rich and poor in China and providing a better social safety net for those areas of China negatively impacted by its quick economic rise.  The Shanghai Clique on the other hand stresses economic development, high GDP, and continuing China’s integration into the world economy.  Currently, the CCP leadership is evenly split between the two factions.

Furthermore, since ascending to the vice-presidency, Mr. Xi has at times been outspoken of China’s foreign critics, contrary to the diplomatic image that President Hu works hard to portray.  While on a state visit to Mexico and before a crowd of overseas Chinese, Mr. Xi criticized China’s critics stating that “a few foreigners with full bellies who have nothing better to do than try to point fingers at our country.”

However, Mr. Xi has the support of the powerful Shanghai Clique and appears to, at least in the past, have had the support of President Hu and the Youth Leaguers since Mr. Xi was appointed to the Politburo and elected to the vice-presidency.  Mr. Xi’s appointment to vice-chair of the CMC has likely been postponed, affording the leadership time to work out fundamental issues pertaining to the direction of China is this current economic crisis.

While what happens in the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party is anyone’s guess, most likely Mr. Xi will become paramount leader in 2012.

Let's Shake on It - Former PRC President Jiang Zemin and Current PRC President Hu Jintao

Let's Shake on It - Former PRC President Jiang Zemin and Current PRC President Hu Jintao

Panorama Theme by Themocracy

%d bloggers like this: