Xi Jinping, the newly selected (by the Communist Party elders) leader of China for the next ten years is different from his predecessors. He is the first of the “heirs” to take power. That’s because he is the 59 year old son of one of the communist originals, a general who fought the Japanese and other Chinese factions to put the communists in power after World War II. Xi Jinping is thus a princeling, a member of the new hereditary aristocracy (children of the original communist leadership) that has replaced the ancient feudal aristocracy that was overthrown a century ago. Democracy was supposed to have replaced the Manchu dynasty, but instead there was decades of civil war followed by communist dictatorship and now a new hereditary, unelected, aristocracy. Xi Jinping is also a nationalist and, not surprisingly, a big fan of the Chinese military. This could mean big trouble. The Chinese military has traditionally been corrupt, impressive looking, and ineffective after long periods of peace. Despite that, Chinese leaders are trying to use their growing (on paper, anyway) military power to grab maritime territory from most of their neighbors. This involves all of the South China Sea and changing the international law of the sea to keep foreign warships and aircraft far from Chinese shores. This is dangerous stuff, but Xi Jinping belongs to the faction who believes it is China’s right to control all this territory and now is the time for China to receive what it is due. This thinking is very popular in China. Unfortunately, China is also facing some serious economic problems (like running out of young workers and internal stability). Many Chinese fear that testing the capabilities of the military will have unfortunate results. It’s uncertain if Xi Jinping is paying sufficient attention to these matters.
Most Communist Party members believe that this new imperial system can succeed and survive because membership is now open to anyone who has something to offer China and the party. Thus there are now over 80 million members of the party and plenty of opportunity to climb the ranks. But already there are complaints that being a member of the communist aristocracy (a family with several generations of members) counts for more than ability. This is a problem, and being a party member is no longer required for many key technical jobs because of it. The party is also struggling with the image that many government officials simply join the party for protection from prosecution for corruption.
Keeping the peace inside China is mainly a matter of sustaining economic growth. This gives people hope and an excuse to ignore the corrupt communist police state government they live under. Three decades of 8-10 percent growth a year has lifted average per-capital income to $6,000. But over 100 million Chinese still live in extreme poverty and many more are just now getting a taste of the widely touted prosperity. Most of the new wealth is concentrated in the coastal provinces, but electronic media has spread everywhere and let the less affluent people in the interior see (in wide-screen full color glory) what they are missing out on. Despite government censorship and propaganda, most Chinese know that many non-Chinese in western China (Uighurs and Tibetans) are violently opposed to Chinese rule and cultural domination. All is not well in the Middle Kingdom, and even discussing that can get you in trouble.
The government continues to encourage anti-Japanese activities and attitudes. Sales of Japanese products, including those built in China, will be down this year. The Beijing Marathon (run on the 25th) has barred Japanese entrants. In 31 years of operation, this is the first time such a ban was used.
Only a year after entering service, China is offering for sale its new low-altitude air defense system. The HQ-16A is a land based version of the HQ-16 system used in ships and fired from VLS (Vertical Launch System) containers. This system is a license built version of the Russian Buk M2 anti-aircraft missile systems. These are the latest version of the SAM-6 class missiles, which proved so effective in the 1973 Arab Israeli war. The missiles have a max range of 40 kilometers. The target acquisition radar has a range of over 150 kilometers. The export version is called the LY-80. The system can hit targets as high as 10,000 meters (31,000 feet) and as low as a hundred meters (310 feet). The system is carried by an 8x8 truck that contains the radar behind the cab, and behind those are four shipping/firing containers for missiles. These containers are tilted back so that the missiles can be fired straight up, just as they are from VLS cells. While the HQ-16/LY-80 was made with licensed Russian technology, China is also offering for export the larger (like the U.S. Patriot) FD-2000, which contains a lot of stolen Russian (and American) technology. China is also offering the new FK-1000, which is a wheeled vehicle containing radar, 30mm anti-aircraft cannon, and short range missiles.
After years of building foreign air liners under license, China is now selling its own locally designed and built competitor for the American B-727 and European A-320. The Chinese C919 is still in development but two Chinese airlines have obligingly ordered fifty. The manufacturer expects to have 150 C919s in service by the end of the decade. The C919 will still use a lot of foreign components (engines and some electronics).
November 18, 2012: A military defector from Syria has told Western journalists that China has provided more than diplomatic support for the Assad dictatorship. Chinese Internet monitoring software has been supplied to the Assads, to help them battle the 20month old rebellion. The defector also saw Chinese working at government headquarters, apparently advising on how to use the Chinese software. The Chinese advisors apparently have had experience dealing with overseas supporters of Chinese dissidents (Tibetans and Uighurs) and are helping the Assads deal with their foreign critics. In general, China is opposed to international efforts to overthrow police states.
November 16, 2012:
South Korea revealed that last May it had intercepted and seized a cargo of North Korea missile components headed for Syria. The Chinese ship had stopped in a South Korean port to pick up some more cargo when the discovery was made. China has long aided North Korea to defy international sanctions. North Korean cargoes are sent, by rail, to Chinese ports for export, while illegal imports are simply purchased from Chinese dealers. Apparently the Chinese ship caught in May was not expecting scrutiny, or a bribery effort failed.
November 15, 2012: In the west (Qinghai province) two more Tibetans set themselves on fire to protest Chinese occupation of Tibet and attempts to suppress Tibetan culture. Over 62 Tibetans have died this way since China put down an uprising in Tibet three years ago. Police are offering a $7,700 reward for information about the group (if any) behind the growing number of immolations. The government fears another major uprising in Tibet and officially sees the unrest as the work of foreign agents, not popular discontent over Chinese oppression in Tibet.
November 13, 2012: At the Zhuhai airshow Chinese aircraft and weapons manufacturers were out in force. UAV builders were openly predicting a big jump in sales as China continues its effort to take possession of the South China Sea. This effort can be aided by constant UAV patrols (to detect intruders in need of a visit from Chinese ships to chase the interlopers off).
November 9, 2012: The 13th naval escort squadron has departed for Somalia. In 2008, after noting that foreign warships were defending Chinese merchant ships and Chinese crews, off the Somali coast, China began sending these squadrons (usually of two frigates and a supply ship) to join the international anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden for three months. The Chinese warships would also make port visits on the trip out and back, to show the world that the Chinese Navy had long arms.
November 8, 2012: Taiwan expects to receive two refurbished Perry class frigates from the United States in three years. Costing $270 million, the Perry’s will replace two older Knox class ships Taiwan received two decades ago.