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China Reform Monitor - No. 1282

China's massive fishing fleet scours the globe;
Xi addresses PLA top brass, demands loyalty to Party

Edited by Joshua Eisenman
May 11, 2017

April 18:

President Xi Jinping visited the PLA's "1 August" Building to meet top military officers in order to reinforce their political loyalty to the CPC and issue orders relating to the newly reorganized corps-level units. Wang Yinfang, Yuan Huazhi, Wang Chengnan, Li Jun, He Xingbo, and Chen Shoumin represented the Army, Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, Strategic Support Force and the corps-level units of the provincial military command system, respectively. They began the meeting by all pledging to "resolutely obey the command of the party Central Committee, the CMC, and Chairman Xi, always firmly remember Chairman Xi's order," the cover of 
the official People's Daily reports. Xi ordered the PLA to "adjust or establish 84 corps-level army units," which he called "an important component of the new military system." He also said: "It is necessary to resolutely obey the Party's command, uphold the Party's absolute leadership over the military, resolutely safeguard the authority of the party Central Committee, resolutely obey the command of the party Central Committee and the CMC, firm up belief, strictly abide by political discipline and political rules, and always uphold the correct political direction in army building."

Taiwan's National Immigration Agency has decided not to grant civil rights activist Zhang Xiangzhong's request for "long-term residence." Zhang, 48, arrived in Taiwan on April 12 with a tour group and disappeared. When police found him in Xindian, New Taipei City, on April 17, he declared his intention to seek political asylum in Taiwan. However, an 
investigative report by the Sentinel has concluded that Zhang's ability to travel to Taiwan was "highly suspicious." The report concludes: "Chinese authorities do not routinely grant permission to activists — especially those who served prison time and whose activities are deemed threatening enough to warrant constant surveillance — to travel to Taiwan. It is not inconceivable, in fact, that Zhang had reached some sort of understanding with Chinese authorities. It is, furthermore, highly likely that the decision to allow him to travel to Taiwan was made at the local level and without guidance by the central government in Beijing."

The Sentinel also reports that a new, positive modus vivendi has emerged between Beijing and Taipei: "President Xi has been relatively accommodating of President Tsai's ‘red lines,' which include the so-called ‘1992 consensus' and ‘one China' framework. By doing so, President Xi has struck a balance between appeasing the more radical elements within the CCP and the People's Liberation Army, while not taking action that would cause instability in cross-Strait relations or force President Tsai to make concessions that, due to democratic processes, she is unwilling, or unable, to make. By standing firm on her red lines — which continue to receive majority support among the Taiwanese — but showing some flexibility on other matters, President Tsai has also contributed to stable relations in the Taiwan Strait, efforts which we must add have been noted by Washington, D.C."

April 21:

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has become the first defense chief in almost 20 years to visit Pagasa Island, the largest island claimed by the Philippines in the Spratlys in the South China Sea. On his way to the island, at the periphery of Chinese-controlled Subi Reef, Delfin's aircraft received warnings that they were entering Chinese airspace and should stay away, the Philippine Inquirer reports. "We replied that we are flying over Philippine territory. They challenged us. That is normal. They always challenge and we always tell them we are flying in a Philippine territory," said Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.
April 30:

In West Africa fishing stocks are plummeting due to illegal fishing by Chinese mega-trawlers who use mile-long nets in massive underwater sweeps, 
The New York Times reports
. Beijing provides millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks to support a fleet of 2,600 massive fishing vessels. Many vessels are so large they capture as many fish in one week as Senegalese boats catch in one year, costing West African economies an estimated $2 billion a year. CNFC Overseas Fisheries, a state-owned company, received a $12 million diesel subsidy last year alone. "The truth is, traditional fishing grounds in Chinese waters exist in name only. For China's leaders, ensuring a steady supply of aquatic products is not just about good economics but social stability and political legitimacy," said Zhang Hongzhou at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. In West African countries, corruption and weak law enforcement has produced a lack of transparency and keeps fishing agreements with China secret. Beijing has promised a change according to Liu Xinzhong, deputy general director of China's Bureau of Fisheries: "The era of fishing any way you want, wherever you want, has passed. We now need to fish by the rules."

[Editor's Note: Indonesia has impounded scores of Chinese fishing boats caught poaching in its waters, and in March last year, the Argentine authorities sank a Chinese vessel that tried to ram a coast guard boat. Violent clashes between Chinese fishermen and the South Korean authorities have left a half-dozen people dead.]


Related Categories: China; China and East Asia Program

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