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Harvard Asia Quarterly

SPRING/SUMMER 2012, Vol. XIV, No. 1 & 2

A Publication of Current Affairs Affiliated with the Harvard University Asia Center

INSIDE Interview: EZRA VOGEL · On Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

GUNJAN SINGH · Post-ECFA China-Taiwan Relations: Future Scenarios

bettina gransow · Contested Urbanization in China: Exploring Informal Spaces of Migrants-in-the-City

Rohan Gunaratna · The Current and Emerging Terrorist Threat in Southeast Asia

mikiko eto · Making a Difference in Japanese Politics: Women Legislators Acting for Gender Equality

John Hemmings · East Asian Stabilization: Japanese and South Korean Involvement in Afghanistan

xiaoping wang · From Feminist to Party Intellectual? Identity Politics and Ding Ling’s “New Woman Stories”

Andrew Erickson & Austin Strange · “Selfish Superpower” No Longer? China’s Anti-Piracy Activities and 21st-Century Global Maritime Governance

jinghong zhang · In Between “the Raw” and “the Cooked”: The Cultural Speculation and Debate on Puer Tea in Contemporary China rup narayan das · The US Factor in Sino-Indian Relations: India’s Fine Balancing Act MUBASHAR HASAN · The Geopolitics of Political Islam in Bangladesh

Mihoko Matsubara · A Long and Winding Road for Cybersecurity Cooperation between Japan and the United States Marc Szepan · Changing the Rules of the Game: The Commercial Aircraft Industry in China

Harvard Asia Quarterly SPRING/SUMMER 2012, Vol. XIV, No. 1 & 2

Editor-in-chief Allan Hsiao

DEPUTY Editor-in-chief Julie Sheetz


China Area Oliver Kerr Jennifer Ryan Hannah Waight

Japan Area A. Greer Meisels Russell Burge

Korea Area Jean Young Hyun So Jeong Im Inga Diederich

Southeast Asia Area Ivan Boekelheide Kheng Swe Lim

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Dear Reader, The present edition of the Harvard Asia Quarterly is a double issue that covers a broad range of topics relevant to Asia today. In lieu of placing the articles presented here under a single specific theme, the “theme” that best captures the contents of this issue is perhaps the very diversity and broadness of the subject matter itself. This diversity, which ranges from Bangladesh to Japan, from feminist Chinese literature to the rise and fall of Puer tea, and from Somali piracy to threats in the cyber realm, is indicative of the intriguing range of developments that we see in Asia today – an Asia that is far too diverse to be encapsulated in a single word or phrase. We are pleased to open this issue with an interview of Ezra Vogel, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University. Speaking about his most recent book, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, Professor Vogel offers interesting insights into Deng Xiaoping’s role in shaping, fundamentally, what China has become today. In the following section, focused on cultural and social change, we begin with an article by Bettina Gransow of Freie Universität Berlin in which she dissects government migration and urbanization policies and their impact on marginalized populations of migrants-in-the-city. Professor Gransow has kindly granted us permission to reprint this article, affording us the opportunity to correct editing errors in a previous issue for which we would like to apologize. Mikiko Eto of Hosei University analyzes the debates and dynamics surrounding the Japanese government’s reluctance to use the term “gender-free,” as well as the efforts of women legislators in effecting change. Xiaoping Wang of Xiamen University builds on the feminine and feminist issues alluded to by Eto in his examination of the works of famed Chinese writer Ding Ling and the metamorphosis of her writings from the feminist to the revolutionary, and later to the socialist. Finally, through an anthropological lense, Jinghong Zhang of Yunnan University examines the social context surrounding the rise of Puer tea and the cultural implications of its rapid fall. The following trio of essays offers perspectives on varied aspects of international relations and the geopolitics of the region. Rup Narayan Das, head of the China and East Asia Centre of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, provides his views on the triangular India-China-US relation and the political role that the US has played in both establishing and disrupting the balance. Mubashar Hasan, drawing upon his years of journalism experience, takes an historical approach to understanding the roots of the failed Bangladeshi military coup attempted earlier this year. Gunjan Singh, also from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, closes the section with a discussion of possible future scenarios resulting from the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement’s impact on cross-strait relations. A thoughtful dialogue centered on security and defense comes next, with four essays that offer insights on four unique aspects of security in the region. Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, provides a survey of the terrorist situation in Southeast Asia, with details on the threats specific to each Indonesia, West Papua, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines. John Hemmings of the Pacific Forum, CSIS, brings to light Japanese and Korean contributions to the development of Afghanistan, as well as their growing non-traditional roles as security providers. Andrew Erickson and Austin Strange of the US Naval War College further the discussion of East Asian countries’ emerging roles as security providers with their analysis of the Chinese role in maritime security and anti-piracy efforts. Lastly, Mihoko Matsubara of Hitachi extends the focus on security in the traditional sense to include the growing need for cybersecurity and international cooperation in cyberspace. We conclude the issue with a section on business and innovation. Marc Szepan, with years of experience as an aviation industry executive, contests the common view that Chinese companies are simply imitators instead of innovators. Taking the commercial aircraft industry in China as a case study, he argues that Chinese firms do in fact innovate, operating under novel business models that challenge what have traditionally been conventional practices in the aviation industry. This idea that Asian countries are challenging traditional practices and models of thought is common to the articles of this issue as a whole. Whether it be on land, at sea, or in the cyber realm, or in the cultural, corporate, or political space, the developments taking place in Asia today reflect a dynamism inherent to the region – a dynamism that is difficult to describe with a single, focused theme, and, ultimately, a dynamism driven by the very regional diversity that this issue attempts to capture. With kind regards,

Allan Hsiao Editor-in-Chief

about the harvard university asia center Established on July 1, 1997, the Harvard University Asia Center was founded as a university-wide inter-faculty initiative with an underlying mission to engage people across disciplines and regions. It was also charged with expanding South and Southeast Asian studies, including Thai Studies, in the University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The Center sponsors a number of seminars, conferences, lectures, and programs during the academic year, including the annual Tsai Lecture, the Modern Asia, Southeast Asia, and Islam in Asia seminar series, the Ezra F. Vogel Distinguished Visitors Program, and the Asia Vision 21 conference. In addition to its award-winning Publications Program, the Center issues a weekly bulletin featuring Asia-related events at Harvard and in the greater Boston area, as well as an on-line newsletter.

cover photo The cover photo of this issue shows the work of Chinese calligrapher Haji Noor Deen. The full image, created with Chinese brush technique, reads tawakkaltu ‘alallah (I have put my trust in Allah). Haji Noor Deen, from Shandong Province in China, brings together the Islamic calligraphy of his Muslim heritage with the Chinese calligraphy of his homeland. Both traditions prize the art and poetry in the written word, Islam in the celebration of the sacred, and China in the secular realm. The Chinese Islamic style of Haji Noor Deen’s work bridges the two. The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program and the Asia Center are sponsoring an exhibit of the calligraphy of Master Haji Noor Deen from June 15 through August 20 in the Friends of Japan Concourse at the Center for Government and International Studies (CGIS). Haji Noor Deen gave a demonstration of his art to a captivated audience at the Asia Center in April.

I. interview Special Interview with EZRA VOGEL · On Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China


II. cultural and social change Contested Urbanization in China: Exploring Informal Spaces of Migrants-in-the-City · bettina gransow


Making a Difference in Japanese Politics: Women Legislators Acting for Gender Equality · mikiko eto


From Feminist to Party Intellectual? Identity Politics and Ding Ling’s “New Woman Stories” · xiaoping


wang In Between “the Raw” and “the Cooked”: The Cultural Speculation and Debate on Puer Tea in Contemporary


China · jinghong zhang

III. international relations: asia and beyond The US Factor in Sino-Indian Relations: India’s Fine Balancing Act · rup narayan das


The Geopolitics of Political Islam in Bangladesh · MUBASHAR HASAN


Post-ECFA China-Taiwan Relations: Future Scenarios · GUNJAN SINGH


IV. security and defense The Current and Emerging Terrorist Threat in Southeast Asia · Rohan Gunaratna


East Asian Stabilization: Japanese and South Korean Involvement in Afghanistan · John Hemmings


“Selfish Superpower” No Longer? China’s Anti-Piracy Activities and 21st-Century Global Maritime Governance ·


Andrew Erickson & Austin Strange A Long and Winding Road for Cybersecurity Cooperation between Japan and the United States · Mihoko



v. business and innovation Changing the Rules of the Game: The Commercial Aircraft Industry in China · Marc Szepan


interview: ezra vogel on deng xiaoping and the transformation of china

Interview by allan hsiao Professor Vogel, I’m happy to have the opportunity to sit down with you today, and I’m sure our readers will find your thoughts interesting and insightful. You’ve clearly had a lot of success with your academic career as a whole, and your latest book, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, has been no different. It has already garnered international attention and represents another well-researched addition to your body of work. Unlike your other books, of course, including Japan as Number One, which continues to sell well in Japan today, this latest book is a biography. How did you choose to pursue writing a biography, and how have the writing process and the response been different? Part of the experience of writing Japan is Number One was having an impact on how we felt about a country. As I was retiring, I tried to think the kind of book that would have an impact in helping Americans understand the developments in Asia. Of course, China’s the big issue in Asia now, and within China, the period most important for understanding


current China is not the Cultural Revolution and not the Great Leap Forward – it’s Gaige Kaifang (改革开放, Reform and Opening). I wanted to understand the dynamics of how it happened and to see how its elements impact China today. Deng played such a critical role during this period and was such an interesting person that I thought he would offer a way of framing the developments since 1978, providing a common thread through the period. Deng is such an extraordinary person, and it’s interesting how many people have responded now, agreeing with my assessment that perhaps no one had a bigger impact on the 20th century than Deng Xiaoping. Just last weekend, Bill Gates recommended three books for summer reading in his column, including mine. So the book is having an impact. I wanted for the book to be viewed as academic, but it’s already gotten a lot of attention outside of the academic world. And in fact, there have only been one or two academic reviews that have come out about it now. What’s been pleasing to me is seeing the second round of reaction, in which business people who have gone to China

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Ezra Vogel on Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

are now recommending it to others. There’s a business conference in Beijing, and people hand out copies of my book with the welcome package as a way of understanding what’s happening in China. And that’s not the kind of thing that happens to an ordinary academic book. So I feel that, in a way, I’ve begun to achieve my goal of having impact and educating people – concerned Americans who want to understand the China we see today. Of course, you’re right that the book has been getting attention. It’s been well received by that community of concerned, engaged individuals that you mentioned, being named one of the best books of 2011 by the Economist, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, and with the Lionel Gelber Prize in 2012. What has been your reaction to the official recognition that the book has received? I’m pleased with the attention, and I think most of the reviews have been quite good. It’s been kind of funny – Feng Lizhi, a political activist, wrote a review that was very critical of the book. Now one of the questions is whether the book will be published in the Mainland, and if so, when? I’ve dealt with San Lian, which I think is the best publisher to do it, and they’re working on it now. And actually, in their letter to the government authorities requesting permission, they included a translation of Fang Lizhi’s review to show that, rather ironically, I’m on the right side of things. So, although Fang Lizhi has now passed, I have to be thankful that he helped me get attention too. Two or three of the reviews really surprised me; Chris Patten was one of them. I had a talk with him when I was in England shortly thereafter, and I was surprised that someone that busy would take the time to write a review. Although I didn’t think I was that sympathetic to him – and I’m not. If anything, I’m more sympathetic to the foreign ministry officials in England who had to drive a steady approach to Hong Kong, rather than trying to democratize in such a dramatic, political way. Regardless, however, he was quite pleased. So I’ve been quite happy with the reaction. The book has certainly had an impact in the Western world, and you mentioned that it may be published in the Mainland. What reaction would you anticipate, and what sort of role would you seek to play if the book were to go into the Chinese market?

When I was writing, I was thinking of Americans and people from other countries, not necessarily the Chinese. But I’ve now given a lot of talks in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, and in these places people are beginning to think about a new kind of question – what Deng means to China today. Answering that question wasn’t my original purpose in writing, and so I’m really trying to think through how I want to use this opportunity. If I do reach an audience in China, what’s my message? I think one of the messages, of course, is that taoguang yanghui (韬光养晦, to conceal one’s strengths and bide one’s time) was correct – that there was a reason for it and a logic to it, and that Deng had a long-term perspective on what would work in China. The question that I’m not as sure about is what reforms he would make if he were alive today. That’s the key question, although it’s not an easy one to answer. You can say he would be tougher on corruption. But how would he do it, and what would he do? How would he manage it? It may well be that I won’t have such a sharp stance on the issue. Maybe Deng himself didn’t focus on China this far into the future, and maybe it’s not clear what he would do. But I could talk about the spirit of what he did and what that would mean today. These are the kinds of issues that I’m thinking about, and the book could get a lot of attention. If the authorities do allow me to leave in the chapters about June 4th (the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989), it would be somewhat new in China – that is, to have a more open discussion about June 4th than has been allowed so far. I think one of the reasons a number of intellectuals and liberals want my book published is exactly that. Some of the more liberal people in China think I’m not tough enough on Deng. They’re much more sympathetic with Hu Yaobang, and so they’re a bit more critical. But still, compared to the situation now, the book would expand the range of what’s talked about. So that’s what kind of impact I’d hope to have. San Lian estimated that if they published it, the first printing would probably be 500,000 – something off the scale of anything that would happen to the book outside of China. The English edition, for example, passed 20,000 in the first six months, making it the biggest seller from the Harvard University Press this year. But that’s nothing compared to what it could do in China, partly because Deng is so important. And there’s no large, responsible, balanced book on Deng in Chinese, so a number of my Chinese friends who have read it think that this could be influential in how

Ezra F. Vogel is the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University. Based on his field work in Japan, he wrote Japan’s New Middle Class in 1963. The Japanese edition of Japan as Number One: Lessons for America, written in 1979, is the all-time non-fiction best-seller in Japan by a Western author. His work in China began with Canton Under Communism in 1969, winner of the Harvard University Press faculty book of the year award. Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China is Professor Vogel’s first biography, offering a deeply research and finely detailed portrait of one of the key figures in modern Chinese history. The book was the 2012 recipient of the Lionel Gelber prize, an international prize awarded to one non-fiction English-language book on foreign affairs that deepens public understanding of international issues. Ezra Vogel on Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


the Chinese think about Deng. In terms of how the Chinese think about Deng, how is Deng portrayed in China today, not only in the official sense, in the classroom and in textbooks, but also in the unofficial sense, as people talk about him at the dinner table? How do your book and your portrayal of Deng fit in with that? As you know, there are 1.3 billion Chinese, and there are many different views. The official story is rather easy to tell. He was the one who brought about reform and opening, and he provided leadership in carrying it out. I think that’s the main focus. They haven’t made him the God-like figure that they made Mao, but he’s nonetheless portrayed as the wise, steady leader who brought progress to the country. At the same time, I think a number of people at a high level feel this was more of a collective process. The relatives of some of the other officials, for example, feel that their fathers and their uncles also played important roles. There’s a movement among the friends of Hua Guofeng that says that Hua was much more progressive and played a much bigger role than is publically recognized. They want the praise to be spread among all people and not just Deng. But in the official record, Deng led the transformation. Then there are those who feel that he didn’t go far enough in democracy. And it isn’t just June 4th – it’s something broader. Some Chinese intellectuals take a broader historical perspective; they feel that he could have moved the country more toward democracy or openness, and that he could have been tougher on corruption than he was. At the same time, there is the generation of students who entered university after 1977 and, for the next decade, were enormously thankful to Deng, assuming they passed the entrance exams and could enroll. They feel that he gave them that chance. And for his firmness in keeping the country open, there are quite a number of pragmatic, well-educated people in China who feel that he, after all, is the great leader rather than Mao. So they’re happy to see recognition of Deng and his role. Ultimately, I think it’s a mixture of quite a few different perspectives. Of course, the official view tends to integrate the two, with “Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory” (毛泽东思想,邓小平理论). How has that view been changing? I think for most people, there’s now a more critical view of Mao: that he, after all, was responsible for the deaths of millions in the Great Leap Forward. I think history will be revised to show that Mao was really a vicious man and made huge mistakes in the 50s. I think the broad historical message that will be written twenty or thirty years from now, and in the future after that, will be that Mao did a great thing in uniting the country, but that after 1949 he made a terrible


mess and that Deng was really the strong leader who led the country back. Ultimately, I think that the long-term historical evaluation will see Deng as much better for China than Mao. With Deng coming into this role as the great leader of China, how do you think he sees China today? You mentioned corruption earlier as an important problem, and in your book you also discuss social security and health care, the environment, defining freedom, and maintaining the government’s legitimacy to rule as issues left to his successors to address. What would Deng’s reaction have been to the progress China has seen, and what would he view as its most pressing problem? First of all, he would be enormously pleased to see that the average standard of living has risen so much and that China is so important in the international community today. People take China’s views very seriously. One thing I get from that generation is that other countries would 欺负我们 (qifu women) – that they intimidated us. They don’t want that to happen again, and they don’t feel that it will happen again. I think that’s very important. If Deng were alive, he would see it as great progress. But I think he would be worried about people who want to be so tough. He said that China should never behave like a hegemon. Some in the military are beginning to take action in the South China Sea, and he would clamp down on that. In terms of other issues, I think Deng was very worried about the political impact of corruption. He felt it would become a political problem if they didn’t have the economy moving fast enough and that the support of the people would disappear. And I think he would see that the waning support of the people over corruption is now a major issue, even after being much tougher toward it. The Chinese friends I talk to feel that the only way to deal with that now is to forgive what happened in the past and to set important goals for the future. Because if there are too many people involved, there’s no way you’re going to be able to punish everyone. I don’t know if Deng had gotten to the point where he thought that through, though. I think he was at a stage when they were worried about corruption becoming widespread and getting to be a political problem. And so I think he would want to crack down so that it doesn’t become a political problem. Of course, we can only think about the spirit of what he’d do and not the concrete measures. In terms of issues like the environment, he realized that it was important, but it wasn’t the center of what he was concerned with. Nonetheless, I think he would be very responsive to environmental issues. Issues like water in the North China plain. He thought big and in terms of big projects. The Three Gorges was probably something that he would have done. And he would probably have had other big projects for diverting water to the North China plain. But I think he also would have been quite pragmatic about trying to find energy resources other than soft coals, so that

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Ezra Vogel on Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

you didn’t have such global warming. That said, I think all of these would be new issues that he hadn’t thought deeply about. The general direction, however, is that he would want to preserve the environment. But it’s another generation that really has to think about how concretely to deal with it. On the other hand, it sounds like one problem that he did think about was political change. As you mention in your book, economic change was the priority for Deng, and in a sense a requirement for political change. But the issues surrounding the forces of political change were nonetheless a concern of his. How do you see that change coming about now, some thirty years after his time as leader of the country? Deng didn’t think about democracy from the Western perspective. Unlike Mao, I think he was concerned about the division of labor and worried that the party was interfering with too much. He thought that specialists should lead, and he was a big believer in people with knowledge and special talent. Ultimately, though, he was most concerned with a rational administration and efficient operations, while taking different views into consideration. I also think he wanted intra-party democracy. He wanted more people to have their say and to be able to express their opinions – as long as they were positive. He wanted positive suggestions, not negative ones. For Deng, it was perfectly fine to criticize, as long as that criticism came with constructive suggestions for what to do. That was always the issue for him. Nonetheless, I think he felt that, in terms of China and Chinese history, you still needed rational people at the top who thought of the overall good, and that a lot of people wouldn’t fully understand the decisions that needed to be made if you just left it to voting. He thought the better decisions could be made by rational people at the top who thought of all of the problems. And he felt that by giving people moral training and a good education, you could produce leaders at the top for making those final decisions and for thinking of the good of the whole country. I don’t know if he would have been in favor of the kind of voting that we do in the US, but he would have been in favor of having representatives from all walks of life who knew about the problems and could bring that knowledge to the leaders at the top. In a sense, it’s almost this concept of a “democracy with Chinese characteristics,” complementary to a socialism with Chinese characteristics, showing how democracy can potentially come into the system in some form. It’s that democracy tends to bubble up in the party, but looking at Chinese history, with rational leaders – that group of educated, morally trained people – making decisions at the top, Deng felt that this sort of system led to better decisions than just leaving it to voting. I don’t think he would have

gone as far as, say, democracy in the Western sense. But I think Taiwan is really an interesting case now. When Zhao Ziyang was carrying out the investigation on various democratic forms in 1986, one question was how authoritarian parties have moved to democracy and voting while retaining their power. I think Deng would have been willing to consider something like that. Something that has really interested me is Wukan in Guangdong, where local uprisings ultimately led to people being allowed to vote. That voting was used to temper the local people in a sense. I don’t think Deng would have done that. He felt that all those who gave into solidarity and allowed the unions to have too much power were hurting the country, making it impossible to maintain overall authority. So I don’t think he would have made that many concessions to the different groups. He would have wanted their views to be heard and to understand what the problems were, as well as what could be done to make their lives better so that the situation improved. But he wouldn’t have allowed the dissipation of authority. Of course, the incidents in Wukan also played a role in shaping China’s image on the international stage. In a time when China has surpassed Japan to become the number two economy in the world, and when it has overtaken Germany in terms of exports, what would Deng’s thoughts have been on China’s international presence today? I think he actually would be much more modest about where China is. He would say that China still has so much poverty left to address. When he was in Japan, he said he didn’t want to be like an ugly lady who dresses up in fancy clothes. That China has a modern side, but that there’s an awful lot of work to be done, would be how he saw things. And that it shouldn’t pretend to be more modern. I don’t know if he would have allowed as much money to go into the military as is currently being spent. He would have put limits on what they do militarily, and he wouldn’t have gone that far. He valued good relations with other countries over fighting over borders, and he thought that the big picture was about having harmony and good relations so that they wouldn’t have to waste so much on military expenses. He also would have supported the training of the Chinese to take part in international affairs. I was in Beijing some years ago when forty-six heads of state of Africa came to Beijing, and each had a person assigned to him who could speak their local language. China has the scale where it can do that. I think that’s the kind of thing that Deng would support: to have people out there studying all sorts of things around the world. China’s big enough, and unlike South Korea or Taiwan in an earlier period, where people were worried about a brain drain, he wasn’t worried. He thought, “There are plenty of Chinese—let them go. They can be helpful to China overseas.” So in that sense, he was quite an

Ezra Vogel on Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


internationalist. He would have supported China taking part in international organizations, as long as they met their own internal needs. On this idea of overseas Chinese being useful to China, what is your take on the Chinese diaspora and this concept of going abroad and continuing to contribute to the Chinese homeland? I think that there is a kind of internationalization of and pride in the ethnic Chinese background. I remember one of my friends from Hong Kong, a physics professor who told me about the reaction to the discovery of high-temperature superconductivity by an ethnic Chinese – Dr. Paul Chu of Taiwan. He said the next day, he was on the phone with Chinese scientists in Beijing, the United States, Taiwan, and Hong Kong; all the physicists of Chinese ethnic background were in touch with each other, and they were so proud that an ethnic Chinese did it. And I think with people like Yang Zhenning, the Nobel Prize winner, it’s very much that way. They see science as an international effort, and they take pride that ethnic Chinese have played such a role. It’s interesting how important things like Nobel Prizes and international Olympic contests are to China; they want to do well. They want to produce more Olympic gold medalists, more Nobel Prize winners, and it’s insulting, for example, when an anti-Chinese writer, himself ethnically Chinese, wins the Nobel Prize instead. That international recognition is still terribly important. Given this pride in the ethnic Chinese community and its intellectual accomplishment, how has your own career fit into the intellectual understanding of the country? What have you found most valuable, and what has your approach been? I feel happy that I started my career in sociology, where you’re working with people. In both Japan and China, I tried talking to people and understanding them, then looking at their institutions and decision-making. There are a number of scholarly approaches: some might look at the dates and the names and want to get that just right. But I want to understand people and what they were thinking. I don’t necessarily take what any particular documents say as the final goal of scholarship. I want to understand people and how they operate. How they work. I think my sociological background has been very good and very useful for that. I think that some of the political science theorists and the people who are just in economics, for example, sort of miss it. I was first invited by an official in Guangdong in 1968; he was really the one responsible for my going there, and he said that they were happy to have a sociologist. He had taken some sociology courses at Yanjing University before 1949. He felt that it wasn’t just economic, it wasn’t just political – there were broader social factors, and trying to understand things from that perspective was a good way of going about things. When I went to Guangdong, they told me they thought


it would be helpful to have a foreigner describe their country in order to help them improve the investment climate. I had the good fortune to make friends, and I was able to be straight and open and honest. I said, you know, if I see bad things, I have to report it. And they said OK. They felt that in balance it would be helpful if I told what happened. Of course, they didn’t show me everything. I’ve always felt that you can’t be a perfectionist – you can’t demand that all our standards be accepted automatically. You have to operate in their context, in their climate, and with what they can do. To stand aside and to criticize something on the basis of Western standards isn’t my way of doing things. I feel that when trying to understand, one doesn’t necessarily accept things the way they are, but one has to understand people’s context and what can be done about it. And I think the kind of Chinese friends I’ve made are also straightforward and honest. I’ve made some very good friends, and I think they’ve been very, very helpful. I think there are also a lot of foreigners who try hard and work hard and are very helpful in trying to understand China. But I think I’ve been luckier than most, and for several reasons. I got started at an early time, so I could see the development starting in the 60s and have that perspective. And then having worked on Guangdong in some detail and having worked with officials – low-level officials, whom I traveled with in the mid-80s – it gave me a greater depth than a lot of other people were able to get. But I do think there were many good scholars who were all trying in their own way to understand what was going on in China. Do you have any particular hopes for the future of Asian studies and the sort of direction that the field takes? Or is it simply a hope that it continues to grow in many different directions? I’ve been concerned about the power of different disciplines – particularly political science and economics, which now aim to be so theoretical that they squeeze the juice out of everything. Someone who just tries to go and understand is not rated as high as someone who has some kind of theory and tests that theory. And now that I’ve been working in China since the early 60s, for fifty or so years, I’ve seen theories come and go. And I think the ones now will go too. There will be new theories. I think understanding what’s going on comprehensively is very important, but not sufficiently valued today. So I think those of us who care about the context and broader perspective still have a fight. And I think now in particular, political science is getting too interested in theory and models; economics, of course, has been that way for some time. And so if economists – perhaps scholars like Dwight Perkins at Harvard – were in their mid-twenties and finishing their degree, they may not get a job at Harvard. They’re not theoretical enough. They know too much about an area. And so I’m concerned about that. I think there are enough young scholars who get hooked on a country and want to know about it that they do

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Ezra Vogel on Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

what you need to do to get tenure, and they’re still interested in what’s going on in the country. And they’ve formed deep enough relations that after they get tenure, they’re freer to look at what’s really going on rather than satisfy a theory for some journal. So I’m of course happy to see the few who have succeeded doing just that. Of course, the growth of interest in the region and in Chinese language in this country is wonderful. But I am worried about the leading universities. They try to make it into a science, which it isn’t. It takes a comprehensive understanding, and to value that comprehensive understanding is important. As the first director of the Asia Center and with your role in establishing Korean studies, among other programs, how have you been able to influence how people approach Asian Studies at Harvard? What are your thoughts on the development of these programs at Harvard in particular? We now have so many faculty that the person who directs things doesn’t have as much power as in the days of Fairbank and Reischauer, when Asian Studies was smaller and much more centralized. And even though I was head of the Fairbank center after Fairbank himself retired, he was twenty-five years older and had built the thing. It was a bit like Deng Xiaoping and his successors; Deng Xiaoping had a lot of power, and his successors had to try to fill the void after he left. I didn’t have the power that Deng had, and I didn’t have the power to shape the whole field. It was much more of a collective effort. I supported those who were trying to develop Korean studies, although I was disappointed in the earlier generation before Carter Eckhart was here. The people in Korean studies were decent scholars, and they were pleasant people, but they were not field builders. But when Carter Eckhart came along, he was the one who really built Korean studies here. And I always tried to play a helpful role. I had enough contacts in Korea in one way or another, including through helping Korea develop from the Chinese and Japanese perspectives. Fairbank was interested primarily in Chinese studies, but he wanted to get people from all countries. I was in Japan in the summer of 1965, and I was just on the verge of getting tenure at that time. I got a letter from Fairbank telling me to go to Korea. He wanted me to meet some of the China scholars there, and he said that Korea was going to be very important. But his focus was on Chinese studies, not Korean studies, and on meeting Korean scholars who were concerned with Asia in general. That was among my first contacts with Korea, and I’ve kept up an interest since that time. Of course, I started with Japanese studies even before I started on China. So I’ve had the good fortune, I think, of being considered by Japan scholars as one of them, and by Chinese scholars as one of them. And I don’t think there’s anyone else at Harvard who has been quite that way. There are some now who know both languages, but I don’t think anybody else has somehow had the good fortune to be that deep into those two places.

On a closing note, then, if you were able to start your career again today, what would you do? Would you still pursue the same academic career in Japan and China? If I knew what I know now and were starting at this stage, first of all I would have worked harder on language at a young age. I didn’t consolidate my language studies early on, and I’ve had to sort of keep at it. I think language is important, and for sociologists in particular, speaking is especially important. So my reading is not excellent; there are a lot of scholars who are much better at reading Chinese and Japanese than I am. As for speaking, however, I can carry on good conversation, and I’ve learned to have enough to really relate to people. Even if I don’t know certain words, I can relate. But I think I would do even more to consolidate my language skills and to continue that further. I think I would also try to absorb myself in life, maybe spending a year or two in universities abroad. I don’t know that I would try to do China and Japan both, because I think it was a strain trying to do both. Although I think young people can do it today if they start out soon enough. I started Asian studies at 28, after my PhD. I never took a course on Asia before my degree, and I never ended up taking a formal course on Asia after. It’s all been informal since then. So I would probably try to spend a couple years in university, and perhaps in China. I might even do a year or so in Japan. But I might focus primarily on China, because it’s going to be the big issue. Then, I might spend a few years doing something outside of academic life. Some of my friends who spent some time in business got to know the world in a very unique way. I have one wonderful former PhD student who worked on Japan and who went into business after his PhD. He decided at age 55 or so that he wanted to learn something about China, so he decided to open a factory in China. He already had his own business in Japan, and he thought that was a wonderful way of getting to know China. I’ve learned a lot from him about China, even though he wasn’t a Chinese linguist or historian. He just learned from the experience of running a factory, and he saw the kind of things you really run into on the ground. So I think I might spend two or three years on something like that. I might try one of those big think tank firms, or something that does research like a consulting company, which gives you a lot of breadth. But I also might try to spend two or three years on the ground, maybe in business, or in a rural area, or in something like an NGO. And then I would go back to academic life. I would always have kept that in mind. There are a lot of hurdles you have to go through today to prove you can do theory, and some of my young scholar friends do that quite well. It’s not easy to do now, but you have to find something that sort of satisfies the theorists, yet brings you deep enough inside to understand what’s happening on the ground. So I would try to satisfy those people and pass the hurdles, and then once I passed the hurdles, I would do my own thing and try to understand the country.

Ezra Vogel on Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


contested urbanization in china: exploring informal spaces of migrants-in-the-city

bettina gransow · freie universitÄt berlin Abstract Starting with an assessment of government migration and urbanization policies as a reluctant, yet responsive approach to the largely spontaneous migration processes triggered by predominantly economic incentives, this paper will analyze the contradiction between the official urbanization and migration policies of the Chinese government (at various levels) and the migration and urbanization strategies from below. Using the case of Guangzhou, it is argued that the massive drive within the entrepreneurial city to redevelop its urban villages, in order to upgrade and commercialize its precious central areas, is severely impacting what are the spaces of arrival for millions of migrants-in-the-city – spaces which are not only providing affordable housing but are also delicate ecosystems of informal economies and services. It is argued that, from the perspective of rural-to-urban migration as a particularly effective bottom-up development strategy, these informal spaces, inhabited by migrants-in-the-city,

require a careful upgrading of their existing infrastructure rather than a thoughtless pushing out of their inhabitants to even more marginal spaces in the city. introduction Until recently, the development of megacities has been viewed in largely negative terms in China, for reasons including traffic problems, energy shortages, and pollution. This is evident in the strategic approach of the twelfth FiveYear Plan (2011-15) to urbanize. While arguing for steadily allowing rural migrant workers to become urban residents, it repeats what has been the mantra of urban development in China since the 1990s: “Megacities need to keep their population within reasonable bounds; large- and mediumsized cities need to strengthen and improve population management and continue to make full use of their important roles in absorbing the migrant population; and small- and medium-sized cities and small towns should relax conditions for outsiders to become residents based on their particular

All photos included in this article were taken by the author. Article reprinted with kind permission of the author. 12

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Contested Urbanization in China

condition. We will encourage all localities to explore relevant policies and practices and rationally determine the scale on which rural migrants workers can become urban residents.”1 Despite the long-term urbanization strategy of the Chinese government to focus on the development of small- and medium-sized cities and continuous policies to control the size of megacities, in reality there has been a permanent increase in megaurban space and in the number of megacity inhabitants. The growth and pace of the population increase has been fastest in cities with more than two million inhabitants.2 As in other Asian countries, mega-urbanization in China is largely driven by migration processes – mainly internal, rural-to-urban migration. In 2011, for the first time in history, more than half of China’s population lived in cities. According to projections from the Center of Development Research under the State Council, the urbanization rate will be as high as 60% in 2020.3 By definition, urban residents include migrants from rural areas staying in cities for more than six months.4 According to the 2010 census, out of a total population of 1.34 billion, 665.57 million were urban residents, accounting for 49.68%, and 674.15 million were rural residents, accounting for 50.32%. The total number of migrants, counted in 2010 as persons staying for more than six months in places other than the towns (townships or streets) of their household registration, was 261.39 million persons. Of this total, 39.96 million were persons with a current residence different from the place of their household registration but within the same city. The remaining were 221.43 million persons can be understood as the migrant population. Compared with the 2000 population census, which counted 117 million persons with household registrations in a different place, the number English Section of the Central Document Translation Department of the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, in The Twelfth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic of China (Beijing: Central Compilation & Translation Press, 2011), 90-91. 2 Zhongguo Fazhan Yanjiu Jijinhui (China Development Research Foundation) ed., “Cujin Rende Fazhande Zhongguo Xinxing Chengshihua Zhanlüe” (New Urbanization in China: For a People-Centered Strategy), China Development Report 2010 (Beijing: People’s Press, 2010), 78. 3 Zhou Hongchun and Li Xin, “Zhongguo de Chengshihua Jiqi Huanjing Kechixuxing Yanjiu” (Research on Chinese Urbanization and Environmental Sustainability), Journal of Nanjing University 4 (2010): 68. 4 Lan Lan, “Fast Urbanization set to Drive Consumption,” China Daily, January 18, 2012, 13. 1

was up by 83%.5 Increasingly, rural migrants in China are more attracted by megacities (特大城市) and big cities (大城市). In 2009, 63.3% of migrant workers (农民工) in China were employed in large- and medium-sized cities over the prefecture level (地级市), among them 9.1% in municipalities (直辖市), 19.8% in capital cities (provincelevel 省会城市), and 34.4% in prefecture-level cities.6 Real urban development has clearly not been in line with the official urbanization strategy of the Chinese government. Strong economic (and other) incentives that have accompanied Chinese reform policies draw the majority of rural migrant workers to precisely the megacities and export production centers in the southern and coastal parts of the country that official policy seeks to control and constrain. In addition, in recent years megacities have increasingly come to be viewed in light of their advantages, namely as centers of trade and economic activity that can meet the needs for services and consumer goods. By 2025, China will have at least eight megacities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Tianjin, and Wuhan – each with a population of more than ten million. Urbanization will also impact the central and western regions of the country.7 Some 325 million more people are expected to move to urban areas within one generation. Environmental lobby groups may argue that energy and essential services can be supplied more efficiently to concentrated urban areas, but this unprecedented pace of development will nonetheless pose huge challenges requiring innovative solutions. In this article,8 I will analyze the contradiction between the official urbanization and migration policies of the Chinese government (at various levels) and the migration and urbanization strategies from below, from the actions of the migrants themselves to the ways in which these Major Figures on 2010 Population Census in China, compiled by Population Census Office under the State Council, Department of Population and Employment Statistics, and National Bureau of Statistics of the P.R. China (Beijing: China Statistics Press, 2011), 59-61. 6 Zhongguo Fazhan, China Development Report 2010, 26. 7 Andrew Moody and Lan Lan, “Focusing on Future Urbanization,” China Daily, March 22, 2010. 8 The findings presented here are part of an ongoing research project on megaurban development and migrant communities in the Pearl River Delta/China as part of the “Megacities – megachallenge. Informal dynamics of global change” (SPP 1233) program funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), 5

Bettina Gransow is Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at Freie Universität Berlin and currently teaching at the School of Sociology and Anthropology at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. Her research interests revolve around contemporary Chinese society and social issues, including voluntary and involuntary migration and megacity development, civil society and civil society organizations in China, and social risk analysis and social assessment in investment projects. Her recent publications include Social Assessment Manual for Investment Projects in China – Turning Risks Into Opportunities? (2007, co-edited with Susanna Price), Migrants and Health in Urban China (2010, co-edited with Zhou Daming), and “Migrant Communities and Social Change in Chinese Megacities: Slum Formation or Urban Innovation?” Contested Urbanization in China | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


different strategies impact and are entangled with each other. Starting from governmental migration and urbanization policies as a reluctant, yet responsive approach to the mainly spontaneous migration processes triggered by predominantly economic incentives, this paper looks at the informal spaces that are characteristic of the working and living conditions of migrants-in-the-city,9 such as employment, housing, schooling, and healthcare, and it introduces the concept of the migration regime to better understand the complex interrelatedness of these informal institutions. Using the case of Guangzhou, it is argued that the massive drive within the entrepreneurial city to redevelop its urban villages, in order to upgrade and commercialize its precious central areas, is severely impacting what are the spaces of arrival for millions of migrants-in-the-city, spaces which are not only providing affordable housing but are also delicate systems of informal economies and services. It is argued that, from the perspective of rural-to-urban migration as a particularly effective bottomup development strategy, these informal spaces occupied by migrants-in-the-city require a careful upgrading of their existing infrastructure rather than the thoughtless pushing of their inhabitants to even more marginal spaces of the city. Chinese urbanization and policy–shifting paradigms


Since the beginning of the reform process, urbanization and migration policy in China have focused mainly on enabling economic growth and development. During the reform decades, the national Chinese policy on rural-to-urban migration shifted dramatically, from essentially coercive measures and the control of migrant workers to a more permissive attitude and later to an attitude even facilitating migration. This paradigm shift in migration policy can be seen as part of a broader shift in China’s development planning and reform policy during the transformation period.10 Whereas the largely coercive attitude toward migration during the 1980s was a reflection of the social control mechanism of the planned economy, the less coercive, but still control-focused policies of the 1990s were backed by economic considerations related to a growth-oriented development model resembling more neo-liberal ways of governing migrants. This approach, which aims to promote industrialization while at the same time limiting its indirect costs by restricting migrant workers from settling down in urban areas, has been described as

an “incomplete urbanization” approach.11 With mounting environmental and social challenges, a broader conception of sustainable development emerged; this came to dominate the government’s policy and legislation after the turn of the century and resulted in more migrant labor friendly policies. Even so, these policies framed migrant workers primarily as workers (whose rights need to be protected) and gave less consideration to their complex migrant situation – working and living in the city with rural household registrations. Their right to the city has already entered the agenda of the government’s urbanization policy, but the practical existence of the migrants-in-the-city is still in limbo. Since the start of economic reforms in China, urbanization and migration policies can be divided into roughly six different phases:12 Prohibition of Migration (1979-83) At the beginning of reform politics, conflicting signals were given: on the one hand, incentives for economic development and employment in small towns, encouraging peasants to leave agriculture and their villages, and on the other hand, sending rural migrants back to their villages, because of a restricted food and consumer goods distribution system. Toleration of Migration (1984-89) In the second half of the 1980s, rural migrants were allowed to stay in small towns if they could make a living there. Starting from 1985, regulations on temporary resident permits for rural migrants in small towns were put into place. Rural migrants were allowed to work in state enterprises one year later. In addition, since 1988 the Ministry of Labor has encouraged migration out of designated poverty areas. Prohibition of Blind Migration (1989-92) In 1989, against the background of nationwide student demonstrations and protests, local governments took measures against so-called blind migration. Rural labor forces were restricted from leaving their hometowns and working in agriculture or local industries. Before and after the Tiananmen incident in June 1989, rural migrants in urban Chan Kam Wing, “Fundamentals of China’s Urbanization and Policy,” The China Review 10 (Spring), ed. Gu Chaolin and Wu Fulong, in Urbanization in China: Processes and Policies (Hong Kong, 2010), 77. 12 Huang Ping and Frank Pieke, “China Migration Country Study,” paper presented at the Conference of Migration, Development, and Pro-Poor Policy Choices in Asia, Dhaka, June 22-24, 2003, accessed June 21, 2009, http://www.sociology. pdf; Hans-Christian Schnack and Yuan Yuan, “Regulating Migration in China: A Selection of Recent Policy Documents,” in Migrants and Health in Urban China, History and Society. Berliner China-Hefte Vol. 38, ed. Bettina Gransow and Zhou Daming (Munich: Lit Press, 2010), 124-150. 11

Terms used in everyday speech, in the media, and in academic and political discourse such as “floating population,” “peasant workers,” “temporary migrants,” or simply “outsiders” convey a sense of exclusion and indicate that migrants are not seen as urban citizens. To highlight the constraint of a predominantly urban perspective, and also in accordance with rural migrants’ long-term perspectives of becoming equal urban citizens, we suggest using the term “migrants-in-the-city.” 10 Xu Feng, “Governing China’s Peasant Migrants: Building Xiaokang Socialism and Harmonious Society,” in China’s Governmentalities: Governing Change, Changing Government, ed. Elaine Jeffreys (London: Routledge, 2009), 3839. 9


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Contested Urbanization in China

areas were strictly controlled; they were not allowed to move to Guangdong province, and even victims of disasters were not allowed to search for work as labor migrants. Starting in 1991, a 1982 regulation on sending back beggars and homeless people became applied to migrants without regular incomes, residence permits, or housing. Regulated Migration (1993-2000) After reform politics had been confirmed at the beginning of the 1990s, migration was no longer prohibited but rather regulated: migration to big cities like Beijing and Shanghai was strictly restricted, and migrants were channeled into small- and medium-sized cities. But as economic incentives came mainly from big cities, and as migrants’ social networks became increasingly tied to these cities, this policy proved ineffective. In 1994, the Ministry of Labor issued regulations on the employment of labor forces outside their provinces, and in 1995, the Ministry of Public Security issued regulations on temporary residence permits for rural migrants in urban areas and regulations on renting apartments. Other regulations were related to the hukou system in small towns (1997), the schooling of migrant children (1998), and family planning for migrants (1998). In 2000, the Ministry of Labor established an information and monitoring system on the employment of migrants. According to regulations issued by the State Council in 2000, peasants working in small towns could apply for an urban hukou. Since the 1990s, the migrant force has been viewed as instrumental to GDP growth, increasing the wealth of the nation as a whole. Little attention has been given to the working and living conditions of the migrants, as they were never expected to become permanent urban residents. Their mobility was seen as an instrument for realizing a laborintensive, export-oriented industrialization strategy.13 Local governments have reacted by controlling and profiting from migrants. Rent-seeking tendencies, in the form of various fees migrants must pay, have increased in the commoditized reform environment of Chinese cities.14 Furthermore, externalizing social and environmental costs have produced unintended impacts of economic growth since the 1990s, including a fast-growing income gap and a growing number of protests, petitions, and so-called mass incidents. Promotion of Migration (2001-2005) Once the income gap between rural and urban incomes had reached a ratio of 3.6 to 1 at the beginning of the 21st century (in comparison to 2.2 to 1 in the 1980s), restrictions against rural-to-urban movements were removed to enable the income gap to shrink. The State Council decided to accelerate the reform of the hukou system (March 2001); regulations were issued to provide rural migrants work injury insurance (since 2004, Ministry of Labor); considerations on 13 14

Xu, “Governing China’s Peasant Migrants”, 40-42. Ibid., 47.

establishing a medical insurance system for migrants were undertaken (May 2004, Ministry of Labor), and the law on compulsory education was revised (2005) to entitle migrant children to attend urban schools. In 2003, the “detention and repatriation” system (收容遣送制度), which since the early 1990s increasingly became a means of forced deportation to send rural migrants without registration, employment, and housing15 back home, was abolished. This practice had developed into a lucrative source of income for local security authorities and guards, with relatives and friends paying fines similar to a ransom in order to free migrants held pending deportation. The practice finally drew public outrage after a migrant was beaten to death in March 2003, and regulation on detention centers was implemented on June 20 of the same year.16 This marked the start of a turn in migration policy that increasingly sought to establish legal foundations for the equal treatment of rural migrants with respect to work and civil rights. Social stability has become an increasing concern of the political leadership, and the shift to the new long-term development strategy of building a harmonious society17 in 2004 can be seen as a political answer to the various social challenges caused by development and distribution disparities, inequality, injustice, and corruption. Part of this thinking is the acceptance of an inclusive approach to migrants and the acknowledgement of their role in urbanization. Related to the new paradigm of a harmonious society, migration policy at the beginning of the 21st century has been reoriented to a more pro-migrant stance. But nevertheless, as will be discussed below, the entrepreneurial city is still far from pursuing such an agenda. Regulated Integration of Migrants (since 2006) As part of a broader shift in thinking about the political leadership’s efforts to establish a legal basis for the equal The so-called “‘three without’ population” (三无人口). On August 1, 2003, the “Administrative Measures to Support Vagabonds and Beggars without Urban Livelihoods” (Chengshi Shenghuo Wuzhuo de Liulang Qitao Renyuan Jiuzhu Guanli Banfa) went into effect, replacing the regulation of May 12, 1982 (Schnack and Yuan, “Regulating Migration”, 130). 17 First mentioned in 2002, the concept of a harmonious society was presented by President Hu Jintao in 2005. The characteristics of a “harmonious society” are: (1) material wealth, its distribution, and the coordination of social interests; (2) stability, law and order, and the free flow of labor, knowledge, technologies, management, and capital; and (3) harmony of values, consciousness of civil duties, and high moral standards. See Li Peilin, “Scholar Explores Harmonious Society Concept,” March 4, 2005, accessed July 21, 2012, cn/english/2005/Mar/121746.htm. The concept of developing a harmonious society is directed not only to the internal affairs of Chinese society but also to Chinese international relations. With China’s proactive attitude in securing resources around the world for fueling rapid economic growth, a strategy on China’s peaceful international development was published in December 2005, which can be seen as a complimentary part of the harmonious society concept. 15 16

Contested Urbanization in China | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


treatment of rural migrants in urban areas, in January 2006 “Suggestions (of the State Council) on Solving Problems of Migrant Laborers” was published, and in February 2006, a Circular of the State Council on including migrants in systems of social insurance was issued. The labor contract law and the law on mediation and arbitration of labor disputes (2008) were both inclusive of labor migrants, and (after the global financial crisis) the trade unions were encouraged to support rural migrants in finding employment (March 2009). The global financial crisis, which triggered steep declines in the Chinese export industry in 2008 and 2009, made Chinese authorities very aware of the drawbacks of an economic strategy with a one-sided emphasis on export production. After twenty-five million migrant workers lost their jobs,18 the expansion of the domestic market and the strengthening of domestic consumption became utmost priorities in the structural reorientation of the Chinese economy, with great weight attached to innovation, investment in research and development, and higher qualifications for personnel. This type of strategy, along with higher wages, also seeks to promote the development of a broader middle class19 and thus to contribute to social stability in Chinese society as a whole. Such a structural reorientation of the Chinese economy would require far higher numbers working in the service sector and a corresponding change in the employment structure, with a considerably higher share of white collar employees. Some local governments have recently started to experiment with formulating sets of “entry” qualifications to achieve an urban hukou registration similar to international immigration systems based on granting immigration at a particular passmark of scores.20 Guangdong province, for example, is experimenting with a system in which migrants who have accumulated sixty points can become registered as urban households.21 These experiments can be interpreted as measures to attract better-qualified migrants and to provide incentives for becoming permanent urban residents. As the requirements of these score systems are quite high, they could also be interpreted as new hurdles to keep rural migrants away from big cities – with the only difference that this time citizen status would not be an ascribed status, as in the traditional hukou system, but a status to be achieved by individual competition. This again would mean a one-sided orientation of urbanization and migration strategy that caters to local economic priorities alone. National Bureau of Statistics, “Nianmo Quanguo Nongmingong Zongliang Wei 22542 Wan Ren” (225.42 Million Rural Migrants at the End of 2008), 2008, accessed November 3, 2009, t20090325_402547406.htm. 19 Robert Zoellick, “A Constructive Role with China,” China Daily, September 13, 2010. 20 For Shanghai, see Zhang Li, “The Right to the Entrepreneurial City in Reform-Era China,” The China Review 10 (Spring 2010), special issue ed. Gu Chaolin and Wu Fulong, in Urbanization in China: Processes and Policies, (Hong Kong, 2010). 21 Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis News), June 8, 2010, A10, see Appendix for translation. 18


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Contested Urbanization in China

If migrants are to play a role not only as producers of urban wealth but also as a new layer of urban consumers, simply attracting migrants with higher qualifications is inadequate. So far, migrants-in-the-city are consuming far less than permanent urban residents. This has to be seen within the context of migrants’ limited inclusion in social safety schemes. In 2009, only 7.6% of migrant workers were participating in pension insurance systems; 21.8% were participating in work injury insurance; 12.2% were participating in health insurance; 3.9% were participating in unemployment insurance; and 2.3% were participating in life insurance systems.22 Their wages are meager and most of the migrants’ income is sent home as remittances. To encourage migrants-in-the-city to spend more at their place of employment would require providing them longterm prospects in the city by addressing the significant gaps between them and the urban hukou population, including migrants’ limited access to urban public services such as social security and healthcare, a lack of access to low-income subsidies in the cities, limited employment opportunities in the cities (e.g. a valid urban hukou is required to take China’s civil service examinations), a lack of access to urban housing benefits, high costs of school for migrant children, and a lack of access to consumer loans.23 A strategy of economic opening up that considers migrants-in-the-city as new urban consumers requires a comprehensive urbanization and migration policy, as well as heavy investment in physical, social, and civil infrastructure to enable a smooth urbanization process. Only then might such a strategy pave the way for the broadening of the middle class sought in the vision for a “harmonious society.” Without such comprehensive urbanization reforms, the structural reorientation of boosting domestic consumption will struggle. Migrants-in-the-city: Working and living in informal spaces24 With an ascribed status as holders of a rural household registration,25 migrants-in-the-city have to get by without the entitlements and privileges of urban residents. To remain Wu Qiwen, “Key Questions and Policy Suggestions Regarding Informal Employment” (Fei Zhenggui Jiuye de Guanjian Wenti he Zhengcejianyi), Modern Administration (Xiandai guanli) 453.6 (2011), 170-172. 23 Jin Shi, “Tackling the Urbanization Reform Conundrum,” Caijing Annual Edition (2012), 18-19. 24 See “Migrant Communities and Social Change in Chinese Megacities: Slum Formation or Urban Innovation?,” in Migration and Integration: Reflections on Our Common Future, ed. Klaus Bade, Bernhard Lorentz, and Ludger Pries, (Leipzig: CEP Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 2011), 70-78. 25 For many years there has been continuous debate on the pros and cons of the Chinese household registration system. See Chan Kam Wing and Will Buckingham, “Is China Abolishing the Hukou System?,” in China Quarterly 195, September 2008, 582-607; Shen Jianfa, “Migrant Labor under the Shadow of the Hukou System: the Case of Guangdong,” in Asian Cities, Migrant Labor and Contested Spaces, ed. Tai-Chee Wong and Jonathan Rigg (London: Routledge 2011), 223-245. 22

in cities legally on a temporary basis, migrants have to produce various papers such as temporary resident permits, employment registrations, and family planning certificates. With the rural-urban residence divide, migrants are framed as a group to be restricted, regulated, and controlled by local governments. Migrants-in-the-city are confronted with the social prejudice of urban residents. They are discriminated against, seen as having low status and increasing local crime rates.26 The self-representation of urban residents as modern citizens, with a higher standard of living and improved life style, is partly achieved by otherizing migrants-in-the-city. On arrival in the urban areas, rural migrants are faced with a process of informalization in practically every area of their lives.27 These areas of informalization may not only include their residence status (temporary or undocumented), but also employment (mostly without a written contract), health care (lack of health insurance and a high risk of work injuries), social welfare (not guaranteed), schooling for migrant children (substandard and partly in institutions not certified by the educational administration), and social security (insufficient or lack of old age pension). Migrantsin-the-city have the lowest income but nonetheless must pay for a number of services. Labor and social welfare legislation has in fact become increasingly pro-poor in the last few years, but migrants often lack the necessary information about or means of realizing their rights. Some migrant worker NGOs exist but are restricted by registration regulations that make it difficult to become recognized as non-profit organizations, as well as other constraints such as a lack of funding and professional management. Informal Employment The informal economy is playing an important role in the transition from rural to urban employment and will therefore exist for a considerable time to come.28 In major cities, construction, manufacturing, and catering offer most of the employment opportunities for migrants. In the informal sector, migrants are working in community services, urban public services, small manufacturing enterprises, small trade and service businesses, or are self-employed. Informal work cannot only be found in the informal sector, but also in the formal sector.29 Part of China’s reform program has Jude Howell, “Civil Society and Migrants in China,” in Labor Migration and Social Development in Contemporary China, ed. Rachel Murphy (London: Routledge, 2009), 175. 27 “Informalization” refers to entering into relationships that are not regulated contractually or legitimized by legal frameworks, but are instead based on personal relations or social networks. See Bettina Gransow, “Zwischen Informalisierung und Formalisierung – Migration, Stadtentwicklung und Transformation im Perlflußdelta” (Between Informalization and Formalization – Migration, Urban Development and Transformation in the Pearl River Delta), in China aktuell (Journal of Current Chinese Affairs) 38.1 (2008). 28 Wu, “Key Questions”, 171. 29 Ishii Tomoaki, “New Development from ‘Trade Union Movement’ to ‘Labor Movement’ – Informalization of Labor and Sprouts of an ‘Informal’ Labor Movement” (Cong ‘Gonghui 26

involved the restructuring of state-owned enterprises, and it attempts to replace expensive formal employment contracts with informal employment relations and to shift the burden of social insurance from the enterprises to local governments and society. Migrants have been predominantly rural, and only a very small portion are covered by health insurance and retirement plans. Rural migrants are working in large- and medium-sized enterprises, in government organizations, or on a part-time base in public units or hourly-paid. It thus becomes clear that the gap between rural and urban household registration is not the only obstacle for migrants-in-the-city. The distinction between formal and informal employment, whether in the informal sector or as informal employment in the formal sector, can be seen as another “Great Wall” dividing and polarizing the urban population. New labor legislation, namely the Employment Promotion Law (2007), the Labor Contract Law (2008), and the Labor Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Law (2008), was intended to provide workers with protection against diminishing employment security, but its employeefriendly character encouraged employers to look for ways to evade new restrictions and increase informal employment.30 Labor legislation has not particularly targeted informal labor, and the social insurance system does not include informal employment. Their informal status makes it difficult for migrant workers to provide evidence in cases where their legal rights have been violated, such as those regarding outstanding payments or compensation for work injuries. According to the new labor contract law, the labor administration is also acknowledging de facto labor relations, although it remains very difficult to prove labor relations and to protect the rights of informal workers. To date, there is no evidence that the new labor legislation can contribute to better employment and labor conditions for informal workers.31 Regulating informal labor and making informal employment more secure still has a long way to go. Non-Institutionalized Labor Action New labor legislation and often unclear labor conditions have given rise to an increasing number of labor conflicts.32 Moreover, the informal arrangements regarding labor relations and the lack of strong trade unions that advocate the interests and legal rights of migrant workers imply that the ways of solving labor conflicts often exist outside of formal channels. From the perspective of informal Yundong’ dao ‘Laogong Yundong’ de Xin Fazhan – Laodong de Feizhengguihua yu ‘Feizhenggui’ Laogong Yundong de Mengya), in Gonggong Shenghuo Pinglun (Public Life Review), ed. Zheng Guanghuai and Zhu Jiangang, No.2, (Beijing: Chinese Social Science Press, 2011), 79. 30 Mary Gallagher and Dong Baohua, “Legislating Harmony: Labor Law Reform in Contemporary China,” in From Iron Rice Bowl to Informalization. Markets, Workers and State in a Changing China, ed. Sarosh Kuruvilla, Ching Kwan Lee, and Mary Gallagher, (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2011), 6-9. 31 Ibid., 9. 32 Ibid., 43.

Contested Urbanization in China | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


workers, blocking a highway might be a more effective means of receiving unpaid wages than turning to trade unions. The following story, told by Li Yanxia, illustrates this kind of noninstitutionalized labor behavior: With the help of a countryside fellow (老乡), Xiao Chen came to Xiamen in 2007 where he got a construction job. Two months later, he still had not received any payment. With more than twenty other workers from the same construction site, he visited their employer to talk about the unpaid wages. The employer wanted to pay the wages only after the whole project had been finished. After this unsuccessful result, Xiao Chen and his colleagues gathered on the street and stopped traffic. After twenty minutes, the police arrived and asked the workers to leave so that the traffic could flow again. But the workers were not willing to leave unless they got their outstanding wages. After another half an hour, representatives of the labor administration showed up to investigate the situation. At 7 pm, the employer paid 24,000 yuan in wages to Xiao Chen and his colleagues, and traffic could flow again.33

The rationale behind such measures is that “big noise brings a quick solution, small noise brings a slow solution, and no noise brings no solution.”34 Li explains that migrant workers are using these non-institutionalized measures to solve the problem of unpaid wages, because, according to this logic, they can get instant results. Informal Housing

Migrants’ housing is provided either by the employer or found through informal channels such as social networks or commercial advertisement. Their jobs also determine the types of housing that migrants obtain in the cities. These can be divided roughly into the following categories: barracks at the construction sites where construction workers, the largest proportion of male migrant workers, generally sleep; company-owned dormitories, housing factory workers, both male and female; and private households accommodating household workers. Other types of migrant workers live at their place of work. A growing number of rural-urban migrants rent apartments on their own. Not infrequently, these are individuals who are self-employed in small shops or trades, small-scale production enterprises, or the restaurant or service sectors, or they are cleaning personnel, peddlers, etc. In other words, they often hold menial jobs. In the period from 1998 to 2008, the percentage of migrants who lived in housing that they rented themselves rose from 28% to 49%, meaning that in 2008, nearly half of registered Li Yanxia, “Resistance of Contemporary Chinese Migrants from the Perspective of Citizenship: the Case of Migrants Safeguarding their Rights to Wages in Xiamen” (Gongmin Shenfen Shijiao Xia Dangdai Zhongguo Nongmingong de Tizhi Wai Kangzheng: Yi Xiamen Shi Nongmingong Gongzi Weiquan Wei Gean), paper presented to the conference “Citizenship, Civil Society: Cosmopolitan Challenges,” Guangzhou, December 9-11, 2010, 192-193. 34 “大闹快解决,小闹满解决,不闹不解决” 33


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Contested Urbanization in China

migrants lived in housing that they had rented themselves.35 These figures can also be interpreted as a growing trend toward the migration of entire families.36 It can be assumed that an increase in private rented housing often also means an increase in informal housing, such as in urban villages. No organized groups are currently advocating the housing rights of migrants-in-the-city, and with a growing number of redevelopment projects and a lack of subsidized housing, the problem may worsen in the future. Informal Schooling With the increasing tendencies toward longer-term relocations and the migration of entire families, the demand for schooling for migrant children in urban areas has also increased. Because migrant children were excluded from public schools until 2006, or could only attend these schools in exchange for relatively high fees, migrants founded private schools for their children on their own. But many schools and day-care facilities operate in a grey zone and are often not recognized by the Ministry of Education. In recent years, mass media and NGOs have taken up the question of how to institute compulsory schooling for the children of migrants in the cities. Some NGOs have formed to provide after-school activities for migrant children. In 2005, the National People’s Congress revised the Compulsory Education Law,37 opening the way for the integration of migrants’ children into the urban school system, laying an important legal foundation. However, despite new legal guidelines, many public schools have introduced high fees and other hurdles to migrant parents wishing to send their children to these schools. There are also many more primary than secondary schools for children of migrants, making the transition to the first three-year stage of secondary schooling all the more difficult. Migrant children are also barred from participating in entrance exams in the city where their parents are employed, thus reducing their chances of entering a good university in the future.38 Gonganbu Zhian Guanliju (Ministry of Public Security), Quanguo Zanzhu Renkou Tongji Ziliao Huibian (Collection of Statistical Materials on Populations with Temporary Resident Permits in China) (Beijing: Qunzhong Press, 1998); Gonganbu Zhian Guanliju, Quanguo Zanzhu Renkou Tongji Ziliao Huibian (Beijing: Qunzhong Press, 2008). 36 See Wang Wei, “Family Patterns of Rural Migrants in Urban Areas and Their Migration Choices”, in Labor Mobility in Urban China – An Integrated Labor Market in the Making?, ed. Michaela Baur, Bettina Gransow, Yihong Jin, and Guoqing Shi, (Münster: Lit Press, 2006), 113-125; Shi Bonian, Chengshi Bianyuanren – Jincheng Nongmingong Jiating Jiqi Zinü Wenti Yanjiu (The Urban Marginalized – Research on Migrant Family and Their Children) (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2005), 19. 37 Article 12, Sec. 2 of the Compulsory Education Law of 2006, cited in Xia Chunli, “Migrant Children and the Right to Compulsory Education in China”, in Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law 2 (2006), 33. 38 Jin, “Tackling the Urbanization Reform,” 19. 35

Informal Healthcare Another source of exclusion faced by migrants-in-thecity lies in the urban healthcare system. This is particularly significant in megaurban areas, where population densities and global links make migrants especially susceptible to contagious diseases. In addition, migrant workers are concentrated in job sectors with high accident rates, such as construction, mining, and manufacturing. Because of their generally informal employment conditions, it is difficult for them to claim compensation in cases of occupational accidents. Except for cases clearly identified as work-related and sufficiently compensated, migrants have to cover nearly all costs for medical examinations and treatments themselves, most of which they cannot afford. Financial emergencies frequently cause them to discontinue necessary follow-up treatment after emergency care at hospitals.39 To address the situation, areas with large migrant populations, such as urban villages, have opened a number smaller clinics and centers that attempt to fill the market niche for migrant healthcare – but, unfortunately, with all the attendant risks.40 These services are not widely used. Migrant workers often lack health insurance, particularly when self-employed, or are covered by the New Rural Cooperative Scheme, which means entitlement in their place of origin but not in the cities in which they are working. If they fall ill, migrants generally prefer to wait to see what develops rather than make use of informal services of a quality difficult to judge.41 Accidents and serious illnesses are among the main reasons for migrants’ falling back into poverty. The Migration Regime Inspired by the concept of the welfare or labor regime,42 the concept of the migration regime is intended to better understand the newer developments of migration as patterns of past experiences and problem solutions, addressing current perceptions, expectations, behavior, and relations. From the various informal spaces that have been formed with more migrants working and living in the city, it is apparent that urban informality cannot be reduced to problems of housing or employment, but that various institutions are involved. From the analysis of Chinese migrants-in-the-city, it seems Xiang Biao, “An Institutional Approach towards Migration and Health in China”, in Migration and Health in Asia, ed. S. Jatrana, M. Toyota, and B.S.A. Yeoh (London: Routledge, 2005), 162. 40 Tabea Bork, Frauke Kraas, and Yuan Yuan, “Migrants’ Health, Health Facilities, and Services in Villages-in-the-City,” in Migrants and Health, 72-93. 41 Bettina Gransow, “Body as Armor: Health Risks and Health Consciousness among Rural Migrants in Urban China,” in Migrants and Health (2010), 24-25. 42 Jutta Hebel and Günter Schucher, “Flexibility and Security in China’s Emerging ‘Socialist’ Market Labor Regime,” in Labor Mobility in Urban China – An Integrated Labor Market in the Making?, ed. Michaela Baur, Bettina Gransow, Jin Yihong and Shi Guoqing (Munich: Lit Verlag, 2006), 22. 39

that the following institutions are involved: (1) family and kin systems, household strategies, social networks, self-organized approaches, and organizations; (2) regional income gaps, remittances, and information and communication systems; (3) labor regimes; (4) housing, land, and rural/urban settings; (5) education systems, language, and culture; (6) health systems and nutrition; (7) social security systems and welfare regimes; (8) migration administration, incentives and control regimes, and migration policies. Various policies (regarding labor, social policy, etc.) shape the institutions that structure migration at the place of origin and in the destination area. This set of migration-related institutions is not restricted to the Chinese case nor to informal institutions, but may have formal “counterparts” or may exist within a continuum of informal and formal institutions. It can also be seen that this set of institutions can not only be applied to the analysis of internal migration but also to processes of international and transnational migrations as well. The concept of the migration regime can be used as an analytical tool to analyze a particular set of institutional arrangements that frame and influence migration. Less fixed, rigid, and formalized, regimes are less firmly established orders as compared to systems. I would hesitate to say that regimes are less “stable” than systems, but they are certainly more fluid, flexible, and dynamic, thus fitting the rapid development and social change shaping the newer developments of migration. Changes in migration policies, adaptations to the challenges of globalization, and the extent of the inclusion or exclusion of migrants, are dependent on history, former responses to migration, and the interplay of institutions. In other words, migration regimes follow a unique trajectory supported by a particular set of institutions. Under the condition of the rural-urban divide and the constraints of the hukou system, rural-to-urban migration in China is producing a whole set of informal institutions, which can be seen as the expression of a particular migration regime. From the variety of institutions and their interconnectedness, it also becomes clear that the abolition of the hukou system alone would neither provide a quick solution to the problem of integrating migrants-in-the-city into urban society nor trigger huge waves of migrants flooding into the cities. Worlding city meets urban village – the case of Guangzhou Characteristic of the migrant settlements in Guangzhou is a type of “village surrounded by the city” (城中村). With the advent of economic reforms, the city of Guangzhou expanded increasingly to the east, and peasants’ farmland in the surrounding villages was requisitioned for commercial or residential use. The peasants received compensation and the right to remain in their houses, as well as to build new housing or additional floors on existing buildings. These rights also extended to their children. At the same time, increasingly more migrant workers were coming to Guangzhou. The local peasants in the “villages” discovered the profitable business Contested Urbanization in China | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


of renting to migrants and started adding floors to their houses. Hardly any space remains between the buildings, and so people walk in narrow, dark alleyways. Since the end of the 1990s, these conditions have become a topic of intense debate in the press. On one hand, they have been described in somewhat lyrical terms, as “houses that shake hands” or “houses that kiss each other.” But the “villages” have also been seen in very negative terms, described in the press with metaphors such as “pustules,” “tumors,” and worse. The win-win situation for former local villagers now turned villager-landlords, and tenant-migrants from rural areas in provinces such as Hunan, Hubei, and Sichuan, who found cheap housing in these urban villages, became challenged by new local government strategies pursuing competitive advantages by promoting entrepreneurial images of the city.43 This strategy of place promotion44 is realized by the commodification of urban land and housing, by investment in productive infrastructure such as the airport, metro system, highways, and fast-rail, and by iconic buildings designed by world-famous architects. The urban restructuring of Guangzhou has produced new spatial forms such as the glittering and more globally oriented central business district, skyscrapers, shopping malls, suburban villas, University City, and development zones.45 The production of new urban spaces is closely tied to new forms of residential segmentation and social fragmentation manifested in sociospatial inequalities such as gated communities and migrant enclaves. Since the mid-1990s, facing fierce intercity competition, Guangzhou has launched a whole package of entrepreneurial strategies to revitalize its earlier dominant role in the Pearl River Delta (PRD).46 Along with entrepreneurial discourses, Guangzhou is presenting itself as an economic and metropolitan center, a “world-class city,”47 recently also stressing its local cultural heritage as an asset. Images and imaginations of Guangzhou as a globalizing city were pushed forward during the Asian Games in 2010. According to Ananya Roy, such strategies of “worlding” the cities of the Global South or, more broadly, of the 21st-century metropolis,48 are going beyond For a discussion on the entrepreneurial city in China, see Lisa Hoffman, “Enterprising cities and citizens: the refiguring of urban spaces and the making of post-Mao professionals,” Provincial China 8.1 (2003); Zhang Li, “The Right.” 44 This place-based strategic promotion does not mean that local governments are real business firms per se; as local governments, they need not go into bankruptcy even if local finances collapse, a situation that has promoted overspending and unwise investments (Wu Fulong, Jiang Xu, and Anthony Gar-On Yeh, Urban Development in Post-Reform China: State, Market and Space (London: Routledge, 2007), 194-195. 45 Wu Fulong and Laurence Ma, “The Chinese City in Transition. Towards theorizing China’s urban restructuring”, in Restructuring the Chinese City. Changing Society, Economy and Space, ed. Ma, Laurence and Wu Fulong (London: Routledge, 2005), 266-68. 46 Wu et al., Urban Development, 206. 47 To develop Guangzhou into a culturally rich world-class city (世界文化名城) was the topic of the 2010 Guangzhou Summit Forum. 48 For a more detailed discussion of the worlding city in Asia 43


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conceptualizations of Third World Urbanism that place the megacity and its slums at the center of the making of urban futures.49 In this shift toward greater market orientation, urban land reform has been key in reshaping the spatial structure of the city. Introducing market value into land has resulted in more urban redevelopment, which converts land used for industrial and residential purposes into commercial space. In addition, the decentralization of economic decision-making has strengthened the role of the municipality as the organizer of urban development. New economic actors such as private enterprises, joint ventures, and foreign companies have come in, producing a new urban spatial structure in which government regulations and market forces are coalescing.50 Guangzhou experienced its first building boom during the 1980s and early 1990s and the second one between 2002 and 2005. Real estate development intensified after the housing reform in 1998, when the earlier in-kind allocation of public housing based on the work-unit system of the state51 was abolished.52 What is described in the twelfth Five-Year Plan on urbanization strategy as an intention to “… ameliorate the pressure in the central districts of megacities” and “… promote the transformation of inner-city villages and urbanrural fringes”53 can be observed in central Tianhe district of Guangzhou city. As announced by the Guangzhou Urban Renewal Office in January 2011, 138 urban villages will be renovated until 2020, with fifty-two villages in the city center to be demolished within three to five years and eighty-six more on the outskirts of the city to be completely renovated.54 As of the beginning of 2012, Liede village has already been redeveloped, and Yangji village has been demolished, leaving just a few “nail houses” left within a expansive desert-like area in the city center. Xiancun village – where most homeowners have already signed compensation contracts, and most migrant-tenants have left – is encircled with a newly built wall, indicating the proximity of the next step of demolition. The mostly cleared buildings, with their empty window holes and surrounded by debris, still stand. Attached to the buildings are red banners with yellow characters, which show slogans reminding village homeowners who have not yet signed their contracts to show responsibility and its practices, see Ananya Roy and Aihwa Ong, Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). 49 Ananya Roy, “The Twenty-First-Century Metropolis: The Making of Urban Futures,” in Research and Responsibility: Reflections on Our Common Future, ed. Wilhelm Krull (Leipzig: CEP Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 2011), 135. 50 Wu et al., Urban Development, 233-236. 51 Under the work-unit (danwei) system of the Mao era (1950s1970s), which had a low level of social stratification, urban housing was provided as a welfare benefit almost for free to members of the work-unit. 52 Wu et al., Urban Development, 49. 53 English Section, The Twelfth Five-Year Plan, 89, 90, 92. 54 s4171/2011, accessed January 27, 2012.

toward future generations by signing. Slogans on the wall around the village proclaim the great future of the village.55 This is the dialogue imaginaire between the company owned by the village committee and tasked with developing village property (Xiancun Village Industry Limited Corporation) and those villagers who are reluctant to surrender their land and buildings for development. The reason for this reluctance is not only a problem of compensation but also of trust, a lack of transparency, and an absence of accountability.56 Some fear that they will be unable to return to Xiancun after redevelopment, a concern only indirectly addressed by village management until now. Furthermore, becoming urban citizens also means an inability to rent apartments to migrants – a lucrative source of income for villagers. Even if villagers are compensated with high-rise apartments in a redeveloped Xiancun, the prices of these apartments will be out of reach for most of the rural migrants who have lived in Xiancun until now, and the rent expectable from a new apartment may even be lower than the income possible from renting in high-density migrant enclaves.57 Regardless, many local villagers, having moved away long ago, will not have seen the slogans posted around Xiancun; and those migranttenants who might have read the slogans before leaving for Spring Festival celebrations at home are not the addressees of these messages. The estimated 40,000 migrants who were living in Xiancun are not entitled to compensation when they move. They often must personally bear the losses of looking new apartments and new jobs. The migrant-tenants are curious as to when exactly demolitions will take place, and some of them are trying to remain for as long as possible in Xiancun, though the village has become rundown and more dangerous with the leaving of so many. When they do leave, they often go to other urban villages that are relatively near, including Shipai and Yuan village, or more distant villages such as Tangxia, Dongpu, and Chebei. In the short run, these villages will provide cheap housing, but they too will be due for redevelopment measures in the coming years. In the long run, however, the impact will be most severe for those migrants whose livelihoods were dependent upon the informal economy of Xiancun. For them, the impact of redevelopment is much more serious. Lan Yuyun, who has worked extensively on the origins and development of urban villages in Guangzhou, criticizes “campaign-like” renovation (运动 式改造), which does not take into account that developers Slogans read, “Transformation is a good thing, a rare moment in thousand years; a new year, a new situation, welcome the future by signing the contract” and, “Old village, new look, future generations will benefit,” or just “New Xiancun village, great future.” 56, accessed January 27, 2012. 57 E.g., renting to fifty migrants rooms for 300 yuan would generate a monthly income of 15,000 yuan, while renting an eighty square-meter apartment in a high rise building might generate only 5000 to 6000 yuan per month. 55

Wall around Xiancun village before demolition, January 2012

are recreating not only physical space but also economic and social space.58 She warns that such renovations, especially on a large scale, may have unintended consequences for the livelihoods of the migrants already in vulnerable positions in the city. For her, the informal economy in the villages is in fact a system of markets and services enabling migrant populations to finance their lives in the city.59 Specifically, what is neglected by such redevelopment projects is the role of villages as spaces of arrival for migrantsin-the-city.60 Without romanticizing the villages, with their dilapidated buildings, unsafe construction, lack of fire protection, and informal power hierarchies, this particular function of the village, as a transient space for the arrival of people, must be acknowledged by those dreaming of developing into a world-class city.

See Lan Yuyun, Dushi Li de Cunzhuang – Yige ‘Xin Cunzhuang Gongtongti’ de Shidi Yanjiu (Villages in Metropolises: Fieldwork on a ‘new village community’) (Beijing: Sanlian Shudian, 2005). 59 Lan Yuyun, “On the Impact of the Redevelopment of Urban Villages on Informal Economies – the Case of the Redevelopment of Urban Villages in Guangzhou” (Lun Chengzhongcun Gaizao Duiqi Feizhengshi Jingji de Yingxiang – yi Guangzhou Chengzhongcun Gaizao Wei Li), Gansu Theory Research (Gansu Lilun Xuekan) 204.2 (2011), 80. 60 Doug Saunders, Arrival City (Munich: Karl Blessing Verlag, 2011). 58

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Slogans reminding homeowners to sign their compensation contracts Banner, left 坚持公平公正,维护签约群众合法权益 Insist on fairness and justice. Protect the legal rights of the masses who are signing the contract. Banner, right 改造大好事,千年等一回,新春新形势,签约迎未来 Transformation is a good thing, a rare moment in thousand years. A new year, a new situation. Welcome the future by signing the contract.

Conclusion The incongruity between official Chinese urbanization and migration policies trying to channel migration streams into small- and medium-sized cities and the economic incentives attracting increasing numbers of rural migrants to megaurban areas is to some extent related to the role of the city in the Chinese administrative hierarchy.61 Over the course of the reform process, increasingly more cities have received extensive rights of autonomy, doubtlessly contributing significantly to China’s economic rise. Yet despite considerable decentralization, the hierarchical nature of top-down policy remains.62 Only first-tier cities can provide the best public services: with their higher ranks, these cities are able to gain more resources through administrative means. With more resources, public welfare benefits increase The Chinese administrative hierarchy comprises of the following levels: central, provincial, prefecture, county, and town and township governments. This structure essentially determines the configuration of the country’s urban administration as well: provincial-level cities, deputy-provincial cities, provincial capitals, prefecture-level cities, county-level cities, and towns (Chan, “Fundamentals of China’s Urbanization,” 66) 62 Ibid.

for urban hukou holders. Accordingly, the urban elite may worry that their access to these public welfare benefits will erode in granting migrants-in-the-city full citizenship rights.63 We see that the same economic mechanisms that attract rural migrants to megacities are causing their exclusion from costly public services, thereby resulting in the emergence of a predominantly informal migration regime for migrants-inthe-city. Given the situation, there are two primary options for pushing urbanization reform forward. The first option would be to target the administrative system of the city hierarchy and redirect more resources to small- and medium-sized cities, enabling them to better provide services in order to attract more investment and migrant workers. This would mean adjusting the existing administrative and management systems of the city to the priorities of the government’s urbanization and migration strategy. This approach could not only be very costly but would also require a considerable amount of time, basic changes in the existing city management system, and, if successful, could result in the rapid growth of these small- and medium-sized cities. The other option would be to open up the megacities and big cities to the migrants already residing there, enabling them to become urban citizens without overly high hurdles. In this case, it would be necessary to build on and carefully upgrade the existing informal economy and infrastructure and to provide affordable housing and essential public services. Both options imply a redistribution of resources from urban hukou holders in first-tier cities, either to smaller cities or to the migrants-in-the-city in megacities and big cities who are turning into urban citizens and consumers. A more inclusive approach to migrants-in-the-city becomes even more pressing when looking at newer development strategies that encourage the expansion of the domestic market and the strengthening of domestic consumption as a priority for the structural reorientation of the Chinese economy. More attention not only to securing migrant workers’ wages but also to migrant workers’ social welfare and housing would be a necessary precondition to enabling them to settle down in the cities, including big cities and megacities, thus completing the urbanization “incomplete” until now. The main question should not be how to prevent migrant workers from placing pressure on urban infrastructure, but rather preparing for the physical and social infrastructure needed to receive them as new urban citizens.



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Jin, “Tackling the Urbanization Reform,” 20-21.

Appendix Migrants accumulating sixty points can become urban households. Guangdong Province government introduced a new trial system for rural migrants to become urban households through accumulating points on June 7, 2010. The following table provides indicators and scores for migrant workers accumulating points in Guangdong province.

Level 1 Indicators Individual qualification

Level 2 Indicators (1) Educational level (2)

Vocational qualifications or professional, technical title

Level 3 Indicators

Guidance on Scores


Implementation Explanations The person should provide a certificate of the highest degree and cannot accumulate points from lower degrees.

Junior high school

5 points


High school, technical, or vocational school

20 points



60 points


Bachelors degree and higher

80 points


Junior workers, jobs of rank 5 of workers and service (personnel) in institutions

10 points


Mid-level workers, jobs of rank 4 of workers and service (personnel) in institutions

30 points


High-level workers, jobs of rank 3 of workers and service (personnel) in institutions, junior title

50 points


Technical teachers, jobs of rank 2 of workers and service (personnel) in institutions, mid-level title

60 points


The person should provide a certificate of the highest skills or technical title and cannot accumulate points from lower degrees.

Conditions of participation in social insurance

Conditions of participation in social insurance

Participation in urban basic old-age insurance, urban basic medical insurance, unemployment insurance, injury insurance, maternity insurance; for each 1 year participation in each insurance one can accumulate 1 point; the total may not exceed 50 points


The person should provide a certificate from the insurance agency or the tax office.

Social contribution

Social services (within five years)

Participation in blood donation 2 points each time, the total may not exceed 10 points


The person should provide a blood donation certificate.

Participation in volunteering, youth volunteer services

2 points for services of 50 hours each time, the total may not exceed 10 points


The person should provide a corresponding certificate from the volunteering institution.

Philanthropic donation, the unit receiving the donation must be a philanthropic organization acknowledged by the government

2 points for a donation of 1000 Yuan, the total may not exceed 10 points


The person should provide a certificate of the donation

Contested Urbanization in China | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


Recognition of awards

Reducing points indicators

Receiving awards or titles from county level party committee, government or primary sector

10 points for each one, the total may not exceed 30 points


The person should provide a certificate of award

Receiving awards or titles from above local level urban party committee, government or institutions on department level or higher (3)

60 points for each one, the total may not exceed 120 points


Violation of birth planning policy

Not meeting birth planning policy

Persons who have violated the birth planning policy are not eligible for applying for an urban household registration within five years; after this period for each child exceeding (the norm), 100 points are deducted; if this happens again, then a multiple of these points are deducted; not conducting birth planning registration of the first child within 60 days after marriage or not conducting the adoption of a child according to the law, 50 points are deducted


The person should provide certified material from the domicile birth planning administration

Illegal crimes (within five years)

Having received education through labor

Deduct 50 points


The person should provide a certificate from the domicile police station that no violations of the law have been recorded

Having received punishment for crimes

Deduct 100 points


(1) Second level indicators are without age limits. (2) Below junior high school, no points can be accumulated. (3) Under “Labor and Social Security Department of Guangdong Province, Development and Reform Commission of Guangdong Province, and Public Security Department views on how to improve their work regarding migrants becoming urban households,� migrants can directly apply for an urban household registration. (4) Each city can define indicators by itself; indicator specifications and scores can be defined locally. Source: Nanfang Dushi Bao, June 8, 2010, p. A 10


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Contested Urbanization in China

making a difference in japanese politics: women legislators acting for gender equality

mikiko eto · hosei university Abstract Women’s representation in Japan lags not only behind that of other advanced nations but also behind that of developing countries. Their numerical disadvantage notwithstanding, women legislators have made efforts to redress the misrepresentation of gender equality and to infuse the significance of gender equality into society. This paper demonstrates how women legislators have discussed gender equality and its relevant concepts, focusing on discourse concerning gender equality in Japanese national parliament sessions from 1997 to 2006. First, I elucidate the Japanese government’s reluctance to use the words “gender

equality,” as well as its reasoning. In the second section, I examine the discourse of women legislators with regard to the nuanced differences between the term “gender equality” and its Japanese translation. Finally, I discuss the controversy over the phrase “gender-free” between proponents and opponents of gender equality. I conclude by attempting to identify the motivations behind women legislators’ advocacy of gender equality. Introduction Japanese women were granted the right to vote on December 17, 1945. Subsequently, seventy-nine women

The above picture, kindly provided by the office of Kuniko Inoguchi, shows the Upper House budget committee meeting held on February 8, 2012. Kuniko Inoguchi, an LDP member of the Upper House since 2010, is shown discussing the DPJ budget proposal. Acknowledgements: This study was sponsored by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (2011-14) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. I am grateful for Kristina Boréus for inspiring me with an idea for conceptual analysis. I also give my thanks to the editors of Harvard Asia Quarterly for their arrangement of and comments on the paper. Making a Difference in Japanese Politics | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


ran in the twenty-second general election in April 1946, and thirty-nine were elected. Surprisingly, half of the first female candidates to run for national elections in Japan were successful. In the following election of April 1947, however, the number of elected women decreased to fifteen, and women candidates were not able to recreate the success of the first election until 2005 (see Figure 1). The current proportions of women in Japanese legislative bodies are 10.9% in the Lower House or House of Representatives, 18.2% in the Upper House or House of Councilors, and 11.1% in local assemblies. The level of representation of Japanese women thus remains low,1 lagging behind not only other advanced countries but also developing countries.2 Despite their legislative disadvantage, women in the Japanese Diet (i.e. national parliament) are not merely token representatives but have made concerted efforts to improve social conditions for women. Specifically, since the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, they have made efforts to infuse the concept of gender equality into public policy and political culture. This paper, focusing on discourse concerning gender equality in the Diet, aims to demonstrate how women legislators discuss gender equality and redress its attendant distortions and misunderstandings. According to political thinker Hanna Fenichel Pitkin, women’s representation consists of two different concepts: M. Eto, “Women and Representation in Japan: The Causes of Political Inequality,” International Feminist Journal of Politics 12.2 (2010): 177-201. 2 See the Inter-Parliamentary Union website, http://www.ipu. org/wmn-e/classif.htm. 1

descriptive representation – standing for women – and substantive representation – acting for women.3 These two concepts are correlated because women’s voices cannot reach policy-making without the significant presence of women in legislatures.4,5,6 However, to emphasize this correlation involves essentialism, which limits women’s preferences and actions in politics.7 Not all women, in fact, are interested in women’s issues or are conscious of gender. Thus, the ideal of “women legislators acting for women” is not guaranteed but is rather viewed as a demographical “probability.”8 Empirical studies, however, have shown that women legislators tend to be more concerned with women’s issues – such as women’s rights, gender equality, family matters, and childcare – than Pitkin (1967) conceptualizes representation through four categorical features including descriptive and substantive representation. The other two are formalistic view and symbolic representation. H. F. Pitkin, The Concept of Representation (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967). 4 A. Phillips, Engendering Democracy (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991). 5 A. Phillips, The Politics of Presence: The Political Representation of Gender, Ethnicity, and Race (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). 6 J. Mansbridge, “Should Blacks Represent Blacks and Women Represent Women? A Contingent ‘Yes’,” The Journal of Politics 61.3 (1999): 628-57. 7 J. Mansbridge, “Quota Problems: Combating the Dangers of Essentialism,” Gender & Politics 1.4 (2005): 622-38. 8 A. Phillips, The Politics of Presence, 82-83. 3

Mikiko Eto is Professor of Political Science at Hosei University. Her specialty is gender in politics, with an emphasis on women’s representation, women’s movements, and feminist critical studies. She has been involved in cross-national research on democracy and gender, focusing on the interplay between women’s everyday activities, civil society, and representative institutions. Her recent English articles include “Women and Representation in Japan: The Causes of Political Inequality” (International Feminist Journal of Politics 12.2, 2010) and “Vitalizing Democracy at the Grassroots: A Contribution of Post-War Women’s Movements in Japan” (East Asia: An International Quarterly 25.2, 2008). 26

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Making a Difference in Japanese Politics

their male colleagues.9,10 Although the number of women legislators is important for the development of substantive representation for women, qualitative factors also influence the attitudes of women legislators. Susan Carroll categorizes these qualitative factors as personal characteristics and intra-institutional and external political factors.11 Personal characteristics include women legislators’ party affiliation, political ideology, race, and identification with feminism.12 Intra-institutional factors refer to institutional influences that encourage women legislators to act for women; for example, organizing an interparty women’s caucus would make legislators more active in speaking out for women.13 External political factors include pressures or influences from outside of legislative bodies, such as constituencies and women’s movements.14 For my topic of gender equality in the Japanese political context, this paper highlights party affiliation, gender consciousness or sympathy with feminism, and involvement in women’s action groups. Although an equivalent for the term “gender” – shakaiteki seisa, or “social differences between the sexes” – exists in Japanese, this term is not widespread in Japanese society; rather, the English loanword jenda is commonly used.15 Equality, meanwhile, is usually expressed as byodo. However, the Japanese government translates the combination of these two English terms, “gender equality,” into Japanese using words that are quite different from the original meaning: danjo kyodo sankaku, from danjo, referring to biological sex, kyodo, meaning “cooperative,” and sankaku, a word that refers to “participation in planning or decision-making.” Danjo kyodo sankaku, loosely translatable as “cooperative decisionmaking between the sexes,” is an amorphous and circumspect term in Japanese whose precise meaning has formed the ground for extensive debate within the Diet. Curiously, danjo kyodo sankaku is rendered straightforwardly as “gender equality” in the official English-language publications distributed by the government.16 In this paper, I will first explore the reasons that the Japanese government is reluctant to use the term “equality.” Next, I will examine the discourse of women legislators with regard to the gap in meaning between “equality” and “cooperative decision-making” in the Diet committees, and will discuss the success of women legislators in bridging this gap. In the third section, I will examine the controversy over the phrase “gender-free” (jenda S.J. Carroll, “Representing Women: Women State Legislators as Agents of Policy-related Change,” in The Impact of Women in Public Office, ed. S. Carroll. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 3-21. 10 J. Lovenduski and P. Norris, “Westminster Women: the Politics of Presence,” Political Studies 51.1 (2003): 84-102. 11 S.J. Carroll, “Representing Women,” 10-17. 12 Ibid., 10. 13 Ibid., 13. 14 Ibid., 16-17. 15 In Japanese, loanwords from other languages are written using a separate syllabary, called katakana. 16 See the website of the government’s women policy machinery,

furii) between proponents and opponents of gender equality and suggest that this dispute not only ended with the victory of its proponents but also contributed to the dissemination of the concept of gender equality into Japanese politics. Since a woman member of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Yuiko Matsumoto, first discussed gender in the Lower House on May 6, 1997, forty Diet women in both Houses (as of April 2012) have raised questions on gender issues in Diet sessions. Here, based on the Diet Records provided by Japan’s National Diet Library, I specifically highlight the questions of nine women whose discussions are relevant to my purpose.17 Ultimately, I attempt to identify the motivations behind women legislators’ arguments for gender equality using the three factors mentioned above. the Governmental Conceptualization of Gender Equality At the United Nations Third World Conference on Women held in Nairobi, July 15-26, 1985, the term “gender” emerged as an important keyword for promoting the status of women. The conference action plan, entitled “Forwardlooking Strategies”, used the term “gender” sixteen times, and recommended that member countries improve previous polices for women to eliminate gender-based discrimination, gender bias, and gender stereotypes. For the purpose of gender equality, the United Nations pressured governments to obtain gender-specific statistics using gender-specific indicators and to sort out gender-specific data.18 To meet the Nairobi Strategies’ proposal, the Japanese government drafted the “New National Action Plan toward 2000” in May 1987; however, gender (jenda) was not mentioned in this new plan. The English term “gender” entered the general lexicon of Japanese academia in the early 1980s, when several Western books on gender were translated into Japanese and four articles in Japanese were published in scholarly journals.19 The Japan Sociology Association, whose board members considered gender to be an important concept in sociology, took up gender issues as main themes in their annual meetings for three years starting in 1986,20 and academic publications on gender increased little by little in the second half of the 1980s.21 During the 1990s, gender became increasingly disseminated into Japanese scholarly circles. To most Japanese people outside of academia, however, “gender” remained an


The data can be accessed at See the Report of the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace, http://www. 19 Data are from Japan’s Scholarly and Academic Information Navigator (CiNii) provided by the National Institute of Informatics. See 20 Y. Meguro, “Sei, Jenda, Shakai: 1990 Nendai no Kadai (Sex, gender, and society: A research agenda for the 1990s),” Joseigaku-kenkyu (Women’s Studies) 1 (1990): 13. 21 Since 2000, more than 6,500 articles have been published. See CiNii. 17 18

Making a Difference in Japanese Politics | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


unfamiliar loanword. It was therefore natural that the Japanese government did not adopt the term “gender” in its public documents. Notably, however, the government avoided using the Japanese word for “equality” (byodo) in its new action plan, using “co-participation” (kyodo) instead.22 In May 1993, the word “participation” was changed to “decision-making’’ (sankaku) in order to emphasize that women should not be merely participants but active players in society and that they ought to engage in decision-making at all social levels in contemporary Japan.23 The Japanese government thus came to express gender equality (jenda-byodo) using the phrase “cooperative decision-making between the sexes.” Unlike gender, the term “equality” has long been familiar to the Japanese government as well as to the general population, as discrimination based on race, belief, sex, and social status or class has been prohibited by Article Fourteen of the Constitution since November 1946. Nevertheless, the government was reluctant to use language explicitly referring to equality in the titles of public documents and agency names. For instance, when the government drafted a new bill to redress the unequal treatment of women in the labor market to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, it used the phrase “proportional opportunities” rather than “equal opportunities.” The draft-makers of the new bill, including bureaucrats and advisory board members, thought that their task was to form a program for the realization of equality between the sexes in the employment, and they used the phrase “equality between the sexes in employment” to express this goal.24 However, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government eschewed this straightforward language in a bill entitled the “Law for Proportional Opportunities between the Sexes in Employment” (danjo koyo kikai kinto ho).25 All of five opposition parties opposed the LDP government’s bill and put forward their alternatives. Although a group of four opposition parties – composed of the Socialist Party, Clean Government Party, Democratic Socialist Party, and Social Democratic Alliance – and the Communist Party each proposed different alternatives, both groups named their bills the “Law for Equality between the Sexes in Employment.” The government bill was finally passed on May 17, 1984, and thus the name of this new employment law retains the strange phrase “proportional opportunities.” What discouraged the LDP government from using the term “equality”? Although the LDP is ideologically conservative, it is composed of various factions ranging from right-wing to liberal. Its conservative aspects might have affected its reluctance to directly face the concept of equality. See the website, 23 Ibid. 24 N. Iki, Josei Rodo Seisaku no Tenkai: ‘Seigi,’ ‘Katsuyo,’ ‘Fukushi’ no Shiten kara (Developments in Women’s Labor Policy) (Tokyo: Rodo Seisaku Kenkyu Kenshu Kiko, 2011): 82-87. 25 Ibid., 92.

More precisely, the avoidance of equality was caused by two different ideological streams that have been influential in Japanese society since the 1980s. One is an economically neo-liberal or libertarian stream supported primarily by economists and business executives. This ideology is at odds with the traditional gendered division of labor; it encourages women to participate in a competitive labor market insofar as they assimilate into a male-defined working style, and it does not favor regulations that aim to protect women’s reproductive health.26 The most serious dispute on the draft-making of the bill of equal opportunity in the labor market was how the law could combine fairness – allowing women to enjoy employment opportunities enjoyed by men – with welfare – the protection of women’s reproductive health.27 The latter, in other words, means equality secured by the state, which is inconsistent with neoliberalism. To the neoliberal camp, therefore, the word “equality” came to be associated with state intervention in the labor market. The other ideological stream comes from social neoconservatism, which attaches importance to traditional family and community values. In the Japanese context, this is oriented toward more right-wing or nationalist concerns seeking to restore the old-fashioned women’s values of being a good wife and a wise mother. Ideologues of this way of thinking comprise politicians, scholars, and activists, whom I call “the old guard.” The politician ideologues of the 1980s belonged to the LDP and naturally opposed equality between the sexes. The LDP government thus avoided using the term “equality” in consideration of both the neo-liberal camp and its own members of the old guard. For the same reason, the LDP replaced the phrase “equality” with “cooperative decision-making,” in a process transforming equality into an entirely different concept. The idea of cooperative decision-making or proportional opportunities alone does not enable genuine power-sharing between men and women grounded upon their equal relationship at any level in society, as it does not seek to rectify unequal relations between men and women, and it urges women who desire an active life outside the home to adopt men’s lifestyles and customs. The LDP-defined conception of equality is thus unequal in practice. Women Legislators’ Gender Equality



In the general election of August 1993, the LDP, which had been in office since 1955, was defeated, and eight parties established a coalition government without the LDP and the Communist Party; in June 1994, this eight-party coalition



M. Miura, “Rodo Seiji no Jenda Baiasu: Shinjiyushugi wo Koeru Kanosei (Gender bias in labor politics: A possibility for transcending neo-liberalism)” in Kabe wo Koeru: Seiji to Gyosei no Jenda Shuryuka (Transcending Barriers: GenderMainstreaming in Politics and Administration), ed. M. Tsujimura (Tokyo: Iwanamishoten, 2011): 151-153. 27 Ibid., 86-92. 26

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Making a Difference in Japanese Politics

government lost power and the LDP returned to office. However, the LDP was unable to rule alone and allied with the Socialist Party and Party Harbinger, or Sakigake. This new three-party coalition government nominated the leader of the Socialist Party, Tomiichi Murayama, as Prime Minister. The appearance of a Socialist prime minister augured change for the LDP-defined concept of cooperative decision-making. Two months after his appointment, Prime Minister Murayama asked the Advisory Council for Cooperative Decision-Making between the Sexes to draft an all-encompassing vision of how men and women should share benefits and responsibilities proportionally in the twenty-first century. The Council included a feminist economist, Mari Osawa, who was knowledgeable about gender equality policy in Western Europe. In the council’s discussion, Osawa presented three options to realize gender equality. Plan A would liberate people from stereotyped gender roles and consciousness, and employed the term “gender” to aim for fundamental social change, expressing the liberation from gender stereotypes using the new phrase “gender-free” (jenda-furii). Plan B would pursue equality between the sexes by accepting different sexual roles, but did not seek liberation from gender stereotypes. Plan C would pursue gender equality with an awareness of gender stereotypes, but avoided using the term “gender” because it was unfamiliar to the general public. Although a few members were reluctant to use the terms “gender” and “gender-free,” arguing that it was too early to let people inform its significance, the council members eventually adopted Plan A.28 The final report, entitled “Vision for Cooperative Decision-Making between the Sexes: Creating New Values in the Twenty-First Century” (hereafter referred to as the Vision), described cooperative decision-making between men and women as liberation from socioculturally constructed sexual differences (gender) so that people can behave spontaneously based on their primary personalities.29 The Vision was not only the first government document to use the term “gender” (jenda), 30 but it also suggested the ideal of gender equality.31 In its refusal to use the word “equality,” however, it fell in line with previous government documents of this kind. In January 1996, Murayama resigned as prime minister and was succeeded by LDP President Ryutaro Hashimoto. Although the Socialist Party, together with Harbinger, remained influential in the government, the power of the LDP increased, and it began to wield a stronger influence on policy-making than its allies. This political change, which C. Ueno et al., Radikaru ni Katareba: Ueno Chizuko Taidanshu (Radically speaking: Dialogues with Chizuko Ueno) (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2001): 26-28. 29 See 30 C. Ueno et al., Radikaru ni Katareba, 10. 31 M. Osawa, “Josei Seisaku wo do Toraeruka (How to understand policy for women),” in 21Seiki no Josei Seisaku to Danjo Kyodo Sankaku Shakai Kihonho (Policy for Women in the 21st Century and Basic Law for Cooperative DecisionMaking in Society between the Sexes), ed. Mari Osawa (Tokyo: Gyosei, 2000a): 2-12. 28

occurred half a year before the Vision was completed, may have affected the use of language within it. The LDP’s intentions regarding the language in the Vision were ultimately revealed by a Diet woman. In the Upper House cabinet committee meeting held on March 17, 1997, Sumiko Shimizu of the Social Democratic Party32 expressed her discontent with the phrase “cooperative decisionmaking between the sexes,” and asked the government how this phrase was translated into English. Haniwa Natori, a bureaucrat in charge, answered that it was translated as “gender equality.” In response, Shimizu asked again how the English phrase was translated into Japanese; Natori responded that it was supposedly translated as “cooperative decision-making between men and women,” though she hesitated to give a concrete answer. Shimizu, wondering why the English phrase was not translated into Japanese more straightforwardly, argued that the government was trying to hide the real meaning of the English phrase “gender equality” from the Japanese public. Shimizu was the first Diet member to initiate a discussion on gender equality in Diet discussions. Following Shimizu, other Diet women in both Houses began to refer to gender equality in different ways, such as gender empowerment measures, gender perspectives and gender analysis, connecting the concept with diverse issues including the financial market, administration reform, legal practice, the job market, and professional training. Women legislators’ discussions on gender equality were further stimulated by the government’s proposal of the Basic Bill for Cooperative Decision-Making in Society between the Sexes. This bill emerged from a policy agreement between the three coalition parties; when the LDP President replaced the Socialist leader as Prime Minister in January 1996, the LDP, the Socialist Party, and the Harbinger agreed to enact a law to develop cooperative decision-making in society between the sexes based on the Vision, as well as the platform for action resolved by the United Nation’s Fourth Conference on Women. However, Diet women immediately began expressing concerns about the name of the bill. In the Upper House budget committee meeting, held on March 5, 1999, Yukiko Kawahashi of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) raised the same question Shimizu had raised; Kawahashi asked the minister in charge, Hiromu Nonaka, how he translated the phrase “cooperative decision-making between the sexes” in the bill’s title into English. After Minister Nonaka declined to respond, excusing himself for his poor English, Kawahashi herself answered that the government officially translated the Japanese phrase “cooperative decision-making between the sexes” into English as “gender equality.” She then asked again what phrase was used in Japanese to express gender equality. Another bureaucrat, Masanori Sato, stepped in for Nonaka and answered that it might be translated as “equality between the sexes” straightforwardly. However, Sato, who was concerned about the influence of his response on the intentions of the 32

The Socialist Party changed its name to the Social Democratic Party in January 1996.

Making a Difference in Japanese Politics | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


LDP, continued by explaining that the government had not established any formal English translation for the Japanese phrase “cooperative decision-making between the sexes.” Upon hearing Sato’s answer, Kawahashi expressed that she was surprised at the absence of an official English translation of such a publicly formulated phrase. Yet she did not miss Sato’s straightforward answer regarding the Japanese translation of gender equality, and suggested that he might have had a slip of tongue. Based on his answer, she concluded that the meaning of “cooperative decision-making between the sexes” corresponded to “equality between the sexes.” This linguistic debate may seem to be petty argument over minor details, but in the context of conceptual changes, it represented a crucial discourse on the concept of equality. Kawahashi successfully drew a new definition of cooperative decision-making from the debate: namely, “cooperative decision-making (between the sexes)” was equated to “equality (between the sexes).” This conceptual development was confirmed by Kumi Tajima of the Clean Government Party. In the Upper House plenary committee meeting held on April 12, 1999, Tajima asked Minister Nonaka why the government used the phrase “cooperative decision-making” in the bill’s title rather than “equality.” Tajima thought that the bill aimed to resolve a de facto gap between men and women based on stereotyped gender consciousness. She suggested to Nonaka that the name be changed simply to the “Bill for Promoting Equality between the Sexes.” Nonaka rejected her suggestion, explaining that while cooperative decision-making between the sexes was naturally based on equality between the sexes, the main goal of the bill was to secure participation of both men and women as equal partners in decision-making at all levels of society, which was expressed in Japanese as cooperative decision-making between the sexes. Although the second part of Nonaka’s explanation echoed the government’s official view, the first part exposes the government’s acknowledgment of a closeknit linkage between the two phrases. Women legislators further invited the minister to conceptualize “gender” (jenda). In the Upper House committee of home affairs meeting, held on May 13, 1999, Yoko Komiyama of the DPJ argued that it is necessary to recognize the present situations of men and women with respect to socioculturally constructed gender roles, and she requested that Minister Nonaka directly address the concept of gender in the bill. Nonaka replied that although the word gender did not appear in the bill because it was not familiar to most Japanese, article four of the bill outlined the significance of gender through the expression of stereotyped roles between the sexes. In the Lower House plenary committee meeting held on June 3, 1999, Yuiko Matsumoto of the DPJ asked whether gender equality should be a primary focus of the bill in order to create a society liberated from rigid gender roles. Nonaka gave Matsumoto the same answer he gave to Komiyama. Interestingly, however, this time Nonaka interpreted gender as a set of socioculturally constructed sexual differences, a definition outlined in the Vision and 30

generally shared by feminists. Japanese cabinet members typically give answers in Diet deliberations based on the advice and support of bureaucrats, which may have been true for Nonaka as well. Even so, Nonaka’s reference to this definition of gender undoubtedly had some impact on subsequent government policy for women. The bill passed the Diet on June 15, 1999, and as a result, the Basic Law for Cooperative Decision-Making in Society between the Sexes (hereafter, the Basic Law) came into effect. The law does not make direct use of the terms equality (byodo) or gender (jenda). Despite the lack of these terms, Osawa argues that the law reflects the essence of the Vision because it is framed by gender perspectives, and its goal is to accomplish substantial gender equality.33 Her perception is shared by many feminist scholars.34 Chizuko Ueno notes that by abandoning the need for straightforward language, Japanese feminists were able to achieve substantive progress in gender equality.35 However, it might be difficult for the general Japanese public to recognize the precise implications of the law. In this respect, the Diet women bridged the gap between language and substance in their debates with government officials. Controversy over the Phrase “Gender-Free” Although the Basic Law was regarded as a potential base for developing gender equality by feminists, other egalitarians, and even economic libertarians, it stimulated the old guard to react against gender equality.36 The old guard focused its attack on the phrase “gender-free” (jenda-furii), highlighting its potential to be read as a dangerous denial of biological sexual differences. As mentioned earlier, while “gender-free” did not appear in the text of the Basic Law, the Basic Law’s move toward gender equality was read as a part of the trend toward “gender-free” politics.37 As a Japanese phrase, “gender-free” was first used by Kazuko Fukaya, a feminist education scholar, in her handbook “Gender-Free for Young Teachers” (Jenda-furii: wakai sedai no kyoshi no tamenni), published in 1995. Fukaya, citing Barbara Huston’s article on gender and public education, argues that public education should be gender-free.38 Fukaya misunderstood M. Osawa, “Josei Seisaku wo Neguru Ugoki,”: Kokuren, Kuni, Jichitai (A Trend of Policy for Women: the United Nations, the National and Local Governments),” in 21Seiki no Josei Seisaku to Danjo Kyodo Sankaku Shakai Kihonho, ed. Osawa (2000b): 78-100. 34 H. Ida, “Jenda Kanren Yogo no Kihontekiimi: Jenda-Baiasu, Jenda-Senshitivu, Jenda-Furii nado (The basic meanings of phrases related to gender),” in Nihon Josei-Gakkai Jenda Kenkyukai (Japan Women’s Studies Association) in Danjo Kyodo Sankaku, Jenda-Furii Basshingu: Bakku Rasshu Heno Tettei Toron (Bashing of Cooperative Decision-Making between the Sexes and Gender-Free) (Tokyo: Akashishoten, 2006): 175. 35 C. Ueno et al., Radikaru ni Katareba, 20. 36 M. Osawa, “Josei Seisaku wo Neguru Ugoki,” 78-85. 37 M. Osawa, “Josei Seisaku wo do Toraeruka,” 1. 38 K. Fukaya, Tokyo Joseizaitan Hando Buku: Jenda-Furii, Wakai Sedai no Kyoshi no Tameni (The Tokyo Women’s Foun33

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Making a Difference in Japanese Politics

Huston’s viewpoint on gender-sensitive education, and confused “gender-free” with “gender-sensitive.”39 However, this confusion notwithstanding, Fukaya’s handbook immediately established “gender-free” as a keyword among feminist scholars and researchers, as it connoted liberation from stereotyped gender consciousness and norms, as well as from traditional gender relations.40 “Gender-free” became a convenient way of clearly and succinctly expressing both gender problems and their solutions. Additionally, Japanese people are familiar with the English word “free,” pronounced “furii” in Japanese, thus allowing the term to spread beyond feminist circles into Japanese society. The Basic Law stipulated that national and local governments make plans for practical policy programs (Articles Thirteen and Fourteen). In their plan-making processes, local governments set up advisory councils to discuss their drafts, modeled after the national advisory council for cooperative decision-making between the sexes,41 and often invited feminist researchers and activists to advisory councils. These feminists adopted “gender-free” as a key concept in local plans. The rapid diffusion of the concept of “gender-free,” and the possibility that it brought for social reform even in small towns and villages, displeased the old guard, who combined their attacks on the concept with their opposition to publicly provided sexual education. In 1992, the Ministry of Education released guidelines for sexual education as a part of compulsory education and distributed a booklet of these guidelines to elementary schools, suggesting that teachers use the booklet as a sub-textbook in health and science classes. School teachers as well as education scholars and experts, who felt that it was important to provide correct information about sex to elementary school students in order to support their self-determination regarding sex, welcomed the Education Ministry’s new policy, calling it the beginning of the “epoch of sexual education” in Japan.42 The Ministry’s commitment to sexual education, however, upset the old guard, who condemned sexual education as unnecessary and risky, voicing concerns that students would be taught how to dation Handbook: Gender-Free for Young Teachers) (Tokyo: Tokyo joseizaidan, 1995). 39 E. Sasaki, “‘Jenda-furii’ no Gengo Ryoiki kara no Bunseki: Gender-free no Goyo to ‘Jenda-furii’ no Konran (Analysis of Gender-free from a Linguistic Field),” in Kotoba to Jenda no Miraizu: Jenda-Basshingu ni Tachimukau Tameni (A Future Image on Language and Gender: Confronting with GenderBashing), ed. O. Endo (Tokyo: Akashishoten, 2007): 237. 40 E. Sasaki, “‘Jenda-furii’ no Gengo Ryoiki kara no Bunseki,” 233. 41 The national advisory council for cooperative decision-making between the sexes is stipulated by Article Twenty-One of the Basic Law. 42 H. Asai, “Seikyoiku Danjo Byodo Basshingu no Haikei to Honshitsu: Nihon no Doko, Sekai no Doko, Hokatsutekiseikyoiku no Kadai (Backgrounds Behind and Purposes of the Bashing of Sexual Education and Gender Equality),” in Jenda/Sekushuariti no Kyoiku wo Tsukuru: Basshingu wo Koeru chi no Keiken (Creating Education for Gender and Sexuality: Intellectual Experiences which Transcend Bashing), ed. H. Asai (Tokyo: Akashishoten, 2006), 3-4.

engage in sexual intercourse and how to use condoms.43 According to the old guard, the role of women is to provide services for their families and relatives as wives, mothers, and daughters; for women to enjoy their reproductive rights and determine their sexual activities by themselves goes against this role and thereby threatens the traditional Japanese virtues that the old guard feels women should obey.44 It is unsurprising, then, that sexual education and the concept of “gender-free” should threaten the sensibilities of the old guard. As with sexual education, the old guard misrepresents the meaning of “gender-free,” choosing to interpret it as a dangerous idea that seeks to abolish arbitrarily the recognition of the biological differences between men and women.45 For instance, a leading ideologue of the old guard, Shintaro Ishihara, a former LDP Diet member who has served as Tokyo Metropolitan Governor since 1999, characterizes “gender-free” as an extreme and grotesque argument that denies the concepts of masculinity and femininity and rejects aspects of traditional Japanese culture such as gendered decorations at girl’s and boy’s festivals.46 Members of the old guard have played different roles in their opposition of “gender-free”: as politicians who have attempted to block gender equality policies in their assemblies; as scholars who have misrepresented the concept of gender equality in wider society through publications in newspapers and commercial magazines; and as activists who have held demonstrations with the goal of silencing feminists speaking out about the concept of “gender-free.” Active attackers of the concept of “gender-free” included Diet women. The most conspicuous female legislator of this kind was Eriko Yamatani of the DPJ. Yamatani first expressed this opinion in the Lower House special committee meeting on youth issues held on April 11, 2002. Yamatani considered “gender-free” education to be an inflexible concept, as she believed that it required teachers to advocate the elimination of all sexual differences between men and women, and she criticized the concept for its rejection of traditional Japanese culture. She asked the minister in charge, Yasuo Fukuda, whether he was familiar with the concept and practice of gender-free education, and if so, what he thought of it. Minister Fukuda did not reply to Yamatani’s question directly, but instead responded that any gender discrimination in society should be eliminated, though men and women should be distinguished on the basis of their biological nature. Fukuda might have successfully countered Yamatani’s further condemnation of “gender-free,” but the influence of the old guard’s legislators gradually increased within the Diet. Ibid. Ibid., 39-41. 45 K. Tobari and M. Fujita. “Tokyoto-Gikai Chiho-Jichitai ni Okeru ‘Jenda-furii’ Kinshi no Keii to Genjo (Courses and Situations of Prohibiting Gender-free in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and Local Governments,” in Kotoba to Jenda no miraizu: Jenda-Basshingu ni Tachimukau Tameni, ed. Endo (2007): 267. 46 K. Tobari and M. Fujita. “Tokyoto-Gikai Chiho-Jichitai ni Okeru ‘Jenda-furii’ Kinshi no Keii to Genjo,” 274. 43 44

Making a Difference in Japanese Politics | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


On June 27, 2002, seventy-eight Diet members of the DPJ organized a group on health education with the aim of protecting children from the “gender-free” concept and unnecessary sexual education. The members of this group constituted 42% of the DPJ’s Diet members, and Yamatani was its chief organizer. In addition to Yamatani, the group included two Diet women. Not all its members were active opponents of “gender-free”: many were opponents in name only, or were merely following their seniors. In the 154th ordinary Diet session held between January 21 and July 31, 2002, only two members other than Yamatani focused on their opposition toward “gender-free.”47 Yamatani took this issue up three times in the 154th ordinary Diet session and once in the 155th extraordinary session held between October 18 and December 13, 2002, more than any other Diet member. Raising the same questions, Yamatani emphasized the danger of “gender-free” ideas that sought to destroy decent Japanese values and culture by neglecting the biological differences between the sexes, in effect taking up the common cause of the old guard. The strong pleas of these Diet members caused the government to come to a negative conclusion regarding “gender-free.” In the Upper House cabinet committee meeting held on November 12, 2002, Mariko Bando, head of the bureau in charge of the Basic Law, told Ikuo Kamei, a member of the old guard of the LDP, that “gender-free” was not used in the UN Status on Women nor the Platform of the Women’s Conference at Beijing and that her bureau thus had no formal understanding of this phrase. Bando continued that “cooperative decision-making” in society between the sexes did not mean that women were treated just like men; at this point, she said, the Basic Law sought not to be “genderfree,” but rather to enable people of both sexes to enjoy all of life’s possibilities. Bando’s answer made it possible to interpret the Basic Law as having no relation to the concept of “genderfree.” Women legislators quickly became concerned about this interpretation and began to speak out to correct it. In the Lower House education and science committee meeting on February 26, 2003, Keiko Yamauchi of the Social Democratic Party asked Bando whether “gender-free” was defined as the liberation from a consciousness of stereotyped gender roles, expecting Bando to respond that the government did not deny the concept of “gender-free.” However, contrary to Yamauchi’s expectations, Bando replied that while some people defined “gender-free” as liberation from sexual oppression or the abolition of social discrimination, others considered it to mean the elimination of biological differences between the sexes. Bando explained that the government avoided the phrase because of these two different interpretations. Hiroko Mizushima of the DPJ seemed to be a more skillful inquirer. In the Lower House budget committee meeting held February 27, 2003, Mizushima pointed out 47


Kimiaki Matsuzaki (Lower House account settlement and administrative watch committee on July 10, 2002) and Yoshikatsu Nakayama (Lower House account settlement and administrative watch committee on July 22, 2001).

that Bando’s previous answer benefitted a particular group – specifically, the old guard. Wondering why a fluent English speaker like Bando would misinterpret “gender-free” to mean the rejection of biological sexual differences, Mizushima asked Bando to retract her previous answer; Bando responded that she had wished to distinguish some who misunderstood “gender-free” as meaning the rejection of biological sexual differences from others who understood it correctly and that she, as well as her bureau, had no authority to formulate a public definition of the concept of “gender-free.” Mizushima promptly asked Bando whether “gender-free” could be rephrased as “liberation from gender stereotypes,” to which Bando answered in the affirmative. Bando’s agreement convinced Mizushima that the government advocated the ideal of liberation from gender stereotypes. Chinami Nishimura of the DPJ attempted to confirm the proper conception of “gender-free.” In the Lower House budget committee meeting held on March 2, 2004, Nishimura stated that she perceived “gender-free” to mean the elimination of sociocultural differences between the sexes rather than biological differences, and asked whether this perception was appropriate for government policy. Bureaucrat Natori, in place of the minister, affirmed Nishimura’s perception. The attack of the concept of “gender-free” intensified in local governments as their basic plans approached completion. Local politicians of the old guard concentrated on scrapping plans that included the concept of “genderfree”: when discussing plans in their assemblies, for example, they insisted that the phrase “gender-free,” as well as the concept itself, be excluded from the plans, and they prevented plans from passing assemblies until they had been revised accordingly. Difficulties with local plans soon got out of hand, and to address this worsening situation, on April 5, 2004, the government suggested that local governments avoid using the phrase “gender-free” in their plans and that the phrase only be used if it had a clear definition.48 However, this concession from the government encouraged the old guard to attack the concept of gender itself, which, unlike “gender-free,” had already been established internationally and used officially by the UN.49 In the Upper House budget committee meeting on March 4, 2005, Yamatani asked the government to remove the word “gender” from the national basic plan for cooperative decision-making in society between the sexes. The first national basic plan was formed on December 12, 2000, in accordance with Article Thirteen of the Basic Law. The plan is revised every five years, and 2005 was a year of revision. In the 2000 plan, the word “gender” is used thirteen times, and is defined as “socioculturally constructed sexual differences.” The plan stipulates that the government review social institutions, customs, and consciousness from gender perspectives and based on gender research. Yamatani argued that the phase “gender perspectives” was not only K. Tobari and M. Fujita. “Tokyoto-Gikai Chiho-Jichitai ni Okeru ‘Jenda-furii’ Kinshi no Keii to Genjo,” 288-289. 49 E. Sasaki, “‘Jenda-furii’ no Gengo Ryoiki kara no Bunseki,” 7. 48

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Making a Difference in Japanese Politics

incomprehensible to her but also harmful in school education because it burdened children with the idea of abolishing differences between men and women. Yamatani’s logic in attacking “gender” was thus the very same logic used against the term “gender-free.” As the Cabinet holds ultimate responsibility for the basic plan, the dispute over gender in the second basic plan moved to the ruling LDP; specifically, it was left to two Diet women, Kuniko Inoguchi and Yamatani50. Inoguchi, a newly elected LDP Lower House member as of the general election of September 11, 2005, was further appointed as Minister of Cooperative Decision-Making between the Sexes during Koizumi Junichiro’s third administrative reshuffle on October 31, 2005. Because Inoguchi had served as a member of the advisory council for cooperative decision-making between the sexes from 2001 to 2002, her installation as Minister came as good news to supporters for gender equality. Even so, however, the same supporters were also wary of the installation of Yamatani as a parliamentary secretary to Minister Inoguchi. In a press conference on December 13, 2005, Inoguchi announced that she planned to save the word gender. Yamatani, meanwhile, told news reporters that she did not intend to save gender.51 Nevertheless, Inoguchi was supported in her fight for gender equality by several colleagues. Ten newly elected Lower House members of the LDP passed Inoguchi their proposal that the ideal of gender equality should be established based on a correct definition and understanding of gender. 52 Moreover, in order to rally public support for her cause, Inoguchi held public meetings to inform people about the significance of gender equality and to engage in dialogues with women from diverse backgrounds. 53 On December 27, 2005, the cabinet council approved the second plan. The word gender finally remained, though this came at the cost of several concessions to the old guard. Whereas “gender” had been defined as “sociocultural differences between the sexes” in the first plan, the definition used in the second plan was changed to “social differences between the sexes,” omitting the word “cultural.” The second plan also added the idea that cooperative decision-making in society between the sexes was inconsistent with the rejection of the differences between the sexes, as well as the sexual neutralization of human beings through the use of the phrase “gender-free.” To avoid frequent usage of the term “gender,” the phrase “cooperative decisionmaking between the sexes” came to be used as a substitute for “gender.”54 Yamatani had been an LDP member of the Upper House since July 2007. 51 “‘Jenda’ Hazusu? Nokosu? Yogo Meguri Hibana Inoguchi Tantosho to Yamatani Seimukan (Minister Inoguchi and Parliamentary Secretary Yamatani Dispute in Inclusion of the Term Gender),” Asahi Shimbun, December 14, 2005, 4. 52 Ibid. 53 See Asahi Shimbun, December 13, 2005 (Morning Paper, p. 33). 54 M. Tanaka, Jenda to Jenda-furii Basshingu (Gender and Bashing of Gender-Free) (Tokyo: Meibunshobo, 2011): 326. 50

The second plan included the phrase “gender perspectives,” defined as awareness of socially constructed differences between the sexes that cause social discrimination or a stereotyped division of labor between the sexes – something that did not appear in the first plan. Despite its relatively modest definition, this concept is a crucial component of the second plan. In the Lower House cabinet committee meeting held on February 24, 2006, when Yoko Komiyama asked how gender was conceptualized in the second plan, Minister Inoguchi offered a more precise explanation: in the second plan, gender is conceptualized in such a way as to promote gender equality, redressing sexual discrimination, stereotyped gender norms, and bias in the sexual division of labor and removing social obstacles impeding men and women from realizing their full potential. Concluding Remarks: Women Acting for Women Of the women legislators whom I have examined in this paper, five were associated with the DPJ, two with the Social Democrats, and one each with the Clean Government and the LDP. This proportional arrangement approximately corresponds to that of the forty Diet women who referred to gender issues affirmatively: sixteen from the DPJ, eleven from the Social Democrats, seven from the LDP, three from Clean Govenrnment, two from the Communist Party, and one independent. Such differences in party affiliation are a reflection of the proportion of women among the total Diet members in each party. The proportion of women among Social Democrat Diet members is much higher than that of the LDP or DPJ. Social Democratic women, who are no longer a minority in their party, can speak out about specific women’s issues more openly and can take more of an initiative in their discussions than LDP or DPJ women. Party ideology also impacts the women’s attitudes: social democracy is more favorable to gender equality than conservatism. While the DPJ is ideologically ambiguous, comprising of liberals, socialists, and conservatives, the proportion of women in the DPJ is higher than that in the LDP. Gender consciousness, as measured through involvement in women’s action groups and prior experience in gender politics and activism, had a stronger correlation with attitudes of Diet women. Of the forty women under discussion, nine were members of a women’s action group called the Beijing Japan Accountability Caucus (Beijing JAC), which came out of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing. At the conference, Japanese women participants, including activists, journalists, and legislators, encouraged Japan’s non-governmental caucus to exchange information and communicate with each other. On September 23, 1995, a week after the UN Conference ended, core members of the caucus set up Beijing JAC to put forth policy proposals to improve women’s status and to lobby for women’s demands. The membership of the Beijing JAC, totaling 200, comprised of women with different backgrounds, such as Making a Difference in Japanese Politics | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


activists, journalists, policy experts, scholars, and legislators.55 Another group, called the Women in the New World, International Network (WINWIN, uin uin), also motivated women legislators to act for women. Following the tradition of the EMILY’s LIST in the USA, WINWIN was founded to support financially women candidates in national and local elections regardless of party affiliation. WINWIN provided women candidates who met its criteria with a portion of their campaign funds. The most important WINWIN criterion was whether the applicant seriously approved of gender equality and how much the candidate would contribute to promoting women’s rights.56 Of the forty women, eleven were recommended by WINWIN. Both the Beijing JAC and WINWIN are considered feminist action groups, and their members work for women voluntarily. Of the nine women profiled in this study, seven – Shimizu, Kawahashi, Komiyama, Matsumoto, Mizushima, Nishimura, and Inoguchi – joined either one or both of these two groups. In addition, these women had been linked with gender equality or social justice before these women entered politics: Shimizu and Matsumoto had been women leaders of labor unions; Kawahashi had worked for women’s issues as a bureaucrat in the prime minister’s office; Komiya had been a commentator on family and child problems at the Japan Broadcasting Corporation; Mizushima had worked as a psychiatrist focusing on adolescent disorders and family relations; Nishimura had worked for an international nongovernmental organization; and Inoguchi was a professor of international relations and had been involved in two advisory councils. Before her participation in the advisory council for cooperative decision-making between the sexes, Inoguchi had served as the sole woman member of the advisory council for administrative reform from 1996 to 1998, where she acted to promote gender equality policy by putting forward a proposal to establish national machinery to bring together all ministries in order to integrate gender issues.57 Inoguchi’s proposal, based on an idea originally proposed by Osawa and supported by feminists, was realized as a new bureau for cooperative decision-making between the sexes inside the Cabinet Office in 2001.58 The previous experiences of these women would facilitate their success in arguing for greater representation for women. Increasing the number of women legislators is essential to realizing substantive representation for women. However, whether women legislators actually intend to work for gender

equality or social justice is equally important. In the Japanese political context, where the number of women legislators has made little progress, women legislators with gender consciousness or feminist concerns are necessary, not only to improve gender policy but also the political culture as a whole. As I have demonstrated, the minority position of Diet women notwithstanding, these women took an initiative in Diet deliberations, gave the LDP-circumscribed definition of equality real meaning, infused the concept of “gender” into politics, and clarified the meaning of the phrase “genderfree.” In this way, these women were agents of change in the status quo of Japanese politics.

M. Saito. “Zenkoku Tenkai Suru NGO (Activities of a Nationwide NGO)” in 21Seiki no Josei Seisaku to Danjo Kyodo Sankaku Shakai Kihonho, ed. Osawa (2000): 253-254. 56 M. Eto, “Vitalizing Democracy at the Grassroots: A Contribution of Post-War Women’s Movements in Japan,” East Asia: An International Quarterly 25.2 (2008): 130-131. 57 “Danjo Byodo Suishinyaku wa Naikakufu ni, Kengenkyoka he Kitai Gyokaku Kaigi de Josei Dantai (Women’s Groups Ask the Advisory Council for Administrative Reform to Place a Section Responsible for Cooperative Decision-Making in the Cabinet Office),” Asahi Shimbun, August 30, 1997, 25. 58 C. Ueno et al., Radikaru ni Katareba, 53. 55


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from feminist to party intellectual? Identity politics and ding ling’s “new woman stories”

xiaoping wang · xiamen university Abstract


This article offers a new interpretation of the life and works of famed modern Chinese female writer Ding Ling (1904-1986). It examines how the writer metamorphosed from feminist to revolutionary fellow traveler, and finally socialist cultural worker. It suggests that the four stages of development the writer experienced before 1949 were simultaneously a shifting process of her intellectual commitments and a transformation of her identity. This interpretation will help us understand why a consistent feminist movement has been impossible in modern China, and why a socialist movement was deemed by the writer to be sublating her feminine and feminist concerns.

Ding Ling (1904-1986) was the pioneer of Chinese feminist writing in the post-May Fourth era,1 the effects of her sensual writing on female emotions and women entangled in love rippling across society. In the 1930s, however, she became increasingly left-leaning, and after Mao’s 1942 Yan’an Talks she became a staunch Communist writer, completing her famed novel, “The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River.” The May Fourth Movement was an anti-imperialist, cultural, and political movement. It grew out of the student demonstrations that took place in Beijing on May 4, 1919, which protested the Chinese government’s attitude toward the Treaty of Versailles, especially the items regarding the Shandong Problem. The demonstrations marked the upsurge of modern China’s anti-imperialistic, patriotic nationalism. The term “May Fourth Movement,” however, often refers to a broader period around 1915-1921, which is also called “New Culture Movement.”


The above caption reads, “March triumphantly forward, following Chairman Mao’s proletariat line in literature and art!” From Feminist to Party Intellectual? | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


Nonetheless, her concerns over the “woman’s problem” ran throughout her career. How did Ding Ling negotiate her feminine and feminist concerns with the movements for nationalist salvation and mass revolution in her literary works? What psychological trajectories had she experienced? This study tries to place her work in sociohistorical context, in order to find the motivations underlying her dramatic changes. It suggests that the four stages of development Ding Ling experienced before 1949, with respect to both personality and literary style, represent a shift in her intellectual commitments, and thus the transformation – or perhaps the formation – of her identity. First, an introduction of the life and upbringing of Ding Ling as a “new woman” is necessary. Born Jiang Wei in Hunan province to a gentry family in rapid decline, Ding Ling faced adversity during her childhood. Her father died when she was three; he had studied law in Japan, though this foreign education brought him little economic return. Her mother, a young widow, persevered through life with a strong will. While also teaching elementary school, she enrolled at a new-styled normal school – both rare and courageous at the time. Influenced by her mother’s spirit of independence and antitraditionalist views, Jiang Wei could identify with the ideals of the May 4th Movement. She joined student demonstrations, listened to patriotic speeches, and attended anti-imperialist meetings. At fifteen, she cut her braid and taught abacus at a night school for the masses. In 1922, with an anarchical impulse, she left Hunan. Hereafter she went back and forth between Shanghai, Nanjing, and Beijing, observing intellectual life along the way. During this period she became enchanted with the idea of anarchy, thereafter changing her name for simplicity. In 1925 she fell in love with Hu Yepin (1903-1931), a penniless poet at the time. Out of economic necessity she tried to enter the film industry but failed. And so, she began writing. A Bewildered Feminine Woman in Anarchist Belief Until 1929 the writer saw herself as a feminine woman, an identity based on the taking of men as her other, the result of a patriarchal society. During this period, she began to identify with the anarchist movement (无政府主义运动).

The anarchists regarded themselves as independent from conventional moral codes; sanctioned by the social structure of the traditional world, they shed their names, left their homes to pursue higher education, and engaged in free love (自由恋爱), viewing marriage as a traditional institution that needed to be repudiated. Their practices constituted the first wave of Chinese sexual emancipation, homosexual love representing another part of their erotic utopia. With this, Ding Ling had formally joined the Anarchist Party. The radical trends among the youth of the period in mind, we can begin to explain the “woman’s problem” described in her stories from this era. The aborted dream of becoming a movie star gave Ding Ling the opportunity to witness the under-the-table negotiations and sexual exchanges described in “Mengke,” her first published story in 1927.2 The heroine begins an innocent artistic student who leaves school out of indignation at the molestation of a model by her teacher, only to lose herself in society in her efforts to find a job fit for her; in the end, she becomes an actress, selling her body and her soul. Exactly what becomes the last straw is not apparent, yet the reader cannot but feel that society, mercenary and degraded, is most responsible. The accelerant to this transformation is her experience in her wealthy aunt’s family. Her cousin Xiaosong is a newly returned overseas student with new ideas and a lifestyle that attracts her, but he turns out only to be a debauchee. Upon finding out the truth, Mengke leaves her aunt’s house. Feeling betrayed, and out of economic imperative, she turns to the degraded movie industry. Mengke’s series of experiences show the predicament the Chinese “new woman,” promoted as a modern idea by the New Culture Movement. Although the degradation associated with her status is explainable by a lack of social rationalization, the new woman herself is at least partly responsible for her own weakness: she is unwilling to “open a school or factory” (as she is almost surely lacking the capability) or to shift to a new school, and she acknowledges that becoming a nurse or a child bearer may be out of reach. Such is the dilemma for a particular class: as society fails to provide for her, a lower middle-class girl reluctant to accept the old-fashioned traditional marriage that her parents offer, 2

Ding Ling, “Mengke,” Xiaoshuo Yuebao (Novel Monthly), December 10, 1927.

Wang Xiaoping received his PhD from the Asian Studies department of the University of Texas at Austin. He is now Associate Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature at the School of Chinese at Xiamen University in China. His research interests include modern and contemporary Chinese literature and culture, as well as critical theory. His major publications include Contending for the Chinese Modern: The Writing of Fiction in the Great Transformative Epoch of Modern China, 1937-1949 (in Chinese) (Beijing: China Social Science Press, 2012, forthcoming), The Cultural Situation of the Post-New Period: Studies on Chinese Literature and Culture under Globalization (in Chinese) (Beijing: China Social Science Press, 2012, forthcoming), and New Voices in Foreign Lands: The Practice of Historical Hermeneutics in Cultural Studies (Xiamen: Xiamen University Press, 2012, forthcoming). He is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Postsocialist Conditions: On the Politics and Aesthetics of the Films of the Chinese Sixth-Generation Auteurs, 1990-2010. He has published articles in Comparative Literature Studies, China Perspectives, Journal of Contemporary China, Modern Chinese Literature Studies, Critique, Journal of Cambridge Studies, and Frontier of Literary Studies in China, among others. 36

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she is left to face a new social setting in which women are no more than fetishized commodities. But once this new woman leaves her family, she has few alternatives from which to choose. “The Diary of Miss Sophie,” written the following year, is a typical case of anarchist life.3 Shafei is “away from home, and living by herself … not enrolled in the university”; together with her girlfriend, they have “few or attenuated family connections,” and moreover, “these young women rarely have family or given names, but take unconventional Westernized ones … surviving anonymously and precariously in the interstices of the huge city.”4 Economically, morally, and spiritually, they are alone. Shafei’s tuberculosis metaphorically becomes a token of a restless passion, shown in the form of her psychosomatic impulses and dreams of a freewheeling utopia. The illness exempts her from work, providing an opportunity for her to project her fantasy into an anxiety about the impossibility of establishing a female subjectivity. Her attraction to Ling Jishi, a handsome gentleman from Singapore bearing a semi-Chinese and semi-Western air, seems an enigma for scholars: it is a “perverse passion”; “while she indulges in feverish fantasies of longing for him, she realizes at the same time that he is unworthy of them.”5 What triggers her revulsion is seemingly a spiritual elevation that rejects his carnal and material enjoyment, as well as the bad habitus born from his dual identity as a semitraditional gentry man and a Western-styled flaneur.6 When this revulsion becomes closely intertwined with her sexual fantasy, it brings about in her a split between body and soul, reason and passion. When she has satisfied her sexual fantasy of acquiring this man, she thinks she has won a battle against men. And yet, she cannot help despising herself – despite her victory in her battle with men, she is losing her war with herself. Does Shafei pursue a pure love? She refuses the genuine pursuit of another lad, Weidi, and regrets that he does not understand her. But she acknowledges that she does even not understand herself. To solve the puzzle, we need to return to Ling Jishi: this dream, for money, for a comfortable life, and for a journey to officialdom, is the ideal of a Chinese middle-class that few at the time could afford. That he keeps with the social expectations of his class with some residually corrupt gentry-class habits points less to his own “dirty” soul than to the semi-modern conditions of society. Thus the problem seems to lie in Shafei herself: her split psychology originates from her incapability to differentiate, on one hand, Ding Ling, Ding Ling Wenji (Collections of Ding Ling’s Works) (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1983). Unless otherwise specified, all the stories discussed in this paper are included in this collection. 4 Yi-tsi Mei Feuerwerker, Ding Ling’s Fiction: Ideology and Narrative in Modern Chinese Literature (Cambridge, Mass, and London: Harvard University Press, 1982), 28. 5 Ibid. 6 See the oft-quoted her psychological movement on Ling Jishi, in Ding, Ding Ling Wenji, 71. 3

her true necessity of that which even she herself might not be consciously aware, and on the other, the false desire and will that she clear-mindedly notices. As such, her anxiety is less because “she was only partially freed from the traditional institutionalized modes of womanly behavior,”7 as she can easily satisfy her physical desire at any time; what matters is that, for her real identity, she is seeking that which sexual satisfaction cannot grant her, and she complains that she has no time to contemplate crucial issues about “her body, her reputation, and her future.”8 Perhaps this negligible phrasing offers us a hint, and yet its decoding still requires historical context as the subtext. We need to ask: if her “love” toward Ling is consummated, exposed, and even acknowledged, then what would be the outcome? Even if her reputation were not sacrificed, for a flaneur who has enjoyed the reputedly freestyle way of Western life and is also familiar with debauched Chinese custom, she would have little opportunity to be his lawful wife, as many wealthy men at the time kept concubines. And even if this privilege were granted and her “body” were saved from being humiliated as merely a mistress, the prospect of her “future” looks gloomy. Such is the ultimate, yet deeply concealed reason for her anxiety – her angst about her dignity and social status that she herself would not like to acknowledge. Tani Barlow’ description of Ding Ling’s life at this time echoes many aspects of Shafei: “she had indeed achieved a life of independent personality, but she found that freedom under those circumstances offered neither livelihood nor even a socially recognizable role.”9 A Social Critic against the Mercenary Market and the Political Reactionary In her second period, the author identifies herself less as a feminine woman, but more as a social critic, as one who critiques the mercenary market – the commercialized cultural industry in which cultural productions are nothing but cheap commodities. More importantly, she takes the dark reality and the “political reactionary” as her antagonistic other. Again, her personal experience facilitated this change. Her husband Hu Yepin had been radicalized: he entered the executive committee of the League of Left-Wing Writers and became chairman of the Committee on Worker-PeasantSoldier Literature. Ding Ling had less interest in revolution at the time. While he attended secret party meetings, she stayed at home writing stories on the contradiction between revolution and love. As a result, the scenes of life shown in these stories are generally regarded as not authentically Feuerwerker, Ding Ling’s Fiction, 44. Ibid., 74. 9 See Tani Barlow, “Introduction,” in I myself am a Woman: Selected Writings of Ding Ling, ed. Tani E. Barlow (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989), 24. This is not merely a coincidence, as Barlow notes that the writer “borrowed heavily from her own experience,” “the wasted efforts” of her “anarcho-feminist years.” 7 8

From Feminist to Party Intellectual? | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


representing the true experience of the revolutionary. The first story is “Wei Hu.” Later on, Ding Ling admitted that she did not intend to make Wei Hu a hero, nor did she plan to write about revolution. What she wanted to do was “merely to write about a few pre-May 30th characters,” yet she “discovered [herself] that it was only a very vulgar story fallen into the trap of the love and revolution conflict.”10 The problem with this formulaic pattern is not the subject itself, to be sure, but how to represent the historical experience of this entanglement. This story fails to offer a genuine picture for either of the two dimensions of this conflict. Firstly, the transformation of the heroine from an anarchist girl to a lover of a revolutionary seems less plausible. Lijia and her liberated female friends are art students, and they bear all the features of the Chinese anarchists at the time. Although it takes two-thirds the length of the story for her to claim her love with revolutionary Wei Hu, the reader does not see what triggers her love, except that she appears tired of the lifestyle of her friends, who in her view merely enjoyed what they themselves considered free love in a state of bewilderment. The remaining section, devoted to their passionate life, is similarly lackluster, showing no more than embraces and kisses. What adds to its flavor is Wei Hu’s reading of poems. Wei Hu’s departure from his sweetheart seems to be the result of the inexorable contradiction between love and revolution, something at odds with what we might expect of the subject. For youthful idealists, love and revolution are often seen as mutually beneficial rather than reciprocally deconstructive. So why such a difference? Though this incompatibility exists for only a short period, between 1927 and 1930, it should again be understood with the sociohistorical context in mind. After the massacre of the leftists in 1927, the radical intellectuals, if they were to take part in revolutionary work, were kept in a state of “white terror” (白色恐怖) in which they could lose their lives at any times. It was often impossible for them to have love and revolution simultaneously; in order to protect their lovers, many found it better to involve themselves in the work alone rather than bringing their lovers in. Moreover, because middle-class women were generally less interested in politics, the lovers of the revolutionaries plausibly came from the laboring masses. But with the spread of radical ideology, and with the changing of the political situation as time went on, love and revolution would seem less incompatible; especially after the outbreak of the Resistance War, they indeed increasingly appeared to work hand-in-hand in literary works. At the same time, theoretically, the incompatibility of the two at this time reveals the conflicts between the May Fourth discourse of free love prevailing in the twenties and the leftist discourse of revolution gradually emerging late in the decade. In the view of this emerging discourse, the dominant discourse of free love at the time was a manifestation of 10


Ding Ling, “Wo de Chuangzuo Shenghuo” (My life in creative writing), in Chuangzuo de Jingyan (Experience in Creative Writing) (Shanghai: Tianma Shudian, 1933), 24-25.

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bourgeois culture, for it was individualistic and egocentric, and intended only for the middle class. At this point, as a new ideological force the discourse of revolution aimed to usurp the power of the discourse of free love to become culturally dominant. It is thus also out of necessity that revolution prevails over love in the story. The triangular contradictions among love, revolution, and literature receives a different treatment in the following two stories, both entitled “Shanghai, Spring 1930.” Let us begin from the second story. Seemingly a moderate redress of the preceding story’s problem, the male revolutionary protagonist now endeavors to convert his bourgeois lover to the revolutionary ranks. But he appears too clumsy to do this: he never preaches an ideological message to her, and he only invites her to attend his meeting on trivial, daily work. Even when the efforts fail and she leaves him for a rich youth, he rests assured, concluding that she is again happy. In repudiating the possibility of ideological interpellation, and, with the plot of the partnership between his comrade and a female bus conductor, in implying that only people in the same class can have the same class consciousness, be in a harmonious love, and join revolution together, the writer shows the inexorable divide between classes – wrong in the view of revolutionary ideology (and called “close-doorism” (关门主义) by the party at the time). In acknowledging her life of happiness – a state of false consciousness – the meaning of revolution is also dubitable. On the surface, the first “Shanghai, Spring 1930” departs significantly from Ding Ling’s previous two stories, as the heroine Meilin transforms herself from “a complacent mistress into active revolutionary.”11 But her “awakening to the truth of her own situation and to the need to reach out for other means of self-fulfillment,” which provides “the prime motivation force” for plot development, is not convincing.12 The reason is that, given that her decision to be a mistress of a male writer is rooted in the May Fourth tide of free love, nothing of revolutionary tenet can be regarded as the reason for her leaving. Instead, we can only infer that her leaving is because, for her, life with him appears tedious. And even out of the practical consideration provoked by the new social tide that emphasizes social status, she regrets that she loses all social standing after cohabiting with the writer. In the new social setting in which the radical May Fourth idea of free love becomes outdated, the “many classical and romantic novels” appear hollow. Instead, “she had to have more!” Accordingly, the reason that she has a sudden interest to dabble in revolutionary work is only because society does not provide an appropriate space for her, as a mistress, to stand up and address her needs.

11 12

Feuerwerker, Ding Ling’s Fiction, 56. Ibid.

a cultural worker oppressed masses



In November 1930, Hu Yepin was elected as a representative to attend an important conference to be held in the Communist Party base, Jiangxi province; in January 1931, he was arrested. Without a proper trial, he was secretly executed only three weeks later with twenty other Communist sympathizers. Ding Ling, though often a sentimental woman, showed her fortitude in face of this incident. She sent her child to her mother in Hunan and decided to join the revolution more actively in support of her husband’s sacrifice. She accepted the League’s assignment, becoming the editor of its literary journal, Beidou (Big Dipper), and joining the Party in 1932. The period from 1931 to 1936 was a crucial one in Ding Ling’s transition from social critic to cultural worker (for the masses): in the wake of Hu Yepin’s martyrdom, she acknowledged her new identity as “a small but diligent and faithful worker in literature, willing to belong to you” (“you” here referring to the masses).13 Determined to work for the oppressed lower class by giving up her privileges as a lower middle-class intellectual and all differences as a feminine middle-class woman; for her, to be a cultural worker was to sacrifice the individual autonomy of an atomized writer in her secluded study in order to whole-heartedly devote herself to the collective interests of a mass revolution. If we distinguish critical realism and revolutionary realism not by the period of events narrated in a story (the former pre-revolutionary, and the latter during revolution), but by the message sent forth – whether it exposes the darkness reality to only a certain degree, or contains a radical message that society is fundamentally corrupt and redeemable only by a violent, radical revolution – then “The Net of the Law” (1932), in terms of the inexorable, inescapable power structure it exposes, is a representative work of revolutionary realism. Gu Meiquan, a blacksmith in a cigarette factory, loses his job after missing a day’s work when he has to take care of his pregnant wife A Cui. Losing the only way to support his family, he falls into despair and turns to destructive behavior, abusing his wife and, worse, inadvertently killing the workmate’s wife, his wife’s best friend. He flees, but his wife is held hostage and dies in jail. Finally, he is arrested and executed. Although his workmate had accepted his apology, those who hold power nonetheless devour all these suffering people. The story is a staple of leftist literature, in which a poor criminal turns out to be merely a helpless victim of social injustice, perpetuated by its system as a “totality.” The writer stands in the shoes of the masses to show their behaviors in social relations; their conscious actions, themselves a result of this network, are in line with their class status and also convey the psychological state proper to their subaltern identity. If the apt usage of imagery as political metaphor in 13

Ding Ling, “Preface to Yigeren de Dansheng,” in Ding Ling xuanji (Selected Works of Ding Ling), ed. Ye Wangyou and Xu Chensi (Shanghai: Wanxiang Shuwu, 1936), 151-152.

“Flight” has been widely acknowledged, then “Flood” (1931) is a further development in the writer’s skill in describing the crowd. In 1931, a massive flood swept over sixteen Chinese provinces; this story takes the flood as its subject, reflecting the writer’s elevated political concerns over real social incident. The elaborate presentation of the masses’ gradual falling into the slough of despond, because of repeated aborted illusions and their ensuing ascendance of inflammation as a result of being bullied and cheated, naturally and logically lead to the final eruption of riot – a precursor to and a primordial prototype of mass revolution. The psychological portraiture of atomized characters in anxiety is substituted by the agony and despair expressed by members of a family and some other minor figures, offering a vivid picture of the suffering community. The writer brilliantly builds a portentous atmosphere by ushering in the discussion of a family about the incoming water. She also learns to apply animistic and naturalistic metaphors. The former is to drive home the fierceness of the torrents, which simultaneously refers to both the mercilessness of the corrupt regime and the unstinted power of the infuriated masses. The animistic and naturalistic metaphors are later combined to portray the emotional explosions and wild behaviors of the repressed and exhausted masses. This literary technique graphically delivers the message that their overwhelming suffering is turning into an overpowering revolutionary power to bombard dark reality, like the unstoppable flood. The fatalistic, cyclical view of history expressed by the senescent old who recall the rampant plagues and famines of the past is subtly subverted by the refutation of the young, which implies that the suffering that has been experienced for generations and taken for granted will be turned upside down. Some of them have articulated such messages as “standing up” (fanshen, 翻身) and “it is an action of taking back what we owned rather than a robbery;” which would be developed upon thereafter by revolutionary writers. All of these foretell, if not directly show, the development of revolutionary consciousness in the writer’s works. Indeed, the choice of the collective peasants as her subject and the improvement of her creative method both reflect the great change of the author, something regarded as a landmark for both the writer herself and the proletariat literature in general. However, the problem lies in the fact that the subjectivity of the masses, as a revolutionary community, is not clearly presented. In fact, this dilemma persists in the writer’s works before 1949 – a historically-conditioned predicament, as I will soon discuss. People’s Critic or Party Intellectual? Ding Ling was kidnapped by Nationalist agents on May 4, 1933. Confined for three years in various places, the KMT tried but failed to convert her. To avert public opinion, the authorities did not kill her, and she finally managed to flee to territory controlled by the Communist Party. She enthusiastically threw herself into the various activities of From Feminist to Party Intellectual? | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


the Border Regions. With the outbreak of the War, she was assigned the task of leading the Northwest Front Service Corps from Yan’an to Taiyuan. For several months on the road, they maintained a military discipline and performed propagandistic plays and songs to the masses. In September 1941, she assumed the editorship of the literary page of the party’s newspaper, Jiefang ribao (Liberation daily). For a long period, Ding Ling took the same attitude – the stance of a social critic – as before on the “woman’s problem” she witnessed in the new area. This concern particularly manifested itself in her stories from between 1939 and 1942. Written in 1941, “When I was in Xia Village” is a story about the deformation of a woman’s femininity due to the war experience. Zhenzhen, a village girl, is captured by the Japanese and forced to serve as a sex slave; because of this, the party assigns her to work behind enemy lines as a spy, until she contracts a serious venereal disease and returns home for a cure. A superficial reading interprets her situation as a moral dilemma caused by the contradiction between nationalism and feminism, but this reading misses key evidence. What is her motivation for accepting the mission? Does she have the freedom to reject the seemingly inhuman request? We receive no information from the narrator, who is also a female party cadre visiting the village. To the same critics, among others, the story is also a conflict between modern and traditional concepts of chastity, and thus the staple theme of May Fourth Literature on the modern versus the tradition. This reading is justified partially by the first half of the text: her returning to the home village brings her various responses from the villagers. While she herself remains unperturbed on her experience, and some youths admire her courageous, patriotic deeds, the love of her boyfriend unabated, the elder generation of the village, including her parents and even a female party cadre, see her experience as a great shame for a woman, feeling either pity for her or regarding her as something subhuman. This focus on the response of the ordinary people, combined with the cause of her capture by the Japanese,14 is typical of the May Fourth theme of free love, serving to strengthen the argument that the writer is preaching a feminist message against a feudalist consciousness. But this explanation cannot account for the whole text, as the youth had been used to the new ideas on chastity and repudiating the traditional. For them, the ideas of the elder generation matter little. Moreover, the story is not a story about the party’s enlightenment of ignorant peasants; the narrator is merely playing the role of spectator, often showing her doubts and incertitude on what Zhenzhen thinks and behaves. Irresolvable by each of these explanations, the theme of the work presents a puzzle. I will suggest that this story, under the facade of being a story about the “woman’s problem,” shows the psychologically transformative condition of the narrator as an intellectual 14


In love with a poor man, she is instead forced by her parents to marry to a businessman. She escapes to the nearby church intending to become a nun when Japanese soldiers come by.

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figure. She is the real and only protagonist of the story. When she sees the new outlook of the young peasants, she observes with curious eyes and a skeptical mind. Apparently a newly joined intellectual with her distinct habitus, she finds that their behavior has gone beyond what enlightenment intellectuals had preached, and she feels bewildered. But they still need her representation, and she still feels her political correctness of being so. And thus she goes beyond her intellectual parameter to represent Zhenzhen’s psychology: … I cannot find that she has many sentimental feelings and resentment; she never shows a want that she hopes a man to ask for her, or even solace. But I still believe that since she was injured, precisely because she was so heavily harmed, it brought about her stubbornness as it is, so she looks as if nonchalant. But if there is some tender care, some pities beyond general sympathy to warm her soul, it is necessary. I would like that she can cry for a time, to find a place where she can cry for a time. I hope I’ll have an opportunity to drink wine at the wedding feast of this family – at least, I’m also willing to hear good news before I leave. “But what is Zhenzhen thinking? This [question] will not be put off, and it should not be a question at all!” I think on in this way, then I do not think it anymore.15

Here, Zhenzhen needs the pacification of a man with a physical touch; one finds it hard to fathom that she does not cry under this circumstance. For her, she should not appear so untouchable, so enigmatic, so strong-willed. “We” must warm her soul. She should get married. The narrator does not sense her epistemological violence at all. The subaltern cannot speak; they need her representation. Indeed, Zhenzhen always appears a sphinx to the intellectual audience. In the end, she informs the narrator that she is to be sent to an unspecified place (probably referring to Yan’an), and that she wants to stay there studying. Her statement, that “I make this plan for myself, but also for others, so I do not feel that I have something begging for other’s pardon,” again shocks the narrator, who acknowledges that “I was feeling greatly startled, new elements displayed in her again. I felt that she was indeed worthy of my study.” Ultimately, the story is about a failed romance – an intellectual (and political) integration – between the intellectual and the (new) peasant as its other. Maintaining the habitus of a social critic, the writer now further exposes the seamy side of the party’s work. “In the Hospital,” written in 1941, is also led by an intellectual figure, now a third-person narrator, Lu Ping, a twenty-year girl from Shanghai who comes to Yan’an out of idealism. Through her perspective, the reflection upon reality begins. Nevertheless ambitious to be a political supervisor, her dream is hopelessly frustrated by the party’s arrangement. Because of her educational background, she is assigned to be a midwife nurse in an ill-equipped, remote border hospital. She argues with her superior and only reluctantly 15

Ding Ling, Ding Ling Xuanji (Chengdu: Sichuan renmin chubanshe, 1984), 448.

agrees to go, under the condition of working for merely a year. This foretells her unhappy experience thereafter. The “inhospitable reception” she receives, the primitive conditions of the newly opened hospital, and “above all … the incompetence and irresponsibility of the staff,” are cast in contrast to her dedication to her duties.16 She feels alienated from her circumstance: she passes judgment on everyone she meets and regards most of them as disgusting; she finds the unsanitary habits of those hospitalized unbearable. She argues for improving conditions, but little improves. She tries to adapt herself into the community, but nothing avails. Ultimately, she finds that she cannot fit into the community and quits her job, shifting to another place. These events are all witnessed and narrated from her perspective. Even so, we find a number of conflicting messages from the narrator that serve to counteract this perspective. We notice that other members of the hospital, including the directors, her two friends, though not self willingly assigned to their present jobs, adapt them well for the needs of revolutionary work. Her two friends (one of which, a male surgeon, even writes short stories and skits), with their full-spirited dedication to their works, educate Lu Ping and cast upon them an air of maturity. From the perspective of the party’s critics, Lu Ping does not reform herself to be a revolutionary intellectual; but the apparent neutrality of the narrative voice provides the most difficult obstacle to our evaluation. On one hand, the narration shows her willfulness and immaturity, as one who always believes that the truth is in her side. But because it tends to identify with the vision of the heroine, this disclosure appears so objective and nuanced that the reader hardly notices its critical effect. To examine this paradox, we must juxtapose the text to the two previous stories. The narrator does not understand the new masses, nor is she used to their behaviors. This does not mean Lu Ping’s critique is unreasonable – in fact, the negative “dark” side that she witnesses often does exist. The problem is simply that she cannot balance her perspective with that of the others; lacking necessary working skills, her intellectual habitus, a fundamentally individual heroism, can only isolate herself from the community and helps little in real work. That she sees almost everyone as her “other” promises no hope for her ideals; with this mindset her accusation that all others lack love, or genuine revolutionary camaraderie, is not so reliable, and she herself is partially responsible. Meanwhile, in view of the generally harsh conditions of the environment, the lack of rationalization indeed requires time to be redressed. In addition, like “Thoughts on March 8,” this piece also shows a divisive tendency: she forms a clique that sees itself as the only innocent party in the community. Looking for evidence, she intends to incriminate her superiors. Just at this time, a patient in the hospital calls on her and gives her a lecture. His words are meant to teach Lu Ping a lesson about how to behave properly, and he is a prototype 16

Feuerwerker, Ding Ling’s Fiction, 109.

of the revolutionary mentor figure. Even so, his teaching does not settle Lu’s doubts, and she inexorably leaves the hospital. For her, there remains ambiguity and contradiction in his lecture. In their discussion, he tells Lu Ping that no matter who replaces the directors, the situation will not improve. Like Lu Ping, he maintains the superiority of specialist intellectuals over the non-specialist political leadership. Referring to the latter contemptuously as either “illiterate cropper” or “cowboy,” they do not trust them and are unfaithful to their supervision, believing they themselves should replace them as the leaders. This is a challenge to the party’s political line, which aims to transforming the “(petty) bourgeois” intellectuals into members of the proletariat by fundamentally transforming their political consciousness, rather than elevating the knowledge of the masses with the leadership of the bourgeois. The intellectual has no role outside of society; rather, he is expected to be integrated seamlessly with the people. In theory, he thus becomes the people’s intellectual. But forced to follow the party’s political line and obey its policies, in practice he becomes the party’s intellectual. Ding Ling was not used to this role. Transferred from the editorship in March 1942, she had been persuaded to accept Maoist ideology, thereby conquering her sense of alienation in her full identification with the “people’s stand,” namely, the party’s position. After Mao’s Yan’an Talks, partially a response to the criticism offered by intellectuals like Ding Ling, she spent two years studying and participating in the movement of thought reform in the Party school. When she again started writing in 1944, she chose to write more on a positive note, on the “brighter aspects of life.” Increasingly, she wrote impressions (yinxiangji), communications (tongxin), records of life (shenghuo shilu), and reportage (baodao) about model workers and soldiers, as well as heroic deeds. These heroic figures are not individualist heroes; rather, they are products of society, everyone “[incorporating] the ideals and institutions of his community into his own personal behavior.”17 At the same time, the characters often appear to be standing alone, aloof to the masses around them, the collective seeming almost abstract, as if not a real entity, playing the minor role of cheering for the heroes’ achievements.18 Beyond the immaturity of the skill of the writer herself, these inconsistencies were also the result of existing social contradictions,19 which serve as Ibid., 111. Ibid. 19 According to Jameson, the “adequation of content to form there realized, or not realized, or realized according to determinate proportions, is in the long run one of the most precious indices to its realization in the historical moment itself, and indeed form is itself but the working out of content in the realm of the superstructure…The insufficiency of a work of art is not at all to be seen as the result of individual clumsiness, Hegel tells us in the Aesthetics, ‘rather, the insufficiency of the form derives from the insufficiency of the content.’” Fredric Jameson, Marxism and Form (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), 329. 17 18

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the framework for our following discussion of Ding Ling’s magnum opus from this period. A ProletariaN Subjectivity




In the last stage of Ding Ling’s identity transformation (or rather, formation), endeavoring to change her style of writing from speaking for the people to be speaking by the people, she sought to become a party intellectual (zhishi fenzi), which for her simultaneously meant becoming a part of the masses. Such is her ultimate identification with society, dispelling her sense of alienation from the “new society” of the liberated region and the party’s bureaucrats. Nonetheless, this identification could hardly be seen as complete. Ding Ling participated energetically in the party’s land reform movement in July 1946. “The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River,” published two years later, narrates the process of land reform in a northern village and is the incarnation of this experience. As the writer’s first experiment with the genre of the novel in depicting the revolutionary movement, the work represents Ding Ling’s determination to correct her prior “false stance,” presenting heroic party cadres to educate the masses. The purpose of the land reform was as much to distribute the land of the landlords as it was to mobilize and awaken the peasants’ class consciousness. Therefore, on one hand, the characterization of the change of the inner world of characters, especially for the most conservative ones, represents the concept of fanshen (standing up) for the subaltern class; nevertheless, on the other hand, the significance of liberation is ostensibly challenged by obscure figures within the story. The misgivings toward the political act of land reform are articulated by Gu Yong, a well-to-do middle peasant. The narrator informs us that he achieves his economic success solely through forty-eight years of hard work. But he is labeled by the party’s work team as a rich peasant, and out of pressure he is persuaded by neighborhood friend Hu Tai to submit his land to the team for redistribution. Why does the writer include this plot, which seems to counter the message of fanshen? Ding Ling certainly tries to expose the problems in the party’s work, but different from the exposure literature created earlier in her career, “The Sun Shines” is a problem story, meant to invite the attention of the party and to rectify the situation. Since Ding Ling could not fully know the political import of land reform, the traditional concept of “fairness” here still poses a great challenge to the social leveling process that she aimed to extol and present (though, to a certain extent, this “unfairness” could potentially also be explained away by the traditional Chinese concept of “robbing the rich to help the poor,” or jiefu jipin, 劫富济贫). Out of her consistent concern for the fate of women during this reform, the author also describes the piteous situation of women from the landlord families who suffer during the movement. There is also some ambiguity here: 42

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the narrator indeed presents them as harboring resentment toward the redistribution of their property – a sort of class hatred – but their emotive performances not only invite the sympathy of the peasants, who consequently halt their actions in face of their tears, but also subtly trigger complex feelings for the reader. Again, as if to counterbalance this uneasy feeling, we are introduced to Heini, a girl originally cast as a close relative of the landlord. Her identity is later revised to be ambiguous, perhaps a niece of the landlord. Her upbringing further distances her from the landlord family; because of the oppressive life she endures, she takes on a role as a semi-proletariat figure. Her standing up, with her love affair with a party cadre, further confirms her “real” class identity. Another woman worthy of note is the wife of the assistant head of the village. Without even a jacket in winter, she leads a difficult life. She thus receives the favor of a landlord’s wife, but because of this, she is beaten bitterly by her husband, a local cadre. This embarrassing abuse of woman by a revolutionary cadre is redressed by the ending, in which she receives an exquisite set of attire and cloth and proudly displays them to the passersby, when the villagers distribute the property of the landlords. The message seems to be that revolution would correct all the problems it engenders during its turbulent process. But tensions still exist, as shown in the party cadres who lack proper political consciousness. None are qualified to be called revolutionary paragons, unlike the figures found in the writer’s literary sketches. Again, these “non-typical phenomena” appear as discordant messages in the text, but they serve less as deconstructive elements than as elements showing the legitimacy of the reform itself. This is so not only because these “fissures” are oftentimes counterbalanced by other incidents within the text,20 but also because when the revolutionary jobs are performed by these imperfect persons, it shows that the movement galvanizes a universal participation and effectively lifts everyone in the process. Nevertheless, why does Ding Ling choose those “nontypical” landlords, upper middle-class peasants, and poor peasants without class consciousness, or at least without salient outer manifestations of class distinctions, as the protagonists of her novel? This question is closely related to her ideas about class consciousness and subjectivity, which show the distance of her viewpoints from that of the party. She acknowledges that the novel is “an ‘interweaving’ of actual personal experience and ideas absorbed from various party documents.”21 Though not exactly what she saw in For instance, despite the ill treatment of Dong Guihua, a party cadre, by her husband, he also confirms the strength of her work; and although Zhou Yueying, another cadre, suffered beatings by her shepherd husband, the narrator also informs us that “once her temper was up she feared neither man nor devil, and at such times people would gather round her and unite under her passionate leadership.” See Feuerwerker, Ding Ling’s Fiction, 172. 21 Ding Ling, “Yidian jingyan” (A Bit of Experience), in Zuojia Tan Chuangzuo (Writers Talk about Writing) (Beijing: Zhongguo Qinnian Chubanshe, 1955), 4. 20

reality, she nevertheless insists on an empirical approach to reality. Yet the socialist realist novel intends not only to dissect the existing world, but also to detail the process of creating a new world by constructing “a working model of historical forces in operation.”22 Literary works are thus more than presenting reality as it is. But the discrepancies between empirical reality and theoretical building seem to have made Ding Ling uneasy, analyzable through comparing the fissures in her novel and party discourse. In Marxist theory, proper class consciousness is not a spontaneous reaction that merely articulates the social beings encompassed within classes, encapsulating the complexities of social existence. Rather, it is a revolutionary class consciousness, aware of where the true interests and stakes of the class lie. But the subjectivity of the peasant class in the novel is merely taken to be their desire to acquire land. It is for this reason that we witness the ambiguous masses and the uneasy sentiments stemming from the loss of land acquired by personal toil. By contrast, the more important aspect of the party’s work – the fundamental transformation of the peasants’ traditional ethical-moral concepts, including their idea of property ownership, in order to reach a true revolutionary consciousness to build a new society, with new social relations – is not seen in the novel. The incapacity to describe this proletariat consciousness as the class subjectivity of the peasant masses is therefore not a result the writer’s own shortsightedness, but rather fundamentally conditioned by Chinese historical reality: the revolutionary consciousness of the “semi-proletarian” – the peasants, as theorized by Mao – was not was existed in the class consciousness of acquiring land. Instead, it needed to be awakened, bettered, to be formed out of revolutionary theory promoted by revolutionaries. It did not exist as in the case of certain industrialized Western countries, in which the “proletarian” – the industrial workers – had for a long time cultivated a class consciousness supposedly identical to the revolutionary consciousness. If the first enlightenment movement of the New Culture Movement, which focused on the promotion of individual rights, freedom, and liberal democracy among urban citizens by the intellectuals of the May Fourth generation, did not succeed due to China’s social contradiction, then this alleged new enlightenment, which centered around awakening the political awareness of the subaltern and establishing the “people’s democracy,” also failed to fulfill its potential. Nonetheless, though the masses were largely “liberated” by the party, they not acquire the consciousness and the capability to be the masters of their own fate. Consequently, the failure to present a collective subjectivity works side by side with a weak representation of a new individual subjectivity. This dilemma of forming class subjectivity, on both of the two levels, is also associated with the predicament of establishing a new culture – both its premise and its outcome. 22

Feuerwerker, Ding Ling’s Fiction, 142.

This “new culture” calls forth the assertion of a salient class consciousness, but it is a difficult job. The masses, as a new historical subject, as well as their own literary skills, cultural sophistication, and political distinction, still have to be fostered and cultivated. And since there was not a stage of fully developed bourgeois culture in modern China, apart from traditional culture and a less than fully developed May Fourth culture (more often than not despised by this new revolutionary culture), a culture needed to be formed from the void. Thus with rural peasants as the proletarian, this new revolutionary culture involved an urban life, a lifestyle that many Chinese revolutionaries had rarely experienced before. In short, for this “new culture” as envisioned and tested by Ding Ling, the allegedly historically new subject, the peasant “proletarian,” had to be represented – but they could not represent themselves, and the intellectuals who were to represent them themselves needed to be educated in revolutionary theory. In the final analysis, because of the lack of an existing proletarian consciousness, it is the Party, vanguard of the proletarian, that says the last word. Indeed, as Tani Barlow points out, the writer “achieves self-definition in the end through service to the Party,”23 and she takes this simultaneously to be a service to the people. From this point of view, the change of Ding Ling from a veteran May Fourth-styled writer to a staunch Communist writer can be appreciated from a new angle. And the fissures, cracks, and discordant voices/discourses in her novel can be put into a new framework, to be seen as a stage in a dialectical developmental in a transitional period, in an experiment with an “alternative modernity.” The conflicting discourses in her novel, as well as in her articles, can be seen as a result of the social contradiction that was (and still is) far from being resolved. Conclusion This paper suggests that the four-stage change of the writer’s intellectual position is simultaneously a gradual adjustment of her perspectives and a revision of her opinions of the “woman’s problem”: there was a shift of focus from the women themselves to society and its power of structure as the cause of the problem, and correspondingly, the modification of her cultural and political strategy. Her differing identities not only show her drastically shifted subjectivities in her efforts to conquer her sense of alienation, but also correspond to four shifting notions of literature, or literatures as sociocultural institutions. The ambiguities and tensions in her treatment of the “woman’s problem” throughout the period reveal irresolvable historical contradictions, making her efforts an unfinished revolution.


Barlow, “Introduction,” 45.

From Feminist to Party Intellectual? | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


In between “the raw” and “the cooked”: The cultural speculation and debate on puer tea in contemporary china

jinghong zhang · yunnan university Abstract


This paper reflects upon one aspect of enduring as well as transformed characteristics of Chinese cultural consumption via looking at the recent Puer tea fad in contemporary China. Lévi-Strauss’s binary concept on “the raw” and “the cooked” enlightens me on structuring the packaging of Puer tea from its rise to its fall and rethinking the concerns over moderation, criticism, and clarifying and obscuring the facts about Puer tea. It is these cultural concerns and the tension between each of them that are rooted in the enduring and transformed characteristics of Chinese cultural consumption, which I argue had predetermined the fate of Puer tea from its rise to its fall.

Twenty-first century China has seen an upsurge of economic development and intensifying commercialization. In some urban areas, a sort of fetishism has emerged around investment in various commodities, from jade and other antiques to real estate. This paper investigates the trends surrounding Puer tea, a tea originating in Yunnan Province of southwest China. I will reflect upon how this tea is packaged by multiple actors into a fashionable drink, and more importantly how such packaging is challenged and unpacked by multiple counter forces. I argue that the experience of Puer tea demonstrates both enduring and transformed characteristics of Chinese cultural consumption. First, a brief introduction about Puer tea is necessary. The resources for producing Puer tea come mainly from

The above image shows caked Puer tea in storage. All photos included in this article were taken by the author. 44

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southwest Yunnan, located in three sub-districts along the Mekong River: Xishuangbanna, Simao (which changed its name to “Puer” in April 2007), and Lincang (see Figure 1). Most tea trees in Yunnan are thea assamica; this type of tea is referred to as large-leaf tea, in contrast to thea sinensis, known as small-leaf tea, which is more popular in east China. This large-leaf plant is considered most suitable for Puer tea. “Puer,” however, does not refer to a particular category or species of tea tree – according to a popular saying, the tea was named after the place “Puer,” which had been a famous goods distribution and taxation center in southern Yunnan since at least the early seventeenth century.1 Before modern transportation emerged, Puer tea was carried from Yunnan, a rugged mountainous region, to the outside world by horse or mule caravan. For convenience of transport, Puer tea was often made in compressed form, popularly as a round cake. The most famous route was to Tibet, where Puer tea was welcomed as a digestive aid. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Puer tea was also sent to the Qing emperor in Beijing as a tribute. Due to its connection with caravan journey and royal consumption, current books and popular magazines often portray Puer tea as having specific historical and cultural value.2 At present, different post-fermentation processes have created essentially three kinds of Puer tea. The first is raw Puer tea (sheng cha, 生茶, or xin cha, 新茶). Being made of large-leaf tea, raw Puer tea can be very astringent when it is young. The next two categories use raw Puer tea with different methods of fermentation. The second category is aged raw Puer tea. This is raw Puer tea that should be at least five years old (lao sheng cha, 老生茶). It develops from the first category after longterm storage, though a consensus has not yet been reached on how many years of storage are required before the tea is called aged. Generally, the older the tea, the more expensive its price—yue chen yue xiang (越陈越香). It is believed that “natural” fermentation (mostly oxidation, possibly with some microbial enzymatic reaction) occurs during long-term storage. The result is that the tea turns from astringent to mild. The third category is artificially fermented or ripe Puer tea (shu cha, 熟茶), the product of a method used to transform the astringent feature of raw Puer tea. By exposing the Fang Guoyu, “Puer Cha” (Puer Tea), in Fang Guoyu Wenji: Di Si Ji (The Collected Works of Fang Guoyu, Volume 4), ed. Lin Chaomin (Kunming: Yunnan Jiaoyu Chubanshe, 2001), 426430; Xie Zhaozhi, “Dian Lue: Juan San” (Yunnan Account, Volume 3), in Puer Cha Jingdian Wenxuan (Classic Anthology on Puer Tea), ed. Wang Meijin (Kunming: Yunnan Meishu Chubanshe, 2005), 3. 2 Li Yan and Yang Zejun, Tianxia Puer (Puer Tea under Heaven) (Kunming: Yunnan Daxue Chubanshe, 2004). 1

Figure 1: A map of Yunnan

tea leaves to a specific temperature and humidity, the postfermentation of Puer tea (which occurs mainly through a microbial enzymatic reaction) is accelerated to two or three months. This artificial technique was formally invented in Kunming in 1973. In the tea market, it is said that artificially fermented Puer tea can also be further “naturally” stored, at which point it would be called aged artificially fermented Puer tea. Tea has long been acknowledged to have medicinal effects, and experiments on Puer tea have tried to demonstrate its effects on weight loss, improving digestion, reducing fever, lowering high blood pressure, and protecting against various diseases such as cancer, constipation, coronary disease, and hardening of the arteries.3 Unlike most other kinds of tea, appreciated for their freshness, Puer tea is praised as “a drinkable antique” that has better taste and significantly higher value after long-term storage. In the past ten years, the price of aged Puer tea has See Liu Qinjin, Zhongguo Puer Cha Zhi Kexue Du Ben (A Scientific Book on China’s Puer Tea) (Guangzhou: Guangdong Lüyou Chubanshe, 2005); Zhou Hongjie, Puer Cha Jiankang Zhi Dao (The Way that Puer Tea Benefits Health) (Xi’an: Shanxi Renmin Chubanshe, 2007).


Jinghong Zhang was born in Kunming, Yunnan, China. She was awarded a BA degree in Journalism at Yunnan University in 1997, an MA in folklore at Yunnan University in 2004, and a PhD in anthropology at The Australian National University in 2011. From 1997 to 2001, she worked as a journalist at Kunming Television Station. She is currently a lecturer at the Institution of Humanities at Yunnan University, and her teaching and research areas include media studies and anthropology (visual anthropology in particular). She can be reached at In Between “the Raw” and “the Cooked” | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


Figure 2: Dayi product. The character in the center of the tea cake is 益 (yi), literally meaning benefit or increase.

Figure 3: Zhongcha product. The character in the center is 茶 (tea), surrounded by eight 中 (referring to China)

increased a great deal. I was told by informants that in the 1980s, when connoisseurs began noticing its value, one piece (usually 357 grams) sold for less than 1000 RMB. The price reached over 10,000 RMB in the 1990s, and in 2002, one piece traded for over one million RMB. This astounding price has inspired the production and storage of even more Puer tea. Meanwhile, however, the market suffered from counterfeits; Puer tea stored for three years was often said to be stored for thirty, and tea originating in Sichuan was marketed as having come from Yunnan. Puer tea packaging was often unclear, and judgment on the tea depended as much on one’s own ability as it did on careful negotiations with traders. This paper contains part of my doctoral research, which traces Puer tea’s journey from Yunnan to the outside and from multiple rural production sites to multiple urban consumption areas. One of my main research sites was Yiwu (see Figure 1), among the most famous areas of Puer tea production. Yiwu is located on the east bank of the Mekong under the Xishuangbanna Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan that borders Laos. I also visited Menghai, the other major Puer tea production region on the west bank of the Mekong in Xishuangbanna, as well as Simao, when there were special events related to Puer tea. The other main research site was Kunming, the capital of Yunnan and the most important distribution and consumption place for Puer tea in southwest China. I also took opportunities to make short visits to Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Taiwan, where the consumption of Puer tea has had a major impact on Yunnan. This paper is centered primarily on my time in Kunming in 2007, when Puer tea prices were experiencing strong fluctuation, raising economic, social, and cultural debates over the explanation of the rise and fall of this commodity.

for them. I was happy to introduce them to some of my acquaintances in Yiwu who produced tea, but at the same time I also felt uneasy about this difficult task, as one person’s food might be another person’s poison. This uneasiness became even stronger when I received a call from a close relative who rarely drank tea; he asked me to buy some Puer tea in Yiwu that would increase in value in the future. But there were over 50 family brands in Yiwu. It was very hard for me to predict which ones would rise in value with certainty. Several days later he called me again saying that he only needed me to buy a few samples of tea from Yiwu. Another friend in Menghai had collected some famous and expensive types for him, such as Dayi (Figure 2), the brand of the Menghai Tea Factory, and Zhongcha, from the Chinese Tea Company in Yunnan (Figure 3). Later in Kunming I saw the valuable tea that his friend had bought. They were Dayi 7542, the so-called representative product of raw Puer tea; Dayi 7572, the representative of artificially fermented Puer tea;4 and several pieces of Zhongcha, packaged with old paper and declared to be aged. Altogether they cost him over 10,000 RMB, it seemed that he was keen to obtain more if possible. My relative was very busy, and I wondered how he had spare time to think about Puer tea. He told me that the tea was not for drinking, but rather for an investment for the future. Meanwhile, it became obvious that many people were developing a great passion for Puer tea. From my mother, I learned that several of her old colleagues, who used to work in the engineering industry, were beginning to open tea shops in Kunming. Near my parents’ house there used to be a grocery store in a crowded street; overnight, it was transformed into a Puer tea shop. It seemed that Puer tea was breaking the old Chinese custom that tea shops should be located in quiet

Tea Frying and Tea Speculation

“75” refers to the tea prescription initially applied in 1975; “7” or “4” refers to the grade of the basic tea material; “2” stands for the Menghai Tea Factory. 7572 is artificially fermented Puer, and 7542 is (naturally fermented) raw Puer. Both of them are products of the Menghai Tea Factory.


While staying in Yiwu for fieldwork, beginning in early April 2007, I received many requests from friends in Kunming asking me to find and purchase some good Puer tea


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | In Between “the Raw” and “the Cooked”

places. Even in the vegetable market near my house I saw an old woman selling caked Puer tea with a moving stall, which looked extraordinary (Figure 4). A local magazine, Puer Jianghu, in its June issue of 2007, said that there were three times as many Puer tea shops in China in 2006 as there were in 2005. Even more opened in 2007. As one of my journalist friends joked, it was the moment of “quan min jie cha”, entire nation engaged in tea (全民皆茶).5 Many indicators showed that people were speculating on Puer tea, just as people speculated on stocks in financial markets. In Kunming tea houses, I saw people drinking and talking about Puer tea around a tea table while checking interest rates and share prices with a laptop. Among this group there would usually be a tea expert, who instructed the group members on how to properly collect, infuse, and drink Puer tea. There was also often a stock expert, who instructed them on how to follow the ups and downs of the stock market. These tea shop groups were made up of people who both chao cha (炒茶), speculate on Puer tea, and chao gu (炒股), speculate on the stock market. It was said that half the Puer tea in China was in Guangdong. In its capital Guangzhou, in March and April 2007, the price of Puer tea increased rapidly once it changed hands in the Fangcun Tea Market, China’s largest wholesale tea market. Most Puer tea was traded by the jian (件). One jian contains twelve stacks, one stack contains seven pieces, and one piece of Puer tea usually weighs 375 grams. Each jian thus contains eighty-four pieces of caked Puer tea, weighing a total of 31.5 kilograms. Before I went to Fangcun, I heard a saying: “If you ask how much one piece of Puer tea is, no one will pay attention to you; but if you ask how much one jian is, the merchant will put a chair in front of you and ask for a detailed consultation.” Puer tea was being sold as a bulk commodity, and also as a product for exchange or storage rather than immediate consumption. A local trader described to me the incredible rising of Puer tea prices in Fangcun at that time: The price of some Puer tea can change completely in a single day. It can be 5000 RMB in the morning and turn into 5200 RMB in the afternoon. It can sometimes increase by 500 RMB in just a few hours. Not all kinds of tea can be speculated on like this – only Puer tea, with its “long-lasting” characteristic.

Before this it had been popularly said that “if you didn’t buy Puer tea when you were young, you will regret it when you’re old.” During the speculation craze, the saying became “if you didn’t buy one jian of Puer tea today, you will regret it tomorrow.” When my friends learned that I was doing research on Puer tea, many commented meaningfully that I was making a good choice, hinting that I could gain great advantages by joining in chao cha, like many in Kunming, Yunnan, Guangdong, and throughout China. The original meaning of chao cha is stir-frying tea with fire (but without oil), often in a very large wok, a standard part of tea’s rough production (Figure 5). The process is Developed from the popular slogan “quan min jie bing,” entire nation in arms (全民皆兵).


Figure 4: Selling Puer tea in a Kunming vegetable market

an important method of controlling the degree of fermentation in tea leaves, boosting the aroma of tea, and making tea more preservable.6 Different degrees of stir-frying are applied to different kinds of tea according to the fermentation process. Green tea is non-fermented, and its stir-frying must deactivate all enzymes to ensure that fermentation will not take place. Oolong tea is partially fermented, and when its fermentation reaches around fifty percent, stir-frying is used to stop any further fermentation. Puer tea is produced with post-fermentation: stir-frying stops enzyme activity temporarily but leaves the possibility of post-fermentation in a subsequent procedure. The temperature for frying Puer tea, therefore, should not be so high that it kills all enzymes, nor should it be so low that fermentation is not temporarily halted.7 In Yiwu, I observed that the temperature for tea frying is an important issue for both tea peasants and tea traders, with the correct temperature being determined by personal experience rather than actual measurement. When people mentioned chao cha to me, they used the term in an extended and metaphorical sense. Here, chao (stir-frying) is to deliberately heat and elevate the profile of something. Chao cha, in this context, thus indicates that Puer tea was a subject of speculation, exactly like the stock market. Chen Chuan, Chaye Tong Shi (The Whole History of Tea) (Beijing: Nongye Chubanshe, 1984), 189. 7 Shi Kunmu, Jingdian Puer (The Scripture of Puer) (Beijing: Tong Xin Chubanshe, 2005), 65-68. 6

In Between “the Raw” and “the Cooked” | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


Figure 5: A local tea peasant stir-frying tea leaves in a wok in Yiwu.

Not all kinds of tea could be subject to this sort of speculation, but because Puer tea is said to be a “drinkable antique,” it could be purchased, exchanged, and stored in the hope that it would increase in value. Lévi-Strauss’s conceptual distinction between “the raw” and “the cooked” can thus be borrowed to interpret the transformation of Puer tea.8 According to Lévi-Strauss, via “cooking” nature is transformed, and culture is defined, similar to the ideas of maturation and socialization in the Chinese and Confucian concepts referring to the processes of acculturation and education. In the classical “culinary triangle,” Lévi-Strauss compares three different methods of cooking: roasting, boiling, and smoking, any of which could be more natural or cultural than the others depending upon different cooking methods and different cooking results.9 In the case of Puer tea, the primary processing method is not roasting, boiling, or smoking, but frying (without oil), which Lévi-Strauss mentions less, but which nonetheless does coincide with his Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked (London: Jonathon Cape, 1970); Claude Lévi-Strauss, “The culinary triangle,” in Food and Culture: A Reader, ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik (New York: Routledge, 2008), 36-44. 9 See also Edmund Leach, Claude Lévi-Strauss (New York: Viking, 1970). 8


general argument that through frying Puer tea is transformed from natural tea leaves into a cultural drink. In the words of Lévi-Strauss, food is not only good to eat, but also good to think about. In the case of Puer tea, in one sense it is fried technically and physically, reaching a balance that is good for drinking as well as for post-fermentation. In another sense, it is fried metaphorically, heated up toward humanly endowed values: taste value, health value, cultural value, and wealth value. When people mention chao cha on the latter level, it refers to any symbolic behavior, propaganda, or even the stock-like speculation that elevated the value of Puer tea. Both senses of frying demonstrate Lévi-Strauss’s theory in a particular way: the more artificial the interference, the further away the tea is from its natural state. Following on from the story of its being heated up, this paper will further tell the story of how Puer tea met trouble in the summer of 2007 when the price fell and its values were questioned. Various voices emerged, attempting to find out the basic reason for Puer tea’s downfall. One notable point of view attributed Puer tea’s fall to excessive artificial interference; using the metaphor again, the temperature of stir-frying had become too high. Puer tea became over-cooked and therefore problematic. Lévi-Strauss’s binary concept enlightens me on structuring the packaging of Puer tea from its rise to its fall, and this binary also helps with re-thinking all sorts of oppositional reflections about Puer tea. In addition, by contrasting Puer tea’s heating up and cooling down, I hope to explore the interplay between multiple human actors, their divergence and interaction in authenticating Puer tea, and their concerns with moderation, criticism, and clarifying and obscuring the facts about the tea. It is these cultural concerns and the tension between each of them that are rooted in the enduring and transformed characteristics of Chinese cultural consumption, which I argue had predetermined the fate of Puer tea from its rise to its fall. And in this regard, I contend that the downfall of Puer tea cannot simply be understood from an economic perspective – which mainly attributes the recession to speculation, greed, and failure to obey basic economic rules – but that it has to be understood in terms of the public debate about cultural values. Two Earthquakes An earthquake of magnitude 6.4 occurred in Simao (a sub-district of Yunnan) on June 3, 2007. Three people were killed, 562 people were injured, and over a million people suffered property damage in Puer. The direct economic loss was 25 billion RMB.10 Besides the casualties, people were very concerned about the impact on Puer tea production. One economic analyst, Xia Tao, expressed this concern when 10

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | In Between “the Raw” and “the Cooked”

“Yunnan Puer Fasheng 6.4 Ji Dizhen” (6.4 Richter Scale Earthquake Occurred in Puer), CCTV (China Central Television), accessed July 1, 2007, peearthquake/index.shtml.

he later participated in a talk on China Central Television 2 (CCTV2) on January 20, 2008: “The price of Puer tea kept increasing all through the spring. Theoretically, it should have jumped up higher due to the production loss caused by the earthquake. However, the price didn’t rise soon after the earthquake. At that point, I said to myself that something wrong must be happening.” An economic report on Puer tea by Economy 30’ on CCTV2 was screened on June 15, 2007. This report was taken as the turning point for Puer tea, though the reduction in price had actually begun earlier, and it became a specific target that Puer tea supporters later challenged. The report stated that two earthquakes were affecting Puer tea: the earthquake in Simao, the production area of Puer tea, and the earthquake affecting Puer tea’s price in the marketplace. Titled “The Bubble of Puer tea is Broken,” the thirty-minute program started its report from the Fangcun Tea Market in Guangzhou, the biggest tea distribution center in China, the Puer tea price of which was regarded as the barometer for all tea markets in China. The report said that the price of Puer tea there had fallen by half in the previous thirty days. One jian of 7572 Puer tea (31.5 kilograms) had sold at 20,000 RMB a month before, but its price at that point was only 9000 RMB, and its factory price 5000 RMB. Drawing a comparison to speculation on the stock market, the report described the large tea factories and companies, along with their distributors, as the invisible hands “shuffling the tiles.” It gave an example to show how, in the past few months, Puer tea’s value had been deliberately elevated: Let’s take thirty kilograms of Puer tea as an example. Its factory price is 4800 RMB; the first level of distributor, who acquires the dealership at a very high cost, sells only 20 percent of his stock, causing misinformation that the product is scarce in the market. The dealer then repurchases the tea at a higher price to elevate the value; he then sells his entire stock at this higher price. After this speculation is repeated at the second- and the third-level distributors, the price of this Puer tea reaches 23,000 RMB. The private investors who buy it at this stage are caught up in the market, and it is hard for them to escape.

According to the report, the rising price of the basic tea material in the production area was also spurred by deliberate elevation in urban markets. And when the most powerful “bankers”11 suddenly withdrew, private investors and middlemen could do nothing. The report included several astounding figures: 1. The fee that distributors must pay to the big tea factories for distribution rights ranged from 1,000,000 RMB to 30,000,000 RMB. The more they paid, the larger the amount of Puer tea that they could order. In the report, this point was considered to be the key reason that Puer tea’s price had become so extraordinarily high, since all distributors must find ways to recover their initial investments. 2. The report said that dealers had between 100 and 300 tons Here, “bankers” refers to those powerful Puer tea investors, including big tea companies.


of Puer tea in stock that they could not resell after the price collapse. 3. It said that ninety-five percent of tea products were used for speculation and storage, with only five percent for actual consumption. Citing the words of one tea expert in Guangdong, the report said that “even without buying another piece of Puer tea from the production area, it would take Guangdong between five and eight years to drink its store.” The report drew the conclusion that Puer tea’s rise and fall was due to improper speculation. It asked ordinary investors a rhetorical question: “For a certain commodity, if the quantity in storage is far more than its actual consumption, would it be valued so high?” The report had great repercussions due to its national exposure, becoming the hottest topic for discussion among people who cared about the Puer tea business. Another influential media report was in a magazine called Xinshengdai (New Generations), published by the Sichuan Youth Newspaper. It said that the total Chinese population involved in chao cha, Puer tea speculation, had reached thirty million. It argued that this large population had been tiao xi (调戏), played a trick on, by the complicity of bankers, illegal traders, large tea companies, and government officials.12 Examining Puer tea’s popularity as the focus of stock market-like speculation, the article presented a case study on the problems inherent in the business model of Zhongcha, the brand of the Chinese Tea Company in Yunnan. In this model, Zhongcha Company authorized private companies to “produce” Puer tea that was specially packaged as Zhongcha. What these private processors thus sold was actually the marked package rather than the authentic technique and quality of Zhongcha Puer tea. As a result, fake Puer tea flooded the marketplace. Just like my relative who had asked me to collect Puer tea for him, many investors had spent their money on brands like Zhongcha that they believed were produced by famous Puer tea companies, with popular wisdom telling them that these brands would have the potential to increase in value. The report by Xinshengdai, as well as the actual downturn in the tea market, swayed their faith in the authenticity of these products. The tea that my relative bought, as far as I knew, still remained untouched. Before Puer tea’s downfall, these media reports, especially those from Yunnan, had always carried “good news” about Puer tea, celebrating its value and reporting positive events. Simao, the sub-district of Yunnan, for example, changed its name to “Puer” on April 8, 2007, which was hailed by media reports as a great display of the prosperity of Yunnan’s Puer tea industry. Many have also celebrated the stories of modern caravans that had recently retraced the routes of old-time tea caravans, these modern caravans organized by tea associations or tea companies and approved by the state government. They started from Simao (in 2005), Guo Yukuan, “Puer Luan Ju” (The Chaotic Situation of Puer tea), Xinshengdai (New Generations), June 2007, 14-40.


In Between “the Raw” and “the Cooked” | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


Yiwu (in 2006), or somewhere else in Yunnan, carried Puer tea, and traveled thousands of kilometers toward Beijing or Tibet, where Puer tea was auctioned at high prices. By contrast, since June 2007, national media and media from other provinces had become the pioneers of “bad news” about Puer tea. For the first time, some of its “brilliant aspects” were said to be nothing, and perhaps even negative factors. The production process of Puer tea, for example, described as delicate and labor-intensive in past publications, was now reported to be “not complex or mysterious at all”; the medicinal function of Puer tea, very positively publicized before, was now pointed out to be “almost the same as other sorts of tea.”13 One report said that “the special function of Puer tea has yet to be further proved,” and that “it is misguided propaganda that Puer tea has a long-lasting feature.”14 The Voices from Yunnan I attended a symposium at the end of June 2007 in Kunming, two weeks after the show about Puer tea’s recession had been broadcast. It was organized by the Puer Tea Association of Yunnan and was attended by state government officials, local media, principals of several big tea companies, tea experts, and some self-invited tea traders. Most were from Yunnan, though a few guests were invited from Beijing. A banner displayed the title of the conference: “The Voices from Yunnan—the Clarification of Puer tea’s Current Situation.” I felt that the atmosphere was very serious. First, the report by CCTV2 was screened. This screening, together with the following statements, demonstrated the hostility of the symposium sponsor toward the central media report. It said informally that the report by CCTV2 was the result of bribery by groups hostile to Yunnan’s Puer tea and that the symposium was a counterattack. Puer Tea Weekly, a Puer tea media outlet supported by the Puer Tea Association of Yunnan, in its 53rd issue in June 2007, declared the purpose of the symposium as follows: Puer tea has recently encountered fluctuation, and its sales are at a temporary standstill. False reports, together with spiteful rumors, have seriously harmed this newly emerged industry. This symposium was organized under such conditions.

These “false reports” clearly referred to the claims by media outlets such as CCTV2 and Xinshengdai. Some attendants at the symposium expressed their anger that the key feature of Puer tea, yue chen yue xiang (the longer the storage, the better the taste), was being weakened by those reports, and the medicinal function of Puer tea was said to be just the same as other kinds of tea. In some speakers’ statements, these “negative” reports might have been deliberately plotted by groups of people whose interests had been harmed by Puer tea’s popularity. At the end of the symposium, despite some differing opinions, a manifesto was composed, calling for the “protec “Economy 30’,” television program, CCTV2, June 15, 2007. Wang Xun, “Puer cha shifo shenqi?” (Is Puer tea miraculous?), China Newsweek 325.19 (2007), 31.

13 14


tion of Puer tea” and “defending it against any harm.” The manifesto also stressed that Yunnan was the original home of tea, and that Puer tea had to be made from Yunnan’s large-leaf tea variety. In the following months, the Tea Association of Yunnan and some allied tea units organized a series of activities. Mass media from Beijing were invited to Yunnan to report about the “truth” of Puer tea. At the same time, a panel from Yunnan went to Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai, participating in local tea festivals and trade fairs to publicize Puer tea’s positive image. In November, more panels organized by the government, along with private tea companies and traders, were encouraged to participate in the Tea Trade Fair in Guangzhou, the premier annual tea fair in China. When the long-lasting merit of Puer tea came to be doubted during the downturn, a new concept on consuming Puer tea was advocated widely in Yunnan. This new idea promoted immediate consumption and attempted to address the CCTV2 claim that “even without buying another piece of Puer tea from the production area, it would take Guangdong between five and eight years to drink its store.” Overcooked or Too Raw? Although the provincial government had developed a series of events to “protect” Puer tea, criticism continued, formally and informally, attempting to reflect upon the root cause of the recession. I want to enumerate more of these voices to illustrate the multiple public opinions that were circulating and to further illustrate the cultural characteristics that shaped the rise and fall of Puer tea. Generally, there were two main opinions. On the one hand, it was said that Puer tea’s downfall was due to too many things being done; metaphorically, Puer tea was overcooked. On the other hand, an alternative point of view attributed Puer tea’s crisis to a lack of proper effort; metaphorically, Puer tea hadn’t been cooked enough and was still too raw. For those making the “overcooked” argument, the government, whether at the provincial or district level, was the number one culprit blamed. Since 1993, there had been over ten conferences on Puer tea (some attached to trade fairs) inside or outside of Yunnan, and all were sponsored by local authorities. The name change of Simao, caravan expeditions, various celebrity performances, the auction of Puer tea, and even the elevation of tea price, were all criticized as the deliberate over-packaging of Puer tea by the government. When the “stock market value” of Puer tea was discussed at the symposium, I suddenly realized that the meeting room, situated in a wholesale tea market in Kunming, was actually the place where electronic transactions for Puer tea took place. The screen, which that day showed the CCTV2 report, was normally used to show the latest information about Puer tea, including the most recent prices of Puer tea products. It functioned just like the electronic screens displaying interest rates in banks. Critical commentators said that there were other kinds

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | In Between “the Raw” and “the Cooked”

of “overdone” behavior: large tea companies, who asked for excessive distribution fees and approved inauthentic production, were blamed, as were skillful bankers who purportedly “played a trick” on individual investors, big traders who were hostile to Yunnan’s Puer tea, and individual investors, as well as consumers, who were too greedy and encountered bankruptcy. The effort to treat Puer tea as a unique tea category was criticized as well. In the Chinese tea academy, it had long been acknowledged there are altogether six kinds of tea according to different processing methods: green, white, yellow, bluegreen (oolong), red (black in English), and dark. Puer tea was categorized as dark tea.15 But when Puer tea became popular at the beginning of the twenty-first century, some tea experts in Yunnan began to argue that Puer tea should be treated as an independent category due to its unique processing procedures.16 Gao Zhao, a professor at Yunnan University and an expert in microbiology, criticized the tea academy of Yunnan for having attempted to make Puer tea independent from the six established categories of Chinese tea. When I interviewed him, he said that Puer tea should be placed in the dark tea category, since they shared many similarities in production procedures, though not all. Making Puer tea independent, he said, was actually making it isolated and vulnerable to attack. Speaking from his own tea storage experience, he told me that dark tea produced in Hunan and stored for a long time was also drinkable, and thus that the long-lasting feature was not unique to Puer tea, but rather overemphasized. Comments I heard in the tea houses echoed Gao’s point of view. Tea drinkers complained that Puer tea’s supporters should not have criticized other tea when they tried to heat up Puer tea. This, they said, had violated the rule of advertising and damaged the profitability of other tea. Many people cited old Chinese sayings to criticize the aggressive promotion of Puer tea: “tall trees catch much wind” (shu da zhao feng, 树 大招风), or “the bird that stands out is easily shot” (qiang da chu tou niao, 枪打出头鸟). To them, Puer tea’s downturn was confirming these old beliefs, commonly known to all Chinese. In traditional Chinese philosophy, originating from Taoism and applied in daily life, the number one position is dangerous because it is envied and easily attacked by others. When people reflected that Puer tea had been overspeculated, propagandized, and inappropriately redefined, they suggested that Puer tea had failed to obey a basic Chinese concept and was therefore attacked. There was also the opposite opinion: that Puer tea hadn’t been cooked enough and was still too raw. When the Chen Chuan, “Chaye Fenlei” (Tea Categorization), in Zhi Cha Xue (The Science of Tea Processing), ed. Anhui Agricultural Institution (Beijing: Zhongguo Nongye Chubanshe, 1999), 14-24. 16 Su Fanghua, “Hongyang Puer Cha Wenhua Rang Gengduo de Ren Xiai Puer Cha” (Promoting Puer Tea Culture to Have More Puer Tea Llovers), in 2002 Zhongguo Puer Cha Guoji Xueshu Yantaohui Lunwenji (Proceedings of 2002 International Academic Symposium on China Puer tea), ed. Su Fanghua (Kunming: Yunnan Renmin Chubanshe, 2002), 48-58.

symposium on the “Voices from Yunnan” was held, a special guest from Beijing sat on the platform wearing sunglasses. His whole face had never been shown to the public, but his name, Wang Hai, was famous. He was known as “the pioneer of cracking down on counterfeits in China” (zhongguo da jia di yi ren. 中国打假第一人), and he had engaged in a variety of activities to counter counterfeits. According to him, the report by the central media was not untrue, and the crisis lay in the unclear value of Puer tea. He raised a series of questions: Was Puer tea a drink or a medicine? Was it really a drinkable antique? What was fake and what was authentic? How could its exact age be known? Why didn’t people report it when they stumbled upon the production of fake tea? Was there a clear and scientific regulation to supervise all of these issues? He hinted that the answer to his questions was “no.” As everyone knew, all of these problems hadn’t been solved or clarified by the authorities, the tea researchers, the tea companies and traders, or the consumers. As a result, most identification of Puer tea relied upon individual experience. Wang Hai’s speech called for clearer and stronger regulations on Puer tea. Likewise, the propaganda sponsored by the state and implemented by mass media was thought to be insufficient. The publishing on Puer tea, according to some commentators, didn’t relate to the “authentic” culture of Yunnan, and it was not that Yunnan had produced excessive Puer tea but rather that the market lacked enough authentic Puer tea. These points of view, regarding “inadequacy” and the “raw,” actually responded to the “over-cooked” argument in another way as well. They reflected the fact that the output of Puer tea and the cultural packaging around it was increasing in quantity, but in terms of quality, few of these products were authentic. They highlighted the importance of the need for quality over quantity, as when quality was bad, quantity became nothing but waste. It implied that Puer tea had been simultaneously overcooked and too raw, and it called for a proper method for accurately identifying the quality of Puer tea. How, then, could Puer tea be cooked to exactly the appropriate degree? Appeals for accuracy and more powerful regulation had been made even before Puer tea’s recession, but they had never been successful. It seemed that once Puer tea was clearly defined, profits would be endangered. And facing endless debates, I had wondered whether vagueness itself was the best regulation for Puer tea in the cultural and social context of China. Conclusion: A Cultural Dilemma


In 2007, the whole Puer tea industry of Yunnan suffered from cooling after heating. Several factors were blamed, and past efforts that had successfully packaged Puer tea as being of very high value were seen as having led to indigestion in the entire market. Economic analysis released soon after the recession, as exemplified by the report of CCTV2, attributed the mar-

In Between “the Raw” and “the Cooked” | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


ket downfall to excessive speculation, improper investment, blind zest, and greed. Ultimately, however, popular sentiment regarded this economic analysis to be “false,” and the public perhaps even considered the analysis to be among the causes of Puer tea’s accelerated downfall. There is a continuing concern with “moderation,” a doctrine of Confucianism embodied in everyday life. Food should not be overcooked, nor should it be too raw; everything must find its proper position, a middle ground. This basic belief is applied by the Chinese to a person’s behavior, the relationship he or she has with others, and the way he or she understands objects. In diagnosing the recession of Puer tea, apart from blaming those antagonistic to Yunnan’s Puer tea, there was a strong element of self-criticism in public opinion. That is to say, Yunnan’s Puer tea came under attack because Yunnan itself, represented by the provincial government, had “overcooked” Puer tea through its marketing of the product and thereby damaged the interests of others. This belief in moderation was challenged by the new culture of presenting oneself and accumulating profit. Even after the recession and faced with the “overcooking” criticism, the provincial government continued to celebrate and promote Puer tea. Any comment that criticized Puer tea was taken as negative, hostile, and contrary to the interests of Yunnan. Whether it was true or untrue was never known and ultimately became unimportant. There was also a revolutionary voice appealing for a non-moderate and non-vague image for Puer tea. It asked for stronger, clearer, and more scientific regulations and supervision of Puer tea, saving it from being “too raw.” These appeals, however, encountered difficulties even before they could be put into practice. As a result, the “rawness” and vagueness continued, and the voices on defining Puer tea kept diverging. All these debates show that the desire to package Puer tea and the alternative desire to unpack it had coexisted long before the actual recession. The contest between them has shaped the story of Puer tea from its heating to its cooling, and speculation became the fuse that hastened the transformation. The debate goes on endlessly, and so in both its rise and its fall, Puer tea’s authenticity remained complex, multiple, and vague. Even in terms of moderation, a strong theme in public opinion, Puer tea cannot be measured by any quantitative data, dependent instead on personal experience and interpersonal negotiation. The boundary between what is overcooked, what is still raw, and what is getting to moderation, is also very much contextually determined. I have been enlightened by Lévi-Strauss’s binary concept to reflect upon how Puer tea had been transformed from “the raw” to “the cooked,” and from nature to culture via “frying.” But the case of Puer tea shows that there doesn’t simply exist a distinction between “the raw” and “the cooked”; there also exists the middle ground in between “the raw” and “the cooked,” constructed and predetermined by the accordant social and cultural context. People are encouraged by tradition to remain in the middle ground, but they are taught in


the new era to be able to present themselves effectively; they appeal for clarity, but in fact they enjoy vagueness. Thus, it becomes a cultural dilemma for actors to decide how much Puer tea should be cooked, perhaps offering some explanation for its rise and subsequent fall.

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | In Between “the Raw” and “the Cooked”

The us factor in india-china relations: india’s fine balancing Act

Rup narayan das · INSTITute for defence studies and analyses ABSTRACT India-China-US relations have witnessed discernible shifts in the years since India and China were born as independent nation states in 1947 and 1949, respectively, following different trajectories – India democratic, and China, communist. The major twist in the triangular relationship occurred in 1962 during the war between India and China, when the US supported India. During the IndiaChina war, when India realized that it was woefully short of transport aircraft that could carry troops and military equipment to difficult-to-reach airstrips along the Chinese border, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru requested the help of President John F. Kennedy, and he obliged by providing a twelve-aircraft detachment of the sturdy Hercules for

operation in Ladakh and the Northeast.1 Even today, China remains wary of perceived US efforts to court countries in the region, including Japan and India, to hedge against China. Ultimately, New Delhi has been faced with a fine balancing act, engaging in meaningful dialogue with Beijing while maintaining strong ties with Washington. “For the first time since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the prospect of war is becoming even more unthinkable than before. Major powers are competing in peace and not preparing for war.” Condoleezza Rice Manu Pubby, “1962 war hero Hercules to make a comeback,” The Indian Express, July 5, 2010, accessed July 16, 2012,


The above picture, used with kind permission from Mr. Subhash Malhotra of Press Trust of India (PTI), shows Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Premier Wen Jiabao, and President Barack Obama at the November 2011 ASEAN Summit in Indonesia. The author would like to acknowledge the support of his daughter, Punya Prabha Das, in giving final shape to this article. The US Factor in India-China Relations | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


A Perspective on Indo-US Relations It is an irony of history that two of world’s largest and most vibrant democracies were unable to maintain close relations in the post-war years. What prevented the two democracies from coming together? Perhaps the most plausible reason for this yawning gap was India’s decision to aim for a socialist pattern of society, giving primacy to the state sector of the economy, and not the corporate sector as in the United States. India’s Non-Aligned policy, which regarded the Soviet Union as a natural ally of the Non-Aligned Movement, further divided the two countries; India’s friendship treaty with the Soviet Union in 1971 had the same effect. India’s victory in the Bangladesh War of 1971 with Pakistan, then a close ally of the USA, established India’s preeminent position in South Asia and further dampened the possibility of close cooperation between the two countries. What changed the situation was the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of Cold War, the rising importance of the Asia-Pacific region, and India’s own economic reform and liberalization, initiated during the same period. It was against this background of a changing world order that the US began shifting its attention to India. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, at the helm of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government, and President Bill Clinton agreed that India and the US would be partners in peace in the new century and share common responsibilities for ensuring regional and international security. History came full circle when Atal Behari Vajpayee, while speaking at the Asia Society in New York in September 2003, described the US as a “natural ally of India.”2 The American support to India in the Kargil War of 1999 was just a precursor to the changing US attitude toward India. President Bill Clinton visited India and opened a new chapter in Indo-US relations; in November 2001, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Vajpayee affirmed their commitments to transforming the bilateral relationship and agreed that the two countries should try to give this partnership the strength to survive all future political changes in the two democracies. A landmark event in the bilateral relations was the announcement of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) in January 2004, after protracted negotiation. Ashley Tellis argues that the NSSP heralded a breakthrough in USIndian strategic collaboration, because despite continued disagreements on other issues such as trade, Iraq, and the United Nations, it committed both countries to working “Address by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” Asia Society, accessed July 16, 2012,


together in four difficult arenas – civilian nuclear energy, civilian space programs, high technology trade, and missile defense – where India’s possession of nuclear weaponry had previously made meaningful cooperation all but impossible.3 The high point of this comprehensive engagement was the Indo-US nuclear deal. On July 18, 2005, President Bush announced that he would work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India and would also seek agreement from Congress to adjust US policy in the context of a broader, global partnership with India in order to promote stability, democracy, prosperity, and peace. India and the US subsequently announced on July 27, 2007 that they had reached agreement on the text of a nuclear cooperation agreement. In terms of the bilateral relationship between the two countries, the Indo-US nuclear deal is unprecedented. India’s nuclear explosion in 1974 had soured the relationship between the two countries and Congress retaliated by passing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978, imposing tough new requirements for US nuclear exports to non-nuclear weapon states, including the termination of exports if such states engaged in activities related to acquiring or manufacturing nuclear weapons. Prior to the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), safeguards (inspections, material protection, control, and accounting) applied only to specific facilities or materials, known as INFCIRC/66-type agreements. The NPT required safeguards on all nuclear materials in all peaceful nuclear activities for non-nuclear-weapon-state parties (states not having detonated a nuclear explosive device prior to January 1, 1967).4 Internationally, the United States created the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) in 1975 for nuclear transfers for peaceful purposes, to help ensure that such transfers would not be diverted to unguarded nuclear fuel cycles or the making of nuclear explosives. History was rewritten when the US directed all its influence at the NSG in order to get the nod for the IndoUS nuclear deal, and President George Bush put his best into facilitating the passage of the deal in Congress. The nuclear deal ended a decades-long period of aggressively controlling the development of an Indian nuclear program, thus paving the way for India to sign similar deals with other countries and reflecting the deal’s global implications beyond bilateral relations between India and the US. Ashley J. Tellis, India as a New Global Power (New Delhi: India Research Press, 2005), 2. 4 Paul K. Kerr, “CRS Report for Congress – US Nuclear Cooperation with India: Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, May 7, 2012, accessed July 16, 2012, http:// 3

The author holds a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. On deputation from the Lok Sabha Secretariat (the Lok Sabha is the popularly elected house of India’s bicameral legislature), he is currently serving as Senior Fellow and Centre Coordinator to the China and East Asia Centre of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi. His research papers have been published by The Other Hong Kong Report, published by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, China Report, International Studies, and Indian Foreign Affairs Journal. His columns have appeared in a majority of English dailies in India, as well as in China Daily, Rediff News, and The Diplomat. 54

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | The US Factor in India-China Relations

The passage of the US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, also known as the 123 Agreement, in the House of Representatives and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was unprecedented, demonstrating bipartisan legislative support and ultimately garnering a 298-117 backing in the House. The Bill received overwhelming support in the House because of sustained canvassing and campaigning by congressmen sympathetic to India, as well as the proactive role of the Indian-American Community. Five leading US Congressmen wrote their colleagues in the House of Representatives urging them to expedite the passage of the US-India Civil Nuclear Deal. “Dear Colleagues,” a letter dated September 16th 2008 said, “We refer you to the September 12, 2008 Washington Post editorial written in support of the US-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement. As past and present co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and IndianAmericans, we are asking you to support this agreement, which provides for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the two democracies. Passage of this measure in an expedient manner will be beneficial to both of our countries.”5 The catalytic role of an articulate Indian-American community provided an impetus to this American rediscovery of India. From hostility, indifference, and benign neglect, the attitude of Congress to India has culminated in proactive engagement. What was remarkable about Indo-US relations was the bipartisan support that it enjoys in both countries, despite differences in nuance and emphasis. In India, the process of engagement was started by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government under the leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee, and it was carried forward by the United Progressive Alliance Government under the leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh; in the US, bilateral engagement has been equally supported by both the Republican and the Democratic Party. Prime Minister Singh visited Washington from November 22-26, 2009 as President Obama’s first official state guest. The visit focused on the common interests and shared values of their strategic partnership and reflected the vision and resolve of the two leaders to embark upon a new phase in their bilateral partnership, thus marking the first bilateral summit between India and the United States. Prime Minister Singh conveyed to the President that the rapid socioeconomic transformation underway in India holds several opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries. This message is representative of the transformation in the bilateral relations between the countries that has taken place over the past few years, with the relationship impacting the economy, policy, academia, civil society, and defense. The two countries are now also working together in the international spheres on issues such as climate change, the G-20, and regional security and Aziz Haniffa, “US lawmakers urged to support N-deal in Congress,” Rediff, September 17, 2008, accessed July 16, 2012,


stability, including Afghanistan. Indo-US Strategic Convergence and the Sino-Indian chasm Some argue that India’s strategic proximity with the US has created a chasm between India and China. A brief recollection of the major developments in the bilateral relationship between the two countries drives home the point. It may be mentioned that India restored diplomatic relations with China at the ambassadorial level when it appointed the job to the respected diplomat K.R. Narayan, who later became the President of the Republic in 1976. This was followed by the path-breaking visit of then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to China in 1988, during which the Joint Working Group (JWG) for settlement of the border dispute was established. Yet another important development was the visit of then Defense Minister Sharat Pawar to China in July 1993, the first ever visit by a Defense Minister to China. During Pawar’s visit, the Chinese military leadership emphasized the importance of troop reduction in the border region as a result of prohibitive costs. The visit of Minister Pawar was followed by the visit of Prime Minister P.V. Narashimha Rao in September 1993, during which an important Confidence-Building Measure (CBM), the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the IndiaChina Border Area, was signed. The Agreement was indeed a breakthrough. It affirmed that the India-China boundary question should be resolved through peaceful and friendly consultations and that neither side should use or threaten to use force against the other. It also stipulated that “pending an ultimate solution of the boundary question between the two countries, the two sides shall strictly observe the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two sides. No activities of either side shall overstep the LAC.”6 The Agreement further envisaged that: (1) each government will keep its military forces in the area along the LAC to a minimum level compatible with the friendly neighborly relations between the two countries, (2) that the two sides agree to reduce their military forces along the LAC in conformity with the requirement of the principle of mutual and equal security to ceilings to be mutually agreed upon, and (3) that the reduction of military forces shall be carried out in stages sector-wise at mutually agreed-upon geographical locations in the areas along the LAC. This CBM was followed six years later by another such measure, entitled the “Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the IndiaChina Border Areas,” during the visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin to India in November 1996.7 The Agreement, For the text of the document, see Brahma Chellaney, Asian Juggernaut (New York: Harper Collins, 2010), 298-300. 7 Ibid., 301-308. 6

The US Factor in India-China Relations | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


while reiterating and reaffirming the intent and spirit of the 1993 CBM, stipulated the reduction or limiting of major categories of armament including combat tanks, infantry combat vehicles, guns (including howitzers) with 75 mm or bigger caliber, mortars with 120 mm or bigger caliber, and surface-to-surface missiles, as well as any other weapon systems. A spirit of political trust between the two countries was further confirmed during the visit of Prime Minister Atal Behar Vajpayee to China in June 2003, during which the countries signed the Memorandum between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on Expanding Border Trade. According to this memorandum, India agreed to designate Changgu in Sikkim state as the venue for border trade, and the Chinese agreed to designate Renqinggang of Tibet Autonomous Region. The political and strategic significance of this agreement was that, for the first time, China recognized Sikkim as an integral part of India. The upward swing of the strategic trust and defense and military engagement between the two countries was given a further boost when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited India in April 2005. Two important agreements were signed during the visit, the first being the Protocol on Modalities for the implementation of the CBMs in the military fields along the LAC, and the second, politically even more significant, being the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question. Article VII of the Agreement provided that in reaching a boundary settlement, the two sides should safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas – indeed a breakthrough in a contentious border dispute, carrying therein the implication that China would agree to recognize Indian sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh in exchange for India’s acceptance of Chinese sovereignty over Aksai Chin in the Western Sector. It was at this juncture, as alluded to earlier, that growing strategic proximity between India and the US was a dampener to the relationship between India and China. In trying to fathom the reason for China’s hardening attitude toward India, Chellaney argues, “The only major development in that period was the new US-China strategic tie-up, as defined by the defense framework accord and nuclear deal, but a US-India military alliance has always been a strategic nightmare for the Chinese … and apparently Chinese policy makers began to believe that India was being groomed as a new Australia to America.”8 China’s hardening attitude was reflected in various stances, such as in describing Arunachal Pradesh as “Southern Tibet.” China also retracted from Article VII of the 2005 Agreement, which stated that in reaching a settlement the two sides would only “safeguard the interests of their settled populations.” The Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi later told India’s external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee on the sidelines of a meeting in Hamburg Brahma Chellaney, “Three’s a Crowd in the India-China Theater,” Far Eastern Economic Review (2009), 17.



that, according to China, the clause did not necessitate its giving up of its claim over Arunachal Pradesh9. The US Return to the Asia Pacific and its Overtures to Co-opt India The US efforts to mentor India to soft-balance China in the Asia-Pacific region gave a new dimension to the triangular relationship. While economic engagement with China has brought economic benefits for countries in the region, China’s military rise has given rise to consternation, if not outright fear, in the minds of the leaders of these countries. The United States, which has been the resident power in the region, has reinvigorated its strategic engagement there. Many countries are now looking toward India not only for economic engagement, but also for strategic reassurance to soft-balance China. Statement by Condoleezza Rice (2005) US motives and interest can be gauged from a statement by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her 2005 visit to Tokyo. Asked whether she viewed China as a strategic partner or competitor, Rice replied: When I look at China’s role in this region, I think it’s a very important thing that China plays an increasing role. It is nonetheless a good thing that China plays that role in the context of democratic alliances like the United States and Japan. I really do believe that the US-Japan relationship, the US-South Korean relationship, the US-Indian relationship are all important in creating an environment in which China is more likely to play a positive role than a negative role. These alliances are not against China; they are alliances that are devoted to a stable security and the political and economic, and indeed, values-based relationships that put China in the context of those relationships, and a different path to development than if China were simply untethered, simply operating without that strategic context.10

Ms. Rice, while urging Japan, South Korea, and India to coordinate their efforts to engage China, states that these alliances are not against China. Her emphasis is on the creation of a comprehensive architecture to engage China thoughtfully and meaningfully through transparent dialogue and effective communication. The National Security Strategy of the USA, unveiled in May 2010, also saw India, China, and Russia as the “key centers of influence” in the contemporary world – countries with whom Washington would like to deepen its partnership. “Certain bilateral relationships – such as US relations with China, India, and Russia – will be critical to building broader cooperation on areas of mutual interest,” the fifty-two-page P. Stobdan, “India-China Relations,” Think India Quarterly 13.2 (2010), 132. 10 Condoleezza Rice, address at Sofia University, March 19, 2005, accessed July 16, 2012, pubs/0501qus_china.pdf. 9

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | The US Factor in India-China Relations

document states. Noting that Asia’s dramatic economic growth has increased its connection to America’s future prosperity and acknowledging India’s “responsible advancement,” the report asserts the US and India are “building a strategic partnership that is underpinned by our shared interests, our shared values as the world’s two largest democracies, and close connections among our people.” The report further added, “We value India’s growing leadership on a wide array of global issues, through groups like G-20, and will seek to work with India to promote stability in South Asia and elsewhere in the world.”11 US National Security Adviser James Jones, in his comments during a media briefing, said: “India, with our growing relationship, is one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”12 These pronouncements were clear testimony to US recognition of India’s emerging stature in the region, in contrast to the benign neglect of earlier times. The call to engage India in the Asia-Pacific was renewed by the US when President Obama visited India in November 2010. Addressing members of Parliament, a rare honor extended to very select Heads of State, President Obama said, …more broadly, India and the United States can partner in Asia. Today the United States is once again playing a leadership role in Asia – strengthening old alliances, deepening relationships, as we are doing with China, and we’re reengaging with regional organizations like ASEAN and joining the East Asia Summit – organizations in which India is also a partner. Like your neighbors in Southeast Asia, we want India not only to “look East,” we want India to “engage East” – because it will increase the security and prosperity of all our nations.13

This appeal was reiterated when US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited India in July 2011. Speaking in Chennai she said, “Much of the history of the 21st Century will be written in Asia which, in turn, will be influenced by the partnership between the US and India and its relationship with neighbors.”14 She said that India could build a leadership role in the Asia-Pacific in forums like the East Asia Summit and the Asian Regional Forum, contributing more to maritime security, promoting democracy, exploring a new Silk Road into Central Asia, supporting the rebuilding of Afghanistan, and even helping to stabilize Pakistan. The US renewed its appeal to India to reinvigorate its engagement in the Asia Pacific when President Barack Obama addressed

Australian Parliament in November 2011.15 The US reiterated its stand to India in its Pentagon report titled “Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense” in January 2012. The new strategy, envisaged in the report, is geared toward tackling the emerging threat from China’s military build-up. It takes forward the process of reorienting American military might from the Atlantic to the Pacific. At the strategy’s core, US forces would fight fewer counter-terror campaigns in far-flung areas, but would focus on its air and naval forces to balance China or face down Iran. Turning to India, the report states the US is geared to “investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region.”16 Such exhortation to co-opt India was reinforced in February 2011 in Singapore, when US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Geofrey Pyatt, suggested that New Delhi expand its market and security integration across the region. He also conveyed the US desire to revolutionize its military relationship with India, citing “US support for India’s expanding global reach.”17 And indeed, such support represents a larger US effort to facilitate India’s taking on of a more active role in the Asia-Pacific region. Beijing Suspicion: A Ring of Encirclement American efforts to court India to soft-balance China have evoked mixed reaction in China. Commenting on Clinton’s visit to India, an opinion piece article in China Daily states, “In the current Obama administration, Clinton has emerged as one of the most vocal proponent of the ‘China balancing’ theory.”18 In her official press conference in India, Clinton urged India to play a leading role in Asia-Pacific, which either directly or indirectly hints at the balancing of China’s influence in the region. Her speeches in Africa, and now in Asia, clearly hint at the US concern about its receding influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Referring to Indo-US relations, the article says: Overall, Indo-US relations have improved over the last decade,

“US President Barack Obama’s speech to parliament,” The Australian, November 17, 2011, accessed July 16, 2012, obama-in-australia/obamas-speech-to-parliament/story-fnb0o39u-1226197973237. 16 Harsh V. Pant, “Tectonic rumblings in the region,” Indian Express, January 11, 2012, accessed July 16, 2012, http:// 17 P.S. Suryanarayan, “U.S. move to mentor India in new East Asia,” The Hindu, February 22, 2011, accessed July 16, 2012, 18 Binod Singh, “Clinton’s India visit reached no consensus on fighting terrorism,” China Daily, July 27, 2011, accessed July 16, 2012, 15

“National Security Strategy,” The White House, May 2010, accessed July 16, 2012, 12 “India among ‘key centres of influence’ in Obama security strategy,” Hindustan Times, May 28, 2010, accessed July 16, 2012, India-among-key-centres-of-influence-in-Obama-securitystrategy/Article1-549620.aspx. 13 Lynn Sweet, “Obama Speech to India Parliament. Transcript,” Chicago Sun-Times, November 9, 2010, accessed July 16, 2012, speech_to_india_parliame.html. 14 “As China looms, US tells India to lead Asia,” Hindustan Times, July 20, 2011, accessed July 16, 2012, 11

The US Factor in India-China Relations | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


but it will be an exaggeration to say that India is a US ally in the region. A 2005 Indo-US civil nuclear deal did not change the status of the Indo-US strategic relationship in a large way. The emerging new relationship between the two democracies is only a late recognition of their converging interest in combating global terrorism sponsored by state and non-state actors. There is a long way to go for before an Indo-US strategic relationship, and it will be immature at this stage.19

Beijing is thus critical of US efforts to court countries in the region, including Japan and India, to hedge against China in the region. This sentiment can be gauged from writings and views in Chinese authoritative journals and commentaries in newspapers. As written in the China Daily in February 2010, “China is in a crescent-shaped ring of encirclement. The ring brings in Japan, stretches through nations in the South-China Sea to India, and ends in Afghanistan.”20 In an article by John Garver and Fei-Ling Wang, published on a popular Chinese book written by a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Colonel, the authors quote the Colonel, writing that the United States is constructing a ring of encirclement, stretching from Japan, South Korea, and Mongolia in the North through the South China Sea and India in the South, as steps toward the final “carving up and destruction of China.”21 Printed in official media, such sentiments thus serve to articulate China’s geopolitical concerns. China’s unease and discomfort at US efforts to put in place an anti-China alliance aimed at containing China was also reflected a year later in an article published by Chinese Communist Party Journal Qiushi. The article asserts, “The US seems highly interested in forming a very strong anti-China alliance. It not only made a high profile announcement of its return to East Asia but also claimed to lead in Asia.” The article further elaborates, “What is particularly unbearable is how the US blatantly encourages China’s neighboring countries to go against China.” It added, “Countries like Japan, India, Vietnam, Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Korea are trying to join the anti-China group because they either had a war or another conflict of interest with China.” Turning to India it said, “The probability for India to cooperate with China is also not great” and “India has stayed closely allied with the US. In recent years, (US President Barack) Obama proposed to support India for a permanent membership in the UNSC (United Nations Security Council).”22 Here as well, the tone of the official discourse on the matter clearly reflects Chinese anxieties concerning geopolitical containment by the US.

India’s Balancing Act It is against this backdrop that India is trying to strike a fine balance. Ma Jiali, author of “Rising India,” in a Global Times interview response to a question as to whether the US is shifting its strategic focus to Asia and whether it supports India in containing China in Asia, states, “the US does have the strategic intent to use India to contain China, as we can learn from some US official documents. But we should see that India is independent in its foreign policy .There are voices against the US in India, and some Indian intellectuals know clearly that the US kindness to India has a strategic intent.”23 Replying to another question as to if there is a zero-sum game between the two Asia giants and recalling Prime Minister Singh’s oft-quoted assertion that Asia has enough room to accommodate the development of both China and India, he further asserts, “the development of China and India is not a zero-sum game, but could be a win-win situation.” It seems that there are also Chinese proponents of better India-China cooperation in order to counter US policies for expanding American influence in Asia. An opinion piece in the People’s Daily in February comments, “The development of the China-India relationship is being tested by the United States in the Asia-Pacific region, which will have complicated and in-depth influence on the future of IndiaChina relations.”24 Referring to the US-Japan-India Trilateral meeting, the article said that the effort was to beseech China instead of getting into an apparent anti-China effort, and that India should enter into a strategic partnership with China that will create mutual trust and benefit.25 In direct response to Chinese concerns New Delhi briefed Beijing on the discussions of the trilateral, demonstrating India’s willingness to take concrete steps to strengthen direct bilateral relations with China. Conclusion Despite the US attempt to mentor India to balance China in the Asia-Pacific, New Delhi has acted with a great degree of finesse. The reality has been that this strategy is easier said than done, but such is the challenge facing diplomacy. India’s approach has been to prod China to be a responsible stakeholder in ensuring and facilitating peace and stability in the region, through institutional mechanisms such as the East Asia Forum, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and ADMM Plus. “China and India can escape zero-sum trap,” Global times, March 18, 2011, accessed July 16, 2012, 24 “Chinese daily foresees friendly India-China ties,” Economic Times, February 21, 2012, accessed July 16, 2012, news/31083011_1_china-injdia-china-and-india-india-china. 25 Sutirtho Patranobis, “Paper calls for China-India alliance against US,” Hindustan Times, February 21, 2012, accessed July 16, 2012, China/Paper-calls-for-China-India-alliance-against-US/Article1-814493.aspx. 23

Ibid. 20 Qin Jize and Li Xiaokun, “China circled by chain of US anti-missile systems,” China Daily, February 22, 2010, accessed July 16, 2012, world/2010-02/22/content_9481548.htm. 21 John W. Garver and Fei-Ling Wang, “China’s Anti-encirclement Struggle,” Asian Security 6.3 (2010), 238-261. 22 Ananth Krishnan, “China’s Communist Party sees India as part of U.S. ‘containment’ strategy,” The Hindu, February 12, 2011, accessed July 16, 2012, news/national/article1413573.ece. 19


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | The US Factor in India-China Relations

US Secretary of Defense Leone Panetta, during his visit to India in June this year, articulated the same sentiments in his address at India’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) when he said, “the United States supports Southeast Asia multilateral forums such as ADMM Plus. These mechanisms will prevent and manage regional tensions… India’s voice and involvement in these international forums will be critical.”26 Panetta stressed defense cooperation with India as the linchpin in the American “rebalancing” strategy and that the US would further develop capabilities to share common values. Turning to China, however, he hastened to add, “As the United States and India deepen our defense partnership with each other, both of us will also seek to strengthen our relations with China.” He further asserted that the US recognizes that China has a critical role to play in the security and prosperity in the region: “The United states welcomes the rise of a strong, prosperous, and a successful China that plays a greater role in global affairs – and respects and enforces the international norms that have governed this region for six decades.” Thus in the face of Chinese concern over Panetta’s visit to Asia, and to India in particular, such a statement by the US Secretary of Defense served as a nuanced reassurance to Beijing. In the narrative of triangular India-US-China relations, China occupies some strategic space in Indo-US relations, notwithstanding the fact that Indo-US relations, like SinoUS relations, or for that matter, Sino-Indian relations, have their own resonance. The persistent security dilemma and trust deficit with China has been a major factor in driving India to seek strategic support and cooperation from the US. China realizes this, and this is why it extends its overtures to India. If Indo-US strategic relations can cause consternation to China, Sino-Indian rapport may also cause discomfort to the US. But be that as it may, any drastic deterioration of Sino-US relations (or Sino-Indian relations) will not only harm bilateral relations between the respective countries, but will also be detrimental to regional peace and stability. This article thus argues for an India-US-China trilateral dialogue mechanism. With the way the US and China are economically intertwined, and the way India-China economic relations are woven, it is only prudent that the three cooperate for peace, stability and prosperity in the region. In fact, China is amenable to the idea of a trilateral dialogue mechanism with India and the United States to build trust between the countries: in April this year, assistant Foreign Minister of China Le Yucheng said China was “open and positive” toward such mechanisms. In his words, “We believe dialogue is better than confrontation.”27 Leon E. Panetta, “Partners in the 21st Century,” Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, June 6, 2012, accessed July 16, 2012, httpj:// 27 Ananth Krishnan, “In shift, China backs trilateral talks with India, U.S.,” The Hindu, April 11, 2012, accessed July 16, 2012, ece. 26

The US Factor in India-China Relations | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


the geopolitics of political islam in bangladesh

mubashar hasan · griffit h university Abstract This article traces the historical root of a failed military coup, undertaken by Islamists in 2012 in an attempt to overthrow the present secular government of Bangladesh. I argue that the root of secular-Islamist conflict in Bangladesh is closely connected to geopolitical events such as the Cold War and the Yom Kippur War, when military rulers of the state systematically promoted Islamic culture and values in the public discourse in order to legitimize their own regimes. Introduction On January 19, 2012, at a press conference held in the capital city of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi military announced that it foiled a military coup, attempted by retired and serving officers, intent on toppling the present secular government of the Awami League, as headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.1 The aim of the failed military coup was to install 1

Dipanjan Roy Chowdhury, “India tip-off foils coup to dislodge Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,” Daily Mail

Sharia law in the country by denouncing secular political forces.2 The military interest in civil politics is hardly new in Bangladesh, as military rule, either direct or indirect, has been in place for sixteen of Bangladesh’s forty years as an independent country (1975-1990 and 2006-2008). To date, however, the military had never held a press conference about a failed coup. For the first time, a support base of Islamists within the military was publicly acknowledged, and at the same time, the military reaffirmed its commitment to democracy. This paper traces the historical root of this failed military coup and finds that the Islamization of Bangladesh’s secular political discourse is closely connected to geopolitical events that took place from 1975 through the 1990s. The reason behind choosing this specific time frame is two-fold: a) Bangladesh was under military control during this period and b) though political Islam had flourished in Bangladesh Online, January 20, 2012, accessed January 25, 2012, http:// Sheikh-Hasina-India-tip-foils-coup-dislodge-BangladeshPrime-Minister.html. 2 Ibid.

The above picture, kindly provided by Abir Abdullah, shows a mass gathering at Biswa Ijtema in January 2012. 60

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | The Geopolitics of Political Islam in Bangladesh

after the 1990s, equally significant to this time period were the Cold War and the Yom Kippur War, during which foreign governments fueled Islamization in Bangladesh. The present failed coup, therefore, can be read as a result of political decisions taken in the past by Bangladeshi regimes in regard to foreign policy and geopolitics. I have two propositions in this paper. First, I argue that the Yom Kippur War in the early 1970s had a profound impact on Bangladesh, specifically in terms of the promotion of systematic Islamic cultural values in the national discourse. The second proposition argues that the Taliban’s Holy Jihad against the Soviets, against the backdrop of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, had a strong influence on the growth of Bangladeshi Islamists, who later captured significant power within the Islamized political discourse. The central hypothesis of this paper, therefore, argues that the 2012 failed military coup is the outcome of Bangladesh’s Islamization process as initiated by two Military juntas – Ziaur Rahman and Hussein Muhammad Ershad – and that this Islamization process is the result of Bangladesh’s foreign policy shift, as influenced by geopolitical events such as the Yom Kippur and Cold Wars. This paper further finds that the literature on the history of Islam and politics in Bangladesh, specifically with respect to geopolitics and its relation to foreign policy, remains unexplored and understudied. The hypothesis of this paper, however, is nonetheless developed upon existing literatures. With a succinct overview of Bangladesh, this paper presents the process of Islamization in Bangladesh through the lense of the military regimes of 1975 to 1990. Next, I analyze the impact of Islamization in Bangladeshi society, culture, and politics. In the final section, I construct the central hypothesis of this paper with historical evidence.3

For the purpose of clarity, I will define the terms “geopolitics,” “political Islam,” “Islamization,” and “Islamist” as follows: Geopolitics: The impact of world affairs on the national politics of Bangladesh. Political Islam: The political movements surrounding the development of ideology and the setting of political goals rooted in a literal analysis of 7th-century sources core to Islam, including the Quran, the prophetic traditions of Muhammad, and the prophetic sayings preserved in the Hadith. Islamization: The cultural expansion of Arab and Persian civilization. Islamist: The political movement and the people contributing to and participating in the political efforts of political Islam. 3

Bangladesh: An Overview In terms of countries with a majority Muslim population, Bangladesh is the third largest Muslim country in the world. During the British colonial period, from 1757 to 1947, Bangladesh was part of the Indian subcontinent and known as East Bengal; in the post-colonial period, from 1947 to 1971, it was part of Pakistan and known as East Pakistan. Bangladesh has emerged as an independent country based on the “secular-nationalist” principle, following a bloody nine-month long war with Pakistan in 1971. Economically, Bangladesh is among the world’s poorest nations with a per capita income of $520.4 According to the website of the Bangladeshi government, “it has a population of 140 million, where 88% of the people are Muslims and over 98% of the people speak Bangla.”5 Upon gaining independence in 1971, the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh adopted the Westminster model of Parliamentary democracy.6 The President of Bangladesh is chief of the state, and the Prime Minister head of the Government. The present legal and judicial system of Bangladesh owes its origin to two hundred years of British rule in the Indian subcontinent, although some elements are remnants of the Pre-British period tracing back to Hindu and Muslim rule.7 The country has a troubled past of military intervention in civil politics. Of the country’s forty years of existence as an independent country, military juntas have either directly or indirectly ruled the country for more than sixteen years (1975-1990 and 2006-2008). In terms of political parties, a total of thirty-two parties are currently registered in the Bangladesh Election Commission (EC). However, the politics of Bangladesh is dominated by two parties – the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).8 The largest Islamist party, the Bangladesh Jamaat e Islami (BJI) said to be the third most influential party. The BNP is now heading a right-leaning eighteen-party electoral alliance, which encompasses most Islamist parties, including “Country Profile of Bangladesh,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dhaka, accessed February 1, 2012, index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46&Item id=54. 5 Ibid. 6 M. Moniruzzaman, “Parliamentary Democracy in Bangladesh: An Evaluation of the Parliament during 1991–2006,” Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 47 (2009): 1. 7 “About Bangladesh,” Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Dhaka, accessed February 1, 2012, http://www. 8 Ali Riaz, Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh: A Complex Web (USA and Canada: Routledge, 2008), 28. 4

Mubashar Hasan is a political analyst on Bangladesh who is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University in Australia. Previously, he worked for eight years as a journalist, news producer, and media and communications specialist for BBC News, the Economist, IRIN News,, and Oxfam in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. His columns on Bangladeshi politics and society are published by UK-based and the Daily Star, Bangladesh’s top English newspaper. He is the author of Politics of Global Civil Aviation and has published in South Asia Research, Journal of Asian and African Studies, and Journal of Globalization Studies. He can be reached at The Geopolitics of Political Islam in Bangladesh | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


the BJI. Conversely, the secular AL is leading a fourteen-party grand alliance that includes the major left-leaning parties in the country. Thus, a sharp polarization between the secular and the non-secular is vivid in the Bangladeshi political scene. The following section provides a historic account of this dynamic in Bangladeshi politics. The Transformation from the Secular to the Islamic After forming the first government of independent Bangladesh in 1972, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, deceased leader of the AL and father of present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, touted nationalism, socialism, secularism, and democracy as four state principals by inserting them into the constitution.9 The Bengali word corresponding to secularism was Dharma Niropekhota, literally meaning “religious neutrality.”10 Later, these four principals were propagated by the government as “Mujibism.” Mujibism was used to counter the growing popularity of the radical left, who argued for a scientific socialism as state policy.11 Mujibism was further used in opposition to communal politics seeking to suppress the BJI, with a key allegation against the party being collaboration with the Pakistani military during the war for independence in 1971. Mujibism had serious political implications for non-secular parties, such as the BJI, which was banned under the constitutional assertion of secularism. The first five-year plan of the country, spanning the period from 1973 to 78 explains the motive behind secularism: True to our secular belief, we stand committed to disband all communal forces from the body politic. The war of liberation against the colonial oppressors, which we waged as one man, demonstrated that Bangladesh is able to rise above religious bigotry and differences of caste and creed. Even though decades of obscurantism and religious fanaticism cannot be obliterated in one day, such bigotry will not be able to thrive on the soil of Bangladesh as communalism ceases to be a political weapon. Our struggle for emancipation has highlighted out homogeneity and our struggle against poverty will only strengthen it.12

As O’Connell argues, this statement is a manifestation of state ideology, which goes beyond the separation of religion and politics: it shows the AL’s commitment to disband the Dina Mahnaz Siddiqi, “Political Culture in Contemporary Bangladesh,” in Political Islam and Governance in Bangladesh, ed. Ali Riaz and Christine C Fair (USA and Canada: Routledge, 2011), 8; Rounaq Jahan, “Bangladesh in 1973: Management of Factional Politics,” Asian Survey 14 (1974): 201. 10 S.M Shamsul Alam, “Ideology and the State of Bangladesh,” Journal of Asian and African Studies 18 (1993): 95. 11 Ali Riaz, Unfolding State: The Transformation of Bangladesh (Ontario: De Sitter Publications, 2006), 160. 12 Joseph T. O’Connell, “The Bengali Muslims and the State: Secularism or Humanity for Bangladesh” in Understanding the Bengal Muslim, ed. Rafiuddin Ahmed (India: Oxford University Press, 2001), 186. 9


BJI forever. However, this theory of Mujibism lacks any philosophical thesis.13 Moreover, three major controversial actions regarding national administration lessened the regime’s support and produced other groups, including the radical left, which challenged its legitimacy through armed violence.14 Those controversial actions included the creation of the Jatiyo Rakhi Bahini (JRB), a personal paramilitary troop comprised of members of the AL; the politicization of bureaucracy; and state patronization of the AL workers. Firstly, the JRB, vested with tremendous power and relatively free from accountability, quickly become associated with terrorizing tactics and recognized as a means of quashing resistance to the regime.15 Secondly, the AL had begun to purge perceived rivals and enemies working at the civil service by pushing through a presidential order that removed constitutional protection of civil servants.16 As a result, bureaucrats could be removed at any time at the will of the government without the right to appeal to the court.17 In this way, bureaucrats supporting the AL had begun to enjoy benefits from the government unjust in comparison to critics of the government. According to my analysis, Sheikh Mujib set a trend of politicizing the bureaucracy, characteristic of all governments formed since his time. A study conducted in 2008 on the governance of Bangladesh comes to a similar conclusion. The 2008 study finds that all governments of independent Bangladesh adopted adversarial stances against alleged supporters or sympathizers of the opposition in the civil service by tampering with their promotions and placements or denying them career incentives, such as overseas training and key appointments.18 Finally, the AL government had appointed its loyalists as administrators of the banks, companies, jute, textiles, and sugar mills.19 On the other hand, the overall economic condition of the country was deteriorating due to inefficient management of the economy and the state. In 1974, Finance Minister Tajuddin Ahmed stated publicly that the economy of the country has almost broken down,20 fueling the antigovernment movement by the radical left who intensified their Ali Riaz, “God Willing: The Politics and Ideology of Islamism in Bangladesh,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 23 (2003): 308. 14 Rounaq Jahan, “Bangladesh in 1972: Nation Building in a New State,” Asian Survey 13 (1973): 206; Rounaq Jahan, “Bangladesh in 1973,” 132; Talukder Maniruzzaman, “Bangladesh in 1974: Economic Crisis and Political Polarization,” Asian Survey 15 (1975): 121. 15 Dina Mahnaz Siddiqi, “Political Culture in contemporary Bangladesh,” 10. 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid. 18 Habib Zafrullah and Redwanur Rahman, “The impaired state: Assessing state capacity and governance in Bangladesh,” International Journal of Public Sector 21 (2008): 744. 19 Talukder Maniruzzaman, “Bangladesh in 1975: The Fall of the Mujib Regime and Its Aftermath,” Asian Survey 16 (1976): 118. 20 Ibid., 119. 13

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | The Geopolitics of Political Islam in Bangladesh

ongoing armed movement to overthrow the government.21 According to an estimate in 1974, the radical leftists had killed approximately 3000 AL leaders and workers, including four members of Parliament.22 In 1974, the government took two controversial steps: the declaration of a state emergency in December 1974 and the introduction of a one-party system in 1975 to control resentment from parts of the civil service, the military (a significant portion of the military were not happy about state patronization of the JRB over the military), and the radical leftists. However, a brutal military coup killed Mujib and eighteen members of the Mujib family on August 15, 1975. After the murder of Mujib, Army General Ziaur Rahman took power. Rahman, known popularly as President Zia, later formed the BNP with participation from anti-AL constituents and restored the multi-party system during his presidency in 1979. Soon after, Zia amended Mujib’s vision of the constitution and took further steps to make a clear distinction between his regime and the Mujib regime. Zia had officially oriented Bangladesh toward Islam, removing secularism from the constitution and replacing it with absolute trust and faith in Allah, as well as the insertion of Bismillah irRahman ir-Rahiim (In the name of God, the beneficent, the merciful).23 Zia also amended the definition of nationality defined in Mujib’s regime, declaring a “Bangladeshi nationalism” instead of “Bengali nationalism.”24 The national identity thus became linked with territorial boundaries, distinguishing Bengali Muslims from the Bengali Hindus of West Bengal.25 In other words, Zia endorsed the spirit of Islamic nationalism by asserting it in the constitution. Without naming Islam, the constitution was made Islamic.26 Zia’s decisions as a whole conveyed a clear message – that “Islam is at the heart of Bangladesh.” Later, when military general Hussein Muhammad Ershad took power with the assassination of Major Zia in 1981, Islam was declared the state religion. Like Zia, Ershad established a political party and named it the Jatiyo Party (JP). Below, I summarize some of the steps taken by Zia and Ershad to promote Islam in Bangladesh between 1975 and 1990:27 • Once again allowing the religious parties to participate in elections with an official order on May 4, 1976, causing the BJI to announce their comeback publicly Ibid., 122. 22 Ibid. 23 Ali Riaz, “God Willing,” 310. 24 S.M. Shamsul Alam, “Ideology,” 100. 25 Ibid. 26 Zillur R. Khan, “Islam and Bengali Nationalism,” Asian Survey 25 (1985): 845. 27 See: Ali Riaz, “God Willing,” 311; S.M. Shamsul Alam, “Ideology,” 101; Mubashar Hasan, “Historical development of political Islam with reference to Bangladesh,” Journal of Asian and African Studies 47 (2011): 160; Emajuddin Ahamed and D.R.J.A Nazneen, “Islam in Bangladesh: Revivalism or Power Politics?”, Asian Survey 30 (1990): 797; Zillur R. Khan, “Islam and Bengali Nationalism,” 845. 21

• Both Zia and Ershad’s public demonstration of faith by taking part in Friday prayer (Jumma prayer) • Bangladesh’s rise as an influential member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the threemember Al-Quds Committee, and the Islamic Solidarity Front28 • The promotion of the recitation of the Quran in party meetings and state programs • The establishment of an Islamic University with state patronage • The establishment of the Madrasah Education Board to oversee madrasah education and curricula • The introduction of Islamiat, a mandatory Islamic studies course for all Muslim students at the primary- and secondary-school levels (grades 1 through 8) • The establishment of the Ministry of Religious Affairs to coordinate religious activities on behalf of the government • The declaration of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, Eid Milad-un-Nabi, as a national holiday • The broadcast of the Azan by state-controlled electronic media • The inclusion of Islamists in the state cabinet • The establishment of the Islamic Foundation and an extensive network of research facilities • The establishment of a Zakat Fund headed by the president and the disbursement of large funds for the construction of mosques and madrasahs • The declaration of Islam as the state religion in 1987 Islam becomes ubiquitous in society The shift of the state from a secular nationalism to an Islamic-oriented position resulted in an increasing number of madrasahs, mosques, and religious preaching and gatherings (known as wajmahfils). Concurrently, apolitical Islam, including the Tabligh Jamat movement and Sufi culture, had received momentum as well. Apolitical Islam helped foster Islamic culture within society, influencing the political discourse as well. Below, I explain the impact of Islamization in Bangladeshi society. Mosque Dhaka is known as the city of mosques. According to a recent statement by the State Minister of Religious Affairs of Bangladesh, the country has 250,399 mosques spread across 28

The Al-Quds Committee was formed in 1979 with a goal of placing the Baitul Mokadesh Mosque in Jerusalem under Muslim control, as it was the first Kiblah (direction of prayers) for Muslims. The last Friday of Ramadhan has been observed as Al-Quds Day throughout the Muslim world since 1979. The Islamic Solidarity Front is an informal sociocultural organization of the Muslim states. Its main objectives are to strengthen fraternal bonds among Muslims and to work for the betterment of the Muslim Ummah. For further information, see Emajuddin Ahamed and D.R.J.A Nazneen, “Islam in Bangladesh,” 797.

The Geopolitics of Political Islam in Bangladesh | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


its territory.29 Specifically, the state patronage of building new mosques has resulted in a prolific growth of mosques in the country. The ubiquity of mosques serves to underpin the Islamic social consciousness of the country, with the regular recitation of the Azan reinforcing the name of Allah and the prophets in the minds of the masses five times a day. The architectural design of Bangladeshi mosques resembles Arabic architecture, emphasizing the significance of the Islamic heartland in Bangladesh. Unlike in most Middle Eastern Muslim countries, this network of Bangladeshi mosques and madrassas operates outside of state control, often retaining considerable autonomy.30 Sufism State funds were also released for the building of Sufi shrines. Huque and Akhter define Sufism as “a mode of religious life in Islam in which the emphasis is placed not so much on the performance of external rituals as on the activities of the inner-self – in other words, it signifies Islamic mysticism.”31 Sufi Islam in Bangladesh is found on two levels: the first being the folk, populist Sufis of the masses and the second being the intellectual Sufism, a recent movement that rearticulates Islamic metaphysics as an answer to Western materialism.32 Sufis, dead or alive, are known in Bangladesh as Pirs (master) and followers of Pirs are known as Murids (disciple). The graves of Pirs are known as Mazars (shrines) and Urs rituals, death anniversaries of Sufi saints, take place in such shrines. A large proportion of Muslims in Bangladesh identify themselves with some Pirs, and that Pirs in Bangladesh exercise enormous spiritual, though not political influence over its Murids.33 Shrines of Pirs are spread across the country, and Urs taking place in those shrines were attended not only by common people but also by the heads of state, including President Ershad, as well as cabinet ministers, generals, top-level bureaucrats, and university professors.34 Wajmahfils Wajmahfils play an important role in promoting Islamic knowledge in the country, especially in rural areas. Preachers at such meetings speak about the glory of Islam and the greatness of its Prophet, with the contents of such speeches circulated by word of mouth to those not in attendance. “Country has 250,399 mosques: Minister,”, March 1, 2011, accessed February 13, 2012, http://www. 30 Mumtaz Ahmad, “Islam, State and Society in Bangladesh,” in Asian Islam in the 21st century, ed. John L. Esposito (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 55. 31 Ahmed Shafiqul Huque and Muhammad Yeahia Akhter, “The Ubiquity of Islam: Religion and Society in Bangladesh,” Pacific Affairs 60 (1987): 214. 32 Mumtaz Ahmad, “Islam, State and Society,” 60-61. 33 Ibid., 61. 34 Emajuddin Ahmed and D.R.J.A Nazneen, “Islam in Bangladesh,” 800. 29


Islamists use these wajmahfils as occasion to promote the ethos of political Islam in Bangladesh. Content analysis of speeches given at wajmahfils by Delwar Hossain Saidee, a former MP of the BJI now facing trials for crime committed against humanity in the war for independence in 1971, finds that Saidee provides an ideology-driven, politically motivated interpretation of Islam, as sanctioned by the BJI, thus providing motivation for potential Islamist militants.35 Madrasah Education Bangladesh has two types of education systems, the secular and the Islamic madrasah. Scholars writing on Bangladesh tend to agree in connecting madrasah education with the growth of political Islam in the country. Madrasah education is seen to be among the principal educational institutions contributing to the process of socialization in the Islamic culture.36 Madrasahs have long been centers of classical Islamic studies and guardians of the orthodoxy of South Asian Islam.37 In Bangladesh today, two types of madrasah education are available: Alia and Quomi. The Alia madrasah curriculum is government-approved and it is divided into four levels: dakhil (secondary school certificate), alim (higher secondary school certificate), fazil (Bachelor of Arts), and kamil (Masters of Arts).38 These madrasahs run on government support.39 Degrees awarded by these madrasas are recognized by the government, and their graduates are more likely find a place in the job market. However, privately managed Quomi (people’s) madrasahs teach the Quran, Hadith, Sunnah, and an orthodox interpretation of the Sharia (Islam) to its students.40 These students are less likely to succeed in the job market. According to one estimate, government madrasahs have grown over 700%, and student enrollment has jumped by 653% in the period from 1972 to 2004.41 According to another report, around two million students are enrolled across 15,000 Quomi madrasahs, funded by individuals from countries such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and the United Kingdom.42 Increasingly, the trend has been that students and teachers of madrasahs have become major supporter of political Islam in the country. Tabligh Jamaat Movement Founded in the early 1900s, Tabligh Jamaat is the world’s largest apolitical movement, illustrated best by Ali Riaz, Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh, 58. Ahmed Shafiqul Huque and Muhammad Yeahia Akhter, “The Ubiquity of Islam,” 212. 37 Mumtaz Ahmad, “Islam, State and Society,” 55. 38 Ibid., 56. 39 Ali Riaz, Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh, 36. 40 Lamia Karim, “Democratizing Bangladesh: State, NGOs, and militant Islam,” Cultural Dynamics 16 (2004): 298. 41 Ali Riaz, Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh, 37. 42 Lamia Karim, “Democratizing Bangladesh,” 298. 35 36

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | The Geopolitics of Political Islam in Bangladesh

A mass gathering at Biswa Ijtema in January 2012 (Photo by Abir Abdullah)

drawing a parallel to the Christian missionary movement. The intention of the movement is to reinculcate Islamic ideals among those who are seen as having deviated from the Islamic way of life in search of materialistic gain.43 Muslims are called upon to spend time, generally 3 to 120 days, with a Tabligh Jamat group controlled by the Kakrail Mosque in Dhaka. Its growth and popularity in Bangladesh is spectacular; the movement draws large crowds from all walks of life, from students and teachers, to doctors and engineers, and even officials and ordinary people.44 Its annual conference, Biswa Ijtema, is the second largest gathering of Muslims in the world, after the Hajj. Every year, four million Muslims travel to take part in Biswa Ijtema, which takes place on the outskirts of Dhaka.45 Islam in Bangladeshi Politics State-enforced Islamization has two major impacts on the politics of Bangladesh. Firstly, it paves the way for the rapid growth of Islamist parties. The strength of the Islamists Ahmed Shafiqul Huque and Muhammad Yeahia Akhter, “The Ubiquity of Islam: Religion and Society in Bangladesh,” Pacific Affairs 60 (1987): 217. 44 Mumtaz Ahmad, “Islam, State and Society,” 62. 45 Maneeza Hossain, “Bangladesh,” in Guide to Islamist Movement Volume 1, ed. Rubbin Barry (New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2010), 63. 43

has historically challenged secular forces in Bangladeshi politics; the failed military coup in 2012 is a manifestation of such conflict. Although only eight Islamist parties are currently registered with the Bangladesh Election Commission (EC), the number of Islamist parties who operate covertly and without EC regulation surpasses 100.46 Riaz divides Islamists into three categories: those who participate in the existing political system, those who work within the democratic political system despite their reservations about it, and those who refuse to take part in constitutional politics and remain clandestine. The Islamist parties who are registered with the EC include the Jaker Party, BJI, Bangladesh Tarikat Federation, Bangladesh Khilafat Andolon, Bangladesh Muslim League, Jamiate Ulamaye Islam Bangladesh, Islamic Front Bangladesh, and Islami Oikko Jot (IOJ). Compared with the less than 2% of the votes received by other Islamist parties, the BJI received 12.13% and 8.63% of votes during the 1991 and 1996 parliamentary elections, respectively.47 In the 2001 election, the BJI won seventeen seats and the IOJ won two seats as part of the center-right coalition of four-party alliances headed by the BNP.48 However, unregistered Islamist parties make headlines Ali Riaz, Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh, 30. Mumtaz Ahmad, “Islam, State and Society,” 61. 48 Ibid. 46 47

The Geopolitics of Political Islam in Bangladesh | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


for different reasons. On August 17, 2005, Bangladesh experienced its own 9/11 in a shockwave of terror, when a relatively unknown Islamist group, Jamaatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB), detonated 500 bombs simultaneously across the country.49 Even less known is that pamphlets were left at every bombing spot with demands of establishing the “law of Allah” in the country by abolishing the present democratic system, under the claim that democracy and constitutions are sources of polytheism.50 The JMB then struck Bangladesh’s judicial system with several suicide bomb attacks, on October 3rd and 8th, and November 14, 2005, murdering four judges to underscore the seriousness of their demands.51 Another banned outfit of Islamists, Harkatul Jihad Bangladesh (HuJI-B), is accused of a series of terrorist activity, including a grenade attack on the British High Commissioner in Bangladesh in 2004, a failed attempt on the life of renowned secular poet Shamsur Rahman at his Dhaka residence in 1999, another grenade attack in 2004 on an AL rally in Dhaka that killed twenty-three people, and a failed attempt to assassinate Sheikh Hasina.52 HuJI-B was formed in 1992, reportedly with funds from al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. The existence of firm links between this group and al-Qaeda was proven when Fazlul Rahman, an Afghan returnee and leader of the HuJI-B, signed the official declaration of holy war against the US in February 1998, other signatories including Bin Laden, Ayman alZawahiri (leader of the Jihad Group in Egypt), Rifa’i Ahmad Taha (as known as Abu-Yasir, of the Egyptian Islamic Group), and Sheikh Mir Hamzah (secretary of the Jamiat Ulema of Pakistan).53 Interestingly, according to the South Asian Terrorism Portal, “at one point of time, the groups issued a slogan, Amra Sobai Hobo Taliban, Bangla Hobe Afghanistan” (We will all become Taliban, and we will turn Bangladesh into Afghanistan).54 My discourse analysis on Islamists’ manifestos finds that while these two groups of banned Islamist (the JMB and HuJI-B) believe in extremism to denounce secularism, especially the secular AL and secular judiciary of the country, a third type of Islamists, the Bangladeshi chapter of Hizbut Tahrir (HTB), does not believe in extremism, instead denouncing secular democracy and abstaining from elections.55 Conversely, the BJI, the largest Islamist party, in fact operates within the democracy. The same discourse analysis on BJI ideology finds that despite participating within a democracy, the BJI projects serious concerns over many aspects of Western democracy. Mubashar Hasan, “Democracy and Political Islam in Bangladesh,” South Asia Research 31 (2011): 98. 50 Ibid. 51 Ibid. 52 Mubashar Hasan, “Historical Developments,” 163. 53 Ibid. 54 “Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B): Terrorist Group, Bangladesh,” South Asia Terrorism Portal, accessed July 1, 2012, 55 Mubashar Hasan, “Democracy,” 97-117. 49


Consider the history of Islamists banned by the AL immediately after the independence, as well as the Islamists reaction – specifically the HuJI-B’s attempt on the life of Sheikh Hasina, head of the secular political force of the country. One will find that the Islamization of Bangladesh produced a conflicting political discourse, where both secularists and Islamists thrived. Such conflict continues today. With the fifteenth amendment to the constitution in 2011, the AL government replaced “absolute trust and faith in Allah” with secularism. The AL also jailed top leaders of the BJI, including two past Ministers and its ideological guru, Ghulam Azam, under the accusation of crime against humanity committed during the 1971 war. The secular government further banned the HTB. Seemingly, the secular government of Bangladesh has sought to suppress Islamism, with the Islamists trying to topple the secular government. Furthermore, the Islamization process influenced the secular political party – the AL. Even Sheikh Hasina, head of the AL, began to express her and her party’s alignment with Islam.56 Hasina had “begun carrying prayer beads, wearing scarves, and making pilgrimages to Mecca, while emphasizing Islamic greetings ... in her speech.”57 Analysis of the contents of posters and slogans of the BNP, AL, and BJI before the election of 1991, finds that these political parties attempted to show their indomitable faith in Islam. Riaz notes: BNP supporters chanted La ilahaillallah dhaner shishe bismillah (There is no God but Allah, vote for a paddy sheaf58 saying God the merciful). AL supporters came up with La ilahaillallah naukarmalik tui Allah (there is no God but Allah, the boat59 belongs to Allah) and BJI supporters chanted Vote diley palla ikhushi hobe Allah60 (Allah will be pleased if you vote for scale).61

Despite bagging few vote compared to two major parties (the BNP and the AL), against the backdrop of the Islamization of society, culture, and politics, Islamists had emerged not only as influential political players but also as the “kingmakers of Bangladesh politics.”62 When the BNP formed a government with the BJI in 2001, the Islamist BJI, once banned after independence, was granted two ministries. In an analysis of Islam’s dominance in the political discourse of Bangladesh and the rise of political Islam, Riaz argues that in post-independence Bangladesh, when the ruling AL faced a crisis of legitimacy, they developed a new ideology, Mujibism, based on a cult personality, but failed to create legitimacy. Using the theoretical framework of Gramsci, Riaz further argues that the “failure of the ruling block to provide moral leadership and establish moral superiority resulted in a crisis, and a violent solution to the crisis emerged through the coup d’état of August 1975.”63 When military regimes Ali Riaz, “God Willing,” 312. Ibid. 58 BNP’s election symbol 59 AL’s election symbol 60 BJI’s election symbol 61 Ali Riaz, “God Willing,” 312. 62 Ali Riaz, Unfolding State, 176. 63 Ali Riaz, “God Willing,” 316. 56 57

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later used Islam in public discourse, it could be seen in terms of the regime’s eternal quest for acquiring legitimacy from the people. Rashiduzzaman, however, differs with Riaz, arguing that the promotion of Islam in Bangladesh and rise of political Islam merely represents the cultural resistance of Muslims to secular nationalists.64 Islamization, Bangladeshi Foreign Policy, and Geopolitics I find that the reason behind the Islamization of Bangladeshi politics, society, and culture is embedded in its shift in foreign policy from 1975 to 1990. This policy shift is connected with two wars – the Yom Kippur War and the USled Taliban jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan, a ripple of the Cold War. Though the Bangladeshi state was not in existence during the Yom Kippur War, evidence highlights the influence of the defeat in promoting the Islamization of Bangladesh, illegal military regimes using financial support from foreign Muslim countries to legitimate their own regimes while exploiting the Islam of the masses. With Islam suppressed in the national body politic of Bangladesh during the Cold War in 1972, the Bangladeshi regime was more inclined toward India and the Soviet Union. However, this stance in foreign policy began to shift toward the Islamic heartland – the Middle East. Against the backdrop of economic depression in the country, the regime bid to attract foreign aid by promoting the Muslim and Islamic identity of the country. Interestingly, Sheikh Mujib initiated this trend of promoting Bangladesh’s Muslim identity abroad. To gain the support and recognition of Arab countries, Mujib’s government sent a doctor’s team to help the Arab nations during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.65 Despite being a secular leader, Sheikh Mujib joined the meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Pakistan and revived the Islamic academy that he himself had abolished. After Mujib’s death in 1975, when military regimes came into the power, unlike Mujib they distanced themselves from close diplomatic ties with India and Soviets at the outset. Historical facts reveal that without India’s support in military training, arms, soldiers, diplomacy, and humanitarian aid, Bangladesh could not have gained independence within nine months of the war in 1971. India hosted ten million Bangladeshi refugees from April to December of 1971, provided military and guerilla training to civilians, and backed Bangladeshi freedom fighters by deploying Indian army and war planes against the Pakistani military.66 Against M. Rashiduzzaman, “The Liberals and the Religious Right in Bangladesh,” Asian Survey 34 (1994): 982. 65 Rounaq Jahan, “Bangladesh in 1973,” 134. 66 Itty Abraham, “South Asian Events in 1971,” Economic & Political Weekly 40 (2005): 2994; David H. Bailey, “India: War and Political Assertion,” Asian Survey 12 (1972): 93-94; S. Mahmud Ali, Understanding Bangladesh (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010): 75-76. 64

the backdrop of an ongoing Cold War with the US, the Soviets too backed India’s support for the independence of Bangladesh.67 The US stayed neutral, actively supporting neither India nor Pakistan due to the Chinese alignment with Pakistan.68 Haider identifies several political motives behind India’s armed support of Bangladeshi freedom fighters in 1971: (a) the political enemies on both its borders would be replaced by a far weaker enemy on one side and a friend on the other; (b) secularism would be regarded as the dominant ideology for the developing countries; (c) India would emerge as an Asian superpower; (d) India would establish a subservient government in Bangladesh; and (e) Bangladesh would be an extension of the Indian market.69 Haider’s analysis meshes with Khan’s argument that Sheikh Mujib made secularism the state principal in order to facilitate Bangladesh’s relation with India.70 But against the backdrop of deteriorating socioeconomic conditions under the Mujib regime, Khan asserts that for the Muslims of Bangladesh, support had to come from Islam. Khan argues that the government of Sheikh Mujib lost sight of this aspect, trying to substitute Western liberal ideologies of secularism, nationalism, democracy, and socialism.71 In addition to public discontent about secular ideology, the economy of the country was on the verge of collapse. Bangladesh was in need of foreign support to rebuild its economy, and the oil-rich Middle East was Bangladesh’s only hope in this regard. Moreoever, after the defeat to Israel in the Yom Kippur War, the Middle Eastern countries had begun a global wave of Islamizing foreign countries through aid. The goal was to develop public and government support across the world in support of an Islamic identity. When Zia came into power, he shifted Bangladesh’s foreign policy toward Muslim countries and began to distance Bangladesh from a secular India. Later, President Ershad maintained Zia’s foreign policy toward India and the Middle East. Furthermore, Ershad allied with the US and alienated the socialist Soviets. After assuming power, Zia asserted the Islamic vision for Bangladesh’s foreign policy in the constitution, which says that “the state shall endeavor to consolidate, preserve, and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic solidarity.”72 In order to win the approval of Middle Eastern countries, military regimes often collaborated with the BJI, which maintained healthy M. Rajesh Basrur, “1971 in Retrospect: A Reappraisal of Soviet Policy in South Asia,” International Studies 25 (1988): 247. 68 Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi, “US Foreign Policy Shift towards Pakistan between 1965 & 1971 Pak-India Wars,” South Asian Studies 25 (2010): 36. 69 Zaglul Haider, “A Revisit to the Indian Role in the Bangladesh Liberation War,” Journal of Asian and African Studies 44 (2009): 537. 70 Zillur R. Khan, “Islam and Bengali Nationalism,” 848. 71 Ibid. 72 S.M. Shamsul Alam, “Ideology,” 100. 67

The Geopolitics of Political Islam in Bangladesh | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


connections with the Middle East.73 The implications of such a shift culminated into the military regime’s overwhelming dependence on foreign aid, the bulk of which coming from Middle Eastern, oil-rich Islamic fundamentalist countries. Ahmad argues that it was “Bangladesh’s growing cultural and economic relations (aid and the export of labor) with the oilproducing Middle Eastern Muslim countries and Malaysia that spurred state-sponsored Islamic activities, with generous official financial assistance from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).”74 Bangladesh’s foreign policy from 1975 to 1990 was successful in that rich Arab and East Asian countries funded Bangladesh well, despite these countries being previously unsupportive of Bangladesh during Mujib’s secular regime. I summarize below some of the key historical events that took place during the military regimes of Bangladesh (1975-1990), which manifested in a strong tie between Bangladesh and rich Muslim countries, an implication of Bangladesh’s shift in foreign policy from India to the Middle East:75 • Bangladesh had experienced state visits from high level dignitaries of various Muslim countries. Some of the high profile visits include a three-day visit with President Suharto of Indonesia in 1979; the visiting of foreign ministers and foreign ministry officials from forty-one Muslim countries to Bangladesh to attend the fourteenth Islamic foreign Ministers’ Conference, held in Dhaka in December 1983; the visit of the President of the UAE and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat in 1984; and the visit of Turkish PM Turgut Ozal to Bangladesh in 1986. • The signing of trade deals, including shipping, manufacturing, and industry with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kuwait, and Indonesia. Saudi Arabia offered $300 million in aid in 1979, and Turkey offered $60 million in loans to buy consumer items and capital machinery from Turkey. In 1985, the Saudi-Bangladesh Joint Economic Commission committed a $62 million loan for oil and gas exploration. • The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) offered loans to Bangladesh. • Bangladesh signed an air service agreement with Oman. • The frequency of President Ershad’s visits to Muslim countries increased. In 1982, President Ershad visited Enayetur Rahim, “Bengali Muslims and the Islamic Fundamentalism: The Jamat-i-Islami Bangladesh,” in Understanding the Bengal Muslims, ed. Rafiuddin Ahmed (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001), 248. 74 Mumtaz Ahmad, “Islam, State and Society,” 53-54. 75 See: Azizul Haque, “Bangladesh 1979: Cry for a Sovereign Parliament,” Asian Survey 20 (1980): 229; Md. Ataur Rahman, “Bangladesh in 1982: Beginnings of the second decade,” Asian Survey 23 (1983): 156; Md. Ataur Rahman, “Bangladesh in 1983: A Turning Point for the Military,” Asian Survey 24 (1984): 248; Peter J. Bertocci, “Bangladesh in 1984: A Year of Protracted Turmoil,” Asian Survey 25 (1985): 167; Syed Serajul Islam, “Bangladesh in 1986: Entering a New Phase,” Asian Survey 27 (1987): 121; Syed Serajul Islam, “Bangladesh in 1987: A Spectrum of Uncertainties,” Asian Survey 28 (1988): 170. 73


Saudi Arabia three times. In 1987, he paid an official visit to the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen), the first by a Bangladeshi head of state. The visit was seen as a significant move toward opening up new avenues for trade, culture, and economic cooperation. Such visits were aimed at increasing Bangladesh’s economic opportunity, opening door for Bangladeshi workers to migrate to the Middle East and thereby contributing to the inflow of remittances to the country. In 1984, as a result of such visits, Iraq agreed to recruit 11,000 Bangladeshi skilled workers. • In multilateral forums, Bangladesh has maintained its Muslim identity. In 1986, at the sixteenth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) in Morocco, the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister proposed a sevenpoint economic security program for Islamic countries. Bangladesh has also emphasized the inalienable rights of Palestinians. It is pertinent to ask why rich Muslim nations were interested in funding and helping Bangladesh. A plausible reason behind Middle Eastern countries’ interest in promoting Islam in Bangladesh could be rooted in the Arab defeat during the six-day war in Israel, during which the US and other Western countries supported Israel. In response to the Western stance on Israel, Arab countries imposed an oil embargo on the US and Holland. The embargo was lifted after six months in March 1974, but a shock went through Western economies. According to US government statistics, world crude oil prices had tripled from the 1973 average to $12 a barrel.76 Khanna argues that “it is during this time that oil became the Arab’s geopolitical lever, making the gulf monarchies the world’s nouveau riche.”77 Arab countries have begun to exercise their influence, financing missionary programs in various Muslim countries in this vein.78 The Islamization of Bangladeshi society, politics, and culture should thus be read as a two-way process of a Bangladeshi shift in foreign policy and the geopolitical implications of Arab nations leveraging their influence in the world. Another aspect of the military regimes’ foreign policy is their inclination toward the US alongside Arab countries. In the evaluation of Bangladesh’s foreign policy, Rahman argues that, “Bangladesh’s foreign policy … reflected the high priority on forging closer ties with Western countries and the Islamic world.”79 Two historic examples are relevant here. First, the Bangladeshi relationship with the Soviets had reached its nadir when, in 1983, Bangladesh expelled fourteen Soviet diplomats accused of involvement in espionage in Bangladesh; the Russian cultural center in Dhaka was shut down as well.80 The sentiment was greatly appreciated by the Mubashar Hasan, “Historical Developments,” 161. Parag Khanna, The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order (New York: Random House, 2008), 237. 78 Emajuddin Ahmed and D.R.J.A Nazneen, “Islam in Bangladesh,” 806. 79 Md. Ataur Rahman, “Bangladesh in 1983,” 248. 80 Ibid, 249. 76 77

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US, with the US providing some 15% of Bangladesh’s total bilateral development assistance aid in the 80s.81 When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the US was actively supporting the Taliban Mujahedeen. The US branded the Taliban’s war against the Soviets a “holy war,” a term that legitimized the participation of foreign Muslim nationals.82 During this period, the Bangladeshi regime was tolerant to homegrown militant Islamists, with the US orchestrating the war against the Soviet Union. Bangladesh neither discouraged nor encouraged Bangladeshis to travel to Afghanistan when, in 1984, volunteer corps were organized by radical Islamist groups to join the jihad. Riaz notes that: Approximately 3,000 people were motivated to travel in several different branches to fight in Afghanistan and alongside with other volunteer Mujahedeen from all over the globe. Over the next four years, at least twenty-four of these Bangladeshi volunteers died, and ten became disabled. In 1988, a delegation of ten self-proclaimed Ulama (Islamic scholars) from Bangladesh visited Afghanistan. The returnees from the Afghan war maintained close contact with the Taliban and became jubilant when the Mujahedeen captured Kabul in 1992.83

These Afghan returnees with Taliban contacts later formed an extremist Islamist cell in Bangladesh. In the 1990s, with the Cold War becoming history and the US becoming a global hegemonic power, against the backdrop of 9/11 as well as the US-led invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, Bangladeshi politics began to see a surge in militant Islamists with global and regional linkages.

about Islamists, especially the BJI. Before a state visit to Bangladesh in 2011, Indian PM Manmohan Singh expressed India’s reservations about the BJI by stating, “We must reckon that at least 25% of the population of Bangladesh swears by the Jamaat e Islami and they are very anti-Indian, and they are in the clutches, many times, of the Pakistani intelligence unit ISI.”84 In the Islamists’ opinion, the arrest of the BJI leaders with whom the AL made an alliance in 1996 and the banning of the HTB are closely related to Indian influence on the Bangladeshi government. Before the coup, the banned HTB published a leaflet on its website calling to remove the AL government. The title of the leaflet is certainly representative: “O Army officers! Remove Hasina, the killer of your brothers, and establish the Khilafah85 to save yourselves and the Ummah86 from subjugation to the US and India.”87 These statements from the Indian premiere and the HTB showcase the complexity of the secular-religious problem that Bangladesh has faced since its establishment. It is a national problem, with a national context that has become global. Islamists’ attempt in 2012 to topple a secular government should thus be seen as an ongoing conflict, of a global war between the secular and the non-secular – a war that has involved the US, India, the Middle East, and many more.

Conclusion I assert that the historical root of the 2012 failed military coup is Bangladesh’s foreign policy shift between 1975 and 1990, resulting from Bangladesh’s influence by Islamization. This process has been a critical factor in promoting the growth of Islamists in the country and increasing their support base in various strata of society, including the military. Without the support of the Middle East, it would not have been possible for the Bangladeshi government to promote Islamization. On the other hand, defeat in the Yom Kippur war influenced Middle Eastern countries to invest in Bangladesh and support the Islamization process. At the same time, Bangladesh’s economic dependence on the US resulted in inaction against the Bangladeshi Mujahedeen traveling to Afghanistan who later became pioneers in leading the Islamist movement, a key factor of which was Bangladesh’s foreign policy away from a secular India. Interestingly, the failed coup can also be read as a reaction to Bangladesh’s recent foreign policy stance toward India. After the AL came to power in 2008, the Indian Congress party government and the AL came to close cooperation. The Indian government is generally concerned Peter J. Bertocci, “Bangladesh in 1985: Resolute against the Storms,” Asian Survey 26 (1986): 233. 82 Ali Riaz, Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh, 82. 83 Ibid. 81

“ISI Grip: Jamaat slates Manmohan’s remark,” The Daily Star, July 2, 2011, accessed March 1, 2012, 85 The Khalifah, or Caliphate, was a governing system used by Muslims in the early history of Islamic civilization. 86 The Ummah refers to the imagined global brotherhood of Muslims. 87 “Traitor Hasina must be removed for plotting with her USIndian masters against the Muslim Army of Bangladesh,” Media office of Hizbut Tahrir in Bangladesh, January 20, 2012, accessed January 27, 2012, 84

The Geopolitics of Political Islam in Bangladesh | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


Post-ECFA China-Taiwan relations: future scenarios

gunjan singh · INSTITute for defence studies and analyses abstract The signing of the ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement) has transformed cross-strait relations, with both sides working toward improving relations in the economic as well as political domain. However, only time will tell how the developments pan out. This paper focuses on the key drivers of these developments, and it attempts to discuss and construct a few plausible scenarios based on the current developments and the identified drivers. Introduction The signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between China and Taiwan is a landmark event in the history of cross-strait relations. This agreement could be achieved only after the election of Ma Ying-jeou, a Kuomintang candidate. Ma was elected in March 2008, and since coming into power improving relations with the Mainland has been a priority of his administration. Relations were quite strained between the two 70

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sides prior to the 2008 election, due in part to the proindependence agenda asserted by President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP). Major problems in the cross-strait relationship emerged with Chen’s description of the relationship as “one country on either side.”1 The ECFA has been among Ma’s key achievements in the face of less-than-perfect economic conditions upon taking office. While in office, President Chen had promised to encourage economic growth; instead, in 2001 the Taiwanese economy witnessed negative growth, necessitating the devaluing of the currency and leading to a rapid increase in Taiwan’s level of unemployment.2 Since his election, Ma has undertaken a number of steps to improve the economic situation of Taiwan. A critical step has been the starting of regular direct passenger flights between the For further information, see: “President Chen: ‘One country on each side’,” Taiwan Communique, September 2002, accessed September 1, 2011, tc102-int.pdf. 2 John F. Copper, “Taiwan’s Failed President,” Asian Affairs: An American Review 34.4 (2008), 183. 1

Mainland and Taiwan. Prior, direct flights took place only on special occasions, including Chinese New Year.3 These developments have helped in Taiwan’s economic recovery, and the absence of antagonism has helped in the economic and social integration of the Mainland and Taiwan. The Taiwanese economy grew at a rate of 13.27% in the first quarter of 2010, helping lead the economic recovery of the region.4 Cross-strait relations are also at their warmest in the last six decades,5 with Famularo and Hsia arguing, “Before the Ma government came into power it was difficult for both the Taiwanese and Chinese governments to jointly revisit these ‘national’ cultural icons, political figures, and transformative events in modern Chinese history. Such efforts would have broached sensitive political issues and crossed certain lines for both the Chinese Communist Party and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).”6 As an example of these warm relations, in 2009 Taiwan dropped their bid for UN recognition after seventeen years. As Taiwanese foreign ministry spokesman James Chang articulated, “We’re not making a proposal this year.”7 Ma also stated that “when we improve relations with the Mainland, we’ll be less restricted as far as our international participation is concerned.”8 Taiwan has been trying to gain international recognition as an independent state for a very long time; it has always felt threatened by the strength of the Chinese, but this action clearly demonstrates that relations are becoming more compatible. In the past Beijing has consistently used its economic and political clout to marginalize Taiwan from international bodies as well as restrict Taiwanese integration in the international economy. As argued by Taylor, both Taiwan and China have used “dollar diplomacy” in order to gain recognition; in the recent past, however, the growing “Airlines look to expand direct flights between mainland, Taiwan,” People’s Daily Online, March 16, 2010, accessed August 30, 2011, cn/90001/90778/90860/6921511.html. 4 “2010 Taiwan Economic Forecast: A Revision,” Academia Sinica, July 19, 2010, accessed July 22, 2012, http://www.econ. cureChk=55f01c6522acd70613603d83710b8d0a. 5 Ibid. 6 Julia Famularo and L.C. Russell Hsia, “Taiwan’s Cultural Reservoir,” The Diplomat: China Power, May 1, 2012, accessed July 8, 2012, taiwans-cultural-reservoir/. 7 “Taiwan drops annual U.N. bid as China relations warm,” Reuters, September 4, 2009, accessed August 30, 2011, http:// 8 “Improved relationship with China lifts restrictions: Ma,” The China Post, May 16, 2011, accessed September 5, 2011, 3

economic strength of China has allowed it to surpass Taiwan in providing aid.9 The signing of the ECFA highlights that the Mainland is interested in furthering Taiwanese integration and facilitating stable economic growth. The response from the Mainland has been positive, the most prominent example of which being that Beijing has not attempted to disrupt Taiwanese recognition among the twenty-three countries that have diplomatic relations with Taipei.10 According to Roy, however, China has been reluctant to make concessions, with the fear that official concessions may be used by a future DPP government to further the independence agenda.11 ECFA and China-Taiwan Relations The ECFA was signed on June 29, 2010, formally coming into effect on September 12, 2010.12 Rockower estimates that “through the trade liberalization deal, Taiwan will be able to export 539 categories of goods tariff-free to China. Such goods are valued at $13.8 billion annually. Meanwhile China will receive the elimination of tariffs on some 260 types of products for export to Taiwan, the value of such goods worth $2.9 billion. In total, the deal will open up eleven service sectors, including the banking sector.”13 Fong argues that “the major beneficiary from this deal might be China. After the financial crisis China is looking for ways to improve its economy and this may prove to be an important opportunity.”14 The signing of the deal faced opposition as well. Ian Taylor, “Taiwan’s Foreign Policy and Africa: The limitations of dollar diplomacy,” Journal of Contemporary China 11.30 (2002), 125-140, accessed July 9, 2012, http://www. 10 For further details, see: “China endangering Ma’s presidency,” The China Post, March 23, 2011, accessed September 5, 2011, frank-ching/2011/03/23/295747/China-endangering.htm. 11 Denny Roy, “Taiwan Strait Thaw Likely Not Permanent,” East West Centre, November 8, 2009, accessed September 5, 2011, 12 Mary Swire, “Taiwan-China ECFA Takes Effect,” Tax-News. com, September 13, 2010, accessed August 31, 2011, http:// 13 Paul Rockower, “A Strait Deal: Taiwan, China and the PD Implications of ECFA,” CPD Blog, July 9, 2010, accessed August 31, 2011, newswire/cpdblog_detail/a_strait_deal_taiwan_china_and_ the_pd_implications_of_ecfa/. 14 Wong Yee Fong, “ECFA deal will benefit both Taiwan & China,” Business News, June 30, 2010, accessed August 31, 2011, 9

Gunjan Singh is a research assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, India. Her research interests include Mainland-Taiwan relations, media, civil society, gender issues and the female workforce in China, Tibet issues, and space security. She is Assistant Editor for CBW Magazine, published by the Institute, is co-editor of Space Security and Global Cooperation, and has published in Strategic Analysis, the Indian Defence Review, and World Affairs: A Journal of International Issues. Post-ECFA China-Taiwan Relations | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


The DPP was most vocal in asserting that the deal would jeopardize the future independence of Taiwan. Some maintained that it would lead to Taiwan’s full dependence on the Mainland. Others suggest that it may help Taiwan gain economic and political advantages in the international arena. To date, Taiwan has been marginalized, and Beijing has given it little leeway. Beijing has consistently used its economic and political clout to prevent Taiwan from gaining recognition on the international stage. In several cases, Beijing has extended aid and grants to African and Latin American countries under the condition that they shift their recognition from Taiwan to the PRC.15 However, with warmer relations, as well as Beijing’s realization that it has much to gain from maintaining balance, China may allow a KMT-led Taiwan to exert itself internationally. As highlighted by Glaser, during Ma’s first term in office Taiwan gained observer status in seven inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) and three non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Furthermore, no country has shifted diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing during his administration.16 A successful trade deal with China may also help Taiwan benefit economically from other countries in the region. According to Ma, “improving trade ties with China has made other countries more willing to negotiate similar arrangements with Taiwan.”17 Despite improved economic relations and the optimism surrounding it, the ECFA has not helped in addressing the military threat that Taiwan faces. The Mainland has not withdrawn its missiles facing the Taiwan Strait, a diplomatic issue between the two sides. According to Ma, “there has been a steady increase in the number of missiles facing Taiwan, and though Beijing claims the missiles are not targeted at Taiwan, they can still reach us.”18 Taiwan continues to feel threatened. And despite increased economic integration, the Mainland continues to show irritation with Taiwanese-American military cooperation and arms trading. In January 2010, the United States approved an arms deal worth $6 billion to Taiwan; this development did not sit well with Beijing.19 A similar pattern followed in 2011, when the United States again tried to sell F-16s to Taiwan. According to BBC News,

“Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun said the $5.85 billion deal would ‘inevitably undermine bilateral relations,’ including military and security cooperation.”20 This attitude has been often repeated by Beijing in order to stall increased military cooperation between Taiwan and the United States. Ma has stated that he plans on talking politics with the Mainland in his second term, sorting out the less complicated issues before tackling more difficult ones. Such a strategy has drawn criticism from the opposition party, the DPP saying that Ma’s position in fact represents an acceptance of reunification with the Mainland.21 With Ma’s second term under way, we shall see the extent to which Ma’s actions are in line with his original discourse.

Gunjan Singh, “The Rights and Wrongs of China’s Aid Policy,” IDSA Comment, May 4, 2011, accessed July 9, 2012, 16 Bonnie S. Glaser, “U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations in the Runup to 2012 Elections in Taiwan and the U.S. and Leadership Transition in China,” accessed July 9, 2012, files/publication/Glaser%20US-Taiwan-China%20Carnegie%207-7-11.pdf, 2-3. 17 “Interaction with China is unavoidable: Ma,” The China Post, June 16, 2011, accessed September 1, 2011, 18 Ibid. 19 Helene Cooper, “U.S. Approval of Taiwan Arms Sales Angers China,” The New York Times, January 29, 2010, accessed July 8, 2012, asia/30arms.html.




HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Post-ECFA China-Taiwan Relations

Post-ECFA Taiwan-US Relations Since the signing of the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979, the United States has committed to being the protector of Taiwan. Prior, the US had also signed the US-ROC Mutual Defense Treaty in 1954. This relationship, in addition to US Military Assistance Advisory Group in Taipei, has safeguarded the Taiwanese government.22 It has been the threat from Washington that has prevented the Mainland from any military action against Taiwan; however, with the normalization of relations between Washington and Beijing, the American stance toward Beijing has softened. With increased economic integration, the US and China have become more dependent upon each other: Chinese exports to the US rose from $100 billion in 2000 to $296 billion in 2009, with imports rising from $16 billion to $70 billion.23 The treasury bonds that China holds further Washington’s dependence on Beijing; as of July 2011, China held $1.6 trillion in United States Treasury  bonds.24 The 2011 financial crisis further highlights American dependence on China for economic stability, making the US wary of damaging its relations with the Mainland. At the same time, the signing of the Taiwan Relations Act represents the United States’ commitment to Taiwan. According to Hung, the Taiwan Relations Act was a treaty put into effect by the Carter administration; signed into law, “China hits out at US deal on Taiwan F-16 fighters,” BBC News, September 22, 2011, accessed July 8, 2012, http://www. 21 Gunjan Singh, “Positive Trends in Cross-Strait Relations”, Strategic Analyses, Volume 33, Issue 5, (2009) 648, 651 22 Brookings, “The United States and Taiwan’s Defense Transformation,” Taiwan-U.S. Quarterly Analysis, Number 2, Opinion, February 2010, accessed July 9, 2012, 23 “The U.S.-China Economic Relationship: Shifts and Twists in the Balance of Power” Brookings, accessed September 5, 2011, china_debt_prasad.aspx 24 David Barboza, “China’s Treasury Holdings Make U.S. Woes Its Own,” The New York Times, July 18, 2011, accessed July 8, 2012, china-largest-holder-of-us-debt-remains-tied-to-treasuries. html?pagewanted=all.

the Carter administration and those that have followed it have abided by it in their conduct toward Taipei as well as Beijing.25 As a result, Taiwanese security has been inextricably entwined with the strength of the US military. Washington has promised to provide arms to Taiwan with the goal of self-sufficiency, but such arms deals have consistently faced Chinese disapproval. In many instances, arms transfers have been followed by a period of cold relations between China and the US. Ma has consistently asserted that Washington should continue its arms sales to Taiwan, but it remains to be seen whether the US will consistently assert pressure on Beijing in spite of the economic repercussions, or if Washington will continue to maintain its commitment to Taipei. Nonetheless, Taiwan-US relations remain economically important for Washington. As of 2009, Taiwan was the United States’ tenth largest trading partner, with total trade amounting to $46.8 million. Many Taiwanese industries produce essential components in the global supply of hightech products, further reflecting its importance as a player in the world economy.26 Scenario Building With a number of transformations under way, this paper attempts to discuss some of the cross-strait scenarios that may emerge in the next twenty years. Four key drivers must be discussed: • The decline of the American economy and its impact on policy: The United States has always played a role in shaping China-Taiwan relations. The Taiwan Relations Act has made the defense of Taiwan an important aspect of US foreign policy, but recent developments have impacted the American position on the international stage. While Washington remains the sole military superpower, much has changed economically. The US today is highly dependent on developing countries, China especially, and Beijing’s increasing clout may transform the global economic balance. Washington may be forced to rethink its policy toward Taiwan, thereby transforming cross-strait relations as they are today. • Policy resulting from regional pressure on the Mainland: The economic rise of China has given it unprecedented leverage in the international system, and the world at large is trying to come to terms with this change. The same is true about Taiwan. With the signing of the ECFA, Taiwan will become highly dependent on the Chinese economy, perhaps becoming engulfed by it. However, the region as a whole is changing. The nuclear positioning of North Korea is augmenting the role of the United States. Some note an increasing feeling among “Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 and Taiwan’s foreign policy,” The China Post, April 14, 2008, accessed September 1, 2011, joe-hung/2008/04/14/151780/Taiwan-Relations.htm. 26 Russell Ong, “Taiwan’s Strategic Options and the US,” AsiaPacific Review 17.2 (2010), 60. 25

the international community that China has been an important factor in helping North Korea go nuclear, possibly serving to increase the American presence in the region, especially in South Korea and Japan. Such hegemonic power may trigger a nationalistic response, resulting in a strengthening of Chinese domestic attitudes toward taking stronger measures. • Domestic politics in Taiwan: The Taiwanese economy may become irrevocably intertwined with the Mainland economy as a result of the ECFA, which may prove either beneficial or harmful for the Taiwanese economy. A sour result from the ECFA may cause Taiwanese public opinion to turn against the current leadership, resulting in the strengthening of the pro-independence movement. If instead the ECFA spurs the Taiwanese economy, it may serve to bolster the current party, as well as new ways of managing the status quo. • Regional geostrategic constraints in East Asia: The regional dynamics of East Asia have a clear impact on cross-strait relations. The increasingly nationalistic stand adopted by the Mainland in regards to the South China Sea disputes is a cause of concern for Taiwan. Should China undertake military action in order to settle the disputes – something that has already been mentioned as a core national interest – Taiwan may request an increased US military presence. Such an increase would mean an increase in a general sense of the American presence in East Asia, thus potentially leading to problems between China and the US for reasons mentioned above. In accordance with the above drivers, one can envision four possible scenarios: • Reunification with force: Based on current economic trends, the US faces slower economic growth rates in the coming decades, as well as problems with unemployment and job creation. These worsening economic problems in the United States have resulted in a Washington weakened and dependent on Beijing. The United States is not in a position to deploy the military force necessary to protect Taiwan. China has fresh impetus to militarily force reunification on Taiwan, confident that the US will be unable to intervene. Driven by an increasing zeal of nationalism among the Chinese, rooted perhaps in a more prominent international standing, the masses may even provide pressure on the Chinese government to overtake Taiwan, potentially the result of the masses doubting the commitment of the Chinese Communist Party to pursue talks of reunification. • The economic decline of Taiwan and the rise of rightwing forces: The signing of the ECFA might prove harmful for the Taiwanese economy in the long run. It may suffer due to increased competition with the Chinese economy and its lower labor costs. The more it becomes integrated with the Chinese economy, the more difficult it becomes for Taiwan to follow an independent economic policy. As a result, a damaged economic situation in Taiwan may delegitimize KMT rule. The Taiwanese

Post-ECFA China-Taiwan Relations | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


people, disillusioned with maintaining the status quo, may assert support for right-wing parties like the DPP. Such an outcome may spur talks of independence, causing major problems between the Mainland and Taiwan, and also possibly forcing the US to get involved. Such conflict has the potential to accelerate into an international conflict, specifically if Japan and other regional players get involved on the Taiwanese side, a feasible possibility for South East Asian countries that are already facing maritime boundary disputes with Beijing. • A battle between the Democratic and the Authoritarian: The strengthening of Taiwanese democracy, combined with an increasing Chinese assertiveness, may push other democratic countries in the region to form an alliance. China has consistently pushed its influence and military supremacy, as seen in the East China Sea and in disputes with Japan. American involvement, alongside countries like India and Australia, may take the form of an international conflict. • Maintaining the status quo: A fourth scenario in the next two decades is that the countries involved may realize that their best interests lie simply in maintaining the ongoing status quo, putting aside specific timelines for actual reunification. Another situation may be an agreement on some model of integration which conforms to both socialist and democratic systems. A potential factor is the threat of North Korea, which may incentivize all parties involved to work together for regional stability. Conclusion With the ongoing changes in the international arena, the next twenty years will be crucial. Today, China is the second largest economy in the world, and it continues to grow. Only time will reveal how long China can maintain its growth, with the Communist party facing more pressing problems domestically than internationally. The party is focused inward, and it is reasonable to say that simply maintaining a stable international environment is among its key priorities, though turning its focus to the Taiwan issue remains a possibility nonetheless. Meanwhile, the global economic shift from the US and Europe to China and Asia has also transformed the balance of power. Faced with natural disaster and a number of domestic problems, Japan finds itself no longer a key economic player, further pushing the center of regional power to China – a position Beijing is unlikely to barter for other gains. The situation in East Asia is further complicated by developments in the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has continued to bargain for international recognition, and the isolation policy adopted by the US has not been successful in preventing North Korea from going nuclear. North Korea thus represents one problem that China, Japan, Taiwan, the US, and South Korea would all like to solve at its earliest, as North Korea represents a credible and significant threat to the peace of the region as a whole. In this sense, and in


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Post-ECFA China-Taiwan Relations

considering an analysis of the possible future scenarios, one can only conclude that strong and stable cross-strait relations are beneficial for both parties, whatever form that relationship may take.

the current and emerging terrorist threat in southeast asia

rohan gunaratna · nanyang technological university ABSTRACT Until the US-led coalition intervention in October 2001, Afghanistan and Pakistan (Af-Pak) represented the global epicenter for the training of Southeast Asian insurgents, terrorists, and extremists. With the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan in 2014, the return of the Taliban and al Qaeda to Afghanistan has become a real possibility. By mid-2012, Nuristan and Kunar in Afghanistan and North Waziristan in Pakistan have become safe havens for threat groups from Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as from neighboring countries. If unchecked, the threat is likely to spread, affecting the future rise of the Asia-Pacific. Since the 1990s, Af-Pak groups have built ideological and operational ties with two dozen Asian groups, including Southeast Asian threat groups. Hitherto, the presence of Western forces in Afghanistan mitigated the threat from the Af-Pak region to

Southeast Asia; with the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan, the restoration of old ties and the rekindling of new ones by Southeast Asian threat groups to global terrorist organizations poses a significant threat to the security of the region. INTRODUCTION After al Qaeda’s infamous attacks against the US on September 11, 2001, the US government designated Southeast Asia as the “second front” on the global war on terrorism.1 With their US, European, and Australian counterparts, Southeast Asian security and intelligence “National Strategy for Combating Terrorism,” The White House, February 2003, accessed July 22, 2012, https://www. Terrorism_Strategy.pdf.


The above picture, kindly provided by Detachment 88 of Indonesia, shows the carnage following terrorist bombings of the JW Marriot Hotel in Jakarta on July 17, 2009. The Current and Emerging Terrorist Threat in Southeast Asia | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


agencies, law enforcement authorities, and militaries have worked to contain the threat in the subregion over the last decade. While governments have succeeded in disrupting and degrading terrorist networks, insurgent threats from southern Thailand and the southern Philippines have still not plateaued. Nonetheless, the determinants of the future stability and security of Southeast Asia rest in the capacities of the subregion, as well as the Asia-Pacific as a whole, to manage current and emerging extremist, terrorist, and insurgent threats. After decolonization in 1945, Southeast Asia suffered from left-wing, ethnopolitical, and politico-religious conflicts. Insurgencies and terrorist campaigns assumed a renewed significance at the end of the Cold War, and both operationally and ideologically, al Qaeda’s capacity to influence Southeast Asian groups has been profound. After the US-led coalition withdraws from Afghanistan in 2014, the Asia-Pacific threat landscape will face significant challenges.2 Currently, insurgency, terrorism, and ideological extremism present a tier-one non-traditional national security threat to many Southeast Asian countries. Historically, insurgencies driven by left-wing and ethnopolitical movements have threatened Southeast Asia. Today, except for left-wing insurgency in the Philippines, support for Marxist, Leninist, and Maoist insurgencies is on the decline. The most active ethnopolitical insurgency in Southeast Asia is in Thailand, waged by Pattani nationalist groups.3 Although secular, the multiple Muslim groups in southern Thailand are coming under the greater influence of other Southeast Asian Islamist groups. While such ethnopolitical threat groups are still active in Southeast Asia, politico-religious groups – and especially groups driven by Islamism – present a higher-order threat.4 Southeast Asian governments must respond effectively to preempt, counter, and dampen the threat of ideological extremism and their byproducts – terrorism and insurgency. This paper will survey Dexter Filkins, “After America: Will civil war hit Afghanistan when the US leaves,” New Yorker, July 9, 2012, accessed July 22, 2012, reporting/2012/07/09/120709fa_fact_filkins. 3 Anthony Davis, “Interview: Kasturi Mahkota, Foreign affairs spokesman, Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO),” Jane’s Intelligence Review, August 8, 2006, accessed July 22, 2012, html. 4 Bruce Hoffman, “‘Holy Terror’: The Implications of Terrorism Motivated by a Religious Imperative,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 18 (1995): 272. 2

the current and emerging threat of terrorism and insurgency in Southeast Asia, focusing on domestic and regional threat groups as well as foreign groups, notably al Qaeda and Hezbollah. THE CONTEXT The threats posed by insurgency, terrorism, and extremism in Southeast Asia predate al Qaeda.5 The contemporary wave of politically motivated violence worldwide has its roots in the anti-Soviet multi-national Afghan jihad (1979-1989).6 Today, the most significant threat of political extremism and violence in Southeast Asia stems from the politicization of religion, with groups that seek to institute Islamic law, and ethnicity, with separatist campaigns in southern Thailand, the southern Philippines, and West Papua.7 Although the separatist conflicts in Maluku and Aceh have ended, the potential for revival still exists. Members of the Republik Maluku Selatan (RMS: The Republic of South Maluku) bombed the Mardhika Market in Ambon on April 25, 2007.8 Insurgencies waged in zones of conflict politicize, radicalize, and mobilize the next generation of youth, perpetuating conflict as well as providing ready recruits for terrorist and extremist groups. Unlike terrorist groups, insurgent groups come to dominate an area, controlling and holding ground. If threats from terrorist campaigns are not properly addressed, they have the potential to gain mass support and develop into insurgencies. Southeast Asia is no exception.

Andrew T.H. Tan, A Handbook of Terrorism and Insurgency in Southeast Asia (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2007), 10. 6 Maria Ressa, Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of AlQaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia (New York: Free Press, 2003); Kenneth J. Conboy, The Second Front: Inside Jemaah Islamiyah, Asia’s Most Dangerous Terrorist Network (Jakarta: Equinox Publishing, 2005); Kumar Ramakrishna, Radical Pathways: Understanding Muslim Radicalization in Indonesia (Westport: Praeger Security International, 2009); Bilveer Singh, The Talibalization of Southeast Asia: Losing the War on Terror to Islamist Extremist (Westport: Praeger Security International, 2007). 7 Peter Chalk, “Separatism and Southeast Asia: The Islamic Factor in Southern Thailand, Mindanao, and Aceh,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 24.4 (2001): 241–69. 8 The attack may have been connected to the sectarian horizontal conflict between Christians and Muslims rather than an attempt by RMS to target the state of Indonesia itself. 5

Dr. Rohan Gunaratna is Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research and Professor of Security Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He is the author of Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror (Columbia University Press), an international bestseller, and with Michael Chandler, former Chairman of the UN group that monitored the implementation of sanctions against the al Qaeda network, the author of Countering Terrorism: Can We Meet the Threat of Global Violence? He serves on the international advisory committee for the Journal for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, as well as on the advisory board of the International Centre for Counter‐Terrorism – The Hague. 76

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | The Current and Emerging Terrorist Threat in Southeast Asia

BACKGROUND With the global rise of international terrorism in 1968, Southeast Asia was threatened by the operations of the Japanese Red Army, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and terrorism sponsored by North Korea in the 1970s.9 A few foreign terrorist and insurgent groups continue to operate in Southeast Asia. The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the military wing of the Turkistan Islamic Party, used Southeast Asia for transit for traveling to Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Similarly, the Libyan Islamic Fighters Group (LIFG) used Thailand and Malaysia, and Babar Khalsa International (BKI), Malaysia for transit.10 To support its procurement and shipping operations from North Korea, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) maintained a permanent presence in Southeast Asia. Starting in 1988, Saudi and other Middle Eastern charities infiltrated by al Qaeda and their associated groups established a presence in Southeast Asia.11 A founding member of al Qaeda, Mohamed Jamal Khalifa, brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden, was Founder-Director of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) in Manila.12 Khalifa operated in Southeast Asia through the IIRO from 1988 to 1995. These charities built an infrastructure to support radical and violent Islamist groups, launched initiatives to politicize Muslims, and funded plots against Western interests. Oplan Bojinka, for instance, the prototype for 9/11, was developed in Southeast Asia by Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the failed bomber of the World Trade Center attack of February 1993.13 Working with his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, out of the Philippines, Yousef planned to destroy twelve US airliners flying from Asia to the US, crash a plane on CIA headquarters, and assassinate Pope John Paul II during his visit to Manila.14 The plot was disrupted on January 6, 1995, and many of its planners and operators, including Yousef, were arrested in Pakistan on February 7, 1996; Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, however, escaped and transformed Oplan Bojinka into the “Planes operation.”15 Although the plan to bomb Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998). Hoffman describes the origins of international terrorism in 1968, including the rise of terrorism in Asia. 10 Dato Ayub Khan, “Terrorist Threat in Malaysia,” Terrorism Analyst Training Course (TATC), Singapore, January 2012. 11 Peter Chalk, “Al Qaeda and Its Links to Terrorist Groups in Asia,” in The New Terrorism, Anatomy, Trends and Counter Strategies, ed. Andrew Tan and Kumar Ramakrishna (Singapore: Eastern University Press, 2002). 12 Muhammed Ibrahim, “IIRO wants UN to remove it from terror list,” Arab News, January 9, 2010, accessed July 22, 2012, 13 John J. Goldman, “Jury Finds Three Guilty of Plot to Blow Up a Dozen US,” Los Angeles Times, September 6, 1996, accessed July 22, 2012, 14 Simon Reeve, The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the future of terrorism (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2002). 15 “The 9/11 Commission Final Report,” National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, July 22, 2004, accessed July 22, 2012, 9

twelve flights midair was disrupted, its experimentation and experience was useful in framing 9/11. Meanwhile, Ustaz Riduan Isamuddin, alias Hambali, a close associate of Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, engaged in preaching, radicalizing, and recruiting followers in Asia to the salafi-jihadi ideology. The operational leader of al Jemaah al Islamiyah (JI), Hambali was instrumental in building operational linkages between Southeast Asian groups and al Qaeda.16 Yazid Sufaat, for instance, the Malaysian biochemist who headed al Qaeda’s Anthrax program in Kandahar, was recruited by Hambali.17 In Southeast Asia, Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and Hambali planned to mount an operation to coincide with the attacks in New York and Washington, DC. Based on the debriefings, the 9/11 Commission reported: “The operatives would hijack US-flagged commercial planes flying Pacific routes across East Asia and destroy them in midair, possibly with shoe bombs, instead of flying them into targets.”18 Al Qaeda also envisaged an alternate scenario of hijacking planes originating in Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Malaysia and flying them onto US targets, Japan, Singapore, and Korea.19 However, to keep the planes operation simple, the East Asia component was vetoed by Osama bin Laden. Several al Qaeda leaders and operatives visited Malaysia and Thailand throughout the 1990s, includeding Zacarias Moussaoui, the twentieth hijacker, who visited Malaysia twice.20 Similarly, planning meetings for bombing the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen and the 9/11 attacks were held in Thailand and Malaysia. Just before traveling to the US, the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al Midhar and Nawaz al Hazmir, met with Tawfiq bin Attash, head of administration for the operations committee of al Qaeda, in Yazid Sufaat’s apartment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.21 In addition to re-energizing some existing conflicts, al Qaeda and its associated group, JI, influenced and sustained multiple threat groups and conflicts in Asia. In Southeast Asia, most insurgent and terrorist groups are based in Indonesia, southern Thailand, and the southern Philippines. Due to the effectiveness of Detachment 88, Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism police force, the threat in Indonesia has declined dramatically. Nonetheless, the lack of a proper legal and judicial framework, as well as the absence of a counter-extremist strategy, perpetuates the, 153159. 16 Maria A. Ressa, Seeds of Terror. 17 Aidila Razak, “Ex-ISA detainee Yazid says he met Osama,” Malaysia Kini, March 20, 2012, accessed July 22, 2012, http:// 18 “The 9/11 Commission Report,” 173. 19 Ibid. 20 Jack Kelley, “Malaysia site of Sept. 11 plotting, FBI report says,” USA Today, January 1, 2002, accessed July 22, 2012, 21 Derek Henry Flood, “Malaysia’s forgotten, forgiven 9/11 history,” Asia Times, September 11, 2010, accessed July 22, 2012,

The Current and Emerging Terrorist Threat in Southeast Asia | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


threat. In the southern Philippines and southern Thailand, some ethnonationalist Muslim groups continue to fight their respective governments. Working with the Philippines, US and Australian collaboration is helping to dismantle al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), already a weakened group in Mindanao. With 11,754 violent incidents, resulting in 5,206 deaths and 9,137 injuries from January 4, 2004 until May 31, 2012, Thailand is likely to remain the most violent conflict zone in Southeast Asia.22

The genesis of ideological extremism and terrorism in Southeast Asia came with Southeast Asians who traveled to Afghanistan and fought against the Soviets. Thereafter, visitors of Arab nationality, mostly Afghan veterans, facilitated the spread of extremism and enabled the practice of violence, seeking to build partnerships with Southeast Asian Muslims. Pakistan- and Afghanistan-trained fighters formed the nucleus of all key terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia in the decade that followed 9/11.



The current wave of extremism in Southeast Asia and its by-products, terrorism and insurgency, is a result of domestic, regional, and international developments. Many conflicts are historical, stemming from government failure to manage ethnic and religious relations. A few threat groups are influenced by global and regional geopolitical developments. After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in February 1989, al Qaeda provided training to multiple threat groups in the global south, including in Southeast Asia. To fight the Soviets, al Ittihad al Islami provided training to several Southeast Asian groups in Pakistan in the 1980s. Indonesian clerics Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, who were living in exile in Malaysia, sent batches of Muslim youth to fight against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. Most graduates came from Pondok Pesantren al Mukmin in Ngruki, Solo, Indonesia; Maahad Ittiba’us Sunnah in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia; and Luqmanul Hakiem in Ulu Tiram, Johor, Malaysia. Unknown to governments in Southeast Asia, both al Qaeda and its associate group, JI, operated for several years. Founded by Sungkar and his assistant Ba’syir on January 1, 1993, JI, and subsequently its associates and splinters, emerged as the most violent class of groups in Southeast Asia. The stated aim of JI is the establishment of an Islamic state (Daulah Islamiyah) in Indonesia, Malaysia, the southern Philippines, Singapore, and Brunei, and it has followed al Qaeda’s trajectory of targeting Western, government, and Christian targets since 2000. The structure and code of conduct of JI is enshrined in a book entitled Pedoman Umum Perjuangan al-Jemaah al-Islamiyah, PUPJI (General Guidelines for the al Jemaah al Islamiyah Struggle).23 Influenced and supported by al Qaeda, JI spearheaded many of the significant terrorist attacks in the region, beginning with an attack on the Filipino Ambassador in Jakarta, Indonesia in August 2000.

After al Qaeda attacked the US on September 11, 2001, Southeast Asian governments became aware of threats on their own soil. The existence of the al Qaeda-linked JI in Southeast Asia came to the attention of Southeast Asian governments after 9/11. In December 2001, Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) disrupted a plot against the US, British, Australian, and Israeli diplomatic missions and the Singaporean government, among other targets. The law enforcement, security, and intelligence agencies of Malaysia, the Philippines, and Australia collaborated with Singapore in December 2001 to dismantle JI, but Indonesia did not. The return of democracy to Indonesia in 1998 created space for the emergence of several Islamist militia groups.24 With the disruption of the JI plot in Singapore, JI planned to attack Bali in Indonesia, the region’s best-known tourist resort. Al Qaeda funded JI to attack Bali on October 12, 2002. The twin suicide attack killed 202, including eighty-eight Australians. Originating in the late 1990s, the politico-religious conflicts between Muslims and Christians in Eastern Indonesia threatened the security and stability of Indonesia throughout the 2000s.25 JI and its associated groups continued to operate most notably in Central Sulawesi (Poso, Palu, and Tentena) and in Maluku (Ambon), including killings, beheadings, and bombings.26 The unrest in Central Sulawesi and Maluku continued, until the deployment of Detachment 88.

Tanaya Sittipanuwong, “Authorities ‘Undervalued’ Risk in South,” Bangkok Post, July 1, 2012, accessed July 22, 2012, 23 “Jemaah Islamiyah in South East Asia: Damaged but Still Dangerous,” Crisis Group, August 26, 2003, accessed July 22, 2012, South%20East%20Asia%20Damaged%20but%20Still%20 Dangerous.ashx, 2. 22


This development has been discussed extensively by Harold A. Crouch, Political Reform in Indonesia After Soeharto (Singapore: ISEAS, 2010); Bahtiar Effendy, Islam and the State: The Transformation of Islamic Political Ideas and Practices in Indonesia (Singapore: ISEAS, 2003); Robert Hefner, Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000); Greg Fealy and Sally While, The Expressing Islam: Religious Life and Politics in Indonesia (Singapore: ISEAS, 2010); Noorhaidi Hasan, Laskar Jihad: Islam, Militancy, and the Quest of Identity in Post-New Order Indonesia (Ithaca: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 2006); and Muhammad Najib Azca, “After Jihad: A Biographical Approach to Passionate Politics in Indonesia” (PhD diss., Universiteit van Amsterdam, 2011). 25 Noorhaidi Hasan, Laskar Jihad. 26 Sumanto, “Interreligious Violence, Civic Peace, and Citizenship: Christians and Muslims in Maluku, Eastern Indonesia” (PhD diss., Boston University, 2012). 24

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THE DECLINE OF JI The ideological and operational relationship between JI and al Qaeda made JI the most hunted terrorist group in Southeast Asia. Its leader and Indonesia’s most notorious cleric, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, was called the Osama bin Laden of Asia. Ba’asyir argued that Muslims must recognize that jihad is an individual obligation for all Muslims. Although many students of Ba’asyir were arrested for their role in bombing Bali and the subsequent attacks, the Indonesian government did not close down either Pondok Pesantren al Mukmin in Ngruki, Solo or its network of affiliated schools. Known as Ngruki, the school produced the bulk of terrorist leadership. Since Sungkar’s death on October 24, 1999, Hambali, the operational leader of JI, continued the underground relationship with al Qaeda. Al Qaeda’s link to Southeast Asia was temporarily disrupted with the capture of Omar al Faruq, a Kuwaiti-Iraqi, in Bogor, Indonesia on June 5, 2002. Al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian point man, Hambali, was arrested in Ayutthaya, Thailand by General Tritot Ronnaritivichai of the Thai Special Branch on August 11, 2003. Meanwhile, JI conducted and planned operations with al Qaeda in the region and beyond, including a “second wave” of attacks against the US.27 The plot to hit the Bank of America (Library Tower) building in Los Angeles was disrupted with Hambali’s arrest and his subsequent transfer to US custody in Guantanamo Bay. Nonetheless, associates of Hambali continued to capture the imagination of salafi jihadists by creating groups in the name of al Qaeda. JI splinters created “Tandzim Al-Qoidah Indonesia” (al Qaeda in Indonesia), led by Noordin Mohamed Top, al Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago, led by Mohammed Fadzullah, and Tandzim Al Qoidah Indonesia Wilayah Serambi Makkah (al Qaeda in Indonesia at the Verandah to Mecca), led by Dulmatin.28 The strategy of the al Qaeda-linked JI was not only to mount attacks in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, but also the Maldives, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Cambodia. THE EMERGENCE OF JAMA’AH ANSHARUT TAUHID (JAT) By 2001, JI operated as the premier regional terrorist organization in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Australia. In response to the Bali bombing in Marc Thiessen, “The Significance of Hambali,” National Review Online, January 15, 2010, accessed July 22, 2012, http:// 28 Dicky Christanto, “Police probe Aceh’s ‘al-Qaeda’,” The Jakarta Post, March 7, 2010, accessed July 22, 2012, http:// html. As Islam entered Indonesia through Aceh, the term “Serambi Makkah” (Verandah to Mecca) is used to identify Aceh. The author interviewed Fadullah, a JI leader in Malaysia, at the Detention Centre in Kamunting. 27

2002, Indonesia set up a Bombing Task Force and subsequently established Detachment 88 (Densus 88). D88 relentlessly targeted JI members, but not the group itself. JI support infrastructure survived, transformed and revived. Although Abu Rusydan, the new JI leader, abandoned the strategy of violence, amidst internal conflict a new group emerged – Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT). Other new groups also emerged, some with membership overlapping with JAT. The most active are Jamaah Tauhid Wal Jihad and Laskar Hisbah, groups with similar ideologies declaring non-Muslims as infidels and Muslims unlike themselves as apostates.29 The debate that followed the JI split demonstrated that Islamists were unwilling to compromise on their goal of creating Islamic states. The rising JAT openly criticized JI, accusing JI of sitting idle while others waged jihad, being sufficiently satisfied with publishing books on jihad and distributing them only to radical members. The new JI countered by stating that it was strategically preparing for jihad, focused on dakwah to make ordinary people understand that they needed to wage jihad against an idolatrous government.30 While JAT politicized, radicalized, and mobilized the public, its secret cells conducted intermittent attacks. The attacks were carried out by JAT, and on occasion with members of its associated groups. These attacks included a grenade thrown at the UNICEF office in Banda Aceh on March 17, 2009; the shooting of German Red Cross Representatives in Aceh on November 5, 2009; the shooting of two American teachers in Aceh on November 23, 2009; a suicide bombing at the Police Mosque in Cirebon on April 15, 2010;31 the CIMB Medan robbery in Medan, North Sumatra, on August 18, 2010;32 the ambush of Hamparan Perak sub-precinct police station in Medan on September 22, 2010; a series of unexploded bombs in police posts and churches in cities in Central Java on December 1, 2010;33 a shooting at a church in Solo on December 4, 2010;34 two Molotov bombs found in a police post and a church in Solo on December 7, 2010;35 a bomb attack on Syuhada Mosque, Yogyakarta on December 23, 2010;36 an attempt to bomb “Rezki Dian Furqoni Aktif di Laskar Islam,” Oke Zone, May 11 2012, accessed July 4, 2012, read/2012/05/11/511/628179/rezki-dian-furqoni-aktif-di-laskar-islam. 30 “Bukan Pengecut Tapi Siasat,” An-Najah, May 2010, 9-10, 43. 31 The police claim Laskar Hisbah, Jamaah Tauhid wal Jihad, and JAT was responsible for this attack. Major General Tito Karnavian, Deputy for Operations, National Counter Terrorism Agency, interview with author, July 14, 2012. 32 JAT and Laskar Hisbah recruits carried out this attack. Although it is “not clear if they have membership,” they “have once engaged with JAT by recruitment or indoctrination.” Major General Tito Karnavian, interview with author. 33 The police claim that Laskar Hisbah and JAT were responsible for this attack. Major General Tito Karnavian, interview with author. 34 Ibid. 35 Ibid. 36 Ibid. 29

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the police post in Madiun, East Java on May 13, 2011;37 an attempt to bomb the headquarters of the Regional Military Command of Tulangan Sidoarjo, East Java on May 14, 2011; two police officers shot dead in Palu on May 25, 2011; and the suicide bombing of a church in Solo on September 25, 2011.38 THE DEVELOPMENT OF JAT JAT emerged following a conflict between Ba’asyir and other Islamist leaders of the Mujahidin Council of Indonesia. Known as Majlis Mujahedeen Indonesia, MMI served as the premier platform for a dozen mujahidin groups in Indonesia. Ba’asyir was leader of both JI and MMI. After his release in June 2006, Ba’asyir fell out of power with MMI after his sons, Abdul Rohim and Rasyid Ridho, dictated his agenda.39 In early 2008, Ba’asyir’s family established the Abu Bakar Ba’asyir Center, and announced that Ba’asyir belonged to the ummah (the community of the faithful), not MMI.40 Infighting led Ba’asyir to resign on July 13, 2008 and create JAT in Solo on July 27, 2008. The first chairman of the MMI administrative office, Afif Abdul Majid, joined JAT’s administrative office as its head. Formally inaugurated as a mass organization on September 17, 2008, members of MMI, JI, and others joined JAT. In contrast to JI, a clandestine Salafi group, JAT welcomed traditional Muslims. Ultimately, however, the common aim of the majority of these Islamist groups was to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia. JAT AS AN INCARNATION OF JI JAT operates both above and underground, functioning as an open political, social, and religious group, as well as a clandestine terrorist group, and both Ba’asyir and interim leader Mochammad Achwan have significant experience managing such dual-role groups. Although Ba’asyir was arrested for his involvement in funding a militant training camp in Aceh on August 10, 2010, he continues to manage the organization from prison. The day-to-day running of JAT is the responsibility of Achwan, a member of JAT’s executive council (majelis syuro) who served as MMI leader in East Java. Achwan is known for his involvement in the bombing of a Catholic church in Malang, East Java on December 24, 1984, the bombing of the Borobudur Buddhist temple complex in Magelang, Central Java on January 21, 1985, and a failed attempt to bomb Kuta beach in Bali in March of the same The police suspect that Nanang Irawan, a member of Laskar Hisbah who was also a member of TWJ and JAT, was responsible for this attack. Major General Tito Karnavian, interview with author. 38 The police claim that Laskar Hisbah and JAT were responsible for this attack. Major General Tito Karnavian, interview with author. 39 Muh Taufiqurrohman, “JAT Profile,” International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, July 1, 2012. 40 Ibid. 37



The group works with two dozen groups and political parties in Indonesia, also receiving support from mass Islamic organizations working toward the implementation of Islamic law in Indonesia. It operates through its vast web presence, disseminating its ideology and recruiting and galvanizing the public to donate money.42 Furthermore, the Indonesian legal framework for fighting terrorism is exceptionally weak. The government believes that proscribing JAT is contrary to Indonesia’s interests of advancing the principles of democracy, and terrorists and their defense lawyers have fully exploited the weakness of the Indonesian legal system; when Detachment 88 raided the training camp in Aceh in 2010, Ba’asyir’s lawyers argued that they were “only preparing themselves for war, not waging war itself.”43 JAT has drawn its leadership and membership from groups that have engaged in or supported violence. One JAT executive council member, Mustaqim Muzayyin, is an Afghan veteran, former JI military instructor, and head of JI’s Hudaybiyah military camp in Mindanao.44 Another executive council member, Syaifuddin Umar, is a JI member from Surabaya and an Ngruki alumnus involved in the JW Marriott bombing of 2003. The former head of JI’s Mantiqi III (Region III), Abu Tholut was JI’s military instructor in Moro in the Southern Philippines and was involved in the Poso conflict. Charged with eight years imprisonment after his arrests in Semarang on July 2003 and May 2004, he was released for good conduct on August 13, 2007.45 Wanted for his role in the Aceh training camp, Abu Thout is now a JAT executive council member. Many JAT office bearers have also been associated with terrorism. JAT spokesperson Sonhadi Bin Muhadjir was sentenced to four years in jail in 2005 for harboring Noordin Ibid. Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid facebook pages operating under the following names: Ansharut Tauhid Magz (http://, Majalah Ansharuttauhid ( profile.php?id=100000516795719&ref=ts), Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid ( php?gid=54405129614), Ansharut Tauhid (http://www.!/ profile.php?id=1739511462), Generasi Muda JAT (http://, LAZIS Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid (http://www.facebook. com/group.php?gid=233520572443&ref=ts#!/profile. php?id=100001554121197&v=inf); JAT blogs ( that posts JAT propaganda material through a bulletin called Risalah Hati; and, which mostly posts information on JAT’s campaign to save Palestine 43 Muh Taufiqurrohman, “JAT Profile.” 44 “Indonesia: The Dark Side of Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT),” Crisis Group, July 6, 2010, accessed July 22, 2012, indonesia/B107-indonesia-the-dark-side-of-jamaah-ansharuttauhid-jat.aspx, 10. 45 “Misteri Sosok Abu Tholut,” Era Muslim, November 4, 2010, accessed November 5, 2010, 41 42

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M. Top and Azahari Hussein, leaders of a hostile JI faction. He also serves as JAT’s secretary for the East Java chapter.46 JAT treasurer Thoib, under Ba’asyir’s instruction, gave money to Ubaid for funding the Aceh military training camp, a platform for multiple groups. Similarly, Haris Amir Falah, former head of MMI’s Jakarta office, is the JAT head of the Jakarta region.47 A JAT fundraiser, he was arrested on May 6, 2010 for his role in funding Tandzim Al-Qoidah Indonesia Serambi Makkah.48 Two other JAT fundraisers, Haryadi Usman and Dr. Syarif Usman, were arrested by police on May 6, 2010.49 Lutfi Haedaroh, alias Ubeid, an Ngruki alumni and JI member close to Noordin M. Top, served as the middle man between JAT and Tandzim Al-Qoidah Indonesia Serambi Makkah. Channeling orders from Ba’asyir and Thoib to Dulmatin, Ubeid set up an Aceh training camp and ultimately served time in the same prison as Ba’asyir.50,51 OTHER THREAT GROUPS IN INDONESIA Among two dozen threat groups in Indonesia, Jamaah Tauhid Wal Jihad and Laskar Hisbah stand out for their sustained violence. Salafi-Jihadi group Jamaah Tawhid Wal Jihad is led by Oman Rochman, alias Aman Abdurrachman, alias Abu Sulaiman, who also briefly joined JAT as the head of its executive council. A graduate from LIPIA, an Islamic college in Indonesia, he has translated a number of Arabic books into Bahasa, his favorite author being Jordanian cleric Abu Muhammad Al Maqdisi, mentor of Abu Musab al Zarqawi. In the absence of an Indonesian cleric of stature producing radical material, the writings of Abu Muhammad Al Maqdisi are popular within the jihadi subculture in Indonesia. Imprisoned for conducting a bomb making class in 2004, Aman was released from prison in 2008. On March 19, 2010, Aman was rearrested for his involvement with Tandzim Al-Qoidah Indonesia Serambi Makkah.52 A former member of the JAT executive council, Halawi Makmun left JAT in 2010. The former head of MMI’s shariah Rendi A. Witular and Hasyim Widhiarto, “Next in line: Potential leaders of underground jihadist movement,” The Jakarta Post, August 11, 2010, accessed July 22, 2012, http://www. 47 Muh Taufiqurrohman, “JAT Profile.” 48 “Polisi Tidak Temukan Bukti Jaringan Teroris Setu,” Antara News, May 8, 2010, accessed August 15, 2012, http://www. 49 “JAT Ancam Gugat Densus 88,”, May 10, 2010, accessed August 15, 2010, node/205519. 50 “Telpon Penting Ustad Abu”, TEMPO Online, August 16, 2010, accessed August 18, 2010, 51 Muh Taufiqurrohman, “JAT Profile.” 52 “Polisi Kembali Tangkap Tiga Teroris”, TEMPO Interaktif, 24 March 2010, accessed March 25, 2010,,20100324-235275,id. html. 46

department, he actively spread takfiri ideology in Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, and Solo, using books such as AlUmdah fi I’dadal-Uddah (The Fundamentals of Preparedness for Holy War) and Al-Jami’ fi Talab al-‘Ilm al-Sharif (The Compilation on Seeking Honorable Knowledge).53 A Saudieducated Arabist, Halawi was also an ideologue of Tawhid Wal Jihad, reflecting the overlapping membership of many of these organizations. Several other groups developed JAT connections through JI. The radical groups that came into contact with ideologues and operatives of JI and JAT turned violent and mounted attacks. For example, FAKTA leader Abu Deedat Syihabbudin was a member of Majelis Tabligh and Dakwah Khusus (the Council for Special Education and Proselytizing) of Muhammadiyah Central Command, the second largest mainstream Muslim organization in Indonesia. However, Abu Deedat’s views were impregnated with radical salafi thinking.54 Abdurrahman, a well-known perfume seller and Muslim healer, was among the leaders in the FAKTA Palembang branch and responsible for the education program. Fajar Taslim, a JI Singapore member and Ani Sugandi, founder of JI-affiliated Pesantren al-Furqon in Palembang, penetrated FAKTA. Thereafter, FAKTA assumed a violent orientation, and several FAKTA members were convicted for their role in attacks in Palembang and Bandung.55 As long as Indonesia lacks the political will to dismantle both the operational and conceptual infrastructures of terrorism, the threat against government, Western, and Christian targets will persist. As government has no law to proscribe radical and violent groups and no legal framework to preventively detain, the threat is likely to grow in the region. The global political situation too is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, and the ideology that galvanizes Muslims to choose the path of radicalism and violence is both domestic and international. Furthermore, the USled coalition interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq and the resulting fatalities among Muslim civilians have aided Muslim extremists and terrorists in the region in branding the West and western interests as legitimate targets. THE TERRORIST THREAT IN WEST PAPUA Indonesia has faced a significant and long-term threat from ethnonationalist separatism, having waged counterinsurgency campaigns in East Timor, Aceh, Maluku, and West Papua. While Indonesia succeeded in mainstreaming the Free Aceh Movement (GAM, Gerakan Aceh Merdeka) in Aceh Muh Taufiqurrohman, Field observation in Halawi’s teaching sessions in Bandung and Yogyakarta, October 15, 2005 to November 23, 2008. 54 After its role in violence became known, FAKTA’s websites were shut down. They were and 55 “Indonesia: Radicalisation of the “Palembang Group,” Crisis Group, May 20, 2009, accessed July 22, 2012, 53

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through a structured peace process and dismantling Republik Maluku Selatan (RMS, The Republic of South Maluku), it was unsuccessful in suppressing Fretilin’s resistance in East Timor. Today, Indonesia faces a similar challenge in West Papua. The Free Papua Movement (OPM, Organisasi Papua Merdeka), a separatist group, emerged in 1963.56 The group, suppressed during the Suharto regime, has developed support bases from Australia to Papua New Guinea. With the return of democracy in Indonesia in 1998, the OPM has stepped up its campaign. Today, there is no centralized leadership of OPM: a factionalized OPM conducts insurgent and terrorist attacks against the military, police, and civilians (transmigrants especially), as well as infrastructure.57 Due to the increase in attacks and the increasingly vocal human rights lobby sponsored by Western NGOs and governments, Jakarta perceives the developments to be a threat to Indonesia’s national integrity, and it does not wish for West Papua to suffer the same fate as East Timor. In June 2012, Detachment 88 dispatched a team of advisory personnel to support police in West Papua in building operational and management capacity.58 Due to sensitivities expressed by the Western governments, Detachment 88 does not wish to operate against OPM, but rather to build the detective, investigative, and strike capabilities of the West Papua police. THE TERRORIST THREAT IN SINGAPORE A major terrorist attack against Singapore, planned by Al Qaeda in cooperation with JI, was disrupted in December 2001. September 11th masterminds Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Osama bin Laden were involved in the operational planning. Through al Qaeda, JI operational leader Hambali financed and planned the operation. If the joint al Qaeda-JI operation had been successful in using detonating the five tons of ammonium nitrate outlined according to plan, the result would have been the death of a several thousand civilians – an attack comparable to the destruction caused by 9/11. Singapore’s policy positioning and the presence of US assets and troops on its soil, as well as support for US operations in the region – the Sixth Fleet in particular – has created the impression that Singapore is an indispensable ally of the US in the war on terror in the region. As such, Ian Bell, Herb Feith, and Ron Hatley, “The West Papuan challenge to Indonesian authority in Irian Jaya: old problems, new possibilities,” Asian Survey 26.5 (1986): 539-556; Jaques Bertrand, “‘Business as Usual’ in Suharto’s Indonesia,” Asian Survey 37.6 (1997): 441-452. 57 Bertil Lintner. “Papuans Try to Keep Cause Alive,” Jakarta Globe, January 21, 2009, accessed July 22, 2012, http:// 58 General Tito Karnavian, Deputy for Operations, National Counter Terrorism Agency (BNPT), interview by author, July 15, 2012. 56


however, Singapore has become an inevitable target. As such, despite the dismantling of JI, a segment of Singaporean youth remains vulnerable to Middle Eastern turmoil and the political forces resulting from it. THE TERRORIST THREAT IN MALAYSIA Malaysia prides itself on being one of the few countries in the world to defeat an insurgency and a terrorist campaign. By developing a comprehensive approach of prevention, kinetic operations, and rehabilitation, Malaysia defeated the Communist insurgency. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, Malaysia witnessed the emergence of multiple threat groups throughout the 1980s and 1990s.59 Nonetheless, the Malaysian Special Branch dealt effectively with these threats, among them Ibrahim Libya Group, Kedah Mujahidin Group, and al-Ma’unah. On July 2, 2000, al-Ma’unah conducted a raid on a Malaysian Army Reserve Camp to recover weapons; in the village of Sauk, Perak, they were confronted by the army and police. Another group, Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM), also known as Kumpulan Militant Malaysia, was founded in 1995 and has operated against Hindu and Christian targets. KMM worked closely with JI. Led by Zainon Ismail, an Afghan veteran, the KMM vision was compatible with the JI vision of creating an Islamic state in Southeast Asia. Affiliated with the Islamic opposition party, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), KMM opposed the idea of a “secular Malaysia.” A prominent KMM leader until his arrest in August 2001, Nik Adli Nik Abdul Aziz is the son of the PAS spiritual leader and Chief Minister for Kelantan state, Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat. KMM came to the attention of the authorities after an attempted robbery at Southern Bank, Jalan Gasing in Petaling Jaya on May 18, 2001; nearly 100 KMM members have been arrested by Malaysian Special Branch forces since this time. The former head of KMM’s Selangor cell, Zulkifli bin Hir alias Musa Abdul, alias Marwan, fled to the Philippines in August 2003. Regarded as the current leader of KMM, Marwan is in Mindanao, operating with JI and ASG in the Philippines. However, the terrorist threat in Malaysia has not been confined to West Malaysia. Both ASG and JI used the state of Sabah in East Malaysia extensively to travel back and forth to the Philippines. The Malaysian Special Branch and Special Task Force have arrested a number of leaders, members, and accomplices of these groups either traveling or providing support along this “JI superhighway.” Nevertheless, the threat to Western targets in Malaysia, a popular destination for Middle Eastern and African tourists and students, is not only from regional groups, and in Kuala Lumpur, the Special Task Force (STF) monitored and disrupted an al Qaeda recruiting cell led by a Syrian targeting Middle Eastern and African students in 2010.60 As the JAT seeks to recruit Malaysian manpower 59 60

Dato Ayub Khan, “Terrorist Threat in Malaysia.” Ibid.

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | The Current and Emerging Terrorist Threat in Southeast Asia

through the Internet, the STF continues to upgrade its technology to counter the emerging threat from this new incarnation of JI. THE TERRORIST THREAT IN THAILAND In Southeast Asia, Thailand has seen much violent conflict. Historically, the south of Thailand has suffered from an insurgency waged by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN, from 1960), Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO, from 1968), and Barisan Nasional Pembebasan Pattani (BNPP, from 1971).61 After a hiatus, a revived insurgency and renewed terrorist campaigns moved from rural to urban areas. Although the old groups have faded, a new class of threat groups using new technology and tactics have emerged. The most active groups are Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Koordinasi (BRN-C), Gerakan Mujahideen Islami Pattani (GMIP), and New PULO.62 The current wave of violence in Thailand originated on January 4, 2004, when Muslim insurgents and terrorists moved against targets in nine districts in two southern provinces, Narathiwat and Yala. In Narathiwat, thirty insurgents raided a military camp and armory, killed the soldiers, and took with them 364 weapons (330 M-16 rifles, two M-60 grenade launchers, and seven rocket-propelled grenades). At the same time, eigtheen schools (sixteen in Narathiwat and two in Yala) were set on fire. To build their insurgent and terrorist capabilities, the very same attack group opened fire using grenade launchers and machine guns on Ayer Weng Police Station in Betong, Yala, near the Malaysian border on January 7, 2004. On March 30, 2004, they raided the Manoon Rock Grinding factory and left with 1.4 tons of ammonium nitrate, fifty-six sticks of dynamite, and 176 detonators. The weaponry from the raids provided the dozen threat groups operating in Southern Thailand sufficient capability to sustain a decade-long campaign that has killed a combined 5000 government officials, military personnel, Buddhist monks, and civilians.63 The ethnonationalist ideology has been influenced by Muslim ideologues, but the campaigns themselves are still driven by Pattani nationalism. Berjihad di Pattani, a manual written by a Malaysian but commissioned by Pattani insurgents, was recovered from the bodies of insurgents killed on April 28, 2004. It read: “In the near future, perhaps even within the coming few seconds, we will start attacking enemy lines. Are your Andrew T.H. Tan, A Handbook of Terrorism, 10. Zachary Abuza, “A Breakdown of Southern Thailand’s Insurgent Groups,” Jamestown Terrorism Monitor 4.17, September 8, 2006, accessed July 22, 2012, http://www. news%5D=893. 63 Joseph Liow and Pathan Don, Confronting Ghosts: Thailand’s Shapeless Southern Insurgency (New South Wales: Lowy Institute for International Policy, 2010). The Thai authorities have not been able to adequately identify the armed actors and link them to the incidents. 61 62

weapons prepared? If you have not prepared them, then seek them. Prepare yourself also ... May the warrior blood continue to flow in our veins and strengthen our muscles to carry weapons into battlefields.”64 Furthermore, a mobile network of radical preachers has indoctrinated the bulk of the insurgents and terrorists.65 Spearheaded by BRN-C, the technology used, tactics adopted, and the targets attacked have grown in sophistication. It is very likely that the threat will grow and eventually spread beyond the south of Thailand, and there is already significant sympathy and popular support for the insurgency in northern Malaysia. To end the conflict, it is thus essential for the political leadership of Thailand to work with their counterparts in Kuala Lumpur. Thailand has emerged as an important venue for both al Qaeda and JI leaders and operatives. Al Qaeda’s administrative head of operations, Tawfiq bin Attash alias Khallad, visited Bangkok in December 1999 to surveil security in the airport and on board aircrafts.66 To assess security, he carried a box cutter in his toiletries kit onto the flight to Hong Kong. Khallad returned to Thailand again and met Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar, the 9/11 hijackers, at the Washington Hotel in Bangkok.67 A popular tourist destination, Bangkok was their preferred meeting place, with Thai passport stamps enhancing their cover as tourists.68 They were joined by Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, a planner of the USS Cole attack.69 Other al Qaeda leaders who have visited the region have included Dhiren Barrot, alias Isa al Hindi, alias Isa al Brittani, a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohomed who was arrested by the British while planning to target US and British interests in August 2004.70 To plan operations in the region, Hambali met the entire JI leadership in Thailand in March and April of 2002.71 They discussed attacking diplomatic targets - Australian, British, or US embassies - in Indonesia, as well as other economic targets Berjihad di Pattani, “The Fight for the Liberation of Pattani,” a Yawi manual found on the bodies of some insurgents killed during the significant attack of April 28, 2004. The manual was translated by the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), Singapore. 65 Peter Chalk, “Insurgent Separatism in Southern Thailand,” in Islam in Asia: Changing Political Realities, ed. Jason F. Isaacson and Colin Rubenstien (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2002), 254. 66 Rohan Gunaratna and Arabinda Acharya, The Terrorist Threat from Thailand (Washington, DC: Potomac, 2012). 67 Ibid. 68 Ibid. 69 Ahmed Al-Haj, “Airstrike Kills Senior Al-Qaida Leader in Yemen,” ABC News, accessed May 6, 2012, http://abcnews. 70 Adam Fresco, “How radical Islam turned a schoolboy into a terrorist,” The Times Online, November 7, 2006, accessed July 22, 2012, Islam%20turned%20a%20schoolboy%20into%20a%20terrorist%20%20The%20Times%20%207.11.06.pdf. 71 Rohan Gunaratna and Arabinda Acharya, The Terrorist Threat from Thailand. 64

The Current and Emerging Terrorist Threat in Southeast Asia | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


in the oil and mining sectors. Hambali, who received funds from al Qaeda, also sent money from Bangkok to Malik to be given to Wan Min in southern Thailand for supporting the bombing of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants in Bali.72 When Mas Selamat Kastari, JI chief of Singapore, fled Singapore in December 2001, he relocated to Thailand. Inspired by al Qaeda, he planned to conduct a 9/11-style attack with his JI associates. He purchased airline tickets to board an Aeroflot plane and intended to crash it into Changi Airport. Another Singaporean JI operative in Thailand, Arifin bin Ali, alias John Wong Ah Hung, worked with Pattani Muslims to hit US, British, Israeli, Australian, and Singaporean diplomatic missions in Bangkok, although their operations was disrupted with their arrests in May 2003. Furthermore, both foreign-trained Pattani Muslims and foreigners have traveled to fight in Southern Thailand. Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK), a group of Pattani Muslims trained in Indonesian schools, went to fight in Thailand under the banner of BRN-C. Similarly, al Qaeda in Southeast Asia, a JI breakaway faction in Malaysia led by Mohamad Fadzullah bin Abdul Razak, alias Ustaz Mohamad, dispatched a dozen operatives to fight in Thailand.73 Educated at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), in Skudai, Johor, Ustaz Mohomed joined JI in Johor in 2000. Among the university students Ustaz Mohomed recruited and dispatched to fight in Thailand was Mohomed Fadly, a UTM student of industrial engineering and recipient of a Public Service Department government scholarship born in Merlimau-Jasin, Melaka.74 THE TERRORIST THREAT IN CAMBODIA The terrorist threat in Thailand later spilled over to Cambodia, a Buddhist country with a small Muslim community. With pressure mounting, Hambali relocated and stayed in Cambodia from September 2002 to February 2003, where he worked with two Thais, a Cambodian, and an Egyptian to plan bombings on the UK and US embassies in Phnom Penh.75,76 Posing as a tourist from Thailand, Hambali also traveled to Siam Reap to mount surveillance on Angkor Wat, a popular western tourist destination. Other JI leaders also sought safe havens in Cambodia. During operations against JI in Malaysia, many escaped to Thailand and Cambodia, among them JI Secretary Zulkifli Ibid. Mohamad Fadzullah bin Abdul Razak alias Ustaz Mohamad, interview by author, Protective Detention Center (Kem Tahanan Perlindungan Kamunting), Taiping, Perak, February 9, 2012. 74 Mohomed Fadly, Member, JI Malaysia, interview by Rohan Gunaratna and Ustaz Feisal, Narathiwat Provincial Prison, March 23, 2009. 75 “Hambali Enjoyed Trappings of the West,” The Age, August 27, 2003, accessed July 22, 2012, articles/2003/08/26/1061663793699.html. 76 “Hambali Goes on Trial in Cambodia,” Associated Press, December 29, 2004, accessed July 22, 2012, http://www.smh. 72 73


Marzuki, who married a Cambodian. From Cambodia, he traveled to Bangladesh, where he took a Bangladeshi wife. In February 2003, Hambali, who was living in Cambodia, returned to Thailand, crossing the border in Poipet. In Thailand, he went into hiding in Ayutthaya province until his arrest in August 2003. THE TERRORIST THREAT IN THE PHILIPPINES The Philippines is witnessing one of the world’s oldest insurgencies, with the Moros fighting for over a century. When Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), then the principal Moro secessionist group in the Philippines, agreed to sign a peace agreement with the government, MNLF member Hashim Salamat broke off from the MNLF in 1984 and created the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Similarly, MNLF member Abdurajak Janjalani broke off in 1990 and created the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). Based largely in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, the group’s formal name is Al Harakat Al Islamiyya (AHAI). ASG’s stated aim is to “liberate Muslims in Mindanao from oppression, tyranny and injustice under the Christian-dominated Philippine government.”77 The ASG became notorious for kidnapping, extortion, assassination, and beheadings. ASG’s capabilities grew when Western governments keen to free their citizens paid ASG through their security and intelligence services, as well as through businesses. Intermittently, the MILF and ASG enjoyed a close training and operational relationship.78 As revealed in the Philippines National Police operation “Blue Marlin” in September 1994, both groups had ties with al Qaeda, with al Qaeda Southeast Asian representative Omar al-Faruq playing a significant role in unifying the two organizations.79 Together with the MILF Special Operations Group, JI conducted bombings in Manila on Rizal Day, December 30, 2000, after having met with ASG leaders Khaddafy and Abu Solaiman.80 American and Australian support to the Philippine military, police, and intelligence services have kept the ASG under control, but the group remains a significant threat. While development programs and financial aid have helped to reduce the ASG presence in Mindanao, the group still retains significant operational capacity in the Sulu archipelago. In 2009, the group held hostage Italian and Swiss staff from the International Committee for the Red Cross and another group of foreign nationals in 2012. Diane Russel Junio, “ASG Profile,” International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Singapore, July 1, 2012. 78 “Southern Philippines Backgrounder: Terrorism and the Peace Process,” Crisis Group, July 13, 2004, accessed July 22, 2012, philippines/080-southern-philippines-backgrounder-terrorism-and-the-peace-process.aspx. 79 “A Last Extended Interview with Janjalani 27 February 2006,” The Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 22, 2007, http:// php?article_id=44761. 80 Diane Russel Junio, “ASG Profile.” 77

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | The Current and Emerging Terrorist Threat in Southeast Asia

With ASG posing the more pressing threat, the Filipino government should strive to co-opt MILF and use its limited resources to combat ASG. To strengthen and sustain peace, it is also necessary to reengage MNLF, a group that has been reintegrated into the mainstream. While some in MILF perceive the peace process as a sellout, some MNLF leaders and members have joined ASG. Nonetheless, in addition to the threat from Islamist groups, the Philippines also suffer from left-wing insurgency. The New People’s Army (NPA), the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is one of the largest and most resourceful left-wing insurgent groups in Asia. With its leadership in the Netherlands providing both political guidance and financial support and with a significant support base in the rural Philippines, the group presents a long term and an enduring threat to the Filipino society and government. THE TERRORIST THREAT FROM HEZBOLLAH AND IRAN The Lebanese Hezbollah and its steadfast sponsor, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), have operated in Southeast Asia since the 1980s.81 Only one to two percent of the Southeast Asian Muslims are Shia, but Hezbollah and the IRGC have succeeded in recruiting both Shias and Sunnis to advance their strategic aims.82 The target of Hezbollah and the IRGC is not Southeast Asian countries, however, but rather US, Israeli, Saudi, and Kuwaiti interests located in Singapore, the Philippines, and Thailand.83 While many countries have imposed visa restrictions for Iranians, Malaysia has not, and Kuala Lumpur remains a key transit point for Iranian and Hezbollah operations both in South and Southeast Asia. For example, Pandu Yudhawinata who operated for Hezbollah and Iran from 1994 until he was arrested on November 4, 1999, traveled regularly to Iran and Lebanon.84 In addition to surveilling multiple targets, including the Israeli Embassy in Makati and synagogue in Manila, he stockpiled weapons and procured Indonesian and Filipino passports for Hezbollah and Iranian operatives and agents. Pandu even rented the van used for a failed attempt to bomb the Israel Embassy in Bangkok on March 11, 1994.85 Matthew Levitt, “Hezballah Poised to Strike in Southeast Asia,” The Washington Institute, January 18, 2012, accessed July 22, 2012, 82 “Current and Emerging Threat of Terrorism in Thailand,” Briefing to Permanent Secretary Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow, the Foreign Secretary of Thailand, International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Singapore, June 28, 2012. 83 Mathew Levitt, “Hezbollah: A Case Study of Global Reach,” The Washington Institute, September 8, 2003, accessed July 22, 2012, php?CID=132. 84 Matthew Levitt, “Hezballah Poised to Strike in Southeast Asia.” 85 “Current and Emerging Threat of Terrorism in Thailand,” Briefing to Permanent Secretary Mr. Sihasak Phuangket81

Earlier operations included Hezbollah’s killing of three Saudi diplomats as a part of Iran’s worldwide strategy to target Saudi diplomats in 1988 and 1989.86 Another operation was Hezbollah’s hijacking of Kuwait Airways Flight 422, with 112 passengers from Bangkok to Kuwait on April 5, 1988.87 After demanding the release of seventeen Shia terrorists in Kuwait, Hezbollah killed two passengers and released the rest in Mashad, Iran.88 The IRGC operation in Bangkok failed when the bomb carried by Saeid Moradi, an Iranian operative, exploded, causing him to lose both his legs. The Thai government also arrested Madani Seyed Mehrded, who was waiting in front of the Israeli Embassy on the day of the intended attack.89 While another operative, Mohammed Hazaei, was arrested at the airport, a female operative fled to Iran and another, Masoud Sedaghtzadeh, fled to Malaysia but was arrested on February 15, 2012.90 The apartments rented by the Iranians contained a booby-trapped portable cassette player that downed a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988; al Qaeda would later use explosives-laden printer toner cartridges in Yemen to bring down an American airliner on November 1, 2010.91 There is a remarkable similarity between Hezbollah/Iran and al Qaeda technology, tactics, and targets, and in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran seeking to disrupt its nuclear program, Teheran could authorize Hezbollah and IRGC attacks against Israeli, the US, and other targets in Southeast Asia. THE IMPACT OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS ON SOUTHEAST ASIA Unless proper protective measures are put into place, developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan present security challenges to both immediate and distant neighbors, including South, Northeast, and Southeast Asia. With respect to Southeast Asia in particular, the dynamics of Afghanistan have direct effects on the region. After the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, another capable leader, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, who has traveled extensively in East Asia, took power. And although the ranks of the organization have dropped from 3000 members to the 300 it has today, al Qaeda remains at the ideological and operational vanguard despite the loss of its leaders and members. One implication is thus al Qaeda’s ability to incite terrorist activity in Southeast Asia, with the return to Afghanistan of keow. “Current and Emerging Threat of Terrorism in Thailand,” Briefing to Permanent Secretary Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow. 87 Matthew Levitt, “Hezballah Poised to Strike in Southeast Asia.” 88 Ibid. 89 “Current and Emerging Threat of Terrorism in Thailand,” Briefing to Permanent Secretary Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow. 90 Ibid. 91 Ibid. 86

The Current and Emerging Terrorist Threat in Southeast Asia | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


the Taliban and associated groups, with their close ties to al Qaeda, being one example of a potential catalyst for action. Furthermore, the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan may usher in a revival of threat groups, with claims that the West has been defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan offering these groups an ideological means of attracting more youth to insurgency and terrorism. In this way, the return of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other associated groups to Afghanistan will create a ripple effect that will ultimately have significant impact on Southeast Asia’s security environment. The Southeast Asian landscape is also strongly influenced by developments in the Middle East and in Africa. Traditionally, trade and family ties have linked Southeast Asia to the Middle East; the vast Yemeni Diaspora living in the subregion, most notably in Indonesia, has ensured the continuity of close relations. Almost all leaders and deputy leaders of Muslim threat groups in Indonesia are of Arab origin, including Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, founder and leader of JAT, and Abdullah Sungkar, founder and leader of JI. The Southeast Asian jihadists of Arab heritage exploit their links with the Arab World, including their command of Arabic, to fund both radicalization and violent projects in Southeast Asia. Visiting Arabs served as ideologues, trainers, and financiers. Similarly, funds for jihad efforts raised in the Middle East have had a profound impact on the security of Southeast Asia. The JI attack on the Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta in 2009 was funded with money raised in the Middle East, and a dozen Saudi Arabian financiers have funded attacks in Southeast Asia over the last decade. There are no ideologues of stature in Southeast Asia to issue fatwas permitting the killing of “infidels” and “apostates,” and Southeast Asian threat groups have thus leveraged their writings and lectures to generate their support bases. When the Christian-Muslim conflict broke out in Indonesia in 1998, the Indonesian jihadists looked for a cleric to pronounce that it was acceptable in Islam to kill Christians. The violence started over a domestic dispute in Ambon, Maluku and later spread to other parts of Indonesia, notably Tentena, Palu, Poso, and elsewhere in Sulawesi. Nonetheless, no Indonesian cleric of stature was willing to issue a pronouncement permitting Muslims to kill Christians, and ultimately it was Yemeni cleric Sheikh Mukbil who issued the fatwa at the behest of the Indonesian jihadists. Southeast Asian jihadists still look to Middle Eastern clerics to issue such declarations. The fatwa to kill Westerners in Southeast Asia was derived from Osama bin Laden’s declaration of war against the Jews and the Crusaders in 1996 and was later renewed in 1998. Although bin Laden himself was not a cleric, he sought out relatively obscure ulema in Pakistan to endorse his declaration, and since then, both bin Laden and successor Ayman al Zawahiri have issued pronouncements to carry out attacks against the US and their allies globally. The rise of Islamist movements in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya has also inspired several Southeast Asian threat groups. They believe that popular uprisings can compel their


governments to overreact, thus paving the way for them to harness greater support. Instead of abandoning violence, Southeast Asian groups advance their interests by using both mass-based politics and violence in parallel. Although the outcome of the Arab Spring is yet to be seen, its impact on Southeast Asia in the short term is apparent. The fall of several Middle Eastern regimes has given hope to Islamists that they too can mobilize public opinion against their secular governments. In a closely interconnected world, an unstable Middle East has direct influence on the security of the Asia-Pacific. In the same way the instability in Libya spread to the Sahel, the fall of Syria could lead to a huge flow of weapons to the Levant and beyond. President Bashar al-Assad’s regime today is attacked not only by Western-backed, secular prodemocracy activists but also by Syrian jihadists that fought against the US-led coalition in Iraq. And in the same way the falls of Mubarak and Gaddhafi empowered Islamists and jihadists both in the Maghreb and the Sahel, the fall of Bashar al Assad will be a huge victory for Syrian Islamists and jihadists. The impact of the Arab Spring on Libya’s neighborhood – the Sahel – has been even more pronounced. Within hours of the Gaddhafi regime falling the Tuaregs emptied government armories, the flow of weapons from Libya empowering neighboring Tuaregs in Mali and prompting a military coup within the country, thereby resulting in Mali jihadist group Ansar al Din capturing northern Mali. The instability created in the aftermath of the Arab Spring has been exploited by terrorist groups in the Sahara region to start operations in Sahel areas, thus making an important part of Africa a safe haven for terrorists. And with China and India emerging as the biggest investors in Africa over the last decade, there will be greater contact between Africa and Southeast Asia in the coming years. Ultimately, the security situation in Southeast Asia will continue to be a function of both domestic and international factors, with Islamist groups within the region reacting to developments abroad, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the Middle East, and in Africa. And as the world becomes increasingly interconnected, these reactions will become ever more frequent and nuanced, thus posing security threats that the region will need to be careful to both recognize and address.

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | The Current and Emerging Terrorist Threat in Southeast Asia

EAST ASIAN STABILIZATION: japanese and south korean operations in afghanistan

John hemmings · pacific forum, csis ABSTRACT As the US and its European allies begin to reshape and adapt their foreign policies to new fiscal realities, a new grouping of states could be set to help fill the gaps. This can be seen in the field of international aid and development, where East Asian giants Japan and South Korea are contributing more to non-traditional security. Afghanistan is the unlikely setting where Tokyo and Seoul have lately been honing their aid and stabilization capabilities, blending their skills and resources in diplomacy, defense, and development. President Obama’s May 1st speech at Bagram Air Field to announce the US partnership with Afghanistan marks the beginning of a gradual process of withdrawal of US forces from that war-torn country. Drawing comparisons with the Vietnam conflict, the US has struggled against a mostly Pastun insurgency for nearly twelve years, without managing to defeat its opponents or draw them to the negotiating table. But the comparison with the Vietnam War is not an exact

one. After all, the soldiers and civilians of more than fifty countries fight and work alongside US personnel. Kabul’s Military Airport is guarded by a combination of Canadian and Mongolian soldiers, while Belgian officers man the luggage security. Romanian forces maintain security of Highway 1, while Turkish forces are responsible for the capital city. Of the six regional commands, three come under American responsibility, while the remaining three are commanded by Germany, Turkey, and Italy respectively. And this division of roles goes right through ISAF: ISAF troops come under the command of General John Allen, but the lead NATO civilian representative (Ambassador Simon Gass) is from the UK. And still others are involved in Afghanistan: India has invested more than US$2 billion in Afghanistan since 2002 and China has been building infrastructure as well as developing mineral extraction contracts with Kabul, such as the $3 billion copper mining contract at Aynak. Two Northeast Asian states, South Korea and Japan, are also playing significant roles in Afghanistan, though the contributions of each are not widely known in the West.

All photos included in this article were taken by the author. East Asian Stabilization | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


Background Following the 9/11 attacks, both Japanese and South Korean leaders offered their support to the United States in operations in and around Afghanistan. In many ways, the offer of support came naturally to both. Longtime allies of the US, Japan and South Korea host US bases in East Asia, resulting in extremely close military-to-military ties with the US Armed Forces. Long protected by one-way US defense guarantees, both felt a sense of obligation to go to the aid of the US, though there was no treaty commitment to do so. Furthermore, there were those in the militaries of both states who saw the possibility of deploying to Afghanistan as an opportunity to further develop key capabilities alongside their US colleagues, and to showcase – and justify – those capabilities that they did possess to national parliaments. Finally, both had transitioned from developing nations to wealthy economies and had gained experience in giving official development assistance (ODA) and peacekeeping, vital components required to rebuild Afghanistan. In the 1990s, both had begun to participate – cautiously, but with growing confidence – in UN-led peacekeeping operations: Japan in Cambodia in 1992,1 and South Korea in Somalia in 1993.2 Amongst all the similarities, there were also key differences in how the two have contributed to the situation in Afghanistan, usually relating to domestic politics and public perceptions. While neither Tokyo nor Seoul could easily deal with the political repercussions of battlefield casualties, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) had more leverage with its public, long inured to the possibility of war with North Korea, in putting troops in Afghanistan. What public opposition existed was related not to an aversion to war, per se, but rather to a public aversion to casualties far from home, for a conflict that did not relate to direct South Korean interests. The deployment of Japanese ground forces, by comparison, was a much more difficult prospect for the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MOD), hamstrung as it was by strong public opposition, and restricted by strict rules of engagement.3 Despite these differences, policymakers in both “Record of Japan’s International Peace Cooperation Activities,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, March 2005, accessed July 17, 2012, pamph2005-2.pdf. 2 Balbina Hwang, “Korea and PKO: Is Korea Contributing to Global Peace?” (paper presented at the Global Korea Conference, Seoul, Republic of Korea, November 30, 2011). 3 Japan’s 1992 Peacekeeping (PKO) Law restricts Japan to ceasefires and unanimous consent among combatants to Japanese Peacekeepers taking part. 1

Tokyo and Seoul embarked on significant mission profiles in Afghanistan, ushering in new eras of expeditionary capability and multilateral diplomacy. Because public opinion in both countries is affected by the vagaries of alliance politics, elites in both states downplayed the role of the US in their policymaking, instead emphasizing the international nature of the conflict, as well as the opportunity to play a responsible role on the global stage. The contributions of both states can be broken into two phases. The first phase of Japan’s involvement began when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi passed the AntiTerrorism Special Measures Law in the National Diet in September 2001, allowing the deployment of Maritime Self Defence Force vessels to the Indian Ocean to take part in refueling efforts for NATO and Pakistani warships.4 While this would be the first time that Japanese vessels would take part in war-like operations post-1945, they were shielded from actually taking part in interdiction efforts by this emphasis on refueling. Despite this, the issue became divisive between the then-ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), when the latter took control of the Upper House in 2007 and threatened to veto the annual renewal legislation. Finally, in 2009, the DPJ won control of the Lower House, and within weeks of taking office, then-DPJ Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ordered the termination of refueling activities. Henceforth, Japan’s contribution to Afghanistan would be civilian-run, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and would consist of huge development aid and loans to Kabul, with some US$5 billion being committed over five years. In contrast, the first phase of South Korea’s involvement began in December 2001, when President Kim Dae Jung authorized the deployment of 60 medics from the Dong-Eui Medical Unit. This unit established a field hospital at Bagram Air Field (BAF) in February 2002, only to be followed by 150 engineers from the Dasan Engineering Unit, tasked with expanding base facilities. Following the abduction and killing of South Korean Christian missionaries in 2007, the mission was not renewed. Then, in 2008, after consultations with the US, South Korea returned to Bagram Air Field, where the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) committed itself to building a permanent hospital, this time for Afghan civilians, and an employment training 4

John Hemmings, “What Japan is Doing in the Indian Ocean,” RUSI, 2007, accessed July 17 2012, analysis/commentary/ref:C46B9B6119306E/.

Mr. John Hemmings is a WSD-Handa Fellow at Pacific Forum, CSIS. Prior, he was a research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, where his research activities focused East Asian security issues, US alliances, and the rise of China, as well as transatlantic security issues. While at RUSI, Hemmings also researched stabilization and in 2011 carried out an assessment of South Korea’s Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Parwan Province, Afghanistan for the Asia Foundation (TAF). Hemmings holds an MA in International Peace and Security from King’s College, London and a BA (Hons) in Philosophy and the History of Ideas from Cardiff University. Prior to graduate work at King’s, Hemmings lived in Japan for six years. 88

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center. Following these and other successes, one year later, Seoul decided it would assume command of a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Parwan Province, which it did formally in 2010. Run along the lines of the original US model, the Korean PRT is responsible for rural development projects throughout Parwan. Japan’s Current Afghanistan



Japan’s role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan has been a crucial one, and though not high in visibility, their contribution is no less significant than some troop-supporting nations in NATO. Its contribution comes in three forms: first, as discussed above, it carried out the refueling mission in the Indian Ocean between 2002 and 2009; second, it has played a diplomatic role in supporting the Bonn Process (20012005), hosting a number of key donor conferences5; third, it has been one of the largest aid contributors to Afghanistan after the United States.6 Prior to its 2009 commitment of $5 billion, it had already implemented a total of $4.05 billion of assistance between 2001 and 2009.7 Broadly, Japan’s Tokyo Conference (2002), DDR Conference (2003), DIAG Conference I (2006), DIAG Conference II (2007), and JCMB Conference (2008). 6 Rhoda Margesson, “Afghanistan International Community Donors List,” Appendix F to United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Background and Policy Issues, (Washington, DC: United States Congressional Research Service, 2010). 7 Japan’s Assistance in Afghanistan: Towards Self- Reliance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, April 2012. 5

ODA has been dispersed in three areas: (i) security sector reform (SSR), (ii) the reintegration of former combatants, and (iii) basic needs and state development. This last area covers everything from agriculture and rural development, to education and infrastructure. While lacking troops on the ground, Japan’s contributions to SSR in Afghanistan have been considerable. In addition to taking the lead on disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and the disbandment of illegal armed groups (DIAG), it has also provided funding to similar types of activities run by NATO (NATO Trust Fund) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) ($52 million).8 Upstream in the SSR process, it has enhanced policing in Afghanistan through its support of the Afghan National Police (ANP) by contributing funding to ANP salaries, by running literacy programs for recruits, and by constructing buildings for the Afghan Border Police (ABP) and Afghan Ministry of the Interior (MOI). Japan also funds ANP training, in which Afghan police recruits are sent to Turkey for six months of training.9 Further downstream, Japan contributes funding for judiciary training and has helped build judicial facilities in Bamiyan, Herat, and Balkh provinces. In terms of reintegration, the Japanese program resulted in the DDR of 60,000 ex-combatants as well as the collection of 276,000 small arms until the completion of the program in 2006. Tokyo also gave $52 million to Kabul’s Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP). The third area of Japan’s contribution to Afghanistan has been in supporting health, education, and rural development, both directly, and through multilateral organizations like UNICEF, UNESCO, WFP, ICRC, and ISAF.10 In terms of healthcare, JICA has cooperated with UNICEF to provide polio and other vaccines almost every year since 2001. It has also contributed to the construction and development of 77 health clinics and the construction of two hospitals. In addition to building the structures, JICA has provided medical equipment and training to a further 100 US-built clinics and one German-built hospital.11 While all statistics concerning Afghanistan must be treated with care, the Department for International Development (DFID)12, the British development agency, claims that 85 percent of Afghans now have access to primary healthcare in their local area as opposed to just 2 percent in 2002. Educational statistics have shown an equally promising surge, with nearly 5.3 million children attending school as opposed to just one million under the Taliban. Girls make up nearly one third Ibid. The arrangement is funded by Japan, administered by the Government of Afghanistan, but remains under the strategic framework provided by the NATO Training Mission –Afghanistan (NTM-A). 10 United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organization, World Food Programme, International Committee Red Cross, and International Security Assistance Force. 11 Japan’s Assistance in Afghanistan: Towards Self- Reliance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, April 2012. 12 Operational Plan, 2011-2015, Department for International Development Afghanistan, April 2011. 8 9

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of those currently enrolled in school; prior to 2001, they were simply not schooled. JICA’s work in education has been significant: it has helped to construct or rebuild over 800 schools, and in cooperation with UNICEF, has constructed a further 120. In addition, Japan has funded fifteen vocational training centers in cooperation with the UNDP.13 Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, Japan has inserted 134 projects into the workings of more than sixteen provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) throughout Afghanistan. This is surprising because while engaged in development, PRTs tend to have a military component. Indeed, at the Lithuanian PRT in Chaghcharan, two MOFA officials oversee a staggering total of 64 projects. In some ways, the sum total of JICA projects imbedded in other host nations’ PRTs might easily equate to a “virtual” Japanese PRT. South Korea’s Current Contribution to Afghanistan While perhaps not playing as large a role as Japan, South Korean involvement in Afghanistan has nonetheless been significant. Currently, its contribution comes in three forms: first, it is involved in infrastructural and capacitybuilding projects in Kabul; second, it has built and staffed a fully operational hospital and vocational center at Bagram Air Field; third, it has built a PRT in Parwan Province, from where it can run a number of rural reconstruction projects, including irrigation, agriculture, education, and security sector (police) training. In Kabul, KOICA has been involved in the multilateral National Institution Building Project (NIBP), as a member of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC). As a part of building local and national civil servant capacity in the Government of Afghanistan,14 South Korea, along with India, organized seven training programs for 135 Afghan civil servants, held in Seoul between 2010 and 2012, on statistical training, economic development, gender relations, agricultural development, and education policy planning. The complex nature of this project, its multiplicity of donors, and the fragmentation of efforts are typical of the state-building process in Afghanistan, and underscore the challenges that aid agencies have in coordinating their efforts. As discussed above, the initial phase of South Korean involvement in Afghanistan (2002-2007) was led by the Ministry of National Defense, but in the aftermath of the 2007 kidnappings, KOICA became the lead Korean agency in Afghanistan as a result of Korean public sensitivities. In 2008, it built and “Quarterly Project Report [Quarter - 2, 2008],” UN Development Programme Afghanistan, Vocational Training Centre Upgrading Project, 2008, accessed July 17, 2012, http:// dQ08Reports/2008-08-06%20-%20Second%20Quarter%20 2008%20Progress%20Report%20-%20VCTU.pdf. 14 “National Institution Building Project (NIBP) Factsheet,” UNDP, May 2011, accessed July 17, 2012, http://www.undp. pdf. 13


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | East Asian Stabilization

equipped the Korean Medical Vocational Training Team (KMVTT) at Bagram Air Field at a cost of $21 million.15 While KOICA administers the project as a whole, the day-today running of the hospital is undertaken by Inje University Paik Hospital, a hospital in Seoul. The hospital doubles as an actual medical facility, seeing up to 200 patients a day, as well as a training hospital for Afghan medical staff. Next door to the hospital is the vocational center, which is divided into five schools: construction, electrics, welding, auto-mechanics, and IT. Competition for the free nine-month long courses is stiff among Afghans, and Afghan instructors are gradually replacing the Korean teaching staff. In 2009, the MND returned to Afghanistan, this time in a unique partnership with both MOFAT and KOICA. Responding to a request from US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Seoul built a provincial reconstruction team in the relatively safe province of Parwan, near Kabul. Parwan hosts large US facility Bagram Air Field, as well as the KMVTT, and was thus thought to be a low-risk, high-visibility project acceptable to the South Korean public. Accordingly, construction began in 2010 on a site on Highway 1, approximately fifteen miles from BAF. As with all PRTs, the Parwan PRT is an interesting mix of the military and the civilian. The PRT is led by a MOFAT director, who has a small staff to help him administer the base. A team of around 11 KOICA civilians administer rural development projects in a number of districts around the province, while the base is guarded by a 336-man contingent called the Ashena Unit. 15

Interview with KOICA official at KMVTT by author, September 28, 2011.

The PRT works in four primary areas: governance, medical, education, and agricultural development. The PRT doubles up on the vocational training work done at nearby KMVTT and contributes to police training with a number of South Korean police and judo trainers. The PRT has suffered from tension between the three agencies, all of which come to the PRT with differing priorities, budgets, and working cultures, but this is a generic problem and equally true of American, British, and German PRTs in Afghanistan. Furthermore, 2010-2011 saw the three agencies work on these differences in Seoul. Conclusion There have been some dark spots in Japanese/Korean involvement in Afghanistan, but in nearly all cases, these errors have been typical of international efforts in general rather than specific to these two nations’ contributions. These mistakes tend to fall into two categories: first, problems arising from donor relations, and second, problems that occur from losing sight of local context. In the initial stages of working in Afghanistan, there have been instances when Japanese and South Korean donor aid was given without ensuring proper oversight on how it would be spent or used. For example, a donor might give classroom computers to a local political figure, who then keeps the computers as private property.16 Also, local government officials can turn aid into part of their patronage system and allocate this aid for political favors. A further problem with donor-Afghan relations is that the relationship has inherent reporting problems. It is often difficult to get a true read on local government needs since they are incentivized to underreport or underestimate previous donor contributions. Furthermore, it is a sad fact that long-term budgeting by both the JICA and the KOICA has not been carried out since their budgets depend on domestic political considerations. While this is a necessary condition of liberal democracies, it is incredible that expensively run and equipped hospitals have been built for the Afghan government, which lack guaranteed budgeting twelve months into the future. Japan and South Korea are certainly not the only donors guilty of this, as the problem of sustainability is now becoming a serious issue in ISAF Headquarters. As raised above, there is also the problem of losing sight of local conditions: overly expensive hospitals and schools are one example of this,17 in which donors are tempted to “showcase” their contributions, rather than building to local needs. Another mistake has been the focus on “soft” cultural issues, such as gender training, taught as part of the NIBP civil service training. While it is clear that these values have a role in certain societies, it is not clear that they should be within the remit of donor countries, In an interview with an anonymous source from an aid organization in Kabul. 17 KOICA originally budgeted a new school in Parwan province at US$5 million, but lowered the price when local officials claimed they could build ten schools with the same budget. 16

and certainly run the risk of alienating conservative elements which would otherwise support the GOA. Despite these and other problems, the work that Japan and Korea have put into Afghanistan is impressive. The hard work and dedication of their development officers and military planners (with respect to the MIO and PRT) have paid off in the sense that both states have proven their ability to work in new types of operations. For Japan’s MOD, the MIO was a complex logistics mission, involving the transport of fuel and blue water operations at distances unparalleled in modern Japanese MSDF history. For MOFA and JICA, Japan’s civilian agencies, Afghanistan has undoubtedly been a major learning experience in multilateral coordination and planning. Many projects involve more than five different actors at a time: the GOA, the UN, the ISAF, and of course, Japan’s own different agencies. This has been true for South Korean civilian efforts in Afghanistan, and especially true for those elements involved in the PRT. On average, a PRT in Afghanistan must coordinate in five different directions: (1) internally so that PRT objectives are shared by all three agencies – MOFAT, KOICA, and the MND, (2) with local government such as the governor, as well as provincial and district level officials, (3) with Afghan government priorities and agencies like the Ministry of Rural Regeneration and Development and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, (4) with Regional Command East, the US/ISAF command at BAF, and finally with (5) ISAF national strategy, overseen by ISAF HQ. For South Korea’s planners in MND, the ability to integrate civil-military actors in one structure is potentially seen as a necessity in any contingency involving a North Korean collapse. The conflict in Afghanistan is now in its eleventh year. At its start, the US was the world’s only superpower, an uncontested hegemony. As the war draws down, the global power balances have shifted and continue to do so. China and India are increasing in economic influence and global power, while the US and EU are on the back foot, mired in recession. The relative decline of US and European power is openly discussed, and with it, the legitimacy of the liberal democratic system. The story of Afghanistan in this paper, while focused on the rise of Japanese and South Korean expeditionary and development capabilities, is also the story of the rise of Asia through liberal democratic and capitalism. South Korea’s President Lee Myung Bak (2007-2012) saw the mission in Afghanistan as part of Korea’s arrival onto the world stage, aptly named the Global Korea policy. While less true of Japan, there is something to his belief. The arrival of Japan and South Korea over the last few decades into the international community as security providers – rather than as security consumers – is a landmark one, testimony to the success of the liberal democratic system and testimony to their abilities to adapt it to their cultural needs. The development of these two East Asian states into aid donors is a reassuring sign that despite their faults, liberal democracy and capitalism still have life to them.

East Asian Stabilization | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


“selfish superpower” no longer? china’s anti-piracy activities and 21st-century global maritime governance

andrew erickson · austin strange · US Naval war college ABSTRACT China has actively maintained an anti-piracy military presence for nearly four years in and around the Gulf of Aden, the strategic maritime region situated between the Horn of Africa and Yemen. This is the first major instance in which China has dispatched security forces independently in areas outside of its sovereign territory to protect Chinese citizens and national interests. These unprecedented developments demonstrate the sensitivity with which Beijing reacts to domestic and external pressure to protect its interests in the global commons, and they provide insight into how China is cooperating with other states to address transnational security threats such as piracy. More broadly, these missions also elucidate how China will participate in the broader establishment of 21st-century global maritime governance norms and how international maritime governance issues

relate to China’s overarching vision of its role in the international system. This emerging set of potential indicators is particularly important, as China has demonstrated great power aspirations but has not yet contributed public goods to the international community commensurate with such a status. Anti-piracy operations represent one such contribution that Beijing can use to bridge this gap, and thereby take its place among the leading nations of the world. Introduction The persistence and complexity of modern piracy has created new challenges for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), which is particularly unproven in out-of-area maritime regions that Chinese strategists term the “Far Seas,” such as the Indian Ocean. These challenges are formidable and perhaps daunting for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),

The image above, kindly provided by Chad McNeeley of the US Navy, shows Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, touring Chinese military facilities during his three-day trip to China in July 2011. The success of high-level US-China security dialogues will increasingly rely on the extent to which China engages in meaningful security cooperation in the global commons during the 21st century. 92

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | “Selfish Superpower” No Longer?

a regime that has staked its popular legitimacy on developing China as an economically dynamic world power with increasing global interests while simultaneously managing considerable potential sources of domestic instability. While piracy represents a new challenge for Beijing, countering it also offers excellent opportunities for China to benefit by protecting its economic interests abroad, allowing the PLAN to accumulate unprecedented experience and operational gains in the Far Seas, and enhancing the CCP’s political image by respecting existing international maritime laws and cooperating with other states. Moreover, as China’s only sustained direct military presence in the global commons to date, PLAN anti-piracy activities constitute a bellwether or barometer for the degree to which China may contribute to the global maritime governance architecture of the 21st century, an era in which many security challenges will likely be unconventional and transnational in character. What is the nature and scope of the piracy problem and of China’s resulting anti-piracy operations, and to what extent has China cooperated with other states and organizations during its anti-piracy activities to date? How do both Chinese and international observers perceive these efforts, and what obstacles are preventing even higher levels of meaningful cooperation that would benefit all nations concerned? These are critical questions for the future of the global system. As Charles Kupchan has documented, in the aftermath of its ill-fated invasion of Iraq, the United States was denounced in German media as a “selfish superpower.”1 But Washington has subsequently returned to multilateral approaches. More broadly, since World War II the US has acted forcefully to support the major modern international organizations and the order that they undergird, first by playing a central role in establishing the postwar system of which they are a part and subsequently by making critical contributions to their financial and political capital. The US has been an unparalleled contributor to the security Charles A. Kupchan, “The End of the West,” The Atlantic Monthly, November 2002, accessed July 21, 2012, http://


of the global commons. It has retained its unrivaled status as the responder of first and last resort to a wide range of international challenges and crises. All nations act in their own interest, of course, but by making broad contributions to underwrite the functioning of the global system on which all nations’ security and prosperity depend, the US has ensured that its interests largely overlap with those of the vast majority of other nations, and that it is viewed as an indispensable (if not always universally-loved) leader.2 Other influential nations, such as the UK and France, have made contributions in proportion to their own status, and are thereby recognized widely as important, though not super-, powers. Here, however, China is unusual in its insistence on first-tier status while prioritizing specific, limited national interests over broader security contributions and dismissing requests for further contributions by insisting that it is still a “developing” country that pursues “independent” policies. To be sure, other large developing nations with low per-capita resources—notably India and Brazil—also desire increased status and influence, yet remain reluctant to commit major resources to global public goods provision. Ashley Tellis terms this the “apparently anomalous phenomenon of large and impressively growing states behaving as if they were still disadvantaged entities.”3 Yet these other powers do not claim top-tier status to the same degree that China does. In addition to anti-piracy operations, for instance, China’s non-combat operational deployments include contributions to UN Peacekeeping missions in Africa, where Chinese troop deployments outnumber those of any other nation. China has been investing heavily throughout Africa for decades, and the continent represents a vital component of Beijing’s UN voting efforts and long-term energy security. Yet Beijing has not made the same level of contributions in areas G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001). 3 Ashley J. Tellis, “Strategic Asia: Continuing Success with Continuing Risks,” in Asia’s Rising Power and America’s Continued Purpose, eds. Ashley J. Tellis, Andrew Marble, and Travis Tanner (Seattle: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2010), 6. 2

Dr. Andrew S. Erickson is an Associate Professor in the Strategic Research Department at the US Naval War College and a core founding member of the department’s China Maritime Studies Institute. He is an Associate in Research at Harvard University’s John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies (2008-Present). Erickson also serves as an expert contributor to the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report (中国实时报). He is coeditor of, and a contributor to, the Naval Institute Press book series, Studies in Chinese Maritime Development, the latest volume of which is Chinese Aerospace Power. Erickson is also co-founder of China SignPost™ 洞察中国 (, a research newsletter and web portal that covers key developments in China and its natural resource, trade, and security issues. Links to this and his other publications can be found at www. Mr. Austin Strange is a Researcher at the China Maritime Studies Institute of the Strategic Research Department of the US Naval War College, with which he has been affiliated since May 2011. He is also a Project Manager at AidData, a development finance research institute based in Washington, DC, where he leads a project cataloguing China’s investment and aid activities in Africa. Strange’s research interests lie at the intersection of Chinese political economy, energy security, and military development. He graduated with High Honors from the College of William & Mary in May 2012 with a BA in Economics and Chinese, and he is proficient in Mandarin Chinese. “Selfish Superpower” No Longer? | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


that do not directly serve its parochial political or resource needs. For all its emphasis on UN-centric approaches, its monetary contributions thereto remain a fraction of those of the US, shown in Exhibit 1 (see appendix). To achieve the status that it desires, China must provide more global public goods; anti-piracy missions may be a positive first step in this regard.4 As Exhibit 1 demonstrates, China’s financial contribution to the general UN budget remains extremely small relative to the size of China’s economy, which is already the world’s second largest. Moreover, despite highly touted African peacekeeping missions and various marine security operations, China’s baseline fiscal support of the international system through the UN has increased by far less than is often perceived.5 To be sure, even the US contributes a relatively low amount of its economic output to the UN. As a recent Congressional Research Service report explains, “If there were no maximum and minimum assessment levels for the UN regular budget and assessments were based exclusively on a ratio of a country’s gross national product, the United States would be assessed about 30% and some very small and poor countries might be assessed less than 0.001%.”6 Yet if this were actually the case, China’s assessed contribution would likely stand at roughly 15% of the total UN budget. This would require Beijing to increase its current annual commitment to the regular UN budget by nearly 500%. This significant imbalance, compounded by a consistent drop in UN commitments by traditional powers increasingly hindered by domestic economic and political challenges,7 For an insider account of what contributions the Obama Administration has encouraged China to make, see Jeffrey Bader, Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2012), accessed July 21, 2012, http://www. 5 Of course, the UN Regular Budget is just one aspect of a member state’s “assessed contribution,” which also allocates funds for specialized UN agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, assessed contributions are one of several components of member states’ contributions to the UN system: in addition to these binding assessed contributions, members also have the option to voluntarily contribute additional resources to finance special programs and offices created by the UN, as well as toward various peacekeeping missions. For example, the US currently contributes slightly under $5 billion to the UN system annually. About 20% of this is through assessed contributions to the regular budget of UN and specialized agencies, while another 20% is in the form of assessed contributions for peacekeeping. Over 50% of the US’s contribution is comprised of voluntary contributions to UN special programs and funds. For a detailed analysis, see Marjorie Ann Brown, United Nations System Funding: Congressional Issues (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2011), 1-3, accessed July 21, 2012, http:// 6 Ibid. 7 As Figure 1 illustrates, percentage shares of contributions to the total regular UN budget by Japan, Germany, France, the UK, and Italy all declined between 2008 and 2012. 4


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | “Selfish Superpower” No Longer?

begs the question of when China will no longer be able to cite its status as an overpopulated developing country as rationale for not “pulling its weight” in the international arena. Continuing to “free-ride” in the global commons is simply not befitting of a nation with China’s burgeoning overall capabilities and lofty great power aspirations. As Andrew Small of the German Marshall Fund maintains, “a freerider on China’s scale is just too great for the global security, economic, political, and environmental order to bear.”8 This article uses evidence from contemporary PLAN anti-piracy operations to address how China is, if at all, evolving into a more mature contributor to international security, specifically in the maritime domain. The extent to which Beijing supports or challenges existing international maritime governance mechanisms on various security issues, such as anti-piracy and sea lane security, will partially define both what type of naval power China perceives itself as, and how it is received by the international community. Moreover, while China’s engagement with other navies vis-à-vis antipiracy has produced encouraging signals, it remains to be seen whether confidence built in this arena can help overcome deep-seated mistrust between China and counterpart nations over larger maritime issues such as longstanding territorial disputes and long-term military balances in the Asia-Pacific. Regardless, as China’s national interests spill into new areas, pressure on Beijing to expand both its international maritime presence and cooperation will increase. It is thus crucial that China’s civil and military leadership increasingly use anti-piracy and similar security operations as channels for reassuring the world that China will be a major contributor, rather than a free rider or even a detractor, to the security of the global commons during the 21st century. THE PIRACY PROBLEM AND CHINESE MOTIVATIONS FOR GETTING INVOLVED Modern piracy has flourished for over twenty years, reaching a zenith in 2010 when nearly 450 pirate attacks were reported worldwide. In 2011, over half of all pirate attacks occurred off the coast of Somalia, the failed state on the Horn of Africa notorious for lacking a central government and consequently its inability to monitor its coastline. Accordingly, piracy operations originating off the Horn of Africa have had a much higher success rate than in other regions: In 2010, for instance, successful Somali pirate attacks accounted for over 90% of total ship seizures worldwide. Somalia’s centrality to piracy demonstrates how insufficient domestic governance in one state can produce major security threats for all states in the international system. Piracy imposes economic costs on all nations with a stake in maritime commerce by disrupting flows of critical trade resources and destabilizing vital waterways. It also Andrew Small, “Dealing with a More Assertive China,”, February 21, 2010, accessed July 21, 2012, view/Dealing_with_a_More_Assertive_China.


threatens to create undesired international and domestic political consequences for states whose legitimacy and influence rely on perceptions of how they handle various types of security threats to economic, environmental, and human security. At the same time, the dispersed nature of pirates and their ability to disguise themselves as innocent civilians make them an expensive and complex problem for modern naval forces to address. Countering them is thus a common interest and a particularly productive area for cooperation among different nations’ maritime forces. Following the gradual rise in pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia over the past twenty years, many countries, including China, have responded to this non-traditional but substantive security threat by deploying naval forces to the Gulf of Aden, the pirate-infested maritime region where the majority of Somali pirate attacks have occurred. China’s anti-piracy operations throughout the world are driven by economic, military, and political forces, both foreign and domestic. Economically, China relies increasingly on the stability of sea lines of communication (SLOC) for steady supplies of such resources as energy and commodities. In order to reduce China’s reliance on coal, Beijing is attempting to address environmental concerns and diversify energy supply by finding new sources of oil and by boosting natural gas consumption to 10% of total energy use. To do this, in the near future China must significantly increase its imports of both oil and gas, making secure SLOCs even more critical for safeguarding energy supplies to fuel China’s economy. Evidence suggests that China is indeed looking to the seas to address domestic energy security. Oil is a vital resource that accounts for nearly 20% of China’s total energy consumption and virtually all of its transportation fuel—for which there are currently no immediately interchangeable substitutes. Since becoming a net oil importer in 1993, China’s oil import dependency has risen steadily, with China importing roughly half of its oil at present, 80% of which is delivered by sea. This means that China currently relies on maritime transport for 40% of its oil. Additionally, China became a net natural gas importer in 2007, and imports of shipborne liquefied natural gas have begun to challenge traditional fuel sources in coastal China. Besides energy security, the increase in Chinese port traffic further demonstrates China’s comprehensive economic dependence on the sea. A 2000 PLAN study estimated that aggregate port throughput would grow from 1.8 billion tons to 3 billion tons by 2010. By 2009, total throughput had already reached 7 billion tons. While the recent global recession may have some impact on these figures, they are nevertheless likely to remain high as China relies increasingly on imports of manufacturing intermediate goods, key commodities, minerals, and various food stocks. China not only relies on stable SLOCs but also depends heavily on some of the world’s busiest sea lanes that are most vulnerable to pirate attacks, such as the Gulf of Aden, Bab el-Mandab, Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Malacca, and Strait of Singapore. Many Chinese

analysts appear gravely concerned with China’s strong reliance on goods passing through vulnerable international waters and chokepoints, as well as China’s heavy dependence on foreign seaborne transportation. These trends are directly connected to Beijing’s growing stake in the reduction of global piracy. From a purely military standpoint, widespread piracy in the Far Seas provides enormous incentives for PLAN intervention. Chinese naval officials, crewmen, and equipment all gain unprecedented operational experience by participating in anti-piracy missions abroad. Chinese escort task forces typically include two warships and one supply ship, which require roughly two weeks to travel the 10,000 km from China’s coast to waters near Somalia. The destroyers, frigates, and landing ships chosen are some of China’s newest and most advanced ships. An escort task force usually consists of roughly 800 sailors. These sailors are some of the PLAN’s finest, as reflected by the intense competition for limited spots in Chinese escort task forces and the imperative for them to perform with distinction in the eyes of the world. PLAN strategists can also reap substantial benefits by studying the logistics associated with PLAN anti-piracy missions. The logistical demands of these missions, which typically last for over 100 days at a time (and sometimes substantially longer), are unprecedented in Chinese military history. From the PLAN’s perspective, anti-piracy missions also help secure significant budgetary funds and ensure that the service will receive some of China’s most advanced weapons and information technology. The PLAN also garners noteworthy prestige by being China’s only military service with major diplomatic responsibilities. Perhaps most significantly, persistent piracy attacks afford Beijing an otherwise nonexistent opportunity to expand its military presence in the Far Seas and project sustained military force at a greater distance. By engaging in its first extended overseas operation, the PLAN will have an opportunity to refine its doctrine and practices for future “blue-water” missions. This, in turn, will enhance the Chinese Navy’s ability to perform other power projection tasks in the future more reliably. Politically, as Beijing has learned quickly, while incidents involving Chinese citizens, companies, or military forces abroad offer excellent opportunities to portray China as a responsible stakeholder, they also present sensitive political and public relations challenges that make them complex and risky for China’s externally wary leadership to address. The PLAN’s anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden has exposed the inherent tensions between China’s traditional noninterventionist foreign policy and mounting domestic pressure on the Chinese government to protect its citizens and interests overseas amidst poorly defined international maritime laws and norms concerning piracy. With failure comes great risk, but even success breeds the inflation of expectations. Thus, Beijing’s recent forays into anti-piracy have been cautious. In addition to the economic and military incentives discussed above, combined domestic and international pressure on Beijing to act has propelled Chinese anti-piracy

“Selfish Superpower” No Longer? | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


operations since 2008. By 2008, the Chinese public was applying heavy pressure on its leaders to intervene after multiple Chinese commercial vessels were hijacked. Chinese social networking websites such as Weibo captured some of the discontent felt by Chinese citizens as a result of Beijing’s initially hesitant response to Somali piracy at the time. Many netizens pointed to Beijing’s inability to protect its citizens living abroad, and China’s leaders were surely receptive to these comments and blog posts. Paradoxically, a longentrenched authoritarian regime like China’s must in some respects be unusually responsive to short-term public opinion trends, as it lacks both reservoirs of enduring ideological affinity and the political release valves of periodic elections and alternation of parties in power that democratic states typically enjoy. Domestic pressure thus likely played a major role in accelerating Beijing’s prioritization of the piracy issue. NATURE AND SCOPE OF CHINA’S ANTI-PIRACY OPERATIONS On July 3, 2012, the PLAN’s 12th anti-piracy escort fleet left port in Zhejiang Province for the Gulf of Aden, the most recent Chinese task force deployed to waters off the Horn of Africa to escort commercial vessels and deter pirate attacks. Since the inaugural task force deployment in December 2008, over 7,000 Chinese sailors have served in the Gulf of Aden and escort services have been provided to over fifty countries. Usually PLAN task forces consist of two warships, either frigates or destroyers, and one supply and replenishment ship. The objectives of PLAN anti-piracy missions are confined to defending all commercial ships participating in PLAN escort flotillas. At the onset of the mission, task forces escorted only vessels from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, but China has since allowed international commercial vessels to sign up for its escort services in advance. Though their training has expanded notably in the past three years, PLAN ships and troops involved in anti-piracy escorts do not pursue suspected pirates. Rather, they simply deter them from attacking PLAN vessels or merchant ships being escorted in the flotilla. They also respond to rescue request calls within areas sufficiently close to the Gulf of Aden. As of July 2012 the PLAN had escorted nearly 5,000 commercial vessels, almost half foreign-flagged, safely through the Gulf of Aden. Since 2008, the PLAN has learned valuable lessons: Occasional encounters with pirates and dozens of exchanges with other navies have allowed the service to exhibit its competency in deterring piracy, and hundreds of escort operations have helped identify areas for logistical and operational improvement for future missions and potential instances of real combat. Exhibit 2 provides details on each of the twelve PLAN Gulf of Aden task forces to date. Indeed, as China’s “going out” policy continues and more Chinese people, assets, and strategic interests move outside of China, domestic and international pressure for China to address security threats beyond its borders will grow.


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | “Selfish Superpower” No Longer?

This greatly increases the significance of China’s cooperation (or lack thereof ) with other states to address these issues and set norms for future security contingencies in the 21st century. CHINA’S ANTI-PIRACY COOPERATION TO DATE Given the transnational economic and political damage wrought by piracy, it is most beneficial for navies throughout the world to, when possible, act in concert to protect vulnerable maritime regions. A number of regional and international anti-piracy mechanisms have been established in key strategic areas based on this principle. These systems have achieved important gains in reducing pirate attacks in areas such as the Gulf of Aden. However, there remains substantial room for improvement as several key players, including the PLAN, continue to operate primarily on a unilateral basis, albeit in parallel to larger international efforts. Several mechanisms are currently operational: Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) The first sustained military presence in the Gulf of Aden, CMF is commanded by the US Navy and consists of Combined Task Forces (CTF) 150, 151, and 152. It is tasked with maritime security in the Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean. To date, twenty-five countries have contributed to the fight against piracy under CMF. Its presence as an anti-piracy force off the Horn of Africa can be traced to 2008. In January 2009, CTF150 was replaced by CTF-151, which is tasked exclusively with combating piracy in the region. By channeling merchant ships through the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridors (IRTC), delineated zones designed to minimize maritime “traffic jams” between international vessels and Somali and Yemeni fishermen, CTF-151 has helped to lower pirate attacks considerably. Other than the US, major contributors to CMF include the UK, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Korea, Turkey, and Yemen.9 CTF151 has been commanded by naval officials from Pakistan, the US, Korea, Singapore, Turkey, New Zealand, and Thailand, which was commanding the task force as of June 2012.10 As of mid-June 2012, South Korea is commanding CTF-151.11

Lauren Ploch et al., “Piracy off the Horn of Africa,” Congressional Research Service, September 28, 2009, accessed July 21, 2012, piracy_hornafrica.htm. 10 “Combined Task Force (CTF) 151,” Combined Maritime Forces, 11 “Republic of Korea Navy Assumes Command of Combined Task Force 151,” Combined Maritime Forces Public Affairs, June 19, 2012, accessed July 21, 2012, submit/display.asp?story_id=67909. 9

NATO NATO’s anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden stem from Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s call to provide escorts to UN World Food Programme (WFP) vessels in late 2008. These escorts, combined with deterrence patrols in the waters off of Somalia, preceded Operation Allied Protector, which was previously tasked with anti-piracy operations around the Horn of Africa. Allied Protector was in operation from March to August 2009. NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield (OOS) missions started in August 2009 and replaced Operation Allied Protector. In March 2011, a warship operating under OOS provided helicopter gunfire assistance to a US warship working under CTF-151 to arrest a group of pirates attempting a hijack. In mid-June 2011, Rear Admiral Gualtiero Mattesi of Italy replaced Royal Netherlands Navy Commodore Michiel B. Hijmans as Commander of OOS, and as of July 2012, Commodore Ben Bekkering of the Netherlands was commanding OOS. In February 2012, NATO announced it would extend OOS through December 2012. All allies contribute in some way to the mission, which works closely with CTF-151 and European Union (EU) forces in the region. EU The EU’s Operation Atalanta (EUNAVFOR) was established in December 2008 as the first operation of the European Union Naval Force, tasked with promoting maritime security off the coast of Somalia by protecting humanitarian vessels and suppressing piracy. To date, France, Spain, and Germany have contributed the most ships and equipment. In early 2012, the EU reaffirmed its long-term commitment to suppressing piracy off the Horn of Africa by extending the EUNAVFOR Atalanta mandate for two more years through December 2014. Moreover, the EU has recently made progress with regard to developing systems for inter-navy cooperation in anti-piracy operations. At a two-day symposium in early 2012, it unveiled its Mercury Network IT, which allows for by the minute assessments of piracy situations and will likely facilitate closer internavy coordination. On May 14, 2012, EUNAVFOR used helicopter fire to shell a Somali beach at Haradheere, 220 miles north of Mogadishu. According to an EU military official, this night raid was carried out to “make life as difficult for pirates on land as we’re making it at sea.” It was the first time any naval anti-piracy mission had attempted to directly suppress Somali pirates onshore. SHADE Shared Awareness and De-Confliction (SHADE) meets quarterly in Bahrain and considers any naval ship or convoy fighting piracy as extended members. Its core mission is to “ensure effective coordination and de-confliction of military

resources and operations in combating piracy.”12 SHADE’s chairmanship rotates every six months, and China, which falls alphabetically before India, Japan, and Russia, held the leadership role in early 2012. An April 2012 testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission lauded SHADE as a success story for bringing CTF-151, NATO EU NAVFOR, and China closer to meaningful cooperation, and even suggested that a SHADE-type model of multilateral coordination could be applied to various land-based counterterrorism operations. The PLAN has emphasized the communal benefits of synchronizing escort schedules, and in late 2009 it requested to co-chair SHADE along with EU NAVFOR and CTF-151. Generally speaking, the PLAN has been open in principle but circumspect in practice toward cooperation with the aforementioned groups through official exchanges, limited intelligence and schedule sharing, and joint patrols. However, several trends within the past two years indicate that China may be moving closer toward greater cooperation in order to minimize the costs of deterring piracy. Naval officers of these states, along with representatives of navies currently under the command of CTF-151, NATO, and EU anti-piracy missions, have been increasing inter-navy anti-piracy dialogues through SHADE. The PLAN assigned one of its vessels to monitor the IRTC alongside CTF-151 ships. Moreover, the PLAN’s highly-domestically-publicized escorts of WFP supplies through the Gulf of Aden further signal China’s willingness to increase its international responsibilities for the stability of the world economy. While engaging in numerous highly publicized confidence-building activities with counterpart navies and ships from multilateral anti-piracy forces, the PLAN has largely preferred to operate within the scope of its own task forces, treating its exchanges with other navies as bilateral diplomatic sweeteners supplementing its core anti-piracy responsibilities. That said, the PLAN is not alone in deploying independent forces to the Indian Ocean and off the Horn of Africa to mitigate the effects of piracy on shipping and maritime commerce. Japan, India, Russia, Iran, and Malaysia have also deployed substantial naval capacity in the region in this fashion. Japan typically operates two warships tasked with anti-piracy support at a time, while Russia and India often have one warship at any given time. Similarly to China, these states have not operated under the command of CTF150 or CTF-151, nor have they adapted policies identical to those of any of the multilateral task forces operating in the Gulf of Aden. See Exhibit 3 for a survey of these unilateral approaches and a representation of the potential gains to the international community if these countries—especially China—were to integrate fully into international mechanisms for fighting piracy. Despite its unilateral stance, China’s cooperation efforts to date merit recognition. While forces patrol the Nitin Gokhale, “India, China and the Pirates,” The Diplomat, March 6, 2012,


“Selfish Superpower” No Longer? | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


Gulf of Aden, shipboard exchanges help establish simple but important relationships between the PLAN and foreign military units operating simultaneously and in close proximity. These on-ship interactions are highly publicized by the media in China as symbols of the PLAN’s growing competence in operating on the international stage as well as China’s peaceful outward military development. Chinese task forces have held exchanges with multilateral naval forces operating under CTF-151, NATO, and EUNAVFOR. Such interactions have increased considerably since the PLAN’s initial deployment. In 2011, Han Xiaohu, Commander of China’s eighth escort task force, visited NATO’s flagship frigate in March; welcomed Singapore Navy Rear Admiral Harris Chan, then-Commander of CTF-151, aboard a PLAN warship in May; and hosted the EU NAVFOR Force Commander onboard the frigate Wenzhou in June. PLAN task forces off the Horn of Africa have also been active in bilateral exchanges with counterpart navies. The Chinese and Russian navies conducted joint anti-piracy escorts for the first time in October 2009. One month later, PLAN military officials performed on-ship inspections and exchanges with Dutch counterparts. PLAN forces collaborated with South Korean naval units in 2010 to execute joint antipiracy exercises in the Gulf of Aden. In April 2011, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk visited the 8th PLAN escort task force in the Gulf of Aden and held talks with task force commander Han Xiaohu. During the same month, China’s 8th escort task force sent Wenzhou and Qiandaohu to conduct joint anti-piracy exercises with Pakistani guided missile destroyer Khyber. Additionally, the PLAN held extensive joint exercises with the Russian Navy’s “Blue Shield” units in May 2011. Exhibit 4 lists notable PLAN multilateral and bilateral exchanges with other anti-piracy forces. The Gulf of Aden mission has also facilitated general PLAN maritime interaction. Along with Zhoushan, the frigate Xuzhou visited South Africa on April 4, 2011 to conduct exchanges with South African navy in Durban. Subsequently, in mid-May 2011 China invited twenty representatives from eight African nations, including Algeria, Gabon, and Cameroon, to participate in a twenty-day maritime law enforcement program in Zhejiang Province, the first time China has provided Francophone African nations with such training. These experiences have established inter-military dialogues between China and strategically-significant counterparts. Particularly since 2011, China has actively sought to enhance its coordination of anti-piracy missions with other countries, but not necessarily with traditional naval forces in the region such as US-led CTF-151 multinational task forces. China, India, and Japan began using the SHADE mechanism in 2011 to coordinate their anti-piracy operations. The SinoJapanese-Indian escort coordination agreement reportedly includes a plan for one country to act as the “reference” country responsible for formulating the monthly escort schedule. As Indian Navy Assistant Chief of Naval Staff Rear Admiral Monty Khanna explained in February 2012, “Earlier


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | “Selfish Superpower” No Longer?

what was happening was that the convoys of all these three countries would be spaced by few hours and there would be long hours in a day when no convoy was available for escorting the vessels.”13 Now this disparity is being rectified. China served as the first reference country, and other nations participating in coordinated escorts are to design schedules based on that of the PLAN. As of July 2012, India had completed service as the reference country for the second wave of coordination efforts, and Japan was set to lead joint efforts over the summer. Cooperation initiatives are also unfolding within China. The aforementioned symposium hosted by the PLAN in late February 2012 brought together naval officials of twenty countries with anti-piracy activities in the Gulf of Aden. At this symposium, it was revealed that the PLAN provided each participant nation with its detailed escort schedules and also planned to serve as the reference and coordinator for navies in the region performing escorts. Additionally, the PLAN stated it will begin to cooperate with Indian and Japan naval vessels in the region to the extent that all three navies are able to adjust each other’s schedules. Coordination with other independently operating states allows China to enhance its image as a cooperative stakeholder without having to operate under CTF-151, and it does not require China to make fundamental policy adjustments that could be sensitive and undesirable. With respect to Sino-Indian military relations, recent coordination under SHADE represents the first instance of a “working relationship on the high seas” between the PLAN and the Indian Navy.14 While these efforts, particularly between China and India, are a welcome sign to all observers, they certainly do not signal a major shift in Sino-Indian military or bilateral relations. And nor does coordination between China and Japan represent a drastic change in the historically unstable regional rivalry. Recent actions by all countries involved suggest that the East China Sea and South China Sea will remain contentious hotspots for potential flareups between China and the counterpart navies. Anti-piracy coordination between the PLAN, Indian Navy, and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in the Gulf of Aden region rather represents a convenient “win-win” relationship in an area far from Chinese-contested waters much in line with all sides’ views on the importance of coordination to minimize piracy’s negative economic impact. PROSPECTS FOR GREATER COOPERATION China’s cooperation to date is welcome. Yet its current engagement with other independent naval forces is little more than convenient coordination and sharing of low-sensitivity Ajay Banerjee, “India, China Join Hands on the High Seas to Tackle Pirates,” The Tribune India, February 1, 2012, accessed July 21, 2012, main1.htm. 14 Ajay Banerjee, “India, China Join Hands on the High Seas to Tackle Pirates.” 13

information, and in the case of the Gulf of Aden, the subtle undermining of the multilateral mechanisms implemented by traditional naval powers such as the US and Europe. There thus remains substantial room for improvement. There are currently mixed signals over whether Beijing wants to lead international anti-piracy missions. One issue is the evolution of anti-piracy operations in Somalia. While China has been at the forefront of escort-based innovation and collaboration, navies in the region are slowly adopting more-assertive approaches such as land-based preventative measures. The PLAN is less forceful in its anti-piracy tactics at sea than most naval counterparts, and, without breakthroughs in international law, it is unlikely to invest heavily in shorebased tactics. Additionally, given that the majority of states involved in collaborative anti-piracy operations share similar views on international maritime laws governing states’ rights to intervene against sub-state threats, increased leadership by China would likely have to be matched by a subtle but definite alignment toward the international consensus visà-vis piracy law. China is a signatory to over thirty-five international laws and treaties related to SLOC security. The complex nature of international maritime laws, as well as a lack of consensus regarding issues such as the fate of captured pirate suspects, often precludes decisive action by states in the international community. These characteristics of existing maritime law, coupled with the extreme sensitivity that Beijing places on sovereignty issues, make differences in opinion and interpretation with regard to international law a potentially-costly bottleneck for enhancing China’s anti-piracy cooperation with other states and mechanisms. Moreover, current PLAN lack of advanced command and control systems and procedures likely limit the extent to which China is able to lead an international contingency of tens of navies. Official Chinese statements on anti-piracy missions to date reflect the caution with which Beijing is proceeding. China supported all four UNSC resolutions aimed at Somali piracy that were passed in 2008, including declarations that states may intervene within the 12 nautical mailes of Somalia’s territorial waters (Resolution 1846) and even fight pirates on Somali shores (Resolution 1851) if necessary. Since these resolutions, China has gone to great lengths to emphasize Somali sovereignty, both by continuously stating that all international assistance and operations against piracy should only take place with Somalia’s permission, and also by repeatedly reaffirming Somalia’s appreciation for Chinese assistance through domestic media outlets. While Somalia’s TFG has overtly encouraged an onshore Chinese presence, Beijing is wary of the domestic and political backlash that such a policy shift would produce, especially after witnessing the extensive media coverage of Seychelles’ invitation to China to build an anti-piracy military base. Evidence through July 2012 suggests the PLAN will be open to the possibility of greater cooperation in the Gulf of Aden. But there are no signs that China will decide to operate under a multinational aegis off the Horn of Africa

in the near future. Beijing perceives the potential of costs of joining a collaborative effort to exceed the benefits. Operating independently avoids any situation in which China subordinates itself—even only symbolically—to another state or organization, and affords the PLAN considerable freedom to alter its missions without having to notify its partners and undergo lengthy multilateral consultations and deliberations. For now, it appears that while Beijing is eager to increase cooperation off the Horn of Africa, the nature of this cooperation is likely to remain—with incremental enhancement—basic coordination, low-level information sharing, navy-to-navy exchanges, and joint operations. Of course, China’s growing prioritization of stable SLOCs must be considered. Official Chinese views on antipiracy law as well as rules associated with naval engagement in international waters emphasize the need for greater legal institutions regarding SLOCs vital to international commerce. Official Chinese media sources have frequently called on the international community to be more proactive therein. Chinese sources generally assert that the UN should form a new entity tasked specifically with strategic SLOC security worldwide. The essential claim is that the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), while providing mandates for general maritime security, lacks specific provisions concerning how to address SLOC-related security issues. Regional agencies should be established to implement UN-mandated regulations on the security of SLOCs, Chinese experts contend, and also to serve as communication centers for states invested in the region. As China’s overseas interests burgeon during the 21st century, Beijing’s willingness to play a more active role in anti-piracy and other security initiatives may also increase. ANTI-PIRACY: A SPRINGBOARD FOR BROADER MARITIME GOVERNANCE COOPERATION? Beijing is likely satisfied with the PLAN’s current quasi-leadership position among the navies committed to fighting piracy for the reasons mentioned above, and China has technically assumed a leadership position within a multilateral anti-piracy mechanism without having to subordinate itself to the US Navy and other traditional forces in the Gulf of Aden. A major source of Chinese pride, this is viewed as supporting the global trading system significantly. Co-chairing SHADE on a rotational basis allows Beijing to portray itself domestically as a leader of an international coalition, even though in practice the PLAN remains one of many significant contributors. From the perspective of the US, China’s willingness to interact with other naval forces in the region and constructively discuss the issue of subnational piracy is certainly a welcome sign. This is particularly the case for those who have criticized China for constantly “free-riding” over the years on US-provided public goods such as stable maritime transportation lanes. Washington would like to see the PLAN play a substantial leadership role in anti-piracy

“Selfish Superpower” No Longer? | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


operations provided that it respects international law and does not abuse the mission to fulfill ulterior motives. To what extent, if at all, can the US and China use piracy to spearhead international efforts to establish 21stcentury maritime governance norms? During Admiral Mike Mullen’s visit to Beijing in 2011, Mullen and Chinese counterpart Chen Bingde agreed on such military exchange accords as senior official visits, joint exercises on formations, and communications for anti-piracy operations. Mullen’s visit laid a foundation for expanding joint anti-piracy operations, as the two sides reportedly signed multiple collaboration agreements despite remaining fundamental differences with regard to the South China Sea issue. While such agreements are a welcome sign, Beijing’s experience with anti-piracy has not produced a fundamental shift in China’s views on US intentions vis-à-vis the proposed Global Maritime Partnerships. Indeed, China still views a growing US presence in East Asia, highlighted by the announcement of a US “rebalancing” toward East Asia in late 2011, as a pernicious grand strategy designed to “contain” China. High-level dialogues are welcome signs for what will likely be the most important bilateral military relationship in the early 21st century, but events from the past year provide a somber reminder that cooperation on non-traditional and transnational security issues is contingent on other areas of the US-China relationship. For example, Beijing cancelled combined exercises with the US Navy in the Gulf of Aden scheduled for late 2011 after the Washington announced new arms sales to Taiwan in September 2011. While many nations are eager to utilize anti-piracy cooperation with China to build strategic trust, Beijing’s behavior reflects the fact that such operations are ultimately subordinate to Beijing’s larger national security interests, as will be China’s potential contributions to the stability of the global commons through helping to build upon widely-accepted international procedures. Mistrust between Washington and Beijing may well increase as the US further reorients its national security strategy toward the Asia-Pacific and as Chinese military development unfolds both regionally and internationally at an unprecedented pace. It is thus critical that naval officials from both sides maximize the opportunities for military and strategic confidence building that anti-piracy operations provide. Of course, neither side should view cooperation against non-state piracy as a panacea. Yet neither should dismiss the gains that can be made by increasing US-China joint efforts vis-à-vis transnational maritime security threats that increasingly endanger the economic and political welfare of states throughout the world. Accordingly, it is even more crucial that the US and other states continue to include China in discussions about global maritime governance, and that China participate constructively therein.


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | “Selfish Superpower” No Longer?

CONCLUSION On balance, Beijing’s experience in the Gulf of Aden has been positive thus far. China’s strategic interests may continue to impel the PLAN to make more substantive contributions to non-traditional maritime stability. Such approaches conveniently couple China’s narrow security interests—such as enhancing its economic, political, and military influence in regions critical to China’s energy security—with the broader well-being and stability of the global commons. Chinese leaders have learned valuable lessons that will likely dictate the extent to which Beijing forms policy on other issues involving sub-state actors in the maritime domain. While a combination of domestic and international pressure catalyzed China’s involvement in anti-piracy operations, to date all of China’s substantial international military noncombat operational deployments have occurred in areas deemed vital to China’s national security. Internal opinions over how to address future transnational maritime security threats will likely intersect at the balance of China’s domestic audience, the international community, and the strategic relevance of the issue and region in question. Thus, while China is less of a “free rider” than it was in the past, it may still be widely perceived abroad as a “selfish superpower” if it does not continue to broaden and deepen its global provision of public goods to an extent that more closely approaches its rapidly growing capabilities and desire for international status. While there are no indications that Beijing is planning global naval expansion, the PLAN will encounter a mature US military presence in any area into which it ventures in the coming years. Indeed, Chinese and American interests overseas will intersect in the 21st century more so than ever before, making substantive cooperation between the two sides indispensable, not only for US-China relations but also for the stability of the global commons. And ultimately, both nations, as well as the global system, will benefit if neither is perceived as a “selfish superpower.”

APPENDIX Exhibit 1: Top Ten Economies and Their Contributions to UN Regular Budget


GDP 2011 (US $ trillions)

U.S.* China* Japan Germany France* Brazil UK* Italy Russia* India

15.094 7.298 5.867 3.571 2.773 2.477 2.432 2.195 1.858 1.848


Adjusted PPP 2011 (US $ trillions)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

15.232 11.325 4.539 3.283 2.346 2.261 2.316 1.966 2.845 4.488


UN Assessments for 2008 in US $

% of UN Regular Budget 2008

UN Funding Rank 2008

UN Assessments for 2012 in US $

% of UN Regular Budget 2012

UN Funding Rank 2012

1 2 3 5 7 9 8 10 6 4

453,338,391 54,956,977 342,558,973 176,740,154 129,840,236 18,051,111 136,866,982 104,659,349 24,727,549 9,272,831

22.00 2.67 16.62 8.58 6.30 0.88 6.64 5.08 1.20 0.45

1 9 2 3 5 19 4 6 15 27

568,750,776 82,443,010 323,929,419 207,283,806 158,293,682 41,648,068 170,728,642 129,235,688 41,415,397 13,805,133

22.00 3.19 12.53 8.02 6.12 1.61 6.60 4.99 1.60 0.53

1 8 2 3 5 14 4 6 15 27

* United Nations Security Council permanent member Sources Table incorporates data provided and used by the World Bank and UN. World Bank data on nominal GDP and GNI PPP are available at Information on member states’ budgetary contributions to the UN can be found at contributions/budget.shtml. All above calculations based on these statistics.

Exhibit 2: PLAN Gulf of Aden Escort Statistics by Task Force Task Force








12/26/084/28/09 (124 days)

4/2/098/21/09 (142)

8/1/0912/20/09 (158)

10/30/094/23/09 (176)

3/4/109/11/10 (192)

6/30/101/7/11 (192)

Escorts Batches

212 41

393 45

582 53

660 46

588 41

615 49







11/2/105/9/2011 (189)

2/21/118/28/11 (189)

7/2/1112/24/11 (175)

11/2/1105/05/12 (185)



578 38

507 46

280 41

240 40

184 58


>4700 ~500

Sources 1-8. “Profile of the 10th PLAN Escort Fleet,” Xinhua, December 26, 2011, accessed July 21, 2012, 9. Guo Xiao, De Lun, and Dan Lide, “Ninth Naval Escort Fleet Triumphs,” Zhanjiang Daily, December 25, 2011, accessed July 21, 2012, 10. Gao Yi and Tang Zhuoxiong, “10th Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce Returns to Base,” PLA Daily, May 8, 2012, accessed July 21, 2012, 11 “Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce Ensures Safety for 4.640 Ships,” NavalToday, May 14, 2012, accessed July 21, 2012, http://navaltoday. com/2012/05/14/chinese-naval-escort-taskforce-ensures-safety-for-4-640-ships/; “11th Chinese naval escort taskforce leaves Gulf of Aden,” PLA Daily, July 24, 2012, accessed July 21, 2012, to sources for 11th task force. 12. “China to send 12th escort fleet to Somali waters,” Global Times, June 28, 2012, accessed July 21, 2012, content/717717.shtml.

“Selfish Superpower” No Longer? | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


Exhibit 3: Selected Anti-Piracy Forces Independent of CMF, NATO, and EU NAVFOR Country China India Russia Japan Iran

Date of First Task Force Deployment December 26, 2008 October 23, 2008 October 2008 March 14, 2009 December 20, 2008

Estimated Total Ships Escorted >4700 (June 28, 2012) ~2000 (June 12, 2012) >130 (June 26, 2012) 2341 (February 7, 2012) ~1400 (February 28, 2012)

Sources China: Yan Meng, “Chinese Navy Flotilla Escorted 4,640 Vessels to Date,” China Military Online, May 15, 2012, accessed July 21, 2012, India: “Anti-Piracy Bid: South Korea Joins India, Japan, China,” Times of India, June 13, 2012, accessed July 21, 2012, http://timesofindia.; “Anti Piracy Operations,” Indian Navy, accessed July 24, 2012, Japan: “Record of Escort Operations Performed by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Units Dispatched for Anti-Piracy Activities,” February 7, 2012, accessed July 21, 2012, Russia: “Somalia: Russian Destroyer Escorts Commercial Vessels in Gulf of Aden,” Horseed Media, January 22, 2012, accessed July 21, 2012, Iran: “Iran Navy Escorts 1,400 Ships in 4 years,” PressTV, February 28, 2012, accessed July 21, 2012, http://www.hellenicshippingnews. com/News.aspx?ElementId=3e83d940-f9db-4b44-ae30-0383fef5bb28; “Iran Joins Fight against Piracy,” CNN, December 20, 2008, accessed July 21, 2012, s=PM:WORLD.

Exhibit 4: Selected PLAN Multilateral and Bilateral Exchanges 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Date October 2009 November 2009 March 2011 April 2011 April 2011 May 2011 May 2011 June 2011 January 2012 July 2012 July 2012

Counterpart Russia Netherlands NATO Pakistan South Africa 8 African Countries CTF-151 EU NAVFOR NATO CTF-151 EU NAVFOR

Activity Joint Escorts On-ship inspections and exchanges Visit aboard counterpart ship Joint Anti-Piracy Exercises Offshore exchanges in Durban, South Africa Offshore maritime law enforcement training in Zhejiang, China Host CTF-151 Commander aboard PLAN vessel Host EU NAVFOR Commander aboard PLAN vessel On-ship exchanges On-ship exchanges Visit EU NAVFOR personnel aboard EU NAVFOR vessel

Sources: 1. “China, Russia Complete 1st Joint Mission against Piracy,”, September 15, 2009, accessed July 22, 2012, video/2009-09/15/content_18531222.htm. 2. Zhu Da and Xu Yeqing, “Commander of Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce Visits No. 465 EU Naval Escort Fleet,” People’s Republic of China Ministry of Defense, November 24, 2009, accessed July 22, 2012, 3. Jorge Benitez, “NATO Counter Piracy Flotilla Welcomes Chinese Navy Taskforce Commander,” NATO Alliance News Blog, March 28, 2011, accessed July 22, 2012, 4. “China, Pakistan Navies Hold First Joint Anti-Piracy Drill off Somali Coast,” Terminal X, May 5, 2011, accessed July 22, 2012, http:// 5. “Escort Fleet of the Chinese Navy Began Visit to South Africa,” China Military News, April 7, 2011, accessed July 22, 2012, http://www. 6. “African Officials Study Maritime Law Enforcement in China,” Xinhua, May 12, 2011, accessed July 22, 2012, cn/90001/90776/90883/7378319.html. 7. “Commander CTF 151 Visits Chinese Independent Warship,” Combined Maritime Forces, May 15, 2011, accessed July 22, 2012, http:// 8. “EU NAVFOR Force Commander Meets CTF 526 in Salalah,” EU NAVFOR Public Affairs Office, June 27, 2011, accessed July 22, 2012, 9. “NATO and China Cooperate to Fight Piracy,” NATO, January 19, 2012, accessed July 22, 2012, 10. “CTF Meets Chinese Counterparts,” MaritimeSecurity.Asia, July 22, 2012, accessed July 22, 2012, maritime-security-asia/ctf-151-meets-chinese-counterparts/. 11. “Chinese Task Force Commander Welcomed On Board EU Naval Force Flag,” EU NAVFOR Public Affairs Office, July 23, 2012, accessed July 22, 2012,


HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | “Selfish Superpower” No Longer?

A long and winding road for cybersecurity cooperation Between japan and the united states

mihoko matsubara ¡ hitachi systems ABSTRACT Tokyo and Washington publicly announced their cooperation on cybersecurity for the first time in June 2011. As two of the most economically and politically powerful actors in the world, both Japan and the United States have more to lose than most other countries in the face of cyber threats and are thus obliged to reduce their vulnerabilities in order to prevent negative consequences for the international community. They need to cover cyberspace in the Security Treaty and establish the rules of engagement in the domain. In the short run, timely information-sharing is key to responding to cyber-attacks and espionage and preventing further damage. Furthermore, Tokyo needs to reconsider the Self-Defense Forces’ offensive cyber capabilities, revise the SDF Law to cover cyber domain as a new area of responsibility, and strengthen information security and assurances. Such measures would truly contribute to cybersecurity cooperation and a stronger alliance. INTRODUCTION Cybersecurity is attracting attention amidst the mounting uncertainty caused by invisible malicious actors, who pose annoyance threats, commit cybercrimes, and pursue cyber espionage and attacks via destructive computer codes. The anonymous and borderless nature of the Internet

helps those actors. The rapid development of information and communications technology (ICT) has been critical to the effectiveness of operations and business, but better connectivity has also introduced economic, social, and security vulnerabilities. Because it is difficult to attribute the origin of these attacks, in both the public and the private sectors, governments and companies can be overwhelmed by the size and scope of threats. Threats in cyberspace include unintentional network failure, theft, hacktivism, pranks, data extraction or falsification, and the destruction of network elements or infrastructure, including power grids. The reach of the Internet further enables these threats to spread across borders. Countries are now realizing the immense scale of these challenges and are recognizing the need to cooperate to find solutions given the new, complicated, and transnational nature of cybersecurity. But although international collaboration is essential, a multilateral collaborative framework is not necessarily feasible. Countries with varied security interests may struggle to share sensitive information concerning their own vulnerability which, in turn, hampers their ability to predict or prevent malicious acts in the cyber domain. Also stymied is their ability to identify common ground and establish an international standard in controversial areas such as privacy and regulations, which may have an adverse impact on economic growth. By contrast, while still difficult, political allies are in a better position to cooperate on cybersecurity

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challenges because of mutual trust in intelligence sharing and shared security interests and priorities. As economic and political powers, Japan and the United States have arguably more sophisticated technology to protect and even more sensitive information to safeguard than any other country in the world; it is thus essential that Tokyo and Washington pursue and strengthen cooperation on the cybersecurity front. This paper aims first to identify threats and issues faced by Japan and the United States face in cyberspace. The second section examines the current status of and impediments to cybersecurity cooperation in the international community. It further explores how allies can overcome challenges and how Tokyo and Washington can work together in areas including the revision of the Security Treaty, the establishment of rules of engagement, joint exercises, and an information-sharing system. Finally, this paper analyzes what Tokyo might do in cooperation with Washington to combat cyber-attacks and espionage, especially with respect to information sharing, overcoming constitutional constraints on offensive capabilities, and collective self-defense for the alliance.1 Current cyber threats and issues in Japan and the United States Information technology constitutes the sinews of modern infrastructure, and cybersecurity is essential. Unfortunately, it is also expensive. The number of devices connected to the Internet, including mobile devices, totaled 12.5 billion in 2010. The number will double by 2015 and quadruple by 2030.2 As a result, governments, militaries, companies, and individuals have more assets to protect, facing more vulnerability as a result of the technological improvements in connectivity and productivity. Major threats faced by Japan and the United States include espionage that aims to extract sensitive information and technology from governments and the defense industry, as well as to attack critical infrastructure, such as power, oil, gas, and water.3 The Japan-US Security Treaty signed between Tokyo and Washington in 1960 does not specifically refer to the responsibility of the two countries in the cyber domain. The Japanese government believes that Japan has a collective self-defense right as a sovereign country under international law but that the country is not allowed to exercise this right because of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. 2 Dave Evans, “How the Internet of Things Will Change Everything – Including Ourselves,” Cisco Systems, May 17, 2011, accessed December 27, 2011, http://blogs. 3 “Dramatic increase in critical infrastructure cyber-attacks, sabotage,” Homeland Security News Wire, April 22, 2011, accessed December 28, 2011, http://www.homelandsecuri1

Mounting cyber-attacks against the US defense community could threaten national security. On a nearly daily basis, the US Department of Defense (DOD) finds over 60,000 new malicious software programs or variations that pose security threats.4 Major defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) have been targets as well: hackers stole 90,000 email addresses and passwords from BAH in 2011.5 Although critical infrastructure is a potential target of cyber-attacks and sabotage, organizations remain unprepared to protect it. Many power plants use automation equipment which can be remotely reprogrammed. They are thus vulnerable to supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), a computer-based system that monitors and controls industrial, infrastructure, and facility processes.6 A single wave of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure can cause damage of over $700 billion, equivalent to the cumulative toll of fifty major hurricanes hitting the United States simultaneously.7 Ongoing cyber-attacks and cyber espionage in some contexts aim to create a platform for prospective war. Malicious cyber actors may plant destructive computer codes, which can cripple networks used for critical infrastructure or for the military, and such incidents could hamper business operations in the public and private sectors in the event of a future war.8 Indeed, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission warned that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) exploits US government, military, and private sector networks and could use cyber-attacks to “delay or degrade a potential US military response to a crisis.”9 4 “News Release No. 608-11: DOD Announces First Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace,” US Department of Defense, July 14, 2011, accessed December 27, 2011, 5 Nick Allen, “Hackers steal 90,000 email addresses in cyber attack on US military contractor Booz Allen Hamilton,” The Telegraph, July 12, 2011, accessed December 17, 2011, http:// 6 Joseph Menn, “US power plants vulnerable to cyberattack,” Financial Times, October 11, 2011, accessed December 27, 2011, 7 Stanton Sloane, “Let’s stop the billions lost to cyber thieves,” Washington Technology, July 21, 2011, accessed January 19, 2012, Stan-Sloane-cyberattacks-IP-threats.aspx?Page=2. 8 Motohiro Tsuchiya, interview by author, Keio University, Kanagawa Prefecture, December 14, 2011. 9 Bryan Krekel, Patton Adams, and George Bakos, “Occupying the Information High Ground: Chinese Capabilities for Computer Network Operations and Cyber Espionage,” US-China Economic and Security Review Commission 29 (2012), 109.

Mihoko Matsubara is a Cybersecurity Analyst at Hitachi Systems as well as a Non-resident Sasakawa Peace Foundation Fellow and Fulbright Scholar at the Pacific Forum, CSIS, a think tank based in Honolulu. Mihoko discussed cybersecurity issues at security symposiums in six different cities in Japan at the invitation of the US Embassy in Tokyo and was interviewed on the topic by a Hawaiian radio show. She received her MA in International Relations and Economics from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of Hitachi or the Pacific Forum. 104

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Cybersecurity Coorperation between Japan and the US

The urgency of the situation forced Washington to raise its budget for cybersecurity and establish the Cyber Command in 2009 to plan and conduct cyber operations. The US government is more explicit about its cyber strategy than Tokyo and declared that the United States will resort to force over such matters if necessary. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report designated cyberspace as the fifth domain for DOD activities, in addition to land, sea, air, and space.10 The White House’s international strategy for cyberspace, issued in May 2011 states, “[The United States] reserves the right to use all necessary means,” including military, “as appropriate and consistent with applicable international law, in order to defend [the] Nation, allies, partners, and interests.”11 For its part, Tokyo launched the National Information Security Center (NISC) under the Cabinet Secretariat in April 2005. The Center responsible for crafting national cybersecurity strategy for both the public and private sectors; analyzing cyber-attack reports from these sectors and sharing the information; and serving as a point of contact for coordination with other countries. From a legal standpoint, however, the NISC does not have the authority to obtain information from organizations which have been the victim of cyber-attacks or impose recommended countermeasures except on a voluntary basis. Thus, although the NISC has crafted strategies and recommendations, they are not binding. Furthermore, its Information Security Strategy to Protect the Public, issued in May 2012, focuses on explaining problems such as the increase in malware and privacy protection and identifies partners that Japan should cooperate with rather than providing specific actions needed to overcome obstacles and outlining how it should collaborate with these partners.12 Both countries lack sufficient protection, especially for the private sector, but Japan is discreet even with respect to releasing the number of cyber-attacks and cases of espionage. It seems more concerned about losing face by disclosing negative news in public than countering cybersecurity issues based on accurate and timely information. Although cyberattacks against ministries and defense contractors seem to have been ongoing for at least five years, the media did not begin intensively covering such incidents until 2011.13 This is when Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), one of the largest defense contractors in Japan, neglected to report a major cyber incident to the Ministry of Defense (MOD) despite having known beforehand and despite their MOD “Quadrennial Defense Review Report,” US Department of Defense, February 2010, accessed December 28, 2011, http:// pdf, 37. 11 “The International Strategy for Cyberspace – Prosperity, Security, and Openness in a Networked World,” The White House, May 2011, accessed December 28, 2011, http://www. strategy_for_cyberspace.pdf, 14. 12 “Kokumin wo Mamoru Joho Sekyuritei Senryaku” (Information Security Strategy to Protect the Public), National Information Security Center, May 11, 2012, accessed May 21, 2012, 13 Motohiro Tsuchiya, interview by author.

contract requiring the company to provide notice about any possible information leak. Instead, the Ministry learned of the incident through media reports.14 Because MHI also manufactures products for the US military, and because interoperability and interdependency between the two countries are progressing, insufficient information-sharing should make Washington nervous. Despite the rising danger in cyberspace, cybersecurity responsibilities and terminologies are not yet well defined in Japan. The current law does not allow the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to deal with cyber-attacks. The new National Defense Program Guidelines, a long-term Japanese security strategy released in December 2010, argues the importance of strengthening Japan’s capability to handle cyber threats and secure stable usage of the cyber domain.15 Nevertheless, the SDF Law and the Act on Armed Attack Situations have no reference to the cyber domain as an area of responsibility, and there is currently no plan to revise the legislations. The MOD and SDF are only responsible for attacks against their internal systems, and they do not have offensive capability. The National Police Agency (NPA) handles cyber-terrorism, intelligence, and crimes, whereas the MOD and the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) analyze cyberattacks.16 This also highlights problems with cybersecurity definitions and the tendency to provide stovepipe responses to common access goods. Thus, while threats and dangers are mounting, the governments have not been able to clarify their responsibilities to protect national security (especially critical infrastructure in the private sector), because they do not have a specific agency to take the lead. In addition, Japan also faces accountability issues. And because of advanced security cooperation between Tokyo and Washington, a blow to one country or a failure to report could have direct impact on the other one as well. The current status and challenges of international cybersecurity cooperation As the negative consequences of malicious acts in cyberspace spread across national borders, the transnational nature of cybersecurity issues requires international cooperation to prevent further damage. Unfortunately, there has been little progress on cybersecurity cooperation among countries and between the public and private sectors, the exception being NATO, which established the Cooperative


“Saiba Kogeki Bogyomo Kochiku ha Kuni no Sekinin da” (The establishment of a cyber defense system is a responsibility of the government), Tokushima Shimbun, October 13, 2011, accessed December 28, 2011, editorial/news/2011/10/news_131846712731.html. 15 “Heisei 23 Nendo Iko ni Kakaru Boei Keikaku no Taiko ni Tsuite” (National Defense Program Guidelines after 2011), The Ministry of Defense, December 17, 2010, accessed December 27, 2011, guideline/2011/taikou.html#besshi. 16 “Information Security 2011,” Information Security Policy Council, July 8, 2011, accessed December 29, 2011, http://, 13-16. 14

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Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence after the cyber-attacks on Estonia in 2007, the first documented attacks against a state. The incident alarmed the international community by demonstrating how increasing dependence on the Internet can be point of vulnerability for any government or economy, and how easily a country can fail to function even in the absence physical attacks. Estonia was especially vulnerable to cyber-attacks because the Internet is available in 98 percent of the territory and the society is heavily reliant on Internet connectivity. For three weeks, government agencies, banks, media organizations, and political parties suffered a wave of massive cyber-attacks in the form of Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS, which swamps websites with thousands of visits, overcrowding bandwidth and disabling them. The Estonian government suspected that the attacks originated in Russia because of the discovery of Russian IP addresses used in the attacks, and because the attacks coincided with the removal of a controversial Soviet-era war memorial. Ultimately, however, the government was unable to uncover concrete evidence of Russian involvement.17 Since then, multilateral frameworks, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the London Conference on Cyberspace in November 2011, have tried to establish laws and guidelines on cyberspace, but they have not succeeded. ARF member countries started to recognize the danger of cyber-attacks and crimes in 2006 and aimed to enact and implement laws against them.18 The London Conference invited representatives from 60 countries to discuss the economic growth and social benefits brought by the Internet, as well as cybercrime, international security, and safe and reliable access to cyberspace. China and Russia, however, opposed international treaties to regulate the Internet at that conference.19 To date, the international community has been unable to form a consensus. There are four impediments to concerted action against cyber-attacks. First, the large number of actors and new and fast-changing technology in cyberspace increases the complexity of collaborating to resolve issues domestically and internationally in a timely manner. Because of the crossnational nature of cybersecurity, different countries have different interests concerning privacy, openness, and the regulation of cyberspace, as well as concern over negative impact on economic growth. Second, information assurance Eneken Tikk, Kadri Kaska, and Liis Vihul, “International Cyber Incidents: Legal Considerations,” Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, 2010, accessed April 22, 2012,, 15-26. 18 “ASEAN Regional Forum Statement on Cooperation in Fighting Cyber Attack and Terrorist Misuse of Cyber Space,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, July 28, 2006, accessed May 21, 2012, 19 Jill Lawless, “London Conference on Cyberspace: Cyber Crime Is Not ‘Justification for States To Censor Citizens’,” The Huffington Post, November 1, 2011, accessed May 21, 2012, 17


forces governments to avoid providing sensitive information on cyber-attacks to other governments that lack similar levels of security clearance. High-level intelligence still finds it difficult to accurately identify attackers. Even if a government happens to know the timing of future cyberattacks in another country, non-allies may prefer to avoid the risk of compromising future intelligence collection efforts in revealing information to detect, deter, and mitigate cyber threats. Third, both the public and private sectors are reluctant to report damages due to fears about revealing vulnerabilities to further attacks. In particular, private companies are concerned about inviting potential damage to their reputations, benefiting their competitors by sharing information on their products, and they prioritize productivity and revenues over accepting additional regulations.20 Finally, cybersecurity has the potential to be sidelined, especially in comparison to more imminent concerns over conventional military threats and the economy. Countries understand the necessity of international cooperation given the borderless nature of cybersecurity threats. And yet, their efforts are crippled by their differing interests and priorities, as well as concerns over comprising intelligence capabilities and the revealing of vulnerabilities. Cooperation between the allies: Japan and the United States It is critical (and certainly much easier) to start cooperation among two allies who already share the same interests and can exchange sensitive information. The next logical step would be to expand such a cooperative template to other allies. Allies can overcome at least three of the four aforementioned impediments to international cooperation on the cybersecurity front. First, it is easier for a smaller number of actors to negotiate with one another because allies already share security interests, even if they do not necessarily agree on the means of regulating cyberspace and protecting privacy. Second, allies trust each other’s information assurance systems and can exchange sensitive information without fears of potentially compromising their intelligence capabilities. Third, an alliance is in a better position to agree on priorities for collaboration than the wider international community, as allies usually see threats as mutually shared, as well as the need to cooperate to prevent further damaging spillovers. Nevertheless, even among allies, private companies might still hesitate to release information that may benefit their competitors. On a global level, Japan and the United States face the most pressing needs to cooperate on matters pertaining to cybersecurity. The two are the No. 1 and No. 3 economic powers and two of the largest military powers in the world. They have and share more state-of-the-art technology for 20

Reyhaneh Noshiravani, “NATO and Cyber Security: Building on the Strategic Concept,” Chatham House, May 20, 2011, accessed December 27, 2011, http://www.chathamhouse. org/sites/default/files/public/Research/International%20 Security/200511nato.pdf, 5.

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both civil and military purposes, and they have more to lose and protect than most other countries. The two countries thus have a responsibility to reduce their vulnerabilities, as cyber-attacks and espionage would pose serious consequences to the international community. Although Tokyo and Washington issued a joint statement confirming the importance of cybersecurity cooperation for the first time at the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee (SCC) in June 2011, a tangible strategy has yet to be crafted. The statement lacked a clear vision on how to pursue collaboration and does not place any specific responsibility on either Tokyo or Washington. The first Japan-US working level dialogue on cybersecurity was held in Tokyo in September 2011 and included the MOD and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of State, DOD, and Homeland Security.21 Tokyo and Washington agreed on the need to establish a mechanism to share information on cyberattacks but a specific procedure has not yet been created.22 In the meantime, top leaders have begun to realize the dangers posed by cyber threats. Following the summit between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and President Barack Obama in April 2012, the two leaders, for the first time at this most senior level, issued a joint statement that emphasized the importance of expanding cybersecurity cooperation between the governments and the public and private sectors.23 To enhance the safety of the cyber domain and counter cyber threats, Tokyo and Washington must take three steps: revise the Japan-US Security Treaty to counter cyber-attacks, make a formal agreement which specifies cybersecurity responsibilities, and start information exchanges between Japanese and US private companies to support a partnership between the public and private sectors. First, the Japanese and the US governments must include cybersecurity cooperation in their Security Treaty to collaborate on cyber-attacks; the current treaty does not cover cyberspace and international law has not yet established the definition of “attack” in the domain. Washington seems to be willing to cooperate with its allies on this front and started to include cyberspace in other security treaties. For example, the US government put the following language into its International Strategy for Cyberspace, issued in May 2011: “[The United States] recognize[s] US that certain hostile acts conducted through “Saiba Kogeki (ge) Sadamaranu Kikikanri Michi no Teki Anpo Nimo Kyoi” (Cyber-attack (2): Vulnerable crisis management – unidentified foes and threats to the alliance), Nihon Keizai Shimbun, October 20, 2011, accessed January 17, 2012, DE1E7E5E6E2EAE5E2E0E2E3E2E0E2E3E39F9FEAE2E 2E2. 22 Naohisa Hanzawa and Taisuke Nanjo, “Aitsugu saiba kogeki Koshi omoi seifu, kanmin renkei kizukezu” (Repeated cyberattacks – Slow response of the government, has not established public-private partnerships yet), Sankei Shimbun, October 8, 2011, accessed December 27, 2011, politics/news/111008/plc11100801300002-n2.htm. 23 “Fact Sheet: US-Japan Cooperative Initiative,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, April 30, 2012, accessed May 21, 2012, pdfs/Fact_Sheet_en.pdf. 21

cyberspace could compel actions under the commitments we have with our military treaty partners.”24 Four months later, Washington and Canberra agreed to apply the ANZUS Treaty to the cyber realm. Following this example, Tokyo and Washington should revise Articles V and VI of the Security Treaty to change the definition of “attack,” which currently refers only to “armed attacks” in the air, land, and ocean, thus failing to address borderless cyber threats. Second, Japan and the United States should conclude a formal agreement to define responsibilities including the rules of engagement, deterrence strategy, and joint military training. Although Washington’s aforementioned International Strategy for Cyberspace argues that the United States “reserves the right to use all necessary means,” including use of force to counter cyber-attacks, the lack of an articulated cyber-attack definition under international law provides flexibility for the military to respond but also makes it difficult to manage crises under ambiguous instructions.25 Accordingly, Tokyo and Washington need to agree on the use of force in the cyber domain. It is necessary to decide how to pursue defense, offense, and deterrence. Nonetheless, four difficulties remain in defining and assuring the efficacy of offense and deterrence. First, the military has faced challenges with regard to what they can feasibly do offensively in the cyber domain. Additionally the governments struggle to identify what the scope of their defensive responsibilities is, as a result of increasing and changing threats. As of today, precise cyber weapons whose outcomes are both predictable and controllable are not available, and it would take approximately one year to evaluate the vulnerabilities of an adversary in order to develop said cyber weapon. Moreover, cyber-attacks may disrupt the regional or international economy beyond the intended target, a critical reason why the US military gave up using cyber-attacks to disable Libya’s air defense system before the NATO air strike. Furthermore, adversaries can reverse-engineer destructive computer codes originally programmed by the United States or Japan to exploit vulnerabilities in others’ systems.26 “The International Strategy for Cyberspace – Prosperity, Security, and Openness in a Networked World,” The White House, May 2011, accessed December 28, 2011, http://www. strategy_for_cyberspace.pdf, 14. 25 The White House, “The International Strategy for Cyberspace,” 14. 26 The Stuxnet computer virus is designed to disrupt a specific configuration of a specific industrial control system and delayed the Iranian nuclear program by disabling centrifuges at an uranium-enrichment plant in Iran in 2009 to 2010. Yet, it is unknown how much damage was intended by planting the virus. Some experts argue that even Stuxnet cannot provide precise, predictable, and controllable attacks and that these features are indispensable for military operations at a specific timing and against a target/targets. “Cyberwar: The meaning of Stuxnet,” The Economist, September 30, 2010, accessed March 19, 2012,; Ellen Nakashima, “US accelerating cyberweapon research,” The Washington Post, March 18, 2012, accessed March 19, 2012,

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Second, it is difficult to deter cyber-attacks. There is no guarantee of precise attribution to an organization or state that engages in cyber-attacks or espionage. Thus, deterrence by punishment is problematic when attribution is not guaranteed and a victim country cannot justify the costs of retaliating against attackers. Even if Japan or the US is able to trace the location of a perpetrator, it is extremely difficult to identify the person or organization behind the keyboard, especially in another country. Even if they can, forensic work may take months.27 Deterrence by denial is challenging because the growing reliance on ICT makes the number of potential targets infinite and information security costly. It also poses a challenge to deny an adversary’s capabilities and decrease the probability of their success, and yet this is not nearly as challenging as deterrence by punishment. Prevention is therefore critical in enhancing protection and information-sharing. While international cooperation is essential, there is no guarantee of cooperation from the country where a culprit resides, and governments often cannot reveal their sources of intelligence. Sophisticated attacks can be conducted by only a limited number of countries with sufficient resources and motives, thus allowing Tokyo and Washington to be able to narrow down possible attackers.28 Yet proof of said attack would be needed before the attacked country could calculate what an equivalent response would be in terms of damage, destruction, and disruption in order to legitimize retaliation.29 Furthermore, retaliation relies on the assumption that a country can still use its resources, including critical infrastructure, to respond after a cyber-attack. And if a cyberattack has struck a country’s key network infrastructure, this may not be the case. Given the sensitivity of potential cyber threats, the SDF and US forces require a higher level of trust and mutual security clearance in order to share information. Since a cyber-attack on infrastructure could cripple military operations in four other domains, the SDF and US forces should start joint exercises and work together in a degraded information environment where a cyber-attack limits the usage of electricity to command and control communications, datalink, and GPS. Although the US Air Force has already begun such training, it would not want to share its lessons learned with the SDF without ensuring that the SDF follows MRGVLS_story.html. Charles L. Glaser, “Deterrence of Cyber Attacks and US National Security,” George Washington University/Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute, June 1, 2011, accessed December 29, 2011, Deterrence%20and%20Security%20Glaser.pdf, 2-3. 28 David C. Gompert and Phillip C. Saunders, “Chapter 6: Mutual Restraint in Cyberspace,” in The Paradox of Power: SinoAmerican Strategic Restraint in an Age of Vulnerability, ed. David C. Gompert et al. (Washington, DC: National Defense University, 2011), 118. 29 Martin C. Libicki, “Chapter 2: Conceptual Framework,” in Cyberdeterrence and Cyberwar (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2009), 27-32. 27


information assurance rules.30 And nevertheless, it will take at least one to one-and-a-half years to prepare for this type of new joint exercise at a command-post level. It would be pragmatic to begin with a smaller scale exercise among several decision-makers because it takes less time to prepare and would help future field-training or command-post exercises.31 Finally, Japanese and US private companies need to establish a framework to start information exchanges on cybersecurity and to serve as a foundation for bilateral public-private partnerships. There is some cybersecurity collaboration between individual Japanese and American companies, but no comprehensive framework has emerged between the two countries to encourage companies to share information and prevent cyber-attacks.32 In March 2012, the Japan Business Federation and the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) held a conference to discuss the regulation of the Internet economy and policy cooperation between Japan and the United States. The Federation and the ACCJ submitted a joint statement to Tokyo and Washington to recommend “more cooperation between the public and private sectors in developing effective countermeasures.”33 However, their statement does not refer to the absence of a cooperative framework, even at the private-sector level. According to their recommendations, major concerns for companies are cybercrimes and attacks. The Japan Business Federation and ACCJ should take the initiative to launch a framework and consolidate information on cyber-attacks and crimes to enhance cybersecurity. This framework would constitute a critical foundation for promoting bilateral public-private partnerships and inform both the private and public sectors of what kinds of protection and regulations are needed. Thus, the first step will be the governments’ decision to cover cyberspace under their Security Treaty. Next, the two governments must establish rules of engagement and define the use of force. Without those steps, it is difficult for the SDF and US forces to conduct joint exercises to improve their cybersecurity capabilities. Finally, private companies have to launch a framework for information-sharing to support public-private partnerships between the two countries. Yoichi Kato, “Kokusai Kankyo no Hanka no Nakano Nichibei Domei” (The Japan-US alliance in an ever changing international environment), Kokusai Mondai 608 (2012), 34. 31 Katsumi Yoshimura, “Tokushu: Saiba Hanzai Tero ni Sonaeru Enshu no Kiso Dejitaru Shakai Suishin Shinpojiumu 2006 – Juyo Inhura Tero no Doko to Taisaku Oyobi Kokusai Kyocho – Yori” (Special edition: Basics of exercises to prepare for cybercrimes and terrorism – Symposium for the Promotion of Digital Society 2006, international cooperation to understand and prepare for terrorism against critical infrastructure), Nikkei BPnet, July 26, 2011, accessed December 29, 2011, http:// 32 James Foster, interview by author, Keio University, Kanagawa Prefecture, May 22, 2012. 33 “US-Japan Business Dialogue on the Internet Economy Joint Statement,” Japan Business Federation, March 21, 2012, accessed May 22, 2012, policy/2012/020.html. 30

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Overcoming current obstacles: Japan’s Role To prevent damages and identify emerging challenges, Japan and the United States must promote timely informationsharing and synchronize their cyber-warfare doctrine. There are several obstacles that Japan needs to overcome in order to strengthen cybersecurity cooperation with the United States. Above all, Tokyo needs a national strategy that is crafted by an authoritative governmental organization and that specifically lists urgent issues to tackle and actions to take. Some of the required efforts are common to improving national security – the reform of information security and assurance and overcoming issues related to collective self-defense rights.34 Others are unique to cybersecurity commitments, including stronger leadership of the government in streamlining the insufficient partnership between the public and private sectors, and the establishment of legislation to allow the SDF to defend people’s lives and property against cyber-attacks. First, Japan needs to improve information security and assurance, indispensable because cybersecurity requires the sharing of sensitive information, including vulnerabilities and potential targets. This step is needed not only for cybersecurity but also for national defense. It is essential to establish an anti-espionage law and strengthen penalties for engaging in these sorts of crimes to prevent and punish cyber espionage and obtain US confidence in sharing sensitive intelligence. Tokyo failed to enact an anti-espionage law in the past due to strong resistance from the media, lawyers, and opposition parties that prioritize public access to information and freedom of the press. Given the dark legacy of prewar censorship, these groups are concerned that the government might arbitrarily designate certain information “secrets for national defense and diplomacy,” which could violate the rights of the public and media. This censorship legacy is so strong that even the Diet does not have an intelligence committee in which only cleared members are allowed access to sensitive information. On October 7, 2011, the Noda administration declared that it would submit a bill for secrecy protection to the Diet in 2012, aimed at stiffening penalties for government officials who leak classified information. Nevertheless, Tokyo gave up the idea in March 2012 because, again, media, lawyers, and opposition parties expressed concern about the government’s arbitrary use of such a law to limit the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) decided that the current Diet session already had too many bills to consider, including reconstruction after 34

Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye published two reports to advise the Japanese government on the bilateral alliance and security strategies in 2000 and 2007: “INSS Special Report: The United States and Japan, Advancing Toward a Mature Partnership” and “The US-Japan Alliance: Getting Asia Right through 2020.” They called for more robust information security and assurance. The Joint Statement of the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee also emphasized the importance of information security for further intelligence sharing in June 2011.

the 3/11 triple tragedies. Also, party leadership believes that resistance would be too strong to let the bill pass.35 This delay may discourage Washington from sharing more cybersecurity information with Tokyo because it may signal that Japan is not showing the necessary resolve to protect national defense secrets and is unable to punish offenders. Unfavorable news already broke after the Sankei Shimbun reported in October that at the first working-level cybersecurity dialogue, the United States specifically requested that Japan pay attention to information in Chinese. This is because in the aforementioned MHI case, the computer that gave the command for the virus infection used Chinese, and a number of websites calling for cyber-attacks are based in China as well.36 Granted, China is an obvious target because the US Congress and DIA reports have recently criticized China, along with Russia, about their cyber espionage efforts,37 and the June 2011 SCC joint statement raised concerns over the rise of China.38 Nonetheless, Washington could not have been pleased to see Tokyo leaking the contents of their discussions. A stronger security clearance system will also require the revision of the court system. Currently, no judge, prosecutor, or lawyer has security clearance because Japan does not have a nation-wide security clearance system. The SDF is regarded as non-military under the Constitution and does not have a military court, meaning that everything is sent to open courts and possibly leading to intelligence leaks through the judiciary.39 This also discourages the Japanese government and private companies from bringing cybersecurity issues to trial unless closed courts are ensured and security clearances are provided for judges and prosecutors. Nevertheless, Tokyo cannot grant security clearance to every lawyer and cannot reject a lawyer chosen by a defendant simply because he or she does not possess security clearance. The government would therefore need to establish some sort of law that requires confidentiality and secrecy if sensitive securityrelated information is obtained through judicial work. “Himitsu Hozen Hoan no Teishutsu Dannen” (The government gave up submitting the bill for secrecy protection), Sankei Shimbun, March 19, 2012, accessed March 20, 2012, plc12031923270018-n1.htm. 36 “Saiba Kogeki Bei ga Taichukeikai Kyoka Nihon ni ‘”Kanji” Joho no Kanshi wo” (Cyber attack: the US has strengthened the alert against China and asked Japan to watch ‘Chinese characters’ information), Sankei Shimbun, October 25, 2011, accessed December 27, 2011, 37 “Foreign Spies Stealing US Economic Secrets in Cyberspace – Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage, 2009-2011,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, October 2011, accessed December 27, 2011,, 12. 38 “The Joint Statement of the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee – Toward a Deeper and Broader US-Japan Alliance: Building on 50 Years of Partnership,” US-Japan Security Consultative Committee, June 21, 2011, accessed December 27, 2011, htm. 39 Article 82 of the Japanese Constitution required trials and judgments to be public. 35

Cybersecurity Coorperation between Japan and the US | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


In addition to more strict penalties for government officials, cyber-crime laws need to be toughened. Currently, the penalty is not severe. If someone is convicted of creating and distributing viruses without a justifiable reason, he or she may receive a sentence of three years of imprisonment or a maximum fine of 500,000 yen (6,400 USD). The penalty for obtaining or keeping computer viruses is up to two years of imprisonment or a fine of 300,000 yen (3,850 USD).40 There was progress when a new cybercriminal law was established in 2011 to cover the acquisition, creation, distribution, keeping, and provision of computer viruses and illegal computer access without a proper reason. Prior to that, the police could arrest suspects on allegations of causing damage to computers. Second, Tokyo must streamline cybersecurity efforts in the government by strengthening the NISC’s authority and capability. Due to its nebulous authority, the NISC is not able to provide any forcible national cybersecurity strategy that identifies the path that Japan should take. The rigorous budget cuts under the DPJ administrations have made it difficult for the Center to take any initiatives. The NISC was worried that any conspicuous action would attract DPJ attention and may lead to disorganization. That is partly why the NISC did not hold an Information Security Policy Committee meeting for nine months after the DPJ took power in 2009. Effective administration is also impeded because NISC members, mostly comprised of government officials sent from ministries, are replaced biannually. Such a timeframe is insufficient for developing expertise, especially on the technical aspects of these complicated issues. The trend thus tends to be to prioritize ministerial interests rather than national interests.41 In such an environment, no organization has the vision or ability to lead Japanese cybersecurity policy reform and to forge international cooperation. Although Japan is currently facing financial difficulties, Tokyo also needs to allocate more resources to cybersecurity and pass legislation allowing the NISC to hire outside engineers, or even outsource analysis, because most of the current members lack the technical expertise. In the public sector, Japan does not take advantage of computer “geeks” who bring specialized knowledge and solutions to the table.42 The US government, by contrast, holds the annually Defcon Hacker Convention in Las Vegas to recruit topnotch hackers. Third, Japan has to expand current public and private partnerships under a stronger NISC leadership because current information exchange efforts are redundant and performed on a voluntary basis. In August 2011, the NPA

established a network to share information on cyber-attacks with each prefectural police headquarters and about 4,000 domestic defense and advanced technology contractors. This is the largest network that the Japanese government has ever created for such a purpose. If a company encounters a cyber-attack, it reports to local police by e-mail, who then share analysis and alert other contractors.43 The METI launched a similar organization, called J-CSIP (Initiative for Cyber Security Information sharing Partnership of Japan), on October 25, 2011. Ten defense contractors, including MHI and Toshiba, joined the initiative, and car and electric appliance manufacturers will be invited to join in 2012.44 These two networks should be integrated under the NPA to avoid overlap on national security threats, and another network should be created under the METI to focus on non-defense issues that require different levels of security clearance. In cooperation with the NISC, the METI can also help create the partnership between Japanese and American private companies by establishing a model for information exchange. To disseminate alerts and advice in a timely manner, Tokyo needs a law to mandate that companies and ministries notify the NISC, NPA, and METI about damages and also to guarantee that specific names be withheld. To facilitate these efforts, Tokyo needs to have safe communication lines among defense-related organizations and to create a report template to simplify input efforts. However, this also takes time and money. Nevertheless, the government has to start information-sharing even if this means using less secure communication lines for the simple fact that cybersecurity damages and threats continue to grow. Finally, Tokyo needs to establish a legal system that allows the SDF to use both defensive and offensive capabilities to protect the nation from cyber-attacks. It is essential that a revision of the SDF Law adds cyberspace as an area of responsibility. Tokyo has been hesitant to push the envelope in terms of SDF usage due to its wartime legacy and the potential criticism from China and South Korea. The government has been especially indecisive about the right to collective self-defense and offensive capability. However, this is changing. The SDF now has a facility in Djibouti which works with foreign militaries on anti-piracy operations, reflecting a slight change in the interpretation of collective self-defense. Given the borderless nature of cyberspace and the multi-dimensional dispersion of damages, collective selfdefense will be a critical component in deterring threats and

“‘Uirusu Sakuseizai’ ga Seiritsu, Akuyo Mokuteki no Sakusei ya Shoji wo Shobatsu 3 Nen Ika no Choeki Mataha 50 Man en Ika no Bakkin, 2011 nen 7 gatsu ni shiko” (Law established to punish the crime of computer virus creation and possession for malicious reasons, 3 years imprisonment or 500,000 yen fine at a maximum, effective July 2011), Nihon Keizai Shimbun, June 21, 2011, accessed December 27, 2011, http://www. 2E2E39E8DE0E2E2E4E0E2E3E3E2E2E2E2E2E2;p=9694E 0E7E2E6E0E2E3E2E2E0E2E2. 41 Motohiro Tsuchiya, interview by author. 42 Motohiro Tsuchiya, interview by author.




“‘Saiba Interijensu’ Fusege Keisatsu-cho ga 4000 Sha to Renkei” (The National Police Agency collaborate with 4,000 companies to prevent cyber espionage), Nihon Keizai Shimbun, August 4, 2011, accessed December 29, 2011, http:// 95E2E6E2E2EB8DE2E6E2EAE0E2E3E39180E2E2E2E2. 44 “Kanmin de Saiba Kogeki no Joho wo Kyoyu, Mitsubishi Juko Nado 10 Sha ga Sankashi Hossoku” (The public and private sectors strengthen the sharing of information on cyberattacks – 10 companies including the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries joined), Nihon Keizai Shimbun, October 17, 2011, accessed December 29, 2011.

HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY | Cybersecurity Coorperation between Japan and the US

protecting mutual interests. Fortunately, the SDF has set a precedent in this regard. For example, the JSDF has a Chemical School in Saitama Prefecture which provides training on ways to protect against chemical weapons attacks. This is an instance of developing offensive capabilities in order to research and develop defensive capabilities. The reason why this was kept secret is because there was concern about a potential backlash given Japan’s constitutional limits on developing offensive weapon capabilities. After the 1995 Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway by the Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese cult, the government started to appreciate the necessity of the school and its offensive capabilities, as it realized such capacity is critical for timely and appropriate responses to biochemical attacks. Japan will stand at a crossroads this January when it decides whether to obtain offensive and retaliation capabilities in cyberspace. Sankei Shimbun reported that the Cyberspace Defense Unit (CSDU) of 100 members would be established by 2014 using ten billion yen (about 126 million USD). The Unit will reportedly have both defensive and offensive capabilities to analyze computer virus penetrations, collect information on the acquisition of computer viruses, and conduct cyber-warfare simulations.45 Tokyo has been quiet about its capabilities. This silence may protect the secrecy of the Unit’s missions and project an image of greater competency. This furtiveness, however, may also trigger miscalculation and lead to unwanted excuses for competition from adversaries. In fact, researchers in the PLA Academy of Military Sciences arguably overestimate the SDF’s cyberwarfare capabilities: they believe that the SDF has sufficient offensive and defensive capabilities in its cyber-warfare strategy, and that it has established the CSDU, consisting of 5,000 members with sufficient cyber weapons and defensive capabilities.46 Tokyo is in a hurry to enact a law to provide the CSDU with both offensive and defensive capabilities and to enable the Unit to defend other ministries, their affiliated organizations, and defense contractors. Tokyo had planned to cover only SDF internal networks, but the recent cyber-attacks against defense contractors and other ministries in 2011 forced the government to change its mind. The government will determine the Unit’s scope of responsibility in August, but is believed that it will interpret a cyber-attack as constituting a use of force if: (1) the attack uses either a computer virus or “Saiba Butai, Hangeki Kano Jieitai, 100 Nin Taisei” (Cyberspace Defense Unit will have offense capability with 100 members),” Sankei Shimbun, January 21, 2012, http://sankei. htm, and “Saiba Butai ni 100 Oku-en Gaisan Yokyu Hoshin” (Japanese Ministry of Defense will seek 10 billion yen for Cyberspace Defense Unit in its budget request), Sankei Shimbun, June 14, 2012, accessed June 18, 2012, com/politics/news/120614/plc12061406590006-n1.htm. 46 Yuan Xuan and Zhao Dexi, “Nihon Nado Kakkoku no ‘SaibaSen’ Gunbi” (The cyberwarfare capability of each country, including Japan), People’s Daily, June 18, 2010, accessed January 30, 2012, 45

illegal access; (2) critical infrastructure or life lines are severely damaged; and (3) people’s lives and property are threatened.47 This development sounds promising, but it is only a plan. Tokyo has to achieve this and answer the question on collective self-defense – unavoidable if Japan is to become a truly equal ally of the United States. To contribute to timely information-sharing efforts, the Japanese government has to strengthen the NISC leadership, improve partnerships between the public and private sectors, and enhance information security and assurance. Tokyo also needs to establish a law to enable the SDF to protect the country through better defense, offense, and deterrence. Conclusion Tokyo and Washington declared their cooperation on cybersecurity under their alliance for the first time in public in June 2011. Since then, little tangible progress has been made, though cyber-attacks and cyber espionage have been growing. The blurry definition of cybersecurity and the wide variety of threats prohibit governments from implementing effective protection of their ICT, which is the backbone of their national defense, economy, and critical infrastructure. It is necessary to have multilateral cooperation on cybersecurity but different interests and priorities among countries inhibit such efforts. Allies can overcome such impediments. As two of the most politically and economically powerful players on the world stage, Japan and the United States have more to lose than many other countries and are obliged to reduce their vulnerabilities to prevent negative consequences for the international community. They need to cover cyberspace in the Security Treaty and establish the rules of engagement in the domain. In addition to militaryto-military cooperation, Japanese and US private companies need to establish an information-sharing framework to support public-private partnerships. Furthermore, Tokyo needs to reconsider SDF offensive capabilities and revise the SDF Law to cover the cyber domain as a new area of responsibility. Attribution difficulties will continue to make possible forms of deterrence and retaliation challenging. In the short run, timely information-sharing is key to responding to cyber-attacks and espionage and preventing further damage. This is similarly applicable to other US allies as well. Nonetheless, there are still many obstacles that Tokyo must overcome for bilateral cybersecurity cooperation to become achievable, including the need for stronger leadership of the NISC to streamline efforts, wider partnership between the public and private sectors, and more robust information security and assurances. And ultimately, this is the first step moving forward for Japan to exchange sensitive and critical information with the United States and to truly contribute to cybersecurity cooperation and a stronger alliance.


“Saiba butai, hangeki kano Jieitai, 100 nin taisei,” Sankei Shimbun.

Cybersecurity Coorperation between Japan and the US | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


changing the rules of the game: the commercial aircraft industry in china

COMAC Shanghai Facility © GE Aviation. By Kind Permission.

marc szepan · saÏd business school, university of oxford Abstract


The present article explores innovation and imitation in the context of the commercial aircraft industry in China as a critical case. The rise of Chinese firms has been one of the most fascinating stories in global business during the past decades. In 2012, Chinese firms have outnumbered Japanese firms in the Fortune Global 500 ranking for the first time. Many scholars have focused on technological innovation and upgrading, or the absence thereof, as the primary explanatory variables for this phenomenal development. This study complements this perspective by examining nontechnological forms of innovation such as a firm’s business model. It argues that Chinese firms are innovators as much as imitators of business models and do not necessarily converge with global industry standards. Such business model innovation can occur at the “top of the pyramid” and has potentially disruptive implications for competition in global markets.

Since the beginning of the post-Mao reforms the pace of economic change in China has been extraordinarily rapid. This phenomenal development has been one of the most fascinating stories of the global economy during the past decades. At the heart of this story has been the rise of Chinese firms that has resulted in the number of Fortune Global 500 firms from China overtaking those from Japan for the first time in 2012.1 Whereas the magnitude of the growth of corporate China is largely uncontested, the mechanisms driving this shift in the global corporate landscape have given rise to considerable debate within the scholarly, journalistic, and business communities and have resulted in a rich body of Molly Gray, “China Overtakes Japan in Fortune 500 List for First Time,” CNN, July 11, 2012, accessed July 11, 2012,


The author gratefully acknowledges helpful comments by Mari Sako and Dwight H. Perkins on earlier related and unpublished research projects that have informed the present study and by Eric Thun and Felix Boecking on drafts of the present article. The author would also like to thank Peter Tufano for providing inspiration for the title of the present article and GE Aviation for granting permission to use the above picture. 112

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studies covering a broad range of analytical perspectives across different industries. In the context of these efforts to explain the rise of Chinese private and state-owned firms, many scholars have focused on technological innovation, or the absence thereof, by Chinese firms with particular reference to technological upgrading in specific product markets. As empirically rich and as analytically insightful this body of studies has been, these studies could be grouped into two schools of thought: The first school argues that the rise of Chinese firms has been a story of imitation rather than innovation. The second school argues that the transformation of Chinese firms has been a story of true innovation rather than imitation. Both of these perspectives share a technology-centric and product-focused view of innovation. Whereas the present article does not seek to question the relevance of either of these schools of thought, it does argue that an exclusively “technology-focused” perspective is likely to overlook other interesting loci of innovation such as a firm’s business model. Hence this article seeks to complement the extant technology-focused literature on innovation in the context of Chinese firms by examining China’s emerging commercial aircraft industry via an expressly “organization-focused” lens. It explores how Chinese firms seek to change the rules of the game on the basis of business model innovation. This article seeks to make contributions in the following ways: First, as mentioned above, it seeks to add to the “technology-focused” literature on innovation in China by exploring how Chinese firms act as organizational innovators rather than imitators with particular reference to business models. Second, a large body of scholarship has focused on the disruptive power of technological innovation. In contrast, this article seeks to examine the potential disruptiveness of organizational innovation and to highlight the resulting implications for competitors of Chinese firms. The remainder of this article is organized as follows: The second section introduces the theoretical background and develops propositions, the third section briefly summarizes research methods and data, the fourth section provides background on the global commercial aircraft industry, the fifth section examines the commercial aircraft industry in China, the sixth section discusses research findings, the seventh section addresses limitations, and the final section offers concluding remarks. BACKGROUND Given the richness of the literature on the development of the Chinese economy and Chinese firms in general and the role of innovation therein in particular, a detailed, comprehensive literature review would be far beyond the scope and space limitation of the present short article. For

the purposes of this article only a few, selected studies shall be highlighted below. In the interest of clarity and as the risk of doing injustice to analytical nuance and detail, extant scholarship on technological innovation in the context of Chinese firms can be grouped thematically into two different schools of thought. The first school argues that the rise of Chinese firms has been a story of imitation rather than innovation. In this view, China’s economic development has been primarily a function of labor cost advantages at the level of the firm and significant surplus labor in the Chinese economy as a whole. Genuine, indigenous technological innovation is viewed as being conspicuous by its absence and competitive strategies of Chinese firms are described as predicated on cost leadership and technological followership at best and on informal technology “borrowing” and quality short-cutting at worst.2 In contrast to this view of technological imitation, the second school argues that the rise of Chinese firms has been a story of innovation rather than imitation. In this view, China’s economic development has been driven by continuous technological upgrading across a broad range of different industries. And it is human capital formation rather than utilization of surplus labor that has been the driving force behind the rise of Chinese firms. The capacity for genuine, indigenous technological innovation is seen as a core element of competitive strategies of many Chinese firms and as an explanatory variable for their successful entry into, or even dominance of, global markets.3 As different as the underlying assumptions of these two schools might be, both perspectives share, explicitly or implicitly, a focus on technology and products as the primary loci of innovation. Whereas the present article has no intention of challenging the importance of technological innovation and upgrading, or the absence thereof, as an explanatory variable for the performance of Chinese firms, it argues that an exclusively “technology-focused” perspective is likely to For a book-length, somewhat extreme version of this view, see Paul Midler, Poorly Made in China: An Insider’s Account of the Tactics Behind China’s Production Game (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009). 3 For recent journalistic examples that highlight technological innovation in China, see Benjamin Reuter, “Verwandlung der Nachmacher,” WirtschaftsWoche, June 30, 2012, accessed July 10, 2012, globalisierung-verwandlung-der-nachmacher-/6784692.html; and WirtschaftsWoche Global, Der Aufstieg des Drachen: Von der Imitation zur Innovation – die chinesische Herausforderung, 1/2012. A recent thoughtful analysis of technological upgrading in China in the context of global value chains is Loren Brandt and Eric Thun, “Going Mobile in China: Shifting Value Chains and Upgrading in the Mobile Telecom Sector,” International Journal of Technological Learning, Innovation and Development 4 (2011): 148-180. 2

Marc Szepan is a former aviation industry executive. He is currently a doctoral student at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School and a member of Green Templeton College. The views expressed in this article solely reflect his personal opinion and not the position of his previous employer. Changing the Rules of the Game | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


overlook other interesting loci of organizational innovation such as a firm’s business model. Hence this article seeks to complement the extant technology-focused and productcentric literature on Chinese innovation by examining, as a critical case study, China’s commercial aircraft industry on the basis of an expressly “organization-focused” perspective that explores how Chinese firms seek to change the rules of the game in global markets via business model innovation.4 In the larger context of scholarship on the rise of emerging markets in general, many studies that have taken an organization-oriented perspective and that have explored business model innovation have focused on markets at the “bottom of the pyramid.”5 Many of these markets at the “bottom of the pyramid” tend to be characterized by relatively low-tech products such as fast moving consumer goods and relatively simple value chains. In contrast to these studies, the present article examines a distinctly high-tech industry characterized by highly complex value chains – i.e. commercial aircraft manufacturing – and thereby expressly focuses on business model innovation at the “top of the pyramid.” Exploratory propositions developed on the basis of this “organization-focused” perspective on innovation at the “top of the pyramid” are listed below: • Proposition 1: In the realm of organizational innovation, Chinese firms are as much innovators as imitators and do not necessarily converge with global industry “standards.” • Proposition 2: Innovative business models pursued by Chinese firms have disruptive potential for changing the rules of the game in global markets. • Proposition 3: Rivalry in global markets often is not only a story of competition between efficient Western corporations and inefficient Chinese state-owned enterprises but rather a contest between fundamentally different business models. Notable examples of the relatively small number of studies that incorporate, at least implicitly, both technology- and organization-focused perspectives on innovation in Chinese firms include Loren Brandt and Eric Thun, “The Fight for the Middle: Upgrading, Competition, and Industrial Development in China,” World Development 38 (2010): 1555-1574; Winter Nie and William Dowell, In the Shadow of the Dragon: The Global Expansion of Chinese Companies – And How It Will Change Business Forever (New York: American Management Association, 2012); Yinglan Tan, Chinnovation: How Chinese Innovators Are Changing the World (Singapore: John Wiley & Sons (Asia) Pte. Ltd., 2011); and Ming Zeng and Peter J. Williamson, Dragons at Your Door: How Chinese Cost Innovation is Disrupting Global Competition (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2007). 5 For a seminal article that has pioneered the “bottom of the pyramid” concept, see C.K. Prahalad and Allen Hammond, “Serving the World’s Poor, Profitably,” Harvard Business Review 80 (2002): 48-57. A recent book-length study that examines entrepreneurship and new business models in India and China is Tarun Khanna, Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India Are Reshaping Their Futures – and Yours (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2007). 4


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METHODS AND DATA The present article examines the commercial aircraft industry in China as a single case study. Whereas the author is cognizant of the inherent disadvantages of such research design, a single case approach can be appropriate when it represents a critical case for determining whether a proposition is correct or whether alternative modes of explanation need to be pursued.6 The commercial aircraft industry in China represents a suitable case study for the purposes of the present article inasmuch as the global commercial aircraft industry can be characterized, as shown below, by a single, strongly dominant business model that is shared by all leading players. Hence any empirical finding that would suggest that forms of industrial organization pursued by Chinese aerospace firms, even if emergent in nature, diverge from this global industry “standard” would be of a particularly revelatory nature. Despite the large volume of scholarly and practitioneroriented literature on business models that has emerged in the recent past, there is surprisingly little agreement on what business models really are.7 For the purposes of the present article, the term “business model” refers to the market segment in which the firm chooses to compete and, most importantly, the structure of the firm’s vertical value chain and the firm’s horizontal product range.8 Case study research is not limited to a single source of data.9 In this spirit, the present article draws on and is informed by multiple data sources including, but not limited to, industry- and company-level documentation. All publications used for the purposes of the present study are of a non-classified, public domain nature. Such public domain industry-level data includes industry trade publications, trade association documents, and interviews given by industry leaders. Similarly, public domain company-level data includes, but is not limited to, company press releases, company brochures, company presentations, and published interviews with company executives. This article is also informed by the extant body of literature in the English language covering aviation in China such as related general business books and policy-oriented analyses.10 Robert K. Yin, Case Study Research: Design and Methods (4th ed) (Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc., 2009). 7 A helpful review of this literature can be found in Christoph Zott, Raphael Amit, and Lorenzo Massa, “The Business Model: Recent Developments and Future Research,” Journal of Management 37 (2011): 1019-1042. 8 This definition is consistent with, but less comprehensive than, Henry Chesbrough and Richard S. Rosenbloom, “The Role of the Business Model in Capturing Value from Innovation: Evidence from Xerox Corporation’s Technology Spinoff Companies,” Industrial and Corporate Change 11 (2002): 529-555. 9 Yin, Case Study Research: Design and Methods. 10 For a recent, excellent example of the former that broadly addresses the development of civil aviation in China, see James Fallows, China Airborne (New York: Pantheon Books, 2012); of the latter, see Roger Cliff, Chad J.R. Ohlandt, and David 6

THE GLOBAL COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT INDUSTRY The global commercial aircraft industry can be characterized by prospects for long-term growth, intense yet largely duopolistic competition, and extraordinarily high barriers to entry due to high capital requirements and technological, value chain management, and global service delivery challenges. For the purposes of the present article the focus of analysis shall be what is often referred to as the “commercial aircraft” market (i.e. regional aircraft, singleaisle jets such as the Airbus A320 and Boeing B737 families, twin-aisle jets such as the Airbus A330/A340 and Boeing B777 families, and ultra-large jets such as the Airbus A380 and the Boeing B747). The markets for smaller general and corporate aviation aircraft and helicopters are not subject of analysis of the present article. The Global Market for Commercial Aircraft11 Over the past three decades airline traffic has grown by a cumulative average annual rate of about 5 percent. By 2011, this growth had given rise to a global jet fleet of about 19,890 aircraft consisting of 2,780 regional, 12,610 singleaisle, 3,710 twin-aisle, and 790 ultra-large jets. Whereas in the recent past aircraft projects such as the ultra-large Airbus A380 and the new generation twin-aisle Boeing B787 have attracted major news attention, it is important to note that the current jet population for single-aisle aircraft is almost three times as large as the combined twin-aisle and ultra-large fleet. Historic growth patterns are estimated to continue for the next two decades resulting in a cumulative average growth rate of the global aircraft fleet of 3.5 percent. This growth is forecasted to result in a combined global fleet of about 34,000 aircraft (after replacements) by the year 2031. Once again, single-aisle jets are forecasted to account for the majority of all aircraft deliveries. This forecast of sustained, long-term growth in aircraft deliveries is particularly applicable to the commercial aircraft market in China. Boeing forecasts China to become its second largest national market (only second to the United States) with a demand of 5,000 new aircraft of all types for the period 2011-2030 resulting in a growth of the aircraft fleet in China from 1,750 aircraft of all types in 2010 to 5,930 in 2030. Of this tremendous volume of 5,000 new aircraft deliveries, 71% are expected to be in the single-aisle category. In short, both the global and the domestic Chinese markets for commercial aircraft are attractive inasmuch as both are expected to maintain continuous and significant growth rates over the next two decades. As a sub-segment Yang, Ready for Takeoff: China’s Advancing Aerospace Industry (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2011). 11 Market data is derived from The Boeing Company, Current Market Outlook 2011-2030, 2011, and The Boeing Company, Current Market Outlook 2012-2031, 2012. This data is largely consistent with similar forecasts by Airbus.

of this market, the market for single-aisle, short-to-medium range aircraft appears to be most promising due to its disproportionately large share in expected aircraft deliveries. Industry Structure and Dominant Business Model Until the late 1970s and early 1980s three American companies and one European company divided the market for commercial jet aircraft.12 Even then Boeing was the dominant player among the three American jet makers. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and McDonnell Douglas were driven out of business or forced to merge with Boeing due to the emergence of Airbus and due to their inability to develop competitive products. By the mid-1990s, a virtual duopoly between Boeing and Airbus had emerged in the market of single-aisle and larger jets and by the 2000s Airbus pulled equal with Boeing in terms of new aircraft orders and deliveries.13 Similar duopolistic structures developed in the markets for turboprop- and jet-powered regional aircraft. After the demise of a number of other players the turboprop market is virtually dominated by Bombardier, a Canadian company, and ATR, a joint venture between EADS and Alenia Aermacchi of Italy. Currently, the market for jet-powered regional jets is a virtual duopoly shared between Bombardier and Embraer of Brazil after other aircraft manufacturers exited or failed to enter the regional jet market.14 In addition to this duopolistic industry structure, the global commercial aircraft industry can probably be best characterized by a single, dominant business model that has emerged over the past decades and that is shared by the two remaining major commercial aircraft manufacturers. This dominant business model is comprised of two key structural features: First, historically – especially since the rise of jet-powered aircraft in the 1960s – the business model of major aircraft makers has been characterized by horizontal separation of product ranges between the makers of aircraft such as Airbus or Boeing on the one hand and makers of major aircraft components on the other. Traditionally, aircraft makers have neither designed nor manufactured major components inhouse but have sourced those from independent, third-party firms. These major component makers tend to supply different aircraft makers on a non-exclusive basis and have become major drivers of technological innovation and efficiency gains in aviation in their own right. Such third party-sourced major Earlier competitors such as de Havilland had already fallen by the wayside with the coming of the jet age. See Sam Howe Verhovek, Jet Age: The Comet, the 707, and the Race to Shrink the World (New York: Avery, 2010). 13 For a good account of the rivalry between Airbus and Boeing, see John Newhouse, Boeing versus Airbus: The Inside Story of the Greatest International Competition in Business (New York: Vintage Books, 2007). 14 Current non-Chinese regional aircraft that are in process of development for this market include the Mitsubishi Regional Jet and the Sukhoi Superjet 100. 12

Changing the Rules of the Game | HARVARD ASIA QUARTERLY


components (and exemplary component makers) include, but are not limited to, engines (General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce), auxiliary power units (Hamilton Sundstrand, Honeywell), landing gears (Goodrich, Liebherr), electrical systems (Crane Aerospace, Hamilton Sundstrand), cockpit avionics (General Electric, Rockwell Collins), etc. Second, the business model of major aircraft makers has come to be increasingly characterized by significant vertical disaggregation. Whereas historically aircraft makers had sourced major components from external suppliers, they had performed on an in-house basis design engineering and manufacturing of aircraft structures and overall systems integration. Over the past two or three decades, however, aircraft makers have undergone several phases of increasing vertical disaggregation of their value chains for structural aircraft parts and entire sub-assemblies. Most recently, aircraft makers have even spun off significant parts of their remaining in-house structural manufacturing facilities. For example, in 2005, Boeing sold its entire Wichita Division to Onex, a North American private equity firm, that subsequently has been rebranded as Spirit AeroSystems. Similarly, in 2008, Airbus sold its Filton-based wing manufacturing operation to GKN, a UK engineering group.15 As a result of this increasing disaggregation of their vertical value chains, Airbus and Boeing have converged on a common business model in which aircraft makers function as overall systems integrators and value chain managers with relatively shallow vertical integration. Previously core activities such as design engineering and manufacturing of structures and integration of entire sub-modules have moved outside the legal boundaries of commercial aircraft makers. In sum, the dominant business model of commercial aircraft makers such as Airbus and Boeing can be characterized by horizontal separation between aircraft makers on the one hand and aircraft component suppliers on the other and vertically highly disaggregated value chains. This industry “standard” is shown in Figure 1 below:

THE CHINESE COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT INDUSTRY The present section offers a brief overview of Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the Chinese stateowned enterprise in which China’s aviation activities are bundled, outlines the historical background of civil aircraft manufacturing in China, introduces the current major, indigenous commercial aircraft programs, and discusses the resulting business model of commercial aircraft making in China. Aviation Industry Corporation of China16 As suggested above, China’s civil and military aviation activities are consolidated within a single, state-owned corporate group, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (henceforth “AVIC”), and its subsidiaries. AVIC is one of China’s largest state-owned enterprises and is comprised of approximately 200 subsidiaries of which 20 are publicly listed, including a broad range of aerospace R&D institutes and joint ventures with non-Chinese aerospace firms. AVIC is a highly diversified aviation group that consists of ten strategic business units: commercial aircraft, military aircraft, helicopters, general aviation aircraft, engines, avionics and components, aviation R&D, flight test, trade and logistics, and asset management. Historically, like many other Chinese state-owned enterprises, AVIC has also pursued a broad range of non-core activities.17 AVIC has a much broader aviation-related core product range than EADS, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V. to which Airbus belongs, and Boeing as neither of these two Western aerospace giants is active in general aviation aircraft, engines, and avionics and components.18 An AVIC subsidiary also owns a significant shareholding in Chengdu Airlines.19 AVIC was originally founded in 1951 as the Data for AVIC is primarily derived from http://www.avic., accessed June 1, 2012. 17 For example, in 1997, various constituent companies of the predecessor group of AVIC reportedly manufactured more than 5,000 non-aviation products. See Peter Nolan and Jin Zhang, “Globalization Challenge for Large Firms from Developing Countries: China’s Oil and Aerospace Industries,” European Management Journal 21 (2003): 295. 18 EADS was formed via merger of the major French, German, and Spanish aerospace and defense companies in 2000. Its major operating divisions are Airbus primarily for commercial aircraft, Astrium for space systems, Cassidian for defense technology, and Eurocopter for helicopters. See http://www., accessed July 10, 2012, for further details. In the interest of readability, EADS and Airbus are collectively referred to as “Airbus” throughout most of the remainder of the present article. 19 There are some product categories, primarily in space and military technology, in which Boeing and/or EADS are more broadly positioned than AVIC. For example, AVIC – in contrast to Airbus or Boeing – is not active in the satellite and space launch systems business. Such space-related activities fall under the purview of other Chinese state-owned enterprises. 16

Figure 1: Global Commercial Aircraft Industry “Standard” Business Model

For exemplary supplier information for two of the currently most high-profile aircraft programs, the Airbus A380 and Boeing B787, see and commercial/787family/dev_team.html, both accessed July 18, 2012.



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Aviation Industry Administration Commission and has undergone multiple rounds of comprehensive organizational restructurings since its founding. In 1999, the China Aviation Industry Corporation, which had combined all Chinese civil and military aviation activities, was split into two entities, AVIC I and AVIC II. AVIC I was focused on military aircraft and larger civil aircraft whereas AVIC II was focused on smaller civil aircraft and helicopters. In 2008, however, AVIC I and AVIC II were formally recombined due to the organizational inefficiencies and resource redundancies of the previously split organization, and the merged entity was designated Aviation Industry Corporation of China.20 In 2010, AVIC had over 400,000 employees and estimated total group revenues of approximately US$ 31 billion. In the same year, Boeing had a workforce of just over 160,000 and revenues of over US$ 64 billion and EADS, including Airbus, about 121,000 employees and revenues of well over EUR 45 billion.21 AVIC ranked 311th amongst the Fortune Global 500 corporations in 2011.22 It is headquartered in Beijing and has major R&D and manufacturing facilities in Chengdu, Harbin, Nanchang, Shanghai, Shenyang, Tianjin, and Xian. A Short History of Civil Aircraft Making in China23 China’s current commercial aircraft programs can be best understood in their historical context. China has tried to build up civil aircraft design and manufacturing capabilities since the 1950s. The history of civil aircraft manufacturing in China is shown in stylized form in Figure 2 below:

Figure 2: History of Civil Aircraft Manufacturing in China

Phase 1: From the 1950s until the middle of the 1970s almost all aircraft produced in China were copies For a good account of the historical background of AVIC, see Mark Dougan, A Political Economy Analysis of China’s Civil Aviation Industry (New York: Routledge, 2002). 21 The Boeing Company, Annual Report 2011, 2011; EADS, Annual Report 2011 – At a Glance, 2011. 22 snapshots/11566.html, accessed June 1, 2012. 23 Data is primarily derived from wzsy/index.shtml, accessed June 1, 2012, and Dougan, A Political Economy Analysis of China’s Civil Aviation Industry. 20

or technological derivations of Russian designs. The most commonly produced of these airplanes was the Yun-5, a copy of the Antonov An-2 propeller-powered biplane. Phase 2: The most ambitious aircraft development project launched prior to the post-Mao reforms was the Y-10, a passenger aircraft powered by jet engines. After President Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972, China had agreed to purchase Boeing B707 aircraft and the Shanghai Aircraft Research Institute was tasked to develop the first “indigenous” Chinese four-engine long-range commercial aircraft.24 The Y-10 saw its maiden flight in 1980 but did not enter commercial operation due to insufficient performance. Phase 3: China adopted a revised Three-Step Plan in the mid-1980s that was intended to de-risk China’s acquisition of commercial aircraft design and manufacturing capabilities. After a drawn out contest between Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, the latter won a joint venture agreement in 1984 to assemble its MD-80, a DC-9 derivative, in Shanghai on the basis of complete knock-down kits. In 1992 the cooperation between McDonnell Douglas and Shanghai Aviation Industry Corporation was extended to include production of the MD90 as well. In addition, China was able to acquire significant final assembly best practices know-how by virtue of partnerships with other aircraft makers throughout the 2000s: For example, in 2003, Embraer, one of the two dominant regional jet manufacturers, launched a joint venture with an AVIC subsidiary to assemble its ERJ-145 regional jet. Most importantly, the first Airbus final assembly line outside Europe opened formally in Tianjin in September 2008 as a joint venture between Airbus, AVIC, and the Tianjin Free Trade Zone. This facility is dedicated to assembly of the Airbus A320 single-aisle family and, as it General Manager states, “is not only as good as Airbus’ plants in Toulouse and Hamburg – it is an improvement. ‘It is better … we had a chance to start from a green field, the production flow is perfect.’”25 All Airbus aircraft assembled in Tianjin are of comparable quality to those assembled at Airbus home base facilities in Hamburg and in Toulouse.26 In short, AVIC has been able to acquire significant experience running final assembly lines for modern aircraft. AVIC has also accumulated extensive experience manufacturing a broad range of aircraft parts, including structural sub-assemblies and other key components, for most of the currently active commercial aircraft programs at There still is popular debate in the aviation community on whether the Y-10 project was a reverse-engineering exercise or whether this constitutes a genuine Chinese indigenous effort; see, for example,, accessed July 17, 2012. 25 Francis Leithen, “Improving the Best,” Flight International, September 1-7, 2009, 43. 26 Ghim-Lay Yeo, “China Special: Airbus Builds Bridges,” Flight International, November 5, 2010, accessed July 10, 2012, 24

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Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, and Embraer.27 Phase 4: Aerospace has been defined as a priority industry in China’s current Twelfth Five-Year Plan. This push to develop a truly indigenously designed commercial aircraft dates back to the Tenth Five-Year Plan and has resulted in the current ARJ21 and C919 programs. The ARJ21 Program28 The ARJ21 is a twin-engine regional aircraft with tailmounted engines. Its baseline version, the ARJ21-700, is designed to have a capacity of 78 to 90 passengers, a standard range of 2,225 kilometers and a maximum take-off weight of just over forty metric tons. The ARJ21 program was originally launched in 2002 by the formation of a consortium comprised of several of AVIC’s aircraft design institutes and aircraft manufacturing subsidiaries. For example, Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group is responsible for manufacturing of the nose, Xian Aircraft Corporation for production of the wings and fuselage, and Shenyang Aircraft Corporation for construction of the tail section. Although the ARJ21 is reportedly designed by use of Chinese indigenous technical know-how, its basic configuration – tail-mounted engines, T-tail – bears resemblance to the MD-80 and MD-90 that, as mentioned above, were previously assembled in Shanghai. In other ways, however, the ARJ21 is a technologically new aircraft. First, aerodynamic performance is likely to have been improved significantly by means of a new supercritical wing with winglets. Second, the ARJ21 is powered by modern General Electric CF34 engines. Other variants of this engine are used for competing regional jets such as Bombardier’s CRJ family and Embraer’s E-Jet family. Third, the flight deck features a modern glass cockpit primarily consisting of avionics systems provided by Rockwell Collins. Also, key components and systems are state-of-the-art and are sourced from international component suppliers. For example, Hamilton Sundstrand supplies the auxiliary power unit, Liebherr the landing gears, and Parker the hydraulic system. AVIC has announced that it has secured more than 300 orders for the ARJ21, including orders from GECAS, a General Electric subsidiary and one of the world’s largest aircraft leasing companies, and from Lao Airlines, the ARJ21’s export launch customer.29 A relatively large share of orders seems to have been placed by smaller Chinese operators, including Chengdu Airlines in which AVIC is a Francis Leithen, “Modern and Ancient,” Flight International, September 1-7, 2009, 40-41. 28 Data for the ARJ21 program is primarily derived from http://, accessed June 1, 2012, and from http://www., accessed July 10, 2012. 29 Kate Cantle, “ARJ21 Wins 100 Orders from AVIC International,” Air Transport World Online, November 19, 2010, accessed July 10, 2012,

major indirect shareholder.30 Although the ARJ21 maiden flight was planned originally for 2005, first flight only took place in November 2008 due to delays caused by significant technical challenges. Regulatory certification and first delivery are unlikely to occur prior to 2013.31 In sum, the ARJ21 program appears to be characterized by a very steep learning curve. In effect, the ARJ21 is as much a learning and technical and procedural proof-of-concept opportunity as it is a commercial endeavor in its own right, and it serves as an, albeit somewhat unintended and costly, preparatory exercise for the more important C919 program. The C919 Program32 The C919 is a twin-engine, single-aisle, medium range aircraft. Its baseline version is designed for a capacity of 168 passengers in an all-economy configuration or 156 passengers in a standard mixed configuration and a standard range of 4,075 kilometers with a cruise speed around Mach 0.785. Additional variants, including stretched and shrunk passenger versions, a freighter, and a business or VIP jet version, are planned as well. The C919 is the first clean-sheet, indigenous commercial aircraft design in China since the aforementioned Y-10 program. In contrast to the ARJ21 that is a nominal competitor to Bombardier and Embraer regional jets, the C919 is expressly designed to challenge the Airbus A320 family and Boeing B737 family duopoly for single-aisle, medium range commercial aircraft, the largest global market segment by number of aircraft deliveries. Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (henceforth “COMAC”), the Shanghai-headquartered AVIC subsidiary charged with lead responsibility for the C919 program, was positioned from its start to achieve competitiveness in international markets, and the C919 has the potential to become a game changer not only for the Chinese market but also for the global commercial aircraft industry. The C919 program was launched in 2007 when China’s State Council approved the foundation of COMAC as a joint subsidiary of AVIC, a number of China’s largest state-owned enterprises such as Baosteel, Chinalco, and Sinochem, the municipal government of Shanghai, and China’s central government. In 2008 COMAC received an initial paid-in capital of RMB 19 billion including RMB 5 billion from AVIC, RMB 1 billion from each of the aforementioned state-owned enterprises, RMB 5 billion from



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Francis Leithen, “Taking on the Giants,” Flight International, September 1-7, 2009, 37-38. 31 “Wing Cracks, Other Flaws Delay China Jet Manufacture,” Reuters, June 8, 2012, accessed June 8, 2012, http://in.reuters. com/article/2012/06/08/uk-airlines-china-comac-idINLNE85700Z20120608. 32 Data for the C919 program is primarily derived from http://, accessed June 1, 2012, and from http://www., accessed July 10, 2012. 30

the Shanghai municipal government, and RMB 6 billion from China’s central government. In addition, China’s Bank of Communications made available a credit line of RMB 30 billion.33 As mentioned above, in effect, the ARJ21 program can be viewed as a technical and procedural proof-of-concept for the C919 program. Technological choices for the C919 program appear to be characterized by continuity with the ARJ21 program. First, experience gained from structural work on the ARJ21 seems to feed into the C919 program: AVIC subsidiary Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation is responsible for production of the C919 nose section as well, Xian Aircraft Corporation for production of the wings and the fuselage mid-section, and Shenyang Aircraft Corporation for production of the tail section. A new supplier of major structural elements appears to be AVIC subsidiary Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation for the production of forward and aft sections of the main fuselage. The C919 is to be assembled at COMAC’s facility in Shanghai. Second, similar to the ARJ21, the C919 incorporates engines and key state-of-the-art components originally developed by leading international suppliers: The C919 will be powered by the new generation LEAP-1C engine supplied by CFM, the largest supplier of engines for the Boeing B737 family and Airbus A320 family. The line-up of component suppliers reads like a who-is-who of the global aerospace industry; for example, the auxiliary power unit is sourced from Honeywell, the landing gears from Liebherr, the hydraulic system from Parker, the electrical system from Hamilton Sundstrand, and key avionics components from General Electric. Recently, AVIC announced that it had reached 280 orders for the C919 from twelve different customers.34 These customers include the three major Chinese state-owned carriers and GECAS. And although the C919 has apparently not been sold to a major international airline so far, a number of high profile carriers have expressed interest in the C919.35 Most recently, IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, announced that it is planning to cooperate with COMAC on development of the C919 and that it would Anil Gupta and Haiyan Wang, “Comac: China’s Challenge to Airbus and Boeing,” Bloomberg Businessweek, June 30, 2010, accessed June 10, 2012, stories/2010-06-30/comac-chinas-challenge-to-airbus-andboeingbusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice. 34 “ABC Leasing Signs Agreement of 45 C919 Orders with COMAC – COMAC secured a total of 280 C919 orders,” Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, accessed July 10, 2012, t20120709_564466.shtml. 35 See, for example, Ryanair, one of the most high-profile low cost carriers globally, and its interest in the C919 as reported in James T. Areddy and Andrew Galbraith, “Ryanair Trumpets Planes from China,” Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2011, accessed July 17, 2012, 1424052970204262304577067951924584354.html. 33

carefully examine the C919.36 Whether such support will result in firm orders remains to be seen. Given that first flight of the C919 is expected to occur in 2014 and entry-into-service in 2016, it is far too early to arrive at definitive judgments regarding the eventual operational performance of the C919.37 Significant technical and non-technical challenges remain to be resolved in order to deliver the first C919 on time and to make the C919 into the game changer that it could well become.38 In spring of 2012, COMAC and Bombardier signed an agreement covering collaboration in the areas of cockpit design, electrical systems, advanced materials, and customer service. The extension of this collaboration to encompass support for winning international regulatory approvals for the C919 seems to be indicative of the range and magnitude of these remaining challenges.39 AVIC Business Model Given the dominance of a single type of business model in the global commercial aircraft industry, one might expect that AVIC’s effort at entering the world market for commercial aircraft would be predicated upon imitating this organizational industry standard. In contrast to this expectation, however, the AVIC business model that has emerged – in some ways by design and in others inadvertently – in process of executing the ARJ21 and C919 programs diverges significantly from the aforementioned global industry “standard.” First, Airbus’ and Boeing’s vertically strongly disaggregated value chain model relies heavily on sourcing engineering and manufacturing of aircraft structural parts and sub-assemblies from independent, third party suppliers. In contrast, as suggested above, the majority of structural engineering and manufacturing work for the ARJ21 and the C919 is performed within the boundaries of AVIC by a number of different AVIC subsidiaries. In other words, David Kaminski-Morrow, “Farnborough: IAG to Co-operate with Comac on C919,” Flight International, July 9, 2012, accessed July 10, 2012, articles/farnborough-iag-to-co-operate-with-comac-onc919-374014/. 37 “Comac C919 Plane Program On Schedule, Engine Supplier Cfm Says,” Bloomberg News, June 13, 2012, accessed June 14, 2012, comac-c919-plane-program-on-schedule-engine-suppliercfm-says.html. 38 Some analysts have also pointed out the high probability of C919 program delays analogous to or caused by the ARJ21 program. See, for example, Leithen Francis and Bradley Perrett, “ARJ21 Delays Threaten C919 Schedule,” Aviation Week, September 12, 2011, accessed July 10, 2012, AW_09_12_2011_p24-366882.xml. 39 “Bombardier to Help China’s First Jetliner Win Overseas Approvals,” Bloomberg News, June 11, 2012, accessed July 17, 2012, html. 36

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AVIC’s value chain is vertically deeply integrated. Second, in contrast to Airbus and Boeing that purchase aircraft components from external component makers, AVIC is leveraging its current aircraft programs to enter the aircraft component market in its own right as well.40 Whereas both programs source state-of-the-art technology originally developed by international component makers, selection as supplier for the aforementioned AVIC aircraft programs tends to be contingent upon setting up joint ventures with appropriate AVIC subsidiaries.41 For example, the electrical system for the C919 will be developed and manufactured by a Hamilton Sundstrand joint venture with AVIC Electromechanical Systems Company in Xian and the landing gears for the C919 by a Liebherr joint venture with AVIC Landing Gear Advanced Manufacturing Company in Changsha.42 While these joint ventures are initially intended to be dedicated to the ARJ21 and the C919 programs, in the medium- to long-run AVIC aims to become a major component supplier in its own right. This strategic intent to become a tier-one component supplier is reflected in the potentially transformational 50/50 partnership in which AVIC has entered with General Electric to create a new business that will design and market integrated avionics systems to other aircraft makers such as Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, and Embraer in addition to its launch customer COMAC.43 Among all major components, the development of aircraft engines is often considered the most technologically and commercially challenging endeavor.44 AVIC has entered AVIC has also acquired foreign aircraft component makers such as FACC, an Austrian composite technology and cabin parts specialist firm. 41 Linday Blachly, “COMAC Says JVs will Develop, Produce C919 Systems,” Air Transport World Online, July 13, 2010, accessed June 1, 2012, 42 “Hamilton Sundstrand, AVIC EM lay cornerstone to mark start of production for C919 electric system,” Hamilton Sundstrand, July 31, 2011, accessed July 10, 2012, http://www. nextoid=16eaaec96b991110VgnVCM1000007301000aRCR D&hsct=hs_news&ciid=43ddcc4247771310VgnVCM1000 004f62529fRCRD; “Liebherr-Aerospace and COMAC Sign Master Contract for Chinese Aircraft C919,” Liebherr, March 2, 2012, accessed July 10, 2012, 43 “GE’s China Avionics Deal: A Q&A with Lorraine Bolsinger,” GE, January 19, 2011, accessed July 10, 2012, http://www. 44 For an interesting analysis of some of the related technological and commercial challenges, see Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “A Chinese “Heart” for Large Civilian and Military Aircraft: Strategic and commercial implications of China’s campaign to develop high-bypass turbofan jet engines,” China SignPost, September 19, 2011, accessed July 8, 2012,“heart”-for-large-civilian-and-military-aircraft-strategic-andcommercial-implications-of-china’s-campaign-to-develophigh-bypass-turbofan-jet-engines/. 40


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into partnerships to develop indigenous engine technology for future replacement of the LEAP-1C engine that will initially power the C919 and for potential future marketing of such engines to other aircraft manufacturers.45 In sum, AVIC is in the process of creating a business model that is predicated upon a vertical value chain that is deeply integrated and a horizontal product range that combines both aircraft and stand-alone component businesses within the boundaries of AVIC. The resulting, emergent AVIC business model that differs significantly from the global industry “standard” is shown in Figure 3 below:

Figure 3: AVIC versus Global Commercial Aircraft Industry “Standard” Business Model

DISCUSSION A significant part of the literature on the development of the Chinese economy in general and the transformation of Chinese firms in particular has taken a technologyfocused perspective and has tried to assess whether Chinese firms are technological innovators or imitators. The present article suggests that this predominantly technology-focused perspective might fail to adequately capture other loci of innovation and thereby tend to underestimate the innovative capacity of Chinese firms. In this context of pursuing an “organization-focused” perspective it might be worthwhile to revisit the propositions stated at the outset of the present article. • Proposition 1: In the realm of organizational innovation, Chinese firms are as much innovators as imitators and do not necessarily converge with global industry “standards.” In the case of AVIC and commercial aircraft making in China, long-term market success will clearly be contingent upon AVIC’s ability to design, manufacture, and support on global basis aircraft that are technologically and operationally on par with Airbus and Boeing products. This will entail a significant technological step-up to achieve and then See, for example, Michael Gubisch, “MTU to Work with AVIC on Possible Alternative Engine for C919,” Flight International, September 21, 2011, accessed July 10, 2012, http://


maintain technological parity with Airbus and Boeing. Successful execution of this game plan will be an impressive achievement for AVIC in its own right. However, it is in the realm of organizational innovation that AVIC is clearly an innovator rather than imitator. The vertically deeply integrated and horizontally broadly diversified nature of its emergent business model sets AVIC apart from incumbent players in the world of commercial aircraft making. This clearly is not a story of convergence to a global organizational industry “standard.”46 • Proposition 2: Innovative business models pursued by Chinese firms have disruptive potential for changing the rules of the game in global markets. Whether AVIC will be able to bring to market aircraft that will be truly competitive with Airbus and Boeing products remains to be seen. Interestingly, Boeing seems to consider the C919 program the biggest threat to the established AirbusBoeing duopoly in the global commercial aircraft industry and believes that AVIC will most likely succeed in developing an aircraft comparable to Airbus and Boeing models.47 Hence, AVIC’s entry into the global market for single-aisle aircraft has potentially game-changing implications on the account of endangering a long-standing duopoly alone. Moreover, its business model perhaps offers an alternative trajectory for change at the industry level that, during the past decades, has been characterized by consolidation among aircraft makers and within the group of component makers, but not across the traditional boundaries of these two types of firms. It is in this context that AVIC’s business model innovation has further potential for changing the rules of the game in the global commercial aircraft industry. It will be interesting to track whether the aforementioned alliance between AVIC and General Electric in the area of avionics components will remain an exceptional case or whether it will be emulated by other industry actors. • Proposition 3: Rivalry in global markets often is not only a story of competition between efficient Western corporations and inefficient Chinese state-owned enterprises but rather a contest between fundamentally different business models. In the case of Chinese state-owned enterprises, many analysts have highlighted the fundamental lack of efficiency due to their ownership status, governance systems, and the protracted nature of their transformation to market competitiveness.48 Hence entry into global markets on the part Interestingly, as part of its recent efforts to mitigate B787 program delays, Boeing has brought in-house some work that it had previously sourced externally. See, for example, Stephen Trimble, “Boeing confirms deal for Vought’s 787 role,” Flightglobal, July 7, 2009, accessed July 10, 2012, http:// 47 See Rupa Haria, “China is Biggest Emerging Threat to Boeing And Airbus, Says Albaugh,” Aviation Week, June 1, 2012, accessed June 10, 2012, aspx?id=/article-xml/avd_ 06_01_2012_ p01-01-463868.xml. 48 See, for example, Edward Steinfeld, Forging Reform in China: The Fate of State-Owned Industry (Cambridge: Cam46

of these Chinese firms is often viewed as a single-dimensional fight between efficient Western corporations and inefficient Chinese state-owned enterprises that owe their ability to enter these very global markets solely to state support. But in light of the above discussion of the case of AVIC, such a picture appears to be somewhat simplistic. At least in the case of AVIC, any future battle between AVIC and incumbent commercial aircraft makers for global market share is likely to be a contest between different business models as much as a competitive rivalry between private and state-owned firms. LIMITATIONS The Chinese commercial aircraft industry as a critical case has been selected deliberately for the purposes of the present article. After all, the global commercial aircraft industry can be characterized by one strongly dominant business model shared by all major incumbents. In the context of such homogeneity in terms of industry best practices, one might expect a newcomer such as AVIC to imitate this dominant business model. Should such dominance not result in imitation and followership, it appears likely that – in the case of other industries that are not as strongly dominated by a common business model as the global commercial aircraft and components industry – organizational innovation, rather than imitation, might be even more prevalent. Notwithstanding the merit of this deliberate industry selection for the purpose of the present critical case study, unconditional generalizability of the above findings would be contingent upon in-depth exploration of business model innovation, or the absence thereof, in other industries in China. Given that the C919 is scheduled to have its maiden flight in 2014 and given that there is a non-zero probability of program slippage, it is important to point out that AVIC and its emergent business model for making commercial aircraft remain an aspirational case strongly driven by strategic intent rather than by proven technological and commercial success and on-time delivery. However, when assessing the performance of AVIC, one might be well advised to remain cognizant of significant program delays and technical challenges that have haunted the most recent major aircraft programs of Airbus and Boeing. It is important to emphasize the emergent nature of AVIC’s business model. As suggested above, for many decades it has been the Chinese state’s objective to create a domestic commercial aircraft industry. Clearly, industry entry can only be explained by reference to the Chinese (developmental) state. Also, the state remains highly relevant with regards to the structure of the political economy and to many aspects of industrial organization in China.49 At the same time, AVIC’s bridge University Press, 1998), and Shahid Yusuf, Dwight H. Perkins, and Kaoru Nabeshima, Under New Ownership: Privatizing China’s State-Owned Enterprises (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005). 49 See, for example, Huang Yasheng, Capitalism with Chinese

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business model is also the outcome of managerial choices and learning. A detailed discussion of these firm-internal dynamics is far beyond the scope of the present article. AVIC’s business model is emergent to the extent that it has not been the result of execution of a detailed, ex ante master plan but an iterative process shaped by multiple factors external and internal to AVIC. Also, the growth of Japanese firms has given rise to a voluminous literature on Japanese management principles, styles, and practices.50 The above discussion of business model innovation in the context of the Chinese commercial aircraft industry, however, is meant to suggest neither a generic “Chinese way of business” nor an aerospace variant of the “shanzhai phenomenon.”51 Lastly, the present article is intended to be an analytical study. It is neither a normative endorsement of a particular development model nor a prediction of success or failure with regards to the ultimate performance of the ARJ21 and C919 in global markets. CONCLUDING REMARKS The rise of China’s economy and of Chinese firms has been one of the most fascinating stories of the world economy during the past decades. This phenomenal transformation has resulted in an empirically rich and analytically insightful body of studies that has shed much light on the inner dynamics of the Chinese political economy at large and of Chinese firms individually. At the level of the firm, the presence or absence of technological innovation and technological upgrading has often been a key explanatory variable for success. However, many of these studies appear to be somewhat single-dimensional. The present article has argued that this predominantly technology-focused perspective on innovation is likely to overlook other interesting loci of innovation such as a firm’s business model. Hence this article has intended to complement the extant technology-focused literature by pursuing an expressly organization-focused perspective. The present article has also proposed that a single-dimensional and oversimplified categorization of Chinese firms as “innovators” or “imitators” with reference to their technological innovative capacity alone runs the risk of failing to capture the potentially game-changing impact of the entry of Chinese firms into global markets. The case of the commercial aircraft industry in China Characteristics: Entrepreneurship and the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). 50 For example, Jeffrey Liker, The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004). 51 For a recent exploration of the Shanzhai phenomenon, see Sheng Zhu and Yongjiang Shi, “Shanzhai (山寨) Manufacturing – an Alternative Innovation Phenomenon in China – Its Value Chain and Implications for Chinese Science and Technology Policies,” Journal of Science and Technology Policy in China 1 (2010): 29-49.


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suggests that Chinese firms can be innovators, rather than imitators, on the basis of business model innovation, that such business model innovation can occur not only at the “bottom of the pyramid” but also at the very “top of the pyramid,” and that organizational innovation on the part of Chinese firms has disruptive potential to change the rules of the game in global markets.

the asia center publications program The publications program of the Harvard University Asia Center oversees three series: the Harvard Contemporary China Series, active since 1985 and now nearing 20 titles; Harvard East Asian Monographs, initiated in 1956 and now totaling more than 340 published titles; and the Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, with over 75 titles. Since the beginning of the 2011–2012 academic year, the program has published twelve new titles in various areas of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean studies. These and other titles can be purchased through Harvard University Press.

New Titles H. Mack Horton, Traversing the Frontier: The Man’yōshū Account of a Japanese Mission to Silla in 736–737 Shih-shan Susan Huang, Picturing the True Form: Daoist Visual Culture in Traditional China Kee Heong Koh, A Northern Alternative: Xue Xuan (1389–1464) and the Hedong School David B. Lurie, Realms of Literacy: Early Japan and the History of Writing Patricia L. Maclachlan, The People’s Post Office: The History and Politics of the Japanese Postal System, 1871–2010 Sonia Ryang, Reading North Korea: An Ethnological Inquiry Satoru Saito, Detective Fiction and the Rise of the Japanese Novel, 1880–1930 Michael Schiltz, The Money Doctors from Japan: Finance, Imperialism, and the Building of the Yen Bloc, 1895–1937 Xiaofei Tian, Visionary Journeys: Travel Writings from Early Medieval and Nineteenth-Century China Jun Uchida, Brokers of Empire: Japanese Settler Colonialism in Korea, 1876–1945 Yugen Wang, Ten Thousand Scrolls: Reading and Writing in the Poetics of Huang Tingjian and the Late Northern Song Daqing Yang, Jie Liu, Hiroshi Mitani, and Andrew Gordon, eds., Toward a History Beyond Borders: Contentious Issues in Sino-Japanese Relations

Harvard Asia Quarterly (Spring/Summer 2012)  

The Harvard Asia Quarterly is a professional academic journal of Asian studies affiliated with the Harvard University Asia Center and advise...