Ling Wancheng, the South China Sea, and Japan’s take on history. Friday China links.
The New York Times reports that Ling Wancheng, the brother of Ling Jihua, has apparently fled to the United States, and China badly wants him back. Ling Jihua was a top aide to former Chinese president Hu Jintao; he was ousted from the Chinese Communist Party in July after a corruption investigation. Even before Ling Jihua was officially expelled from the Party, there were rumors that his brother, businessman Ling Wancheng, had escaped Chinese authorities and traveled to the United States – bringing with him potentially damaging insider information on the CCP. The Times cited anonymous U.S. government officials as confirming as least part of these rumors: Ling is in the United States and China is pressuring Washington to deport him. As for whether he actually has a wealth of intelligence on current CCP leaders, the jury’s still out. But “the [Chinese] leadership would want this guy badly,” Christopher Johnson of CSIS told NYT.
The Los Angeles Times has its own story on Ling’s life in California, where he went by the name Jason Wang. He was well-liked by his neighbors, who were shocked when Department of Homeland Security agents showed up asking about Ling and his wife. Ling’s current whereabouts are unknown.
Over at National Interest, Zachary Keck responds to reports that China has stopped its land reclamation in the South China Sea. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in Kuala Lumpur for a series of ASEAN meetings, told reporters that “China has already stopped [reclamation work]. You just take an airplane to take a look.” As Keck points out, however, China stopped the work not out of concerns for rising tensions, but simply because the reclamation phase is completed. “The next phase of the operation is to complete construction of military and civilian facilities on the newly-created islands,” Keck says, and there’s no indication Beijing will pause those activities.
Also on the South China Sea, the Asan Forum has an article by Scott Bentley outlining the Malaysia’s role in the disputes. Malaysia has been one of the quietest claimants, apparently hoping that behind-the-scenes diplomacy will be more successful in getting Beijing’s attention. According to Bentley, who traces moves by Chinese coast guard vessels on Malaysian-claimed features, that strategy isn’t working.
For a look at how important China’s claim to features near Malaysia (such as James Shoal, Zengmu Ansha in Chinese) are in China’s nationalist discourse, check out this August 2014 piece from Zheng Wang. From the article:
Since the 1940s, generations of Chinese have learned from their geography textbooks that Zengmu Ansha is the southernmost point of China’s territory. Different generations of Chinese have also conducted a similar exercise in their middle school geography classes: the students use a ruler to measure the distance from the northernmost point of China (Mohe, near the Amur River, at the latitude of 53° 29′ north) to Zengmu Ansha (at the latitude of 4° 15′ north) and then feel very proud of their country’s vast territory.
Finally, while not explicitly China news, this has definite ramifications for China-Japan relations: an advisory panel in Japan, tasked by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with analyzing historical issues and what steps Japan can take to advance reconciliation has issued its report. Japan Times has a summary; the full 49-page report is also online. One interesting nugget symbolizes the various perspectives at play: the report uses the word “aggression” to describe Japan’s actions “against the [Asian] continent,” but includes a lengthy footnote describing some panel members’ objections to the use of the term. Whether Abe uses the word “aggression” in his August 15 statement will be closely watched by China.
By Shannon Tiezzi for The Diplomat