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Mark Beeson from the University of Western Australia writing for The Conversation, gives us his opinion on Tony Abbott's decision to join China’s proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Mark Beeson, University of Western Australia

Even for a government that has recently made an artform of policy backflips, the Abbott government’s belated, but seemingly inevitable decision to join China’s proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) represents a manoeuvre of Olympian proportions.

While most of the attention has understandably been on the very public divisions within cabinet and between Australia and the US, there is arguably a more enduring lesson to be learnt about influence and institutional development.

One of the reasons that the Americans have been so concerned about the AIIB is that they – rightly – fear that it will dilute their own influence and that of extant regional institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Japan has been the principal actor in the ADB, but Japan is also a close – some would say highly dependent – ally of the US, and therefore poses less of a threat to America’s regional influence.

China is a very different proposition. While Japan may not have been any greater admirer of the Washington consensus than China is, Japan could generally be relied upon to at least look as if it did. China has no such inhibitions or filial loyalties.

Although China’s own developmental model has yet to be definitively articulated by its ruling elite, we have a pretty good idea what it looks like in practice. China’s hands-on approach to investment in Africa provides an insight into what large-scale infrastructure investment might look like closer to home.

Two points are important to consider in this regard. First, that China is going its own way and actually following a Japanese-style tradition of neo-mercantilism is more surprising than it might seem – at least as far as many observers in the West are concerned. True, China is adopting a well-established East Asian, state-led template, but many thought things would turn out rather differently.

The great hope and expectation among many Western governments was that simply by participating in the international institutions the US had helped establish and subsequently dominated, Chinese policymakers would be “socialised” into appropriate behaviour. In short, Chinese elites would become more like “us”.

While there is no doubt that this has undoubtedly happened to some extent – China is an increasingly effective player in many international institutions – the question is how much its elites have taken on the norms, ideas and goals of their counterparts in places like the US and Australia. Do they still have a very different idea about how institutions should operate and how they might be utilised to pursue national rather than collective goals?

This leads to a second consideration. Is China attempting to use the AIIB to quite literally cement its place at the centre of regional production networks that give material expression to its growing regional importance and influence? The reality is that China is already central to the so-called “factory Asia” of trans-regional production structures that have been established across north and southeast Asia.

As The Economist recently pointed out:

China produces about 80% of the world’s air-conditioners, 70% of its mobile phones and 60% of its shoes. The white heat of China’s ascent has forged supply chains that reach deep into South-East Asia. This “Factory Asia” now makes almost half the world’s goods.

China’s planned investment in badly needed regional transportation infrastructure will entrench its economic dominance and importance. There are few countries in East Asia that don’t have China as their number one trade partner. China-centric transportation links and the reconstitution of the old Silk Road will only reinforce this economic leverage and make disagreeing with China increasingly difficult and costly.

Are the US and Australia right to be concerned about the geopolitical consequences of all this? Possibly so. But what, exactly, does an alternative strategy look like? And what would its consequences actually be? The US – much less Australia – can’t stop China playing a prominent role in the region of which it is a part. It would be counter-productive to try to do so.

One of the reasons that China is trying to set up its own institutions and agreements is because it is either locked out of some – like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership – or underrepresented given its weight in the international economy. The US’s continuing veto power in the IMF is perhaps the most glaring example of the latter possibility.

Barring some – not inconceivable – economic crisis, the region will have to get used to becoming ever more dependent on China’s growing economic power. This is not necessarily bad news. It’s not China’s fault that we squandered the windfall provided by the resource boom.

Even more pointedly, for regional countries desperate for infrastructure investment China potentially offers vital assistance without the ideological, reformist baggage associated with the Washington consensus.

It could prove an irresistible combination and one that may help to enhance China’s influence in the region at the expense of America’s – despite continuing concerns about China’s geopolitical ambitions. How times change.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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One Chinese government agency is so proud of how well they censor the Internet that they put their feelings to music.

China’s Internet censorship agency now has it’s own choral anthem, a song titled “The Mind and Spirit of Cyberspace Security.” The New York Times reported Thursday that the lyrics to the song — which praises the agency’s commitment “to the global village, evolving it into its most beautiful form” — were written by Wang Pingjiu, who also wrote the lyrics for the opening song to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

ProPublica watched, translated and subtitled the video.

Although the Times reported that copies of the video are being deleted quickly, ProPublica found copies easily on the popular Chinese social media site Sina Weibo.

In the song, employees proudly declare not only loyalty to their work, but that it is transforming the world into a better place. Lyrics include:

  • “With loyalty and devotion, we watch over our domain day and night”
  • “Contributing to the global village, evolving it into its most beautiful form”
  • “In this universe, as hundreds of rivers flow across all of China, loyally searching for the sea, they carry with them the great Chinese culture and measure China’s greatness.”

While it is difficult to translate the exact meaning behind a song, one particular lyric could be referencing an old Chinese proverb — 水能载舟,亦能覆舟 — which stresses that while water can keep a boat afloat, it can also flip it over. The lyric, which reads “Integrity ripples only from a clear and pure nation,” may be referencing the fact that without integrity, the nation would flip over the government.

The official “Mind and Spirit” values of the Cyberspace Administration is defined by the agency as “Loyalty, responsibility, innovation, integrity, unity and devotion.”

In 2013, ProPublica published 527 user-posted images that were deleted by censors at Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site similar to Twitter. In an effort to discover what causes a user’s posts to be censored, ProPublica also found that the lives of users or their families were sometimes threatened because of material they had posted online.

Also, every day since Nov. 17, 2014, ProPublica has been testing whether the homepages of international news organizations are accessible to browsers inside China. See the results.

Here is our translation:

 

“The Mind and Spirit of Cyberspace Security” (《网信精神》)

在这片天空日月忠诚的守望

为日出东方使命担当

创新每个日子拥抱着清朗

像一束廉洁阳光感动在心上

团结万物生长的力量

奉献地球村成为最美的风光

网络强国 网在哪, 光荣梦想在哪

网络强国 从遥远的宇宙到思念的家

网络强国 告诉世界中国梦在崛起大中华

网络强国 一个我在世界代表着国家

在这个世界百川忠诚寻归海洋

担当中华文明的丈量

五千年沉淀点亮创新思想

廉洁就是一个民族清澈荡漾

我们团结在天地中央

信仰奉献流淌万里黄河长江

With loyalty and devotion, we watch over our domain day and night,

to serve our mission as the sun rises in the east.

Creating each day with innovation, embracing its brightness,

just like a beam of integrity that moves your heart.

Unifying the strength of all living things,

contributing to the global village, evolving it into its most beautiful form.

Chorus

An Internet power — Where there is Internet, there are glory and dreams.

An Internet power — From the distant cosmos to the homes that we miss.

An Internet power — Telling the world that the Chinese Dream is lifting up China.

An Internet power — Each individual represents the whole nation.

In this universe, as all rivers loyally search for the sea,

they carry China’s great culture and measure China’s greatness.

Five thousand years of history condensed to illuminate innovation.

Integrity ripples only from a clear and pure nation.

We are unified in the center of the universe.

Our faith and devotion flow far and wide, like the everlong Yellow River and Yangtze.

Repeat Chorus

Repeat Chorus

Article by Sisi Wei and Yue Qiu
ProPublica, Feb. 12, 2015, 4:31 p.m.

http://www.propublica.org/article/internet-censorship-we-will-sing-it-for-you

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