The Women Who Escape From North Korea

A majority of North Koreans who escape and defect are women, who are often at an extremely high risk of being sold as brides or being subjected to sexual violence. In 2010, one aid worker estimated that around 90 percent of North Korean women escapees ended up becoming victims of human trafficking. This includes exploitive labor and prostitution, but bride trafficking has been a large market in the rural areas of China, close to the North Korean border.

Demand for brides in the more rural regions of China has surged with the male-female gap, a legacy of the “one-child policy.” Because of the country’s historic preference for male children, selective abortions of female fetuses have resulted in 122 boys being born for every 100 girls. In the three provinces closest to North Korea, the ratio of young men to women is 14:1.

According to statements from victims, the women are sold to older Chinese men for 2,000 yuan ($260) to 20,000 yuan ($2,600); the price varies depending on the woman’s age or appearance. Scouts seek “marketable” women, then lure them into China, usually with promises of more food and money. Many women who escape into China are from areas close to the Chinese border, usually living in poverty. “Distributors” match the women to the buyer’s preferences, and the brokers complete the sale. Some women are able to escape from their forced marriages with the help of underground human rights organizations, while others decide to adapt to their new life rather than face the risk of deportation.

If the escapees are caught by police, they will be deported back to North Korea. That is unless the police happen to be corrupt, in which case the women may be sold to another broker. China has been criticized for violating the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which prohibits the deportation of refugees when they are at the risk of being tortured upon returning. For its part, China sees the North Korean refugees as an “economic threat,” and classifies them as “economic migrants.”

Refugees from North Korea are terrified of what awaits them if they are arrested and deported back to their homeland; a fear that is exploited by the traffickers. Some women may agree to be sold as a bride rather than be deported, while others are coerced into trading sex for their presence to be kept silent. North Korea has strict laws designed to maintain its racial purity; it denounces marriages to foreign nationals and does not allow the entry of Chinese-Koreans or other mixed race children. Mothers are separated from their children, and women who return pregnant are subjected to forced abortions. Witnesses have reported that a woman was forced to drown her half-Chinese newborn. Many other Chinese-Korean children are denied legal recognition, with an estimated 10,000-20,000 such “stateless” orphans in China.

Harsh punishments await those caught trying to escape North Korea, including the “three generation of punishment” rule, in which three generations of the defector’s family are sent to the notorious prison camps. Meanwhile, China’s bride trafficking industry continues to grow, with estimates suggesting that by 2020 there will be 30 million Chinese men unable to marry. With a large number of women continuing to flee North Korea, the risk that they will be exploited to meet this demand will only rise.


Six unexpected WW1 battlegrounds

The famine of Lebanon resulted in 200,000 deathThe famine of Lebanon resulted in 200,000 deaths

Not all crucial battles in World War One took place on the muddy fields of Europe. Some significant fights took place in little-known places much further afield, says the BBC’s Deborah Basckin.

The Somme, Ypres, Passchendaele, all iconic battles of WW1. But what made it a truly global war are the lesser-known tales from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

New technology, broken promises and shifting alliances meant events which started in Europe had far-reaching consequences beyond the trenches of the Western Front, consequences that still affect millions of people around the world today.

Here are six of the lesser-known battles of WW1.

1. Togo

Pinpointing the exact moment a world event begins is not an exact science, but it could be said some of the very first shots of WW1 weren’t fired in Europe. They were fired in West Africa, in the then-German colony of Togo.

In August 1914, troops were massing on the front lines of Europe. But thousands of miles away in the small Togolese town of Kamina, a cutting-edge piece of technology came under threat. With it, Germany’s control of the region.

The battle in Togo

  • On 12 August 1914, near Kamina, Alhaji Grunshi became the first soldier in British service to fire a shot in WW1
  • On 22 August 1914, near Kamina Lieutenant George Thompson became the first British officer killed in action in WW1

BBC’s Beyond the Trenches

The Germans were using a local workforce to build a wireless station so advanced that its communications could reach as far afield as Asia. It was an incredible military advantage at the time, akin to having email in a time of smoke signals. At the outbreak of WW1, it wasn’t fully completed but it was operational.

When war was declared the station immediately came under threat, its worth to any military force incalculable. It was soon surrounded by allied forces.

Without an army, the Germans first tried to marshal a local police force, led by its own soldiers and made up of mercenaries from nearby. But ultimately they were left with no option but to destroy the station and surrender.

The five hours it took for the station at Kamina to burn ended German colonial rule. It marked the first allied victory of WW1 and irrevocably changed Togo’s future.

Wireless station in Kamina

iWonder: Why was Germany’s wireless station so important?


2. Lebanon

One third of the population died in the largely forgotten famine of Mount Lebanon. A devastating confluence of political and environmental factors lead to the deaths of 200,000 men, women and children in the region.

At the outbreak of war, the arid Mount Lebanon was a semi-autonomous area within the powerful Ottoman Empire. Its economy was based on the production of raw silk, which was woven by women in mills and exported to Europe.

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But the Ottoman alliance with Germany caused the Allies to cut off international trade routes, damaging the silk trade and choking the economy. Food was scarce and prioritised for the soldiers of the Ottoman war effort. Families started to go hungry.

Then came the locusts. In biblical swathes, the insects swarmed through the region in 1915. They devoured the few remaining crops and delivered a fatal blow to the already starving people.

There were reports of bloated bodies dead in the street, even cannibalism. One account from a Jesuit priest tells of a father coming to confess he had eaten his own children.

Some tried to help and soup-kitchens started to open. Thousands were fed, but there was no way to mitigate the effects of the double blow.

A footnote in some history books, or left out of others altogether, the famine of Mount Lebanon is still painfully remembered by those who live there.

Starving people from the famine of Mount Lebanon

iWonder: How trade blockades became a weapon of war


3. Mexico

The length of one of the most aggressively monitored borders in the world runs for 3,145 km (1,954 miles). The iron pillars, concrete walls, security cameras and drones that make it virtually impermeable today were partly triggered by just a tiny bit of paper during WW1 – a telegram.

In 1917, Germany tried to capitalise on the uneasy peace between the US and Mexico – two countries at odds over their shared border.

German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann sent a coded telegram: “We make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together.” Its meaning was clear – join the war on Germany’s side and secure its help to invade America in return.

Zimmermann hoped by drawing the US into conflict with Mexico it would distract the US from the war in Europe.

The telegram was composed and sent from Berlin. Before it reached its intended destination it was intercepted and decoded, revealing Germany’s plans to the world.

So Zimmermann’s message to Mexico achieved the very opposite of its aim, helping draw America into WW1.

Germany sent a telegram to Mexico

iWonder: How Germany’s plans to recruit Mexico were exposed


4. Tanzania

Twice a month, the MV Liemba’s prow slices the waters of Lake Tanganyika along its route from Kigoma, at the north, to Mpulungu at the southern tip. The ship’s hull carries people, chickens, beer, pineapples – and 100 years of history.

Originally commissioned as the Goetzen, the boat was designed and built in a shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. In 1913 it was shipped in pieces across the Mediterranean Sea, through the Suez Canal and travelled by train over German East Africa – now Tanzania – to the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

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In the lakeside town of Kigoma, the boat was assembled by a local workforce, watched over by three German engineers. At the outbreak of WW1, now armed with guns and soldiers, the Goetzen was set to dominate the lake as a German weapon against British and Belgian fleets.

But despite its enormous size and impressive speed, military setbacks on land meant the Germans were forced to scuttle their own “indestructible” boat, saving the guns and making more soldiers available for the fighting on shore.

The same engineers responsible for its construction were tasked with sending the Goetzen to the bottom of the lake. Six years later, she was raised, re-christened and re-purposed.

The boat still runs as a passenger ferry, a lifeline for the people living along the waters’ edge and a connection to one of the defining periods in world history.

Locally recruited troops under German command

iWonder: The real story behind The African Queen


5. China

The Chinese port city of Tsingtao – modern day Qingdao – came under German rule in 1897. During WW1 it was to become the site of a fatal siege and the cause for continuing antagonism in the east for decades.

By the time the war came to Asia, Tsingtao had evolved from a fishing village into a modern city with German infrastructure, schools and a naval base.

It had also become a strategic outpost for Germany on the other side of the globe and therefore a target for Japanese and British forces, who invaded in 1914.

The Germans were braced for attack. Chinese labourers had been enlisted to build fortifications along the city’s steep hills, dig trenches and position artillery.

The city came under siege. For two months it was pummelled from land and sea. Bombs rained down from the new weapons of war – aeroplanes. Overwhelmed by force and without sufficient reinforcements, Germany eventually capitulated. An estimated 450 men died in the siege, 40 of them were Chinese labourers.

Politically the siege had enormous ramifications. Tsingtao was not returned to Chinese rule, but instead the Japanese victors held on to their territory.

After the war the world powers met in Versailles to negotiate the terms of global peace. Japan refused to relinquish Qingdao and China refused to sign the treaty, setting off a chain of events which lead to war 20 years later.

British and Japanese officers by a wrecked German gun after the siege of Tsingtao

iWonder: How did WW1 fan the flames of conflict in East Asia?


6. Malta

The tiny island of Malta earned the nickname the Nurse of the Mediterranean for its unique role in treating more than 100,000 casualties of WW1. It was a battleground in the sense that medics found themselves struggling to save vast numbers of soldiers suffering from wounds unlike those seen in previous wars.

Malta famously has a medical tradition that stretches back more than 500 years. The war brought that tradition right up to date as the island opened the doors of its 27 hospitals to injured allied soldiers pouring in from the front lines.

The very location of Malta, in the middle of the Mediterranean, was an ideal position to receive casualties from fighting in Turkey and Greece. The wounded, many Australian, were brought to the island by hospital ships and were hoisted up its steep cliffs to the doctors and nurses waiting for them.

What they saw arriving in their hospitals, however, was unprecedented. WW1 was the first industrialised war. It marked the first use of tanks, machine guns and aeroplanes. With new weaponry came horrific new injuries.

Some doctors were adventurous, attempting procedures to treat unfamiliar wounds. But in this time before antibiotics, sepsis was often the ultimate outcome and cause of death. Despite the limitations of medicine at the time, thousands of soldiers passed through the island’s care.

Grand Harbour in Malta

How China Complicates the Iranian Nuclear Talks
The foreign ministers from Iran and P5+1 nations meet in Vienna on November 24, 2014.

How China Complicates the Iranian Nuclear Talks

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is in Vienna for the P5+1 talks with Iran that aim to solve a long-standing impasse over Iran’s nuclear program. With the outcomes of the talks in doubt, Beijing is showing its support for continued discussions – and continued outreach to Tehran.

Wang met with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on the sidelines of the talks. In that meeting, Wang made it clear that China sees itself as a neutral arbitrator in the talks (unlike the U.S.). China, “as a responsible negotiating party,” seeks “a comprehensive agreement over the matter, which meets the common interests of the international community, including Iran,” Xinhua paraphrased Wang as saying. With the West and Iran at an impasse over the extent of permissible nuclear development in Iran, China’s positioning could help shift the tenor of talks.

For starters, Wang noted that China supports an extension of negotiations. Monday’s deadline came and went without a breakthrough; according to Reuters, diplomatic sources expect negotiations to resume next month. Negotiators could also push for a formal extension of the existing interim agreement, which allows for limited sanctions relief while Iran takes concrete steps to limit its nuclear program. In Monday’s press conference Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters, “The Chinese side … is exploring better ways to advance the negotiation in light of the current situation.”

Hua added that China “has been playing a constructive role in its own way in the course of negotiations.” With her insistence on China being constructive “in its own way” (negotiating with “Chinese characteristics”), Hua tacitly acknowledged that China is not quite playing the role that the Western powers, particularly the U.S. would like to see. The Obama administration made getting Chinese cooperation on the Iran nuclear issue a major focus on its early diplomacy with China, always hoping that a tougher Chinese stance would force Tehran to accede to Western restrictions on nuclear development.

The Obama administration won some limited cooperation from China on this front, despite Beijing’s traditional abhorrence of sanctions. However, ever since the P5+1-Iran talks heated up with an interim agreement last November, China has been moving closer to Tehran, seizing the chance to develop a sound relationship with a Middle Eastern power player while international conditions allow. Chinese oil imports from Iran surged to630,000 barrels per day in the first six months of 2014, up 48 percent from the same period in 2013 (thanks in part to reduced Western sanctions as part of the interim agreement). Meanwhile, total trade between the China and Iran was worth nearly $40 billion in 2013, according to China’s foreign ministry. China exports electronics, textiles, steel, and industrial chemical products to Iran and mainly imports crude oil, ores, and other raw materials.

Increased economic ties have been accompanied by a surge of interactions in the political and military arenas. China and Iran are seeking greater cooperation on counter-terrorism as well as more conventional military cooperation. In September, the two countries held their first-ever joint naval exercise in the Persian Gulf. Iran followed that up by sending its naval chief to Beijing in October, where both countries promised more military cooperation in the future. On the diplomatic front, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif traveled to Beijing for the Istanbul Process meeting at the end of October. Zarif met with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and the two promised to deepen China-Iran cooperation. Chinese President Xi Jinping has also met several times with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, most recently in Shanghai on the sidelines of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.

Increased cooperation points to the growing importance Iran has for China’s national interests. Beijing has always had a vested interest in Iran as an energy source. However, in the past few years, Iran has increased in strategic importance for Beijing. Good relations with Iran, both economically and politically, will be helpful to Chinese interests as it “marches west” with its Silk Road initiatives. Meanwhile, Iran is also seeking alternative partners as it continues to struggle with engaging the West. New organizations backed by China, from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank, provide room for Iran in international forums, something Tehran largely lacks in U.S.-backed organizations.

What does all this have to do with the P5+1 talks? As Iran grows closer to China, including increased engagement with Chinese-led international and multilateral organizations, there’s less incentive for Iran to make sacrifices in order to secure more normal relations with the West. Even economic sanctions will have less bite as China continues to deepen its own economic engagement with Tehran, particularly considering the hefty investments that are likely to follow China’s Silk Road Economic Belt into Iran. China has made it quite clear that it is looking out for Iran’s interests, not only the West’s, at the talks in Vienna; that means the West will need to take Iran’s concerns seriously as well in order to actually reach a deal.

Can China Fall Peacefully?

“The prospects for peace in Asia are not promising. Indeed, whether China rises or falls, the most logical theories predict that conflict is likely, if not downright unavoidable.”

November 19, 2014

The idea that China cannot rise peacefully has become something of an international-relations truism. The story here is simple: as China’s economy grows, its military will follow, and just as other great powers have used force to achieve their foreign-policy goals, so, too, will China. Yet while much ink has been spilled to explore the security implications of China’s rise, relatively few attempts have been made to examine the potential effects of a sudden and prolonged economic downturn. This might be about to change.

As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, China’s growth will decline sharply in the coming decade, from 7.7 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent between 2020 and 2025. Some analysts are more pessimistic, projecting future growth rates as low as 1.6 or 1.7 percent. (To put these numbers in perspective, China grew at an average annual rate of 10.2 percent from 1980 to 2011.) These trends have led some at the National Interest to claim that China is headed for collapse and that we may be approaching the end—not a delay—of China’s economic rise.

What will be the geopolitical implications for China, its neighbors and the United States if the Chinese economy tanks? Would China be taken off of its supposed collision course, or would conflict remain unavoidable?

Let’s start with a slight, but necessary, caveat: we have no empirical evidence for future events and, therefore, need theories to answer these questions. That being said, there are two that may be particularly helpful. The first theory assumes that an economic downturn in China will force the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership to turn inwards, leaving little time and energy to pick fights with its Pacific neighbors (let alone the United States). Chinese leaders will instead devote their attention to domestic policies, hoping to get their “house” in order.

Unfortunately, given the scale and scope of China’s current international disputes, this story is unlikely to pass.

Remember that China has at least five outstanding territorial disagreements: with Vietnam over control of the Paracel Islands; with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam over the Spratly Islands; with Japan over the Senkaku Islands; with Brunei and India over disputed land borders; and with Taiwan over the issue of independence. It’s difficult to imagine that these simmering disputes would be cooled by a weakened Chinese economy.

Which brings us to our second theory—one that I believe is more likely to materialize. This theory posits that an economic downturn in China will cause a crisis in legitimacy for the Chinese Communist Party, who will in turn point to external threats to bolster its internal legitimacy. China’s leaders, in other words, will play the nationalism card, perhaps provoking an international conflagration in one or more of the aforementioned flashpoints.

We’ve seen this movie before. Following World War II, the Chinese economy was in shambles, yet China’s leadership did not turn inward, but rather to the Korean peninsula. Similarly, during the economic catastrophe that was the Cultural Revolution, China’s leaders turned to Vietnam. Zhang Lifan, a Chinese historian, explains that “historically, during every period with many deep conflicts within the country, there has been a surge of anti-foreign sentiments from the party.” Things are no different today.

This year alone, China’s state-run newspaper, The People’s Daily, published forty-two articles blaming China’s domestic problems on foreign forces. Even in the midst of this month’s APEC meeting (which is typically a golden opportunity to show off diplomatic credentials and feign bridge-building enthusiasm), President Xi Jinping publicly praised a young blogger who is now famous for his nationalistic writings—some of which border on xenophobia.

Chinese leaders won’t be able to easily turn off the nationalist anger that is created. And if China’s economy does indeed sink, we should expect more of this strident nationalism, not less. Unfortunately, it isn’t hard to picture a scenario in which a nationalist fervor sweeps across China, leading to escalation, miscalculation or an accidental conflict.

To minimize the likelihood of such crises, the United States should stay laser-focused on the rebalance to Asia, shirking peripheral entanglements and assuring its allies in the Asia-Pacific that it is a reliable guarantor of their security. In addition, China and its neighbors should adopt more open lines of communication (i.e. more “red telephones”) to decrease the chances that potential crises escalate into full-blown military conflicts.

“The prospects for peace in Asia are not promising. Indeed, whether China rises or falls, the most logical theories predict that conflict is likely, if not downright unavoidable.”

The prospects for peace in Asia are not promising. Indeed, whether China rises or falls, the most logical theories predict that conflict is likely, if not downright unavoidable. However, as University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer has noted, theories of international relations are still “rather crude instruments” and “even our best theories to explain the past and predict the future are limited.” Let’s hope he’s right.

Andy Morimoto works at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He holds a master’s degree from The University of Chicago and a bachelor’s from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The views expressed here are his own. Follow on Twitter: @AndyMorimoto.

Image: Flickr/ by 2.0

Cryptic Kryptos Clue

A new hint for solving the CIA’s mysterious sculpture puzzle.

Photo by Jim Sanborn. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Can you make out “Berlin Clock”?

Photo by Jim Sanborn. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Reprinted from

This article originally appeared in Wired.

In 1989, the year the Berlin Wall began to fall, American artist Jim Sanborn was busy working on his Kryptos sculpture, a cryptographic puzzle wrapped in a riddle that he created for the CIA’s headquarters and that has been driving amateur and professional cryptographers mad ever since.

To honor the 25th anniversary of the Wall’s demise and the artist’s 69th birthday this year, Sanborn has decided to reveal a new clue to help solve his iconic and enigmatic artwork. It’s only the second hint he’s released since the sculpture was unveiled in 1990 and may finally help unlock the fourth and final section of the encrypted sculpture, which frustrated sleuths have been struggling to crack for more than two decades.


The 12-foot-high, verdigrised copper, granite, and wood sculpture on the grounds of the CIA complex in Langley, Virginia, contains four encrypted messages carved out of the metal, three of which were solved years ago. The fourth is composed of just 97 letters, but its brevity belies its strength. Even the NSA, whose master crackers were the first to decipher other parts of the work, gave up on cracking it long ago. So four years ago, concerned that he might not live to see the mystery of Kryptos resolved, Sanborn released a clue to help things along, revealing that six of the last 97 letters when decrypted spell the word Berlin—a revelation that many took to be a reference to the Berlin Wall.

To that clue today, he’s adding the next word in the sequence—clock—that may or may not throw a wrench in this theory. Now the Kryptos sleuths just have to unscramble the remaining 86 characters to find out.

Is a Clock a Clock?

Sanborn told Wired that he’s always been fascinated by Berlin’s many clocks, but the Berlin Clock in particular has intrigued him the most. The clock, also known as the Berlin Uhr or Set Theory Clock, was designed in the 1970s by inventor and tinkerer Dieter Binninger. It displays the time through illuminated colored blocks rather than numbers and requires the viewer to calculate the time based on a complex scheme.

A yellow lamp at the top of the clock blinks every two seconds while a row of red lamps beneath it represents five hours. Red lights on a second row denote one hour each, and time is calculated based on the number of lights illuminated. “So if in the first line 2 lamps are lit and in the second line 3 lamps, it’s 5+5+3=13h or 1 p.m.,” notes one description of the timepiece.

“Most people have no idea who Dieter is and all of the other people who make strange clocks in Berlin,” Sanborn says. “There’s a very interesting back story to [the Berlin Clock].”

The focus on the clock, however, may just be a bit of sly misdirection from Sanborn—who is known among Kryptos fans for his puckishness. Clock could easily refer instead to a method devised by a Polish mathematician and cryptologist during World War II to crack Germany’s Enigma ciphers—a method that was expanded on by Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park who are credited with ultimately cracking Enigma. (It may be no coincidence that Sanborn has decided to release his new clue at the same time as The Imitation Game, a film about Turing’s work on Enigma, is opening in U.S. theaters on Nov. 28.)

How Kryptos Has Remained Unsolved for 20 Years

Sanborn’s Kryptos sculpture was unveiled at the CIA in 1990 on the third of November, a month that has a recurring theme in the sculpture’s ethos.

The artwork features a large block of petrified wood standing upright, with a tall copper plate scrolling out from the wood like a sheet of paper. At the sculpture’s base is a round pool with a fountain pump that sends water moving in a circular direction around the pool. Carved out of the copper plate are approximately 1,800 letters, some of them forming a cryptographic table based on a method developed by a 16th-century Frenchman named Blaise de Vigenere.

In 1995 a small group of cryptanalysts inside the NSA quietly deciphered the first three sections of the sculpture, though no one outside the agency and the CIA’s top brass knew about it. In 1998, CIA analyst David Stein cracked the same three messages using paper and pencil and about 400 lunchtime hours. Only his CIA colleagues knew of his success, however, because the agency didn’t publicize it. A year later, California computer scientist Jim Gillogly gained public notoriety when he cracked the same three messages using a Pentium II.

The first message is a poetic phrase that Sanborn composed:

Between subtle shading and the absence of light lies the nuance of iqlusion.

The second one hints at something buried:

It was totally invisible. How’s that possible? They used the earth’s magnetic field. x The information was gathered and transmitted underground to an unknown location. x Does Langley know about this? They should: it’s buried out there somewhere. x Who knows the exact location? Only WW. This was his last message. x Thirty eight degrees fifty seven minutes six point five seconds north, seventy seven degrees eight minutes forty four seconds west. x Layer two.


WW, Sanborn told Wired in 2005, refers to William Webster, director of the CIA at the time of the sculpture’s completion. Sanborn was forced to provide Webster with the solution to the puzzle to reassure the CIA that it wasn’t something that would embarrass the agency.

The third message is a take on a passage from the diary of English Archaeologist Howard Carter describing the opening of King Tut’s tomb on Nov. 26, 1922.

Slowly, desperately slowly, the remains of passage debris that encumbered the lower part of the doorway was removed. With trembling hands I made a tiny breach in the upper left-hand corner. And then, widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in. The hot air escaping from the chamber caused the flame to flicker, but presently details of the room within emerged from the mist. x Can you see anything? q

Sanborn has said that the first three sections contain clues to solving the final 97 letters but no one has figured out what those might be. After no progress cracking the last section, Sanborn released the Berlin clue four years ago, considering it “a significant clue.”

“I’m throwing it out there. It just makes that many fewer characters people have to figure out,” he told Wired at the time.

The six letters that spell Berlin—NYPVTT—are the 64th through 69th letters of the final 97 characters, and the new clue clock is deciphered from the next five letters that follow it.

Code detectives worked to crack the puzzle following the Berlin revelation. Members of a popular Kryptos Yahoo Group led by Elonka Dunin, the foremost expert on Kryptos, tried for months to resolve it but to no avail.

Who knows if the new clue will prove to be any more helpful? And even if it is and sleuths decipher the final code, there’s an additional message they will still need to resolve. Once decrypted, the fourth section reveals a riddle, which Sanborn has said requires sleuths to be on the CIA grounds to solve.

The Mystery of the Riddle

“In part of the code that’s been deciphered, I refer to an act that took place when I was at the agency and a location that’s on the ground of the agency,” Sanborn said during a 2005 interview with Wired. “So in order to find that place, you have to decipher the piece and then go to the agency and find that place.”

The riddle may refer to something Sanborn buried on the CIA grounds at the time he installed the sculpture, possibly in a location spelled out in Section 2 of the sculpture, which lists a set of latitude and longitude coordinates: 38 57 6.5 N and 77 8 44 W. Sanborn has said they refer to “locations of the agency.”

Dunin has suggested that the coordinates may refer to the location of a Berlin Wall monument on the CIA grounds. Three slabs from the Berlin Wall sit at the spy agency’s headquarters, a gift from the German government. Sanborn has also told Wired that the collapse of the wall was “big news” at the time he was “casting about” for things he wanted to include in his sculpture. However, the wall monument wasn’t dedicated at the CIA until 1992, two years after Kryptos was unveiled. Although the coordinates of the monument’s location—38 57 2.5 N, 77 8 40 W—differ from the coordinates mentioned in Kryptos by four seconds in both the latitude and longitude, Dunin has speculated that the CIA may have originally planned to position the monument at the coordinates Sanborn mentions on Kryptos but then later chose a different location. Alternatively, Sanborn may have been using an incorrect U.S. geological map when he created his sculpture and thus got the coordinates wrong, she notes. After all, Sanborn has other errors in his sculpture, both intentional and unintentional.

Kryptos includes intentional spelling errors and misaligned characters set higher on a line of text than characters around them. But in 2006, Sanborn realized he had also made an inadvertent error, a missing “x” that he mistakenly deleted from the end of a line in section two, a section that was already solved. He discovered the omission while doing a letter-by-letter comparison of the plaintext and coded text in preparation for a book about his work.

The “x” was supposed to signify a period or section-break at the end of a phrase. Sanborn removed it for aesthetic reasons, thinking it wouldn’t affect the way the puzzle was deciphered, but in fact it did. What sleuths had until then deciphered to say “ID by rows” was actually supposed to say “layer two.” The correction hasn’t helped anyone solve the rest of the puzzle, however, in the subsequent years.

Now this second clue, Sanborn hopes, will reinvigorate efforts to crack the mystery, though he has mixed views on whether he wants the journey to end. The artist has said he’d like to see Kryptos solved in his lifetime, but he also enjoys that some of the smartest minds in cryptography—including those at the CIA and NSA—continue to be baffled by his work.

Only two other people, aside from Sanborn, were initially said to know the solution to Kryptos: one was the retired chairman of the CIA’s Cryptographic Center, Ed Scheidt, who helped Sanborn choose and alter the coding techniques for the sculpture. The other was William Webster, the CIA director who received a sealed envelope containing the solution at the sculpture’s dedication. However, in 2005 Sanborn revealed to Wired that Scheidt and Webster only thought they knew the solution. In fact, he had deceived them.

In November 1989, after the East German government announced that its citizens were free from then on to cross over the Wall into West Berlin and West Germany, crowds of euphoric Germans began chipping away at the cement barrier. With this new clue provided by Sanborn, let the chipping away on Kryptos begin.

Why is China building an artificial island large enough for an airfield in disputed south sea waters?

  • Chinese officials have created a 3,000m-long reef in the Spratly Islands
  • Archipelago has been source of dispute between south Asian countries
  • Vietnamese, Malaysian and Filipino forces all have airfields in the water 
  • The developing Fiery Cross Reef may become China’s first airbase 
  • Air force colonel said the military needed facilities in South China Sea

Chinese officials are building the first island large enough for its own airfield in the middle of disputed waters in the south sea.

Satellite images revealed that since reclaiming the Spratly Islands in August, workers have expanded one stretch of sand to make it long enough for aircraft to land and take off.

Dredgers are also creating a harbour to the east of the reef large enough to receive tankers and warships.

The 3,000m patch Fiery Cross Reef forms part of the archipelago which has been at the heart of territorial disputes for years.

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Satellite images show that since reclaiming the Spratly Islands in August, workers have expanded one stretch of sand to make it long enough for aircraft to land and take off 

Satellite images show that since reclaiming the Spratly Islands in August, workers have expanded one stretch of sand to make it long enough for aircraft to land and take off

While the islands, named after the British sailor Richard Spratly who discovered them in 1843, lie between the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, they are host to a plethora of military machinery and resources owned by the Republic of China.

Fears that China intended to use the archipelago as a mineral-rich installation of military bases spread when officials began reclaiming the abandoned islands in August.

While the Chinese army controls many of the 750 islets and reefs, it does not yet have its own airfield in the south China sea unlike Malaysian, Vietnamese and Filipino forces.

According to imagery obtained by independent analysis company IHS, dredging has begun on Fiery Cross Reef to create a harbour large enough for military tankers.

China has used dredgers to construct an island about 3000 metres long and 200 to 300 metres wide on the reef, which was previously under water

China has used dredgers to construct an island about 3000 metres long and 200 to 300 metres wide on the reef, which was previously under water

Workers had built a reinforced seawall around an island on Johnson South Reef in the Spratly Islands by August (pictured)

Workers had built a reinforced seawall around an island on Johnson South Reef in the Spratly Islands by August (pictured)

This satellite image released in April 2014 showed substantial land reclamation, harbour redevelopment, and additional construction activity on Woody Island since October 2013

This satellite image released in April 2014 showed substantial land reclamation, harbour redevelopment, and additional construction activity on Woody Island since October 2013

Johnson South Reef, Cuateron Reef, and Gaven Reefs have all been expanded on since Chinese officials reclaimed the waters earlier this year, though the Fiery Cross Reef is the only island large enough for an airfield.  

Jin Zhirui, a colonel with the Chinese air force command, declined to confirm plans to build an airfield on the reef but said China needed to build facilities in the South China Sea for strategic reasons.

‘We need to go out, to make our contribution to regional and global peace.

‘We need support like this, including radar and intelligence.’

‘China has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Island’

Chinese fishing vessels anchored at Fiery Cross Reef on the disputed Spratly islands where China is thought to be building a massive island

Chinese fishing vessels anchored at Fiery Cross Reef on the disputed Spratly islands where China is thought to be building a massive island

An aerial photograph taken in 1999 shows Chinese workers building on sparse land in the Spratly Islands

An aerial photograph taken in 1999 shows Chinese workers building on sparse land in the Spratly Islands


The dispute centres around hundreds of tiny shoals, reefs and islets in the South China Sea known as the Spratlys and the Paracels.

Several south Asian countries stake claim to the territory, though China tries to control the largest portion of the archipelago.

Beijing has claimed its right to the collection of land masses is 2,000 years old which, they say, includes the islands in Chinese history.

Taiwan supports its claim, and has its own airfield on the island of Taiping.

Vietnamese officials say their government has ruled over the land since the 17th century whilst the Philippines, the closest geographically, says the islands belong to them.

In 1974, Chinese forces seized the Paracels from Vietnam, killing 70 troops.

There were further clashes between the two countries in 1988, with 60 Vietnamese soldiers killed.

In 2012 China and the Philippines were embroiled in a lengthy maritime standoff over a Scarborough Shoal.

The Filipino military employed its largest warship for the dispute over the stretch of water which they call Panatag.

Upon boarding a Chinese military vessel for inspection, officials claimed they found live sharks, clams and illegal reef.

Later, Vietnamese border agencies refused to stamp passports asserting Chinese sovereignty over a handful of the islands and in January it was claimed China would be taken to a UN tribunal to challenge its stake.

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3 Reasons People Misunderstand China

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Misunderstanding China,” China expert Michael Pillsbury claimed that China is difficult to understand and predict for the West. He states, “To this day there is no expert consensus on China’s economic growth and GDP, the size of its military and intelligence budgets, or even its intentions toward the West.” He is both correct and wrong. He is correct because even among the best experts on China’s security behavior, debates are heated (see here, here, and here), and one can find more diverse and extreme views on China among journalists and the public. But Pillsbury is wrong because he seems to put the blame on China experts themselves.

To be fair, it is not easy to accurately understand China. Many Chinese themselves do not fully understand China despite their cultural advantages and local knowledge. Today’s China is hard to fully understand because it is huge, rapidly changing, and complex.

That China is huge is probably agreed on by almost all China watchers. But in practice many of them seem to forget this important point when making conclusions about China. For example, when assessing China’s future economic growth, many analysts love to point out that China’s growth is slowing down to around 7.5 percent this year and see this as evidence of China’s coming collapse (here and here). Unfortunately, they seem to have forgotten that China already is the second largest economy in the world and for any large economy 7 percent growth would be a dream number. When was the last time a second largest economy grew at 7 percent? Can the U.S. and Japanese economies today dare to dream about 7, 6, or even 5 percent growth?

The point here is simply that China has already become a giant economy and it is time to take it seriously.

Another aspect of China that has been ignored often is the fact that China is changing very fast. This means that a lot of China’s problems that might seem serious and difficult to resolve might actually disappear quickly once the leadership has made up its mind. For instance, for years China has been criticized for its serious corruption problem. Many in the West simply reject the possibility that corruption can be curbed by the central government, believing that democracy is the only way to solve the problem. Now everyone seems surprised that China’s anti-corruption campaign is making real progress and shows no signs of slowing down.

Moreover, very few in the West, particularly in the media, seem to understand that China is indeed complex. Here “complex” simply means that China does not neatly fit into any existing models of governance such as democracy and authoritarian regime. The simple, linear, and ahistorical view of human development that has become so popular after the “end of history“ is now being challenged by China’s real practices. Even Francis Fukuyama himself has changed some of his views in recent years. Now Fukuyama believes that “a strong and effective” state is also important in governance. He even claimed that “U.S. democracy has little to teach China,” as he thought that China’s model of governance is unique. Regardless of what one thinks of Fukuyama’s claims, one thing is clear: using dominant Western concepts to understand China can be risky.

Needless to say, we shouldn’t go to another extreme to reject all Western concepts and frameworks in understanding China. That would be equally wrong. To improve our understandings of China, three specific things can be done. First, acknowledge that China might indeed be different (but not entirely different) from the West. There is nothing wrong here as universalism does not mean we all need to the same. Second, acknowledge the legitimacy of the CCP in China. No matter what you think of the CCP, it is going to be a dominant political force in China for a long time. Third, the media can start by reporting on China on a more balanced basis. Right now most media outlets seem to focus on the negative side of China’s development, which is necessary but not enough. There is no need to praise China, but a balanced view between negative and positive coverage can help readers better understand China.

China's Spratlys Airstrip Will Raise South China Sea Stakes
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

China’s Spratlys Airstrip Will Raise South China Sea Stakes

Late last week, an IHS Jane’s report corroborated claims that China was embarking on an island-building project in the South China Sea. Based on satellite imagery, Jane’s reported that China was building an airstrip-capable island on Fiery Cross Reef, a group of three reefs in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China claims the territory as part of Hainan province’s Sansha prefecture and exerts de facto control over the area. The reef’s central location in the broader South China Sea renders it a strategic position for an island-based airstrip.

The Jane‘s report substantiates speculation earlier this year that China was constructing an airstrip on a man-made island in the South China Sea. Based on the most recent satellite imagery, Jane’s notes that “Chinese dredgers have created a land mass that is almost the entire length of the reef.” Fiery Cross Reef is an underwater reef, but China is looking to develop a new island that is roughly 3 km long and 200 to 300 m wide — just wide enough for a functional airstrip. The strategic advantages of an airstrips in the middle of the South China Sea include shorter resupply routes for deployed PLAN patrols, a base for reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned system, and a potential permanent installation for anti-submarine warfare equipment including undersea radar arrays. For China, this island on Fiery Cross Reef could fulfill the strategic role of an “unsinkable aircraft carrier.” As Beijing continues to raise the stakes in the South China Sea, developments such as this airstrip will cause concern among the other claimants.

Of all the major claimants of South China Sea territory, China is the only one without an island-hosted airstrip in the region (outside of Hainan Island, off the Chinese coast). As a result, Beijing has claimed a disadvantage vis-a-vis the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and even Taiwan (Brunei is the only claimant without a similar asset). In real terms, however, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) remains the most capable navy in the region, both in terms of sheer size and in terms of modernization. Additionally, in recent years, China has significantly expanded its interest in backing up its territorial claims in the South China Sea with kinetic action — in 2012, it seized the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines and in 2014, it sent naval and coastguard ships into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to support the activities of an oil rig. China bases its claims to the South China Sea on historical maps that it argues are evidence of the South China Sea’s long-standing status as Chinese territory.

Look: Daredevil climbers release more sweat-inducing selfies from top of Hong Kong skyscrapers


We admit we’re a little late to the game with this one, but these images are too good not to share with you, our lovely readers.

Yet another group of Russian daredevils (always with the Russian daredevils) have scaled one of Hong Kong’s tallest skyscrapers to capture these images with a selfie stick dangling out some 350 meters above ground.



Alexander Remnev, 19, is part of the “Crazy Russians” roof-climbing team and the photographer behind these particular images. Above, the mad bastards conquer The Center, Hong Kong’s 5th tallest building at 346 meters high.




“I love to watch from above as the sun sets” Remnev previously told reporters. “I also like to sit on the roof with my friends and talk about topical issues or discuss the news. As a rule, we choose buildings in Moscow but when we’ve got spare time we will travel to other cities.”




Last month in Hong Kong, the Russian climbing duo On The Roofs hijacked a skyscraper billboard to project the words “WHAT’S UP HONG KONG” and then proceeded to take pictures on top of the structure like it was no big deal.



China’s Prescription for Troubled Xinjiang: The New Silk Road

Last week’s APEC summit in Beijing served as a major coming-out party for President Xi Jinping’s “one belt, one road” plan: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road. Kerry Brown ably explored the historical and diplomatic meaning of the initiative in a piece for China Power. However, it’s also worth looking in more detail at the domestic ramifications of the Silk Road plan, and particularly its meaning for China’s troubled western regions.

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) emerged as a major trouble spot domestically for China following violent riots and terrorist attacks within Xinjiang and as far away as Kunming and Beijing. Faced with this unrest, Beijing implemented a two-pronged strategy. First, the central government unleashed a severe crackdown on terrorist activities, resulting in mass arrests and trials. Second, Beijing doubled down on its previous strategy of promoting economic development in the region as a way of addressing ethnic tensions. The central government recognizes that unemployment and poverty among Uyghurs is a major driver of discontent.

In this context, the Silk Road initiative dovetails perfectly with China’s bid to develop its relatively poorer, underdeveloped central and western regions – including Xinjiang. The Silk Road Economic Belt provides a rationale for the central government to lavish spending on these inland regions. A report from Bloomberg says the government plans to set aside $16.3 billion for domestic infrastructure spending in support of the Silk Road. All of this money will be spent within China’s borders.

The effects of the Silk Road are already being felt in Xinjiang. Just this week, China opened the first leg of a new high-speed railway that will eventually connect Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, with Lanzhou, the capital of neighboring Gansu province. And it’s not only Xinjiang’s infrastructure that is garnering government-encouraged investment: Beijing and the provincial government have an ambitious plan to boost Xinjiang’s manufacturing, tourism, and even financial services industries, all as a part of Xinjiang’s new role as the gateway between China and Central Asia on the new Silk Road.

The newly-established city of Horgos is a case in point. Previously a small town of 85,000 on the border between China and Kazakhstan, Horgos has been targeted as a future transportation and commercial hub on the Silk Road. Already, trains filled with cargo are leaving from Horgos bound for Kazakhstan, Russia, and even Germany. In addition, Horgos is now home to China’s first-ever trans-border free trade development zone, with the zone encompassing both sides of the China-Kazakhstan border. The deputy director of the Horgos free-trade zone told the Wall Street Journal that more than 20 billion RMB ($3.25 billion) has already been invested in the Chinese side of the zone.

The impact on Horgos itself has been immense. Between January and August of 2014, Horgos’ government revenue was almost 80 percent higher than during the same period in 2013. That jump is almost entirely due to Horgos’ position as a “land port” for the Silk Road Economic Belt. The government’s hope is that this investment and employment boom will extend to other cities in Xinjiang.

However, Uyghur activists remain unconvinced that general economic investment is the answer to Xinjiang’s troubles. Alim Seytoff, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, told Al Jazeera that “Chinese investment has not brought so-called prosperity, stability or peace for the indigenous Uyghur people in East Turkestan.” In fact, he argued that increased strategic emphasis on Xinjiang has only brought more repression for native Uyghurs. Thus, Seytoff predicts that the recently revealed plan for a $40 billion Silk Road Fund “is really bad news for the Uyghur people.”

Xinjiang’s importance to the Silk Road concept is easily apparent just by glancing at a map. The XUAR borders Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. China’s connections with Central Asia in particular will necessarily flow through Xinjiang, giving the province a crucial geopolitical importance for China.

However, the importance of the Silk Road to Xinjiang (or, more accurately, to Beijing’s plans for Xinjiang) is equally noteworthy. China’s eastern coastal regions grew wealthy and developed rapidly thanks to their position as a gateway between China and the world. Under its “March West” policy, Beijing is placing more emphasis on the world beyond China’s western borders, in the hopes that doing so will help replicate eastern growth in China’s landlocked central regions. That’s a particularly important goal when it comes to Xinjiang, as Beijing feels increased general prosperity will go a long way toward solving China’s growing terrorism problem. The trick will be ensuring that the massive amounts of investment in Xinjiang actually help better the lives of current residents, rather than being monopolized by wealthier immigrants (a problem China has seen play out in Tibet and Xinjiang before).

Thank You, But We Prefer the Salt Monopoly

Chinese netizens fear that the end of government control will only bring more food scandals.

China is the world’s biggest consumer of salt — one kitchen staple that has so far remained unadulterated by the country’s many food safety scandals. But now Chinese netizens are worried that is about to change.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced on Nov. 20 that it will end the state monopoly on salt that has existed since 1950, according to a report by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). State media is touting the move as a step towards the market reforms that President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party have pushed as China’s export-oriented economy slows.

Yet the country’s netizens are far from rejoicing at what appears to be a step to rein in the power of China’s hulking state-owned enterprises. Rather, the question roiling China’s online social spaces after CCTV’s announcement seemed to be what will happen when profit-hungry fraudsters, eager to make a quick buck, jump into the newly open salt market.

“There will soon be frequent cases of industrial salt” — far cheaper than table salt — “being mixed with edible salt,” went one popular comment on Weibo, China’s huge Twitter-like microblogging platform. Another userwrote, “Soon the media will be putting out articles called ‘How to tell industrial salt from table salt.'” The topic seemed to resonate; “salt monopoly abolished” became a top-trending hashtag on Weibo, and one related post on CCTV’s official Weibo account quickly garnered over 1,300 comments. One user commented cynically, “I’ve eaten all kinds of fake products; now I will finally have the opportunity to eat fake salt!”

In the past decade, frequent food safety scandals have rocked China, ravaging consumer confidence in Chinese food products.

In the past decade, frequent food safety scandals have rocked China, ravaging consumer confidence in Chinese food products. In late 2008, six infants died and 294,000 fell ill after domestic infant milk powder manufacturers secretly added melamine, a chemical toxic to humans, to help milk pass nutrition tests. The scandal sparked a massive public outcry and led many Chinese consumers to abandon Chinese-made milk powder altogether, perhaps permanently — in 2013, five years after the original scandal, so many mainland Chinese made the trek to Hong Kong to buy imported foreign milk powder that the local government imposed a customs limit of two cans per person to prevent shortages in the city. Scandals involving “gutter oil” — putrid leftover cooking oil thrown out by restaurants only to be salvaged, rebottled, and sold on the cheap to street food vendors — have also gained notoriety around the country. In Jan. 2014, authorities even handed a suspended death to sentence to one schemer whose gutter oil ring did an estimated $8 million in illicit sales. Sensational food safety violations pop up regularly:bleached chicken feet in Sept. 2014, cat meat sold as rabbit meat in Oct. 2013, and dumplings containing insecticide in Jan. 2008.To be sure, China’s ongoing food safety issues stem from a variety of sources, some of which involve weak or non-existent government oversight. But many on Chinese social media seem to trust a government-run monopoly to keep salt safe for consumption far more than they do the free market. “In recent years, table salt is practically the only product yet to be affected by food safety issues,” one popularcomment read. “If salt is privatized, it will be difficult to prevent fraudulent products.” Another post read, “Compared to other food products, salt is both cheap and hygienic. Is there any way to get rid of the costs of monopoly while keeping its benefits?”

Getty Images

Now absolutely everyone can invest in China’s risky, fraud-ridden stock market

November 17, 2014

HONG KONG – It’s been a bumpy ride beset by delays and last-minuteclarifications, but today marks the start of trading in the much-anticipated Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, or as it’s known colloquially, “the through-train.”

This landmark agreement between the Shanghai and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges will give foreign investors direct access to Shanghai-listed shares through the Hong Kong stock exchange for the first time. Mainland investors that meet a minimum asset requirement will also be able to trade Hong Kong-listed shares through the Shanghai stock exchange.

Previously, foreign investors were only able to invest directly in Chinese stocks listed on the Hong Kong exchange, known as H shares, or through a very restrictive “qualified foreign institutional investors” plan.

Stock Connect immediately creates one of the largest stock markets in the world, with a combined market cap of $5.6 trillion (pdf, pg. 37). And when the Shenzhen Stock Exchange joins Stock Connect next year, the combined exchange would be the world’s second largest, just behind the NYSE.

Starting today, any investor with a broker in Hong Kong, be they a hedge fund, a high net worth individual or a mum or dad from Minnesota, can now invest directly in any of the 568 Chinese companieslisted on the Shanghai stock exchange. Friday’s announcement by the Chinese Ministry of Finance that foreign investors will be exempt from paying capital gains tax, albeit for an unspecified period, makes it even more attractive.

But just because nearly anyone can now invest in Shanghai-listed companies doesn’t mean everyone should. Chinese economist Wu Jinglian famously described the exchange as “worse than a casino” more than a decade ago, and it is hard to find evidence that the situation has improved substantially since.

Of great concern, particularly for retail investors and pension fund managers with limited experience in Asian markets, are the often questionable standards of corporate governance in Chinese companies. That goes hand-in-hand with high levels of corruption that, as Xi Jinping’s recent clamp-down has shown, reaches the highest levels of government.

Philippa Allen, CEO of the consulting group ComplianceAsia, said “inherent non-compliance” among companies listed on the Shanghai stock exchange is the most fundamental problem Stock Connect faces.

“You’ve got massive amounts of insider dealing, massive amounts of manipulation in that market,” she said. “There’s no sense of governance and there will be some firms that choose not to be involved with it.”

Damien Horth, Asia Pacific head of research at Swiss bank UBS, warned that governance and regulatory matters are always going to be an issue in developing markets like China. “Any investor needs to go into an opportunity like this with their eyes wide open,” he said.

Fraud is not only prevalent, it is often long-running. Last year, regulators found that Wanfu Biotechnology Agricultural Development had overstated its financials for four years in a row, adding 740 million yuan ($120 million) to is revenues. Another biotechnology company, Yunnan Green-Land Biological, faked its assets and revenues for three years in a row before being caught.

China’s regulators have tacitly acknowledged that the Shanghai exchange has troubles with transparency. The Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) suspended all new IPOs for a 14 month period in 2012 while it worked on a new registration system to prevent the wide-scale fraud that was plaguing new listings. Ping An Securities, which brought Wanfu to the market, had its underwriting privilegeshalted for three months after the fraud came to light.

Stock Connect also poses custody and settlement issues for investors on both sides of the market. In a possible attempt to limit day trading, investors cannot buy and sell a given stock on the same day. Daily and aggregate quotas will also cap trading on both sides, although many analysts believe these will eventually be removed.

Still, the through train that starts running today marks a monumental change in the Chinese government’s regulation of its financial markets. “China doesn’t do things on gut instinct,” said Chris Jenkins, Asia Pacific managing director of the trading technology group Tora. “It has a plan, and this is the start of the opening up of China’s capital markets to foreign investment.”

Horth was even more effusive about the opportunities. “I don’t think there has been a time in my professional career, and that’s 25 years, where investors have seen a market of this size and opportunity open up,” he said.

The government is trying to push forward with market reforms and anti-corruption campaigns, and many market analysts believe that new institutional money being invested in Shanghai stocks may ultimately improve transparency and regulatory standards. Allen warned, however, that this “won’t happen overnight.”

I Wish Someone Had Told Me This Before I Became a PoliticianA letter to a young liberal



I was touched that you asked for my advice about going into politics. Anyone whose career in politics was nasty, brutish, and shortas mine wasis grateful that anyone thinks their opinion is worth hearing. All I’d claim is that my thoughts come with what Scott Fitzgerald called “the authority of failure.”

First of all, you need to know why you want it. You’d be amazed at how many people who go into politics can’t give you an honest answer to why they want it so badly.

All the best reasons for going into politics never really change: the desire for glory and fame and the chance to do something that really matters, that will make life better for a lot of people. You have to be one of those people with outsized, even laughable ambition, who want their convictions to mean something more than smart conversation at dinner tables. You have to have a sense of vocation, a belief that something must be done and that you’re the person to do it.

I had the vocation for politics. What I didn’t have was any aptitude for political combat. I took the attacks personally, which is a great mistake. It’s never personal: It’s just business. It was ever thus. You can prepare yourself for combat by going in as a staffer, watching it from the sidelines, as I did when I was in my twenties, but believe me, when you step in the ring yourself, the first punch always comes as a shock. That’s when you’ll know, as you snap your head back into place, whether your first instinct is fight or flight.

I went into politics thinking that, if I made arguments in good faith, I’d get a hearing. It’s a reasonable assumption, but it’s wrong. In five and a half years in politics up north, no one really bothered to criticize my ideas, such as they were. It was never my message that was the issue. It was always the messenger.

They will not attack what you say, so much as your right to say anything at all. In my case, they said I’d been out of the country too long, I wasn’t really “one of us,” but one of “them.” I was just visiting.

The attacks that are hardest to deal with are not the ones that are false, but the ones that have a sliver of truth. Being out of the country was nothing to be ashamed of, but it didn’t exactly help me to establish the trust that any politician must establish with voters.

Conjuring that trust requires authenticity. You can’t pretend to be somebody you’re not. People who say politics is acting get it wrong. You’re not playing a role. You’re on stage, true enough, but you’re playing yourself. People don’t have to identify with your life in order to vote for you, but they have to believe that you are who you say you are.

You will now list for me all the duplicitous villains who attained power without being authentic. You misunderstand me. A man like Nixon had authenticity aplenty. Voters knew exactly who he was: suspicious, manipulative, duplicitous, and just like them. They saw through him to themselves.

To be authentic, you have to own your life. All of it. John Kerry fell victim to the swift-boat attack because he couldn’t own the young lieutenant back from Vietnam who gave that damning testimony in Congress about the terrible things he witnessed up the Mekong Delta. He was unable, deep inside, to say, “Yes, I was that young lieutenant.” If you don’t want to vote for a man who criticized his country, go ahead. People, it turns out, will forgive candidates almost anything if they fight for their right to be themselves.

The real battle in politics is this battle over standing, your right to get a hearing as the person you are. Once the swift-boat attacks hit their target, once he failed to reply, Kerry could talk, but no one was listening. He had lost his standing. Once my opponents said I was just visiting, I lost mine. I could speak, but I couldn’t be heard.

So my advice is: Never let your opponents own your story. If you can’t do this truthfully, choose another business. And if you can’t defend your own life when people attack it, there are plenty of other lives you could choose that don’t require the same naked exposure.

It doesn’t pay, either, to pretend to be better than the business you’re in. You can’t succeed in politics if you give too much appearance of despising the low arts by which we govern ourselves. Fastidious distaste for the roughness and meanness of political life may work in a seminar room, but it’s fatal on the campaign trail.

It is really something in life to be utterly disabused about human motive, and yet still come to work every day.

This distaste is common among people who’ve enjoyed success outside of politics, in academia or journalism or business, and who go into politics with the reasonable assumption that the prestige they achieved in their former profession should automatically transfer into politics. It doesn’t. People who think they’re entitled to standingbecause they are brainy, rich, or famousalmost always lose. They forget you earn your standing, you are not entitled to it. That’s the best thing about democracy, the single reason why we’re not yet entirely governed by wealthy oligarchs.

I may have come into politics with an unacknowledged condescension toward the game and the people who played it, but I left with more respect for politicians than when I went in. The worst of themthe careerists and predatorsyou find in all professions. The best of them were a credit to democracy. They knew the difference between an adversary and an enemy, knew when to take half a loaf and when to insist on the whole bakery, knew when to trust their own judgment and when to listen to the people.

As I learned while watching wiser colleagues than I in a democratic legislature, it is really something in life to be utterly disabused about human motive, venality, capacity for double-crossing, and yet still come to work every day, trying to get something done.

Liberalism will become an enclave conviction of a shrinking minority unless those who call themselves liberal reconnect their faith in tolerance, equality, opportunity for all with the more difficult faith in the dirty, loud-mouthed, false, lying business of politics itself. This disdain is cynicism, masking as high principle. The ultimate allegiance of a democratic politician is not to party, not even to principle, but to the venal process called politics. So my final advice is this: Politics is not a vulgar means to a goal, it’s a noble life unto itself, and unless you love it, you can’t do it well. I didn’t get there, but I hope you will.

Warmly, Michael

Michael Ignatieff teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics is about his career as former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Abe’s Humiliation in Beijing
Image Credit: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Abe’s Humiliation in Beijing

For decades, Sino-Japanese relations were conducted under the principle of “separating politics and economics” (seikei bunri). In fact, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s 2006 book Utsukushii Kuni e [Towards a Beautiful Country], which embodied his grand vision for Japan during his first prime ministership, referred explicitly to Japan’s bifurcated policy of seikei bunri as the guiding principle of the Japan-China relationship.

All that changed in September 2010 when the Japan Coast Guard arrested a Chinese fishing boat captain and detained his ship in the waters off Kubajima in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which inflamed both sides of the territorial dispute between the two nations. It was followed two years later by the Noda government’s purchase of the islands from their private owner and their subsequent nationalization, which further infuriated the Chinese. Cementing hostilities was Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in December 2013.

Politics then very much entered the relationship, with China adopting a dual strategy of political confrontation and military intimidation, particularly in the area around the disputed Islands. As a result, the Japanese private sector lost confidence in seikei bunri. Many Japanese enterprises withdrew from China, leaving only those that still had confidence in “private businesses unaffected by politics.” As Fukunari Kimura argues in his forthcoming contribution to The Political Economy of Japanese Trade Policy book (PalgraveMacmillan, 2015), although China remained important for Japanese businesses as both a production base and as a market, new investment in China by Japanese firms clearly slowed. In 2013, China lost its No. 1 spot for the first time in the annual questionnaire by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, which asks Japanese manufacturing firms what countries are prospective investment destinations in the forthcoming three years or so. China had held this position since 1992, but in 2013 it fell to No. 4 behind Indonesia, India and Thailand. Restoring this investment relationship was an important factor encouraging the Xi Jinping regime to countenance a personalmeeting between Xi himself and Abe on the sidelines of the recent APEC summit in Beijing.

If the atmospherics of the much-touted meeting between the two leaders are anything to go by, however, then the Sino-Japanese relationship has a long way to go before it could be regarded as reverting to the seikei bunriprinciple, or “normalized.”

Although Xi met Abe, he managed to snub him at the same time. Not only was Abe left standing in the Great Hall of the People while he waited for Xi’s entrance (in a complete reversal of normal protocol), but when the two leaders actually did meet, Abe extended his hand in a friendly gesture, smiled and said a few words. This was barely reciprocated. Xi just shook Abe’s hand, said nothing and turned away. This simple gesture displayed a remarkable lack of hospitality towards a state guest who was clearly treated with disdain, as a Japanese Foreign Ministry official put it.

Xi’s undiplomatic behavior was quite striking to any observer. His facial expression seemed to say, “I don’t want to see you,” in contrast to the smiles that he showed when greeting the Russian and South Korean leaders. This just emphasized how bad Japan-China relations were in comparison. In a later Chinese talk show, the MC remarked on Xi’s expression and attitude, which he described as “stern.” On the whole, the Chinese media largely ignored the Abe-Xi meeting.

The state press agency Xinhua also reported Xi as lecturing Abe on how Japan should behave in the future, including following the path of peaceful development and adopting “prudent military and security policies.” Abe might well have responded with the comment, “and the same to you.”

Subsequently, clear differences can be discerned in the way in which the significance of the meeting and the prior written agreement between the two governments that facilitated it have been reported in Japan and China. These differences may sew the seeds for further disputation in the future

First, while the meeting was understood in Japan to be a first step towards improving relations, in China, reports strongly suggested that there was still a long way to go before relations could be improved.

Second, in a partial break with previous policy that no territorial dispute existed between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu, Japan “acknowledged that the two countries have different views.” However, this statement was interpreted differently in each country. In Japan, “different views” did not, according to theNihon Keizai Shinbun, affect the standpoint that Japan had been adopting thus far in terms of territorial rights (namely, that no territorial dispute existed between the two nations). As expected, in China, however, a local paper in Shanghai ran the headline, “Japan admitted that there is a sovereignty dispute over the Diaoyu Islands for the first time.”

Far from the hoped-for breakthrough in relations, it would appear that the Abe-Xi meeting was a very small step on a very long road towards normalizing Sino-Japanese relations. Xi’s attitude was particularly cold, as if he were discouraging any optimism about the relationship improving any time soon, particularly from the Chinese side. The Shanghai newspaper reported that while the meeting was a first step in improving the bilateral relationship, the battle over historical and territorial issues continued. Certainly the message on Xi’s face when greeting Abe conveyed this view.

Aurelia George Mulgan is professor of Japanese Politics, University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, Australia. She is the author of six books on Japanese politics (the latest “Ozawa Ichiro and Japanese Politics: Old Versus New,” Nissan/Routledge 2014).

China's Selling the J-31, But Who's Buying?
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

China’s Selling the J-31, But Who’s Buying?

Who’s going to buy the J-31?

The recent appearance of the aircraft at the Zhuhai airshow, as well as the comments of a smattering of Chinese officials, led to a spate of articles suggesting that China was interested in the J-31 primarily as an export model. Conceivably, the J-31 could occupy a low-end stealth fighter niche that currently has no other entrants.

Some have billed the J-31 as China’s answer to the F-35, as if that represented some sort of compliment. It’s hardly a stretch to suggest Pakistan would be a major customer, and perhaps Egypt as well.  Beyond that?  The United States can offer the F-35 to a wide range of European and Asian countries, all of which have strong economies, big defense budgets, an appetite for high tech, and an interest in cementing the long-term technological and political relationship with the United States.

Beijing doesn’t have the kind of friends that would do it the favor of buying something like the F-35. If the sanctions on Iran ease up in the wake of a successful nuclear deal, Tehran will be looking to buy advanced fighters.  If the Assad government ever manages to win its civil war, it too will need new fighters, but probably won’t be able to afford anything like the J-31.  The Gulf monarchies buy weapons in order to create political ties, and are unlikely to shift their attention from Washington to Beijing unless the international system changes in immense and unforeseen ways.

Malaysia and Indonesia have been known to make adventurous decisions with respect to fighter purchases, but given the tensions in the South China Seas, it’s unlikely that China would want to significantly increase their capabilities, or that they’d want to tie themselves to Chinese support. Several Latin American countries may soon recapitalize their air forces, but the Europeans seem to have a leg up in that market, and thus far the Latin Americans seem satisfied with reliable generation 4.5 fighters.

Russia and India, of course, are right out.

At this point, no one has a good sense of how much the J-31 might cost, or how the Chinese might try to package it.  If the J-31 resembles the F-35 in anything but superficial terms, the system add-ons will matter as much as the airframe itself. The F-35, after all, sells itself as the center of a system of sensor and communications systems that facilitates air command.  This system requires a variety of other components (drones, EW aircraft, satellites), and the system is enhanced by the capacity of F-35s to work together to create a more accurate vision of the battlespace.

There’s no indication as of yet that the J-31 is supposed to have these kinds of emergent capabilities, and there’s little sense that China is capable of developing and exporting such systems along with the airframe.  America’s friends buy the F-35 because they worry that their legacy aircraft won’t be able to coordinate effectively with U.S. planes in multilateral combat situations.  China doesn’t have this kind of relationship with anyone, and consequently can’t make one of the biggest cases for buying a fifth generation fighter.

Competing with the F-35 requires more than developing an effective airframe.  The F-35 remains attractive not because it’s awesome, but because it’s embedded in a larger set of political and technological relationships.  China has a lot of work to do before it can compete with that.

China’s Deceptively Weak Anti-Satellite Capabilities
Image Credit: Flickr/ thebadastronomer

China’s Deceptively Weak Anti-Satellite Capabilities

In May 2013, the Pentagon suggested that a high altitude Chinese sub-orbital space launch—claimed to be a scientific mission by China—was in reality the first test of an anti-satellite (ASAT) interceptor that would reach all the way to geo-synchronous earth orbit. Previously, on January 11, 2007, China had successfully launched an ASAT missile against one of its own low earth orbit (LEO) weather satellites.

These and other Chinese actions have provoked strong concerns within the U.S. about China’s motivations.James R. Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, for example, recently told a Senate hearing that: “Chinese and Russian military leaders understand the unique information advantages afforded by space systems and are developing capabilities to disrupt U.S. use of space in conflict. Chinese military writings highlight the need to interfere with, damage, and destroy reconnaissance, navigation, and communication satellites.”

While these concerns have some validity, all U.S. military satellites are not equally vulnerable to a Chinese ASAT attack. Furthermore, the benefits from an ASAT attack are limited and would not confer decisive military advantage in every plausible conflict.

Limits of the Possible

The substantial range of orbital altitude—1,000 kilometers to 36,000 kilometers—across which satellites operate from poses a challenge to China’s ability to attack U.S. military satellites. U.S. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) satellite that operate at altitudes less than 1,000 kilometers are theoretically most vulnerable to an ASAT attack by China’s Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs). Although the 2007 Chinese ASAT test demonstrated an intercept of this type, there is no publicly available data on the conditions under which the test occurred. How long was the target satellite tracked? Was it transmitting telemetry data providing its orbital location information? These conditions matter. If the U.S. slightly changed the parameters of a satellite’s orbit (for example, its inclination), will China still be able to track, target and intercept the satellite?

Unlike the U.S., China has a very limited satellite tracking capability, most of which are based in its territory and possibly a few ships. A first order technical analysis—assuming China cannot pre-determine a point of intercept—suggests it would be extremely difficult for China to successfully execute an ASAT operation without extensive tracking capability. This is due to the difference between the velocity of the target satellite and the ASAT missile. The satellite is traveling at approximately 7.5 km/s. In the approximately three minutes of boost available to the missile, the satellite travels a distance of 1,350 km. For a successful intercept, in the same three minutes the ASAT missile will have to travel up to the altitude of the satellite (say 800 km) and, at the same time, compensate for the 1,350 km the satellite traverses using its lateral acceleration forces.

Unlike ISR satellites, GPS and military communication satellites are completely invulnerable to China’s current missile arsenal. Even China’s most powerful missiles, its solid-fueled Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) would not be able to reach an altitude of 20,000 km where GPS satellites operate, much less the 36,000 km where U.S. military communications satellites operate. In order to reach higher orbit satellites, China would have to build new and more powerful ICBMs. Even if China manages to develop such an ICBM, it certainly will not be able to easily proliferate a large number of them without imposing substantial financial strain on itself. Alternatively, China can use its liquid-fueled space launch vehicles.

However, even if Chinese space launch vehicles could reach these higher orbits in time to intercept U.S. satellites, executing a number of these launches in quick succession is close to impossible. Its infrastructure limits such a venture. For example, China launched a total of eight annual space launches to orbits higher than LEO in 2012, nine in 2011, eight in 2010, two in 2009 (with one failure), and four in 2008. In the last five years the two quickest back-to-back launches to orbits higher than LEO occurred with a gap of 15 days. Finally, unlike the ICBMs which can be quickly fired, liquid-fueled space launch vehicles take time to fuel and these preparations are very visible. If the U.S. anticipates and observes China preparing for an ASAT attack, it could destroy the launch vehicles during the preparation stages.

Alternate Platforms and Redundancies

Furthermore, the presence of alternate platforms and built-in redundancies substantially limit the advantages that China can obtain from anti-satellite operation against the U.S. For example, in the case ISR satellites, the U.S. possesses an extensive array of airborne platforms that can duplicate and likely outperform many missions that are also performed by satellites. A few of these airborne platforms are: U-2, E-8C Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), RC-135 Rivet Joint, EP-3 (Aries II), E-3 Sentry and E-2C Hawkeye.  In addition, America possesses a number of UAVs like the RQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-1 Predator, MQ-SX, MQ-9 Reaper, MQ-1C Grey Eagle, MQ-5 Hunter, MQ-8 Firescout and RQ-7. All recent U.S. military operations have extensively employed these airborne ISR systems. In the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom, for example, coalition Air Forces employed 80 aircraft that flew nearly 1,000 ISR sorties during the initial weeks, collecting 42,000 battlefield images and more than 3,000 hours of full motion video. They also provided 2,400 hours of SIGINT coverage and 1,700 hours of moving target indicator data.

These airborne platforms also have standoff capability and should be able to operate safely outside of China’s inland air defense systems in a hypothetical conflict in the 180 kilometer long Taiwan Straits. All of these platforms will be used in a conflict in the Taiwan Straits, raising questions about the unique value of attacking U.S. ISR satellites. Why would China choose to focus on attacking ISR satellites when airborne platforms probably pose a much greater threat and would be easier to attack?

In the case of GPS satellites, the redundancy of the constellation limits what China can achieve. The GPS constellation consists of around 30 satellites in six orbital planes. This orbital arrangement guarantees that the navigation signal of at least four satellites can be received at any time all over the world. To meaningfully impact U.S. performance—for example, force U.S. ships to operate without access to accurate GPS navigation signals in the Taiwan Straits region—China would have to successfully attack and disable at least six GPS satellites. Even if six GPS satellites are destroyed in an elaborate ASAT operation, the degradation in navigation signals lasts only for a period of 95 minutes. What would China gain from 95 minutes of GPS degradation? U.S. ships and aircraft have accurate inertial navigation systems that would still permit them to operate in the region. As for the ability to use GPS-guided bombs, the U.S. could shift to laser-guided bombs. In fact, between Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, DOD decreased the use of GPS-guided bombs by about 13 percent and increased the use of laser-guided bombs by about 10 percent.

Finally, in the case of communication satellites, a Chinese ASAT operation has its own problem: escalation control. The Naval Telecommunications System (NTS) that would be supporting the U.S. Navy in a conflict is very elaborate. It is comprised of three elements: (1) tactical communications among afloat units around a battle group, (2) long-haul communications between the shore-based forward Naval Communications Stations (NAVCOMSTAs) and forward-deployed afloat units, and (3) strategic communication connecting NAVCOMSTAs with National Command Authorities (NCA).

The first element consists of tactical communication between close formations (25-30 kilometers) using “line-of-sight” radio. For communication with picket ships and between formed groups (300-500 kilometers) “extended line-of-sight” radio are used.  Satellites do not play a major role here.

In contrast, the third element, consisting of strategic communications, is largely dependent on satellites. Therefore, the component of NTS that China would be able to disrupt with its ASATs is strategic communications that would connect the NCA with the forward-deployed battle group. This poses a unique problem. Normally, China should prefer to disable the communication capabilities within the forward-deployed battle group and then negotiate with the NCA to have the battle group withdraw or stand down. However, it can only accomplish the opposite. By using ASATs, China would cut off the forward-deployed battle group from its NCA but not be able to significantly disable the battle group’s ability to execute its naval mission. China could hope that such an attack might force the battle group to stand down. However, it will also have to contend with the possibility that the battle group commander would act more rashly in the absence of direct guidance from the NCA, particularly if combat maneuvers have been initiated. Would China be willing to take such risk? Arguably, the risk might not be worth the potential escalation it might trigger.

Policy Recommendations

The various arguments expounded above paint a nuanced picture on American vulnerabilities in space and China’s potential to exploit it. Just because the U.S. armed forces use satellites more than any other military does not make these satellites immediate and obvious targets. Convincing the Chinese of this might be the best way to dissuade their anti-satellite activities. There are a number of steps the U.S. can take to do that:   

  1. The presence of alternate systems gives a large measure of operational security to U.S. forces—enabling them to operate in an environment with degraded satellite services. Such systems should be more effectively integrated into U.S. military operations.
  2. The U.S. should demonstrate its ability to use measures like satellite sensor shielding and collision avoidance maneuvers for satellites that would dilute an adversary’s ASAT potential.
  3. Monitoring mechanisms that provide long warning times and the ability to definitively identify an attacker in real time should be a priority. Examples of these include the ground based Rapid Attack, Identification, Detection, and Reporting System (RAIDRS), which is used to identify, characterize and geo-locate attacks against U.S. satellites, and the upcoming Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness (SSA) that would provide a continuous monitoring of satellites.

These military-technical solutions might provide some relief, however, it is important to acknowledge and address legitimate Chinese concerns about U.S. weapons programs, including missile defenses in order dissuade China. Central to the threat of China’s ASAT is the incongruence Beijing perceives between the capabilities of U.S. and PLA forces. While it may not be politically possible to address all Chinese concerns, engaging and addressing some of them is a sensible way to build a stable and cooperative regime in space.

Such inducements will require more cooperative ventures that integrate China more deeply into the global space community. The U.S. could, for example, make available U.S. data on satellite traffic and collisions that would help China streamline its space operations. Such gestures will demonstrate a modicum of goodwill, which can encourage further cooperation.  However, the U.S. has been more forthcoming and willing to ink data sharing arrangements with allies than with China. Although there may be security reasons behind this preference to engage primarily with allies, it is important to realize that China is the nation that needs to be most induced to contribute to the peaceful development of space operations. Any coherent plan to dissuade and deter China from employing an ASAT attack will also have to include bilateral discussions.

Discussions over possible space arms control will provide opportunities to convince China of important thresholds. For example, as Micah Zenko of the Council of Foreign Relations suggests, if China believes shooting down U.S. early-warning satellites would be de-escalatory and stabilizing in a naval encounter with the U.S., it should be told clearly that is not the case. U.S. military satellites that provide missile early-warning have a tactical utility but, more importantly, they also serve to maintain the stability of nuclear deterrence between the U.S. and China. China should be convinced that attacking these satellites will provoke swift reprisal attacks. Finally, engaging in negotiations over space security and demonstrating leadership with such measures will help characterize the U.S. as a responsible actor; and therefore render it with the authority to respond with force when an attack is made on its own or allied space assets.

Jaganath Sankaran is an Associate with the International Security Program/Project on Managing the Atom Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He was previously a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the RAND Corp. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the topic of space security. A more detailed version of this op-ed will be published in a forthcoming article in the Strategic Studies Quarterly.

You are here: Home >> Vantage Point | Posted On Wednesday, 2013 Jul 10

AUTHOR: Story Architect: Juliet Feng
Contributing writers: Coco Shen, Cecilia Chan
Translators: Coco Shen, Cecilia Chan, Rachel Gouk, Peijin Chen
Special Thanks to the Shanghai History Museum

While the rest of the world was facing the Great Depression, Shanghai was experiencing perhaps its most affluent era. During the 30s, when little separated city from country, Shanghai became the first metropolis in the Far East, and was venerated as the ‘Paris of the Orient’. From ballroom dancing and horserace betting, to catching the latest Hollywood films and passing time in Parisian-style coffee shops, Shanghai underwent a drastic process of Westernization.

Luxurious Nightlife
The 1930s saw foreigners and Chinese from across the nation flock to Shanghai to get rich fast and indulge in life’s guilty pleasures, the most popular being the city’s burgeoning nightlife. There were several ballrooms of various sizes and catering to different social classes scattered across the city. Ciro’s, Xin Xian Lin, Metropolitan Ballroom and Paramount Hall were the most high-profile spots. These ballrooms typically charged patrons based on the number of songs they wanted to dance to, with noteworthy venues charging a hefty one yuan for three songs. The ballrooms were managed on the principle of exclusivity, and therefore reserved the city’s best jazz bands, musicians and dancers for their venues alone. Every weekend, like today’s ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ the rich and famous would don Western-style outfits and escort Shanghai’s qipao-clad beauties to spend a night gliding around a dance floor of neon lights to the world’s latest jazz numbers.

Located near Jing’an Temple, Paramount Hall was the origin and epitome of Shanghai’s nightlife culture, a place where Chinese tycoons and gangsters mingled with beautiful women and foreign travellers in a setting of dizzying opulence. A-list patrons of the time include the 20th-century Chinese political and military leader Chiang Kai-shek, the patriotic hero Zhang Xueliang, notorious gangsters Huang Jinrong and Du Yuesheng and the famous poet Xu Zhimo. Famously, when Charlie Chaplin visited China and only stayed for a single day, he spent it at Paramount Hall.

Ciro’s Ballroom

Four years after Paramount opened to the public, a rival luxury ballroom was built. The newly built ballroom surpassed the Paramount in many ways, as it covered a vast 10 mu (imperial units of land area) and was refurbished with modern automatic lights and heating and cooling facilities. The owner was property tycoon Victor Sassoon, the man behind the Messrs Sassoon Sons & Co empire, who decided to build his own ballroom after an infamous incident. One night, when Sassoon visited Paramount, the ballroom manager, unaware of his status, didn’t treat him in a manner befitting his wealth. Sassoon lost his temper and stormed out, and the rest is history. Ciro’s takes its style from the most popular ballroom in New York at the time and hired high-profile bands and dancers of the same standing.

‘Spring Floor’ in Paramount Ballroom
The Paramount Ballroom is an exercise in extravagance, costing a staggering 600,000 silver (the Chinese currency at the time) to build, it typified the culture of consumption of the era. The building’s style is Art Deco, the pinnacle of architectural fashion for its time. The interior is even more extravagant with crystal and marble-clad surfaces at every turn, while the iconic dance floor is illuminated by more than 50,000 lights. The highlight of Paramount Hall is the dancing experience, the dance floor is sprung so that not only does it improve the dancing but you can feel the music and movements of other dancers through the floor, and you can feel the vibrancy in the room.

At the Movies

During the 1920s and 1930s, going to the movies became one of the most fashionable ways to spend the evening. The theaters were filled with all types of peoples, from young couples on dates and stay-at-home wives looking to kill time to the very stars pictured on screen. It is said that Lu Xun, the world-renowned Chinese writer, watched more than 100 movies during the last 20 years of his life. At the time, Zhang Ailing, a noteworthy female writer, was one of the first film critics, as she would regularly attend screenings and write reviews.

During this period, going to the movies became as popular and regular a social activity as inviting people to dinner. At its advent in Shanghai, film screenings were mobile, as Westerners would show movies in public areas like parks and teahouses. It wasn’t until Spanish entrepreneur Antonio Ramos set up an iron house in 1908 near Haining Road and Zhapu Road that China saw it’s first cinema: the Hongkew Motion Picture Theater. Establishing a permanent venue made the pastime more accessible. The 20s saw the motion picture’s most popular era as the number of movie theaters doubled in Shanghai in the five years from 1927 to 1932 to a total of 50 theaters; the three most popular theaters were The Grand Theater, Cathay Theater and Nanjing Grand Theater.

The high-class theaters were first to screen the latest Hollywood and domestic movies. Such theaters were renowned for their luxury and exclusivity: Going to the movies became a fashionable activity for society’s elite, as men would see fit to style their hair while women would don their most expensive outfits.

The Best Movie Theater in the Far East
The Grand Theater on West Nanjing Road, not to be confused with the Shanghai Grand Theatre, was known as the best theater in Shanghai in its day. It boasted luxurious facilities, the best service and the highest quality of sound and film. The wide-screen displays and expensive stereo system were revolutionary in China’s movie projection development. In 1933, celebrated Hungarian architect Lázló Hudec remodeled the theater, transforming the three-story building into a stylish art deco building.

In the 30s-era of Hollywood films, nearly every popular translated foreign film was screened at The Grand Theater. The audience would receive beautifully printed brochures containing information about the movie, its actors and directors, as well as posters and poetic catchphrases reminiscent of today’s movie trailers. To help viewers better understand the plot, the theater offered an advanced interpretation system imported from the U.S. Every seat was outfitted with a set of headphones that would project the voice of an interpreter nicknamed ‘Miss Earphone,’ who would describe the plot and dialogue to the audience. It was the first time earphones were seen in China, and patrons could enjoy in the experience for an extra 10 cents.

Dreaming of a Race Pay Day

As one of the West’s most popular sporting events, it wasn’t long before horse racing made its way to the ‘Paris of the Orient.’ The British loved the pastime so much that they brought the practice to Shanghai, setting up a racecourse in the centre of town. Not only did this introduce a popular form of entertainment, but also the gambling culture that came with it, spurring dreams of overnight riches. Shanghai’s first racetrack was built in 1850 on Nanjing and Henan Road, with three more circuits opening over the next ten years.

At first, winners on the races were not awarded prize money, but bottles of champagne, leading to the betting slip moniker “champagne ticket”. Later, cash rewards were established, and the highest jackpot was reportedly up to 224,000 Yin Yuan, the silver currency at the time. The high-profit bets took the East by storm, spreading nationwide and even making it possible for those outside Shanghai to purchase betting slips from cigarette shops. The races transformed the Bund into a wealthy area overnight, bringing windfalls to lucky punters, while bankrupting many more.

The Far East’s First Raceclub

In its wake, horseracing culture left behind a lot of English-influenced architecture including a building completed in 1932 by Englishman Mohair Matheson. This never-before-seen structure of reinforced steel and concrete cost a staggering two million silver dollars. At 100 meters high, its construction area of 21,000 square meters included a dramatic 53-meter tower. The four-story building contained the racetracks’ ticketing office, a member’s club and an indoor swimming pool, as well as an area for awarding ticket winners. This historical site is still intact and has been used for art and cultural purposes such as the Shanghai Art Music event.

Shopping Mecca

During the 1930s, Shanghai became a shopping mecca with an influx of some of the most fashionable and internationally renowned brands of clothing, jewellery and magazines setting up shop in the metropolis. This attracted people from nearby cities and neighboring countries who flocked to the city. The four most famous department stores were Sincere, Wing On, Sun Sun and Da Sun, which stocked an assortment of products in grand and luxurious settings that were comparable to New York’s Macy’s and London’s Selfridges at the time. Shanghai was determined to keep pace, lighting up the streets with neon lights and creating beautiful window displays that exhibited the latest international trends. Boutiques also opened shop, selling imported products like long stockings, chocolates, wine, dancing shoes and talcum powder – items that were never before seen in China.

Of the four major department stores, Wing On was the most influential and high-class. Within the modern European-style building of Wing On’s store, there were as many as 50,000 different products for sale. Wing On even imported the glass for their display windows. Previous to Wing On, all store clerks were male, but Wing On became the first to employ beautiful young female attendants. This awoke more male customers to the benefits of shopping, and provied to be the start of a smart business practice that stores routinely employ today.

Wing On was also the first company to combine both commercial and entertainment features, placing shopping stores on the first to fourth floors and setting up entertainment venues on the upper floors like restaurants, hotels, nightclubs and cinemas. They maximized all the available space, even utilizing the roof for an open-air playground during the day and making it a venue for rooftop parties at night. Their store was one of the most popular destinations on Nanjing Road.


Revealed, the happiest countries in the world: For a contented life, head to Costa Rica, Vietnam or Mexico (while the UK fares better than Spain, the US or Australia)

  •  A new map of 151 countries has revealed exactly which parts of the world deliver long and happy lives for citizens
  • The map was compiled using data from latest Happy Planet Index (HPI) – a global measure of sustainable wellbeing
  • The HPI claims it ‘measures what matters’, rather than wealth – extent to which countries deliver long, happy lives
  • Countries in South America fare the best, as do New Zealand, Mexico, India, Norway, Algeria and Madagascar
  • UK is ranked 41, with France at 50, Spain at 62, Canada at 65, Australia at 76 and the US at 105

We all dream of living a long, happy life – often in a warmer, more relaxing climate than we are currently based.

But where are the happiest places in the world?

A new map of 151 countries has revealed exactly which parts of the globe deliver long and happy lives for their citizens, within the environmental limits of the planet.

And the results may surprise you, with Costa Rica, Colombia and Vietnam topping the league. The UK features at position 44 – higher than Germany (47), Spain (62), Canada (65), Australia (76) and the US (105).

The map was compiled by the relocation website Movehub, using data from the latest Happy Planet Index (HPI) – a global measure of sustainable wellbeing.

The HPI claims it ‘measures what matters’, rather than wealth: the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them.

A new map of 151 countries has revealed exactly which parts of the world deliver long and happy lives for their citizens, within the environmental limits of the planet. Each of the three component measures – life expectancy, the level of well-being experienced and ecological footprint – is given a traffic-light score based on thresholds for good (green), middling (amber) and bad (red) performance.These scores are combined to an expanded six-colour traffic light for the overall HPI score, where, to achieve bright green – the best of the six colours, a country would have to perform well on all three individual components

A new map of 151 countries has revealed exactly which parts of the world deliver long and happy lives for their citizens, within the environmental limits of the planet. Each of the three component measures – life expectancy, the level of well-being experienced and ecological footprint – is given a traffic-light score based on thresholds for good (green), middling (amber) and bad (red) performance.These scores are combined to an expanded six-colour traffic light for the overall HPI score, where, to achieve bright green – the best of the six colours, a country would have to perform well on all three individual components

Each of the three component measures – life expectancy, the level of well-being experienced and ecological footprint – is given a traffic-light score based on thresholds for good (green), middling (amber) and bad (red) performance.

These scores are combined to an expanded six-colour traffic light for the overall HPI score, where, to achieve bright green – the best of the six colours, a country would have to perform well on all three individual components.

In order to compile the data, researchers directly asked people in each country for their views.

Experienced well-being: This was assessed using a question called the ‘Ladder of Life’ from the Gallup World Poll. This asks respondents to imagine a ladder, where 0 represents the worst possible life and 10 the best possible life, and report the step of the ladder they feel they currently stand on.

Life expectancy: Alongside experienced well-being, the Happy PIanet Index includes a universally important measure of health – life expectancy. We used life expectancy data from the 2011 UNDP Human Development Report

Ecological Footprint. The HPI uses the Ecological Footprint promoted by the environmental charity WWF as a measure of resource consumption. It is a per capita measure of the amount of land required to sustain a country’s consumption patterns, measured in terms of global hectares (g ha) which represent a hectare of land with average productive biocapacity.

Two of the three main factors are directly about happiness. The third (Ecological footprint) is regarded as sustainable happiness. i.e. whether a country could sustain its citizens without any outside help.

The idea is that if there was an incident which cut a country completely off from the outside world, or a country had to be completely self-sufficient, most of the developed world would be unable to do that (without losing a lot of its population first).

The reason for some high-income nations to score significantly below other nations is the ecological footprint left on the planet.

The map also doesn’t take into account internal inequality measures and human rights issues which is why some countries like Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia feature so highly


Costa Rica, Colombia and Vietnam topping the happiness league. The map was compiled using data from the latest Happy Planet Index (HPI) - a global measure of sustainable wellbeing

Costa Rica, Colombia and Vietnam topping the happiness league. The map was compiled using data from the latest Happy Planet Index (HPI) – a global measure of sustainable wellbeing

The HPI (Happy Planet Index) puts at the heart the idea that happiness is not necessarily about wealth, but living long lives with a high experience of well-being. The idea is that if a country had to be completely self-sufficient, most of the developed world would be unable to do that (without losing a lot of its population first).The reason for some high-income nations to score significantly below other nations is the ecological footprint left on the planet

The HPI (Happy Planet Index) puts at the heart the idea that happiness is not necessarily about wealth, but living long lives with a high experience of well-being. The idea is that if a country had to be completely self-sufficient, most of the developed world would be unable to do that (without losing a lot of its population first).The reason for some high-income nations to score significantly below other nations is the ecological footprint left on the planet

Each of the three component measures – life expectancy, the level of well-being experienced and ecological footprint – is given a traffic-light score based on thresholds for good (green), middling (amber) and bad (red) performance

Each of the three component measures – life expectancy, the level of well-being experienced and ecological footprint – is given a traffic-light score based on thresholds for good (green), middling (amber) and bad (red) performance

 Mexicans and Canadians both appear to be happier than their U.S. neighbour - most likely due to the country's ecological footprint

 Mexicans and Canadians both appear to be happier than their U.S. neighbour – most likely due to the country’s ecological footprint

The map also doesn't take into account internal inequality measures and human rights issues which is why some countries like Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia feature so highly

The map also doesn’t take into account internal inequality measures and human rights issues which is why some countries like Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia feature so highly

South America has several countries where residents are happy, the report claims. Four  of the top five happiest places are here - with Costa Rica coming top, followed by Colombia (third), Belize (fourth) and El Salvador (fifth)

South America has several countries where residents are happy, the report claims. Four  of the top five happiest places are here – with Costa Rica coming top, followed by Colombia (third), Belize (fourth) and El Salvador (fifth)

Chad and Botswana have the worst scores in Africa, while Algeria and Madagascar are the happiest 

Chad and Botswana have the worst scores in Africa, while Algeria and Madagascar are the happiest

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How Well Does China Control Its Military?
Image Credit: REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

How Well Does China Control Its Military?

Developments in East Asia in recent years hint at the possibility that communication between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is not all that it might be when it comes to coordinating military activities. Incidents such as the surprise stealth fighter test during former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ visit in 2011, or the 2007 anti-satellite test, are prime examples of the CCP’s leadership being seemingly unaware of what its military is doing. This suggests weakness in coordination between the center and the military, and helps explain numerous episodes where the civilian apparatus seemed oblivious to the PLA’s activities and confused about officers’ statements that made the PLA appear “rogue.”

In 2009, Andrew Scobell argued for the existence of a “civil-military gap” in China’s peaceful rise. Scobell uses this expression in two ways. First, it refers to a potentially serious difference between the attitudes and perspectives of civilian and military elites based on different life experiences and career paths; second, it refers to a possible “loose civilian control of the military.” The PLA detests political intrusion by the party into its own affairs and has subsequently carved out more autonomy for itself. Thus, the claim that in recent years, “civilian CCP leaders seem to have adopted a hands-off approach to the day-to-day affairs of the PLA” seems to plausibly describe the relationship between the military and the civilian leadership.

This could have far-reaching implications. In 2012, outgoing President Hu Jintao hinted that the chain of military command “might be more fragile than commonly understood,” although the true meaning of this statement remains abstruse. Certainly, confusion in the chain of command is not a new problem for China. Past examples include the 16th Party Congress, when Jiang retired from his post as general-secretary, but retained his seat as chairman of the CMC, while Hu became the new general-secretary. This led to ambiguity as to who was China’s commander in chief and ultimately in charge of the PLA, particularly for potentially explosive issues like Taiwan, where conflict control is complicated by the involvement of the United States.

It is assumed that senior CCP leaders hold decisive authority over the main foreign and defense policy issues, but that their authority on military actions of foreign policy relevance on subordinate levels of the policy process is not as clear. Given their status as commander in chief, technocratic civilian CCP leaders possess a broad knowledge of military programs and defense priorities. However, they appear to grant the PLA considerable autonomy and latitude as to how and when programs are implemented. The result is that civil-military coordination regarding specific types of military action impinging on foreign policy is weak.

The 2011 stealth fighter test during Gates’ visit is generally regarded as a prime example of the party’s number one not knowing what his military is doing. Yet the idea that Hu would not have known about the test, or would not have been informed of it, appears inconceivable in a system based on collective direction and mutual control. Thus, the timing with Gates’ visit was not coincidental. Indeed, Gates later affirmed that, “I asked President Hu about it directly, and he said that the test had absolutely nothing to do with my visit and had been a pre-planned test.” The PLA was undoubtedly determined to display its prowess and was intent on sending a message to the U.S. at a time many had hoped tensions might be declining, given that China had resumed military contacts with the United States after suspending them following the U.S. announcement that it would sell arms to Taiwan in January that year.

A repeat performance took place during U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s trip to China in September 2012, when another stealth fighter was revealed. The incident contained elements of both “showmanship and boasting,” and, as was the case one year earlier, was “carefully timed to reinforce some political point.” A renewed denial by China’s number one that he had been informed about the disclosure makes clear that again a message was supposed to be sent.

It is quite possible that some of these incidents are the result of the PLA’s “rogue” tendencies, meaning that the military does not always communicate vital information, such as the dates of tests or other military activities, to the party leadership in Beijing. The 2007 satellite test is perhaps most conceivable as an example of roguish PLA behavior, since evidence suggests that top-level Chinese leaders really weren’t informed of the test details or schedule, consistent with the idea of a PLA operating on a loose leash, albeit not necessarily with malicious intent. The PLA’s attitude sometimes seems to be that if a policy issue is determined by the PLA to be an agenda exclusive to the military, its external effects need not be taken into consideration, leading to unintended consequences for Chinese foreign relations.

A similar, if more pointed assertion, has been put forward by the Japanese National Institute for Defense Studies. Contending that the Chinese military is in fact unwilling to coordinate, the Institute’s scholars assert that the PLA “does not fully recognize the need for policy coordination with the government departments.” They argue that is particularly evident in the relationship between the PLA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2010, Professor Wang Yizhou, Vice Dean of Beijing University’s School of International Studies, stated in reference to various military exercises conducted in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Yellow Sea that “the PLA’s recognition of its right to hold independent events ‘led’ the [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] to lose time to have enough discussions.” In other words, naval activities could not be properly coordinated in advance.

Prominent analysts of Chinese foreign policy have hypothesized that the CCP general-secretary and chairman of the Central Military Commission is generally not being informed of issues at the operational level, such as specific weapons tests and training exercises or small military patrols outside of China’s immediate borders. Given the apparent absence of any requirement for the PLA to provide operational information, China lacks an explicit mechanism to make sure that coordination between civilian and military authorities takes place. An exacerbating factor is China’s stove-piped bureaucratic system, which aggravates difficulties in horizontal and vertical coordination as well as information sharing between the army and the civilian apparatus.

In a crisis, this lack of a reliable management at the highest levels may lead to unintended and far-reaching consequences, such as accidental escalation. Yet the Chinese foreign policy establishment continues to rely on temporary mechanisms created on an ad hoc basis. During a politico-military crisis, these mechanisms are often as inefficient for information processing as they are ineffective for coordinating actions, since quality information does not reach those in charge in a timely fashion.

The decision-making procedure, too, has the potential to slow crisis management. Judging from the procedures applied in the EP-3 incident and the Chinese embassy bombing, it was the top leaders in the Standing Committee of the Politburo who called the shots. But because those leaders were not able to come together quickly, China’s responses were slow.

In recent years, there has been talk in Chinese academic and policy circles about the advantages of establishing a supervisory body to facilitate foreign policy coordination, prevent escalation, and manage conflicts. The new Chinese National Security Council, established in 2013, was described by Li Wei, director of the Anti-Terrorism Center at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, as “an organization that has the power to coordinate different government organs at the highest level in response to a major emergency crisis and incidents which pose threats to the national security, such as defending China’s borders and dealing with major terrorist attacks.” Although this seems like a step in the right direction, it serves primarily internal security purposes, and its precise relationship with the CMC and Xi Jinping remains obscure. And so it appears that despite an increasingly pressing need, foreign policy coordination is unlikely to improve anytime soon.

 Johannes Feige is a Junior Researcher at the European Institute for Asian Studies (EIAS), Brussels.