A big bully or a best friend? It seems our relationship with the world’s second largest economy has seesawed from a potentially great Sino-British partnership as suggested by a previous Chancellor, George Osborne, to a dangerous dictatorship seeking to infiltrate and overthrow Western society. Both may appear plausible, yet both would also seem to be improbable.

We are all familiar with the accusations of corporate theft of intellectual property (which has been proven already), trade dumping of goods and currency manipulation. However, none of this is new, despite the tirades and ravings from an ignorant US President, and his erratic behaviour, he has done nothing to effectively try to resolve many of these issues. In the meantime, China itself has been changing as Premier Xi has now made himself a leader (or dictator?) for life and the Communist party grip on the nation is seemingly tighter than ever.

However, the economic and trade issues are not the only items creating ripples around this nation. Its relations with certain neighbours have already been a cause for concern and if not handled carefully could turn some of these glowing embers into a conflagration. Certainly, it will take careful and delicate diplomatic skills to manage our way through all of these. President Trump, with the diplomatic skills of a donkey, will not be that person.

A trip, therefore, around China’s borders reveals a significant list of at least seventeen countries with whom disputes are festering. Some of these are really no more than historical claims, but as we have seen in the past, ancient claims can often be the source or excuse for greater disputes.

Let me start with the most noteworthy issues that we should be aware of. Taiwan is of course Chinese, but is it a sovereign nation (as the Republic of China -RoC), or is it merely a renegade province of the motherland? It was of course the refuge of the Kuomintang (the Nationalist Party) following their defeat by the Communists in 1949. Since then, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has been actively pressing other nations to reject their recognition of Taiwan as a separate nation. Consequently, in October 1971, the RoC lost its seat at the UN in favour of the PRC. With the US still being a firm ally of the RoC, this will remain an open sore.

Then we have an equally concerning disagreement over territory between Japan and China. This is over the Senkaku (Japan) or Diaoyu (China) islands in the East China Sea, which both parties claim. This is of course of greater concern in my view, as it involves two major armed powers willing to flex their naval muscles as required and although the underlying claims are said to relate to offshore drilling rights, I suspect it also relates to something far more important in Asia: that of ‘face’ and thus anyone’s inability to be seen to be backing down. Such concerns are not assuaged by the seemingly regular visits by the Japanese premiers to visit their war shrines which relate to some of the appalling war crimes committed in WW2 by the Japanese army, without any formal apology or recognition of guilt. The word ‘sorry’ might be helpful.

A border dispute with your next-door neighbour is not unusual, but to upset five nations all at once is remarkable. Such is the dispute in the South China Sea where the PRC claims a significant proportion. Its justification dates back more recently to a post war map known as the Nine Dot map. However, both Vietnam and China claim far longer and deeper historical claims dating back to the Chinese imperial days. This is primarily about oil and gas rights, but in doing so China has managed to line up the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia against not just the base claims but to the extended economic zone which would mark a further 200 miles further out.

We should also note the various disputes with India. Firstly, the old Kashmir dispute normally is seen as a purely Indian and Pakistani issue, but that is to forget that China claimed and occupied roughly 30% of the disputed province for itself. This has most recently come to the fore with some local armed fracas, but this is not alone. In Arunachal Pradesh, the Sino-Indian border dispute involves about 35,000 square miles in this north-eastern area of India and Bhutan. China in fact refers to it as South Tibet. In 1962, the border dispute flared into a war, but since then there has been no accepted resolution.

To this list, one could also consider the issue of Tibet as still being unresolved. China originally invaded Tibet in 1950 with its leader the Dalai Lama fleeing the country in 1959 and has now been designated as a semi-autonomous region of China. This, I find to be quite an astonishing list, and there are others which I could discuss in more detail, although many of these are old historical claims.

So, China is certainly a big power with a big economy and some big claims to the territory of its neighbours. The need for professional international diplomacy has never been so important. Sadly, I feel our leaders and responsible ministers in both the US and the UK do not provide one with any significant level of confidence. I would be delighted to be proven wrong.

And finally… when shoes can become erotic.

Now all men know to complement ladies on their shoes, but what happens if this is reversed?

A man has been arrested in Thailand for allegedly stealing his neighbour’s shoes. Theerapat Klaiya, aged 24 has apparently developed a fetish for flip-flops and was found with 126 pairs that he had pinched from locals in Nonthaburi, central Thailand. The local police identified Klaiya using footage from CCTV set up outside his latest alleged victim’s home. When they searched the man’s home, they found his sprawling collection of shoes, which he claimed he had been collecting for more than two years.

Klaiya said he would wear them around his home (an act that he enjoyed perhaps a little too much…) and would even become particularly intimate with his ever-growing collection of footwear. Police said his collection included dozens of different brands, sizes and colours of shoes, all of them well worn. 

However, his breadth of enthusiasm also stretched to admit to stealing the sandals for lewd purposes. Personally, I will stick to my wellies, which only seem to have the effect of making sheep somewhat nervous.

Have a good week.


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