Inside China: Big stick for Japan, soft talk for Asean

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Apparently, timing is everything. Just a few weeks ago, China was excoriating one or more members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on a daily basis for challenging Beijing’s sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

But this week China’s top leaders laid out the red carpet in an enthusiastic welcome for a contingent of ASEAN prime ministers and presidents who visited China for a trade summit.

China has always been a stalwart for maintaining regional and global peace and stability,” said an ebullient Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, heir apparent to the presidency who recently emerged from an unexplained public absence.

Mr. Xi flew to the southern border city of Nanning for the opening ceremony.

“We are resolute in safeguarding our nation’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity,” he said, adding that “China is devoted to resolving territorial land, sovereign water and ocean disputes through friendly and peaceful negotiations with our neighbors.”

That may not be what Vietnam and the Philippines have in mind. Two of ASEAN’s 10 members, Vietnam and the Philippines in recent weeks have been under constant military threats from China over disputed maritime territories.

China repeatedly has resorted to military conflicts with the Vietnamese since the late 1970s. As recently as late July, Chinese warships were involved in brinksmanship with the Philippines forces near the South China Sea’s Scarborough Shoal in a three-month naval standoff.

China’s major strategy for fending off multiple sources of resistance in the region to its hegemony is to prevent all challengers from forming a coalition. When Japan attempted to ally with ASEAN nations to challenge China this past summer, Japan became the chief target of China’s wrath, as shown in recent weeks by its bellicose stance toward the Japanese across China.

Known as the China-ASEAN Expo, the current gathering includes 42 heads of states and political leaders, 1,500 government officials, and some 300,000 businessmen and guests.

This is the eighth trade summit, but the first time leaders from China’s top echelon have placed such importance on the meeting.

China ups cash for national martyrs

To reward military personnel who died for the motherland and the Chinese Communist Party, China’s government recently announced it has drastically raised the amount of cash awarded to the families of so-called “martyrs,” according to an announcement by the government’s State Council on Sept. 21.

The new national martyr award regulations were hailed as a landmark step in standardizing criterion for rewarding families of those People’s Liberation Army soldiers who died or officials killed in “righteous” actions” in the defense of the nation.

China’s practice of using a reward system for “revolutionary martyrs” has been in place for decades as a method of promoting selfless sacrifice for the communist cause.

The cash awards to the families of martyrs, however, generally are meager and administered by various local bureaucracies, and have been the target of reductions in amounts and even embezzlement by local officials.

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