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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.

Complaints and protests by relatives of many martyrs greatly watered down the effectiveness of the Communist Party of China propaganda about revolutionary devotion and selfless sacrifice for the noble communist cause.

In announcing the new regulations, Vice Minister of Civil Affairs Jiang Li assured the nation of the need for the rules. He elaborated on two key regulations.

According to the regulations, families of all "martyrs" will receive a standardized cash award in the amount of 30 times the National Average Disposable Income Index, plus 40 times the martyr's salary at the time of his death.

This year's National Average Disposable Income Index is set at 21,810 yuan, or $3,461. This will set this year's cash award at $103,847, plus 40 times the salary, for being a martyr in China.

Another new regulation is the amount of survivor's pension for the martyr's family that will involve a lump-sum payment.

Previously, the one-time pension payment was 80 times the martyr's salary, relatively small considering Chinese soldiers' salaries are low. The new regulation raises that amount to 20 times the National Average Disposable Income Index, plus 40 times the martyr's salary at the time of death.

The regulation also sets preferable terms to help the survivors of the martyrs in employment, housing and retirement.

• Miles Yu's column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmileyu@gmail.com.

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