Loro Horta

Diplomat, Timor-Leste

Loro Horta is a diplomat and scholar from Timor-Leste. He has served as Timor-Leste's ambassador to Cuba and counsellor at the Timor-Leste embassy in Beijing. He has been writing on China for over 15 years. He is a graduate of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, the Chinese National Defense University, the US Naval Post Graduate School, the American National Defense University, and Sydney University.

Members of the honour guard prepare for a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 25 October 2019. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

The PLA’s political role: The party still, and must always control the gun

While the Chinese government has paid more attention to the navy and air force contingents of the People’s Liberation Army in recent times, it is still the land forces that have the most political influence. The party is well aware that it is the latter’s might they would need in the event of internal uprisings and it is this constituent’s loyalty and strength they must ensure.
This screen grab made from a video released by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV shows the launch ceremony of the Fujian, a People's Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft carrier, at a shipyard in Shanghai, China, on 17 June 2022. (CCTV/AFP)

China’s third aircraft carrier: No need to panic just yet

China’s third aircraft carrier is not yet nuclear-powered and won’t be battle-ready for some years yet. Besides, in terms of possible warfare, it’s the numerous surface combatants China possesses that the US should be worried about, says Loro Horta. But with every iteration of China’s aircraft carrier, its ambitions of eventually taking on the US in the open Pacific is increasingly clear.
A photo taken on 22 April 2022 shows China's ambassador to the Solomon Islands Li Ming (right), and Solomons Prime Pinister Manasseh Sogavare (left) attending the opening ceremony of a China-funded national stadium complex in Honiara, Solomon Islands. (Mavis Podokolo/AFP)

Solomon Islands: Will China pick up the gun to defend its interests in the developing world?

Loro Horta notes that the US, Australia and New Zealand have been overly fixated on China possibly building a military base in the Solomon Islands. If anything, the security pact signals China's greater willingness to be more interventionist in its approach to other countries. If so, this is the true shift in policy that the West should be worried about.
Chinese and Sri Lankan national flags flutter from poles at the Chinese-funded sea reclamation Port City project as sail boats compete in a sailing event attended by Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi (not pictured) on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Sri Lanka and China at the Colombo Port city project, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 9 January 2022. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP)

Funding wars between China and the West: The politics of bankrolling developing countries

While several alternatives to China's Belt and Road Initiative have sprung up, such as the G7’s Build Back Better World and the EU’s Global Gateway, developing countries are not exactly facing a buffet spread of options, as each avenue comes with strings attached. Only time will tell if China will turn out to be a more benevolent lender and if the new Cold War will bring better spoils for developing countries.
People walk on the pedestrian bridge at the Bluewaters Island in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 8 December 2021. (Satish Kumar/Reuters)

US-China competition in the UAE: A tussle in the desert

Unlike the Soviet Union, China has an arsenal of economic tools at its disposal in wooing US allies. This is plainly seen in the UAE-China relationship, in which bilateral trade in 2021 was more than double that of UAE-US trade for the same period. Security and defence ties are also strengthening. As dictated by the laws of the free market, the one who offers the best deal wins. As such, the US will have to do better than just rely on coercive tactics.
A man walks past a model of LY-70 air defense missile weapon system displayed at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, or Airshow China, in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China, 29 September 2021. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Beyond a hypersonic missile: China’s larger objectives

Amid recent reports of China testing a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, Loro Horta says that gaining a tactical operational advantage is not an objective in itself. Rather, it is a tool with which a great power accomplishes its strategic objectives. What are China’s strategic and political objectives in acquiring these capabilities and will we see another nuclear arms race?
This aerial picture taken on 16 October 2021 shows trucks loaded with coal waiting near Gants Mod port at the Chinese border with Gashuun Sukhait, in Umnugovi province, in Mongolia. (Uugansukh Byamba/AFP)

Between a rock and a hard place: Mongolia’s ambivalent relations with China

Sandwiched between Russia to the north and China to the south, landlocked Mongolia has always had tough choices to make in its foreign policy strategies. Towards China, which it used to be a part of and continues to share kinship ties with the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia, it harbours historical suspicion. But with China being its top export destination and key investment partner, the head may rule the heart.
Tourists wearing face masks walk along Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, on 20 October 2021. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP)

China’s alliance with Russia is solidifying

Even though several analyses have it that the China-Russia relationship is filled with underlying tensions and can break without warning, Loro Horta believes that the alliance they have can stand the test of time, given a mutual dependency for resources as well as common geopolitical interests and threat perceptions. Instead of warning Russia about China, Washington may want to worry more about the state of its own alliances.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for a ceremony at the Monument to the People's Heroes at Tiananmen Square to mark Martyrs' Day, in Beijing, China, 30 September 2021. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Is Xi Jinping really going back to Maoism?

Some analyses have sounded the alarm of China lurching to the left in a marked return to Maoism. On closer examination, says Loro Horta, China’s recent clampdowns on capital are rational and not exactly ideologically driven. Issues facing China, such as the need to tackle rising inequality, affect the ruling party’s legitimacy and longevity. These concerns may have a strong push effect on the authorities. In fact, rather than a reversion to Maoism, the Xi government seems to be embracing Confucianism as a basis to enforce social order and norms, just as it derides “evil fan culture” as a means to keep a tight rein on social control.