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Bound by Ties of Love and Money [Earth II]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Freistaat-Ostafrika
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Bound by Ties of Love and Money [Earth II]

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Mon Jul 13, 2020 3:56 pm

Tibet, Modern Day

Founded in the 7th century by Songtsen Gampo, the ruler credited with the introduction of Buddhism into the region, Lhasa had acted as the capital city of the nation of Tibet throughout many of the following centuries. Not on the scale of other capital cities in Asia, Lhasa was home to just over three hundred thousand inhabitants and sat at an altitude of 11,995 feet above sea level. While not overly large, Lhasa was however brimming with history and religious significance as it was known as the home of Tibetan Buddhism. While the nation of Tibet was also home to Hindus and a variety of indigenous folk religions in addition to small pockets of Christians and Muslims, the nation was best known for the form of Buddhism which bore its name. Tibetan Buddhism featured four major schools, namely Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug, and it was this final (and newest) school which was dominant. The first Gelug monastery, Ganden, had been founded in 1409 by a Buddhist monk called Je Tsongkhapa who was renowned for both his scholarship and his virtue; the other two of the 'great three' Gelug monasteries, Drepung and Sera, had been founded by his disciples. Also known as the 'Yellow Hats' and the 'Way of Virtue', the Gelug school was originally a reformist movement which prided itself on emphasising logic and debate. In 1577 the Gelug school established an alliance with the neighbouring Great Yue Kingdom and this alliance proved to be a boon for the school as they received patronage from the Yue Emperor; violent strife between the schools of Tibetan Buddhism in the 17th century saw the Gelug emerge as the dominant sect with military assistance from the Yue. This resulted in Tibet eventually becoming a theocratic monarchy under the Gelug school in 1642 after the school and their Yue allies defeated the ruling Tsangpa Dynasty of Tibet. Ngawang Lozang Gyatso, the leader of the Gelug school, then moved the capital back to Lhasa as all of the 'great three' monasteries sat within twenty-five miles of the city. Lozang Gyatso then began the construction of Potala Palace in 1645 upon the site of an older palace as the site was positioned between Drepung and Sera monasteries and the old city of Lhasa. Although the external structure only took three years to complete, the interior structure was far more elaborate and took forty-five years to complete. Since its construction Potala Palace had stood as a residence of the head of the Gelug school and ruler of Tibet, and it still performed that function into the modern day. The palace was an impressive sight to be sure and an exquisite example of Tibetan architecture. Standing thirteen storeys tall with over one thousand rooms, ten thousand shrines, and over two hundred thousand statues, the palace featured stone walls which averaged almost ten feet thick with copper poured into the foundations to help proof the palace against earthquakes. By no means the only impressive building in Tibet, Potala Palace was definitely the most impressive, and it served as the residence of the Dalai Lama, as the head of the Gelug school was called. Tibet had continued in what was known as a 'priest-patron relationship' with the Great Yue Kingdom where Tibet was protected in return for granting the Yue Emperors all manner of religious titles and blessings, but in 1859 the Great Yue Kingdom collapsed and the Nanfang Republic rose in its place; Tibet then took a step back from engaging with their neighbours as they were understandably uncertain about the intentions of the republican government. To Lhasa's relief the Nanfang Republic respected this stance and made it clear that they would only engage with Tibet if Tibet desired it.

Still nominally ruled by the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, modern Tibet was no longer the theocratic monarchy of old due to the strong bureaucracy which had developed since 1751 to handle the mundane day-to-day affairs of governance. This bureaucracy had undergone extensive reforms between 1914 and 1950 due to the influence of Tsarong Dzasa, a Commander General of Tibet who acquired substantial power in the pursuit of modernisation and economic progression. Tsarong was influenced in this endeavour by his travels to nearby nations such as the Nanfang Republic and the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, particularly noting the Ayutthayan military's role in forcing democracy upon an inept absolute monarch in 1910. Tsarong believed that a strong military could be a suitable guiding force for a nation on the road to modernisation, and that a modern Tibetan state would require a centralised military-based elite which could eliminate internal strife and remove unwarranted privileges from the likes of the aristocracy. By 1933 Tsarong was not only Commander-in-Chief of the Tibetan Army, he was also Head of the Tibetan Mint and Armoury. His ideas began to gain traction in Tibetan society and he began to organise regular military parades in the major cities of the nation, with pride of place going to the soldiers known as 'Gurkhas'. Tibet had gone to war with the Kingdom of Gorkha in 1788 and successfully conquered the mountain kingdom with the help of Tibet's then-allies in the Great Yue Kingdom, but the fearless prowess of the Gorkhali soldiers had so impressed their new overlords that they were recruited into the Tibetan Army; over time they became known as 'Gurkhas'. In due course, the Gurkhas became one of Tibet's best-known exports as foreign powers were permitted to recruit Gurkhas for their own militaries, and they assumed pride of place as the most elite fighters in the Tibetan Army. Tsarong found himself with a window of opportunity in 1933 when the 13th Dalai Lama died and a regency was declared while the search for his successor was undertaken. Parleying his gathered influence and military support, Tsarong ousted the appointed Regent and took the position for himself. This allowed him to appoint a new Prime Minister as well as removing any obstructive members of the Kashag, the governing council of the nation. With the governance of the nation consolidated under his supporters and the general populace behind him after a crackdown on bandit groups, Tsarong instituted wide-ranging reforms in Tibet. Serfdom was abolished, the monastic educational institutions were opened to laypeople, and education was opened up to females as well as males. Cooperation with neighbouring nations was improved and the nation's industrial base began to grow, albeit slowly.

Modern Tibet was best described as a 'lower-middle income economy' nation of just over thirty-two million people, still focused primarily on agriculture but with developing industries in tourism, mining, construction, handicrafts, and Tibetan medicine. While the 14th Dalai Lama resided in Potala Palace and retained his spiritual authority, temporal authority resided in the position which was still called 'Regent'. Now held by Tsarong's forty-three year old great-grandson Rangdol Shata Tsarong, the position of Regent granted the incumbent absolute authority over the political landscape of Tibet. The Regent had the authority to appoint and dismiss ministers of the Kashag while also enjoying complete authority over the Tibetan Army. In diplomatic matters Tibet had sought to maintain some level of neutrality by allowing Gurkhas to be recruited by any foreign power willing to construct a selection base in Tibet while paying for the privilege of recruiting such formidable warriors; payment could be provided in currency or investment, as the Regent was interested in expanding upon the considerable hydropower potential of the nation, an industry which had received some degree of development but required additional investment and expertise to complete. The relationship between Tibet and the Nanfang Republic was still one of polite neighbourly respect, but the rise of the Shenzhen Pact and the Republic's increasing influence throughout the world meant that this status quo was unlikely to last forever....


13 July 2020 - 14:30hrs [UTC+7]
Norbulingka Palace
Lhasa, Tibet

Once the summer residence of the Dalai Lama and located only about three kilometres from Potala Palace, Norbulingka Palace had been transferred to the Regency as part of the settlement which had seen Tibetan Buddhism separated from the governance of Tibet. With a total of 374 rooms and situated within a two-walled compound which covered some 3.6 square kilometres, the palace was more than suitable for the requirements of the Tibetan head of state, and the grounds were comprised of the beautiful Norbulingka Park. The park featured extensive flower gardens of chrysanthemums, hollyhocks, marigolds, petunias, and roses, in addition to a variety of fruit trees; although the fruits of the trees did not ripen in the climate of Lhasa, the trees themselves provided beauty as part of the park's flora. The park even contained a zoo that had been established to care for animals which had been presented to Dalai Lamas during their period of ownership. In the summer, usually around the middle of August, Norbulingka Park hosted the annual Yogurt Festival which involved a banquet of yogurt for monks who had spent the previous month in a retreat within their monasteries, in addition to attractions such as outdoor summer operas and theatricals. Among the various buildings which comprised Norbulingka, the so-called New Palace was the most important. Constructed by Tsarong Dzasa in the mid-1950s in order to stamp the Regent's authority on the site, the New Palace was a modern double-storey Tibetan-style building within its own complex, a complex which featured its own chapels, gardens, fountains, and pools. The New Palace had hosted four Regents since its construction was completed in 1956, with the fourth and incumbent Regent enjoying some extra prestige as he was the great-grandson of Tsarong Dzasa. Rangdol Shata Tsarong wore the Regent's uniform well, a charismatic individual with military experience and a keen intellect. Now into the fourth year of his rule, Regent Rangdol had observed the political machinations of other nations with detached interest as the affairs of other nations tended not to cause any major issues for Tibet.

The Nanfang Republic had the potential to be an exception to that, however. Nanjing still maintained their polite and respectful attitude towards Lhasa, with cross-border trade continuing well, but lately the Nanfang ambassador had seemed to be just a little more friendly than before. Regent Rangdol did not doubt that this was due to the Nanfang Republic's considerable and still-growing global influence as several nations around the world had joined the Republic as full members of the Shenzhen Pact, an international organisation ostensibly designed for mutual development and cooperation while in reality providing Nanjing with favoured access to natural resources as well as a developing market for their goods. The Regent was not overly surprised that the Nanfang Republic was now turning on the charm as they had already brought the Kingdom of Ayutthaya into the Pact; having secured their southern border, it made sense for Nanjing to turn their attention to their western borders. The Republic certainly had the economic muscle to direct substantial investment into Tibet but Regent Rangdol was not about to open the floodgates and simply accept Nanjing's overtures, as he had concerns regarding just how much influence the Nanfang Republic would expect in return. Essentially, as far as the Regent was concerned, Tibet required ironclad reassurances of non-interference in important aspects of Tibetan society if Nanjing wanted them to even consider a closer relationship. While it was certainly true that the Nanfang Republic possessed a population roughly thirty times the size of Tibet's population as well as a far larger military, Regent Rangdol believed that Nanjing would prefer to negotiate rather than destroying their hard-earned reputation by attacking a far smaller nation.

The Regent was wrenched out of his thoughtfulness as the intercom on his office desk buzzed, at which point he strode back into his office from his vantage point on the office balcony. He reached down and pressed the button to answer the call.

"Yes?"

"Apologies for disturbing you, Regent. It is time for your meeting with Ambassador Koh."

Speak of the devil, Regent Rangdol thought as he fought the temptation to roll his eyes. "Very well, show him in."
Last edited by Freistaat-Ostafrika on Sat Oct 03, 2020 2:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:55 pm

Major Michael J. Kirk, RGR
Apilonian Gurkha Camp, Pokhara
Gorkha Province, Tibet
Monday 13th July 2020, 1500hrs Local Time




As far as Major Michael J. Kirk was concerned, he had the most important and prestigious post in the Apilonian Army. It might not be the most senior regiment in the Army, nor was it on the frontline, but as the Officer Commanding of the Gurkha Selection Team at the Apilonian Gurkha Camp in Pokhara, he had an awesome responsibility for overseeing the recruitment of the yearly intake of Gurkhas into the Apilonian Army. The Kingdom of Apilonia had a long history of recruiting Gurkha soldiers; having long ago seen their worth first-hand after a trade dispute had escalated into a military clash. Indeed, the Royal Gurkha Rifles had seen extensive service all over the Kingdom’s colonial empire, and had developed a hard-fought reputation as being the fiercest warriors and the politest soldier, resulting in the Gurkha soldier retaining a respected position within the Army. In addition to maintaining a proud tradition, the selection process remained as competitive as ever; with up to twenty-five thousand applicants applying each year, although the Apilonian Army has had to compete with rival armies it had the largest footprint on the ground, both from a recruitment perspective and a welfare perspective.

In the modern Apilonian Army, the Royal Gurkha Rifles was one of three elite light infantry regiments, the other two being the Air Assault Regiment and the Parachute Regiment and provided battalions for the 18th Gurkha Division, part of V Corps, the Army’s main contingency formation. Unlike the 16th Air Assault Division and the 17th Airborne Division, which were responsible for brigade-level airborne assaults, the Gurkha Division typically provided battalions for rapid-response duties all over the world, although a full brigade can be deployed with sufficient lead time (as one of the three brigades will be training and working-up whilst another is deployed operationally). Moreover, the Royal Gurkha Rifles were the Apilonian Army’s specialists in both jungle warfare and mountain warfare, as a result of the terrain of their homeland. In short, the Army made full use of both the wide range of capabilities provided by the Gurkhas and their fearsome reputation, and in an Army where inter-regimental rivalry was a time-honoured tradition everyone respected the Royal Gurkha Rifles. As it stood, one battalion was stationed in Malta, another in the Persian Gulf and a third had recently been deployed as the quick-reaction force in the former East African Republic.

As such, it was perhaps hardly surprising that every Apilonian Officer who served with the Royal Gurkha Rifles had as much an investment in maintaining the standards and traditions as the Gurkhas themselves, and typically served their entire careers with the regiment.

Although it was former Gurkha soldiers that judged each of the Potential Recruits as they went through the process, an Apilonian Officer was present at every stage. This was largely to ensure that the entire process was free, fair and transparent in a country where money could buy you literally anything. This wasn’t to say that the Army believed that the Gurkha officers and NCOs would actually take money in return for a pass grade, as they were far too invested in the regiment and its traditions, but simply to underline the Apilonian Army’s reputation for fairness. Indeed, Major Kirk considered that his highest priority, above the actual conduct of the selection process which was handled by subordinates, principally because it was, ultimately, his responsibility. Although the entire Apilonian Forces Gorkha, the overall command of which the Gurkha Selection Team was the primary arm, was commanded by a full Colonel, who was also typically the Defence Attaché in Lhasa, it was Major Kirk who held primary responsibility.

However, Major Kirk found himself distracted from the Central Selection process that was beginning outside on the parade square and would result, in a few days’ time, in this year’s intake being chosen.

As per the latest intelligence reports, which despite being a recruitment command Apilonian Forces Gorkha was copied in on as a matter of course, the Royal Intelligence Service was reporting with a high degree of confidence that the Nanfang Republic was courting Tibet, and thereby the Gorkha Province (which was of more interest to the Kingdom, for obvious reasons), for membership in the Shenzhen Pact. The Kingdom had a love-hate relationship with Nanfang. Although the Kingdom had no reason to treat Nanfang itself with any degree of hostility, given generally mutually beneficial national security interests, particularly trade, the same could not be said for the rest of the Shenzhen Pact; individual member-states of which were a thorn in the side of the Kingdom’s interests in both the Persian Gulf and Africa, where the remnants of the Apilonian colonial empire could be found, or former colonies with whom the Kingdom’s interests remained closely linked.

Involvement by Nanfang in Tibet raised the very real prospect of cutting off the Kingdom’s supply of its fiercest soldiers. Whilst the Army would survive without the Gurkhas, they would be sorely missed to say the least. Of course, there wasn’t a great deal that Major Kirk or anyone in Apilonian Forces Gorkha could do about it, beyond keeping their ears to the ground and encouraging the Gurkha veterans who returned to the Province, rather than settling in the Kingdom, to make sure their government knew the value the community placed upon their links to Apilonia. Not that they would need much encouragement to do so; those Gurkhas that served in the Apilonian Army usually developed a strong loyalty and affinity for King and Country, even if they elected not to settle in the Kingdom (an option that was open to all Gurkha veterans, by Act of Parliament). It was a situation that had concerned everyone within the Royal Gurkha Rifles, who had a particularly keen eye for the potential threat to the Apilonian Gurkhas posed by Nanfang, for some time and the intelligence reports had surprised absolutely no one; it had been a foregone conclusion for most.

Indeed, it had been pressure from senior officers, and politicians with a background serving with the Royal Gurkha Rifles, that had encouraged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to put some thought into the diplomatic posture to take if that concern manifested itself into action on the part of Nanfang. As such, whilst the Kingdom would not stand in the way of Tibet joining the Shenzhen Pact, it would use every diplomatic tool at its disposal to ensure that it would continue to be allowed to recruit Gurkha soldiers for service, and to conduct the extensive recruitment activity that entailed all over the Province. It was not without reason that the Royal Intelligence Service station in Lhasa was keeping a very close eye on developments, which it was able to do fairly easily due to the ease at which people could be brought in this part of the world, to ensure that the Apilonian Ambassador could make Apilonia’s position very clear almost as soon as any decision was made that might provide detrimental to the Kingdom and it’s Army.

For Major Kirk and the rest of the Gurkha Selection Team, they had to put this to the back of their minds as their main concern was far more pressing; the selection of the latest intake took precedence over everything else, after all.
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sat Aug 01, 2020 2:30 pm

15 July 2020 - 14:00hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

The residence of every President of the Nanfang Republic since 1911 when the capital was moved from Guangzhou to Nanjing, the Palace of the Republic covered more than 90,000 square meters and was primarily comprised of three 'sections': the West Garden, the East Garden, and the Central Axis. The Central Axis featured several buildings including the official reception hall and a museum dedicated to past Nanfang Presidents, but the most important building in the complex was Zichao House, the six-storey home of incumbent Presidents. The Presidential Office was located in the southeast corner of the second floor and was comprised of three rooms, the middle room acting as the actual office. Decorated primarily in rich wooden paneling with a light yellow border separating the paneling from the white ceiling, the office was actually quite narrow. The furnishings of the Presidential Office were comprised of two comfortable gold-upholstered armchairs with a green-topped table between them, and the President's rather chunky writing desk which was accessorised with a rather simple desk chair; the desk was positioned sideways next to the office's window to allow for natural light and also to provide the President with a view of the gardens while they were working. Given the global importance of the Nanfang Republic, it might have seemed rather unusual for the President to have such an understated workspace, but there was particular historical significance involved as it had been the workplace of Chiang Kai-shek, widely regarded as one of the 'Fathers of the Republic' as a result of his contributions during his period of leadership, which had lasted from 1928 until 1975. So the office had been relatively unchanged from Chiang's time, with the only updates consisting of modern telecommunications equipment being installed.

The current President of the Nanfang Republic occupied Chiang's desk chair at the moment, going through various examples of bureaucratic documentation. Yang Mingshu was less than a month away from her fifty-eighth birthday and was in her fifteenth year as President, well into her third term in office with the next election scheduled for 2023. Due to the Nanfang Republic's electoral system, she was guaranteed a fourth six-year term but this did not mean that she was resting on her laurels. Hailing from Taiwan Province and with a background in national security, President Yang had received plaudits from across the Republic for her domestic economic policy which had seen the nation's economy continue to grow at a healthy annual rate, to the point where the Nanfang Yuan was now one of the world's most prominent reserve currencies. Her dream of the Nanfang Republic becoming a truly global power was also a reality due to the Shenzhen Pact, which featured 'full' members from across Africa and Asia but was also now receiving interest from European nations that viewed Pact affiliation or membership as desirable for their own reasons. Even though she had achieved a great deal during her tenure in office thus far, President Yang still had more that she wanted to achieve. One of these objectives ahead of her involved the establishment of a closer relationship between the Nanfang Republic and neighbouring Tibet, ideally a relationship that would see the mountainous nation become a member of the Shenzhen Pact. While on paper it would appear that there were nations around the world which would be far more beneficial to the Shenzhen Pact as members, as far as President Yang was concerned this was a matter of more than simple economics. The Nanfang Republic was the successor state to the Great Yue Kingdom and the Great Yue Kingdom had enjoyed a close relationship with Tibet; as the Nanfang Republic and modern Tibet were under completely different forms of governance to their equivalents during the 'priest-patron relationship', President Yang believed that a more modern take on the old relationship would be of great benefit to both nations. The Republic would gain an 'influenced nation' on their western border and undoubtedly establish themselves as a vital part of the Tibetan economy, even more so than their current role in the smaller nation's economy. Tibet would gain a benevolent and substantially larger 'neighbour-cousin' willing to invest heavily in Tibetan economic development and also willing to defend Tibet in the admittedly unlikely event of a foreign power moving against them. Unfortunately, Tibet seemed to be more independently minded than President Yang had hoped. She could understand why though, as the Himalayan state had managed to avoid major diplomatic entanglement for well over a century, thanks primarily to the Nanfang Republic's policy of respecting Tibetan wishes in that regard.

A knock on the door heralded the arrival of Huang Li, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who had requested a meeting with the President to discuss the latest reports from Lhasa. After being granted permission to enter the office, the typically bureaucratic head of the Republic's diplomatic efforts entered and took a seat in one of the gold-upholstered armchairs, patiently waiting for President Yang to set down her pen and join him. Yang crossed the short distance from her desk to the armchairs and settled in the vacant chair.

"So what news from Lhasa, Minister Huang?"

Huang opened the dossier which he had set down on his lap and handed her a summary report. "Madam President, it would appear that Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong has been rather open with Ambassador Koh. He appreciates our 'kind diplomacy' but Tibet enjoys 'kind diplomacy' with other nations as well. It is Koh's opinion that if we want to make serious headway with Tibet then we will have to demonstrate to them that we are serious. Warm platitudes are not going to be enough to open the Himalayas to us."

Yang mused on this for a moment. "I can't say that I'm surprised. The Regent is the great-grandson of the man who reformed Tibetan society, he likely feels a duty to his nation not just because of his position but also because of his bloodline. Whereas certain leaders among our happy Shenzhen Pact family hold the attitude that enriching their nation means enriching themselves, according to all reports Regent Rangdol is a completely different individual. An intriguing dichotomy really, Tibet's leader is a remarkably incorruptible strongman while the rest of the bureaucracy is apparently as corrupt as they come. Not that is of any help to us, bribing lesser bureaucrats in an attempt to influence Tibet would likely result in those bureaucrats being dismissed and the Regent adopting an extremely poor opinion of us. Basically we have to demonstrate to Regent Rangdol that a closer relationship with the Nanfang Republic and the Shenzhen Pact would be in Tibet's best interests.

"The simple fact is that a closer relationship would certainly be in their best interests. Investment would flow into Tibet like water and they would gain greater access to technical expertise. Not to mention the fact that there are currently three Shenzhen Pact members considering Gurkha recruitment for their militaries as a result of our own interest in Tibet."

"Three? I know that the United Arab Emirates and Singapura Raya are both looking to introduce new units to their militaries and Gurkha forces would be very welcome. The UAE is seeking units with a fierce reputation to go up against any potential Al-Shams insurgency while the Singapurans feel that Gurkhas would give their military more prestige and, as they describe it, 'oomph'. Who's the third nation?"

The President smiled slightly. "The third interested party is the Grande Império do Zaire. Their interest is primarily down to the Imperial House of Dourado wanting to expand their Guarda Imperial and they feel that Gurkhas would provide an additional intimidation factor. The UAE and Singapura Raya could both afford the costs of constructing selection bases in Tibet but Zaire are not so blessed. Príncipe Florêncio has therefore suggested that Zaire would come to some sort of additional accommodation for us if we established a selection base for them."

Huang tutted. "I really wish that Zaire would remember that diplomacy is supposed to be carried out between foreign ministries and career diplomats. It can be difficult keeping track of exactly how many foreign visits Príncipe Florêncio makes."

"Well there is something to be said for impromptu summit meetings, they can make quick breakthroughs." Yang chuckled at Huang's expression. "Not that I'm about to implement such a personal foreign policy....although perhaps in the case of Tibet, it is precisely what I need to do. No flash, no pomp, no media horde. Perhaps Regent Rangdol would be more amenable if he met with the leader of the Nanfang Republic as opposed to her representatives."

Minister Huang nodded slowly. "I see your point, Madam President. I'll instruct Ambassador Koh to inform the Regent of your desire to meet with him, hopefully we can sort out a time and place. In the meantime, with the greatest respect, I would ask that you remember to tell the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about any phone conversations that you have with Príncipe Florêncio. Please."

President Yang sighed slightly. "Very well, I promise to remember."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Aug 23, 2020 10:35 am

20 July 2020 - 15:10hrs [UTC+7]
Norbulingka Palace
Lhasa, Tibet

Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong stood on the balcony which adjoined his office, taking in the ever-colourful view that he still enjoyed despite seeing it every day. From the balcony, he could view the well-tended flower gardens of Norbulingka Park and enjoy the aroma which was created by the blending of so many floral scents. In his own admittedly biased opinion, he resided in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. In the Regent's mind, it was always worth taking time to enjoy the surroundings of Norbulingka as they served as a pleasant and calming distraction from mundane administration and political considerations, and the past seven days had led him to take this time for himself as he considered the future of Tibet. Ambassador Koh of the Nanfang Republic had visited him with President Yang's offer of a personal meeting and the Regent had been intrigued by the fact that Yang apparently wanted a quiet meeting. No media opportunities, no grand ceremony, just two national leaders sitting down together to discuss matters of mutual importance. Regent Rangdol had honestly expected that the President of the Nanfang Republic would want her first-ever visit to Tibet to be showcased by numerous fawning media personnel and highlighted with various staged events for domestic consumption, so hearing that she desired the exact opposite was refreshing to him. Her schedule would see her visiting Europe for the next few days and so her visit to Lhasa had been arranged for the twenty-eighth of July; this would give her time to properly change focus from her European visit as well as giving the Regent plenty of time to consider what he wanted to discuss with her. He certainly had his suspicions regarding what she would want to discuss with him. Thankfully the visits of Ambassador Koh had come to a halt following the arrangement of President Yang's meeting with the Regent, so the Tibetan autocrat had more than enough personal time to plan out the type of relationship that he wanted to see between Tibet and the far larger Nanfang Republic to the east.

A closer relationship between the two Asian nations was not something that the Regent was necessarily opposed to, it was more a case of desiring ground rules to ensure that Tibet did not become a glorified possession of the Republic in a similar manner to the previous relationship between Tibet and the Great Yue Kingdom. While most would look at the two nations and regard Tibet as the obvious junior partner in any potential closer alignment, Regent Rangdol wanted a partnership built on mutual respect. An equal partnership, for all intents and purposes. He had clear ideas regarding what he would be willing to allow and what he would absolutely not allow under any circumstances, as well as areas where he could compromise and areas where no compromise would be possible. If the Nanfang Republic wanted to engage Tibet in a closer diplomatic and economic relationship then Nanjing would have to accept Lhasa's terms as this was not a case of Tibet willingly throwing themselves into the Republic's political orbit, this was a case of the Republic courting Tibet. Suffice to say that Tibet was not a nation of easy virtue and so any closer relationship would need to be earned rather than bought. The Regent was also keenly aware that a closer relationship between Lhasa and Nanjing would inevitably lead to other members of the Shenzhen Pact following the Nanfang Republic's lead in seeking their own closer relationship with the Himalayan state, and there were already rumours regarding three Pact members having an interest in Gurkha recruitment. The fact that they were simply rumours at this point in time suggested to Regent Rangdol that the nations in question were probably waiting to see how the Nanfang Republic fared with Tibet before making their own approaches, but if they were hoping for some sort of preferential treatment in the future then they would be sorely disappointed. Even if Tibet ended up as a full member of the Shenzhen Pact at some point in the future, all nations interested in Gurkha recruitment would be held to the same rules and regulations that were currently in place.

From what the Regent had read about the Shenzhen Pact, his hopes were perhaps not as unrealistic as some would have believed. Pact members had to give express permission for others to station military forces within their borders, an impressive show of respecting national sovereignty. Despite being the obvious guiding power of the international organisation, even the Nanfang Republic had to ask the permission of their allies in order to make use of their military facilities or deploy forces in their territory. He smiled to himself as a thought occurred to him. 'What if I issue forth a large list of protective conditions and she accepts them all without any argument?'

He took another moment to breathe deeply of the mountain air, relatively unpolluted by traffic emissions when compared to the capital cities of major powers around the world, then stepped back into his office to continue with his work.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Tue Sep 15, 2020 2:39 pm

28 July 2020 - 14:00hrs [UTC+7]
Norbulingka Palace
Lhasa, Tibet

Although the meeting between Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong of Tibet and President Yang Mingshu of the Nanfang Republic was of both historical and political significance, it was not being treated as such. As promised by President Yang, she was not accompanied by any of her nation's media and she had in fact flown into Lhasa Gonggar Airport in one of the smaller business jets that formed part of the 'Presidential Airfleet' after it had been decided that using NP-One (Nanfang Presidential-One, a customised wide-body airliner) would be too grandiose, considering the relatively short travel time and the fact that the meeting itself was supposed to be quiet and understated. In a continuation of this spirit, the journey from the airport to Norbulingka Palace was conducted in a vehicle provided by the Tibetan regime, a black luxury sedan accompanied by a small escort of police outriders. The journey took just over an hour due to the airport's location and the route went through a more modern part of the Tibetan capital, although Potala Palace was clearly visible on the side of Ri Marpo ('Red Mountain') at the centre of the city. The immaculate Gurkha guards stationed at the main gate of Norbulingka Palace snapped to attention as the sedan passed through into the grounds of the Regent's residence, eventually drawing to a stop at the end of a paved pathway that led through the gardens to the palace itself. The rear passenger door was opened for President Yang by another of the attendant guards and she was politely greeted by a smartly-suited middle-aged man of Nepali ethnicity, who bowed to her before addressing her.

"Your Excellency. My name is Kanishka Pradhan and I have the honour of holding the position of Private Secretary to the Regent of Tibet. I officially welcome you to Tibet on behalf of Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong and I carry hopes that you have a most auspicious meeting with him." Pradhan extended his arm towards the palace and smiled. "Please, follow me. The Regent has requested that I show you some of the historical artifacts that are on permanent display within Norbulingka Palace, then I shall escort you to your appointment with him."

President Yang smiled at the unexpected occurrence. While she had been greeted in a most polite and respectful manner, it also appeared that Regent Rangdol was intent on making her wait before greeting her in person. She briefly mused to herself that it was just as well that there were no media present with her as this was not something that she would particularly want to have widely reported. However, the Tibetan administration were not the only ones who had prepared for this meeting. "Tashi delek." President Yang noted the beaming smile on Pradhan's face as she responded to him with a Tibetan expression of greeting and thanks, before continuing. "Thank you for your kind and warm welcome to your beautiful nation, Secretary Pradhan. I would be honoured to learn more about the history and culture of Tibet, please consider me to be your eager student in this matter."

The two individuals began to proceed along the pathway, President Yang wearing a white pantsuit with her auburn hair worn up. Pradhan spoke as they walked, taking his time to detail the major events in the palace's over-three-hundred year history while interspersing his historical monologue with minor facts such as the varieties of flora within the gardens and the reasons for their presence. As the pair entered the palace building itself, Pradhan's monologue switched focus from the history of the Regent's residence to various events in Tibetan history that were commemorated in paintings and murals within Norbulingka Palace. Eventually, they reached a large portrait depicting Tsarong Dzasa, the individual who had created the modern Tibetan state. Pradhan gestured towards the portrait with a degree of reverence.

"A truly great visionary and the great-grandfather of our honourable Regent. Tsarong Dzasa saw the resistance to change that existed within the old theocratic monarchical system and set out to institute a new order in Tibet that would spearhead modernisation. He traveled to our neighbouring nations to see how they had achieved their modernising regimes and noted the role of a strong military in achieving the modern nation-state, taking inspiration from states such as the Nanfang Republic and the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. The Ayutthayan military's coup in 1910 had imposed democracy upon an inept monarch and that struck a chord with Tsarong. After building up support, he ousted an ineffective Regent who had been appointed after the death of the 13th Dalai Lama and began to implement his vision for a new Tibet.

"As a result of his ancestor's forward-thinking reforms, Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong presides over a strong and independent nation. Incompetent officials can be replaced without unnecessarily long procedures and our military is world-renowned. The Tibetan Gurkhas are known for their fearlessness and their prowess on the battlefield and as you are undoubtedly aware, their reputation is such that foreign powers seek to recruit them in order to enhance their own militaries."

"The keywords used by Secretary Pradhan being 'strong' and 'independent'." They turned to see Regent Rangdol approaching them, hands clasped behind his back, and dressed in the military-style uniform of his role. Upon reaching them, he clasped his hands together and nodded towards President Yang. "Tashi delek."

President Yang returned the gesture and the greeting. "Tashi delek. It is a pleasure to meet you in person, Regent."

"Indeed, this has the potential to be a most auspicious meeting for both of our nations and I am heartened to see that you maintained your promise to leave the media at home." He quickly looked towards his Private Secretary. "That will be all, Pradhan. I shall call for you if you are required." As Pradhan excused himself and left to undertake other duties, the Regent returned his attention to the Nanfang Republic's President. "I trust that you will not object to 'walking and talking'?"

"No objections at all."

The two national leaders began to walk through the rest of the palace, side-by-side, Regent Rangdol with his hands clasped behind his back while President Yang naturally gestured with her hands as she spoke. "Regent, I'm sure that you are aware of the diplomatic events of the last twelve months. There have been several conflicts between the world's great powers and far smaller adversaries. There has also been the establishment of a new international organisation-"

Regent Rangdol interjected. "Yes, your 'Shenzhen Pact'. As you say, I am aware of such diplomatic developments. The Nanfang Republic has gathered a lovely little collection of satellites into your orbit and I will admit that some of them have proud historical lineages. The Kingdom of Ayutthaya for example, Marshal Tangwongsan is a particularly formidable individual. Now I saw the news about your visit to Portugal and the fact that you have two European nations now expressing an interest in joining the Pact, a genuine diplomatic coup if it pans out for you. I think that it is only right to make sure that you are aware that Tibet does not share such an intense interest in joining your organisation. We also have no interest in a restoration of the 'priest-patron relationship' that existed between Tibet and the Great Yue Kingdom as modern Tibet has moved beyond rigid theocracy. The Nanfang Republic has been courting Tibet, not the other way around, so I would imagine that you are here to inform me of all the wonderful amenities available to Tibet if we should join your family."

President Yang cocked an eyebrow at the Regent's tone but still nodded agreeably. "I appreciate your frankness, Regent. You wish to know about the potential advantages that aligning with the Pact could bring to Tibet and so I shall inform you. Alignment with the Shenzhen Pact will result in increased economic investment from the Nanfang Republic but it is highly likely that there would also be investment from the likes of Singapura Raya and the United Arab Emirates. Such investment could be accompanied by technical assistance in any infrastructure projects that you may have in the planning. I understand that you have some interest in expanding Tibet's hydropower sector and that is certainly something that the Pact could assist with, in fact, we have recently enabled the Grande Império do Zaire to proceed with a major hydropower project with investment from the Nanfang Republic, the UAE, and Freistaat Ostafrika."

"While increased investment and technical assistance would indeed be advantageous to Tibet, I do not wish to see my nation overtaken or colonised by foreign corporations. My great-grandfather did not establish the modern Tibetan state so that it could become a playground for outside business interests. This nation will advance at its own pace and we shall achieve that by harnessing the potential of foreign investment and assistance, not being overwhelmed by it. Tibet's identity will not disappear under a tidal wave of major brands."

Having noted the Regent's attitude, President Yang decided to continue by emphasising the potential for Tibet to exert control over any involvement with the Pact. "If you have reservations about a full commitment to our organisation then you can certainly opt for observer membership. Full members of the Pact respect each other's internal laws and sovereignty but observer membership could give you more freedom to engage with friendly nations on your own terms. For example, an observer Tibet would not be required to enter our free trade area when it is established but you could still be involved in our proposed joint security apparatus. I believe that you would find the Shenzhen Pact membership to be receptive to your nation's concerns and be willing to do business with you on your terms if you adopt observer membership."

"So what is in it for you? Why is it important to the Nanfang Republic to have Tibet aligned with your organisation?"

"Well, having Tibet aligned with the Shenzhen Pact secures the Republic's western flank. I realise that it is highly unlikely that any force would be able to invade us through Tibet but having the Himalayas under a government that is aligned with our own would provide considerable strategic peace of mind. There is also a historical aspect to consider. Tibet was once aligned with the Great Yue Kingdom and the Nanfang Republic is the successor state to the Kingdom. There is something to be said for establishing an alignment with the twenty-first-century equivalents of old Tibet and the Yue."

The Regent stopped and regarded President Yang with a quizzical expression. "No mention of the Gurkhas?"

Yang gave her best diplomatic smile. "The Nanfang Republic certainly recognises the formidable reputation of the Gurkhas but we do not intend to begin recruiting them. Of course, we have no interest in preventing other nations, such as the Kingdom of Apilonia, from recruiting them if Tibet does indeed align with the Shenzhen Pact. I am not sure if you have been informed but there are three Pact members that do possess a distinct interest in recruiting Gurkhas for their armed forces, namely the United Arab Emirates, Singapura Raya, and the Grande Império do Zaire. The UAE and Singapura Raya both possess the economic muscle to pay for the construction of a selection facility in Gorkha Province and pay the necessary fees; Zaire is not so financially blessed but the Nanfang Republic is willing to assist them with the costs of the endeavour. We are friends, after all, and friends help each other out."

Regent Rangdol nodded slowly. "Interesting. There is certainly no rule or regulation against a nation helping another to cover the cost of Gurkha recruitment. It certainly sounds as though the Grande Império do Zaire has gained several benefits from joining the Shenzhen Pact, but what have they had to give up in return?"

"Not as much as you may have thought. As a full member, they will be joining the free trade area and the other subsidiary agencies of the Pact, but they have lost none of their internal sovereignty. The Shenzhen Pact has no interest in forcing regime change on our members. We provide a stable and secure organisation for nations of all persuasions, based on the premise of mutual respect and cooperation. To give you an example of how that might play out for Tibet if you should choose to join as either a full or observer member: the Nanfang Republic would freely sell you modern military equipment but we would not expect unfettered access to your territory, facilities, or airspace. We would ask your permission for access." President Yang noted the slight change in the Regent's demeanour as she mentioned the possibility of arms sales. Tibet was, after all, a state that viewed its military as a guiding force of progress so modern armaments may be a subject of interest for their national leader. Regent Rangdol gestured for the pair to continue walking before responding.

"What sort of 'modern military equipment' would we be talking about, Madam President?"

"Oh, well that very much depends on what you would be interested in acquiring, Regent." She suppressed a satisfied smile at the slightly more polite tone of the Regent as she had evidently managed to break through at least some of his nationalistic defensiveness. "Rest assured that we have an extensive armaments industry that could certainly provide your renowned military forces with whatever you desire."

"Most interesting. Would you care for some tea, Madam President?"

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sat Sep 26, 2020 5:04 pm

29 July 2020 - 10:00hrs [UTC+7]
Norbulingka Palace
Lhasa, Tibet

President Yang's visit to Tibet had given Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong a great deal to consider in regard to his nation's potential future relationship with the Nanfang Republic and the wider membership of the Shenzhen Pact. Never one to rush any decisions of importance, the Regent had spent some time weighing up the possibilities that President Yang had brought to his attention but still had no intention of making a decision without further considerations. To this end, he had additional matters to discuss at the usual weekly meeting of the Kashag, the governing council of Tibet. The Kashag was comprised of seven 'Kalons' (ministers) who oversaw the day-to-day administration of the Tibetan state, all selected by the Regent for their competency in their respective fields....or equally as common an occurrence, selected for their loyalty. Due to the military-led nature of the Tibetan state, the Regent acted as Kalon of Defense in addition to being head of state and Supreme Commander, so the seven Kalons of the Kashag represented the civilian side of the administration. The seven Kalons were as follows: the Kalon for Education, the Kalon for Home, the Kalon for Information & International Relations, the Kalon for Religion & Culture, the Kalon for Security, the Kalon for Finance, and the Kalon for Health. One of the seven Kalons also held the position of Prime Minister, and in this particular incarnation of the Kashag, the Kalon for Security was also Prime Minister. Due to their primary function being that of bureaucratic managers rather than politicians, the Kalons were usually left to run their respective ministries without interference but if the Regent issued a directive then it was obeyed to the letter, even if that directive contradicted usual ministry operations. The Kashag meeting room in Norbulingka Palace was a simple room dominated by a long wooden table, which featured seven identical chairs running along one side and a more ornate chair on the opposite side, the idea being that all Kalons were equal in station before the Regent. The only nod to the Prime Minister's slightly higher position in the Kalon hierarchy was that they always took the centre seat of the seven, positioning them directly opposite the Regent during Kashag meetings. The Kashag meeting began as all Kashag meetings began. The Regent entered to find all seven Kalons standing behind their chairs, and once the Regent was seated the Kalons took their own seats and offered nods of respect towards the Tibetan head of state. Regent Rangdol offered a nod in return before beginning to speak, Secretary Pradhan being positioned at one end of the table to take minutes of the meeting.

"Yesterday I was visited by President Yang Mingshu of the Nanfang Republic. We discussed several subjects of importance but the subject that we discussed most was the future of the relationship between Tibet and our larger eastern neighbour. President Yang was respectful and understanding of our nation, and to her credit, she eschewed the usual media entourage that would normally accompany her on a foreign visit. Our discussions were constructive and in some cases rather fruitful, but they were preliminary discussions. She spoke at length regarding the potential benefits to Tibet of a closer relationship with the Nanfang Republic and the Shenzhen Pact, and she made an excellent case on behalf of her interests, but I wish to explore matters further before any binding decision is reached."

The Kalons all nodded their agreement at this statement. All male and dressed in the uniform of their respective ministries, the Kalons were not universally Tibetan but instead drawn from the various ethnicities that resided within the Himalayan nation. The Regent continued.

"Prime Minister Tshering, your thoughts?"

Prime Minister Norbu Tshering pursed his lips thoughtfully. A Bhutanese man of forty-three, his black hair was always worn short and no-one could ever say truthfully that they had seen him with facial hair.

"Regent, it is my opinion that closer alignment with Nanjing and their allies would bring both advantages and challenges from a security perspective. We would have the possibility of engaging in joint security operations and examining the methods of others, thus allowing us to learn lessons that could translate into more effective and more efficient practices within our own Security Ministry. The greatest challenge would be the potential greater influx of foreign citizens as a result of closer relations with other nations. We would need to liaise with other security agencies to ensure that no foreign criminals or terrorists attempt to cross into Tibet or establish operations here. However, I believe that the advantages would outweigh the challenges. Establishing closer relationships with foreign security agencies would allow us to see new methods of operation and potentially even give us access to new security technologies. That would allow us to maintain public order and public safety even more effectively than we currently do, and that is a clear positive outcome for our nation."

"You make an excellent point, Prime Minister." Regent Rangdol was unsurprised to hear Tshering speak in such a manner, as he had served within the Security Ministry for many years and therefore prided himself on ensuring public order. He now turned his attention to the Kalon for Finance, a fifty-year-old Nepali man named Ganesh Khatiwada. "Kalon for Finance?"

Khatiwada smoothed down his thin black mustache. "Regent, it is my opinion that Tibet would greatly benefit from such a closer alignment. The Nanfang Republic alone would worth a great deal in terms of closer economic ties, provided of course that they are willing to abide by our rules and regulations. If Nanfang corporations expect no special treatment and are willing to work with the Finance Ministry then our national coffers would find such a relationship to be extremely healthy. I read the summary of your discussions with President Yang and it appears to me that she is the sort of person who would ensure that her nation's businessmen respect our rules."

"You're quite correct in that assessment, Kalon Khatiwada. President Yang made it abundantly clear that the Nanfang Republic and the Shenzhen Pact would not force any changes upon us or attempt to bypass any of our laws, so we would be able to harness the potential of a tidal wave of Nanfang corporate investment instead of being swept away by it."

Khatiwada nodded and smiled. "As you say, Regent."

Rangdol gestured towards the Kalon for Health, a thin Tibetan of forty-nine named Sonam Dhondup. "Kalon for Health?"

"Regent, it is my opinion that our national health system could gain substantial benefits from a closer relationship with the Nanfang Republic and its allies. It could open up greater opportunities for Tibetan citizens to learn medicine at foreign universities as well as potentially making it easier for us to attract experienced medical personnel from other nations. That would increase our pool of doctors, nurses, surgeons, all with the very latest in medical training. We would also potentially gain greater access to the most modern medical equipment, not just from the Nanfang Republic but also from European nations if that speech given in Lisbon is anything to go by. In short, it is an opportunity that we should make the most of."

The Regent smirked slightly. "I never thought of you as being interested in foreign affairs, Kalon Dhondup. You are correct though, President Yang's visit to Lisbon does seem to have opened the door to European nations aligning with the Shenzhen Pact. Speaking of foreign affairs, Kalon for Information & International Relations? What is your perspective?"

The amiable-seeming Sushil Bhandari tapped his ballpoint pen on the table a few times before responding. "Regent, it is my opinion that from an international relations perspective, closer alignment does indeed open a lot of doors for us that are currently either closed or only slightly ajar. Closer alignment would increase Tibet's international profile and potentially bring us opportunities to gain prestige. Depending on how closely we align with Nanjing and the Shenzhen Pact, we could find ourselves with a say in the actions of a significant international organisation. From an information perspective, however, closer alignment could bring issues. We can currently manage tourists and other foreign visitors with ease, but a greater influx of foreigners could lead to interactions with the general populace that could prove potentially troublesome. We would potentially require an increased security presence in order to prevent the dissemination of ideas and ideologies that run counter to the Tibetan state."

Regent Rangdol nodded agreeably as the fifty-year-old Nepali man finished. "You're quite correct to express concerns, Kalon Bhandari. The Nanfang Republic harbours no interest in 'regime change' and the Shenzhen Pact is accepting of all manner of governmental systems. As you say though, tourists and other foreign visitors may attempt to spread ideas that are the antithesis of our military state. We would indeed require an increased security presence as a result, although I would suggest that we could counter the spread of anti-state ideas through a concerted effort from the Security Ministry, the Home Ministry, and the Education Ministry. Our state has endured for decades thanks to the wisdom of my great-grandfather's reforms and it is through our vigilance that it shall continue to endure. It is quite likely that Nanjing and their allies would assist us in this endeavour as they would have no desire to see a friendly government overthrown, it is something that we can discuss with the Nanfang Republic at the appropriate time. Kalon for Religion & Culture, what do you have to say on these matters?"

A fifty-five-year-old Tibetan, Wangdue Dhargyal adjusted his glasses before addressing the national leader. "Regent, it is my opinion that closer alignment will greatly increase awareness of our religion and culture around the globe. This would benefit us in terms of increased tourism which does, of course, bring both advantages and concerns as previously stated, but it could also benefit us in terms of influence. Increased awareness in other nations could result in a desire to know more, and that could lead to us being able to open cultural and religious outreach centres in other nations. We would have our embassies and consulates operating official diplomacy but we could conduct 'unofficial diplomacy' by educating citizens of foreign nations about our culture and our faith. We would likely attract converts through this effort and they could be utilised as an example to our people that our beliefs and practices can take hold in other nations. Provided that the spiritual authorities do not oppose this, of course."

"A very interesting concept, Kalon Dhargyal. Perhaps it would be better implemented by utilising embassies and consulates as 'home bases' for such activities at first, as establishing independent outreach centres could prove to be extremely expensive. I do like the idea though, it is one that we shall investigate. Kalon Dorji, do you agree that it would be prudent for the Religion & Culture Ministry to work alongside the Education Ministry in such endeavours?"

Pema Dorji nodded. "Yes Regent, it is indeed an endeavour that the Education Ministry could provide substantial contributions to." The forty-eight-year-old Bhutanese paused for a moment. "While I have the floor, as it were, I have nothing more to add to the discussions as the Education Ministry would not truly benefit or suffer whether we adopt closer alignment or not."

"Very well. That just leaves you, Kalon for Home. Anything more to add that has not already been mentioned?"

Gadrang Nyima shook his head as the fifty-two-year-old Tibetan could not think of anything specific to the Home Ministry to say. "Regent, other Kalons have covered any concerns that I have regarding increased foreign visitation and of course the Home Ministry will work alongside the Security Ministry and the Education Ministry wherever necessary to ensure the endurance of the Tibetan state. If it is decided that we are to pursue closer alignment then I shall ensure that the Home Ministry does everything possible to assist in the endeavour."

Regent Rangdol cast his gaze from Kalon to Kalon until finally clasping his hands together on the table. "This has been an informative and productive discussion indeed. So, on to the regular matters of governance."
Last edited by Freistaat-Ostafrika on Sat Sep 26, 2020 5:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Oct 04, 2020 3:34 pm

31 July 2020 - 09:00hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

The weekly Friday morning meeting of President Yang Mingshu's cabinet was being held amidst a genuine sense of positive progress, not only because of her historic trip to Tibet but also because of other events that seemed to be heralding well for the Nanfang Republic and the wider Shenzhen Pact. In stark contrast to the seven Kalons of the Tibetan Kashag, the Nanfang cabinet (also known as the Third Yang Government as President Yang was currently in her third term of office) was comprised of twenty-six cabinet-level ministers who worked diligently to ensure the continued prosperity of the Republic. Several ministers had played a part in President Yang's administration since her first term while others had filtered into the upper political echelons of the nation as existing ministers retired for a variety of reasons. They sat at a long lacquered conference table, thirteen ministers seated along each of the longer sides, while President Yang was positioned at the head of the table due to her leadership role; as the size of the table meant that those furthest from President Yang might struggle to be heard properly, microphones were available if any minister needed to use them. After everyone had taken their seats and settled down, President Yang began the meeting.

"Good morning everyone. I take it that you've all had an opportunity to read the report concerning my visit to Tibet?"

A murmur of agreement rippled through the assembled cabinet, bringing a smile to Yang's face. "Excellent. I must admit that Regent Tsarong is more protective of his nation than I had expected, even after consulting the previous reports from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is my assessment that Tibet is still a definite candidate for Shenzhen Pact membership, but it will take more time to bring them into the fold than initially thought. This is not necessarily an unfortunate situation, however, as it will give Regent Tsarong and his government time to consider how they wish to approach the Nanfang Republic and the other members. One thing that did catch my attention was his response when I mentioned the possibility of arms sales, he is a military strongman at the end of the day so it's possible that we could soften his stance towards us by offering a comprehensive armaments deal that would help to upgrade and modernise the Tibetan army and air force. Minister Tang, I would like the Ministry of National Defense to examine what we know about the Tibetan military and draw up a potential shopping list that we could present to Regent Tsarong."

The Minister for National Defense, Tang Dongwei, nodded before he responded. "Understood, Madam President. We should have such a list ready by either Monday or Tuesday if that is acceptable. It won't take our analysts long to develop it."

"That is perfectly acceptable, Minister Tang. Once we have an idea of what equipment we can provide and how much it would potentially cost, we can develop a selection of payment plans that we can offer. Now then, Minister Huang, why don't we turn to other international matters?"

Minister Huang tapped at his tablet and cleared his throat. "Madam President, fellow Ministers. Our first subject is the Republic of Cameroon, where Gabriel Nmbega took over as President from his father two months ago. Our ambassador in Yaoundé has reported that the Nmbega regime will be making an official announcement tomorrow that they are to submit a formal application for observer membership of the Shenzhen Pact. Cameroonian membership would create an unbroken territorial expanse of Pact members stretching from the Republic of Nigeria down to the Shoshanga Kingdom and the Republic of Ndongo. In short, roughly a third of the continent of Africa will be administered by Pact member governments. This will open up considerable opportunities in terms of infrastructure projects and economic investment, a genuine win for us and our allies."

He paused as the cabinet gave a short round of applause. "The Republic of Portugal will be tabling a vote in their Assembly of the Republic on the fourteenth of August regarding their own application for observer membership. President Yang's visit to Lisbon ten days ago saw the finalisation and signing of a trade and investment deal between Portugal and ourselves, and as we all saw, Prime Minister Duarte Cordeiro was rather enthusiastic about the Pact during their joint press conference. The Cordeiro government has an outright majority in the Assembly so the vote should pass without too much trouble. The Lusophone members of the Pact are quite eager to see Portugal join as Cordeiro has described his desire to reconnect with former colonies but in a relationship of equals, so there will likely be increased economic opportunities for them. Of course, Cameroon is also a Lusophone nation so at this rate, we may end up with the majority of the Lusophone world within the Pact."

President Yang spoke up at that point. "Perhaps we should suggest that the Shenzhen Pact adopt Portuguese as a working language then? We already have Mandarin, German, and English but we will soon end up with a majority of member-states speaking Portuguese."

Huang nodded. "My thoughts exactly, Madam President. With the first anniversary of the Pact in November, we have plenty of time to introduce Portuguese into the working languages. Remaining in Europe, the Republic of Zapadoslavia is currently organising for a referendum on the issue of an observer application, to be held on the tenth of September. Prime Minister Kryštof Zahradnik was also very positive on the subject of the Pact when he took part in the Lisbon visit but his government is still fairly recent, so he appears to be putting the application to a referendum so that the Zapadoslavian people will be the ones deciding instead of his government having it voted through the Chamber of Deputies. It could be a close-run thing but Zahradnik and his Social Democrats have proven themselves to be particularly adept at using social media, and he also has his 'Ruch Zahradnika' grassroots movement that is very loud in their support of him."

Yang smiled at the mention of Ruch Zahradnika. "I've seen some of their work, it's quite interesting to see how Zahradnik has successfully mobilised and essentially weaponised younger voters in his nation. Anyone who speaks out against his policies gets swarmed on social media with accusations of racism, class bias, homophobia, and practically anything that could be thought of. Anyway, it is my belief that we need to stay out of the run-up to the Portuguese vote and we should avoid being drawn into the Zapadoslavian referendum campaign as much as possible. Any other matters of interest?"

"The marriage of Archduchess Sophia of Austria to Prince George, a member of the Apilonian royal family. In light of Apilonia recently establishing the Duchy of East Africa after defeating the Emmanuel Xavier regime in the East African Republic, it could be a source of concern in the future. The Kingdom of Apilonia seems to be interested in reasserting Apilonian strength on the international stage and our allies in Freistaat Ostafrika are understandably concerned by this, as they have had their run-ins with the Apilonians on a variety of occasions. If the Apilonians attempt to use their new Austrian ties as a means to establish control over parts of Europe then it is a situation that we will need to observe with careful interest."

Yang 'hmmed' with an expression of concern. "There is not a great deal to be done at this moment in time as we currently do not have any Pact members in that part of the world. If, however, Zapadoslavia votes to apply for observer membership then we would have a future Pact member-state that borders Austria. For now, though, we shall adopt a simple policy of observation but we will increase our scrutiny if events call for it. I'll be having my weekly meeting with the ambassadors of our fellow Pact members this afternoon so I can discuss any Ostafrikan concerns with Ambassador Barkhausen, and I'll inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about anything substantial."

Her expression brightened as she changed the subject. "Now, speaking of the Shenzhen Pact. The first anniversary of the organisation's founding is coming up on the twenty-fifth of November, and preparations are proceeding well. We are ready to launch the Shenzhen Anti-Terrorist Structure and the Shenzhen Interbank Consortium as all of the necessary groundwork has been completed, those subsidiary bodies will be announced and will officially come into existence on the anniversary. The Shenzhen Free Trade Area will also be launched on the anniversary, thanks to the tireless efforts of Finance Minister Ma and Commerce Minister Lin in working with the other full members of the organisation to sort everything out. We will also be announcing the new Secretary-General for the Pact, and I understand that the candidates have been whittled down to two. Minister Huang, who do we have?"

"First is Vizepräsident Bertram Denker of the Ostafrikanische Gesellschaft, representing Freistaat Ostafrika. Sixty years old, served as Vizedirektor of External Relations before being promoted to the Supervisory Board, or 'Aufsichtsrat' to use the German, seven years ago. He has been the deputy to Präsident Friedrich Luxenberg ever since so that makes him the equivalent of 'deputy head of state' according to their corporatocratic structures. Luxenberg himself is sixty-three so it is highly unlikely that Denker will ever succeed him as Präsident, and that may be why Denker has been nominated. If I'm to be blunt then according to his record, he would be a good administrator with experience in diplomacy."

President Yang suppressed a chuckle. "I've met Herr Denker several times, he's always struck me as being...how shall I describe it? Pliable. As Secretary-General he would be operating out of the Pact headquarters building in the city of Shenzhen so any potential concerns about loyalty to Luxenberg would, in my opinion, be unfounded as he'd most likely come around to a more balanced point of view rather quickly once he's residing in the Nanfang Republic. Who is the other candidate?"

"Sheikh Thani bin Murad Al Nahyan. The second son of Emir Murad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates. Fifty-two years old, he has spent most of his adult life working in the National Oil and Gas Corporation. He was involved in negotiating the deal last year that saw the Margrave Oil Company acquire forty-nine percent of the National Oil and Gas Corporation, so he has a track record in the business world and doubtlessly has a wide array of contacts."

There was a loud 'tsk' from President Yang. "As much as the Margrave family have contributed to the Nanfang Republic's economy and influence through their corporate empire, I do not want them having a potential ally as the head of the Shenzhen Pact's civil service structure. We shall cast our vote for Bertram Denker, he has a more suitable background and ultimately I believe that he would be more impartial once he settles into his position. Any alternate viewpoints?"

The cabinet ministers all shook their heads at the question, causing Yang to smile once more.

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Founded: Apr 10, 2018
Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sat Oct 10, 2020 12:22 pm

3 August 2020 - 16:00hrs [UTC+8]
Liao Family Mansion
Oumún, Nanfang Republic

The Liao family was one of the more wealthy and influential families of the Nanfang Republic, although their fortune had been made in a less conventional manner than most. Originally a merchant family in the nineteenth century, the Liao had capitalised on the legalisation of gambling in the autonomous port city of Oumún while making friends and contacts in some very low places. Thanks to the power that they subsequently developed within the criminal underworld of the Nanfang Republic's southern provinces as well as their long-standing ties to the more corporate-oriented Margrave family, the Liao had become a dynasty to be reckoned with. The governors of Guangdong Province and the autonomous port cities of Oumún and Hēunggóng were almost always members of the Liao family, and the current Mayor of Guangzhou was married to a Liao. Although they had holdings in the shipping industry, the primary public source of the Liao fortune was the gambling industry of Oumún. The Liao owned the vast majority of the casinos and other gambling venues in Oumún, and their political clout allowed them to effectively block any foreign gaming companies who did not provide the customary kickbacks or share percentages. As gambling was illegal throughout the rest of the Republic, Oumún was popular with the wealthy as they could indulge in 'seedy activities' in the territory; the continued seedy reputation of Oumún actually played to the advantage of the Liao as it was almost expected that the territory might be corrupt to some degree. The family also dominated the upper echelons of the Howling Devil-Tigers, the criminal syndicate that ruled the underworld of the more populous southern provinces of the Nanfang Republic. Of course, not every Liao was involved in the family's major businesses. The twenty-nine-year-old Liao Darui was the youngest and most famous grandchild of the family matriarch Liao Baozhai, having pursued a music career that had undergone something of a renaissance over the past twelve months alongside a rather monumental shake-up of his personal life. Following his divorce from his now ex-husband Lysander Margrave and the moving of his artist contract from Margravia Entertainment to the Shanghai-based EE-Media, Darui had embarked on a small 'homecoming' tour as he dropped the more Westernised name 'Darui Liao-Margrave' and returned to his birth name of Liao Darui; EE-Media had also secured him a judging role on the popular 'Super Voice Girls' reality show, and the endorsement deals that he had lost from Margrave-owned corporations were more than made up for by the slew of offers that he received from major brands that were outside of the Margrave Holdings corporate family.

In his personal life, Darui had spent the last almost-ten months in a relationship with a young Singapuran who preferred to go by his nickname of 'Beibeilong' (or 'Baby Dragon'), or the far easier 'BeBe'. The twenty-one-year-old went by that moniker supposedly because he disliked his actual name, at least that was the reason that he and his older brother trotted out when the subject came up, but the name actually originated from the fact that his older brother was the 'Xuanlong' (or 'Black Dragon') of the Thrashing Dragons criminal syndicate that dominated the underworld of the Shenzhen Pact's Southeast Asian member-states. Upon becoming the leader of the organisation it was a tradition for an individual to symbolically renounce their given name in favour of their title, being referred to 'Xuanlong' from that moment on; BeBe had received his 'title' as a play on the fact that he was the forty-six-year-old Xuanlong's baby brother. Due to the wishes of Darui's grandmother and his second cousin Liao Siyong, the 'Sagacious Devil' of the Howling Devil-Tigers, BeBe and the Xuanlong had not told Darui anything about their family's activities as Liao Baozhai did not want him getting caught up in anything illegal, the same reason why he had never been told anything substantive about his own family's criminal dealings. Darui and BeBe had struck up a close rapport after Darui had been paid a substantial amount of money to perform at BeBe's twenty-first birthday, but they had held off on beginning a romantic relationship until after Darui's divorce had been finalised. The pair had now been living together since April in Darui's Oumún penthouse and with BeBe's twenty-second birthday fast approaching, Darui was paying a visit to his grandmother in order to discuss a matter of importance. So he was now walking with his ninety-one-year-old grandmother in the garden of her Penha Hill mansion, which had been in the family for over a hundred years after being constructed as a new home for the then-Liao matriarch. Penha Hill was arguably the most exclusive area of Oumún and the Liao family owned several of the expensive residences there. Baozhai's mansion was a two-storey residence in traditional Chinese-style architecture with a large garden, a true luxury in the otherwise-clustered city. The five-foot-six Baozhai wore her white hair cut short and was dressed in a simple white blouse and tan trousers, with a yellow shawl draped over her shoulders, while Darui's six-foot frame was clad in a stylish grey blazer and trousers with a black polo neck shirt.

"So we're going to be spending his birthday in Singapura at the Marina Bay Trinity, his brother's fine with us staying in the Chairman Suite because it's large enough for us to not get underfoot. The Trinity is where we first met and I think he'd like to spend some time with his brother." He stopped walking and took an intake of breath. "I'm going to propose to BeBe. You always told me that I should find a 'nice young man like us' and I don't think I'll find anyone else quite like him. He was willing to wait two months for my divorce to be finalised before starting a relationship and he is nothing like Lysander. He's supportive, sweet, hilarious...I could go on but I'd be here for a while. The family like him, Xiulan absolutely adores him." He chuckled as he thought about the friendship that his older sister had quickly struck up with BeBe. "There are no demands with him, he just loves life."

There was an obvious pause before Baozhai regarded him with a discerning eye. "Why the rush? You're both young so you have plenty of time to enjoy life before making such a commitment. In your case, again."

"Ah-Ma." Darui gently took his grandmother's hands in his own and smiled softly. "You don't need to remind me about how things turned out with Lysander. I didn't know what I was getting into by marrying into the Margraves but thankfully I learned before I'd been married for too long. Besides, even if he says yes, we'd still have to plan the wedding and I don't know if BeBe's ever considered what his dream wedding would be like. So it's not going to be a rush. Before I do actually propose to him though, I need your advice. You know how there's the 'side of our family that we don't talk about'? Well, I'm not an idiot. Our family's main business, our history, and our home province point towards that side of the family being involved in organised crime."

Baozhai narrowed her eyes at Darui before shaking her head and tutting loudly. "I'm not admitting anything but you've always been a smart boy. Not always wise, but smart. With that being said, what sort of advice are you seeking from me?"

The pair resumed their stroll as Darui responded, making their way towards an ornately decorated small gazebo that featured a comfortable wooden bench. "I think that BeBe's brother is involved in organised crime, he might even be a crime boss. Undoubtedly BeBe would know, and in all honesty, I think he does know but he's been told not to tell me. BeBe would tell me something that important if he were allowed. I want to tell him that I know that his brother's business isn't entirely legal and that it doesn't matter to me. I don't want to know specifics and I'd never expect BeBe to tell me anything in-depth, I just want him to know that I know what's going on and it doesn't change my feelings towards him."

Darui paused as they reached the bench and helped his grandmother settle before taking a seat next to her, at which point she turned to face him. "What are you basing this belief on? There must be some reason why you're thinking this way."

"Well, he's told me about his brother's business interests in rather broad terms which is a little odd considering how wealthy they obviously are. I mean, he describes his brother as owning the Marina Bay Trinity but I suspect that it's not as clear-cut as that. If his brother actually does own the Trinity then he owns it via a few twists and turns because there's no 'Mister Long' listed as its owner and in any event, in order to have that sort of money in Singapura Raya you're more than likely either in business with a syndicate or you are a syndicate. Believe me, no regular businessman would pay two million yuan for a music star to perform at his younger brother's twenty-first birthday, especially considering how much money had obviously already been spent on that birthday. Admittedly I wouldn't have been as suspicious if it wasn't for a particular item that Bebe brought with him when he moved in. One of the presents that he received for his twenty-first was a gold-plated Type 56 assault rifle, given to him by his brother's Nigerian business associates. I'll admit to not knowing much about Nigerian culture but I'm fairly certain that there's only one type of 'businessman' who would see a gold-plated assault rifle as an appropriate birthday present. He loves the thing so much that it's mounted on the wall of our bedroom." Darui smirked at the memory of BeBe proudly unpacking the rifle when he moved into Darui's Oumún penthouse, then cleared his throat. "Ah-Ma, is there anything you know about it all? Again, I don't need to know anything in-depth."

"A certain side of our family does have close business ties with 'Mister Long' and his people." Baozhai sighed as she looked into her youngest grandson's eyes and gave his hand a soft squeeze. "I've always tried to keep you away from things like this because I don't want you getting caught up in anything, but you seem to find your way to them nonetheless. At least you're smart enough not to seek too much knowledge. So my advice is to tell Beibeilong that you know what his brother's business is and that it doesn't matter to you. If he asks who told you then you can tell him that it was me. No need to potentially embarrass him by explaining that you picked up on clues."

Darui beamed happily and leaned forward, hugging Baozhai tightly for a moment. "Thank you, Ah-Ma." He released her and nodded slightly as he straightened up. "I'll order his favourite meal for dinner tonight from the restaurant in our building and talk to him about all this."

Baozhai reached forward and patted Darui's cheek before giving it an impish squeeze. "I'm glad you're happy with him and I give you my blessing to propose to him, but don't you dare get divorced again. If you get to a second divorce then I'm locking you in a cupboard."
Last edited by Freistaat-Ostafrika on Sat Oct 10, 2020 12:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Thu Oct 22, 2020 4:15 pm

10 August 2020 - 09:00hrs [UTC+8]
Chairman Suite, Marina Bay Trinity
Singapura, Singapura Raya

Located in the glittering capital of the Southeast Asian nation known as Singapura Raya, the Marina Bay Trinity was a massive integrated resort that enjoyed an excellent reputation with wealthy and influential visitors. The Trinity featured three 55-storey hotel towers topped by a single cantilevered platform, with the platform hosting a 1,120ft SkyPark and a 490ft infinity swimming pool. The complex also featured other buildings that hosted the wide variety of facilities that served to make a stay at the Trinity a truly unforgettable experience. The Trinity Theatre House was comprised of two large theatres, the Marina Theatre with a capacity of 1,679 and the Grand Theatre with a capacity of 2,155. The Trinity Casino housed just over 1,000 gaming tables and 1,400 slot machines over four levels, while the Trinity Expo and Convention Centre offered two floors that could potentially accommodate up to forty-five thousand guests and visitors. In addition, the resort also featured the ArtScience Museum which was lotus-shaped and had a retractable roof to allow for easy viewing of the 'Wonder Full' night-time multimedia spectacular. The primary shopping mall provided almost one million square feet of retail space with over three hundred stores and featured a canal that ran through its length, with guests and shoppers being able to book sampan rides through the mall if they so wished. When combined with ten 'celebrity chef' restaurants, an indoor skating rink that used artificial ice, and two 'crystal pavilions' built away from the shore but connected to the mall by underwater tunnels, it was easy to see why the Marina Bay Trinity had become one of Singapura's most iconic skyline features and 'places to be'. A lesser-known fact about the Trinity was that it was owned via various fronts and dummy corporations by the Thrashing Dragons criminal syndicate, the slick and professional organisation that enjoyed influence in Singapura Raya's political and business realms while completely dominating the underworld of Southeast Asia, demonstrating no concern for ethnic background as its membership was comprised of Singapurans of every ethnicity. Singapura Raya's stance on free trade and regulation meant that the state's banks were ideal for money laundering, while Singapura itself played host to illicit 'pleasure houses' and 'narcotics establishments' as the Thrashing Dragons refused to use base terms such as 'brothel' or 'drug den' due to the wealth of the capital's population. The current Xuanlong of the organisation was well suited to his leadership position, having utilised his contacts and influence to bring together prominent criminal groups within the Shenzhen Pact in order to form their own association, internally referred to as the 'Celestial Alliance'. In addition to the Dragons, the Alliance also involved the Howling Devil-Tigers of the southern Nanfang Republic, the Makinde Clan of the Republic of Nigeria, the Ngola Group of the Republic of Ndongo, Príncipe Florêncio of the Grande Império do Zaire and his agents, and perhaps most worryingly the Ostafrikan Department of State Security. Despite all this, he still made sure to find time for his beloved baby brother, especially on his birthday.

The Chairman Suite at the Trinity was truly a residence fit for the leader of a criminal syndicate as successful as the Xuanlong. Located on the fifty-third floor and covering six hundred square metres with floor-to-ceiling windows that offered a spectacular view of Marina Bay, the Chairman Suite featured a central hub comprised of two open-plan living rooms, one of which included a baby grand piano. There were four bedrooms, three with king-sized beds and one with two single beds, each featured an adjoining bathroom equipped with a glass-enclosed shower and Jacuzzi. Glass sliding doors in the bedrooms opened to furnished balconies overlooking Gardens by the Bay, the one-hundred-and-one hectare horticultural attraction situated only a couple of minutes away from the Trinity by foot. Other amenities of the Chairman Suite included a kitchenette, a media room with karaoke, a billiards room with pool table, a fully equipped private gym, a massage room, steam and sauna facilities, and a study. As he waited for BeBe and Darui to emerge from the bedroom that had always belonged to BeBe, the Xuanlong sat on a couch casually sipping at a cup of fresh black coffee, already dressed in a white shirt with black trousers and a black necktie. His short black hair was slicked back and his goatee was trimmed as neatly as ever, giving him an eminently respectable appearance that masked the calculating intelligence lurking behind his handsome features. The sound of giggling followed by a door opening heralded the imminent appearance of the 'Baby Dragon' and sure enough, BeBe came into view, dressed in his favourite sleepwear of a short-sleeved red silk v-necked pyjama top with a pair of matching pyjama shorts. Standing five-foot-ten with a slim build, BeBe briefly attempted to wrestle his black hair into some semblance of order before giving up and directing a gentle wave in the direction of his older brother, who smirked and returned the gesture.

"Happy birthday, baby brother."

BeBe beamed at the word 'birthday' before turning as the Xuanlong offered a 'good morning' to Darui as BeBe's lover strode out of the bedroom. Barefoot and stripped to the waist, Darui wore a pair of pyjama bottoms that matched the colour of BeBe's own attire and was fortunate in that his own hair was short enough to not become overly chaotic upon rising from bed. Darui returned the Xuanlong's greeting before having his arm gently grabbed by BeBe, who then guided him over to the nearby table where a collection of wrapped gifts awaited. As BeBe turned his attention to his birthday presents, Darui stepped up close behind him and snaked his arms around the younger man's midriff in an affectionate hold, gently resting his chin on BeBe's left shoulder.

"Now that I know that some of these gifts are going to be from businesspeople, am I still going to be surprised, do you think?"

BeBe giggled at Darui's euphemistic term for the criminal partners and allies of the Thrashing Dragons and checked the label on the nearest package. "Hmm, that's a very good question. You might be surprised by one or two names but as requested, I won't go into specifics. In some cases I probably won't be able to go into specifics anyway, I've always been more of a greeter and host than an active mastermind. So this first one is from our friends in Nigeria."

"The ones who gave you that gold-plated assault rifle."

"Uh-huh." BeBe opened the gift and his eyes lit up at the sight of a gold-plated and diamond-encrusted pistol, chuckling as he picked it up. "Our Nigerian friends certainly have a theme. Brother, what do you think?"

The Xuanlong strode over and gave a low appreciative whistle as he inspected the deactivated firearm. "Now that's nice. Type-80 machine pistol, Nanfang manufacture. They're not used as much these days because they have an unfortunate habit where the chamber starts overheating after cycling ten cartridges. Still, you have to love the retro look of it." He returned the pistol to BeBe and nodded to Darui. "You knowing about certain things makes this so much easier, I was wondering how we were going to explain away some of this."

Darui smiled in response and quickly returned his attention to BeBe as the young Singapuran pulled the next gift to him, a rather large rectangular box, and read the tag aloud. "Oooh, it's from Zaire! Last year it was a royal mask from a now-extinct tribe." Darui and the Xuanlong assisted BeBe in removing the lid and the internal packaging, and they exchanged an awed expression at the sight of the contents while BeBe was rather quiet due to the sight before him. "It's...wow, it's beautiful. What's the card say? Umm...here we go. 'Borboletas' by Aníbal Mbonga." He fought the urge to trace a finger over the painting, a vibrant scene depicting a veritable kaleidoscope of butterflies floating in the air above a verdant meadow. Darui noted the way that BeBe idly gave his arm a gentle squeeze as he continued to look over the artwork, a sure sign that he was truly taken with it.

"I'm guessing that your friends in Zaire are rather wealthy then?"

Darui's question elicited a smirk from BeBe. "You can definitely describe them as wealthy. I can see this hanging in our lounge very easily." He turned his head to look at Darui with a cheeky smile. "This is one of the best things about the younger brother of a criminal boss, his business partners give me fancy gifts as a way of showing their respect for him because it would look way too blatant if they gave him gifts." He turned his attention back to his birthday gifts, tapping his finger idly on the table as he cast his gaze over the various presents. "Which one should I open next?"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

10 August 2020 - 21:00hrs [UTC+8]
Skypark, Marina Bay Trinity
Singapura, Singapura Raya

As he gazed out at the glittering night skyline of Singapura with BeBe at his side, Darui did his best to fight off the nervousness that was building within him. He had endeavoured to recreate aspects of the time that they had spent together during BeBe's previous birthday in an attempt to create as enjoyable a day as he could for his younger lover, and judging from BeBe's reactions he was succeeding. After a delicious meal at the Skypark's 'Salute' restaurant where they made use of the Xuanlong's permanently reserved table, just as they had done the previous year albeit under slightly different circumstances, the pair had walked out onto the Skypark's observation deck to take in the spectacular view. While Darui was dressed in a smart black tuxedo that made him stand out for being slightly overdressed for the restaurant, BeBe wore a red and black patterned jacket, black chinos, and a white shirt, just as he had worn during their first meal at Salute. They now stood arm-in-arm, BeBe resting his head on Darui's shoulder as he let out a contented sigh and tightened his hold on the older man's arm.

"This is nice."

Darui nodded in agreement. "Nice and peaceful. Not like your birthday last year, who were all of those people?"

BeBe giggled as he remembered the experience of over two hundred people attending his private party on the Skydeck the previous year. "Honestly? It was a mix of my brother's people, some of his business partners, a few local celebrities that have been helped by the organisation, some politicians looking to make contacts...um, I think that's probably it. Oh, and you of course. Although technically you were just there to perform a few songs."

"Hmm, taking that booking was the best thing I ever could've done. Well, aside from this."

He reached into his left trouser pocket and brought out a small black box, instantly capturing BeBe's curiosity. "Another gift? You're starting to spoil me more than my brother does."

Darui chuckled and shook his head, then broke their linked arms and turned to face BeBe, gazing deeply into his hazel eyes as he took his hand. "When I came here last year, I was in a low place. I didn't know where my career was going to end up and my personal life was, to be blunt, a mess. Then you bashed your way into my life with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. You crashed my meal at Salute the night before your birthday and invited yourself to dine with me. During your birthday party, all you kept doing was urging me to talk because you figured I had something on my mind. You convinced me to stay for eight more days after your birthday and you made me feel like myself again. Then you were willing to wait for two months while I sorted out my problems in the Nanfang Republic before we actually tried a relationship."

He paused and swallowed, blinking quickly and letting out a nervous sigh. "You're always ready to listen if I need to talk. If you ever think I'm down about something, you do everything you can to make me smile. When I travel around to do performances, interviews, or other media stuff, you come along to support me. When we're at home, it feels like home. I know that I often mention how my grandmother told me to-"

"'Find a nice young man like us', you might have mentioned it once or twice."

Darui laughed at BeBe's smirking interjection, thankful that it had broken some of his tension and lightened the moment. "Well, it was good advice and I'm glad that I finally managed to act on it. I love you, BeBe."

"I love you too, Darui."

"That's good to hear right now." Darui slowly dropped down to one knee, causing BeBe's eyes to widen with surprise as realisation dawned on him about what was apparently about to happen. Darui opened the small black box and carefully produced a stylish solid platinum ring with a diamond set into the band, then held it up towards BeBe. "Will you marry me?"

BeBe stood there silently dumbfounded, blinking rapidly as Darui smiled up at him. Just at the corner of his perception, he became aware of other people on the observation deck who had seen Darui drop to one knee and were now watching in anticipation to see what the outcome was going to be. After a few seconds that felt more like a lifetime to Darui, BeBe gently bit his lip before letting out a slight shuddering sigh as tears of happiness began to roll down his cheeks. "Of course I will."

Upon BeBe's softly-spoken reply, Darui finally exhaled the breath that he had been holding and took hold of BeBe's left hand, gently sliding the ring onto his ring finger. He then rose to his feet once again and wiped away one of BeBe's tears with his thumb, fighting back his own tears of joy as the pair embraced and exchanged a slow tender kiss to the applause of those who had been watching them.

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Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Mon Oct 26, 2020 3:33 pm

15 August 2020 - 16:00hrs [UTC+7]
Norbulingka Palace
Lhasa, Tibet

Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong had to admit to being rather amused by the actions of the membership of the Shenzhen Pact. Seventeen days after President Yang had visited Tibet for a rather constructive initial meeting regarding a potentially closer relationship between the Nanfang Republic and their mountainous western neighbour, another representative of a Pact member-state had arrived. This one appeared to have a different agenda to President Yang, however. The twenty-six-year-old Príncipe Florêncio of the Grande Império do Zaire cut a stylish figure, standing six-foot-two with his brunette hair cut short and swept back as he endeavoured to project a more businesslike image these days, reinforcing this image with a tailored grey-and-black pinstripe suit. As always he was accompanied by his imposing six-foot-four bodyguard Ntambwa who was dressed in a stylish black suit with tinted shades, his dark hair closely cropped while his beard and moustache were neatly trimmed. Ntambwa was truly an example of 'strong and silent', barely speaking and more than able to manhandle just about anyone that the young prince directed him towards. Florêncio had arrived in Tibet on the fourteenth of August by flying into Kathmandu International Airport via private jet, after obtaining permission from the Tibetan government to conduct a preliminary investigation into the possibility of Zaire recruiting Gurkhas for their military. The Regent's amusement stemmed from the fact that Florêncio was the first of three representatives of Pact member-states to seek such permission, with Singapura Raya and the United Arab Emirates scheduled to send their own people in the coming weeks to scout out the Gurkhas, and all three had approached the Tibetan government after President Yang had undoubtedly had an opportunity to inform the rest of the Pact that her own meeting with the Regent had been constructive. The Zairian crown prince was scheduled to stay in Tibet for five days, during which time he would receive a tour of the Gurkha training facilities in Gorkha Province and meet with the local administrators who played a significant role in determining the sites of potential selection facilities for foreign powers that intended to recruit the renowned warriors for their own national militaries. His first full day in Tibet had seen Florêncio meeting with the Governor of Gorkha Province in the morning, and now he had taken the short one hour and thirty-minute flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa in order to meet with the Regent in person.

Upon arriving at Norbulingka Palace, Florêncio and Ntambwa had been greeted by Secretary Pradhan in much the same manner as President Yang had been welcomed. Pradhan had walked them through some of the gardens and then given them a short tour of the palace itself, pointing out any artworks of distinguished individuals and giving them something of a history lesson. The tour had ended at precisely four o'clock in the afternoon as the Regent had finally deigned to meet with the young Zairian prince, noting that Zaire was one of two Pact member-nations in Africa that appeared to possess a white ruling class; in the case of Zaire, he was aware that the state had once been a Portuguese colony and that the former colonial administration had held onto power after independence, with the former colonial governor declaring himself 'Imperador' of the new 'Grande Império'. While he found the story of the Imperial House of Dourado to be rather entertaining, the Regent did not doubt that they must have something going for them as they were, after all, still in power. Secretary Pradhan was guiding Florêncio and Ntambwa past the portrait of Tsarong Dzasa when the Regent appeared, dressed in his fine military-style uniform; Pradhan immediately bowed his head reverentially while Florêncio offered a polite smile before clasping his hands together and nodding towards the Regent.

"Tashi delek. It is an honour to meet you, Regent."

"Tashi delek." The Regent returned the greeting, noting that the use of the Tibetan expression of greeting and thanks was undoubtedly yet another piece of advice disseminated among the Pact members following President Yang's visit. "It is not often that we receive visitors from the continent of Africa, Your Highness." He paused as he noticed Ntambwa's stoic manner. "Does your manservant not talk much?"

Florêncio chuckled and shook his head. "No, he's quite quiet. Although he is not actually my manservant, he is my bodyguard. How many have you killed in my service, Ntambwa? Twenty?"

A low deep rumble was heard in response. "Twenty-seven."

Florêncio regarded the Regent with an impressed expression. "I stand corrected." He cast his gaze around the corridor, nodding appreciatively at the murals that decorated the walls. "You truly are fortunate, Regent, this palace is magnificent. Perhaps if relations between our two nations prove to be fruitful, you would allow us to build a Norbulingka-inspired residence in Zaire. My family finds great enjoyment in learning about other cultures and importing them into our empire in some manner."

"Hmm, perhaps something to discuss at another juncture then?" Regent Rangdol gave a nod to Secretary Pradhan, who quickly scurried off to continue with his regular daily duties, then the Tibetan strongman turned his attention back to his visitors. "I understand that you are here to investigate the possibility of recruiting our Gurkhas into the Zairian military."

"Yes, indeed I am. To be more precise, we are interested in recruiting Gurkhas into our Guarda Imperial. As I'm sure you can appreciate, we have our regular armed forces and then we have the Guarda Imperial, an elite force dedicated exclusively to the protection of the Imperial House, our residences, and any particularly important or significant sites in Zaire. It is my belief that the Guarda Imperial would benefit substantially from the recruitment of Gurkhas, perhaps two or three battalions."

"Indeed? Shall we 'walk and talk', Your Highness?" The Regent gestured for Florêncio to walk alongside him and so the pair began to proceed down the corridor, Ntambwa a very slight distance behind them. "So why do you believe that your Guarda Imperial would benefit from the recruitment of Gurkhas? I am always interested to know the rationale involved when foreigners come to us."

Florêncio offered a grin. "Well, what can I say about the Gurkhas that hasn't already been said? Formidable warriors possessed of a fearsome military prowess. Unafraid of death or superior enemy numbers. So renowned that foreign powers come to the Himalayas to request permission to recruit them for their own armed forces, where the Gurkhas have distinguished themselves time and time again. The presence of Gurkhas in the Guarda Imperial would serve to inspire the existing membership to greater heights of prowess and service. The Imperial House of Dourado would sleep even more soundly knowing that we have such elite warriors protecting us. We would have loved to be able to recruit them before now but unfortunately, the circumstances were not conducive to it."

The Regent nodded understandingly. "Yes, the cost of establishing a selection facility and then funding an ongoing recruitment program is not exactly small. President Yang did mention your nation during her own visit to Tibet, she stated that the Nanfang Republic was willing to assist Zaire with the costs of Gurkha recruitment. I must admit that I was intrigued by that, it is not often that I hear of a nation assisting another nation to recruit Gurkhas."

"President Yang and the Nanfang Republic have proven to be great friends to Zaire since the Singapura Conference in January 2019. The relationship between us only deepened when the Shenzhen Pact was created. Zaire benefits from the trade links that the Pact has brought into existence and we will benefit even more from the Shenzhen Free Trade Area once it comes into effect at the end of November, on the Pact's first anniversary. Really speaking, the member-states of the Shenzhen Pact have almost become a family. Anyway, to answer your question, the Nanfang Republic tries to assist the rest of the Pact with projects that they would like to implement but might not be able to afford on their own."

"Like the Inga III project."

"Precisely. Thanks to investment from the Nanfang Republic, Freistaat Ostafrika, and the United Arab Emirates, the Grande Império can finally get moving with that particular hydropower development. It will take a few years to complete but once completed, we will be producing so much electricity in Zaire that we will be able to export it to neighbouring Pact members." Florêncio paused for a moment before turning the conversation in a slightly different direction. "Regarding the cost of Gurkha recruitment, there is something that I've wondered about. Have you ever considered establishing a private military company comprised of Gurkhas?"

The Regent furrowed his eyebrows at the suggestion. "You mean creating a force of Gurkhas for anyone to hire as long as they have the money?"

"Well, yes. Forgive me if it's an idea that you find abhorrent, but you must have a large number of Gurkha veterans who no longer actively serve in the Tibetan military. There are major corporations all around the world that would kill for the opportunity to hire Gurkhas for security purposes. Oil and gas multinationals who want extra security around their pipelines and extraction sites. Mining companies who need additional or more formidable security around their mining operations. Then there are the smaller nations that might need some additional military support for specific operations. If you were to create a private military company of Gurkhas then you could create a strong revenue stream for Tibet, especially if you specified that any nation recruiting Gurkhas for their military is banned from creating their own competing company on pain of losing their recruitment rights. That way you would effectively have the monopoly on providing Gurkhas in the private sector."

Regent Rangdol nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, I can see how that could provide Tibet with additional revenue but the start-up costs could be high. Establishing the company, recruitment of civilian staff as well as combatants, acquisition of proper military equipment, not exactly cheap."

"That is true, but I'm certain that you could find some nation somewhere willing to provide investment in order to get it started."

The Regent chuckled to himself. Príncipe Florêncio was obviously referring to the Nanfang Republic when he spoke of a nation willing to provide investment, and Regent Rangdol found himself congratulating President Yang in his thoughts. He did not know if Yang had come up with the idea herself and was using Florêncio as a vehicle for its introduction or if Florêncio had come up with it himself, but either way, the Regent was being presented with yet another example of how the Nanfang Republic could be a beneficial friend to Tibet. "It is certainly an idea that merits careful consideration, Your Highness. If you follow me to my office, perhaps we could discuss it further over some tea?"

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Thu Nov 05, 2020 4:38 pm

21 August 2020 - 09:00hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

"So we all know about the good news from Portugal but we shall allow Minister Huang to officially inform us."

President Yang smiled warmly at Huang Li as the weekly Friday cabinet meeting of the Third Yang Government got underway, giving her Minister for Foreign Affairs an opportunity to deliver some welcome news from Europe. Huang beamed with pride as he leaned forward to address the rest of the government ministers.

"The news came in late last Friday so all of us do already know this, but the Republic of Portugal held the vote in their national legislature regarding whether or not to proceed with an application for membership in the Shenzhen Pact. The vote passed by one hundred and thirty-nine to eighty-four. We have now received their official application and copies have been provided to all full members of the Pact for their consideration. As we are all aware, the existing full members will need to unanimously vote in favour in order for Portugal to become an observer member, but I think it is safe to say that no-one will oppose their membership. Due to the number of Lusophone nations already in the Pact and Portugal's intention to join, we will be officially adding Portuguese to the list of working languages for the Shenzhen Pact on November the twenty-fifth, the organisation's first anniversary. This will also tie in with Cameroon's membership application as they are a former Portuguese colony. Cameroon's application has also been circulated and again, no-one has any objections."

President Yang nodded agreeably. "Excellent. As we have already discussed in previous cabinet meetings, Cameroon's location means that their membership will open up numerous possibilities for pan-African infrastructure projects. Their oil and gas reserves will also add to the Shenzhen Pact's total reserves. As far as Portugal is concerned, they are a high-income nation with an advanced economy and a prestigious history. Not only will they benefit the Pact in economic terms but having a 'Western' democracy in our little family will help us demonstrate that the organisation is truly open to all nations, regardless of politics or culture. Speaking of 'Western' democracies, what news do we have from Zapadoslavia?"

Huang tapped a few times on his tablet to bring up the briefing information. "Zapadoslavia will be deciding about an application on September the tenth when they are holding their national referendum. The foreign affairs analysts have been watching the televised debates thus far and perusing the information provided by both sides of the referendum debate, in order to see how both sides are approaching the idea of applying for membership. Prime Minister Zahradnik and the Social Democrat government are stressing the advantages of membership by focusing on what it would mean for ordinary Zapadoslavians, pointing out the numerous goods and services that would become less expensive if they joined the free trade area once it is formally established. Zahradnik has also been discussing how Zapadoslavian membership would help to increase the nation's international standing, as they would be able to participate in the various agencies and initiatives that the Pact will be creating. To be honest, the opposition to membership is straying into some rather xenophobic territory and is being led by the former Prime Minister, Igor Panek, who is going to be replaced as the leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Party for losing the June elections. The anti-membership groups seem to be focused on the idea that Prime Minister Zahradnik is in our pocket and that the Pact is too corrupt and authoritarian for them to join. That has resulted in some complaints from the ambassadors of certain Pact members."

"So what is the analysis from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs?"

"We believe that Prime Minister Zahradnik will win the referendum. The most recent opinion polls held by Zapadoslavian media sources indicate the potential for a fifty-five percent vote in favour. As all of the political parties agreed to make the referendum binding before the start of campaigning, fifty-five percent would be sufficient. That analysis does not just rely upon the arguments being used and their presentation to the Zapadoslavian public, however. We've also tried to factor in the influence of Ruch Zahradnika."

President Yang smirked. "Ah yes, his grassroots organisation."

"Indeed, Madam President. They are rabidly vocal in their support for Prime Minister Zahradnik and will undoubtedly flood social media with pro-Zahradnik messaging. There is also a strong likelihood that they will attempt to shout down the anti-membership groups."

"I see. Well, we shall adopt our usual position of observation and we will not attempt to intervene in any way. With any luck Zapadoslavia will be a second European nation to apply for membership, quite a strong one if I remember the briefings correctly. Do we have any news from Tibet?"

Huang chuckled. "We do indeed, Madam President. Príncipe Florêncio recently visited Tibet on a fact-finding mission in regard to recruiting Gurkhas for the Grande Império do Zaire, and he sent us a report on his time there. Apparently he caught the Regent's interest by suggesting the idea of a private military company comprised of Gurkha personnel, something that would give Tibet a way to make more revenue."

"A Gurkha PMC? I imagine that the Margrave family would be first in line to employ their services, with many others not far behind. Yes, that could be quite a source of income for Tibet. Was there any decision made or was the Regent simply 'interested' in the idea?"

"Well, Príncipe Florêncio stated that he hinted to the Regent that we could be a potential source of investment that would help to create such a company. He believes that the idea has struck something of a chord."

"We shall see if it bear fruit, and we should thank Príncipe Florêncio for providing this unsolicited assistance. His style of diplomacy may well pay off for us, don't you think?"


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


21 August 2020 - 14:00hrs [UTC+8]
Liao Family Mansion
Oumún, Nanfang Republic

"So I understand that it may finally be time to say 'welcome to the family', BeBe."

BeBe grinned happily at Liao Baozhai as he took a seat in the lounge of the Liao matriarch's mansion, waiting for her to sit first as a sign of respect. The pair were now sat on comfortable floral-patterned couches on opposite sides of an antique coffee table as Baozhai had invited BeBe to visit with her for the afternoon, without Darui as this was just as much an evaluation as a social call. Knowing his grandmother as he did, Darui had given BeBe a few helpful hints on how to deal with her in a one-to-one setting. Baozhai was wearing a white blouse and black trousers with a crimson shawl draped over her shoulders, while BeBe wore a black suit with a black open-collared shirt.

"I very much hope so, Madam Liao." He gestured towards the intricately patterned porcelain tea set that occupied the centre of the coffee table. "Would you like some tea?"

One of Baozhai's eyebrows twitched as she fought her own facial expression, not wanting to give away that he was already impressing her. "Yes, thank you." She sat quietly and observed as BeBe carefully handled the tea set, expertly pouring out two cups of freshly-prepared tea before handing one to her, precisely positioned in the middle of the saucer. "You've done that before."

He smiled and nodded as he picked up his own beverage. "I've played host to my brother's business associates quite a lot, some of them like to drink tea because it's more 'civilised' than anything alcoholic." Although he was managing to appear his usual bright and breezy self, BeBe was doing his utmost to keep any nerves under control. He had met Liao Baozhai a few times in the past but it was always with Darui around, and it was before Darui had proposed to him. BeBe was no longer just her grandson's boyfriend, he was now her grandson's fiance and prospective second husband, and he knew that this would lead to much more scrutiny from her.

"Ah yes, your brother. I must admit that I hear nothing but good things about him from Liao Siyong, this 'Celestial Alliance' idea is proving to be quite profitable, isn't it? Exporting the East Asian way of 'business', with defined spheres of territory and established procedures for conflict resolution, to African syndicates and potentially beyond. Most commendable. So tell me BeBe, do you intend to work once you and Darui are married? You'll obviously be living with him here in Oumún and so you won't be working for your brother any longer." She inspected his reaction to the question, noting the way that he slightly bit his bottom lip before responding.

"I've talked with Darui about getting a job and he's adamant that there's no rush. To be perfectly honest with you Madam Liao, and I know that this might sound weird, I'm happy doing whatever I can to support Darui and his career. He appreciates the fact that I travel with him when he's doing whatever he's doing on a particular trip, and I enjoy being there for him. He told me that when we're at home, it feels like home for him." He let out a slight sigh. "I don't have a fancy university education and I haven't had much in the way of employment. If I tried to get a job here in Oumún then it would either be low pay with long hours, in which case I wouldn't get to see Darui much, or it would have to be provided by your family, and I don't want to be obligated to you in that way. I guess you could say that if Darui's happy for me to do so, I will continue to travel with him to support him and his career, and when we're at home I will continue to make him as happy as he makes me. At least, I'll try to."

"Hmm." Baozhai set her tea down and regarded BeBe with a renewed interest, as she had not expected a wealthy Singapuran twenty-two-year-old to say something like that. Anything like that. "No fame-seeking, no hunting for public attention, just a wish to support the man that you love. I can certainly appreciate that." She rose from her seat and held her hand towards BeBe, gesturing for him to stand and take it. Once he took hold of her hand, Baozhai gently patted him on the shoulder with her free hand and began to lead him out of the lounge.

"Darui mentioned that he usually cooks for the two of you so why don't we surprise him? I'll show you how to make his favourite dishes, the way to secure a man's heart is through his stomach. That Margrave boy never learned how to cook and never wanted to, too wrapped up in business."

"I did once say that Lysander looks about as fun as an unexpected root canal. To his face."

Baozhai laughed loudly and gave BeBe's hand an affectionate squeeze. "Good boy. Now when we get to the kitchen, if you have any questions then feel free to ask."

"Thank you, Madam Liao."

She shook her head and patted his hand. "No more of that, you call me Ah-Ma. Welcome to the family."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Nov 29, 2020 1:50 pm

26 August 2020 - 20:00hrs [UTC+8]
Margravia Estate, Zhuhai
Guangdong Province, Nanfang Republic

Originally from the Republic of Layarteb, the Margrave family had arrived in the Great Yue Kingdom in 1795, having departed from the Republic of Layarteb for reasons which were no longer openly discussed by the family (but were still known by certain individuals due to their importance). They established themselves in the then-capital of Guangzhou as tea merchants, demonstrating their genuine talent for commerce as well as an ability to discern exactly which officials to bribe and when to bribe them. While the 'Tea War' with the Republic of Layarteb did cause some issues for the family as the monarchy began to promote anti-foreigner sentiments, the Margrave family was able to weather the storm thanks to their ties to the Liao merchant family and the assistance of their less-than-reputable friends in Oumún and Hēunggóng. After the kingdom's defeat in 1855 and the loss of Hainan, the demonstrated weakness of the monarchy led to breakdowns in civil order and the eventual revolution in 1859 which founded the Nanfang Republic. The Margraves used the four years of instability to cement their influence and take over several other 'foreigner-owned' businesses that could not call upon the sort of local protection that the Margraves possessed; the Margraves invariably married into the families who owned the companies that they were taking over, performing both a corporate and familial takeover. The Margrave marriage ties to the Liao and the growing family wealth assisted them in gaining Nanfang citizenship as the constitutional framework of the new republic took shape, and the family's influence continued to expand as they built upon their commercial enterprises. As a result, the still-primarily Caucasian Margraves had become a corporate dynasty that was ranked among the wealthiest and most influential dynasties of the Nanfang Republic. Quick to innovate and with a defined killer instinct, the Margraves had forged a multinational conglomerate over the decades simply known as 'Margrave Holdings'. The umbrella of Margrave Holdings covered several major Nanfang corporations such as the Shenzhen Media Group, the telecoms giant Huawei, and the technology giant Tencent. The Margrave Tea Company continued to do a brisk business after diversifying into more general food and beverages, but the family's favourite corporate entity was the Margrave Oil Company. Founded in the 1950s, the MOC had now become the primary oil and gas extractor within the Republic's territory while expanding its talons into several African nations in addition to the United Arab Emirates. The MOC was well-known for not discriminating about styles of government as they would do business with anyone willing to let them get on with their activities unhindered.

This evening saw a 'special family meeting' called for those Margraves who wielded the greatest influence, or were destined to do so, in the clan's corporate empire. The venue for this meeting was the family's primary southern residence, the 'Margravia' estate, although calling it an estate was rather understating matters. Located northwest of the city of Zhuhai in Guangdong Province, the one-point-four square kilometre site featured a palace complex in the region's architectural style, adorned with statues of mythical dogs, dragons, and other creatures of regional significance. Surrounded by high walls while guarded by a state-of-the-art security system and a veritable battalion of highly trained and heavily armed security personnel, the Margravia estate was a location only accessed with explicit permission. While many members of the family resided in their own homes around the Nanfang Republic, the estate was the place where important family business was conducted. Milestone birthdays were celebrated here, weddings were conducted, and a memorial garden honoured every single member of the family who had passed away; if possible, the bodies of deceased Margraves were transported to the estate and given either a ceremonial family burial or cremation depending upon on their stated wishes. Five stylish black limousines passed through the checkpoint at the main gate of the estate, every single driver providing identification and reporting which family members he was ferrying around. This was the manner of arrival for Thomas Margrave and his four younger brothers: Bentley, Crispin, Piers, and Spencer. While all five were married, tonight's meeting did not require the attendance of their wives. The arrival of a golden sports car roaring into the paved parking area confirmed the attendance of Lysander Margrave, Thomas's twenty-eight-year-old eldest son and the future anointed heir to the empire, along with his personal assistant Jiang Haoyang who had to drive Lysander around due to the young Margrave not actually possessing a driving license. Lysander was the future anointed heir due to being Thomas's eldest son, as Thomas himself was the current anointed heir due to being the eldest son of the family's current patriarch. Alexander Margrave was a seventy-four year old of patrician bearing who had overseen the family's expansion for the past three decades, demonstrating great skill in identifying markets and industries which could yield potential profit. He spent most of his days at the Margravia estate, receiving updates from the various tentacles of the corporate empire and plotting future investments. It was Alexander who had convened tonight's meeting, and none of those invited would dare refuse to attend; as a mere personal assistant, Jiang Haoyang would not be able to attend the meeting of the Margrave 'inner circle' and therefore had to wait outside while Lysander took part.

The family conference room was located within the main residential palace of the complex, the walls decorated in colourful paintings and reliefs depicting regional landscapes while intricate designs were carved into the solid wood of the ceiling. The dominant feature was the large black conference table with accompanying red and gold high-back armchairs, all carved from local woods in the style of regional royalty. At the head of the table sat Alexander, dressed in a black business suit with a black mandarin-collar shirt, while the rest of the family attendees were dressed in identical fashion to him. In accordance with the family's traditions regarding succession, Thomas sat at his father's right hand with his brothers also sat on the table's right side in order of age, while Lysander was sat at Alexander's left hand directly opposite. The Margrave patriarch looked at each attendee in turn, his piercing gaze causing each of them a degree of fear until he finally spoke.

"So. Who can tell me why we are here tonight?"

He cast an expectant eye upon his relatives, shaking his head and tutting loudly as he received no obvious response. "Do I have to tell you everything?" He let out an irritated sigh. "We are being outmaneuvered by people who don't even realise that they are outmaneuvering us. We are losing influence and standing. Cameroon joining the Shenzhen Pact is a victory for Petronas and OAG Petrochemikalien, as they get to demonstrate that the Margrave Oil Company is not the only petrochemical corporation with national-level influence. The Margrave Oil Company helped to deliver four African governments into the Pact, but those governments now seem more enamoured with the Nanfang Republic, and the prospect of Portugal joining the Pact has those same African nations seeking to establish closer economic ties with their former coloniser. Our declaration of interest in Petromgas was rebuffed by the Kingdom of Romania because King Cătălin ordered the Romanian government to refuse our offer of investment in the company, and he told our representative that it would be offensive for a 'faux-noble merchant family' to have influence over strategic Romanian resources. Our friend, Sheikh Thani bin Murad Al Nahyan, looks as though he is going to fail in his effort to become the Shenzhen Pact's first Secretary-General, and he would therefore lose to an Ostafrikan. We are becoming an international afterthought, less than two years after we played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for the Shenzhen Pact. I have ideas on what we can do about it, but I am curious to see what ideas, if any, you all have on the matter."

Thomas cleared his throat nervously. "We are still influential and wealthy, Father. While it is certainly unfortunate that we are experiencing some setbacks, we will still be in a favourable position overall and able to exploit any future opportunities that might present themselves."

Alexander rolled his eyes in a very deliberate and obvious manner before addressing his eldest son. "Thomas, if we start accepting setbacks now then we will continue to accept them in the future. The more we shrug our shoulders and accept defeat, the more likely it is that defeat will find us in future endeavours."

It was at this point that Lysander finally spoke up, raising his hand as he did so. "Although the Margrave Oil Company might not be expanding, we do still have the 5G 'revolution' to take advantage of. Huawei is going to be one of very few companies within the Shenzhen Pact that have the technology and the know-how to successfully create 5G networks, and so we will have a vital role in the communications infrastructure of the Pact." He paused momentarily. "Perhaps it is time for us to reduce the MOC's prominence in our own eyes. Of course, it will continue to be a significant asset of the family holdings, but telecommunications and the like are more likely going to be the future of the family."

Alexander leaned slightly to his left and wagged an approving finger towards Lysander. "That's what I'm looking for. Of course, we are not the only ones in the Nanfang Republic with a company capable of constructing and maintaining a 5G network. ZTE Corporation is proving to be a genuine rival in that field so we shall have to utilise our established contacts within friendly national governments to ensure that Huawei is the corporation of choice when it comes to potential 5G projects." He then returned his attention to the rest of the assembled Margraves. "In recent times we have witnessed how the younger generation are receiving greater authority and responsibility, and flourishing under those conditions. Principe Florêncio of Zaire, the Archduke and Archduchess of Austria, King Cătălin of Romania, to name but four. While I do not agree with the approach adopted by all of them, King Cătălin in particular, all of those that I have named are proving themselves to be individuals of influence. I believe that the Margrave family should follow suit. To that end, I intend to task Lysander with spearheading and overseeing our family's efforts in regard to expanding Huawei's 5G operations overseas. He has the intelligence and the creativity to ensure success, and it will also grant him the opportunity to show how he has moved on since the divorce. Lysander, what do you think?"

Lysander's eyes widened at his grandfather's announcement. "I-"

Alexander nodded with a slight smirk of satisfaction. "Good, it's decided. You are more than capable of representing our family in business affairs, and as the future head of the family, it will be excellent to have you seen to be securing contracts through personal intervention. Now, as for the rest for you..."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:46 am

12 September 2020 - 10:00hrs [UTC+7]
Norbulingka Palace
Lhasa, Tibet

"We have all heard the news from Europe, I take it? The Republic of Zapadoslavia held their referendum on applying for membership of the Shenzhen Pact and it passed, so they will be proceeding with the application process. Ordinarily, political happenings in Europe would not be of any great significance to us here in Tibet, but in this particular situation it is something to note carefully. It has now been almost a month and a half since President Yang of the Nanfang Republic came to visit me, and during that time we have been visited by representatives of other Pact members, all of whom have given me plenty to consider in regard to Tibet's potential future relationship with the organisation. With the news of Zapadoslavia's referendum result, I have reached a decision."

Regent Rangdol paused and cast a discerning eye around the table at the rest of the Kashag before continuing. "I have decided that it will be in the national interest of Tibet to pursue observer membership of the Shenzhen Pact."

The seven Kalons looked at one another before Prime Minister Norbu Tshering spoke up. "Regent, while we obviously welcome your decision and will naturally endeavour to enact it to the full extent of our abilities, perhaps you could expand on your reasoning for us? By pursuing observer membership of the Shenzhen Pact, Tibet will be choosing a side in international relations and the general populace would likely be interested to know why we are doing so." He then gestured towards Sushil Bhandari, Kalon for Information & International Relations. "It would also be beneficial for Kalon Bhandari to have such information as he will likely be approached by other nations, curious to know why we are shifting our diplomatic stance after so many years."

The Regent smiled slightly and nodded. "A fair point, Prime Minister. We have previously discussed the possible advantages and disadvantages of closer alignment with the Nanfang Republic and their allies, and many of the advantages discussed are valid. A closer relationship would increase the possibilities for our people to travel abroad in order to obtain valuable skills that they can then bring back to Tibet. It will be easier for us to attract experienced and skilled personnel from other nations, in order to fill any gaps in our own organisations. It will increase the possibilities of attracting financial investment and allow us to develop our economy far more easily than if we remain at a relative arm's length from other countries. We will also gain access to more modern military equipment and potentially find cooperation on matters such as internal security. However, I have no desire to see Tibet subsumed into the Shenzhen Pact's free trade area as that could present serious issues for Tibetan sovereignty. I do not wish to see our nation become a playground for multinational corporations that take advantage of the free trade area to swarm into Tibet.

"This is why I believe that observer membership of the Shenzhen Pact is the best choice for us. It brings us into closer alignment with the Nanfang Republic and their allies, nations that are already looking favourably towards us. It gives us membership of what is currently the largest and most influential international organisation in the world. While we would not have a vote in the future policies and objectives of the Pact, observer membership would mean that we would not have to adhere to every future policy and objective of the organisation. We would be free to join their soon-to-be-established 'Shenzhen Anti-Terrorist Structure', which would open up greater cooperation between ourselves and the security agencies of the Pact members. We would also be able to join the soon-to-be-established 'Shenzhen Interbank Consortium', which would give us access to funding for development and infrastructure projects. We would be able to do this without having to join the free trade area. That presents us with the precise situation that we are seeking. Increased cooperation with the Nanfang Republic and the rest of the Shenzhen Pact, while also maintaining a firm guiding hand on our own economy so that we can decide where and when we wish for outside investment to go. We will be able to continue to govern Tibet according to the vision of Tsarong Dzasa and be secure in the knowledge that no foreign power will ever attempt to undermine that vision without experiencing severe consequences, as we will have the support of the Nanfang Republic and the rest of the Shenzhen Pact."

Sushil Bhandari raised his hand to speak. "Regent, why has the referendum result in Zapadoslavia been the event to finalise your decision?"

"Simple really, Kalon Bhandari. The referendum result means that Portugal's decision to pursue an application for membership was no aberration. There will now be two European nations in the Shenzhen Pact, advanced economies with democratic forms of governance. That not only increases the potential for a greater investment fund and a larger pool of experienced and skilled personnel, it confers greater legitimacy upon the organisation. It is no longer simply for strongmen and authoritarians, more 'liberalised' nations are seeing the advantages of membership and seeking to join the Pact. This means that the Pact will be seen as a more respectable organisation with the addition of more democratic members, making it an organisation that we can certainly be seen to be a part of."

There were murmurs of assent around the table as the rest of the Kashag once again looked to one another, before Prime Minister Tshering cleared his throat. "Your reasoning is as wise and measured as always, Regent. Becoming an observer member of the Shenzhen Pact but not pursuing full membership will give Tibet the greater alignment and cooperation that we seek, without seeing us absorbed."

Regent Rangdol nodded once more. "Precisely. We are also set to gain three more Gurkha-recruiting nations within the Pact, and there are potential investors that we can talk to in regard to the establishment of our proposed Gurkha private military company. So your tasks are clear, Kalons. The Shenzhen Pact has a clearly defined application process, you will all complete the parts of the application relevant to your particular portfolios and then provide me with your work so that I can combine everything into a formal application for submission. This is to be completed as soon as possible, the Shenzhen Pact will be celebrating their first anniversary on the twenty-fifth of November and I would prefer to see Tibet gain membership alongside the others that will apparently be inducted on that date. We do of course have something of an advantage in that regard. We are the ones who have been courted by Nanjing as opposed to the other way around, so I suspect that the Nanfang Republic will be able to ensure that we are admitted as quickly as possible."

-----------------------------------------------------------------

12 September 2020 - 19:45hrs [UTC+8]
L'Arc Oumún
Oumún, Nanfang Republic

"So now that you've received the approval of the Liao family, not that it was ever in doubt mind you, we should probably start thinking about the wedding."

Darui smiled warmly at BeBe as he joined his younger fiancé on the comfortable couch in the lounge of their stylish Oumún penthouse, handing him a glass of Zhenzhen strawberry-flavoured soda complete with a red paper drinking straw. While BeBe was old enough to legally imbibe alcohol and was indeed partial to mixing cola with a variety of alcoholic beverages, occasionally he enjoyed being a little childish and Darui had absolutely no problem with indulging him. Darui took a sip from his own drink and set it down on the coffee table before the couch and turned his attention fully to BeBe, who stopped sipping through the straw and instead began to suggestively suck on the drinking implement with a mischievous grin, locking eye contact with Darui as he did so. Darui raised his eyebrows and tutted in amusement.

"I see you're already planning the honeymoon, but we need to talk about the wedding. First things first, where do we hold it?"

BeBe giggled as he stopped simulating a certain act on the straw, his eyes gleaming. "I think we should hold it here in Oumún. This is where we live, your family are mostly here or near enough to make it, and it's not like my brother's going to be inviting a huge number of guests. It just makes much more sense."

"Fair enough. What sort of wedding are we wanting to have?" Darui sat back and reached out to take BeBe's hand, giving it a gentle affectionate squeeze. "I want to make it as special as I possibly can for you, BeBe. So you get to choose."

BeBe shook his head. "No, we choose. Even if I know that it'll end up with me suggesting something and you agreeing because you've already decided to go with whatever I want. Xiulan told me all about your wedding with Lysander. It was Western style, just as the Margraves wanted. It was held where the Margraves wanted it to be held, you basically had no say at all in anything. So this time, you're going to get to make decisions. What sort of wedding would you like to have?"

Darui was quiet for a few moments, appearing to be giving the matter some thought even though he already knew precisely what sort of wedding he would like to have. "I think we should have a proper wedding. A traditional wedding, well at least as traditional as temple weddings are these days. We could have it at the Oumún temple to Tu'er Shen."

"A traditional wedding at a temple? That sounds perfect." BeBe beamed happily, as the idea appealed to him greatly. Holding the ceremony at a temple of Tu'er Shen would be particularly appropriate as the deity, also known popularly as the 'Rabbit God', was tasked with managing love and sex between gay people according to the traditional belief systems of the region. Although neither Darui or BeBe were religious in any meaningful way, a temple wedding was viewed as being more 'special' in Nanfang culture than a civil ceremony; while the Nanfang Republic was a predominantly secular state, traditional religious ceremonies still held a certain appeal. "So we've decided exactly where we're going to have the wedding. The next question is when?"

"I've had a few ideas about that..."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Jan 24, 2021 6:05 pm

3 October 2020 - 10:00hrs [UTC+8]
Shenzhen Pact Headquarters
Shenzhen, Guangdong Province
Nanfang Republic

Located in the Futian Central Business District at the heart of the city of Shenzhen, the headquarters building of the Shenzhen Pact was not a new construction project but rather a repurposing of the government-owned Shenzhen Civic Centre, which had hosted the signing ceremony of the original Shenzhen Unity and Cooperation Treaty. There had been a great deal of discussion within the Pact regarding a suitable home for their organisation and the Nanfang Republic's viewpoint had eventually won out, as they had argued that nowhere would be more fitting than the building where the Pact was born. At almost eighty-five metres tall the Pact headquarters housed a vast array of offices for the organisation's dedicated bureaucracy, as well as other associated establishments such as cafeterias. It also housed a large conference hall with a capacity of two thousand five hundred attendees, but the most striking feature of the Pact headquarters was its roof, which spanned four hundred and eighty-six metres with a width of one hundred and fifty-four metres. The roof was meant to represent the wings of a mythical bird named Dapeng, the same creature which lent its name to the Dapeng District of Shenzhen and the nearby Dapeng Peninsula which was known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the Nanfang Republic. This had led to to the more popular name for the building, the 'Dapeng Centre'. The Centre was hosting a particularly important meeting this morning as national leaders of the Shenzhen Pact full members had all made their way to Shenzhen for their last official meeting before the anniversary, and there were matters of great import that required their attention. The national leaders were ensconced in the conference room usually utilised by the Unity and Cooperation Council, the principal political decision-making body that consisted of Permanent Representatives from the Pact's member countries; the Council possessed the power to establish subsidiary bodies for various policy functions within the framework of the international organisation, but the national leaders were required when it came to decisions such as expanding the Pact's membership. The conference room was a very sleek and modern workspace dominated by a large circular conference table that featured individual workstations for those seated. These workstations featured touchscreen monitors as well as headset microphones, that could be used to listen to translations of conference addressees if a workstation user required such a service. The list of attendees was truly an illustrious one: President Yang Mingshu of the Nanfang Republic, President Najwan Wakiman of Singapura Raya, Marshal Dusit Tangwongsan of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, Maharajah Rama Varma VII of the Kingdom of Travancore, Prime Minister Emir Rashid Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates, Präsident Friedrich Luxenberg of Freistaat Ostafrika, Príncipe Florêncio of the Grande Império do Zaire, President Zakari Akinrinade of the Republic of Nigeria, King Manukosi III of the Shoshanga Kingdom, President Abilio Muteka of the Republic of Ndongo, and finally King Avonowanga II of the Kingdom of Orungu. In addition to these national leaders, there were an additional two individuals included in the meeting, albeit in a non-voting capacity. Marcy Denon of the Empire of Layarteb and Akihiro Watanabe of the United Empire were present due to the status of the two major powers as observer members of the Pact, a status that permitted them to be represented at Pact meetings if they so wished although with no power over any decisions that may be made at such meetings.

The meeting was being held to officially confirm the success or failure of four membership applications. These applications came from the Republic of Cameroon, the Republic of Portugal, Tibet, and the Republic of Zapadoslavia. Under the charter of the Shenzhen Pact, these applications were for observer membership; if a nation wished to become a full member of the Pact then they had to go through the process of becoming an observer first. The second matter of business for the meeting involved the final election of a Secretary-General for the organisation, with the final two applicants seated in a comfortable waiting room until the time came for the decision to be made. President Yang opened up the meeting after pleasantries had been exchanged and everyone had taken their seats, donning her spectacles and leaning towards her microphone.

"Good morning everyone, I am pleased to see you all once again. As you are all undoubtedly aware, the first anniversary of our organisation is fast approaching. The twenty-fifth of November shall be a proud and momentous day for all of us but first, we have some business to attend to that will reach fruition on our anniversary."

She tapped at her touchscreen and the monitors of the other attendees changed to display the information that she had in front of her. After taking a moment to look around the room to ensure that everyone was focusing on their screens, President Yang continued.

"We have four membership applications that we must vote on today. Those nations that are successful will be notified later today and their national leaders invited to attend our anniversary celebrations as we shall use the event as an appropriate venue to welcome new members into our little family. You've all had a few weeks to look over each application, but I shall summarise each application before we take a vote on it. This is the first time that we have voted on new members since our formation so I shall just remind you all that according to our charter, it must be a unanimous vote. So first we have the Republic of Cameroon. The Nmbega family are what we could call a 'safe set of hands', exercising control over their nation since Felipe Nmbega assumed power back in 1975. He has since retired and power has passed to his eldest son Gabriel. Cameroon possesses a developing economy with oil and gas resources, and they are well-positioned to form a land link between the Republic of Nigeria and the rest of our African members. The Nmbega family also enjoys good relationships with the OAG in Ostafrika and Petronas in Singapura Raya, so there are already existing economic ties between Cameroon and the Shenzhen Pact. Let us vote."

Each national representative leaned forward to press their touchscreens, which now featured a 'Yes' button and a 'No' button. The electronic voting system quickly tabulated the results and displayed them on the touchscreens, maintaining anonymity as there would be some votes that did not require unanimity and there was no wish to create opportunities for reprisals over voting results. President Yang nodded with a smile as the result was finalised.

"The application of the Republic of Cameroon has been accepted. Our second applicant is the Republic of Portugal. Positioned in the westernmost part of Europe, Portugal boasts an advanced economy and an excellent standard of living. The current government under Prime Minister Duarte Cordeiro appears to be very interested in joining the Pact's free trade area upon its implementation, and they are also keen to establish closer ties with Lusophone members of our organisation. This would benefit the Shenzhen Pact as we would gain a strong European economy that has an interest in investing in Africa. So, let us vote on Portugal."

The voting process once again only took a few seconds before a result was displayed, at which point President Yang officially announced it. "The application of the Republic of Portugal has been accepted. Our third applicant is Tibet. A nation with a strong centralised government and a definite military streak, Tibet's economy is developing and Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong views our organisation as an excellent source of development capital. He has been very honest about the reasons for Tibet's application, they will not be seeking any commitment beyond observer membership. It should also be noted that three of the nations represented here today are currently in discussions with the Tibetan government regarding the recruitment of Gurkhas for their armed forces. While Tibet might not bring immediate economic benefits to the Pact, part of this organisation's remit is assisting lesser developed nations to strengthen and modernise their economies, so Tibetan membership would easily match with our aims. Let us vote on Tibet."

The vote on Tibet's application was pretty much a foregone conclusion already as the Nanfang Republic had shown a particular interest in courting the Himalayan state, and the rest of the Shenzhen Pact membership were unlikely to stymie the plans of the organisation's most influential member. President Yang was therefore unsurprisingly pleased when the voting result was displayed.

"The application of Tibet has been approved. Our fourth and final applicant is the Republic of Zapadoslavia. Situated in Central Europe, Zapadoslavia boasts a strong industrial economy and has the potential to be a genuine power player in European politics. They are currently moving away from a rather neutral foreign policy as their elections in June saw the victory of the Social Democrats under Kryštof Zahradnik. Prime Minister Zahradnik is an extremely competent politician and achieved victory in a national referendum on the subject of this application, so he commands a popular mandate for joining the Pact. He also prefers not to comment on the political systems of other nations due to potential 'cultural and political differences that he has no right to judge'. From my own conversations with him, I can tell you that he is a genuine pragmatist. Joining the Shenzhen Pact will be beneficial for Zapadoslavia and so that is what Zahradnik will ensure. Having two strong European economies in our organisation can be seen as nothing but advantageous. Let us vote on Zapadoslavia."

After some more tapping on touchscreens, the final application vote had concluded. "The application of the Republic of Zapadoslavia has been approved." President Yang took a sip of water from the glass at the side of her touchscreen before continuing. "Our family of nations continues to grow. We shall inform the four successful applicants of the result upon this meeting's conclusion and their official accession to observer membership status will take place at our first anniversary celebrations on the twenty-fifth of November. Now onto the second piece of business before us. The Shenzhen Pact will be officially implementing new subsidiary bodies during our anniversary celebrations, details of all of them are pretty much already in the public domain. As the Pact introduces new subsidiary bodies, we shall need to expand the organisation's hardworking bureaucracy, and an expanding bureaucracy shall require a dedicated senior civil servant to oversee them. We are therefore due to announce the formal creation of the office of Secretary-General. The officeholder will be responsible for coordinating the workings of our organisation, leading the Pact's international staff, chairing the meetings of the Unity and Cooperation Council and most major committees moving forward, as well as acting as the Shenzhen Pact's spokesperson. We obviously cannot announce the office of Secretary-General without having someone to occupy that position, and we shall therefore now decide upon the individual who shall become our inaugural Secretary-General.

"It has taken a few months to narrow down the field to two candidates and it has not been a simple process. All of the candidates would have made for an excellent Secretary-General, but following various interviews and comprehensive checks, we have arrived at our two most suitable candidates. Our first candidate is Sheikh Thani bin Murad Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. Fifty-two years old, he has spent most of his adult life working in the National Oil and Gas Corporation. He has a proven track record in corporate matters and possesses a wide array of contacts in the business world. I do not doubt that he would bring efficiency and professionalism to the office of Secretary-General, the same efficiency and professionalism that he has displayed throughout his years in the UAE corporate world. My thanks to Emir Rashid for nominating such a fine candidate."

There was a ripple of assent accompanied by applause, to which Emir Rashid responded with a broad smile and a nod. President Yang then continued.

"Our second candidate is Bertram Denker of Freistaat Ostafrika. Sixty years old, he served as Vizedirektor of External Relations before being promoted to the Aufsichtsrat seven years ago to become Vizepräsident of the Ostafrikanische Gesellschaft. He has a proven track record in both diplomatic affairs and administration as a result of his progression through the ranks of the OAG, and I do not doubt that his experience in both fields would prove to be greatly advantageous if he were to become Secretary-General. My thanks to Präsident Luxenberg for nominating such a fine candidate."

Another round of applause broke out, this time directed at Präsident Luxenberg, who grinned happily and offered a slight wave in response. Once the applause finished, President Yang continued with the proceedings.

"So now we vote for the candidate who will become Secretary-General. As this is an election as opposed to a membership vote, there is no requirement for a unanimous vote to decide the result. A simple majority will decide the outcome. Please, cast your votes."

As the Pact leaders leaned forward to cast their votes, there were several things that they had to take into consideration. The first was the lobbying that had been taking place, from both the UAE and Freistaat Ostafrika, extolling the virtues of their nominated candidate. The second was the fact that Sheikh Thani had been involved in negotiating the deal that saw the Margrave Oil Company acquire forty-nine percent of the National Oil and Gas Corporation, and the whispers of resulting ties to the Margrave family; President Yang was aware that the Margraves had recently been conducting their own lobbying of those African nations with oil and gas industries that were primarily owned by the Margrave Oil Company. The third was the fact that Denker had been Luxenberg's deputy for seven years and could therefore be a proxy for the OAG, allowing them to fill the Pact's civil service with loyalists. However, the fourth consideration was the fact that the Nanfang Republic had carefully hinted to specific member nations that they preferred the idea of Denker as the first Secretary-General. No names were ever mentioned or anything directly stated, but President Wakiman and Marshal Tangwongsan had gotten the message all the same. Once the votes had been cast and the count tabulated, the touchscreens displayed the result, and with eleven voting members, there was no genuine possibility of a tie as no voting member was likely to abstain over such an issue. Sheikh Thani bin Murad Al Nahyan had received five votes while Bertram Denker had received six. While the votes were anonymous, President Yang was canny enough to discern who had voted for Sheikh Thani as it was undoubtedly the UAE voting for their own candidate as well as the four African nations that did business with the Margraves.

Freistaat Ostafrika had undoubtedly voted for their own candidate and Zaire would have voted for Denker simply to try to frustrate any potential Margrave influence. The Nanfang Republic had voted for Denker for the same reason as well to install an actual experienced administrator and diplomat, while Singapura Raya and Ayutthaya would have taken the subtle hints from Nanjing and voted the same way. Yang smirked to herself as she realised that the balance of power had rested in the hands of Maharajah Rama Varma VII, the shaggy-haired twenty-eight-year-old monarch of the Pact's geographically smallest member. She glanced over in his direction and received a slight smile from him as their eyes met, and she made a mental note that the Kingdom of Travancore should receive something in return for their ruler's decision. Yang then gestured to an aide who was stood at the door of the conference room.

"Please show the candidates in."

Sheikh Thani and Bertram Denker entered the conference room after a few seconds, Sheikh Thani with a confident bearing while Denker seemed as slightly acquiescent as always. President Yang rose from her seat and nodded to the two before speaking.

"Gentlemen. It is my duty to inform you that the election for the office of Secretary-General has been concluded. By a vote of six to five, Bertram Denker has been elected as the first Secretary-General of the Shenzhen Pact. Congratulations, Herr Denker."

Denker stopped in his tracks with an expression of disbelief, blinking repeatedly as he processed the information. He then pointed to his own chest and mouthed 'Me?', at which point Yang nodded and Denker let out a loud sigh before addressing the gathered dignitaries.

"Oh. Wow. I mean, thank you for the honour. The honour, and the privilege. Excuse me, the honour, the privilege, and the opportunity to serve our eminently prestigious organisation." He took a moment to fiddle with his round-rimmed spectacles before continuing. "I shall endeavour to serve with the utmost competency and professionalism in my capacity as Secretary-General." A thought then suddenly popped into his head and he turned to Sheikh Thani. "I would like to take this opportunity to offer my thanks and congratulations to Sheikh Thani. My thanks for being such an excellent fellow candidate and my congratulations for making it to the final two. I am certain that his experience and skills will be put to good use by our organisation in due time."

Denker then began clapping, leading to a round of applause for Sheikh Thani who successfully managed to hide the disappointment that he was experiencing. Once the applause died down, Denker returned his attention to the rest of the room. "I would like to thank Präsident Luxenberg for nominating me and for the confidence he has shown in me, and I would also like to thank those who voted for me. I shall work hard to prove that you were correct to vote for me. For those of you who did not vote for me, I shall work hard to prove myself as being capable of my new duties. The Shenzhen Pact is the greatest international organisation in history...um, no disrespect to the Empire of Layarteb and the October Alliance-", he paused and offered a friendly wave in the direction of Marcy Denon, "-and as Secretary-General, I shall do everything I possibly can to make it even greater. Um, thank you very much."


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