News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Won't post anything for a few days because of the mass of writing I have to complete for the literary luncheon this weekend. Biff...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

China’s Union Push Leaves Wal-Mart With Hard Choice: ACFTU's goal is to increase the number of foreign companies with unionized work forces. Currently, only about 30% of foreign companies in China have trade unions. Trade groups are aiming for 60% by the end of this year and 80% by 2007. Biff- Sure, return to socialism, which has worked so well before... There goes the economy.
-- Wal-Mart has a history in both the U.S. and abroad of resisting the involvement of any third-parties with its work force. In 2000, a group of butchers in a Texas Wal-Mart supercenter voted to unionize. Shortly thereafter, Wal-Mart announced it was switching to prepackaged beef and reassigned the store's butchers. In Canada, the United Food and Commercial Workers organized a Jonquiere, Quebec, Wal-Mart in 2004. The retailer shuttered the store last year, claiming it was losing money and that union demands would prevent it from becoming profitable. Biff- Outstanding. I ain't no fan of unions.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Mysterious "Internet Police" Surfaces: "The Internet police cartoon figures are present at Shenzhen News Net, Shenzhen Hotline, QQ and more than 100 major forums in Shenzhen," said worker Wang Ke to this reporter. "They are on duty twenty-four hours a day, and they guarantee that they will respond to reports or requests from netizens."
"The main purpose is to warn people and to deter irrational behavior and harmful information on the Internet," explained Xu Qian. "Jingjing" and "Chacha" have cute images, they have police officer status, they are friendly and they are easy to accept."
Xu Qian and Wang Ke are Internet police officers at the Internet Security Supervisory Department of the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau. In the past, they were just "lurking" in the dark at the forums and watching the Internet netizens bustle around. The netizens had not even been aware that they existed.
Presently, more than 100 Internet police officers have formed a large Internet force of "virtual police" and they have stepped out into the open. On the Internet, they now have the two cute image spokespersons, "Jingjing" and "Chacha."
"The keyboard and the mouse are our weapons." The thin Xu Qian looked more like a shy university student than the traditional stern and stout police officer. His office is set up like a commercial company office: central air conditioning, three rows of twelve cubicles separated by blue-and-white boards and everybody watching their computer screen quietly. On the desk, there are no mountains of case files. The setting is simple: one 17" LCD monitor, one 16-line green notebook and one telephone.
Shaolin today has been reborn as a well-oiled corporation, with holding monks with master of business administration (MBA) degrees sorting out temple management issues on cellular phones, presided over by an abbot the local media call the "CEO of Shaolin".
..."In a globalized world we need our monks to be able to communicate in different languages," says Shi. He adds that about half of the temple's 200 monks speak a foreign language. English, Korean and Japanese are the most popular, and a few have even learned Farsi. Currently more than 10 monks are taking degrees abroad. The abbot's latest commercial venture is the production of an international, televised martial-arts contest, the winner of which will star in a series of movies the temple is investing in.
Each day, tens of thousands of communist Chinese peasants stream into Macau, the Las Vegas of Asia, to bet their entire lifesavings in the hope of a better future.
...Her route takes her through streets lined with jewelers and pawn shops, where winners show off and losers go begging, where bleach-blonde Ukrainian women saunter from one pimp to the next and young girls from all over China take their new breasts, recently enlarged for 4,500 yuan (€450) a piece, for a walk.
...Despite her devastating losses, she still believes Macau is the better China and that it offers a better life. She's certain she'll return to Macau as soon as possible. And that the next time she'll make her fortune. She eats a small bowl of noodles in a Taiwanese soup restaurant underneath the girders of the city's elevated highway, where waitresses standing at the tables yell out their orders to the kitchen, as loudly as if they were calling the police. She is here to say goodbye to Wei Quihua, a short, good-humored woman who became her friend within a few days. Wei bet and lost 100,000 yuan (almost €10,000) -- the entire capital and earnings of her lamp shop back home in Jiangxi Province.
...Nanchang's beautiful people have no idea who Zhou Enlai was. They too have only heard about Mao in passing. To them, "communism" and "party" are nothing but words, and phrases like "socialist market economy" are concepts they find difficult to comprehend as they sit in the C Straits Café, drinking latte macchiatos and gazing down at the city's lake, where the elderly still perform their Qi Gong gymnastics in formation every morning, just as they've always done.
Saving Seoul: Pollution is ruining the quality of life in much of urban Asia. But Seoul's transformation into a greener city proves the tide can still be turned.
... Seoul—a city long synonymous with unchecked urban development, where Parks were more commonly found in the phone book than on the streets—is growing green. Besides the restored Cheonggyecheon, which opened last October, the city has helped plant some 3.3 million trees since 1998 and recently developed Seoul Forest, a $224 million patch of urban woodland comparable to London's Hyde Park. A cutting-edge, clean-running transit system is slowly weaning Seoulites off their auto addiction.
...Rising incomes play a part in the priority shift, but Kim Won Bae, a director at the Korean Research Institute for Human Settlements (KRIHS), a Seoul-based think tank, traces the change back to disasters like the collapse of the shoddily constructed Sampoong department store in 1995, which killed 501 people, and the economic crisis of 1997. "Those events made a lot of people think again about what economic growth was all about," he says.
...Won Bae of KRIHS tells the story of visiting Shanghai and meeting a Chinese urban planner who had a burning question: how many 100-m-high or taller buildings did Seoul have? "I asked her why she asked that," he says. "She was still in the age of triumphalism. Seoul was once in that period as well, but we have passed it."
Iran used stocks of high-quality uranium gas from China in order to hasten a breakthrough in enrichment for a programme the West fears could be hiding nuclear weapons work, diplomats told AFP. "The Iranians have sought to accomplish a technological achievement for political purposes and chose the Chinese feedstock gas because of its quality, which ensures a better (uranium) enrichment process," said a diplomat with access to intelligence sources.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The only Asian entry for the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival is likely to be pulled from the competition before its first screening today after permission for it to be shown was refused by China's powerful censors. The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television said Summer Palace failed to meet technical standards - the picture was "too fuzzy" and the sound quality poor.
The publicity material for the film on the festival website describes it as opening against a "volatile Chinese backdrop of political unrest" and adds that the lovers' relationship "becomes one of dangerous games, as all around them, their fellow students begin to demonstrate, demanding democracy and freedom". It is the director Lou Ye's second brush with the censors. In 2000 he was banned from filming for two years after showing his most famous work, Suzhou River, at overseas festivals without permission.
我的學長胡錦濤: 編者按:六四後流亡海外的原北京四通總裁萬潤南與中共總書記胡錦濤曾在清華大學有學友關係。本文回憶二人同學相知後來分道揚鑣的往事,是一份珍貴的史料。
Editor's Note: The author was personally acquainted with Hu Jintao, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, when both were students at Beijing 's Tsinghua University . Mr. Wan later became president of Beijing-based Stone Corp. before fleeing into exile after the “June 4 th” incident of 1989. Here he writes of his friendship with Hu during their college years before each eventually went his own way. This is a valuable historical piece for the study of the fourth generation of Chinese communist leaders.
...In her 300 years of history, Yale has produced many members of the elite, among them five presidents of the United States . But in 20 years, Tsinghua produced four members of the current Standing Committee of the Politburo, including Hu Jintao. From the standpoint of timing, Tsinghua exhibits a better efficiency.
How did president Jiang Nanxiang achieve this? Mainly by using a system of “political counselors” to train student cadres. At the time I was there, the student cultural and arts group had four counselors: Yin Fusheng, Hu Jintao, Li Guiqiu and Ren Lihan. Among them, Yin and Li were cold and remote, and Hu and Ren more personable. But they all had something in common: obedience and efficiency. Their nicknames were indicative of their roles and characters: Three were given a nickname based on their names: Lao Yin (meaning Old Yin), Li Gui, and Xiao Han (meaning Little Han). Only Hu Jintao was called “Commander.” Why was he addressed this way? I once asked Lao Yin. He said he had no idea. But it now seems this nickname was accurate. Hu rose from “Commander” of the student cultural and arts group to “Commander” of the Youth League of the communist party, then to Commander of Guizhou Province and the Tibetan Autonomous Region, and now of the whole country.
關於文革的一個建議: 文革把中國蹂躪到如此黑暗、如此野蠻、如此悲慘的田地,可謂空前而絕後,不僅我們憤慨不已,列祖列宗也為之蒙羞!今日中國之種種醜行惡狀,難道沒有文革遺風的影響所致?因此,本刊以微薄的力量,二十年來盡匹夫之責,從來沒有在文革評論和批毛方面退後一步,對於那些保毛崇毛言論,總是嗤之以鼻。我們也深知面對的是一個巨大工程,尚須以愚公移山之志,不棄一鋤一鎬之力。美國吳弘達先生,鑒於俄羅斯有「古拉格」 Gulag ,猶太人有「大屠殺」 Holocaust 之例,以紀國恥,以醒後人,乃費十年辛勞,終將「勞改」 Laogai 一詞列入牛津大辭典,讓世界知道中國的悲劇。我們不妨提議,將「文革」 Wenge 一詞循例辦理,希望大家以後再不用「文化大革命」「文化革命」這樣官方的辭令,而直稱「文革」可也。
English discourse has for some time adopted the Russian term “Gulag” and the concept of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jewish people, as a means of reminding current and future generations of national disgrace. For the same purpose, Mr. Harry Wu of the United States spent 10 years before finally persuading the editor of the Oxford Dictionary to incorporate the word “Laogai,” the Chinese phonetic spelling for “reform through labor,” into the English language so as to make the world aware of China 's tragedy. Likewise, this magazine suggests that we do the same for the word “Wenge,” the Chinese pinyin for “Cultural Revolution.” We hope that from now on no one uses the grand official terms of “Cultural Revolution” or “Great Cultural Revolution,” but simply “Wenge.”
Burma Karen families 'on the run': Thousands of families are reported to be on the run in the hills of eastern Burma because of a government offensive against ethnic Karen rebels.
...Slipping across the Burmese border by boat, then hiking through the jungle to a remote valley, we met 700 weary civilians who are now in hiding. The Khu family had arrived a day earlier trekking for a month from their village. The father, Sawmaw, said Burmese government troops had burned every house and killed some of his neighbours.
Bank of China, the country's second largest lender, has announced the launch of a $9.8bn (£5.2bn) share flotation on the Hong Kong market. Set to be the world's biggest initial share offering since 2000, it comes as China continues to open up its banking sector to foreign competition. A consortium of international banks led by Royal Bank of Scotland spent $3bn on a 10% stake in Bank of China last year.
...But some analysts have warned off investors, pointing out the bank's problems with bad loans, fraud investigations and antiquated computer systems.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

U.S. Aims to Improve Military Ties With China: "They really went out of their way to accommodate nearly everything I wanted to do," he said. The goal, he added, is to push for more contacts, "to see more things and different things, and to be more open and transparent in military matters." Seeking to accelerate the movement, Fallon said, he invited senior Chinese officers to observe U.S.-led joint military exercises next summer near the Pacific island of Guam, promising them the opportunity to review U.S. bases and board U.S. warships during air-sea drills. Implicit in the invitation, he added, was the idea that, if the Chinese attend, they would reciprocate by inviting U.S. officers to observe future Chinese exercises "in a manner we would like to make a standard for both countries."
China's Crackdown On Foreign Law Firms -- The Heat We Get/The Heat We Generate: Many legal documents, such as opinions on how Chinese law applies to a transaction, can only be rendered by a Chinese attorney, which foreign law firms are prohibited from employing. Potentially, all transactions that have taken place to date, including contracts, financing agreements and IPOs, that have used documents drafted by foreign law firms as their legal basis could be declared null and void by the government on the grounds that the firms lacked the authorization to issue such documents, said Dickinson.
...However, I agree with Dan [Harris of the China Law Blog] that it's not all that remarkable. China is no more insular, territorial and medieval toward "foreign" business lawyers than the 50 states are toward China lawyers. Moreover, several American states in particular are arguably more backward and restrictive than China. For example, California, one of four jurisdictions where I am licensed, is supposedly a progressive state with a huge and vibrant economy. But it still has a non-reciprocity bar admission policy with respect to licensing out-of-state lawyers--as if it refuses to recognize that business is done across both state and international borders. Massachusetts' Alan Dershowitz would have to take the 2-day "lawyers" California bar exam--a world-class waste of time and money--along side hundreds of 25-year-olds named Justin, Brandon and Brittany to argue more than one appellate case a year here. So would Florida's Roy Black and New York's David Boies in the trial courts. So China and California (and other non-reciprocity states) are about even on the anti-business and general madness meters.
New charges expected in defense data theft ring: Chi, Tai and Rebecca Mak have pleaded not guilty to the original charges in the case. "We presented evidence throughout this case that undermines the government's conclusion that these individuals were involved in espionage," Ronald Kaye, Chi Mak's attorney, said in an interview. An attorney for Mrs. Chiu, Stanley Greenberg, said he is confident that his client will be found not guilty. An attorney for Tai Mak could not be reached for comment. U.S. officials described Tai Mak, an engineer with Phoenix Television, as an intelligence courier for the Chinese military who was carrying an encrypted computer disk holding defense technology data when he was arrested. Tai Mak also will be charged with aiding and abetting and possession of property to aid a foreign government. He and his wife were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport as they were about to fly to Hong Kong. Tai Mak was carrying an encrypted disk that FBI officials said contained data on a new technology for destroyers known as quiet electric drive. Earlier charges that Chi Mak, Tai Mak and Rebecca Mak failed to register as Chinese government agents will be kept in the new indictment. Chi and Tai Mak were born in Guangzhou, China. The new charges were based on thousands of pages of documents found at the home of Chi Mak, officials said.
North Korean "brides" are prized in China, where there is a shortage of young women thanks to Beijing's one-child policy, Chinese families' preference for sons, and the government's blind eye toward rampant female infanticide. In northeast China, where many ethnic Koreans live, North Korean women are "known to be polite and clean," says Hannah. "Young Chinese women from rural areas marry into the cities," adds Naomi. "It's difficult to find young women in the countryside."
A North Korean in China--even one who is there against her own volition--quickly learns that there is a worse fate than being sold into sexual slavery: being captured by the Chinese authorities and repatriated. It is a crime to leave the North, and Koreans who are sent back end up in prison camps or worse. "I had no choice but to depend on the man" who bought her, Hannah says. But "for the first time in my life, I felt like a sinner, because I had a family in North Korea and I was living with this man."
..."When I was eight months pregnant, I was captured by the Chinese," she says. "Somebody from my neighborhood reported me. . . . [The Chinese] pay people to report North Koreans." Her relatives paid the fine, but seven months later, when her son was still nursing, she was captured again. This time she was sent back to North Korea. Her son was wrenched from her.
She spent the next period of her life in a succession of prison camps. "I went into the Musan Security Center. There if you even spoke a word, they would make you hold out your hands and beat you with a large wooden stick." She did farm work in another camp. It was harvest season. "You start at 4 o'clock in the morning and work until 10 or 11 at night." When the guards moved prisoners from camp to camp, "they would use shoelaces to tie our thumbs together to the thumbs of the person next to us so tightly that our thumbs would swell up."
Next Wave of Camera-Wielding Tourists Is From China: For the first time in history, large numbers of Chinese are leaving their country as tourists, resulting in an unparalleled explosion in Chinese travel. If current projections are met, the global tourism industry will be undergoing a crash course in everything Chinese to accommodate the needs of what promises to be the greatest wave of international travelers ever.
As usual when something goes over big in China, the numbers are staggering. In 1995, only 4.5 million Chinese traveled overseas. By 2005 that figure had increased to 31 million, and if expectations for future growth are met or approached, even that gargantuan growth will be quickly dwarfed. Chinese and international travel industry experts forecast that at least 50 million Chinese tourists will travel overseas annually by 2010, and 100 million by 2020.
In 2004, the last year for which there is complete information, 61.7 million Americans traveled abroad.
...Chinese tourists have been fined heavily in France recently for arriving with counterfeit luxury goods, like fake Louis-Vuitton handbags.
In Shanghai and other cities, travel agencies post people at airports warning Chinese travelers about penalties for importing fakes and imparting advice on etiquette in the West. "Don't pick teeth, touch your belt, pull at your pants or take off your shoes in public," reads one common brochure. "Don't point fingers at people you're talking to, and don't put your hands on others' shoulders."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Taiwan Plans Big Anti-Appeasement Campaign: Concerned that time could be working against Taiwan, its increasingly isolated, independence-leaning government is preparing a major new propaganda push that will make the case for defending the island against a possible Chinese attack.
...Back to the main story. In a novel twist on the historical argument, we are told Taiwan's propagandists plan to draw a moral comparison with another endangered nation, one that some might be tempted to isolate or sacrifice in an attempt to appease powerful oil producing nations. That country, of course, is Israel--which ironically supplies China with important military technology that could be used against Taiwan. Ignoring important legal and political differences (Taiwan is a United Nations outcast currently recognized by only 25 countries, while Israel is a UN member nation recognized by China, Russia, the US and 157 other countries, including two of Israel's Arab neighbors and former foes, Egypt and Jordan), the Taiwanese view is that its moral case for statehood is no weaker than Israel's, given that a Jewish State in predominantly Arab, British-controlled Palestine came into existence against the wishes of the majority of its inhabitants. Taiwanese officials argue that while it is true Israel in part owes its existence to a UN resolution that partitioned Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, the 1948 vote for partition would have been a non-starter in a post-colonial-era UN.
China to Allow Local Communist Party Elections: China is taking a significant step toward political reform--at least, that is what Beijing wants the world to believe.The ruling Communist Party announced Monday that it would hold local elections for the first time. An offical described the move as "an enormous step."
...In this regard, Beijing could be adopting old ideas floated long ago by sympathetic critics of two very different repressive regimes--the USSR and Imperial Iran. Years before both systems fell, attempts were made to persuade Soviet leaders and the autocratic Shah to reform their ruling parties by allowing multicandidate elections and, in the case of the Rastakhiz (Resurrection) Party, to transform it into a means of upward mobility for great masses of Iranians left behind by the monarch's White Revolution. The proposals and suggestions fell on deaf ears.But China seems to be listening....
China Poised to Crack Down on Foreign Law Firms: The memo details "illegal activities" that most of the foreign law firms doing business in China are allegedly engaged in, describing the activities as "serious" and "severe" threats to "China's legal system and economic safety." Shanghai is most threatened, according to the document.The principal sin seems to be practicing Chinese law without a license.In 2005, there were 82 "foreign law firms" in Shanghai, and 16 more "established by Hong Kong law firms," the memo notes. While recognizing that foreign law firms "bring advanced new concepts and management experience to China," the memo asserts that their "illegal business activities are becoming serious" and must be stopped.
Beijing has used executions to crack down on white-collar crimes and executed batches of prisoners in public rallies scheduled at national holidays to maximize attention. "Sentences often depend greatly on the political climate and timing," Amnesty International says on its website. The group says Beijing's use of capital punishment "targets poor and marginalized groups including ethnic minorities, migrant communities, political dissidents and so-called 'separatists.' "
Under Chinese rules, the initial trial and appeal in capital cases are heard by the same court. Most condemned prisoners are executed without having higher courts review their cases.
Most of those put to death were given limited access to defense lawyers; others were convicted on the basis of confessions they made after beatings by police, says Katie Lee, director of the Great Britain-China Center, a London-based organization working on judicial changes with Chinese legal officials. "Torture is rampant during custody and questioning stages. Verdicts are often decided behind closed doors prior to the trial proceedings," Amnesty International says on its website.
...Under China's New Policy:
• Appeals in all death sentence cases must be heard in open court. Lawyers for the accused, now restricted to written appeals, will be allowed to make oral arguments.
• Lethal injections, administered in vans traveling from prison to prison, will increasingly replace shootings. (For now, most of those put to death are executed in public — shot in the back of the head after being forced to kneel and open their mouths so the bullet will do minimal damage to facial features.)
• Final approval in each capital case will eventually move to an arm of China's highest court, the Supreme People's Court, which will review cases individually, according to the state-run People's Daily newspaper.
"This will greatly reduce the number of executions — by at least 20%-30%," says Huang Jingping, law professor at People's University.
40 years after start of 'years of chaos', China's top lawyer says lessons must be learned : Although President Hu Jintao says that China is moving towards rule by law, political interference in judicial decision-making is the norm at all levels. "It is ridiculous that party cadres who have no legal qualification are taking the place of the courts in administering justice," said Zhang. "But in the current environment, it has become almost a rule of the game."
China seeks good-looking sailors : Officials say anyone joining the service in 2006 must be good-looking, tall and polite. Manners and looks matter because navy vessels often visit other countries and host reciprocal visits, a spokesman has told the official Xinhua news agency. Biff- doesn't sound too belligerent.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A rural crisis is forcing Beijing to reconsider the idea of private property: When Deng Xiaoping began introducing market reforms nearly three decades ago, his aides quickly broke up rural "people's communes" into family farms, triggering a dramatic rise in peasant incomes. Today, however, the small farmers who make up the majority of China's population (849 million out of 1.3 billion people) are suffering. Last year rural per capita income was about $400 while the average city dweller's income reached $1,300.
...China's rural residents are hurt by a simple fact: The country still lacks private-property rights. Chinese cannot legally own land. They can only obtain land-use rights—for 70 years in cities and 30 years in the countryside. On top of that, urban residents are allowed to sell those rights, while rural residents in practice have a much harder time doing so.
...The liberals' riposte came in the form of the March 4 conference, sponsored by the China Institute of Reform and Development. The meeting was opened by institute head Gao Shangquan, who was quoted as criticizing "a certain professor's letter" and scoffing at leftists' accusations that a conspiracy "of neoliberalism is guiding reform, planted by the American CIA." Shortly afterward, left-leaning scholars reportedly posted the meeting's minutes online—so that they could excoriate liberal views expressed at the gathering. A couple weeks ago they reportedly held their own conference, during which one participant called for reviving Cultural Revolution-style class struggle.
What China Threat? - Sinophobia was short-lived in Mexico. As the only big manufacturing exporter to the United States in Latin America, Mexico was uniquely worried about the threat posed by cheaper labor in Asia. More than 800 assembly plants known as maquiladoras closed their doors between 2001 and 2004, resulting in the loss of over 200,000 jobs. From late 2001 through 2003, the maquiladora industry shrank by 0.4 percent annually, and everyone assumed they knew the cause. The "China threat" quickly became the stuff of popular headlines—and has faded just as quickly now that Mexico is back.
...Mexico learned that lesson the hard way. Its manufacturing industry is centered in states on the U.S. border, which are reminiscent in some ways of the boom provinces of southern China. And the western state of Jalisco has emerged as the Silicon Valley of Mexico. The capital city of Guadalajara hosts giants like Hewlett-Packard and Texas Instruments, as well as subcontractors that build the printers and laptops sold under those brand names. During the slump, two such subcontractors—On Semiconductors and Multek—closed their plants. Some firms that remained began to transfer operations to China. "We lost several production lines—low-cost ink-jet printers, laptops, cell phones—that moved to China," says Federico Lepe, Jalisco's deputy secretary for foreign trade and investment. "We needed to transform ourselves from being a perspiration industry to an inspiration industry."
...Mexico's rebound is a reminder that geography still matters. As transportation costs mount, Mexico's advantages over China are particularly obvious for makers of cars and other bulky items. California-based Sanmina-SCI supplies more than 20 blue-chip corporate clients from its operations in Mexico. Its five plants in Guadalajara produce everything from MRI body scanners for Philips to auto components for Ford, GM and Chrysler. It promises to meet any U.S. order within 24 to 48 hours and stay abreast of the demands of consumer-electronics makers, which change product lineups every three to six months. Chinese firms, who lose five to six weeks shipping to the United States by sea, can't keep up. "If you were to order ice cream from China you would get five containers of vanilla," says Marco Gonzalez Hagelsieb, senior vice president of Mexico operations for Sanmina-SCI. "Whereas Mexico is Baskin-Robbins: we can mix and match flavors and deliver the ice cream the next day."
(video) In Focus: Anarchy in the PRC - They are part of China’s first generation to grow up with both prosperity and exposure to Western pop culture. Members of Reflector, a Chinese punk rock band, have adopted expressions of dissent that not long ago would have cost musicians their lives. But today, punk rock is Beijing chic.
Avian Flu Wanes in Asian Nations It First Hit Hard : Even as it crops up in the far corners of Europe and Africa, the virulent bird flu that raised fears of a human pandemic has been largely snuffed out in the parts of Southeast Asia where it claimed its first and most numerous victims. Health officials are pleased and excited. "In Thailand and Vietnam, we've had the most fabulous success stories," said Dr. David Nabarro, chief pandemic flu coordinator for the United Nations. Vietnam, which has had almost half of the human cases of A(H5N1) flu in the world, has not seen a single case in humans or a single outbreak in poultry this year. Thailand, the second-hardest-hit nation until Indonesia recently passed it, has not had a human case in nearly a year or one in poultry in six months.
Encouraging signs have also come from China, though they are harder to interpret.
These are the second positive signals that officials have seen recently in their struggle to prevent avian flu from igniting a human pandemic. Confounding expectations, birds making the spring migration north from Africa have not carried the virus into Europe. Biff- is any of this really surprising?
Fake chip storm rocks China’s science elite: The government wants to ensure that as the economy becomes enmeshed with the rest of world – and its rules governing intellectual property rights – that China develops its own commercial technologies rather than buying in from overseas.
The 21st Century Business Herald, a respected newspaper that has pursued the case, reported that Mr Chen had taken chips produced by Freescale Semiconductor, formerly a unit of Motorola, and then used low-paid migrant workers to scrub its trademarks off and replace them with that of Hanxin. Neither company was available for comment.
Mr Chen’s own project had received Rmb114m ($14.2m) for research to develop the Hanxin chips. Xinhua said he had been asked to pay back the money.
...“Jiaotong University has warned its professors and researchers to be disciplined and to comply with ethical codes in scientific research,” Xinhua said.
The university, whose famous graduates include Jiang Zemin, the former president, said it strongly supported “the severe actions taken by relevant government departments”.
“In the future, the school will strengthen its management of research and its oversight of research funds.”

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The People's Action Party shows that it remains one of the world's most successful political machines - The “men in white”—the colour of the PAP's campaign uniforms, signifying integrity—have won all ten elections since Singapore's independence from Britain (via a brief, unhappy marriage to Malaysia) in the 1960s. The party, led for decades by Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, and now by his son, Lee Hsien Loong, raised the city-state to first-world income levels. In each election it has convinced Singaporeans it would be foolish to risk this prosperity by voting it out.
...Critics of Singapore's government point to its tight restrictions on political protest and its repeated use of defamation suits against the opposition and journalists. In the run-up to the election the PAP sued the tiny Singapore Democratic Party, arguing that one of its campaign leaflets had impugned the ruling party's honesty—the one thing that is guaranteed to inflame its ire. The party's leader, Chee Soon Juan, has already been bankrupted by a PAP lawsuit. Several of his colleagues, named in the new lawsuit, quickly apologised and agreed to pay damages.
...Desmond Lim, a defeated candidate of the Singapore Democratic Alliance, concedes that the fragmented opposition would do better if it united. Mr Lee senior, still in the cabinet as “minister mentor”, aged 82, is harsher, saying recently that Singapore needed “a world-class opposition, not this riffraff”. What is clear is that the PAP does not just win by squashing its opponents. Its tenth successive victory shows that it remains a most formidable political machine.
...The reasons for the PAP's success are manifold, but the main one, as it never fails to remind voters, is that it has always kept its promise of efficient and clean government. Singapore's economy continues to grow at tigerish rates—9% in the year to March.
In the Time of Madness: Indonesia on the Edge of Chaos : Parry, who wrote for The Independent and now works for The Times of London, made a number of forays into Indonesia from Japan. Through Parry's eyes we are taken into the murderous jungles of Borneo, where Dayak tribesmen were seeking to drive out the Madurese by ethnic cleansing, into Jakarta's universities during the drive to oust Suharto, and into the turmoil of East Timor, seeking its independence from Indonesia. Parry makes the point early on: "This is a book about violence, and about being afraid.
Parry also is fascinated by what he found in Indonesia. As he states, "Although I prided myself on deploring violence, if it should - tragically - break out, I wanted to witness it for myself." Indeed, deeper in the book (and deeper into Indonesia's heart of darkness), he notes: "In Borneo, I saw heads severed from their bodies and men eating flesh. In Jakarta, I saw burned corpses in the street, and shots were fired around and toward me."
President Chen's long trip to nowhere If relations are cool, that means a quick refueling job in some place like Anchorage, the president required to remain on board. So Washington's offer of Alaska was correctly interpreted in Taipei as a deliberate snub and was rejected.
The whole trip was an acrobatic performance. If he meant to piss Washington off, he should have made a stopover in Iran or North Korea," said Antonio Chiang, former deputy secretary general of Taiwan's National Security Council. "Chen has tried very hard, but he didn't do Taiwan's diplomacy any good."
...At a press conference in Costa Rica, Chen defended himself by arguing, "I'm not doing this for fun. I would rather take less time, but I need to be concerned with Taiwan's dignity." Neglecting urges to stop the steady decline in US-Taiwan bilateral ties, Chen chose to make a surprise visit to Libya followed by Indonesia on his return journey rather than transit in Alaska. A proposed stop in Lebanon, however, was not approved. Interpreting the scenario's development, Michael Green, former senior director at the National Security Council for Asian Affairs and now senior adviser at the CSIS, said: "I think the senior people in Washington were nervous after President Chen's remarks on abolishing the National Unification Council and were being extra cautious for fear that President Chen might surprise them again on US soil."

Friday, May 12, 2006

CHINA AND THE “OTHER” WEST: THE EUROPEAN UNION, AUSTRALIA, CANADA AND NEW ZEALAND: China’s relationship with Europe has always had a strong focus on economic and trade interactions via the Silk Road; the Cohong system of the 18th and early 19th centuries; and under Beijing’s unequal treaty relationship during the “100 years of humiliation” in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. In the post-Cold War period, China’s relationship with Europe has been guided by economic considerations. In 2005, the European Union emerged as China’s leading trade partner while Canada and Australia were China’s ninth and tenth largest trading partners respectively (Chinese Ministry of Commerce). New Zealand is the first Western state to grant China the status of “market economy” while Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to New Zealand in April reaffirmed China’s commitment to implementing a free trade agreement with New Zealand within two years, making New Zealand potentially the first developed Western country to reach a free trade agreement with China.
...Canada has the world’s second-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and investing in oil sands remains a lucrative venture as long as oil prices remain high. In May 2005, China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) acquired a 40 percent stake in Canada's Northern Lights oil sands project and in April 2005 China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) acquired one-sixth of MEG Energy Corporation. PetroChina has also signed a preliminary agreement to buy half of the crude transported through the Gateway project, an oil pipeline being developed by Enbridge to connect Alberta to Canada's Pacific coast (Dow Jones News, April 8). Some in the United States have expressed concern over China’s growing energy interests in its backyard, especially as the U.S. is Canada’s leading oil export market.
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has made a surprise transit stop in Libya, on his way home from Latin America. The Chinese "sought brutally and savagely to block the transit stops and foreign trips of our senior officials," Mr Chen said as he left Taipei.
Hepatitis Risk for East Asians in New York : The study, led by researchers at New York University School of Medicine, found that 15 percent of east Asians in New York — as many as 100,000 people — are chronic hepatitis carriers, with the rate highest among immigrants from China. That infection rate is 35 times the rate found in the general population.
MIRRORING TAIWAN: CHINA AND CUBA - On the surface, Sino-Cuba relations may be difficult to take seriously. Hu Jintao heads the world’s largest and most explosively developing county while Fidel Castro stands astride a faraway, skinny island with one of the most stagnant economies in the world. In 1960 Cuba was the first Latin American country to recognize China’s new communist government. Yet early friendly relations turned sour toward the end of the decade with the emergence of the Sino-Soviet dispute. Since Castro saw his “destiny” as waging a war against the United States, he needed the kind of financial support and military shield that only Moscow could then provide.
...Fidel Castro has long attracted disciples from Berkeley to Hanoi, but he has never been able to make his small country work. Indeed, with few exceptions, he is regarded as an economic “numbskull” (a term he used in 1979 to characterize Deng Xiaoping) of epic proportions who has almost always had to rely on massive handouts from foreign patrons.
...Cuba is believed to have the world’s third largest nickel reserves and Beijing is pumping $500 million into doubling the island’s annual production. There are smaller Chinese investments in directional drilling rigs and other products for oil exploration and production. Beijing has given aid, postponed debt repayments and arranged credit with preferential interest rates and repayment schedules.
...Of particular interest is a comment attributed to Hu Jintao in late-2004, stating that "in ideological supervision, we should learn from Cuba and North Korea" (Kai Fang, December 2004). Yinghong Cheng said in an interview that the comment has circulated widely among Chinese intellectuals and is thought to reflect a Maoist-leftist tendency in Hu's thinking and governance (May 7), as does his relationship with Castro.
Vietnamese woman 'sold at market' Malaysian media reported that a 60-year-old man paid some $5,000 (£2,700) for her, possibly as a bride. Reports said she had run out of money in Malaysia and offered herself for sale as a means of raising some cash.
"All actions relating to illegal marriage intermediation must be strictly banned." Biff- All... illegal... must be... banned. - A common sort of developing nation tautology.
South Korea recently apologised to Vietnam after a newspaper ran a Seoul picture of Vietnamese women lining up for a prospective Korean husband.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Dalai Lama 'behind Lhasa unrest': The official Xinhua news agency said 17 Tibetans on 14 March destroyed a pair of statues at Lhasa's Ganden Monastery depicting the deity Dorje Shugden. Lhasa's mayor blamed the destruction on followers of the Dalai Lama, who sees Dorje Shugden as a divisive force. Analysts accused China of exploiting any dispute for political ends.
...China and the Dalai Lama have been engaged in secretive talks for years, and met for a fifth round of talks in February, but have made little progress. The Dalai Lama has called for Tibetan autonomy within China, but China repeatedly labels him a separatist and says he seeks full independence.
The Yin And Yang And The Apples And Oranges On Chinese Courts : About a week ago, I did a post touting the fairness of China's courts, entitled, "China's Courts are Fair." That post was based, in large part, on Professor Tseming Yang's (hence the "Yang" in my title -- groan!) post on his Citizen Yang blog, entitled "Local Governments Lose 30-50% of Administrative Lawsuits," noting "local [Chinese] governments lose an astonishing 30-50% of law suits in China."
I said I was not astonished by these numbers and I referred back to one of my previous posts, entitled, China Rises -- The TV Show/"Food is Heaven," where I noted the success rate small players had in their lawsuits in Chinese courts against big polluting companies.
I then went on to qualify my "China's courts are fair" assertion by noting that the Chinese courts virtually never rule against the government when central government policy is at issue and that I am ignoring criminal and political cases. I also stated that "the chances of getting a fair trial are much greater in prosperous commercial cities like Shanghai, Tianjin, or Qingdao, than they are in a small city in Anhui Province. I know too that a foreign company prevailing against a powerful local company in a Chinese court is always going to be less likely than if all parties are of the same strata:"
So China's courts are not always fair.
But, they are fair way more often than credited by the western media and I am absolutely convinced (as are all of the Chinese lawyers with whom we work) that they are fair often enough to make it as ill-advised to do business in China without written contracts or Intellectual Property (IP) protections as to do business that way in the West.
Even if China's courts are fair only 60% of the time, this is enough to cause the rational Chinese businessperson to make decisions based on legal ramifications.
Competing with China for African hearts and minds: As the chart (compiled by Travis with data from a BBC poll) hints, Central and Southern Africans view U.S. influence very positively, more so than Chinese influence. According to another poll, Africa is the only continent where a majority (55%) of the population views the U.S. in a positive light.
Competing with China for African hearts and minds/2: So it is surprising --and in my opinion telling of Chinese soft power ambitions in Africa-- that China today is by far the largest contributor to peacekeeping missions of the 5 nations holding permanent Security Council seats.
In March 2006, China had 1,137 peacekeepers deployed, of which 876 were troops, 189 were police personnel and 72 were military observers. Overall, that is the 14th biggest contribution out of 108 countries. By way of comparison, the US has 369, the UK 344, France 584 and Russia 207. While India sends a whopping 9,061, China's contributions are impressive, especially if compared with the past: in March 2001, it had 96.
America’s China “Experts” : Just who are America’s China “experts?” And the question we all really want answered: do any of them actually speak Chinese?
Wall Street ended Tuesday... carrying the Dow Jones industrials to a fresh six-year high and within reach of its best-ever close. ...analysts say the Dow is poised to break its record and could push higher. ...The Dow rose 55.23, or 0.48 percent, to 11,639.77. The index of 30 blue-chip stocks is 83 points from its all-time closing high of 11,722.98, reached Jan. 14, 2000.
Armoured suits are 'too goofy' say US troops: The water-cooled "alien spacesuits" are being handed out to turret gunners in their notoriously vulnerable Humvee vehicles... Capt Larry Bergeron told the military newspaper Stars and Stripes that the armour was credited with saving the lives of three men sprayed with shrapnel from roadside bombs. "One soldier's visor stopped a piece of shrapnel that hit dead centre," he said. "If he had not had that suit on, the effects could have been catastrophic."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Teaching Political Theory in Beijing: Academic publications are surprisingly free: there aren’t any personal attacks on leaders or open calls for multiparty rule, but particular policies, such as the household registry system, which limits internal mobility, are subject to severe criticism. In 2004, state television, for the first time in history, broadcast the U.S. presidential elections live, without any obvious political slant. (I suspect that the turmoil surrounding the 2000 U.S. presidential elections, along with the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, discredited U.S.-style democracy among many Chinese, and the government has less to fear from the model.) More surprisingly, perhaps, I was not given any explicit (or implicit, as far as I could tell) guidance regarding what I could teach at Tsinghua. My course proposals have been approved as submitted.
...However, I also made some comments about the ancient thinker Mencius—I argued that he justified “punitive expeditions” that were functionally similar to modern-day humanitarian interventions—that were not published. The Chinese government does not support any infringements on state sovereignty, and the newspaper probably worried that readers would draw implications for contemporary debates. To my surprise, the editor of the newspaper phoned me to apologize, explaining that the article was “reviewed” by a party cadre and that he had no hand in the matter. He also offered to publish the interview in full in an academic publication that would not be subject to the same sorts of constraints.
Fujian woos a skeptical Taiwan: "Fujian has a reputation of failing to implement market-economy polices, instead it emphasizes politics," explained a senior official at Taiwan's semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Corruption is another issue. The Yuanhua case is just one [example]," the official added. In that notorious case, broken in 2000-01, the Yuanhua Group smuggled cars, luxury goods, oil and other goods into Fujian's Xiamen city, cheating the state of about $4 billion.
Thousands of government officials were involved: Lai Changxing, the chairman of Lianhua group, had corrupted them by such means as wining and dining them, hiring their children, or secretly filming them cavorting with hostesses at his "underground palace", known as the "Little Red Mansion". Allegedly, Lai even attempted to bribe then-premier Zhu Rongji to the tune of $2 billion. But Zhu responded by sending hundreds of police investigators from outside the province to Fujian, and dozens of officials were shot in the ensuing crackdown.
Complaints about local government corruption are widely circulated among Fujian-based Taiwan businessmen. The chairman of the Fuzhou Chamber of Trade, Hsu Jiun-Da, was arrested and interrogated for a week in 2002 after he publicly criticized the local government's performance. Hsu, a Taiwanese businessman who once operated a textile factory and invested in a hospital there, has been withdrawing his investment from the province.
End of the road for Japanese village: This mountain village on the west coast, withered to eight aging residents, concluded recently that it could no longer go on. So, after months of anguish, the villagers settled on a drastic solution: selling all of Ogama to an industrial-waste company from Tokyo, which will turn it into a landfill. With the proceeds, the villagers plan to pack up everything, including their family graves, and move in the next few years to yet-uncertain destinations, most likely becoming the first community in Japan to cease to exist voluntarily.
...academics have coined a term - "villages that have reached their limits" - to describe those with populations that are more than half elderly. Of 140 villages in Monzen, the municipality that includes Ogama, 40% have fewer than 10 households, inhabited mostly by the elderly.
...Ogama lies in a valley in a mountain facing the sea, reached by a single-lane road that winds its way through a deep green forest where foxes and raccoon dogs - forest-dwellers that, in Japanese myth, trick human beings by shifting their shapes - are spotted regularly. The road ends here.
Biff- you cain't have it both ways: high population density and a pristine environment. The hollowing out isn't just taking place in Japan but also in parts of Europe and in the US Mid-west and the Plains. For all the guff about disappearing forests, the hollowing out phenomenon has been ongoing in the US since around the Great Depression. Forest cover has been growing steadily nationwide.

Monday, May 08, 2006

"In about 30 years, the forest will be gone": Indonesia says it expects China to invest $30 billion in the next decade, a big infusion of capital that contrasts with the declining investment by American companies here and in the region.
Much of that Chinese investment is aimed at the extractive industries and infrastructure like refineries, railroads and toll roads to help speed the flow of Indonesia's plentiful coal, oil, gas, timber and palm oil to China's ports.
In one of the latest deals, on April 19, Indonesia announced that China had placed a $1 billion rush order for a million cubic yards of a prized reddish-brown hardwood, called merbau, to be used in construction of its sports facilities for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Merbau wood, mostly prevalent in Papua's virgin forests, has been illegally logged and shipped to China since the late 1990's, stripping large swathes of forest in the Indonesian province on the western side of the island of New Guinea.
Chinese reoccupying Russia: Whatever the basis of the love-in between Putin and Chinese President Jintao, the Russian and Chinese people on the whole hate and mistrust each other.
The 5 million Russians who live in Russia's provinces bordering China's northeast (population 107 million) are nervous and frightened. The Treaty of Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation that the two leaders signed in 2001 and the "final resolution" of the centuries-old border dispute earlier this year have done nothing to assuage that hatred and fear. Measures taken by the leaders do not have the support of either the people of northeast China or the people of Russia's border provinces.
...Chinese people are taught in school that the Russian provinces on the other side of the 4300-km border, or Outer Manchuria, are Chinese. They were "stolen" from China in two unequal treaties that the Russian czar forced on a weak China in 1858 and 1860 at the beginning of the Hundred Years of Humiliation. Not only their textbooks but all of their leaders up to Hu Jintao have told them that these provinces will return to China one day, just as Hong Kong and Macau did.
The Russians in the southern provinces of Far East Russia also are angry about the 2001 treaty, and about one in 2006. They believe the treaties give too much away to the Chinese.
The Chinese are living in the past they say: Territories that the Russians colonized in the 19th century were of no interest to the Chinese; the Chinese made no effort to occupy and develop the area, which only technically came under Chinese sovereignty in another unequal treaty that the strong Manchu emperor forced upon a weak czar, with the help of the Jesuits, in 1648.
...While we were waiting in no man's land, another Russian was sitting near us (we never did discover why). We were sat by a large flower pot. The Chinese guard who was holding our passports was digging in the soil with a wooden ladle. He suddenly loaded the ladle with soil and pushed it toward the mouth of the Russian and said "would you like to eat dirt?"
The hatred between local Chinese and Russians is palpable. Russians are moving out of this province and others that make up Russia's Far East as fast as they can; Chinese are moving in -- far more than officially admitted. Not a basis for long-term tranquillity and happiness.
Despite Beijing's promises of electoral accountability, rural voters are facing violent intimidation: It could hardly be further from the centre of power in Beijing, but Feng is treated like a threat to the state. He is followed by police, his phone is tapped and he is frequently called in for questioning by the authorities. His supporters suffer similar treatment. For more than six months, Taishi has been gripped by fear. Interviewed in the nearby town of Panyu, locals say Taishi village is patrolled by thugs who threaten critics of the local chief and police who monitor every vehicle that comes in and out of the community of 2,100 people.
Chinese weather specialists used chemicals to engineer Beijing's heaviest rainfall of the year, helping to relieve drought and rinse dust from China's capital, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Friday. Technicians with the Beijing Weather Modification Office fired seven rocket shells containing 163 cigarette-size sticks of silver iodide over the city's skies on Thursday, Xinhua said. ...Though unusual in many parts of the world, China has been tinkering with artificial rainmaking for decades...
Seldom mentioned, however, is the fact that cable news is equally geriatric. Indeed, Fox News Channel and CNN are two of only three leading basic networks (the other being the Hallmark Channel) whose median viewer age is over 60. Headline News rings in next at 59.9, and MSNBC is still on the rickety side at 57.
...Pedophiles, in fact, have become the de facto star of the May rating sweeps, low-lighted by KCBS-TV in Los Angeles promoting a piece about child molesters living near Disneyland. It's the most cynical kind of scare tactic ("Your children might be in danger!") designed to reel in young women, mirroring Fox News host Greta Van Susteren's obsession with the Natalee Holloway case.
Admittedly, such appeals are easier and cheaper to do than substantive reporting. Just don't put lipstick on the pig, as Van Susteren did last year by calling missing persons "an epidemic." It's only an epidemic, frankly, if you glean all your news from her nightly police blotter and sister of woe Nancy Grace on CNN Headline News.
The cable nets' older profiles have also yielded absurd exchanges about demographic superiority, such as the boast that more young adults view MSNBC's Keith Olbermann than CNN's Paula Zahn. Whichever midget is taller, the truth remains that the vast majority of young adults have no interest in either.
Chinese-American space program possible: Bush has promised Hu that NASA Administrator Michael Griffin will travel to China this year for more definitive discussions. China also joined 11 other nations as well as the European Space Agency in Washington for the opening round of NASA-led discussions on cooperative exploration of the moon.
"For the president to say there will be discussions with China is a major step forward," said Joan Johnson-Freese, an analyst at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. "That has been absolutely forbidden in the past." Biff- Looks good.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Facing Isolation, Taiwan Woos Latin America: Chen's trip comes as some of Taiwan's 25 diplomatic allies, like Panama, the Vatican and the Solomon Islands, are holding secret talks with China on switching recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Some other allies are also mulling changing sides due to the expanding political and economic power of China. One of them, Haiti, has barred Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang from attending the May 14 inauguration of President-elect Rene Preva, after China had threatened to veto UN's extending the mandate for peacekeeping force in Haiti in August. This is the first time a diplomatic ally has declined a visit by a Taiwan leader.
Military muscles bulging in SE Asia: Many Southeast Asian buyers spoke about long-overdue military modernization needs as the incentive behind their purchases. Others suggested they needed to prepare to repel armed insurgencies or unmentioned full state threats.
The unspoken subtext is the perceived need to safeguard against China's growing military might in the event Beijing someday takes on a more aggressive foreign policy toward its smaller regional neighbors. The Rand Corporation, a respected US-based think-tank, estimates that China, which claimed to have a $29 billion defense budget last year, actually spent between $42 billion and $51 billion in a rapid, if not secretive, military modernization drive.
There was plenty of geostrategic politics at play at the Kuala Lumpur arms show. Russia, which is aiming to ramp up global sales for its military hardware and strategically counterbalance China's growing economic influence in the region, was particularly active in brokering deals. Russian arms dealers have recently had a large measure of success in peddling their wares in Southeast Asia, signing contracts with Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia for aircraft exports worth nearly half of Russia's total global exports in recent years.
US, Seoul parting ways over North Korea: Human Rights Watch, dominated by former Clinton administration people, came out with a report this week that said North Korea had reversed its reformist policies and was again banning the private sale of grain. The grain, Washington advocacy director Tom Malinowski said, was going to the elite, not the millions who needed it most. North Korea, "has gone back to precisely the same set of policies that were a primary cause of that terrible disaster" of the 1990s in which at least 1 million people starved to death, said Malinowski, a former speech writer for former president Bill Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright.
...about 6,000 North Korean workers are toiling away for South Korean companies. They're paid US$57.50 a month, a fortune by North Korean standards, and in a few years the complex will become a regional hub hiring half a million workers for international companies, according to the project's South Korean directors. The Americans frankly regard all this hype as nonsense. They say no workers see the money that's paid into North Korean accounts. They believe they're toiling away for almost nothing, living under terrible conditions, clothed and fed just enough so they'll be able to go on working. These charges, publicized by Jay Lefkowitz, a New York lawyer appointed by President George W Bush as his part-time envoy on human rights in North Korea, not only incense the Unification Ministry but cloud the future of a free trade agreement on which the United States and South Korea begin negotiations in June.
...The United States has repeatedly rejected South Korean insistence that South Korean troops in time of war should not revert to American command. The US view is that only one general can take charge in a war, and the United States, with all the means of modern war at its disposal, would have to rescue South Korea as it did in 1950. But would the United States again ride to the rescue? US forces are pulling back, in a controversial decision, viewed with alarm by some Koreans, to reposition its forces well south of Seoul rather than on the historic invasion route between North Korea and the capital. The United States is also reducing the number of bases while cutting down its forces from 37,000 two years ago to 29,500 today to 25,000 at the end of the decade.
Bigots, racists and worthless buffoons - so why do they keep getting elected?: It didn't hurt Respect in the East End, where the party did well on Thursday. Once again, we find a slice of the electorate in a poor part of Britain that is so lost in identity politics and victimhood that it will vote for those who stoke their rage, no matter how worthless they are.
Biff-Sounds much like the allegiance of African-American voters to both the Democratic Party and to black leaders who hide their Caribbean antecedents (Married blacks of Caribbean ancestry on average earn more per capita in the US than married Caucasians, not to mention the traditional contempt of Caribbean immigrant blacks for American blacks).
The conventional wisdom is that far right parties are driven back into the undergrowth when the electorate sees them for what they are. Historically, that has been the case, but those who expect the BNP and Respect to disappear should look at what has happened to Sinn Fein.
Eighteen months ago, pundits predicted its support would collapse after the IRA stole £26m from the Northern Bank and its drunken sadists murdered Robert McCartney in a Belfast pub. After that, everyone should have been able to see that the peace process had turned it into Ireland's version of the Mafia. Its political purpose was a distant memory - the Mafia originally tried to protect Sicilians from foreign invaders; its made men saw themselves as above the law; it had pet politicians to provide it with excuses; and could threaten both the British and Irish states with an escalation of the violence if its profits from racketeering were endangered.
But in both the north and the south of Ireland, Sinn Fein support has held steady. I hope I'm wrong, but the lesson from Ireland is that nothing sectarian politicians do can shake the doltish faith of their supporters.
No Gun Ri: No Gun Ri is a village in South Korea, located in Hwanggan-myeon, Yeongdong County, North Chungcheong province. During the early days of the Korean War, a highly publicized massacre took place in which a group of Korean refugees, and possibly North Korean infiltrators, were killed by elements of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment.
Biff- A few years back, watched the Cspan debate between the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter of this story and the cavalry regiment's historian. Under questioning, it became clear the reporter didn't know what he was talking about from time to time. Reporters, after all, seldom have time for in-depth investigation. But in this case, he came out of the debate looking much, much the worse for wear. My conclusion was that the reporter was a second-rate con-man taken to the cleaners by a first-rate crook who bit off more than he could chew. Unfortunately the video ain't up at Cspan or you could judge for yourself.
...Soon after the awarding of the Pulitzer, however, a U.S. News & World Report article questioned the credibility of one of the witnesses relied upon in the AP report. Using the same Army records consulted by the AP, the news magazine pointed out the discrepencies which pointed towards fraud on the part of at least one key witness. The person in question was Edward Daily, who had claimed to have been eyewitness both to killings at No Gun Ri and an order to carry them out. The US News story alleged, based on army reports, that he was not in fact part of any unit at No Gun Ri anywhere near the time in question and was not, as he had claimed to have been, a machine gunner. The AP initially stuck by Daily, who had reaffirmed his claims to numerous other media outlets...
However, after the expose by other journalism outlets, the AP reinterviewed Daily who, when confronted with army records which conflicted his personal testimony, admitted that he could not have been at the scene of the incident and instead had heard of it second hand. Daily was in fact a mechanic during the war and did not join the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry until 1951. He later plead guilty to defrauding the government for collecting over $300,000 in benefits for combat-releated trauma over nearly fifteen years.
...Robert Bateman, a former member of the 7th Cavalry Regiment and an academic historian at West Point, authored a book after The Bridge at No Gun Ri was published. No Gun Ri: A Military History of the Korean War Incident is highly critical of the AP team's findings and calls into question both evidence presented to the reporters as well as their interpretation of the findings.
...Bateman demonstrated the plasticity of memory and susceptibility of some "memories" to outside suggestions from influential figures such as Daily, who had written two books on the history of the unit. Another AP witness inadvertently demonstrated Bateman's point in a front-page New York Times article. Veteran Eugene Hesselman would adamantly deny the charge that Daily was not at No Gun Ri when confronted; "I know that Daily was there. I know that. I know that." He and others, including Pfc. Delos Flint, come under scrutiny in Bateman's book for their recollection of events and are suggested to have not even been there just as Daily was not.
...The result of the official Army inquiry was released in January 2001. Among its findings:
...Estimates of the time length of fire range from a few minutes to four days.
U.S. commanders did not issue orders to fire on civilians in No Gun Ri during July 25-29.
Pilots were not ordered to kill civilians in the vicinity of No Gun Ri.
Interviewed veterans said deadly force was not authorized against civilians who posed no threat, and they were not given orders to shoot and kill civilians.
Some veterans believed they had the ability to use deadly force if civilians did not halt from passing their position.
...The summary concludes: "Neither the documentary evidence nor the U.S. veterans’ statements reviewed by the U.S. Review Team support a hypothesis of deliberate killing of Korean civilians. What befell civilians in the vicinity of No Gun Ri in late July 1950 was a tragic and deeply regrettable accompaniment to a war forced upon unprepared U.S. and ROK forces."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

China Customs -- Your IP Friend: The fact that you are manufacturing your product in China just for export does not in any way minimize the need for you to protect your trademark. Once someone registers “your” trademark in China, they have the power to stop your goods at the border and prevent them from leaving China. That's right, they can stop your goods from leaving because they own the trademark, not you. We are aware of companies having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their trademark "back" and to get their goods flowing out of China again.
Why China Won't Slow Down: A number of business people (mostly in the food business) have told me it is China's low crime rate and relative lack of corruption that is their reason for focusing on China instead of some of the other emerging market countries where they formerly did business. Let's face it, China is generally a nice place to visit and many other emerging market countries are not.
...I am amazed at how often it is that I have become aware of a problem in China, only to see the government put in place an innovative solution within months in an effort to remedy it. China's government is not democratic, but it would be wrong to deny it is "agile" and "energetic."

Friday, May 05, 2006

Net censorship spreads worldwide: Where China has led, other nations are following and taking active steps to filter the net before it gets to their citizens. Zimbabwe is reportedly buying technology directly from China to beef up its censorship efforts.
Many other nations, including Burma, Cuba, Iran, Libya, Nepal, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam censor the net. Often this filtering involves stopping access to some types of sites, such as those showing pornography, but it can also involve blocking sites critical of governments or religions.
Some nations, such as Turkmenistan, have banned home net connections and restrict people to using net cafes which, said the RSF, were much easier to control. Burma has banned web e-mail systems such as Hotmail and Yahoo mail and every five minutes screen grabs are taken of what people are looking at in net cafes.
Communists, oil and the Florida coast: America's energy policies have been so counterproductive during the past 20 years that the time has now arrived when the communist governments of China and Cuba can jointly teach us a lesson about supply and demand. For years, the United States has refused to explore for oil in the 90-mile-wide waters separating Cuba and Florida. Now, Cuba is enlisting help from China, India and other interested parties in an effort to explore for oil in Cuban waters 50 miles off the Florida coast.
...Even ANWR's huge reserves pale compared to oil located throughout the waters of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The Minerals Management Service (MMS) of the Department of Interior estimates that the OCS contains 76 billion barrels of oil in yet-to-be-discovered fields. That's three and a half times U.S. proved oil reserves. Offshore oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico alone are estimated to be more than 40 billion barrels, much of it precluded from exploration by official U.S. policy. Compared to U.S. proved natural-gas reserves of 189 trillion cubic feet, the MMS estimates that the Gulf of Mexico alone holds more than 200 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas. While celebrating their success in preventing American energy companies from exploring for oil and gas between Florida and Cuba, environmentalists and Florida politicians ought to contemplate China's egregious environmental record as they look with horror at Chinese drilling rigs soon to be dispersed throughout Cuban waters less than 50 miles from the Florida coast.
Falun Gong Practitioners Attacked in Indonesia: Actually it is not hard to guess who is behind this, because in the whole world, only the CCP persecutes Falun Gong and behaves like hoodlums. Spreading hatred is a trick the CCP has mastered well. We have discovered this several times already. The Chinese Embassy instigates or even directly manipulates from behind the scenes, utilizing Chinese nationalism to easily distort facts.
China Unveils New Generation of Fighter Plane : Industry reports have said the aircraft is unlikely to be used by China's own air force. But Pakistan plans to buy eight of the planes late this year or early next, according to the China News Agency. This week Russian Defense Minister Sergei Invanov said China may participate in Russia's development on a new-generation fighter, but he said it was a "long term" prospect that had to surmount economic and legal obstacles. Biff- sounds like another patriotic flying coffin, this one being export-quality...
China gets energized over ethanol: Even knowing that Brazil heavily uses ethanol in transportation doesn't prepare one for the startling sight of roadside vendors selling beer to motorists during a recent rush hour traffic jam in Sao Paulo.
...And while Brazil's ethanol experience has largely been a pleasant one, surprisingly, that isn't particularly the case at the moment. "Today, the price of alcool is higher than when the flex system started," said Renato Astur, a salesman with Caoa Ford, a car dealership in Sao Paulo. "Now, the people who buy [flex-fuel cars] don't see a big advantage." Partly, this is because ethanol has a lower energy content per liter than gasoline does. Drivers can travel about 10 kilometers per liter of gasoline in Brazil, compared with only 7 per liter of ethanol, Astur said. So the price of alcool has to be 70% of the price of gasoline, or less, for consumers to see a financial advantage; of late, it has been greater than this. And while for the most part the environmental benefits of ethanol are clear, including the fact that it is a minimally toxic fuel, improves air quality where it is widely used, and biodegrades rapidly, Fischer notes that large-scale ethanol production can harm soil because of the need to plant the same crops again and again, depleting ground nutrients
Myanmar's junta goes for the kill: In the past, Myanmar's police have been accused of planting drugs, especially heroin, on young activists and students, then arresting them and sentencing them to several years of imprisonment. These tactics are being complemented with a more subtle strategy aimed at crippling the NLD's ability to operate and recruit, according to the recent police meeting notes. ...Sources close to the SPDC's top leadership say that Than Shwe has apprehensively monitored recent international and regional news from his fortified bunker in Pyinmana, including the street rallies that last month drove Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to abandon his political post, and Nepalese King Gyanendra's recent acquiescence to more violent street protests where demonstrators called for a return to democracy. These events have "rocked the old man, who now more than ever fears a repeat of the mass pro-democracy demonstrations of 1988 which forced Ne Win to stand down", said a close confidant of Than Shwe. In response, the SPDC leader has reportedly ordered police to crack down on even the faintest signs of political ferment.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The western Pacific may be headed for one of its periodic outbreaks against Chinese: (penned back in 2005) Solomon Islands Minister for National Planning, Fred Fono said the region should be mindful of the influx of Asian people, specifically Chinese coming into the region and taking over businesses that should be operated by locals.
"I shared a lot of support by other regional ministers that they are seeing the trend in their countries,” Mr Fono.
“In the past you hardly see Chinese business people taking over retail and wholesaling businesses but now you travel anywhere in the region you see Chinese businesses operating retail trade stores that are supposed to be operated by local people.”
This isn't the first time this sort of ugly rhetoric has appeared in the Pacific, where Chinese expatriates form a large part of the small business community. Like any merchant diaspora, the Chinese often face resentment from locals, which has sometimes found a sympathetic ear in government. In Tonga, for instance, Chinese merchants were banned from one noble's district in 2000, and later that year, the government responded to a wave of anti-Chinese hate crime by deporting 600 shopkeepers.
These days, it seems that the western Pacific is undergoing another wave of economic nativism prompted by slow growth. In some respects, this is being addressed by economic protectionism, such as Vanuatu's proposed bill to restrict a wider category of businesses to citizens. In the Solomons and other places - such as Papua New Guinea, where anti-Chinese riots occurred last October - it's also fueling the perennial resentment of expatriate Chinese businessmen. If the minister's statements are seen as a green light by the citizens and police, things could get ugly fast.
Taiwan's Tacky Tactics In Tarawa - Politician admits receiving US$80,000 The games that Taiwan and China play in competing for recognition by Pacific Islands governments have had some light thrown on them by documents surfacing from Kiribati. The documents and an account by a go-between, Tarawa resident Brian Orme, of how he delivered "bags of cash" from Taiwanese officials to recipient Kiribati politicians reveal how Taiwan buys the loyalty of governments from its enemy, China. ...
While the Taiwanese trade office in Suva (an unofficial embassy since Fiji was intimidated by China against recognising Taiwan) dismissed as "ridiculously untrue" accounts of Taiwan's financial intervention in Kiribati's elections, Dr Tong confirmed that in the course of nine months, from September 2002 to June 2003, Taiwan, through its Suva representative, Fu-Tien Liu, gave him cash totalling US$80,000. He did not handle or receive the money personally. The cash was managed by his campaign manager, an Irishman now naturalised Kiribati citizen, Brian Orme.
At the first exchange, Orme was told there were "no strings attached." But by June 2003, on the eve of the second and final presidential elections in Kiribati, Taiwan through Liu, insisted that Dr Tong signed a memorandum of understanding first before receiving his third and what was to be the final cash payment.
"Recognising the importance of the development of mutual friendship and cooperation between Taiwan and Kiribati and based on the principle of equality, sovereignty and mutual benefit," reads the introduction of a memorandum of understanding (MOU), a copy of which was given to Islands Business by Orme.
It reads: "If the Honourable Dr Harry Tong or his party's candidate wins the presidential election which is scheduled to take place on July 4, 2003 or other designated date, he will ensure the Government of the Republic of Kiribati implements this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and establish full diplomatic relations with Taiwan/ROC at the shortest time possible after the presidential inauguration of the newly elected President of Kiribati."
Chinatowns in Oceania (Wikipedia entry): Biff- not mentioned is that, "As late as 1966, the government of the Solomon Islands debated deporting [all Chinese]." - Ethnic America: A History p. 133, Thomas Sowell).
On January 2, 1976, the Solomons became self-governing, and independence followed on July 7, 1978, the first post-independence government was elected in August 1980.
Following the 1997 election of Bartholomew Ulufa'alu the political situation in the Solomon's began to deteriorate. Governance was slipping as the performance of the police and other government agencies deteriorated due to ethnic rivalries. The capital of Honiara on Guadalcanal was increasingly populated by migrants from the island of Malaita. In June 2002, an insurrection mounted by militants from the island of Malaita resulted in the brief detention of Ulufa’alu and his subsequent forced resignation. Manasseh Sogavare, leader of the People's Progressive Party, was chosen Prime Minister by a loose coalition of parties. Guadalcanal militants retaliated and sought to drive Malaitan settlers from Guadalcanal, resulting in the closure of a large oil-palm estate and gold mine which were vital to exports. New elections in December 2001 brought Sir Allan Kemakeza into the Prime Minister’s chair with the support of a coalition of parties.
Kemakeza attempted to address the deteriorating law and order situation in the country, but the prevailing atmosphere of lawlessness, widespread extortion, and ineffective police, prompted a formal request by the Solomon Islands Government for outside help. With the country bankrupt and the capital in chaos, the request was unanimously supported in Parliament. In July 2003, Australian and Pacific Island police and troops arrived in the Solomon Islands under the auspices of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). A sizable international security contingent of 2,200 police and troops, led by Australia and New Zealand, and with representatives from about 20 other Pacific nations began arriving the next month under Operation Helpem Fren. Since this time some commentators have considered the country a failed state.[1]
SOUTH PACIFIC:'Fear of Domination Sparked Anti-Chinese Riots': The racial riots have been described as the worst of its kind since independence, 27 years ago. Local Melanesian ethnic groups, that have been fighting each other, have now united to attack Chinese businesses...
There are about 2,000 ethnic Chinese living in Honiara in a population of 50,000, but most of them are naturalised third or fourth generation Solomon Islanders descendents of workers brought in during the colonial era as labourers, cooks and laundry boys for British administrators and plantation owners. Over the years, they worked hard to build the retail stores and other businesses and today dominate both the wholesale and retail sectors.
In neighbouring Fiji, there is a parallel. Ethnic Indians, brought in by British colonials as indentured labourers, mainly to work the sugar plantations, ended up as a major influence in the economic and political life.
Commenting on the riots in an article published in the ‘Solomon Star,' leading civil servant George Manimu, observed that people have resented their leaders giving preferential treatment to foreigners, especially Asians, in such areas as trade, logging, and fisheries making the locals foreigners in their own country. "Business areas, often referred to as reserved for nationals, have also become dominated by Asian entrepreneurs," he said. The ‘'actions of the people (the riots), although criminal, reflects the release of bottled up frustrations and anger that they could not contain any longer"...
"Generally, these Chinese communities are well established in the community and into their third and fourth generations and, most probably don't have direct ties back to China. The issue therefore is the identity and status of people who came from elsewhere, but continue to look Chinese, of course, but they're Pacific islanders of a different descent."
From the Happy Isles of Oceana: Paddling the Pacific by Paul Theroux (pp 154~163) [copyright 1992]: A definite sense of the world is elsewhere, I wrote in my notebook in Honiara. My first impression was of a place so ramshackle, so poor, so scary, so unexpectedly filthy, that I had begun to understand the theory behind culture shock - something I had never truly experienced in its paralyzing and malignant form. The idea that this miserable looking town could be regarded as the capital city seemed laughable....
It was not only hideous, it was expensive. Nearly all the food in Honiara's stores was imported - from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and America. It is often possible to gauge the prosperity of a place by looking at the central market. Honiara's central market was pathetic - a few old women selling little piles of blackened bananas and wilted leaves and some tiny flyblown fish.
"If I were king, the worst punishment I could inflict on my enemies would be to banish them to the Solomons," Jack London wrote in his Pacific travel book, The Cruise of the Snark....
The Solomon Islanders in Honiara were among the scariest looking people I have ever seen in my life - wild hair, huge feet, ripped and ragged clothes, tattoos on their foreheads, ornamental scars all over their faces, wearing broken sunglasses. They loped along in large groups, or else idled near the stores that played American rap music and look for all the world like rappers themselves.
Yet as time passed and I shopped for expedition food and asked directions and bought maps and generally hung around, this impression softened. The town had been a village that the [Second World War] had turned into a capital; it had only existed since the war, less than 50 years. Knowing this, I did not regard the place with less horror, but I came to realize that these wild looking people were friendly and approachable.

It seemed to me grotesque but typical that the wrinkleproof executives in this Japanese company were taking advantage of this poor barefoot country, robbing them of one of their few valuable commodities and staple foods, fish.
The minister said, "Solomon Islanders are too kind." He looked out the window at the patched and broken roofs of Honiara. "But when we lose patience - then, you will see."
"What will I see?"
"We will ask questions."
"Don't ask questions. Threaten them, close them down, freeze their assets" I said. "Or why not demand that they allow you to send a delegation to Japan to start a business there?"
I could just imagine the welcome they would get in Japan, these black bushy-haired Solomon Islanders, with bones in their noses and raised welts and scars of Xs cut into their foreheads and cheeks. Even an unscarred minister like Kemakeza would be treated as though he was subhuman and offered shiny trinkets in return for his country's natural resources of timber and fish. And what laughs of derision would greet the Islanders request to start a business in Nippon: Mi Laik opim kwiktaim kampani bilong bisnis
Solomon Islands A Two Hundred Million Dollar Damage Bill - Leong himself lost a 140 room hotel, the Pacific Casino Hotel and a Casino building, at an estimated cost of US$8.5 million. When interviewed by Pacific Magazine, he declared tearfully, "I don't know whether I 'm going to continue to invest in the country, because I had spent about 60 to 65 million dollars on my investments. That was destroyed in less than 10 hours and now I have nothing left.
"And also I have 600 staff with me and you know what will happen now, they all got no jobs," he continued. "Within the next two weeks they all will suffer and their children will have nothing."
Leong appealed for an end to the destruction. "Please don't harm us anymore," he said. "We are Chinese, but most of us are also Solomon Islanders. We are all friends so please don't harm us anymore, otherwise we will all go home.
"One thing I want to let everybody know is that most or all of the Chinese do not (get) involve(d) in politics," he pointed out. "They are just business people, not trying to control government. Solomon Islands people control the government and parliament."

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