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

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.

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