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Sunday, October 31, 2004

 

What price 'a spiritual atom bomb of infinite power'?

A rare first edition of Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong's sixties-era Quotations of Chairman Mao, better known as the "Little Red Book", has failed to meet its reserve price at a London auction. A spokeswoman at Bonhams said the publication had been expected to fetch between £2,500 and £3,000.

The copy for sale was published in May 1964. "Paper binding a bit stained, also with light stain at top right page corners, handling creases but overall still a good copy", the catalogue stated. It even retains the endorsement page from the then Party Vice-Chairman Lin Biau (Mao's Thought is "a spiritual atom bomb of infinite power") although his name is inked-over. When Lin was declared a traitor, spy, dog, etc in September 1971, most Chinese Communists defaced their copy by ripping out his offending page.

The book is one of the most frequently reprinted books ever published, second only to the Bible, with an estimated 5 billion copies printed in 50 languages, including braille, over the past forty years ... all at the Chinese taxpayer's expense.

According to Oliver Lei Han, an antiquarian expert consulting to Bonhams, the book's longevity in print reflects Mao as "the Father of his country, truly the last Emperor, a symbol of power and reverence who has been exonerated for the mistakes of his reign and consequently recognized for his achievements as hope for the future."

Han also describes Mao's ideology as forming "a brilliant concept that is still readable and admired today for its political theories and strategies, and no doubt he would be very proud to know the effect he has had on his own country and the world will never forget him."

No doubt Han would agree with Ritesh Doshi's letter published last week in London's metro newspaper, spotted by Eric The Unred. Noting the LRB's failure at auction, Ms Doshi commented: "Mao was one of our time's greatest thinkers (and leaders, regardless of one's political beliefs) and it is sad that our society places such a low value on someone who has shaped the lives of more than 20 per cent of the world's population. Frankly, it says something about the dumbing down of society".

Eric replied: "Frankly, the fact such a letter can be written says a lot more about the dumbing down of society, than the failure to sell a copy of Mao's thoughts. Just as some continue to have a blind spot on the Gulags of the Soviet Republic and Stalin's purges, there seems an equivalent amount of ignorance about Mao's Great Leap Forward and his Cultural Revolution. Aside from the millions who died during these ill thought-out schemes and the fiction of the People's Democratic dictatorship, Mao watched over massive economic failure, and allowed his Red Guards to torture brutally without trial, burn down temples, mosques, churches, and destroy ancient art, artifacts, antiques, ancient buildings, ancient scrolls and books."

And that nightmare, still fresh in the Peoples Republic of China, is well addressed by Running Dog in its current feature article, "Bonfire of the bourgeois vanities".

"In China, people of a certain generation will tell you stories about an era that might as well be a millenium ago. There are thousands of children, amassed in Shanghai's train station, waiting for the beginning of what feels to them to be a big and important adventure. Their parents are weeping, watching their children bound towards the carriages on their way to the countryside, where - as part of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution - they will spend their formative years learning from the peasants.

"The kids who participated in this vast exodus are now in their forties and fifties, and most complain of the gap in their education and the wasted decade lasting from 1966 to the death of Chairman Mao in 1976. Others, usually slightly older, have been forced to live with their complicity in the Cultural Revolution, and their part in the Red Guard movement ...."

Running Dog describes a Maoist reign of terror - when "a swarm of revolutionaries sacked and destroyed temples, smashed sculptures to pieces and drove writers to their deaths" - as "matching anything the Taliban did", arguing this was a "bonfire of bourgeois vanities, and Mao was its Savonarola".

The article ranges across "mass man-made famines" overshadowed by "a surreal alternative world designed by state planners and their faked statistics", of centuries of "agricultural production based on empirical experience" discarded for Maoist dogma, of the failure of the Great Leap Forward, and the purges of the Cultural Revolution.

Under Mao's clarion call, "It is right to rebel!", millions were set in motion in one of the biggest and most disastrous political struggles in history.

"Schools and hospitals were forced to close, temples and relics were destroyed, 'capitalist roaders' and counter-revolutionary 'cow demons' were hounded and tortured and forced to sweat out their sins doing years of back-breaking correctional labour. No one could objectively confirm what a revisionist or poisonous weed was, and so, as a result, everyone was a potential target ..."

Talking of "dumbing down", in Maoist China expertise, in any field, became a sign of decadence and revisionism.

"In the new reality, only Mao Zedong Thought could produce results. Only Mao Zedong Thought - the exaltation of pure revolutionary spirit not only above practical economics but above even nature itself – could triumph. The general will of the people – described as the Mass Line but echoing Rousseau in its assumption that a society was One – could overcome the 'paper tigers' of science, nature, and truth itself. Contemporary documents show a world turned on its head, a world where Mao Zedong Thought is used to cure tumours, improve rice yields and defy gravity ..."

Read it all here.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

 

So, the truth was always out there

After much global speculation that Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, organised the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 to start a war between Muslims and Christians (as repeated time and again by Akram Khan Durrani, chief minister of Pakistan's Taliban-ridden Northwest Frontier Province), Osama Bin Laden has finally confessed.

We agreed with Mohamed Atta, God bless him, to execute the whole operation in 20 minutes. Before Bush and his administration would pay attention and we never thought that the high commander of the US armies would leave 50 thousand of his citizens in both towers to face the horrors by themselves when they most needed him because it seemed to distract his attention from listening to the girl telling him about her goat butting was more important than paying attention to airplanes butting the towers which gave us three times the time to execute the operation thank God – transcript The Belmont Club.
You’ll find the amazing story of bin Laden’s “hidden links” to Mossad in Fabian Hammer’s 2001, pre-Michael Moore exclusive expose of the master Zionist agent.

Friday, October 29, 2004

 

China and Taiwan exchanges blunter as US steps in

US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has qualified statements he made in Beijing on Wednesday by insisting that the international community's goal "really is to have a peaceful resolution of the problem" between Taiwan and China, which split amid civil war in 1949.

Officials of the Peoples Republic of China earlier had strongly praised Powell's warnings to the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC) that it is not an independent nation and should not seek to become one.

"There is only one China. Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation," he said.

The comments were described as going “beyond the ambiguous language American officials had used for several decades in managing relations between China and Taiwan”.

The United States recognises the Peoples Republic of China’s claim that there is only "one China," including Taiwan, just as it had previously recognised the Republic of China’s “one China” claim even after it had withdrawn from the mainland.

While State Department officials insisted that the secretary's comments did not reflect a change in United States policy, both China and Taiwan, sensitive to every accent and inflection in the American approach, reacted strongly.

Recently, regional friends of Taiwan, Australia and Singapore, distanced themselves from the ROC's drift towards declaration of Taiwan's formal separation from China ... a move that the PRC government warns would be a precursor to renewed war between the two administrations.

Unabashed, Chen Shui-bian, ROC's president, replied through local media: "Taiwan is absolutely a sovereign and independent country. It does not belong to the People's Republic of China."

However his presidential spokesman, James Huang, described Powell's subsequent statement as "a positive development and helpful to clarify the whole incident."


Thursday, October 28, 2004

 

Challenging path of insurrectionist to nation builder

It is said that China's Mao Zedong was a great admirer of Michael Collins, the Irish independence leader whose 114th birthday is celebrated this month. Mao and many other insurrectionists of the 20th Century applied the urban guerrilla tactics which Collins successfully used against the British in Ireland. He had smuggled arms, been elected to the British House of Commons, lead an underground army and, as a fundraiser, was so successful that Lenin went cap in hand to him after the Russian revolution.

Collins was a young man when he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood's ill-fated Easter Uprising in 1916 but became a vigorous military leader soon after. Once elected to the executive committee of the Sinn Fein independence organisation, he organised a prolonged assassination campaign against British security officials in Ireland, primarily the Royal Irish Constabulary and the army. The murder of its officers brought a tit-for-tat policy from the British.

As violence and intimidation escalated and civilian casualties increased, the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, was given blunt advice by his military: "Go all out or get out". After eight hours meeting alone with George, the Irish republican president, Eamonn de Valera, ordered Collins to join Arthur Griffin in leading an Irish delegation to London to “negotiate and conclude” a peace treaty with the British Government.

After three difficult months of talks, it was agreed that Ireland would have its autonomy returned as a self-governing dominion within the British Empire but the six Scots-Irish Protestant-dominated northern counties would be allowed to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The treaty was highly unpopular on both sides and Collins, who saw it as but part of a process that would lead to full Irish independence, knew the risks he would face when he returned home. At the treaty signing on 6 December 1921, Britain’s Lord Birkenhead said to him, “Well Collins, I signed my political death warrant”. Collins replied, “That’s nothing. I’ve just signed my actual death warrant”.

The Irish parliament (Dáil) accepted the treaty by seven votes but de Valera, in turn, rejected the parliamentary majority and the terms of the treaty. He was immediately replaced as president and Collins was appointed chairman of the provisional government which would take over Ireland once the British had left.

Collins pleaded with de Valera not to withdraw from the parliament. "By all means oppose us in this house, castigate us, push us further so that we can go again, as we have the right under this Treaty to discuss it in the immediate years ahead, but, do it within the Dáil", he said, but to no avail.

In Neil Jordan's film on Michael Collins, Collins' is shown asking de Valera to support peace: "It's not worth fighting for. Anymore. We've got to learn to build with what we have." This message is reinforced in the closing titles, which tells of the need still to "finally remove the gun from Irish politics".

After Mass, on 17 March 1922, de Valera addressed a crowd of 20,000 and he said to them: "To prevent this Treaty working, we will wade, if necessary, through brother’s blood”. Those who did not support the treaty fell back on violence and a civil war took place in Ireland from April 1922 to May 1923.

On 22 August 1922, Collins journeyed to County Cork. He was due to meet troops of the new Irish Army. His car was ambushed at a place called Beal na mBlath and Collins was shot dead. His body lay in state in Dublin for three days and thousands paid their respects. Thousands also lined the streets for his funeral procession.

He was just 31 years of age when he was killed but the Free State he founded evolved into the Republic of Ireland; a profoundly democratic country and now a prosperous member of the European Union.

There are some who see a similarity between Michael Collins' "land for peace" deal with Britain that enraged both Irish nationalist and British unionist no-compromise-fanatics and the 1993 Oslo Accords signed by Israel's prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestine Liberation Organisation's president, Yasser Arafat.

Again, two species of fanatics were enraged and a leader was assassinated. Many were surprised that it was Rabin who died for the peace treaty, murdered by an Israeli Jew, rather than Arafat by an Islamic militant from Hamas or one of the other Palestinian rejectionist groups sponsored by Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya.

Palestinian campaigner Edward Said, compared Arafat and Collins and the compromise over partition that led to the latter's assassination and accused Arafat of coming "away from the negotiating table with a lot less than Collins". But Arafat survived anyhow.

As Palestinian campaigner Robert Fisk put it, "Arafat is not the stuff of which martyrs are made. He knows what happened to Irish revolutionary Michael Collins after a one-sided 'peace'.''

To be sure. For in none of the territories surrendered to Arafat's Palestinian Authority by the Israelis were the Arab rejectionists controlled and disarmed by the new autonomous government and civil society and democracy introduced. Less than is worthy of a father of a nation, he denied his people their freedom from fear and for opportunity for the sake of hiding from an assassin's bullet.

Michael Collins put the required deeds of leadership into perspective in a blunt statement on his breach with de Velara at the commencement of the civil war. Words that should have been heard from the lips of Yasser Arafat.

Two duties faced [the Provisional] Government: To take over the Executive from the English, and to maintain public order during the transition from foreign to native government; and to give shape in a constitution to the freedom secured.

If the Government had been allowed to carry out these duties no difficulty would have arisen with England, who carried out her part by evacuating her army and her administration.

No trouble would have arisen among our own people. And the general trend of development, and the undoubted advantages of unity, would have brought the North-East quietly into union with the rest of the country, as soon as a stable national government had been established into which they could have come with confidence.

Mr de Valera, and those who supported him in the Dáil, were asked to take part in the interim government, without prejudice to their principles, and their right to oppose the ratification of the Treaty at the elections ... They did not find it possible to accept this offer of patriotic service ...

It must be remembered that the country was emerging from a revolutionary struggle. And, as was to be expected, some of our people were in a state of excitement, and it was obviously the duty of all leaders to direct the thoughts of the people away from violence and into the steady channels of peace and obedience to authority. No one could have been blind to the course things were bound to take if this duty were neglected. It was neglected, and events took their course.

The foreign Power was withdrawn. The civil administration passed into the hands of the elected representatives of the people. The fight with the English enemy was ended. The function of our armed forces was changed. Their duty now was to preserve the freedom won---to enable the people to use it, to realise that for which they had fought---a free, prosperous, self-governing Gaelic Ireland ...

Under the democratic system which was being established by the representatives of the people---the freest and most democratic system yet devised---the rights of every minority were secured, and the fullest opportunity was open for every section of opinion to express and advocate its views by appeal to reason and patriotic sentiment.

To allow such a situation to develop successfully required only common sense and patriotism in the political leaders. No one denied that the new Government had the support of the people.

Of all forms of government a democracy allows the greatest freedom---the greatest possibilities for the good of all. But such a government, like all governments, must be recognised and obeyed.

The first duty of the new Government was to maintain public order, security of life, personal liberty, and property ... The peace and order necessary for that progress was rudely broken. The united forward movement was held up by an outbreak of anarchic violence ...

The nation which had kept the old heroic temper, but had learnt to govern it so that violence should be directed against the national enemy, and its differences should be matters of friendly rivalry, found itself faced with a small minority determined to break up the national unity and to destroy the government in which the nation had just shown its confidence.

They claimed to be fighting for the nation. That might be possible if there were any enemies of the nation opposing them. There are not. Resolved to fight, they are fighting, not against an enemy, but against their own nation. Blind to facts, and false to ideals, they are making war on the Irish people.

Michael Collins was just 31 years of age when he was killed but the Free State he founded evolved into the Republic of Ireland; a profoundly democratic country and prosperous member of the European Union.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

 

Workers organise strikes, demos throughout China

The Peoples Republic of China is facing growing labor unrest over jobs and the government's failure to provide other support in the dismantling of its cradle-to-grave welfare system. According to the International Herald Tribune, major strikes are breaking out throughout the country:

-- About 6,800 workers at China Resources, a Hong Kong-listed retailer, on strike for a seventh week in northern China, complaining that the company is forcing them to sign "unfair" labor contracts.

-- In Anhui province, about 10,000 textile workers and retirees recently protested decreases in pension payments, the lack of medical insurance and compensation for injuries.

-- In Shaanxi 6,800 workers, the majority of them women, striking at the Tianwang Textile Factory. In one incident about 1,000 police positioned at the factory gates with water cannons were met by thousands of workers who surrounded them, forcing them to back down.

Communist officials are also targeting labor activists, according to China Labor Watch, which cites the arrests of Ding Xiulan and Liu Meifeng, leaders of a strike at the Zhongheng textile factory in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

 

Beijing uses electric prods against asylum seekers

Back in 2001, anticipating the selection of Beijing as the host city for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the PRC central government established new anti-riot squads to "develop a more effective and non-lethal method" of countering growing demonstrations and protests and to avoid "escalating conflicts by inappropriate measures," according to a Chinese public security official cited then by the Xinhua News Agency.

Apart from changing the uniforms of Beijing's police from military green to blue, however, the efforts do not seem to have developed a softer stance.

This week prominent Korea watcher, The Marmot's Hole, describes the use of electric cattle prods by Beijing public security officers to prevent a group of 18 North Korean asylum seekers, largely women and children, from making it into the grounds of the South Korean (ROK) embassy.

Sometime early morning on the 25th of October a group of 18 North Koreans attempted to enter the South Korean consulate building inside the Embassy compound ... They then scaled a wall/fence to enter the compound and made for the consulate building.

On the film you can see it was a hard scrabble, since they had no ladders or scaling equipment, and it appears that at least one of them cut their feet on the barbed wire. In the end 14 of them got inside, and another 4 were arrested or ran away from approaching Chinese security police.

It was at that moment that Chinese guards/police came at them, wielding truncheons and (sickeningly) electric cattle prods. Watch the footage if you dare. It’s awful. At one point a Chinese guard says ... “zap him, just zap that guy!”

Around this point (hard to tell exactly when without seeing the unedited footage), some of the North Koreans unfurled a South Korean flag and banged on the shut metal door of the consulate, demanding it be opened and crying out “We are North Korean defectors! Save us!”

According to a YTN report on the same story, “with the North Koreans running around trying to avoid the electric cattle prods and screaming, calling out “save us", while the children were crying loudly, it was a really miserable scene.” You can only imagine.

Somehow, three of the defectors - a woman in her 30s with her 9 year-old son and another woman in her twenties - managed to get into the building by pushing desparately on the shutter door. All the rest were taken away.
Update: PRC Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue has called on foreign embassies in Beijing to "refrain from providing refuge" to North Korean asylum-seekers, complaining that they are really "illegal migrants" led by activists with "ulterior motives."

Update: The Marmot's Hole finds breaking news that Beijing police on Tuesday raided a North Korean refugee shelter in Beijing and arrested 65 defectors gathered while preparing to seek asylum at a foreign embassy or school before making their way to South Korea.

 

PRC nationalism has "ominous implications"

The British socialist website, Socialism In An Age of Waiting, has again commented on political issues in the People's Republic of China, arguing the country "is governed by a 'party' of self-perpetuating gangsters for whom 'democracy' ... means only having to bring in troops from the provinces to massacre workers and students."

SIAW usefully links to a major article on nationalism in the PRC by Geoffrey York in Canada's Globe and Mail. "As Communism slides into irrelevance,' York reports, "the new nationalists are emerging as a powerful force in China, with ominous implications for its neighbours ..."

The nationalist mood seems to be gaining strength every year here. The schools are filled with patriotic education' classes. Young people are organizing boycotts of Japanese products. Web petitions against the Japanese government are attracting millions of supporters. The Japanese are routinely denounced as 'devils' and 'little Japs' in chat rooms on the Chinese Internet, and one bar in southern China went so far as to post a 'Japanese not welcome' sign.
A few years ago optimists had hoped democracy would be nurtured by China’s growing personal freedoms and its new internet culture. But in reality it is the nationalists, not the democrats, who have scored the biggest victories from the relaxed atmosphere

Thousands of petitioners and protesters in Beijing had been rounded up by police during the Communist Party meeting to avoid any embarrassment to the political elite. Yet, even as arrests continued, the Chinese patriots were allowed to carry out their demonstration freely, under the noses of police officers who carefully supervised the event and even escorted one of the organisers inside the [Japanese] Embassy’s fence to deliver his petition.
York concludes that China's communist leaders "are seeking to harness Chinese nationalism as a unifying force, a sentiment that can be tapped by authorities to build loyalty, to quell opposition, and to fire the passions of young people who might otherwise drift into dissent".


Monday, October 25, 2004

 

Australian missiles “not directed against Indonesia”

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirayuda, has backed warmer relations with neighbouring Australia and said a security treaty will be important for strengthening ties.

Speaking exclusively to The Age newspaper, Mr Wirayuda “revealed concerns within Indonesia about Australian plans to buy cruise missiles.”

He said he told the public that Australia's cruise missiles "would not be directed against Indonesia but how many times am I able to convince the public that Australia has no ill intentions against Indonesia?"

To combat negative public perceptions, he said, a treaty ruling out use of force against each other would be "an important element in strengthening bilateral relations."

Australia’s aircraft and new weaponry are primarily configured to prevent a Chinese navy from taking possession of the South China Sea, an area the PRC claims as its indisputable sovereign territory (see Australia's cruise missiles have South China Sea role) .

Sunday, October 24, 2004

 

China, Cuba CPs advancing 'socialist cause'

The Communist Party of China soley directs the state-to-state foreign relations of the Peoples Republic of China as well as conducting its own party-to-party program. Officially, the CPC maintains relations and exchange with numerous parties - "regardless of their ideological differences" - based on "independence, complete equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs".

Last week for instance, the CPC met with a delegation of Spain's ruling Socialist Workers' Party to discuss enhancing cooperation between the two parties.

Last month a meeting between the CPC and Syria's ruling al-Baath Arab Socialist Party emphasised that the "level of coordination between China and Syria on the world arenas and UN" will continue.

In June a CPC delegation, headed by Politburo member Li Chanchun visited Kazakhstan's ruling Otani Party for talks "focused on economic relations, extremism, and terrorism" and "improving inter-party relations".

However, some parties are more equal than others.

Exchanges between the CPC and the ruling parties of the remaining communist states, North Korea (DPRK), Vietnam, Laos and Cuba, are invariably described as "good comrades ... forever", sharing "a common belief, ideal and tasks" and "advancing hand in hand".

China-Cuba mutual ties are said to be "experiencing their best period ever" and Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and PRC President said recently that China has set an "unswerving policy on consolidating ties with Cuba" and that policy "will not alter regardless of changes in international situation".

Hu made the remarks at a meeting with Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee and vice president of the Council of State of Cuba.

Hu said he highly valued the achievements made by the Communist Party of Cuba, led by Fidel Castro Ruz, in leading the Cuban people to "pushing forward the socialist cause".

 

Grandson of adventurer denounces failed revolution

That Cuban President, Fidel Castro, 87, should fall and break his knee after visiting the mausoleum of the late Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is ironic. While Che has returned as an iconic pin-up boy of western fashion dudes and young wanna-be revolutionaries, Castro is seen, increasingly, as an aging tyrant.

With the demise of the Soviet Union Castro's Cuba has relied on the Peoples Republic of China as its international counter-weight to the 40-year trade embargo imposed on it by neighbouring USA. China-Cuba mutual ties are said to be "experiencing their best period ever", a statement that surely would have amused the Maoist-oriented Che.

It is said that the Soviet Union's prime minister, Alexei Kosygin, disliked Guevara, and probably disliked him more in early 1965 when Che got a better reception in China than he did. Che moved closer to the political views of China's Mao Zedong whose willingness to openly support armed insurrections paralleled his own.

As the ideological bickering between Peking and Moscow during that period divided Communists throughout the world, Che exacerbated Cuba's situation by stating in an interview that "the Cuban people would resist to the last drop of blood any attempt by the USSR to make Cuba a satellite." The leader of Cuba's pro-Soviet group, Anibal Escalante, pressured Castro into accepting Che's resignation from his cabinet in 1965. Escalante blamed Cuba's economic instability and her strained relationship with the Soviet Union on Che's "impractical projects and pathological adventurism".

The Soviet Union and the legion of pro-Moscow communists who dominated the Castro regime saw Che as a radical Maoist who sought to stir revolutions throughout the world without benefit of party leadership …. and so it was, in 1967, that Che, leading an isolated, bedraggled band of rebels in the mountains of Bolivia, was easily gunned down by Bolivian and US rangers.

It is reported that western observers observed Castro's shock at the rapid move to capitalism and growing social differences he witnessed in China last year. "There is no coincidence that a lot of this has happened since he visited China. Many people say he was horrified with what he saw," said a European ambassador quoted by Reuters.

His response was to reassert state control over the Cuban economy; cutting back permits for private traders and small businesses and strengthening the hold of state corporations, especially in tourism, the island's main source of hard currency. There, military officers have moved into key posts.

Which brings us to a remarkable story in the Mexican leftist weekly Proceso in which the dissident grandson of Che Guevara – Canek Sanchez Guevara – recently denounced Fidel Castro as an “aged tyrant” and as “messianic” leader who persecutes trade unionists and poets alike.

Marc Cooper provides a valuable translation of synopsis that appeared, briefly, on cubanet.org:

The Cuban Revolution died some years ago: it had to be killed off by those who act in its name to make sure it didn’t turn against them; it was institutionalized and smothered by its own bureaucracy, by corruption, nepotism and the rigidity of the much-celebrated Cuban ‘revolutionary’ state.

All of my criticism of Fidel Castro come from his walking away from the ideals of liberty, from his betrayal of his own people and his frightening zeal to place the interests of the state above those of his people.

Let’s be honest, a young rebel like Fidel Castro in today’s Cuba wouldn’t be sent into exile. He’s be shot.
This puts China’s Hu Jintau’s recent praise for Castro for "pushing forward the socialist cause" in a useful context.

Friday, October 22, 2004

 

India pips PRC in Myanmar reshuffle

The removal of Myanmar's prime minister, General Khin Nyunt, by the military junta is expected to be greeted with some dismay in Beijing, according to "well-informed diplomatic sources" quoted by the South China Morning Post. The newspaper reported that Chinese leaders "had been well aware that Khin Nyunt was in a power struggle with his hardline rival General Than Shwe and had been trying to shore up the premier's position".

Last month Khin Nyunt returned from Beijing with "an armful of trade deals and soft loans to boost his clout at home" courtesy of the Chinese government's desire to keep him in place.

According to regional diplomats quoted by SCMP:

Beijing was keen that Khin Nyunt remained in place, as he was seen as the best bet for maintaining stability in his country through his advocacy of albeit-glacial political reform. Than Shwe's ultra-hardline approach was seen in Beijing as more likely to result in social unrest ...

Beijing also backed Khin Nyunt because he was keen on developing economic ties with China. Not only is Myanmar resource-rich, but it can also provide China with access to the Indian Ocean. Than Shwe was seen in Beijing as a xenophobe.

The Asia Times also picked the PRC as the loser in the power struggle adding that with the "arrest of ... Khin Nyunt, known to back China in the Sino-Indian contest for influence in Myanmar, the balance is believed to have tilted in India's favor."
India is preparng to greet Than Shwe, head of Myanmar's powerful State Peace and Development Council and also commander-in-chief of its defense forces, the first Myanmar head of state to visit India in 25 years.

Neutralizing China's significant influence in Myanmar has been a key concern that has driven and determined India's policy in recent years. While India was backing Myanmar's democratic movement, China was backing the generals and engaging in diverse forms of cooperation, including the sale and supply of military equipment, trade in consumer goods and building Myanmar's infrastructure.

China's rising profile in Myanmar was seen in Delhi as a direct threat to Indian security interests. Most worrying for India was the growing Chinese naval presence in the Bay of Bengal. Indian intelligence agencies have repeatedly drawn attention to the Chinese-built radar facility on Myanmar's Coco Islands (near India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands), which is reportedly serving as a listening post for Beijing on India's missile-testing facilities situated on its east coast.

The raging insurgency in the Indian northeast that borders Myanmar was an important factor. Many of the insurgents have set up camps and training facilities across the border in Myanmar ... There was also the problem of the narcotics said to be flowing from the Golden Triangle through Thailand and Myanmar into India.

But dealing with the generals has not been an easy game. Given the bitter power struggle within the senior ranks, India's interaction with the junta meant that it, too, would be sucked into the power game. With Khin Nyunt backing China, it was only natural that his main rival Maung Aye, the second-most-powerful man in Myanmar, warmed up to India.

Writer Sudha Ramachandran concludes that Maung Aye was concerned with Myanmar's excessive dependence on China and used this issue to undercut Khin Nyunt's influence by being more responsive to India.

Update: India welcomed Myanmar's army strongman General Than Shwe, who arrived today (24 Oct) on an official visit. The Myanmar leader, accompanied by a high-level cabinet delegation whose portfolios include industry, energy and communications, was greeted at the airport by India's junior foreign minister E. Ahamad and Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran.


 

China's alleged plot to annex North Korea

According to the South Korean newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, a lecture given by a professor of politics at Beijing University and subsequently posted on Chinese-language internet, discloses a plan by the Peoples Republic of China to absorb the territory of the DPRK (North Korea) if that regime collapses. Quotes from the lecture include:

The North Korean regime cannot survive more than 10 years. If a pro-Chinese military faction grasps power following a collapse of the regime, China intends to incorporate North Korea into its military federation and eventually make it a subordinate state.

The Northeast Asia Project now in progress is aimed at accumulating a historical basis for it ...

Last week another South Korean newspaper detailed what it described as the official South Korean plans for coping with the possible collapse of the North Korean regime and for handling a mass defection from the communist state, including a contingency for dealing with insurrection.

The plans, revealed by Grand National Party Representative Chung Moon-hun at a Republic of Korea National Assembly hearing, "are the first significant look at the government's readiness in case the leaders in Pyeongyang lose control over their country and the South is forced to step in" the JoongAng Daily reported:

Mr Chung's office said the details have been kept classified, but the Unification Ministry, seeking to assure the public, provided selective details. Under the plan, code-named "Chungmu 9000," South Korea will establish an emergency administrative headquarters in the North, which will work to liberalize the economy and society. South Korea's unification minister will head the agency with powers greater than a governor.

Unification Ministry staff will be deployed to operate the organization and officials from other ministries will follow to establish systemic authority in the North.

According to the plan, Seoul has already designated public facilities in the South, such as schools and stadiums, to house defectors who are expected to rush south in the event the North loses its grip on the population. The facilities are capable of accommodating 200,000 defectors, the plan said.

Separately, the ROK military has already established 10 refugee camps near the inter-Korean border under the supervision of the Army and Navy. The Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up the plan in 1993 and have been conducting exercises to prepare for mass defection since then.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

 

PRC government denies it is harbouring Bin Laden


People's Daily Online report (links added):


On the afternoon of October 19, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a regular press conference. A reporter asked: a British journalist familiar with Middle-East affairs reported that Osama Bin Laden is now possibly on the Chinese side of its border with Pakistan. What's your comment on this?

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue answered: "I haven't read the report you just mentioned yet, even less do I know any ground for this report. I think he is irresponsible for writing such a report. I can explicitly tell you that Bin Laden isn't in China ...

On October 13 Spanish newspaper El Mundo carried a sensational report claiming that Bin Laden, head of al-Qaeda group, is hiding in China.

The article described with every detail vividly: at the beginning of 2004, Bin Laden, head of al-Qaeda group, escaped to China and "met with Chinese government officials'', hoping he was "given asylum'' by Chinese government in exchange for his guarantee for the "peace cause'' in the northwest area. It is obvious that both sides have "reached an agreement''.

The report continued "vividly'' to say, just like Bin Laden guaranteed to the Chinese government in the past summer that the region had been relatively calm since Bin Laden's arrival.

"Desiring to see the world plunged into chaos'', the journalist added that Bin Laden's refuge had been spotted by a US satellite and was near a lake on the Pakistan-China border. He said a detachment of Pakistani and US special forces were lying in wait on the Pakistani side, hoping to capture Bin Laden in fight towards Pakistan border and then send him to Bush by air.

When getting the news, media made inquiries of US government and military officials about the news in addition to making inquiries of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman about this matter.

In an interview with The Chicago Tribune US Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "We don't know where Bin Laden is and have not heard the so-called report that he is in China, but we think he is alive. We are working closely with the Pakistanis to capture him. US President George W. Bush is briefed on it regularly so he has not taken his eye off the Bin laden ball. After all, this is the guy responsible for 9/11.

Powell still stressed again US is doing well in relations with most of US allies and friends. He said our relations with China are the best we have had in 30 years under the efforts of both governments ...

Now that China denies Bin Laden is in China and the US government refuses to mention the matter, then where does the sensational news come out?

If glance over the newspaper one will know the reporter is Gordon Thomas claiming that he is a British senior journalist. He often says he has maintained long-term cooperative relations with national intelligence institutions ... With no sensational news for a long time, Thomas is so idle that he has played a joke on that the world is concerned about Bin Laden. Nevertheless, what he did has not won due results as nobody believes in it.

Actually, it is nothing strange for Thomas to dramatize Bin Laden is in China. As three years ago, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao once said openly that it is groundless for the rumor of West media that Bin Laden is in China.

At the regular press conference held on September 22, 2001 some reporters asked: "According to a report by British The Guardian on September 22 Bin Laden has escaped from Afghan and entered into China. At present he is hiding in somewhere in China. Please confirm.''

Zhu said in reply, "The Guardian's report is groundless. I don't know what is the purpose for the reporter to spread the rumor.''

Full text here

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

 

French on their own on weapon sales to PRC

I just came across Jonathan Power’s plea for French restraint in last Friday’s South China Morning Post. He argues that French President Jacques Chirac promotion of arm sales to the Peoples Republic of China not only threatens Taiwan’s peace, if not survival, but also a catastrophe for the whole region.

Although Taiwan suffers by not having the seat it deserves in the United Nations, in nearly every other way, it acts as an independent state. Beijing is stalled in an old imperial ambition, but gains the goodwill of Taiwanese investors with their cutting-edge technology. The US gets the best from both sides, and is happy with the fudge that keeps them calm. Europe and the rest of the world have the promise of more prosperity by trading with a peaceful China and Taiwan.

So why is the European Union considering intruding on this precariously balanced situation? A decision to start selling Beijing state-of-the-art weaponry would directly unsettle things. It is not that the weapons would improve Beijing's ability to invade Taiwan - it already has that capability. Instead, it would strengthen its hand against the US, should matters ever come to a showdown.

It is no wonder that Washington is upset, and Europe cleaved down the middle.

The split is at the top. Javier Solana, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Policy, wants the embargo lifted. But the Commissioner for External Relations, Chris Patten, does not. The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly against ending the embargo.

French President Jacques Chirac has said: "The embargo makes no sense today." But the French have a long record of selling arms to nations who later decide o turn their guns on the west.

For Germany, however, this is a new departure. Given that the Green Party, with its long record of opposing arms sales, has its man at the helm of the Foreign Ministry, it is incomprehensible for Berlin to support the French. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer says pitifully: "Sometimes, there are situations where you have to make bitter decisions."

Right now, China is threatened by nobody. Sino-US relations have never been so good. Bill Clinton hit on a policy that President George W. Bush has continued - regularly drumming on about human rights issues while strengthening trade, commercial and educational links.

Part of the human rights stance has been to maintain the joint US-EU arms embargo, introduced following the massacre of students in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

If Europe is going to destabilise this carefully crafted policy, together with the equally subtle and related one towards Taiwan, then it should come up with a better idea. It surely cannot. The status quo is the best for everyone, and Europe should not work to undermine it.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

 

CIA releases declassified papers on Mao’s China

The Central Intelligence Agency has made public 71 previously classified documents on China, including the National Intelligence Estimates issued over the 30-year period of Mao Zedong's rule.

The collection is available on the agency's web site and will be released by the US Government Printing Office on compact disc.

In his introduction to the documents, Robert L. Suettinger, a career intelligence analyst, described the collection as "an impressive one" in which "the fundamentals are consistently right."

Among the most important judgments, Mr. Suettinger wrote, was a consistently accurate assessment that the Communist Party in China was never challenged from 1948 on its predominance of power on the Chinese mainland. Other assessments contained in the documents include:

A main shortcoming, Suettinger wrote in his assessment, was "overestimating the importance of ideological solidarity and other centripetal forces within the Communist Bloc at least during the 1950's."

Monday, October 18, 2004

 

Dalai Lama says Tibetan demands may change

In a candid conversation with Time magazine's Alex Perry at his cottage in McLeod Ganj, India, the Dalai Lama admits that he now believes the only way forward for the Tibetan people may be to "remain within China" - while hoping China preserves Tibet's unique culture. He makes the point that the PRC is "already in a win-win situation" as "it already controls Tibet". His new assessment includes:

“Despite some economic improvement and development, the threats to our cultural heritage, religious freedom and environment are very serious. Then also in the countryside, facilities in education and health are very, very poor. It's like the big gap in China proper between rich and poor. So the whole picture, it almost looks hopeless ... That's why we are trying to gain meaningful autonomy.

“Many communist and authoritarian regimes have changed, including the Soviet Union, not by force but by their own people. These are very positive developments. China [still has] the same system, but the reality is that much is changing. Freedom of information, religious freedom and freedom of the press are much better .... So on that level, the situation in Tibet is hopeful ...

“We renewed direct contact with Beijing three years ago. We're not expecting some major breakthrough-the Tibetan issue is very complicated, and China is oversuspicious and very cautious. It will take time …

“Some Tibetans now accuse me of selling out their right to independence. Even my eldest brother is for complete independence and he always accuses me [of this]. But my approach is actually in our own interest.

"Tibet is backward, it's a big land, quite rich in natural resources, but we completely lack the technology or expertise [to exploit them]. So if we remain within China, we might get a greater benefit, provided it respects our culture and beautiful environment and gives us some kind of guarantee. For us [it would mean] more modernization. The new railway [into Tibet], for instance. This is generally speaking a good thing, very beneficial for development, providing it is not used politically …”

Full story at A Conversation with the Dalai Lama

Sunday, October 17, 2004

 

RAN and PRC units in first joint exercise

Australia’s 191-crew frigate "HMAS ANZAC" is to take part in a joint excercise with ships of the Peoples Republic of China navy, including the guided missile destroyer "HARBIN", off China's north east coast. Rear Admiral Rowan Moffitt, Australia's maritime commander, described the program as a “fairly elementary” search and rescue exercise, which is “all about establishing communications and confidence in manoeuvring two ships together and conducting a common mission - in this case to search and eventually rescue someone in distress at sea”.

Moffitt told Radio Australia that the Royal Australian Navy had been “increasing the complexity” of its engagement with the PRC in a "very gradual step-by-step" manner since Australia recognised the Communist Party government in 1972 ... but the process had become “more important as the Chinese navy ventures further afield and we see them more broadly in the world”.

The closer relationship, he said, provides a number of benefits to the RAN: “We engage in a high level, and that's one of the reasons why I'm here. We seek to also engage at the unit level which is why the ship is visiting and the benefit accrues by the fact we get to know one another, we become more confident in our relationship with each other and practically we're able to be more confident in the fact we'll be able to work productively at sea as mariners and avoid misunderstandings which is always an important thing for fighting forces.”

He indicated that the status of Taiwan was not necessarily one of sources of potential misunderstandings between the two navies. “Australia's position on Taiwan is quite clear to them and is not a source of (dis)comfort to them,” he said.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

 

A tragic report of brutal, religious persecution

Hamish McDonald writes in the Sydney Morning Herald: “A small nameplate beside the high, burnished metal gates announces the building inside as ‘Guangzhou City Law School’. But this grimy industrial area on the outskirts of China's great southern commercial metropolis is an unlikely place for an academic institution.

“No students are visible. The only signs of life are the black official cars and police vans that come and go through the forbidding gates. Nearby, across the Pearl River, is a grim set of barracks, called Chatou, behind high walls and watchtowers.

“According to one woman who has been inside, the school is a front for a state gulag, where police re-educate followers of Falun Dafa, a quasi-religious movement based on meditation and taichi-like exercises that was banned by the Government five years ago as a 'dangerous cult'.

" ‘It is a brainwashing centre - one of many in China, almost one in every district,’ says Tang Yiwen, a slight and soft-spoken 37-year-old interpreter who was grabbed off the street by police in February and taken to the Guangzhou institution. ‘It is said to be one of the most brutal.’

“She said the inmates are mostly Falun Gong followers who, like her, have refused to renounce their beliefs even after serving three to four years in brutal labour camps like the one across the river …” Full story at Inside China's brainwashing gulag

Friday, October 15, 2004

 

A HK clown to oppose "a puppet regime"

After winning a seat in Hong Kong's Legislative Council a professional protester has added a touch of bizarre to an institution regarded by most voters as a hindrance to rather than beacon of democracy in the Special Administrative Region of the Peoples Republic of China.

According to local teacher and writer Kent Ewing, 48-year-old Leung Kwok-hung’s “histrionic mastery of the slogan-filled art of Protest has become an amusing sideshow in Hong Kong's evolving political life”.

This all moved to centre stage as Leung, dressed in his trademark Che Guevara T-shirt and wearing a black armband in commemoration of those killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, was sworn in as a new legislator with cries of "Long live democracy! Long live the people! Elect the chief executive and Legco by universal suffrage!"

And that, Ewing complains in today's Asia Times Online, is where Hong Kong stands in its progress toward democracy:

“Since last April, when the mainland's standing committee of the National People's Congress quashed all hopes of universal suffrage in the territory for the near future, we have been stuck with a puppet chief executive officer, the singularly uninspiring Tung Chee-hwa. We are also stuck with a Legislative Council that, due to Hong Kong's perverse electoral system, is dominated by pro-government legislators, even though more than 60% of the Hong Kong electorate cast their votes for the pro-democracy opposition in last month's election.

“No wonder we have elected a clown to oppose a puppet regime. At least we can now enjoy some comic relief.”

Thursday, October 14, 2004

 

One of the world's 'most unequal' societies

Joseph Kahn's NYT article, The Great Divide/Managing Rebellion, follows the 10 year struggle of three Chinese peasants who vowed to fight to the end against Communist Party officials who imposed illegal taxes and fees on them and their families. They endured a violent police crackdown, got tax refunds, and even won the right to govern their own village. But power, vanity and the guile of the Communist Party tore them apart.

Kahn also documents the current plight of the working people in the Peoples Republic of China:

Since China's peasantry began falling far behind the urban elite in the go-go 1990s, the countryside has been a font of unrest. It is the rare village, among the 700,000 across China, where residents are not protesting something - corruption, high taxes or fees, confiscated land, punitive birth-control policies ...

China has not yet figured out how to make its capitalist-style economic growth egalitarian. It has become one of the developing world's most unequal societies ...

The government uses China's 800 million farmers to provide grain, labor and capital for urban development. State banks take deposits in rural areas but make loans almost exclusively to richer ones. The authorities pour resources into prestigious urban projects, like the $1.24 billion Shanghai spent to build a state-of-the-art Formula One racetrack and play host to the European event through 2010.

Villages rarely get such help. All farm families, regardless of income, pay land and agriculture taxes as well as fees for social services, often exceeding what wealthier urban residents pay ...

Partly as a result, the authoritarian government has learned to live with seething social discontent. It has become practiced at defusing confrontations that threaten one-party rule ...

Meantime, the average wealth among the PRC's top 100 entrepreneurs reached US$297 million, according to Shanghai-based accountant Rupert Hoogewerf, compiler of the China's 100 richest people list for the sixth straight year. Hoogewerf's research team found that China's wealthiest are in retail, information technology and investment.

A quarter of the entrepreneurs listed are believed to be Communist Party members and 38 have been co-opted into either the legislature -- the National People's Congress -- or the advisory body, the People's Political Consultative Conference.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

 

Standing up for what Australians believe

Australian Prime Minister John Howard projected strong comments on international issues in his weekend, re-election victory speech and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer today further amplified the Australian Government's views and values in an Opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

On Saturday evening Howard said:

No Australian should ever shrink from a passionate belief in the ability and the capacity of this nation not only to provide a wonderful homeland for our 20 million, not only to be a partner with our friends in our own region but to be a beacon of democracy, of tolerance, of hope and of achievement all around the world ... we are a nation that is respected around the world because we are prepared to stand up for what we believe in ...

Let us remember that this very same day the people of Afghanistan have had an election and for the first time in years. That election has been made possible by reason of the fact that a number of countries, including Australia, were prepared to take a stand for democracy and to take a stand against terrorism.

As the people of Afghanistan vote today, and particularly the women of Afghanistan, they have been so brutally suppressed for so long, we should be proud of the role that we have played in their liberating Afghanistan just as we should be proud of the role that Australia has played in many other areas in standing up for the values we believe in and the things we hold dear ...

Full text here .

According to Downer, Australia's federal election included clear foreign policy choices, particularly the commitment to the Iraq invasion and the War on Terrorism:

With opposition parties promising to bring home Australian troops from Iraq by Christmas, Australians could have taken the easy option to "cut and run." Instead, they strongly re-endorsed the government of Prime Minister John Howard and its promise to stay the course in Iraq.

Having been an original, modest but important contributor to the so-called Coalition of the Willing, Australia is not about to set any arbitrary deadline for leaving Iraq. We will not let down the Iraqi people. We will not let down our allies. And we will not let down the international community. Our troops are involved in the important work of training Iraqi security forces, patrolling the waters and skies around Iraq and protecting Australia's diplomatic staff in Baghdad. Our commitment also extends to reconstruction assistance, especially in the fields of agriculture and water management ...

Despite the vicious terrorist bombing against the Australian embassy in Jakarta a month before our election (which killed nine Indonesians and wounded scores of people including Australians), the poll result should not come as a surprise.

Australians have a proud record of standing for up for our values, our allies, our neighbors and our national interests abroad. In recent years we have done this in Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. The Australian government will continue to show resolve and commitment in the war against terrorism, especially in our own region. We have struck counterterrorism agreements with nine of our regional neighbors and co-hosted with Indonesia a regional summit on counterterrorism ...

We will also engage fully in the "battle of ideas" to ensure that the war against terrorism is not seen as a "clash of civilizations" but as a battle to root out the extremists ...

Full text here.


 

Korea claims Gando territory back from PRC

South Korean newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, has revealed that the Republic of Korea is claiming a vast section of territory of the Peoples Republic of China bordering North Korea. An underlined phrase in text submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for parliamentary inspection states the Korean government's position that the 1909 Gando Convention, signed by Japan without Korea's consent, and the Eulsa Treaty, which deprived Korea of diplomatic rights in 1905, are null and void.

The Gando Convention was a treaty in which Imperial Japan handed over the Gando region, which was recognised as Korean territory, to Imperial China in return for certain privileges in Manchuria, including railway concessions. If the Gando Convention is null and void, the ROK is adopting a position that the region north of Mt Baekdu and Tumen River, home to the PRC's present Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, is Korean territory.

"Our government takes the position that the 1909 Gando Convention, signed by Japan without concern for Korea's position, is null and void, to the extent that the Eulsa Treaty, which deprived Korea of its diplomatic rights in 1905, is a null-and-void treaty obtained through duress," the ministerial document states.

A government official quoted by Chosun Ilbo, said, "It is our firm position that the Gando Convention is null and void, but taking into account how China has been reacting sensitively to the Gando Convention issue, even in relation to the Koguryo history issue, we've decided not to reveal that position to the outside."

Thursday, October 07, 2004

 

Will PRC send 400,000 to join Korean hostilities?

The Chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Kim Jong-hwan, has told the ROK National Assembly’s National Defense Committee that in the event of a war on the Korean Peninsula, the Peoples Republic of China will dispatch military personnel in accordance with Article 2 of its mutual defense pact with North Korea (DPRK), which calls for the automatic insertion of men in the event of a conflict.

As reported by Robert Koehler in The Marmot's Hole, the South Korean military estimates that China will send 18 divisions – roughly 400,000 men – 800 aircraft and 150 ships to the peninsula by deploying 60% of the fighting strength of the Shenyang Military District (448,000 men, 1000 aircraft), 50% of the fighting strength of the Jinan Military District (256,000 men, 650 aircraft), and 30% of the Chinese Northern Fleet (518 ships).

According to Gen Kim, the combined ROK-U.S standing force of 720,000 men counters only 61% of the standing North Korean force of 1.17 million men.

Kim also mentioned the North's artillery threat of about 300 self-propelled gun targeting Seoul's metropolitan area. But as their ammunition is for use primarily against personnel and its ability to penetrate concrete is limited, Kim explained, apartment blocks would suffer much of the damage.

Marmot's correspondents were not so sure the PRC would automatically join in hostiolities on behalf of the DPRK. The troops would not be sent to help North Korea "but to stop the expected flood of refugee from the North" one wrote.

"The real worry is this, wrote another, "everyone has their illogical blind spot. And Taiwan is China’s. A simultaneous Chinese invasion of Taiwan / North Korean invasion of South Korea has to keep U.S. planners up at night, as it metaphorically does me. Add in the vast number of US forces tied down in Iraq and …. sigh. Conventionally defeated, the only recourses for America might be 1) humiliating acceptance of the loss of South Korea and Taiwan, or 2) limited use of nuclear weapons."

Update: Reuters reports the USA and South Korea will announce a three-year delay in current plans to cut the number of US troops stationed on the North Korean border by 2005. The USA intends to pull out one third of its soldiers, or 12,500 troops, from South Korea as part of a global realignment of its forces.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

 

Australia's cruise missiles have South China Sea role

The Australian newspaper disturbed regional security strategists when it preempted an Australian Government announcement that its F/A-18 Hornet fighters and AP-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft would be armed with cruise missiles from 2007 as the nation's ageing F-111 strike bombers are phased out by 2010. Although the air-to-surface missiles can destroy targets up to 400 kilometres away, F/A-18s armed with the new missiles would have at best 75 percent of the F-111s' range.

Costing up to A$450 million, the three missile options being considered by Canberra are Lockheed Martin's 400km-range Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile, the German, 350km-range Taurus Systems KEPD 350 precision-attack cruise missile and Boeing's 250km-range cruise missile known as SLAM-ER (Stand-off Land Attack Missile - Expanded Response).

The news story forced Australian Defence Minister, Robert Hill, to comment to the media before military attaches of neighbouring countries had been briefed. This provided a window of opportunity for unnecessary and ill-informed comment by the opposition Australian Labor Party, Indonesia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and regional media.

"What has it done to explain this to the countries in the region with whom we must be associated in the struggle with fundamentalist terror?" ALP spokesman Kim Beazley curiously said. "As far as I can see, the government has made absolutely no effort. In normal circumstances that would be bad, but in circumstances where we need to be alongside them, it's very foolish indeed."

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa expressed concern about the plan, questioning why Australia was beefing up its offensive capacity. "We are talking here of an offensive capability, no longer defensive capability, and we have to ask ourselves against whom is this long-range cruise missile being directed."

"You cannot arm yourselves to the teeth and expect that will lead, of itself, to a sense of security," he said. "You have to work with the region to share in a sense of security. It's a qualitative advance for the region. We know Australia's government has until now been against the proliferation of advanced missile technologies in the region. There is a risk that raising the level of sophistication could lead to some kind of a counter response."
While confirming that the new air-to-air missiles, combined with upgraded precision-guided bombs, would make Australia's fighter jets the region's most lethal capacity for air combat and strike operations," Defence Minister Hill denied it would trigger an arms race. "In the same way as Indonesia and all our regional neighbours continue to build their capabilities, they expect Australia to do so," he said.

Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, said simply, "our regional neighbours will understand why we have done this."

Within two days, Indonesia's military confirmed it had no misunderstanding or apprehension about the Australian announcement. Military (TNI) Commander Gen Endriartono Sutarto said Australia's decision to equip its jet fighters with sophisticated missiles and to improve its defense system constituted no threat to Indonesia.

"It is Australia's right to develop its defence system and this must be respected by other countries, including Indonesia," he said, adding that Indonesia did not see the development as a threat. "So there is no need for Indonesia to excessively respond to the Australian missile program," he said.
So why the cryptic pussyfooting by the Australian government?

Simply, the aircraft and new weaponry are primarily configured to prevent a PRC navy from taking possession of the South China Sea, an area the PRC claims as its sovereign territory. According to the PRC, the South China Sea and Taiwan are the only two "non-negotiables" of Chinese foreign policy.

With overlapping territorial claims by South East Asian nations, the South China Sea is a highly sensitive security zone and Australia's contribution to the area's stability is its long-range attack aircraft. Along with its major trading partners, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, Australia also has a significant economic interest in the sea being completely open to north-south shipping.

The following report suggests the Australian government and political elite purposely limit public access to this information:
The missiles, to be used on Australia's F-18 Hornet fighters and AP-3C Orion
maritime surveillance aircraft [will] extend the lethal reach of the Australian
Defense Force as far as the South China Sea [and will provide] a long-range,
accurate and lethal attack against a range of targets including fixed and
re-locatable targets on land and sea ...

The Australian navy also intends to equip three new destroyers with cruise missiles of even greater range, and hopes to do the same with its submarines. Australia has already signed up for the U.S. joint strike fighter project and the missile defense program, and last year's review of the ADF structure has sharply increased the size and support system for Australia's special forces ...

What the Australians do not publicly mention is the country that started the Asian arms build-up -- China. The modernization of the Chinese military, replacing the massive armies of Mao's day with Russian-built Kilo-class submarines and Su-30 fighter-bombers, along with the breakneck pace of China's economic growth, has changed the strategic dynamics of the broader Asia-Pacific region.

For Australia, China is now a major customer ...

[However] Australians have read with careful attention the platform adopted ... by the Republican Party, whose section on Asia takes aim at China, expressing profound disagreements on human rights, over Taiwan and on Beijing's outdated path of seeking advanced weaponry.

[This denies] the right of Beijing to impose its rule on the free Taiwanese people. All issues regarding Taiwan's future must be resolved peacefully and must be agreeable to the people of Taiwan, the platform says. If China violates these principles and attacks Taiwan, then the United States will respond appropriately. America will help Taiwan defend itself.

The question is whether Australia will stick by its American ally in such an event, given that Australia has taken part alongside the Americans in every serious conflict since World War II.

It is the question that loomed over the recent five-day trip to China of the chief of Australia's Defense Force, Gen. Peter Cosgrove, for talks with his Chinese military counterparts ...

If you can foresee Australian forces operating alongside U.S. forces, say in the event of a collapse of the armistice in Korea or the hostilities between Taiwan and China, the type of missiles that are being sought as a result of this project would be the sort nof equipment you would need to operate Australian aircraft in that environment and keep the pilots comparatively safe ...

US interests aside, our region's continuing strategic concern is containing PRC militarism in the South China Sea and against the Republic of China on Taiwan. The PRC government's declared "inviolate" policy is that both territories are its own. That's an open enough war warning-- not only against the ROC and all nations claiming South China Sea territory but also those others who regard it as international waters.

It is reprehensible that while our investment in aircraft, missiles, ships and submarines only make sense as part of regional defence against PRC revanchism, Australian parliamentary papers never address that scenario.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

 

Socialists on 'greatest threats to peace and justice'

Fom Socialism in an Age of Waiting:

We just cannot be bothered to waste any more time on the claims of those who imagine that dictatorships can be on the side of progress, or that denigrating the small but vital gains made by liberal democracy - while offering no feasible alternative whatsoever - serves any useful purpose.

Let us put the choice as bluntly as possible. Which, really, is worse - allying with France and Russia (both of them, funnily enough, still capitalist states the last time we looked) in seeking to prevent the overthrow of a regime that directed torture and murder, on a mass scale, in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, for 35 years, aside from all its other crimes; or allying with the US, Britain, Australia and several other undeniably capitalist states in supporting its overthrow, even though, disgracefully, it had the side effect of permitting torture and murder to continue in those places for a few more months, until the democratic institutions of the US, for all their well-advertised inadequacies, put a stop to the abuse?

It’s not a question of good versus evil - in the real world it never is - but of a very great evil, potentially going on unseen and unpunished for still more decades under one or other of Saddam’s sons or henchmen, and a much lesser evil that has been seen and stopped, and will shortly be punished ....

At present the greatest threats to peace and justice - or rather, to any prospects for peace and justice - come from China and its satellites, on the one hand, and from Islamofascism on the other.

Monday, October 04, 2004

 

PRC's agriculture reform: feast or famine?

A revolution in farming practices is bringing wealth to the Chinese countryside which is also bringing the PRC into fierce competition with the world's biggest food producers, writes Andrew Browne in the Far Eastern Economic Review. He observes that across large swaths of coastal China, traditional plots for grain are giving way to orchards and greenhouses:

"Between now and 2020, some 300 million peasants are expected to migrate to urban areas, giving further impetus to farm consolidation. At the same time, China is embarked on a mammoth project to build a national highway network. Suddenly, once-remote farms can start growing perishable crops like lettuce and strawberries and rush them to markets at home and abroad. China now produces half the world's vegetables and melons--five times more than India and 11 times more than the U.S.--compared with just over one third in 1995. Meanwhile, output of broccoli, carrots and other vegetables and tomatoes has more than doubled. Over the same period, China's planted area for vegetables has jumped by 89% and for fruit by 16%, while the area sown with grain has dropped by 10%."
Browne also notes a grim future for PRC agrciculture as predicted by U.S. economist Lester Brown in a paper called China's Shrinking Grain Harvest, published in March:
"As fruit and vegetable production expands and farmland is lost to factories or parched through lack of irrigation, a ravenous China eats through its own grain eeserves and then starts devouring American granaries. Long lines of grain-bearing cargo ships sail across the Pacific to try to satisfy the appetite of China's billion-plus people. But the demand is overwhelming: Water is getting scarcer in the United States, too. Food prices soar all over the world."
According to Lester Brown, the PRC's China's grain harvest has fallen in four of the past five years. Rising world wheat prices, he says, may be just "the early tremors before the quake."

Perhaps even more threatening is the rising anger of many of the 300 million farmers being dispossessed of the land they use by Communist Party officials and government authorities. "It's corruption," declared Huang Jinchun, 36, whose family lost a third of an acre in Shishan and, he said in an interview (The Washington Post, 5 Oct), has yet to receive a penny's worth of compensation. "They just took our land and put the money into their pockets."

The demand for justice is being raised throughout the country:

The Construction Ministry said it received three times as many complaints in the first quarter of this year as in the same period last year. By the end of June, Deputy Minister Fu Wenjia told the Beijing News that 4,000 groups and more than 18,600 individuals had lodged petitions over allegedly illicit land transfers.

Farmers have also taken their complaints to the street. Hundreds lined up bicycles and rickshaws to block traffic in a Beijing suburb on Aug. 20, protesting the seizure of land by a state-owned development company building high-end villas for foreigners and wealthy Chinese seeking to escape the capital's downtown pollution.
Farmers pushed from their land on an island in the Pearl River in southern China have repeatedly clashed with Guangzhou police in recent months. The New York-based organization Human Rights in China reported Sept. 1 that 15 people were injured in a clash Aug. 1 at a factory in the Fuzhou suburb of Cangshan between police and protesters who said their property had been illegally seized.
"The situation of peasants being deprived of their land is very serious in China," said Li Baiguang, director of the Beijing Qimin Research Center. Li, who has studied land seizures in Fujian and other rural provinces, added, "If the interests of the peasants cannot be properly protected and the conflicts cannot be settled, Chinese society might suffer from turbulence."


Sunday, October 03, 2004

 

Beijing yet to factor rising wage demands

The PRC's economy is likely to grow at a more sustainable pace of around 7 percent this year, instead of overheating. This is because macroeconomic controls adopted last year, particularly in the steel, cement, aluminium and real estate sectors, have helped cool off economic growth, Singapore's Straits Times reported.

The latest signals out of Beijing suggest that the Chinese central bank will not follow the United States Federal Reserve's move of raising interest rates to control economic growth. However there are fears of a resurgence of pent-up investment once the controls are relaxed.

The PRC's millions of export-industry workers may soon add substantial pay demands to the list of the central bank's concerns; that is, if the military allows them to be heard.

According to a recent report from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security quoted by The Washington Post, the PRC's factories lack 2.8 million workers, 2 million alone in the prime manufacturing zone along the Pearl River Delta:

It is not so much a labor shortage -- there are still tens of millions of peasants and former employees of the state-owned factories who need jobs -- as a mismatch between the cutthroat wage demands of the export trade and the rising expectations of Chinese workers ...

Where once a paycheck, even under harsh conditions, was enough to entice tens of millions of people to leave their villages in China's interior and flock to factories on the coast, workers are beginning to turn their backs on the prospect of laboring in 100-degree heat, living in rat-infested dormitories and being cheated out of their earnings.

As more and more of the world's manufacturing shifts to this country of 1.3 billion people, the notion has taken hold that China has so many peasants in such desperate straits that it will continue to press global wages lower for decades, particularly given that independent labor unions are banned and even the threat of organization meets with stiff prison sentences.

However, with workers already voting with their feet, some economists foresee steady wage growth as factories are forced to improve working conditions to keep operations running.

According to Jonathan Anderson of UBS Investment Research in Hiong Kong, "manufacturing wages are going up, and they are going to keep going up." He predicts that the PRC will continue to capture low-end manufacturing jobs from around the world for the next decade but, by then, average wages are likely to exceed $100 a month, up from the current $50 to $60.

A doubling of wages, even over a decade, adds an interesting dimension to economic planning.



Saturday, October 02, 2004

 

Websites critical of Beijing Olympics

Reporters Without Borders has launched a website calling for a boycott of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The Paris-based media watchdog said the PRC had failed to improve its rights record since being controversially awarded the Games in 2001:

History has shown that totalitarian regimes are more sensitive to a balance of power than to 'constructive dialogue'. A boycott therefore seems the only strategy to force Chinese authorities to respect human rights before 2008.

The Olympic movement was discredited in 1936, when it allowed the Nazis to make the Games a spectacle to glorify the Third Reich. In 1980, in Moscow, the IOC suffered a terrible defeat when more than 50 countries boycotted the Olympics.

In 2008, the international sporting movement must refuse to tolerate one of the world's bloodiest dictatorships. The People's Republic of China is the world's biggest prison for the press. Twenty-seven journalists and more than 60 Internet users are detained for crimes of opinion.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also launched a China Olympic Watch website. While refraining from calling for a boycott, the group also said China had failed to make progress on human rights:

China continues to have serious human rights problems. As China enters the
global arena, the 2008 Beijing Olympics will provide an opportunity for China to
come into compliance with international legal standards that protect human
rights.

While recent leadership changes have sparked some optimism that respect
for human rights in China will improve, in fact this has not happened.


Friday, October 01, 2004

 

On [Grand Prix] Contradictions

Veteren China Watcher, Philip Bowring, reckons Karl Marx might have managed a wry smile. when Shanghai celebrated the debut of Formula One motor racing in the PRC. It coincided, he said, with the government unveiling its "Decision of Enhancing the Party's Ability to Govern," the outcome of the recent plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The message: Tighten the party's faltering grip.

One of the more favoured Chinese chef's at Koko's, the ultra-chic Japanese restaurant at Melbourne's Crown Casino told me the McLaren team had flown him to Shanghai for the race (perhaps not trusting the local cuisine first time around or to arrange a police escort for the team's arrival courtesy of a well-placed relative). Nonetheless he claimed it was a grand event with Communist Party leaders enjoying the limelight. He had no idea what Chairman Mao might have thought.

Bowring is far more critical, noting that "the expenditure of huge sums of public money on such an elite and environmentally unfriendly sport said much about the party's present condition":

If you want to know why infrastructure is so deficient in the rest of China, why rural incomes have lagged, why rural education and health services have declined, come to Shanghai and see where public money has gone.

Want to know why China's banking system is so riddled with nonperforming loans? come to Shanghai and see the office palaces built by state enterprises with money from the state banks and tax breaks from the central government.

Want to know the biggest sources of the corruption that so distresses the party? Come look at the processes of real estate development in Shanghai.

Want to know why the party is unable to contain abuses? Look at how those with political power seek to maintain state control while glorifying private acquisition of wealth.

Want to know why high-level corruption in Shanghai, as elsewhere, though much bemoaned, is seldom exposed? Listen to the party's demand that controls on the news media be tightened - in other words, that nothing be written that brings senior party men into disrepute, whatever their behavior.

According to Bowring, Shanghai is alive with capitalist endeavor and individual entrepreneurship but is unwilling to face up to how much it owes both to the central government and its own exclusivist city-state policies "which would be unthinkable in freer countries, like India or Indonesia".

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