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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

 

PRC escapes Burma-style grilling over labor strife

Labor unrest continues to haunt the Communist Party of China. The Washington Post (27 Nov) describes an "unprecedented series of walkouts" marking "the first stirrings of unrest" emerging among the millions of youthful migrant workers who supply seemingly inexhaustible cheap labor for the vast expanse of factories in the PRC's booming Pearl River Delta.

"Some [factory owners] have concluded that the raw era in which rootless Chinese villagers would accept whatever job they could get may be drawing to a close, raising questions about China's long-term future as world headquarters for low-paid outsourcing," the Post's Edward Cody reported.

"The growing assertiveness of factory workers has posed a particular political problem for the governing Communist Party, which ideologically should champion poor laborers struggling against capitalist managers. But local governments have become shareholders in many of the factories, steering officials toward the management side of labor relations ... "

Apparently eager to show solidarity with restless workers, the government-run All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the only legal union in the country, recently issued a reminder that the law requires foreign as well as Chinese companies to accept federation branches wherever workers demand it. The official federation announced that Wal-Mart, the American merchandizing giant, had agreed to allow unions in its factories in China.

"But factory owners and workers in the Pearl River boom zone said the official union does little to represent labor, even in the rare cases when branches are formed, because it is a spinoff of local governments that own or rely on the businesses ... Even when they do not directly own companies, local governments have a high stake in preserving the Pearl River Delta's role as a magnet for U.S., Japanese and other firms seeking cheap labor unencumbered by unions ...

"The result has been a near-total lack of representation for the millions of workers, most of them 18- to 22-year-old women, who toil on assembly lines more than 60 hours a week for wages that amount to about $120 a month. According to standard practice, most live at their factories in company-provided dormitories and eat in company cafeterias -- and then hand back a third of their pay for food and lodging.

"Some villagers, unhappy with such meager leftover savings, have gone home, and factory managers have begun to encounter labor shortages for the first time, " Cody noted.

According to Tony Latter, visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong, escalating domestic food prices are also encouraging labourers to return to rural districts.

"One might wish that soaring costs in the cities would eventually drive businesses to the cheaper regions. But, as other countries have found, market forces seldom deliver that result, at least not on the desired scale. The magnet of agglomeration is very strong. Even once necessary transport infrastructure is in place, remote locations may struggle to attract sufficient investors to reverse the tide of labour heading the other way in search of fortune. It would probably require a vast further commitment of public funds to redress the balance. But, paradoxically, any reduction in the march to the cities - and tentative signs have emerged of a slowdown as rising agricultural prices reduce the incentive to leave the land - might constrain growth and government revenue. This in turn also cuts back on the available means to fund the regional support needed to break the cycle," he wrote in the South China Morning Post (25 Nov).

Cody observed that the labor walkouts are being organized in advance "but not by formal labor groups or permanent worker committees" and most are resolved without violence within a few hours. "Nevertheless, they signaled that docility among Chinese migrant workers can no longer be taken for granted. "

In the latest unrest, about 1,000 workers staged a walkout on Nov. 7 at the Shanlin Technology appliance factory in nearby Guangzhou, demanding higher overtime pay and more days off, according to the government-run New China News Agency. The workers returned to the assembly line a day later after receiving assurances that overtime pay would rise by 12 cents to 36 cents an hour and that they would get two days off a month, the agency reported.

However the PRC is one of the small minority of International Labor Organisation member states that has still not ratified either of the two core ILO conventions (Nos. 87 and 98) on freedom of association, the right to organize and the right to engage in collective bargaining, Robert Munro pointed out in the Fall edition of Perspectives On Work.

"This means that despite the government's wholesale and egregious suppression of the independent labor movement in China - a crackdown that has continued unabated since the brief nationwide flowering in May 1989 of 'workers' autonomous federations' - [the PRC] cannot be subjected to the kind of intense grilling and criticism by the ILO's supervisory bodies that a country like Burma/Myanmar, which ratified the ILO's Forced Labor Convention (No. 29) back in 1955, is nowadays subjected to at every major ILO conference.

"Unfortunately, the same logic dictates that China is unlikely to ratify Conventions 87 or 98 at any time in the near future.

"The Chinese government and its official trade union want to enjoy the benefits of membership in the world labor club, but without having to shoulder the major duties and responsibilities of that role."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

 

If You Go Carryin' Pictures of Chairman Mao ...

(Lennon)

To the Communist Party of China, ‘Mao Zedong Thought’ was never a change to universal Marxism-Leninist ideology but its development through application to Chinese conditions. Nowadays, the CPC’s ‘people's democratic dictatorship’ and its ‘socialist market economy’ is guided more by ‘Deng Xiaoping Theory’ and the ‘Three Represents’ and the radicalism of its defining Chairman is as quarantined as Lilburne’s Levellers and Röhm's brown shirts in their waning days.

Worldwide, beyond the control of the PRC security forces (and, perhaps, biding their time within), hundreds of Maoist political organisations disagree. To them Maoism remains “
a spiritual atom bomb of infinite power” and the political and military blueprint for defeating ‘US imperialism’, for the struggle against (and sometimes allying with) the ‘last’ superpower’s ‘Coalition of the Willing’ and for leading numerous people’s wars of liberation to victory and then through to the realisation of communism.


Maoist insurrectionist weekly round-up


Nepal Battles: Over 200 fighters of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) are believed killed in an attack on their Pandaun sub-regional training centre by Nepal government security forces. Elsewhere (23 Nov) a landmine placed by Maoists blew up a vehicle carrying five staffers of the Parsa Wildlife Conservation Area in Belawa forest of Parsa, killing all five; security forces gunned down one Maoist area committee member and arrested six others when they were attempting to extort money in Bastipur VDC-5 of Siraha district; Maoists tried to storm the police office at the Nepalgunj district headquarters; Maoists blocked all roads leading to Gulariya and detonated bombs in the municipality; a police inspector was killed and two other officers injured by underground bomb planted by the Maoists at the Nuwakot police training centre (22 Nov) and a seven-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl were killed while playing with a stray bomb placed by the Maoists on the window of Bhairab Pre-Primary School building; the office of the Annapurna Post (20 Nov) was damaged when a bomb planted by Maoists exploded in the toilet of a printing press located in the basement; an eight year old boy, a 60 year old man and a young man, all belonging to Naumule village of Dailekh district, were killed by a group of 20 armed persons, who also abducted six villagers, because of the community's open opposition to Maoist activities (20 Nov) and in Ghorahi Municipality of Dang the Maoists exploded a powerful bomb at the electricity distribution substation of the Nepal Electricity Authority disrupting electricity supply in the municipality; and Indra Bahadur Acharya, the deputy controller of examinations of Tribhuvan University, was killed in Pokhara by Maoist insurgents (19 Nov) who also burnt three bus passengers in Kapilvastu and Nawalparasi districts.

Naxal Terror Watch: The recent merger of the People’s War and the Maoist Communist Centre will “amplify” the Naxal threat, India's Home Minister Shivraj Patil said. The two Naxalite groups, now forming the Communist Party of India (Maoist) account for 90 per cent of deaths countrywide. There is “regular exchange of men and material” between the Naxalite groups with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) with plans to spread into new areas to carve out a “compact revolutionary group”, spreading from Nepal, through Bihar and to the Dandakaranya region of AP".

Afghanistan Maoists Unite: Mobilised by the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, an organisation sponsored by the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA, a congress of Afghanistan Marxist-Leninist-Maoists has united the Communist Party of Afghanistan, the Organization of Struggle for the Liberation of Afghanistan and the Revolutionary Unity of Workers of Afghanistan into the new Communist Party of Afghanistan (Maoist). Financial assistance from the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) was acknowledged as was the inspiration of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and Communist Party of Peru "in the path of people's war". The CPA (M) will lead the "people's resistance movement" against the "US and its allies".

Shining Path Trial: Experts on the Communist Party of Peru's Shining Path insurgency are concerned about the state's lack of preparation for the upcoming retrial of the Maoist leader Abimael Guzman in a civilian court and warn it could lay the legal basis for hundreds of high-level guerrillas eventually being freed. Guzman, 69, founder and mastermind of a bloody insurgency initiated in 1980, was captured in 1992 and sentenced by a secret military tribunal to life in prison without parole. Last year, Peru's Constitutional Tribunal annulled Guzman's life sentence as unconstitutional and ordered him to be retried in a civilian court. A truth commission has blamed the Shining Path for 54 percent of the nearly 70,000 deaths caused by rebel violence and a brutal state backlash.



 

Profile - Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

* US Maoist party controlled from France
* Promotes defeat of US and allies in Iraq
* Associated with listed terrorist groups

The Revolutionary Communist Party is a United States political organisation directed from Paris, France. Its ideology is 'Marxism-Leninism-Maoism' and its objective is to seize power in the USA and establish a 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' under its exclusive control. It expects 'US imperialism' can only be toppled by armed struggle and has built an international alliance, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, with Communist parties engaged in violent ‘People’s War’ in Asia and South America.

The RCP evolved from the Revolutionary Youth Movement II (RYM II) faction of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the major USA campus force during the 1960s that was capable of mobilising hundreds of thousands of students nationwide for anti-Vietnam war activities. Following a power struggle in 1969, SDS split into three factions, each influenced by a version of the Marxist-Leninist view of the chairman of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong: the 'Worker Student Alliance' faction controlled by the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), the SDS National Office's 'anti-imperialist' Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM I) which degenerated into the terrorist Weather Underground and RYM II, associated with the Bay Area Revolutionary Union of northern California.

Lead by a local Berkeley activist, Robert Avakian, the Revolutionary Union took advantage of the disintegration of SDS and expanded nationally through absorbing smaller Maoist-oriented groups. It suffered a split in 1971 when a senior leader, Stanford professor H. Bruce Franklin, left to form a short-lived, Guevarist-influenced terrorist group, Venceramos, which was committed to immediate armed struggle.

However Vietnam veteran Carl Dix was already organising the RU's infiltration of the militant 'Vietnam Veterans Against the War' whose leadership group at that time included John F Kerry. In April 1971, as a member of the VVAV's Executive Committee, Kerry testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, accusing US soldiers of widely engaging in officially sanctioned war crimes in Vietnam. In November the VVAW leadership debated and voted down a plan to assassinate several pro-war US senators. Kerry subsequently resigned from the executive but continued to represent the organisation for several months. By April 1973, the RU dominated the organisation and refocussed it to "fight US imperialism". After a split in 1978 the Vietnam Veterans Against the War Anti-Imperialist continues the 'revolutionary' connection.

When the PLP condemned Mao Zedong for meeting US President Richard Nixon in 1972, the RU quickly positioned itself as the new leading 'Mao Zedong Thought' party in the USA and began a five year period of loyal support to the CPC through numerous foreign policy twists and turns. RU organiser C. Clark Kissinger established the US-China Peoples Friendship Association and RU leaders got to enjoy travelling extensively and lavishly in China as VIP guests.

By 1976, Avakian, Kissinger and Dix confidently turned the RU into the Revolutionary Communist Party but international events again intervened. The death of Mao Zedong that year was followed by the arrest and trial of Mao's wife and closest advisors ('Gang of Four’) and with the rise of Deng Xiaoping as paramount leader of the CPC, the RCP split again. In 1977, Avakian supported the 'Gang of Four' and denounced and expelled RCP central committee members M. Jarvis and L. Bergman and their supporters as “economists” and “revisionists”.

When Deng Xiaoping visited President Jimmy Carter in 1981, the RCP led protests at sites throughout Washington, DC and Avakian and others broke in to the White House grounds during the presidential welcome in the Rose Garden. As a result of criminal indictment for the break-in, reportedly threatening a 241 year prison sentence, Avakian fled to 'exile in Paris'.

Despite being denied status as a political refugee, Avakian continues to lead the RCP from France. Under the 'democratic centralist' rules of the party, Avakian's word is final. This is backed up by a 'personality cult' that portrays him to his US followers as a distant but all-knowing genius:

"Because I have followed and studied Chairman Avakian I do have answers and something to say to people! To know that there is somebody that we can have so much confidence in. let me tell you, things can get really crazy in the middle of such an intense struggle. We need to shift things--are we going to have Bush all puffed up and ready to rule the planet or are we going to have him with his pants pulled down in front of the world looking humiliated and naked? It's easy to stress out in the middle of all this, but it's important to step back for a minute and see that our Chairman is leading us to solve all these problems," is a typical accolade.

Avakian's residence in Europe in the 1980s put him at the hub of anti-American and third world radical movements including South America, Asia and the Middle East. Connections with extremists, from violent communists to Islamic Jihadists, were cultivated.

In October 1983 the RCP founded the ‘World Without Imperialism Contingent’ to block deployment of US Pershing and cruise missiles in West Germany and the RCP's Kissinger lead an eight-week tour of Germany through November-December. Already the WWIC contingent included members of the Communist Party of Peru (the 'Shining Light').

The RCP continued its activity in the anti-war movement within the United States. It was an initiator of 'No Business As Usual' in 1985, a national action day against anti-Soviet Union defences in Europe and the 'Refuse & Resist!' organization in 1987 which continues to work against national security preparations, even after the attacks on 11 September 2001. In 1992 the RCP and R&R openly supported what they called "the Los Angeles Rebellion," one of the worst riots in American history leaving 58 people dead, some 2,300 injured, and 5,300 buildings burned.

In the Middle East, the party had supported the Iranian Islamic revolution and sent cadres to visit the seized US embassy in Tehran. It subsequently opposed the US-lead liberation of Kuwait in 1991 and organized the 'Not In Our Name' organisation in the USA in 2002 to disrupt US assistance to the Northern Alliance against the Taliban and Al Queda in Afghanistan and against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

The RCP is also sponsor of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) established in London in 1984. It has developed into an effective international alliance of Maoist parties, including three known to be the most active insurrectionists in the world - the Communist Party of Peru, Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) - each of which have been listed on the US government's list of foreign terrorist organisations.

RIM's founding Declaration asserted: "Today ...the forces fighting for a revolutionary line are a small minority encircled and attacked by revisionists and bourgeois apologists of all stripes. Nevertheless, these forces represent the future."

And its 20th anniversary statement triumphed: “Today, the RIM's accomplishments, and the challenges before it, can be seen right in the immediate situation in Nepal, where the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), a participating party in the RIM, has led an eight-year-long people's war which is now approaching a struggle for countrywide power. Nepal, a small country, threatens to shake the South Asian subcontinent by inspiring hundreds of millions of oppressed.”

And of RCP’s role and commitment: “The RCP, USA has been part of these struggles in the RIM, and gladly takes up its responsibility to do all it can, facing all reactionary attacks, to advance the revolutionary struggle in the US, to work to strengthen the RIM, and to develop the heartfelt enthusiasm and deep support among the people for the revolutionary struggles led by the Maoists of the world.”

“To do all it can”.

 

Once were Maoists ...

A regular Fabian Hammer listing of prominent or otherwise interesting individuals who were once members (or claimed to be ‘associated with’) Maoist-oriented Marxist-Leninist communist parties and organisations outside of the Peoples Republic of China. Contributions are welcome. Please email confessions and/or published links to Fabian.

(XML001) José Manuel Durrao Barroso: New president of the European Commission, former Prime Minister of Portugal. "As a young man, he was an activist in the extreme left-wing Maoist Party, the Movement for the Reorganisation of the Party of the Proletariat. It used the Lisbon University Law Faculty as its base. Of all the radical groups which sprang up in the Portuguese revolution of 1974, the MRPP was the most radical – and Mr. Barroso was one of its most radical members." (Mail on Sunday, 3 Oct 04). Mr Barroso "grew up and left Chairman Mao’s fold in 1977 at the ripe old age of 21. Three years later he joined Social-Democratic Party (PSD), where he remains to the present day." (more at Fabian's Archive).

(XML002) Jose Pedro Simoes Ferreira: Retired brother of Teresa Heinz Kerry. In a November 1974 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story on her thoughts on the political unrest transpiring at the time in her native Mozambique she said "she did not mind Maoists in the government, and she mentioned that Ferreira had been a Maoist when he was younger." (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 31 Oct 04).

(XML003) Bernard-Henri Lévy, ex-Maoist, ex-journalist ... a moralist in philosophy, a nominalist in world view, and an anti-totalitarian in politics. He discovered, in a mood of "the darkest and most tragic pessimism," that the Marxism he once believed in is a lie: "No socialism without camps, no classless society without its terrorist truth." (New York Review of Books, 24 Jan 80). Lévy is a bestselling writer, philosopher, political campaigner, pundit and luscious-locked superstud in France (The Observer, 16 June 03).

(XML004) CK Yu, the son of a Taiwanese general, ran a Maoist bookshop in California during the 1970s. Staffed by 15 young women dressed up in fake ears, fluffy bottomed skirts and fishnet stockings, Mr Yu has opened the Buck and Bunny bar in Sanlitun, Beijing's diplomatic district. Apart from the police and cultural ministry officials who dropped in to warn that the skimpy uniforms were unacceptable, the bar has been almost empty. Customers say it is hard to tell whether the club is behind or ahead of the times. (The Guardian, 10 May 04).

(XML005) Yemane (Jamaica) Kidane, former Maoist fighter against the Ethiopian military junta with the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front. His poems from the 1970s were published this year in English in "Soaring Spirits" (Commercial Information Agency). He is now a retired civil servant who believes in an evolutionary process rather than a revolutionary one. “‘I am rather sobered by the experience of life. In hindsight, Haile Selassie’s continuation with a peaceful transition would have been much better than what we have now. Had the violent period of the Derg been avoided, we could have brought about economic development through a peaceful struggle. I was an idealist then, I am a realist now. A realist and pragmatist." (Walta, Sep 04)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

 

Socialist-theocracy alliance weakens trade embargos

The Washington Post backgrounds the ever closer strategic relations between Iran and the Peoples Republic of China:

Last month, the two countries signed a preliminary accord worth $70 billion to $100 billion by which China will purchase Iranian oil and gas and help develop Iran's Yadavaran oil field, near the Iraqi border. Earlier this year, China agreed to buy $20 billion in liquefied natural gas from Iran over a quarter-century.

Iran wants trade to grow even further. "Japan is our number one energy importer for historical reasons . . . but we would like to give preference to exports to China," Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said this month, according to China Business Weekly ...

China's trade with Iran is weakening the impact on Iranian policy of various U.S. economic embargoes, analysts here say. "Sanctions are not effective nowadays because we have many options in secondary markets, like China," said Hossein Shariatmadari, a leading conservative theorist and editor of the Kayhan newspapers.

Accurate trade figures are difficult to get, in part because trade is increasing so rapidly and partly because China's large arms sales to Iran are not included or publicized. But at the second annual Iran-China trade fair here in May, Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng said trade had increased by 50 percent in 2003 over the previous year, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Beijing has also provided Iran with advanced military technology, including missile technology, U.S. officials say. In April, the Bush administration imposed sanctions on Chinese manufacturers of equipment that can be used to develop weapons of mass destruction ...
China with its one-party political system appears to feel fewer restraints than do Western nations in dealing with the world's only theocracy. "For China, issues like human rights don't affect your relations with Iran," Namazi said.

Update: The father of the Pakistani atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, delivered weapons grade highly enriched uranium to Iran in 2001 and Iran aims at getting a nuclear bomb next year, charged Farid Soleimani, senior official of National Council for Resistance in Iran. Khan has admitted to being the ringleader of a smuggling network that supplied Iran, Libya and North Korea with sensitive nuclear technology. Khaleej Times

Update: Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has denounced what he said are crimes - "massacre of civilians, women and children by the thousands, the execution of wounded, the destruction of homes, mosques and other places of prayer" - committed by "infidels" in the Iraq city of Fallujah. AFP via iranvajahan.

Update: The USA has intelligence that Iran is working to adapt missiles to deliver a nuclear weapon, further evidence that the Islamic republic is determined to acquire a nuclear bomb," Secretary Powell said. Washington Post via MSNBC

Update: Secretary Powell said the USA is insisting on referring Iran's nuclear programs to the United Nations Security Council. Under prodding from the United States, the IAEA set late November as the deadline by which Iran must comply with demands that it do more to disclose its nuclear activities of face sanstions. Xinhua


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

 

Democracy Lite: Powell's parting thoughts on China

Colin Powell has stepped down as US Secretary of State and will be replaced by President Bush's first term national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. Reportedly a "realist" in an "administration of ideologues", Powell is credited with convincing George Bush to pursue "engagement rather than confrontation" with the People's Republic of China. Despite Powell's recent denial of Taiwan ROC's sovereign status and call for the country's "peaceful reunification" with the PRC during his visit to Beijing last month, the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs diplomatically thanked him for his contribution to Taiwan-US ties, paricularly his support for Taiwan's participation in international organizations, including the WHO. However, many of Powell's US critics accuse him of significantly contributing to misguided US policies on the PRC. "These policies appease and reward the brutal Communist government, place trade and relations over human rights and democracy, and undermine America's economy and safety," argued Curry Kenworthy, Executive Director at China Support Network.

Powell's most recent interviews suggest, at the least, a generously accomodating view of the PRC's drive to a one-party, "socialist market economy":


P J O'Rourke for The Atlantic:

P J O'Rourke: I was wondering whether we should be concerned about issues like, we've got some countries out there that seem to be trying to decouple the idea of economic freedom from personal liberty and political liberty something we once would have called Fascism.

Secretary Powell: Yes, without naming countries, we're nervous about this trend, but I don't think it works. Because if you are going to be economically successful you can't really constrain your people too much. Your people are the ones who are going to make it happen for you. You have to turn them loose. They may originally start out being robber barons, but so did we. The society eventually catches up with them and makes something useful. We had robber barons in the last century and we had junk bond dealers and a number of them went to jail. But, man, before they went to jail, did they get something going. The cellular industry, the computer industry it was junk bond guys who did that in the '80s. We probably wouldn't have advanced as quickly as we did if it had not been for junk bond dealers who went to jail.

Clearly Powell did not answer O'Rourke's question.


The WSJ Report with Maria Bartiromo:

Maria Bartiromo: Let me ask you a bit about China. You and the President are headed there on an important trip to the Asia and Pacific countries next week. We have a large trade imbalance with virtually all of Asia, particularly I really want to hit on China, though. What points will you be making to the Chinese to try to improve that?

Secretary Powell: We have said to the Chinese, and I was in China just a couple of weeks ago, that we're pleased that we have such a strong economic relationship with them. We'd rather be competing with them in the world of economics than in other kinds of worlds, and we see China as an important trading partner. But we need them to buy more of our products and they have significantly increased their imports from the United States over the past year, by a factor of a couple. And so they're doing more to purchase from us. We want to see them do even more. We want them to protect property rights, intellectual property rights. This is a major issue that we have with them.

And so we know that the Chinese are sensitive to this trade imbalance and they're doing more to buy more from us, and we expect them to do even more. They also say they help us a great deal by their direct investment in the United States, so to some extent that offsets it to a degree. But we have a good relationship with China. I would submit it's the best relationship that the United States has had with China in over 30 years. And the important manner in which we've crafted this relationship doesn't rest on a clich or a slogan. When we agree about things, we talk about that agreement.

When we disagree about things, such as proliferating companies or entities in China or human rights problems in China, when we feel a problem with China, we bring it to their attention and we talk to China about it, as two mature nations dealing with each other in a mature fashion.

Maria Bartiromo: But, most people expect China's power, influence and economy to only get larger over time. Should the U.S. be taking a more cautious stance?

Secretary Powell: Well, we are both cautious and open. We are watching what they do. We watch their military improvements and modernization and we improve and modernize our forces. We're more interested in what their attitudes are with respect to their neighbors and are they working with their neighbors to deal with regional problems.

I have found the Chinese leadership over the last three or four years that I've been Secretary of State to be very helpful as we worked our way through problems on the subcontinent, the challenge that we faced two years ago between India and Pakistan. I found China to play a helpful role in the resolution of that problem. China is playing a very helpful role in the resolution of the problem with North Korea. It's China that's been hosting these six-party talks and playing a leadership as well as a hosting role.

So what we want to do is engage China, watch how they develop in the future, watch it with caution, but not with fear; watch it for the purpose of moving along with China and not trying to contain China. China is an important country. It's going to be a more important country and it's going to have needs. It's going to have huge energy needs that we're now just starting to see manifested in the international oil markets. It's going to have huge needs for investment. There are still a billion people out there who are not yet benefiting in the miracle that we see in the eastern part of China along the coast.

And so there are many things we can do together with China, watching them with caution but at the same time not with fear, looking at them as a partner, looking at them as a country with whom we have friendly relations in the economic area, and we can do more and more working with them and our other regional allies -- Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia -- to make sure that Asia remains a stable, safe place. There are no wars going on in that part of the world right now. We have problems in North Korea. We have problems in Burma. Otherwise, we have relative stability in Asia and in the Pacific region and we want to keep it that way.

A peculiar turn of phrase to describe the PRC's dealing with/responding to its human rights problems as one of a "mature nation" in a "mature fashion". Caution to the extreme and, arguably, appeasing.

Monday, November 15, 2004

 

Updates on military, energy and political posts

Mick Hartley picked up our posting last week on the "brewing cold war between Japan and China", in which the former editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review, Michael Vatikiotis, warned of a future military conflict between the Peoples Republic of China and Japan -- and added breaking news on a PRC submarine that had just penetrated Japan's territorial waters.

The vessel spent about two hours near the southern island of Okinawa, the site of major US military bases, that lies near islands and gas resources eyed by Japan, China and Taiwan. Japan sent two destroyers along with a P-3C surveillance plane that tracked the submarine until it left Japanese waters.

Two days earlier, Kyodo News agency reported that Japan has charted out scenarios for a Chinese attack against Japan which could be triggered by disputes over Taiwan or energy resources. It said the outline for potential Chinese attacks was part of a confidential defense strategy study drawn up by military planners in September.
In the case of a clash between the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan, the PRC could attack parts of Japan to prevent aid from US forces based in the country, the study said.

Under a second scenario, Beijing would try to take over disputed islands between Taiwan and Japan -- called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China -- to rally support if public criticism challenged the communist leadership.

The study listed a third scenario in which the Defense Agency believes the PRC could take military action to secure its interests in the East China Sea where Tokyo and Beijing dispute the development of gas fields near their maritime boundary.
A spokesman for the Defense Agency declined comment on the Kyodo report, but confirmed the agency filed a report in September on Japan's defense capability. According to Kyodo, the defense planners called for diplomatic efforts to avoid conflicts with China.

Beijing reacted strongly to the report on 9 November. "The parties concerned should give up their Cold War mentality and work to promote peace and development in Asia, and the world as whole," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said. Beijing accused Tokyo of trying to meddle in the Taiwan issue, and said such comments and actions are an affront to its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The two countries are already in dispute over energy resources in the East China Sea and PRC research and naval ships have repeatedly entered Japan's exclusive economic waters without prior notice.

Adam Crouch of The Raw Prawn posted an extensive review of our article "PRC a tough new competitor for global oil resources" with useful references to a Congressional Commission that concluded that China has been giving nuclear technology to Iran in exchange for oil and evidence that China has provided information about nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia and Libya.

"China's leaders seem to be so blinded by their desire to keep natural resources flowing in and to keep the economy growing at lightning speed, that they've treated some real long-term problems for both themselves and the rest of the world," he commented.

Also noticed was Logan Wright’s posting at his Survived SARS blog on the PRC's new energy deals with Iran and the call by Foreign Minister, Li Zhaoxing, for the issue of Iran's nuclear power program to stay out of the UN.

"I [told] colleagues that, to my knowledge, Iran is having a pretty good cooperation with the IAEA," he said. "And I also opened my mind to them that according to my reading of the pictures, according to my analysis, to bring the matter to the Security Council will only make the issue more complicated and more complex than necessary and more difficult to work out," Li said.

"This is vaguely similar to China's position on Darfur--self-interested but procedurally sound--in which they sort of dodged a bullet as the crisis alleviated somewhat," Wright commented.

And for those interested in further back-grounding of Zhao Ziyang, the former premier of the Peoples Republic of China and former Communist Party of China general secretary, who recently celebrated his 85th birthday under house arrest, visit Foreign Affair’s website where the entire text of The Tiananmen papers are available online.

Here is a sample - an exchange between Zhao and the true master of the Communist Party of China, Deng Xiaoping, on 13 May 1989, discussing the continuing pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing in the days leading up to the visit by Soviet Union leader and ‘glasnost’ promoter, Mikhael Gorbachev:

Deng Xiaoping: As I've said before, the origins of this incident are not so simple. The opposition is not just some students but a bunch of rebels and a lot of riffraff, and a tiny minority who are utterly against opposing bourgeois liberalization. ... This is not just between the students and the government.

Zhao Ziyang: The consensus in the Politburo has been to use the policies of guiding and dividing, winning over the great majority of students and intellectuals while isolating the tiny minority of anticommunist troublemakers, thereby stilling the movement through democratic and legal means.

Deng Xiaoping: What do the ordinary people in society think?

Zhao Ziyang: The protests are widespread but limited to cities that have universities. The rural areas aren't affected, and the farmers are docile. So are urban workers, basically. The workers are unhappy about certain social conditions and like to let off steam from time to time, so they sympathize with the protesters. But they go to work as usual and they aren't striking, demonstrating, or traveling around like the students.

Deng Xiaoping: ... We must not give an inch on the basic principle of upholding Communist Party rule and rejecting a Western multiparty system. At the same time, the Party must resolve the issue of democracy and address the problems that arise when corruption pops up in the Party or government.

Zhao Ziyang: ... When we allow some democracy, things might look "chaotic" on the surface; but these little "troubles" are normal inside a democratic and legal framework. They prevent major upheavals and actually make for stability and peace in the long run.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

 

Could Zhao have led the struggle for democracy?

Zhao Ziyang, the former premier of the Peoples Republic of China and former Communist Party of China general secretary celebrated his 85th birthday in the quiet of his home in the Fuqiang Hutong district of Beijing on 17 October. He has been under house arrest since he was removed from his position 15 years ago, when the pro-democracy movement was violently suppressed in Tiananmen Square.

According to The Epoch Times, veteran party members and former CPC officials have pleaded for Zhao’s freedom. They claim that Zhao has been deprived of his rights as an ordinary citizen, rights which should be protected by China’s Constitution:

Hu Jiwei, once the chief editor of People’s Daily and a member of the Standing Committee of the Peoples’ Congress, was removed when the pro-democracy movement was suppressed with the Tiananmen Square massacre. He said, “I can’t remember how many times I’ve spoken out for Zhao. Limiting his freedom now doesn’t make any sense at all. Hu Jintao (the current Party General Secretary) emphasizes the importance of China’s constitution, and he is right. But he is facing two challenges. First, he must unconditionally comply with China’s constitution and protect peoples’ human rights, and secondly, he must firmly stop any unconstitutional acts, which include Zhao’s case.”

The Epoch Times also reported on the “Zhao Ziyang and China’s Reform" conference conducted by Columbia University’s Modern China Research Center on 16 October.

Yan Jiaqi, the former director of the China Institute of Political Science, spoke about two of Zhao’s major contributions to the PRC. First, he recalled the political and economic reforms during the 1980s. He said no one could beat Zhao’s contributions in initiating foreign capital.

Secondly, Zhao had advocated democratic and peaceful means to legally solve the student protests in Tiananmen Square. When Beijing was flooded with university students and teachers mourning the death of former CPC general secretary Hu Yaobang and calling for a rebirth of his democratic ideals, the CPC split.

Li Peng, the premier, had advocated a crackdown on the students, while Zhao had pressed for dialogue and compromise. Zhao was overruled, and eventually accused of splitting the party by siding with the students. He was deprived of his political career and confined to his house, where he remains today.

Yan suggested that if China had been able to follow Zhao’s leadership, the country would be more democratic today. He also said that if Zhao ever gets the opportunity to guide the market economy, establish China’s economic base and implement democratic principles, China will be able to take its place in a peaceful and democratic way in the 21st century.

Hu Ping, chief editor of Beijing Spring magazine, said that looking back over these 15 years, he has seen that time only makes evil stronger. While people’s memories have grown dim, the evil permeates and corrodes people’s thinking. Since 1989, although Chinese society has changed drastically, hardly any abuse seems surprising anymore.

According to Hu, the government now openly uses violence against its people, acts that would have been unimaginable in the 1980s.

 

Spectre of unhappy, organised masses haunts CPC

The Communist Party of China is worried that mass protests occurring throughout China could lead to the collapse of its control. "The Soviet Union used to be the world's number one socialist country, but overnight the country broke up and political power collapsed," Vice President Zeng Qinghong wrote last month in the CPC’s People's Daily.

"One important reason was that in their long time in power, their system of governing became rigid, their ability to govern declined, people were dissatisfied with what the officials accomplished, and the officials became seriously isolated from the masses," Zeng said, as quoted by The Washington Post.

There were more than 58,000 major incidents of social unrest in the country last year, about 160 per day on average, according to the Communist Party magazine Outlook. That was an increase of 15 percent over 2002 and nearly seven times the figure reported by the government just a decade ago.

Another study of police statistics, by Murray Scot Tanner, a scholar at US-based Rand Corp, concluded the demonstrations were growing in size while violence, including attacks on party and state officials, was also on the rise. He said statistics indicate the number of "mass incidents" jumped from 8,700 in 1993 to 32,000 in 1999 and has kept increasing.

Most protestors appear to be victims of the economic disruption caused by the change to a market economy in the Peoples Republic of China and who have been unable to protect their rights through approved channels.

The PRC’s courts received nearly four million petition cases in total last year; the national legislature had nearly 20,000 petitioners, one-third more than in 2002, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Communist Party officials argue that the CPC’s recent call to improve governance is an attempt to address this problem by making officials more responsive to the public and less corrupt. But the party continues to rule out democratic reform as an option.

“Except in the largest, most volatile situations, the government's approach is to monitor demonstrations and allow them to end peacefully. It reacts later, in some cases addressing the complainants' issues, but almost always aggressively prosecuting the organizers to send a message that further activities will not be tolerated,” the Chicago Tribune commented.
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In one recent example in Beijing, the police declined to use force when suburban villagers - upset over a government land deal - blocked school buses bringing foreign children to the International School of Beijing. A few days later, the police rounded up seven or eight protesters and pressed serious criminal charges against three of them.

 

Chinese Communist anti-corruption fighter busted

A Chinese Communist Party cadre who came to notice throughout China by denouncing official corruption has been relieved of his duties and placed under a form of house arrest while authorities investigate his conduct, Washington Post reported.

Huang Jingao, party secretary for Lianjiang county in Fujian province, attracted attention in August when he posted an open letter on the CPC’s People's Daily website complaining that his efforts to investigate and prosecute corruption were being thwarted by party leaders and government officials because of what he called "the underlying rules" by which unscrupulous functionaries protect one another.

Huang's anti-corruption efforts centered on what he described as crooked deals in which officials took bribes to confiscate peasants' land and sell it at below-market prices to developers.

Within days, the letter disappeared and Huang was accused of "individualism" by higher-level, Fujian officials and ordered to "do a complete self-examination."

Taking to wearing a bullet-proof vest after receiving 26 death threats, Huang has since found himself effectively replaced by his deputy as the county's party secretary and confined to his home or office.

"Lianjiang county officials have been told to make a clear break from Huang Jin'gao and march in step with Fuzhou," a government official told Reuters.

Huang's office, home and cell phones are bugged and he is watched around the clock, other sources said. His request to attend the Central Party School in Beijing, which trains Communist Party apparatchiks, has been rejected.

He declined to be interviewed, saying that as a Communist Party member for more than 30 years, he was not allowed to talk to foreign media without the permission of his superiors. "I can't talk to foreign media. I would be breaching party discipline," Huang told Reuters by telephone.

 

Beijing and Jakarta talk on 'rejuvinating weaponry'

As the Peoples Republic of China ramps up its courting of Indonesia, Jakarta strategists are encouraging new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to accommodate the demands of the United States so that American military assistance can be resumed.

The USA imposed military equipment bans on the PRC following its massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, Beijing in 1989 and also on Indonesia following widespread allegations that gross human rights abuses took place when East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999.

Bara Hasibuan, a former congressional fellow and the National Mandate Party's director of international relations, said that for the sake of his global campaign against terror, President Bush will persuade the US. Congress to lift its embargo on the Indonesian military. "But the Indonesian government must be proactive in reaching out for it and leave its passive approach behind," he added.

"The Bush administration considers Southeast Asia as a breeding ground for terrorism and Indonesia will continue to be its partner in fighting terrorism," he said, quoted by the Jakarta Post.

The newspaper reported scepticism that approaches from Indonesia will bear fruit as the Indonesian military “has steadfastly refused to acknowledge its poor human rights record”.

Meantime, visiting Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan said he had met with President Yudhoyono, discussing broad bilateral issues including defence cooperation. "We held talks on defence cooperation and we have agreed to increase cooperation and consultation on security," AFP reported.

Separately, Foreign Minister Wirayuda said Jakarta hoped from the talks China could "provide ways to help (us) rejuvenate our weaponry."

President Hu Jintao's also extended an invitation for Yudhoyono to visit China, Tang said, adding that the two leaders could possibly hold separate bilateral talks at the 22 November ASEAN summit in Laos.

Last week, delegates to a meeting of Asia's biggest security grouping called for closer military cooperation amid concern about terrorism and North Korea's nuclear program. The three-day meeting in Beijing brought together the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the USA, PRC, Japan, India, Russia, the two Koreas, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand.

Delegates plan to take up "the role of the armed forces in coming days in combating regional threats," the Peoples Republic of China envoy, Gen Xiong Guangkai, deputy chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army, as reported by AP.

"It is our common mission to maintain regional peace and stability, to strengthen trust among militaries and promote cooperation among countries and capabilities to properly meet the challenges and changes," he said.

 

PRC adds panache to nationalism to 'lead' E Asia

According to Eric Teo Chu Cheow, council secretary of the Singapore Institute for International Affairs, many Chinese academics and intellectuals suspect that Washington intends to choke off the Peoples Republic of China’s “access routes to regional energy and natural resources to try to contain China's growth”.

Writing in The Japan Times, he said the PRC itself “is now convinced” that having provoked the disintegration of the USSR and “successfully moved into Central Asia, India and the Middle East (notably Afghanistan and Iraq)”, the USA “seeks to curb China's rising power by blocking trade access to the Pacific”.

As a result, Beijing is pursuing a more active diplomacy around its southern periphery in Southeast Asia where, Cheow stated, “Beijing has shown real panache and sophistication” in dealing diplomatically with individual members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Malaysia and Thailand), while touting an ASEAN-China free trade agreement.

Recent PRC initiatives in ASEAN include a $400 million soft loan to the Philippines for a rail link between Manila and Clark ("which prompted Manila to conclude a defence cooperation pact" with the PRC); an "early harvest" agreement a year ago on fruits and vegetables with Thailand (which lead to the Asian Cooperation Dialogue hosted in Qingdao); and convincing Vietnam to delay "tourist excursions" to the disputed Spratley Islands after discreet backdoor intervention by the Communist Party with its Vietnamese counterpart.

“In all cases, Beijing has been using nationalism and the ‘glories of the Chinese civilization’ to try to instill a sense of unity among Chinese nationals in and outside of Southeast Asia”, Cheow concluded.

“Although Beijing may acknowledge that rampant nationalism poses a danger to its own internal stability, it has astutely harnessed it to build a ‘new’ Asian pride that it hopes will help establish a new Asian system of politics, economics, security and culture within the ASEAN-plus-Three (Japan, South Korea, China)" framework - which Beijing hopes will be transformed ultimately into an East Asian community under its leadership.”

The PRC's trade with its ASEAN has risen on average 20 percent annually since 1990 and should surpass US$ 100 billion dollars this year.

The economic co-operation framework agreement in signed by the PRC and ASEAN in 2002 is designed to lead to the world's biggest free trade zone of more than 1.7 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of $2 trillion by 2010.

In September, the two sides completed negotiations on the trade of goods and will begin to implement tariff cuts in 2005. The next phases of an FTA will concern trading of services and investment.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

 

Maoists increase intimidation of Nepalese media

Here is an unusual story of local and international media protests against mounting Maoist terror in Nepal including the actioning of 'execution orders' against reporters in the country and the unexplained, and perhaps unrelated, murder of a Nepalese journalist in the USA.

18 August 2004: Following the brutally killing of Dekendra Raj Thapa, a Dailekh-based journalist affiliated to state-owned Radio Nepal, Nepal News reports that Maoists have issued ‘execution orders’ against ten more journalists in the country. Harihar Singh Rathour and Bed Prasad Timilsina, affiliated to Kantipur Publications, are among those targeted. According to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has killed six journalists in the last eight years and is suspected to be behind the disappearance of three more.

19 August 2004: Nepal News reports a Nepalese American Journalist Association (link in Nepalese) press release asking underground Maoists to immediately stop all human rights violations, to respect press freedom and the fundamental rights of the people.

24 August 2004: Nepal News reports a Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) statement asking the CPN (M) leadership to make clear the party’s view on press freedom within a week otherwise all the news related to the Maoists would be boycotted. The FNJ asks for immediate release of three journalists Dhan Bahadur Magar, Parek Rai and Kul Bahadur Shahi who are in Maoist captivity and urges the rebels to stop intimidation of journalists.

3 November 2004: Dallas/Fort Worth's Channel 8 reports that a convenience store employee died Monday night (1 Dec) after being shot in his South Zang Boulevard store. Keshav Lal Shrestha was found injured in the back office of the Zang Food Store about 1:20 pm with gunshot wounds to his face and stomach. A witness told police that Mr Shrestha was at the front of the store during the shooting and called home before stumbling into the back office.

4 November 2004: Nepal News reports an "unidentified group" shot and killed Keshav Lal Shrestha, a Nepali journalist living in Texas, USA. Shrestha was known as publisher and editor of Makwanpur’s oldest weekly newspaper, "Kurakani". The Federation of Nepalese Journalists and Kurakani weekly, issuing separate statements, expressed deep sorrow at the news.

5 November 2004: Nepal News reports that the CPN (M) has imposed a ban on journalists in the mid western district of Rukkum. Maoist district secretary Bishal said reporters must obtain permission of the ‘people’s government’ before traveling to any part of the district for collecting news.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is supported in the USA by the Revolutionary Communist Party, publisher of the Revolutionary Worker.

 

PRC a tough new competitor for global oil resources

The Peoples Republic of China’s growing appetite for energy has stressed the global oil and gas industry and is posing the threat of new armed conflicts over limited resources. The PRC’s oil imports have doubled over the past five years, surging nearly 40% in the first half of 2004 alone, and the country is now second only to the USA as the world's biggest oil consumer.

“The country's industrial base is gobbling up vast amounts of petrochemicals to make everything from fertilizer to Barbie dolls. The number of cars on mainland roads - about 20 million -i s expected to increase by 2.5 million this year alone. Even if China's blazing GDP growth of 9.4% this year moderates to 8% in 2005 … the country is now a permanent major player in the global competition for oil,” Time Asia reported.

And just as oil is seen driving American foreign policy, the PRC's geopolitical strategies are "increasingly influenced by the country's inability to meet its energy needs solely through domestic production".

For instance, news of the discovery of a new offshore oilfield in northern Vietnam last month was warmly welcomed by Vietnam and fellow South East Asian nations but harshly criticised the by PRC which claims "indisputable" sovereignty in the South China Sea. "China is seriously concerned and strongly dissatisfied," PRC Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said.

The two Communist Party-ruled neighbours fought a significant land war in 1979, which Vietnam was considered to have won, and their forces clashed in the South China Sea in 1988 and 1992 when the Chinese emerged victorious.

The oil find, announced by a partnership of Petronas Carigali Overseas of Malaysia, American Technology Inc Petroleum, Singapore Petroleum Co and PetroVietnam's Petroleum Investment and Development Co, is at the Yen Tu field, about 70 km east of Vietnam's Hai Phong seaport. It is the "first oil strike" in the waters off northern Vietnam with estimated preliminary reserves at 181 million barrels.

The PRC’s territorial claims cover 80% of the South China Sea, sections of which are also claimed by the Republic of China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. In the mid-1990s, the Chinese put up what it called shelters for fishermen on islets claimed by the Philippines, fueling concerns in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations about increased aggression by China and "prompting increased diplomacy to engage Beijing".

The PRC is also disputing Japan’s sovereignty over natural gas reserves in the East China Sea and is preparing to begin exploiting large gas reserves in the Xibu Trough, just west of the line Japan claims as the boundary of its exclusive economic zone.

The trough, which lies 400 km east of Shanghai, contains the Chunxiao gas fields, the largest gas deposit yet discovered in the East China Sea, with reserves estimated at about 300 billion cubic metres.

Beijing rejects Tokyo's claim as an infringement of sovereignty, and has signalled it will not jointly explore the Chunxiao gas field with the Japanese. "Why should we consider a demarcation border when there wasn't one in the first place?'' asks a spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China. Some Chinese officials have talked of military conflict with Japan over the rights to the gas.

No doubt leaders in Beijing want to avoid numerous military confrontations and, where possible are looking to invest in exploration and development in countries that have oil fields but lack the capital or technology to exploit them. Once PRC state-woned companies have a stake in oil coming out of the ground, even if it originates abroad, they'll have secured long-term supplies.

The PRC’s state-owned CNOOC and CNPC, for example, now control over 12% of Indonesia’s own oil production, acquired from exiting US and European companies.

In North Asia, the PRC is trying to entice the Russian Federation to build a 1,500-mile pipeline from Russia's Angarsk, near Lake Baikal in Siberia, to China's Daqing to ship up to 700 million tonnes of oil between 2005 and 2030. However, the Japanese also know how to play hardball.

The PRC project has been slowed by environmental worries and is now threatened by a competing plan to route a pipeline to Japan. Russian President Putin says he prefers Russia to build a pipeline to the Pacific coast near Japan rather than the proposed link to China. Japan, keen to become a major Russian oil buyer, is offering Moscow up to 900 billion yen to develop an associated oil field in Eastern Siberia.

Elsewhere the scope of the PRC’s energy diplomacy is extensive:

Two weeks ago Iran and China signed an MOU to award development of the Yadavaran oil field to China's state-owned Sinopec. The countries also decided to form a joint oil and gas committee to follow up strategic cooperation in the area of energy including joint investment in construction of an LNG refinery in Iran.

Iran also spoke of it's readiness to cooperate with Chinese companies in oil-related activities in Central Asia. In June, PRC's President Hu led a delegation to Uzbekistan to start building relations with the oil-and-gas-rich, ex-Soviet republics.

Other reported Asian projects include a 600-mile, $2 billion pipeline from Burma's deepwater port of Sittwe, which will follow a projected railway line to China's south-western province of Yunnan. Another is the development of Gwadar Port in Pakistan, which China hopes to use to ship oil and gas from the Gulf. A pipeline to Xinjiang over the Karakoram Pass will follow.

The PRC is investing in West Africa's oil fields in the Gulf of Guinea, and to Central Africa, where oil production in several countries is also coming on line, VOA reports. In recent interviews, China's deputy foreign minister Zhou Wenzhong said the PRC will pursue its oil interests in Africa without political restrictions or concerns. He has been quoted as saying China tries "to separate business from politics."

The state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, for instance, is developing oil projects in Chad, which has diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

West Africa's oil currently comes mainly from Nigeria, Equatorial-Guinea, Congo-Brazaville and Gabon. Other countries like Ivory Coast, Mauritania and Niger are also trying to develop oil production. PRC companies are reportedly signing oil contracts in many of these countries, even though few of the deals are getting much publicity.

During President Hu's visit to Gabon, though, one new arrangement was made public. The China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation refinery, Gabon and France's Total Gabon signed agreements guaranteeing China a steady flow of Gabonese oil.

Most controversial is the PRC’s efforts to prevent the United Nations’ Security Council imposing sanctions on Sudan over the crisis in the Darfur region to protect its oil imports from the country. For the past six years Beijing has been the Sudanese government's main backer, buying 70% of its exports, servicing its $20 billion debt and supplying the Khartoum government with most of its weapons.

The PRC was identified by diplomats as the member responsible for watering down September’s Security Council resolution which threatened to halt Sudan's oil exports if it did not stop atrocities in the Darfur region, where Arab militias are terrorising African villagers.

Sudan is the largest recipient of PRC overseas investment and some 10,000 Chinese are working in the country. Since 1999 China has poured up to $3 billion into developing several oil fields and building a 930-mile pipeline, refinery and port.

Sudan's attraction to the PRC, "other than its pariah status," the Independent reported, " is that it holds Africa's greatest unexploited oil resources, even greater than those of the Gulf of Guinea. China has helped to boost Sudan's crude oil production from 150,000 barrels per day in 2000 to an expected 500,000 bpd in 2005. All this comes from oil fields in central and south-central regions which may hold only 15 per cent of Sudan's total reserves".

Saturday, November 06, 2004

 

Theory may prove China on brink of social upheaval

Prof Niu Wenyuan of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a special adviser to the Peoples Pepublic of China’s State Council, has apparently devised a scientific model to predict the “social ignition point” at which unrest will break out.

As reported by the Straits Times’ experienced Editor At Large, Leslie Fong (6 November), Prof Niu considers a widening gap between rich and poor one of the most important factors in a country's social combustibility and his model integrates the “Gini coefficient” used widely by economists to gauge whether wealth is distributed fairly.

On a scale of 0 to 1, with 0 denoting perfectly equal distribution of wealth, Prof Niu believes, any country with a Gini coefficient of 0.4 or more is vulnerable. He says that studies of peasant revolts, the Taiping rebellion and the Communist insurrection started in the 1920s backs his theory.

So what has it been like in recent years? According to figures compiled by Chinese economists, Gini was 0.341 in 1988, 0.343 in 1990, 0.389 in 1995, 0.417 in 2000, 0.448 in 2002 and 0.457 last year.

And even the cautious Fong can work that out: “If the trend continues, it can spell trouble for China and a China caught in the throes of social upheaval is bad news for the world as well”.

 

China v Japan poses ‘real threat’ to Asian security

A former editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review, Michael Vatikiotis, writes that the real threat to security in Asia is the “brewing cold war between Japan and China” which he does not believe will be restrained by the “growing economic symbiosis between Asia's largest economy and its largest market”.

“Energy could well provide the spark for a future conflict between China and Japan. The flashpoint is a small chain of islands off the coast of Japan, which China also claims. The Senaku islands, known as the Diaoyu in China, are thought to straddle potential fields of oil and gas. Tokyo recently angered Beijing again, by renting several privately owned islands in the chain to reinforce its claim,” Vatikiotis stated in today’s Jakarta Post.

“At a recent security conference, one Chinese academic went so far as to imagine a military clash if a Chinese oil company began prospecting for oil and gas in the area and Japan mounted a challenge.”

Quite clear.

 

Massive gender imbalance influences violent crime

Jamie Miyazaki writes in the Asia Times of the huge gender imbalance in the Peoples Republic of China: ‘there aren't enough Chinese women out there, and it appears to be getting worse. According to a 2000 census, the sex ratio at birth in China is now 118 boys for every 100 girls; in most countries the ratio is roughly 105 boys born for every 100 girls. And it's not just a rural phenomenon, as widely believed; in affluent coastal Jiangsu province the imbalance is over 120 - that is, 120 boys for every 100 girls born”.

The PRC's "missing girls" are regarded as an “unintended consequence” of the Communist Party's one-child policy, where sons traditionally have been more highly valued than daughters. Government campaigns in rural areas - largely futile - remind residents that "girls are worth as much as boys", and aborting female fetuses is illegal in some places. But it may still be too late. In China's poorer provinces of Shaanxi, Ningxia and Guangxi, there are already scatterings of "bachelor villages".

“A good trade in foreign brides has emerged around the North Korean and Vietnamese borders to satisfy the bride shortage. One enterprising doctor in Guangdong province was arrested last year after drugging and selling mentally ill female patients from a psychiatric ward to men looking desperately for wives,” Miyazaki reports.

He also quotes a warning from Andrea den Boer, co-author of Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population: "We are already seeing signs of societal instability in parts of China where segments of China's large floating population of up to 150 million (overwhelming men) are believed responsible for the increase in violent crime in urban areas."


Thursday, November 04, 2004

 

PRC downplays stinging foreign policy attack on USA

The Peoples Republic of China does not endorse stinging criticism of US President George W. Bush's foreign policy published in the Communist Party-controlled, English-language China Daily newspaper, but apparantly doesn't shrink from it either.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue told a news briefing that Beijing had responded to a US request for clarification but said the PRC believed that unilateral actions by any government didn't fit current international conditions. "We should rely on multilateralism to handle problems facing the world, including terrorism and other challenges." she said.

On the eve of the US presidential election, one of the PRC's most senior foreign policy advisors publicly condemned the "Bush doctrine," said the Iraq war had destroyed the global anti-terror coalition and blamed arrogance for the problems dogging the United States worldwide.

The United States was dreaming if it thought the 21st century was the American century, wrote Qian Qichen, a former foreign minister credited with breaking the PRC out of the diplomatic isolation that followed its 1989 massacre of protestors in Tiananmen Square.

"The current US predicament in Iraq serves as another example that when a country's superiority psychology inflates beyond its real capability, a lot of trouble can be caused," Qian wrote.

"But the troubles and disasters the United States has met do not stem from the threats by others, but from its own cocksureness and arrogance."

The invasion of Iraq "has made the United States even more unpopular in the international community than its war in Vietnam," he said.

"The Iraq war has also destroyed the hard-won global anti-terror coalition," Qian added, saying it had caused a rise in terrorist activity around the globe and widened a rift between the United States and Europe.

The US strategy of pre-emptive strikes would bring insecurity and ultimately the demise of the "American empire," Qian said.

"It is now time to give up the illusion that Europeans and Americans are living in the same world, as some Europeans would like to believe," Qian said. "The 21st century is not the 'American century'. That does not mean that the United States does not want the dream. Rather it is incapable of realizing the goal," he said.

After the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, the "Bush doctrine" created "axes of evil" and pre-emptive strategies.

"It linked counter-terrorism and the prevention of proliferation of so-called rogue states and failed states ... It all testifies that Washington's anti-terror campaign has already gone beyond the scope of self-defence," Qian said.

Politics professor David Zweig, at the Hong University of Science and Technology, told VOA that Qian's comments reflect the Peoples Republic of China's growing prominence in international affairs. He said Beijing for the first time is seeing itself affected by US policy in other parts of the world.

"The fact that Chinese are being kidnapped, killed in Pakistan," he said. "China is now involved in the civil war in Darfour, in the Sudan. All of a sudden, what goes on in terms of American presence, of instability in the world has a much bigger impact on China than it did before."

In Washington, the US State Department summoned Chinese Ambassador Yang Jiechi to a meeting with James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

US officials expressed doubt that Qian's remarks were a coincidence. According to the Washington Times, “they noted that there is no free press in China, and the article in question hardly could have slipped past the censors”.

A senior State Department official speculated that Beijing was doing contingency planning, in case Sen. John Kerry won the election.

 

Labor MPs test limits of ‘reasoned criticism’

Former Australian Environment Minister in the Australian Labor Party’s Hawke government, Barry Cohen, dropped a shocker last month publishing an article declaring “anti-Semitism is now rampant” in the ALP - Australia’s oldest political party and currently in government in every state and territory.

In a country without institutionalised racial or religious regulation, the accusations are startling. Unlike Malaysia, for instance, religion is no barrier for election to Australia’s highest positions of government and, unlike, most other Asian countries, neither is one’s place of birth or ethnicity.

Cohen’s complaint is that “Labor’s hard left” has subverted the ALP’s balanced position on the rights of the State of Israel and of Palestinian Arabs through anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism “so grotesque” that criticism of Israel has moved to the anti-Semitic “ranting and raving, common among the extreme right”.

The former member of the House of Representatives called on the party to continue to reject all forms of prejudice and to return to “reasoned criticism” on middle-east issues.

Current MHR Tanya Plibersek, strongly criticised by Cohen for calling Ariel Sharon "a war criminal" and Israel a "rogue state" has since reaffirmed her support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and her condemnation of acts of terror such as suicide bombing.

She said at no point, had she ever felt that her criticisms of the Sharon Government “were anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish or threatened the survival of the State of Israel”.

Recently appointed the ALP’s federal Shadow Minister for Work, Family and Community; Shadow Minister for Youth and Early Childhood Education; and Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on the Status of Women, Plibersek added:

“I am proud of my statements criticising the Taliban for its treatment of women in Afghanistan and the mullahs for their repression of democracy in Iran.

“I do not believe these criticisms make me anti-Arab”.

Spot on Shadow Minister. Afghanistan and Iran are not Arab countries.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

 

PRC puts down regional demos and ethnic fighting

The Chinese government is playing down the ethnic aspect of a large-scale protest in central Henan province in which seven people were killed, 42 people were injured and 18 arrested. Beijing, in a rare move on Monday, confirmed the clash in Zhongmou county in the provincial capital Zhengzhou.

"China is a country with many minorities, but we have a healthy and good policy towards them. So this kind of problem is only a single incident, just between the villages. It should not be exaggerated. This is a problem that happened in China, so it's not necessary for foreign countries to know about it," foreign ministry spokesman Zhang Qiyue told a news conference quoted by international media.

According to reports, a traffic dispute involving an ethnic Han Chinese and a member of the Hui Muslim minority sparked rioting by some 5,000 people last Wednesday. The clash continued until Sunday.

Central government authorities reportedly declared martial law and brought in 10,000 anti-riot and military police to contain the fighting. Villagers clashed with them, too, swinging iron bars and throwing bricks and stones, witnesses said. Public notices have been posted in ethnic Hui villages, warning residents not to give refuge to anyone involved in the violence.

The clashes appeared to have been exacerbated by the arrival of hundreds of Muslim Hui from other parts of the country who rushed to the region to support their ethnic brethren. Military police set up checkpoints and, with the help of local imams, persuaded many of the outsiders to go home, the official at the mosque said. But residents said some eluded police and joined the clashes.

In another incident, police in western Sichuan province clashed with demonstrators at the site of a proposed dam Friday, beating one man to death and injuring several others, residents said. More than 50,000 villagers participated in the protests, disbanding over the weekend only after officials promised to suspend construction and discuss compensation for farmland to be flooded.

Monday, November 01, 2004

 

Dealing with China: What the Taiwanese really want

Laurence Eyton, deputy editor-in-chief of Taipei Times, writes that the fundamental divide in Taiwan "is an argument about eventual goals; it is not an argument about current status":

The unificationists think of Taiwan as the continuing Republic of China, founded in 1912, forced to move to Taiwan in 1949 but never out of business as a sovereign state. "The communists, by founding a new country in 1949, have in effect created two current Chinas, and the world needs to accommodate itself to this reality".

The independence lobby maintains that Taiwan, occupied by Imperial Japan in 1895, was not returned to China by treaty at the end of World War 2 and "that it was illegally occupied by the Chinese Nationalist Party regime until the early 1990s, when democratic elections were held, in effect constituting an act of self-determination that established a new and sovereign country".

The current Democratic Progressive Party government tends to a middle course between the two positions "but if there is one thing that all sides are agreed upon it is that the Taipei regime is independent and sovereign".

The main problem for any Taiwanese government dealing with the Peoples Republic of China's demand for (re)unification, Eyton states, is what the people of Taiwan want:

"And in fact they overwhelmingly don't want it. The most recent poll by Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council - the government ministry that deals with China policy - indicates that fewer than 2% of Taiwanese want unification now and only about 11% want it at all. (This is compared with 6% who want a formal declaration of independence immediately and 18% who want it some time in the future.) Forty percent of all Taiwanese prefer the status quo now/decision later option, while 18% want the status quo to last forever".

So, apropos of Colin Powell's recent statements on eventual (re)unification, Eyton summarises: not all parties are seeking it; 43% of Taiwanese (pro-independence plus pro-status quo forever) don't want it at any price; and another 40% don't even want to consider it until the Peoples Republic of China has changed into a democracy.

He warns that Powell's comments severely shocked the Taiwanese public who now fear that the US is going flaky on their security. So much so that a radical move is being mooted in Taiwan to provide a "sharp reminder" to the US and Japan as to "where their strategic interest lies".

Much more in Taiwan Reels from Powell's Anti-Sovereignty 'Goof'

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