Kaixin's Daily OpEd
28th December 09:
An article by Mr Mark Lynas in the Age lays the blame for the lack of a binding agreement from Copenhagen squarely at China’s feet.
After all, Mr Lynas was there, he saw all.
First of all, lets look at Mr Lynas’ credentials. Quote: ‘Mark Lynas, author of Six Degrees: Our future on a hotter planet, is a British environmentalist who attended the summit as adviser to the Maldives President.’
He was certainly there, but as a impartial and objective observer?
Mr Hissink would no doubt detect the whif of religious fervour in the article. Mr Lynas has no doubt that global warming is caused by man. Therefore man can stop it. So, logically, the sooner man begins the better. So far so good. It’s just, Mr Lynas, that the science is out on that point. Something the committed environmentalists refuse to consider. My belief is better than yours seems to be their approach.
He is answered in the article by the first person to make a comment, ‘If Chinese leaders thought AGW was real, they would recognize an existential threat to China that overrode any short-term economic imperatives. Chinese culture is renowned for viewing the big picture and the long term. In that case, they would have reached a binding agreement. This article illustrates that they didn't want any sort of meaningful agreement. Ergo, they are either fools, dreamers - or sceptics. Chinese scientists tend to be salaried, don't depend on politically-based government grants, and so are probably (counter-intuitively in a totalitarian dictatorship) better able to give frank and fearless advice to their political masters. So what do you reckon they told Wen Jinbao about climate change?’.
Also note, in the article, that the leaders from the ‘west’ were all trying to mollify their political constituencies.
Last Saturday evening, a Chinese negotiator from the conference was interviewed on Chinese telvision. He was critised the ‘western’ powers for their patronising attitude. He also made the point that they did not seem to know, or accept, that China was achieving considerable progress in curbing pollution, including CO2 emmissions. He voiced his opinion that China should communicate its achievments in this area to the world more effectively. He reinterated that China was committed to curbing pollution, including atmospheric, and was also prepared to help the developing world both financially and technologically. He questioned the ‘developed’ nations true commitment. After all, he might have added, they will be tied up in the politics for some time yet, it seems.
Meanwhile, China has both the wealth and the political leadership to get on with the job.
26th December 09: In response to the following article:
Don't look to Beijing for global leadership
By Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor, The Australian
To understand China’s response at Copenhagen you need to understand it’s history, both over millennia and recent (last 200 years or so).
Over millennia China has been sufficient unto itself. After the first millennia or so it had basically come together as the nation state we now recognise as China. Then for the next few millennia it basically kept to itself. It evolved a socio/political system that was uniquely its own centred on a strong ruler. Administration of that great state was through Confucianism. The people knew prosperity when there was a strong central ruler. It knew hardship and famine when there was internal conflict and civil war.
The civil administration guided by Confucian principles served the State well. In general it threw up capable administrators. To understand China today, you need to have at least a basic understanding of Confucianism. In this essentially feudal society, there was a sharp distinction between rich and poor, the haves and the have-nots.
Roll forward to the aggressive European nations basically invading and colonising China. They used force, corruption, rape, pillage and murder to get their way. The Chinese state weakened, as it was not set up to deal with such barbaric behaviour. After all, they had built a bloody great wall to keep ignorant bastards out and instead another lot of barbarians came by ships from the other direction.
In 1911 it all fell apart and the Qing Dynasty came to an end. This left a power vacuum, which was filled by civil conflict as rival warlords fought for power. This, in turn, allowed the Japanese to invade China and they made the Colonial powers look benign. Nanking, 1937/8, for which Japan has never officially apologised, is seared into the Chinese psyche. For the Chinese people, once again, as per every time before, the lack of a strong leader and central government meant hardship and famine.
Those two hundred years or so till 1949 also set the basis for how China perceives the ‘west’.
Eventually two forces emerged and fought for control of China. The Communist Party influenced by Marxism and the lot of the average man, which was supported by the would-be imperial power Russia. The Kuomintang which was influenced by western capitalism and values, supported by the new imperial power, America. It would have been interesting to see which path China would have taken if Sun Yat-sen had lived. The Communist party emerged victorious in 1949.
Essentially because Mao was smart enough to bypass Marxist ideology and offer power to the peasants, of which there were many, rather than the workers, of which there were few.
The workers were in the cities, the traditional centres of power, chock full of smart arses who all jockeyed for power and a seat at the table. The peasants just wanted a feed and a place to sleep. Essentially anyone who offered them that won their support. After all, under Chinese feudal society, they were not even assured of life, let alone food and shelter. When offered the chance to join Mao’s army with the certainty (in general) of food and the possibility of a better life for their children, the choice was easy. Also, back in the village under a feudal lord, life was not assured. So, to die in battle was not such a great risk.
Mao wrested power and bought national pride and national integrity back to China. For the peasants, he essentially replaced uncertainty, oppression and exploitation with a simple but relatively safe life. For the people in the cities, he bought a strong central government and stability. The people in the cities knew that over millennia this had meant peace and stability, which were the necessary foundation stones of a prosperous society.
In my opinion, Mao was the right person to wrest power, but the wrong person to lead the new China. He laid a strong foundation but made also made some tumultuous errors of judgement, which had at times tragic consequences. Along with the American embargo, this held China’s economic progress back until Deng Xiaoping took power in 1978. In the over-all history of China, the period from 1949 to 1978 is but a blink of an eye. It was part of the transformation from a feudal system under a Dynastic rule led by an Emperor to a communist state under the central rule of the Communist Party. Mao tried to keep the role of Emperor and dynastic rule for his family, but failed. The Communist Party after Deng now must change leaders every four years and they can only serve for two terms, eight years.
My wife, Xiaosui, was born in 1966 into the heart of the Cultural Revolution. Her father, a teacher of Chinese language and history, was branded a counter revolutionary and they spent most of their life on a prison farm until Mao’s death in 1976. She knows what it is like to have little food and, from the age of six, walk for nearly two hours to take food to her father when he was in prison. Thanks to Deng’s early education reforms, Xiaosui was able to graduate from University in the late 1980’s with a Degree in Finance. She lived through the transformation of China. She came to live in Australia in 2007. She is immensely proud of what China has achieved. Her insights and opinions have informed much of what is in this essay.
By the mid-1980’s just about everyone in China had a place to sleep and enough food to eat. That was the base from which the new China would emerge.
What did China use to fuel its rapid rise to world economic power? The free, renewable resource of peasant labour. What did that labour want from life? A place to sleep and enough to eat. After all, they or their parents had seen the alternative and it was not so great.
In the cities Deng unleased the entrepreneurial potential and undoubted business acumen of the Chinese people to create wealth-making opportunities for China. He powered those new enterprises with low cost labour from the country.
The west scratched their collective heads over why the average Chinese worker would work for such low wages. Not that it stopped them taking advantage of it. The average Chinese worker was just grateful for this new safe world where he/she could work and send money back to their families in the country. For them the world was slowly becoming safer and richer.
As with the ‘west’, the industrialisation of China created pollution. For the first two/three decades this was allowed to go basically un-checked as economic growth was the priority.
Once the foundations for economic independence and prosperity had been laid the Communist Party started to address two major issues. The first was the disparity between the wealth of the cities and the country, including the migrant workers. It is doing this by slowly re-distributing some of the newfound wealth of China to the country and the workers. For those who criticise the pace of this, please remember that after the socio-political upheavals of the 20th century, the wealth had to be created in the first place. Sixty years is not long in the history of China.
The second was to address the pollution that was starting to choke China and threaten to slow economic growth. Though, as one American engineer I met in Li Jiang noted, unlike the west, China does not have to invent the technology to do that. It is mostly already invented and is improving all the time. So, it can be achieve relatively rapidly.
China is emerging as a world leader in addressing environmental pollution and developing ‘green’ technology. It is doing this quietly and effectively without grandstanding and flourishing rhetoric.
The Government in China does not have to pander to a largely ill-informed political constituency for its power. The politicians in the west know that they have to carry that dead weight if they want to achieve anything of substance. So most of the time they make simple populist choices and attend gab feasts so their voters think they are doing something.
My proof? Copenhagen and the majority of the comments to Greg Sheridan’s ill-informed, opinionated and poorly researched article.
China is not saying much to its people or to the world. It is simply doing it. The ‘developed’ world is saying much and doing little. Copenhagen is but a symptom of the disease.
China also remembers how friendly and trustworthy the ‘west’ has been over the last couple of hundred years. Whether the ‘west’ verifies China’s data or not is of little concern to China. Also, China certainly does not need the money, so billion $US bribes are largely ineffective. After all, America will have to borrow the money from China in the first place.
So, for those of you who wonder where China’s approach to the issue comes from and want to impose democracy and western values onto something that works well as it is, please spend a little time understanding that society and its history. Remember, China is actually doing something; we are still talking about it.
24th December 09: Copenhagen
China essentially reported the Copenhagen Agreement as a successful first step.
From China’s perspective three steps were achieved:
China emphasised that it wanted to work with the international community to tackle global challenges
"China will continue to work with the rest of the international community to tackle various global challenges with full confidence and jointly advance world peace and development," said Yang at a new year reception held by the Foreign Ministry for foreign diplomats and officials of international organizations.’
The tensions at Copenhagen were recognised, in particular the suspicion about monitoring which the developed nations hold, in particular for China, which in turn is suspicious about the bona fides of the developed nations.
The two main themes from the media in China were that China will address the issue in its own way and it will continue to ensure its economic progress.
Interestingly, unlike Australia, Copenhagen did not take centre stage in the Chinese media. The main focus was the 10th anniversary celebrations for the return of Macau to China. For Australia the politics are mainly domestic. For China they are mainly international.
The thesis is that the ‘developed’ nations are seeking to impose their culture and values on the developing nations (which can include all nations not considered. ‘developed’). That each nation has to evolve and find their own values, institutions, social structures, economic path.
China, for instance, is choosing for the moment, socialism with Chinese characteristics and a dash of capitalism. Capitalism has allowed China to unleash its economic potential. I believe that the Communist Party in China will use the wealth to improve the lot of all of its citizens. There are many examples of the focus in China changing, or broadening, to encompass the rural areas. Graduates ( of which there are a surplus) are now being encouraged to go into the country to help raise the standard of living there. Mao did a remarkable job of releasing the Chinese peasants from virtual slavery. He gave them a home, food and a sense of self-respect. Unfortunately, he also made mistakes and was unable to unleash China’s full economic potential. Therefore, he could not raise the standard of living above a very basic level. Mind you, an embargo by America did not help. Deng took that base and added a dash of capitalism. The rest is history. Indeed, history in the making.
The point is, that China will develop its own unique society. Its own unique place in the world. As the ‘developed’ nations have done. There is strength in diversity. That should be embraced and encouraged as the world stumbles along its way, ever changing and ever evolving.
24th December 09
Have they lost their marbles?
Britain ruled the waves for a couple of centuries and used its military power and commercial instincts to loot the world and become fabulously wealthy. The industrial revolution compounded that wealth.
It then had a couple of all-mighty rows and lost the lot to the new kid on the block, America.
America decided it would loot the world (Er… I mean, bring Democracy) using Wall Street, Dollar Hegemony and a huge military. It did this quite successfully for a few decades, but then its population got lazy and, urged on by Wall St., lost its bag of marbles to the next new kid on the block, China.
Where did that those marbles come from?
A lot of them came from stuffing up the environment, which subsidised a lot of the wealth creation during the industrial revolution and the growth of industrial America (and the developed west, read America for the purposes of this argument).
China essentially swapped its huge resource of cheap labour for the marbles. Along the way, in order to make things that the people in America wanted to buy ( but were too lazy to make) China also sacrificed its environment. Once again, the environment subsidised marble creation.
America and Britain (along with other developed nations which all seem to nod in agreement) now say that because China now has the marbles, it should be responsible for cleaning up the mess.
China begs to differ, saying that it is happy to do its share, but why should it curtail its marble creation due to a problem largely created by America and Britain in the first place. However, it ignores the fact that the majority of the marbles it is holding were first made in Britain and America.
So, the tricky political ( and possibly moral) problem is whether those marbles came with a hidden liability, the cost of repairing the environment that was damaged during the creation of said marbles.
The argument then shifts from being responsible for the environmental mess made by Britain and America during the manufacture of the marbles. A responsibility which at first blush is not China’s. To one of accepting the hidden liability which came with those marbles. Even though a seemingly fair exchange had taken place; Chinese widgets for American marbles.
However, the marbles China received for its widgets were in effect over valued. They did not reflect the environmental damage that was caused in their creation. That is, there would be less marbles if the environment had not been damaged along the way or repaired soon after it was damaged.
Mind you, the widgets America purchased with their over valued marbles were under valued, since they did not factor in the damage to the environment either.
That hidden liability is now being clearly recognised by the world.
The environment is not concerned about who pays. There is a real liability against the marbles and someone has to pay. If we take too long arguing over who is responsible for that debt the environment might just foreclose and we will all lose our marbles.
As I said, tricky.
3rd December 09: The Australian ETS has relevance to China, an OpEd piece I penned after it was defeated in the Australian parliament
A view from the armchair
I freely admit I am an armchair politician. My ‘hobby’ is watching politics. I am not a scientist so I have no hope of understanding the science behind climate change. I am not an economist, so I have no real hope of understanding the complex ETS that was put to our parliament. I am reasonably well educated and would hope I have an open and inquiring mind.
The international debate on climate change and man’s impact on the environment has been going on since I first became aware of things outside football, girls and generally have a youthful good time – the early 70’s. Well, Rachel Carson did have a bit to say one spring back in the 60’s.
It seems to me that a general theme of environmental politics has been one of pessimism. ‘The End is Nigh’ was the usual inaccurate prediction by the average hairy and/or loopy environmentalist. Then in the 90’s it started to become mainstream. As one columnist recently noted, it had become a necessary accessary of the café latte set, or, as I call them, bleeding heart liberals. Pessimism, ‘The End is Nigh’ mindset, is still the general theme. Causing alarm among the great unwashed, a point not lost on most politicians.
My study of environmental law, both international and domestic, was in itself an education. I started off thinking I had novel and original solutions to all the world’s problems. A little like the café latte set. I soon discovered that it had all been considered by eminent minds. Treaties and protocols had been drafted and signed up to by governments scattered throughout our fair blue planet. The trouble was that as ex New Zealand PM, and noted international environmentalist, David Longey noted: “Nothing serious was being done about it.”
Then in the last decade our little blue planet started to noticeably melt and there was a collective henny penny response, along the lines of, ‘Deep s..t, the world is melting, we had better rustle up some politicians to do something about it!??” The café latte set all purchased a curly light bulb on their gold MasterCard and sat back to discuss it further.
Soon, everyone was totally convinced that man made climate change had ‘arrived’ and was about to engulf us. After all, the science was serious, incontrovertible and settled. Then, dimly, through the fog of scientific grants, UN Bodies and politicians who can recognise a bandwagon when they see one, we start to discern a thin reedy voice of dissent. Such a voice is Louis Hissink, an experienced and senior geologist. I confess, at first I did not understand where he was coming from. He seemed to be, unbelievably, a climate sceptic. A person who was intent of dooming my children to penury and dirty water.
Then, after prying my mind open a little and staring intently through the fog of ‘settled science’ I started to perceive the essence of his argument. That is, as I understand it, that there does appear to be climate change and indeed polar caps and glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, however, it has little to do with man’s puny efforts to stuff up the planet. After all, as any geologist worth his or her salt knows, the plant is really really big and mans efforts are really really small in comparison. He also noted that the science is far from settled and, as is now being shown, is rather a dog’s breakfast of grant driven opinion in search of a fact. It is informative to read his argument, linked above.
Of course, he could be wrong and indeed we should give the planet the benefit of the doubt. If I understand him correctly, he agrees that man generated pollution should be curbed and where possible eliminated. However, it should not be a panic response. The science is not settled and economies should not be burned at the stake so politicians can be seen to be doing something. I am sure Copernicus would agree. Indeed, politicians quite often mistake opinion for fact and activity for progress (please note Ms Wong).
I too have a high regard for Malcolm Turnbull’s ability (though, he does not appear to have the knack of politics just yet). In the last few weeks I had become deeply troubled that we appeared to have Kevin in two shades on this matter and had lost an opposition prepared to question rather than just negotiate around the edges. However, I should not have been pessimistic. Australian politics is alive and well! We now have Tony Abbot prepared to stand up and bring on a healthy debate about climate change and how we in Australia should address the issue.
It used to be regarded as intellectually sound to question science. Scepticism produced good science. Now it is heresy. So, I suppose it is good we have a Catholic who understands these matters to take up the cudgels.
It is just bloody silly that we try to lead the world on this matter.
The solution is in the hands of China and America. China is starting the lead the world now on how to develop and implement alternative energy solutions. America will do its bit, eventually. After all it has immense resources of intellect and entrepreneurial spirit. It’s just a little tied up with sorting out its economy at the moment.
Tony Abbot is not a climate sceptic. Rather, he has the intellect to question the science. That is healthy. He is also prepared to question the standard solutions being touted in the world at the moment. Further, quite rightly, in my opinion, he is waiting to see what the China and America will do before committing Australia to the complex solution touted by the labor government (and all bleeding heart liberals), the ETS. A solution that is probably flawed, definitely ineffectual in terms of the world environment and expensive. The true ideological roots of the labor party has been exposed with the ETS. That is, everything can be solved with a new tax and a new bureaucracy.
You see, I am not in the least bit pessimistic. I know we will find a solution to all this. You only have to watch Quantum on the ABC to know just how clever we are as a species.
If climate change exists (and I believe the science is even out on that) and it is primarily caused by man then sober reflection is called for. Not knee jerk reactions spurred on by the café latte set. Settle petals, go buy another curly light bulb and let the real minds on this plant deal with the matter. If man is not the prime cause then there is no real hurry anyway and a little sober reflection will still go a long way.
Tony Abbot has the necessary conviction and courage to shine a fresh light on this important matter.
Three recent articles of relevance:
24th December 09: A Further View
The armchair, Part II
Over the weekend I put down my class of scotch, stirred out of my armchair and ran my article past a number of people to see what the response would be. I should have kept hold of the scotch.
Those who were convinced that man caused climate change and believed that at least an ETS was doing something about it, all simply categorised the article as denying global warming and assumed I was advocating doing nothing. I was a climate skeptic!!! I had the sneaking suspicion that if there had of been a stake and a cigarette lighter handy I would have been in serious trouble. What concerned my though, was that as soon as they detected an alternative view they shut down completely and either stopped listening or started to throw rocks? How do you engage these people in serious argument? A problem Mr Abbott will have to address.
Now, Mr Turnbull has started to throw rocks. I will have to revise my opinion of him. At the moment he is acting like a petulant schoolboy. The liberal party has spoken. The first polls show support for that decision. The two by-elections show support for that decision. Grow up Turnbull and accept that sometimes people just don’t agree with you. I noted John Howard’s comment on how Turnbull ran the Republic Debate. Turnbull sought to categorise anyone who did not agree with him and support the republic as somehow a lesser citizen of Australia. He used the same tactic in the ETS debate. Australians did not buy it either time.
Back to comments made on my article. Those who were sceptical of the science and therefore the ETS all agreed of course but some seemed to generally miss the point that I was not advocating a do nothing approach at all.
On the issue of climate change. The argument is whether it is man made, and something we can ameliorate, or is it simply a natural climate event over which man has little influence. That is essentially what the scientists are arguing about.
Irrespective of the climate change argument, I advocate that man-made pollution (which, of course, includes carbon emissions) should be curbed and where possible eliminated. It is interesting that most missed that sentence in the article.
If man-made pollution is the primary cause of climate change then the job will be done. If it is not then it will have the immediate benefit of improving the environment for many people.
The issue then becomes, not the motivation behind curbing pollution but how the pollution can be reduced or eliminated.
The answer touted by the majority of people who, with seemingly religious fervour, believe that man is the cause of global warming is the global ETS.
No one I spoke to understands it, including myself. When asked about it, the answers were vague generalisations about reducing green house gasses or that it had something to do with carbon. When asked about how the ETS will do that, and by how much, bewilderment was the general response.
We have just had the global financial (GFC) crisis, which was real, did happen and we are still suffering the financial fallout. The GFC was bought about by out of control capitalism. Global economies and finance were being run by bull capitalists, as I call them.
Much has been done to understand man’s impact on the environment. A body of international and domestic law has been built up. All sorts of memorandums of understanding, treaties and what not have been signed up to. The trouble is, the net general effect, while positive, does seem to be falling short of the mark.
It is now my opinion the ETS is misbegotten spawn, the result of a bull capitalist raping a socialist greenie.
It is the one instance I suspect where Tony Abbott would have agreed to an abortion taking place. As, when you think about it, he did.
In a democracy, the trouble with crafting a solution is that the great unwashed all want a solution, they want it now but they do not want to pay for it.
They want clean energy but do not want their power bills to rise or anything that is produced as a result of power generation. That is, just about everything.
The problem was vividly demonstrated by the ETS as it grovelled its way through parliament. Yes, admitted the smiling Kevin and his side kick, Ms Wong, it will increase the cost of just about everything but never fear, we will use the money generated to compensate you or compensate those nasty polluters instead which will stop them from passing it on to you ………. Problem solved!
So any incentive to reduce the carbon footprint of polluters, both large and small, was neutered.
Instead we had a vast merry go round of money and a magic pudding policy where that pesky climate problem would be fixed and it was not going to cost anyone anything. Classic political economics 101 in a democracy.
Someone, somewhere has to pay. Either now, or if we continue to flick pass it, future generations.
As well, we were going to hand the pricing mechanism to international bull capitalists who would have made squillions dancing with the derivates. All of which would not have reduced pollution by one jot. It would however have handed over an alarming chunk of our sovereignty.
My suggestion is to apply the KISS principle (keep it simple stupid). Put a cap on pollution of all kinds (which of course includes carbon emissions) and gradually reduce it over time. Let the cost of that cap be reflected in the price of the goods and services. Increased costs will result in reduced demand and innovative solutions. Businesses will not go broke, they will evolve.
But remember, someone, somewhere has to pay.
For example, I received my first heating bill after moving to Tasmania this year. It spurred action. The first was to ensure my heating was as efficient and cost effective as possible. The second was to reduce my demand for power. By the end of next year I will be generating enough power through solar and wind to be supplying the grid with green power.
That is of course, not open to everyone. However it clearly demonstrated that price increases initiate immediate action.
Of course, those in our society who are truly diss-advantaged should be helped to cope with this change to our economy.
The externalisation of costs has resulted in this mess. Why not start to redress that?
The result will be a cleaner more sustainable environment and if climate change is man-made, it will redress that as well.
If it is not, then we have a whole new problem on our collective hands. One we cannot conveniently ignore by externalising the cost.
Man may or may not be causing climate change, but man is definitely causing significant pollution to the environment. Why does it have to be another disaster scenario that spurs action? Why not just accept that if we want to go on living as we do, or aspire to live as others do, there is a cost to the environment and at some point it will have to be paid. The environment is a patient banker, but eventually she will foreclose if we do mend out spendthrift ways.
The New York Times - 24th August 09
The Daughter Deficit
It is rarely good to be female anywhere in the developing world today, but in India and China the situation is dire: in those countries, more than 1.5 million fewer girls are born each year than demographics would predict, and more girls die before they turn 5 than would be expected.
Kaixin - Our experience within our family and friends is nothing of the sort. Though we concede that there is differing degrees of discrimination towards girls depending on wealth and location. Our generalexperience is of comfortable middle class where there is still the breath of discrimination and boys are certainly more highly regarded.
The Australian - 1st August 09
Rebiya Kadeer a small but charismatic thorn in Beijing's side
UIGHUR leader Rebiya Kadeer has replaced the Dalai Lama as China's enemy No 1. THE new No1 hate figure targeted by the ruling Chinese Communist Party arrives in Australia in a few days: Rebiya Kadeer.
Kaixin - One people's freedom fighter is another people's terrorist .....
Asia Times Online 19th June 09
Flaws in China's digital dissidents
By Alice Liu
BEIJING - Despite having a reputation in the West as trailblazing citizen journalists, many of China's young bloggers are seen by Chinese as egocentric, showy and self-serving. Most come from the "me generation", a derisive term for youths born after the nation began its strictly enforced one-child policy in 1979.
Kaixin – Yep, that is Kaixin’s observation also. Much noise and heat but no call for democracy, except at the fringes. The youth that Kaixin speak to lead a comfortable middle class existence. They are all only children pampered by parents and often grand-parents who live with them. Graeme, being an only child himself, has long pointed out the looming issue of a generation of only children taking power in China. They will probably throw an izzy fit when the don’t get their own way. AND, there is a majority of males, so imagine all those hormones with no-where to go.
On a serious note, they are also fiercely patriotic and have used their tech-democracy to support China on several issues. They may be a-political on a domestic level, but they are aware of China’s growing place in the world. It is also a generation that, like all generations before it, will throw up the necessary talent to lead China.
OBAMA, CHANGE AND CHINA, Part 5
Group of Two the wrong number
By Henry C K Liu
As former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski's "Group of Two" (or G-2) concept of a US-China convergence in geopolitical interests is not yet official US policy, China is likely to merely keep monitoring signs of its evolution in US policymaking without direct formal official response, while exploiting the concept's diplomatic possibilities for improving bilateral relations
Kaixin - A serious and in-depth read. Well worth the time.
The New York Times 17th June 09
China Backpedals on Filtering Software Order
''The use of this software is not compulsory,'' said the official, who would not give his name as is customary with Chinese officials. Executives from the company that created the software had said earlier that it was possible to uninstall Green Dam but it was not clear until Tuesday that the government's new regulation would not penalize people who chose not to use it.
Kaixin - Do I smell a beat up here?? '... it was not clear' is a neat cop out. How many laws and regulations in the west are hazy or unclear on the first draft? Many. It keeps lawyers in work. I suspect the Government did indeed support software to filter out violence and pornography but did not intend to have an army of inspector 'gadgets' checking each and everyPC. Tech - Democracy is alive and well in China, as the NY Times article points out. The Government would have been aware thatusing heavy handed methods will not work any more. The power of themobile phone and text message is slowly growing in China. A point covered in Kaixin for several moths now.
And .... Australia has been trying to get the same thing up and running for a couple of years now. Fortunately the Minister and Government Department in charge are too incompetent to manage it.
Chinalco sweet as rescue goes sour
CHINALCO has heaped praise on the Australian government's attitude to foreign investment, but its chairman Xiong Weiping has described the collapse of its $US19.5 billion ($24bn) deal with Rio Tinto as a setback that will likely see the company scale back its acquisition ambitions.
Kaixin – So all the screaming headlines, following the move by RIO to partner with BHP rather than CHINALCO , that those pesky Chinese will take their bat and go home whilst planning devious oriental revenges are for nought. The journalists and editors should try to grow up. The response by CHINALCO shows a mature nation dealingwith complex international issues.
Part one of the Rio revenge likely to see China steer investment beyond Australia
There was never going to be a happy ending in the race for Rio's iron ore fields. IT MIGHT be tempting to think BHP Billiton has won, Chinalco has lost, Kevin Rudd has dodged the political bullet and Australia can now get back to growing rich by selling rocks to China from a comfortable distance.
Chinese executives say Canberra's response to their overtures has been confused, unprincipled and discriminatory. They seem determined to direct the next round of investment and trade deals elsewhere.
Kaixin Update - Kaixin hears that the fluff on Kevin Rudd's (Australian Prime Minister) & Malcolm Turnbull’s (Australian opposition leader) jackets is from under the bed where they have been communing with Sir Robert Menzies (Australian Prime Minister in the 1950’s – 1960’s ) about these pesky reds.
Asia Times Online (6th June 09)
Hong Kong holds a candle for Tiananmen
By Kent Ewing
In the only act of open defiance on Chinese soil, an estimated 150,000 people gathered for a candle-light vigil in the city's Victoria Park to commemorate the tragedy, demanding that the Chinese leadership reverse its harsh verdict on the demonstrators and admit it was mistaken to launch a military strike on a spontaneous pro-democracy movement led by a bunch of naive, idealistic students.
Kaixin – As China has approximately 700 times the population of Australia, that is the same as 210 people holding a mass demonstration in Canberra. Sorry if the maths is not 100%, but you get the picture. Kaixin does agree that the students were led by ‘a bunch of naïve, idealistic students’. Just like the students that took power during the Cultural Revolution when Mao used them to cling to power. Deng knew the potential of student power unleashed and moved to stifle it at birth. Thus stifling the incipient power grab from the old guard within the party. The world has enjoyed the benefits of China’s industrial revolution. Most of the politicians that wept and beat their breasts over Tiananmen Square are now China consultants. There is a continuing lack of understanding about China and a breathless hypocricy by manywho criticise.
The New York Times (5th June 09)
In Art, an Ex-Soldier Revisits Tiananmen
BEIJING — Soaked in sweat, his heart racing, Chen Guang descended the steps of China’s Great Hall of the People and aimed his automatic rifle at the sea of student protesters occupying Tiananmen Square. A 17-year-old soldier from the countryside, Mr. Chen and his comrades had just been given chilling orders: to clear the symbolic heart of the nation, even if it meant spilling blood.
Kaixin – Xiaosui’s version is that the troops were specifically told not to shoot to kill, but to wound in the event the troops were attacked. She points out that most of the troops would have had family members (distant or otherwise) in the square and if a massacre had been ordered they would have rebelled. After all, as this young soldier points out, he was just a frightened kid at the time. Whether there were deaths or not Graeme Mills has no knowledge (therefore he offers no comment) and Xiaosui, who was not at Tiananmen Square, simply states that there was no general order to massacre the students, indeed the order that she is aware of was to wound only if the soldiers were attacked. Graeme’s opinion is that if they had wanted to, then China could have been extremely heavy handed.Kaixin doubts it was concern for how the west would respond. Throughout the incident and after,the ‘west’ continued to trade with China and apart from offering weak token protests did nothing. Why? What knowledge did the powers that be have that rendered all their breast beating and tears void. They must have had people watching what went on very closely.
Geithner Says China Has Faith in U.S.
BEIJING — Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner ended his first visit to China on Tuesday by saying that his meetings here had begun to lay the foundation for greater cooperation between Washington and Beijing on a wide range of issues, including the global finance and climate change.
Kaixin – It was not that long ago that America could not have cared less whether China had faith in it or no. This dialogue between China and the U.S., indeed the West, bodes well for the world in general and the planet in particular.
The NewYork Times
‘Here Come the Workers!’
WHEN I think about 1989, the date I remember most clearly is May 28, a week before the crackdown in Tiananmen Square. That was the day I organized a major demonstration of factory workers in Nanjing, hundreds of miles south of Beijing.
During that time, my ear was glued to my shortwave radio, and I learned about the crackdown at Tiananmen from foreign broadcasts. Feeling defeated, I left China in 1990. When I returned a few years later, I found a booming economy and, eventually, a space called “privacy” that hadn’t really existed before. People could finally dress and date as they pleased. Lijia Zhang is the author of “‘Socialism Is Great!’: A Worker’s Memoir of the New China.”
Kaixin – You have to be careful when you read breathless insights into China from authors who are either Chinese or China Watchers. The most strident ones have not lived in China for over twenty years. When Western China Watchers visit China they mostly, it would seem, visit dissidents and so get a one-sided view of China. Note that Li Jia Zhang returned after a few years and lives there still. She found the China that Kaixin knows. Xiaosui points out that if the Chinese Government had wanted to kill the leaders of the Tiananmen Square protests they could easily have done so. Not only did they not kill them, they mostly let them leave China. She also points out that it was backed by power brokers who were using Mao’s model from the Cultural Revolution to seize power. The general view of people in China, many of whom participated in the protests, is that they were naïve and were being manipulated in a power struggle much higher up. Note also, that Li Jia Zhang was allowed to return to China. Kaixin is also acutely aware that we will be patted on the head by the trendy lefties (bit ironic that, a left wing socialist not understanding the ‘mother country’) and told that Xiaosui was indoctrinated and does not really know what went on. Ah well, China is bigger that all that.
China blamed for US net raids
The Dalai Lama's offices and computers in the Indian embassy were hacked in March, again by a group that appeared to be emanating from China (the Chinese Government denied involvement). Lockheed Martin had its computers accessed by hackers over two years seeking information on the F-35 fighter project. If hackers can penetrate a defence contractor, why not air traffic control, the electricity grid, the transport system, the financial system or a chemical plant?
Kaixin - Good Point ….. and, America would never think of hacking into China’s computers, would they? Perhaps the disaster scenarios hinted at in the article will not happen because of mutual deterance. A little like everyone having nuclear bombs. The armagedon result would be out of proportion to the gain of shutting down traffic control, electricity grids and the like. Let’s hope so.
China tells EU: don't interfere in Tibet
China took the lead in talks with the European Union on Wednesday, warning Europe not to interfere in its internal affairs and promising to boost imports from the recession-hit bloc. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao easily shrugged off EU pressure to commit to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions - although he was supportive of EU efforts to strike a global climate-change accord this year.
Kaixin – This obsession with Tibet based, it would appear, on knowledge gained through the dregs of a glass of chardonnay is rather tedious. The mantra of the bleeding heart liberals never changes. So while the talks were broad-ranging, including climate change and significant economic issues, the headline was as usual miss-leading and patronising. The focus of the talks was not Tibet, except in the minds of EU journalists and politicians huddled around their glasses of chardonnay in ‘oh so serious’ discussions. Then, again,the EU is renowned for holding talks, it is what it does best. The focus of the talks was China's engagment with the world.
There are several OpEd comments on the issue of Tibet below.
The New York Times
The Confucian Party
But it doesn’t follow that we should be pessimistic about China’s political evolution. Packaging the debate in terms of “democracy” versus “authoritarianism” may crowd out other possibilities that appeal to Chinese political reformers.
Kaixin – At last!! A sensible approach to the issue of the political evolution of China. China does not want to emulate the western political systems, but that is not to say it is not open to evolving its own which will be based on Chinese tradition, values and history. It is important to remember that China as an entity has been around for 5,000 years. The Communist Party, just 60, and it has evolved within that time span. Given another 100 years it will evolve even further as each succeeding generation brings fresh ideas to the table.
The New York Times
China Can’t Have It Both Ways
The Chinese government issued two statements last Thursday. Both were only briefly, and separately, noted in the press. They make for a curious contrast. In one, China denounced Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Aso for making an offering to the Yasukuni shrine. In the other statement, China demanded that the United States cancel a visit by the Dalai Lama
Kaixin – The Editorial shows the usual lack of understanding of Chinese culture and history. The two are separate issues and call for different policies. The Editorial shows a lack of understanding of the Tibetan issues, which is clearly seen through the rose tinted glasses of the Dalai Lama. It also shows a lack of knowledge of the atrocities committed by the Japanese in the first half of the 20th Century when they invaded and occupied a weakened China, in particular the rape of Nanking. Japan has never apologised to China and does not acknowledge its history. Making an offering to the Shrine by Japan’s Prime Minister throws that history in China’s face.
Asia Times Online
Eileen Chang's fractured legacy
By Peter Lee
In 1976, Eileen Chang's close friend, Stephen Soong, earnestly advised her not to risk her reputation as a cultural icon - and her position in the Taiwan literary market - by publishing an autobiographical novel entitled Little Reunion.
Kaixin - An interesting cultural insight
The New York Times
China Rights Activist Beaten at Cemetery
Last Saturday was tomb-sweeping day, when the Chinese traditionally honor the dead. Sun Wenguang, a 75-year-old retired professor, was one of many to visit the cemetery. Apparently, though, he chose the wrong death to commemorate. He came to remember Zhao Ziyang, a former Communist Party prime minister and general secretary who lost his position in the party and his freedom after sympathizing with student-led, pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Mr. Zhao, who died in 2005, is viewed by some democracy advocates as a martyr.
Kaixin – This is indeed disturbing if the State are using underground means of silencing opposition. I would hope, and believe, it was the private initiative of a lessor minion in the hierarchy. Remember, China is just 30 years from that sort of State control and many in positions of power must still be influenced by that era and its slow demise.
Asia Times Online
China keeps Tibetan chaos at bay
By Saransh Sehgal
In his speech marking the anniversary, the Dalai Lama accused the Chinese Communist Party of turning Tibet into "hell on earth". China's state-run Xinhua News Agency immediately issued commentaries, in both Chinese and English, saying it was under the Dalai Lama's rule that Tibetan serfs were living in "hell on earth". Internet services in Lhasa and other places were cut off ahead of the uprising anniversary. "We must build up a Great Wall in our fight against separatism and safeguard the unity of the motherland," Chinese President Hu Jintao said Monday at an NPC group discussion panel attended by Tibetan delegates.
Kaixin – That just about sums it up. The Dalai Lama and his supporters want to rule Tibet again as a separate State and look back nostalgically at the good times when they did. China has an historical claim on Tibet and sees Tibet as a part of China. In the 1950’s China swept away the old feudal and monastic hierarchy and restored the land and their freedoms to the serfs. To lose Tibet would undermine the unity and strength of China. That will not be allowed to happen. Indeed, if the ‘west’ had been serious about Tibetan concerns, they could once have restored Tibetan independence by force and stationed a permanent army there, as per Korea. Now it is too late. The dragon has stirred and would swish away an invading force with a flick of its tail.
OBAMA, CHANGE AND CHINA, Part 2
A dangerous balance
By Henry C K Liu
Since the end of World War II, the issue of China has extended beyond the confines of foreign policy to stay as a prominent bone of contention in US domestic politics. Until Richard Nixon's opening to China in 1972, the old anti-communist China lobby was in many ways as controversially powerful as the Israeli lobby.
Kaixin – A must read for anyone interested in China. If you have not done so already, read part one first. In-depth and insightful, as ever from Henry CK Liu.
Chinese leader rules out West's democracy path
IN A speech to the National People's Congress, the leader of China's parliament has said that China would never adopt a Western-style democracy with a multi-party system. … The remarks by Wu Bangguo established a hard line against political reform at a time when China's leaders are notably worried about the possibility of public protests. … Without a single Communist Party in control, he argued, a nation as large as China "would be torn by strife and incapable of accomplishing anything".
Kaixin – Given China’s history and a demographic which is still dominated by under-educated rural workers, this is an understandable stance. Before shrieking that it is against poitical reform, perhaps it would be better to research the feeling of the educated majority in China. Kaixin’s understanding from talking to many in the educated middle-class is that they support a one party state because it is the best way of ensuring that China is strong.
US angered by Chinese naval manoeuvres
FIVE Chinese vessels moved close to a US Navy ship in the South China Sea, closing within 8m of the surveillance ship… Although Chinese ships and planes often approach US ships in international waters, the incident followed what the Defence Department said was "increasingly aggressive conduct by Chinese vessels" in the past week -- with Chinese boats steaming near US ships and aircraft flying low overhead.
Kaixin – Can you imagine the howls of outrage if China sent survellance vessels that close to America’s coastline.
"There's no ethnic conflict here," Cairang Dao'erqu, a Tibetan official at the foreign affairs bureau who goes by his Chinese name, said over a lunch during this reporter's detention. "Look in the streets - everything is peaceful here. The Chinese, Tibetan and Hui people all get along. Tibetans say they have no idea what might take place today. Last week, the Dalai Lama urged Tibetans not to be provoked by the Chinese, saying any radical moves would give the Chinese Government an excuse to take harsher steps. "It is difficult to achieve a meaningful outcome," he said, "by sacrificing lives
Kaixin – We are back to the warm fuzzies again when the ‘west’ reads the newspaper over a cup of coffee and discusses with oh so serious concern the plight of those poor Tibetans. There is two sides to this debate, but the western media has not moved on from the cold war. It is interesting that while expressing concern over human rights and Tibet (while looking the other way about our own issues), the ‘west’ accepts investment from China.
Big powers must devise a rescue plan for Pakistan
Ever seen one of those game-parlour gizmos that invite you to whack a mole? The gametop has maybe a dozen holes. When the game starts, a little black mole will suddenly poke its head out of one of the openings. You have to whack it on the head with a mallet before it darts back into its burrow. The faster you hit them, the faster they pop out. They're completely unpredictable and quite maddening. You end up in a frenzy of whacking but you can never keep up with the pests. The moles always win.
Kaixin – Pakistan is the main game in town at the moment. How China responds to what is going on will be interesting in terms of how China sees its role as the new international ‘power’. A role handed to it by the greed and incompetancy of the political and economic managers in the west, in particular ‘Wall Street’.
The International Herald Tribune
Top bid on disputed Yves Saint Laurent bronzes was a protest from China
The apparent winning bidder for two prized Chinese sculptures in a Paris auction surfaced Monday, a Chinese collector and auctioneer who said it was his patriotic duty to refuse to pay the $40 million he had pledged. Cai Mingchao said at a news conference in Beijing that he had made the anonymous successful bids last week for the 18th-century bronzes, the heads of a rat and a rabbit. Cai described himself as a consultant with the Lost Cultural Relics Recovery Program, a nongovernmental group that seeks to bring looted artifacts back to China. In the days leading up to the sale, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing had said the bronzes were part of China's cultural patrimony and demanded their return. A group of Chinese lawyers tried to block the auction with a lawsuit, but a French court allowed the sale to proceed.
Kaixin – a fundamental principal at common law is that stolen goods remain stolen goods. Title is not gained through purchase by a third party. Hence, if you buy a cheap video off the street and it is found to be stolen, the original owner can claim the video back. The thief had not gained title to video, merely possession. Hence he/she was not able to pass on that title. It is therefore breathtaking that a French court found otherwise. It must have based it decision on spoils of war or the like. However, the sculptures had been stolen, that is certain. As stolen property at no stage could true title be obtained by any purchaser, at law or morally. The Chinese nation retained and retains title. The sculptures should be returned to the people of China, their rightful owners.
Economic turmoil 'is' - still - the news today. I penned this mid 2007, it was perhaps prescient.
"Tai gui le - Too expensive"
Those were the first Chinese words I used. I had walked out of the customs area at GuangZhou airport and was an obvious mark for the helpful young men who descended on me. One led me off with much gesticulating and obvious heartfelt concern for my well-being. The asking price for helping to negotiate around 60 metres was 100 Yuan. I did not know if that was too expensive but I did know that all prices had to be negotiated, so I negotiated. He looked crestfallen, as if I had insulted his mother, grandmother and a string of ancestors. I probably just looked confused. Hence the final price was 60 yuan, which was probably three times as much as I should have paid.
On time, 99% of the time. Dream on. The one announcement burned into my psyche is along the lines of , rattle, squawk, static, we regret to inform you that flight CS - 983 to Nanning has been delayed. They pack many more people into Chinese domestic aeroplanes. I got an un-interrupted view of the cabin wall, while resting my knees in my ears.
On the flight into GuangZhou I saw how a country could accommodate 1.4 billion people. They do it in countless high-rise apartment blocks. I was intrigued to see farmers working the land beside the airport and in and about the high-rise apartments and factories. That was to become a feature of China for me: the 21st Century beside millennia of tradition - poverty side by side with wealth.
In the West we rely on fossil fuels to plant and harvest our food and transport it to where the population is. In China, they rely on labour to a far greater extent to do the same thing (though that is obviously changing, seen the price of oil lately?). Hence, if there is a major oil shock, the industrial capacity of China will be affected, but they will still be able to feed themselves, basically. How will we do that in the 'west', since we cannot even plant the crops without fossil fuel, let alone have the widespread knowledge to do so? I am not a doom-sayer, indeed I am optimistic about the [re]emergence of China. However, I know which world leaders will be more relaxed about a world oil shock in the short term.
My China experience is not travelling and sightseeing, it is not going from doss house to doss house and living on noodles, it is not travelling on public transport (though I did go on an extended overnight train journey to KunMing, of which I will regale you with tales of woe and discomfort later), it is not business, it is not teaching. It is fitting into the heart of a middle class Chinese family and a close network of friends in a small Chinese city largely un-influenced by the west. Indeed, I have only met two Europeans while in China. When I am in China, I live in an apartment in the centre of the city beside a lake.
Nanning is located about 250 north of the Vietnamese border. It has always been the trading city between China and Vietnam and still is. It hosts a major Expo each October for SE Asia and is looking to become a hub for SE Asian commerce. Like all cities in China, it is constantly evolving and growing, with apartment blocks springing up like the proverbial mushrooms.
On my last stay, as I was being driven around, rather alarmingly in a taxi, I could not help thinking to myself that if the people in America are wondering where all their money has gone, I can tell them. It has been and is being used to build high-rise buildings and factories in China.
I think of America and China as two houses side by side. America had built a large mansion and tended its gardens very well, growing food and flowers. Beside it was a small mud hut with the land being inefficiently tilled. Then the people in the mud hut started to make clothes for the rich people next door, who soon forgot how to make their own clothes. Then the people in the mud hut built a second mud hut and asked the people in the rich mansion if they could help them set up a factory and show them the technology to make widgets, of which the people in the rich mansion where particularly fond and which were a real pain to make. Best of all, the people in the mud hut could make the widgets for less and less money. And, although widgets had onlya limited life, that was OK, since they could keep on buying them from the people in the mud hut for ever and ever, cheaper and cheaper. There was obviously no need for the people in the rich mansion to ever work again; the people in the mud hut would do it for them. And so on and so on. However, the people in the rich mansion soon found that without working they could not buy widgets, or clothes. So rather than work, they first spent their savings, which didn’t take long, since they were very meagre indeed. Then they persuaded their friendly central bank to print lots of money and being devilishly clever, they paid for the widgets with bits of paper. Ha Ha Ha, sucks on you Chinese. BUT! those little bits of paper were still real claims on the wealth of the Rich Mansion. Counterfeiting is such and ugly word.
Over time, the people in the rich mansion not only gave all their money to the people in the mud hut and told them how to make just about everything, they, rather than work, borrowed money to purchase their widgets from the people in the mud-hut who all the time were very polite and smiled a lot, while reading Sun Tzu, 'The Art of War'.
Now, in 2008, the people in the rich mansion - which is starting to need some maintenance, I gotta tell you - are in effect renting from the people in the mud hut who have watched in amusement as this young nation full of hormones goes around the world fighting everyone and throwing its wealth away. 'The Art of War' counsels that you should never extend your lines or dissipate your strength on far away battles, and that the nation that does will surely lose the war.
I use the references to 'The Art of War' in an economic tactical and strategic sense not a military sense. China is certainly not looking for a war (in the western sense) with any county. Well, possibly with the exception of Taiwan ... in the fullness of time ... when it is propitious .…. when the people in the rich mansion are fixing their leaking roof.
Now, courtesy of Mr and Mrs Lehman, the people in the rich mansion are bankrupt and the people in the mud hut are eyeing off the rich mansion. I wonder how the people from the rich mansion will go living in the mud hut?
Tai gui le - too expensive!
Sydney Morning Herald
Advantage Chinalco: West loses credit race
THE LOSS-MAKING Chinese miner Chinalco has claimed its investment in Rio Tinto will improve its financial position, raising concerns that Chinalco's ability to gain access to cheap, state-backed financing gives it an unfair advantage over Western rivals such as BHP Billiton during the global credit crunch. … If credit lines were open, it is likely Rio would be able to solve its debt problems by other means and would not need to turn to its largest shareholder for help.
Kaixin – So, over the past three and a bit decades the west has been busily creating money out of thin air and borrowing it to throw one of the biggest parties in history. No need to work, those busy Chinese will do it for us. One long holiday. Alas, all holidays have to come to an end, and this one has. As we leave our Ferrari behind us and trudge home we look over the dusty road and see a vision. All the time we were on holiday the Chinese had been converting their inexhaustible supply of cheap labour for real money, and, horror of horrors, saving it. Definitely unsporting of them. Now as the west tries to come to grips with the deflating of their debt economies they go in search of partners with real money. Yes, they trudge across their dusty road to the paved roads of China and give away huge chunks of their companies.
Note, the Chinese aren’t using thin air money to invest, they are using real money. The west has gone from being taken for a ride by their central banks to hitching a ride from those thrifty Chinese.
China can't stop India's missile system
By Peter J Brown
India considers its emerging anti-missile system an absolute necessity. As each day passes, the signs of instability in Pakistan become more troubling and the drum beat grows louder from Pakistan's Swat Valley, where a militant culture is taking root which is neither tolerant nor passive in nature. Beijing cannot be happy about India's anti-missile plans and what this might mean for China's long-term strategic interests in the region. More than anything else, it is the uncertainty of the outcome that is causing it such discomfort. The US seems determined to surround China with US-built anti-missile systems
Kaixin – ‘The US seems determined to surround China with US-built anti-missile systems.’ Relax! Good ol’ Uncle Sam will protect you, they’re just for defence, honest. We can’t even spell containment.
Beijing clamps down on critics
John Garnaut, Beijing
BEIJING authorities are stepping up intimidation tactics to silence public demands for democratic reforms, with more than 20 security officials taking away one activist for questioning at the weekend. Wang was questioned through the night about his involvement in a forthcoming human rights report for the Hong Kong-based human rights group as well as Charter 08, a liberal manifesto that has spooked security officials since its publication last month.
"I believe President Hu Jintao has the wisdom and ability to deal with this charter," he said. "I don't think he will be very hard on the people who have just signed the charter and who believe in the charter — because almost every person believes in it. "This is a belief in constitutional democracy — it is the big trend of history and just political common sense."
This year is the 100th year of China's Constitution, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 30th anniversary of the birth of the Democracy Wall, and the 10th year since China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. After experiencing a prolonged period of human rights disasters and a tortuous struggle and resistance, the awakening Chinese citizens are increasingly and more clearly recognizing that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal common values shared by all humankind, and that democracy, a republic, and constitutionalism constitute the basic structural framework of modern governance. A "modernization" bereft of these universal values and this basic political framework is a disastrous process that deprives humans of their rights, corrodes human nature, and destroys human dignity. Where will China head in the 21st century? Continue a "modernization" under this kind of authoritarian rule? Or recognize universal values, assimilate into the mainstream civilization, and build a democratic political system? This is a major decision that cannot be avoided.
Kaixin – Until I met Xiaosui, I thought that democracy was, indeed, just political common sense. However, Xiaosui has pointed out that in history when China has been waring with itself, with no clear leader, it has been weak and vulnerable. When China had a clear, strong leader, it was also strong. She says that if your counry is weak, you are weak. If your country is strong, you are strong.
She illustrates this with history, but also with the story of her uncle whose factories were consficated by the Japanese in the late 1930’s. She points out that if China had been strong, then the Japanese could not have raped and pillaged their way through the land in the 1930’s/early 40’s. They could not have taken her uncle’s factory.
Her concern is that democracy will simply weaken China. She voices the concern of the middle class in China I believe.
A basic pre-requisite for democracy is education. Is the general population of China, including the rural and urban workers, sufficiently educated now? I don’t know. Is the general population of Australia, America, and so on sufficiently educated. I sometimes doubt it. It is a big call to make.
The masses now can readily unite in China through the internet and mobile phone text messages, a formof democracy. Will that grow into a call for democracy as envisaged by the west? I see little evidence of that.
I suspect that if you asked a cross-section of those calling for democracy to define just what they meant, you would get a startlingly diverse range of answers.
The middle class will not rebel against a system that has given them so much material wealth. Xiaosui, her family and her friends are all middle class. They are certainly not calling for a change of political regime. They are highly educated, intelligent and aware. They are just not interested in politics on the level of Charter 08.
I am sure the government in China realises that all it has to do to avoid a democratic revolution is make sure that wealth is more evenly distributed. Indeed, it is doing just that.
Widipedia has a good section on Charter 08, but the critics of China are the usual bunch of suspects. Whence does the general call for change in China come from? It is, I suspect, but a small eddy in a da feng.
A return to De Gaulle's 'eternal China'
By David Gosset
One repeatedly attributes to French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte a statement that he probably never uttered and which has become an inept cliche: "When China awakes, the world will shake." However, in a press conference on September 9, 1965, president Charles de Gaulle did pronounce a more nuanced and accurate view: "A fact of considerable significance is at work and is reshaping the world: China's very deep transformation puts her in a position to have a global leading role." Indeed, the Chinese renaissance modifies the world's distribution of power in a gradual and peaceful process which does not entail abrupt discontinuity or violent disruption.
Kaixin – It’s all about timeframes. The west is hooked on the 24 hour news cycle and those 3 monthly company reports (works of creative fiction) which allowed a generation of gamblers to think of themselves as prudent investors. Napoleon had a vision of a united Europe, probably without Britain. He was just a little early. Charles de Gaulle could see through the muddy waters of Mao’s China to the latent power of the stirring dragon. When Hu Jintao was asked about the French revolution his reply was informative, ‘it is too early to tell’.
When you think of China, think of 5,000 years of history. Mao got rid of the old China, which had become moribund. Deng Xiaoping freed the shackles of Mao’s communism to allow the latent power of the dragon to stir. The 21st century is only 100 years out of 5,000. A sneeze for a dragon who has plenty of time.
Chinese police quiz human rights petitioners
CHINESE police have begun questioning writers, artists and intellectuals who dared to sign a new charter demanding political reforms. The move sets the mood for the year in which the Communist Party will mark the 60th anniversary of its rule. From across China, reports are emerging of officials and even police calling in some of the 303 people who put their names to Charter 08, a document calling for greater civil rights and an end to the political dominance of the Communist Party.
Kaixin– ‘and even police calling’ – that about sums it up. The headline screams in moral outrage that these communist dictators and their stazi police are quizzing human rights petitioners. Yet, it is clear from the article that, some police, may have questioned, the petitioners according to unsubstantiated reports.
Note, that the petition is not about human rights but about political reforms. Yet the headling cleverly slips in human rights as the issue.
Kaixin has previously noted that the Communist Party will not tolerate a direct threat to its power. Not that a petition signed by 303 ‘intellectuals’ (masters of theory who seem to believe that the application of their theories will not have unexpected consequences) is a threat to anything really. Kaixin has also noted that most Chinese are pretty content with a single strong party in power and are not calling for democracy. The article clearly shows the gap in understanding between China and the ‘west’ on this issue.
Kaixin wonders what would change if these 303 intellectuals were given power. After all, the Communist Party started with a small group of dissident intellectuals. Which is probably why they are keeping an eye on this particular candle of dissent. Not much would change if you think about it. This lot of dissidents would make decisions based on information given them by officials and some of those decisions will be right, some wrong, and most will have unexpected consequences.
China's Olympic purges revealed
MORE than 1100 people were indicted in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang on suspicion of "endangering state security" in the first 11 months of last year. In 2007, the number of people arrested across all of China on suspicion of endangering state security was 742, according to the national statistics bureau. Prosecutors indicted 619 of them. Of those total numbers, about half were from Xinjiang, said Nicholas Bequelin, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch, citing the Xinjiang Yearbook, a government publication. He said the numbers suggested a shift in law enforcement rather than an increase in attempted crimes. Report from the New York Times
Kaixin– The connection between those arrested and the Olympics is based on the opinion of one human rights activist. It may be right or it may be wrong, but it is a poor source on which to base such a biased headline. A headline that hints at the dark days of the Stalin purges and in breathless excitement as though from a journalist who risked all to get the story ‘reveals’ this dastardly purge. When actually it was the mutterings of one person safely ensconced in America.
China threatens massive internet crackdown
China announced Monday it was cracking down on major websites, including search engine giants Google and Baidu, over the spread of pornography and other material that could corrupt young people. China's Ministry of Public Security and six other government agencies announced the crackdown at a meeting on Monday, the official China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre said in a statement.
Kaixin – This is a fraught issue. If it is just about pornography etc then the officials are treading that thin line between free speech and censorship. In Australia they are planning to bring in a nanny state that censors pornography on the net. This is being righly resisted.
All governments know the power of the press and now the power of the internet. How this is managed over time will be interesting to watch. Big brother is definitly watching.
Asia Times Online
In China, Bush nostalgia
By Kent Ewing
Many will celebrate the departure of US President George W Bush, the world's favorite scapegoat, from the White House. But in Beijing there will be nostalgia for an administration that helped China's rise as a world power by turning a blind eye to its currency manipulation, human-rights abuses, questionable forays into Africa and significant military expansion
Kaixin - Well worth a read as it traces the rise to power of China v America
Kaixin's Daily OpEd
Graeme has been using ChinesePod since 2007
"I highly recommend ChinesePod, I haven't found any Online teaching programmes that come close."
Set in Zanzibar in 1910, it is the story of two people from different worlds falling in love. Susan immerses herself in Zanzibar. Asim falls in love with this woman from the nation that killed his wife. Susan is a spy. Asim is the chief advisor to the Sultan of Zanzibar. Germany and France are holding secret negotiations to form a Pan European alliance, which would isolate Britain and destroy her power. Susan and Asim are caught up in all this and their love is finally dashed on the cold, hard reality of international high politics.
'A maharaja’s ruby cast on a Persian carpet by the blackest of hands'
Their souls danced, honouring his promise.
The ancient dhow stirred in the soft morning breeze. Like a sleepy lion, it began to move through the water, snuffling about the other boats on the harbour; some scurrying, some at anchor, some darting before a brief gust of wind. The lateen sails a bustling panorama of blood-red and sun-bleached white.
Aft, the woman's eyes searched the skyline, drinking in the architecture of Stone Town, the heart of Zanzibar; its jagged, cluttered silhouette so familiar, so much a part of her soul.
Abruptly, her eyes ceased their restless searching, jagged by an invisible hook, transfixed by the grand buildings on the northern shore, Beit-al-Ajaib, the House of Wonders, Palace to the great Sultan of Zanzibar. The distinctive architecture captured in the tropical light: coconut white outlined by contrasting shadow plays of pepper black.
A smile, ever so slight, started to play on the edge of her mouth then disappeared. A memory that should have been fond instantly turned to sharp unbearable pain. Her eyes hardened and moved on.
Without warning the captain threw the rudder over. Stumbling, the woman barked her shin on a wooden box, a rough-hewn coffin. She recoiled, knocking over an untidy stack of cane baskets. Imprisoned in the baskets, rusty cockerels, their scruffy heads straining through the latticework, snapped at her, cried out to her; their raucous din overwhelming her, drowning her.
Dimly, through the fog of noise, the strident swearing of the sailors in Kiswahili seeped into her conscious. Understanding, she smiled mirthlessly.
The coffin had been carelessly stowed, a chore, rather than a labour of respect or love.
“Hello, who are you? I am Oliver, is Edward at home?”
The words were spoken by a tall, impeccably dressed young man as he rushed into Edward’s flat shaking off surplus water and calling for whisky while shoving his umbrella into a stand. It was a blustery, grey, bitterly cold February afternoon in the heart of London. He brushed a curl of soft auburn hair from his forehead and smiled charmingly.
Susan laughed, her hazel eyes dancing with the exhilaration of the new. “Yes, he is having a bath. I think he is trying to get warm. I’m Susan, Susan Carey, his sister.”
“Ahhh yes, from Australia. How do you do?” said Sir Oliver, smiling broadly and offering his hand. He noticed the laughter in her eyes, and the depth, particularly the depth, intensified by jade flecks that made them striking and alluring. “So, you have arrived, good trip I trust.”
“I am very well thank you, and yes, it was a good trip,” replied Susan.
He laughed and glanced at the sitting room, “whisky?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, please come in…….. that was silly of me, after all, it is your flat.”
Oliver smiled and gestured for Susan to lead the way. He followed her into the room, and after helping himself to a generous portion of whisky, walked over to the fire.
Shortly after, Edward, wrapped in a huge ruby-coloured dressing gown and wiping soap from his ear strode into the room. He was of similar age to Oliver, late twenties, well built, if slightly podgy, with dark auburn hair and a full moustache. Susan looked up and smiled to herself, she could see now where he had picked up some of his new mannerisms.
“Thought I could hear voices. I see you two have met, no need for introductions then.”
As he was speaking, Edward walked to the side table and grabbed a whisky decanter by the neck. He glanced at Oliver who nodded. A long finger snaked into one of the tumblers followed by the distinctive clink of crystal. He swept the decanter off the table and carried it to where Oliver was sitting. After pouring the whisky, he sank into a lounge chair and sipped from his glass, enjoying the warm glow as it spread through his body.
Suddenly he sat up exclaiming, “Sorry sis, would you like something to drink?”
“Kind of you to remember, but no thank you, and yes, Oliver has already inquired.”
Edward nodded and sank back into his lounge chair.
They chatted, tentatively at first, getting to know one another. Edward had not seen Susan for two years and was unsure how his sister would take his new relationship. Oliver was intrigued by Susan. An attractive, self-assured young lady of high intelligence with a degree was a rare find. And, as fate would have it, she was also a trained and experienced teacher. He suggested a picnic at Oxford, which was met with ready acquiescence. Arrangements were made for the following Sunday.
“I’ll see if the Rolls is available,” mused Oliver. “Must ring father, haven’t spoken to him in ages.”
Oliver, Sir Oliver Marchmaine, was an unaffected young man of intense intelligence who saw life as a great adventure to be lived to the full. He was also unyieldingly loyal to his country, England, which is why he had joined Military Intelligence on leaving Oxford.
It was 1910 and Europe was stirring. It was a time full of interest, intrigue and danger. The European chessboard was becoming increasingly complex, the moves more subtle. A time when an unexpected move or feint could have profound consequences.
Regaining her balance, the woman’s eyes were drawn, hesitantly at first, resisting back to Beit-al-Ajaib. She wondered if it was still the same. Still the same centre of power and intrigue that had been so much a part of her life all those years before; that had defined her life.
She remembered those first few moments, remembered standing in the foyer of the palace, .………… remembered the breathtakingly beautiful Persian tapestry ........
The sea breeze stirred her clothes. She smiled a little sadly, and in her mind the tapestry gently swayed. Two small apparitions ran giggling up the stairs: two small exquisitely rich burkas disappearing along the first floor landing. Childish squeals of mischief and joy left in the air.......
“Move to seaward, you accused of Allah! Move!”
Her thoughts were clawed back to the dhow, the captain crashing the tiller over to avoid another boat on the crowded harbour. The woman instinctively ducked her head to avoid the heavy boom as it swung over her, the rusty cockerels squawked their raucous indignation, their heads straining through the latticework, relentless.
The collision avoided, the dhow continued on its way. The cacophony dying down to the occasional command by the captain or the cry of a seagull.
The woman's thoughts returned to Beit-al-Ajaib
…………. laughing and giggling, girls of seven or eight. A door on the first floor slammed and all sounds of them disappeared. Silence. The woman smiled. She could see herself, a young woman, dressed plainly, unselfconsciously, her sexuality tantalisingly just out of reach, hidden beneath the thin veil of her clothing. She remembered standing alone in the foyer, looking around, perplexed. Asim came through a door to the left of the tapestry.
The woman started and looked around. Then, realising, was cold again. Alone again. Alone, rocking to and fro to the rythm of the sea. Alone, beside a rough-hewn coffin.
Graeme has been using ChinesePod since 2007
"I highly recommend ChinesePod, I haven't found any Online teaching programmes that come close."