April 19, 2007
Chinese bloggers, free speech and Hong Kong's election

Highlights from the latest China Brief from the Jamestown Foundation:

1. China's media controls: could bloggers make a difference?...the answer is largely no, but it has this great line: "China's leaders judge the news based upon whether it supports or undermines their power."

2. In a related article, Thomas Kellog on the anti-sedition speech debate and media law reform, although it's kind of tautalogical to debate free speech.

3. Civic Exchange's Christine Loh on Hong Kong's pretend election.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:02
Permalink | Speak Up (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 23, 2007
HK election and China Brief

A site called World Politics Watch has got an article on Hong Kong's upcoming election.

And for your weekend reading there's the latest China Brief. The highlights:

1. PLA officers differ on China's aircraft carrier development.
2. Training the PLA in Civilian Universities
3. Anticipating Chinese leadership changes at the the 17th party congress
4. China' emerging domestic debt markets

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:47
Permalink | Speak Up (1) | TrackBack (0)

February 08, 2007
Projecting Chinese power

Two articles stand out in the latest China Brief from the Jamestown Foundation.

1. Beijing's great leap outward: power projection with Chinese characteristics. Willy Lam looks at what he calls "stunning" changes in China's foreign policy and concludes:

There may also be overwhelming domestic calculations behind Hus policies. With Chinese society becoming more fragmented due to the growing disparities between the haves and the have-nots, Beijing increasingly relies upon overarching ideals, such as patriotism and nationalism, to bind the disparate nation together. Spectacular demonstrations of the countrys own military capabilities and diplomatic triumphs in Africa and Latin America make it easier for Hu and his PLA colleagues to justify even greater increases in the armys budget. And in the months leading up to the 17th Party Congress, Hu needs the support of the PLA generals in order to fully consolidate his stature in the CCP political hierarchy and legacy. All of these factors seem to impel the Fourth Generation leadership toward a much bolderif not riskierapproach to the Middle Kingdoms centuries-old quest for fuguo qiangbing or wealthy country, strong army.
Worth reading the whole article.

2. China's struggle for energy conservation and diversification. China would love to find new energy sources and doesn't care if it is green, black or any other colour.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:13
Permalink | Speak Up (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 08, 2006
China's modernisation and reforms

The Jamestown Foundation's China Brief this time dedicates itself to China's modernisation and reforms and has some great reading from experts rather than pundits:

1. Bejing's grand new strategy: an offensive with extra-military instruments.
2. Perpertual challenges to China's education reform.
3. China's inner-party democracy: toward a system of "one party, two factions?"
4. Accelerating reforms in China's financial system.
5. Reforming China's healthcare system: Beijing's strategy for establish universal coverage.

They're all interesting reading, just in time for the weekend.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:30
Permalink | Speak Up (5) | TrackBack (0)

November 10, 2006
Wharf overboard

This Saturday night sees the last Star Ferry leaving from the old Hong Kong side wharf as the government continues in its efforts to move the wharf so close to the Kowloon side the ferry will serve as a bridge instead of a mode of transport. Conveniently located on a stretch of reclaimed land in front of Hong Kong's tallest homage of the phallus, the IFC, the new terminal looks exactly the same as the old one minus decades of grime. Happily the old terminal will soon be demolished to make way for a highway. It's great to watch progress in action.

To finish the week on a more high brow note, latest editions of both the Jamestown Foundation's China Brief and the Hoover Institution's China Leadership Monitor are out. The highlights:

Nan Li looks at new developments in the PLA's operational doctrine, which nicely leads into James Mulvenon's analysis of new trends in Chinese military corruption (who knew a place with thousands of years of history can find new corruption trends?). There's also a Ricahrd Weitz piece on the Sino-Russian arms dilemma and one on defense reform in Taiwan.

In the politics and economics area Barry Naughton talks about another cycle of macroeconomic crackdown (crackdown being the obligatory sensationalist word to use on anything China) which suggests China's economic policy is too rigid for its dynamic economy. Josephy Fewsmith looks at a Zhejiang city's experiment with opening up the budget process to public scrutiny within a "consultative democracy" framework and Alice Miller ponders the Hu succession problem.

Finally Alan Romberg disuccs the Taiwan-China-US triangle, saying Taiwan domestic politics will overshadow everything else, although with the newly elected Democrats looking to scratch their protectionist itch this could well be superceded by economic issues.

Happy reading, although you may not have enough time on the new 2 minute Star Ferry ride to get through it all.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:38
Permalink | Speak Up (2) | TrackBack (0)

September 21, 2006
Economics of Tobacco control in China

China brief time from Jamestown Foundation. A brief summary of the articles:

1. Hu moves to exert added control over PLA - Willy Lam looks at how wily ol' Hu has consolidated his hold over the military...which is looking kind of pertinent post-Thailand and leads to Ian Storey's look at the post-coup Sino-Thai "special relationship". He says the coup is not good news for China.

2. China's annoyed with North Korea's missile tests, says Stephen Blank, but also with Washington and it's a matter of which one is annoying them more (hint: it's not North Korea).

3. Teh-wei Hu has the most interesting article of the lot with a look at the economics of tobacco control in China. It looks at tobacco farming, cigarette manufacturing and the public health problems of tobacco and how this impacts China's tobacco tax policy and the need for China to establish an overall tobacco policy.

Go read and enjoy.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:03
Permalink | Speak Up (4) | TrackBack (0)

September 08, 2006
China at the UN

It's a bumper edition of the China Brief from the Jamestown Foundation.

Yitzhak Shichor looks at China's voting behaviour in the UN Security Council, noting China has only twice used its veto and uses abstaining as a tactic. The article concludes with a look at how China may act as Iran comes up before the Security Council:

Contrary to the media’s assertions that China would block UN Security Council resolutions to impose sanctions against Iran—not to mention the use of force—Iran is unlikely to provide an exception to China's time-honored behavior in the Security Council. Knowing very well that they would not veto such resolutions at the Security Council, from the very beginning the Chinese have preferred to settle this issue outside of the Security Council and preferably by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Yet, Tehran's intransigence and inflexibility pushed the dispute to the Security Council and forced Beijing to take a stand...Although the Chinese have insisted from the very beginning that they would not support "the arbitrary use of sanctions" nor "approve the use of force" against Iran, China has never claimed that it would oppose or prevent them from being imposed. Beijing has never promised Iran's Ahamadinejad—nor Iraq's Saddam Hussein before him—that it will use its veto power.
It's worth noting that using abstentions as a tactic is indicative of China's attitude to foreign affairs. It's also worth asking whether the world really wants a more assertive China in world affairs if it may lead to vetos of resolutions over issues like Iran?

Willy Lam looks at President Hu's efforts to strengthen his grip on power, especially in light of Jiang Zemin's newly published works. He sees Hu in the ascendency with Jiang being buttered up with flattery but nothing in the way of real power. Lam's conclusion:

Hu’s tendency to put political expediency before ideological and political liberalization, however, may mean that even after consolidating power at the 17th Congress, he will be very reluctant to implement genuine reforms.
Richard Weitz looks at the obstacles and barriers to Chinese-American military ties. It boils down to a mutual suspicion but the article ends on an optimistic note:
Chinese officials remain suspicious of the Bush administration, believing that it aspires to implement its liberty doctrine in China through regime change and is trying to constrain Chinese military power at least until then. Likewise, U.S. leaders remain apprehensive over China’s military buildup and its aspirations for regional hegemony. Nevertheless, the endemic distrust between both governments does not present an insuperable obstacle to a fruitful Sino-American military dialogue...Already, China and the United States have shown that they can cooperate on economic and regional security issues, without extensive military ties. It is precisely because Beijing and Washington are neither outright allies nor active adversaries that a military dialogue and other modest exchanges are both possible and prudent.
Some excellent weekend reading.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:38
Permalink | Speak Up (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 17, 2006
China's role in Lebanon

This edition of Jamestown Foundation's China Brief has an article discussing how China was involved in the Lebanon crisis on several levels. Amongst the other interesting observations is this:

As the crisis persisted, a basic contradiction in Beijing’s attitude toward the United States became exposed, reflecting the complicated relations between the two countries. On the one hand, China has blamed the United States for using the conflict to pressure Iran and Syria, to “export democracy” and to promote its “Greater Middle East” Project (People’s Daily Online, July 28). At the same time, Beijing points out, the conflict further demonstrates and underscores the limits of U.S. power....Yet on the other hand, during the conflict, China called on the United States to abandon its “apathy” and “indifference,” occasionally almost begging Washington to step in and “make any move or take any mediatory actions” to stop the war (Xinhua, July 21). Beijing’s recognition of U.S. global influence also reveals the limited sway that China has over the Middle East region. Expectations that the PRC will become a “responsible stakeholder” are premature. For the time being, China is a “silent partner,” talking much but doing little.
There's other gems in the article. Well worth a read.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:25
Permalink | Speak Up (14) | TrackBack (0)

March 17, 2006
China brief

Just back from a quick visit to Singapore, the land where all the politicians are bankrupt, albeit all in different senses of the word. Had a fascinating conversation with an American who prided himself on being far superior to his insular stay-at-home fellow citizens because he lived in Singapore. With remarkable rapidity things slid when the subject of Iraq (inevitably) came up - apparently George W. is a war criminal, the US should have invaded India, Pakistan and Israel instead, AIPAC is an overly powerful cabal in cohoots with the usual corporate titans running "real" policy and Israel is the cause of the world's troubles. It was such an inane display of ignorance I had to laugh and leave. I didn't tell him I was Jewish.

For some weekend reading, there's two good pieces in the latest China Brief from the Jamestown Foundation:

1. Willy Lam looks at Beijing's all out assault on Chen Shui-Bian.

2. Martin Andrew discusses China's doctrine of "active defense".

With that I'm off to pull the levers of world power for the weekend.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:49
Permalink | Speak Up (5) | TrackBack (0)

March 08, 2006
Riding the rural tiger

Another piece from the StratFor crowd on China's rural problems and how the central leadership is trying to leverage these problems to their advantage:

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have been touting the "New Socialist Countryside" initiative. The initiative is being painted as a priority for reducing China's widening rural/urban gap in the near term, and for creating a more sustainable and robust economic future in the long term. The problems of rural economic reform, the social gap and rural unrest rank high on the agenda of China's central leadership and in the current session of the National People's Congress (NPC). Potential solutions to these problems form the heart of China's 11th five-year economic plan (2006-2010).

Over the past quarter century, China has made remarkable economic progress. By all accounts, its cities are booming: The bicycle-clogged alleys of the past are now traffic-clogged avenues, and construction cranes rise within cities as part of a seemingly endless rejuvenation and modernization campaign. Statistically speaking, China has never been stronger; gross domestic product (GDP) has risen from $200 billion in 1978 to $2.7 trillion in 2005. Foreign trade last year reached $1.4 trillion, with a trade surplus of nearly $102 billion. Exports accounted for 18 percent of the 9.9 percent GDP growth China reports for 2005. In the same year, the country utilized some $60.3 billion in foreign direct investment and sent $6.92 billion overseas in non-financial-sector investments. Foreign currency reserves at the end of 2005 registered $818.9 billion, rivaling Japan's.

But the growth has been anything but even. Urban growth continues to outpace rural growth, despite income increases across the board. In 2005, per capita disposable income reached $1,310 in urban areas, compared to just $405 in rural net income. Income disparity in 1984 was about a 2 to 1 ratio; now it is 3 to 1. Overall, the poorest 10 percent of China's citizens hold only 1 percent of the nation's wealth, and the wealthiest 10 percent claim 50 percent of the money. Even in urban areas, there are massive disparities: The poorest 20 percent of urban-dwellers control just 2.75 percent of private income; the top 20 percent control 60 percent of the total.

The gaps manifest in other ways as well. China's registered urban unemployment stands at 4.2 percent, but rural unemployment -- which isn't measured officially -- is anecdotally much higher, and even Beijing admits that some 200 million rural workers have migrated to cities recently in search of employment. That represents a substantial portion of the total rural population, which numbers 800 million to 900 million. In the cities, these migrants are treated as second-class citizens at best. In the countryside, they fare little better: Measures of education and health care are substantially lower. Moreover, there has been little legal recourse for farmers, who technically don't even own the land they work, when local officials confiscate the land for new industrial and housing projects.

The central government is well aware of these problems and, perhaps ironically, began issuing public cautions about social and economic tensions years before the international business community bothered to notice. Unrestrained economic growth no longer is viewed as a viable or sustainable option, and Beijing has begun to reassert more centralized control over economic development, with a particular emphasis on reducing the rural-urban gap.

But in seeking to address this problem, Beijing has exposed a deeper issue: endemic corruption and self-interest at the local and provincial levels of government. It is where economic disparity and government corruption intersect that social clashes occur most often.

The rest continued below the jump.

Geography of Corruption

More than 25 years after its launch by Deng Xiaoping, China's economic reform and opening program has reached a critical juncture. Economic reforms have outpaced social and political reforms, and historical strains between the coast and inland regions, between urban and rural, and between the educated and less-educated are threatening the fabric of social stability and the central government's ability to rule. It is easy to see the frayed edges: Local protests turn violent where urban development projects eat away at the rural land. As the social instability moves closer to the coastal cities, there is a risk that China's competitiveness as an investment destination will be harmed, thereby triggering a spiral of economic and social degradation. Social instability also lays bare the growing rift between the central government and the local and regional leaders.

From a historical perspective, China's apparently stunning economic success stems from the pursuit and implementation of the quintessential Asian economic plan, which can be summed up as "growth for the sake of growth." Japan, South Korea, most of the Southeast Asian "tigers" and China all facilitated their economic "miracles" by focusing on the flow-through of capital, without regard for profits. As long as money was flowing in, there could be jobs. As long as there were jobs, there was a stabilizing social force. There was also an overall rise in personal wealth, though rarely was it evenly spread.

The coastal provinces and cities became the focal points for international investments in manufacturing, as investors exploited preferential government policies and cheap labor. The rural areas -- traditionally the backbone of China's economy -- and the petroleum and heavy industry of the northeast (which had been core to early Communist Chinese economics) faded in relevance. Though Beijing occasionally promoted more inland development and investment opportunities, geography and a lack of infrastructure made these unappealing to investors. The concentration of wealth in the coastal regions was a source of minor social tensions, but restrictions on internal migration kept a buffer between rural and urban populations, and social frictions remained comparatively low. These restrictions, however, have been only selectively enforced as of late, and many are being lifted.

The booming coastal economies created clear opportunities for corruption. As provincial and local Party cadre and political leaders became the gatekeepers for foreign investments, they also became mini-emperors of their own economic fiefdoms. Collusion and nepotism -- always a part of Chinese political society -- became even more entrenched as the money flowed in. With the central government fixated on growth, the best-performing local leaders were rewarded. The more foreign capital they were able to attract, the greater their personal influence and takings. These officials were not measured on efficiency or profitability, but on total flow-through of capital, rates of growth, employment and social stability.

This partly explains why attempts by the previous government to address the unequal development in China failed. Each time former President Jiang Zemin or former Premier Zhu Rongji tried to adjust policies and financial flows to the interior, there were strong objections from the wealthier coastal provinces. When they launched anti-corruption campaigns, the graft their investigators uncovered was deep and wide, and in some cases even threatened to reach up to the top echelons of power -- at times implicating Jiang himself. This only further entrenched the problem and removed incentives for Jiang and Zhu to act; after all, both were part of the so-called Shanghai clique and derived their political support from the coastal regions.

Under these two leaders, the government was much more successful in reducing the independence of the military, as neither Jiang nor Zhu had significant ties into the institution. But because the economic and political elite in the coastal regions were the source of the central leadership's power, they were able to repel reforms sought by the central government.

This all changed with the coming of Hu and Wen, both of whom are from rural areas. Wen, a perennial political survivor known for his ability to connect with the "common man," has been practically deified among rural-dwellers on account of his 10-year-old coat. That the premier still wears the same coat after 10 years is a clear sign (according to ample coverage by the news media and blog sites) of his care for the people, rather than for himself.

Herein lies the secret of Hu and Wen's strategy to regain control over the local and regional governments and Party officials. Whereas Jiang and Zhu tried using anti-corruption campaigns -- only to end up implicating themselves and their core supporters -- Hu and Wen are moving to harness the power of China's rural masses. Depending on which Chinese official you believe, this is a mass of humanity numbering from 700 million to 950 million people. Even at the low end of the estimates, however, rural-dwellers make up more than half of China's population -- and greatly outnumber the 300 million middle- and upper-class Chinese living mainly in Beijing and the coastal cities.

Harnessing the Masses

Chinese leaders have a long history of using the masses as weapons when challenges to central authority arise -- from the attempts to harness the Boxers at the turn of the 20th century to Mao's communist revolution to the Cultural Revolution. In each case, the process was chaotic and the outcomes were uncertain. Though Mao eventually succeeded in rallying the rural populace to effect his communist revolution, it simply served as a starting point for a new Chinese system. The use of the Boxers led to the dissolution of the Chinese dynastic system, and the Cultural Revolution wiped out whatever economic gains had been made, leaving China to start nearly from scratch once again.

What Hu and Wen intend to do is rally the masses to pressure local leaders into returning authority to the center. From this, centralized economic direction will, they hope, lead to more equalized development without significantly undermining the country's growth (though a slight slowing will be expected). Ultimately, the causes of social discontent would be mitigated and social frictions reduced as money is shifted to the interior.

This is a rather risky proposal, but China's core leadership sees this as the least distasteful among a poor selection of options. The initiative is being presented not as a disruptive social revolution, but as the duty of those who got rich first to assist those who trail them. The initial details of the official plan include greater spending in rural areas on infrastructure, education, healthcare and agriculture, with funding coming primarily from the urban centers. The plan already is meeting with mixed reactions from China's regional leaders -- and while the NPC is expected to approve the plan, that doesn't mean that they like it.

However, as the government's core leadership has pointed out ad nauseum over the past year, the Chinese economy is in a fragile state, and the rural/urban inequalities threaten to undo everything China has built up since the economic opening and reform program began. Unless the central government regains complete control over economic strategy and tactics, there is a fear that China ultimately would fracture into competing regions, largely independent of any central authority -- a sort of economic warlordism reminiscent of the final days of previous Chinese dynasties.

Beijing's choice, then, is between taking no action against local governments, out of fears of triggering massive capital flight or inadvertently crippling investment and export activity, or rallying the rural masses -- which would be another avenue toward recentralizing control.

Thus, the central government has made a point of publicizing ever-more-dire statistics concerning rural and urban unrest. The Ministry of Public Security reported 87,000 cases of public disturbances in 2005, up from 74,000 in 2004 and 58,000 in 2003. (The numbers are high, but the definition of "disturbance" remains ambiguous.) The ministry has also warned of an imminent "period of pronounced contradictions within the people" in which "unpredictable factors affecting social stability will increase." Meanwhile, Wen has repeated that the cause of many protests is the confiscation of rural land for development and industrial projects -- projects that often are linked to corrupt local officials or are local initiatives that don't match the central priorities.

The message to the local leaders, of course, is that China's masses are on the move. In discussing the rural/urban gap, Chen Xiwen -- deputy director of the Office of the Central Financial Work Leading Group -- noted recently (and somewhat ominously) that 200 million farmers have left the countryside; Chen warned that "to increase the living standard of these farmers, China should spare no efforts to build the new socialist countryside." In essence, Beijing is threatening the local leaders with the spectre of a rural rising. The class struggle is on, and the farmers far outnumber the city-dwellers. The implicit message is that, for the safety of the city, the farmers must be funded and rural areas built up.

At the same time, Beijing is looking at a wholesale change in the local leadership, beginning with the Party secretaries and chiefs of China's 2,861 counties. New regulations -- not altogether welcomed by the existing Party cadre -- will require new county-level Party secretaries and chiefs to be around 45 years old and possess at least a bachelor's degree. These individuals would be less likely to have already built up their personal economic connections, and be more beholden to the central government for legitimacy and support. Beijing is also increasing supervision and admonition of Party and government officials.

But to make these changes last, Beijing needs to give the lower cadre some incentive to follow the central government's demands -- even if it means a reduction in local investments or a rise in local unemployment. Beijing must ensure that local officials are more closely tied to the central leadership in Beijing than to foreign investors and shareholders in Japan or the United States. For this, Beijing needs to make it utterly clear what risks the local government leaders face. Threats of prosecution and even the token executions of some officials have not worked, but the potential for more and larger social uprisings might.

This means Beijing needs to allow, if not subtly encourage, more localized demonstrations.

And that apparently is where Hu and Wen intend to go. The central government's response to stories of rural unrest has remained rather low-key thus far. In reference to the Dongzhou protests in December 2005, where at least three were killed when local security forces opened fire on the crowd, officials on the sidelines of the NPC session recently made it a point to say the officers in question are under detention and did not follow orders. In other uprisings, there even have been suggestions of sympathy from the center. In the cost-benefit analysis, Beijing apparently has determined that the risks of allowing the current trend of growing regionalized power to continue outweigh the risks of trying to manipulate popular sentiment against local officials.

This, perhaps more than anything, underscores the severity of the economic and governing problems facing China's central leadership.

The strategy of unleashing the rural masses, allowing and even subtly encouraging protests could quickly get out of hand. However, given the wide array of localized concerns, there is a natural disunity that could be expected to constrain protesters -- keeping demonstrations locally significant but nationally isolated. So long as protesters don't join across provinces and regions, so long as no interest is able to link the disparate demonstrations, the central leadership will retain some leeway to implement its policies.

But as history bears witness, any attempt to harness protests and mass movements is a very risky strategy indeed.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:57
Permalink | Speak Up (1) | TrackBack (0)

February 16, 2006
Washington is between Japan & China

Jamestown Foundation's China Brief this time contains a look by Willy Lam at Beijing's use of Washington to rein in Japan. It is an interesting spin on the usual take that Washington and Tokyo are firm friends in the face of an aggressively rising China. Which kind of realpolitik wins out here? Clearly the Japan-America relationship is strong, but the Japanese are clearly (and rightfull) worried about the prospect of that alliance shifting. Will there come a day when America values its China relationship more than its Japanese one?

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:53
Permalink | Speak Up (2) | TrackBack (0)

February 03, 2006
China & Iran; 5th generation communists

Time again for the Jamestown Foundation's China Brief. The two highlights:

1. China and the Iranian nuclear crisis notes China's dilemma with Iran - its policies of energy security of foreign policy are coming into conflict. That's the problem with being a grown up major power...sometimes you have to make difficult choices.

2. Willy Lam takes a look at the 5th generation of the Chinese Communist Party (perhaps they could of titled it: Chinese Communist Party: The Next Generation). It's a who's who of up and comers as Hu and Wen continue to stamp their authority over the party.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:33
Permalink | Speak Up (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 22, 2006
Social stability in China

It's going to be a patchy week for posting, but to keep you going the Jamestown Foundation China Brief this week focuses on social stability in China:

1. The Dynamics of China's Social Crisis.

2. Social movements in urban China.

3. Unrest in China's countryside.

I've not had time to read the articles in depth, so let me know your thoughts.

And in case I don't get a chance, Kung Hei Fat Choi!

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:34
Permalink | Speak Up (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 04, 2006
Three harmonies, China and the WTO

China Brief time again from the Jamestown Foundation. Two highlights:

1. Willy Lam looks at Hu Jintao's theory of the three harmonies:

Hu and Wen understand that a regime cannot last if it depends solely on the ruthless efficacy of its control mechanisms, which in China’s case include the PLA, PAP, the secret police and the regular police. Yet the risk-averse Hu is loathe to arouse false expectations among the nation’s intelligentsia by going all out in his emulation of Hu Yaobang’s “Theory of the Three Tolerances.” Plans mooted earlier this year by his aides, such as allowing a dozen-odd of the less controversial Tiananmen Square-related exiled dissidents to return to China, have been abandoned. It will not be surprising, then, that perhaps for the rest of the decade, Chinese society will only exude a kind of artificial, party-sanctioned harmony that endures at the pleasure of New Strongman Hu.

2. WTO talks move in China's direction, according to William Hawkins:

Beijing thus finds the current world system well suited to its needs. It has easy access to affluent foreign markets like the United States, with minimal formal commitments to reciprocate. It runs a trade surplus and holds very large hard-currency reserves. Beijing prefers to make bilateral deals in Central Asia, Africa and Latin America, rather than be ensnared in multilateral “global” agreements. There is nothing in the Doha Round that it needs, and it has been successful in fending off any initiatives that would weaken its own development program.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:56
Permalink | Speak Up (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 09, 2005
Brief brieflets

Back from Tokyo, where I couldn't help but wonder a couple of things:

  • Jared Diamond lauds Japan's excellent forestry management (albeit while still having a dig at their outsourcing of "resource exploitation"), and yet Japan's the world's third biggest greenhouse gas producer. Does one cancel the other?
  • There has been talk elsewhere that people don't often bother to vote because in economic terms the marginal value of a vote is very close to zero. The best counter to that is what's happening now in Hong Kong - many people are giving up hours of their time to march, or to organise, or to blog, or to write articles, or to lobby for democracy. Assuming pro-democracy campaigners are rational (economically, at least) there must be a value for voting that is significantly non-zero.
  • While on democracy, in a way liberal democracy has basically "won" the ideology war. The proof? Even dictatorships pay lip service to it. North Korea is a "Democratic" republic; China's leadership often talks about it (even if it doesn't happen in practice). Why do they bother with lip service unless even these recalcitrants recognise that democracy is the most stable and most popular (albeit still imperfect) political model?
  • Next week is WTO week here in Hong Kong. While nobody is looking forward to the dreaded chaos, I suspect (or at least hope) that it will not turn out half as bad as we all fear. Judging by the dual-layered shipping container barriers at Tamar, the anti-WTO protests could turn out to be nice cheap entertainment for the non-Disney goers amongst us.

On the subject of WTO, there is to be an anti- anti-WTO march on Sunday at Victoria Park. If you're rational, realise that free trade is a good thing and Hong Kong is a prime example of the good even unilateral zero trade barriers can be, go along. It won't be 250,000 people, but it would be good to prove the rabble-rousers and "peasant leagues" (ie professional protesters) that there are actually people that know they're wrong.

Before I get to the newest Jamestown Foundation China Brief, full service should resume Monday, WTO chaos permitting. OK, China Brief time:

1. China's countering of US influence in Asia - Willy Lam uses alphabet soup to summarise the newest version of the Great Game.
2. The costs of China's modernisation - industrialisation can be dirty, and it's now getting to the point China's environment is becoming a domestic political issue. What do you call a Chinese environmentalist? A red green? A green red?
3. Hu spurs debate on North Korean succession - maybe when Hu's finished with China (and he's come up with his obligatory theory to insert into the constitution) he can take on the Hermit Kingdom?
4. For you military nuts, there's modernising the PLA's logistics. That's the military logistics, not the PLA's corporate logistics. That's much tougher.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:02
Permalink | Speak Up (1) | TrackBack (1)

» poker casino381 links with: poker casino381

November 23, 2005
China and America, Europe and space

It's time again for the Jamestown Foundation's China Brief and while the previous edition was on the lame side, this time it's a cracker.

1. Willy Lam says America and China remain strategic competitors despite the recent summit rhetoric. It's essentially a pessimitic look at relations, saying under surface pretentions lie numerous disputes and tensions. The key quote: What is increasingly worrisome about Sino-U.S. ties, however, is that despite the rhetoric, not much has emerged from their efforts to nurture supposed areas of common interests...In internal meetings, Hu has warned CCP cadres to raise their guard against Washington’s alleged efforts to export democracy and other “ideological poison” to China. Hardliners in Washington, for their part, are monitoring the relentless aggrandizement of the PLA juggernaut with increasing unease.

On a related note is a talk by H.J. de Blij on China as one of three major challenges to America. Suffice it to say, he's hawkish.

2. Next is a look at Hu's visits to Europe and the mix of active diplomacy amid trade frictions. It concludes Europe will continue to be a key target for China’s active diplomacy, but the visits of Hu and Wen indicate that China is working to deepen ties without necessarily pushing for quick resolution of some of the issues it claims are important. By focusing on ties with individual member states, China may serve itself well in the future, but the frequent contradictions in European policy and national interests of member states mean that it unlikely Beijing will achieve all its aims in the near term.

3. Shenzhou and China's space odyssey looks at what China has achieved and where it is going.

A good return to form and great reading for anyone interested in China.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:14
Permalink | Speak Up (0) | TrackBack (1)

» poker casino591 links with: poker casino591

October 26, 2005
Harmonious society, pollution and cross-Straits relations

Another excellent edition of the Jamestown Foundation's China Brief. As usual, the highlights:

1. Willy Lam, one of the better China pundits, looks at the new five year plan and asks if it is a roadmap towards a "harmonious society". The conclusion bears repeating, but the whole article is a great read:

The change- and risk-averse nature of the Hu leadership is also evident from a series of articles recently run by the party journal Guo Feng (“Spirit of the Country”) on the secrets behind the staying power of several evergreen political parties in the world. A piece written by theorist Xiao Feng on the Cuban Communist Party heaped lavish praise on how Fidel Castro has stood up to American pressure. Xiao asserted that Cubans had remained strong and defiant thanks to their “firm faith [in socialism] and unyielding spirit.” Xiao cited the famous Castro axiom: “We won’t change the direction of our ship even if we were to sink into the deep sea.” Indeed, in a now-famous internal talk late last year, Hu had praised the Castro and Kim regimes in Cuba and North Korea for effectively preserving the “purity” of Communist ideals. Moreover, a series of ideological campaigns launched this past year by Hu, including a Maoist movement to “preserve the advanced nature” of party members, has been modeled upon the Cuban experience. It is highly doubtful, however, whether the Chinese leadership’s ambitious blueprint for socio-economic take-off could ever be attained through wallowing in the mire of old-style CCP norms.

2. China's pollution and its threat to domestic and regional stability. A good summary of the current woeful state of China's environment and its spreading impact. Again read the whole thing but to repeat the conclusion, which I don't fully agree with:

Pollution and environmental degradation, not traditionally considered security concerns, should be accounted for in security assessments of China and the region. Social unrest, the potential for large-scale political mobilization, and democratization are increasingly challenging CCP power and legitimacy. These trends, when linked to political change, could lead to outbreaks of violence, possible large-scale emigration, economic instability, and other concerns.

In facing such a serious problem, China would benefit from further foreign assistance and expertise. As the health of China and its economy is inextricably linked to all of the world’s most developed economies, wealthy states and NGOs should consider additional courses of action to help China form a credible environmental movement supported by legal experts, academics and Party officials sympathetic to change. Although not a complete solution, increased foreign assistance may be a step in the right direction. Alternatively, and if left untreated, China’s environment will worsen and threaten stability in one of the most populated and dynamic areas on Earth.

China's environmental regulators and NGOs are growing in power and visibility. But it's not up to the rest of the world to bail China out of its self-made environmental problems. It's up to China's leadership to recognise these problems and the potential constraints they could impose on continued economic growth. As an aside, Reuters reports China is to blacklist and penalise polluting cities, while CSR Asia says there are 400,000 smog-related deaths a year.


Co-incidence or not, Mark Thoma points to Thomas Friedman's piece on China's growing environmental problems and the potential for co-operative policies.


3. More Strait talk: 10 years after the Taiwan missile crisis. Recounts the recent history of cross-strait relations and optimisically states peace and stability can unfold in a pragmatic and step-by-step fashion. After a decade of “cold peace,” it is in the best interest of both sides to engage in constructive dialogue on simple, functional, and non-contentious issues.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:00
Permalink | Speak Up (0) | TrackBack (1)

» poker casino951 links with: poker casino951

September 28, 2005
Oil, textiles and the Ruskies

Yes, it's Jamestown Foundation's regular China Brief newsletter:

1. William Hawkins says Chinese textiles will likely lead to further tensions with America.

2. John Calabrese looks at the broadening ties between China and Saudi Arabia.

3. Martin Andrew has an in-depth look at the Sino-Russian military exercises and the conclusions reached.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:06
Permalink | Speak Up (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 14, 2005
Hu, Liu Yazhou, China's special forces & Kashmir

After a month long break, the Jamestown Foundation's China Briefs are back. As always, some great reading for China watchers:

1. Willy Lam talks about President Hu's consolidation of power while he tries to maintain social stability. Lam's writings are always must reads.

2. A senior commissar, general and princeling of the CCP, Liu Yazhou, continues to publish provocative articles. As the article states, it is a "startling indication of policy discussion and change" when a senior establishment member is publishing such articles without censorship.

3. Matrin Andrew looks at the challenges for China's special forces with terrorism, riots and the Olympics.

4. China's policy on Kashmir, a key aspect of China's policy in dealing with both Pakistan and India.

show comments right here »

[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:49
Permalink | Speak Up (0) | TrackBack (1)

» The Acorn links with: China’s anodyne policy on Kashmir