Last week we listed some items that are growing in popularity among China's increasingly wealthy middle class, along with some of the impacts of these recent obsessions, including jade. One major consequence not included in the list is the fact that China's passion for jade has been criticized by both human rights groups and the U.S. government for financing Burma's military dictatorship.
Brian Leber, a Chicago-based jeweler involved in efforts for an industry-wide boycott of jewels from Burma, wrote in to remind us that the Southeast Asian country is not only home to one of the world's most repressive regimes, it also has millions of kilograms of jadeite -- the most expensive and most sought after jade in China.
U.S. trade sanctions on Myanmar that specifically targeted the military junta's trade of jadeite have apparently done little to quell the Chinese appetite for the fine gem: According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, jadeite from Myanmar has, unlike other gems, continued to be "primarily purchased, processed, and consumed by China."
President Obama has gone beyond any simple congratulatory message for 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, he's called for the Chinese to free him:
I welcome the Nobel Committee's decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr. Liu Xiaobo... By granting the prize to Mr. Liu, the Nobel Committee has chosen someone who has been an eloquent and courageous spokesman for the advance of universal values through peaceful and non-violent means, including his support for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law...
Over the last 30 years, China has made dramatic progress in economic reform and improving the lives of its people, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. But this award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected. We call on the Chinese government to release Mr. Liu as soon as possible.
Surely, this won't go down well with the Chinese, who were
already quite unhappy
about the first Chinese winner being
imprisoned for his pro-democracy work
a criminal while also facing other U.S. pressures.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
Fourteen Chinese dissidents and the Chinese Communist Party have finally agreed on something: Liu Xiaobo should not get the Nobel Peace Prize. While Chinese authorities have found his pro-democracy work worthy of 11 years of prison time and have made it clear to Norway that his victory would not be in its best interests, a group of overseas Chinese dissidents found Liu to be "unsuitable" for the award because they believed he has not adopted a strong enough line against the ruling Communist Party:
In a letter, the signatories accused Mr. Liu...of maligning fellow activists, abandoning persecuted members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement and going soft on China's leaders.
"His open praise in the last 20 years for the Chinese Communist Party, which has never stopped trampling on human rights, has been extremely misleading and influential," they wrote.
Chinese dissidents against Chinese dissidents? The New York Times accurately notes that the letter is symptomatic of the Chinese dissident community throughout the world, a "fractured group beset by squabbling and competing claims of anti-authoritarian righteousness." Well, it wouldn't be the first time exiled dissidents haven't gotten along.
ANTONY DICKSON/AFP/Getty Images
Iraq is still paying the world back for Saddam's actions -- literally. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Iraqi government has agreed to pay $400 million to American citizens who claimed to have been tortured or traumatized by the Iraqi regime following Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. With a 15-30 percent unemployment rate, ubiquitous violence, and a still lacking infrastructure, why is the new Iraqi regime paying so much money to American citizens when it was all Saddam's fault? Because the payment may help Iraq's case to end U.N. sanctions that have lasted since Saddam Hussein's rule:
Settling the claims, which were brought by American citizens, has been seen as a key requirement for Washington to be willing to push for an end to the UN sanctions.
"There was a lot of pressure on the Iraqi government to do something that gets Congress off their back," says one senior Iraqi official, adding that the settlement cleared the way for US efforts to bring Iraq out from under the UN sanctions.
That's right, Saddam is long gone but sanctions on the still rebuilding country aren't. In fact, Iraq has already paid Kuwait $27.6 billion in reparations and continues to devote five percent of its oil revenues in accordance with the U.N. sanctions resulting from Saddam's invasion. While many countries have cancelled a lot or all of Iraq's debt to them, Kuwait continues to support Iraqi reparations -- regardless of the $22 billion Kuwaiti budget surplus for the last fiscal year.
So if U.S. citizens get paid by the Iraqi government for Saddam's "traumatizing" from 20 years ago, what will the United States pay the families of Iraqi citizens that are actually killed by U.S. forces? Well, the U.S. government is trying to find ways for Iraq to pay for that too.
RAMZI HAIDAR/AFP/Getty Images
Following Admiral Mullen's declaration last week that the U.S. military has a plan to attack Iran but really does not want to use it, a former deputy commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard has claimed that Iran has dug mass graves for U.S. soldiers in preparation for war. Not saying exactly how many graves have been dug, General Hossein Kana'ani Moghadam told AP:
"The mass graves that used to be for burying Saddam's soldiers have now been prepared again for U.S. soldiers, and this is the reason for digging this big number of graves," […]
If U.S. forces attack, "Iran will have no choice but to strike the American bases in the region," he said. "The heavy costs of such a war will not be just on the Islamic Republic of Iran. America and other countries should accept that this would be the start of an extensive war in the region.
In a move that counter-proliferation experts have called a step backward, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration is in "advanced negotiations" with Hanoi to share nuclear fuel and technology. Furthermore, in going against the model that the Obama administration used for other nuclear deals -- requiring the country to not enrich uranium -- the new agreement also reportedly allows Hanoi todo just that. Although signatories of the UN's Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty have the right to enrich uranium, the United States has previously required countries interested in civilian nuclear cooperation to renounce that right.
The WSJ found that many aren't too excited for the State Department-led negotiations that are expected to continue in the fall:
Congressional staff and nonproliferation experts briefed on the negotiations have been quick to criticize the State Department's position as a rollback of a key Obama administration nonproliferation platform. They also say Washington's position exposes it to criticism from Arab and developing countries that the U.S. is employing a double standard in pursuing its nuclear policies. […]
"It's ironic...as nonproliferation is one of the president's top goals that the U.A.E. model is not being endorsed here," said a senior Arab official whose government is pursuing nuclear power. "People will start to see a double standard, and it will be a difficult policy to defend in the future.
To make this even more interesting, China was completely uninvolved in the negotiations about the potential for uranium enrichment on its southern border. This comes after China criticized Secretary Clinton for supporting Hanoi's position on territorial disputes in the South China Sea…territorial disputes that seem to be ongoing.
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