In the wake of a series of cyber attacks from Chinese I.P. addresses at the height of the Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute, Yomiuri Shimbun reports that Japan is pushing a plan to create a "cyber defense network" consisting of Japan and 10 ASEAN countries.
"Under the system, the government intends to share information about cyber-attack patterns and technology to defend against the attacks. It also plans to carry out exercises to verify the effectiveness of the system within the current fiscal year."
More details will be discussed during meetings on information security in Tokyo this week, but the countries reportedly interested in participating include Thailand and Indonesia.
While the network's present plans -- sharing technology and information about attack patterns -- don't seem particularly innovative or groundbreaking, the fact that the network is being formed could be seen as another sign of widespread, cross-border fears of Chinese hackers.
More than a dozen Japanese websites belonging to banks, a government minister, a hospital, and some courts were hit during the row over the Senkaku Islands, many altered to display Chinese flags or to proclaim that the Diaoyu islands belong to China. Similar attacks took place on websites in the Phillipines - again related to a territorial spat over an island - earlier this year (although in fairness, Filipino hackers struck back) while last week saw a flurry of reports claiming that Chinese hackers had targeted the White House in a cyberattack (the White House said the attacks were a simple spear-phishing email, and that no harm had been done).
Yomiuiri Shimbun also reports that ASEAN countries might be interested in the network because their protections against cyberattacks haven't kept up with the increased use of computer equipment that has accompanied economic development.
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Since Japan "nationalized" the disputed Senkaku Islands on September 11, much ink has been spilled in Chinese media on the resoluteness and integrity of China's claims on the islands, which it calls the Diaoyu, a group of uninhabited islands and rocks in the East China Sea with a total area of roughly 4 miles. After a Tuesday meeting at the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, China's state news agency Xinhua quoted Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi telling his Japanese counterpart "China's solemn position on the issue of Diaoyu Islands, which have been China's sacred territory since ancient times."
Regardless of which side has the better territorial claim, it's worth pointing out that Chinese leaders in the modern era have an abysmal record of winning border disputes. Chinese leaders have conceded territory, "or at least given up long-asserted territorial claims, rather liberally in recent years to settle frontier disputes with neighboring countries," writes Edward N. Luttwak in an upcoming book on Chinese strategy:
"In bilateral negotiations, the Chinese side conceded 100 percent of the Afghan claim, 76 percent of the Laos claim, 66 percent of Kazakhstan's, 65 percent of the Republic of Mongolia's claim, 94 percent of Nepal's, 60 percent of North Korea's, 96 percent of Tajikistan's, and 50 percent of Vietnam's land claim (in sharp contrast to Chinese intransigence over its maritime claims). With the Soviet Union and then the Russian Federation, successive negotiations were also concluded successfully on a roughly 50/50 basis."(Luttwak is in part citing a 2008 book by MIT professor M. Taylor Fravel.)
With the amount of attention the island's are getting and China's changed place in the world, it's extremely unlikely Beijing will yield on the Diaoyus, or to its claims in the South China Sea. Perhaps the memory of past failures will lead to more resolute defense of the current disputes. But it's worth remembering that despite the bluster, China certainly has given up "sacred territory" in the past.
It's been a rough year for China's one percent. Just yesterday Reuters reported that demand for Chinese luxury brands -- down of late -- is unlikely to rebound after Beijing imposed a "frugal working style" on government employees in an effort to curb conspicuous consumption (read conspicuous corruption.) Now the Financial Times is reporting (behind the paywall) that the number of US dollar billionaires in China fell last year for the first time in seven years:
In its annual report on China's super-wealthy, released on Monday, Hurun [Rich List] said China had 251 people worth $1bn or more, down 20 from last year but still sharply up from 2006, when there were just 15...Nearly half of the 1,000 richest people in China saw their wealth shrink in the past year, 37 of them by more than 50 per cent. The average wealth of the top 1,000 also fell 9 per cent to $860m, at a time when growth in the Chinese economy has also decelerated, the property market has declined and the stock market has fallen sharply. Chinese GDP growth hit a three-year low of 7.6 per cent year on year in the second quarter of this year.
Reduced Chinese demand for luxury cars has also forced Toyota to scale back the production of Lexus cars for export to China. With the economic outlook so grim, there's no telling what could be next -- party officials might even be forced to think twice about buying Porsches for their kids!
With all the attention being paid to the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands at the moment, it's worth keeping in mind that they aren't the only remote pacific islets that China and Japan are feuding over. And despite their much-maligned size and lack of resources (besides bat guano), the Diaoyus/Senkakus aren't even the most desolate of the ocean rocks inflaming tensions between the two Asian superpowers.
See: Okinotorishima (pictured above). This singularly unimpressive coral atoll barely remains above the waves at high tide -- and only does so thanks to human help. Japan has spent $600 million taking measures to defend Okinotorishima from the sea by encasing parts of the islets in concrete and steel. Several years ago it sent fishery officials to plant extra coral around them in an attempt to beef them up and protect them from erosion (the islets sit in a particularly stormy corner of the Pacific). Yet even so, at high tide the two chunks of the island that protrude from the water are described as hardly larger than a pair of king size beds, and remained threatened by rising sea levels.
To be clear, this fight differs from the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute in that China does not want Okinotorishima (translated as "remote bird island"), or challenge Japan's claim. But the Okinotorishima fight highlights the geopolitics often underlying these island feuds: Japan has gone to such lengths to preserve Okinotorishima because possession of the tiny islets lets Japan claim an extra 150,000 square miles of exclusive economic zone, strategically located between Taiwan and US military bases on Guam. China - which been accused of violating Japanese sovereignty by mapping the sea floor around the islands - claims that they are not islands at all, but marine rocks, and therefore not entitled to their own EEZ (the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea says that rocks must be able to sustain "human habitation or economic life" before they get an EEZ). A recent UN panel on the issue has generated claims of victory from both sides.
At this point, the geopolitics of the Diaoyu/Senkaku fight have been mostly overshadowed by issues of historical grievances and nationalism - however, these islands, too, would give China and Japan EEZ rights to waters potentially containing significant oil and gas reserves. Similarly, the Okinotorishima fight, while at heart a geopolitical one, has occasionally also been complicated by nationalist feelings: following the Chinese crying foul over the islets in 2004, the right-learning Nippon Foundation scrambled to construct a lighthouse that would help generate "economic life", and help bolster their claim that it's morethan a reef.
While the Diaoyu/Senkaku furor is clearly top priority for the moment, Japan hasn't forgotten about Okinotorishima: earlier this year, the Cabinet approved legislation that gave the Coast Guard new law enforcement powers in some of the country's disputed territorial waters. The Diaoyu/Senkaku islands were on the list; so was Okinotorishima.
The Chinese government has ordered restrictions on Ramadan observances in the northern province of Xinjiang, home to the majority of China's Muslim Uighur minority, leading Uighur leaders to warn of the potential for new violence in the restive region. Al Jazeera reports that party officials and students under the age of 18 have been banned from fasting during the Holy Month while government websites have urged local Communist Party leaders to impose further restrictions on religious activity.
Citing the need to "maint[ain] social stability during the Ramadan period" the Zonglang township in the Kashgar district issued a statement reminding citizens that "It is forbidden for Communist Party cadres, civil officials (including those who have retired) and students to participate in Ramadan religious activities." Others local governments have urged party leaders to enforce the ban by bringing "gifts" of food to local leaders.
Though mosques remain open for prayers, new restrictions have limited services. Foreigners have been banned from entering mosques and Muslims wishing to attend services must first display a national identity card as confirmation of their local residence. Public congregation after the services is prohibited and students are encouraged to avoid public prayer.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress attributed the crackdown to recent ethnic violence in the cities of Kashgar and Hotan but warned the restrictions will incite "the Uighur people to resist [Chinese rule] even further."
Xinjiang province has long history of rebellion against the communist government. Peaceful protests against the closure of independent religious schools and the ban of meshreps broke into violence in February 1997 when security forces opened fire on unarmed demonstrators. Security forces conducted house to house searches, arresting and, human rights activists warned, torturing some prisoners to death. Similar violence broke out in July 2009, killing 197 and injuring more that 1,600. The crackdown was severe, as police brutality, home searches, and mass detentions resulted in at least 43 disappearances.
In a press release issued last month, Amnesty International Asia Pacific Director Catherine Baber warned that "The general trend toward repression that we see all over China is particularly pronounced in [Xinjian]." The organization's report on the situation concluded" The ethnic identity of Uighurs is being systematically eroded."
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India's dark days continue. When two of the country's five power grids collapsed today, the number of powerless Indians neared 700 million. With stranded trains, unresponsive ATMs, and dark traffic lights abounding, it's been an unprecedented disaster only somewhat mitigated by the fact that the majority of Indians aren't connected to the power grid in the first place.
India's outage is now the largest blackout in history, surpassing yesterday's power outage for the record. But it's not the only time the world has seen millions without power. Here are a few more of the world's recent memorable blackouts:
Number affected: 120 million people in Java and Bali
When three power stations went down, three provinces -- including the capital city, Jakarta -- were plunged into darkness. Fires erupted across the capital when resourceful residents turned to candles to light their homes.
Number affected: 97 million across Brazil and Paraguay
The blackout was caused by lightning hitting an electricity substation, causing the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to grind to a hault. Just two years later, the Brazilian government was forced to ration power to prevent more blackouts during a national drought.
Number affected: 60 million across Brazil and Paraguay
Ten years after Brazil's biggest blackout, the Itaipu dam along the border of Paraguay shut down completely, affecting large parts of both countries. Many at the time thought the blackout (shown above) was the consequence of a cyberattack.
Number affected: 57 million across Italy
The blackout occurred the night of Italy's annual "Nuit Blanche" or "White Night" festival in Rome. It's safe to say festivities ended earlier than expected.
Number affected: 50 million in New York, Michigan, and Ohio, as well as Toronto and Ottawa, Canada
The biggest blackout in U.S. history cost an estimated $6 billion dollars. Remarkably, the massive outage began with a single high-voltage power line in Northern Ohio brushing against overgrown trees.
Number affected: 30 million across parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, and Ontario, Canada
The initial cause of the blackout was the tripping of a transmission line near Ontario, though at time, many linked the outage with supposed UFO sightings.
Number affected: 10 million across Europe
After a routine shut down of a high-voltage transmission line to allow a ship to pass on the Elms river in Germany supposedly caused this blackout. France, Italy, Austria, Belgium, and Spain were also affected.
Number affected: 10 million
Keeping the lights on does, indeed, appear to be an Achilles heel for the fast-growing economy, provoking fears ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
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Those hoping for an Iran-Israel Judo showdown will be disappointed after a "critical digestive system infection" prevented Jahvaad Majoob -- the only Iranian athlete scheduled to compete alongside an Israeli -- from boarding the plane to London. Yet, from the North Korean flag mix up to the ongoing controversy over a Saudi Arabian judo fighter's headscarf, those itching for some geopolitical proxy battles will have their fill. Here are another seven matches to watch:
Table Tennis: North Korea vs. South Korea
August 3, 2:00 pm EST
For big tension on a very small court, viewers should tune in to the first found of men's team table tennis where North Korea will face off against its archenemy South Korea. The nations remain technically at war despite a July 27, 1953 armistice, and the demilitarized zone remains one of the most dangerous borders in the world with Pyongyang threatening to turn Seoul into a "sea of flames." In this match at least, paddles are certain to fly.
Lightweight Double Sculls: South China smackdown
July 29 5:40 am EST
Poor Germany is stuck in the middle of China, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea in the women's lightweight double sculls. As the Asian nations squabble over islands in the East and South China Seas and the potential for naval war looms, the title of best rower may mean more than just a medal.
Handball: Britain vs. Argentina
August 2, 11:15 am EST
Despite insisting in February that her country would not boycott the games, Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced this week she will not attend the opening ceremony. Her absence is a protest against Britain's claims to the Falklands, which Argentine maintains at their rightful territory despite their military defeat in 1982. As the island nears a referendum to determine its political status, Argentinean and British Olympic teams will have the chance to fight it out on men's handball court. If the losing country isn't satisfied, it will get another chance -- they're scheduled to play in field hockey too.
Pair Rowing: Greece vs. Germany
July 28, 7:00 am EST
Blood pressure will be high as Greece's Nikolaos Gkountoulas and Apostolos Gkountoulas race Germany's Anton Braun and Felix Drahotta in the men's pair rowing race. As debtor faces creditor, viewers should hope it'll be a repeat of the 2012 Euro Cup. Team loyalty got political when creative German fans mocked the Greeks "Without Angie, you wouldn't be here." Not to be beat, the Greeks struck low: "We'll never pay you back. We'll never pay you back." The question remains-if Greece wins, who gets the gold?
Soccer: U.S. vs. North Korea
July 31, 12:15 pm EST
Opponents on every issue ranging from human rights to nuclear weapons, the United States and North Korea will face off in match 15 of the women's group G. Though the United States won the FIFA 2008 Championship title after defeating North Korea in the final round, their 2010 quarterfinal losses prevented a rematch. It remains to be seen if young leader Kim Jong Un is as harsh as his dad when it comes to international soccer failure.
Fencing: China vs. Japan
August 5, 5:30 am EST
While Beijing and Tokyo diplomats have so far limited themselves to lobbing rhetorical barbs over the latest territorial row, fencers Kenta Chida, Ryo Miyake, Lei Sheng and Jianfei Ma will face off in the men's team foil. Though fencing is lauded as a game of strategy, not force, the fighters' long history is certainly bloody.
Basketball: U.S. vs. China
August 5, 11:45 am EST
The U.S. women's basketball team faces China in game 52. U.S. - Sino relations have begun to sour as the United States pivots its forces to Asia and populist rhetoric has entered the U.S. presidential race. Bruised by an embarrassing 62-100 loss to the U.S. in May, seventh-ranked China is thirsty for revenge.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
North Korea's women's soccer team walked off the pitch yesterday after players' faces were mistakenly projected next to the South Korean flag. The angered team refused to return until the image had been corrected, delaying the game substantially before returning to defeat Colombia 2-0. North Korea's coach Sin Ui Gun defended his teams decision, telling BBC news "If this matter had not been solved, continuing would have been a nonsense."
The incident is just another on the growing list of Olympic gaffes. The Council for British-Arab Understanding has mocked new Arabic security posters as "gibberish," noting that the posters had been printed in the wrong alphabet and individual characters reversed. As the Passport reported earlier, confusion over athlete's birthplaces led to several independent states being listed as Russian in an accidental return to Soviet geography. Olympic officials proved they did not, however, discriminate, and in a slew of mistakes struck closer to home. The Great Britain team program incorrectly listed Swansea City's Welsh midfielder, Joe Allen, as English -- just a day after a press release congratulated the British women's team under the banner "England women on their way."
For their part, Scottish officials have pointed the finger to London over the North Korea episode, claiming that the Glasgow stadium was displaying a video produced by a capital organizer and highlighting that the correct flag was flown from the stadium's top tier. Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters "This was an honest mistake, honestly made" before pleading: "We shouldn't over-inflate this episode -- it was unfortunate, it shouldn't have happened and I think we can leave it at that."
The North Korean team accepted the official apology before retreating to hotel seclusion. Though state media carefully avoided mention of the flag dispute, Coach Sin Ui Gun warned "winning the game can't compensate for the mistake." We'll see if the upcoming men's table tennis match between South Korea and North Korea changes his mind.
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As regional powers fight for control of the China Seas, one family wants out. With the lease to the Japanese government expiring in March 2014, the Kurihara family are scrambling to sell four out of the five resource-rich and much-disputed Senkaku Islands, known as Diaoyu in China, "as early as we can."
Tokyo's inflammatory governor Shintaro Ishihara leads the bidding war after the Kurihara family today refused Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's offer, explaining, "It is not our family's idea to suddenly switch partners just because someone else has appeared on the scene." Though Ishihara's offer has not been made public, the islands' estimated value tops $19 million.
Unsurprisingly, Beijing, who claims the islands on "indisputable historical and legal grounds," has not been invited to the negotiating table and has instead renounced the sale from afar, warning in a press statement released Saturday that "no one will ever be allowed to buy and sell China's sacred territory."
The Kurihara family's sudden eagerness to sell is unsurprising. Tensions between Beijing and Tokyo peaked earlier this month after Chinese vessels repeatedly entered Japanese waters in an incident eerily reminiscent of the Scarborough Shoal affair. Claiming they were protecting Chinese fishing rights, the Chinese patrol ships refused a Japanese Coast Guard patrol's request to leave the area, instead insisting the Japanese forces leave "Chinese territorial waters" immediately. Tokyo promptly lodged two formal complaints against China before withdrawing its ambassador from Beijing in protest on July 16th. Heads butted again at Cambodia's failed ASEAN conference when Chinese Foreign Minister Yang "reaffirmed China's principled position" and stressed that countries "indisputable sovereignty."
Emotions run high on both sides as the islands have sparked dramatic conflict in the past. In 2010, Japan arrested a Chinese trawler for ramming Japanese coastguard vessels repeatedly, sparking a diplomatic row that lasted weeks and inspiring a 'Defend Diaoyu' video game. Meanwhile, the Japanese public has donated nearly $1 million to Tokyo's island fund, with the officials of the municipal government citing 197 calls of assistance in recent days in a display of widespread public support.
Though the world remains focused on the southern Spratly Islands, it may be time to look a little further east.
eng Li/Getty Images
In a press release issued this morning, Human Rights Watch slammed Yale University, criticizing the administration for "betraying the spirit of the university as a center of open debate and protest by giving away the rights of its students." The statement indicts Yale's agreement to enforce Singapore's restrictive laws regarding freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly on its new joint-venture with the National University of Singapore -- the first new college to bear the New Haven university's name in three centuries.
The Yale-NUS college's new president, Pericles Lewis, has repeatedly defended the decision, arguing that students "are going to be totally free to express their views" before admitting the campus "won't have partisan politics or be forming political parties on campus." Unsurprisingly, Yale students and faculty (whose 22 registered student political organizations will be barred from founding sister organizations on the NUS-Yale campus), were less than reassured. Already riled by accusations last spring that special confidentiality arrangements for General Stanley MacCrystal's class were a violation of intellectual freedom, student newspapers have openly mocked the administration's decision while professors have organized protests warning the restrictions limit academic freedom and negatively influence faculty hiring and research programs.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, agreed, calling Singapore's laws restricting political groups and demonstrations "draconian" before warning "Yale may find that many of the freedoms taken for granted over its 300 year history are against the law in Singapore. If it truly values those freedoms, and expects its students to, it will need to fight for them."
Something for U.S. universities to keep in mind as more and more expand into international campuses.
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Despite the heated rhetoric over inequality in the United States and elsewhere, today more people on average believe that the rich "deserve their wealth," according to a 23-country survey released by Globe Scan last week.
The survey, which asked over 12,000 people whether they agreed with the statement "most rich people in my country deserve their wealth," found that this year nearly 15 percent strongly agreed and 28 percent agreed versus 12 percent and 27 percent respectively in 2008. The slight increase was driven by improved perceptions of deserved wealth in Australia and Indonesia, with an eight and 11 percent increase of "agree" statements respectively. In the United States, ground zero for the Occupy movement, 58 percent believed the rich deserved their wealth.
The study found that in 6 of the 23 countries surveyed-- Australia, the United States, Canada, China, and Indonesia and India -- the majority of respondents believe that the rich deserve their wealth.
This group represents almost half of the world's population and includes the world's three largest democracies, India, the United States and Indonesia. Perhaps unsurprisingly, among the countries with pro-wealthy perceptions are the two largest economies, the U.S. and China, and countries in the upper tiers of fastest growing economies -- China, Indonesia, and India.
However, the countries in this group run the gamut in terms of prosperity levels: India and the United States occupy opposite ends of the GDP-per-capita spectrum. Also notable is the absence of any European or Latin American state in the pro-rich category. Six European states, five of which are in the OECD, and five Latin American countries all pooh-poohed their country's wealthy. The only African countries surveyed, Kenya and Ghana, showed unfavorable views of the rich and their wealth, though there was a significant jump in approval in Kenya from 2008.
Below is a side-by-side comparison between each country's GINI coefficients-a commonly-used measure of inequality-- and their attitudes towards the rich.
*CIA World Factbook Figures (higher numbers indicate greater inequality)
Panda diplomacy has become a pillar of China's soft power strategy, but the death of a week-old baby panda in Japan -- the first born to Tokyo's Ueno zoo in 24 years -- stands to disappoint those who hoped that its birth would motivate "people-to-people sentiment" and help overcome the strained China-Japan relationship. The unnamed cub, who died of pneumonia, had already become a national sensation. As AFP reported, "Newscasts had dedicated a nightly segment to the male cub's daily activities since his birth on July 5, with retailers unveiling a host of panda-themed products in celebration." A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Wednesday that the country laments Tokyo's loss.
This may be a major blow, but the legacy of the 5-ounce panda is not without controversy. On June 29, Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara drew the ire of China's foreign ministry for suggesting that the zoo name the unborn baby cub after the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan, but whose sovereignty is disputed by China. The Chinese foreign ministry responded with a statement calling Ishihara's "scheme to undermine China-Japan relations" a "clumsy performance" that "will only tarnish the image of Japan and Tokyo."
Hopefully, China's panda diplomacy gesture toward Malaysia will chart a smoother path.
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
The Chinese government has decided to ban shark fin soup at official receptions, the New York Times reports. For decades, environmentalists have lobbied to end the practice of eating shark fin soup, popular in China and other parts of Southeast Asia, because of the toll it takes on endangered shark species.
However, the decision, lauded by shark protection groups, was not driven by conservation concerns but by concern about the appearance of state-sponsored opulence, according to Chinese state media. The Chinese GSA announced on Tuesday the decision to ban the delicacy in order to avoid the appearance of government waste.
Of course, the move is more gesture than substance: party officials continue to enjoy the spoils of office in the form of privatization deals for family members and closed bids for government contracts. This latest announcement follows a series of moves in a broader campaign to reduce perceptions of inequality, including a 2011 ban on the use of the word "luxury" in advertising.
The impact the ban will have on government balance sheet remains unclear; Although China is known to be the largest consumer of shark fin soup, no figures were released on government-specific soup expenditure.
TEH ENG KOON/AFP/Getty Images)
Forget Occupy Wall Street. In Shanghai, the stock market itself seems to be fighting the system. The Shanghai Stock Exchange opened at 2346.98 on Monday, and the Shanghai stock market fell 64.89 points that same day. Take a closer look at that those numbers. They mark - the first one written backwards -- the 23rd anniversary of the June 4, 1989 bloody suppression of the protests in Tiananmen Square. Because of this uncanny and very likely manipulated numerology, searches for "Shanghai Composite" were blocked by Sina Weibo, China's twitter-like micro-blogging service.
Like a seasonal cold it just can't kick, every year on and around the anniversary of June 4, something happens in China. In preparation for the date, the Chinese government marshals its censors to prevent online discussion of the event. The square itself, usually lively, falls quieter, hemmed by security officers and plainclothes policemen. Prominent dissidents are guarded, and urged to stay off the streets.
In 1995 a dissident launched a hunger strike; in 2004 AIDS activist laid out a plan for a candlelight vigil before he was arrested. Other years saw other forms of protest. Bloggers try to find new and innovative ways to discuss the event; the term May 35th was popular for awhile, less so when it became too obvious.
The Dui-Hua foundation, a San Francisco-based humanitarian organization, estimates that less than a dozen protestors from June 4th remain in prison; the oldest is likely 73-year old Jiang Yaqun, convicted of the now defunct crime "counter-revolutionary sabotage." Almost all of those imprisoned in the aftermath of Tiananmen were released long ago, and still the event rankles. This year in late May the father of a Tiananmen Square victim hung himself after failing to find justice. Protests occurred in three provinces across China, according to the South China Morning Post. "We went there to vent our anger against the autocratic regime," the Post quotes a 52-year old woman named Fan Yanqiong as saying. "I'm neither a relative of those killed, nor do I have any direct connection with the June 4 crackdown...But I simply can't help bursting into tears whenever I see pictures or read articles about the suppression of the movement over the years." The protest apparently lasted for two hours, disbanded peacefully, and featured the mobilization of what the Post optimistically refers to as "more than a dozen activists."
The bizarre numbers from the Shanghai stock market is an ideal form of protest (if that is what they were; no one has claimed responsibility yet). Subtle, but eerie, and consequential: a clear signal to investors that China's stock market can fall prey to non-market forces. And to a government that's often seen as an oppressive force watching over China, it's a sign that people with other opinions are there, watching back.
Yesterday, Al-Jazeera English announced that it would be closing its bureau in Beijing after the Chinese government refused to renew the press credentials and visa of its China correspondent, Melissa Chan. Chan, based in Beijing since 2007, has an excellent reputation as a journalist, reporting hard-hitting stories on black jails, the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and Chinese land grabs. (Disclosure: I worked with Chan on the board of the Foreign Correspondent's Club of China and consider her a friend.)
Chan's expulsion is believed to be the first for a foreign journalist based in China since the 1998 deportation of a Japanese journalist; writing in the New Yorker, Evan Osnos described it as the revival of "a Soviet-era strategy that will undermine [China's] own efforts to project soft power," and a clear step backwards for Beijing.
That it is, no doubt. But Chan also fits into the troubling pattern of the foreigners Beijing has targeted over the last decade: those the Chinese government views of having less protection because of their ethnicity and nationality; often with Chinese backgrounds. It appears that someone in the Chinese government wanted to give a warning to journalists without causing an international incident; Chan, a Chinese-American working for a Qatari-based television station, seemed to be an appropriate target. The thinking seems to be that a foreign government will more loudly protest the mistreatment of a citizen who is both born and raised in its own country and working for a domestic company.
It's not just journalists who are affected. In December 2009, China executed Akmal Shaikh, a British citizen accused of smuggling eight pounds of heroin into China. The execution of Shaikh, the first for a European in China in 50 years and despite protests from the British government, came as China wanted to appear tough against crime; Shaikh also happened to have been born in Pakistan.
In 2010 the Chinese government sentenced Stern Hu, a Chinese-born Australian who formerly ran Rio Tinto's iron ore operations in China, to 10 years in prison for accepting bribes and stealing trade secrets, in a case widely viewed as political; his former boss said Hu had been "thrown to the wolves." Xue Feng, a Chinese-born American citizen was sentenced to eight years in prison in July 2010 under China's menacingly vague state secrets laws for purchasing an oil database.
Following the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, a handful of journalists, including Americans working for American papers and Brits working for British papers, were expelled. British-born Andrew Higgins was expelled from China in 1991 while working for London's Independent newspaper for supposedly possessing confidential information. Some journalists expelled around that time were let back in, like John Pomfret, a former Washington Post bureau chief, kicked out in 1989 for what authorities called "stealing state secrets and violating martial law provisions" and what he called writing "about Tiananmen Square." Unlike Pomfret, Higgins, who now works for the Post, has not been given the standard long-term visa to report in China, and instead covers the region from Hong Kong.
The pattern seems to be that powerful countries like the United States will be less likely to protest the mistreatment of an American working for a non-American company, or a foreigner working for an American organization, when it becomes a more complicated procedure of coordinating responses between embassies and ministries. Executives and reporters with Chinese backgrounds have many advantages operating in China. Besides language skills and local networks, they can blend in a country where different color skin clearly identifies one as an outsider. Anecdotally speaking, they seem to be given less leniency when they don't follow China's laws; like they're supposed to "know better."
Many foreign news bureaus are hosted in two diplomatic compounds in the Jianguomen neighborhood. As a reporter based out of the compound for two years, I entered freely, while foreign reporters who looked Chinese (and, of course, those that were Chinese), often had to show their IDs to get in. Injustice in China affects more than just the locals.
The blind, self-taught legal activist Chen Guangcheng has escaped from his village in Shandong province where he was kept a prisoner in his own home and fled to Beijing. The New York Times quoted an official at the Chinese Ministry of State Security as saying Chen had made it to the U.S. embassy, though the State Department hasn't confirmed or denied if Chen is inside.
Chen become famous for filing a class action lawsuit in 2005 on behalf of woman who underwent forced sterilizations; he was later imprisoned for three years for "damaging property and organising a mob to disturb traffic" and then kept under de facto house arrest. Chen's house became a spot of pilgrimage for human rights activists, a sort of adventure tourism for Chinese who wanted to experience for themselves the thuggishness their country has to offer. Batman actor Christian Bale tried to visit as well but was forcibly turned away; "What I really wanted to do was to meet the man, shake his hand and say what an inspiration he is" Bale said at the time.
It's a sensitive time for the United States to consider offering Chen asylum, as China is still reeling from the downfall of high ranking leader Bo Xilai, a scandal precipitated by an associate of his seeking refuge in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu.
This is at least the second time that Chen has escaped from house arrest. "The night gives me an advantage," he told Time Magazine, after fleeing from an early house arrest in August 2005 to Beijing. "I can navigate better than people with sight can."
LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images
Last week, U.S. web hosting company Name.com received an email ordering them to stop unregister the domain of Boxun, a Chinese news portal run out of North Carolina. Boxun, which has the same retro, link-heavy feel as Craigslist or Drudge Report, serves as a clearinghouse of the rumor and intrigue circulating the web about Chinese elite politics. "We have our sources," says Watson Meng, a Duke University graduate from China who founded the website in 2000 and still runs it, supervising the editing and posting of an average of more than ten articles daily.
Since former police chief Wang Lijun fled to a U.S. Consulate in Chengdu in February, precipitating the downfall of Politburo rising star Bo Xilai and China's biggest political scandal in decades, Meng's site has published and reposted stories about Bo's wife's links to the Tiananmen square massacre, a text message Bo's brother apparently sent last week that said Bo Xilai's case had been "settled," and reports that the Bo case has finally given President Hu Jintao control over the military. "We got the eavesdropping story weeks ago," he said, referring to recent reports that Bo had spied on other leaders. Many of Boxun's stories appear to be true; others feature what could best be called speculation supported by anonymous sources. Still, it's been an exceptional three months for the website, which has seen its traffic increase by 160 percent.
A source familiar with the matter forwarded me the original English-language email Name.com received: "Hello, due to a domain name of your platform: "boxun.com", serious damage to the interests of my company, now we hope you stop any services for this domain immediately...Please pay attention, we would began to attack in a few hours except satisfying our conditions. Please treasure your own commercial interests, if for any loss caused to you, please forgive!!!" [ellipsis mine, spelling and grammar same as in the original.]
After the email, Meng says Name.com was hit by a ferocious denial-of-service attack of "ten gigabytes" a second and Boxun found a new server. Name.com did not respond to a request for comment, and Meng didn't say where the email was sent from.
By his counting, Meng's website has been attacked dozens of times. Last January, with the Arab Spring gaining steam in the Middle East, Meng posted calls for a "Jasmine Revolution" in China from an anonymous group. Pro-Communist Party groups "were pretty hardcore about this," he said. "They put my family's names online. That was the first time that happened." Meng grew up in a small county in rural Hebei province in the 1960s and 1970s, where his parents still live. During the Cultural Revolution, many urban youth were sent to villages across China. I asked if that was the case with him and he replied, "nope, we were always peasants." His father was a local functionary on the county's science committee; his mother was a farmer. His family on the whole is supportive of his actions and he's not worried about them. "The Cultural Revolution has already passed," he said. "There are not too many illegal things people can do to my family."
Meng thinks this web attack was specifically ordered by Zhou Yongkang, the ninth ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee and ideological ally of Bo. Meng describes him as a "very strong person who runs the PSB, state security, or, well, don't know if he runs anything anymore," though he thinks Zhou will keep his position until the next Party Congress this fall. In earlier Boxun posts, Meng has speculated that Bo and Zhou had been working together to overthrow Xi Jinping. "We believe Wang Lijun already told the U.S. Consulate that Bo Xilai had a plot to stop Xi Jinping's rise" he said, citing "reliable sources."
Since Chinese official news outlets usually function as mouthpieces
of the Communist Party, rather than trustworthy providers of fact or clearly
sourced opinion, Chinese readers are comparatively more trusting of Weibo
(microblogs), rumors, and sites like Boxun. Wang is currently looking into a
2002 crash of a flight from Beijing to Dalian, in which more
than 100 people died.
thinks Bo orchestrated the crash to kill the wife of a political rival, who was
carrying evidence that could have been harmful for the former powerbroker.
"He's done so many things to cover up this or cover up that," Wang said. He
declined to elaborate on what proof he has for his latest claim and the
scenario seems somewhat farfetched, but, like all of Boxun's stories, it falls within the realm of possibility.
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
North Korea, the world's poorest, most maddeningly opaque nuclear power, has just launched a long-range rocket. Or at least it was supposed to be a long-range rocket.
Both the Pentagon and the South Korean defense ministry have confirmed that the rocket was launched at 7:39am Seoul time, or 6:49pm Washington, D.C. time; a spokesman for the South Korean defense ministry said that a few minutes after the launch the rocket had broken up and crashed into the sea. North Korea hasn't commented yet, either through official channels or the usually feisty (and congratulatory) Korean Central News Agency of the DPRK.
North Korea announced the plan for the satellite launch, which it claimed was for peaceful purposes, on March 16, less than three weeks after it had signed a deal with the United States in which it promised to stop nuclear and long-range missile tests. Even U.S. officials and long-term North Korea watchers used to dealing with a mercurial Pyongyang were surprised by the speed at which the country reneged on the agreement.
The fear is that, were Pyongyang successful in actually launching a long-range missile, North Korea could eventually load a nuclear warhead on a rocket and send it as far as Alaska or Hawaii. Seoul, the South Korean capital of over ten million people which is only dozens of miles from the DMZ, has been well within striking range of North Korea's artillery for decades.
Gary Shteyngart, the Russian-American novelist whose books Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook enliven the farcical edges of living in a totalitarian society, returned recently from a two week reporting trip to China, the cruel and prosperous land of the future. "We suck," Shteyngart said over the phone. "The saddest flight in the world is Beijing Capital to Newark." FP interviewed Shteyngart about Jews in China, how to build a successful business, and the world outside Brooklyn, edited and condensed for clarity.
Foreign Policy: Did you tell people you were Jewish in China?
Gary Shteyngart: I did. They said ‘why are Jews so sad and anxious? Why can't you cheer up?' What I said to that, was, you know, the Holocaust. They said we were kind of similar that way. I don't know what happened [to the Chinese] exactly, I read about it on Wikipedia.
FP: You mentioned in a tweet that you started your own boutique investment firm in Shanghai but it failed after five hours. What did you get from it?
GS: A lot of dignity. You can't really monetize dignity.
FP: What did you talk to the Chinese about?
GS: A lot of people in the United States want to be Chinese. A lot of the Chinese want to be writers. They're adorable. I told them not to do it. It's so sweet -- I was talking to one young lady, she was so touched that I would speak to her. Kind of a rough and tumble society, China. We gentle Jewish professors of creative writing are just incredible to them.
FP: What did you feel after you came back from China?
GS: The saddest flight in the world is Beijing to Newark. Beijing is Charles De Gaulle, Newark is Burkina Faso. I'd feel better if America looked great -- but we don't. We've been working too hard, we need to retire now and let someone else do it. It's not easy. The pollution in China. I'm still coughing up some weird petro-chemical things out of my lung (and I've been back for ten days). My whole cardio-vascular thing is so affected.
FP: What did you perform at Racist Park [a Chinese theme park that shows all of the minorities living together in harmony, now known in English as China Ethnic Culture Park]?
GS: I did the ol' Fiddler in the Roof. I was the third daughter, the one who married a goy. Fiddler on the Smokestack.
FP: What about Shanghai?
GS: I went to Pudong and saw that they're building the (world's) tallest building there. It's going to be taller than the other buildings.
We went to a steampunk club, called #88; [people were wearing] all sorts of Victorian corsets -- I guess some people had the leisure time to look appropriate. The world is so fascinating, I'm telling you -- this is what I tell young writers: Get out of Brooklyn.
Oh, and I drank this horrifying thing. If there is one of thing chaining civilization back, its baijiu. You're burping sorghum for the rest of your life. There's no cure for baijiu.
FP: What do you recommend a young writer do in China?
GS: I'd start in the financial side -- young guy or girl, just out of Princeton, gets involved in some sort of private equity thing, learns about the corruption, and at the same time learn about the Asian work ethic. That's amazing that there hasn't been a great expatriate novel; it seems like half of the Ivy League is holed up in Shanghai.
FP: What about for the Williams environmental science grad?
GS: Well, they can go teach English. English teaching is sad, because everyone does it; it's the last resort. Or you could do NGO work. I met some NGO people, they were cute.
Writers, though. You have a lot of power as a writer here; anything with an embossed business card gives you face.
FP: Did you hand out copies of an embossed business card in China?
GS: No, I brought 800 copies of my book to give out to China, and handed them out with two hands to people all across the country, cab drivers...
FP: What did cab drivers think of your book?
GS: The cab drivers loved that it has both postmodern and traditional aspects.
FP: Best business idea in China that would last for more than five hours?
GS: We could have Communist Party youth league people collect used wire, and use this used wire in the penal system to flog people, or just to poke people with the wire. It's green. [environmentally friendly]. It's a good way to get in on China's growing penal system.
Shin Dong Hyuk is the only known escapee of a North Korean concentration camp. Born there in 1982, he spent his early years mining coal, scrounging for food, and, like his peers, snitching on prisoners who disobeyed camp rules. When he was in his twenties, Shin first heard about the existence of China, South Korea, and television from a prisoner transferred into the camp. Shin, who had starved all his life, wasn't much interested in these things; he just wanted to hear stories about grilled meat.
Blaine Harden, the author of Escape from Camp 14, and a former Washington Post East Asian bureau chief, spent three years working with Shin and coaxing him to tell his story, which he did in short, intense intervals. "He distrusted everyone," Harden said in an interview:
"He let me march around in the darkest corners of his life for quite a long time, and it made him uncomfortable. (In the book) I used the image of a dentist drilling without anesthetics, and I think that's a pretty accurate image.
I didn't know how to interview him, how to get him to trust me. And sometimes he'd just leave. He'd say he was sick and leave. We had rounds in Seoul, Southern California, and in Seattle, from 2008 to 2011. He just doesn't like to talk about the terrible things that happened, particularly the terrible events surrounding his mother, so it took time.
There's no one like him. There's no one else who was born in an open air cage and then moved to the West and tried to regain his humanity. I was able to understand him better after he told me the story of his first couple days outside of the North Korean prison camp where he had spent his entire life. It was the dead of winter in a small town. He saw that people could laugh, and wear bright color clothing, and could live without the fear of guards hitting them. That was his context."
Escape From Camp 14 is a fascinating look inside one of North Korea's prison camps, part of a chain of gulags that no outsider has ever seen; an excerpt of the book, including the story of Shin watching his mother die, is available here.
Last week, controversial politician Bo Xilai, whose relatively open campaigning for a seat on China's top ruling council shocked China watchers (and possibly his elite peers, as well), was removed from his post as Chongqing's party secretary. He hasn't been seen since. Rumors of a coup, possibly coordinated by Bo's apparent ally Zhou Yongkang, are in the air.
Western media has extensively covered the political turmoil: Bloomberg reported on how coup rumors helped spark a jump in credit-default swaps for Chinese government bonds; the Wall Street Journal opinion page called Chinese leadership transitions an "invitation, sooner or later, for tanks in the streets." The Financial Times saw the removal of Bo, combined with Premier Wen Jiabao's strident remarks at a press conference hours before Bo's removal as a sign the party was moving to liberalize its stance on the Tiananmen square protests of 1989. That Bo staged a coup is extremely unlikely, but until more information comes to light, we can only speculate on what happened.
Reading official Chinese media response about Bo makes it easy to forget how much Chinese care about politics. The one sentence mention in Xinhua, China's official news agency, merely says that Bo is gone and another official, Zhang Dejiang, is replacing him. But the Chinese-language Internet is aflame with debate over what happened to Bo and what it means for Chinese political stability.
Mainland media sites have begun to strongly censor discussion of Bo Xilai and entirely unsubstantiated rumors of gunfire in downtown Beijing (an extremely rare occurance in Beijing). Chinese websites hosted overseas, free from censorship, offer a host of unsupported, un-provable commentary on what might have happened in the halls of power. Bannedbook.org, which provides free downloads of "illegal" Chinese books, posted a long explanation of tremors in the palace of Zhongnanhai, sourced to a "person with access to high level information in Beijing," of a power struggle between President Hu Jintao, who controls the military, and Zhou, who controls China's formidable domestic security apparatus. The Epoch Times, a news site affiliated with the Falun Gong spiritual movement (which banned in China), has published extensively in English and Chinese about the coup.
Speculation is rife: A Canadian Chinese news portal quoted Deutsche Welle quoting the Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily quoting a netizen that a group of citizens unfurled a banner in a main square in Chongqing that said "Party Secretary Bo, We Love and Esteem You," and were subsequently taken away by plain-clothes security forces. A controversial Peking University professor Kong Qingdong, a 73rd generation descendant of Confucius, said on his television show that removing Bo Xilai is similar to "a counter-revolutionary coup;" one news site reported his show has since been suspended.
The Wall Street Journal reports that searching for Bo Xilai's name on Baidu, China's most popular search engine, lacks the standard censorship boilerplate ("according to relevant rules and regulations, a portion of the search results cannot be revealed") that accompanies searching for top leaders like Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao. A recent search for other Politburo members like Bo rival Wang Yang and People's Liberation Army top general Xu Caihou were similarly uncensored. Conversely, searching for Bo's name on Sina's popular Weibo micro-blogging service now doesn't return any relevant results. A censored fatal Ferrari crash on Sunday night has raised suspicions of elite foul play, possibly realted to Bo. The bannedbook.org reports that Hu and Zhou "are currently fighting for control of China Central Television, Xinhua News (the official Communist Party wire service), and other ‘mouthpieces,'" which have been eerily but unsurprisingly taciturn about Bo Xilai.
What we do know, as one message that bounced around Sina Weibo said, is that "something big happened in Beijing."
In its last print issue, Foreign Policy published an article by Thomas Rid, a reader in war studies at King's college London, arguing that virtual conflict is still more hype than reality. Someone at China's state news agency Xinhua must have agreed, because they published practically the entire article (In Chinese here and here). Well, not all of it: the seventh section, which argues that the biggest worry in places like China "is not collapsing power plants, but collapsing political power," for some unexplainable reason didn't get translated...
(h/t to Rid)
The agreement announced yesterday between the United States and North Korea has been greeted with both cheers and jeers. Optimists see this latest development as a small, necessary first step on the path toward a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons -- and this, for a relatively modest amount of aid. Pessimists see it as just more of the same -- yet another ploy by a corrupt, failed and cynical North Korean leadership making meaningless commitments in exchange for badly needed food.
Here is a guest post from Philip Yun, executive director of the Ploughshares Fund and a former advisor to the State Department during talks with North Korea from 1998-2001. Yun sees the significance of the agreement in the surprisingly number of differences in the statements issued by the United States and the DPRK.
Normally, the U.S. State Department announcement and the DPRK Foreign Ministry statement should be almost the same, as language and details are typically coordinated before final announcements are made. The two documents' striking discrepancies and omissions in significant places making me wonder if a "meeting of the minds" actually took place:
"While productive dialogues continue." The DPRK agreed to a moratorium on nuclear tests, long-range missile activity, and uranium enrichment activity at their main reactor site in Yongbyon, as well as IAEA monitoring of uranium enrichment activities "while productive dialogues continue." The U.S. statement makes no mention of this qualifier. Did North Korea just add this unilaterally?
No starting date. The three moratoriums are potentially significant because they concretely limit North Korea's ability (for as long as the moratorium is in place) to produce more fissile material, improve its weapons design through miniaturization and refine its weapons delivery systems. In exchange, the United States agreed to provide 240,000 metric tons of nutritional biscuits. But when do the moratoriums take place? And how will the food be delivered and under what conditions? The U.S. statement specifically refers to "intensive monitoring" of this aid, but the DPRK statement bears no mention of such monitoring.
What about the other facilities? Many experts believe that North Korea has uranium enrichment facilities in other locales, but an initial reading of the statements appears to apply the moratorium to Yongbyon only. Were there any understandings for other locations? If limited to Yongbyon (which is start, but access to other sites inevitably remains a major issue for both the United States and the North), when will the IAEA go to Yongbyon and under what conditions?
What about that light water reactor? The DPRK statement raises the issue of light water reactors (LWRs). The State Department's version doesn't mention LWRs. The DRPK has been persistent through the years about its demand and right to have an operational LWR, which the United States since 2003 has resisted or ignored -- LWRs were central to the U.S.-DPRK nuclear deal of 1994 and a significant sticking point in negotiations of September 2005 Joint Statement. Does this new agreement require North Korea to stop its ongoing construction of a light water reactor at Yongbyon, which according to the North, is for the production of electricity? Last year at Fukushima we saw what can happen to a nuclear plant built with the best materials and to the highest standards. Yongbyon is being constructed with far lower standards: a similar disaster would be dire.
Will there be a peace treaty? Both statements contain a reference to the 1953 Armistice Agreement. The State Department and DPRK versions both say that they recognized the Armistice as "the cornerstone of peace and stability;" but the DPRK added, "until the conclusion of a peace treaty." The subject of a peace treaty and its impact has posed a whole series of long-standing issues military, legal and otherwise. This difference just adds to the overall need to clarify what exactly was agreed to between the United States and the DPRK.
This latest news could be a very good sign that North Korea's leadership is willing to make commitments. So long as China continues to shield North Korea as it has, a concerted, sustained and focused diplomatic push with North Korea appears to be the only way to move forward. Having IAEA inspectors on the ground in North Korea would especially be extremely useful -- rather than speculating about North Korean activity and relying on rumor, we would have something more concrete to consider. However, if progress is to be made, we have to avoid unpleasant surprises. The U.S. must figure out a way to patch the holes that still seem to exist between the two negotiating parties or this latest development may once again set expectations too high. In short, the devil is in the details - and we had better find out quickly what they are.
Earlier this week, during a visit to Nanjing the mayor of Nagoya, Japan expressed doubt that his nation's troops had slaughtered tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens in 1937. The event, known as the Nanjing Massacre, remains contentious in Sino-Japanese relations, with many Chinese feeling that unlike Germany and the Jews, the Japanese have not done enough to apologize for the massacre. Yet China's post-war response wasn't exactly open, either.
Here is a guest post from historian Tony Brooks, who has studied China's post-1949 relations with Japan:
Today Nanjing is a confident, thriving Chinese provincial capital, located 190 miles west of Shanghai. According to a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, Nanjing ranks eighth globally for fastest GDP growth between now and 2025, ahead of New Delhi and Moscow.
This confidence masks the turmoil over the city's past. In 1937 invading Japanese forces rapidly converged on Nanjing, and after a short intense battle, the city fell into enemy hands. According to Chinese accounts, there followed a six week orgy of killing, looting and mass rape, which resulted in the deaths of three hundred thousand Chinese citizens. Yet in the years when Mao Zedong ruled China, from 1949 to 1976, the massacre has been virtually ignored in official records. Why is that?
Because it was formerly the capital of the Nationalists, the side fighting the Communists in China's civil war, very few Communists lived in Nanjing in the 1930s.
Ever since defeating the Nationalists and unifying China in 1949, the Communists have claimed that they won both the Anti-Japanese War (the Japanese war with China during and before World War II) and the Civil War, and therefore have the right to rule China. If the Communist Party saved China from the Japanese during the War, then why did they do nothing to prevent the Nanjing Massacre?
The Party appears to have sidestepped this conundrum during the Mao era by ignoring the Nanjing Massacre. Instead, they concentrated on highlighting the (minor) role that CCP forces played in beating the Japanese. For three decades after the Second World War, it was not possible to openly discuss the Nanjing Massacre in mainland China. In a similar way, much else was forcibly airbrushed out of Mao era debates on the War, such as Chinese traitors and the role of non-communist forces in beating the Japanese.
The People's Republic of China didn't ignore the war during the Mao years. The press discussed and debated the war in Marxist terms, and anniversaries saw staged anti-Japanese demonstrations of up to one million people. Like the proverbial elephant in the corner of the room, the Nanjing Massacre, which took place in Nationalist held territory in the Nationalist capital, was off-limits until the early 1980s.
During the 1950s and 60s, Japanese delegations visited Nanjing, often with the aim of trying to improve bilateral relations. Nanjing archives record that on these visits, the Japanese visitors frequently asked whether they could visit sites relating to the massacre (of which there are hundreds dotted around Nanjing, mainly just outside the city walls). The Chinese refused. Instead, they took their guests to see the fruits of Communist rule, such as the new bridge across the Yangtze River at Nanjing, or model state owed concrete factories. The Nanjing Massacre did not fit into Mao era narratives of a Communist led victory in the War. One feels that there was a deep feeling of shame that such an atrocity took place on Chinese soil. While the state wanted to ignore the atrocities in Nanjing, this does not mean that the masses wanted to forget.
Declassified archives from the 1950s and 60s show that during rehearsals for visits by Japanese to Nanjing, there was considerable Chinese disquiet. Comments such as "My mother's arm was blown off by the Japanese in Nanjing, why should I welcome them here!" and "the devils burnt our village to the ground, how dare you welcome them to Nanjing now!" suggest that there was a high level of opposition to the CCP ignoring the massacre.
In July 1982 everything changed. Six years after the death of Mao, the Japanese education ministry published textbooks that whitewashed Japan's role in World War II, and changed the word "invade" China to "advance" into China. New Chinese leadership seemed to argue that if Japanese politicians and ministries were going to forget the war, then the Chinese needed to present evidence of Japanese atrocities committed in Nanjing and elsewhere - in order to force them to remember. An impromptu Nanjing Massacre museum was opened in the city just two weeks after the textbook crisis broke out, conveniently just in time for the anniversary of the Japanese defeat on August 15, 1982. To cite just one example of how the Nanjing Massacre has been caught up in the battle for memory over the War, before 1982 virtually nothing was published by Chinese academics on the subject. Since that date, there has been an explosion of interest in the massacre, with over ten thousand scholarly articles and books published in Chinese alone. As the denial of the massacre by the mayor of Nagoya this week attests, memory of the war is still being bitterly fought over.
China Photos/Getty Images
As pundits debate whether or not Xi Jinping will follow in the footsteps of current President Hu Jintao, we at FP would like to point out something he does share with his predecessor: a dangerously enticing name for Anglophone headline writers to abuse.
Xi, visiting the United States this week, will likely be appointed this fall as China's next President. Journalists, let us be the first to sound the warning: avoid the temptation (that we have already succumbed to several times) of a Xi headline pun!
From the FP editorial staff, here's a list of ten Xi headlines NOT to use:
1. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea: "Xi's Gotta Have It."
2. A profile of his teenage years: "Xi was only 16."
3. His second visit to Iowa: "There Xi Goes Again."
4. His portrayal in Chinese state media: "Isn't Xi Lovely?" (Or "Xi Will Be Loved.")
5. A Chinese Gorbachev: "Xi Change."
6. Bizarre policy choices: "Xi Moves in Mysterious Ways."
7. A definitive chronicle of his speeches: "That's What Xi Said."
8. His meeting with Henry Kissinger: "The Old Man and the Xi."
9. On a conflict with the current head of the disciplinary committee: "He Said Xi Said."
10. His stylish sartorial choices: "Ain't Nothing But a Xi Thing."
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Please let us know any suggestions you have for other Xi headlines that should be banned- either write them in the comments section or send them to me via twitter: @isaacstonefish. Whoever comes up with the worst Xi headline pun will win a free copy of the book "Becoming China's Bitch."
Update: After careful consideration, we at FP have decided that the worst headline pun imaginable is China announces new high speed train line: "Xi's Got a Ticket to Ride." Thanks to twitter user @james_s_evans for his submission! Honorable mention to @christophercherry for his China Daily all-purpose headline: "Every Little Thing Xi Does is Magic." We look forward to future contests if Shanghai Party Secretary Yu, Standing Committee Member He, or Director of the United Front Work Department Du become trending topics.
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
Your news, should you choose to believe it, came in from unnamed "dependable sources:"
"On the morning of February 10th at 2:45 pm, unknown persons broke into the residence of the highest leader North Korea Kim Jong En and shot him dead."
Suspicious traffic patterns had been seen outside of the North Korean embassy in Beijing, and this explanation, it appears, seems as good as any: Users of China's Sina Weibo, the local Twitter clone, forwarded the message more than 10,000 times. One user posted a picture of what Kim Jong Un would look like arrested. Another commented "in this weird country, that's not even strange."
The chained Chinese media universe means that Weibo rumors are a lot more trusted than their Twitter counterparts. Chinese media coverage of sensitive subjects is often deliberately obfuscating, and Chinese viewers know it. A few days ago, Wang Lijun, one of China's best known gangbusters and the right-hand man of powerful politician Bo Xilai appeared to try to defect at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. While official Chinese media covered the defection, they mostly copied the official Xinhua report, which failed to mention the most important point: how it affects Bo's chances of promotion.
Chinese official media reporting on North Korea is often further removed from reality than the way China reports on its own political process. (My favorite English-language example is a Xinhua article that compares nightlife in Pyongyang with New York and Tokyo.) Besides, North Korea itself is a black box: Even the best American articles often depend on rumors and hearsay to cobble together a portrait of the closed country.
All these factors combine to give the Sina Weibo rumor -- started, it appears, by a random user with less than 200 followers -- enough traction in China to land on this side of the world wide web and into the pages of Forbes, MSNBC, and Huffington Post.
It is possible that this Weibo user broke the story of a successful coup in North Korea, though it's extremely unlikely. My favorite explanation on the Twitter side of things comes from Shaun Walker, the Moscow correspondent for the Independent, who wrote "Possible that someone said he 'murdered an enormous family-sized bucket of fried chicken,' and something got lost in translation."
Adam Johnson, a professor of creative writing at Stanford University, tried to create an account of the mental life of the citizens of Pyongyang with his new novel, The Orphan Master's Son. It is the story of the many vicissitudes of a North Korean everyman, Pak Jun Do: raised as an orphan, he enters the army, joins a special forces team to kidnap Japanese, learns English, and gets sent to a gulag, from which he mysteriously emerges as a high-ranking official.
Two months into the reign of Kim Jong Un, North Korea remains impenetrable. "I'd much rather trade my story for a North Korean telling his own story," said Johnson. "We won't know if my version is right until North Koreans are able to tell their own stories."
What follows is an interview with Johnson about the gulags, fictions, and lacunas of North Korea, edited and condensed for clarity:
"In the stories we tell ourselves in the West, we expect to be the central character in our own narrative; we are a society of individuals and no matter how much we love others, they're secondary characters. The DPRK is exactly the opposite. There's one national narrative, tailored and maintained by script writers and censors. In a totalitarian world that script writer is responsible for everything that happened.
If you're a secondary character in North Korea, your aptitude for certain things and your class background sends you down paths, maybe to be a doctor, or a peasant farmer, or a soldier, or a music player. Your own wants and desires are only going to get in the way of the role you've been given and that you have to play if you're going to survive.
We have pretty clear information about citizens outside of the capital. We know how much food they eat, how much they ‘volunteer,' how much propaganda they consume; we have a portrait of the average person. Pyongyang is the mystery. Residents of Pyongyang tend not to defect because they're the top 3-4 percent of the nation. If you're in Pyongyang you've made it. These people are the unknowns.
It makes me dubious about people claiming to be experts there. Maybe they're getting briefings-but what we have publically is testimonies from defectors that are completely unverifiable.
A GOP senatorial candidate in Michigan, Pete Hoekstra, ran a Super Bowl advertisement featuring an Asian woman speaking broken English and thanking Hoekstra's opponent, Debbie Stabenow, for her free-spending ways. The ad hit a nerve in America, angering many for its portrayal of an Asian-American woman speaking broken English. The Michigan chapter of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote group said it was "deeply disappointed" by the ad, and political commentators criticized it across the board. The 'blame China' ad is becoming a fixture in American political campaigns; see for example the 'xiexie Mr. Gibbs', or the 'Chinese professor.'
While the woman in the Super Bowl ad wears a hat more often associated with Vietnam, the ad's website, www.debbiespenditnow.com, makes it clear that it is targeting China: Chinese coins, fans, an airplane, and the phrase "The Great Wall of Debt" decorate the site.
This ad, however, received almost no attention in China. There is scant chatter of it on Sina Weibo or Tencent Weibo, the two most popular Twitter-like microblogging services. The NFL, lacking the popularity that Yao Ming brought to the NBA, is rarely watched in China anyway, and the ads this year that drew any attention were mostly car commercials.
Only a handful of Twitter users wrote about it in simplified Mandarin (the way Chinese is written in Mainland China, unlike the traditional characters which the Debbiespenditnow website inexplicably employs). One who did so is a software engineer working in the Netherlands who tweets under the name lihlii. "I don't think it's racist," he said in a phone interview. "It's about America losing jobs."
Broadly speaking, there is a whole different idea of political correctness in China. Asking how much someone makes a month within the first minute of meeting them doesn't raise eyebrows in China, and neither, generally speaking, do blanket racial statements, like commenting on the perceived cleverness of the Jews. On the other hand, questioning Hu Jintao's ability to govern makes for awkward cocktail party chatter.
Those who did object to the ad generally did so in an American context. Michael Anti, a popular blogger who has lived in the U.S. as a Nieman Fellow, wrote on Twitter:
"I think the problem with the ad is that it's racist, not anti-Chinese. As a Chinese I should be amused by this ad, because it seems more like Southeast Asia. But Chinese in America are easily enraged by that sort of prejudicial defamation of the image of a Chinese woman. Also, her English is not the Chinglish of a Mainland Chinese."
So what Super Bowl ads are controversial in China? Last year Groupon ran one featuring actor Timothy Hutton saying: "The people of Tibet are in trouble, their very culture in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry." This ruffled feathers for contravening state policy and conventional wisdom that Han Chinese are helping Tibet (and for its inaccuracy: fish curry is probably eaten more in Vermont than Tibet). Groupon employees at the time said that the advertisement complicated the company's expansion plans into China, and they eventually pulled the advertisement.
Put your phones and personal electronics away in North Korea, or risk a messy ending. The Telegraph reported this morning that cell phone users in North Korea will be deemed "war criminals," as part of the new rules being implemented for the 100 days of mourning following former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's death.
Of course, it's easy to see why the regime is becoming so antsy about cell phone usage. The Arab Spring protests were energized by Twitter and Facebook via cell phones, and other mass movements including the Occupy protests were spread through this medium as well. But the more pertinent question is, how effective will this crackdown actually be?
As Peter Beck wrote in 2010, there were over 300,000 cell phone users in North Korea, all on a network developed by Egyptian telecommunications firm Orascom. Reuters reported last November that the number has since grown to nearly a million people on the 3G capable network. Analysts at the time said that the network posed little of a threat to the regime, mainly because officials had controlled outside information so tightly. Additionally, severe limitations on the internet restrict access to any domain except a handful of historical sites that are accessible to a select few people. However, as the Nautilus Institute's Alexandre Mansourov said in a report, "The DPRK mobile communications industry has crossed the Rubicon and the North Korean government can no longer roll it back without paying a severe political price."
Of course, its not to say that the North Koreans won't try their hardest to ban the technology. They did it in 2004 following the explosion of a passenger train, which officials suspected was due to a bomb controlled via a cell phone. To the regime's chagrin, cell phone usage continued to grow in the expanding North Korean black market, with relay stations set up on the Chinese border that connected North Koreans with their counterparts in the South.
Feng Li/Getty Images
The year 2012 will see a stream of new books in the patented Thomas Friedman "Oh My God the Chinese Are Eating Our Lunch with Environmentally Friendly Chopsticks" mold. Some will be more worthwhile than others. One book in particular, however, is sure to stand out, if only for the title: "Becoming China's Bitch: And Nine More Catastrophes We Must Avoid Right Now."
The author, Peter D. Kiernan, a former partner at Goldman Sachs, explains in the introduction that "it's not a book about China exactly. It's about how America got diverted and lost momentum, and a dragon leapt into the breach. It's also about getting our mojo back."
I spoke with him over the phone:
FP: When did you first realize we were in danger of becoming China's bitch?
PK: When it first occurred to me was in 2008, as a card-carrying member of a discredited class, everyone in Wall Street had to re-think everything. We had gone through a 30 plus year bull market. We now had to wrestle with the idea of who was going to fund the 42 percent of our government that has to be borrowed. Whenever you depend on one major source of finance, if it's too heavy in one area, it deserves a re-thinking.
We haven't really thought clearly about this as a nation. It was a part of this re-thinking everything. We have a much greater co-dependency on China than we'd like to acknowledge. The book is not solely about China, but Becoming China's Bitch is about the cost to our dithering.
FP: How is the 1 percent different from the 99 percent in their fear of becoming China's bitch?
PK: I don't spend a whole lot of time worrying about the one percent in the book or in my life. What I do spend the vast majority of my time focusing on is the 99 percent. We have developed a dependency, and that dependency allows us to be poor savers, roughly 5 percent saving rate in America, compared to 30 percent in China.
I literally believe that we have been opiated as a nation. I believe we've been diverted about issues. The debt ceiling has been raised 100 times since you started working here-it's no big deal. These are not problem solving conversations. These are skin rashes that have nothing to do with the problems. Occupy Wall Street is not the problem, but the symptom. Among them, we have worked ourselves into a co-dependency.
FP: What can we do to prevent becoming China's bitch? How do we make China our bitch?
PK: The title is deliberately provocative, I understand. It's meant to push people outside their comfort zone. We're inert. How do we snap people out of it? We helped create an export monster. We helped them because we developed an appetite for their goods. So we've kind of gotten in this dynamic of exports for finance-we will buy your cheap goods so we can stock our Wal-Mart shelves. They're moving up the value chain. And in exchange for that, we'll look for you to be our number one lender, and that, in pop psychology, you call a co-dependency-exports for finance. They're stuck with us, we're stuck with them. Stalemates, or co-dependencies like this, don't last forever.
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