Chinese authorities have burned (in a single industrial furnace) over 860 pounds of smuggled drugs after a three-year effort to track and arrest more than 16,000 suspected dealers. But that's not all. A government spokesperson said drug enforcement agents only destroyed "about half" of the stockpile that was created as a result of the 2006-2008 operation.
Yesterday marks the 170th anniversary of China's Humen Opium Destruction, in which another government official had 1,000 tons of foreign drugs burned. Today's event was held in honor of the original.
James Fallows of The Atlantic was in Beijing today, observing the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square confrontation between human rights protesters and the Chinese government. Security was airtight, but that doesn't mean reporters were completely incapacitated:
As reported yesterday, CNN is still blacked out whenever words like "In China today...." or "Twenty years ago in Bei...." come across the airwaves. Whereas BBC TV is airing uncensored footage of tanks in the square twenty years ago and repeatedly using the phrase "Tiananmen massacre." And just as I type, the admirable Quentin Somerville of the BBC is talking, live from Beijing, about the "ruthlessness at the heart of the Communist government." (And just this second, in a Borges-worthy moment, Somerville said that international coverage was being blacked out across China -- so I got to see him saying that I was not able to see him. Still, the general point is true.)"
Yesterday, David Rothkopf described his own experience as an observer of June 4, 1989.
The trial of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who worked for Al Gore's Current TV, started today in North Korea.
The two were arrested in March along the North Korea-China border, apparently reporting on the refugee situation. Pyongyang has charged them with "hostile acts" and espionage. If convicted, they face five to ten years in one of the country's feared labor camps.
North Korea gains some leverage over the U.S. and its allies by holding the women. In the past weeks, the country has stoked tensions by engaging in some serious saber-rattling, testing a series of missiles and a nuclear bomb; it's provoked South Korea to begin fortifying the militarized border and moving warships into better strategic positions.
I'm more and more concerned by the situation, in which Lee and Ling are pawns in a reckless, needless game of military embrinkmanship. The easy answer here is, of course, that North Korea should simply stop testing missiles and join in six-party talks.
But since that situation is unlikely, it's China that needs to step up here. They have the best relationship with Pyongyang, much at stake, and the best opportunity to assuage the tensions.
Posted this one during the Olympics last year but am re-posting in honor of tomorrow's anniversary:
Freedom House's Ellen Bork along with the Weekly Standard's design director Philip Chalk and Tiananmen survivor Tian Jian have created this map for Beijing tourists interested in visiting the sites of the June 4, 1989 massacre of the Tiananmen Square protestors. Each number shows the place where where one of the 176 victims were killed or the hospitals to which their bodies were taken.
Paul Kedrosky quips:
I am increasingly convinced that there is a factory in China that does nothing other than come up with beguiling statistics about factories in China. There are just too damn many such statistics to be explained any other way.
Potential Twitter version: Bushies, asleep at switch, drunk on oil, missed boat."
Meanwhile, guess who's taken up the emerald green mantle?
It might be startling to realize that China is far outpacing the U.S. on green-energy investment."
He is picking up on a recent report by the Washington-based think tank, Center for American Progress: "We Must Seize the Energy Opportunity or Slip Further Behind."
Osnos is, I think, one of the finest correspondents writing from China today. But here I beg to differ. Or at least urge a bit of a reframing.
But let's put this in perspective: First, as a general point, China has had ambitious green goals for several years, especially on energy efficiency, but implementation still lags behind reality. Before we cheer, or worry, too much about Beijing's presumed green-technology progress, let's see what actually gets built. Large earmarks for infrastructure, green or otherwise, are particularly susceptible to local corruption. (The shiniest government office buildings in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province, were built out of something called the"poverty reduction fund.") Alas, lately we've seen a relaxing of green construction standards in China for the sake of putting economic stimulus money to work quickly. In sum: Setting budgets and targets is easy; follow-through is harder.
Second, on the particular matter of green-energy investment, pretty please stop putting so much faith in the framing of the Center for American Progress. I like CAP. They do good work. But they also have a long-standing habit of beating up on U.S. policy by pointing out that even China is doing more. I'm not against beating up on the U.S., or against giving kudos to China when due. But I am wary of how this formula can lead to exaggerated estimations of what China is in fact doing. (A few years back, CAP put out similar statements when Beijing announced lofty, and as yet unmet, energy efficiency targets.)
Lastly, and most importantly, I think that highlighting the competition angle could ultimately be counter-productive, as fun as it is to envision a U.S. vs China jolly green smackdown. Stressing a rivalry could ultimately lead -- not necessarily in Osnos’s hands, but in looser, more politically-minded interpretations -- to the impression that the race for green energy is somehow a zero-sum game. That any progress made by China (again, let’s be careful to avoid exaggeration here) is somehow threatening to the U.S. Like if the Soviets got to the moon first; oh no. It’s us or them; only one racer breaks the ribbon; get off our green lunar pathway!
Some might argue that Americans do best when their competitive instincts are aroused. But I tend to agree with Charles McElwee, an environmental lawyer in Shanghai whom Osnos cites and whose insights I've long found valuable: Fanning the flames of us-vrs-them-ism -- in the context of global issue that isn't so much a race to win as to survive -- could backfire. It could undercut political support on Capitol Hill for cooperative efforts, technology sharing, and perhaps even climate-treaty negotiations.
For too long, on climate matters, the U.S. and China have been stuck in a dusty stalemate, with both sides refusing to budge first -- especially with regards to seriously considering carbon caps -- while they eye each other as threats, and competitors. Somehow this Gunsmoke scenario needs to end.
Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images
Here's what the action star said at a forum whose attendees included Wen Jiabao:
"I'm not sure if it is good to have freedom or not," he said. "I'm really confused now. If you are too free, you are like the way Hong Kong is now. It's very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic."
He added: "I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we are not being controlled, we'll just do what we want."
Via Evgeny, I see that the comments have provoked an angry online backlash in Taiwan and Hong Kong as well as the blogosphere on the mainland. There are calls for a boycott of the "racist" Chan's films.
At Post Global, John Pomfret sees a class dynamic at play:
Chan is just saying what a lot of other rich Chinese feel. In the 20 years since Tiananmen, Chinese society has changed enormously. One of the most astounding ways has been in the return of a class society and in the disdain with which China's rich view China's poor. When Chan was saying Chinese need to be "controlled," to be sure, he was speaking about the poor. He didn't have to say it, But that's what the audience at Boao heard and that's why they cheered him on. Anyone who has conversations of depth with members of China's elite has heard this argument before.
Granted I don't know much about the context, but it seems to me like it's at least possible that Chan is being sarcastic. The comments were in response to a question about censorship. Chan's new film Shinjuku was recently banned in mainland China because of violence. It seems strange to me that Chan would so vociferously praise a set of policies that resulted in him losing quite a bit of revenue. Whatever his class prejudices or political beliefs, I'm sure that Chan believes that poor Chinese should at least be free to spend their hard-earned yuan on his products. He should also know better than to insult his many fans in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Chan's not in a position to criticize a decision by the Chinese government, but the over-the-top comments seem like they could be a subtle dig at the Chinese authorities for being so uptight about his movie. Then again, I could be giving the guy too much credit.
Victor Fraile/Getty Images
Amid all the hype about China becoming the world's new superpower, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that people have been expecting this moment for a long time. A really, really long time.
Here's a passage from Barbara Tuchman's excellent biography of Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, the U.S. general who tried in vain to prop up Chiang Kai-Shek and the nationalists:
America at this time [the early 1900s], newly directed toward Asia by the recent acqiusition of Hawaii and the Philippines, was dazzled by the vision of the opportunities for her enterprise and outlets for her commerce in the Far East. China seemed the area of America's future and took on vast importance. John Hay was credited with having said that whoever understands China holds the key to the world's politics for the next five centuries. "Our future history," declared President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, "will be more determined by our position on the Pacific facing China than by our position on the Atlantic facing Europe."
Last month China recorded its largest-ever surge in bank loans, the government reported over the weekend.
While the rest of the world begs for lines of credit and U.S. policymakers struggle to unclog the financial system, Beijing has announced that it will need to "strictly control lending," especially to certain areas of the economy such as "high-polluting, high-energy consuming industries and...those with overcapacity."
Part of the Chinese government's concern is that money from their stimulus package, announced last November, is getting stuffed into various industries that may eventually produce a spate of overly risky loans. They also worry about the onset of inflation in 2010, if too much money gets dumped into the economy now. Remember the good old days (as far back as summer 2008) when Beijing's biggest economic worries were high inflation and over-heating? Well, even if we don't, the Chinese certainly do. And they plan to avoid revisiting them.
In a related announcement on Saturday, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao explained that the Chinese economy was performing better than expected, building on recent positive projections from a variety of analysts, including some at the World Bank. A day earlier, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a press conference at which he expressed "glimmers of hope" for the American economy, but comparatively, the evidence for his prognosis seemed much more meager.
And it's safe to say that the Chinese noticed that fact as well. In fact, while reading this China Daily (one of China's state-run newspapers) report, it's hard not to detect a sense of schadenfreude coming out of Beijing when it compares Chinese prospects:
'Despite the year-on-year slowdown, the Chinese economy has posted a strong recovery on a quarterly basis, making us more upbeat about the country's economic prospects,' said Frank Gong, senior economist, JP Morgan, who predicted China's quarter-on-quarter GDP growth has rebounded to about 5 percent in the first quarter from only 1.5 percent three months earlier."
to American prospects:
US President Barack Obama said last Friday that the US economy was beginning to show 'glimmers of hope,' as mortgage interest rates declined to historic lows, while refinancing has shown significant pick-up. But some analysts said the largest economy in the world and also China's major trade partner is far from bottoming out, given the severe stress of financial malaise and job losses."
One hopes that China will use this growth potential not just to expand its regional influence and national interests, but also to continue to take positive steps in global cooperation. After all, they certainly still have great interest in the health of the American economy.
Photo: Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images
Speaking with the New York Times, a top Chinese economist explained why China is cutting its holdings of U.S. bonds by quoting John Maynard Keynes: “If you owe your bank manager a thousand pounds, you are at his mercy. If you owe him a million pounds, he is at your mercy.”
With that reasoning in mind, China sold U.S. Treasuries and other foreign bonds in the first two months of the year; it returned to buying them in March. Around two-thirds of China’s foreign reserves are held in dollars.
That bulk holding has complicated relations between the two economic super-powers during the Great Recession. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and the central bank governors have expressed concern about the U.S. economic situation and their exposure to it -- though the resumption of purchases in March suggests they may believe the outlook is better.
Still, numerous economists and policy experts have suggested careful, controlled, slow draw-down would be a good thing for both countries.
The New York Times reports that China is facing a gender imbalance of 32 million among under-20s, because Chinese women often abort female fetuses due to the country's strict one-child policy.
The researchers, who analyzed data from a 2005 census, said the disparity was widest among children ages 1 to 4, a sign that the greatest imbalances among the adult population lie ahead. They also found more distortion in provinces that allow rural couples a second child if the first is a girl, or in cases of hardship.
Those couples were determined to ensure they had at least one son, the researchers noted. Among children born second, there were 143 boys for 100 girls, the data showed.
Passport reader John Duffell sends in the above newspaper supplement from Malawi. He writes:
I'm an American who's been living in southern Malawi for nearly a year and a half. Yesterday morning, during a trip to town, I picked up a copy of Malawi's "Daily Times" newspaper to find a 12-page advertisement celebrating "50 years of democratic reform in Tibet" It's mostly about how grateful the people of Tibet are that China has reclaimed what's rightfully hers, and given them freedom at long last. [...] The ad spread looks remarkably like editorial content, and I've since learned that it was paid for by the Chinese Embassy in Malawi.
There's more info on Duffell's blog including a bizarre conversation with the newspaper's editor.
It's not news that China is waging a public relations campaign along with its economic expansion in Africa, but it's a bit hard to understand why Malawians would care that much about Tibet, or why China would care that much what they think.
Have any other readers in Africa seen anything similar?
Photo: John Duffell/Flickr
Today, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a frankly horrific set of numbers. The unemployment rate hit 8.5%, the highest in more than 25 years; 663,000 workers lost their jobs in March alone; 25 million are underemployed; and over the course of the recession, the U.S. has bled more than 5 million jobs.
Certainly, the U.S. has fewer social safeguards against the disruptions of unemployment than many other high-income economies, meaning fewer protections against lay-offs and less-generous unemployment benefits. (FP looked at the best places to lose your job last month.) This generally means more volatility in the unemployment rate.
But is the U.S. really doing worse than, say, France and the United Kingdom, countries with historically high unemployment?
The short answer is yes; the U.S. recession has gone on for longer and is deeper than in Europe, and therefore has sapped three times as many jobs. The unemployment rate in the U.S. is higher than in the U.K., and close to France's. (The U.K. and French numbers above are estimates.) And the job-losses are accelerating faster in the U.S. than in other countries.
Here's hoping for it to bottom-out soon.
Beijing monitors China's Internet users; Chinese Internet users monitor Beijing. Or at least hackers based in Taiwan recently tapped into a top State Council official's computer to snatch drafts of Premier Wen Jiabao's government work report and other documents.
According to the South China Morning Post:
"The documents included comments from Politburo members who wanted to change this or that in the government report. These are regarded as top state secrets, even more sensitive than the government report itself," one source said. "Mr Wen was said to be furious when told about the case."
This happened in March, prior to Wen delivering the equivalent of China's State of the Union address at the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress in Beijing.
No secrets were revealed as to the source of the mysterious and unchanging GDP predictions, but according to SCMP, speculation based on the report did leak out and jigger global stock markets.
LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images
A hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations yesterday on the financial crisis gave some interesting insight into what -- and how much -- policymakers are thinking about China these days.
While the three witnesses (Martin Wolf, George Soros, and Lawrence Lindsey) all spoke about the IMF's role in the current crisis (for more on that, check out our debate here and here on The Argument), none could help themselves from pointing out that the current economic situation is a clear turning point for the world's balance of power.
Here are a few exerpts:
The ability of the west in general and the U.S. in particular to influence the course of events will also be damaged. The collapse of the western financial system, while China's apparently flourishes, marks a humiliating end to the "unipolar moment". As western policymakers struggle, their credibility lies broken."
- Martin Wolf
"When history is written, it will be recorded that - in contrast to the Great Depression - protectionism first manifested itself in finance rather than trade... If the multilateral system falls apart, every country will pursue its interests unilaterally. Then China will be much better situated than we are. While we are, regrettably, still lagging behind the curve in dealing with the crisis, China is ahead of the curve."
- George Soros
"...a second set of policy mistakes that led to this current crisis were decidedly non-American in origin. During the 1990s, many of the world's newly developing countries, most notably China, managed their currencies in a way designed to increase exports and build foreign exchange reserves... China purchased hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. Treasury and Agency securities, driving down our interest rates and facilitating the development of the housing bubble. The world saw the perverse economic result of Chinese workers and peasants being underpaid by their own government in order to finance the building of McMansions in America."
- Lawrence Lindsey
With as much China talk as there is in Washington these days, it begs the question: is the U.S. having a case of China-envy? Or has China replacing the U.S. role in the world economy?
This strikes me as a significant moment, but let's hang on a second before we lose our heads.
In it, Zhou asks, "What kind of international reserve currency do we need to secure global financial stability and facilitate world economic growth, which was one of the purposes for establishing the IMF?"
Theoretically, an international reserve currency should first be anchored to a stable benchmark and issued according to a clear set of rules, therefore to ensure orderly supply; second, its supply should be flexible enough to allow timely adjustment according to the changing demand; third, such adjustments should be disconnected from economic conditions and sovereign interests of any single country. The acceptance of credit-based national currencies as major international reserve currencies, as is the case in the current system, is a rare special case in history. The crisis called again for creative reform of the existing international monetary system towards an international reserve currency with a stable value, rule-based issuance and manageable supply, so as to achieve the objective of safeguarding global economic and financial stability.
Though Zhou does not say so explicitly, the clear implication is that the dollar isn't doing these things. Interestingly, he cites John Maynard Keynes:
But, he admits, "The re-establishment of a new and widely accepted reserve currency with a stable valuation benchmark may take a long time." As the WSJ explains:
Back to the 1940s, Keynes had already proposed to introduce an international currency unit named "Bancor", based on the value of 30 representative commodities. Unfortunately, the proposal was not accepted. The collapse of the Bretton Woods system, which was based on the White approach, indicates that the Keynesian approach may be more farsighted.
[T]he technical and political hurdles to implementing China's recommendation are enormous, so even if backed by other nations, the proposal is unlikely to change the dollar's role in the short term. ... The central banker's proposal reflects both China's desire to hold its $1.95 trillion in reserves in something other than U.S. dollars and the fact that Beijing has few alternatives. With more U.S. dollars continuing to pour into China from trade and investment, Beijing has no realistic option other than storing them in U.S. debt.
Looks like you can hang on to those greenbacks for a little while longer.
It seems counterintuitive to say the least. The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader in exile of Tibet, was denied a visa on Friday to attend a peace conference in Johannesburg, South Africa at the invitation of fellow Nobel Prize-honorees Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and F.W. de Klerk.
"Of all the nations on Earth that should empathise with [Tibetans'] plight, South Africa should" wrote The Times of South Africa. "We echo the accusation by Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, that barring the Dalai Lama is a 'total betrayal of our struggle history.'"
So what gives? A bit of real politik -- learned from France's mistakes with China late last year: Nicolas Sarkozy held a highly publicized meeting with the Dalai Lama only to have Beijing cancel its planned joint EU summit and skip France on its Premier Wen Jiabao's European tour. "I looked at a map of Europe on the plane. My trip goes around France," The Economist quoted Wen saying.
South Africa, the rationale might go, can't really afford a chill in relations. The country accounts for one fifth of China's trade with Africa; and South Africa depends increasingly on China for financing. So Archbishop Tutu had it quite right: "We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure. I feel deeply distressed and ashamed."
In the lead-up to the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, the country was also looking to head off what it saw as a public relations disaster in the making. Spokesman for the South Africa president told reporters, "at this time the whole world will be focused on the country as hosts of the 2010 World Cup. We want the focus to remain on South Africa... A visit now by the Dalai Lama would move the focus from South Africa onto issues in Tibet."
But if avoiding the headlines was the goal, that strategy has backfired. The conference organizers have promised to pull out of the meeting and the press is eating it up and spitting the South African government out. So much for damage control.
KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
Though it's a comparatively minor offence when you consider her husband's crimes, it's still a little disappointing that Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe will not be charged for punching Times photographer Tim O'Rourke in the face with her diamond ring while shopping in Hong Kong:
The Department of Justice in the territory issued a statement saying: “Grace Mugabe is not liable to arrest or detention, and enjoys immunity from prosecution.” These rights come under Chinese regulations on diplomatic immunity and privileges, the department said.
Hong Kong’s legal system is separate from that of China under terms of its reversion to Beijing rule in 1997, but it must apply China’s laws in cases involving foreign relations or defence.
Another Times photog got throttled by guards a month later when he tried to take a peek at the Mugabes' new Hong Kong pad.
McClatchy's Tim Johnson worries about the damage to Hong Kong's reputation if it becomes the destination of choice for Mugabe and his ilk.
ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images
I'll start with the bad news for anyone with a pet guinea pig: this blog post is not about pets. It's about food staples -- the guinea pig being a major one for Peru, with 65 million of the critters eaten each year. In addition to genetically engineering the perfect pig, Peru celebrates its culinary tradition in splendid a guinea pig festival.
Alas, despite a bull market at home, exporting the creature has proven difficult in a world where guinea-pigs are at times more associated with cages and hampster wheels than with fine cutlery. But now from the blogosphere a rather brilliant suggestion: export to China. No qualms about pet vs. platter there. And guinea pigs are remarkably economical -- at just $3.20 to feed half a dozen people. Sounds like guinea pigs are a recession proof (even countercyclical) market. I'm investing now.
Hat tip: Double Handshake.
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
Just a few week's after the close encounter between Chinese naval vessels and the USN Impeccable, China has announced that it is converting old ships in order to boos the number of naval patrols in the South China sea:
Wu Zhuang, director of the Administration of Fishery and Fishing Harbour Supervision of the South China Sea, said: “China will make the best use of its naval ships and may also build more fishery patrol ships, depending on the need.”
He did not specify if the boats would be armed when they are sent out into a region of atolls, islands and reefs that are some or all disputed by China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. The boats will be sailing in some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. More than half the globe’s oil tanker traffic passes through the South China Sea since it offers the shortest route between the Pacific and Indian oceans for ships bringing energy from the Middle East to China and Japan.
Mr Wu said that the situation in the region was becoming increasingly complicated. "Faced with a growing amount of illegal fishing and other countries' unfounded territorial claims of islands in China’s exclusive economic zone, it has become necessary to step up the fishery administration's patrols to protect China’s rights and interests.”
As James Kraska and Brian Wilson wrote on FP's The Argument last week, China is currently engaged in a campaign to redefine international law to give it exclusive navigational rights in its "exclusive economic zone". So far, the battles have mostly been fought at international law conferences and symposia, but China seems to be increasingly taking its fight to the high seas.
Oddly parallel stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post today say more or less that Chinese firms are snapping up everything in sight now that the financial crisis has given them a competitive edge.
"The sheer scope of the agreements," the Post's Ariana Eunjung Cha declares, "marks a shift in global finance, roiling energy markets and feeding worries about the future availability and prices of those commodities in other countries that compete for them, including the United States."
And for the Times, Keith Bradsher makes the case that China is using the crisis to retool:
The country is using its nearly $600 billion economic stimulus package to make its companies better able to compete in markets at home and abroad, to retrain migrant workers on an immense scale and to rapidly expand subsidies for research and development.
Construction has already begun on new highways and rail lines that are likely to permanently reduce transportation costs.
And while American leaders struggle to revive lending — in the latest effort with a $15 billion program to help small businesses — Chinese banks lent more in the last three months than in the preceding 12 months.
China is also making it easier for companies to acquire foreign firms:
The [commerce] ministry is now leading its first mergers and acquisitions delegation of corporate executives to Europe; the executives are looking at companies in the automotive, textiles, food, energy, machinery, electronics and environmental protection sectors.
Delve a little deeper into Bradsher's story, however, and there's less here than meets the eye. There's still the fact that some 20 million migrant workers have lost their jobs. "The social safety net of pensions, health care and education barely exists," Bradsher notes. And China is losing some of its low-tech industries to countries with even less weaker labor and environmental laws. Exports fell more than 25 percent in February.
Nor can we assume that China's economic stewards really have a handle on the economic zeitgeist. The Financial Times reports today that the country "has lost tens of billions of dollars of its foreign exchange reserves through a poorly timed diversification into global equities just before world markets collapsed last year."
The bottom line: Be skeptical of claims that China is taking over the world right now. If anything, Beijing's list of domestic problems is getting longer, not shorter.
Here's your China fact of the day:
The gifts are essentially bribes or kickbacks, and they are prohibited under Chinese law. But in China, legal experts say, bribery laws are selectively enforced, and party members in good standing are rarely investigated.
As a result, the practice of bribing government officials — by other government officials and, more commonly, by private businessmen — is so widespread that luxury goods producers have come to count on it as an increasingly important revenue source.
China is now the world’s fastest-growing luxury market, with an estimated $7.6 billion in sales last year, according to Bain & Company, a global consulting firm. And industry experts say gifts to government officials make up close to 50 percent of the country’s luxury sales.
Remember those suspiciously young-looking Chinese gymnasts from the Beijing Olympics? Turns out they're not alone. China's sports ministry has x-ray tested 15,000 youth athletes and found that a fifth are lying about their age:
The athletes tested were the top eight in each event at provincial youth competitions in 2008 and all those who had signed up for this year's Provincial Games. The result showed 3,000 were older than they claimed, 2,000 of whom were no longer eligible for any youth sport and 1,000 who should have competed in different age categories. Ye said 16 athletes in one event had faked their ages and the worst offenders were up to seven years older than they were allowed to be.
Harry How/Getty Images
Creative financing schemes and frisky credit-risk assessments haven't only catapulted capitalist economies to the brink. For years China's state-run banks have relied upon a coterie of dubious experts and shady loan guarantee companies when extending credit. Now, as things fall apart,
Whether or not banks elsewhere are nationalized, the real issue remains whether financial planners know what they're doing. Tim Geithner, take note.
On the other hand, per Forbes, at least credit is still available in China:
"In America, basically, private capital has dried up, but in China you have these large pools of capital sitting around," says Anne Stevenson-Yang, principal of Wedge MKI, an investment research and advisory firm in Beijing. "The problem is that most of the short-term capital and capital for private companies is in these gray and sometimes semicriminal networks."
China Photos/Getty Images
On his China Rises blog, McClatchy's Tim Johnson reports that Chinese authorities have cancelled performances by British band Oasis because of concerns over singer Noel Gallagher's political views. From the band's press release:
"The licensing and immigration process for the two shows had been fully and successfully complied with well before the shows went on sale. The Chinese authorities action in cancelling these shows marks a reversal of their decision regarding the band, which has left both Oasis and the promoters bewildered.
"According to the show's promoters, officials within the Chinese Ministry of Culture only recently discovered that Noel Gallagher appeared at a Free Tibet Benefit Concert on Randall's Island in New York in 1997, and have now deemed that the band are consequently unsuitable to perform to their fans in the Chinese Republic on 3rd and 5th of April, during its 60th anniversary year.
By now, China should've somehow realized that it's gotta lighten up on those artistic censorship laws. Other superpowers' leaders seem perfectly content to just ignore self-righteous outbursts from ageing foreign rock stars.
Dave Hogan/Getty Images
World leaders are becoming ever more internet savvy these days. Obama's team used the web to create a grassroots presidential campaign and his administration continues to send emails and post youtube videos to disseminate information. Even in some of the most unlikely places, presidents and prime ministers are going to the internet to get in touch with the people -- or at least to give that impression -- as even Dmitry Medvedev and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have setup their own online fora.
The latest example is China, where Premier Wen Jiabao spent two hours online chatting with netizens on Saturday. According to the Wall Street Journal:
Wen started by saying he'd been looking forward to chatting online with the public. 'I am glad to have this online chat with all of you,' he said. 'I always believe that the public has the right to know what the government is thinking and doing, and criticize and suggestions on government policy.' He also said that he was a bit nervous in his first online chat, but said that he would follow his mother's advice to 'always talk honestly and with heart.'"
While the motives for leaders like "Grandpa Wen" surely involve a bit (if not more) of propaganda, it seems encouraging that participants were allowed to ask straightforward questions and air legitimate concerns:
-'Affected by the financial crisis, we farmers find it hard to find jobs. I want to start my own small business... I hope we farmers can also get small-scale loans that we can repay in three or five years.' Wen said the government should encourage them to start their own businesses by offering a tax stimulus and training opportunities.
-'As a consumer, I feel like I am treated like God in the shops. But when can I feel the same way while in hospitals?' Wen replied that the government will do more to make the country's health care system more accessible and affordable.
-'Premier Wen, what do you think about the power of government officials? And what do you think the power you hold?' Wen said the government is making active preparations for officials to declare their assets as part of the effort to combat corruption."
However, the premier did not have time to get to every question:
-Late Premier Zhou Enlai was known of being able to drink a lot, so how much can you drink?"
This chat was undoubtedly an effort to bolster the premier's already soaring reputation. Still, for the average Chinese person, this type of candid interaction with the a government leader would have been largely unimaginable even ten years ago.
Feng Li/Getty Images
Since yesterday's item on Chas Freeman, more commentators have sallied forth to attack and defend President Obama's controversial pick to run the National Intelligence Council.
In today's Wall Street Journal, Gabriel Schoenfeld of the Witherspoon Institute says that Obama wants to place "a China-coddling Israel basher in charge of drafting the most important analyses prepared by the U.S. government." He argues that Schoenfeld's views on China should worry us as much as his thoughts about Israel and ties to Saudi Arabia:
On the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989, Mr. Freeman unabashedly sides with the Chinese government, a remarkable position for an appointee of an administration that has pledged to advance the cause of human rights. Mr. Freeman has been a participant in ChinaSec, a confidential Internet discussion group of China specialists. A copy of one of his postings was provided to me by a former member. "The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities," he wrote there in 2006, "was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud." Moreover, "the Politburo's response to the mob scene at 'Tiananmen' stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action." Indeed, continued Mr. Freeman, "I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be."
The Daily Beast's Ashley Rindsberg explains another political strike against Freeman, his past business dealings with the bin Laden family:
As chairman of Projects International Inc., a company that develops international business deals, Mr. Freeman asserted in an interview with the Associated Press less than a month after September 11 that he was still “discussing proposals with the Binladen Group—and that won't change.”
In the same interview, Freeman also contested the notion that international companies who had business with the bin Laden family should be “running for public-relations cover,” noting that bin Laden was still “a very honored name in the kingdom [of Saudi Arabia]”, despite its family tie to the Al-Qaeda leader.
The New Republic's Martin Peretz adds his take, calling Freeman "bigoted and out of touch."
The Nation's Robert Dreyfuss defends Freeman here calling the campaign against him "scurrilous":
If the campaign by the neocons, friends of the Israeli far right, and their allies against Freeman succeeds, it will have enormous repercussions. If the White House caves in to their pressure, it will signal that President Obama's even-handedness in the Arab-Israeli dispute can't be trusted. Because if Obama can't defend his own appointee against criticism from a discredited, fringe movement like the neoconservatives, how can the Arabs expect Obama to be able to stand up to Israel's next prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu?
My co-blogger David Rothkopf also takes up the issue, noting that while he vehemently disagrees with Freeman's views on Israel, Saudi Arabia, and China, his continued willingness to utter uncomfortable truths to power make him the perfect pick for Obama's intelligence briefer:
Part of the reason he is so controversial is that he has zero fear of speaking what he perceives to be truth to power. You can't cow him and you can't find someone with a more relentlessly questioning worldview. His job will be to help present the president and top policymakers with informed analysis by which they can make their choices. His intellectual honesty and his appreciation for what is necessary in a functioning policy process is such that he will not stack the deck for any one position. He wouldn't last five minutes in the job if he did. (And Denny Blair, the wise and canny Director of National Intelligence wouldn't tolerate it.) Further, the chairman of the NIC does not directly whisper into the president's ear in a void. He helps prepare materials that will become the fodder for active debate among a national security team that is devoid of shrinking violets.
FP's Laura Rozen is also following the Freeman debate closely. Stay tuned to "The Cable" for more details as they emerge.
Truly, no one is safe from the long reach of the financial crisis. Time's China Blog reports:
With the flagging economy, no one's job is secure, not even for a mistress. A Qingdao newspaper reported that a Qingdao businessman facing money problems decided to “fire” four out of his five mistresses last December.
According to the paper the man, surnamed Fan, was “inspired by those talent challenge programs he saw on TV”, and arranged similar competitions for his five mistresses. Only the top winner would remain Fan's mistress and enjoy a monthly income of US$800 and an apartment. The five women then presented themselves in front of a professional model trainer, gave speeches, sang songs and even gulped down liquor to show their drinking capacity.
Read the whole post for the story's strange and tragic conclusion.
Update: Looks like this one was too good to be true. Time has learned that the story was fictional.
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