Archive for April, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Taiwan-U.S. Relations: Developments and Policy Implications

The changing dynamic between Taiwan and the PRC poses increasingly difficult, competing policy challenges for the United States. Along with new policy challenges – such as what U.S. policy should be if Taiwan should continue to move closer to or even align with the PRC – the Obama Administration will be faced with other challenges familiar from past years, including decisions on new arms sales to Taiwan, which are anathema to the PRC; how to accommodate requests for visits to the United States by President Ma and other senior Taiwan officials; the overall nature of U.S. relations with the Ma government; whether to pursue closer economic ties with Taiwan; what role, if any, Washington should play in cross-strait relations; and more broadly, what form of defense assurances to offer Taiwan.

Congressional Research Service, April 2, 2009 – PDF download here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Vietnam: “Under Threat of Invasion”?

Chinalco‘s investment in Rio Tinto‘s Australian operations wasn’t uncontroversial, but was approved by Australia’s authorities. Chinalco’s investment in Vietnam’s bauxite mining almost definitely also will be officially aprroved. But there are misgivings in Vietnam. Damage for the environment and farming – coffee, cashew, and tea -, and looming displacement of ethnic minorities living in Vietnam’s Central Highlands are issues.

Converting bauxite to alumina creates red sludge, three tons per ton of alumina produced. Vietnamese bloggers express concern – about the economic and ecological impacts – plus the China factor. “10,000 Chinese settlers are expected in the coming year”, says one opponent – in addition to migration during previous years.

“If you don’t teach them some necessary lessons, it just won’t do”, Deng Xiaoping reportedly said in Washington, in January 1979. I was a child then, but fascinated about news from far away – and it confused me how sympathetic a German editorial I read was to the Chinese invasion of Northern Vietnam. Maybe it was the war that changed China. It certainly was a lesson well-learned and unforgotten by its Southern neighbor. Even the Vietproponents of closer cooperation with China – Chinese investment included – will either think of business or development, but not of an alliance.

If China repeated its aggression of 1979 today, it would do Beijing no good. Dominic Ziegler of The Economist:

The calculus of the Chinese Communist Party is straightforward: unless China secures peace and prosperity around its borders, it cannot secure peaceful development at home. And without such development at home, not only is the legitimacy of the ruling Communists thrown into question, so is the whole notion of China’s rise. This underpins a seachange in China’s attitudes to the region over the past decade. China’s prickly suspicious face is these days rarely seen. Instead, on general view is what might be called China’s “smile diplomacy”. Nowhere are the smiles more evident than in South-East Asia, where China has undertaken not to settle territorial disputes by for e and where free-trade agreements have done much to reassure neighbours that China’s rise does not come at others’ expense.

If sacrificing farming for mining is a great choice for economic development remains to be seen. If it makes sense for Hanoi, they will give the bauxite project the go-ahead, just as they have endorsed other deals with China before. Vietnamese dissidents have mad that a patriotic issue: Thich Quang Do, the leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church, claims that Vietnam is “under threat of invasion”. At least in military terms, Ziegler’s list of China’s competitors for regional influence make that look unlikely – as long as Vietnam follows the small-country strategy of playing the big boys off against one another.

India is – semi-officially – ready:

Given its rivalry with China, Vietnam can not become China’s strategic ally. In fact, Vietnam presents the biggest obstacle in China’s southward expansion. In the long term, it is a strategic move for India to develop strong ties with Vietnam.

That’s what All India Radio said in its daily commentary on December 25, 2007 – only hours after Hand in Hand 2007, a joint military exercise between Chinese and Indian troops, had ended in Yunnan Province.

________________

Related: The Battle of Bạch Đằng River (Wikipedia)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

China Blogs: Losing Steam?

Looking at several China-related blogs, those run for fun or out of a sense of mission as well as those run by media corporations, I’m getting the impression that China-related blogging is losing steam. Declining numbers of comments seem to suggest that. A declining number of posts on the blogs I read most, too.

So does traffic on this blog, although that may be a justrecently-specific case, and no general trend. On a month-to-month basis, clicks on this blog continually rose from April 2008 to August 2008. Oddly, after that (and therefore past the Beijing Olympic Games), they rose much more sharply in September, than any time before. After September, the graph took almost the same shape as from April 08 to August 08 – but on a level about four times as high as during spring and summer.

February this year marked the peak. March was about as good as December, and a rough estimate suggests that April this year will be as good as November 08.

One of the reasons – if my hunches about blogging activities are correct – could be that most bloggers and commenters feel that they have said everything they wanted to say.

Then there is the more general picture, beyond China- and CNN-related blogging. Tai De, who writes about quite different topics, tells me that his clicks rose slowly from October 08 until November 08, had a small dent in December, then rose sharply in January and February, and have been stable during March and April (still slightly rising in March).

That could be logical. I guess that my blog is read by people who are in some kind of business, while more of his readers, with an interest in Turkey and the Middle East, are people from non-commercial trades. They may be teachers, theologicans, and so on – people whose jobs are much less affected by the gobal economic crisis than people with China-related jobs. In short, there is less time left than before to read blogs – especially from an office computer. Those who are still there, may now be much more busy with spreadsheets, than with the internet.

More general blogging numbers from WordPress (my random pick – I had no look at November, December, or February) …

October 08January 09March 09

… and Justrecently’s little calculations on those general WP stats…

Per Blog October 08 January 09 March 09
Per blog Per blog Per blog
Comments 6,25 6,39 7,98
Pageviews 1.287,49 1.470,04 2.077,09




Posts per blog 11,70 13,67 18,90
Words per blog 830,92 943,50 1.309,54

As you can see from the respective monthly wrap-ups yourself, the number of active blogs was 1,418,933 in October 08; 1,373,108 in January 09; and 1,111,892 in March 09.

And of course, there are some footnotes to every criterion mentioned above – you can read them up under the October, January and March WordPress links above the table, too.

So, if I got all that right, the general trend with WordPress blogs is that

  • the absolute number of active blogs is slightly, but continuously declining
  • he remaining active blogs become more active in terms of comments,
  • in terms of pageviews (strongly so)
  • in terms of posts per blog (also strongly)

The following are the WordPress and Justrecently graphs, respectively …

Wordpress, average number of posts per blog

WORDPRESS, average number of posts per blog

Justrecently's Blog, number of posts per month

JUSTRECENTLY, number of posts

Wordpress, average monthly number of pageviews per blog

WORDPRESS, average number of pageviews per blog

Justrecently, number of pageviews per month

JUSTRECENTLY, number of pageviews

Wordpress, average number of comments per blog

WORDPRESS, average number of comments per blog

Justrecently's Blog, number of comments

JUSTRECENTLY, number of comments

Justrecently’s absolute numbers are higher than the average ones, all the way – the graphs are meant to depict the trends only.

If this blog’s traffic trends are more or less typical of the average China-related blog, this would suggest that China is no longer as hot a topic as last year. It would also suggest that some or many Fifty-Cent-Party jobs are in danger, just as many real-economy ones. China’s stimulus plans to date mention infrastructure, the countryside, the textile industry etc., but not the Wumaodang.

But granted, the basis of this little all-but-powerpoint presentation is rather narrow in that it only counts WordPress stats, and JR’s. Besides, hadn’t WordPress blogs (apparently) become accessible from mainland China, this blog would probably have seen a bigger decline in pageviews.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Han Chinese Defenders for Tibetan Defendants

An abbot and living Buddha, Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche (普布泽仁仁波切), has been charged with illegal weapons possession and embezzlement, after more than 80 nuns from two convents he leads had protested on May 18 last year.

The convents are located in the autonomous prefecture of Ganzi ((甘孜藏族自治州)), Sichuan province, and the abbot is on trial at Ganzi Intermediate People’s Court.

Two lawyers who offered to defend Tibetans arrested for taking part in demonstrations last year were disbarred, according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report in 2008.

Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche is defended by Han Chinese lawyers who were told by government officials not to take on any cases of Tibetans.

If development is an irrefutable argument, so is professionalism.

The central government has published a National Human Rights Action Plan this month. They should be proud of China’s truly professional lawyers.

Are they?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Zeng Jinyan worried about Hu Jia’s Health

The following is translated from Zeng Jinyan’s (曾金燕) blog. Corrections are welcome.

April 25, 2009, 10:42 am

Only April can really count as the beginning of spring in Beijing. One cool rain at night makes the wild flowers erupt with blossoms, and dry twigs suddenly become abundantly green.

Spring is the season of emergence. If Hu Jia was here, he’d probably say something like this.

Wednesday, April 22, really feels like a holiday. Getting up early, getting myself ready, dress the child with clothes prepared the evening before, and taking them off again, worried that they might get dirty during lunch, and packing some extra clothes just in case. Telling Baobao: Today we are going to see Daddy! Baobao immediately points at the photo on the wall and smiles. When staying with the grandparents, once someone mentions seeing Daddy, she walks to the wall there and looks for a photo.

At 1 p.m., travelling on the Jingkai Expressway (京开高速公路), chatting with mother-in-law and, being distracted, missing the highway exit – I’ve taken this route to Beijing Prison many times, and such a mistake shouldn’t happen to me. Outside the Sixth Junction, I’m getting off the expressway and go back.

Tuanhe (团河) was the palace of the Qing Dynasty’s royal family. Now it is the place for Beijing Prison (北京市监狱).

After completing the formalities, we go to the meeting room. Hu Jia is already waiting there. They have changed the policeman again who has to be there during our meetings. The electronic wall display says: Hu Jia, No. 4. We are communicating by phone, at window number 4. The audio quality isn’t good, and it’s interrupted several times.

The window glass is very dirty and blurs the sight. It’s almost like fog within the double glazing. I can see Hu Jia, but not clearly. He has become much thinner within just a month, and his face is almost pointed. He says that he can’t eat much, therefore, he’s thinner. I ask him if he eats eggs, and he says that he gets about one or two eggs per week. He doesn’t eat the same way as the others do; he gets vegetarian food from the prison. He doesn’t eat enough, and he doesn’t sleep well. I ask him if he knows the results of the medical checkup of three months ago. We both don’t know them. When asking the prison staff, they say they also don’t know, and that we have to wait until the hospital passes them on. But routinely, one can get the results within a week!

Inevitably, I’m worried again. When Hu Jia had disappeared in 2006 for 41 days, the first test (B超结果*)) taken after his return gave reason to suspect cirrhosis, and other biochemical test results, taken four or five days later, showed that everything was normal. I was rather careless back then, and had too much faith in the report, thinking that everything was safe. Who would have thought in April 2006 that Hu Jia, who didn’t eat, later didn’t even want to get up, wasn’t simply fatigued (as I thought), but needed immediate hospital treatment (as we found out there)?

It’s April again, and there are two months’ test results we don’t know. He hasn’t taken the previous anti-viral medicine for three months now, and suddenly, he doesn’t eat, becomes thinner, doesn’t that say something about his condition? The prison’s censorship of our communication seems to become more and more strict, his letters have to be rewritten several times and the books I’m bringing him aren’t passed on to him either, except for exam materials. Did Hu Jia protest? There’s no hot water in the showers, did that make him catch a cold?

So many words, I don’t know where I’m taking them from. So many ears listening, and circumstances don’t allow to speak the words, family matters that you can’t talk easily here, the child is getting naughty and walks to the entrance to see her father. But the policeman besides him isn’t as friendly as the one who monitored us previously, therefore, the child gets frightened and runs back to me. There is no way for us through this door. Only an innocent child can cross it now and then.

Suddenly, the phone connection is interrupted. We are told that half an hour has passed. The policeman urges Hu Jia to go back. I feel deep remorse. We haven’t really talked anything, and father and child haven’t been together at all. That’s what it was like before – it wasn’t like not talking at all, let father and child be together for half an hour.

On our way back, my mother-in-law asks: He’s become so thin, what should we do?

What should we do? What should we do?

Next day, she tells me that she has phoned the state security police (国保). I’m calling the prison several times, but people in charge are all away. We can only continue to make phone calls: his medical test results, shouldn’t they have long been given to his family people and to Hu Jia himself? Doesn’t he have to get medical treatment? Shouldn’t his nutrition be secured? Shouldn’t our freedom of communication be guaranteed?  Is it right to restrict the books, writing materials and some articles for daily use that his family people want to bring? Shouldn’t the prison, from some basic humanity and health considerations provide warm-water showers?

_________________

*) I’m not sure about the meaning of this test, and how to translate it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Strength of the Chinese Navy

The strength of the Chinese Navy (中国海军实力集中展示)

Good morning, Vietnam.

Good morning, Vietnam.

CCTV, April 23 » [youtube link, now broken - Jan 23, 2010]

Friday, April 24, 2009

Basic Human Rights for Taiwan’s Daughters-in-Law

The government’s plans to open Taiwan up to Chinese investment, and to relax restrictions on Chinese spouses’ rights to work and inherit shouldn’t make people worry, says the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC, 陸委會). Rather, strengthening the rights of Chinese spouses living in Taiwan should be seen as a return to basic human rights for Taiwan’s daughters-in-law (陸配就是台灣媳婦, 只要合法在台居留就應該有工作權,這是回歸基本人權). The government would continue to base its policies towards China on the principle of “priority for Taiwan, benefits for the people” (以台灣為主、對人民有利).

President Ma pointed out recently that the easing of policies toward China were meant to make up for the lost eight years, to let Taiwan’s relations with [update/correction: China] normalize, “but this doesn’t mean that the government only attaches importance to mainland China”.

The Mainland Affairs Council said that although it was true that Chinese investors can invest 100% in Taiwan, administration of these investments would be stricter than that of normal foreign investment. If Chinese investment came through a third party and exceeded 30 per cent of that investment, it wouldn’t be considered foreign, but Chinese investment.

The rights of Chinese spouses to inherit would be limited to two million New Taiwan dollars, says the Mainland Affairs Council. As for the right to work, they mostly worked in catering, care, and similar lines of business and therefore wouldn’t affect the working opportunities of the Taiwanese.

Source: BCC (中國廣播公司), Taipei, April 24

Related: More than 250,000 Chinese spouses, BBC, Dec. 26, 2008
Related: Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC), Wikipedia

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Yuan Weijing kept from Travelling

Most of the content of this post is based on translations from Teng Biao’s blog. Corrections are welcome.

___________________

Yuan Weijing (袁伟静), wife of blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), has been under virtual house arrest since 2005. According to Amnesty International information of Tuesday, she was kept from visiting grieving relatives after the death of her brother in law, Luo Kengren. On his blog, Teng Biao (滕彪), lecturer at the University of Politics and Law in Beijing, describes the incident, based on a phone contact with her of April 19.

She was kept from getting on a bus several times for more than half an hour, apparently by semi-official “watchmen” (看守人) hired by Shandong authorities, and called the emergency number 110 five times, with no reaction from there.

A dialog between her and one of the “watchmen”, overheard on the phone by Teng Biao (“watchman” apparently believes it is another try by Yuan to call 110):

Yuan: On which basis do you keep me from going?
W: I don’t want to keep you from going, but I have no choice. What can I do when you are trying to go?
(A noise suggests that Yuan is pulled back.)
W: If you go on like this, I will tell them to carry you back.
Yuan: Go ahead, then.
(Noise similar as before)

Yuan: Don’t touch me!
W: I didn’t…
Yuan: So what do you think you are doing?
W: Yuan Weijing, you can’t stay here for even a minute. You won’t go today, don’t waste your time.
Yuan: How can it be that noone takes care of this matter?
W: How can it be that I’m talking with you at all…

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