Archive for February, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Before you accuse Gordon Brown…

… of hitting people, listen to the man himself.

That said, Apple Daily has evidence to the contrary.

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Update/Related: British PM writes to Chinese PM, Febr 10, 2009

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Before you Accuse me…

… of making no pictures no more:

of course I’m making pictures. After all, I’m not only illustrating this beautiful blog, but others too. Like the one featuring former Bishop Margot Käßmann, on Taide‘s blog.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Taiwan By-Elections: The Voters’ Concerns

Taiwan’s oppositional Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has won three out of four seats up for grabs in Saturday’s by-elections to the Legislative Yuan. DPP candidates won in Taoyuan County’s third electoral district, in Hsinchu County, and in Chiayi County’s second electoral district. The KMT won in Hualien.

“I need to apologize to our supporters, but we will continue with party reform and stay firm on our principles,” KMT Secretary General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) told KMT supporters.

China’s Sina.Com publishes a Taihai.Net report on the by-elections, conscientiously putting everything from Central Election Commission (中央选举委员会) to Legislative Yuan (立委) into quotation marks, and quotes the KMT’s Secretary as saying that the election results had not been ideal, but the reforms would continue. The Taihai.Net report points out that the DPP’s influence in legislation and passing budgets is growing, but stops short of suggestions mentioned by AFP that the KMT’s latest setback could hurt its chances in the 2012 presidential election. AFP refers to Taiwan’s de-facto independence as a “split” in 1949 – an interpretation of history that favors China’s “renegade province” concept, and one that is frequently contested.

The KMT, in explaining its poor performance in the by-elections, keeps referring to party reform. Indeed, quarrels about the future of the party, and corresponding infighting between different factions, especially in Hsinchu County.

There is little mention of public unease with president Ma Ying-jeou‘s policies toward China. The president’s official slogan that Taiwan’s future must be decided by the Taiwanese themselves would be quite adequate, if these statistics of 2006 are indicative.

But there is wide-spread unease about the KMT’s China policies, including the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with Beijing, and the KMT has apparently has no reassuring selling points in the public debate.

EastSouthWestNorth quoted an opinion poll in December which suggested that 52 per cent of the interviewees felt that the government’s cross-strait policies leant towards China too much. 33 per cent disagreed with that feeling, and 15 per cent had no opinion.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

State Secrets: One Definition, Two Powers

A preparatory committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) considered possible changes to the state secrets law (国家保密法) on Wednesday, an AFP report published by Singapore’s Straits Times quotes Xinhua. The CCP’s news agency reportedly also said that the range of state secrets stipulated in the existing law was considered “too wide and vague”. The Straits Times / AFP didn’t elaborate on the details on Wednesday, saying that Xinhua gave no indication of [the draft's] practical impact.

A commentary by Southern Metropolis Daily (南方都市报) writes today  that the current revision focuses on broad definitions such as “matters of economic and social secrets” (经济社会中的秘密事项), “secrets to protect the security of the state” (维护国安的秘密事项), “other secrets as defined by the Bureau for the Protection of Secrets, or State Secrets Bureau [SSB, 保密局, these bureaus seem to exist in the defense ministry, at state level, on local levels, etc., aka National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets].

The draft stipulates that the confidentiality period should be 30 years at maximum, and that “if the confidentiality period needs to be extended, another corresponding confidentiality period should be established”. It quotes international practice here (国际通行的定密官制度), making clear the classifiers’ (定密者) qualifications and responsibilities, writes Southern Metropolis Daily. The draft focused on procedures and on making long-standing classifying operations more specific, which would help the public to understand state secrets (对公众理解国家秘密有帮助) and could be summarized as “one definition, two powers” (一个定义、两种权力), namely: what are state secrets, plus the power to classify them, and to extend their classification periods (何谓国家秘密,以及定密权与续密权).

The scope of definition is rather broad and flexible. Even as it provides a deadline for de-classification, the classification period can be extended, and the extension procedures won’t be audited, which can’t be transparent, writes Southern Metropolis Daily. While logically built in itself, the draft lacks the principle of the tendency “openness as a rule, confidentiality as an exception”.

The key structure of the draft is about the exceptions of its provisions, but it therefore leaves backdoors, and is therefore unable to bundle the practise of imposing state secrets, writes the paper. It would make the promotion of information openness more difficult, rather than easier.

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Related
China Daily: Let Us in on the Secrets, China Digital Times, February 26, 2010
“Not totally moved away from ‘state secrets'”, August 13, 2009
Chinese Officials Dilute [State Secrets Bureau] Claim of Rio Tinto Deceit, WSJ, Aug. 11, 2009
China’s Transparency is just Thin Air, Asia Times, Sept. 12, 2008

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Image: It’s Yummy

Zimbabwe probably had a helluva party with tons of tarts on Monday, just as it did a year ago.

Confucius says: “To the ruler the people are heaven; to the people food is heaven.”

Happy birthday, Mr President!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Constitutional Order

Q: How does China comment on the recent situation in Niger? Will the coup in Niger affect relevant cooperation between China and Niger?

A: China follows closely the developments of situation in Niger. We have noted that the United Nations, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States have already sent delegations to Niger for mediation. We always stand for the settlement of disputes through dialogue and consultation. We hope relevant parties in Niger can bear in mind the fundamental interests of their country and people to restore constitutional order as soon as possible and maintain national stability and development.
The Chinese and Nigerien people have enjoyed long-time friendly exchanges and cooperation. China attaches great importance to China-Niger relations and is ready to continue to develop friendly cooperation with Niger in various fields to the benefit of the two peoples.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦刚) on Tuesday

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Related:
Ten Years in Ali Baba’s Cave not Extractive, February 21, 2010
UN secretary-general statement, February 18, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Division of Labor that can’t work

A US Congressional report says Taiwan’s fighter jets are inadequate to deal with any threat from mainland China, Radio Australia reports, and adds an interview which offers some background from the perspective of Brad Glosserman of the Center for Strategic International Studies.

Taiwan is seeking 66 new US-made F-16 fighter jets, but Washington officials wary of another China backlash have hedged on the request, saying they must evaluate Taiwan’s overall defence needs, writes Pakistan’s Daily Times.

Members of Congress have traditionally been closer to Taiwan than the White House. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act when Washington switched diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing, and Congress members are frequently more outspoken than presidents. In 1997, then speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich quoted himself (from talks with Chinese officials) while speaking to American reporters in Shanghai:  “I said “We understand that, in principle, you will not renounce the right to use force. We want you to understand: We will defend Taiwan”.

Julian Baum, a former FEER correspondent in Taipei, pointed out in November last year that compared with previous US presidents, the need for cooperation [with China] is vastly greater for Barack Obama. At the same time, it is mainly Taiwan which seems to be a “burning issue” for Beijing when it comes to – political – cooperation with other countries. And Baum pointed out that Taiwan, but South Korea and Thailand as well, feel more palpably than other governments a suspicion and distrust toward Beijing, even as they experience some spillover benefits from one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Also in November, Singapore’s senior minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) told America that it had to “strike a balance” in Asia to balance China’s military and economic might.

But if there are South (East) Asian countries that see such an American role in their own national interest, they will need to cooperate with Washington in striking the balance. Securing it isn’t as lucrative as chumming up to Beijing – especially if everyone else chooses the latter role.

A division of labor of that kind isn’t sustainable.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hacking Google: Privileged Access

“He would rather not have uniformed guys looking over his shoulder, but there is no way anyone of his skill level can get away from that kind of thing.”
“The state has privileged access to these researchers’ work.”

A U.S. government researcher about a Chinese security consultant who is suspected of contributing to last year’s attacks on Google

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Related: Too Evil, January 13, 2010

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