Archive for March, 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sarkozy’s Africa Tour: Sans la Nommer

French president Nicolas Sarkozy returned to Paris on Friday, after calls on the DR Congo, the Congo Republic, and Niger during a two-day Africa tour. In the DRC, France’s state-controlled nuclear-energy company Areva signed a deal with the government in Kinshasa allowing the company to prospect for and to mine uranium. In Niger, the company signed another deal for uranium mining. Al Jazeera reports that Areva’s mining activities in Niger had been attacked by Tuaregs after thousands of Tuareg nomads had been displaced to make way for the mines. Apparently, French politicians are reacting to allegations that Areva would enforce poor safety and environmental standards, and to mounting allegations that the Niger government expelled nomadic Tuareg tribes. Sarkozy was, with Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon, due to take part in a meeting of the local chapter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international attempt to set global standards for companies on publishing what they pay and for governments on disclosing what they receive, according to France-24.

The official Republicain Niger refers to Sarkozy’s visit as a review of cooperation within four hours – that’s apparently as much time as the French president has for the former colony. And the paper refers to his meeting with the EITI (after a lunch with president Tandja Mamadou) in a rather ambiguous way: [Sarkozy] will certainly restate his engagement to make transparency in Ali Baba’s Cave a reality, so that the citizens will know that the extractive industries [or mining industries] account to their countries.

[Which country, in the case of Areva‘s activities in Niger, would be the one to be reported to?]

Areva has committed an initial investment of 1.2 bn Euros at the Imouraren mining site, which is planned to produce 5,000 tons of uranium from 2012, according to La Tribune.
“The Nigeriens must know how much money is paid (…) where the money goes, how it is used. These are the methods of the twenty-first century”, Sarkozy reportedly said at the meeting with the Nigerien EITI committee. By the way, he invited the Nigeriens to do the same with other countries, because “transparency must apply for everyone, not just the former colonial powers”. Without mentioning it by name, he apparently aimed at China, Nigers second trade partner, where the country operates uranium mines and an oil field.

Related: For a “healthier relationship” with Africa, BBC, September 26, 2007

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Quote: “Serf Emancipation Day”

Comrades and friends:

Today, on the arrival of the anniversary of serf liberation in Tibet, we are holding a forum in the solemn Great Hall of the People, and celebrate, with people of all ethnic groups in Tibet, the quelling of the rebellion in Tibet, the fifty years of implementation of democratic reforms. First, in the name of the Central Committee and the State Council, I want to express my highest consideration and cordial greetings to those who for fifty years have defended the achievements of Tibetan democratic reform, protected Tibet’s stability and national unity, the workers of all Tibetan nationalities who made contributions to a new socialist Tibet, farmers and herdsmen, intellectuals, cadres, and people from all walks of life, as well as the PLA troops stationed in Tibet, Tibet People’s Armed Police troops, and police officers! To all those who for a long time have cared about Tibet, loved Tibet, supported Tibet’s development and progress – all nationalities, overseas Chinese, international friends -, I express my heartfelt thanks! […..]


今天,在“西藏百万农奴解放纪念日”来临之际,我们在庄严的北京人民大会堂召开座谈会,与西藏各族人民一起隆重庆祝西藏平息叛乱、实行民主改革50周 年。首先,我代表党中央、国务院,向50年来为捍卫西藏民主改革成果、维护西藏稳定和国家统一、建设社会主义新西藏作出贡献的西藏各族工人、农牧民、知识 分子、干部和各界人士,以及人民解放军驻藏部队指战员、武警西藏部队官兵和公安干警,表示崇高的敬意和亲切的问候!向长期以来关心西藏、热爱西藏、支持西 藏发展进步的全国各族人民和海外侨胞、国际友人,表示衷心的感谢!

Historical facts can not be changed, and epochal tides can’t be resisted. No matter how the Dalai clique masks itself and what kind of sophistry, no matter how it instigates and sabotages, this can’t change the objective truth that Tibet has since ancient times been an inseparable part of China, and it can’t obliterate the fifty years of enormous success in the democratization of Tibet, and it can’t shake the determination of the Chinese people, Tibetan compatriots included, to safeguard national unity, can’t obstruct Tibet’s development, progress and prosperity within the great family of the motherland. […..]

历史事实不可改变,时代潮流不可阻挡。无论达赖集团如何伪装和狡辩,无论达赖集 团如何煽动和破坏,都无法改变西藏自古是中国不可分割一部分的客观事实,无法抹杀西藏民主改革50年的巨大成就,无法动摇包括藏族同胞在内的全体中国人民 维护国家统一的坚定决心,无法阻挡西藏在祖国大家庭中繁荣发展进步的坚实步伐。[…..]

Jia Qinglin (贾庆林), CPPCC chairman, on March 27

Related Stories:
Xinhua article in English, March 28 »
Hermit needs a break, January 17 »

Friday, March 27, 2009

Deutsche Welle Chinese Department Acquitted

Net Nanny's take

GEE, you are AMATEURS!

Ulrich Wickert is a former television anchorman, correspondent, and son of Erwin Wickert, a diplomat and author of several books on China. Last year, Erik Bettermann, director of Deutsche Welle (aka the Voice of Germany) asked Ulrich Wickert for an evaluation of the station’s Chinese department’s work. The situation was tense; Bettermann had to testify in a parliamentary commission next day. Wickert agreed to review the Chinese department’s previous articles and productions, and Bettermann was in a position to tell the parliamentary commission that an independent review was in progress, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Wickert delivered his findings on February 4, according to the Süddeutsche. Apparently, it took an investigative journalist to smell the finished report. The Süddeutsche asked the Voice for a comment, and Bettermann praised Wickert’s work as “great”, but said he didn’t want to publish Wickert’s report, as he didn’t want “to revive the China debate again”.

Wickert’s findings in short, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung: accusations of slanted China coverage were completely unfounded. Politicians had picked up the accusations unchecked, hoping that they would help them to get public attention.

It’s no sweetheart report. Director Bettermann is criticized by Wickert for hasty and unjustified personnel decisions, apparently because of public and political pressure. Wickert also quotes Freimut Duve, former OSCE representative on freedom of the media: a statement by a journalist must not be put into context with his or her country of origin. Zhang Danhong, the Chinese service’s deputy manager, had come under attack for saying that China had succeeded in lifting 400 mn people out of poverty during the past thirty years, thus contributing more than any other political force to achieve article three of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Reacting to the controversy following Zhang’s remarks, Bettermann had suspended her from work in front of the microphone last year. Wickert pointed to a similar statement by Georg Blume, China correspondent for the weekly Die Zeit, which never became controversial.

Friday, March 27, 2009

WordPress Apparently Unblocked in China

This blog is found by unusual searchword combinations – and more traffic than before. Apparently, blogs hosted by wordpress are currently not blocked in China.

The CNN/Time China Blog reports that it is unblocked for the first time since it moved to WordPress.


Update (December 15, 2009)

As this post is getting a lot of traffic recently, I should update this… As the Time China Blog correctly noted, the Net Nanny is cruel and capricious. To my knowledge, the opportunity for patriotic and law-abiding Chinese citizens living in their motherland to call foreign bloggers idiots right on the scenes of their crimes ended long ago.

Friday, March 27, 2009

It’s Spring…

… when you can feel the sunrise on a rainy morning.

Tags: ,
Friday, March 27, 2009

Simon Johnson: Through the Eyes of the IMF


Of course, the U.S. is unique. And just as we have the world’s most advanced economy, military, and technology, we also have its most advanced oligarchy.

In a primitive political system, power is transmitted through violence, or the threat of violence: military coups, private militias, and so on. In a less primitive system more typical of emerging markets, power is transmitted via money: bribes, kickbacks, and offshore bank accounts. Although lobbying and campaign contributions certainly play major roles in the American political system, old-fashioned corruption—envelopes stuffed with $100 bills—is probably a sideshow today, Jack Abramoff notwithstanding.

Instead, the American financial industry gained political power by amassing a kind of cultural capital—a belief system. Once, perhaps, what was good for General Motors was good for the country. Over the past decade, the attitude took hold that what was good for Wall Street was good for the country. The banking-and-securities industry has become one of the top contributors to political campaigns, but at the peak of its influence, it did not have to buy favors the way, for example, the tobacco companies or military contractors might have to. Instead, it benefited from the fact that Washington insiders already believed that large financial institutions and free-flowing capital markets were crucial to America’s position in the world.


Even leaving aside fairness to taxpayers, the government’s velvet-glove approach with the banks is deeply troubling, for one simple reason: it is inadequate to change the behavior of a financial sector accustomed to doing business on its own terms, at a time when that behavior must change. As an unnamed senior bank official said to The New York Times last fall, “It doesn’t matter how much Hank Paulson gives us, no one is going to lend a nickel until the economy turns.” But there’s the rub: the economy can’t recover until the banks are healthy and willing to lend.


The challenges the United States faces are familiar territory to the people at the IMF. If you hid the name of the country and just showed them the numbers, there is no doubt what old IMF hands would say: nationalize troubled banks and break them up as necessary.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Should a super-sovereign Currency replace the US-Dollar?

Zhou Xiaochuan, the People’s Bank of China’s governor, suggests this:

When a national currency is used in pricing primary commodities, trade settlements and is adopted as a reserve currency globally, efforts of the monetary authority issuing such a currency to address its economic imbalances by adjusting exchange rate would be made in vain, as its currency serves as a benchmark for many other currencies. While benefiting from a widely accepted reserve currency, the globalization also suffers from the flaws of such a system. The frequency and increasing intensity of financial crises following the collapse of the Bretton Woods system suggests the costs of such a system to the world may have exceeded its benefits.

For these reasons, he wouldn’t advocate any other currency replacing the US-Dollar. Obviously, his proposal also reflects Beijing’s worries that its US-Dollar reserves will continue to melt down in value, and it probably counts as a chip at the negotiation table. Zhou advocates the International Monetary Funds’ (IMF) special drawing rights as an alternative means of payment. A China Daily article estimates that 70 percent of China’s $ 1.95 trillion foreign exchange reserves are in US-Dollars. China Daily also quotes Erh-Cheng Hwa, chief economist of the Bank of Communications [or China Construction Bank, see second para from here]:

Despite all the talk of ‘confidence’, investors are still deeply concerned about their holdings of the US dollar and Treasuries, not only in China, but around the world (…..) Zhou’s proposal, along with others’, could add more pressure on the US government to take real responsibility to clear up the mess it has created.

For the time being, the U.S. would probably veto any replacement of the US-Dollar.

Why should the U.S. give up its reserve currency position, which enables it to borrow easily?said Hua Ercheng [see above, there, he is referred to as the Bank of Communication‘s chief economist] , chief economist in Beijing at state-owned China Construction Bank Corp., adding that the U.S. government has veto power in the IMF. They won’t allow any other currency to compete for the dollar’s dominant position, according to Wang Tao, head of China research at UBS AG.

That’s probably true for the time being, but not necessarily in the long term. Joseph Stiglitz urged a global reserve system in a speech in Shanghai last week.

And in a guest contribution to the Wall Street Journal China Blog today, Arvind Subramanian, in a direct reference to governor Zhou’s costs-and-benefits comparison points out that both the U.S. and China had accepted mutual trade as is, and that China shouldn’t portray itself as a victim of the global financial crisis:

China’s development strategy has been simple and focused: export at all and any costs. To achieve this, China has maintained an undervalued exchange rate. This mercantilist strategy has empirical backing. Recent academic research (for example, by Harvard’s Dani Rodrik) supports the view that undervalued exchange rates can provide a means of escape from under-development and an engine of long run growth. So, China’s development strategy has been sensible. (…..)

For China, let us for the sake of argument assume (conservatively) that mercantilism led to a higher annual productivity growth rate of 1 percent for a period of 10 years (this is consistent with the estimates in the papers by Rodrik and others). This extra productivity growth results, after ten years, in a level of GDP that is higher by 10 percent than it would have been otherwise. One year of this GDP gain is lost in the depreciation of the reserves. But this higher GDP is a permanent benefit that occurs every year and extends well beyond the ten year period. Precise quantification of the net benefits depends on many assumptions but the broad orders of magnitude are clear: the total GDP boost from mercantilism is substantially greater than the financial costs.

In the longer run, a super-sovereign reserve currency seems to have good prospects. Every country (or other body, like the EU or Euroland for example) should think twice before advocating its own currency which would only make it harder for their central banks to live up to their own economies’ requirements. A super-sovereign currency makes sense. But until alternatives to the current US-Dollar-based global economy become real, trade partners of all colors will need to make their picks among existing currencies as they see fit.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Granite Studio

What’s happened to the Granite Studio?

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