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Article is also up at Brooks Foreign Policy Review, here.
In 2001, Former Singaporean Ambassador to the United Nations, Kishore Mahbubani asked a simple question, which was also the title of his book, “Can Asians Think?” Mr. Mahbubani sought to challenge, what he perceived as, Western paternalism. He believes that Asians do not need indefinite guidance by the Western world, because Asians are capable of independent thought, and just because these thoughts may differ from the West does not mean they are the result of defective thinking. A befitting question for the coming decade is, “Can Sub-Saharan Africans think?” For many Westerners it would seem the answer is, “No”, at least as far as Africa’s relationship with China.
In 2005, the Western media began to express “concern” with the increasing Chinese presence in Sub-Sahara Africa (Africa). During this period, many foreign policy observers began to promote the idea that China is plotting to take over Africa in some neo-colonialist attempt to gain unlimited access to natural resources. For example, Karin Kortmann, a German parliamentary state secretary stated in November of 2006, “our African partners really have to watch out that they will not be facing a new process of colonization” (Cheng 2007). The same year, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, Jack Straw, made similar allegations “Most of what China has been doing in Africa today is what we did in Africa 150 years ago” (Stevenson 2006). This Sinophobic boilerplate is hyperbole, but the narrative suggests that the average African is impotent and their leaders are all iniquitous or ineffectual.
It has been a long time since I’ve blogged about Sudan. Most folks who read this blog probably know, China (and Russia) are often blamed by the West for much of what has happened in Darfur. People say that the government of Sudan could not arm the Janjaweed (government covert-sponsored militias), if they were not getting weapons and revenues from oil sales. Much of the West believes that China and Russia should use their clout to pressure Sudan into stopping the violence in Darfur. I’m not sure about Russia, but I know that China has cooled to Sudan’s government somewhat. They have even sent peacekeepers. This is interesting because both China and Russia have long held a policy of non-interference. The reason being that both nations do questionable things in their nations, especially in regard to minority groups. They do not want to set a international precedent of interference in domestic issues by international bodies due to humanitarian concerns. Its seems that China has softened its stance somewhat.
Sudan welcomes Chinese peacekeepers
Their clocks are set on Beijing time, they use state-of-the-art equipment and — most of all — they are welcome by the Sudanese government. In just about everything, the Chinese peacekeeping contingent in Darfur is strikingly different from the rest of the U.N. mission here.
The 140 Chinese engineers and troops deployed in Darfur were among the first reinforcements sent by the United Nations, which took over peacekeeping in the western Sudanese region in January. The Sudanese government quickly approved the Chinese contingent, even as it vetoed contributions from other countries because they were not African — including a Scandinavian engineering corps.
–Rice Rebukes Bush Envoy Who Criticized Policy on North Korea – Jay Lefkowitz, President Bush’s special envoy on North Korean human rights said the current Bush Admin policy will not solve the nuclear issue in North Korea before Bush leaves office. Well, he is right, that is obvious to someone of the meanest intelligences.
–Roadblocks on the Great Asian Highway – Interesting article about overcoming infrastructural barriers between Thailand, Laos, and China to create more efficient trade; and some immediate negative externalities for the local Laotian people.
–Corruption-fighting Vietnamese granny gets award – Transparency International awards Vietnamese grandma for fighting the good fight for 25 years against death threats from local government officials. This woman is 150 cm (4’11” inch) tall and 40 kilograms (88 lbs) and has more “balls” than 99% of the politicians in Washington D.C., unfortunately for us Americans.
– China closes 44,000 pornographic websites in 2007 – The Chinese government is not fond of “adult entertainment”. This is part of the increasingly common crackdown on various facets of the sex industry in China. I’m sure shutting down 44,000 websites has kept the thought police quite busy.
–Science with Africa: Accelerating Science and Technology in Africa – Information on a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 3 to 7 March. The themes of the conference will be science and innovation policy, science themes and innovation and will consist of plenary sessions and workshops.
–Africa: ‘U.S. Recession a Threat to Third World Exports’ – There has been a recession fear going through North America, Europe, and East Asia lately but any economic downturn for the United States will also significantly effect some of the world’s poorest nations, which are already on the margin. This will not just hurt trade but also aid revenues.
–Desperately seeking students (Japan) – What is interesting about this is that Japan’s government is fully aware of the increasing student shortage and will allow the market to decide which schools stay open. This is something Americans should let happen with .
– – What is most interesting about this is that the Internet was instrumental in pressuring the government to adhere to the rule of law. This is a powerful tool for public outcry, that despite government efforts; they really can not effectively control. push China to prosecute beating death
–Asia: ‘Internet forces’ in China and Taiwan step up – Last time it was attacksChinese hackers attacking South Korea, now it is Taiwan v China. This article is a little different from the one I read on the South Korean attack. It goes into a lot more detail about the nature of the attacks. The United States and German governments also appear concerned as well. The article also mentions that due to security measures Taiwan is less vulnerable to attacks than Japan, the U.S., and EU.
–Japan asked China to tone down Nanjing Incident exhibits – This is somewhat shocking to be honest. I have said all I have to say on Japan’s WWII issues here, but I do not think it is wise for Japan to make statements like this. Instead they should demand for a international panel of historians from China, Taiwan, South Korea, and the United States to decides what occurred during WWII and in its aftermath once and for all and have high ranking government representatives sign it and agree to abide by the findings. As I said before I do not think China would ever agree to that, for reasons obvious to me.
–West Africa: Food Prices Still Climbing, Crisis Feared – This is not good at all.
–Chinese woman goes way off-message on the Olympics – Opps…someone had diarrhea of the mouth and now they are unemployed.
–For China, stability comes before democracy – This is an excellent editorial on the rise of Chinese democracy by Francis Fukuyama.
–Thousands march for democracy in HK – They do this every year, and as I said, the CCP believes it is in their interest to delay any form of real democracy in Hong Kong as long as they can. China says they are about 10 years away, but I would say 15 years. Do not expect any movement on this issue before the Mainland becomes a upper middle income country. By that time I believe the CCP will be less concerned with a democratic Hong Kong being able to politically destabilize the mainland. From what I understand, these type of demonstrations attract fewer and fewer people every year. I think many people still care; they just realize that the CCP is not going to be swayed.
There has been a lot of talk about the true state of poverty in China after the GDP (PPP) reevaluation. Henan is a great example of the challenges facing China. It is one of the most populated provinces in China (in overall people and density) and has a very poor and restless population.
I think the CCP is in a race to develop China before a serious uprising occurs due to inequality and the relatively uncontrollable spread of information. The more open China is, the more potential for economic uplift, but also the less control over information. As rural people know how people outside of their areas in China live and how foreigners live (like in the West or even Hong Kong and Taiwan) there will be more unrest. The CCP knows Chinese history well; they know many uprisings have come from rural areas, especially in bad economic times and from nongovernment controlled religious groups. All boats are rising, but not at the same rate, and the rate of change between them is increasing, not decreasing. This is why Hu Jintao spent so much time speaking about creating a “harmonious society” during the 17th Party Congress last year.
I think Western people often get the idea that China is a prosperous country, even a developed one, but in reality it is really a developing country with rural poverty on the same level of many sub-Saharan African nations, less than 2 or even 1 USD a day; there are 450 million of these people (35% of the total pop). This is equal to trying to lift 1/2 of Africa’s population out of poverty. I would qualify that by saying there are not many starving people in China, when I speak of African like poverty I’m not speaking of famine.
I am also highly skeptical of data coming out of China, especially from rural areas, as party officials are known to inflate their numbers and act like little emperors in their region. Stealing and misallocating public funds, creating local taxes by fiat are not uncommon. I have blogged about this before. So can China win the race. I’m very optimistic, but not “sold”.
–Komura: Japan not seeking ‘rewards’ – I blogged about the Japan-Africa relationship before. This article reveals that Japan’s government is renewing its commitment to sustainable development aid measures in Africa and heavily implies they are “not after Africa’s resources like China”. This is not all altruistic, aid allocation never is. Japan is seeking a permanent seat on the security council and Africa has 53 nations. Upping aid from its current 10% on the continent might sway more to back Japan.
–S. Korea’s Lee moves to revitalize relations – South Korea’s president elect, Lee Myung Bak, is seeking better relations with Japan. This is somewhat surprising to me since he has a history of being anti-Japanese, but I suppose he is a pragmatist. It is easy to be a anti-Japanese mayor, but not so easy to be an anti-Japanese president in the region. It is positive he is already seeking regional support to deal with the North Korean issue.
–Liberia: Charles Taylor Trial Gets Under Way – Considering what this scum is responsible for in Liberia and the neighboring Sierra Leone, the child soldiers; drugs; rapes; mutilations; corruption; mental trauma of the victims. Taylor is a sub-human monster that should be hung like the war criminals of World War II. Some people are not fit to live, and there is nothing wrong with culling the herd. Here is a site that is monitoring the trial, Charles Taylor Trial.
–Liberia: Market Women Help Revive Economy – There is some good news in Liberia. Not only do they have a woman president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who seems to be respectable; but women are reviving the market! Johson-Sirleaf owed a debt to these women who were instrumental in her election, so she set up a Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund; more about this in the article. While reading the article, I saw similar dynamics in Liberia as in Sudan during the time of conflict. Women would be the ones foraging for goods, because they were least likely to be killed or forced into a militia. In Darfur, the choice was between a man possibly being killed and a woman raped, so often they sent the woman. In any case, I am quite happy with the industriousness and entrepreneurship I see in Liberia.
–Kenya’s Odinga Calls for Mediator to Resolve Crisis – Sitting president Kibaki called for a power sharing plan, which was rejected by Odinga. Odinga wants international mediation lead by John Kufour, Ghana’s president. He is insistent that the true winner of the election is not known and needs to be discovered. This makes sense to me to uphold the rule of law. In this situation, if there was significant ballot box stuffing; a recount will not help. They will need to do a new election that is heavily supervised by foreign monitors. I believe Kibaki will oppose this as long as he possibly can, for obvious reasons.
–China planning Taiwan Strait route for commercial aviation – China appears to be muscling in on airspace very close to what has been traditionally controlled by Taiwan. This has the effect of limiting Taiwan’s military exercises in the straight. I see this as a duel maneuver for China. They can reinforce the idea to Taiwan that their is “one China” and the shots are called from Beijing. At the same time; China can relieve air congestion between Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing without opening up strategic airspace over the Mainland. Taiwan is crying foul to Washington, and the Bush Admin is doing some behind the scenes mediation. If I were Taiwan I would use whatever leverage I have to resist this. I believe China is trying to intimidate; as well as, test the resolve of the U.S. over the Taiwan issue.
–Smear tactics dominate Taiwanese parties’ campaign for parliamentary vote – Just some old old Taiwanese mudslinging election politics. Legislative Yuan seats are up for election and Pan Blue/Pan Green are duking it out. Example: “‘The Nationalists are joining hands with China to suppress Taiwan’s democracy,’ the commercial says.”
–Nigeria: Ribadu Remains EFCC Chairman – Presidency – I blogged on this before. The controversy was that Ribadu appeared too successful at his job and was being “sent away” for an extended period. Here is an update of the brouhaha this has caused. The fact it has caused major outrage is a good thing though.
–UK Doubles Contribution to African Development Fund – This is great! $863 million will go far on the continent. The monies will be tracked through projects of the Millenium Development Goals, which include “improving the productive capacity in Africa, promoting economic integration, investing in infrastructure, private sector development, developing the skills needed to be competitive, as well as stepping up engagement in fragile states”.
–Uganda: Fuel Prices Double As Stocks Run Out – This is a great example of a relatively stable and prosperous landlocked nation hindered by its much larger unstable conduit to the sea. A common problem in Africa as so many nations are landlocked.