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The latest article is now up at Brooks Foreign Policy Review, here.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), founded 42 years ago, was created to provide a framework to advance regional stability in Southeast Asia at a time when the withdrawal of colonial powers had created a vacuum. This placed the newly independent states of the region in danger of succumbing to ethnic strife and communist insurgencies. Since the conclusion of the Cold War, ASEAN has embarked on a series of free trade initiatives, linking it to some of the Asian-Pacific regions most dynamic economies.
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.
–Ordinary citizens seeking a place at the decision-making table in China – This is a very interesting article about a grassroots political movement. The Chinese government response was interesting. It usually happens this way, if they can’t suppress the movement they negotiate. The problem is every time this happens they attempt to clamp down more to prevent this type of movement from every getting off the ground. The article seems to suggest it is a “democratic movement”, but I do not think so. These people were just trying to protect their capital investment.
–Ethnic violence spreads in Kenya, with no sign of respite – I’m not sure what to say about this now. The two opposing sides met and came to no conclusion. The solution is obvious. Have a new election with serious international monitoring, but Kibaki likely thinks he will lose so will not go that route. He figured possession is 9/10 of the law and he just needs to wait it out…while his countrymen continue to kill each other.
–Stock markets see another ‘black Monday’ – I wonder how many Chinese Billionaires are there now? From what I know most of them are rich off the stock market and for some reason centered around Wenzhou.
–Japanese sushi lovers shrug despite high tuna mercury levels – This is quite odd to me. Japanese people, IMO, are quite anal about freshness and purity of food. Tuna is a key stable of the Japanese diet and the dismissive response to mercury levels is quite odd. I am going to consult with my wife over this later.
–Military balance tilting toward China – An interesting article on the military balance between China and Taiwan.
–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”.