China: March 2008 Archives

Beijing is facing a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario right now in southern Africa, and one that threatens to bring more heat on a central Chinese government already struggling to paint a positive image of itself in the midst of international criticism over the situation in Tibet. At issue is the election in Zimbabwe.


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As it stands now, the people of Zimbabwe are waiting to find out whether President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF will maintain its 28 year hold on power, or whether the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will take over. Governments the world over are watching this situation quite closely, and none more than Zimbabwe's largest investor, China. But rather than having any sort of concern over losing investment in Zimbabwe, the central government is most likely concerned about what a Mugabe win will do when it comes to public relations on the international stage.

In the lead up to the British handover of Zimbabwe back to its people in 1980, two Marxist factions within the country warred with one another for ultimate supremacy. The then-Soviet Union backed the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), while China put its support behind Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). China bet on the right horse, with Mugabe's ZANU sweeping into power in the 1980 elections. From that point on, the Chinese government has been one of Mr. Mugabe's strongest supporters, and continues to heap aide and investment into his country, despite numerous sanctions levied against the Zimbabwean government over alleged human rights abuses. As such, these elections in Zimbabwe this weekend couldn't have come at a worse time for China.

Many observers believe that Mr. Mugabe will not release his grip on power, even if the polls show that the MDC has won victory. Thumbnail image for Mugabe voting.jpg And, given previous election controversy in Zimbabwe, even if Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF does win, it's highly likely that the results of the vote will be condemned by the majority of the international community, given consistent allegations of vote rigging. Hence the bad PR situation Beijing finds itself in.

If Mr. Mugabe is declared the winner, Beijing will be obligated to sanctify the election results and continue to throw its support behind Mr. Mugabe's government, which will fly in the face of the vast majority of the international community, and will give more fuel for those who would use China's actions as a reason to boycott the Olympics. If Mr. Mugabe loses, but still maintains power, Beijing will be called to the carpet to justify allowing Chinese companies to continue to do business in a country with an illegitimate government.

Tsvangirai voting.jpg The best case scenario for Beijing is the election and safe transition of power to Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC. Whether or not that will happen is anyone's guess over the coming hours and days. If it does, the CPC might lose an ideological partner, but will avoid giving more political ammunition for the anti-China ideologues around the world.

With all the turmoil and controversy that's been brewing in China's southwestern regions as of late, I find it somewhat ironic that this week has seen a self-motivated decision of an autocratic leadership to endow its people with the right to choose. And right next door, no less. I direct your attention to Bhutan.

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This country is really an enigma, and is simply unknown to the vast majority of the world, given its size, location and policies toward tourism. Flag_of_Bhutan.png Known to its people as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, and often described as the last Shangri-La, Bhutan this week became a democracy. After just over 100 years of Royal rule, the people of Bhutan voted on Monday in parliamentary elections for the first time ever.

Bhutan is really an interesting story, and one that could call into question the CPC's theory about 'liberating a backwards people.' For those who aren't familiar with Bhutan, allow me to give you a somewhat brief synopsis of the country.

The Bhutanese people share a common ancestry with the Tibetans and the Nepalese. bhutan_young monk.jpg Some archaeological evidence suggests that the region might have been settled around 4,000 years ago, but no one is really sure. Bhutan wasn't even really a country until the early 1600's when a Tibetan lama unified a collection of tribal states under one law. And in 1907 Bhutan became an absolute monarchy. From all accounts, the Bhutanese people were quite happy to be ruled by the monarchy. But despite this, the monarchy decided in 2005 to bring in a new constitution, and the vote by the people this week officially sealed Bhutan as the world's newest democracy.

Bhutan's whole mandate is happiness. In fact, this is a country that has developed a system to measure happiness. It's even got a term: Gross National Happiness. Though it's pretty difficult to define, it is a system that Bhutan uses to measure quality of life. Because Bhutan is made up predominantly of Buddhists and some Hindus, there is a very strong spiritual base. As such, back in 1972 the then-king decided that instead of focusing on economic development, his country would try to grow under a more holistic approach, something that flies in the face of the break-neck economic growth mandate Bhutan's giant neighbor to the north has undertaken. Still, Bhutan's economy is growing quite quickly. In 2006, Bhutan's Gross Domestic Product grew by 14 percent, thanks to the sale of Hydro electric power to India. And a survey done to calculate the Gross National Happiness in 2005 showed that 45 percent of Bhutanese were 'very happy,' 52 percent were just 'happy' and 3 percent were 'unhappy.' It's with this in mind that I consider the 'liberation' of Tibet by China.

Nobody came into Bhutan and messed with it. Nobody tried to 'help' it develop. The world left Bhutan alone. As a result, the some 700,000 people of Bhutan are now determining their own political future and - according to the GNH stats from that country - seem to be doing just fine.

What's done is done. No one can change what has happened with Tibet. But given what is happening next door in Bhutan, I can't help but wonder what things would be like if the Chinese government didn't decide to 'help' in Tibet some 50 odd years ago.

Now imagine that you are a the epitome of the perfect Mother -- all that you want is to desperately find your daughter the perfect husband. After a quick Google search it appears as though your prayers have been answered, or have they? Read on...

A Chinese 'army major' who dated a string of girls and cheated them out of £16,000 (RMB 224,031) has allegedly been exposed as a con artist - and a woman.

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Police say Li Xu, from Anxian town, Sichuan province, had been disguising herself as an army officer for two years.

She was arrested after Liu Lian, of Datong city, Shanxi province, reported she had been cheated out of £11,000 (RMB 154,021) by an army major named Li Zhanyu who she had met on the internet.

Li had described himself as a university-educated army major, reports Oriental Today.

Liu Lian said: "He said he wanted to date my daughter, but first needed money to break up with his current girlfriend. He also promised to find my daughter a good job."

But, after Liu wired the money, Li disappeared from her life.

Police caught up with him at an internet cafe in Kaifeng city. He reportedly told arresting officers: "You'll regret this. You'll pay for this. I'll call the leaders of the National Public Security Department."

Police thought he was a conman at this stage but their suspicions grew during questioning as they noticed his high-pitched voice and fair complexion.

A check-up by female police revealed Li to be a 25-year-old woman. She confessed she had cheated another two women with the same marriage con.

Li has been transferred to police in Shanxi province where she faces charges.

Hold on a minute...

'...their suspicions grew during questioning as they noticed his high-pitched voice and fair complexion.'

And...

'A check-up by female police revealed Li to be a 25-year-old woman.'

Now one look at the above photograph reveals to me that the person in it either has some kind of 'padding' of the chest, or -- shine a light -- is a woman. And before I get inundated with comments about how some men can be a little large in that area, spare me.

Now I'm all for meeting people online, and indeed meeting them socially for a drink or dinner, from what I've been told it can be relatively harmless. But if that picture would have ended up in my inbox -- believe me I would have been suspicious.

But really, I ask you -- How can it take three people to identify this person as a woman?

I guarantee that this 'Major' didn't take part in any of the winter training that Chris mentions below...

Full story available here.


With all the world's attention focused on the situation in Tibet right now, with the Dalai Lama holding news conferences and the Chinese government trotting out a list of countries that support China's efforts (Myanmar being conspicuous in its absence), China may have lucked out in avoiding a lot of scrutiny over the latest tainted product scandal.

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has identified a contaminant in batches of blood-thinner heparin supplied by a U.S.-owned plant in China for export to the United States that has been linked to serious reactions and deaths. It is the latest in health scares involving Chinese exports in recent months which have ranged from food and drugs to toothpaste and pet food. China's State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) said that the contaminant was "basically the same" as that found by U.S. health regulators in batches of Baxter International Inc's blood-thinner heparin. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday said it had identified "over-sulfated chondroitin sulfate" in Baxter's drug, and was investigating whether the chemical was purposely or inadvertently added during manufacturing in China. Last month Baxter recalled most if its U.S. supplies of heparin, used in kidney dialysis as well as heart and other surgeries to prevent blood clots. Chondroitin sulfate is widely sold as a dietary supplement to treat joint pain. The over-sulfated version is not know to occur naturally and therefore likely was chemically modified, an FDA official said on Wednesday. The FDA is probing whether the contaminant is the cause of up to 19 deaths and hundreds of serious breathing problems and other reactions reported in the United States.

Ah, how quickly we forget all the other woes this country faces sometimes when the tanks start rolling!

Partay!

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The world often wonders what happens on Friday at Zhongnanhai. A recent probe into the matter has revealed a shocking truth:

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The design comes from Threadless, a tee shirt company that welcomes design submissions.

I'm going to begin this diatribe by pointing out straight off the top that I find China's military spending ridiculous. Any country which still claims the title of "developing" should in no way be spending some 417.8 billion Yuan (57.2 billion USD) in 2008 (official figures) on a military that does virtually nothing. And there is absolutely no reason why China should be maintaining a military with over 2 million soldiers, particularly given that China engages in minimal peace keeping exercises for the United Nations and - aside from shoveling snow and playing soldier games with countries like India and Russia - spends most of its time marching down the sidewalks and 'protecting' government buildings. If the CPC really wanted to prove that it was engaging in a 'peaceful rise,' it would actually be cutting spending on it's military rather than increasing it 17.6 percent in 2008. That said, I find the latest report out from the Pentagon regarding China's military spending equally hypocritical on a number of fronts.

The United States Military budget request for this year was 481.4 billion USD. This doesn't even include war requests. Even if you add up China's hidden military costs (China's official budget for military spending does not include moneys for nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and fighter jets which falls under the space/science development and training which falls under the education budget) China would still be spending about 4 to 7 times less than the US does (depending on how the numbers come out in the wash, and depending on which source you look at). This is the obvious stat that the Chinese government leans on whenever it is criticized by the United States. And I say fair enough. Why should the United States maintain the monopoly on military spending? I don't think it should be China trying to close the gap for the reasons stated in the first paragraph, but why does the US government feel that it can complain when another country wants to spend more on its military? I find this particularly frustrating and hypocritical.

The other point I would like to argue is that the Pentagon, in my mind, has lost a lot of credibility over the last few years in a number of different areas when it comes to global assessments. The first, and most obvious miscalculation, is the war in Iraq. Who can forget US President Bush in 2003 landing on that aircraft carrier and telling the world that it was 'mission accomplished' in Iraq. bush banner.jpg Don't think he would have done that if his top brass hadn't told him that they had things in control. The Pentagon also reallocated troops in Afghanistan to Iraq, which eventually led to a resurgence in the Taliban movement. Thanks to this, it's now up to the Canadian military to try to clean up the mess in that country. And the Pentagon, when it comes to China's military spending, could well be playing to its own interests. In 2004-2005, the US Department of Defense estimated that China was spending some 90 billion US dollars that year on its military. However, the RAND Corporation came out with a report which stated that China's military spending was likely half that figure (though still above official Chinese statistics). It is statistics like this that make me believe that the Pentagon is extracting the highest-possible figures for the 'hidden' Chinese military costs, and passing them off to lawmakers as a reason to get its own budget increased.

China's military spending makes for good press. Let's face it. China's international reputation has a pretty muddy and checkered past and present. But what I find just as frustrating is that the hawkish elements in the Pentagon appear to be capitalizing on US lawmakers' naivety and cold-war mentality about China to support their own interests, and that very little critical analysis is done by the media into these official government reports. Though, I suppose in the final analysis, if China wants to curtail the hawks in Washington, it should look first at getting its own PR house in order.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the China category from March 2008.

China: February 2008 is the previous archive.

China: April 2008 is the next archive.

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