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Monday, August 31, 2009

China slams Dalai Lama visit

Two versions of the same story - the first via the Straits Times (from Reuters), and the second from Al Jazeera; and it's got to do with Tibet, and the Dalai Lama again (visiting Taiwan for the third time) who asserts his trip is 'not for political reasons'

A statement by the state run Xinhua Agency made it quite resolutely clear - they still see the Dalai Lama as a 'splittist' who has no place in the Greater China sphere.

And this is is always tricky as we have one 'spliitist' in the Dalai Lama, and the 'split-ed' (albeit now seemingly and gradually 'unifying' Taiwan together in the same media spotlight. Result - kneejerk Chinese reaction although this time the Chinese improved their tact. From the Reuters report in the Straits Times..."As with a denunciation it issued when the visit was announced last week, China focused its criticism on the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.By not blaming Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou or the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT), Beijing may have indicated that it does not wish to escalate the issue."


China slams Dalai Lama visit
The Straits Times 31 August 2009

BEIJING - CHINA denounced the Dalai Lama's trip to Taiwan, saying the visit by a man Beijing brands a separatist could 'have a negative influence' on relations between the mainland and Taiwan, state media reported on Monday.

The Tibetan spiritual leader arrived on Sunday in Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by Beijing, for a hasty visit to comfort victims of a typhoon.

As with a denunciation it issued when the visit was announced last week, China focused its criticism on the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

By not blaming Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou or the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT), Beijing may have indicated that it does not wish to escalate the issue.

'The Democratic Progressive Party has ulterior motives to instigate the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan, who has long been engaged in separatist activities,' a spokesman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

'We resolutely oppose this and our position is firm and clear,' the spokesman said. 'The Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan is bound to have a negative influence on the relations between the mainland and Taiwan.' China is considered unlikely to retaliate by choking off growing economic ties between the long-time political rivals.

China opposes the Dalai Lama's trips abroad and condemned Taiwan opposition leaders for inviting him last week to visit until Friday. He will pray for victims of Typhoon Morakot, Taiwan's worst storm in 50 years which killed up to 745 people.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, flew from India to Taiwan's main international airport for a mass prayer and other religious activities in storm-hit southern Taiwan. -- REUTERS


China slams Dalai Lama Taiwan visit
Source - Al Jazeera English 27 August 2009

China has denounced a proposed visit to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, saying it threatens to "sabotage" improving relations between the two states.

Taiwan, the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing, approved the visit by the Nobel Peace laureate to comfort victims of deadly Typhoon Morakot that struck earlier this month and devastated parts of southern Kaohsiung county.

China said it was "resolutely opposed" to Thursday's visit, in a statement carried by the state-run Xinhua news agency on Thursday.

The Chinese government considers the Dalai Lama a "splittist" for promoting autonomy in Tibet.

Comforting victims

Beijing has often reacted angrily to governments which allow the Tibetan leader to visit.

"No matter under what form or identity Dalai uses to enter Taiwan, we resolutely oppose this," China's Taiwan Affairs Bureau said in its statement.

"Some of the people in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) use the disaster rescue excuse to invite Dalai to Taiwan to sabotage the hard-earned positive situation of cross-straits relations," the statement continued.

An aide to the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile, said the spiritual leader had been keen to visit Taiwan.

Tenzin Taklha said: "We want to make it very clear that the Dalai Lama is visiting Taiwan to express condolences to victims and lead prayers."

More than 400 people were killed after Typhoon Morakot struck Taiwan on August 8 and unleashed floods and mudslides.

Strong moves

China is considered unlikely to retaliate by holding off growing economic ties between the long-time political rivals.

By blaming the opposition DPP, and not Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou or the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT), Beijing may have indicated it does not wish to escalate the issue.

"Beijing will be a little uncomfortable, but if they understand how severe the disaster is they will show some respect to Taiwan's people," said Wu Den-yih, the KMT secretary-general.

Last year, the Dalai Lama said that he wanted to visit Taiwan, but at the time, Ma said the timing was not right for such a visit. Taiwanese Buddhist groups criticised the decision.

But Beijing is also aware any strong moves against the Dalai Lama could play into the hands of Taiwanese opponents of President Ma, who has sought to ease tensions with Beijing.

Taiwan's relations with China have improved under Ma, who has taken a more conciliatory approach than his predecessor. Then-Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian rejected China's assertion that there is only "One China" and Taiwan is an inalienable part of it.

Political significance

China claims self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory, although the two split amid civil war in 1949.

Victor Gao, the director of China's National Association of International Studies, a think-tank affiliated with the Chinese government, told Al Jazeera that the Dalai Lama "continues to play both spiritual and political roles".
He said that while the proposed visit to Taiwan was for spiritual purposes, the Dalai Lama has "been consistently undermining China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

"We also need to make it known that he himself is a Chinese national, and would be welcomed back if he chose to give up his activities," Gao said.

Over the past 12 years, the Dalai Lama has made three visits to the island which is home to a large exiled Tibetan community and millions of Buddhists.

The Dalai Lama made his first trip to Taiwan in 1997 and visited the island again in 2001, triggering strong condemnation from China.

The Tibetan spiritual leader is due to arrive on August 31 and to stay for four days.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Central Beijing Shut Off

Good weekend all! Plenty of anniversaries this year, and one more to take the cake - 60 years since Mao's proclamation of Communist China. And coincidentally, the 101st entry in this blog. :)


Central Beijing shut off
Source - Straits Times 29 August 2009

BEIJING - AUTHORITIES shut down much of central Beijing on Saturday as China staged huge rehearsals for a parade and other festivities marking the 60th anniversary of the nation's Oct 1 founding.

Tiananmen Square and adjacent roads at the heart of the capital were closed to the public from Friday night to early Sunday morning for the rehearsals which state press said involved 200,000 people and 60 parade floats.

China is planning a parade, song and dance performances, and fireworks on October 1 to mark the day when revolutionary leader Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of Communist China in 1949 at Tiananmen Square.

Authorities were keen to maintain the secrecy and security of the rehearsals and security checkpoints manned by officers with police dogs were seen at several points, with police diverting traffic and checking vehicles.

The subway system's main lines through the city centre were to be intermittently closed to the public as they transported performers, the China Daily said.

In recent weeks, China has deployed thousands of extra police in the capital to monitor people and vehicles entering and leaving the capital.

They would guard key infrastructure points such as bridges, railways, and the subway system to prevent any disruption on the sensitive anniversary, state press has said.

State media reports have said the security measures have been toughened in part due to last month's riots in China's far western Xinjiang region by Muslim Uighurs, which the government said left nearly 200 people dead.

China typically cracks down on politically sensitive anniversaries to prevent any action by groups critical of the Communist Party's iron-fisted rule such as dissident groups and restive minorities including Uighurs and Tibetans unhappy with Chinese control of their homelands.

Beijing police have also recruited hundreds of thousands of volunteers to keep an eye on suspicious activity in the city in the lead-up to National Day, state media have said. -- AFP

Beijing marks Olympic Games first anniversary

And this comes late.

"We have established August 8 as National Fitness Day to fully embody... the government's loving concern for the life and prosperity of the people," sports minister Liu Peng said in an address outside the iconic Bird's Nest national stadium.

The first anniversary of the Beijing Olympics!


Beijing marks Olympic Games first anniversary
Source - The Times of India, August 8 2009

BEIJING: China marked the first anniversary of the Beijing Olympics on Saturday with its first national sports day that saw up to 34,000 people gather for the world's largest martial arts exercise.

"We have established August 8 as National Fitness Day to fully embody... the government's loving concern for the life and prosperity of the people," sports minister Liu Peng said in an address outside the iconic Bird's Nest national stadium.

"This is a vivid reflection of the legacy that the Beijing Olympics has left for the people, the society and our system."

Liu's remarks came as nearly 34,000 people dressed in white silk performed "taiqiquan," or martial arts shadow boxing, in the drizzling rain outside the stadium early Saturday morning.

Ranging in age from seven to 65, the shadow boxers hope to set a Guinness world record for the largest martial arts exercise, organisers said.

A year after the Beijing Olympics, reminders of the Games' physical impact are visible throughout the capital, but so are signs of the many ways in which the event could not change China.

China has a collection of state-of-the-art venues and can also point to the new Olympic subway lines that now transport millions of Beijingers to work.

But there is also the choking smog that has returned to the city, and the dissidents jailed in the past year for speaking out against a government that had promised "tremendous" human rights improvements in bidding for the Games.

"The successful hosting of the Olympic Games is the result of China's social and economic development," Cui Dalin, vice minister of the general administration of sports said.

"Without a strong nation we would not have had a successful Beijing Olympics."

Saturday night over 60,000 fans are expected to watch International Milan face rival Lazio in the first sporting event to be held in the Bird's Nest since the paralympics ended in September.

The stadium, made of a lattice of cement and steel, has largely served as a tourist attraction since the Games ended, prompting criticism that many costly Olympic venues are sitting idle and not being used for sporting events.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

China starts organ donation system to beat trafficking

Beating the pirates! Seems like China's main mode of organ donations has been coming from executed criminals. Now that's food for thought. That's really making the best out of everything isn't it? This is a pretty positive step forward for the recipients of such organ implants - a 'proper' national organ donation system.

"Nearly 1.5 million people in China need organ transplants, but every year, only 10,000 people can get one, according to the Health Ministry's website."


China starts organ donation system to beat trafficking
It also aims to cut dependence on organs from executed criminals
Source - Straits Times 27 August 2009

BEIJING: China has launched its first national organ donation system in a bid to crack down on organ trafficking. It also aims to create another source of organs for transplants, other than executed prisoners who currently make up the majority of donors.

Executed criminals account for 65 per cent of organ donors, the state-run newspaper China Daily said yesterday, in an unusual admission of the prevalence of the practice.

'(Executed prisoners) are definitely not a proper source for organ transplants,' Vice-Health Minister Huang Jiefu told the paper.

Nearly 1.5 million people in China need organ transplants, but every year, only 10,000 people can get one, according to the Health Ministry's website.

The shortage means that desperate patients bid up the price, and contribute to corruption and unfairness in organ allocation.

'Transplants should not be a privilege for the rich,' Mr Huang said.

The new donation system has been piloted in 10 provinces and cities - namely Liaoning, Zhejiang, Shandong, Guangdong and Jiangxi, as well as the cities of Tianjin, Shanghai, Xiamen, Nanjing and Wuhan.

The system - launched on Tuesday - will encourage post-death donations, and start a fund to provide financial aid to the needy and to donors' families.

The Red Cross Society of China will link possible donors with recipients, and make public a waiting list of patients to increase transparency in allocating organs.

'The system is in the public interest and will benefit patients, regardless of social status and wealth, in terms of fairness in organ allocation and better procurement,' Mr Huang said.
The new system is China's latest step to better regulate organ transplants.

China's 2007 organ transplant law bans organ trading and trafficking as well as 'transplant tourism' for foreigners.

However, illegal transplants from living donors, and cases of foreigners paying huge sums for transplants in China, are frequently reported by the media. Recipients sometimes pay up to 200,000 yuan (S$42,200) for a kidney, not including other medical services.
Chinese law allows organs to be donated by living people only in the case of blood relatives and spouses or people who are considered 'emotionally connected'.

But organ middlemen often forge documents by making donors, who are desperately in need of money, appear on paper as 'emotionally connected' to the recipients.

Living transplants accounted for up to 60 per cent of total transplants last year, a jump from 15 per cent in 2006, said Dr Chen Zhonghua, an organ transplant specialist at Tongji Hospital in Shanghai.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

'Civilised city' campaign

Things are getting better all the time. Reminiscent of the great Beijing Olympics cleanup in 2008, cities in China are competing to get civilised. Although in this case, it seems really cosmetic.

But... "Women wearing red armbands patrol the streets and pick up cigarette butts. Volunteer crossing guards with yellow flags and whistles make sure people wait for green lights. Beggars, even those with legs withered by polio, are banished from their usual haunts on pedestrian bridges."

Too much? Going too far?


'Civilised city' campaign
Source - Straits Times 25 August 2009

Each year, the central government awards the prized designation to one or more cities, and it is a big deal for Guangzhou (left), once known as Canton, as it tries to shed a reputation for being dirty and crime-ridden. -- PHOTO: AP

GUANGZHOU - GOVERNMENT-BACKED neighbourhood groups are going door-to-door in south China's gritty business capital with a set of simple requests: Please stop spitting in public, cutting in bus lines and talking loudly in the streets.

It's all part of a campaign in Guangzhou, China's third-wealthiest metropolis, to win the coveted 'Civilised City' award - an annual ritual that sparks months of frantic scrubbing and buffing in cities across China.

Women wearing red armbands patrol the streets and pick up cigarette butts. Volunteer crossing guards with yellow flags and whistles make sure people wait for green lights. Beggars, even those with legs withered by polio, are banished from their usual haunts on pedestrian bridges.

While some citizens remain skeptical of the cleanup drive, it jibes with Chinese leaders' goal of shifting away from the blind pursuit of blistering economic growth at any cost. They want to focus more on creating a spiffier, healthier, more cultured and harmonious society.

Each year, the central government awards the prized designation to one or more cities, and it is a big deal for Guangzhou, once known as Canton, as it tries to shed a reputation for being dirty and crime-ridden. Next year, this historic port city of 10 million people hosts the Asian Games - the region's equivalent of the Olympics - that will draw 25,000 athletes, coaches and journalists from 45 countries.

The civility campaign also highlights how the Communist Party still likes to indulge in often heavy-handed Big Brother social engineering, reaching deep into people's lives - or at least their living rooms - to try to mould the masses.

Beijing launched a similar campaign before the 2008 Olympics, trying to curb spitting, jumping ahead in line, littering and reckless driving.

In Guangzhou, members of neighbourhood committees, government-backed councils that monitor households, are knocking on doors in the evening and handing out a survey and brochures about improving civil behaviour. -- AP

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chinese snap up Australian properties

70,000 migrants from the mainland to Australia just last year. Australia is synergistically aligned with China for its economic wellbeing (think natural resources, coal, steel, uranium, the list goes on), but the reverse flow is resulting in the Chinese buying up property and land in Australia. Tricky situation.


Chinese snap up Australian properties

By Jack Levine
Sun, Aug 23, 2009
China Daily/Asia News Network
Source - AsiaOne

SYDNEY: Chinese buyers are snapping up some of the best luxury properties in Sydney including big homes on the harbor, and new condominium developments.

Real estate brokers and developers said Chinese buyers are most interested in hot properties in the inner-city and by the beach. They are attracted by new foreign ownership rules, a favorable exchange rate, and the relative stability of the Australian property market.

After the UK and New Zealand, China is third in the lineup of countries that sends immigrants to Australia. Last financial year, more than 70,000 Chinese arrived in Australia to live permanently, including a steady stream of business migrants and a growing number of students.

"In many cases, Chinese immigrants to Australia are buying into key lifestyle markets, which are characterized as being close to the ocean or within the inner-city," said Tim Lawless, national research director at RP Data, a property and analytics information company.

In March, Chinese businessman Jiang Mei bought one of the most expensive houses ever sold in Sydney, an inner-city, Point Piper house for A$32.4 million (S$40 mil).

This set off a buying trend. Chinese buyers paid $14.5 million for a home at Rose Bay, and then a Shanghai couple bought in the same waterfront suburb for $15 million. Another Chinese couple bought a $5.8 million house, and a Chinese investor bought a smaller, second property for $1 million, with plans to rent out the home.

Raine and Horne, an Australian real estate agency that negotiated the Point Piper house deal, said interest from the Chinese mainland picked up by about 15 percent at the beginning of 2009.

In March, Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) introduced dramatic changes to rules governing foreign buyers, including that all apartments in new projects can be sold to foreigners. Previously, only half the apartments in a development could be sold to overseas buyers. Student visa holders who live in Australia are no longer limited to spending only $300,000 on a property.

Richard Lawrence, a partner with Holland & Knight's Beijing office, who often advises clients on China-related real estate projects, said Chinese buyers are becoming more active in foreign real estate, particularly those looking to diversify their portfolio.

In China, some people have concerns that a serious asset bubble is developing in real estate, so overseas markets are starting to look cheap by comparison.

"I think we will see Chinese corporate and institutional investors start to turn to real estate investment opportunities elsewhere," he said, noting that Australia and the US are key markets.

One real estate agent who deals with top-tier properties said more Chinese than ever are looking to buy in Sydney. Many Chinese want to migrate to Australia, either because their children attend school there, they are considering retiring, or they want to buy investment property.

Wendy Searle, a spokeswoman for Di Jones real estate, said most Chinese are discreet buyers.

"You only get to know they have purchased by looking at completion records, available after a sale," she said. "It is said in some circles that a majority of houses with the best Sydney harbor views will be owned by Chinese people in a few years."

She cited a list of the top 100 house sales in Australia for 2008. "A lot of the names of the buyers were Chinese," she said.

Australia's real estate market has proved to be very resilient in comparison with other Western markets. Housing prices fell by just 3.8 percent during the 2008 downturn and have since recovered during the first half of 2009.

'China threat' theory rejected

This comes a little late - but we'll be hard pressed to find such stories that damn China the past few months. Note - article came up in April 2009. Not exactly Chinese style to go full-frontal in terms of strategy as it disobeys the mantra of Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦), but how interesting the 'accusation' -

The Wall Street Journal, quoting American national security officials, Wednesday reported that spies from countries like China and Russia had infiltrated the US electrical grid, planting software programs that could disrupt the network in a time of war.

CBS has a report here, whilst the original Wall Street Journal article is here and a recommended read. If it's true, there's certainly more a little more than meets the eye to China's rise and development.


'China threat' theory rejected
Source - Global Times 9 April 2009

Chinese scholars Wednesday rebutted US's allegations that China was engaged in spying and forging secret nuclear deals with foreign countries, saying these were induced by the perceived "China threat" worrying Washington.

US politicians have been debating the country's foreign and military strategy shifts in the wake of the financial crisis, and some took the opportunity to play up the "threat" posed by China for their own gains, experts in Beijing said.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting American national security officials, Wednesday reported that spies from countries like China and Russia had infiltrated the US electrical grid, planting software programs that could disrupt the network in a time of war.

China was accused earlier of using malicious software to infiltrate and take control of almost 1,300 computers belonging to the Dalai Lama in 103 countries.

In another development Wednesday, US prosecutors accused a Chinese metals company, along with six Iranian firms, of collaborating on a scheme to transfer missile and nuclear technology from China to Iran.

The Dalian-based LIMMIT Economic and Trade Co Ltd was among seven companies from China, Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea that were sanctioned by US President Barack Obama on Feb 2 for spreading missiles and other weapons technology.

But the company's manager, Li Fangwei, told the Financial Times Wednesday that the company was "unaware of the charges", denying that the products were intended for "military use".

Teng Jianqun, deputy general-secretary of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said these sanctions on China took place only in recent years, and it was a common strategy of the US to interfere in China's civilian trade.

"More accusations are being made nowadays, probably because the military contractors are fighting against a fundamental defense budget now proposed by the US defense chief," said Beijing-based military expert Song Xiaojun.


and an exerpt from the Wall Street Journal here -

Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Spies
APRIL 8, 2009
Source + Full Article - WSJ Online

WASHINGTON -- Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven't sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.

"The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid," said a senior intelligence official. "So have the Russians."

The espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn't target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official. "There are intrusions, and they are growing," the former official said, referring to electrical systems. "There were a lot last year."...

Full article here.

Pictures expose peculiar prejudices of the propagandist

The media has and always been an instrument for manufacturing consent within the masses. Some (I hope some day soon, all of us will be, it's all a huge fog of war) are perceptive enough to see the forest for the trees, and Zhang Dali, China's 'first' graffiti artist has a good story to tell - how the pictures and reality tunnel he grew up with under the CCP's massive propaganda machine painted a very different reality of what should have been.

This is the story of how one man parted the fog and exposed how history had been re-written by agendas.


Pictures expose peculiar prejudices of the propagandist

Source and Photos: Global Times 23 August 2009
By Peng Yining

Zhu De, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai salute the first PLA national sports meet in 1952. The bottom photo was published in Selected Photographs of the Chinese People's Liberation Army. The altered version appeared in People's Pictorial of 1977.

Zhang Dali realized he had been living in a distorted world for many years. The world he had believed in collapsed, history all a great big lie.

He began collecting the old news photos in 2004, going to archives to find the original negatives and then comparing them with the published versions: shabby old houses transformed into multi-story buildings where residents were leading the good life, bonus pigs pasted beside a farm to add prosperity, revolutionary heroes moved in front of pine trees and red flags plus of course famous politicians airbrushed out of history.

“I felt so depressed when I found that things I had seen with my own eyes might not be true,” he said.

“Like being manipulated by something or somebody for years and one day, you suddenly feel it in your soul: ‘I live a fake life.'

Zhang first heard about doctored photos in the 1970s. His father showed him a calendar. There used to be four leaders in the photo, his father said: Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong.

Liu had gone.

Global Habit

In 1993, Zhang read Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and so he knew a bit about propaganda image manipulation, but the Czech writer's book had not prepared him for the discovery of so many wrong Chinese mainland photos.

He picked 130 out of more than 300 he had collected and named his work A Second History.

A portrait of Mao Zedong and the slogans “Follow the Communist Party” and “Listen to Chairman Mao” replace a shabby wall and door in the new photo of Chengzhuang Agriculture Labor School published by People's Pictorial in February 1969.

“There are different versions of history,” Zhang said. “The first is objective, but usually we only get to read the second: history that was revised.

“I want to find the hidden truth that was revised or deleted.”

Some photo alterations are easily understood, like cutting a tall person out of a group photo from alongside propaganda folk hero Lei Feng.

“The publisher wanted to make Lei Feng look taller, more heroic,” Zhang said. “That's just standard practice in China. It could have been revised by the publisher or art editors. Anyone could revise it.”

But other changes confuse us today.

“It's like ‘Spot the Difference',” said Zhang. “A man's hat has been removed for no obvious reason.

“Maybe he was the only one in the photo who wore a hat and that nonconformity made people uncomfortable back then. But it seems only natural today.”

To obtain the original negatives, Zhang went to almost every archive in China, even managing to get hold of some classified film through some sympathetic connections.

Most of these archives are not open to the public, he said, so collecting the original film was actually the hard part.

“I knew some photos of leaders were sensitive, but I really enjoy finding the truth I never knew,” he said. “The leaders and political issues are just a part of history, an element of the truth.”

A Second History exhibits in the New Art Gallery of Walsall in the United Kingdom in May 2009. Photos: courtesy of Zhang Dali

Mao disappears

The very last photo of A Second History concerns Mao Zedong. The original photo was of Mao and many villagers, but all the villagers were deleted to make the photo focus on the leader. So far as expected.

But what makes the exhibit so surprising is the 2007 version of this photo: Mao has been deleted. The editors just wanted to compare the view with today's view: the place had changed so much they had found it impossible to locate a picture with the old view. Until they saw Mao.

This little story showed in his opinion that everything changes, and the photo just represents a change in people's own sense of worth. Important things might be ignored in another context, Zhang said.

As the process of collecting continued, Zhang became more and more optimistic. He stopped to think about what is real and what is fake and stopped obsessing over all the lies and deceit. He realized the whole process of revisionism reflected the whole country's mindset, not just propaganda and cultural policies but also the lives and habits of every ordinary Chinese person.

“And we can still trace answers for today's China in those photos,” he said. “Why we are so cocky but blush at our own mistakes and poverty?

“Why we are so sensitive and inferior that we refuse to admit there are problems?

“Don't be afraid to face history. This is what we have done and this is our nation. Every rational intellectual has the capacity to uncover our real history. An artist is part intellectual.”

A Second History just finished exhibiting in the New Art Gallery of Walsall in the United Kingdom in May this year.

“They said the artistic expression of A Second History surpassed any individual painting or statue,” said Zhang, who was delighted by the rave reviews.

“It's the best way to display China's cultural policy for a long time.”

Some of his photos admittedly contain some relatively sensitive political issues, Zhang said, but he urged authorities to think carefully about the message his exhibition sent.

“I didn't set out to criticize anything,” Zhang said. “Fake photos exist all over the world. If someone uses my works to attack China, I can't help that. I'm just an artist. I just show what I see.”

Zhang will try to get A Second History exhibited in Beijing this year, but he conceded there was little chance he could succeed and so he is already thinking about other Chinese cities. The display boards are all now leaning against the wall of his study.

“Such a pity,” he said. “My work is for Chinese.”

Did Zhang Dali sell out?

There's a lazy stereotype of artists that they loll about the street all day, growing long hair and then suddenly get hit with a flash of inspiration, Zhang Dali told the Global Times.

“People should ask themselves where this so-called flash of inspiration comes from,” he joked.

Well, perhaps it came from Zhang. Zhang himself had long hair 22 years ago when he graduated from the Central Academy of Arts and Design in Beijing and started painting.

“I am not that into Beijing now. People here wandering all the time and calling themselves ‘artists',” said the lesser-known artist in the 1988 documentary film Drifters in Beijing. Zhang was huddled in a cramped rented room, his straight black hair hanging to his shoulders, unclean beard obscuring a small chin.

The Zhang of today sports a crew cut and a clean-shaven face. Only the Harbin drawl remains the same, perhaps a bit softer.

Returning from Italy in 1995, Zhang made his name as the “first graffiti artist of China” for his trademark profile of a bald man on Beijing streets.

But annoying many of his fans, he stopped graffiti in 2007.

“Zhang cleaned up,” Liu Yuansheng, a photographer who spent years documenting Chinese graffiti, wrote in his blog. “He became rich and his life was changed, so he abandoned graffiti.”

Some new graffiti artists agree with Liu.

“He disparaged graffiti after becoming famous from it, but I can understand why Zhang quit,” Seven, a member of a graffiti crew in Beijing told the Global Times. “He's a rich man now.”

“They think like that about me?” Zhang lifted himself out of the sofa and paused for a moment in thought.

“Well, I suppose to some extent, they're right. It's true that today I just don't get that sudden yen to sneak out at midnight and ride a bicycle to spray a blank wall.”

“But their conclusion about me is simplistic,” he shook his head, and fell back into the sofa.

“I am beyond street graffiti now. I seek fulfillment through something more complicated, more magnificent, like A Second History.”

Fast facts: Zhang Dali

1963 Born in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province
1987 Graduates from Central Academy of Arts and Design in 1987 and works as a freelance painter in Beijing
1989 Moves to Bologna, Italy
1992 Paints his trademark profile of a bald man on the street of Bologna, and names it Dialogue.
1995 Back to Beijing as China’s first graffiti artist.
1998 A photo of his graffiti appears on the cover of Newsweek in the United States.
2003-2005 Portrays 100 immigrant workers in life-size resin sculptures of various postures, with a designated number, the artist’s signature and the work’s title Chinese Offspring tattooed onto each of their bodies.
2008 Work about migrant workers Wind Horses Flag exhibits in Beijing.
2009 A Second History exhibits in Walsall, UK.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Singapore's ties with Tibet to grow with improved connectivity

And fresh off the oven, Singapore-Tibet ties.


Singapore's ties with Tibet to grow with improved connectivity
Channel News Asia 23 August 2009

SINGAPORE: Singapore's relations with Tibet are expected to grow with improved connectivity.

Noting that Singapore's ties with China are excellent, Foreign Minister George Yeo who is in Lhasa, said on Saturday that he hoped there would be direct flights between Singapore and the Tibetan city one day.

Mr Yeo met Executive Vice Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region Government, Mr Hao Peng, who has asked for Singapore's help and involvement in urban management and in developing Tibet's tourism industry.

Briefing Mr Yeo on the political, economic and cultural situation in Tibet, Mr Hao noted that Tibet has made enormous progress in the last fifty years and the main priorities are now on economic development, as well as environmental and cultural protection.

On economic development, he added that Tibet's infrastructure is improving dramatically and two more airports would be opened in addition to the existing three.

The Singapore delegation was also briefed on ethnic relations in Tibet, specifically the March 14 riots last year.

Mr Yeo added that he understood the challenges of ethnic diversity in Tibet. What is important, however, is for the problems to be managed well, taking into account ethnic sensitivities.

China VP to co-chair talks in Singapore

Further solidifying of Singapore's vision from a long-time ago that synergy and alignment with China was vital, if not essential for the coming years.


China VP to co-chair talks
By Lee Siew Hua
Source - Straits Times Aug 23, 2009

Chinese Vice- Premier Wang Qishan (above) begins a four-day visit here on Sunday at the invitation of Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng.

The two will co-chair talks to review and chart new directions for a pair of Singapore-Sino megaprojects - the Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-city.

The flagship Suzhou project - in its 15th year - serves as a model for Chinese industrial parks.

With Singaporean and Chinese officials developing the park, it is a venue for both sides to learn from each other.

Singapore shares its development experience, which is adapted to Chinese conditions.

The newer Tianjin venture has been progressing since November 2007, when a pact was signed to build an eco-city in the Chinese port city. Involved are Singapore's Ministry of National Development and several agencies, including the Housing Board and Land Transport Authority.

Mr Wang, 51, will also co-chair the sixth Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation with DPM Wong, said a statement from three Singapore ministries on Saturday.

The council is a platform to boost political ties and economic links. Mooted by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in 2002 when he was prime minister, it was launched in 2003.

One new aspect will be a working lunch hosted by SM Goh in his role as the Monetary Authority of Singapore chairman.

He and Mr Wang will discuss the global economic crisis, with ministers on both sides joining them.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Minister Mentor Lee Kwan Yew rebuts NMP's notion of race equality

Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew spoke up in parliament for the first time in a while , since 2007 in fact on pressing issues in governance. Not easy to handle this one, the Chinese are in fact 'accidental' invaders of a land native to our Malay friends, and it's getting worse with the influx of mainland Chinese threatening to seriously damage the status quo, at least in these early parts of assimilation.


MM rebuts NMP's notion of race equality
Constitution requires Government to give Malays special position, he says in House debate
By Clarissa Oon
Source - Straits Times 20 August 2009

IN A rare intervention in Parliament, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew rose yesterday to 'bring the House back to earth' on the issue of racial equality in Singapore.

Spelling out the Government's approach to the treatment of different races, he pointed out that the Constitution of Singapore itself enjoins the Government to give Malays a 'special position', rather than to 'treat everybody as equal'.
He rebutted as 'false and flawed' the arguments by Nominated Member of Parliament Viswa Sadasivan calling for equal treatment for all races.

On Tuesday, Mr Viswa had tabled a motion for the House to reaffirm its commitment to principles in the National Pledge when debating national policies.

A total of 14 MPs spoke on the motion over the past two days. The wide-ranging and vigorous debate ended with Parliament accepting an amended version of Mr Viswa's motion proposed by People's Action Party MP Zainudin Nordin, and modified slightly by MM Lee.

Mr Zainudin's amendment was to acknowledge the progress Singapore has made in nation building, while Mr Lee's was to highlight the principles in the Pledge as aspirations.

While present at almost every Parliament sitting, the last time Mr Lee rose to speak was in April 2007 during a furore over ministerial pay increases.

He told the House yesterday that he had not planned to weigh in on the debate over the Pledge, but was moved to do so by Mr Viswa's remarks on the hot-button issue of race.

In a lengthy speech on Tuesday, the NMP had expressed pride in Singapore's inter-racial harmony and principle of equal opportunity for all races.

However, he questioned if the Government was sending out mixed signals by emphasising racial categories, for example, through ethnic self-help groups.

MM Lee declared that the assumption of equal treatment for all races is 'false and flawed', and 'completely untrue'.

To 'remind everybody what our starting point is', he pointed to the racially tense period of the 1960s, the circumstances in which the Pledge had been written.

Singapore had just been thrown out of Malaysia. The Malays in Singapore were feeling particularly vulnerable, unsure if the Chinese majority here would treat them the way the Malay majority in Malaysia had treated the Chinese minority there.

Because of such a backdrop, the Pledge crafted by then Culture Minister S. Rajaratnam took pains to emphasise principles that would be 'regardless of race, language and religion'.

Mr Lee also drew the House's attention to Article 152 of the Constitution, which makes it the Government's responsibility to 'constantly care for the interests of the racial and religious minorities in Singapore'.

In particular, it states that the Government must recognise the special position of the Malays, 'the indigenous people of Singapore', and safeguard their political, economic and educational interests.

Mr Lee contrasted Singapore's approach with that of the United States, where despite a 1776 declaration that 'all men are created equal', blacks did not get the right to vote until a century later, and racial segregation continued well into the 20th century.

For Singapore to reach a point where all races could be treated equally 'is going to take decades, if not centuries', he said bluntly.

For this reason, he sees the Pledge not as an 'ideology', as Mr Viswa put it, but as an 'aspiration'.

Mr Viswa had also wondered if Singapore had got the balance right between prosperity and the happiness of its citizens, and if it had done enough to strengthen its democratic fundamentals.

Education Minister Ng Eng Hen, who spoke after MM Lee, provided a detailed response, spelling out how the Government's record over the past 50 years had been entirely in the spirit of the Pledge.

'Far from compromising these ideals in the pursuit of economic gro-wth, we have been defenders of these ideals in building a nation,' he said.

Policies are debated openly in Parliament, and the Government is accountable to the people at every election, he said.

He noted that Mr Viswa's model of a multi-party democracy, more opinionated media and politically active universities was drawn from other democratic models in the West.

In Asia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand have elements of these models too.

But he questioned if those places had done better than Singapore, and said it was not self-evident that their models would work here.

More important than high-flown rhetoric in pledges and anthems was the reality on the ground, in the lives that citizens led, he maintained.

He agreed with the NMP that Singapore must move with the times.

However, Dr Ng said: 'We must not do so unthinkingly, but consider carefully each step forward, carving our own path towards a better society and a more vigorous economy.'

Thursday, August 20, 2009

China, S'pore to deepen cooperation

20 years after 'first contact'. Symbolic on many fronts. Singapore always knew China was the way and braced for impact from the time Mandarin became formalised and dialects almostly eliminate, taught Confucianism in its primary school syllabus, and always knew, that China's rise was profitable, but ultimately, inevitable. So much so alignment on so many fronts have been made, from a long time ago. Such was the vision of Lee Kwan Yew.


China, S'pore to deepen cooperation
Next year will mark 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties
By Sim Chi Yin, China Correspondent
Source - Straits Times 20 August 2009

BEIJING: China and Singapore will explore new areas of cooperation next year as they mark the 20th anniversary of their diplomatic ties, Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping told Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo yesterday.

Noting that bilateral relations are in good shape, Mr Xi said: 'We will use that as an opportunity to further push the comprehensive development of our relationship and foster new areas of practical cooperation.'

Mr Yeo, who is on an eight-day official visit to China, called on the Chinese leader at the grand Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing.

Congratulating Singapore on its recent National Day celebrations, Mr Xi said the country's achievements over the past 44 years have been remarkable.

'Singaporeans have worked very hard to promote political stability, economic prosperity and social harmony,' he noted.

Mr Xi, China's sixth ranked leader, is seen as likely to succeed President Hu Jintao at the ruling Chinese Communist Party's 18th national congress in 2012.

Mr Yeo, who arrived on Tuesday, agreed with Mr Xi that bilateral ties were very good.

He said his meetings in China this week would firm up preparations for two upcoming visits by Chinese leaders to Singapore.

Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan is due in the Republic next week for a series of bilateral economic meetings, including the 6th session of the China-Singapore Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation.

Mr Hu is expected in town, along with other world leaders, when Singapore hosts the Apec Leaders' Meeting in November.

In his talks with Mr Xi yesterday, Mr Yeo reiterated Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's invitation for the Chinese leader to visit Singapore, said a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement (MFA) issued yesterday.

Mr Lee had made that invitation in November 2007 when he met Mr Xi, who told him he had been to Singapore four times previously and picked up useful tips.

Mr Xi and Mr Yeo also agreed that both countries should work together to strengthen Asean-China relations, said the statement.

Earlier yesterday, in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, Mr Yeo said Mr Wang's visit to Singapore would go beyond bilateral ties to include a session for discussing the global financial crisis, to be hosted by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Both foreign ministers also discussed Mr Hu's participation at the Apec Summit, said the MFA statement.

On Tuesday, Mr Yeo had called on former Chinese foreign minister Li Zhaoxing, who now heads the Chinese legislature's foreign affairs committee.

Mr Yeo flew to the western province of Qinghai last night. He will take the high-altitude train from Qinghai's capital Xining to Lhasa in Tibet today. He is scheduled to meet local leaders in both provinces.

The Qinghai-Tibet railway, which cuts through deeply frozen earth on the Tibetan plateau, is an engineering feat that was completed in mid-2006.

Mr Xi termed Mr Yeo's planned visit to Qinghai and Tibet a 'very in-depth programme'. He added with a smile that while he had been longing to go on that train ride, Mr Yeo was getting there first.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

China not main enemy: Ma

My my. This is about to unfold a great beholding.


China not main enemy: Ma
18 August 2009
Source - Straits Times

TAIPEI - TAIWAN'S President Ma Ying-jeou said on Tuesday that forces of nature rather than China might be the island's main enemy in the future after Typhoon Morakot killed more than 120 people.

'In the future, the armed forces of this country will have disaster prevention and rescue as their main job,' he told reporters.

'From now on, disaster prevention and rescue will be taken into consideration when the military drafts its military strategy, manpower structure, budget, and equipment.'

'Now our enemy is not necessarily people across the Taiwan Strait but nature,' Mr Ma said.

Mr Ma made the remarks amid public anger over the government's slow response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Morakot after it struck on August 8.

Taiwan and China are still technically at war despite a dramatic improvement in cross-strait ties after Mr Ma came to power last year.

Mr Ma announced that his government would purchase 15 rescue helicopters at a cost of US$300 million (S$435 million) to boost the rescue capabilities of Taiwan's airborne police unit.

He said the money would come from the budget originally set aside for the army, which calls for buying 60 UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters to replace its aging UH-1H fleet.

The president said he had decided to create a national disaster prevention agency to take over crisis management, replacing the National Fire Agency.

He also said the military would undertake intensive disaster response training. -- AFP

Money talks in China deal

Another reason why as long as China grows, Australia grows, and how it may not even be much of a help though they've got a Prime Minister who speaks and understands the Chinese; well. these economics of international relations... economically synergistic but with madly plastic faces blinded by the dollar bills, and bragging rights.


Money talks in China deal
Mathew Murphy and Michelle Grattan
August 19, 2009
Source - The Age

AUSTRALIA will supply $50 billion worth of liquefied natural gas to China over the next 20 years in the nation's biggest ever trade deal.

In a clear sign that diplomatic tensions have not undermined economic dealings between the nations, state-owned PetroChina has agreed to buy 2.25 million tonnes of LNG a year from the huge Gorgon project off the West Australian coast.

The deal came as Foreign Minister Stephen Smith yesterday confirmed that China had cancelled a vist from a senior official in retaliation for Australia granting a visa to exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer.

The two countries have also been in dispute over iron ore prices and the detention of Australian Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu over bribery allegations.

But Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who attended the signing of the LNG deal in Beijing, spoke glowingly of the bilateral economic relationship.

''This agreement is testimony to the strength of Australia's continuing trade and investment relationship with China,'' he said. ''As China continues to develop as a modern global industrial and commercial powerhouse, Australia is committed to walking with it on its remarkable journey.''

He said the deal would provide a significant boost to Australia's gross domestic product.

Under the deal, ExxonMobil will supply China with 2.25 million tonnes of LNG a year from Gorgon, Australia's biggest natural resources venture.

It comes on top of a deal struck by Shell - a partner in the Gorgon joint venture, along with Chevron - to sell 2 million tonnes of LNG a year to China.

And in a sign of China's insatiable demand for LNG, PetroChina is in talks with Woodside to receive up to 3 million tonnes a year over 20 years from its proposed project in the Browse Basin off the north-west coast of Australia.

Mr Ferguson's presence at the signing gives the clearest indication yet that the Federal Government will give final environmental approval for the project. Environment Minister Peter Garrett is expected to sign off on it next month.

In Parliament, Mr Smith acknowledged that his decision to grant Rebiya Kadeer a visa led to China cancelling a visit to the Pacific Islands Forum by Vice-President for Foreign Affairs, He Yafei. He was replaced by a lesser official.

Chinese authorities had made it ''very clear to Australian officials that they were most unhappy with her visit,'' he said.

The Chinese describe Ms Kadeer as a terrorist, but Mr Smith said he had concluded there was no basis for denying her entry and that she had visited in a private capacity.

China was furious that a film about Ms Kadeer was screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival, despite its intense lobbying to have it pulled and the festival boycotted by other Chinese films.

Mr Smith said Australia regretted China's response but could not rule out further action.

''These difficulties need to be managed carefully,'' he said, referring to the cases of Ms Kadeer and the detained Mr Hu. ''If, of course, China takes any further action in response to our decision, that will be for us a matter of regret but we will deal with that sensibly.'' Recalling that Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull had said previously that the Government should stand up to China, Mr Smith said: ''We did on the Rebiya Kadeer issue.''

Shadow foreign minister Julie Bishop said it was ''abundantly clear the Government has hopelessly mismanaged the relationship with China''.

Defence analyst Hugh White said: ''Clearly the Chinese are disappointed in Kevin Rudd and irritated over the Government's handling of a range of issues. But this doesn't threaten the fundamental dynamics of the relationship. There is too much at stake for both sides.''

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Death sentence upheld for China fraudster: state media

Never thought of the figures when it comes to China's iron fist when it comes to the death penalty, and here's one source. "China executes more people than the rest of the world combined, with the nation last year putting to death more than 1,700 people out of a global total of almost 2,400, according to Amnesty International." That's rather staggering - that's 71% of the world total. But man, what a scam. Read on.


Death sentence upheld for China fraudster: state media
Mon, Aug 17, 2009
Source - AsiaOne

BEIJING - A court in eastern China has upheld the death sentence handed to an entrepreneur convicted of embezzling 970 million yuan (S$205 million) in a deer-breeding scam, state media said Monday.

The high court in Anhui province upheld the punishment for Tang Yanan, who convinced tens of thousands of people to send him money for a breeding centre for deer, which are prized in China for their horns, the Beijing News said.

Tang was first convicted by a local court in December 2008 of fraud and falsifying documents when he bilked up to 49,000 investors in seven Chinese provinces and regions, the report said.

Investigators have been unable to recover over 300 million yuan of the funds, leading at least one investor to commit suicide and prompting widespread calls for an investigation.

Deer horns are ground into powder and used in a variety of Chinese herbal medicines, including aphrodisiacs.

According to earlier press reports, Tang's company, the Wanwuchun Rural Technology Company, promised people high returns on their investment. A breeding centre was set up, but many investors never got their money back.

Twenty other people were convicted for their involvement in the scam.

China executes more people than the rest of the world combined, with the nation last year putting to death more than 1,700 people out of a global total of almost 2,400, according to Amnesty International.

As China does not publish full data on the death penalty, rights groups say the number of people executed could be far higher.

Monday, August 17, 2009

English still 1st language in Singapore.

With Singapore's push to massively populate strategically for the future, more and more friends from the mainland have arrived on the sunny island set in the sea. With China's growing biceps of cultural and ecomonic capital, Singapore's had to adapt and align a future shone by the Chinese sun. So, all things Chinese have become rather important in the island state.

But. Here's a timely reminder by Singapore's founding father that new residents ought to learn English. It's quite far from the truth on the ground though. Spent a few weeks home in Singapore and witnessed for myself what was previously hearsay and anecdote - Chinese shop assistants insisting on talking to my Malay and Indian friends in Mandarin. Despite my friends repeatedly speaking in English.

I've had a personal experience ordering ice cream at Swensons, and the server from the mainland had no idea what the words 'ice cream' meant. It'll take some time, but I do reckon Singapore's social harmony could do a boost with foreign talent/workers who make the effort to harmonize and integrate, and speak the common tongue of the peoples of Singapore. Harmony is the key, not imposition.


English still 1st language
It will be decisive for career advancement for all, says MM Lee
By Clarissa Oon & Goh Chin Lian
Source - Straits Times Online 17 August 2009

ENGLISH will remain Singapore's master language even as the country nurtures more bilingual talents who can do business with China, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said on Thursday. 'The command of English is a decisive factor for the career path and promotion prospects of all Singaporeans.

'For Chinese Singaporeans and those who want to study Chinese, Mandarin will be an added economic advantage with a thriving economy in China for many years to come,' he said.

Even new residents from China know they will not go far without an adequate grasp of English, he added. 'And they are pushing their children to master English, otherwise they will be disadvantaged in getting places in our good schools and universities, and in getting scholarships and eventually jobs.'

However, he drew the line at making it a requirement for permanent residents and new citizens to be fluent in English. 'We cannot make (the requirements for residency) so onerous that they will not come, for example, by requiring permanent residents or new citizens to be fluent in English, which even some existing citizens are not.'

His remarks at a constituency dinner follow a recent debate in The Straits Times Forum pages on whether Mandarin is slowly replacing English as the language on the streets, and its consequences for Singapore's multiracial society.

One ST reader, Ms Amy Loh, wrote how Geylang has evolved from a racially mixed, multilingual area into an enclave for new residents from China, with a growing prevalence of Chinese-only shop signs.

Another letter writer, Mr Samuel Owen, said it is becoming increasingly difficult to order in English in some Chinese restaurants and shops because many workers from China cannot speak English. While agreeing that Mandarin proficiency was important to Singapore society, Mr Owen urged the Government to strike a balance between that and English as a lingua franca.

MM Lee called on Singaporeans to give the new arrivals from China some time to adapt to life here. 'It is not easy to adjust to a different society, multiracial, multilingual, multi-religious, with different customs and ways of life,' he said.

People also need to be circumspect about the Government encouraging Singaporeans to speak more Mandarin and take scholarships to study in China's top universities

Said MM Lee: 'Do not be misled by the emphasis on Chinese language and culture... It does not mean we are displacing English as our working and common language, our first language.'

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Obama takes guessing out of US-China ties

Here's a powerful analysis by the Straits Times US bureau chief Chua Chin Hon. It comes a bit late as it took a while to retrieve this article, and is related to the US-China talks that happened last month. Not too long ago I talked about how China was always the whipping boy in the global context. Today it's proving time and time again that few dare to overtly agree to disagree, when it comes to China. Even the big guns of the US have to plan what they say carefully to the Chinese.


Obama takes guessing out of US-China ties
Stress on cooperation, solidarity and mutual respect good for stability
By Chua Chin Hon, US Bureau Chief
Source - Straits Times July 29 2009

A UNITED States president's transition from candidate to commander-in-chief can be an unpredictable process. But one consistent trend in the post-Cold War era is the way they all 'mellow' on their China policy, ditching their fiery campaign rhetoric in favour of pragmatic policies.

Candidate George W. Bush, for instance, called China a 'strategic competitor' in 2000. President George W. Bush sang a different tune, especially in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Mr Bush's predecessor Bill Clinton famously criticised George H.W. Bush for 'coddling' dictators from Baghdad to Beijing during the 1992 presidential campaign, only to become in later years a vocal advocate of engaging China via trade. Mr Clinton was instrumental in helping the mainland gain admission to the World Trade Organisation.

President Barack Obama is not only following in his predecessors' footsteps, but seems to be making the transition from candidate to chief diplomat faster, and with minimal fuss.

In his first major speech on China on Monday, the presidential candidate who had once castigated the Bush administration for not being tougher on Beijing's trade and currency policies was nowhere to be seen. In his place was a pragmatist statesman who stressed cooperation, solidarity and mutual respect. What this speedier transition means, observers said, is that both governments can spend less time second-guessing each other, a development that will hopefully create a more stable relationship in the near future.

Mr Obama directly addressed a nagging question that must be on the mind of some Chinese leaders.

'Let us be honest: We know that some are wary of the future. Some in China think that America will try to contain China's ambitions; some in America think that there is something to fear in a rising China,' Mr Obama told a gathering of over 200 top officials at the opening session of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington this week.

'I take a different view. I believe in a future where China is a strong, prosperous and successful member of the community of nations; a future when our nations are partners out of necessity, but also out of opportunity.'

Mr Dennis Wilder, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Straits Times that Mr Obama's speech would likely be well-received in Beijing.

'US presidents haven't always talked about a 'strong' China in the past,' said Mr Wilder, who served as senior director for East Asian affairs on the US National Security Council in the last three years of the Bush administration. '(Mr Obama) also makes a clear statement that he doesn't view China as something to fear. (Beijing) will concentrate on that particular part of the speech.'

In the US, experts say there is growing acceptance of the kind of pragmatic China policy as espoused by Mr Obama. But it remains to be seen if cooler heads will indeed prevail in a future spat with China, be it over a new food scare or trade issue.

Many will no doubt point to the weakened US economy and China's growing clout as the real reasons for Mr Obama's conciliatory remarks. After all, China already holds US$800 billion (S$1.15 trillion) worth of US treasury bills, and is expected to buy more as Washington issues more debt to finance its economic stimulus programme.

That may be so, but the tone of Mr Obama's speech also suggests a shift in the way Washington approaches its old divisions and quarrels with Beijing. Instead of complaining about the ballooning trade deficit and the value of the Chinese currency, for instance, Mr Obama encouraged the Chinese to spend more and further open up its market to American goods.

Significantly, the US President also distinctly framed all the key issues on his agenda with China - economic development, climate change, clean energy, transnational threats - in terms of 'mutual interests' and 'global challenges', rather than mere American pre-occupations. This approach will clearly go down well with Beijing.

State councillor Dai Bingguo, the No. 2-ranking official in the visiting Chinese delegation, said the two countries are in 'the same big boat' despite the huge cultural and social differences that separate them.

But rhetoric will need to be matched with resolve. Chinese diplomats are fond of reminding journalists that one should pay as much attention to deeds as words. So Mr Obama's next move on China will be closely watched and measured against Monday's speech.

Almost as important as actions will be the sort of personal relationship Mr Obama strikes up - or does not - with Chinese leaders. Beijing will have no trouble understanding where Mr Obama is coming from on an intellectual basis, but the issue of 'personal trust' still matters to the Chinese leadership.

In that regard, former President Bush has set a high bar. His unwavering determination to attend the Beijing Olympics despite fierce criticisms from rights groups at home and abroad is well remembered in Beijing. A meeting between Mr Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao on the sidelines of April's G-20 Summit was described as 'business- like'.

Said Mr Wilder of Brookings: 'Every American president finds his own way in foreign policy. Mr Obama needs to get a certain level of comfort with China. That's certainly one of the challenges he faces.'

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

China opens up with new media strategy

China's media is now powering up, in both size and dexterity. Along with its growing sensibility in international relation finesse, its handling of the media has developed too. What used to be a losing battle explaining itself to the sharpened, awfully one-sided analysis by foreign media is changing. China's media is increasingly becoming a nimble machine, a far cry from the deadset giant target it used to be. As powerful as the world's transnational media corporations are (mostly owned by the West), we must not forget 1 out of 4 people in the world are Chinese, and whose media do you think these Chinese will listen to, and be influenced by? Couple with this new strategem to intercept rogue thoughts about China, we are definitely on the brink, the cusp, of the brand new way China is seen.

related - read about China's 'media aircraft carrier here'. Also, check out an earlier story about China's growing open-ness when it dealt with the Xinjiang unrest here.


China opens up with new media strategy
Used during major crises, system aims to get its side of the story out fast
By Grace Ng, China Correspondent
Source - The Straits Times, Tuesday 11 August 2009

BEIJING: Set up press centres. Check. Inundate journalists with information. Check. Monitor all news and Internet opinions. Check.

Faced with mounting media pressures to be more open, Beijing has instituted a six-step routine to get its side of the story out quickly and beat the rumour mill.

Dealing with a more inquiring home audience and a legion of foreign journalists asking tough questions, it has used this system to handle crises like the recent riots in the north-western province of Xinjiang, a media strategy adviser to the State Council, or China's Cabinet, said yesterday.

Dr Steven Dong Guanpeng said the government will set up press centres speedily, churn out enough press briefings to 'keep journalists busy with good information so that they would not get busy with rumours', and continually post news updates online, among other measures.

Other steps include registering journalists upon arrival, setting up a database with media contacts, and collating all news and Internet opinions on the event.

The director of Tsinghua University's Global Journalism Institute, who trains officials on media management, was explaining China's new media strategy to the Foreign Correspondents Club of China yesterday.

The country earned some praise for allowing foreign media unprecedented access to the city of Urumqi to cover the clashes between Han Chinese and the Uighur minority group last month - after Beijing was slammed by the international community for locking reporters out of Tibet after riots erupted there last year.

Seen by some as an apologist for Beijing, Dr Dong - a former CCTV presenter - commended Xinjiang officials for 'doing a good job' in engaging the media by holding 21 press conferences in a single week.

Beijing's ultimate aim by being more open at home and pushing its state media to set up branches overseas, say observers, is to steer the global news agenda to be more in its favour.

Dr Dong did not spell that out but hinted that foreign media reports on China were, to the Chinese, 'still not satisfactory'. He said: 'We know some negative coverage is natural...that's what we should work on.'

Beijing has used its new media-handling standard operating procedure during major events and crisis situations, such as last year's Beijing Olympics and the Sichuan earthquake.

The next time a crisis strikes, 'we will stick to the same way and do the same thing', Dr Dong predicted. He dated the roots of this new wave of openness to Beijing's botched handling of the Sars outbreak, which was a turning point.

Like other observers, he noted that while China had invited foreign journalists into Tibet 'only quite a while after the riots' last year, the media was allowed into Xinjiang on the same day.

That, he said, helped make international coverage of the Xinjiang riots much more objective compared to that on Tibet.

But he added - without going into detail - that 'lots of things remain terrible' and he was upset by some of the coverage.

He criticised the domestic press for being slower than the major foreign news groups in covering the Xinjiang story.

That handicapped China's effort to tell its own story to the international audience, he said. Beijing, he argued, needs to pump in far more resources to give Chinese state media a stronger voice worldwide.

Beijing has been discussing this move to have its state media 'go international' since 2001, said Dr Dong. Of late, it has reportedly put in some 45 billion yuan (S$9.5 billion) to relaunch China's four key official media arms. Dr Dong, who refused to confirm those reports, suggested that it was 'a media-created figure'.

But there is no doubt that Beijing is serious about boosting state media's global reach and credibility, especially as Chinese netizens are increasing acting as watchdogs on the official version of news stories.

Last year alone, 84 officials - or about one-third of those hunted down by China's army of netizens through 'human flesh search engines' - were sacked after their wrongdoings were exposed online.

All that means Beijing will have to become more nimble in its media management, said Dr Dong. But already, he claimed, the space for journalism in China now is bigger than at any point in China's history.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

China's Strategic Intentions and Goals

This is potentially very useful for my study as the Americans dissect and perceive the China threat. Discussed in a congress hearing in 2000 (yes it's from a while again, but pertinent, no less), the Americans have the benefit of Dr. Michael Pillsbury's wisdom in understanding two critical phrases in the Chinese political lexicon - 稻光养晦 (Tao Guang Yang Hui) which I have covered repeatedly in my rants, and (Bu Chu Tou), literally not sticking your head out. Have a read of this masterful art of discernment which I quite wholeheartedly agree with. Also, note the para in italics that basically sums it all up - stirring your enemy, in the face, is an extremely silly strategy that the Chinese are highly unlikely to pursue.

For further reading, also check out 'The Chinese Way' in the Indian Defence Review.


Source -
Date of Access - 05 August 2009


JUNE 21, 2000


Dr. PILLSBURY. Thank you, Chairman Spence and members of the Committee, for this invitation to testify on the subject of China's strategic intentions and goals.

My testimony today is going to be drawn from these two long, thick, heavy books published by the National Defense University, which collects 600 quotations from more than 200 Chinese military authors. I am even going to try to teach you some Chinese expressions the Chinese government itself uses to address the topic of the hearing today: What China's Strategy and Intentions Are.

I think many of you have been to Beijing. You know that there are many toasts to friendship between the United States and China. They will talk about moving toward partnership. One of the Chinese expressions is just three words. It is worth learning sometime. You might want to say it. It is ''bu chu tou.'' It means ''don't stick your head up,'' and Deng Xiaoping said this after the Soviet Union collapsed and a lot of other Communist Chinese leaders said to him, we are now number one of the Communist parties in the world. We need to assume world leadership of the Communist movement now that the Soviets are collapsed and are gone. This is China's destiny. And he said, ''bu chu tou.'' the meaning is, let's not get out in front, let's not draw the attention of the chief hegemon of the world who brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. That is, the United States.

A second expression that Deng Xiaoping drew from almost 3,000 years ago, ''tao guang yang hui.'' There is no way to translate it into English. It means to put your brightness in your quiver behind your back and then to nourish your capabilities secretly. The official Chinese translation is ''bide our time and build up our capabilities.''

Here, too, the notion is don't attract attention from the Americans.

A young Chinese scholar put this in a rather fascinating article a few years ago when he said about China's long-term strategic intentions, he said, our big dangerous period is not the present time. China will face its true dangerous decade from 2020 to 2030. I know Americans think next quarter, next year, what is going to happen; thinking ahead 20 years sounds pretty presumptious. The author said by 2020 the Americans are going to catch on with the idea that China is surpassing America's economy. We will be bigger than the Americans in our world economic power and other measures of power as well, but by then we here in China will not be ready yet for what the Americans will try to do to us. And what is that to do? To dismember China and break up China and try to contain China. It is an interesting concept. We need to keep the Americans, you might say, happy and not perceiving a challenge and especially not a threat from China.

If I had to nominate for you the most important priority that the Chinese have for their long-term strategic intentions, it is not to provoke a reaction to China's economic growth or the growth in Chinese power, and they have many ways of doing this. And actually it is in some ways a benign intention. We might say the same thing about ourselves.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

龍的傳人 (Descendants of the Dragon)

Dad had me take a good listen to this song. I had heard it casually before, and was well aware of its place in the Chinese imagination, but I had never taken time off to dissect its lyrics and meaning. Enjoy! Today many permutations of this song have found its way into pop culture, including Wang Lee Hom's 'overseas-Chinese' rap, which can be found here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Tao of Peace

Came across a book titled 'The Tao of Peace' by Wang Chen that may lay some clues for the dissertation. I was born into a family with Taoist ancestry (not of the teachings, but of religion), and have now found much joy in the study of Zen, and Tao, the way it was supposed to be, just sharing of teachings and not organised, popular, religion. Combining these two ancient Chinese philosophies have been most helpful in my personal development as a budding academic, and the middle path is what I have come to strive for, though I have most definitely, not arrived. Not that the final destination matters of course, but I digress.

The middle path and its virtues/teachings (highly evident in high Chinese culture, at least it was a desirable dream for most) have thus shaped my 'early' belief that the true China 'threat' may be unsubstantiated, or will arrive in a form most unexpected by antiquated expectations that China's rise would be one through muscle, bullying or direct imposition. Of course, time for such 'lofty' aspirations would only come after the dust settles from the initial rumblings of China's rise, but I believe if the seeds are planted early enough, then all good things will come. Yes, I have come to realise the official mandate from the powers that be speak of a harmonious and peaceful rise. At the same time, I suspect that the highly evolved Chinese administration may be deft enough to manipulate these facets of their cultural background to conceal their true nature, that these philosophies are one, supplicant, and two, enablers to justify means to 'expand'.


"Those who excel
as warriors are not martial.

Those who excel
in combat do not get angry.

Those who excel
in conquering the enemy
do not do battle.

Those who excel
in employing men act
deferentially to them.

This is what is termed
the Virtue of nonconflict.

This is what is termed
employing the strength of men.

This is what is termed
matching Heaven,

The pinnacle of antiquity.


Here's the blurp about the book - have to line it up for the next acquisition! It is available thru Amazon here.
Wang Chen, a ninth-century military commander, was sickened by the carnage that had plagued the glorious Tang dynasty for decades. "All within the seas were poisoned," he wrote, "and pain and disaster was rife throughout the land." He wondered: How are we humans ever to rectify our self-destructive tendencies? How can we find a true pacifism, one that will end conflicts before they begin? For the answer he turned to a remarkable source: not to the prevailing theories of human nature and governance of Confucianism, but to the classic text known as the Tao Te Ching.
     The Tao Te Ching has been a philosophical linchpin of Taoism for more than a thousand years. Though it is often viewed as having a mystical, quietist, even nihilist dimension, Wang Chen found in the Tao Te Ching quite a different aspect: one that offered a cosmological anchor for the patterns of human society and an explanation for the dynamics of conflict. Penetrating the Tao and embracing its patterns, he believed, would lead to true empowerment in the everyday world of political realities – not in some transcendent, ethereal realm. Here is his own rendering of and commentary on the ancient text, elucidating the ancient classic's "Tao of peace." Wang Chen's commentary is amplified and expanded by translator Ralph Sawyer, a leading scholar of Chinese military history.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

U.S.-China talks won't accomplish much

It's all lip-service, those U.S.-China talks, and in his words, a forum that made the U.S. supplicant to the Chinese, well, at least according to this one economist. He has good points, which reminds me of the fundamental tenent of Chinese strategy - Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦), literally translated as "Hide brightness, nourish obscurity" or in simpler terms, 'Conceal your strengths and reveal your 'weaknesses'. Am not sure how much longer they can persist with a strategem first devised by Deng Xiaoping as China is no longer quite just the rising power. They are clearly outsmarting a lot of the rest of the world, and people are taking notice they no longer have any semblance of 20th century pop culture's country bumpkins.


U.S.-China talks won't accomplish much
By Peter Morici
Published 28 July 2009
Source - UPI Asia

Washington, DC, United States, —
U.S. leaders are sitting down to another round of talks with China on security, the economy and the environment. With banks stabilized, nothing is more important to accomplishing a sustainable U.S. economic recovery than recalibrating trade with China.

The idea behind admitting China into the World Trade Organization was that it would expand trade based on comparative advantage – both China and the United States would grow exports of what they do most efficiently. That simply has not happened.

China systematically undervalues its currency to boost exports of low-wage products and products it should be importing. Hence, its exports exceed imports with the United States more than four to one, and it enjoys a US$268 billion annual trade surplus with the United States.

The huge trade deficit with China pulls down demand for U.S. goods and services – in particular manufactured products – much more than the lift provided by the stimulus package, because it is permanent and encourages U.S. manufacturers to relocate to China or shut down completely. Yet U.S. President Barack Obama has boxed in U.S. negotiators with idealistic and ideological stances on trade and the environment.

China maintains its huge currency advantage by systematically buying dollars with yuan – increasing its hoard of U.S. Treasuries in the process – instead of letting market forces determine its value, which would be much higher than its current pegged rate.

The United States could offset these purchases by taxing dollar-yuan conversions, but has failed to act. Instead, like former U.S. President George W. Bush, Obama talks a good game and practices appeasement.

The president promises no protectionism to cure the recession, but his hands-off policy on currency is akin to unilateral disarmament. A tax on currency conversion would do no more than offset China’s currency subsidy.

The president promises no protectionism to cure the recession. But what are Western nations to do in the face of Chinese mercantilism if not take offsetting measures?

The president only pleads with China, making the United States a supplicant nation.

On cap and trade, limiting U.S. CO2 emissions would do little to solve the global warming problem if CO2 emittions are not similarly limited in China. Yet, China refuses to match the legislation Obama is pushing through Congress.

Cap and trade, should it pass the Senate, will finish the job China’s currency intervention began – decimating U.S. manufacturing and a good deal of the American middle class.


(Peter Morici is a professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and a former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. ©Copyright Peter Morici.)