Posted on 11-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

A mural in Corvallis, Oregon put up by a Taiwanese American businessman has drawn the ire of China.  It depicts “riot police beating Tibetan demonstrators, Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule and images of Taiwan as a bulwark of freedom.” See the picture here. Consular officials contacted the mayor to express their displeasure at the mural.  The should have stopped there.  But perhaps used to pliant officialdom in other parts of the world (like in India when the visit of Chinese officials is a signal to sanitize New Delhi from those pesky pro-Tibet demonstrators), they went further and asked for help in getting this taken down because Tibet and Taiwan are internationally deemed parts of China (though Taiwan is not necessarily deemed part of the corporatist state in Beijing).  They received a helpful response from the mayor’s office that the first amendment prevented them from taking any action.

And then the silly consular officials went to Corvallis in person (something few people unaffiliated with Oregon State University or attending a sporting event typically do) to make the  case in person to protest “political propaganda.”  Gee whiz!!  What part of free speech and the First Amendment did you not understand.  Perhaps Baidu censors the definition of free speech and the First Amendment to the United States constitution.  But a quick Google search gives you the easily comprehensible this and this.  Now evidently the second meeting did not have any demands but perchance they were attempting the strategy in the video below:

 

 

Well suffice it say a doubling down with a strenuous objection does not trump the first amendment either.  Sadly, given its track record China could seek revenge in the form of petty retaliation against relatives of the offending businessman who make the mistake of travelling to China.  Such are the insecurities of rising superpowers.

 

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Posted on 01-11-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

London’s Daily Mail has alleged that China pressured judges to eliminate Miss Norway Mariann Birkedal in the 2010 Miss World contest – which was won by Miss USA Alexandria Mills.  The contest itself was held on China’s Hainan island.  If true, this would be the latest petulant outburst by the corporatist dictatorship that is still steaming over the award of the Nobel Peace Price to Liu Xiaobo.

Out of deference to copyright law I will not post gratuitous bikini shots of the contestants, but you can view them in the first two links above.

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Posted on 11-10-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Venezuela’s bloviating caudillo reaffirmed his totalitarian bonafides by supporting China’s outrage at the award of the Nobel peace prize to Liu Xiaobo.  I wonder what it will take for his celebrity allies in the United States like Sean Penn to come to grips with the realities of Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution.  When Chavez came to power, his charge that Venezuela’s oil riches had not been shared with its great unwashed had a certain resonance.  A decade later the mask has slipped.  His incompetent handling of Venezuela’s economy has led to food shortages and inflation.  Rising crime is taking its toll on his popularity.  Meanwhile he has supported leftist terrorists in neighboring Colombia and squandered Venezuela’s oil surplus in shoring up self admitted failures like Fidel Castro.  A reflexive desire to poke a finger in Uncle Sam’s eye has led to embraces of despots from Tehran to Beijing.  Given his attempts to muzzle his own opposition and internal media, it is no surprise Chavez has defended the despots in Beijing.

Meanwhile China’s has stepped up its hysterical outbursts against the award by placing Liu Xiaobo’s wife under house arrest.  It remains to be seen who accepts the award on Liu Xiobo’s behalf.

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Posted on 08-10-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

In an expected move, the Nobel committee honored Chinese dissident and non-violent democracy campaigner Liu Xiaobo with the Nobel Peace Price.  Also as expected, the Chinese government threw a major tantrum.  The news was blacked out on state media and internet censors blocked reports from Internet websites.  China then declared that the award would harm relations with Norway, to which the plucky Scandinavian country responded that it was time for China to grow up.

Even though the Chinese constitution grants a broad array of human rights (speech, assembly, religion, etc.) these are often overruled by other provisions regarding public order.  It is one of the myriad hypocrisies of communist states around the world that they fail to respect rights of their citizens just like the totalitarian regimes that preceded them.  Liu Xiaobo is the latest Nobel laureate honored for his refusal to submit to an authoritarian regime.  Unfortunately the award is largely symbolic and will not change the way China treats its citizens.  But for a brief moment the world spotlight shines back on China’s abysmal human rights record, a glow Beijing does not care to bask in.

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Posted on 28-09-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

A bunch of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea seem unlikely candidates for a diplomatic showdown between China and Japan.  But the combustible mix of oil and natural gas reserves and aggressive nationalism egged on by Beijing to hide the regime’s ideological bankruptcy gives you a diplomatic explosion.  It also causes sleepless nights in Washington and other capitals concerned with managing the rise of China.  While this current spat seems to have been resolved, China’s aggressive adoption of imperial hauteur is ringing alarm bells across the Pacific Rim.

This blog has (before its unexpectedly long summer hiatus) noted China’s tensions with India.  China has also made (sometimes tenuous) claims to a bunch of islands in the South China Sea (which contain oil reserves) leading to tensions with Vietnam and other ASEAN countries.  This summer it essentially claimed exclusive rights to the Yellow Sea by objecting to a joint US-South Korean naval exercise aimed at North Korea.  Seoul is already peeved with China giving the rogue regime in Pyongyang diplomatic cover.  The recent saber rattling adds to the general alarm.

The last 20 years have seen the spectacular rise of China, largely by avoiding the type of spats that epitomized its foreign policy in the 60s and 70s.  But the result of its abandonment of Deng’s cautious foreign policy has been to force the Asian countries into Uncle Sam’s far more benign embrace.  So while China asks outsiders (i.e. Washington) not to meddle and tries to take down the Asian minnows one by one, America is reengaging in a region it had ignored amidst the distractions of Iraq and Afghanistan and so far has ignored Beijing’s bluster.  With North Korea in the midst of another dynastic succession and behaving more erratically than ever it is about time.

The effects of China’s policy also highlight the lack of wisdom in the muscular unilateral foreign policy that the neo-cons advocated during George Bush’s first term.  A great power that throws its weight around on every single issue soon finds that it is left with few friends.  While Beijing has cultivated clients among the world’s rogue gallery, it finds itself with very few friends in its backyard (other than the millstones North Korea and Pakistan).

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Posted on 15-01-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut
  • The New York Times on the difficulties on reporting a natural disaster and getting reporters on the ground (beyond twitter which continues to emerge as a suprising news source, though one that is hard to vet for accuracy).  See link.  Foreign Policy summarizes Haiti’s misery over the last 50 years.  The only country to win its freedom though a slave rebellion has been a failed state for some time now.  The earthquake removes what little government was left.
  • Newsweek takes a look at China’s love affair with rogue states. See link.  At least one can say that the Chinese actions are motivated by genuine self interest – preventing a collapsed state on its border (Myanmar and North Korea), locking up natural resources (Iran and Sudan) and trying to prevent another example of street protests toppling a regime (Iran). Contrast that with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez who squanders his country’s wealth in strategic alliances with rogue states, quixotic socialist largess to Cuba and a military buildup against Columbia primarily to stick his finger in the eye of the United States.
  • Another one from Newsweek commending the mainstream media for doing its job during the Harry Reid controversy and not allowing the ridiculous Republican talking point of equivalence with the Trent Lott comments to stand. Its not often I join in to give a nod to traditional media.

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As the hubbub around Google’s abrupt withdrawal from China begins to fade (see previous blog article here) observers have started noting the security threats posed by the rise of the Chinese corporatist state (you simply can’t call the People’s Republic communist any more).  Foreign Policy and The New York Times both explore the close nexus between China and its domestic security firms, the likely source of the cyberattacks and the difficulty for the Obama administration in formulating an adequate response.  Google is not the first American software behemoth to fail in China.  Yahoo essentially abandoned its Chinese operations to a Chinese owned subsidiary.  The situation is made worse by the Chinese lack of respect for intellectual property (a recurring sore point in trade talks) and their continued attempts to appropriate foreign technology for its domestic companies.

The concerns about the Chinese government’s close nexus with its domestic corporations is not new.  Concerns about cybersecurity were raised when IBM sold its personal computer to Lenovo.  But the recent phase of cyberattacks should force muddling Washington bureaucrats to appreciate the real risks to American foreign policy.  They could also take their cues from science fiction, from the Cylon attack and destruction of the 12 colonies, for the impact of a casual disregard of the cyberthreat.

The United States has often been trapped between its desire and tradition to preserve the free flow of information and security concerns.  American software companies grumbled in the Clinton years about the government’s insistence on having an access key to get pass any encryption software sold on the market.

China is not the only corporatist nuclear power that poses a cyber threat.  In the past few years Russia has actively used cyberattacks to bring its former satellites from the Soviet Union like Estonia to heel.  To what extent the Kremlin controls its rabid nationalistic hackers is not clear (though the scale and the timing attacks is suspicious).  To be fair to the Russians, they have approached the United States to have a treaty to prevent an cyberwar arms race on the lines of the chemical weapons treaty.  However as this article notes, both sites have been caught up in a philosophical dispute over whether to address this by a treaty or a law enforcement agreement.  The recent attacks on Google underscore the need to reach an agreement to build co-operation with the Russians and upgrade America’s cyber defenses.

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Posted on 13-01-2010
Filed Under (Technology) by Rashtrakut

This one will be discussed in detail on the business talk shows in the coming days.  Stung by a cyberattacks originating in China and presumably from the Chinese government, Google announced that it may pull out of China and will stop censoring its Chinese search results.  Also see link.  Google has had a troubled relationship with the Chinese government and has received criticism for its willingness to go along with Chinese censorship.  See link.  However, Google has also struggled in China and this is probably more of  a  business decision to cut the cord on a struggling business and gain positive publicity by cloaking it in altruism.  See link.

The public announcement before attempting to work things out with the Chinese government is a slap in the face to the regime and will likely draw some strident denunciations in the coming days.   This public relations black eye for China also highlights the drawbacks of doing business in an authoritarian regime that wants to control the flow of information.   A clear winner in this imbroglio is Chinese search engine leader Baidu which itself was subject to a bizarre cyberattack earlier this week and does not have to worry about Google in its backyard anymore.

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Posted on 03-12-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut
  • Obama donors are feeling left out as they lose some of the traditional access perks of fund raisers.  Fits with a populist theme of the campaign, but am not sure why giving freebies to donors that soothe their ego as opposed to rewriting legislation to suit their needs is all that bad.  A string of unhappy donors could bite the Obama campaign fund raising machine in the butt in 2012.
  • Yglesias highlights the continuing struggles and hypocrisy of main stream media in dealing with Internet based rivals. It is bad enough that Rupert Murdoch whines that Google and blogs like this one (well maybe not this one) who link to his sites are parasites, but now they complain when the sites do the actual journalistic legwork.  While complaining about the websites being ideologically slanted, the same main stream media rallied around Fox as a legitimate news operation.  This Jon Stewart video link in a  previous blog post is worth watching.
  • Daniel Gross thinks the markets overreacted to the Dubai debt crisis last week.  Maybe someone can recommend an expert from the Chicago school to explain to him how our efficient markets are composed of rational actors instead of a bunch of traumatized lemmings.
  • China tries to rescue the story of Mulan from the Disney interpretation.  Must be galling to see the “definitive” interpretation of a historic/legendary icon be a foreign version with the Disney formula of communicative animals and a klutzy dragon. Reminds me of the controversy in India about Peter Brook’s version of the Mahābhārat.

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    Barack Obama’s recent trip to China has received much criticism for its failure to achieve much of substance, giving a short-shrift to human rights issues and even raising a minor storm in India from an otherwise innocuous press release.  However, the trip may not have been entirely wasted.  Richard Wolfe notes that lost in the press coverage (and he charitably does not mention the American media’s obsession with Sarah Palin’s new ghost-written book) were agreements reached regarding emissions targets.  This along with talks held with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his state visit last week (which also helped defuse the brouhaha over the joint statement with China) could help break the deadlock at the upcoming Copenhagen talks.

    The Chinese visit may have also contributed to the China joining the recent censure of Iran by the IAEA.  The deliverables may not be as groundbreaking as previous presidential visits abroad but address two upcoming issues on the President’s foreign policy slate.  Success in Copenhagen could reaffirm the goodwill that exists for the administration on the ground in Europe.  Bringing India and China into any global agreement to cut emissions will blunt one of the major criticisms of the Kyoto Protocol.  Likewise any Chinese help on Iran is to be welcomed.  These are small steps at present, but they could lead to greater rewards down the road.

     

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    Posted on 10-11-2009
    Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

    The Economist details the simmering tensions between China and India and the ongoing struggle to resolve the century long dispute over the McMahon Line.  Ever since India’s defeat in its 1962 war with China, the two countries have eyed each other warily.  Pakistan ever eager to seek a counterweight against India has latched on to the Chinese lifeline, while India during the Cold War veered towards the Soviet Union.  In recent years some American policymakers have sought out India as a counterweight to the emerging Chinese superpower.

    None of this is in the long term interest of either country.  Both have restive minority regions and threats to their stability from regions that have not shared in their economic boom.  The dispute at present is also over a remote sparsely populated region which few Chinese or Indians have bothered to visit, but as the Economist notes is complicated by ties to Tibet.  Hopefully calmer heads will prevail and the countries will avoid a armed confrontation driven solely by notions of national pride.

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    Posted on 21-10-2009
    Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

    The BRICs other than India have aggressively used the Olympics as a marketing ploy to announce their emergence (or re-emergence).  The Beijing Olympics were a grand showcase for the Chinese regime to erase the images of Tiananmen.   In the midst of its descent into Corporatism, Russia will hose the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, not far from the Caucasus flash points of Chechnya and Georgia.  In contrast Brazil under President Lula da Silva seeks to project a different image while hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics, of a progressive democratic emerging power that has broken from its history of economic turmoil and military involvement.  But the endemic violence in its shantytowns could turn the dream into a nightmare.  It was only a year ago that soccer legend Pele was mugged on his way home.  One hopes that the first Olympics in Latin America are not marred  by images of an overbearing police presence and a heavily fortified Olympic Village to protect athletes.  China was embarrassed when athletes dropped out of the Olympics citing pollution.  It will not be surprising to see an athlete choose security over Rio.

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