Some 6,000 Palestinians have been stranded for the past month on the Egyptian side of the border with the Gaza Strip because of the closure of the Rafah border crossing. The terminal was closed after the European monitors who had operated there for the past two years left their jobs following Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in mid-June. At least 20 of these Palestinian travelers have died either of illness or other causes while waiting on the Egyptian side. Most of them are complaining that the Egyptian authorities are not doing anything to alleviate their suffering. Attempts by Israel to find a solution to this humanitarian crisis have been foiled by both Fatah and Hamas, who turned down an Israeli offer to help the Palestinians return home through the Israeli-controlled border crossing at Kerem Shalom.
Meanwhile, not a single Arab country has come forth to help the marooned Palestinians. Egyptian and Palestinian families living along the border have been hosting some of them, but the majority, including women and children, are forced to sleep in mosques and on sidewalks.
“The Arabs don’t care about us,” Muhammed Haj Jamil, a university student who was on his way home from the Gulf, told me in a phone interview. “The Arabs hate the Palestinians. The Egyptians are treating us as if we were terrorists. Even the Jews treat us better than most Arabs.”
Yesterday, it was revealed that authorities on July 4 had ordered China Development Brief, a Beijing-friendly newsletter published in the Chinese capital since 1995, to cease publication. It was shuttered for conducting “unauthorized surveys,” a violation of a 1983 statistical law. Nick Young, the founder of the newsletter and the editor of its English version, had tried to keep the news secret so that he could negotiate with the authorities, but a former colleague leaked the news to the international media. Young, referring to the closing, noted in a statement, “My hope is that these actions have been precipitated by zealous state security agents, and that more senior figures in the government and Communist Party will realise that actions of this kind are not in China’s best interest.”
Of course they are not, but the Communist Party almost never does what’s good for China. And now, the Party seems intent on delegitimizing its friends—and itself. Young had often pointed to Beijing’s tolerance of his publication as proof that the one-party state was reforming. “I have spent the last decade telling foreigners that China is not as repressive and totalitarian as Western media often portray it to be,” he said in his statement. “At the end of the day, I hoped that if we had an open, intelligent conversation, we would be accepted,” he told the New York Times. “But I think we miscalculated, or they miscalculated.”
If anyone made a mistake, it is Young, for being optimistic. The mission of China Development Brief was “to enhance constructive engagement between China and the world.” How do you do that when you’re dealing with insecure autocrats? The truth is that the Communist Party has gone into reverse.
We should all be grateful to Nick Young: he’s shown that, for all of China’s efforts at mustering international goodwill, it still hasn’t let go of its deep-rooted authoritarian tendencies.
Norman Ornstein has an alarming piece on the Washington Post op-ed page this morning about the failure of our government to prepare to maintain continuity in the event of a devastating surprise terrorist attack with a weapon of mass destruction. This follows a June 12 op-ed in the New York Times by William J. Perry, Ashton B. Carter, and Michael M. May, stating that “the probability of a nuclear weapon one day going off in an American city cannot be calculated, but it is larger than it was five years ago.”
Building a nuclear bomb would be a formidable challenge for a terrorist group. Obtaining one would be a much easier route. How worried should we be? How real, in particular, is the loose nuclear-suitcase-bomb problem?
In June, China’s trade surplus soared 85.5 percent—compared to the same month last year—to an all-time monthly record of $26.91 billion. The surplus for the first half of this year was up 83.1 percent. Beijing said the increase in the June figures was due to a surge as producers took advantage of export tax rebates that expired on the first of this month.
It’s a step forward that Beijing is removing export incentives, because the nation cannot continue its export-led economic boom for much longer. For one thing, trade tensions will grow with its largest export market: more than half of China’s trade surplus is with the United States. For another thing, the June surplus figures will spark new calls for currency legislation in Congress. Yet this is not just about Beijing’s problems with Washington. Politicians in other foreign capitals are starting to push back on trade, and no shoppers want to buy impure food or unsafe products from the Chinese.
Yet what’s especially interesting about the June trade figures is a decline in imports. This trend could accelerate as Beijing continues to go on the attack against foreign producers. On Tuesday, China announced that it had rejected a shipment of sugar-free drink mixes from a Wisconsin company because of excessive amounts of red dye.
This comes on top of rejections in early June of health supplements and raisins from America. Apparently, Beijing mistakenly assumes that retaliation will ease foreign restrictions on its own goods. The central government accuses other countries of using food safety issues to attack China, but that tactic is bound to fail. We are in the early stages of a trade war, which is almost inevitable when touchy authoritarians put their goods into the stream of international commerce.