Commentary Magazine


Topic: Chinese government

Chinese Government Blocks Internet Searches for ‘Egypt’

The Chinese government is taking precautions to make sure the people of China don’t get any ideas from the Egyptian protests. News of the revolt is being tightly controlled, and Internet searches for “Egypt” have been blocked on China’s state-run Internet search engines and microblogging sites:

Searches on Sina.com for “Egypt” returned a message saying, “According to relevant laws, statues and policies, the search results cannot be displayed.” A microblogging site operated by Tencent showed no results.

According to the Los Angeles Times, China’s news coverage of the situation in Egypt “has been mostly downplayed, with little mention of the underlying causes for the revolt.” It has mainly focused on the economic impact of the crisis:

Coverage, both online and in print, focused on the economic repercussions of the situation in Egypt, with the Egyptian pound falling against the dollar on Friday. No mention was made of Egypt’s rising prices or official corruption — problems with which many Chinese are all too familiar.

If there’s one great thing about the events in Egypt and Tunisia, it’s that it’s made totalitarian leaders around the world sweat quite a bit.

The Chinese government is taking precautions to make sure the people of China don’t get any ideas from the Egyptian protests. News of the revolt is being tightly controlled, and Internet searches for “Egypt” have been blocked on China’s state-run Internet search engines and microblogging sites:

Searches on Sina.com for “Egypt” returned a message saying, “According to relevant laws, statues and policies, the search results cannot be displayed.” A microblogging site operated by Tencent showed no results.

According to the Los Angeles Times, China’s news coverage of the situation in Egypt “has been mostly downplayed, with little mention of the underlying causes for the revolt.” It has mainly focused on the economic impact of the crisis:

Coverage, both online and in print, focused on the economic repercussions of the situation in Egypt, with the Egyptian pound falling against the dollar on Friday. No mention was made of Egypt’s rising prices or official corruption — problems with which many Chinese are all too familiar.

If there’s one great thing about the events in Egypt and Tunisia, it’s that it’s made totalitarian leaders around the world sweat quite a bit.

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Chinese Anti-American Propaganda Song Played at State Dinner

So that lavish state dinner President Obama hosted for Chinese President Hu Jintao last week? Turns out it was an even worse decision than previously thought. Not only did Obama honor a regime of human-rights abusers, but it turns out they weren’t even appreciative. According to the Epoch Times, a pianist at the event played a well-known Chinese propaganda song that’s about defeating the U.S. in a war. And it sounds like the Chinese government may have known the song would be played beforehand.

Lang Lang the pianist says he chose it. Chairman Hu Jintao recognized it as soon as he heard it. Patriotic Chinese Internet users were delighted as soon as they saw the videos online. Early morning TV viewers in China knew it would be played an hour or two beforehand. At the White House State dinner on Jan. 19, about six minutes into his set, Lang Lang began tapping out a famous anti-American propaganda melody from the Korean War: the theme song to the movie “Battle on Shangganling Mountain.”

The Epoch Times provided some of the song’s lyrics, which literally translate into: “When friends are here, there is fine wine /But if the jackal comes /What greets it is the hunting rifle.” The “jackal” line refers to the U.S.

The song apparently thrilled hardliners in China, who saw it as a major humiliation of America:

“In the eyes of all Chinese, this will not be seen as anything other than a big insult to the U.S.,” says Yang Jingduan, a Chinese psychiatrist now living in Philadelphia who had in China been a doctor in the Chinese military. “It’s like insulting you in your face and you don’t know it, it’s humiliating.”

The whole concept of the Chinese playing an anti-American song during a state dinner in their honor is too petty and childish to even be insulting. The embarrassing part is that Obama-administration officials didn’t bother to find out the background of the songs on the agenda before they were played. In comparison, the Chinese delegation reportedly knew about the song in advance, and may have been the ones who tipped off news outlets in China beforehand:

Cheng said that “The White House had to report in advance to the Chinese delegation and so the Chinese delegation would have certainly known Lang Lang’s program.”

Cheng believes, however, that the Chinese delegation would see no reason to suggest a change in the program. “The program is not against the interests of China. In fact, it is the opposite.”

Awful. This is worse than Obama’s bow to the Japanese emperor in 2009. The White House better have a serious explanation for why this song was allowed to be played at its own party. And it should also serve as a lesson to Obama for why we don’t throw state dinners in honor of openly anti-American governments.

So that lavish state dinner President Obama hosted for Chinese President Hu Jintao last week? Turns out it was an even worse decision than previously thought. Not only did Obama honor a regime of human-rights abusers, but it turns out they weren’t even appreciative. According to the Epoch Times, a pianist at the event played a well-known Chinese propaganda song that’s about defeating the U.S. in a war. And it sounds like the Chinese government may have known the song would be played beforehand.

Lang Lang the pianist says he chose it. Chairman Hu Jintao recognized it as soon as he heard it. Patriotic Chinese Internet users were delighted as soon as they saw the videos online. Early morning TV viewers in China knew it would be played an hour or two beforehand. At the White House State dinner on Jan. 19, about six minutes into his set, Lang Lang began tapping out a famous anti-American propaganda melody from the Korean War: the theme song to the movie “Battle on Shangganling Mountain.”

The Epoch Times provided some of the song’s lyrics, which literally translate into: “When friends are here, there is fine wine /But if the jackal comes /What greets it is the hunting rifle.” The “jackal” line refers to the U.S.

The song apparently thrilled hardliners in China, who saw it as a major humiliation of America:

“In the eyes of all Chinese, this will not be seen as anything other than a big insult to the U.S.,” says Yang Jingduan, a Chinese psychiatrist now living in Philadelphia who had in China been a doctor in the Chinese military. “It’s like insulting you in your face and you don’t know it, it’s humiliating.”

The whole concept of the Chinese playing an anti-American song during a state dinner in their honor is too petty and childish to even be insulting. The embarrassing part is that Obama-administration officials didn’t bother to find out the background of the songs on the agenda before they were played. In comparison, the Chinese delegation reportedly knew about the song in advance, and may have been the ones who tipped off news outlets in China beforehand:

Cheng said that “The White House had to report in advance to the Chinese delegation and so the Chinese delegation would have certainly known Lang Lang’s program.”

Cheng believes, however, that the Chinese delegation would see no reason to suggest a change in the program. “The program is not against the interests of China. In fact, it is the opposite.”

Awful. This is worse than Obama’s bow to the Japanese emperor in 2009. The White House better have a serious explanation for why this song was allowed to be played at its own party. And it should also serve as a lesson to Obama for why we don’t throw state dinners in honor of openly anti-American governments.

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Wife of Chinese Political Prisoner Gao Zhisheng Pleads for His Release

“Mr. Obama, if you still remember the pain of the void you had growing up without your dad, maybe you can help my children reunite with their dad,” said Geng He, the wife of former human-rights attorney and Chinese political prisoner Gao Zhisheng at a press conference in Washington D.C. yesterday.

Obviously, the person she was speaking to wasn’t in the room. But it was a valiant effort to raise media awareness for her husband’s plight, one of many similar attempts over the past few weeks. As Washington prepared for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit, Geng appeared to have embarked on a campaign of her own. She’s given interviews to numerous news outlets, spoken at press conferences, and made appeals to the administration. But even though it’s crucial to speak out for political prisoners like Gao, the venture isn’t without risks. Geng’s husband could potentially bear the brunt of any anger the Chinese government may have over the public descriptions of his imprisonment.

Last week, for the first time, the AP published a 2010 interview with Gao about his previous treatment in prison. It was a story he requested they publish in only two circumstances. One was if he managed to escape from China and reunite with his wife and children in the U.S. The other was if he disappeared.

After eight months of no contact with the former human-rights attorney, AP and Geng decided enough time had gone by to go ahead with the piece. AP released the story to coincide with Hu’s visit. The account of Gao’s suffering is chilling on its own. And he admitted during the interview that there were certain aspects of the torture that he would not even divulge to the reporter.

But even though Hillary Clinton mentioned Gao’s mistreatment in a speech right before Hu’s visit, President Obama hasn’t publicly discussed the political prisoner since the Chinese leader arrived in D.C.

When Obama was pressed on human rights at a joint press conference with Hu yesterday, he offered only excuses for the Chinese government. The country, said Obama, “has a different political system than we do” and is “at a different state of development than we are.”

“We come from two different cultures and different histories,” he added.

Later that night, Obama hosted a lavish state dinner for President Hu. It looked like a beautiful event, at least from the photos. There’s even a picture of the first couple smiling as they post on either side of the Chinese leader (just a diplomatic nicety, of course).

Gao also seems to be someone who believes in the importance of smiling through unpleasant situations. “Even when I was tortured to near-death, the pain was only in the physical body,” he wrote in 2009. “A heart that is filled with God has no room to entertain pain and suffering. I often sing along loudly with my two children, but my wife never joins us. Despite all my efforts, she still feels miserable in her heart.”

Sure, the state dinner was just a matter of maintaining good relations with the Chinese government. Ensuring future stability for the U.S. and the world and all that. But with Hu returning home, and as media interest in Chinese political prisoners wanes, it’s less clear what the future holds for Gao Zhisheng and his family.

“Mr. Obama, if you still remember the pain of the void you had growing up without your dad, maybe you can help my children reunite with their dad,” said Geng He, the wife of former human-rights attorney and Chinese political prisoner Gao Zhisheng at a press conference in Washington D.C. yesterday.

Obviously, the person she was speaking to wasn’t in the room. But it was a valiant effort to raise media awareness for her husband’s plight, one of many similar attempts over the past few weeks. As Washington prepared for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit, Geng appeared to have embarked on a campaign of her own. She’s given interviews to numerous news outlets, spoken at press conferences, and made appeals to the administration. But even though it’s crucial to speak out for political prisoners like Gao, the venture isn’t without risks. Geng’s husband could potentially bear the brunt of any anger the Chinese government may have over the public descriptions of his imprisonment.

Last week, for the first time, the AP published a 2010 interview with Gao about his previous treatment in prison. It was a story he requested they publish in only two circumstances. One was if he managed to escape from China and reunite with his wife and children in the U.S. The other was if he disappeared.

After eight months of no contact with the former human-rights attorney, AP and Geng decided enough time had gone by to go ahead with the piece. AP released the story to coincide with Hu’s visit. The account of Gao’s suffering is chilling on its own. And he admitted during the interview that there were certain aspects of the torture that he would not even divulge to the reporter.

But even though Hillary Clinton mentioned Gao’s mistreatment in a speech right before Hu’s visit, President Obama hasn’t publicly discussed the political prisoner since the Chinese leader arrived in D.C.

When Obama was pressed on human rights at a joint press conference with Hu yesterday, he offered only excuses for the Chinese government. The country, said Obama, “has a different political system than we do” and is “at a different state of development than we are.”

“We come from two different cultures and different histories,” he added.

Later that night, Obama hosted a lavish state dinner for President Hu. It looked like a beautiful event, at least from the photos. There’s even a picture of the first couple smiling as they post on either side of the Chinese leader (just a diplomatic nicety, of course).

Gao also seems to be someone who believes in the importance of smiling through unpleasant situations. “Even when I was tortured to near-death, the pain was only in the physical body,” he wrote in 2009. “A heart that is filled with God has no room to entertain pain and suffering. I often sing along loudly with my two children, but my wife never joins us. Despite all my efforts, she still feels miserable in her heart.”

Sure, the state dinner was just a matter of maintaining good relations with the Chinese government. Ensuring future stability for the U.S. and the world and all that. But with Hu returning home, and as media interest in Chinese political prisoners wanes, it’s less clear what the future holds for Gao Zhisheng and his family.

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Is the Afghan Gold Rush Good News for Obama or Afghanistan?

Over the past few years, some left-wing critics of the Bush administration may have wondered whether Washington would have prioritized the war in Afghanistan over the one in Iraq if, instead of being a mountainous wasteland, Afghanistan had been sitting on vast oil deposits. While the idea that the war in Iraq was fought for oil was a cherished leftist myth, there seemed little reason to fight in Afghanistan from a Marxist economic perspective.

But with the news today that the United States has newly discovered nearly $1 trillion in mineral deposits in Afghanistan, paranoid left-wing fantasy-spinners won’t be the only ones rushing to reevaluate the conflict there. According to U.S. officials quoted in the New York Times:

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe. An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

While these discoveries may represent a great hope for the future of Afghanistan – and a way for its people to shake off the notion that the only viable careers involve bloodshed or opium-growing — the chances that it could also create even more mischief, mayhem, and misery for that country are all too apparent.

The national government of President Hamid Karzai and local warlords will bitterly fight for control of the new mining opportunities. And don’t think the Taliban won’t be prepared to contest the areas where riches are under the ground.

And the potential for trouble from foreigners storming into the region to exploit these resources is also considerable. Except in this case, it won’t so much be a Yukon-style gold rush with wily prospectors straight out of a Jack London novel but, as the Times noted, a neighboring Chinese government looking to expand its sphere of influence.

Though the discoveries made by a team of Pentagon officials and American geologists – working from new maps charted by the United States Geological Survey – have produced results rightly considered both “amazing” and “promising,” the article goes on to state the difficulties of developing resources in a country with no heavy industry or mining infrastructure. A bloody war won’t make it any easier. But the really troubling aspect of this announcement is why the administration chose to leak the story — especially when even the preparations for mining for these minerals are clearly in the distant future, and when the Afghanistan government is far from ready to make such preparations.

The answer may come within the story itself: “The Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan,” even though the announcement may complicate both the war and Washington’s delicate relations with the Karzai government. While the story was bound to come out sooner or later, it could be that this administration, which is such a ferocious foe of leaks to the media from government sources, let this particularly strategic piece of information slip to bolster its sagging poll numbers and to gain new support for the war.

Over the past few years, some left-wing critics of the Bush administration may have wondered whether Washington would have prioritized the war in Afghanistan over the one in Iraq if, instead of being a mountainous wasteland, Afghanistan had been sitting on vast oil deposits. While the idea that the war in Iraq was fought for oil was a cherished leftist myth, there seemed little reason to fight in Afghanistan from a Marxist economic perspective.

But with the news today that the United States has newly discovered nearly $1 trillion in mineral deposits in Afghanistan, paranoid left-wing fantasy-spinners won’t be the only ones rushing to reevaluate the conflict there. According to U.S. officials quoted in the New York Times:

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe. An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

While these discoveries may represent a great hope for the future of Afghanistan – and a way for its people to shake off the notion that the only viable careers involve bloodshed or opium-growing — the chances that it could also create even more mischief, mayhem, and misery for that country are all too apparent.

The national government of President Hamid Karzai and local warlords will bitterly fight for control of the new mining opportunities. And don’t think the Taliban won’t be prepared to contest the areas where riches are under the ground.

And the potential for trouble from foreigners storming into the region to exploit these resources is also considerable. Except in this case, it won’t so much be a Yukon-style gold rush with wily prospectors straight out of a Jack London novel but, as the Times noted, a neighboring Chinese government looking to expand its sphere of influence.

Though the discoveries made by a team of Pentagon officials and American geologists – working from new maps charted by the United States Geological Survey – have produced results rightly considered both “amazing” and “promising,” the article goes on to state the difficulties of developing resources in a country with no heavy industry or mining infrastructure. A bloody war won’t make it any easier. But the really troubling aspect of this announcement is why the administration chose to leak the story — especially when even the preparations for mining for these minerals are clearly in the distant future, and when the Afghanistan government is far from ready to make such preparations.

The answer may come within the story itself: “The Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan,” even though the announcement may complicate both the war and Washington’s delicate relations with the Karzai government. While the story was bound to come out sooner or later, it could be that this administration, which is such a ferocious foe of leaks to the media from government sources, let this particularly strategic piece of information slip to bolster its sagging poll numbers and to gain new support for the war.

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Time to Short Tom Friedman

Tuesday, January 12 was a hard day for Thomas Friedman. Or at least it turned into one. That morning, the New York Times ran Friedman’s latest—and possibly last—900 word panegyric to the unstoppable wonder of China’s economy. His column had, as it occasionally does, a personal edge. He was essentially writing to the American investor James Chanos. Friedman had read that Chanos thinks the Chinese bubble is about to burst and is looking to short China’s economy for profit.

And undo all Friedman’s cheerleading??? No sir. Friedman explained to Chanos, and to us, that while China has some things to deal with, “(the most dangerous being pollution)… it also has a political class focused on addressing its real problems, as well as a mountain of savings with which to do so (unlike us).”

You know, it’s not the cleanest place in the world, but its wise leaders will put a few billions toward a country-wide clean-up crew (hey, maybe they can put some of those good-for-nothing Charter 8 signatories and Uighers to work!) before their world domination gets properly started. Friedman’s parting shot was all class, maturity, and circumspection: “Shorting China today? Well, good luck with that, Mr. Chanos. Let us know how it works out for you.”

I’d imagine it’s working out rather well. For on the same morning, a shortsighted, ignorant little entity of no importance called Google announced that it too was shorting China, and ceasing to do business there so long as they had to comply with Beijing’s strict censorship requirements. This puts Chanos in fairly good company.

But did Google miss the Friedman memo? China is rich and focused, “unlike us.” Moreover, as Friedman never fails to mention, “China also now has 400 million Internet users, and 200 million of them have broadband,” —unlike us, of course. Invest away. Shockingly, Google had an issue with China that went beyond the country’s investment mechanics. As the company’s statement read, “we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties.” Human rights? What does that mean? Any regular reader of Friedman knows that China’s is a “reasonably enlightened” dictatorship. How else could they achieve what Friedman calls their “Green Leap Forward,” “the most important thing to happen” in the first decade of this century? Google, it turns out, made a principled decision.

After this news broke, I wondered how Friedman would respond. Courtesy of yesterday’s New York Times, here comes his Yellow Leap Backward: “Your honor, I’d like to now revise and amend my remarks. There is one short position, one big short, that does intrigue me in China. I am not sure who makes a market in this area, but here goes: If China forces out Google, I’d like to short the Chinese Communist Party.”

You see, he’s still bullish on China, just bearish on the Chinese Communist Party. Makes perfect sense. Kind of like cheering the rise of eggs and the simultaneous demise of chickens. If it’s a confusing proposition, never fear. There is no wrong-headed opinion that Thomas Friedman cannot reduce to a childishly digestible formulation.

There are actually two Chinese economies today. There is the Communist Party and its affiliates; let’s call them Command China. These are the very traditional state-owned enterprises.

Alongside them, there is a second China, largely concentrated in coastal cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong. This is a highly entrepreneurial sector that has developed sophisticated techniques to generate and participate in diverse, high-value flows of business knowledge. I call that Network China.

It’s rare to see one wrestle so transparently with cognitive dissonance. Friedman asserted one thing about China. That thing was proved wrong in real time. To handle the contradiction, he splits China into two parts. What he said still applies to one China, not the other. Then he quotes some Non-Fiction Best-Sellerese from a recent book by John Hagel:

“Finding ways to connect with people and institutions possessing new knowledge becomes increasingly important,” says Hagel. “Since there are far more smart people outside any one organization than inside.” And in today’s flat world, you can now access them all.

Can you really? Here’s a challenge for Tom Friedman: There is a very smart person, a scholar even, named Liu Xiiaobo. Can Friedman reach out across “today’s flat world” and get in touch with him? You see, Liu was just sentenced to eleven years for “inciting subversion of state power” by the Chinese government. If Friedman gets hold of him, he should ask Liu which China he’s in. Maybe it’s called Autocratic China or, if we’re being adult about it, just China.

Let’s make it easier on Friedman. Finding one Chinese political prisoner in a sea of them is a bit daunting. How about he reaches out to one of the 20 million inhabitants of the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has blacked out all online access for an area three times the size of Texas. What is that China called? Is it safe to short?

Well, good luck with that, Mr. Friedman. Let us know how it works out for you.

Tuesday, January 12 was a hard day for Thomas Friedman. Or at least it turned into one. That morning, the New York Times ran Friedman’s latest—and possibly last—900 word panegyric to the unstoppable wonder of China’s economy. His column had, as it occasionally does, a personal edge. He was essentially writing to the American investor James Chanos. Friedman had read that Chanos thinks the Chinese bubble is about to burst and is looking to short China’s economy for profit.

And undo all Friedman’s cheerleading??? No sir. Friedman explained to Chanos, and to us, that while China has some things to deal with, “(the most dangerous being pollution)… it also has a political class focused on addressing its real problems, as well as a mountain of savings with which to do so (unlike us).”

You know, it’s not the cleanest place in the world, but its wise leaders will put a few billions toward a country-wide clean-up crew (hey, maybe they can put some of those good-for-nothing Charter 8 signatories and Uighers to work!) before their world domination gets properly started. Friedman’s parting shot was all class, maturity, and circumspection: “Shorting China today? Well, good luck with that, Mr. Chanos. Let us know how it works out for you.”

I’d imagine it’s working out rather well. For on the same morning, a shortsighted, ignorant little entity of no importance called Google announced that it too was shorting China, and ceasing to do business there so long as they had to comply with Beijing’s strict censorship requirements. This puts Chanos in fairly good company.

But did Google miss the Friedman memo? China is rich and focused, “unlike us.” Moreover, as Friedman never fails to mention, “China also now has 400 million Internet users, and 200 million of them have broadband,” —unlike us, of course. Invest away. Shockingly, Google had an issue with China that went beyond the country’s investment mechanics. As the company’s statement read, “we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties.” Human rights? What does that mean? Any regular reader of Friedman knows that China’s is a “reasonably enlightened” dictatorship. How else could they achieve what Friedman calls their “Green Leap Forward,” “the most important thing to happen” in the first decade of this century? Google, it turns out, made a principled decision.

After this news broke, I wondered how Friedman would respond. Courtesy of yesterday’s New York Times, here comes his Yellow Leap Backward: “Your honor, I’d like to now revise and amend my remarks. There is one short position, one big short, that does intrigue me in China. I am not sure who makes a market in this area, but here goes: If China forces out Google, I’d like to short the Chinese Communist Party.”

You see, he’s still bullish on China, just bearish on the Chinese Communist Party. Makes perfect sense. Kind of like cheering the rise of eggs and the simultaneous demise of chickens. If it’s a confusing proposition, never fear. There is no wrong-headed opinion that Thomas Friedman cannot reduce to a childishly digestible formulation.

There are actually two Chinese economies today. There is the Communist Party and its affiliates; let’s call them Command China. These are the very traditional state-owned enterprises.

Alongside them, there is a second China, largely concentrated in coastal cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong. This is a highly entrepreneurial sector that has developed sophisticated techniques to generate and participate in diverse, high-value flows of business knowledge. I call that Network China.

It’s rare to see one wrestle so transparently with cognitive dissonance. Friedman asserted one thing about China. That thing was proved wrong in real time. To handle the contradiction, he splits China into two parts. What he said still applies to one China, not the other. Then he quotes some Non-Fiction Best-Sellerese from a recent book by John Hagel:

“Finding ways to connect with people and institutions possessing new knowledge becomes increasingly important,” says Hagel. “Since there are far more smart people outside any one organization than inside.” And in today’s flat world, you can now access them all.

Can you really? Here’s a challenge for Tom Friedman: There is a very smart person, a scholar even, named Liu Xiiaobo. Can Friedman reach out across “today’s flat world” and get in touch with him? You see, Liu was just sentenced to eleven years for “inciting subversion of state power” by the Chinese government. If Friedman gets hold of him, he should ask Liu which China he’s in. Maybe it’s called Autocratic China or, if we’re being adult about it, just China.

Let’s make it easier on Friedman. Finding one Chinese political prisoner in a sea of them is a bit daunting. How about he reaches out to one of the 20 million inhabitants of the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has blacked out all online access for an area three times the size of Texas. What is that China called? Is it safe to short?

Well, good luck with that, Mr. Friedman. Let us know how it works out for you.

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The Latest Milestone in Chinese Tyranny

For the last two decades, those committed to warm ties with Beijing have tried to tell Americans that the development of capitalism in China—albeit a capitalism that must operate in a system in which the rule of law and property rights are a matter of government fiat—would eventually transform the totalitarian system. But today, as the New York Times reports, another milestone has been passed in which such hopes have been revealed as utterly unfounded.

The Chinese capital was the setting on Wednesday for the trial of Liu Xiaobo, one of the country’s leading human-rights advocates. Liu faces up to 15 years in prison for calling for open elections and free speech. His role in promulgating Charter 08, a manifesto in favor of Chinese political freedom, is the chief reason for the government’s latest attempt to silence Liu. As the Times notes, the document’s language that states “We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes” is itself viewed as a crime by the Communist Party.

The persecution of Liu is something of a history of China’s abuse of human rights since 1989. At the time of the Tienanmen Square demonstrations in 1989, he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University but returned home to join the hunger strikers. When the Chinese army struck, he was arrested and held for 21 months without trial. In 1996, he was sent to the laogai—China’s gulag—for three years for calling for the release of others still imprisoned for their participation in the Tiananmen events. Since then he has been a thorn in the side of the Communist Party but the charter, which evokes similar protests by Czech opponents against the Soviet empire, has motivated the government to try and put him away again. Reporters were barred from the trial, as were other dissidents who bravely came to support Liu. This is all we know of the proceedings:

Liu Xiaoxuan, the defendant’s younger brother, was one of two family members allowed in the courtroom. After the trial adjourned, he tried to recall details of the proceedings — court officials had prevented those in the room from taking notes — and he repeated his brother’s final words, spoken to a judge. Mr. Liu, according to his brother, said that he came from a long line of persecuted thinkers and hoped he would be the last. “He said that if he was sent to jail, it might bring others freedom of speech,” Liu Xiaoxuan said.

It would be nice to think that were true. But neither the Obama administration—which allowed Beijing to humiliate the president during his recent trip there—nor its predecessors have had any interest in the fate of Chinese dissidents or the drive for pushing the world’s largest tyranny to change its behavior. The Chinese authorities have stepped up their suppression of freedom in the last year with a vengeance. Yet most Americans either don’t care or still actually believe the propaganda about the Chinese not caring about freedom, which business interests put forward about China and democracy. As with the successful campaign to stifle concerns about Chinese human rights that preceded the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government can count on the self-interest of the business community and the indifference of Washington to allow it to continue its abuses with impunity.

Yet the attempt by Liu to courageously invoke the example of those who challenged the seemingly unshakable grip of Soviet communism in 1977 ought to remind us all that even the most powerful of tyrants can be resisted and toppled. Provided, that is, that dissidents such as Liu Xiaobo be not forsaken by the forces of freedom elsewhere. Just as the West once embraced men like Vaclav Havel and Natan Sharansky, Americans must not allow Liu’s oppressors to triumph in silence.

For the last two decades, those committed to warm ties with Beijing have tried to tell Americans that the development of capitalism in China—albeit a capitalism that must operate in a system in which the rule of law and property rights are a matter of government fiat—would eventually transform the totalitarian system. But today, as the New York Times reports, another milestone has been passed in which such hopes have been revealed as utterly unfounded.

The Chinese capital was the setting on Wednesday for the trial of Liu Xiaobo, one of the country’s leading human-rights advocates. Liu faces up to 15 years in prison for calling for open elections and free speech. His role in promulgating Charter 08, a manifesto in favor of Chinese political freedom, is the chief reason for the government’s latest attempt to silence Liu. As the Times notes, the document’s language that states “We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes” is itself viewed as a crime by the Communist Party.

The persecution of Liu is something of a history of China’s abuse of human rights since 1989. At the time of the Tienanmen Square demonstrations in 1989, he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University but returned home to join the hunger strikers. When the Chinese army struck, he was arrested and held for 21 months without trial. In 1996, he was sent to the laogai—China’s gulag—for three years for calling for the release of others still imprisoned for their participation in the Tiananmen events. Since then he has been a thorn in the side of the Communist Party but the charter, which evokes similar protests by Czech opponents against the Soviet empire, has motivated the government to try and put him away again. Reporters were barred from the trial, as were other dissidents who bravely came to support Liu. This is all we know of the proceedings:

Liu Xiaoxuan, the defendant’s younger brother, was one of two family members allowed in the courtroom. After the trial adjourned, he tried to recall details of the proceedings — court officials had prevented those in the room from taking notes — and he repeated his brother’s final words, spoken to a judge. Mr. Liu, according to his brother, said that he came from a long line of persecuted thinkers and hoped he would be the last. “He said that if he was sent to jail, it might bring others freedom of speech,” Liu Xiaoxuan said.

It would be nice to think that were true. But neither the Obama administration—which allowed Beijing to humiliate the president during his recent trip there—nor its predecessors have had any interest in the fate of Chinese dissidents or the drive for pushing the world’s largest tyranny to change its behavior. The Chinese authorities have stepped up their suppression of freedom in the last year with a vengeance. Yet most Americans either don’t care or still actually believe the propaganda about the Chinese not caring about freedom, which business interests put forward about China and democracy. As with the successful campaign to stifle concerns about Chinese human rights that preceded the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government can count on the self-interest of the business community and the indifference of Washington to allow it to continue its abuses with impunity.

Yet the attempt by Liu to courageously invoke the example of those who challenged the seemingly unshakable grip of Soviet communism in 1977 ought to remind us all that even the most powerful of tyrants can be resisted and toppled. Provided, that is, that dissidents such as Liu Xiaobo be not forsaken by the forces of freedom elsewhere. Just as the West once embraced men like Vaclav Havel and Natan Sharansky, Americans must not allow Liu’s oppressors to triumph in silence.

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Filling Cracks

CNN is reporting that 2,000 Chinese troops are rushing to plug “extremely dangerous” cracks in the Zipingku Dam, which stands about three miles upriver from the earthquake-ravaged Dujiangyan City. The endangered population of Dujiangyan City stands at about 630,000. If there’s a serious dam accident, the resulting devastation could immediately rival that of neighboring Burma, where the official death toll stands at about 40,000 from a typhoon that hit two weeks ago.

China’s dams present deadly problems of huge literal and figurative size. In 1975, Typhoon Nina hit China and the Banqiao Dam collapsed, destroying 60 more dams and killing almost 200,000 people. China’s own Water Resource Department claims that 30,000 dams in China are in “critical condition.” China keeps building newer and larger dams, while maintenance of the country’s older ones get neglected. Additionally, the rampant corruption of local governments enables huge sums allocated for dam maintenance to end up in the pockets of officials. Unchecked growth, without consideration for scale or infrastructural soundness, leaves the citizens of China unprotected in the event of unforeseeable circumstances. Let’s hope they plug this dam. But going forward, the Chinese government can’t hope to spot-fill cracks as a way of warding off catastrophe.

CNN is reporting that 2,000 Chinese troops are rushing to plug “extremely dangerous” cracks in the Zipingku Dam, which stands about three miles upriver from the earthquake-ravaged Dujiangyan City. The endangered population of Dujiangyan City stands at about 630,000. If there’s a serious dam accident, the resulting devastation could immediately rival that of neighboring Burma, where the official death toll stands at about 40,000 from a typhoon that hit two weeks ago.

China’s dams present deadly problems of huge literal and figurative size. In 1975, Typhoon Nina hit China and the Banqiao Dam collapsed, destroying 60 more dams and killing almost 200,000 people. China’s own Water Resource Department claims that 30,000 dams in China are in “critical condition.” China keeps building newer and larger dams, while maintenance of the country’s older ones get neglected. Additionally, the rampant corruption of local governments enables huge sums allocated for dam maintenance to end up in the pockets of officials. Unchecked growth, without consideration for scale or infrastructural soundness, leaves the citizens of China unprotected in the event of unforeseeable circumstances. Let’s hope they plug this dam. But going forward, the Chinese government can’t hope to spot-fill cracks as a way of warding off catastrophe.

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Send the Torch Back to China

Actress Joan Chen, writing in today’s Washington Post, traces the arc of her native land. “Since the Cultural Revolution ended in the late 1970s,” she writes, “I have witnessed unimaginable progress in China.”

For her, human rights groups in Washington are “anti-China.” But it’s time to move beyond criticism, implies Chen, who became an American citizen in 1989. “Times are changing,” she argues. “We need to be open-minded and farsighted. We need to make more friends than enemies.”

Chen is evidently concerned about the Olympic torch protests in the streets of San Francisco. The demonstrations, she fears, will antagonize the Chinese people and anger their government just as their country is joining, in the words of Steve Clemons, “the blue chip end of the international order.” As the New York Times noted in an editorial this morning, “Given the country’s mighty economic power, nobody really wants to antagonize Beijing.”

That’s especially true when people like Chen and Clemons believe that China will continue its current course. Bill Gates assumed it will when he spoke on Friday in Miami at a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank. “The fact that China is getting rich is overall a very good thing,” he said. “If you care about the human condition, really then a richer China is better.”

All of us want a better China. Yet the way to a better China is not to see the country the way we wish it to be—as Chen, Clemons, and Gates want us to do—but as it actually is. When we fail to speak out about the reality of the modern Chinese state, autocrats in Beijing feel emboldened. The real story behind the protests accompanying the Olympic torch relay is not how noisy or unruly the demonstrations were—it is that China’s leaders actually thought that ordinary people in the West would gather in their own streets to cheer the display of the Olympic torch, which Beijing has made a symbol of Chinese authoritarianism. Beijing’s rulers thought that way because Western presidents and prime ministers have almost always played along with China’s notions of its own grandeur.

Members of the International Olympic Committee will meet on Friday to consider ending the international leg of the torch relay. That is an excellent idea. The Chinese government might be embarrassed by a premature return to China of the Olympic flame, but it is time that we reject further abhorrent celebrations of their repression in our free lands.

Actress Joan Chen, writing in today’s Washington Post, traces the arc of her native land. “Since the Cultural Revolution ended in the late 1970s,” she writes, “I have witnessed unimaginable progress in China.”

For her, human rights groups in Washington are “anti-China.” But it’s time to move beyond criticism, implies Chen, who became an American citizen in 1989. “Times are changing,” she argues. “We need to be open-minded and farsighted. We need to make more friends than enemies.”

Chen is evidently concerned about the Olympic torch protests in the streets of San Francisco. The demonstrations, she fears, will antagonize the Chinese people and anger their government just as their country is joining, in the words of Steve Clemons, “the blue chip end of the international order.” As the New York Times noted in an editorial this morning, “Given the country’s mighty economic power, nobody really wants to antagonize Beijing.”

That’s especially true when people like Chen and Clemons believe that China will continue its current course. Bill Gates assumed it will when he spoke on Friday in Miami at a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank. “The fact that China is getting rich is overall a very good thing,” he said. “If you care about the human condition, really then a richer China is better.”

All of us want a better China. Yet the way to a better China is not to see the country the way we wish it to be—as Chen, Clemons, and Gates want us to do—but as it actually is. When we fail to speak out about the reality of the modern Chinese state, autocrats in Beijing feel emboldened. The real story behind the protests accompanying the Olympic torch relay is not how noisy or unruly the demonstrations were—it is that China’s leaders actually thought that ordinary people in the West would gather in their own streets to cheer the display of the Olympic torch, which Beijing has made a symbol of Chinese authoritarianism. Beijing’s rulers thought that way because Western presidents and prime ministers have almost always played along with China’s notions of its own grandeur.

Members of the International Olympic Committee will meet on Friday to consider ending the international leg of the torch relay. That is an excellent idea. The Chinese government might be embarrassed by a premature return to China of the Olympic flame, but it is time that we reject further abhorrent celebrations of their repression in our free lands.

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Politics Of The Olympics

In the substantive debate, aptly argued by Gordon Chang and David Hazony, over whether the U.S. should participate in the Olympics, I find myself searching for a clear middle ground. To my shock, Hillary Clinton steps forward to offer this:

The violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for Presidential leadership. These events underscore why I believe the Bush administration has been wrong to downplay human rights in its policy towards China. At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government. I encourage the Chinese to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to live up to universal human aspirations of respect for human rights and unity, ideals that the Olympic games have come to represent. Americans will stand strong in support of freedom of religious and political expression and human rights. Americans will also stand strong and root for the success of American athletes who have worked hard and earned the right to compete in the Olympic Games of 2008.

This strikes me, aside from the argument’s merits, as just plain smart politics. It shifts the focus off Penn-gate. It sounds a note simultaneously likely to appeal to those on the Right (who like standing up to dictators) and Left (who want more attention to human rights). She was first of the candidates to speak up on this issue and now looks bolder than her opponents. If this is a sign of the post-Penn Hillary, things may be looking up.

In the substantive debate, aptly argued by Gordon Chang and David Hazony, over whether the U.S. should participate in the Olympics, I find myself searching for a clear middle ground. To my shock, Hillary Clinton steps forward to offer this:

The violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for Presidential leadership. These events underscore why I believe the Bush administration has been wrong to downplay human rights in its policy towards China. At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government. I encourage the Chinese to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to live up to universal human aspirations of respect for human rights and unity, ideals that the Olympic games have come to represent. Americans will stand strong in support of freedom of religious and political expression and human rights. Americans will also stand strong and root for the success of American athletes who have worked hard and earned the right to compete in the Olympic Games of 2008.

This strikes me, aside from the argument’s merits, as just plain smart politics. It shifts the focus off Penn-gate. It sounds a note simultaneously likely to appeal to those on the Right (who like standing up to dictators) and Left (who want more attention to human rights). She was first of the candidates to speak up on this issue and now looks bolder than her opponents. If this is a sign of the post-Penn Hillary, things may be looking up.

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“Close the Door and Beat the Dog”

The apposite Chinese saying with respect to the unrest in Tibet is bimen dagou: “close the door and beat the dog.” And with news coverage halted over a vast area of Western China, and endless columns of military vehicles heading in, who can doubt that the dog will be well and thoroughly beaten?

Certainly no one in the official west. The officially-expressed lack of condemnation of the latest installment in China’s decades-long destruction of Tibet is proof that the smart money figures the fix is in. Beijing will crush things without any outsiders having a chance to watch; no one will dare ask tough questions or criticize; things will then get back to “normal,” where China stories are all about trade and the Olympics.

But suppose that quick resolution doesn’t occur? Suppose the dog proves tougher than expected? Suppose stomach-turning video of the beating somehow reaches the outside world? Suppose the problem goes unfixed for days or weeks more, or spreads? Suppose the Chinese leadership itself begins to disagree about what to do? What then? A real crisis may arise, a crisis for which no one is prepared.

That possibility was confirmed on Thursday 20 March, as word came from official Chinese news services that Tibet was not yet under control and that unrest was spreading. Canadian journalists managed to get striking footage of new demonstration through the formidable Chinese news firewall.

Spring has a strange resonance in Chinese history: many trains of events culminating in major shifts have begun in this season. In 1989, it was the death, on April 15, of the former prime minister Hu Yaobang and public dissatisfaction at the Party’s failure to honor him that started the movement victimized in the Tiananmen bloodbath less than three months later. (The date gave the movement its name). June 4 1989  took its place with May 4 1919 (the nationalist demonstrations against the Treaty of Versailles) and May 30 1925 (major pro-labor, anti-Empire protest) among the milestones of regime-shaking popular unrest in China.

Something similar could happen this year. Unless the Chinese government succeeds in crushing the Tibetans cleanly and without publicity, we are likely to see a multiplication of grievances being aired–by ordinary Chinese as well as by subject peoples like the Tibetans and the Muslims of East Turkestan. Workers are already out on strike in Guangdong in the southeast. Plenty of anger is out there: over corruption, injustice, poverty, pollution, dictatorship–more than enough for a conflagration.

Washington is not even considering such a possibility. Instead Secretary Rice is urging the Chinese to “show restraint“, which I take to mean restraint in the numbers killed and brutality employed as order is restored. But suppose order is not restored, and things get worse? Now is not too early to start thinking about whom we support then–and what values we should, as a democracy, espouse.

The apposite Chinese saying with respect to the unrest in Tibet is bimen dagou: “close the door and beat the dog.” And with news coverage halted over a vast area of Western China, and endless columns of military vehicles heading in, who can doubt that the dog will be well and thoroughly beaten?

Certainly no one in the official west. The officially-expressed lack of condemnation of the latest installment in China’s decades-long destruction of Tibet is proof that the smart money figures the fix is in. Beijing will crush things without any outsiders having a chance to watch; no one will dare ask tough questions or criticize; things will then get back to “normal,” where China stories are all about trade and the Olympics.

But suppose that quick resolution doesn’t occur? Suppose the dog proves tougher than expected? Suppose stomach-turning video of the beating somehow reaches the outside world? Suppose the problem goes unfixed for days or weeks more, or spreads? Suppose the Chinese leadership itself begins to disagree about what to do? What then? A real crisis may arise, a crisis for which no one is prepared.

That possibility was confirmed on Thursday 20 March, as word came from official Chinese news services that Tibet was not yet under control and that unrest was spreading. Canadian journalists managed to get striking footage of new demonstration through the formidable Chinese news firewall.

Spring has a strange resonance in Chinese history: many trains of events culminating in major shifts have begun in this season. In 1989, it was the death, on April 15, of the former prime minister Hu Yaobang and public dissatisfaction at the Party’s failure to honor him that started the movement victimized in the Tiananmen bloodbath less than three months later. (The date gave the movement its name). June 4 1989  took its place with May 4 1919 (the nationalist demonstrations against the Treaty of Versailles) and May 30 1925 (major pro-labor, anti-Empire protest) among the milestones of regime-shaking popular unrest in China.

Something similar could happen this year. Unless the Chinese government succeeds in crushing the Tibetans cleanly and without publicity, we are likely to see a multiplication of grievances being aired–by ordinary Chinese as well as by subject peoples like the Tibetans and the Muslims of East Turkestan. Workers are already out on strike in Guangdong in the southeast. Plenty of anger is out there: over corruption, injustice, poverty, pollution, dictatorship–more than enough for a conflagration.

Washington is not even considering such a possibility. Instead Secretary Rice is urging the Chinese to “show restraint“, which I take to mean restraint in the numbers killed and brutality employed as order is restored. But suppose order is not restored, and things get worse? Now is not too early to start thinking about whom we support then–and what values we should, as a democracy, espouse.

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Tibet Aflame

Is Tibet burning? It is, literally and figuratively, especially in Lhasa, the capital of China’s so-called Tibet Autonomous Region. There, hundreds of monks and others fought with police today and have, according to the BBC, succeeded in taking control of the center of the city. Deaths have been reported. The Chinese government has effectively imposed martial law. Nonetheless, Tibetans continue to attack any symbol of the Chinese presence in what they consider their homeland. There are reports of disturbances in other Tibetan parts of China, such as Gansu province.

The Lhasa demonstrations began on Monday to mark the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. The disturbances are the biggest in the Tibetan capital since the pro-independence protests of 1989.

The American response has been uninspiring. “We believe Beijing needs to respect Tibetan culture,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto this morning at a press gaggle aboard Air Force One. “They need to respect multi-ethnicity in their society.” What the Chinese really need to do is immediately end their program of forced assimilation and political repression, what many have called a campaign of “cultural genocide.” Eventually, they need to leave traditional Tibetan lands. It is a tragedy that the Chinese misrule themselves; it is a crime they insist on ruining Tibet.

Predictably, Western governments have been calling on Beijing to have a “dialogue” with the Dalai Lama. Chinese leaders have not done that, despite His Holiness making significant concessions to pave the way for conversations. After years of Beijing’s intransigence on Tibet, the White House should have known that its words would have no effect on Chinese leaders.

Western nations cannot, as a practical matter, stop the Chinese from killing Tibetans in their capital. Yet Americans and others can show revulsion for Beijing’s goals and abhorrence of its tactics by downgrading their contacts with the modern Chinese state—preferably starting this afternoon. The White House should, among other things, cancel the President’s ill-advised trip to the Beijing Olympics this August. Our State Department should reverse Tuesday’s inexplicable decision to drop China from the list of the world’s ten worst human rights abusers. And if President Bush really means what he says about freedom and self-rule, it’s time for him to realize that this is where the rest of his legacy can be made or lost.

Is Tibet burning? It is, literally and figuratively, especially in Lhasa, the capital of China’s so-called Tibet Autonomous Region. There, hundreds of monks and others fought with police today and have, according to the BBC, succeeded in taking control of the center of the city. Deaths have been reported. The Chinese government has effectively imposed martial law. Nonetheless, Tibetans continue to attack any symbol of the Chinese presence in what they consider their homeland. There are reports of disturbances in other Tibetan parts of China, such as Gansu province.

The Lhasa demonstrations began on Monday to mark the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. The disturbances are the biggest in the Tibetan capital since the pro-independence protests of 1989.

The American response has been uninspiring. “We believe Beijing needs to respect Tibetan culture,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto this morning at a press gaggle aboard Air Force One. “They need to respect multi-ethnicity in their society.” What the Chinese really need to do is immediately end their program of forced assimilation and political repression, what many have called a campaign of “cultural genocide.” Eventually, they need to leave traditional Tibetan lands. It is a tragedy that the Chinese misrule themselves; it is a crime they insist on ruining Tibet.

Predictably, Western governments have been calling on Beijing to have a “dialogue” with the Dalai Lama. Chinese leaders have not done that, despite His Holiness making significant concessions to pave the way for conversations. After years of Beijing’s intransigence on Tibet, the White House should have known that its words would have no effect on Chinese leaders.

Western nations cannot, as a practical matter, stop the Chinese from killing Tibetans in their capital. Yet Americans and others can show revulsion for Beijing’s goals and abhorrence of its tactics by downgrading their contacts with the modern Chinese state—preferably starting this afternoon. The White House should, among other things, cancel the President’s ill-advised trip to the Beijing Olympics this August. Our State Department should reverse Tuesday’s inexplicable decision to drop China from the list of the world’s ten worst human rights abusers. And if President Bush really means what he says about freedom and self-rule, it’s time for him to realize that this is where the rest of his legacy can be made or lost.

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Yet Another Dialogue with China

This week, China agreed to resume its human rights dialogue with the United States.   Beijing broke off the discussions in 2004 after Washington sponsored a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution attacking the Chinese government’s record.  “We are willing to have exchanges and interactions with the U.S. and other countries on human rights on a basis of mutual respect, equality and non-interference in each others’ internal affairs,” said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, after meeting with Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday in the Chinese capital.

China has, off and on, maintained human rights “dialogues” with about a dozen nations.  Beijing always acts as if its participation in these discussions is a favor to the international community, but they actually benefit Chinese autocrats.  The dialogues permit them to maintain the appearance of progress without having to make concessions of any lasting significance.

China, under President Hu Jintao, is suffering under a crackdown that has now lasted a half decade.  The political system in 2008 is more repressive than it was in 1998.  And there is even less room today for political discussion than in 1988.  The Communist Party, incredibly, is moving backward.

This regression coincides with China’s drive to host the Olympics.  In 2001, at China’s final presentation before the International Olympic Committee’s vote, Liu Qi, the head of the country’s bid committee, said “I want to say that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will have the following special features: They will help promote our economic and social progress and will also benefit the further development of our human rights cause.”  It has not worked out that way, however.  As Robin Munro, a veteran human rights campaigner, noted this week, the Chinese government has made a “mockery of promises made.”  Worse, the intensifying crackdown could “become the new normal” in China after the Games are over.  

“China is at a special, historic stage of its development,” said Wang Baodong, a Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, responding this week to criticisms of his country’s human rights record.  “We do not deny that there are a lot of problems.”  Wang is correct that this is an especially crucial time for China.  While Beijing’s leaders are pushing the country back, the Chinese people are surging forward.  There is more societal change in China than in any other nation at this moment.

The human rights dialogues, if they have any positive effect at all, show the Chinese people that their government fails to meet acceptable standards of conduct and therefore brings shame on their nation.  As such, the discussions promise the same benefit as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.  Yet the dialogues with China won’t have the same impact until Western presidents and prime ministers are willing to be as forthright about China’s communists as they were about the Soviet ones.

This week, China agreed to resume its human rights dialogue with the United States.   Beijing broke off the discussions in 2004 after Washington sponsored a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution attacking the Chinese government’s record.  “We are willing to have exchanges and interactions with the U.S. and other countries on human rights on a basis of mutual respect, equality and non-interference in each others’ internal affairs,” said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, after meeting with Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday in the Chinese capital.

China has, off and on, maintained human rights “dialogues” with about a dozen nations.  Beijing always acts as if its participation in these discussions is a favor to the international community, but they actually benefit Chinese autocrats.  The dialogues permit them to maintain the appearance of progress without having to make concessions of any lasting significance.

China, under President Hu Jintao, is suffering under a crackdown that has now lasted a half decade.  The political system in 2008 is more repressive than it was in 1998.  And there is even less room today for political discussion than in 1988.  The Communist Party, incredibly, is moving backward.

This regression coincides with China’s drive to host the Olympics.  In 2001, at China’s final presentation before the International Olympic Committee’s vote, Liu Qi, the head of the country’s bid committee, said “I want to say that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will have the following special features: They will help promote our economic and social progress and will also benefit the further development of our human rights cause.”  It has not worked out that way, however.  As Robin Munro, a veteran human rights campaigner, noted this week, the Chinese government has made a “mockery of promises made.”  Worse, the intensifying crackdown could “become the new normal” in China after the Games are over.  

“China is at a special, historic stage of its development,” said Wang Baodong, a Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, responding this week to criticisms of his country’s human rights record.  “We do not deny that there are a lot of problems.”  Wang is correct that this is an especially crucial time for China.  While Beijing’s leaders are pushing the country back, the Chinese people are surging forward.  There is more societal change in China than in any other nation at this moment.

The human rights dialogues, if they have any positive effect at all, show the Chinese people that their government fails to meet acceptable standards of conduct and therefore brings shame on their nation.  As such, the discussions promise the same benefit as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.  Yet the dialogues with China won’t have the same impact until Western presidents and prime ministers are willing to be as forthright about China’s communists as they were about the Soviet ones.

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Dealing Dangerous Drugs

Last Tuesday, the United States and China signed an accord on pharmaceuticals and medical devices, one of fourteen agreements inked in Beijing during the eighteenth meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade. The pact will require Chinese companies that export certain products to America to register with their nation’s regulators. The general concept is that Washington can ensure the safety of items before they ever reach our shores.

Who can argue with this cooperative approach? For starters, I will. As an initial matter, we cannot trust the lives of Americans to Chinese regulators, who have shown a blatant disregard for the well-being of foreigners, not to mention their own people. Unfortunately, regulation in China does not work well. On July 10, the Chinese government hurriedly executed Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, for taking bribes to approve defective drugs that resulted in at least ten deaths in 2006. This drastic penalty followed the July 6 imposition of a death sentence on Cao Wenzhuang, a former senior official in the agency, for the same offense. Zheng and Cao were only the unfortunate ones because many, if not most, SFDA approvals are tainted by some form of bribery.

The Communist Party may one day solve the problem of corruption, but we should not risk the life of anyone on the hope that it can accomplish something that it has not been able to do after more than five decades of rule. Beijing sometimes resorts to high-profile executions when it wants to make a point, but exacting the ultimate penalty has rarely, if ever, solved underlying conditions.

The United States devoted seven months of discussions to come up with Tuesday’s pact, which covers just a small number of items. The time and effort would have been better spent expanding the testing of imports as they reach our ports and airports. Beefing up inspections at our borders is something that we are going to have to do anyway as drug companies expand their activities in China. According to the November 26 issue of Time, pharmaceutical manufacturers are shifting their research and development and testing to China, where costs are lower. “The price tag for drug trials in China can be one-tenth that in the U.S. or Europe,” the magazine reports, based on the comments of Chen Li, medical director of Shanghai-based KendleWits, which facilitates testing for major pharmaceuticals.

Pharmaceuticals, of course, pose a special problem. An anxious parent can avoid buying a Chinese-made Thomas the Tank Engine toy if he does not want his child to suck on lead paint, but a sick person who needs a certain drug usually has no such freedom of action. The risk to Americans from imported products is about to get worse, not better, because of the agreement we just signed with Beijing.

Last Tuesday, the United States and China signed an accord on pharmaceuticals and medical devices, one of fourteen agreements inked in Beijing during the eighteenth meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade. The pact will require Chinese companies that export certain products to America to register with their nation’s regulators. The general concept is that Washington can ensure the safety of items before they ever reach our shores.

Who can argue with this cooperative approach? For starters, I will. As an initial matter, we cannot trust the lives of Americans to Chinese regulators, who have shown a blatant disregard for the well-being of foreigners, not to mention their own people. Unfortunately, regulation in China does not work well. On July 10, the Chinese government hurriedly executed Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, for taking bribes to approve defective drugs that resulted in at least ten deaths in 2006. This drastic penalty followed the July 6 imposition of a death sentence on Cao Wenzhuang, a former senior official in the agency, for the same offense. Zheng and Cao were only the unfortunate ones because many, if not most, SFDA approvals are tainted by some form of bribery.

The Communist Party may one day solve the problem of corruption, but we should not risk the life of anyone on the hope that it can accomplish something that it has not been able to do after more than five decades of rule. Beijing sometimes resorts to high-profile executions when it wants to make a point, but exacting the ultimate penalty has rarely, if ever, solved underlying conditions.

The United States devoted seven months of discussions to come up with Tuesday’s pact, which covers just a small number of items. The time and effort would have been better spent expanding the testing of imports as they reach our ports and airports. Beefing up inspections at our borders is something that we are going to have to do anyway as drug companies expand their activities in China. According to the November 26 issue of Time, pharmaceutical manufacturers are shifting their research and development and testing to China, where costs are lower. “The price tag for drug trials in China can be one-tenth that in the U.S. or Europe,” the magazine reports, based on the comments of Chen Li, medical director of Shanghai-based KendleWits, which facilitates testing for major pharmaceuticals.

Pharmaceuticals, of course, pose a special problem. An anxious parent can avoid buying a Chinese-made Thomas the Tank Engine toy if he does not want his child to suck on lead paint, but a sick person who needs a certain drug usually has no such freedom of action. The risk to Americans from imported products is about to get worse, not better, because of the agreement we just signed with Beijing.

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More on the Hong Kong Elections

As Arthur Waldron has written, the election of Anson Chan to LegCo, Hong Kong’s legislature, was an important victory for democracy in the city, a special administrative region of China. Chan took her seat yesterday after beating Regina Ip, the candidate favored by the Chinese government, in Sunday’s landslide win. The race was especially symbolic because both Chan and Ip sought to fill a vacancy created by the death of Ma Lik. Ma was the head of the misnamed Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the territory’s main pro-Beijing party.

Not surprisingly, Beijing’s friends attacked Chan moments after she was sworn in. Tsang Tak-sing, Hong Kong’s secretary for home affairs, launched a personal attack on the new lawmaker, calling her a “sudden democrat” who cares little for the livelihood of the people of the city. Tsang, by the way, is the brother of a past chairman of the Democratic Alliance.

It’s clear that Mainland leaders not only want the LegCo seat back, they need to eliminate Chan from politics. Her electoral win is not only a victory for democracy in Hong Kong, it is threatening to the rulers of the modern Chinese state. And unfortunately for Beijing, her presence in the legislature undermines a core assumption of the Communist Party of China. Ever since the early 1990’s, Chinese officials have been betting that continual economic growth will keep them in power. Yet Hong Kong’s strong economy this decade did not translate into sufficient support at the polls for the pro-Beijing Ip.

Moreover, Chan’s victory also undercuts an emerging trend in Western thinking. Due to the apparent success of present-day Communism in China, political scientists are beginning to believe that authoritarian is a sustainable form of governance. Columbia University’s Andrew Nathan, for instance, is no friend of Communism, but he now talks of “resilient authoritarianism.” Dozens of analysts have picked up on this theme and doubt the link between economic progress and democratization. Francis Fukuyama’s seminal End of History is now ridiculed.

Yet Anson Chan’s victory reminds political scientists that real people do not think prosperity is a substitute for representative governance. The academics and analysts should remember their Tocqueville. In The Old Regime and the French Revolution he wrote that sustained prosperity does not tranquilize a citizenry. On the contrary, it promotes “a spirit of unrest.”

So we are all in debt to Chan, dubbed “Hong Kong’s conscience,” for reminding us that repressive governments are never as strong as they appear. Yesterday was a good moment for the people of Hong Kong—and for the rest of us as well.

As Arthur Waldron has written, the election of Anson Chan to LegCo, Hong Kong’s legislature, was an important victory for democracy in the city, a special administrative region of China. Chan took her seat yesterday after beating Regina Ip, the candidate favored by the Chinese government, in Sunday’s landslide win. The race was especially symbolic because both Chan and Ip sought to fill a vacancy created by the death of Ma Lik. Ma was the head of the misnamed Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the territory’s main pro-Beijing party.

Not surprisingly, Beijing’s friends attacked Chan moments after she was sworn in. Tsang Tak-sing, Hong Kong’s secretary for home affairs, launched a personal attack on the new lawmaker, calling her a “sudden democrat” who cares little for the livelihood of the people of the city. Tsang, by the way, is the brother of a past chairman of the Democratic Alliance.

It’s clear that Mainland leaders not only want the LegCo seat back, they need to eliminate Chan from politics. Her electoral win is not only a victory for democracy in Hong Kong, it is threatening to the rulers of the modern Chinese state. And unfortunately for Beijing, her presence in the legislature undermines a core assumption of the Communist Party of China. Ever since the early 1990’s, Chinese officials have been betting that continual economic growth will keep them in power. Yet Hong Kong’s strong economy this decade did not translate into sufficient support at the polls for the pro-Beijing Ip.

Moreover, Chan’s victory also undercuts an emerging trend in Western thinking. Due to the apparent success of present-day Communism in China, political scientists are beginning to believe that authoritarian is a sustainable form of governance. Columbia University’s Andrew Nathan, for instance, is no friend of Communism, but he now talks of “resilient authoritarianism.” Dozens of analysts have picked up on this theme and doubt the link between economic progress and democratization. Francis Fukuyama’s seminal End of History is now ridiculed.

Yet Anson Chan’s victory reminds political scientists that real people do not think prosperity is a substitute for representative governance. The academics and analysts should remember their Tocqueville. In The Old Regime and the French Revolution he wrote that sustained prosperity does not tranquilize a citizenry. On the contrary, it promotes “a spirit of unrest.”

So we are all in debt to Chan, dubbed “Hong Kong’s conscience,” for reminding us that repressive governments are never as strong as they appear. Yesterday was a good moment for the people of Hong Kong—and for the rest of us as well.

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Bush Backs Off on Taiwan

Though there’s been little notice of it in the press, the Bush administration appears to have made an enormous change in its Taiwan policy of the last three decades, abandoning the careful hedging that has long characterized it, and instead lining up with Beijing to force the island nation to agree to the mainland’s terms. The reason appears to be that harsh Chinese military threats intimidated Washington.

The story began when Taiwan’s president Chen Shuibian announced a referendum, to be held March 20, asking whether Taiwan should apply to the United Nations under the name Taiwan. Such a referendum may seem the right of any democratic people. But since the UN accepts only “sovereign states,” were Taiwan to enter under that name, its status as a country and not a territory would be confirmed.

This possibility set alarm bells ringing in Beijing, which successfully enlisted Washington to pressure Taiwan not to hold the vote, but with no success. Both major parties in the island support it.

Instead of wisely saying “no comment,” we adopted China’s definitions–again, one suspects, out of fear. Thus a recent U.S. Defense Department document reportedly “labeled the government’s proposed referendum on joining the UN under the name ‘Taiwan’ as an ‘independence referendum.'”

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Though there’s been little notice of it in the press, the Bush administration appears to have made an enormous change in its Taiwan policy of the last three decades, abandoning the careful hedging that has long characterized it, and instead lining up with Beijing to force the island nation to agree to the mainland’s terms. The reason appears to be that harsh Chinese military threats intimidated Washington.

The story began when Taiwan’s president Chen Shuibian announced a referendum, to be held March 20, asking whether Taiwan should apply to the United Nations under the name Taiwan. Such a referendum may seem the right of any democratic people. But since the UN accepts only “sovereign states,” were Taiwan to enter under that name, its status as a country and not a territory would be confirmed.

This possibility set alarm bells ringing in Beijing, which successfully enlisted Washington to pressure Taiwan not to hold the vote, but with no success. Both major parties in the island support it.

Instead of wisely saying “no comment,” we adopted China’s definitions–again, one suspects, out of fear. Thus a recent U.S. Defense Department document reportedly “labeled the government’s proposed referendum on joining the UN under the name ‘Taiwan’ as an ‘independence referendum.'”

China has already enacted legislation that provides for automatic war in case of “Taiwan secession.”

Article 8 of China’s Anti-Secession Law, promulgated on March 14, 2005 provides that:

In the event that the “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan’s secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan’s secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful re-unification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. (Italics mine.)

Taiwan is already a nation state in every respect but certain Chinese claims. The U.S., moreover, has never recognized any Chinese sovereignty over the island. But when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met Chinese General Cao Gangchuan yesterday, he got a dose of saber-rattling. The general stated menacingly that “the Chinese government will act in accordance with its anti-secession law to take any necessary actions for unification of the country.” That is to say: China will go to war.

President Bush appeared frightened as well. According to the American Forces Press Service, “President [George W.] Bush has said the United States is against independence for the island nation.” Make no mistake: these are fundamental changes in the American position. Worse, they confirm to Beijing that she can intimidate the United States. Washington undoubtedly sees this change as wise and expedient, given China’s growing power. What Washington misses are the longer term implications. To name but one, the security of Japan, our most important ally in the region, depends upon Taiwan’s continued independence. A strong stance, and a flat “no” to Chinese demands would, I suspect, have been the better road to peace.

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Hotline to Nobody

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now in Seoul, after completing two days of meetings in Beijing during the first stop of a three-nation tour (he also will be visiting Japan before heading home). In China, Gates traded compliments with Chinese leaders, issued correct statements on the need for dialogue, and toured the Forbidden City, the imperial palace at the north end of Tiananmen Square. It was Gates’s first trip to the country since succeeding Donald Rumsfeld as Pentagon chief, and senior U.S. officials marked the event by reporting modest progress on a range of secondary issues. The Chinese, for example, promised to provide more cooperation on accounting for American prisoners taken during the Korean War.

Both sides also announced the planned establishment of a military hotline between Washington and Beijing “at an early date.” The initiative was announced during Hu Jintao’s summit in Washington last April and has been the subject of periodic re-announcements ever since, such as one this June when Gates was in Singapore. Despite the apparent signs of progress, the Chinese have been dragging their feet over technical issues. The United States has sought to establish such a hotline for more than five years. Yet the critical issue now is not how such a link will be established. It is whether the Chinese wish to engage the United States in substantive discussions at all—or whether they wish merely to sip tea and waste our time.

There is reason to believe that when we call, no one will answer the phone. (There was, remember, nobody taking Washington’s calls during the Hainan reconnaissance plane incident in April 2001.) The issue is as much about the ability of the Chinese government to make decisions in the middle of crisis as it is about the state of relations between the two countries.

But there’s a more fundamental reason why the phone may not be of much use during the next confrontation. At the same time that Gates was talking with Chinese officials this week, Premier Wen Jiabao was in Moscow talking with President Vladimir Putin about their countries’ “friendship for generations.” While the American defense secretary was arguing about the technicalities of telecommunications lines, Moscow and Beijing were putting together the alliance that will challenge the international community for a lifetime. It seems they have been communicating just fine without a hotline.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now in Seoul, after completing two days of meetings in Beijing during the first stop of a three-nation tour (he also will be visiting Japan before heading home). In China, Gates traded compliments with Chinese leaders, issued correct statements on the need for dialogue, and toured the Forbidden City, the imperial palace at the north end of Tiananmen Square. It was Gates’s first trip to the country since succeeding Donald Rumsfeld as Pentagon chief, and senior U.S. officials marked the event by reporting modest progress on a range of secondary issues. The Chinese, for example, promised to provide more cooperation on accounting for American prisoners taken during the Korean War.

Both sides also announced the planned establishment of a military hotline between Washington and Beijing “at an early date.” The initiative was announced during Hu Jintao’s summit in Washington last April and has been the subject of periodic re-announcements ever since, such as one this June when Gates was in Singapore. Despite the apparent signs of progress, the Chinese have been dragging their feet over technical issues. The United States has sought to establish such a hotline for more than five years. Yet the critical issue now is not how such a link will be established. It is whether the Chinese wish to engage the United States in substantive discussions at all—or whether they wish merely to sip tea and waste our time.

There is reason to believe that when we call, no one will answer the phone. (There was, remember, nobody taking Washington’s calls during the Hainan reconnaissance plane incident in April 2001.) The issue is as much about the ability of the Chinese government to make decisions in the middle of crisis as it is about the state of relations between the two countries.

But there’s a more fundamental reason why the phone may not be of much use during the next confrontation. At the same time that Gates was talking with Chinese officials this week, Premier Wen Jiabao was in Moscow talking with President Vladimir Putin about their countries’ “friendship for generations.” While the American defense secretary was arguing about the technicalities of telecommunications lines, Moscow and Beijing were putting together the alliance that will challenge the international community for a lifetime. It seems they have been communicating just fine without a hotline.

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Tempest over Tibet

Today, Beijing issued a warning to Washington over the planned award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama. “The move will seriously damage China-U.S. relations,” said Liu Jianchao, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. He also noted that his country hoped that the United States would “correct its mistakes” and cancel the “relevant arrangements.” Those arrangements include President Bush’s receiving His Holiness at the White House today and House Speaker Pelosi’s presenting the award tomorrow at the Capitol. The increasingly visible Laura Bush will attend tomorrow’s ceremony. And so will her husband, who will be speaking at the event. He will be the first sitting President to appear publicly with the 1989 Nobel laureate.

The Chinese government has already shown its displeasure at American defiance of its wishes. Beijing diplomats have raised the issue a number of times at the ambassadorial level. Furthermore, earlier this month Beijing put off a visit by Wu Bangguo, the second-ranked Communist Party leader, to the United States. Beijing has also pulled out of a meeting, scheduled for tomorrow in Berlin, to talk about Iran.

On Sunday, the German government announced that China had canceled upcoming human rights talks (supposed to take place in December) with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German foreign ministry refused to give any reason for the change in plans, yet an explanation was unnecessary. Beijing’s diplomats have been complaining publicly for weeks that Merkel had met with the world’s most famous refugee last month. In fact, they had been protesting the visit before she received His Holiness, and the cancellation announced Sunday is only the latest in a series of meetings the Chinese have aborted with their German counterparts since last month.

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Today, Beijing issued a warning to Washington over the planned award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama. “The move will seriously damage China-U.S. relations,” said Liu Jianchao, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. He also noted that his country hoped that the United States would “correct its mistakes” and cancel the “relevant arrangements.” Those arrangements include President Bush’s receiving His Holiness at the White House today and House Speaker Pelosi’s presenting the award tomorrow at the Capitol. The increasingly visible Laura Bush will attend tomorrow’s ceremony. And so will her husband, who will be speaking at the event. He will be the first sitting President to appear publicly with the 1989 Nobel laureate.

The Chinese government has already shown its displeasure at American defiance of its wishes. Beijing diplomats have raised the issue a number of times at the ambassadorial level. Furthermore, earlier this month Beijing put off a visit by Wu Bangguo, the second-ranked Communist Party leader, to the United States. Beijing has also pulled out of a meeting, scheduled for tomorrow in Berlin, to talk about Iran.

On Sunday, the German government announced that China had canceled upcoming human rights talks (supposed to take place in December) with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German foreign ministry refused to give any reason for the change in plans, yet an explanation was unnecessary. Beijing’s diplomats have been complaining publicly for weeks that Merkel had met with the world’s most famous refugee last month. In fact, they had been protesting the visit before she received His Holiness, and the cancellation announced Sunday is only the latest in a series of meetings the Chinese have aborted with their German counterparts since last month.

Unfortunately for the Chinese, they’re rapidly losing their ability to intimidate Western leaders over Tibet. All of them recognize Beijing’s sovereignty over Tibetan homelands, but increasingly few of them are willing to shun the Dalai Lama. In addition to Merkel, Australia’s John Howard and Austria’s Alfred Gusenbauer met with him over the course of the last few months. Canada’s Stephen Harper will receive the famous Tibetan this month.

Chinese diplomats are ramping up their threats, but few are listening. Nobody believes that human rights dialogues with Beijing are effective, and Wu’s trip to the United States was more for China’s benefit than ours. It’s a shame that China won’t attend the Berlin meeting on Iran, but that will be rescheduled—and in any event Chinese attendance would only complicate matters.

Who cares if the Chinese authoritarians huff and puff? They need the West more than the West needs them. So let them threaten all they want. Why should we prevent the Chinese from creating a diplomatic disaster for themselves?

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Burma’s Blackout

The New York Times is reporting that the military junta in Burma has shut down the country’s Internet. After nearly a month of protests—avidly covered and documented by native Burmese on the web—the regime cracked down hard on the Buddhist monks and their supporters. Many deaths already have been recorded, and some reports suggest an extremely bloody end to Burma’s push for democratic reform.

During the run-up to this massacre, Burmese bloggers provided photographs, commentary, and even YouTube clips from inside the maelstrom. Stirring photographs of monks clad in orange, and riveting hand-held footage of soldiers firing on protesters, gave the events a harrowing immediacy for Internet-users. The Internet blackout terminated this discourse, blocking the atrocities to come from cyberspace and the outside world.

Censoring the Internet has become a major component of totalitarian control, not just in Burma, but in despotic regimes the world over. The Chinese government devotes significant resources to purging their data flow of dissident material. (At the School of Informatics at Indiana University’s homepage, you can play with a brilliant search tool that compares typical Google searches with Google.cn.)

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The New York Times is reporting that the military junta in Burma has shut down the country’s Internet. After nearly a month of protests—avidly covered and documented by native Burmese on the web—the regime cracked down hard on the Buddhist monks and their supporters. Many deaths already have been recorded, and some reports suggest an extremely bloody end to Burma’s push for democratic reform.

During the run-up to this massacre, Burmese bloggers provided photographs, commentary, and even YouTube clips from inside the maelstrom. Stirring photographs of monks clad in orange, and riveting hand-held footage of soldiers firing on protesters, gave the events a harrowing immediacy for Internet-users. The Internet blackout terminated this discourse, blocking the atrocities to come from cyberspace and the outside world.

Censoring the Internet has become a major component of totalitarian control, not just in Burma, but in despotic regimes the world over. The Chinese government devotes significant resources to purging their data flow of dissident material. (At the School of Informatics at Indiana University’s homepage, you can play with a brilliant search tool that compares typical Google searches with Google.cn.)

Some American businesses, like Google and Yahoo, have been scrutinized recently for placating Beijing by slipping things down the memory hole. A Google image search for Tiananmen Square in the United States results in the iconic photograph of a man standing before a column of tanks, while the same search in China yields smiling faces and touristy long shots of the square. In other regions of the world, as well, the Internet is a battleground emblematic of larger political struggles. Bloggers in Egypt and Iran have been targeted by their governments, while, since the liberation of Iraq, the Internet has exploded in that country as a viable and democratic source of news.

The freedom and availability of the Internet has become a leading index of political freedom. It would have been much more difficult for the thugs in Burma to hide their slaughter if they hadn’t been able to purge unflattering coverage from the world’s desktops. The protection and spread of Internet freedom—and the censure or punishment of American businesses that cooperate in Internet censorship—should feature seriously in any presidential candidate’s foreign policy platform. It is a simple, cost-effective, and bloodless way to let democracy seep into the oppressed regions of the world.

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No Way, Huawei

On Friday, 3Com announced that it had agreed to be acquired. Bain Capital, the Boston-based private-equity firm, will take about 80 percent of the struggling computer networking pioneer. China’s Huawei Technologies is slated to purchase the remaining portion.

The deal faces a national security review in Washington by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. CIFUS should turn down the proposed transaction on general principles. Huawei, which Newsweek once described as “a little too obsessed with acquiring advanced technology,” should not be allowed to make any sizable acquisition of sensitive American assets.

3Com’s technology, if shared with Huawei, would help China eavesdrop on U.S. domestic conversations. Moreover, the American company’s encryption technology would make China’s networks less vulnerable to foreign surveillance. Just last year 3Com ended its joint venture with Huawei. Now the Chinese company wants the 3Com technology that it does not already possess.

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On Friday, 3Com announced that it had agreed to be acquired. Bain Capital, the Boston-based private-equity firm, will take about 80 percent of the struggling computer networking pioneer. China’s Huawei Technologies is slated to purchase the remaining portion.

The deal faces a national security review in Washington by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. CIFUS should turn down the proposed transaction on general principles. Huawei, which Newsweek once described as “a little too obsessed with acquiring advanced technology,” should not be allowed to make any sizable acquisition of sensitive American assets.

3Com’s technology, if shared with Huawei, would help China eavesdrop on U.S. domestic conversations. Moreover, the American company’s encryption technology would make China’s networks less vulnerable to foreign surveillance. Just last year 3Com ended its joint venture with Huawei. Now the Chinese company wants the 3Com technology that it does not already possess.

What’s wrong with Huawei? The official story says that Ren Zhengfei formed the company in 1988. It’s more likely that Ren, a former Chinese military engineer, is acting as a front for the People’s Liberation Army. It’s impossible to ascertain the truth, but this we know: in less than two decades Huawei has grown from scratch to an enterprise with 62,000 employees in 41 countries and sales of over $8.7 billion. And how did it do that? Huawei has benefited from substantial help from the Chinese government, especially R&D funding, tax incentives, and export assistance. The company says it is not owned or controlled by the Chinese military, but its denials have failed to convince outsiders. Huawei is one of the least transparent businesses in China.

In 2005, Britain blocked Huawei from taking over Marconi. Until we know much more about this Chinese company, we should stop it from purchasing any portion of 3Com. We did not allow the Soviet Union to buy critical American assets. The same principle should apply now.

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“The Smartest People on Earth”

Are Mainland Chinese becoming anti-Semitic?

The question arises because one of the hottest books in China is Song Hongbing’s Currency Wars. According to Song, the owners of international capital create financial crises, start wars, degrade the environment, and control the world. These financiers are responsible for the defeat of Napoleon, the deaths of half a dozen American presidents, the rise of Hitler, and the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. All of this, Song contends, is ultimately tied back to the Rothschilds. Worrying theory, no?

“The Chinese people think that the Jews are smart and rich, so we should learn from them,” says the American-educated Song. “Even me, I think they are really smart, maybe the smartest people on earth.” That perception helps explain why there are an estimated 200,000 copies of the book, published by a commercial arm of the Chinese government, and another 400,000 pirated versions floating around the Mainland today. Worse, senior leaders in Beijing are lapping up Song’s theories.

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Are Mainland Chinese becoming anti-Semitic?

The question arises because one of the hottest books in China is Song Hongbing’s Currency Wars. According to Song, the owners of international capital create financial crises, start wars, degrade the environment, and control the world. These financiers are responsible for the defeat of Napoleon, the deaths of half a dozen American presidents, the rise of Hitler, and the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. All of this, Song contends, is ultimately tied back to the Rothschilds. Worrying theory, no?

“The Chinese people think that the Jews are smart and rich, so we should learn from them,” says the American-educated Song. “Even me, I think they are really smart, maybe the smartest people on earth.” That perception helps explain why there are an estimated 200,000 copies of the book, published by a commercial arm of the Chinese government, and another 400,000 pirated versions floating around the Mainland today. Worse, senior leaders in Beijing are lapping up Song’s theories.

China’s Communist Party has long persecuted the few Jews in the Mainland, but that was part of a broader effort to eradicate religion. Today, Christians and the Buddhist-inspired Falun Gong bear the brunt of Beijing’s wrath. Most analysts note the lack of an anti-Semitic tradition in Chinese history and a strong admiration for Jewish culture and accomplishment, as Song’s own words reveal. Shalom Salomon Wald, author of China and the Jewish People, believes that the Chinese find common cause with the Jews, as both of them were the subject of persecution. Moreover, most sons and daughters of the Yellow Emperor admire other peoples with old cultures, and many Chinese perceive that the two oldest belong to them and the descendants of Abraham.

Even with these mitigating factors taken into account, Song’s book (which manages to be zany and offensive at the same time) is a manifestation of a worrying trend. Many Chinese at this moment perceive that others are conspiring to contain their nation’s rise. Song, after all, has written a self-help manual to deal with American efforts to force a revaluation of the renminbi, the Chinese currency. Chinese nationalism has turned especially ugly in recent years, and any conspiracy theory—even ones not grounded in malice—could be used to justify the most reprehensible conduct.

“The Chinese believe the Jews are a big people. It makes no sense to tell them we’re not,” says Wald. “It also doesn’t help to tell them this is anti-Semitic.” He may be correct, but it is perfectly logical to tell the Chinese that they shouldn’t adopt crank theories of history—and they should stop blaming other peoples, including ones they may otherwise admire.

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