Commentary Magazine


Topic: Shanghai

Morning Commentary

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has hit the ground running as the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. First items on the agenda: cutting the State Department budget, forcing significant changes at the UN, and increasing pressure on “rogue states.”

Ron Paul is the only member of Congress to vote against a resolution honoring Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Paul has been an outspoken critic of the National Endowment of Democracy, which he claims helps stir up international conflict with taxpayer money. Much of Xiaobo’s fine work has been funded through grants from the NED.

George H.W. Bush has thrown his support behind New START, becoming the most prominent Republican figure yet to publicly back the controversial legislation.

James Fallows cautions not to put too much stock into those exceptional Shanghai test scores, noting that the students tested may not have been representative of the average Chinese student. “No doubt these results reflect something real,” wrote Fallows. “But as with just about everything concerning modern China, the results should also be viewed with some distance and possible skepticism.”

Former Army analyst Bradley Manning is facing half a century in prison for leaking secret military documents to WikiLeaks, but it seems he’s become something of a folk hero among left-wingers. The city council of Berkeley is considering a resolution honoring his “patriotism.” The Washington Examiner’s Mark Hemingway suggests: “Once they take care of this vital matter, perhaps they can get around to finally doing something about all the deranged panhandlers on Telegraph Avenue.”

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg may protest allegations that he’s running for president, but his speech yesterday sure sounded like it. And as NBC’s Mark Murray noted, the words also sounded vaguely familiar.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has hit the ground running as the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. First items on the agenda: cutting the State Department budget, forcing significant changes at the UN, and increasing pressure on “rogue states.”

Ron Paul is the only member of Congress to vote against a resolution honoring Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Paul has been an outspoken critic of the National Endowment of Democracy, which he claims helps stir up international conflict with taxpayer money. Much of Xiaobo’s fine work has been funded through grants from the NED.

George H.W. Bush has thrown his support behind New START, becoming the most prominent Republican figure yet to publicly back the controversial legislation.

James Fallows cautions not to put too much stock into those exceptional Shanghai test scores, noting that the students tested may not have been representative of the average Chinese student. “No doubt these results reflect something real,” wrote Fallows. “But as with just about everything concerning modern China, the results should also be viewed with some distance and possible skepticism.”

Former Army analyst Bradley Manning is facing half a century in prison for leaking secret military documents to WikiLeaks, but it seems he’s become something of a folk hero among left-wingers. The city council of Berkeley is considering a resolution honoring his “patriotism.” The Washington Examiner’s Mark Hemingway suggests: “Once they take care of this vital matter, perhaps they can get around to finally doing something about all the deranged panhandlers on Telegraph Avenue.”

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg may protest allegations that he’s running for president, but his speech yesterday sure sounded like it. And as NBC’s Mark Murray noted, the words also sounded vaguely familiar.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Get the feeling that Michael Steele has no friends these days? “Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins resigned from his post Tuesday morning with a stinging indictment of Chairman Michael Steele’s two-year tenure at the committee. In a four-page letter to Steele and the RNC’s executive committee obtained by POLITICO, Collins lays out inside details, previously only whispered, about the disorganization that plagues the party. He asserts that the RNC’s financial shortcomings limited GOP gains this year and reveals that the committee is deeply in debt entering the 2012 presidential election cycle.”

Get ready for a really, really tough punishment for Charles Rangel. “A House panel on Tuesday found Representative Charles B. Rangel guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations, ruling that his failure to pay taxes, improper solicitation of fund-raising donations and failure to accurately report his personal income had brought dishonor on the House. … While the committee has the power to recommend expulsion, that is highly unlikely. Ethics experts and committee members have said that Mr. Rangel, 80, is more likely to face a letter of reprimand or a formal censure.” OK, maybe just a hand slap.

Get government to downsize? Puleeze. David Malpass explains what’s so bad about the Fed’s $600B bond-purchase scheme. “By buying longer term assets, whose value will decline when interest rates rise, the Fed is engineering a fundamental change in the nature of U.S. monetary policy. This has undercut global confidence in the Fed, as reflected in high gold prices, dollar weakness, and large-scale investments abroad by U.S. companies and wealthy individuals. … Both fiscal stimulus and Fed asset purchases raise the same giant red flag. As the government expands its role in the economy, business confidence and hiring decline in the knowledge that there’s no free lunch.”

The Obama team simply doesn’t get it: once again, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates throws cold water on the use of military force for preventing Iran from going nuclear. They sure have gone out of their way to give the mullahs assurance that they can defy us without risking a military strike.

Bibi says he needs to get the U.S. bribes promises in writing. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israeli approval of a 90-day settlement freeze was contingent upon a written US pledge regarding a package of incentives that insured his country’s security and national interests, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.” Now, there’s a “rock-solid” relationship for you.

House Dems get their anger out. “Disgruntled Democrats finally had a chance to confront Speaker Nancy Pelosi face-to-face for the first time during a raucous closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday, as defeated Rep. Allen Boyd called her ‘the face of our defeat.’ ‘We need new leadership,’ Boyd, a Florida Democrat, told his colleagues, according to sources in the room. … Pelosi, her top elected lieutenants and her aides have been scrambling to defuse discontent following the election. They are actively working to prevent a delay in the leadership vote and to deny support to a slate of proposals by moderate ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats that would weaken her hand in the minority by making top appointive positions subject to caucus election.”

Investors get jittery: “Global stock markets’ steady march higher was interrupted by concerns about growth in China, debt in Europe and the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion plan to stimulate the U.S. economy. Tuesday’s world-wide selling was touched off by a 4% stock drop in Shanghai. It spread to Europe, where markets fell more than 2%, and then to the U.S., pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 1.6%, its worst point and percentage decline since August 11.”

Get the feeling that Michael Steele has no friends these days? “Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins resigned from his post Tuesday morning with a stinging indictment of Chairman Michael Steele’s two-year tenure at the committee. In a four-page letter to Steele and the RNC’s executive committee obtained by POLITICO, Collins lays out inside details, previously only whispered, about the disorganization that plagues the party. He asserts that the RNC’s financial shortcomings limited GOP gains this year and reveals that the committee is deeply in debt entering the 2012 presidential election cycle.”

Get ready for a really, really tough punishment for Charles Rangel. “A House panel on Tuesday found Representative Charles B. Rangel guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations, ruling that his failure to pay taxes, improper solicitation of fund-raising donations and failure to accurately report his personal income had brought dishonor on the House. … While the committee has the power to recommend expulsion, that is highly unlikely. Ethics experts and committee members have said that Mr. Rangel, 80, is more likely to face a letter of reprimand or a formal censure.” OK, maybe just a hand slap.

Get government to downsize? Puleeze. David Malpass explains what’s so bad about the Fed’s $600B bond-purchase scheme. “By buying longer term assets, whose value will decline when interest rates rise, the Fed is engineering a fundamental change in the nature of U.S. monetary policy. This has undercut global confidence in the Fed, as reflected in high gold prices, dollar weakness, and large-scale investments abroad by U.S. companies and wealthy individuals. … Both fiscal stimulus and Fed asset purchases raise the same giant red flag. As the government expands its role in the economy, business confidence and hiring decline in the knowledge that there’s no free lunch.”

The Obama team simply doesn’t get it: once again, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates throws cold water on the use of military force for preventing Iran from going nuclear. They sure have gone out of their way to give the mullahs assurance that they can defy us without risking a military strike.

Bibi says he needs to get the U.S. bribes promises in writing. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israeli approval of a 90-day settlement freeze was contingent upon a written US pledge regarding a package of incentives that insured his country’s security and national interests, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.” Now, there’s a “rock-solid” relationship for you.

House Dems get their anger out. “Disgruntled Democrats finally had a chance to confront Speaker Nancy Pelosi face-to-face for the first time during a raucous closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday, as defeated Rep. Allen Boyd called her ‘the face of our defeat.’ ‘We need new leadership,’ Boyd, a Florida Democrat, told his colleagues, according to sources in the room. … Pelosi, her top elected lieutenants and her aides have been scrambling to defuse discontent following the election. They are actively working to prevent a delay in the leadership vote and to deny support to a slate of proposals by moderate ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats that would weaken her hand in the minority by making top appointive positions subject to caucus election.”

Investors get jittery: “Global stock markets’ steady march higher was interrupted by concerns about growth in China, debt in Europe and the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion plan to stimulate the U.S. economy. Tuesday’s world-wide selling was touched off by a 4% stock drop in Shanghai. It spread to Europe, where markets fell more than 2%, and then to the U.S., pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 1.6%, its worst point and percentage decline since August 11.”

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Obama Accepts the Unacceptable

Obama has given up on stopping Iran’s nuclear program. It’s an open secret that there is no U.S. military option. The New York Times reports that covert operations and efforts to steal away Iranian scientists aren’t up to the task of thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions:

Ask the designers and executors of these programs what they all add up to, and the answer inevitably boils down to “not enough.” Taken together, officials say, they may slow Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon, which has already run into far greater technical slowdowns than anyone expected. If the pressure builds, Iran might be driven to the negotiating table, which it has avoided since Mr. Obama came to office offering “engagement.”

But even Mr. Obama, in his more-in-sadness-than-anger description on Wednesday of why diplomacy has so far yielded nothing, conceded “we know that the Iranian government will not change its behavior overnight” and went on to describe how instead the sanctions would create “growing costs.”

Nor can the administration bring itself to fully embrace the option of regime change. (“The administration has continued to support Iran’s opposition groups, but treading carefully for fear of appearing to meddle in internal Iranian politics.”) There is much fretting. (“Some top officials in the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies say they wonder whether the White House has truly grappled with the question of how far Iran can be permitted to go, and what kind of risks Mr. Obama is willing to take beyond sanctions.”) But there is little action to come up with a plan that is viable. You’d think pro-Israel members of Congress or Jewish groups would be alarmed. But no — ho-hum. Next up are the EU sanctions. Everything is on track.

And meanwhile, at the World Expo in Shanghai, Ahmadinejad (who seems not very isolated at all) was on a roll:

It is clear the United States is not against nuclear bombs because they have a Zionist regime with nuclear bombs in the region. … They are trying to save the Zionist regime, but the Zionist regime will not survive. It is doomed.

It is a telling reminder that each assumption of the Obami has been incorrect. The regime is not one that can be engaged. Our 18 months of diplomacy or whatever we’ve been doing have not left Iran isolated. And this is not a regime that will be less aggressive once it gets the bomb. It is also a reminder that those who thought Obama was serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear plans were duped.

Obama has given up on stopping Iran’s nuclear program. It’s an open secret that there is no U.S. military option. The New York Times reports that covert operations and efforts to steal away Iranian scientists aren’t up to the task of thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions:

Ask the designers and executors of these programs what they all add up to, and the answer inevitably boils down to “not enough.” Taken together, officials say, they may slow Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon, which has already run into far greater technical slowdowns than anyone expected. If the pressure builds, Iran might be driven to the negotiating table, which it has avoided since Mr. Obama came to office offering “engagement.”

But even Mr. Obama, in his more-in-sadness-than-anger description on Wednesday of why diplomacy has so far yielded nothing, conceded “we know that the Iranian government will not change its behavior overnight” and went on to describe how instead the sanctions would create “growing costs.”

Nor can the administration bring itself to fully embrace the option of regime change. (“The administration has continued to support Iran’s opposition groups, but treading carefully for fear of appearing to meddle in internal Iranian politics.”) There is much fretting. (“Some top officials in the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies say they wonder whether the White House has truly grappled with the question of how far Iran can be permitted to go, and what kind of risks Mr. Obama is willing to take beyond sanctions.”) But there is little action to come up with a plan that is viable. You’d think pro-Israel members of Congress or Jewish groups would be alarmed. But no — ho-hum. Next up are the EU sanctions. Everything is on track.

And meanwhile, at the World Expo in Shanghai, Ahmadinejad (who seems not very isolated at all) was on a roll:

It is clear the United States is not against nuclear bombs because they have a Zionist regime with nuclear bombs in the region. … They are trying to save the Zionist regime, but the Zionist regime will not survive. It is doomed.

It is a telling reminder that each assumption of the Obami has been incorrect. The regime is not one that can be engaged. Our 18 months of diplomacy or whatever we’ve been doing have not left Iran isolated. And this is not a regime that will be less aggressive once it gets the bomb. It is also a reminder that those who thought Obama was serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear plans were duped.

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The Koreas: Sanctions Effectiveness Watch

The most informative development in the Korean ship-sinking case this week is the silence of China on the matter, something South Korea’s press has addressed in pointed fashion. The Chinese announced on the 19th, moreover, that their ambassador would send a deputy to Thursday’s high-level diplomatic briefing from the South Korean government rather than attending it himself. Editorial staffs in Seoul interpret this as de facto support for North Korea’s position in the confrontation. They have reason to.

In the month before the sinking of South Korean navy corvette Cheonan (on March 26), North Korea extended to 2028 China’s lease on the eastern port of Rajin, which sits on the Sea of Japan. China is modernizing the port extensively for commercial use; Japan and South Korea have the obvious concern that China might begin sending warships there as well. In the month after Cheonans sinking, North Korea switched partners in its flagship tourism venture from South Korea to China. China’s tourists lost no time in taking advantage of that opportunity: the first tourist train from China entered North Korea on April 24. Tourism is a latecomer to the burgeoning trade between China and North Korea, which reportedly hit an all-time high in the first two months of 2010.

China’s proprietary relations with North Korea face an aggressive rival in Russia, which obtained a new 50-year lease on the Rajin port in March and plans to connect the port to its eastern railway system. Maintaining China’s position as Pyongyang’s principal patron is high on Beijing’s priority list, which explains why the Chinese welcomed a rare visit from Kim Jong-Il in early May and allowed North Korea to capitalize on that trip with its first-ever national display at the World Expo in Shanghai. (The chirpy cluelessness of MSNBC’s coverage here is priceless.) Neither the Cheonan incident nor reports in April that Pyongyang is planning a third nuclear test threw a damper on the fraternal amity blossoming in Northeast Asia.

The sense among China’s leaders that they have the latitude to display their true intentions in Korea has grown markedly in the last year. It was never accurate to perceive China as a like-minded ally of the U.S. in the Six-Party talks but, as late as April 2009, Beijing was still making a show of acting from common interests. That it no longer does can be attributed largely to the passivity and incoherence of the Obama administration. The administration’s only serious diplomatic response during the tense period after Cheonan’s sinking was to offer food aid to North Korea if it would rejoin the Six-Party talks.

But China has other examples to draw from as well, such as Obama’s unrealistic handling of Iran. The parallels between the Iran and Korea situations include, of course, multiple rounds of toothless international sanctions and U.S. bluster unsupported by any effective action. In the case of the Cheonan sinking, they also include a very specific analogue: the North Korean naval weapons involved. The analytical team’s finding is that North Korea used a Yono-class “midget” submarine to launch a former-Soviet-style 21-inch torpedo — the world’s most common type — at the South Korean corvette. Iran has produced seven Yono-design hulls as its Ghadir class since 2007, has fitted them to launch 21-inch torpedoes, and began adding them to the fleet in 2009. Iran, like North Korea, has been under UN sanctions throughout that period.

The most informative development in the Korean ship-sinking case this week is the silence of China on the matter, something South Korea’s press has addressed in pointed fashion. The Chinese announced on the 19th, moreover, that their ambassador would send a deputy to Thursday’s high-level diplomatic briefing from the South Korean government rather than attending it himself. Editorial staffs in Seoul interpret this as de facto support for North Korea’s position in the confrontation. They have reason to.

In the month before the sinking of South Korean navy corvette Cheonan (on March 26), North Korea extended to 2028 China’s lease on the eastern port of Rajin, which sits on the Sea of Japan. China is modernizing the port extensively for commercial use; Japan and South Korea have the obvious concern that China might begin sending warships there as well. In the month after Cheonans sinking, North Korea switched partners in its flagship tourism venture from South Korea to China. China’s tourists lost no time in taking advantage of that opportunity: the first tourist train from China entered North Korea on April 24. Tourism is a latecomer to the burgeoning trade between China and North Korea, which reportedly hit an all-time high in the first two months of 2010.

China’s proprietary relations with North Korea face an aggressive rival in Russia, which obtained a new 50-year lease on the Rajin port in March and plans to connect the port to its eastern railway system. Maintaining China’s position as Pyongyang’s principal patron is high on Beijing’s priority list, which explains why the Chinese welcomed a rare visit from Kim Jong-Il in early May and allowed North Korea to capitalize on that trip with its first-ever national display at the World Expo in Shanghai. (The chirpy cluelessness of MSNBC’s coverage here is priceless.) Neither the Cheonan incident nor reports in April that Pyongyang is planning a third nuclear test threw a damper on the fraternal amity blossoming in Northeast Asia.

The sense among China’s leaders that they have the latitude to display their true intentions in Korea has grown markedly in the last year. It was never accurate to perceive China as a like-minded ally of the U.S. in the Six-Party talks but, as late as April 2009, Beijing was still making a show of acting from common interests. That it no longer does can be attributed largely to the passivity and incoherence of the Obama administration. The administration’s only serious diplomatic response during the tense period after Cheonan’s sinking was to offer food aid to North Korea if it would rejoin the Six-Party talks.

But China has other examples to draw from as well, such as Obama’s unrealistic handling of Iran. The parallels between the Iran and Korea situations include, of course, multiple rounds of toothless international sanctions and U.S. bluster unsupported by any effective action. In the case of the Cheonan sinking, they also include a very specific analogue: the North Korean naval weapons involved. The analytical team’s finding is that North Korea used a Yono-class “midget” submarine to launch a former-Soviet-style 21-inch torpedo — the world’s most common type — at the South Korean corvette. Iran has produced seven Yono-design hulls as its Ghadir class since 2007, has fitted them to launch 21-inch torpedoes, and began adding them to the fleet in 2009. Iran, like North Korea, has been under UN sanctions throughout that period.

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A Libel

A Canadian journalist named Jeet Heer has called out our Jennifer Rubin out today over an item she wrote yesterday quoting an elderly attendee at AIPAC who said she heard echoes in the present moment of the nightmarish Jewish past:

An elderly couple from Florida were agitated by recent events. The wife explained she that had fled Nazi Germany as a child for Shanghai. “There are parallels,” she said. “This is depressing. It’s scary.” She said that she had argued with her liberal friends during the campaign about Obama’s associations with anti-Israel figures. “My mother always said where there is smoke, there is fire,” she explained, then added wearily, “They didn’t listen.”

Heer’s accusation is that Obama is here being compared to Hitler, that the idea being expressed is that “there are ‘parallels’ between the Führer and Obama.” That characterization of Jennifer Rubin’s item is preposterous, offensive, and a patently deliberate misreading. The fear being expressed these days is toward Iran as the potential second coming of Jewish genocide, not toward Obama. The parallel being drawn here is to the Western powers at Munich and their refusal to look clearly at the evidence of Hitler’s intentions, not to Hitler. Obama’s past association with anti-Israel figures like Rashid Khalidi and Jeremiah Wright heralded the lack of sympathy toward Israel that he has shown as president, and the way his lack of sympathy provides him with a convenient emotional way of refusing to confront the Iranian nuclear threat as it should be confronted — just as the Western powers seemed in the years before the outbreak of the Second World War to have a deficit of concern about the increasingly perilous position in which the Jews of Germany and Austria were finding themselves.

It is especially galling to see Jeet Heer, a foul anti-Israel polemicist of uncommonly repellent vintage, going on about this when, in his own writings, time and again, he expresses the sorts of thoughts designed to fog the minds of policymakers who should be grappling every moment with the overwhelming nature of the existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people, not to mention to the wider Middle East and the planet as a whole.

A Canadian journalist named Jeet Heer has called out our Jennifer Rubin out today over an item she wrote yesterday quoting an elderly attendee at AIPAC who said she heard echoes in the present moment of the nightmarish Jewish past:

An elderly couple from Florida were agitated by recent events. The wife explained she that had fled Nazi Germany as a child for Shanghai. “There are parallels,” she said. “This is depressing. It’s scary.” She said that she had argued with her liberal friends during the campaign about Obama’s associations with anti-Israel figures. “My mother always said where there is smoke, there is fire,” she explained, then added wearily, “They didn’t listen.”

Heer’s accusation is that Obama is here being compared to Hitler, that the idea being expressed is that “there are ‘parallels’ between the Führer and Obama.” That characterization of Jennifer Rubin’s item is preposterous, offensive, and a patently deliberate misreading. The fear being expressed these days is toward Iran as the potential second coming of Jewish genocide, not toward Obama. The parallel being drawn here is to the Western powers at Munich and their refusal to look clearly at the evidence of Hitler’s intentions, not to Hitler. Obama’s past association with anti-Israel figures like Rashid Khalidi and Jeremiah Wright heralded the lack of sympathy toward Israel that he has shown as president, and the way his lack of sympathy provides him with a convenient emotional way of refusing to confront the Iranian nuclear threat as it should be confronted — just as the Western powers seemed in the years before the outbreak of the Second World War to have a deficit of concern about the increasingly perilous position in which the Jews of Germany and Austria were finding themselves.

It is especially galling to see Jeet Heer, a foul anti-Israel polemicist of uncommonly repellent vintage, going on about this when, in his own writings, time and again, he expresses the sorts of thoughts designed to fog the minds of policymakers who should be grappling every moment with the overwhelming nature of the existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people, not to mention to the wider Middle East and the planet as a whole.

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The AIPAC Crowd

AIPAC’s annual conference got under way today in Washington D.C. The crowd was, in contrast to past years, more on edge, more distressed, and, frankly, more anti-administration. The conference comes after an eye-opening (for some) clash between the Obami and the Israeli government. In the talk in the halls, the questions at the panels, and the crowd reaction to speakers’ remarks, one senses that these people have had quite enough of the Obami’s approach to Israel.

I spoke to a rabbi of a New Jersey Conservative synagogue and a group of his congregants. They had 65 attendees before the Obami’s war of words. That number went up to 76. What was their reaction to the Obami offensive? “Disappointed,” responded several in the group. One congregant said, “This is going to have to blow over. Everyone understands East Jerusalem is not negotiable.” I asked, “You think the administration does?” He replied, “This is just to show the Arabs how tough he is.” I asked if they were concerned about the administration’s approach on Iran. “This has all been a step backward,” another answered. “The blowup is to distract attention from the fact we’ve done nothing on Iran.” And how will they greet Hillary Clinton on Monday? The rabbi said with great deliberations: “With respect.” Another added, “She’s not getting a standing ovation.”

A woman from Atlanta, a first-time attendee, says she votes Democratic. She was obviously pained over the recent flap. “Why is Israel the only one we tell what to do?” Her group’s attendance set an all-time high of 120. (Overall, the conference has a record 7,500.)

An elderly couple from Florida were agitated by recent events. The wife explained she that had fled Nazi Germany as a child for Shanghai. “There are parallels,” she said. “This is depressing. It’s scary.”  She said that she had argued with her liberal friends during the campaign about Obama’s associations with anti-Israel figures. “My mother always said where there is smoke, there is fire,” she explained, then added wearily, “They didn’t listen.” She bemoaned the fact that Jews’ political activities are fragmented on issues like global warming. “There are plenty of people to do that,” she said. “Where are they on Israel?”

That’s just a sampling, but it gives you a sense of the angst. This is not a crowd that is celebrating. They are worried. Very worried.

AIPAC’s annual conference got under way today in Washington D.C. The crowd was, in contrast to past years, more on edge, more distressed, and, frankly, more anti-administration. The conference comes after an eye-opening (for some) clash between the Obami and the Israeli government. In the talk in the halls, the questions at the panels, and the crowd reaction to speakers’ remarks, one senses that these people have had quite enough of the Obami’s approach to Israel.

I spoke to a rabbi of a New Jersey Conservative synagogue and a group of his congregants. They had 65 attendees before the Obami’s war of words. That number went up to 76. What was their reaction to the Obami offensive? “Disappointed,” responded several in the group. One congregant said, “This is going to have to blow over. Everyone understands East Jerusalem is not negotiable.” I asked, “You think the administration does?” He replied, “This is just to show the Arabs how tough he is.” I asked if they were concerned about the administration’s approach on Iran. “This has all been a step backward,” another answered. “The blowup is to distract attention from the fact we’ve done nothing on Iran.” And how will they greet Hillary Clinton on Monday? The rabbi said with great deliberations: “With respect.” Another added, “She’s not getting a standing ovation.”

A woman from Atlanta, a first-time attendee, says she votes Democratic. She was obviously pained over the recent flap. “Why is Israel the only one we tell what to do?” Her group’s attendance set an all-time high of 120. (Overall, the conference has a record 7,500.)

An elderly couple from Florida were agitated by recent events. The wife explained she that had fled Nazi Germany as a child for Shanghai. “There are parallels,” she said. “This is depressing. It’s scary.”  She said that she had argued with her liberal friends during the campaign about Obama’s associations with anti-Israel figures. “My mother always said where there is smoke, there is fire,” she explained, then added wearily, “They didn’t listen.” She bemoaned the fact that Jews’ political activities are fragmented on issues like global warming. “There are plenty of people to do that,” she said. “Where are they on Israel?”

That’s just a sampling, but it gives you a sense of the angst. This is not a crowd that is celebrating. They are worried. Very worried.

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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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China on Bended Knee

The New York Times reports:

Whether by White House design or Chinese insistence, President Obama has steered clear of public meetings with Chinese liberals, free press advocates and even ordinary Chinese during his first visit to China, showing deference to the Chinese leadership’s aversions to such interactions that is unusual for a visiting American president.

Mr. Obama held a “town hall” meeting with students on Monday. But they were carefully vetted and prepped for the event by the government, participants said.

And we are reminded that in contrast to his predecessors’ far less cringey performances, Obama has bent over backward to be innocuous. “Bland” and “rather humble” is how Chinese students described him. The Times explained that “Mr. Obama’s nuanced references to rights have shied from citing China’s spotty record, even when offered the chance. Asked Monday in Shanghai to discuss China’s censorship of the Internet, the president replied by talking about America’s robust political debates.” And worse yet, it seems that the Obami have snubbed democracy dissidents (“the administration rejected proposals for brief meetings in Beijing with Chinese political activists, and then with lawyers”) for fear of annoying their hosts.

Since the video love letter to the Supreme Leader at the start of his presidency, we have seen a string of signals and actions designed to make America appear more contrite and more accommodating to the world’s despots. This visit is not the only shabby and embarrassing display of timidity by this president, nor I suspect will it be the last. Obama’s unwillingness to assert with strength and conviction American interests and to challenge the atrocious human-rights records of thuggish regimes around the world has not gone unnoticed by his Chinese hosts and, no doubt, by other nations noting how they, too, might receive such kid-glove treatment. The Obami are convinced that this is the way to endear ourselves to our adversaries. History teaches us that the world doesn’t work that way.

The New York Times reports:

Whether by White House design or Chinese insistence, President Obama has steered clear of public meetings with Chinese liberals, free press advocates and even ordinary Chinese during his first visit to China, showing deference to the Chinese leadership’s aversions to such interactions that is unusual for a visiting American president.

Mr. Obama held a “town hall” meeting with students on Monday. But they were carefully vetted and prepped for the event by the government, participants said.

And we are reminded that in contrast to his predecessors’ far less cringey performances, Obama has bent over backward to be innocuous. “Bland” and “rather humble” is how Chinese students described him. The Times explained that “Mr. Obama’s nuanced references to rights have shied from citing China’s spotty record, even when offered the chance. Asked Monday in Shanghai to discuss China’s censorship of the Internet, the president replied by talking about America’s robust political debates.” And worse yet, it seems that the Obami have snubbed democracy dissidents (“the administration rejected proposals for brief meetings in Beijing with Chinese political activists, and then with lawyers”) for fear of annoying their hosts.

Since the video love letter to the Supreme Leader at the start of his presidency, we have seen a string of signals and actions designed to make America appear more contrite and more accommodating to the world’s despots. This visit is not the only shabby and embarrassing display of timidity by this president, nor I suspect will it be the last. Obama’s unwillingness to assert with strength and conviction American interests and to challenge the atrocious human-rights records of thuggish regimes around the world has not gone unnoticed by his Chinese hosts and, no doubt, by other nations noting how they, too, might receive such kid-glove treatment. The Obami are convinced that this is the way to endear ourselves to our adversaries. History teaches us that the world doesn’t work that way.

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Why So Mum?

Ben Smith reports:

Human Rights advocates have been deeply disappointed — more than many will say publicly — by elements of Obama’s first year, as the White House has appeared to make the cause secondary in relationships from Turkey to Sudan and has avoided casting even conflicts, like Afghanistan, in the human rights terms George W. Bush often used.

China was an early red flag for some, as Secretary Clinton said in February that human rights wouldn’t be allowed to “interfere” with other issues, a remark she subsequently walked back. But human rights groups have been watching President Obama’s visit to China closely for a sense of how, and whether, he’ll publicly broach the question.

He notes that Amnesty International was pleased by Obama’s comments on censorship and religious freedom in Shanghai but says that the group’s director of international advocacy does “want him to speak more forcefully during the press conference [with President Hu] itself and also set some benchmarks.”

This raises the question of why these groups are saying one thing in private and another (or nothing much at all) in public. Are they in the business of blocking and tackling for Obama because they think he’s a swell liberal, or are they in the business of advocacy for human rights and democracy? Well, more the former, it seems. Given the administration’s rather putrid record on human rights over the past 10 months, one would expect these groups to be apoplectic, as certainly they would be if a Republican administration had shunned the Dalai Lama and downgraded human rights at every turn.

Maybe, like so many others, human-rights groups will begin to evaluate Obama both on what he does and what he says. And in that regard, they should have plenty to complain about.

Ben Smith reports:

Human Rights advocates have been deeply disappointed — more than many will say publicly — by elements of Obama’s first year, as the White House has appeared to make the cause secondary in relationships from Turkey to Sudan and has avoided casting even conflicts, like Afghanistan, in the human rights terms George W. Bush often used.

China was an early red flag for some, as Secretary Clinton said in February that human rights wouldn’t be allowed to “interfere” with other issues, a remark she subsequently walked back. But human rights groups have been watching President Obama’s visit to China closely for a sense of how, and whether, he’ll publicly broach the question.

He notes that Amnesty International was pleased by Obama’s comments on censorship and religious freedom in Shanghai but says that the group’s director of international advocacy does “want him to speak more forcefully during the press conference [with President Hu] itself and also set some benchmarks.”

This raises the question of why these groups are saying one thing in private and another (or nothing much at all) in public. Are they in the business of blocking and tackling for Obama because they think he’s a swell liberal, or are they in the business of advocacy for human rights and democracy? Well, more the former, it seems. Given the administration’s rather putrid record on human rights over the past 10 months, one would expect these groups to be apoplectic, as certainly they would be if a Republican administration had shunned the Dalai Lama and downgraded human rights at every turn.

Maybe, like so many others, human-rights groups will begin to evaluate Obama both on what he does and what he says. And in that regard, they should have plenty to complain about.

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The Right to Be Like Obama

The New York Times is giving Barack Obama high marks for “push[ing] rights with Chinese students.” In Shanghai, Obama was asked via Internet, “Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” Here was the audacious answer:

“Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter,” he said. “My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.”

OK, that wasn’t the audacious answer. That was the “self-effacing” appetizer that whets the appetite for the audacious answer:

“I should be honest, as president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely, because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time,” he said. But, he added, “because in the United States, information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear.”

Get it? Twitter should be used freely because Barack Obama manages to bravely endure the free flow of information in the U.S., and that makes him a better leader. Clumsy thumbs and all.

There is an Obama teaching-moment methodology. He has employed it to teach us mortals about America’s founding documents, to teach the International Olympic Committee why it should choose Chicago, and to teach Europeans why the fall of the Berlin Wall was so great: Look at what has worked so well to make me who I am. Follow that road and you shall be set free.

The sad truth is that Obama’s answer (without, of course, a simple “yes” in it) really is an administration high point for human rights. When Hillary Clinton visited China a few months back, she raised the topic only to announce her indifference to it. In other news, China detained dozens of dissidents in advance of Obama’s visit. That Beijing actually believed human-rights activists could move Barack Obama serves to demonstrate the extreme paranoia of the Communist party.

The New York Times is giving Barack Obama high marks for “push[ing] rights with Chinese students.” In Shanghai, Obama was asked via Internet, “Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” Here was the audacious answer:

“Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter,” he said. “My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.”

OK, that wasn’t the audacious answer. That was the “self-effacing” appetizer that whets the appetite for the audacious answer:

“I should be honest, as president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely, because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time,” he said. But, he added, “because in the United States, information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear.”

Get it? Twitter should be used freely because Barack Obama manages to bravely endure the free flow of information in the U.S., and that makes him a better leader. Clumsy thumbs and all.

There is an Obama teaching-moment methodology. He has employed it to teach us mortals about America’s founding documents, to teach the International Olympic Committee why it should choose Chicago, and to teach Europeans why the fall of the Berlin Wall was so great: Look at what has worked so well to make me who I am. Follow that road and you shall be set free.

The sad truth is that Obama’s answer (without, of course, a simple “yes” in it) really is an administration high point for human rights. When Hillary Clinton visited China a few months back, she raised the topic only to announce her indifference to it. In other news, China detained dozens of dissidents in advance of Obama’s visit. That Beijing actually believed human-rights activists could move Barack Obama serves to demonstrate the extreme paranoia of the Communist party.

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Should We Be Surprised?

Obama, fleeing from the fallout of the decision to ship KSM to New York for trial and taking a break from the White House Afghanistan-war seminars, is heading for China. This is how they greet him:

China has detained several dissidents and campaigners ahead of US President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated first visit to the country, their relatives and close contacts told AFP Saturday. Obama arrives in Shanghai on Sunday and moves onto Beijing the next day for a four-day maiden presidential trip during which he has been urged to raise human rights with the Asian giant’s top leadership. But as the visit drew close, the head of an activist group for parents whose children were sickened by tainted milk in China had been detained, his wife told AFP.

Now where could the Chinese have gotten the idea that they could get away with such a stunt, making clear to internal dissidents just how impervious they are to outside pressure? Well, could be the snubbing of the Dalai Lama and the Obami’s systematic downgrading of human rights and support for democracy around the world. Could be that the Chinese, and every other totalitarian regime, have figured out that it’s open season on democracy and human-rights advocates. They have sized up Obama, concluded he is indifferent to human rights, and now won’t hesitate to bully their own people and, in effect, humiliate the American president by flaunting their own despotic behavior when he visits.

This is what comes from prostrating ourselves before thuggish regimes and signaling that human rights and democracy don’t rate high on our list of priorities. We will see more stunts like the round-up in China in the future. After all, we’ve already let everyone know that no adverse consequences will flow from this sort of behavior. And the Chinese dissidents — what do they think? One supposes they finally realize that hope and change don’t apply to them.

Obama, fleeing from the fallout of the decision to ship KSM to New York for trial and taking a break from the White House Afghanistan-war seminars, is heading for China. This is how they greet him:

China has detained several dissidents and campaigners ahead of US President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated first visit to the country, their relatives and close contacts told AFP Saturday. Obama arrives in Shanghai on Sunday and moves onto Beijing the next day for a four-day maiden presidential trip during which he has been urged to raise human rights with the Asian giant’s top leadership. But as the visit drew close, the head of an activist group for parents whose children were sickened by tainted milk in China had been detained, his wife told AFP.

Now where could the Chinese have gotten the idea that they could get away with such a stunt, making clear to internal dissidents just how impervious they are to outside pressure? Well, could be the snubbing of the Dalai Lama and the Obami’s systematic downgrading of human rights and support for democracy around the world. Could be that the Chinese, and every other totalitarian regime, have figured out that it’s open season on democracy and human-rights advocates. They have sized up Obama, concluded he is indifferent to human rights, and now won’t hesitate to bully their own people and, in effect, humiliate the American president by flaunting their own despotic behavior when he visits.

This is what comes from prostrating ourselves before thuggish regimes and signaling that human rights and democracy don’t rate high on our list of priorities. We will see more stunts like the round-up in China in the future. After all, we’ve already let everyone know that no adverse consequences will flow from this sort of behavior. And the Chinese dissidents — what do they think? One supposes they finally realize that hope and change don’t apply to them.

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“Patriotic” Chinese Protests

Sunday, thousands of angry Chinese took to the streets in anti-foreigner protests in major cities in China, including Wuhan, Harbin, Jinan, Xian, Qingdao, and Dalian. The demonstrations followed those occurring on Friday and Saturday, which took place around the country, including Beijing, Kunming, and Hefei. They were the largest anti-foreign protests in three years, since anti-Japan riots shook Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities in China.

Young Chinese, upset at foreign media coverage of recent ethnic disturbances and pro-Tibetan protests around the world, gathered in front of foreign stores, declared a boycott of French retailer Carrefour, and carried pictures of Mao Zedong. “Condemn CNN” and “Shut up you French,” seen on banners over the weekend, expressed popular sentiment. “We’re supporting the Olympics and boycotting Tibetan independence,” said the organizer of one of the demonstrations in the Chinese capital. As Zhu Xiaomeng, a student in Beijing who has been organizing a boycott of French companies, noted, “After 5,000 years, we’re not so soft anymore.”

That’s the message Beijing wants you to hear. Chinese state media triggered the protests in China with noxious anti-French stories that began appearing about a week ago, and Beijing has fueled demonstrations in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, Birmingham, and Manchester in Europe and San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C. by paying “patriotic” Chinese to participate.

The ugly tactic seems to be working. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for instance, will be sending three envoys to Beijing to try to limit the damage (the first left France yesterday). He also invited Jin Jing, a disabled fencer who protected the Olympic flame in the Paris torch relay from protesters, to be his “personal guest.” There is, however, evidence that Beijing manufactured the incident that made the “wheelchair angel” a national symbol of Chinese defiance.

So the West is being intimidated once again by arrogant Chinese rulers. Eventually, we will learn that Beijing has been manipulating us all along. In the meantime, Western leaders will continue to apologize to the Middle Kingdom whenever it gets into a snit.

Sunday, thousands of angry Chinese took to the streets in anti-foreigner protests in major cities in China, including Wuhan, Harbin, Jinan, Xian, Qingdao, and Dalian. The demonstrations followed those occurring on Friday and Saturday, which took place around the country, including Beijing, Kunming, and Hefei. They were the largest anti-foreign protests in three years, since anti-Japan riots shook Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities in China.

Young Chinese, upset at foreign media coverage of recent ethnic disturbances and pro-Tibetan protests around the world, gathered in front of foreign stores, declared a boycott of French retailer Carrefour, and carried pictures of Mao Zedong. “Condemn CNN” and “Shut up you French,” seen on banners over the weekend, expressed popular sentiment. “We’re supporting the Olympics and boycotting Tibetan independence,” said the organizer of one of the demonstrations in the Chinese capital. As Zhu Xiaomeng, a student in Beijing who has been organizing a boycott of French companies, noted, “After 5,000 years, we’re not so soft anymore.”

That’s the message Beijing wants you to hear. Chinese state media triggered the protests in China with noxious anti-French stories that began appearing about a week ago, and Beijing has fueled demonstrations in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, Birmingham, and Manchester in Europe and San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C. by paying “patriotic” Chinese to participate.

The ugly tactic seems to be working. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for instance, will be sending three envoys to Beijing to try to limit the damage (the first left France yesterday). He also invited Jin Jing, a disabled fencer who protected the Olympic flame in the Paris torch relay from protesters, to be his “personal guest.” There is, however, evidence that Beijing manufactured the incident that made the “wheelchair angel” a national symbol of Chinese defiance.

So the West is being intimidated once again by arrogant Chinese rulers. Eventually, we will learn that Beijing has been manipulating us all along. In the meantime, Western leaders will continue to apologize to the Middle Kingdom whenever it gets into a snit.

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Too Many Lives at Stake

Yesterday, representatives from the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, the so-called P5 + 1, met but failed to agree on a new package of incentives for Iran. The most significant aspect of the meeting is not the result–it was clear from the get-go that the six nations would not immediately see eye-to-eye–but its location, Shanghai: China hosted the talks.

In one sense, it is a measure of progress that Beijing is helping to find a solution to the greatest security challenge of our times. As Guo Xian’gang, a former Chinese diplomat, told Reuters, “China wanted to show that it’s a mainstream member of the five plus one process.”

But should the United States be ceding even more initiative to the Chinese? In 2003 President Bush committed himself to multilateral diplomacy on North Korea, and he generously made China the centerpiece of global efforts to disarm Pyongyang.

The Chinese used their position to craft an arrangement, announced in September 2005, that permitted even more North Korean delaying tactics and bad faith negotiation. And why did the President accept an obviously deficient deal? Largely because Chinese negotiators presented their plan as take-it-or-leave-it and told their American counterparts that they would publicly blame them if they rejected it. In short, the United States generously gave Beijing a leading role on Korea-and the Chinese then turned around and used their new-found prominence to mug America. Now, North Korea is prevailing over United States, as Abe Greenwald suggested on Tuesday, largely because Pyongyang has Beijing on its side.

Yet the Bush administration is again trying to give the Chinese a leading role in international affairs, this time to stop Iran’s efforts to weaponize the atom. That’s why the place of yesterday’s meeting is so important. Working with China can hasten its integration into the global order, yet long before Beijing is ready to accept the role as a constructive power, the Iranians will have built an arsenal of nuclear warheads.

Whether or not it was wise for the White House to work with the Chinese over North Korea five years ago, it should not be doing so now with Iran. There are too many lives at stake for the Bush administration to continue its optimistic diplomacy experiment with China.

Yesterday, representatives from the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, the so-called P5 + 1, met but failed to agree on a new package of incentives for Iran. The most significant aspect of the meeting is not the result–it was clear from the get-go that the six nations would not immediately see eye-to-eye–but its location, Shanghai: China hosted the talks.

In one sense, it is a measure of progress that Beijing is helping to find a solution to the greatest security challenge of our times. As Guo Xian’gang, a former Chinese diplomat, told Reuters, “China wanted to show that it’s a mainstream member of the five plus one process.”

But should the United States be ceding even more initiative to the Chinese? In 2003 President Bush committed himself to multilateral diplomacy on North Korea, and he generously made China the centerpiece of global efforts to disarm Pyongyang.

The Chinese used their position to craft an arrangement, announced in September 2005, that permitted even more North Korean delaying tactics and bad faith negotiation. And why did the President accept an obviously deficient deal? Largely because Chinese negotiators presented their plan as take-it-or-leave-it and told their American counterparts that they would publicly blame them if they rejected it. In short, the United States generously gave Beijing a leading role on Korea-and the Chinese then turned around and used their new-found prominence to mug America. Now, North Korea is prevailing over United States, as Abe Greenwald suggested on Tuesday, largely because Pyongyang has Beijing on its side.

Yet the Bush administration is again trying to give the Chinese a leading role in international affairs, this time to stop Iran’s efforts to weaponize the atom. That’s why the place of yesterday’s meeting is so important. Working with China can hasten its integration into the global order, yet long before Beijing is ready to accept the role as a constructive power, the Iranians will have built an arsenal of nuclear warheads.

Whether or not it was wise for the White House to work with the Chinese over North Korea five years ago, it should not be doing so now with Iran. There are too many lives at stake for the Bush administration to continue its optimistic diplomacy experiment with China.

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The Ultimate Test of American Leadership

Today, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said his country would announce a new diplomatic initiative soon. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is trying to come up with a proposed package in an effort to resolve regional and international problems in dialogue with opposing parties,” he stated. Mottaki implied that the “new orientation” would relate to Tehran’s nuclear program. The foreign minister’s words followed Saturday’s announcement that Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, will meet with the IAEA’s Mohamed ElBaradei tomorrow in Vienna.

The two announcements come within days of Wednesday’s gathering in Shanghai of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, the P5 + 1. The group is expected to discuss sweetening incentives for Iran to drop its enrichment of uranium.

Are there any coincidences when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program? Yes, but this series of events is not one of them. Tehran knows it can buy itself at least another year by holding out hope at this time that there can be a peaceful resolution to the impasse. Therefore, the announcements of yesterday and today are, like all of its past offers, insincere.

This is not to say that Iranians cannot be talked out of their enrichment program. They can—but only when they know they have been defeated. At this moment, however, the mullahs appear to believe they are the ones who are prevailing. So, contrary to what the New York Times has just suggested, it is pointless to begin a new round of negotiations. On Friday, the paper stated that “Washington needs to make Iran a serious offer to talk about everything, including security assurances and diplomatic and economic relations if it is willing to give up its fuel program and cooperate fully with inspectors.”

What Washington really needs to do is make sure that Iran’s new diplomatic offensive does not succeed and that the P5+1 pushes through a tougher round of sanctions soon. President Bush has staked so much on cooperation with Beijing and Moscow in the past few years. Yet if the Chinese and Russians cannot cooperate on such a basic matter as Iran’s nuclear program when it is on the verge of creating a weapon, then it is pointless to maintain dialogue with them because nothing much else will matter.

It is, of course, unlikely that these two nations will reverse course at this time. So we are at one of those moments when conventional diplomacy is failing. When that happens—when what is necessary is no longer considered practical—the world often experiences uncertainty, turbulence, and death in great numbers.

If the Bush administration cannot change the course of events one more time, then we could travel from the best moment in history to the worst. This is, up to now, the ultimate test of American leadership.

Today, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said his country would announce a new diplomatic initiative soon. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is trying to come up with a proposed package in an effort to resolve regional and international problems in dialogue with opposing parties,” he stated. Mottaki implied that the “new orientation” would relate to Tehran’s nuclear program. The foreign minister’s words followed Saturday’s announcement that Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, will meet with the IAEA’s Mohamed ElBaradei tomorrow in Vienna.

The two announcements come within days of Wednesday’s gathering in Shanghai of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, the P5 + 1. The group is expected to discuss sweetening incentives for Iran to drop its enrichment of uranium.

Are there any coincidences when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program? Yes, but this series of events is not one of them. Tehran knows it can buy itself at least another year by holding out hope at this time that there can be a peaceful resolution to the impasse. Therefore, the announcements of yesterday and today are, like all of its past offers, insincere.

This is not to say that Iranians cannot be talked out of their enrichment program. They can—but only when they know they have been defeated. At this moment, however, the mullahs appear to believe they are the ones who are prevailing. So, contrary to what the New York Times has just suggested, it is pointless to begin a new round of negotiations. On Friday, the paper stated that “Washington needs to make Iran a serious offer to talk about everything, including security assurances and diplomatic and economic relations if it is willing to give up its fuel program and cooperate fully with inspectors.”

What Washington really needs to do is make sure that Iran’s new diplomatic offensive does not succeed and that the P5+1 pushes through a tougher round of sanctions soon. President Bush has staked so much on cooperation with Beijing and Moscow in the past few years. Yet if the Chinese and Russians cannot cooperate on such a basic matter as Iran’s nuclear program when it is on the verge of creating a weapon, then it is pointless to maintain dialogue with them because nothing much else will matter.

It is, of course, unlikely that these two nations will reverse course at this time. So we are at one of those moments when conventional diplomacy is failing. When that happens—when what is necessary is no longer considered practical—the world often experiences uncertainty, turbulence, and death in great numbers.

If the Bush administration cannot change the course of events one more time, then we could travel from the best moment in history to the worst. This is, up to now, the ultimate test of American leadership.

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Iran, Running Free

Yesterday, an Iranian nuclear official announced that his country will inaugurate a uranium ore processing facility in Ardakan, in the central part of the country, within a year. On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran had begun to install 6,000 centrifuges at its enrichment plant at Natanz. These machines are in addition to the 3,000 centrifuges that are already operating there. While in Natanz, he also commemorated the National Day of Nuclear Technology and inspected the country’s “new generation” centrifuges at a research facility.

So what is the world doing to stop Iran? The five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany will meet sometime this month, possibly next week in Shanghai, to discuss sweetening incentives to Iran to stop enrichment. The international community offered a package of benefits in June 2006, but Iran has refused to discuss it. In short, the world, by sweetening its last offer, is negotiating with itself while Tehran continues its efforts to enrich uranium. “The Iranians have not been negotiating since at least the summer of 2005 and they don’t feel like they have to start now,” says George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Why should Ahmadinejad even talk to us when we are, as Perkovich notes, still in the process of outbidding ourselves?

While the members of the international community talk to each other, Ahmadinejad feels safe threatening the West with a “bloody nose,” as he did yesterday. And as a crowd chanted “Death to America,” the Iranian president said “The nation will slap you in the mouth.”

Where is the Bush administration while Iran is running free? I can understand why the President does not want to answer Ahmadinejad’s insulting comments, but he has an obligation to respond to the Iranian’s accelerated efforts to build an atomic device. And that’s exactly what Michael Hayden believes Iran is trying to do, as he told NBC’s Meet the Press at the end of last month. The CIA director reasons that, whether or not Iran dropped its bomb-building plans in the past, it looks like it is pursuing them now because it is willing “to pay the international tariff” to develop the capability to develop a nuclear weapon.

If Hayden is correct—and common sense says he is—then Bush administration inaction is especially troubling. Is the President staying quiet about the Iranians’ nuclear program so they will cooperate on Iraq? Has the White House given up and passed the Iran portfolio to Russia and China? Is Bush simply too tired to lead? The President at least owes the American public—and those who look to America for leadership—some answers.

Yesterday, an Iranian nuclear official announced that his country will inaugurate a uranium ore processing facility in Ardakan, in the central part of the country, within a year. On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran had begun to install 6,000 centrifuges at its enrichment plant at Natanz. These machines are in addition to the 3,000 centrifuges that are already operating there. While in Natanz, he also commemorated the National Day of Nuclear Technology and inspected the country’s “new generation” centrifuges at a research facility.

So what is the world doing to stop Iran? The five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany will meet sometime this month, possibly next week in Shanghai, to discuss sweetening incentives to Iran to stop enrichment. The international community offered a package of benefits in June 2006, but Iran has refused to discuss it. In short, the world, by sweetening its last offer, is negotiating with itself while Tehran continues its efforts to enrich uranium. “The Iranians have not been negotiating since at least the summer of 2005 and they don’t feel like they have to start now,” says George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Why should Ahmadinejad even talk to us when we are, as Perkovich notes, still in the process of outbidding ourselves?

While the members of the international community talk to each other, Ahmadinejad feels safe threatening the West with a “bloody nose,” as he did yesterday. And as a crowd chanted “Death to America,” the Iranian president said “The nation will slap you in the mouth.”

Where is the Bush administration while Iran is running free? I can understand why the President does not want to answer Ahmadinejad’s insulting comments, but he has an obligation to respond to the Iranian’s accelerated efforts to build an atomic device. And that’s exactly what Michael Hayden believes Iran is trying to do, as he told NBC’s Meet the Press at the end of last month. The CIA director reasons that, whether or not Iran dropped its bomb-building plans in the past, it looks like it is pursuing them now because it is willing “to pay the international tariff” to develop the capability to develop a nuclear weapon.

If Hayden is correct—and common sense says he is—then Bush administration inaction is especially troubling. Is the President staying quiet about the Iranians’ nuclear program so they will cooperate on Iraq? Has the White House given up and passed the Iran portfolio to Russia and China? Is Bush simply too tired to lead? The President at least owes the American public—and those who look to America for leadership—some answers.

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China and India, Hand-in-Hand

Today, the two giants of Asia start their first joint military exercises. Code-named “Hand-in-Hand, 2007,” the event brings Chinese and Indian forces together for five days in China’s Yunnan province. The two countries are, in the words of a statement from the Ministry of National Defense in Beijing, promoting “the strategic partnership for peace and prosperity.” Furthermore, they are enhancing their capabilities against “three evil forces:” separatists, extremists, and terrorists.

Is that so? What China and India are really doing is keeping an eye on each other. Neither government will say so, but each of them wants to find out how much progress the other has made since their border war more than four decades ago. “In 1962, India was defeated mainly because of the low standard of the soldiers,” says a Shanghai-based military expert speaking anonymously to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. Since then, the Russians and the Japanese have helped train the Indians, and the Chinese want to find out how much improvement has occurred. And the Indians for their part are curious about how much two decades of modernization have improved the People’s Liberation Army.

This decade, these two nations have slowly begun to cooperate in the military sphere, especially since conducting joint naval search-and-rescue exercises in 2003. The Indians say they will hold another joint maneuver with China next year in India.

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Today, the two giants of Asia start their first joint military exercises. Code-named “Hand-in-Hand, 2007,” the event brings Chinese and Indian forces together for five days in China’s Yunnan province. The two countries are, in the words of a statement from the Ministry of National Defense in Beijing, promoting “the strategic partnership for peace and prosperity.” Furthermore, they are enhancing their capabilities against “three evil forces:” separatists, extremists, and terrorists.

Is that so? What China and India are really doing is keeping an eye on each other. Neither government will say so, but each of them wants to find out how much progress the other has made since their border war more than four decades ago. “In 1962, India was defeated mainly because of the low standard of the soldiers,” says a Shanghai-based military expert speaking anonymously to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. Since then, the Russians and the Japanese have helped train the Indians, and the Chinese want to find out how much improvement has occurred. And the Indians for their part are curious about how much two decades of modernization have improved the People’s Liberation Army.

This decade, these two nations have slowly begun to cooperate in the military sphere, especially since conducting joint naval search-and-rescue exercises in 2003. The Indians say they will hold another joint maneuver with China next year in India.

But the United States, Japan, and the other Asian democracies need not worry too much about an alliance between Beijing and New Delhi. China and India, simply stated, are natural rivals. Yes, there may be increased military contacts, but the ongoing exercises just showcase the problem between them: China has the world’s largest armed forces (2.5 million men and women in uniform) and India the third (1.13 million), but each side is contributing just about a hundred soldiers to the Yunnan drill.

Although the Indians do not want to become part of any “anti-China” coalition, the fact is that they do not have much choice. China, after all, armed India’s mortal enemy, Pakistan, with nuclear weapons, China competes with India for investment capital flowing to the developing world, and China is the other Asian land power. The two countries still maintain claims to the same lands, and this year the Chinese have escalated the tension by unilaterally demolishing Indian military fortifications, intruding onto territory India claims, and escalating rhetoric. So where can India turn for help?

America is the perfect offshore balancer for New Delhi, especially because the two countries share a language, ideals, and even a little common heritage. When Americans finally realize that neither China nor Pakistan can become a reliable ally in the foreseeable future, they will see that the world’s largest democracy and its most powerful one should work together for a stable international system.

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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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A Blow for Democracy in Hong Kong

The slow-moving but steady struggle for democracy in Hong Kong—which China promised in 1997 when taking over the territory from the British, but without specifying a date—took a major step forward with today’s swearing-in of newly-elected Anson Chan to the Legislative Council.

Chan’s victory was a major setback, ten years into rule by Beijing, for the Chinese scenario, according to which the city is to be de-politicized gradually and democracy made to disappear while Hong Kong remains an economic center. By electing Chan by 54 percent over her pro-Beijing opponent, the voters of Hong Kong dealt a deadly blow to that plan.

Chan, a highly respected former civil servant born in Shanghai and educated in Hong Kong Catholic schools and at Tufts University in the United States, had avoided politics for years since her resignation in 2001 from the number two post in the first Chinese-run administration. (She had been the first ethnic Chinese to hold the analogous post under the British).

Chan stepped forward, however, when the death of Ma Lik, leader of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), opened up a key seat in the city’s Legislative Council. Chan’s opponent for this seat was prominent politician Regina Ip.

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The slow-moving but steady struggle for democracy in Hong Kong—which China promised in 1997 when taking over the territory from the British, but without specifying a date—took a major step forward with today’s swearing-in of newly-elected Anson Chan to the Legislative Council.

Chan’s victory was a major setback, ten years into rule by Beijing, for the Chinese scenario, according to which the city is to be de-politicized gradually and democracy made to disappear while Hong Kong remains an economic center. By electing Chan by 54 percent over her pro-Beijing opponent, the voters of Hong Kong dealt a deadly blow to that plan.

Chan, a highly respected former civil servant born in Shanghai and educated in Hong Kong Catholic schools and at Tufts University in the United States, had avoided politics for years since her resignation in 2001 from the number two post in the first Chinese-run administration. (She had been the first ethnic Chinese to hold the analogous post under the British).

Chan stepped forward, however, when the death of Ma Lik, leader of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), opened up a key seat in the city’s Legislative Council. Chan’s opponent for this seat was prominent politician Regina Ip.

DAB leader Ma Lik will probably be best remembered for remarks in May of this year dismissing the Tiananmen massacre: “We should not say the Communist Party massacred people on June 4 . . . it was not a massacre.” Attempting to play the anti-foreign card, he added that the government should decide what really happened, not “gweilos” (a derogatory Cantonese word for foreigners).

Ma also criticized democracy, arguing that universal suffrage should not be introduced until 2022, when more Hong Kongers will have gone through “national awareness education.”

Regina Ip had, like Ma, made herself suddenly controversial through comments that were ill-judged at best. In 2002, when China proposed an “Anti-Subversion Law” that would have greatly increased Beijing’s already tight control over Hong Kong, Ip sprang to the defense of the measure, stating “Hitler was elected by the people. But he ended up killing seven million people. This proves that democracy is not a cure-all medicine.” (Faced with massive public protest, Beijing withdrew the legislation the following year.)

So this by-election was a high-stakes grudge match, with plenty of mudslinging, between two of Hong Kong’s most powerful female politicians and between the mutually hostile pro-democracy and pro-Beijing political organizations. It took place against a background of ten years’ tug-of-war, with China seeking to kick democracy into the indefinite future. With pro-Beijing standard bearer Ma Lik now dead and Regina Ip trounced at the polls, Chan’s victory is all the more significant.

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Taiwan’s Pride

The plan for Taiwan’s first national day military parade in sixteen years is much in the news today, notably on the front page of Thursday’s Financial Times. The reason is that rumor suggests the country’s new, indigenously-developed cruise missile, capable of hitting targets as distant as Shanghai, may be displayed publicly for the first time during the parade

We may confidently expect much misinformation to follow in the media, with the most important falsehood being an assertion the development of the cruise missile and Taiwan’s increasingly capable anti-air and anti-ship weapons, are a “provocation” against China, being cynically engineered by the unpopular current President Chen Shuibian for his own political purposes. So it is important to understand that Taiwan’s quest for defense capabilities beyond ambiguous statements by the United States has deep roots.

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The plan for Taiwan’s first national day military parade in sixteen years is much in the news today, notably on the front page of Thursday’s Financial Times. The reason is that rumor suggests the country’s new, indigenously-developed cruise missile, capable of hitting targets as distant as Shanghai, may be displayed publicly for the first time during the parade

We may confidently expect much misinformation to follow in the media, with the most important falsehood being an assertion the development of the cruise missile and Taiwan’s increasingly capable anti-air and anti-ship weapons, are a “provocation” against China, being cynically engineered by the unpopular current President Chen Shuibian for his own political purposes. So it is important to understand that Taiwan’s quest for defense capabilities beyond ambiguous statements by the United States has deep roots.

Taiwan’s indigenous self-defense programs date back to the 1950’s, when the dictatorial Kuomintang of Chiang Kai-shek was firmly in control and current President Chen Shuibian (born 1951) was a toddler. Important steps included the foundation of the science- and engineering-focused National Tsing Hua University, in 1956, and the establishment of the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology, a military research center, in 1969.

Taiwan was clearly influenced by Israeli steps to ensure an indigenous defense capability. The first Taiwanese missiles are thought to have been based on the Israeli Gabriel (1962). From these steps flowed development of a carefully-considered array of defensive and counter-strike missiles as well as a nuclear program that made major advances before the United States forced its shut down in 1988.

My own view is that, judged militarily and strategically, such capabilities are essential to Taiwan. They give the country the credible ability to stop a Chinese attack on their own. I believe, moreover, that they will help stabilize the situation in the Strait by restoring some of the balance that was lost when the United States ended its military alliance in 1979.

Whether flaunting these new weapons in a politicized parade makes sense is, however, another question. (My own inclination would be to maintain a low profile and stress the country’s powerful desire for peace.) But the insistence of the 23 million Taiwanese people that they be recognized internationally is bipartisan. Furthermore, being quiet and low key (as we Americans invariably advise) has gotten them nothing, other than a steadily-building deployment of Chinese ballistic missiles targeted on them from just across the Strait, rigid exclusion from the international community, and American dithering over whether supply even of F-16’s is appropriate.

The current welling-up of national feeling in Taiwan is correctly understood not as the product of ploys by a president whose popularity has been plunging (as Washington regularly suggests). Rather it is exactly the sort of rooted and organic nationalism with which history and political scientists have long been familiar. It should tell us something that the person charged with planning the October 10th celebrations and parade is not a Chen Shuibian loyalist, but the speaker of Taiwan’s legislative branch, Wang Jin-pyng, from the opposition Kuomintang party.

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My Father at 90

Today, my dad turns 90. Our family marked this milestone by getting together in Ithaca, his first home in the United States of America. My father came to this country from China by design, but stayed by happenstance. He won a scholarship to study here, and planned to return as soon as he earned his masters degree in civil engineering, which he did in 1946. By then he had seen his homeland tear itself apart in the civil war between the Kuomintang of Chiang Kai-shek and the Communist Party of Mao Zedong. As we know, Mao won, taking power in 1949. Many idealistic Chinese returned to build New China, as the Communists called it, but my dad wanted to stay in his adopted land. An open America let him.

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Today, my dad turns 90. Our family marked this milestone by getting together in Ithaca, his first home in the United States of America. My father came to this country from China by design, but stayed by happenstance. He won a scholarship to study here, and planned to return as soon as he earned his masters degree in civil engineering, which he did in 1946. By then he had seen his homeland tear itself apart in the civil war between the Kuomintang of Chiang Kai-shek and the Communist Party of Mao Zedong. As we know, Mao won, taking power in 1949. Many idealistic Chinese returned to build New China, as the Communists called it, but my dad wanted to stay in his adopted land. An open America let him.

And he made a new life in the United States. He learned English by reading the Wall Street Journal, became a citizen in the early 1960s, and raised four children. He started a business—a Chinese takeout—that grew into an eatery, which became a big restaurant. He bought a building, renovated it, and sparked the rejuvenation of the main street of his town in suburban New Jersey. He never misses an opportunity to vote (or to tell me how great his adopted country is).

At the end of June the Senate blocked President Bush’s immigration bill, largely due to public opposition to its amnesty provisions. Like millions of other Americans, I am deeply uneasy about these provisions, which would inevitably encourage more illegal immigration and unfairly treat aliens seeking residence through legal channels. But it is of crucial importance that we not let legislative gridlock kill the discussion and impede our movement towards a sensible immigration policy. In the long run, there may be no other issue more important to this country.

When I hear the fierce debate on immigration I think of my dad. At 90, he’s not able to travel back to his birthplace, a farming hamlet across the river from Shanghai. I’m sure he returns there in his dreams, but he’s an American now. This is where he calls home.

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