China: The Sino-Japanese Axis

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August 30, 2006: Despite irritation at Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi's tactless visits to the Yakasuni Shrine (where World War II war criminals are honored), the Chinese are sending signals that they'd like an improved security relationship. Apparently the Chinese have been letting drop hints about possible mutual port calls by warships, and perhaps exchange visits by military personnel, to talk shop. The Japanese believe the primary reason for this possible easing of China's generally hostile line, is concern over the increasing problem posed by North Korea. The Chinese might also be trying to woo the Japanese away from close ties with Taiwan.

August 29, 2006: Chinese warplanes and ships are increasingly crossing the "line" that marks the halfway point between the mainland and Taiwan. In 1999, that happened 1,100 times. In 2000, 1,200 times, and 1,500 times in 2001. Then the activity began to decline, reaching 940 crossings in 2004. But last year it bounced back to 1,700.

August 24, 2006: China held a large military exercise in the north, using more high-tech weapons and equipment than in the past. Computer networks and combat simulations were also employed.

August 15, 2006: Chinese villagers are complaining that the government failed to warn them that a recent typhoon, which killed hundreds of people, was on the way. In the past, this story would never have gotten out, or would have taken years, not days, to spread. Cell phones and the Internet have changed all that.

August 12, 2006: China now has over 400 million cell phone users. As a result, the government has lost control of the spread of news. This means the government must be more responsive to public opinion, and the danger of a mass uprising. The government is considering ways to shut down large sections of the cell phone system, without crippling government communications. Then again, cutting off peoples cell phone service, which is enormously popular, could enrage the population still further.