China and India are competing for bases in the Indian Ocean. India recently gave the tiny island nation of Maldives more economic and military aid, and tied the new Maldives radar system (covering large areas of ocean) in with the radar system that covers Indian coastal waters. India is also increasing aid to Sri Lanka, where China is seeking to obtain basing rights for warships. Both Maldives and Sri Lanka are off the southern tip of India, and could provide Chinese ships with bases in the middle of the Indian Ocean. China is running into stiff opposition from India, which does not want any Chinese warships hanging about in this neighborhood.
Meanwhile, India has given up on Myanmar (Burma), which continues making war on tribal rebels in northern Burma, while ruining its economy. This violence has been going on for centuries, but became particularly violent once Burma became independent (from Britain) after World War II. The violence has become quite intense of late, with thousands of refugees fleeing into China, and at least one Chinese soldier was killed by bullets that crossed the border. Like North Korea, the Burmese dictators (who are nationalist/socialist, not communist) have ruined their economy. Growing unrest, and lots of people eager to flee into neighboring China, are a problem the Chinese government would rather not have. So the Chinese are leaning on the Burmese rulers to shape up. Not much success yet.
Japanese pundits and politicians are talking about nuclear weapons again. The Japanese perceive a growing military threat from China, and despite long traditions of being "anti-nuclear weapons", most Japanese understand that the only counter for China's nuclear weapons, are Japanese ones. It's long been acknowledged that Japan could quickly build nukes, and has the ability to do so within six months. Then there's the general military balance between the two nations. At present, Japan spends about one percent of its GDP on the defense budget, while China, which spends over four percent of its GDP on defense. This results in China spending twice as much money as Japan, on defense. But if Japan spent two percent of GDP on defense, that spending advantage would disappear. Japan's relative lack of defense spending still has not prevented it from turning out what is arguably the best navy and air force in the region, one that outclasses even China.
The government grows ever more nervous about the Internet, especially the disproportionate number of young (under age 30) Chinese who are online all the time. Over two thirds of Chinese Internet users are under 30, about twice the percentage of the U.S. The younger Chinese Internet users have proved unpredictable, and eager for change. For the small group of guys running the Chinese police state, this is not good news. Repeated attempts to impose some discipline on these young Internet users, have failed. The young Internet users just get angrier the more the government leans on them. This will not end well.
Recently, relations with Australia have been frosty, because China has arrested four Australian mining company executives, and charged them with bribing Chinese government officials. Australians see this as the height of hypocrisy, give the widespread corruption in China. But the Chinese point out that the arrests are part of a new anti-corruption campaign that targets those who pay bribes, and that Australians, especially those who do business in China, should have been paying attention.
September 4, 2009: In the western city of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, thousands of Han Chinese have rioted over police inability to halt attacks on Han Chinese by Uighur terrorists using syringes. Over 500 Han Chinese have been attacked in this fashion, but none appear to have been infected by anything. The subsequent rioting appears to have directed at Uighurs, who are a minority in the capital city of the province that was once, a few decades ago, nearly all Uighur. At least five people have died in these riots. As a result of the recent unrest, the central government removed the head of the Communist Party in Urumqi, and the city chief of police. This shows much displeasure by the central government, and sends a message to local officials to "fix the problem", or else.
In southern China, a local TV station, doing a "back-to-school" feature, asked young kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. One little girl said she wanted to be a "corrupt government official" because "they had so much good stuff". This bit got on the air, and now has gone viral, much to the displeasure of the government (which makes a big deal out of fighting corruption, but would rather not give the problem any more publicity.)
September 3, 2009: In Central China (Hunan province), police arrested fifteen parents who had taken part in demonstrations against factories that were putting lots of lead into the atmosphere, and making thousands of children sick. Local police are accusing the parents of belonging to illegal religious group Falungong, which makes it easier to prosecute the parents, and punish them more severely. But the news of how local officials are treating the parents made it onto the Internet. Government efforts to contain the news have failed, and there is growing Internet, and public, pressure to do right by the parents and their children. This is prompted largely by the fact that air and water pollution is a growing problem in many parts of China.
September 2, 2009: The two female U.S. journalists who were freed by North Korea last month, have revealed that they were dragged into North Korea by North Korean border guards. The two were briefly in North Korea, after crossing an unmarked and unguarded, rural, portion of the border. But when North Korean border guards became aware of the two, they crossed the border (back on March 17th) into China, grabbed the women, took them into North Korea and arrested them. The two women were apparently unaware that North Korea border guards and soldiers frequently cross the border, often in civilian clothes. This is usually done to carry out illegal activities (smuggling, kidnapping or simply to rob wealthier victims on the Chinese side of the border). Chinese who live along the border have learned to be wary of these armed North Koreans, especially in rural parts of the border, where Chinese police and border guards are not to be found.
August 28, 2009: The government has drawn a line in the water, and told the U.S. that it can expect Chinese naval and air forces to try and keep American warships and aircraft out of the Chinese economic zone. International law (the 1994 Law of the Sea treaty) recognizes the waters 22 kilometers from land as under the jurisdiction of the nation controlling the nearest land. That means ships cannot enter these "territorial waters" without permission. Moreover, the waters 360 kilometers from land are considered the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), of the nation controlling the nearest land. The EEZ owner can control who fishes there, and extracts natural resources (mostly oil and gas) from the ocean floor. But the EEZ owner cannot prohibit free passage, or the laying of pipelines and communications cables. China claims that American warships conduct illegal espionage on Chinese bases and military training. But the 1994 treaty says nothing about such matters. China is simply doing what China has been doing for centuries, trying to impose its will on neighbors, or anyone venturing into what China considers areas under its control.
August 24, 2009: The government is putting 200 people (mostly Moslem Uighurs) on trial in the western city of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province. China says 197 died in last July's Uighur unrest, with most of the victims being Han Chinese (the majority in China) who have moved to Xinjiang and were resented by the native Uighurs (who are Turks). The actual death toll from over a week of unrest, appears to be more than 500 dead, over 2,000 injured and several thousand arrested. Most of those arrested are Uighurs, and the local Han Chinese want revenge.