China: The Times They Are a-Changin'

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May 13, 2010: The U.S. government is donating $1.5 million to an Internet freedom group GIFC (Global Internet Freedom Consortium), whose main function is producing software that enables Chinese Internet users to get around Chinese government censoring software. But what really got the Chinese steamed, and angry at the United States, is that GIFC is supported, and heavily staffed, by members of the persecuted (in China) Falungong religious sect. The government sees religion as a constant threat. While Chinese are free to worship anyway they want, the government picks religious leaders, and imposes discipline. Thus the ongoing war against Falungong and Tibetan Buddhism. Both of these religions refuse to accept government control and are persecuted. But the persecution has not wiped out these two movements, and this, government officials know, sets a dangerous example for other Chinese. Throughout Chinese history, governments have been overthrown by religious movements, that harnessed and directed mass discontent. China now has over 400 million Internet users, and the government does not want them straying too far from approved content.

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, travelled to China, taking key aides with him, to negotiate a deal with China. North Korea wants essential food and energy supplies, to avert famine and complete economic collapse. Pictures of Kim Jong Il, taken during the visit, show the North Korean leader as ill and frail, which explains the recent efforts to position his youngest son as his heir. Apparently, this visit also sought to gain Chinese acceptance of the heir apparent. But China demanded a high price. North Korea has to allow more Chinese economic opportunity in North Korea. And that meant that North Korea's old school communists have to back off and allow the kind of economic reforms that have transformed China in the last three decades. There was a lot of resistance from North Korean bureaucrats to this, but the Chinese played hardball. Over the last few years, China has been moving more military units to the North Korean border, and holding military exercises that seemed to imply a large scale movement into North Korea. What the Chinese are planning for is a government collapse in North Korea, perhaps triggered by pro-China factions staging a coup. China apparently will try to intervene before South Korea and the United States do.

There is a lot at stake here. China wants a stable communist dictatorship in North Korea. China does not want a collapse in North Korea, and several million starving refugees fleeing across the border. China also does not want North Korea to collapse and get absorbed by South Korea. That would put a democracy on China's border, and give many Chinese a view of how things might be much better with a different political system in China. Koreans are seen as "younger brothers" to China, and it's embarrassing if the younger brother outdoes his older sibling. South Korean democracy is played down in China, but that would be difficult if a democratic, united, Korea were right on the border. But the Chinese have made it more obvious to the North Korean leadership that China will support pro-China elements in the North Korean government if the current North Korean leadership fails to turn things around.

The Chinese also want North Korea to drop its nuclear weapons program, which is seen as aimed at China as well. The Chinese don't mind if the North Koreans extract a high price from South Korea, Japan and America for this, as long as the nukes are gone, and stay gone. Again, failure to comply may lead to more energetic action against Kim dynasty rule.

China had second thoughts about letting American singer Bob Dylan make appearances in Beijing, and Shanghai. Dylan is now banned. Although Dylan was warned that openly criticizing the Chinese government would not be appreciated, the government apparently felt that some of Dylan's early protest songs ("Blowing In The Wind" and  "The Times They Are a-Changin'" in particular) might still resonate the wrong way with too many Chinese.

The Jihua Group has received permission by regulators to go public with an IPO (Initial Public Offering) of nearly half a billion dollars in common stock. The main business of the Jihua Group is making uniforms and boots for over two million Chinese military personnel. The Jihua Group has a 75 percent share of the market. Such market concentration is possible because senior military leaders prefer comfortable (for themselves) commercial arrangements.

 The Chinese Navy is trying to gain government approval to establish more overseas naval bases, especially along the oil route from China to the Persian Gulf. They may get their way, as Japan is building its first foreign base since World War II, in Djibouti (the northern neighbor of Somalia.)

May 11, 2010: Chinese diplomats pressured Japan to stop monitoring Chinese naval exercises in international waters. The Japanese fleet is seen, by the Chinese, as second only to American naval forces as a threat to Chinese naval power. Animosity between China and Japan goes back centuries, and that translates into military rivalry. But because the two nations do not share a common border, the only place where their armed forces confront each other is on the high seas. And these confrontations are becoming more common, and tense.

For the second time in the last few months, a Taiwanese general has been indicted for corruption. The latest defendant is a three star general who used to head military intelligence. He was accused of stealing cash intended for covert operations.

May 7, 2010: China opened its first tourism office in Taiwan. There has been tremendous Taiwanese investment in China, much of it only recently given full legal recognition. Tourism has also been coming out of the shadows, and becoming a big business. The tourism office recognizes that. All this is part of a Chinese plan to eventually absorb Taiwan using cultural and economic ties. Taiwan has watched how Hong Kong has handled its absorption into China over the last decade, and noted that it was not a disaster. Thus the growing number of Taiwanese who are not violently opposed to becoming part of China. This accounts for the lack of enthusiasm for spending billions to upgrade military defenses. Many Taiwanese fall back on the attitude that the United States will save them if China attacks, ignoring the fact that China is building up sufficient forces to grab all, or most, of the island before the Americans can get there.

May 4, 2010: A Chinese marine survey ship confronted a Japanese counterpart near disputed maritime border 320 kilometers northwest of the Japanese island of Amami-Oshima. The Chinese ship made threats, and the Japanese ship eventually halted its mapping of the sea floor and withdrew. Japan protested to the Chinese government.

May 3, 2010: India has banned the importation of cell phone central office equipment, fearing that Chinese intelligence has added secret features that make it easier for the Chinese to eavesdrop on Indian cell phone communications. China denies this, and is making a major effort to make this attitude to go away. But the large scale Chinese theft of industrial and government secrets via Internet based espionage has been big news in India. The Chinese are not trusted when it comes to telecommunications.

April 30, 2010: The president of Taiwan created panic when he announced, during a TV interview on CNN, that Taiwan would never ask American troops to risk their lives defending Taiwan. The Taiwanese military, and most Taiwanese do not agree with this. Soon there were clarifications, along the lines that president Ma had improved relations with China to the point where war was no longer a threat.

April 28, 2010: Nearly 7,000 Taiwanese troops took part in military exercises, and practiced moves they would make to defeat a Chinese invasion.

April 25, 2010: China and Cuba announced closer military cooperation, which will probably mean more freebies for Cuba, and more access to Cuba for intelligence gathering activities (in America's backyard.)

April 24, 2010: China has replaced Wang Lequan, the governor of Xinjiang province. This area is heavily populated by Moslem Turkic people and has been the scene of growing violence. The local Uighurs have been increasingly violent against the many Han Chinese moving into the area. Wang Lequan was believed to have the situation in hand, but the violence last year upset the national leadership. Provincial governors are in the second tier of the national leadership. Do well there, and you might make it to the top. Wang Lequan had done well in Xinjiang for over a decade, but now he's out.

 

 


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