China: The Prudent Man Seeks An Exit


April 8, 2012: China is treating North Korea like a colony. China lets the local thugs (the "workers party" of the Kim family) run the place while China supplies enough food to prevent mass starvation and enough fuel to keep the lights on in the capital. China pays for this with a network of mining contracts in North Korea. For the last five years China has built and operated these mines, on very attractive (to China) terms. The North Korean government can't complain about the arrangement because China is the only ally North Korea has (unless you want to count Cuba, Venezuela, and Burma and the latter has been unreliable of late). China props up the North Korean tyranny because that's cheaper than letting the North Korean government collapse and taking over and running North Korea as an extension of northeast China. It would also be very expensive. That could run into a nasty outbreak of Korean nationalism and a call for the other Chinese nightmare: a united Korea. That would probably be on South Korean terms and China does not want a prosperous democracy on its borders. So turning North Korea into an exploitable prison camp, run by some of the prisoners, is a suitable solution. The only downside is that the North Korea officials often do outrageous things (like make and break deals with South Korea, Japan, and the United States). The current outrage, over North Korean efforts to renege on a recent aid deal and launch a space satellite annoys China, who really can't do anything since they have allowed the inmates to run the asylum known as North Korea.

In the first two months of this year Chinese tourists to Taiwan reached a record of 150,000 a month. This is over 20 percent of the total visitors, who mainly come from other countries in the region. China has allowed it citizens to freely visit Taiwan (and vice versa) since 2008. This was part of a diplomatic effort to make unification with China seem more reasonable. It has done that, to a certain extent, but many Chinese tourists go home wishing China were more like Taiwan.

The government has shut down two major pro-Maoist communist web sites. The closures appear to be temporary, to persuade the site operators to tone down their attacks on the ruling Communist Party. This is more fallout from the arrest last month of Bo Xilai, a popular, but corrupt, regional official in the southwest.

One side effect of China's booming economy is increased efforts by newly rich Chinese to buy an escape plan. This usually consists as dual citizenship in a foreign (preferably Western) country. This usually requires buying property and starting a business in that country. That's not a problem, as the newly wealthy Chinese know that all is not well in China and a prudent man prepares for that.

April 6, 2012: The official Chinese military newspaper, the Liberation Army Daily, openly warned troops to disregard Internet rumors about disloyalty in the military. This is result of popular politician Bo Xilai being removed from office for corruption. Bo Xilai was a rare official who preached a return to communist ideals, while also delivering better government in the southwestern city of Chongqing (population 28 million). What really brought Bo Xilai down was too much publicity and the fact that the majority of the Chinese leadership has accepted that communism in China is dead in fact, if not in fiction. Bo Xilai thought his well-publicized efforts to deliver more efficient government would start a nationwide movement to restore communism, but it only united the national leadership against him. Bo Xilai was popular in the military because he spoke out against the many corrupt officers in the military. This sort of thing has been going on in the Chinese military for thousands of years, despite many attempts to stamp out the stealing and favoritism. After Bo Xilai was removed on March 12th, rumors began appearing on the Internet. One of these rumors had mutinous troops marching on Beijing to overthrow the government. In response, more restrictions were placed on what could be said on the Chinese Internet. But the incident frightened many senior officials. What also frightens officials is how leftist politicians like Bo Xilai stir up enthusiasm for failed communist movements of the past, like the Maoist "social revolution" (which killed over 10 million Chinese and accomplished nothing positive). At the same time, Chinese leaders do not hesitate to say, often and in public, that the biggest danger China faces is corrupt officials.

Early today nine Somali pirates captured a Chinese cargo ship as it approached an Iranian port on the Indian Ocean. China requested that Iran rescue the ship, and its 28 Chinese sailors, from the pirates. Later that day two Iranian warships caught up with the much slower Chinese ship and told the Somalis to surrender or die. The Somalis, knowing how bloody minded the Iranians and Chinese could be, didn't try to use the Chinese crew as hostages but threw weapons overboard and surrendered. China has been urging other nations participating in the anti-piracy patrol to be more aggressive, and this appears to have played a part in the EU (European Union) recently authorizing its members to have their ships and aircraft attack pirate bases on the Somali coast.

China openly demanded that Pakistan turn over six members (identified by name) of ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement), an Islamic terror group hostile to China that has long found sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal territories along the Afghan border. Pakistan denies this sanctuary exists despite much evidence to the contrary. Denying it to the Americans is one thing, denying it to the Chinese is another matter. China has pledged to come to Pakistan's aid if there is another war with India. China can withdraw that support if Pakistan continues to refuse to capture and turn over Islamic terrorists threatening China. The main problem here is that going after the ETIM members would spark a fight with the Pushtun tribes and get a lot of soldiers killed. Pakistan has to decide which outcome is worse.

April 5, 2012: China admitted that hundreds of its government web sites had recently been hacked by the AnonymousChina group. This was difficult to deny, as the results were obvious to thousands of people who encountered the defaced sites. AnonymousChina claims to have hacked 485 sites belonging to the Chinese government or companies that work closely with the government. In some cases, documents were taken and these soon began to be made public. The attacks began on March 30th.

Western Internet security researchers continue to release more details about who, and how, Chinese hackers have been plundering foreign government and companies of data and valuable information in general. The victims are believed to be striking back quietly and taking much data. But there is a lot more valuable stuff to steal in the West than in China. Another worrisome aspect of the Chinese hacking is that it also targets political groups inside and outside of China that the Chinese government opposes. For example, groups supporting Tibetan independence are frequent targets of the Chinese hackers. One side effect of all this Chinese hacking is increased reluctance to allow Chinese investors to buy tech firms in the West. Because of the hacking, and all the lies that accompany it, the Chinese are not trusted.

April 4, 2012: Taiwan has delayed its plan to shrink the armed forces strength from 275,000 to 210,000 troops and eliminate conscription. Instead of doing this by 2014, it will be completed by 2015. The delay was caused by bureaucratic and political feuding, not by any change of mind. Conscription is unpopular but it will cost more to go all-volunteer, even with a smaller force.

April 1, 2012: China put more restrictions on microblogging services (the local equivalent of Twitter, which is banned in China), arrested six bloggers, and threatened Internet users with arrest if they "spread rumors" (like the recent ones that some army units had tried to overthrow the government because of the recent arrest of popular, but corrupt, government official Bo Xilai). Actually, it's unclear if Bo Xilai himself was corrupt, but members of his family and administration certainly were.

March 30, 2012: In Tibet two more Buddhist monks set themselves on fire. This tactic has so far failed to trigger a large scale uprising in Tibet. This is mainly because the Chinese security services have reinforced police and intelligence forces in Tibet and kept one step ahead of any potential uprising. So far, that is.

March 22, 2012:  The government has ordered 3,300 members of the security forces to the capital for retraining and indoctrination. The 3,300 used to work for recently arrested Communist Party official Bo Xilai (who had some radical ideas about restoring communist practices). It turned out that Bo Xilai has a lot of enthusiastic followers in the city of Chongqing (population 28 million), which he had been running for the last five years.


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