Daily Archives: November 21, 2011

China’s economic rise hasn’t brought moves toward democracy


Chinese President Hu Jintao delivers his speech during the celebration of the Communist Party’s 90th anniversary at the Great Hall of the People on July 1, 2011 in Beijing, China. (June 30, 2011 – Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images AsiaPac)

McClatchy Newspapers | Nov 20, 2011

By TOM LASSETER

BEIJING — Lu Weixing decided this year to run as an independent candidate for a local council position in Beijing.

Lost for the right words to describe what came next, he stuck his hand into his pocket and fished out a white and orange Vitamin C tube. He tilted it forward until a single tooth rolled out.

“They beat me and then I lost a tooth,” Lu said recently.

Voting for the largely powerless councils happened Tuesday. Lu’s name was not on the ballot.

The next day, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde flew into Beijing, likely seeking financial help from China to prop up the European Union’s flailing economy.

The juxtaposition of the two events – a stage-managed election marred by thuggish behavior and the West’s lender of last resort looking for cash – was a reminder of a central question surrounding China’s growing strength on the world stage:

What are the consequences of an opaque, authoritarian government hurtling toward such immense international power?

The lack of a clear answer has created an ambiguous and, to critics, an unsettling situation.

Most Chinese, pleased by the material gains of the past few decades, stay away from politics. But in instances when someone openly defies the Chinese Communist Party’s sense of order, the consequences can be severe.

That same party is now in command of the second-largest economy in the world, and increasingly it calls the shots when the West comes hat in hand.

A few weeks before the trip by Lagarde, the head of the European Union’s bailout fund made a similar appearance in Beijing.

There was a time when analysts in Washington spoke hopefully that China’s economic growth would lead to a broad expansion of civil liberties. Engage China’s business interests, the thinking went, and the government’s harsh ways would relax.

Decades later, that has not happened.

Instead, China continues to be guided by a system that at its core would be familiar to Vladimir Lenin when he founded the disappeared Soviet Union 94 years ago: a secretive group of nine men in the standing committee of a politburo, and a Communist Party that seeks a firm grip on all facets of society.

The first part of the equation, however, has been more successful than anyone could have imagined when China began its “Reform and Opening-up” at the end of the 1970s.

Trade between the United States and China reached some $457 billion last year. Fueled by its seemingly endless exports, Beijing now holds more than $1.1 trillion in American Treasury debt.

At the same time, the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a group Congress created in 2000 to monitor the country’s democratic progress, noted last month: “Official rhetoric notwithstanding, China’s human rights and rule of law record has not improved … a troubling trend is officials’ increased willingness to disregard the law when it suits them, particularly to silence dissent.”

As Lu found out after returning last year from a decade abroad in France, that extends all the way down to obscure neighborhood politics.

His quirky and unsanctioned campaign in west Beijing included wearing a cap with a long queue braid reminiscent of the Qing Dynasty. It was a reminder that although 100 years have passed since the Qing fell, China’s central government is still ruled by non-elected officials.

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Obama’s betrayal to China

Bowing To Beijing:

How Barack Obama Is Hastening America’s Decline And Ushering A Century Of Chinese Domination

By Brett M. Decker and William C. Triplett II

Regnery, $27.95, 231 pages

Reviewed by Jeffrey T. Kuhner

Washington Times | Nov 11, 2011

President Obama is creating a post-American world – one that is ushering in the dominance of China. Mr. Obama is fostering U.S. economic and military decline while simultaneously empowering Beijing’s rise to superpower status. China’s communists are on the march. Unless Americans wake up to the growing threat, both internal and external, our victory in the Cold War will have been useless.

This is the disturbing theme of “Bowing to Beijing: How Barack Obama Is Hastening America’s Decline and Ushering a Century of Chinese Domination,” by Brett M. Decker, editorial page editor of The Washington Times, and William C. Triplett II, a best-selling author and renowned China analyst. Lucid, concise and comprehensively researched, the book is a fire bell in the night. It is a dire warning that China has become what America once was to Great Britain: the ambitious upstart determined to eclipse the global colossus. The result will be not only the end of the American moment, but the triumph of a belligerent authoritarian communism hostile to democracy and the West.

“China’s leaders are engaged in a war against America. They view us as a threat to their regime and way of life. Hence, they have embarked on a systematic, long-term program to surpass us militarily, economically and politically,” Mr. Decker said in an interview. “They are willing to do anything – purchase our national debt, steal our intellectual property, spend obscene amounts to buy influence in Washington, engage in extensive espionage in our government and large corporations, and sell sensitive missile and nuclear technology to our mortal enemies – to defeat us. And the Obama administration is turning a blind eye.”

The authors reveal that Beijing believes it is in a life-and-death struggle against America. For years, China’s ruthless communist regime has been committing hostile, aggressive acts – stealing valuable military technology, blatantly violating patent and intellectual property laws, manipulating its currency to artificially boost exports to the United States, lying about the nature and extent of its massive military buildup, sending spies into the highest echelons of our government and private sector, hacking into our computer networks, waging cyberwarfare, purchasing stakes in major banks, and cultivating our economic dependence on Chinese business.

In response, Mr. Obama has embraced the Chinese dragon. In January 2011, he acceded to Chinese demands and gave a state dinner honoring President Hu Jintao. Mr. Obama praised Mr. Hu as a statesman and welcomed China’s prominent role in world affairs. It was a craven surrender. The authors point out that while he was communist party chief in Tibet, Mr. Hu oversaw the slaughter of hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist monks. Moreover, he has ruled China with an iron fist. Thousands of dissidents have been murdered or rot in jail. The media is heavily censored. Free speech is nonexistent. Basic human rights are abrogated routinely. The country’s Christians, Falun Gong and Muslims face state-sanctioned persecution. Tens of millions are in gulags, being used as slave labor to drive China’s booming economy. Mr. Hu staunchly supports Beijing’s genocidal one-child policy, which has led to millions of forced abortions and has coerced countless women to be sterilized against their will. He is not a progressive visionary; rather, he is a butcher. This is the man Mr. Obama toasts – and to whom he bows.

At a major nuclear summit in 2010, Mr. Obama bent over and bowed fully to Mr. Hu. The Chinese leader did not reciprocate. In fact, his face and body language conveyed the opposite: contempt. The protocol breech is nuts, and frequent. As president, Mr. Obama is constantly abnegating himself to foreign leaders. The emperor of Japan, the king of Saudi Arabia, the queen of England – there is almost no one to whom he will not bow. Domestically, he has bowed to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and even to the Democratic mayor of Tampa Bay. It is odd. The authors say Mr. Obama even has bowed repeatedly to midlevel Chinese functionaries.

His submissive behavior does more than demean and degrade the presidency. For the authors, it rightly signifies Washington’s growing subservience to Beijing. Under Mr. Obama, America’s national debt has soared to nearly $15 trillion. Obamacare, the massive stimulus, crippling regulations and the reckless borrowing and public spending have brought us to the brink of bankruptcy. The private sector has been shackled. Economic sclerosis has set in. Our military lacks the dynamic economy necessary to sustain our global standing. Mr. Obama has significantly weakened American power. China is filling the vacuum. Beijing now owns more than $1.3 trillion of U.S. debt. It annually runs huge trade surpluses, flooding our market with everything from toys to computers to manufacturing products. America’s industrial base is being wiped out. As we become the world’s greatest debtor nation, China is amassing more than $3 trillion in hard-currency reserves. Its economy is exploding, fueling annual growth rates averaging 10 percent for nearly two decades.

The authors show, however, that the red dragon’s rise is anything but peaceful. Beijing is embarking on a huge, almost unprecedented military buildup. It possesses the largest armed force on the planet. It has 2.3 million men in uniform, compared to 1.4 million in the United States. If one includes reservists and paramilitary forces, the total number is close to 5 million. China is expanding its nuclear arsenal. It is constructing a world-class navy to dominate the western Pacific. It menaces its democratic neighbors, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Along with its client state of North Korea, China has sold missiles and vital nuclear technology to Iran, Syria and Venezuela – aiding and abetting our archadversaries. It is spearheading a global anti-American axis.

When confronted with the overwhelming evidence of Chinese expansionism and nefarious duplicity, the Obama administration has refused to take action. The reason is simple: America is turning into an economic vassal of China. We can no longer afford to upset – never mind challenge – our new imperial master. Instead, we must bow. This is Mr. Obama’s real, enduring and shameful legacy. We didn’t win the Cold War. Communist China did.

EU parliament’s political families meet with Chinese Communist Party


Xie Duo from the Central Bank of China believes the euro is stable (Photo: EUobserver)

euobserver.com | Nov 9, 2011

By Philip Ebels

BRUSSELS – A three-day forum of political heavyweights from the EU and China ended on Wednesday with kind words at a half-hour press conference.

The EU-China High-Level Group, the second of its kind after a first encounter in Beijing last year, brought together the leaders of the big European political families and representatives of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

“We discussed EU-China co-operation, social development and reforms, the construction of democracy and legal systems, sustainable development, and global economic governance,” said MEP Reinhard Buetikofer of the Greens, who chaired the meeting.

Related

China shows interest in sponsoring EU bail-outs

The discussions were held in “a spirit of co-operation”, accoring to MEP Veronique De Keyser of the Socialist group in the parliament.

“Participants from both sides understand that only with constructive dialogue, mutual trust and tolerance can we enhance understanding, avoid misjudgement and lay a solid foundation for our partnership,” said Li Jinjun, deputy minister of the central committee of the CPC.

“To us Europeans, the forum has been a success. There is an evolution in the quality and the openness of the speeches. It is the liberty of the tone that marks this forum’s success,” said De Keyser.

“We used to just make our statements without there being much debate at all. But this time around, we really had an exchange of views, and I think that is great progress. [The forum] doesn’t lead to any concrete political outcome but it does add to understanding.” said Markus Loening, vice-president of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform party and German commissioner on human rights.

The forum’s busy programme, held nearly entirely behind closed doors, included a meeting with Jerzy Buzek, president of the European parliament, and speeches from several MEPs and EU trade commissioner Karel de Gught and social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor.

“The EU is committed to help China’s transition towards an open society, support China’s economic and social reforms, and integrate China even further into the world trading system,” said Andor.

Ways in which China might be able to help the EU, however, were not explored as much, according to De Keyser: “We didn’t talk much about how or whether China could contribute to the European bail-out fund, [the European Financial Stability Fund]. That subject wasn’t on the programme.”

True to the spirit of the meetings, Xie Duo, director-general of the financial market department of the People’s Bank of China, said that he trusts the euro will survive the crisis.

“We think that the crisis is temporary. We believe that European governments will find the way out of the crisis. We believe that the euro will be strong and stable. The Central Bank of China supports the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund for their support to the euro currency,” he said.

He further stated that the best way to stimulate the global economy is to stimulate growth at home (see video). “We also face a lot of problems in China. If we can successfully control the inflation in China, if we can successfully transform our economic development model, it will help the world economic recovery.”

Merkel wants ‘permanent’ supervision of Greece, warns of war


‘Nobody should take peace for granted,’ says Merkel

euobserver.com | Oct 26, 2011

By Valentina Pop

Brussels – Peace should not be taken for granted if the euro fails, German chancellor Merkel told MPs Wednesday (26 October) ahead of the eurozone summit where an increase of the bail-out fund firepower may lead to Germany’s own state assets being taken as collateral.

In a dark blue jacket reflecting the mood in and about the eurozone, Merkel abandoned her usual cautious rhetoric warned outright of a war.

“Nobody should take for granted another 50 years of peace and prosperity in Europe. They are not for granted. That’s why I say: If the euro fails, Europe fails,” Merkel said, followed by a long applause from all political groups.

“We have a historical obligation: To protect by all means Europe’s unification process begun by our forefathers after centuries of hatred and blood spill. None of us can foresee what the consequences would be if we were to fail.”

“It cannot be that sometime in the future they say the political generation responsible for Europe in the second decade of the 21 century has failed in the face of history,” the chancellor continued.

She was asking for the parliament’s “political” green light on a negotiation mandate for the EU summit, beginning later today in Brussels. The summit is seeking to increase the firepower of the €440 billion-strong European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to stop the sovereign debt crisis spreading to countries like Italy and ultimately, France.

The Bundestag approved the measure by a large majority, with 503 members in favour, 89 opposing and four abstaining.
German ‘risks’

While stressing that Germany’s contribution to the EFSF loan guarantees would continue to be capped at €211 billion, she said she could not exclude there may be “risks” for Germany linked to the EFSF increase of firepower. Her own party colleagues had demanded that she clearly excludes German state assets, such as the central bank’s gold reserves, to be put as collateral for the EFSF lending power.

“Nobody can clearly estimate if there will be such risks. What I can say is that we cannot exclude it,” she said, insisting that the current situation is pushing European leaders into “uncharted territories”.

“Not to take these risks would be irresponsible. There is no better and more sensible alternative. Europe and the world are looking at Germany,” the chancellor said.

Looking ahead to the summit, the chancellor repeated her long-standing stance that “there is no silver bullet, no simple solutions. We will still deal with these topics for years from now.”

She repeated her insistence that the EU treaty had to be changed, in the medium term, to be more strict on countries breaching the euro deficit rules.

“Where does it say that any treaty change has to take 10 years or that there should be no more changes after the Lisbon Treaty,” she asked.

EU leaders last Sunday agreed to have an evaluation presented to them in December by council chief Herman Van Rompuy about the possibility for a “limited” treaty change.
‘Permanent supervision’ for Greece

On the three euro-countries currently propped by EU-IMF loans, Merkel said Ireland was on “the right path”, Portugal showed it could implement the promised reforms, while Greece was still “at the beginning of a long road.”

For the first time, as opposition MPs noted later on in the debate, Merkel had words of praise for the ordinary Greek citizens feeling the brunt of the austerity measures demanded by international lenders. “People in Greece have to stomach a lot of sacrifices. They deserve our respect and also a sustainable growth perspective in the eurozone.”

According to the latest report of the so-called troika, consisting of experts sent from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Greece will need even higher debt restructuring and losses for private lenders compared to what EU leaders had agreed upon on 21 July.

“But debt restructuring alone does not solve the problem. Painful structural reforms have to be made, otherwise even after debt restructuring we’re back to where we are today,” Merkel warned.

That’s why, she said, Greece would have to be “assisted” for quite some time. “It’s not enough that the troika comes and goes every three months. It would be desirable to have a permanent supervision in Greece,” she said, adding that this issue would be brought up at the summit.

In return for what seems to be an unprecedented sovereignty loss in an old EU member state, Merkel promised German investments and mentioned a meeting of local representatives from Germany and Greece in the coming weeks.

German tax levy on Belgian Nazi slave labourers provokes fury


A decision by Germany to levy a tax on pensions received by Belgians who were slave labourers for the Nazi regime during the Second World War has provoked fury among survivors.

Telegraph | Nov 21, 2011

By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels

Last week demands for hundreds of euros from tax authorities in the German state of Brandenburg began to land on the doormats of surviving “dwangarbeiders” or their widows.

“It hits me not only financially but emotionally,” Simone De Vos, 84, the widow of a forced labourer told the Gazet Van Antwerpen.

“My late husband had anxiety attacks for decades after his time in Germany. It is outrageous that the Germans now want money back.”

According to media reports in Belgium, the German authorities last year passed a law stating that pensions for former slave labourers would be taxed at the rate of 17 per cent.

The tax has been applied retroactively from 2005 meaning those Belgian survivors of Nazism or their widows awarded pensions by Germany as a form compensation now face large bills.

Tony Vandersteen, the ombudsman of the Belgian pension department, confirmed that dozens of former forced labourers or their widows have complained.

He has advised the pensioners that “there is not a lot he can do” and recommended that people “contact the German authorities in order to try to obtain a discount”.

In late 1942 the Nazis launched a programme of forced labour in the occupied countries in order to keep the German war industry going. Millions of people were forced to work in Germany, including 200,000 Belgians, in slave labour conditions.

It is not known if French, Dutch, Italian, Polish or other survivors will face tax bills on their pensions.

Ahmed Laaouej, a Belgian senator, has demanded that Didier Reynders, Belgium’s finance minister, registers a protest over the “unacceptable” tax demands with Germany.

“The minister must immediately contact the German authorities. And I would also like to know if the Belgian government has been informed in advance of the decision,” he said.

‘Killing fields’ victims await Khmer Rouge trial


A tourist takes pictures of human skulls of Cambodian Khmer Rouge victims at Choeung Ek stupa, better known “Killing field” on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Some 200 Khmer Rouge victims on Sunday gathered at Choeung Ek for a Buddhist ceremony to dedicate to the souls of the dead before the start of the trial for former Khmer Rouge leaders. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

AP | Nov 20, 2011

By SOPHENG CHEANG

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Three top Khmer Rouge leaders accused of orchestrating Cambodia’s “killing fields” face a court Monday as a U.N.-backed tribunal begins their trials more than three decades after some of the 20th century’s worst atrocities.

Survivors of the regime held a remembrance ceremony outside Phnom Penh on Sunday. Relatives of the victims wept as they chanted and burned incense near a glass case filled with skulls at Choeung Ek Genocide Center, a memorial built in a field where bones still jut out from the ground, remnants of the Khmer Rouge mass executions.

The emotional ceremony was held to allow Cambodians an opportunity to share their concerns and remember loved ones ahead of the trials of three of the Khmer Rouge’s surviving inner circle — all now in their 80s — on charges including crimes against humanity, genocide and torture in connection with the Khmer Rouge’s 1975-79 reign of terror.

An estimated 1.7 million people died of execution, starvation, exhaustion or lack of medical care as a result of the Khmer Rouge’s radical policies, which essentially turned all of Cambodia into a forced labor camp as the movement attempted to create a pure agrarian socialist society. Intellectuals, entrepreneurs and anyone considered were imprisoned, tortured and often executed.

“I want to remind the victims and ask them to push this trial to find justice for those who were killed by the Khmer Rouges regime,” 80-year-old Chum Mey, one of the only two survivors from the notorious S-21 prison, said at Sunday’s ceremony

Tribunal spokesman Huy Vannak called the proceedings beginning Monday “the most important trial in the world” because of the seniority of those involved.

“It sends a message that the trial, which survivors have been waiting more then three decades for, finally begins,” he said.

The defendants are 85-year-old Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s chief ideologist and the No. 2 leader behind the late Pol Pot; 80-year-old Khieu Samphan, an ex-head of state; and 86-year-old Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister.

A fourth defendant, 79-year-old Ieng Thirith, was ruled unfit to stand trial last week because she has Alzheimer’s disease. She is Ieng Sary’s wife and served as the regime’s minister for social affairs.

The regime’s supreme leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 in Cambodia’s jungles while a prisoner of his own comrades, who after being toppled from power fought a guerrilla war that did not fully end in the late 1990s .

Pol Pot had led the Khmer Rouge from its clandestine revolutionary origins to open resistance after a 1970 coup installed a pro-American government and dragged Cambodia directly into the maelstrom of the Vietnam War.

After a bloody civil war, the Khmer Rouge guerrillas took power in 1975 and all but sealed off the country to the outside world. It immediately emptied the capital Phnom Penh of almost all its inhabitants, sending them to vast rural communes as part of an effort to turn the country into a socialist utopia. With intellectuals and anyone too closely associated with the previous regime purged, an economic and social disaster ensued.

The failures only fed the group’s paranoia, and imagined traitors said to be working with the U.S., or Vietnam, the country’s traditional enemy, were hunted down, only plunging the country further into chaos. Vietnam, whose border provinces had suffered bloody attacks, sponsored a resistance movement and invaded, ousting the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979 and installing a client government.

More than three decades later, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians still struggle with the trauma inflicted by the regime and the long-delayed hunt for justice.

The U.N.-backed tribunal, which was established in 2006, has tried just one case, convicting Kaing Guek Eav, the former head of the regime’s notorious S-21 prison, last July and sentencing him to 35 years in prison for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other offenses.

That case was seen as much simpler than the current case, which covers a much broader range of activities and because Kaing Guek Eav confessed to his crimes. Those going on trial Monday have steadfastly maintained their innocence. The prison chief was also far lower in the regime’s leadership ranks than the current defendants.

There has been concern that the top Khmer Rouge leaders, all aging and in poor health, could die before a verdict is delivered. The tribunal announced in September that it would try to expedite the proceedings by splitting up the charges.

Huy Vannak said he didn’t know how the trial would last but said the tribunal will take time to examine each accused, civil party and witness to ensure that the trial is fair.

The first part of the trial will consider charges involving the forced movement of people and crimes against humanity, while later proceedings will focus on other charges including genocide.

“I’m so happy and I could not sleep last night when I heard these leaders were to appear before the tribunal,” said 80-year-old Chum Mey, one of only two survivors from the S-21 prison. “We have been waiting for more than 30 years to hear these leaders’ voice saying the true story of their reign that brought death to over a million people.”

Moscow martial arts fans greet Putin with catcalls


Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, 2nd left, congratulates Russian heavyweight mixed martial arts fighter Fedor Emelianenko, 2nd right, after his victory over American Jeff Monson, in Moscow, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Putin has long been an admirer of Emelianenko and he attended his fight Sunday night in Moscow . (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Pool)

AP | Nov 20, 2011

By LYNN BERRY

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was greeted by catcalls when he stepped into the ring after a mixed martial arts fight at a Moscow arena on Sunday night.

The whistles and shouts, heard clearly on the live television broadcast, were an unprecedented rebuke as Putin prepares to return to the presidency next year.

A judo enthusiast, Putin has long been an admirer of Russian heavyweight mixed martial artist Fedor Emelianenko and came to see him take on American Jeff Monson.

After Emelianenko won, Putin stepped into the ring to congratulate him, but was met with catcalls from many of the 22,000 fans at the Olympic Stadium.

Russian Professional Boxing Federation spokesman Andrei Bazdrev said on Ekho Moskvy radio that Putin seemed taken aback by the unexpected negative reaction, but quickly regained his composure. Speaking over the din, Putin praised Emelianenko as a “real Russian bogatyr,” a term for a medieval warrior.

The video was quickly posted on the Internet. “The end of an era,” Alexei Navalny, one of Russia’s best-known bloggers, wrote on Twitter.

While Putin remains highly popular in Russia, his approval ratings have fallen steadily in recent months. The independent Levada Center said polling done in late October showed Putin with 61 percent support, down from 77 percent a year ago.

Putin, who was president from 2000 to 2008, has announced plans to run for a third term in March. Even though he is all but certain to win the election, he has been actively campaigning for months, eager to show that he remains strong and vigorous at 59.

On Friday, he put on skates and invited television crews to film him playing a game with former hockey stars in which he was allowed to score.

Russians, however, are showing less tolerance for his televised publicity stunts, and this is particularly true in Moscow and other large cities where social media use is high.

Last month, Putin’s spokesman was compelled to acknowledge that a diving expedition during which the prime minister had retrieved two ancient Greek jug fragments from the seabed was staged.