Monday, January 31, 2005

Don't be cowed by China, Chen tells Japan

The Straits Times, Jan. 31, 2005

TOKYO - PRESIDENT Chen Shui-bian has advised Tokyo not to give in to pressure from China and instead 'pursue its own path', such as forging a military alliance with the United States and Taiwan. In an interview with Japan's Fuji Television during his visit to the south Pacific state of Palau on Friday, part of which was aired here yesterday, Taiwan's President also slammed China for planning to enact an anti-secession law to stop Taiwan from seeking independence.

Calling China's moves a 'threat' during the interview, Mr Chen said that Beijing not only had not renounced the use of force on Taiwan but instead sought to change the status quo of the Taiwan Strait by using the anti-secession law as a legal basis to invade the island. He said that China's military expansion targeted not only Taiwan but also posed a threat to the US and Japan. Hence, he hoped beside constituting a democratic bloc, the three parties could also forge a security alliance. Citing China's protests over former Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui's visit to Japan as well as Tokyo's intent to grant visa-free treatment to Taiwan tourists, he said Japan should not cowed by pressure from China. 'Japan is an independent country and not a province of China. It must have confidence in itself,' he stressed. Meanwhile, news reports in Taiwan said the first non-stop flights from China to Taiwan might have taken a shorter route instead of passing through Hong Kong territory as agreed.------------

Japan may impose N. Korea sanctions next month: Pyongyang must come clean over abductions, says top LDP official

The Straits Times, January 31, 2005

TOKYO - JAPAN may announce economic sanctions against North Korea next month if the communist state refuses to come clean over its abductions of Japanese during the Cold War era, a political leader said yesterday. 'We are entering the stage of economic sanctions,' Mr Shinzo Abe, acting secretary general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said on a television news show.

'As one option, I think we can announce sanctions within February and, for example, wait for one month,' he said on the TV Asahi network. 'If they fail to respond, we will have no choice but to gradually raise them to a considerable level.'----------

At Forum, Leaders Confront Annual Enigma of China

By MARK LANDLER, The New York Times, January 30, 2005

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan. 29 - In almost every panel discussion at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum here, there comes a moment when somebody mentions China.

A hush typically ensues, as panelists draw their breath, gather their thoughts and struggle to put the bewildering vastness of the topic into a few words. "China is going to be the change agent for the next 20 years," said Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, when asked about the country's future by the television interview host Charlie Rose. China's staggering potential, coupled with the steep language barrier and cultural discomfort of many Chinese who come to this conference, has made it Davos's annual enigma.------------------------

Friday, January 28, 2005

Direct China-Taiwan flights start

What a great moment in the history of the Taiwan-PRC relationship. May friendship between the two chinas live forever!

What do you think?

Growing global buzz on China and India

By Kishore Mahbubani, The Straits Times, Jan 28, 2005

ONE of the joys of my life has been spending time in intellectual watering holes in corners of the globe. As I go from Aspen to Davos, Ditchley to Salzburg, I pick up the 'buzz' and a good feel of what is preoccupying key minds around the globe. It is now clear the emergence of China and India has grabbed the attention of the world.

Recently, a panel of American intelligence analysts consulted 1,000 international experts to assemble a look into the future called Project 2020. The chairman of the United States National Intelligence Council, Mr Robert Hutchings, released the report, which predicted, among other things, the emergence of new global powers including China and India. As the consciousness of the impending rise of China and India is relatively new, few have absorbed the full implications. Most analysts focus on the economic emergence of the two countries. In purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, China is the second largest economy in the world, next to the United States, followed by Japan and India. At present growth rates, China will be the world's largest economy within a decade and India the world's third largest by 2010.--------------------

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

China's economy grows 9.5 percent in 2004 vs 9.3 percent in 2003

BEIJING, Jan 25 (AFP) - China's booming economy grew even faster in 2004, expanding at a blistering pace of 9.5 percent after 9.3 percent the previous year, official statistics showed Tuesday.

Copyright (c) 2005 Agence France-Presse

China just keeps on getting richer, and bigger, and more powerful, and suddenly..... will it become the world's next "superpower"?

What lies ahead for the Chinese economy? a bust? An explosion? an implosion? political reform?

Monday, January 24, 2005

Japanese military deploys to tsunami-hit Indonesia

Japan's largest military deployment since World War II has arrived in Indonesia to help tsunami victims and improve the country's image in a region wary of its past aggression.
Other foreign troops are scaling down their presence in the badly-hit Aceh region one month after the disaster.
But the three Japanese navy ships carrying 950 Self-Defence Force personnel have dropped anchor in Indonesian waters.
AFP. ABC News.

Complete article

Perhaps this is the start of Japan as a regional "builder" towards peace and integration?
Is Japan going to really help Indonesia?
What is Japan's motive?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

N. Korea legal code enshrines private property

By Joo Sang Min, The Straits Times, Jan. 24, 2005

SEOUL - NORTH Korea has introduced laws for the protection of private property, a move that indicates the country's desire to change as it grapples with growing economic and social turmoil resulting from market reforms. However, stiffer punishments for what are called 'anti-state crimes' have also been enacted, marking out the challenges that the government will not allow to its power.

According to North Korea watchers here, some changes spelt out in the communist state's new legal code show that Mr Kim Jong Il's regime has come to heed the realities of the times. Like people elsewhere, North Koreans now have more contact with the outside world following market reforms in 2002. Recognition of the sanctity of private property is the most important breakthrough in the new laws. The section relating to this says that homes, vehicles, money, household appliances and other personal property are now inheritable - formerly seen as an attribute of capitalism.

Other changes include the right of citizens to seek legal recourse if their property is damaged or lost by another party. Those found guilty of taking other people's assets by force will face a higher jail term than the previous ceiling of 10 years.---------------------

For Beijing Students Now, Protests Aren't Even a Memory

BEIJING, Jan. 21 - For Yu Yang, a mop-haired biology major, the small notice posted this week on Beijing University's Web site about the death of a former Communist Party leader seemed like an irrelevant historical footnote.

Growing up, Mr. Yu, now 21, barely knew about Zhao Ziyang, except that he had "played a prominent role in 1989." And Mr. Yu acknowledged Thursday that he barely knew about 1989. He knew students had protested at Tiananmen Square; he had heard that Chinese soldiers fired into the crowds to end the demonstrations.

But Mr. Yu, an aspiring scientist, described that as hearsay. "Rumors say so," he said of a bloody crackdown witnessed by a worldwide television audience outside China, "but I need a lot of evidence to believe it."

By Jim Yardley. The New York Times. 1/22/04.
Full article

Is the lack of regard for history as an "exact science" a problem for the Chinese population?
Would this impact the regional dynamics in the future?

Credit card use at highest level in two years

Credit card usage during the fourth quarter of last year was the highest in two years, card issuers reported.
The companies told the Ministry of Finance and Economy that consumers charged 44,865 billion won in the October-December period.
That was a 10.6 percent year-on-year increase and the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2002, when shoppers put 45,825 billion won on their credit cards.

The Korea Herald. By Kim So-hyun.
Full Article Link

Will the high rate of credit card debt become a potential downfall for the Korean economy?
Rational exuberance?

Friday, January 21, 2005

South Korea set to be world's most aged society: If greying trend continues, 40% of population will be over 65 in 2050

The Straits Times, Jan 21, 2005

SEOUL - FOUR in 10 South Koreans will be over 65 years old in 2050. With its people's longer life span and an extremely low birth rate, South Korea is set to surpass Japan as the most aged society in the world.

In its latest population report based on United Nations data, South Korea's National Statistical Office (NSO) forecast that the nation's elderly people - aged over 65 - will account for as much as 37.3 per cent of the population in 2050, the Korea Times reported. The estimated figure is the highest in the world. A nation is considered an ageing society when those over 65 years old make up at least 7 per cent of the population, and an aged society when the rate reaches 14 per cent.

'The anticipated acceleration of the ageing population is mainly due to a prolonged life span led by advances in medical treatment as well as low birth rates triggered by young couples putting off having children,' NSO economist Kim Dong Hoi said. 'Currently, those in their 30s and 40s make up the bulk of the Korean population, but many of them are not married and don't have children. 'When these people reach the age of beyond 65, the nation will face a severe imbalance in population composition.' Even before 2050, the NSO said, the nation is expected to become a silver society, given the current greying trend.

South Koreans over the age of 65 will account for 14 per cent of the population by 2018 and this is expected to rise to 20 per cent by 2026. The UN predicted Japan will see its aged population rise to the second-highest in the world with 36.5 per cent in 2050. It is followed by Spain with 35 per cent, Italy 34.4 per cent and the Netherlands 33.2 per cent. The NSO said South Korea's overall population, which stood at 48.29 million at the end of last year, will peak at 49.95 million in 2020 and drop to 42.34 million in 2050. Experts are concerned that if the ageing trend continues, the nation's economic growth potential will be severely eroded in the coming years. They suggest that the government draw up long-term solutions to the problems by reforming the pension system and introducing policies that encourage childbirth.

Japan opposes lifting of China arms embargo

By David Pilling, Financial Times, January 20, 2005

Japan on Thursday stepped up its campaign to brand China as a potential military threat in the region, saying it opposed the proposed lifting of an arms embargo against Beijing by the European Union. Nobutaka Machimura, foreign minister, told Jack Straw, his UK counterpart, that lifting the arms export ban would be of concern to all east Asia countries, including Japan.

In a five-year military review late last year, Japan said China - along with North Korea - needed close scrutiny. Its decision to name China explicitly, against the advice of some Japanese government officials, came after its maritime defence forces chased a Chinese submarine from Japanese waters. Tokyo has become more vocal in its criticism of Beijing following the promotion of several ministers and bureaucrats who argue that Japan has danced around China for too long.

This week, the Liberal Democratic party, the dominant member of the ruling coalition, formally expressed its support for visits by Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister, to the Yasukuni shrine. Mr Koizumi’s frequent visits to the shrine, a nationalist symbol that enshrines 2.5m war dead including 14 Class A war criminals, has enraged Beijing. Tokyo has also stepped up its opposition to Chinese oil and gas exploration operations in disputed areas of the East China sea and this week staked its own claim by giving the go-ahead for Japanese oil companies to drill.

Defence officials say China spends far more than it admits on its armed forces, possibly eclipsing Japan. Using the North Korean threat as an excuse, Japan recently signed up to a joint missile defence system with the US. Privately, some defence officials admit that the real reason for missile defence is to block the projection of Chinese power. During his visit, Mr Straw confirmed that British troops would protect the security of Japanese ground forces stationed in Samawah, southern Iraq. Because of Japan’s pacifist constitution, which Mr Koizumi is pressing to change, its forces have only a limited ability to defend themselves.

Liberals in the lead; Japan

The Economist. London: Jan 15, 2005.Vol.374, Iss. 8409; pp. 54-55

This year's local elections will show how much Japan is really changing

IF ALL politics is local, then 2005 could be a big year politically for Japan. Throughout the year, 136 elections will be held in prefectures and big cities, along with more than 400 local ones in smaller towns. Local politicians have already been gaining prominence in recent years, with independent-minded governors such as Masayasu Kitagawa in Mie, Yasuo Tanaka in Nagano and Shintaro Ishihara in Tokyo grabbing headlines and upstaging national politicians and officials. If these trends continue in 2005, that will be a good indicator of the prospects for reform.

Naturally, there are some big national issues to watch this year. Lawmakers and bureaucrats will do battle over tax increases, rising social-security costs and the post-office privatisation scheme of Junichiro Koizumi, the prime minister. All eyes will also be on the national economy, which has been slowing after an impressive rebound over the past couple of years. And with Mr Koizumi due to reach his term limit in 2006, the jockeying to succeed him will begin this year. Yet the growing competitiveness of local politics, and the increasing tendency of local leaders to start national debates, could give this year's local elections a big role in the battle to form Japan's next government.

For starters, they should allow the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, to hone its message ahead of the next general elections, due by 2007. The DPJ has gained ground over the past couple of years, ushering in real two-party competition for the first time in decades and moving within striking distance of wresting power away from the dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). As a result, the DPJ has started to abandon the traditional opposition practice of backing the same candidates as the ruling party in local contests. When the LDP was the only game in town, the best opposition parties could hope for at the local level was a share of the spoils. Now, the DPJ sees those local polls as battles in a bigger war.

The DPJ lacks strong candidates in rural areas, however, especially in conservative LDP strongholds in the south and west. One strategy that might help, says Eisuke Sakakibara--a prominent former official and now a leading Koizumi detractor--is to exploit schisms in the LDP when backing candidates, even those who become independents rather than join the DPJ fold. In Miyakonojo, a city in the southern prefecture of Miyazaki, the 35-year-old son of a senior LDP politician ran as an independent recently and won after his father fell out with the ruling party. The DPJ, says Mr Sakakibara, can find good rural candidates by exploiting such rifts.

If it can turn in more good showings this year, both in the local polls and in a handful of by-elections for seats in parliament, the DPJ might even convince the LDP's coalition partner, New Komeito, that the LDP's days are numbered. New Komeito already holds the balance of power in Japan's upper house, and if its supporters stop backing LDP candidates in the cities, the LDP could quickly lose control of the lower one. The local route has many more stops than the express, but it could be taking Japan in an interesting direction.

A Survey of Taiwan: The dragon next door

The Economist. London: Jan 15, 2005. Vol. 374, Iss. 8409; pp. 6-7

War with China may not be likely, but if it happened it would be devastating

"AT THE beginning of this new century, nowhere is the danger for Americans as great as in the Taiwan Strait, where the potential for a war with China, a nuclear-armed great power, could erupt out of miscalculation, misunderstanding or accident." So argues Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, an American scholar, in an edited volume, "Dangerous Strait", due to be published shortly. Other threats may be more certain, such as conflict in the Middle East, terrorism or clashes with rogue or failed states, yet "none but a collision with China would be as massive and devastating," Ms Tucker suggests.

Since 1995, China has been engaged in a rapid military build-up on the coast facing Taiwan, triggered by the then President Lee's visit to his alma mater, Cornell University. China was incensed by America's willingness to give a Taiwanese president a public platform on American soil. It saw the event as confirmation that Taiwan's democratisation was strengthening international support for Taiwan's separateness. Military pressure, it felt, was needed as a warning to Taiwan and the Americans about the dangers of going too far.

In 1995 and 1996 China staged large-scale military manoeuvres in the Taiwan Strait, including the firing of unarmed missiles close to Taiwan's two main ports. America responded with its biggest naval deployment in the region since the Vietnam war, sending two aircraft-carrier battle groups to the area. China has fired no more missiles since, but has positioned large numbers of truck-mounted short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) along the coast. It has also increased deployments of longer-range missiles that could target American bases in Japan or on the Pacific island of Guam, about 1,500 miles from Taiwan. And it is working to develop land-attack cruise missiles, which could be fired across the 160km (100 mile) strait and penetrate even the most sophisticated anti-missile defences that Taiwan is acquiring from America.

China has also been buying an array of Russian weaponry, from SU-27 and SU-30 fighter jets to quiet Kilo-class submarines and Sovremenny-class destroyers. These ships are equipped with Sunburn anti-ship missiles, the ones America's navy "fears most", says Peter Brookes, a former senior defence official in the Bush administration. Russian-supplied anti-aircraft batteries on the coast can lock on to Taiwanese aircraft as soon as they take off from the island. The technical superiority of Taiwan's weaponry could well be overtaken by China's within a few years.

Kurt Campbell, the Pentagon's senior official responsible for the region at the time of the crisis in 1995-96, says the biggest cautionary tale was how difficult America found it to communicate with the Taiwanese and to understand their capabilities and intentions. This did not bode well should the two sides find themselves fighting together against China. So the Clinton administration decided to step up contacts with the Taiwanese armed forces, including mutual visits and training of Taiwanese officers.

In 2001, after George Bush became president, the Republican administration strengthened these ties. Mr Bush also offered to sell Taiwan a huge package of advanced weaponry and help it buy diesel submarines. As Michael Swaine, an American academic, notes in "Dangerous Strait", reports suggest that there are now more American military programmes in progress with Taiwan than with any other major American ally. And America has been adding to its submarines and bombers stationed on Guam.

But Taiwan itself is curiously ambivalent about China's growing military prowess. The purchase of new weapons from America has become bogged down in fierce political debate on the island, with many arguing that they are too expensive, will take too long to acquire and integrate into the Taiwanese military, or will simply fuel an arms race with the mainland. American requests that Taiwan do more to protect vital structures such as command-and-control centres and airfields have met similar foot-dragging. Taiwan's defence spending as a share of GDP has been declining for several years, to around 2.4% in 2003, below South Korea's (2.8%) and well below China's (see chart 3, previous page). In 2005 it is set to rise to 2.5%.

Look at it our way

The problem, according to James Mulvenon of the Centre for Intelligence Research and Analysis, an American consultancy, is that there is a "fundamental perceptual difference" between Taiwanese officials and American ones about the nature of the Chinese threat. The Americans brief their Taiwan counterparts on Chinese military capabilities, he says, but are "flummoxed" by their unwillingness to accept that "the threat is imminent".

The Americans are also worried that these days the Taiwanese talk a lot more about acquiring offensive capabilities of their own. The prime minister, Yu Shyi-kun, last September famously threatened missile strikes against the mainland should China attack Taiwan. "If you hit us with 100 missiles, we'll fight you back with 50 missiles," he said. "If you hit Taipei or Kaohsiung, we'll strike Shanghai." To the many Taiwanese who balk at spending $18 billion on America's proposed arms package, offensive weapons seem a more cost-effective way of deterring an attack.

Taiwan has been working for several years to develop supersonic cruise missiles that could hit mainland targets. Since President Chen took office, it has installed less advanced subsonic anti-ship missiles on outlying islands that could also hit the mainland. These moves worry some in the Pentagon, who think that in the event of conflict a Taiwanese attack on the mainland could escalate out of control. Naturally, they also anger China.

There are concerns, too, that Taiwan might secretly acquire nuclear weapons. President Chen has ruled this out. But Taiwan has tried in the past to make such weapons behind America's back. As recently as the late 1980s, the Americans put a halt to a suspected nuclear-weapons programme in Taiwan. Some commentators there say it should be revived. China has said it might attack if Taiwan goes nuclear. "If I had to nominate an area that was ripe for a strategic surprise in the next three or four years, I would probably place China-Taiwan at the top of the list, above North Korea," says Mr Campbell.

Policymakers in Washington are right to worry about the risks, but the chances are that Chinese leaders would think more than twice about mobilising their arsenal. Politically, any military action against Taiwan could well prove riskier for China than doing nothing. "The risk of failure weighs pretty heavily on a lot of the senior leadership [in China]," says a Pentagon official. A war that failed to achieve Taiwan's submission would be a powerful blow to the party's credibility. And it is hard to see how, even if China were to subdue Taiwan's armed forces, it could be confident of a lasting political solution that would rule out any return to independence.

A war would come at a terrible economic price, not only for Taiwan but for China too. And one thing Chinese officials seem to agree on is that the party's grip on power depends on a vibrant economy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

1965 Tokyo-Seoul treaty likely to result in lawsuits: Compensation issue settled, leaving war victims in a lurch

By Lee Tee Jong, The Straits Times, Jan. 18, 2005

SEOUL - THE Seoul government yesterday made public the South Korea-Japan Treaty signed in 1965 when the two countries normalised relations, a move likely to set off a string of compensation suits by victims of the Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.

The most controversial point of that treaty is South Korea's agreement to not make further compensation demands, either at the government or individual level, after receiving US$800 million (S$1.3 billion) in grants and soft loans from Japan. So, Korean victims might change tack in future suits - they are likely not to name Tokyo as the defendant but instead put Seoul in the dock. However, observers said the disclosure would not ruffle Japan and South Korea ties in view of their united front against North Korea and growing economic interdependence.

The disclosure is the outcome of a 2002 legal request by 99 South Koreans, who had suffered under Japan's colonial rule, that the government release the documents. The request was granted last February by the Seoul Administrative Court. The bulk of the money Tokyo handed to Seoul following that treaty was channelled into economic development, with less than 10 per cent used between 1975 and 1977 as compensation to victims.----------------

Monday, January 17, 2005

Chinese Leader Purged for Supporting Tiananmen Protesters Dies at 85

January 17, 2005, The New York Times, By JIM YARDLEY

BEIJING, Monday, Jan. 17 - Zhao Ziyang, the former general secretary of China's Communist Party who was stripped of power for supporting the students during their 1989 pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests, died in a Beijing hospital on Monday, his family said. He was 85, and had been in a coma since Friday after suffering a series of strokes. For the past 15 years, Mr. Zhao had lived under house arrest not far from the government offices where he once led China.

During his long confinement, he had become a powerful symbol for those Chinese who believe the government must reassess its bloody crackdown at Tiananmen. He blamed top leaders for ordering the military assault, and he refused to embrace the official line that the demonstrations had been a "counter-revolutionary rebellion."
In what would be his last public appearance, Mr. Zhao visited students at Tiananmen on May 19, 1989. He pleaded with them to leave, apologized for having arrived "too late," and warned that the authorities were planning to remove them. It is now clear that Mr. Zhao made the visit directly after being fired by China's Politburo.

Martial law was announced the next day in a prelude to the crackdown on June 3-4, when soldiers fired on protesters throughout Beijing, killing hundreds, possibly more. Mr. Zhao's visit to Tiananmen was also notable for the dazed-looking aide, captured in a famous photograph, who accompanied him: Wen Jiabao, now China's prime minister. Mr. Zhao's role at Tiananmen came to overshadow his other legacy as a principal architect of the sweeping economic changes that began in the 1980's under Deng Xiaoping, then China's paramount leader. Mr. Zhao pushed to develop coastal provinces with special economic zones that could lure foreign investment and create export hubs - the blueprint for what is the backbone of the current Chinese economy.

"Deng Xiaoping's entire economic package, a good part of it, was really Zhao Ziyang's brainchild," said David Shambaugh, who wrote a 1984 biography of Mr. Zhao. "In coastal development, agriculture, price reform and industrial reform, those were Zhao's ideas. Deng got the credit, but they were Zhao's ideas." Unlike Mr. Deng and Mao Zedong, Mr. Zhao had not been a military hero during the Communist revolution. Nor had he taken part in the Long March of 1934-35, the unifying rite of passage for the generation of Communist leaders who founded the People's Republic of China in 1949. Instead, Mr. Zhao's political apprenticeship came as a provincial bureaucrat. Born in 1919 in central China's Henan Province, he joined the Communist Youth League in 1932, then joined the Chinese Communist Party six years later. He served in the military during the war against the Japanese, then during the Chinese revolution, but his posts were largely administrative.

Mr. Zhao had no formal training as an economist but exhibited a pragmatic style and had record of success that eventually attracted Mr. Deng's attention. Dispatched to southern China after the Communist victory in 1949, Mr. Zhao focused on land reform issues as he steadily rose through the political ranks in Guangdong Province. Few issues were more politically charged in newly Communist China. Efforts to fulfill Mao's vision of a socialist utopia led to the abandonment of private land plots in favor of agricultural communes. But the misguided collectivization schemes of the Great Leap Forward of 1958-60 became a historic catastrophe. An estimated 30 million people died during three horrific years of famine caused by a collapse in food production. In 1962, Mr. Zhao, then the top provincial official in Guangdong, introduced a plan to disband the commune system and return private land plots to farmers while assigning production contracts to individual households. The system worked and would become a model that helped the rest of China rebuild agricultural output. Politically, though, Mr. Zhao would not be rewarded. In 1967, he was persecuted during the purges of the Cultural Revolution for "revisionist" thinking and spent four years in forced labor at a factory. He re-emerged in 1971 as an official in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, seemingly as a born-again Maoist. He gave a speech renouncing private enterprise and material incentives.

But his conversion was apparently not very genuine. He returned to Guangdong in 1972 and then moved to Sichuan Province in 1975. There, he introduced land reforms similar to those he had used earlier in Guangdong and loosened controls on industry. He allowed farmers and factories to set prices for their products, a decision that saw three years of production increases. His performance also gained the attention of Mr. Deng. A Sichuan native, Mr. Deng had survived two purge attempts to eventually emerge as China's paramount leader after Mao's death in 1976. Mr. Deng wanted to solve China's economic problems with pragmatic solutions, not ideological experiments, and in 1980 he brought Mr. Zhao to Beijing as deputy prime minister.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Dancing with the enemy (SURVEY: TAIWAN)

Background: This is the first time, to the best of my knowledge, that the "Economist" magazine has done such a survey on Taiwan since 1998. Worth spending some time on reading the entire survey. Here is just an introduction to this survey.

The Economist, Jan. 15, 2005

For all the hostility between Taiwan and mainland China, their respective economies are now deeply interdependent, says James Miles (interviewed here). That should help to keep the peace.

“GIVE back our rivers and mountains,” says a slogan inside a military base on the tip of Kinmen (also known as Quemoy), a tiny island controlled by Taiwan but shrouded by the same polluted haze that envelops Xiamen, a port city on the communist-controlled Chinese mainland. A soldier on guard says giant loudspeakers inside the base still broadcast music across the 2km (1.2 mile) stretch of water to Xiamen.

The easy-listening fare, selected by Taiwan's “political warfare” troops, is a curious cold-war legacy on this fortress of an island. Taiwan's defence ministry will not say what it is for. But the original purpose of these broadcasts, which began after the inconclusive end of China's civil war in 1949, was to undermine the mainland's faith in communism and help to restore Taiwan's government as that of the whole of China. China had loudspeakers too, but they fell silent in 1991. It is decades since the two sides lobbed artillery shells at each other's broadcasting facilities.

Oddly, China would love it if Taiwan really wanted to regain control of the mainland. But the broadcasting station and the slogans are merely anachronisms. Taiwan's armed forces, led by officers who were either born on the mainland or had fathers who were, have found it hard to keep step with the rapid changes on the island. These days the goal of Taiwan's government is to assert the island's independence from China, ideally—though it dare not say so—a permanent one. But the barrack routine of shouting slogans calling for the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland was abolished only last September.

China knows that Taiwan is slipping ever further away. Since 2000, the island has been led by Chen Shui-bian, its first president from outside the Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT) since the civil war. The main aim of his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is to bring about the island's formal independence from China. Its charter calls for a Republic of Taiwan, not a Republic of China, as the island now confusingly calls itself. Mr Chen himself has vowed not to go this far, but China's leaders do not trust him. They have given warning that a declaration of de jure independence (such as by a change of name) would mean war.

Pessimists—and there are plenty of them in both Beijing and Washington—argue that in the remaining years of Mr Chen's presidency, which runs to 2008, tension between China and Taiwan could escalate, even to the point of armed conflict. Such a war could drag in the United States, Taiwan's main provider of moral and military support. If America decided to intervene, two nuclear powers would be pitted against each other. Japan, from where America would probably launch any bid to defend Taiwan, could find itself sucked in. The whole region could be plunged into turmoil

Taiwan, China Clinch Deal on Direct Flights

By Tan Ee Lyn, Reuters, Jan. 15, 2005

MACAU (Reuters) - Taiwan and China reached a landmark deal on Saturday to allow non-stop charter flights over the Chinese New Year holidays, a move which could ease tensions between the bitter political rivals. The one-off deal will allow the first direct flights between the foes since 1949 and could mark a step toward ending a decades-old ban on direct air links.

"In a very short time, in a cordial atmosphere, we have come to an agreement," Pu Zhaozhou, executive director of China's Civil Aviation Association, told a joint news conference after talks in the southern Chinese territory of Macau. However, while the flights will be non-stop, they will still have to go through Hong Kong or Macau airspace. Forty-eight flights will be allowed under the agreement, beginning on Jan. 29 and ending on Feb. 20, Pu said. He did not specify whether the first would take off from China or Taiwan.

Taiwan has banned direct air and shipping links with the mainland since the Nationalists lost the Chinese civil war to the communists in 1949 and fled to the island. Travellers between Taiwan and the mainland must now fly via a third destination, usually Hong Kong or Macau on China's southern coast, adding four hours to what should be an hour-long flight. China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has threatened to invade the self-governing, democratic island of 23 million people if it formally declares statehood. Taiwan officials responded positively to the agreement and expressed hope that the flights could mark the beginning of greater interaction with its giant neighbor after years of stalled talks.

"We hope that the smooth negotiations on New Year charter flights will pave the way for further cross-strait talks, and be a turning point for positive interaction," Joseph Wu, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council told reporters in Taipei. Wu, whose council charts the government's China policy, said the successful outcome of the discussions guided by the government and assisted by the private sector, had formed a basis for mutual trust between the two sides.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

UK expects Brussels to lift China arms ban

By Frederick Studemann and Stephen Fidler in London and George Parker in Brussels
Financil Times, January 12, 2005

The British government on Wednesday said it believes the European Union will lift its arms embargo on China in the next few months, despite last ditch efforts by the US to prevent such a move. Jack Straw, UK foreign secretary, told a parliamentary committee it was "more likely than not" that the lifting of the 15-year-old embargo, the cause of tension between the EU and the US, would be decided during Luxembourg's presidency of the EU which runs to the end of June.

He acknowledged that the US had a "legitimate and understandable" interest in the effectiveness of European arms control practices, but said that a revision of the current EU code of conduct would prevent either a qualitative or quantitative increase in the number of arms exported to China. "If it is lifted we will end up with as effective arms controls in relation to China as we have now," Mr Straw said.

The embargo was introduced after the suppression of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. The EU subsequently introduced a wider-ranging code of conduct in 1998. The code is being revised to increase its scope and oblige EU members to take account of the final use of equipment or technology as well as to produce annual progress reports. Despite European assurances, a US official said this week the US was worried about the enforcement of a new export policy which would be executed by individual countries, some of which may bend the criteria.

Washington's chief concern is that China could gain access to advanced technology - both of European origin and even of US technology licensed to European manufacturers - for use in areas such as battlefield management and command and control systems. The US military fears a possible confrontation with China in the Taiwan Strait. "Pressure from France and Germany is leading to a common EU position that doesn't take into account the strategic risks we face and the Japanese face. All for the sake of a few hundred million dollars of equipment," the US official said.

European countries also face the possibility that the US Congress could halt technology transfers from the US. "People in Congress are going to say they (Europe) can trade with China or they can trade with us," he said. Mr Straw said many of the objections were based on a "lack of information and understanding" of how export control guidelines worked in EU countries and added that a lot of effort was going into providing reassurance to the US. Last week Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, said after two days of talks with Condoleezza Rice, the US national security adviser, that he expected the US "will be able to live with" the lifting of the embargo. The Luxembourg EU presidency could wrap up negotiations to lift the embargo in May, when the EU holds a meeting with China at the foreign ministers' level.

Chess Moves Up North

The Straits Times (Editorial) Jan 13, 2005

There are troubling signs relations between China and Japan are not what they should be. When Asia's two main powers could be collaborating to spread prosperity and good will in the continent, they are competing to acquire military sinews for geostrategic advantage. The most notable change is the hostile manner each views the other in their respective defence policy reviews. Last month, Japan broadcast its commitment to missile defence technologies. It also mentioned China in the same breath as North Korea as probable threats to Japan's security. This acknowledges China's modernising military, a backhanded compliment, but Beijing may see the mention as being full of historical resonance. A fortnight ago, China published its defence White Paper which contained a pointed reference to Japan's militarisation and intentions to move away from constitutional pacifism. The preamble to full-scale arms competition is unmistakable. Could it lead to Japan's eventual nuclearisation? The rest of Asia should be concerned, but it is helpless to influence processes. Asean depends on a harmonious relationship between the two giants for its economic stability. But it has little leverage on either, except to stress the commonalities that bind the two nations.

Chief of that is their bilateral economic collaboration which Japanese industrialists desperately want to protect, to the extent of their telling Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to not 'upset' China. Japanese imports to China last year were worth 7.6 trillion yen (S$120 billion). Such market size is critical to sustaining Japan's recovery from a decade of no-growth. Mr Koizumi could well resent the role reversal of Japan playing second fiddle to China economically, but subjectivity has no place in framing national strategies. Another is their joint involvement - together with Russia, South Korea and the United States - in attempts to break the North Korean nuclear stalemate. But China is so far gone in its scenario planning it will be holding war games with Russia this year on Chinese territory, their first. This has huge implications. Guaranteed access to Russian oil and gas is a consideration, in exchange for China being Russia's best arms customer. But if the move is driven by Beijing seeking a counter to US influence in East Asia, which is predicated on Japan being its bulwark, it is hard to see Beijing-Tokyo ties achieving equilibrium.

'Yes, we've made mistakes' : Tung admits to shortcomings after public reprimand by Chinese President

The Straits Times, Jan. 13, 2005

HONG KONG - HONG Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa, admitting to shortcomings and inadequacies in his leadership, pledged yesterday to listen more closely to the people and to address the city's growing poverty problem. Mr Tung's annual policy speech to Hong Kong's lawmakers comes after Chinese President Hu Jintao publicly reprimanded him and his ministers last month and urged them to put the people first.

'We introduced too many reform measures too hastily, putting heavy burdens on the people,' Mr Tung said. 'We lacked a sense of crisis and political sensitivity as well as the necessary experience and capability to cope with political and economic changes. 'We were indecisive when dealing with emergencies. These shortcomings and inadequacies have undermined the credibility of our policy-making capability and our ability to govern,' said the former shipping tycoon who gained Beijing's backing to run Hong Kong after Britain handed it back in 1997.

Outside the Legislative Council, dozens of protesters called for more welfare and a minimum wage - demands that the government and big business have long resisted on the grounds they would deplete resources and scare off investors. Inside, Mr Tung spoke of plans to alleviate problems of the poor and create more jobs, but announced no major new initiatives. He promised to ensure that all poor children go to school and to provide needy parents with health and counselling services. He also eased restrictions on pensioners, allowing them to spend up to two-thirds of the year in mainland China, where their money stretches further. Those who are completely disabled would receive an extra HK$100 (S$20) a month in allowances.

The government will also set up an anti-poverty commission, to be headed by Financial Secretary Henry Tang, to look into solving the problem of poverty over the long term. One in four children lives in poverty in Hong Kong, one of the richest cities in the world, a recent survey showed. Te Chief Executive gave the merest of mentions to popular hopes for more democracy, saying universal suffrage would eventually come about - but stopped short of saying when.

Last April, China ruled out full democracy for the territory for at least several more years. Political observers said Mr Tung's self-criticism was the harshest ever heard, but added that he has taken the easy way out by avoiding sticky political questions. 'He feels he needs to respond to the dressing down...because Hu Jintao asked him to search for inadequacies,' said Mr Joseph Cheng, a politics professor at the City University. 'He has chosen the easy way out. The policy address reads very much like a promotion document of the administration.'

Social scientists say help for the poor is long overdue and warn that social conflict could worsen if the growing gulf between rich and poor is left unresolved, a scenario that worries both Mr Tung and Beijing. Hong Kong does not have an official poverty line but aid groups estimate it at HK$9,000 a month for a household of four. Some 1.2 million people, or 460,000 families, fall below that line. Of these, 203,000 families live on less than HK$4,000 a month, up from 84,000 such households in 1997. China yesterday praised the speech of Mr Tung and said it expects that he can become of 'one heart and one mind' with the Hong Kong people. -- REUTERS---------------

Lessons of China's Transition: from a Planned Economy to a Market Economy

Justin Yifu Lin (Beijing University), February 2004

Note: This is a conference paper prepared for a Seminar at Gothenburg School of Economics in Sweden on Feb. 2, 2004. Recommended!

Why does CCP still fret over the news?

DAVID WALL, The Japan Times, Jan. 10, 2005

Background info: David Wall is an associate fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, London

LONDON -- A short while ago, when I was in Beijing, I wanted to keep up with some political development in Hong Kong. I turned on my computer and went to the Asia-Pacific page of the BBC's Web site. Or at least I tried to; I had forgotten that the BBC site is blocked in China.

As I was staying in a five-star hotel where it is possible to receive the BBC World station, I turned on the TV. Just as a Hong Kong news item appeared, the screen went blank. At first I tried adjusting the set, but then it came on again showing a different news item.

This is a nonsensical situation, of course, because all I had to do was tune in to other news sites on the TV (such as CNN), or other sites on the World Wide Web (such as Reuters), to find out what was going on. Foreigners in China can find out what is going on anywhere in the world through these channels and via the foreign newspapers available in hotels.


Saturday, January 08, 2005

Japan's East Asia Problem: A Sixtieth Anniversary Perspective on the Postwar

ZNet, MA, by Yoichi Funabashi January 06, 2005

(Background info) Yoichi Funabash is an Asahi Shimbun senior staff writer and foreign affairs columnist. This two part article commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II appeared in the International Herald Tribune/Asahi Shimbun on January 4 and 5, 2005.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Three-quarters of Japan's population was born after the war.

Despite the passage of time, Japan's postwar problems continue. Public opinion is split over Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro 's visits to Yasukuni Shrine. China and South Korea are also unhappy about the visits.

To remember the tragedy of the war and the importance of peace, events are being planned across the world this year to mourn the war dead.

At the Japan-China summit on the occasion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in November, Chinese President Hu Jintao said: "We cannot avoid history. I want (Japan) to deal with the problem properly. In particular, 2005 is a sensitive year that marks the 60th anniversary of anti-fascist victory. "


Is China misusing its unfortunate history for political purposes vis-a-vis japan?

Can China continue with its sharp criticism of Japan without igniting a conflict?

Does Japan need to abide by China's wishes?

Issues for East Asia: A Sinocentric View (Response to the earlier article by Yu Bin), CA, Jan. 8, 2005

Yu Bin's recent article for Asia Times Online is a very Sinocentric view of the growing pains East Asia will face as the region grows increasingly more influential and substantially richer.

Yu Bin goes into three major problems: China's relationship with its own poor and underemployed, China's relationship with Japan, and China's relationship with Taiwan. Again, with rather Sinocentric suggestions for how these problems could be best solved.

Although a Chinese-style solution to the problems – namely calm acceptance of the inevitable peaceful rise to leadership of East Asia's largest nation – would be splendid if it ensured peace and stability and prosperity for all, it is quite uncertain whether or not China can handle East Asia's affairs any better than it handles its own.

Japan's steps away from its pacifist constitution and embrace of the US missile defense plan have nothing to do with increased militarism and dreams of invasion. Rather, North Korea firing missiles and kidnapping Japanese, China encroaching into what Japan considers its own territory and a very, very nationalistic Chinese population coupled with the US inability to truly do anything about it scares the Japanese into action.


Is sinocentrism justified?

Does Japan have justifications for increasing its military capabilities?

Is China and NK really a threat ot Japan?

The fault lines that could shake Asia

(Asia Times) The fault lines that could shake Asia By Yu Bin
Jan. 8, 2005

While much of Asia has been overwhelmed by the year-end tsunami, the outpouring of sympathy and assistance will eventually soothe the pain and destruction. What the tsunami may not be able to change, however, is the much deeper and stronger socio-economic-strategic undercurrents that are gathering momentum in Asia. As the year of the Monkey in 2004 ushered in the Rooster in 2005, the region is being torn by two different, if not opposing, forces. One is economic dynamics, which is largely natural, integrating and mutually beneficial, and conducive to social cohesion and political stability. The other is one of political-cultural engineering of identity change toward "normal states". This pursuit of symbolic goals, ironically, also is associated with greater political-military assertiveness. As a result, the specter of the past is again haunting the globe, as the region approaches the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.


1.3 billionth baby brings new challenges for China

(The Financial Times) 1.3 billionth baby brings new challenges for China
By Richard McGregor in Shanghai
Published: 8 January 2005

Displayed for the cameras moments after his birth like a sports trophy, Zhang Yichi was hailed this week as the 1.3 billionth member of the world's most populous country, and a symbol of the success of China's controversial one-child policy.

Born at midnight on January 6, baby Zhang was 10 days overdue for his parents, but four years late for the country. Had it not been for China's strict controls limiting most families to a single child, the 1.3 billionth Chinese would have been born in 2000, officials said.

"The occasion should be marked - there has never been such a big population for any country in human history," said Gu Baochang, the deputy-director of the China Family Planning Association. "But the population of China is not just about size - there are many other issues."

China faces the challenge of paying for a rapidly ageing population on a scale unimaginable for most other countries, because of the one-child policy - and the severe sex imbalance driven by families aborting girls in favour of boys in rural areas. There is also the task of managing tens of millions of people off the land and into the cities.

A Chinese phrase - "six pockets, one mouth" - was coined to describe the intense and expensive investment by two sets of grandparents and parents in the education of their single remaining direct offspring.

But the pressure on the generation of single children who will have to support their parents and possibly grandparents is creating a new set of societal pressures.
The import of these issues was mostly lost in the self-congratulation in the official media this week about baby Zhang's birth and how the one-child policy had helped the whole world by keeping down China's population.

"Population growth squeezes resources, which are limited. This not only concerns China, but the entire world," the Xinhua news agency reported.

The one-child policy was introduced after the death of Mao Zedong, who equated a larger population with national power. The population increased by 300m between 1964 and 1974. But the policy has become frayed around the edges in recent years.
China's official minority groups, such as Tibetans, have always been allowed to have two or three children, and farmers in some rural areas have been permitted more than one child in order to conceive a boy.

Elsewhere, the policy has been strictly enforced, including with the use of forced abortions, which has made the policy an issue in the US Congress.
However, due to concerns over the ageing population, the government in the late 1990s began allowing some married couples in cities to have two children, as long as both husband and wife were both single children themselves.

This experiment - started in Shanghai, where the population increase has fallen below replacement rate - has now spread to other cities.
Although this may go some way to alleviating the coming demographic crunch - the proportion of the population over 60 will increase from 11 to 28 per cent by 2040 - fixing China's preference for boys will be harder.

China now has about 120 boys born for every 100 girls, which Mr Gu has described as "the largest, the highest, and the longest" gender imbalance on the globe.
The government this week announced it would criminalise sex-selective abortions - part of a policy to reverse what has become known as the "gendercide" phenomenon by 2010.

The imbalance was starkly confirmed in the 2000 census, which Mr Gu believed marked a turning point on an issue which until then had been kept largely out of public view. "It is a much better situation than a few years ago," he said. "It has now become recognised as a real problem."

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Beijing greets 1.3 billionth mainland baby

Chen Zhiyong writes in China Daily:

The 1.3 billionth Chinese person was greeted Thursday morning in Beijing.
Just two minutes after midnight, a boy of 3.66 kilograms drew his first breath and uttered his first cries at the Beijing Hospital of Gynaecology and Obstetrics.

Complete article

What do you think about the one-child policy?

Should it be discontinued?

What is your experience with this policy?

Hasn't capitalism moved past this law, since rich families can afford the fine for having a second child?

Is it psycologically damaging to not have any siblings?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

North Korea prepares for war with US

The AP writes (in The Sydney Morning Herald):

North Korea has ordered its people to prepare for a protracted war against the United States, issuing guidelines on evacuating to underground bunkers with weapons, food and portraits of leader Kim Jong Il.

article link

Is there anything new here?

Hasn't North Korea technically been at war for the past 50 years?

What can the evacuation of Kim Jong Il's portraits tell us?

Did you hear that North Korea contributed with $150,000 to help the Tsunami victims?

Monday, January 03, 2005

Tsunami aidmissions see better results

One of the largest US military relief operations in history helped speed the pace of aid to desperate victims of Asia's tsunami disaster on Sunday, delivering critical supplies to haggard survivors in severe need of food and water.

Flying in and out of flattened villages, US helicopters carried water, biscuits and other bare necessities to ravaged Indonesian communities, some of which had been impossible to reach in the week since an earthquake and tsunami ravaged coastlines in Asia and Africa... (click on article to continue reading)

Taipei Times

What are YOU doing to help the Tsunami victims?

Tell Asia East Blog what YOU are doing to help the victims, or what you think might be a good idea to re-build the many towns, communities and families that were destroyed as a result of the Tsunami.

As always, Cookiesap advocates donations to UNICEF - an always progessive and good-spirited organization!!

Also, visit for a blog dedicated to the disaster.

Share your brain waves with us......