Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pandaplomacy - Robert Zoellick and the Chinese Pandas

Isn't it cute? US-China friendship symbolized by Robert Zoellick hugging a panda cub in Chengdu, Sichuan province (like to picture). Interestingly enough, according to the Washington Post, Zoellick was previously on the advisory council of the World Wildlife Fund -- you know, the organization with the Panda logo. So perhaps Zoellick is using this picture to reveal his peaceful intentions?

I don't want to put too much importance into this photo-op, but let's think about the development of Panda-diplomacy - or Pandaplomacy -- which started with Nixon's trip to China in 1972, and has seen ups and downs, most recently with the recent Chen-PRC spat. If China can continue to convince other countries that true economic (and animal) benefits are more important than the human-rights and judicial problems abound in China, we will probably see many more Panda-ops.

Overall, Zoellick is demonstrating a sincere US effort to negotiate terms of trade with China (despite all the saber-rattling), and this also underlines the fact that China currency/trade deficit issue the Bush administration cannot run away from (as in the Burma, North Korea, and Iran issues). American Business is on the line, and trading is something China is really, really good at…

Washington Post article

Friday, January 20, 2006

China and Taiwan Resume Spring Festival Flights

The first "Spring Festival" flight of the year betwixt Taiwan to Mainland China has just disembarked to help celebrate the continuation of last year's goodwill gesture between the two sides of the straits. The flight, a China Airlines jet, landed in Shanghai at 10:30am on Jan. 20, having arrived from Taipei. This year will only see a limited 72 flights cross the straits to save travelers from much hassle in connecting flights in Hong Kong--the usual method for traveling between Taiwan and China.

Putting this in the light of Chen Shui-bian's harsh rhetoric against the Mainland as of late, the flights of this year will likely cause less international attention than yesteryear's. It does, however, generate a continued sense of optimism among Taiwanese people and may help foster a peaceful status quo, which so far worked quite well for peace in the straits--albeit, with the US navy behind Taiwan's back. Following the theme of engagement and diplomatic resolution to our problems, these 'Flights of Peace' may be remembered in history as carriers of hope and harbingers of stability in what Michael Mandelbaum has dubbed "The Most Dangerous Place in the World"

The on-going impeachment process against President Chen is also likely to overshadow these stupendous flights that attempt to re-unite the Chinese people. If Chen is pushed in a corner to produce even more negative anti-PRC speeches, the flights may have helped the passengers of 72 flights, but to undermine an engagement process between Taiwan and the Middle Kingdom.

British Broadcasting Corp. Article
Voice of America

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It's Been Confirmed: Kim Jong Il in China

So it definitely happened! Mr. Kim did in fact visit China and made an unexpected "economic tour" to cities such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Economic reforms in North Korea: Here we go.

Or, perhaps not.

Perhaps North Korea is trying to be on China's "good side" and continue to receive food and humanitarian relief from the Middle Kingdom.

Or is Kim really pondering economic reform?

BBC Article
WP Article

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Kim Jong-Il in China and ... Russia ???

Let's hope we'll see more of these....

What in the world is Kim doing in China and Russia? Could it be that he's exerting an effort to gain support of their position in the six-party talks, which is to say that these meetings actually hold water? The ministry of foreign affairs in Russia, however, refuted the claims that Kim was going to Russia. So what is going on? Is Mr. Kim changing his personality to a globe-trotter-jet-setting personality? Probably not…

Now listen to this: According to AFX and the Washington Post (quoted in Forbes), Mr Kim is allegedly in Shanghai overseeing China's economic success, but this is again--it seems--speculation.
But could it be that Mr. Kim indeed is in China to seriously address the six-party issues as well as making a Deng-light-like "southern trip" to illuminate his intentions to introduce capitalism in the hermit state? If anything, is there any hope?

What wondrous future we have ahead if Mr. Kim indeed embraced the Chinese economic development model. Surely a safer and more transparent path towards regional cooperation and security.

North Korea certainly has the natural resources to jump-start their economy, but it is doubtful whether it has the infrastructure, human capital, and technology to reach the growth of its neighbors. But then again, that would not be the goal. Beggars can’t be choosers and a few dollars in the pockets of local North Koreans would be better than eating bark and grass.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Certainly! Mr Kim’s trip will likely fade out of memory as we see future controversial saber-rattling dramas between Kim and Bush. But let’s keep hoping. That’s what us idealists are so good at. Optimism is our "opiate of the masses."

Link to WP Article
Link to Forbes Article