Friday, December 30, 2005

China's New Great Leap

Angry Chinese Blogger has reviewed the Hudson Institute's report "China's New Great Leap Forward" (PDF). I normally like to review reports like this, as I did with 2005 reports by the Pentagon and the China Commission, but ACB has done so well that another recap and/or deconstruction isn't needed.
Delivering its 95 page report, titled: “China's New Great Leap Forward: High Technology and Military Power in the Next Half-Century”, the Hudson Institute warned Washington that the 'comfort zone' of technological and strategic superiority that has always existed between China's large, but unsophisticated, military, and America's own armed forces, is not only far smaller than previously thought, but that is shrinking at an alarming rate due to the rapid modernization of both China's military strategies, and its domestic R&D capabilities.

Read more!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

New Sub Supporter

Some of you may remember that one month ago, I changed my position on Taiwan's purchase of eight diesel submarines from the United States. Having previously defended the purchase as necessary for security, I switched sides due to cost ineffectiveness. Brian Dunn of the Dignified Rant is now assuming the mantle of leadership in defense of the submarines.
[MeiZhongTai's] analysis ignores the fact that China's subs are on average, quite poor and poorly trained as well. They rarely put to sea and usually do so with the company of surface ships just in case. I sincerely doubt that the PLAN could put 16 effective attack submarines to sea to sink the 8 proposed Taiwanese boats under debate.

Dunn then goes on to ponder how plausible deniability might fit in to undersea warfare in the Taiwan Strait. Give it a read and since Dignified Rant doesn't appear to have comments enabled, feel free to discuss the merits of the various positions in the comments section of this post.

Read more!

Sino-Japanese Relations

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recently spoke to the importance of the relationship between Japan and China, calling both the People's Republic and South Korea "important and friendly neighbors" of Japan. Observers of relations between China and Japan might disagree with Koizumi's use of the adjective 'friendly.'

The Chinese animosity toward Japan dating back to World War II and fanned by the Chinese Communist Party is not a new thing. Neither is the rising nationalism in both countries.
Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Aso declared China a threat recently, but alas this is also nothing new.

The latest round of bickering was brought about by the suicide of staffer at the Japanese consulate in Shanghai. According to a spokesman for the Japanese Foreign Ministry, "an impermissible act by the Chinese security authorities" was the catalyst for the suicide. Japanese media has filled in the details that the spokesman left out. From the Yomiuri Shimbun:
A Chinese man who approached a staff member at the Japanese Consulate General in Shanghai who later committed suicide was apparently an intelligence operative and demanded the staffer supply secret information, including Japan's policy on the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, according to sources...

The man told the staffer [a Chinese female "acquaintance"] had broken the law and would be punished. He also told the staffer that he faced punishment or forced repatriation as her accomplice. He then asked the staffer about the Japanese government's policy on the disputed island and said that both of the woman and the staffer would be punished if he refused to provide the information.

There is speculation that the details of the case were intentionally leaked by the Foreign Ministry and and even granted them to publish the information.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has replied with "strong indignation" over the "vile behavior" of the Japanese government. According to Qin Gang, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the allegations are due to "ulterior motives" namely smearing China's international reputation.

Update: The Horse's Mouth has a post on Japanese feelings toward China reaching a low point.

Read more!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Democracy as Defense

I blogged previously on Taiwan's Silicon Shield. Michael Turton proposes that Taiwan is defended by its democracy. Whatever one's opinion of Taiwan's self-defense capaabilities, it appears that Taiwan is effectively using consonance to its advantage.
[N]ot only does every democratic election establish Taiwan as an independent state, but the deeper democracy entrenches, the thornier the problem it presents for the occupation planning.

Asiapundit concurs and adds:
Taiwan's rambunctious democracy makes it unlikely that the island could be easily forced back into an authoritarian system. Plus, it strengthens the resolve of allies to come to its defense.

Update: Jujuflop and Peking Duck weigh in as well.

Read more!

Stealing Credibility

Danwei offers an article by Bruce Humes on using an edited copy of the New York Times as propaganda in China.
What's more convincing to the masses than propaganda out of Beijing? Discreetly massaged copy from the New York Times, evidently.

Humes tells how the "much-respected Chinese-language digest of the world press" Cankao Xiaoxi translates articles from the foreign media while removing "references deemed unbecoming to China's image."
Unlike many other publications in China, Cankao Xiaoxi implements strict standards for translation: Virtually no English is used, no content is added, and politically incorrect terms--such as the Republic of China--are translated directly into the Chinese if they appear as such in the original. Such practices make for a good read and have endowed the brandname with an air of authoritativeness over the years.

Read more!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Random Round-up

In today's glance at my daily blogs (see blogroll at right), I found three good posts worthy of linking. Since I don't have much to add on any of the three, I'll just provide the links.
  • Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Aso is the second Japanese official in to call China a threat recently. (East Asia Watch, Breit Bart)

  • Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou was interviewed by Newsweek. The answers were perfect, but so were the questions--a little too perfect. (The View From Taiwan)

  • Korean sources bring us details about China's newest boomer--the Type 94--due to achieve initial operating capability in the next few months. (The Marmot's Hole)

Excerpt from the Ma interview:
ADAMS: The DPP lost a lot of ground to your party in the recent elections. Are you pleased?
MA: We did well, but not because the KMT has really improved itself. Rather, the DPP has become so corrupt, and so inept, that people have lost confidence in them.

ADAMS: Under your leadership, the KMT seems well positioned to reclaim the presidency in 2008. How would your party change Taiwan's relations with China?
MA: The DPP is somewhat handicapped by their ideology. They have to keep a distance from mainland China. They have been very timid, very conservative and very reserved in pushing ahead a productive policy toward the Chinese mainland. If the KMT is able to get back in power, we will open up direct flights with the mainland in two years. That's critical to Taiwan's economy.

Go read the View From Taiwan post for Michael Turton's insight.

Update: David of Jujuflop also posted on the Ma interview.

Read more!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Approvals Abundant With Blues Absent

William Lai, Chair of the Procedures Committee, surprised the Pan Blues by ending debate on the Arms Bill and numerous other contentious issues and voting to send the issues to the floor for a vote or to other committees (Taipei Times, Taiwan News, Jujuflop). The Blues had kept numerous bills bottled-up in that committee, preventing them from even having a simple up or down vote. The forty-second time that the issue was in front of the committee has proven to be different than the first 41.

How did the Greens pull off such a feat?
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip William Lai, who chaired yesterday's meeting, began the sitting promptly at noon, when just five of the pan-blue camp's 19 committee members had shown up. The DPP had mobilized all of its committee members to be there, giving Lai the quorum he needed to proceed.

The Arms Bill wasn't all that got by the absent legislators:
In addition to the arms budget, the bills now on the legislative agenda include confirmation of President Chen Shui-bian's nominees for the Control Yuan, the president's state of the nation address -- expected to focus on the arms procurement package -- and different versions of a party assets bill intended to compel the KMT to return its stolen assets.

The Blues are predictably peeved by the move, calling it a "surprise attack" and a "Pan Green raid." The leadership of the Pan Blue Coalition promised that they would retaliate and the legislature would soon return to deadlock.

Read more!

Big Enough to Know Better

Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek and author of The Future of Freedom, has written about China's new guess at the size of its GDP. (Hat Tip: Simon World) In his article entitled "Big Enough to Know Better" he comments on the implications of this revaluation:
China is now the world's fourth largest economy, bigger than Italy, France and Britain. If you want a glimpse into the not-so-distant future, note that China is growing more than four times as fast as the next two countries on the list (Germany and Japan) and more than twice as fast as No. 1, the United States.

While some, to include the Wall Street Journal (subscription required, excerpted here) would argue that China is ranked sixth in light of this new information (not fourth)*, a bigger cause for concern in Asia is its relation to Japan. From The Standard:
'By the end of next year, the Chinese economy will be half the Japanese economy,' said Ken Courtis, vice- chairman for Asia at Goldman Sachs Group. 'The whole balance of power in this region is shifting.'

Macroblog looks at the two economies and concludes that such a difference in growth rates (roughly 10% vs. 2%) is to be expected. The inevitability of such a shift won't make the geopolitics of the gradual regional power redistribution, should it occur, any easier.

Zakaria posits:
My guess is that China's problems will stem not from failure but success. China has grown for three decades at a pace no other country has ever sustained... Every time you see a gleaming new highway in China, remember that there were homes, shops and farms where it now runs. The government moved those people, gave them something equivalent (often an hour away) and kept building. Every time you see a new factory, remember that the community around it might have protested, but that rarely stopped construction. Every time you see a dam, remember that it displaced whole villages and towns. It is the very fact that local or political forces cannot stop development that explains China's supercharged growth.

He concludes:
Beijing knows that it needs to open up, not crack down. But can a Leninist system do that? Two weeks ago, in Dongzhou, local authorities responded to protests against a new power plant by reportedly shooting 20 or more people and then tried to cover up the incident in a manner that would have made Stalin or Mao proud. Beijing has somehow found a way to do centrally planned capitalism. But now it seems to be attempting something far more complex: centrally planned pluralism.

Simon World also makes an interesting conclusion:
Several elements of China's government spending are set for big rises, especially education, health and defence, as these are usually set as a percentage of GDP. However the question will be how the Government will pay for these increases - just because the statistics say there's a jump in GDP, it doesn't mean the money magically appears in the coffers.

Update: Survived SARS is optimistic that this change will make Chinese economic statistics more accurate from here on out. I would argue if you multiply made up figures by .17, the result is equally fictional.

* After further analysis it appears the 4th vs. 6th difference is based on whether or not 2005's estimated nine percent growth is figured in.

Read more!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Three Percent

In the last few days there has been a lot of discussion of increasing defense spending and what appears to be movement toward a real debate on the weapons systems offered for sale to Taiwan by the United States, which includes the eight diesel submarines, Patriot missiles, and anti-submarine aircraft.

Saturday, President Chen Shui-bian announced that he intended to see defense spending increased to three percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) by the time he leaves office in 2008.* That same day, Tseng Yung-chuan, the KMT's Party Whip, indicated the KMT may allow debate of the arms purchases requested by the Ministry of Defense if the administration increases defense spending to three percent of GDP. It is unclear which of these statements was made first.

The Pan Blues have been working their hardest to stall any initiative put forth by the administration. The obstruction recently reached the point where the Pan Greens asked the Blues to state their real position on the arms procurement rather than creating excuses to snipe Green proposals. That brought about Mr. Tseng's reply above. Lest one become optimistic and think the impasse is history, Mr. Tseng elaborated on the offer, saying that the Patriot missiles were off the table because in his view, they had been voted down in the 2004 referendum. The Pan Greens will surely disagree with that interpretation of the referendum.

KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung, a member of the KMT task force examining the arms procurement, further clarified:
All three of the major items must be carefully re-examined because the Patriot missile batteries have already been vetoed in the referendum, the submarines are way too expensive and the maritime patrol aircraft are definitely outdated.

If one thought the move to three percent might still hold the key to cooperation, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou offered a new spin on why the Blues have been obstructing the arms procurement (one really starts to wonder if they have a reason after the numerous changing explanations). The arms must be shown to be appropriate for Taiwan's defense needs and not simply a "cash-for-friendship" purchase. Ma claims this has been the Blue's reason for obstruction all along. I have long worried that the rationale for the purchase offered by Lee Teng-hui and others would come back to bite them and it appears to have done so.

*The ROC currently spends 2.4 percent of its GDP on defense. In comparison, the United States spends roughly 4 percent, when the appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan are included, and China spends as much as 4.3 percent depending on what is included and how it is calculated.

  • See Michael Turton's reply and David's comment.

  • Sun Bin criticizes the CIA statistic on Chinese defense spending cited above and is criticized in return by Dylan in the comments. The discussion is certainly worth a read.

Read more!

Friday, December 16, 2005

They Just Don't Get It

A pair of articles from Simon World's latest roundup discuss the inability of the Western media to understand China. Despite their similar goals, the articles are completely different. From The American Thinker comes China's Exports in Perspective, which argues that a misunderstanding of multinational corporations results in the media overstating China's economic clout. Howard French brings us an article from the People's Daily Online entitled "Western media's misreading of China 2005." As it is from the People's Daily, you should already know the theme.

First, the American Thinker post:
This [International Herald Tribune article] creates the false impression that many Chinese firms like Lenovo are gaining ground on their American rivals in areas involving the most advanced technology. In this story, Mr. Lague overlooks some critical points:

First, the main reason China has increased its high-tech exports in recent years is that more American companies like Dell are setting up shop in China and exporting finished products to the U.S. In fact, around 60% of China's total exports come from the final assembly factories of foreign-invested firms.

More importantly, much of the critical technology, which creates most of the product's value, is still imported from subsidiaries in developed countries (like Japan and Singapore).

More humorous is the People's Daily article:
We know that the world's misreading of China is not limited to 12 things. To eliminate these misunderstandings the maxim by Alghieri Dante "Follow your own course, and let people talk" is of no help here. We must meet the world's suspicions or even hostility with a more open attitude. We cannot extinguish rumors, but we believe that "rumors are stopped by the wise" and China will make more people wise with its own magnanimity.

It appears that the article will then pick 12 'misreadings' and show them to be wrong. Here is one on the topic of China's growing military strength, the article offers this misreading for debunking:
The Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2005 released by the US Department of Defense says, "China has a long-term ambition to extend its military clout to whole continental Asia. In the future, China's leaders may be tempted to resort to force or coercion more quickly to press diplomatic advantage, advance security interests, or resolve disputes."

And now for an intellectual deconstruction of the argument, which will in turn facilitate its destruction:
Is that really so?

Even more humorous is the People's Daily's take on China's relationship with Zimbabwe. Myth:
"Zimbabwe has belonged to China."

When westerners speak of Zimbabwe they do so with some tone of jealousy. In contrast to the deteriorating relationship between western countries and Zimbabwe, China has kept traditional friendly relations with African countries including Zimbabwe.

Ah, now I see the light. I need to read the People's Daily more often. Then and only then will I truly understand international relations.

Read more!

China's Colorless Foreign Policy

China has a colorless foreign policy and Belarus finds that appealing, according to this post from Musing Under the Tenement Palm.
China's "We Don't Butt-In Like That Other Country" policy has earned it another great partner: Belarus. A big reason appears to be a mutual hatred of "Color Revolutions."

The post by HK Dave elucidates the shared interests of these two nations.
One attitude that China and Belarus share, as do many others in the region, is a distaste for the "color revolutions." According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "Newspaper kiosks sell the Soviet Belarus and Respublika newspapers, which these days are dominated by two topics: the continuing wheat harvest and the alleged Western conspiracy to overthrow the 50-year-old Lukashenko. "You will not succeed with the color revolution" -- a reference to Ukraine's Orange Revolution of 2004 -- "nor with the revision of state borders," the Respublika warned the regime's opponents in an editorial this month." China certainly shares some of these fears, as mentioned here before in Soros, Serbia and Chinese Censorship. A recent Foreign Policy magazine article titled China's Color-Coded Crackdown this October begins "In China's halls of power, the fall of post-Soviet authoritarian regimes has raised the uncomfortable specter of a Chinese popular uprising. According to the Hong Kong-based Open magazine, a report by Chinese President Hu Jintao, titled Fighting the People's War Without Gunsmoke, is guiding the Chinese Communist Party's "counterrevolution" offensive. The report, disseminated inside the party, outlines a series of measures aimed at nipping a potential Chinese "color revolution" in the bud." And in both countries (as well as Russia) it is believed that two Georges are behind this: Bush and Soros.

Read more!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Dongzhou Situation

For those trying to keep up with the situation in Dongzhou a few days back, here is a roundup of roundups.
Additionally, Peking Duck has a series of posts on the subject (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

An excerpt from the Pajamas Media post:
Allegations continued that Chinese authorities were attempting to cover up a massacre of demonstrators in South China by buying the bodies, Associated Press reported, while the government insisted only a handful had perished and The Epoch Times released audiotape of villagers stating that 70 are dead... The Canadian Press is reporting that officials in China attempted to blame "a few instigators" who they claim attacked a power plant on Tuesday with "knives, steel spears, sticks, dynamite" and other alleged devices. Daimnation! has the story of the village being "completely sealed off."

Update: The official version of events is out.

Read more!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Snow on Yuan

American Treasury Secretary John Snow commented recently that the so-called float that replaced China's peg to the US dollar "has operated with too much rigidity." Some might view that as a reversal of policy considering the Treasury Department chose not to label China as a currency manipulator. Such an interpretation would be inaccurate. Survived SARS has the explanation.

Some commentators may make the argument that these remarks are responses to the fairly extensive criticism Snow received from the recent Treasury report, but I think it's roughly in line with what he's been saying all along. The message doesn't seem to be changing, but the reporting does, largely because of the context and the expectations of each news cycle.

Read more!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Taiwan's Three-in-One Elections

Taiwan recently conpleted its "three-in-one" local elections. The KMT won big, as was widely predicted. For the Western media this was obviously the people of Taiwan embracing China because the only thing that they know about the KMT is that it is the opposition party and it likes China more than President Chen Shui-bian, of the DPP.

Michael Turton, who makes a hobby out of highlighting and correcting the ignorance of the Western media on all things related to Taiwan, has a more realistic appraisal of the elections, what they mean, and what they don't mean.

It is easy to identify factors such as the DPP's poor overall localization strategies, the KMT's long establishment at the local level, or the greater financial advantages of the former ruling party, but it is much harder to see what is missing. And here's something that wasn't there: China. Not a peep was heard out of China this election.

Another interesting fact noted by Michael (and few others) is that the DPP's percentage of the total vote has consistantly increased in the last few local elections. Could this have been a DPP success after all? Read the rest of the article and find out.

Additionally, check out Jujuflop's pieces on monitors/students of the election and how this election is really about setting the scene for 2008.

Read more!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Firewall Activity

The net nannies that run the Great Firewall of China have been busy. According to Matthew Stinson, Blogspot is once again blocked meaning that this blog and others will only get Chinese visitors that use proxies or surf via Google's cache.

In order to assure continued access to the Chinese market, some blogger services impose content requirements upon their users. Bingfeng's Teahouse seems to be hosted on such a server. His attempts to post on the recent elections in Taiwan were unsuccessful until he engaged in some impressive circumlocution (Taiwan becomes "the Chinese island located near Fujian province" and election becomes "activity"). As is the habit here at MeiZhongTai, messages that are censored get republished.
Basically my post says that Chinese people are happy with the results [of Taiwan's election], and the blue organization that won the activity will probably promote the relationship between that island and the rest of China, and the green organization that lost the activity, unlike many people think, might take a more provoking stance towards mainland China.
Bingfeng gets so tired of being told that Taiwan and election are "illicit words" that he actually uses an illicit word or two. If that offends you, don't read the post here.

Read more!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Chinese Economic Pessimism

Recently there have been a few articles predicting that a downturn in the Chinese economy is in the making. The best of the genre is below.
  • Newsweek has an article entitled "Second Thoughts," which argues that China's rate of growth is too high, leading businesses to look elsewhere. Overproduction is (Hat Tip: Peking Duck)
    Runaway fixed-asset investment—the construction of unneeded factories, office towers and resorts—combined with sluggish consumer demand, has knocked the Middle Kingdom's macroeconomy severely out of whack. China's GDP is still expected to grow by 9.4 percent this year—but some economists believe serious problems are lurking behind that robust number. They argue that exports and excessive investment cannot continue to drive growth, because both have already reached unsustainable levels.

  • Stephen Roach of Morgan-Stanley argues in "China Slowdown" that his earlier predictions of an imminent slowdown in the Chinese economy were early, not wrong.
    (Hat Tip: AsiaPundit)
    In my view, the die is now cast for a significant slowing of Chinese GDP growth in 2006. At work is likely to be a downturn in China’s all-powerful investment cycle, driven by an important and surprising contraction in bank lending... The consensus view in the markets is that China will sustain its investment boom through the 2008 Beijing Olympics -- that it will simply not accept the potential embarrassment of a growth slowdown until after that momentous event is over.

Keep predicting a downturn and one day you'll be right.

Read more!