China: the coming costs of a superbubble

Originally published Christian Science Monitor, 16 March 2010

China may seem to have defied the recession and the laws of economics. It hasn’t. When China’s bubble bursts, the global impact will be severe, spiking US interest rates.

The world looks at China with envy. China’s economy grew 8.7 percent last year, while the world economy contracted by 2.2 percent. It seems that Chinese “Confucian capitalism” – a market economy powered by 1.3 billion people and guided by an authoritarian regime that can pull levers at will – is superior to our touchy-feely democracy and capitalism. But the grass on China’s side of the fence is not as green as it appears.

In fact, China’s defiance of the global recession is not a miracle – it’s a superbubble. When it deflates, it will spell big trouble for all of us.

To understand the Chinese economy, consider three distinct periods: “Late-stage growth obesity” (the decade prior to 2008); “You lie!” (the time of the financial crisis); and finally,  “Steroids ’R’ Us” (from the end of the financial crisis to today).

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China Fails to Dispel Mystery About Missing Dissident

Originally published by New York Times, 16 March 2010

HONG KONG — China’s foreign minister waded into the mystery over the disappearance more than a year ago of one of the country’s most prominent human rights lawyers, but his remarks on Tuesday shed little light on the lawyer’s fate.

At a Beijing news conference, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, had been sentenced to prison for subversion. But Mr. Yang did not say whether he was referring to a new sentence or whether he was citing a suspended sentence that Mr. Gao had received in late 2006 after writing an open letter to President Hu Jintao alleging mistreatment of adherents of the banned Falun Gong movement.

In the 2006 case, Mr. Gao was quickly released after he made a confession. He later said he had been coerced into confessing by state security officials.

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Carrot and Stick – China’s Formula In Tibet And Xinjiang

Originally published by Phayul, 15 March 2010

Soon after the opening session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), President Hu Jintao met some deputies from Tibet. He told them: “Development and stability in Tibet are two top tasks that demand unremitting efforts.”

A few days earlier, an article entitled “China Insider Sees Revolution Brewing” written by John Garnaut, had appeared in The Guardian. “China’s top expert on social unrest has warned that hardline security policies are taking the country to the brink of revolutionary turmoil”, it said.

The fact is that several voices from inside the party have started to raise the issue of ‘stability’ (whether in Tibet or China); and these are not voices of dissidents or human rights activists, but of people like Professor Yu Jianrong, the Director of Social Issues Research at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Rural Affairs in Beijing; Prof. Yu is a top advisor of the Chinese government. Conducting surveys and interviewing hundreds of stakeholders, he has gone into the alarming situation in great depth.

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China to ramp up investment in restive Xinjiang

Originally published by AFP, 15 March 2010

BEIJING — China will sharply increase investment in Xinjiang in hopes that higher living standards for ethnic Uighurs in the restive region can quell long-standing unrest, state press said Monday.

“The social situation can only become stable when the problem of people’s livelihood is solved,” China Daily quoted Xinjiang’s Communist Party secretary Wang Lequan as saying.

“Economic development is the solution… (we expect) investment in fixed assets will jump sharply.”

Violence between Muslim Uighurs and China’s ethnic Han majority exploded in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi last July, leaving nearly 200 dead and 1,700 injured, according to the government.

It was the biggest racial strife in China in decades.

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A Host of Mummies, a Forest of Secrets

Originally published by New York Times, 15 March 2010

In the middle of a terrifying desert north of Tibet, Chinese archaeologists have excavated an extraordinary cemetery. Its inhabitants died almost 4,000 years ago, yet their bodies have been well preserved by the dry air.

The cemetery lies in what is now China’s northwest autonomous region of Xinjiang, yet the people have European features, with brown hair and long noses. Their remains, though lying in one of the world’s largest deserts, are buried in upside-down boats. And where tombstones might stand, declaring pious hope for some god’s mercy in the afterlife, their cemetery sports instead a vigorous forest of phallic symbols, signaling an intense interest in the pleasures or utility of procreation.

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Dissidents Urge UN Against Cyber-Censorship

Originally published by Scoop, 13 March 2010

Press Release: Geneva Summit 

Dissidents Urge UN To Endorse Declaration Against Cyber-Censorship

Cites Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam issidents Issue Call for Internet Freedom

GENEVA, March 12, 2010 – Marking the first World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, a global coalition of dissidents, non-governmental organizations and human rights activists submitted a new declaration on internet freedom to the United Nations, urging its endorsement by the world body.

The Geneva Declaration on Internet Freedom (click here for text), drafted by a committee of dissidents headed by two well-known political prisoners—Yang Jianli of China and Ahmad Batebi of Iran—calls for the protection of human rights activists imprisoned for social or political expression posted on blogs and other websites.

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The 51st Anniversary of the Tibetan Struggle: What is the future?

Originally published by IDSA, 12 March 2010

March 10, 2010 marked the 51st Anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising which had forced the Dalai Lama to move to Dharamshala and establish the Tibetan Government-in-exile. The current week is also the second anniversary of the most recent prominent expression of Tibetan discontent—the riot of March 14, 2008 in Lhasa. This riot, according to official data, resulted in the deaths of 21 civilians and one policeman, apart from injuries to a large number of people. But Tibetans claim that almost 200 people were killed and around 5700 arrested by the Chinese authorities. This incident had taken the government completely off guard and what followed during the global Olympics torch relay was also quite disturbing for Beijing.

It appears that Beijing has learnt its lesson from the 2008 riots and has been cautious this time around. Prior to the anniversary, the Communist Party of China (CCP) had increased security in Tibet manifold. Even the links between Nepal and Tibet have been severed as the Chinese government does not want a flow of people across the border. However, Tibetans in exile in India succeeded in protesting outside the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi. Beijing had also expressed its displeasure at US President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama.

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China quickly condemns Dalai Lama’s support for Uighurs

Originally published by World Bulletin, 11 March 2010

Chinese officials quickly reacted with anger to a speech by exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in which he expressed sympathy with the people of East Turkestan.

Chinese officials quickly reacted with anger to a speech by exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in which he said Buddhists were living in prison-like conditions and expressed sympathy with the people of East Turkestan.

In an address on Wednesday marking 51 years since he fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama referred to China-named Xinjiang as “East Turkestan”, as Uighurs call.

The Dalai Lama’s support for the Uighurs “shows his nature of separating the nation and damaging national unity,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing.

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