My neighbor, whom I’d never met before, just knocked on my door to wish me a Merry Christmas. He told me he and his wife are having a party tonight and that it might be a bit noisy, and to make up for it he wanted to give me a gift, a big bottle of Johnnie Walker Black, which ain’t cheap. I tried to decline (tai bu hao yisile) but he wouldn’t let me. Now I can really enjoy Boxing Day.


Pre-Christmas Thread

If there were a God, would He have scheduled Christmas on a Sunday??


Sometimes We Get Burned…

And the only thing to do is correct the record ASAP:

The UMass Dartmouth student who claimed to have been visited by Homeland Security agents over his request for “The Little Red Book” by Mao Zedong has admitted to making up the entire story.

The 22-year-old student tearfully admitted he made the story up to his history professor, Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, and his parents, after being confronted with the inconsistencies in his account.

. Rest of thes tory is here.

So rest easy, everyone – you can hang on to your Little Red Books for now…


Chinese migrant workers weep…

chinese migrant workers.jpg
…as they beg for the unpaid wages they worked for. Other painful photos over at Boxun, via CDT.

A national disgrace.


China: We promise to be nice

A new warm ‘n fuzzy white paper put out by the PRC goes out of its way to assure us they have the best of intentions and would never hurt a fly.

Specifically, the white paper sought to rebut critics who point to the emergence of Japan as a new economic power in the early 20th century as having helped create the conditions that led to World War II. Some specialists have suggested China’s emergence as an Asian power could also lead to disruption because it is bound to change long-existing relationships, particularly the United States’ role as dominant military power and security guarantor.

“China’s road of peaceful development is a brand new one for mankind in pursuit of civilization and progress,” the paper said, drawing a distinction between China’s rise and that of Japan a generation ago, “the inevitable way for China to achieve modernization and a serious choice and solemn promise made by the Chinese government and the Chinese people . . . China did not seek hegemony in the past, nor does it now, and will not do so in the future when it gets stronger.”

The 32-page white paper did not once use the expression “peaceful rise,” which previously was the government’s standard way to describe growth in Chinese power and influence. According to academic sources with access to thinking in the Communist Party and government, some senior officials felt the word “rise” carried unwelcome, perhaps threatening connotations of an advancing Asian colossus. As a result, “peaceful development” has become the term of art in most official discourse.

Also missing from the document was any mention of Taiwan, which U.S. officials consider among the places most critically affected by China’s rising power and its use of growing wealth to finance improvements to the military. China has vowed to re-integrate the self-ruled island into the mainland, by force if necessary, but maintains that this is an internal affair and not part of its foreign relations.

Much of the white paper (excepts of which I read here) reads like your typical China Daily article, chronicling all the lovely things China is doing to foster international good will and fight terrorism, etc. I try to imagine any other government putting out such self-serving tripe, but honestly, I can’t.


Yangtze dam threatens 60 species of fish

The Three Gorges Project Corporation is about to build some new dams on the upper Yangtze, the environment be damned (no pun intended).

[E]nvironmental groups have warned that the new dams could wipe out fish species whose migration routes to traditional breeding grounds will be blocked. Subjecting these concerns to scientific scrutiny, 13 students from Sichuan University’s Environmental Protection Volunteer Association conducted intensive fieldwork in the region between July 2004 and February 2005. They concluded that as many as 60 fish species could be driven to extinction after construction of the four dams, especially Xiluodu and Xiangjaba. Species under threat include the endangered Chinese sturgeon (Zhonghua xun), white sturgeon (bai xun), Yangtze (or Dabry’s) sturgeon (dashi xun) and rouge fish (yanzhi yu).

The students also drew attention to the fact that the dams are to be built in an area that had been set aside as a national rare-fish conservation zone. In 1987, the State Council designated a 500-km section of the river between Hejiang and Leibo counties as the National Yangtze Rare Fish Reserve Zone. Under China’s Environmental Protection Act (Section 3, Article 17), which came into force in December 1989, no industrial enterprises or infrastructure projects likely to cause environmental damage can be built in scenic spots, nature reserves or other special areas designated by the central or provincial governments.

To get around this barrier, the Three Gorges Project Corp. asked the State Council to redraw the boundaries of the conservation area to exclude the heart of the zone Ð the stretch of the river between the future Xiluodu and Xiangjiaba dams.

The State Council agreed to the request in April 2005, relocating the protected fish zone to an area downstream of Xiangjiaba, thus clearing the way for the dams to be built.

The fish, meanwhile, haven’t moved — and, indeed, species cannot be shifted without consequence from a niche carved out over millennia. The new reserve zone is a bit bigger than the original area, but the extra space will be no consolation to the fish, the students pointed out. The original zone reflected the true boundaries of the traditional breeding and feeding grounds of rare species such as the white sturgeon and Yangtze sturgeon.

In a recent article, Prof. Chen Guojie, senior researcher at the Chengdu Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, also warns that the spawning zones of such species will be almost totally obliterated if Xiangjiaba is built.

I really like the part about redrawing the borders of the protected zone to accommodate the construction. It’s reminiscent of BushCo falsely inflating the number of wild salmon by including farmed salmon in the fish count. If you don’t like the situation, just redraw the parameters around it and pretend it’s whatever you want it to be. But you’re only fooling yourself; it’s of little consequence to the fish.


China’s Gemstone Workers – How You Can Help

Last week I posted an article about the horrific conditions in China’s gemstone industry. In an update to that post, I mentioned a Hong-Kong based campaign advocating better working conditions in the Chinese gemstone industry, via CSR’s Stephen Frost. There were some technical problems with the campaign’s website, but it’s up and running now. Please take a minute to sign their letter – you can send it to Hong Kong, American or European jewelry associations, depending on where you’re located.


Guangzhou: Don’t drink the water

First there was the Harbin chemical spill. And now, Guangzhou’s famously pristine and delicious drinking water is under threat as toxic cadmium dumped by a state-owned factory drifts toward the city.

The southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou was ordered to prepare to start emergency plans to ensure safe drinking water supplies as a toxic cadmium slick approached the city of 10 million residents. The local Guangdong provincial government issued the order to Guangzhou and neighbouring Foshan city, the Xinhua news agency said.

The incident follows a chemical spill in a river in northeast China last month that left millions without water for four days, highlighting the seriousness of water pollution in China and raising questions about Beijing’s ability to handle its rapid pace of development.

The latest toxic slick was caused by an excessive discharge of cadmium from a state-owned smelting works in the Beijiang river, a major source of drinking water for cities in the northern part of Guangdong, Xinhua said on Wednesday.

The Beijiang runs into the Pearl river which flows through Guangzhou.

Waste discharges increased the volume of cadmium in the Beijiang at Shaoguan city to nearly 10 times above safety levels, “seriously endangering” the safety of water downstream, Xinhua cited the local government saying.

It did not say when the discharge occurred, but provincial environmental officials were sent to the area Sunday, Xinhua said.

Local governments have set up monitoring posts along the Beijiang river to check water quality, it said.

Relax, you’re in good hands. Still, I’d go for the bottled stuff, at least for the time being.


Welcome to the New Iraq Theocracy

moqtada sadr.jpg

I think the noise of Bush’s screwing with the NSA and letting them loose on American citizens has drowned out a more important story – that Iraq is about to fall into the hands of Moqtada Al Sadr and his friends.

Early voting results announced by Iraqi electoral officials on Monday, with nearly two-thirds of the ballots counted, indicated that religious groups, particularly the main Shiite coalition, had taken a commanding lead. The secular coalition led by Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister, had won only meager support in crucial provinces where it had expected to do well, including Baghdad.

I never thought I’d link to Pajamas Media, but they are a good resource for this topic, reflecting the true disappointment of all those pro-Bush Iraqi bloggers like The Iraq Vote, who laments:

“The final results aren’t out yet, but things look pretty bad for those of us who would want to see an Iraq that is secular and democratic and not influenced by Iran. The United Iraqi Alliance, as reported here two days ago swept the votes across southern Iraq, so much so that Ahmad Chalabi may well walk away with zero seats. How this happened is for later, but for now, let’s talk about what happened. Ayad Allawi even by the most liberal of counts will not get more than 20 seats, that’s nowhere enough for a UIA-free coalition let alone a PM bid. Unconfirmed reports show that Allawi has left Iraq.”

Longtimers know I got into some serious scrapes with commenters who said my insistence that Iraq was about to become an Iranian-style theocracy increasingly aligned with Iran was delusional, pessimistic and irrational. That was months ago, and look what’s happening. We wanted to give Iraq their democracy, and they got it. But at what cost to America? All that bloodshed and grief, to invest with awesome powers those sworn to our destruction.

The same PJ’s page quotes from the blog Unclaimed Territory:

All of those wild celebrations over the Iraqi elections to which we were subjected last week (and which were mercifully cut short by revelations of lawless spying on American citizens by the White House) would be far more appropriate and understandable taking place in the governmental halls of Tehran.

Tehran, where the newly elected Fuhrer is sworn to the destruction of Israel and far more dire a threat than Saddam ever could have aspired to be.

Iraq Rising is more succinct:

Congratulations America,
welcome to the Islamic devided wartorn republic of Shit hole Iraq. Watch your Petrol Gas pomp prices go up.. A bunch off idiots, the whole lot of ya….
Iraq Rising.. More like Iraq dying..
Blogg closed.

Oh, the sad irony. And we’re going to stick around and die and bleed over there to train their army.

Daily Pundit, who led me to the PJs link, sums it up nicely.

Does Bush – or anybody else – think he can put the genie of a fully armed and aroused Shiite majority in control of the Iraqi government by entirely legitimate, democratic means, back in the bottle? Because that is what it is going to take to appease the Sunnis. And no matter how hard Bush tries, it’s not going to happen. In fact, if Bush doesn’t stop screwing around, what he’s going to end up with is what he fears most: both the Shia and the Sunni in revolt against the “American occupation” amidst a full-blown civil war. And never fear: the harmless, “impregnable” Iranians will be more than happy to aid their Shia religious brethren to victory in that battle. Maybe even with some of those unstoppable nukes we are helpless to do anything about.

And that’s from a pro-Bush, librul-hating warblogger (though one of the better ones, to be fair).

Saddam never had the capabilities for nuclear weapons and never would have. But Iran is a much different story, as we know. And we’ve just handed them the sweetest Christmas present imaginable, the country of Iraq, gift-wrapped and tied with a bow.

And now, back to the war, certain to intensify as seething Sunni rage explodes over their impotence and helplessness. Oh, what we have done to let Little Boy George show he could change the world. Well, he changed it, alright. And now we all have to live with it. Iraq, a disaster in every way, the greatest trainwreck of our lives. We’ll be trying to get out of the rubble for many years to come, so make yourself comfortable and don’t complain about all the soot and filth and fires and blood and the stench of death; you chose Bush to be your president. What did you expect?

Update: I absolutely have to give the last word (for the moment) to Patrick Cockburn. Those of you who laughed at the notion of a fundamentalist theocracy a few weeks ago need to get over there and read it all:

Iraq is disintegrating. The first results from the parliamentary election last week show the country is dividing between Shia, Sunni and Kurdish regions.

Religious fundamentalists now have the upper hand. The secular and nationalist candidate backed by the US and Britain was humiliatingly defeated.

The Shia religious coalition has won a total victory in Baghdad and the south of Iraq. The Sunni Arab parties who openly or covertly support armed resistance to the US are likely to win large majorities in Sunni provinces. The Kurds have already achieved quasi-independence and their voting reflected that.

The election marks the final shipwreck of American and British hopes of establishing a pro-Western secular democracy in a united Iraq.

Islamic fundamentalist movements are ever more powerful in both the Sunni and Shia communities. Ghassan Attiyah, an Iraqi commentator, said: “In two and a half years Bush has succeeded in creating two new Talibans in Iraq.”

The success of the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of Shia religious parties, has been far greater than expected according to preliminary results. It won 58 per cent of the vote in Baghdad, while Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister strongly supported by Tony Blair, got only 14 per cent of the vote. In Basra, Iraq’s second city, 77 per cent of voters supported the Alliance and only 11 per cent Mr Allawi.

The election was portrayed by President George Bush as a sign of success for US policies in Iraq but, in fact, means the triumph of America’s enemies inside and outside the country.

Iran will be pleased that the Shia religious parties which it has supported, have become the strongest political force.

Ironically, Mr Bush is increasingly dependent within Iraq on the co-operation and restraint of the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly called for the eradication of Israel. It is the allies of the Iranian theocracy who are growing in influence by the day and have triumphed in the election. The US will fear that development greatly as it constantly reminds the world of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Now remind us, please: why should we be so ecstatic about the Iraqi elections? Is this truly what you believe our soldiers should die for and what our tax dollars should be lavished on? Do you really? Are you as happy and enthusiastic today as you were a few days ago, when you were gushing about freedom and liberty?

Oh, the richness of the irony, the vastness of our hubris, the limitlessness of our blindness and stupidity.


“China’s news releasing mechanism operates effectively”

Where else but in China can you see a newspaper headline like that? And I promise, I’m not making it up.

China’s Information Office of the State Council (IOSC) organized 70 press conferences so far this year, the most ever since the news releasing mechanism was set up in China.

To date, 80 spokespersons in more than 70 subordinate departments of the State Council, or the cabinet, release news regularly in China, said Cai Wu, head of the IOSC, at a New Year reception for overseas journalists, diplomats and representatives of international organizations.

Twenty-seven out of 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have set up their own news releasing mechanisms.

The year 2005 was “a very eventful and fruitful year for journalists working in China,” Cai said, citing a series of major events including the successful launch and return of the Shenzhou-6 manned spacecraft and the first meeting between leaders of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese Kuomintang Party (KMT) in 50 years.

This is news ? Announcing that the government is good at sending out press releases??? At least no one accuse them of patting themselves on the back.