Update on Tibetan Killings

No time to post, but as mentioned in comments, China Digital Times has an update.


Someone has a guilty conscience……

Raj’s second post of the day!

Chinese authorities to witnesses of Tibetan murder – “Shut up!”

Yes, you remember Sha Zukang telling the US to “shut up”. China is obviously making a habit of this, by now threatening witnesses to the shooting of Tibetan refugees by Chinese soldiers.

Chinese diplomats in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu are tracking down and trying to silence hundreds of Western climbers and Sherpas who witnessed the killing of Tibetan refugees on the Nangpa La mountain pass last week.

What I think is equally disgusting is the silence from many climbers. Maybe they would have reacted differently if a foreign climber had been shot. Then they’d be scared. But, hey, who cares if some Tibetan dies so long as they can keep climbing?

An American climber, who asked not to be identified, told of his revulsion at the failure of other climbers to speak out. “Did it make anyone turn away and go home? Not one,” he said. “People are climbing right in front of you to escape persecution while you are trying to climb a mountain. It’s insane.”

Of course a few courageous climbers have come forward with evidence, such as Steve Lawes, a British policeman who witnessed the event.

The shooting happened at around 10.30am on 30 September. Mr Laws said: “A group of between 20 and 30 people on foot [was] heading towards the Nangpa La Pass. Then those of us at advance base camp heard two shots, which may have been warning shots. The group started to cross the glacier and there were more shots. We were probably about 300 yards away from the Chinese who were shooting. This time it definitely wasn’t warning shots: the soldiers were putting their rifles to their shoulders, taking aim, and firing towards the group. One person fell, got up, but then fell again. We had a telescope with us but the soldiers took this. Later they used it to look at the dead body.”

It’s important that these murders not fly under the radar. They happened and the attempts to cover them up make them even more heinous. But, hey, we expect that from the Chinese authorities now. Maybe their long-term goal is that people will get so used to hearing about this sort of thing they don’t take any notice, and thus they can escape criticism. Well I think we shouldn’t let them get away with it.


From Our Own Correspondant – “goodbye”

It’s Raj here again! There was a great report on the World Service that I wanted to share with you. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Rupert Wingfield Hayes has been in China for eight years. The following article is an excellent piece on modern China and why it is a horrible mistake to only focus on the big shiny buildings in Shanghai and numbers of cars on Beijing’s streets.

China’s new wealth and old failings

“Why are you so down on China?” is a refrain I have got used to hearing.


Or words to that effect…. 😉

Twenty five years ago the Chinese Communist Party decided to scrap Marxist economics and pursue a capitalist free-market economy. But, at the same time, it refused and continues to refuse, any form of political liberalisation. The result is what we see today – astonishing growth, combined with astonishing greed, where wealth means power, and without power you are nothing.

Indeed. And this is why in some respects modern China is worse than what followed before. At least before you only had to worry about the Party. Now you also have to worry about rich businessman that have officials in their pockets and can do whatever the hell they like. Also you have, according to the World Bank, increasing corruption (not less as CCP-apologists would have us believe).

Comparison of World Bank’s records on the governance of China over the last decade

So we can see that most things have got worse, especially corruption, government effectiveness and “voice and accountability”. Even regulation quality is barely up, with rule of law on the way down again. These are statistics that people rarely bother to view (or know exist), yet they reflect the reports that Rupert has been making in recent years. Things look nice on the outside, but the core is still rotten – maybe decaying even further.

Many who come to the Games will, no doubt, be bowled over by the vibrancy and modernity of China. They may even tell you it was not what they expected, not what they had seen on TV. To them I would say, remember Mr and Mrs Nie and the tens of millions of ordinary Chinese who to this day are denied the basic freedoms of speech, of a fair trial, and to equal treatment before the law. My friends at the foreign ministry will, no doubt, think that I am once again up to my bad old ways, and that after eight years I still don’t really understand China.

To be honest I think Rupert understands China better than those officials do – or at least better than they are willing to admit. After all denial is better than admitting you are the problem. It’s always easier to blame foreigners….

You can also listen to the full report by clicking here.


Wikipedia Unbound

At least for now. China Digital Times has the details and links.


“Lips & Teeth”?

I don’t have a lot of time to post but want to at least provide a space to discuss North Korea’s apparent successful application to the nuclear club. China is in a real bind:

A North Korean nuclear test has long been a nightmare scenario for China.

Beijing is one of the North’s few remaining allies, and a major supplier of energy and financial aid to the secretive regime in Pyongyang.

China wants stability on the Korean peninsula; the last thing it wanted was an international crisis right on its doorstep.

It has condemned the claimed test on Monday, saying it resolutely opposes North Korea’s actions, and that the test has damaged relations between the two countries.

That anger is also mixed with embarrassment, because Beijing repeatedly urged the North Koreans to abandon their plans for a test.

The fact that the North went ahead regardless appears to be an indication that there are limits to the influence that China’s leaders have in Pyongyang.

But the situation is more complex than that. China fears that if it uses what leverage it does have, by stopping aid to North Korea, the regime in Pyongyang might collapse.

That could send a flood of refugees over the border into China – something that Beijing wants to avoid at all costs.

So China is reluctant to use the powers it has, worrying about the possible consequences of pulling the plug on Pyongyang.

But a nuclear North Korea carries with it the potential of a regional nuclear arms race – and how would China regard, say, a nuclear Japan? Might a flood of North Korean refugees be preferable?


Is this a “comma”, George?

Horrific story about conditions for women in post-invasion Iraq:

Iraqis do not like to talk about it much, but there is an understanding of what is going on these days. If a young woman is abducted and murdered without a ransom demand, she has been kidnapped to be raped. Even those raped and released are not necessarily safe: the response of some families to finding that a woman has been raped has been to kill her.

Iraq’s women are living with a fear that is increasing in line with the numbers dying violently every month. They die for being a member of the wrong sect and for helping their fellow women. They die for doing jobs that the militants have decreed that they cannot do: for working in hospitals and ministries and universities. They are murdered, too, because they are the softest targets for Iraq’s criminal gangs.

Iraq’s women live in terror of speaking their opinions; of going out to work; or defying the strict new prohibitions on dress and behaviour applied across Iraq by Islamist militants, both Sunni and Shia. They live in fear of their husbands, too, as women’s rights have been undermined by the country’s postwar constitution that has taken power from the family courts and given it to clerics.

What a horrible, sickening situation, all because of the grandiose ambitions of Bush, Cheney and the neocons. Close to 3,000 American soldiers dead, tens of thousands seriously wounded and mentally traumatized, and so many Iraqi lives lost and shattered that we can’t even begin to provide a proper accounting of them.

We are covered in the blood of the dead, and it will be a very long time before this damned spot will fade and our hands will ever be clean.

UPDATE Digby reports that some 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the American invasion.

“Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia
Will not sweeten this little hand.”


Death in the Himalayas

A disturbing story is emerging about the shooting deaths of Tibetan refugees by Chinese soldiers in a Himalayan pass. First reported on a climber’s website, the story has been picked up by the British press, amidst allegations that “Chinese diplomats in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu are tracking down and trying to silence hundreds of Western climbers and Sherpas who witnessed the killing.”

The invaluable China Digital Times has a summary and links.


China and the J Curve

Dave shoots a few holes in the latest trendy theory that purports to explain everything and fits on a napkin…

One more post before I go to Macau for a visa stamp and cheese.

From the Telegraph:

A new catchphrase is buzzing its way around the political salons of Washington and New York. Move over, “tipping point”.

The “J curve” is an explanation for the way the world works that is so simple that you can draw it on the back of a paper napkin. Indeed, its inventor, a boyish American political scientist called Ian Bremmer, spent years doing just that.

“God knows how many napkins I got through,” he says. “And my friends kept telling me, ‘Wow, write a book.’ So here it is.”

Bremmer, 36, is chairman and founder of the Eurasia Group, the world’s largest political risk consultancy.

When governments and businessmen want to know whether they should invest in a country with a dodgy government, or whether they should run a mile from it because the capital city is about to go up in flames, they come to him.

What’s the J-Curve? Here’s an excerpt from the J Curve website:

What is the J curve? Imagine a graph on which the vertical axis measures stability and the horizontal axis measures political and economic openness to the outside world. Each nation whose level of stability and openness we want to measure appears as a data point on the graph. These data points, representing a cross-section of countries, produce a ‘J’ shape. Nations to the left of the dip in the J are less open; nations to the right are more open. Nations higher on the graph are more stable; those that are lower are less stable.

I’m in the wrong business. How does this apply to China? Here’s Bremmer himself in Institutional Investory breaking it down for us.

Openness is a measure of the extent to which a state allows people, ideas, information, goods, and services to flow freely across its borders in both directions. How much foreign direct investment is there in the country? How much local money is invested in other countries? How many books written in another language are translated into the local language? How much direct contact do locals have with foreigners? How free are citizens to travel outside the country? What percentage of a nation’s citizens has access to foreign media? By these measures, China is far more open than it used to be, though a recent crackdown on both domestic and foreign reporting on sensitive political issues signals the state’s determination to monopolize the distribution of certain types of information.

But openness also refers to the movement of people, resources, information, and ideas within the country. Are citizens able to communicate freely with one another? Do they have access to accurate information about events in other parts of the country? Are they free to travel within the country without restriction? Are freedoms of speech and assembly legally enforced? How transparent are the processes of local and national government? Do citizens have access to and influence with their leaders? Here, China is not open by any measure.

He concludes:

Can the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly on political power survive the country’s economic opening to the outside world? Can China’s current system survive the eventual passage through the dip in the J curve? Perhaps double-digit growth and the middle class freedoms it has created will indefinitely keep a lid on public anger with the country’s authoritarian political system.

But maybe it won’t. The dangers of a sudden economic downturn (driven by a spike in global energy prices or the severe restrictions on travel into, out of, and around the country following confirmation of human-to-human transmission of bird flu, for example) could be unprecedented for China. The last time Chinese citizens experienced a sharp and sustained economic slowdown, they did not yet have the communications tools that might allow them to focus their anger at their government and to coordinate resistance should the state fail to meet their demands for change.

If the Chinese economy were to hit a wall, we might discover that the country is already closer to dangerous instability than we realize. The J curve suggests that this might well be the case.

Whatever this guy charges, it’s way too much. There is no stunning news here. There’s not even news. And some reviewers say it doesn’t really work well:

Bremmer’s struggle over where to place China on the J curve reflects the limitations of his one-dimensional model. By conflating the economic and political into a single measure of “openness,” Bremmer’s J curve masks the fact that there are really three types of state in transition: those that are neither politically nor economically open, those that are politically but not economically open, and vice versa. Bremmer argues that China, an example of the latter, is trying, futilely, to “beat the J curve.” But the same could be said about India, which is trying to pursue economic reform in a democratic state without triggering a paralyzing backlash from those with a stake in the old system.

I was looking at Bremmer’s openness criteria and wondered how accurate some of these indicators are. For example, he says one question on openness is “How many books written in another language are translated into local languages?â€? and I wondered what those numbers are for China and the U.S.

In 2004, Bowker, publishers of the Global Books in Print database, reported:

The English-speaking countries remain relatively inhospitable to translations into English from other languages. In all, there were only 14,440 new translations in 2004, accounting for a little more than 3% of all books available for sale. The 4,982 translations available for sale in the U.S. was the most in the English-speaking world, but was less than half the 12,197 translations reported by Italy in 2002, and less than 400 more than the 4,602 reported by the Czech Republic in 2003. Almost three quarters of all books translated into English from other languages last year were non-fiction.

Does somebody wanna weigh in here on the stability of Italy? Like a rock or linguini? Meanwhile, the Hindu reports this from the Beijing International Book Fair:

With the Chinese economy surging, all publications benefit from a market that is growing by more than $ 300 million a year. Industry sources say 400 new titles are launched every day, though only six per cent are translations.

Deputy head of the Government’s press and publications administration, Yu Yongzhan said China’s 573 publishing houses produced 6.4 billion books, including 1,28,578 new titles, in 2005.

6% of 400 is 24, multiplied by 365 is 8760 titles a year. And while Chinese statistics are always sketchy (and no more so than this), anecdotal evidence at my local used bookstore yesterday includes translations of Empire: A Tale of Obsession, Betrayal and the Battle for An American Icon, I Am The Central Park Jogger, Stephen King’s “The Standâ€? and “Salem’s Lotâ€?, two books in the eschatological Christian pulp series “Left Behindâ€?, and The Book of Mormon (ok, probably not printed by a Chinese publishing house, but smuggled in). That and the copy of Animal Farm on my shelf. China is not wanting for translations. For godsakes, isn’t Jack Welch’s book required reading at the party school these days?

Beyond this, I do wonder if Bremmer is overconfident that he has discovered some immutable law. As Dorothy Parker said, you can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think. Even when people have access to information, it doesn’t mean they will necessarily find it, want it or accept it. Witness the one third of the United States that believes Saddam Hussein was involved with Al Qaeda. More to the point, is it really the number of translated books Americans read that makes their country more stable? Or is simply that they’re richer and therefore have more to lose?


Life of a Cell

Something a little different from Dave

Not China related, but this kickass video is making the rounds. I did biology for a couple of years in undergrad before switching to history, and this is what I always enjoyed: visualizing cellular processes.

The Inner Life of The Cell


Social Darwinism, Nationalism and Humiliation in Modern China

More on the “clash of civilizations from Dave

I thought I’d address a few tangents I’ve been commenting on in this thread. I apologize for the length.

Social darwinism made its first entry in Chinese society in 1895-6, when Yan Fu translated Thomas Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics. (Actually, Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology was translated some 20 years prior, but it didn’t make the same splash) Ironically, Huxley was a debunker of social darwinim, but that’s not how he was interpreted. According to Limin Bai’s paper Children and the Survival of China: Liang Qichao on Education Before 1898 Reform (sorry, only available on academic networks)

According to Liang’s own account, he read the draft of Yan’s translation of Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics in 1896,11 and he immediately applied this new theory in his criticism and analysis of traditional Chinese education by arguing that the defense of China should start with the defense of the Chinese race, and the education of children is the key to improving the race.

Early Qing reformers were grappling with the tremendous blow to Chinese self-confidence following the Opium Wars and the Sino-Japanese War. China was severely screwed up, went the story, and something had to be done. Hence it was framed as racial inferiority:

they deliberately interpreted his theory of evolution to serve their reform programs. This Chinese version of social Darwinism inevitably complied with traditional Chinese ideas in which education was highly valued for teaching people and transforming society. What interested them more was not the original or real meanings of Darwin’s theory of evolution but how it might help explain China’s weakness and awaken the Chinese people to the grim reality.