UN concern over Olympic pollution

The BBC reports

Air pollution in Beijing will not significantly improve before next year’s Olympic Games, a United Nations report suggests. In some cases, pollution is said to be more than three times the safe limits set by the World Health Organization.

The report seems to contradict claims from Beijing Olympic officials that air quality will not be a problem. International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said events may be postponed if pollution was too bad.

Are Chinese officials in denial about pollution during the Olympics? How aggressive will they really be in banning cars and shutting down factories in the region? They’ve tried encouraging people to abandon their vehicles and it didn’t really work.

Guess we’ll find out in a matter of months.


Is nothing sacred anymore?


Shameful. Still, it had me laughing out loud.

[Link provided to me by this blogger.]


This post is deleted

I wrote it early in the morning and I don’t like it. Keeping the thread (all three of the comments).

I really have to get back into blogging. I miss it, but it’s been so long, I think I’m losing whatever touch I may have had in the past.


Hu does he think he is fooling?

Hu Jintao made a long speech today (Monday) – about two and a half hours – dealing with many topics. “Democracy” was mentioned many times, though I think Hu still doesn’t understand what it really means – if he does, he doesn’t like it as the CCP’s insistence on retaining control through thick and thin is hardly democratic.

In any case, one matter picked up on was a call for a “peace agreement” with Taiwan.

“On the basis of the one-China principle, let us discuss a formal end to the state of hostility between the two sides, reach a peace agreement, construct a framework for peaceful development of cross-strait relations and thus usher in a new phase of peaceful development.”

On the basis of the one-China principle. I.e. Taiwan should agree to unify without receiving any promises first. Stop me if I’m wrong, but why should the island give up its sovereignty for talks to merely happen? You may say Taiwan could back out of the 1CP if talks failed, but it would damage its credibility if Taiwanese independence was seen to be a flight of fancy rather than something it really believed in.

Taiwan has rightly rejected this “offer”.

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday offered talks on a formal peace accord with Taiwan, but Taiwan rejected the call, saying it is an independent country whose future must be decided by the Taiwan people. “We cannot discuss peaceful reunification with a regime that suppresses Tibet, shoots its own people and backs Myanmar’s military government,” Government Information Office Minister Shieh Jhy-wey told reporters.

“Taiwan’s founding principles are human rights and democracy. If Hu Jintao really places hope on the Taiwan people, as he said, he should listen to the Taiwan people’s voice. Although the Chinese Communist Party rules China, it does not represent the Chinese people,” Shieh said.

The thing is that what Hu said today is nothing new. China has proposed talks for years if the 1CP was followed by Taiwan’s government. Each time the response from Taipei has been “we would love talks – let’s drop the conditions”. And each time Beijing has insisted it can set whatever red lines it likes, whereas Taiwan can set none.

This is not unlike Hu’s entire approach to government. He sets the agenda. He says what goes and when. Everyone else has to accept any scraps thrown to them from the table. If they ask for a chair to sit at the table, a better cut of meat, a plate or whatever, no scraps will be given and they may get a beating into the bargain for daring to talk back. This rather mean approach to government cannot be veiled with an absence of overt threats towards a place like Taiwan, though I’m sure some naive/self-serving commentators will call it significant he didn’t threaten to invade the island for wanting to be independent from an oppressive autocracy like China.

Hu does he think he is fooling?


Richard’s back – sort of

My friend who developed a blood clot on his economy flight to Beijing has gone home after two weeks of daily double injections and visits to the hospital. He now has to continue treatment for three months. There’s a lesson here: always travel business class.

I had quite a week, including a visit to Guangdong, where I spent nearly an entire day at a factory in Donguang (which I’ve seen spelled as Donguan, Dongguan, and Dongguang). This was an experience – a positive one. Maybe I was lucky to be at a Western-owned factory; it was clean, the workers seemed to enjoy their jobs, worker safety was a top concern and the owner had just set up basketball and tennis courts for all the staff. I know there are lots of factories where life isn’t quite so rosy. I’m glad the one I will be working with is among the good ones.

On Tuesday my mobile phone got destroyed, so if anyone’s tried to call or message me, I’m not being rude. There’s never a good time to have your phone break, but this was the worst possible time, with a friend having a medical crisis and being out of Beijing for three days with no access to email – you realize your mobile phone is your lifeline to the world, and without it you feel utterly helpless.

I’m back but won’t be available to blog very much (business as usual). It’s reached the point where I never look at my site meter anymore (it used to be an hourly ritual) and sometimes have to go for days without even looking at the comments. I do miss the writing, but, priorities….

Thanks to those who offered to help me last week. It was really great of you.


Beijing police punch-up

No, really – this isn’t a joke.

Beijing police brawl over pastor

Police from two districts in Beijing brawled yesterday over a Christian activist, leaving four officers and the dissident injured, witnesses said. Police in Chongwen district had been trying to suppress Hua Huiqi, 45, an underground pastor who has fought against a development project in his neighborhood. Chongwen police moved Hua out of their jurisdiction on Monday to Fengtai on the city’s southwestern edge, but the Fengtai police brought him back to his home yesterday, said Hua’s friend Zhou Li.

A fight broke out between the eight Fengtai police and a greater number of Chongwen police and men hired by the developer, New World China Land, Zhou said. In the scuffle, four police were injured and Hua was knocked unconscious, Zhou said at the Tiantan Hospital where Hua was awaiting treatment. Police declined comment.

Ironic for once that it was the Chinese Police that were on the receiving end of their own brutality.

On a more serious note, if they’re going to resolve their differences with colleagues through a public punch-up it’s not surprising that so many ordinary Chinese get treated badly when they become targets of the “law”.


Any volunteers?

A good friend from America flew from San Francisco to Beijing last Saturday to spend the holiday week touring the city with me. When I met him after his flight his first words were that he had a serious pain in his left leg, like a cramp that wouldn’t go away. To make a long story short, the pain became progressively worse and by Thursday he could barely walk. We went to the hospital yesterday and the ultrasound showed what we both feared, the presence of a large blood clot. This affliction, known as deep-vein thrombosis, is often brought on by sitting in a cramped space for many hours at a time with no exercise to keep the blood flowing normally, and it’s the reason why all the airlines on their long-haul flights now show annoying videos on how to do isometrics and stretches from your seat.

Rick had to spend last night in the hospital. He will now need to stay in Beijing a full 8 days longer than planned (he was supposed to leave today). Each day he has to give himself two injections and he can only walk using crutches. And the holiday started off so nicely….

Here’s my dilemma: I need to fly to Guandong on business on Tuesday and then up to Shanghai and won’t be back in Beijing until late Friday. So my friend Rick will be alone in Beijing, on crutches and unable to speak a word of Chinese, for in effect four full days. I tried to get out of my business trip but it’s impossible — I’m going. So if any of you wants to take a really nice but somewhat incapacitated friend of mine to lunch or dinner on Tuesday through Friday, or maybe just hang out with him for a little while, please send me an email. I really appreciate it.

Needless to say, I won’t be able to blog during the week ahead, other than a quickie or two from the airport.


On Rush Limbaugh’s “phony soldiers” quip

We all know Rush is a big fat idiot. See this amazing and heartbreaking post if you need further confirmation. In fact, even if you don’t, read it anyway. Devastating.


John Pomfret reviews “Fragile Superpower”

Longtime readers know Pomfret is one of my favorite reporters. The former Washington Post bureau chief here in Beijing, he’s now overseeing the paper’s bureau in Los Angeles, and it’s good to see him writing something about China once again. His review of Susan L. Shirk’s new book is thought provoking, to say the least.

Susan L. Shirk starts out her revelatory book on China with a nightmare scenario. A Chinese SU-27 fighter and a Taiwanese F-16 collide over the Taiwan Strait. The incident spirals out of control when the Chinese do what they always do in a crisis: blame the other guy. Demonstrations erupt in Beijing. Protesters demand that the Communist Party confront Taiwan and the United States. “When will China finally stand up?” read the signs. Washington scrambles as Beijing readies for war.

This brief, fictional opening frames Shirk’s book, dramatizing the possibility that China’s communist leadership could lurch into combat with Taiwan and the United States, which is obligated to defend the island nation under the Taiwan Relations Act. She sets out to explain why it is not a mere fantasy and why we, basically, need to be nice to China to keep the nightmare at bay.

At a time when much writing about China frothily presumes the unstoppable rise of a global titan, it is refreshing that a respected academic and former government official (Shirk was the deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia during the second Clinton administration) questions the notion that China is going to run the world. “China may be an emerging superpower,” she writes, “but it is a fragile one.”

It’s clear almost immediately that Shirk and Pomfret share similar views of China, especially (it seems to me) the notion that the CCP is not all bad but more bad than good. The article spans some of the topics Pomfret wrote about himself in his excellent book Chinese Lessons – the government-inspired nationalism , further fomented by government-inspired loathing of the Japanese; the party’s obsession with remaining in power at any cost; and the notion that China is far less stable and far less likely to emerge as a true superpower than most of us are led to believe. (I wrote about Pomfret’s thoughts on these topics in an old post that’s still one of my favorites, even though it brought to this blog its most annoying troll ever.)

Pomfret praises the book but criticizes, it, too – quite harshly. In particular, he thinks she is exaggerating the risk of a war with the US (as do I) and I like the way he expresses this:

Squeeze China too much, she argues, and you’ll get World War III. But, historically, China has been a far more fragmented society than either Germany or Japan. Faced with a grave threat to their nation’s survival from the Japanese invasion that began in the ’30s, what did China’s elite do? They barely battled the Japanese and continued their civil war. One Chinese person is a dragon, a Chinese saying goes, but three of us are just an insect.

I’m still working, so I’ll have to leave it at that. You’ll want to read it all.


Burma, minute by minute

This is pretty amazing work. And depressing as all hell.