“I can only repeat that he is the most dangerous man we have to reckon with”, thus Viceroy Lord Minto spoke of Aurobindo Ghose, the proponent of Purna Swaraj against the mighty British Empire in the early 20th century.
In the afternoon of April 4, 1910, the Pondicherry pier witnessed a scene which will remain etched in history: a strict orthodox Tamil Brahmin, Srinivasachari and Suresh Chakravarti, a 18-year old Bengali revolutionary shared a small boat to reach out to Le Dupleix, a steamer which had just arrived from Calcutta carrying the ‘most dangerous’ man on board.
In his short Bengali book, Smritikatha, Chakravarti gives a humoristic description of the ‘dangerous’ minutes he spent on the rowboat before they could come along side the Dupleix.
Perhaps due to old reminiscences of his years in Great Britain, the Bengali leader would not leave before offering the duo a cup of tea in his cabin. By the time they disembarked and boarded the rowboat waiting to take the famous passenger to French India, it was 4 pm.
Chakravarti had arrived in Pondicherry a few days earlier, scouting for an accommodation for his leader; for the couple of days, Srinivasachari and his friends did not act on his request, thinking that he was a spy. It is only when the arrival of the political leader was confirmed that it was decided to have a reception committee at the pier. The young Bengali managed to dissuade Srinivasachari and others (including Subramanya Bharathi) to have any official function. “Sri Aurobindo's coming to Pondicherry was a closely guarded secret and he would like to live in strict solitude in order to avoid harassment by the agents of the British Government”, says one of Sri Aurobindo’s biographers.
For several months, Sri Aurobindo and his companions stayed on the second floor of a house belonging to one Shankar Chetty; Swami Vivekananda had stayed there when he had visited Pondicherry a few years earlier. In his memoirs, Chakravarti details the material arrangements: as there was no bathroom in Sri Aurobindo’s room, he had to come down to the ground floor at dusk for his bath. The daily menu never changed, same boiled rice, same brinjal, same dal cooked on two earth stoves. Nobody complained ever, the Yogi and his apprentice-yogis.
Shankar Chetty House
During the first three months, the young men remained inside the house day and night, it was too dangerous to roam the streets of the White Town; some British agents were certainly looking for a scoop for their promotion.
Life continued thus during the following years, though rules gradually became less strict for the disciples who were even allowed to play football. As for Sri Aurobindo, he was intensely immersed in his sadhana.
One young Tamil boy called Amrita, who later became a senior disciple, recalled that in 1913, "Every evening, a little after dark, [Subramanya] Bharathi would go to Sri Aurobindo's house. He chose that time not with the purpose of avoiding people who would want to make a note of his visit. It was because Sri Aurobindo used to come out of his room and receive his friends only after seven in the evening. An exception, however, was made for close friends like Bharati and Srinivasachari, who, at a very urgent need, could see him at any time of the day. Bharati would visit without fail.”
The 100 years of the Master’s arrival in Pondicherry are today celebrated: politicians will probably garland statues of Sri Aurobindo, ‘scholars’ will recount his achievements and the contribution of the State of Pondicherry to his inner realizations; many will quote Rabindranath (who visited him in 1928): “Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee! O friend, my country's friend, O Voice incarnate, free, Of India's soul....The fiery messenger that with the lamp of God Hath come...Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee,” but there is another side to the coin.
During the 40 years of his stay in Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo faced constant enmity, to put it mildly, not only from sections of the local population, but also from the representatives of the British Crown, the French Administration as well as local politicians.
Recently I had the good luck to come across a secret file kept in the French National Archives in Nantes (France). This Police Report addressed to the Governor of French India was written in 1928. The local police dispatched the weirdest information to their bosses in Paris. A chapter about the Ashram reads: “It seems that the monastery has no rules, no status, one is at a loss to give a name to this association of foreigners [probably meaning Bengalis] in which all castes and religions meets and fusions [is it a compliment?]. Arawbinda [sic] Ghose would be the incarnation of Siva, the Destroyer God of the Tantric Trinity [sic], Mrs Paul Richard (alias Madame Mira Richard, alias Miradevy, alias Kalidevy, alias “Mother”) would represent Kali, the Goddess of War and Mr Paul Richard himself would be a reincarnation of Jesus Christ [Richard had left Pondicherry 14 years earlier after a short stay]. Two members (we couldn’t get their name) would respectively be St Abraham and Mohamed.”
The creativity of the French Police is difficult to match; they speak of ‘inner disciples’ (the Bengalis) and the ‘outer disciples’, something unknown in Sri Aurobindo’s yoga.
The report goes on for more than 20 pages: “The Great Sage appears to his ‘churchy’ followers twice a year … in a chariot decorated with flowers [Sri Aurobindo never came out of his room]. The adepts had to make offering of no less than 100 rupees.” The Police also speak “of a midnight darshan for inner disciples presided by Arawbinda Ghose himself.” Pure invention.
The British reports were not better. Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana however, continued apparently unhindered; with a few rare exceptions (such as French Governor François Baron), the local hostility was always present.
But there is worse. A shocking event took place in the evening of August 15, 1947. India (and Pondicherry) celebrated India’s Independence; Sri Aurobindo, whose birthday coincided with this momentous event, had just issued a message with his Five Dreams for the future of India and the entire human race, when goons belonging to a local political party turned violent and attacked some of the inmates of the Ashram. Mulshankar, a personal attendant of Sri Aurobindo who had left his duty for a few minutes and gone home for a shower was attacked and killed. Nirodbaran, a close confident of the Master wrote later: “Sri Aurobindo listened quietly [to the news] and his face bore a grave and serious expression that we had not seen before.”
India was free, but the Goonja Raj had begun.
Three years later, to a follower asking his opinion for a new status for French India, Sri Aurobindo wrote: “But if nothing is changed in local conditions and freedom is left for a certain type of politicians and party leaders to make use of their opportunities to pervert everything to their own profit, how are they to be prevented from prolonging the old state of things.”
Undoubtedly the greatest revolutionary of 20th century did not want to ‘prolong the old state of things”, he wanted changes to occur in every field of life, whether political, social, economic or spiritual.
Would politicians and philosophers hearken his words, he would indeed become the most dangerous man, because he dreamt of earth-shaking changes for humanity, and entrenched powers do not like changes.
But one day, his Dreams are bound to give a new shape to India and the World.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
|Sri Aurobindo in 1911|
Although Pondicherry is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Sri Aurobindo’s arrival in the former French Establishment, the historic event was triggered by events which occurred a few months earlier in Kolkata.
In March 1910, two of the tallest spiritual giants of the 20th century, both fighting for the Independence of their country, could have met in Kolkata. It was not to be and soon their fate took them to far-apart places.
As Sri Aurobindo, the Prophet of Indian Nationalism spent his last weeks in British India, Thupten Gyatso, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama who had recently arrived in Darjeeling, visited Kolkata.
After the troops of a Chinese warlord had entered Lhasa, the Tibetan leader was forced to take temporary refuge in India. Soon after his arrival in Darjeeling, an invitation came from Kolkata: the Viceroy, Lord Minto wanted to meet him.
As he arrived, he was received as a head of state and given a seventeen-gun salute and escorted in a royal carriage to Hastings House.
Though it was obvious that Britain would remain neutral in the Sino-Tibetan dispute, the Viceroy held long discussions with the Dalai Lama who eventually returned to the Land of Snows in 1911 and a year later declared the Independence of Tibet. His is still considered today as one of Tibet’s greatest spiritual masters.
Sri Aurobindo had a different fate. After his return from England in 1893, he had been at the forefront of the freedom struggle against the British Raj. At the time the Dalai Lama was received in great pomp, the same Lord Minto wrote to London: “I can only repeat that he is the most dangerous man we have to reckon with”. He was speaking about Aurobindo Ghose, who had been the first proponent of Purna Swaraj for India.
The two spiritual leaders would never meet; one can only call it, Fate.
For Sri Aurobindo, events were hotting up. One day, while he was in the Karmayogin office, he received the information about a police search and his likely arrest. Some of his young disciples were arguing about what to do, when Sri Aurobindo suddenly heard a voice saying, “Go to Chandernagore.”
Sri Aurobindo left immediately for the small French comptoir. There, a disciple Motilal Roy arranged his accommodation. Roy recalled later that the Master was totally immersed in his sadhana: He used to meditate with open eyes, and see subtle forms and spiritual visions: "A completely surrendered individual — one felt when he spoke as if somebody else was speaking through him… I placed the plate of food before him — he simply gazed at me and then ate a little — just mechanically!"
For a few days Sri Aurobindo had to shift residence several times as Roy feared that the dreaded British CID would find out about the presence of the revolutionary who finally asked Roy to make arrangements for his departure for Pondicherry; he would leave by the steamer Le Dupleix on March 31. After some last-minute incidents (which would have greatly disturbed any ordinary human being, but not Sri Aurobindo), he finally boarded the steamer at midnight and sailed to a new phase of his life.
Sri Aurobindo had already ‘seen’ that India was independent; it was only a question of time before it ‘came down’ on the material plane. He later shared his certitude with some of his disciples.
From now on, he would consecrate his spiritual energies to help humanity to undertake a new step in its evolution, a decision that many politicians in India never forgave.
In the afternoon of April 4, 1910, the Pondicherry pier witnessed a strange scene: a strict orthodox Tamil Brahmin, Srinivasachari, and Suresh Chakravarti, an 18-year old Bengali revolutionary shared a small boat to row out to Le Dupleix which had just arrived with the ‘dangerous’ man on board.
The young Bengali had managed to dissuade Srinivasachari and others (including Subramanya Bharathi) to have any official function. “Sri Aurobindo's coming to Pondicherry was a closely guarded secret”, says one of his biographers.
For several months, Sri Aurobindo and his companions stayed on the second floor of a house belonging to one Shankar Chetty; Swami Vivekananda had stayed there when he had visited Pondicherry a few years earlier. Chakravarti remembered the poor material arrangements: as there was no bathroom in Sri Aurobindo’s room, he had to come down to the ground floor at dusk for his bath. The daily menu never changed, same boiled rice, same brinjal, same dal cooked on two earth stoves. But nobody complained ever.
Life continued thus during the following years, though rules gradually became less strict for the disciples who were even allowed to play football. As for Sri Aurobindo, he was intensely immersed in his sadhana
Very few are those who met Sri Aurobindo during his stay in Pondicherry. One of them was Rabindranath Tagore who came in 1928 and wrote: “At the very first sight I could realise that he had been seeking for the soul and had gained it, and through this long process of realisation had accumulated within him a silent power of inspiration. His face was radiant with an inner light. I felt that the utterance of the ancient Rishi spoke from him of that equanimity which gives the human soul its freedom of entrance into the All. I said to him, 'You have the Word and we are waiting to accept it from you. India will speak through your voice to the world. Hearken to me…”
During the following decades, Sri Aurobindo kept in touch with Bengal, mainly through a close disciple, Surendra Mohan Ghose, who was the Congress West Bengal Pradesh President and used to visit Pondicherry. He usually had four sessions with Sri Aurobindo: one to speak about international affairs, one for national politics, one for the situation in West Bengal and the last consecrated to Ghose’s personal sadhana.
On August 15, 1947, as everyone celebrated India’s Independence in Pondicherry, a shocking event took place. In the evening, goons belonging to a local political party turned violent and attacked some of the inmates of the Ashram. Mulshankar, a personal attendant of Sri Aurobindo, was stabbed. Nirodbaran, a close confident of the Master, wrote later: “Sri Aurobindo listened quietly [to the news] and his face bore a grave and serious expression that we had not seen before.”
After The Statesman had reported some kind of Satyagraha in the Ashram, Sri Aurobindo dictated a letter to the Editor: “There was no Satyagraha of any kind. There was an attack on the Ashram in which one member was stabbed to death and others injured and Ashram buildings stoned. …The attackers were mostly professional goondas of the town hired and organised for the purpose. We consider it as the result or culmination of a long campaign by a political party which has been making speeches and publishing articles and pamphlets against the Ashram and trying in all ways to damage it in the eyes of the public for the last two years.”
Sri Aurobindo explained: “there are three sections of the people here who are violently opposed to the existence of the Ashram, the advocates of Dravidisthan, extreme Indian Catholics and the Communists.”
For these small sections of the local community, Sri Aurobindo probably become the ‘dangerous man’, for he foresaw the future of humanity rising above differences created by ideologies, castes, creeds or religions. He was indeed the Prophet of a new Humanism. A hundred years after his arrival in Pondicherry, one should not forget his message: “At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny.” The choice is ours.
Monday, March 29, 2010
This seems more reliable information than Patchauri's, and it is shrinking! Slowly, but surely!
The government should wake up and stop their per capita theory.
Himalayan glaciers shrank 16% in 50 yrs: ISRO
PTI, Mar 28, 2010,
BANGALORE: Himalayan glaciers retreated by 16% in the last nearly five decades due to climate change, investigations by India’s scientists in selected basins in four states has revealed. The retreat of Himalayan glaciers and loss in a real extent were monitored in selected basins in J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Sikkim, under a programme on space-based global climate change observation by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
“Investigations on glacial retreat were estimated for 1,317 glaciers in 10 sub-basins from 1962. This has shown an overall reduction in glacial area from 5,866 sqkm to 4,921 sqkm since 1962, showing an overall de-glaciation of 16%”, says the latest annual report of Isro. Snow cover monitoring of all basin has been completed, it said.
Atlases for three years are ready and one for the fourth year is being prepared. Modeling response of Himalayan cryosphere to climate change has been initiated, Isro added. Meanwhile, a study on the impact of temperature and carbon dioxide (CO²) rise on the productivity of the four major cereal food crops — wheat, rice, maize and pearl millet — revealed that yield of all of them showed reduction with increasing temperature.
Assessment after taking field data showed that wheat was the most sensitive crop and maize the least sensitive to temperature rise among the four, Isro pointed out. Another study for climate change impact on hydrology was carried out using “Curve Number” approach to study the change in run off pattern in India at basin level. “Analysis shows there will be significant increase of run off in the month of June in most of the major river basins”, the 2009-10 report of the Isro said. Isro has also observed a strong correlation between agriculture vegetation (mainly rice areas) and methane concentration.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
It is easier for the PLA to built roads in Tibet than for the Border Road Organization in the Himalayas.
One can't have everything in life: a democratic system, a vigilant judiciary and at the same time, the ruthless efficiency of a totalitarian regime.
I wonder how the Central Empowered Committee members managed to count the 14,018 herbs.
SC OKs building border road overlooking China
Times of India
March 28, 2010,
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has finally cleared the Army’s long-pending proposal to construct a strategic road near the trijunction of Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim. The clearance comes with certain conditions including a payment of 5% of the estimated project cost to the Sikkim government, which would use the money for compensatory afforestation.
The Army will construct two roads in the sensitive international border area in Sikkim, facilitating a strategic access route virtually overlooking China, a demand which had been pending clearance from the SC since 2005.
A Central Empowered Committee (CEC), constituted by the SC, went into the proposal as it involved Border Road Organization (BRO) constructing a new road between Flag Hill and Dokala passing through Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary. The Army said ‘‘the road is required for operational purposes and to meet strategic requirement of the nation’’.
After a site inspection by CEC members M K Jiwrajika and Mahendra Vyas, and amicus curiae A D N Rao, a report was submitted to a bench comprising CJI K G Balakrishnan and Justices S H Kapadia and Aftab Alam.
The report said: ‘‘The entire alignment of the proposed road passes through the high altitude alpine areas of the sanctuary [Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary] and would involve felling of 3,042 trees, 9,769 shrubs, 14,018 herbs and about 5,000 bamboos.’’
Some in the State Department probably believe that by signing a nuclear deal with Pakistan (à la 123), would help to contain the rise of India, like giving the bomb to India would have helped containing China in the 1960'.
Document Friday: “Reducing the Psychological Impact of the First Chinese Communist Nuclear Explosion”
National Security Archives
February 5, 2010
by Nate Jones
Despite denials and tepid gestures towards a UN-brokered nuclear compromise, American officials remain concerned that the Islamic of Republic Iran is on the cusp of creating an atomic weapon. But as this week’s hot doc shows, the United States has been in a similarly precarious situation before. In 1956 – after years of developing nuclear technology under the guise of peaceful research – the People’s Republic of China announced its intention to develop a nuclear weapon. According to this declassified State Department doc, “Anticipatory Action Pending Chinese Communist Demonstration of a Nuclear Capability,” US policy makers anticipated a Chinese nuclear detonation as early as 1961. This explosion, they feared, would “contribute to feeling that communism is the wave of the future and that Communist China is, or soon will become, too powerful to resist.”
While the unease that US policymakers felt towards a nuclear China is not surprising, one “advance action” that high level State Department officials recommended was certainly eyebrow-raising. State officials considered a plan to encourage nuclear proliferation in Asia so that the “psychological effect” of the imminent Chinese nuclear explosion would be undercut by an earlier, non-communist nuclear test.
Officials as high as the Deputy Secretary suggested that the US should carefully “sound out” India on the possibility of a preemptive nuclear test since, “it would be desirable if a friendly Asian power beat Communist China to the punch.” The memo does pay lip service to such concerns as India’s previous anti-nuclear pronunciations; the dangers and legality of supplying US nuclear intelligence and materials to other countries; adverse international reaction if US actions became know; and that “Pakistan could be expected to react most adversely to an Indian Explosion.” But despite these concerns, the memo recommended that quiet consultations with the chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission take place.
Secretary of State Dean Rusk vetoed his subordinates’ recommendation. He wrote that he was “not convinced we should depart from our stated policy that we are opposed to the further extension of national nuc. weapons capability.” Rusk’s was probably a wise decision, considering the dangers of nuclear proliferation and terrorism. China did test a nuclear bomb in 1964 (US estimates were premature) and did reap substantial psychological gains. But despite the psychological power of the A-bomb, we can only hope that no one in today’s State Department is kicking around any ideas about undercutting Iran’s likely nuclear test by preempting it with, say, a Saudi, Syrian, or Iraqi nuclear weapon. We’ll have to submit the FOIA requests to know for sure.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
The Chinese leadership has done the same thing in Lhasa, particularly in the Shol area. Colonizers like to erase past vestiges which reminds them that they are foreigners in a place.
And of course, UNESCO is sleeping!
Kashgar’s old city: landscape of loss
24 March, 2010
The Chinese authorities’ continuing demolition of the urban heartland of Uyghur society is also the outward face of a deeper dispossession, says Henryk Szadziewski.
The dust that now rises in Kashgar’s old city comes no longer from the sands of the Taklamakan desert, but from the debris of centuries-old houses demolished in a “residents’-resettlement” project. This historic urban heartland of Uyghur society was once given its character by the lively trade in the bazaars, the vibrant alleyway communities, and the cool refuge of shaded courtyards; today, its defining feature is the gap-toothed and pockmarked landscape of flattened houses razed by Chinese bulldozers (see "Kashgar's old city: the politics of demolition", 3 April 2009).
The Chinese authorities in the far-west Xinjiang region of the people's republic declared in early 2009 that 65,000 homes in Kashgar’s old city - an area that encompasses nearly eight square kilometres - were unfit for habitation due to poor drainage and concerns over potential collapse in the event of an earthquake. It is unclear exactly how much of the old city has been demolished since then; but it is known that a significant number of Uyghurs have been relocated to new apartment-blocks eight-to-nine kilometres from Kashgar’s centre, and find their new residencies conveniently fitted with the trappings of modern surveillance such as CCTV cameras.
The demolition of Kashgar’s old city is in itself a great loss to world heritage and a serious threat to the survival of what is most distinctive and precious about Uyghur material culture, architecture, and human community. What makes the process all the more insidious is that is being accompanied by a relentless marginalisation of Uyghurs in their own homeland as the demographic increase of the Chinese is reinforced by a tightening of political control.
A closed system
The Chinese government argues that the demolition is necessary to the “modernisation” of the Uyghur people. Kashgar’s deputy mayor, Xu Jianrong, makes the case: “Why should our people live in houses like this just for the sake of tourists?” This is a fair point, but Xu Jianrong neglects to mention a vital point: the Uyghur people in the old city were never genuinely consulted on whether they wished to continue to live in their family homes (as in many cases they had for generations); nor whether there was an alternative to outright demolition of “houses like this” that have so long withstood climatic and political changes.
The Chinese announcement provoked a flurry of international media interest, though reporting of the proposed demolition was soon succeeded by coverage of the eruption and aftermath of deadly unrest in the Uyghur regional capital of Urumchi in July 2009 (see “The discovery of the Uyghurs”, 10 July 2009). This loss of interest is unfortunate, since the issues are connected: for a close study of Chinese officialdom’s approach to the demolition reveals a seething discontent that puts the Urumchi protests into context and helps explain their ferocity. In particular, the exclusion of Uyghurs from any real participation shaping the “residents’-resettlement” project illustrates the systemic discrimination they suffer from Chinese state policy.
A curbed tongue
The key feature of this policy is a rigorously top-down approach to development-planning in the region that effectively denies Uyghurs voice in initiatives that affect their neighborhoods, communities and region. It has many dimensions, from politics and education to architecture and culture; whichever topic is examined, the systemic underpinnings of a quite deliberate authoritiarian project are revealed.
The case of language-planning policy is but one example. Here, the Chinese government is phasing out Uyghur as a language of instruction in favour of Mandarin - a move justified in China’s official “modernisation” discourse as designed to give Uyghurs crucial skills they need to compete in the Chinese job-market. However, no Uyghur parents were ever asked their view about the removal of their mother-tongue from their children’ schools.
This typically patrician approach has defined the attitude of Han Chinese to the Uyghur “minority” for decades (see James A Millward, Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang [C Hurst, 2007]). It renders null the authorities’ vain and self-glorifying talk of “equality” between the peoples. The injustice is compounded by the fact that when Uyghurs voice discontent at their treatment they are rewarded by being branded at least ungrateful and at worst as separatists or terrorists - and treated accordingly (see Kerry Brown, “Xinjiang: China’s security high-alert”, 14 July 2009).
The case of Ilham Tohti is emblematic. Tohti is an Uyghur social scientist based in Beijing; he hosts a website that seeks to reconcile Han Chinese and Uyghur, and to intelligently discuss the economic inequalities between them. In the wake of the Urumchi troubles, the Xinjiang government accused Ilham Tohti of “spreading rumours” on his website that instigated the turmoil. Such intimidation targets those with serious and responsible intentions, and drives many others into fearful silence; it thus only displaces but does nothing to address the vast discontents produced by the Chinese government’s version of “development” (see Yitzhak Shichor, "The Uighurs and China: lost and found nation", 6 July 2009).
A silenced voice
In this asphyxiated climate, it is hard to establish the true thoughts and perspectives of Uyghur civil society (such as it is) on “development”, and how it relates to the official Chinese view. There is simply no space for any kind of dialogue between them. The internet, where it was possible for Uyghurs safely to share opinions and build virtual communities, has been under lockdown since July 2009.
It is likely that the demolition of Kashgar’s old city will continue unabated, and the Chinese media will continue to publish stories that illustrate the gratitude of the Uyghur people. In their position, the Uyghur people of Kashgar need friends to speak up when they cannot. It is deeply regrettable then that even powerful agencies such as Unesco - which have both the responsibility and the power to voice opposition to unfettered destruction of valuable parts of the world’s built heritage - remain silent. The Kashgar municipal government has interpreted this as Unesco support for its project - and displays prominent signs in the old city saying so.
This is not just an “Uyghur” issue. It is at every level a global issue too. If, to take but one aspect, the Chinese government can succeed in disregarding civil society and refusing to consult on matters that affect the lives of thousands of people, this can become an attractive model for other governments in the emerging era of worldwide Chinese influence. It may be too late for the Uyghurs of Kashgar, but there is still time for people elsewhere to learn the lessons of their dispossession.
Friday, March 26, 2010
It is clean for whom? It will be one more reason to exploit the mineral resources of the Tibetan plateau. At the same time, Chinese scientists speak of the fragility of the 'Third Pole', see my yesterdays' posting. It does not augur well.
China to move ahead on clean energy "combustible ice"
Wang Aihua, Miao Xiaojuan
BEIJING, March 6 (Xinhua) -- China's western Qinghai Province, containing major deposits of the country's "combustible ice," will see increased explorations for this emerging clean energy, Provincial Governor Luo Huining said on Saturday.
The plateau province plans to allow large energy companies along with researchers to tap this new source of energy while minimizing environmental threats, Luo said on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.
"Combustible ice," or natural gas hydrate, is mainly found in deep seas and atop plateaus. Approximately one cubic meter of "combustible ice" equals 164 cubic meters of regular natural gas.
At a time of energy bottlenecks, the new energy resource has drawn interest from many countries. Additional attention has focused on the "ice" having a low proportion of impurities, resulting in it generating almost no pollutants when burned.
More than 100 countries around the world have found deposits of "combustible ice." The deposits in Qinghai Province, home to one-quarter of China's total reserve on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, were discovered in September 2009.
"Combustible ice" reserves on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are estimated to equal at least 35 billion tonnes of oil, which could supply energy to China for 90 years.
Luo said tapping this new energy resource should be given high priority in China's energy strategy.
Premier Wen Jiabao said, in his government work report on Friday, that China would work hard to develop low-carbon technologies, as well as new and renewable energy resources to actively respond to concerns about climate change.
"Qinghai has just started the exploration," Luo said. "The key problem is that we still do not have the correct technologies."
Luo expressed his hope that researchers could find excavation techniques to avoid damaging the ecological system while extracting the "combustible ice."
Scientists noted that mining of the "ice" could cause geological disasters, such as slumping. Also, the release of large amounts of methane gas could further aggravate global warming.
Zhang Hongtao, chief engineer at the Ministry of Land and Resources, said China could begin using its "combustible ice" within 10 to 15 years.
"The biggest challenge is to protect the ecological system and bio-diversity," Zhang said.
Qiao Zhengxiao, also an NPC deputy, said China still lags behind some countries in terms of technology and equipment for exploring "combustible ice."
Countries including the United States and Japan have major plans to tap "ice" discovered within their own territories. Also, the Republic of Korea recently announced a program to invest 37 million U.S. dollars to drill for "ice" discovered along its eastern coast beginning in April.
My article Red Giraffes and Fighters was published in The Pioneer. Click to read.
The red giraffes that were part of the Bonjour India festival have left but the partnership between India and France can only get stronger as the two countries look at enhanced defence cooperation. The French Rafale is a contender for the multi-role aircraft which the IAF is preparing to acquire...
The red giraffes that were part of the Bonjour India festival have left but the partnership between India and France can only get stronger as the two countries look at enhanced defence cooperation. The French Rafale is a contender for the multi-role aircraft which the IAF is preparing to acquire...
Thursday, March 25, 2010
It seems to me that we are still living in the 19th century when the British could negotiate and sign treaties about Tibet without the participation of the Tibetans.
Remember 1890, 1893, 1906, 1907 and then the infamous Panchsheel Agreement in April 1954. Why are the Tibetans are never invited to discuss their own fate, their own future?
Colonialist China probably think: 'It is not their business!'
As the 21st Tibetan Task Force for Negotiations is meeting in Dharamsala, it should be the first topic on the agenda: a Tibetan participation to all conferences/study groups/seminars on the ecological future of the Tibetan plateau.
Are we still living in the 19th century? What is the point to speak about 'autonomy' today, if the Tibetans are not even invited to discuss their future?
Int'l scientists to launch environmental studies on "Third Pole"
Xinhua, March 9, 2010
International scientists are preparing to launch a joint study on the environment of the "Third Pole" region centered on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and neighboring areas, a Chinese scientist said Monday.
Like the South and North Poles, environmental changes in the "Third Pole" has attracted increasing worldwide attention against the backdrop of concerns over global climate change, said Yao Tandong, director of the Institute of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The "Third Pole" region, covering more than 5 million square km at an average altitude of above 4,000 meters, is the birthplace of about 1,000 glaciers in tropical and sub-tropical regions, Yao said.
"The environmental changes in the 'Third Pole' will directly affect the economic and social development in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and neighboring countries, and will directly or indirectly affect the livelihoods and even survival of the 1.5 billion residents there," he told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
Yao, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made the remarks while attending the ongoing annual session of the country's top political advisory body.
"Due to the global climate change, the 'Third Pole' is experiencing sensitive and marked changes, such as in cryosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere, which are exerting an influence on the social and economic development in the region," he said.
Under the "Third Pole Environment" (TPE) project initiated by Chinese scientists, a group of scientists and science organizations from countries in the region and western countries will gather to carry out joint studies focusing on the competing influences of water, ice, air, ecosystem and human activities in the region, Yao said.
"We hope to reveal the process and mechanism of environmental changes in the 'Third Pole' region, its response mechanism to global climate change, especially the monsoon system, improve the adaptation ability of human-kind for climate change, and help achieve harmonious development between human-kind and nature," he said.
Chinese scientists have conducted studies on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau for decades, and will further improve their research methods to expand their studies to the "Third Pole" region, Yao said.
During the interview, Yao also offered some negative forecasts for the plateau region due to climate change and human activities.
It is expected that the glaciers in China, located mainly on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, would shrink by more than 45 percent in area by 2100, he said.
"In developing glacier tourism, we must protect the environment," he said.
In addition, the area of frozen earth on the plateau would decrease by about 8.8 percent 50 years later and would diminish "drastically" within the next century, he said.
"That will endanger the safety of the highways and railway on the plateau," he warned.
He proposed that the central government continue funding major highway and railway projects to eliminate hidden dangers in roadbeds on top of the frozen earth layer in a bid to ensure the coordinated development of society, economy and the ecosystem in Tibet.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Climate is changing very fast. This year, Yunnan province of China has suffered from a severe drought and several areas of Zayul County, north of Arunachal Pradesh are witnessing damaging forest fires.
In a way, it is nearly-instant Karma, the Chinese have for years deforested these areas.
Forest fire raging in Tibet
March 22, 2010
LHASA - About 1,000 soldiers and civilians have been mobilized to put out a fire raging since Sunday noon in a forest area in southwest China's Tibet autonomous region.
The fire has spread over 26 hectares in the forest, only 500 meters away from a school in Chayou [Zayul] County, Nyingchi [Nyintri] Prefecture. No casualty has been reported, but the fire is still raging amid windy and dry weather, according to the fire control headquarters.
Meanwhile, another fire that broke out Sunday noon was put out by about 2,000 policemen and firefighters by Sunday midnight in Chongqing Municipality, to the north of Tibet.
The fire ravaged at least 20 hectares of a forest in Dadukou District. No casualties have been reported, as residents near the fire had been evacuated. The cause of the fire is being investigated, officials said.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Here is the list of what the Chinese should not know. It is a weekly list.
At the same time, the leadership sells the 'Chinese model' and makes fun of the Indian democratic system. Well, I prefer the Indian system!
March 21, 2010
What Chinese Censors Don’t Want You to Know
The New York Times
A set of Chinese government censorship guidelines recently leaked to the Internet provides a rare and intimate window into the thinking of propaganda officials. The list of prohibitions issued to editors ranges from the extremely broad, such as the injunction against “negative news,” to the bizarrely specific, such as the ban on the blooming of a particular flower in southern China.
Following are excerpts from media guidelines that the Communist Party propaganda department and the government Bureau of Internet Affairs, conveyed to top editors before this month’s annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
The sessions are often referred to here as “the two meetings.” Such internal guidelines are typically circulated weekly, and the list issued before this year’s sessions was described as considerably lengthier than the norm.
A portion was posted on the Internet, and independently confirmed and translated by the Beijing bureau of The New York Times. Annotations by The Times are in brackets.
1. For news on the electoral law during the two meetings, only use articles from Xinhua News Agency and People’s Daily. [Xinhua is the government’s official news agency, and People’s Daily is the official newspaper of the Communist Party.]
2. Do not report on news of people from all walks of life demanding that officials make financial disclosures. [Recently issued party guidelines requiring officials to declare their assets have been widely criticized as weak and ineffective against corruption.]
3. Do not report the editor of Southern Weekend being named among the 10 most influential people by a foreign institution. [Southern Weekend is a weekly newspaper based in Guangzhou that often runs afoul of government censors.]
4. Do not feature news articles on the diary of a bureau director. News must not carry photos of related figures or contents relating to individuals’ private matters from human flesh searches and the like. [A tobacco bureau official in the region of Guangxi was arrested on suspicion of corruption after a diary he allegedly wrote was published on the Internet, describing trysts with mistresses, drunken bouts and bribes. “Human flesh search” is shorthand for the phenomenon of Chinese Web users collaborating en masse to hunt down information on people or other matters.]
5. No negative news allowed on the front pages of newspapers or the headline news sections of Web sites.
6. In articles on the two meetings, do not use wording such as “thundering person,” “thundering proposal” or “thundering delegate.” Do not use the concept of “thundering” to define contents of the two meetings. [Thunder has become a trendy Chinese slang term to describe something shockingly ridiculous or embarrassing.]
7. Delete news related to the youtan poluo flower. [Buddhist lore says this rare and auspicious flower blooms once every 3,000 years. Reports that a nun at a temple in southern China found a cluster of the tiny flowers under her washing machine set off a recent stir in the press. Chinese officials are concerned about the spread of superstition.]
8. For the “poisonous cowpea incident” in Hainan, only use news articles from the Xinhua News Agency, People’s Daily and the official Hainan media. [Cowpeas from Hainan Province were found to be contaminated with a toxic pesticide, setting off criticism about why the cowpeas were sold to other provinces.]
9. Do not feature news reports on major incidents in Beijing during the two meetings, including “staffer at Xidan Books Building hacks manager to death” or “accident at Shunyi car showroom, one man dies.” Do not highlight the timing of these events.
10. During the two meetings, do not feature or sensationalize news about petitioners.
11. Do not report on the hunger strike by Ai Weiwei and other artists. [There was no hunger strike, but Beijing artists are protesting being forced to relocate their studios without fair compensation.]
12. Do not sensationalize or feature reports on the joint editorial of 13 newspapers advocating reform of the household registration system. [The March 1 editorial said the system unfairly restricted the right of Chinese citizens to seek a better life outside their hometowns.]
13. During the two meetings, exercise caution in releasing negative news from all regions. Do not sensationalize or feature news articles that will create a major impact.
14. Do not feature news items about the mass promotion of 89 cadres in Handan city. [The promotions took place at a time when the government was ostensibly streamlining operations.]
15. Do not report on cases of detention center inmates dying during sleep.
16. Do not report on the news of the Inner Mongolian female prosecutor who drove a luxury vehicle and who was reinstated after resigning.
17. Do not hype or feature news of Li Changjiang and Meng Xuenong resurfacing at the two meetings. [Mr. Li was ousted as head of quality control in 2008 after a scandal involving tainted baby milk powder that killed six and sickened 300,000 children. Mr. Meng resigned as governor of Shanxi Province after 267 people died in an iron ore mine disaster. Both have since assumed new posts.]
It is true that there is no national 'biodiversity' boundaries, unfortunately there are still 'national boundaries'. But the climate change and other environment issues will probably forced the nation States to look at problems in larger perspectives and ultimately undertake common actions to save the planet.
The Tibetan plateau is however a separate entity and changes on the plateau have consequences for most of the nation of Asia. It can't belong to one country only.
China and India called on by scientists to collaborate on conservation
Biodiversity knows no 'national boundaries' and nations must protect species from rising consumption, dams and industry
Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent
18 March 2010
China and India could together decide the future of the global environment, a team of senior scientists warn today in a call for closer collaboration on conservation by the world's two most populous nations.
Writing in the journal Science, the eight coauthors — including zoologists from both nations — warn of the security and biodiversity threat posed by rising consumption, dam construction and industrial emissions.
The ecological footprint of the two fast-emerging Asian economies has already spread beyond their borders and with future economic growth rates likely to continue at 8% for several years, the experts say the pressure on borders, resources and biodiversity could reach dangerous levels.
"The degree to which China and India consume natural resources within their boundaries and beyond will largely determine future environmental, social and economic outcomes," say the co-authors headed by Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden.
The report notes that the two countries import 9m of crude oil a year and 64% of all the roundwood pine produced in Asia, adding to the problems of global deforestation and warming.
The impacts are becoming more obvious in the strategically sensitive Himalayan border area, where the authors say large numbers of troops are damaging the environment. Resources in the mountain region are so scarce, they note, that soldiers sometimes eat rare plants.
Melting glaciers that supply meltwater for half the world's population and the constriction of rivers by hundreds of dams are also major problems, they say.
With the demand for energy in both nations growing, they predict a further rise in construction of hydroelectric plants and exploitation of other Himalayan resources, with alarming implications for regional security.
"The synergistic effects of decreasing water resources, loss of biodiversity, increased pollution and climate change may have negative social and economic consequences and, even worse, escalate conflicts within and between the two countries," they warn.
Despite their growing global importance, China and India have conducted little joint research and engaged in only modest collaboration to mitigate the impact of their rapid development. There have been small signs of progress in recent years, including agreements to jointly monitor glaciers and study the interaction between the atmosphere and the ocean. But the authors say much more collaboration is necessary.
"More earnest cooperation between the world's two most populous countries will be vital for mitigating biodiversity loss, global warming and deforestation," the authors say.
They suggest turning disputed territory into trans-boundary protected areas, fostering scientific collaboration, working with the United Nations to manage natural resources and encouraging regional forums, such as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), to focus more on the environment.
One of the authors — Zhang Yaping, the president of the Kunming Institute of Zoology — said it was rare for biodversity protection to span the two nations.
"We should certainly strengthen cooperation in this field," he said. "China and India have done a lot of conservation work inside their own nations. What we need now is a joint effort. There should be no national boundaries in biodiversity protection."
Friday, March 19, 2010
This interesting analysis shows the China policy of the United States under successive Administrations. Though often mistaken, the US' China policy evolved over the years and decades. Sometimes successful, sometimes less (like the present one of Barak Obama), but it has the merit to exist and after all lessons can always be drawn from mistakes.
In the case of India, has Delhi a China policy, or move are basically ad hoc or just reactions to the Chinese moves? I am wondering. A friend told me that India's China policy is only driven by Divine Grace. It is the safest. Perhaps!
Repressive at home. Aggressive abroad. Driving Obama nuts.
The New Republic
March 17, 2010 | 2:19 pm
For decades, various Chinese officials and outsiders have reassured the world that the country’s Communist Party leadership eventually planned to open up its one-party political system. The regime would undertake major political reforms and liberalization, it was said, to accompany the economic reforms launched by Deng Xiaoping in the late ’70s. It was merely a question of choosing the right time. Writing in Foreign Affairs two years ago, John L. Thornton, the chairman of the Brookings Institution, who has extensive high-level contacts in Beijing, reported that a senior Communist Party official told him “the debate in China is no longer about whether to have democracy ... but about when and how.”
Over the years, a variety of short-term explanations have been offered for why the Chinese leadership’s supposed plans for political change have been deferred. The Chinese leadership is too new on the job to launch reforms. Or, perhaps, it’s been around too long. No, it can’t loosen up right before a Communist Party Congress, the big gathering held every five years. Nor can it do anything in a year that ends in a nine (too many sensitive anniversaries fall during these years, including the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989). It couldn’t risk reform before the Beijing Olympics. And certainly not in a period of recession or sluggish growth--nor, for that matter, during high growth or inflation.
If you took seriously all of these past justifications for short-term delay, the perfect time for the Chinese regime to proceed with opening up its political system might be right about now. The touchy year that ends with a nine is over, the Beijing Olympics long gone. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have been in their jobs together for seven years already, and the next Party Congress is still two years off. There may be a few financial jitters, like a real-estate bubble, but, generally speaking, the Chinese economy is doing fine--neither in recession nor frighteningly overheated.
Yet there is no sign of political liberalization. In fact, over the past year or so, President Hu Jintao and his aides have seemed to be, if anything, moving in the opposite direction--tightening control of organized political opposition and even the lawyers who represent dissenters.
in December, Chinese authorities formally charged Liu Xiaobo, a leader of the Charter 08 movement--which is pushing freedom of expression and free elections--with “incitement to subvert state power.” Liu was tried, convicted, and sentenced to eleven years in prison, despite appeals from the European Union and the United States for his release. Meanwhile, Gao Zhisheng, a prominent lawyer who had represented coal miners, underground Christians, and members of the Falun Gong movement in seeking redress from the Chinese government, vanished from his home on February 4, 2009. Chinese authorities said nothing about him for nearly a year and then only added that Gao is “where he should be.” Last month, Chinese officials said Gao was off working in the remote Xinjiang Province; his own wife has not been allowed to speak with him. In February, Tan Zuoren, a Chinese environmental activist, was sentenced to five years in jail on charges of inciting subversion after he compiled a list of children killed in the Sichuan earthquake. These prominent cases are part of a larger pattern. “The ongoing arrests of not only prominent government critics but also peaceful protestors, journalists, people trying to find redress for poisoned milk formula or shoddily-constructed schools which killed their children, and even foreign businessmen suggests that the Chinese government is showing no signs of respecting some of the most fundamental human rights,” argues Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
China has gone through periods of internal crackdown in the past without concurrent changes in its foreign relations. This time, however, the tough line on domestic dissent has gone hand-in-hand with a distinct hardening of its positions on a series of international issues. At the U.N. Security Council, China has emerged as the principal obstacle to multilateral efforts to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. China has pursued essentially mercantilist policies by maintaining an undervalued currency, despite repeated appeals from the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. By most accounts, China helped lead the way in preventing any serious action against climate change in Copenhagen last December. After tightly circumscribing Barack Obama’s visit last November, China has taken tougher positions than it had in the past toward U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and a visit to Washington by the Dalai Lama. But it isn’t just the United States: The Europeans, the British, and the Indians have all run up against what seems like a new Chinese assertiveness, too.
What accounts for the regime’s recent behavior? The most obvious explanation, and the one most frequently put forward, is that China has finally recognized its own growing power. Particularly since the financial crisis of 2008 and the spiral of U.S. budget deficits, the Chinese leadership has--so this theory goes--realized it has the economic clout to be more demanding, to insist on changes in the status quo, and, generally, to tell everyone to buzz off. And so, we are said to be witnessing China’s retaliation against the West for humiliations dating back to the Opium Wars.
The problem is that this explanation doesn’t quite add up. Yes, China has a recent, well-founded perception of its own economic strength compared to other countries--but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this should lead to the sort of edgy obstreperousness the regime has recently displayed. In fact, there have been occasions in the past when a sense of strength produced in Chinese leaders a very different reaction--an august serenity toward the outside world. (This attitude was epitomized by the Emperor Qianlong’s famous riposte to the British emissary Lord Macartney’s entreaties to open up China to trade: “We have never valued ingenious articles, nor do we have the slightest need of your country’s manufactures.”) The most powerful of Chinese leaders have displayed a sense of humility, however artificial, in dealing with outsiders. When Richard Nixon met Mao Zedong for the first time, he told Mao his writings had moved China and changed the world. Mao demurred: “I haven’t been able to change it,” he said. “I’ve only been able to change a few places in the vicinity of Beijing.” Flaunting power, in other words, is hardly a consistent and unbroken Chinese tradition.
In fact, China’s recent assertiveness sometimes seems counterproductive, in ways that China’s foreign policy usually is not. More commonly, China has been skilled at flexible, soft-shoed diplomacy; the aim has been to keep other major powers divided and, where possible, competing with one another for influence in Beijing. But China’s recent policies on human rights, on maintaining the low value of its currency, and on climate change have all tended to remind Americans and Europeans of their shared values and interests in dealing with China.
If Chinese foreign policy has been (on many levels) counterproductive, that may be because its intended audience isn’t in Washington or Brussels. That is, its international strategy is increasingly driven by undercurrents at home. The Chinese leadership seems uneasy about losing control. For the past several years, it has worried about the development of a popular movement comparable to the ones that produced the “color revolutions” in Ukraine and Georgia. Over the last year, China has also watched the growth of the Green Movement in Iran. To an outsider, the comparisons seem preposterous; the two countries could not be more different. Iran has had various forms of middle-class movements (not to mention elections) for decades.
Yet there has been a surprising interplay between recent developments in Iran and in China. Immediately after Iran’s tumultuous election last June, the Chinese foreign ministry voiced support for Ahmadinejad and said it hoped Iran could maintain “stability and solidarity.” When riots broke out in China’s western Xinjiang Province last July, only weeks after the Iranian elections, President Hu Jintao cut short a trip to Europe and rushed home to take charge. China quickly cut off Internet service throughout the entire region. A couple of months ago, the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, warned of the role played by the Internet in Iran and specifically linked it to the United States: “How did the constant chaos after the election in Iran come about? That was a cyberwar initiated by the U.S., where on YouTube and Twitter, it spread rumors, created splits, provoked and sowed discord.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese leadership struggles with a domestic political problem from a different direction, one of its own making: an ever more strident Chinese nationalism. The regime has stoked this nationalism as a replacement for the old Communist values that few in China believe in anymore. Indeed, more than 60 years after Chiang Kai-shek fled the Chinese mainland for Taiwan, the Communist regime that defeated him is managing to produce its own new Nationalist China, with a good deal of the corruption of the old one. But the more the leadership encourages nationalism, the more it has to worry about being itself accused of caving to foreigners. It allowed anti-American demonstrations to swell after U.S. bombs hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. It allowed anti-Japanese protests a few years later. In both cases, the regime had to rein in what was happening on the streets after the protests threatened to spin out of control. The ultimate fear is that, some day, nationalism could turn against the leadership itself.
In short, China is on its way to becoming a durable authoritarian regime. However, it’s not quite there yet. There is still, for now, the worry about nascent opposition at home, whether it might develop on the streets or online. The consequences seem clear: China isn’t opening up its political system to far-reaching reform in the way that outsiders have for years hoped and predicted, and it is ever less willing to do anything overseas that might make it look weak.
In the United States and Europe, the reaction to this hardening has been one of angst. What we are witnessing now, in fact, is the gradual disintegration of America’s post-cold war vision and strategy for China. One veteran China hand, David Shambaugh, recently described the current intellectual predicament in a succinct if understated fashion: “Analysts who have argued that the country is moving inexorably towards greater openness and reform are beginning to reexamine long-held assumptions.”
America’s strategy for dealing with Beijing has been based for nearly two decades on the idea of using trade and economic ties to bring China into the existing international system and gradually nudge it toward political liberalization--as Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has put it, “to integrate China into a U.S.-led world order.”
It took some time for that strategy to gel. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, America’s China policy was based primarily on the idea of a cold war partnership against the Soviet Union. There was little talk then of prodding China’s political system, although some in Washington believed that Deng would follow up his economic reforms with a comparable drive for political change.
After the upheavals of 1989-the Tiananmen demonstrations and the bloody crackdown, the fall of the Berlin Wall later that year--American leaders struggled to come up with a new basis for dealing with China. The initial formulation came from President George H.W. Bush. Seeking to explain America’s continuing ties with a regime that had so recently opened fire on its own citizenry, Bush settled on the idea of “engagement.” It was a curious choice of words. The phrase “constructive engagement” had been used by the Reagan administration a few years earlier as justification for its friendly policy toward South Africa in the face of a congressional effort to impose economic sanctions against the apartheid regime. Nevertheless, as applied to China, the word “engagement” took hold--to such a remarkable extent, in fact, that it has been used, over the past two decades, to describe contacts not just with Beijing but with other repressive regimes around the world, from Burma to Sudan to Iran.
Still, as even many of its proponents acknowledged, “engagement” was itself merely a tactic, an agreement to go to meetings, and not a strategy. It was left to the Clinton administration to come up with that. The United States hoped to open up the Chinese political system. The means for accomplishing that change would be trade and investment. Economic prosperity, the strategy predicted, would lead eventually to political liberalization. In this analysis, China would follow the same political path as its Asian neighbors, South Korea and Taiwan, both of which had moved from authoritarianism to democracy during the 1980s.
“You’re on the wrong side of history,” Clinton informed Chinese President Jiang Zemin at one 1997 Washington press conference--thus adopting, with some modifications, Francis Fukuyama’s post-cold war view of history’s inexorable drive toward liberalism. Clinton spoke of political change in China as “inevitable, just as inevitably the Berlin Wall fell.”
There was nothing particularly Democratic or Republican, nothing liberal or conservative, about this triumphal American vision for changing China. Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, proclaimed, “Trade freely with China, and time is on our side.” (After China began to accuse the United States of carrying out a strategy of “peaceful evolution” to undermine Communist Party rule, American officials, high and low, often confessed privately, with bemusement, that they were indeed believers in peaceful evolution.)
Predictions that China was destined for some sort of political change were simply part of the intellectual landscape of the years after the end of the cold war. In 1996, at a Stanford University conference called to sketch out what China might be like in the year 2010, the late Michel Oksenberg, one of the best and most illustrious of all American Sinologists, hazarded a prediction. “I am tempted to suggest that China’s paramount leader will (by 2010) have either been directly elected or selected via an elected, multi-party national parliament,” he said. “The outside world and the porousness of China’s borders will make it difficult for China’s leaders to resist those trends.”
The centerpiece of the strategy of integration, in policy terms, was the successful effort to bring China into the World Trade Organization (WTO). In doing so, the U.S. government ended the annual process (an impassioned debate in the early ’90s, ultimately a hollow ritual) in which Congress voted to extend China’s trade privileges in the United States.
In the process of arguing for China’s WTO membership, the Clinton administration told the American public about the political impact it would have inside China. These claims were carefully worded, but clear enough. “Bringing China into the WTO doesn’t guarantee that it will choose political reform,” said Bill Clinton in 2000. “But accelerating the progress, the process of economic change, will force China to confront that choice sooner, and it will make the imperative for the right choice stronger. ... I understand that this [bringing China into the WTO] is not, in and of itself, a human rights problem. But, still, it is likely to have a profound impact on human rights and political liberty.”
A decade later, it appears that this strategy of changing China through trade has backfired. To be sure, China’s membership in the WTO had an enormous economic impact. For those who wanted to invest in China, or to outsource manufacturing to China, WTO membership brought long-term stability and predictability to doing business. Companies had the protections of the WTO; they didn’t have to worry about annual congressional reviews affecting whether they could continue to operate.
But the extensive economic changes have not hastened China’s decision to launch political reform, as Clinton and many others had forecast. Instead, they have set back any such decision. WTO membership helped fuel high rates of economic growth and increasing prosperity for an urban elite with an ever-greater stake in the existing political order. Individual Chinese have greater personal autonomy than they did a decade ago (in the sense of lifestyles, clothes, and travel), but any organized dissent or opposition to the regime is suppressed at least as thoroughly as it was ten years ago. From the standpoint of the Chinese leadership, the economic changes of the past decade have meant steadily increasing foreign-exchange reserves and thus ever-greater leverage in dealing with other countries. Why do anything to rock this boat?
In recent months, China’s old friends overseas, who have argued for years in favor of greater understanding of the leadership, are now giving voice to a strikingly more pessimistic view. In one January speech, Chas W. Freeman Jr., the veteran diplomat who took part in the Nixon opening to China, said the current regime “stands for no credible values, neither trusts nor is trusted by those it rules, suffers from a high level of corruption, and has no clear vision for self-improvement.” He concluded: “Despite its economic successes and growing defense capabilities, China’s international influence will remain limited as long as it fails to evolve an attractive political system. It is not impossible that it may do so, but there is no evidence at present to suggest that it will.”
Enter Barack Obama. In talking about China, Obama has been noticeably different from his predecessors, both Bush and Clinton. In public statements, Obama generally does not say that trade and investment will lead to political liberalization or that China’s own growing prosperity will produce a popular desire for change in its one-party system. He does not embrace the triumphal view that history is on America’s side. “I believe that each country must chart its own course,” Obama said during a speech in Shanghai.
Instead, the Obama administration’s portrayal of China’s political future is decidedly less hopeful: We can’t change China, but we still have to deal with it somehow, because it is important to our diplomacy (think Iran and North Korea) and our economy (think Treasury bonds). When conflicts arise, the reigning new cliché is that the United States and China have a “mature relationship.” So, the two countries continue to meet and talk with one another about important issues, but at the same time have strong disagreements. (By this same definition, the Obama administration also has a “mature relationship” with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.)
The idea of the powerful United States bringing China into the existing system is fading. Obama possesses, if anything, an exaggerated sense of China’s strength. When he visited China last November, he accepted restrictions on his events and his ability to speak to the Chinese people that were considerably beyond those Bill Clinton endured more than a decade ago. He also agreed to a long, formal “joint statement” with China whose vague wording set off some jitters overseas. In it, the United States and China promised to respect each other’s “core interests,” a phrase that China has itself defined to include Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang. The administration maintains that this statement represents nothing new, but China has been quick to seize upon it and will continue to do so. (When Obama met with the Dalai Lama a few weeks ago, China immediately complained that it was a violation of the document.)
The administration avoids sweeping pronouncements about China’s political future because it recognizes, to a fault, the limits on its own power to bring about change. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the United States, in public and intellectual debates, the old 1990s notion that trade will lead to political liberalization in China is giving way to new formulas for deflecting concern about the Chinese regime’s continuing suppression of organized dissent. The old line was that China was headed inevitably for political change. The new one is that most Chinese people really don’t want political change, anyway: They are said to like China’s existing system. In fact, this line of thinking is not new, but a revival. It echoes the argument frequently made about China in the West during the 1960s and early ’70s, until, after Mao’s death, that turned out to be wrong.
Those with a rosy view of the regime’s popularity sometimes point to a Pew Global Attitudes Project survey conducted two years ago, which found that 86 percent of Chinese were satisfied with “the way things are going in our country today.” But the Pew poll also found that an unimpressive number of Chinese, by global standards, were happy with the way things were going in their own lives, as opposed to the nation as a whole. Pew did not ask--because no outside pollster could possibly ask--the basic questions: Would you like to be able to choose your own leaders? Do you like the Chinese Communist Party? Do you think a single party should run everything in this country?
Recognizing that ourcommerce with China will not open up its political system has implications both for American policy and for how it is explained or justified. Finally, the United States can pursue an economic policy toward China that suits American economic interests--detached from any large political project. We should not cling to old visions of liberalizing China through trade, while Beijing pursues mercantilist policies to protect its own industries and workers.
During the 2008 primaries, campaigning in industrial states, both Obama and Hillary Clinton attacked China’s economic policies and promised changes in a new administration. Clinton was particularly acerbic. “It is outrageous that China and other countries continue to manipulate their currencies to put our goods at a disadvantage,” she told one union audience in Pittsburgh. Obama was less fiery but made the same point that very same day. Chinese leaders are “grossly undervaluing their currency, and giving their goods yet another unfair advantage,” Obama said. Their promises of a new policy were shelved soon after the administration took office. The incoming treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, told the Senate Finance Committee in a written statement that “President Obama ... believes that China is manipulating its currency.” In short order, there were worries that the new administration might be getting off on the wrong foot with China, and Geithner reversed course. Last April, in its first formal report on crrency issues, the Treasury Department decided not to say anything about China’s manipulation.NThe Obama administration is due to file a new currency report next month that will address the question for China once again. And China will probably offer a small-scale appreciation in an effort to deflect larger changes. Some China analysts warn that the leadership in Beijing can’t move too quickly to correct its abuses because, if it did, there would be widespread layoffs of Chinese workers. That’s genuinely too bad, but the Obama administration needs to keep its focus on U.S. jobs and to press for truly significant changes in the value of the Chinese renminbi. By Paul Krugman’s recent estimate, China’s current policies may cost the United States 1.4 million jobs over the next couple of years.
When it comes to diplomacy, the same sorts of considerations apply. The idea of integrating China into a U.S.-led world order was a chimera from the start. So, instead of pursuing vague and larger purposes, we should simply pursue our own interests, as China does. We can stop pretending that those interests coincide. There is no need to sign grand statements about Sino-American cooperation when they don’t reflect the underlying reality between the two countries. At this point, speeches invoking the old days of the Nixon-Kissinger era not only don’t help, but they actually get in the way of doing whatever business we can with Beijing. Airy talk about the past diverts us from confronting the disagreements of the present. It establishes a false context in which new American leaders are supposed to feel guilty for not getting along with their counterparts as well as Kissinger did with Zhou Enlai.
oN questions of democracy and human rights, we need to start with the presumption that the Chinese political system isn’t going to open up anytime soon. On her first trip to China as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton said she didn’t want to focus on human rights issues because “we pretty much know what they’re going to say.” That was partially right. If the purpose of human rights discussions with China is to win over the leadership, they are pretty much a waste of breath. But the reason to keep on raising these issues is to convey our own continuing belief in the values of free and open political debate, in the hopes that others in China, outside the leadership, will hear and care.
America’s perceptions of China vary from season to season. Only a year ago, as the two governments worked to stimulate their economies in the midst of the financial crisis, there was casual talk of the United States and China operating as a new “G-2,” teaming up to run the world. Now, in the wake of Copenhagen and the awkward Obama trip, we get instead popular depictions of China out there on its own: China as G-1.
China might soon move to smooth things over. It could ease its currency policies enough that American and European leaders could claim a small victory. It could provide a modicum of assistance with Iran to avoid being tarred as the country that blocked sanctions. Perhaps a year from now, the ephemeral adjective popularly applied to China will switch back again from “assertive” to “flexible.”
But, no matter how we describe Chinese behavior to reflect such relatively minor vicissitudes in its policies, our underlying view of the country has already profoundly changed. The United States has come to realize that its assumptions about China from the 1990s and early 2000s were quaint and time-bound, a reflection of America’s overconfidence after the end of the cold war. Back then, American leaders thought China was on the wrong side of history, moving in our direction, destined inevitably to liberalize. History, alas, wasn’t so sure.
James Mann has written three books on America’s relationship with China. He is an author-in-residence at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
The issue of reevaluating the Yuan is becoming hotter by the day. But China' and the United States' economies are so interlinked that both may be in a loose-loose situation at the end of the game.
March 17, 2010
The New York Times
Will China Listen?
The drumbeat of complaints in Washington about China’s manipulation of its currency — and the deafening silence pretty much everywhere else — might lead one to think that this is just an American problem. It isn’t.
China’s decision to base its economic growth on exporting deliberately undervalued goods is threatening economies around the world. It is fueling huge trade deficits in the United States and Europe. Even worse, it is crowding out exports from other developing countries, threatening their hopes of recovery.
After treading lightly on the subject of China, President Obama vowed last month to “get much tougher” about China’s cheap currency. On Monday, 130 members of Congress sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, demanding that the Obama administration designate China as a currency manipulator in a report due to Congress next month. On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill aimed to force the administration’s hand. This would ease the way to imposing retaliatory trade barriers against Chinese goods.
So far, China has been defiant. On Sunday, after the close of the annual National People’s Congress, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao rejected American complaints as “a kind of trade protectionism” and made clear that he had no plan to do anything differently.
Since 2003, China’s central bank has been purchasing huge amounts of dollars to keep the value of its currency, the renminbi, artificially low against the dollar. China backed away somewhat in 2005, allowing its currency to appreciate slowly from 8.25 renminbi to the dollar to about 6.83 renminbi by 2008. As the global recession hit, China slammed on the brakes in order to protect its exports. The renminbi has remained at about 6.83 since then, and the pain has been felt in countries as far apart as Mexico and India.
Beijing’s intervention is a textbook example of the beggar-thy-neighbor competitive devaluation forbidden by the International Monetary Fund’s charter.
The challenge now is how to persuade China to at least moderate its strategy without unleashing something even more destructive. As the decibel level has risen in Washington, Chinese officials have implicitly warned that they could retaliate by dumping Treasury bills from their central bank’s $2.4 trillion cache.
This would be risky for both countries. The move would weaken the dollar and lessen the value of China’s holdings. The United States might weather a sell-off or even benefit from the drop in the dollar’s value, but any precipitous move could further disrupt the skittish financial markets. And Beijing has other potential weapons, like tariffs and quotas. There is no guarantee of rationality in these showdowns. The fallout from a trade war would be felt around the world.
It makes a lot more sense to address the problem in a multilateral setting, where China couldn’t portray itself as a weak, righteous fighter holding out against arbitrary American power. Retaliation, or even the threat, would carry more legitimacy if it were part of a multilateral agreement and done on a world stage.
One way would be to press the I.M.F. to officially pronounce on whether China is breaking the rules and manipulating its exchange rate. That is part of the fund’s job, though it has preferred not to pick the fight. China would find it far harder to reject an I.M.F. determination than any American criticism. It could open the door for other aggrieved trading nations to eventually seek legal redress at the World Trade Organization.
Even before that, it would help if some other countries — certainly those in the European Union, but perhaps aspiring players including India and South Korea — started publicly making the case that the cheap renminbi is hurting them, too.
The world’s battered economy is certainly in no shape to keep absorbing China’s exports, subsidized through a cheap currency policy. The more countries that say this, the more likely Beijing will consider changing course — and the less likely this disagreement will escalate into a fight that no one can win.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
How long will the leadership in Beijing be able to contain the Tsunami of the free expression of human Spirit?
In the past, they have shown that they are master at muzzling this freedom for the sake of the survival of the Party.
But a tsunami is a tsunami. Very unpredictable.
Twitter co-founder says Great Firewall of China will fall
(AFP) – 2 hours ago
AUSTIN, Texas — Twitter co-founder Evan Williams told a gathering of the technology faithful on Monday that notorious censorship firewalls in countries such as China will give way to online innovations.
"The Internet is a tidal wave that is going to be impossible for anyone to keep out," Williams said during an on-stage chat at the South By South West Interactive gathering here.
"In places like China it is hard to say how long those firewalls will be able to hold up," he said.
Beijing tightly controls online content in a vast system of censorship often called the "Great Firewall of China", removing information it deems harmful -- including pornography and violence, but also politically sensitive material.
Williams's comments came as Internet colossus Google and China face-off on the censorship of online searches in that country.
California-based Google has said it is prepared to leave the world's largest online market if Beijing continues to insist on its censoring its Web searches.
China on Friday warned Google it would face "consequences" if it stopped filtering its search results, after the firm threatened to leave the country over cyberattacks and Web censorship.
Google threatened in January to abandon its Chinese-language search engine and perhaps leave China altogether over what it said were cyberattacks aimed at its source code and at the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
The company has since continued to filter results on Google.cn and posted ads for dozens of positions in China, which has 384 million web users.
"We are just realizing the promise of the Internet," Williams said. "It is about democratization of information that anybody can share with the world... It will continue to change institutions for the coming decades."
Twitter has become an Internet Age superstar since it was created in 2006 as a way for people to share their thoughts, observations and activities in the form of messages of no more than 140 characters.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
A new section has been opened on my website for Research Papers. These papers have been either presented at a conference/seminar or published in a book. During the coming days, I will add a few more papers/long articles. You can visit by clicking here.
"The people have good reason to be worried: after all, foreign exchange reserves are derived from Chinese workers' sweat and blood. It would not be impossible to lose these assets, since the American government keeps printing dollar bills to cover its astronomical deficits."
Why are the Chinese leaders so fascinated by the United States and the Americans.
I remember reading about the extreme excitement of Mao Zedong before meeting Nixon in February 1972.
Today, it translates differently, the Chinese leadership buys US Bonds, but it seems to me the same fatal attraction.
Tibetans have a similar attractions, but without anything to invest in Obamaland.
China's central bankers cannot just ignore the political side of their massive US debt holdings
March 12, 2010
For the first time, China's central bank has had to defend its handling of the huge sum of US debt it holds. In a recent National People's Congress session, Yi Gang, director of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (Safe), seemed rather uncomfortable when grilled about why more than 60 per cent of China's reserves are in US dollar assets that have exceedingly low returns. Yi refused to provide exact figures, asserting simply that the matter was a "pure market operation" and "it should not be politicised".
Using technicalities to cover up failures in policy decisions reflects an arrogant assumption by the People's Bank elite - Yi is a vice-governor of the bank - that foreign exchange management is too complicated a subject for ordinary citizens to understand.
But Yi can hardly get off the hook that way. What audience did he have in mind for his comments? He was apparently sending an official reassurance to the US Treasury that Beijing would never use the debt issue as a foreign-policy instrument. Even more importantly, it was aimed at placating domestic dissatisfaction with the central bank's unwise decisions to acquire, in a very short time span and with no transparency, a huge pile of dollars to the detriment of the Chinese economy.
This is the first time since 1948 - when the Kuomintang regime collapsed amid a hyperinflationary monetary policy - that the population has become concerned about the government's management of foreign exchange matters. The people have good reason to be worried: after all, foreign exchange reserves are derived from Chinese workers' sweat and blood. It would not be impossible to lose these assets, since the American government keeps printing dollar bills to cover its astronomical deficits.
Also widespread is speculation about whether Beijing's monetary elite have benefited from their extraordinary passion for dollar assets. In a country where kickbacks and other forms of official bribery are common practice, few believe the central banking system is immune from corruption. The central bank's claim that dollar assets remain the best investment choice is ill-received at home, since it defends the failed Washington Consensus and snubs the idea of "socialism with Chinese characteristics". The people seem to receive no tangible benefit when trade surpluses are used to finance another country's bad spending habits. Chinese central bankers are out of step with popular sentiment: the monetary policy group is the most westernised of intellectual cliques. Their academic background is uniformly rooted in textbooks on neoliberal economics, even among those trained at home.
Collectively, they are proud to be called the "Fifth Avenue" monetary elite, named after the first graduate school for monetary studies created by the People's Bank in the early 1980s. It is located in Wudaokou, literally "the entrance to Fifth Avenue", Beijing's financial district. Its textbooks are mainly American. Many of its graduates have been running the foreign exchange operations, including two of Yi's predecessors at Safe. This elite group claims to hate politics and to be uninterested in international political relations, truly believing market mechanisms can solve all problems.
During the Mao Zedong period, the People's Bank was no more than the government's cashier-in-chief. It had little experience in international finance and monetary politics.
China did not take part in the postwar international monetary system and had no operating knowledge of the rise and fall of the Bretton Woods system - the rules for commercial and financial relations among the world's major industrial states after the second world war. Naturally, the political economy of the US dollar and its role in international politics was never part of the Fifth Avenue curriculum.
Trained in the United States, Yi's neoliberal view is not surprising, but the call to depoliticise the US debt issue is misguided if not utterly naive: above all, because the American side never stops politicising this issue.
US President Barack Obama's chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, has described the Sino-US debt relationship as a "financial balance of terror". The US Treasury never leaves politics out of policy considerations. The Chinese central bankers may have read John Maynard Keynes' The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, but they never understood Keynes the man. Throughout his professional career, Keynes fought many battles over monetary politics, both on the domestic and international stages.
If Yi and his colleagues were to read a major biography of Keynes, they might regret their public blurt about "depolitising". It will not be taken seriously at the politics-conscious US Treasury and will further alienate popular sentiments at home.
Beijing has to be cautious with the debt issue, for it must maintain a balance between its ties with Washington and the defence of its core interests. Yi's statement has not helped Beijing's cause. Instead, it may come back to haunt the central bankers if things go wrong with US assets in the near future.
Lanxin Xiang is professor of international history and politics at the University of Geneva.