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Posted on on March 31st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

A blanket of smog covers the Hong Kong skyline  as air pollution hit record levels, raising pressure on the authorities to do more to contain home-grown pollution. Being just of Mainland China does not help. Air Quality in Hong Kong Seen as Possible Liability.
Published in The New York Times: March 31, 2010.…


Nevertheless, the G-20 seem to have other things in front of their eyes:…

China reprimanded by G20 leaders.

By Chris Giles in London and Alan Beattie in Washington
Published: March 30 2010, The Financial Times.

Five prominent members of the Group of 20 leading economies, including the US and UK, sent a coded rebuke to China on Tuesday against backsliding on economic agreements.

In a letter to the rest of the G20 that shows frustration at slow progress this year, the leaders warned: “Without co-operative action to make the necessary adjustments to achieve [strong and sustainable growth], the risk of future crises and low growth remain.”

G20 officials said the letter – signed by Stephen Harper and Lee Myung-bak, the Canadian and South Korean leaders who will chair the group’s two summits this year, Barack Obama, US president, Gordon Brown, UK prime minister, and Nicolas Sarkozy, French president – was an attempt to restore flagging momentum to the international process.

Ottawa and Seoul are concerned that the G20 summits they will host, in June and November respectively, might fail to live up to expectations.

In a move that will irritate China, the five leaders specifically raised the issue of exchange rates in relation to reducing trade imbalances, a topic the G20 avoided in 2009 to help secure agreement at the London and Pittsburgh summits.

“We need to design co-operative strategies and work together to ensure that our fiscal, monetary, foreign exchange, trade and structural policies are collectively consistent with strong, sustainable and balanced growth,” the letter said.

It has been released in the middle of an intense debate in Washington about how the White House should confront Beijing over the perceived strength of the renminbi. Some lawmakers are ratcheting up calls for China to be designated a currency manipulator in a forthcoming report.

Charles Schumer, the third most senior Democrat in the Senate, this week again advocated a bill that would allow the US to include estimates of currency misalignment when calculating anti-subsidy duties to be imposed on imports.

As well as refusing to budge on its currency, China has been obstructing the G20 process this year. It has hampered efforts by the International Monetary Fund to issue a report which Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director, told the Financial Times in January would conclude that national strategies for growth around the world “will not add up”.

The leaders’ letter makes reference to the slow progress of this process, urging all G20 members to “move quickly” to “report robustly on what each of us can do to contribute to strong sustainable and balanced global growth”.

The letter also sounded a warning note over the so-called Doha round of global trade talks, which is at a virtual standstill after the collapse of negotiations in 2008.

“With regard to Doha, we need to determine whether we can achieve the greater level of ambition necessary to make an agreement feasible,” the letter said.


A – yes – Cochabamba, this we posted twenty minutes ago – please see also:


Posted on on March 11th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dalai Lama voices support for Uighurs

By Jamil Anderlini and Kathrin Hille in Beijing
Published: March 10 2010,…/dalailama-voices-support-for-uighurs.html

The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, expressed solidarity and support for Muslim Uighurs on Wednesday, raising the spectre for Beijing of closer co-ordination between opponents of Chinese rule and minority groups in territories that have seen ethnic rioting in the past two years.

His comments came in a blistering attack on the ruling Communist party’s policies in his homeland that was timed to mark the anniversary of a Tibetan revolt against Chinese rule in 2008 and the 51st anniversary of the uprising that led to the Dalai Lama’s flight to India.“Let us also remember the people of East Turkestan [China’s Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region] who have experienced great difficulties and increased oppression, and the Chinese intellectuals campaigning for greater freedom who have received severe sentences. I would like to express my solidarity and stand firmly with them,” the Dalai Lama said in his statement.

There has been little co-ordination or communication between Tibetan and Uighur groups. The 2008 uprising in Tibet was separate from the bloody ethnic riots that broke out in Xinjiang last year.

Beijing’s response to the unrest has been heavy-handed, with a massive influx of troops into both regions and “patriotic re-education” campaigns.

The World Uighur Congress, an exile organisation, welcomed the Dalai Lama’s remarks and appealed to Beijing to respect the political will of the Tibetan and Uighur people.

“We both face the threat of suppression of our religion, cultural extinction and large-scale Chinese migration into our homelands,” it said.

A Chinese foreign ministry official referred questions to the United Front Department saying that any issues related to Tibet and the Dalai Lama were a domestic affair and not the foreign ministry’s responsibility. The United Front Department could not be reached for comment.

Posted by World Watch.


Had China accepted the reality that it needs to allow more self-government to its ethnic and politically different component  regions – there would be no problem with the reintegration of Taiwan as part of a confederation of friendly states and cities.     We say this all the time on this website and we think it would be in China’s interest.


Posted on on January 27th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

U.S.-China Spat Escalates Over Internet Freedom.

WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (IPS) – The stern warning given to China by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning internet censorship and responding to allegations that Chinese hackers had accessed Google email addresses has received a pointed response from the Chinese government, raising questions over what the next move will be for Google, the United States, and U.S. firms that do business in China.

On Thursday, Clinton laid out the national security threat posed by cyber attacks and warned that attacks would not go unnoticed and would bring a response. “States, terrorist and those who would act as their proxies must know that the United States will protect our networks,” said Clinton. “Those who disrupt the free flow of information in our society or any other pose a threat to our economy, our government and our civil society,” she continued.

The Chinese response to Clinton’s remarks took sharply differing tones depending on which audience Beijing was addressing. On the foreign ministry website, the government responded on Friday with measured language, saying, “The U.S. attacks China’s internet policy, indicating that China has been restricting internet freedom. We resolutely oppose such remarks and practices that contravene facts and undermine China-U.S. relations,” and, “We urge the U.S. to respect facts and stop attacking China under the excuse of the so-called freedom of internet.”

But in state-controlled news outlets, primarily published for a domestic readership, the war of words was much more harshly framed. “Accusation that the Chinese government participated in cyber attacks, either in an explicit or inexplicit way, is groundless and aims to denigrate China. We are firmly opposed to that,” a spokesman of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology told Xinhua News Agency on Sunday.

The state-controlled newspaper, The Global Times, wrote, “China’s real stake in the ‘free flow of information’ is evident in its refusal to be victimised by information imperialism.” “With the Chinese-language media, there are two important themes to keep in mind. First, [the controversy over Google] is really not that big a deal. The Chinese Google saga is really more interesting to people in Washington than most average folks in Beijing or elsewhere,” Christina Larson, an expert on Chinese civil society and a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, told IPS. “The second thing is that it’s portrayed [in the Chinese media] as really this sense that foreign companies don’t really have the right to come in and dictate their terms to China,” Larson continued.

The war of words between Beijing and Washington was set off on Jan. 12 when Google announced its intention to cease the censorship of its search engine results in China and disclosed that a number of Google email accounts used by human rights advocates, diplomats and journalists had been breached by Chinese hackers. The accusations were followed by other rumours and allegations that Chinese hackers had stolen proprietary Google source code, and that cyber attacks and corporate espionage originating from China were becoming increasingly big concerns for the U.S. government and U.S. companies doing business in China.

The mixture of accusations coming from Google, and Clinton’s calls for a Chinese investigation into the allegations, have left a somewhat confusing message about what Google seeks from Beijing in the upcoming discussions over its refusal to continue censoring search results.


We actually sympathize with the idea that Media should not be monopolized by Big Business, but when private people in China, and even international Google,  tell us that the Chinese do not get full free flow of internet information we know China is not talking truth. We are also worried about China inpact on dissemination of information by multinational organizations like the UN where they insist on having a superviser appointment to be given to one of their nationals.


Posted on on January 21st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 – Stop the presses — foreign media pulling out of Japan.
With China rising and revenues falling, priorities have changed.

Staff writer, The Japan Times online

Major foreign media outlets are leaving Japan in droves, a sign of financial difficulties at home as the news industry struggles with falling advertising revenue. But observers note that Japan is also losing its appeal as the most newsworthy country in Asia, with China now the hot spot.

Read all about it: U.S. news magazines Time and Newsweek are among the major foreign media companies that have recently closed or scaled down their presence in Tokyo.

In the latest withdrawal from Japan, the news magazine Time closed its editorial branch in Tokyo earlier this month. Last year, Newsweek shut down its editorial section in Tokyo while the editorial staff of BusinessWeek merged with Bloomberg after the financial news service announced it would buy the magazine last October.

Among newspapers, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have been reported to have drastically reduced their forces in Japan.

“When I heard about Time I thought foreign media coverage in Japan has really finished,” Takashi Uesugi, a freelance journalist and expert on journalism who used to be a reporter at the Tokyo branch of The New York Times, told The Japan Times.

Observers agree that a big reason for the force reduction here is the decrease in ad revenue at home, due partly to the effects of the global financial crisis and partly to consumers increasingly turning to the Internet for news.

But Uesugi said there are other reasons for the foreign media’s flight that are rooted in Japan.

“The financial situation of the companies in their own countries is a big factor,” he said. “But the second reason is (the decrease in) Japan’s national power. Foreign media are becoming increasingly more interested in China and setting up offices there, while they withdraw from Japan.”

According to Uesugi, The New York Times office in Tokyo had 13 full-time employees covering much of Asia and Russia when he worked there from 1999 to 2002. Now there are only three, while the newspaper has opened offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, he said.

The Washington Post office in Tokyo has only one reporter left and the Los Angeles Times branch has closed, according to Uesugi.

Numbers reflect the trend. According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, its foreign members numbered around 250 during the late 1980s and early 1990s when the booming economy provided both interesting news and an attractive home for overseas correspondents. The count was more than 300 if Japanese staff employed by foreign media companies were included.

However, the ranks have since been decreasing steadily, with only 144 foreign members registered as of March 2009.

“This means that news about Japan becomes more dependent on news wires. Even if (those media that have left Japan) hire temporary staff here, only correspondents are actually eligible to write stories, which would lead to lack of depth or analysis,” Uesugi said.

For correspondents elsewhere in Asia to visit Japan and report news, the event would need to be as big as Aum Shinrikyo’s sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system or the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which both happened in 1995, or last year’s Lower House election that led to the first major change in government since the 1950s, he added.

But others say it is not all bad news. According to Hiroshi Kakiyama, regional director of the Tokyo sales office for BusinessWeek, the magazine is stronger now that Bloomberg reporters can contribute articles.

“It’s been reported that the U.S. media (are) disappearing, but that image doesn’t apply to us,” he said.

BusinessWeek used to have two correspondents and one reporter in Tokyo, of which only one correspondent remained to join forces with Bloomberg.

“When there were only three members of staff, the articles they could write on Japan were very limited, but from now on we will be able to cover a wider range,” Kakiyama said, adding that four Bloomberg reporters in Tokyo contributed to the New Year’s issue.

BusinessWeek’s main target is businessmen, according to Kakiyama, while Bloomberg staff have the experience of accommodating a slightly different audience that includes investors and government financial officials.

While financial difficulties are a key reason for the foreign media’s retreat, the government is also at fault for not extensively opening up news conferences to foreign reporters, according to Uesugi.

Major news organizations that are members of press clubs attached to government offices and industries have easy and quick access to breaking news and off-the-record information. This has been a long-term problem for foreign journalists as well as local free-lancers and magazine writers who, as nonmembers, are refused entry into news conferences and briefings.

Uesugi said the hostile setup has served to encourage foreign correspondents to move elsewhere in Asia.

“Japanese tend to think it’s only the West that has open news conferences, but it’s the whole world except Japan,” he said, giving as examples South Korea, India, Brazil and China, although Beijing places other restrictions on the press.

There was a glimmer of light for journalists locked out of the press club system when the Democratic Party of Japan won the August election. DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama, now prime minister, had said he would open up news conferences if his party took power.

But while some Cabinet members — including Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Shizuka Kamei, the state minister for financial and postal issues — have taken the initiative to even the playing field, the change has not been extensive throughout government.

“The current government has the desire to communicate more with the outside world, but it needs to do more,” Uesugi said.

He acknowledged it is already too late to woo the foreign press back to Japan, except for the unlikely event that Japan’s national power increases or China’s politics becomes too unstable to remain there.

“But opening up press conferences is a start, and the only way forward. If you’re switched off at the source, then there’s no point in wondering why the telephone doesn’t connect,” Uesugi said.


Posted on on November 12th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Close to the departure of President Obama on his all-important trip to Asia with stops in Tokyo November 12th, Singapore November 13-15, Shanghai November 15th, Beijing November 16-18, and Seoul November 18-19, the Japan Society has planned co-incidentally the event we are reporting about here.

Japan is the only original OECD member in Asia, as such Japan clearly feels justifiably it is a US prime partner in Asia. It also was clearly instrumental in nailing down the 1987 Kyoto Protocol to The Framework Convention on Climate Change, and hopes that this material will continue to be the base for future climate negotiations. That was the basis for having co-organized and hosted  the following meeting – November 10th.


Copenhagen & Beyond: A Multilateral Debate about Climate Change Policy.
Green Japan Series
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at the Japan Society, New York.

The positions and participation of Japan, China and the United States in any successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol will help determine its success or failure. In a Tuesday November 10, 2009 panel, at the Japan Society, New York, Masayoshi Arai, Director, JETRO New York, Special Advisor, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI); The Honorable Zhenmin Liu, Ambassador Extraordinary and Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations; Elliot Diringer, Vice President, International Strategies, Pew Center on Global Climate Change; and Takao Shibata, chair of the working group that drafted the Kyoto Protocol, debated the direction of international climate change policy.

It was Moderated by Jim Efstathiou, Correspondent, Bloomberg News, and co-organized by the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs


Takao Shibata, who is now a Chancellor Lecturer at the University of Kansas and Japan Consul General in Kansas City,mentioed that Japan is ready to commit to a 2020 reduction of 25% in emissions provided that there is FAIR and EFFECTIVE agreement with a VIGUROUS COMPLIANCE agreement as part of it. He stressed that the problem with Kyoto was that there was no compliance paragraph in the Protocol. All it said was that we postpone decision.

The OBJECTIVE must be: THE STABILIZATION OF CO2 CONCENTRATION IN THE ATMOSPHERE rather then fighting over figures of temperature increase or concentrations in parts per milion numbers. We have already a Framework he said – the Copenhagen process should be about STABILIZATION. Later he added that we must at least agree to a 2050 position.

Mr. Masayoshi Arai, who is in New York since June 2009, with The Japaese External Trade Organization (JETRO), after having held 16 positions within Japan Government, includingthe Prime Minister’s task force that created the Japan Consumer Protection Agency, and with The Fair Trade Commission and Agency for Natural Resouces and Energy and its Research Institute, Supervised manufacturing industries in their CO2 emissions reduction, and has also an MBA from Wharton, probably because of his present government trade position, was rather careful in what he said. He said that we ned something “meaningful”  for global warming  and left the Japanese point of view to Professor Shibata.


Eliot Diringer whose organization, the Washington based Pew Center, is a link between Environmentalism, industry and government made it clear that what is lacking is a legal architecture in place to deal with the problems created by climate change to which now Professor Shibata answered on the spot that the history is such that already in Berlin, later in Kyoto, the US was against a legal concept – that is a clear 15 year old problem. In Kyoto, the US Vice President came to seal the Protocol in full knowledge that it is unratifiable in Washington. Shibata does not want a repeat of this with a US that is in no position to ratify an agreement.

Diringer came back with the suggestion that he can see that Developing countries will accept self prescribed domestic reductions and will request an agreement that makes this possible for them to do so. That means a new FRAMEWORK that is more flexible then the original.


Ambassador Zhenmin Liu, Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the UN in New York since 2006, in charge of China’s participation on the Second Committee at the UN, with prior experience at the UN in Geneva and as Director-General of the Treaty and Law Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been involved in Climate Change negotiations for China. He was actually the only member of the panel entitled to express a national negotiating position, and he did indeed come through.

Ambassador Liu said that he cannot have now a document to replace Kyoto – this lines him up with what might be a Japanese interest, but clearly is no answer to the problems that were pointed out at why Kyoto was a failure.

But then he also said that you need a GLOBAL CAP for the GHG emissions that must then take into account, when talking about individual nations, their level of industrialization.

A certain raport evolved between him and Washingtonian Diringer.

It was agreed that there is the need for Technology Innovation, Technology Cooperation, and Technology Transfer.

Diringer said that China is very well positioning itself for the green technology economy. People in the US start to understand that the US will lose the competition for future technology and there must be a start for support in US Congress for energy action right now.

These exchanges gave me an opening to ask mty question about what goes on right now – the days that President Obama plans for his trip to Asia with a long stopover in China.

I started my question to ambassador Liu by saying that on the internet there is a lot of talk about a G-2 US-China agreement needed to jump start the Copenhagen negotiations, and I saw visually the Ambassador cringe.  to this idea of a G-2. I continued by asking that what can we expect as an outcome from the meetings in Beijing if there is anything he could tell us as we believe that some concluding material was negotiated prior to the deision for this trip considering tha this is in effect the second meeting between the leaders?

I was honored with a long answer that included several main points.

The first point is that the US has accepted Kyoto and I guess China does not want to renegotiate Kyoto.

Then, China has 20% of the world population the US only 5%, but China has only a fraction of the GDP per capita then the US, so there is no G-2 situation here. That must have been the reason for the cringing – China does not want to lose its place as leader of the underdeveloped nations.

Secondly – this is not a US – China negotiation but a negotiation for all groups.

Thirdly, there is place for clean energy cooperation, bilateral programs and projects – to jointly use clean technology.


Professor Shibata added that we talk of the atmosphere where there are no national boundaries. We talk of sovereign areas only on the surface of the earth – and we must realize that the effects turn up in the air and we have no national control of the air.

Further, he said that in the west when something bad happens, the first thing we do is we sue the polluter – ask him to pay. He continued saying “I would encourage everyone to think about that.”

Mr. Diringer added that the CDM was introduced to harness market forces to get reduction of CO2 emissions at lowes cost.


To summarize – it was nice for Japan to try to host a US-China debate before moves that will inevitably have to bring the US and China closer together. To follow up – let us look at President Obama’s itinerary to get further in depth to what a reorientation of the US towards Asia could mean.

Japan, South Korea, and China are trying to form an East Asia Trilateral grouping with a Free Trade Agreement among the three countries. Obviously, this will open the Chinese market to Japan and Korea and there is no way for the US, with its own effective NAFTA agreement with Canada and Mexico. Japan wants thus perhaps more then just be a pivot in US – Chiba negotiations, it rather has also to make sure that it can hold on to its own agreements with both main countries. President Obama has thus quite a few non-climate topics to talk about in his Yokyo and Seoul stops.

The second big stop is in Singapore where he will meet the 21 members of APEC: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong (part of China), Indonesia, Japan,  Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, The Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Thailand, The United States, and Viet Nam. This will be the reintroduction of the US to the Pacific region in general – an area that the locals contend was totally neglected by the US in the eight years of the Bush administration. A main point in this meeting will be to help redirect the participating economies from export to the US to supply to their local populations – this so that they help both areas – their own and the US economy as well.

Will they also consult on whom to back for the job of UN Secretary-General in 2010? That is about the time to start this sort of negotiations, and Singapore seems to be the right place to look for the best viable candidate.

Eventually, the Third leg of the trip – the stops  in China – will have to be the clear main target of the trip – as said here by Ambassador Liu, the business deals in clean energy that can underpin both economies  (US and China) so they become an example for cooperation on climate change that presents direct benefits to economies looking for sustainable growth, that is a match to the needs of the people and the climate as well –  this is what we call Sustainable Development that is mutual – for the newly industrializing nation and for the phasing out of the old polluting industries of the past.


for information from President Obama’s Asian trip we recommend:


Posted on on May 2nd, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

GCC ministers meet to discuss swine flu threat
by Martin Morris on Saturday, 02 May 2009

SWINE FLU: Outbreak may not be as severe as earlier inidcated. (Getty Images)

GCC health ministers and their Yemeni counterpart held an emergency meeting in Doha on Saturday to discuss urgent measures to fight swine flu.

UAE Health Minister Humaid Al Qatami, who headed the UAE delegation, said it had been agreed to set up a unified Gulf strategy – effective next week – to combat swine flu.

Secretary-General of the GCC, Abdulrahman Al-Attiyah, said GCC members have developed the necessary plans for dealing with any eventuality and are in contact with other Arab and foreign countries in following up developments of the fatal disease, KUNA news agency reported.


Related: Swine flu – Egypt to cull pig population

by AFP on Saturday, 02 May 2009

Egypt is to begin a controversial slaughter of the nation’s 250,000 pigs in earnest on Saturday, despite the World Health Organisation saying there was no evidence the animals were transmitting swine flu to humans.

Cairo governor Abdel Halim Wazir told the state news agency MENA that the government will begin slaughtering an estimated 60,000 pigs raised by rubbish collectors in a shanty town in Egypt’s sprawling capital.

Egypt announced on Wednesday that it will slaughter the nation’s entire pig population after an outbreak of swine flu in other countries, even though no cases have been detected in Egypt.

(The pigs belong to poor Coptic Christians, the bottom of the Egyptian human pyramid, for whom this is a real blow – and this is totally unnecessary!   So far as Israel is concerned, without a Minister of Health in the new government, but only a Rabbi-in-charge, Rabbi Litzman,   with the title as Deputy Minister, though two cases are known, imports from Mexico, there is no talk of Swine Flu – as swine is not to be mentioned in a Kosher ministry – they call it Mexican Flu instead – SustainabiliTank comments. We liked the fact that the GCC call it swine flu – but then what about this leading to the Egyptian excess?)

Related: Latest figures on swine flu
by Joanna Hartley on Saturday, 02 May 2009

Latest worldwide figures show that as of 6.00 GMT on may 2, show 15 countries have officially reported 615 cases of swine flu, influenza A (H1N1) infection.

Mexico has reported 397 confirmed human cases of infection, an increase of 241 in the past 24 hours, which include 16 deaths.

The rise in cases was due to ongoing testing of previously collected specimens, WHO said.
The US government has reported 141 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death.

The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths – Austria (1), Canada (34), China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (1), Denmark (1), France (1), Germany (4), Israel (2), Netherlands (1), New Zealand (4), Republic of Korea (1), Spain (13), Switzerland (1) and the United Kingdom (13).

Individuals are advised to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water on a regular basis and should seek medical attention if they develop any symptoms of influenza-like illness.

No restrictions have been announced on international air travel and borders should remain open, WHO said.

It has also reiterated the point that cinsuming well cooked pork products contains no risk of infection in humans.


GCC Ministers agreed to put the health facilities of the region on high alert by activating national surveillance and early warning systems.

The meeting’s final communique advised GCC nationals to avoid travel to countries hit by the epidemic.

Commenting on the advice, Al-Attiyah said it does not mean a travel ban to and from such countries.

Al-Attiyah, also sought to allay citizens’ fears telling reporters: ”We should not exaggerate ….. the swine flu epidemic, especially when we have (had) a successful experience in dealing with bird flu (H5N1).”

He added: “We were able to defeat the bird flu through collective measures and close coordination among the GCC countries.”

Elsewhere, new laboratory data showed fewer people have died in Mexico than first thought from the H1N1 flu strain.

Mexico cut its suspected death toll from the virus to up to 101 from as many as 176, as dozens of test samples came back negative. Fewer patients with severe flu symptoms were also checking into hospitals, suggesting the infection rate of a flu that has spread to Europe and Asia was declining.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed the outbreak may not be as severe as it looked a few days ago, citing many mild cases that were not immediately noticed.

The World Health Organization said on Saturday 15 countries have reported 615 infections with the new flu virus A-H1N1.

President Barack Obama said the United States was responding aggressively to the new flu strain.

He outlined steps his administration was taking to address the virus, including school closures, and said antivirals were being distributed to states where they may be needed and new stockpiles had been ordered.

It has world health experts racing to find a vaccine and is wreaking havoc with a travel industry that flies hundreds of thousands of people to and from Mexico each week.

China suspended flights to Mexico after Hong Kong authorities on Friday confirmed a Mexican man who flew via the Chinese mainland was infected with the flu strain.


Posted on on November 10th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Tackling Tibet and Taiwan – Differently:   writes Antoaneta Bezlova for IPS from Beijing, November 9, 2008.

BEIJING, Nov 9 (IPS) – Chinese negotiators have, this week, discussed Tibet’s quest for genuine autonomy with the Dalai Lama’s representatives and also pushed forward the agenda to establish economic rapprochement with Taipei.

Beijing has been seeking reunification with Taiwan for as long as Tibet has pursued a promised right to self-determination. Tellingly, the two negotiations got very different treatments in the state-sanctioned Chinese press.

The Taiwan talks, which sought to build foundations for closer engagement over the Taiwan Strait, were covered extensively in the mainland media. Negotiators signed several agreements bringing the former arch-rivals — that fought a civil war in the 1940s — closer together by establishing direct air, postal and shipping links.

“China has been waiting for this moment for 60 years,” said the 21st Century Business Herald, terming the visit of China’s chief Taiwan negotiator Chen Yunlin to the island “a milestone”. “The future of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait as one entity is bright,” it added. By contrast, talks with representatives of the Tibetan government-in exile went by unmentioned by any major media but the state news agency Xinhua.

When it did report on the visit of the Dalai Lama envoys and their dialogue with Chinese officials, the agency struck a harsh note, saying the Tibetan spiritual leader should “face reality”.

“It is impossible for Tibet to become independent, semi-independent, or independent in a disguised form,” the report said, citing remarks by Du Qinglin, head of a government department in charge of the negotiations. “The Dalai Lama should respect history, face reality, comply with the times and correct his political stance fundamentally.”

Du held the talks in Beijing with Lodi Gyari and Kelsan Gyalsten, two envoys of the Tibetan-government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India. They were taken to visit a model minority area in the Muslim-populated Ningxia Autonomous Region.

But, despite the longer than usual time for discussions, no breakthrough was made, giving rise to even more doubts about the success of the Dalai Lama’s “middle path” doctrine of pursuing autonomy.

Tibet and Taiwan are both grappling to find solutions to decades-long standoffs.

Taiwan has been ruled separately from China since 1949. The Nationalist troops of Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island after losing the civil war against the communists on the Chinese mainland. Beijing continues to see the island as a breakaway province and has warned that it would use force to prevent Taiwan from declaring formal independence.

For Beijing, the latest talks are a breakthrough because they included a visit to Taiwan of Chen Yunlin, chairman of China’s semi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, whose goal is to reunify the island and the mainland. Chen is the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Taiwan in a half century.

He also met with Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou. Ma assumed power five months ago, promising a new era of peace and economic normalisation with China, after years of tense relations under his predecessor Chen Shui-bian. Beijing, which hopes that an economic thaw across the Taiwan Strait would facilitate future reunification, has welcomed his administration.

The latest talks however, were dogged by rowdy protesters and faced vocal opposition from supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party, which favors independence.

Polls conducted by the Mainland Affairs Council, which oversees Taiwan’s China policy, found that 30 percent of the interviews considered Ma Ying-jeou’s opening up to China too fast in early October, compared with 19 percent who felt that way in March.

Beijing had once proposed the “one country, two systems” formula, practised in the administration of Hong Kong as a possible model for Taiwan. The doctrine allows Chinese sovereignty to be applied to a territory, with foreign affairs and defence issues handled by the central government while domestic matters are left to a local administration.

The same model, though, is being denied to Tibet. Du Qinglin ruled out a Hong Kong-style solution to the Tibetan question, saying China would not allow Tibet the wide degree of autonomy it has granted territories such as Hong Kong and the former Portuguese colony of Macau.

“It is a fundamental political system of China… It does not allow the promotion of ethnic separatism under the banner of ‘genuine ethnic self-governance’,” Du said. “We will never allow someone to hold a banner of ‘real autonomy’ and damage the national unity,” he added.

For the Tibetans, the stand-off over their right to self-determination has continued ever since the 15th Dalai Lama fled his homeland in 1951 for India and set up a government-in-exile in Dharamsala.

For more than 50 years the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has toured world capitals, trying to promote the Tibetan cause and seeking negotiations with Beijing. He has championed a “middle path” policy, which advocates genuine Tibetan autonomy as opposed to political independence.

But China has repeatedly accused him of leading a campaign to split off the Himalayan region from the rest of the country. The two sides have held seven rounds of talks before the current one with little progress to show for it.

Relations soured this year when peaceful demonstrations against Chinese rule in Lhasa, in March, turned violent, leading to scores of casualties on both sides.

Beijing blamed the Dalai Lama and his followers for the riots. As the current talks were about to begin in the Chinese capital, the authorities announced they had sentenced 55 people for their involvement in March’s anti-government protests.

Adding to the gloomy prospects for the dialogue, the Dalai Lama has voiced his frustration with the lack of progress in negotiations, saying Tibet was “now dying” under China’s iron-fist rule.

“My trust in the Chinese government is now thinner, thinner, thinner,” he told reporters during his visit to Japan this week. “I have to accept failure”.

The future of his “middle path” policy will be the focus of a special meeting, in Dharamsala, on Nov. 17, of around 300 delegates representing the worldwide exiled Tibetan community.

Younger and more radical forces among the community have increasingly been calling for a tougher stance against Beijing.


Posted on on September 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Bush will go away as a true friend to China.

By FRANK CHING, The Japan Times, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008.

HONG KONG — As the world prepares to bid farewell to U.S. President George W. Bush in a few months, his foreign policy lies in tatters. Wars continue in Iraq and Afghanistan, a crisis looms in Iran, relations with Russia are badly strained, and now North Korea is threatening to restart its nuclear-weapons program.

There is one bright spot: China. Despite a rough start at the beginning of his presidency when there was a crisis triggered by a midair collision between a Chinese fighter jet and an American reconnaissance plane, Bush has by and large enjoyed a good relationship with the Chinese leadership.

This was reflected in the telephone conversation last Monday between the two leaders, when Bush briefed his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, on the financial upheavals in the United States and Hu praised the “good momentum of the development of Sino-U.S. ties.” { but please do not forget the at least – half trillion dollars – the US owes to China. }To be sure, there were repeated differences over political freedom, religious rights, Tibet and other issues, but Beijing continues to view Bush favorably. Beijing also has a soft spot in its heart for his father, George Herbert Walker Bush (president 1989-1993).

The junior Bush campaigned in 2000 on the premise that the Clinton administration was wrong to designate China as a strategic partner. He said China was a strategic competitor, not a partner. And he began office with the idea that China would replace the Soviet Union as America’s main antagonist.

But his stance changed dramatically after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. when he realized that America already had enemies at its gates and that China could be a partner in the campaign against terrorists.

Although he declared at the end of his first 100 days in office that he would do “whatever it took” to help Taiwan defend itself, he soon made clear his distaste for Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian by reprimanding him in public while Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stood next to him.

To Beijing, Bush has been a true friend and, more than that, a known quantity. True, Bush frequently did things that Beijing did not like, including receiving the Dalai Lama three times, and frequently lecturing the Chinese government on freedom and democracy.

He was also someone Beijing could count on. Earlier this year, when much of the world called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics over the crackdown following violent protests in Tibet, the U.S. leader never wavered in his commitment to attend the games, an attitude much appreciated by Chinese leaders.

In part for domestic political reasons, Bush, before each trip to China, used to make a public gesture that was critical of China. In 2005, the day before he left for an Asian trip that included Beijing, he received the Dalai Lama and accepted a white scarf from him. Then, in Japan, he went out of his way to praise Taiwan for “embracing freedom at all levels” and urged China to emulate the island that it considers to be a breakaway province.

Although the Chinese foreign ministry, as expected, issued a rebuttal, Bush was still warmly welcomed in Beijing.

Last month the president made what was probably his last official visit to Beijing, and again he gave a speech critical of China while traveling in Asia, this time in Thailand. Significantly, at the end of this visit, China’s official newspaper the People’s Daily published an evaluation of China by the senior Bush, who was also in Beijing as honorary head of the American Olympics delegation.

Bush senior said that, in his view, China’s economic growth since the 1970s, when he was unofficial ambassador, has improved the living conditions of the Chinese people as well as advanced human rights and individual freedoms; Chinese leaders are now more open and approachable; and the strategic and economic interests of China and the U.S. are growing ever closer.

Turning to the president, the People’s Daily said that of course Bush does not completely agree with China’s political actions, pointing out that he had criticized China while in Bangkok and that “China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Bush’s words were unacceptable interference in China’s internal affairs.”

But it concluded, “It is very important for national leaders to build good mutual friendships, although one cannot equate personal friendships with supporting all policies made by other leaders.”

To China, it is clear, Bush is a friend.

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based journalist and commentator ( Frank.ching at


Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008

Did Koizumi and Bush really destroy Japan?

By ERIC JOHNSTON,The Japan Times online, September 28, 2008 – a Book Review.…

CURING JAPAN’S AMERICA ADDICTION by Minoru Morita, Chin Music Press, Seattle, 2008,                                           224 pp.,         $15 (paper).

Minoru Morita is one of Japan’s most prominent and respected political analysts. And he’s mad as hell at what he believes are the social and economic crimes committed by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush against the Japanese people since 2001.

Morita’s list of complaints ranges from Koizumi’s economic revolution, which, he asserts, was manipulated by the Bush administration, to U.S. pressure on Japan to change it’s Constitution in accordance with America’s “global war strategy.”

Angered by the 2005 agreement to realign U.S. bases in Japan, Morita became an activist and worked to get former Iwakuni Mayor Katsusuke Ihara, who opposed the agreement, re-elected this past February. Ihara was narrowly defeated by pro-base candidate Yoshihiko Fukuda.

In a chapter entitled “The Battle for Iwakuni City,” Morita recounts his experience with a mayoral campaign marked by fear. As a reporter who covered the election, I can confirm some of what Morita asserts, including his claim that Fukuda’s supporters worked hard to convince voters that if Iwakuni didn’t accept the base plan and the central government subsidies that came with it, the city would go bankrupt like Yubari in Hokkaido.

Morita also rails against Koizumi for pursuing a Washington-supported neoliberal economic policy that benefited wealthy urbanites and bankrupted almost everybody else. The fact that “anti-reform” Taro Aso is now highly popular in prefectures where Koizumi’s reforms are not viewed positively is proof there is, indeed, a backlash of sorts going on against the policies of Koizumi.


So what’s Morita’s solution to the problems? In a chapter entitled “The Source of Our Suffering,” he offers six remedies.

First, on a global level, the United States should admit its wars are the source of the world’s current problems.

Second, in Japan, politicians must free themselves from the bureaucrats who are running the country.

Third, voters must demand a return to a vibrant parliamentary Cabinet system free from dominance by the bureaucrats.

Fourth, it’s time to ditch the U.S.-supported economic reforms championed by Koizumi, especially his hostility to funding public works projects like water lines and gasworks.

Fifth, and more than somewhat oddly, Morita calls for more investment and support for Japan’s sewage treatment firms, which he says can also provide technology to developing nations and help curb their greenhouse gases.

And finally, Sixth, he says, the entire world needs to follow the suggestions of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in his 2007 “An Inconvenient Truth,” and reject the environmental policies and war aims of the Bush administration.


The allegation that Bush and Koizumi have destroyed Japan will come as a shock to those who have been told by media and policy wonks these past seven years that relations between Japan and the U.S. have never been better. Morita’s charge that Koizumi’s economic policies have destroyed Japan may also come as a surprise to those in Tokyo who are isolated from the Japan outside the Yamanote line and see only conspicuous consumption at Michelin-rated restaurants and five-star hotels.

But Morita, unlike many political analysts in Tokyo or certain foreign “experts” on Japanese politics in New York and Washington who simply parrot each other’s views, has a deep understanding of the realities beyond the nation’s capital. Giving nearly 300 lectures a year throughout Japan, his contacts among not only Diet members but also politicians at the prefectural and local government level are second to none.

Of course, Morita’s assertions may strike many readers as overheated conspiracy theories or hyperbole, lacking the necessary proof to be taken seriously. Such charges, while not necessarily invalid, miss or purposely ignore the far more important point of the book. Anybody who lives in Japan and has spent a fair amount of time with Japanese politicians of all stripes will recognize Morita’s complaints, and realize they often echo the thoughts of many Japanese in and out of politics.

In “Curing Japan’s America Addiction,” Morita says publicly what a lot of Japanese think and say privately, in sharp contrast to whatever pleasantries they offer at cocktail parties with foreign diplomats and policy wonks, or in speeches they give abroad. For that reason, “Curing Japan’s America Addiction” deserves to be read by anybody tired of the Orwellian doublespeak coming out of Washington and Tokyo and interested in an alternative, very contrarian view on contemporary Japan, a view far more prominent among Japanese than certain policy wonks and academic specialists on Japan-U.S. relations want to admit.


Posted on on August 22nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

From:  media at
Subject: Release: global Olympic handshake to reach Beijing
Date: August 22, 2008

The August 23, 2008 – PRESS RELEASE – Will Appear In the International Herald Tribune and China’s Ming Pao, on the Day of The Beijing Olympics’ Closing. It Willl Say – Love China / Love Tibet / Love Burma / Love Darfur – and Will Promote Human Rights For China – a Hanshake to the World.


A virtual global handshake will land in Beijing tomorrow ahead of the Olympic Closing Ceremony.

Since the beginning of the Olympics, has taken actions worldwide to promote a dual message of friendship with China and the need for renewed dialogue and action on human rights post Olympics. Aside from the handshake website, they have launched a sister website in China, and have run an ad campaign which has made a splash in London, New York, Hong Kong, San Francisco and Sydney using print media, adwalkers, and mobile billboards to carry the message Love China / Love Tibet / Love Burma / Love Darfur. You can see images of these ads at

To culminate the campaign, this weekend, has taken out an advertisement in Saturday’s International Herald Tribune and China’s Ming Pao to deliver the handshake to the world.

“Some in China have slandered human rights activism as violent and anti-Chinese. Our handshake campaign is an attempt to reach out to Chinese people and show that our call is for peaceful and respectful dialogue”, said Avaaz Executive Director Ricken Patel.

However, Avaaz is concerned that the end of the Olympics may herald an era of further oppression.

“People around the world are concerned that the Olympics are coming to a close without any changes in Chinese policy on Tibet, Burma or Darfur — will things get better or worse?” said Patel.


The global handshake petition reads:

“With this handshake, we reach out to one another as citizens round the world in the Olympic spirit of friendship and excellence, committing to hold all our governments to a higher standard of peace, justice and respect for human dignity wherever they fall short – be it in Tibet, Iraq, Burma or beyond. Dialogue is the best way forward, for China, and the world.”
For more information, see



Ricken Patel, Executive Director,  ricken at, +1 646 229 5416
Brett Solomon, Campaign Director,  brett at, +61 407 419 320


Avaaz is a global web movement with over 3.3 million members worldwide, working to ensure that the views and values of people everywhere inform global decision-making. Avaaz means “voice” in many languages.


Posted on on August 9th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Coincidentally, I started to read yesterday morning a new book by Dmitry Orlov titled – “Reinventing Collapse.” The book was released by New Society Publishers and was sent to me by Perseus Distribution of Jackson Tennessee.

Dmitry Orlov was born and grew up in Leningrad, and came first to the US in 1985 and after 10 years started going back and forth so he says – hehasbecome a witness to the changes in Russia.

Orlow is an engineer who worked in high-energy Physics and in Internet Security. He came under our cross-hairs when it turned out that he is also a leading Peak Oil theorist. But this is not why I am mentioning him today. The reason is much deeper then that.

Dmitry Orlov writes that when he came back to the US in 1996, after a longer stay in Russia where he just got married, but also said that at the time he started to understand the reasons why the Soviet Union collapsed – and horror – he started to see that the US had already at that time all the symptoms of the same disease that did in the Soviet Union. He writes that he came back with his wife to make for themselves a new life in the US, but he also started to write about his insights that made him see that the second shoe will drop eventually – that is the US after the Soviet Union – two very different States – but nevertheless two States with similar destinies because they suffer from very similar malaise.

His description of the ingredients of a super-power collapse are as follows: (a) A severe and chronic shortfall in the production of crude oil; (b) A severe and worsening trade deficit, (c) A runaway military budget and (d) Ballooning foreign debt. When such a soup starts boiling, then “the heat and agitation” are provided by (e) a fear of a humiliating military defeat, and (f) wide spread fear of a looming catastrophe.

He looks then at all of those ingredients that existed in the Soviet collapse – that was an internal collapse – an implosion I would say. He laughs at the thought that it was caused by outside influences, stemming from the actions of the US, except for the fact that the Soviets fell for the arms race of the “star-wars” competition that caused them further exhaustion. On the other hand, he sees all these ingredients in the present state of the US, and he watched these aspects grow during the last decade.

Orlov looks at Chernobyl as the backdrop of catastrophe that sent off the Soviet Union, and sees the need of oil in order to grow food in the US – at the tune of ten calories of fossil fuels to produce one calorie of food – this, and runaway foreign foreign debt, leading to the decrease in credibility of US monetary instruments – killer hurricanes and global climate upheaval – become the US fear of catastrophe. The eventual reason for the drop of the second shoe.

I only mention here these morning thoughts – I will be getting back to this book later and write a book review. Now I intend to touch on another incomplete activity I found myself involved in yesterday.


This was a “Pre-Concert Discussion” of the “Mostly Mozart” Lincoln Center Festival presentation of “REQUIEM.” Yesterday was the US premiere, but I will be seeing the show only tonight. All what I did was to sit in at the discussion between the Festival’s Director Peter Sellars, and Lemi Ponifasio, a Samoan living in Auckland, New Zealand, who is the Director/Choreographer/Designer of this Requiem.

Again, this writing of mine is a half backed attempt, and not yet a finished review of the show. This will come later. But now what I want to say here is that all such words as “Director,” “Choreographer,” “Designer,” “Show,””Review,” were actually knocked out of my head last evening, because I realized that we really are totally incapable of understanding the mind of those that do not think like us. Interesting, Peter Sellars, remarked in a even larger context – “in our age – the commentator on the Op-Ed page presumes to understand everything – we will see that it is not as simple as that.”

My mention of Orlov’s look at history showed me how trite it is to think that the US led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that the US is safe because it thinks of itself as a democracy. Now, Lemi, and the movement of MAU in Samoa, and his troupe, that adopted the MAU name for their collective, are really no actors at all, according to how they see themselves. In effect they will be involved in CEREMONIES that come to them naturally – something that is not just a CELEBRATION – and this requiem is not a memorial for the dead – this because they are not dead at all – they are here with them – so it is as if there were a communal living with these unseen members of the community present. We will look in a future review at this as a “Requiem to Requiem” where the idea of a Requiem, in the second time it is mentioned in this comment, becomes sort of a synonim to culture, life, an island, an environment. Then the first mention of Requiem in the remark is the more accepted meaning. MAU is the name of the Samoan independence movement that took on the Germans, French, Dutch, and British. The meaning is Vision or Revolution. The activities of the MAU troupe serve “to energize dialogue and revive local oriented histories, arts, thought, languages, and narratives that have been silenced or excluded.”

In those Pacific Islands a house is not a home where you close in your belongings like in a storage – their concept is that this is a space for life and all are invited. There is always a standing pole in their culture – this pole gives you sort of a vertical feel of space and you and all your ancestors reside there. We will see that eventually this home without walls becomes the whole island and its sufferings.

To be true to our website, I will add that Lemi and Peter also touched on the problems of global warming that threaten the demise of cultures like Kiribas (Kiribati). So, will we someday have to try our own hand at this kind of Requiem when remembering the independent indigenous cultures of these Small Islands Independent States of today – the SIDS of the Pacific?

This is the extent of how far I am ready to go here.


Now, with the above two snippets, in my head, let me say that I sat down before my TV set to watch the NBC, Channel 4, reporting from Beijing, that was handled by NBC as if it was just an excuse to sell us ExxonMobil trying to sell us that they take on “the largest energy challenges of the World.” I was amazed when after that an NBC journalist actually added “while you watched the advertisements China advanced several hundred years in its history.” I hope they will not fire him for this remark.

GE spoke of biogas technology and that was fine, but Chevy Silver was trying to impress us with their miserable 20 mpg technology. Oh! Yes – we also saw John McCain bashing Obama in the campaign well paid advertisement – and we thought that at least this night we can forget about the US Presidential non-debate.

This Chinese Coming-Out event was all about HARMONY. We watched the Tai-Chi performers and were told of Harmony between Man & Nature as the only chance for Sustainable Development for China and the rest of the World for next generation – and we said AMEN. When this is resolved there will be prosperity and environmentalism.

You do not have to be naive and embrace China’s government, or take for granted the smiles on the faces of all the participating dancers and musicians. It was too uniform and large to be taken at face value – but there was enough there to say that it was an honest attempt to say – look – we suffered in our history from what others did to us – but we are a sleeping giant that is now showing – yes – we can and we will.

China showed us that they are much closer to the MAU mentality now then they are to their previous MAO mentality. Yes, the legions of dancers and musicians were militarily trained. Their performance perfect, thus in some way threatening, but the content of their show was so we appreciate what they have given to the world – ink and paper for those believing in the needs of the press, and the compass for those in search of direction. Navigation is the means of communication with the great world, and they had their own naval chiefs of the caliber of a Christopher Columbus.

These performers did not hate us – they CELEBRATED their return to the world stage, and this was their CEREMONY. After this show, China and us will never be the same. Just think of the fact that they reminded us that there were days China had the highest GNP in the world. We saw some of their ghosts, and we saw some of our ghosts. We saw Confucius, and yes, we remembered how it was members of the Atlantic community that committed them to opium enslavement. It was not said – but I knew it was somewhere there in that huge mat, center stage, on the floor of the stadium.

Money is no problem, they bought the best architectural minds to work with their own best, and created the greatest venue for a global event. Pity that parts of the show were missed by us because of the commercialism of US TV world.

We saw how some foreign leaders, like Putin, that did not smile, President Bush looked at his watch, we wondered why President Peres of Israel, who is secular, had to make the gesture of going on foot back to his hotel because of the Sabbath, but then these were not China’s problems that day.

OK, now, I finished the Friday events. On Saturday morning I rushed to pickup the papers.

The opening of the Olympics was really not the main set of news. That debatable honor went to Russia’s attack inside Georgia, and to the John Edwards attack on the US political system by having endangered the Democratic Party’s chances for meaningful change in Washington.

I really have little to say about Edward’s male infidelity – that should have been left to be solved between him and his wife, but we know that this is not US reality. Such events can sink the US, as it happened in the Bill Clinton days. Clinton’s Presidency was decreased in potency, to the detriment of the American Nation, by some self appointed ethical judges who, as we know by now, some of them had much worse transgressions in their closets. What the US does not have is that vertical space the man from Samoa was talking about. There is no ceremonial thinking in our system – only raw hunt after the culprit who may have sinned much less then we did. And when the US is in decline, while China is on the rise – now we have things to think about – not so? And don’t forget – China holds the strings to the US treasury and Orlov made his unforgivable observations.

As for the second news of the day – Putin moving on Georgia – that is tough for the Georgians but again, Putin is back in the oil-saddle and is flush with money too. In effect, we believe that he came to Beijing not as a teacher, but now he comes to Beijing as a student. He has learned from the Chinese that if you put your economy in better shape, outsiders and your own people as well, will criticize you less on human rights and other transgressions. He did not smile on TV, and he knows what his intent is now.

So, what does Dmitry Orlov think of the opening of the Olympics and the near certainty that China will take over the Super-power manttle after the drop of what he described as the second shoe?

Then, to remind us that change may not be as smooth as some may hope for, two American Olympic tourists were just stabbed while visiting the Drum Tower in the center of Beijing – reasons yet unknown.






Posted on on August 2nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Despite Flaws, Rights in China Have Expanded.

Published: August 2, 2008, The New York Times.

SHANGHAI — For the past two decades, China’s people became richer but not much freer, and the Communist Party has staked its future on their willingness to live with that tradeoff.

That, at least, is the conventional wisdom. But as the Olympic Games approach, training a spotlight on China’s rights record, that view obscures a more complex reality: political change, however gradual and inconsistent, has made China a significantly more open place for average people than it was a generation ago.

Much remains unfree here. The rights of public expression and assembly are sharply limited; minorities, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang Province, are repressed; and the party exercises a nearly complete monopoly on political decision making.

On The Way To The Olympics – Other NYT Articles:
China’s Leader Meets the Press, but Only on His Country’s Very Narrow Terms (August 2, 2008)
Olympic Organizers to Weigh Unblocking More Web Sites (August 2, 2008)

But Chinese people also increasingly live where they want to live. They travel abroad in ever larger numbers. Property rights have found broader support in the courts. Within well-defined limits, people also enjoy the fruits of the technological revolution, from cellphones to the Internet, and can communicate or find information with an ease that has few parallels in authoritarian countries of the past.

“Some people will tell you, look at the walls, and say they are still pretty high, while others will tell you that there is a lot of space between the walls,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a China specialist at Human Rights Watch. “Both things are true.”

New flexibility in rules that dictate where people live has allowed Song Daqing to escape poverty in Sichuan to sell vegetables in Shanghai.

Chinese who try to challenge the one-party state directly say authorities are no more tolerant of dissent than they were in the 1980s, and in some cases they are tougher on citizen-led campaigns to enforce legal rights or stop environmental abuses.

On the other hand, the definition of what constitutes a political challenge has changed. Individuals are far less likely to run afoul of a system that no longer demands conformity in political views or personal lifestyles.

The shift toward a more diverse society helps explain some anomalies in perceptions of life inside China. Amnesty International, the human rights group, reported this week that the rights situation had deteriorated significantly in the months before the Olympics despite China’s pledges to improve its record as a condition for hosting the games.

But a survey conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project this spring and issued last month found that an astounding 86 percent of Chinese said they were content with their country’s direction, double the percentage who said the same thing in 2002. Only 23 percent of Americans polled in the survey said they were satisfied with their country’s direction.

The speeches of China’s leaders, with their gray imagery and paternalistic phrasings, have changed relatively little, emphasizing unity, harmony and economic growth under party rule. The reality on the ground, though, has been transformed, partly because a more dynamic economy necessitates a more dynamic society, partly because money gives people options they did not have when they were poor.

Arguably the most dramatic change in the freedoms enjoyed by most Chinese has been the gradual erosion of a population registration system that tied people to their places of birth, preventing internal migration or, at its height, even tourism.

China has not formally abandoned the system, known as hukou, and it can still prove a nuisance. But as hundreds of millions of people have moved from the inland provinces to wealthier coastal cities in search of economic opportunity, authorities in one place after another have found themselves making concessions to this new reality.

Song Daqing, who lives in a single-room home here with his wife and three children, counts himself as a beneficiary of these changes. Born into poverty in Sichuan Province, he worked as a cattle herder, bricklayer and coal miner, earning as little as 60 cents a day before coming to Shanghai in 1998. His early years in this city were marked by frequent mass roundups of migrants by the police, and he was twice held in crowded detention centers before being expelled from the city.

“Now we all have residence permits,” said Mr. Song, who supports his family by selling vegetables. “The police don’t check our paperwork anymore, and even if they found you without a permit, they won’t arrest you, but rather would suggest you get one as soon as possible.”

Reality Trumps Ideology:

The relative flexibility the government has shown in allowing this to happen is more a matter of pragmatism than any overt ideological shift, a grudging concession to economic reality.

“China’s economic development relies on the flow of migrants into cities,” said Wei Wei, the founder of Little Bird, an organization that runs a special phone line to help migrant workers protect their rights. “The country’s growth depends on it.”

Little Bird itself is an example of incremental openness. It is a nongovernmental organization, one of thousands addressing social, economic and environmental issues that the party once insisted it could handle by itself. The leeway private groups have to influence public policy is still limited. Those that cross unwritten lines into political opposition often are shut down.

But China’s bureaucracy is more contentious than it was under Mao. Policy advocates within the government — including officials representing weak bureaucracies, like those charged with fighting pollution, improving education and broadening women’s rights — often seek popular support to increase their clout.

A recent example involved a revision of a law covering rights for the handicapped, which the government undertook after several organizations banded together in 2004 to advocate change on the issue. The activists also contacted Chinese legislators and provided a report to the official Chinese Disabled Person’s Federation.

The government never publicly acknowledged the citizens’ action, but a revised law incorporating some of their recommendations was enacted earlier this year. “The pressure came from both inside and outside,” said Wu Runling, director of the Beijing Huitianyu Information Consulting Center, one of the groups involved. “You can’t tell me that our appeal and calls for revision of the law had no meaning at all.”

Although a powerful system of censorship remains a fact of life, and journalists are frequently jailed and detained, feisty publications with mass audiences in print and on the Internet report forthrightly about ills in society.

Greater access to information has emboldened people to assert some rights. Homeowners in cities like Shanghai and Chongqing have resisted government development schemes with some success, and the proliferation of petitioners with all kinds of grievances presents the authorities with an informal check on their power.

“After 30 years, everybody knows about democracy and freedom,” said Wang Xiaodong, a researcher at the China Youth Research Center, a wing of the Communist Youth League. “They know that as taxpayers, we support the government, not the opposite.”

Before the Olympics, Beijing demolished a favorite pilgrimage spot for petitioners who flow to the capital from all over the country to seek redress from perceived injustice. According to a recent report in a Hong Kong magazine, Phoenix Weekly, the government has also hired thugs to intimidate or kidnap petitioners to prevent them from making their cases. Critics of such abuses say that in an indirect way, the state is acknowledging the power of such protest.

“Human rights has become more than just a theory for the public,” said Jiang Qisheng, a student leader during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and former political prisoner. “In the past they petitioned and complained about injustice, but that wasn’t about defending their rights. They let the higher authorities to decide their rights.

“What they are asking for now is a change in the system, and this reflects a widespread change in attitude,” he said.

Even in the best of times, China’s human rights improvements have been so gradual as to be almost impossible to discern in any month-to-month sense. And in the tense environment before the Olympics, which China fears could invite uncontrollable protests or blemish its international image, the climate has become noticeably more restrictive.

Lawyers have been sternly warned not to represent clients involved in delicate political cases. Tibetans and Uighur Muslims have been subjected to arrests and “re-education” campaigns.

Hu Jia, a Beijing-based political activist who campaigned for years on behalf of AIDS patients and for greater political openness, was arrested late last year and sentenced to three and a half years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.” Many other dissidents have been warned to stay away from Beijing, or have seen state surveillance and harassment extended to their family members.

The government relies on unwritten laws: political confrontation with the ruling party remains a no-go area, and state stability trumps nascent notions of human rights.
Blogs Subvert Propaganda:

Yet even as the police tightened security before the Games, the power of new information technologies to chip away at the official line was still on display. In a poor county in Guizhou Province in the south, a teenage girl died under mysterious circumstances, and rumors of police malfeasance and a cover-up spread widely on the Internet, prompting public protests to demand a new investigation.

Local authorities initially tried to suppress news of the protests, which turned violent, and impose an official account of events there. But people wielding video cameras uploaded material to YouTube, and some Chinese journalists disputed official accounts that the riots had been put down peacefully.

One of them was Wu Hanpin, a radio reporter who took pictures of the riot. They showed that the police had fired rubber bullets and teenagers in detention whose bruised foreheads suggested beatings.

“I saw a gap between the official story and the reality, which was mind-blowing, like the presence of the armed police,” Mr. Wu said. “So I put some of these things on the Internet, on my personal blog.” Four days later, after registering hundreds of thousands of visitors, his blog was closed by censors.

“The media has made a huge step forward from the ’80s,” said Sun Jinping, a veteran senior editor at a Beijing newspaper. The riot in Guizhou Province, he said, “would have been impossible for the public to know about in the past.”

A View of the Outside:

For others, the impact of information about other countries has been just as great. He Weifang, a professor of law at Peking University, said that before the economic reform era began in 1979, the country was much like North Korea, where people were indoctrinated to believe that Chinese were the better off than people anywhere else.

“Today, even the farmers in remote areas have satellite TVs,” Mr. He said. “So whenever they see an election, such as the one held in Pakistan recently, they may wonder why, even though we have approximately the same economic conditions, they can elect their top leaders, and we can’t even vote for the leader of a small county. I think a consciousness of political rights has increased more than anything.”

Even China’s party-run legal system is a fulcrum for experimentation, though in an ambiguous way that highlights the uncertainties in the country’s transition.

Judges do not have the power to rule independently in China. Yet the country now has 165,000 registered lawyers, a five-fold increase since 1990, and average people have hired them to press for enforcement of rights inscribed in the Chinese Constitution. The courts today sometimes defend property rights and business contracts even when powerful state interests are on the other side.

In criminal law, progress is more grudging. Yan Ruyu, a former Beijing police officer who quit the force and became a lawyer after the violent crackdown on protesters at Tiananmen Square, said such cases remained unpopular with most lawyers because the likelihood of prevailing over the state remains so slim.

“There has been progress, but it’s so slow that sometimes one becomes pessimistic,” he said. “It’s empty talk to speak of having an independent judiciary if the party leads everything.”

On the other hand, Mr. Yan says, party control turns every criminal case into a human rights case. That gives every criminal defense lawyer the chance — and for some of them, the incentive — to inch the system forward.

Li Zhen contributed research from Beijing, and Fan Wenxin and Zhong Zijuan from Shanghai.


Posted on on July 30th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Hong Kong Chokes in Pollution as Horses Arrive.

CHINA: July 30, 2008, Reuters.

HONG KONG – Hong Kong choked in a thick, hot blanket of air pollution on Tuesday, July 29, 2008, with the city gearing up to host Olympic equestrian events, prompting one leading riding nation, Germany, to bemoan the less than ideal conditions.

With the first equestrian horses having arrived over the weekend and settling into their stables, the exceptionally smoggy weather threatened embarrassment for Hong Kong which has spent US$150 million building state-of-the-art facilities and been at pains to play down the risk posed from sub-tropical heat and humidity.

On Monday, the city recorded its highest ever air pollution index (API) reading of 202 on a remote island for a brief period, while in Shatin, where the core Olympics events will be held, the level hit 173 with the general public advised to reduce physical exertion and outdoor activities.

The top-ranked German equestrian team which flew all 14 of their Olympics horses to Hong Kong over the weekend said the poor weather conditions in the former British colony weren’t ideal and a far cry from the usual pristine environment of European events.

“I think it’s very difficult for the horses and for the riders too, they have to acclimatise,” said Reinhard Wendt, the chef de mission for the German equestrian team which includes gold medal contenders Isabell Werth and Ludger Beerbaum.

“We can see how the horses and riders feel. But we don’t know if it’s from the heat or the humidity or the dirty air. We are not used to such circumstances, and the feeling is not so good at the moment,” Wendt told Reuters.

Others teams played down the impact.

“We have no concerns,” Dutch chef d’equipe Mariette Sanders told Reuters. “Okay, it was quite hazy yesterday but there were no problems for us.”

At the Shatin equestrian hub, the air pollution index had dropped substantially from the high reading on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Equestrian Company which is organising the equine events said in a statement that “the condition of all the horses was being very carefully monitored and there was no cause for alarm concerning the horses’ welfare”.

The spike in pollution comes amid a bout of unusually hot and fine sub-tropical weather. Concerns over the summer heat and humidity however sparked the earlier pullout the Swiss dressage team.

Despite intensified government efforts to clean up the smog in recent years which have yielded some results, air pollution has remained a serious problem, with the city’s iconic harbour and top tourist destination cloaked in a thick haze this week.


BEIJING – Beijing authorities said sauna-like weather trapping hazy pollution in the Olympic host city will not last throughout the Games, state media reported on Tuesday, as organisers consider more pollution controls.

The Chinese capital’s skies remained grey on Tuesday morning, but a breeze overnight had scattered some of the sultry haze that has Olympic organisers worried the city’s restrictions on vehicles and industry have not done enough to staunch pollution.
Officials have raised the prospect of more pollution controls, in addition to ones now keeping nearly half of Beijing’s 3.3 million cars off the roads and shutting many factories and plants near the capital.

But Guo Wenli, the director of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau’s climate centre, told the overseas edition of the People’s Daily that historic weather patterns showed that the “sauna” weather conditions of July will not last throughout the Games starting on Aug. 8.

“During the Beijing Olympics, the weather won’t be the worst compared to the same period historically, and there won’t occur the kind of sustained ‘sauna fog’ of late,” Guo told the paper.

The Beijing Meteorological Bureau forecast a light breeze and possible showers on Tuesday, conditions that it said should help lighten the haze.

The city’s chronic pollution, a sometimes acrid mix of construction dust, vehicle exhaust and factory and power plant fumes, has been one of the biggest worries for Games organisers.

Many athletes have delayed arriving in Beijing until the last minute to avoid bad air, and the International Olympic Committee said it may reschedule endurance events such as the marathon to prevent health risks to athletes if pollution is bad.

City pollution monitors said air quality on Monday was Grade II, making it officially a “blue sky day” despite the grey haze, with the main pollutant being particulate matter.

But officials have also flagged additional pollution controls if the air remains too dirty.

Cars in Beijing are already banned from roads on alternate days depending on their licence plate number — odd or even — and many government cars have been ordered off the roads. Taxis, buses and Olympic vehicles are exempt. Around Beijing, heavily polluting factories, such as steel plants, have also been closed.

Hong Kong, host to the Games’ equestrian events, was hit by its worst air pollution ever recorded on Monday amid soaring temperatures, but arriving Canadian team leader Michael Gallagher said he had no concerns.

“We have noticed the haze,” he told the South China Morning Post. “But it’s not black like it is in Beijing.”

Reporting by Chris Buckley and Nick Macfie in Hong Kong.

For more stories visit our multimedia website “Road to Beijing” at…; and see Reuters blog at


Posted on on July 14th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Israeli company to build sea wave power plants in China.

Israeli company S.D.E. Energy, developer of an innovative technology for generating electricity from sea waves, has signed an agreement for selling sea wave power plants in China for an undisclosed sum.

Construction of the power plants will be financed by investors from Hong Kong and China. Two joint venture companies, formed in Hong Kong for the purpose of the agreement by S.D.E. and its investors, will build an initial model in Guangzhou province in southern China. Should the model prove to be successful, it will launch the establishment of sea wave power plants throughout China.

The S.D.E. process is subject to the approval of the government of China, which it intends to target as the sole customer for the electricity generated.

Electricity shortages in China are worsening every day and current energy sources are problematic: fossil fuels increase the country’s already intolerable levels of air and environmental pollution; nuclear power plants and hydroelectric stations are highly susceptible to earthquake damage; typhoons make building wind farms extremely difficult, and solar systems are costly.

With prices of crude oil rising fast, there is new interest in alternative sources of energy, and the idea of generating power from sea waves is becoming increasingly attractive, according to S.D.E.

The Tel Aviv company’s system produces renewable and clean energy from sea waves, which it claims have the potential to supply four times more energy per square meter than wind power. The system’s advantages are high efficiency, ability to modulate energy storage capabilities, and relatively low cost for construction and generation of electricity.

According to S.D.E., the cost of erecting a one megawatt wave power station starts at $650,000, compared with $900,000 for a similarly-sized natural gas station; $1.5 million for a coal-fired or wind-powered station; and $3 million for a solar power station.

US investors have taken note of S.D.E.’s advances, managing director Shmuel Ovadia told ISRAEL21c. “We’re currently in talks to raise $100 million from US investors, and we’re negotiating building a 30 MW sea wave power plant in San Francisco at a cost of $20 million.”

The first commercial, full-scale model of the system, capable of generating 40 electrical kilowatts (eKW) has been working successfully for a year and is located at the Jaffa Port in Tel Aviv-Yafo.


Posted on on July 1st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Foreign reporters covering G8 face harassment: media group

By JUN HONGO Staff writer, The Japan Times online.

When Chu Hoi Dick arrived at Narita International Airport last Thursday to cover events related to next week’s Group of Eight summit in Toyako, Hokkaido, he never imagined it would take nearly 20 hours to clear Immigration and set foot on Japanese soil.

“We were taken to an Immigration facility to stay overnight,” Choi, a Hong Kong-based journalist from a small media outlet, told reporters Monday during a news conference in Tokyo. Choi, who has no criminal record, was not permitted to make any phone calls and was denied access to his personal belongings.

Interrogated by Immigration officials, Choi was asked about his past involvement in demonstrations. At one point he was “threatened” by an official, who wanted him to pay $200 to stay overnight at the Immigration facility. He received no food until he paid for his own lunch the next day.

When they released him Friday afternoon, Immigration officials “said thank you very much for your cooperation” but gave no explanation for the detainment, Choi said.

The G8 Media Network, a Japan-based group of journalists from grassroots media outlets, said six people involved with its summit-related events have been wrongfully held and questioned by Immigration officials.

The relentless grilling of journalists and political activists entering Japan constitutes a threat to freedom of expression, the group said.

“This is suppression of freedom of thought and expression,” said Go Hirasawa, a representative of the group. “This is harassment (of journalists).”

Another journalist who was detained for 11 hours after arriving in Tokyo on Friday said she was asked to hand over a detailed itinerary and account for every hour of her stay in Japan. She told The Japan Times that she has no criminal record that would justify the detainment.

The journalist, who asked to remain anonymous, said that attempts by the government to censor journalists are “symptomatic of the G8,” as voices around the world are being silenced while a handful of nations maintain their authority over global issues.

“Those of us who report the stories are silenced” as well, she said. The network of journalists condemned the detainment of so many reporters and activists as unreasonable, calling the practice “a violation of human rights.”

The group said it filed a request with authorities including the Justice Ministry and the National Police Agency demanding that journalists from smaller media outlets be treated properly when arriving in Japan.


Posted on on June 18th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

From:      mweldon at

Hong Kong-based public policy think tank Civic Exchange has released a new report –
Green Harbours: Hong Kong and Shenzhen – Reducing Marine & Port-Related Emissions

This report, which was based on extensive consultation with stakeholders from both government and the private sector, highlights the fact that many private sector port operators and ship-owners have already taken voluntary measures to improve environmental performance, and are willing to do more. However, there is a need for the Government to create a level playing field for all, so that slow implementers do not reap competitive advantage from non-action. The report also outlines case studies of best practice from European and US ports and proposes a framework for the Governments of Hong Kong and Shenzhen to take the lead in setting strategies for emissions reductions.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the Civic Exchange website:…

A copy of the presentation can also be found on the website at :…

Related reports

Marine Emission Reduction Options for Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta Region…

A Price too High: Health Impacts of Air Pollution in South China…

Lessons for Hong Kong: Air Quality Management in London and Los Angeles…

Apologies for cross posting

Civic Exchange is a non-profit public policy think tank based in Hong Kong that helps to improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. If you would like or further information on Civic Exchange’s ongoing and planned research programmes, please do not hesitate to contact our new Environmental Programme Manger Mike Kilburn ( mkilburn at or visit our website at


Posted on on June 11th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

A Price Too High:       Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Southern China.

Hong Kong-based think tank Civic Exchange, the Department of Community Medicine, School of Public Health of Hong Kong University; the Department of Community and Family Medicine, School of Public Health of Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Institute for the Environment of the University of Hong Kong for Science & Technology   are pleased to announce the release a groundbreaking study today entitled A Price Too High – Health Impacts of Air Pollution in southern China.

Using 2006 air quality data, the number of premature deaths estimated at 10,000 in Hong Kong, Macao and the Pearl River Delta can be avoided. At current levels, the pollution is also   responsible for 440,000 annual hospital bed-days, and 11 million annual outpatient visits throughout the region. These are very large numbers exacting a heavy cost on the citizens in the region.

The research also shows there has not been sufficient local and regional air pollution and public health research to track the effectiveness of policies, and assist the authorities to formulate the best policies to reduce pollution. In the past 25 years only 147 such reports have been conducted for all of mainland China, with only 37 of those concerned with southern China.

With the East Asian and Asian Games coming to Hong Kong and Guangzhou in 2009 and 2010 respectively, the report outlines clear opportunities for positive collaboration to reduce emissions and improve public health.

Full report and presentation are available on Civic Exchange website:
Full Report:…

Full literature review and supplementary report:……

Civic Exchange is a non-profit public policy think tank based in Hong Kong that helps to improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. For more information about Civic Exchange, please visit  

Michele Weldon
Environmental Programme Manager
Civic Exchange
Room 701, Hoseinee House, 69 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
tel                         2893 0213
email                  mweldon at


Posted on on May 24th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (



Melaka’s modern history began in 1403 with the arrival of Parameswara, an exiled Hindu Prince from the Kingdom of Sri Vijaya on Sumatra Island.
He embraced Islam under the title Raja Iskandar and started the Sultanate of Melaka that evolved into a vibrant maritime trading center.

The Portuguese, led by Alfonso d’Albuquerque conquered Melaka in 1511 and held it for 130 years until it was taken over by the Dutch in 1641 who ruled
for 154 years until 1824 when it was taken over by the British.   Malaysia’s independence in was 1957. The Japanese ruled during the 1942 – 1945 years.

In addition to the obvious Portuguese, Dutch, and British influences, actually the main influence was that of the Chinese and Indians who ran the economy of Melaka.

Here we will deal with the so called “Straits Chinese” or “Pernakan.”   They are the “Baba-Nyonyas.” There are no Babas and Nyonyas, though a myth is being created
that made outsiders believe that the babas are the males and the nyonyas the females, while others think it the other way. In short – we were surprised to find that even
part of the publicity for the UN Delegates’ Dining Room special two weeks, included this inaccuracy.



The straits of Melaka, between the Malay Peninsula and the long Sumatra Island is one of the busiest sea lanes through which today pass oil tankers, but even now, the straights are infested by pirates.
The Melaka city was thus an important fort in the colonial days, and still an important commercial center run in major part by the Nyonyas of today. Part of the Nyonyas and the Indians left Malaysia at a
time the Mahatir government took highly Malay ethnic nationalistic stand and tried to displace the Chinese and Indians from their positions. A Pernakan community exists now in New York and some
from that community came to eat at the UN. Three ladies sat at a neighboring table.

As the event was basically a really high caliber culinary event, I enjoyed immensely Chef Ismail Muhammad, who is something of a celebrity chef in Kuala Lumpur, run me through the ethnic background
of the food. I am thus happy to report that I ate spicy Malay meet, Portuguese inspired fish and Indian inspired curry-chicken, also a Chinese excellent vegetarian dish. There were terrific noodle dishes
and a desert   table that had sweets and not-so sweet works of art.

Now, what did I celebrate there personally – this is simple. I was in Melaka twice, in two separate visits to Malaysia. The fist time it was in 1987 when I went to investigate the smoke that was supposed
to have been caused by the Indonesian fires on Borneo island. I went then to see by myself the situation in Melaka and was convinced, that though highly polluted from the motor vehicular transportation,
Melaka suffered much less then Kuala Lumpur – this because the winds from the sea were able to dissipate some of the pollution – so I knew that the haze was not of Sumatra origin. In effect, probably,
Sumatra was getting Malaysian pollution and not the other way around.



Posted on on May 23rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Asia’s rise befalls the West.

By FRANK CHING from Hong Kong,   Friday, May 23, 2008 — “When many Western observers look at China,” the former Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani writes in his latest book, “The New Asian Hemisphere,” “they cannot see beyond the lack of a democratic political system. They miss the massive democratization of the human spirit that is taking place in China.”

At a time when the Chinese people have mobilized themselves to cope with the May 12 earthquake, with untold numbers volunteering to give blood, to donate money and to actually travel to devastated towns and villages to help the afflicted, it is easy to see the country’s current vibrancy. There is a new spirit abroad, different from that before Deng Xiaoping launched the country on the road of reform and openness 30 years ago.

This book is full of insights — and contradictions.

Mahbubani praises the West for Asia’s development. Asian countries progressed, he says, because they implemented seven pillars of Western wisdom: free market economics, meritocracy, pragmatism, a culture of peace, the rule of law, an emphasis on education, and a willingness to pursue advances in science and technology.

But while he says the United States has done more good for the world than any other country, he calls it an international outlaw who refuses to be bound by “the constraints of international law.”

What makes his book controversial is his assertion that “the era of Western domination has run its course,” although so far “the West has refused either to admit its domination of the world or to contemplate sharing power in a new world order. This is a prescription for eventual disaster.”

The thesis of the book is stated in its subtitle: “The irresistible shift of global power to the East.” Mahbubani says that Asia is returning to the position that it had occupied for most of the last 2,000 years, before the industrial revolution catapulted the West forward.

“In the period from A.D. 1 to 1820, as British historian Angus Madison has recorded, the two largest economies of the world were China and India,” Mahbubani notes. “The past two centuries of Western domination of world history are the exception, not the rule, during two thousand years of global history.”

Citing Goldman Sachs, Mahbubani says that by 2050 three of the four of the largest economies in the world will be Asian: China, India, the U.S. and Japan. And that, Mahbubani seems to say, is the way it ought to be. But that raises the question: Why did China and the rest of Asia fall behind the West?

Mahbubani offers a partial explanation: “We have not fully understood why the West leaped ahead. But we know some of the reasons why Asia slipped behind: a religious mind-set that spurned the material world, a lack of belief in the idea of human ‘progress,’ a natural deference to authority, and a lack of critical questioning.”

He left out one crucial factor, one identified by Deng as being responsible for China’s backwardness. That was the self-imposed isolation of the country from the outside world after the 15th century, during the Ming dynasty.

Deng said in a speech in 1984: “A closed-door policy prevents any country from developing. We suffered from isolation, and so did our forefathers. As a consequence, the country declined into poverty and ignorance.”

Since Mahbubani says he doesn’t know what it was that made the West advance, it is possible to question his conclusion that the West must decline. No one doubts that Asia will rise, but that does not necessarily imply a Western decline, other than in a relative sense.

It may be true that certain things will change, such as the current cozy arrangement whereby the World Bank is always headed by an American and the International Monetary Fund by a European, with Asians excluded.

The rise of Asia means change, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all global power will pass from West to East. A sharing of power — and responsibilities — is a more likely, and more acceptable, outcome.

Whether one agrees with Mahbubani or not, his book is well worth reading. It is crammed with interesting information and provides an Asian perspective that is frequently missing in Western discourses on issues of global importance. And in this day and age, no such discussion is worth anything.

In 2006, China produced a 12-part documentary series on “The Rise of the Great Powers,” clearly an attempt on its part to understand the West. It is now incumbent on the West to try to understand Asia and this book will go far to meet that need.

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based journalist and commentator.


Posted on on May 11th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Anson Chan joined Hong Kong civil service in 1962, and advanced within the system until nominated as Chief Secretary for Administration of the Hong Kong Special Administrative region from 1997 to 2001 – First as Deputy to the last British Governor, Chris Patten, and then to Beijing-appointed chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. I happened to be in Hong Kong in 1997, and am aware of the mixed feelings at the time, as people saw in her the China-plant in the British Administration. But now I think that it is agreed that Hon. Anson Chan was rather the person that managed to help smooth the transition of Hong Kong – from a British Colony to an affiliate of China.

She is seen now as the person that while dealing with the mechanics oof government, she also oversaw an orderly transition to a more democratic system – something that Hong Kong did not have under the British either! Hong Kong under China was given an agreed upon “Basic Law” that allows for sort of a mini-constitution; under this law she was pushing through the slow democratizing process. In 2006 she sat up a Core Group to promote democracy and universal suffrage. On that platform she was elected to the Hong Kong Legislative Council in December 2007, and looks forward to pursue that special goal which she keeps defining as UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE.

Friday, May 9, 2008, Hon. Anson Chan came for a breakfast meeting/discussion with the Asia Society President Dr. Vishaka N. Desai. The topic was: THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY IN HONG KONG.

She started out by telling us that until the 1980s there was no attempt under the British to establish a representative government in Hong Kong. The first election was held in 1985. By 1991 there were 10 members elected on the basis of one man – one vote. And there was also the corporate identity that created a Functional Constituency that takes part in the elections. She expressed the obvious that these Functional Constituencies can not be part of the universal suffrage idea.

We regard that time in China as Oppressive – she said, and by the time the British made some moves to have representative government it was already too late. The first real sign of progress was thus the election of December 2007 – and this is with Hong Kong as part of China.

Even Bhutan has now elections – so why does Hong Kong have to wait? – she asked. But still – Hong Kong will have complete personal elections only by 2020. There is an intermediary stage set for 2012, but she hopes that within 4 years, the Central Government (that is Beijing) may get the trust of the people – as the people in Hong Kong are loyal to China, and know that HK is part of China. So, there will be no reason not to have every person in have the right to vote and to stand for election. This second part is important in democracy and this is not yet the case in HK. A nominating Committee should not be a filtering sieve to eliminate those you do not want to stand for the election she explained.

Further she explained of a system of four sectors in the election comittee. She hoped that in stages there will be an increase in elected officials 2012 – 2016 – 2020. Having served for 39 years in HK government , her “passion” is now to get fair government for Hong Kong, she said.

Dr. Desai asked her – after 39 years in government, how is this that you decided now to move over to the elected branch? (or in her actual words – “to the other side”)

Anson explained that she created a group of like-minded people to put forward ideas that the government ignored. The situation was – “put-up or shut-up.” So she decided to run for elections. Quite a few people, even high-school students, went to Taiwan to observe elections. This is very good she said – specially for the young – it will be for them.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO ESTABLISH A RELATIONSHIP TO TAIWAN, a government-to-government relationship, she said.

Q. What role can the International Community play to help on this path? This because of the strong international presence – it is Asia’s International City?

A. there are ex-pats living in HK, so there is concern. At the moment it is air quality! Not just politics! It is important that HK remains GHG Green. This is not interference by the International Community.

Q. From someone who lived in Singapore and wanted to know if the elections could lead to a situation like in Singapore?

A. “I hope it will not be the model for HK – think there will be a genuine choice for Singapore. We have a number of social problems, health care, how to educate, how to teach skills..”

She further expressed her concern with what happens with the civil service as a whole. She was not able to back some of the appointments that were made without the necessary checks and balances. Her opponent was appointed from one of the “friendly parties.”

Now I had my chance, and asked Ms. Chang if she sees a possibility for China evolving into a Federal government situation that could then allow for diversity. I did add perhaps a possibility to have such entities like Macao, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Tibet among the units. I got in reply forthcoming information that was, honestly, even more then I hoped for.

Ms. Chan mentioned the Economic Zones that have their separate governing systems. She also mentioned the Autonomous Regions – so in principle the diversity is possible, and it is not set in stone because of existing present lines of demarcation that separate different administrative units. So, what I understand is that the whole Chinese central government is evolving – so that the state is ready to allow functional entities to evolve in different ways – as ingredients of a China that does figure to be a multi-system state – rather then a tightly centralized state. This gives us the justification that the system of buttons we introduced on, as part of our China button, is indeed the way of the future. We may thus enlarge our present selection by including buttons, as needed, for the Special Economic Zones.


Posted on on April 18th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


Civic Exchange and the Architects Association of Macau (AAM) are pleased to inform you of their first joint report on buildings and climate change, titled ‘Green’ House or Greenhouse? – Climate Change & The Building Stock of Hong Kong & Macau and funded by ADM Capital Foundation.   The report argues that reducing emissions from buildings should be a priority since they are both major contributors to and very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Other key messages include:

·                 Good buildings are vital to quality of life;
·                 Energy efficiency is crucial from many perspectives;
·                 Maximising energy efficiency gains need the right regulatory and incentive framework that must also include an integrated energy policy;
·                 Government must lead to create the right framework to mitigate and adapt to climate change; and
·                 Integrating urban planning and design is also critical to improve quality of life and energy efficiency, as well as reduce the risk associated with climate change.

The report can be downloaded from the Civic Exchange website…

To coincide with the release, on Friday 25th April 2008, Civic Exchange and the AAM will host a lively workshop on the challenges and opportunities for creating a low carbon built environment in Hong Kong. For further details and registration please go the Civic Exchange website at…

Civic Exchange is a non-profit public policy think tank based in Hong Kong that helps to improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. For more information about Civic Exchange, please visit

AAM is an association of public and private sector architects based in Macau and undertakes a variety of activities related to architecture in Macau. For more information please visit