Disaster Relief as Political Gesture

Last night was one of the rare times I watched the televised news, so I finally saw footage of the impact of the Sichuan earthquake. There’s really no comparing the heartrending effect of video to even still images, let alone press coverage. The impact it had on me reminded me of remarks by a French diplomat for an article I did on the EUFOR Chad mission. He talked about the “CNN effect” on public opinion, and how it has increased the pressure on governments to intervene in far off crises. I’d add to that the observation that, in ways that […]

Blogging the China Earthquake

Chinese citizens have been turning to the Internet for information on loved ones who went missing after an earthquake in Sichuan province took up to 13,000 lives. Twitter, the online tool that allows friends and family members to send short updates to one another via IM, SMS, and social networking sites like Facebook, has helped many Chinese keep each other up-to-date on their safety as well as on news related to the quake. There’s been discussion of Twitters becoming more and more popular as a “platform for serious discourse,” used by citizen and professional journalists alike. Twitter apparently broke the […]

U.S. and South Korean officials are meeting in Washington this week to discuss provision of food aid to North Korea, amid concerns that the impoverished country is en route to severe famine. Seoul is waiting for Pyongyang to officially request its help, while Washington is basing the timing of its 500,000-ton donation on Pyongyang’s progress toward a denuclearization agreement. The talks come just days after Pyongyang released 18,000 pages worth of documents on its weapons-grade plutonium program. But nuclear weapons technology isn’t all that’s being bought and sold on the black market in North Korea. After the famine of the […]

Measuring Pakistan’s Indifference

While browsing through this interim GAO report (.pdf, via the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs) on Coalition Support Funds reimbursed to Pakistan for its antiterrorism operations in the FATA, I was surprised to see that the amount of requests for reimbursement that were denied spiked from $5 million to $25 million in February 2007. That’s almost a third of the monthly operational expenses that Pakistan was “billing” to the program at the time. Almost as surprising was the fact that the amount of reimbursements that were denied immediately dipped back down to roughly $15 million by […]

Saving Burma

Those suggesting we should conduct a “coercive humanitarian intervention” in Burma would do well to consider this, from a WaPo article that otherwise describes the junta’s efforts to mask the country’s underlying dysfunction: The primary focus of the rulers is to ensure unity in a country with 130 ethnic groups, many of which have fought the military — dominated by the Bamar ethnic majority — for six decades. The moral arguments for intervening in Burma are irrefutable. And in a world where decisions were made free of any practical considerations, they’d suffice. So while I can’t really say I object […]

When it emerged in mid-March that the perpetrator of a deadly suicide attack on American troops in Afghanistan had come from Germany, the American media showed remarkably little interest. On March 3, 28-year-old Cüneyt Ciftci from Ansbach in Bavaria drove a pick-up loaded with several tons of explosives into a guard post in Khost province in southeastern Afghanistan and then detonated his payload while still inside the truck. According to U.S. Army and Afghan sources, two American soldiers and two Afghans were killed in the attack and another seven persons, including four soldiers, were wounded. The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), […]

On Saturday, Hu Jintao concluded the first state visit by a Chinese president to Japan in almost a decade. President Jiang Zemin traveled to Japan in 1998, but the subsequent deterioration in relations between Beijing and Tokyo severely curtailed high-level meetings. Although Chinese and Japanese officials managed on this occasion to finesse such recently contentious issues as Tibet and food safety, Hu’s May 6-10 sojourn failed to resolve the deeper sources of these earlier bilateral tensions. Before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Beijing in October 2006, the Chinese government had frozen high-level summits with Japanese leaders outside the […]

China’s Controlled Transparency

Yesterday I mentioned that China’s reaction to the Sichuan earthquake — specifically whether it called for (or accepted international offers of) aid — would reveal something about how secure it is with its newfound global status. Over at FP Passport, Mike Boyer pointed out that the degree of information transparency would also be revealing. So far, it looks like the Chinese government is adopting a forward-leaning, if guarded, approach on both counts. As this page from Xinhua demonstrates, information is being quickly updated, and a French-language report from Le Figaro includes government announcements on some ecological risks posed by the […]

In a recent announcement that went virtually unnoticed in the Western media, an official of Saudi Aramco — Saudi Arabia’s national oil company — stated that Saudi Arabia aims to double its oil exports to China from last year’s levels, reaching 1 million barrels per day by 2010. Should this goal be realized, China will soon rival the United States and Japan as one of the top destinations for Saudi petroleum. In addition, the China National Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec) already has an agreement with Iran to buy 250 million tons of liquid natural gas from the country over 30 years, […]

OLYMPIC PARDONS PROPOSED FOR CHINA DISSIDENTS — U.S.- and Hong Kong-based human rights group Dui Hua May 8 made public a previous appeal to Chinese officials to pardon political prisoners ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games. The appeal, which was delivered to the head of China’s parliament through government channels in April, said such a move would reinforce Olympic ideals and promote peace and humanitarianism. “This is a concrete step that China can take. We’ve hopefully tried to raise it as a suggestion, not a criticism,” Joshua Rosenzweig, head of Dui Hua’s research and programs told the Los Angeles Times. […]

The Political Repercussions of Natural Disaster

I’ve been silent to date on the unfolding tragedy in Myanmar (which by the UN’s latest estimate will claim several hundred thousand lives), not out of indifference, but for lack of anything pertinent to add to the discussion. Today comes news that a 7.8-magnitude earthquake just hit China’s Sichuan province, with initial estimates of three to five thousand dead. The first reaction to natural disaster should be to think of the victims, with a priority on saving lives and alleviating further suffering. I admit that mine was to wonder how China and the world would respond politically, in terms of […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia —When he took office one year ago, Irwandi Yusuf knew his job was going to be tough. And a little more than one year later, over a coffee in his office in Banda Aceh, he acknowledged that it is not getting any easier. “I know the job better now, but my support base is getting more and more disobedient,” he said. Irwandi is the first directly elected governor of Aceh, the once war-torn province of Indonesia and the area worst hit by the December 2004 tsunami. He was elected in December 2006 with almost 40 percent of the […]

The BRIC Wall

Another thing that complicates the scenario of the “Rise of the Rest” or the birth of a “BRIC identity” is that many of the emerging powers are as much strategic rivals as they are tactical partners. Just yesterday, for instance, India successfully tested a nuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range of 3500 km. That’s a range that’s designed more for catching Peking’s attention than Islamabad’s. Similarly, India recently announced plans to reinforce and modernize its military presence along the Sino-Indian border. As much as trans-Atlantic relations can get bumpy from time to time, that’s one area where the West has […]

In March, India’s Tata Group made headlines with its $2.3 billion acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) from Ford, the latest in a series of high-profile mergers and acquisitions in which well-known Western brands such as IBM, Barclays Bank, Tetley Tea and Corus steel have been bought, in part or entirely, by multinational corporations from developing economies. Those with a longer historical view might recall that it was private business — the British East India Company — that imposed imperial control over the “brightest jewel in the empire,” before crown rule was implemented in 1858. With Tata scooping up […]

During a visit to Burma a few years ago, I decided to avoid the country’s legendarily deadly airlines and instead hire a car to take me along the somewhat less deadly roads. Distances that on the map looked like they should take an hour to cover took entire days. The criminal extent of the country’s neglect was already obvious in Rangoon, where I saw a mother sitting with a large crowd on a downtown sidewalk, despondently holding in her arms a baby so malnourished that I’m sure it died not long after I gave her a small amount of money, […]

Globalization’s Diminishing Returns?

These two posts from 2point6billion.com bring into focus the ways in which globalization hasn’t resolved some of the internal contradictions that hobble its transformational claims. On the one hand, a new report from the Asia Development Bank detailing how the enormous gains in regional GDP have yet to be adequately reinforced through regional integration, and especially regulatory integration of financial markets. And on the other, a look at how the revelations about China’s underground submarine base have reinforced the Indian military establishment’s concerns over China’s rise, particularly as regards securing commercial sea-lanes. Is it possible that globalization has arrived at […]

While in Tajikistan on March 24, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottak declared that Tehran had submitted an official application to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The announcement launched a wave of speculation about whether the other SCO countries would agree to elevate Tehran’s status. By mid-April, it had become evident that Iran’s application did not at present enjoy the required unanimous consent of the other full SCO members. Iran became a formal observer nation at the July 2005 SCO summit, but Tehran has eagerly sought to upgrade its status since then. India, Mongolia, and Pakistan […]

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