CHINA SENTENCES OLYMPIC DISSIDENT — Two events that occurred within hours of each other on March 24 highlighted a disconnect between the spirit of the Olympic Games and China’s human rights record. Shortly before dignitaries gathered to light the Olympic torch in Olympia, Greece, and launch the flame’s around-the-world journey to Beijing, a Chinese court sentenced human rights campaigner Yang Chunlin to five years in prison. Yang was convicted of subverting state authority. The unemployed factory worker’s crime was to have circulated a petition in 2007 protesting government land seizures that included the statement: “We want human rights, not the […]

China’s Nuclear Exports

It went largely unnoticed, but another nuclear domino just tipped over in the broader Middle East, with Algeria signing two agreements with China last week, one to build a nuclear reactor and the other to train their nuclear technicians to operate it. In addition to the concerns this raises about the entire region pursuing a civil nuclear hedge against an Iranian bomb, this particular deal is problematic for two other reasons. The first is China’s history of nuclear exports, which have included deals with Pakistan (to build a reactor despite Pakistan’s non-NPT status) and Iran (which included allegations of weapons-related […]

The victory of Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou in Saturday’s presidential elections in Taiwan has been greeted with much behind-the-scenes rejoicing among Chinese and American policymakers. Chinese leaders likely worried that their harsh crackdown in Tibet could have sparked a backlash in Taiwan, decreasing support for Ma, who was seen as more open to cooperating with Beijing than his opponent, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting. Hsieh is a former prime minister who belongs to the same political party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), as President Chen Shui-bian. Taiwan’s constitution had prohibited Chen from seeking a third consecutive four-year presidential term. Ma […]

U.N. URGES AFGHAN ACTION ON RIGHTS — United Nations officials are urging Afghanistan to address rampant human rights abuses and an accompanying culture of impunity for those who commit them. “At a minimum, there needs to be the space for a national dialogue that acknowledges the injustices and suffering that have occurred. The voices of victims need to be heard,” Norah Niland, chief human rights officer for the U.N.’s Afghan mission, said March 18. “Building an environment that is conducive to respect for human rights is fundamental to a peaceful and democratic society.” A top priority, U.N. officials said, is […]

China’s Heir Apparent

In a major surprise out of China, President Hu Jintao suffered a stunning electoral reversal and lost 9 votes out of 2,965 cast by China’s parliament members. Hu will remain in office, but with only a 99.7% mandate, doubts were raised about his effectiveness as a lame-duck president. On a more serious note, the election of Xi Jinping as Vice-President as heir apparent seems to be the significant news coming out of this election. He replaces a Jiang Zemin ally, definitively signalling the end of the Jiang era. The election caps a meteoric rise for Xi, who first showed up […]

China and the Uighurs

I’ve been following Joshua Kucera’s series of articles over at Slate about his travels in the Chinese province of Xinjiang among the Uighur people. So an interview he did for EurasiaNet with Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur activist, caught my eye. It’s worth a look, if only as a reminder of the stubborn ethno-nationalist faultlines that continue to percolate under the surface of China’s rise. The lack of that kind of threat to American national cohesiveness is obviously one advantage the United States will continue to enjoy over all of its strategic rivals of scale well into the future (unless, of […]

China to Pentagon: Right Back Atcha

Funny how on the same day that the Pentagon released its annual China Military Report, the Chinese announced plans to raise defense spending by 17% next year. Here’s the takeaway from the Executive Summary of the Pentagon report: China’s ability to sustain military power at a distance remains limited but, as noted in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review Report, it “has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional U.S. military advantages.” China’s near-term focus on preparing for contingencies in the Taiwan Strait, including the possibility of […]