› Dead Pigs, Toxic Smog | LRB blog
Toxic smog in Beijing, 16,000 dead pigs in the tributaries of the Shanghai river, birth defects from pollution, no safe drinking water in any Chinese city: Premier Li Keqiang has promised to respond to China’s environmental problems with an ‘iron fist and firm resolution’.
But one crucial aspect of China’s energy strategy unlikely to change soon is its reliance on coal – it burns almost as much as the rest of the world combined. There have been claims that consumption will plateau by 2015, but several massive infrastructure projects suggest otherwise. The West-East Electricity Transfer Project will supply the cities of the east with electricity transmitted along hundreds of miles of cables from power stations in the coal-rich western provinces (especially Xinjiang). One obstacle is a shortage of water in the west: coal-fired power plants require large amounts of water to remove impurities from the fuel and provide steam for the turbines. The plan is to redirect water to these regions as part of the South-North Water Transfer Project, which is already diverting huge quantities from the Yellow River and the Yangtze to feed the demands of northern cities.
As a result rivers have dried up and rural communities have been forcibly resettled. It’s even been argued that the Zipingu Dam caused the 2008 Sichuan earthquake which killed as many as 69,000 people. Such large-scale projects used not to be met with much resistance, but the internet has made it easier for ordinary people to talk about and protest against them.
China gets a lot of bad press for the dirty sides of its energy policy, but it’s also the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy. There have been other encouraging signs – there’s talk of introducing a carbon tax; Beijing and other major cities have put a limit on the number of car registrations – but the much-flouted existing environmental laws (covering factory emissions, for example) also need to be enforced. No one is pretending that things are likely to improve soon; Beijing’s target for achieving clean air is in 2030.
The US cares little about North Korea, which has always in policymakers’ eyes been a surrogate for China. The Korean War began the year after the fall of China (which also saw the first Soviet test of an atomic bomb). In sum the present conflict is in straightline continuity with 1950: a Cold War framework, with China rather than Russia the adversary.
Norman Pollack, Testing Hegemony
› The soft, weak Chinese cite concerns for international law and due process | Glenn Greenwald
› The Coming Collapse of Iran Sanctions | Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett
[…] In recent weeks … Europe’s General Court overturned European sanctions against two of Iran’s biggest banks, ruling that the EU never substantiated its claims that the banks provided “financial services for entities procuring on behalf of Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.” The European Council has two months to respond—but removing sanctions against the banks would severely weaken Europe’s sanctions regime. Other major players in Iran’s economy, including the Central Bank of Iran and the National Iranian Oil Company, are now challenging their own sanctioned status.
On the other side of the world, America is on a collision course with China over sanctions. In recent years, Beijing has tried to accommodate U.S. concerns about Iran. It has not developed trade and investment positions there as rapidly as it might have, and has shifted some Iran-related transactional flows into renminbi to help the Obama administration avoid sanctioning Chinese banks. (Similarly, India now pays for some Iranian oil imports in rupees.) Whether Beijing has really lowered its aggregate imports of Iranian oil is unclear—but it clearly reduces them when the administration is deciding about six-month sanctions waivers for countries buying Iranian crude.
The administration is taking its own steps to forestall Sino-American conflict over sanctions. Besides issuing waivers for oil imports, the one Chinese bank Washington has barred from the U.S. financial system for Iran-related transactions is a subsidiary of a Chinese energy company—a subsidiary with no business in the United States. However, as Congress enacts additional layers of secondary sanctions, President Obama’s room to maneuver is being progressively reduced. Therein lies the looming policy train wreck.
If, at congressional insistence, the administration later this year demands that China sharply cut Iranian oil imports and that Chinese banks stop virtually any Iran-related transactions, Beijing will say no. If Washington retreats, the deterrent effect of secondary sanctions will erode rapidly. Iran’s oil exports are rising again, largely from Chinese demand. Once it becomes evident Washington won’t seriously impose secondary sanctions, growth in Iranian oil shipments to China and other non-Western economies (e.g., India, South Korea) will accelerate. Likewise, non-Western powers are central to Iran’s quest for alternatives to U.S.-dominated mechanisms for conducting and settling international transactions—a project that will also gain momentum after Washington’s bluff is called.
Conversely, if Washington sanctions major Chinese banks and energy companies, Beijing will respond—at least by taking America to the WTO’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism (where China will win), perhaps by retaliating against U.S. companies in China. Chinese policymakers are increasingly concerned Washington is reneging on its part of the core bargain that grounded Sino-American rapprochement in the 1970s—to accept China’s relative economic and political rise and not try to secure a hegemonic position in Asia. Beijing is already less willing to work in the Security Council on a new (even watered-down) sanctions resolution, and more willing to resist U.S. initiatives that, in its view, challenge Chinese interests (witness China’s vetoes of three U.S.-backed resolutions on Syria). In this context, Chinese leaders will not accept American high-handedness on Iran sanctions. At this point, Beijing has more ways to impose costs on America for violations of international economic law that impinge on Chinese interests than Washington has levers to coerce China’s compliance.
As America’s sanctions policy unravels, President Obama will have to decide whether to stay on a path of open-ended hostility toward Iran that ultimately leads to another U.S.-initiated war in the Middle East, or develop a very different vision for America’s Middle East strategy—a vision emphasizing genuine diplomacy with Tehran, rooted in American acceptance of the Islamic Republic as a legitimate political order representing legitimate national interests and aimed at fundamentally realigning U.S.-Iranian relations. [++]
› Despite Lack of Proof, US to Attack Chinese Hackers in Retaliation
Despite a formal denial from the Chinese government and a conspicuous lack of proof that they were behind recent hacking incidents, the Obama Administration is said to be planning an “unprecedented counter-attack” against China for them.
Retaliation in the “cyber-warfare” front would seem to normally be a covert action, and thus one would figure the US wouldn’t telegraph its plans ahead of time, but the Obama Administration has made much in recent weeks of its right to launch unilateral cyberwars, and seems eager to go public with the fact that it is doing so.
Officials in the US and Britain have repeatedly accused China of launching such attacks, but the evidence behind such claims is circumstantial at best, and by and large comes from starting with the assumption that China is doing so and trying to make the evidence fit that assumption.
Perhaps the scariest aspect of this public US attack on China is not the vague justification, but how China is liable to retaliate, since there will be no doubt who is to blame in that case. The US has made clear in the past that it might respond to a cyber-attack with conventional military strikes, but China has never said what it would do but is likely to want to set a precedent that it won’t tolerate such public moves against it.
A chunkier China is certainly something to dread, as it has already knocked aside its first victims, the Southeast Asian flyweights bordering the South China Sea, or what is called “the East Sea” by Vietnamese. This oil rich and strategically important territory has been claimed entirely by China, including islands just off the Vietnamese coast, explored, mapped and exploited by the Nguyen Dynasty since the 17th Century. By contrast, the official Chinese map from 1904 still showed Hainan, much further North, as China’s southernmost point. Whatever. With its much improved navy, China sees precious oil within reach, so it simply shoves Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei out of the way. No profit sharing agreement here. Everything will go to the new boss, same as the old boss, what East Asia has had to contend with for millennia. If the American Empire can claim the Persian Gulf as a key territory to be defended and exploited, what’s stopping China from doing the same to the South China Sea? But this is not really about logics, only might. One does what one can get away with. America has also inserted itself into the South China Sea fracas, and has even conducted joint military exercises with its former enemies, Vietnam and Cambodia, all to counter China.
Linh Dinh | World War in Asia?
› Why is Obama Silent Over the New Congo War? | Shamus Cooke
“The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to 80 percent of the world’s cobalt, an extremely precious mineral needed to construct many modern technologies, including weaponry, cell phones, and computers. The DRC is possibly the most mineral/resource rich country in the world — overflowing with everything from diamonds to oil — though its people are among the world’s poorest, due to generations of corporate plunder of its wealth.”
The last Congo war that ended in 2003 killed 5.4 million people, the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II. The killing was directly enabled by international silence over the issue; the war was ignored and the causes obscured because governments were backing groups involved in the fighting. Now a new Congo war has begun and the silence is, again, deafening.
President Obama seems not to have noticed a new war has broken out in the war-scarred Congo; he appears blind to the refugee crisis and the war crimes committed by the invading M23 militia against the democratically elected government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
But appearances can be deceiving. The U.S. government has their bloody hands all over this conflict, just as they did during the last Congo war when Bill Clinton was President. President Obama’s inaction is a conscious act of encouragement for the invaders, just as Clinton’s was. Instead of Obama denouncing the invasion and the approaching overthrow of a democratically elected government, silence becomes a very powerful action of intentional complicity on the side of the invaders.
Why would Obama do this? The invaders are armed and financed by Rwanda, a “strong ally” and puppet of the United States. The United Nations released a report conclusively proving that the Rwandan government is backing the rebels, but the U.S. government and U.S. media cartoonishly pretend that the issue is debatable.
The last Congo War that killed 5.4 million people was also the result of the U.S.-backed invading armies of Rwanda and Uganda, as explained in the excellently researched book “Africa’s World War,” by French journalist Gerard Prunier.
In fact, many of the same Rwandan war criminals involved in the last Congo War, such as Bosco Ntaganda, are in charge of the M23 militia and wanted for war crimes by the U.N. international criminal court. The current Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, is a “good friend” of the U.S. government and one of the most notorious war criminals on the planet, due to his leading roles in the Rwandan genocide and consequent Congo War.
A group of Congolese and Rwandan activists have been demanding that Kagame be tried for his key role in the Rwandan genocide.
As Prunier’s book explains, the Rwandan genocide was sparked by Kagame’s invasion of Rwanda — from U.S. ally Uganda. After Kagame took power in post-genocide Rwanda, he then informed the U.S. — during a trip to Washington D.C. — that he would be invading the Congo. Prunier quotes Kagame in Africa’s World War:
“I delivered a veiled warning [to the U.S.]: the failure of the international community to take action [against the Congo] would mean that Rwanda would take action… But their [the Clinton Administration’s] response was really no response at all” (pg 68).
In international diplomacy speak, such a lack of response — to a threat of military invasion — acts as a glaring diplomatic green light.
The same blinding green light is now being offered by Obama to the exact same war criminals as they again invade the Congo.
The Secret War Between China and the US for Africa’s Oil Riches
A new proposal to end the conflict in Syria was presented on Thursday by China, one of the Syrian government’s few foreign defenders, which calls for a phased-in truce, the establishment of a transitional authority and an intensified international response to the humanitarian crisis afflicting millions of Syrians. … But the Chinese proposal does not call for Mr. Assad to step down, which has been a precondition made in the past by opposition groups that contend that he cannot play any role in Syria’s political future.
China Presents Plan to End Syrian Conflict
› Japan And The US Are Considering A Drill To Simulate Seizing A Remote Island From Foreign Forces | Business Insider
Japan and the United States are mulling a joint military drill to simulate retaking a remote island from foreign forces, reports said, amid a festering row between Tokyo and Beijing over disputed islets.
The exercise, part of broader joint manoeuvres to start in early November, would use an uninhabited island in Okinawa, southernmost Japan, Jiji Press and Kyodo News agencies quoted unidentified sources as saying on Saturday.
The drill would involve Japanese and US troops making an amphibious and airborne landing to retake the island using boats and helicopters, Kyodo said.
Japan and China have long been at loggerheads over the sovereignty of rocky outcrops in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China.
The Tokyo-administered island chain is uninhabited, but is thought to be sitting on top of valuable resources.
The dispute flared in August and September with landings by nationalists from both sides and the subsequent nationalisation of the islands by Tokyo.
The exercise would reportedly use the uninhabited island of Irisunajima. The tiny island, used as a firing range for US forces, is also in the East China Sea but hundreds of kilometres (miles) away from the disputed island chain.
Jiji said some Japanese and US government officials were cautious about holding the drill, fearing a likely angry response from China.
China Labor Watch (CLW) announced that at 1:00PM on October 5 (Beijing time), a strike occurred at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory that, according to workers, involved three to four thousand production workers. In addition to demanding that workers work during the holiday, Foxconn raised overly strict demands on product quality without providing worker training for the corresponding skills. This led to workers turning out products that did not meet standards and ultimately put a tremendous amount of pressure on workers. Additionally, quality control inspectors fell into to conflicts with workers and were beat up multiple times by workers. Factory management turned a deaf ear to complaints about these conflicts and took no corrective measures. The result of both of these circumstances was a widespread work stoppage on the factory floor among workers and inspectors.
The strike at Foxconn | Corrente
And what about labor activism? Matt is right, of course, about the repressive Chinese state. But as I’ve long argued, a good deal of worker activism in the United States also gets repressed. One in 17 of every eligible voter in a union election gets illegally fired or suspended for his or her support for a union. While it’s true that the American state is not the equivalent of the Chinese state, it’s also true that a great deal of repression in the US has always been outsourced to the private sector—even in ‘the heyday of western labor activism.’ Over the summer, when Chris Bertram, Alex Gourevitch, and I were advancing our thesis about workplace tyranny, Matt repeatedly professed bafflement as to why we were even talking about this issue. Well, this is one reason: repression and coercion in the workplace actually prevent the union organizing that helps ensure that that growth in worker productivity translates into higher pay and benefits for workers. Matt gets it. In China.
Corey Robin, Matt Yglesias’s China Syndrome
› China Plans To Begin Using Drones To Monitor Disputed Islands By 2015
China is planning to begin using “unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)” or drones by 2015, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
The announcement was made by State Oceanic Administration (SOA) on Sunday. The agency had previously announced that they would use drones at some point for marine surveillance.
› Foxconn closes China factory after brawl | The Guardian
A brawl involving as many as 2,000 workers forced Foxconn to close its Taiyuan plant in northern China late on Sunday, and left a number of people needing hospital treatment.
“The fight is over now … we’re still investigating the cause of the fight and the number of workers involved,” said Foxconn spokesman Louis Woo, adding it was possible it involved “a couple of thousand workers”.
A police statement reported by the official Xinhua news agency said 5,000 officers were dispatched to the scene.
› Why China, Japan, and Korea aren't backing down on island disputes | CSMonitor.com
The territorial disputes in Southeast Asia are becoming increasingly bitter between leading economic and military powers China, Japan, and South Korea.
At the center of the dispute between China and Japan are the Senkaku Islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese, an uninhabited outcrop of rocks that lie in the middle of rich fishing grounds and potentially richer oil and gas deposits.
On Tuesday, Japan’s national government signed a contract to buy the islands for 2.05 billion yen ($26 million) from the Japanese family who has been leasing them to the government. While in Japan this is seen as an attempt to head off a plan by Tokyo’s controversial nationalist Governor Shintaro Ishihara to take control of the disputed isles, China reacted angrily and immediately dispatched patrol boats to the nearby waters, in a significant escalation to the standoff.
Fired up by increasingly assertive publics and local politicians at home, all three country’s leaders – especially China and Japan – are reluctant to be perceived as backing down on this issue at the end of their premierships. Seen together, say analysts, they could spell greater trouble for the region.
“These territorial disputes could destabilize the region and cause an arms race in Southeast Asia,” Hyun Dae Song of Korea’s Kookmin University said at a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Though the islands have been subject to claim and counter-claim for centuries, the current diplomatic row between Japan and China escalated after a Chinese fishing boat crashed into a Japan Coast Guard vessel there in 2010, resulting in the arrest of the Chinese captain. That set off a series of events, eventually leading to a Japanese governor’s proposal to buy the islands.
Governor Ishihara, a right-wing populist infamous for inflammatory statements about China and Japan’s other neighbors, had raised 1.45 billion yen in donations to buy the islands, develop facilities on them, and explore for oil and gas in the surrounding ocean. Although this would have been far more provocative than the the national government’s current plan, which is to do nothing with the islands, China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the purchase.
In addition to the fractious history between Japan and China, leaders involved in the decision-making process are coming to the end of their tenures and are facing pressure at home not to give an inch. [++]
› China backs "transition" in Syria | Al Akhbar
China backs a “political transition” in Syria to end worsening bloodshed after 18 months of unrest, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said on Wednesday while repeating Beijing’s opposition to forceful foreign intervention in the crisis.
Yang gave no details of what he meant by a transition in Syria …