Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Thus, one can imagine my shock as, over the past few months, the cadres have driven right into the same trap that the ensnared the Soviets in the 1970s: a rickety economy ignored in pursuit of the fantasy of global domination. Like the USSR, the CCP will fail, but they will have a hand in killing plenty of innocent victims along the way.
We'll start with the economy. Already, the cadres are facing an economy that is not keeping up with population growth (Bloomberg). The last time that happened was in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, during which economic growth was hardly a priority. Citizens are already getting nervous (Agence France Presse via Yahoo).
Meanwhile, the usual perks that go with a white-hot economy - namely the license to steal that comes with Party Membership - are in deep trouble now that there isn't as much to take. Moreover, fleecing foreigners won't be so easy either. The World Trade Organization just called foul on the mass counterfeiting operations that made Communist China infamous (Bloomberg), and while that means almost nothing in actual terms, it is a signal to the rest of the world that they should be more careful in dealing with the CCP - and they will be more careful. Already, the Obama Administration seems more willing to go after the CCP on the currency issue (AFP via Yahoo) - although it is early, and previous American Administrations waited until later in their first year to show their true colors.
The other major prop on which the Communist economy rests - exports - continue to be hit with the double-whammy of the global slowdown (Yahoo) and tainted products (United Press International).
So, are the Communists taking stock and trying to fix the problem? Nope, they're too busy trying to take over the world.
As the Chinese people look worriedly to the future, the cadres are looking up to the heavens - to create their own GPS-like system (Strategy Page). They are continuing a military build-up that they hope will make them equal to the United States (SP), and then pass us to become the world's leading power. Much as Mao let his people starve but sold grain to the Soviets for arms, Hu Jintao and his crew are sending money to allies in Pakistan (Newkerala) and Zimbabwe (London Telegraph) to keep their economies afloat.
As for dissidents, it's business as usual (Radio Free Asia).
The Soviets could not avoid their day of reckoning; nor, I suspect, will the Chinese Communist Party (the Japan Times has a decent summary of the economic reality). Again, the question is, when will the day come?
This is a more important question than it seems. The Soviets had a pretty good idea they were in deep trouble in the 1970s; they just managed to keep it a secret for roughly a decade. In that time, they sparked bloody civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador while invading Afghanistan and setting in motion events with which we are all still grappling. One can only imagine what the world would have been like if the USSR had been allowed to survive into the 21st Century (think Putinism on steroids).
The Chinese Communist Party's downfall may be inevitable, but every day it remains in power is a day that it helps anti-American terrorists, fuels the ambitions of Kim Jong-il, and indulges its hidden but always present lust for Taiwan, all in the pursuit of power - and adding more days to its reign. The longer the free world waits to help the Chinese people free themselves, the more blood and treasure it will take from both of them to succeed.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
SiH now has a place on the Friendly Blog list; hopefully, I will be able to add her to the China Freedom Blog Alliance, but that's up to her, of course.
Meanwhile, in the tradition of the award, I hereby pass it along to the following blogs:
Boycott 2008 Communist Olympics
One Free Korea
Friday, January 23, 2009
How long before our leaders face what this means?
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The Chinese Communist Party is facing its worst economic crises since the Cultural Revolution. Economic growth fell below population growth in the last quarter (BBC, CNN, and the Washington Post), and given the cadres' penchant for inflating their statistics, the population may have outgrown the economy for the entire year of 2008. To make matters worse, the consumer benefits that have come to other economies from the fall in oil prices have not appeared, due to Communist-imposed directives to keep oil prices high.
Lest anyone think this is merely a problem for the CCP and the Chinese people, the cadres are already trying to divert attention on this failure by rattling their sabres abroad (much like the Brezhnev-era Soviets did). In addition to the usual propaganda on Tibet (John Batchelor and Radio Free Asia), the regime is continuing to project its ever growing naval power (Japan Times and the Weekly Standard), and the espionage network is alive and well (Agence France Presse via Yahoo). Meanwhile, the rest of the free world continues to be asleep (BBC).
I fear the President's East Asia policy will not be centered around Communist China, but North Korea. If so, Nicholas Eberstadt has a good column on how his (Obama's) predecessor fouled up (Weekly Standard). Still, even Eberstadt missed the CCP's role in making North Korea the "bad cop" and reeling in the concessions (BTW, they're at it again - One Free Korea).
It took almost a year before the CCP managed to get President Bush where they wanted him, and Clinton took a little longer. It would be a shame if the CCP were able to get President Obama where they want him, especially if its driven by the latter's indifference.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of
dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history.
Clearly, the Chinese Communist Party didn't get the memo. Their actions over the last few days made it abundantly clear that they intend to keep the President's version of "history" at arms length.
In fact, they made sure their fellow countrymen wouldn't even see Obama's statement - a reference to the defeat of Soviet Communism was also left on the cutting-room floor (BBC). Before that, the cadres had the gall to declare March 28 "Serfs Emancipation Day" - a reference to the beginning of their bloody occupation of Tibet. The regime continues to clamp down on any and all dissent, be it based on faith (Epoch Times) or human rights (Epoch Times).
Just in case the new President thought any of this might be a conversation piece, let alone a move to change course and adopt a more anti-Communist foreign policy, the Korean colony announced just before the inauguration that it had weaponized plutonium (CNN) - a move sure to make it the focus of Obama's East Asian team while the Beijing crew returns to their usual duplicitous role as public facilitator and private instigator. Having squeezed almost everything they could out of the last Administration (One Free Korea), Beijing and Pyongyang are well-positioned to start holding the new one up for ransom.
That said (and I do hope the new president is paying attention), all of this aggressive behavior is being done for a reason - to hide the serious damage from the economic slowdown.
Economists are guessing that economic growth in Communist China fell to 6.8% last quarter (Bloomberg), which would be an annual rate below population growth. Unemployment could reach levels not seen 1980. One of the cadres' own professors is talking about job losses of 50 million this year (The Australian).
As one would expect, there is talk once more about reversing the slow upward valuation of the Communist currency and returning to the 1990s devalued peg (Epoch Times) - a move sure to enrage a heavily Democratic Congress already willing to consider putting up barriers to foreign trade. Given the unique nature of the CCP (and yes, that's a euphemism), a currency-corrective tariff has a far better chance of reaching the President's desk over the next two years than over the last fifteen.
What the President will do with it - should it reach him - is another story. With the wife of the friendliest American president Communist China ever had as his Secretary of State, Obama is sure to hear the "engagement" tripe. One can only hope House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will remember her anti-Communism of old and apply pressure in the other direction.
If not, the Obama Administration could go down as merely the extension of the Bush/Clinton reign of error in East Asia, but with far more damaging consequences. Still Barack Obama has been president for all of one day. No one can say for certain what he will do, and in what direction he will go.
That is most likely why the cadres played the Tibet-propaganda and Korea cards so soon: they're looking to influence Obama right out of the gate - no waiting on Hope and Change for them.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Beyond the Taiwanese straits, things pretty much followed the new normal. The European Parliament raked Eutelsat over the coals for shutting out New Tang Dynasty Television (Epoch Times), but the EP has little real power. Senator Hillary Clinton (part of arguably the friendliest American Administration the CCP ever faced) gave the usual fog of words on her way to becoming Secretary of State (McClatchy via Yahoo). South Korean appeaser-in-chief Kim Dae-jung tried his hand at advising President-elect Obama (Washington Times), while the American "engagement" crew held another gathering to blast "isolationary policies" (Epoch Times).
Meanwhile, the usual platitudes about fighting corruption (Bloomberg) came with the ever-increasing warnings to from the higher ranks to the rest of the cadres of the economic problems ahead (Agence France Presse via Yahoo), which was likely done to reinforce the former because there won't be as much bounty to steal. Add to it the typical persecutions (BBC and Epoch Times) and one is left with a series of events and news that was par for the course.
The news from the island democracy, however, was chilling - for Beijing (AFP via Yahoo):
A Taiwanese government official and a legislator's aide were arrested Thursday for allegedly leaking state secrets to China, officials and reports said.
Wang Ren-bing, a specialist in the presidential office, and Chen Ping-ren, aide to a ruling Kuomintang lawmaker, were taken into custody early Thursday on suspicion of violating national security laws, said a spokesman at Taipei district court.
The spokesman declined to comment on reports that Chen allegedly passed information on the May 20, 2008 inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou he obtained from Wang to Chinese intelligence.
The United Daily News, citing unnamed sources, reported Thursday that Wang photocopied documents pertaining to the handover of power to Ma from his predecessor Chen Shui-bian as well as the presidential office organisational charts and division phone numbers.
Now, under normal circumstances (even the new normal), it would be Taiwan alone that would suffer the consequences of this embarrassment. However, this Taiwanese government specifically campaigned on a platform of non-confrontation with the CCP. President Ma's determination to follow through on that has spooked larger numbers of Taiwanese, and not just the supporters of the anti-Communist Democratic Progressive Party, which Ma tossed out of power with his election win last year.
The fact that Ma's party employed a conduit for sending information to Communist China will remind everyone why they were suspicious of Ma's Kuomintang (Nationalist) Party in the first place (it lost the elections of 2000 and 2004 over concerns it was too cozy with the CCP), which is the last thing the cadres need right now.
We already knew that the Communist-Nationalist charm offensive was falling flat - with less than one in fifteen Taiwanese asking for reunification under Communist rule. Now the rest of the country - but especially the voters who pulled the lever for the Nationalists due to domestic issues - will have to think long and hard before voting "blue" (color of the Nationalists and their allies) again.
Taiwan was one of the few bright spots for the CCP in 2008. Amidst the poisoned exports, the Olympic flop, and the economic slowdown, the cadres could look to the friendly government on the island and realize that its primary goal (gobbling Taiwan up) was becoming closer to reality. That "progress" could very well be halted in its tracks, giving the anti-Communist "green" coalition (DPP and its friends) time to regroup and make its case that resistance to the CCP trumps everything else.
After all, even most Taiwanese who wanted friendly relations between Beijing and Taipei probably didn't have this in mind.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I'm sure it was quite nostalgic for the cadres, as they continue to face the effects of a crippling economic slowdown (Guardian, UK) and an ever-increasing resentment of Communist corruption (Epoch Times).
In fact, the battle between past and present was the prominent theme of today's collection of news. Regarding relations with the United States, the cadres put the halcyon past on display once more - marking the 30th anniversary of the official establishment of diplomatic relations (Bloomberg). They even got the usual throw-Taiwan-under-the-bus language from their American guests. Meanwhile, Dr. Henry Miller detailed how Communist corruption has literally poisoned Sino-American trade relations of multiple levels in the Washington Times.
Even the shibboleths of the recent past are crumbling. President Bush still hasn't left office, yet the world-hates-America theme is already being debunked (Weekly Standard) - to the point that "polling data from the Pew Research Center shows that the United States still has approval ratings of more than 50% across Asia, giving it a more positive reputation than China" (Weekly Standard Blog). Ouch!
Not that recent events have been all bad for the Communists. Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton's tough words on the cadres' Korean colony (One Free Korea) were a painful reminder of how far we have fallen from the time when such words were commonplace - and credible (OFK). The viceroy has even gone so far as to pick his successor, we think (OFK).
Still, it should be clear that things are different now. Foreign investment is drying up, the ability to buy off the various elites who would otherwise form an anti-Communist civil society is vanishing, more Americans are seeing the regime as an immediate, personal threat due to poisoned exports, and the rest of the world (particularly Asia) has recovered as healthy perspective on Zhongnanhai and Washington. The trends that pointed to the CCP's ascendancy on the world stage have suddenly shifted. We will see if the CCP adapts before the Chinese people are able to notice.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
We'll start with the news. The Royal Bank of Scotland, which bought into the regime-run Bank of China less than four years ago, has sold out, following in the footsteps of Bank of America. They're not be alone either, as Bloomberg notes:
The Edinburgh-based bank sold 10.8 billion shares for HK$1.71 apiece, or about 7.6 percent less than Bank of China’s closing price in Hong Kong today, said three people familiar with the sale who declined to be identified before a formal announcement.
. . .
Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing raised $511 million selling shares in Bank of China on Jan. 7. Separately, Bank of America sold $2.8 billion of shares in China Construction Bank Corp., while Zurich-based UBS sold about $900 million of Bank of China shares last week.
Goldman Sachs still owns 16.5 billion shares in Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., the world’s largest bank by market value, and has agreed not to sell the
shares until after April 28.
Folks, when Li Ka-Shing is unloading his investments in Communist China, it's time to head for the exits. The fact that RBS lost over $750 million on the investment is another omen (BBC). If Goldman Sachs starts dropping stock on April 29, the jig may very well be up.
However, this is all in the economic and financial realm, and anyone who follows this space would know that economics is not reliable as a weapon. Certainly, the economic downturn will cause the CCP serious headaches - and is, in fact, causing a few already - but I doubt it will lead to the regime's demise per se.
What should worry the cadres - because this really could put the regime in danger - is what it means for the outside view of their regime.
As John Pomfret notes so well in the Washington Post Global Blog, "There's a cottage industry in Washington and in investment banks around the globe (who have a lot of skin in China's continued growth) that China is going to make it." Some of the investment banks to which Pomfret refers are the very banks that are taking their "skin" out of the game as fast as possible. These are the moneyed entities that have most politicians' ears on economic, political, and even some geopolitical matters. For years, if not decades, this bunch (Wall Street for Americans, Bay Street for Canadians, the City for Britons, etc.) have been insistent that the CCP is a fine group of folks, a decent player on the world stage and excellent steward of the economy. For all I know, these may still be the words used in the financial community, but now the money is saying something entirely different.
This could have dramatic implications whenever the CCP needs cover for its overseas intimidation (Epoch Times) or its human rights abuses (Epoch Times). No longer will the leading entrepreneurs and financiers in the free world have a vested interest in keeping the Communists' happy. No longer will they feel so compelled to come to the regime's defense. It may take time for that reality to trickle down to the political realm, but it will get there.
Thus bereft of the support of Western financiers (or at the very least, with that support diminished), the regime will have to rely on their anti-American terrorist allies to intimidate or defeat the free world (Epoch Times and One Free Korea). Lest anyone get the wrong impression, the Communists won't be increasing their anti-American activity or support; they'll just have more at stake in its success - at the exact same time when the democratic world will become more interested in seeing the CCP as it really is. For Zhongnanhai, that's a perfect storm - right on top of them.
The Soviet Union was never able to present itself as a part of the global economic community (it was decades before they were even willing to try). The CCP managed to pull that off in many circles, and they have used that as cover for their real objectives against America for years. We are watching that cover slowly disappear. Expect many more eyes to be opened to the real nature of the Chinese Communist Party.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
For years, the Communists relied on building economic power to compliment their military power and bring the West to heel. The model was simple, make the free world more and more dependent on the CCP, and then spring the trap. The problem for the Communists is that economics and politics are never that simple.
Sure, many in the free world who should know better are buttering them up (as Rana Foroohar of Newsweek does, in what is easily the Ignorant Comment of the Day; Matthew Continetti takes Foroohar apart on the Weekly Standard Blog), but for the cadres, the painful realities are coming into view.
The CCP's position as the largest creditor to the United States has not removed any roadblocks for Huawei Technologies' effort to break into North America (Forbes), or prevented members of Congress from taking aim at its deliberately devalued currency (The Hill). Meanwhile, the Canadian government continues to be a headache for both the regime and its enablers (Canadian Business). The best the cadres can seem to do is keep America from resolving the issue of its detained Uighurs in Guantanamo Bay (The Australian), but that's more a function of the Communist propaganda on East Turkestan (Epoch Times) than any economic concerns.
Even the Communists' financial and political charm offensive in Taiwan (AFP via Yahoo) has struck out - the number of Taiwanese who support reunification with Communist China is still less than one in fifteen (Angus Reid). Looks like that 2012 invasion is still necessary.
Meanwhile, the current economic climate has led the cadres to scale back their investments overseas (Market Watch) - save for their propaganda machines (Fox Business). Clearly, the regime is deemphasizing the yuan in favor of the pen. One can hardly blame them, as their previously envious economy has gone off the rails (Epoch Times).
More ominously, laid-off workers are "becoming increasingly bold in expressing their unhappiness -- expanding a debate over how to protect the Chinese economy into long-fought disputes over other issues such as freedom of expression and equality before the law" (Washington Post). This is exactly the sort of thing the regime fears most.
So what will the Communists do when they realize (as they soon will) that the economics cannot be aimed at pointed at their enemies? They'll go back to more traditional methods. In fact, for the CCP, the foray into economics was itself a diversification of weaponry. The old standbys - military buildup and projection (Weekly Standard), arming terrorists (Epoch Times), etc. - never really went away.
So the regime is still threat it has always been, but now we should be aware that it cannot use economics as a weapon. That should allow the leaders of the free world (who tend to be hyper-focused on economics in the belief that it drives their respective electorates) to take a clear-eyed view of the CCP and the danger it poses.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
The initial blow came from the Party itself, albeit in an attempt to mitigate the damage. The Communists' elite mouthpiece (Outlook) put job losses in the "People's Republic" in the eight-figure range (Agence France Presse via Yahoo), i.e., at ten million. Apparently, Beijing sent this out as an all-hands-on-deck warning to cadres high and low (plus all the dependent minions).
At the very least, the Communists area acknowledging they have a problem. Outsiders were aware of this for weeks (Bloomberg, the Australian Age, and the Times of London) - although Newsweek and Citi (Marketwatch) seemed to have missed the memo. They may want to talk to Bank of America, which has begun divesting its holdings in the Communist banking sector (Dow Jones via CNN).
Whether the cadres will actually do anything about it is another question.
After all, the regime isn't about to seriously fix one of the biggest drains on the economy: corruption. As Mark Magnier of the Los Angeles Times put it (Otago Daily Times), "local officials regard their position as a licence to steal" (hey, where have I heard that before?). Aside from symbolic gestures (Bloomberg), the cadres aren't about to do anything to upset that apple cart.
Thus the regime will likely do what it always does when it's in trouble: crackdown on dissidents (AFP via Yahoo and WebProNews), rattle its sabre (Strategy Page), and steal what it can, when it can (AFP via Yahoo and Bloomberg).
Will it work this time? I'm not so sure. While I tend to be skeptical about the assertions that the world is facing its toughest economic situation since the Great Depression, this really is an unprecedented situation for the CCP. The last time it face economic problems like this, it deliberately caused them in the Great Leap Backward (which was far worse, BTW). While economic growth ceased being sufficient for the regime to maintain power after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, it has made it easier for the regime to recruit cadres (see above, licenses to steal are always worth more if there's plenty to take) and buy off the parts of society that would usually start tyranny-replacing dissident movements.
If anything, the economic doldrums will make the regime more reliant on the radical nationalism it has used as its raison d'etre for twenty years, which is bad news in the short run for Taiwan, India, Japan, the United States, and the rest of the democratic world.
However, if the free world is ready, willing, and able to resist the CCP's efforts to preserve itself at the expense of everyone else, it could lead to the regime's collapse. We can only hope.
Friday, January 02, 2009
In the halls of Zhongnanhai, however, 2009 promises to be a tumultuous year of crisis and crackdowns - and that would have been true even without the economic slowdown that has sent foreign investors running for the exits (Wall Street Journal), for this year can best be described as the "Anniversary Year" - the year several milestones in tyrannical history of the Chinese Communist Party are due for remembrance.
In just over two months, things begin with the fiftieth anniversary of the anti-Communist Tibet uprising of 1959. True, some of the pressure building for this year was let loose by last year's brouhaha (which is in no small part why I believe the cadres were determined to instigate something last March), but there is plenty of resentment left in reserve. Add to it the Dalia Lama's determination to link his cause to the greater movement for democracy in China, and the first anniversary could set a very troubling tone for the CCP.
Just over a month later, as April nears its exit and spring really kicks into gear, we'll have a new decade marker - the tenth anniversary of the Falun Gong protest of 1999. That quite but determined demand for religious freedom - followed three months later by the CCP's decision to ban the entire practice - will shine a bright light on Communist persecution for at least three months, and bring even greater attention to the practitioners' plight.
However, before we get to the July ban and the official ten-year demarcation for the Falun Gong War, we'll hit the mother of all anniversaries (pun partially intended) - the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.
Actually, if the Communists are lucky, Tiananmen will only come up in June. More likely, May 2009 will have a long crescendo of memorials to the Tiananmen spring, and the million-plus who made their way to the square to show their disapproval of the corrupt tyranny (if the cadres are really unlucky, the May 1989 protests outside Beijing - which according to some accounts brought out more than 100 million people - will finally be given their due). It will build to the observance of the bloody crackdown itself.
This is the one day the cadres have dreaded, which is why I am still certain they will do anything to shift attention away from it, including giving the silent green light to an Iranian nuclear test just before June begins (lest anyone think I'm being alarmist, let's not forget that Iran's Hamas proxies are now killing Israelis with CCP-made missiles - Epoch Times).
July, as mentioned earlier, will have the Falun Gong War anniversary, but the surprising calendar landmine will come the following month - or, to be precise, on August 8, 2009. This will be the one-year anniversary of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, a time to remember what the Communists hoped to get out of the Games (more international prestige, more support at home, etc.), and what actually came after them (the economic slowdown, domestic anger at the over-the-top spending on Olympic renovations and land seizures, international questions about corruption in Communist sport programs, etc.). More ominously for the cadres, it will also be the first time for the Chinese people to look back and count the cost of the whole farce.
Before August is out, we will also see the sixtieth anniversary of the occupation of East Turkestan, which in the present global environment is sure to get some attention. While most of it will follow the CCP line in some way, shape, or form, odds are at least a few more journalists (and many more readers) will have their eyes opened to the real situation there.
Compared to that kind of spring and summer, the early fall will be a welcome relief. September 19 will mark five years for Hu Jintao as Chairman of the Central Military Commission (and thus, ruler of the country - more on that later). October 1 will be the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the "People's Republic of China," which may actually go quite will for the cadres until someone reminds the world just how may Chinese died to satiate the mad whims of the founder.
The final two anniversaries (both in November) will - in different ways - go straight to the heart of the issue: the nature of the CCP regime. The 9th will be the twentieth anniversary of the Berlin Wall's demise. While most of the discussion will center around how Europe is today, I'm sure there will also be plenty of ink spilled and bandwith used about the one Communist behemoth that hasn't fallen yet.
The other November anniversary will be felt much more inside the CCP's realm: the fifth anniversary of the Hanyuan County massacre. It will be a sharp reminder to all who remember it of Hu Jintao's willingness to rely on bullets and blood to maintain "stability."
All in all, the cadres can expect an interesting year. Given the tragic inability of the free world's leaders to understand the stakes of Cold War II, it will likely be a year the regime survives, but it will also add more fuel to the fires of resentment felt by the CCP's greatest victims: the Chinese people. Thus 2009 will bring freedom that much closer to China.
How much closer would that be? As always, only time can tell.