Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Will Japan re-energize Obama on the CCP?

The Obama Administration's reaction to Stalinist North Korea's attack on the democratic South was traditional, conventional, and weak. Once again, the Chinese Communist Party was able to position itself as the supposedly reasonable regional power trying to get a handle on their crazy ally - even though it has to this day refused to criticize Kim Jong-il and his crew. That said, Zhongnanhai has been unable to get policy concessions out of the president yet, and what Japan is about to do with its National Defense Policy Guidelines may get the White House to snap of out its post-attack stupor.

According to the Financial Times (UK), Japan's military will release the aforementioned guidelines later this month, and they will call for a major shift in military policy.
Officials and analysts say the keenly awaited National Defence Policy Guidelines will signal a historic refocusing of Japan's army and other forces toward securing the line of small islands in the southern Nansei chain that stretches from Japan’s main islands toward Taiwan and are seen as threatened by China's rapidly growing military power.

Among the islands in the Nansei chain are Okinawa and the Senkakus, the latter of which are claimed by the Communists (they call them the Diaoyus).

The implications of this are numerous, and none are good for the CCP.

Within Japan, it means a maturing of the Democratic Party of Japan - recently elected to power on a platform that included cozying up to the Communists. According to an analyst quoted by the FT, a recent incident with a fishing boat from mainland China woke up the DPJ and the military top brass about the threat from the CCP. The long-governing Liberal Democratic Party had moved in an anti-Communist direction under Junichirio Koizumi (the last LDP leader to win an election - in 2005). Now the DPJ is joining its rival.

Regionally, the CCP may find itself repeating recent history - and not in a good way for the Communists. Last year, Zhongnanhai tried to take advantage of apparent American weakness by declaring the entire South China Sea for itself. Several American allies, including Indonesia, cried foul - and much to everyone's surprise, America joined them. Just weeks ago, President Obama himself called for India to be made a permanent member of the Security Council. Now, Japan will be heavily reinforcing an island chain that at present includes a large (and locally controversial) American military base.

If Okinawa is now a regional front-line island, the US military may not be so unwelcome. Or more likely, a strong Japanese military presence may allow the US to pull out of Okinawa entirely, thus replacing an unpopular foreign power with a strong domestic military presence dedicated to defending the homeland, while the Pentagon can score an unexpected boon to reallocate or contribution to overall deficit reduction.

I sincerely doubt the CCP was hoping for that.

In any event, Obama, whatever one thinks of him, is clearly the most multilateral president America has had in a long time. As I noted earlier, this has led to a focus on our more well-known allies in Europe - most of whom are wheezing social democracies increasingly unwilling to defend themselves from regional and global threats.

However, in Asia, America's allies are more practical - and the CCP threat is more pressing and immediate. As such, Obama's instincts have lead him to be tougher on Zhongnanhai then previous Administration's in the South China Sea. Unfortunately, the refusal to accept the reality of the CCP-North Korea alliance (i.e., that it's a tool Zhongnanhai uses to pry democratic nations apart) afflicts Seoul and Tokyo as much as it does Washington. However, the Communists have no such deflection at the ready where the Nansei-Sankakus are concerned.

If Japan really does shift its military posture (the report has not yet been released) and Washington stands with Japan as it did with Indonesia, the Obama Administration's unnamed-containment policy may be back on track.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is Beijing Using North Korea again?

Apparently out of the blue, Stalinist regime in northern Korea shelled Yeonpeyong Island in the democratic part of the country (a.k.a. South Korea). The rest of world is trying to come to terms with the shock. There are at least two death as of 8AM EST. The White House "strongly condemned" (MSN India) the attack, but hasn't had much time to react beyond posturing.

Analysts are fishing for explanations, but the most popular one is that this has something to do with the power struggle within the regime. As Iain Martin put it, shelling a South Korean island is "what passes for a campaign ad in North Korean politics."

I'm not so sure, or to be more precise, I don't think that's the only reason. As much as people would like to think the regime in charge of northern Korea is a lone wolf unable to control or even understand, that regime is wholly dependent on the Chinese Communist Party for its survival. Moreover, the CCP prefers its allies and satellites take full blame or credit for their antics, as it turns Beijing into the "good police state" and enable them to extract more concessions from the democratic world (this is why the ChiComs' closest ally in the Middle East is the Iranian mullahcracy, but I digress).

In fact, there's almost no way a move like this wouldn't get green-lighted by the CCP; keep in mind, the Communists have even gone so far as to make a historical claim to northern Korea as Chinese territory, in part to make it clear who's boss and in part to lay the groundwork for a possible annexation if the Stalinist regime becomes more trouble than its worth.

So, this begs the question: why did the CCP let this happen? For that, we have to look at the last year in eastern Asia.

Amidst the European bailouts, the bizzare "reset" with Russia, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the numerous domestic issues the decided the November elections, little attention has been paid to the western Pacific. However, events there have been dramatic, and dramatically unexpected.

It began when the CCP tried to declare the South China Sea as its own lake. As expected, numerous nations in Southeast Asia cried foul. Not so expectedly, the United States - led by the American apologist President and the Secretary of State whose husband was arguably the Communists' best friend in the White House - responded, essentially, "No."

One can only imagine the shock in Zhongnanhai from that.

Perhaps the Communists believed that this was mere posturing for the voters. That notion disappeared with the President's post-election tour of Asia (India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan). It could have been called the China Containment Tour. Now we're hearing elected officials inside and outside the Administration slanging the CCP for their deliberately devalued currency, and while the criticisms stem from economic confusion rather than geopolitical clarity, that's a distinction without a difference to Hu Jintao et al.

In short, the Chinese Communist regime has watched, likely in subdued horror, as Barack Obama's government moved - haltingly, and with some stumbles, but unmistakably - towards the most anti-Communist Asia policy in twenty years. It has been, almost literally, Nixon-goes-to-China in reverse.

So, now the CCP - and the rest of us - will see if the Administration's newfound and quasi-accidental policy will come with newfound resolve. It won't be as easy as it sounds initially. In Southeast Asia, the President's backbone was widely applauded, especially in Indonesia (in an even more painful irony for the CCP, Obama's time there may be driving his policy in the region). Japan, by contrast, has a center-left government with a more accomodationist policy towards Beijing (although South Korea does not).

This is a critical moment. If Obama follows precedent, i.e., comes hat-in-hand to the CCP to enlist its help in "controlling" Kim Jong-il and his would-be successors, then things will come back to normal in East Asia (and that's not good). However, if the President follows his instincts from Southeast Asia, it could dramatically alter the global balance - and in America's favor.

Nixon's fervent anti-Communist history made him practically the only American politician who could reach out to the CCP. Conversely, Obama's left-wing history may make him the best-equipped American leader to take the CCP on. I believe the ChiComs condoned this incident in the hope to prevent the above from happening. Time will tell if they were right; if not, the Chinese people may get a surprising boost in their fight to take their country back from the Communist regime that enslaves them.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Korea: the endgame no one sees coming

At first, I was surprised to hear that the Stalinist regime in northern Korea had chosen to sink a democratic Korean ship. The timing (late March) seemed off. The Tibet occupation commemorations had already passed, while the remembrance of the Tiananmen massacre was still more than two months away.

Adding to the surprise, the Chinese Communist Party let some of their mouthpieces fire some rhetorical rounds at . . . Kim Jong-il (Yonhap via One Free Korea):

In a rare move for Chinese state-controlled media, the Beijing-based newspaper openly criticized North Korea, calling it "proud."

"North Korea is dancing haphazardly along the nuclear tightrope, fraying the nerves of every world power. It is apparently proud, believing that it has played a dominant role," the Global Times said. "But North Korea fails to realize that the most dangerous role is the one the country itself is playing."

Joshua Staunton (the founder of OFK) doesn't think this amouts to much, and he has a point. The Global Times may be a CCP mouthpiece, but it isn't the CCP mouthpiece. Moreover, the cadres in Zhongnanhai have a history of playing the democratic world for fools. Who can forget when the CCP voted in favor of United Nations-imposed sanctions on northern Korea and then told the world - on the same day - that it wouldn't enforce them?

This time, however, I think something deeper is in play, something that few, if any, will see coming, and dramatically change East Asia - and not for the better, though it will appear that way to the untrained eye.

One thing we need to remember is that the cadres have been claiming for almost five years that northern Korea is actually Chinese territory, or at least it was back when it was called the Kingdom of Koguryo. Lest anyone consider this preposterously irrelevant, keep in mind that Mao used a similar verison of revisionist history to conquer Tibet in 1950.

Of course, the idea of that CCP could send in a military force to annex northern Korea and get away with it would be ridiculous - unless the democratic world was scared enough of the Korean tyranny to acquiesce in the move. That's more likely than one would like to believe.

Both America and Japan have elected governments more focused on domestic matters and less interested in projecting national power. Russia remains more obsessed with the European "near abroad" than the demographic loss of its own Far East provinces. Hardly anyone else considers the situation on the Korean peninsula as anything but a regional issue (i.e., one which doesn't involve them). All of them would be either uninterested in a CCP annexation or secretly grateful to the cadres for bringing "stability" with their conquest.

For the CCP, meanwhile, the benefits would be considerable. Hu Jintao, facing a party conference in two years and very little to show for his current tenure as CCP supremo, could bask in becoming the first Chinese leader since Mao to add territory the Middle People's Republic. This could enable him to handpick his successor as Party leader at least, and perhaps even stay around as Chairman of the Central Military Commission (and thus continue to wield the true power) for years after 2012. For the party as a whole, it would make radical nationalism suddenly look relevant again, especially if it can show the Chinese people that the democratic world endorsed the land grab (silent acquiescence will be more than enough for the cadres to twist and exaggerate to meet their needs).

For the Chinese people, however, it would be awful. The day the CCP loses power could be knocked back by decades as a rejuvenated tyranny once again takes aim at political dissidents. The balance of power would be permanently reoriented in Zhongnanhai's favor. Finally, Korea would never be whole again.

Naturally, democratic Korea would be furious, and loud. The CCP would have to make sure Washington can and will restrain South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, especially given that Korean nationalism would quickly transform from a long a left-wing phenomenon exploited by Kim and Beijing to a right-wing fury that would never forgive them for the annexation.

That's where the latest news Joshua dug up at OFK is so revealing (emphasis added):

Now, there is the story of Kim Soon-Nyeo, whose targets included a 29 year-old college student, two travel agency workers, and her grand sugardaddy, a former executive of the Seoul Subway system.

. . .

The spy collected “confidential” information about the subway system from Oh, information about local universities from the student, and a list of names of high-ranking police and public officials from the travel agents.

Oh maintained extramarital relations with the spy since his first encounter with her in China in May 2006, and transferred nearly 300 million won ($252,000) to “help” her cosmetics business. In June 2007, he became aware that she was a North Korean spy, but continued the relationship.

“What Oh handed over to the spy included contact information of emergency situation responses and other not-so-important internal data,” Kim Jung-hwan, a Seoul Metro spokesman, told The Korea Times, dismissing concerns that it could be used in possible acts of terrorism here by the North. Kim retired from his post in 2008. [Korea Times]

Yes, I can imagine a circumstance in which we or South Korea might face a provocation or a threat so serious that we have to do something more dramatic, in which case what Halloran calls for might have to be our first step. But I’m not there yet, because I fear that North Korea’s most dangerous weapons are already inside South Korea.

In other words, the Stalinists were gathering information to conduct terrorist attacks that could cripple the democratic South while leaving American troops at the demilitarized zone unscathed.

One can imagine what could happen next: terrorist attacks in Seoul, Lee demanding retaliation. America and Japan wringing their hands. When suddenly, the People's Liberation Army crosses the Yalu River, pounds their de facto colony's military and industry, dusts off the Koguryo claims, and reassures the rest of the world that it will all be over soon. Koreans may be enraged, but in Washington the reaction will be a sigh of relief, and strong reminder to Seoul of just who depends on whom for military protection. Game, set, and match to the cadres.

Now, there are still a number of variables that can stop this: Kim Jong-il may calm down; the various would-be successors to his weakly gripped crown could defuse the situation themselves (or argue among themselves enough to have the situation defused by inactivity); the terrorist network the Stalinists would use against the South might not be in place; someone in Pyongyang might even be smart enough to figure all this out (probably not Kim himself, but in his current condition, the right word at the right time can be awfully persuasive).

Still, we need to be prepared for the possibility that the cadres will decided using Kim Jong-il and his cronies has run its course, and annexation is their next move. Whatever one thinks of Kim and his regime, we must not forget that it is only in place because the CCP wants it in place. Replacing Pyongyang's anti-American tyranny with Beijing's anti-American tyranny is no solution.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why the Administration's policy toward Communist China is so dangerous

The president sent his Assistant Secretary of State to discuss human rights, and in response to the Chinese Communist Party's labor camps, one-child policy, and indiscriminate imprisonment of political prisoners, Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner . . . apologized for an Arizona state law on immigration.

The Obama Administration has entered new territory in regards to its policy towards the Chinese Communist Party. The new way of doing things is mind-boggling, sickening, and outrageous (and lest anyone think I'm being partisan, Obama's Ambassador to the CCP - Jon Huntsman, who according to Posner's comments on Politico was in on the self-hate fest - was formerly the Republican Governor of Utah; if he's representative of the Utah GOP elite, then that's one more reason Senator Bob Bennett's campaign bit the dust). However, it is also very, very dangerous for several reasons. They are as follows.

It risks further harm on the political prisoners themselves: One comment I will always carry with me is from a speech Richard Gephardt gave when he declared his opposition to permanent free trade with the CCP. He talked about how sensitive the cadres were to outside criticism, so much so that the prisoners themselves could gauge how much flak the Party was getting - the more critics chirped, the nicer the guards were. Nonsense like this makes the cadres think they have a free hand to do whatever they'd like to their opponents behind bars - and when Chinese Communist hands are that free, they usually end up very bloody.

It demoralizes and confuses current dissidents: Does anyone think Hu Jia would be that upset over Arizona's attempt to battle illegal immigration? Think about it, an Arizona cop might ask Hu to show his green card if he's pulled over while driving within the state. Cadres in Henan province let as many as one million people die of AIDS and had Hu arrested for trying to expose them. How about Chen Guangcheng? The regime imprisoned and beat him for helping women violently abused by cadres enforcing the "one child" policy. Don't get me started on Falun Gong, independent Christians, or Hanyuan County.

What this nonsense out of Washington does is make these victims feel completely ignored by the one nation that should remember their plight. This will make it much harder for them to help the Chinese people take their country back.

It gives the CCP international prestige that it will use to enslave more people. After all, if the Chinese Communist Party is the same as the Arizona legislature, what's the big deal about the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong? Or the invasion of Taiwan, should it happen (and I am increasingly convinced that it will)?

My last point doesn't deal with Arizona, but rather the larger context (which, as Jay Nordlinger ruefully notes, included American apologies about "crime, poverty, homelessness, and racial discrimination."

These comments reveal an appalling ignorance of reality in Communist China. Lest anyone forget, the Chinese Communist Party Member card is a license to steal. Outside of the Potemkin cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen), China is mired in a poverty unimaginable in the United States. Millions are "relocated" due to land seizures by corrupt cadres. As for "racial discrimination," try being a Korean in Communist China - actually, on second thought, don't.

In the end, it all points to one thing: the Chinese Communist Party no longer has any reason to take America seriously. This will have catastrophic repercussions, be it with Taiwan (as mentioned), our enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq (who have been past receivers of Communist support), the mullahcracy in Iran (long the CCP's best friend in the Middle East), North Korea, or anywhere else.

Meanwhile, there was no mention of the long arm of lawlessness interfering with Chinese-Americans trying to exercise their political rights in this country, although this dangerous combination of repression and espionage has been unchallenged by Administrations in both political parties.

CCP-watchers have long since gotten used to dissapointments in Washington. No one who remembers the Clinton or Bush Administration were completely shocked when Obama went the "engagement" route. However, this president has been far more obsequious to Beijing than any other, and given the Ambassador, Obama's political opposition is hardly without blame.

There will come a time when the American people will demand a bona fide anti-Communist president, and (s)he will help bring down the CCP, but that future looks more expensive and, quite frankly, much bloodier today than it did even last week.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal and Virginia Virtucon

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reflections on Earth Day

I write this on April 22 - known before 1970 as Lenin's birthday and since then in America as "Earth Day" (when you are reading this, of course, I cannot know). With each passing year, the irony of grafting environmental awareness on the birthday of Communism's founder and examining the ecological records of his largest political heir (the Chinese Communist Party) grows more painful, more cynically amusing, and more impossible to ignore.

This will surprise the casual observer who only sees the CCP press releases on alternative energy sources (yes, Tom Friedman, that means you), but there is arguably no regime that damaged our planet as much as the Chinese Communist Party. The cadres have been forced to account for such exotic chemical spills as cadmium, benzene, and heaven knows what else. They have a slew of mining accidents - annually. Their hydroelectric dam addiction has thoroughly disturbed and distorted water flows, while turning such natural treasurers as the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers into toxic soups. Air pollution is so bad in the interior that the cadres in one city actually explored cutting out the tops of mountains to allow fresh air in. Then there are the open-air nuclear tests from last century, which killed over 200,000 people in occupied East Turkestan (also known as Xinjiang) and sickened many, many more.

In short, the regime in Zhongnanhai has taken its rightful place among Communist defilers of the environment. The Soviet Union was infamous for its toxic-caused animal mutation, and the Chernobyl fiasco was a shocking example of Moscow's lax concern for nuclear safety both before an accident and during one. Yet in the free world, environmentalism remains a largely left-wing phenomenon, complete with the lack of concern for Communist regime's actual records.

What the Western left may be thinking is not the point here, but rather the strange dichotomy between the presumed notion in the free world of government superiority in ecological matters and the reality of totalitarian regimes where the government is itself worse than any corporation - or entire industry - imaginable.

Most economists, environmentalists, and elected officials in the democratic world understand that in making decisions about what to buy, build, or bring together, long-term environmental consequences are not usually a major factor (the term in economic geek-speak is "externality"), and that government can have a role in countering this. However, that assumes government is an arbiter, or at most a facilitator, in the market, without any interests of its own.

Whether this assumption is correct or not is one of the disagreements that have driven politics in the free world for decades, if not centuries. However, there is one important point missed: a totalitarian regime is never an uninterested arbiter; it will always have its own interest - namely survival - front and center. Therefore, the aforementioned long-term environmental consequences are just as irrelevant to the Chinese Communist Party as it would be to your average consumer in the free world. In fact, one could argue that it's less relevant to the CCP, as the regime will assume it has enough power to protect itself from the consequences of the ecological damage it does (the people are, of course, left to suffer).

Thus, tyrannical regimes - interested only in surviving and protecting the group of tyrants (however large or small) - are all but certain to be worse stewards of the planet than democracies are, and the Chinese Communist Party is proving it every single day.

In time, this reality will become harder and harder for the CCP to conceal (the truth about the Soviets started to leak out in the 1980s, but the USSR collapsed before it became common knowledge). Thanks to the regime's faulty policies, China has become the largest carbon emitter on the planet. Its major electric dams are pollution havens. I shudder to think what will happen as they build more nuclear power plants (and I say this as a fan of nuclear power).

As the Zhongnanhai regime limps ahead, it will become abundantly clear to the free world's legion of "green" activists that the CCP is as much their enemy as it is the enemy of everyone else. It may very well be an event celebrated on the birthday of Communism's founder that become the tipping point for the end of Communism's largest regime.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On the Chinese Communist Party and Nuclear Proliferation

So the nuclear summit has wrapped up in Washington, and we have learned that we are safer today because we no longer have to worry about loose nuclear material from . . . Canada. France, on the other hand, refuses to join the nuclear-free fantasy. I suspect Washington will be keeping an eye on Paris for a while - again (of course, it's not exactly unusual for America and France to be at loggerheads; it's just a little strange to see the Parisians take the side of reason - but that's for another day).

If the above paragraph sounds flippant, then I've written it correctly, because so much of what happened this week was utterly useless. The "big fish" in nuclear proliferation - namely, Iran and North Korea - were never really going to be "caught," largely because the regime responsible for each one's nuclear ambitions - the Chinese Communist Party - was let off the hook, again.

The two large mistakes Washington has made regarding the Iranian and North Korean regimes - and it's a mistake shared by both this Administration and its predecessor - were these: an insistence that the CCP can be a useful partner without being coerced, and a refusal to replace the chimera of non-proliferation with the more robust counter-proliferation.

The first problem is in no small part due to the actions of Tehran, Pyongyang, and Zhongnanhai. It is no accident that the CCP has escaped blame for the actions of the rogue regimes. The cadres have continually sought out allies who meet three key characteristics. They are
  • a willingness to frustrate American ambitions or American interests
  • a willingness to defend the CCP's interests on the global stage when asked to do so, and
  • most importantly, a willingness to take all the blame for their antics, leaving the CCP unnamed and unaccountable

These are what make Tehran and Pyongyang perfect allies and tools for the CCP, especially the last one - and it is only by removing that last characteristic that the free world can get the CCP to seriously address these two regime's nuclear ambitions.

Simply put, the president should tell Hu Jintao the following, in no uncertain terms:

  • If the North Korean regime uses a nuclear weapon, Pyongyang and the CCP will be held responsible
  • If the Iranian regime uses a nuclear weapon, Tehran and the CCP will be held responsible
  • If a terrorist organization uses a nuclear weapon, given that the sources would almost certainly be Tehran, Pyongyang, or CCP-ally Pakistan, that terrorist group and the CCP will be held responsible

The painful fact is this: Tehran and Pyongyang are looking to become nuclear powers in order to use the weapons as blackmail to the rest of the world. It is no surprise that both have pursued their ambitions amid signs that their regimes are undergoing serious decay. They see their survival in blackmailing the free world to keep them in power. Moreover, the Chinese Communist Party finds these regimes useful, and has no incentive to restrain their behavior. That may change if it becomes clear they will suffer consequences from the actions of their allies.

That said, while forcing the CCP to accept responsibility for their allies can help the situation, there is still the regimes themselves to consider. Beijing is not Moscow, and the CCP is still the party of the late Mao Zedong - who famously deadpanned that a weapon capable of blowing up the Earth would only be "a major event for the solar system." Thus, Tehran and Pyongyang probably need more incentive than half-hearted warnings from Zhongnanhai to behave.

This is where counter-proliferation comes in. I first mentioned it three-and-a-half years ago, and I still consider it valid. Tehran may not feel so frisky about its nuclear capability if it new Georgia had a nuclear deterrent of its own (in fact, while Georgia with nuclear protection may mean little to the CCP, it may be enough for Russia to push Tehran to disarm entirely). Pyongyang may have the same concern if Japan, South Korea, and/or Taiwan had ready nuclear deterrents (that would certainly get the CCP's attention). These actions would also make abundantly clear that these regimes will be held responsible for any "loose nukes" that wind up in terrorist hands (the latter set of nuclear deterrents could make the message more pointed for the CCP).

Of course, as I said back in late 2006, these actions won't solve our problem, because the issue is not the nuclear weapons per se, but who has them. This is where my opening paragraph becomes more serious. The idea of democratic France posing a threat to world piece is laughable, but tyrannies like Iran, North Korea, and Communist China are something else again. It is the regimes, not their weapons, that are the threat. Thus, as I've also said before: America will never be secure until Iran, Korea, and China are free.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This is IT

For years, the Chinese Communist Party has benefited from a tidal wave of foreign investment in a slew of sectors, none more dramatic than that in information technology. The cadres had high hopes that IT firms from abroad - unable to resist the lure of "one billion customers" - would come banging on the door of Zhongnanhai, hat in hand and ready to little the information superhighway with whatever tolls or lane restrictions the Communists demanded. Instead, IT may just be the sector that points to the regime's future demise.

It all began with Google, who reacted to the CCP's refusal to address their concerns about censorship and hacking by shifting their search engine base to Hong Kong, where (for now) speech is still largely free, and self-censorship is not demanded (Washington Post). What this means for "one country, two systems" (or, as it has increasingly become, one country, one-and-a-half systems) remains unclear. It's reflection on the business environment in Communist China was far more revealing.

In effect, Google announced to the world that the Communist tyranny was incompatible with its business model. This makes Google arguably the first - and inarguably the largest - firm to make that decision. It shattered the myth that the CCP is a business-friendly regime, while putting a much-needed focus on how the Communists distort the market with their political objectives - to say nothing of their taste for corruption.

Google may not be alone for long. GoDaddy, an internet-domain firm best known in America for advertisements floating somewhere between provocative and bizarre, told a Congressional committee that CCP regulations for domain registration - including one that requires a domain buyer provide photo identification - left them "concerned for the security of individuals" (Daily Telegraph, UK), enough so that they could follow Google out the door.

An even bigger surprise came from India, where Dell is opening up a new computer production plant. According to India's Prime Minister, this could be the start of a dramatic shift (same link):

Mr Singh told the Hindustan Times: "This morning I met the chairman of Dell Corporation. He informed me that they are buying equipment and parts worth $25 billion from China (£16 billion). They would like to shift to safer environment with a climate conducive to enterprise with security of legal system."

. . . According to the Indian media, tax breaks given to Dell make it cheaper for the company to supply the Middle East, Africa and Europe out of India, rather than China.

Read that last line from Singh very carefully: "They would like to shift to safer environment with a climate conducive to enterprise with security of (a) legal system." That is clearly a shot at the Communist tendency to treat the Party card as a license to steal. It appears Michael Dell is getting frustrated with the lack of genuine rule of law in Communist China. If Dell follows through on the Chairman's apparent thinking, it would be the latest and most dramatic example of a growing investment trend away from Communist China in favor of democratic India.

Lest anyone think these are isolated incidents, a new poll from the American Chamber of Commerce revealed that a majority of foreign IT firms are unhappy with the Communist regime, and 37% of them blamed the CCP for damaging their sales. Overall 38% of all foreign firms polled "say they feel increasingly unwelcome to participate and compete in the Chinese market" (Newser).

Not that the Communists themselves are noticing. Mere days after playing the anti-American card against Google (BBC), they resorted to another heavy-handed tactic that makes so many investors squeamish - they tried to burst a housing bubble by banning all land sales (Business Insider).

Clearly, the Chinese Communist Party do not consider "a climate conducive to enterprise" as a top priority. Then again, they never have. What is different today is that many outside investors are noticing, and making decisions accordingly. Those decisions could not only put a crimp in the Communists' corrupt gravy train, but also provide an economic boost to the one rival that worries them as much as America does - India.

The cadres have literally unleashed upon themselves the hallowed (and hackneyed) Chinese curse: they have put themselves in "interesting times."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Iraq and China

The people of Iraq went to the polls last week, and we are just now beginning to get a picture of whom they elected. The election tells us many things, not just about Iraq, or even the Middle East, but about democracies in general, and whether governing with the consent of the governed is a concept that can take hold in China (hint: it can).

For decades, the Chinese Communist Party has insisted that "Western-style democracy" could not take root in its country. China was just too different, too special, and essentially too unique for such a thing to work. Never mind that the group of islands just across the Taiwan Strait - islands that CCP members insist are as Chinese as they are - have managed to build and maintain a functioning democracy for fourteen years, with not one, but two transitions of power from one party to another. Never mind that Hong Kong actually had a democratically elected City Council in place when it passed into CCP control, and that it was the CCP, not the people of the city, who limited and restricted democracy there. Never mind that with every day these contradictions continued, the notion that "mainland China" was no different from Hong Kong or Taiwan sounded stranger and stranger, compromising the CCP's own nationalist agenda. All that mattered was that mainland China was unsuitable for "Western" politics.

Of course, even the CCP noticed that the above seemed a little weird, so they changed the subject by focusing on other places outside of Western Europe where the people were not allowed to choose their own leaders and holding them up as paragons: the mullahcracy of Iran, the military junta in Burma, the al-Qaeda friendly regime in Sudan, the Ba'athists in Syria, at times even the Taliban itself, and - of course - Saddam Hussein. Every tyranny was another example of the folly of "Western-style democracy" outside of the West.

This is where Iraq's second election comes in.

For years, Iraq's painful experiment with popularly elected government seemed to confirm the CCP's self-serving notions. As prized as the ballot was to Iraqi voters, the politicians seemed to use that power largely to aggrandize themselves, enrich their connected friends, settle old ethnic and religious scores, and generally tear the country apart. Adding to the CCP's macabre glee was the fact that their client regime in Iran was well-positioned to pick up the pieces.

Then something happened, starting about three years ago: Iraq's political process began responding to the people's needs and wants - exactly what critics from the CCP on down insisted it could not do.

It started with the formation of a functioning political opposition (al-Iraqiya, or the Iraqi National Movement) under ex-Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. The rise of Allawi as de facto opposition leader created a dynamic where voters knew they could hold their government accountable without resorting to violence or terror. Within two years, the government was not only responding with better services, but Prime Minister Nouri Maliki himself split off from the religious coalition that helped install him and created his own secular cross-faith coalition.

This month, Maliki and Allawi are far and away the leading vote-getters in Iraq. Which one will lead the country is still unknown, but clearly the Iraqi government has become and will continue to be more accountable and responsive to the people.

What caused it? The rise of an opposition.

That's what the CCP fears; that's what makes "Western-style democracy" a real threat to them; the presence of a competitor for votes that can't be arrested, beaten, or pumped full of pharmaceuticals. In the long-run, it means the end of CCP rule. Even in the short-run, it would force the Communists to attempt honest and responsible government - an anathema to a regime where the Party Card is a coveted licence to steal.

So Iraq is a reminder of how important democracy is, and how dangerous it can be for tyrants. However, we cannot simply declare victory and rest on our laurels. The CCP knows how dangerous democracy can be, which is why they have spent so much time trying to restrict it at home and limit its influence abroad. Tyrants around the world can count on the CCP to help them because the CCP understands that each tyranny that survives give them more time to rule over the Chinese people.

Thus, every democracy is a threat to the CCP, and in response, the CCP has made itself a threat to every democracy, from the oldest (the U.S. and U.K.) to the youngest (Iraq, among others).

Thursday, March 04, 2010

On the State of Play

The Zeitgeist had two more examples of where we are vis a vis Communist China: the threat is understood by most to be real, but perhaps stronger than it truly is. Unfortunately, those who know enough to understand how weak the Chinese Communist regime is still use that fact to ignore - to out peril - the Party's motives.

Our first example is unusual - broadcast television. CBS' NCIS: Los Angeles is a new favorite in the household, with plots usually surrounding your typical crime drama with a military veneer. On occasion, the show ventures into modern geopolitics - almost always regarding the Wahhabist-Ba'athist-Khomeinist War (better known as the War on Terror).

This week, however, the emphasis was on "almost," as viewers were treated to one of the most anti-Communist TV hours since the PNTR debate of a decade ago. An investigation of a naval officer's suicide uncovers an espionage ring of whole families who agree to raise children as intelligence agents in exchange for life in America - and permission to have more than one child (the officer himself was the would-be spy; he took his own life rather than betray the United States).

Now, whether Communist Chinese intel is smart enough (perhaps) and patient enough (absolutely) to hatch a plot like that isn't the point. Here's what is: the major themes of the anti-Communist movement - the danger of CCP espionage, the plight of regime victims bullied into becoming regime agents, the horrifying "one child" fiasco - were aired across the country on a major network for all to see. If even Hollywood is prepared to accept the Communist Chinese threat, Washington can't be that far behind.

Unfortunately, so long as Washington continues to attract the Tom Friedmans of the world, it will be a maddening place in the interim. This is was the Washington Post piece by Steve Mufson and John Pomfret is so helpful - to a point. The former Post correspondents in Communist China detail the holes in the "Chinese century" theory. Among the juicier nuggets . . .

Projections of China's economic growth seem to shortchange the country's looming demographic crisis: It is going to be the first nation in the world to grow old before it gets rich. By the middle of this century the percentage of its population above age 60 will be higher than in the United States, and more than 100 million Chinese will be older than 80. China also faces serious water shortages that could hurt enterprises from wheat farms to power plants to microchip manufacturers.

And about all those engineers? In 2006, the New York Times reported that China graduates 600,000 a year compared with 70,000 in the United States. The Times report was quoted on the House floor. Just one problem: China's statisticians count car mechanics and refrigerator repairmen as "engineers."

In other words, the CCP isn't nearly as strong as so many fear.

Unfortunately, Pomfret and Mufson make an increasingly common mistake:
Some decades ago, Americans were obsessed with another emerging Asian giant: Japan . . . But then something happened. Japan's economy lost its game. The 1990s became a "lost decade," so much so that during the toughest days of the recent financial crisis, Japan was invoked as a cautionary tale, lest we not do enough to jump-start our economy.

Indeed, I remember when fear of a rising Japan seemed to consume America. There's only one problem: Japan was an American ally, a fact that always made the Nippo-phobia (assuming that's a word) overblown and ridiculous.

The CCP, by contrast, is an American enemy. This motive, lost on Mufson and Pomfret but not on the Writers' Guild, makes all the difference.

In the 1970s, European Communism was an economic basket case, too. The Soviet Union had a leader growing more and more detached from reality as his people suffered deeply. Yet the Soviets, like the CCP today, saw these weaknesses as reason to expand their power around the globe (in order to counteract the weakness), and because they came up against an unsure and self-doubting America, the decade that was supposed to spell out their doom turned into their best shot at global domination.

The Chinese Communist Party is in similar desperate straits, and may be facing a similarly distracted and despairing America. The CCP's weakness should reassure us about our position, but not reassure us on the Party's motive.

That last part is still something Washington hasn't quite figured out. That Hollywood - of all places - has is a good sign, but also a reminder of how far we still have to go until China is once again free and America is at last secure.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The astonishingly resilient anti-Communist majority

CNN took advantage of today's meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama to conduct a poll on American attitudes toward the Chinese Communist Party. The results were a pleasant surprise, to say the least.

First, it should come as no surprise that the Dalai Lama is very well-liked in the United States. The rest of the poll regarding Tibet seems contradictory at first.

Nearly three-quarters of all Americans think Tibet should be an independent country, according to a new national poll.

However, the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Thursday also indicates that most Americans think it is more important to maintain good relations with China than to take a stand on Tibet.

Again, that may sound contradictory, but we have to remember that the Dalai Lama himself repeatedly insists that he is not demanding independence, and he himself has been trying to build bridges to Zhongnanhai. The independence question aside, the American people are largely following the Dalai Lama's lead.

Meanwhile, as one would expect, human rights remains at the forefront of American thinking:
The poll also indicates that 53 percent say it's more important for the United States to take a strong stand on human rights in China than to maintain good relations with Beijing, with 44 percent saying good relations are more important.

Where things get interesting is the "Taiwan question":
By a 6-point margin, the survey also shows that more Americans say taking a strong stand on Taiwan by force is more important than maintaining good relations with Beijing.

Read that again, slowly, and you'll see how dramatic a statement that is.

We're talking about Taiwan (a.k.a. the Republic of China), a subject so delicate even the anti-Communist community has to treat it with kid gloves. Making matters even more difficult, the solution most anti-Communists would prefer (an anti-Communist movement willing to help the mainland overthrow the CCP and then reunify with a democratic China) has vanished over the last few years do to event that have led to a Communist-friendly vs. anti-Communist/pro-independence polarization, with the latter also suffering from a serious corruption hangover that allowed the former to sweep the electoral field in 2007 and 2008.

On top of that, the poll asked about "taking a strong stand on Taiwan by force." In other words, the American people - in the midst of a two-pronged war against al Qaeda and the Great Recession - were asked about effectively going to war to protect the island democracy, with all of its troubles, against a would-be (and soon, will-be) superpower.

Despite all of this, the American people responded, "Sign me up."

This is the latest - and probably, the most dramatic - example of the American people's resilient anti-Communism. For much of the 1990's, a majority of Americans called the "China" a threat (they meant the CCP, trust me), but in part, that could have been Republican reaction to the Clinton Administration's "engagement" with the regime.

Now, in 2010, Republicans and Democrats have seen one of their own espouse "engagement" in the White House in an attempt to get Beijing's cooperation on their respective foreign policy objectives. Despite this, the anti-Communism did not wane. If anything, it became more resolute (I know of no poll that said Americans in the 1990s were willing to use military force to defend the ROC).

In the 1930's, the Democrats embraced anti-fascism: they completely dominated American politics until 1953. In the late 1970's, the Republicans firmly stood against European Communism. From 1980 to 2008, they were the driving force in American politics.

This poll confirms what I have said it before, and I am compelled to say it again: the party that embraces the anti-Communist majority will be the majority party in American politics for at least the next generation. If history is any indication, it will also lead the American and Chinese peoples to victory over the CCP.

What we still do not know - and had best figure out soon - is this: which party is it going to be? One could make the argument for either the Democrats or the Republicans. In fact, liberals and conservatives are more likely to be anti-Communists than moderates, further complicating not only partisan predictions but, more importantly, making it harder to build a political coalition.

However, this poll clearly shows that the coalition can be built, and events around the world show it must be built. The questions remain: when and who?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A bitterly disappointing night

Last night, the leader of the free world and one of the most dynamic members of America's loyal opposition took to the airwaves to present their cases to the people. For anti-Communists, it was a terrible night.

Whether one was inclined to trust President Obama over Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell - or for independents, both and/or neither - the night was punctuated by the near-total silence on the dangerous rise of the Chinese Communist Party on the global stage. Admittedly, politicians don't like to give foreign policy does much attention during a recession - especially the Great Recession, as this one is now known. However, those who have risen above politics to embrace the mantle of true leadership have insisted on keeping their eyes, and ours, on the world around us to thwart the dangers with which we must deal.

Franklin Roosevelt mobilized America to resist the Nazi Empire despite the Great Depression. Ronald Reagan continued to lead the fight against European Communism despite the only recession since World War II to challenge this one in length and severity. Sadly, neither Obama (for whom, I will confess, I did not vote) nor McDonnell (for whom I did) seemed eager to follow in the footsteps of these two late leaders.

To the extent the president mentioned Communist China at all, it was as an economic competitor similar to India - latently invoking a China-India linkage that has been repeatedly debunked by reality. More ominously, the threat from Communist China itself was completely absent from the speech. There was no mention of the regime's ties to our enemies in the War on Terror (or as it is now known, "Overseas Contingency Operations"), nor any mention of the continuing military threat to the island democracy known as the Republic of China (despite recent reports that he has approved a new arms package for the ROC, as reported by CBS News). Even the CCP's continuing currency manipulation - which has done more to damage American manufacturing than anyone is willing to admit - received deafening silence from the president.

When the president mentioned foreign policy at all, he simply recycled the Pollyannaish words of his predecessor on North Korea and the Iranian mullahs. Does he really believe the Stalinist Korean regime "faces increased isolation and stronger sanctions . . . vigorously enforced"? Has he really convinced himself that the Iranian regime "is more isolated"? The only way the president can say these words with a straight face is if he believes what Zhongnanhai tells him about these two regimes. However, Zhongnanhai has always told presidents that they're willing to work with Washington on these issues; they just have their own definition of "work with Washington."

It is painfully ironic to see a president so determined to lay blame at the feet of his predecessor simply following the Bush line in the one area where a departure from the past would do the most good.

In response to the president, the Republicans brought forth Bob McDonnell, recently elected Governor of Virginia. As a Virginian myself, I saw McDonnell's campaign up close, and as I mentioned earlier, I liked enough of what I saw to vote for him. However, foreign policy was not and is not his area of expertise, and as such, he gave scant mention to it. Unlike the president, he never even mentioned North Korea or Iran, let alone the CCP.

Now, one might think I'm being a little harsh on the president and the governor, given the current times. However, geopolitics don't simply stop for the free world to recover its economic balance. In fact, our enemies - from the CCP on down - have used recessions, depressions, or panics to take advantage of the free world and out-muscle it wherever possible. The 21st Century is no exception.

Nor is the largely domestic careers of the two politicians any excuse. In the 20th Century, America won two World Wars and one Cold War. In all three cases, the dynamic leadership required for victory came from governors (Woodrow Wilson - New Jersey, FDR - New York, and Reagan - California).

What we saw last night was not merely reflective of two men; it was a symptom of the continuing elite notion that the CCP is a "rival" at worst, a "potential partner" at best. That the CCP is in fact an enemy is hardly considered. That is the root of the free world's problem, and if last night is any indication, it will remain a problem for a long time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tom Friedman and the elite point of view, revisited

Tom Friedman had another column out this week on Communist China - although it was somewhat disguised as a rant against the "War on Terror." Friedman makes it clear he would simply prefer the war go away; I prefer the term Wahabbist-Ba'athist-Khomeinist War, but that's not entirely relevant here. More to the point, Friedman's column reveals two things: first, the viewpoint of the Washington "elite" - which usually is very close to his own thinking - and second, the complete ignorance he, and they, have of the world around them.

We'll begin with an issue I normally don't discuss - the chimera of "energy independence." Friedman insists that "nothing would make us more secure" than becoming "independent of imported oil." This is a near-universal error among the chattering classes - and, sadly, much of the American people. It is, however, based on two seriously mistaken assumptions. The first is that most of America's oil imports come from the Middle East, and therefore enabling our enemies (the Wahabbists, Ba'athists, and Khomeinists, hence the term I use for this war). In fact, the our largest source of foreign oil has been - for six years and counting - Canada. Moreover, if present trends continue, by mid-decade the Great White North will export more oil to us than all of the Middle Eastern nations put together.

Secondly, and far more troubling, is Friedman's ignorance (shared by far too many people) of just where al Qaeda has received support over the years. In fact, the Chinese Communist Party has been an armer or funder of the Iranian mullahcracy, al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and Stalinist North Korea. Yet for some reason, Friedman ignores this, and he's not alone. Hardly anyone in the corridors of power in the free world have paid proper attention to the role the CCP has played in this war - namely, as a benefactor of our enemies. Then again, if more of them accepted the fact that it is a war, they might pay more attention.

The important point is this: the United States of America could stop importing oil tomorrow, and it wouldn't even slow our enemies down. It could, however, knock the Canadian economy back into recession. Good thinking there, Tom!

Having gotten so much about the geopolitical realities of the world wrong, Friedman's other mistakes really shouldn't surprise. Still, amidst the wreckage, there is one jaw-dropper:

Has anyone noticed the most important peace breakthrough on the planet in the last two years? It’s right here: the new calm in the Strait of Taiwan. For decades, this was considered the most dangerous place on earth, with Taiwan and China pointing missiles at each other on hair triggers. Well, over the past two years, China and Taiwan have reached a quiet rapprochement — on their own. No special envoys or shuttling secretaries of state. Yes, our Navy was a critical stabilizer. But they worked it out. They realized their own interdependence. The result: a new web of economic ties, direct flights and student exchanges.

A key reason is that Taiwan has no oil, no natural resources. It’s a barren rock with 23 million people who, through hard work, have amassed the fourth-largest foreign currency reserves in the world. They got rich digging inside themselves, unlocking their entrepreneurs, not digging for oil. They took responsibility. They got rich by asking: “How do I improve myself?” Not by declaring: “It’s all somebody else’s fault. Give me a handout.”

So many errors, so little time.

First of all, despite the sweet talk of Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao, the CCP is still aiming hundreds of missiles at Taiwan. The island democracy is just as threatened today as it was before Ma was elected two years ago. In fact, the Taiwanese people themselves seem to understand that better than their President - confronted with Ma's rose-colored-glasses policy, they have actually done the unthinkable and resurrected the much-maligned Democratic Progressive Party as a functioning opposition.

More to the point, the Taiwanese people have, in fact, depended upon the United States for decades. Two generations ago, President Eisenhower threatened nuclear war with Mao Zedong to protect Taiwan. A quarter-century later, the Taiwan Relations Act compelled America to ensure Taiwan had the ability and strength to defend itself.

I don't want to be too hard on Tom. He seems to be coming to the realization (however slowly), that the CCP is a genuine threat. He's not there yet, but I can see him making the journey. Unfortunately, his ignorance of the globe's past and present is hindering his ability to make the trip. More ominously, most of the free world's decision makers have the same blind spots that he does. That is a problem the electorates (i.e., you and me) need to fix - and quickly.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On the Google Incident

The hacking of Google, and the firm's decision to re-evaluate its entire operation in Communist China (h/t to NRO - The Corner) , may lead to dramatic changes on several levels, including bringing the day of liberation closer than before Google made its announcement. That may sound dramatic, but I believe it to be true. To understand why, let's take this step by step.

We'll start with the purpose of the attack on Google: "accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists." The first lesson we - and everyone else - can learn is this: any foreign business in Communist China will become part of the regime's surveillance system - whether they want to be or not. Ethan Gutmann has done a terrific job detailing how low the American business community had fallen in Losing the New China. In those cases, however, the firms were more than willing to help the cadres find and seize anti-Communists. In this case, Google clearly assumed (like most investors and businesses) that they would be "non-political." They found out the hard way that there is no such thing as non-political in Communist China. Current and future investors will take note, and hopefully make some very different decisions based upon this.

There is one line of thought that Google's decision is driven more by dollars and cents than common sense or moral outrage (see Sarah Lacy at Tech Crunch). In its own way, however, even this is good news, in part because the thrust of Lacy's column (revealed in this question: "Does anyone really think Google would be doing this if it had top market share in the country?") completely misses the point. The CCP will ensure Google will never win "top market share." Foreign business aren't supposed to succeed; they're supposed to throw good money after bad into Communist China while the CCP finds their intellectual property and robs them blind (again, Gutmann is a fantastic source). That hasn't stopped so many from dreaming of profits and "one billion customers." Google is no different.

What Google's action tells us is something about the American information technology sector: aiding repression is still considered bad business. We weren't sure if the old hyper-libertarian impulse that had been with the IT sector since its birth was still around. Now we know it is. This means it will be much harder for the CCP to convince Google's rivals or its successors to take its place as a dissident tracker (no one can claim they didn't see it coming anymore).

Given the fallout that is coming from this, why would the CCP risk losing so many investors - present and future - with this move? Well, here's the final (and most important lesson) here: The CCP cares about its preservation and its power first, last, and always. Economics, diplomacy, and everything else are just means to the above end. No one can claim otherwise. No one can be fooled by the CCP propaganda that they peddle about its "peaceful rise" and its supposed concern about economic growth above all else.

In short - to borrow and twist the famous line from The Usual Suspects - the devil can no longer convince the world that he doesn't exist.

This is something that will be remembered with every CCP acquisition abroad, every CCP foray into international politics. The elites of free world may finally began to view the CCP with the suspicion it deserves (the peoples of the free world have that suspicion already). However, this could be most damaging in the area it first started - outside investments in Communist China.

The CCP needs outside investors for a slew of reasons: the money, of course, the de facto endorsement that comes with an investment, and the new friends that can be used as apologists. As I have noted repeatedly, the CCP needs affirmation from outside to justify its regime to the suffering people inside. Without the former, the latter becomes that much harder (one of the lessons learned from European Communism in the 1980s), and getting more of the former took a major hit with Google's announcement yesterday.

Yes, the regime will survive if Google finally does withdraw, but it will be weakened, and with Iran in turmoil, anti-Communists gaining momentum in Taiwan, and India growing more leery of Zhongnanhai, the CCP cannot afford any more weakness.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Looking back, looking ahead

On this side of the Pacific (the east side), January is the beginning of the new year; on its western shores, it is close to the end of the old one. This gives us the perfect opportunity to look back and look ahead at the same time.

From one perspective, the anti-Communist had a very bad 2009 (for those readers suffering from pun withdrawal, one could say democracy supporters were quite gored in the Year of the Ox). A new Democratic president - Barack Obama - turned his back on nearly everything his predecessor did, except for "engagement" with the Chinese Communist Party. Meanwhile, the potential for the new Republican opposition in America to rediscover its anti-Communist past disappeared when Obama appointed Utah Governor Mike Huntsman to the post of Ambassador to the CCP. For the rest of the year, the Communist regime was largely ignored in Washington - not necessarily a bad thing, but it could have been much better. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi particularly disappointed with her near silence on the issue when there was never a better time for her to influence the debate in the capital.

Moving past the politicians and into the punditry, things actually got worse. What began as a discussion about global warming devolved into leading columnists pining for tyranny. Tom Friedman gushed over the "reasonably enlightened" CCP in a piece that should have embarrassed him. Canadian writer Diane Francis did Friedman one better by actually endorsing a global version of the hideous "one child" policy that made Zhongnanhai infamous around the world.

As all of this was going on, the regime seemed on the march across the globe. Beijing alone had the thrill of publishing good economic statistics (whether they were actually true statistics is for another column). More leaders of the free world - including Canada - seemed willing to do its bidding. Its chief Middle Eastern ally (the Iranian mullahcracy) moved closer to becoming a nuclear power. Its one-time Taliban allies were turning the tide in Afghanistan.

All in all, it's been a very good year for the CCP - on the surface. Scratch said surface, however, and it's a very different story.

While the American elite fell all over itself in praise of the regime, the American people maintained, and even increased, their wariness of Zhongnanhai. By the end of the year, even some of the "chattering classes" began to realize that the CCP's "peaceful rise" was anything but.

Meanwhile, the motivation for Tehran's hellbent quest for "the bomb" suddenly became known to the world: the Iranian people. Their continued defiance of the mullahcracy inspired the world, but it also sent a powerful message on the limits of dictatorship. About a decade ago, (First) Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis reminded us that oppressed people do have the power to force their oppressors to spend financial and political capital keeping the regime in place - and Tehran had to spend massive amounts of it. We saw the effects in Lebanon, where the pro-democracy March 14 movement scored an upset victory in national elections, and to a lesser extent in Iraq, where previous Iranian meddling seemed to ebb as the regime was forced to turn inward.

Given that the CCP's anti-American objectives and policies have largely been outsourced to Tehran - in part because the mullahs are so willing to credit for them and get the CCP off the hook - weakness in Iran means weakness in Zhongnanhai. Moreover, the regime can't look at the convulsions in Iran without worrying about the Chinese people rising up to take their country back.

Finally, even in Taiwan, things went south for the regime. While the CCP-friendly Kuomintang governed without any threat for much of the year, the voters in the island democracy brought the anti-Communist Democratic Progressives back to life in local elections last month. This time last year, President Ma Ying-jeou was a popular leader of a people seemingly willing to reach out to the Communists over the future of the Republic of China. Today, Ma is the leader of the Republic of China; the rest no longer holds.

So what can we expect in 2010? It's hard to say, but I think we'll know where to look: Iran. The resistance of the Iranian people will continue to spook Beijing and Tehran, while forcing both to ignore opportunities elsewhere. Meanwhile, the mullahs quest for nuclear weapons (which in no small part is fueled by a need to have the free world knuckle under and accept their repression of their fellow Iranians) will lead to more problematic headlines for the CCP.

Of course, if the Iranian people succeed in ending the mullahcracy, that could send shockwaves through tyrannies around the world - especially the CCP.