When a state --- be it Bahrain, Israel, Syria or China --- needs to stoop to the level of paying citizens to fight its public relations wars, it has already lost.
Entries in China (54)
We already knew about the US effort to persuade Japan and South Korea to reduce their supply of oil from Iran. What is striking now is the inclusion of China. Officially, Beijing is taking the firm stance that it will not agree to any stiffened sanctions. We have suspected that, behind the scenes, the Chinese might be more accommodating to a reduction of their imports from the Islamic Republic. The New York Times observes, "This weekend [China's] prime minister, Wen Jiabao, will begin a five-day visit to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, perhaps to explore the prospect of increased energy imports."
I appeared on Al Jazeera English's Inside Story on Wednesday, with Professor Sadegh Zibakalam and former Iranian diplomat Mehrdad Khansari, to discuss US efforts for tightened Chinese sanctions on Tehran.
The headline is easy enough: Beijing will not publicly back the US effort. Far more interesting are the complexities beyond --- China's private position, which may include a continued decrease in supplies from Iran; the restrictions on Tehran's oil from other customers, such as Japan and the European Union; and Iran's internal economic situation.
It was interesting to me to hear the difference of approach on that latter issue --- for me, it is even more important than the US manoeuvres; for Professor Zibakalam, it seemed secondary to the regime's manipulation of "sanctions" to hold public support. And I also noted the very different perspectives among the panellists on the Straits of Hormuz issue and the prospect of war.
The outbreak of spontaneous mass protest against corruption and abuse of power in China is showing no signs of abating. In the latest instance, which received sustained Western press coverage, thousands of villagers in Wukan, a farming community in Guangdong Province, “occupied” their village for nearly two weeks before successfully extracting important concessions from the provincial government, which had to dispatch a deputy party secretary to negotiate with the villagers.
On Saturday, I appeared on Al Jazeera English's Inside Story with Jonathan Holslag of the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies and Simon Shen of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
There was an interesting range of opinion over the motivations behind recent US military, economic, and political moves, the response within China, and the outcome. In the end, I think I was the most optimistic of the panellists that there would not be a long-term escalation in tensions, although I held out the possibility that there might be consequences if Washington continued to poke at Beijing with its latest manoeuvres.
I will be part of the panel on Al Jazeera English's Inside Story, considering whether recent American moves point towards US-China confrontation (spoiler: I am the optimist among the panellists that conflict is not necessarily the outcome).
The programme will air at 1730 GMT today and will repeated at 0030 GMT on Sunday.
Reuters reports that China is pulling the plug on plans to invest heavily in Iran's oil industry, in large part in order to escape US Sanctions and the ire of the US State Department. The opposite claim is being made by the Iranian regime and its state-run media, that China is set to invest $8.4 billion in the Azadegan oilfield.
China has put the brakes on oil and gas investments in Iran, drawing ire from Tehran over a pullback that officials and executives said reflected Beijing's efforts to appease Washington and avoid U.S. sanctions on its big energy firms.
The stakes are high for OPEC's second-largest producer, as China is one of the only powers on the international political stage capable of providing the billions of dollars of investment Tehran needs to maintain the capacity of its strategic oil sector.
Four energy executives in Beijing described retreats and slowdowns of Chinese ventures in Iran in recent months, even as China has bought more crude from its Middle East partner, which leans on Beijing for backing and investment to counter sanctions over its disputed nuclear plans.
In 1971, when a US table tennis team visited China, its "ping-pong" diplomacy opened the way for the detente between Washington and Beijing.
Forty years, in the continuation of this sporting relationship, Georgetown University sent its basketball team --- one of the best in the US --- to China for a series of five exhibition matches.
The cultural diplomacy did not quite go as planned.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in a game tied at 64-64 with Bayi Beijing, a brawl broke out after a scuffle on the court. Georgetown guard Jason Clark was kicked by multiple Bayi players and a member the Bayi training/coaching staff and Georgetown center Henry Sims was struck by a chair. Georgetwon forward Moses Ayegba, unable to play with an ankle injury, carried a chair onto the court, claiming self-defense.
Last Sunday, a Chinese surfer of the Net was so bored that he/she visited the website for his local government. The headline story? The upgrade of a road to the countryside.
The story was no thriller. The photograph, however, was rather distinctive (see the top of the page). Through superhuman powers, or more likely a very bad PhotoShop effort, the three officials were not just inspecting the road. They were levitating above it.
This, however, was only the start of a marvellous story. Soon, with the assistance of the Internet community in China, the Levitating Officials were visiting more exciting places and seeing Very Important People. This is just a selection from their cyber-travels on Earth...and beyond.
The Guardian of London has established an Interactive Guide to "China's Detained and Missing", providing information about 43 dissidents and activists. Examples:
Ni Yulan (Beijing): Rights lawyer disbarred and beaten after defending residents against forced demolitions. Reportedly detained by police on 7 April; police believed to have notified family she is at Xincheng detention centre