Monday, 27 July 2009


'Violence of capitalism' under fire

Global Times
July 23 2009
By Qiu Wei

In the ruthless enterprise culture typical of Chinese business, workers' rights are at the center of heated debate across the country after an employee at an iPhone factory killed himself because a prototype phone went missing.

Apple Inc responded to the death yesterday by saying its suppliers are supposed to treat employees properly, but the US-based company declined to respond to a Global Times inquiry on whether Apple would suspend its cooperation with Foxconn Technology Group, where the man who committed suicide worked, if the latter is found to have adopted illegal practices that led to the worker’s death on July 16.

Jill Tan, an Apple spokeswoman in Hong Kong, issued only a brief statement about the incident.

“We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee, and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death,” Tan said. “We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect.”

The man who killed himself, Sun Danyong, 25, worked in product communications at Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese firm that makes many Apple products at a massive factory in the southern city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong.

Sun was responsible for shipping 16 iPhone prototypes to Apple’s Cupertino, California, headquarters for further testing. But he later discovered one of the phones was missing. Sun alerted Foxconn and watched the subsequent investigation unfold, including a search of his apartment.

He killed himself shortly thereafter.

Sun’s death has aroused public anger against Foxconn. Gu Qinming, an officer with Foxconn in charge of security, claimed that he fell victim to finger-pointing, as many online postings speculated that he should have been held accountable for the suicide, a charge Gu dismissed.

Gu, fearing harassment, said his family had been put in danger from the accusations, as many people believed his actions in some way prompted Sun’s death.

Dozens of Chinese media outlets have carried opinion pieces questioning the ruthless enterprise culture of local business, saying Sun’s death wasn’t just a random occurrence. “The violence of capitalism” and “the wolfish nature of Chinese companies” have been cited by newspapers such as Hangzhou-based Today’s Morning as contributing to Sun’s suicide.

“The death of the young man due to the loss of a phone reflects the dark side of the corporate profit-seeking process. Employees, who are in disadvantageous positions, can hardly stand against management, or protect their dignity, in such a profit-oriented corporate culture,” read an opinion piece titled Workers’ Rights Lost in the World’s Factory published in Xi’an-based Chinese Business View.

A commentary on noted that aggressiveness could well maintain the competitiveness and efficiency of companies in their initial stages.

“However, it cannot function as the sole theme of management’s strategy when market share increases and enterprises grow,” the post said. “Employees can hardly develop a sense of belonging and share the values coming from this corporate culture.”

Some, however, have called for calm amid the uproar led by newspapers and online users. News portal in Hubei province accused the “Web mob” of using the incident as a springboard to vent irrational sentiments. It noted that there hadn’t been any evidence supporting many allegations, including that Sun had been beaten by Foxconn security personnel.

Gu was quoted by the Southern Metropolis Daily as saying he never hit Sun. Gu reportedly said that after three security personnel searched Sun’s apartment and didn’t find the phone.

Gu said he didn’t think Sun was being truthful about what happened to the phone, the paper reported.

“I got a bit agitated,” Gu was quoted as saying. “I pointed my finger at him and said he was trying to shift the blame.”

The reaction by the media and the public over Sun’s death demonstrates mistrust toward management of Chinese businesses. When it comes to corporate management, modern enterprises have to adjust their instrument of management, Jean Lee, a professor of management at the China Europe International Business School, told the Global Times.

“There must be a deficiency in management behind the death of this employee,” she speculated. “A caring enterprise and boss would help placate their employees.”

Kang Juan and Guo Qiang contributed to this story


Chinese state steel workers beat
private firm boss to death

• Staff rioted over planned buyout of company

• Violence said to be biggest disturbance for a year,
Sunday 26, July 2009

Thousands of angry Chinese steel workers clashed with
police and beat to death an executive of the firm trying to
take over their company, a Hong Kong-based human rights
organisation has said.

Rioters killed Chen Guojun, the general manager of Jianlong
Steel Holding Company, after learning that the privatised
firm was to buy a majority stake in state-owned Tonghua
Iron and Steel Group. The deal now appears to be scrapped.

The violence in Tonghua city, Jilin province, north-eastern
China, on Friday is believed to be the country's biggest
civil disturbance since last summer. It comes weeks after
inter-ethnic conflict between Han Chinese and the Muslim
Uighur minority in China's north-west region of Xinjiang
left 197 people dead and 1,700 injured.

The Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said
30,000 people were involved in the latest incident,
although some internet postings put the figure at closer to

China is the world's largest consumer and producer of
steel, but its industry is regarded as inefficient.

The workers are thought to have been fearful of further
large-scale redundancies at a company that reportedly axed
many jobs only a few years ago. Reports suggest Tonghua has
between 20,000 and 50,000 employees.

Millions of people were laid off by state enterprises in
the 1990s and workers often complain that they receive
little compensation.

The human rights centre said workers were angry that Chen
earned about 3m yuan (£267,000) last year while Tonghua's
retirees were given as little as 200 yuan a month.

They blocked roads and smashed police vehicles, the centre
said, adding that 100 people were injured in the violence.
Authorities in the area have made no formal comment on
events and phone calls to the companies went unanswered.

But the South China Morning Post quoted a police officer
from the public security bureau as telling them: "Yes, it
did take place … Workers from Tonghua would not allow
ambulance and medical practitioners to enter the building
to rescue Mr Chen and he died."

Local television said on Friday night that the takeover
would be scrapped, the newspaper added.

Beijing-based Jianlong – one of the largest private
steelmakers – is thought to have invested in Tonghua as
early as 2005 and to have attempted to take a controlling
stake last year, only to back out after it failed to
improve the company's fortunes.

But as the steel market rebounded, thanks in part to a
government stimulus package, Jianlong made another attempt
to take over.

One account posted on the internet suggested that several
hundred workers had begun a demonstration on Friday morning
and closed down production at much of the site. When they
learned that Chen was briefing senior staff, they rushed
into the meeting. An argument ensued and they assaulted

The incident is thought to be the largest civil disturbance
since up to 30,000 people took to the streets in Weng'an,
Guizhou, last summer, trashing police and government
headquarters over rumours of corruption and official

China has seen a rising number of "mass incidents" in
recent years. According to the ministry of public security,
the tally rose from 10,000 in 1994 to 87,000 in 2005.
Figures have not been published since then but experts
believe they may well have increased further. The
government is particularly sensitive to such unrest this
year ahead of the 60th anniversary of Communist Party rule
this October. In China, six decades is considered a
complete life cycle.

Monday, 20 July 2009


Jihadis Identify U.S. Plots against China
in Xinjiang and Africa

Abdul Hameed Bakier


In light of the ethnic violence in China's Xinjiang province, various jihadi internet forums focused on the handling of the turmoil by China's security forces. A vast region comprising nearly a sixth of China's total land mass, Xinjiang is home to a number of Central Asian ethnic groups, the largest of which is the Turkic-speaking Uyghur people, until recently the dominant group in the region. Massive government-encouraged post-war migration by Han Chinese has made the Uyghurs a minority in their traditional home, known to Muslims as East Turkistan.

The first response of Salafi-Jihadi forums to any perceived injustice inflicted on Muslims anywhere typically involves citing a conspiracy theory regarding the manipulation of Muslims by the United States. One forum debated China's "brutal" handling of East Turkistan Muslims in a post entitled; "China, the United States.and al-Qaeda Organization" (, July 7, 2009).

On the trouble in the oil-rich Xinjiang region, a jihadi forum member, nicknamed Ibn Khaldoon al-Jaza'iri, accused the United States of interfering in Chinese affairs by instigating the Uyghur Muslims in East Turkistan to rebel against the government. The prospect of China taking a leading role in the world as the next superpower is disturbing to the United States. Therefore, wherever there are Chinese investments, especially in oil and gas, there are troubles caused by the United States, alleges al-Jaza'iri. The United States tries to impede China's quest for alternative sources of energy badly needed for its rapidly growing economy. For example, China has made big strides in Africa by building strong relations with oil-rich nations based on mutual interests. According to al-Jaza'iri, China exchanges its know-how in infrastructure projects in return for oil from African countries such as Nigeria and Algeria, but the United States uses the Islamic jihadi factions to hinder Chinese efforts to establish a presence in Africa. As an example, al-Jaza'iri gives the terrorist operation in Algeria's Borj Bouaririj district, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for killing 18 Algerian gendarmerie escorting Chinese workers building the highway between Algerian capital and Borj Bouaririj. In this case, al-Jaza'iri does not appear to have done his homework - the AQIM attack was carried out when the gendarmerie was returning to barracks after having escorted the Chinese workers to their site. The attack was clearly directed at government security forces and not the Chinese workers (Echerouk [Algiers], June 18; Middle East Online, June 21).

Al-Jaza'iri says the constant harassment of Chinese workers by jihadi factions manipulated by the United States raises Chinese investment costs, but adds that jihadis should be careful not to fall for U.S. exploitation and should refrain from attacking Chinese technicians and workers building roads, communication networks and oil facilities for the benefit of Muslims in Islamic countries. It's likely that the United States will attempt to set fire to Eastern Turkistan by directly or indirectly supporting jihadi operations there, similar to what they did in Afghanistan, backed by religious fatwas (religious rulings) from Saudi Arabia's Salafist shaykhs. The "stupid Chinese communist regime," blinded by its hatred for Islam, is expected to fall for the U.S. plan and commit massacres in Eastern Turkistan. Finally, al-Jaza'iri concludes his posting by calling on al-Qaeda leaders to be smart enough not to plunge into the U.S. trap to weaken China.

The majority of forum members disagreed with al-Jaza'iri. "Abu Hamza al-Alawi" rejected the notion that the mujahideen could be manipulated by the United States, adding the mujahideen follow their own agenda regardless of who benefits from their terrorist actions, so long as jihadi objectives are met. The era of U.S. weapons supplies for Muslims to fight communists is over, says al-Alawi, adding that the Western experience with jihadi factions has taught them that Muslims can't be manipulated.

In response to al-Alawi's rebuke, al-Jaza'iri insists the Mujahideen are supported by the West in cases that serve their interests. He contends the West doesn't categorize the Chechen Mujahideen as a terrorist group because they serve the Western objective of weakening the Russian Federation. [1] The Chechen mujahedeen are considered a legitimate resistance group by the West, which supplies them with weapons through pro-Western Georgia. Al-Jaza'iri claims the West doesn't perceive the Chechen fighters to be powerful enough to declare an Islamic state that would pose a threat to the West.

Other jihadi forums also focused on the turmoil in Xinjiang. "Abu Hassim al-Ghareeb" urged Muslims not to forget the Turkistan Muslims suppressed by China and to help prevent the Chinese from liquidating their Islamic identity (, July 8). Regarding ways of supporting Turkistan, some forum members suggested boycotting Chinese products and investments in Muslim countries, but other, more extreme members called for jihad against China to return the favor of the Turkistan jihadis who they claim poured into Afghanistan in the 1990s, pledged alliance to the Afghan Islamic Emirate, trained in al-Qaeda camps and fought alongside the mujahideen. In the words of one forum member who urges jihad in China; "Neither boycott nor protests will stop the slaying of our brothers. The solution, known to everyone, is jihad. Who will sell himself to God and rush to the battlefield?" A third forum member called upon global jihad leaders Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri to pay more attention to the revolution in Turkistan and to extend financial and moral support to the Turkistan Mujahideen to make sure they remain adherents of the Salafi creed and part of the global jihadi movement. "Take the initiative. Choose from among them whom you think suitable to lead an Islamic Emirate" said a posting from an Iraqi jihadi forum (, July 8). Again, the jihadi forum members betray their lack of knowledge about East Turkistan - Salafists are extremely rare in the region, where Sufism remains the dominant creed of Xinjiang's Sunni Muslims.

Members of more moderate forums expressed concern over conducting terrorist attacks in China. Any terrorist attacks there would give the Chinese government a legitimate reason to crush Turkistan's Muslims, says "First Lieutenant Ata" - "Muslims should only boycott Chinese products and organize protests in front of Chinese embassies. Any direct external military Muslim interference in Turkistan would only exacerbate the problem" (, July 10).

The jihadi forum members' hypothesis of U.S. manipulation of jihadi factions to prevent China from becoming a superpower seems far fetched. China is not powerful enough to threaten Western powers militarily or confront the United States. At best, China could stir up problems for the purpose of making economic gains from the Western world in a way similar to Russia. It is also unrealistic to assume that al-Qaeda and other jihadi factions would play a significant role in a Chinese-Western struggle over Africa or elsewhere. Al-Qaeda terrorist activities in Algeria, for example, are due to an internal Algerian struggle and not to U.S. manipulation of jihadi factions against China's newly established interests in the region.

Abdul Hameed Bakier is an intelligence expert on counter-terrorism, crisis management and terrorist-hostage negotiations. He is based in Jordan.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


China doubles down in Africa

By Peter Lee
Asia Times Online

"Obama to Africa: Drop Dead," echoing the famous admonition
of president Gerald Ford to a cash-strapped New York City
in the 1970s, was, for all practical purposes, the message
the American president delivered to the African continent
in Ghana on Saturday. Barack Obama, mindful of the shaky
United States domestic constituency even for the bailout of
the American economy, and loath to display favoritism to
his father's home continent, decided against investing any
political capital in a call to provide significant amounts
of assistance to sub-Saharan Africa during the current
global recession.

His rather empty declaration, "We must start from the
simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans,"
provided little consolation or inspiration for the poorer
nations of Africa, which are reeling from the balance-of-
payments, aid, investment and developmental consequences
of the West's catastrophic exploration of the extremes of
sophisticated financial leverage.

Obama's speech was also a remarkably cynical piece of
diplomatic triage, given what is widely recognized to be
the genuine state of economic affairs on the African

However, China appears to have made a strategic decision to
funnel in more aid and investment, as the West struggles
with the consequences of the global recession and fights a
losing battle to focus on Africa's needs for aid, trade and

For Africa, it couldn't come at a better time.

Even before the current crisis, with optimistic pre-crash
assumptions about exports, inward remittances, financial
reform and reduced capital flight, the United Nations
estimated that sub-Saharan Africa would need tens of
billions of dollars per annum in external funding if it
were to make any headway in its struggle to alleviate
widespread poverty.

Post-crisis, the African Development Bank projects that the
continent's exports will drop a staggering 40% by 2010
compared to pre-crisis projections. This shortfall, a loss
of a quarter trillion dollars in revenues, will throw the
aggregate current account into deficit, create a dire food
and fuel import crisis for cash-strapped countries and put
paid to the idea of servicing any normal external debt for
infrastructure construction.

Therefore, much of the perhaps US$50 billion in
infrastructure investment needed per annum to sustain
Africa's economic growth will have to come from outside in
the form of investment or aid.

However, the message in the alphabet soup of international
finance is not encouraging: Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
and Official Development Aid (ODA), at least from the
Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for
Economic Co-Operation and Development, will not be
forthcoming in significant amounts.

ODA to SSA (sub-Saharan Africa) peaked at $22.5 billion in
2008 and is expected to drop by 15-20% in 2009; forget
about achieving the growth targets announced at the Group
of Eight summit at Gleneagles in 2005.

FDI to SSA looks like it's DOA; it reached $30.6 billion in
2008 but is going way down and nobody knows how far; a
recent estimate pegs the decline in FDI to all emerging
markets at a colossal 60% as commercial banks pull in their

Foreign remittances to the continent - a staple of many
African economies - are expected to drop by a third from
pre-crisis levels of roughly $10 billion per annum.

If billions in desperately needed investment and aid for
Africa is going to materialize in the next two years, it
looks like it will have to come from the BRIC countries
(Brazil, Russia, India and China).

And China is ready to step up.

Since the crisis began, China has announced its intentions
to maintain its existing levels of aid to Africa, promoted
its $1 billion mini development bank, the China-Africa
Development Fund, and sent the Industrial and Commercial
Bank of China - its designated investment bank for Africa
and the 20% partner (at the tune of US$6 billion) in South
Africa's Standard Bank - on the road to look for investable

More notable, China has undertaken significant
post-recession initiatives to advance its interests on the
continent through government-to-government resources,
infrastructure and financial mega-deals.

In recent months, Beijing has taken major steps to secure
its relationships with Zimbabwe, Uganda, the Democratic
Republic of Congo, Zambia, Angola and Botswana.

Its only conspicuous setback to date appears to be a train
wreck of a deal in Nigeria - a $3 billion modernization of
the Lagos-Kano railroad line that mysteriously acquired a
price tag of $8.5 billion under the presidency of Olusegun
Obasanjo and attracted the unfavorable scrutiny of the
incoming administration this year ... and that deal may
even go ahead in a truncated form.

China's willingness to finance resource and infrastructure
projects without the nagging conditions demanded by the
West is well known - and often derided as a willingness to
"deal with dictators". The German government decided to
make that point to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni during
his recent state visit.

In what might be a sign of changing times, Museveni decided
not only to make his disagreement known during the visit;
he publicized his views in a press release on June 17.

In the follow-up entitled "China is not a threat to Africa
- Museveni", the Ugandan media painted an amusing picture
of the Chinese bankers doing everything short of joining
the Ugandan president on the plane to Berlin to demonstrate
their eagerness to cooperate:

[Germany's President Horst] Kohler observed that Africa had
opened its doors wide for Chinese investments because the
Beijing authorities do not put conditions in terms of
democracy or human rights.

Museveni, accompanied by the First Lady, Janet, said unlike
in colonial times, African leaders have identified their
priorities and are capable of protecting the continent's

"Therefore, no power can exploit Africa," a press release
from the State House quoted him.

Kohler's remarks come two days after the Industrial and
Commercial Bank of China expressed interest in building an
oil refinery and pipeline in Uganda. Meeting Museveni at
Entebbe Airport just before his departure for Germany, the
Chinese bank's chairperson also said they were keen on
constructing hydro-power stations and transmission lines.

On July 6, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, the target
of Western outrage for his inflationary, power-grabbing
ways, was gratified by China's unconditional extension of a
$950 million credit tranche, even as the United States was
seeking to embarrass and isolate his regime and channel
economic aid directly to [non-governmental organizations]

The Chinese package, the president said, was well meant as
it was coming to the government not NGOs, to assist in
national development and economic revival.

"That is the kind of help we would want to get, and not the
Western dictates," he said.

The president said Western countries never give the
developing world development funds that promote economic
growth and prosperity as that would put them at par with
the West and negate grounds for dominance.

"There is no funding with an investment capacity from the
West that will enable us to move from primary agriculture
to secondary stages of development. They do not want us,
the West, to be that. They do not want us to be their
equals, they enjoy being masters over us and this is what
Zimbabwe rejects," he added.

What is striking about the Chinese experience in Africa is
that it is beginning to look like engagement, and not
simply exploitation. To a significant extent, it is driven
by Beijing's need to deal both with the fallout of the
global recession, and the political and economic
consequences of its push into Africa.

With the collapse in commodity prices, many Chinese
investors who are either fly-by-night or profit-driven,
depending on your point of view - and helped power the
Chinese investment push into Africa in flush times - have
literally disappeared, as the Financial Times reported in
February 2009:

More than 40 Chinese-run copper smelters are standing idle
in the Democratic Republic of Congo after their owners fled
the country without paying taxes or compensating staff at
the end of the commodity boom…

The abrupt downturn has released resentment over the
conduct of some Chinese businesses in Africa, where hard
bargaining and a lack of warmth towards local people won
them few friends.

"Some serious companies remain with metallurgical plants. I
don't have any problem with them. But they are 10% of the
Chinese who were here. Ninety percent have gone," [Governor
of Katanga Province] Mr Katumbi said, dismissing them as

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (previously Zaire), the
Chinese government is not counting on Chinese speculators
to manage its relationship with the DRC's copper industry.

Instead it has pinned its hopes on perhaps its biggest
strategic investment on the continent: a $9 billion project
designed both to produce copper and rebuild the DRC's
war-shattered infrastructure.

The International Monetary Fund, egged on by the United
States, is demanding a renegotiation of the project on the
grounds (which the Chinese deny) that the financing
increases the DRC's sovereign debt.

Fortunately for China, the DRC - which currently has only
enough foreign exchange on hand for a few weeks of import
cover - is maintaining its enthusiasm for the proposed

However, neighboring Zambia, which shares in the immense
bounty of copper ore crossing the southern Congo, presents
a greater challenge for the traditional Chinese way of
doing things in Africa.

The wake-up call for China probably came in 2007, during
the flush years of the commodity boom, when China's
President Hu Jintao was met by protesters in Zambia's
capital of Lusaka, and the government cancelled a trip to a
China-run copper mine at

Chambeshi to spare him the embarrassment of further

For several years, anti-Chinese sentiment has been central
to Zambian opposition leader Michael Sata's electoral

A July 2008 report quoted Sata as follows:

"It is not only Zambia - it's all Cape to Cairo where the
Chinaman is," Sata says. "That's the way they look at us.
They have no regard for us. They have no regard for our
independence. They have no regard for any black person as a
human being. Those are very abnormal conditions, very
abnormal conditions. Very abnormal conditions, which a
civilized society, in this century, cannot accept."

Sata came to the United States to play the human-rights and
democracy card at Harvard, and also threatened to play the
nearly-defunct Taiwan card:

"…the Patriotic Front in Zambia finds it more prudent to
cultivate relations with Taiwan, a democracy and a more
advanced country than China, which can provide high quality
investment and more equitable trading opportunities."

Sata's provocative stance on Taiwan prompted China to make
an exception to its principle of non-interference in local
politics and state. In 2006 there was a chance of severing
relations if Sata was elected.

China is acutely aware that Sata may gain the presidency in
his fourth try, in 2011, and that his defeat in 2006
occasioned anti-Chinese looting and rioting in one of
Sata's electoral strongholds, the capital of Lusaka.

In the midst of the recession - and undoubtedly at the
prodding of President Hu, who is accustomed to very
friendly and deferential welcomes in African capitals -
China has stepped up its efforts to repair the damage and
ingratiate itself with public opinion in Zambia.

Beijing is confronting two hot-button issues for Sata's
base: domination of the domestic textile and garment trade
by Chinese traders and imports, and Chinese abuses in the
Copperbelt, where a combination of generally miserable
working conditions, violent and at times deadly
union-busting at the China-run Chambeshi mine and Sata's
demagoguery have created a toxic atmosphere of resentment
and labor unrest.

A conspicuous political albatross for the pro-Chinese
ruling party has been the closure of the Zambia-China
Mulungushi Textiles enterprise. Originally a symbol of
state-run benevolence, the Chinese interest was turned over
to the Qingdao Textile Corporation in 1997 and run along
time-tested sweatshop principles, including demanding,
abusive managers who locked the employees into the plant at

The plant closed in 2006 amid intense rancor and resentment
against the Chinese management and turned into a symbol of
the Zambian government's unwillingness to protect Zambians
against Chinese exploitation.

In March 2009, Zambia's defense minister (the Ministry of
Defense holds Zambia's interest in the plant) announced
that China and Zambia were jointly studying the re-opening
of the plant and the expected creation of 2,500 presumably
desirable jobs:

"The team of experts have so far captured a comprehensive
factor of what we need to ensure the company is back into
serious business and further strengthened. For us as
government this is a significant development," said Mr
[George] Mpombo.

The defense minister pointed out that Zambia and China
would like to ensure the company is utilized to its full

"For the last two years there have been serious hiccups in
operations and a yawning capacity of that company. That
company has the capacity to export and do miracles for the
country," said Mr Mpombo.

Furthermore, on June 25, it was announced that China
Non-Ferrous Metal Corporation would take over operation of
the Luanshya Copper Mine, which had been shuttered due to
low global copper prices.

The Zambian government was quite frank about the political
background to the transaction:

Minister of Mines and Minerals Development Maxwell Mwale
said at the official handover in Zambia's Luanshya District
on the Copperbelt province that the coming of a new
investor was an indication that the government was
committed to bringing development to the district because
the closure of the mine was turned into a political

China bid $50 million for the controlling foreign interest
in the mine, and promised $400 million in investment,
including the seemingly mandatory hospital, school and
sports facilities infrastructure outlays.

It appears that China's posture in Zambia has quickly
evolved from old-style socialist solidarity to unfettered
Wild West capitalism run by entrepreneurial Chinese
enterprises to adult supervision - strategic engagement
directed by the Chinese government.

It remains to be seen if Beijing's public relations and
financial efforts are enough to stem the Sata tide in 2011.

China also displayed its commitment to strategic engagement
in Angola, site of its most conspicuous triumph in its post
9/11 drive into Africa.

The basic objective of the $6 billion
oil-for-infrastructure deal has been met; as Angola has
joined Saudi Arabia and Iran as one of China's three
biggest suppliers of crude.

The notoriously independent and prickly Angolan government
is determined to keep channels to the West open, and
recently denied China's Sinopec petrochemical corporation
the opportunity to invest in an $8 billion new refinery at
Lobito; instead Angola decided to come up with the money
itself and give the design and build contracts to former US
vice president Dick Cheney's old outfit, KBR.

Nevertheless, since the global recession and the drop in
international oil prices has punched a hole in Angola's
balance sheet, China has stepped forward with new credits:
$1 billion from its Export-Import Bank in December 2008,
and another $1 billion from the China Development Bank in
March of this year.

Additionally, China purchased almost one million barrels of
oil from Angola for its strategic petroleum reserve, which
can be interpreted simultaneously as an opportunistic move
to take advantage of low prices, an attempt to find a
better home for its bloated forex reserves than US T-bills,
and an expansion of oil imports in tough times that Angola
would appreciate.

Nancy Corkin of South Africa's Center for Chinese Studies
at Stellenbosch University writes in the March 2009 China
Monitor that the new credit appears to illustrate Beijing's
efforts to develop policy-driven engagement with Angola
beyond the narrower self-interest that drove the original
oil-backed loans:

"The size of the loans and the eagerness of several Chinese
financial institutions to lend to Angola signify the
strategic importance with which Beijing views Luanda as
Chinese banks vie to engage with Angola to curry favor with
the Chinese State Council."

In a sign that China is interested in promoting indigenous
financial development and integration, and not just writing
checks to interested governments, on June 16 the
ICBC/Standard Bank joint venture concluded the largest
Chinese investment banking transaction to date in Africa -
an $825 million loan (plus $140 million in bridge
financing) to finance the expansion of Botswana's Marupule
power station.

Not unsurprisingly, supply and build for the project will
be handled by China National Electric Equipment

Jiang Jianqing, the president of ICBC - which now bills
itself as the largest bank in the world in terms of market
capitalization - flew out from Beijing for the signing
ceremony to emphasize that China was open for business to
Africa in these tough times:

"Africa is a huge market with massive potential," Jianqing
said. "Africa needs urgent foreign investment, especially
after the impact of the global crisis, so we will look at
more projects to invest [in]."

"The financing of the Morupule B Power Station is just one
of 65 projects that the ICBC is currently funding on the
African continent and is evidence of China's strong
appetite for African investment opportunities," said Jiang.

Hu Jintao's 2009 tour of Africa - which covered the
distinctly non-strategic states of Senegal, Mali, Tanzania
and Mauritius - was apparently designed to demonstrate that
China was not just in Africa for the oil, cobalt and
copper, as Peking University's Zha Daojiang told Reuters:

"The itinerary appears intended to show that we treat all
the African countries, big and small, equally," said Zha.
"There's also the implicit message that China's
relationship with Africa isn't solely defined by resource
and energy investments."

It appears that China hopes to emerge from the global
recession not only with its economic standing intact; it
intends to enhance its position and present itself in
Africa as the responsible, perhaps indispensable
stakeholder that the West has claimed to yearn for but is
perhaps not anxious to see materialize.

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy.

Sunday, 12 July 2009



I am currently reading Jenny Clegg’s brilliant new book “China’s Global Strategy – Towards a Multi-Polar world”, and I will write a review shortly.

One of the excellent points that Jenny makes is that the absence of substantive discussion in the West about China’s historical background, its actual level of development, and the difficulties of ruling such a vast country, then Sinophobic mythology has built up that draws more heavily on “Yellow Peril” images from the colonial era than it does on the reality of modern China. What is more, many from the Western left either do not counter this Sinophobia, or actually collude in it.

Louis Proyect’s recent article is a frankly disgraceful example, but rather than exchange a polemic with Louis, let us refute his arguments by looking at the concrete situation today in Xinjiang province.

The Sinophobic reading of the situation there seems to be that the Chinese government are Han chauvinists, suppressing national minorities, persecuting the Islamic religion, and seeking to swamp Xinjiang with Han settlers. But this analysis simply doesn’t accord with the facts.

Firstly, historically the Chinese state has not been built on ethnicity, but on a Mandarin speaking civil bureaucracy, where Mandarin provided a lingua franca for an ethnically, socially, religiously and linguistically diverse society. Secondly, since the Communist party of China coming to power in 1949, they introduced a nationalities policy that created certain rights and privileges for minorities that met the criteria – for example the right to promote their own language, and in modern China, the very significant complete exemption from the one child policy.

Islam is not in any way persecuted or repressed in modern China. Nowadays in China there are ten national minorities, including the Hui and Uyghur, with a total population of 18 million, whose faith is Islam. There are some 30,000 mosques served by 40,000 Imams and Akhunds. Islamic Association of China is an independent organisation promoting the interests of Muslims. Islamic organisations in China run their own affairs independently and can set up religious schools, publish religious texts and periodicals, and run social and welfare services.

Article 36 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China protects freedom of religious belief as a basic right enjoyed by all citizens, and religious institutions enjoy the rights to own and dispose of property, and to proselytise. Currently Buddhism is enjoying a major revival across China, without any government interference.

It is true that during the Cultural Revolution, there was repression and oppression of all religious faiths – but this has been consciously reversed for thirty years now – and most significantly, the campaign against religious institutions was much more moderate in the Autonomous Regions, like Xinjiang and Tibet than in the main urban centres.

The Hui national minority, who are Muslim, often Turkic peoples, but who speak Mandarin, are integrated into every aspect of life in the People’s republic, and have often played prominent roles, for example Hui Liangyu was Vice President. It is interesting that systematic racist attacks against Hui have characterised both the riots in Tibet last year, and the recent violence by Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang has been part of China since the mid eighteenth century, when its main significance as a poorly populated mainly nomadic region was as part of the land-route between the Middle Kingdom and Europe. The urban centres were built by the Chinese, while the indigenous population were rural, ethnically diverse and often nomadic.

During the early part of the twentieth century, when China was dismembered by colonialists, and invaded by the Japanese Empire, Xinjiang fell under the sway of the warlord Sheng Shicai, (who really was a Han chauvinist, suppressing the Uyghur and Kazakh peoples).

There was a short lived Soviet republic between 1944 and 1949, also known as the Three Districts Rebellion, that reacted to the chauvinism of Sheng’s warlord regime by seeking to drive the Chinese out altogether, but this republic was concentrated in the Kazakh parts of Xinjiang, while the Uyghurs were predominatently under the rule of the Chinese nationalist KMT. The existence of this mini-state was also only possible as the USSR supported it as a buffer between themselves and the Japanese.

In 1949 the East Turkestan Republic agreed to join the People’s republic – somewhat pressurised by Stalin who is believed to have assassinated their government leaders, and the KMT ruled parts of Xinjiang surrendered to the People’s Liberation Army.

The importance of this background is to understand that there is no modern history of a Uyghur nation state, the relative autonomy of Xinjiang can only be understood as the unravelling of stable government under the colonialist onslaught of China, and the rise of warlordism. Xinjiang has always been linguistically and culturally diverse, and the modernisation and urbanisation of the region has occurred entirely within the context of Chinese rule, and Han and Hui have always formed a large part of the urban population. It is not at all uncommon in pre-industrial societies to find the urban centres and the surrounding countryside having different languages and cultures, and in the case of the Chinese Empire the two were united under a Mandarin speaking bureaucratic class.

We need to be very cautious of Uyghur nationalist organisations mythologizing a fictitious pseudo-history of themselves as an oppressed nation. Most obviously, if there was any real intention to swamp the Uyghur people in Xinjiang, then the PRC would not exempt them from the one child policy while enforcing it for the Han.

The biggest area of misunderstanding relates to the “Go West” policy, formally launched in year 2000 as part of the tenth Five Year plan. This was a victory for the left within the Communist Party, to seek to overcome the growing regional inequality, and direct US$200 billion of capital investment into the underdeveloped Western provinces, including the Autonomous Republics of Xinjiang and Tibet. So for example, the previously very poor region of Tibet has achieved economic growth of 13.4%, and the oil and gas fields of Xinyiang have been opened up by improvements of transport infrastructure, But far from being a “colonialist” asset grab, these have involved a massive transfer of wealth and technology to the poorest regions from the Eastern coastal region.

Han migration has increased in Xinjiang, but whereas the Uyghur peoples mainly live south of the mountains of the Tarim basin, the Han migration has been into the previously largely unpopulated region north of the mountains. For example the Karamay region is almost 80% Han.

A further area of ethnic tension has been experience of those involved in the inward migration of Uyghur peoples to the Eastern coastal region, along with the 150 million other rural migrants, who have been sucked into the black economy, but where linguistic and cultural obstacles, as well as their semi-illegal status, severely disadvantage them. The recent violence seems to have been preceded by rapes and murders, and ethnic tensions in Guangdong.

There has been a longstanding Uyghur nationalist movement, that partly expresses legitimate grievances in ethnic rather than economic terms, for example over rural impoverishment, and the relative disadvantage of rural people as opposed to urban dwellers; the relative disadvantage of Uyghar speakers compared to Mandarin speakers in the job market and for social advancement is also a pressing grievance. But Uyghar nationalism has also been clearly linked with Islamist terrorism, and the desire to separate Xinjiang as an Islamic republic away from the PRC, despite the fact that the Uyghur represent only half the population of Xinjiang.

There have been a series of terrorist incidents, including the racist murders of Han and Hui, attempted suicide bombings on an airliner last year, and riots during the Olympics that left 16 members of the People’s Armed Police dead. Both the Chinese and US governments accuse Uyghur separatists of links with Al Qaeda.

The security crackdown by China in Xinjiang is therefore a decisive attempt to restore order, and prevent racial tensions from further developing. It is necessary to understand the imperative drive for China to achieve economic growth in what is still a developing country, where many people still live on a $1 per day. It is also necessary to understand the great historic achievement of defeating the Japanese, throwing out the colonialists and reuniting China as one country.

The division of China is simply non-negotiable for the government in Beijing, and they are correct in seeing the unity of the republic as an important precondition for their economic and political independence, which is itself necessary for developing and improving the living standards of their 1.3 billion population. But they clearly do need to rethink how the “Go West” policy is in practice impacting on the autonomous regions, where an understandable and commendable desire to pull these Western provinces out of extreme poverty has created the unintended side effect of increasing wealth differentials, and ethnic tensions.


One of the comments arising from this article:

Excellent article Andy.

Much of the negative comments in reponse are not at all surprising. The Sinophobia of the Left in the UK (and the west) frankly reeks of yellow peril racism, but when has the British Left ever done anymore than represnt the ‘revolutionary’ wing of the Foreign Office, when it comes to either the socialist countries or former British colonial subjects - for which China qualifies on both counts.

My partner is a Muslim Hui Chinese woman, deeply patriotic, highly educated and generally supportive of the Communist Party leadership (especially the very popular Wen Jiaboa and Hu Jintao - as you will generally find young Chinese in the UK to be) without considering herself to be at all political.

She comes from a family of practising Muslims (although she herself doesnt practise it), so if it were true that Islam is persecuted in China, you would expect her to have some experience of it. The contrary is the case.

Within her family, most are involved in Higer Education, several family members are professors, others are High School teachers. Two are ranking members of the Ministry for State Security. Another works for the Saudi Embassy (a devout Muslim, he studied in Saudi, his wife is a muslim convert who wears the hijab).
Around half her extended family are members of the Communist Party (bear in mind only around 5-10% of applicants for CP membership are accepted).

Were Muslims and ethnic miinorities discrimiated against by the state, it surely would not be likely that this extended (and not untypical) family of ethnic minority Muslim’s would either want to, or be allowed to have such positions within Higher education and the state security? Or want to or be allowed memberahip in the Communist Party?

They go to Mosque, they eat Halal meat from a Muslim butcher, they celebrate Islamic holidays (for which they get extra time off from work), they get guidance from their Imam, hold family funerals in a Muslim a cemetary and they practise their religion without any intereference from the state whatsoever.

In actual fact, ethnic minorites have special priviliges over the majority Han population. For example, along with the aforementioned extra holidays for religious events, they are not subject to the same rules regarding the one-child policy and get extra points in school leavers exams to help ehtnic minorities get better representation in University.

Whether or not you agree with such ‘positive discrimination’ (which does lead to some resentment amongst some Han), it can hardly be said to be representative of some sort of ethnic oppression, or worse, ‘geneocide’ by the State now can it?

For the Left to be, as usual, tailing after the most reactionary, pro-western elements in a developing socialist country isnt unusual. For them to be championing the lumpen, anti-social perpetuators of muderous racist pogroms is a new level of disgrace though.

That street level racism and prejudice exists in China, as in every society, is without doubt. But to suggest against all the facts that it is encouraged by the central government is just an out and out lie.

I would suggest that perhaps some of those people spouting CWI/SWP or whatever bullshit about China actually try and discuss it with Chinese students and workers in the UK (or whom there are several tens of thousand from many ethnic and cultural/religion backgrounds) and see what they think. I think you will substantially find more often than not, that your patronising and ill-informed attempts to ‘educate’ and ‘liberate’ them from their ‘oppression’ will be about as appreciated as a British gun-boat on the Yanstze.