World Economics 101

Posted June 29, 2009 on 1:57 pm | In the category China, Economy | by Mackenzie Brothers

It is time to give a surprise quiz about the state of the national economies of the world. There may still be a general understanding that, despite all negative developments of the last decade, the US still packs a powerful economic punch. But President Obama has displayed a surprising and very disappointing isolationist, fortress-America position on economics. The front page of last week’s edition of the Canadian national news magazine MacLean’s dealt with a topic that is being considered in many countries: “Obama, Why He’s bad for Canada – His ambitions could cripple our economy”. US Buy America policies have been put through by his regime, with the predictable Canadian retaliation, despite long-standing Free Trade agreements. The very big question of the future markets of Canada’s immense energy reserves is now being discussed with regard to European and especially Asian markets, with far less dependence on US markets. The result could be a blow to the economies of both the increasingly antagonistic neighbours. Last week the US Homeland Security lads forced an Air Canada plane flying from Fredericton, New Brunswick to Montréal, Quebec to turn around in mid-flight, somewhere over Maine, because a Canadian citizen was on board whom they didn’t like crossing US air space. You can’t get much less neighbourly than that.

Perhaps these are problems that can be addressed, however, and the US still produces over 30% of the world’s economy. But what about China, which garners much of the journalistic interest in trade and economy these days? How dominant has it become in that sphere? Do you think that China will soon replace the US as leading economic power? Well, think again. The fact is that China’s economy is still only one tenth the size of Japan’s, and produces less than 10% of the world’s economy. Many economists feel that India, not China, is the real rising economic power in Asia, as it reacts more flexibly to the current economic crisis and deals with it through a banking system that is much more reliable.

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Impeccable Mooning

Posted March 12, 2009 on 2:13 am | In the category China, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

Now that the British Vanguard and the French le triomphant have limped back to harbour after colliding in the otherwise empty blue seas – apparently because the French won’t share its navigation plans with its supposed NATO allies – it is time for the USians to have one of its splendidly named vessels join the Monty Python farce. Its state of the art surveillance (i.e. spy) ship The Impeccable was recently chased away from the Chinese coast south of Hainan after it turned its fire hoses on a rag-tag fleet of irritating Chinese fishing trawlers and coast guard boats, and was faced with rows of mooning Chinese seamen. Not since John Cleese bombarded King Arthur and his fearless knights with the garbage from his French castle has military history seen such a ragged retreat as that of the Impeccable running for cover in the open ocean, no doubt in the hope that some French or British nuclear sub wouldn’t ram them.

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Canada and Kosovo

Posted March 20, 2008 on 2:33 pm | In the category Canada, China, Europe, Russia, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

It took Canada more than a month to recognize Kosovo as an independent state, a clear display of reluctance to follow the lead taken by its closest NATO allies, Germany, France, the UK and the Unites States, almost immediately upon Kosovo’s declaration of independence. Canada is not the only significant power to not follow this lead with any enthusiasm, and the list of those who have declared they will not do so is long and daunting – Russia, China, India, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Cuba, both Koreas, almost all of Africa, Central Asia and most of Kosovo’s neighbours – Serbia, of course, but also Bosnia-Herzogovina, Greece, Macedonia, and Cyprus. Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria all took longer than Canada to decide and near-neighbours Slovakia, Czech Republic and Ukraine have not recognized Kosovo. Albania, on the other hand, was the first to recognize and remains one of only 3 countries to actually establish an embassy in Pristina, the others being the UK and Germany.
Canada’s reluctance to recognize Kosovo as an independent state is closely related to the absolute refusal of Russia, China, Spain, India, Mexico and Indonesia to do so, a group of politically completely unrelated countries that make up the majority of the world’s population. They have one thing in common; they all have minority ethnic or religious populations striving for independent status. Most dramatically this is now playing out in China, but all these countries have separatist movements which often use violence as a political weapon. As long as there are Basques in Spain, Sikhs in india and Uigurs in China, Spain, India and China will not be recognizing unilaterally-declared separatist states. Quebec was Canada’s problem in this context and, as predictably as the sun will rise, the separatist Bloc Quebecois immediately congratulated the Ottawa federal government for recognizing Kosovo, saying that it had given a separatist government in Quebec the precedent it needed to do something similar. China, India and Spain will not be following that lead.

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Ukraine 1 Russia 0

Posted April 23, 2007 on 2:21 am | In the category China, Germany, International Broadcasting, Russia | by Mackenzie Brothers

In Canada the only sport that counts is hockey, in the USA it is (increasingly) American football, but in Europe it is beyond a doubt, the other kind of football, actually played with the feet, which Americans call soccer. It is also the only sport taken seriously almost everywhere, although baseball has real strength in Latin America and Japan, and basketball has taken on an increasingly international flair. But there is no doubt that the major international soccer tournaments, along with the Olympics, are the most widely followed sports event, and that world and European soccer championships have an impassioned audience with real political clout in both the positive and negative sense. Thus the awarding of venues for the Olympics, the world soccer championships and the European soccer championships, all of which take place every fourth year, is a major economic, political and prestige event. Some of the decisions of late have been surprising and controversial. Beijing and Vancouver were awarded the next 2 Olympic venues after lengthy and expensive presentations. For China next summer’s Olympics are an event of the utmost political importance and a chance to display its economic, industrial and athletic power to the world. Last summer’s world soccer championship in Germany had the kind of success that China is hoping for. South Africa is the host of the next one, and billions of fans are hoping that the most prospering country in Africa will be able to provide the infrastructure and the splendidly serene month-long atmosphere that characterized the tournament in Germany.
The European soccer championships have traditionally been held in the large European soccer powerhouse countries, that were already equipped with more than adequate venues – Italy, Spain, Germany, the UK. On occasion, smaller soccer countries – the Netherlands and Belgium, for instance – would jointly sponsor the tournament. Since Italy, the reigning world champion, had applied to host the next available games, it was assumed that they were a shoo-in. But it didn’t happen that way. Heavily tarnished by proof of corruption, fixing and hooligan violence in the Italian league, the world champion was rejected by the venue panel, and suddenly a most unlikely joint partnership was named – Poland and Ukraine. The former is in the EU, a member of NATO, a neighbour of Germany, and a functioning, if somewhat erratic, democracy. The latter is not wanted in the EU, nor in NATO, shares a relatively short border with Poland and a very large one with Russia, and its attempts at democracy make operetta plots seem realistic. Its greatest fear is that the eastward expansion of the EU will draw down a new kind of iron curtain at the Ukrainian border and its dependance on its immense eastern neighbour will become overwhelming.
Now it seems that Ukraine had first approached Russia with the idea of a joint hosting proposal and this was summarily, and somehat arrogantly rejected by Moscow, who pointed out that they could do this on their own. Since Ukraine has a better soccer team than Russia in any case, it seems only appropriate that they have won this one in the backrooms of soccer power. Instead of staging an event that would inevitably have suggested to Europe that Russia and Ukraine are natural allies, Russian arrogance has given Ukraine the chance to convince Europe that its natural place in the world is west of the EU curtain, in the same general area, as its co-host, Slavic Poland. The announcement led to a universal cheer in Ukraine, welding together, for the only time in memory, the bitter enemies of eastern and western Ukraine. It also seems very likely that the games themselves will lead to a sense of unityin Ukraine that has been dramatically missing since 1990. An own-goal by Russia may save the day.

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“Never Again”? OR, “Only Occasionally”?

Posted November 18, 2006 on 6:56 pm | In the category Africa, China, DARFUR, Genocide | by Jeff

The linked story from the BBC updates the naïve reports in major Western media to the effect that Sudan had agreed to a joint United Nations/African Union peacekeeping force. The stories that appeared in major U.S. papers including the NY Times and Boston Globe (see earlier post on this blog) reported Kofi Annan’s comments to the effect that an agreement had been reached. Alas, some deals are not real, after all. According to the BBC report, immediately after Annan’s comments, Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol said that “there should be no talk about a mixed force” and that there would be no UN troops in Darfur. Mr. Akol said that the UN would simply provide technical support.”
There are reports today that Sudanese forces are once again on the attack, working with Arab Janjaweed militia in destroying villages. UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland has been forced to leave Darfur by veiled threats from the Sudanese government and is publicly wondering why the world is watching while Darfur burns.

The last fifteen years have seen two major genocides preceding the one in Darfur. The Rwanda genocide was more efficient: 800,000 to 1,071,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus killed in 100 days. Individual nations, including the Western powers did not find it in their interest to intervene and the UN maintained that it had to follow its rigid rules of engagement, which were in reality rules of nonengagment. The leader of the U.N. mission, Canadian General Romeo Dallaire suffered major depression and was hospitalized over the failure to act and wrote movingly of the Rwanda genocide in his book, Shake Hands With the Devil (read an excellent interview with Dalliere here).

The Bosnia Genocide was less efficient but equally ghastly – it took from 1992-95 for the Serbs to kill over 200,000 Bosnian Muslims. A watershed of sorts – perhaps “bloodshed” should be the term – occurred at Srebrenica when the UN’s 400 Dutch peacekeepers watched as over 8000 Bosnian males were systematically murdered over a period of ten days in July 1995. Once again, the UN forces asked for permission from UN headquarters to use force to resist the genocide and permission was denied.

These examples seem likely to predict the future for Darfur – and the lessons from them do not lead to optimism. Based on recent history and the quality of current leadership, the major powers are unlikely to intervene until it is far too late for effective action (what is too late? 200,000 lives? 500,000?, one million?); some countries (esp. China) will assist Sudan in resisting UN force implementation; and if and when UN forces are there they are likely to be ineffective. Hope I am wrong.

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Baffled by Silence

Posted November 17, 2006 on 6:56 pm | In the category China, DARFUR | by Kiwi

Where is the outrage?

Why doesn’t Darfur bring activists to the streets? Why doesn’t China enabling oppression inspire a popular reaction? Why is the UN’s impotence ignored?

In Myanmar, according to the NY Times, there is yet another immediate case of China’s support of cruelty and corruption :

“…attempts at outside pressure to prod the government to address its people’s needs and curb abuses have faltered, in large part because China’s thirst for resources has undermined nearly a decade of American economic sanctions.”
The Chinese are happy to supply the arms Myanmar needs to oppress its people in return for access to Myanmar’s natural gas.

“What can we do about it?” said a well educated man here, when asked about the plans to sell the gas abroad in the face of the deprivation at home. “What good would it do to protest, what would we get?” People were too afraid of the 400,000-member strong army supplied by China, Russia and Ukraine to complain, he said.

Perhaps these people could take hope from the UN. Unfortunately the Times story isn’t encouraging on that :

“The United Nations under secretary general, Ibrahim Gambari, met with the junta leader, Gen. Than Shwe, on Nov. 11 in Myanmar and urged the government to mend its ways on forced labor and political prisoners. The meeting ended inconclusively, United Nations officials said.”

The US intends to push for further sanctions in next week’s Security Council meeting. The US is trying to gather support for sanctions at this weekend’s meeting in Viet Nam.

Let’s do the obligatory : it is Bush’s fault. Yes, Bush is inept in Viet Nam. He is off message. Instead of drawing attention to the Myanmar peoples’ plight he draws attention to his stupidity by making an inane comment comparing the Viet Nam and Iraq wars.

So next week the Security Council will talk about a US resolution to increase pressure on the Myanmar regime and China will assure that nothing real happens.

OK. Such are the ways of the world. But where are the activists? Where is the outrage? The activist community in the past has supported efforts to force Myanmar’s release of dissident San Suu Kyi so maybe there’s hope? Will we see some pickets at the Chinese Embassy on Connecticut Ave? Probably not.

Bush has used up our outrage. It is in deed Bush’s fault. So in 2 years it will all change for the better. When Bush is gone Darfur and Myanmar will be safe from the Chinese energy-for-opression foreign policy. Thank Dog for that.

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Sudan To Choose Who “Intervenes” in Their Crimes?

Posted November 17, 2006 on 3:24 pm | In the category Africa, China, DARFUR, Genocide, Uncategorized | by Kiwi

Roll over George Orwell, newspeak has reached a new high.

Earlier today the Chinese government said that it was up to the Sudanese if the UN would be permitted to prevent the Sudanese government from prosecuting its genocide in Darfur. If that weren’t sufficiently perverse, the Chinese added that Beijing promised to use its seat on the UN security council to “continuously play a constructive roll” in Darfur.

Now the Sudanese are so confident of their oil-for-genocide pact with the Chinese that they have just suggested negotiations begin for “…all financial, material, logistic or technical assistance from the UN in order to strengthen the AU mission in Darfur.”

Confused? Well, don’t be. The Organization of African Unity mission is unlikely to do anything to interdict the Sudanese government so why not make them comfortable? The Sudanese Foreign Minister has made it clear that “there should be no talk about a mixed [UN/AU] force”.

He also wants to discuss the AU missions size and composition. There is no agreement on anything until he’s satisfied. He told the BBC there would be no UN troops.

To drive home the point the Sudanese Defense Minister, Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, said Darfur would become an “invaders’ graveyard” if a UN peacekeeping force was sent there.

Well, surely the UN won’t tolerate being instructed by the very government it seeks to constrain? Yeah, right. It is a good bet that the UN will do the rolling over in this situation. They will try to put a good PR face on this and kick the can a further few months down the road.

Think not? Well, the UN’s head-dude-on-the-scene is no longer on the scene : “UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland has cut short his trip to Darfur after Sudan’s government told him it would be too dangerous for him to travel outside the region’s major towns.” according to the BBC.

And in a few months the death toll will be up from the current 200,000-plus and the refugee count will be more than the present 3,000,000-plus.

And the new UN Secretary General will announce that he is getting up to speed on what’s happening in Darfur.

Orwellian or what?

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UN : No Stronger than its Weakest Link

Posted November 17, 2006 on 1:10 am | In the category Africa, China, DARFUR, Genocide | by Kiwi

For the last 36 hours the UN Secretary General has been urging a “hybrid force” of African Unity and Blue Helmut troops be cautiously deployed in Darfur. This measured 3-step intervention was designed to end the Sudan government’s use of Islamist Arab janjaweed murderers as it slaughters the black muslims in Darfur and– more recently—in Chad.

This blog has taken an interest in the conflict and was hoping to applaud the Security Council’s endorsement of this too-modest but long sought relief from Darfur’s suffering. There are many who have been skeptical of China’s role in the Sudan and indeed in the entire African continent. Worry has been expressed that China would continue its refusal to permit any interference with the Sudanese –who supply China with oil.

A few hours ago the Chinese confirmed that once again it would frustrate the UN with impunity. The story is here. Read it and weep for the hapless peoples of Africa. In the words of the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson :

“The deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur should first have the consent of the Sudanese government.”

Of course the Sudanese government had already said that it would permit no such deployment. The Chinese are protecting their oil contracts and reminding the world that:

“As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China will continuously play a constructive role in solving the Darfur issue. ”

The world is at risk when the UN pretends to play a protectorate role but is neutered by its self-dealing impudence. The wrath of citizen activists– so recently unleashed on other member states who frustrate the UN’s peaceful intentions– should once again be inflamed and then directed at the Chinese who are behind the second African genocide in a dozen years.

That isn’t any more likely than that the UN–in its current form– will be a meaningful force for world security. Good luck Darfur. Good luck to us all.

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“China Seduces Africa While West Watches”

Posted November 6, 2006 on 6:50 pm | In the category Africa, China | by Jeff

The above is the title of a piece from Reuters that follows up very nicely on Kiwi’s earlier blog here on China buying Africa for its oil. The price is cheap – $1.9billion and the use of its veto in the UN – when needed. The fact that the deal is in China’s current national interest and not in the national interest of the U.S. or other Western countries points out the fundamental weakness of current Western policies and diplomacies in Africa.

And, in a not-so-funny way we in the West end up complicit by demanding cheap goods from China which contributes to China’s increased demand for oil which leads to a new Chinese colonialism in Africa which will in all probability lead to increased human rights problems in Africa.

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