Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Japan has a funny way of promoting cross straits unity

Last week, a Japanese frigate, Koshiki, on patrol collided with Lien Ho, a deep sea sports fishing boat from Taiwan, an incident that was virtually ignored by the media in the West. Yet future developments from this provocation will bear close watching.

The incident took place in the disputed waters of a cluster of 8 uninhabited islands that China and Taiwan claimed as part of Taiwan called Diaoyu islands. Japan claimed the same islands, which they called Senkaku as part of Okinawa.

According to the Japanese coast guard on patrol, while they were in the process of establishing the identity of the fishing boat, the boat began to take an evasive course and ran into the frigate; apparently it zigged when it should have zagged.

According to the Taiwanese crew, the Japanese frigate found them in their search light, hailed them and then suddenly steered the much heavier ship into the fore section of the fishing boat causing a huge gash and sank the boat in one hour.

Lien Ho’s crew of 3 and its 13 customers were fished from the waters by Koshiki and taken to Ishigaki, the southernmost island of the Ryukyus. The sports fishermen were shortly released, then the crew of 2 and lastly the captain of the boat.

The crew upon their return asserted that their Japanese captors used harsh, sleep deprived interrogation techniques and demanded that they sign confessions in Japanese that they did not comprehend.

The captain maintained that the frigate deliberately rammed his boat. The captain made his living by taking deep sea fishing enthusiasts to these islands and has never heretofore encountered the Japanese Navy.

The Diaoyu islands have been a periodic focus of vigorous dispute between China, the Chinese Diaspora and Japan ever since the U.S. turned Okinawa back to Japan in 1972. Then as now, China and Taiwan were separate entities. Though both contend that Diaoyu islands were connected to Taiwan and not Okinawa, their divided voices did not have the international clout of Japan, already considered an ally of the U.S.

It remained for the Chinese Diaspora to carry on the argument with Japan, most notably from Hong Kong and from the San Francisco Bay Area. Hong Kong still remembers David Chan, one of the activist leaders, who tragically drowned while attempting to swim to one of the islands in 1996.

Japan claimed administrative control over the islands when the U.S. returned Okinawa to Japan. All the Chinese in the world have responded that the islands were administered as part of Taiwan dating back to the Qing dynasty and were ceded to Japan in the unequal treaty of 1895. When Taiwan reverted to China in 1945, the Diaoyu islands should have been part of the package except the U.S. was still holding onto them.

This latest incident raises some disturbing questions about Japan’s motives. Did Fukuda’s government ordered this provocation or was it an initiative of a lower ranking official?

Was it Japan’s intention to test the resolve of the newly elected president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou? Harvard educated Ma in his youth was a prominent activist for the return of the Diaoyu islands to Taiwan. He even wrote a thesis on this subject.

To complicate matters, Taiwan’s resident envoy in Tokyo was recalled in part to show Taiwan government’s displeasure with Japan and in part to express their dissatisfaction with the envoy for being “soft” with Tokyo. The envoy, an appointee of Ma’s predecessor Chen Shui-bian, has since resigned.

In a show of bravado, the Taiwan navy cutters have escorted some protest ships to the Diaoyu islands to stake their claim in response to the ramming incident. Some of the emotional responses from Taiwan even suggested going to war with Japan. They pointed out that Russia and South Korea have been successful in resolving their disputes with Japan by forceful possession of the islands in dispute.

Realistically, Taiwan does not have the navy to take on Japan. Some Bay Area Chinese have asked why Beijing has not been more active in the dispute. Understandably, since Taiwan has not yet returned to China’s fold, Beijing is in the awkward position of having to defer to Taiwan’s lead.

However, Taiwan and China has just concluded the first successful bi-lateral meeting where both parties agreed to begin weekend direct flights carrying up to 3000 passengers daily across the straits in each direction. This is herald as the first step to significant warming of relations across the straits. See O'Neill for a comprehensive analysis to date.

By becoming the adversary of an issue that both Taiwan and China find emotional common ground, the ultimate irony is for Japan to be the catalyst pushing the two sides to even speedier and closer cooperation.

See edited version in New America Media.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What's Wrong with American style of Democracy?- The illusion of a tax cut

A great contribution by George W. Bush is the discovery that tax cut is the secret to winning the election. No American in his/her right mind likes to pay more taxes. Paying less taxes sounds good to everybody.

Now the two contending candidates, McCain and Obama, are trying to out tax-cut each other. True, McCain wants to give the tax cut to the rich and Obama to tax the rich and give the middle class the tax break. But that's splitting trivial hair compared to the big mantra. The important message is to cut taxes.

So far, no one has bothered to look at the flip side of this issue. Cutting taxes means reducing the revenue needed by the federal government to operate (unless of course the tax cut leads to economic growth and makes up for the lowered tax rate, which the Bush economists espoused but they were wrong). The candidates do not explain how they will cut expenditures sufficiently to balance the budget.

The Bush fiscal policy has resulted in recurring budget deficits and a record breaking national debt. Future generations of Americans will be paying off the debt incurred by the current generation that went along with this sort of pipe dream economics.

Unless either presidential candidates can show that they can cut taxes and still balance the national budget and have something left to pay down some of the Bush debt, they are merely pandering to those unthinking Americans looking for a free lunch.

So, my fellow Americans, be sure to listen to the candidates very carefully. If their scheme for a tax cut is not accompanied by serious solutions to balance the budget, reject their candidacy. They think you are too dumb to figure it out that a tax cut that adds to the national debt is mortgaging the future of your kids and grandkids.

Monday, June 9, 2008

What America Needs to Know ABout China - 2, Tibet and the Dalai Lama

When it comes to American perception of America's world standing, an attitude adjustment of major proportion is indicated. In general, Americans are among the most ignorant people of all nations when it comes to other countries. Yet, we insist on telling others about proper conduct of international relations.

Hollywood personalities by virtue of their high public profile have a real advantage whenever they step up to the bully pulpit to pointificate on an issue. Unfortunately, they do not always know what they are talking about. Tibet and the Dalai Lama is just one such case in point. How many in America know some of the statements below?

Dalai Lama is the leader of one of the Tibetan sects of Lamaism but not the leader of all the sects. He even outlawed one of the Tibetan sects as recently as 1996. Isn't it strange that a particular branch of Tibetan Buddhism should all of a sudden turn rancid after enjoying the worship of Tibetans, including earlier incarnations of Dalai Lama, for centuries?

The West positions the Dalai Lama as one peaceful guy. He doesn't want Tibet to separate from China. Oh no, he just wish to enjoy autonomy within China's political system wherever Tibetans can be found. Well, there are many Tibetans living outside of Tibet in such neighboring provinces as Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan. Granting autonomy is roughly equivalent to the American federal government granting autonomy to California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and a good slice of Texas.

Dalai Lama and his supporters accuse Beijing of conducting cultural genocide. What does he mean by that? Under his rule, over 90% of Tibetans lived the life of a serf in bondage. These Tibetans owned no property but were instead themselves property of the ruling class. They were lucky to live to a ripe old age of 40. Today, they can send their children to school, they control their own destiny and can look forward to living to 70 and beyond.

Beijing has allocated millions to preserve and protect the cultural icons and Lama temples. Beijing has also spent millions on infrastructure development such as schools, highways and the technological breakthrough known as the world's highest railroad. School children are not discouraged from learning their native Tibetan language but are encouraged to also learn Mandarin Chinese for the sake of their future.

So is modernization of Tibet a form of cultural genocide? Must cannibals in the rain forest continue to eat their neighbors in order to maintain their cultural purity?

Actually, there are plenty of pundits and commentators in the West with perfectly respectable credentials willing to point out that the holy Dalai Lama might not be so holy afterall. Brendan O'Neill and Michael Parenti are just two examples. These folks may not be as pretty as the Hollywood Geres and Stones but they certainly speak with more authentic depth and substance.

What's Wrong with Democracy, American Style?

Americans from the top down to the person on the street believe that theirs is the what democracy is all about, an example of government for the world to measure against. It's time to think again.

At the recent primary election, the winning candidate raised nearly $400,000 to run for a seat in California's State Assembly (that's the lower house of California legislature). He won by garnering just under 10,000 votes in a hotly contested election but in a typically dismal voter turnout of 30+%.

His opponent ran a vigorous campaign, raised comparable amount of money and lost by a nearly 2000 vote margin. So in losing, he spent around $500 for each vote while his winning opponent spent closer to $400 per vote.

This is just for the primary election, forcryingoutloud. The winner may have to raise comparable sum for the general election even though he won in a heavily Democrat district and the winner is generally a shoo-in in the general election.

But because the winner is of ethnic Asian origin, he can't afford to get overconfident, lest racial bias rear its ugly head. Besides by the prevailing rules of engagement, a candidate cannot be perceived to be weak by not raising a big war chest.

The perceived popular support for his (or her) candidacy is determined by money and little else. In this case, he was endorsed by every politician and major public figure of note. It should have been a walk in the park, but if he hadn't raised a lot of money, he might have lost.

Unfortunately this particular example is the rule and not the exception and typifies what's wrong with American politics. Democracy is measured by the size of the bank account and size matters.

Many qualified and competent prospects do not run for public office because it hurts their pride to have to panhandle for campaign contributions. Those that do run, you would have to wonder: What did they have to do or promise to do for the contribution?

Politicians who promised campaign finance reform before they get elected soon make a sham of it after they won. Under the current system, money favors incumbents and once they become incumbents they would hardly want to change the rules of the game.

The biggest beneficiary of the current rules of engagement is the media industry. They derive enormous revenue from the political advertisements, hit pieces, advertorials and informercials allegely for the benefit of voter education. They give back part of their revenue in the form of political contributions to the politicians that support the status quo.

For those of us that care about how democracy is supposed to work, we are the losers. We are marginalized. "If you don't write checks, you simply do not count."

When our leaders go around the world saying be a democracy, be like us. I can't help but gag. Are we just stupid or are our leaders just cynical?

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What America Needs to Know About China - 1, Human Rights

When it comes to American perception of America's world standing, an attitude adjustment of major proportion is indicated. For years, Americans believed that they are not only the most humane people in the world but are the only ones that know and uphold the human rights standards for others to aspire.

The recent and ongoing response of the Chinese government and Chinese people to the Sichuan earthquake presents a clear challenge to the notion that only a democracy cares about the suffering of fellow human brings. Both the government and the people reacted spontaneously with compassion, with generosity, with courage and with concern for the long term well being of the survivors. China is no democracy.

The premier of China, the highest ranking chief operating official in the land, flew to the scene of disaster as soon as he heard of the devastating quake. He mobilize 100,000 PLA troops and personally supervised the rescue efforts. Despite the prompt response, there were private entrepreneurs that rushed to the scene even sooner with their equipment to began the rescue work.

Some cynics in the west condenscendingly attribute these action as Beijing's response to western pressure to do the right thing, suggesting that without the watchful eye of the western democracies, the Chinese would not have done so.

These are likely the same critics who have not criticized the moral turpitude surrounding Abu Graib and Guantanamo and whose holier than thou attitude renders them incapable of examining the vast difference betweeen the American response to Katrina and China's to the Sichuan quake.

The rest of the world realize that the United States have lost the moral high ground thanks to their conduct in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sadly, most of the Americans do not have a clue.

What America Needs to Know About China - Preamble

When it comes to American perception of America's world standing, an attitude adjustment of major proportion is indicated. To set the stage of this discussion, let's briefly review recent world history.

The world has been dominated by the western nations for at least the last 200 years; if one starts counting from when the Spaniards began to plunder and pillage the Americas, it would be over 400 years. But this world domination of the western values is about to end.

For the last 60 years or so, the United States reign as king of the hill. For most of the 60 years, the U.S. showed benign and even kindly leadership and thus won the admiration and even affection around the world.

But alas, when USSR toppled, in no small part because of the top heavy armament production, needed to keep up with the U.S., could not be supported by the skinny legs of civilian economy, the U.S. became the only superpower standing.

The timing was unfortunate for the U.S. as they elected a president who embraced the neoconservative voice and welcomed the lunatic fringe into the inner sanctum of the White House. The neoconpoops thought through their man in the White House, a man not known for intellectual curiosity, not known to appreciate contending opinions, not known for patience with complexity, the time had come for world domination.

The neoconpoops could not be more wrong. After the shock and awe came the surge, but no matter, the U.S. remained mired in Iraq, bleeding not just blood of young Americans but the federal treasury as well. American leaders seemed unable to find a way out of the Middle East debacle, nor the financial scandals, nor the tanking economy, nor finding ways for job creation, nor to stop the incredible shrinking dollar, nor...

In China, the American politicians have found a way out. Who says we have to solve any of our problems? Just blame everything on the Chinese.

The succeeding blogs will discuss each specific issue of contention such as human rights, Tibet, international relations, jobs, currency manipulaton, espionage, etc. Stayed tune for contrarian views on all of them, views and information that American voters need to have when politicians are spewing venom instead of solutions.