Monday, November 21, 2005

George Bush in China: How Western Media Got It Wrong

Western media should end their biased view of China and focus on all the positive changes in the country, including an increase in religious freedom.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Coming off a new low in domestic approval ratings and battered by a decidedly hostile reception in Latin America, a mellower and gentler President George W. Bush brought a more conciliatory message to Asia.

Bush in ChinaWestern media stressed the part of Bush's speech in Japan where he suggested that China should look upon Taiwan as its model for democracy and freedom. The reference to Taiwan occupied only two short paragraphs out of 34 of his prepared text. China chose to ignore the reference when Bush arrived in Beijing.

Bush began his speech in Beijing by praising China for its economic progress and for its role in the six-party talks with North Korea. He gave a subtle signal about the need for more religious freedom in China by attending a Protestant church service near Tiananmen.

Alas, both the president and the media entourage showed dismaying flaws in their understanding of China.

When Thomas Murphy, then chairman of General Motors, visited Beijing in 1978, he too attended mass at a Catholic church near where Bush attended the protestant service. Giving subtle signals about religious freedom was far from Murphy's mind, however. His only intent was to be a good Irish Catholic.

What has changed during this interval is the degree to which Buddhist temples have flourished. Today, temples are full of worshippers and grounds covered by incense smoke and burnt currency printed for the dead.

China has even constructed a bronze-clad statue of Guanyin, a Buddha native to China, off Hainan Island, built by design to be taller than the Statue of Liberty. Buddhism has always been the dominant religion in China. Why has Western media not acknowledged the liberalization of worship in the country? Surely no one is suggesting that only the practice of Christian religions count toward religious freedom.

About the time of Bush's trip to Asia, the Washington-based Pew Research Center released a remarkable survey as part of their global attitudes project. The survey revealed that 76 percent of the Chinese people living in urban areas expect their lives to improve over the next five years. For the United States, it was 48 percent, much closer to Russia's 45 percent.

When asked if they were "satisfied with the way things are going at home," 72 percent in China responded "satisfied," and only 19 percent "not satisfied." In the United States, the survey indicated only 39 percent satisfied and 57 percent not satisfied. This response, however, was superior to Russia, where 23 percent of respondents reported being satisfied, and 71 percent not.

Even more remarkable than Pew's result is the near total absence of coverage about this survey in Western media. Only the International Herald Tribune, distributed outside of America, ran the story. None of the wire services and none of the major American dailies even mentioned this poll.

Why such a lack of interest? The global attitudes project was co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Sen. John Danforth. Pew's many other surveys were always cited by the mainstream. Could it be because people allegedly deprived of freedom have no right to be so optimistic?

President Bush, it seems, should have saved his lecture for his good buddy, Russia's president Vladimir Putin at the APEC meeting in South Korea. At least with Putin, Bush would have spoken from a relative position of strength.

Bush also misfired by holding Taiwan as a model to which China should aspire to. People in Asia have not forgotten that the last election of this so-called model of democracy saw a miraculous intervention of a supposed assassination attempt on the eve of the presidential election. The sympathy from the superficial wound on President Chen Shui Bian's belly was far more effective than any hanging chads or Swift Boat veterans that influenced the outcome in America.

Now that Beijing has offered to buy agriculture products from Taiwan tariff-free and dangled the prospect of sending millions of mainland tourists to Taiwan, the economic pressure on Chen to revise his no-negotiation stance is mounting. The opposition leaders in Taiwan have already reached rapprochement with Beijing, further isolating Chen.

It will be interesting to see how long Chen can abide by rules in the books without new subterfuge. His predecessor, Lee Teng Hui, was known to make revision of the Taiwan's constitution an annual exercise.

More than 1 million Taiwanese have already voted with their feet by moving to the mainland. Even 100,000-plus Americans are now living in China. Such voluntary migration of people flies in the face of the image of a repressive China portrayed by the Western media.

During his visit to Asia, President Bush has shifted to a perceptibly softer diplomatic approach from his previous hard rhetoric. It is a small but hopefully significant step toward collaboration instead of confrontation. Western media needs to take off their biased filters and see China for what it has become -- a progressive nation on the move.

New America Media, Commentary, George Koo, Posted: Nov 21, 2005, A version was published in South China Morning Post, November 23, 2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

China perspective on Pacific Time, KQED Public Radio

“Never in the history of mankind have so many been lifted out of poverty in so short of time. This accolade about today’s China has been said so often that I‘ve lost track of who said it first. No matter who said it first, much of the credit for China’s accomplishment should go to America’s consistent policy toward China.

For more than 30 years, America’s worked to cajole China out of isolation and into the world community. Tentative at first, China has since adopted some of the principles that have made America great--principles such as freeing trade, opening markets, welcoming of foreign investments, and unleashing entrepreneurialism. China’s undeniable success should be a cause of celebration because China is a confirmation that the principles we hold dear really do work. China’s success should not be a cause of anxiety nor rueful envy.

Through its productive and low cost labor, China has become the factory for the world. The benefit to American consumers is consistent quality goods at low and constant prices. China has taken most of its trade surplus and invested in U.S. treasury bills. Both factors keep inflation at bay in America.
China can’t be blamed for not buying from America. Even as China’s global trade increases by leaps and bounds, its imports and exports are in relative overall balance. China buys roughly twice as much from Japan and from EU than they buy from America. The question should be why are we not selling more, not why are they not buying from us.

China should not be blamed for our deficit either. Year in and year out, China has accounted for roughly 25% of our total trade deficit. Sure, our trade deficit with China has been growing at a phenomenal rate, but so has our total national deficit. Again, we should be asking what is wrong with our national policy, not what China is doing to us.

The accusation that makes no sense whatsoever is currency manipulation. China pegged their renminbi to the dollar about a decade ago. The dollar was strong then. Surely the critics are not suggesting that China could have looked long into the future and anticipated the downward slide of the dollar. Today, even if China were to float its currency, the cost differential is so large that it’s not going to bring back jobs that have long gone offshore.

On a recent public television program about China, the spokesman from Wal-mart said that only in China does he see the possibility of replicating their success of another U.S. China’s economy is doubling every 7 to 10 years and there is ample opportunity for the two major powers to develop a win-win relationship. To denigrate China, to accuse China of evil intentions and to drive China toward to a lose-lose arrangement is a tragic outcome we all should avoid. For Pacific Time, this is George Koo.

Monday, October 17, 2005

What globalization means in China

This summer, Beijing celebrated the opening of the newest restoration of a section of the Great Wall, Juyongguan, to tourism by inviting a world champion skateboarder from the West to soar over the wall for a first unveiling of its kind.

I arrived in Beijing a couple of days too late to witness the daredevil stunt but the huge U-shaped ramps were still in place. I was in Beijing to attend the 2nd annual international education exposition and some of the discussion sessions were staged at the scenic setting.

The expo was organized by Beijing city education department as a convenient way for high school students to become acquainted with various colleges and universities at one setting. I was told that among the 600 some booths at the expo, about 160 represented schools from outside of China. Major U.S. institutions such as Berkeley and Yale were present, as well as schools from Australia, Canada and U.K. I even saw schools from Russia and South Korea represented at the expo.

Despite China’s increasing public and private investment to take in more students, now at 4.5 million a year, the average chance of any high school graduate getting accepted to college is still a paltry 1 in 5. The less fortunate either wait to apply again or forego further education or go abroad.

Most come from single child families and many of those parents are willing to invest their entire savings to send their one child overseas for a quality education. One of the foreign educators I talked to volunteered that recruiting students from China has become an increasingly important source of revenue which explains why so many schools were at the expo.

However, the flow of human capital is increasingly bi-directional. First wave flowing into China consisted of ethnic Chinese Hong Kong and Taiwan that opened factories and settled inside China since the early 1990’s. Next were the “returnees” originally from China returning from the West to start high tech companies, a trend becoming pronounced since the turn of this century.

On my recent trip, I began to see China as a magnet for professionals from around the world, where ethnicity is irrelevant. A young Norwegian wanted to follow his girl friend from Oslo to Beijing and asked me about his prospects of employment. He had a degree in computer science from an American university and quickly found a job after he arrived.

I recently met an investment banker, formerly from the San Francisco based Robertson Stephens, who decided to join an American founded merchant bank in Shanghai. He is white and doesn’t speak Chinese but is locating in Shanghai by virtue of the demand for his skill set.

I told him that his story reminded me a new French fusion restaurant just opened in Xintiandi, the upscale district of Shanghai. The chef previously worked in a well known restaurant in San Francisco. He is white as is the partner managing the restaurant and the maitre d’. I asked the three of them what they were doing in Shanghai with no Chinese in their background. Their reply was that they saw a better future for their careers in Shanghai than San Francisco.

The investment banker surprised me by expressing concern over the future of the new restaurant, which he frequented. When pressed to explain, he said the fengshui of the place is terrible! Fengshui is a traditional Chinese “science” of geomancy. Most Chinese business people would not fail to consult a fengshui expert when they move but is hardly a concept I would expect a non-Asian to understand.

These anecdotal stories reflect the remarkable degree China has integrated into the world economy. No one could have imagined how far today’s China has changed from the days of the closed society behind the bamboo curtain under Mao’s regime that persisted until 1976.

The latest issue of Foreign Affairs, America’s most influential magazine of its kind, contained two thoughtful articles written by two influential thinkers from Beijing. One by Zheng Bijian sought to explain the peaceful intentions of China’s rise to prominence. The other by Wang Jisi examined the U.S. China bilateral relations and pointed out that China economic development is not a zero sum game and comes not at the expense of the U.S.

For advisers of Beijing’s central government to participate directly in America’s most influential forum on international relations is unprecedented, somewhat akin to Karl Rove writing for the People’s Daily. It would behoove the U.S. to respond in kind. The U.S. Congress should be at the forefront in building a positive bilateral relationship. So far the body seems to understand less about today’s China than even the general public.

Rumor has it that Senator Chuck Schumer will attempt to resurrect the threat of levying a duty on Chinese made goods in the current Congressional session. Such a move ignores the interdependence of the two economies and seeks to impose a lose-lose regimen on the bilateral relationship. I hope his colleagues and the American public will treat his proposal with the disdain it richly deserves.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Book Review: “For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism under Fire” by James Yee

Captain James Yee, Denise Woo and Dr. Wen Ho Lee have some things in common but also bear some essential differences. They are all American citizens that suffered egregious injustice at the hands of their own government. That much they have in common.

From Dr. Lee’s case, we learned that the government as represented by the FBI agent in charge will lie in court in order to indict an innocent person. Denise Woo, a former FBI agent with her case still pending, stood accused of abetting an enemy agent under investigation when her real offense was to tell her superiors that they were investigating an innocent person.

From his recently published book, “For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism under Fire,” Yee’s personal ordeal at the hands of his government was similar but different. According to his own account, Yee grew up in the all-American tradition. He loved baseball and collected baseball cards. He went from being a casual Lutheran to being a casual Muslim before studying the religion intensively. He studied in Damascus, became fluent in Arabic and a scholar of the Qur’an. When he returned to the U.S., he rejoined the Army to serve as a Muslim chaplain and serving with distinction. As a West Point graduate who previously served as an officer, he was given the rank of captain.

Yee’s misfortune began after September 11, 2001 and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. He was sent to the Guantanamo base on Cuba and the commanding officer there did not take kindly to even implied disapproval of the inhumane treatment of prisoners on Guantanamo. The commanding general Geoffrey Miller became suspicious of Yee, the only Muslim chaplain on the base, as he carried out his duties including ministering to the 600 some prisoners being held on the base. To Miller, Yee’s ability to communicate with the prisoners and offer some words of comfort seemed conspiratorial.

Even at the end of Yee’s ordeal when all charges of treason and consorting with enemy combatants were dropped, General Miller leveled last minute accusations of adultery and pornography on Captain Yee. In the end, Miller’s commanding officer, General James Hill, bowing to public opinion, dismissed all the charges against Yee. Even then Hill offered the spurious reasoning that Yee had suffered enough and not because Miller acted incorrectly. Yee never got due process and never had his day in court to clear his name. Even when he was supposedly reinstated and returned to active duty, the Army made it clear that he was tainted goods and would never get a fair shake.

The first part of Yee’s book did not tell us anything new. We already know that the U.S. government called the prisoners “enemy combatants” so that the U.S. did not have to abide by the Geneva Convention, since technically they were not considered as prisoners of war. Guantanamo on Cuba selected for the holding pens was leased to the U.S. into perpetuity. Technically, it was not part of U.S. soil and therefore U.S. laws did not need to apply.

Most of us did not know that the Army built an air conditioned hospital for cosmetic effect to show visiting reporters the supposed level of humane treatment being rendered to these prisoners. The visitors did not see prisoners actually housed in furnace-like 8 foot by 6 foot open pens enclosed by wire mesh and a tin roof. We did not know that young boys as young as 12 were held as enemy combatants and regarded as threats to the security of the U.S.

Yee’s narrative can be deceptively placid typical of a religious person virtually free of rancor and bitterness. He had gone through solitary confinement, chained and shackled in the manner of Wen Ho Lee. His family went through hell not knowing where he was, what he had done and what would become of him. His reputation devastated and his marriage damaged by deliberate government slanders leaked to the press from which he had no means to defend himself. Yet, the strongest condemnation he can say of his chief tormentor was: “It is hard to imagine that General Miller did not realize I had suffered seventy-six days of solitary confinement, as well as enormous harm to my reputation, for no reason.”

From the book, the reader will see that General Geoffrey Miller personifies everything that has gone wrong with the so-called “war on terror.” At Guantanamo, Miller approved and/or utilized physical, mental and psychological torture in order to extract information and confessions from the prisoners. Desecration of the Qur’an, physical exposure and touching by female interrogators, provocations by guards that led to brutal quelling of prisoner riots and other techniques later applied in Iraq were first practiced at Guantanamo. In Miller’s view, all Muslims are potential enemy combatants who are some lower form of life that deserve no measure of decency and respect.

Even though as chaplain Yee was not allowed to participate in the interrogation of the prisoners, he nonetheless formed the impression that most of the hapless prisoners arrested or captured in the war in Afghanistan had no idea why they were taken, were never informed of any formal charges, what they were doing in Guantanamo or when, if ever, they could hope to be released. After being in the state of indefinite limbo, most became severely depressed and some became suicidal.

There are still some 550 prisoners remaining captive at Guantanamo today and most of them have been there for over three years. This is going to be a thorny problem for the U.S. Only four prisoners have been charged with crimes. Someday, the Bush administration will have to find a face saving way to let the rest go. Who is going to vouch that these originally labeled enemy combatants upon gaining their freedom won’t become real combatants and try to even the score? The same General Miller is put in charge of the prisons in Iraq. How can we be sure that he is not, through his abusive approach, graduating more future terrorists that will target America?

Captain Yee received officer evaluation report from his direct commanding officers at Guantanamo that was the best ever in his military career. This was just two days before his arrest ordered by General Miller. Yee was not the only member of his staff that was unjustly treated.

Ahmad al-Halabi was a young American from the Air Force assigned to assist Yee. Yee considered Ahmad the “most skilled and dedicated translator” who worked at Guantanamo. He was arrested upon his return to the mainland and charged with 30 counts including espionage and terrorism. After nine months in prison, 26 charges were dismissed and he pleaded guilty to four minor offenses for time already served, reminiscent of how Dr. Lee was treated.

Ahmed Mehalba who served as a civilian linguist on Guantanamo was imprisoned for almost two years before his release. His only offense turned out to be possessing classified information. At around the same time, a white non-Muslim officer at Guantanamo charged with mishandling classified information was given an administrative reprimand and spent no time in prison. This too mirrors the disparate treatment Dr. Lee received vs. the slap on the wrist on John Deutch, former CIA director, for taking secret information home.

The lesson is painfully clear. The very ethnic minority Americans that the U.S. needs in its armed services and intelligence agencies are going to be increasingly hesitant about entering into such service. While there are fair minded officers in most branches of service, it would take running into just one like Miller to have his or her life turned upside down. It is also clear that so long as the likes of General Miller are running the war on terror, the U.S. will be fighting a losing battle, creating more enemies even as we try to curb terrorists and insurgents.

Monday, August 15, 2005

FBI's Ongoing Racial Profiling Hurts National Interest

Editor's Note: The case of Denise Woo, an FBI agent being prosecuted by the agency, appears to be another example of the government's hurtful mistrust of Chinese Americans.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--The FBI quietly indicted Denise Woo, one of their own agents, last December, for allegedly tipping off a suspect of a national security probe that he was being investigated. Woo's prosecution looks to be another example of racial profiling by the agency.

The suspect had been assigned to Woo for undercover surveillance. Her case is pending a trial date.

According to a copy of the indictment obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the suspect was a Chinese American, code-named "JW," who worked for a defense contractor and was suspected by the FBI of spying for China. But Woo's attorney, Mark Holscher, and her family say that JW's informer had questionable credentials and that Woo found no credible evidence to back up the accusation against him. Furthermore, they say, JW, an American citizen born in America, does not speak Chinese and has never been west of Hawaii.

In fact, the FBI eventually dropped the investigation into JW -- but not before turning his life upside down and putting his career in tatters.

Woo's undercover assignment took place in the late 1990s, during the height of hysteria about the China menace fanned by the likes of the Congressional Cox Committee report on China. Dr. Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos scientist, was almost railroaded into oblivion during this era. Lee was arrested and jailed in 1999, accused of giving nuclear secrets to Beijing. Eventually, after he had spent nine months in solitary confinement, the government dropped all espionage charges against him. The presiding judge apologized to Lee for government misconduct. The FBI agent in charge of the case was found to have lied in his testimony.

The FBI bias against Chinese Americans is long standing. In the mid-1950s, J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI, put forth the view that all Chinese Americans were potential spies for China and could not be trusted. Today, the FBI continues to attribute to China this unique "grains of sand" spying technique -- namely, that China relies on tiny tidbits collected from every ethnic Chinese living in America.

In assigning Denise Woo to the JW case, the FBI violated its own operating principles. Woo was neither trained nor qualified to do undercover work. Furthermore, JW was a family acquaintance of Woo's, which put her in a position of conflict of interest.

Perhaps recognizing that their case rests on thin ice, the FBI has offered Woo probation in exchange for a guilty plea. But according to attorney Mark Holscher, Woo insists on contesting the case in court. Holscher, who also defended Wen Ho Lee, has agreed to mount another pro bono defense.

The American public should be concerned over the fate of Ms. Woo, pitted against the might of the U.S. government. We should ask why the FBI created the predicament for one of its own agents in the first place. All Americans, and especially Asian Americans and other Americans of color should be concerned with the apparent racial bias that runs deep within the FBI.

If the FBI is willing to throw one of their few Asian agents into an assignment for which she was not qualified and then condemn her for arguing that the Bureau had the wrong suspect, how many new minority candidates are going to consider a career in the "new" FBI?

Denise Woo, a former executive with IBM, left the private sector for a career in government service to fulfill her patriotic aspirations. What kind of message is the U.S. government giving to all future young men and women of color who want to serve their country?

Pacific News Service, Commentary, George Koo, Posted: Aug 15, 2005

Thursday, July 14, 2005

When Congress Demonizes China, Free Enterprise Suffers

Pacific News Service, Commentary, George Koo, Posted: Jul 14, 2005

Editor's Note: If alarm in Washington over a Chinese company's bid to buy Unocal gets out of control, the U.S. economy itself could be harmed.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--When it comes to relations with China, U.S. leaders' reactions can become so knee-jerk. Alarm over the Unocal tender offer and over China's supposed military might are two latest examples of China bashing.

The United States has 24 aircraft carriers deployed around the world; China has none. In terms of total tonnage of all warships, the United States has nearly 11 times that of China.

The U.S. Navy's blue-water capability reaches clear across the Pacific to China's continental shelf. But Secretary Rumsfeld finds alarming China's heightened investment in naval and other military power, still at levels far below that of the United States.

When British Petroleum acquired Amoco, a much larger company with far greater oil reserves than Unocal, no one raised hackles over national security. China National Offshore Oil (CNOOC) makes a bid to acquire Unocal and members of Congress go berserk over the perceived threat to our national security.

If their tender is successful, CNOOC plans to divest Unocal's U.S. holdings and thus protect the American-based jobs. If Chevron's bid for Unocal is successful, for sure there will be consolidation of the two companies and redundant jobs eliminated.

Apparently, perceived threat stemming from a normal Wall Street transaction trumps Congressional concerns about job preservation.

Why is China being treated as another pariah state? China has invaded no Kuwait (as has Iraq), held no American hostage (Iran), nor pretended to threaten neighbors with nuclear weapons (N. Korea).

Since Sept. 11, 2001, America found a real enemy in fighting terrorism -- and beyond that by creating the "axis of evil." The United States even made China a partner by delegating the North Korea crisis to China's stewardship.

Then the Bush Administration grumbles that the Chinese are making no progress with North Korea, conveniently overlooking the intemperate remarks by Dick Cheney and James Bolton on North Korea that torpedoed discussions at critical junctures.

In Singapore, Rumsfeld's June 4th speech accusing China of military ambitions was greeted with deafening silence. China's neighbors, including Australia, heretofore one of America's strongest allies, see China as an important economic partner and not as a potential aggressor per Rumsfeld's description.

It's hard to understand why Rumsfeld is going out of his way to pick a fight with China. The competition for oil may lead to eventual conflict, but the current situation hardly seems so dire as to justify his extreme rhetoric.

Congress is behaving in a similarly irrational way, as if raising the temperature on the bilateral relations with China will take the heat off a host of domestic issues.

A recent survey on American attitudes toward China, commissioned by the Committee of 100, a national group dedicated to advancing Chinese American issues and politically empowering the community, found Congressional staff twice as hostile toward China as the American public. Among the Congressional staffers who profess expertise on China affairs, less than 5 percent could correctly identify Hu Jintao as the current leader of China -- an indication of how out of touch with reality Congress can be.

Hopefully Congress will not get carried away in demonizing China to the point of doing irreparable harm to our free enterprise system.

Some argued that since China will not let American companies take over Chinese companies, we are justified in refusing Chinese companies to do the reverse. This is specious reasoning. So long as China applies their regulation evenly to all investors, they are playing by the rules.

By contriving to prevent CNOOC from tendering their offer, Congress is telling the world that dollars in British hands are legal tender, but not when in Chinese hands.

Imagine the havoc such actions will wreak on Wall Street, as foreign investors begin to realize that American policy is not just arbitrary when it comes to finding weapons of mass destruction but also on rules of investment. America would no longer serve as the safe haven they once sought.

If the world were to decide it no longer wished to support the U.S. national debt by holding onto dollars (and treasury bills), the consequences would be too gruesome to contemplate. We would have only the irrational behavior of our leaders to blame.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Hitting China With a Tariff Won't Help U.S. Economy

Pacific News Service, Commentary, George Koo, Posted: Jun 16, 2005

Editor's Note: Blaming China for U.S. economic ills doesn't make sense, the writer says.

SAN FRANCISCO--U.S. Congress, led by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), appears headed on a collision course with China over trade. Ironically, the senators see imposing a tariff duty on inbound Chinese goods as a solution to U.S. economic woes, contrary to the spirit of global free trade.

Any student of economics should be able to skewer the contradictions of this logic with ease. Here are some data to facilitate their exercise.

When Beijing pegged their currency, the Renminbi, to the dollar more than 10 years ago, it was considered a fair peg.

Some three years later, the Asian financial crisis struck and neighboring countries devalued their currencies to keep their economies from drowning. They were most fearful that China would devaluate the Renminbi in step, thus canceling any relief gained in devaluating.

Instead, Beijing hung onto the peg and rode with a subsequently strengthening dollar all the way up -- and then all the way down. To accuse Beijing of artificially weakening its currency, or of manipulation, is to give Beijing credit for knowing more about the twists and turns of the U.S. economy than even Alan Greenspan.

Even though the U.S. trade deficit with China continues to increase and has reached enormous proportions, so has the U.S. deficit with the entire world. The deficit with China now represents 25 percent of the total deficit. In earlier years, the deficit with China was as high as 27.5 percent of the total, but nobody made a fuss then because it was part of a much smaller overall deficit.

This would suggest that the problem lies with us and not in any policy of China.

A decade ago, Japan was accused of being the cause of American economic woes. Now China is being painted with the same brush, even though China is clearly not practicing mercantilism.

China has open borders and encourages foreign investments. Japan never has. China's world trade is actually in reasonable balance, around 95 cents of import for every dollar of export, the U.S. imbalance notwithstanding.

Annually, China buys about twice as much from the European Union and from Japan than they do from the United States. The problem is not an unwillingness on the part of China to buy, but seems to be our unwillingness to sell.

The United States is content to be the dominant supplier of wheat and soybeans to China, but it is reluctant to take maximum advantage of its strengths in high technology.

Washington is very adept at applying the "dual use" label to restrain technology export. Dual use means any conceivable potential non-civilian alternate use. Any hypothetical use represents a threat to the U.S. and could outweigh any economic gain in the sale. Hi-tech sales face tons of red tape effectively hogtying the high tech industry.

Nearly 60 percent of China's exports come from foreign invested enterprises -- in other words, from many of the U.S.-based multinationals. The manufacturer, the distributor and the retailer in the United States are all making money from China's ability to make quality goods at low prices.

The proposed 27.5 percent duty on China-made goods will hurt the bottom lines of American companies and certainly discourage spending by the American consumer, but it will have questionable effect on restoring American jobs. Virtually all of these manufacturing jobs moved offshore decades ago, and are now moving from those places -- Taiwan, Korea, Mexico, Singapore et al. -- to China.

The good senators seem to believe that if the yuan is allowed to float, our economic woes will be over. Actually, a stronger yuan will not do much to close the huge wage rate gap, as much as 20 to 1, between the U.S. and China.

In fact, over the most recent decade, China suffered job losses on an order of magnitude greater than the United States. Over the same period, China's wage scale increased by 300 percent, while the United States showed an increase of 30 percent.

China seems to have faced the challenges of its fast-growing economy better than we in the United States have managed our massive one. Of course, China does not have to contend with continuous billion-dollar hemorrhages like an Iraq war.

In a few years, China will be poised to challenge leading-edge efforts in stem cell research. By then the United States will be the world's leading authority on creationism and intelligent design.

Annually, China is already turning out more than seven times more graduates in engineering and other technical disciplines than the United States. They are amassing the human resources to move up the value chain of manufacturing. We are trying to leave no child behind.

Instead of looking for easy political solutions, we need to address the many systemic problems gnarling the insides of the American economy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Full Apology Though Painful Benefits Japan in the Long Run

Recent opinion-editorials and analysis of the tension between China and Japan tend to trivialize the World War II atrocities committed by Japan’s Imperial army and attribute the root of tension to geopolitical power struggle between the two nations.

Overlooked by these western analysts are historical facts. They also fail to notice that anti-Japan protests are coming from all over Asia, not just China, and even among Asian American communities in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Imagine a serial rapist and mass murderer who suddenly became a model citizen, even a wealthy individual known for community service and philanthropy. Can any length of exemplary conduct expiate his past criminal behavior?

If the statue of limitations can never expire for individuals that committed capital crimes, then why are American commentators so willing to dismiss the World War II atrocities Japan committed? Is it because they fail to comprehend the intensity of Asian feelings on this forgotten Holocaust? Asians can not forget.

The Japanese troops slaughtered innocent civilians at random without provocation and with extreme cruelty. They used live civilians tied to posts and infants tossed in the air for bayonet practice. Officers held contests to see who can behead more prisoners with their Samurai swords.

Women in Nanjing China and elsewhere in Asia were gang-raped and then butchered. Rampaging soldiers derived sadistic jollies by slitting the bellies of pregnant women and extracting the fetuses. Women from occupied countries were forced into sexual slavery to satisfy the lust of the troops.

A Colonel Ishii ran Camp 731 near Harbin China to conduct biological experiments on prisoners that included injection of live bacteria, surgery without anesthetics, and breaking limbs after subjecting victims to extreme cold. Even though victims of Camp 731 experiments included American prisoners of war, Colonel Ishii was never tried for war crimes. The American authorities let him go in exchange for his amassed biological data.

Downed American flyers captured near Chichi Jima towards the end of the war were ritually executed and their livers barbequed and eaten by the troops defending the island. This was reported by Jim Bradley in his book, Flyboy.

These were not isolated acts of violence but results of a deliberate edict from the top and implemented on a massive scale.

The government of Japan has always been quick to point to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in portraying Japan as victim of the war. Their textbooks and official documents do not portray Japan as the aggressor and described none of the atrocities committed during the war, not even those acts photographed by their own troops as take-home souvenirs.

Perhaps not by design, but Japan instigated the latest flare-up in tension by approving another set of textbooks containing the same denial of events in WWII. At the same time, the government actively campaigned for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

The reaction from the people of Asian ancestry is visceral. To say that the Beijing government is behind the protest or that this is mere manifestations of power play directed towards Tokyo is patently nonsense.

Since the conclusion of WWII and the adoption of the so called “peace” constitution, Japan has been a phenomenal economic success and a generous donor to the developing nations. They can indeed make a strong case for a permanent seat on the Security Council except for their unwillingness to apologize and make full restitution to their WWII victims. This is akin to the reformed criminal refusing to express regret for his past.

Every decade or so, one of Japan’s prime ministers would express remorse, the latest being Junichiro Koizumi while attending an international forum in Indonesia. But his “heartfelt apology” is not enough. It is not the same as an official act accompanied by a law that mandates the restitution of damages to victims and the introduction of the truth of Japan’s dark past into the textbooks. One has to wonder about his “heartfelt-ness,” when his foreign minister immediately proposes to examine China’s history textbooks for inaccuracies on their depiction of Japan and the war.

China supports Germany’s application for a permanent seat and Japan can learn from Germany’s example. Immediately after WWII, Germany apologized and paid billions in restitution. Germany made no attempt to deny the existence of the Holocaust against the Jews but incorporated that history into their curriculum.

Germany’s action leads to healing and forgiveness. Japan’s inaction leaves a festering wound. The world is reminded of Japan’s past whenever another leftover poison gas canister is uncovered in China, or when Japanese leader makes another visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, or the Ministry of Education approves another textbook with the cover up.

To earn the trust and even affection of their neighbors without reservations, the people of Japan must renounce their past. They can’t renounce their past if they don’t know what happened. By making a full admission of the misconduct of WWII along with full restitution, the government of Japan will finally earn the respect and honor a great nation deserves, a nation that can face the truth and not resort to cover up.