Showing posts with label Beijing Olympics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beijing Olympics. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What America Needs to Know about China

Below is text of address delivered at Pitzer College

Thank you for coming to hear what I have to say about China and about the U.S. China bilateral relations. As a business consultant, I have been going to China regularly for the last 30 years, essentially from the beginning of China’s economic reform. My first personal visit to China actually took place in 1974, during the height of the Great Cultural Revolution. I certainly have enjoyed a ringside seat watching China’s amazing transition and transformation during this period.

In my early trips into China, I would be interviewed by the CIA and the FBI upon my return. They would want to know whom I saw, what we talked about and so on. I was happy to tell them all I knew because from the start, I thought I had a mission, which was to explain China to Americans and America to the Chinese. I felt that I was in the position to act as a bridge between the two countries that meant the most to me.

Thirty years later, some things have not changed much. In particular, there remains a lot about China that America does not understand and I continue to feel that the role of a cultural intermediary is as relevant as ever. So it is today that I am here to describe and explain some things about China that America needs to know and understand--such understanding being crucial to the development of a healthy bilateral relationship. As the two arguably most powerful nations and economies in the world, a strong positive bilateral relationship is important not only to the peoples of the two countries but to a peaceful world.

I might also add that given the recent financial turmoil on Wall Street and the increasing importance of China, holding close to $1 trillion or our treasury notes and government debt, it becomes increasing relevant that we develop a measure of respect for someone that is likely to end up owning a bit of America in exchange for bailing us of out of our financial excesses.

My talk today is not about western media distortion of China or the biases of western politicians. If it is, I would be on the podium for hours. What I hope to do is to take you outside of your customary American frame of reference. I would like to present some data and thoughts that would automatically counter many of the preconceptions of China that you have grown up with. To paraphrase Secretary Paulson from his Foreign Affairs article about China, I want to help you see the country as it actually is, not as many Americans imagine it to be. If I can persuade you to rethink about China, I would feel that I have accomplished something worthwhile today.

Olympics Aftermath
Let’s start with the Olympics. By most accounts, the Beijing Olympics was an overwhelming success. Certainly, the people of China, and for that matter most of the overseas ethnic Chinese, are rightfully proud of the number of gold and medals the Chinese athletes won. But frankly, that was not the most significant achievement in my mind. Considering that Australia won 42 medals with a population of 21 million, that’s two medals for every million population. To attain parity on a per capita basis, the U.S. would have to win more than five times their actual tally. For China, they would have to sweep every event and then supplement with plenty of knock-offs to meet that standard. On the other hand, if one were to measure achievement against the level of economic development, Ethiopia, Jamaica and Georgia would come in first, second and third.

There are many ways to slice and dice the Olympic outcome, but more important in my mind, is that billions of people in the world have tuned in and caught a glimpse of today’s China for possibly their first time without the filter of the western media or political leaders or the bias of some religious cult. I thought NBC did a good job of introducing some of China’s culture to their viewing audience, particularly short vignettes such as Shaolin martial arts by Mary Carillo and hand pulled noodles by Martin Yan. I was also impressed with GE and their commercials specially done just for the Olympics—sort of like commercials geared just for the Super Bowls--using authentic Chinese backdrops and storylines to make their point.

Despite all the anti Olympic torch rallies and sentiments advocating another Olympic boycott, some even go so far as to call this the “genocide Olympics,” a record number of 100 heads of state representing 80 different countries attended the opening ceremony. They did not witness any slaughter of innocents but did see that the Chinese could really put on a show and raised the bar that likely will stand for many future Olympics. I am glad that Mr. Steven Spielberg was not involved so as not to confuse the minds of the viewers as to who contributed what. The visitors left after seeing a virtually flawless execution of a 16-day event. The 10,000 athletes from around world went home with, I am sure, memories to last a life time.

The 30,000 some journalists found different perspectives and events to write about and most, by and large, will further understanding between the East and West. The worst example of going out of his way to look for dirt under the carpet, that I happened to have read, was a near hysteric blog on ESPN accusing Beijing of a cover-up because a building under construction was draped by a beautifully decorated plastic sheet to hide the construction in progress underneath. Why an attempt to present a more pleasant public appearance became an excuse to blacken China is something I do not understand.

The Chinese Spy that Never Was
How many of you read Physics Today regularly? In the September issue, there is an article written by the former Secretary of Air Force talking about the period in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when Chinese scientists were attending scientific conferences in the U.S. As the testimony at the Cox Committee hearing later revealed, the American authorities regarded these attendances as intelligence gathering on the part of the Chinese. Actually, just opposite was going on, the visitors, according to Thomas Reed, the author, was trying to find ways to let America know what China was doing in nuclear weapon development.

These visitors found Danny Stillman, a nuclear weapon scientist at Los Alamos who was charged with gathering intelligence on China’s weapon development—a polite way of saying that he was a spy. Stillman was eager to meet and talk to the Chinese visitors, who in turn invited Stillman to visit China. Through a series of visits over months to various secret facilities including the nuclear testing grounds, Stillman came away thoroughly impressed with what China had done. He put all his trip reports together into a cohesive tome and sought permission to publish his book. The U.S. government said no.

Stillman’s timing was bad. The Congressional Committee headed by then Representative Christopher Cox had just concluded that America was running wild with Chinese spies, that every Chinese company was a front to steal secrets from America. And then Dr. Wen Ho Lee was identified as the one who leaked W-88 multi-head missile technology to China. It would have contradicted all that anti-China rhetoric if Stillman’s book were to come out saying that China detonated their first atomic bomb in 1964 and in a mere 32 months their first H-bomb and launched their first unmanned satellite in 1970. The unacceptable conclusion would have been that China has independently developed their first class nuclear weaponry all along--all of it having taken place well before Nixon went to China in 1972 and before exchanges were taking place between the two countries. Stillman’s book had to be suppressed as it would have taken the hot air out of the hysterical China bashing balloon floating around Washington from 1998 to 2000.

Why, you might ask, did the Chinese want to expose their nuclear secrets to the U.S.? I think the answer is very simple. How can you have a nuclear deterrence if the other side doesn’t know that you have the capability to deter? China has consistently declined to join the arms race to see who can pile up the larger heap of ever more sophisticated arms. But once in a while, I think, China feels that Washington and Pentagon need to be updated and be informed that China has a credible 2nd strike capability to retaliate and enter that data into their calculations when they plot the course to world domination. Of course, this leads to the question of whether the DoD’s current expanding defense budget makes any sense, which we can discuss in the Q&A if you wish.

America’s Racism
Personally I am acutely aware of the historic racial bias of the American authorities towards the ethnic Chinese in America as exemplified by the Congressional hearings and by the case of Wen Ho Lee, where after 9 months of solitary confinement, all the charges against him were dropped except for one, and that was for not following lab procedure and downloading files from office computer to home computer. Just think, nine months of solitary confinement for downloading computer files against procedure. The special agent of the FBI involved in this case had to admit in court that he lied. The presiding judge apologized to Dr. Lee on behalf of the government for their misconduct. It had to be one of the more embarrassing chapters of American justice.

Lest you think the Wen Ho Lee case was an isolated aberration, it is not. I live in Silicon Valley and there are frequent cases of miscarriage of justice and official intimidation. Recently, there was a Bill Chen originally from China who was appointed sales manager to sell vibration tables to China. The government accused him of selling the tables to a missile building facility when his sales report indicated that they went to a locomotive factory. Originally his employer supported his defense but then the government quietly informed the company that if they plan to sell any more tables to the American Air Force, they better withdraw their support. The company had to fire him. He was in limbo for some time before the government dropped all charges. The last public statement he made to the local press last year was that his career was ruined and he was taking his family back to China.

Just earlier this year, there was a case involving another PhD whose expertise was in agriculture remote sensing, involving the use of satellite data to predict crop harvest, and had been in this country for 20 years. He came to the U.S. from China to study for his PhD. Most recently he worked for a contract research organization analyzing publicly available satellite data to quantify global climate changes for NASA at its facility in Mountain View. His work had no connection to national security. He even got clearance for his ID badge to enter NASA at will. Then the FBI came to interview him, followed by a lie detector test and then two more interviews, at the end of which he was escorted off the premises and fired. He never could figure out why the FBI came to see him and on what grounds he was dismissed. The only explanation I could offer him was that the special-agent-in-charge of Silicon Valley had told BBC in a public interview that the valley was crawling with spies from China and that every working Chinese was a potential security risk.

There are, of course, costs associated with the national practice of racial profiling. Let me ask you, which universities and colleges do you think, have sent the most number of graduates on to obtain a doctorate degree in America? If you guess UC Berkeley, you would be close but incorrect. According to National Science Foundation’s latest compilation, in 2006, the latest year of the survey, the two schools that contributed the most number of Bachelor degree holders that went on to earn a doctorate degree in the United States (in science or engineering) was Tsinghua and Beijing University. This is the first time in history where two Chinese institutions of higher learning out supplied the American universities. Berkeley was third. Over the period of 1999 to 2006, over 26 thousand doctorates earned their undergraduate degrees from China. For 2006, the latest year reported, for every 6 that got their undergraduate training from the U.S., one more came from China. So the question to ponder is this: Given the racist attitudes that prevail, how many of these PhD’s would remain in the U.S. after getting their degree, and of those that remain how many would risk their careers by working in a national laboratory?

Shipping Jobs Overseas
This bias against ethnic Chinese in this country has been around since the 19th century. This prejudice is tied to how we feel about China which is why I personally want to do what I can to counter the China bashing rhetoric by our political leaders. The first one I would like to tackle is the question of so-called “shipping jobs overseas.” According to the National Association of Manufacturers, manufacturing from the U.S. contributes 22% of the total global output with a workforce of about 14 million, by far the leader of the world. China, the rising manufacturing power that we love to demonize, contributes just 8% and with a workforce as large as 100 million if the migrant workers in rural industries are included--22% with 14 million versus 8% with 100 million, that is roughly 20 fold difference in productivity. It should immediately become obvious that there is no way that the American worker would be willing to take a humongous pay cut to do the low paying jobs being done in China. The Chinese might wish to move up the value chain and take over the American job but their productivity (and capability) has a long way to go. The next time you hear about shipping jobs overseas, you should challenge the speaker not to sprout nonsense.

China’s emergence in becoming the global factory really began in earnest when China entered WTO (World Trade Organization) in 2001. In order to conform to the stipulations of membership, China had to stop subsidizing inefficient, state-owned enterprises and let some of them go belly up. They knew that the price to be paid was to put around 30 million of their workers out on the streets. Led by Premier Zhu Rongji, China accepted the pain because they saw the long term benefits of competing in the global market. China made the right choice and hopefully America will also have the courage to make the hard decisions necessary to overcome their current economic dilemma. Blaming China is not going to cut it.

China, the Polluter
Now, China’s rapid economic development does come at a price and the most serious would be the environmental cost. In recent weeks, lambasting China for runaway pollution damage has become a fashionable diatribe for the politicians. They seem offended that China is soon going to overtake us as the biggest polluter in the world. Our political leaders say: “How dare the Chinese insist that we take the lead in pollution abatement before they, India and the rest of developing countries take corrective measures?”

I used to think well, the politicians have a point there. But then a July 31, 2008 press release from the The Climate Group caught my attention. The lead paragraph of this press release said. “China is already the world’s leading renewable energy producer and is over taking more developed economies in the exploiting valuable economic opportunities, creating green collar jobs and leading development of critical low carbon technologies.” The report goes on to say that China has the advantage of low cost, a clear policy framework, a dynamic and entrepreneurial business environment and plenty of abatement opportunities. I must admit until I read the report, I didn't know that China is already a leader in the Green revolution. That China is already a world leader in the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines. That China is introducing fuel efficiency standards for cars which are 40% higher than those in the U.S. Forty percent! While Washington continues to talk about going green, China has been doing something about it. I have no expertise on China’s effort to go green and I was really surprised by the strong definitive statements from this non-profit organization, organized in 2004 in multiple countries to promote a green and clean earth. However, in recent separate visits to Beijing, my friends and I can testify to seeing blue skies, so there must be something to this report.

Human Rights & Democracy
Now let’s talk about human rights and democracy. First, I find it ironic that the country who perpetrated Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the fine art of waterboarding should be the leading critic of others facing their own set of human rights challenges. I believe that at the very least, the very visible and prompt manner that authorities came to the rescue of the unfortunate victims of the giant earthquake in Sichuan showed to the world that the Chinese government is not a callous body but cares as much about its people as any responsible government.

There are at least 56 ethnic groups living in peaceful co-existence inside China. Official policies go out of their way to favor the 55 ethnic minorities such as no single child restrictions and a Chinese version of affirmative action that makes it easier for minorities to get a higher education. During my travels inside China, I have met folks that are half Han and half another minority. Invariably when they fill out their residence registration (hukou), they claim to be the minority and not a Han majority in order to take advantage of the more favorable conditions. I cannot recall ever talking to a Chinese citizen that disparages another because of the other person’s ethnicity. Conversely, every minority person will openly admit that they belong to Bai, or Miao, or Korean, or Hui, or Mongolian, or Tibetan, or whatever minority in the course of normal conversation. They can be proud of who they are and do not feel that they need to hide their ethnic identity.

We do blanch at how quickly China carried out the executions of the condemned. It’s sort of “one strike and you’re out.” But it is not our place to condone or condemn China’s administration of justice. They have a huge population to deal with and how to maintain order and stability in such a society is beyond our American experience and expertise. Human rights abuses abound in China, such as children in sweat shops, slave labor camps, tainted blood transfusions, toxic baby formulas and so on. These are appalling situations, but it’s important to bear in mind that the Chinese government is combating the problems and not condoning them—no more than the U.S. government condoning many of the human right abuses in this country.

The city of Shenzhen bordering Hong Kong, which a quarter of a century ago was nothing more than rice paddies and fishing boats, has been the greatest experiment since China launched its reform. Up to now, the reform is most visible economically, but they have just announced that the mayor will be the first of China’s major cities to be elected and not appointed. This is a major step for China.

Chinese officials have been talking about democracy even back in Mao days but always within a single political party and not in a pluralistic framework. We Americans have trouble understanding the seeming contradiction of a democracy functioning within a single party rule. We are befuddled, I think, partly because we are accustomed to associating exercise of democracy with serious fundraising and that money is what makes democracy go around.

But there is something to be said about the Chinese system of governing. Leaders are judged and promoted based on the merits of their past performance. They are tested every step along the way. They rise to the top, not dependent on their lineage and on their cronies and public persona. In their selection process, the candidate who knows how to stay low key and keep a low profile (di diao in Chinese) is more likely to be promoted over the handsome, flamboyant and dynamic orator. These promotions came not because of unilateral decisions of a strong man but through consensus, compromise and horse trading between various factions.

China’s Foreign Policy
China’s foreign policy is also diametrically different from the U.S. China has insisted on non-interference of the internal affairs and non-infringement of the sovereignty of another country and to work within the confines of the United Nations. They have contributed troops and police in 13 of 17 on-going UN Peacekeeping operations. Since 1990, China has contributed 9000 peacekeepers in 22 UN operations, more than the combined total of the other four permanent members of the Security Council. As of the end of 2007, China has exercised its veto power on the Security Council a total of 6 times since they joined that body. During that same period, USSR/Russia cast 123 vetoes, the U.S. 80 times, UK 32 and France 18.

I would like to describe just one example of China’s foreign policy based on the exercise of soft power and on the principle of mutual benefit. About a year ago, China signed a deal with Congo to work on infrastructure projects in accordance with the Congo government’s priorities, which were water, electricity, education, health and transportation. The total cost will exceed $9 billion, far more than Congo’s annual budget of $1.3 billion. To pay for the infrastructure investment, China formed a JV with Congo to extract copper, nickel and cobalt, a $3 billion investment. Presumably, the Congo side will pay for their share of the investment with their share of the extracted minerals. Other parts of the deal include technology transfer and training of Congolese staff, work on social welfare and environment and subcontracting certain work to local Congolese companies.

The deal is neither colonial exploitation nor charity to a destitute developing nation. China is not telling the Congo government how to run their country and make no judgment on whether the government is to their liking. Instead, they just structured a win-win arrangement that will make a difference in Congo quickly. The World Bank considers Congo one of the worst countries to conduct business. So the success of this cooperation is not assured. Hopefully the Congolese people will soon see and reap the benefits of this outcome.

The West likes to hold China responsible for Darfur. The premise seems to be that China is doing business with the Sudan government and Sudan government is using the revenue to commit genocide in Darfur. But China is not the only country doing a lot of business in Sudan. India, Japan and Russia are also major players. Furthermore, many years before China was involved in Sudan, the U.S. was there. The CIA backed the other faction and when that faction did not win control of the government, conflict resulted which gradually moved to the Darfur region. Needless to say, conflict takes two opposing parties, in this case the Sudanese government and the rebel faction. Since we Americans are backing the rebels, the government must be the bad guys. Just ask Mia Farrow.

At least last year, China was able persuade the Sudan government to allow a 20,000 strong UN-AU peace-keeping force into the Darfur region, and China took the lead in contributing peace keepers to the force. Unfortunately the force has not been effective, in part because other UN member and African nations have been slow to contribute their share of personnel. Everybody bears some responsibility for the tragedy that is Darfur, it is too easy just to fault China.

I would like to make a brief comment about Taiwan and Tibet so that we can move on to the Q&A, which is my favorite part of the program.

Taiwan & China
Taiwan has been economically integrated with the mainland for well over a decade. Taiwan is either the largest or second largest source of foreign direct investment in China. Entrepreneurs from Taiwan have made millions, and at least one billionaire, from China. Today, over one million Taiwanese live and work in China. Taiwan’s productizing expertise and understanding of the world market coupled with China’s manufacturing prowess has been a powerful amalgamation of complementary strengths. Taiwan’s early factories in China served as the foundation of China’s manufacturing strength. In turn, the components and sub-assemblies shipped from Taiwan across the straits for final assembly every year has earned Taiwan a trade surplus that has always exceeded the total trade deficit incurred with the rest of the world. The common culture, language and ethnicity across the straits have made the synergy a natural outcome.

Unfortunately for Taiwan, the last eight year under President Chen Shui-bian has been an absolute disaster. He did not care about how to manage Taiwan’s comparative advantages. He was much too busy figuring out ways to line his and his family’s pockets. He and his immediate family are currently under investigation for various money laundering schemes, hidden Swiss accounts and bogus accounts in Singapore, the U.S. and who knows where. Having stepped down, Chen lost his presidential immunity and the investigators are hot after many leads. The Taiwan stock market seems unable to get out of the free fall as nervous investors wonder how many of the listed companies are waiting to be implicated by the radiating circle of wrongdoing. It didn’t help that the incoming president Ma Ying-jeou campaigned on the promise of a quick turn-around in Taiwan’s economy. The voters took him literally and expected miracles in his first 100 days in office, and he has not delivered. It is fair to assume that he did not anticipate a financial scandal as he stepped into office.

Tibet & China
The Dalai Lama is an excellent proselytizer for Lamaism, a form of Buddhism--based on animism--indigenous to Tibet. In the case of His Holiness, admirers in the West seem willing to overlook the principles of separation of church and state. No doubt he is the religious leader of a majority (but not all) of the Tibetans. As a secular leader, he represents perhaps the 5% of the population that formerly belonged to the privileged ruling class. In his days, the other 95% were serfs and had no rights whatsoever. Today, China has invested heavily in the infrastructure and offered every Tibetan the opportunity to an education and the freedom to make a decent living by the dint of his/her own efforts. When Dalai Lama ruled Tibet, the average life expectancy was not even 36 years of age, now it’s 67; still less than China’s national average but far better than what it was. Today, Dalai Lama cannot legitimately champion the human rights of the Tibetan masses that had no rights when he was the titular ruler. I am planning to visit Tibet next year. Perhaps I will have more to say about this matter then.

At the beginning of my talk, I proposed raising a perspective about China different from the mainstream to stimulate your interest. I hope I have been provocative enough for this audience. I don’t know why it is that China is the favorite punching bag in the West--sometimes, I refer China as the go to piñata—but I believe this attitude is in for some adjustment. Let me quickly raise some other issues without elaboration to round out our topic.

• China has just put three astronauts in space along with a space walk and has plans to go to the moon. Heretofore, the U.S. has specifically excluded China from the space consortium membership that included Russia. Now NASA has been quietly meeting with China’s space officials about cooperation and leverage from technology that China has developed that NASA does not own. If we weren’t so darn sure that the Chinese needs to steal everything from us, we might have come to this realization sooner.
• China has steadfastly been buying U.S. treasury bills and agency notes and now owns close to $1 trillion of American debt. They have been buying even as Japan has been decreasing their holding for the very practical reason that the dollar is worth less and less. If you ask, the Treasury Department officials will privately admit to you that without China’s financial support, our economy would be in worse shape than it is.
• The Bush Administration made a hash of the relationship with North Korea. Without China’s assistance and leadership, the situation would be even more unstable than it is now.
• China built their Great Wall to keep foreigners out. They do not have the mentality or a history of conquering and occupying other countries. If that is the U.S. goal, China is unlikely to stand in the way. There is no need to regard China as an adversary so long we do not insist on their seeing everything our way.
• Just as China is rapidly becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations, China is also fast becoming the largest source of international tourists. Europeans will tell you that tourists from China are bigger spenders than Americans or Japanese. Until recently, we did not welcome tourists from China. This situation is changing to the potential benefit of our local economy.
• Just as China has become America’s largest source of foreign graduate students, China is also becoming a popular destination for foreign student. According to the most recent tally, China is the 6th most popular destination of the world for students going abroad. I hope some of you will take advantage study abroad opportunities to go to China and see for yourself. With more exchange of people will come improved mutual understanding and more acceptance of the other and different points of view and way of life. I believe this is important to the prospects of attaining world peace.

Now, I want to thank you for your attention and I welcome the opportunity to extend our discussion in any manner you, the audience would like. Please do allow me one small commercial. Much of what I presented today has been elaborated under various entries in my blog. I invite you to visit and to share with others. I have also posted today’s speech on my blog if you wish to refer to anything I've said. Thank you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympic Reflections

The Beijing Olympics is over and the debate has begun. China has more gold but the U.S. has more medals. So who’s better? One of the NBC commentators suggested the use of a point system to resolve this matter: 3 for gold, 2 for silver and 1 for bronze. But this would imply that the gold medal is worth the same as one silver plus a bronze. Still others believe in 5 points for gold, 3 for silver and 1 for bronze.

But should the criteria of achievement rest solely on medals, either by color or by count? What about the number of medals or gold normalized against the total number of participants representing that country? Some of the nations sent proportionally more athletes than others, more than one athlete per 100,000 populations while others sent as few as one per tens of millions. Shouldn’t these considerations also enter into the determination of the athletic prowess of a country?

In the end, who cares? Each of us will take away different memories of this Olympics as was the case in the past and the number of gold or medals will not have much to do with it.

For me personally, I do not have a vivid memory of when Mark Spitz won seven gold medals but I do remember it as the Munich Olympics where terrorists turned it into a horrible political statement by the senseless murder of innocent athletes and civilians.

I have but a dim memory of the Moscow Olympics because the U.S. and many countries in the West elected to boycott participation as another political statement. I can only imagine the deep personal disappointment of individual athletes that prepared long and hard only to have their anticipation dashed because of politics.

These athletes, at least, had no say on the decision of not participating. I wonder how the champion marathon runner must be feeling now for his high profile withdrawal from the Beijing Olympics because of his alleged fear of polluted air. The actual race was held under blue sky and no one collapsed because of lung damage. I wonder how the now ex-champion will feel about the London smog four years from now?

In the similar vein, I wonder whether Steven Spielberg is feeling any personal satisfaction for bowing out of his advisory role to the opening ceremony. Having seen the actual spectacle, will anyone care as to what his contribution could have been?

The Beijing Olympics might be remembered as when Michael Phelps won eight gold medals. But the story that touched me the most was the Chinese woman who won a gold in shooting. Her single parent father couldn’t support her when she was in her early teen and abandoned her in the care of the coach. She missed her father so much that many times she thought of quitting to go searching for him. Her coach told her that training hard and winning the gold would be the best way to reach out to her father and get him back.

I wonder if her father knows what his daughter has done. If he is still alive, will he reunite with her? Is there a real happy ending to this story?

The most gold won by the U.S., 83 in all, was at the Los Angeles Olympics when the Soviet bloc returned the favor and boycotted the event. This was more than double the amount of gold medals the U.S. would garner in a normal Olympics, but certainly the significance of the accomplishment was greatly diminished by the non-participation of a significant part of the world.

Similarly some of the detractors of the Beijing Olympics also sought to trash this event by turning the sporting event into a political circus. They may have succeeded in persuading some athletes to stay home but they failed in their objective to diminish the spectacle. The 10,000 athletes that participated in Beijing will testify to the great time they had and the life-long memories they will treasure.

An extensive review of the hypocrisy found in Western media coverage of the run up to the Olympics and the event itself can be found here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

President Bush Defends China's Citizens Right to be Human

President George Bush decides to attend Beijing Olympics opening ceremony because he wants to "show respect for the Chinese people" and to cheer for American athletes. However, Bush can't resist the temptation to rain a little on the Chinese parade by criticizing China's human rights record on the eve of his arrival in Beijing.

Recent Pew Research results revealed that 86% of the people in China approved of the direction their government is leading. So perhaps Bush was thinking of the 14% and defending their rights--or may be he was just envious of not even being able to get even half that in his own approval rating back home.

Even the 14% may not all be dissatisfied because of human rights. Some may be unhappy about the traffic or price of a bowl of noodles. In fact it's fair to say that most of the people dissatisfied with human rights in China do not live in China and are not even ethnic Chinese.

So maybe Bush was pandering to his real contituents in the West, you think?

Interesting to note that a former Reagan official and associate editor of Wall Street Journal has written a counter piece, pointing out that the worst offender of human rights is none other President Bush himself. Anyone find that accusation hard to believe? Go to his article and read it for yourself.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dear Senator Sam Brownback

Dear Senator Brownback,

Thank you for your vigilance and act of public service warning foreign visitors to China’s Olympics that they face the danger of “invasive intelligence gathering” if they were to use the Internet during their stay.

Actually, as you know very well, American visitors are already accustomed to the kind of surveillances you object to, thanks to their own experiences at home by the hands of Homeland Security. You were among those who authorized the department listening in on our own citizens' telephone conversations, reading our emails and who knows what else.

So far as you are concerned, invasion of one’s privacy at home in the name of anti terrorism is just data mining, but when China is trying to monitor any illicit activities during arguably the most vulnerable times, it would be spying.

That the U.S. government has been infringing on our rights to privacy is an established fact. That visitors to China might be subject to same sort of surveillance is not a fact but merely based on your astute speculation.

Given that China will be hosting the most hotly debated and most attended sporting event ever held anywhere in the world and given the current threat of global terrorism, can anyone seriously doubt that close monitoring to ameliorate acts of terror would be in place?

Why stop at the Internet? China will also have a nightmare task monitoring text messaging on the 500 million plus cell phones that will be in use to make sure that activities of terrorist groups are stopped dead on its tracks.

How to stay out of trouble while visiting the Olympics? Simple. Just as one would not board a plane and joke about carrying a bomb on board, one would also not send provocative messages while in China during the most sensitive period of massive tourism.

Seriously, Senator Brownback, political grandstanding aside, what would the U.S. government do differently if we were the host of Olympics instead of China? Given the current paranoia, are you suggesting that our monitoring procedure would be any less extensive?

See Good Morning Silicon Valley for a full description of how Homeland Security treats laptops belonging to foreign visitors.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

China and Africa - Sanctimony and Hypocrisy

To date, no commentary has examined the West's attitude about China's involvement in Africa as well as Brendan O'Neill has. Find out more about this writer widely quoted on both sides of the Atlantic here.

Stop misguided maligning of China, say a couple of commentators from Israel in response to American Jews piling on the protest of Olympics in China.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Two Sides to the Olympic Torch Controversy

An edited version appeared in the San Jose Mercury News, April 20, 2008. A letter in response to the commentary was published on April 22, 2008.

The response to the globe trotting Olympic torch relay neatly summarizes the world’s bifurcated attitude about China. One group sees the relay as an opportunity to register a protest towards China; the other to celebrate the World’s greatest sporting event about to take place in China—for the first time ever.

After San Francisco, the torch proceeded to Argentina, Tanzania and Oman, where the event has been greeted with jubilation and cheer. With the possible exception of Australia and Japan, the parade is expected to continue to be the focus of local pride and celebration as the torch winds its way through Asia until it reaches in Beijing in time for the opening of the Games.

The western media is not going to follow the torch relay in the third world with the same vigor as it had in London, Paris and San Francisco. In the absence of a willing media, protesters would not have the platform to seize the limelight via public disturbances and thus will stay home.

Furthermore, much of the third world have tasted first hand the harshness of past British imperialism and the present threat of American “shock and awe” in contrast with China’s recent surprisingly adroit exercise of soft power. Their sympathies are not with the protesters.

They see the Chinese come to their country to build roads, schools and hospitals. China partners with the local governments and brings in investments and technology to extract natural resources that would finance a better future for the local population.

Western pundits call China’s presence in Africa and Latin America a form of economic colonialism. The “victims” of such colonialism disagree. Unlike the imperialistic exploitation of yore, they see China as a willing partner to help them develop their own economy without political preconditions as to how they should govern.

China has also invested in the infrastructure of Tibet to improve the lives of the Tibetan people. Today, the Tibetan life expectancy has doubled and no longer scrapes by as serfs held in bondage. This is considered “cultural genocide” by the Dalai Lama and the media condemns China for it.

That western media sees China through blinders is particularly evident when the riot first broke out in Lhasa and the media immediately upgraded the thugs into freedom fighters. The German press was particularly creative--though Washington Post, CNN and other American media were not without guilt—using photos of Nepalese police beating civilians in Katmandu as stand-in for Chinese soldiers in Lhasa.

These distortions, however, have aroused the normally placid communities of ethnic Chinese around the world. Wherever they are, they are turning out in large numbers to show their pride and support for the relay and for China hosting its first Olympics. However they might feel about the Beijing government, they resent the outside attempts to turn Olympics into a China bashing circus.

Through more than a decade of mutually beneficial partnership with the West, China has become the most important trading partner to the U.S., Western Europe and Japan. Despite such important economic linkage, the West can’t get away from the notion that only they know what constitutes human rights.

Not everybody in the world believes that the West has a monopoly on human rights. Judging from the vigorous objection of China’s youth to the Western demonizing of China, least of all the Chinese.

Perhaps we can hope that as the novelty of a global torch relay wears off and the real Games begin, we can return to the original spirit of Olympics. That would be sportsmanship, competition and good will to all.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Quincy Jones Stays with Beijing Olympics

At the Committee of 100 conference in Beverly Hills, Quincy Jones gave the luncheon keynote address today. He said that he has spent a major part of his life traveling around the world learning different cultures and meeting different people. He found that peace instead of conflict inevitably requires people and nations working together as one people and one world.

He said what's happening at Darfur is horrible and heart breaking to anyone that cares about humanity. He also said that China in recent months has done much to persuade the Sudan government to moderate the conflict and seek negotiation to peace. "You cannot expect China to solve the Darfur tragedy alone in one year that the U.S. and Western European powers cannot in five years."

Despite great pressure being exerted on him from his friends and others in the entertainment field, he has decided that he will accomplish much more by continuing to work with China. His speech inter dispersed with video clips received standing ovation from the audience. Excerpts of his speech can be found here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Reflections after the Rain on the Torch Parade

With a sleight of hand, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom staged the Olympic Torch parade without any ugly incidents but also left demonstrators and spectators alike unfulfilled. They showed up at one announced venue and the relay took place at another.

After seeing the riotous fracases that disrupted the parade in London and Paris, Mayor Newsom took the safer course by taking the torch bearers away from the incendiary crowd gathered to celebrate on the one side and to protest on the other.

Now as the torch winds it way through South America, Africa and Asia, western media will lose interest. Without the western media, the protesters have no reason to show up. The event will revert to its original purpose, namely a universal celebration of good will by the peoples of the world.

Among the disparate groups of protesters, each with a pet cause of their own—one even linked China out of Tibet with impeach Dick Cheney—the Tibetan protest won hands down for the most professional orchestration.

First a riot broke out in Lhasa a month earlier which the Chinese police was slow to respond and the incident got out of hand. The western media got hold of this news and promptly beatified the thugs into freedom fighters.

The German press was particularly creative--though Washington Post, CNN and other American media were not without distortions of their own—using photos of Nepalese police brutalizing civilians in Katmandu as stand-in for Chinese soldiers in Lhasa.

Our fearless Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi promptly flew to India on our taxpayer dollar to stand in solidarity with the Dalai Lama. Until then, the world had no clue that Dalai Lama could even contemplate instigating such violence as arson, looting and murder.

As if acting to be the matching bookend to Pelosi’s act, San Francisco supervisor Chris Daly sponsored a meaningless resolution, which Mayor Newsom ignored, pretending to align the City of San Francisco with the human rights for the 1.3 billion “hapless” Chinese.

Just as Nancy has plenty of national domestic issues to grapple with, and many accuse her of lackluster performance as Speaker, Chris has not done much for his home district either, one of the most run down in San Francisco. Both, however, are avowed champions of the downtrodden, so long as they live far away.

The negative publicity, however, aroused the normally placid community of ethnic Chinese living in the Bay Area. To show their resentment of seeing the source of their pride, the Olympics torch relay, threatened to be doused by the sputum of rowdy protesters, they galvanized and came to the parade by the bus loads.

They may have gone home disappointed, not seeing the actual passing of the torch, but at least they drowned out the noise of the vociferous few and let the world know that many in the Chinese American community are proud of a China that will host its first Olympics.

The Pelosis and Dalys in American politics like to posture that they represent the majority of Chinese Americans in their constituency. By the turn out, the community is saying, “Not so, we do not agree with their demonizing of China, and they do not speak for us.”

Indeed when Dalai Lama came to Seattle two days after the torch parade, he was greeted not just by his followers but also by a healthy turnout of detractors. More importantly, these detractors’ views got their share of media coverage.

The detractors pointed out that by “cultural genocide,” the Dalai Lama was referring to the roads and other infrastructure investments that Beijing has made in Tibet to improve the lives of the common Tibetan. In contrast, under the previous regime of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetans lived as slaves under the control of the few monks and the ruling class.

The Richard Geres of Hollywood have a Shangri-la image of Tibet untainted by reality. In their minds, Tibetans in rags, bent and toothless before middle age, living in mud hovels without the benefit of electricity represent the cultural purity of the golden age.

Perhaps now as the Tibetan activists make the rounds around the world, the contrarian views will also get heard and the world will learn of a more complete perspective of the real Tibet.

This will happen, of course, only if the media is fair and will look at different sides of the issue. The actual description of the riots in Lhasa seeped out due to outside witnesses that happened to be there at the time, so there is hope.

Perhaps Beijing will also learn a lesson. Namely, having western journalists roaming freely inside China, even if they view through funhouse lenses, is ultimately less damaging than barring them access so that they can only rely on their imagination soaked in predisposed biases.

The Other Perspective on Tibet and the Torch Parade

Much has been made of the rain the Tibetan protesters have managed to shower on the Olympic torch parade in London, Paris and San Francisco. In terms of world publicity garnered, the protesters can claim an asymmetrical victory. Clearly, the western media were embedded in their midst and faithfully reported on the "facts" as laddled by the Tibetan expatriate camp.

I have offered a contrarian view of the riot in Lhasa last month. Below is a compilation of various views that should provide a more balanced view of the Tibetan protest, if those in the media are interested in some modicum of fairness in their reporting.

Retired Professor Ivy Lee took a bus from the Sacramento area to watch the parade in San Francisco. Read about her reflections of the event.

Attorney Ed Liu has unleashed a torrent of counterpoints at his blog.

Architect and author Bevin Chu has written a number of thought provoking think pieces on Tibet, Tibet 2 and Tibet 3.

Another treasure trove of articles on various views of Tibet can be found at this content rich site.

A sample of the response by the Chinese students in Australia objecting to the bias reporting of the west can be found on video.

F. William Engdahl is a Research Associate of the Center for Research on Globalization. He is one of many to describe the historical complicity of UK and then the CIA in stirring unrest in Tibet in a recent review accompanied by impressive list of references.

One basic review of the history of Tibet referenced by Engdahl and widely read is written by Michael Parenti, The Tibetan Myth, most recently updated in January 2007. Dr. Parenti, (PhD from Yale) is an award winning author and lecturer. In 2007 he was awarded a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from U.S. Representative Barbara Lee.

Another review of the history of Tibet has been written by Foster Stockwell, son of missionaries who lived in China for many years.

As I noted in my book rerview of Orville Schell's Virtual Tibet, there are a lot of information about Tibet that has been glamourized out of existence in the minds of Hollywood.

I do not consider myself as an expert on Tibet, but even back in 1997 I could sense something amiss in the idealized views of Tibet that did not jive with reality. This unfortunately has continued to this day.

Any of you of like mind, please help spread the word. Add your comments and other useful links below and send this on to your contacts.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Olympic Torch is not for China Bashing

By: L. Ling-chi Wang & George Koo

Monday, March 31, 2008

The torch heralding the 2008 Summer Olympics will arrive April 9 in San Francisco. This is its sole stopover in North America, as it makes its way from Greece to the site of the Summer Games in Beijing, China.

The Olympic torch is a universally recognized symbol of goodwill among the peoples of the world. The goal of the global torch relay is to unite the people of the world. San Francisco has been accorded the singular honor to represent North America in welcoming this international symbol of athletic competition and excellence.

For any politician or organization to disrupt this ceremony as a way of registering a protest against China - however valid their views - is to dishonor the spirit of Olympics.

Even if the protesters succeed in using the Olympics to score political points, they will be setting a precedent and run the risk of turning this honored event into a special-issues sideshow - where promoters of every pet issue will seize the opportunity for exposure of their cause. Interest in the goals and spirit of the Olympics will fade, and the international community will be the poorer for it.

Almost any city of the world would leap at the chance to join in the celebration and participate in the Olympic torch relay. The world community would look upon San Francisco with disdain, if the torch relay celebration is hijacked by other interests.

The contrast between how the torch is received in San Francisco with how the torch is celebrated in Europe, Africa, Latin America, Australia and Asia will embarrass not just the disrupters but sully the image of San Francisco - and America.

The Olympics belong to everybody - not just China, and not just the handful of protesters. Using the Olympic torch relay as a venue to voice their protests runs the risk of damaging their causes. They may think they will get their voices heard, but the vast majority of the global audience will see only the antics of the protesters, raising doubts and questions about the legitimacy of the protest.

The protest sponsors stand to lose sympathy more than gain support.

For the Bay Area Chinese American community, the Beijing Olympics is an occasion of pride and joy: This ancient tradition of athletic competition will be held in China for the first time. We invite and welcome all residents of goodwill and fans of the Olympics to join hands in welcoming the Olympic torch as it makes its way to Beijing through San Francisco.

Let the people of San Francisco use this occasion to join hands with the world community and renew our friendship and partnership with the people of China.

L. Ling-chi Wang is a professor emeritus of ethnic studies at UC Berkeley. George Koo is an international business consultant and board member of New America Media.
This article appeared on page B - 5 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Saturday, February 16, 2008

China and Darfur in Sudan

After Steven Spielberg’s announced withdrawal as advisor to the Beijing Olympics ceremony, the attention was on China’s involvement, or lack thereof, in Sudan. Below is a response from Professor Ling-chi Wang, retired from University of California, Berkeley:

Reports on the Spielberg decision gave the impression that what little China had done with Darfur was the result of Spielberg’s pressure. This is definitely not true.

It is true that China, unlike the U.S., is opposed to any interference in the internal affairs of other countries, but if necessary, it prefers doing it through the UN.

In fall 2006, long before Spielberg agreed to consider joining the Zhang Yimou team in Beijing, Wang Guangya, UN ambassador, helped secure Sudanese government acceptance of the Kofi Annan’s UN-AU peace-keeping plan.

President Hu Jintao also spoke directly with President Omar al-Bashir in Beijing in November and again in Khartoum in early 2007.

China had also planned to send Zhai Jun, Assistant Foreign Minister, to Sudan before the campaign against the “Genocide” Olympics began in April last year. Zhai toured the refugee camps and within a week Sudan agreed to the deployment of UN troops, including a Chinese component.

Later, Liu Guijin, a special envoy, was appointed as a special envoy for African affairs. In July, China voted for deployment of a 20,000 UN-AU force for Darfur and an end to aerial bombings by government forces.

See reaction from China.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Might as Well Cancel the Olympics, Spielberg is not Coming

A slightly different version can be found on New America Media

Hollywood’s bigger-than-life celebrities enjoy a privileged bully pulpit and they never shrink from using it to advance their pet causes.

Such is the case with Steven Spielberg and his high profile withdrawal as artistic advisor to China’s 2008 Olympics. Ostensibly, Spielberg is protesting that China is not doing enough to stop the human suffering at Darfur.

It’s hard to know the extent China will be devastated by Spielberg’s non-participation--if at all.

Too bad, Spielberg took the typical unilateral American approach, i.e., the Bush doctrine of my way or the highway. Had he genuinely been interested in exerting an influence on China, he would have signed the contract that sat on his desk for months.

He could have seized the opportunity of regular Beijing visits to exchange points of view and express his concerns about Sudan. With growing rapport, the Chinese officials might have explained to him of their long standing foreign policy of non-interference and the nature of quiet initiatives they may have undertaken with the Sudanese government.

The Chinese officials might also explain to Spielberg the limits to what China can do to influence matters in Sudan, and that Beijing subscribes to working within the confines of the United Nations. Crimes against humanity, whether in Sudan, Iraq or by the Al Qaeda, are issues no one nation can correct--except possibly the U.S.

Not every government behaves like Washington and believes that it has a divine mandate to rectify wrongs around the world. In a less diplomatic moment, the officials might even point out to Spielberg that American involvement in Iraq has not exactly lessened human sufferings.

The Olympics is the most celebrated sporting event around the world. It’s regrettable that Spielberg decided to use the spotlight intended for Olympics on Sudan.

Some Americans may celebrate Spielberg’s astute grandstanding on behalf of a worthy cause. Perhaps he did not go far enough. China is America’s most important trading partner and holder of more than $1 trillion in dollar reserves. Arguably, China should have more influence with the U.S. than with Sudan.

Why not ask China to intercede with Washington to demand the cessation of waterboarding for interrogation, indefinite incarceration of prisoners from around the world, and random killing of civilians in Iraq?

Rest of the world is just going to scratch their collective heads trying to understand the connection between international athletic competition and killings in Darfur. But then unlike America, others are not so ready to blame everything that is wrong in the world on China.

Perhaps China will continue to be awe struck by Spielberg’s artistry and overlook his insult. However, his lack of sincerity in dealing with the Chinese Olympic Committee will surely tarnish his image as an international icon.

Some speculated that Spielberg was not being insincere but just caved-in to Mia Farrow’s pressure. She has been looking to launch a boycott of the Beijing Olympics in the name of stopping genocide.

Using the same logic, we would wonder if Spielberg will lead a boycott of FIFA World Cup, the one sporting event dear to Europeans, on the grounds that the EU is not doing enough to get the U.S. to stop committing human rights abuses. Certainly a strong case can be made that the Europeans have more influence on Washington than China has on Sudan.

The EU president, Milan Zver, by the way, did say in response to Spielberg’s withdrawal that sports is too important to be used as a political instrument.

Ultimately, from the opening to the closing ceremony in Beijing this August, will anyone notice that Steven Spielberg is missing in action?
See also accusation of Spielberg as chauvinist in humanitarian drag.
Comment below by bobby fletcher points to early U.S. involvment.