The China-North Korea Relationship

January 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

When the Wikileaks cables came out, we learned that the relationship between China and North Korea were not the best that they have been. Since the change in power in North Korea, tensions between the allies have risen. Some have asked, why is China, a country so powerful and successful, remain allies with North Korea? China’s reason to ally with North Korea comes down to three significant advantages that they gain.

  1. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, North Korea offers China a “buffer zone between China and democratic South Korea, which is home to around twenty-nine thousand U.S. troops and marines.[1]” This allows “China to reduce its military deployment in its northeast and “focus more directly on the issue of Taiwanese independence,” Shen Dingli of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai writes in China Security (PDF).” If China loses North Korea as an ally, they lose that buffer between them and the western world and they are potentially facing a two-front battle. From the east- Tibet. From the west- the United States.
  2. News has leaked past the North Korean firewall, suggesting that hunger and unemployment is extremely high in the country. This can be attributed to the governing style more than the lack of natural resources. They, in fact, have a vast amount of mineral resources that China is investing in. With their allied agreement, North Korea becomes China’s preferential trading partner and the prime location for China’s exports. A majority of Chinese companies have invested in North Korea in some sort of way. This massive importing of Chinese goods has steadily raised the North Korean standard of living.
  3. There are very few authoritarian governments left in this world. While some may argue that China is slowly becoming capitalist, they are still based on the Communistic model (see previous posts). If China loses North Korea as an ally, the number of authoritarian governments in the world falls, which as the fall of the Soviet Union suggests, China will be soon to follow.

While on the outside, it might seem like a troubled relationship, the Chinese- North Korean relationship is something very beneficial to the Chinese.

 

Advertisements

Update #2: Tunisia

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

There is word that the President, Ben Ali, has fled Tunisia and that the Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has taken full power of Tunisia. The current location of President Ben Ali is unknown. I believe that we have seen the last of President Ben Ali in Tunisia. He will undoubtedly try to return and assume power, but that will again bolster his image of a president-for-life. The people will not accept that and will stay with the current prime minister.

Update: A State of Emergency

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

President Ben Ali just announced a state of emergency in the country of Tunisia. President Ben Ali has “has dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency” according to state TV. A curfew has been imposed and any gatherings of three or more people is forbidden. President Ben Ali also stated that he will schedule the next parliamentary elections in six months. This move, however, will do little to appease the crowd of people who want President Ben Ali removed immediately. This protest had begun when an undergraduate student set himself on fire because he did not receive a planting license. The protest, fueled by a lack of follow through on President Ben Ali’s promises of lower food prices and less corruption, seems to be only getting bigger. Thanks to Wikileaks however, it seems as though the President’s exorbitant lifestyle is fueled at the expense of the citizens. According to the New York Times the protesters shouted ‘“Bouazizi you are a hero,” they shouted, referring to the vendor who died. “The people of Tunisia have won.”’ In my opinion, President Ben Ali should not have issued the curfew or banned meetings. It has given him more power and has only bolstered his image of a president-for-life.

Tunisian Unrest

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Thousands of Tunisians have taken to the street to protest President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Since the current Tunisian government is modeled after a more police run government, protests of this magnitude are extremely rare. These protests, spurred by Tunisia’s high food prices, high unemployment, and high corruption, have already taken the lives of 60 individuals according to some human rights groups. “The demonstrators have called on Mr Ben Ali to go straight away, saying Tunisia cannot have true democracy while he remains in charge. Trade unions have called a general strike.[1]

President Ben Ali

What does this mean for the future of Tunisia? In the short term at least, Tunisia’s economy will suffer even more, because of the protests. Most of the working class are protesting, therefore they are not producing goods to be sold in the market. Trade Unions have called a general strike so their economy will be in a standstill until this situation gets resolved. The economy will plummet, if it has not done so already and the protesters will then use this new economic problem as further evidence that the president is not doing a good job.

This protest is especially surprising when considering that President Ben Ali was last reelected in 2009 with a 89.6% percentage of the vote. According to BBC News Hillary Clinton “warned Arab leaders they would face growing unrest unless they enacted real economic and political reform.”

President Ben Ali has responded by asking the prime minister to reduce prices of staples, including sugar, milk and bread and said he had decided to give “complete freedom to all media outlets … as long as they respect our values and the value of the profession.[2]” He also promised that he would by the 2014 election. This is troubling to many Tunisians because by the 2014 election, he would surpass the 75-year age limit for the presidency. He has stated, “There will not be presidency for life,” but he is not easing any qualms of the people.

Dalai Lama’s retirement?

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Dalai Lama recently suggested that his retirement would come soon. He however still will have to play a major political role in the fight for Tibetan freedom against China. The Dalai Lama is the only hope or chance that the Tibetans have to achieve their dream of a independent Tibet.  He is the only way to grab the ever-hungry media’s attention. Without him, Tibet is a leaderless country. Its efforts will be to vain as the independence movement will falter and break apart.

Traditionally, after a Dalai Lama retires, the next “incarnation” will take over the reigns. This however will prove to be difficult as the next “incarnation” is contested. “[The Dalai Lama] has two problems, however. Yet again, the incarnation is contested, with a rival candidate, also in India, and some fishiness about the identification of the infant Ogyen Trinley. Second, India is suspicious of him.[1]

China, of course, is just waiting for him to retire, because in their opinion, “after the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan exile movement will lose itself in infighting.” Understanding this, the Dalai Lama responded that he was merely stepping down from his ceremonial duties, but he will carry on with his political efforts- to Tibetan’s delight and China’s despair.

China’s Inflation Problem

January 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Inflation seems to be a major problem in these economic times, especially for those countries that usually fight the recession through spending. We are yet to see if that is the case for the United States, after the Federal Reserve bought even more securities in a move now dubbed as Quantitative Easing Two.

The big surprise, however, is China, who has undergone a 5.1% increase, “the fastest increase for 28 months and a striking turnaround from the deflation of the year before (see chart).

[1]” While some may be quick to suggest that the inflation is because of higher food prices and the toll of unusually cold weather. This however cannot be the reason because as the average Chinese family gets richer, food is “claiming a bigger share of their budgets, according to Wenlang Zhang and Daniel Law of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.”

I believe that this inflation can be attributed to the massive bailout that the Chinese government had passed last year. As I stated in previous blogs, it was the biggest and most successful bailout so far in the world, according to the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao. Of course, with a massive bailout does come the potential for massive inflation and that is exactly what is happening in China. The Economist writes, “Perhaps China’s monetary policymakers have let the economy slip their grasp again. They have allowed the money supply to grow by half since January 2009, real interest rates to plunge and bank lending to breach government quotas. The central bank’s own survey of households shows inflationary expectations at their highest for over a decade.”

The Chinese government has tried to prevent it, first increasing interest rates and reserve requirements, but since they do not have a entity comparable to the Federal Reserve they rely on “non-market tools such as loan quotas and “window guidance” to banks.” That being said, much more needs to be done in order for China to prevent their exports from falling. According to Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, “Prices are climbing faster in China than in the U.S., making Chinese goods less competitive.[2]” Geithner also stated that “Factoring in rising prices, the erosion of Chinese companies’ advantage over U.S. rivals was equivalent to the Yuan strengthening at an annual rate of about 10 percent, he said.” This is not good news for the Chinese government as their entire economy is based off of exports. The Economist tied this situation up well, “Inflation in China may even help its rivals. As prices rise in China, its goods become less competitive abroad. China’s trade surplus should shrink, contributing to growth elsewhere. If Chinese inflation is one of the big worries for the world economy in 2011, it should be a decent year.”

Mourner-in-Chief

January 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today, President Obama attended a memorial service for the victims of the Arizona attacks. This is a traditional role that the president fulfilled, as it is not a responsibility found in the Constitution. Although I understand the reason why the president made the trip, I do believe that by making this trip, he risks alienating many other individuals.

Yes, it was a tragic event and ideally the president would show up and talk about the memories these people left b

ehind, but in all practicality there is absolutely no way that politics will not enter this tragic event.  Robert Gibbs, White House spokesmen said that his speech would aim to “reflect on how all of us might best honor their memory in our own lives.” While this is very idealistic, we already have seen Democrats rush to advocate for stricter gun laws.

Time Magazine writer Dan Fastenberg wrote today, “Indeed, the biggest challenge for a president in such moments is toeing the line between proper mourning and exploitation of grief.” The president’s aides will all make sure he remains strictly nonpolitical, but the problem is that his fellow Democrats will be using this event in order to pass legislation. I am not saying this is a bad thing. We must learn from the mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again, but I believe that some time should pass for mourning before they start arguing over gun control at the expense of the victim’s family members. Because President Obama visited the memorial, he will be connected to those Democrats who have already started drafting gun control bills- something that will look very bad for him in 2012.

There are some good things that come out of his visit, however. Soon after the attacks, CNN had three political pundits on, who all argued if the polarization of America had caused this. Newspapers all wondered the same thing. Lets face it. In recent times, our government has become more polarized than anytime in recent memory. However, under President Obama’s leadership, both sides came together to pass the First Responders Bill as well as setting a budget for the year. If there is one thing President Obama can run on in 2012 it is that he reached across the isle and worked with the Republicans to get things done, despite retribution from fellow Democrats. Coming to this memorial will add to that growing view of the president as a peacemaker.