China - The Trawler.org
Amy Yizhi Mao
After eighteenth CPC National Congress, the two leaders of China in the past decade, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, both stepped down from the post. Wen even stressed that “please forget me”. FT Chinese columnist Xu Jin joined the debate to discuss what legacy they had left to China and world economy. (See article)
The controversy is right there. During the past decade led by Hu and Wen, China did enjoy substantial GDP growth and increased to the second in the GDP ranking. However, accompanied is a set of more problems to be tackled such as increasing inequality and sky-rocketing housing prices in the domestic market and interest rate dispute in the international market.
She refers to Ray Huang about improvement remedy in both superstructure and underlying structures regarding current reforms. Nevertheless, the latest statement by Xi Jinping on “Common prosperity” may suggest new direction.
China has chosen Xi Jinping as its next leader for the next 10 years this week. William Peal questions in his column in El Espectador if it is possible to consider China a democratic system since the country has different approaches for economics and for its politics. Regarding the political aspects, China still acts as a Communist country, with political prisoners, permission to have just one child per family, only one political party – not enough if it is a democracy. In economic terms, it is the second biggest economy in the world, with high economic growth. However, modern slavery seems to exist, because the jobs are considered inhuman and people sleep in the factories where they work.
Pearl highlights that the wealth can’t be seen everywhere, only in few cities. Nonetheless, China is a great economic power, but it should make the next step to become a real democracy, he argues. The writer points out that if China wants to be recognized for its economic results, it should respect the dissidents and accept the difference. (link to the article)
Ironically when today the US is deciding who will be its next president, the Editorial of El Tiempo, in Colombia, is focused on China. The communist regime of the Popular Republic of China, that has also been capitalist since 1978, is about to change its leader after ten years. Hu Jintao, China’s president, managed to make China the biggest exporter in the world, and to cover 95% of its population under the health system. This decade is called by many as “the glorious age”.
However, this country is far from being a splendid empire. Despite the censure of the regime, many Chinese in the last years have discovered a way to express their dissatisfaction with the regime, its corruption and inequality.
Apparently, this week China will choose as a leader a man who has been preparing for the leadership: Xi Jiping. It is expected that he will take progressive actions and a more liberal approach to politics. (link to the article)
Chinese government officials have become notorious for owning or buying expensive luxury items, cars, and houses despite having a meagre official average income of 5000 yuan per month. According to Wang, from 2005-2007 about 100 court cases of bribery were conducted on government officials that received bribes during the Chinese Lunar New Year. The most common bribes were small luxury items such as wristwatches.
However, discipline officials of the Chinese Communist Party have maintained that “[they] would have no way of knowing that eyeglass frames could cost several million yuan if a bribed official had not confessed of his own accord to owning them.” Wang believes that this argument is unsatisfactory – He argues that while it is true that “not only Party discipline officials, but also the general public are unlikely to know at a glance the value of a piece of wristwatch jewelry or a pair of eyeglasses…discipline officials should know from common sense that what corrupt officials wear and carry are quite different from the apparel and style of a clean official.”
Wang notes that recently, internet users in China were able to expose the corruption of Yang Dacai, a senior local official in charge of workplace safety. Internet users studied recent pictures of the official and determined that during a public appearance late August, Yang sported eyewear that was worth at least 138,000 yuan (USD 22,000). Further research revealed that the official wore at least 11 different expensive watches on various public occasions, and led to the commencement of an investigation into Yang’s finances by the Chinese central government.
Wang asserts that it should be the job of disciplinary officials, and not that of the general public, to catch corrupt officials like Yang. He argues that even if disciplinary officials cannot be expected to know the price range of certain luxury items, they should automatically flag an official for suspicious behavior if he or she fails to “dress like the rank-and-file he or she deserves [in other words, dress simply and not overly luxuriously].”
It is potentially problematic to assume a necessary correlation between an official wearing luxury brand fashion with their engaging in corruption. According to Wang, there is a clear dichotomy between what corrupt officials wear and what clean officials wear, which may not be an accurate portrayal of Chinese society.
Modern Chinese society has a flourishing consumer culture in which luxury brands have become coveted symbols of status. It is conceivable that a “clean official” would seek to own the luxury items their means allowed. Admittedly though, corruption in the Chinese political system bears more investigation and attention than is currently given.
MCPARLAND: “Free trade with China is one thing, corruption-free trade is another” (National Post, CA)252 days ago by Hermonie.Xie
In a recent opinion article for the National Post, Kelly McParland cautions against rushing into free trade with China. Recently, Ottawa has considered exploratory talks on a free trade agreement with China. Last Sunday, PM Harper signed the Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement, which establishes a system for resolving disputes on laws and practices that impinge on foreign investment.
While he recognizes the importance and value of seeking free trade with China, McParland questions the ability of China’s opaque political structure to provide the legal and political reliability needed for a trade pact that is palatable to Canadian businesses. While “China has the trappings of a modern western business culture,” below the surface the country remains a place “where law is what the government says it is, on any particular day”.
McParland points to a few recent political scandals to show a China ridden with corruption. In August, Gu Kailai – wife of ousted Chinese leader Bo Xilai, was tried “for the murder of a British consultant she feared was about to reveal the extent of the family’s corruption.” McParland notes that the murder itself might have been covered up had it not been for “a bit of bad luck in which a local police official approached the US seeking protection from Bo”. While top-ranked Communist officials have modest salaries on paper, “unofficially they can buy their kids Ferraris.”
The icing on the cake is the recent mysterious disappearance of president-in-waiting Xi Jinping, who has been missing for nine days and skipped scheduled meetings with foreign dignitaries such as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the PMs of Singapore and Denmark. Thus far, the international community has failed to get a clear answer from Beijing on his whereabouts and his health condition.
For McParland, all of this suggests that China will play by its own rules with no regard for the international community. For this reason, he does not believe China will make a good trading partner for Canada despite its wealth and economic sophistication.
Terence Corcoran argues a different perspective in his editorial for the Financial Post. In this article, Corcoran makes the argument that in a world filled with talk about retaliation and protectionism, Canada’s trade talks with China is a step in the right direction – so long as Canada can handle the challenges and risks in dealing with China’s state-owned-enterprises.
In a recent column for Sun News, John Robson provides a scathing criticism of the proposed purchase of the Canadian oil company Nexen by the Chinese state-owned CNOOC. He argues that China is an enemy to Canadian geopolitical interests, has policies counter to Canadian values, and “is [a] thoroughly nasty” regime.
While his invective against the “communists” and “socialists” in Beijing is comical, like a caricature of a McCarthy era propagandist, he has a point. By trading with China so extensively, we are helping prop up a dictatorship that is currently occupying Tibet, supporting Syria and other violent regimes, and undermining international efforts to promote human rights issues.
In a complex world, with numerous political, economic and value systems, where does Canada draw the line on who we can trade with and who we can’t? The ultimate issue at stake here is whether Canada’s trade and other economic relationships should reflect its values as a country. This is not a simple matter, however, whatever Robson may think.
If we are to base our economic relationships on our ‘values,’ then we need to re-evaluate our policies with not only China, but with a slew of other countries. Unfortunately, there are only 25 full-fledged democracies in the world, so we would have to set a line of ‘democratic enough.’ The boundary between the state and private sector is also not as clear as Robson (“State enterprises aren’t capitalism, they’re socialism”) makes out, either. For example, where do the chaebols in South Korea or the state enterprises in Taiwan fit into this definition? As far as human rights and other ‘Canadian values’ go, where do we draw the line? China is out, according to Robson, but what about Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Kuwait, Ethiopia or Honduras? Many would argue that Israel would be out, as well.
If Robson wants to make qualitative judgements on what countries are ‘good’ and what countries are ‘bad,’ that’s fine. Whether these types of judgements can be the basis of an effective foreign trade policy, however, is another issue all together.
RAMÍREZ: “Es positivo mirar a Asia, pero un TLC con China sería meternos en la boca del lobo”, (El Colombiano, CO)373 days ago by Laura.Gomez
The former Minister of Defence, Marta Lucía Ramírez has written a column in El Colombiano regarding an Editorial from the same newspaper (link to the Editorial). She points out that it is important for Colombia to look to Asia in terms of trade but a Free Trade Agreement with China at this time would be very dangerous for the country.
In the first place, it would be very risky for the country’s manufactures and for employment. She also highlights that if Colombia is willing to negotiate with Asia, this agreement shouldn’t be done in bilateral terms. The country should try to enter the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, a free multilateral trade agreement that the United States has spearheaded in order to integrate with the Asian-Pacific economies. These economies are going to counterbalance China’s economy and it might result in an agreement between the two blocs in a few years. Canada, Mexico and Peru are already part of it. Now it is very important for Colombia to join them, taking into account the significance of its Pacific coast.
Ramírez finishes by stating that this agreement would be much better than negotiating bilaterally with China. (link to article)