|Asia News Digest
Chinese Leader Educates U.S. on Its Development Plan
Chinese Vice Prime Minister Wu Yi described the realities of China's developing economy in her speech Dec. 14 to the China-U.S. Strategic Dialogue in Beijing. Because of the lack of understanding on the U.S. side, Wu Yi said that "we believe it highly necessary to introduce our American friends ... to: What's the exact shape of the development road that China has been following all these years?"
She said that China has chosen "to follow a peaceful path to development, ... a wise decision based on China's traditional culture, painful history, and her tremendous achievements at the current stage." She then described China's conditions as "the largest developing country in the world ... having within it the widest gap of the natural and geographic conditions as well as the population and resources distribution in the world. It is also one of the countries with the sharpest discrepancy of development between the urban and rural areas and among different regions." She said that urban residents are over three times better off than the huge rural population, and that China's per capita GDP is just US$1,700, the 100th country in the list of rich to poor. There are hundreds of millions of poor in China, she said, even by very low standards of poverty.
"To understand the status quo of China's development, one should not only look at coastal regions and cities in the East, but pay more attention to the central and western regions as well as the vast rural areas," she said. "Only by focussing on development in the long run can China lay a necessary material foundation for the constant improvement of the people's living standard."
Chinese RMB Continues To Rise vs. Dollar
China's renminbi is now at the highest against the U.S. dollar since July 2005, when China ended the dollar peg, and revalued the RMB by 2.1%. Since then, the RMB has been allowed to float in a narrow band of 0.3% each way, per day. It has been steadily rising against the dollar since.
This is having an effect on China's four large state-owned commercial banks, Xinhua reported Dec. 14. The banks face exchange losses of billions of yuan, because the banks are listed on the Hong Kong and other international exchanges. Investors bought shares in foreign currency, and the China Construction Bank alone lost 2.4 billion yuan (US$300 million) just in the first half of this year. CCB president Guo Shuqing said recently in Beijing, "With their huge sums of foreign currency, overseas-listed banks have come under great pressure." CCB is the world's eighth-largest bank in terms of total assets.
U.S. Bill on India Nuke Deal Creates Strange Bedfellows in Delhi
Controversy over the legislation approved by the U.S. Congress on the nuclear deal with India has brought together India's left and right in protest, The Hindu reported Dec. 11. The Politburo of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has made clear that the recently passed legislation, which President Bush has yet to sign, on bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation between the United States and India, contains gross violations of the assurances given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Indian politicians earlier. Under the circumstances, the CPI-M announced that it cannot support the bill and demanded a full-fledged debate in the Parliament.
Meanwhile, the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party, called the bill "humiliating" and charged that the intent of the United States in presenting it was to undermine India's thorium fuel-based commercial reactor development, and therefore it is not acceptable to the BJP.
The new provisos in the bill, following its passage through the U.S. House and Senate, contain clauses which clearly disturb some in New Delhi. Among them is the suggestion that India would not receive U.S. assistance for enrichment, reprocessing, and heavy-water production. It also urged the U.S. President to lobby against nuclear fuel supplies to India if Washington terminates nuclear cooperation with New Delhi. The bill also said the cooperation would be automatically terminated if India violated the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group or Missile Technology Control Regime.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh does not have to get the bill through the Parliament, since the Constitution allows him to have it approved by the Cabinet Committeea handmaiden of the government. But, that would mean political death for him and his government.
Bangladesh Looks To Be Heading for a Military Takeover
Reports from New Delhi indicate that Bangladesh's main opposition political party, the Awami League, is in no mood to give up its mass protests for electoral reform even after the President Iajuddin Ahmed deployed military forces to take control of the major cities. Bangladesh is scheduled to have general elections in January 2007 and the Awami League is convinced that unless electoral reforms are made, vote rigging will put the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) under Begum Khaleda Zia, back in power.
While no one opposes the Awami League's demand, the League could be wrong about the election outcome, on two counts. To begin with, there is a nationwide opposition to the BNP because of their embracing of economic liberalization and globalization; the process has further pauperized the working people.
Secondly, the game plan of the BNP, which is close to the Bangladesh military (Begum Khaleda Zia's late husband Ziaur Rehman was President of the country and a Major General), is to bring the military to power in the interim. Washington is not particularly interested, because the BNP has also boosted the Islamic fundamentalist groups and had political alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami. Washington's view is, anything but the Islamic fundamentalists. As a result, New Delhi believes that the situation in Bangladesh has only one way to goa takeover by the military.
Pakistan Behind Afghan Insecurity?
The leading government-controlled paper in Afghanistan, Anis, has said out loud for the first time: "The country's current crisis of military challenge is the result of direct and indirect interference of Pakistan," as quoted in Zee News from Kandahar Dec. 13.
Simultaneously, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a pawn of the Western powers, speaking at Kandahar said, "Pakistan still has not given up the hope of making us slaves. But they cannot.... The tyranny against our people is not by the nation of Pakistan, it is by the government of Pakistan."
These statements came in the context of two other developments. First, the statement by NATO's U.S. General James L. Jones, who claimed at NATO's Riga pow-wow, that the Afghan war can be "won." What exactly the "win" means has not been identified, but is being given a big boost by the Bush-Cheney neo-cons.
In addition, reports on the ground indicate that the Taliban and anti-West forces in southwestern, southeastern and eastern Afghanistan have become bolder and are circling around the NATO troops like vultures. Only months ago, the anti-West forces in Afghanistan would carry out operations during the night, but not any longer. They are operating openly during the day, and as a result, most of the foreign troops are held hostage in their bases, and their alternatives are stark: conduct aerial bombings in which civilians would surely be heavy casualties, or pull out.
Philippines President Arroyo Forced To Drop Charter Change
The drive to scrap the Presidential system in favor of a dictatorial parliamentary system, with no pesky Senate to challenge the Administration, has failed in the Philippines. It had been orchestrated by the notorious George Shultz agent Fidel Ramos (who ran coups against Presidents Marcos and Estrada on Shultz's behalf), and by Ramos's man in the House of Representatives, Speaker Jose de Veneciad. These traitors have operated with impunity, using President Gloria Arroyo to impose their policies under the protection of the Heritage Foundation and the neo-con crowd in the White House. Now, with the election defeat of their controllers in the U.S., their most recent, and most outrageous, effort to impose this "Charter Change" ("Cha Cha") on the nation has fallen apart.
The first effort, by gathering millions of signatures, was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The next effort, to turn the Congress into a "Constitutional Assembly" ("Con Ass"), is totally opposed by the Senate, so, on Dec. 8, the House, controlled by the government party under de Venecia, changed the rules and called a joint session of the Congress to vote as one body to change the Constitution and postpone the May Congressional electionsopenly flaunting the Constitution itself. However, nearly the whole nation revoltedthe Bishops, both the Catholic and Protestant evangelical groups (which have supported Arroyo), the lawyers groups, and even the Senators from her party, announced they would join the opposition demonstrations against Cha Cha on Dec. 15. With their backers in Washington running for cover themselves, Arroyo saw the light, and told de Venecia to cancel the planned "joint session" of Congress (to which almost none of the Senators were planning to attend) on Dec. 12, where they had intended to do the evil deed.
The Ramos-led coup that replaced Estrada and put Arroyo in power took place in January 2001the same month George W. Bush was inaugurated. With the lamest of lame ducks in power in Washington, the Ramos crowd is finding dictatorial policies a bit more difficult to implement.