|Asia News Digest
Singapore's Lee: China, India Cannot Go to War
Jan. 24 (EIRNS)Founder and first Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew, who has been in active politics since early 1950s, and is widely acknowledged as the country's elder statesman, in an interview, said he does not think there will be a conflict between China and India, or between China and the United States, at any time in the foreseeable future. In a series of interviews with a group of journalists from the Straits Times, released by Lee himself in the form of a book, he addressed, among a variety of subjects, serious issues concerning China, India, and the U.S., which he characterized as giants.
Lee pointed out that China and India cannot fight a big war because they both have nuclear weapons. He said even the long Himalayan border between the two countries was not worth a fight. On another occasion, speaking at a seminar in Singapore, a year before, Lee said that, "border problems [between China and India] have not been resolved and are not expected to be in the foreseeable future.... I will be surprised if they [India and China] resolve their differences in the next 10, 20, 30 years," Lee said. "I don't see any direct strategic conflict because of border issues. It will not be all sweetness, but trade and investment will continue."
Speaking about bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China, Lee said, regarding fostering bilateral ties: "This is in interest of both. Both need to grow and conflict is counterproductive.... I think both can grow (together)." And, "What are the Americans going to fight China over?" At the same time, the Chinese, in his view, need not fight the U.S. for control over East Asia. "Slowly and gradually [the Chinese] will expand their economic ties with [the other countries] in East Asia and offer them their market of 1.3 billion consumers."
U.S. Proxy War Against Karzai Takes a 'Vicious Turn'
Jan. 24 (EIRNS)Former Indian Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar, who was posted to a number of Central Asian nations, writing in the Asia Times today, said the U.S. "proxy war against Afghan President Hamid Karzai has taken a vicious turn, undermining the tenuous political equations in the country." "Washington is displeased with Karzai's moves to accelerate reconciliation with the Taliban, while his pitch for a regional initiative and his agenda of a multi-vector foreign policy challenge U.S. regional strategies."
What has fueled Washington's anger in particular is the recent visit of President Karzai to Moscow, and his decision to boost bilateral relations between the two countries. Karzai has also invited Russia to participate in the development of those infrastructure projects that were left unfinished by the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
Russian officials say the Afghans can use Russian expertise to rehabilitate the Salang tunnel, which connects the northern and southern regions. Russia has already started developing its relations with Afghanistan, as it donated 20,000 AK-47 rifles, and trained 250 Afghan police last year.
In a recent interview with the Christian Science Monitor the Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Andrei Avetisyan said that the general situation during the past year has not developed in the way he could call safe and secure. "We now see constant fighting in the north, which worries us a lot because it is almost on our borders, and since our borders with the central Asian republics are absolutely open," Avetisyan added.
The ambassador further expressed Moscow's willingness to support Afghanistan against its two main threatsdrugs and terrorismin whatever way possible, but rejected direct military involvement in the country.
China To Create World's Largest Urban Region
Jan. 26 (EIRNS)China will create the world's largest urban region, with a population of 42 million people, on the Pearl River delta, over the next six years, the London Daily Telegraph reported today. Some 150 big infrastructure projects will be built, to link nine cities in the "Turn the Pearl River Delta into One" project, which will cover a region nearly 42,000 sq. km in size. The urban region will integrate the existing cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou (already the 4th- and 12th-largest ports in the world) with other cities including Foshan, Dongguan, and others, and will be connected by express rail with Hong Kong, the world's third largest port.
"The idea is that when the cities are integrated, the residents can travel around freely and use the health care and other facilities in the different areas," the Telegraph quoted Ma Xiangming, chief planner at the Guangdong Rural and Urban Planning Institute.
Urbanization is a massive task and challenge for China in the coming decades: This past Summer, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences reported that the national urban population, at 620 million, is the largest in the world, while the urbanization rate is still only 46%, relatively low. The rate should be 65% by 2030, the CASS Blue Book reported; the milestone shift to an over 50% urbanized population will occur during the current 12th Development Program (2011-15)meaning about 15 million rural people will be moving to the cities every year.
Other urban regions are also being developed, including the Beijing-Tianjin area, which will include about 260 million people eventually, and the Yangtse delta around Shanghai. Total investment in urban infrastructure in China, will reach over $1,027 trillion, with another $450 billion spent on high speed rail and over $100 billion on urban transport.
China Expands Infrastructure Role In Southeast Asia
Jan. 26 (EIRNS)At a meeting of foreign ministers from the ten South East Asian countries of ASEAN plus China held Jan. 24-25 in Kunming, China, Yang Jiechi, the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke on increasing the trade and other linkages between the countries. Discussion focused on how to strengthen interconnection through road and sea transportation routes and construction of better telecommunication and other infrastructure establishment. Yang stressed that both sides pledged to further improve coordination and promote interconnection.
China will not only strengthen interconnection with its ASEAN neighbors on, or near, its borders, but also with ASEAN countries across the sea, such as Brunei, the Philippines, and Indonesia. China and ASEAN vowed to increase people-to-people exchanges, in particular, among young people, and will set to a goal of exchanging 100,000 students.
China is already engaged in construction, or negotiations for construction, of a raft of development projects through out the region. Most notable are the plans for a series of high-speed rail routes that will connect China's southern Kunming transport hub with cities and ports along the eastern coast of Southeast Asia (Vietnam and Cambodia), through the central region of Thailand and Malaysia, onto Singapore, and to the west into Myanmar (and eventually to South Asia).
But China is also involved in $5 billion project linking Sumatra, Indonesia coal mine complex with a deepwater port, large-scale oil-gas pipeline in Myanmar, a series of five hydropower dams in under construction in energy-poor Cambodia, where only a fifth of the population of nearly 14.5 million have access to electricity, and other, similar projects throughout the region.
From Thailand: 'A New Order Will Be Needed Soon'
Jan. 29 (EIRNS)The Nation, an English-language newspaper in Thailand, editorializes on a speech made by the governor of the Bank of Thailand, Dr. Prasarn Trairatvorakul, this past week. All in all, "Prasarn's speech might fit with the pre-2008 crisis," but "Now it does not seem to be relevant to the ongoing global financial crisis."
It then asks: What policies are required to deal with the U.S.'s quantitative easing? What should be the response to the sovereign debt crisis in Europe? An era of runaway inflation if not hyperinflation appears to have taken hold, look at the social upheavals, starting from Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and other Arab countries. How do we deal with that? And lastly, globalization has brought benefits but also huge risks. Is it now time to pay the costs?
Dutifully, the editorial requests "the central bank to adopt a more prudent and defensive course of action," dutifully and to resign, since competent defenses against these problems are beyond Thailand's wherewithal.