They do things differently in China – and it seems to work

Towards the latter stages of his life, Charles Darwin noted that he could not read serious texts any more; the only thing that grabbed his attention was a book on romance. One of the greatest scientific minds we have known could only enjoy a book about the mating game.

One would not liken oneself to the great man, but over the last nine months one has been similarly drawn away from serious work to become a regular viewer of a Chinese dating show that goes by the name If You Are The One.

The show is a record-breaker; it has about 60 million tuning in for every episode and has been running for seven years. The presenter, Meng Fei, is a national celebrity.
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The China wave

PROFESSOR Zhang Weiwei is not particularly well-known around the world. An author and former translator for the Chinese supreme leader Deng Xiaoping, Zhang is, however, a very important figure in China.

He has written a ground-breaking book, The China Wave – which has not, as far as I can make out, been translated into English – about China’s way of approaching development and one that is attracting great interest in his home country.

In an interview with the one news service that seems to have a knack for ferreting out the interesting and the newsworthy – Al Jazeera – Zhang made some very interesting observations.
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Burma: the gold rush has begun

THE push for democracy in Burma by the West has been going on for just one reason: resources.

Burma has gold, copper, tungsten, timber and oil in abundant quantities. All these years, the political situation and tight economic sanctions have not permitted exploration by Western companies. But now oil companies in the US are straining at the leash and waiting anxiously for the change to fly into Rangoon.

The Americans have already lifted some sanctions on Rangoon even though the only move towards a less rigid form of government has been an election in which the National League for Democracy was allowed to contest 45 of 664 seats.
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Desperate US gets set to take advantage of Asia

AUSTRALIA is putting itself in a dangerous position by agreeing to be the meat in the sandwich between the US and China.

The US, realising that it cannot stand up to developing powers on its own, has devised a deal called the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement; this enables the US to act as a parasite and live off eight other countries.

But over and above this, the US wants to use Australia as a proxy staging ground for displaying whatever military might it has left and trying to hold off China from claiming its rightful place as the supreme power in the Asia-Pacific.
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The tragedy of Sri Lanka

AS THE Sri Lankan government twists and turns and manouevres in order to try and prevent a war crimes investigation being ordered by the United Nations into its conduct during the war against the Tamil Tigers in 2009, the first definitive account of the conflict has emerged.

Former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka, Gordon Weiss, has written a book titled The Cage which gives a detailed and powerful account of the tragedy as it unfolded.

Weiss had to tread a difficult path as he wrote the book; given the oath that he took as an UN employee, he was unable to divulge any material that came to him in that capacity. Despite this very difficult obstacle in his path, he has done an extremely credible job in tracing the history of Sri Lanka that has a bearing on the country’s current position.

The Tamil Tigers, formed in the early 1970s, became the most powerful of the groups fighting for a separate state for their people and were known for the reign of terror that they imposed. They killed anyone standing in their way and massacred both Sinhalese and Muslims to enforce their writ. They were also not loath to kill their own people, if those people happened to be standing in the way of their supreme leader, Velupillai Pirapaharan and his ruthless ambitions.

The Tigers made a number of miscalculations. They reasoned that no state would resort to the type of bloodthirsty and ruthless tactics they employed, no government would indulge in the kind of indiscriminate killing that they carried out. The Tigers forgot that the state had twice put down rebellions, by Sinhalese youth in the shape of the Janata Vimukti Peramuna, in 1971 and again in 1989, in a singularly, bloody-minded manner, killing all and sundry and in a pretty gory manner too.

The Tigers also thought that India would act as a bulwark if things became really bad – after all, the main powerbroker in the Indian Ocean had broken a siege of the Tamils in the 1980s, at a stage when the Sri Lankan army had them cornered. India, of course, has a Tamil population to which it has to cater, given that the main Tamil party in India is in coalition with the ruling party at the federal level. And finally, the Tigers failed to realise that in the post-2001 world, countries are less inclined to regard breakaway groups as romantically as they did in the past.

Sri Lanka ensured that India would not act as an obstacle this time by bringing China into the picture very cleverly. The Sri Lankans first asked India if it would be interested in constructing a port in the southern Hambantota area; when India declined, realising that it might be obligated to Sri Lanka if it accepted, the Sri Lankans asked the Chinese who gratefully accepted. The contract was then expanded to include a naval base; when Sri Lanka went to China to seek weapons and influence at the UN level for its pursuit of the Tigers, Beijing was only too happy to oblige.

When India realised that China was cutting in on its normal sphere of influence, it agreed to provide Sri Lanka with intelligence that led to the destruction of many of the Tiger arms re-supply craft, thus depriving the Tigers of fresh stocks of arms. By doing this, the Indians once again hoped to get back into Sri Lanka’s good books.

In 2002, the Sri Lankan government had signed a ceasefire with the Tigers; at that point, the Tamil group controlled something less than the one-third of the island which was its maximalist demand for its own state. At this point, Pirapaharan could well have bargained and got at least two-thirds of what he had set down as his ambit claim. But he refused to budge and in 2003 announced that the Tigers were withdrawing from the ceasefire.

In 2005, the current president, Mahinda Rajapakse, came to power. A year later, having put his brother, Gotabaya, in charge of defence, the war began to eliminate the Tigers. Gotabaya was promised that political considerations would not interfere with this goal; in the 1980s, when India made food drops to the besieged Tamils, Gotabaya was a member of the armed forces and that memory remained with him.

The Rajapakses kept to their word. They massacred the Tigers and shot a number of leaders of the movement in cold blood as they were trying to surrender. They did not mind if there was collateral damage in the form of about 40,000 civilians killed by both sides. They had a goal and they were as bloodthirsty as Pirapaharan in their determination to achieve it, come hell or high water. They had a regular well-paid army which was not asked to fight with one arm tied behind; the Tigers did not have the number of troops to match as several of their hardened fighters had left the movement in 2002, confident that the struggle was over.

While the low-level war began in 2006, the government only formally abrogated the ceasefire in 2008. By May 19 the following year, it was able to declare victory and show Pirapaharan’s body on television. His twisted dream had come to an end, a lesson to all those fighting for separate states that one needs to compromise in order to achieve at least a part of one’s objectives.

When will the US economy collapse?

PRESIDENT Barack Obama recently did something that no other chief executive of the US has in recent times – he came around with a begging bowl to countries in Asia, asking them to increase their exports of American goods so that more jobs would be created in the United States.

Yet, no media outlet highlighted this fact, nobody bothered to note that if the US president was sinking this low then something must be seriously wrong at home.

Obama first went to India, a country that was once considered a Soviet satellite. These days, American firms rely on India to carry out many of their back-office functions at cut-prices. Lots of American companies have branches in India where a lot of their work is done, again at cut-prices.

So here was someone, who is often referred to as the most powerful man in the world, asking a poor country like India to buy more American goods. His next stop was Indonesia, again a poor but populous country, where he repeated his sales pitch.

The last time this happened was when Bush the elder went to Japan in the early 90s and tried to get that country to import more American cars. He was staring down the barrel of defeat due to bad economic conditions at home and finally ended up being a one-term president.

Obama is stuck with terrible economic conditions; he inherited a bad situation from George the younger, and made it worse by his own calls when the economic crisis hit in 2008. Now the US economy is dependent on China but Beijing is increasingly reluctant to continue as the main point of take-up for US dollars when the US continues to act in a way that threatens China.

Japan had a taste of what happens when one listens to US requests when it agreed to devalue its currency back in 1985 and leave things open totally to market forces; the Japanese economy has never recovered and has limped along ever since.

Now China is being asked to devalue its currency and float it so that the US can manipulate things to its advantage. Why would anyone commit economic suicide? The US is trying desperately to bolster any country it can as a counterweight to China and asking China to provide the means for it do so. All the money that comes in is spent on wars in foreign countries and building bases and maintaining them all over the world.

The US has for far too long maintained a high standard of living by exploiting other nations. Trade deals that favour Washington are one way of doing this – in some cases, other countries have been cowed into signing such deals due to subtle threats from the US. In many others, the leaders of smaller countries have sold out and feathered their own nests at the expense of their own people.

It looks like those days are now over and the time of reckoning has arrived. It will be only a few years before we see the eagle begin to crumble as its economic clout fades.