Washington (UPI) Jan 25, 2009
The row over Internet censorship between Google and China got all the headlines, but the really alarming development for Beijing in the last week came from India.
The unprecedented decision by the Indian government to deliver a formal diplomatic demarche against Chinese trade policies was just one of a range of developments in recent days that must be troubling the Chinese leadership. It seems as if a critical mass of criticism is coming together among some of China's leading trade partners.
To Beijing's prickly and defensive leaders, who have proved quick to take offense, it may seem that a wave of China-bashing is under way. There was more than a hint of that in quasi-official Chinese media charges that the Google affair was somehow being whipped up by the U.S. government.
But the fact is that each of the countries that have publicly bridled at the Chinese way of doing business was acting independently, even though they have many similar concerns, particularly over cyberattacks and espionage from China.
Two weeks ago the chairman of Indian's Cyber Law and IT Act Committee told reporters: "China is very active in cyberspace. It has raised a cyber army of about 300,000 people and their only job is to intrude upon secured networks of other countries. All this is all aimed at supremacy. Every country must set up cyber armies to counter China."
But India's latest diplomatic demarche is something new. The note was delivered by the Indian Commerce Ministry at the end of last week's meeting of the Sino-Indian Joint Economic Group of in Beijing. It was inspired by India's soaring trade deficit with China, which has risen from $1 billion eight years ago to $22 billion last year. India blames Chinese foot-dragging on promises to open its markets to food and other Indian exports.
Then there was the announcement by the Indonesian government that it wants to renegotiate the new free-trade pact between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. This followed mass demonstrations in Java by workers concerned for their jobs.
"If there aren't any protective steps taken for these industries we're afraid that there will be layoffs and even the closure of those industries," Industry Minister M.S. Hidayat told Parliament. He cited Indonesia's steel, textile, non-organic chemical, furniture and energy-saving lamp industries as the ones facing the "most serious impact" and called for the pact to be renegotiated to shield such sectors from Chinese competition.
Industries in Thailand and Malaysia have also called for a halt in the free-trade deal between ASEAN and China. It was hailed when it came into effect Jan. 1 as the world's third-largest trade deal, bringing together markets with a combined population of 1.9 billion people with a gross domestic product of $6.6 trillion and a trade volume of $4.3 trillion.
Tan Sri William Cheng, president of the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia and one of the most prominent business leaders in the country, called for a delay in the full liberalization of trade with China, saying his country's industries are not ready to face the impact of full competition. But other Malaysian objectors have said, echoing the Indian concerns, that they fear China will not play the game by the same rules.
China's response to criticism is to counterattack. Take, for example, the warning last week by Japan's foreign minister that Tokyo would be forced "to take action" if China does not uphold the agreement for joint exploitation of oil and gas fields in disputed island waters that are claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing. The Chinese response was this was caused by "domestic political uncertainty in Japan. The current Japanese government, led by Yukio Hatoyama, wants to divert the public attention to the diplomatic dispute with China from a funding scandal."
This hardening of opinion toward China is not restricted to its Asian neighbors. Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, an influential London-based think-tank, has just published a report titled "China's 'peaceful rise' turns prickly."
"European leaders are increasingly critical of China, at least in private," Grant notes, suggesting Europe's re-think followed the crackdowns in Tibet and China's unhelpful negotiating position at the Copenhagen summit on climate change. "China's leaders should not assume that European markets will remain open to them indefinitely."
China's exports to the West, still far below their boom levels of 2007, are vulnerable to any more scandals over health and safety. And one came last week, when companies selling Chinese-made baby strollers recalled 1.5 million of them sold in the United States and Canada over the past four years, warning that badly designed and sharp hinges could slice off infants' fingers.
Few people want a trade war, which would damage the whole global economy. But growing concern in the U.S. Congress and European Parliament over China's "currency manipulation" suggests the issue is coming to a head this year. But what Beijing may not have expected was that the charge would be led by India, with other Asian neighbors close behind.
If so, then Beijing was not paying attention. Only last year India's Defense Ministry warned the country's telecoms industries "not to award equipment contracts to Huawei and Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Limited in the interest of national security."
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at SpaceWar.com
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com
Commentary: Fatigue and trust deficit
Washington (UPI) Jan 22, 2009
The 9.2 magnitude earthquake that triggered the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami claimed some 230,000 lives in 13 countries. But the Port-au-Prince 7.0 quake may exceed that toll in one small country. Haiti's capital will have to be rebuilt from the ground up, like German and Japanese cities after World War II. For a city of 3 million that was designed to handle a mere 50,000, there was little modern ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2009 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|