Category Archives: China

Washington steps up hacking allegations against China

By Niles Williamson 
29 May 2013
On Monday the Washington Post published a classified list compiled by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board of military systems and technologies allegedly compromised by Chinese hacking. Though the previously undisclosed report does not present any evidence for these claims, it is being used to escalate charges against China that it is hacking US secrets.
The allegations expanded on accusations published earlier this month that the Chinese government and its military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), were engaged in a campaign of cyber-espionage against the United States. (See: “Washington’s hacking charges escalate pressure on China”)
The Washington Post ’s report suggested that the Chinese government was utilizing cyber-espionage to steal information from military contractors in order to modernize its military and overcome the United States’ military advantage. Defense contractors whose military systems have apparently been breached include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman.
Amongst the compromised defense systems and technologies are the Patriot missile system, THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, a system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles), and the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system. Key combat aircraft and ships including the F-35 fighter jet, Global Hawk surveillance drone, and the Navy’s new Littoral combat ship are also included on the list. Purportedly compromised technologies include drone video and electronic warfare systems.
Oddly, while the Pentagon is claiming the Chinese hackers have compromised many of the American military’s most advanced and sensitive weapons systems, it is not alleging that any designs have been stolen. Nor does it provide any substantial evidence as to the extent or timing of the supposed compromise of military defense designs. As such, it remains unclear as to how exactly this information has been compromised.
Some reports suggest that unidentified hackers may have targeted smaller subcontractors working for major US defense contractors. The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requires defense contractors that hold classified clearance to report breaches of their networks and allow government investigators access to analyze the attacks. Attempts to require companies to secure their computer networks or lose Pentagon contracts failed last year, however.
This week’s allegations against China build on unsubstantiated reports released earlier this month that the Chinese government and the PLA have engaged in direct cyber-attacks against the United States government and its military contractors. Cyber-attacks are notoriously difficult to trace, however, as it is easy for a hacker to launch an attack from another computer that he has taken over.
The Chinese government insists that it does not engage in cyber-espionage against the United States and often raises complaints that US targets China for cyber-attacks.
The US government’s allegations against the Chinese government and PLA reek of hypocrisy. It is well established that the United States has engaged in its own systematic campaign of cyber-sabotage.
As part of Operation Olympic Games, the United States and Israel created the Stuxnet computer worm to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. The cyber-war operation was created under former President George W. Bush and expanded under President Obama. The Stuxnet worm caused centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility to destroy themselves by spinning out of control, temporarily setting back Iran’s nuclear program. This campaign of cyber-sabotage occurred in conjunction with a US-backed assassination campaign carried out inside Iran against Iranian nuclear scientists.
The Pentagon is raising concerns about cyber-espionage and cyber-war as the United States escalates its moves to contain China as part of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia,” and its bid to maintain US geo-strategic hegemony worldwide. China has emerged as a major obstacle to US ambitions of enforcing economic hegemony in the Middle East. China, along with Russia, has repeatedly blocked UN Security Council votes that would have allowed direct intervention into the war in Syria.
Charges of cyber-espionage aim to place pressure on the newly instated regime of President Xi Jinping to get the Chinese government to shift its foreign policy broadly in line with US interests.
There are concerns that cyber-espionage by the PLA will undermine Washington’s technological advantage, should it start a war with China. The Pentagon also fears that China could use cyber-attacks to disrupt the critical communication networks the military relies on to coordinate and engage in attacks across the globe. According to the Washington Post, this threatens catastrophic results, including severed communication links critical to the operation of U.S. forces. Data corruption could misdirect U.S. operations. Weapons could fail to operate as intended. Planes, satellites or drones could crash.”
In tandem with the Washington Post ’s report, Australia’s ABC reported that the Australian government has also been subject to apparent Chinese cyber-attacks.
ABC reported that the plans for the Australian Security Intelligence Organization’s new $608 million headquarters were stolen in a cyber-attack on a building contractor. Security experts feared that China might use the blueprints to bug the building, which is currently under construction in the Australian capital of Canberra.
This case is a further example of the unreliability of cyber-espionage allegations, however, as the allegations were repudiated by the Australian government. Australia officials described the ABC report as unsubstantiated and Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that the report was “inaccurate.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei responded skeptically to the unsubstantiated allegations, saying, “Since it is technically untraceable, it is very difficult to find the source and identify the hacker. Therefore we have no idea what is the evidence for their report in which they make the claim with such certainty. Groundless accusations won’t solve the problem.”
The Pentagon’s accusations regarding Chinese cyber-espionage come ahead of the first meeting between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping scheduled for June 7- 8 at the Annenberg Retreat in Rancho Mirage, California. Billed as a casual “get-to-know-you” retreat, it will be the first meeting between the two leaders since Xi became President in March. According to White House spokesman Jay Carney, Obama plans to raise the issue of cyber security with President Xi during the retreat.

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Chinese president’s “historic visit” to Russia

By John Chan 
26 March 2013
Less than a week after the National Peoples Congress (NPC) installed Xi Jinping as Chinese president, he made his first state visit on March 22-24—to Russia. The trip was designed to boost the “strategic partnership” between the two countries, whose economic and strategic interests are threatened by the aggressive policies of the US and its allies in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Before his departure, Xi declared: “The fact I will visit Russia, our friendly neighbour, shortly after I become China’s president, is a testimony to the great importance China places on its relations with Russia.” In Moscow, he repeatedly emphasised the “special importance” and “priority” of Russia in China’s foreign policy. In turn, Russian President Vladimir Putin described Xi’s trip as an “historic visit” that had brought “positive results”.
China and Russia have developed close ties over the past decade. The two countries formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in 2001 to block the growing US intervention in Central Asia, which intensified after the US-led occupation of Afghanistan. Their strategic partnership has increasingly assumed the status of a quasi-military alliance, in particular following the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008. US interventions in Libya and Syria, its threats against Iran, and its “pivot” to Asia have all undermined the vital interests of Beijing and Moscow.
China’s different relations with Russia and the US were underscored by their contrasting responses to Xi’s inauguration as Chinese president. Putin was the first foreign leader to congratulate Xi, whereas Obama phoned Xi to demand an end to alleged Chinese-backed hacking of US companies, and tougher measures against North Korea.
The Obama administration has delivered some rough lessons to Xi during the past year, since he visited Washington as the heir apparent to Chinese President Hu Jintao. At the time, Xi urged the US to respect China’s “core interests”, which include vital shipping lanes through the South China Sea and East China Sea, which carry energy and raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.
President Obama responded by more openly backing the Philippines and Vietnam to assert their territorial claims against China in the South China Sea. With Washington’s tacit support, Japan deliberately heated up its dispute with China over small rocky islets in the East China Sea, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. The US also exploited North Korea’s nuclear test this year as the pretext to boost its anti-ballistic missile systems in the Asia Pacific.
Washington’s actions are driving Russia and China to bury their differences and come together to oppose the US. In the Middle East, Russia and China have blocked resolutions in the UN Security Council that would open the door for Western military intervention against the Assad regime in Syria. Similarly, they have opposed military threats against Iran over its nuclear program.
Xi told Russian students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations: “Strong Chinese-Russian relations … not only answer to our interests but also serve as an important, reliable guarantee of an international strategic balance and peace.” Without naming the US, he said: “No country or bloc of countries can again single-handedly dominate world affairs.”
Asked by a student about Russia’s fear of “Chinese economic expansion” in Russia’s Far East, Xi insisted that the “China threat theory” was groundless and unnecessary. As far as both governments are concerned, their past differences are far outweighed by their mutual fear of the US. Xi’s trip was marked by closer collaboration in the key areas of defence and energy, where there have been longstanding disagreements.
Late last year, China placed major military hardware orders with Russia, including for four advanced Amur-1650 diesel attack submarines and two dozen SU-35 long-range fighters. The Indian media immediately pointed out that Moscow had broken its long-standing “geopolitical rule” of selling less advanced weaponry to China than to India, in order to maintain the regional balance of power. Russia’s sale of latest offensive weapon systems to China for first time in nearly a decade is clearly calculated to beef up the Chinese military against the growing US threat in the Asia Pacific, where Russia also has major interests.
In a symbolic demonstration of greater military cooperation, Xi became the first foreign leader ever to visit Russia’s military command centre in Moscow. Xi told Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu that the relationship between the two militaries was of a “special nature”.
Putin and Xi declared, in a joint declaration, that they “oppose a country or a bloc of countries unilaterally and without limit strengthening anti-missile capabilities, harming strategic stability and international security.” It was a pointed reference to the US deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems in Europe and Asia that undermine the effectiveness of the Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals.
Russia and China will also hold large-scale joint military exercises—“Peace Mission 2013”—during June in the Sea of Japan. The exercises will involve Chinese warships crossing through the Tsushima Strait between Japan and Korea, as well as the La Perouse Strait north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido, to meet up with the Russian Pacific Fleet. The naval exercises are obviously meant to send a message to Japan, and the US, that China and Russia intend to pursue their vital interests in these waters, including their territorial disputes with Tokyo.
China and Russia also signed key energy deals during Xi’s visit. Russia’s state-owned Rosneft will triple its oil sales to China to 45-50 million tonnes a year over the next 25 years in exchange for additional loans of $US2 billion. Russian gas giant Gazprom, after a decade of disagreements with China over prices, finally signed a memorandum of understanding to supply China with at least 38 billion cubic metres of gas from 2018—more than Gazprom’s current exports to Germany. Other agreements included a $2 billion deal to develop Russia’s coal resources in the Far East.
Xi underscored the economic and strategic importance of the energy deals, saying: “Oil and gas pipelines have become the veins connecting the two countries in a new century.” China’s energy demands have vastly increased over the past two decades, forcing it to import gas and oil, particularly from the Middle East and Africa. The shipping routes across the Indian Ocean through South East Asia are, however, dominated by the US navy, leaving Chinese imports vulnerable to a US blockade. Under Obama’s pivot to Asia, the Pentagon has strengthened its control of key naval “choke points”, such as the Malacca Strait between Indonesia and Malaysia. Access to Russian oil and gas would largely neutralise the US threat to China.
Xi’s visit to Russia marks a significant turning point. The eruption of US militarism is driving Russia and China toward their own military alliance.

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US uses hacking allegations to escalate threats against China

By Barry Grey 
21 February 2013
The Obama administration is utilizing unsubstantiated charges of Chinese government cyber-attacks to escalate its threats against China. The past two days have seen allegations of hacking into US corporate and government web sites, hyped by the US media without any examination of their validity, employed to disorient the American public and justify an expansion of the Obama administration’s drive to isolate China and prepare for an eventual military attack.
The accusations of hacking against China will also be used to justify increased domestic surveillance of computer and Internet communications, as well as an expanded use of cyber warfare methods internationally.
The New York Times, functioning once again as a conduit for the Pentagon and the CIA, has taken the lead in the latest provocation against Beijing. On Tuesday it published a bellicose front-page article headlined “China’s Army Seen as Tied to Hacking Against US,” and carrying the ominous subhead “Power Grid is a Target.”
The article drips with cynicism and hypocrisy. It is well known that the United States is the world’s most ruthless practitioner of cyber warfare. The article itself acknowledged that the US worked with Israel to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program by introducing the Stuxnet virus into Iran’s computer systems. That bit of sabotage—itself an illegal act of aggression—was accompanied by a series of assassinations of Iranian scientists carried out by Israel with Washington’s support.
The sprawling front-page article, which continued on an entire inside page of the newspaper, was based on a 60-page report released that day by a private computer security firm with close ties to the Times, as well as to the US military and intelligence agencies. The report by Mandiant—founded by a retired Air Force officer and based in Alexandria, Virginia—provides no real evidence to substantiate its claim that a unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army based in Shanghai is directing hacking attacks on US corporations, organizations and government institutions.
In its report, Mandiant claims to have tracked 141 cyber attacks by the same Chinese hacker group since 2006, 115 of which targeted US corporations. On the basis of Internet footprints, including Internet provider addresses, Mandiant concludes that 90 percent of the hacking attacks come from the same neighborhood in Shanghai. It then notes that the headquarters of Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army is located in that neighborhood. From this coincidence, Mandiant draws the entirely unwarranted inference that the cyber-attacks are coming from the PLA building.
As the Times admits in its article, “The firm was not able to place the hackers inside the 12-story [PLA Unit 61398 headquarters] building…” The newspaper goes on to report that “Mandiant also discovered an internal China Telecom memo discussing the state-owned telecom company’s decision to install high-speed fiber-optic lines for Unit 61398’s headquarters.” One can only assume that Mandiant “discovered” this memo by carrying out its own hacking of Chinese computers.
Chinese spokesmen have denied any involvement by the government or the military in hacking attacks and dismissed the Mandiant report as lacking any proof of its charges. The Chinese Ministry of Defense released a statement Wednesday pointing out that Internet provider addresses do not provide a reliable indication of the origin of hacking attacks, since hackers routinely usurp IP addresses. A Foreign Ministry spokesman pointed out that China is constantly being targeted by hackers, most of which originate in the US.
The Chinese position was echoed by Dell Secureworks cyber-security expert Joe Stewart, who told the Christian Science Monitor: “We still don’t have any hard proof that [the hacker group] is coming out of that [PLA Unit 61398’s] building, other than a lot of weird coincidence pointing in that direction. To me, it’s not hard evidence.”
The Obama administration followed up the Times article, which sparked a wave of frenzied media reports of Chinese cyber-attacks, by announcing on Wednesday that it would step up diplomatic pressure and consider more punitive laws to counter what it described as a wave of trade secret theft by China and other countries. The Associated Press reported that the administration was discussing “fines, penalties and tougher trade restrictions” directed against China.
The latest propaganda attack points to an escalation of the US offensive against China that went by the name “pivot to Asia” in Obama’s first term. That policy included whipping up territorial disputes in the East China and South China seas between China and a series of countries in East Asia, including Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
It has also included the establishment of closer military ties and new US installations in a number of countries, including India and Australia, to militarily encircle China.
The Times concluded its article by reporting that “The mounting evidence of state sponsorship… and the growing threat to American infrastructure are leading officials to conclude that a far stronger response is necessary.” It cited Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, as saying that Washington must “create a high price” to force the Chinese to back down.
In an editorial published Wednesday, the Times noted that the administration has decided to give US Internet providers and anti-virus vendors information on the signatures of Chinese hacker groups, leading to a denial of access to US networks for these groups. It also reported that President Obama last week signed an executive order authorizing increased sharing of information on cyber threats between the government and private companies that oversee critical infrastructure, such as the electrical grid.
The Wall Street Journal in its editorial called for “targeted sanctions” against Chinese individuals and institutions.
The background to this new salvo of anti-China propaganda underscores that it is part of an aggressive expansion of US military capabilities, both conventional and cyber-based. Obama raised the issue of cyber war in his February 12 State of the Union address, accusing US “enemies” of seeking to “sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems,” and insisting that action be taken against such attacks.
In the same speech, he defended his drone assassination program, which is based on the claim that the president has the unlimited and unilateral power to order the murder of anyone anywhere in the world, including US citizens.
Last October, Obama signed an executive order expanding military authority to carry out cyber-attacks and redefine as “defensive” actions that would previously have been considered acts of aggression—such as the cutting off of computer networks. Around the same time, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave a bellicose speech in which he warned of a “cyber Pearl Harbor.” Panetta told Time magazine: “The three potential adversaries out there that are developing the greatest capabilities are Russia, China and Iran.”
At the end of January, the New York Times accused Chinese authorities of hacking into its news operations, a charge that was quickly seconded by theWashington Post and the Wall Street Journal. That same week, theWashington Post reported that the US military had approved a five-fold increase of personnel in its Cyber Command. Days later, the Times reported on its front page that the Obama administration had concluded that the president had the power to authorize pre-emptive cyber war attacks.
This bellicose posture toward China and expansion of cyber warfare methods goes hand in hand with growing threats to democratic rights at home. The cyber war plans include options for military action within the US. The Timesreported earlier this month that the military “would become involved in cases of a major cyber-attack within the United States” under certain vaguely defined conditions.
Efforts to increase government control of the Internet and surveillance of Internet communications are being stepped up. Just last week, Rep. Rogers of Michigan and Democratic Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland reintroduced the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The bill died in the Senate last year in the midst of protests over provisions allowing the government to spy on emails and other Internet-based communications.

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China Will Not Help To "Punish" North Korea

By Moon Of Alabama
February 13, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – This “news analysis” on North Korea’s latest nuke test in the New York Times is rather a lightly disguised threat to China. Starve North Korea or we will disable your strategic nuclear deterrence.
It starts:
BEIJING — The nuclear test by North Korea on Tuesday, in defiance of warnings by China, leaves the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, with a choice: Does he upset North Korea just a bit by agreeing to stepped up United Nations sanctions, or does he rattle the regime by pulling the plug on infusions of Chinese oil and investments that keep North Korea afloat?
Notice how this sets up a rather infantile false choice. China could also just ignore the test and do nothing. China could also chose to do some other stuff. It could embrace North Korea by delivering more energy to it. It could ensure North Korea that it would defend it with all its might should there be any attack on it thereby rendering the North Korean nuclear program unnecessary. There are many possibilities besides punish small and punish big.
The piece continues by framing this as a China U.S. relation issue:
To improve the strained relationship with the United States, Mr. Xi could start with getting tougher on North Korea, harnessing China’s clout with the outlier government to help slow down its nuclear program. If Mr. Xi does not help in curbing the North Koreans, he will almost certainly face accelerated ballistic missile defense efforts by the United States in Northeast Asia, especially with Japan, an unpalatable situation for China.
U.S. missile defense is being build to render Russia’s and China’s nuclear deterrence useless. The hope is that it will enable first-strike capability. The U.S. could kill off most of Russia’s or China’s nukes while having some reasonable hope that its missile defense system will be capable of holding of a much diminished retaliation strike.
No one in China believes that the U.S. will ever stop its missile defense plans in Asia. It is obviously part of Washington’s program to contain China. But just imagine China would really agree to some serious pressure on North Korea while the U.S. would offer a promise or even a treaty that it will not build up its missile defense. How long would such a promise hold?
The U.S. promised to North Korea to build it two reactors for electricity production should North Korea end its Plutonium program. North Korea did end its Pu program but those reactors were never built.
China knows better than to believe that treaties the U.S. signs will not be broken. It has its own experience. The current hustle with Japan about the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands is just one broken treaty example:
The Potsdam Declaration (Declaration Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender) of 1945 set the terms of Japan’s unconditional surrender. It was issued jointly by the Allied powers – the US, Britain, and China (the Nationalist or Kuomintang government); and the Soviet Union later “adhered to” the declaration. The Japanese government explicitly accepted it. The declaration said that Japan should retain no overseas territories.
A later conference issued the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951, to mark the final settlement of the war in East Asia and the official end of the Allied (American) Occupation of Japan. The US excluded China from the conference, which by then was governed by the Chinese Communist Party. (The US also excluded the Nationalist government, then resident in Taiwan but still claiming to rule the mainland.) The treaty allocated to Japan hundreds of islands south of Japan, comprising the whole of Okinawa prefecture, including the Senkaku.
In China’s eyes the Treaty of San Francisco and its restoration of offshore islands to Japan is invalid, because (1) it broke the Potsdam Declaration – the foundation of the post-war order in East Asia — and (2) it resulted from a negotiation in which the government of China (one of the four Allied Powers) was not represented. None of the overseas territories seized by Imperial Japan, including the Senkaku, should have been restored to Japan.
China needs North Korea as a buffer against U.S. troops at its borders. It will not do anything to ruin North Korea as a chaotic and dissolving neighbor would be a huge security problem for Beijing. Some slower build up of U.S. missile defense would not solve that problem.
China will probably agree to some mild sanctions on North Korea. An even better strategy would be for the U.S. to come to its senses and to make finally peace with North Korea thereby making its nuclear capabilities unnecessary. China should and could support that by giving security guarantees.
This article was originally posted at Moon Of Alabama

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Global tensions overshadow Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit

By John Chan 
14 December 2012
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit held in Kyrgyzstan last week focussed on the integration of the Central Asian region and Russia as a corridor connecting the economies of North East Asia, especially China, with their largest export markets in Europe.
The SCO was formed in 2001 by China and Russia with four former Soviet Central Asian republics: Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Observer states now include Mongolia, Iran, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Moscow and Beijing established the SCO in response to the growing US intervention in Central Asia, signalled by the US-led invasion of Afghanistan under the name of the “war on terror”.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pushed for the speeding up of Central Asian rail, road and energy projects. In June, China offered a $US10 billion line of credit for a range of projects, such as a rail link from Uzbekistan through Kyrgyzstan to China. Wen and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev agreed at the summit to establish a SCO Development Fund and a Development Bank to expand finance for infrastructure projects.
Beijing’s quest for closer integration with Central Asia is a reaction to the Obama administration’s aggressive “pivot” to Asia that includes strengthening military alliances and ties, including in South East Asia, through which China’s vital shipping routes pass. By developing transport and pipeline infrastructure across the Central Asian republics, China will have a “land bridge” to Middle East and Europe, as well as access to vital Central Asian energy and mineral resources.
Uzbekistan’s first deputy prime minister, Rustam Azimov, told the media that two Chinese state-owned banks had lent the country $5 billion on favourable terms for industrial projects, in exchange for Uzbekistan becoming a supplier of natural gas to China last August via a 2,000-kilometre pipeline originating in Turkmenistan. The China Development Bank provided $4 billion in 2009 and another $4.1 billion in 2011 for the pipeline in order to transport gas from new fields in southeastern Turkmenistan.
Kazakhstan has been supplying China with 200,000 barrels of oil per day via another pipeline. China’s oil companies now control 25-30 percent of Kazakhstan’s oil output, after a wave of investment following a Chinese takeover of Petrokazakhstan in 2005 for $4.18 billion. At the time, Petrokazakhstan was the largest private oil company among the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
Chinese companies are also looking to expand exports via an 11,870-kilometre rail link connecting the Chinese city of Liangyuangang to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Guo Minjie from the China Transportation Association told the China Daily: “More and more imported and exported goods between China and other Eurasian countries are delivered via railway on the new Eurasian land bridge. This method saves time, offers protection of goods and rapid turnover of cash flow for importers and exporters.” Delivery times for goods from China to Europe via rail are one-fifth those for ocean shipping.
Russia is uneasy over China’s penetration into what it regards as its traditional sphere of influence in Central Asia, but the two countries share a common concern over the aggressive US moves internationally. Moscow regards the US-led efforts to oust Syrian President Bashir al-Assad as a major threat to Russian interests in the Middle East that will pave the way for regime-change in Iran. China has backed Russia in opposing Western interventions in Syria and Iran, the latter a major Chinese oil supplier.
In a joint communiqué at the SCO summit, Wen and Medvedev declared: “Russia and China will continue to safeguard the fruits of World War II and the post-war political order, comply with the UN Charter and the basic principles of international law, and push the international political and economic order toward a fair and equitable development.”
The message was directed above all at Washington, which both Moscow and Beijing have criticised for violating international law in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011. The state-owned Voice of Russia noted: “Members of the SCO have established effective cooperation to safeguard their interests against some of the global powers that are used to settling problems by force.”
Chinese Premier Wen announced that Russia and China had completed a feasibility study for a satellite telecom service for the SCO to deal with terrorism and other emergencies—a step that has clear military implications. The SCO has conducted joint military exercises since 2005.
Washington opposes the steps to Eurasian integration under Russian and Chinese auspices. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bluntly warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last Thursday that the US was determined to thwart Russia’s attempt to “re-Sovietise” the Central Asian republics. “It’s going to be called a customs union, it will be called Eurasia Union and all of that. But let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it,” she declared.
Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed an agreement last month, based on a proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin, to form a Eurasian Union with a Eurasian Economic Commission, along similar lines to the European Union, by 2015. Some analysts are predicting that the body could expand to include not only former Soviet republics, but ex-Eastern bloc countries like Hungary and Bulgaria, as well as China and Mongolia.
Clinton’s comments are a warning that the Obama administration will be just as aggressive in blocking Russian influence, in the former Soviet republics and beyond, as the previous Bush administration, which encouraged Georgia to launch a reckless war against Russia in 2008. In his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski stressed the central importance for the US of preventing the emergence of any power or group of powers that controlled the heartland of the Eurasian landmass—home to the world’s largest energy resources, population and economic activities.
The invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, and now the threats to topple the Syrian and Iranian regimes, are driven by these imperialist calculations, raising the danger of a devastating conflict with Russia and China.

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Thousands of Foxconn workers clash with security guards in China

By John Chan 
25 September 2012
Taiwan-based Foxconn, the world’s largest outsourcing electronics manufacturer, had to suspend production at one of its major facilities, in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan, on Monday following a protest during which 2,000 assembly line workers clashed with 1,500 security guards.
The unrest is another sign of the rising social tensions in China, where the economy is slowing sharply due to the deepening slump in the major Western markets, threatening to fuel major working class confrontations with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime.
There have been a growing number of strikes in China in line with emerging movements of the working class around the world, including the struggles by South African platinum miners, the strike by Chicago teachers against Obama administration and the ongoing protests opposing austerity by workers in Europe.
The Foxconn plant in Shanxi’s provincial capital has 79,000 workers. It is part of the supply chain that makes components for major international corporations, including for Apple’s new iPhone 5. Foxconn is the largest private employer in China, with 1.1 million workers, mostly young.
According to the British Telegraph, the unrest was sparked late on Sunday night after “a dispute between a worker and aggressive security guards in one of the factory dormitories spiralled out of control” and “thousands of workers streamed off their shifts and joined the fray against the plant’s 1,500 security guards.” The report noted witness accounts, posted on Internet blogging sites, that “grievances over pay and working conditions were also aired” and “the factory’s supermarket was also destroyed.”
About 10,000 onlookers then became involved in the confrontation, forcing authorities to deploy 5,000 police officers to quell the disturbance. The participants, mainly assembly line workers, smashed security posts, factory gates and vehicles, including police cars.
The police only managed to bring the situation under control at 9 a.m. on Monday. As of Monday, the plant remained shut, with 35 paramilitary police trucks parked outside. Riot police guarded the factory entrance, warning workers over loudspeakers that a “criminal incident” had occurred and urging them to respect the law.
Foxconn said 40 people were hospitalised, with “a number of people” arrested. A First Financial Daily journalist who was at the scene claimed that at least 10 people were killed, but officials have not confirmed the report.
The company claimed that the confrontation was “not work-related”. Likewise, the official Xinhua news agency and the police described the fight as nothing but a communal-style clash between employees from Shandong and Henan.
In fact, Foxconn’s security arm is notorious for abusive practices against workers, as part of the company’s military-style management. Online comments appeared on Chinese blogging sites suggesting that security guards beat up a worker who failed to present them with a pass to enter the dormitory, angering thousands of workers.
The Shanghai Evening Post recently sent one of its reporters undercover into the Taiyuan site, where he trained for seven days and then spent three days assembling the new iPhone’s metal back plates. In the dormitory section where the protest erupted, he wrote: “The whole dormitory smells like rubbish … There was uncleared rubbish outside every room. Cockroaches crawled out from my wardrobe and the bed sheets are dirty with ash. All the windows are barred.”
Workers would be fired if they were found carrying any metallic objects. They had to sit still while working long hours. On the assembly line, they had to produce an iPhone 5 back plate almost every three seconds, and the reporter had to pick up each plate and mark four points, using an oil-based paint pen. “Every ten hours, I had to finish 3,000 back plates. After several hours, I had terrible neck pain,” he wrote.
Foxconn first came to international attention when 14 young workers jumped to their deaths in 2010 because of the unbearable conditions. In a public relations exercise, Foxconn then granted token pay rises, but shifted more production from coastal regions to inland provinces where labour is cheaper. The company’s contempt for workers remains unchanged. Earlier this year, Foxconn’s billionaire CEO Terry Gou likened his factories to a giant zoo, declaring that it was not easy to manage one million “animals”.
Like many outsourcing manufacturers, Foxconn is now expanding overseas. It has eight factories in Brazil, and its next major destination is Indonesia, where the average monthly wage is just one third of China’s. Far from giving concessions to Chinese workers, Foxconn is ramping up the pressure on them, on pain of losing their jobs.
As a result, strikes and unrest have rocked Foxconn’s plants since a threatened collective suicide by hundreds of workers at its Wuhan plant in January. In March and April, thousands of workers at the Taiyuan facility downed tools over the company’s failure to deliver a promised wage rise for entry-level workers, who are typically paid 1,550 yuan ($US245) a month. In June, a thousand workers at Foxconn’s Chengdu plant rioted against security guards.
Foxconn assembles 85 percent of iPhones, or more than 50 million sets a year. Earlier this year, following media reports exposing the company’s sweatshop conditions, Apple CEO Tim Cook toured Foxconn’s plants in China, professing concern for the workers who made his products. He said: “We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain … Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us.”
China’s vice premier Li Keqiang also feigned sympathy, asking Apple and other international corporations to be more “caring” to the millions of Chinese workers they exploited.
However, this posturing disappeared quickly, especially when the orders for the new iPhones arrived. In some places, authorities forced students into the Foxconn workforce in order to meet the targets. In Jiangsu province’s Huai’an city, several tertiary institutes compelled thousands of students to become Foxconn “interns” for two months, making parts for the iPhone 5. In Henan province, local governments even subsidised Foxconn’s payrolls to help it meet the production targets.
Foxconn and similar contract manufacturers throughout China and Asia are facing downward pressure on their profitability because of the worsening global economic crisis. Foxconn’s net profit margin fell to just 1.4 percent in the second quarter of this year—down from 1.5 percent in the first three month. Its first half-year profit rose by just 0.5 percent, with deep losses from its handset manufacturing business.
With China’s manufacturing contracting for 11 consecutive months, it is only a matter of time before far broader unrest erupts among the country’s multi-million working class.

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Mounting anti-Japanese protests in China

By John Chan 
19 September 2012
Sino-Japanese tensions are rapidly rising amid the largest anti-Japanese demonstrations in China since the two countries normalised relations in 1972. For the past four days, the Beijing regime has allowed protesters to rampage against Japanese-owned businesses, Japanese diplomatic offices and Japanese nationals.
The anti-Japanese rallies were triggered by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s provocative move last week to formally purchase the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea from their private Japanese owner. Protests erupted in 52 Chinese cities last Saturday, and spread to 82 cities the next day.
According to Hong Kong’s Singtao Daily, hundreds of thousands of people joined the demonstrations, including 20,000 in Beijing, where protesters sought to storm the Japanese embassy and burnt Japanese flags. Police blocked the crowd outside the embassy, but allowed people to throw eggs, bottled water and tomatoes into the building. Participants shouted slogans such as “Japanese are dogs, let’s hit them.”
Japanese people and businesses came under attack in some cities. In Xian, several Sony mobile phone shops and Japanese restaurants were looted and damaged, and demonstrators tried to storm a hotel thought to have Japanese guests. In Qingdao, a Toyota auto shop was burned to the ground.
One of the most violent rallies occurred in Shenzhen, where over 10,000 people clashed with police. Demonstrators demanded military action against Japan. They held banners calling for a boycott of Japanese goods, and for the government to “send troops to Diaoyu.” War-mongering chants included “declare war on Japan” and “down with the People’s Liberation Army”—denouncing the military for not defending China’s claim to the islands.
The protesters attempted to storm the Shenzhen Communist Party headquarters, before about 1,000 paramilitary police dispersed them with tear gas and water cannons. The crowd then attacked a Japanese-owned department store, leading to another clash with police. Dozens of protesters were injured, and several arrested.
After reports of random assaults on Japanese visitors, the government in Tokyo demanded that Beijing ensure the safety of Japanese nationals and corporations. Many Japanese corporations in China suspended their operations after Japanese factories in Guangdong province’s Zhuhai city were attacked.
Even Chinese people using Japanese goods or driving Japanese-made cars have been assaulted. As a result, some Chinese cities issued warnings to citizens not to wear clothes or carry items with Japanese brand names.
Initially, the Chinese regime encouraged and exploited the protests as a means of exerting pressure on Tokyo after the Japanese government rejected Beijing’s request to reverse its decision to buy the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. The Chinese public was bombarded with commentaries in the state media denouncing Japan’s “illegal” seize of Chinese territory, the “resurrection” of Japanese militarism and reviving memories of the atrocities committed during Japan’s colonial expansion into China from the late nineteenth century through to World War II.
This propaganda campaign included expansionist and militarist sentiment. Several Chinese academics contributed articles to the state-owned press encouraging a separatist movement in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa (which administers Senkaku), and asserting that it was a protectorate of the Chinese Empire until taken over by Japan in the nineteenth century. The government media featured an article by an officer of the Second Artillery Corp (China’s nuclear missile forces), declaring that, if war broke out, Chinese missiles would devastate the entire Japanese archipelago. In this chauvinist atmosphere, the military carried out major exercises in four regions in China’s east and south east.
On Sunday, after the protests threatened to spiral out of control, and turn against party offices, as in Shenzhen, the Chinese regime began to deploy riot police and condemn the “violence.” Clearly, it feared that the protests would become a focal point for broader social grievances, such as the rising unemployment and corruption, as the economy slows rapidly.
An editorial in the Global Times declared: “Violence cannot be tolerated simply because the protests are aimed at Japan.” At the same time, it continued to push a nationalist, anti-Japanese line. “Violence can only weaken the current campaign against Japan,” it insisted. “China is bound to face more conflicts in the future. We have to respond with the proper means and thus win respect from competitors.”
It is not just Beijing that is resorting to reactionary chauvinism. Noda’s government went ahead with the provocative plan to “nationalise” the Senkaku islands—an idea initially promoted by right-wing politicians such as Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara. With its opinion poll ratings falling below 20 percent after implementing two deeply unpopular policies—doubling the consumption tax and to restarting the nuclear power industry—the government is seeking to divert mounting social tensions by whipping up Japanese nationalism. It has not only reasserted its claims against China over the Senkaku islands, but also against South Korea over the Takeshima/Dokodo islands.
Within this context, two Japanese nationalists landed briefly on the Senkakus yesterday—the anniversary of Japan’s annexation of China’s northeast in 1931—provoking more protests in front of the Japanese embassy in Beijing, as well as its consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenyang. China’s state media once again stoked the anti-Japanese sentiment, highlighting the Japanese nationalists’ landing, and using the anniversary to recall Japan’s wartime atrocities. Air raid sirens were activated in a number of cities, creating a tense atmosphere.
US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, who travelled to Tokyo and Beijing on Monday, cynically called for “calm and restraints on all sides,” saying it was “in everybody’s interest” for Japan and China to “avoid further escalation.” In reality, the Obama administration has tacitly backed Japan’s reassertion of its claim over the Senkakus, by declaring that it would be obliged to militarily assist Japan if a conflict broke out over the disputed islands.
Both the Chinese and Japanese governments have stirred nationalist “public opinion” to such levels that it could drive them into a military confrontation. China has deployed and maintained 12 maritime/fishery police ships to Diaoyu/Senkaku since last week. Some of them intruded into the 12 nautical miles of territorial waters claimed by Japan, provoking a strong protest from Tokyo. One thousand Chinese fishing ships are also reportedly heading to the area, after Beijing lifted a seasonal fishing ban on Sunday, in another attempt to demonstrate China’s sovereignty.
Japan’s prime minister Noda declared that Japan could not “sit by idly if [Chinese] fishing vessels reach Senkaku in large numbers.” He warned of “a new stage” of confrontation between the two countries. Japan’s Asahi Dailyexpressed concerns that if the Japanese coast guard could not control the situation, Japan’s Self-Defence Forces or military might have to be used. The danger is that China would respond similarly, triggering an armed conflict with potentially devastating consequences.

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Hillary Clinton troubles troubled South China Sea

Prior to the APEC summit in Vladivostok, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited a few countries in the Pacific region, but her main purpose was a visit to China. She came there to ask for help in the fight against the “aggressive actions” aimed at hegemony in the South China Sea and islands located in its area. But she did not make her request public, did not “calm the sea” and did not offer anything new.
Prior to the talks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei urged American politicians to have a sober and objective assessment of China’s development, to stop the unfounded accusations and the practice of interfering in the internal affairs of the country. Clinton met with the chairman of the CPC Hu Jintao, but the meeting with his expected successor Xi Jinping was suddenly canceled due to a “back injury” of the latter. Earlier Clinton urged her allies in Thailand and Indonesia to present a united front toward China, to “calm the sea.” She noted that President Obama has not taken any action on the claims of China, but asked her to convey to them that the matter should be resolved “without coercion, without intimidation, and, of course, without the use of force.”
Even more vague were her statements in China. Judging by the tone of the official Chinese media, it is not clear why Clinton made the visit. Global Times newspaper accused the Secretary of State that she has contributed to the establishment of a “deep mistrust” between Beijing and Washington, and noted that “many Chinese people do not like her.” Xinhua agency called the U.S. “the mean trouble maker that hides behind several countries in the region and pulls the strings.”
Why did Clinton come to China? To “swallow” these statements? The Americans are also surprised. Ralph Cossa, a security analyst in the Pacific, told the Voice of America there was very little chance of a conflict between China and any of its competitors in the region. But “Clinton is unlikely to achieve substantial progress in China on a code of conduct in the South China Sea.”
China has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, Burma, and insists that they must be resolved bilaterally, while the U.S. and its allies are trying to attract international organizations under the guise of “safety of navigation.” From the very beginning it was clear that Hu Jintao will not discuss this issue with Clinton. One could, of course, talk about the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, and about the ways to deal with North Korea’s nuclear program. But even here the positions are opposite. The U.S. imposes new sanctions, China steps up cooperation.
The United States is also concerned about the undervalued yuan, which prevents the U.S. imports. The Chinese have their claims, too. Who else but the global regulator – the U.S. Federal Reserve – manipulates the exchange rate by printing dollars? Who else but the Wall Street inflates financial bubbles whose bursting leads to debt and other crises and drowns many states, including China? Who else but the U.S. is trying to contain the rapid economic and political rise of China? 
The true aim of the visit is the fact that the U.S. today is not afraid of Russia, it is afraid of China. But they do not account for a possible alliance between China and Russia. By placing a missile defense system in Europe, the U.S. is pushing Russia towards China, and moving the center of its aggressive policy into the Asia-Pacific region, it is pushing China toward Russia. China’s economic power, coupled with Russia’s military potential, can stop the expansion of the U.S. in the region.
Some American analysts contend. Why not give up missile defense to appease Russia and force Putin (who, in their view, is not a threat to the West) to work against China? What if, God forbid, Russia sells China its advanced anti-aircraft missile system S-400, and China resells its old S-300 to unreliable regimes? What will happen then? It is clear that Clinton was not able to play the “Russian card”, playing on envy of China to the riches of the Russian Far East.
This raises the question that had often been discussed in the media, was Clinton in the right place over the past years? She likes to be the center of attention, driving around cities and villages. She travels constantly. According to the official statistics of the State Department, Clinton, who took the post in 2009, traveled to 102 countries. Head of the American diplomacy has spent nearly a year on the road – 352 days. Because of these travels forces are diverted, separation from the headquarters is created, information is lost and important decisions are delayed.
As a result, there are multiple blunders. The last one was in Egypt. While Hilary was traveling, the Chinese persuaded President Muhammad Mursi to pay attention to their money. Last week he quietly visited China and signed seven agreements on cooperation on major projects in the amount of $200 million. These Chinese investments will increase to three billion. What does the US offer? Debt relief for one billion dollars that would not have been returned anyway, and assistance in negotiations with the IMF for a loan of 4.8 billion (just like the bondage that destroyed Europe). The actual investment is $60 million. The U.S. for decades focused more on selling arms to Egypt and safety, not the economic prosperity of the country. Clinton cannot change this.
Yan Xuetong, director of the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University, said that any reduction in tensions between the two countries will be temporary and China and the United States understand the “superficiality of the friendship.” “Under Obama, Sino-US relations have worsened, not improved,” said Xuetong. Clinton conducts Obama’s policy of shifting the U.S. foreign policy focus towards the Asia-Pacific region after years of focus on Iraq and Afghanistan, and in fact, is trying to unite several countries in the region under the American flag and to isolate China, the newspaper USA Today reported.
Lyuba Lulko

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US think tank plans military build-up against China

By Peter Symonds 
13 August 2012
A paper by the Washington think tank, the Centre for Strategic and Independent Studies (CSIS), entitled “US Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region: An Independent Assessment,” provides what amounts to a blueprint for the Obama administration’s military preparations for conflict with China.
While the CSIS is a non-government body, its assessment was commissioned by the US Defense Department, as required by the 2012 National Defense Authorisation Act, giving semi-official status to its findings and proposals. The paper involved extensive discussions with top US military personnel throughout the Pentagon’s Pacific Command. The CSIS report was delivered to the Pentagon on June 27, but gained media coverage only after its principal authors—David Berteau and Michael Green—testified before the US House Armed Services Committee on August 1.
The report featured prominently in the Australian media, which headlined one of its proposals: to forward base an entire US aircraft carrier battle group at HMAS Stirling, a naval base in Western Australia. If implemented, the recommendation would transform the base, and the nearby city of Perth, into a potential target for Chinese and Russian nuclear missiles. The proposal serves to underscore the far-reaching implications of the CSIS assessment, which is in line with Obama administration’s confrontational “pivot” to Asia, aimed against China.
The CSIS assessment declares that the underlying US geostrategic objective in the Asia-Pacific region has been to prevent “the rise of any hegemonic state from within the region that could threaten US interests by seeking to obstruct American access or dominate the maritime domain. From that perspective, the most significant problem for the United States in Asia today is China’s rising power, influence, and expectations of regional pre-eminence.” In other words, the prevailing American hegemony in the region must continue.
The document recognises that military strategy is bound up with economic imperatives. It identifies “trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement” as crucial to “a sustainable trans-Pacific trade architecture that sustains U.S. access and influence in the region.” While declaring that the US “must integrate all of these instruments of national power and not rely excessively on US military capabilities,” it is precisely America’s relative economic decline that is driving the use of military power to maintain its dominance in Asia, as in the Middle East.
Having identified China as the chief potential rival, the report rules out any repeat of the US containment strategy employed to isolate the Soviet Union during the Cold War—thus pointing to the United States’ economic dependence on China. Significantly, the authors reject a power-sharing arrangement with China, or, as described to the armed services committee, “a bipolar condominium that acknowledges Beijing’s core interests and implicitly divides the region.” This latter conception, in one form or another, is being promoted by some strategic analysts in the US and Australia as the only means of preventing war. The CSIS report rejects any pull back by the US from Asia, which would effectively cede the region to China.
Having ruled out peaceful alternatives, the CSIS paper sets out a military strategy. The authors do not openly advocate war with China, declaring that “the consequences of conflict with that nation are almost unthinkable and should be avoided to the greatest extent possible, consistent with U.S. interests.” They do not exclude the possibility of conflict in the event that US interests are at stake, however, adding that the ability to “maintain a favourable peace” depends on the perception that the US can prevail in the event of conflict. “U.S. force posture must demonstrate a readiness and capacity to fight and win, even under more challenging circumstances associated with A2AD [anti-access/area denial] and other threats to U.S. military operations in the Western Pacific,” the report states.
Thus, in the name of peace, the US is preparing for a catastrophic war with China. US strategic planners are especially concerned with China’s so-called A2AD military capacities—the development of sophisticated submarines, missiles and war planes capable of posing a danger to the US navy in the Western Pacific. While the US habitually presents such weaponry as a “threat” to its military, in reality China is defensively responding to the presence of overwhelming American naval power in waters close to the mainland. US naval preponderance in the East China Sea, the South China Sea and key “choke” points such as the Malacca Strait, menaces the shipping lanes from the Middle East and Africa on which China relies for energy and raw materials.
The CSIS report approves of the repositioning and strengthening of US military forces in the Western Pacific that has accelerated under the Obama administration’s “rebalance” to Asia. This includes: consolidating US bases, troops and military assets in Japan and South Korea; building up US forces on Guam and Northern Mariana Islands, strategically located in the Western Pacific; stationing in Singapore littoral combat ships—relatively small, fast, flexible warships capable of intelligence gathering, special operations and landing troops with armoured vehicles; and making greater use of Australian naval and air bases and positioning 2,500 Marines in the northern city of Darwin. In addition, the paper confirms that the US has held discussions with Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam over possible access to bases and joint training.
The document also reviews US efforts to strengthen military ties throughout Asia—from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to Burma, Indonesia and New Zealand—as well as with its formal allies. Significantly, in ranking military contingencies from low to high intensity, it identifies Australia, Japan and South Korea as critical allies “at the higher spectrum of intensity”—in other words, military conflict with China—“with other allies and partners at the lower spectrum of intensity.”
While broadly dealing with all contingencies, the CSIS assessment is primarily focussed on “high intensity.” Its recommendations involve the further development of military arrangements with South Korea, Japan and Australia, and also between these allies. It recommends the implementation of the latest military agreements with Japan and South Korea. In relation to Japan, the document makes the strategic significance of Okinawa clear. It is “centrally located” between Northeast Asia and maritime Southeast Asia, and “positioned to fight tactically within the A2AD envelope in higher intensity scenarios”—that is, it is crucial in any war with China. The Obama administration has intransigently opposed Japanese government calls to relocate the large US Marine base at Futenma off Okinawa.
The CSIS document is not the official policy of the Obama administration: its findings are couched as recommendations. It considers all scenarios, including maintaining the status quo and winding back US forces from the Asia Pacific region, neither of which it favours. However, the most ominous aspect of the report deals with a substantial list of steps that could be taken to markedly strengthen the US military throughout the region.
As well as basing a US nuclear aircraft carrier in Western Australia, these include: doubling the number of nuclear attack submarines based at Guam; deploying littoral combat ships to South Korea; doubling the size of amphibious forces in Hawaii; permanently basing a bomber squadron on Guam; boosting manned and unmanned surveillance assets in Australia or Guam; upgrading anti-missile defences in Japan, South Korea and Guam; and strengthening US ground forces. While recommending consideration of all these options, the CSIS specifically calls for more attack submarines to be placed at Guam—that is, within easy striking distance of Chinese shipping routes and naval bases.
Any of these moves will only heighten tensions with China and the danger of an arms race and conflict in the Asia Pacific region. The CSIS assessment points to potential flashpoints, from the Korean peninsula and the Taiwan Strait to the South China Sea and the disputed borders between India and China. The report clearly represents the thinking more broadly within the Obama administration, and top US military and intelligence circles that are recklessly preparing and planning for war with China.

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Tensions at China-Africa summit

By John Chan 
27 July 2012
The Chinese leadership held its latest summit with African countries last week, attended by six heads of state and ministers from 50 countries. In a bid to boost its influence across the continent, China agreed to provide $US20 billion in credit, doubling the amount it offered at the previous Forum on China-Africa Cooperation three years ago.
Sensitive to Western criticisms of “Chinese neo-colonialism”, President Hu Jintao insisted in his speech to the forum that “a new type” of strategic partnership between China and Africa had been established. “We should oppose the practices of the big bullying the small, the strong dominating over the weak and the rich oppressing the poor,” Hu said. He pledged that China would be “a good friend, a good partner and a good brother”.
Hu listed what China had done for Africa: $15 billion of preferential loans, 100 schools, 30 hospitals, 30 anti-malaria centres and 20 agricultural technology demonstration centres, as well as the training of 40,000 African personnel and 20,000 scholarships.
Beijing has directed the state media to counter the “neo-colonial” charges. The Xinhua news agency declared the accusation was “biased and ill-grounded”, because the Sino-African relationship is based on “equality and mutual benefit … fact is more convincing than rhetoric.” It insisted that China has provided “Africa with much-needed products and technologies, and a vast market for its commodities.”
Accusations of Chinese “colonialism” by the US and European powers are motivated by nothing else except concern for their own strategic and commercial interests that are under challenge from Beijing. Africa was carved up between the imperialist states in the nineteenth century, and ever since the continent’s natural resources and cheap labour have been the preserve of US and European corporations. The major powers now aim to maintain the status quo and shut out China.
Last year US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a thinly-veiled swipe at China in a speech in Zambia that warned of a “new colonialism” threatening Africa. “We saw that during colonial times, it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave,” she declared. The criticisms are part of the Obama administration’s offensive to undercut Chinese influence in Asia and around the world.
As part of this campaign, the Obama administration is building up its military presence in Africa. Last month, the Pentagon approved the deployment of 3,000 US troops across Africa in 2013, as part of its “regionally aligned force concept”. At present, 1,200 US military personnel are stationed in Djibouti.
The US and its Western allies have already used military force to undermine China’s position in Africa. The NATO war that toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi last year also cost China some $4 billion in investment. The division of Sudan into two countries, which was orchestrated by the US and its European allies, was also aimed at undermining China. Beijing had developed Sudan into a major oil supplier from the 1990s.
President Hu’s defensive remarks at the forum were aimed at countering criticism not only from the Western powers, but also within Africa. While still small by comparison to Western powers, China’s investment is not benign but is aimed at furthering the demands of Chinese capitalism for raw materials, markets and profits.
Even South African President Jacob Zuma, who has been a key African leader pushing for closer ties with China, warned of “unsustainable” trade relations based on the export of energy and raw materials to China and the import of cheap Chinese manufactured goods. “Africa’s past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other economies,” Zuma said.
Zuma is facing growing calls for protectionism at home. Congress of South African Trade Unions official Tony Ehreinrich told the BBC in May that in Western Cape alone, 120,000 jobs in the clothing industry had been lost over the past five years. He demanded that Chinese exports be kept “out of our markets”. The unions have recently concluded a deal with South African textile manufacturers slashing the wages of new workers by 30 percent, in the name of maintaining competitiveness with Chinese imports.
To alleviate the “unbalanced” trade, China has agreed to import more non-mining products from Africa, as well as to invest more in African industry, rather than just mining and infrastructure.
Underlying the tensions at the forum is the rapid growth of China’s economic relations with Africa. In 2009, China overtook the US to become Africa’s single largest trading partner. Two-way trade hit $166 billion last year, with a trade surplus in Africa’s favour due to surging exports of minerals, oil and agricultural products. China’s foreign direct investment in Africa has skyrocketed from under $100 million in 2003 to more than $12 billion in 2011, mainly in infrastructure, often to facilitate the shipment of raw materials.
Speaking at the New York Forum Africa conference last month, Gao Xiqiang, vice-chairman of the China Investment Corporation, emphasised the real driving forces behind China’s economic involvement with Africa. “Wherever there’s profit to be made, capital will go there. There’s not much difference for Chinese capital, as compared to any capital in the world,” he said.
Gao insisted that China was not competing with American capital, whose capital market accounts for almost half of the world total. “Despite all the income investment in Africa, China only accounts for a few percentage points, whereas the Western powers have been here for forever and they account for more than 90 percent, especially the minerals and resources investment. So we don’t compete; we come here to cooperate.”
Gao’s appeal for cooperation undoubtedly fell on deaf ears in Washington. Amid a worsening global economic crisis, the US is not willing to countenance any challenge to its economic and strategic dominance in Africa or any other corner of the globe.

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Syrian wheel of fortune spins China’s way

By Peter Lee 

The question before the People’s Republic of China (PRC) leadership is how badly it misplayed its hand on Syria. Or did it? Certainly, the solution advocated by Russia and China – a coordinated international initiative to sideline the insurrection in favor of a negotiated political settlement between the Assad regime and its domestic opponents – is a bloody shambles. 
As articulated in the Annan plan, it might have been a workable, even desirable option for the Syrian people as well as the Assad regime. 
But Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey were determined not to let it happen. And the United States, in another case of the Middle Eastern tail wagging the American dog, has downsized its dreams of liberal-democratic revolution for the reality of regime collapse driven in significant part by domestic thugs and opportunists, money and arms funneled in by conservative Gulf regimes, violent Islamist adventurism, and neo-Ottoman overreach by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. 
But a funny thing happened last week. The Assad regime didn’t collapse, despite an orchestrated, nation-wide assault (coordinated, we can assume, by the crack strategists of the international anti-Assad coalition): a decapitating terrorist bombing in the national security directorate, near-simultaneous armed uprisings in the main regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo, and the seizure of many of Syria’s official border crossings with Iraq and Turkey. 
The border adventures revealed some holes in the insurgents’ game, as far as showing their ability to operate independently outside of their strongholds to hold territory, and in the vital area of image management. 
Juan Cole of the University of Michigan laid out the big picture strategic thinking behind some of the border seizures on his blog, Informed Comment:
If the FSA can take the third crossing from Iraq, at Walid, they can control truck traffic into Syria from Iraq, starving the regime. The border is long and porous, but big trucks need metalled roads, which are few and go through the checkpoints. Some 70% of goods coming into Syria were coming from Iraq, because Europe cut off trade with the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad. The rebels are increasingly in a position to block that trade or direct it to their strongholds. [1]According to an Iraqi deputy minister of the interior, the units that seized the border were perhaps not the goodwill ambassadors that the Syrian opposition or Dr Cole might have hoped for:
The top official said Iraqi border guards had witnessed the Free Syrian Army take control of a border outpost, detain a Syrian army lieutenant colonel, and then cut off his arms and legs. 
“Then they executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers.” [2]They reportedly also raised the al-Qaeda flag. 
The forces participating in the operation at the Turkish border crossings were also an interesting bunch – and certainly not all local Syrian insurgents, as AFP reported:
By Saturday evening, a group of some 150 foreign fighters describing themselves as Islamists had taken control of the post. 
These fighters were not at the site on Friday, when rebel fighters captured the post. 
Some of the fighters said they belonged to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), while others claimed allegiance to the Shura Taliban. They were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, rocket launchers and improvised mines. 
The fighters identified themselves as coming from a number of countries: Algeria, France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates – and the Russian republic of Chechnya… [3]The operation also had a distinct whiff of Taliban-at-the-Khyber-Pass about it, as the fighters looted and, in some cases, torched more than two dozen Turkish trucks, to the embarrassment of the Erdogan government. 
Aside from occupation of frontier posts by the kind of hardened foreign Islamist fighters that, before Bashar al-Assad’s removal became a pressing priority, served as the West’s ultimate symbol of terrorism run amok, things have gotten quite lively at the Syria/Turkish border. 
It is alleged that, in order to fill the vacuum left by the departure of Syrian border forces to fight the insurgents in the heartland, the Syrian regime has turned over local security to Syrian Kurdish political groups, and Kurdish flags are flying all over Syria’s northeast. 
Not to be left out of the rumpus, the president of the virtually-independent region of Iraqi Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani, announced that Syrian Kurd army deserters sheltering in northern Iraq have been organized into an expeditionary force that will, at the proper time, return home to keep order in the Kurdish areas of Syria. 
Presumably the strongly pro-American Iraqi Kurds under Barzani can easily be induced to inflict mischief on Assad, but at the same time they will feel little incentive to minimize the Kurdish nationalist headache Erdogan has created for himself on Turkey’s southeastern border. [4] 
Now that the democratic opposition, the overseas agitators of the Syrian National Congress, and the insurrectionists of the Free Syrian Army have all taken their shot at the Assad regime and failed, at least for the time being, attention is once again turning to “the Yemen solution”, a k.a. regime restructuring featuring the symbolic removal of an embattled strongman, lip service toward democratic reform, and the continuation of business as usual under a selected junta of more palatable regime strongmen. 
Or, as the Syrian National Council put it on July 24:
“We would agree to the departure of Assad and the transfer of his powers to a regime figure, who would lead a transitional period like what happened in Yemen,” SNC spokesman Georges Sabra told AFP. [5]The SNC’s statement found a prompt echo from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to Xinhua:
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to plan a political transition in his violence-plagued country. “We do believe that it is not too late for the al-Assad regime to commence with planning for a transition, to find a way that ends the violence by beginning the kind of serious discussions that have not occurred to date,” Clinton told reporters … [6]It is perhaps unnecessary to mention that for the last few months the groups steadfastly opposed to any “serious discussions” have been the anti-Assad coalition and the SNC, while Assad, backed by Russia and China, has been gamely attempting to cobble together a loyal opposition with sufficient heft to credibly discuss political reform. 
But all of a sudden, it seems not everyone is singing from the same hymnal:
Earlier Tuesday, some Western media reported that SNC spokesman George Sabra said the main opposition group was willing to accept a transition led temporarily by a member of the current government if President Bashar al-Assad agrees to step down. 
“This is an utter lie. Neither Mr. Sabra nor Ms. Kodmani has made these statements,” SNC European foreign relations coordinator Monzer Makhous told Russia’s Interfax news agency, referring to Bassma Kodmani, the SNC’s head of foreign relations. 
Makhous said the opposition would not agree to accept talks with the Assad government as “no persons associated with murders of the Syrian people could participate in the talks.” [7]It remains to be seen how the AFP or Secretary Clinton – or, for that matter, the unhappy spokesman Georges Sabra – respond to this rebuke. 
One catches hints of a possible disconnect between Gulf-state intransigence (which has driven the “Assad must go” rhetoric of the last year and a half”) and US and EU dreams of a quick, face-saving resolution along the lines of Yemen. 
A “Yemen solution” would probably also be acceptable to Russia and China. Instead of Syria becoming a pro-Western/Sunni dagger aimed at the heart of Shi’ite Iraq and Iran, it would instead become a dysfunctional, expensive, and bloody liability for the West and the Gulf Cooperation Council. 
In other words, just like Yemen. 
There are, however, problems with the Yemen precedent for Syria that go beyond the unwillingness of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to settle for anything less than a triumphal march into a conquered Damascus. 
The key event in the “Yemen solution” was President Saleh getting blown up in his palace mosque. Although he wasn’t killed, he was injured badly enough that he was removed from the scene for several months as he underwent medical treatment, allowing a new crew in the presidential palace to undertake the transition. 
The anti-Assad coalition had worse luck with the bomb in Damascus; Assad was not present at the meeting, he is still the face of the Syrian regime, and his inconvenient presence makes it more difficult for the international community to claim victory in principle while allowing the regime to survive in practice. 
There’s another problem with the Yemen solution; although there are continued news reports, leaks, and analyses – and, most recently, a proposal by the Arab League – ballyhooing the idea that Assad can receive immunity from prosecution for crimes against humanity under the International Criminal Court if he agrees to leg it to Russia, there is no way for the coalition to provide a convincing guarantee to him, let alone his family and associates under the current state of affairs. 
The fact is, the entire purpose of the Treaty of Rome, which set up the International Criminal Court, was to prevent this sort of sordid deal-cutting. 
In practice the ICC is something of an unhappy mutant. Its fundamental premise of “universal jurisdiction” – the idea that bad guys could be prosecuted in the courts of any member country – was undermined by the United States and other countries not to keen to see their political and military supremos vulnerable to prosecution in some remote do-goodery or hostile jurisdiction. 
The result was an unwieldy two-tier system. Those states with a masochistic desire to permit other nations to interfere in their criminal affairs ratified the treaty, becoming “states parties”. Within this exclusive club, universal jurisdiction reigns. 
States that merely signed the treaty – “non states parties” – are not subject to universal jurisdiction. Their miscreants can only be brought to justice by the consent of their own governments or if the UN Security Council decided that the overriding demands of international security merited the opening of a prosecution. 
This was still not enough for the United States, which took the ungraceful step of “unsigning” the Treaty of Rome. 
Yemen had placed itself in the exalted company of the United States by also “unsigning” the treaty in 2007, so a successor regime has no immediate recourse to the ICC and ex-president Saleh’s fate is in the sympathetic hands of the United States and the rest of the UN Security Council. 
Just to be safe, the Yemeni transitional government went the extra mile of granting irrevocable immunity (binding on future, perhaps less friendly governments) to Saleh and his aides. 
Ironically (or predictably) the Yemen solution has short-changed the law-and-democracy friendly opposition we supposedly cared so much about, in favor of placing a new, tractable regime (best described as the old regime sans Saleh) in power. 
This does not sit well with Tawakkul Karman, a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011for her brave pro-democracy and women’s-rights activism in Yemen. She has been fruitlessly calling on the UNSC to direct the ICC to open a prosecution of Saleh. After a visit to The Hague, she met with a reporter from AFP:
Because Yemen has not signed the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, the only way the prosecutor could launch an investigation is if the United Nations Security Council tells him to. 
“This is unfair,” Karman said on the steps of the court’s headquarters. “They have to find a new way to bring everyone who is killing his people to here, to this building.” [8]However, in the matter of ICC jurisdiction, Syria recapitulates Libya and C๔te d’Ivoire, not Yemen. 
Libya had signed but not ratified the treaty; so it took a UN Security Council resolution to place Muammar Gaddafi and his family and associates within the jurisdiction of the ICC while they were still in power. 
Syria is in the same boat – a signer but not a ratifier. With the current regime in place, it would indeed take a UN Security Council resolution to get Assad and his associates on the hook for war crimes under an ICC prosecution, and that simply isn’t going to happen. 
However, if Assad were to leave power, a successor regime in Syria can issue a declaration submitting itself to ICC jurisdiction retroactively, in order to cover crimes against humanity committed by prior leaders back to the date of the court’s establishment in 2002. 
That, indeed, is what happened in C๔te d’Ivoire, when the current government has turned over the former president, Laurent Gbagbo, to the ICC for prosecution for crimes against humanity allegedly committed while he tried to cling to power following a lost election in 2010. [9] 
Given the intense rancor surrounding the bloody crackdown in Syria and the crimes against humanity that were undoubtedly committed, it would appear extremely difficult for the international coalition to offer a convincing assurance that a victorious opposition (which, in addition to rebels bought and paid for by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, also includes a large number of principled and righteously and rightfully incensed Syrians) would not, as its first order of business, call on the ICC to prosecute quite a few leaders of the previous regime for crimes against humanity. 
This was a point made by Navi Pillay, head of the UN Human Rights Commission. Reportage at the time characterized Pillay as gratuitously adding complications that would make it harder to cut a deal with Assad, but she was simply making a statement of fact. 
So the offer to allow Assad to go into exile with a promise of immunity is unlikely to sway him, his backers in Russia and China, or the military and security officers nervously regarding the red harvest of judicial and extra-judicial revenge that would follow any regime overthrow. 
With the Syrian regime proving resistant to a quick collapse, and anti-Assad sentiment within the regime stifled by fear of victor’s justice, what’s Plan B? 
It seems to be Send in the Clowns. 
In other words, find an ex-regime figurehead who is at least superficially palatable to the Syrian populace and sufficiently obedient to the foreign coalition, and can also persuade the Assad regime that his first act will be to push a bill through the (presumably unrepresentative, hand-picked, and tractable) transitional legislature granting a graceful exit to Assad and amnesty to his associates (aside from some carefully-chosen scapegoats) from prosecution for their past crimes in the name of reconciliation. 
(It should be noted in passing that the ICC is not supposed to recognize this kind of legislated impunity and the victims of Assad and the Ba’ath regime would still have the right to apply to the ICC prosecutor to open a case, but presumably this can be finessed.) [10] 
The initial candidate for the exalted role of transition leader is Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, who fled Syria amid widespread huzzahs a few weeks ago. 
Tlass has been literally grooming himself for his role as popular leader for months, growing out his military haircut into a heroic Byronic mane prior to his defection. 
His photographic prop is a big cigar, presumably to reinforce the image of manly leadership, and he issued a post-defection statement describing how his patriotic qualms concerning the Assad regime’s brutal counter-insurgency operations had led to his sidelining from the military chain of command (and fortuitously exonerating him from implication in the worst excesses of regime forces). 
He is also, apparently, France’s great hope for clout in Syria, as this priceless excerpt from the Christian Science Monitor reveals:
Now, Mustafa [his father] and Tlass’s sister, Nahed Ojjeh, are living in Paris, where Ms. Ojjeh is a prominent socialite who once dated a former French foreign minister. 
“France has a longstanding relationship with the Tlass family, going back to the 1980s. Manaf’s sister … throws lavish dinner parties and infiltrated the French political and media elites,” says Mr. Bitar. “When she became the mistress of a foreign minister, there was a national security risk for France, but the president then chose to turn a blind eye because he felt there was need for backchannel diplomacy between France and the Assad regime. 
“Given these old ties, France today might be thinking of grooming Manaf Tlass and counting on him to play an important role in the post-Assad transition phase.” [11]Manaf Tlass is the foppish scion of a family of mysteriously wealthy and allegedly fornicating emigres and, by Syrian army standards, also a lightweight, owing his rank to his father, who once served as Assad’s Minister of Defense. Despite that, he is emerging as Saudi Arabia’s favored candidate as figurehead for the new Syria. Perhaps this is because Tlass, with his embrace of non-Islamist financial and moral values, would present a reassuring secularist face to the West while at the same time serving as a compliant accessory to Gulf interests. 
However, Qatar appears comfortable with another high-level defector, one who also happens to be Sunni (as is Tlass), but was an important cog in the Assad machine and has hands-on experience with the nitty gritty of restoring order in a violent and dangerous set of circumstances. 
The man is Nawaff al-Faris, formerly Syria’s ambassador to Iraq. According to an interlocutor communicating with the As’ad AbuKhalil’s Angry Arab blog, Ambassador Nawaff is quite a piece of work, having earned his bones with the Ba’ath regime as battalion commander during the legendary Hama massacre of 1982, the action that routed the Muslim Brotherhood from Syria at the cost of around 20,000 lives in that one city:
“I know about this man, nawaf al-faris, the defecting ambassador of syria to iraq, from the … the hama area. Hama people remember him well. He was commanding one of the battallions that committed atrocities there in 1982, and i heard it from hama and halab older people (now dead) that he personally threw 16 young boys youngest was 6, from the the rooftop of a building before their parents’ eyes. 
…he was very close to the regime, as much as the tlass clan, except that he commands a larger following among bedouins in the euphrates area…his flight through qatar, rather than turkey, means that the qataris have big plans for him in post-assad syria. you will hear his name again. a very very dirty and cruel man.” [12]Nawaff might be a good choice in the eyes of Qatar, but installing one of the butchers of Hama would presumably not be the kind of Arab Spring triumph that the West is looking for in Syria. So perhaps the search will continue for a more suitable candidate, while hoping that the remorseless grind of violence, sanctions, and anger will finally crack the power of the Assad regime. 
However, when we talk about “events spinning out of control in Syria” we can also take it as a reference to the international game plan for Syria. Indirectly enabling regime collapse through a disorderly collection of guerillas is no substitute for sending in a big, shiny army to occupy the capital and dictate events. 
The longer regime collapse is delayed, the greater the risk that important elements of the insurrection might slip the leash, start fighting with each other as well as against Assad, and contribute to the creation of a failed state where Syria used to be. 
Therefore, even as international support for the insurgency escalates, the anti-Assad coalition finds it particularly frustrating that China and Russia have refused to vote for escalated UN Security Council sanctions that, under the pretext of supporting the moribund Annan peace initiative, might expedite the collapse of the Syrian regime. 
For all the principled talk by Russia and China concerning non-interference and the right of the people of Syria to control their destiny, it is difficult to escape the inference that they are not particularly unhappy with the current turn of events. 
After the West rounded on China and Russia for vetoing another round of sanctions against Syria, Beijing shrugged off the criticism. 
People’s Daily approvingly reproduced a Global Times editorial that stated:
China also opposes the UN Security Council openly picking sides in Syria’s internal conflict. It insists that the Syrians should seek a political solution through their own negotiations. 
This is a bottom line that must be upheld so as to prevent the West from overthrowing any regime at will. [13]Bashar al-Assad is doing a pretty good job of staying in power and crushing the insurrection. The longer he is able to cling to power, the more shattered and divided Syria becomes – and the less useful it is to the West and the Gulf states as a proxy warrior in the battle with Shi’ite Iraq and Iran. 

1. Syrian Rebellion Enters new Stage with Aleppo, Border operations, Informed Comment, Jul 22, 2012.
2. Syria rebels ‘control all Iraq border points’, AFP on Google, Jul 20, 2012.
3. Turkish truck drivers accuse rebel fighters of looting, AFP on Google, Jul 22, 2012.
4. Iraqi Kurds train their Syrian brethren, Aljazeera, Jul 23, 2012.
5. Syria rebels would accept transition led by regime figure, Hurriyet Daily News, Jul 24, 2012.
6. Clinton urges Syria’s Assad to plan political transition, Xinhua, Jul 25, 2012.
7. Syria opposition denies reports on forming coalition government, Xinhua, Jul 24, 2012.
8. Yemen’s Nobel laureate calls for ICC trial for Saleh, Tehran Times, Nov 29, 2011.
9. Gbagbo’s ICC Transfer Advances Justice, Human Rights Watch, Nov 29, 2011.
10. Yemen: Amnesty for Saleh and Aides Unlawful, Human Rights Watch, Jan 23, 2012.
11. As blast rattles Syrian regime, defecting general reemerges in France, Christian Science Monitor, Jul 18, 2012.
12. Meet the defector: the Syrian ambassador Nawwaf Al-Faris and the Hamah massacre of 1982, Angry Arab News Service, Jul 12, 2012.
13. West wrong on Chinese public’s Syria view, People’s Daily, Jul 23, 2012. 

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy. 

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.) 

Clinton stirs tensions with China ahead of ASEAN summit

By Peter Symonds 
12 July 2012
An Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial summit that begins today in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh will be dominated by tensions deliberately stirred up by the Obama administration as part of its concerted drive to undermine China’s political and strategic influence throughout the region.
On the eve of the meeting, the Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers held emergency talks in Phnom Penh yesterday after a dispute over a group of islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, erupted again this week. Tokyo summoned the Chinese ambassador to lodge a formal protest yesterday after three Chinese fishery patrol vessels cruised near the Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea.
“It is clear that the Senkaku islands are inherently Japanese territory from a historical point of view and in terms of international law,” Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Osamu Fujimura told the media. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin responded in kind, declaring that Japan had no grounds for complaint. The Chinese vessels, he said, were “performing patrolling operations in waters administered by China.”
A major diplomatic row between the two countries blew up in 2010 when the Japanese coast guard detained the captain of a Chinese fishing vessel after an alleged collision. At the time, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fuelled tensions by declaring that the US would be obliged to come to the aid of its ally, Japan, in the event of any conflict. The five small uninhabited rocky outcrops are strategically located between the Japanese island of Okinawa and Taiwan, and the surrounding waters are thought to contain significant energy reserves.
The latest dispute did not emerge accidentally. On Saturday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda provocatively suggested that his government was considering purchasing the Senkaku islands from their private Japanese owner. Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, a right-wing nationalist, launched a fund in April to buy the islands. Not surprisingly, Beijing reacted angrily to Noda’s remarks, with the foreign ministry issuing a statement declaring that China would not allow the islands to be purchased by anyone.
Clinton arrived in Tokyo on Sunday at the start of a tour through Asia before the ASEAN meeting. Despite a claim by Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba that the Senkaku issue was not discussed with Clinton, there is no doubt that the Obama administration has given tacit support to Noda’s comments.
While she has rarely mentioned China by name, every leg of Clinton’s trip—to Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia—has focussed on strengthening Washington’s ties at Beijing’s expense. She chose Mongolia, on China’s northern border, to hypocritically extol the virtues of democracy, criticising governments that “work around the clock to restrict people’s access to ideas and information, to imprison them for expressing their views, to usurp the rights of citizens to choose their leaders, to govern without accountability…”
Quite apart from the dictatorial and autocratic regimes that Washington backs and has backed in the past—including in Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore, the US has made deep inroads into democratic rights under the banner of the “war on terror.” The Obama administration is currently working around the clock to put WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on trial for exposing US war crimes.
The US is cynically exploiting the banner of “democracy” to consolidate support for its diplomatic push against China. That was on display in Vietnam, where Clinton only perfunctorily raised the issue of “human rights.” The focus of her visit was on strengthening economic and strategic relations with the Stalinist regime. She hailed the growing trade between the two countries and expressed the hope that the US would become the no. 1 investor in the country in the near future.
Clinton also commended Vietnam for its “contribution to a collaborative, diplomatic resolution of disputes and the reduction of tensions in the South China Sea.” In fact, the direct opposite is the case: Vietnam and the Philippines, encouraged by Washington, have taken aggressive moves in their maritime disputes with China in these strategic waters. For the past two months, the Philippines has been engaged in a standoff with China over the disputed Scarborough Shoal. Last month, Vietnam provocatively approved a new maritime law, proclaiming its sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel island groups in the South China Sea.
The heightened conflicts in the South China Sea are a product of the Obama administration’s intervention. In 2010, Clinton declared at an ASEAN summit that the US had a “national interest” in ensuring “freedom of navigation” through the area. She also supported a multilateral solution to maritime disputes, directly cutting across China’s calls for bilateral negotiations. At last November’s ASEAN summit in Bali, President Obama backed South East Asian countries to force a discussion on the South China Sea despite China’s strong objections.
This issue will undoubtedly be another source of tension at the ASEAN ministerial meeting today. The Philippines is pressing for a strong ASEAN statement on a regional code of conduct for activities in the South China Sea, including a reference to the Scarborough Shoal, despite opposition from countries such as Cambodia, which is closely aligned to Beijing. In Vietnam, Clinton expressed her support for ASEAN leaders to develop such a code of conduct.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency urged ASEAN ministers to be “wary” of letting the South China Sea “distract” them, as the summit was “not a proper platform” for discussing the issue. A foreign ministry spokesman described discussions of the South China Sea as “deliberate hype” designed “to interfere with the relationship between China and ASEAN.”
Before arriving in Phnom Penh, Clinton made a brief visit to Laos, becoming the first US Secretary of State to do so since 1955. The purpose of the trip was obvious—to begin the process of undermining China’s close relations with the country. The Obama administration has already put out feelers to Vientiane, clearing the way for the country’s entry into the World Trade Organisation. Laos is also part of the Lower Mekong Initiative established by the US in 2010 to cover all countries along the Mekong River, except China.
The Obama administration’s aggressive diplomacy in South East Asia has been particularly marked in relation to Burma (Myanmar). Over the past three years, the US has encouraged a shift by the Burmese military junta to open the country to foreign investment and ties with the West. Washington has hailed the bogus elections inside Burma and re-established diplomatic relations with the regime. Clinton announced plans yesterday for a further easing of US economic sanctions on Burma as the new US ambassador arrived in the country.
This forceful offensive by American imperialism across Asia over the past three years has been complemented by a major US military build-up. Last month, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told a regional strategic forum in Singapore that over the next decade the US navy would have 60 percent of its forces in the Asia Pacific region. While Panetta denied that China was the target, the US has been strengthening strategic ties with virtually every other country in Asia.
By recklessly ratcheting up tensions with China, the Obama administration is turning Asia into a dangerous powder keg that could be ignited by any one of a number of regional flashpoints, such as the South China Sea and the Senkaku islands.

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Let’s party like it’s …1997

By Pepe Escobar 

HONG KONG – It was 15 years ago today. General China taught the Brits to play. That was, of course, the Hong Kong handover – a milestone in Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping’s “crossing the river while feeling the stones” strategy. First, command “to get rich is glorious”. Then develop the special economic zones. Get Hong Kong back from the Brits. Then, one day, annex Taiwan. And perhaps, by 2040, evolve to some variant of Western parliamentary democracy. 
Those were heady days. There were only faint rumblings about a possible financial crisis in Asia. Mainland China media carped about the “humiliations” of the past – including heavy promotion for a blockbuster telling the real story of the Opium Wars. In Hong Kong island, daily showers thundered with fear. Will the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) cross the border at midnight in a blitzkrieg and militarize all the malls in Kowloon? Will we be duly indoctrinated as model communists? 
For a foreign correspondent, there was nowhere else to be. The Foreign Correspondents Club buzzed like in a perpetual rock concert. At the hip Shanghai Tang store, a waving Deng wristwatch was all the rage. The days went by with plenty of huffing and puffing around to find interviews and gauge the prospects of doom from residents and analysts. Then the long, sweaty nights partying at the Club 1997 in Lan Kwai Fong – and having to beat the hangover back at the hotel to write copy solid enough to fill two newspaper pages a day. 
In the end, the proceedings were as normal as Deng would have thought. Chris Patten – the last governor – left in an anti-climax. The British Empire was over. There was no PLA “invasion”. The party at Club 1997 was monstrous. The day after, massive hangover included, the real celebration began. I boarded a plane to China. 
Beyond the pale 
Little did I know that the Asian financial crisis had just exploded – with a monster devaluation of the Thai baht. Well, on the first of July itself, some of us may have suspected this could be a minor problem – but no one was foreseeing the financial tsunami ahead. 
My agenda was to plunge into deep China – the entrails of that beast which was now lording over Hong Kong. Robert Plant was on my flight to Xian. Yes, the Robert Plant – minus Jimmy Page. I resisted the temptation to address him with the opening bars of Kashmir. It turns out we were at the same hotel in Xian – and kept meeting for breakfast. He was traveling with his son and his manager. And yes – we were about to do the same thing. Get our kicks not on Route 66 – but on the mother of all them routes. 
I have always been a Silk Road fanatic. The “Silk Road” is not only the great, open highway of Eurasia – from lethal deserts such as the Taklamakan to snowy mountain peaks – but also waves and waves of cultural history connecting Asia to Europe. It’s about forgotten empires such as the Sogdians, fabulous cities like Merv, Bukhara and Samarkand, fabled oasis like Kashgar. It’s not “a” road but a maze of “roads” – extensions branching out to Afghanistan and Tibet. 
I had to start at the beginning, in Xian, formerly Chang’an – though most of China’s silk came from further south. Xian was a former capital of China during the Han dynasty, when Rome got a hard-on for Chinese silk. And was a capital again during the Tang dynasty – when the Buddhist connection with India solidified the Silk Road. 
Hong Kong galleries were filled with copies of Tang terracotta figures such as Yang Guifei, aka the “fat concubine”, the most famous femme fatale in Chinese history. Turks, Uyghurs, Sogdians, Arabs and Persians all lived in this Chinese Rome – and built their own temples (the mosque is still the most beautiful in China; but the three Zoroastrian temples are all gone). 
It would take me a few more years – in successive trips – to finally do most of the core of the Silk Road, in separate stretches, an obsession I carried since I was in high school. This time though, I wanted to concentrate on the Chinese Silk Road. 
It started with a painter/calligrapher rendering sublime copies in Mandarin of the Buddha’s heart sutra to monks living for years in huts in the mountains north of Chang’an. It was supremely hard to resist both temptations; bye bye journalism, why not become a calligrapher, or a monk? Then I started moving west, through Lanzhou – with a deviation to the immaculate Tibetan enclave of Xiahe and, on the way, an enormous concentration of Hui – Chinese Muslims. Everything by train, local bus, local trucks. 
From Lanzhou I even went to Chengdu, in Sichuan, by bus and then to Lhasa in Tibet by plane, and all the way back. That was a classic Silk Road branch-out. But what was really driving me was to go “beyond the pale”. To follow the westernmost spur of the Great Wall and finally reach Jiayuguan – the “First and Greatest Pass under Heaven”. 
It was everything I expected it to be; sort of like the desolate setting for the end of the empire. The (literal) end of the Great Wall. To the west was “beyond the pale”; Chinese who were banned to go west would never return. Still in 1997 I was met with incredulous stares when I said I wanted to keep going further into Gansu towards the deserts of Xinjiang. “Why? There’s nothing there”. 
This was still two years before Beijing launched its official “Go West” policy. The turbocharged neo-colonization of “beyond the pale” – a Xinjiang extremely rich in natural resources but populated (till then) mostly by Muslim Uyghurs – hadn’t yet started. 
Death, also known as Taklamakan
Through the Gansu corridor I finally reached the caves of Dunhuang – one the great Buddhist centers in China for over six centuries; a feast of wall-paintings and stucco images excavated in caves carved from a cliff on the eastern edge of the Lop desert and the southern edge of the Gobi desert. Dazzling doesn’t even began to describe it. 
One of my all-time heroes, the great Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang (602-664), had a stop over in Dunhuang on his way to India – where he collected holy texts for translation into Chinese (that explains that calligrapher back in Xian). 
Xuanzang’s own account of his absolutely epic travels, Xiyuji(“Record of the Western Regions”) remains matchless. He started – where else – in Chang’an. Everything happened, including being “tortured by hallucinations” and driving away “all sorts of demon shapes and strange goblins”. But he did manage to get back to China 16 years later, carrying a wealth of Buddha statues and books. 
Around Dunhuang, the Silk Road split. I had to make up my mind. The northern route follows the southern edge of the spectacular Tian Shan mountains – running along the north of the terrifying Taklamakan desert (whose name, in Uyghur, means “you may get in but you never get out”). Along the way, there are plenty of oasis towns – Hami, Turfan, Aksu – before reaching Kashgar. 
That’s the route I took, under temperatures hovering around 50 degrees Celsius, riding a battered Land Rover with a monosyllabic Hui who negotiated the desert track like Ayrton Senna. And this was the “easier” route – compared to the southern one. I had in mind the Buddhist monks doing it by camel, branching out to head through the Karakoram mountains to Leh (in Ladakh) and Srinagar (in Kashmir) and then down into India. 
It’s absolutely impossible to even try to battle the horrifying sand-storms of the Taklamakan. The best one can do is to circumvent it. Certainly not the option chosen by the coolest cat among the Silk Road modern giants, Sven Hedin (1865-1952), the author ofMy Life as an Explorer (1926) and a man of huge brass balls who faced certain death countless times and left behind him a long trail of ponies, camels and yes, dead men. 
In one of his adventures, when Hedin was hoping to cross the southwestern corner of the Taklamakan in less than a month, the camels died one after another; the caravan was hit by a sand-storm; his last servant died; yet he was the only one who made it, “as though led by an invisible hand”. 
Guided by my very visible Hui, I finally made it to Kashgar – a hallucinating throwback to medieval Eurasia; once again, at the time the forced Han neo-colonization was just beginning, around the Mao statue at People’s Square. The Sunday market sprang up straight from the 10th century. There was not a single Han Chinese even around the pale green Id Kah mosque at early morning prayers. 
From Kashgar the Silk Road did another major branching out. Buddhist monks would travel through the Hindu Kush past Tashkurgan to the Buddhist kingdoms of Gandhara and Taxila in contemporary Pakistan. I did it the China-Pakistan motorized friendship way – that is, taking the fabulous Karakoram highway from Kashgar through the Khunjerab pass, by jeep and local bus, all the way to Islamabad, stopping on the way in the idyllic Hunza valley. Northern Pakistan was all quiet in those pre-war on terror days; although the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan, there was virtually no hardcore Islamist in sight. 
Silk road traders would have done it differently. They would go north of the Pamir mountains to Samarkand and Bukhara, or south of the Pamirs to Balkh (in contemporary Afghanistan) and then to Merv (in Iran). From Merv, a maze of Silk Roads would go all the way to the Mediterranean via Baghdad to Damascus, Antioch or Constantinople (Istanbul). It would still take me a few more years to follow stretches of most of these routes. 
So suddenly I was in an Islamabad duly doing business with the Taliban while all financial hell was breaking loose all across Asia. I made it back to Singapore and then Hong Kong. Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea were braking up. But Hong Kong, once again was surviving – now under close inspection by Beijing. 
Motherland knows best 
Fifteen years later, none of those Western bogeymen predictions about Chinese heavy-handedness in Hong Kong came true. The third smooth transition of power in Hong Kong under China is already on. Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping – the next Dragon Emperor – has given it his full blessing. 
Here’s the key Xi quote; “Fifteen years after the handover, Hong Kong has gone through storms. Overall, the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ has made enormous strides… Hong Kong’s economy has developed well and citizens’ livelihoods have improved. Progress has been made in democratic development, and society has become harmonious.” 
Well, not that harmonious. True, Hong Kong is the IPO capital of the world. It’s the top offshore center in the world for yuan trading. It’s a matchless world city – in many aspects putting even New York to shame; the best the world has to offer in an ultra-compact environment. The city’s economy grew every year except in 2009 – during the world economy abyss. Annual GDP growth has been 4.5% on average. Unemployment is never higher than 6%. 
But Hong Kong still has not made the transition towards a high-value-added, knowledge-based economy. The outgoing administration by Donald Tsang bet on “six new pillar industries” which should have “clear advantages” for growth; cultural and creative industries, medical services, education, innovation and technology, testing and certification services, and environmental industries. 
But their development, so far, has been negligible. Hong Kong still relies basically on its four core industries; financial services, tourism, professional services, and trading. Over 36 million tourists a year won’t turn Hong Kong into a knowledge-based society. Most of them are from – where else – the mainland. The backlash is immense; most Hong Kongers deride them as “locusts” – country bumpkins with suitcases overflowing with yuan buying everything cash. And this while inside Hong Kong itself the wealth gap is widening dramatically. 
As far as Beijing is concerned, it all comes down to “crossing the river while feeling the stones”. Here’s Xi, once again; “The SAR [Special Administrative Region] government has united various social sectors under the strong support of the central government and the motherland.” The motherland has its own ideas on reviving the Silk Road – and perhaps Hong Kong could be part of it, a least on the financial services side. Maybe it’s time to party like it’s 1997 and hit the Taklamakan again. Well, you can take the boy our of the Silk Road, but you can’t take the Silk Road out of the boy. 
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). 
He may be reached at 
(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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Russia and China vow to protect Syria from becoming another Libya

By Farooq Yousaf


Russia and China vow to protect Syria from becoming another Libya. 47402.jpeg
It is now widely known that the Obama administration, with the help of its allies, is planning to launch an offensive against the Assad regime in Syria. The attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, with the help Israel, also seems to be on the cards. In such a situation, where Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have proven to be clear fiascos, the dwindling world economic scene can least afford another major conflict. 
Such interventions would not only induce wide scale human loss but would also bring with them adverse economic effects for the world states. And with the recent announcement of joint war games, and one of the biggest, among China, Russia, Iran and Syria, the signal is going strong for forces that wish to intervene in either Syria or Iran.
Iran’s Fars news agency reported that more than 90,000 soldiers from the aforementioned 4 countries would take part in the military exercises, making it the largest in regional history. Theses war games will include air defense and missile units as well as ground, air and naval forces and are scheduled for early July.
A total of 400 planes and 1,000 tanks are said to be taking part, among them 12 Chinese warships, Russian atomic submarines and warships, aircraft carriers and mine-clearing destroyers as well as Iranian battleships and submarines are included. It is said that all the arms and ammunition used for the exercise would be stocked in Syria from where they will begin.
This exercise also means that it would be the first time that Russia and China have deployed such a large army in Syria. This army would also send out the right message for Syria, that is, it is not the right time to bomb or attack the country. And the presence of armies of both these states would at least make sure that till their presence, Syria would be safe from foreign interventions. But would this be enough to send a strong message to Obama as well? The answer would most probably be a big YES, as USA can least afford to enter in to a conflict with China, on whom it relies majorly for financial cooperation, both for its own finances as well as NATO’s.
With greater resilience from both Russia and China against any action on Syria, the situation in Middle East has become like gunpowder. Any offensive from either side may even trigger the possible beginning of a World War. 
It is being reported that the US administration is planning a military campaign in Syria similar to what happened in Libya in terms of execution. The U.S. would institute a no-fly zone, bomb the Syrian government and the Syrian military, and provide heavy military hardware for the rebel forces on the ground.
A recent report by Debka stated regarding the US plans of attack on Syria,
As the violence in Syria continued to go from bad to worse in scope and intensity, US official sources had this to say Saturday, June 16, about planned US military operations in the war-torn country:
“The intervention will happen. It is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.'”
A Syrian Free Army rebel delegation is now in Washington to talk about their requests for heavy weapons from the Obama administration. In their meetings with US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and the State Department’s expert on Syria Fred Hof, the rebel leaders handed in two lists for approval: types of heavy weapons capable of challenging Bashar Assad’s armed forces and selected targets of attack to destabilize his regime.
The basic error that US and its allies are making in calculating the Syrian situation is that the country is very unlike Libya. Libya had far less friends compared to Syria. Assad’s government is one of the chief buyer of Russian arms and a strong economic partner of China. That is why, the western media is trying to drag Russia in to the mess by alleging it of supporting the human rights abuse carried out by Assad regime.
Moscow seems to be affected very little by the media propaganda as it still advocates a no-war policy on Syria along with its ally China. Both the countries have vetoed all UN resolutions against the Arab state. This has made the relations of both the countries with the US really tensed.
In the recent G-20 summit in Mexico, both Putin and Obama showed the tension with their expression as the media reported “The two men barely looked at each other. You could just feel, sort of, the tension between them. And the body language really represented how far apart the two leaders remain on the issue of Syria.” In fact, Putin reportedly was very direct with Obama…. “Apparently President Obama got a bit of a lecture from Putin about some other failed transitions that are going on around the world.”
Although it is very clear that Russia and China are saying No to Syrian intervention, President Obama clearly seems to defy this intention. If this happens, the situation would certainly move towards a conflict, a conflict for which the Chinese and Russian militaries have now long been preparing for whereas the US military is already stuck in major failed campaigns such as Iraq and Afghanistan. And with proxy engagements in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, it would be daunting task for the US forces to face Chinese and Russian militaries.
Farooq Yousaf

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Iran, Russia, China, Syria to Stage Biggest Joint Wargames in Middle-East

By Fars News Agency
June 19, 2012 — TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian, Russian, Chinese and Syrian armies are due to stage joint amphibious exercises along the Syrian costs in coming weeks, informed sources revealed on Monday. 
According to informed sources, 90,000 forces from the four countries will take part in the land and sea wargames due to be held in Syria.
Ground, air and sea forces as well as air defense and missile units of the four countries will take part in the exercises.
Sources also said that Egypt has acceded to grant passage to 12 Chinese warships to sail through the Suez Canal, adding that the military convoy is due to dock at the Syrian harbors in the next two weeks.
Russian atomic submarines and warships, aircraft carriers and mine-clearing destroyers as well as Iranian battleships and submarines will also arrive in Syria at around the same date.
Syria plans to test its coast-to-sea and air defense missiles in the wargames.
A sum of 400 warplanes and 1,000 tanks will also be used in the exercises.
A Syrian official, who asked to remain anonymous, had informed two weeks ago that the drills would be conducted in Syria soon.
Unofficial sources also said the four countries are now busy with taking swift preparatory measures for these biggest-ever wargames in the Middle-East.
Sham Life reported that the maneuvers will be stage in less than one month from now, that is early June.
©2006 Fars News Agency. All rights reserved
See also – Russia, Syria deny war games with China and Iran: Russia and Syria on Tuesday denied an Iranian media report that Syria would host Russian, Chinese and Iranian military forces for joint exercises.

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The worm that turned on the US

By John Feffer 

The Pentagon has traditionally presented cyber-war as “their hackers” against “our defenders”. Out there, especially in China, a faceless horde of anonymous computer users are arrayed against the United States in an updated version of the “yellow peril”. 
In 2010, the Pentagon complained publicly for the first time about the Chinese government deploying civilian hackers to go after US targets. These cyber-attacks date back at least to 1999 when, after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Chinese hackers launched a slew of “denial of service” attacks that, among other results, shut down the White House website for three days. 
According to the experts, we’re suffering death by a thousand hacks. In his book America the Vulnerable, Joel Brenner starts out the introductory chapter by bemoaning the Chinese download of 20 terabytes of information from the Defense Department in an infamous maneuver from several years ago. 
“To carry this volume of documents in paper form, you’d need a line of moving vans stretching from the Pentagon to the Chinese freighters docked in Baltimore harbor fifty miles [80 kilometers] away. If the Chinese tried to do that, we’d have the National Guard out in 15 minutes. But when they did it electronically, hardly anyone noticed.” 
Brenner doesn’t address whether the Chinese actually found anything useful in that enormous data dump, nor does the former senior counsel at the National Security Agency talk about what the United States has stolen from the Chinese. Threat, after all, sells books (as well as high-priced intelligence programs and weapon systems). 
Washington is not just worried about Beijing. The US government loses sleep over Russians, al-Qaeda sympathizers and even disgruntled computer nerds on the home front. US authorities have vigorously pursued Anonymous, the hacker tribe that has targeted corporate websites unfriendly to the Occupy movement and to WikiLeaks. 
There’s a reason it’s called the Defense Department and not the War Office. Listen to Washington and you’d think the United States was simply a healthy body under attack by a legion of foreign microbes in league with traitorous parasites within. But several major news stories over the past week paint a very different picture of the US government approach to cyber-war. It turns out that our hands are not clean at all. 
The Barack Obama administration indirectly confirmed last week, through a leak in The New York Times, that it had teamed up with Israel to create Stuxnet, the worm that burrowed into Iran’s nuclear program and created havoc in its uranium-enrichment centrifuges. 
More disturbing perhaps has been the administration’s attempts to extend “full-spectrum dominance” to the cyber-world. We might sound all defensive. But in fact we’ve been quite offensive in our actions. 
The Stuxnet worm, part of a secret US program codenamed Olympic Games, was initially a George W Bush administration effort. As he passed the presidential baton onto Obama, Bush urged his successor to preserve two programs: the Olympic Games and the drone attacks in Pakistan. 
Obama complied on both. The virus was intended to instruct Iranian centrifuges to essentially destroy themselves. In 2010, however, the bug jumped from the Natanz facility in Iran to the Internet, where it began to replicate wildly, a programming error that Obama aides blamed on their Israeli partners. Still, the bug remained anonymous, and Washington pushed ahead with the program. Eventually, a new version of Stuxnet damaged one-fifth of Iran’s centrifuges, setting back the program for an unknown period of time. 
The Obama administration has apparently approved this leak, for it has not issued any denials. Going into the autumn elections, Obama the presidential candidate wants to make sure that the Republicans can’t charge him with appeasing Iran. Stuxnet is the cyber equivalent of assassinating Osama bin Laden: a mission that demonstrates that the Obama administration is daring, is willing to break rules and play dirty, and operates as if the world is a video game and Americans have special powers. 
But Stuxnet also raises certain expectations. “Some officials question why the same techniques have not been used more aggressively against North Korea,” David Sanger writes in his investigative report. “Others see chances to disrupt Chinese military plans, forces in Syria on the way to suppress the uprising there, and Qaeda operations around the world.” 
The Pentagon may have already used these techniques against the competition. For two years, the Pentagon’s Cyber Command has been overseeing the development of various cyber weapons, a process that has recently been fast-tracked. And the administration just announced its effort to crowd-source cyber warfare through “Plan X”. 
The $110-million program will solicit proposals from universities and video-game manufacturers. Plan X’s parent agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is reportedly shifting its cyber-efforts from the defensive to the offensive. 
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has tried to sustain its singular superpower status through “full spectrum dominance”. Such dominance, according to the Joint Vision 2020 from those pre-9/11 days of June 2000, means “the ability of US forces, operating alone or with allies, to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the range of military operation”. 
The spectrum has included cyber-space for some time. Offensive cyber-tactics fall into five basic categories: using the Internet to win hearts and minds; denial of service attacks that effectively paralyze websites; electronic attacks on infrastructure such as nuclear power plants; sabotage through the sale of defective hardware or software; and operational attacks that accompany conventional battle plans, as when Israel disabled Syrian radar systems when it bombed a suspected nuclear weapons facility in 2007. 
Hackers have long realized that even sophisticated systems have backdoors. The United States is slowly waking up to the realization that its basic infrastructure – power plants, waste-treatment facilities, indeed anything controlled by a computer – is vulnerable to hostile take-over. 
The search engine Shodan shows all the different computers you can access online. “One researcher using the system,” according to a recent Washington Post story, “found that a nuclear particle accelerator at the University of California at Berkeley was linked to the Internet with virtually no security.” 
I can imagine a group of hackers over at Fort Meade that the National Security Agency pays handsomely to map all the vulnerable points in the infrastructure of other countries. Even as the United States scrambles to patch its own leaks, it is no doubt making plans to breach the cyber-Maginot Lines of its adversaries. 
All’s fair in love and war, you might say. But we ramp up our e-offensive at no inconsiderable risk to ourselves. Our cyber-attacks, as with any offensive strategy, can provoke retaliation. Sanger concludes his Stuxnet investigation with a cautionary note: “It is only a matter of time, most experts believe, before [the United States] becomes the target of the same kind of weapon that the Americans have used, secretly, against Iran.” 
Retaliation, in this case, comes with a twist. Ordinary citizens can’t send their own unmanned aerial vehicles to the United States. But some ordinary citizens can leverage the power of the Internet to hack into US sites and cause considerable damage.
Also, if we attack infrastructure, civilians are at heightened risk. Knocking out centrifuges is one thing. But cyber-warriors could just as easily target the entire electricity grid. “You could argue that out of the gate cyber-war is going to be war crimes,” says Marcus Ranum of Tenable Network Security. 
“If you’re talking taking out an electronic infrastructure preparatory to a ground attack, you’re talking about shutting down their hospitals and shutting down their businesses, shutting down their stock exchange, shutting down their street lights, and screwing people’s lives up. These are all contrary to the civilized laws of how wars are supposed to be fought.” 
The prospect of such attacks taking out US infrastructure has prompted Richard Clarke, in his new book Cyber War, to propose a ban on cyber-attacks on civilian targets. 
And, finally, the most frightening possibility is the worm that goes out of control. Stuxnet did some damage outside Iran but it was relatively tame as malware goes. But more serious stuff is now out there – see, for example, Flame – and who knows what’s in the pipeline that could, like a cyber-smallpox, cause a major e-pandemic? 
We are creating genetically engineered life forms. We are considering geo-engineering on a massive scale to avert global warming. And now we are inching closer to importing the MAD (mutually assured destruction) logic of nuclear weapons into cyber-space. 
Remember: the Internet was originally a creation of DARPA (with a minor assist from Al Gore). Now DARPA, like Darth Vader, is attempting to reclaim its progeny and recruit it to the dark side. Where are the light sabers to fend it off? 
The more things change 
Perhaps the greatest fallout from the Stuxnet program is diplomatic. “This will certainly play into [Iran’s] fears about what else is out there,” a former intelligence official told The Washington Post. “It certainly won’t make them eager to get back to the negotiating table.” 
And indeed, the latest round of negotiations with Iran has gone nowhere. “The chief reason for the failure of the talks was the unwillingness of the West to even consider what Iran has sought the most: scaling back existing sanctions and imposing a freeze on pending European Union (EU) and American sanctions against Iran’s financial and energy sectors,” writes Foreign Policy In Focus contributor Richard Heydarian in “Dashed Hopes for Baghdad Breakthrough”. 
“Unless the West is willing to negotiate concessions with regard to its punitive sanctions, the Iranians will continue to push the frontiers of enrichment, thus further raising the prospects for an armed confrontation.” 
The US Congress, meanwhile, is back to its same old tricks on the Middle East. “Earlier this month,” writes FPIF senior analyst Stephen Zunes in “Bipartisan Assault on Middle East Peace”, “the House of Representatives passed a dangerous piece of legislation [HR 4133] that would undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, weaken Israeli moderates and peace advocates, undercut international law, further militarize the Middle East, and make Israel ever more dependent on the United States.” 
In Egypt, meanwhile, the first round of the presidential elections produced two frontrunners: a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood and a candidate of the old regime. “The upcoming run-off is a contest between the remnants of the Mubarak regime and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, continuing a struggle now waged for more than 60 years,” write FPIF contributors Bonnie Bricker and Adil Shamoo in “Egypt’s Path Winds toward Democracy”. 
“The old regime is associated with a vast security apparatus and its dictatorial, corrupt, and abusive tactics, along with its concentration of wealth among a small number of well-connected and influential families. On the other side, the Muslim Brotherhood promotes social justice, using Islamic principles to guide governance. Under the Muslim Brotherhood, however, women and minority rights could be curtailed, and democratic principles may not be fully applied.” 
For a lively account of how Egypt got to where it is today, check out FPIF Pick of the week, The Journey to Tahrir, which FPIF contributor Melissa Moskowitz calls a “deep and meaningful portrait of the revolution that shocked the world”. 
Secrets and lies 
Reporter David Axe recently found himself in a middle of a controversy when he reported the comments of Army Brigadier General Neil Tolley that US Special Forces were on the ground in North Korea gathering intelligence. 
“Almost immediately, the Pentagon repudiated the story,” writes FPIF contributor Tim Shorrock in Tall Tale about Special Forces in North Korea? “A spokesman for US Forces in Korea told Voice of America that Axe’s quotes were ‘made up’. A Pentagon flack later added that the general’s comments ‘were distorted [and] misreported.’ Axe, who wrote a good-humored account of his experience on his blog, War is Boring, stuck to his story and asked the Pentagon for an apology.” 
It turns out that the general was speaking hypothetically. But the United States has certainly gone to great lengths to acquire human intelligence inside North Korea. “The United States has also relied on the information gathered by its ally, South Korea, from the network of spies that it ran in North Korea,” I write in Spying on the North, a column for Hankyoreh newspaper. 
“These bukpagongjakwon formed an elite army Intelligence Unit tasked with intelligence-gathering, infiltration, and even assassination. North Korea’s incursions in South Korea are well-known: the attack on the Blue House in 1968, the submarine that ran aground in 1996, the numerous spies that have infiltrated South Korean society. But South Korea’s missions have been no less extensive and audacious. One infamous group of ex-cons, trained on Shilmido to assassinate Kim Il-sung in the wake of the 1968 Blue House incursion, revolted against their guard-trainers and made their way to Seoul to petition the president. None survived, and the incident was suppressed.” 
On the topic of secrecy, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is continuing to meet in closed-door sessions. “Nine countries are currently negotiating the TPP: the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore,” writes FPIF contributor Arnie Saiki in Japan, Nuclear Energy and the TPP. 
“Despite large protests at home against accession into the TPP negotiations, Japan, Canada and Mexico are also expected to join. Although the negotiations are being held in secret, leaked documents confirm that contrary to democratic practice, the documents connected to the negotiations will remain secret for four years after being signed or dismissed.” 
Deepening democracy 
Many women leaders have come to the fore in Latin America: Laura Chinchilla in Costa Rica, Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, Cristina Fernandez in Argentina. “Currently, however, the presence of women in politics is more symbolic than anything else,” writes FPIF guest columnist Erika Guevara-Rosas in Rocky Road to Gender Equality in Latin America. 
“These new women leaders are not transforming their societies in fundamental ways. Indeed, the feminization of politics in the region has not yet translated into the incorporation of feminist and women’s rights agendas, or even into improved conditions for the majority of women.” 
Rebecca McKinnon’s new book Consent of the Networkeddocuments the efforts of activists to use the Internet to get around government censorship. “New products like Tor, which enables users to upload and download without being traced, are becoming popular in places like China, Iran and Egypt,” writes FPIF contributor Julia Heath in her review. 
“Diaspora, Crabgrass, FreedomBox and StatusNet are decentralized social media platforms that provide users local control and anonymity, which makes them better suited for activists.” 
John Feffer is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. 
(Posted with permission from Foreign Policy in Focus)

US “pivot” to Asia threatens war with China

6 June 2012

The Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia is a comprehensive military build-up throughout the Indo-Pacific region, greatly heightening the danger of war with China.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta announced in Singapore last weekend that by 2020 the greater part of American naval forces—including six aircraft carrier battle groups as well as a majority of the navy’s cruisers, destroyers, Littoral Combat ships and submarines—will be stationed in the Asia-Pacific.
Panetta also made clear that the Pentagon intends to maintain its “technological edge” and ability to “rapidly project military power” through the development of “an advanced fifth-generation fighter, an enhanced Virginia-class submarine, new electronic warfare and communications capabilities and improved precision weapons.”
The US is also investing in “new refuelling tankers, a new bomber and advanced maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft” to boost the capacity of US forces “to operate over the Pacific’s vast distances.”
While Panetta denied that this vast expansion of US military forces in Asia was “some kind of challenge to China”, there is no other plausible explanation. The Pentagon’s own strategic documents, including its annual report on the Chinese military, all identify China as the US’s number one target.

In his speech, Panetta reviewed the strengthening of military ties over the past three years with virtually every Asian country—except China. Washington is surrounding China with US allies and strategically located military bases and sowing the seeds for world war.
In North East Asia, the US is refashioning its military forces with allies South Korea and Japan, and, in partnership with Japan, transforming Guam into “a strategic hub” in the Western Pacific. Washington has extended its basing arrangements with its ally, Australia, and is seeking to do the same with the Philippines and Vietnam, enhancing the ability of the US navy to block Chinese shipping of vital energy and raw materials through South East Asian waterways.
In South Asia, the Obama administration has strengthened its key strategic partnership with India, while seeking to undermine Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Burma and Nepal. A decade of neo-colonial occupation of Afghanistan has transformed that country, which borders China, into a key US base of operations in Central Asia.
US imperialism’s consolidation of a network of military alliances has a relentless logic of its own. It compels China to seek its own allies, heightens competition, rivalry and tensions throughout the region, and poses the danger that one of the many regional powder kegs can trigger a conflict that rapidly assumes global proportions.
There is no clearer expression of the irrationality of capitalism as an international social order than this: the world’s largest trade partnership, between the world’s two largest economies US and China, also threatens to become the world’s most dangerous military confrontation. The slide towards war is driven, not by the intentions of political leaders, but by the objective contradictions of the capitalist system: between world economy and the outmoded division of the globe into nation states, and between socialised production on a global scale and the private ownership of the means of production.
US imperialism depends on China as a vast source of cheap labour, yet China’s economic expansion threatens to challenge the imperialist world order that the US has dominated since the end of World War II. Over the past two decades, Washington has recklessly plunged into one war after another in the Middle East, the Balkans and Central Asia in a bid to offset its historic economic decline. Obama’s “pivot” to Asia has dramatically raised the stakes, by making clear that the US considers its main target to be a nuclear-armed power, China.
The working class in Asia, America and around the world confronts the danger of war amid a relentless assault on its living standards and social position. The capitalist classes have exploited the globalised character of production to depress living standards in both the advanced and developing countries. Since the eruption of the global financial crisis in 2008, these processes have accelerated markedly. Mass unemployment in Europe and the United States is being translated in China into falling demand for exports, a slowing economy and downward pressure on pay, conditions and jobs.
The international working class is the only social force on the face of the planet that can abolish the evils of war, mass unemployment and social misery. Chinese and American workers, along with their class brothers and sisters internationally, share a common class interest in abolishing the outmoded and anarchic capitalist system that serves the profit requirements of the wealthy few at the expense of the vast majority of humanity.
The working class is the bearer of new and higher productive relations—a planned socialist world economy. Under capitalism, globalised production only results in the never-ending drive for international competitiveness by rival capitalist nation-states, the relentless destruction of jobs and living standards in every country, and the drive to war. Placed under public ownership and the democratic control of the working class, the planned use of the same productive forces could provide a secure future and a decent standard of living for the whole of mankind.
That is the perspective of socialist internationalism for which the International Committee of the Fourth International and its sections in every country fight.
Peter Symonds

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US to shift bulk of Navy ships to Asia-Pacific

As tensions mount with China

By Patrick Martin 
4 June 2012
The United States will deploy the majority of its naval forces to the Asia-Pacific region over the next decade, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced Saturday in a speech to a security conference in Singapore. The move is part of a major shift in the global strategy of American imperialism that puts China at the top of the US target list.
The mobilization of warships will be accompanied by an increase in the number of military exercises conducted by the Pentagon in the region, involving air, sea and land forces. Most will be carried out in conjunctions with countries that are openly or tacitly allied with the US against China, including Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines.
In his speech to the conference, Panetta elaborated on the “pivot to Asia” announced by Obama last year, in which he indicated that the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and the beginning of a drawdown from Afghanistan would allow the US military to deploy far greater resources to the Far East.
“All of the U.S. military services are focused on implementing the president’s guidance to make the Asia-Pacific a top priority,” Panetta said, adding: “While the U.S. military will remain a global force for security and stability, we will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region.”
The current deployment of the US Navy is approximately a 50-50 split between the Atlantic and Pacific. This will change by 2020 to a 60-40 split in favor of the Pacific, Panetta said: “That will include six aircraft carriers in this region, a majority of our cruisers, destroyers, Littoral Combat Ships, and submarines.” He called these forces “the core of our commitment to this region.”
Panetta singled out for praise the agreement last fall with the Australian government for the deployment of US Marines in northern Australia, calling it “a critical component” of the US military buildup.
“This Marine Air-Ground Task Force will be capable of rapidly deploying across the Asia-Pacific region,” he said, thus confirming that it will be able to intervene at key choke points like the Strait of Malacca, vital to China’s export and import trade, particularly oil supplies from the Middle East and Africa.
The US is negotiating a similar agreement for stationing ground forces on a rotating basis in the Philippines, he said, and is pursuing such arrangements with other countries in the region, although he did not name them. In 2011 the US military conducted 172 military exercises in the Asia-Pacific region, and that number will increase considerably this year.
Panetta claimed that the US buildup was not directed against China, and even made the Orwellian claim that “increased US involvement in this region will benefit China as it advances our shared security and prosperity for the future.”
There is no mistaking the meaning of the measures he announced, however. More than half the US Navy is to be deployed to the Asia-Pacific. What other country could be the target?
North Korea has a handful of coastal vessels that are no threat to South Korea, let alone the United States. Nearly every other country in the region is either a formal US ally, like Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia, a client state like Taiwan and Singapore, or a prospective partner in military action against China, like India.
When Panetta declared, referring to US relations with China, “We in the United States are clear-eyed about the challenges,” all the conference participants, as well as Beijing, undoubtedly got the message.
If there were any doubts, Panetta closed his address with an invocation of the history of US wars in the region. “Over the course of history, the United States has fought wars, we have spilled blood, we have deployed our forces time and time again to defend our vital interests in the Asia-Pacific region,” he declared.
Panetta followed up his appearance in Singapore with a visit to two countries that have fought wars with China in the past 50 years—Vietnam (which fought a war with China in 1979) and India (in 1962). In Vietnam Sunday he spoke to US sailors on board a naval supply ship anchored at Cam Ranh Bay, which was the biggest US Navy base in Asia during the US war in Vietnam.
Besides the public posturing, Panetta had closed-door meetings on the sidelines of the Singapore conference with a series of defense ministers and other top officials from Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore. The defense ministers of Thailand and Cambodia invited Panetta to visit their countries.
Panetta held a trilateral meeting with South Korean National Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin and Japan Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister of Defense Shu Watanabe to discuss joint operations against North Korea.
The meeting follows a press report in the United States that US and South Korean special forces have conducted infiltrations operation into North Korea to gather intelligence on secret underground military facilities.
Army Brigadier General Neil Tolley, commander of US special forces in South Korea, told a conference in Florida that North Korea has dug thousands of tunnels in the 60 years since the end of the Korean War. “The entire tunnel infrastructure is hidden from our satellites,” Tolley said. “So we send ROK soldiers and US soldiers to the North to do special reconnaissance.”
While an aide to Tolley later claimed that he “misspoke,” the general’s remarks, as reported by the press, were unequivocal. According to The Hillweb site, “Tolley told attendees during a special operations industry conference in May that elite US troops have been dropped behind North Korean lines to pinpoint the specific locations of Pyongyang’s vast network of underground military bases. American commandos have identified hundreds of underground munitions facilities, along with thousands of subterranean artillery positions…”
The report gives a glimpse of the real posture of the United States military in the region, behind the usual diplomatic blather about peaceful intentions and defending the “free world.” US imperialism is the most powerful and aggressive military force on the planet.
Panetta’s bilateral meeting with Singapore Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen finalized the agreement for the stationing of four US littoral combat ships in the island state. These ships are designed to operate in near-shore environments, particularly against mines, submarines and small, light surface craft.
General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the ships would be rotated in and out of Singapore for six to ten months at a time. The sailors will live on board and not stationed or home-ported in Singapore. But the result is that at any one time, some 300 US navy personnel will be in Singapore, keeping watch over the adjacent Strait of Malacca. The ships will also move about the region, to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere in southeast Asia.
Following the Singapore conference, Dempsey traveled to the Philippines for meetings with President Benigno Aquino III and Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Philippine naval forces recently confronted Chinese vessels over access to the Scarborough Shoal, a small group of islets and reefs in the South China Sea.

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Washington’s Human Rights Hypocrisy And The Case of Chen Guangcheng

By Bill Van Auken
May 07, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — The saga of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng—his flight from house arrest in Shandong to the US Embassy in Beijing, his subsequent transfer to a hospital and the custody of Chinese authorities, followed by his plea for asylum in the US—has largely overshadowed this week’s annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing.

While the details of the controversy have proven both fluid and murky, it appears that after having promoted the cause of Chen and other dissidents as part of a “human rights” campaign aimed at pressuring the Chinese government, Washington viewed Chen’s sudden appearance during the meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese officials as an unwelcome distraction.

Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other US officials were in Beijing to negotiate trade, monetary and foreign policy concessions from China. Of particular interest to the US financial elite that they represent was a Chinese government decision to further open the country’s financial markets, allowing foreign companies to control 49 percent of domestic security firms, giving Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and others a bigger cut from the world’s second-largest share market.

With such profitable deals at stake, the State Department wanted the issue of Chen to disappear as quickly as possible and, according to some accounts, pressured Chen to leave the embassy.

Instead of fading away, however, the matter became entangled in domestic US politics, with the Republican presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney proclaiming the administration’s handling of Chen “a day of shame” for the US, and Chen himself phoning in to a US congressional hearing to the delight of Republican congressmen out to pillory the Democratic White House and embarrass Hillary Clinton.

Had the shoe been on the other foot, there is no question that Democrats would have done the same to a Republican administration, as both parties are experienced practitioners in human rights demagogy.

On Friday, it appeared that Washington and Beijing had managed to cobble together a face-saving agreement that would allow Chen to leave the country to study at a US university.

There is no reason to doubt Chen’s charges that he and his family have been subjected to abuse at the hands of Chinese authorities because of his speaking out against forced abortions and sterilizations of women under the country’s one-child policy. Such treatment would be entirely in keeping with the reactionary nature of the Chinese regime.

The question is, how did this become a matter of ostensibly paramount concern to the United States government? And what qualifies Washington to sit in judgment over human rights in China, or for that matter, anywhere else in the world?

First, in relation to China itself, US capitalism is a full partner in the oppression of Chinese working people, with American corporations depending upon the repressive apparatus of the Chinese government to quell worker militancy and maintain conditions of super-exploitation that have coined them huge profits.

While the American government selects one or another individual dissident to turn into an international cause célèbre, using his or her case as an instrument for pressuring China on the world stage, it has nothing but contempt for the basic rights of the hundreds of millions of Chinese working people, who are seen as merely a source of cheap labor.

Secondly, what are Washington’s credentials to be indicting other nations for human rights abuses? No other advanced country in the world has a record of human rights abuses remotely approaching those that exist in America.

The same week that the Chen affair dominated the news saw the following events in the US:

* A US appeals court threw out a case brought by Jose Padilla, an American citizen who was illegally detained by the military and tortured, holding that those responsible for his abusive treatment enjoyed full immunity.

* It was revealed that a 23-year-old San Diego college student, David Chong, picked up and never charged by agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency, was left in a holding cell for nearly five days without food or water, driven to attempt suicide and nearly dying of thirst.

* John Brennan, the president’s counter-terrorism advisor, gave a speech in Washington defending the US president’s “right” to target anyone, anywhere in the world for assassination by remote-controlled drones, calling it both “legal” and “ethical.”

* On April 30, New York City police officers, using dated warrants for minor violations as a pretext, forced their way into the homes of known activists in the Occupy Wall Street movement in the early morning hours to interrogate them about a demonstration planned the next day.

With 2.3 million people in its prisons, America incarcerates people at a rate that no other country on the planet even approaches. At any one time, over 80,000 prisoners are being held in solitary confinement, under conditions that the UN special rapporteur on torture described as “cruel and inhuman” and “indefensible.”

Among them is Bradley Manning, the US Army private, who is being tried by a military court for “aiding the enemy” for allegedly seeking to expose US war crimes by leaking documents to WikiLeaks. The UN rapporteur described Manning’s imprisonment for 11 months in solitary, before being tried or convicted of any crime, as “at a minimum cruel, inhuman and degrading,” adding that they “could constitute torture.”

The same government posturing as the guardian of human rights in China is responsible for these crimes. One can only imagine the reaction if Manning had managed to enter the Chinese embassy in Washington—not that they would have let him in—and sought asylum and a university fellowship in China.

The issue is not whether Chen Guangcheng and his family are deserving of sympathy, but rather what are the real motives of those in the US political establishment in making his treatment an international case.

As the Chen Guangcheng incident revealed, the human rights issue is entirely subordinate to US imperialist interests, to be turned on and off at will, with methods of abuse and repression denounced in those countries targeted as Washington’s adversaries—China, Iran, Syria, Cuba, while sanctioned and supported in those regarded as its client states—Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Uzbekistan, Honduras.

Used to justify wars for regime change, economic blockades and subversion of governments perceived to be rivals of or impediments to US imperialism, the human rights crusade is part racket, part provocation, reeking from head to toe with hypocrisy

This article was first published at the World Socialist Web Site

Copyright © 1998-2012 World Socialist Web Site – All rights reserved

Unresolved tensions dominate US-China talks

By John Chan 

4 May 2012
The fourth US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, beginning yesterday in Beijing, has underscored the fraught relations between the two countries over economic and geopolitical issues. The high-powered US team headed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is using the meeting to pressure the Chinese regime to make significant concessions.
The case of Chinese dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng threatens to overshadow the talks, despite efforts by both sides to defuse the issue. Chen, who is widely known for his exposure of forced abortions, fled from illegal house arrest in Shandong Province to the US embassy in Beijing last week. He was escorted from the embassy by American officials on Wednesday for medical treatment after a deal was apparently brokered to allow him and his family to move to a city of his choice to study law.
The arrangement quickly fell apart, however, after Chen declared that he feared for his safety and that of his family, and wanted to leave China. He is now calling for the Obama administration to grant him asylum in the US and to allow him to leave on Clinton’s plane.
To date, both sides have taken a relatively low key approach. As a face saving measure, the Chinese foreign ministry has demanded an apology from the US for “interference in Chinese domestic affairs” by taking Chen into the embassy. Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday called on Washington “to respect Chinese sovereignty, core interests and choice of social system”, but did not mention Chen by name.
Despite mounting criticisms from Republicans over its handling of Chen, the Obama administration has also played down the issue. Speaking in Beijing yesterday, Secretary of State Clinton touched on human rights, declaring that “no nation can or should deny those rights”, but did not refer to Chen.
Clinton has so far sought to defuse the Chen affair, in large part because Beijing had already signalled significant concessions to the US. The American corporate elite is poised to make further profitable inroads into the Chinese economy under the CCP’s new pro-reform agenda that will involve the opening up of the remaining heavily-protected state sectors, such as finance and energy, to foreign investment. Treasury Secretary Geithner expressed support for the “fundamental shift” in economic policy and compared it to the initial moves to capitalist restoration three decades ago.
Speaking to the press yesterday, Geithner outlined what Beijing needed to do: “China must rely more on domestic consumption rather than exports, and more on innovation by private companies rather than capacity expansion by state-owned enterprises, with an economy more open to competition from foreign firms, and with a more modern financial system.”
A World Bank joint report, “China 2030”, which Premier Wen Jiabao’s cabinet published in March, has already outlined an agenda of selling the state conglomerates and banks to Western capital and private Chinese enterprises. Wen is pushing for new international investment to counteract an economic slowdown produced by a decline in exports to the US, which the Chinese government fears could trigger rising unemployment and social unrest.
One item on the dialogue agenda is the prospect of US energy giants such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron tapping into China’s vast shale gas deposits, estimated to be twice as large as the American reserves. Chinese officials have also discussed with their American counterparts the possibility of raising the current 20 percent limit of foreign ownership of Chinese banks and financial services firms.
Geithner maintained the pressure on China over its currency, despite an 8 percent revaluation of the yuan over the past two years and the recent expansion in the yuan’s daily trading band from 0.5 percent to 1 percent. While welcoming the latest move, Geithner declared that China was far from meeting US requirements for reducing its “trade imbalance”.
In fact, US exports to China from 2000-2011 grew 500 percent, compared to a mere 1.4 percent with Japan in the same period. Chinese trade minister Chen Deming denied that the yuan was undervalued and pointed to China’s shrinking trade surplus, down to $5.3 billion in March compared to a monthly figure of at least $15 billion for most of 2011. A further currency revaluation would seriously affect struggling Chinese export industries that employ tens of millions of workers.
Beijing’s decision to open up key sectors to foreign investors is in part an attempt to ease US pressure on China on the strategic as well as the economic front. The Obama administration has mounted a concerted effort over the past two years to strengthen its military and diplomatic ties throughout Asia in order to undermine Chinese influence. On her way to China, Clinton held high level talks in the Philippines to boost military cooperation, at the same time Manila is engaged in a standoff with Beijing over disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Clinton maintained the pressure on China calling for cooperation on two key issues—North Korea and Iran. After criticising North Korea, a Chinese ally, over its recent rocket launch, she urged Beijing to work together with Washington “to make it clear to North Korea that strength and security will come from prioritising the needs of its people—not further provocation”. The US routinely exploits the “North Korean threat” to justify the continued large US military presence in Japan and South Korea and to press China for concessions.
Clinton also pushed China to take a tougher stance against Iran over its nuclear programs. The Obama administration wants Beijing’s backing for unilateral US sanctions against Iran’s banking and financial system that would effectively block Iranian oil exports. If China fails to fall into line by July, Washington could impose penalties on Chinese corporations, again raising tensions between the two countries. China has so far resisted US demands to wind back its oil imports from Iran.
Clinton did praise China for shifting ground to support a US-drafted UN Security Council resolution demanding that Sudan and South Sudan end recent hostilities or face sanctions. Beijing initially opposed the resolution, fearing that the US could exploit the resolution to intervene in Sudan where China has significant economic interests, including oil.
In her remarks to the press, Clinton declared: “In today’s world, no global player can afford to treat geopolitics as a zero-sum game.” Yet that is exactly how the Obama administration makes its calculations, maintaining its confrontational stance towards China even as it accepts whatever concessions that Beijing makes. This reckless US strategy to offset its economic decline at the expense of its rivals is the path towards conflict and war.

Chen Guangcheng, Guantanamo, hype and hypocrisy


Chen Guangcheng, Guantanamo, hype and hypocrisy. 47022.jpeg
The key words for the USA, its poodle states and the western media it controls are “dissident”, “Chinese”, “blind” and “lawyer”, the latter being an interesting choice for a nation which controls the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp which provides an example of human rights abuses, breach of every fibre of international law and common decency.
The western media machine is rolling out another story, this time composed by various flash words strung together, such as “Blind Chinese lawyer”, “Chinese dissident lawyer” or “Blind Chinese dissident” to create an image in the hearts and minds of the gullible readers and viewers who swallow everything they are fed in their daily dose of brainwashing and propaganda, informing them that there are dangerous “regimes” out there where “human rights” and abused but their own “governments” will provide protection. The “them” justifies the “us” through a cynical manipulation of fear.
And so now we find out that among the Bad Five in terms of execution of its own citizens is the United States of America along with friends Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Figures. Remember Abu Ghraib concentration camp anyone, where prisoners were tortured, where they were set upon by hounds, where their food was urinated in, where they were sodomised and where they were forced to commit deviant sexual acts by US guards who were, why, “just having fun”?
And here we have the US of A interfering in the internal affairs of the PR China when Guantanamo Bay concentration camp in Cuba, a US-run detention centre where people are held without any pretence of access to due legal process, stands out like a festering wound, an insult to international law and a shining example of human rights abuses.
This, after the wanton slaughter of hundreds of thousands of children in Iraq through inhumane blockades and subversive tactics – among these the burning of cereals fields – and after the lies and skulduggery leading up to the illegal invasion of Iraq, in which a sovereign state was attacked by the FUKUS-Axis (France, UK, US), in which the FUKUS military hardware was purposefully used against civilian structures, in which hundreds of thousands of civilians were murdered, in which citizens were snatched from their homes in acts of kidnapping, illegally detained, tortured and killed.
This, after Libya, the worst travesty of international justice, in which the UNO was yet again insulted and in which war crimes were committed by armed terrorists goaded on by their FUKUS paymasters.
So Washington and poodle states, you were saying? In fact, what moral right do you have to opine on anything whatsoever?
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey
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