S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

China -- not so very far away.

U.S. - China foreign relations are extremely important. They are an ancient and respected civilization and we have come a ways since the days of Mao. The Chinese are now one of our biggest trading parters. They are financing a significant portion of our debt, and they are part of the international economic system, affected by the current economic crisis just as we are.

And, ironically, tobacco is in the news on both sides of the globe. Under new law the U.S. tobacco industry is about to come under the regulatory supervision of the Food and Drug Administration. And China is interested in its tobacco industry as a revenue source. China has raised its tobacco tax to more than 56 percent from the previous 45 percent rate, according to China Daily (6/20/09). An advalorem tax of 5 percent was also added for the first time. To quote:

Li Ling, Peking University professor said: "Increasing consumption tax of tobacco can not only help government increase income, but also save millions of lives."

China has the world's largest population of smokers. About 350 million of the country's 1.3 billion citizens are smokers in 2008, and about one million die of tobacco-related diseases each year.

Chinese citizens are making small gains as Internet activists, a New York Times (6/16/09) story reveals. The "story of the 21-year-old waitress who fatally stabbed a Communist Party official as he tried to force himself on her" somehow got into the Chinese online news and led to her exoneration from a manslaughter charge due to self defense. The young woman's case spawned over 4 million posts, what officials term an "online mass incident." To quote:

[It] erupted into an online furor that turned her into a national hero and reverberated all the way to China’s capital, where censors ordered incendiary comments banned. Local Hubei officials even restricted television coverage and tried to block travel to the small town where the assault occurred.

. . . The case of Ms. Deng is only the most recent and prominent of several cases in which the Internet has cracked open a channel for citizens to voice mass displeasure with official conduct, demonstrating its potential as a catalyst for social change.

. . . China still exerts sweeping and sophisticated control over the Internet, employing thousands of people to monitor Internet traffic for forbidden material and using software to spot key words that hint at subversion. But the system is not infallible, and Internet users frequently find ways to skirt the censors.

A very different view of Chinese bloggers' motivations is found in this Asia Times piece by Alice Liu: "Flaws in China's digital dissidents," (6/19/09). To quote her opening graph:

Despite having a reputation in the West as trailblazing citizen journalists, many of China's young bloggers are seen by Chinese as egocentric, showy and self-serving. Most come from the "me generation", a derisive term for youths born after the nation began its strictly enforced one-child policy in 1979.

China Daily News (6/11/09) is reporting that "Beijing is headed for a garbage crisis." The story revealed that in 4 or 5 years all of the city's 13 landfill plants will be full. Incineration and power plants fueled by garbage, present significant environmental pollution problems. To quote:

Beijing currently generates 18,000 tons of trash every day and the designed capacity of all garbage disposal plants is 11,000 tons, Guo said, adding all the plants were already overloaded.

The volume of the city's trash is growing by 8 percent annually and the total amount of garbage produced will reach nearly 12 million tons by 2015, figures show. So far, two of the 13 plants have already met their maximum capacity and will soon stop operations.

. . . Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the ban on free distribution of plastic bags imposed last June has reduced polythene waste by at least 65 percent.

Wang Xiaojun, director of the environmental group Greenpeace China, said: "We must reduce, reuse and recycle if we're serious about minimizing pollution."

Earlier China declared that North Korea, "Pyongyang just wants attention," from the U.S. and is not on the brink of war The Asia Times (6/10/09) reported. And they are getting it. Under a new U.N. sanctions regime, a U.S. navel ship is currently following a North Korean ship suspected of carrying illicit weapons.

Paul Volker, chairman of the US Economic Recovery Board, was in Beijing, China recently for a June 10 meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan. China Daily News reports that they discussed the increasing economic interdependence of the two nations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited China in May, as well as Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, "seeking cooperation with China in fields such as climate change and combating financial crisis."

The China National People's Congress (NPC) and the U.S. House of Representatives held a parliamentary exchange meeting in Washington, D.C. on June 9, The Asia Times tells us. It is an in-depth exchange "on bilateral ties, inter-parliamentary exchanges, global financial crisis, climate change and international and regional issues of mutual concern." The U.S. side was invited to visit China in the fall for the 11th meeting in the exchange program.

It is interesting how much the current news coming out of both countries has in common. Smoking is a problem wherever nicotine is present as an addicting agent. The Internet is ubiquitous and the perfect vehicle for citizen action or mere personal expression. Both our nations are drowning in garbage. We are deeply economically interdependent. We have different systems of governance that have enough in common, however, for our "Peoples Houses" to have met in cultural exchanges now for the past ten years. That is good news. There will be more to follow here at S/SW in occasional Saturday posts on the news of other nations.

[Post date - June 20, 2009]

My all-in-one Home Page of websites where I post regularly: Carol Gee - Online Universe

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