[AUDIO] Exploring the limits of Chinese censorship

February 14th, 2011

In this edition of the China Talking Points podcast, Michael and Eric tackle the politically sensitive issue of China’s censorship policies in both the new and traditional media sectors. Just what the Chinese government wants its people to know surfaced again last week when the government banned the word ‘Egypt’ (埃及) from micro-blogging sites and restricted all coverage of the Egyptian uprising to be managed exclusively by the Xinhua news agency.

In a dramatic flashback to an earlier period of Chinese media management, on the very night that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down from office, the People’s Daily website was among the only major international news outlets that did not mention this monumental event. Instead, the People’s Daily had a front page story celebrated increased Chinese grain production.

The Chinese government’s decision to limit access to news about the instability in North Africa is entirely predictable, however it begs the question as to whether or not the ‘cure is worse than the illness?’ That is, by denying its people access to this information how much will it cripple China’s long term ability to engage a world it increasingly dominates? Already, there are startling large information gaps among many educated Chinese about their country’s international engagement. Continued censorship of these types of events will only worsen that ignorance.

Conversely, Michael argues, the Chinese have been extremely adept at managing their information policies and if/when it is necessary to release the pressure it can do so.

We also discuss the precise measures that the Chinese employ to censor the increasingly large volume of content flowing over the air and through the ether to inform, educate and entertain hundreds of millions of Chinese. Michael explains that it is a complex blend of those famous ‘red pens’ along with the most sophisticated computer monitoring equipment on the market.

[AUDIO] CTP Podcast – China’s Impact on Egypt’s Protests

February 10th, 2011

China’s rise impacts the economy and political conscience of most countries. The scenes of protest and discontent seen across the Arab world January of 2011 center on a disaffected youth’s desire for a better future – and a say in the crafting of that future.

In this podcast, we debate and discuss the impact of China’s economy on Egypt. We see ramifications of the “China Price” impinging on business interests and China’s wealth creating standing in juxtaposition to what this generation of Egyptians have experienced.

Join us as we sort through perceived and real influences.

China in Africa Podcast: China and the Egyptian Uprising by ChinaTalkingPoints

[AUDIO] CTP Podcast: China’s Military Power Projection

February 1st, 2011

In the wake of Secretary Gates’ trip, we thought it would be good to discuss factors to weigh when considering China’s ability to to project military power – now, and in the future.

Take a listen as we debate everything from territorial concerns to submarine range to leadership of UN combat missions. Are you ready for a China that assume the mantle of global leadership?

China Talking Points Podcast: China’s Military Power Projection by ChinaTalkingPoints

China & US Military Comparison

February 1st, 2011

The below is a great comparison…..  Regardless of your opinion, it is always good to have some facts (though I know some of these are guesstimates).  And, I know, this doesn’t take into account cyberwarfare capabilities or soft power efforts…..

Map of United States of America
United States of America
Map ofChina
Total Population 303,824,640 1,330,044,544
Military Manpower Available 144,354,117 729,323,673
Fit for Military Service 118,600,541 609,273,077
Reaching Military Age Yearly 4,266,128 20,470,412
Active Military Personnel 1,385,122 2,255,000
Active Military Reserves 1,458,500 800,000
Active Paramilitary 453,000 3,969,000
Total Air-Based Weapons 18,169 1,900
Total Land-Based Weapons 29,920 31,300
Total Naval Units 1,559 760
Towed Artillery Systems 5,178 14,000
Merchant Marine Strength 422 1,822
Major Ports and Terminals 10 8
Aircraft Carriers 11 1
Destroyers 50 21
Frigates 92 42
Submarines 75 68
Patrol Coastal Craft 100 368
Mine Warfare Craft 28 39
Amphibious Operations Craft 38 121
Defense Budget / Expenditure $515,400,000,000 $59,000,000,000
Foreign Reserves $70,570,000,000 $1,534,000,000,000
Purchasing Power $13,780,000,000,000 $7,099,000,000,000
Oil Production 7,460,000 bbl 3,725,000 bbl
Oil Consumption 20,800,000 bbl 6,930,000 bbl
Proven Oil Reserves 21,760,000,000 bbl 12,800,000,000 bbl
Total Labor Force 153,100,000 800,700,000
Roadway Coverage 6,465,799 km 1,930,544 km
Railway Coverage 226,612 km 75,438 km
Waterway Coverage 41,009 km 124,000 km
Coastline Coverage 19,924 km 14,500 km
Major Serviceable Airports 14,947 467
Square Land Area 9,826,630 km 9,596,960 km

China’s Military Spending

January 25th, 2011

A first scan of estimates across the web (i.e. Global Security; Stockholm IPRI) immediately tells you no one really knows the amount of spending in China except to say it is significant and opaque.  It’s rank is always second, but how much and what percent of GDP is unknown.

The website Visual Economics pulls together data from a couple of sources and at least provides a visual perspective by region which is more helpful than pure number estimates:


Of course, the reality is that China’s military spending is growing, but a lot of data gets thrown around about stealth fighters, aircraft carriers, and cyber warfare that doesn’t speak to an over-arching issue: when China’s economy is the same size of the US (see a good CS Monitor article) they will be able to match our budget despite a still much smaller per capita GDP figure).

Combined with what will be 3 to 5 trillion dollars in reserves, China will have, dare I say, quite a war chest.  So to my mind, the question to ask is not whether China will continue to modernize their military -they will and should.  The question for us to track in the news is insight into their strategic goals, and the key issue for our security is a lack of transparency.

Instead of worrying about China’s investment into its military might, we should worry more about how it plans to use it.

Stealthy Fighter or Stealth Sensationalism

January 5th, 2011

A small rant.

In an article in yesterday’s New York Times, potential testing of a new stealth fighter by the Chinese Military was featured over the Defense Secretary Gates’ visit to Beijing.  Later editions of the article changed the lead to highlight the visit first, but the bulk of the article was about the stealth fighter.

The overall story of Beijing’s military modernization program is certainly important, but I think more print should have been spilled on the high level exchanges – without which the risk of conflict increases.   There will always be more modern weapons in Beijing’s arsenal (and don’t forget we inspire this because our own weapons are so frequently on display).  The point is what is Beijing’s intentions, aspirations, strategies; this is what military exchange is all about.

On one point, the article did a good job of highlighting how ham-fisted the PRC continues to be over discussing it’s modernization efforts.  Transparency breeds trust and if Beijing wants us to believe in a peaceful rise, then we could use some more open dialogue.

[VIDEO] Economist Sanou Mbaye on the growth of Sino-African civil society ties

December 28th, 2010

Senegalese author and economist Sanou Mbaye recently appeared on African Business News (CNBC’s African affiliate network) to talk about the development of civil society relations among African, Chinese and Western intellectuals.  Mbaye was among a number of prominent contributors to the Pambazuka Press book “Chinese and African Perspectives on China in Africa.”.

While Mbaye is a very interesting guy with some valuable insights, it’s regrettable that ABN’s London-based anchor Carina Kamel is clearly not very well-informed on the Chinese in Africa story.  Her editorial shortcomings aside, it’s well worth viewing to learn more about Mbaye and the need to development closer civil society ties among Chinese and African stake holders.

[VIDEO] China faces new scrutiny in Africa (but this time it’s different)

December 28th, 2010

A small, yet highly energetic group of demonstrators marched through the streets of South Africa’s Umlazi Township earlier this month to protest against what they claim is Beijing’s inadequate support for the United Nations’ anti-AIDS/malaria/tuberculosis initiative known as the “Global Fund.” Organized by the internationally recognized HIV/AIDS organization AHF Ithembalabantu Clinic located along the Eastern Cape in KwaZulu-Natal, the demonstrators rallied against Beijing for not living up to its financial responsibilities in the battle against HIV/AIDS transmission in Africa.

The clinic’s central charge is that China itself has benefitted enormously from the assistance provided by the Global Fund with $941 million in grants since 2002 yet Beijing has only contributed a paltry $16 million to the fund during that same period. Moreover, they add, now that China is the world’s second largest economy and Africa’s dominant trading partner, it now has the resources to not only consume less of the Global Fund’s resources but also contribute more of its own financial assets to help the fund’s activities in Africa.

This rally went entirely unnoticed by the international media and no doubt didn’t even register among Chinese officials in Pretoria. However, everyone should take notice.  There is a growing popular perception, particularly among many in the developing world, that China is no longer a victim of the industrialized world as it now itself is among the ranks of the major powers. The AHF demonstrators clearly suggest that China is facing an entirely different set of expectations among Africans than it did in the 20th century and that Beijing now has a different level of responsibilities that  it must live up to if wants to be taken seriously as a global leader (an assumption, by the way, that still remains to be seen in Africa).

The accusations of Global Fund greed are now just the latest on a expanding list of criticisms of China’s engagement in Africa.  Allegations of widespread environmental destruction, labor rights violations and a general lack of transparency in its dealings with African governments are all contributing to a growing sense of unease among a number of prominent African observers.

China would be well-advised to take heed from the message conveyed by the women outside of the AHF clinic. If Beijing wants to continue to deepen its influence in the region, the government needs to proactively engage its critics.  Engagement does not necessarily imply that the activists’ allegations are just or even accurate, but they must be acknowledged.  If Chinese officials fall back on their natural instincts to hide behind the walls and resist dialogue with their various African constituencies, then the frustrations expressed in KwaZulu-Natal will no doubt spread.

[VIDEO] Chinese students in France not making the grade

December 21st, 2010

In the United States, overseas Chinese students have a well-deserved reputation for ‘blowing the curve.’  That is, often Chinese students are among the top in the class and, thus, make it difficult for other students to compete academically.  In France, there is an entirely different concern, one that blows away this narrative of overseas Chinese students being such academic powerhouses.  Instead, the fear is that the quality of Chinese university students is so low that it’s potentially weighing down the higher education system.

In this France 2 report (re-broadcast on France 24), French education officials contend that they are attracting only those Chinese students who were unsuccessful in entering the Chinese university system and have chosen to come to France as some sort of back-up choice.  The fact that many of these foreign students do not speak French very well and may be struggling to adapt to France’s notoriously rigid educational system are also of concern.

[VIDEO] The Chinese in Africa: Profile of Yu Yuan

December 19th, 2010

Vimeo user Yara Costa produced a very interesting short video that profiles Ghanian-based Chinese technology entrepreneur Yu Yuan.  This is an especially compelling video as it highlights a number of key themes related to the emergence of a large Chinese business class on the continent.  Specifically, it dispels the common misperception that the Chinese operating businesses across Africa are part of large multinationals when in fact there is a surge of small businesses that are having a tremendous impact on the local communities they operate within. Read the rest of this entry »