Sunday, October 31, 2010

‘Rebalancing’ China

China’s artificially cheap exports are flooding foreign markets, undercutting industries, threatening the global recovery, and angering many. Beijing has resisted demands to allow its currency to rise against the dollar.

A new proposal could offer a way out. The Obama administration, which has been trying to rally pressure on Beijing, is calling on the world’s largest economies to agree to a target for the size of their trade imbalances.

At a meeting of finance ministers of the Group of 20 leading economies, the United States proposed that deficits or surpluses in a country’s current account — the trade balance and some financial transactions — should be brought under 4 percent of G.D.P., by 2015.
This country’s current account deficit amounts to 3 percent of its G.D.P. Still, a 4 percent target could help reduce the world’s largest imbalances. China’s surplus is 5 percent of its G.D.P.; Germany’s surplus is 6 percent.

These huge surpluses mean exports from China and Germany are hogging demand in other countries. As consumer spending falters in deficit countries, including the United States, surplus countries must start buying more of their own, and others’, products.

Some countries balked at the number. The group agreed in principle, and China has signed on so far.

Focusing on its surplus wouldn’t mean that China’s currency manipulation was off the hook. To meet the target, it would have to let the renminbi rise to increase its imports and temper export growth.

But the new goal acknowledges that China also has other tools to increase spending at home, improve the lives of its people, and reduce external imbalances. It could raise wages and deploy some of its mountain of reserves to pay for long-neglected social spending on health care, education and pensions.

A declining Chinese surplus will not close the American current account deficit.

That mainly requires Americans to save more of their income. The change would increase China’s demand for imports from America and others. Countries that have cheapened their own currency to protect themselves from China could let their currencies rise and draw more American imports too.

Putting targets on deficits and surpluses might put some nations in a straitjacket. And there is no enforcement mechanism. Still, reframing the problem this way might bring China around. It allows Beijing to claim it is not caving to Washington — and pitch policy changes as a much-needed effort to spend more money, where it belongs, at home.
International Herald Tribune

‘Rebalancing’ China

China’s artificially cheap exports are flooding foreign markets, undercutting industries, threatening the global recovery, and angering many. Beijing has resisted demands to allow its currency to rise against the dollar.

A new proposal could offer a way out. The Obama administration, which has been trying to rally pressure on Beijing, is calling on the world’s largest economies to agree to a target for the size of their trade imbalances.

At a meeting of finance ministers of the Group of 20 leading economies, the United States proposed that deficits or surpluses in a country’s current account — the trade balance and some financial transactions — should be brought under 4 percent of G.D.P., by 2015.
This country’s current account deficit amounts to 3 percent of its G.D.P. Still, a 4 percent target could help reduce the world’s largest imbalances. China’s surplus is 5 percent of its G.D.P.; Germany’s surplus is 6 percent.

These huge surpluses mean exports from China and Germany are hogging demand in other countries. As consumer spending falters in deficit countries, including the United States, surplus countries must start buying more of their own, and others’, products.

Some countries balked at the number. The group agreed in principle, and China has signed on so far.

Focusing on its surplus wouldn’t mean that China’s currency manipulation was off the hook. To meet the target, it would have to let the renminbi rise to increase its imports and temper export growth.

But the new goal acknowledges that China also has other tools to increase spending at home, improve the lives of its people, and reduce external imbalances. It could raise wages and deploy some of its mountain of reserves to pay for long-neglected social spending on health care, education and pensions.

A declining Chinese surplus will not close the American current account deficit.

That mainly requires Americans to save more of their income. The change would increase China’s demand for imports from America and others. Countries that have cheapened their own currency to protect themselves from China could let their currencies rise and draw more American imports too.

Putting targets on deficits and surpluses might put some nations in a straitjacket. And there is no enforcement mechanism. Still, reframing the problem this way might bring China around. It allows Beijing to claim it is not caving to Washington — and pitch policy changes as a much-needed effort to spend more money, where it belongs, at home.
International Herald Tribune

Thailand’s SOUTH CRISIS OIC to take up issue of militancy in South

56-country organisation has meetings with Patani Malay separatist groups
The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) is poised to delve into the issue of insurgency in Thailand's Muslim-majority South to look for a political solution to the ongoing conflict that has claimed more than 4,200 lives since January 2004.

According to diplomatic sources and leaders of the long-standing Patani Malay separatist groups, the OIC had organised simultaneous meetings with these exiled leaders in Kuala Lumpur and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on September 30-October 1.

OIC secretary-general Prof Dr Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu chaired the meeting in Jeddah, while Talal A Daous, the organisation's director for the Muslim Minorities and Communities group, chaired the gathering in Kuala Lumpur.


Participants of the recent gathering at the two cities included two factions of the Patani United Liberation Organisations (PULO), Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), Barisan Islam Pembangunan Pattani (BIPP) and others senior leaders from the exiled community.

The leaders were urged to combine their efforts to form a political front, while the OIC vowed to help facilitate a dialogue process with the Thai government. The Malaysian government helped facilitate the meeting in Kuala Lumpur and it was understood that Malaysia would work closely with the OIC on this initiative.

According to one diplomat, the OIC urged these longstanding separatist groups to combine efforts and form the United Patani People Council (UPPC). Once the front was created, the Patani People Congress (PCC) would be in the pipeline. The idea behind the PCC is to obtain some sort of mandate from the Muslims of Patani, a Malay historical homeland that came under Bangkok's direct rule just over a century ago when the vassal state was annexed by Siam.

A participant at the meetings quoted OIC officials as having said their organisation was the "most suitable" to take up the initiative, citing religious affiliation and a long history of interest in the conflict in Thailand's deep South.
The move by the 56-member OIC was welcomed by the exiled Patani Malay leaders and it was the most concrete action yet. However, almost all interviewed by The Nation cautioned against any great expectation, saying similar initiatives by the OIC as well as other so-called peace processes in the recent past have failed to take off or translate into formal peace.

"The OIC has expressed interest in seeing peace in Patani but the most they have done was issue statements criticising the treatment of Malay Muslims by the Thai state," said one exiled leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One Pulo source said his faction was taking a "wait and see" approach, saying it was "too early to make any conclusion as to how this initiative will evolve".

Another Pulo leader from a different faction said for any initiative to gain real traction, it would be up to "the Thais themselves as to whom they thought suitable to be a mediator or facilitator".
The Nation, Bangkok

Europe’s Plagues Came from China, Study Finds

The great waves of plague that twice devastated Europe and changed the course of history had their origins in China, a team of medical geneticists reported Sunday, as did a third plague outbreak that struck less harmfully in the 19th century.

And in separate research, a team of biologists reported conclusively this month that the causative agent of the most deadly plague, the Black Death, was the bacterium known as Yersinia pestis. This agent had always been the favored cause, but a vigorous minority of biologists and historians have argued the Black Death differed from modern cases of plague studied in India, and therefore must have had a different cause.

The Black Death began in Europe in 1347 and carried off an estimated 30 percent or more of the population of Europe. For centuries the epidemic continued to strike every 10 years or so, its last major outbreak being the Great Plague of London from 1665 to 1666. The disease is spread by rats and transmitted to people by fleas or, in some cases, directly by breathing.

One team of biologists, led by Barbara Bramanti of the Institut Pasteur in Paris and Stephanie Haensch of Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany, analyzed ancient DNA and proteins from plague pits, the mass burial grounds across Europe in which the dead were interred. Writing in the journal PLoS Pathogens this month, they say their findings put beyond doubt that the Black Death was brought about by Yersinia pestis.

Dr. Bramanti’s team was able to distinguish two strains of the Black Death plague bacterium, which differ both from each other and from the three principal strains in the world today. They infer that medieval Europe must have been invaded by two different sources of Yersinia pestis. One strain reached the port of Marseilles on France’s southern coast in 1347, spread rapidly across France and by 1349 had reached Hereford, a busy English market town and pilgrimage center near the Welsh border.

The strain of bacterium analyzed from the bones and teeth of a Hereford plague pit dug in 1349 is identical to that from a plague pit of 1348 in southern France, suggesting a direct route of travel. But a plague pit in the Dutch town of Bergen op Zoom has bacteria of a different strain, which the researchers infer arrived from Norway.

The Black Death is the middle of three great waves of plague that have hit in historical times. The first appeared in the 6th century during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, reaching his capital, Constantinople, on grain ships from Egypt. The Justinian plague, as historians call it, is thought to have killed perhaps half the population of Europe and to have eased the Arab takeover of Byzantine provinces in the Near East and Africa.

The third great wave of plague began in China’s Yunnan province in 1894, emerged in Hong Kong and then spread via shipping routes throughout the world. It reached the United States through a plague ship from Hong Kong that docked at Hawaii, where plague broke out in December 1899, and then San Francisco, whose plague epidemic began in March 1900.

The three plague waves have now been tied together in common family tree by a team of medical geneticists led by Mark Achtman of University College Cork in Ireland. By looking at genetic variations in living strains of Yersinia pestis, Dr. Achtman’s team has reconstructed a family tree of the bacterium. By counting the number of genetic changes, which clock up at a generally steady rate, they have dated the branch points of the tree, which enables the major branches to be correlated with historical events.

In the issue of Nature Genetics published online Sunday, they conclude that all three of the great waves of plague originated from China, where the root of their tree is situated. Plague would have reached Europe across the Silk Road, they say. An epidemic of plague that reached East Africa was probably spread by the voyages of the Chinese admiral Zheng He who led a fleet of 300 ships to Africa in 1409.
“What’s exciting is that we are able to reconstruct the historical routes of bacterial disease over centuries,” Dr. Achtman said.

Lester K. Little, an expert on the Justinian plague at Smith College, said in an interview from Bergamo, Italy, that the epidemic was first reported by the Byzantine historian Procopius in 541 A.D. from the ancient port of Pelusium, near Suez in Egypt. Historians had assumed it arrived there from the Red Sea or Africa, but the Chinese origin now suggested by the geneticists is possible, Dr. Little said.

The geneticists’ work is “immensely impressive,” Dr. Little said, and adds a third leg to the studies of plague by historians and by archaeologists.

The likely origin of the plague in China has nothing to do with its people or crowded cities, Dr. Achtman said. The bacterium has no interest in people, whom it slaughters by accident. Its natural hosts are various species of rodent such as marmots and voles, which are found throughout China.
New York Times

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Silence on Burmese election's credibility gap bodes ill for Asean

It was interesting to see how Asean leaders would react to meeting just 10 days before the planned election in Burma on November 7. There were three different views expressed at the 17th Asean summit.

he biggest support for Burma came from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. He was the only leader who hailed the upcoming poll, which has been condemned as a sham election by most of the international community. During the dinner meeting on Thursday, Hun Sen applauded Burma for holding an election even though the country continues to face crisis and problems related to minorities. He even mentioned that if Cambodia had been faced with a similar political crisis, an election would not be an option. With UN assistance, Cambodia held its first national election in July 1993.

At the other end of the scale, the Philippine's President Beningo Aquino III and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa emerged as the two most critical voices of the Burmese election. Aquino was the only leader to make it clear, in his maiden meeting with Asean leaders, that dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi must be freed along with other political prisoners, whose number is estimated at 2,000. It was a powerful statement coming from the young president at this crucial moment when other Asean leaders seem to suffering "compassion fatigue".

With Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yodhoyono's absence from the summit, Marty has assumed centre stage in commenting on the situation in Burma. At the dinner, Vice President Boediono, who sat in for the Indonesian president, was silent on Burma. Therefore, Marty's comments received wide media coverage. He reiterated two important points concerning the November 7 election and its aftermath.

He said that there is a creditability deficit in the Burma's poll and called for action on Burma. Looking beyond the election, he said ways must be found to promote national dialogue and national reconciliation programmes. This so-called election-plus policy represents Jakarta's approach to Burma as it prepares to assume the Asean chairmanship in January. Indonesia has to convince its partner countries next year that this path should be adopted as Asean policy.

Burma's creditability deficit could be linked to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's intervention. He urged Burma to work together with Asean to bridge the gap of expectations within the international community. Abhisit has been very cautious in taking the middle path in his comments on Burma, knowing full well that Thailand does not have the luxury of distance from a country with which it shares 2004 kilometres of porous border and the fallout of its numerous problems. In talks after his arrival here on Thursday, Abhisit pointed out to Aquino that Thailand has over three million migrant workers, and in some areas, the majority of labour comes from Burma.

Both Thailand and Indonesia are on the same page in looking beyond the election at what Asean should do to promote national dialogue and the process of national reconciliation. They are also interested in helping Burma to further integrate with the Asean and the world community. The two countries have much at stake in seeing stability in Burma - one as the next Asean chair, and the other as a neighbour country.

That explains why Asean is attempting at the 11th hour to increase its own creditability by offering to send an Asean team of poll observers to Burma. The regime's non-compliance with Asean norms and the scheduled sham election have already tarnished the grouping's good standing in the world. Some Asean countries believe that Burma might eventually agree to the latest offer because its Election Commission has said it would allow UN agencies and foreign missions to visit a polling station. Asean missions in Burma would coordinate this visit and report back to the Asean Secretariat.

But Asean wants to include its chief, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, as part of the delegation of poll observers along with Asean diplomats residing inside Burma. He will report directly to the Asean leaders.

As of press time, Burma has not responded to this latest offer from Asean. Judging from lack of comment on Burma from most Asean leaders in Hanoi, it seems obvious that the November 7 election will be a fait accompli. The best indicator is that Asean leaders failed to apply pressure or follow up on their foreign ministers' demand for an Asean team of poll observers.
The Nation, Bangkok

China’s Fast Rise Leads Neighbors to Join Forces

China’s military expansion and assertive trade policies have set off jitters across Asia, prompting many of its neighbors to rekindle old alliances and cultivate new ones to better defend their interests against the rising superpower.

A whirl of deal-making and diplomacy, from Tokyo to New Delhi, is giving the United States an opportunity to reassert itself in a region where its eclipse by China has been viewed as inevitable.

Obama’s trip to the region this week, his most extensive as president, will take him to the area’s big democracies, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, skirting authoritarian China. Those countries and other neighbors have taken steps, though with varying degrees of candor, to blunt China’s assertiveness in the region.

Mr. Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India are expected to sign a landmark deal for American military transport aircraft and are discussing the possible sale of jet fighters, which would escalate the Pentagon’s defense partnership with India to new heights. Japan and India are courting Southeast Asian nations with trade agreements and talk of a “circle of democracy.” Vietnam has a rapidly warming rapport with its old foe, the United States, in large part because its old friend, China, makes broad territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The deals and alliances are not intended to contain China. But they suggest a palpable shift in the diplomatic landscape, on vivid display as leaders from 18 countries gathered this weekend under the wavelike roof of Hanoi’s futuristic convention center, not far from Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, for a meeting suffused by tensions between China and its neighbors.

China’s escalating feud with Japan over another set of islands, in the East China Sea, stole the meeting’s headlines on Saturday, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed three-way negotiations to resolve the issue.
“It is in all of our interest for China and Japan to have stable, peaceful relations,” she said.

Most Asian countries, even as they argue that China will inevitably replace the United States as the top regional power, have grown concerned at how quickly that shift is occurring, and what China the superpower may look like.

China’s big trading partners are complaining more loudly that it intervenes too aggressively to keep its currency undervalued. Its recent restrictions on exports of crucial rare earths minerals, first to Japan and then to the United States and Europe, raised the prospect that it may use its dominant positions in some industries as a diplomatic and political weapon.

And its rapid naval expansion, combined with a more strident defense of its claims to disputed territories far off its shores, has persuaded Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Singapore to reaffirm their enthusiasm for the American security umbrella.

“The most common thing that Asian leaders have said to me in my travels over this last 20 months is, ‘Thank you, we’re so glad that you’re playing an active role in Asia again,’ ” Mrs. Clinton said in Hawaii, opening a seven-country tour of Asia that included a last-minute stop in China.

Few of China’s neighbors voice their concerns about the country publicly, but analysts and diplomats say they express wariness about the pace of China’s military expansion and the severity of its trade policies in private.

“Most of these countries have come to us and said, ‘We’re really worried about China,’ ” said Kenneth G. Lieberthal, a China adviser to Bill Clinton who is now at the Brookings Institution.

The Obama administration has been quick to capitalize on China’s missteps. Where officials used to speak of China as the Asian economic giant, they now speak of India and China as twin giants. And they make clear which one they believe has a closer affinity to the United States.

“India and the United States have never mattered more to each other,” Mrs. Clinton said. “As the world’s two largest democracies, we are united by common interests and common values.”

As Mr. Obama prepares to visit India in his first stop on his tour of Asian democracies, Mr. Singh, India’s prime minister, will have just returned from his own grand tour — with both of them somewhat conspicuously, if at least partly coincidentally, circling China.

None of this seems likely to lead to a cold war-style standoff. China is fully integrated into the global economy, and all of its neighbors are eager to deepen their ties with it. China has fought no wars since a border skirmish with Vietnam three decades ago, and it often emphasizes that it has no intention of projecting power through the use of force.

At the same time, fears that China has become more assertive as it has grown richer are having real consequences.

India is promoting itself throughout the region as a counterweight to China; Japan is settling a dispute with the United States over a Marine air base; the Vietnamese are negotiating a deal to obtain civilian nuclear technology from the United States; and the Americans, who had largely ignored the rest of Asia as they waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, see an opportunity to come back in a big way.

In July, for example, Mrs. Clinton reassured Vietnam and the Philippines by announcing that the United States would be willing to help resolve disputes between China and its neighbors over a string of strategically important islands in the South China Sea.

China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, reacted furiously, accusing the United States of plotting against it, according to people briefed on the meeting. Mr. Yang went on to note that China was a big country, staring pointedly at the foreign minister of tiny Singapore.

Undaunted, Mrs. Clinton not only repeated the American pledge on the South China Sea in Hanoi on Saturday, but expanded it to include the dispute with Japan.

China’s rise as an authoritarian power has also revived a sense that democracies should stick together. K. Subrahmanyam, an influential strategic analyst in India, noted that half the world’s people now live in democracies and that of the world’s six biggest powers, only China has not accepted democracy.

“Today the problem is a rising China that is not democratic and is challenging for the No. 1 position in the world,” he said.

Indeed, how to deal with China seems to be an abiding preoccupation of Asia’s leaders. In Japan, Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Mr. Singh discussed China’s booming economy, military expansion and increased territorial assertiveness.

“Prime Minister Kan was keen to understand how India engages China,” India’s foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, told reporters. “Our prime minister said it requires developing trust, close engagement and a lot of patience.”

Japan has just weathered a fierce war of words with China over its detention of a Chinese captain whose vessel collided with two Japanese patrol boats near disputed islands. India has watched nervously as China has started building ports in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, extending rail lines toward the border of Nepal, and otherwise seeking to expand its footprint in South Asia.

India’s Defense Ministry has sought military contacts with a host of Asian nations while steadily expanding contacts and weapons procurements from the United States.

The United States, American officials said, has conducted more exercises in recent years with India than with any other nation. Mr. Singh’s trip was part of his “Look East” policy, intended to broaden trade between India and the rest of Asia. He has said it was not related to any frictions with China, but China is concerned. On Thursday, People’s Daily, the Communist Party newspaper, ran an opinion article asking, “Does India’s ‘Look East’ Policy Mean ‘Look to Encircle China’?”

That wary view may well reflect China’s reaction to the panoply of developments among its neighbors.

“The Chinese perceived the Hanoi meeting as a gang attack on them,” said Charles Freeman, director of China policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There’s no question that they have miscalculated their own standing in the region.” International Herald Tribune

Rare earth elements. China controls 95 percent of the rare earth’s supply.

Most people don’t know or care what REEs are. They are very important.

They are elements used in manufacturing some of the parts that make some of the most common place things we have in our Westernized civilization work. They are also used in the most sophisticated equipment. TV sets, mobile phones, satellites, defense materiel, medical equipment. As the STRATFOR report says, practically everyone on our planet is affected by China’s halt or slowdown of its export of REEs to the rest of the world.

We decided to run a special report today on this subject not just because it is causing, or adding to, the tension between two of our closest partners—China and Japan. But also because its prohibitiveness could change mankind for the better.

China controls 95 percent of the rare earth’s supply.With this control China can, in the short term, cause havoc on the industrial and high-technology production of the richest countries in our planet.It was thanks to China’s making REEs available relatively cheap and in huge quantities to the industrial countries that developments in TV technology, satellites (and therefore cable TV), car production, automotive fuel refining and many other applications became possible.It was China’s making REEs readily available that even relatively poor countries, like ours, became the world’s texting capital!

STRATFOR points out that Beijing’s halt of exports by imposing quotas and decision to reduce REE production were forced by practical and urgent concerns—not quite the desire to show China’s power.

It just dawned on China’s leaders that REE was not earning money, although it was employing lots of Chinese, and worse causing a lot of pollution and other environmental damage.Also, the global ecology protection laws and rules are making REE mining and production more and more expensive. So China would have to price its REE exports higher.

The result of this is that at least for a decade—which is how long it will take for other sources than China to be operational—the reduced supply may make some of the less important and more deleterious products to be forgotten.

We hope it will result in the mindlessly consumeristic habits to die and the birth of the more thoughtful and truly human mentality in most of mankind. Manila Times

Friday, October 29, 2010

Trademark Suit Singapore’s Latest Weapon in Arsenal Against Dissent

Should Australia permit the sale of the ASX to Singapore?

The government of Singapore has revealed its new weapon against political opponents: trademark infringement lawsuits. Singapore is synonymous with “soft authoritarianism,” a system where dissent is quashed mainly by co-option, self-censorship, gerrymandering and the strategic filing of civil lawsuits against opposition politicians. While the Singaporean regime is not above imprisoning its critics, authorities prefer to use courtroom procedures that appear superficially to be content-neutral applications of typical laws. The island nation’s activists can expect to be sued for defamation or campaign violations, to have financially debilitating court judgments entered against them and to be barred from running for Parliament after they are forced into bankruptcy.

Now the country’s long-time rulers, the leaders of the People’s Action Party, are attempting to use trademark infringement claims to identify anonymous critics and to squelch oppositional speech. Despite the fact that the government keeps a tight leash on the mainstream media, it appears to be the first time the island republic has gone after an Internet publication.

The Temasek Review is a formidable operation. In 2009, one or more unidentified anti-PAP dissidents began publishing news, analysis and opinion on the Web site. The site’s domain name was registered by proxy, and the site indicates it operates through a business entity in Panama, far outside the jurisdiction of the Singaporean courts (in which government-backed lawsuits against political opponents have been consistently successful).

On Oct. 9, a state-aligned tabloid, The New Paper, reported that the site’s founder was Singaporean physician Joseph Ong Chor Teck. Six days later, Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s principal sovereign wealth fund, served a cease-and-desist letter on Ong.

“The purpose of this letter is to request, if you are the founder of the Web site, that the Web site stops using the good name of Temasek Review and that its name be changed,” the letter stated. The fund explained it had used the name Temasek Review since 2004 as the title of its annual report and that the Web site was “capitalizing on the good will and reputation” of the name in a manner that was “misleading and irresponsible.”

Ong, for his part, has said he was not currently involved in the site’s ownership or management, but the government-linked Temasek Holdings maintains that he is in touch with the site’s personnel and can communicate the fund’s demands to them. In response to the well-publicized letter, the independent Web site temporarily changed its title to New Temasek Review, transferred its domain name to an unidentified non-Singaporean and now appears to be publishing as normal under its original title.

There is little question that Temasek Holdings is speaking on behalf of the government. Although the fund prefers to present itself as an independent profit-seeking enterprise, Temasek is recognized as a “government company” by the Singaporean Constitution, and it is owned by the Ministry of Finance. Moreover, personnel is policy, and Tamesek is near the heart of the regime. Temasek’s chief executive is Ho Ching, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the daughter-in-law of the island’s paramount leader, Lee Kuan Yew.

Although Temasek has not yet filed a lawsuit, the cease-and-desist letter indicates that a trademark infringement action is contemplated — as do certain other maneuvers by the company. And as dissidents and international press organizations have discovered, Singapore has a long history of following through with its threats of lawsuits.

A plaintiff preparing for an infringement action will often apply for registration of the disputed mark (or a similar one) in the specific fields of commerce in which the defendant is operating. Thus, it is probably not a coincidence that in November 2009 — after the Temasek Review started publication and obtained its current domain name — Temasek filed an application in the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore to register the mark Temasek Review in the fields of printed and electronic publications.

In addition, Temasek filed applications in May 2010 to register the similar mark The Temasek Report in Singapore, the European Union and the United States in the same fields of commerce. These filings certainly give the appearance of a litigant preparing its case.

That said, formal registration of a trademark is not necessary for a mark holder to prevail in court. Trademark rights accrue through use — specifically, through the public’s identification of a mark with a good or service’s source of origin — so, in common-law countries like Singapore, an unregistered mark can be protected.

Under Singaporean law — and it would be unprecedented for the government to file a lawsuit against a political opponent anywhere other than Singapore’s own courts — an unregistered mark can be protected if the good or service has an established reputation among the Singaporean public, if the defendant has made a misstatement which will confuse the public as to the source of the product, and if the plaintiff has been damaged. The fund’s cease-and-desist letters attempt to demonstrate these criteria.

In a courtroom which provided a level playing field, there would be several obvious weaknesses in Temasek’s case. Most importantly, there does not appear to be any evidence that members of the public are likely to confuse the once-a-year report of an investment firm with a continuously updated online publication that analyzes swaths of Singaporean life and politics. A “likelihood of confusion,” to use the American phrasing, is necessary to impose a judgment of trademark infringement, and it’s difficult to discern one in this situation.

The word Temasek — which, according to custom, is Old Javanese for “sea town” — is an early place name for Singapore, and geographic marks can be particularly difficult to monopolize. Courts can issue injunctions or refuse registrations if the use of a place name is misleading, but there doesn’t seem to be anything deceptive about a publication named Temasek Review which literally reviews the government and society of the island previously called Temasek.

The unmistakable trajectory of Temasek’s argument is that only the Singaporean government or one of its sub-units would be able to use the word in the title of a publication. Taken to that extent, the Singaporean government’s claimed intellectual property rights would be a cover for censorship and the bullying of competing voices out of the media marketplace.

The regime has other legal arguments it could make. It could claim that the Temasek Review mark is so famous that — like the marks Coca-Cola or Hyatt — no one could use them in any field of commerce. That’s a tough argument to make with a straight face about the name of an annual report (which appears to have been discontinued, since the fund’s 2010 report is titled Temasek Report, not Temasek Review).

The fund could ask for arbitration before the international body which administers domain names, but that would place the burden of proof on the fund to establish that the Web site had a confusingly similar name, had no legitimate interest in its name and was acting in bad faith. More to the point, a domain name arbitration would place the dispute in a neutral international forum, which the PAP has tended to avoid in political cases.

In the end, the publishers of the Web site are probably correct in stating that the agenda of the government is to identify the site’s editors so that they can be investigated and discredited. And trademark and other intellectual property claims are the newest, superficially legalistic methods the PAP will use to protect its hegemony and the privileges of its leaders.

By Paul Karl Lukacs, practicing media and business attorney, is legal affairs correspondent for Asia Sentinel.

Three Indonesian Volcanoes Show Signs of Increased Activity

Jakarta. The Anak Krakatau volcano located along the Sunda Strait produced 117 small eruptions on Thursday. The sound of the eruptions was audible to the Serang district in Banten, which is 40 kilometers away.

“Anak Krakatau's activities has been escalating since Oct. 27,” said Sikin, a staff member at the Anak Krakatau monitoring post in Cinangka, Serang, as quoted by SCTV on Friday.

According to Sikin, the volcano's status was increased to “be alert,” or two levels before a big eruption, since September. However, the situation is still considered safe for fishermen.

“Fishermen must be cautious and try not to get too close to the mountain and maintain a minimum 4-kilometer distance,” Sikin said.

Increased activity is also building up at the Galunggung volcano in Tasikmalaya, West Java. Heri Supartono, head of the Galunggung monitoring post, said that the volcano had triggered 34 earthquakes this month.

“In September, there were only four volcanic earthquakes, but Galunggung's status is still normal because the water temperature around is still normal,” Heri said.

“We monitor it every day and report the result to the Tasikmalaya municipal government,” he added.

The 2,167-meter high volcano has erupted three times between 1822 and 1983.

Another volcano, Dempo, at Pagaralam, South Sumatra, also showed signs of increased activity.

“There have been tens of volcanic or tectonic earthquakes, but the magnitudes are relatively small so they don't affect the normal status of Demo volcano,” Slamet, the head of Dempo monitoring post, told state news agency Antara on Friday.

Antara, JG

Measures urged against child, youth trafficking in Mekong region

Of about 200,000 people trafficked annually in the Mekong region, 24,700 are children and young people, and Thailand has the highest number of young victims at up to 6,000, the third Mekong Youth Forum on Human Trafficking and Migration was told yesterday.

Youth leaders from all six countries in the mekong region joined the forum to brainstorm and propose recommendations to address human trafficking and unsafe migration to the governments of those countries and relevant organisations.

They proposed integrating human trafficking and migration in school curricula, making youngsters aware of traffickers' tricks. They also urged authorities to investigate factories and make sure factories are safe for young workers.

The youth leaders said setting up regional hotlines would help coordinate authorities' efforts. Literature on human trafficking and migration should be available at border checkpoints, and bribery at the checkpoints should be stopped. Authorities should arrest corrupt border officials who take advantage of migrants.

Staff at reintegration centres should be trained, and they should check the conditions of victims after reintegration, they said.

They also wanted to have a greater role in planning how to tackle human trafficking and unsafe migration and implementing the plan.

The youth representatives from Thailand, Laos, China, Cambodia, Burma, and Vietnam yesterday highlighted their recommendations to government representatives with their "Let's Talk. Let's Act" performance.

"We hope that the government officials who listened to our recommendations today will put them in their plan and implement the plan against trafficking," said Prae, a Thai youth representative.

Saowanee Khomepatr, director of the AntiTrafficking in Women and Children Bureau, said one of the youth leaders would be chosen to present the recommendations to the Coordinated mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) meeting scheduled for early next year. The Nation, Bangkok

Freudians Put China on the Couch

BEIJING — More than 500 Chinese and foreigners packed “Freud and Asia,” the 100th anniversary meeting of the International Psychoanalytical Association here last week, reflecting growing interest in psychoanalysis in a country some say is suffering high levels of repressed trauma — and ripe for change.

For decades after the 1949 revolution, the Communist Party banned psychoanalysis as bourgeois superstition. Sports and revolution ardor were recommended for mental health. Only in the past 20 years has analysis been permitted, at first grudgingly, now relatively freely. But, “It’s still not easy,” said Chen Aiguo, a self-taught counselor in the central city of Zhengzhou.

Violent political campaigns that killed tens of millions in the past, and tight controls over freedom of expression that persist to this day, have left a significant legacy of trauma, say Chinese and foreign analysts. This affects not just those who experienced painful events but also children who inherit their parents’ unresolved mourning, the association’s former president, Cláudio Eizirik, said on the eve of the event, the first time the influential association, founded by Sigmund Freud in 1910, had met in Asia.

“I think the Chinese in this respect resemble the Holocaust survivors and the children of Holocaust survivors,” said Elise Snyder, an American psychoanalyst. “It’s astonishing how much they have been through.”

Ms. Snyder trains Chinese analysts via Skype and Oovoo, a video-conferencing service. Thirty-one Chinese, part of Ms. Snyder’s China American Psychoanalytic Alliance, graduated from her program last Sunday.

Yet some Freudians worry about the efficacy of short-term, long-distance programs. In 2008, the association began training nine analysts in China, following strict Freudian principles of years-long, multiple sessions per week on the couch, with an association-approved psychoanalyst. The candidates must also learn theory and, eventually, analyze patients. Most need several more years to qualify.

Liu Yiling, 31 and a Communist Party member, is one. In her talk, “Slow Analysis for a Fast-Developing China,” she lashed out at China’s frenzied economic growth, which she blamed for soaring mental health problems as values erode and families fall apart.
Xiao Zeping, director of the Shanghai Mental Health Center and president of the association’s China Allied Center, agreed. “Chinese people aren’t really happy,” she said. “They say, ‘I’m so stressed, everything is changing so quickly.’ Or they say, ‘I have money, but I have no time to see my friends.”’

Both Ms. Liu and Ms. Xiao warned accurate statistics are hard to come by in a country where few people with mental health problems seek professional help. But Ms. Xiao pointed to a study published in The Lancet in 2009 led by Michael Phillips, director of suicide prevention at the Shanghai center, that reviewed four provinces from 2001 to 2005. It found that 17.5 percent of people had some form of mental disorder.

Ms. Liu offered some reasons.

Starting in 1978, when China began its project to get rich quick after the death of Mao Zedong, uninhibited greed took over, she said. Society splintered as people rushed to secure a place at the coveted middle-class table. Present times are “barbarous,” she said.

But economic growth has also led to the increased liberties and individualism — and cash — necessary for psychoanalysis to take root.

Thousands of self-taught counselors have sprung up across China in the last 20 years, some mixing Western and Eastern principles. For example, “Sunbrother” (real name Zhang Kunbo), who attended the meeting, offers counseling that promises to take clients on a journey “from psychology to the I Ching,” an ancient divinatory text.

Mr. Chen, the Zhengzhou counselor, charges 300 renminbi, or $45, an hour. Asked to identify key problems among Chinese today, he paused, then said: “You really can’t say it’s this or that, their problems are all highly individual.”

That appeared to undercut the argument that Confucian culture, which values conformity, and Communism, which values the collective, make China an inappropriate home for psychoanalysis, which privileges individual memory and experience.

Today, both Communist propaganda and commercial advertising offer a one-size-fits-all solution to people’s fantasies, said Shi Qijia of the Wuhan Mental Health Center. He predicted these strategies would ultimately fail, as people turn to individuated, personal forms of expression available through the Internet, blogs and Twitter services.

In fact, how far Freudian psychoanalysis should take on board Chinese cultural values was hotly debated.

Jorge Canestri, an Italian psychoanalyst, favored an Asian “enrichment” of psychoanalysis as it enters the region. Do-Un Jeong, of South Korea, disagreed. “Psychoanalysis needs to be solidly grounded first” in Asia, he said, “otherwise it can easily fall into confusion.”

Inhibitions fell as Asian analysts addressed highly sensitive issues like Chinese-Japanese relations.

Shigeyuki Mori of Konan University, in Kobe, Japan, confessed his fear of speaking before the mostly Chinese audience about the case of a Japanese woman. Born in 1929, she experienced World War II as a girl in Kobe, simultaneously horrified by her country’s violence but nevertheless identifying with her culture. This created a trauma that has followed her through life. Mr. Mori said such cases were common in Japan.

Noting that the victim-perpetrator relationship between China and Japan is unresolved and that Japan has not dealt adequately with its wartime aggression, he said: “What reaction can I expect from Chinese people? Should I expect a renewed resentment against the Japanese Army or Japan as a whole?”

Yet he plowed on, saying psychoanalysis “offered a framework for thinking the most traumatic and unthinkable material, and generating meaning from it.” By examining unresolved hatred borne of its wartime past, as Germany had, Asia as a region could move ahead.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

China may not matter quite as much as you think


CHINA is now the biggest export market for countries as far afield as Brazil (accounting for 12.5% of Brazilian exports in 2009), South Africa (10.3%) Japan (18.9%) and Australia (21.8%). Each surge or wobble in China's economy has a material impact in these places. But exports are only one component of GDP. In most economies of any size, domestic spending matters more. At the start of the 1990s, Japan accounted for a bigger share of GDP than China does today. Its growth slowed from about 5% to 1% in the first half of the 1990s without any discernible effect on global trends.The Economist

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

57 lives cost 350 dollars

A former officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday testified in court that he was paid about $350 by a scion of a powerful Muslim family to help carry out the country’s worst political massacre.
Ex-Inspector Rex Ariel Diongon said that he received the money from Andal Ampatuan Jr. to set up the police checkpoint that stopped the convoy of a rival politician in the southern province of Maguindanao last year.

The convoy carried relatives of Esmael Mangudadatu who were going to file his candidacy to run against Ampatuan Jr. for provincial governor.

“Do you know who our enemies are? Are you capable of killing them?” Diongon quoted Ampatuan Jr. as asking him.

The police officer said that he recalled answering, “Yes,” but added that he only did so out of fear.

Diongon said that Ampatuan paid him P15,000 (about $350) for the job, adding that he saw at least three police officials receive payoffs as well.

When the convoy, carrying Mangudadatu’s wife and other relatives, their lawyers and 31 journalists arrived, the PNP inspector said that his men stopped their vehicles, allowing Ampatuan Jr. and his gunmen to take the passengers away.

Other witnesses in the trial have said that Ampatuan Jr. and his armed followers forced 57 people out of their vehicles, beat them up despite pleas for mercy before taking them to a hilly area where they were gunned down.

At the time of the wholesale killing on November 23, 2009, now main accused Ampatuan Jr. was mayor of Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao, an impoverished province in southern Mindanao.

Mangudadatu eventually won the race for governor of the province during the May 10 elections this year.

One witness, a former servant of the clan, said that the Ampatuan family planned the massacre days in advance.

Diongon said that he saw Ampatuan Jr. poking a gun at the passengers and hitting them but he did not say that he witnessed the actual shooting.
The policeman was testifying for the prosecution in the trial of Ampatuan Jr. and several of his relatives and bodyguards as well as against several other policemen accused of helping in the mass murder.

Apart from Ampatuan Jr, his father and namesake, three brothers and an uncle as well as police officers loyal to the clan and members of the family’s private army are among 196 people accused in the crime.

Police also on Tuesday said that 119 of the accused remained at large.

The Ampatuans ruled Maguindanao for over a decade under the patronage of then President Gloria Arroyo, who had used the clan as a proxy force against Muslim separatist rebels.

But popular disgust at the massacre forced Mrs. Arroyo to cut her ties to the clan.

Prosecutors have voiced fears that the trial could last for months in the country’s notoriously slow court system.

Diongon then the head of the Regional Mobile Group of the local police, told the court that he had received instructions from Ampatuan Jr. on November 19, 2009.

From then on until the day of the massacre, he said that he and other policemen who also received money from the then Datu Unsay mayor manned the checkpoint and waited for Mangudadatu or his representatives who will file the gubernatorial aspirant’s certificate of candidacy.
Diongon’s testimony on Tuesday was similar to that of the second prosecution witness, Nurrudin Mauyag.

Mauyag earlier testified that he saw the victims being beaten up by Ampatuan Jr. moments before they were believed to have been killed.

Diongon was the first among the co-accused to testify against the Ampatuans, who were charged for the murder of the 57 unarmed civilians.

Last week, the prosecution presented Akmad Abubakar Ismael, a farmer who once lived near the scene of the crime.
Ismael testified that he saw Ampatuan Jr. order the killing of the civilians.

The first witness, Lakmudin Saliao, a househelper of the Ampatuans, also earlier told the court that the Ampatuans gathered over dinner on November 17, 2009, six days before the massacre, and then planned the killing of their political rivals.

He said that Ampatuan Jr., at the time the governor of Maguindanao, tried to bribe government officials and police authorities to escape prosecution in the Maguindanao massacre case.

The case is being heard at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City (Metro Manila) by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Branch 221 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City. Manila Times

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Myanmar Elections. And the winner is … the junta

No prize for guessing the real winners of the Nov. 7 election in Myanmar. The junta’s decision to bar foreign observers and foreign journalists from covering the polls came as no surprise. It confirmed what we knew all along: There will be an election that is anything but free and fair — and whose outcome has been decided long beforehand.

The junta has done everything to make sure it retains control of the government. Myanmar’s military will automatically receive 20 percent of the seats in the parliament. The junta also barred political figures and parties that might upset their desired outcome. Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi remained in detention and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which was robbed of its victory in the country’s last election in 1990, was dissolved.

The generals must have taken a page from the history of Indonesia’s elections under Soeharto in the 1980s and 1990s. The junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) will be the civilian face of what is essentially a military-controlled party, in the same way that Golkar was used by Soeharto and his generals. Myanmar’s junta learned from the best, and then improvised by barring foreign monitoring.

Since Soeharto is now dead and the nation has moved on to become a democracy (or some would say, a semi-democracy), it is unlikely that the Indonesian government will be blamed for inspiring Myanmar’s generals. But Jakarta will still have to take a stand on the electoral process of a fellow ASEAN member state. With Indonesia set to chair ASEAN next year, the region and the world are waiting to see how Jakarta responds.

The way the election has been managed is a gross violation of the values enshrined in the ASEAN Charter. While ASEAN continues to uphold the principle of non-interference, Myanmar’s junta is making a complete mockery of the charter’s provisions on freedom, human rights and democracy.

Since we already know how the election will run, and what its outcome will be, the Indonesian government may as well form its opinion now instead of waiting until Nov. 7, and start sounding out support for the prospect of expelling Myanmar from ASEAN. Anything less will only serve to undermine Indonesia’s chairmanship next year. Jakarta Post

Philippines remains ‘highly corrupt’

THE country’s ranking in global corruption improved during the past three years, but the country is still tagged as “highly corrupt” among 178 countries, according to a Transparency International (TI) survey.

In its 2010 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released on Tuesday, TI said that the Philippines was ranked 134th with a score of 2.4, better than its 139th ranking in 2009.

In 2008, the country was ranked 141st with a score of 2.3.

Despite the improvement in overall ranking, the Philippines is still considered as a “highly corrupt” country in the world along with Kenya, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Republic of Congo, Uganda, Timor Leste, Lebanon, Solomon Islands, Mali, Mongolia, Niger, Libya, Iran, Nepal, Yemen, Cambodia, Venezuela, Honduras, Syria, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Benin, Gabon, Indonesia, Kosovo, Kazakhstan and Modova, among others.

It also continued to lag behind most of its neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, among them Malaysia, 56th; Thailand, 78th; Indonesia, 110th and Vietnam, 116th.

Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore tied for first place in the ranking with identical scores of 9.3.

The 2010 CPI measures the degree to which public-sector corruption is perceived to exist in 178 countries around the world.
It scores countries on a scale from 10 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt).

The 2010 results are drawn from 13 surveys and assessments published between January 2009 and September 2010.

This year’s index ranked 178 countries by their perceived levels of public-sector corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.
All sources measure the overall extent of corruption (frequency and/or size of bribes) in the public and political sectors.

The CPI helps to highlight the propensity of domestic corruption and its damaging influence.
TI defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

“These results signal that significantly greater efforts must go into strengthening governance across the globe. With the livelihoods of so many at stake, governments’ commitments to anti-corruption, transparency and accountability must speak through their actions. Good governance is an essential part of the solution to the global policy challenges governments face today,” Huguette Labelle, the chairman of Transparency International, said.

Labelle added that allowing corruption to continue is unacceptable, and that too many poor and vulnerable people continue to suffer its consequences around the world.

“We need to see more enforcement of existing rules and laws. There should be nowhere to hide for the corrupt or their money,” he said.

To fully address these challenges, TI said that governments need to integrate anti-corruption measures in all spheres, from the responses to the financial crisis and climate change to commitments by the international community to eradicate poverty.

The report said that unstable governments, often with a legacy of conflict, continue to dominate the bottom rungs of the CPI.
Afghanistan and Myanmar share second to last place with a score of 1.4, with Somalia coming in last with a score of 1.1.

“The results of this year’s CPI show again that corruption is a global problem that must be addressed in global policy reforms,” Labelle said.
TI said that the 2010 CPI covers two countries fewer than last year’s edition.

The slight change resulted from individual sources adjusting the range of countries they assess.

These adjustments in coverage made it possible to include Kosovo for the first time, but led to the exclusion of Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname, for which only two sources of information were available this year. The Manila Times

To the Women of Afghanistan

Women of Afghanistan, it is time to go to the barricades.

Now is the hour to claim your rights. Negotiations are under way in earnest; the Taliban are at the table, so are the warlords and bandits, tribal elders and the president. There’s not a woman in sight. Yet everyone knows you are the ones who can yank Afghanistan into the 21st century.

Even über-economists like Jeffrey Sachs of millennium-goals fame are saying there is a direct correlation between the status of women and the economy — where one is flourishing, so is the other, where one is in the ditch so is the other. Every indicator says it’s the women who can lead Afghanistan away from the abyss. So go ahead and claim your space.

Send in the women members of Parliament, the leaders of nongovernmental organizations like the Afghan Women’s Network. Call on the commissioners at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. Round up the rural women and the women journalists and the students to stand with you and alter the status of women. Together you can throw off the shackles that have bound you to second-class citizenship.

The men got away with hijacking religion for political gain. You are the ones who alerted the world to the facts: There’s scarcely a word in the Koran to support the violent and oppressive views of the Taliban or even the slightly less misogynist demands of the men seeking power at your expense today.

What’s more, it is the women of Afghanistan who have examined the past to create a better future. The Women and Children Legal Research Foundation surveyed 5,000 Afghans and found that 86 percent are against polygamy. Of the 12 reasons given for practicing polygamy; eight are illegal according to the Koran. They also did studies to show that tribal law is illegal. Even President Hamid Karzai’s government didn’t know that.

And despite the fact that the United Nations doesn’t follow its own Resolution 1325, which says women must be at the negotiating table, it’s women who know how to cobble together a peace plan. They don’t have blood on their hands. They are more interested in policy than power; they want peace rather than a piece of the turf. And women have long known that a sense of community is far more valuable than a sense of control.

You’ve been denied everything from human rights and jobs to health care and education. You refer to your illiteracy as being blind because as one woman said, “I couldn’t read so I couldn’t see what was going on.”

To be a woman in Afghanistan (and much of the world for that matter) is to be a target for religious extremists, an object of so-called cultural practices. It’s to be the child who is fed last and least; the one who is denied education. It’s to be sold as chattel, given away in a forced marriage as a child bride, and used in any manner that benefits a father and brother.

During a game of buzkashi — the traditional polo-like sport in Afghanistan that uses a dead goat as the ball — one player’s horse was injured. Rather than miss the rest of the game, the player traded his daughter for a new horse so he could finish the match.

For a very long time people from the outside world chose silence lest they be accused of interfering in someone else’s culture. Now we know that what continues to happen to the women and girls of Afghanistan — even while these peace talks take place — isn’t cultural, it’s criminal.

To murder your own daughter and call it honor; to give your blameless child to a man knowing she will be sexually assaulted; to send your girl back to her husband when she comes pleading to you with her broken arms and blackened eyes; to shroud her in garments so she will avert the eyes of men who strut about with impunity; to ask her how she was dressed (Was it modest enough?) when the rapist defiled her; to suggest that her loss of chastity is her own fault, that a man can’t help himself: These are the norms in the lives of women who are controlled by so-called religious men. It’s time to change those malignant presumptions.

Afghanistan has signed the same United Nations covenants and conventions that most of the rest of the world has signed. Although there’s no iron fist of accountability in those documents, they are by and large the politics of embarrassment. Use them to demand the rights your Constitution gives you. Tell the negotiators you won’t back down. Remind them that you’re 50 percent of the population. Be prepared to march; to go to the barricades. The women in the rest of the world are with you.

By Sally Armstrong, Canadian journalist, author of “Bitter Roots, Tender Shoots: The Uncertain Fate of Afghanistan’s Women.” The New York Times

Monday, October 25, 2010

In China, Economic Livelihood Far Outweighs Political Reform

The recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned political activist and intellectual Liu Xiaobo, combined with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s speeches over the past few months calling for political reform, have set off a renewed interest in where China is headed politically.

Many China-watchers and Western governments hope China would become a liberal democracy.

Wen has been speaking of political system reform, the Chinese phrase for which was first used by the late Deng Xiaoping in 1986.

Deng believed that political reform should accompany economic reform, but he never had the chance to articulate the substance of such political reform.

The Tiananmen Square protests and subsequent crackdown in 1989 decisively changed the course of political reform in China.

As a result, non-economic reforms post-Tiananmen have focused on increasing administrative capacity and accountability.

Wen has been somewhat more forthcoming with his thoughts about political reform.

While his calls for political reform are noble, it is difficult to define whether his words signify a departure from past political reform, and more importantly, what his words mean within a government where it is more often what is not said that matters most.

Recent commentary on Wen’s calls ignore the fact that many ordinary Chinese people are simply uninterested in politics, for three reasons.

First, there is the uniquely Chinese social contract between the government and its people.

As long as people can strive to buy their own flat, a BMW and a Louis Vuitton handbag, the government has their support.

It’s a social contract built on attaining material wealth through continued economic growth or the ability to realize the “Chinese dream.”

The government exists to provide a means to achieve this material wealth.

When growth threatens to falter, the government takes any and all steps to put it back on track.

This social contract has reoriented the population’s focus from seeking political ideals through reform to issues of consumption and consumerism.

The government is under no pressure at the moment to undertake any political reform deemed unnecessary to uphold this contract.

Second, the Chinese government has managed to depoliticize the majority of the population.

A large number of Chinese people find politics to be uninteresting and express bemusement at how consumed Westerners are with politics.

Many do not find political reform in the vein of liberal democracy to be relevant to their economic livelihood.

The third factor is closely tied to the second, which is the 1989 Tiananmen protests and subsequent crackdown on the student-led movement.

Tiananmen was a fulcrum for political reform in China; if successful it could have placed China on a very different political trajectory.

Instead the government crushed the movement, either arresting the intellectuals who took part like Liu Xiaobo or forcing them to scatter around the world.

In its wake, a generation of Chinese intellectuals emerged who are extremely proud of China’s rise as a global superpower.

Any concerns that China’s authoritarian regime is holding the country back has been supplanted with strong support for the government and its accomplishments.

Young people today know nothing about Tiananmen or what the students were asking for in their protests, except for what might be whispered in passing by those who remember.

The lack of widespread knowledge about Liu’s Nobel Peace Prize, let alone who he is, should remind China-watchers how uninformed most of the population really is.

The long-term effect of Tiananmen was the loss of a voice of a generation of intellectuals who could have risen to the ranks of power and primed the population for significant political reform.

Any talk of political reform is nothing more than a shibboleth designed to appease those both inside and outside China who cling to the hope that liberal democracy will come to China sooner rather than later.

It is easy for Wen to talk of a government that should be bound by its laws and constitution, but it should not be lost on China-watchers that most Chinese know little about their rights supposedly enshrined in the Chinese constitution or are even aware of recent current events affecting their country.

The government’s string of successes have left the majority of the people more inclined than ever to support the current regime and less willing to engage in the boring talk of political reform.

Until the majority of Chinese people care enough to alter their social contract to encompass Western-style political reform, such talk will remain at best a theoretical tug-of-war played out behind the scenes at the highest echelons of government.

Peter M. Friedman is a lawyer in New York who recently returned from teaching at Linyi Normal University in Linyi, China.

Latest Bali Updates

Om Swastiastu ...

Read the full report at
Concerning reports of violent civil unrest in Bali's north as people fight over traditional land rights.

Against the same backdrop of the stewardship of Bali's land, there are also stories of protests by young Hindu's against those trying to thwart Bali's new zoning laws; a public expression of a suspicion from a leading local legislator that Bali's regents are behind efforts to repeal the new zoning law before the Supreme Court; and an increasing militancy in the area of zoning as lawmakers call for errant buildings who fail to follow the rules to be torn down.

Crime in Paradise? Bali police reveal that crimes committed by foreign visitors are up 39% this year, covering a gamut of illegalities from robbing temples to narcotic violations. The trial of 2 men charged with ATM fraud ends with each getting sentences of 9 years in prison.

Tragic news over the past week include the death of a tourist from Haiti while swimming on Kuta beach and the death of two Balinese men in Kintamani due to a landslide.

Good news for Indonesian residents as the government announces plans to do away completely with the "fiskal" tax. Details in this edition.

In aviation news: Aeroflot applies for permission to operate three flights each week from Moscow to Bali; Indonesia AirAsia is buying 35 new airplanes; and Indonesia prepares for an "open skies" policy to take effect from 2015.

Bali rules! Bali hoteliers and restaurateurs continue to do the island proud winning recognition in the World Travel Awards and from the Miele Restaurant Guide.

There's information about an important new art book in which Bali features prominently and an invitation to be Ghoulish at an October 30th Halloween party in Ubud

There more news on rabies, handicraft exports and cataclysmic trouble brewing on Mount Merapi in nearby Central Java.

Just some of the news in this week's Bali Update.

Om Çanti Çanti Çanti Om ...
J.M. Daniels - Bali Update
Bali Discovery Tours

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Divisions Over Future of TNI Link With US Military After Torture

Jakarta. Some Papuan activists have called on foreign governments to cease cooperation with the Indonesian military as evidence of torture has come to light, but human rights activists said that foreign governments should instead maintain ties and help push forward military reforms.

In a statement issued over the weekend, Forkorus Yoboisembut, chairman of Papua Traditional Council, called on the US and Australian governments as well as the European Union to cease military cooperation with Indonesia.

The statement comes after the government on Friday acknowledged the authenticity of a graphic, 10-minute video that shows six soldiers burning their prisoners’ genitals and threatening them with knives, guns and a cigar.

But Ifdhal Kasim, chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said the resumption of limited military cooperation between the United States and Indonesia is needed to assist change and improvement within the military.

The United States, he said, must ensure there will be firm action taken against the soldiers in the video.

“The military should show that they are taking accountability for what happened in the video,” he said.

He called the torture “shocking,” especially in light of the “progressive internal reform” the military is undertaking.

The military should see the scandal as an impetus to push for reform, he added.

“This will be the defense minister’s task: to convey to the world that reform is indeed taking place in the military,” Ifdhal said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Indonesia in July and announced a resumption of ties with the special forces, known as Kopassus, after a 12-year hiatus.

But he said the engagement would be limited until the army undertakes reforms.

The United States on Friday praised Indonesia for being forthcoming in its investigation of torture of Papuan detainees and said it would not affect the resumption of military ties.

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the Indonesian government had promised a “full and transparent investigation” into the video.

“They have undertaken, under democratic law, specific reforms, and we will continue to work with them,” Crowley said.

“What they announced today is consistent with the terms under which we resumed limited security cooperation with Kopassas,” he said.

Yoseph Adi Prasetyo, better known as Stanley, also from Komnas HAM, said the commission’s main interest for the military was to see that there would be no more abusive soldiers within the TNI.

He also urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) Chief Agus Suhartono to investigate the case before it got worse.

“Otherwise we have to exercise our mandate to use the 2000 Law on Human Rights Courts to investigate the case,” he said.

The scenes depicted on the video, he said, were only a small glimpse into the rampant torture of native Papuans by Indonesian military personnel.
Jakarta Globe

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Indonesia’s Lost Opportunity

I was recently interviewing Dr. Ian Bremmer, an American political scientist and author of the book “The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War between States and Corporations,” on how he thinks Indonesia is doing at the moment. It’s true that the country has been getting a lot of favorable attention lately, but I wondered whether this is due to Indonesia’s sterling performance or simply by default, because almost everywhere else is faring badly.

His answer was both.

With most developed countries still reeling from the effects of the financial crisis, and some of Indonesia’s neighbors looking shaky politically, it makes sense that our relatively stable democracy and growing economy appeal to investors.

The unassuming wallflower is suddenly the belle of the ball because all the pretty girls have either left the room or collapsed on the dance floor.

As a matter of fact, Indonesia looks a better bet than some of the other emerging markets that are currently the darlings of investors.

Brazil, for instance, will soon have a change of leadership that may see President Lula da Silva replaced by someone far less charismatic.

India is big but so are its problems. It also lacks good infrastructure.

Russia doesn’t really have much to offer investors other than stuff it can dig out of the ground.

China is even bigger, but is not a very sporting player and likes to make up its own rules of the game, making the country a difficult partner to work with.

Indonesia, however, has plenty to offer.

First, democracy and political stability, a rare thing in this part of the world.

It also offers a big population and good demographics, not aging but entering their productive years.

There is also a long list of investment opportunities ready for the picking.

Moreover, we are a member of the G-20 and could be the much-needed bridge between the group’s increasingly rancorous members.

In the midst of the current global financial uncertainty, the Indonesian stock market has been bullish and the rupiah strong while the central bank remains cautious about the risk of volatility that comes with rapid capital inflows.

And there is certainly no lack of choice for would-be foreign investors, whether they want metals and other commodities, property or consumer goods.

All we need to do is create better infrastructure, improve the business climate, tackle corruption and cut down on the bureaucratic red tape. Do that and we’re well on our way to creating Indonesia Inc.

Now is the window of opportunity, the golden moment to transform ourselves and to finally shine on the world stage.

So, what is holding Indonesia back ? Most likely it’s stage fright.

The knowledge that she is an understudy being offered the part only because the leading lady got the flu while she is far from ready.

We have had a whole decade in which to transform ourselves.

Consider what could have been achieved in those years in terms of building infrastructure, cleaning up the bureaucracy and setting up a strong, transparent and accountable government.

If only we had used our time well.

Instead, we have wound up with countless useless political parties, decentralization that does more harm than good to the integrity and plurality of the nation, and a legislature that is more of a hindrance than a solution.

Our democracy has succeeded in voting in a bunch of representatives who represent their own interests above all else.

It has also led to the election of a president who, even after six years on the job, still doesn’t understand that the country’s problems are a lot more important than his own personal grievances, a president who cares too much about how the public perceives him and not enough about the suffering felt by his people.

More than 10 years on and our basic education system is still a shambles, half of the population is unskilled, ignorant and unenlightened; the majority of the people are still poor in body, mind and spirit.

Meanwhile, those running the country, the lawmakers, the law enforcers and the executive, run around in circles bickering over power and benefits, wasting taxpayers’ money and coming up with laws more suitable for the Dark Ages than the 21st century.

A decade of democracy and the ghosts of the past still move among us, eating away at the faded dreams of reform.

I fear that instead of looking at the future and its possibilities, we will stay focused on what’s behind us and cling to the certainty we once knew.

And before we know it, Suharto, the man whom the nation once forced down in disgrace and swore to put on trial for his crimes and atrocities, will be dug up, polished, resurrected and declared a national hero.

By Desi Anwar senior anchor at Metro TV.

Jakarta: Safe, but how safe?

Jakarta is a safe city, crime statistics bear witness to that. Jakarta reported 78 murders in 2008.

Murder rates in most of other big cities in the world were far higher. Gauteng province of South Africa which hosts the city of Johannesburg and Pretoria, reported close to 4,000 murders in one year between April 2008 and March 2009.

In 2009 New York City reported 471 murders, London 126, while New Delhi 554 in 2008. Jakarta reported just 114 cases of rape in 2008. The corresponding figure for Gauteng was 18,176 sexual crimes. Meanwhile, there were 3.120 rapes in London, 832 in New York City and 466 in New Delhi.

Despite the low crime figures, I would not opine that everything is fine with the security scenario of Jakarta. There are serious matters of concern for Jakarta which I elaborate below and needs to be addressed in order to keep the city safe.

First is anger and frustration. One can perceive the lack of connection between the government of the metropolis and the city police with the people. In many ways the people are harassed by the poor civic services, the persistent traffic problems, inadequate public transportation, long commute time, lack of common public spaces and rampant corruption among street cops.

Above this, there is the growing number of slum dwellers in Jakarta accentuating the problem of urban divide and exclusion. Behind the smiling faces of the public, conditioned by centuries of culture steeped in rich traditions of politeness and respect and love for fellow humans, there is anger. Anger which reaches boiling point from time to time and runs amuck; shocking the world. The 1998 riots, 1965-1966 political violence bear witness to this.

Second is terrorism. Jakarta of late has seen some massive terrorist attacks. The hotel bombings combined with similar incidents in Bali have somehow given the perception to foreigners that, Jakarta is an unsafe city. While this perception may be wrong, the fact remains that terrorists have targeted Jakarta successfully and may do so in the future.

Law enforcement has responded efficiently with high success rates in operations by the Police’s special anti-terrorist unit, Detachment 88 and the successful convictions secured by the prosecution in prominent cases. Terrorism will remain a threat to Jakarta and countering it needs to be priority number one.

Third is the matter of faith and tolerance. More recently, Jakarta has also seen clashes of religious ideology between extremists and moderates, between religious factions and between the adherents of majority and minority religions. This is one area, which though highly political, law enforcement must adopt a neutral but firm stand or else a flare up could be quick and devastating.

The Metropolitan Police of London publishes figures on racist and religious hate crimes. The Police in Jakarta could also come out with such statistics.
Fourth is invisible crime. Jakarta, like many other big cities, has widespread invisible crime. By invisible I mean crimes that most people do not notice or do not care about. These crimes like drug trafficking, child labor, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, gambling, prostitution and copyright and trade mark violations goes on with impunity in the city.

Opinion also is that, law enforcement sometimes benefits from them and therefore protects it. Such crimes may not affect ordinary citizens directly but they have roots in transnational crimes and mafia groups that can and do assist terrorists and also constitute mobs and other lumpen elements during riots. If law enforcement does not address these invisible crimes, it cannot be as successful in addressing the other more serious ones.

Fifth is criminal justice response. Crime rate for historical reasons has been minimal in Jakarta. Full credit for the peace cannot be claimed by the government agencies. As with many cities, the people today depend on paid private security. Whether it is apartments, offices, banks or hotels, private security is ever visible. People are now moving into gated communities, safe enclaves and access controlled facilities within cities. The more the money, the more security people are able to purchase.

The performance of criminal justice institutions like the Police, the Attorney General’s Office and the courts have not been too good. Lack of public trust owing to poor integrity and accountability surrounds these institutions. Impunity for misconduct, corruption and highhandedness has contributed to the poor reputation and effectiveness of these agencies.

Inherently, they are causes for increases in crime and insecurity. Weak criminal justice responses beget crime. “Policing the police” in order to ensure peace security and democracy, needs to be a matter of priority.

Problems of cities especially regarding crime cannot be addressed by law enforcement alone. A multiagency response is necessary and has been successful in many cities. Municipal authorities and the various sectors of government, civil society and people need to work together.

Simple things like proper lighting in dark neighborhoods, better public transport in certain places, a citizen watch in some areas, community and neighborhood policing, better mapping of crime, consequent public and government responses, etc. have helped several cities. Jakarta must develop its own strategy, in partnership, to counter the urban crimes and ensure security in the future.

By Ajit Joy country manager, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Indonesia. Views expressed in this article are the author’s own.