China

Tianjin residents protest, August 20. Capitalism with Chinese characteristics is in some strife. This is largely because the government’s attempt to keep growth at an unsustainable 7% a year is fuelled by equally unsustainable debt. Corporate and local government debt has grown by 50% since 2009, and total debt, which includes household debt, is now close to 187% of GDP.
Australia managed its way through the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in better shape than most countries, mostly due to two factors. The first was $83 billion in Australian government stimulus spending, the third largest in the world as a percentage of GDP, behind the US and South Korea. The second was resilient demand for iron ore and coal exports to China which came from an initial US$4 trillion in Chinese stimulus spending organised through the country’s banks.

A new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found Venezuela cut its military budget by 34% last year, leading the region in arms spending cuts. In contrast, United States political allies Paraguay and Mexico led the region in upping military spending, raising military budgets by 13% and 11%, respectively.

In April last year, the government of the Marshall Islands announced it would be taking nine nations — China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Britain and the US — to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague over their possession of nuclear weapons. The Marshallese have paid a heavy price for other countries’ nuclear weapons. After World War II, they were incorporated into the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands administered by the US.

United States President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping of China have signed a bilateral climate agreement. Much of the US and British media, and many US Democrats, have hailed the deal as a key step forward. Many US Republicans have attacked it as going much too far. Anything the Republicans attack has to be good. Right? No. In fact it is an appalling deal. Let's look at the numbers.
As talks between Hong Kong protesters and the Chinese government began on October 21, the region’s current chief executive C.Y. Leung spoke out against free elections on the grounds that it would empower the poor. In his first interview with foreign media since the pro-democracy movement began, Leung said that if the public were allowed to nominate any candidate of their choosing, elections would be dominated by the large sector of Hong Kong residents now living in poverty.
The eyes of the world are watching Hong Kong, where masses of people have taken to the streets in defiance of the tear gas of riot police and the threats of the government.
Amid ongoing large protests in support of democratic reforms, Chinese authorities warned of “chaos” on October 2 if protesters carried through their threat to storm Hong Kong government buildings if the region’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying did not resign, the Morning Star said that day.
Forgotten Voices of Mao's Great Famine, 1958-1962, An Oral History By Zhou Xun Yale University Press, 2013 336 pp, $35.00 In his excellent history book Timelines, John Rees has a graph, which in one image sums up the people’s history contained in Zhou Xun’s Forgotten Voices. The line showing improvements in life expectancy in China suddenly shows a total reversal, a deep plunge into an abyss and then a quick return to the original curve. This abyss was Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward.
Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle spoke to Kevin Lin, who is doing research for his PhD at the University of Technology Sydney on the labour movement in China, about the background to a new wave of strikes in the country.
China’s Rise: Strength & Fragility By Au Loong Yu Resistance Books, IIRE Merlin Press, 2012 316 pages The transformation of the Chinese economy a 20-fold rise in the size of the economy between 1979 and 2010 and huge development of private enterprise has been one of the most significant and remarkable phenomena in recent history. However, neither the Western media and academia, nor the Chinese regime itself, provide much credible analysis on what is involved in this transformation.
“There will never be strikes in my company,” Foxconn CEO Guo Taiming once proclaimed. But just last month, 1800 workers struck at two Foxconn factories in China — following the example of other Foxconn workers in Taiyuan and Chengdu last year. Foxconn produces cell phones and other products for Apple and others, and owns property worth US$6 billion. It has 1.2 million workers and is the largest sweatshop of ill repute in China.
Chinese leaders are aware that visiting Western leaders will be under some pressure from their domestic constituencies to raise Tibet, human rights and other “sensitive” issues. So a mechanism has been considerately created to cater for this need. It consists of a meaningless piece of theatre otherwise known as the “obligatory-behind-closed-doors-human-rights-discussion”. According to the well-worn script, the elected foreign official heads to China on a trade mission, accompanied by a media circus and some high-level trough-snouting capitalists (like Andrew Forrest).
A Uyghur man is serving an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting separatism”, allegedly for translating Chinese-language news related to Kashgar City, in a newly revealed case reported by Uyghurbiz.net. The Uyghur people, whose traditional lands are in the north-west of the Chinese state, have been denied national rights and suffer severe repression.
There is a lot of discussion about the nature of the Chinese economy and its developing role in global capitalism. Much of the debate has focused on the tensions between a seemingly declining United States and rising China ― and possible changes in the global distribution of power. In the context of a global domination of US-backed neoliberalism, the “Chinese model” has been put forward by some as a possible alternative. However, not only is China's rise far from inevitable, its “model” has its own contradictions ― as the rise of labour struggles helps reveal.
This photo essay by Tom Grundy, an activist-journalist based in Hong Kong, shows the 180,000-strong candlelight rally held in Victoria Park, Hong Kong on June 4 to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre in Beijing. It is republished with permission from his Hong Wrong blogsite.

The Goddess of Democracy statue.

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