Monday 8 March 2010

Hong Kong has no referendums, so don't vote in the referendums we are having in Hong Kong . . .

Or such seems to be the basic message coming from Beijing's men in Hong Kong at the moment, at least according to the excellent Big Lychee Blog. The only problem with the HK government's position on the by-elections which have been called to as a "defacto referendum on democracy" is that it doesn't make that much sense:

After encouraging people for years to take part in, and therefore legitimize, our rigged election system, it would look odd for Sir Bow-Tie and his colleagues to implicitly urge us all to stay away. It would raise concerns that civil servants of all levels, who are sworn to implement government policy, could be pressurized into not voting or penalized if they exercise their right to do so. Most of all, how many of us will be tempted to go along to the polling station if Donald indicates that he would prefer us not to?

Thursday 4 March 2010

China's Military Growth to Slow

Amidst all the talk there has been lately about the growth of China into a world-bestriding superpower, signs are appearing that even China has limits. Money quote:

Mr. Li said that the government has always tried to limit military spending and had “set the defense spending at a reasonable level to ensure the balance between national defense and economic development.”

The legislature must approve the government’s 2010 budget at its session this month, but the vote is a formality.

A budget report submitted to the legislature said the government had earmarked about $77.9 billion for the military in 2010, an increase of about $5.4 billion from actual spending last year.

Basically, even if you buy the narrative of the Chinese stimulus package rescuing the Chinese economy, rather than perhaps merely creating more capacity in industries which are already in over-capacity, you cannot deny that the Chinese government's spending means cuts in other places. Growth in Chinese military spending has been in double digits since 1989, outstripping economic growth most years. The reasoning behind this is simple - since the CCP no longer exercises the kind of thought-control over the population that it was able to pre-1979, it now relies on the military as its guarantor of power should the populace turn against them as it did in the year of the Tiananmen protests. For this reason the needs of the military became paramount.

Of course, Chinese military spending still lags that of the US, China's most powerful potential adversary, by a considerable amount - even by the most exaggerated estimates it is still less than a quarter of American spending. This was less assuring when China's military spending was roughly doubling every 4-5 years, but if this trend continue perhaps China's potential adversaries can rest easy. China, of course, maintains its threat of invading Taiwan, and at various times over the last few years has rattled sabres on its borders in the Himalayas, in the South China Sea, and in the East China sea. Nor is Chinese military supremacy in the region anything more than delayed by this announcement. All the same, it does give breathing space.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Just a quick heads-up: Global Times to speak truth to power?

A reporter on the English-language version of the Global Times (the sister paper of the ultra-nationalist Chinese-language paper of the same name, both of which are printed under the auspices of CCP-mouthpiece People's Daily) has been tweeting about a new editorial stance for the paper's coverage of the "two meetings" being introduced tomorrow, with almost every subject being opened up for discussion, in fact . .


"The boss said that the only subject on which we cannot report is the personal issues of the leadership.

There's been a lot of false dawns in the progress of freedom of speech in China To my mind the freeing up of freedom of speech in a government-operated English-language newspaper may not actually add up to much, but then I may be wrong . . . .