China


In a corner of a sprawling factory in this coastal southern city, sewing machines that stitched blouses and shirts for Lever Style Inc.’s clients now gather dust. As the din on the factory floor has dropped, so, too, has the payroll. Over the past two years, Lever Style’s employee count in China has declined by one-third to 5,000 workers.

[image]

The company in April began moving apparel production for Japanese retail chain Uniqlo to Vietnam, where wages can be half those in China. Lever Style also is testing a shift to India for U.S. department-store chain Nordstrom Inc. JWN -0.78% and moving production for other customers.

It’s a matter of survival. After a decade of nearly 20% annual wage increases in China, Lever Style says it can no longer make money here.

First in a Series: China’s Changing Work Force

image

Thomas Lee for The Wall Street JournalA board shows workers’ statuses at each production line at Lever Style’s factory in Shenzhen, China.

“Operating in Southern China is a break-even proposition at best,” says Stanley Szeto, a former investment banker who took over the family business from his father in 2000.

Companies from leather-goods chainCoach Inc. COH -1.05% to clogs makerCrocs Inc. CROX -1.25% also are shifting some manufacturing to other countries as the onetime factory to the world becomes less competitive because of sharply rising wages and a persistent labor shortage. The moves allow the companies to keep consumer prices in check, although competition for labor in places such as Vietnam and Cambodia is pushing up wages in those countries as well.

At Crocs, 65% of its colorful shoes are expected to be made in China this year through third-party manufacturers, down from 80% last year. Coach will reduce its overall production in China to about 50% by 2015 from more than 80% in 2011 so the handbag maker isn’t too reliant on one country, a spokeswoman says.

Manufacturing companies are bypassing China and moving factories to cheaper locales in Southeast Asia. Lever Style’s Stanley Szeto explains why his company is gradually moving production to Vietnam and Indonesia.

Some migration of apparel manufacturing from China is expected, and even encouraged by the government, as the country’s economy matures. As other Asian nations become efficient at mass manufacturing, China must embrace research and high-technology production to transform its economy as South Korea and Japan once did. But healthy economic growth requires that China expand its service sector and create higher-skilled manufacturing jobs at a rapid clip to compensate.

“If costs continue to rise, but China is unable to become more innovative or develop home-grown technologies, then the jobs that move offshore won’t be replaced by anything,” says Andrew Polk, a Beijing-based economist for the Conference Board, a research group for big American and European companies.

Changes Under Way in China

Thomas Lee for The Wall Street JournalCheng Pei Quan is a winner of the ‘Sweing Olympics’ at a factory. Manufacturers are looking beyond bonuses to retain workers and boost production in China.

China continues to be the developing world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment, attracting $112 billion last year. But that was down 3.7% from a year earlier. And exports still are rising in the double-digit percentages. Growth is slowing.

Here in the manufacturing hub of Guangdong province, Lever Style’s factories provide a glimpse into the future of China’s apparel industry.

The company, which is based in Hong Kong, used to manufacture its clients’ clothing at three factories in China. But rising labor costs have forced the apparel maker for Armani Collezioni, John Varvatos and Hugo Boss to focus on what it does best: helping clients develop clothing while the company outsources a growing part of production.

In five years, Lever Style expects about 80% of its production to be outsourced to factories it manages throughout Asia, and half its clothing to be made outside China.

As it shifts production to Vietnam, Lever Style says it is able to offer clients a discount of up to 10% per garment. That is attractive to U.S. retailers, whose profit margins average 1% to 2%, according to the U.S.-based National Retail Federation.

This shift is already well under way. Lever Style expects that a few years from now, 40% of the clothes it makes for Uniqlo, one of Lever Style’s biggest customers, will come from Vietnam and 60% from China.

As China production slows for Uniqlo and other clients, Lever Style plans to return one factory here to the landlord and consolidate its shrinking workforce at the other two.

Uniqlo, the biggest apparel chain in Asia, says it makes 70% of its clothing in China but would like to cut its production in the country to two-thirds, mainly to reduce costs. A spokesman for parent company Fast Retailing Co.9983.TO -1.81% says the retailer has an “ongoing dialogue” with contract manufacturers of its 70 factories world-wide about where to produce its clothing.

Nordstrom, which works with 450 factories in nearly 40 countries, says cost is important but so are product quality and factory working conditions. The company hasn’t seen a “material change” in how much of its apparel is being made in China in recent years, a spokesman says.

Many retailers are less concerned about where a product is made than about price, delivery and quality, says Lever Style’s Mr. Szeto.

Still, he says, while China’s transformation of its economy is “the right move for the country, I see this as a huge challenge for us as a company.”

 

SHENZHEN, China—Kathy Chu, May1, 2013

Russian officials, who have strenuously resisted U.S.-led efforts to push Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, are beginning to question whether the beleaguered leader can hang on, but say they have little influence over him as rebels take the fight to his country’s biggest cities.

Even though Russia has been a close Syrian ally for decades, officials and analysts acknowledge that they have limited insight to Assad’s true situation and mind-set. Although some fear that Russia missed a chance to help find a solution to the conflict, now in its 17th month, others say that it never had that kind of clout.

Still, Moscow appears to have at least one more card to play: an offer of asylum if Assad chooses to ask for it.

The Kremlin quickly denied such a suggestion recently by its ambassador to France. But the comment was widely regarded as a trial balloon, and a Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity indicated that Russia could offer asylum if Assad requested it.

“In daily consultations, Assad keeps telling us he is still very much in control,” the official said. “We are trying to ascertain for ourselves whether the point of no return has been reached, and frankly we are not so sure either way anymore.”

The first sign that Russia is abandoning Assad would be a decision to evacuate its citizens, the official said, and that could soon be followed by the Syrian leader’s departure.

On Saturday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied that any asylum plans were being made, telling journalists, “We are not even thinking about it.”

Russia’s objections to the campaign to oust Assad have had little to do with loyalty to a longtime ally or unease over a loss of influence in the Middle East, analysts and officials said. Instead, the Kremlin fears what it sees as a broader pattern of the West using its political and military power to squeeze out leaders friendly to Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin regards his country’s decision last year not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Libya’sMoammar Kadafi as a serious mistake, analysts say. An air campaign led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was crucial for the rebels who captured and executed the longtime Libyan leader, and analysts say Russia got nothing for its cooperation.

“What Russia is really firmly against is the Libyan precedent becoming a norm, when everyone votes for some sanctions and then the most powerful military alliance steps into in a local conflict supporting one side in it and helping it win,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs.

“The rebels should have been grateful to Russia, but the first thing they said after their victory and Kadafi’s murder was that Russian and Chinese companies are no longer welcome in Libya,” he said.

Lilia Shevtsova, a senior researcher with Moscow Carnegie Center, said Russia’s preoccupation with geopolitical concerns carried over to the Syrian conflict.

“Putin is very much inclined to see status quo preserved by any means in Russia and in any regime which he considers friendly,” she said.

She said that she doubts the Kremlin has any real influence left over the situation in Syria, and that by continuing to publicly back Assad, Russia has helped the U.S. and its allies obscure the fact that they have no workable plan for Syria. In contrast to Libya, U.S. and other Western officials have consistently ruled out military intervention.

Russia maintains a naval base in Syria, one of its few military bases aboard, and several thousand Russian diplomats and technical specialists working with Syrian companies are based there, said Gennady Gudkov, deputy head of the security committee of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament.

“I am afraid we must have missed our chance to talk Assad into some constitutional reform, even including him ceding power,” Gudkov said. “The Kremlin’s persistence in defending his regime now comes from the fact that there is no good way out of the situation and no good decision anymore.”

Leonid Kalashnikov, deputy head of the Duma’s foreign affairs committee, said that, aside from some weapons sales, Russia has not had close political or economic ties to Syria for years, a reflection of Moscow’s diminished role in the region.

“That is why it would be wrong to consider Syria the last Russian stronghold in the Middle East; in fact, we no longer have any,” he said.

“Russia just wants to make it a hard and fast rule that all such conflict issues should be resolved only through efforts of the existing international institutions,” he said.

 

By Sergei L. Loiko, Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2012

 

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************

SOME COMMENTS:

Not only Russia wants to prevent history from repeating itself in Syria, the Kremlin is not in for change as well. Yes, China and Russia did abstain from voting in favour of the UN Resolution 1973 in March 2011, which allowed an Western intervention in Libya, leading ultimately to the demise of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Putin’s relationship with Assad couldn’t have been chummy. Assad went to visit Moscow in 2005, fiver years after he became president. So it’s quite unlikey that he wants to go Russia in exile. 

In a New York Times article about the Russian community in Syria, an outsider has a good insight into the lives of many, many Russian women, married to some senior Syrian officials, who went to the former Soviet Union decades ago to get an education. These men seem to be great Russophiles and that has impressed Russia. So apart from the base in the port of Tartus on the Syrian coast, the diaspora and the arms deals, it’s emotion that compels the Kremlin to  stands by Assad. Besides, Moscow fears chaos and the emergence of Islamists in the new  Syria, which would spread to its Southern border in North Caucasus.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Russia is a hole. No one wants to live. If the amount of Russian order mail brides are anything to go by, not even Russians want to live there. People in these countries are not stupid. They see Russia and China voting against the will of the people to prop dictators up. They wont forget. If I was Syrian or Libiyan I would be very very anti-Russian and China. 

The only reason Russia & China block these votes is because they have tcorrupt governments. Those corrupt governments use failed states like Syria as a buffer zone. People of Syria. The rest of the world stands in solidarity with you. We wish we could do more to help you but the cancerous Russia and China alliance is stopping us. They might be able to stop a couple of us, but they cant stop us all.

Power to the people. End corrupt governments now!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says Washington plays a role in the turmoil in Syria by supporting the armed gangs (terrorists) to destabilize the country.

Assad told the German ARD television channel on Sunday that the United States is “part of the conflict,” and that “they offer the umbrella and political support to those terrorists to… destabilize Syria.”

The latest remarks by the Syrian president come at a time when the anti-Syria Western regimes have been calling for Assad to step down.

Russia and China remain opposed to the Western drive to oust the Syrian president.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on June 30 that Assad “will still have to go.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The New York Times published a report on June 21, quoting some US and Arab intelligence officials as saying that a group of “CIA officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey” and that the agents are helping the anti-Syria governments decide which terrorists inside the Arab country will “receive arms to fight the Syrian government.”

President Assad said on June 3 that Syria is “facing a war from abroad,” and that attempts are being made to “weaken Syria, [and] breach its sovereignty.”

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Former Lebanese President Amine Pierre Gemayel says instability in Syria serves the interests of Israel, Press TVreports.

In an exclusive interview with Press TV on Thursday, Gemayel said that some Arab states in the Persian Gulf are supporting armed gangs(TERRORISTS) in Syria to undermine the Syrian-Iranian alliance and serve Israel’s interests.

“We all know about the Syrian-Iranian alliance and we all know that there are some Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, which are at odds with Iran and maybe these factors encourage these Arab countries” to support the anti-government armed gangs in Syria, he noted.

“Israel has an interest in the deteriorating situation in Syria and in exhausting Syria. The more exhaustion in Syria, the more it serves Israel’s interests. The more destruction in Syria, the more Syria’s capabilities in confronting Israel are exhausted. This is…a victory for Israel…without suffering any losses,” the former president added.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Russia has said it is not propping up Assad and would accept his exit from power in a political transition decided by the Syrian people, but that his exit must be a precondition and he must not be pushed out by external forces.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army launched a threatened counter-offensive against rebel fighters in Aleppo on Saturday, pouring troops into the southwest of the commercial hub, a human rights group said.

The reinforcements, which have been massing over the past two days, “have moved on the Salaheddin district, where the largest number of rebel fighters are based,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The total population of this year’s world cup countries is about 1.5 billion. Why then is China — a nation of 1.3 billion — not able to produce a 11-member team to the World Cup when even its destitute neighbor, North Korea, has managed to be there this year?


China is obviously embarrassed about its World Cup failure. The United States, which China would like to surpass politically and economically, has done quite well at the World Cup even though soccer is far from being the most popular sport in the country.
China, ironically, has the world’s largest soccer fan base. No wonder the absence of a Chinese team in the World Cup has touched a raw nerve. Many Chinese fans blame the existing political culture and social norms for China’s soccer failure. Some are even questioning China’s national identity.

Flaws of Central Planning
Susan Brownell, a professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, is the author of “Training the Body for China: Sports in the Moral Order of the People’s Republic.”
The Chinese men’s soccer team has not been able to improve its world standing in the past two decades for the same reason that its swimming and track and field have not improved (in the 2008 Olympics, Chinese swimmers earned medals in six events, including the first-ever men’s medal; two women won track and field medals).
The Chinese state-supported system works well for sports in which children begin highly specialized training at a very young age, and it produces success in women’s sports because it gives equal support to men and women while most other countries do not.
But that system loses its comparative advantage in men’s sports that have good financial backing in other countries, and it does not work well for sports in which stars emerge slowly from a wide participation base, where talent becomes apparent only as the athletes mature physically.

A Threat to the Government
Ray Tsuchiyama has led operations in China and Japan for several multinational technology firms, and also headed the Asia office of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a contributor to The China Trackerblog at Forbes.com.
The history of soccer’s growth and excellence in countries like England and Brazil reveal urban working-class roots. Urban soccer clubs have long served as neighborhood or even regional centers for children and youth, and become “feeders” of new talent to local soccer teams.
The clubs not only teach soccer fundamentals, but sportsmanship, courage, discipline and loyalty. (During the World War I, some British battalions were recruited heavily from urban districts with already established soccer clubs, and officers kicked soccer balls into German trenches to lead assault teams.)
Paradoxically, for a nation that prides itself as having been founded by the “masses” of peasants and urban workers and where teamwork is prized, China has not emphasized some team sports — soccer being the most significant omission. (Basketball, however, is played by many Chinese urban dwellers, and a player like Yao Ming has become a N.B.A. star.)

Build a Football Network
Rowan Simons is the chairman of China ClubFootball FC, the first amateur football network in China with foreign investors, and the author of “Bamboo Goalposts.”
China is not at the World Cup and its women’s team is no longer a leading force for reasons of politics, economics, culture and education — all challenges we are trying to tackle with ClubFootball.
Let’s talk politics. The Chinese Football Association is an illegal organization under Article 17 of FIFA’s constitution which demands independence from government. Yet government control of the C.F.A. is clearly laid out in China’s 1994 Sports Law. These mutually exclusive regulations pose significant concerns.
This “top down” system has several fundamental flaws that ignore the long-term grassroots solutions required. Chinese sport still follows a Soviet model, placing children in elite schools (at their own expense!). Football is a mass participation sport in which the best players may not emerge until their later teens. The simple truth is that China needs a system of community-based clubs that are run by the people for the people.

By THE EDITORS
By Ng Han Guan/Associated Press Updated, June 30, 12:45 p.m. (NYT)
Xu Guoqi, a history professor at the University of Hong Kong, is the author of “Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008,” “China and the Great War” and the forthcoming “Strangers on the Western Front: Chinese workers and the Great War.”


**************************************************************************************************************************
Some Comments:
***************************************************************
None of those explanations fly. Such as the Chinese parents focus on book learning instead of sports. Japan and South Korea have similar parents yet they field decent teams.

Political system? North Korea athletics is even more state controlled, has a much smaller population, a lot of the population if malnourished, has less financial backing, and has no domestic leagues and yet they qualified.

Simple, Chinese kids don’t play together. From infants they are picked up and carried everywhere by their grandmothers. They are picked up after school and taken home by car, scooter or bicycle. There is very little social interaction
between children in Chna.

I marvel when I see kids in Africa playing on a patch of dirt or girls in northern Afghanistan running like the wind at their school playground………….you just
don’t see it in China…………and considering a lot of those kids (not all) come
from a one-child policy family, it’s childhood lost.

I’ve seen this question elsewhere, and it shocks me how blind people are to the fact that for many years, China has had a team that competes at the top level of world soccer, losing by a shootout in the championship world cup game in 1999, and making it to the semi-finals in 1995 and the quarter-finals in 2003 and 2007. In recent years they’ve not done so well, but through the 90s and early 00s they were top notch. I am speaking, of course, of the women’s team, which I guess doesn’t count for much with readers of the NYT.

One can also ask why India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Vietnam haven’t been able to field teams in the World Cup finals. Each is a large nation with millions of fans and growing economies.

As someone who has lived and taught English in China for seven years, most recently at a high school, I can say that at least one statement each of the above authors wrote is correct. My school has a pretty decent football pitch and in the year I’ve been here I can honestly say I’ve never once seen any kind of football match played on it. Not even a “let’s pick teams and play” sort of thing. My students are in school 6 days a week, until 10PM, and spend 80-90% of their waking hours with their noses buried in books designed to help them score higher on exams. They’re awakened at 6AM, still half asleep and I can hear them “reciting” at 7:30. By the afternoon, when they actually have what passes as “free time,” they are exhausted. Nobody feels like actually playing anything. All they want to do is take a nap.
The corollary to this question is “Why is soccer not nearly as massively popular in the USA as it is in most other countries?” After all, it is an English sport, and we share a close historical rapport with England. I used to believe it was because soccer is a low-scoring game and Americans “like to see lots of scoring.” But then I realized that hockey — itself a low-scoring game and, in several ways, quite similar to soccer — is very popular here. I have come to the (tentative) conclusion that the problem is in the word “soccer.” In some as-yet-undefined way, we Americans may have an aversion to the word. Perhaps it sounds uncool. Every other country calls it football, which, after all, is its proper name. Perhaps we should do likewise. Then the USA would be the country with two football sports.
Sorry. I did not have the chance to read the experts’ comments, but I will do. Here is my two cents. Two factors do not arrest the development of the Chinese soccer playing. First, soccer is a high competitive sport. Be physically strong and competitive is not what the Chinese society has expected their men; by contrast, playing it safe and being smart is. This lowers the level of the willingness and hence ability to be competitive among Chinese. No less important is the fact that soccer requires a high level team spirit. At least 11 players have to cooperate with one another well. No weak link is acceptable. Theoretically, the most populous nation has more people to offer, but in reality that is not the case. Even top players who cannot cooperate well have little chance to prevail. The Chinese are not famous for their team work. The Chinese know this better than others. It is said that one Chinese will do well, but three Chinese will do badly. Interestingly enough, both the US and the Soviet Union dominated the most sport events, but never excelled in soccer, the popular sport in the world except the US.
Simply put: Winning soccer games is not China’s priority. Nobody in the government has told Chinese people they should play and win soccer games.

If one day someone like Wen Jia Bao suddenlly says, “Play soccer, and win!”, China will win. It’s that simple.
India has a population that will soon catch up to China’s. It is not a soccer powerhouse but it is the world’s largest cricket market. At any given time you will see children playing cricket in every available alleyway in Mumbai. India is not as dominant as Australia in cricket, but they have produced world-class cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar. Same goes for Pakistan.

China, on the other hand, is *the* world power in table tennis and badminton. In table tennis, Chinese players are so dominant that Chinese ex-pats who couldn’t even crack the top-100 world rankings would end up playing for other countries. Table tennis is the “people’s” sport of China, it’s played in dusty alleyways and recreation rooms across the country.

Does it matter that China & India were unable to send representatives to this year’s World Cup? The Chinese and Indians already have their own sports that are played in their country by hundreds of millions.

But with the growing interest in televised soccer in China (and India), it may only be a matter of time until there will be decent teams. Until then, there’s plenty of table tennis in China and plenty of cricket in India.
These explanations fail at a root level because the explainers have no idea what they are talking about. To discuss why football (US soccer) is not popular in China, one must understand football first.

Football, at a root level, is very easy to understand. But played at its highest levels, football is extraordinarily complex. Think about American football (NFL and college), where over the course of nearly hundred years, thousands of bright minds have spent their lives thinking up hundreds of offensive and defensive formations, thousands of plays for down and distance, individual techniques (pass or run block, run with or without the ball, pass) for various positions. But I would argue that world football (soccer) is even more complex because each player on the pitch must do much more than one or two things – each player must do a host of things depending on where he or she is on the pitch, who has the ball, and how much time is left, – all without time-outs for coaching and drawing up new plays.

At its highest level, world football is fast, fluid and dynamic, and teams with relatively little depth in the complexities of the game will founder. It takes time to develop junior programs, to develop coaches that understand how to play the game, to develop footballing mindsets for fans, to develop a cultural understanding of the game.

If you walk into any cafe anywhere in Europe or South America, you will be able to discuss the differences between various football formations, be it 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 or a 4-5-1. You simply cannot do that in China; nobody will know what you are referring to.

And so it would be extraordinary (in fact, almost unbelievable) if the Chinese national team were to be able to field a team equal in strength to South Korea or Japan, as both of the latter sides have had their histories in world football extending many, many decades beyond that of China.

So the question of why the Chinese national football team is not at the same level of its East Asian neighbors, is quite easy to answer: the program is far too young. China did not start trying to compete for World Cup finals berth until 1986, and only once made it to the Finals in 2002. For all China’s population, there simply are not enough individuals with the footballing background to be able to pass along the knowledge and history of the game, enough so that the next generation will be incrementally better to perform.

Contrast that with South Korea, who made it to the Finals in 1954 and has eight Finals appearances, or Japan, who also started trying to qualify from 1954 and four consecutive Finals appearances. And even further, North Korea made the quarterfinals of the World Cup back in 1966. These countries, with South Korea and Japan in particular, have had world football permeate their modern culture, and this has made footballing knowledge more common and able to be passed along.
I’ve talked with some friends about this and it’s not really a cultural issues. Yes, sports in China is rarely grass-roots. Yes, teamwork isn’t really apparent in the society at large. But despite the “factory” nature of sports production in China, you still have 1.3 billion people to choose 11 people from. Women’s team sports like volleyball and also soccer have historically been successful. So it’s not about a lack of smarts (I’ve met many smart people here) or talent (they have their own local version of skillfully kicking a feathered hacksac-like thing around) The issue is more specific. It deals with the soccer organization’s inability to hire a good coach. And the inability to hire a coach comes from the fact that people in charge of hiring the coach can’t keep their hands off the pot that contains the salary of the coach. It’s what nobody talks about but everyone seems to know. And as we’ve seen throughout the world cup events, bad coach equals bad team.

So it isn’t some inherent cultural thing. While the lack of grass-roots is true and is an issue in the cultivation of sports in this nation, it’s probably less relevant to this issue. The issue that most directly addresses the factor that China isn’t in t
Sweden and Norway dominated the winter Olympics but either country has a great soccer team. The bottom line is no one is good at everything.

SHENZHEN, China — There were bows and an apology from Terry Gou, one of the richest men in Asia and chairman of Foxconn Technology.

With about 800,000 Chinese employees, revenue of about $60 billion a year and a reputation for military-style efficiency, Foxconn is possibly the world’s biggest electronics maker. It is now also the focus of criticism and troubling questions about a wave of suicides among its workers at a pair of factories here that serve as major suppliers to global brands like Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
Sensing a public relations fiasco and facing questions from Foxconn suppliers, Mr. Gou traveled here Wednesday from Taiwan on what company executives said was an emergency trip. As part of a hastily assembled, carefully orchestrated news conference and tour led by Mr. Gou, Foxconn executives defended their labor practices, even as they vowed to do everything possible to prevent more young people from taking their own lives.


The company also presented a panel of mental health professionals to discuss the likely causes of suicide in China generally. At least one of the panelists placed the blame on social issues in the country beyond Foxconn’s control.
And perhaps in a sign of desperation, the company said it had even begun putting safety nets up on factory buildings to deter suicide attempts. (Not soon enough in at least one case, apparently. Hours after the news conference, another Foxconn employee fell to his death from one of the complex’s buildings, according to the official news agency Xinhua. It was not immediately known whether the death was an accident or suicide.)

“We’re reviewing everything,” said Mr. Gou, whose Taiwanese company controls Foxconn Technology, which operates two sprawling factories here with about 420,000 employees.
“We will leave no stone unturned and we’ll make sure to find a way to reduce these suicide tendencies,” Mr. Gou said.
Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, whose own corporate images are at risk from the suicides, say they, too, are now investigating conditions at Foxconn.
Mr. Gou, the 59-year-old founder of Foxconn and its parent company, the Hon Hai Group, sought to calm growing concerns that Foxconn’s labor practices and highly regimented operations were to blame for the rash of suicides on its two Shenzhen campuses this year.
The most recent confirmed suicide took place early Tuesday, when a 19-year-old employee fell to his death here. It was the ninth suicide this year at one of Foxconn’s two Shenzhen campuses, police said. Another two workers survived suicide attempts but suffered serious injuries.
In an interview Wednesday, Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, said that his company was “saddened and upset” by the suicides and that Apple was determined to ensure that Foxconn workers were treated with respect and dignity. Apple, whose popular iPod is among the products made by Foxconn, has conducted labor audits of the company in the past and sought improvements.


But questions about Foxconn’s labor practices have lingered. At a separate news conference late Wednesday, Shenzhen city officials suggested that the company was partly to blame for the accidents, although they offered few details.
And several labor rights groups are calling for an independent investigation into the deaths and labor practices at Foxconn. Workers are paid about $32 for a regular 40-hour workweek, which is above minimum wage in the area, and often seek to work large amounts of overtime.
“Foxconn’s production line system is designed so well that no worker will rest even one second during work; they make sure you’re always busy for every second,” says Li Qiang, executive director of the China Labor Watch, a New York-based labor rights group. “Foxconn only values the enterprise benefits but totally ignores the social benefits.”


Those claims have been bolstered in recent weeks by some of China’s state-run newspapers, which have published a series of sensational reports about the suicides, alongside exposés detailing what they claim are the harsh conditions inside Foxconn factories.
Some articles have described the company’s authoritarian management style, the heavy burdens workers face in trying to meet Foxconn production quotas. Others say the company has cramped dormitories that sometimes house 10 to a room.
But at Wednesday’s press conference, Foxconn executives extolled Shenzhen campus amenities that they said included modern dormitories, swimming pools and other recreational facilities. The company also said it had regularly passed stringent social audits conducted by Apple and other major customers, although some of those audits have cited labor infractions.


And while executives acknowledged a sharp rise in the rate of suicides on the Shenzhen campuses this year, they said there was no single or clear-cut cause. They insisted that personal problems and social ills, like the nation’s rising income gap, were largely to blame for the deaths — not the company’s management style.
“There is a fine line between productivity and regimentation and inhumane treatment,” said Louis Woo, a Foxconn executive. “I hope we treat our workers with dignity and respect.”

Foxconn executives say they have invited several groups of sociologists and mental health experts here to study the suicides and offer advice about how to prevent additional deaths.
Jing Jun, a sociology professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing and one of the experts Foxconn invited here, dismissed the idea that the company’s labor practices were to blame. He said the victims were young people, ages 18 to 24, almost all of whom had recently moved to Shenzhen from rural areas. He said he believed they struggled with personal problems and the challenges of adjusting to factory life.


Professor Jing also offered a theory that widespread reports about the earlier suicides at Foxconn this year had created a contagion of copycats, particularly after rumors spread about the high compensation the company was paying some of the victims’ families. Some families had received about 100,000 renminbi, or a little more than $14,600, according to several Foxconn employees.
“We don’t know everything yet, but this almost seems like an infectious disease,” Professor Jing said. “And paying high compensation to some may have played some role.”


Health experts say the suicide figures from Foxconn, while troubling, actually remain far below the national rate of about 14 per 100,000 in China, as calculated by the World Health Organization — a figure that compares to about 11 per 100,000 in the United States. Some independent studies, though, say suicide rates in China are higher than reflected in the health organization’s figures.


In any case, Foxconn has drawn growing scrutiny with the sudden surge in suicides at a pair of factories here that company executives say recently hired about 100,000 workers to help meet growing demand for electronics.
Last year, a 25-year-old worker killed himself after he was accused of stealing an iPhone prototype. In e-mail and text messages to friends, he said he had been beaten by the company’s security officers.
Mr. Gou rarely grants interviews and almost never allows journalists onto the Foxconn campus. But Wednesday he made an unusual show of concern, bowing several times at the news conference and apologizing for the tragedies.


And he promised to scrap recently announced plans to have all employees sign a form acknowledging that their relatives would get only basic, government-mandated compensation — and nothing more generous — if they took their own lives.
The company said it originally released the form, which has been widely criticized here, after consulting with the government, because it was worried that rumors about high compensation was a contributing factor in some of the suicide attempts.
Mr. Gou even led dozens of journalists on a tour of Foxconn’s campus, visiting dormitories, a campus hospital, a production line and a center meant for helping employees with personal problems.


And he appealed to the media to be careful in its coverage of the suicides at Foxconn, which he said could fuel even more suicide attempts.
“I’m appealing to the press to take social responsibility: do not sensationalize this,” he said. But he also said the company was re-examining its own operations. “We can be a better company.”

By DAVID BARBOZA, May 26, 2010
Bao Beibei contributed research.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************

Some comments:

This is why pure capitalism doesn’t work! Pure communism doesn’t work and neither does pure socialism. Is there something so wrong with us that we can come up with these philosophies but it’s totally beyond us to use elements of them together to create a more workable solution to globalization. We need to insist that countries that treat their employees inhumanely not be allowed to sell their products in the U.S. Don’t give me cheap anything that’s built by tragically desperate and inhumanely treated people. I don’t want young people suiciding so that I can have cheaper computers. If that’s the choice, I want America to be the country that says “NO” to those companies. And this is why we have unions here in America. The unions that are touted to be socialistic, as if that’s a dirty word. Pure capitalism breeds greed. We need government protection against our own selfish inclinations. Our own country, nay the world, is suffering now because of a lack of oversight against this rampant greed. This is the adolescence of humanity. I hope we can make the leap to maturity before we destroy ourselves.

Shouldn’t the finger be pointed towards the west? Don’t we demand cheap goods? There is always a price to pay, and that price is poverty and misery for the majority of the worlds population…. It’s called Capitalism.
*********************************************************************************************************************************************************
“There is a fine line between productivity and regimentation and inhumane treatment,” said Louis Woo, an aide to Mr. Gou at Hon Hai

This is an unbelievable thing to say with regard to human beings. There are fine lines between many virtues and vices but not productivity and inhumane treatment!

***********************************************************************************************************************************************************

Americans have to realize that the relatively low-priced things they heavily consume like electronics and clothes, etc., are financed, in large part, by the misery of workers on the other side of the world existing in near slave-like conditions. Would people of the Western world really rest any easier if many of these workers simply continue to live in sub-human, slavery rather than committing suicide?

************************************************************************************************************************************************************

I have studied and taught suicide prevention in China for the past five years. What is special about China and suicide is not the overall rate but the fact that it is high among young people (16-30 years old) and especially among young women. There are some cultural artifacts that influence this but the pace of industrialization and urbanization has introduced new elements to the mix. Compounding the problem is the lethal means used in China (jumping off of buildings, stepping in front of a train, pesticides) and the likelihood that attempts will be completed.

With all that, Fox Conn is a definite evil in all this, interviews with workers there document harsh and inhumane conditions, mandatory overtime (sometimes working 12 hour days for 28 days a month), and failure to make proper payments of wages and social welfare benefits. Taiwanese, Hong Kong and Korean owned factories have the worst reputation for these sorts of abuses and the government and its lackey trade union turn a blind eye, favoring economic growth.

Steve Jobs is a leading victimizer here and any notion of third party certification to protect these workers is fantasy. There are well documented abuses here and Mr. Jobs and all those who idolize his sleek, hip products have blood on their hands. No one can say, “I didn’t know!”

URUMQI, China — An exhibit on the first floor of the museum here gives the government’s unambiguous take on the history of this border region: “Xinjiang has been an inalienable part of the territory of China,” says one prominent sign.

19mummy_600

But walk upstairs to the second floor, and the ancient corpses on display seem to tell a different story.
One called the Loulan Beauty lies on her back with her shoulder-length hair matted down, her lips pursed in death, her high cheekbones and long nose the most obvious signs that she is not what one thinks of as Chinese.

The Loulan Beauty is one of more than 200 remarkably well-preserved mummies discovered in the western deserts here over the last few decades. The ancient bodies have become protagonists in a very contemporary political dispute over who should control the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
The Chinese authorities here face an intermittent separatist movement of nationalist Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people who number nine million in Xinjiang.


At the heart of the matter lie these questions: Who first settled this inhospitable part of western China? And for how long has the oil-rich region been part of the Chinese empire?
Uighur nationalists have gleaned evidence from the mummies, whose corpses span thousands of years, to support historical claims to the region.
Foreign scholars say that at the very least, the Tarim mummies — named after the vast Tarim Basin where they were found — show that Xinjiang has always been a melting pot, a place where people from various corners of Eurasia founded societies and where cultures overlapped.

19mummy_large
Contact between peoples was particularly frequent in the heyday of the Silk Road, when camel caravans transported goods that flowed from as far away as the Mediterranean. “It’s historically been a place where cultures have mixed together,” said Yidilisi Abuduresula, 58, a Uighur archaeologist in Xinjiang working on the mummies.
The Tarim mummies seem to indicate that the very first people to settle the area came from the west — down from the steppes of Central Asia and even farther afield — and not from the fertile plains and river valleys of the Chinese interior. The oldest, like the Loulan Beauty, date back 3,800 years.
Some Uighurs have latched on to the fact that the oldest mummies are most likely from the west as evidence that Xinjiang has belonged to the Uighurs throughout history. A modern, nationalistic pop song praising the Loulan Beauty has even become popular.
“The people found in Loulan were Uighur people, according to the materials,” said a Uighur tour guide in the city of Kashgar who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of running afoul of the Chinese authorities. “The nationalities of Xinjiang are very complicated. There have been many since ancient times.”
Scholars generally agree that Uighurs did not migrate to what is now Xinjiang from Central Asia until the 10th century. But, uncomfortably for the Chinese authorities, evidence from the mummies also offers a far more nuanced history of settlement than the official Chinese version.
By that official account, Zhang Qian, a general of the Han dynasty, led a military expedition to Xinjiang in the second century B.C. His presence is often cited by the ethnic Han Chinese when making historical claims to the region.

The mummies show, though, that humans entered the region thousands of years earlier, and almost certainly from the west.
What is indisputable is that the Tarim mummies are among the greatest recent archaeological finds in China, perhaps the world.
Four are in glass display cases in the main museum here in Urumqi, the regional capital. Their skin is parched and blackened from the wear and tear of thousands of years, but their bodies are strikingly intact, preserved by the dry climate of the western desert.
Some foreign scholars say the Chinese government, eager to assert a narrative of longtime Chinese dominance of Xinjiang, is unwilling to face the fact that the mummies provide evidence of heterogeneity throughout the region’s history of human settlement.
As a result, they say, the government has been unwilling to give broad access to foreign scientists to conduct genetic tests on the mummies.
“In terms of advanced scientific research on the mummies, it’s just not happening,” said Victor H. Mair, a professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Pennsylvania who has been at the forefront of foreign scholarship of the mummies.
Mr. Mair first spotted one of the mummies, a red-haired corpse called the Cherchen Man, in the back room of a museum in Urumqi while leading a tour of Americans there in 1988, the first year the mummies were put on display.
Since then, he says that he has been obsessed with pinpointing the origins of the mummies, intent on proving a theory dear to him: that the movement of peoples throughout history is far more common than previously thought.
Mr. Mair has assembled various groups of scholars to do research on the mummies. In 1993, the Chinese government tried to prevent Mr. Mair from leaving China with 52 tissue samples after having authorized him to go to Xinjiang and to collect them.
But a Chinese researcher managed to slip a half-dozen vials to Mr. Mair. From those samples, an Italian geneticist concluded in 1995 that at least two of the mummies had a European genetic marker.
The Chinese government in recent years has allowed genetic research on the mummies to be conducted only by Chinese scientists.
Jin Li, a well-known geneticist at Fudan University in Shanghai, tested the mummies in conjunction with a 2007 National Geographic documentary. He concluded that some of the oldest mummies had East Asian and even South Asian markers, though the documentary said further testing needed to be done.
Mr. Mair has disputed any suggestion that the mummies were from East Asia. He believes that East Asian migrants did not appear in the Tarim Basin until much later than the Loulan Beauty and her people.
The oldest mummies, he says, were probably Tocharians, herders who traveled eastward across the Central Asian steppes and whose language belonged to the Indo-European family. A second wave of migrants came from what is now Iran.
The theory that the earliest mummies came from the west of what is now modern China is supported by other scholars as well. A textile expert, Elizabeth Wayland Barber, in a book called “The Mummies of Urumchi,” wrote that the kind of cloth discovered in the oldest grave sites can be traced to the Caucasus.
Han Kangxin, a physical anthropologist, has also concluded that the earliest settlers were not Asians. He has studied the skulls of the mummies, and says that genetic tests can be unreliable.
“It’s very clear that these are of Europoid or Caucasoid origins,” Mr. Han, now retired, said in an interview in his apartment in Beijing.
Of the hundreds of mummies discovered, there are some that are East Asian, but they are not as ancient as the Loulan Beauty or the Cherchen Man.
The most prominent Chinese grave sites were discovered at a place called Astana, believed to be a former military outpost. The findings at the site span the Jin to the Han dynasties, from the third to the 10th centuries.
Further clouding the picture, a mummy from the Lop Nur area, the 2,000-year-old Yingpan Man, was unearthed with artifacts associated with an entirely different part of the globe. He was wearing a hemp death mask with gold foil and a red robe decorated with naked angelic figures and antelopes — all hallmarks of a Hellenistic civilization.
Despite the political issues, excavations of the grave sites are continuing.
Mr. Abuduresula, the Uighur archaeologist, made a trip in late September to the desert site at Xiaohe, where 350 graves have been discovered. The bottom layer of graves dates back nearly 4,000 years. More recent graves point to a matriarchal herding society that worshiped cows, Mr. Abuduresula said.
Somewhere in those sands, he said, archaeologists have discovered a woman as striking as the Loulan Beauty. She is called the Xiaohe Princess, and even her eyelashes are intact.

* By EDWARD WONG (NYT, November 19, 2008)

BEIJING — For three decades, China has fueled its remarkable economic rise by becoming the world’s workshop and unleashing a flood of low-priced exports. But faced with a possible global recession and weakening demand for Chinese exports, the question now is whether the ruling Communist Party can prevent the financial crisis from derailing the country’s economic miracle.

This question is pressing not just for China but also for the rest of the world. American officials and many economists say continued Chinese growth is vital to the global economy as the United States and Europe face severe downturns.

Yet to navigate the crisis, many analysts say, China will need to recalibrate its economic model, stoke domestic investment with heavy government spending and promote policies to increase consumer demand in a nation known for high savings rates.

The global crisis is also arising at a politically resonant moment for China. This month is the 30th anniversary of the reform policies that first ignited its market-oriented growth, a milestone that has raised inevitable questions about the next steps China must take to become a fully modern economic and political power.

At the geopolitical level, China would seem well positioned to expand its influence. It sits on $1.9 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, accumulated from giant trade surpluses and heavy foreign investment in China, and it could acquire discounted stakes in Western banks and industrial companies.

But for now, most analysts say China’s top priority is protecting its own economy. Chinese leaders say the domestic financial system is largely insulated from the global crisis — China’s banks remain domestically focused and have relatively small exposure to toxic securities sold by American and European banks. But economic growth has fallen to the lowest level in five years, unemployment is a growing concern, and scores of factories are closing in the country’s export region. Domestic stock exchanges have lost 65 percent of their value, and real estate sales have plummeted.

China still seems likely to avoid an outright recession, but a significantly slower growth would pose a political challenge for the Communist Party, which derives much of its legitimacy from delivering jobs and increasing wealth. Conventional wisdom holds that China’s output must grow at a minimum of 8 percent for the economy to produce enough jobs to absorb increases in the working-age population, and many economists expect growth to drop below that level next year.

Just last week, thousands of unemployed workers protested outside closed toy factories in Guangdong Province, the country’s export hub. Slightly more than half the country’s toy exporters shut down in the first seven months of this year, mostly small companies that struggled to cope with new safety standards as well as weakening Western demand, according to China’s customs agency.

If the growth rate “goes below 8 percent in 2009, I think they will be quite concerned,” said Kenneth Lieberthal, a China specialist currently at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “They are always concerned about job creation.”

Already, Chinese leaders are preparing a response that could resemble the government spending spree from 1998 to 2000 that is credited with helping China avoid the worst of the Asian financial crisis that broke out in 1997. Former Prime Minister Zhu Rongji poured billions of dollars into flood control, road building and new airport projects to stimulate economic output. Much of that infrastructure is now considered essential to China’s competitive advantage as a manufacturing exporter.

Today, improvements are needed in railroads and the electrical power grid. But China’s most conspicuous needs are the softer side of a modern economy — a health care network, lower tuition and fees for schools and universities and improvement in the rudimentary social safety net, economists say.

Such steps are seen as crucial if China is to give consumers — especially working-class urban residents and the 800 million people still classified as peasants — the confidence to spend rather than increase their savings.

“China’s infrastructure is excellent — compare it to India,” said Xu Xiaonian, an economics professor at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. “It’s getting harder for the government to find ways to spend money productively. It’s stimulus for the sake of stimulus.”

David H. McCormick, the under secretary for international affairs at the Treasury Department, said in a telephone interview that Chinese officials understood that the sheer size of their economy, combined with weakening demand overseas, meant that increasing demand for goods and services within China would be in China’s own interest. “They can’t count on exports being such a driver of their economy going forward,” he said.

To date, the most significant new measure is the land reform announced last Sunday. Full details of the program are still unclear, but the plan allows farmers for the first time to lease or transfer their land-use rights, a landmark step in what is still nominally a socialist country. Economists say they believe that the measure will improve the rural economy, though few predict sudden benefits. To raise rural incomes more rapidly, the top Chinese economic planning agency on Monday raised the minimum purchase price of wheat by up to 15 percent beginning next year.

Transforming the countryside and creating a nation of consumers is likely to prove at least as arduous as turning China into a manufacturing giant. In recent years, President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have eliminated the ancient agricultural tax and increased spending on rural initiatives. Yet the rural-urban income gap has continued to worsen. Today, China still has more than 500 million people living on less than $2 a day; nationwide per capita income is only about $2,000. The social safety net remains so inadequate that most peasants save their spare earnings to protect against a medical crisis or as a thin cushion for old age.

Andy Rothman, a longtime analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, an investment bank, said that the government had been promoting domestic consumption for years but that by necessity it was a gradual process and not one that could provide a quick fix to a global slowdown.

“This isn’t something you want to move ahead at light speed,” Mr. Rothman said. “China trying to step into the breach by handing out credit cards to 800 million peasants would be a disaster just a few years down the road.”

From a geopolitical standpoint, China would seem to have an opportunity to fill a void created by an ailing West, especially given the country’s huge foreign exchange holdings. President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan visited Beijing this month in search of a financial edge to help his country stave off bankruptcy — an overture that could become more common as China is perceived as sitting on a money pot.

More pertinent to the United States is whether China will re-examine its strategy of financing American debt. Chinese experts say that the American and Chinese economies are so intertwined that Chinese leaders will not make any abrupt changes in their policy of directing the bulk of China’s foreign currency reserves to dollar-denominated assets. The United States Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., and other senior American officials have been in almost daily contact with their Chinese counterparts.

“China, with the responsibility of a big country, will not make trouble for international financial markets,” said Hu Angang, a Chinese economist who is the director of the Center for China Studies at Tsinghua University. “The Chinese government is very rational and flexible, and very clearly recognizes any policy does not just influence domestic markets but also global markets.”

Some Chinese experts are suggesting that China could use more of its foreign reserves to purchase stocks in Western companies and even as leverage to gain positions on corporate boards. Doing so, these experts say, would allow China to develop expertise and gain more experience in global business.

But others say that China was stung when a state-owned Chinese petrochemical company tried and failed to purchase Unocal, an American oil company, and that it would be cautious in making any moves deemed politically risky. Domestic pressures also exist; public criticism has erupted after some investments by the country’s sovereign wealth fund lost money.

No one is yet certain when the global financial system will stabilize, but the crisis has convinced many economic analysts that the system itself will be re-examined. The financial crisis is “a ground-shaking event, but people are going to stick to the same system,” said Wang Tao, chief of the China economic research unit for UBS Securities. “But they are going to think about how to reform the system, and China will probably have a stronger voice than before.”

In recent years, some Chinese experts have written analyses about the inevitability of an American decline and how China must prepare to manage it. But in the face of the current crisis, most Chinese analysts say China is nowhere near ready yet to stand as a superpower.

“China doesn’t want to be viewed as a replacement for the States,” said one Chinese scholar who requested anonymity so that he could discuss the mind-set of government officials. “We are still a developing country. We have more foreign reserves than other countries, but we also have more problems.”

By JIM YARDLEY and KEITH BRADSHER (NYT;October 23, 2008)

Sand is implacable here in far western China. It blows and shifts and eats away at everything, erasing boundaries, scouring graves, leaving farmers in despair. It’s one of many threats to the major tourist draw of Dunhuang, a city on the lip of the Gobi desert: the hundreds of rock-cut Buddhist grottoes that pepper a cliff face outside town.

Known as Mogaoku – ”peerless caves” – and filled with paradisiacal frescos and hand-molded clay sculptures of savior-gods and saints, they are like nothing else in the Chinese Buddhist world. And Mogaoku is in trouble. After a dramatic increase in traffic, the caves are deteriorating because of high levels of carbon dioxide and humidity.

A detail of a scene with flying apsaras, a type of celestial chorine. (The umbrella in the left-hand corner shelters Buddha.)Set between Mongolia and Tibet, Dunhuang was a vital juncture on the Silk Road. Because of its gateway position, it was where Buddhism spilled out of India and Central Asia into China, leaving a residue of spectacular art.

An array of painted sculptures.The earliest examples of caves, small and plain, were used for shelter and meditation, occasionally for burials. By the early fifth century, however, larger grottoes were excavated as temples and monastic lecture halls. Many had chapel-like niches and freestanding altars, all cut from stone. The interiors were sculpted with architectural features as if to simulate buildings.

A hunting scene, painted in a cave in Dunhuang.Painting covered everything. Murals illustrating tales from the Buddha’s past lives, were popular, as were images of court fetes. Rock ceilings were covered with fields of decorative patterning to evoke an illusion of fabric pavilions. Any leftover space was filled with figures of tiny deities.

A fifth-century painted Buddha, sprinkled with desert dust, shows some deterioration. Sculptures for the most part were made of mud. But the body of the 75-foot-tall Buddha in the cave known as “Nine-Storyed Temple” is carved from the rock face and plastered over. His feet are planted at the cliff base; he looks out through a window carved at the top.

An illustration of buildings from the Infinite Life Sutra. By the 11th century Dunhuang’s fortunes were in decline. Sea trade had cut into Silk Road traffic. Regional wars left the town isolated and forgotten. Nature went to work. Sand from the dunes swept into the grottoes. Rock facades gave way, leaving interiors exposed. When people finally reappeared, the damage only increased.

An illustration of Mount Wutai, located in the Creating Harmony Temple in Wutai County.Plans are therefore under way to recast the entire Dunhuang experience in a way that will both intensify and distance it. Digital technology will give visitors a kind of total immersion encounter with the caves impossible before now, but that immersion will take place 15 miles from the site. The question of access versus preservation is a poignant one and is by no means confined to Mogaoku. What are we willing to give up to keep fragile monuments intact?

Photo: Wu Jian/Dunhuang Academy

China sought on Wednesday to contain ongoing protests in its ethnic Tibetan regions, as it stepped up detentions in Tibet’s capital Lhasa and vowed tighter control over monasteries.

tibet-1.jpg

The western province of Qinghai was the latest area to report anti-government activities, with hundreds of civilians staging a sit-down protest after paramilitary police stopped them from marching, a Beijing-based source who spoke to residents said.

“They were beating up monks, which will only infuriate ordinary people,” the source said of the protest on Tuesday in Qinghai’s Xinghai county.

24tibet_337.jpg

A resident in the area confirmed the demonstration, saying that paramilitaries dispersed the 200 to 300 protesters after half and hour, that the area was crawling with armed security forces and that workers were kept inside their offices.

tibet-4.jpg

The Tibet unrest — and China’s response to it — has also become a lightning rod for criticism of its Communist authorities ahead of the Beijing Olympics, marring the country’s desire to use the Games as the “coming out” party.

The unrest began with a series of peaceful marches in Lhasa earlier this month that soon led to a deadly riot. China says 19 people died in the violence, while representatives of the Tibetan government-in-exile says 140 died in clashes.

tibet-5.jpg

China has pinned the blame for the protests on the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism who lives in exile in India. He fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, and denies he masterminded the demonstrations.

But echoing China’s public security minister, Chinese scholars vowed to press ahead with “patriotic education” in Tibet’s monasteries, accusing monks there of being duped by the Dalai Lama into supporting separatism.

The education campaigns, which have increased under Tibet’s current Communist Party boss, Zhang Qingli, are blamed by some for sowing resentment of Beijing within the region’s Buddhist monasteries, but the scholars said they were necessary.

“The purpose of patriotic education is because the Dalai clique has been trying hard to disrupt development in Tibet and disrupt the normal practices of Tibetan Buddhism,” Dramdul, who heads the Religious Studies Institute at the China Tibetology Research Centre, told a news conference.

“Patriotic education ought to stop the infiltration attempts by the Dalai clique and provide education to the monks,” he said.

tibet-2.jpg

CRACKDOWN

The Beijing source said resentment at the paramilitary presence around Lhasa’s monasteries prompted one monk at the Ramoche temple to hang himself.

Police were searching for those involved in the demonstrations and the riot earlier this month.

“It’s very harsh. They are taking in and questioning anyone who saw the protests,” the source said. “The prisons are full. Detainees are being held at prisons in counties outside Lhasa.”

Despite international calls for Beijing to use restraint in its response to the unrest, the United States and Britain have reiterated their support for the Beijing Games, though Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said Washington should be more forceful in speaking out against violence in Tibet.

“I don’t think we should wait until the Olympics to make sure that our views our known,” Clinton told reporters.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday refused to rule out a possible boycott of the Olympics.

RESENTMENT

In a letter circulated by the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, a Lhasa resident described tight controls on religion and resentment over an influx of Han Chinese residents since a rail link was built to the remote, mountain region.

“While the government promised that the new railway to Lhasa would bring prosperity, tourism and cheaper goods to the region, the reality is that it has brought so many new settlers that the demand for, and consequently the price of, everyday commodities has sharply risen,” the letter said.

“Monks are always discriminated (against) and targeted as the primary danger to the state,” it added.

But, illustrating the gulf in views about the cause of unrest between Beijing and Lhasa, Lhagpa Phuntshogs, who directs the China Tibetology Research Centre, said the Dalai Lama had instigated marches among monks, who wanted to restore serfdom.

“What do they want? I think it’s very clear that they want to try to restore the old theocracy in Tibet. The separatist elements are not happy with the end of theocracy in Tibet … and they are not happy with the end of backwardness in Tibet.”

By Benjamin Kang Lim and Lindsay Beck
BEIJING (Reuters) -(Wed Mar 26, 2008
)

It was impossible not to notice that the United States removed China from its list of top 10 human rights violators just as the biggest anti-China protests in 20 years erupted in Tibet. Even when handed that undeserved dispensation, the Beijing government cannot control its authoritarian nature.

A week of protests in Tibet turned violent last Friday as Chinese security forces clashed with hundreds of Buddhist monks and other ethnic Tibetans. Information was hard to verify — nearly all foreigners are barred from entering and Tibetans have no freedom — but news reports said a market in the capital was burned; at least 16, and perhaps many more, people were killed; and paramilitary police and troops were deployed. Over the weekend, rioting spread to neighboring provinces, and demonstrations even reached Beijing.

The protests began March 10, the anniversary of a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. The Chinese took Tibet by force in 1951, and the region has been a source of tension ever since. Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama — who, much to Beijing’s fury, met President Bush at the White House last October — has urged greater religious and cultural freedom for Tibet. But talks with Beijing have gone nowhere.

To earn the right to play host to this summer’s Olympics, Beijing promised to improve its human rights record. As its behavior in Tibet — and the recent arrest of the human rights advocate Hu Jia and others — demonstrates, China does not take that commitment seriously.

In its annual human rights report on 190 countries, the State Department conceded that Beijing’s overall performance remained poor. But in what looked like a political payoff to a government whose help America desperately needs on difficult problems, the department dropped China from its list of 10 worst violators.

Whatever gain China may have gotten from being elevated above the likes of North Korea, Myanmar, Iran and Sudan was lost by the crackdown on Tibet.

China had a chance to shine for its Olympic coming-out party and is blowing it. Its leaders will continue to have to battle protests and unrest — and endure international approbation — until they ensure more freedom for all their citizens, including greater religious tolerance and freedom for Tibet.

* Editorial New York Times (March 18, 2008)

China ordered tourists out of Tibet’s capital Saturday while troops on foot and in armored vehicles patrolled the streets and confined government workers to their offices, a day after riots that a Tibetan exile group said left at least 30 protesters dead.

_44493221_tibet_afp.jpg
A day of protests marked the 49th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.(BBC)

The demonstrations against Chinese rule of Tibet are the largest and most violent in the region in nearly two decades. They have spread to other areas of China as well as neighboring Nepal and India among other countries.

In the western province of Gansu, police fired tear gas Saturday to disperse Buddhist monks and others staging a second day of protests in sympathy with anti-Chinese demonstrations in Lhasa, local residents said.

China’s governor in Tibet vowed to punish the rioters, while law enforcement authorities urged protesters to turn themselves in by Tuesday or face unspecified punishment.

The protests led by Buddhist monks began Monday in Tibet on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. They turned violent on Friday when demonstrators burned cars and shops. Witnesses said they heard gunshots on Friday and more shooting on Saturday night.
_44493347_tibet_2_afp.jpg
At least two people were reported killed in clashes between protesters and police in Tibet’s main city of Lhasa.(BBC)

The eruption of violence comes just two weeks before China’s Olympic celebrations kick off with the start of the torch relay, which passes through Tibet. China is gambling that its crackdown will not bring an international outcry over human rights violations that could lead to boycotts of the Olympics.

Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics in August has already brought scrutiny of China’s human rights record and its pollution problems. But so far, the international community has reacted to the crackdown in Tibet only by calling for Chinese restraint without any threats of an Olympic boycott or other sanctions.

“We believe that the boycott doesn’t solve anything,” International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge told reporters Saturday on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. “On the contrary. It is penalizing innocent athletes and it is stopping the organization from something that definitely is worthwhile organizing.”

China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported at least 10 were killed Friday when demonstrators rampaged in Lhasa, setting fire to shops and cars.

“The victims are all innocent civilians, and they have been burnt to death,” Xinhua quoted an official with the regional government as saying.

The Dalai Lama’s exiled Tibetan government in India said it had confirmed Chinese authorities killed at least 30 Tibetan protesters but added the toll could be as high as 100. There was no confirmation of the death toll from Chinese officials and the numbers could not be independently verified.

China maintains rigid control over Tibet, foreigners need special travel permits to get there and journalists rarely get access except under highly controlled circumstances.

Streets in Lhasa were mostly empty Saturday as a curfew remained in place, witnesses said.

Tourists reached by phone or those who arrived Saturday in Nepal described soldiers standing in lines sealing off streets where there was rioting Friday. Armored vehicles and trucks ferrying soldiers were seen on the streets.

“There are military blockades blocking off whole portions of the city, and the entire city is basically closed down,” said a 23-year-old Western student who arrived in Lhasa on Saturday. “All the restaurants are closed, all the hotels are closed.”

Plooij Frans, a Dutch tourist who left the capital Saturday morning by plane and arrived in the Nepali capital of Katmandu, said he saw about 140 trucks of soldiers drive into the city within 24 hours.

“They came down on Tibetan people really hard,” said Frans, who said his group could not return to their hotel Friday and had to stay near the airport. “Every corner there were tanks. It would have been impossible to hold any protest today.”

Government workers in Lhasa said Chinese authorities have been prevented from leaving their buildings.

“We’ve been here since yesterday. No one has been allowed to leave or come in,” said a woman who works for Lhasa’s Work Safety Bureau, located near the Potala Palace, the former residence of the Dalai Lama. “Armored vehicles have been driving past,” she said. “Men wearing camouflage uniforms and holding batons are patrolling the streets.

Tourists were told to stay in their hotels and make plans to leave, but government staff were required to work.

Some shops were closed, said a woman who answered the telephone at the Lhasa Hotel.

“There’s no conflict today. The streets look pretty quiet,” said the woman who refused to give her name for fear of retribution.

Xinhua reported Saturday that Lhasa was calm, with little traffic on the roads.

“Burned cars, motorcycles and bicycles remained scattered on the main streets, and the air is tinged with smoke,” the report said.

China’s governor in Tibet threatened to punish rioters.

“We will deal harshly with these criminals in accordance with the law,” Champa Phuntsok, chairman of the Tibetan government, told reporters in Beijing. “Beating, smashing, looting and burning — we absolutely condemn this sort of behavior. This plot is doomed to failure.”

He blamed the protests on followers of the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule and is still Tibet’s widely revered spiritual leader.

On Friday, the Dalai Lama appealed to China from his home in exile in Dharamsala, India not to use force and to respect Tibetan aspirations.

In the western Chinese province of Gansu, several hundred monks marched out of historic Labrang monastery and into the town of Xiahe in the morning, gathering hundreds of other Tibetans with them as they went, residents said.

The crowd attacked government buildings, smashing windows in the county police headquarters, before police fired tear gas to put an end to the protest, residents said. A London-based Tibetan activist group, Free Tibet Campaign, said 20 people were arrested, citing unidentified sources in Xiahe.

“Many windows in shops and houses were smashed,” said an employee at a hotel, who did not want either his or the hotel’s name used for fear of retaliation. He said he did not see any Tibetans arrested or injured but said some police were hurt.

Pockets of dissent were also springing up outside China.

In Zurich, Switzerland, police said they fired tear gas at pro-Tibet demonstrators who tried to storm the Chinese consulate. Hundreds of people took part in the protest against the Chinese crackdown. Swiss police said they fired the tear gas when several protesters attempted to break into the consulate.

Tibetan groups want the Swiss government to press China on its human rights record.

In Australia, media reported that police used batons and pepper spray to quell a demonstration outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney. The Australian Associated Press reported that dozens of demonstrators were at the scene and five were arrested.

Dozens of protesters in India launched a new march just days after more than 100 Tibetan exiles were arrested by authorities during a similar rally.

And in Katmandu, police broke up a protest by Tibetans and arrested 20.

* By AUDRA ANG (Associated Press Writer/March 15, 2008)

Associated Press writers Anita Chang in Beijing, Ashwini Bhatia in Dehra, India, and Binaj Gurubacharya in Katmandu, Nepal, contributed to this story.

On the Net:

International Campaign for Tibet: http://www.savetibet.orgChinese official news agency: http://www.xinhuanet.com

SHANGHAI — China’s latest export is inflation. After falling for years, prices of Chinese goods sold in the United States have risen for the last eight months.

01inflate_600.jpg

Soaring energy and raw material costs, a falling dollar and new business rules here are forcing Chinese factories to increase the prices of their exports, according to analysts and Western companies doing business here.

The rise was a modest 2.4 percent over the last year. But even that small amount, combined with higher energy and food costs that also reflect China’s growing demands on global resources, contributed to a rise in inflation in the United States. Inflation in the United States was 4.1 percent in 2007, up from 2.5 percent in 2006.

Because of new cost pressures here, American consumers could see prices increase by as much as 10 percent this year on specific products — including toys, clothing, footwear and other consumer goods — just as the United States faces a possible recession.

In the longer term, higher costs in China could spell the end of an era of ultra-cheap goods, as well as the beginning of China’s rise from the lowest rungs of global manufacturing.

Economists have been warning for months that this country’s decade-long role of keeping a lid on global inflation was on the wane.

“China has been the world’s factory and the anchor of the global disconnect between rising material prices and lower consumer prices,” said Dong Tao, an economist for Credit Suisse. “But its heyday is over. We’re going to see higher prices.”

Chinese imports constitute 7.5 percent of spending by Americans on consumer goods, but they make up much bigger shares of several popular categories, including about 80 percent of toys, 85 percent of footwear, and 40 percent of clothing.

Even when the market share held by Chinese goods is relatively small, their low prices put pressure on other producers to keep costs down.

Whether Chinese factories will succeed in making wholesalers pay more for their goods and whether retailers will be able to pass much of their higher costs on to American consumers is unclear, analysts say.

But companies that operate in China or buy from here are already reeling from mounting cost pressures that they say will weaken their profits and could disrupt their supply chains.

Those supply lines were already called into question by large-scale recalls of Chinese exports last year, involving everything from toys to pet food to tires.

“This is what I call the perfect storm,” said Alan G. Hassenfeld, the chairman of Hasbro, one of the world’s largest toy makers, during a recent visit to China. “We’ve got higher labor costs and labor shortages, plastic prices have gone way up and we’re doing more safety testing.”

While no reliable figures exist on average Chinese wages, experts say that factory wages have risen 80 percent or more in many coastal areas in recent years, with the lowest wage about $125 a month.

Some of the current cost pressures are actually by design — Beijing’s design.

After years of complaints from the United States and Europe about China’s growing trade surplus, authorities here have removed incentives that once favored exporters of cheap goods.
Starting last June, for instance, China removed or reduced tax rebates on hundreds of items for export, including toys, apparel, leather, wood and other goods, effectively taxing those industries.

But the actions are also part of Beijing’s desire to move China higher up the global manufacturing chain — away from the least- finished products, like plastic children’s toys, toward more advanced exports that require skilled labor, like small electronics and even automobiles.

Whatever the government’s motivation, many Chinese exporters say the timing of the rebate cut was disastrous. Their factories had been struggling to cope with problems that included power shortages, higher raw material costs, rising wages and inflation in other areas.

For instance, the cost of some types of plastic has risen more than 30 percent in the last few years because of higher oil or petroleum costs. Plastic is a major component in toys and other consumer goods.

Many Chinese factory owners say a tough new labor law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, complicates the hiring and firing process and threatens to raise labor costs even more, at a time when parts of the country are already plagued with labor shortages. Some factory owners say there have already been strikes and other turmoil over the interpretation of the new law and how it should be applied.

“We have seen lots of brawls between employees and employers,” said Hong Jiasheng, vice president of the Taiwan Merchant Association, which represents investors in China. “We think the enactment of the new labor law is too hasty.”

Analysts say Beijing is also stepping up its enforcement of environmental laws, putting added pressure on factories that had long skirted regulations. Adhering to those often ignored rules increases cost, too.

These changes take place against the backdrop of a dollar falling modestly against the Chinese currency. The dollar is down about 7.6 percent in the last year against the yuan and is expected to fall further this year.

The weaker the dollar, the more expensive Chinese and other goods become when their prices are converted to dollars.
All in all, toy producers are among the hardest hit by the changes in law and prices. They rely on large quantities of plastic. They face heightened regulatory scrutiny after the product safety scandals last year.

Indeed, some toy factories went bankrupt, squeezed between rising local costs and pressures from foreign customers to deliver a better product at an even lower price.

“I’ve been in the toy industry for almost 20 years, but these past two years have been the hardest time,” said Guo Jinshen, manager of the Fenggang Fengyuan Plastic Toys Company.

“Costs are rising, there are recalls, stricter regulation, more complicated inspection — all these things make it difficult.”
To reduce costs, some factory owners are considering moving to inland China, where wages are lower, or to other parts of Asia, like Vietnam and Indonesia.

Li & Fung, one of the biggest companies for supplying products worldwide, says its customers are already responding to Chinese inflation.

“There’s a shift in sourcing driven by higher prices in China,” says Bruce Rockowitz, president at Li & Fung. “We’ve already seen a big move in furniture to Indonesia.”

But while relocating production to cheaper countries could keep prices low for Western consumer goods, moving factories and complex supply chains is difficult. Such changes can take years and cost millions of dollars.

In the meantime, makers of toys, apparel and footwear — highly labor-intensive industries — are being forced to consider raising prices even as growth in the United States slows, a rare confluence of events not seen in decades.

Companies that began outsourcing production to China in the 1990s mostly benefited from lower costs, which translated into both higher corporate profits and lower consumer prices. Now, many Western companies have to rethink pricing.

“Companies are now ordering for the spring of 2009,” says Nate Herman, director of international trade at the American Apparel and Footwear Association, based in Arlington, Va., that represents some big clothing and footwear makers. “Factories are coming back and asking for 20, 30, 40, 50 percent price increases.”

Will importers pass those costs on to consumers? “It’s going to be hard to avoid some increase,” he said.

* By DAVID BARBOZA (February 1, 2008)

tn_2007-11-20t044533z_01_nootr_rtridsp_2_oukoe-uk-olympics-beijing-presenters.jpg

Beijing is seeking women presenters for medals ceremonies at the 2008 Olympics — but only those who are tall and thin need apply.Hundreds of young women will be recruited as volunteers to present medals and raise flags at ceremonies for the Games, which open on August 8, but they must meet stringent criteria.
“We have some very clear conditions and demands,” explained Zhao Dongming, director of the Cultural Activities Department at Beijing’s Organizing Committee for the Games.

“We have certain requirements for their height, since they are to present the medals to our athletes. They need to be of a height between 1.68 and 1.78 meters. That’s above average.”
There was no requirement on their weight, Zhao said, but he added: “Generally speaking, they can’t be too fat. Their figure should be good. They shouldn’t be too heavy.”
The guidance was so the women, who must be between 18 and 25 and university students, would fit into the uniforms being prepared for them, he said.

But good looks alone won’t cut it.
“It is not enough just to have a beautiful appearance. They need to be healthy and they need to have dedicated training,” Zhao said.
“They also must have a very clear understanding of the Olympic spirit and the Olympic movement.”

(Reporting by Lindsay Beck, editing by Nick Macfie and Roger Crabb)
* Tue 20 Nov 2007, BEIJING (Reuters) –

The United States’ Iran policy has changed several times since late May, confusing the international media as well as leaving countries involved clueless as to what to do next.

On November 4, 1979 Iranian students occupied the US embassy in Teheran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days in response to US giving political asylum to deposed Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The US broke diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran on April 7, 1980 and imposed sanctions against the oil-rich nation.

US President George W. Bush labeled Iran one of the “axis of evil” countries soon after he took office in 2001. After the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, the US deployed military forces in the Gulf area and toppled the Taliban regime in Iran’s eastern neighbor Afghanistan and Sadam Hussein in neighboring Iraq to the west, while frequently talking about attacking Iran with military force.

When the Iran nuclear issue emerged in 2002, foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany (then known as the EU3) visited Teheran together and asked the Iranian government to sign the Safeguard Agreement of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) with the International Atomic energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for a light-water reactor.

Iran signed the document on December 18, 2003 and suspended production and installation of centrifuges used for uranium enrichment. It then suspended its uranium enrichment project in November that year.

The Bush administration was very unhappy about the EU3’s move and demanded that Iran stop all nuclear activities for good. Under US pressure, EU3 told Iran to give up all activities concerning uranium enrichment, resulting in the abrupt termination of negotiations between EU and Iran.

It is fair to say that US-EU3 pressure on Iran over the nuclear issue played a role in young and headstrong Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election as Iranian president in June 2005. Not long after formally taking office in August 2005, Ahmadinejad resumed uranium enrichment in a show of steely resolve against US-EU bullying.

The Iran nuclear crisis gave rise to the “P5+1” mechanism comprising the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, which came up in June 2006 with a proposal designed to encourage Iran to suspend uranium enrichment but received only a “gray” reply from Teheran.

Against this backdrop, the UN Security Council passed the Resolution 1737 on December 28, last year and the Resolution 1747 on March 24, this year, asking all member countries to take necessary measures to stop selling items and technology that could help Iran’s uranium enrichment and development of nuclear weapons delivery systems.

The two resolutions also list 23 entities and 27 individuals, whose activities outside Iran should be monitored and reported to a special committee set up by the UNSC.

Both resolutions demand Iran suspend its uranium enrichment activities within 60 days, but was ignored by Teheran. Immediately speculation mounted that the US would launch air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The rumors set global oil prices soaring and stock markets shaking.

Four days after the 60-day deadline set in the Resolution 1747, US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi held bilateral talks in Bagdad on May 28. The meeting lasted four hours and was focused on the Iraqi security situation, but drew intense attention and positive comments from the international media.

Crocker told reporters after the meeting “the talks were businesslike”.

This author finds these words particularly thought-provoking. On July 24, Crocker and Qomi held another meeting in Baghdad and agreed to form a US-Iran-Iraq tripartite committee to advance efforts to restore stability in Iraq.

Senior US and Iranian diplomats holding bilateral talks openly qualifies as a breakthrough, 27 years after the US severed its diplomatic ties with Iran and has helped other parties involved in the nuclear issue make progress in their negotiations with Iran. On June 22, chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani held talks with IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei in Vienna and agreed to work out an “action plan” in two months to resolve the issues not yet settled during the IAEA’s inspection of Iran’s nuclear project. Larijani then met with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Lisbon the next day for a “positive and constructive talk”.

On July 12, Iran and IAEA reached an agreement over the modalities of inspection. Thus, IAEA representatives have visited Iran twice since early August to talk about a timetable for the implementation of the “action plan”.

On August 21, IAEA deputy director general Olli Heinonen and his Iranian counterpart Javad Vaeedi made a joint announcement in Teheran that they had reached an agreed working plan for resolving the lingering issues over nuclear inspection, including a timetable for the actual implementation of the agreement.

On August 27, the IAEA published at Iran’s request the full text of the agreement, which includes items such as the inspection of Iran’s Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant and the heavy water research reactor in Arak, plutonium experiments and adding more inspectors.

Iran has reiterated in the document that it is just a politically motivated and baseless allegation by US intelligence agencies that Iran has a “Green Salt Project” on high explosive testing and missile re-entry vehicles.

The US has always held a negative attitude toward IAEA-Iran cooperation, though it was also negotiating with Teheran at the same time. On August 15, the US media reported that the US government planned to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.

The Iranian side warned Washington that the Gulf would become “hell” for Iran’s enemies if they were to attack the Islamic Republic. However, a senior Iranian diplomat laughed at the media report, calling it a “propaganda game” of the US.

After Iran and IAEA reached an agreement on lingering issues concerning nuclear inspection on August 21, US representative to the IAEA Gregory Schulte said the agreement “has real limitations”.

Some IAEA officials expressed in private their disagreement with Shulte’s comment, saying it is unrealistic to expect Iran now to comply on the whole package of demands by the Security Council, all at once, when they remain under sanctions.

Why does the US keep threatening Iran while negotiating with the Gulf country? One popular explanation is that the United States’ recent proposal at the UN to subject Iran to more sanctions ran into objections, and by mounting threats against Teheran the Bush administration can placate the “hawks’ within its ranks who want to use force against Iran on the one hand and pressure other parties concerned for more efforts to push a new resolution on further punishing Iran through the UN Security Council on the other.

But, can the US achieve the above mentioned goal? It is very difficult to find a definite answer to the question. To most countries of the world the US is one of those most ready to change policies in a heartbeat. That means any country set on following the US must be prepared for any negative consequence brought by sudden changes in US policies. There have been quite a few examples of this.

The US insists Iran’s nuclear project could be connected to nuclear proliferation, though Washington’s stand on preventing nuclear proliferation has not been exactly consistent. When India conducted nuclear tests in May 1998, the US was the first to demand worldwide sanctions against New Delhi, but it was also the first to go back on its words not long afterwards.

When the Bush administration took office, it went a step further by being the first nuclear power to sign an agreement on nuclear cooperation with India, which is yet to join the non-proliferation system, and is expected to implement it soon.

Needless to say, many countries that followed Washington’s example and cornered India would not have done so had they known the US would change its non-proliferation policy so easily.

Sometimes US secret diplomacy also puts other countries in embarrassing situations – finding Washington shaking hands with their enemies overnight and themselves left in the cold. The US has severed diplomatic relations with Iran for nearly 30 years, but no one is certain their bilateral ties will not take a surprising turn one of these days. One such example can be found in the “Irangate” incident exposed during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

Right now, no one can absolutely rule out the possibility that nuclear talks between the US and Iran may branch out to cover steps to improve bilateral relations.

So, countries concerned should think rationally about any negative impact from a US policy shift before deciding whether to go along with any US initiative. Nations should exercise caution as the US urges the UN Security Council to place further sanctions against Iran while continuing to negotiate with Teheran.

Source: China Daily; By Gong Shaopeng, the author is a researcher at the China Foreign Affairs University

BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Monday hit back at Mattel, after a massive toy recall, saying designers and importers should also take responsibility for product safety, but promised to punish its own manufacturers who flout standards.

The world’s largest toymaker, Mattel, recalled more than 18 million Chinese-made toys in mid-August because of hazards from small magnets that can cause injury if swallowed, just two weeks after it recalled 1.5 million toys due to fears over lead paint.

“I myself looked at some of the samples of these problematic toys, and I found that there is a serious problem with the design. The design is seriously defective,” Li Changjiang, head of China’s General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, told a news conference.

“In my view, no matter where those toys were sold there would be a recall, because it is highly likely they are dangerous for children.

“While we recognize that Chinese producers should be blamed for those problematic toys, what kind of responsibility should the U.S. designers and the U.S. importers take in this respect?” Li asked.

China is facing growing global pressure to clean up its manufacturing sector and ensure the quality of its exports after a series of scandals involving products ranging from poisonous pet food ingredients to sub-standard toys and tainted toothpaste.

Li has described the storm surrounding Chinese-made goods as politically motivated and unfair, but he has also called for tougher regulation of manufacturers and warned that failure to improve quality was undermining China’s trade strength.

On Monday, he blamed differing national standards, misleading statistics and lack of communication for some of the product safety scares that have alarmed foreign consumers.

“For some products, the two countries enforce different standards,” Li said of China and the United States, also citing “inaccurate statistics”.

But he said the latest Chinese campaign to improve product safety would focus on creating a chain of supervision across the entire production process for both industrial products and food.
Monitoring and inspection of drug manufacturers would also be strengthened, and celebrities banned from endorsing drugs in advertisements, Li said.

He also acknowledged the vast challenge China faces in overseeing its hundreds of thousands of tiny, often family-run producers, a task compounded by lack of communication between myriad government agencies overseeing production and safety standards, and between central and local authorities.
But Li defended the “made-in-China” label and said Chinese-made toys in particular were enjoyed the world over.

“In China, about 3 million workers are working in the toy industry, providing toys to children all across the world,” he said.
“It is because of their hard work that children in other parts of the world are having fun in their daily life.”

© Reuters, Mon Aug 27, 2007 By Lindsay Beck2006.

mar0516.JPG

Chen Guangcheng, a native of China’s eastern Shandong province, the legal activist CAME to Shangai to publicize the plight of women who had been forced to undergo abortions or sterilizations as part of the nation’s family-planning campaign.
China has tried for more than two decades to lower its population through its “one child” policy.
Chen was blinded by a fever as a small child.

China is the world’s factory. It holds bountiful foreign-currency reserves. It will be host to the Olympics in 2008.

The balance has shifted from China’s feeling as if it needs the world to the world’s needing China.

* It was summarized of Time, sep.4, 2006