Monday, April 28, 2008

The United States, China and its Asian Neighbors

China’s economy, popularity and influence are growing, while many claim that the U.S. is headed in the opposite direction. As far as Southeast Asia is concerned this may be true, simply because of China’s natural consequence of location and it expounding economic dynamics. This has taken considerable time, as China was often considered a bully, especially in its quest for land acquisition. The Korean invasions, the Tibetan occupation, the refusal to grant Taiwan independence and to some degree the current unwanted oversight of Hong Kong has not been warmly received by other Asian countries in the region. However; China’s bustling economy has seemed to smother its own government’s power and has created an opportunistic atmosphere for many Asians. There is no doubt that the CCP is fully in control, but now large amounts of money are moving in and out of the hands of the Chinese people and that brings a power that is practically universal. The communist government appears as getting “soft” as it quickly becomes surrounded by millionaires and private entrepreneurs. The momentum created by this wealth could trigger the unpredictable government to once again convert all property to the State. It would be more difficult than in the 1950s, because of world wide access to news and China’s current position of “near-superpower”. But, China still has a reputation of brutal control, reinforced by its past transgressions against its own citizens.

The United States has worked many years to develop relations with China. At times, this was difficult due to our large opposition to anything related to communism. During the 1980s China began to expand its market to the outside world. The increased economic power created a situation whereas the U.S. had to develop a good relationship in order to balance our own imports and exports. The relationship that was developed during Bill Clinton’s presidency has allowed the U.S. to maintain good relations with China in many fields, notably the economy, science, technology and even Chinese culture to some degree. The one sticking point in our relationship has always been Taiwan. China wants it back, and Taiwan has generally opposed reunification with China. The U.S. has maintained some distance in this mess, but the sale of U.S. arms to Taiwan has eroded some Chinese confidence in the United States. Presently, the U.S. is not supporting reunification or Taiwan independence. The U.S. is peacefully “sitting on the fence”.

The United States’ policy toward other countries that are warming up to China should not change. The countries that make up the ASEAN have no current conflicts with the United States and we generally have good relationships (though Burma is currently a U.S. headache and Cambodia is still run by a communist regime). The sanctions against Burma have been alleviated by the increase trade with China, but that is a minor situation when compared to the entire Southeast Asian region. The United States should not change any policies toward the Southeast because of China’s growing popularity and influence.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The White Mongols

My discovery of the Mosuo society through the last assignment at UNC-G was very interesting. The Mosuo are a matrilineal group that has an absence of a formal marriage system. They practice the “walking marriage” where the female has her lover/husband over at night and he then returns to his mother’s home the next morning. The children of these couples are raised in the mother’s home with little or no support from the father. The mother’s brothers are surrogate fathers and provide the male role model for his sister’s off spring. This practice is certainly strange from a western view as we generally believe that men should be the head of house and be an active participant in the rearing of his children.

During my research I discovered another ethnic minority group in China that has an interesting marriage system as well. This group is the Tu people. The Tu only number around 250,000 and live in the fertile foothills of the Qilian Mountains in the north and northwest area of China. The Tu are often called “Chahan Monggue” which translates to white Mongols. It is believed that Mongolian soldiers invaded the area in the 1200s and intermarried with the local people. Their language is similar to Mongolian and is called Mongour. It is a difficult language and there is no written form. The life of this language is also threatened by the fact that China wants to eliminate languages it considers foreign in relation to that spoken by the Han majority.

The Tu wear elaborate clothing that clearly distinguishes them from the Han, Mongols, and Hui of that area. The women and men have multicolored outfits with fine embroidered sleeves. This is in great contrast to the simplistic clothing that the majority of rural people typically wear.

The comparison that I wanted to make with the Mosuo is the marriage system that so differs from the west. The Tu incorporate two distinct types of "marriage" into their culture. The first is the usual practice of arranged marriages, after which the brides go and live with the groom’s family. The second "marriage" is a ceremony that takes place when a young girl reaches the age of fifteen, after which she is considered as being "married to Heaven." She continues to live with her own family, but is allowed to take in different sexual partners. Any children born to her will become members of her father's family, unlike the Mosuo culture where the children live with the mother’s side.

An unmarried Tu woman wears a single ponytail to indicate her status to prospective partners. If a woman is still single by the time she has reached her mid-twenties, she is permitted to bear children out of wedlock so that she might avoid the disgrace of not having borne any children. The whole community cares for these illegitimate children. This gives a new meaning to “it takes a village to raise a child.”

The Tu are hardworking and peaceful people. They specialize in animal husbandry, concentrating on sheep breeding. Recently, modern industry and equipment has begun to make its way into the agricultural areas. Paved roads and electricity has also made its way into the former isolated area. Most modernization has been good for the Tu. Agricultural production and mining has increased. There have also been several hydro electrical plants installed, bringing more electricity to the area. This has led to an increase in school systems for the youth as well as health facilities for the public.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

China everywhere

This class has really made me aware of China. China seems to be everywhere; I didn't notice that until taking the MALS course at UNC-G.

I have been lifting weights and training for years. I guess I am fighting off old age the best that I can. I read an article today in Muscle and Fitness by Jon Finkle. It is about Stein Metzger, who is one of the world's best volleyball players and an incredible athlete. Metzger and his team are headed to China for the Olympics....I didn't even know that there was a U.S. men's team. It is surprising to see our beach boys making the headlines for going to China.

Click above for link.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

China's Labor Issue

We continue to delve deeper into China and its success as well as its failures, one of the most interesting, yet depressing facts that I have discovered during this class is the wide spread of child labor. I am the father of two kids, one is more of a man than a child these days, but my daughter is only 8 years old. She is still innocent and makes being a dad one of the greatest pleasures in life. It pains me to know that there are girls her age and even younger separated from their families while working in slave-like or even worst environments. Who knows what true atrocities that these young people suffer. They have no defense systems, little to no local advocacy, no contact with their families, live in inhumane conditions and are basically treated as beasts of burden. They have one responsibility and that is to produce so that a profit is made down the line. Wal-Mart, Kmart, Kathy Lee Gifford, Michael Jordan, Nike, the list is unfortunately too long, but all of these entities have been caught up in the recent discovery of child labor camps and sweatshops. There has been an appropriate response from those that I listed, but how many other brands or celebrities are unknowingly involved in this horrible work force?
Education in China’s rural areas is struggling; kids are often needed to work in the fields as they help provide for the family. The urban areas with its incredible migrant growth are facing these same challenges as every penny is needed to survive. It is estimated that 10 million children under 16 are not in school and more than half of those are suspected of working in factories. In China’s most populated province Sichuan, it is estimated that 85% of kids under 16 are working instead of attending school.
There have also been reports of kidnappings, where children are stolen and forced to work in labor camps. Hundreds of kids as young as my daughter are stolen from their families and forced into slave camps. This is 2008, can you believe that this is possible? Howard French of the New York Times writes Kidnapped children in China forced into slave labor. (June 16, 2007). French tells the horrifying story of a brother and sister kidnapped while vacationing in Qingdao. Fortunately, the brother escaped and he and his father rescued the sister, but this is one of many similar stories.
The following piece is from the Los Angeles Times and it clearly shows the tragedy that exists in modern China as they go from Mao to Market. The entire article is very informative; however the following is just an excerpt describing the ordeal of the children and their parents following the girls’ assignment in a local factory. After reading it I wanted to hug my kids and thank God that America is truly blessed.

China's Use of Child Labor Emerges from the Shadows,By Ching-Ching Ni, The Los Angeles Times, Friday 13 May 2005………….
The deaths of five girls draw attention to the practice, common in struggling rural areas.
Beixinzhuang, China - Christmas was just two days away and snow was falling when the five factory girls finished their shift. They'd been working for 12 hours, it was already after 1 a.m., and their dorm was freezing cold. One of them ran out to grab a bucket and some burning coal. The room warmed slightly. They drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, none of them woke up. They had been poisoned by the fumes. But their parents believe at least two of the girls died much more horrible deaths.
They charge that the owner of the canvas-making factory was so impatient to cover up the fact that three of the unconscious workers were underage that he rushed the girls into caskets while some were still alive.
"You see the damage on the corner of the box, the bruises on the side of her head, and the vomit in her hair?" said Jia Haimin, the mother of 14-year-old Wang Yajuan, pointing to pictures of her daughter lying in a cardboard casket stained with vomit and appearing to show evidence of a struggle. "Dead people can't bang their heads against the box. Dead people can't vomit. My child was still alive when they put her in there."

This story is one of millions across China. The Chinese media’s impotence because of CCP control and the people’s fear of the government allows for many of these tragedies to go unreported or covered up by the local authorities. With China’s internet frenzy and the global attention on China’s labor practices, perhaps these situations will soon end. I will certainly re-consider the purchase of any product made in China.

Friday, March 28, 2008

China's Generation Divide.

We have been discussing the differences in China’s recent generation in my UNCG MALS class, Modern China.
Today’s youth are exposed to the Internet, television, popular magazines, video games, American movies, western culture and a host of other underground activities that their parents could not have imagined in their own youth. There is an incredible difference in the two generations. The infamous Cultural Revolution practically eliminated childhood for many of today’s parents, which increases the misunderstanding and even bewilderment at their own children’s behavior. There is definitely a great divide in the values that Chinese culture has historically maintained and today’s values which are influenced and compromised by the aforementioned exposures.
In a 2001 BBC article by Duncan Hewitt, he reports that Chinese kids today are more violent and have increased attacks on their own parents. This is a new phenomenon that contradicts the peaceful resolutions of China’s main religion, Buddhism. I have attached the article so that you may read the full account. Unfortunately, some of our undesirable western cultures now include violent teenagers and young people who have little self control, resulting in attacks on teachers, parents and other figures of authority. Hopefully, these negative images will not become commonplace in China.

Click title for link to BBC.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

China, a world power?

China is becoming a world power and it will eventually surpass many of the countries that for years have dominated commerce, economics, and development. China’s growth rate has been an astounding 9.5% a year for the past two decades. Analysts project these figures to steady at 7-9% for the next twenty years as well. China is known for its ability to organize a large workforce, manufacturing mass quantity of goods for export. However, many of the young Chinese today are majoring in business and high technological studies. University education is at an all time high for Chinese students. This new field will allow China to expand past its simple labor pool and offer the world an intellectual source for revenues.

China’s military is also growing. They are not as advanced as the United States, Britain and some of the other European States, but with the Taiwan issue becoming a bigger problem every day China is preparing for an offense if necessary. Recent uprising in Tibet is putting China on the news every night and people are considering China as a world leader, if not a world power. China is buying and building serious weapon systems that should alarm the world.

2008 marks a year of substantial recognition of China on a worldwide stage. The 2008Olympics will no doubt place Chine center stage for months and it will allow the world to see just how much China has transformed in the past twenty years. China now has gleaming skyscrapers and skylines that rival Manhattan and other large cities. China’s economic growth is strong, but their grasp on communism and rejection of democracy results in many people failing to publicly recognize China for its accomplishments.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Will the Olympians have fresh air when they compete? (Click for link to Bloomberg News Article)

China’s environmental issues are continuing to escalate as their economic machine grows to enormity. Unfortunately, where there is growth, there is waste and China is great at waste. What they are not great at, is controlling waste, namely in the form of pollution. China is now home to 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities (Council on Foreign Affairs, Sept 2007).

The 2008 Olympics are placing the failures of China center stage. Numerous reports are dogging Chinese Officials and Party Representatives. There are the never ending stories of human rights abuse and now China’s infamous pollution issues and the lack of attention to same has surfaced in the media.

The attention has caused the government to attempt to clean up Beijing at least while the Olympics are in town. They are forcing many businesses and factories to close if they produce environmental hazards, especially in regard to air quality. They have also started a campaign to plant greenery and trees along the streets of the city. Will these measures last after the Olympics have come and gone? Will China ever get past corruption and start enforcing the environmental laws that are actually applicable to China, but not equally enforced across the land? Laws and regulations that are not enforced due to local government corruption that hides behind Party membership and conceals the ill gains from the Central Government in Beijing. Time will tell.

The Olympics are placing serious pressure on the government to literally clean up its act.