7 PARAGRAPHS

Welcome to 7 PARAGRAPHS!

Thank you for visiting my revised blog. This is to share my thoughts particularly on Chinese and American politics in 7 paragraphs or less (so you don’t have to spend too much time to read it).

I hope that this blog is in your interest. Comments are welcomed.

[Selected posts from my previous blog had been reposted here. If you want to read more, just check The Dragon and the Eagle]

Pyongyang Plays Dirty

[This post was originally posted in The Dragon and The Eagle on 25 January 2009]

Surprising developments had taken place in the East Asia this week. Two giants of the region, Japan and China, were having a summit (the first in five years) in Beijing following the appointment of Japan’s new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Both countries have been estranged neighbours for quite a long time, yet the major issue in this summit was North Korea’s nuclear threat. Both Abe, who was appointed just two weeks ago, and President Hu Jintao agreed that a nuclear test by North Korea could not be tolerated.

But this joint statement went unheard as Pyongyang did test an underground nuclear bomb yesterday. North Korea had withdrawn itself from the six-party talks designed to ‘clear’ the problem of its nuclear threat, talks co-sponsored by China, its main ally. Washington’s reluctance to hold a bilateral talk with Pyongyang had further boosted its ‘confidence’ to enter ‘the league of small, yet prestigious nuclear countries’ by testing the bomb.

The test was yet the culmination of Kim Jong-Il’s stubbornness that many find it easy to understand the condemnation of the test around the world. I for one also believe that things are getting more and more difficult for China. Abe’s visit to Beijing was unexpectedly, given the fact that he’d choose to visit Beijing first instead of the Yasukuni shrine. It is hopefully a good sign of mature relationship between the two countries, leaving all the turmoils behind. Nevertheless, China failed to ensure North Korea that the test wouldn’t bring anything but worldwide criticism as well as growing insecurity in the region.

I then remembered some of my comments during a Chinese foreign policy class some time ago. If North Korea wouldn’t step down from its nuclear threat, the U.N. would have been ‘pushed’ to send its troops there. Of course, American soldiers will be a reasonable part of the force (However, according to Chris Matthews from MSNBC, the American public would not support two or more wars involving American forces at the same time). Should North Korea be another ‘state of (American) war’, many of its people will seek for shelters. Being a refugee, they may run south, cross the Russian border, or enter China’s provinces of Jilin and Liaoning (and perhaps Heilongjiang). The last scenario will let Beijing respond difficultly. Pyongyang has been for a long time a close ally to Beijing, yet China is expected to face a lot of problems giving much needed shelters and foods to North Korean refugees. The future of North Korea is no doubt a major concern for any Chinese leadership.

Time will tell us whether the U.S. sends its troop in South Korea crossing the border. Needless to say, this is the last thing China wants to happen.

“State of Denial”

[This post was originally posted in The Dragon and The Eagle on 10 October 2006]

Another controversy, yet not completely new in nature, has struck the U.S. in these days following the publication of State of Denial: Bush At War, Part III. The book was written by Bob Woodward, himself with Carl Bernstein were gained much ‘popularity’ with their All the President’s Men in the 1970s. State of Denial reveals that for the last three years, the Bush administration has not been honest with the American public about the Iraqi war. What follows in italics are modified excerpts of Woodward’s interview in CBS (‘Bob Woodward: Bush Misleads on Iraq’, CBS News, October 1, 2006).

Woodward says that “It is the oldest story of the coverage of government: the failure to tell the truth.” A major example of this, Woodward claims, is the level of violence that is over any expectation. Attacks on American soldiers, about four in an hour (!), have been his foremost concern, not to mention that the administration were concealing this fact to justify the presence of the U.S. in Iraq.

Things are getting worse in Iraq, but Bush wouldn’t admit that. John Negroponte, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and currently the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, shares the view that the U.S. has gone wrong in Iraq. General John Abizaid, the U.S. commander in the Middle East, had even believed that the U.S. should have withdrawn its troops from Iraq ‘as soon as practical’. Note that a military man, a general, have said that!

However, Bush wouldn’t listen to Abizaid for that he still has Don Rumsfeld in his cabinet. Rumsfeld, whom many believe is one of the architects of the war, has been backed up by the likes of Dick Cheney (who fears that he may lost his position should Rumsfeld be out) and Henry Kissinger. Kissinger was even suggesting Bush that ‘victory is the only meaningful exit strategy.’ Bush even won’t listen to his wife Laura, who doesn’t like Rumsfeld as he ‘was hurting my husband’, and his father, who thinks that his son was wrong invading Iraq. Bush will definitely stick to it, saying that ‘his war has Iraq and America on the right path.’ He is reportedly said, ‘I will not withdrawn even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.’ Barney is Bush’s dog.

Day after day, violence is escalating in Iraq. This country has been becoming apart further and further from even a piece of peace. Well, Bush might not think about it when he started the war three years ago, but I’m definitely sure that despite his ‘confidence on winning’, he is starting to seriously think about those miserable things happen in Iraq. Not be re-elected he might be, but he for sure wouldn’t like to be remembered as ‘the president of war’ (or would he?)

U.S. policy in Iraq is a complete disgrace. I’m sick of people who support war, whatever the reason, for war causes nothing but troubles and troubles. Even though I haven’t read State of Denial, I couldn’t agree more with Woodward. Who knows, State of Denial could push the way for Bush to resign, like All the President’s Men did to Nixon!

No Life, No Liberty, and the Pursuit of Unhappiness

[This post was originally posted in The Dragon and The Eagle on 29 April 2007]

If we are to talk about human rights, then Americans, theoretically, are perhaps the luckiest nation in the world. Those who study the history of the United States will find that the above statement has a strong base to argue. Whilst stating that “all Men are created equal”, The Declaration of Independence also stress that every person shall be entitled unalienable rights of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. These two creeds make the Americans arguably be ‘the best example’ in modern history in the implementation of human rights and democracy. Nevertheless, Americans today are getting farther and farther from the so-called ‘equality’ and rights to decide the best for themselves.

Are Americans today entitled wholly their rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? What Cho Seung-hui did two weeks ago proved that life in America is simply dangerous. A very tragic incident it was, yet it was nothing but another display of ‘American rigidity’. Once again, Americans were in mourning: they were very angry, depressed, and confused – but nothing fundamental has changed. The Second Amendment, a legacy of American Revolution, still stands to clearly say that no limitations shall be imposed upon Americans’ right to have a gun. If Americans feel safer in their life by having a gun, let them do that. So far, every effort to amend this Amendment fails to gain much support from Congress. The Republicans, at least presidential candidate Senator John McCain, were among those who support this Amendment. Dubya even sees no importance in debating the Amendment.

Americans are free to do (almost) anything to make the best of their life. But in Virginia Tech case as were in similar previous cases, it seems that you couldn’t live in peace, you couldn’t make use of your liberty, and you wouldn’t feel happy, unless you could defend yourself with a gun. Let me ask you Americans, what kind of society is this? What does being ‘a society of freedom’ mean if you have to be ready anytime to protect that liberty with weapons?

Interestingly, American politicians are not only ‘rigid’, but they are also controversial – as they always be. TEMPO magazine in its 22 April edition writes that another ‘terrorist’ has attacked many states in the U.S.: obesity. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 25% of population of 17 states in 2005 had obesity problems. CDC also finds out that until 2006, obesity has killed at least 400.000 Americans annually. It has exceeded smoking as No. 1 killer in the U.S. So shocking and frightening this fact to Americans, Indiana and Iowa implemented quite successfully some programs to make their citizen slimmer. California, New York, and Washington have been discussing bills which will impose tax on junk food and soft drink, so that people will reduce their consumption on those unhealthy foods. However, other states like Hawaii, Massachusetts, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado and New Jersey have not arranged similar ‘dietary’ programs yet, due to limited support in their respective Houses.

Americans view possessing a gun and consuming unhealthy foods as a matter of personal choice. As they are entitled the rights of ‘life’ and ‘liberty’, they are allowed to do almost everything they feel necessary to make them ‘happy’. There seems nothing wrong with this until we put those choices into a wider, bigger society safety and welfare – and we find controversial arguments. Argument one: using a gun unexpectedly may cause fewer victims than consuming unhealthy foods. Argument two: making one’s life healthy is valued more than keeping one safe. Argument three: regulations are not necessary for personal choice; otherwise they are breaking the very basic of American rights.

Poor Americans, life is not getting easier for them. Two cases above have showed that for a significant part of Americans, what they have are simply ‘no life’, ‘no liberty’, and ‘the pursuit of unhappiness’. For most U.S. politicians, let me say this: ‘unlimited freedom will kill you’.

‘Energy security with Chinese characteristics’

[This post was originally posted in The Dragon and The Eagle on 18 December 2006]

“China is willing to cooperate with other countries in developing and exploiting energy resources, especially in energy conservation, improvement of energy efficiency, development of alternative energy resources and environmental protection concerning energy utilization, and contribute to maintaining the stability and security of international energy supply.” (People’s Daily Online, 16 December 2006)

The above sentence was a remark made by Premier Wen Jiabao in five countries meeting in Beijing last weekend. Along with India, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S., China had used this meeting to boost further “energy efficiency … (as) a strategic issue in China’s economic development.” The meeting concluded with, among others, a shared interest of taking “effective measures to improve energy efficiency to address the energy security issue.” For China alone, this meeting was quite important as many predict it will be the number one oil importer by the first half of the century.

It is easy to understand that the massive measure of Chinese economic development has been demanding a huge amount of energy, notably oil, available. Even though domestic energy supplies still contribute a significant part of Chinese energy demand, but external energy supplies has been on the rise for the last five years or so. This has led many countries, among them is the U.S of course, worry that Beijing’s huge demand of energy could be a threat of world energy security. China quickly responds to this development by saying that ‘the allegation’ would have no reason. According to the Chinese government, “energy imports only constitute a minor part of China’s energy mix which depends mainly on the domestic resources.” As China’s import of oil is still far behind those of the U.S. and Japan at the moment, “it was unfair to say China’s remarkable increase in oil demand would be responsible for the world’s upsurging oil price.” (quotes taken from People’s Daily Online).

However, things could be change so rapidly these days. With economic development progress, China understands that it needs more energy supply, and this may come from outside resources. While stands as the world’s number one coal producer, Chinese dependence on coal burning for energy may have not lasted forever. Just remember that coal burning is regarded as the top cause of environmental degradation in today’s China. We are now familiar with phrases like ‘China’s quest for energy security‘,‘China’s global hunt for energy’, or ‘China’s oil diplomacy’, which see China pays more unprecedented attention to Africa and Latin America. We may see that China will play more important roles in global energy security as we prepare for the upcoming of what I call “The century of the new dragon”. Washington and Tokyo may not happy to see this development, but it seems to me no one but the Chinese themselves can prevent it from happening.