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Henry Thornton - SMERSH: A discussion of economic, social and political issues This week in China - 12 February 2010 Date 12/02/2010
Member rating 4.5/5
Welcome to the year of the Tiger.

By Graeme Mills Email / Print

Xin Nian Kuai Le
This is the year of the Tiger
My suggestion to the U.S is that it would be best all round if you left said Tiger's tail alone.

Gossip from the forest. What are all the people in China doing now? Worrying about what America will do next? Worrying about the economy? Worrying and pondering how to become a democracy?
The people of China are preparing for Chinese New Year. There is a mass movement of millions of people returning home to celebrate the New Year with their family. Mountains of food are being prepared for the New Year dinner that will be held on New Years Eve, this Saturday night, the 13th February.
Millions, indeed probably billions, of red envelopes are being filled with money to give to children, family and friends, hong bao.
Children are looking forward to New Years Day when they will get new clothes and lots of money, sui qian. It is a day when parents can't be negative, so they have to say yes to just about anything their children ask for.
All over China red paper with New Year greetings painted on it is being pasted onto doors, tie chun.
Hen duo, hen duo bian pao (many many fireworks) are being purchased. The fun starts on New Years Eve so that the streets are filled with red paper on New Years Day, symbolising good luck.
The greeting is 'zhu ni xin nian kuai le, gong xi fa cai'  wishing you a happy and prosperous new year. (phonetically pronounced: jew knee shin nian k'why lur, goo'ng she far ch'eye). 
Greeting cards are sent to all and sundry. China Daily has provided several which can be emailed to friends. They are a rich cultural experience.
I suspect that if America does do anything startling over the 15 day New Year period China will treat it as a naughty child and ignored. Mind you, given the insensitivity to Chinese culture and feelings of late, this is the very time America might choose to respond to China¡¯s stated position over Taiwan.
In the last week Taiwan, the Dalai Lama, trade sanctions etc have all but disappeared from the Chinese media. The message is clear. China has made its position clear; it is now waiting to see what America will do next.
For further information about Chinese New Year, including a picture of me going deaf amid a cacophony of exploding fireworks and twisting dragons, see here and here
Before we went to the celebration Mei had told me to be prepared because there would be many flies. I thought that a few flies would not get in the way of a good time, so smiled in understanding. She had meant, of course, fireworks. I have to tell you that a couple of small wads of cotton wool are useless as a protection against extreme and continuous noise.
Mei saw a news item about the people from Honk Kong travelling to Guang Zhou in search of Chinese merchandise and the people of Guang Zhou travelling to Hong Kong in search of western merchandise. Recent news has it that China's imports surged by 85% in January. What does that tell the world about the potential to export to China and tap into that growing market? 

CCTV 9.   Free trade talks between Taiwan and China were suspended for the Chinese New Year. It was noted by the presenter that cross straight tensions would not materially impact on China's relationship with America. Shortly after WWII Taiwan was closely aligned with the U.S and this was supported by a comfortable majority of people in Taiwan. Now, it is roughly a 50:50 split between those who want independence from China and those who would like to join China.
My observation is that America has sought to retain Taiwan as a launching pad in the event it had to go to war with China. It has used the political culture of Taiwan to form a close alliance in the guise of protecting Taiwan. Sales of arms to Taiwan has always been on the pretext of providing enough arms for Taiwan to defend itself. That is now patently ludicrous. China can take Taiwan whenever it chooses. So, Taiwan is effectively paying America protection money. Until recently America could have made good its commitment to defend Taiwan. Can it now? That is open to debate as I outlined in 'Where to now America?'  It may take many more years, but the logic is that Taiwan will eventually, of its own free will, be a part of China. Given the benefits Macau has seen from returning to the fold, it is only hurting Taiwan to stay aloof. $US 6 bn is a hell of a lot of protection money.
There was an interview with the Jamaican Prime Minister who is keen to establish closer relations with China. Indeed, Jamaica established diplomatic relations with China in 1972.
The next programme discussed the meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama. The theme being China's role in the world and how it can communicate its message more effectively, particularly on issues such as Tibet. I was struck by the lack of understanding the Chinese commentators had of the depth of feeling the west has for this issue. They talked of sending emissaries from Tibet to talk to politicians in America. The Dalai Lama has had nearly 60 years of complete access to the world's media to get his message across. During that time, the western media portrayed China as an aggressive communist state intent on world dominations, like the USSR. Now it is portrayed as big, scary and inscrutable. It simply does not matter what the Chinese say about Tibet, it is not believed in the west. In my opinion, it is an issue best left to one side for the moment. As China opens up and as more people visit Tibet, then the 'true' story will slowly emerge.
Like Davos, China had, for the first time, a prominent role at the NATO conference held in Munich. In his speech China's foreign minister noted that China's rise should be seen as an opportunity not a threat. That no power can solve the world's problems alone. Mr Mei Zhaorong, China's former ambassador to Germany was asked how he would respond to NATO's overture. His reply, 'VERY carefully'. 

My take - China's international role is now going from important to vital. The world has to come to terms with this.
This week the programmes on the issues of Taiwan, Tibet and NATO were to show that China had arrived, and America had better get used to it.
Then a quiet chat about learning English in China. The advertisements feature the presenter and crew of dialogue doing very Chinese New Year things. They smile a lot and are very relaxed. 
One telling story this week concerned the steadily closer ties between Japan and China. One of the stumbling blocks has been Japan's war of aggression against China in the 1930's and early 40's, in particular the Nanking Massacre of 1937. It appears that while Japan as a nation has reluctantly accepted responsibility for the atrocity, it is still quibbling over the details, the number killed. The barbarity of the Nanking massacre is not defined by the number killed, but by the act itself. Do the Japanese seriously believe they are saving 'face' by reducing the numbers? It is a permanent stain on Japan, one they must acknowledge to save it being repeated. Japan could learn from Germany on this issue.

For a day-to-day summary of the News on China including links to all news items, visit kaixin 
Xin nian, kuai le

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