February 14, 2012: As the Chinese Navy grows larger, mainly to protect the import/export capabilities of a booming economy, neighboring nations are building up their submarines forces. These are the ideal weapons for disrupting seaborne trade and mining major ports and that threat is most likely to cause China to back off. All this is a boon for Western arms manufacturers because Chinese neighbors seek a quality edge over the largely Russian designed Chinese gear by getting the superior Western equipment and weapons.
China is becoming the major player in the world oil trade. European demand is down because of economic problems and the U.S. is becoming more and more self-sufficient (because of new technology that allows oil to be extracted from huge North American oil shale deposits). Similar technology is bringing enormous quantities of local natural gas to the U.S. market and some of this gas replaces oil. The U.S. is headed for becoming a net-exporter of oil and gas (for the first time since 1949) once more. That leaves China, and to a lesser extent India, as the major oil importers.
On the ground, India's military preparations to defend its disputed (with China) border state of Arunachal Pradesh makes it more likely that there will be some violence along the disputed border. India is not only concerned about the land fighting but is building up an aircraft carrier and submarine force to block Chinese attempts to control Indian Ocean trade routes. The situation in Arunachal Pradesh has recently become hotter as India became aware that China has, since 1986, occupied 28 square kilometers of Indian territory. This Chinese move was made quietly, in a remote area that Indian troops did not regularly patrol. When it was discovered Indian commanders pointed out that the Chinese had much more numerous forces on their side of the border. So India took no official notice of the incursion, and no one else was even aware of it until recently.
Chinese trucks and railroad cars continue to deliver food to North Korea. Apparently China is delivering enough to prevent widespread starvation before the first 2012 harvests come in later this year. China has become North Korea's largest trading partner, in part because of increasingly effective embargoes against North Korean arms exports. Last year, trade between China and North Korea rose 62 percent, to $5.63 billion. China has laid claim to North Korea, which it regards as a vassal state. So if the current North Korean government collapsed South Korea efforts to unify Korea would likely be met by Chinese troops.
Ethnic violence continues in Sichuan province, which has a large Tibetan population. The government deals quickly and violently with these outbreaks by Tibetan nationalists, both in Sichuan and in neighboring Tibet (Xizang province). The unrest continues, with hundreds wounded, at least ten dead, and many more arrested. Tibetans living outside Tibet are angry over government efforts to curb the practice of Buddhism (the religion of nearly all ethnic Tibetans). Inside Tibet, Tibetans are angry at the growing number of Han Chinese migrants and government efforts to suppress Tibetan culture. The government blames Tibetan unrest on outside agitators.
February 12, 2012: Two Chinese patrol boats entered disputed (with Japan) waters off the Senkaku Islands. After 30 minutes the Chinese warships left. This is the second time this year there have been incursions like this. More are expected as China becomes increasingly assertive about its claims on unoccupied islands and shoals in the South China Sea.
February 8, 2012: Lijun Wang, a major anti-corruption official, has gone on "sick leave." This is a synonym for "purged for legal misbehavior". Wang has been vice mayor and police chief of Chongqing, a major city (30 million people) in the southwest. Wang's anti-corruption efforts have put dozens of senior officials in jail. Such good deeds do not go unpunished in China. While the central government constantly calls for anti-corruption efforts, at the provincial and city level, the resistance is highly organized and usually able to defeat major anti-corruption drives. This, however, only increases popular discontent. The central government sees a major popular uprising coming if the corruption, especially the illegal seizure of land, does not stop. The provincial communist officials are too preoccupied with getting rich to pay attention.
February 4, 2012: The head of the Arab League openly criticized China for blocking UN efforts to aid rebels in Syria. Russia and China are both opposed to international efforts to support the overthrow of dictatorships. China, despite its booming market economy, is still a communist police state, and the Russians are losing billions in arms sales to dictatorships under attack by world opinion. China prefers to do business with dictatorships, if only because problems with unruly locals are more easily handled.
February 1, 2012: The government allowed the state controlled media to go public with stories on a major case of water pollution in southeastern Guangxi Province. Last month, poor management and lax government supervision led to the drinking water for over four million people being polluted by the toxic metal cadmium. Despite attempts to limit spread of the news it got out via the Internet and cell phones. Over a dozen executives and government officials were fired or arrested because of the disaster. Long-term health effects are expected to hurt thousands of people in the area.