China: Gunning For Google Earth


April 14,2008: While Russian weapons manufacturers are backing away from supplying China with weapons (because of Chinese theft of Russian technology and production of cheaper copies of Russian equipment), the two countries have been increasing military cooperation. Counter-terror units have been holding joint exercises, and exchanging information on Islamic terrorism. China recently set up a military hot-line with Russia. There is also one with the United States. Russian and Chinese border police and coast guard units regularly holt joint training exercises and are on friendly terms.

The highest official yet arrested of corruption, Chen Liangyu, was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Chen was the head of the Communist Party in Shanghai and one of the 24 members of the Politburo (the highest authority in the country). He was arrested two years ago for using pension fund money to finance economic projects for his own benefit. Chen is still trying to wheel and deal his way out this mess, and may yet succeed. He has the dirt on a lot of other senior Chinese officials.

April 13, 2008: Tibetan separatists continue to try using the upcoming Chinese hosted Olympic games to get concessions, if not independence, from China. Not likely to happen, although the Chinese may make some cosmetic changes if it will quiet down the Tibetans for a bit.

April 12, 2008: The extent of Chinese espionage in the United States (and world-wide) is indicated by weekly reports of Chinese spies caught, or convicted. It's not just the United States. Chinese civilians migrating to places like Africa, are expected to keep their eyes open, and report to Chinese intelligence when asked. It's understood that such cooperation is necessary to protect kin back in China, and to maintain access to Chinese government protection in the event of unrest in their new homeland. Africa can be a rough neighborhood, and the new guys need all the help they can get. The Chinese government can lean pretty hard on countries that allow local Chinese to be molested. For example, when Islamic militants raided Chinese brothels in Pakistan last year, the Pakistani government was persuaded to crack down on the militants, killing hundreds of them. The Chinese brothels have been left alone since then.

April 11, 2008: China's foreign exchange reserves (foreign currency and deposits held by Chinese banks) are now over $1.6 trillion. That's an increase of over 40 percent in the last year. Apparently, China has become the place to park your money. This includes dirty money owned by criminal organizations, dictators and all manner of shady operators.

April 10, 2008: The new Taiwanese government is trying to persuade China to remove some of the 1400 ballistic missiles stationed along the China coast, within range of Taiwan. It's understood that, in wartime, these missiles would be used in an attempt to cripple Taiwan's air force, anti-aircraft missiles, navy and military headquarters. Each missile is the equivalent of a one ton or half ton bomb, and about as accurate as a smart bomb. In theory, the use of these missiles, over a day or so (allowing time for China to get an idea of how much damage each salvo of missiles did) could weaken Taiwanese air and naval forces sufficiently to enable a Chinese invasion force to get ashore. China shows no eagerness to cut back on this missile threat.

April 8, 2008: Taiwan wants to buy 66 late model F-16 fighters from the U.S. This deal has been stalled, by Taiwanese politics, for two years. But the newly elected, pro-Chinese president Ma Ying-jeou in Taiwan has quickly moved to improve diplomatic and economic relations with China, while still improving Taiwanese military capability. The new deal appears to be that Taiwan will stop making noise about declaring its independence, and China will stop making noise about eventually incorporating Taiwan back into China. At the same time, both countries will make it easier for business to flourish between the two. Ma will take office on May 20th. Ma has reassured Taiwanese that he is committed to Taiwan remaining independent of China, while still working to improve relations with China.

March 30, 2008: China has been cracking down on Chinese language map sites on the Internet. Those within China have been ordered to only display government approved information. This is a standard practice in communist dictatorships, to control access to accurate maps. The government is also pressuring Google to limit military information displayed by Google Earth, otherwise China will block access to Google Earth. While China cannot keep foreign governments from using their photo satellites from looking at whatever they want in China, letting the general public in on this is frowned on. Actually, the Chinese are on to something, as the millions of Google Earth users that pore over the satellite images often discover things that intelligence agencies miss. The intel experts don't like to dwell on that, but the phenomenon is acknowledged. The "wisdom of crowds," so to speak.




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