China: Why Generals Fear Cell Phones

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September 22, 2006: The government's new anti-corruption program has expanded into punishing military officers who screw up in a big way. In the last few months, dozens of generals and colonels have been dismissed from service, or otherwise punished, for making bad decisions. These incidents include responsibility for the loss of an experimental AWACS aircraft (which crashed because of wing icing, and poor preparation for the flight), and dozens of soldiers killed when a flood hit their barracks. In the past, such incompetence would have been covered up. But the growing access to communications (over 400 cell phone users and over 100 million Internet users) means that word of these problems gets out, along with names and other details. In a way, this is to the government's advantage, as the military tends to take care of its own. In the past, no one would get punished, and inept leaders would continue in their positions. Now, the government is able to use the unfavorable publicity as an excuse to ditch corrupt and incompetent officers.
September 20, 2006: China keeps getting hassled by Western nations for exporting weapons and weapons technology to rogue nations (North Korea and Iran in particular), and China keeps saying this isn't happening, or, when caught, says it will stop it. But it never stops, and reason is all about money, corruption and economic freedom. For the last three decades, China has had the fastest growing economy on the planet because, in the 1970s, the Communist Party decided to set the economy free. This was seen as necessary because the economy was a mess, people were poor, unhappy and sliding towards rebellion. The catch phrase was, "It is glorious to get rich." It worked, partially because corruption, already present, allowed many Communist Party officials to get rich by taking bribes from all the entrepreneurs who sprang into action. Export sales were a big part of this. That's a competitive business, and Chinese arms salesmen quickly found easy pickings among outcast nations that Western arms salesmen had to stay away from (because of embargos and the like). Because of the corruption, and typically inept reporting, the Chinese government often didn't know about Chinese firms making illegal arms deals until the U.S. rubbed their faces in it. Getting the Chinese to stop means more than getting the attention of the government, it also means motivating the government to try and gain some control over thousands of exporting companies. The government is reluctant to do that. The economic growth has brought peace and prosperity for the communists. No one wants to screw with it. Much easier to tell the Americans what they want to hear, and leave the arms salesmen alone.
September 14, 2006: In the last 14 years, China has sent some 6,000 peacekeepers to Cambodia, Congo, Liberia, East Timor, Kosovo, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Bosnia. China is now sending 2,000 peacekeepers to Lebanon. All this international helpfulness has caused a growing number of nations to call for lifting the arms embargo imposed on China after the bloody suppression of democracy demonstrators in 1989.

 

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