2008: Chinese troops continue working in
central China's earthquake zone, with their efforts to drain lakes created by
landslides into rivers. In one case, anti-tank guns were used to blast debris
out of the way. All this was played up in the media, giving the military a
media boost they have not received in a long time. But this is part of a media
campaign to take the heat off local officials who were responsible for the shoddy
construction of schools (whose frequent collapse killed over 10,000 kids). The
government makes a big deal out of fighting corruption, but the extent, and
cost, of the corruption in central China is a bit much and, according to the
government, best played down.
2008: The president of a U.S. firm is
being prosecuted for buying Chinese AK-47 ammunition and repackaging it to
appear to be from Albania. It's illegal to trade in Chinese ammo (in this case,
headed for use by the Iraqi army.) Chinese weapons firms are famous for selling
just about anything to anyone. In this case, the ammo was old and unreliable,
and apparently the Chinese offered a good price. The U.S. firm repackaged the
ammo to look more recent, as well as Albanian.
2008: China increased the subsidized
price of oil products by 18 percent. With crude oil costing 85 cents a liter,
and gasoline selling for over a dollar a liter in the United States (and over twice
that in some European nations), China is now charging 75 cents a liter. The
fuel subsidies have long been criticized by trading partners, and even some
Chinese, because the cheap fuel causes inflation and lowers manufacturing costs
(via government intervention, which many nations consider illegal.) The growing
demand for oil products in China has been the primary cause for the rapid
increase in crude oil prices in the last decade. This sharp jump in Chinese prices
(on top of a ten percent boost last November) is expected to force many Chinese
firms to cut use. But it will also make it more difficult for the military to
find the money for pilot training and keeping warships at sea.
2008: A Japanese coast guard ship used a
water cannon to turn back a boat of Taiwanese trying to assert ownership of the
disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku/Tiaoyutai islands. The Taiwanese turned back. The
uninhabited islands are disputed because their surrounding waters may contain
oil or gas deposits.
2008: Peace talks between China led to
direct air flights between Taiwan and the mainland, as well as easier use of
Chinese currency in Taiwan. On Taiwan, opinion polls indicate that less than 20
percent of Taiwanese want to become part of China again. However, this
percentage has been increasing over the years, and this encourages the Chinese.
2008: A Japanese coast guard boat
entered waters near the disputed Diaoyu (in Chinese) Islands (Senkaku in Japanese
and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan) to investigate what Taiwanese boats were doing there. The Japanese
ship collided with, and sank the Taiwanese ship. This caused a big diplomatic
and media uproar, and the Japanese eventually admitted it was their fault.