China: The Great Victory That Cannot Be Mentioned

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March 16, 2012: China's new defense budget passed $100 billion a year for the first time. There is a lot of defense spending that is not classified as such. For example, the industrial espionage and development work put into creating a modern jet engine manufacturing capability has cost billions. Same with a lot of space related activities that are classified as "civilian" but are in fact military. But even with all that, Chinese defense budgets are but a quarter of what America spends, and less than three percent of GDP (a lot closer to the percentage the U.S. spends). China is accused of spurring an Asian arms race but they are doing it on the cheap. The Soviet arms race, that began in the 1960s, and eventually contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union, isn't happening in China.

A lot of the additional money going into defense is paying for expensive training exercises. Pilots are spending more time in the air and ships more time at sea. The new LPD amphibious ships are taking infantry units out for ten day exercises that culminate in landing the troops on a "hostile" beach.

At the same time, China continues to be silent about their greatest military triumph: the intelligence operation they have conducted since they opened up to the West in the 1980s. Using millions of Chinese living in the West and an Internet based spying campaign, China has stolen hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of technology. This has made Chinese companies more competitive and increased their profits. The West has been slow to realize the size and extent of the theft. The Chinese government denies everything, even as the number of convicted Chinese spies and proven cases of industrial espionage pile up. Eventually, this effort will be openly celebrated as a great victory. Privately, it already is as it is no secret in China.

One thing that gets the attention of most Chinese is bad food and medicines. Increasing profits by producing substandard food products that will make you sick (or kill you) and medicine that is ineffective (or even harmful) is a major problem in China. The government has been making a well-publicized effort to deal with the problem. While progress is being made, it's the publicity that is hurting the government. In the last year known investigators found over 5,200 unsafe food situations and more than 6,500 involving medicines and medical supplies. People are relieved and more terrified at the same time.

The government also announced that in the last year its agents had found and liberated 24,000 Chinese (mostly women and children) who had been sold into slavery (at home and abroad) or stolen for adoption or as brides. Trafficking in human beings is a growing problem in China and is made possible by the widespread corruption.

Popular opposition (via the Internet and public opinion polls) caused the government to back off from plans to make secret, indefinite detention of people legal. This stuff happens anyway and people don't like it. They were even more hostile to legalizing it.

March 15, 2012: Vietnam has protested a Chinese oil company announcing plans to search for oil in the disputed (that both countries claim) Paracel islands. China generally ignores such complaints. Last year Vietnam was angry about Chinese warships operating in the islands, and earlier this year Chinese warships returned to the Paracels for more training exercises (including firing weapons). Despite Vietnam obtaining more modern weapons, China believes no one will dare interfere with oil drilling in the Paracels.

March 13, 2012: The government removed a popular regional official, Bo Xilai, for corruption. Bo Xilai was a rare official who preached a return to communist ideals, while also delivering better government in the southwestern city of Chongqing (population 28 million). What really brought Bo Xilai down was too much publicity and the fact that the majority of the Chinese leadership has accepted that communism in China is dead in fact, if not in fiction. Bo Xilai thought his well-publicized efforts to deliver more efficient government would start a nationwide movement to restore communism, but it only united the national leadership against him.

To reward North Korea for agreeing to halt nuclear weapons production, China announced a $95 million gift of food and other items.

China has complained to Myanmar (Burma) about a recent incident where two Burmese soldiers crossed the border and killed a Chinese citizen. China is upset with Burma and rebellious tribes fighting along their common border. This unrest has been going on for centuries and has proved very difficult to deal with. Since the 18th century this area has been the source of illegal (and highly addictive) drugs (mainly opium) that caused problems among affluent Chinese.

March 10, 2012: Protests against Chinese rule continue in Tibet, with police killing one man and wounding at least two others.  

March 5, 2012: The Chinese leadership openly asserted that the civilian leaders would continue to exert absolute control over the armed forces, who were being trained and equipped to handle local wars (as in backing territorial claims on China's borders and the South China Sea).

 

 

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