Archive for the ‘International Relations’ Category


In July, 20 Muslim Uyghurs escaped China. Citing threats of torture, they hoped to attain asylum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Beijing deemed them “criminals.”

On Monday, Cambodian officials sent the Uyghurs home. China incentivized this arrangement with 1.2 billion dollars of aid and loans. This figure seems especially large when considering China assistance to Cambodia over the last 18 years totals almost 9.5 million dollars.

This decision concerns foreign leaders. It violates international refugee laws. The refugees entered Cambodia legally with visas. Rebiya Kadeer, a significant Uyghur leader, added, “Governments of countries neighboring China are reluctant to take any action that would displease Chinese authorities, leaving Uyghurs nowhere to flee.” UN refugee experts are currently exploring potential solutions.

Discontent with Chinese governmental control is intensifying, particularly in Xinjiang. Uyghur riots this past summer and a subsequent communication breakdown represent an extreme, but social unrest is generally increasing throughout China. A rise in crime has accompanied their massive economic expansion. In the first ten months of 2009, China saw a 15% climb in crime compared to last year, or four million cases. While many citizens choose to challenge governmental rule, a growing population hopes to flee their country.


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This advertisement represents the Chinese Government’s new campaign to reshape the image of their exports. Among other merchandise, it featuring clothing with tags that read, “Made in China with French designers.” The initiative’s headline slogan is “Made in China, Made with the world.”

Chinese products have received a great deal of criticism, although as Louisiana family found out, living without “Made in China” remains quite difficult.

DDB Gouan, a Beijing media company, created the ad last year. China’s recent milk scandle, which resulted in two executions, delayed its debut until two weeks ago. Thus far, Chinese audiences have expressed positive support for the campaign, and foreign markets are currently screening the advertisement.

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An emissions target based on 1990 levels is an emissions target based on 2005 levels is a reduction of carbon intensity. This alternative title better represents present reduction commitments from the EU, the US, and China.

All three have accepted carbon reductions. In particular, the US and China’s promises signify further symbolic progress. During Kyoto Protocol discussions, these pledges would have been astounding. Over a decade later, they inspire sentiments of “it’s about time” as well as some optimism.

It is important to understand how these targets differ. Bashing the EU’s reduction pledges of 95% by 2050 and 30% by 2020 appears inappropriate, especially since these cuts are based on 1990 emissions levels. Nevertheless, 1990 is a convenient choice. Post-1990 Europe was influenced by declining Soviet economies. This collapse decreased European emissions, a decline that counts towards their reduction target. Their 30% target thus becomes a 20% cut.

The US appeared inaccurately dedicated by pledging a 17% reduction target by 2020 on a 2005 emissions baseline. Politics shaped this decision. It satisfies environmentalists’ demands for a firm commitment as well as industrial powers in how they will not deal with major changes. A 17% commitment on a 2005 emissions baseline equals a 4-6% decrease on a 1990 baseline. Although it might be too little too late, President Obama’s pledge contains more constructive reductions in the decades to come: 30% in 2025, 42% in 2030 and 83% in 2050.

China’s target of a 40-45% reduction of “the carbon intensity of the economy” by 2020 sounds impressive. Unfortunately, this aligns with their current path. This will only become difficult if their GDP does not proceed as predicted. Michael A Levi, Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, explains,

“Emissions and GDP projections in the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) 2009 International Energy Outlook (IEO), published in May 2009, translate to a 46 percent Chinese emissions-intensity cut from 2005 to 2020. Similar projections in the International Energy Agency (IEA) 2009 World Energy Outlook (WEO), published in November 2009, are equivalent to a 40 percent Chinese emissions- intensity cut over the same period.”

Carbon intensity means the carbon emitted per yuan. By 2020, China’s commitment translates to a 0-12% reduction of their current emissions path or a 40% increase of present CO2 emission. It signifies more environmentally conscious technology developments, which is already high on China’s agenda. Refusing binding emission decreases because their pollution is comparatively new seems fair, but not in the face of future climate change’s grave effects. China must make actual cuts.
(Click here for more information of China’s emission reduction proposal)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 report warns that developing countries need 10-40% reductions below 1990 levels by 2020 and 40-95% reductions by 2050 “for low to medium stabilization.” Seeing as the EU claims to lead the way, their short-term target falls short of adequate. US and China’s targets consequently denote a failure. US emissions levels stand among the world’s highest. A 4-6% reduction on a 1990 baseline spoils global efforts. It also deviates from the G8 leaders’ recent goals. Since China’s economy and emissions arguably necessitate their reassignment as a developed country, their 0-12% reduction of 2009 emissions levels amplifies this hindrance. Continuing this emissions level will lead to at least a 2°C increase in surface temperature, as well as increasingly grave changes in our climate.

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Views on President Obama’s approach to relations with China continue to clash. Arguments over his aggressiveness aside, the Obama administration actually discussed every relevant issue except for one: cyber warfare.

This was purposeful. China repeatedly denies their growing capacity for cyber attacks. A complicated system of changing devoted followers allows the Chinese Government to dispute any responsibility. Dialogues on cyber war consequently go nowhere. New Zealand and Belgium openly broadcasting accusations of China’s “cyberinfiltration“ produced no results. A Chinese military expert commented, “They now have a major advantage, a weapon like no other that allows them to reach out and touch right into the continental United States.”

According to the 2008 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) report, 43,880 Chinese cyber attacks in 2007 reached roughly five million U.S. computers. These incidents involve “malicious activity” or the extraction of information. This USCC report also read, “China is intent on expanding its sphere of control even at the expense of its Asian neighbors and the United States.” U.S. retaliation allegedly seems ineffective. Kylin, the U.S. Government’s latest operating system, failed to breach China’s less secure construction. While the U.S. Government may condemn this behavior, jealousy appears to drive this anger.

China’s command over the cyber world additionally compels major Internet and computer companies to fall in line with their demands. For some time, Yahoo! has supplied the Chinese Government with e-mail content. Most recently, Microsoft’s latest search engine, Bing, decided to censor certain subjects. For searches in English on controversial topics related to China, Bing provides diverse results with conflicting opinions. Traditional, complicated Chinese characters yield a similar range of attitudes. An identical search in simplified Chinese characters generates a list of websites that paint a different picture. These results do not challenge Chinese authorities; some even deny the occurrence of divisive movements. Searches on 法轮功 (Fulun Gong), for example, depict a rebellious organization with goals of terrorism. Links to neutral descriptions and the group’s official website are not available. Bing additionally offers translations of every webpage, yet atop each interpretation it reads “Microsoft® is not responsible for the content below.”

China’s control over cyberspace intimidates the world’s most dominant governmental and industrial authorities. During their rise to power, other countries have raised issues with monetary policy, trade, human rights, and climate change. These assertions stem from a hope that China acts fairly as it attains a world leader stature. Incremental progress is necessary for these matters. China’s Government does not hastily commit to drastic policy changes. Contrary to less charitable analyses, they take the time to listen, discuss, and consider every ramification. Cyber warfare, however, remains an arena where China refuses to budge. Maintaining authority and secrecy over their capabilities surpasses all other elements of international relations. It is China’s trump card.

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News of a U.S.–China plan for cooperation on environmental policy was exciting. It sets a constructive stage for actual progress down the road. Along side a mutual assertion for collective binding emissions targets, this may raise participation as well as reduction commitments for a new international climate protocol. While meaningfully symbolic, this alliance remains ideological for now. A thorough read clarifies the plan as a pact to work on making an agreement. More concrete progress grew out of a related U.S.-China collaboration to establish a greenhouse gas inventory system for China.

Objections to the U.S. accepting a binding emissions target commonly reference the uncertainty accompanying measurements of other country’s reductions. How can we tell data is not fabricated? Verifying the accuracy of these reports remains difficult.

A vast landscape and an expanding collection of coal mines complicate China’s ability to document emissions. Regardless, attempting to collect these figures is crucial. The Memorandum of Cooperation between the EPA and China’s National Development and Reform Commissions calls for, among other things, the development of a Chinese registry. Many countries already have these systems. Since 1990, the EPA has maintained a U.S. greenhouse gas inventory. The International Transaction Log, established by the UNFCCC to support the Kyoto Protocol’s carbon trading mechanisms, validates international projects and transactions. China’s inclusion in this group of registries suggests future participation these global dealings—activities that require acceptance of a binding emissions target.

The U.S. and China combine to contribute roughly 40% of global emissions. Legitimate reductions require this starting point, a uniform gauge of greenhouse gasses. To effectively modify their approach to the environment, these two world powers need to be on the same page.

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China’s mounting power stood out during Barack Obama’s time in Asia. A weakening U.S. only compliments their supremacy. Owning $800 billion of U.S debt along their assessment of a fragile dollar certainly helped China’s confidence.

Dick Cheney saw President Obama’s low bow to Japan’s Emperor Akihito as a cause for the U.S.’s position, exclaiming, “There is no reason for an American president to bow to anyone. Our friends and allies don’t expect it, and our enemies see it as a sign of weakness.” Many Americans echoed this discontent. The Obama administration’s approach of diplomacy and compromise do not appear aggressive, yet a variety of economic circumstances are out of the President’s hands. Attempting to control a rising superpower from this declining standpoint is complicated.

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Earlier this week, President Obama delivered a speech and answered questions in Shanghai. Only one local television network broadcasted the event in China. The station’s website declined to stream the recording.

Portions of the dialogue on free speech and unrestricted Internet access likely compelled this censorship. The content of President Obama’s remarks was otherwise uncontroversial. Students at the town hall-style event were government-selected, and their questions pre-approved. One question in particular, however, appeared to challenge this control. After a few inquiries reminiscent of a gracious George W. Bush press conference, President Obama diverted to a duel-question “generated through the Web site of [the U.S.] embassy.” Chinese Ambassador John Huntsman, Jr. read, “In a country with 350 million Internet users and 60 million bloggers, do you know of the firewall?” continuing, “Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” The subsequent response expanded upon a section of Obama’s speech that cited “information freely accessible” as a “core principle.” His address affirmed a moderately firm stance on the U.S.’s position on human rights. President Obama’s answered this duel-question more boldly, advocating for open Internet usage and non-censorship. This was not to the Chinese Government’s liking.

CBS reported that several major Chinese websites instantly wrote headlines documenting the content of this assertion. Only an hour later, these stories disappeared. This is not the first censorship of President Obama’s remarks. Chinese translations of his inaugural address omitted Obama’s usage of the word “Communism” and a portion on dissent.

Although President Clinton’s popularity in China added to his media coverage, he delivered a speech in Beijing that emphasized human rights even more than President Obama’s speech. President Clinton’s address aired live and uncensored on CCTV. He gave this speech at a very different time.

The U.S. and China have a different relationship now. George W. Bush seemed to neglect this shift in power during his presidency, so Obama appears especially sensitive. To achieve his agenda on climate change and improve the U.S.’s economic situation, President Obama must act according to a reality that many Americans do not want to accept: the United States is not the world’s lone superpower anymore. The U.S. does not hold the upper hand it used to yield.

While it is easy to criticize the Chinese Government’s control over the media, it maintains their authority. This power remains unfortunately necessary to enact sweeping changes, like their evolving approach to environmental policy. Internet freedom is, in reality, not conducive to every type of societal and governmental order.

Transcript of President Obama’s address and question session in Shanghai


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