Power And Dollar

First Democratically Elected Chinese Mayor

Democracy and human rights often accompany each other when the developing countries are criticized.  Ever since Bush 2, US is now on the human rights violation list too.  China is of course a major human rights violator.  However there is something interesting going on:  China is contemplating having a mayor (among 18 other political reforms) democratically elected.  Protecting human rights requires a reliable judicial system.  The outcome of this study becomes important not only for China human rights activists but also others who study China’s financial sector.


Well, China’s mayors have always been “democratically” elected.  It’s just they always have one candidate.  But now, China is getting a (yes, one) mayor position to be elected with multiple candidates.  The proposal is not studying the question of “if” but “how”.


What is the significance?  Why there? Why now?


The city is Shenzhen, a city next to Hong Kong.  The first impact is on Hong Kong.  Multiple candidates are allowed for Hong Kong mayor election.  However, the mayor is elected by 800 electors, hand picked by China.  However, China’s election is always elected by residents of the municipalities.  Therefore, once Shenzhen’s proposal is implemented, this will be a pressure for Hong Kong to have a more democratic election.  


Shenzhen has always been the most open spot in China.  It is the closest spot Hong Kong, the place for most open information, most new ideas.  This city has the Nasdaq of China.  The first hi-tech companies started in Shenzhen.  It has the longest traditional of R&D firms in China.  Motherboards, solar panel companies were all first started here, either through Hong Kong capital or through foreign companies with a management base in Hong Kong.  This would be the place with the most educated voters.  In addition, this city has the least political influence of all economically charged municipalities, unlike Guangzhou (the capital of Guangdong province) Shanghai or Beijing.  So, of all suitable municipalities, this city has the least political risk.


This election is still years away since it is still in the proposal stage.  Elections are anything new to China.  Timing is the second significance.  China chose to start this process now probably in anticipation of more serious talks with Taiwan.  Taiwan has a mature democracy.  For a unification of Mainland China and Taiwan, Taiwan will obviously demand a more democratic Mainland China, as a delay tactic or not.  Therefore, some sort of reform will be inevitable.  Thus, this is the pre-emptive strike on the Mainland China part.  


Among the 18 other items are direct election of congressmen (instead of Communist Party appointment); more judicial independence; transparency of public officials’ income and asset; public debate before voting; the separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers; strengthening the management of public finances; monitoring the government owned enterprises; reform of public education; reform of public medical services; delegation of local authorities to manage local economy.  


The implementation of judicial reform will strengthen the credibility of Shenzhen courts, especially when Shenzhen is getting more and more complicated cases, not only personal property dispute, but also securities laws, patent laws, foreign trade laws.  The multiple candidate election and direct election of congressmen will give more influence to the new middle class residents, who tend not to be party members.  These changes will actually make Shenzhen a more attractive securities market and become more competitive against Shanghai’s securities market.


May 28, 2008 Posted by | China, Current Events, election, 香港, opinion, politics, Taiwan, Thoughts, Tibet, wordpress-political-blogs, 台灣, 中國 | , | 2 Comments

Is Earthquake An Environmental Crisis Too?

The earthquake in China will certainly have a death toll of over 10,000.  This quake can be felt as far as Taiwan and Thailand.  UN aid relief agencies have very limited roles in China.  Most charities still rely on Hong Kong to work with Chinese goverments.  Of all agencies, UNICEF has the best working relationships with China. 



Is this a man made disaster?


The epic center is 600 km away from the Three Gorges Dam, the largest in the world.  It holds 9.5 cubic miles of water (Denver is a mile high).  That amount of water is approximately equal to 40 million metric ton.  With that much weight sitting on a quake zone, it is very likely to alter the movements of the plates.  And if the weight is acting against the geological movements, it can induce more earthquakes than normal. 

There is precedence: Koyna Dam in India, earthquake in 1967.

The area is not a major economic centre, not a hot tourism spot, not a major manufacturing site.  The immediate economic damage is well contained.  Shanghai index may get affected.  However, Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong is more reliable to measure the magnitude of the problem.

The reaction will be a much greater challenge to the government.  It will measure the maturity of emergency response team in China.  How is China’s FEMA doing?  How will the local financial system, at the county level, sustain the resources exchange?  How does China recover the transportation system?  It now seems the snow storms earlier this year were more like a preparation exercise for all the troubles China is now facing. 


Will China use this opportunity to divert more resources to Tibetan areas and score more points?  Will Dalai Lama be able to make a stronger case for his involvement / return to heal the wounds?


In the states, capitalism is blamed for the environmental crisis.  The opposite, i.e. communism, could be worse.  

May 12, 2008 Posted by | China, Current Events, economics, environment, opinion, politics, Thoughts, Tibet, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

Can We Do Better Than Boycott?

Boycotting the Beijing Olympics has become fashionable in HollywoodThey want to make statement and be righteous.  How much difference does it make?  Can advocates have a greater influence on the outcome?  


A boycott should always be used as a last resort because once you boycott, you are no longer engaged to the issue.  You therefore lose all influence in the outcome.  If one has no influence in the first place, then a celebrity’s boycott probably is the best move since it makes to the media and the issue gets highlighted for 30 seconds in the TV box.


However, since the said celebrity has influence in the outcome in the first place, such a boycott is not a loss to Beijing anyway.  That makes the boycott more a media stunt than anything else.  


If one wishes to have positive outcome, one should start with engagement.  If a celebrity brings humanitarian aid to a specific cause, say literacy in some remote area, this celebrity now has greater influence in the education in this geographic area.  The same positive influence on the issue cannot be achieved if the said celebrity starts with a boycott.  


If engagement is not available, boycott is still a worse off alternative to bring results.  A better option is to offer an alternative to others.  Instead of boycotting a company, provide a list of companies that are competitive to the target.  Boycotting without providing alternative is useless.  Be a solution provider. 


The same can be applied to any social movement.  Upset with Wal-Mart?  Instead of boycotting, invigorate downtown business areas.  Upset with urban sprawl?  Remove the economic incentives of the urban sprawling builders by changing the property tax structure (see my blog’s article on 2008.04.28).  


However, boycott is very cost effective for the promoter: no cost and yet 30 seconds of TV advertisement.  Boycott is the last resort not only because it is the least productive method to the issue but also narcissistic.


May 8, 2008 Posted by | advocacy, Current Events, environment, nonprofits, opinion, politics, Tibet, wordpress-political-blogs | | 1 Comment

Where Is The News About Tibet-China Talk?

Dalai Lama representatives are meeting with Chinese counterparts.  This article serves as supplementary information for all those who care about this issue.


Location is Shenzhen.  This is good news.  Shenzhen is next to Hong Kong, far away from Beijing.  Meetings held in Shenzhen usually result in a more liberal atmosphere because the Chinese counterparts will receive less interference from ideologues.  


Chinese counterparts are the head and deputy of United Front Works Department.  The head (Zhu Weiqun) is from Sichuan department.  The deputy is Sita, a Tibetan.  This indicates Communist Party has placed Tibet as the top priority of domestic politics.  This is a good sign, at least it means Tibet gets the attention it requires, rather shuffled to the bottom of the deck.  


Zhu is from Sichuan, an area not in Tibet but has a sizable amount of Tibetan in its jurisdiction.  Enforcements of various rules tend to be more uniform and rigid in Tibet since everyone gets to be applied for the same rules, thus making officers from Tibet less negotiable.  Officers from neightbouring provinces where they have a sizable Tibetan resident make the officers more flexible and keener to listen to different ideas.  Sichuan is especially so since they also have other minorities in the rural areas of that province. 


Sita (born 1953) will continue to rise in China’s hierarchy.  And he will become more and more critical to whatever effort China will have to achieve a more diverse society.  Even an inconsequential talk will not stop his rise.  Sita is a Tibetan.  His lack of last name indicates his ancestors are of Tibetan serf.  He represents what or how common Tibetan has benefited from China: free from serfdom.  He is probably one who did not only get benefited from education, only became available after the 50’s, but also see that education is important to free Tibet from serfdom days that they were prior 1950’s.  Sita has also served Foreign Ministry, stationed in Switzerland.  He has been primed to deal with everything related to Tibet.  Sita may be sympathetic to all Tibetans in terms of human rights.  Given the family’s suffering from serfdom, Sita probably sees the institution of monastery representing serfdom.  


Both sides of negotiators are of the same age group.  However, what Tibet was like is too far and remote to them.  There is no doubt China will have more youthful negotiators in the future.  What about the Tibetan side?  There is no younger aide at the side.  Where is their succession planning for the next round?  The Tibetan side is composed of 2 Dalai Lama loyalists.  However, Dalai Lama’s influence among overseas Tibetan is fading.  This generation gap will not make the movement coherent and sustainable.  Why isn’t the new generation of leaders being involved?  Is this difference purely ideological or an indication of power struggle?


May 5, 2008 Posted by | advocacy, Current Events, environment, 西藏, opinion, politics, Thoughts, Tibet, wordpress-political-blogs, 中國 | | Leave a comment

Dalai Lama Meeting China? What Can They Accomplish?

China wants to meet Dalai Lama’s representatives.  Why is it announcement now?  What can this meeting accomplish? 


Beijing made the announcement today because EU trade delegation arrived Beijing.  Currency exchange rate is a big topic, trade barrier is of course another.  Some of it is very logistics, such as business visa issuance.  In any event, having a nice announcement today can delay and defuse some tensions.

CNN reports the story here.  Similar to other media outlets, CNN has already put sandbags on this meeting: don’t expect much because this meeting could be a PR ploy to defuse all the possible upcoming Tibetan activists may stage.  And even if Dalai Lama is fully convinced that this meeting is unproductive, Dalai Lama will still send his representatives to meet China.


Why will Dalai Lama still want to meet China for an unproductive meeting?


If he does not, he will be blamed as spoiler.  However, China probably wants this meet bad enough that they must have relaxed the conditions of meeting.  After all, Dalai Lama already said both sides have been in contact since early April.  So they are already in talks for weeks to set up a talk.  The announcement from the Beijing is an indication that at least Dalai Lama is comfortable with the agenda, even if that agenda may have unproductive outcome.  


There are a few things we can observe.  If we see a series of talks stretching out, then please do not celebrate that as an indication of progress.  That only means to stall the protests word wide and divert political pressure of the foreign governments from their domestic constituency asking for do-something. 


The place is likely to be within Mainland China, to symbolize that it is an internal affairs.  If it were in a third party, China would be afraid that the meeting has evolved into a nation-to-nation meeting.  However, the question remains: where will it take place, in China?  The location would be an indication how serious Beijing takes this meeting.  


Will this be a publicized or secretive meeting?  The press of course would not get invited during the talk.  But will there be photo op announced to the press in advance? Will there be joint announcement?  If there will be joint announcement, then this will be a meeting of substance.  



Even if Beijing is not intent to just stage another stall tactics and meant well to accomplish something, it is still practically difficult.  Positions of both sides are clear since they already spent a few decades to sort out the differences.  Beijing hates to be seen as to giving concessions to separatists.  Beijing waited for 8 years for President Chen of Taiwan to retire from office and waited a few decades on the issue of Dalai Lama.  Holding off another 5 or 10 years does not bear additional political costs, both domestically and internationally.  


Beijing simply is stretched at this moment to have a serious talk.  All resources are diverted to Olympics.  And Beijing sees that it is much easier to accomplish something from the Taiwan problem.  Therefore, for whatever remaining energy and resources from the top leadership will be dedicated to Taiwan.  For Dalai Lama, the meeting has to be measured against the level of civil servants Taiwan enjoys.  


April 25, 2008 Posted by | advocacy, China, Current Events, environment, 西藏, opinion, politics, Thoughts, Tibet, wordpress-political-blogs, 中國 | | 10 Comments

Did Dalai Lama Just Engineered His Own Endgame?

Richard Gere (CNN reports Richard Gere in Protests here) is now catching on with this media ride too!  This Olympics is giving an edge to the Tibetan causes they probably have never enjoyed in the last 6 decades.  If the cards are played well, not only will the Tibetan causes be brought to the next level, but also will serve as a great transition of Tibetan leadership.  Of course, fighting against a resourceful state institution (like China, USA, Russia, etc) is difficult to win, even when the cards are played well.  Nevertheless, Dalai Lama leveraged this moment for an important political asset: Karmapa Lama. 


Karmapa Lama, age 22 and the third most important figure in the Tibetan Buddhism, is expected to visit the States in mid May 2008.  India has given permission for the trip.  However, pressure from China may derail it.  If this trip is a go, then this is a good training opportunity for Karmapa Lama to become an interim leader before the next Dalai Lama assumes his rightful place.  


If Karmapa Lama performs well in this trip, then Dalai Lama probably has engineered a good endgame for himself: using this Olympics and his probably last influence inside Tibet to maximize the media attention from the riot to the protest to introduce the next leader to the world.  

April 9, 2008 Posted by | China, china politics, Current Events, 西藏, opinion, politics, Thoughts, Tibet, wordpress-political-blogs, 中國 | 12 Comments

What Is Beijing’s Next Move On Tibet?

The protesters have caught up the Olympics torch and getting more media exposure than Beijing would hope for.  What is Beijing doing? Do they want to take some initiative back? What is their Tibet plan? 

No government would intentionally turn its land into another Gaza.  Every story has its ending.  Does China know how it wants this story to end? 

China is known to make decision based on long time-horizon.  Since a US president has 4 years in a term and at 8 years at most, US presidents expect returns of their political actions in a much shorter time frame.  Just consider Bush 2: Bush is still thinking of Israel and Palestine although he has 10 months left.  EU has a longer time perspective becasue they have a larger public servant work force, fewer political appointments and therefore career beaucrats can afford to wait for the comings and goings of politicians.  China is known to make decisions that can bear fruits a few decades from their decision points.  So, does China have a grand game-plan for Tibet?

No country plans to split a part of its land to become an independent country, unless it realizes it can no longer keep the land in question.  China is no different.  China is just waiting. 

China is waiting for Dalai Lama to recarnate so that the younger generation of Tibetans will get themselves marginalized.  The youthful Tibetans, the generation of Tibetans born in India, will either 1) get assimulated into India and its Tibetan identity gets disintegrated slowly or 2) become marginalized and ridiculed by the main stream society of India as a liability over time. 

The Tibetan political movement (even gets a state sponsor, and guess who) can only become more radical, once Dalai Lama recarnate, in order to strengthen its bargaining power against Beijing.  And this is when Beijing can convenient label this movement as a terrorist group. 

After all, all the Tibetan causes are united by a Dalai Lama.  An absence of Dalai Lama for 15, 20 years will disintegrate all these causes into different directions.  And no single force can unite them again.  What will remain true to itself is the religious movement.  However, when the language and all the cultural elements reside in China, the interpretation of fundementals of Tibetan Bhuddism rests in the hands of China. 

With the forseeable future of a splitered groups among the Tibetan causes, a more militant Tibetan group destined to be marginalized with or without other state sponsors, a weakening Dalai Lama due to age, China decides to wait for a decade or more to wear out all these movements. 

Here is the update from CNN just now and Associated Press at 0918 EST:


April 8, 2008 Posted by | China, china politics, Current Events, 西藏, Tibet, wordpress-political-blogs, 中國 | | 2 Comments

Treasury to “Talk” about Tibet in China or $$?

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is visiting China.   It is said that he will bring the issue of Tibet to China.  Among other items for discussion are: Chinese tariffs on environmental technology, restriction on financial markets open to foreign competition, the free currency exchange rate of Chinese yuan.  Forbes has a summary:


A visit by Treasury is of course arranged way in advance.  So, Tibet is not what prompted the visit.  Neither would Tibet become the main focus at the last minute for a Treasury Secretary.  So, the Tibet talk is for domestic consumption.  Is the appreciation of yuan the point, now that Paulson is actually in China? 

Yuan has already appreciated 4% this year, i.e. 4% in 3 months.  That is quite a bit of appreciation in such a short period of time.  That topic cannot last long.  So, any accomplishment out of this trip would not be in this topic.  And someone like Paulson who has decades of experience in international banking knew that.   

So, what does he want to accomplish here? 

He will put some effort into the environmental technology issue.  However, he is not an expert.  If he has a delegation to go with him, then he will be able to facilitate a lot business card exchanges among the right people.  The irony here is US isn’t really a great leader in this field.  The strength is probably in the capital intensive side of this business, such as wide farms.   

Wang Qishan, the Vice Premier of China managing trades, is the counter part of Paulson.  They met when Paulson, while at Goldman Sachs, helped China restructure one of the big banks.  Therefore, they will be able to spend the most time on opening financial markets to foreign competition.  US’ interests will be on having foreign insurance, investment and banking companies to operate in China while China will say they are not ready yet.  An achievement should not be expected since this ought to be a long term negotiation.  Besides, China is waiting for a new President to deal.  They can also spend some time in the difficulty of conducting M&A in China.  However, if Paulson brings up that issue, then the conversation will easily be dragged into the difficulty of having M&A done in the states by Chinese firms.   

The importance for the US is this is the first trip since the new leadership in February.  So, this is a relationship building trip.  A lot of career bureaucrats of both sides need to find out who their counter parts are.  US’ new Trade counter part will give US less confrontation.  However, by no means negotiations will be easier.  This is a difference in style, not in substance.  Paulson will also gain a lot from this trip.  His Goldman Sachs resume put him to DC.  He paid back to his core constituency by the recent overhaul to make the industry more competitive in the global market place.  Now, his position of power opened even more doors to his post Treasury Secretary career.    

At least someone got something useful of Bush Administration.

April 3, 2008 Posted by | business, China, Current Events, 西藏, market, Money, opinion, politics, stock, Thoughts, Tibet, trading, wordpress-political-blogs, 中國 | Leave a comment

Meeting Dalai Lama = Rooting Out Violence

Many compare the Tibetan riot to the protests in 1989.  The protest back then did not involve riot.  This riot involved organization: targeted location, date; weapons were transported and were unavailable in the city.  Violence has also spurred to the Hui people, in addition to Han.  This is also a new turn of history.  Clean up is finally there for the Hui quarter.  When will Mainland China start to clean up this Tibet question?


Dalai Lama is over 70 years old.  His influence is determined to wear out.  New generation of Tibetans demand more power from the Tibetan elites in exiles.  What is to gain for Mainland China from meeting Dalai Lama? 

Dalai Lama continues to be the spiritual leader of all Tibetan causes, be it independence, cultural preservation, environmentalism, human rights, etc.  Meeting with him will turn Mainland China from being defensive to a proactive stand.  

The younger generation of Tibetans is getting frustrated with Dalai Lama’s approach to their goal.  The riot is a good example.  This generation of activists does not have the baggage of Tibetan Bhuddism, they are willing and able to carry out indigenously organized violence.  It will only be a matter of time for these activists to be funded by other state institutions.  When that occurs, Tibet will be the Palestine in the East.  

Tibetan cause may still not succeed.  However, how much resources will be drained out to restrain Tibet?  The goal of Mainland is to keep Tibet.  Why wouldn’t Mainland China want to keep Tibet in the most cost effective manner?  At least a more cost effective manner than fighting out an endless battle in the future Palestine in the East?  That more cost effective manner is to prevent a peaceful Tibet to become a costly Palestine in the East.  

Meet Dalai since he does not seek independence anyway.  Take the Tibetan anti-government violence off the television not for a day, but for years to come.  Turn it into screens of hand shakes.  Dalai is old and wants to return home.  Remove the unifying figure of all Tibetan causes.  That will make these different organizations lose their focus.  Out of sight, out of mind.  

They different organizations will become a lot more manageable, be it the battle for TV coverage or outside of TV coverage.  It is always difficult for organizations to win against state institutions.  

Mainland China may think time is on their side in the international political arena.  And time is not in favour of Dalai Lama.  Every one and everything has its time.  Time will run out on Dalai Lama.  And when that happens, that option will forever be shut, for there probably be two Dalai Lama next time around and Mainland China cannot control them all.  

March 28, 2008 Posted by | China, china politics, chinese, Current Affairs, Current Events, 西藏, opinion, politics, Thoughts, Tibet, wordpress-political-blogs, 中國 | | Leave a comment

CNN provides clues to Tibetan White Scarves Organization

CNN interviewed James Miles from “The Economist”.  Miles was in Beijing in 1989.  He knows what an organized activity with Chinese style is like.  However, James Miles says he does not “see any organized activity.”  However, James Miles also provided some clue to the kind of organization (or the lack of) in this incident: 

“They marked those businesses that they knew to be Tibetan owned with white traditional scarves” 

The transcript of the interview is here:


It is unlikely Dalai Lama is behind it.  However, white scarves had been organized.  Since no one has given these organizers a name, I get the naming right: White Scarves Organization.   

A better transportation and communication network for Tibet also means more difficult for government to control everything.  This organization may not have reached the sophistication it needs, but it certainly has put itself on the radar of everyone in this trade.   

India increasingly considers the Tibetan issue a baggage to its Chinese relationship.  However, India cannot just drop it, just like Israel cannot just drop Gaza.  If White Scarves Organization increases its sophistication, scale and damage, then it will push Mainland China to find a solution, be it a negotiation or harder crack down.   

Mainland China started to learn how to play the soft power of influence maybe about 10 years ago or so.  It is getting better.  However, it has not learnt how to play this game domestically.  Very often, it is still seeing domestic power as Us vs Them.  Therefore, the path to this lesson is uncharted.  A better way to achieve this wisdom is to learn it through the governance of Hong Kong since there is a lower level of mistrust against a former British colony inhibited by Hans.   

The sad news is, everyone is running against time, not the count down on Olympics, but the count down on Dalai Lama.  Dalai Lama was born in 1935.  He is 73 years old.  He remains healthy.  But everything has its time.   

When Dalai Lama passes away, then there will be no spiritual leader among the exile Tibetans.  A new Dalai Lama will take another 2 decades to become effective, if at all he will be a political figure in addition to his religious duties.  The movement will turn violent or die down among the Tibetans.   

Mainland China will take the opportunity to find a Dalai reincarnation domestically.  If this domestic Dalai Lama is any good, an end for these 2 Dalai Lama will be difficult.  The status of them will obviously be part of the negotiation and political solutions were provided at times during Qing dynasty.  Again, the mandate of heaven was delivered through draws.  A negotiation will then be decades away, if any.  No end will be in sight any of our life times.  This will last just as long as Palestinian cause is going to be.   

Who will get the most out of it?  India already dreads this outcome.  Tom Clancy and the like will have more material to write about.

March 21, 2008 Posted by | China, china politics, chinese, Current Affairs, Current Events, election, 西藏, opinion, politics, Taiwan, Tibet, 中國 | , , , | Leave a comment