17 December 2009

Tiger Should Just Get a Divorce, Now

(From RealClearSports)

Dear Tiger:

Some of your celeb friends are worried about you. They're wondering if you're getting sound advice.

Well, we know we can reach you even if you turned off all your phones - because you're gonna read this. So here's the best piece of advice for you:

Get a divorce, now.

(And come back play some killer golf.)

Your marriage is beyond saving. There have already been reports that Elin wants to end this thing. You should agree with her and let her go. She's really the only victim here (and maybe your kids) and she's suffered enough.

It's obvious your marriage at this point is in a shambles. Elin is furious at your betrayal, but we get the feeling that you haven't been a happy camper for some time, either. More than a few of your flings have mentioned that you're miserable, and we suspect they're not all lying.

Maybe you rushed into this marriage thing because your handlers wanted it to burnish your image or you felt it was the right thing to do. But you're at a point where you can't carry on like this. Remember, a sham marriage only works if there is equal utility for both sides (see Clinton: Bill and Hillary). That's not the case here.

So here's what you need to do:

We're pretty sure you have an iron-clad pre-nup, and since you live in Florida, you're probably in good shape. But you should be magnanimous: Give Elin 100 mil as a parting gift. For good measure, send her $1 million a month for child support.

If she wants the new digs in Jupiter Island, let her have it. The same goes for "Privacy" the boat, the Gulfstream, whatever. You can always get new ones.

Ending your marriage is the best thing you can do right now. Your sponsors are jumping off your wagon. Your approval rating is sinking faster than Obama's. But the one thing you can't allow to take a nosedive is your standing as the world's best golfer.

The biggest threat to your future well being isn't your crumbling marriage, but this accusation that you're associating with a doctor who is tainted by HGH and PED. People will eventually forgive you for running around on your wife (it's America, after all), but they, and what's left of your sponsors, will abandon you in a heartbeat if you turned out to be a cheat on the playing field.

Steiny's response to the New York Times on the question of Dr. Galea was beyond amateurish (did he really think the NYT would get off your back because he asked them to "give the kid a break?" Didn't he learn in PR school about the Pentagon Papers and how that worked out for Nixon?). You're gonna have to come out and do some damage control on your own. You'll have to stand in front of the press throngs and cameras, and deny any and all of this, unequivocally.

But you don't want to do that until your infidelity mess is squared away, which is understandable. That's why getting a divorce, like tomorrow, is a must.

Divorces don't end careers, in sports or otherwise. Lance Armstrong and Andre Agassi did OK after their first marriages broke up. Ronald Reagan became the leader of the free world even though things didn't work out with Jane Wyman. We could go on.

And after getting a divorce, you can feel free to play the field if that's what you want to do. Then whoever you're sleeping with is just gossip, not a scandal. It also doesn't mean you have to stop being a father. Given that you have complete control of your schedule, you can spend as much time with Sam and Charlie as you're willing.

Get this thing done. Stop groveling to Elin. That's just so not you and besides, she deserves so much better anyway. End it amicably (put in a mutual no-disparagement clause so nobody will get an idea about a book deal down the road). But most of all, quickly.

Come back to do the one thing you love to do more than any other: Play golf. The only way you're going to redeem yourself is on the golf course. At the end of the day, your legend will be about catching and passing Jack, not how many times you were married and how many skirts you chased.

You just need to be decisive. Act quickly and do it with no regrets. That's perfectly within your character.

To quote one of your former sponsors:

Go on, be a Tiger.


Your Real Friends

03 November 2009

Top 10 NFL Quarterback Busts

(From RealClearSports)

"Don't f***ing talk to me! Knock it off!"
- Ryan Leaf to San Diego Tribune's Jay Posner

It was the defining moment and the epithet on Ryan Leaf's unfulfilled NFL career. It was replayed on TV, over and over again, even a decade later, long after Leaf has departed the scene, having moved on to the coaching staff of West Texas A&M and perhaps, jail, in the near future.

By all accounts, Leaf is the gold standard of pro football busts. Drafted in 1998 by the San Diego Chargers with the No. 2 overall pick, he was supposed to compete with Peyton Manning on the highway to Canton. Instead, Leaf serves as the biggest cautionary tale in recent NFL history.

The lesson? Don't waste your high draft picks on quarterbacks. Most of the time, it's just not worth it.

It's a lesson, however, mostly ignored by NFL teams. And they do so at their own peril.

From the first common draft in 1967 through 1997, only eight quarterbacks were taken first overall in those 31 years. Since 1998, however, a quarterback has been taken first overall nine times in just 12 years, including five in a row from 2001-2005.

1970 Terry Bradshaw
1971 Jim Plunkett
1975 Steve Bartkowski
1983 John Elway
1987 Vinny Testaverde
1989 Troy Aikman
1990 Jeff George
1993 Drew Bledsoe

As you can see, teams didn't blow their top pick on a quarterback unless they felt they had a sure thing. More than half of these quarterbacks are either enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame or led their teams to Super Bowl glory, and the rest had long and productive careers.

Now look at this list:

1998 Peyton Manning
1999 Tim Couch
2001 Michael Vick
2002 David Carr
2003 Carson Palmer
2004 Eli Manning
2005 Alex Smith
2007 JaMarcus Russell
2009 Matthew Stafford

Among this bunch, only the Mannings own Super Bowl rings and Peyton may be the only one headed to Canton. Two are already bona fide busts. Another one is just coming back to the league after spending two seasons in prison.

And those are just the No. 1 overall picks. Between 1998 and 2009, teams invested 33 first-round selections on quarterbacks, a higher percentage than any 10-year period in NFL history. Despite a mountain of evidence suggesting the contrary, teams continue to spend their most valuable draft pick on a highly risky proposition.

In 2009, of the 32 quarterbacks who started the majority of their teams' games, fewer than half (15) are first-round draft picks. The other 17 came in the second round (3), third round (2), fourth round (2), fifth round (1), sixth round (4), seventh round (1) and undrafted free agents (4).

That's right, nine starters came from the sixth round or later, or altogether undrafted. And put this list up against the one you just saw:

Tom Brady (sixth round, 2000)
Kurt Warner (undrafted, 1994)
Tony Romo (undrafted, 2003)
Marc Bulger (sixth round, 2000)
Matt Hasselbeck (sixth round, 1998)
Jake Delhomme (undrafted, 1997)
Matt Cassel (seventh round, 2005)
Derek Anderson (sixth round, 2005)
Shaun Hill (undrafted, 2002)

Among them, they've been to nine Super Bowls with four rings. Six of them were selected to the Pro Bowl. And you still want to waste that first-round pick, let alone No. 1 overall, on a quarterback?

Since what's done is done, we decided to conduct a thorough examination of these first-rounders during what we shall dub "The Quarterback Decade," that began in 1998 when Manning and Leaf went 1-2 in the draft. We want to find out, at least statistically, if Leaf was indeed the biggest flop.

Our research would cover a 10-year period between 1998-2007, ensuring that we have the goods for at least 2½ seasons before calling someone a bust. Out of those 28 quarterbacks, we exempted those who have started at least 75 percent of their teams' games while maintaining a passer rating better than 75.0.

The following statistical information was then taken into consideration for the remaining 14 quarterbacks:

1. Winning percentage as a starter
2. Percentage of games started for original team
3. Career passer rating (through Week 8 for active players)
4. Draft position

We discovered that Leaf had some fine company, and that, if you remove all the off-the-field stuff, he wasn't even the worst of the lot. Of the 10 biggest quarterback busts in the past decade, only one had a career winning record as a starter; one started more than half of his team's games; one completed more than 56 percent of his passes, and none threw more touchdowns than interceptions.

Half of them are already out of the league. Of the other half, three have their butts firmly planted on the pine, one just got off, and only one started more than half of his team's games this season.

And this is how we ranked team, from the pretty awful to the absolute worst:

Continue to Top 10 NFL Quarterback Busts

15 October 2009

Best Athletes Who Don't Play in America

(From RealClearWorld)

Many of the world's best athletes - and the best paid ones - make their living in the United States. Some play in the big four North American sports leagues, such as baseball's Ichiro Suzuki (Japan), basketball's Yao Ming (China) and numerous Swedes and Russians in the National Hockey League. A few others make many appearances in the U.S. as individuals, for example, tennis greats Roger Federer (Switzerland) and Rafael Nadal (Spain), and U.S. Open golf champions Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) and Retief Goosen (South Africa).

But there are many others who almost never set foot in the U.S. for competition and despite being celebrities in many corners of the world, they'd be able to come to the States unmolested by the crowds and media. On occasion, they make an appearance on U.S. television sets, as Tour de France winner Alberto Contador did the past three weeks, but mostly, they're not part of the American sporting landscape.

Here's our list of the top 10 Best Athletes Who Don't Play in America:

No. 10 Sachin Tendulkar

16 September 2009

Chen Shui-bian Gets His Just Desserts

(From RealClearWorld)


There was a time when Chen Shui-bian was a rising political star of Asia. He was a masterful campaigner, an astute politician and viewed by some as the champion of the oppressed.

Twice, he won the presidency of the Republic of China, against the better-funded, more-organized Kuomintang (KMT) despite long odds. In 2000, he led the upstart Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) into power in the island's second democratic election, taking advantage of an internal split in the KMT. Four years later, he won by a razor-thin margin aided by a mysterious assassination attempt just two days before the election.

While president, Chen also proved to be incredibly corrupt.

On Friday, Chen was sentenced to life in prison for embezzling $15 million U.S. during his presidency. He had an elaborate setup where he involved family members, including his wife, with a money laundering scheme that'd make the mob proud.

During his second term as president, Chen was busy putting money away while Taiwan's economy went into the tank. His party was routed in the 2008 legislative election, becoming a marginal minority party with fewer than a quarter of the seats. As Chen was barred by the constitution to run for a third term, his successor was beaten soundly by the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou in last year's presidential election.

In his final years in office, as he was trying to cover up the paper trail, Chen unleashed a series of political maneuvers designed to shift the attention of the public: Flogging the corpse of Chiang Kai-shek and stirring up conflict between the islanders and mainlanders; provoking China with frequent rhetoric of Taiwan "independence"; advocating Taiwan's re-admission into the U.N. by holding referendums, all the while knowing it was a purely political stunt.

Chen was dragged out of the office, kicking and screaming. He still has die-hard supporters, who insist on his innocence not because of any shred of evidence but because of their loyalty to a charismatic chameleon, who sold out his principles in exchange for a lucrative retirement. Had Taiwan's judicial authority not detained him swiftly, he surely would've fled, never to return.

The South China Morning Post calls it a tragedy for Taiwan:

The verdict marks the fall of the man once hailed as "Son of Taiwan", the child of a poor farmer who rose to the top, but now dubbed the "shame of Taiwan". As Taiwan's second democratically elected president, he came to power as a leader of some stature, a man seen to embody the hopes of Taiwanese with strong feelings of local identity. Indeed, it was on the back of their support that he became president. He projected the image of an incorruptible champion of Taiwanese nationalism and independence, whose anti-mainland rhetoric froze relations with Beijing.

He is now seen to have betrayed their faith by using his position for personal gain. The question now is how much damage his fall from grace has inflicted on the opposition Democratic Progressive Party and the independence movement in Taiwan. There was already a lot of disillusionment with the DPP over its performance in office after it came to power in 2000. Its reign was marked by internal bickering, administrative incompetence and corruption. Because Taiwan had experienced the dictatorship of the Kuomintang regime for so long, many people were prepared to give the DPP the benefit of the doubt. This fund of goodwill was depleted, however, as the party struggled to come to grips with the responsibilities of office.

This is the ultimate tragedy of Chen's conviction. In order to have a viable and vibrant democracy there needs to be a viable opposition capable of credibly contesting power and testing the government. Chen's disgrace of the island's highest office and his party will make it much more difficult for the DPP to recapture power.

02 September 2009

When Will China Learn to Grow Up?

(From RealClearWorld)

When in doubt, throw a temper tantrum.

It matters not that China has the world's third largest economy, perhaps the second-most powerful military and is the only potential global rival to the hegemon that is the United States. You can still count on China acting like a third-rate despot with all the delicacies of a bull in a, well, china shop.

So the Dalai Lama decided to visit Taiwan, in an oh-so transparent political maneuver designed to poke and get a rise out of China. Did China take the bait?

At first, Beijing acted only irritated, which was a good move and showed considerable restraint. It absolved Taiwan's beleaguered President Ma Ying-jeou and laid the blame entirely on the opposition and independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

That would've been fine. It'd be better had China just acted like the Dalai Lama didn't exist and ignored the visit entirely. Why give the Tibetan spiritual leader and the DPP the satisfaction?

But after thinking it over, Communist China's mandarins couldn't help themselves. They sunk their teeth in it. Hook, line and sinker.

Never mind that Ma's Kuomintang (KMT) had just sent a kowtow party to Beijing last week to explain themselves. Ostensibly, they told the Chinese that given Ma's weakened political state, they couldn't afford another big brouhaha.

Brushing the KMT aside,

China has canceled or postponed at least two planned visits to Taiwan, and nixed ceremonies meant to mark the expansion of direct air service, said KMT spokeswoman Chen Shu-rong. China had already said its delegation would not join Saturday's opening ceremony for the Deaf Olympics in Taipei.

That last move was so classically clever, it sure would resolve to win over the hearts and minds of the skeptical Taiwanese. In a rare opportunity to host an international athletic event, Taiwan now will get snubbed by its cross-Strait brethren. These deaf Chinese athletes, instead of being celebrated as goodwill emissaries for vastly improving relations between the mainland and Taiwan, are now mere ventilators in the latest Chinese temper tantrum.

But what did you expect from a regime, despite its power and size, that has the diplomatic maturity of a 3-year-old?

29 August 2009

Q&A with Michael Auslin

(From RealClearWorld)

Michael Auslin is the Director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, he has been named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, a Marshall Memorial Fellow by the German Marshall Fund, and a Fulbright and Japan Foundation Scholar. He’s the author of Negotiating with Imperialism: The Unequal Treaties and the Culture of Japanese Diplomacy (Harvard University Press, 2006) and Japan Society: Celebrating a Century, 1907-2007 (Japan Society Gallery, 2007). Mr. Auslin spoke to RealClearWorld just prior to Sunday’s election in Japan.

RCW: Will Japan's election on Sunday be a transformative one or merely a temporary repudiation of the LDP?

Auslin: If the DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) wins, it's transformative -- it's a clear turnover of power in Japan and a clear repudiation of the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party). It would be two elections in a row that we see the opposition gain power and seats. We can say that Japan has entered a new era in politics. But what will the DPJ do policy-wise is the big question. If they don't solve the economic crisis and get booted out of office in the next election, then it might not be as transformative. They might have a candidate Obama problem: How are they going to fulfill all the promises and prove that they can actually rule? They have offered a lot of grandiose plans but very few specifics.

RCW: It certainly looks as if the DPJ is headed for an historic win, but can the polls be trusted?

Auslin: I'd be shocked if the polls were wrong, but you never know. The question now is how big a victory: outright majority, or will the DPJ need to form a coalition, which will make things more complicated? As far as I can tell, the high end of Japanese polls are usually wrong, as here, but I'm not an expert on their polling approaches. This will be a good test.

RCW: How did the LDP, which dominated post-war Japanese politics, get where they are today?

Auslin: This is a unique confluence and somewhat of a long-term trend that the LDP is losing support. Japan's economic crisis really has been going on for 15 years and finally we have reached a tipping point. Their credibility and competence have been chipped away. You really have to look at (former PM Junichiro) Koizumi's ability to personalize Japanese politics as an aberration. He didn't represent the new LDP, or the new era - it's really just one man's uniqueness. You got to a point where finally there was the coalescence of a legitimate opposition party that could pull together all the pieces.

The most important issue is economic recovery because in Japan, the bubble burst in 1989-1990. Even in Koizumi's time, recovery was limited. Wages didn't go up from 2000-2007. Whatever lifetime employment system that existed before was knocked off track and dismantled. The citizens were hammered by the exports plummeting 15%. Those trends formed a perfect storm. There's long-term discontent with the LDP and they haven't been able to bring about the reforms to solve those problems.

RCW: Is Japan headed toward another "Lost Decade"?

Auslin: That's a very complex question. What we do know is that their strategy with an overwhelming emphasis on exports and non-private capital investment -- that has collapsed. They haven't pursued a policy that makes sense. The non-diversification has shown up. They did not get rid of red tape to promote entrepreneurship. It seems clear now what they really need to do is overhaul their economic philosophy. They need to resolve the macro defects instead of fixing micro problems. They have had success in banking deregulation and cleaning up bad balance sheets and now their banking system is on much firmer ground. But their manufacturing sector didn't build up a domestic market. They have not cleaned up all the regulatory problems and no one seems to have a clear economic plan. The DPJ, in its manifesto, says it wants to help the working people and reduce the income gap, but it has no clear plan on how to pay for it and cut waste. So I'm not sure if that's an economic ideology or just shifting around resources and not changing the fundamentals.

RCW: Why is there such apathy in the U.S. toward Japan or Japanese politics?

Auslin: To be honest, it's perversely a sign of strength in terms of a country's relationship with the U.S. Japan in this respect is like Britain, we know they're not an aggressive troublemaker or a potential challenger for us, so we don't care. This is not like in the '80s and early '90s (when Japan was perceived to be a threat). But the fact that we don't pay much attention to the second largest economy in the world and Asia's oldest and most stable democracy is not particularly wise, either. There's all this talk about a G-2 with China ... Japan's economy is bigger than China's in many ways. Americans seem to focus on countries only when we need to. But our policy makers really should understand Japan, know its strengths and weaknesses, and what role it can play and how we can work together.

RCW: Is Japan still U.S.'s most reliable ally in Asia?

Auslin: There are limitations on what Japan can or can't do, with its political and legal restraints from Article 9 (of Japan's constitution). They were quick to join our anti-terror activities. Through the personal initiative of Koizumi and (Shinzo) Abe, there was a 6-year period when Japan was very involved in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Indian Ocean. They are still a reliable ally, it's where our forward bases of troops in East Asia are stationed. Without the bases in Japan we would not have a much of a posture in that side of the Pacific. Japan is also working with us on missile defense. And this is to the benefit of Japan's, too, because if you look around, that neighborhood is getting more dangerous all the time.

RCW: How threatened do the Japanese feel about China and North Korea?

Auslin: Just like us, Japan has a very complex and delicate relationship with China. There's the trading relationship, as China is central to the supply chain in providing consumer goods. Japanese companies are heavily invested in the Chinese mainland, employing over 10 million Chinese in joint ventures. And China is crucial to the Japanese export strategy. That said, China is the only real political and security challenge to Japan in the region, and they have direct conflicts on some of Japan's own security issues. And now China is very active in ASEAN and there Japan is somewhat marginalized by China. North Korea is not an existential threat to Japan - China is the only one. They have nuclear subs, rockets and missile forces. There is a lot of trepidation and concern in Japan about what China is going to do and what signal it's sending. It's frustrating for Japan because militarily Japan doesn't have too many options out there. There are limits on what they can do.

RCW: How is Japan dealing with its alarming population problem?

: Japan is facing a major demographic slowdown. With this trend, by 2050, they'll lose a fifth of their population. On the low end, they may have about 90-95 million - that's an enormous chunk - and only about 105 million on the high end. But there's been no national debate over this issue due to the cultural and social sensitivity. They want to keep seniors active longer. With respect to immigration, they're bringing in skilled specialists, for example large numbers of nurses for hospitals and assisted living facilities from the Philippines. They bring in people they need for functional reasons, but not people who will stay and become part of the societies. But (the population crisis) is a long-term trend. Fertility and marriage rates started falling in the '70s, so the negative replacement rate has been in the making for a generation. It's finally come home to roost. The fact that they don't seem to have a social or political panic and no rational debate, that's very worrisome. The only good news is that Japan got rich before it got old, so they have much more leeway than Russia or China, they got old before they got rich. How the Japanese deal with this is going to be a lesson for the developed world, but right now there isn't much optimism.

RCW: Tokyo is one of the finalists for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Do the Japanese want to host the Games?

Auslin: Everyone wants to throw in their hat and wants to be seen as a great country on the international stage. For Japan, I think that's not any different, particularly seeing how China did it in Beijing just last year. But the Olympics are such an economic drain and boondoggle. I think the Japanese would love to get it, but they've already had three Olympics, so it probably isn't something they care or talk about very much.

RCW: What drew you to Japanese politics and people?

: I originally came to it very academically. I was working on some Sino-Soviet issues, and I took a look at Japan and started reading Japanese history and just found it fascinating and unlike any other history, and also what an extraordinary culture it is. It's had incredible problems, limitations and some horrific violence, yet also an exquisite concept of kinship and artistry, you can see that from the palaces to the cities. It's an amazing story - it's so involved internationally but it holds itself off, partly because of the physical isolation. Asia has changed so much in the last 200 years and Japan is the vanguard of that. I had a chance to teach in the Japanese countryside and saw how kind people were and I really took an interest. I spent a year in a cultural exchange program and then lived there for several years after graduate school.

17 August 2009

Congress Can't 'Fix' the BCS

(From BCS Guru)

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) made a lot of noise earlier this year about reforming the BCS. He even wrote an op-ed in Sports Illustrated. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) went as far as introducing a bill to ban the use of "national championship" by the BCS. Even President Barack Obama (D-World) has promised (or threatened) to "throw his weight around a little bit."

But don't hold your breath. The BCS isn't going anywhere and it's not going to change much.

And that's a good thing in this sense: You do not want the United States government messing with college football.

For those of you who skipped your high school civic classes or didn't care much for polisci in college, here's a quick primer: The U.S. is a federal republic, its government is represented by people from all 50 states, each with its own disparate interest. These representatives don't work for you or me or the United States as a whole, per se. They work for their state, their district and their constituents.

But most of all, they work for themselves to make sure that they get re-elected.

That's why there's all the grandstanding about the BCS when the timing is convenient. When there's nothing going on, it's a cheap way to get some media attention. And since the BCS is about as popular as the Third Reich, it's easy to kick around the BCS and score brownie points.

You do notice, though, that none of these politicians, from Obama on down, offered anything remotely resembling a "solution" to the BCS problem, right?

That's because they don't have one. And they don't know college football well enough to even come up with one.

You do also notice that the people who complain the loudest about the BCS tend to be representing the latest aggrieved party in the BCS saga. Yes, Hatch is all hot because Utah got screwed last year. Barton is pissed because similarly Texas got shut out of the BCS title game (but he went to A&M, so go figure).

In 2007, the loudest critic of the BCS was University of Gerogia president Michael Adams. He was sore because the Bulldogs didn't get their shot at the crystal ball. Guess what? This last offseason you didn't hear a peep from Dr. Adams, presumably because UGA still got its fat BCS check even though its team, ranked No. 1 in the preseason, more or less went in the tank.

So here's a prediction: You won't hear too much from Sen. Hatch next spring - unless BYU becomes the next BCS victim.

When it comes to the BCS, the best you can hope for is that it'll do the right thing not because of government regulation, but because of the market forces. We still live in a nation with an economy that's fueled by capitalistic endeavors (for now, anyway). And make no mistake, college football and the BCS are big business. So at the end, money talks.

Money talked in the 1990s, as Bowl Coalition morphed into Bowl Alliance and then the BCS. It's not a perfect system, but it's at least marginally better than the old bowl regime. The best two championship games of the BCS Era (2002 and 2005) wouldn't have happened without the BCS. There will come a time - maybe in the next 5-10 years - that there will be so much money on the table for the BCS to adopt some sort of a Plus-One or pseudo-playoff system. You can count on that.

What you can't count on is government efficiency, that's why you want it to stay the hell away from college football. The U.S. government is pretty stretched. It's now running the car industry and many of the big banks. Soon, it'll own healthcare, then energy, and before you know it, you and me, too.

Besides, at a time where there is a real fear of inflation, with runaway budget deficits, continuing high unemployment and negative growth in GDP, not to mention nuclear threats from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea, why is anybody in government even talking about college football?

That's why we want our congressmen and senators to butt out. To mind their own business. To take care of business. In the case of the BCS, we don't need their help to "fix" it.

10 August 2009

Q&A with Frank Ching

(From RealClearWorld)

Frank Ching is a journalist and commentator who was Wall Street Journal's first China Bureau chief when China reopened to the West in 1979. He now writes a weekly column for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), China Post (Taiwan) and Globe and Mail (Canada). He's the author of three books - Ancestors: 900 Years in the Life of a Chinese Family (1988 and just re-released this month), China: The Truth About Its Human Rights Record (2008) and The Li Dynasty: Hong Kong Aristocrats (1999). He spoke to RealClearWorld about China, its relationship with the U.S. and its place in the world, by telephone from his home in Hong Kong.

RCW: Are China and the U.S. getting a bit closer?

Ching: There's no question they're forging a closer relationship, especially economically. When Hillary (Clinton) was in Thailand she spoke about how the U.S. has not been very active in the affairs of Asia, missing two out of every three (ASEAN) meetings. I think she understands that now it's in America's best interest in forging a closer relationship with China, particularly with the growing importance of China both economically and politically.

RCW: Is climate change a big deal for China?

Ching: It's a big deal for the world, and China recognizes it's a big deal as well. I think Chinese officials are more receptive now to talk about climate change than they were maybe even 10 years ago. China would argue that the West - the U.S. and western Europe - has been emitting greenhouse gases for a couple hundred years and that China on a per capita basis is only emitting about a quarter of the U.S.'s output. But I think China does have a genuine interest in trying to develop its industries to be more energy efficient. I don't think China is going to be a problem for America on this front. I expect climate change will be a major topic of discussion between China and the U.S., and it's their hope to have an agreement in Copenhagen (at the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2009).

RCW: Does China want the climate change talk to distract from other issues, such as human rights?

Ching: When China was first approached on climate change, they were taken aback and they were a little suspicious. But I think they came around when Hillary went to China a few months ago and stated that she was not going to talk about human rights. (The) human rights (situation) will improve when the Chinese people decide to do something about it, and not as a result of outside pressure - the U.S. now accepts this and it also knows it's not in a position to put much pressure on China about it.

RCW: Is China also forging a better relationship with Japan?

Ching: They're better than from '01-'05 when (PM Junichiro) Koizumi went to the Yasukuni Shrine every year. None of the prime ministers have done that since, though while (Taro) Aso hasn't been to the shrine, he's sent an offering - and the Chinese don't like even that. Japan has had a succession of weak leaders since Koizumi, and in their election at the end of this month, most likely LDP will be out of power. The Chinese have taken a more pragmatic approach with Japan. (Chinese PM) Wen (Jiabao) has said that China accepts Japan's apology (on the invasion and occupation of China during WWII) and unless Japan reopens the issue, China is ready to move on. I don't believe the new Japanese government will be provocative towards Beijing.

RCW: Is reunification on the horizon for China and Taiwan?

Ching: Obviously things have changed a lot since Ma Ying-jeou (became president in May 2008). Ma won't talk about reunification even if he wins a second term, but he's open to reaching a peace agreement in his second term. China would sign a peace agreement if there's something in there for an eventual peaceful return of Taiwan. The Chinese Communist Party realizes Ma is very different from Chen (Shiu-bian, Ma's predecessor), and they very much want to see Ma re-elected, so they're not going to do anything to jeopardize that. China knows not to weaken Ma, in fact they realize they need to do what they can to help Ma. For instance, Taiwan was admitted to the (World Health Assembly) as an observer (in May 2009), with China's blessing. If that hadn't happened, that would've been very bad for Ma. In 1999, after Taiwan's big earthquake, China held the ridiculous position that nobody in the world could send assistance to Taiwan without China's permission. They know better than doing anything like that now.

RCW: Has China's approach to the Taiwan issue changed fundamentally?

Ching: There's definite improvement, because unlike Jiang (Zemin, former Chinese president), who was keen on getting a timetable for reunification, Hu (Jintao) is taking a different approach - he wants to make sure Taiwan does not move any further away. So instead of talking about reunification, China passed a secession law in 2005, basically assuming that there's one China, and as long as the status quo is maintained, everything can be negotiated. That helps to lower the tensions.

RCW: Is China playing its cards right with Tibet and Xinjiang?

Ching: I don't think they're handling it well. The moment any unrest takes place, they blame it on outsiders. I think there's a way that people in Xinjiang and Tibet could be happy to identify themselves with the country, but China just won't admit any mistakes in their dealings with ethnic minorities. They always blame any problems on somebody outside, that's just really stupid. When Mao was alive, there was this slogan of "Long Live the Great, Glorious and Correct Communist Party." And while they occasionally will make "corrections" to atrocities committed in the past, they rarely admit any mistakes, which in this situation just breeds lingering resentment.

RCW: Is the Chinese regime fearful of the technological revolution, particularly in view of what happened in Iran?

Ching: This is a serious problem for the regime, though the government has developed a very sophisticated way of controlling the flow of information, censoring the media and manipulating public opinion. For example, Hu's son was involved in a corruption case in Namibia, and immediately the propaganda department put out instructions not to allow anything related to the case to flow to the Internet. Never mind that Namibia merely wants to question him, he's not s suspect but might provide important information. But the Chinese government just wants to shut it down. China has cutting edge technology on this, and other regimes, such as Iran, are learning from them. It's interesting to note that during Iran's protests, the opposition, people who were in support of Khatami and Rafsanjani were shouting "death to China" whereas the pro-Ahmadinejad side is shouting "death to America."

RCW: What is the biggest challenge facing the Chinese regime?

Ching: They really are not facing an existential threat. There are thousands of protests every year, but they're not organized. The regime would be concerned if they weren't scattered all over the country. Most people think the central government is OK. They don't love it, but they tolerate it. Most of the petitioning is against the local governments, and the local governments tend to try to catch the people, arrest them and silence them at the local level. So the central government doesn't really see the threats, nothing serious anyway. They feel they're in charge.

RCW: How is Hu Jintao performing as China's president?

Ching: Hu is unflappable. He doesn't betray any emotions. It seems to me on the whole, he's doing a good job. He's handled foreign relations and the financial crisis fairly well. When he first took over, there were hopes that he would turn out to be a liberal and somebody who would liberalize China, but that's not happening - not with his record of stifling sentiment for elections and cracking down on human rights lawyers - he's not a liberal. The big difference in the CCP between the times of Deng Xiaoping and now is that Deng was a strongman; he was the paramount leader, even if his only title was the honorary chairman of the Chinese Bridge Association. That's no longer the case. Hu may be No. 1 in China, but institutions are now more important than when Deng was around. There are now term limits. You expect a change of leadership after every 10 years. When Jiang stepped down (in March 2003) that was the first time in CCP history that the leadership changed hands, even though somebody didn't die.

RCW: You're a journalist with quite a history covering China. Tell us more.

Ching: I've been in journalism all my life. I was a reporter with the New York Times and then the Wall Street Journal, opening their first bureau there in 1979 after China's normalization (of relations with the U.S.). I took a few years off to write a book, research my ancestors, and it really was a book on Chinese history from the Song Dynasty to the present, using my family as the vehicle. Now I write three columns a week and I teach a class on China's international relations at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

25 July 2009

Q&A with Gordon Chang

(From RealClearWorld)

Gordon Chang is a columnist for Forbes and author of The Coming Collapse of China (2001) and Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World (2006). He spoke with RealClearWorld about the escalating tensions with these two countries on the forefront of America's foreign policy agenda.

RCW: What are the long-term consequences of China's ethnic crisis?

Chang: The important aspect of the Xinjiang riots is that it shows the Communist Party doesn't have the ability to sustain their current policies with respect to China's minorities. We saw that last year when Tibet exploded in violence in March, and it's the same dynamic today. Their policy is unsustainable, abhorrent and terrible, but it also undermines the regime in that it has to divert so many needed resources to deal with these problems.

We have to remember that China remains a regime with Leninist pretensions. It's no longer a Maoist totalitarian state, but an authoritarian one. In the absence of the rule of law, it seeks to control too much. It's always worrying about its legitimacy, so even in good times it's creating enemies for itself. It's not just that the nature of the Chinese state has changed, but it's changed because the policies of the Communist Party have changed. This is the ultimate paradox.

RCW: In The Coming Collapse of China, you predicted its destruction would come from an economic meltdown. How well is China handling the financial crisis?

Chang: The weakness of the Chinese economy is that it's export-dominated, which accounts for 38-42 percent of its GDP. With developed countries not being able to purchase Chinese goods at the rate that they had been in the past, you'll see a continued decline in the Chinese economy. In essence, the Chinese leaders can do everything right and yet they still don't control their own destiny. And that's a problem you see in all the export-dependent economies, such as Russia, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Germany.

China has decided to try its own stimulus program in which they are trading short-term growth for long-term decline. Whereas when China opened up in December 1978, they grew their economy by developing a private sector. Now they're going in the opposite direction: renationalizing industries, choking off China's engine of growth and creating bad loans. They're going down the wrong path.

RCW: Will China come to blows with the U.S., either economically or militarily?

Chang: From the economic point of view, the free ride for China is over. China and the U.S. are de-linking because we're buying fewer goods and they're buying less treasury notes. We've basically had a one-way trade policy during the Bush and even Clinton years. But Obama can't continue business as usual, because if he wants another 4-year term, he can't just ignore the labor unions and the rust belt states by not enforcing our trade rights. And by doing that we'll probably trigger protectionist retaliations around the world, and with its economy so dependent on trade, China will be the biggest victim.

As far as the military, I don't foresee a conflict with China, but that's not to say that's never a possibility. At the present time we're giving China a wide berth when it comes to naval maneuvers, and that in itself actually creates more danger because China has become more aggressive. The more likely scenario (for an armed conflict) may come from China's actions against our allies, particularly Japan. Chinese submarines routinely violate Japanese territorial waters. If Japan decides to take a resolute measure and change its posture and engage in a firefight, who knows what's going to happen.

RCW: What about China's ties with Russia, are they on an upswing?

Chang: China and Russia have a very curious relationship. They're closer now than they have been yet they're still deeply antagonistic. Right now, their perceived interests coincide as the two largest authoritarian powers are banding together - that's why a U.S. alliance with India makes much more sense. I can see another bipolar cleavage developing with competition once again between the hardline authoritarian states against the democracies.

RCW: How and when will China collapse?

Chang: I don't know when it's going to happen, but I do think their political system is unsustainable and it will fail soon. The question is, what would happen to China's territories? I think Taiwan will be recognized as an independent state and a vibrant democracy as it already is. The Uighurs and Tibetans might escape the Chinese tent. There will be a lot of complications for the succession government.

RCW: Do we really want China to collapse, or is it perhaps better to deal with the devil you know?

Chang: These days, when people in Washington are calling Beijing, sometimes the phone gets answered and sometimes it doesn't. In the future, there might be nobody at the other end of the phone. You could have one solution, where you have a gradual revolution, with a representative government and a free market system. But on the other hand, you could have a much more hardline state, even worse than today. Or, you could have no state or a weak state, with chaos and turmoil. The Chinese people will eventually get it right, but it could be years, decades or centuries. If you look back in Chinese history, there is little optimism. I don't see a Chinese Gorbachev or a Yeltsin.

That said, the devil we know is not good enough. It's completely unacceptable. The next devil could be worse, but our only goal can't just be stability. We now have a (Chinese) government that's moving in all the wrong directions, a government more hostile, aggressive and assertive. Our relationship is becoming less constructive and it's not something we want to preserve. In some ways, we have encouraged Beijing to be less responsible and responsive. We created perverse policy incentives for them to behave this way.

RCW: How much pull does China have on North Korea?

Chang: China supplies 90% of North Korea's oil and 80% of its consumer goods. It's North Korea's only formal military ally and their only backer in international councils. That gives China a lot of pull. But either they don't exercise that pull by not making requests all the time, or North Korea is defying China. The U.S. needs to change its posture with respect to North Korea - China won't do the right thing because doesn't want to or maybe it can't. Plan B is for us to work with our allies to deal with North Korea rather than with a potential adversary (China).

: What is the endgame for North Korea?

Chang: That's a great question and no one has an answer for that. The only thing we know for sure is that there will be a transition soon. Kim Jong-il is in failing health and he won't last too long. We'll either see his 26-year-old son be his successor or purely as a figurehead. The thing is, Kim Il-sung spent two decades to groom his son to succeed him and Kim Jong-il spent not two years, and maybe just two months on his son.

Unless Kim lives another 10 years - which is doubtful - then his son doesn't have a chance (to actually assume leadership). The real issue is which military faction wins the power struggle, the ones who are favorable to Beijing or the ones who aren't? Kim (Jong-il) spent years purging the China-friendly generals but when he goes, the pro-China faction might reassert itself.

RCW: What are the best- and worst-case scenarios for North Korea?

: The worst case is simple, another war on the Korean Peninsula, maybe even a nuclear one. Remember, North Korea and South Korea have skirmishes all the time. During the crabbing season, North Korean patrol boats are in South Korean waters frequently. One of those times might be one provocation too many. Or a minor shooting incident at the DMZ escalating into something much more than that. North Korea is inherently aggressive, but the new South Korean president Lee Myung-bak is less willing to put up with crap (than his predecessors).

Another possibility is that Kim or his successor gets desperate and decides to start a war. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but the odds are higher than generally expected. It may happen in ways that truly surprise us.

RCW: How did you get into China, North Korea and East Asian politics? Aren't you a lawyer by trade?

Chang: When I practiced law, I worked in Shanghai in 1996. At that time, I wasn't terribly into politics. I had a positive view of China. I remember my wife calling back to the States talking to her mother, saying, "Mom, China is not a communist country anymore." But after living there, working there and traveling there, we saw a different side of China that changed our perception. After writing The Coming Collapse of China, I began to learn about China's relationship with North Korea - it's got to be the oddest bilateral relationship in the world. To me, North Korea is a very consequential country in world affairs.

I now write and speak because I feel very passionately about these issues. I think the world has the wrong perception of China. We live in dangerous times, and even minor events, if we mishandle them or because we don't comprehend them, can make things a lot worse.

09 July 2009

Chinese Nationalism Begets Chinese Racism

(From RealClearWorld)

Call it ethnic cleansing, with Chinese characteristics.

For the past two decades, China’s communist mandarins have sought the use of nationalism to offset their dubious legitimacy. In turning every Chinese misstep into a foreign affront, the regime has successfully created a sense of “China Uber Alles,” to borrow a phrase from a long-departed regime.

The side effect of the newly fashioned Chinese nationalism is a virulent strand of Chinese racism. To be more exact, the Han Chinese racism.

The Han race dominates the Chinese world in every way imaginable. They may be rich or poor. They may speak Cantonese or Mandarin. They may hail from Shanghai or Taipei or Los Angeles. But they draw their blood from the same ancestral source.

Because China proper has a mostly homogeneous population, the issue of race or ethnicity has rarely been a topic worthy of discussion. The Han race last galvanized itself in the 19th century to drive the ruling Manchus out of China. Once the Qing Dynasty was vanquished in 1911, the book on race relations in China was closed.

Until now.

After winning the Civil War in 1949, the Chinese Communists have strived to maintain China’s territorial integrity, especially after numerous border clashes with the Soviet Union, India and Vietnam. To secure those border hinterlands in the People’s Republic’s vast western territories, the government invested in a policy to place more reliable elements into those potentially troublesome regions.

It’s a settlement regimen that makes Israel’s look like child’s play.

Han Chinese flooded into Tibet and Xinjiang (literally meaning “New Territories") in the years after the People’s Liberation Army marched in to take control. The government enticed the Han Chinese to move thousands of miles away from the country's heartland with promises of jobs, status and a bright future. Tired of the crowded rat race in cities like Beijing, Guangzhou and Wuhan, many took the offer to head west.

The result is one of the world’s biggest population shifts since Germans were expelled from Eastern Europe at the end of World War II. In 1949, Han Chinese accounted for just 5% of Xinjiang’s population. Today, they are up to 41%, soon to eclipse the native Uighur Muslims’ 45%. Urumqi, the modern capital city dotted by skyscrapers, is dominated by the Han Chinese, who comprise over 75% of the 2.5 million population.

The successful settlement of Han population in Xinjiang underscores the importance of the region to the regime. While Tibet gets more attention from abroad, Xinjiang is more critical to China.

More than twice the size of Texas, Xinjiang sits on the old Silk Road, a land rich with resources such as natural gas and oil. It houses China’s nuclear weapons facilities. Its frontier is guarded by the towering Tian Shan mountain range, shielding China from its unstable Central Asian neighbors.

As with Tibet, Xinjiang is nominally an “autonomous region,” but that designation is as miscast as “People’s Republic.” The native Uighurs are kept away from the levers of power, which of course are supervised by Beijing. In fact, despite being as far as 3,000 miles away, all of Xinjiang (and all of China) is on Beijing time.

Beyond moving in Han Chinese to insure a loyal populace, the other part of the “ethnic cleansing” involves moving the Uighurs out of Xinjiang. Thousands of native Uighurs (many of them women) have been shipped out of their native land to take jobs in China proper. Ostensibly, it was to provide them with better pay and future, exactly what’s promised the Han Chinese in Xinjiang.

This week’s troubles started not in Xinjiang, but in Guangdong, where the displaced Uighur factory workers were involved in a brawl with the local Han Chinese population. When the Uighurs organized to protest in Urumqi, they were met with angry Han Chinese mobs, who outnumber them, 5-1, in the capital of the ironically named “Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.”

It’s abundantly clear, from last year’s riots in Lhasa to this week’s in Urumqi, that many Han Chinese have developed a keen sense of their own racial superiority.

The one phrase frequently heard from the average Chinese man on the street is “ungrateful." Put another way: Those backward minorities ought to appreciate all the modern infrastructure and improved living standards bestowed them by the Han Chinese, instead of making trouble.

There was a time when racial harmony was a highly cherished concept in the People’s Republic. Mao Zedong promoted class struggle, but demanded benevolence (at least in name) toward the minorities. China’s Reminbi currency made a point to feature all sorts of racial minorities in their various native costumes.

But that was when everybody was being repressed and oppressed in China. Now that China is bigger, stronger, and richer than ever, taking care of these minorities’ grievances isn’t much of a priority.

In fact, these grievances are met not with shrugs, but fists, sticks and guns – and not just from the cops and soldiers. Call it racism with Chinese characteristics.

06 July 2009

China's Other Powder Keg Erupts

(From RealClearWorld)

The ethnic riots in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region has so far claimed 140 lives with 800-plus injured, according to official figures. In reality, those numbers could be much higher.

The majority Uighurs in the Xinjiang region, in China's far-flung northwest corner, have resented the hardline rule of the Chinese Communists and the growing influx of ethnic Han Chinese since the People's Liberation Army entered the area in 1949. The latest incident began as a group of Uighur students protested Chinese discrimination against ethnic minorities.

According to the South China Morning Post, the leading English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, the origins of the events that led to the protest may have been fanned by an internet hoax:
Provincial police yesterday detained a man accused of spreading false rumours of rape over the internet that sparked a deadly ethnic brawl at a Hong Kong-owned toy factory in the northern Guangdong city of Shaoguan at the weekend.

Xinhua reported that the former worker posted a message on a local website claiming, "Six Xinjiang boys raped two innocent girls" at the factory, which is owned by Early Light International (Holdings).

Police said the unfounded claim was behind the massive brawl on Friday night between a group of Han and Uygur workers from the northwestern Xinjiang region who had been recruited to the factory. Some 800 migrant workers were employed from Shufu county, under the jurisdiction of Kashgar.

The Xinjiang region may be even more volatile than Tibet, which has given authorities fits intermittently since Communist Chinese occupation began in 1951. But Chinese leadership won't hesitate to unleash a harsh reprisal in Xinjiang, as there is little international support for the Uighurs' plight. A number of central Asian nations, and Russia, view the Uighur Muslims as potential troublemakers in the region and an Islamic terrorist threat.

Recently, when the Obama administration released a handful of Uighur detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, it had a difficult time placing them because repatriating them back to China would have resulted in harsh treatment (if not death) for these individuals, considered separatist terrorists by Beijing.

The riot in Xinjiang may be short-lived, as Chinese authorities will have no qualms about shutting down media access and springing a bloody crackdown. Alim Seytoff, head of the Uighur American Association, told the Chinese-language World Journal that the authorities responded with 1,000-plus riot police as soon as the protest emerged and "we've been told, they began randomly shooting into the crowd. ... We don't know how many people actually died, but at least hundreds were injured."

He went on to refute the Chinese government's assertion that the riot was premeditated by expatriate Uighur organizations, calling it a "smokescreen."

04 June 2009

Deng Xiaoping's Bloody Power Play

(From RealClearWorld)

On the fateful days leading up to June 4, 1989, Zhao Ziyang frantically tried to halt a looming bloody crackdown. He sought an audience with one man, in whose hands the future of China’s liberalization teetered.

But Deng Xiaoping wasn’t listening.

He might’ve been nearly deaf, but at the age of 84, Deng understood how to keep the reins of power perfectly. Zhao, in his just-published posthumous memoir - Prisoner of the State – made it clear that the events on June 4 and beyond were conducted according to the exact wishes of the most powerful man in China.

In order to understand the bloody crackdown and all its consequences, it is first necessary to understand Deng Xiaoping the man. Deng had a decision to make, and it was nearly his alone. In this critical hour, Deng proved that he was unable to overcome his own personal history and obsession with power.

The student protests began on April 15, 1989, initially as a gathering to mourn the death of Hu Yaobang, and to voice their displeasure at the government’s corruption. Hu was Zhao’s predecessor as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and the leading reformer of his time. He had been purged by Deng and the reactionary faction in the CCP because, as a true reformer, Hu wanted China’s liberalization to go beyond just economic transformation.

China had opened its doors to the outside world for a decade at this point, but politically, it was nearly as repressive as it had been under Mao. Rampant corruption plagued the CCP at all levels, and public discontent was growing fiercer.

The students extended their protest for over a month, both during and after the visit in May by Mikhail Gorbachev -- a reformer himself and the architect of Glasnost. The protest now featured a hunger strike and a demand for direct dialogue with party officials. Over 100,000 students and workers occupied Tiananmen Square, despite repeated orders to disperse.

The scenes of students in a state of near anarchy haunted Deng.

In 1968, at the height of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, it was Deng himself who had been purged and banished to work in a factory in Jiangxi Province. His children were rounded up by Peking University students and forced to denounce their father and “expose his crimes.”

As detailed in Mao – The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Deng’s 24-year-old son Pufang tried to commit suicide by throwing himself out of a window, only to survive and was paralyzed from the waist down. Deng and his wife were not even told of his condition until a year later and not allowed to see Pufang until 1971. It was the single-most traumatic event in Deng’s turbulent personal and political life.

Now, seeing the same Peking University students nearing yet another riot, Deng was not going to heed Zhao’s pleas to go soft and slow. In his mind, he had come too far to allow his grip on power to be loosened by the same kind of radicals.

Deng had regained his political footing in the waning days of Mao’s life. With a country nearly shattered by the Cultural Revolution, Mao needed someone competent to restore order, so he freed Deng from his house arrest and political exile of nearly a decade. After Mao’s death, Deng outmaneuvered Mao’s widow and her “Gang of Four” to become the party chairman and the ruler of China.

Though Deng – an economist by trade - favored economic liberalization, he was hesitant to bring about rapid political reforms. He had allowed reformers such as Hu and Zhao to become party chiefs, but in the face of hardline opposition, he always backed down rather swiftly.

Deng purged Hu following a massive student demonstration in late 1986. The same fate befell Zhao, who was ousted days before the crackdown, and lived under house arrest until his death in 2005.

On June 4, 1989, the nascent movement toward political accountability was ruthlessly crushed by guns and tanks. But the bloodshed didn’t stop in Tiananmen Square and its immediate vicinity, as executions, prison sentences and purges were carried out throughout China. There has not been any political mass protest in China since.

After Tiananmen, Deng consolidated his power and remained the “paramount leader” of China for the remainder of his life. No doubt he gained certain satisfaction at the outcome of the crackdown. Merely five months later, the Berlin Wall fell and the communist stranglehold on Eastern Europe collapsed. Yet 20 years later, the Chinese Communists’ grip on China in all facets of life is as firm as ever.

Most of China’s young today know little to nothing about the Tiananmen Massacre. June 4 will come and go as any other day on the calendar. But just to be sure that absolutely no one will be talking about the incident, the Chinese government has taken care to shut down Twitter, Flickr and other social networking sites for the moment.

Today’s Chinese leaders are thus true disciples of the CCP. Just like Mao and Deng before them, these kindred spirits can agree on one thing: Power grows from the barrel of the gun.

04 May 2009

Ninety Years of Chinese Nationalism

(From RealClearWorld)

The anniversary of June 4 will be closely observed by China watchers from around the world while it won’t be observed at all in China. But an event that's had far more lasting impact on modern China took place 90 years ago today, and it is this anniversary that should not escape unnoticed.

On May 4, 1919, thousands of university students gathered in Peking in an angry protest over China’s treatment in the Versailles Conference following the aftermath of World War I. If Weimar Germany got the shaft, then China was handed the short end of the stick.

Despite being on the winning side of the war, China, which sent 140,000 laborers to the western front digging ditches, ferrying ambulances and performing otherwise dangerous and menial tasks, got none of the victors’ spoils. Worse, it was betrayed by its western "allies" in every way. Not only did China not regain its sovereign soil held by the British and French, it watched helplessly as Japan took possession of the former German concessions.

The humiliation at Versailles illustrated the utter impotence of China’s nascent republic. But at this moment, when the "new" China hit the nadir in terms of international prestige, a fervent Chinese nationalism was born. And in many ways, this brand of Chinese nationalism is still ongoing.

The May Fourth Movement is commonly thought to be the catalyst, or birthplace, of the Chinese Communist Party. While it's true that a good number of the May Fourth intellectuals eventually came under communist influence, the CCP likely would've risen to prominence anyway, especially with the emergence of the new-born Soviet Union. But the real achievement of the movement was that it galvanized China to truly become a modern-day nation.

During centuries of imperial rule, the idea of "China" as one nation only existed in the minds of those at the highest levels of power. Because of China's isolation, it never really needed to contend with powerful foreign entities, save for the "barbarians" who lived outside of the Great Wall. But even when the barbarians conquered China, as the Mongols did in the 13th century and the Manchus in the 17th, they were quickly engulfed by the superior Chinese culture.

It wasn't until the 19th century when China had to deal with a truly foreign menace. First, it was the British. Then the French, Russians, Germans, and worst of all, the Japanese. A sense of nationhood initially was stoked during the Taiping and Boxer rebellions, but they were put down with the help of foreigners. The Qing Dynasty was finally overthrown in 1911, but the Republic of China, during its infancy, was more an idea than reality as the country was divvied up amongst various warlords and republican factions.

World War I was thought to be China's maiden voyage onto the international stage. But for all their efforts, the Chinese were rudely reminded of their inconsequence at the Versailles Conference. For the young generation of Chinese intellectuals who were educated in western-style liberalism, Versailles represented a devastating betrayal. For the first time, they understood that power politics trumps any lofty ideals. And with them leading the way, the movement built momentum throughout China that created a coherence and unity among the ordinary Chinese.

The Chinese were angry at their own weakness. They were angry at their own government and the foreign powers, especially Japan. The Chinese representatives in Versailles, in a symbolic gesture, refused to sign the final peace treaty. (China in fact signed a separate peace treaty with Germany in 1921.)

Fast forward to today. Ninety years later, Chinese nationalism is alive and well, and now with plenty of teeth. Backed by the world's third-largest economy and perhaps the second most powerful military, China is no longer the sick man of Asia. But nationalism is like a powder keg. For the CCP, management of this nationalism is a very delicate issue.

In recent years, the CCP has sought to use Chinese nationalism to deflect attention away from its continued one-party dictatorship. For the most part, it has achieved the desired effect. In crisis after crisis, whether it's on the question of Tibet or confrontations with the United States, the CCP counted on the application of nationalism to turn its own misdeeds into grievances.

But the days of the CCP playing the nationalism card so deftly may be numbered. China is the only country among the top 20 world producers that does not allow free elections (Russia might be another one, but we digress). Its superpower-in-waiting status is unquestioned. Sooner or later, the Chinese citizenry will figure out that to cure whatever ails China nowadays, they'd better start to look from within.

That's why the 90th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement - known as "Youth Day" in China - will only get a glancing acknowledgment from the country's leadership . At its very heart, May Fourth represented an awakening. It was a revolt, and it was anti-government. The CCP wants none of that.

27 April 2009

Most Disastrous Rescues

(From RealClearWorld)

Last week -- in honor of Captain Richard Phillips' courageous naval rescue from Somali pirates -- the editorial staff of RealClearWorld featured the world's top five most daring hostage rescues. From the clever, bloodless rescue of FARC hostages in Colombia, to the daring Israeli raid of Entebbe, our staff's selections highlighted the kind of bravery and ingenuity often demonstrated by soldiers and civilians all over the globe.

However, for every mission deemed a success, many more often fail. The calculated risk and planning that goes into a hostage rescue is often immense; the consequences for failing dire. When successful, these acts of heroism deserve their share of praise. But the dangers involved often render such missions futile, leaving leaders embarrassed and perpetrators emboldened.

Some of these attempts -- such as the 2002 Nord-Ost Siege in Moscow -- end with mixed and controversial results, often calling into question the tactics and planning invested into the mission.

It's our hope in compiling this list that we can show the other side to these calculated gambits, and hopefully, accentuate those rare and remarkable rescues that actually succeed.

No. 5 Waco (1993)

20 April 2009

Most Daring Hostage Rescues

(From RealClearWorld)

When U.S. Navy SEALs shot and killed three Somali pirates and rescued Captain Richard Phillips on April 12, it was hailed as a great hostage recovery mission. It had all the elements of cunning, surprise and precision that such operations demand to be carried out successfully.

Over the last half century, as terrorism has become a global plague, major governments have set up special forces to deal with just these kinds of crises. Highly-skilled and vigorously trained commandos have rescued hostages from hijacked planes, buildings to mountain-side camps and the high seas. These missions can sometimes turn deadly and become complete failures, with lasting political consequences.

The editors at RealClearWorld have reviewed more than a dozen famed hostage-rescue missions and based on the circumstances, the degree of success and locations of these rescues, the following five come out at the top of our list:

No. 5 Operation Isotope (1972)

15 March 2009

World's Most Dangerous Cities

(From RealClearWorld)

If last week's violent attacks in Northern Ireland reminded us of anything, it's that every corner of the world - whether it be in Baghdad, Iraq or Belfast, Northern Ireland - holds its own elements of danger and instability. The world has been consumed for several years by two wars, as well as recent violence in the Middle East and Sri Lanka.

In determining the World's Most Dangerous Cities, the editorial staff at RealClearWorld instead decided to highlight some of the places around the world that have been overshadowed by the higher profile violence in other parts of the globe.

Cities like Kabul and Gaza City sadly find themselves the frequent source for headlines and news copy in world affairs pages and journals. But places may be dangerous for more reasons than just bullets and bombs. In our latest list, RCW dug deeper to present you with the cities often forgotten by the editors, reporters and pundits.

No. 10 London

11 March 2009

High Stakes on the High Seas

(From RealClearWorld)

The recent near-violent confrontation on the South China Sea between the Chinese navy and a U.S. navy reconnaissance ship brought back memories of the 2001 showdown over the crash landing of an American recon plane on Hainan Island. History has a funny way of repeating itself.

The Chinese intention is pretty clear - it wants to test a new American president who is even more of a rookie at international affairs than George W. Bush was in April 2001. But more important, the Chinese really would want to know how its navy stacks up against the world's premier sea power.

China's adventure into the Horn of Africa region last year was but a thinly disguised attempt to flex its new naval muscles. A land power throughout its history, China in recent years has made a concerted effort to bolster its maritime capabilities. It needs a stronger navy to provide safe passage for its growing number of freight and merchant ships - the backbone of the world's second-largest exporter.

But there is another aim at work. China may not be spoiling for a fight with the U.S. Navy, but it wants to make sure it won't be totally overwhelmed if a confrontation becomes inevitable. Of course, much of this has to do with Taiwan - China knows if it must take the island by force, a thousand missiles and a hundred divisions of the PLA won't get the job done if they can't get across the Taiwan Strait.

And there's the matter of the South China Sea, which has long been considered a "lake" by the Chinese, who claims ownership of all of the potentially oil-rich (on par with Kuwait by one estimate) Spratly Islands. Hainan Island serves as the hub of China's budding submarine fleet, a force that has undergone rapid modernization and is quickly becoming the second-strongest in the world.

So when an American ship crept nearby, it became a golden opportunity for China to fire a shot across the bow of USS Barack Obama. The new president's reaction, or the absence of, will give China important clues it's looking for.

10 March 2009

The Last Best Chance for Tibet

(From RealClearWorld)

On March 10, 1959, a violent uprising began in Lhasa - one that was orchestrated from the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party, namely Chairman Mao Zedong himself. Mao wanted an excuse to crush the Tibetans, send the Dalai Lama into exile and put the nominally-autonomous region under the CCP jackboot.

All that was accomplished. And now, 50 years later, the Chinese government is at a loss on how to untangle this one last part of Mao's monstrous legacy.

The People's Liberation Army first invaded Tibet in 1950, shortly after the Communists drove Chiang Kai-shek off the mainland. But because Mao was heavily invested in the Korean War on the other side of the continent, the Chinese victory was tenuous, and its domination hardly comprehensive.

Still a teenager then, the Dalai Lama was invited to Beijing to visit with Mao, who appeared both gracious and charming to the Tibetan spiritual leader. In October 1951, he formally accepted the Seventeen-Point Agreement outlining the terms of an autonomous Tibet as part of the People's Republic of China. He would repudiate this document when he went into exile in India eight years later.

What the Dalai Lama has not repudiated, however, is Chinese sovereignty in an autonomous Tibet. He has tried vainly to negotiate, through emissaries, with the Chinese government on the basis of this framework. Yet, the CCP has been unable to reach a consensus on how to resolve the Tibetan issue, resorting mostly to the tired tactics of forceful crackdowns while labeling the Dalai Lama a "separatist."

What President Hu Jintao and his cabinet must realize, though, is that the opportunity for a peaceful resolution to the Tibet question is closing fast.

First, the aging and possibly ailing Dalai Lama (who will turn 74 this year) may be Beijing's best hope to reach a satisfactory settlement without further escalation and bloodshed. While he has stuck to the concept of autonomy without outright independence, a number of Tibetan dissidents have diverged from that position. But as long as he is still the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, and also recognized as such globally, any agreement with the Dalai Lama's consent would more than likely be respected and honored on the Tibetan side.

Second, the Chinese leadership has to recognize that the exercise of its soft power in recent years has resulted in much more gains than any saber-rattling with hard power. Hu needs to look no further than the rapprochement with Taiwan. A decade of military intimidation designed to meddle with Taiwan's elections only brought upon them rebuke from the island's voters. A more benevolent approach under Hu has delivered a much more desirable outcome - a political climate change in Taiwan, and a smoother path to a peaceful resolution in an unresolved civil war.

With its power reaching unprecedented heights in the midst of the global financial crisis, this is actually the best moment for China to show that it's a mature superpower-to-be that needn't resort to the gun barrel to solve problems at every turn. By offering very small amounts of magnanimity, a confident China can gain immeasurably in stature, both in the eyes of the west as well as an increasingly restive Tibetan community.

Finally, the continued demonizing of the Dalai Lama and imposition of martial law only guarantee further bloodshed at a time when China can least afford it. Fifty years ago, the quelling of the Tibetan uprising resulted in the death of 86,000, at the time an insignificant number while Mao was busy starving nearly 40 million Chinese to death in the midst of the Great Leap Forward. Today, with the 20-year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre coming up in June, another crackdown that ends in thousands of deaths will only spark more unrest and violence in China's border regions and cause an alarmed Taiwan to once again drift away.

In 1959, the Dalai Lama escaped via the backdoor and a half century of antagonism ensued - despite some genuine Chinese contribution in improving the Tibetans' living standards. There is no better time for him to return - via the front door - as a dignitary worthy of the Chinese government's respect. A photo-op, followed by at least the beginning of a constructive dialogue between Hu and the Dalai Lama will achieve far more than 10,000 PLA troops and riot police can. China is unlikely to ever find a negotiating partner with nearly as much prestige and clout as the Dalai Lama.

Is Tibet part of China? That may be answered in the affirmative - only without bloodshed. But time is running out.

02 March 2009

World's Most Influential Women

(From RealClearWorld)

In 2008, the world saw two women assume positions of diplomatic power in the United States, as another battled for the premiership of her own country on the other end of the globe. The female chancellor of Europe's largest economy took center stage as the continent struggled to adapt to worsening economic conditions, as yet another woman fought to keep her premiership in a former Soviet republic.

Coming up with a list of the Top 5 Most Influential Women in the World is a daunting task. Hundreds of qualified women - working in both the public and private sectors - could've just as easily been mentioned. Women such as Oprah Winfrey and Melinda Gates could have made our list, not to mention U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni and Xerox chairman and CEO Anne Mulcahy.

But as the world faces an increasingly dire economic crisis, and as much of the west remains embedded in two wars, the spotlight is shining brighter on a select few women wielding power in 2009.

No. 5 Cristina Kirchner

25 February 2009

Erecting the Great (Pay) Wall for Newspapers

(From RealClearPolitics - Media Watch)

Let's face it, pay-per-view will be returning to newspaper web sites with a vengeance in the near future. If not by the second half of this year, definitely 2010. Ad revenue is way down - for both print and online - and the recession isn't going anywhere soon.

By now, everyone's shared their own ideas about how to rescue the business. But lately, it's become apparent that we've run out of new thoughts. Most everyone has returned to some variation of a pay scheme.

No one except the Christian Science Monitor dares to do the obvious, which is to shut down the print edition altogether. Newspapers are still too afraid to embrace the new world by leaving the "paper" part of their legacy behind. Since that's the case, a paywall seems to be the only thing that might keep more newspapers from going out of business, for now.

But if we must erect a paywall, let's not make it just any wall. Let's build a Great (pay) Wall that's strong enough to keep the barbarians at bay.

Let's start by creating a cooperative, managed by the NAA (Newspaper Association of America). Every paper that's part of the NAA may participate in this cooperative, which will serve as the clearinghouse for the new great paywall.

Then, with ample warning to the readers, put up the wall on September 1. Why September 1? Because the summer is over, kids are back in school and adults are back at their computer terminals. But more important, it's the dawn of the football season, when web traffic typically spikes for news sites.

Once the wall is up, every newspaper web site is accessible only to paid subscribers. Each paper may decide to allow some free content daily, but it must be extremely limited. The index page for every paper's site should be so full of teasers on the good stuff that a reader just can't help himself but to pay to see what he's missing.

So how do you subscribe? There would be two kinds of subscribers. Anyone who subscribes to the print edition of any paper would be granted a complimentary online subscription. If you don't want to subscribe to your local paper - or any paper, for that matter - you may become an online-only subscriber, at say, $50 a year for the privilege.

Your unique username and password would allow you access to every newspaper site that's part of this cooperative. But here's one catch - you could only access it from one computer at a time (like how an AOL account works) so you won't be so inclined to share your account with dozens of your buddies. Educational institutions and large companies may purchase corporate accounts so that individuals using school or company terminals will be able to bypass the wall.

So how would the money be distributed? Papers get to keep all of the print subscriber money, so it makes sense for individual papers to work to drive up circulation. As for the online-only subscribers, half of the money would be equally divided among all members (socialism), the other half would be distributed according to web site traffic (capitalism), so papers would have an incentive to drive in more traffic to their own sites.

Let's do a little, and very crude, math. According to the NAA, its 2,000 member sites average about 75 million unique visitors. About 25 million already subscribe to a paper, so leave them out. If we may extract 50 bucks out of the rest of the 50 million heretofore freeloaders, that's $2.5 billion. Counting conservatively, at $1 billion, that means under the 50-50 scheme, the smallest of the papers would make about $250,000 annually. The New York Times, on the other hand, would make about $90 million, Wall Street Journal $33.5 million, San Francisco Chronicle, $38 million.

This model may tide the papers over the tough times until they figure out just what needs to be done for long-term survival. And there are challenges to implement this scheme: The Justice Department may have to sign off on the cooperative. There may be fierce pushback initially by the consumers. An independent auditor would be required to referee disputes.

And finally, the newspaper business has to be ready for the potential that this concept may be more like the Berlin Wall than the Great Wall of China - merely a flawed stop-gap rather than something that brings about stability and longevity. At some point in the future, the papers must accept the new reality and act accordingly.

That starts with stopping the presses.

24 February 2009

Top 10 Newspapers in Trouble

(From RealClearPolitics - Media Watch)

The Atlantic stirred the pot two months ago with a sensational "End Times" piece that questioned the continued existence of the New York Times. While the Grey Lady has stayed in the news with all her financial woes, other papers are suffering silently, with certain death just around the corner for some.

The Christian Science Monitor announced that it was abandoning its print edition back in October last year, and then the avalanche came. The Tribune Co. was the first to file for bankruptcy protection, and then the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Journal Register and Philadelphia Newspapers followed suit. In the meantime, Gannett and Media News announced unpaid furlough programs, and the Los Angeles Times was but one of many to announce yet another round of massive newsroom cuts.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Rocky Mountain News and Tucson Citizen all might not see April Fools Day. Then yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle hinted that it could be going away soon as well. Even the Washington Post, one of the most stable papers, reported a 77% drop in earnings in the fourth quarter of 2008. In todays gloomy newspaper landscape, no one is safe.

With that in mind, we present you with the top 10 major metro newspapers in trouble.

No. 10 New York Daily News

23 February 2009

Most Important Presidential Visits

(From RealClearWorld)

It was 37 years ago this week, President Nixon made the audacious visit to the People's Republic of China, paving the way for a new bilateral relationship with the world's most populous nation. The momentous trip gives rise to the expression of "Nixon Goes to China" and underscores the importance of certain presidential visits - how they shape the foreign policy of the United States and in some cases, alter the course of history.

Last Thursday, Barack Obama made his first foreign visit as American president with a seven-hour journey to Canada. While it is certain that President Obama will be taking more overseas trips to visit America's allies and competitors, there's no guarantee that any of them will have substantial impact on the future of American foreign policy. Sometimes, history dictates the terms: President Clinton made 54 overseas trips during his presidency, and none appeared on our list. In contrast, President Truman made just four, but one of which is No. 3 on our list and one that set the stage to end one global conflict, but also to beget another.

We considered the trips taken by 19 different presidents covering just over 100 years, beginning with Teddy Roosevelt's journey to the Panama Canal Zone in 1906. We considered the lasting impact of these trips and came up with these 10:

No. 10 Teddy Roosevelt

13 February 2009

Bar Rafaeli: Draft Dodger, IDF Recruiter

(From RealClearWorld)

Sports Illustrated's vaunted swimsuit issue came out this week. Typically, it's greeted with mild protest, something about exploitation of women who make about eight figures. But this year, SI could not have picked a more politically controversial figure to grace its cover.

(In case your mailman swiped your copy)

The 2009 cover girl is Bar Rafaeli, an Israeli Jewish supermodel also known for her courtship with Leonardo DiCaprio. But Rafaeli got to where she is today by cunningly dodging the draft in Israel and now, serving as a recruiter for the IDF to atone for it.

Rafaeli arranged a sham marriage to evade conscription (mandatory for almost everyone in Israel when one turns 18, male or female) and made no apologies for it:

I really wanted to serve in the IDF, but I don’t regret not enlisting, because it paid off big time. That’s just the way it is, celebrities have other needs. I hope my case has influenced the army.

Israel or Uganda, what difference does it make? It makes no difference to me. Why is it good to die for our country? What, isn’t it better to live in New York? Why should 18-year-old kids have to die? It’s dumb that people have to die so that I can live in Israel.

It seems capitalism caught up with Rafaeli before the IDF did. After signing a $300,000 deal with the Fox clothing chain, she became a target of enraged Israeli parents who lost children serving their country. Under pressure, Fox made an arrangement so that Rafaeli would "voluntarily" visit injured Israeli soldiers and encourage others to enlist.

Seems fair. You can live like Gilad Schalit or Bar Rafaeli. You know, celebrities have other needs.

09 February 2009

Most Important Elections of 2009

As the final voting results from last week's provincial elections in Iraq are finally tallied and analyzed, critics and pundits alike have been busy evaluating the impact these regional contests have had, and will continue to have, on the region for the foreseeable future.

In December, RealClearWorld presented you with our own list of the most significant elections of 2008. And with last week's polls in Iraq as the opening act of what should be an eventful year of elections and power shifts around the world, RCW now gives you our list of the Most Important Elections of 2009.

These five races - spread across Asia and Europe, and affecting the lives and freedoms of millions - could have policy implications, both domestic and abroad, for decades to come. What path will Germany and Japan - two major global economies - take in 2009? How will elections in Afghanistan affect the leadership makeup in Kabul, and will they be as friendly to NATO and the west as the current regime?

Israel and Iran - two nations feared to be on an inevitable collision course - will both hold elections this year. Would a new executive in Iran alter Tehran's frigid relationship with the United States? What will new leadership in Jerusalem mean for the Mideast peace process, or the still smoldering conflict in the Gaza Strip? The polls in Israel open in less than 24 hours (RCW will be covering the election live Monday night into Tuesday afternoon), and with that, the course of an entire region may change.

These questions and conjectures will only be fully answered in time, but all five of these elections may provide the world with an idea of how global affairs will unfold in the weeks, months and even years to come.

No. 5 Afghanistan