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America Imposes Meaningless Sanctions on Chinese Proliferation    Dec 28

Seoul Defends Silence on North Korea    Dec 27

Police fire kills protestors in Dongzhou    Dec 26

Can Tiananmen happen again?    Dec 26




December 28, 2005

America Imposes Meaningless Sanctions on Chinese Proliferation

Yesterday the United States imposed sanctions on six state-owned Chinese enterprises for aiding Iran’s chemical weapons and missile programs.  Two of the sanctioned companies—China North Industries Corporation, better known as Norinco, and China Aero-Technology Import Export Corporation, often referred to as Catic—are closely connected to the China’s People’s Liberation Army.  Three companies from India and Austria were also sanctioned.


The sanctions, announced by the State Department, mean that the Chinese companies may not receive U.S. import licenses and may not do business with the U.S. government.


The penalties have little practical effect.  Some justify light treatment to avoid riling Beijing.  Yet this approach has not stopped proliferation from China.  On the contrary, it probably has encouraged Chinese leaders to continue irresponsible policies.


If Washington is serious about stopping Chinese proliferation, it could, for example, impose sanctions where it counts—on the Chinese government itself—instead of on its instrumentalities.  Because the proliferation of weapon and missile technology poses a serious threat to the United States, the penalties should be proportionally severe.


And because sanctions have been ineffective for such a long time, we have to assume that they were intended to be so.  Why should we expect the Chinese to stop proliferating when the actions we take are meant to be meaningless? 




December 27, 2005


Seoul Defends Silence on North Korea


Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, at a press conference held today in the South Korean capital, responded to charges that Seoul has been soft on Pyongyang’s human rights violations.

“With regard to the human rights conditions in North Korea, South Korea has made all efforts to improve the situation, except open criticism,” Chung said.


Seoul has refrained from public criticism of Pyongyang since 1998 when Kim Dae Jung assumed the presidency and adopted the so-called Sunshine Policy.  Roh Moo-hyun, Kim’s successor, has continued that approach under a new moniker, the Peace and Prosperity Policy.  Critics, both domestic and foreign, have severely criticized the South’s failure to speak out loud on various transgressions of the other Korean republic. 


It is telling that at the same press conference Chung stated that Pyongyang placed a higher value on establishing diplomatic relations with Washington than in receiving additional assistance.  If Chung is correct—and there is historical evidence to support his conclusion—it is primarily because North Korea wants the international legitimacy that recognition by America would immediately convey. 


There is little that Seoul can do at this time to immediately improve the rights of people in the North, largely because North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is intransigent on this and other matters.  Nonetheless, the failure of some people in the South to speak up for fellow Koreans is, at the very least, troubling.  By not making public its criticism, Seoul is giving the North a measure of legitimacy that it cannot earn on its own and which it does not deserve.


Despots cannot be changed by engagement, but they can be shamed.  Many ridiculed Ronald Reagan when he called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”  Now we know that his willingness to tar Moscow’s rulers did much to encourage dissidents inside the Soviet state.  Andrei Zorin, a Soviet literary scholar, heard the Gipper’s words on the shortwave BBC World Service in 1983.  The next thing he did was risk imprisonment by spreading the news.  “I jumped out of my chair and started calling,” he recalled.  “Of course, to us it was no surprise that the Soviet Union was such an empire, but the idea that somebody would say it from the podium, out loud, was a revelation.”  Because we have lived in freedom for so long, we often forget that stirring words have significance in and of themselves.  


If anyone should remember the power of words, it is South Korea’s current leader.  A former human rights lawyer, Roh Moo-hyun leads the people who in the 1980s chanted, sang, and shouted in the streets as they demonstrated against military rulers and eventually toppled them.  Now living in democracy, these same demonstrators have assumed power in Seoul and remain silent in their desire not to anger Kim Jong Il, a tyrant far worse than the ones they deposed. 




December 26, 2005


Police fire kills protestors in Dongzhou


Early this month riot police killed at least three protestors in the Guangdong village of Dongzhou.  At this time, there is no agreement on the death toll.  Some reports say as many as 20 died.  The villagers were protesting the lack of compensation for the taking of their land for a power project.

Protestors initially used pipe bombs to attack police formations.  As a result, authorities sent reinforcements with guns.  The police opened fire during two nights of rioting.  Villagers also hurled bottle bombs at police.


One aspect of the Dongzhou protests that has escaped notice is that demonstrators have begun to use deadly force as an initial tactic against local authorities.  The violence is a sign of increasing volatility in China and an indication that the Chinese political system is having difficulty in channeling discontent.


The killings recall the shooting of Beijing residents and students in Tiananmen Square and surrounding streets.  There is little in common between the protests of June 1989 and those of December 2005, but domestic Chinese commentators, common citizens, and foreign analysts have linked the two events.  The Communist Party has refused to reverse its initial harsh verdict on the Tiananmen demonstrators.  Dongzhou shows us that if senior Chinese leaders do not begin a reassessment themselves, they will soon lose control of this topic. 


Eventually, people outside Dongzhou will forget what happened there.  Yet every time protestors die at the hands of the police, people will recall 1989.  Unfortunately for the Communist Party, too many Chinese remember—and want to talk about—Tiananmen.




December 26, 2005


Can Tiananmen happen again?


The local cadres in Dongzhou were willing to use deadly force to keep order.  This raises the issue whether senior leaders in Beijing would do so as well if Chinese citizens again massed in Tiananmen Square


The country’s current leaders are from a different generation than the one that ruled in 1989 and undoubtedly realize their country is far too integrated into the world to survive the global condemnation that would follow large-scale killings.  Yet even if they would think of using force this way, they undoubtedly could not do so: no current civilian leader possesses the personal authority to command an atrocity, it’s highly unlikely that senior generals would comply with such an order, and few common soldiers would shoot at a million peaceful demonstrators in Tiananmen on behalf of a regime that has lost the love and loyalty of most of its people.  At this time, senior cadres can only hope that the Chinese people will not be moved to protest in the spiritual heart of their nation.





 © 2006 Gordon G. Chang