East Asia Theater
The New York Times today notes the growing cult of Zheng He in China, the 15th-century mariner who led gigantic fleets across the Pacific and Indian oceans in the Ming Dynasty's brief but impressive expansion of naval prowess. Statues are going up of the eunuch admiral (who happened to be a Muslim—a fact presumably not emphasized by China's rulers), and a group of young Kenyans who claim Chinese ancestry due to an apocryphal Ming-era shipwreck on the East African coast have been invited to Beijing for ceremonies. The Times is quick to point out the obvious contemporary political context for this new personality cult:
Another factory forced to halt operation by heroic Chinese peasants protecting their lands from the industrial onslaught. We question how "violent" it is to tear down a security fence. In contrast, the security forces' response to the rising tide of peasant protest seems to be quite genuinely violent. From AP, July 19:
Violent protest by Chinese farmers forces shutdown of chemical plant
SHANGHAI, China – Farmers angered by toxic factory discharge they blame for destroying crops have attacked a pharmaceutical plant in eastern China, officials said Tuesday, the latest rural clash sparked corruption, pollution and other problems.
And, really, we could have done without this one. From the New York Times, July 15 via TruthOut:
Chinese General Threatens Use of A-Bombs if US Intrudes
Beijing - China should use nuclear weapons against the United States if the American military intervenes in any conflict over Taiwan, a senior Chinese military official said Thursday.
A June 2 AP article reports that North Korea called Vice President Dick Cheney a "bloodthirsty beast" and lambasted him for calling the Democratic People's Rebublic (DPRK) leader Kim Jong Il "irresponsible." Said an unnamed North Korean Foreign Ministry source, "What Cheney uttered at a time when the issue of the six-party talks is high on the agenda is little short of telling [North Korea] not to come out for the talks." In a May 29 interview on CNN, Cheney called the reclusive buffont-haired Jong Il "one of the world's most irresponsible leaders" who runs a police state and leaves his people in poverty and malnutrition. The DPRK responded that Cheney was "hated as the most cruel monster and bloodthirsty beast as he has drenched various parts of the world in blood."(AP, June 2)
Topping the charts recently in North Korea was the mega-hit, "Fucking USA," which among other things, complains that the US stole a gold medal. The song ends with an explosion.
From the UPI:
ZHEJIANG, China, April 12: Rioting by farmers in eastern China has forced the closure of 13 new chemical factories the farmers claim are poisoning their families and crops. The protests began in the rural village of Huaxi March 24 when farmers began erecting roadblocks to stop deliveries to and from the factories that produce fertilizer, dyes and pesticides.
A dispute over offshore oil and gas rights in waters claimed by both countries as part of their "exclusive economic zone" seems to be behind recent tensions between China and Japan—ostensibly sparked by official Japanese revisionism over its role in World War II. The popular protests in the streets ignited by new textbook portrayals of Japanese aggression in the 1930s are mirrored by diplomatic spats over industrial access to the East China Sea.
"Crouching Tiger, Swimming Dragon," an op-ed in the April 11 NY Times by Nayan Chanda, former editor of Far Eastern Economic Review, notes with alarm that Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao last week signed a deal in Islamabad for construction of a deep-sea facility at Pakistan's Indian Ocean port of Gwadar. Although it is ostensibly to be built for trade, Chanda fears "a permanent Chinese naval presence near the Srait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's oil passes." It all gives the historically astute Chanda an uneasy sense of deja vu.
Now isn't this interesting? A front-page headline in the Feb. 11 NY Times reads: "North Koreans Say They Hold Nuclear Arms; Assert They'll Refuse to Rejoin Negotiations." The article states this stance could "bolster" those in the US administration who favor "destabilizing the government of President Kim Jong Il."