In the wake of the Xinjiang riots, mass casualties and plenty of unwanted press, Chinese leaders were undoubtedly hoping for some good news.
They did not have to wait long. Little more than a week after the Urumqi riots Chinese authorities announced that the Chinese economy had grown by a healthy 7.9 percent in the second quarter of 2009. Compared to the West, this is a spectacular achievement and an encouraging sign for all those that saw the end of the world coming just months ago.
To the surprise of many seasoned China analysts and economists, China’s stimulus package managed to inject much-needed capital into the industrial sector; succeeded in offsetting the worst effects of massive export-industry layoffs by employing migrant workers in government projects, and perhaps most importantly, ensured that government-owned banks continued to lend despite the downturn. Even retail sales rebounded, the government announced, indicating that the Chinese consumer is still feeling confident and secure (unlike the rest of us).
The China Daily runs a brilliant website detailing the China-connections of US officials, particularly in the new Obama administration, titled “US Officials and Their China Connections”. The page opens up with a logo of hearts and delicate Japanese-inspired cherry blossom twigs superimposed on a picture of the new US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and his adoptive Chinese daughter. How sweet.
And I don’t mean that sarcastically. It’s fascinating to see how an official Chinese media outlet maintains a page dedicated to seeing commonalities, finding links and promoting- on the surface at least- friendship between China and the US. It seems that in the more friendly atmosphere of the post-Bush world such connections are becoming assets on both sides of the Pacific and increasingly, as Timothy Geithner’s recent trip to China proved, are starting to inform the making of bilateral policy in a positive way.
Obama’s appointment of Huntsman as the Ambassador is the most obvious sign of bigger and better things to come. He has life-long ties to China through his family’s business, he speaks Mandarin and has adopted a Chinese girl with his wife. Huntsman has even gone on record to say that the US-China relationship is the most important one in the world. Obama, Huntsman assures us, feels the same way. And best of all, the website points out that Huntsman is indeed considered a potential front-runner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Obama nominating him for this job, of course, might put an end to those grand plans.
Moreover, as the website proudly points out, more and more Chinese Americans are serving in Obama’s multicolored, multiracial and multicultural administration. America, it seems, is finally living up to its multicultural dream and China is taking note. The important posts of Energy Secretary and Secretary of Commerce, most notably, are now held by Steven Chu and Gary Locke, prominent Chinese Americans. Given that environmental issues, finance and commercial ties will likely dominate the US-Chinese agenda in the coming years, the Geithner-Chu-Locke trio is a kind of dream team for the two countries.
Coincidence or shrewd strategic planning, I ask you?
On the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China, the ISN takes a closer look at the events and consequences of the pro-democracy protests.
In the ISN Podcast we interview Professor Arne Westad from the London School of Economics and address the causes and historical roots of the protests, as well as looking at the consequences and some of the deeper political contradictions that are rooted in those events.
Also, in our Policy Briefs, Under Foreign Pressure, Chinese Support Their Government argues that most Chinese accept the CCP’s social contract: continued one-party rule and an emphasis on social harmony, including limited political freedoms, provided the authorities continue to expand opportunities for economic prosperity.
As I read a news piece on smoking in China on the website of a Finnish newspaper I thought, for a brief second, that it was April Fool’s. This was a joke, right?
The article said the provincial government in Hubei in China had set a quota for civil servants to smoke at least 230 000 packs of local cigarettes a year. And if they did not reach this quota or decided to smoke another brand instead, they would be fined.