Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Why do we continue to ignore China’s rise? Arrogance [Guardian]

Author of ‘When China Rules the World’ Martin Jacques weighs in with two cents as he launches an update of his book.

‘It is impossible to understand or make sense of China through a western prism. As China becomes a great power and, over the next two decades, steadily usurps America as the dominant global power, we will no longer have any alternative but to abandon our western parochialism and seek to understand China on its own terms. But the shift in mindset that faces us is colossal. ‘

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Why do we continue to ignore China’s rise? Arrogance
by Martin Jacques
Source – The Observer, March 25, 2012

Martin Jacques, author of a bestseller on China, asks why the west continues to approach the rise of the new global powerhouse with a closed mind. We obsess over details of the race for the White House, yet give scant regard to the battle to replace China’s current leadership. If we fail to pay heed to the political and economic shift of gravity, we will be sidelined by history.

History is passing our country and our continent by. Once we were the centre of the world, the place from where power, ideas and the future emanated. If we drew a map of the world, Europe was at its centre. That was how it was for 200 years. No more. The world is tilting on its axis in even more dramatic style than when Europe was on the rise. We are witnessing the greatest changes the world has seen for more than two centuries. We are barely aware of the fact. And therein lies the problem.

I vividly recall when the first edition of my bookWhen China Rules the World was published almost three years ago. At the many talks I gave, I showed a Goldman Sachs chart that projected that the Chinese economy would overtake the US economy in size in 2027. Invariably someone would point out this was only a projection, that the future was never an extrapolation of the past, that it was most unlikely the forecast would come to pass and certainly not in this time frame. No one suggested that the projection underestimated the date, even though the western financial crisis was already almost a year old. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Culture, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Economics, Government & Policy, Guardian, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Medicine, Nationalism, New Leadership, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Social, Soft Power, Strategy, Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦), The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, U.K., U.S.

China’s village of the bachelors: no wives in sight in remote settlement [Guardian]

Hunan: the south-central province of China (population of 65 million), Mao Zedong’s home province faces problems that are a relic of the traditional Chinese mind – does China’s cultural and pragmatic preference for having a boy as a child mean ‘…tens of millions of men across China face a future as bachelors… The normal human birth ratio is 106 males for every 100 females. In China, that has risen to 118 boys. That means 30 to 50 million men will fail to find wives over the next two decades, according to Prof Li Shuzhuo of the institute for population and development studies at Xi’an Jiaotong University.

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China’s village of the bachelors: no wives in sight in remote settlement
Tania Branigan in Banzhushan, Hunan
Source – Guardian UK, published September 2, 2011

Duan Biansheng, one of many unmarried men in the ‘bachelor village’ of Banzhushan in Hunan province. Photograph: Tania Branigan

Surplus of males caused by preference for sons means poor subsistence farmers have no chance of finding a mate.

He wants a wife, of course. But ask what kind of woman he seeks and Duan Biansheng looks perplexed.

“I don’t have any requirements at all,” said the 35-year-old farmer. “I would be satisfied with just a wife.” His prospects of finding one, he added, are “almost zero”. There are dozens of single men in Banzhushan village, perched high on a remote mountain peak in central Hunan province – and not one unattached woman of marriageable age. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Culture, Domestic Growth, Environment, Guardian, Lifestyle, Mapping Feelings, People, Politics, Population, Reform, Social, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

China’s first aircraft carrier: From Russia with love [Guardian]

This is something China has wanted for a long time. China’s first aircraft carrier (yet to be named) – the former Soviet-era vessel Varyag has been refurbished and ready for sea trials. A symbol for China’s revival (or threat), it has unsurprisingly drawn mixed responses from the international community. This editorial from the Guardian suggests that the emergence of China’s first aircraft carrier is a mark of future intent for regional naval domination (it also highlights how ‘The Varyag was bought for a mere snip, $20m, by a travel agency claiming they would use it as a casino off Macau.’). On the other end, China claims this is merely a training ship that serves to be a model for future carriers. Its central argument is one of parity and for national defence of its growing socio-economic obligations – that if other powers have access to such ‘symbolic’ hardware to protect and project their self interests, why can’t they?

For more on the Chinese side of things, check out Boon for navy, security for nation (China Daily, August 11, 2011)

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China’s first aircraft carrier: From Russia with love
China has bought Russia’s Varyag for $20m and given it its first sea trials – but it won’t change the balance of power in the South China Sea
Source – Guardian, published August 11, 2011 

The history of ships is sometimes more eloquent than that of their owners. The 33,000-ton Varyag was designed as a Soviet multi-role aircraft carrier. Its sister ship the Kuznetsov survived, but by the time the Soviet Union ceased to exist, the Varyag was a white elephant marooned off a port in the Black Sea. It had not only lost its electronics, but carelessly, its country too.

Enter China as a buyer in the car boot sale for Soviet technology. The Varyag was bought for a mere snip, $20m, by a travel agency claiming they would use it as a casino off Macau. No surprise that it ended up in the hands of its real owners, the People’s Liberation Army. Yesterday the Varyag, refitted, with a new radar mast, was given its first sea-trials. One super-power bows out, and another, after an interval of 19 years, steps up.

China’s first aircraft carrier will not change the balance of naval power in the South China Sea. The PLA said they would use it for training and as a model for future carriers. But as a mark of future intent, the refurbished carrier is not lost on its immediate neighbours with whom China has a series of territorial claims, Japan and Vietnam, nor the region’s other maritime powers, the US and India. China has been thinking ahead. It has planned its naval strategy for expanding eastwards for the next 30 years. Japanese defence analysts say that by 2015 China could have built three nuclear carrier battle groups. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Domestic Growth, Government & Policy, Guardian, Influence, International Relations, military, Modernisation, Nationalism, Politics, Resources, Strategy, Territorial Disputes, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

Costa Rican football fans celebrate opening of stadium built by China [Guardian]

China’s charm offensive at work again as it continues to win favour with the soft power of financial incentives. The fact that they have been regularly rebuilding government buildings and infrastructure to reward its friends is not new. Surely a continued strategic move to expand its own sphere of influence overseas (Africa and South East Asia in particular, and now Central America), I think a 35,000 seater national stadium is a first. The two countries first established diplomatic ties in 2007, and it is noteworthy one two counts. First, that all this transpired so quickly in just four years. Second, that alignment has been made with a country that consistently scores top marks as the Happy Planet Index (3rd), for human development, and environmental consciousness; a far cry from its other ‘friends’ most would deem as ‘rogue states’.

And the Chinese media report – ‘Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla… said the newly built National Stadium donated by China will be a “permanent monument of friendship” between the two nations…

The National Stadium will be a permanent monument of friendship between the people of both countries and it will be a permanent symbol of improvement for the Costa Rican people, inspired by the values of the Chinese culture...’

(See ‘Stadium monument of China-Costa Rica Friendship’ in People’s Daily Online, March 26, 2011)

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Costa Rican football fans celebrate opening of stadium built by China
National team plays out 0-0 draw with Argentina at rebuilt, state-of-the-art Estadio Nacional stadium
Seth Freedman in San Jose
Source – Guardian, published 30 March 2011


Costa Rica's Estadio Nacional stadium. Photograph: Alexandria Jackson/The Price of Kings © Spirit Level Film

Thousands of Costan Rican fans turned out for the reopening of a state-of-the-art football stadium donated by the Chinese government.

Around the Estadio Nacional stadium’s perimeter, laser beams lit up the night sky, acrobats hurled themselves through the air and PAs blared dance music to create a carnival atmosphere in the Sabana neighbourhood of the capital, San José.

Inside the national team played out a goalless draw with Argentina, for whom Lionel Messi was a late withdrawal through injury. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Communications, Costa Rica, Economics, Guardian, Influence, International Relations, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, Strategy

What if China became the world’s policeman? [Guardian]

When the US is no longer #1, will China become the world’s policeman? When the Beijing Consensus gains preeminence? An interesting point – ‘People who disparage American imperialism tend to forget that the US spends many billions on democracy and civil society and the promotion of women’s rights and other things through quasi-governmental endowments and agencies. China has a big Africa investment fund, but I doubt much of it goes toward those sorts of things.’

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What if China became the world’s policeman?
Michael Tomasky
Source – Guardian UK, published March 16, 2011

China v the US: how the countries match up. Click image for full graphic. Illustration: Mark McCormick for the Guardian

David Ignatius has an interesting column in The Washington Post this morning explaining why Bahrain might be the issue that has the most dramatic impact on the future of US foreign policy. Why Bahrain? Because Saudi Arabia cares a great deal about what happens there, and Saudi Arabia is rather important. Ignatius:

U.S. officials have been arguing that Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy must make political compromises to give more power to the Shiite majority there. The most emphatic statement came last weekend from Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who said during a visit to Bahrain that its “baby steps” toward reform weren’t enough and that the kingdom should step up its negotiations with the opposition.

This American enthusiasm for change has been anathema to the conservative regimes of the Gulf, and on Monday they backed Bahrain’s ruling Khalifa family with military force, marching about 2,000 troops up the causeway that links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. A senior Saudi official told me the intervention was needed to protect Bahrain’s financial district and other key facilities from violent demonstrations. He warned that radical, Iranian-backed leaders were becoming more active in the protests. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Guardian, Influence, International Relations, Politics, Soft Power, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

Good for the Goose, good for propaganda: China steals Top Gun clip [Guardian]

Regardless of the authenticity of the said dogfight scene, the fact that the clip was quickly removed from the CCTV website means that the propaganda machine is now quite aware that very little escapes the piercing eyes of netizen and technology.

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Good for the Goose, good for propaganda: China steals Top Gun clip
Proud bulletin on state TV news about air force training contains dogfight scene lifted from Tom Cruise movie
Tania Branigan in Beijing
Source – Guardian, published Friday 28 January 2011

China‘s air force is again under close scrutiny as internet users pore over images of its fighter pilots in action. For the second time in a month pictures of military manoeuvres – this time aired by the state broadcaster – have spread rapidly across websites and blogs.

This time the craft is not the country’s new stealth fighter; and the reaction is not excitement but amusement. Sharp-eyed viewers have spotted that a key clip came straight from the film Top Gun.

China Central Television News last week broadcast a training exercise by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force with one plane firing a missile at another. But an observant viewer spotted that the resulting explosion matches a blast from the final fight scene in the Tom Cruise movie. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, CCTV, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Guardian, Influence, J-20, Media, military, Nationalism, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Strategy

Wikileaks cables reveal China ‘ready to abandon North Korea’ [Guardian]

Wikileaks manages to shed some light on the contingency plans in case the two Koreas situation gets out of hand. An unstable Korea will surely disrupt East Asian stability, and that in turn will affect the intertwining global production networks. What can be deduced from this report is that China does not necessarily side with North Korea, their commitment is not to a faction, but to regional stability.

China’s objectives were “to ensure they [North Korean leaders] honour their commitments on non-proliferation, maintain stability, and ‘don’t drive [Kim Jong-il] mad’.”

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Wikileaks cables reveal China ‘ready to abandon North Korea’
Leaked dispatches show Beijing is frustrated with military actions of ‘spoiled child’ and increasingly favours reunified Korea
by Simon Tisdall
Source – Guardian, published November 29, 2010

South Korean war veterans protest after North Korea attacked Yeonpyeong Island. The WikiLeaks cables reveal Beijing believes such actions are those of a ‘spoiled child’. Photograph: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

China has signalled its readiness to accept Korean reunification and is privately distancing itself from the North Korean regime, according to leaked US embassy cables that reveal senior Beijing figures regard their official ally as a “spoiled child”.

News of the Chinese shift comes at a crucial juncture after the North’s artillery bombardment of a South Korean island last week that killed four people and led both sides to threaten war. China has refused to condemn the North Korean action. But today Beijing appeared to bow to US pressure to help bring about a diplomatic solution, calling for “emergency consultations” and inviting a senior North Korean official to Beijing.

China is sharply critical of US pressure tactics towards North Korea and wants a resumption of the six-party nuclear disarmament talks. But the Guardian can reveal Beijing’s frustration with Pyongyang has grown since its missile and nuclear tests last year, worries about the economic impact of regional instability, and fears that the death of the dictator, Kim Jong-il, could spark a succession struggle. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Guardian, Influence, International Relations, North Korea, Politics, Public Diplomacy, South Korea, Wikileaks

China fund raises finance to match Liverpool [Football Club] asking price [Guardian]

Very interesting, but maybe not surprising. Football has an excellent global reach, and ownership of one of football’s most popular clubs around the word certainly makes public diplomacy sense – I think this is a masterstroke as compelling as their recent wave of ‘noble’ kungfu movies. If it does the right thing and wins over the Liverpool fans, it will add millions of supporters understanding of its cause. Liverpool, according to Forbes (2008) is the 4th biggest football club in the world, and according to an unverified source, packs 40 million fans worldwide. Of course, to convince the club and its supporters they mean well is no easy feat as the world is still not used to a powerful and influential China. And, sinophobia is not too distant a memory.

The Daily Mail reports – ‘It’s too late to moralise over human rights abuses just because China wants to buy a Premier League football club…ake a look at your clothes, or at the sports shoes you are wearing. The chances are they will say ‘Made In China’ on them, just like the label on your refrigerator, on the back of your television or on half of your child’s toy collection.’

For more on that story, go here: ‘Get real Liverpool fans, we sold our soul to the Chinese ages ago’
(The Daily Mail, August 5, 2010)

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China fund raises finance to match Liverpool asking price
Matt Scott
Source – The Guardian, published August 05, 2010

The Chinese government fund represented by Kenny Huang has spent the past fortnight raising precisely the amount of cash required to finance a bid for Liverpool. Sources have confirmed to Digger that the China Investment Corporation, the sovereign wealth fund to the world’s most populous nation, is the organisation being fronted by Huang, who yesterday admitted interest in bidding for Liverpool.

In a series of trades since 19 July, CIC has sold $558m of shares in Morgan Stanley, equating to £351.4m. That sum is equivalent to Liverpool’s debt to the nearest decimal place, and is exactly the number insiders say has been quoted to interested parties as the sale price.

China Daily, the English-language arm of the Chinese state media, reported yesterday: “China Investment Corp, the Chinese sovereign wealth fund that bought a 9.9% stake in Morgan Stanley in 2007, sold $90.5m of shares in the investment bank on 30 July, bringing the total amount divested in the last two weeks to about $558m.” Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Culture, Economics, Finance, Guardian, Influence, International Relations, Media, Soft Power, Sport

Chinese workers poisoned while making your latest gadget [The Age]

”People should know what we do to create these products and what cost we pay…” Bai Bing, one of the young workers in Suzhou poisoned by the chemical n-hexane.

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Chinese workers poisoned while making your latest gadget
Source – The Age, published May 9, 2010

NEXT month, amid the usual hoopla, Apple will unveil its latest gadget: the much-awaited iPhone 4G. Halfway round the globe from the company’s California headquarters, a young worker who has spent months in a Chinese hospital wants consumers to look beyond the shiny exterior of such gadgets.

”People should know what we do to create these products and what cost we pay,” said Bai Bing. She is one of scores of young workers in the city of Suzhou who were poisoned by the chemical n-hexane, which they say was used to clean Apple components including iPhone touch screens.

Wu Mei – who, like the others, asked me to use her nickname – recalled her fear as her health suddenly deteriorated. At first, she thought she was simply tired from the long working hours at Wintek, a Taiwan-owned electronics giant. She was weaker and noticed she could not walk as fast.

”Then it became more and more serious. I found it very hard to go upstairs and if I squatted down I didn’t have the strength to get up. Later my hands became numb and I lost my balance – I would fall over if someone touched me.”

By the middle of last year, she was admitted to hospital, where doctors struggled to diagnose the cause. ”I was terrified. I feared I might be paralysed and spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair,” she said.

Because she was using n-hexane directly, she was one of the first and worst-affected. But more and more workers from the same room were suffering headaches, dizziness and weakness, and pain in their limbs.

An occupational diseases hospital that saw several victims diagnosed the problem in August and Wintek stopped using the chemical. But thanks to the previous months of exposure, at least 62 workers would require medical care. Many spent months in hospital.

Prolonged over-exposure to n-hexane can cause extensive damage to the peripheral nervous system and ultimately the spinal cord, leading to muscular weakness and atrophy and even paralysis, said Paul Whitehead, a toxicology consultant and member of the British Royal Society of Chemistry. It can also affect male fertility. Recovery can take a year or more.

The chemical’s potential risks are well known in industry, as are safe exposure limits. But the Wintek manager who decided to switch from alcohol to n-hexane for cleaning – apparently because it dried more quickly – did not assess the dangers. It was used without proper ventilation.

Asked if they knew what products they were working on, three of the affected Wintek employees said team leaders told them they were working for Apple.

They instantly recognised pictures of an iPhone and said they were cleaning touch screens, adding that items for other brands were not affected because Apple had isolated its production line. A lawyer acting for 44 of the poisoning victims also said several had named Apple.

Wintek, which does not discuss its clients, said it had replaced the factory’s general manager. It now notifies workers whose jobs may involve risk in advance, has tightened procedures for the introduction of new chemicals, and carries out medical checks. It has paid medical fees for those affected and says it will pay compensation according to the law.

There is no suggestion that Apple was responsible for the use of n-hexane.

Apple declined to answer questions about the poisonings or about the firms involved, saying it does not reveal who it works with. But a spokeswoman pointed to Apple’s code of conduct, which sets strict requirements for working and environmental practices.

Apple’s 2010 audit shows that manufacturers are routinely breaching the code. Most – 54 per cent – broke the 60-hour weekly work limit more than half the time. Another 39 per cent failed to meet occupational injury prevention requirements; 17 per cent failed on chemical exposure standards; and 35 per cent did not meet wage and benefits requirements, with 24 of the 102 factories paying less than the minimum wage.

Three facilities used underage workers and three had falsified records. Apple said it terminated the contract in one of the cases, and required suppliers to make improvements and submit to reviews following other breaches.


Filed under: Domestic Growth, Economics, Guardian, Human Rights, Technology, The Age

2009 Guardian Opinion: Tibet is off the agenda

To draw reference to the coming Tibet talks with China, here’s a opinion piece from the Guardian last year in 2009.

The Tibet issue certainly stirs up many things, for one the West likes to take sides with Tibet to find legitimate human rights reasons to pressure China, whilst it has a counter effect – it really bothers Chinese pride (both internal, and more strongly so, Chinese overseas and the Overseas-born Chinese, and it rouses nationalism in Chinese all around the world, loathe to bow to Western standards and demands after a century of bowing down to them.

The end product? Massive hysteria by the people on both sides over what is a matter between two neighbours.

I have seen it, my friends from the mainland, many travelled to Canberra for the Olympic Torch relay in full force, red flags waving, et al, a blast from the past – mainly galvanized by the Tibet issue. Their consensus? Tibet has belonged to the Chinese for centuries. But what I feel is this – the CCP inherited land won by China’s last dynasty, the Qing who actively expanded China’s borders, and now has a simple pride issue (beyond the land mass, extensive border buffer to China proper, and vast resources).

How dare you tell us what to do? Is the key underlying message.

I will be eager to hear the outcome of the ninth round of talks.

Quotable Quotes – “It was a very clear signal to Beijing, that Britain won’t seriously push the Tibet issue, and one that delighted China…

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Tibet is off the agenda
In this crisis, China, the US and UK will rise or fall together. But this new camaraderie leaves little room for debate on Tibet
Ed Douglas
Source – The Guardian, 06 March 2009

Noel Gallagher isn’t the sort to wring his hands about the future of the planet. This is, after all, the man who told Bono to ‘Play One, [and] shut the fuck up about Africa.” So when China announced this week it was banning Oasis from playing two gigs there because Gallagher supported a Tibet benefit in 1997, it was tough to decide what was more surprising. China’s petulance? Or Gallagher standing up for a cause?

China’s hypersensitivity is certainly confusing. One moment, its leaders are saying Tibet is an increasingly harmonious and prosperous corner of the Motherland and any dissent is caused entirely by foreign-based “splittists” like the Dalai Lama.

Next they turn purple and start foaming because Bjork, bless her pixie socks, shouted out the “T” word at her own Beijing gig. Forget Oasis, if Bjork can do that to the government of the most populous nation on Earth, then you get the feeling it’s not just a small clique surrounding one ageing monk who are unhappy about the situation in Tibet.

Fury at western support of Tibetan culture or autonomy isn’t confined to China’s leaders. No issue unites the Chinese people more quickly than Tibet’s sovereignty, a factor China’s leaders exploit again and again. But however much critics of China’s conduct in Tibet are dismissed as ignorant or naive, the awkward fact remains that after almost 60 years of occupation, Tibetans inside Tibet still cling to their identity, their culture and, most of all, their religion.

A week ago, just before the Oasis gig was canned, a Tibetan monk called Tapey is reported to have doused himself in oil and set himself alight near his monastery in Sichuan province. Authorities had told monks at Kirti monastery they wouldn’t be allowed to perform a prayer ceremony called Monlam, held soon after the Tibetan New Year.

The only way this young monk had to express his anger and frustration was self-immolation. As he burned, he held up a picture of the Dalai Lama and chanted. Reports from Kirti say police then shot the monk. China’s state media has said the monk was taken to hospital suffering from burns.

This is far from an isolated case. Across Tibet, the riots that prefigured last summer’s Olympics have turned into barely contained resentment at China’s continuing repression. This month sees the 50th anniversary of the Lhasa Uprising and the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile. In the face of an unremitting security operation, protests continue. The International Campaign for Tibet says 1,200 Tibetans remain unaccounted for, and will publish a list of more than 600 names on Monday.

Tibet’s pop stars, along with writers and artists, are detained if their work so much as hints at a separate Tibetan identity. But despite this, bloggers continue to post accounts from inside Tibet, including Woeser, a Beijing-based Tibetan who must be just about the bravest woman in cyberspace. In the absence of independent reporting, it’s all we’ve got that isn’t state sanctioned.

If there’s a new sense among Tibetans that following the global attention paid to China during the Olympics they are now on their own, there’s plenty of evidence for that. Last November, the foreign secretary, David Miliband, quietly changed the UK’s long standing policy on the legal position of China’s relationship with Tibet.

What the UK government got in return is anybody’s guess, but with a deepening world recession, the appetite to press China on Tibet has obviously withered.

During her trip to China in February, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, warned that issues like Tibet couldn’t interfere with solving the economic crisis. “We are truly going to rise or fall together. We are in the same boat and, thankfully, we are rowing in the same direction.” It seems the issue of Tibet has already been tossed overboard to keep the ship afloat.

Filed under: Beijing OIympics, Charm Offensive, Chinese overseas, Guardian, Han, Human Rights, International Relations, Overseas Chinese, The Chinese Identity

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