- Hugh Robertson is the opposition Conservatives' Olympics spokesman. The views expressed are his own. -
from The Great Debate UK:
- John Ross is visiting professor at Shanghai's Jiao Tong University where he writes a blog on globalisation. The views expressed are his own. -
from The Great Debate (Commentary):
If you want to gauge the current state of China's construction boom, look no further than Hong Kong's dynamic neighbour, Shenzhen. Defying the searing heat of the Chinese summer, construction workers are busily building a state-of-the-art stadium for the 2011 World University Games.
Country or company -- where does your loyalty lie? For Beijing, there is simply no question. If you are Chinese -- or a foreign passport holder of Chinese origin -- you work for China first, second and third.
The arrest of four Rio Tinto Ltd employees -- three Chinese and an Australian -- on charges of stealing state secrets is a stark reminder of the dilemma this poses for foreign companies in China, where it is impossible to operate without local staff. The flip side is the pressure facing Chinese nationals who work for foreign companies. In their enthusiasm to please employers, these employees often risk overstepping the mark and falling foul of the law.
China, like many countries, does not recognise dual passport holders. So woe betide anyone who was born in China or whose parents were Chinese, who are sure to feel the full force of Beijing's powers if they are deemed to have broken the rules.
And in this case, it is not just foreign company staff who have been arrested; the head of iron ore with the foreign trade and investment unit of state-owned Chinese steel company Shougang Group has also been detained.
Foreign companies rely on their local staff for an understanding of local business mores as well as language, contacts and know-how. And there is often a blurring of the lines between what is acceptable business practice at home and in the country in which they are operating.
Corporations are no angels when it comes to digging for information. Some mining companies have set up research teams in China, with an emphasis on building market intelligence.
This is asking for trouble in China where the definition of what constitutes a state secret is particularly strict, especially when it comes to business or economic information.
But as Anglo-Australian miner Rio and its employees may have found to their cost, the implementation of such laws can be patchy and unpredictable.
For while Beijing may not stick to the letter of the law as long as the spirit is adhered to, it can be a completely different story when the government wants to make a point.
In this case, it's impossible to ignore a long deterioration in China's relations with Rio and BHP Billiton, Australia's two main exporters of iron ore. It can be seen as the final phase in the downward spiral of relations as China's expanding steel industry and booming demand for imported ore have given all the negotiating leverage to Rio and BHP and sent prices soaring.
The detentions come just after a June 30 deadline passed for iron ore price talks between China and Rio. And don't forget, Beijing is still smarting after Rio ditched a deal with Chinalco in favour of an iron ore joint venture with BHP.
But while the move is bound to make Chinese employees of foreign firms more cautious, it won't stop the whispered confidences which inevitably accompany business deals the world over.
from Alexander Smith:
Chinese anger at Rio Tinto for reneging on a deal with aluminium group Chinalco and opting instead for an iron ore joint venture with BHP Billiton last month was understandable. Indeed, China has good reason to question the Rio-BHP JV on competition grounds.
from Changing China:
I first visited China in June 1997. It was eight years after the Tiananmen crackdown, weeks before the Hong Kong Handover back to China marking the end of British rule, and over a decade before the 2008 Summer Olympics. It was a family trip -- my parents were looking forward to a college reunion with classmates they hadn't seen in decades and I had just finished my second year of university. I was looking forward to finally seeing the place I'd heard so much about.
from Changing China:
Security on Beijing's Tiananmen Square is always tight.
But I knew that today it was going to be particularly so when, upon emerging from the subway station, I was faced with three police vans and literally hundreds of security personnel, all on guard against any kind of disturbance ahead of the 20th anniversary of 1989's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing.
Nervously I made my way to one of the square's entrances, wondering if I would even be allowed to enter.
I put my bag on the X-ray machine, was briefly frisked by police with metal detectors, and cleared to go on my way.
The square was full of tourists, as usual. What was different was the hordes of uniformed police, military police and plainclothes security every few metres.
The plainclothes officers were painfully obvious, shuffling awkwardly in T-shirts and tracksuit bottoms, their crew cut hairstyles and poorly hidden walkie-talkies distinguishing them from ordinary visitors. They were also all carrying the same brand of bottled water.
Everytime I tried talking to someone, a police officer or one of the guards began hovering behind me. Finally I was able to chat with a trinket seller, who, talking in a low voice, complained
that the security was ruining her business.
"June 4 is tomorrow," she said simply.
At that point one of the crew-cut men marched over and told the lady to stop talking to me.
By this stage. I had had enough and began heading back towards the subway station, passing on my way a foreign television crew. A policeman was telling them in no uncertain terms that they could not film in the square.
I felt lucky that nobody had stopped me. I'm sure the police knew I was there though, and why I had gone.
from The Great Debate UK:
A revisionist theory on the causes of the global financial crisis blames surplus countries like China, Japan and Germany as much as highly-leveraged, deregulated finance in the United States and Britain.
from Changing China:
Karaoke is much maligned in most of the West and much loved in most of China.
After years in Beijing, I've become perhaps too fond of all-night singing sessions in the city's karaoke palaces, where you can rent a room for two or 20 friends to croon along to tens of thousands of Chinese numbers and an eclectic English selection that ranges from old hymns to Amy Winehouse.