Giant on the move
from India Insight:
While Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Russia captured all the attention, Singh's talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao may turn out to be just as important in easing off renewed pressure on the complex relationship between the world's rising powers.
India said this month it will bolster its defences on the unsettled China border, deploying up to 50,000 troops and its most latest Su-30 fighter aircraft at a base in the northeast.
While upgrading the defences has been a long-running objective, the timing seemed to suggest New Delhi's renewed fears of "strategic encirclement" by China by deepening ties with all of its neighbours, not just Pakistan but also Sri Lanka and Nepal.
The chief of the Indian air force, reflecting the anxieties in the security establishment, said China was a far bigger threat than Pakistan because so little was known about Beijing's combat capabilities.
from Global News Journal:By Rob Taylor
“43 percent nasty” read posters dotting the press wing of Australia’s parliament this week under a photo of a beaming Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, pointing readers to a more benign 5 percent-strength beer on sale at a nearby news studio.
The quip drew on a poll finding near one-in-two voters believe the boyish-looking Rudd has a nasty side, echoing other recent surveys showing the centre-left leader’s meteoric popularity is sliding back from a year of levels “with the gods” .
The beer plug perhaps helps explain a bizarre and sudden switch in Rudd’s technocratic speaking style to a bush slang which has left even Australians bewildered as, with his usual obsessiveness, Rudd works hard to reconnect. Photo: Rudd at the Asia Security Conference in Singapore, May 29, 2009/Reuters "Fair shake of the sauce bottle, mate . . . It's chalk and cheese . . . Fair shake of the sauce bottle, mate . . . Well, again, fair shake of the sauce bottle, mate," the Mandarin-speaking former diplomat said with “ticking clock” monotony in a television interview this week which raised eyebrows nationally.
Compare that to equally incomprehensible, but slang-free, comments by Rudd in Britain last year while meeting foreign leaders over climate change.
"The parallel ideological synergies, vis-a-vis the development opportunity momentum in our own constituencies … that's where the low-hanging fruit lies," he said as attending journalists shook their heads.
In the United States, Rudd spoke at the prestigious Brookings Institution of “a complimentarity that could be developed further in the direction of some short of conceptual synthesis”.
Australians can be forgiven for wondering who their prime minister really is, with the question having added resonance amid a swirl of talk that Rudd could call early elections to overcome an upper house Senate currently giving Labor nightmares.
“Will the real Kevin Rudd please stand up,” former conservative opposition leader John Hewson demanded on national television on Friday.
Rudd was a virtual unknown outside the corridors of parliament when he led his Labor Party out of near 12 years in opposition and chronic leadership instability to a sweeping election triumph in November 2007.
Rudd came to lead then-opposition Labor in late 2006 as almost last leadership man standing and since election his popularity has been at record highs. His standing belies the “Dr Death” nickname Rudd earned while cutting a swathe through staff numbers as a top bureaucrat in Queensland state in the early 1990s.
But that began to downshift in April when stories emerged of Rudd’s temper and control obsession -- which political insiders have known of for years – boiling over at a air force stewardess he reduced to tears over food choice while on a VIP flight.
Since then Rudd’s popularity, while still strong, has fallen from high 70s to around 58 percent in the closely-watched Newspoll series.
“Rudd's whole life is an artifice. With his blond hair, round face, round glasses
and wholesome values, he would have us believe he's the Milky Bar Kid,” senior writer Ross Fitzgerald wrote in the Australian newspaper this month, comparing Labor’s star to a popular children’s chocolate bar character.
“As the public is starting to realise, the real Rudd has more in common with Dr
Death than the carefully-crafted public persona of the Milky Bar Kid,” Fitzgerald said.
“Strewth! There is now a Kevin Rudd for every occasion, and the only version of the Prime Minister that's missing is one that's real,” wrote conservative Herald Sun newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt after Rudd’s stream of sauce bottle slang.
Speech experts have blamed Rudd's chameleon switch on his advisors trying to better reach ordinary voters, particularly swing-vote workers in crucial regional seats and suburban fringes, often ill at ease with Rudd’s natural intellectualism.
But commentators, and the public, see the transition as far from smooth, raising questions on if it could actually harm Rudd in future opinion polling, and ultimately an election.
Others say its shows a country and its leader unsure of their identity, torn between sophisticated city dwellers and a more insular retreat to nationalist symbols and protectionism among voters in regional areas.
“While some of us have drifted off to lattes, designer wear and a taste for cosmopolitan things, others have retreated to the comfort of flags on our utes (SUVs) and Southern Cross tattoos,” the Courier Mail newspaper said.
“In all fairness, it must be hard for any moderately intelligent Australian political leader to hit exactly the right note with his or her public persona in this shifting landscape that is our national character,” the paper said.
So far Rudd is not retreating from the barrage of criticism and has even poked fun at himself and protagonists at a business power lunch in Sydney on Thursday, drawing laughter from those assembled.
Channeling his inner aussie once more, Rudd called on media commentators to give him a "fair crack of the whip" and not "come the raw prawn".
Does that leave you confused? Then spare a thought for wondering Australians as they await opinion testing of Rudd new style during a bruising parliamentary session over the next fortnight that could yet lead to surprise early elections!
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Power play in South Asia is always a delicate dance and anything that happens between India and China will likely play itself out across the region, not the least in Pakistan, Beijing's all weather friend.
And things are starting to move on the India-China front. We carried a report this weekabout India's plan to increase troop levels and build more airstrips in the remote state of Arunachal Pradesh, a territory disputed by China. New Delhi planned to deploy two army divisions, the report quoted Arunachal governor J.J. Singh as saying.
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.
Born and raised in Canada, I grew up listening to stories of the past — lessons in history, humanity, tragedy and survival. And like many children of immigrant families, there is a constant search for a balance and a place between the different worlds that shape our identity.
I spent a year working at a university in China in 2002. With the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown looming, I wanted to solicit some thoughts from my former students. Unusually — but perhaps not surprisingly in retrospect — I did not hear back. I did hear from friends who are currently studying abroad. The following views are from one 27-year-old originally from Fujian province, who came two years ago to do a Master’s degree in Canada. Anonymity was requested.
Caption: Undergraduates stand in front of a Chinese national flag after three minutes of mourning for Sichuan earthquake victims at Fudan University in Shanghai May 12, 2009. REUTERS/Aly Song
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.
Photo caption: Chinese security personnel try to stop pictures from being taken as they check the documents of the photographer at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 3, 2009. Chinese security forces blanketed Tiananmen Square on Wednesday ahead of the 20th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause
War is the last thing on the minds of Taiwan’s leaders these days as the island government moves to make friends with rival China. Even in far more hostile times, Taiwan’s KMT leadership had privately given up dreams of using force to take control of the mainland, according to documents that are now available for public viewing.
A public opening in May of the forested Back Cihu compound outside Taipei teaches 400 eager visitors per day how the island-based Republic of China government aimed to strike back at the Communist People’s Republic of China, but it ultimately abandoned the idea.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
India has been fretting for months that it could be pushed into the background by the United States' economic dependence on China and by the renewed focus on Pakistan by President Barack Obama's administration. That anxiety appears to have increased lately -- perhaps because the end of the country's lengthy election campaign has opened up space to think more about the external environment -- and is focusing on China.
In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Indian Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said China posed a greater threat than Pakistan. “China is a totally different ballgame compared to Pakistan,” he was quoted as saying. “We know very little about the actual capabilities of China, their combat edge or how professional their military is … they are certainly a greater threat.”
from The Great Debate:
China has talked about plans to allow foreign companies to float on its domestic stock markets for at least a decade, but that's all there has been: talk.
Now would be a good time to convert some of that talk into action. Beijing has been struggling with its own investment strategies: the state gets feeble returns on the U.S. Treasury bonds it owns, and its equity stakes in foreign financial firms are well under water.
from Summit Notebook:
In China, Apple's iPhone commands a strange presence. Perenially "coming out", already widely available on the black market, viewed with trepidation by local telecom players but with undisguised lust by affluent consumers.
Sanford C. Bernstein Toni Sacconaghi thinks the wildly popular device will arrive in the Middle Kingdom before the end of the year, after a long haul of negotiations with state-run telecom carriers keen to control the content to be sold over the gadget.