February 27th, 2009
After Hillary Clinton said last week in Beijing that human rights concerns would take a backseat to the pursuit of more crucial issues with China, a report issued by the U.S. State Department on Wednesday criticized Chinese domestic policy. In particular, the report condemned China’s treatment of ethnic groups and varying religious beliefs as well as questioned the county’s judicial system.
“We urge the US to examine its own human rights problems and not use human rights as an excuse or publish human rights reports in order to interfere with others’ internal affairs,” countered Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu.
The Information Office of the State Council countered the U.S. State Department with a report of their own addressing America’s human rights record.
“The US practice of throwing stones at others while living in a glass house is a testimony to the double standards and hypocrisy of the United States in dealing with human rights issues and has undermined its international image,” the report said.
February 26th, 2009
A recent report by Yuri Zarakhovich of the Jamestown Foundation discusses the possibility of a future dissolution of the current Russian Federation.
“I establish the fact that the Russian Federation is developing signs of the initial stage of a breakup,” said Professor Alexei Malashenko, Scholar-in-Residence of the Carnegie Moscow Center, earlier this month. “Not unlike the case of the USSR, the current economic crisis threatens to bring already badly strained internal ties to the breaking point.”
One Russian territory in particular, the Kaliningrad enclave, seems more likely than others to separate due their differing interests and geographic isolation from the Motherland. Bordering Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea, the region is completely detached from Russia.
Other Russian regions which are showing signs of discontent with Moscow include the Republics of Tuva, Dagestan, and Sakha.
“With economic ties broken and self-organization traditionally suppressed, the rotten barrel of Putin’s state indeed risks falling apart, once the authoritarian hoops strain to the breaking point,” noted Oleg Panfilov, a prominent scholar and human rights activist.
February 26th, 2009
As financial institutions across the world take a dive and luxury goods become less affordable, simple commodities like rice continue to be in high demand. Vietnam, the world’s second highest exporter of rice (behind Thailand), has already earned US$268 million this year in the industry.
The country has already exported 373,760 tons of rice this month alone and expects its year-end total to be in the range of 4.5 to 5 million tons – or almost US$3 billion in earnings.
February 25th, 2009
Danish beer producer Carlsberg AS has come to a distribution agreement with Mexico’s Grupo Modelo in which the former will supply Corona Extra to nine new markets in Eastern Europe. The two beverage industry rivals have come together in the hopes of exploiting an opportunity that will be mutually beneficial.
“The second step in the development of the alliance of Modelo and Carlsberg covers important parts of the Eastern European Countries which are a key strategic area for us,” Carlsberg senior vice president, Anton Artemiev, said.
The countries covered in the deal will include Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Moldova.
February 24th, 2009
As the financial crisis continues to devastate economies worldwide, countries and banking institutions seem to be coming more and more isolated as they fight for self-preservation. This is exactly the kind of reaction that World Bank President Robert Zoellick fears will increase the strength and longevity of the crisis.
“A backyard backlash could pull us into an economic spiral,” Zoellick said. “The siren song of protectionism will make this worse.”
This is particularly a concern with Eastern Europe, where national currencies have plunged in recent months due to an over-reliance on exports. Latvia’s government was the first to collapse last week as others teeter on the edge.
Zoellick advocates a coordinated international effort to help sustain those economies which are most vulnerable.
Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown is onboard, calling for backup from the International Monetary Fund: “We are proposing today … a $500 billion IMF fund that enables the IMF not only to deal with crises when they happen but to prevent crises.”
February 24th, 2009
At around 130 million strong, China’s army of migrant workers has played a critical role in the rapid economic growth the country has experienced in recent years – largely providing a cheap source of unskilled labor. As demand for Chinese goods abroad declines, however, so in turn does the domestic demand for such employees.
In recent months, more than 20 million migrant workers have lost their jobs, with countless others receiving pay cuts and reduced working hours. This reduction in income going to China’s migrant workers will have a devastating effect on the nation’s hinterlands – the majority of a worker’s earned wages are sent home to support their family.
“The country’s employment situation is extremely grim,” confirmed China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.
The $585 billion stimulus plan proposed in November is expected to help ameliorate the hardships of some of the migrants by employing them in labor-intensive public works projects.
February 23rd, 2009
A coal-mining explosion in North China’s Shanxi Province has left as many as 74 dead and more than a hundred injured in the deadliest mining accident to occur in the country in over a year.
The explosion occurred early Sunday morning at the Tunlan Coal Mine in the city of Gujiao – a mine owned and operated by Shanxi Coking Coal Group.
One of the deadliest working environments in the country, China’s mining industry reported 3,200 deaths last year. Government officials attribute the high death rates to illegally operated mines, which they number at almost 13,000 currently.
“Coal mines often experience the most serious accidents because so many of them are operating illegally,” said Zhao Tiechui, a senior official in charge of coal mine supervision. “The industry also sees the most frequent covering-up of accidents.”
Tunlan Coal Mine’s manager, top engineer, and official in charge of mine safety were all dismissed in the aftermath of yesterday’s tragic incident.
February 23rd, 2009
The Georgian pop group called Stephane and 3G will be performing their hit song “We Don’t Wanna Put In” at the upcoming Eurovision contest which is set to be held in Moscow this May.
The song, meant to be a play on words featuring Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, was selected by popular vote to be Georgia’s submission to the European song contest.
The popularity of the song reflects the strong anti-Russian sentiment amongst Georgians stemming from the brief war between the two countries this past August.
Many Russian’s are insulted and are calling for the song to be forbidden from the competition, so it will be interesting to see how the situation is handled if the song progresses into the later rounds.
“We don’t wanna put in / the negative mood / is killin’ the groove,” is the song’s chorus line. View the Youtube video.
February 20th, 2009
In an effort to provide a stable source of energy, the Vietnamese government is conducting negotiations with Westinghouse Electric regarding the production of two 2,000 megawatt nuclear power plants.
If approved this spring, construction on the two plants would begin in 2015 and would take five years to complete. The country currently relies primarily on hydro and gas-fuelled power plants.
February 20th, 2009
China’s biggest oil producers, PetroChina Co. and China Petroleum & Chemical Co. (Sinopec), look to be the big gainers as energy exporting countries look to dump assets. Russia, in particular, has been eager to offload their oil and gas reserves in exchange for immediate monetary relief as their economy suffers from the credit crunch.
“This is a new opportunity for China to obtain overseas oil and gas resources, provided by the financial crisis,” said Gong Jinshuang, a senior engineer with China National Petroleum.
On Tuesday, China agreed to grant Russia a $25 billion loan in exchange for 20 years of crude oil supplies. The deal looks to benefit PetroChina and Sinopec directly as they will be able to purchase Russian oil at around $20 a barrel.