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Week of September 23, 1999

Week of September 23, 1999



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    MAINLAND-TAIWAN RELATIONS: The Aftermath of the Earthquake

    SUMMARY:

    It was barely 2AM Tuesday morning (Taiwanese Time) when an earthquake measuring approximately 7.6 on the Richter scale rocked the island of Taiwan. The epicenter of this quake was near the mountainous inland area of Nantou, 90 miles south-southwest of Taipei, but the effects were felt throughout the island. Among the island’s 22 million people, daily life came to a halt as most of the island was without electrical power, water pipes had broken flooding the streets, and even the stock exchange had been shut down for Tuesday and Wednesday. According to the government’s statement on Tuesday, at least 400 people were dead and approximately 2000 were trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings. By Wednesday these numbers have risen to 1700 deaths, 3000 trapped , 4000 injured and 200 missing. Nantou and Taichung counties experienced the worst damage from this earthquake due to their proximity to the epicenter and the poor construction of many of the buildings. Being inland and difficult to reach has slowed the relief efforts in these counties. The collapse of a necessary bridge has compounded said difficulties making the hardest hit regions the least aided. The city of Taipei appeared chaotic but focused on its efforts to rescue people trapped in the collapsed rubble. During CNN’s Monday evening (Tuesday afternoon Taiwanese time) report, the image of a building leaning precariously with a man trapped and waving his white nightshirt to rescue workers communicated the level of destruction this earthquake has wrought and the human will to survive. One of the worst hit buildings, the Sungshan Hotel, is believed to still have 100 people trapped inside its collapsed structure which was threatened with internal fires. By Thurday, rescuers have less hope of saving trapped people and are trying to recover bodies from the wreckage. Since the quake, approximately 1000 aftershocks have continually rocked the island. Aftershocks, some as high as 6.8, and the threat of a possible tsunami have left residents in a state of fear.

    President Lee Teng-hui issued a statement to the public to remain calm and to let them know that the government is using all of its resources to deal with this disaster.

    Help has poured in from many foreign nations such as the United States, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and Russia. The UN disaster team is also heading to Taiwan to aid in the aftermath of this tragic earthquake.

    President Jiang Zemin extended his condolences and an offer of help to Taiwanese earthquake victims. According to a New China news agency official, Jiang said "We are willing to offer any possible assistance to alleviate the quake caused-losses." Jiang has also made statements regarding the blood ties between the Mainland and Taiwan expressing China’s sadness over this tragedy in what it considers one of its provinces. The Chinese Red Cross has pledged $100,000 in cash and $60,400 in relief materials to Taiwan. In response, Su Chi, the chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council was reported by the Associate Press as saying, "This could be a good beginning to improving ties." These comments come on the heels of tense relations between China and Taiwan over Lee Tenghui’s call for "state to state" relations between China and Taiwan.

    On Thursday of this week, Taiwan has declined aid from China due to several factors. Firstly, Taiwan has received aid from a plethora of other nations in such forms as: blankets, rescue workers, and freezers within which to store the dead. Secondly, Taiwan feels itself capable of dealing with the aftermath of this quake without taking additional belated help from the Mainland. Thirdly, Taiwan is unsure of what political implications would result from accepting assistance from the Mainland. It appears that this tragedy will not wipe away past political tensions between the the Mainland and Taiwan.


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    SOCIETY/ HUMAN RIGHTS: Researcher Missing in China

    SUMMARY:

    In Beijing, a U.S. based researcher was detained for attempting to gather state secrets. Song Yi, a researcher at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, was supposedly researching the Cultural Revolution in Beijing and has been missing more several weeks.


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    SOCIETY: Falun Gong Arrests on the Rise

    SUMMARY:

    Throughout nine cities in China, 300 practitioners of Falun Gong have been arrested for violating China’s ban on the Falun Gong spiritual and exercise rituals. These arrests took place in the past week, ten of which occurred in a park in Changsha.


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    TRADE: Chinese Products as Global Brands

    SUMMARY:

    How many Chinese products do you use on a daily basis? You would be surprised to learn that many products are contracted out to Chinese companies, but retain a brand name familiar to you. The simple fact is China today has low labor and production costs, excellent technology imported from foreign firms, and strong manufacturing skills. All these traits have led Konka, a Chinese producer of televisions, to become a household name in China. In fact, Konka commands 25% of the TV market in China, and is expanding globally. In the Middle East and Australia, this joint venture between the Chinese local government and a Hong Kong firm is one of the top 5 brands.

    The state owned unproductive firms still exist in China, but economic changes and policies have made the truly successful firms those which have a strong capital base, foreign technology, and good management. Such firms as Galanz (the world’s largest microwave oven producer) and Haier (an appliance maker) have been anonymously contracted by internationally recognized brands; and thus, gradually and cautiously entered the international market. These companies are expanding cautiously using their own name and seem to be quite successful in their attempts to gain world market shares.

    Of course expanding into the international arena has its downside. Past ventures by Chinese firms have failed due to many costly mistakes and errors. There is strong competition in the home market which is the base market for any Chinese firm and must be maintained to continue profit growth. Chinese firms?lack of marketing experience can make any good product difficult to sell. At the same time, Chinese firms have an excellent ally in their government, which can shield the market from high competition, subsidize research and development, and finance firms. These government subsidies are frustrating to foreign firms whose governments are members of the WTO and cannot engage is such subsidizing practices. Perhaps, this may lead more countries to support China’s entrance into the WTO as their economy may suffer against these government backed Chinese firms.


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    DEFENSE: Still No Evidence Against Wen Ho Lee

    SUMMARY:

    Suspicions about his supposed revealing of nuclear secrets to China have haunted Wen Ho Lee, even after no conclusive proof of his guilt has been found. The U.S. media has practically tried and convicted him of revealing national defense secrets, without a shred of concrete evidence against Mr. Lee. Constantly shadowed by FBI agents, fired from his job, he remains in a state of limbo, neither a criminal nor an innocent. The Justice department has decided that prosecuting him for espionage is a hopeless case. Instead they are debating whether or not to files charges a against him for gross negligence in revealing national secrets by downloading highly classified files and programs onto an unsecured computer at Los Alamos. This does not seem like a likely scenario because top secret weapons information would have to be revealed from many agencies such as the CIA, FBI, and the Energy Department. Due to the leaking of U.S. nuclear information, the Department of Energy is being overhauled and reorganized to provide better security.


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    US-China Relations: The RAND Report

    SUMMARY:

    A recent report, released by the Rand think tank in California, seeks to find the equilibrium point between containment and engagement in US-China relations. Neither extreme appears to yield the peace and stability longed for between the U.S. and China. Instead, this report outlines a theory of "congagement," a mixture of the two extremes. As a base of successful long term foreign policy, the report turns to the American public as the key ingredient. No policy can truly be maintained for long periods of time without the support of the voters. Unfortunately, the media has hit the public with a great deal of bad press regarding China. In the past year, the Cox report claimed that China may have stolen U.S. nuclear secrets and some of Clinton’s campaign contribution were reported to have come from China. These accusations might push the American people to favor a containment policy; but if Americans understand the economic and political importance of positive relations with China, they will probably favor congagement. Whether such a policy can actually work remains to be seen, but holding the middle ground must logically be better than an extremist position with such an important world power and trading partner.


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    CHINESE GOVERNMENT: The Rise of Hu Jintao

    SUMMARY:

    Vice President Hu Jintao was appointed Vice Chairman of the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, rendering him the most likely candidate to assume the role of President in 2002. Besides Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao is the only other civilian who is a member of this commission. This position of vice chairman is seen in China as the most important stepping stone to the presidency and his placement sends a strong signal throughout China that Hu is being groomed for the role of president when Jiang Zemin’s term ends in 2002. On first glance, it seemed as though Zeng Qinghong was Jiang’s probable successor. To an outsider, Jiang’s selection of Hu as his successor seems rather random; but upon closer examination of the politics within China, one can find a logical progression to this decision. During the past few years, Hu Jintao has continually helped Jiang to build political power and to gain influence in the Communist Party and military. Possessing many connections within the Communist Youth League, Vice President Hu had the resources to aid President Jiang at several important junctures in consolidating his power. As such, President Jiang Zemin and Vice President Hu Jintao have enjoyed a political kinship, which may have played a role in both of their rises in the Party structure.


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