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Week of March 15, 2002

Week of March 22, 2002

The U.S. and China This Week


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INTERNATIONAL: China Warns Future Refugees

SUMMARY: (3/19) - A group of 25 North Korean asylum seekers rushed past Chinese guards at the Spanish embassy in Beijing last week, asking to be allowed to go to South Korea. The group has since arrived in Seoul after spending three days resting at a military base in Manila. The six families and two orphaned girls make up the largest North Korean mass defection since the end of the Korean War. They also put the Chinese authorities in a diplomatic bind. Beijing and North Korea are close allies and have an agreement under which Beijing is obliged to return any refugees fleeing from North Korea.

In previous situations, Beijing has returned asylum seekers to North Korea. Human rights and aid groups are critical of such actions because returnees are usually treated harshly by the authorities. However last June, when a North Korean family of seven walked into the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Beijing and demanded political asylum, China agreed to let the family go to South Korea via Singapore and the Philippines. Beijing was thus able to avoid bad press just before the vote on their bid to host the 2008 Olympics.

China now fears a surge of refugees and has issued a warning to deter future asylum seekers. Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue stated that the decision to allow the refugees to leave for Seoul will not set a precedent for resolving similar situations in the future. Zhang also classified the refugee's actions as illegal and said they were designed to stir up trouble and deliberately challenge Chinese laws. But despite the stern warning, China has won international praise for its successful handling of this potentially troublesome case.


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INTERNATIONAL: Japanese Warships to Visit China

SUMMARY: (3/19) - The Japanese Foreign Ministry announced plans for warships from Japan and China to call on each other's ports. A flotilla of Chinese naval vessels will visit Japan this spring, with a Japanese contingent embarking sometime next year. This will be the first time since World War II that the two former enemies have allowed such visits, and is a sign of growing military cooperation between the two countries. The plan was announced after a round of military talks Monday evening. These talks also allowed the two militaries to discuss differences over nuclear weapons and growing military budgets.


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U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS: Jiang Lauds China's Strategic Nuclear Force

SUMMARY (3/20) - Chinese state media praised the country's nuclear force in an article entitled, "Forging a Shield of Peace for the Republic." The People's Daily, the People's Liberation Army Daily, and most other official newspapers carried the article as their top story this Wednesday. The article eulogized the Second Artillery Corps, China's strategic nuclear force. The Corps, headquartered near Beijing, has 100,000 troops and is believed to be equipped with more than 400 strategic and tactical missiles. The article proclaimed that President Jiang Zemin was fully aware of the important status of strategic missiles and also placed emphasis on Jiang's call for military modernization.

The article was published amid renewed tensions with the US. The US media recently published a Washington defense review listing China as a potential target of US nuclear strikes. Beijing condemned the report and warned of its potentially harmful impact on bilateral ties. The timing of the Chinese feature on the Second Artillery Corps is almost certainly not coincidental. Observers believe the article is designed to bolster patriotism within China, and may also boost the leverage of PLA officials aiming to fund China's strategic nuclear forces. However, it may have a negative impact abroad as powerful groups in the United States interpret it as a sign of China's growing belligerence.


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DOMESTIC: Worker Protests in China's "Rust Belt"

SUMMARY: (3/20; 3/21) - Thousands of laid-off workers in the northeastern city of Liaoyang participated in a large scale demonstration demanding unpaid salaries, an end to official corruption, and the release of their nominated spokesman, Yao Fuxin. The demonstration began March 11, but escalated after Yao, a laid off worker from the city's bankrupt Ferroalloy Factory, was detained by the police on Sunday.

The protest highlights the growing pressure on the government from millions of workers who have been laid off due to economic reforms. Worker protests are becoming increasingly common, especially in the northeast due to its designation as a production base for heavy industry by central planners during the 1950s. Now, as China presses on with state sector reforms, millions of people are being laid off or simply remain unpaid by bankrupt state firms.

Protestors in Liaoyang besieged government headquarters on Monday, demanding talks with the city government. Initially, although officials refused to negotiate, they did not take any action to stop the protest. However on Tuesday, officials ordered PLA soldiers and PAP police officers to forcibly evict protestors from government offices. The following day, riot police smashed into a crowd of retreating protestors, dragging off three leaders of the worker movement. One demonstrator commented that so far no one had been seriously injured, but that it was obvious the police would fight back if provoked.


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US-CHINA RELATIONS: China Convicts U.S. Businessman

SUMMARY: (3/21) -Fong Fuming, an American businessman, was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of bribery and obtaining state secrets. The 67 year old engineer had been advising foreign companies on how to invest in power projects throughout China. He has denied the allegation of bribery, insisting that a Chinese Power official who allegedly gave him the incriminating documents was the one responsible for attempting to extort money.

The U.S. government has repeatedly protested China's handling of the case. They claim the courts violated international standards by holding Fong for several months without indicting him. Fong has already served two years of his five year sentence and will be deported when his sentence is completed. Fong's lawyer said that his client suffers from a spinal disorder and may apply for a medical parole. However, it is not clear if the defense will appeal Fong's case.


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The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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