The Syrian people need to be free; we need them to be free; I’m not sure the president understands this

August 29, 2013

When it became clear that the Syrian people were determined to take their country back from the Assad regime, I backed them. I still do.

The question we – and by that, I mean those of us who want the Tehran-backed, CCP-friendly Assad regime to go – must face is how to make sure the Syrian people are in a position to chart their own future, rather than have it determined for them by al Qaeda “allies.” History has shown us that al Qaeda and governing do not go well together – even before it decided to take us on.

The goal of our Syrian policy should be a government that is allied neither with the Tehran-Beijing axis nor with al Qaeda. That is harder today that it would have been in 2011, but I believe it is still possible. American aid turned a 1970s Marxist Ethiopian resistance into a 1990s pro-American government. Even our limited, haphazard policy in Libya has led to a proto-republic whose people made it clear that Wahhabists were not welcome. If anything has soured US-Libyan relations, it was our ridiculous insistence in 2012 that angry Libyans were responsible for the Benghazi debacle, rather than al Qaeda interlopers.

Unfortunately, the latest statements from the Administration send the wrong signals. We are about to engage in some form of military retaliation against the Assad regime, but we are not aiming to remove the regime from power. With all due respect, that makes no sense. The Assad regime values its own survival over everything else. Leave the regime in place and it will simply use whatever military action we take to its advantage. Assad can say he took American air strikes on the chin, but survived. Is that the message we wish to send to the Syrian people? Do we want to tell them that if they want help to free themselves, they have to turn al Qaeda?

The question answers itself.

Now, separating non-Wahhabists from Wahhabists will be very difficult, and it will take time, but it would be time well-spent. By contrast, the use of military force that specifically avoids knocking over the regime is far less efficient, and I would say more risky.

I first called for Syria’s liberation seven years ago, but handing it over to al Qaeda doesn’t count. Whether we take military action against the Assad regime or not, we should make it clear that we want a replacement that answers to neither Zhongnanhai nor al-Zawahiri – and put time and resources into making that a reality. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick, but it beats all of the alternatives.

Cross-posted to the China e-Lobby

My thoughts on Ed Snowden…

June 11, 2013

…can be best gleaned from my China e-Lobby posts (here and here).

Cross-posted to VV

Meanwhile, in Communist China, fraud sinks state banks

September 19, 2012

During the go-go-aughts, the Chinese Communist Party presented itself to the world as the great statist alternative to the United States. The merger of Communism and corporatism then spread its wings in 2008 and protected the world from the financial crisis that Wall Street spawned – at least that’s the story in Beijing. The reality was very, very different.

Recently, even the cadres in Zhongnanhai (Beijing’s version of the Kremlin) have come to terms with the fact that their breakneck growth of the last decade was a massive bubble fueled by state-owned enterprises borrowing heavily from state-owned banks on overvalued property seized by the state from peasants and workers. There were, however, some loans that were based on genuine collateral – i.e., actual assets. Even if the stuff was also overvalued, it was at least stuff.

Or not (Reuters via Zero Hedge):

Chinese banks and companies looking to seize steel pledged as collateral by firms that have defaulted on loans are making an uncomfortable discovery: the metal was never in the warehouses in the first place.

Thus do the demands of accountability in a 21st Century economy meet the corruption that is a staple of a decaying, 20th Century dictatorship.

This is yet another example of the rot that infests the CCP. The Bo Xilai example may be the most dramatic, but it was not atypical. For nearly every cadre, the Chinese Communist Party membership card is a license to steal: land from peasant, wages owed to workers, budget appropriations from state agencies, and especially loan money from state-owned banks. When it comes to bank loans, the cadres follow the Henry Hill school of economics: “No one’s gonna pay for it anyway.”

Except that there will be people who pay for it: foreign investors who lose their shirts and their intellectual property; cadres in the wrong faction who find themselves in prison (while the ones in the right faction take the stuff for themselves); and as always, the Chinese people, more of whom will be forced out of their homes, paid less (if at all), and see prices go through the roof they don’t have. At some point, they will decide enough is enough and take their country back.

Cross-posted to Bearing Drift and the China e-Lobby

Now, Communist China is following us on “green energy” . . . over the cliff

August 17, 2012

Remember when the president, Tom Friedman, and all their buddies insisted that the Chinese Communist Party was leading the way on “green energy,” to justify companies like Solyndra getting billions in taxpayer dollars?

Yeah, about that . . .

Li Fei, the owner of Chengxing Solar Company in Jinhua, Zhejiang Province, committed suicide by jumping off a building, alarming the debt-ridden photovoltaic industry, reported First Financial Daily in Shanghai.
Li ended his life after Chengxing was unable to repay a 20 million yuan (US$3.15 million) loan taken by another photovoltaic company called Zhongxi, for which Chengxing was the guarantor.
The incident was a sign of the imminent collapse facing the Chinese photovoltaic industry, because of its lack of liquidity and mounting debts, noted First Financial Daily.
. . .
The newspaper quoted US investment bank Maxim Group as warning that China’s top ten photovoltaic companies had accumulated a combined debt of US$17.5 billion and the entire industry was teetering on the brink of collapse.

Source: Want China Times
H/t: Andrew Bolt

It looks like America led the way on this file after all, and Communist China is following us right over the cliff.

Perhaps “green” corporatism – in either tyranny or democracy – is not such a good idea after all.

Cross-posted to the China e-Lobby and Virginia Virtucon

The real reason the CCP owning so much US debt is a bad thing

May 14, 2012

I really think Irwin Stelzer should know better. The Weekly Standard economics writer usually leans toward the “engagement” crowd when it comes to the Chinese Communist Party, but he always managed to steer clear of the Kool-Aid.

This time, though, he falls for a different myth, the debt myth.

China can easily turn that feeble recovery into a downturn by cutting back on purchases of U.S. treasury IOUs, driving interest rates up.

Leaving aside the fact that the Fed has told anyone who will listen that they will vacuum up as many T-bills as is required to keep interest rates near zero, Stelzer should know – as Gordon Chang does – that paper power is really a paper tiger.

No, the real problem with the CCP buying so much of our debt is that they can’t stop, meaning the traditional incentives to get serious about deficit reduction (the fear creditors will stop lending) doesn’t apply. Instead of firm warnings from Wall Street or the City (London), we have a regime desperate to keep lending us money in order to maintain their cheap currency and export sectors.

Thus, our day if reckoning will be delayed, but hurt that much harder when it finally comes.

Cross-posted to the China e-Lobby and Virginia Virtucon

Mitt Romney, seizing the anti-Communist mantle

March 30, 2012

Thanks to the president’s “hot mic” incident in Russia, more Americans are paying attention to foreign policy – reviewing not just the president’s record, but the views of his would-be Republican opponents. Mitt Romney has come under particular scrutiny, which led yours truly to notice a Wall Street Journal piece he wrote on the Chinese Communist Party last month. My shame at missing this for six weeks aside, Romney’s op-ed makes it abundantly clear: if nominated, he would be the most anti-Communist major party nominee for president in over 20 years.

Romney’s column is an anti-CCP tour de force (to the extent that a pile of words can ever be). Unlike most presidential challengers, Romney does not just simply complain about the Communists’ deliberate cheapening of their currency for export. In fact, the currency devaluation isn’t even his first indictment of the regime. Instead, Romney perfectly distils the situation we face in the second paragraph (emphasis added):

One much bruited these days is that of a Chinese century. With China’s billion-plus population, its 10% annual average growth rates, and its burgeoning military power, a China that comes to dominate Asia and much of the globe is increasingly becoming thinkable. The character of the Chinese government—one that marries aspects of the free market with suppression of political and personal freedom—would become a widespread and disquieting norm.

The verbiage is critical here, in particular, “aspects of the free market.” Far too often, lazy pundits and politicians have assumed China already has a free market. Romney, whose business experience has given him a far better idea of what a free market is – and isn’t – is more circumspect than nearly all of Washington on this score. More to the point, he also sees the regime as the anti-American threat it really is.

As one would expect, Romney is critical of the president. Readers would note that while I have issues with Barack Obama, his East Asia policy has had its high points. Much to my surprise, Romney actually noticed, too, albeit dismissively: “Now, three years into his term, the president has belatedly responded with a much-ballyhooed ‘pivot’ to Asia . . . “

More importantly, Romney also noted where the president has contradicted himself:

The pivot is also vastly under-resourced. Despite his big talk about bolstering our military position in Asia, President Obama’s actions will inevitably weaken it. He plans to cut back on naval shipbuilding, shrink our Air Force, and slash our ground forces. Because of his policies and failed leadership, our military is facing nearly $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade.

Simply put, this is head and shoulders over everyone else running and nearly everyone else who even thought of running for president. Romney’s understanding of the connections between military strength and geopolitics is disappointingly rare among politicians today, but that makes his willingness to connect the dots all the more valuable.

Even in the matter of bilateral trade, Romney is about more than just the depreciated currency. He has been the only candidate for president (for two cycles now) to talk about intellectual property theft, and he mentions it again in this column. No one else has even bothered with this issue.

Romney concludes with the fundamental point about the CCP that I’ve been making for a dozen years now:

We have much to gain from close relations with a China that is prosperous and free. But we should not fail to recognize that a China that is a prosperous tyranny will increasingly pose problems for us, for its neighbors, and for the entire world.

That such a statement would come from a leading candidate for President of the United States was a laughable dream just a few years ago. Now, a president who could argue to having the most anti-Communist East Asia policy since the Tiananmen massacre will (if trends continue) go up against a Republican who has presented the most detailed, nuanced, and intelligent anti-Communist policy for any candidate (current incumbent included) since that same dark day in June.

In short, Mitt Romney, should he be nominated as is increasingly expected, will becomethecandidate for anti-Communists in 2012. That is a dramatic and exhilirating departure from just about every other presidential cycle from 1992 onward.

Cross-posted to the China e-Lobby and Bearing Drift

Two cheers for Marco Rubio

March 9, 2012

The junior Senator from Florida slapped up a post in The Corner on Iranian influence in the Western Hemisphere. All in all, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t perfect either.

Specifically (and hardly of general consequence), I’m not sure I’d call Daniel Ortega a Chavez puppet – Ortega predated Chavez by over a decade, so odds are he still has a direct line to the Castro dynasty in Cuba.

More generally (and worryingly), Rubio acts as if the mullahcracy is doing this all on its own, without any backing. That I find very hard to believe. Tehran’s Khomeinists have had one firm ally over the last three decades – the Chinese Communist Party. Diplomatically, economically, and militarily, Zhongnanhai has supported the mullahs when no one else would.

The CCP has a long histoty of backing America’s enemies and hoping Americans don’t notice. Given the mullahs’ eagerness to take full “responsibility” for what they’re doing, the CCP-Khomeinist axis has been a huge success. In fact, only one prominent American politician has warned of the CCP building a global anti-American alliance (and that’s why I’m backing him for President).

So, while I’m glad to see Rubio is sounding the alarm on the Khomeinists, he shouldn’t ignore their allies in Beijing.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon and the China e-Lobby

The Law of Unintended Communist Consequences

February 16, 2012

The Chinese Communist Party has finished hosting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in what was clearly a feather-in-the-cap moment for the regime. Here it was, hosting and feting a man who had ripped the cadres so thoroughly his candidacy form Prime Minister was endorsed by yours truly, only to chuck it all out the window. This was yet another opportunity for the CCP show how it was moving forward, and bringing the Chinese people with it.

Except that even when it tries to impress, the regime leaves its guests . . . depressed. Paul Wells, one of the most insightful pundits in Canada (and easily the most humorous), gives his description of the hollowness of it all in Macleans. The last paragraph bring the point painfully home:

It’s a fake opera house across the park from a fake shopping mall next to a fake hotel in a fake neighbourhood designed to snow gullible foreigners, not 100 km from villages whose residents live in grinding poverty. A rich command economy is still a command economy, and it commands its subjects to live in ways that steal hope. There was much more to like about other parts of other cities we visited — Chongqing is wild, bustling, dirty and vital — but after less than a day I was eager to put Guangzhou behind my back. And grateful for the right to do so

That wasn’t in the CCP script. The ersatz wealth was supposed to make outsiders ignore the hopelessness, not zero in on it with sniper-like accuracy.

So once again, the regime’s attempt to win over foreigners (and thus justify its regime to the imprisoned Chinese people) goes awry, and the day when said Chinese people will take their country back continues its approach.

Cross-posted to the China e-Lobby

Why I still support Mitt Romney

February 13, 2012

The Santorum surge has radically altered the state of the Republican presidential race – at least as of today. Whether Santorum has the strength to defeat Mitt Romney is an open question; we shall see over the next few months. However, many of my friends are heavily leaning (or have fallen over) in Santorum’s direction. When I decided my choice for president, Santorum had hardly caught any fire; however, I am sticking with Romney.

I have three main reasons for doing so:

First and foremost: only one candidate has raised the alarm on the Chinese Communist Party – and that candidate is Mitt Romney: He has been alone in raising concern over the regime’s theft of intellectual property from foreign dupes investors far and wide. He is the first candidate for president ever to take note of the CCP’s desire to build a global network of tyrants to challenge the free world (not even Duncan Hunter mentioned that in 2008). He has continued to sound the alarm on them despite being attacked for it by the other candidates – including none other than Rick Santorum. For the uninitiated, just about every enemy of America or threat to the same (the mullahcracy of Iran, Saddam Hussein before he was deposed, the Taliban, al Qaeda, North Korea, the Syrian regime, even Qaddafi) has been backed or is backed by the Chinese Communist Party (for the latest on the Tehran-Beijing axis, see the National Post). We need a president who recognizes this danger – and Mitt Romney alone makes the cut.

Second, Romney has the private sector experience that is needed: Just to be clear, private sector experience itself, while certainly valuable, is not per se what I mean. It is Romney’s experience in taking on bloated companies that are bleeding money with antiquated business plans that got my attention – especially given that the new president will take over an executive branch bleeding over $1T a year with far too large a bureaucracy and service systems (e.g. entitlements) stuck in 1969. None of the other candidates have experience in paring down overloaded personnel and modernizing a wheezing entity.

Finally, I consider Romney’s conversion on life to be sincere: I’ve given this one a lot of thought over the last few months, and for good reason. The abortion issue being what it is, many politicians have held to one view throughout. Some have shifted, once, based on intellectual pondering, a dramatic personal story, or, well, crass political considerations. Romney is the only politician I know who has double-backed on this issue. Initially, in 1994, Romney had his personal story (if memory serves, a distant relative had died from an illegal abortion), and that seemed that.

Then the embryonic stem-cell research debate hit Boston.

Normally, views on ESCR are driven by views on unborn life in general. Defenders of the latter by and large can’t stand the former, although a few do. Almost no one who defines themselves as pro-choice opposes ESCR. So one can imagine the surprise when Romney himself tried to stop the creation (and destruction) of research-only embroys. It just doesn’t make sense. After a while, it didn’t make sense to Romney either, and he realized that if you can’t tolerate the death of one embryo, you can’t tolerate the death of any of them.

It’s an unusual journey on the issue, of that there is no doubt. But Mitt Romney is more an empirical politician than a philosophical one; he builds his views from what he sees in front of him – and in this case, what he saw in front of him was so horrifying it overrode the loss of his relative.

These are the reasons I still support Romney. I do not think his nomination is inevitable. Nor do I think he would automatically be a better general election candidate than Rick Santorum – each has their own potential path to victory.

I do think Romney will be better at reducing the size and scope of government, identifying our enemies around the world, and standing up to said enemies. In short, I think he would be a better president than anyone else in the field.

Cross-posted to Bearing Drift

How the CCP nailed jello to the wall

January 30, 2012

During the heyday of the “engagement” movement in the 1990s, then-President Bill Clinton was being briefed on how the Chinese Communist Party was hoping to regulate the internet within its borders. After the now-forgotten aide explained with the cadres had in mind, Clinton let loose a famous, derisive remark, “That’s sort of like trying to nail jello to the wall.” To be fair, Clinton was merely articulating a widely held view that censorship would be impossible in the world-wide-web era. However, he was also very, very wrong. Rebecca MacKinnon, who has been following the state of the internet in Communist-controlled China for many years, details in the National Post how the CCP has succeeded in turning the information superhighway into a gelatinous decoration.

She starts with the usual, the “great firewall,” i.e., the cadres’ attempt to block anything problematic to the regime from even entering China. Impossible, you say? Not quite:

This blocking is easily accomplished because the global Internet connects to the Chinese Internet through only eight “gateways,” which are easily “filtered.” At each gateway, as well as among all the different Internet service providers within China, Internet routers — the devices that move the data back and forth between different computer networks — are all configured to block long lists of website addresses and politically sensitive keywords.

Ah yes, but one can get around the firewall with the right software, right? Well, yes. Here’s the problem: 99% of internet users in Communist-controlled China don’t have it, so while a large number of Chinese can see around the firewall, it’s “not enough percentage-wise to shape majority public opinion” as MacKinnon notes (to give an idea, over 5% of the entire population on the mainland is a member of the Chinese Communist Party).

MacKinnon then goes to show why the firewall is so important by recounting the story of Google: why it chose to create a Chinese-only version of itself to get in the firewall, what it had to do to stay, and why after four years it gave up and left again.

The result is, literally, two internets: a mainland-China-web and a rest-of-the-world-wide-web. The former version has its own Facebook (more than one, actually) and Twitter (use the real one and risk prison); it ensures that every resident of the mainland is connected to . . . each other and the CCP. The rest of us are locked outside, and only allowed in if we say the right things, at the right time, about the right people.

One of the hallmarks of “engagement” thinking was that the economic “reforms” the CCP unleased would, eventually lead to political freedom. For those of us on the right, the classic example of Augusto Pinochet – who dramatically lessened the state’s role in the economy, than responded repeatedly to pressures inside and out to shrink his own power base until he lost his own referendum on extending his leadership and stepped down – shined in our eyes. However, the CCP was not an anti-Communist general. Their reforms merely changed the Party from factory manager to holding company, and the cadre went from foreman to trust runner.

Many may argue with my interpretation of the economics, but on the political side, it goes without question that the regime has become more restrictive against dissenters,  more aggresive abroad, and more interested in dominating its neighbors, including the “breakaway province” (Taiwan).

These trends had their beginnings in the 1990s, but one of the standard “engagement” responses was that the internet would force the CCP to loosen up. To the contrary, the cadres have managed to create their own information cul-de-sac.

They really did succeed in nailing jello to the wall.

Cross-posted to the China e-Lobby and Bearing Drift


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