Chinamerica Threat Roundup 3

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Welcome to the latest Chinamerica Roundup! This is a collection of news, analysis, and blogging pertaining to China as an emerging military threat with growing influence in a socialist Latin America.

The index to all related posts is here.

From Cuba to inside our own borders and all the way to Ecuador, the bulk of the news and commentary in this week's roundup pertains to Latin America.

(1) Cuba

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen writes in the Washington Times about the future of our relations with Cuba. Her article reminds Americans that our national security depends on the "success of freedom in other lands." This is especially true of Cuba, an island 90 miles from Florida. The article also urges international support for American sanctions against Cuba. She reminds us how different life is for the Cubans themselves than it if for the tourists.
All [the Cuban dissidents] ask from the international community is to support and assist them in their struggle; to put principle over profit; to deny the tyrant the resources to continue his reign of terror. These are also the pillars of U.S. policy toward the Castro regime.

Yet, we continue to hear voices denouncing the embargo. Some call for more trade with this repressive regime. Others frolic with the idea that tourists enjoying the crystalline waters of Varadero Beach, building luxury resorts where Cubans are denied access, and flooding the island with dollars, will bring freedom and democracy to the Cuban people.

Not far from these pleasurable locales, men are dragged down the stairs of one of hundreds of Castro's notorious jails, thrown in squalid cells, beaten, and tortured. Women are raped, humiliated and beaten. Not far from the pristine beaches, the people of Cuba remain prisoners in their own island.

As for the future of Cuba, the children are forced from infancy to prepare for the defense of the country and its regime. Parents who follow their conscience and try to shape their children's values and education are considered enemies of the state and are arrested or persecuted. Those parents whose love for their children supersedes any individual concern for their safety are punished by the Castro regime and punished for violating Castro's laws.
And speaking of children, remember poor Elian Gonzales? Nick Provenzo does. In considering why the effort to save him from life under tyranny failed, he has some interesting thoughts.
In the case of Gonzalez, the side dedicated to preserving the boy’s freedom needed to demonstrate clearly that communism itself was child abuse. And its not as if we didn’t try. Both Leonard Peikoff and Ed Locke spoke passionately in defense of Gonzalez’s rights, Peikoff in Miami in front of the boy’s family and Locke on the steps of the Justice Department here in Washington, but even their words were not able to carry the day.

Why? Americans are lousy thinkers when forced to confront the abstract, and for most Americans, the difference between communism and capitalism is an abstract difference that lies outside their immediate concern. When they receive conflicting evidence, they all to often write off the debate and run with what works—that is, they run with pragmatism.
I agree, but I would also add that most of us are also fortunate enough not to have anything in our experience that would help us understand what that kind of life would be like. (See also the account below.) We should be preparing for the impending demise of Fidel Castro, not sending more young victims to him at gunpoint.

(2) MS-13

An international criminal organization founded by Salvadorans, known for its brutal tactics, and thought to have ties to al-Qaida (as terrorist smugglers) made the news this week in Houston. In the Sunday edition of the Houston Chronicle is a story that is at once encouraging and eye-opening: An international crackdown on MS-13 is in progress. The article does what so many others dealing with gangs do -- focuses too much on the criminals themselves -- but there is some valuable information therein. On the crackdown (all emphasis added):
Two years into concerted government campaigns against gangs, thousands of young men like Enamorado have been imprisoned, killed or sent fleeing from Central America toward Mexico or the United States.

Though Mara Salvatrucha gangsters in the United States make up a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of American gang members, FBI agents view the gang as an emerging national problem.

Last week, Harris County authorities jailed a 21-year-old Salvadoran — whose tattoos suggest he's a member of Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13 — on charges of shooting to death a toddler who was riding in a car with his father. Houston police said they had arrested 20 members of the same gang and that five, including the Salvadoran suspect, were held on murder charges.

While I'm glad so many arests are being made, I am disturbed to see how large this criminal organization is both within the U.S. and internationally. Locally in Houston, the gang continues to be a problem. Today, the Chronicle reports that a policeman was wounded in a knife attack by a member of the gang.

(3) Mexico's Political Crisis

After massive protests, President Fox relented (hat tip: TIA Daily) in the drive to prosecute Mexico City's hard-left mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for contempt of court. Prosecution would have barred him from running for president in Mexico's upcoming elections, of which he is the clear early frontrunner. While Mexicans seem to regard this as a triumph for "democracy," I have stated here before that Lopez Obrador may pose a grave threat to freedom in Mexico. This sentiment is echoed by many Mexicans. From the CNN article comes this bit, which reminds me of concerns expressed by "some business leaders" when Hugo Chavez first came to power in Venezuela. Lopez Obrador has talked openly of forming an alliance with Chavez.
His spending policies, fiery rhetoric and his combative style worry some business leaders and Wall Street investors, who fear the arrival of a populist government in Mexico, a major oil exporter and U.S. trade partner.
Another concern I expressed was for the bad precedent this would set for rule of law in Mexico. On that score, if the failure to prosecute Lopez Obrador is bad enough, this quote makes things seem even worse for Mexico.
Fox had endorsed the prosecution of Lopez Obrador, saying that Mexico's rule of law was at stake and that the most powerful officials in the land had to answer for their misdeeds just as average citizens did. But the argument failed to resonate with Mexicans, who perceive justice as frequently selective in its application. [LA Times]
If I read this right, Fox dropped the ball long ago in establishing rule of law, making his move against Lopez Obrador a mockery of justice in the first place. (This quote -- HT: TIA Daily -- confirms my suspicion: "[G]iven Mexico's whopping corruption at the top, [the rap on Lopez Obrador] is akin to arguing that an American can't run for president because of a parking ticket.") Fox now adds the icing of capitulation to the cake. Lopez Obrador comes out looking both unfairly victimized and holding the moral high ground. Fox may have just helped turn the Mexican government into an actual enemy rather than a merely indifferent neighbor.

However, in today's TIA Daily, Robert Tracinski sounds a note of optimism about Mexico's culture, based on his idea of "The Metaphysics of the 'Normal Life.'" He notes that Mexico's extensive contact with the United States has made the country intimately familiar with how much better life can be in a society that possesses rule of law. This translates into a desire on the part of the Mexicans to make their nation more like ours. (And echoes other recent mass movements for "democracy" around the world.) This is noted in the New York Post.
Which brings us to the big lies told about Mexicans who live and work within our borders. The nuttiest fable is that Mexican immigrants want to "take back the Southwest" for Mexico. On the contrary, having experienced the decency of American society, those immigrants, legal and illegal, want to make Mexico more like El Norte.

No one wants to live in a society where bribes determine your fate.

The paradox of illegal immigration is that immigrants want to stay here because they've learned to value the rule of law [emphasis mine]. Mexicans come here because the United States offers opportunities and a level of justice they can't find at home. They're fleeing poverty, corruption and degraded lives. Why on earth would they want to turn Texas into Jalisco?

But if the Mexican people are learning to appreciate the benefits of our particular brand of social organization, they are not necessarily picking up the ideological framework necessary to support it. Their lionization of Lopez Obrador is disturbing, this article's rosier picture of him notwithstanding. I hope that view is right, but seeing is believing.

(4) South America

Was the successful ouster of the president of Ecuador an advance for the cause of freedom, or was it (like a Lopez Obrador victory in Mexico might be) a setback? I finally see someone in the media ask the same kind of question. Is it just mob rule they're getting in Latin America? A quote at the end is thought-provoking, if nothing else: "'Democracy isn't just about having a stable government,' [a Quito lawyer] said. 'If democracy doesn't make life better, we will continue to have people taking to the streets.'" But there does have to be some measure of stability along with freedom for the lives of a populace to improve.

In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, a man known to some as El Loco, has decided to make Don Quixote freely available for the edification of his proles.
"Don't be left without your Quixote!" Chávez said last week. "We are all going to read Quixote to feed our spirit with this fighter who came out to get rid of injustice and fix the world."

"To some degree, we are followers of Quixote," he added.

Both Chávez's supporters and critics acknowledge his idealism. His foes, many of whom call him "El Loco," or "The Madman," said it was fitting the government was distributing the book about a hallucinating knight wandering through Spain with his faithful companion Sancho Panza.

What is the difference between Chavez and Quixote? What distinguishes farce from tragedy? In this case, the difference is that the madman can enforce his stupidity at the point of a gun.

What's worse, it turns out that we needn't even go to Venezuela to get an idea of what Hugo's most ardent followers are like. Via American Thinker comes an account by a Venezuelan dissident who attended a screening, in Canada, of the BBC film The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. She was invited to speak, but was shouted down when she turned out to be a Venezuelan dissident.

[T]he organizer asked if there were any Venezuelans present. I raised my hand and asked if I could address the audience. I was cheerfully given a microphone and asked to step up to the center of the stage. I [said] that I was a dissident and that I was very glad to live in this country because I liked freedom and democracy and I was very worried with what was happening in Venezuela. I pointed out that the film [was biased]. First, it chose to caricaturize the situation by portraying everybody in the opposition as white and blond and every Chavez supporter as brown or black. I told them that in Venezuela we were all “café au lait” and we lived without racial stereotypes until Chavez created them with his divisive fashion and that the film insisted on emphasizing them. They had just to look at me, I said, with my very curly black hair (whereas one of the Bolivarian ladies was actually blonde, but that I did not say). Next, I pointed out specific points that were not shown in the picture. For instance, the picture does not show that there were close to a million people in the April 11 march. Without that information, the viewers could not grasp the importance of the conflict. It does not say that Chavez had knowledge of the march rerouting and did nothing to avoid it. Finally, I said, it did not say a word about the infamous “cadena” in which the president monopolized the communication waves to keep talking about utilitarian vehicles while people outside his Palace were being killed.

At that point, the Bolivarians that had organized the event started shouting at me that that was not true, that until when I was going to make false statements. They were enraged. I was taken aback despite that I knew of the reputation of the Bolivarian circles. I calmly asked them to let me finish, mentioned the essay in Caracas Chronicles and El Gusano de Luz and quickly regained my seat without losing my temper.
The end of the story reminded me of how Americans, free all their lives, are often naive about totalitarianism. An Iranian who saw this exchange was not: "A young man approached me, and almost whispering told me that he was Iranian and that he knew what a totalitarian regime was. He also thanked me for my address." For more on someone who is looking into the support network for Chavez in the United States, go here. (Knowing Spanish would help for some of this.)

My impression of Colombia is that it is a fairly conservative country, and an American ally. Via RealClear Politics, I learned of this story on the effort by President Álvaro Uribe to get reelected president of Columbia. It is amusing to see this leftist publication tarring Uribe for acting just like an American Democrat -- not that I approve -- on the campaign trail. ("A staple of Uribe's unconventional and wildly popular presidency, the president and rotating members of his cabinet travel every Saturday morning to a far-flung region of Colombia to hear about local problems and personally offer solutions, usually before an audience of hundreds.") Nevertheless, it closes with the intimation that Uribe might endanger the rule of law in Colombia by refusing not to run.

Influential ex-President Alfonso Lopez Michelsen--outraged that Uribe might attempt to seek reelection even if the Constitutional Court declares the amendment allowing him to run for a second term invalid--has called for the formation of an anti-Uribe coalition.
I don't know the full context of what such a decision (by Uribe) would mean, but that doesn't sound good.

(5) China and Japan

This story seems to either be winding down or becoming old news. In this story, we get a good overview of the current state of the spate, including China's continued unreasonableness, the strong business ties between the two countries (also blogged by the Gaijin Biker), and Japan's tin ear for diplomacy.
The meeting came a day after [The Japanese PM] gave a "heartfelt apology" for Japan's wartime aggression at the start of the Asian-African Summit — the most public penitence in a decade. However, the message was blunted by a visit by a Cabinet minister and more than 80 Japanese lawmakers to a Tokyo shrine honoring Japan's war dead.
Fortunately, Japan is beginning to wise up. The Gaijin Biker reports that Japan has turned the tables on China and will be conducting a review of China's textbooks! I eagerly await the results!

(6) China's Military Expansion

Via RealClear Politics are two short pieces worth a read. One discusses China's increasing military strength. The other considers the struggle for dominance in East Asia between two alliances:
The fundamental issue is which alliance will prevail in East Asia: the autocratic coalition led by China that seeks to drive the United States from the region or the democratic grouping led by the United States that seeks a stable balance of political and military power in which trade and economic development flourishes.
The article concludes that the China-Korea alliance holds the edge at the moment.

(7) China's New Poodle

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Martin Lindeskog has a good roundup on France dealing with China at Ego. Topics include France' support for the "anti-secession" law China recently passed in reference to the neighboring nation of Taiwan, her desire to end the E.U. armse embargo against China, and her plans to sell weaponry to the Chinese.

(8) China's Compound of Prosperity and Tyranny

Via TIA Daily come two interesting stories about some of China's actual "internal affairs." In the first, Houston's favorite slave, Yao Ming, wins the title -- of "vanguard worker!" But while China tries to get its people to work harder by allowing them some incentives (and it is these that the Chi-Comms are really putting on display), its government still tries to ignore the fundamental rights of its people. For the second time in only a week, I have run across (via TIA Daily) another article with the title, "China's Selective Memory," this one by a dissident. There is some overlap with the article with the same title I mentioned in last week's roundup, but the ending is powerful.
China and Japan both have blood on their hands, but they have important differences as well. Comfort women and others whom Japan has injured or insulted can sue either Japan's government or its big companies, and they can do this in either Japanese or Chinese courts. Japanese who want to can demonstrate in Tokyo shouting "Down with Japanese militarism!"

These things are very different in China. The Chinese government decides on its own whether to give modest compensation to the widows of dead miners. Ordinary workers and farmers are often in the position of issuing appeals to the very people who are oppressing them. Families of Beijing massacre victims to this day have police stationed at their doorways, lest they misbehave. And demonstrators may shout only about approved topics. Before we in China decide we are superior to Japan, we must address our own double standards.

But how long will these things remain different in China? As the people acquire more material comforts -- and they don't need government encouragement to do so -- they will become more likely to demand more freedom to enjoy those comforts.

(9) U.S. Foreign Policy

A short piece (via RCP) on what America can do about the ascent of China makes an interesting observation about China that both bears on what I just said and has foreign policy implications (in terms of Chinese stability).
We must always remember that Chinese economic success is built on the misery of its citizens. We may not be able to improve their lot directly, but we can pressure China toward liberalization -- by supporting jailed dissidents [and by] discouraging media conglomerates such as CNN from colluding with government censorship....
This is sound advice, and would certainly accelerate the process the Chi-Comms themselves have set in motion by shifting the attention of their people from seeking government prestige to seeking wealth, which is its own reward regardless of whether the government grants its stamp of approval.

-- CAV


5-5-05: Added hypertext anchor for Chavez's book giveaway.
11-27-05: Added anchor for Mexican crisis.

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