Thursday, April 8, 2010

One Cheer for Barack Obama

Protest season is starting early this year for the pro-Chinese democracy and anti-communist movement. Each year, April 15 memorializes the death of Hu Yaobang, the reformist Chinese leader who died in 1989 -- and whose death kicked off the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement. (Events proceed through April 17, when Chinese college students first marched into Tiananmen Square, up to June 4, the anniversary of the tragic Tiananmen Square massacre when the Chinese army finally used live ammunition to clear Beijing and Tiananmen Square of civilian protestors in that uprising.)

This year, April 12-13 will be the occasion of a visit to Washington DC by the Chinese Communist leader, Hu Jintao. (Hu will join Obama and 45 more national leaders for a Nuclear Security Summit.)

This means that it's time for protestors to head for Washington, or for the buses that will carry Free Tibet protestors from New York - Washington. The rumor mill says that Hu Jintao will stay at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and will meet with Barack Obama on Monday morning. The summit venue is the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Protestors may also appear at the Chinese embassy.

Meanwhile, our headline commenced to say "One Cheer for Barack Obama." In truth, we can offer multiple cheers for recent actions of the Obama administration:

- Raising its rhetoric for internet freedom in China (backing up Google on their side of a dispute with Communist China);
- Choosing to support Taiwan's defense with arms sales;
- Meeting with Tibet's leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Those are three steps, short of trade sanctions, that seem to get tough on China. At the end of day, many previous administrations have scolded China, sold arms to Taiwan, and met the Dalai Lama. At the end of day, these steps are not very new. We've seen these postures from America before. So, when our headline offers One Cheer for Barack Obama, that's about something more than the mentioned three steps.

It is accurate to observe that the Chinese Communist Party has multiple contending high level factions, and seemingly, there is always a power struggle behind the facade of Communist unity.

Recently, Obama has chosen to get tough about Chinese currency manipulation, and that earns him one cheer from the China Support Network. (Could he earn two or three cheers from us? Yes, easily. Read on...)

We have described China's currency manipulation as economic dirty pool. It tilts the playing field, making American exports more costly and Chinese exports less expensive. It swells the U.S. trade deficit, current accounts deficit, and balance of payments deficit with China. The consequences of a trade deficit (for normal Americans) mean lower employment, downward wage pressure, and upward inflation pressure. As businesses based in America become less competitive with their Chinese competition, this hollows out the American middle class.

So. The currency issue speaks directly to the "War on the Middle Class," as experienced in America (also known as neo-liberal trade policy). Barack Obama can certainly have one cheer for getting tough in this department. Recent history on this issue includes,

- 2008: Campaign rhetoric was tough talk, promising to address China's currency manipulation.
- 2009: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner wimps out and fails to name China as a currency manipulator.
- 2010: Obama wants to get serious on this issue. The Treasury was set to release a report on April 15. That report might name China as a currency manipulator, if Geithner doesn't wimp out again.

Late word is that the administration is delaying the release of the April 15 report, even though it is Congressionally mandated to say whether China is a currency manipulator. The change of timing is likely due to ongoing negotiations that the administration hopes will result in China's floating its currency.

This ties back to the internal power struggle of the Chinese Communist Party, alluded to above. One faction in China is sympathetic to the West's interest in fair competition and a level playing field. Within China, preparations have been made as if to implement a decision to float China's currency. So, one faction wants to pull the trigger, make the Yuan float, and play ball with the U.S. administration.

The other faction in China is dead set against raising the value of the Yuan. They fear the political instability that may follow social instability that may follow rising unemployment that may follow revaluing China's currency. In other words, they are dictators who would care to cling to power. We might call this "the unfair faction" in China, and call the others "the reasonable faction" in China.

The Obama administration is negotiating, perhaps wondering, "Hey -- what if the reasonable faction came to the fore?" As a digression, we at the China Support Network have been wondering that about China for 21 years.

This negotiating strategy of Obama's hopes for the reasonable faction to turn China into a reasonable player in world affairs. As long as this idea is on the table, the China Support Network would like to point out how Obama could amplify this gambit, and thereby earn "three cheers from the China Support Network."

- Urge the end of currency manipulation. (one cheer)
- Urge the end of Laogai and Laojiao, the Chinese systems of slave labor. (one cheer)
- Urge the end of the Falun Gong crackdown. (one cheer)

In each case, China has an internal power struggle, in which one faction is already prepared for China to shift course.

To abolish Laogai and Laojiao is an idea that has supporters at high levels, who have studied the issue and bandied around the idea of abolition.

And, the Falun Gong crackdown is a crime against humanity initiated by the previous President, Jiang Zemin. Recently, Jiang and his henchmen have been indicted by high courts in Spain and Argentina, for the persecution of Falun Gong. And the rumor mill now suggests that Jiang Zemin has been losing out in his power struggle with the Hu Jintao faction.

For the Falun Gong, it is a ray of hope to be aware that Jiang Zemin is finally on the way out of power, behind the scenes in China.

That means that it is now more realistic to urge that Hu Jintao must end the crackdown, the persecution, and the campaign of genocide that has been carried out against Falun Gong from 1999 to the present.

If Obama "gets on the page" to make these three demands of China, then we at the China Support Network would be far more inclined to say:

-- Three cheers for Barack Obama --

No comments: