Kenny G. Visits Hong Kong Protests


From our China Real Time blog today:

Observers wondering who exactly the ‘foreign influences’ are that Beijing has so darkly accused of helping spur protests in Hong Kong got one possible glimpse — in the shape of American saxophonist Kenny G.

Photos of the curly-maned musician in Hong Kong began surfacing on social media Wednesday afternoon, with Mr. G posing with protesters on the scene, a cardigan tossed around his shoulder, before images of tents pitched across town.

Mr. G’s verified Twitter account appeared to confirm his visit, with the musician posting a smiling selfie backdropped by protest posters, with the accompanying caption: “in Hong Kong at the sight [sic] of the demonstration. I wish everyone a peaceful and positive conclusion to this situation.”

(Mr. G also traveled elsewhere in China earlier last month, performing multiple shows in cities from Chongqing to Shanghai. During that time, he also posted an image of himself in a neon-strung room playing music beside a man who bears a striking resemblance to Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan, with the commentary: “This is what happens when I go to China…My music is super popular there. Look at my Chinese big brother! He can sing.” Mr. Chan couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.)

And:

Queried on the subject at Wednesday’s daily foreign ministry news briefing in Beijing, authorities were distinctly less amused to see the musician pop up in the Chinese territory, which has been rocked by protesters demanding greater democracy in the former British colony. For weeks, party and pro-Beijing media have reiterated their belief that such protesters have been driven by foreign forces bent on undermining Chinese rule.

From the NYT back in May:

There are many things about modern China that defy easy explanation: parents posing their children next to live tigers, the sight of grown women wearing furry cat-ear headbands while shopping, the performance-art-like spectacle of strangers napping together in Ikea display beds.

But no mystery is more confounding than that ofthe 1989 smash-hit instrumental by the American saxophone superstar Kenny G.

For years the tune, in all its seductive woodwind glory, has been a staple of Chinese society. Every day, “Going Home” is piped into shopping malls, schools, train stations and fitness centers as a signal to the public that it is time, indeed, to go home.

The song in question:

Tweets of the day…

…just now from China’s official Xinhua news agency:

Story of the Day, U.S.-Asean Relations Edition

Following my post yesterday about President Obama’s upcoming Southeast Asia visit this weekend, I wanted share another story on U.S. engagement with the region.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “has ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review military ethics training in the wake of a series of investigations that involve high-ranking military officers’ conduct…”

And:

Speaking at a news conference in Bangkok earlier Thursday after renewing the U.S.’s military relationship with treaty ally Thailand, Mr. Panetta said he isn’t aware of any additional government or military officials who received emails from Ms. Kelley.

The scandal has emerged as a major embarrassment for the U.S. military establishment, overshadowing not only Mr. Panetta’s trip to Australia, Thailand and Cambodia, but also Mr. Obama’s scheduled visits to Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, where he plans to attend a major regional summit. The U.S. “pivot” back to the Pacific is a hallmark of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy, and analysts expect Washington to step up its bid re-engage with East Asia over the next four years.

Among other things, the visits to the region of top U.S. leaders are expected to focus on finding a common approach with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations on resolving competing territorial claims with China in the South China Sea. The U.S. also hopes to improve military-to-military cooperation in the region, including with the armed forces of Myanmar, until recently viewed with deep suspicion by Washington for its North Korea-backed weapons program.

“Given the rising military power of China and ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, there was a consensus—within Washington, anyway—that America has to increase its military presence in Southeast Asia,” said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “Expect a lot more ship visits, training exercises with the armed forces of Southeast Asia and capacity building support, especially with the Philippines, which is the weakest link in the Asean chain.”

WSJ on what the U.S.-Taiwan jet deal could mean for the S. China Sea dispute

An interesting story in today’s Wall Street Journal looks at what the U.S.-Taiwan jet issue means for the South China Sea dispute and China’s relations with Southeast Asian nations:

The Philippines and Indonesia shook off any concerns over a U.S. decision to forego selling new fighter jets to Taiwan, despite fears it could signal a reduction in American support for the region as China expands its military power.

The U.S. decision, reported Monday by the Wall Street Journal, means the Obama administration will upgrade Taiwan’s 146 Lockheed Martin F-16 A/B jets rather than selling it 66 new C/D models that the island has been seeking since 2006, according to a congressional official. Southeast Asian officials were watching the outcome closely to see how the U.S. would balance its growing commercial relationship with China with its commitment to help defend Taiwan against possible aggression from China. It is a subject of intense interest in Southeast Asia given ongoing disputes between many of its countries and China, especially over territorial claims in the resource-rich South China Sea.

(Emphasis mine.)

NYT: “China Passes Japan to Become No. 2 Economy”

NYT: “China Passes Japan to Become No. 2 Economy“:

After three decades of spectacular growth, China passed Japan in the second quarter to become the world’s second-largest economy behind the United States, according to government figures released early Monday.

The milestone, though anticipated for some time, is the most striking evidence yet that China’s ascendance is for real and that the rest of the world will have to reckon with a new economic superpower.

Related Newley.com post: “More on China, the U.S., GDP, and economic power.”

More on China, the U.S., GDP, and economic power

china_economy.png

One of the great pleasures I derive from blogging here is receiving feedback from knowledgeable and thoughtful readers. One such reader — a person who has asked not to be identified — wrote in to correct my Dec. 11 post about American misperceptions of Chinese economic might.

As you’ll recall, I linked to a post by the inimitable James Fallows, in which he pointed out a recent Pew report about American views on global economic power.

The report found that 44 percent of Americans think that China — not the U.S. — is the “top global economic power.” This despite the fact that in addition to other telling factors, China’s GDP is less than one third of America’s. (See chart on the right.)

As it happens, there’s more to the story. As the reader pointed out in an email to me, the issue is not merely the 44 percent of those surveyed who picked China. In addition, it’s telling to note that just 5 percent of respondents named the “EU countries.”

Indeed, when it comes to GDP alone, a look at the 2008 numbers from sources like the IMF and the CIA World Factbook demonstrate that the European Union’s collective economy is, in fact, larger than America’s. (See the graph of national GDPs; bigger version here.)

global_gdp_small.jpg

The CIA World Factbook’s 2008 report, for instance, says that the EU’s economy is worth $18.14 trillion — compared to $14.44 trillion for the U.S.

The IMF’s estimate is similar, while the World Bank puts the U.S. ahead of the Eurozone, since the Eurozone excludes the U.K. This Wikipedia page — List of Countries by GDP (nominal) — summarizes of the three reports quite nicely.

Now, back to the Pew report. Let’s not forget that the question was not “which country (or union) has the world’s largest GDP?”

Rather, the question was which country is the “world’s leading economic power.” Since the EU and Eurozone are not a single country, one can argue that they don’t wield as much economic power as the U.S. That’s because America, of course, is a single economic entity, while the EU cannot always act in a unified way based on the desires of its constituent members.

Fascinating stuff.

American misperceptions about China’s economic power

china_economy.png

Note: I have updated this post here.

Excellent post from James Fallows pointing out that a new Pew report shows that 44 percent of Americans think that the “top global economic power” is China. Just 27 percent of respondents correctly picked the U.S.

Yes, China owns a lot of American T-bills. And yes, China’s economy is developing rapidly. But China’s economic might is not as great as many people assume.

From an Oct. 22nd story in the Economist headlined “The Odd Couple: America should be much more confident in its dealings with its closest rival”:

China’s economy is still less than a third the size of America’s at market exchange-rates. Its GDP per head is one-fourteenth that of America. The innovation gap between the two countries remains huge. America’s defence budget is still six times China’s.

(Emphasis mine.)

Check out Fallows’s post (linked to above) for more info.

China-Myanmar pipeline project

WSJ: “Myanmar’s Neighbors Advance Pipeline Project

HSIPAW, Myanmar — China and its neighbors are moving ahead on a multibillion-dollar oil-and-gas pipeline project that promises to greatly enhance the financial strength of Myanmar’s military regime and boost its political clout in Asia.

That promise comes as the U.S. is seeking new ways to weaken Myanmar’s regime, which has used force and imprisonment to subdue political opposition and ethnic separatists over the years, and which some analysts fear could someday pose a threat to other countries as it builds up its military. Past strategies, including the use of economic sanctions to hobble Myanmar’s junta, have largely failed.

And:

When completed, the pipeline will help unlock large untapped deposits of natural gas off Myanmar’s coast and carry it hundreds of miles to southern China, expanding Myanmar’s role as one of Asia’s important energy exporters and enhancing its influence over other countries that rely on its supplies.

(Emphasis mine.)

There’s also a video and some graphics that are worth checking out.

UPDATE: This story appears to be available to non-WSJ subscribers via Google News, but the link I provided above seems to be subscriber-only.

UPDATE 2: I meant to mention this earlier, but U.S. Senator Jim Webb, who met with Aung San Suu Kyi in August, has often warned of China’s growing influence in Myanmar. News of this pipeline project would obviously be a case in point.

James Fallows podcast on China and technology

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Don’t miss award-winning journalist and author — not to mention uber-blogger — James Fallows discussing all things China and technology-related on the Sept. 2 installment of the Motley Fool podcast. You can find the 25-minute episode here. Fallows, a correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, recently returned to the US after living in China for several years.

President Bush’s Bangkok Speech

President Bush’s foreign policy speech here in Bangkok this morning focused on China and Myanmar.

Wall Street Journal:

U.S. President George W. Bush expressed his concern about the fate of political dissidents in China and his determination to bring an end to the “tyranny” of the military regime in Myanmar a day before he is expected to attend the opening of the Olympic Games in China.

In the speech delivered Thursday in the Thai capital, Mr. Bush stressed that the stability and prosperity of Asia require the strong involvement of both China and the U.S. to ensure that the region sustains its role as an important growth engine for the global economy.

He also emphasized the U.S.’s economic engagement in the Asian-Pacific region, touting bilateral free-trade pacts with Singapore, Australia and South Korea while signaling Washington’s commitment to pursue similar trade talks with Malaysia and Thailand. Mr. Bush urged China to do more to help achieve a successful outcome to the stalled Doha round of talks at the World Trade Organization to improve access to member countries’ markets.

New York Times:

On the eve of the Olympic Games in Beijing, President Bush said Thursday that he had “deep concerns” about basic freedoms in China and criticized the detention of dissidents and believers, even as he praised the extraordinary gains China has made since he first visited more than three decades ago.

Mr. Bush’s remarks in Bangkok, part of a speech on Asia, distilled and recast previous statements critical of China’s record on human rights. But delivered only hours before his departure for Beijing on Thursday evening, they represented a rebuke to China’s leaders, though a measured one.

Washington Post:

President Bush on Thursday used some of his bluntest language to date on human rights in China, saying in a speech here before he flew to Beijing for the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony that “America stands in firm opposition” to China’s detention of political dissidents and religious activists.

Reuters video on YouTube: “Bush faces China balancing act”