Recent Far East Articles

How Cameron undermined the case for Trident with his article today

by Sunny Hundal     April 4, 2013 at 11:19 am

Prime Minister David Cameron has today written an op-ed for the Daily Telegraph arguing that ‘we need a nuclear deterrent more than ever’.

But rather than making an effective case for Trident it shows how shallow the arguments are, and in fact undermines the entire project.

Cameron’s claims that we need Trident centres around one country. “Last year North Korea unveiled a long-range ballistic missile which it claims can reach the whole of the United States. If this became a reality it would also affect the whole of Europe, including the UK,” he writes. But this seems to be drinking North Korean Kool Aid – accepting their discredited claims at face value.

In reality the dictatorship has a few mid-range (1800 miles) missiles that would cover South Korea, Japan and possibly the US territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. But even these missles are untested according to most independent experts. It has test-fired some long-range rockets in the past but they failed. The idea that North Korea has developed an inter-continental ballistic missile, fitted with a nuclear warhead, that could hit the United States is a fantasy worthy of the North Korean propaganda machine. The Prime Minister undermines his entire project by asking us to take this ridiculous claim at face value.

Cameron has clearly timed the piece well. Last night North Korea escalated tensions against the South and the US by moving mid-range missiles to the east coast. It also locked South Korean workers out of a joint factory complex and said it would restart a previously shut-down nuclear reactor.

But this just exposes how ridiculous the situation is. South Korea may have good grounds to argue for a nuclear deterrent, but the UK does not feature in the military considerations. We aren’t even required to play a part. North Korea is clearly a threat but it is not our threat, and it’s highly unlikely to be a threat to the UK in the coming future. Of course, Trident is a long-term project, but it comes with an opportunity cost: resources are diverted to a big unwieldy deterrent rather than smaller, more cost-effective measures to tackle the threats the UK is likely to face.

In other words the Prime Minister is calling to spend billions on our behalf on a weapon for an enemy that isn’t even concerned by us.

How about a focus on the threats we are likely to face in the future?

Furthermore, it’s not even clear why a full nuclear deterrent is needed more than a scaled-down version. The United States is in fact looking to change course in dealing with North Korea after realising that a show of force may have provoked the crisis further. And what does our Prime Minister want? He wants a big show of force in the foolish belief that this will somehow deter North Korea. If they are willing to threaten the United States why would they even care how many nuclear weapons we have?

I’m not a pacifist and neither do I think it’s likely the UK will get anywhere by unilaterally disarming itself. Clearly, multi-lateral treaties to reduce nuclear stockpiles are the way forward. So what kind of a signal would such a full renewal of Trident send to other countries such as India and Pakistan, who refuse to sign the NPT and keep testing nuclear weapons? Why wouldn’t they use the UK as an excuse to continue arming their stockpiles and putting the lives of millions of people at stake.

And lastly, the decision to spend billions more on a remote threat rather than using that money to help people in the UK undermines the claim that ‘there is no money left’. There clearly is – it’s just earmarked for the sorts of vanity projects that Conservatives like rather than for the most vulnerable in our society.

Could China’s new leader change its relationship with the west?

by Guest     November 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm

by Jack Torrance

Rising star of the Chinese Communist Party – Xi Jinping – will take the initial steps towards becoming Paramount Leader of China this month.

As the country looks set to overtake the USA as the largest economy on the planet during his ten year term it’s worth considering what his reign will mean for China’s relationship with the west.

The most striking thing about Xi Jinping isn’t his plan for the future of China. It’s that virtually nobody knows what it is.

This is owed to the nature of China’s succession process, which forgoes the campaigns, manifestos and leadership debates which have preceded the US presidential election which also takes place this month.

For this reason it is difficult to anticipate the impact Xi’s reign will have on Sino-western relations. But there are some clues of what is to come.

On the face of it Xi seems fairly western-orientated. He has spoken about the importance of strengthening Sino-American economic ties, describing the symbiotic relationship between the two countries as “an unstoppable river”.

A recent trip to the US was well received, with Xi’s warm and engaging presence being contrasted with current president Hu Jintao. During the trip he visited Iowa in what has been seen as an attempt to reassure normal Americans that China is an economic friend.

His pro-business attitude has been widely reported and remarkably he even said: “government should be a limited government.” This position should play well, both for foreign investors interested in China’s markets and for western leaders eager to have China as an ally.

Despite this, there are a number of issues which have the potential to become contentious.

As a “princeling,” one of the descendants of those revolutionaries who founded the PRC, Xi has Marxist thought deeply ingrained in his history. He spent time as a youth working in China’s “yellow earth” rural farming communities during the Cultural Revolution.

It has been suggested that as a result of this experience Xi became “redder than red” and he has proposed to address the vast inequality currently experienced by China.

He has also been outspoken about China’s critics abroad. Western hostility to China has been increasing in recent times, particularly in the US. On a visit to Mexico, Xi berated “foreigners with full bellies and nothing better to do engage in finger-pointing at us.”

He continued: “First, China does not export revolution; second, it does not export famine and poverty; and third, it does not mess around with you. So what else is there to say?”

Regardless of his own intentions, Xi will ultimately be beholden to the political and economic realities his reign will face.

Nationalism is an increasingly important phenomenon in China, and ongoing discontent with western positions on Taiwan, Tibet and human rights could force Xi to be more assertive towards other leaders.

Similarly, a fragile global economy has the potential to drive China’s economic focus inwards, preventing Xi from engaging more with the west even if he wants to.

How popular is Nuclear energy exactly?

by Guest     March 14, 2011 at 9:10 am

contribution by Climate Sock

Caring about international public views on nuclear power shouldn’t be at the top of many people’s to-do list right now. For one, donating to the Red Cross should be a lot of places higher (and that’s also, sort of, what I’m going to write about).

But pretty soon now, once the stories from Japan of individual tragedy and wonderful survival have been played out, much of the media will turn to the question of whether nuclear power is safe. And a part of that reporting will be, whether people think that nuclear power is safe.
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How China is tearing up the rules on globalisation and wages

by Guest     February 17, 2011 at 11:20 am

contribution by Owen Tudor

Yesterday’s FT contained a fascinating article reporting that China’s wage rates have increased in real terms by over 10% a year in the last decade (ie they have more than doubled since 2000), but that productivity has risen commensurately.

There are huge lessons here for trade unions addressing what has been one of the most persistent agenda items for the International TUC: the impact of China on everyone else’s living standards.
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The Chinese economic miracle could still come crashing down

by Guest     February 15, 2011 at 4:05 pm

contribution by Ranjit Sidhu

With China overtaking Japan as the second biggest economy, economists are falling over themselves to tell us that in 10 years China will be bigger than the USA.

These were the same economists who were so confidently claiming in the 1980s that Japan was going to take over the USA in, yep, ten years. Lets take a step back. The state of the Chinese economy right now is flux.
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How China’s 40m unmarried men might impact the world

by Guest     November 7, 2010 at 7:46 pm

contribution by Matthew Turner

In 20 years China is forecasted to have 40 million men without female partners.

Chinese societal and government-influenced male preference, coupled with draconian birth control, has fostered a situation in which China faces managing the greatest male surplus in recorded history.
This task should not be underestimated. A lack of sexual affection results in an increase in violence.

James Prescott, a reputable neuropsychologist, explains this relationship in his paper ‘Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence’ (1975). Prescott asserts that the greatest threat to world peace comes from countries where people are deprived of physical affection as children and sexual gratification as adults.
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Does China threaten the environment?

by Left Outside     August 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm

If China did not exist as an excuse to avoid tackling Climate Change it would have to be invented. In fact it has been invented, in a way.

I cannot deny that China belches out a colossal volume of pollutants, but it is currently lifting people out of poverty in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

If the Copenhagen talks of last year overtly confirmed the West’s impotence in the face of rising emissions, the evidence of China’s efforts are a little more subtle.
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China is a very bad model for the left

by Paul Sagar     January 31, 2010 at 1:36 pm

There’s a worrying tendency emerging in some sections of the left to cite China as a positive example for the UK.

At the Progressive London” conference, Ken Livingstone gave a speech in which he declared that the proof that government investment ends recessions lies in China’s staggering rates of state spending, and enormous correlate levels of growth.

Later, John Ross of Socialist Economic Bulletin (and Ken’s former economic adviser) took some time out from claiming that Britain’s national debt didn’t need to be repaid, that the triple-A rating is meaningless, and that all spending cuts are completely a choice and not imposed by brute economic circumstances, to cite China as proof-positive that government-led investment ends recessions. He waxed lyrical about China’s 9% growth in the last quarter, and how the Chinese government simply told banks to lend and – hey presto – they lent.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for keeping government spending as high as possible to protect the tentative recovery. But citing China as a model for UK growth is idiotic, and deeply troubling.
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Webb’s mission to Burma

by Neil Robertson     August 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm

You’re not exactly spoilt for choice, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more interesting member of the U.S. Congress than Jim Webb. A decorated Vietnam veteran who still defends the decision to go to war; an outspoken opponent of the invasion of Iraq; a journalist & author; a former Secretary of the Navy; a former Republican and now the Senior Democratic Senator from the traditionally conservative state of Virginia.

But it’s not just Webb’s rich life story which makes him interesting; he’s also won admirers for the kinds of issues he works on. Whilst widely-regarded as conservative, Webb is one of the few politicians to speak out about the vast inequalities of wealth in the United States, even going so far as to speak of ‘class struggle‘. He’s also started trying to raise awareness about America’s broken prisons, and is proposing reforms to the criminal justice system and drug laws which might lead to fewer people rotting away in jails.

But it’s Webb’s mission to Burma which will stand as the most significant moment in the Senator’s short legislative career. As the highest ranking American to visit this vile dictatorship in 10 years, there’ll be much comment in the next few days over what might have been achieved, what could be achieved in the future and what this reveals about the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

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Why Hannan is wrong about Singapore too

by Unity     August 14, 2009 at 3:07 pm

So, in the last couple of days I think we’ve safely established that Daniel Hannan is a complete and utter twat.

That said, the full extent of Hannan’s outright twattery only becomes fully apparent when you examine the background to his assertion that the NHS should be replaced with a Singapore-style system of personal health accounts because…

The Singapore system produces better outcomes than ours for half the price.

Taken at face value on a comparison of key health indicators and taking into account the relative proportion of GDP spent on healthcare in the UK and Singapore that’s perfectly true but it rather ignores a very important and somewhat unusual feature of the Singaporean system, one that makes it very different from healthcare systems in both Britain and the US.

When it comes to providing healthcare to its citizens, both the supply and the price of healthcare in Singapore is actively regulation by the Singaporean government, in both the public and the private sector in order to control costs and avoid the kind of significant inflationary pressures that pretty much every other healthcare system in the world has had to deal with.
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