World View: China's Wen Jiabao Warns of Unrest, Widespread Environmental Destruction

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • China's Wen Jiabao warns of corruption and widespread environmental destruction
  • China announces big increase in domestic security budget
  • Syrian refugees top 1 million, flooding into neighboring countries
  • Arab League opens the door to arming Syrian rebels

China's Wen Jiabao warns of corruption and widespread environmental destruction

Beijing's belching smokestacks viewed from Tiananmen Square (Reuters)
Beijing's belching smokestacks viewed from Tiananmen Square (Reuters)

In 2007, China's premier Wen Jiabao famously said that China is 'unsteady, unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable. In this week's speech, the outgoing premier indicated that things have only gotten worse, with widespread environmental destruction, a widening gap between rich and poor, and endemic official corruption:

"Some of these problems have built up over time, while others have emerged in the course of economic and social development, and still others have been caused by inadequacies and weaknesses in our government work."

Mao Zedong in 1949 said:

"I hope the day will come when all you can see from Tiananmen Gate is a forest of tall chimneys belching out clouds of smoke."

Mao's dreams have become a reality, as Beijing's skyline has many chimneys belching smoke. China uses coal for 70% of all its energy needs, and consumes about as much coal as all other countries combined.

But be careful what you wish for, because China's environmental destruction has become increasingly noticeable and severe. According to one expert:

"The biggest development in China lately has been the seepage of pollution into the ground water. Large-scale contamination of the water table is a terrible thing that will harm future generations, and the whole world, because ground-water pollution is very hard to clean up, and hugely expensive, and takes a very long time."

Even worse is the air pollution. In January, Bejing fine particle pollution rose to such high levels -- 20 times the "safe" level -- that it was difficult to breathe outdoors, and people were warned to stay indoors. In one city, a furniture factory burned down because the air was so thick with pollution that security guards didn't notice the smoke. Many of the country's rivers are so polluted that authorities do not permit residents to even touch the water, not to mention use it to irrigate fields. Fruit and grain grown in the country's contaminated and over-fertilized soil contains massive amounts of pollutants, and are unsafe to eat. (Some of them are imported into the U.S.)

Although Chinese bloggers are still angry about corruption, and the widening gap between rich and poor, the issue of environmental destruction has leapfrogged those issues, to the extent that the fury over toxic air, food and drinking water marks a political turning point. Radio Free Asia and Spiegel

China announces big increase in domestic security budget

China's history is filled with huge, massive internal rebellions (civil wars), the most recent of which were the Taiping Rebellion (1850-64) and Mao's Communist Revolution (1934-49). The leaders of China's Communist Party (CCP) are well aware of this history, and the fact that a new internal rebellion is now due, and possibly overdue.

In the same speech that China's outgoing premier Wen Jiabao expressed grave concern about widespread environmental destruction, a widening gap between rich and poor, and endemic official corruption, he announced that military spending will rise 10% to $114 billion and, more significantly, he announced that spending for "domestic security" will rise to an even higher figure, $124 billion.

The increase underscores the CCP's fears of increasing popular unrest. The number of "mass incidents" of unrest recorded by the Chinese government grew from 8,700 in 1993 to about 90,000 in 2010, according to several government-backed studies. Some estimates are higher, and the government has not released official data for recent years.

People sometimes ask me how it's possible for China to be preparing both for a civil war and an external war with the United States. The answer is provided by looking back at World War II. China was embroiled in a very bloody civil war from 1934 to 1949, but the two sides temporarily united to fight the external war. Reuters

Syrian refugees top 1 million, flooding into neighboring countries

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) has identified Bushra, a 19-year-old mother of two, as the one-millionth Syrian refugee to register with the council. She signed up along with her 4-year-old daughter Batoul, and her 2-year-old son, Omar. Nearly 4 million of Syria's 22 million people have been driven from their homes by the civil war. Of the displaced, 2 million have sought cover in camps and makeshift shelters across Syria, 1 million have registered with UNHCR in neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, and several hundred thousand more fled the country but haven't signed up with the UNHCR. Even worse, the number of refugees has been increasing every month. There were some 4,000 per day in December, and now it's close to 8,000 per day. This situation is creating an increasing crisis for neighboring countries, which are unable to handle the flood of refugees. AP

Arab League opens the door to arming Syrian rebels

With the flood of Syrian refugees threatening to destabilize the entire region, on Wednesday the Arab League for the first time voted to say that Arab States are free to offer military support to Syrian rebels. Previously, the League had said that only humanitarian aid should be provided. According to the final statement,

"[The League] stressed the right of each state according to its wishes to offer all types of self defense, including military, to support the resilience of the Syrian people and the Free [Syrian] Army."

In addition, the Arab League offered the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) to occupy Syria's seat at the League. Syria was expelled from the League shortly in November 2011, after it became clear that the regime of president Bashar al-Assad was conducting an extermination policy, targeting innocent people in their homes, hospitals and schools. It's been rumored that Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been secretly supplying weapons to the Syrian rebels for some time, but this is the first time that supplying weapons has been openly approved. As we've been reporting, Syria is increasingly turning into a proxy war. The National (UAE)


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