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

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

This morning’s key headlines from

  • 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, theoutgoing premier indicated that things have only gotten worse, withwidespread environmental destruction, a widening gap between rich andpoor, and endemic official corruption:

“Some of these problems have built up over time, whileothers have emerged in the course of economic and socialdevelopment, and still others have been caused by inadequacies andweaknesses in our government work.”

Mao Zedong in 1949 said:

“I hope the day will come when all you can see fromTiananmen Gate is a forest of tall chimneys belching out clouds ofsmoke.”

Mao’s dreams have become a reality, as Beijing’s skyline has manychimneys belching smoke. China uses coal for 70% of all its energyneeds, and consumes about as much coal as all other countriescombined.

But be careful what you wish for, because China’s environmentaldestruction has become increasingly noticeable and severe. Accordingto one expert:

“The biggest development in China lately has been theseepage of pollution into the ground water. Large-scalecontamination of the water table is a terrible thing that willharm future generations, and the whole world, because ground-waterpollution is very hard to clean up, and hugely expensive, andtakes a very long time.”

Even worse is the air pollution. In January, Bejing fine particlepollution rose to such high levels — 20 times the “safe” level –that it was difficult to breathe outdoors, and people were warned tostay indoors. In one city, a furniture factory burned down becausethe air was so thick with pollution that security guards didn’t noticethe smoke. Many of the country’s rivers are so polluted thatauthorities do not permit residents to even touch the water, not tomention use it to irrigate fields. Fruit and grain grown in thecountry’s contaminated and over-fertilized soil contains massiveamounts of pollutants, and are unsafe to eat. (Some of them areimported into the U.S.)

Although Chinese bloggers are still angry about corruption, and thewidening gap between rich and poor, the issue of environmentaldestruction has leapfrogged those issues, to the extent that the furyover toxic air, food and drinking water marks a political turningpoint. 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 ofChina’s Communist Party (CCP) are well aware of this history, and thefact that a new internal rebellion is now due, and possibly overdue.

In the same speech that China’s outgoing premier Wen Jiabao expressedgrave concern about widespread environmental destruction, a wideninggap between rich and poor, and endemic official corruption, heannounced 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 Chinesegovernment grew from 8,700 in 1993 to about 90,000 in 2010, accordingto several government-backed studies. Some estimates are higher, andthe government has not released official data for recent years.

People sometimes ask me how it’s possible for China to be preparingboth for a civil war and an external war with the United States. Theanswer is provided by looking back at World War II. China wasembroiled in a very bloody civil war from 1934 to 1949, but the twosides 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 toregister with the council. She signed up along with her 4-year-olddaughter Batoul, and her 2-year-old son, Omar. Nearly 4 million ofSyria’s 22 million people have been driven from their homes by thecivil war. Of the displaced, 2 million have sought cover in camps andmakeshift shelters across Syria, 1 million have registered with UNHCRin neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, and severalhundred thousand more fled the country but haven’t signed up with theUNHCR. Even worse, the number of refugees has been increasing everymonth. There were some 4,000 per day in December, and now it’s closeto 8,000 per day. This situation is creating an increasing crisis forneighboring countries, which are unable to handle the flood ofrefugees. AP

Arab League opens the door to arming Syrian rebels

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

“[The League] stressed the right of each stateaccording to its wishes to offer all types of self defense,including military, to support the resilience of the Syrian peopleand the Free [Syrian] Army.”

In addition, the Arab League offered the opposition Syrian NationalCoalition (SNC) to occupy Syria’s seat at the League. Syria wasexpelled from the League shortly in November 2011, after it becameclear that the regime of president Bashar al-Assad was conducting anextermination policy, targeting innocent people in their homes,hospitals and schools. It’s been rumored that Qatar and Saudi Arabiahave been secretly supplying weapons to the Syrian rebels for sometime, but this is the first time that supplying weapons has beenopenly approved. As we’ve been reporting, Syria is increasinglyturning into a proxy war. The National (UAE)

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