Monday, 11 June 2012


Afghanistan being admitted into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as observers is a positive move for peace in the region. Afghanistan's only chance of any semblance of stability, territorial integrity and people-centred development is for it to escape the clutches of the imperialists and develop positive relations with its regional neighbours.

But this is exactly what nato fears, and nato is frantically trying to cajole and bribe and prepare the Taliban and other factions in Afghanistan for continued war against the SCO countries once nato draws down its occupation by 2014.

The negotiations with the Taliban and nato are, one can be sure, around exactly these issues. The fact that nato has opened a Taliban office in one of the most slavish statelets - Qatar (also host to the yanks biggest military base in the region) - shows the bribery that is taking place towards the Taliban.

It remains to be seen what splits will occur if any amongst the Taliban, perhaps some elements of the Taliban will not want to do the bidding of the west, but if the Arab revolts are anything to go by, one cannot be sure, but on the other hand perhaps the Afghan patriots can prove they are not slaves like so many Arab organisations currently in the nato-managed counterrevolution going on in Libya and Syria today.

At the same time, one can be sure that the SCO countries are also in negotiation with all sections of the Afghan political spectrum, including those who have and are fighting nato, and Russia like nato has a long history of involvement in Afghanistan, and will have learnt all manner of lessons in order to defend Afghanistan and itself for nato aggression and dirty tricks.

In the article below you can already see the imperialist reflex to divide and rule when the article plays up some wishful thinking divisions between the Russians and Chinese on Afghanistan:

"Moscow also has offered generous assistance to rehabilitate Soviet-era dams and power stations and is exploring natural gas exploitation and infrastructure contracts — putting it on a potential collision course with China."

There is no sign for the time being that China and Russia are on any kind of collision course about any issue of politics, let alone Afghanistan. But our side in the Global South should be constantly aware and assertively counteracting divide and rule strategy and tactics of our enemy.

Watch this space, as we may yet see a even more intense re-run of the war in Afghanistan if nato gets its way. On the other hand, one hopes that the SCO and other nations of the Global South can help Afghanistan to fend off the imperialists and finally start nation building.

Sukant Chandan, Sons of Malcolm

Central Asia group admits Afghanistan as observer


BEIJING –  China, Russia and four Central Asian states granted Afghanistan observer status in their regional group Thursday, moving to consolidate ties with the impoverished, war-torn nation before most foreign combat troops depart by the end of 2014.

Chinese President Hu Jintao announced the plan at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's annual summit in Beijing.

Russia and China have long seen the six-nation group as a way to counter U.S. influence in Central Asia, and hope to play a significant role in Afghanistan's future development, especially in economic reconstruction. Granting Afghanistan observer status will strengthen their contacts, something Beijing and Moscow hope will dilute U.S. influence and more closely align Kabul's policies with their own aims.

The SCO also recommitted itself to closer security and economic ties and to combating drug trafficking, extremism and terrorism.

"All the member states should implement the agreement on striking the three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism," Hu told other leaders at a morning session. "We should establish and improve a system of cooperation in security and take coordinative actions to narrow the space of activities of the three forces, get rid of drug deals and other organized cross-border criminal activities."

Afghanistan, whose president, Hamid Karzai, attended the summit, joins India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as SCO observer states. The group also admitted Turkey as one of its three dialogue partners.

Granting observer status aims to strengthen "political, economic and civilian cooperation between the SCO states and Afghanistan," Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping told reporters.

Underscoring China's growing economic dominance in Central Asia, Hu opened the summit by saying China would offer a $10 billion loan to support economic development and cooperation among SCO member states. No details were immediately given on how the money would be used.

Despite the warming political ties, the SCO has yet to declare a unified strategy on Afghanistan and shows little sign of filling the void left by the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign forces.

Already, Russia and fellow SCO member nations Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are doing their part to ensure an orderly NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, having agreed to allow the reverse transport of alliance equipment after Pakistan shut down southern supply routes six months ago.

The fourth Central Asian member of the SCO is Tajikistan.

The NATO pullout will also prompt the end of military operations out of Kyrgyzstan's Manas air base, fulfilling China and Russia's oft-stated opposition to a permanent U.S. presence in Central Asia.

While the SCO's security plans in Afghanistan remain unclear, economic outreach looks set to lead the way.

Firms from China — the world's second-largest economy — already have moved into Afghanistan, where officials hope that vast untapped mineral deposits will help offset the loss of foreign aid once foreign troops withdraw. China shares a small stretch of border with Afghanistan.

The U.S. Defense Department has estimated the value of Afghanistan's mineral reserves at $1 trillion. Other estimates have pegged it at $3 trillion or more.

In December, China's state-owned National Petroleum Corp. signed a deal allowing it to become the first foreign company to exploit Afghanistan's oil and natural gas reserves. That comes three years after the China Metallurgical Construction Co. signed a contract to develop the Aynak copper mine in Logar province. Beijing's $3.5 billion stake in the mine is the largest foreign investment in Afghanistan.

China's government has also helped train and equip some security units and government offices, invested in infrastructure, healthcare and education, and offered scholarships to Afghan students.

Russia, which lost nearly 15,000 troops in its disastrous 1979-1989 invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, appears keen to recover some of its lost influence there. A key concern for Moscow is stemming the flow of heroin into Russia, to be met by increased intelligence work in the country and bolstered border security in surrounding states.

Moscow also has offered generous assistance to rehabilitate Soviet-era dams and power stations and is exploring natural gas exploitation and infrastructure contracts — putting it on a potential collision course with China.


China summit seen as counterpunch to US moves


BEIJING – Will an international summit hosted by China that includes major “movers and shakers” in Asia, including Iran, Russia, India and Afghanistan, lead to an eastern version of NATO?

“Absolutely not,” Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping told NBC News.

Cheng was speaking at a media event as some 16 heads of state and top officials, representing more than half of the world’s population, have gathered as members, observers and dialogue partners of the innocuous-sounding Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an economic and anti-terrorist security bloc initiated by China and Russia in 2001.

The meeting comes as China’s rising profile has raised questions about a possible power struggle between the U.S. and Beijing, with the recent Asia tour of U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta highlighting America’s effort to strengthen military alliances and partnerships in the region.

And as a sign of efforts to dilute U.S. influence, the summit granted observer status to Afghanistan on Thursday, a move should position China and the bloc to cultivate ties and play a greater role in the impoverished war-torn country even before NATO ends its military mission by 2014.

Already, Chinese firms have moved into Afghanistan, with designs on the country’s untapped trillion-dollar mineral and energy resources.

Granting observer status and inviting Afghan President Hamid Karzai will help to strengthen “political, economic and civilian cooperation between the SCO states and Afghanistan,” said Cheng at the media event.

“No military alliance” but…

When NBC News asked Cheng if the Shanghai Cooperation Organization would become an “eastern NATO” or a military alliance in the future, he very firmly downplayed the possibility.

“The main purpose is politics, economics and security and under no circumstances will the SCO become a military organization,” he said..

“But I personally think that, as the international environment becomes more complex, the SCO should enhance its cooperation with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), for the sake of peace and stability in Central Asia,” he added.

It’s extremely rare for Chinese senior diplomats to offer their personal views to foreign media, and Cheng’s pronouncements may be China’s trial-balloon for new security thinking.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization, of which China is not a member, is a defense alliance formed in 1992 by Russia and former Soviet Republics, which Russia has been trying to reinvigorate in recent years, with stronger military contingents to counter the “eastward expansion of NATO,” among other threats.

By using the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a vehicle to coordinate closely with the Collective Security Treaty Organization, China may be hoping to benefit from stronger military ties with Russia, while avoiding the pitfalls of a formal military alignment.

“It is my personal view,” Vice-Minister Cheng emphasized to NBC News, “but I will try to push for it."

“The peace and stability of Central Asia is related to China’s core interests, we will not allow the unrest in West Asia and North Africa to spread to Central Asia,” he said, referring to the threat of Arab-style upheavals.

America should not worry

“I don’t think America should worry about China’s Central Asia strategy,” said Professor Shi Yinhong, a leading international affairs expert at Renmin University, one of China’s top research institutions.

“There is no possibility for SCO to become a formal military alliance like NATO, but there can be greater security cooperation among SCO’s member-countries,” he told NBC News.

Nonetheless, Shi conceded there are “some elements" of counter-balancing strategy in China’s latest moves.

“China has neither the stomach nor the power to confront America’s strategic advantage in East
Asia, but China has the capability to improve cooperation in Central Asia,” he said.

“China’s difficulty in East Asia is a motivation for China to do good diplomacy in Central Asia, otherwise things will become very difficult for China,” he explained.


Chinese experts say India will not ally with US against Beijing


BEIJING: Chinese analysts say that US efforts to make India part of its alliance against China will not succeed India pursued independent foreign policy focusing on its national interests.

US defence secretary Leon Panetta's visit to New Delhi is as part of Washington's efforts to make it part of alliance against Beijing but India's interest lie with Beijing, Wang Dehua, a specialist on South Asia studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies said.

"It seems that the US is sparing no efforts in forging a semi-circle of alliance against China from the South" as Panetta has attended the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore and afterward visited Vietnam and India, Wang, a specialist on South Asia told state-run Global Times which carried an article highlighting Panetta's visit to New Delhi.

"But India has its own agenda in the region," Wang said noting that India wants to be independent in making its own foreign policies while maximising its national interests.

"For example, India has refrained from becoming deeply involved in the South China Sea rows because it viewed any friction with China as being against its fundamental national interests," Wang said.

"India's interests lie in wider economic and cultural cooperation with China. This is China's opportunity to break up the US intention to contain China," Wang said.

Recent write-ups in the Chinese media were consistent with expectations that India would remain independent.

Another article in the Chinese version of the Global Times said that China should would work to improve bilateral ties with "clear goals" to strengthen friendship taking into consideration New Delhi's independent foreign policy and its recent decision to pull out of South China Sea oil blocks exploration.

"For a long time, India has not figured as an important centre of Chinese foreign policy and China has not decided on a clear goal in its India policy", the write up published in Huanqiu Shibao, the Chinese version of the hardline Global Times daily run by the ruling Communist Party of China, (CPC) said two days ago.

"Now, the activity of the Indian military in the Indian Ocean has increased and the Indian Navy is also sailing more and more towards the east, lack of mutual trust may lead to both sides adopting a mistaken strategy. China should have clear strategic goals towards India", it said.



Prior to his visit to Afghanistan, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in India seeking a stronger defense partnership. India however has not obliged. Going with the non-alignment policy that the country has followed for decades, India says discussions are the only way forward.

When Leon Panetta call calling to New Delhi, everyone knew this won't be easy for India. With years of defense relationship, which has been mired by suspicion because of Pakistan, everyone wondered if India would bite the bullet of having a defense partnership with US in the Asia Pacific but that was not to be. Leon Panetta though made the reason for his visit to India very clear.

Leon Panetta, US Defense Secretary, said, "Today, we have growing economic, social and diplomatic ties that benefit both of our nations, but for this relationship to truly provide security for this region and for the world, we will need to deepen our defense and security cooperation. This is why I have come to India."

India was the last country on Leon Panetta's Asia trip. At the start of the trip he had promised to enhance US presence in the Asia Pacific region. The change in strategy is being seen as an effort by United States to counter China’s dominance in the region but India has long resisted any military cooperation. Even if US and India are on the way warmer than earlier, but India is not ready for an alliance.

India is part of United States strategic shift towards Asia Pacific but India is treading every step cautiously and sticking with its non-alignment policy. Despite no agreement on a defense alliance, Leon Panetta said India's role in security in Asia is important and this includes Afghanistan.

Leon Panetta also said, "I urge India's leaders to continue with additional support to Afghanistan through trade, investment, reconstruction and help for Afghan security forces"

Leon Panetta met the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan singh, National security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and defense minister AK Antony. Talks include defense issues and also remain of US troops killed in air crashes over north-eastern India during World War II. It was last year when US president Barack Obama called Asia-pacific region a top priorirty in its security policy but this trip was putting that policy into practice.


The usa has made it publicly clear it is stepping up its containment and regime change war policies in relation to China for some months now. China is working on developing positive and mutually beneficial relations with its Asian neighbours, this is not however proceeding as well as it should in all places. Of particular concern are Sino-Vietnamese relations, although Vietnam has seen China being its historical coloniser, the socialist nature of both countries, and their shared experience of imperialist aggression should provide some of the basis for a strategic unity. This is not yet quite happening. The Phillipines on the other hand is an old reactionary ally of the usa, and important to its hegemonic strategy.

Sukant Chandan, Friends of China

Obama Expresses Support for Philippines in China Rift


WASHINGTON - A festering quarrel that began over rare coral, giant clams and sharks in a distant sea made its way to the Oval Office on Friday, as President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines sought the backing of President Obama in a maritime dispute with China.

The Philippines and China have been locked in a tense standoff for two months over rights to a triangular cluster of reefs and rocks in the South China Sea known as Scarborough Shoal. While Mr. Aquino said he did not want to drag the United States into the conflict, he clearly hoped for Mr. Obama's diplomatic support.

And he got it, if obliquely, on Friday. Mr. Obama told reporters after the meeting with Mr. Aquino that the United States and the Philippines would "consult closely together" as part of "the announced pivot by the United States back to Asia," which he said should serve as a reminder that "in fact, the United States considers itself, and is, a Pacific power."

Mr. Obama did not mention China or the standoff at Scarborough Shoal, but he said that he and Mr. Aquino discussed the need for "a strong set of international norms and rules governing maritime disputes in the region."

Still, his message was aimed at China, which has asserted sweeping claims over the South China Sea, touching off disputes with several other countries that border the sea. The Obama administration has countered China's muscle-flexing by shoring up alliances with old partners like the Philippines and Australia and cultivating ties with new ones like Myanmar.

In the case of the Philippines, that has included American help in upgrading aging military equipment to improve its ability to defend itself, as well as a Philippine agreement to allow more American troops and ships to rotate through the country, though not to re-establish Americans bases there.

But critics of any United States' military presence said they feared the Friday meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr. Aquino would lead to the stationing of American forces in the Philippines without the formal opening of a base. "Aquino is single-handedly reversing the gains from the removal of the U.S. military bases 20 years ago," Renato Reyes, secretary general of the left-leaning group Bayan Muna, said in a statement on Friday. "His foreign policy allows the permanent and continuing presence of U.S. troops all over the country."

The last United States military base in the Philippines closed in 1992, but Walden Bello, a Philippines congressman, said the current military agreement between the two countries has a lot of loopholes. "The Americans are allowed joint exercises, but they are in a state of constant exercise," he said. "We have rotating American forces on a permanent basis."

Mr. Aquino also received an expression of support from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a lunch on Friday. She reiterated that the United States had an interest in the "maintenance of peace and stability" and "freedom of navigation" in the South China Sea. She encouraged Mr. Aquino to resolve the dispute with Beijing peacefully, and she warned that the United States would oppose "the use of force or coercion."

After steering clear of the issue for years, the United States has recently urged China and its neighbors to work out a mechanism for resolving disputes over the sea. Beijing has rejected American involvement, saying, in the words of Gen. Ma Xiaotian, the deputy chief of general staff of the People's Liberation Army, that "the South China issue is not America's business."

Mr. Aquino - the son of a former Philippine president, Corazon C. Aquino, and the slain opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr. - thanked Mr. Obama for his expression of support. On Thursday, Mr. Aquino told an audience that the Philippine government was engaged in a dialogue with China to find a way to resolve the dispute. "It is not our intention to embroil the United States in a military intervention in our region," he said.

The dispute could put the United States in an awkward position, because of the mutual defense treaty it has maintained with the Philippines for 60 years. But American officials said that neither side was likely to invoke the treaty in this case because Manila's confrontation with Beijing is over disputed territory.

Bonnie Glaser, an expert in Asian security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Philippine officials were not happy with the mixed signals they got from Washington in a recent meeting of the two countries' defense and foreign ministers.

Some experts said that whatever the legitimacy of its claims, the Philippines was to blame for provoking the standoff. It started when the Philippines sent a frigate to board Chinese fishing boats near the shoal, which is called Panatag in the Philippines and Huangyan in China. Philippine officials said they found illegally harvested corals, clams and live sharks on the boats. China then sent two surveillance ships.

"We could have a long-term problem with China in the South China Sea," said Jeffrey A. Bader, a former adviser to Mr. Obama on China policy. "The Filipinos did not contribute to solving the long-term problem by falling into a short-term confrontation with the Chinese, in a bid to quickly resolve an unresolvable territorial issue."

The immediate threat of conflict has ebbed with both sides pulling back their ships. Still, Mr. Aquino's visit was a reminder that countries in the region will increasingly turn to America to help them face down China.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who just returned from a tour of Southeast Asia, told reporters that the Philippine military needed help to defend the country's waters because it has been focused on fighting a radical insurgency. "We think that they need some of that, particularly in maritime security," he said.


... and I am very glad to hear it.

Bunch of imperialist sanctions should not at all stop our peoples from supporting each other - Sukant Chandan, Friends of China

Chinese firms breaking UN embargo on North Korea

Chinese firms are breaking a United Nations embargo by supplying North Korea with key components for ballistic missiles including launch vehicles, according to evidence provided by an intelligence agency in the region.

[full story]


Help wanted – China struggles to fill jobs


At the Tiger Lane Bridge recruitment centre in Beijing, a handful of men scan a board plastered with job ads. Waiters, cooks, teachers, security guards, welders, telephone operators and drivers are all in demand.

But the job seekers, – who are outnumbered roughly ten-to-one by the positions advertised – are in no great rush.

“Actually, I’ve got a job already. I just come here every now and again to see if I can find a job that pays better,” says Mr Liu, 40, a migrant from nearby Hebei province.

Mr Liu, who earns Rmb2000 ($314) a month, was upset when he did not get a 15 per cent pay raise this year – an annual increase that has become the norm for blue-collar workers in China.

The Chinese economy has been slowing – data due this weekend are expected to reveal that exports, investment and industrial production were all weak in May – but the labour market remains very tight.

From Beijing in north China to the southern manufacturing province of Guangdong, the main concern of workers is not finding jobs, but securing higher pay. In fact, companies say they are struggling to find and retain staff.

For the government, this is a significant argument against launching large-scale economic stimulus, as there is no need for a major spending boost to create jobs.

The central bank’s move to cut interest rates this week shows that Beijing is worried about slowing growth. But officials stress that there will no repeat of the massive stimulus package unveiled in late 2008 during the global financial crisis.

While Europe and the US struggle with rising unemployment, China’s labour problem is the opposite: it experienced a record shortfall of workers in the first quarter. The human resources ministry says that for every 108 employees sought by companies, only 100 people were looking for jobs – equating to a nationwide deficit of nearly 1m workers.

The reason China’s job market is tightening when the economy is slowing is simple: demographics.

The government introduced its one-child policy just over three decades ago to limit explosive population growth. Since then birth rates have declined steadily, with the proportion of the working-age population expanding at a slower rate in recent years. UBS estimates that China’s workforce will peak in about 2015, and then start to shrink.

At Polaris Jewellery in Guangzhou, Guangdong’s capital, the factory manager worries that China’s tight labour market will destroy the company’s apprentice programme, as young workers are no longer willing to commit to the two years of training.

Lee Hin-shing, who manages the factory of 440 workers, says the floor that used to house trainees is empty. Polaris has just one trainee, down from a couple of hundred more than a decade ago. “No one wants to join the industry,” he says ruefully. “In 2004 and 2005, we had more than 800 workers.”

This demographic landscape is likely to get worse. China’s ratio of workers to retirees is likely to “drop precipitously” from roughly 5:1 today to 2:1 in 2030, according to Wang Feng, director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center in Beijing.

But while demographics are extremely powerful, if economic growth were to collapse, for example, unemployment in China would inevitably rise – and potentially quite sharply.

When the global financial crisis savaged the Chinese export sector in late 2008, more than 20m blue-collar workers lost their jobs virtually overnight. Concerns about social instability prompted the government to roll out a Rmb4tn mega-stimulus package, which helped propel the country back to double-digit growth.

Unemployment is considered to be a “lagging indicator”, meaning, an economic slowdown today may only lead to job losses a few months down the road.

There are, in fact, a couple of warning signs. Almost 8 per cent of respondents to a HSBC survey of the Chinese manufacturing sector said they cut jobs last month. The overall decline was modest, but it was also the steepest fall in 38 months, stemming from a decline in new orders. Moreover, the export sector is once again suffering sluggish growth, a bad omen for the employment situation.

But for the time being, job seekers are still spoiled for choice. At a leather factory in Dongguan, a manufacturing hub in Guangdong province, the owner David Liu says workers used to queue outside the factory and ask their friends for contacts.

“Now the factory owners are asking acquaintances for help recruiting workers,” says Mr Liu.