Thursday, February 03, 2005

Indications from Chinese Government of Pressures or Intent

November 29, 2004: China finds itself deploying military forces on several fronts. The most obvious is the coastal areas facing Taiwan. Here there are over 500 ballistic missiles set up and ready to fire, along with several hundred thousand land, air and naval troops.

But there is also a build up of military units on the border with North Korea. The situation in North Korea gets worse each month, with military and police discipline breaking down and more North Koreans illegally crossing into border to defect, do business or commit crimes. China fears a complete breakdown in North Korea, and millions of desperate refugees trying to get into China.

Throughout China, the government continues to "battle" the religious movement Falungong. With tens of millions of devout followers, Falungong only wants to be able to practice their religion openly. But police continue to hunt down members and arrest them. Falungong has gone underground, and is still very much around. And so are thousands of police assigned to stamp out the organization. China expects religious groups to be very responsive to government wishes. Falungong refuses to submit.

On the Internet front, the government has thousands of technicians and police trying to control what is said, and seen, by over a hundred million Internet users. The current major headache is the growth of blogs. There are at least half a million Chinese blogs, and they have proved very difficult to police. The Chinese national police has established "internet squads" in over 700 locations throughout the country. These are the guys who will find local internet transgressions and make arrests. But the local cyber cops are very dependent on China's national level Internet screening efforts. This is called the "Great Firewall of China." It's not perfect, but it does force Chinese to stay away from many foreign news sources. Thus the danger of blogs, which provide news commentary locally, inside the Great Firewall of China.

July 20, 2004: Although the Chinese armed forces have taken the lead in organizing cyberwarfare units (several thousand troops and civilian experts in units that specialize in internet based combat), they are finding Chinese internet use to be a growing problem. There are currently 87 million Internet users in China (a 28 percent increase in one year). While that's only seven percent of the population, it's a very well off and well educated fraction of the population. Sixty percent of them are male, and 54 percent are 24 years old, or younger. Moreover, these Internet users are spread throughout China, meaning that any information the government does not want distributed, can now get around government controls and to the general population. The government has been investing heavily in software and hardware to control what Chinese Internet users can access. But these censorship techniques have not stopped stories that do the most damage. If there is an event that would embarrass the government, it will get through to most Internet users, and this has increasingly caused the government to respond to the public will. This has made the Communist dictatorship much less capable of operating like a dictatorship and is making democracy more acceptable to more people in the ruling Communist Party. The alternative is another revolution, fueled by the Internet.

May 1, 2004: The largest group of Chinese warships to ever visit Hong Kong (two guided missile destroyers, four guided missile frigates, and two submarines). The visit was seen as another attempt to intimidate those in Hong Kong who are pressuring China to live up to its promises to allow democracy in the city. China continues to select city leaders, rather than allowing the promised elections. Many in Taiwan, who favor union with China (because of promises that Taiwan could keep its democratic system) are dismayed at what's going on in Hong Kong. The Chinese leadership apparently does not care, and is rather pleased with the intimidating effect of using military force in Hong Kong. The ships are staying for six days, and then returning to their bases to the north in and around Shanghai.

January 16, 2004: China continues to threaten Taiwan with dire consequences if the island does not surrender it's independence and merge with China. But it's becoming increasingly obvious that China does not have the military capability to take Taiwan by force, and would risk economic ruin by attempting to blockade Taiwan (because Chinese ports could be blocked by mines in retaliation.) No one wants to say out loud that the Chinese are a paper tiger, as it appears quite safe to allow the Chinese to rant and otherwise do no damage to Taiwan.


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