Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dalai Lama award - China summons US ambassador

The US ambassador has been summoned before Chinese representatives following the award to the Dalai Lama of the Congressional Gold Medal [BBC]. The Dalai Lama said he was extremely honoured by the award [CNN] and later went on to say he hoped China would enter into meaningful dialogue as to the future of Tibet. He added that he sought “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet and not full independence.
CCTV-9 covered the story briefly with less than 20 seconds given to the event. A spokesman was quoted as saying the invitation amounted to “Wanton interference” in Chinese internal affairs and added that many Chinese feelings were hurt.

The visit has come as China holds the 17th Communist Party of China National Congress [CPC News]. At the beginning of the week President Hu gave his keynote speech in which he set out plans to tackle the many problems China faces. In particular economic development dominated his address and the imbalance that this is creating. The richest 10% own 45% of wealth in China and the gap between rich and poor is becoming of increasing concern. Economic development is of great concern and is widely covered in Chinese media. China is the world’s biggest labour market and workers rights, as well as protection in the form of unions, has been discussed at the CPC National Congress.
Peter Wilson from the British Embassy speaking on CCTV-9 said it was important that everyone be treated equally with respect to the law and that corruption and illegal activity was stamped out. But besides the rhetoric of politicians and commentators, little definitive solutions have been laid down.

Education and medical care is also creating concern, especially amongst the poorer communities. But whilst statements have been made to tackle these problems, there is little sign that public grievance will be dealt with any time soon.

The coverage of the 17th CPC National Congress has been scant on western media despite hundreds of foreign journalists attending the event. More than 1000 correspondents from 55 regions around the world have attended the congress. An Associated Press reporter told CCTV-9 that China’s involvement in the 6 Party Talks [with North Korea] and recent participation in the UN Security Council demanded further understanding of the way China is governed.

Whilst plans have been proposed to reform the way China is ruled, the CPC has dismissed the possibility of the country becoming a multi-party democracy [BBC]. President Hu Jintao has acknowledged that many problems need to be addressed. In his address on Monday, President Hu said, “While recognising our achievements, we must be well aware that they still fall short of the expectations of the people” [BBC]. And many of the some 2000 delegates are upbeat in expressing their views about the future [BBC].

On the streets there are dissenting voices. But few of these protests are reported in the Chinese media and campaigners say the authorities have been arresting, abducting and intimidating activists to prevent them from staging protests [BBC].

The internet is proving invaluable to China’s dissenting voices and proving ever more difficult to control by the authorities [BBC]. But besides criticism of the way China is ruled, Communist Party membership has risen in recent years and there is still strong support from those unable to join the party [BBC]. The future for China, both in its political and economic development, is far from clear. It remains however an important and global player in trade and finance. Whether it can maintain its economic development while appeasing the population remains to be seen.

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