Hu Jintao in Canberra; the Tibet issue
25 October 2003
A day after Bush, China's President addressed a joint sitting of Federal
Parliament. Australia is important to China, because it obtains much of
its raw materials here; further, Hu gets to meet Western leaders who are
more attuned to Asia, and less inclined to lecture him. More lowly in
the hierarchy, might be a better way of putting it.
This is Hu's second trip to Australia. Each time, he firstly spends a
day in Sydney with business people and Sydney's Chinese community - who,
no doubt, wine and dine him - before heading for Canberra to talk
politics. It must be more like a holiday destination, than many of the
other places he visits.
It was predictable that Bob Brown, Green Senator from Tasmania and a
long-time champion of the Dalai Lama, would seize the opportunity to
directly question the President of China over the Tibet issue, with the
full glare of TV cameras, in the matter he did a day earlier with Bush.
Would the reticent Hu slip out of it like the ebullient Bush?
However, Bown and Kerry Nettle (the other Green Senator) were suspended
for 24 hours, for having fronted Bush. Yesterday's Murdoch press branded
that a "cheap stunt", and lamented that it had made headline news
the world. They seemed relieved that the signing of a A$30 billion
contract for natural gas would be saved by the Greens' suspension.
Before becoming a Senator, Bob Brown was best known for his role in
stopping the damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania. The decision
against was made early in 1984, and around that time Tasmania slid into
an economic depression from which it has not recovered; mainland
Australia followed some years after. It's a depression hidden by
redefining "unemployment" and via other welfare categories, e.g.
"sickness benefit", "single parent's pension", etc.
Greens similarly tried, during the 1990s, to stop the Three Gorges Dam
in China (Hu is a hydro-engineer).
In 1980, I did a the Buddhist course on the Preliminary Practices,
conducted by two genuine lamas from Tibet, at a temple made of eucalypt
logs - hauled by a local bullock team - in a remote valley,without
electricity, in Tasmania.
Everyone ate vegetarian - except the lamas: Tibet is too cold for
The younger lama translated into English for the older. We students all
had to sit cross-legged on cushions on the polished timber floor, at a
lower level than the lamas.
The kitchen and mess-hall were in another log building, the upstairs of
which functioned as a dormitory. The (outdoor) bathroom was a separate
stone building. There were huts scattered in the bush, built illegally
(i.e. without official "approval") by people staying at the farm. Even
the main log buildings would have been "illegal" in today's terms.
Either plans were lacking completely, or they were given to the council
AFTER the building was done. That's how it was done in the good ole'
days. (On the mainland, Bega Shire is famous for its many "illegal"
houses, and the Nimbin-Lismore area too. The Nanny State only came on
the scene to give the pollies something to do once they had privatised
The course was held at Illusion Farm, in Lorinna. The owner, a former
disc jockey named Sandy McCutcheon, was known in those days as Mani -
his adopted Buddhist name. After some time, it was discovered that
borers had got into the timber, and a painful choice had to be made: to
kill them or not. We must close our eyes to the path they chose; but the
word "kerosene" comes to mind as the method.
At the local Vietnamese Buddhist temple in Canberra (each ethnic group
has its own temple), on one occasion I met a Tibetan woman - very nice -
and on another, noticed a can of fly spray!
Mani later returned to Sydney to be a radio compere at the ABC - as
Sandy McCutcheon again.
In 1996, I attended the Dalai Lama's public meeting in Canberra,
attended by about 5,000 people. At the end, I presented his staff with a
letter for the Dalai Lama, outlining the way the NWO would like to use
him to further their plans - as they used the Pope's visit to Poland:
He faces a difficult choice. If he does not return to Tibet, and if a
successor is wrongly appointed, Tibetan Buddhism could die out in its
homeland. If he does return, China could break up.
Although I like Tibetan culture and admire the Dalai Lama, I tend you
agree with Israel Shamir on this issue. He wrote:
"In Tibet, while approving of cultural autonomy and religious freedom, I
fully support the People's Republic of China and reject all attempts of
Judeo-American Empire to undermine and break it to pieces like they did
in the USSR. In Burma, I am suspicious of the forces supported by the
US, whatever slogans they brandish."
Bush brought 600 people here with him; Hu brought 60. During the 20
hours Bush was in Canberra, two FA18As circled the skies like birds of
prey, at a cost of $4 million; presumably this happens wherever Bush is
in the world. Roads were blocked off, buses re-routed, and 500 extra
police were on duty.
During the demonstration and march against Bush, a helicopter swept
overhead; I pointed my umbrella-placard at it. In the melee on the
ground, a police dog bit a policeman on the arm.
In Tasmania, the Franklin Dam was a project of the Hydro-Electric
Commission, of which I was an employee in 1980. Earlier, in 1979, I had
started a branch of Friends of the Earth at Burnie in Tasmania, but
opposed that group when they joined the campaign against the HEC.
If you're ever in Tasmania, visit Strathgordon Dam. It's one of the
engineering masterpieces of the world, concave both vertically and
horizontally. It holds back 27 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.
But it flooded Lake Pedder, one of nature's gems, beloved of
bushwalkers, and stirred them to destroy the HEC.
I have been to Bob Brown's rustic weatherboard home at Liffey, near
Deloraine. But in today's "Nanny State", such do-it-yourself shacks
(built by someone else, not Bob) can't be built - they can't get past
the building inspectors.
Rural communities have been split by the clash between "Greens" and
"Rednecks". I usually find myself in the middle, unable to support
either side, and rejected by both. The HEC workers used to call me a
(2) Bush Outmaneuvered by China's Hu on Yuan
Date: Wed, 22 Oct 2003 22:29:43 -0400 From: "David Chiang"
Bush Outmaneuvered by China's Hu on Yuan: William Pesek Jr.
Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- For U.S. President George W. Bush, the battle was
lost before it even began.
Bush came here to Asia to lock horns with Chinese President Hu Jintao
over Beijing's currency policy. Bush's administration argues China's
currency peg to the U.S. dollar is wreaking havoc on the world's biggest
economy. This week's Asia-Pacific summit was Bush's chance to confront
Bush was outmaneuvered. Just hours before he met Bush, Hu told
Asia-Pacific business leaders China will keep the yuan exchange rate
stable. For Bush, it was merely a preview of things to come. A
communique issued by leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
nations didn't even mention currencies.
And that, as they say, is that.
Traders betting on a near-term shift in China's currency stance are
rethinking things, and for good reason. The one-year forward contracts
weakened this week, implying the yuan's peg at about 8.3 per dollar is
here to stay. China's central bank governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, said the
process of freeing the yuan will take a ``relatively long time.''
That the U.S. found itself virtually alone on the currency issue
indicates Asian concern Beijing's financial system may be too fragile to
release the yuan. In fact, while no APEC leaders have said so publicly
some may be fearful that China's currency would plunge, not rise, if set
It's a possibility that rarely gets explored nowadays. The argument is
that the yuan is undervalued by 40 percent or more, costing U.S.
manufacturers millions of jobs. Little thought gets devoted to the risk
of the opposite happening. The fragile state of China's financial system
and the social instability that could prevail as the nation opens its
economy might easily send the yuan lower.
Chinese officials don't live in a vacuum; they're fully aware of the
extent to which the White House and Congress want Beijing to de-peg the
yuan. Hu also understands that at a time when China is putting on a
charm offensive to soften criticism of its policies, he could score many
points by floating the currency.
There are two reasons why Beijing hasn't -- and why it won't anytime
soon: U.S. pressure and troubles in the domestic economy.
If Beijing were to alter its currency stance, it would appear to be
buckling to demands from Washington. So each time U.S. Treasury
officials, or Bush, call on China to let the yuan float, they make such
an outcome less likely.
``We're pretty sure the Chinese are going to do what they want to do,''
says Ernest Bower, president of the U.S.-Asean Business Council, which
represents $51 billion of U.S. investments in Southeast Asia.
Any support Bush hoped to find here among APEC leaders was in short
supply. Even Tokyo, Washington's key ally in Asia, refused to back U.S.
calls for a free-floating yuan. ``Japan has nothing to demand of China
in regard to its currency,'' Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told
Koizumi's comments mark an about-face of sorts. The latest assault on
Beijing's currency policy actually began in Japan under former Finance
Minister Masajuro Shiokawa. After months of calling on China to adopt a
more flexible exchange-rate policy, Shiokawa's U.S. counterpart, John
Snow, began reading from the same script.
That Japan is now taking a let-China-decide-for-itself approach partly
reflects its own currency policy. Bush used his stop in Tokyo last week
to encourage Koizumi to stop weakening the yen. Tokyo has spent at least
13.5 trillion yen ($123 billion) this year manipulating its currency. It
now sees how hypocritical it is to call on Beijing to let the yuan rise.
The shift also may reflect a keener understanding of the risks of China
altering its yuan policy. China is only real source of economic growth
in Asia. If the region's most dynamic economy were hurt by prematurely
unleashing its currency, every nation would suffer. Keeping the yuan
exchange rate stable ``serves China's economic performance and conforms
to the requirements of economic development in the Asia-Pacific region
and the whole world,'' Hu said here in Bangkok.
Asians also wonder if the U.S. truly understands what it's asking of
Beijing. If China and other Asian countries scrap their pegs to the U.S.
dollar, it could do far more harm than good to the U.S. bond market and
the world's biggest economy.
Central banks in Asia alone account for more than 40 percent of all
international purchases of U.S. government debt. If they stopped pegging
currencies to the dollar, the region's reserves would no longer rise and
flow into U.S. assets. Someone else would need to help the U.S. finance
its economy. Who that might be is anyone's guess.
Still, it's unlikely the U.S. will drop the currency issue anytime soon.
With an election year coming and the U.S. still losing jobs, China makes
a convenient scapegoat. The Bush administration's blame-China policy may
sell well at home, but not here in Asia.
Last Updated: October 21, 2003 23:25 EDT