Top China Stories 9/4-9/10

The big story in China news this week was that there was an effort by Chinese arms companies to sell weapons to Qaddafi in mid-July, well after the UN embargo had begun. While the Chinese gov’t is denying any knowledge of these meetings (even claiming that it might have just been a friendly chat), and is stressing that no arms were sold. This does however fit China’s pattern of supporting dictators with small arms that they know are being used against civilians. As China’s strength grows, it is finding foreign policy to be a bit of a minefield.

Read my coverage of weapons sales to Zimbabwe, and Chinese attitudes about the genocide in Darfur.

China also used state media to focus anger at ConocoPhillips this week as news continues to pour in about an oil spill off China’s coast. While the spill is clearly troubling, I found it very interesting how effectively anger was channeled at the foreign company, even though it is a joint operation in which a state-owned enterprise controls 51%, you’ll notice their name is completely absent from this editorial. If you’re doing business in China, this should give you pause.

The New York Times (and several others) ran stories this week pointing to a push from the Chinese gov’t to encourage Chinese automotive companies to focus more on developing fuel-efficient cars, and less on sales. This comes after years of subsidies that encouraged personal car purchases that have left many of China’s cities choked with both gridlock and pollution. This seems to be a small step away from “GDP at the cost of everything” type policies.

Startling numbers also were released this week that showed suicide was the leading cause of death for Chinese between the ages of 15-34, and #5 for all deaths in China. Despite usual claims that suicide is the result of a high pressure, modern society, it is troubling that 75% of the suicides were in rural areas. I think this again shows that it is China’s farmers that face the heaviest burdens in new China.

Evan Osnos, who writes something amazing about China almost every week, wrote a short article reflecting on whether or not China has overreached in its growth. His comparison seems apt, as a director at the hospital this week told me, “China’s economy right now is very dangers, just like Japan before,” not a country China likes to be mentioned in the same breath with.

Finally I wanted to share a great photo essay from People’s Daily on Left-Behind grandparents, which fits perfectly with the posts I wrote earlier this week on both the elderly in the countryside, and the grandchildren they raise.

About T

I have been working in China for nearly five years now. I have traveled to more than 30 cities and towns, and have lived in 3 provinces. I am interested in issues concerning development in China and the rest of the world. I hope to provide a balanced look at some of the issues facing China as it continues its rise to power.
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15 Responses to Top China Stories 9/4-9/10

  1. Frank Bond says:

    And exactly how is this different from the American crucifixion of BP for the gulf spill? That fiasco was the product of American’s mess ups top to bottom, yet BP the only foreign entity involved ,was given all the blame. Conoco was the operator of the field. They made the operational decisions, indeed that is exactly why they were involved at all, they were supposed to bring expertise. The Chinese have a right to be a little miffed.
    Your prejudices are showing.

    • Tom says:

      If you read more about the Conoco spill here in China, you will see that several of the decisions about how spills would be handled were pushed through by the majority holding Chinese SOE. In the US, American inspectors were skewered, and blame was widely spread (perhaps not evenly, but still few were spared). Meanwhile in China you have state papers running articles that completely ignore the fact that there was Chinese involvement in the decisions as to how the rig was to be run, and how the spill would be handled.

      • frank bond says:

        You are changing the subject Tom
        The issue is the media presentation of the event in both countries. The US media hardly mentioned TransOcean, or Halliburton other than to say they denied all responsibility., It was BP 24/7 . It was the media coverage of the Conoco spill you were complaining about remember? The “I found it very interesting how effectively anger was channeled at the foreign company”. If you think the US media rose to a higher standard than the Chinese, you are wrong. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing, only that the US is no better.

    • NiubiCowboy says:

      Three sentences addressing one item have somehow revealed Tom’s prejudices? I see a description of the story, a link, and what Tom found interesting about the story (that state media have been directing anger towards the foreign partner). If you’ve followed the blog, you would know that Tom, while often critical of China, does so out of a deep sense of affection for the country he’s chosen to live and work in for the past several years. But, for many people any criticism of China is viewed as some sort of personal attack or evidence of an “anti-China” bias, regardless of the criticism’s validity or intentions.

      Also, just because something similar happened in the United States does not mean that the criticisms lobbied against China are somehow negated simply because “well…they did it too!”

  2. Glenn says:

    For the love of Christ….

    You describe the AQ affiliated, NATO supported rebels, as China’s pattern of supporting dictators with small arms that they know are being used against civilians? What skewed kind of logic did you derived that thought ? Why didn’t you say the same with Bahrain, Omar and Saudi Arabia ? These govt in fact are using their Western weapons against “unarmed Civilians”, while Libya is fighting a western supplied armed rebellion. In fact, the rebels and even NATO acknowledge that Qaddafi have majority support in Libya, so how do you get to define that Qaddafi as a “dictator” ? For turning Libya from stone-age to one with a high living index, free medical, free education and home ownership ?

    In the first place, there are no proof forwarded that Qaddafi did bomb civilian targets at Benhazi. The Russian states that their satelite images shows no such event ever occurred a few days after. It was the western media that kept hyping that up, which allowed NATO to instill UN1973, so called “no fly zone” only on Qaddafi controlled areas. SHOW ME PROOF (not accusations and allegations) I’m sure with western media full access in Benhazi, showing photo proof of air-raid destruction of neighbourhood in question, will not be a problem.

    However, there are tons of evidence of NATO bombing civilians and infrastructure, with no regards to the reasons why they are there in the first place, in advance for that few thousand rebels, with European SF ground support, even landed them in Tripoli. NATO deliberately killed more civilians than Qaddafi ever did. NOT only that, NATO have violated UN1973, which allows no ground troops< and it really showed they were in fact supporting one side of this civil war. Also NATO is now seen as a supporter for "terrorist", the AQ rebels are same ones there are fighting in Afghanistan.

    It's 19th centrury all over again. Call it as what it is.. regime change.

    • Tom says:

      This blog is about China, not NATO or other Western Countries, so I didn’t mention them. There are hundreds or thousands of other sites about those countries. So what is clear is that Chinese SOE’s met with representatives from Qaddafi’s gov’t to sell arms that would breach UN1973 that China allowed to pass (which included anti-aircraft rockets that would have been used against NATO forces). China had nearly $20 billion in projects in Libya, which is why it was determined to support Qaddafi, and is one of the last major gov’ts to recognize the rebel gov’t. So you can feel free to call it regime change by western countries, but the China side of the story is that the Beijing gov’t continues to try to sell arms to gov’ts that it knows are killing civilians.

      • Glenn says:

        I’m not off topic. I’m responding to your opening write-up and quotes within your above reply.
        “China’s pattern of supporting dictators with small arms that they know are being used against civilians.”
        “the Beijing gov’t continues to try to sell arms to gov’ts that it knows are killing civilians.”

        You seemed to illiterate that China wants to sell arms to Qaddafi to kill more civilians. That’s what I’m challenging.

        Are the Western supported rebels, who likes “head slicing”, “heart gorging”, “hang them high”, “connection with AQ” and presently committing genocide executing black natives, unarmed civilians ?

        Proof to me that Qaddafi specifically wantonly targets civilians (don’t include the AQ rebels and it’s mercenaries). In fact, NATO kills far more Libyan civilians.

        Also, how extremely convenient that such meticulous keep records of the Chinese meeting with Qaddafi people was found dumped at the side of the road, to be eventually found by the rebels. Whats are the chances of that being notice in a war zone ?

        Further, from reuters

        “TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s new leadership has evidence Muammar Gaddafi bought arms from companies in China and Western countries in defiance of U.N. sanctions and now plans legal and diplomatic action, a military spokesman said in Tripoli on Monday.

        “We’ll be going through legal channels, through international courts, as well as the United Nations itself,” Abdul Rahman Busin told Reuters. “Either to prosecute them or to come to a diplomatic understanding.”

        He did not specify further what action might be taken against firms, individuals or states involved in any smuggling.

        “We have gathered evidence from many sources, including the main documents that were gathered here in Tripoli, that point the finger at several countries that had been supplying Gaddafi with weapons and arms, as well as intelligence officers,” he said.”

        Asked if Westerners also offered arms, he said they did.

        It seems, the west is also supplying weapons to Qaddafi that “it knows are killing civilians” too…. to assist p NATO kills more civilians

      • Tom says:

        I would enjoy having the link to that Reuters story along with the list of countries that sold weapons to Qaddafi.
        It’s interesting that you imply that the evidence against China was made up, since the gov’t in Beijing has admitted that meetings did happen, but claim that no weapons were transferred. I don’t think that China wants to help Qaddafi kill civilians, simply that China doesn’t care what the human cost is of protecting its investments in Libya. This is a pattern, read about Sudan, where China sold ammunition that was used to attack UN peacekeepers, and Zimbabwe, where a cargo ship full of arms was turned away from the port in South Africa.

      • Baobo says:

        The Gaddafi regime is a farce. “He” is a team of body-doubles (probably CIA) who use masks and disguises. Any nation that deals with Gaddafi is being entrapped.

        And don’t think the rebels are any different – virtually all of Libya is one big intelligence program begun back in 1969. (That’s just my view… I know few people agree with me.)

    • Chopstik says:

      Not to incite a flame war, but are you then stating that Gadhafi was not killing civilians? And the weapons that he is alleged to have purchased (or intended to purchase) from China would have only been used to kill other combatants? Further, that China (whose claims not to have sold weapons or been aware that Chinese citizens were doing so should probably be taken with a grain of salt) has no history of selling weapons to international pariah states (e.g. Sudan) with needed natural resources and that it is entirely unbelievable that it may have done so again?

      This is not to justify actions taken by any side in the Libyan conflict nor to suggest that one side is more right than another but the point of this blog concerns China and its actions. You have chosen to take a single statement and blow it out of proportion to the context within which it was originally offered. The issue originally concerned China’s actions on the international stage and, as it continues to emerge on that stage, how difficult it is finding it to address national concerns and work within the international framework where it is increasingly regarded as a leader. It is a valid question and one that many are curious to see how China develops in said regard.

      • NiubiCowboy says:


        Thank you for this reasoned response.

      • Glenn says:

        No, I’m stating that Gadhafi was not specifically using weapons to target civilians. In every humanitarian war, civil war or invasion (directly or by proxy) – civilians get killed. But by saying that Qaddafi’s weapons are being used against civilians.. there lies a whole different dimension of thought and deliberation being specific to a point of disinfo.

        The gist of this issue is that China supplied weapons knowing full well that it will be using against civilians. Which in this case isn’t true, unless you are saying that western allies supplied weapons are not capable of that too (this I mean the rebels or even NATO). And these clowns are not civilians, and they killed far more civilians.

        And about the issue originally concerned about China’s actions on the international stage and work within the international framework? Who is this “International Framework” ? For Western interest ? You think all this intervention was for the good of Libyans and it’s really a humanitarian war ? For months, even in the US, it is quite obvious it’s a “Regime change” objective. In this case, I fail to understand why China should not protect her investment, when western and allies initiated military aggression to take away those investments

        Proof to me that Gadhafi air raided Benhazi residential area that started Western proxy intervention on Libya, and that he specifically only targets Civilians, then if China really did supply weapons to Libya. If this were the case. I will be in your bandwagon to bash and demonize China.

  3. Yaxue C. says:

    For anyone who reads Chinese and who cares about suicides among rural population, here is an article by Shanxi writer Lu Shunmin (鲁顺民)entitled “An Investigation on Suicides in An-zi Village” (, in which the author explains the matter in the most concrete way there can be. He is the same author I quoted a while ago in my comment about mining disaster in China.

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