This Week in China

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Politics The Olympic torch relay was disrupted by protests in London on Sunday and Paris on Tuesday. French officials were unhappy with the way the Chinese security detail handled the relay, and one athlete became upset when the torch was extinguished before he could hand it off: “Given what happened yesterday, the ...

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595555_080409_china_brief2.jpg

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Politics

The Olympic torch relay was disrupted by protests in London on Sunday and Paris on Tuesday. French officials were unhappy with the way the Chinese security detail handled the relay, and one athlete became upset when the torch was extinguished before he could hand it off: “Given what happened yesterday, the athletes are asking themselves one question: how will they be treated in Beijing?”

Protests are underway in San Francisco as the torch relay passes through today, and the local Chinese community is divided in political sentiment. Public security was bolstered as police officers’ vacations were cancelled, and a high-profile Golden Gate Bridge protest Monday turned the structure into an independence banner. (Pictured above.)

Sentiment is turning sour in the United States as a Zogby poll yesterday revealed that 70 percent of American voters think it was wrong to choose China as this year’s Olympic host (up from 39 percent last May). As far as boycotting the games, 31 percent of respondents were in favor. 

The presidential candidates are weighing in on China. Hillary Clinton has been particularly strident and called for President George W. Bush to skip the opening ceremonies. Bush still plans to attend, though he won’t see German Chancellor Angela Merkel or British Prime Minister Gordon Brown there. (French President Nicolas Sarkozy is still on the fence).

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Jiang Yu described (video) the Dalai Lama as “the head representative of the serf system which integrates religion with politics in old Tibet…the darkest slavery system in human history.”

The communist party leader in Tibet said that order has been restored following violent protests, but warned there could be more trouble when the torch relay passes through next month.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized China for sentencing activist Hu Jia to three and a half years in prison for criticizing the government online.

Economy

Bank card sales rose 58 percent last year to $428 billion. With 1.5 billion bank cards in China at the end of 2007, China Banking Regulatory Commission Vice Chairman Guo Ligen warned that IT systems need to be updated to accommodate the heavy traffic.

Hong Kong budget airline Oasis went bankrupt amid a 73 percent rise in fuel costs last year. It was the fourth budget airline worldwide to halt operations in less than two weeks.  

Disney announced yesterday it will purchase Chinese gaming company Gamestar. It also plans to launch Disney-themed games in the highly successful Chinese online gaming industry with Shanda Interactive Entertainment. Intel also announced a $500 million investment fund geared toward Chinese technology start-ups.

A draft food safety law has been submitted for approval requiring products to have a bar code by the end of the year. The policy is aimed at improving food safety nationwide. Critics argue the measures don’t cover raw materials and small companies.

China and New Zealand signed a free trade agreement Monday, the first such deal between China and a developed nation. Trade between the two nations is currently around $6.1 billion per year.

Taiwan

Vice president-elect Vincent Siew may meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao at this week’s Boao Forum for Asian development. Critics worry Siew could fall into a “unification trap.”

Foreign funds have invested $1.2 billion in Taiwan stocks this year (the highest of any Asian market) in anticipation of improved ties with China. But, early gains may not be as high as was hoped because of political tensions.

Analysis

Yale economics professor Zhiwu Chen argued that China should decrease its state holdings to combat wealth inequality in a lecture on Tuesday.

There are plentiful op-eds about China and the Olympics — the New York Times says China should demonstrate its worthiness, Philip Bowring calls China an angry young bull, and Christopher Bowe argues that China is playing with fire: “The run of relatively protest-free games dates only from Seoul and Barcelona. If the IOC did not see that the 2001 decision to award the games to Beijing was likely to end that run, it was extraordinarily naive.”

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