China: Managing Pressure

Ashish had a post recently on the anti-Japanese protests happening in China and suggested that these demonstrations could be used to sneak in democracy. NY Times has an article that the Chinese Govt. fears the same and is now cracking down by banning the use of text messages or e-mail to organize protests.

The government began cracking down on people using these technologies to foment anti-Japanese protests more than a week ago, before the Shanghai march. According to an employee at a major Internet provider, the government on April 14 ordered all Chinese Web sites to begin filtering anti-Japanese content. Then last week, several anti-Japanese Web sites were shut down because they were trying to organize new protests in May.
One Western analyst in Internet technology said the government has powerful filtering devices that can screen cellphone and e-mail messages. This filtering technology can separate messages with key words such as Falun Gong, the banned spiritual group, and then track the message to the person who sent it.
Falun Gong, in fact, used cell phones to coordinate protests until the government deemed the group a threat and launched a crackdown.
“There are things the bureaucracy could do if it found this sort of communication truly threatening,” said the Internet technology analyst, who has studied China for more than a decade and asked not to be identified.
Yet many analysts agree that screening the Internet and cellphones is far more difficult than the practice of simply ordering state-controlled newspapers or television stations to censor a subject. [A Hundred Cellphones Bloom, and Chinese Take to the Streets]

It is not just local people that China has to worry about. Till now United States was “engaging” China, hoping that some reforms would come through, but now things are getting confrontational. US Senator Chuck Schumer got an amendment passed, which calls for punishing China for undervaluing its currency.

During a floor speech in defense of his amendment, Schumer cited the case of Marietta Corp. in Cortland, which manufactures sample-size shampoos and soaps found in hotel guest rooms. “Only one country doesn’t allow Marietta to (export) import its soap and its shampoo China,” Schumer said. “And when the president (of the company) called me and I visited the plant up in Cortland, 30 miles south of Syracuse, he told me that the Chinese now do their own business in China. They’re using that protected market in China to compete with Marietta, now in Southeast Asia, soon in America.
“I said, ‘Why don’t you file (a complaint) with the WTO (World Trade Organization)?’ “He said, ‘Well, I’ll get an answer in about eight years, and I’ll be out of business.’ “Ladies and gentlemen,” Schumer went on, “. . . we must do something. This (amendment) is the best thing to do. It is certainly better than what we have been doing over the last two years, which is absolutely nothing.” Schumer’s effort against China’s currency practices began in a meeting the senator had two years ago in Syracuse with business, labor and government leaders. Since then, he has repeatedly urged the Bush administration to pressure the Chinese to “float” their currency, the yuan, against the U.S. dollar. China has refused to do so. [Senate supports Schumer’s trade bill]

And China has agreed to revalue the yuan very soon. So it seems as if China is able to contain internal pressure, but it is not able to withstand the external ones.

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