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China Reform Monitor - No. 946
China dominates arms sales to sub-Saharan Africa;
Chinese react to Taiwan elections
Edited by Joshua Eisenman
February 7, 2012
Just ahead of Premier Wen Jiabao’s official visit to Nepal, 207 Tibetan religious pilgrims were arrested for entering the country without travel documents and deported to China. The 126 male and 81 female Tibetans had traveled from Tibet to a religious site in Bodhgaya, India via Nepal to attend Kalachakra – a Tibetan religious ceremony presided over by the Dalai Lama. After returning from India they were arrested entering Kathmandu, Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reports. Kyodo also reports that Premier Wen thanked Nepal for opposing Tibetan separatism and pledged the country $750 million. Each year hundreds of Tibetans enter Nepal hoping to travel to Dharmashala, India, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. There are nearly 20,000 Tibetans with valid refugee papers in Nepal, but thousands more live there illegally.
With a 25 percent market share, China is the leading supplier of weapons to sub-Saharan Africa according to a report by The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). By contrast, the U.S. share of the African arms market is three percent. The report describes Chinese military sales to Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Kenya, for instance, used Chinese-made attack helicopters in Somalia, the Kenya-based EastAfrican reports. Luwero Industries in Uganda refurbishes Kalashnikov-type rifles that use Chinese bullets and uses Chinese inputs in its ammunition production. SIPRI cautioned against viewing China’s weapons deals as merely a part of Beijing’s effort to secure access to African resources. “China’s delivery of arms and military assistance to Tanzania, from which it imports few natural resources, shows that access to resources cannot be China’s only motive for supplying arms to Africa,” the report says.
Millions of Chinese followed Taiwan’s elections on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblog system that has 250 million subscribers. Mainlanders marveled at the smooth voting, the gracious loser, Tsai Ing-wen, and the rain-soaked winner, Ma Yingjeou. Some Chinese including Wang Shi, one of China’s real estate tycoons, went to Taiwan to see the contest up close and sent out Weibo dispatches from political rallies. “The political environment has really matured,” Wang wrote to his four million followers. Another popular joke that went viral on Weibo goes: A Taiwanese man brags to his Chinese friend that he will go to the polls in the morning and know the results that evening. “You guys are too backward,” the Chinese responds. “If we had to vote tomorrow morning, we would know the results tonight.” By contrast to the vivid Internet commentary, the official Xinhua news agency cast the contest as a local election, eschewing the words “democracy” or “president.” Newspapers could only run Xinhua’s account, but many published banner headlines, graphics and photographs of a triumphant President Ma. “No one told us we couldn’t put the election on our front page, so that’s what we did,” one Chinese editor told the New York Times.
Li Song, deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Arms Control and Disarmament, has denied that China has helped Iran’s nuclear weapons program. “We have never assisted Iran in the development of nuclear weapons. China is doing nothing of the kind now and will never do such things in future. In tandem with our international obligations and our own laws and regulations on non-proliferation, we exercise strict management over the export activities of Chinese companies and entities to prevent export activities that may risk proliferation,” Li said in comments carried by the official Zhongguo Xinwen She.
[Editor’s Note: In September 2010 Robert J. Einhorn, the U.S. State Department’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, gave Beijing a list of Chinese companies and banks violating UN sanctions on Iran, the Washington Post reported. Chinese firms were discovered selling materials to Iran used to enrich uranium for its nuclear program including high-grade carbon fiber for centrifuges, graphite, tungsten copper, tungsten powder, high- strength steel and aluminum alloys.]
To stop Chinese boats illegally fishing in South Korean waters, Seoul is looking to double fines and deploy its naval special forces, the Korea Times reports. Under the new policies, which must first pass the National Assembly, the maximum fine would go from 100 million won to 200 million won ($176,056). The law would also allow the South Korean coastguard to confiscate boats and equipment used for illegal fishing. Seoul has vowed to crackdown after a Chinese skipper stabbed a Korean coastguard officer to death last month during a raid on a Chinese boat caught fishing illegally in the Yellow Sea. The murder sparked public anger in South Korea prompting President Lee Myung-bak to raise the issue with President Hu Jintao during a recent state visit to China where both agreed to hold regular meetings to resolve the issue.