AFP: Crackdown on China workers’ rights groups

Agence France-Presse, 10 September 2012

Around 10 groups that offer help to the millions of migrant workers living  and working in Shenzhen have suffered random inspections and evictions, some of  which turned violent, said the letter seen by AFP on Monday.

“Police have failed to prevent labour organisations from being evicted from  their offices for unknown reasons, sometimes even violently,” said the letter  signed by 20 scholars and sent to the city and provincial governments Sunday.

The Dagongzhe Migrant Worker Centre was one of the first to be caught in  the crackdown, with workers evicted from their offices in July after the water  and electricity supply to their office was shut off by local authorities.

Another, the Hand in Hand Workers’ Home, was evicted from its offices on  Sunday, while local government staff confiscated property belonging to a group  called The Little Grass Workers’ Home last month, staff there told AFP. Continue reading

Apple hit by boycott call over worker abuses in China

US writers attack conditions at Foxconn plant and call for consumers to act

in New York

The Observer, Saturday 28 January 2012

[Employees work on the Apple assembly line at the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen in southern China. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty]

Employees work on the Apple assembly line at the Foxconn plant

Employees work on the Apple assembly line at the Foxconn plant

Apple, the computer giant whose sleek products have become a mainstay of modern life, is dealing with a public relations disaster and the threat of calls for a boycott of its iPhones and iPads.

The company’s public image took a dive after revelations about working conditions in the factories of some of its network of Chinese suppliers. The allegations, reported at length in the New York Times, build on previous concerns about abuses at firms that Apple uses to make its bestselling computers and phones. Now the dreaded word “boycott” has started to appear in media coverage of its activities.

“Should consumers boycott Apple?” asked a column in the Los Angeles Times as it recounted details of the bad PR fallout.

The influential Daily Beast and Newsweek technology writer Dan Lyons wrote a scathing piece. “It’s barbaric,” he said, before saying to his readership: “Ultimately the blame lies not with Apple and other electronics companies – but with us, the consumers. And ultimately we are the ones who must demand change.”

Forbes magazine columnist Peter Cohan also got in on the act. “If you add up all the workers who have died to build your iPhone or iPad, the number is shockingly high,” he began an article that also toyed with the idea of a boycott in its headline.

The New York Times’s revelations, which centred on the Foxconn plant in southern China that has repeatedly been the subject of accusations of worker mistreatment, have caused a major stir in the US. Although such allegations have been made before in numerous news outlets, and in a controversial one-man show by playwright Mike Daisey, this time they have struck a chord. Continue reading

Obama Blew a Kiss to Apple

by Jeff Ballinger, Workers Rights Consortium

President Barack Obama blew a kiss to Apple in the State of the Union speech, praising the entrepreneurial spirit of its founder, the late Steve Jobs, as the cameras panned to his widow in the audience.

Obama’s timing couldn’t be weirder. In the last month, Apple has released a damning audit which found that almost 100 of Apple’s supplier factories force more than half their workers to exceed a 60-hour week. The company announced responsibility for aluminum dust explosions in Chinese supplier factories that killed four workers and injured 77. Hundreds more in China have been injured cleaning iPad screens with a chemical that causes nerve damage.

Apple was just subjected to a “This American Life” radio special reporting on its abysmal factory conditions in China (Jon Stewart gigged ‘em on the issue, too). Last weekend a front-page New York Times story asked why the company offshored all of its manufacturing, mostly to China. (The answer is found in the what its executives call “flexibility.” Tens of thousands of workers there live in factory dorms on-site, where, the Times reports, they are woken in the middle of the night and forced onto 12-hour shifts when Apple decides a product needs tweaking.)

In the face of all this bad press, the tech darling’s response has been to reveal its supplier factories and to announce a partnership with the Fair Labor Association to do stepped-up factory inspections. The FLA is the partly corporate-funded group that until now only monitored apparel factories, and which Nike helped establish after its own scandals in the ’90s.

In sum, Apple is now doing what Nike has been doing for nearly 15 years: the apology-plus-transparency formula, straight out of the manuals offered by “reputation management” consultants.

This was certainly enough for most mainstream media and even some activists. Some were a bit more dubious but still pinned their hopes for stemming the abuses on the chimera of “consumer pressure.”  For those who may believe that rich-country consumer pressure should not be so summarily dismissed, I believe that it’s useful to turn to Jeffrey Swartz, until mid-2011 the CEO of Timberland, who says that consumers don’t care at all about workers’ rights.  In a late-2009 article he wrote, “With regard to human rights, the consumer expectation today is somewhere in the neighborhood of, don’t do anything horrible or despicable… if the issue doesn’t matter much to the consumer population, there’s not a big incentive for the consumer-minded CEOs to act, proactively.”  In a 2008 interview he mused about his desire to “seduce consumers to care” so that Timberland’s CSR report was not mere “corporate cologne”. Continue reading

A closer look: Obama’s hypocritical claim of the Apple/Steve Jobs allure

[A comment from Revolutionary Frontlines:  “Capitalist Crisis and Empire Quandary leads to media hyperbole, political hypocrisy, empty promises and false claims of better days ahead”

Barack Obama, the political leader of US imperialism, is heading into a re-election campaign with growing discontent and opposition across the country, including among traditional supporters of the Democratic party.  In his State of the Union address this week, he made a string of new and repeated promises to re-capture these drifting and angry voters,   as he promised to bring jobs back from overseas and support domestic innovation and business.  Apple electronics and Steve Jobs got special mention and praise from the President.  Apple, making record profits from its popular iPhone and iPad products, produces most of its goods overseas–the largest part being made by Foxconn in China and India, in factories holding hundreds of thousands of workers being paid $1 an hour.  If Foxconn increases pay rates and regulates safety and working conditions, China’s global edge in maintaining  cheap labor pool will lose its allure.  If the cost of production rises, Apple’s profit edge and competitiveness will suffer.  Therefore, every Foxconn adjustment in pay and conditions is matched by increased demands on productivity.  The NY Times article, below, details the situation at Foxconn.

The Chinese workers are caught in the middle of this.  They are not the enemies of workers in the US–they suffer from the same exploitation for profits, at the hands of the same crisis-wracked and bankrupt capitalist system, as we, and people worldwide, are suffering from.  There is no solution in workers fighting each other for a place in the exploiters’ production line.  The path forward is made with solidarity, with finding the ways to support each other and to unify our struggles against the capitalist-imperialist system.  With each day, millions more are seeing that the capitalist system, in its ever more vicious and desperate turns, is losing its credibility and legitimacy as a leading or organizing force in human affairs. — Frontlines ed.]

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Click this link to see video:  Made in China

An explosion last May at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China, killed four people and injured 18. It built iPads.

January 25, 2012

In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad

By and , New York Times

The explosion ripped through Building A5 on a Friday evening last May, an eruption of fire and noise that twisted metal pipes as if they were discarded straws.

When workers in the cafeteria ran outside, they saw black smoke pouring from shattered windows. It came from the area where employees polished thousands of iPad cases a day.

Two people were killed immediately, and over a dozen others hurt. As the injured were rushed into ambulances, one in particular stood out. His features had been smeared by the blast, scrubbed by heat and violence until a mat of red and black had replaced his mouth and nose.

“Are you Lai Xiaodong’s father?” a caller asked when the phone rang at Mr. Lai’s childhood home. Six months earlier, the 22-year-old had moved to Chengdu, in southwest China, to become one of the millions of human cogs powering the largest, fastest and most sophisticated manufacturing system on earth. That system has made it possible for Apple and hundreds of other companies to build devices almost as quickly as they can be dreamed up.

“He’s in trouble,” the caller told Mr. Lai’s father. “Get to the hospital as soon as possible.”

In the last decade, Apple has become one of the mightiest, richest and most successful companies in the world, in part by mastering global manufacturing. Apple and its high-technology peers — as well as dozens of other American industries — have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history.

However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.

After a rash of apparent suicide attempts, a dormitory for Foxconn workers in Shenzhen, China, had safety netting installed last May. Foxconn said it acted quickly and comprehensively to address employee suicides.

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.

“If Apple was warned, and didn’t act, that’s reprehensible,” said Nicholas Ashford, a former chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, a group that advises the United States Labor Department. “But what’s morally repugnant in one country is accepted business practices in another, and companies take advantage of that.”

Apple is not the only electronics company doing business within a troubling supply system. Bleak working conditions have been documented at factories manufacturing products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and others.

Current and former Apple executives, moreover, say the company has made significant strides in improving factories in recent years. Apple has a supplier code of conduct that details standards on labor issues, safety protections and other topics. The company has mounted a vigorous auditing campaign, and when abuses are discovered, Apple says, corrections are demanded.

And Apple’s annual supplier responsibility reports, in many cases, are the first to report abuses. This month, for the first time, the company released a list identifying many of its suppliers.

But significant problems remain. More than half of the suppliers audited by Apple have violated at least one aspect of the code of conduct every year since 2007, according to Apple’s reports, and in some instances have violated the law. While many violations involve working conditions, rather than safety hazards, troubling patterns persist. Continue reading

Foxconn: Chinese workers threaten mass suicide

By Todd Smith, World, January 11, 2012

Last week three hundred Chinese factory workers employed to Foxconn allegedly threatened mass suicide. This isn’t the first time Foxconn has been involved in work-related suicides. As explained in reports from Want China Times, the situation escalated on January 2nd after employees asked for a raise.

In return from the company they were informed that they could either quit with compensation or keep their current wages. In light of the circumstances, most of the Chinese factory workers decided to quit. They were outraged however when the factory refused to afford them their implied compensation. This led to the mass suicide situation that consisted of nearly 300 people threatening to jump from a building. Continue reading

The Deadly Labor Behind Our Phones, Laptops and Consumer Gadgets

At this Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, China, 300,000 workers produce iPads, iPhones and other best-selling consumer items

by Sophia Cheng
Thursday, September 1 2011

The world’s largest electronics manufacturer, Foxconn Technology Group, has a plan for ending the grisly run of worker suicides that have drawn it unwanted attention over the past two years: replace human workers with one million robots. It seems the best way to interrupt rising global outrage over worker abuse in iPhone factories is to just get rid of the workers.

With a labor force of 1.2 million people, Foxconn is China’s largest private employer and biggest exporter. It manufactures familiar products for the U.S. market. Through contracts with Apple, Motorola, Nokia, Hewlett Packard, Dell and Sony, it makes the computers, phones, laptops and printers that we use every day—including the iPhones and iPads that many people will use to read this very article. Continue reading

China: Another Suicide at Foxconn (manufacturer of Apple products)

[As one observer noted, “with Steve Jobs and Apple in the news so much lately, here is the other side of their business.” This article details the latest, and ongoing situation.  The views and proposals made are those of the author.–Frontlines ed.]

Nationalise Foxconn under workers’ control and management – end the scourge of ‘blood factories’

Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info

”It is not a sweatshop. You go in this place and it’s a factory but, my gosh, they’ve got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools. For a factory, it’s pretty nice.”

This was the comment of Apple boss Steve Jobs, defending the conditions at Foxconn’s China factories, where 18 young workers have attempted suicide in the last 12 months, 15 of them successfully.

On 7 January 2011, the latest victim jumped to her death from the 10th-floor Shenzhen apartment of her brother. Wang Ling, 25 years old, had reportedly received a “harsh reprimand” from a supervisor and was told to resign after serving the company for five years – a long time at Foxconn. Continue reading

China outdoes World Bank in lending to developing world

[The role of the World Bank in shaping the network of debt and dependence for the world imperialist system (and for the dominant US hegemonic role within it) is recently being challenged by the emerging imperialist rival, China, which is constructing its own global network of investment, trade, debt and dependence.–Frontlines ed.]

Beijing, Jan 18 : China has loaned more money to developing countries than the World Bank in the past two years, the Financial Times reported Tuesday.

Two state financial institutions, the China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank, loaned governments and companies in developing countries at least USD 110 billion in 2009 and 2010, surpassing the World Bank’s outlays of USD 100 billion from mid-2008 to mid-2009, which was a record for the world lending institution, the newspaper said, citing its own research.

The loans were an indication of China’s economic influence, its drive to secure raw materials and its efforts to diversify its economy away from a reliance on exports to Western developed countries, the Times said.

The money went to such projects as loans-for-oil agreements with Russia, Venezuela and Brazil; infrastructure projects in Ghana and Argentina; and power equipment for an Indian firm. Continue reading

South Korea (backed by the US) clashes with North Korea (backed by China)

[Based on our present knowledge, the latest armed clash between North and South Korea is based on this sequence of events: Tens of thousands of South Korean forces were conducting military exercises near the border with North Korea;  South Korean forces fired their artillery into waters near Yeonpyeong island that are claimed by both the North and the South;  North Korean artillery fire hit a South Korean marine installation on the island; and South Korea returned artillery fire. The US and Western imperialist press immediately charged that this was an “unprovoked attack” by North Korea.  Obama then ordered the USS George Washington aircraft carrier to South Korea to conduct “joint exercises” in a show of solidarity with the South Korean government.

As the article posted below points out, the dispatch of the USS George Washington to the Yellow Sea is also meant to send a message to the Chinese government to place more pressure on North Korea to back off militarily. The US imperialists are well aware that China is the only country with any leverage over North Korea, since it supplies most of North Korea’s energy and food.  China does this not out of “socialist solidarity” (neither of them are socialist), but to keep North Korea from collapsing, generating a flood of refugees into China. Even more importantly, a disintegrating North Korea could lead to a unified Korea, with a US military presence on China’s border.

The South Korean government claimed that it was the victim of North Korean “aggression,” and threatened to launch air strikes on North Korean artillery bases. It also received assistance from the bourgeois media in ensuring that its responsibility for the armed clash would not be subject to public scrutiny. This response points to the “carrot and stick” approach of the South Korean government and the US imperialists to the North Korean government. The “stick” has consisted of tight economic sanctions and constant military pressure (including initiating some of these armed clashes) that force the North Korean government to match South Korean military spending. The “carrot” is the offer of substantial economic aid and investments (in export processing zones) if North Korea agrees to discontinue its nuclear weapons program.

There are two reasons underlying North Korea’s policy of engaging South Korean forces in “lightning” military actions (see the history of armed actions from 1999 to the present below): First, these continual armed clashes maintain political legitimacy and stability for a weak North Korean regime by raising the level of nationalism and reinforcing the official line that North Korea is under perpetual siege from the US and South Korea. Second, the hereditary “communist” dynasty that has ruled North Korea for decades is in a desperate economic situation, and is having great difficulty maintaining its huge military forces. To handle this situation, the North Korean government has been expanding its nuclear weapons program and engaging the South Korean military in small actions as bargaining chips to extract the largest amount of economic aid as possible from South Korea and the US.  This is a high-stakes gamble. The recent actions of the North Korean government will more likely lead to tighter Western sanctions and increased US pressure on China to force North Korea to back off from its military/nuclear ambitions–and come to terms with South Korea and US imperialism.–Frontlines ed]

New York Times, November 23, 2010

U.S. to Send Carrier for Joint Exercises Off Korea

Smoke on Yeonpyeong island after the artillery attack

Smoke on Yeonpyeong island after the artillery attack

WASHINGTON — President Obama and South Korea’s president agreed Tuesday night to hold joint military exercises as a first response to North Korea’s deadly shelling of a South Korean military installation, as both countries struggled for the second time this year to keep a North Korean provocation from escalating into war.

What steps should the U.S. take after the artillery attack on a South Korean island?

The exercise will include sending the aircraft carrier George Washington and a number of accompanying ships into the region, both to deter further attacks by the North and to signal to China that unless it reins in its unruly ally it will see an even larger American presence in the vicinity.

The decision came after Mr. Obama attended the end of an emergency session in the White House Situation Room and then emerged to call President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea to express American solidarity and talk about a coordinated response. But as a former national security official who dealt frequently with North Korea in the Bush administration, Victor Cha, said just a few hours before the attack began, North Korea is “the land of lousy options.”

Mr. Obama is once again forced to choose among unpalatable choices: responding with verbal condemnations and a modest tightening of sanctions, which has done little to halt new attacks; starting military exercises that are largely symbolic; or reacting strongly, which could risk a broad war in which South Korea’s capital, Seoul, would be the first target. Continue reading

Inter-imperialist rivalry in Asia heats up between US and China

Obama and Hu Jintao make nice for public consumption

 

[This article provides a useful overview of the current state of economic, political and military contention between the US and China in Asia. However, it does not not identify China as an imperialist power in its own right, and it one-sidely portrays the US imperialists as “encircling” China. This makes it impossible to understand the capitalist/imperialist nature of China’s growing economic investments in Asia, as well as China’s development of military ties with Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. This not a “defensive” reaction to pressure from US imperialism, but is a calculated strategy of a newly emerged imperialist power that is trying to break into the US’ traditional spheres of influence in Asia, and elsewhere in the world.–Frontlines ed]

World Socialist Web Site, 13 November 2010

US diplomatic offensive tightens strategic encirclement of China

Washington’s aggressive diplomatic campaign in Asia over the past two weeks has amounted, in the words of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to “a full court press” against China, with the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean emerging as potential future theatres of war.

President Barack Obama’s visits to India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, and Clinton’s trips to Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia, sought to either strengthen existing alliances or create new partnerships for a US-led strategic encirclement of China.

Obama fervently courted India, China’s regional nuclear-armed rival. He urged New Delhi to become a “world power” and backed its bid to become a UN Security Council permanent member. Clinton twice reiterated that Washington could invoke the US-Japan Security Treaty to militarily support Japan against China in the conflict over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. Vietnam announced it was ready to hire out its strategic Cam Ranh Bay port in the South China Sea “to naval ships from all countries”—with Washington the most likely client. Canberra agreed to provide greater US access to its military facilities, especially those in northern Australia. Continue reading

China: More than 50 million farmers have lost their land since the 1980s

[When the article mentions the “reform and opening up,”  the “reform” refers to the dismantling of socialism that took place after the death of Mao in 1976 and the arrest of his closest allies in the party leadership.  Under China’s collectively-run system of agriculture  from the 1950s to the 1970s,  the vast dispossession of farmers from their land described in this article would have been unthinkable.  The “opening up” refers to the decision in the 1980s by the new government led by Deng Xiaoping to invite a host of multinational corporations looking for cheap labor into China.–Frontlines ed.]

China Daily, November 11, 2010

Rural land disputes lead unrest in China

BEIJING About 65 percent of mass incidents in rural areas are triggered by land disputes, which are affecting rural stability and development more than any other issue, land experts said.

China’s quick urbanization has provoked a new round of land seizures in rural areas to facilitate economic development, Yu Jianrong, a professor with the Rural Development Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted by the Beijing News as saying on Friday.

Jiangsu Province: Some of the 20,000 farmers who came to protest against illegal takeovers of their land by local government officials. When the officials were unresponsive, the farmers took over a government building for 5 days--after which riot police beat up hundreds of farmers to drive them away.

“Since the reform and opening-up,  more than 50 million farmers have lost all their land and nearly half of them have no jobs or social insurance. This has caused social conflict,” Yu said.

Land disputes are mainly caused by forced land acquisition, low compensation and unfair appropriation of the compensation, Yu said.  Land transactions have become a substantial contributor to local governments’ revenue.  For the past two decades, the difference between the land compensation paid to farmers and the market price of the seized land is about 2 trillion yuan ($294 billion) for 14.7 million hectares, Yu said.

Zheng Fengtian, a professor of the School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development of the Renmin University of China, said that due to the conflict between the shortage of land for construction required for quick economic development and the strict “red line” of 1.8 billion mu (120 million hectares) of arable land – the least amount necessary to feed the country’s 1.3 billion population – local governments turn to rural homesteads for development.

Governments should be service providers, not money-makers, in rural land management, but now many local governments want to make money through real estate development, triggering conflicts, the Beijing News quoted Li Changping, professor of the Rural Development and Construction Research Center of Hebei University, as saying, on Friday. Continue reading

Hungarian disaster revives Vietnam’s bauxite mine fears

An aerial view shows the broken dam responsible for the toxic flood near Devecser, Hungary, October 7. Pollution levels from the red sludge spill have subsided in the Danube and there is no risk of a biological or environmental catastrophe in the major European waterway, Hungarian officials said on October 8. There were still no estimates of the financial damage wrought by the sludge — waste from bauxite refining that has a strong caustic effect — over an area of 800-1,000 hectares (1,920-2,400 acres).

While the government wants to exploit the world’s largest reserves of the ore, others are not so keen

By Jonathan Manthorpe, Vancouver Sun
November 8, 2010

Protests in Vietnam against plans for six massive bauxite mines coupled with fears of Chinese economic imperialism have revived following last month’s toxic spill in Hungary that killed nine people and destroyed three villages.

The government of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has grudgingly agreed to review the bauxite mine and alumina production projects planned for the Central Highlands after receiving a much-publicized letter from 1,500 noted former politicians and intellectuals calling for new studies of the scheme.

“The disaster in Hungary is a serious warning to Vietnam,” said the letter, whose signatories included former vice-president Nguyen Thi Binh and former deputy minister of natural resources and environment Dang Hung Vo.

But although government spokesmen have said “It is necessary to listen to concerns of the public and intellectuals,” the tone and body language suggest there is no enthusiasm for halting the development of what, at 5.5 billion tonnes, are said to be some of the world’s largest reserves of the ore from which aluminum is produced. Continue reading

Looking for profitable investments, China turns to Europe

[This Chinese move seems motivated by a search for profitable investments and the opportunity to step across the threshold of Europe.  When the Greek financial crisis exploded a few months ago, and Germany, the UK, and the US all resisted bailing out the bankrupt regime, the Chinese smelled an opportunity to go where they could not go before.–Frontlines ed.]

New York Times, November 1, 2010

In Athens, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China toured the Acropolis with Greece's prime minister, George Papandreou.

PARIS — When Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China visited Athens last month, he came bearing gifts: billions of dollars worth of business deals and a wave of favorable attention from a crucial foreign investor.

“The support of our Chinese friends is fortunate for us,” Greece’s minister of state, Haris Pamboukis, said by telephone. But China has much greater ambitions. Greece is one foothold for China’s broad, strategic push into Europe. It is snapping up assets depressed by the global financial crisis and becoming a significant partner of other hard-hit European nations.

That message will be reinforced by a visit this week by China’s president, Hu Jintao, who is scheduled to meet with top officials and business executives of Portugal and France.

Ultimately, analysts say, Beijing hopes to achieve not just more business for its own companies, but also greater influence over the economic policies set in the power corridors of Brussels and Germany.

“They are indicating a willingness to stick their nose into Europe’s business,” said Carl B. Weinberg, chief United States economist of High Frequency Economics. “It’s very clever and sends a clear message,” he added, “that China is a force to be contended with.”

 

Concerned by US strengthening its ties to India, Pakistan seeks aid from China for nuclear projects

[In a time of crisis in the worldwide imperialist system, the imperialist powers as well as the countries they dominate are driven to seek new alignments to maintain and extend their power. Each new power alliance sharpens the tensions with other powers, who seek new alignments in response. This dynamic shapes world events every day.–Frontlines ed]

Time Magazine, October 1, 2010

Declarations of solidarity and the $2 billion in promised military aid received by a high-level Pakistani delegation in Washington last week belie the hardening of U.S. attitudes toward Islamabad. A White House report to Congress in early October accused the Pakistani army of avoiding “military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or al-Qaeda’s forces,” suggesting this inaction was a “political choice.” Mounting exasperation within the Administration at the failure of Pakistan to do its designated part in the U.S. war in Afghanistan is prompting calls in Washington to take a much tougher line with Islamabad.

But rather than produce a more pliant Pakistan, an escalation of U.S. pressure could prompt Islamabad to strengthen its ties with a more forgiving ally, China.

Despite the Pakistani military’s long-term reliance on U.S. support, anti-American sentiment in the country is dangerously high, stoked in part by growing anger over civilian casualties from U.S. drone attacks as well as disquiet with Washington’s warming ties with Pakistan’s archrival, India. President Obama is due to travel to India this week in a high-profile state visit.

In an exclusive interview with TIME conducted in late September, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi complained about the controversial civil-nuclear-energy deal the Bush Administration negotiated with India. No similar deal is on the cards for the Pakistanis, with Washington skittish about the security of Islamabad’s nuclear program and about the continued links between members of its military intelligence agency, the ISI, and various jihadists. “We were the traditional allies — the Indians remained in the Soviet camp,” says Qureshi. “Ever since that changed, the American approach has changed. Today, America values India a lot.” Continue reading

Imperialist world alignment watch: China offers to buy Greek debt

al Jazeera

by Gerald Tan

China has offered to buy Greek government bonds, in a show of support for the country whose debt burden pushed the euro zone into a crisis.

Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister, made the offer on Saturday at the start of a two-day visit to Greece, his first stop in a European tour.

During talks with George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, Wen said China would double its trade ties with Greece over the next five years, underscoring Beijing’s use of economic strength to win friends. Continue reading