... the throwing of shoes at foreign dignitaries, that is. Following in the footsteps of Muntadar al-Zaidi, a reporter now famous for hurling two shoes at former President Bush, a pro-Tibetan protester at Cambridge University likewise hurled his shoe at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who spoke there today on the state of the global economy.
According to FP Passport, as Mr. Wen was approaching the end of his address, a Western man stood up, blew a whistle and shouted: “How can the university prostitute itself with this dictator? How can you listen to these lies?”
To his credit, Wen remained cool, calm and collected. My guess is this is not the first time that he's seen such protest:
PS. This would never happen at Oxford. ;) Sorry, I couldn't resist: alma mater pride...
What first began as a document written by Chinese lawyers and intellectuals commonly associated with pro-democracy stances (and thus already on the government's 'to watch' list), has now grown to become a list containing the signatures of journalists, students, teachers, businessmen, and a host of other individuals who have never been associated with any such movement. This is also the first time a political stance has been issued by anyone outside of the CCP(!).
The Charter lays out an extensive overhaul of the current political system by ending one-party rule, introducing freedom of speech, an independent court system and direct elections. In short, it stands opposed to juuuuust about everything the CCP stands for (just about), and calls the government's attempted modernization project downright abominable, reprehensible, and defunct (in not so many words, of course).
It's no secret that political revolutions - on whatever scale - have occurred in times of economic strife. In that sense, the time is ripe for a political upheaval, if there is to be one. China's labor unrest is even worse than expected, India has recently moved to ban imports of Chinese toys for six months - a move with grave ramifications for China's already suffering toy industry - and attempts at a Chinese stimulus appear dubious. I couldn't possibly think of a better time to press for political reform. Hopefully the Charter will gain even more momentum before the government moves in to quench it (*fingers crossed*).
Despite pledges of "mutual benefit" and "win-win" cooperation on the part of Chinese government and business leaders, this current phase of Sino-African relations remains very much a one way street. We constantly hear about Chinese enterprises breaking into African markets and Chinese merchants migrating to various African states, but quite little about similar incidences going the other way. Even the China-Africa Business Council, a flagship of the UNDP, remains based in Beijing and has as its focus the grooming of Chinese businesses for entry into African markets, paying little heed to the prospects for African firms seeking to break into the Chinese market.
There is, however, a growing population of Africans across China. In the most recent issue of The New Yorker, Evan Osnos writes about African merchants living in Guangzhou, in a part of town now referred to as "Chocolate City." You can read Osnos' piece here, and watch a narrated slideshow about the economic, social and religious life of African migrants in Guangzhou here.
Last Friday I found myself mulling over the prospects for microfinance in China, citing especially the promising work of an organization called Wokai, which engages in on-the-ground microfinance projects there, particularly in Inner Mongolia. Shortly after posting these reflections, I received a message from Wokai's Marketing Director who, after a lovely brief introduction, writes the following:
[...] To answer your question about how well microfinance can work in China, I'd like to refer you to this recent article from China International Business magazine: http://www.cibmagazine.com.cn/Features/Economy.asp?id=782&giant_steps.html On an individual level, microfinance in China has increased incomes and improved the status of women. However, its impact on a national scale has been limited by legal regulations.
The article she cites is actually quite brilliant, and goes a long way in addressing the regulatory and legal hurdles faced by the microfinance industry in China (indeed, the logic underpinning my hesitation to wholly embrace the potential success of this industry). While the Chinese government granted official status to microcredit and microfinance companies in 2008, this has seemingly done little to ameliorate the challenges faced by microfinance NGOs (sneaky, sneaky), who must now transform themselves into regulated financial institutions. Microfinance in China is permitted to operate, then - and by the look of things, succeed - so long as it falls under the auspices of the state.
Particularly prominent in China are "village banks," which provide individuals with microcredit loans and other microfinance services. While it's too early to gauge the actual effectiveness of these institutions, the prospects do appear promising. To answer my own question, then, it would appear that microfinance might actually work quite well in China; that is, of course, so long as the industry has a cooperative state by its side.
My blog reflects my research interests: East Africa and the Horn; international security; African emerging markets; global financial regulation; U.S.-China relations; and the emergence of China as a major global economic and political actor. Occasional intellectual detours likely.
I am a doctoral canditate in Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. I hold an M.Phil in Comparative Government from Oxford (2008), and a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Northwestern University (2006).