In the ocean immediately beyond the city are a few islands of particular interest to China:
- Japan: the old rival, whose rapid modernisation preceded China’s, but now eclipsed and reduced to a few harmless islands.
- Taiwan: similarly superseded by China’s massive economic progress, but still relevant as the rival claimant to be China’s ‘legitimate’ government. Even more repulsive to mainland China is a competing strand of current Taiwanese politics, striving for ‘independence’ and thus eschewing the ‘One China’ policy still officially espoused by both the communist mainland and nationalist Taiwan.
- Hong Kong: the former British crown colony that was handed back to China in 1997 and which has been allowed a degree of autonomy unthinkable elsewhere in China (e.g. Tibet) under an agreement often referred to as ‘One Country, Two Systems’, whereby Hong Kong was allowed to retain its capitalist system and its civil liberties, including inchoate democratic institutions.
- Spratly Islands: a sprawling archipelago of over 600 islets, atols and reefs in the South China Sea, between Vietnam and the Philippines, with barely 5 square kilometers of dry land between them. Because of their strategic location, the Spratlys, or parts of them, are claimed and partly occupied by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia - and as such are a flashpoint waiting to happen.
Across a narrow representation of the Pacific Ocean lies the continent apparently most on China’s mind - America. And especially, apart from a tiny slice labelled Canada and a small appendage being dug up for minerals called South America, the United States. The US is a crumbling empire, with the Statue of Liberty clutching a begging bowl and holding up a sign saying: Please give generously. Next to some shacks is a sign saying Foreclosure Sale (a reference to the house repossessions that are symptomatic of the credit crunch which triggered the present economic recession). Wall Street is a fault almost splitting the US in two.
Europe is much smaller and more irrelevant than America, in the ocean beyond it. All that distinguishes it are Prada and Hermes, two brands of luxury fashion accessories, and presumably very popular with the wealthy Chinese elite - suggesting that Europe is only interesting to China as a glorified shopping mall.
Next to Europe is Africa, equally distant from China, but at least decked out with some of the implements of industry, referring to the large investments China is making in Africa, benefiting the poorest continent with new infrastructure and providing China with access to much-needed raw materials for its burgeoning industry.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I have spent the last two weeks working with a team of Saddleback lawyers who are implementing this impressive program. Having met with Supreme Court and High Court judges, Ministry of Justice officials, and over sixty of the top Rwandan pastors in the country, I am convinced that in a country where 82 percent of the population are Christians, there is no better vehicle for educating the general populace about human rights than the local church. At the invitation of President Kagame, Saddleback Church has been sending hundreds of volunteer professionals–doctors, nurses, lawyers, psychologists, etc.–to work with local churches to address Rwanda’s most pressing problems.
On the legal front, top government officials have identified three central problems: intra-family land grabbing, domestic violence, and sexual crimes. To address those problems, lawyers from Saddleback Church have drafted a human rights manual for local pastors they can use to educate their members about those issues. They have started with the issue of land grabbing, and future manuals will be developed that focus on domestic violence and sexual crimes.
[...] It is an impressive project. The result will be a manual that will be sent to thousands of Rwandan pastors with information on the rights of women and children and information on legal resources for families who struggle with land grabbing. Prevention is the principal objective, but for those who are in the midst of a land grabbing dispute, the manual encourages local pastors to work with government legal aid clinics, the National University of Rwanda, and the Christian human rights NGO International Justice Mission to intervene.