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at Iran’s You can run, but you

oil pumps Peter
can’t hide from democracy Kammerer

s the US shapes up to confront
Iran in the Middle East, it is

I Where a
trying to rally support in Asia am glad that I’m not running Donald Environment. He promises to “seek to Albert Ho Chun-yan criticised him for a Yet he is not expecting a “consensus”
for tougher sanctions against Tehran. Tsang Yam-kuen’s election cam- achieve a consensus within society on the lack of progress, Mr Tsang held out his there. This is all he undertakes to do. Is
Washington alleges that Iran has a paign. Given his platform on univer- model for universal suffrage, so that uni- hand, palm up, and demanded: “Where is this what he means by “push forward
covert programme to develop
nuclear weapons, and that it backs
anti-American violence in Iraq.
sal suffrage, he faces an insuperable
problem of inconsistency and dishonesty.
The chief executive is under challenge
versal suffrage will become a reality as
soon as possible”.
“Consensus” is a much-manipulated
the consensus model? You give me that
first.” He considered it incumbent on the
supporters of universal suffrage to pro-
democratic development with a pragmat-
ic attitude and move towards universal
suffrage” – one of his pledges.
Iran shows no sign of being ready
to comply with a UN Security
Council deadline – the end of this
from directly elected legislator Alan Leong
Kah-kit, now unstoppable as a candidate
in the race. So Mr Tsang has announced
word in the Hong Kong government.
What matters here is what Mr Tsang
means by it and how he tries to achieve it.
vide a model that everyone will accept.
He thinks he has done his job simply
by appointing the Commission on Strate-
Mr Tsang is clearly anxious to be seen
as someone close to the people, a modest
man, the chap next door. I could under-
life is cheap
month – to suspend its sensitive that he, too, will run a popular campaign – He means a proposal that everybody will gic Development. His action plan in- stand that attitude in a governor sent here

nuclear work. Instead, Iranian handing out handbills to passers-by in the agree to, and he is waiting for someone to cludes a promise to publish a green paper, to rule over us by our colonial masters – hilippine President Gloria
officials have said that they will streets, visiting housing estates and so on, produce one for him. In a question and in the middle of this year, to consult the they weren’t one of us. But why is Mr Macapagal-Arroyo is proud of her
expand uranium enrichment activity. as if the chief executive election were a answer session recently, when legislator public on the commission’s conclusion. Tsang, a local boy, so worried? nation’s democracy and always
Although China and Russia voted direct election by universal suffrage. He pledges to “guide government offi- looking for ways to make it even better.
for the Security Council resolution in The glaring hole in the glamorous fab- cials to act proactively in listening to pub- It’s strange, then, that more journalists
December, they are wary of imposing ric of his campaign is that the general elec- lic opinion [and] raise [the] transparency – the upholders of democratic systems
tougher sanctions, arguing that it torate is denied the right to vote. Mr of policy-making”. But why has he not – have been killed during her
would provoke Iran and make a Tsang’s platform does not come even done so in the past? In such matters as the presidency than under any of her
negotiated settlement less likely. near to a clear promise that he will fight demolition of the Star Ferry clock tower, predecessors.
The US is forging closer co- for their enfranchisement by 2012, or even the West Kowloon cultural development The figures are oft quoted by media
operation with Sunni Arab-led states, 2017 – or by any date. project – and many other examples, what watchdogs, human rights groups and
especially Saudi Arabia, as a Against these hard facts, his campaign attitude did he and his officials actually anyone with an axe to grind against
counterweight to Iran’s Shiite dress code, theme colour and slogan – show? If he is now aware that this was not Mrs Arroyo’s administration. But while
theocracy. The rising tension in the which image experts identify as “efforts to good enough, is he offering anything in there is no denying that the numbers
Gulf troubles many Asian countries. reconnect with the public” – will only his platform that will give the public rea- are appalling, an important point to
Trade and investment between the serve to highlight the gap between ap- son to feel confident that his attitude will keep in mind is that apples and
two regions is booming. Trade pearance and reality. change? oranges should never be compared.
Mr Leong can speak to the public, loud The one sure remedy is democracy. In this case, statistics are being used
CROSSROADS and clear, with hand on heart, saying: “I This is why universal suffrage is essential to claim that journalists have it tougher
want you to see how absurd and unfair to good governance in Hong Kong. What in the Arroyo years than during those
this system is. You have seen the plat- would really make the government listen of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The
forms of both candidates. You should to the people is giving them the vote. Brussels-based International
have the right to choose between them. The habits of a lifetime as a mandarin Federation of Journalists puts the
Yet you are denied the right to do so un- do not equip Mr Tsang well for leading a number killed since Mrs Arroyo took
less you are one of the privileged 796. democratic government. His authoritar- office six years ago at 47, compared to
“This is wrong, and my commitment is ian mindset all too frequently gets the bet- 34 under Marcos, who stole democracy
to change the system so that this will be ter of him. by declaring marshal law in 1972.
the last time ordinary men and women in Only a change to universal suffrage An equal number, 34, died under
Michael Richardson Hong Kong are barred from electing their would be potent enough to dislodge that Corazon Aquino, the leader who
chief executive.” Mr Leong may have a mindset, but his platform contains noth- restored rights and freedoms to
between the Middle East and China tough job, given the inequality of the con- ing to assure us that such a change is on its Filipinos in 1986 and governed for the
alone could rise at least sixfold to test, but his position is not indefensible. way. next six years. Furthering the
US$500 billion by 2020, according to Mr Tsang has to fight his own ambiv- comparison, 19 died under Mrs
the McKinsey consulting firm. alences and contradictory messages. De- Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee is a legislator repre- Aquino’s successor, Fidel Ramos, and
The bedrock of Asia’s interest in mocracy comes last in his action plan, un- senting the legal profession and a founding five during the three-year presidency of
the Gulf is energy. It draws about der the sub-heading: A Good Democratic member of the Civic Party Joseph Estrada, who was succeeded by
three-quarters of its oil imports from Mrs Arroyo.
the Middle East. Iran provides close Other watchdog organisations, like
to 15 per cent of Japan’s oil and is its the Centre for Media Freedom and
third-largest supplier after Saudi COLD WAR THINKING Yu Maochun Responsibility, in Manila, and the
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Paris-based Reporters Without Borders,
Despite this dependence, Japan – dispute the federation’s accounting
under pressure from its US ally – last
year backed away from a deal to
invest US$2 billion in Iran’s
Azadegan oil field. Other Asian
Stop ignoring the China threat methods and have substantially lower
figures, although they chart similar
trends. In its annual assessment of
global journalistic freedoms released

countries planning to invest in resident Hu Jintao is currently ing. In fact, this dangerous and irresponsi- tator it wishes – and disturb the delicate causing severe pollution and endanger- this month, the latter group reported
Iranian energy projects are also touring Africa, seeking to secure de- ble action is yet another key sign that military balance in space – is emblematic ing many other orbiting spacecraft. that last year, the Philippines was the
feeling the heat from Washington, pendable sources of natural re- China’s rise as a global power lacks any of something dangerous. There is a danger, given China’s size, that third most unsafe country for reporters.
which has a law to penalise any sources and to promote China’s “peaceful guarantee that it will be a peaceful nation Partly because of the patronising this peculiar “Chinese exceptionalism” Six journalists were killed, compared to
foreign firm that invests more than rise”. Such tours are designed to give notice once it grows strong. pampering afforded the Chinese by the could turn into something truly alarm- nine in Mexico and 40 in Iraq.
US$40 million in oil or natural gas that the nation is emerging on the world Lurking behind China’s ambition in developed world – and partly because of ing: a global norm. A record total of 43 journalists have
ventures in Iran. stage, as well as to make it look respectable space is the spirit of the cold war, which Beijing’s relentless, but successful, ma- China is a poor model for the devel- had libel actions filed against them
An influential member of the US as a major world power. continues to permeate the inner circles of nipulation of world opinion – China has oping world, given its effort to make during Mrs Arroyo’s tenure. They were
Congress last week called for But the country’s quest for internation- the military high command: their adversa- long been treated as exceptional when it internet giants like Google, Yahoo and all filed by her husband, Mike Arroyo,
negotiations on a US-Malaysia free- al respect is not well served by its embrace ry is unmistakably the US. With the col- comes to its international behaviour. Microsoft kowtow to its domestic politi- over reports accusing him of
trade agreement to be suspended of rogue nations like Sudan, Venezuela and lapse of the Soviet communist regime, the As a result, in venues like the United cal controls – and its push in Africa and
unless Kuala Lumpur bars a Myanmar, much less by its secretive mil- US continues to enjoy a dominant role in Nations, the nation enjoys a degree of Latin America to create blocs of nations
Malaysian company from investing
US$16 billion to develop gas fields in
itary build-up and its recent adventure in
outer space.
space exploration for peaceful and scientif-
ic development. But, since the 1980s, the
immunity from criticism for its egregious
human rights abuses and massive mili-
that pursue economic development
while ignoring human rights and envi-
“Six journalists
southern Iran. Malaysia is expected Indeed, when the Chinese military fired US has been ambivalent about the ulti- tary build-up. ronmental conservation. were killed in the
to repeat its refusal to veto the deal a missile into space last month and shat- mate military and civilian utility of its space Likewise, its relations with authoritar- In fact, to continue to give China “ex-
when the latest talks end today. tered one of its own ageing satellites, it efforts. ian regimes, or even its responsibility for ceptional” treatment – given its behav- Philippines last year
India’s foreign minister visited
Tehran this week for talks on a plan
caused outrage from London to Tokyo and
Washington. After several days of silence in
This ambivalence has now been greatly
reduced because of China’s recent action,
preserving the global environment, are
rarely mentioned.
iour today – will undermine its ability to
become a nation capable of exercising
compared to nine in
to spend as much as US$7.5 billion the face of incontrovertible evidence of the which could precipitate a race to militarise Unsurprisingly, the Chinese leader- responsible global leadership. Mexico and 40 in Iraq”
on a 2,570km pipeline to carry launch, Beijing reluctantly admitted what and weaponise outer space. Should this ship now acts as if the country actually is
Iranian gas through Pakistan to it had done. But it claimed that the “test happen, China would share a large part of exceptional and can get away with pol- Yu Maochun is a professor of East Asia
energy-short India. US requests to was not directed at any country and does the blame. luting outer space without rebuke. The and military history at the US Naval corruption. All but one of the news
New Delhi to steer clear of Iran while not constitute a threat to any country”. Its adventurism and blithe assumption destruction of the Chinese satellite pro- Academy. The views expressed here are people involved have counter-sued.
it continues to defy the UN have Such denials are becoming unconvinc- that it can deal with any international dic- duced roughly 300,000 pieces of debris, his own. Copyright: Project Syndicate Then there are the persistent
played a part in delaying any deal. accusations from human rights groups
China faces some particularly that the leader is turning a blind eye to
painful choices if tensions continue the deaths of journalists, labour
to increase between the US and its CONSUMER SPENDING Christopher Johnson activists, church people, lawyers and
Saudi-led Gulf allies, on the one the like – more than 800 since she took
hand, and Iran on the other. Iran was office. An inquiry she ordered has
China’s third-largest oil supplier last
year, and Chinese state-owned
companies have committed to huge
investments in oil and gas projects
Bolster, don’t bash, Japan’s economy implicated the military, which helped
her to power, but few military people
have had action taken against them.
Each year there are also dozens of

there. Will Beijing risk its relations uropeans who seek measures workforce. Household spending dropped 1991, the yen doubled in value and living higher-yielding assets such as US Trea- attempts on the lives of journalists:
with the US and its international against the weakness of the yen every month last year, while the Labour costs in Japan climbed to absurd levels. sury bills. Many blame this yen-carry many are assaulted and scores receive
prestige as a responsible power by should broaden their view of chron- Ministry said wages – which shrivelled by Despite years without inflation, many trade for fuelling stock bubbles in Shang- threats. Most of the attacks take place
putting those energy interests ahead ic problems in Japan – to avoid punishing 10 per cent between 1997 and 2005 – rose a Japanese still feel they’re paying too much hai, Shenzhen and elsewhere that could outside the capital.
of its professed concern to prevent Japanese consumers and stalling eco- mere 0.2 per cent. This situation is not in for what they get. Consumer apathy im- burst if currencies go astray, as in 1997. Sheila Coronel, the director of the
the spread of nuclear weapons? nomic growth in the region, which bene- the best interests of Europe, China – or pedes the Bank of Japan from raising in- China dreads a domino effect from Stabile Centre for Investigative
And the question may become fits from a weak yen. any country that needs Japanese buyers, terest rates, which are well below the glob- currency interventions in Asia because it Journalism at Columbia University, put
even more complicated for Beijing. The currency has fallen 11 per cent visitors and investors. A downturn in Ja- al norm. Economics and Fiscal Policy is already under Plaza Accord-type pres- the situation down to a culture of
Iranian and Saudi exports account against the euro in the past year. Finance pan could dampen enthusiasm in the re- Minister Hiroko Ota and others have pres- sures to let the yuan rise. “China does not impunity for business leaders and
for almost two-thirds of China’s ministers from Germany, France and Italy gion and siphon money out of China’s sured bank officials to move slowly, or not yet have the currency policy that we want officials, and a lack of government
Middle East oil imports. If relations said last week that this decline would be booming – and fragile – markets. at all, on tightening the money supply. it to have and that it needs,” US Treasury control in provincial areas, where local
between Iran and Saudi Arabia fray discussed at a Group of Seven meeting be- To avoid nipping Japan’s economic “Japan is in an extremely crucial period of Secretary Henry Paulson said last week. bosses often have private armies.
in a Gulf power struggle, Beijing may tween central bankers and finance min- spring in the bud, finance officials should getting out of deflation, and consumption American and Japanese officials are in- “They are usually entrenched in
find that it has to choose between isters in Essen, Germany, at the weekend. consider the context: while the yen might is weak,” said Ms Ota. “Low interest rates dicating they won’t alter their yen policy, local office, sometimes over
two petroleum giants – each of them But shoppers in Japan – where in- appear weak, history indicates that it need correcting eventually, but what is and investors in China are sensitive to any generations,” said Ms Coronel, until
vital to China’s energy security. creased domestic consumer demand is could slide even further. important is the timing.” The bank’s in- wind of change. So G7 ministers would be last September the head of the
needed to bolster export-led growth – Many analysts blame current ab- terest rate rise last July has been blamed better off focusing on how to sustain Philippine Centre for Investigative
Michael Richardson is a visiting have bigger worries. Despite rising corpo- normalities on the 1985 Plaza Accord. for contributing to a slowdown in the July- growth worldwide by getting Japanese Journalism. “There is very little
senior research fellow at the Institute rate profits, the Japanese remain mired in That was when major powers intervened September quarter. consumers back into the game. opposition, if at all, to their control of
of Southeast Asian Studies in stagnant wages, abnormally high living in currency markets to slow Japan’s ex- As it is, some investment funds are ex- local territories. That control often
Singapore. This is a personal costs and anxiety about higher taxes, port juggernaut and open the nation to ploiting Japan’s low interest rates by bor- Christopher Johnson is a Tokyo-based free- extends to illegal activities – and they
comment amid a declining birth rate and shrinking cheaper western imports. From 1986 to rowing cheaply in yen and investing in lance writer do not like being challenged.”
Throw in the wide availability of
guns, and the mix is deadly for those
whose job is to uncover corruption and
GLOBAL WARMING Robert Samuelson keep officials in line. But I sense that it
was considerably worse under Marcos.
No journalist then was truly

The world’s dirty secret independent, as every media outlet was

government controlled. There are also
many more reporters now than then.
And Marcos had such a tight grip on

ou could be excused for thinking political and social stability. Until we can carbon dioxide totalled 26 billion metric lated an alternative scenario that simu- antee that socially acceptable and cost- the country that, after his first few years
that we’ll soon do something seri- replace fossil fuels, or find practical ways tonnes. Under plausible economic and lated the effect of 1,400 policies to reduce competitive new technologies would re- in office, he no longer had to kill
ous about global warming. Last Fri- to capture their emissions, governments population assumptions, they will grow fossil fuel use; for example, fuel economy sult. But without them, global warming is journalists to show them who was boss.
day, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel will not sanction the deep energy cuts to 40 billion tonnes by 2030, projects the for new US vehicles was assumed to in- more or less on automatic pilot. Simply jailing them was enough to get
on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that would truly affect global warming. Paris-based International Energy Agency crease 30 per cent by 2030. The result: by Meanwhile, we could temper our the message out loud and clear.
that, to a 90 per cent probability, human Considering this reality, you should (IEA). About three-quarters of the in- 2030, annual carbon emissions would energy appetite. I’ve argued before for a Being a self-avowed practitioner of
activity is warming the Earth. Earlier, treat the pious exhortations to “do some- crease will come from developing coun- rise 31 per cent instead of 55 per cent. high oil tax to prod Americans to buy democracy, Mrs Arroyo should have no
Democratic leaders in the US Congress thing” with scepticism, disbelief or con- tries, two-fifths from China alone. So far, global warming has been a more fuel-efficient vehicles. The main difficulty changing public perceptions.
made global warming legislation a top tempt. These pronouncements are (take Poor countries won’t sacrifice eco- change, not a calamity. The IPCC aim would be to limit insecure oil im- All she has to do is follow the
priority; and 10 big American companies your pick) naive, self-interested, misin- nomic growth – lowering poverty, foster- projects wide ranges for the next century: ports; but it would also check carbon democratic principles of ensuring
endorsed federal regulation. Strong ac- formed, stupid or dishonest. Politicians ing political stability – to placate the rich temperature increases anywhere from 1.1 dioxide emissions. police and the courts do their job
tion seems at hand. mainly want to be seen to be reducing world’s fears about global warming. Why degrees Celsius to 6.4 degrees; sea level It’s a debate we ought to have – but properly. Oh yes – and acknowledge
Don’t be fooled. The dirty secret global warming when they’re not actu- should they? On a per-person basis, their rises anywhere from 17cm to almost probably won’t. Any realistic response that journalists carry out the key
about global warming is this: we have no ally doing so. Companies want to polish carbon dioxide emissions are only about 60cm. would be costly, uncertain and no doubt democratic role of keeping those in
solution. About 80 per cent of the world’s their images and exploit markets created one-fifth the level of rich countries. In What we really need is a more urgent unpopular. That’s one truth too inconve- power in check.
energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, by new environmental regulations. Africa, less than 40 per cent of the pop- programme of research and develop- nient for almost anyone to admit.
natural gas) – the main sources of man- Anyone who honestly examines glob- ulation even has electricity. ment focusing on nuclear power, electric Peter Kammerer is the Post’s foreign
made greenhouse gases. Energy use sus- al energy trends must reach these harsh Nor will existing technologies, aggres- batteries, alternative fuels and the cap- Robert Samuelson is a Washington Post editor.
tains economic growth, which buttresses conclusions. In 2004, world emissions of sively deployed, rescue us. The IEA calcu- ture of carbon dioxide. There’s no guar- columnist