Monthly Archives: March 2006

Now llibre Amartya Sen

Estava buscant una ressenya del nou llibre d’Amartya Sen i he trobat això… potser no és molt original (repeteix idees que ja coneixem tots), però ho explica molt bé… (i ja paro…)

What Clash of Civilizations?
Why religious identity isn’t destiny.
By Amartya Sen
Posted Wednesday, March 29, 2006, at 6:02 AM ET

This essay is adapted from the new book Identity and Violence, published by Norton.

That some barbed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed could generate turmoil in so many countries tells us some rather important things about the contemporary world. Among other issues, it points up the intense sensitivity of many Muslims about representation and derision of the prophet in the Western press (and the ridiculing of Muslim religious beliefs that is taken to go with it) and the evident power of determined agitators to generate the kind of anger that leads immediately to violence. But stereotyped representations of this kind do another sort of damage as well, by making huge groups of people in the world to look peculiarly narrow and unreal.

The portrayal of the prophet with a bomb in the form of a hat is obviously a figment of imagination and cannot be judged literally, and the relevance of that representation cannot be dissociated from the way the followers of the prophet may be seen. What we ought to take very seriously is the way Islamic identity, in this sort of depiction, is assumed to drown, if only implicitly, all other affiliations, priorities, and pursuits that a Muslim person may have. A person belongs to many different groups, of which a religious affiliation is only one. To see, for example, a mathematician who happens to be a Muslim by religion mainly in terms of Islamic identity would be to hide more than it reveals. Even today, when a modern mathematician at, say, MIT or Princeton invokes an “algorithm” to solve a difficult computational problem, he or she helps to commemorate the contributions of the ninth-century Muslim mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, from whose name the term algorithm is derived (the term “algebra” comes from the title of his Arabic mathematical treatise “Al Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah”). To concentrate only on Al-Khwarizmi’s Islamic identity over his identity as a mathematician would be extremely misleading, and yet he clearly was also a Muslim. Similarly, to give an automatic priority to the Islamic identity of a Muslim person in order to understand his or her role in the civil society, or in the literary world, or in creative work in arts and science, can result in profound misunderstanding.

The increasing tendency to overlook the many identities that any human being has and to try to classify individuals according to a single allegedly pre-eminent religious identity is an intellectual confusion that can animate dangerous divisiveness. An Islamist instigator of violence against infidels may want Muslims to forget that they have any identity other than being Islamic. What is surprising is that those who would like to quell that violence promote, in effect, the same intellectual disorientation by seeing Muslims primarily as members of an Islamic world. The world is made much more incendiary by the advocacy and popularity of single-dimensional categorization of human beings, which combines haziness of vision with increased scope for the exploitation of that haze by the champions of violence.

A remarkable use of imagined singularity can be found in Samuel Huntington’s influential 1998 book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order. The difficulty with Huntington’s approach begins with his system of unique categorization, well before the issue of a clash—or not—is even raised. Indeed, the thesis of a civilizational clash is conceptually parasitic on the commanding power of a unique categorization along so-called civilizational lines, which closely follow religious divisions to which singular attention is paid. Huntington contrasts Western civilization with “Islamic civilization,” “Hindu civilization,” “Buddhist civilization,” and so on. The alleged confrontations of religious differences are incorporated into a sharply carpentered vision of hardened divisiveness.

In fact, of course, the people of the world can be classified according to many other partitions, each of which has some—often far-reaching—relevance in our lives: nationalities, locations, classes, occupations, social status, languages, politics, and many others. While religious categories have received much airing in recent years, they cannot be presumed to obliterate other distinctions, and even less can they be seen as the only relevant system of classifying people across the globe. In partitioning the population of the world into those belonging to “the Islamic world,” “the Western world,” “the Hindu world,” “the Buddhist world,” the divisive power of classificatory priority is implicitly used to place people firmly inside a unique set of rigid boxes. Other divisions (say, between the rich and the poor, between members of different classes and occupations, between people of different politics, between distinct nationalities and residential locations, between language groups, etc.) are all submerged by this allegedly primal way of seeing the differences between people.

The difficulty with the clash of civilizations thesis begins with the presumption of the unique relevance of a singular classification. Indeed, the question “Do civilizations clash?” is founded on the presumption that humanity can be pre-eminently classified into distinct and discrete civilizations, and that the relations between different human beings can somehow be seen, without serious loss of understanding, in terms of relations between different civilizations.

This reductionist view is typically combined, I am afraid, with a rather foggy perception of world history that overlooks, first, the extent of internal diversities within these civilizational categories, and second, the reach and influence of interactions—intellectual as well as material—that go right across the regional borders of so-called civilizations. And its power to befuddle can trap not only those who would like to support the thesis of a clash (varying from Western chauvinists to Islamic fundamentalists), but also those who would like to dispute it and yet try to respond within the straitjacket of its prespecified terms of reference.

The limitations of such civilization-based thinking can prove just as treacherous for programs of “dialogue among civilizations” (much in vogue these days) as they are for theories of a clash of civilizations. The noble and elevating search for amity among people seen as amity between civilizations speedily reduces many-sided human beings to one dimension each and muzzles the variety of involvements that have provided rich and diverse grounds for cross-border interactions over many centuries, including the arts, literature, science, mathematics, games, trade, politics, and other arenas of shared human interest. Well-meaning attempts at pursuing global peace can have very counterproductive consequences when these attempts are founded on a fundamentally illusory understanding of the world of human beings.

Increasing reliance on religion-based classification of the people of the world also tends to make the Western response to global terrorism and conflict peculiarly ham-handed. Respect for “other people” is shown by praising their religious books, rather than by taking note of the many-sided involvements and achievements, in nonreligious as well as religious fields, of different people in a globally interactive world. In confronting what is called “Islamic terrorism” in the muddled vocabulary of contemporary global politics, the intellectual force of Western policy is aimed quite substantially at trying to define—or redefine—Islam.

To focus just on the grand religious classification is not only to miss other significant concerns and ideas that move people. It also has the effect of generally magnifying the voice of religious authority. The Muslim clerics, for example, are then treated as the ex officio spokesmen for the so-called Islamic world, even though a great many people who happen to be Muslim by religion have profound differences with what is proposed by one mullah or another. Despite our diverse diversities, the world is suddenly seen not as a collection of people, but as a federation of religions and civilizations. In Britain, a confounded view of what a multiethnic society must do has led to encouraging the development of state-financed Muslim schools, Hindu schools, Sikh schools, etc., to supplement pre-existing state-supported Christian schools. Under this system, young children are placed in the domain of singular affiliations well before they have the ability to reason about different systems of identification that may compete for their attention. Earlier on, state-run denominational schools in Northern Ireland had fed the political distancing of Catholics and Protestants along one line of divisive categorization assigned at infancy. Now the same predetermination of “discovered” identities is now being allowed and, in effect encouraged, to sow even more alienation among a different part of the British population.

Religious or civilizational classification can be a source of belligerent distortion as well. It can, for example, take the form of crude beliefs well exemplified by U.S. Lt. Gen. William Boykin’s blaring—and by now well-known—remark describing his battle against Muslims with disarming coarseness: “I knew that my God was bigger than his,” and that the Christian God “was a real God, and [the Muslim’s] was an idol.” The idiocy of such bigotry is easy to diagnose, so there is comparatively limited danger in the uncouth hurling of such unguided missiles. There is, in contrast, a much more serious problem in the use in Western public policy of intellectual “guided missiles” that present a superficially nobler vision to woo Muslim activists away from opposition through the apparently benign strategy of defining Islam appropriately. They try to wrench Islamic terrorists from violence by insisting that Islam is a religion of peace, and that a “true Muslim” must be a tolerant individual (“so come off it and be peaceful”). The rejection of a confrontational view of Islam is certainly appropriate and extremely important at this time, but we must ask whether it is necessary or useful, or even possible, to try to define in largely political terms what a “true Muslim” must be like.


A person’s religion need not be his or her all-encompassing and exclusive identity. Islam, as a religion, does not obliterate responsible choice for Muslims in many spheres of life. Indeed, it is possible for one Muslim to take a confrontational view and another to be thoroughly tolerant of heterodoxy without either of them ceasing to be a Muslim for that reason alone.

The response to Islamic fundamentalism and to the terrorism linked with it also becomes particularly confused when there is a general failure to distinguish between Islamic history and the history of Muslim people. Muslims, like all other people in the world, have many different pursuits, and not all their priorities and values need be placed within their singular identity of being Islamic. It is, of course, not surprising at all that the champions of Islamic fundamentalism would like to suppress all other identities of Muslims in favor of being only Islamic. But it is extremely odd that those who want to overcome the tensions and conflicts linked with Islamic fundamentalism also seem unable to see Muslim people in any form other than their being just Islamic.

People see themselves—and have reason to see themselves—in many different ways. For example, a Bangladeshi Muslim is not only a Muslim but also a Bengali and a Bangladeshi, typically quite proud of the Bengali language, literature, and music, not to mention the other identities he or she may have connected with class, gender, occupation, politics, aesthetic taste, and so on. Bangladesh’s separation from Pakistan was not based on religion at all, since a Muslim identity was shared by the bulk of the population in the two wings of undivided Pakistan. The separatist issues related to language, literature, and politics.

Similarly, there is no empirical reason at all why champions of the Muslim past, or for that matter of the Arab heritage, have to concentrate specifically on religious beliefs only and not also on science and mathematics, to which Arab and Muslim societies have contributed so much, and which can also be part of a Muslim or an Arab identity. Despite the importance of this heritage, crude classifications have tended to put science and mathematics in the basket of “Western science,” leaving other people to mine their pride in religious depths. If the disaffected Arab activist today can take pride only in the purity of Islam, rather than in the many-sided richness of Arab history, the unique prioritization of religion, shared by warriors on both sides, plays a major part in incarcerating people within the enclosure of a singular identity.

Even the frantic Western search for “the moderate Muslim” confounds moderation in political beliefs with moderateness of religious faith. A person can have strong religious faith—Islamic or any other—along with tolerant politics. Emperor Saladin, who fought valiantly for Islam in the Crusades in the 12th century, could offer, without any contradiction, an honored place in his Egyptian royal court to Maimonides as that distinguished Jewish philosopher fled an intolerant Europe. When, at the turn of the 16th century, the heretic Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in Campo dei Fiori in Rome, the Great Mughal emperor Akbar (who was born a Muslim and died a Muslim) had just finished, in Agra, his large project of legally codifying minority rights, including religious freedom for all.

The point that needs particular attention is that while Akbar was free to pursue his liberal politics without ceasing to be a Muslim, that liberality was in no way ordained—nor of course prohibited—by Islam. Another Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, could deny minority rights and persecute non-Muslims without, for that reason, failing to be a Muslim, in exactly the same way that Akbar did not terminate being a Muslim because of his tolerantly pluralist politics.

The insistence, if only implicitly, on a choiceless singularity of human identity not only diminishes us all, it also makes the world much more flammable. The alternative to the divisiveness of one pre-eminent categorization is not any unreal claim that we are all much the same. Rather, the main hope of harmony in our troubled world lies in the plurality of our identities, which cut across each other and work against sharp divisions around one single hardened line of vehement division that allegedly cannot be resisted. Our shared humanity gets savagely challenged when our differences are narrowed into one devised system of uniquely powerful categorization.

Perhaps the worst impairment comes from the neglect—and denial—of the roles of reasoning and choice, which follow from the recognition of our plural identities. The illusion of unique identity is much more divisive than the universe of plural and diverse classifications that characterize the world in which we actually live. The descriptive weakness of choiceless singularity has the effect of momentously impoverishing the power and reach of our social and political reasoning. The illusion of destiny exacts a remarkably heavy price.
Amartya Sen is the Lamont University Professor at Harvard and the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics. Adapted from Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, by Amartya Sen. Copyright 2006 by Amartya Sen.


La opción india

Avui vaig llençat, no sé perquè però tot ho trobo interessant… aquest va dedicat a l’Oriol… sembla que s’hagi llegit cert informe de GovernAsia eh…

Charles Tannock, al Project Syndicate

La visita del Presidente francés Jacques Chirac a la India este mes para consumar la venta de seis submarinos de ataque confirmará una vez más el surgimiento del país como una potencia económica y diplomática. La “asociación estratégica” que tanto Estados Unidos como la Unión Europea han buscado en ocasiones con China parece más posible y deseable con la India democrática.

Con un Presidente musulmán, un Primer Ministro sikh, un Ministro de Asuntos Exteriores hindú y un Presidente cristiano del gobernante Partido del Congreso, la India es un caso de éxito tan notable como el boom de veinte años que ha logrado el Partido Comunista Chino. En efecto, desde 1991, cuando se vio amenazada por una crisis de balanza de pagos, la India se ha ido deshaciendo de su legado socialista y ha registrado un promedio anual de crecimiento del PIB del 7.5% –apenas marginalmente menor que China. La India ha abierto su economía al comercio mundial y ha comenzado a privatizar muchas de sus industrias propiedad del Estado (si bien a menudo con demasiada lentitud).

La contribución de las empresas de alta tecnología en este esfuerzo ha sido enorme, al demostrar que la India tiene más qué ganar y menos qué perder de la competencia en el mercado global. Tal vez por primera vez desde la invención del cero, la India tiene un gran producto para vender –y esta vez podrá quedarse con las ganancias. Además, se ha desatado una guerra global de ofertas por los cerebros indios.

La Unión Europea está ansiosa por vincularse al boom de la India. El primer satélite Galileo de la UE –concebido como una alternativa al sistema GPS de Estados Unidos– se lanzó a fines de diciembre con la India como socio de pleno derecho. También en diciembre la India se convirtió en el último país en integrarse al equipo del Reactor Experimental Termonuclear Internacional, que busca producir electricidad utilizando la fusión nuclear, al igual que sucede en el sol.

Por razones históricas obvias, el Reino Unido lleva la delantera en la formación de vínculos con la India. Las empresas indias naturalmente escogen Inglaterra frente a otras ubicaciones en Europa por motivos de los vínculos de idioma y cultura, pero incluso eso está cambiando, a medida que las inversiones indias se esparcen en el continente.

En cierto sentido, la democracia de la India obstaculiza en ocasiones el crecimiento inmediato. A diferencia de China, el gobierno de la India no puede simplemente pasar por encima de los intereses locales, digamos por ejemplo, arrasando un pueblo para construir una carretera o una presa. Pero este es un sacrificio que la India parece estar más que dispuesta a hacer para salvaguardar sus libertades.

Ese sacrificio es particularmente visible en el actual gobierno encabezado por el Congreso, que se basa en el apoyo del Partido Comunista del Frente de Izquierda. Los comunistas indios (a diferencia de los chinos) siguen actuando por ideología, y el Frente de Izquierda se resiste a la privatización de los activos del Estado, a eliminar los límites a la inversión extranjera directa y a crear un mercado laboral más flexible.

Sin embargo, las reformas esenciales, que datan del período en que el Primer Ministro Manmohan Singh fue ministro de hacienda en 1991 e incluyen la liberalización del comercio exterior y el desmantelamiento del “raj de las licencias”, siguen por buen camino. Claramente es del interés de la India unir sus fuerzas con la UE en las negociaciones en el seno de la Organización Mundial del Comercio para disminuir las barreras proteccionistas, particularmente en servicios como la contabilidad, el derecho y las finanzas, ya que ello liberará el comercio y generará mayores flujos de inversión.

A la India ya se le trata con un respeto creciente en los consejos económicos globales. Cuando en la OMC surgen temas de la “nueva economía”, como el comercio electrónico, la India, la UE y Estados Unidos frecuentemente están del mismo lado. En cuanto a los temas de la “vieja economía”, los choque ideológicos han cedido su lugar a negociaciones duras, como ha sucedido en la ronda de Doha de negociaciones comerciales. La India apoya una Ronda del Milenio de negociaciones comerciales, pero rechaza cualquier vínculo del comercio con normas laborales. Los indios quieren una liberalización más rápida del comercio de textiles y del vestido; la UE quiere una mejor aplicación de la protección de la propiedad intelectual. En efecto, la India está dispuesta a compartir información de inteligencia con Estados Unidos en la lucha contra el terrorismo internacional.

El problema principal para hacer que esta asociación estratégica avance yace principalmente en la UE, donde hay una división entre los proteccionistas y los propulsores del libre comercio. En particular, la UE debe resistirse a los llamados por aranceles más altos que hacen los fabricantes de textiles del sur de Europa, ya que esas empresas no se han reestructurado, a pesar de las frecuentes advertencias para que lo hicieran en la última década.

En efecto, la UE debe considerar el crecimiento de la India no como una amenaza competitiva sino como una oportunidad de oro que beneficiará a todos. La economía global no es un juego de suma cero, y el reto para los políticos europeos será explicar eso a los miembros de la UE, sobre todo a países como Francia que se resisten a la globalización y que quieren construir una “Fortaleza Europa”. La visita de Chirac es el momento ideal para que la India deje en claro que las asociaciones estratégicas y el proteccionismo (como parece estar ocurriendo con el esfuerzo francés para bloquear la oferta de Mittal por el grupo acerero franco-belga Arcelor) no se mezclan.

El segundo punto de convergencia entre los intereses indios y los occidentales es uno que quizá no se mencione en público durante la visita de Chirac: la India tal vez pueda servir de contrapeso de China. El mundo está empezando a darse cuenta de que la India tiene más o menos el mismo número de habitantes que China, además de un sistema de gobierno más benigno y sin pretensiones sobre sus vecinos. Los halcones de China tanto en la India como en Occidente sueñan que la “asociación estratégica” vinculará las grandes democracias del mundo.

Eso no sucederá en el corto plazo. Ciertamente, la India desconfía tanto de China como algunos en Europa y Estados Unidos. Después de todo, China suministró gran parte de la tecnología de armas nucleares de Pakistán y derrotó a la India en una guerra en 1962; sus fronteras siguen sin definirse en algunos lugares. Con todo, ni la India ni la UE quieren que su amistad forme parte de un eje anti-China. En efecto, la India ha logrado en gran medida acabar con el enfriamiento que se dio después de 1998, cuando declaró que el principal objetivo de sus armas nucleares era China. No obstante, Europa, la India y Estados Unidos están concientes de que la amistad de hoy se podría convertir en la alianza de mañana si China se vuelve hostil.

Charles Tannock es vocero conservador del Reino Unido sobre asuntos internacionales en el Parlamento Europeo.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2006.
Traducción de Kena Nequiz

Taiwan: diplomacia dels cirerers (Japó) vs pandes (Xina)

El compromís trilateral amb Taiwan?

Japan-Taiwan Ties Blossom As Regional Rivalry Grows
Tokyo, Wary of China, Tilts Toward Taipei

By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, March 24, 2006; A12

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Early rising seniors have gathered for years to exercise among the yellow lotus blossoms and fuchsia rhododendrons of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Park, the sprawling gardens in this island’s capital. Now local residents stretch their limbs in slow-moving tai chi routines amid a landscape distinctly altered by the addition of 450 cherry trees, a national symbol of Japan.

The trees, set in a park commemorating a leader who fought Japan during World War II, are among the first of more than 10,000 that Japanese and Taiwanese groups intend to plant across Taiwan. They are seen as emblems of the newly blooming relationship between the Pacific neighbors — a tie that only underscores the competition for regional influence between Japan and China, East Asia’s two major powers.

With Japan seeking to shed a half-century of pacifism and reassert itself in world affairs, and China acquiring vastly larger economic and military might, relations between the two are as tense as they have been at any time since World War II.

Nowhere is their contest more visible than here in Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province that must be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary. In recent months, Japan has made a series of unprecedented overtures toward Taiwan, which was a Japanese colony from 1895 to 1945. In Tokyo, leading politicians are increasingly adopting the view that Japan must come to the island’s aid in the event of Chinese aggression.

Many analysts say they believe Japan’s evolving interest in Taiwan could tilt the regional balance of power. The United States, which has diplomatic relations with mainland China, is nonetheless sworn by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 to defend the island territory if it is attacked.

“The peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and security of the Asian Pacific region are the common concerns for not only Taiwan, but also Japan and the United States,” Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian said during an interview last week. Therefore, he said, “Japan has a requirement and an obligation to come to the defense of Taiwan.”

Like many countries, Japan severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in the 1970s in deference to Beijing’s “one-China” policy. But lately, Japan has been less particular about its rule of maintaining a careful distance. Twice in the past two months, Japan’s foreign minister, Taro Aso, has angered China by publicly referring to Taiwan as “a country.” Last year, the Tokyo government dropped visa requirements for visitors from Taiwan. And Japanese and U.S. leaders have for the first time jointly declared protection of the Taiwan Strait a “common strategic objective.”

In a less public gesture, Yoichi Nagano, formerly a general in the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, the army, is serving as the first military attaché at Tokyo’s de facto embassy in Taipei, the Interchange Association. In an interview, Nagano said he conducts meetings with Taiwanese government and military figures and sends regular dispatches to Tokyo.

In 2004, a group of Japanese legislators formed a committee on Taiwanese security. This May, Tokyo is set to allow former president Lee Teng-hui, the Japanese-educated champion of Taiwanese democracy, to visit Japan for the second time in 18 months. So-called Track 2 meetings between Japanese and Taiwanese politicians, academics and retired military officials have intensified, according to officials in Taiwan and Japan.

These moves coincide with the rise to power in Japan of a new crop of hawks in the long- ruling Liberal Democratic Party headed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. During his five years in office, Koizumi has pushed aside rivals in the LDP who had long stressed the importance of maintaining a respectful distance from Taiwan.

The shift also comes as China’s military buildup is causing growing concern in Japan. The Beijing government boosted military spending by 15 percent this year. Tensions were particularly heightened after riots broke out across China last year against Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and the publication in Japan of textbooks allegedly whitewashing the country’s militarist past.

The Japanese view a potential Chinese takeover of Taiwan gravely. Such a move would give Beijing a perch for its missiles a mere 66 miles from Japanese territory while helping China to control the shipping lanes that carry the bulk of Middle East oil coming to Japan.

Japan has countered with uncharacteristic assertiveness. In November 2004, Japanese warships chased a Chinese submarine that had entered Japanese waters near Taiwan in what was widely seen as a test of Japan’s resolve in defending the strategically sensitive zone.

Koizumi’s government is also investing millions of dollars in a joint missile defense system with the United States. Some analysts say Taiwan could eventually become part of the system, turning it into a three-way defense against Chinese missiles.

Japan’s pacifist constitution limits the country’s ability to deploy its military abroad. But political leaders in both Japan and Taiwan are embracing a broad interpretation of a 1999 law allowing Japan to respond to threats in nearby waters. This, they say, could provide a legal basis for Japan to join the United States in responding to Chinese aggression.

Most of these leaders agree that Japan would be able to contribute rear-guard refueling, transportation and medical services and perhaps conduct search-and-rescue missions inside Taiwan. If Japanese ships or personnel providing such assistance were attacked, “it would mean war,” said Tokuichiro Tamazawa, a leading LDP lawmaker long involved in the Taiwan issue.

Tadashi Ikeda, chief representative of the Interchange Association, Japan’s unofficial embassy in Taipei, said Tokyo remained strongly in favor of a peaceful solution to the Taiwan issue. But, he added, “there has always been a question of what Japan would do” in the event of Chinese aggression. “Now the Taiwanese can say that both the U.S. and Japan are on their side.”

U.S. officials have cautiously welcomed the more assertive Japanese stance. But they have also expressed concern that too sudden a shift could embolden Chen, Taiwan’s president, to take steps toward formal independence that could ignite a cross-strait conflict.

China’s relations with Japan have nose-dived since Koizumi took office and promptly began paying annual visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s 2.5 million military dead, including World War II criminals. Japan and China have also become embroiled in disputes over territorial claims and oil and gas drilling rights in the East China Sea.

Chen said in the interview last week that relations between Japan and Taiwan were at their closest since the two countries’ 1972 diplomatic break. Chen said he hoped it would lead to a three-way “quasi-military alliance” among the United States, Japan and Taiwan.

In contrast with the Chinese and Koreans both North and South, many Taiwanese view the years of Japanese colonial rule in sympathetic terms. Older Taiwanese often delight in speaking Japanese, the official language of their youth. Imperial-era structures, including the elegant Presidential Office Building that was once the seat of the Japanese governor, have been painstakingly preserved and declared national treasures.

Japan and Taiwan are exchanging a record 2.3 million tourists each year, and Japan remains Taiwan’s largest trading partner. Large Japanese department stores and fast-food chains dominate the Taipei cityscape. (però aquí Xina guanya eh…)

“The Japanese built universities, roads and other infrastructure. They educated us, they turned us into a more modern society,” said Hwang Kuan-hu, a national policy adviser to Chen. “We welcome Japan becoming more involved again with Taiwan.”

Not everyone in Taiwan shares that sentiment, particularly members of the opposition Nationalist Party, which favors closer ties with China. Earlier this year, the party took offense when Japanese and Taiwanese groups jointly erected a monument in a Taipei suburb honoring thousands of aboriginal Taiwanese who died fighting for the Japanese Imperial Army in Southeast Asia. A few weeks later, most of the monument was ordered dismantled by local Nationalist Party officials.

Ma Ying-jeou, the Nationalist Party chief who opinion polls indicate is the favorite to win Taiwan’s 2008 presidential election, described the incident as a good example of the emotions that could be unleashed if the embrace of Japan goes too far.

Taiwanese who revel in the Japanese colonial years “are still brainwashed,” Ma said. “It was not a just war, and Taiwan could have done better” without the citizens who now recall that period with fondness.

Special correspondent Sachiko Sakamaki in Tokyo contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

L’últim estirabot de la panda’s diplomacy és aquí: “que Xina en comptes d’invertir en míssils inverteixi en salvar els pandes”.

Inmigració, drets i democràcia…

Krugman: The Road to Dubai

by Paul Krugman, al NYT, 31 de març

Creating a permanent nonvoting working class would be bad for America’s democracy.

For now, at least, the immigration issue is mainly hurting the Republican Party, which is divided between those who want to expel immigrants and those who want to exploit them. The only thing the two factions seem to have in common is mean-spiritedness.

But immigration remains a difficult issue for liberals. Let me say a bit more about the subject of my last column, the uncomfortable economics of immigration, then turn to what really worries me: the political implications of a large nonvoting work force.

About the economics: the crucial divide isn’t between legal and illegal immigration; it’s between high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants. High-skilled immigrants — say, software engineers from South Asia — are, by any criterion I can think of, good for America. But the effects of low-skilled immigration are mixed at best.

True, there are large benefits for the low-skilled migrants, who may find even a minimum-wage U.S. job a big step up. Immigration also raises the total income of native-born Americans, although reasonable estimates suggest that these gains amount to no more than a fraction of 1 percent. But low-skilled immigration depresses the wages of less-skilled native-born Americans. And immigrants increase the demand for public services, including health care and education. Estimates indicate that low-skilled immigrants don’t pay enough in taxes to cover the cost of providing these services.

All of these effects, except for the gains for the immigrants themselves, are fairly small. Some of my friends say that’s the point I should stress: immigration is a wonderful thing for the immigrants, and claims that immigrants are undermining American workers and taxpayers are hugely overblown — end of story.

But it’s important to be intellectually honest, even when it hurts. Moreover, what really worries me isn’t the narrow economics — it’s the political economy, the effects of having a disenfranchised labor force.

Imagine, for a moment, a future in which America becomes like Kuwait or Dubai, a country where a large fraction of the work force consists of illegal immigrants or foreigners on temporary visas (o Andorra eh…) and neither group has the right to vote. Surely this would be a betrayal of our democratic ideals, of government of the people, by the people. Moreover, a political system in which many workers don’t count is likely to ignore workers’ interests: it’s likely to have a weak social safety net and to spend too little on services like health care and education.

This isn’t idle speculation. Countries with high immigration tend, other things equal, to have less generous welfare states than those with low immigration. U.S. cities with ethnically diverse populations — often the result of immigration — tend to have worse public services than those with more homogeneous populations. Of course, America isn’t Dubai. But we’re moving in that direction. As of 2002, according to the Urban Institute, 14 percent of U.S. workers, and 20 percent of low-wage workers, were immigrants. Only a third of these immigrant workers were naturalized citizens. So we already have a large disenfranchised work force, and it’s growing rapidly. The goal of immigration reform should be to reverse that trend.

So what do I think of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s proposal, which is derived from a plan sponsored by John McCain and Ted Kennedy? I’m all in favor of one provision: offering those already here a possible route to permanent residency and citizenship. Since we aren’t going to deport more than 10 million people, we need to integrate those people into our society. (això sona no? és com la política de regularització del PSOE).

But I’m puzzled by the plan to create a permanent guest-worker program, one that would admit 400,000 more workers a year (and you know that business interests would immediately start lobbying for an increase in that number). Isn’t institutionalizing a disenfranchised work force a big step away from democracy? For a hard-line economic conservative like Mr. McCain, the advantages to employers of a cheap work force may be more important than the violation of democratic principles. But why would someone like Mr. Kennedy go along? Is the point to help potential immigrants, or is it to buy support from business interests?

Either way, it’s a dangerous route to go down. America’s political system is already a lot less democratic in practice than it is on paper, and creating a permanent nonvoting working class would make things worse. The road to Dubai may be paved with good intentions.

March 26, 2006, NYT, també… per alusions…

Aquesta història passa a Dubai, però podria ser a New York dels anys 20, a Shanghai o Bombai actuals, etc… L’explotació no és cultural… és estructural…

In Dubai, an Outcry From Asians for Workplace Rights

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 25 — For Rajee Kumaran, this was the city of dreams.

Dubai’s gleaming high rises, idyllic beaches and seemingly limitless opportunities glittered on the pages of brochures and in the stories told by laborers returning home to his native Kerala, India. But after five years here, surviving in squalid conditions and barely making ends meet on less than $200 a month, Mr. Kumaran, 28, says his dream has long since faded.

“I thought this was the land of opportunity, but I was fooled,” he said Thursday, as he stood with several other construction workers outside their work camp in the desert on the outskirts of the city.

When hundreds of workers angered by low salaries and mistreatment rioted Tuesday night at the site of what is to become the world’s tallest skyscraper, not only were they expressing the growing frustration of Asian migrants here, they offered a glimpse of an increasingly organized labor force.

Far from the high-rise towers and luxury hotels emblematic of Dubai, the workers turning this swath of desert into a modern metropolis live in a Dickensian world of cramped labor camps, low pay and increasing desperation.

For years, workers like Mr. Kumaran have done whatever they could to get here, often paying thousands of dollars to unscrupulous recruiters for the chance to work at one of the hundreds of construction sites in the emirates.

Of the 1.5 million residents of Dubai, as many as a million are immigrants who have come here to work in some capacity, with the largest subgroup being construction workers, said Hadi Ghaemi, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who covers the United Arab Emirates, citing government statistics. A vast majority of the immigrants come from the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines.

With the cost of living rising, many have abandoned dreams of returning with a fortune. The construction workers’ camps, in particular, have been set up ever deeper in the desert. That adds an hour or two just to get to the job site every morning, in addition to the workers’ 12-hour shifts.

A growing number have resorted to suicide rather than return home with empty pockets: last year, 84 South Asians committed suicide in Dubai, according to the Indian Consulate here, up from 70 in 2004.

Mr. Kumaran, who earns 550 dirhams every month, or about $150, as a laborer, sends home almost half his earnings and lives on the equivalent of roughly $60 a month. That is barely enough to pay for food and cigarettes and using his cellphone from time to time. But he is not sure how he will repay the loan he took to get here.

“If I’d stayed in India and worked just as hard as I do now, I could have made the same money,” he said. “And I wouldn’t have needed to get a loan to come here.”

Since last September, when 800 workers staged a protest march down a main highway in the heart of the city and set off a national debate about the treatment of foreign workers, laborers have held at least eight major strikes to demand their rights and get their pay, which is sometimes withheld.

But the mass action on Tuesday was the most significant of its kind. Hundreds of workers building the Burj Dubai skyscraper chased security guards and broke into offices, smashing computers, scattering files and wrecking cars and construction machines. When they returned to work the next day, demanding better pay and improved working conditions, thousands of laborers building an airport terminal across town also laid down their tools, demanding better conditions, too. The workers also halted work on Thursday, until a settlement was negotiated.

“It was a watershed moment in coordination and organization,” Mr. Ghaemi said. “It started with increasing numbers of strikes, and has now evolved into very organized and coordinated activities. If these grievances are not addressed quickly by the government they are sure to begin hurting the economic growth of the country.”

Those workers have few rights. Visa sponsors and employers typically confiscate their passports and residency permits when they sign on, restricting their freedom of movement and their ability to report abuse.

Most pay money to recruiters to find work here, a practice that the U.A.E. government has sought to stop. When they get here, few can leave the country without the permission of their employers, who can block them from working elsewhere in the country if they resign or are fired.

Unionizing is forbidden, too, and most workers have no recourse other than the Labor Ministry.

Denial of wages is the most common abuse of workers, as contracting companies typically wait to pay their workers until they themselves get paid. In the worst cases, workers have been denied wages for more than 10 months, only to lose the entire salary when the contracting companies go bankrupt, leaving the men destitute and with few options.

The U.A.E.’s Ministry of Labor has tried to tackle the problem in recent months, making changes meant to allow workers to change employers more easily and imposing strict penalties on employers that do not pay their workers.

Workers can call a toll-free hot line to the ministry to lodge complaints, which are investigated. And ministry inspectors do travel to work camps to inspect them.

“We always support the workers and want to protect their rights, but we must protect employers’ rights as well,” said Ali al-Kaabi, the labor minister in the U.A.E. “As long as these three factors are in place, the workers have no reason to protest. If they have any problems or complaints they should speak with a supervisor, who should come to the ministry. Then if we don’t act they have the right to protest.”

But the sheer number of workers who have poured into the country over the past two years and inadequate staffing at the ministry have meant that many problems slip through, some officials and human rights workers say.

Only 80 government inspectors oversee about 200,000 companies and other establishments that employ migrant workers, Mr. Ghaemi said, citing government figures. The inspectors also look at labor camps: of the 36 camps inspected from May through December last year, the ministry ranked 27 well below government standards.

“There’s such a boom and so many laborers required here that the government is bringing measures which are not entirely adequate,” said B. S. Mubarak, labor and welfare consul at the Consulate General of India in Dubai. “Neither we nor the ministry can cope with the growing number of laborers and growing number of complaints.”

As he boards a bus to his construction site every morning but Friday, Mr. Kumaran says he looks up at Dubai’s skyline of gleaming high rises with a degree of sadness.

“I wish the rich people would realize who is building these towers,” Mr. Kumaran said, flanked by his co-workers. “I wish they could come and see how sad this life is.”

Mohammed Fadel Fahmy contributed reporting for this article.

Diguem com et dius…

Avui a El país hi havia aquest miniarticle de la G. Higueras, que en destaco el següent apartat.

India ha emprendido lo que su élite considera un camino sin retorno que conduce inexorablemente a convertir el país en una de las grandes potencias del siglo XXI y en este avance sus gobernantes han decidido dejar atrás algunos importantes vestigios de la era colonial, como son los nombres de varias de sus más afamadas ciudades. Entre ellas destaca Bombay, rebautizada Mumbai en 1997, durante el Gobierno ultranacionalista hindú de Shiv Sena. “Mumbai, Mumbai. Bombay finish”, dice orgulloso a la extranjera uno de los muchos vendedores de garbanzos tostados del paseo marítimo que bordea la espléndida bahía de la ciudad.

La clase política sobre todo es la que ha puesto más empeño en el cambio de nombre, con el que pretende promocionar también el marati, la lengua de Maharastra, uno de los principales Estados de la Unión India y del que Mumbai es la capital. Los grandes comerciantes y hombres de negocios no parecen tan contentos con el cambio, aunque nadie lo critica abiertamente. “Revela la transición. Los chinos han impuesto Beijing. Aunque ahora le llamemos Bombay, en una década o dos se impondrá Mumbai”, afirma Farhat Jamal, director del hotel Taj Mahal Palace, uno de los símbolos -se abrió en 1903-, junto con la estación Victoria, de la era británica, cuya impronta quedó marcada por toda la ciudad.

Perquè aquests canvis de nom? Nacionalisme sembla la resposta clara no? Doncs potser no… aquí algunes reflexions…

1- Els US no van traduïr Los Angeles, St. Francisco, etc…
2- A catalunya i espanya molts noms continuen tenint procedència àrab etc… la reconquista no va portar a canviar tots els noms, sinó que els va adoptar en la seva major part (Andalusia, Almeria, etc).
3- Tots els països traduim els noms d’altres paisos, ciutats, etc… també els catalans eh… que diem Osca, Lleó (no m’agrada gens això…).
4- India s’està desmembrando? O és que ja ha estat sempre desmembrada… potser com altres Estats no federals… encara.
5- I el cas de Birmania, Burma, Myanmar? Està passant el mateix a Amèrica Llatina? S’estàn recoperant els noms índigenes?
6- A Àsia Central també trobem molt aquest procés de “descolonització” lingüística com per exemple Almaty/Alma Ata, etc… on han arribat a canviar l’alfabet i tot i també molts líders el seu propi nom.

Canviar el nom d’una cosa és voler-li donar un nou significat, però això no vol dir que realment s’aconsegueixi en el sentit que s’ha volgut? Estem davant d’un clar exemple de discursive polilitics? Si ens posem en l’àmbit de RRII, ho hem d’entendre com a important per l’ “intersubjective understanding” (a lo Wendt), o és una mostra del creixent soft-power d’India? És el mateix Pekin que Beijing? Diguem com et dius i et diré qui ets?

Kagan i la legitimitat

A l’autor de “Power and Weakness” li havien sentit dir moltes coses,… però ara ens sorprèn parlant de la crisi de legitimitat que pateix actualment els EUA.
Bé, com a clàssic, crec que aquesta lectura pot anar bé per a analitzar el paper de la principal potència al continent asiàtic o versió en castellà:

I doncs la pregunta és : estan els EUA perdent també de cara als seus aliats asiàtics la legitimitat que estan dinamitant amb els europeus? Si és que no, no serà en part perquè aquests tres pilars no han desaparegut encara a la zona d’Àsia Oriental? Bé, intentaré investigant i donar resposta al tema,…

Què fer aquest estiu?

Què us semblaria treballar per una ONG a Xina aquest estiu? Aquí teniu aquest interessant manual per expatriates seeking development job or volunteer opportunities in China realitzat pel China Development Brief.

Per altra banda, també destacaria els interessants articles que hi ha aquí sobre ajuda humanitaria de Xina cap a Laos, medi ambient, desenvolupament, etc…