Monthly Archives: December 2006

Earthquake knocks Asia back to phone age, and beyond


It was a tsunami for the digital age, a collapse of the virtual world that radiated through much of Asia and beyond after an undersea earthquake late Tuesday off the coast of Taiwan.

People woke Wednesday to find themselves without e-mail or the Internet and, in some cases, without telephone connections, cut off from the real world around them.

The earthquake ruptured two of the undersea cables that are part of a communications fretwork that circles the globe.

Coming on the second anniversary of the Asian tsunami that took 230,000 lives, it was a reminder of the world’s increasing dependence on communications technology.

Financial companies and technology services suffered most directly, with banking and securities trading all but crippled. Operations from travel agencies to newspapers to schools struggled to maintain their routines.

“You don’t realize until you miss it how much you rely heavily on technology,” said Andrew Clarke, a sales trader in Hong Kong. “Stuff you took for granted has been taken away and you realize, ‘Ah, back to the old way, using mobiles'” — an old way that itself is not so old.

In this time of rapid change, it is easy to forget how quickly innovations have become necessities, from mobile phones to the Internet to e-mail to instant messaging on both the computer and telephone.

“I’m completely dependent on the Internet,” said Robert Halliday, an American writer based in Bangkok. “If the Internet goes down for half a day people can just stay in bed in terms of getting any work done.”

On Wednesday he was stymied in trying to get information for a review he was writing of a Romanian DVD. It takes a moment to realize what a task that would have been just a few years ago.

Indeed, the words “instant” seems to have lost some of its edge. It has become the norm, and anything else seems agonizingly slow. The word “global” has shrunk to the size of a computer screen.

When Halliday’s mother, a woman in her 80s, wants to reach him, she taps an instant message into her telephone from the United States. “All of a sudden,” he said, “there’s a message on the phone, ‘Oh, you should be here, the azaleas are out.'”

Without e-mail, Ken Streutker, a Dutch-Canadian actor and producer in Thailand, had no way to arrange an airport meeting with a friend who was flying in to Bangkok.

“Now I’ll have to stand there at the airport with the traditional handwritten sign and hope that someone notices,” he said.

Many enterprises found themselves paralyzed without the Internet.

In Beijing, Wang Yifei, an independent television producer, sent instant telephone messages when her Internet connection was down.

“I had a horrible day,” she said. “I’ve been complaining about this all day. This high-tech world of ours. It didn’t happen in the old days. In the end I can’t do anything.”

In Manila, Abe Olandres, who owns and runs a Web-hosting company, just about gave up. He said he planned to try a Wi-Fi hot spot in a coffee shop after struggling at the office all day.

“This is killing me,” he said.

For his customers, it may have been worse. When their service went down, they tried to reach the help desk, but it was down, too.

In Hong Kong, Niall Phelan, the creative director of APV, a media production company based there, said he usually received about 300 e-mails a day. On Wednesday, he said, he got none.

Without e-mail, he was back to the old-fashioned way of communicating, by telephone, which greatly multiplied his work.

“Usually, one e-mail is cc’d to lots of people,” he said. “But, with calling, you have to contact all six involved people individually.”

With their work day disrupted, he said, “Most people I spoke to in Hong Kong today are just twiddling their thumbs.”

He made the best of it.

“What I did today was eight hours of filing,” he joked. “I had a year’s worth of paperwork. If the Internet is still down tomorrow, maybe I will finish it.”

Even without the help of technology, work seems to have its own momentum.

Carolyn Mison-Smith, director of a language center in Singapore, found in the communications crash a concrete demonstration of the interconnectedness of the world.

“Cables all over the seabed,” she said. “I don’t know if your average dude appreciates that fact.”

“Who puts them there and how long does it take and how many kilometers is it?” she said. “If they’ve got cords going all over the seabed I think that’s fascinating. Who designs it all, who’s the engineer that designs it and who are the laborers who go down and do that?”


Georgia e Iran

Tras la crisis de los espías entre Georgía y Rusia, que llevó sus relaciones a un deterioro sin precedentes y a la amenaza de GazProm de cortar el suministro de petroleo a Georgia, el pequeño y rebelde país del Caucaso ha vivido una auténtica crisis energética. Tras intensas negociaciones con Turquía y Azerbadjan ha conseguido cubrir el 80% de la demanda sin importar petróleo de Rúsia, finalmente, para cubrir el 20% restante esta en negociaciones con Irán sin que haya acuerdo por el momento.

Interesante situación la de Georgia, el páis más atlantista del caucaso, sustituir la dependencia de Rusia por la de Turquía y especialmente de Azarbadjan (el petróleo turco llega vía Azerbadjan) y quizás también para Irán. Esta no parece en principio una politica muy congruente para el mayor aliado de Estados Unidos en la región.

Sin embargo, como vemos también en Iraq o en el Líbano, occidente necesita cada vez más de Irán para hacer frente a diferentes conflictos. Las elecciones de ayer abrieron la puerta a una moderación política en Irán que bien podría servir como la excusa perfecta para Estados Unidos para buscar abiertamente un mayor “engagement” regional de Irán, lo que también implica reconocer e incrementar el papel de potencia regional de Irán.

Taming the dragon again

Interesante artículo de Gordon Chang en el The New York Sun,

Suppose China does the worst thing imaginable: It tries to dump all its American debt. This is not such a big deal as everyone assumes. After all, the Chinese are going to have to buy something — as a practical matter, euros and yen. The values of those currencies would then go through the ceiling. The Europeans and the Japanese, to stabilize their currencies, would then have to buy … dollars. In short, there would be a great circular flow of cash in the world’s currency and debt markets.

There would be turmoil in those markets, but it would not last long, a calendar quarter at the most, perhaps even only a few weeks. And we would end up in the same place we are now, except our friends would be holding our debt instead of the Chinese. Global markets are deep and flexible and can handle just about anything.

Our trade deficit with China has grown 121-fold in less than two decades thanks to Washington’s spectacularly unsuccessful policies.

More importantly, we should treat the Chinese as they treat us. If they impose an onerous rule on our banks, we impose one on theirs. If they unfairly subsidize their manufacturers, we enact a countervailing duty.

Primero, esta claro que los chinos no son amigos, sino traicioneros, aprovechados y abusones,… segun Gordon. Pero hay, más, dice que es culpa de EEUU que se deja.
Tiene parte de razón, pero tengo diferentes dudas, pq como ya destacabamos en otro post, lo más probable es que con este movimiento el dólar perdiera definitivamente su status de divisa mundial indiscutible, con todos los beneficios que esto tiene para EEUU.

Mirando al pasado de Xarxasia

Hoy estaba navegando por el historial de nuestro blog y me ha parecido interesante hacer algunas reflexiones:

A principios de setiembre realizamos un post llamado “OTAN y Afganistan ¿unidos hacia el desastre?“, pues bien, esta semana, un tal Joseph Nye Jr. en Project Sindicate publica un artículo titulado “La OTAN después de Riga” cuyos argumentos son muy parecidos. No, no hay plagio, jejej, Nye no sabe castellano y las ideas ya habían sido recapituladas de otras fuentes, pero el enfoque es muy parecido al poner émfasis en que la OTAN es víctima de Iraq y Líbano y que se juega el prestigio allí. Sin duda no es uno de los mejorea artículos de Nye, quizás por esto se parece al nuestro.

Pero no siempre acertamos. También en setiembre sacamo un artículo basado en un informe del FMI: Los petroyuans ¿Nuevas deudas para el tercer mundo? y hoy a aparecido en el The Economist un artículo titulado: The petrodollar peg. America should worry more about fixed exchange rates in the Gulf than the gently rising Chinese yuan en el que se argumenta, de forma muy convincente, que quizás no teníamos toda la razón en predecir que el excedente de capital chino era el principal problema, pues olbidamos las reservas de capital privado de los países del golfo… Así, además de petroyuans habrá incluso más petrodólares de los clásicos…

Otro tema que venimos persiguiendo es el del revisionismo histórico. Tenemos diferentes posts sobre ello y parece que la tendencia continua, en casa, en España, en Europa y en Asia. Nuestro post más destacado en este sentido es: El auge del revisionismo histórico.

Finalmente tenemos otros temas recurrentes como las reformas institucionales en Asia Central, mapas geopolíticos, recomendaciones de bibliografía, biografías espectaculares, etc.

Venezuela y China como modelos alternativos

Excelente artículo de Xulio Ríos en el Observatorio de Política China en el que destaca y compara los dos movimientos de transformación socio-política mundiales que encontramos actualmente: la Venezuela de Hugo Chavez y la China de Hu Jintao. Su comparación me parece muy interesante: son procesos de modernización, gradualistas, que excluien el ultraliberalismo, da alas al nacionalismo y que intentan luchar contra la pobreza de forma diferentes (des de lo público en Venezuela, y des de lo privado en China). En A. Latina se tiende a realizar una alianza entre izquierdas y movimento indígena que es ausente en Asia, pero ambos modelos son vaibles y estan abiertos a la cooperación y podrían llegar a establecer una alternativa al modelo actual.

Creo que la imagen de que en Europa o EEUU no pasa nada no es exacta, aquí también se está cambiando, pero haciá un mayor proteccionismo, hacia una postura reaccionaria. Es verdad que occidente esta perdiendo el monopolio de la innovación y la creación de modelos sociales, pero no quiere decir que ya no esté cambiando. Nos estamos volviendo más concervadores, menos aperturistas, menos pro-globalización, menos modernos, etc. nos queremos encerrar más en nuestras fortalezas y hacerlas inexpugnables, en nuestros discursos, nuestros modelos, etc; Así el aislacionismo, un discurso que tan solo hace unos años despreciabamos por imposible ante una etapa de globalización, parece que es el único camino que sabemos encontrar, pero sigue siendo tan impossible como lo era antes.

Interdependence or power shift?

Alex Bayer in Moscow Times:

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union could annihilate the United States with its nuclear weapons — and face instant annihilation in return — but it could not make a serious impact on its economy. China has emerged as probably the only nation in the world that can single-handedly undermine the U.S. economy. If China suffers an economic or political crisis, the United States will likely be plunged into a severe recession — if not an outright depression.

This scenario is ominously similar to that of the Great Depression of the 1930s, which was largely a U.S. crisis taking place after a decade of breakneck economic growth. The stock market crash occurred on Wall Street, but its shockwaves promptly spread around the world. Ultimately, the Depression marked the demise of British economic dominance and the end of the pound as a global currency. While the next global economic crisis is likely to originate in China, it will almost certainly mark the end of the dollar as the linchpin of the global financial system and a substantial diminution of the central role of the United States.

Unificant la història d’Àsia Central

No hi havia cap llibre de text sobre història d’Uzbekistàn ni per cap de les altres ex-repúbliques d’Àsia Central abans de 1991. Es van haver d’escriure a correcuita, s’han modificat i sofisticat a mida que evolucionava el nacionalisme estatal, basat en figures històriques com Timur, Genghis Khan, etc. Ara, historiadors uzbecs, kirguizos y kazaks escriuràn un llibre de text únic per les 5 repúbliques d’Àsia Central. (article IWPR)

According to Seidahmet Kuttykaddam, a political scientist and editor of the Mysl journal in Kazakstan, “Each country wants to portray itself as an ancient, powerful entity that influenced the whole region. Yet in reality, the history and cultures of the region are inseparable. So if academics from these countries succeed in shaping a common history that does not exaggerate anyone’s role, they will have achieved a great and important thing.”
One difficulty is that the separate historical narratives have already become entrenched in people’s minds. As Taimagambetov put it, “An Uzbek cannot know the history of the Kazaks, and Kazak cannot know that of the Kyrgyz people.”

Es aquest l’inici de la construcció d’una consciència regional? El constructivisme regional ha entrat per la porta gran a Àsia Central.