China leadership transition formally edges forward

Updated 11 November 2012
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China leadership transition formally edges forward

BEIJING: China’s leadership transition officially edged ahead Saturday, with the executive body of the Communist Party Congress forwarding a list of names to congress delegates for review.
State media reported that the congress’s presidium, 41 current and former members of the leadership, approved the candidate list for the Central Committee and sent it to the delegates. The delegates will cast votes before the congress closes Wednesday to choose the Central Committee, a roughly 350-member body.
The Central Committee, in turn, will select the top leadership.
The move is largely a formality, as is the congress itself. Deciding the lineup of leading bodies falls to a small group of powerbrokers.
Vice President Xi Jinping has been all-but formally announced to replace President Hu Jintao as party chief and president.
China Central Television showed Hu addressing the meeting of the presidium, which was presided over by Xi.
Candidates for the Central Committee outnumber seats by only a small portion, giving the 2,268 congress delegates little choice except on the margins.
In addition to the name list for Central Committee members, the meeting also forwarded candidate lists for the party’s internal watchdog agency, state media reported.
While ties between China and Taiwan may be closer than at any time since they split in a civil war, the staid, formal Communist Party congress highlights how far apart the two sides are politically.
“Taiwan’s democracy has learned from the United States,” said Wang Yingying, who moved from eastern China to Taiwan in 2005 with her Taiwanese spouse. “We in China cannot vote for our national leaders. Mainland politics are backward, Taiwan’s democracy is much better.” With a population 50 times bigger and an economy 15 times greater, China overshadows Taiwan in almost every respect. But one area where Taiwan is envied by many in China is its freewheeling political system.
Split since Mao Zedong’s Communist forces drove Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist government from the mainland, China and Taiwan used to engage in a propaganda and ideological war against each other. Since Taiwan jettisoned one-party rule in the 1980s and moved toward democracy, the competition for hearts and minds continues but is more low-key.
“There is now no excuse for the Chinese government to tell its people that Chinese culture is somehow at odds with democracy,” said Emile Sheng, who served as culture minister during Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s just-completed first term. “Taiwan’s experience proves this wrong.”





Stepped-up trade and travel between China and Taiwan as well as a revival in longstanding cultural and social ties are all carrying Taiwan’s success with democracy to mainlanders. Wang, the mainlander bride, is one of 300,000 Chinese spouses living in Taiwan. More than 2 million Chinese tourists travel to Taiwan every year, often holing up in their hotels to watch Taiwan’s many politically relentless all-news television stations.
China’s ruling Communists continue to hail their model as superior, noting its state-directed economy has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty in recent decades and government policies have warded off the recession and weak growth that have wracked the West during the past four years. In his opening speech to the congress Thursday, President Hu Jintao said China would never adopt a Western-style political system.
“There is a contest of ideology between China and Taiwan,” said political scientist George Tsai of Taipei’s Chinese Culture University. “It is dictatorship versus democracy. Many people are wondering if Taiwan’s model of democracy is appropriate for China’s future.”


Afghan drugs trade rises dramatically since overthrow of Taliban

Updated 43 min 42 sec ago
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Afghan drugs trade rises dramatically since overthrow of Taliban

KABUL: By giving levy to the Taliban and bribing the very government forces tasked to destroy the bloom of his poppy fields, Sanaullah for years has been planting poppy, which is refined into opium and then into heroin.
He is one of the thousands of farmers who have turned to this industry, which has earned Afghanistan global notoriety, and which strangely has been on the rise since US-led troops overthrew the Taliban government despite the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars and a campaign of eradication.
“We are doing this because of extreme destitution. The Taliban come and take their share as tax and we also pay tip money to police and others in the government,” the farmer who operates in the southern region told Arab News.
“There is a big market for this in the region and the world, with local and foreign mafia making a big fortune out of this and even bankrolling the war here,” the 56-year-old said, requesting not to reveal the province where he lives for security reasons.
He has witnessed days in the initial years after the fall of the Taliban when foreign and government forces conducted raids to destroy poppy fields, even causing casualties on both sides. But farmers resumed cultivation.
Some commanders within the government and warlords have been profiting from the trade for years as well as the Taliban, according to locals.
There have been allegations among Afghans, even some government officials, that foreign troops are also involved in the trafficking, that how they are funding the war in Afghanistan and that demand is increasing in the international market.
In Kabul, an official who works at the special tribunal for sentencing drug dealers claimed that neither the government nor the foreign troops are “serious” at this stage about the annihilation of drugs or arresting key figures involved in the trafficking of narcotics.
“Hundreds of people have been arrested over the years on suspicion of drug-smuggling, but have you ever heard of or seen any major dealer being arrested?. They are only after small fish to show to the world that they are fighting the drugs menace,” he told Arab News.
Waheed Mozhdah, an analyst, told Arab News he has heard from farmers in the south that a new type of opium seed has come to Afghanistan that can produce multiple harvests in a year.
This week a survey for last year’s opium harvest of Afghanistan conducted by various Afghan institutions and UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) was released.
It showed an increase of 63 percent in 2017, to an estimated 328,000 hectares.
“The majority (60 percent) of opium poppy cultivation took place in the southern region of the country. The western region accounted for 17 percent of total cultivation; the northern for 13 percent and the eastern for 7 percent,” the survey said.
The remaining regions (northeastern and central) together accounted for 3 percent. The report also highlighted an increase of 87 percent in opium production, i.e. 9,000 tons from its 2016 level (4,800 tons).
Deputy Minister for Counter-Narcotics Jawed Qaem, described the illicit drugs trade as a devastating catastrophe for Afghanistan and the world, and closely interlinked with international terrorism.
He said: “Global demand for drugs is the core driver of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan; additional factors include the huge involvement of international precursor traffickers and their strong ties with the mafia in transporting the precursors into Afghanistan to convert opium to heroin.”
He added that the Taliban profited from the trade, and it was a major source for funding the insurgency.
The value of the trade of drugs has jumped to $6.6 billion last year compared to less than $3 billion in past years, he said.
Both the government and UNODC said they will keep on their campaign against drugs.