Piecing together what is now happening in Tibet is difficult beyond the obvious fact that Lhasa is being heavily policed and the country in general garrisoned to damp down any re-combustion of last week’s violence.
The BBC reports house to house searches in Lhasa and that one of its correspondents in western China had seen long convoys of military vehicles heading across the mountains into Tibet, to add, presumably, to the large numbers of troops already there. Prime minister Web Jiaboa has made his first public comment on the subject, unilluminatingly accusing the Dalai Lama of masterminding the demonstrations, and defending the way they were dealt with.
With Tibet effectively closed to journalists, we are being reminded of the modern truth that if we don’t see something on television we don’t know its true. Worse, we are getting the black and white public stances of both sides, whereas the truth is inevitably grey. In any conflict there are usually three sides, the two antagonists and those on neither of their sides. Beijing Newspeak has a read-worthy post on that and the reporting by his former employer, Xinhua. EastSouthWestNorth shows how what little we do know can be read either way. Props, too, to Mutant Palm for trying to bridge the understanding gap with his Tibet Tweets posts and his evangelising of establishing direct contact with Chinese netizens.
Thin pickin’s in Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s “state of the nation” address to the National People’s Congress.
Controlling inflation remains the no 1 economic issue, China is committed to continuing reforms and opening of its economy; tackling income inequality is the no 1 social priority, China is committed to continuing to crackdown on corruption, pollution and misgovernment. The Olympics are important.
The only policy takeaways: More tightening of monetary policy and a cut back in investment spending to control inflation is on the cards. But that’s hardly unexpected either.
The worst snow storms in half a century have shown up the fragility of the country’s infrastructure, particularly for transport and power generation.
In 14 provinces in east, southern and central China, roads and railways have been overwhelmed, unable to move the estimated 179 million people expected to be traveling for New Year or to carry the coal needed by power stations. Two weeks of ice and snow have also brought down power lines, leading to black outs in many cities and the closing of mines, factories and businesses, and the destruction of crops. That in turn has created shortages that are stoking inflation, already high and politically sensitive.
Despite putting 450,000 troops to relief work, the leadership initially underestimated the severity and longevity of the bad weather and was slow to respond. With millions of people still stuck in temporary shelters, and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao belatedly visiting affected areas, this is stating to feel politically a lot like Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. did for the Bush administration.