USS Vin­son to Hong Kong

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

While the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army’s top gen­eral was tour­ing the U.S. last week, one event rip­pling through China was the sched­uled visit to Hong Kong be­gin­ning May 21 of the air­craft car­rier USS Carl Vin­son.

The Chinese tend to have a love-hate view to­ward U.S. ship vis­its to ports, es­pe­cially Hong Kong. On the one hand, the events nor­mally co­in­cide with diplo­matic thaws in Wash­ing­ton-Bei­jing re­la­tions, and the U.S. Navy em­braces port calls as signs of friend­ship. The Chinese in most cases grant per­mis­sion for such vis­its. On the other hand, the Chinese fre­quently ex­ploit Amer­i­can ea­ger­ness for ship vis­its to Hong Kong as a tool in ex­press­ing re­sent­ment against Wash­ing­ton for per­ceived of­fenses.

A case in point was China’s un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous block­ing of the USS Kitty Hawk battle group’s ap­proved Thanks­giv­ing 2007 visit to Hong Kong in re­tal­i­a­tion for then-Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s “mis­deeds” of meet­ing with the Dalai Lama, the ex­iled Ti­betan leader, and Wash­ing­ton’s an­nounced sale of Pa­triot an­timis­sile sys­tems to Tai­wan. As a re­sult, more than 8,000 Amer­i­can sailors were turned back mid­way to Hong Kong on the high sea. Forced to re­turn to their base in Yokosuka, Ja­pan, the sailors missed the chance to be with fam­ily mem­bers who had trav­eled to Hong Kong for the hol­i­day.

A sym­bol of Amer­i­can naval might, the Vin­son has added poignancy and promi­nence in Chinese pub­lic con­scious­ness be­cause the car­rier was the Amer­i­can war­ship used to “bur y” Osama bin Laden’s body into the sea ear­lier this month. Polls showed most Chinese ad­mired bin Laden in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of his demise for his anti-Amer­i­can stance, and this par­tic­u­lar ship visit is mak­ing many Chinese un­happy.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, one of China’s fiercest chal­lengers for mar­itime sovereignty in the South China Sea, where China has clashed with sev­eral states over re­sources and is­lands, is the Philip­pines, and the Vin­son is sail­ing to Hong Kong af­ter a tri­umphant friend­ship visit to Manila.

De­spite all these com­plex Chinese feel­ings, Bei­jing granted per­mis­sion for the Vin­son visit be­cause the visit to the United States by PLA Chief of Staff Gen. Chen Bingde gave the Chinese more than they had bar­gained for.

Chinese De­fense Min­istry spokesman Huang Xueping told re­porters in Bei­jing with pal­pa­ble ex­cite­ment: “The U.S. mil­i­tary has not for many years opened up some sen­si­tive places for [Chinese] mil­i­tary lead­ers to see. This time, [Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen] has made spe­cial ar­range­ments so that our del­e­ga­tion can see these places, which shows the great sig­nif­i­cance of Gen. Chen’s visit viewed by Adm. Mullen, and the pos­i­tive attitude of the Amer­i­can side to­ward de­vel­op­ing our mil­i­taryto-mil­i­tary re­la­tions.”

To stress the sym­bol­ism of this visit, the spokesman glee­fully an­nounced that by mu­tual agree­ment, the Chinese mil­i­tary band that was ac­com­pa­ny­ing Gen. Chen played a ro- tral prov­ince of He­nan, with vast min­ing en­ti­ties, re­cently is­sued ad­di­tional safety reg­u­la­tions de­signed for what staterun news ac­counts say are the most “dra­co­nian” reg­u­la­tions to date: Should 50 or more min­ers die in a sin­gle ac­ci­dent each year, or if two ac­ci­dents oc­cur in one year and kill 30 to 49 min­ers each, the mayor in charge of the area where the ac­ci­dents oc­curred will be fired.

Com­mu­nist of­fi­cials across the nation hailed the new meas-

China’s dead­li­est job is coal-min­ing. In the decade from 2000 to 2010, openly re­ported deaths of Chinese min­ers to­taled a stag­ger­ing 52,785, mak­ing China the world’s most dan­ger­ous countr y for coal min­ers.

bust ver­sion of “Ode to the Moth­er­land” at a joint con­cert May 17 in Wash­ing­ton.

The jin­go­is­tic song con­tains this lyric: “We love peace, we love our homestead, but who­ever en­croaches on our ter­ri­tory, just call him ‘dead’!” ure as de­ci­sive and a sign of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s care for peo­ple’s lives.

China’s dead­li­est job is coalmin­ing. In the decade from 2000 to 2010, openly re­ported deaths of Chinese min­ers to­taled a stag­ger­ing 52,785, mak­ing China the world’s most dan­ger­ous coun­try for coal min­ers.

By con­trast, in the same per iod, the United States recorded a to­tal of 365 fa­tal­i­ties from coal min­ing ac­ci­dents, 145 times less than deaths in China. Al­though China is the world’s largest coal pro­ducer, ac­count­ing for about 45 per­cent of to­tal global out­put, a Chinese miner is 20 times more likely to die in a min­ing ac­ci­dent than his U.S. miner coun­ter­part. These sta­tis­tics are al­most cer­tain to be lower than ac­tual deaths as many Chinese coal mines, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with cor­rupt lo­cal of­fi­cials, rou­tinely fal­sify min­ing death sta­tis­tics to avoid in­creas­ingly stiff fines and safety in­spec­tions.

Fre­quent min­ing ac­ci­dents and their grue­some con­se­quences pose a se­ri­ous threat to the so­cial sta­bil­ity un­der com­mu­nist rule. Each ac­ci­dent tends to pro­duce mass out­rage na­tion­wide against fla­grant neg­li­gence and in­com­pe­tent pub­lic safety of­fi­cials who are of­ten cor­rupted by state-run min­ing com­pa­nies.

How­ever, crit­ics point out that the new ap­proach will in­crease the in­cen­tive for lo­cal of­fi­cials to falsely re­port the sever­ity of any fu­ture min­ing ac­ci­dents to avoid the in­dig­nity of be­ing re­moved from of­fice.

Many be­lieve that the deaths of 49 or 50 min­ers are equally tragic and should not be the stan­dard used to force a mayor to lose his job or not. More­over, with a glar­ing lack of safety rules and ef­fec­tive en­force­ment, any method to re­duce min­ing tragedies by fo­cus­ing on hu­man fac­tors, rather than on the rule of law, is likely to be a fu­tile and self­de­feat­ing ex­er­cise within the com­mu­nist state.

Miles Yu can be reached at

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