China’s Trial of the Century: The Real Bo Xi Lai–A Tiger By the Tail

This show is a fascinating, in-depth conversation about the collapse of one of China’s key

Michael Sacharski, CEO Pacific Enterprise Capital

Michael Sacharski, CEO
Pacific Enterprise Capital

Princelings, Mr. Bo Xi Lai. What is different about this program is that the guest, Mr. Michael Sacharski, is a 3+decade American China Hand who has met and spent time with Mr. Bo on several occasions.

The conversation probes Bo’s extraordinary revolutionary pedigree, his rise as a charismatic, anti-corruption mayor of Dalian, moving to other key political positions before his final post as the crime-busting mayor of the huge city of Chongqing. The program includes a conversation about how Mr. Bo departed from the consensus style of the typical senior, Chinese leadership and his political differences with members of the senior leadership.  Interestingly, this discussion includes warnings  to Bo from the Party about his wife, Gu Kai Lai (who is also a Princeling). The conversation includes a discussion of how this trial came about, why the Party is conducting the trial, and the relationship of Mr. Bo’s courtroom defiance to his own father’s conduct during his persecution by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. This interview with Mr. Sacharski examines the interesting quanxi relationship that exists running from Bo Xi Lai’s father, Bo Yi Bo, to Jiang Zemin (Zhang Zemin) to a number of Politboro members, including Xi Jin Ping, and back to Bo Xi Lai, the son.

 

Hosted by David Day, Mr. Sacharski draws upon his extraordinary meetings with the charismatic Mr. Bo and his knowledge of the history and inner workings of the Party to give the viewer a far more complete picture of this, China’s trial of the 21th century. The discussion concludes with a  look towards Mr. Bo’s future and the likelihood that his opera is not over…down, but not out.

 

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A Different Focus on North Korea – Business Reunification Out Over the Horizon

 

A Different Focus on North Korea – Business Reunification Out Over the Horizon

May 31, 2009 by davidfday

Negotiating table for the 6 Party talks.

Negotiating table for the 6 Party talks.

 

This is what the real Six Party Talks looked like.

The recent nuclear and missile tests combined with threats bandied about by Pyongyang present an ominous, threatening view of attention-grabbing brinksmanship. It is worrisome, to be sure. Negotiations to handle North Korea, or get them back to the table at least, will be a new and different challenge for Special Envoy, Stephen Bosworth, who is no stranger to difficult negotiations—after all, as the America Ambassador in Manila in 1986, he was one of the principal players in successfully negotiating the Marcoses out of Malacanang Palace and eventually out of the country. Remember, the Philippine situation in the mid-1980’s was still a very touchy matter. There were a million people exposed in the streets sandwiched between the armed forces of Juan Ponce Enrile and General Ver. North Korea will be an entirely different ballgame for many reasons.

To be sure, there will be plenty of commentary about North Korea, its threats, and the destabilizing prospect it exhibits for Northeast Asia.

One thing is for sure. Beyond the nuclear tests, bellicose threats and serious potential for a regime implosion with its humanitarian crisis to follow, there are prospects for a stabilized and developing future for the country out over the horizon. We never hear much about this possibility. It is just that very few people focus on the opportunities that are coming as the country eventually stabilizes and begins to open up.

DHL is.

DHL Vans in service in Pyongyang

DHL Vans in Pyongyang

Given the current deteriorating health of the Dear Leader, we are now entering the transition period for the regime.

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The Real Nightmare of a North Korea Collapse & Implosion

The Real Nightmare of a North Korea Collapse & Implosion

June 1,  2010 by davidfday  

Some commentators suggest that this Cheonan incident may have created be the perfect storm to elbow the regime over the cliff. The consequences of such a “Diem” strategy towards the DPRK would be disastrous. Even without being elbowed, the regime is still going to implode. It is not a question of whether.  It is simply a question of when—and and serious economic sanctions run the terrible risk of shoving the DPRK right over the edge.

A DPRK implosion will cause a massive disaster crisis on a scale the likes of which the world has never seen before. On the human side, the disaster will involve hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking to breach the Chinese and Russian borders in the Northern part of the country and even greater numbers attempting to cross the heavily- mined DMZ to get to Seoul. There are multi-million numbers involved in human relief efforts that will have to be sustained for a lengthy period of time since there is no economy. Then there are the WMD weapons, expertise, nuclear materials, and rogue military issues also in the equation which will have to somehow be handled with lightening speed before being spirited away into undesirable hands. The current regime is already unstable and approaching a delicate leadership time—a collapse risks an implosion of epic proportions, making Haiti look like a garden party. Russia and China understand this and will not buy into any serious, biting economic sanctions that shove North Korea closer to the brink.

There are two critical points here. The first is that there can never be stability on the Korean peninsula until the DPRK can create a modicum of economic progress. Every day that the country can move a bit towards its 2012 economic goal of “A Mighty and Prosperous Nation” is a win and pushes the implosion nightmare back a notch or two. This will require heavier involvement of the private sector, not less. As a policy goal, Seoul and Washington must find ways to get more of the private sector underway in North Korea. The heroine for peninsula stability last year was Hyun Jung-Eun, chairwoman of South Korea’s Hyundai Group who successfully negotiated the reopening of North-South trade after the Dear Leader shut it down. Hyun Jung-Eun personifies the type of private sector leadership that can brunt or possibly block the implosion nightmare– if given enough time.

The second point is that the current disaster relief efforts in Haiti and the Gulf of Mexico do not even rise to the level of dress rehearsals for a collapse of North Korea. Seoul will have to bear the brunt of the implosion nightmare. Unless the Blue House is sufficiently satisfied watching Washington’s current response to the crises in Haiti and with the BP oil spill, and is convinced that Washington is fully capable of handling a multiple-fold Haiti with lightning speed and minimal hiccups, it would be well-advised to get a massive, DPRK disaster master plan in place yesterday. This means strategic disaster planning, the staging of huge amounts of supplies, disaster management training and development, and repeated, coordinating rehearsals. The response time will need to be in hours, not days or weeks and a blistering fast disaster response cannot be cobbled together on this massive scale when it occurs. It will be way too late.

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Vietnam Looking to Elbow a Place with China and India with Foreign Investors

Vietnam Looking to Elbow a Place with China and India with Foreign Investors

By David Day. August 2010

For Vietnam, stepping onto the world stage in recent years has meant admission to the WTO, a Nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council, launching the country’s first telecommunications satellite (Vinasat 1 built by Lockeed Martin) and hosting the APEC Summit in Hanoi.

Lockeed-Martin’s Vinasat 1

Vietnam continues to weather the global recession in reasonably well with foreign investment possibly doubling to $15 billion this year. Its largest export market is now the U.S. with over $12 billion last year. This Fall will see Intel’s new $1 billion chip assembly plant open outside Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam is now poised for yet another breakthrough. Political tensions in Thailand are helping Vietnam to get onto contingent plan target lists of foreign investors seeking political stability. Political stability is one factor working in Vietnam’s favor now. Another is labor costs. Vietnam is attempting to capitalize on the 30 to 40% labor differential with manufacturing plants in China. This is a huge incentive for China-based operations to begin looking to the south. The labor cost differential with China has been compounded by other problems nagging China operations: labor strikes and shortages.

Outside of the tech industry, where Vietnam has done very well in terms of attracting foreign investment, its aging colonial infrastructure has been a hindrance to all kinds of foreign investment.

There are two recent developments in Vietnam that will catapult the country forward in terms of attracting foreign investment at this critical juncture during the global recession. The first is the development of a number of major superhighway systems north of Hanoi that will link into highway systems in southern China. These new highways will allow a supply chain linkage between Chinese and Vietnamese manufacturing operations.

The second is a proposed Shinkansen-like bullet train between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The proposed bullet train, which would be completed by 2035, would travel the 1,600 km from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south in less than six hours. Vietnam’s current charming but woefully outdated trains take more than two days to make the trip. While this $56 billion project has recently been rejected by the National Assembly, Japan’s Transport Ministry continues to voice support for the project and has promised assistance should the Vietnamese government ultimately decide to proceed with the project once concerns of National Assembly members are adequately addressed (we believe that this is likely to occur despite the current clamor). Vietnam Railways Corp. was planning to use Japanese technology to build the high-speed train line. Sumitomo Corp. had teamed with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to bid on the project. Itochu Corp. was heading a competing group with Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd.

Proposed Vietnamese “Shinkansen” Linking Hanoi & HCMC

Given the importance of a high-speed rail link between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and the challenges Vietnam Airlines, and its related carriers have in meeting the staggering business traffic demands between the two cities, a Vietnamese “Shinkansen” would be an enormous contribution to the national infrastructure. No question that Vietnamese officials are eyeing the success of the Tokyo-Osaka Shinkansen as a precedent for a sorely needed rail upgrade in their own country.

Financing the north-south linkage is another matter.

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New Business Models, IP & Corruption

New Business Models, IP & Corruption

April 18, 2009 by davidfday

These two Videos, both dated April  17, 2009, illustrate the broad ends of the intellectual property spectrum vis.a.vis copyright infringement.  Google setting up free downloads in China in concert with music labels in effort to capture part of share of advertising revenue.  Essentially, this  is the “Free” business model developing in the digital world.

http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/showbiz/2009/04/17/chang.china.google.w.music.cnn

On the very same date, contrast Google’s new tactic in China with the 2nd video which is the conviction of 4 persons involved in the Pirate Bay website in Sweden for the crime of copyright violations. This is the “classic” intellectual property prosecution which may become a thing of the past if the Google model in China really takes hold.

http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2009/04/17/curry.pirate.bay.verdict.cnn

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Myanmar’s Dance

Myanmar sits between India and China, a key strategic position combined with extraordinary natural resources.

Historically, in its post-British colonial era, Myanmar has “danced” in its foreign policy and sought to maintain its neutrality, wary of foreigners. Myanmar’s dance continued throughout the Cold War as a strategy necessary to preserve its own sovereignty. This wariness extended to Western diplomats and China alike. However, as the General Than Shwe/Junta era began to take hold and the resulting U.S. sanctions began to bite, Myanmar “leaned” heavily towards China as its sanctions bypass route.

The new Thein Sein government started to shake the West with its political reforms and the release of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi. These reforms also included legal changes that would now permit Aung San Suu Kyi to run for political office. Indeed, her party, the National League for Democracy, has seized upon this legal change, re-registered under the new law, and Aung San Suu Kyi herself has formally announced that she would run in the next elections.

Then there is the pushback against China commenced with the abrupt decision to suspend the construction of a controversial China-backed hydroelectric dam that would have flooded an area the size of Singapore. Given the magnitude of Chinese investment and influence in Myanmar, this has been a stunning move.

The question then becomes, what is the next step in Myanmar’s dance? That step will be heavily influenced by Myanmar’s bid to assume its leadership bid as ASEAN’s chair in 2014. However, Myanmar’s bid for the 2014 ASEAN chairmanship means that it will have to present itself as an ASEAN member and not China’s little client. In order to accomplish that by 2014, we are going to see a number of previously unthinkable reforms coming out of Naypyidaw. The notion that Suu Kyi will now run for election is but one example of the previously unthinkable.

Indonesia, interestingly, is playing a key role from its ASEAN leadership chair position, steering Myanmar in a reform-minded direction so as to position and prepare Myanmar for its own 2014 ASEAN chair. Coupled with Jakarta’s efforts, the current United States efforts on the” pivoting” front to re-engage with Asia, such as entering the East Asia Summit and cultivating stronger ties with Southeast Asia, also contains a strategy designed to encourage Myanmar into further reforms. To that end, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently dangled the bait that Myanmar would find a partner in the U.S. if further reforms were made. The possibility of removing sanctions and promises of cooperation will assist in expanding U.S. influence with Myanmar,and likely move the country into a more balanced relationship between the U.S. and China.

Myanmar took Clinton’s bait, Suu Kyi and her party are now planning to participate in the next elections, and Clinton herself is now “pivoting” and enroute to Myanmar. The winds are now shifting in the U.S./Myanmar relationship. New partners and new steps are now in play.

The China relationship is still out there. While there is a certain frostiness to the current relations between China and Myanmar, it must be remembered that Myanmar must live with China next door and its dance in the future will always need to maintain considerable weight on that foot.

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Is Doing Business with North Korea Ethical?

The framework for this discussion can be found on this English article on the Radio Netherlands Worldwide website here: http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/doing-business-north-korea-ethical

Here is the Challenge when using the Human Rights “Lens”

When you add the human rights factor in as a lens through which all business and commerce must be viewed, you then find yourself in the peculiar position of losing on three critical counts: (1) having drastically narrowed your available market; (2) reducing your opportunities to assist those in the country or market where help is needed the most–like North Korea; and, (3) blocking your ability over time to influence the offending government and abate the abuses in question.

Regime stability, the rollback of human rights abuses, and the avoidance of an even more massive humanitarian crisis in the DPRK can never occur simply by folding one’s arms and saying, “No business where there are human rights violations”–that is a policy invitation to disaster. The potential humanitarian disaster North Korea faces is of an incomprehensible magnitude. (For more on the potential humanitarian crisis, see the discussion on this television show here: http://davidfday.com/2011/03/confrontation-in-the-koreasthe-private-sect… )

Paul Tjia’s work (a Netherlands consultant specializing in outsourcing work from European firms into North Korea)  in developing the private sector in North Korea is the foundation for peace and stability in that troubled country as well as in Northeast Asia. I for one, take my hat off to him, and encourage others to join him. He is building North Korea’s future and doing something that governments cannot–developing the private sector.

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The Negotiations Master—Kim Jong Il still has it

The Negotiations Master—Kim Jong Il still has it

By David Day

Over the past year, we have watched the Dear Leader’s private train slide into China on several occasions with educated speculation that he was paving the way for a baton hand-off in Pyongyang to Kim Jong Eun. There was a need, it was argued, for Beijing to bless the heir apparent. Some of these China visits included factory tours, fueling the speculation that the Kim Regime was preparing to “open up” and was ready now for some type of economic liberalization. These visits were followed by, more recently, announcements of large China-fueled infrastructure projects just inside the North Korean border.

Kim Jong Il’s current trip to Russia was not just to provide a change of scenery or demonstrate that there are places he can visit other than the PRC. Despite his age and frail health, the Dear Leader still retains his tactical genius. The Russian trip suggests the timing and the key trump card that Kim Jong Il may soon play—the Trans- Siberia/Korean pipeline.

Russia and South Korea have already entered into a MOU for a huge US$90 billion deal between Russia’s Gazprom and South Korea’s state-owned KoGas. The latter, the world’s largest single buyer of natural gas, will take 10 billion cubic meters annually for 30 years – via a pipeline to be built across North Korea. The sticking point in this enormous energy deal is, of course, North Korea. This week, North Korea also inked the same accord.

The tactical genius of Kim Jong Il is now beginning to surface.  2012 is a Presidential election year in South Korea and President Lee Myung-bak, an uncomfortable hard-liner for the North, is now on his way out. 2012 is also the magical, propagandized, “Mighty and Prosperous Nation” year (the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Great Leader, Kim Il Sung, the 70th birthday of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, and the 30th birthday (give or take) of the heir apparent, “Brilliant Comrade,” Kim Jong Eun—the 100, 70, 30 numbers are significant in the North Korean culture).

There is one other piece to this puzzle and that is Japan. Fukushima and Japan’s nuclear domino shutdowns/decommissionings have left certain parts the country desperately short of energy. This Summer, Tokyo Electric has been able to manage as a result of drastic austerity measures. In the reasonably short term future, Japan will find it impossible to fill its resulting power gap with renewables. Natural gas and coal are the only practical alternatives, with the cleaner, natural gas being the preferred choice. Russian natural gas piped to Busan, South Korea is going to open up critical and easier access for Japan.

As for the tactical genius, Kim can balance China’s growing influence on North Korea with both Russian and South Korean financial influence in the form of a mixture of pipeline lease rent and energy which the North Korean grid sorely needs. A deal to move forward with a pipeline has the added bonus of fitting squarely with the needs of the Pyongyang “Mighty and Prosperous Nation” propaganda machine to have something significant to announce for 2012.

A key issue which Russia and South Korea will undoubtedly have to be concerned with is the pipeline “valve” question (see, the North Korean shutdown of the Mt. Geumgang resort as an example).

Perhaps the economics will force the valve to remain open, but they need to be prepared that Pyongyang will be maneuvering to retain control. Yet another flash of Kim Jong Il’s tactical genius is in the works.

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