Politics

Wed,21Feb2018

Politics

Interview: Ato Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia

In power since 1991, Ato Meles Zenawi speaks of an Ethiopian renaissance as the economy and social indicators improve substantially, but national politics remain fraught and the government faces an array of deadly foes in the Horn of Africa, led by arch-enemies in Eritrea and Islamist militants in Somalia

 

The Africa Report: How will the financial crisis affect the global economic hierarchy – do you think it will accelerate the shift of economic power towards Asia?

 

?PRIME MINISTER MELES ZENAWI: Innovation in the financial sector appears to have gone way beyond the capacity to be effectively regulated and perhaps the capacity of the regulators themselves to understand the financial instruments that have been built. So I would not be very surprised if there were to be more effective regulation in the financial sector. I’m not sure whether there would be fundamental change in the other sectors of the economy. Asia has been doing very well in relative terms, [and] it is bound to increase its weight in global economic issues. I doubt whether this will be the result of the financial crisis, rather than the result of more structural change in the economies. ??

 

Although Ethiopia’s economy has been growing strongly, inflation is spiralling and there are serious foreign exchange shortages. How will you deal with this pressure??

 

The key strategy is to continue to increase exports at a much faster pace. In the past five years, exports have been growing at 25% per year; perhaps we can push it a little bit further. Oil prices accounted for much of the foreign exchange and balance of payments problem. If oil prices are coming down, the foreign exchange that we use to import oil will be reduced. And we are now passing the price through to the consumers directly and we hope to reduce consumption of oil. Reduction in prices and reduction in demand may improve our balance of payments situation.?In the past five years we have had very promising results. The most important structural change has happened in the rural areas. Most of the farmers are shifting from small-scale subsistence farming into small-scale commercial farming and that has created a very positive feedback loop. In the urban areas we have not made as much progress as in the rural areas, but the impact of the rural growth is beginning to filter down to the urban areas.??

 

You say you want to promote business, yet Ethiopia does not have a stock exchange. Do you plan to launch one??

 

We don’t think the securities market is as critical to Ethiopia’s development as a commodities market. That is why we have launched the commodity market first; nevertheless we understand that at some stage we have to develop the securities market, and that requires a lot of state capacity, among other things. We do not want to create a casino which is out of control. We need a properly regulated securities market and that requires capacity building, both on the part of the state, which should be doing the regulation, and on the part of the private sector actors.??

 

There are widespread complaints about telecommunications. Do you think more competition in the sector would improve services?

 

?We’re investing about $1.5bn in telecommunication infrastructure and we expect the subscribers of mobile phones to increase up to 15m over the next 18 months or so. More importantly we plan to expand our broadband optic-fibre network to well over 10,000 km, connecting all the major towns, universities, hospitals and so forth. After 18 months when we’ve completed our current programme of developing telecommunications infrastructure, we’ll see if there’s any need for institutional reform, but at the moment the focus is on investment in infrastructure.?

 

There are experiences elsewhere which prove that under certain circumstances competition might help and other circumstances there is no real competition, it’s an oligopoly. In the end therefore, it may depend on the quality of regulatory capacity… At this stage we have chosen to err on the side of caution.

 

??On coming to power, your government promised a revolutionary restructuring of the state. Do you think you’ve achieved that??

 1955 Born in Adwa, northern Ethiopia
 1974 Joined the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)??
 1989 Became chairman of the TPLF and the
Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front
 1991 With the overthrowing of the Derg military regime,
became the president of the transitional government??
 1995 Elected for the first time as prime minister
 1999 Border clashes with Eritrea led to full-scale war??
 2004 Earned a master’s degree in economics

 

We’ve gone a long way. States in reform are states facing a huge risk of disintegration. And as we moved away from centralised authoritarian political systems towards a de-centralised, federalised, democratic system, there was the risk that we could disintegrate like Yugoslavia or the former Soviet Union, or other countries that have tried economic and political transition at the same time. Well, clearly, we have survived. And that – as one of the actors of the French Revolution is supposed to have said – was quite an achievement, to have survived turmoil. We have survived as a state, we have survived as a nation. I think we have gone a little bit beyond surviving. ??

 

How much of a challenge do the opposition parties represent to your government?

 

We have two extremes that are joined at the centre. There are those who feel that the transformation of the Ethiopian empire under Emperor Haile Selassie – and the other emperor who followed, Mengistu – that the federalism that we introduced, the independence of Eritrea that we recognised, there are those groups who feel that that is a crime against the very concept of Ethiopia. And there are those who feel that the reforms we have introduced – pre-empting secessionist pressure – have been a cynical attempt to preserve the empire rather than transform it. So you have two extremes: those who feel that the reforms of the empire have gone too far, and those who say that the reforms have been a cynical ploy to stem the tide of secessionism in Ethiopia. Those two are the main opposition groups in the country now. Sometimes they come together against a common enemy in the centre, sometimes they are at each others’ throats because they have very different agendas.??

 

Your government has faced armed resistance in the Oromo and Somali regions. What are the grievances and how do you intend to address them??

 

The armed entities in the Oromia region do not pose a very serious challenge to us. Over time, a broad consensus has emerged in the region. The key challenge is the Somali region. We have not done as well in terms of economic development in the Somali region as we have in the rest of our country. We have not done as well in the pastoralist regions as a whole, and in particular in the Somali region, so there is room for the opposition to capitalise on this fact. Nevertheless, we have done enough to show people in the Somali region that there is some light at the end of the tunnel, not very bright, not as bright as in the rest of the country, nevertheless there is some light, and we need to do more of that. The Somali people in Ethiopia for the first time in our history plan their own affairs locally, use their own language in schools and in local government entities, have their religion respected absolutely… and they see what the alternative is on the other side of the border. So, I don’t think the secessionist agenda in the Ogaden is as strong as it might have been 15 years ago, but we recognise it as a challenge and we need to do more.??

 

Almost six years after the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission announced its decision, there is still no agreement on demarcation. How dangerous is the current stand-off between Ethiopia and Eritrea??

 

The Eritrean government is trying to use indirect means to destabilise Ethiopia and the region but it is not as dangerous as some people think. We have said that we are not going to respond in kind unless there is a full-scale invasion. Eritrea is in no way ready to launch a full-scale invasion of Ethiopia. So militarily it is going to be stalemate for the foreseeable future. The only way forward is dialogue. We are prepared to engage the Eritrean government in dialogue any time, anywhere. And this is not an underhanded way of trying to change the boundary commission’s decision. We have made it clear in the note we gave to the Under-Secretary General of the UN that we unconditionally accept the de-limitation decision of the boundary commission. What we want dialogue on is the implementation of the decision. It is possible that there is going to be this tense situation for a long time; Ethiopia can live with it more or less indefinitely.??

 

What are the prospects of disengagement from Somalia? Do you think this would help end violence??

 

Our strategy is not a strategy of withdrawal, it’s a strategy of helping Somalia’s stability, so we are not dying to leave at the first possible opportunity. We don’t have an open-ended commitment to Somalia’s stability. We’ll stay on and help if two conditions are kept. First, the Somali leaders have to get their act together – reach out to moderate elements within Somali society, build consensus around the transitional government – so that we can win the hearts and minds of the Somali people, which would isolate the extremists and make it easier for us to hunt them down. Second, the international community will have to shoulder its responsibilities. If these two conditions are fulfilled we will stay on, but if these conditions are not met, then we will withdraw. ?

 

?If you withdraw, are you prepared for the consequences such as a return of the Islamic courts regime to power??

 

We are fully aware that our withdrawal would cause the withdrawal of the AU troops, and possibly the withdrawal of the Transitional Federal Government from Mogadishu, and possibly Somalia going back to civil war, where it was in 2002-2003. There won’t be an Islamic courts regime in Somalia so long as we are around. If the Al-Shabaab (Islamist militia) got control of Somalia, we would go in and remove them again. That’s non-negotiable.??

 

You’ve been in power for almost 18 years. When are you planning to retire and would you take a post with an international organisation?

 

?I have no plans with any international African organisations. My plans after retiring would be first to have some rest – I have not had enough rest since age 19 – and reflect on my life experiences, contributing perhaps, getting out some studies, research and writing, a light kind of schedule. I do not want to be involved in another full-time job, but I would want to be active and as helpful as I could be.

Obama: Enter the great communicator

Gemma Ware

The first-ever black candidate for the US presidency succeeded on his first attempt, thanks to an articulate and positive style, clear values and his powerful communications strategy

 

“This is an unbelievable moment in our history,” was the response to Obama’s victory from Georgia congressman John Lewis, a civil rights movement hero. “This is a great distance from when I was walking across that bridge [in Selma, Alabama] 43 years ago when we were beaten, left bloody and unconscious. Last night something came over me. I just jumped up and kept jumping up. Tears came down my face.”?

 

Barack Hussein Obama did it! He scaled the walls of doubt and cynicism, racism and religious bigotry, hysteria and hate, and on 4 November walked into history, appealing to the ‘angels of our better nature’, by getting elected to become the 44th President of the United States. Almost a century and a half after the US Constitution erased the designation of a black man as ‘three-fifths of a person’, on 20 January 2009, the 47-year-old Obama will become America’s First Citizen, his wife, Michelle, a descendant of slaves, its First Lady, and their children, Malia and Shasha, will become as well known as other First Children before them.?

 

Over the years, many black people have crashed down the barriers to become Firsts, but this was the Ultimate First. Yet, as voters in America and people around the world came to see, Barack Obama is not just any black man. He comes with the credentials of a multi-racial heritage, a multinational upbringing and a 21st century vision that gives him a unique view of a complex time, a complex world and America’s place in it.?

Obama's foreign policy team

 

Diplomats and policy
professionals. Read more

 

So how did he get there and what difference will it make to have him at the helm of the world’s leading, though wounded, industrial nation? Like Hansel’s breadcrumbs in the forest, clues abound, including from the man himself. “I think there is a great hunger for change in this country, and not just policy change,” he said in early 2007. “What I also think they are looking for is change in tone and a return to some notion of the common good and some sense of cooperation, of pragmatism over ideology. I’m a stand-in for that right now.”?

 

The values that have helped Obama capture the White House derive from his peripatetic childhood on two continents – America and Asia – and an identification with a third – Africa, and they have carried him through the thicket of two bruising national campaigns and helped create a superior strategy, combining substance and style.?

 

Giving voice to virtues

 

?Barack Obama’s road to the White House was paved initially with the values of his white American mother, Ann Dunham, and her Midwestern parents who helped raise him. In his autobiography, Dreams from My Father, he writes of his mother’s advice: “If you want to grow into a human being, you’re going to need some values,” and they included honesty, fairness, straight-talk and independent judgement – “giv[ing] voice to the virtues of her Midwestern past”.?

 

Equally, there are links to the values of his Kenyan father, also named Barack Hussein Obama, who left when Obama was two. Dunham told the young Obama of the “distant authority” of his father, who also attended Harvard – “how he had grown up poor, in a poor country, in a poor continent; how his life had been hard ...he hadn’t cut corners, though, or played the angles”.?

 

Dan Johnson-Weinberger, who studied voting rights under Obama at the University of Chicago, told the New York Times Magazine recently that Obama won not by playing the angles, but by understanding the playing field, specifically that “voters in African-American Congressional districts would have a disproportionate impact in selecting the nominee”.?

 

Obama “grasped the structural path to victory”, said his former student. He wasted no time in persuading the black community he was indeed “black enough”, acknowledging he stood on the shoulders of the civil rights movement’s pioneers. But while he walked the walk, he often talked a different talk from that era’s leaders, recognising class and race, speaking of the common burden of both poor and middle-class whites as well as blacks. And he called for “get[ing] past the racial stalemate we’ve been in for years” and for “forging alliances to walk the path to a more perfect union... binding our particular grievances – for better healthcare and better schools and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans”.?

 

“Change you can believe in” was the Obama mantra that resonated with so many of the disillusioned of all races, and awakened the sleeping giant of the youth across America. Together they rallied to the beat of Will-I -Am’s “Yes We Can” with Obama telling them: “America is ready to turn the page. America is ready for a new set of challenges. This is our time. A new generation is prepared to lead.”

 

?‘No drama obama’?

 

Obama has innovated in the ways he communicates. He pioneered a virtual campaign for the digital age generation at home on the internet, Facebook and YouTube. And the message drove the money – from contributions of as little as $5. No campaign in history has raised as much as Obama’s did – more than $600m. A notice to supporters to send in their mobile numbers and pass along the message to others if they wanted to be the first to know Obama’s choice of vice-president generated thousands of additional contacts. Gordon Davis, a New York lawyer and a major fundraiser for Obama, explained: “The fundraising was a basic tool to get people involved in the campaign.”  ?

 

From outhouse to White House

 

Dancing in the streets
of Atlanta. Read more

Even his opponents credit him with running a sophisticated campaign. And he did it while being labelled ‘No Drama Obama’, rarely losing his cool, his face lit up with a broad smile when attacked, a style some supporters found frustrating. But while he insisted he could deliver a hard punch if needed, that went against his natural instincts and style – which also created one of the most harmonious campaign organisations in recent memory. Davis, also a former New York City politician, said: “No internal divisions, fights among consultants, backstabbing or getting off-message... driven as much from the bottom up as the top down.”

 

?One close campaign advisor said: “He’s not the lone ranger, but he is the leader.” Obama is also a listener, who takes in all points of view before coming out with his own. And he assembled a team that was encouraged to voice their own opinions, including some 300 foreign policy advisors, the area that was initially his weakest. He has promised a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq, with an end-point of 2010, and telegraphed his plans for new approaches to America’s old enemies, saying, while there would be a need for staff preparation, he would meet with them without preconditions. And he is expected to appoint an administration mixed with both seasoned Washington veterans and new faces who share his vision.?

 

Despite his legendary confidence and the well-chosen backfield that bolsters it, Obama has been dealt a tough hand – two wars, a sick economy and potentially bitter losers among the Americans he must now attempt to lead. This comes along with a host of other 21st century problems requiring global solutions at a time when America’s image is at one of its lowest points ever, having lost much of the moral authority and leadership it once enjoyed.

 

?International affairs expert John Stremlau said: “Here’s a case of a black person set up to fail, but no better person to rally the country and the world at a time like this.”?

 

African roots and Africa policy

 

Hopes for a new direction.
Read more

The reception Obama has enjoyed at places like the Berlin Wall and from world leaders, as well as the pride he has generated throughout the African continent, give him at least a running start.?

 

As far back as 2006, when his presidential aspirations seemed more than a distant dream to many, Obama told New York magazine: “I want to be a really great president. And then I’d worry about all the other stuff.”?

 

Despite “all that other stuff”, Barack Obama’s election has affirmed the audacity of hope.

Obama's foreign policy team

Gemma Ware

 

Although Barack Obama won support for his stance against the Iraq war, foreign policy was meant to be the strength of his Republican opponent John McCain, who backed the invasion. To counter McCain, the Obama campaign built up a team led by policy professionals Susan Rice and Anthony Lake, both of whom served in ex-President Bill Clinton’s administration and have extensive experience in Africa. Rice was assistant secretary of state for Africa and Lake was national security advisor during South Africa’s transition from apartheid to majority rule.

 

?Lake introduced Obama to the diplomatic circuit about four years ago, after which Obama quickly assembled a group of advisors from a wide range of backgrounds: veteran diplomat and ex-ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson; Samantha Power, the author of the seminal analysis of genocide A Problem from Hell and a campaigner on Darfur; former navy secretary Richard Danzig; and retired Air Force major general Scott Gration, who grew up in Africa.?

 

Washington insiders tip Richardson for secretary of state and Rice for the national security advisor; and there is competition for the assistant secretary of state for Africa post – given the President is expected to have a special interest in it. In the running are the two co-chairs of the Obama campaign’s Africa policy group: Michelle Gavin and Witney Schneidman. Among the professional diplomats there is support for former ambassador to Nairobi, Johnnie Carson. Stephen Morrison, Africa director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is also in the running.

 

Back to Obama: enter the great communicator

From outhouse to White House

Gemma Ware

 

The state of Georgia may have voted for John McCain, but you would not know it in the city of Atlanta. Black Atlanta, white Atlanta and increasingly mixed Atlanta went all out to celebrate Barack Obama’s victory, with dancing in the streets and shouting in the churches. In the Ebenezer Baptist Church, spiritual home of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King, even though family members squabble among themselves, hundreds attended services and chanted: “We started at the outhouse, now we’re going to the White House. Yes we can!” Dr King’s daughter, Reverand Bernice King, exhorted them to change the Obama campaign mantra “Yes we can” to “Yes we have”.

 

?In the streets, where horns honked and lights flashed, whites held up signs to passersby with the words: “It’s A New America. Yes we have!” Once labelled “The city too busy to hate” by the so-called ‘white power structure’, who nevertheless saw to it that blacks were relegated to separate theatre entrances, the backs of buses and away from whites-only restaurants and water fountains, Atlanta today is a star among progressive US cities, where, except for one who went to jail for corruption, black mayors have run it, including Andrew Young, a one-time lieutenant of Dr King.

 

?Shortly after Obama’s victory, Young, who went on to become US ambassador to the UN under former President Jimmy Carter, told a crowded ballroom: “Thanks to Barack Obama, vision is replacing violence, faith is defeating fear, and grace is putting an end to greed.”?

 

At house parties all over town, guests wore Obama tee-shirts of varying designs and brought presents to the hosts, including chocolate squares stamped with the smiling face of the President-elect. At work the next day, women wore black-and-red dresses, imitating Michelle Obama.

 

Back to Obama: enter the great communicator

Editorial: The Kogelo-Washington Axis

The jubilation greeting Barack Obama’s election to the US presidency was as loud in Africa as it was at the victory rally in Grant Park, Chicago. The triumph of Obama, the grandson of Mama Sarah of Kogelo in western Kenya, is a dynamic new axis between Africa and the US. The people of Kogelo, who were connected to Kenya’s national electricity grid for the first time to watch the election results, believe they are already seeing tangible benefits from the association.

 

?Obama’s success may have other effects too. Voters in different countries can assess the chances of a youngish politician of modest means from a minority group becoming their head of state: nowhere in Europe leaps to mind; it’s unlikely in Asia and, sadly, all too improbable in Africa.??

 

Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. on 20 January will nevertheless be a joyous moment for Africa and the US, a celebration of his dual heritage and also of the universal ideals of liberté, fraternité et égalité. The hard policy calculations are already being made. As Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told The Africa Report, Obama’s first duty will be to promote American interests even if he has much more knowledge and experience of Africa than his predecessors. Odinga wants Africa to receive more attention as a place for investment than as a humanitarian case. ?

 

Taking over a US Treasury that has just bailed out recalcitrant banks to the tune of over $700bn and financed a $1trn war in Iraq, the Obama administration will not be sprinkling largesse in Africa. But the new economic strategists could cut some of the subsidies that rich countries pay to their farmers, which suppress the world price of Africa’s agricultural exports. If the US gives a lead, the more serious subsidy violators in Europe and Japan would be under pressure to follow. ??

 

Foreign policy advisors around Obama have long-dismissed George Bush’s ‘war on terror’ concept and speak of a more nuanced and multilateral approach to crises. Sudan and Somalia will be near the top of the Africa priority list. Both urgently need heavyweight diplomacy, hard-headed political analysis and well-targeted development funds. Obama has already made commitments on material and diplomatic support for the peacekeepers in Darfur. The credibility of Washington’s commitment to punish war criminals would be boosted if the US finally signed up to the International Criminal Court.?

 

Inevitably, the Obama era will nurture the ties of the more than 30m African-Americans with the mother continent: this offers a great opportunity for African businesses to bring in the investment, technology transfer and research capability that is so badly needed.

 

??Such possibilities could light up the continent as Charlayne Hunter-Gault reports with a detailed analysis from Atlanta of the Obama win. Our correspondent in Johannesburg, William Gumede, tells the cautionary tale of the ructions in the African National Congress; as the political landscape changes, an exciting election looms in early 2009.?

 

Elections in Ethiopia have been more troubled still but Premier Meles Zenawi insists in an exclusive interview with The Africa Report that there will be no repeat in the next elections of the violence that left about 200 dead after the 2005 polls. From Harare, Charles Rukuni and Christopher Thompson report on prospects for resolving the political stalemate and economic meltdown. Oladipo Salimonu reads the political tea-leaves in Nigeria. ?

 

Attacking a broader canvas, Managing Editor Nicholas Norbrook and Editorial Assistant Gemma Ware go in search of the effects of the West’s financial crisis and reach unexpected conclusions, with the help of senior experts and economists. Finally, our pièce de résistance is the 53 country-by-country analysis of Africa’s prospects in 2009.

African roots and Africa policy

Gemma Ware

 

Kenya’s prime minister Raila Odinga has already tried to inject some realism into Africa’s hope for an Obama presidency: “He is first and foremost answerable to US voters, maybe under him Africa will receive more attention in US foreign policy.” Odinga hopes he will be able to persuade Obama to offer fairer trade agreements to Africa, and also nudge the recalcitrant Europeans and Japanese in that direction.

 

?The clearest ideas on Obama’s foreign policy come from a security strategy edited by former assistant secretary of state for Africa, Susan Rice. It lists counter-terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change and oil dependence as top policy priorities, of which three are of key concern to Africa.

 

?There is also likely to be a sweeping reorganisation of foreign aid agencies in Washington, perhaps with the creation of an international development post at cabinet level. Given budgetary pressures, few believe an Obama administration will spend more on aid but it will try to spend it more effectively.?

 

With campaigners on Darfur such as Rice and Samantha Power on board, an Obama administration is likely to proceed more determinedly on Sudan: the campaign pledged to provide the UN/AU mission with helicopters and more surveillance capacity as well as to give backing to a ‘no-fly zone’ over western Sudan.

 

Back to Obama: enter the great communicator

Luring them (or their money) back

Gemma Ware

 

Unlike India, China has made it easy for people who had left or fled the country to invest on the mainland, using foreign knowledge and capital to build up the manufacturing base


China is once again the Middle Kingdom. Both feared and fawned over, it has posted decades of unprecedented economic growth.?But 30 years ago, China was poor and dysfunctional, envying the success of Hong Kong, a British colony carved from Chinese territory and a vibrant manufacturing and financial centre. Further offshore, the authoritarian Kuomintang government, arch-enemy of China, had transformed the island of Taiwan into an economic powerhouse.?

 

Change began in 1978. Deng Xiaoping became chairman of China’s Communist Party, a post vacant since Mao Zedong’s death two years earlier. Deng intended to salvage his country with ‘market socialism’ – to do that, he reached out to China’s estranged family.?Hong Kong’s large population of mainland migrants fled China during the 1940s civil war, and many had since thrived in business. They were well-placed to capitalise on their ancestral links.

 

Hong Kong’s labour-intensive industries rushed to the Pearl River Delta. By the late 1980s, Hong Kong was the largest direct investor in China, accounting for more than half of inbound investment. The ardour has not abated.

 

?It was a richer, more confident China that regained Hong Kong in 1997. Taiwan, on the other hand, has proved a trickier catch. Beijing hopes that economic integration will lead to political submission of the island it has claimed since 1949 but has never ruled.?

 

In the 1990s, China lured enormous sums of Taiwanese capital to low- or no-tariff investment zones. From 1991 through 2007, it snared more than 55% of Taiwan’s outward investment. ?

 

There are believed to be about a million Taiwan citizens on the mainland. Aside from the rare political defection and (rather more common) gangster-on-the-lam, most are Taishang (Taiwan businesspeople). They are the executives, engineers and entrepreneurs who have delivered the expertise and international perspective that China needed for its transition from planned to market economy, from low-tech producer to high-tech manufacturer of iPods and semiconductors. Sixty percent of China’s high-technology exports are produced by Taiwanese-operated factories.?

 

But far from integrating into Chinese society, the Taishang formed enclaves. Typical of them is Kunshan or ‘Little Taipei’, a city 55 km from Shanghai. A dense concentration of Taiwanese companies brought white-collar workers with them. Their families followed, then restaurants and schools that cater to them.

 

?From 1994, Taiwan investors enjoyed preferential treatment. They could remit profits and wages, purchase Chinese real estate, and send their children to local schools. Taiwan students pay home fees in mainland universities and have access to special scholarships. Bureaucratic tangles persist, though: border crossings require a permit, though the application is now less cumbersome, and driving licences cannot be freely exchanged.?

 

Sometimes business is just business?

 

And sometimes there is unwelcome attention. In December 2003, in the run-up to Taiwan’s presidential election, China rounded up 24 Taishang on charges of espionage; the following day Chinese President Hu Jintao gave unprecedented face-time to a group of Taiwan’s business leaders. The two events were seen as a carrot-and-stick attempt to turn them against Chen Shui-bian’s re-election. (The strategy either backfired or more likely overestimated the influence of the Taishang in Taiwan’s politics: Chen won.)?

 

Taishang can be relied upon to lobby against investment restrictions and little else. They face pressure on the mainland, then return home to accusations of disloyalty. Most would rather avoid politics entirely.?

 

Manufacturing brought most Taishang to China, and manufacturing could take them away, should China’s comparative advantage of low-cost labour disappear—as may already be happening. l?Charles Moré

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