Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Deconstructing Anuraj Manibhandu: Lessons on How to Be a Horrible Journalist at the Bangkok Post


Big powers, mega deals

Bangkok Post

Anuraj Manibhandu

When the world's most populous nation announces plans to increase its military budget by 17.8%, one of the most powerful countries has reason to feel concern. Whether the United States is entitled to question what China does with its money is something else. China does not think so, and repeatedly has made this point. The US obviously does, avuncular and proprietorial as it is about its position in the world.

What does China's lack of transparency concerning its defense budget have to do with America's position in the world? "Entitled to question"? Any country is entitled to question another country about whatever it wants. If a country refuses to answer, that is their right as well.

The latest exchange featured US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Jiang Enzhu, spokesman for China's National People's Congress. During a visit to China, Mr Negroponte said Washington wanted more clarity about the budget increase, and sought talks about it with Beijing. Mr Jiang insisted that the trend was in line with a policy that is ''defensive in nature''; that China does not have the ''wherewithal'' nor the ''intention'' to engage in an arms race.

So what? The US made a complaint. China responded. End of story.

Watchers of both power centres note that Beijing was not happy with Washington's plans to sell 450 air and ground missiles to Taiwan, which Beijing continues to consider a renegade province of China.

It is interesting that Anuraj makes a sarcastic remark about the US wanting to know about China's military buildup by basically saying that it isn't America's business, yet doesn't make the same crack about China's distress concerning the US selling missiles to Taiwan.

Neutral parties cannot be indifferent. As Agence France-Presse in Beijing observed, China has increased its military spending by double digits nearly every year over the past 15 years. Does such a pattern of spending _ at a time when Iraq seems to be the only hot spot _ qualify China as a country that follows in the path of peace and development, as its spokesmen claim?

This is the question that the US wants to the answer for, so why shouldn't it ask what is the intention of China's buildup?

Rewind to talks in Bangkok last week during the visit of Tang Jiaxuan, China's state councillor, and you will see how much that giant to the northeast of Thailand is interested in ''development''.

What kind of leap is this? Anuraj jumps from China's arms buildup to "development." What is the Thai fascination with quotation marks?

Mr Tang made it plain that, for China, ''development'' involves business.

How did Tang make it plain?

And the business that draws China to Thailand at present is none other than the mega projects , first presented to the world just over a year ago by the government of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The Chinese government would recommend Chinese firms of good repute to participate in the mega projects, Mr Tang told Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont during talks on Feb 27.

Again, so what? Many foreign/commerce ministers act like salesmen for their country's industries. I remember when Thaksin was lecturing his ambassadors about how they should sell "Thailand Inc."

Wise or not, Gen Surayud replied that his interim cabinet of ministers would prefer this to take the shape of government-to-government cooperation.

What does this mean in relation to the previous sentence or the rest of the story?

Did such talk of cooperation send alarm bells to businessmen in the US, Europe and elsewhere interested in securing a piece of the mega projects?

Probably not. They know how the game is played. And they have been competing for "mega projects" in Thailand and elsewhere for decades.

In case not everyone sees that Chinese firms are anointed by the government, would it be a good idea to qualify what this remark meant? At such a juncture in its political crossroads, Thailand cannot be seen as less than fair in any international endeavour.

Again, look at this horrible English, and Anuraj is the news editor. What exactly does this mean?

Business, in particular, demands a level playing field. And Gen Surayud knows well that a government installed following the Sept 19 coup cannot be seen as beholden to China simply because the giant rooted in Asia recognised the change. Gratitude also has its limits.

Again, horrible English. Business doesn't demand anything. It can only request justice. If it doesn't get it, it can move elsewhere. I don't think Surayud knows what the hell he is doing. And why should Thailand's junta be grateful to China for recognizing its authority? China is an authoritarian state. Two peas in a pod. Just because China recognizes the junta doesn't give it legitimacy in the civilized world.

The mega projects have become more interesting to aspiring participants since the government narrowed them down to urban mass transit systems.

Who built China's mass transit systems?

France declared its interest in this particular project when President Jacques Chirac paid a state visit to Thailand in February 2006.

With its high-speed TGV trains and experience in urban transport services in general, the republic is no doubt a contender.

France has a good mass transit system. The French are good at building stuff. So what?

But how does it compare with China, which may apply its Asian mindset and knowledge of Thai geography, economics and culture to produce something more attractive to a government subscribing to ''sufficiency'' principles?

I don't think there is any evidence that China is smarter than any other country in terms of understanding Thailand's geography, economics and culture, and the Chinese are the last people to get "sufficiency." But Thais do share one thing in common with the Chinese: their love of corruption and bribery.

By affirming China's interest, Mr Tang may have helped convince Europeans to shake off their displeasure with the generals who staged the coup, and live with a post-coup government in Thailand.

My understanding is that Thailand is so insignificant in the big scheme of things that it wouldn't matter one way or the other if Europeans were chosen for mega projects are not.

Europe's aspiring contenders in the mass transit projects go beyond France. And they cannot afford to sit idly when China comes on so strongly.

Observe the Thai mentality in action. Thais believe that Europeans would sell out their integrity and democratic principles in exchange for Thai mega projects.

In just over a week, Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram will join colleagues from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Union in a ministerial conference in Nuremburg.

He may still find some cold shoulders at the first meeting with European ministers since the coup. But some should have warmed to the realities.

Again, Anuraj is implying Europeans will whore themselves for money just because China is sucking up to the junta. This is very revealing about the Thai mentality, because this is exactly how they operate.

This is a horribly written article. How this stuff ever makes it past an editor... Oops, Anuraj is the editor.

Observe how this article started at China's arms buildup and meandered into Europeans selling their souls for a piece of the action. This is a great example of Thai journalism: No facts, no structure, no evidence, and no logical consistency.

From my own personal experience dealing with high-level European businessmen who have come to Thailand for mega projects, this is what I know. They have very little tolerance for Thai bullshit.

When Thaksin was in power I went to a few of those high level pow wows where European businessmen were asked to check out the mega projects.

Guess what? The Thai bureaucrats had no presentations prepared. They could barely communicate in English. They could provide no answers on any of the questions presented to them about the mega projects. One Spanish banker asked a minister who shall not be named, "How will you finance these mega projects?" The answer: "With rice."

I don't think Europe has anything to fear from China.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

keep this stuff coming, its both scary and predictable, but most of all funny. fund it with rice? only in thailand can you say that with a straight face, too bad they didn't realize the kind of face they lost because they are so freaking clueless. keep your bracelets on...we'll laugh all the way to vietnam.