The Great Nation Of Singapore, It’s History And It’s People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Singapore

Introduction Singapore was founded as a British trading colony in 1819. It joined the Malaysian Federation in 1963 but separated two years later and became independent. Singapore subsequently became one of the world’s most prosperous countries with strong international trading links (its port is one of the world’s busiest in terms of tonnage handled) and with per capita GDP equal to that of the leading nations of Western Europe.
History First settlement

The first records of settlement in Singapore are from the 2nd century AD. The island was an outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire and originally had the Javanese name Temasek (‘sea town’). Temasek (Tumasek) rapidly became a significant trading settlement, but declined in the late 14th century. There are few remnants of old Temasek in Singapore, but archaeologists in Singapore have uncovered artefacts of that and other settlements. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Singapore island was part of the Sultanate of Johor. During the Malay-Portugal wars in 1613, the settlement was set ablaze by Portuguese troops. The Portuguese subsequently held control in that century and the Dutch in the 17th, but throughout most of this time the island’s population consisted mainly of fishermen.

Colonial rule

On 29 January 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed on the main island. Spotting its potential as a strategic geographical trading post in Southeast Asia, Raffles signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah on behalf of the British East India Company on 6 February 1819 to develop the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post and settlement. Until August 1824, Singapore was still a territory controlled by a Malay Ruler. Singapore only officially became a British colony in August 1824 when the British extended control over the whole island. John Crawfurd, the second resident of Singapore, was the one who made Singapore a British possession. He signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah on 2 August 1824 in which the Sultan and the Temmenggong handed over the whole island to the British East India Company thus marking the start of the island’s modern era. Raffles’s deputy, William Farquhar, oversaw a period of growth and ethnic migration, which was largely spurred by a no-restriction immigration policy. The British India office governed the island from 1858, but Singapore was made a British crown colony in 1867, answerable directly to the Crown. By 1869, 100,000 lived on the island.

The early onset of town planning in colonial Singapore came largely through a “divide and rule” framework where the different ethnic groups were settled in different parts of the South of the island. The Singapore River was largely a commercial area that was dominated by traders and bankers of various ethnic groups with mostly Chinese and Indian coolies working to load and unload goods from barge boats known locally as “bumboats”. The Malays, consisting of the local “Orang Lauts” who worked mostly as fishermen and seafarers, and Arab traders and scholars were mostly found in the South-east part of the river mouth, where Kampong Glam stands today. The European settlers, who were few then, settled around Fort Canning Hill and further upstream from the Singapore River. Like the Europeans, the early Indian migrants also settled more inland of the Singapore River, where Little India stands today. Very little is known about the rural private settlements in those times (known as kampongs), other than the major move by the post-independent Singapore government to re-settle these residents in the late 1960s.

World War II

Years before the rise of the Japanese, the British noted that Japan was building its forces rapidly. Wanting to protect its assets in SouthEast Asia, the British decided to build a naval base on the Northern end of Singapore. However, due to the war with Germany, all warship and war equipment was brought over to Europe.

During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Malaya, culminating in the Battle of Singapore. The ill-prepared British, with most of their forces in Europe, were defeated in six days, and surrendered the supposedly impregnable fortress to General Tomoyuki Yamashita on 15 February 1942. The surrender was described by British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill as “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.” The British naval base (see above) was destroyed before the Japanese could take over the base and make use of it. The Japanese renamed Singapore Shōnantō (昭南島?), from Japanese “Shōwa no jidai ni eta minami no shima” (“昭和の時代に得た南の島”?), or “southern island obtained in the age of Shōwa”, and occupied it until the British repossessed the island on 12 September 1945, a month after the Japanese surrender.

The name Shōnantō was, at the time, romanised as “Syonan-to” or “Syonan”, which means “Light of the South”.

Independence

Singapore became a self-governing state within the British Empire in 1959 with Yusof bin Ishak as its first Yang di-Pertuan Negara or president, and Lee Kuan Yew as its first Prime Minister. It declared independence from Britain unilaterally in August 1963, before joining the Federation of Malaysia in September along with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak as the result of the 1962 Merger Referendum of Singapore. Singapore left the federation two years after heated ideological conflict between the state’s PAP government and the federal Kuala Lumpur government. Singapore officially gained sovereignty on 9 August 1965. Yusof bin Ishak was sworn in as the first President of Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew remained prime minister.

While trying to be self-sufficient, the fledging nation faced problems like mass unemployment, housing shortages, and a dearth of land and natural resources. During Lee Kuan Yew’s term as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, his administration tackled the problem of widespread unemployment, raised the standard of living, and implemented a large-scale public housing programme.[citation needed]It was during this time that the foundation of the country’s economic infrastructure was developed; the threat of racial tension was curbed; and an independent national defence system centring around compulsory male military service was created.

In 1990, Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee as Prime Minister. During his tenure, the country tackled the impacts of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the 2003 SARS outbreak, and terrorist threats posed by Jemaah Islamiyah after the September 11 attacks. In 2004, Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the third prime minister. Amongst his more notable decisions is the plan to open casinos to attract tourism.

Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, islands between Malaysia and Indonesia
Geographic coordinates: 1 22 N, 103 48 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 692.7 sq km
land: 682.7 sq km
water: 10 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly more than 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 193 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: within and beyond territorial sea, as defined in treaties and practice
Climate: tropical; hot, humid, rainy; two distinct monsoon seasons – Northeastern monsoon (December to March) and Southwestern monsoon (June to September); inter-monsoon – frequent afternoon and early evening thunderstorms
Terrain: lowland; gently undulating central plateau contains water catchment area and nature preserve
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Singapore Strait 0 m
highest point: Bukit Timah 166 m
Natural resources: fish, deepwater ports
Land use: arable land: 1.47%
permanent crops: 1.47%
other: 97.06% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Total renewable water resources: 0.6 cu km (1975)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.19 cu km/yr (45%/51%/4%)
per capita: 44 cu m/yr (1975)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: industrial pollution; limited natural fresh water resources; limited land availability presents waste disposal problems; seasonal smoke/haze resulting from forest fires in Indonesia
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: focal point for Southeast Asian sea routes
Politics Singapore is a parliamentary democracy with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government representing different constituencies. The bulk of the executive powers rests with the Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister, currently Mr Lee Hsien Loong. The office of President of Singapore, historically a ceremonial one, was granted some veto powers as of 1991 for a few key decisions such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of judiciary positions. Although the position is to be elected by popular vote, however only the 1993 election has been contested to date. The legislative branch of government is the Parliament.

Parliamentary elections in Singapore are plurality-based for group representation constituencies since the Parliamentary Elections Act was modified in 1991.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) consist of either elected, non-constituency or nominated Members. The majority of the Members of Parliament are elected into Parliament at a General Election on a first-past-the-post basis and represent either Single Member or Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).

The elected Members of Parliament act as a bridge between the community and the Government by ensuring that the concerns of their constituents are heard in the Parliament. The present Parliament has 94 Members of Parliament consisting of 84 elected Members of Parliament, one NCMP and nine Nominated members of Parliament.
Elected Members, In Group Representation Constituencies, political parties field a team of between three to six candidates. At least one candidate in the team must belong to a minority race. This requirement ensures that parties contesting the elections in Group Representation Constituencies are multi-racial so that minority races will be represented in Parliament. Presently there are 14 Group Representation Constituencies and 9 Single Member constituencies.
Non-Constituency Members,This is to ensure that there will be a minimum number of opposition representatives in Parliament and that views other than the Government’s can be expressed in Parliament.
Nominated Members, up to nine Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) was made in 1990 to ensure a wide representation of community views in Parliament. Nominated Members of Parliament are appointed by the President of Singapore for a term of two and a half years on the recommendation of a Special Select Committee of Parliament chaired by the Speaker. Nominated Members of Parliament are not connected to any political parties.

Politics in Singapore have been controlled by the People’s Action Party (PAP) since self-government was attained. In consequence, foreign political analysts and several opposition parties like the Workers’ Party of Singapore, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) have argued that Singapore is essentially a one-party state. Many analysts consider Singapore to be an illiberal or procedural democracy rather than a true democracy. The Economist Intelligence Unit describes Singapore as a “hybrid regime” of democratic and authoritarian elements. Freedom House ranks the country as “partly free”. Though general elections are free from irregularities and vote rigging, the PAP has been criticized for manipulating the political system through its use of censorship, gerrymandering, and civil libel suits against opposition politicians.[citation needed] Francis Seow, the exiled former Solicitor-General of Singapore, is a prominent critic. Seow and opposition politicians such as J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan claim that Singapore courts favour the PAP government, and there is no separation of powers.

Singapore has a successful and transparent market economy. Government-linked companies are dominant in various sectors of the local economy, such as media, utilities, and public transport. Singapore has consistently been rated as the least corrupt country in Asia and among the world’s ten most free from corruption by Transparency International.

Although Singapore’s laws are inherited from British and British Indian laws, including many elements of English common law, the PAP has also consistently rejected liberal democratic values, which it typifies as Western and states there should not be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to a democracy. There are no jury trials. Laws restricting the freedom of speech are justified by claims that they are intended to prohibit speech that may breed ill will or cause disharmony within Singapore’s multiracial, multi-religious society. For example, in September 2005, three bloggers were convicted of sedition for posting racist remarks targeting minorities. Some offences can lead to heavy fines or caning and there are laws which allow capital punishment in Singapore for first-degree murder and drug trafficking. Amnesty International has criticised Singapore for having “possibly the highest execution rate in the world” per capita. The Singapore government argues that there is no international consensus on the appropriateness of the death penalty and that Singapore has the sovereign right to determine its own judicial system and impose capital punishment for the most serious crimes.[

People Population: 4,608,167 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.8% (male 353,333/female 329,005)
15-64 years: 76.5% (male 1,717,357/female 1,809,462)
65 years and over: 8.7% (male 177,378/female 221,632) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 38.4 years
male: 38 years
female: 38.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.135% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 8.99 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.53 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 6.88 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 2.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 2.51 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 2.08 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 81.89 years
male: 79.29 years
female: 84.68 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.08 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Vietnam

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘CIA FACT BOOK’)

 

Vietnam

Introduction The conquest of Vietnam by France began in 1858 and was completed by 1884. It became part of French Indochina in 1887. Vietnam declared independence after World War II, but France continued to rule until its 1954 defeat by Communist forces under Ho Chi MINH. Under the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was divided into the Communist North and anti-Communist South. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces overran the South reuniting the country under Communist rule. Despite the return of peace, for over a decade the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies, the persecution and mass exodus of individuals – many of them successful South Vietnamese merchants – and growing international isolation. However, since the enactment of Vietnam’s “doi moi” (renovation) policy in 1986, Vietnamese authorities have committed to increased economic liberalization and enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries. The country continues to experience small-scale protests from various groups, the vast majority connected to land-use issues and the lack of equitable mechanisms for resolving disputes. Various ethnic minorities, such as the Montagnards of the Central Highlands and the Khmer Krom in the southern delta region, have also held protests.
History Pre-Dynastic era

The area now known as Vietnam has been inhabited since Paleolithic times, and some archaeological sites in Thanh Hoa Province purportedly date back several thousand years. Archaeologists link the beginnings of Vietnamese civilization to the late Neolithic, Early Bronze Age, Phung-nguyen culture, which was centered in Vinh Phuc Province of contemporary Vietnam from about 2000 to 1400 BCE. By about 1200 BCE, the development of wet-rice cultivation and bronze casting in the Ma River and Red River plains led to the development of the Dong Son culture, notable for its elaborate bronze drums. The bronze weapons, tools, and drums of Dongsonian sites show a Southeast Asian influence that indicates an indigenous origin for the bronze-casting technology. Many small, ancient copper mine sites have been found in northern Vietnam. Some of the similarities between the Dong Sonian sites and other Southeast Asian sites include the presence of boat-shaped coffins and burial jars, stilt dwellings, and evidence of the customs of betel-nut-chewing and teeth-blackening.

Dynastic era

The legendary Hồng Bàng Dynasty of the Hùng kings is considered by many Vietnamese as the first Vietnamese state, known as Văn Lang. In 257 BCE, the last Hùng king lost to Thục Phán, who consolidated the Lạc Việt tribes with his Âu Việt tribes, forming Âu Lạc and proclaiming himself An Dương Vương. In 207 BCE, a Chinese general named Zhao Tuo defeated An Dương Vương and consolidated Âu Lạc into Nanyue. In 111 BCE, the Chinese Han Dynasty consolidated Nanyue into their empire.

For the next thousand years, Vietnam was mostly under Chinese rule. Early independence movements such as those of the Trưng Sisters and of Lady Triệu were only briefly successful. It was independent as Vạn Xuân under the Anterior Ly Dynasty between 544 and 602. By the early 10th century, Vietnam had gained autonomy, but not independence, under the Khúc family.

Map of Vietnam showing the conquest of the south (the Nam Tien, 1069-1757).

In 938 CE, a Vietnamese lord named Ngô Quyền defeated Chinese forces at the Bạch Đằng River and regained independence after 10 centuries under Chinese control. Renamed as Đại Việt, the nation went through a golden era during the Lý and Trần Dynasties. During the rule of the Trần Dynasty, Đại Việt repelled three Mongol invasions. Buddhism flourished and became the state religion. Following the brief Hồ Dynasty, Vietnamese independence was momentarily interrupted by the Chinese Ming Dynasty, but was restored by Lê Lợi, the founder of the Lê Dynasty. Vietnam reached its zenith in the Lê Dynasty of the 15th century, especially during the reign of Emperor Lê Thánh Tông (1460–1497). Between the 11th and 18th centuries, the Vietnamese expanded southward in a process known as nam tiến (southward expansion). They eventually conquered the kingdom of Champa and part of the Khmer Empire.

Towards the end of the Lê Dynasty, civil strife engulfed much of Vietnam. First, the Chinese-supported Mạc Dynasty challenged the Lê Dynasty’s power. After the Mạc Dynasty was defeated, the Lê Dynasty was reinstalled, but with no actual power. Power was divided between the Trịnh Lords in the North and the Nguyễn Lords in the South, who engaged in a civil war for more than four decades. During this time, the Nguyễn expanded southern Vietnam into the Mekong Delta, annexing the Champa in the central highlands and the Khmer land in the Mekong. The civil war ended when the Tây Sơn brothers defeated both and established their new dynasty. However, their rule did not last long and they were defeated by the remnants of the Nguyễn Lords led by Nguyen Anh with the help of the French. Nguyen Anh unified Vietnam, and established the Nguyễn Dynasty, ruling under the name Gia Long.

Western colonial era

Vietnam’s independence was gradually eroded by France in a series of military conquests from 1859 until 1885 when the entire country became part of French Indochina. The French administration imposed significant political and cultural changes on Vietnamese society. A Western-style system of modern education was developed, and Christianity was propagated widely in Vietnamese society. Developing a plantation economy to promote the exports of tobacco, indigo, tea and coffee, the French largely ignored increasing calls for self-government and civil rights. A nationalist political movement soon emerged, with leaders such as Phan Boi Chau, Phan Chu Trinh, Phan Dinh Phung, Emperor Ham Nghi and Ho Chi Minh calling for independence. However, the French maintained control of their colonies until World War II, when the Japanese war in the Pacific triggered the invasion of French Indochina in 1941. This event was preceded by the establishment of the Vichy French administration, a puppet state of Nazi Germany then ally of the Japanese Empire. The natural resources of Vietnam were exploited for the purposes of the Japanese Empire’s military campaigns into the British Indochinese colonies of Burma, the Malay Peninsula and India.

First Indochina War

In 1941, the Viet Minh — a communist and nationalist liberation movement — emerged under Ho Chi Minh, to seek independence for Vietnam from France as well as to oppose the Japanese occupation. Following the military defeat of Japan and the fall of its Empire of Vietnam in August 1945, Viet Minh occupied Hanoi and proclaimed a provisional government, which asserted independence on September 2. In the same year the Provisional French Republic sent the French Far East Expeditionary Corps, which was originally created to fight the Japanese occupation forces, in order to pacify the liberation movement and to restore French rule. On November 20, 1946, triggered by the Haiphong Incident, the First Indochina War between Viet Minh and the French forces ensued, lasting until July 20, 1954.

Despite fewer losses — Expeditionary Corps suffered 1/3 the casualties of the Chinese and Soviet-backed Viet Minh — during the course of the war, the U.S.-backed French and Vietnamese loyalists eventually suffered a major strategic setback at the Siege of Dien Bien Phu, which allowed Ho Chi Minh to negotiate a ceasefire with a favorable position at the ongoing Geneva conference of 1954. Colonial administration ended as French Indochina was dissolved. According to the Geneva Accords of 1954 the forces of former French supporters and communist nationalists were separated south and north, respectively, with the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone, at the 17th parallel, between. A Partition of Vietnam, with Ho Chi Minh’s Democratic Republic of Vietnam in North Vietnam, and Emperor Bao Dai’s State of Vietnam in the South Vietnam, was not intended by the 1954 Agreements, and they expressly forbade the interference of third powers. Counter to the counsel of his American advisor, the State of Vietnam Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem toppled Bao Dai in a fraudulent referendum organised by his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, and proclaimed himself president of the Republic of Vietnam. The Accords mandated nationwide elections by 1956, which Diem refused to hold, despite repeated calls from the North for talks to discuss elections.

Vietnam War

Democratic nationwide elections mandated by the Geneva Conference of 1954 having been thwarted by Ngo Dinh Diem, the communist nationalist National Liberation Front began a guerrilla campaign in the late 1950s, assisted by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, to overthrow Diem’s government, which the NLF’s official statement described as a “disguised colonial regime”

In 1963, Buddhist discontent with Diem’s pro-Catholic discrimination erupted following the banning of the Buddhist flag and the Hue Vesak shootings. This resulted in a series of mass demonstrations known as the Buddhist crisis. With Diem unwilling to bend, his brother orchestrated the Xa Loi Pagoda raids. As a result, the US’ relationship with Diem broke down and resulted in coup that saw Diem killed.

Diem was followed by a series of military regimes that often lasted only months before being toppled by another. With this instability, the communists began to gain ground.

To support South Vietnam’s struggle against the communist insurgency, the US began increasing its contribution of military advisers. US forces became embroiled in combat operations in 1965 and at their peak they numbered more than 500,000. North Vietnamese forces attacked most major targets in southern Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Communist forces supplying the NLF carried supplies along the Truong Son Road, which passed through Laos and Cambodia. The US president authorized Operation Menu, a SAC bombing campaign in Laos and Cambodia, which he kept secret from the US Congress.

Its own casualties mounting, and facing opposition to the war at home and condemnation abroad, the U.S. began transferring combat roles to the South Vietnamese military according to the Nixon Doctrine; the process was subsequently called Vietnamization. The effort had mixed results. The Paris Peace Accords of January 27, 1973, formally recognized the sovereignty of Vietnam “as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreements”. Under the terms of the accords all American combat troops were withdrawn by March 29, 1973. Limited fighting continued, but all major fighting ended until the North once again sent troops to the South during the Spring of 1975, culminating in the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. South Vietnam briefly became the Republic of South Vietnam, under military occupation by North Vietnam, before being officially integrated with the North under communist rule as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on July 2, 1976.

Postwar

Upon taking control of the bomb-ravaged country, the Vietnamese communists banned all other political parties, forced public servants and military personnel of the Republic of Vietnam into reeducation camps. The government also embarked on a mass campaign of collectivization of farms and factories. Reconstruction of the war-ravaged country was slow, and serious humanitarian and economic problems confronted the communist regime. Millions of people fled the country in crudely-built boats, creating an international humanitarian crisis. In 1978, the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia (sparking the Cambodian-Vietnamese War) which removed the Khmer Rouge from power. This action worsened relations with China, which launched a brief incursion into northern Vietnam (the Sino-Vietnamese War) in 1979. This conflict caused Vietnam to rely even more heavily on Soviet economic and military aid.

Đổi Mới

In a historic shift in 1986, the Communist Party of Vietnam implemented free-market reforms known as Đổi Mới (renovation). With the authority of the state remaining unchallenged, private ownership of farms and companies, deregulation and foreign investment were encouraged. The economy of Vietnam has achieved rapid growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction and housing, exports and foreign investment.

Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and South China Sea, alongside China, Laos, and Cambodia
Geographic coordinates: 16 10 N, 107 50 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 329,560 sq km
land: 325,360 sq km
water: 4,200 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than New Mexico
Land boundaries: total: 4,639 km
border countries: Cambodia 1,228 km, China 1,281 km, Laos 2,130 km
Coastline: 3,444 km (excludes islands)
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: tropical in south; monsoonal in north with hot, rainy season (May to September) and warm, dry season (October to March)
Terrain: low, flat delta in south and north; central highlands; hilly, mountainous in far north and northwest
Elevation extremes: lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: Fan Si Pan 3,144 m
Natural resources: phosphates, coal, manganese, bauxite, chromate, offshore oil and gas deposits, forests, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 20.14%
permanent crops: 6.93%
other: 72.93% (2005)
Irrigated land: 30,000 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 891.2 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 71.39 cu km/yr (8%/24%/68%)
per capita: 847 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: occasional typhoons (May to January) with extensive flooding, especially in the Mekong River delta
Environment – current issues: logging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices contribute to deforestation and soil degradation; water pollution and overfishing threaten marine life populations; groundwater contamination limits potable water supply; growing urban industrialization and population migration are rapidly degrading environment in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: extending 1,650 km north to south, the country is only 50 km across at its narrowest point
Politics The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a single-party state. A new state constitution was approved in April 1992, replacing the 1975 version. The central role of the Communist Party was reasserted in all organs of government, politics and society. Only political organizations affiliated with or endorsed by the Communist Party are permitted to contest elections. These include the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, worker and trade unionist parties. Although the state remains officially committed to socialism as its defining creed, the ideology’s importance has substantially diminished since the 1990s. The President of Vietnam is the titular head of state and the nominal commander in chief of the military of Vietnam, chairing the Council on National Defense and Security. The Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyen Tan Dung is the head of government, presiding over a council of ministers composed of 3 deputy prime ministers and the heads of 26 ministries and commissions.

The National Assembly of Vietnam is the unicameral legislature of the government, composed of 498 members. It is superior to both the executive and judicial branches. All members of the council of ministers are derived from the National Assembly. The Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam, which is the highest court of appeal in the nation, is also answerable to the National Assembly. Beneath the Supreme People’s Court stand the provincial municipal courts and the local courts. Military courts are also a powerful branch of the judiciary with special jurisdiction in matters of national security. All organs of Vietnam’s government are controlled by the Communist Party. Most government appointees are members of the party. The General Secretary of the Communist Party is perhaps one of the most important political leaders in the nation, controlling the party’s national organization and state appointments, as well as setting policy.

The Vietnam People’s Army(VPA) is the official name for the combined military services of Vietnam, which is organized along the lines of China’s People’s Liberation Army. The VPA is further subdivided into the Vietnamese People’s Ground Forces (including Strategic Rear Forces and Border Defense Forces), the Vietnam People’s Navy, the Vietnam People’s Air Force and the coast guard. Through Vietnam’s recent history, the VPA has actively been involved in Vietnam’s workforce to develop the economy of Vietnam, in order to coordinate national defense and the economy. The VPA is involved in such areas as industry, agriculture, forestry, fishery and telecommunications. The total strength of the VPA is close to 500,000 officers and enlisted members. The government also organizes and maintains provincial militias and police forces. The role of the military in public life has steadily been reduced since the 1980s.

People Population: 86,967,524 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 24.9% (male 11,230,402/female 10,423,901)
15-64 years: 69.4% (male 29,971,088/female 30,356,393)
65 years and over: 5.7% (male 1,920,043/female 3,065,697) (2009 est.)
Median age: total: 27.4 years
male: 26.4 years
female: 28.5 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.977% (2009 est.)
Birth rate: 16.47 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.18 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.38 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization: urban population: 28% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 3.1% annual rate of change (2005-2010)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.63 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 22.88 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 23.27 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 22.46 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.58 years
male: 68.78 years
female: 74.57 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.83 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.5% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 290,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 24,000 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and plague
water contact disease: leptospirosis
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
Nationality: noun: Vietnamese (singular and plural)
adjective: Vietnamese
Ethnic groups: Kinh (Viet) 86.2%, Tay 1.9%, Thai 1.7%, Muong 1.5%, Khome 1.4%, Hoa 1.1%, Nun 1.1%, Hmong 1%, others 4.1% (1999 census)
Religions: Buddhist 9.3%, Catholic 6.7%, Hoa Hao 1.5%, Cao Dai 1.1%, Protestant 0.5%, Muslim 0.1%, none 80.8% (1999 census)
Languages: Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 90.3%
male: 93.9%
female: 86.9% (2002 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 10 years
male: 11 years
female: 10 years (2000)
Education expenditures: 1.8% of GDP (1991)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
conventional short form: Vietnam
local long form: Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Viet Nam
local short form: Viet Nam
abbreviation: SRV
Government type: Communist state
Capital: name: Hanoi
geographic coordinates: 21 02 N, 105 51 E
time difference: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 59 provinces (tinh, singular and plural) and 5 municipalities (thanh pho, singular and plural)
provinces: An Giang, Bac Giang, Bac Kan, Bac Lieu, Bac Ninh, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Ben Tre, Binh Dinh, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, Binh Thuan, Ca Mau, Cao Bang, Dac Lak, Dac Nong, Dien Bien, Dong Nai, Dong Thap, Gia Lai, Ha Giang, Ha Nam, Ha Tay, Ha Tinh, Hai Duong, Hau Giang, Hoa Binh, Hung Yen, Khanh Hoa, Kien Giang, Kon Tum, Lai Chau, Lam Dong, Lang Son, Lao Cai, Long An, Nam Dinh, Nghe An, Ninh Binh, Ninh Thuan, Phu Tho, Phu Yen, Quang Binh, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Quang Ninh, Quang Tri, Soc Trang, Son La, Tay Ninh, Thai Binh, Thai Nguyen, Thanh Hoa, Thua Thien-Hue, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh, Tuyen Quang, Vinh Long, Vinh Phuc, Yen Bai
municipalities: Can Tho, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh
Independence: 2 September 1945 (from France)
National holiday: Independence Day, 2 September (1945)
Constitution: 15 April 1992
Legal system: based on communist legal theory and French civil law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Nguyen Minh TRIET (since 27 June 2006); Vice President Nguyen Thi DOAN (since 25 July 2007)
head of government: Prime Minister Nguyen Tan DUNG (since 27 June 2006); Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh HUNG (since 28 June 2006), Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung HAI (since 2 August 2007), Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien NHAN (since 2 August 2007), Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia KHIEM (since 28 June 2006), and Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh TRONG (since 28 June 2006)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by president based on proposal of prime minister and confirmed by National Assembly
elections: president elected by the National Assembly from among its members for five-year term; last held 27 June 2006 (next to be held in 2011); prime minister appointed by the president from among the members of the National Assembly; deputy prime ministers appointed by the prime minister; appointment of prime minister and deputy prime ministers confirmed by National Assembly
election results: Nguyen Minh TRIET elected president; percent of National Assembly vote – 94%; Nguyen Tan DUNG elected prime minister; percent of National Assembly vote – 92%
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or Quoc Hoi (500 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 20 May 2007 (next to be held in May 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – CPV 450, non-party CPV-approved 42, self-nominated 1; note – 493 candidates were elected; CPV and non-party CPV-approved delegates were members of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front
Judicial branch: Supreme People’s Court (chief justice is elected for a five-year term by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the president)
Political parties and leaders: Communist Party of Vietnam or CPV [Nong Duc MANH]; other parties proscribed
Political pressure groups and leaders: 8406 Bloc; Democratic Party of Vietnam or DPV; People’s Democratic Party Vietnam or PDP-VN; Alliance for Democracy
note: these groups advocate democracy but are not recognized by the government
International organization participation: ADB, APEC, APT, ARF, ASEAN, CP, EAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIF, OPCW, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Le Cong PHUNG
chancery: 1233 20th Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036
telephone: [1] (202) 861-0737
FAX: [1] (202) 861-0917
consulate(s) general: San Francisco
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Michael W. MICHALAK
embassy: 7 Lang Ha Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
mailing address: PSC 461, Box 400, FPO AP 96521-0002
telephone: [84] (4) 3850-5000
FAX: [84] (4) 3850-5010
consulate(s) general: Ho Chi Minh City
Flag description: red field with a large yellow five-pointed star in the center
Culture The official spoken and written language of Vietnam is Vietnamese.

The culture of Vietnam has been influenced by neighboring China. Due to Vietnam’s long association with the south of China, one characteristic of Vietnamese culture is filial duty. Education and self-betterment are highly valued. Historically, passing the imperial Mandarin exams was the only means for Vietnamese people to socially advance themselves.

In the socialist era, the cultural life of Vietnam has been deeply influenced by government-controlled media and the cultural influences of socialist programs. For many decades, foreign cultural influences were shunned and emphasis placed on appreciating and sharing the culture of communist nations such as the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and others. Since the 1990s, Vietnam has seen a greater exposure to Southeast Asian, European and American culture and media.

One of the most popular Vietnamese traditional garments is the “Áo Dài”, worn often for special occasions such as weddings or festivals. White Áo dài is the required uniform for girls in many high schools across Vietnam. Áo Dài was once worn by both genders but today it is worn mainly by females, except for certain important traditional culture-related occasions where some men do wear it.

Vietnamese cuisine uses very little oil and many vegetables. The main dishes are often based on rice, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Its characteristic flavors are sweet (sugar), spicy (serrano peppers), sour (lime), nuoc mam (fish sauce), and flavored by a variety of mint and basil.

Vietnamese music varies slightly in the three regions: Bắc or North, Trung or Central, and Nam or South. Northern classical music is Vietnam’s oldest and is traditionally more formal. Vietnamese classical music can be traced to the Mongol invasions, when the Vietnamese captured a Chinese opera troupe. Central classical music shows the influences of Champa culture with its melancholic melodies. Southern music exudes a lively attitude.
See also: Vietnamese art, theatre, dance, and literature

Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Vietnam. Sports and games such as badminton, tennis, ping pong, and chess are also popular with large segments of the population. Volleyball, especially women’s volleyball, is watched by a fairly large number of Vietnamese people. The (expatriate Vietnamese) community forms a prominent part of Vietnamese cultural life, introducing Western sports, films, music and other cultural activities in the nation.
See also: List of Vietnamese traditional games

Vietnam is home to a small film industry.

Among countless other traditional Vietnamese occasions, the traditional Vietnamese wedding is one of the most important. Many of the age-old customs in a Vietnamese wedding continue to be celebrated by both Vietnamese in Vietnam and overseas, often combining both western and eastern elements.

Economy Economy – overview: Vietnam is a densely-populated developing country that in the last 30 years has had to recover from the ravages of war, the loss of financial support from the old Soviet Bloc, and the rigidities of a centrally-planned economy. Since 2001, Vietnamese authorities have reaffirmed their commitment to economic liberalization and international integration. They have moved to implement the structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive export-driven industries. Vietnam’s membership in the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and entry into force of the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement in December 2001 have led to even more rapid changes in Vietnam’s trade and economic regime. Vietnam’s exports to the US increased 900% from 2001 to 2007. Vietnam joined the WTO in January 2007 following over a decade long negotiation process. WTO membership has provided Vietnam an anchor to the global market and reinforced the domestic economic reform process. Among other benefits, accession allows Vietnam to take advantage of the phase-out of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, which eliminated quotas on textiles and clothing for WTO partners on 1 January 2005. Agriculture’s share of economic output has continued to shrink from about 25% in 2000 to less than 20% in 2008. Deep poverty has declined significantly and is now smaller than that of China, India, and the Philippines. Vietnam is working to create jobs to meet the challenge of a labor force that is growing by more than one-and-a-half million people every year. The global financial crisis, however, will constrain Vietnam’s ability to create jobs and further reduce poverty. As global growth sharply drops in 2009, Vietnam’s export-oriented economy – exports were 68% of GDP in 2007 – will suffer from lower exports, higher unemployment and corporate bankruptcies, and decreased foreign investment. Real GDP growth for 2009 could fall between 4% and 5%. Inflation, which reached nearly 25% in 2008, will likely moderate to single digits in 2009.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $246.6 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $90.88 billion (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 6.3% (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $2,900 (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 19%
industry: 42.7%
services: 38.4% (2008 est.)
Labor force: 47.41 million (2008 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 55.6%
industry: 18.9%
services: 25.5% (July 2005)
Unemployment rate: 4.9% (2008 est.)
Population below poverty line: 14.8% (2007 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.9%
highest 10%: 28.9% (2004)
Distribution of family income – Gini index: 37 (2004)
Investment (gross fixed): 44.5% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budget: revenues: $22.39 billion
expenditures: $24.19 billion (2008 est.)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Public debt: 38.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 24.5% (2008 est.)
Central bank discount rate: 6.5% (31 December 2007)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 11.18% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money: $27.15 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money: $51.08 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: $68.63 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Agriculture – products: paddy rice, coffee, rubber, cotton, tea, pepper, soybeans, cashews, sugar cane, peanuts, bananas; poultry; fish, seafood
Industries: food processing, garments, shoes, machine-building; mining, coal, steel; cement, chemical fertilizer, glass, tires, oil, paper
Industrial production growth rate: 7% (2008 est.)
Electricity – production: 61.02 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 48.08 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 43.7%
hydro: 56.3%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: 350,700 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – consumption: 271,100 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – exports: 394,400 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – imports: 271,100 bbl/day (2007)
Oil – proved reserves: 600 million bbl (1 January 2008 est.)
Natural gas – production: 6.86 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 6.86 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 192.5 billion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
Current account balance: -$12.74 billion (2008 est.)
Exports: $63.73 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Exports – commodities: crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee, rubber, tea, garments, shoes
Exports – partners: US 20.8%, Japan 12.5%, Australia 7.3%, China 6.9%, Singapore 4.5% (2007)
Imports: $79.37 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer, steel products, raw cotton, grain, cement, motorcycles
Imports – partners: China 19.9%, Singapore 12.1%, Taiwan 11%, Japan 9.9%, South Korea 8.5%, Thailand 6% (2007)
Economic aid – recipient: $5.4 billion in credits and grants pledged by the 2007 Consultative Group meeting in Hanoi (2007)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $22.78 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt – external: $23.72 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment – at home: $43.06 billion (2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad: $NA
Currency (code): dong (VND)
Currency code: VND
Exchange rates: dong (VND) per US dollar – 16,548.3 (2008 est.), 16,119 (2007), 15,983 (2006), 15,746 (2005), NA (2004)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 10.8 million (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 33.2 million (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: Vietnam is putting considerable effort into modernization and expansion of its telecommunication system, but its performance continues to lag behind that of its more modern neighbors
domestic: all provincial exchanges are digitalized and connected to Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City by fiber-optic cable or microwave radio relay networks; main lines have been substantially increased, and the use of mobile telephones is growing rapidly
international: country code – 84; a landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-3, the C2C, and Thailand-Vietnam-Hong Kong submarine cable systems; the Asia-America Gateway submarine cable system, scheduled for completion by the end of 2008, will provide new access links to Asia and the US; satellite earth stations – 2 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 65, FM 7, shortwave 29 (1999)
Radios: 8.2 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 67 (includes 61 relay, provincial, and city TV stations) (2006)
Televisions: 3.57 million (1997)
Internet country code: .vn
Internet hosts: 84,151 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 5 (2000)
Internet users: 17.87 million (2007)
Transportation Airports: 44 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 37
over 3,047 m: 9
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 13
914 to 1,523 m: 10 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 3 (2007)
Heliports: 1 (2007)
Pipelines: condensate/gas 42 km; gas 66 km; refined products 206 km (2008)
Railways: total: 2,600 km
standard gauge: 178 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 2,169 km 1.000-m gauge
dual gauge: 253 km three-rail track combining 1.435 m and 1.000-m gauges (2006)
Roadways: total: 222,179 km
paved: 42,167 km
unpaved: 180,012 km (2004)
Waterways: 17,702 km (5,000 km navigable by vessels up to 1.8 m draft) (2008)
Merchant marine: total: 387
by type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 36, cargo 280, chemical tanker 12, container 14, liquefied gas 6, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 32, refrigerated cargo 2, roll on/roll off 1, specialized tanker 1
foreign-owned: 2 (Hong Kong 1, Japan 1)
registered in other countries: 64 (Honduras 1, Liberia 4, Mongolia 23, Panama 30, Tuvalu 5, unknown 1) (2008)
Ports and terminals: Da Nang, Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City
Transportation – note: the International Maritime Bureau reports the territorial and offshore waters in the South China Sea as high risk for piracy and armed robbery against ships; numerous commercial vessels have been attacked and hijacked both at anchor and while underway; hijacked vessels are often disguised and cargo diverted to ports in East Asia; crews have been murdered or cast adrift
Military Military branches: People’s Armed Forces: People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) (includes People’s Navy Command (with naval infantry, coast guard), Air and Air Defense Force (Kon Quan Nhan Dan), Border Defense Command), People’s Public Security Forces, Militia Force, Self-Defense Forces (2005)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age (male) for compulsory military service; females may volunteer for active duty military service; conscript service obligation – 2 years (3 to 4 years in the navy); 18-45 years of age (male) or 18-40 years of age (female) for Militia Force or Self Defense Forces (2006)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 24,586,328
females age 16-49: 24,335,132 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 19,190,676
females age 16-49: 20,768,508 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 893,726
female: 834,279 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures: 2.5% of GDP (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: southeast Asian states have enhanced border surveillance to check the spread of avian flu; Cambodia and Laos protest Vietnamese squatters and armed encroachments along border; an estimated 300,000 Vietnamese refugees reside in China; establishment of a maritime boundary with Cambodia is hampered by unresolved dispute over the sovereignty of offshore islands; demarcation of the China-Vietnam boundary proceeds slowly and although the maritime boundary delimitation and fisheries agreements were ratified in June 2004, implementation has been delayed; China occupies the Paracel Islands also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan; involved in complex dispute with China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and possibly Brunei over the Spratly Islands; the 2002 “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” has eased tensions but falls short of a legally binding “code of conduct” desired by several of the disputants; Vietnam continues to expand construction of facilities in the Spratly Islands; in March 2005, the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam signed a joint accord to conduct marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands
Illicit drugs: minor producer of opium poppy; probable minor transit point for Southeast Asian heroin; government continues to face domestic opium/heroin/methamphetamine addiction problems despite longstanding crackdowns

Pakistan And India: Can There Ever Be True Peace Between Them

(This article is courtesy of the Pakistan Observer News Paper)

A mature policy towards India

Masood Khan

Tension between India and Pakistan, and the hostility that goes with it, is a ‘constant’ not a ‘variable’. This is what our history of the past seven decades has manifested. This evaluation is neither negativist nor pessimistic. It captures a reality and a trend that has proved to be enduring.
Of course, from time to time nations have transcended their past to seek peace but conditions are not ripe for such a breakthrough between India and Pakistan. Pakistan would not abandon its stance on Kashmir, India would not address it the way Pakistan wants, and India would continue to use its new-found diplomatic space and economic prowess to isolate and undermine Pakistan. India would not let go of its accusations of terrorism against Pakistan to delegitimize the Kashmir issue and Pakistan’s nuclear programme. The UN, in this fight, will remain a bystander and India would use its clout with the US, Europe and the Gulf states to diminish Pakistan’s outreach and deny it opportunities to develop its economic and military strength.
Pakistan has secured itself by acquiring nuclear capability and its economy is showing promise. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) alone has given a big boost to Pakistan’s economy and the good news is that many global investors are also taking keen interest in Pakistan.
Pakistan has also pursued a very sophisticated and constructive policy towards India in the past several years. The crux of the policy is: try to engage but do not compromise on the core principles.
But quite a few of Pakistan’s flanks remain vulnerable involving the Indian factor. In Afghanistan, India’s influence, among others, hampers normalization and reconciliation and that has a direct bearing on Pakistan. Indian commander Kulbhushan Jadhav’s arrest confirms that India has been using Iran’s territory to plan and execute terrorist and subversive activities in Pakistan. In the US, Indian lobby has become so powerful that, in many areas, it holds a veto over the United States’ Pakistan policy. This past week, for instance, pro-India US legislators have been objecting to a sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan. The voices are American; but the agenda is India’s. Delhi is making new inroads into the Gulf region among the nations disaffected with Pakistan because of its rather balanced position on Iran-Gulf relations. It is also working constantly on China to dilute its positions in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the UN Security Council that seem to help Pakistan; and India has protested to China for taking the CPEC through Gilgit-Baltistan. India is demonstrating its ability to hurt Pakistan beyond South Asian borders and shrink its space.
In the first few months of 2016, some new patterns have emerged. After the terrorists attack, the Pathankot airbase in India, there wasn’t a general break-drown though this scuttled the proposed talks between foreign secretaries of the two countries. Pakistan’s Joint Investigation Team to look into to the leads on the Pathankot incident was received in India but the team was given limited access defeating the very purpose of the visit. After the arrest of Jadhav, a serving Indian naval officer, Pakistan did not cut off communication with India. Ranking foreign ministry officials have been meeting on the sidelines of multilateral conferences. So a model of grudging, cautious cooperation, albeit fragile and brittle, seems to be emerging.
Pakistan should take the following steps to deal effectively with the emerging scenarios:
One, it should not take its strong ties with China for granted. There should be no complacency in promoting and expanding ties with our closest strategic cooperative partner. The onus for sustaining and strengthening the relationship is not just on China, but on Pakistan too. Pakistan should have its own people to people contact policy towards China so as to give depth to our ties.
Two, do not neglect the US. Though, over the decades, we have lost ground in Washington, the situation is not irredeemable. Pakistan too should use its expanding Diaspora community in the US. A new base has been furnished by the recent high-level bilateral contacts to broaden our relationship to non-security areas. In that realm, development of the Knowledge Corridor will be most productive.
Three, through quiet diplomacy repair the damage in the Gulf region and the Middle East. The Gulf countries, though annoyed, still have a bond with Pakistan that would not be snapped, ever. In the Arab Street, Pakistan is seen as a beacon of hope for the Muslims. Besides, today we need Arabs, tomorrow they would need Pakistan, for sure, for economic progress and linkages.
Four, Pakistan should explore two new corridors. One should go through Iran branching off to Turkey, the Caucuses, and Europe, in the west, and to Central Asia and Russia, in the north, the other should be our corridor to Africa, the most underutilized potential of our external policy.
Five, we should realize that Afghanistan will take a long time to settle down. This year and in 2017, we should brace for a civil war that would have adverse consequences for Pakistan. The Afghan factions would continue to drag Pakistan into their fights and then berate it for all their troubles. So Pakistan should take a very patient and resolute approach. Afghans are now saying that they do not need Pakistan for facilitating peace and reconciliation process; all they want is that we start military operations against Afghan Taliban. At least one Afghan official has said that Afghanistan would send its own squads for attacks on Pakistani soil. This may not just be bluster.
Six, with India we should continue to give signals for engagement in a dignified manner. The prospects of resolving problems with India are very slim. There would be escalation whether or not we like it, but we should never let it spin out of control. We need a period of relative calm till 2030 to develop economically and militarily. This is a critical transformative phase in our history as a nation. We should not let it be disrupted by tensions with India; and we should not squander this precious opportunity.
Investors are coming to Pakistan; they should not flee.

(Poem About Reality) Facing Starvation Today

FACING STARVATION TODAY

 

Seven billion people face starvation everyday

One break in the link, one chink in the chain

Someone new will feel the sting of hunger each day

Regarding starvation the civilized have become soulless

Governments gelding the very ones who keep us all fed

 

Starvation; sure, but only in other Nations, not in mine

Do the fat turn a blind eye so they don’t see the pain

Proud people of the Navajo, Apache and the mighty Sioux

Wholesale and Casinos the only way left to feed, or famine

Black, White, Red, or Brown, being poor trampled the same

 

Africa and Asia on T.V. screens we see such sickening pitiful scenes

How can the World say they believe in God, then treat others this way

NASDAQ, profit margins, public company, bottom line all that matters

With the shortage of any product the cost per unit does always raise

Each country and village needs to work hard to be in food self-sufficient

 

The poor die young, the privileged die old, the middle class thinning away

Seven billion people; folks that’s a whole lot of mouths needing food today

Every turn from the light the Earth swallows the blood of the starving innocent

Daily the civilized throw millions of pounds of food, what some call trash; away

Missions and Shelters need our help, please don’t throw these people away

 

 

 

China: It Is Obvious Xi’s Jinping’s Road Map Is World Dominance

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST)

 

OPINION: CHINA CONGRESS – A MULTIPOLAR WORLD GOES OUT OF THE WINDOW

One suspects that what China seeks is not a multipolar Asia and multipolar world, but a hierarchical order where China ‘restores’ its primacy, first in Asia and eventually, the world

BY ASHOK K. KANTHA

After months of speculation and behind-the-scenes jostling, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has concluded with outcomes essentially along anticipated lines, with no major surprises. Xi Jinping has emerged with his political authority enhanced; his status as the most powerful Chinese leader in the post-Deng era has been reaffirmed, though it will be premature to put him on par with Mao and Deng.

Xi’s vision for the future of China is now enshrined in the party constitution as part of its guiding ideology. The new Politburo is packed with his close associates, though the Politburo Standing Committee is not dominated by his allies. The shift towards personalised rule of the “core leader” has acquired greater momentum (with its attendant risks), but the concept of collective leadership has not been abandoned. With no potential successor included in the new line-up of the Standing Committee, the possibility of Xi staying on as the paramount leader or as the power behind the throne beyond 2022 is kept open, though it is too early to predict how it would pan out.

One aspect of the results of the Congress that will be closely watched by the international community relates to China’s increasingly explicit “great power” ambitions and its quest for regional and global leadership. In his work report, Xi talked about China becoming “a global leader of composite national strength and international influence” and moving closer to the centre-stage by mid-century. A Xinhua commentary on October 24 put it more candidly: “By 2050, two centuries after the Opium Wars, which plunged the ‘Middle Kingdom’ into a period of hurt and shame, China is set to regain its might and reascend to the top of the world.”

WATCH: Xi Jinping’s marathon speech in 3 minutes

Delegates attend the opening session of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photo: Reuters

The narrative is all about the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” and “restoration” of China to its rightful great power status by mid-century. There is considerable focus on China as a “strong country” or “great power”, phrases which appeared as many as 30 times in Xi’s report. Not surprisingly, building up China’s global combat capabilities gets special attention in Xi’s vision. By 2020, China’s military mechanisation will be achieved; the modernisation of the armed forces will be completed by 2035; and the PLA will be transformed into a world-class military by 2050. Xi also presents an interesting shift from the assurance proffered over past decades that China does not seek to export its model. He has argued that “the Chinese path … offers a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence, and it offers Chinese wisdom and approach to solving problems facing mankind”.

Analysis: what China’s leadership reshuffle means for Xi’s New Era

While it is to be seen whether China will actively promote its political and economic model worldwide as a counter to the Western model, there is no doubt about its keenness to play a larger role in global governance, positioning itself as a “defender of the international order” and champion of globalisation, even as it seeks to rearrange the global order towards its primacy. The congress also signals that China will intensify its efforts to shape its periphery and forge a “world community of shared destiny” centred on it. Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative is the preferred instrument in this grand strategy and it is now embedded in the party constitution.

Chinese performers celebrate the 19th Party Congress. Photo: AFP

Looking back, we can see that the movement away from Deng’s dictum of hiding capabilities, biding time, keeping a low profile and never claiming leadership gained traction after the global financial crisis of 2008-09, which was seen in China as a manifestation of the West’s decline and thereby offering it a strategic opening to expand its role.

The second phase of China’s quest for regional and global leadership began with Xi’s ascendance to power in 2012 and his Chinese dream. This period has been characterised by China’s readiness to deploy its economic, military, political and diplomatic clout to advance its interests, defined in increasingly expansive and unilateral terms. These interests include territorial claims in the South China SeaDoklam and elsewhere.

A tourist at the national-flag raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square. Photo: Simon Song

We are on the cusp of a third and more assertive phase in China’s pursuit of its great power ambitions. While ‘multipolarity’ was part of Xi’s lexicon at the congress, one suspects what China seeks is not a multipolar Asia and multipolar world but a hierarchical order where China “restores” its primacy, first in Asia Pacific and eventually, globally.

With the US in temporary retreat and the West distracted by internal challenges, China considers this to be another opportunity to take its great power project to the next level in the new era Xi has envisioned. While the Chinese dream is understandable, the manner of its pursuit has generated widespread anxieties, including in India. Some of the signals coming from the 19th Party Congress may deepen these worries. 

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A former ambassador of India to China, the author is Director of the Institute of Chinese Studies and Distinguished Fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation in New Delhi

Why The West Grew Rich

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

ABOUT 1,000 years ago, when Europe was supposedly traversing through its dark ages, the Muslim empire was the envy of the world. Its wealth and material standards were such that Cordoba alone was pronounced as the ‘ornament of the world’ by Hrotsvitha, a mediaeval German writer and Nun. By 1500, it was China and India whose riches and wealth became the stuff of fables. By the 17th century, the tide had started turning in favor of northern European nations. By the mid-19th century, this turnaround was complete. What accounts for this transformation?

The literature on this topic, suffice to say, is so vast as to be almost incomprehensible. One can, though, make a general distinction. Some of this literature concerns the question of ‘how’, the other concerns the question ‘why’, with the remaining being a combination of both. In this article, I want to briefly share the findings of two excellent new books on this topic by Jared Rubin (Rulers, Religion and Riches) and Joel Mokyr (A Culture of Growth), that tackle the question of ‘why’.

Rubin’s book concentrates its analysis on the divergence between the West and the Muslim world (especially the Middle East), and what factors gave rise to disparity in development outcomes. He debunks the idea of ‘backwardness’ of the Islamic faith, which supposedly held back the Muslim world. If that were the case, he argues, there never would have been a wealthy Muslim Spain. In general, he traces the great divergence between the West and the Middle East in the way that religion and government interacted over time.

The separation of religion from statecraft set the stage for European ascent.

Before the divergence began, the Christian West and the Muslim East used to derive their authority and legitimacy from religion. The real source of power lay with religious figureheads like the pope, followed by the rulers and their cohorts. Whatever economic activity there was, it was shaped in a way to benefit these entrenched groups. But then Europe gradually broke away from religion as its source of legitimacy. As the tight bond between religion and state loosened, economic and financial concerns became top priorities.

As nation states like Britain and the Netherlands adopted the parliamentary system of governance, the hold of the entrenched classes started to relax since parliamentary legitimacy required participation of the common man. This participation meant they could now stake a claim in the state’s riches, and also realise it through good policies.

What accentuated this break between religion and the state in Europe? One of the most iconic inventions of history, the printing press! In 1440, Gutenberg invented the printing press, revolutionising the spread of knowledge and ideas. Once restricted to only the church, knowledge now began to spread to all parts of Europe as books and pamphlets became easily available to the public. This, over time, gave rise to a movement (reformation and enlightenment) that gradually withered the grip of papacy and kings.

This marvellous invention, however, did not make it to the Muslim world till 1727 as leading religious figures saw it as a threat to their monopoly. They convinced successive sultans not to let this ‘un-Islamic’ invention enter their blessed lands. This 300-year gap, Rubin argues, is one of the most important factors (though not the only one) in explaining the divergence in wealth between the West and the East. At a time when Europe moved towards economic empowerment, technological change and inclusion, the Muslim world’s energies were focused on preserving orthodoxy and exclusion of people from the fruits of knowledge and empowerment.

Mokyr’s book, in contrast, focuses on reformation and enlightenment that drove Europe ahead of others. Why did these not occur in China or the Muslim world and only in Europe? His narration revolves around the political fragmentation in Europe that beset it in the wake of the rise of nation states. Political fragmentation gave rise to fierce competition, not just in commerce and trade but also in ideas which spread as innovations like the printing press made their presence felt.

Nation states, as they raced to embrace science and technology, also competed for leading scholars and thinkers. This spawned a culture of openness, not just in science but also in ideas. No longer did it remain possible to repress ideas and criticism since critics could now always find refuge in another state open to ideas and criticism. This cycle of openness became unstoppable with time, and complemented advances in technology and knowledge. This, argues Mokyr, explains to a large degree why European nation states were able to leave others behind.

To summarise, for Rubin, the answer lies in legitimacy derived from religion changing to legitimacy derived through people. This was made possible by inventions like the printing press, which tilted the balance in favour of trade, commerce and the people. For Mokyr, the answer is to be found in a cultural change brought on by the rise of nation states, their intense competition in various spheres of life and political fragmentation within Europe. Importantly, a common strand in both these books is to be found in the separation of religion from statecraft which set the stage for European ascent.

The above is but a tiny fraction of the wealth of knowledge available on this particular topic, and in no way does justice to such an important question. Interested readers can access hundreds of books and other material to contemplate this issue, such as the outstanding Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, or How the West Grew Rich by Nathan Rosenberg. What can be concluded is that there is no single factor that can explain the rise of the West. It’s the coming together of a host of factors that propelled economic growth. What we also know is that almost 500 years since this divergence in Europe’s favour is supposed to have begun, the pendulum is now again swinging towards the East (China and India, for example). Their rise is another interesting story, perhaps worthy of a future column.

The writer is an economist.

[email protected]

Twitter:@ShahidMohmand79

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017

 

 

China Military Rises, While U.S. Declines: Interesting Times Of The 21st Century

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES)

 

Asia #ForeignAffairs

China Rises, While U.S. Declines: Interesting Times Of The 21st Century

I write about Asia in the 21st-century world economy.  Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

This story appears in the September 2017 issue of Forbes Asia.Subscribe

Xi Jinping, China’s president, left, and Li Keqiang, China’s premier, at the third session of the 12th National People’s Congress in Beijing, China in March 2015. (Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg)

There is an Arab proverb, inspired by the Koran, that says, “He who predicts the future lies, even if he tells the truth.” In other words: If you make a prediction and it turns out right, it’s sheer luck, mate.

With that caveat, let me offer not a prediction but a hypothesis. On the basis of current trends, it would seem the world is experiencing one of its most profound transformations in history.

In essence, for the last half-millennium, since the rise of the Portuguese seaborne empire in the late 15th century, the world has been dominated by the West. Japan was the only non-Western nation to emerge as a global power, but it did so not by challenging the West but by joining it. It never had Asian allies but rather three successive Western allies: imperial Britain from 1902 to 1922, while Japan was an imperialist nation; Nazi Germany from 1937 to 1944, during which period it became a fascist military dictatorship; and the U.S. since 1952, as it became a “Western” democracy and joined the “Western” alliance.

China rising

China is rising as a, if not the, great global power of the 21st century, and the U.S., after having dominated the 20th century, is declining in the 21st.

Until it entered its “era of humiliation” in the century-plus following the first Opium War (1839), China was a rich and proud power. It then declined precipitously: Its share of global GDP fell from an estimated 33% in 1820 to 4% in 1950–even though it had an estimated 20% of world’s population. Until fairly recently, the words “Chinese” and “poor” were synonymous. China has no Western allies, only two–sort-of–Asian allies: North Korea and Pakistan. Unlike Japan, China is not seeking to emulate any Western system. When you ask what China is about, the answer is “Socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Chinese paramilitary policemen stand in formation on Tiananmen Square after attending a ceremony to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on August 1, 2017. (Photo credit: ANDY WONG/AFP/Getty Images)

The emerging Chinese challenge is military and economic–but also historical, cultural, political, geopolitical, philosophical and ideological. Just as it was essential for the non-Western world in the 19th and 20th centuries to learn about the West, so is it incumbent on all to learn about China.

In doing so, it is difficult to imagine a better guide than Howard French’s Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power. This book is an outstanding font of knowledge and provides compelling insights into how China sees the world and its own destiny. It combines a bird’s-eye view of China’s past, present and possible future with a detailed worm’s-eye view, especially of its positions vis-à-vis Southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea and vis-à-vis Japan in the East China Sea.

French presents the Chinese viewpoint. You don’t have to condone it, but to be awake in the 21st century, you have to understand it. You also have to understand how Chinese see world history and how it applies to them. Thus, Chinese thought and policy leaders are quite familiar with how the Monroe Doctrine allowed the U.S. to assert a hegemonic position in Central America and to transform the Caribbean into an American lake. A 21st-century version of that doctrine is being crafted in Beijing and applied to East Asia.

U.S. declining

The rise of China is half of the global picture. The other half is the decline of the U.S., or indeed of the West generally. That is the theme of Edward Luce’s recent book The Retreat of Western Liberalism. Luce demonstrates that while Donald Trump as president is a potential disaster, it is a disaster that was waiting to happen. The decline of the U.S. and the retreat of Western liberalism imply, among other things, that the Western alliance that played such a crucial role in the second half of the 20th century is kaput. As Luce points out, while the end-of-history theory that prevailed at the turn of the century presumed democracy had won, in fact over the past decade, 25 democracies have failed.

U.S. President Donald Trump leaving the White House on August 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Thus, the question is “whether the Western way of life, and our liberal democratic systems, can survive this dramatic shift of global power… . Donald Trump’s victory crystallizes the West’s failure to come to terms with the reality it faces.”

Recent events in the U.S. come to mind while reading this passage in Luce’s book: “The future of Western democracy looks bleak if American politics hardens into two racially hostile camps. Donald Trump consciously stokes racist sentiment, and has given a rocket boost to the ‘alt right’ fringe of neo-Nazis and white nationalists.”

So as China rises and the U.S. declines, eyes are increasingly turning to Berlin and Angela Merkel. Germans–who on the global leadership front have been there, done that (and failed)–are not particularly keen to have this glory thrust upon them.

China’s Huge Role During WW 1 And How It Helped Shape The Country

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SMITHSONIAN.COM WEBSITE)

 

While the Pacific theater was a major and well-known battleground of World War II, it may come as a surprise that Asian nations played a role in World War I. Both Japan and China actually declared war on Germany in hopes of gaining regional dominance. While China never sent troops into battle, its involvement in World War I was influential—and had impacts that stretched far beyond the war, going on to shape the country’s future indelibly.

Under the rule of the Qing Dynasty, China was the most powerful nation in the East for nearly three centuries. But losing the First Sino-Japanese War to Japan in 1895 put an end to that. And the downhill slide didn’t end with losing the war; a subsequent series of treaties divvied up chunks of China between Russia and Japan, a continuation of the creation of European concessions like Hong Kong or the French settlement in Shanghai.

Germany also used military force to insert itself into east Asian affairs. Capitalizing on the murder of two German missionaries, the country attacked and invaded the city of Qingdao in 1897, establishing what amounted to a German colony in Shandong province. The prospect of expelling Germany from the region and taking control themselves was enough to entice Japan to join the fight against Germany, making the Great War a global one in 1914.

Meanwhile in Chinaa wobbly republican state led by military general Yuan Shikai replaced the imperial system of governance in 1912. But local warlords and clashes with the nationalist party, Kuomintang (led by Sun Yat-sen), continued to threaten his position. “The Chinese people suffered political chaos, economic weakness, and social misery,” writes historian Xu Guoqi in Strangers On the Western Front. “But this was also a period of excitement, hope, high expectations, optimism and new dreams”—because China believed it could use the war as a way to reshape the geopolitical balance of power and attain equality with European nations.

There was only one problem: At first, none of the Allies wanted China to join the fight. Although China declared itself neutral at the start of the war in August 1914, President Shikai had secretly offered British minister John Jordan 50,000 troops to retake Qingdao. Jordan refused the offer, but Japan would soon use its own armed forces to oust the Germans from the city, and remained there throughout the war. By February 1916, with men dying in huge numbers in Europe, Jordan came around to the idea of Chinese aid and told British officials that China could “join with the Entente provided that Japan and the other Allies accepted her as a partner.

Japan, however, refused to allow Chinese soldiers to fight, hoping to remain the powerhouse in the East.

If China couldn’t fight directly, Shikai’s advisors decided, the next-best option was a secret show of support toward the Allies: they would send voluntary non-combatant workers, largely from Shandong, to embattled Allied countries.

Starting in late 1916, China began shipping out thousands of men to Britain, France and Russia. Those laborers would repair tanks, assemble shells, transport supplies and munitions, and help to literally reshape the war’s battle sites.  Since China was officially neutral, commercial businesses were formed to provide the labor, writes Keith Jeffery in 1916: A Global History.

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/g4-l2E8MqJfk4udAt96-2jqVtO4=/1024×596/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/a6/8d/a68d5a3c-d4ee-4d97-b071-509a8294796f/chinese_workers_at_a_wwi_tank_servicing_facility_14594587252.jpgChinese laborers filled a number of positions in World War I, including at tank facilities like this one.
Chinese laborers filled a number of positions in World War I, including at tank facilities like this one. (Wikimedia Commons/Chatham House, London)

“A lot of those trenches weren’t dug by the [Allied] soldiers, they were dug by Chinese laborers,” says Bruce Elleman, professor of maritime history at the U.S. Naval War College and author of Wilson and China: A Revised History of the Shandong Question. Sending workers—mostly illiterate peasants—was one way for China to prove it deserved a seat at the table whenever the war ended and terms were agreed upon. But even after a year of supplying labor, their contribution remained largely unrecognized diplomatically.

It was more than just prestige that spurred China to enter the conflict: The volatile nation dreamed of regaining complete control of the Shandong province. Located on the eastern shore of China along the Yellow Sea, the region has a rich history as the birthplace of Confucius; diplomat Wellington Koo to call it the “cradle of Chinese civilization.”

In 1915, the year after Japan took Qingdao from Germany, Japan imposed a new treaty on China: The Twenty-One Demands. The highly unpopular treaty required China to cede control of even more territory, including in Shandong and Manchuria. If China participated in World War I, its leaders reasoned, maybe the country could win back this mainland territory.

The United States’ entrance to WWI shifted the political dynamic of the Allies, with U.S. officials supporting China’s cause with an eye toward the war’s end. As Elleman says, “[The U.S. was] hoping at the post-war conference to be able to resolve these diplomatic issues [between China and Japan and Germany],” since President Wilson wanted to take a leadership role in the negotiations and form the League of Nations.

China’s position became more fraught when Germany announced its strategy of unrestricted submarine warfare. More than 500 Chinese laborers aboard the French ship Athos were killed in February 1917 when a U-boat struck the ship. Finally, encouraged by the U.S. and believing it was the only sure way to be considered in the eventual peace agreements, China declared war on Germany on August 14, 1917—though little changed in the support they provided, since they had already been sending laborers.

By the end of the war, Chinese workers would rank as the largest and longest-serving non-European contingent in World War I. France recruited 37,000 Chinese workers, while the United Kingdom took in 94,500. The men sent abroad would earn an estimated total of $2.2 billion, reports the South China Morning Post. Along the way, so many of these workers died or sustained injuries that China established a Bureau of Overseas Chinese Workers and convinced the U.K. to provide compensation for the wounded men.

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/6rQpaGJoLClo18jDGvEkgB4Yb1Y=/1024×596/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/0a/8c/0a8ca4e6-f5fc-4f9b-a97a-64815908e1b7/chinese_workers_wwi_munitions_factory_14591966191.jpgIn other cases, Chinese workers staffed munitions factory during World War I.
In other cases, Chinese workers staffed munitions factory during World War I. (Wikimedia Commons/Chatham House, London)

“China had prepared to attend the post-war peace conference as early as 1915,” says Xu. When the war at last ended in November 1918, China planned its delegation for the Paris Peace Conference, hoping to finally achieve full control of its mainland territory.

But China was given only two seats at the Paris Peace Conference to Japan’s five, since the latter had contributed combat troops. Matters only devolved from there. Some of the European delegates were unfamiliar with the Twenty-One Demands, writes Julian Theseira in Global Histories, and the Western powers ultimately awarded Shandong to Japan; the Western diplomats believed they should honor the treaty Japan pressured China to sign after taking Shandong. China saw the move as a rejection of its demand to be recognized as an equal player in global politics, and as an affront to its sovereignty.

“China was deeply angry at the Versailles Treaty and was the only country at the postwar peace conference to refuse to put a signature on it,” Xu said. A student-led protest in Beijing called the May Fourth Movement was organized in response to outrage over the peace talks. It called for political and social changes and, as Xu writes, was a sign of China’s turn towards socialism in 1921 with the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party.

Elleman goes even further in stating the importance of the Shandong issue. “They talk about these forks in the road, and this is one. If this whole Shandong controversy had not happened, China might never have become Communist,” Elleman says. He argues that leaving the Shandong question unresolved, at least in China’s eyes, meant they mistrusted European governments going forward and felt more attracted to socialism. “It’s one of the most important pieces in modern Chinese history.”

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Asian History China Germany Japan Military Woodrow Wilson World War I

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Road Trip to Hampi – The City of Ruins

(THIS ARTICLE IS FROM THE BLOG OF ‘NOMADONROAD’, PLEASE CHECK OUT HIS EXCELLENT BLOG SITE)

 

Road Trip to Hampi – The City of Ruins

Road Trip to Hampi – The City of Ruins

Traveling is a Drug one must admit. When one gets addicted, it kind of gets difficult to get rid of it. You will find excuses, inspirations and so on, to travel more, regardless to the destinations being close or far, I am sure all the travelers can relate to what I am talking about here.

So, it happened  one evening when me along with my friends – Bobby & Ajay  were watching this documentary called “Mysteries of Asia: Lost Temples of India” where they discuss about this particular place called “Hampi – The Ghost City” – which in the Southern part of India – Northern Karnataka, living in the same state we hadn’t been there. I know most of the time we tend to ignore the places we are close by or we grew up, rather we tend to take it for granted.

Hampi is within the ruins of Vijayanagara once a bustling city – Capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi got its name from the River Pampa which is now called as Tungabhadra – on the banks of which the city was built. The site was chosen because it had natural defenses, in the form of rocky hills on three sides and the river on the fourth. It was a thriving, bustling city till the second half of the 16th century, when it was laid siege to and ultimately overrun by the Sultan of Bijapur. As legend has it, the city’s temples were ravaged by the invaders and its sandalwood palaces burnt down in an attempt to wipe it clean from popular memory. And so Hampi was forgotten – its stone survivors overwhelmed by jungle growth; until British archaeologists stumbled upon it several many decades later. And here were are, Like all others who thong to this place to get a glimpse of our very own history,,,, As the Portuguese traveler Domingo Paes mentioned in 1522 AD, “This is the land of riches”…You will have to witness it to believe it !!!

I felt a little bad for not have explored this beautiful place however it’s never too late. Mostly I love travelling alone as I mentioned in my first post however as they say “More the merrier”. I was happier when my childhood friends, who also equally love travelling and exploring the unexplored agreed to join me. Hence, we decided overnight to travel and explore what this place had to offer. All we knew is this place wasn’t going to disappoint us for sure. I, Bobby and Ajay re-assembled at my place with our bags packed and left to Hampi at around 11:45 PM, this was in the month of September 2014, most ideal period of the Year to Visit Hampi J . Since it was an immediate travel plan we had not booked any accommodation, we thought we will figure out by the time we reach Hampi – by the time Bobby said that he googled and most recommendations was to stay at Hosapete town which is 12kms away from Hampi. We all concluded that we find accommodation at Hosapete

I always love trips like this when you don’t have plan so much. Travelling with your best buddies are always an advantage, you can stop the car any time you want, take pictures, eat and talk nonstop about any topic under the sun. Our journey took place and we loved every bit about it, excited to see the place for the first time we were just like those kids going to a fair.. 😂😂

Ajay, Bobby, Dev (Me)

Ajay, Bobby, Dev (Me)

By the time we crossed Bangalore it was around 1:00 AM in the Morning, we thought of giving a theme to this travel and called ourselves as “Wolf Pack” and themed it as “wolf pack – Trip to Enthralling Hampi”. Ajay had taken the Driver Seat, me – the navigator and Bobby as soon he got inside the car – he started sleeping 😂. Ajay is one person who can’t keep quiet and is perfect companion if you are driving at night – ideally he can speak about anything – name the topic, he would have something to talk about – we started talking about politics, work etc.

This being an unplanned trip of ours we dint do any homework about the places to explore. We decided to go old School without using much of a technology. The only place we kept in our mind was Hospete which we followed the route by asking the road side shopkeepers, daba’s and the passerby, keeping only one place in mind

I really didn’t keep a track of time nor the distance. I saw the road sign, I could see that we were only 80 KM away from Hosapete and the time was around 6:30 am, we reached Hosapete around 7:30 am and started searching for accommodation, we saw these two Hotels – “Shanbhag Towers” and other being “Hotel Priyadarshini” (mostly due to our Budget), we settled in for Priyadarshini because it had a nice Bar & Restaurant attached to it.

Even though we arrived quite early, the hotel staff were quite accommodative and helped with reservation. As soon we got our room, we took a quick nap, freshened up and headed for the Breakfast. Breakfast was quite good and started conversing with the Hotel staff related to Places to visit etc, one recommendation provided was to take Local Guide while at Hampi if you need to know the place, history etc., because Hampi being quite vast, we might miss certain important places.

After having quite a heavy breakfast – we set out to Hampi, as we got close to Hampi we started seeing the ruins, for some reason I started having chills while we passed through the ruins and the structures.

We finally arrived at Hampi – near Virupaksha Temple. Virupaksha Temple is part of Group of Monuments at Hampi, the presiding diety is Lord Shiva – one of the Hindu God. This temple was built by the Queen “Lokhamadevi” – wife of Vikramaditya II in order to commemorate the King’s victory over Pallava of Kanchipuram. We parked the car and the first thing we wanted to do was hire a Local Guide.

As we were passing by the Virupaksha Temple, we got to see some of the erotic carvings on the Temple Tower, in most case these carvings can only be seen on the outside walls but none on the inside walls. In its popular saying, they say that these carvings were meant for educational purpose in those days as temple’s were visited by large part of the population and these carving on temple pillars & walls formed a ideal place to spread awareness

 

Finally we found a Guide and started inquiring about the guide fee – it looks like the guide fee is standard/fixed – 1500 Rupees per day, we hired him and thus started our tour of Hampi. We started with Virupaksha Temple and the structures nearby, the guide was very knowledgeable was able to answer any queries which we put forth and was good with Camera as well. Oh I forgot to introduce him, our Guide’s name: Mr. Gurumurthy – if any is visiting Hampi and would like to have a Local Guide – in order to know history, places etc of Hampi, you can contact Gurumurthy on + 91 94815 66709.

In and around Virupaksha temple we can see structures which are of the Jain period, Hemkut Jain temples, Ratnantraykut, Parsvanath Charan and Ganigatti jain temple, most of Idols are missing – ideally there are nothing inisde the structures. The entire hill surrounding the Virupaksha Temple is called as Hemakuta Hill. This place is one of best to see the sunrise and sunset and is a treat for photographers, another best place to see the sunset and sunrise is the Matanga Hill.

By this time we were feeling little tired, but I would once again like to say that Hampi is a treat for Photographers, so much to see and so much to capture – we might not know as where to start and where to end. we started inquiring about various things about the place and our guide Gurumurthy was always ready to answer with a smile.

We had now started to get down from the Hemakuta Hill, Next Place of significance was “Kadalekalu Ganesha” – it is one Largest Statue of Ganesha ( Hindu God, Son of Lord Shiva)  in Southern India carved in Granite, the name “Kadalekalu” means Bengal_gram/Chicpea – since the belly of Ganesha is in resemblence of Bengal Gram, one more thing to notice if you go behind the Idol you can see an Hand holding/supporting the Idol from the back – Popular belief or artistic represtation could be that it is Ganesha’s Mother Parvathi holding him from the back. It is also believed that some people try to cut open the tummy as they thought there was some treasure in that, you can still see the cut stone in front of the temple!. Now we started heading towards Gopura – Krishna Temple, on the way we met some localites – took some pictures, visited naturally formed Caves.

Krishna Temple – This temple was built during the reign of Krishnadevaraya after his successful campaign against Gajapatis of Orissa, the temple is in the abandoned state – This was abandoned after the fall of Vijaynagara empire. Krishna temple bazaar has been excavated through the last decade, and restoration work is still in progress

Krishna Temple Bazaar

Krishna Temple Bazaar

After completing Krishna Temple, we started towards the Lotus Mahal, Lotus Mahal – as the name suggests, its in the shape of the Lotus, according to our Guide – Lotus Mahal used to be a place where royal ladies used come and mingle, it used to also serve as meeting point for King and his ministers. There are several monuments nearby

Lotus Mahal

Lotus Mahal

On the way to Lotus Mahal, you can notice this building – according to the guide, this is the place where the finance team of the King used to reside – more to do with storage of coins etc.

Some more from the group Monuments of Hampi…

Finally we are here at the Massive Elephant stable and we can see that these are least destroyed structures in Hampi. This stable was used to park Royal Elephants. There are 11 domed tall chambers, the center one is decorated and huge.

The structure below Recently discovered …Radically different from the rest of tank constructions in Hampi, the Stepped Tank is made of made of finely finished black schist stone blocks. It seems the tank was made elsewhere and later brought and assembled at its current location. Practically every stone is earmarked for this purpose and some bears even ‘sketches’ by its architects. The purpose of this tank is not very sure, mostly it was used during the religious ceremonies by the royals.

We took rest for a while at the tank and started discussing with our guide Gurumurthy – various other aspects about other Structures near by – Every structure in Hampi has a story associated with it and we felt enlightened knowing the history through the ruins and it took us back in time.

This is the place where the king used to behead people whom he found to be cheating in Revenue Funds….Every year there used to be a Cabinet Meeting and if anyone found guilty was punished publicly….On a lighter note, this technique should be used for all Rapists 🙂…lol

 

The one below quite a gigantic tank or maybe bathing place – I can even term it as swimming pool  for visitors who used to visit the empire in those days – its really quite Massive.

 

We covered most of the major structures in and around the Lotus Mahal – now started heading towards the Vittala Temple, Vittala Temple ( Dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu ) is one of the ancient, well know monument in Hampi and it is quite close to the banks of Tungabhadra River – then Pampa River, the main attraction is the Chariot and the musical pillars. This monument was built during the reign of King Devaraya II. Here are some of the captures on the way to Vittala Temple.

Market No 3 - In front of Vittala Temple

Market No 3 – In front of Vittala Temple

 

On the way to the Vitalla Temple Complex, I would recommend that you visit Achyutaraya temple complex, this seems to be more less visited compared to Virupaksha and Vitalla Temple complex.

 

 

 

Here we arrive at the most awaited Vittala Temple Complex – as mentioned quite from far, the chariot is quite visible and forms the major attraction – it is considered one of the stunning architecture and only there of them are found in India – One in Orissa (Konark Temple), Second in Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu) and this being the third one. The “Chariot” never moved , unlike those wooden temple cars used in the temple festival ceremonies. What probably moved was its four wheels around its axle, all made of granite. There was a dome like superstructure over the chariot. That too is missing now. However you can see them on the first ever photographs of Hampi taken in 1856 by Alexander Greenlaw

The Musical Pillars: Large Mantapa is famous for its musical pillars which it houses and also called as Saregama pillars indicating the Musical notes emitted by them, you can hear the musical notes when the pillars are tapped gently.

 

This 5-meter or so tall ‘balance’ is located near the Vittala temple. Also called as Tula Bhara or Tula Purushadana, the king used to weigh himself with gold, gems, silver and precious stones, and distributed to the priests. It’s believed that this had been done during the special ceremony seasons like solar or lunar eclipses. You can spot three loops on top of the balance, into which the balance actually hung. Also in one of the pillars you can spot the king’s image carved along with his concerts. 

By this time I think we had more or less covered major sites of Hampi –  In order to cover the places we did even skip our lunch – we managed with snacks and fruits which were being sold on the streets. Ideally you cannot cover complete Hampi in a day, it is practically impossible as our Guide Mr Gurumurthy says that we might need a life time to know it completely but still you get to miss since new discoveries are continuously been done in the region, We felt we need to visit again to cover the places which we would have missed. Time was now close to Sunset, we went near by Thungabadra River to watch the Sunset.

Old Bridge...Thungabadra River...Some people say this is where the Enemy army got an entry inside HAMPI..

Old Bridge…Thungabadra River…Some people say this is where the Enemy army got an entry inside HAMPI..

Whenever we venture out on a trip, we three would have one photograph which majorly forms our Cover Pic, our Guide Mr. Gurumurthy shot this photograph for us and it came out really well.

There were three more monuments which we had skipped earlier since our Guide  recommended that we can visit them while on the way back to Hemakuta Hill (Near Virupaksha Temple – that is where we had parked our vehicle), We started towards the Hemakuta Hill, since the sun was setting in, we thought calling it off for the day once we see these structures:

  • The Lakshmi Narasimha Statue: This is the largest statue in Hampi. Narasimha is sitting on the coil of a giant seven-headed snake called Sesha. The heads of the snake acts as the hood above his head. The god sits in a cross-legged Yoga position with a belt supporting the knees…The original statue contained the image of goddess Lakshmi, consort of the god, sitting on his lap. But this statue has been damaged seriously during the raid leading to the fall of Vijayanagara.

 

  • Badavilinga Temple, Hampi : This is the largest monolithic Linga in Hampi. Located next to the Narasimha statue the Linga is housed inside a chamber with an opening in the front.A close look on this icon can reveal three eyes (depicting the three eyes of Siva) carved on it. Legend has it that this was commissioned by a peasant woman and hence the name (Badva means poor in local tongue).

 

The last monument to visit was Sasivekalu Ganesha (Mustard seed Ganesha) which is at the foothill of  Hemakuta Hill, Guide recommended that we see this before sun completely sets and will call off for the day.

Sasivekalu Ganesha

Sasivekalu Ganesha

Sasivekalu Ganesha

This concluded our day at Hampi, We thanked our guide Mr. Gurumurthy for wealth of information shared and we were craving for more. We thought we spend some more time on top of  Hemakuta Hill watching the sunset and take some good pictures, we had another 2 days left – we started planning for next 2 days

Enchanting Hampi

I got some power now…..Let me save u

I had now started thinking that we have such amazing places which were close to Bangalore where we grew up and we had never made a point to come and see it, nonetheless we were enjoying every bit the place had to offer, from history to art – art to scenic beauty. The sunset of all things stole my heart away, it was so beautiful, I got engrossed in it.

Meanwhile Plan for the next two days was done – we decided that we head towards our hotel, take some rest, freshen up and re-assemble for Dinner at the attached Bar and Restaurant. Plan was that, early morning we head towards PattadakalAihole and Badami. Our next 2 days tour which we had intended to travel is on a seperate post, please click_here

 

Here are Information which might be helpful for anyone visiting Hampi:

Right Time to visit Hampi:

October to Feb – Main reason being weather is cooler during this period, avoid going during summer, most of the temple complexes remain open from 6:30 am until 6:30 pm.

How to get to Hampi:

By Airplane: The nearest airport is Hubli which is around 140KMS from Hampi, fly to Hubli and then take a taxi or Bus, The Bus are normally operated by Karnataka State transport and would take around 4 -5 hours to reach from Hubli to Hampi. Please check Plane & Bus Timings accordingly ( refer http://www.ksrtc.in, redbus.in)

By Train: The train stops at Hosapet/Hospet junction, this place very close to the place where we had our accommodation. Train runs serveral times a week from Bangalore, Hyderabad and Goa. You can book you train tickets from IRCTC website https://www.irctc.co.in, currently other websites such as makemytrip.com, yatra.com do take train reservations.

By Bus: As mentioned earlier – Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation operates daily buses to Hospet from Bangalore, Mysore and Gokarna. From hospet you can reach hampi on a local bus.

By Car: Its around 350Kms from Bangalore, Drive till Chitradurga on NH-4, take a right turn on NH-13 towards Sholapur till Hospet, and then drive another 13km to reach Hampi (direction towards Hampi is well marked).

Moving in and around Hampi: I would strongly recommend that you Hire a Moped, Motorcycle or even a bicycle while at Hampi so that moving around becomes very easy unless you enjoy walking. Bicycle might cost around 150/day and Moped could be more or less around 250 – 300 per day

Contact of Guides:

  • Gurumurthy – +91 94815 66709.
  • Rama – +91 94491 19485

Stay: For a First time visitor, I would recommend staying at Hospet due to accessibility to railway Station, better Hotels, medical stores, clinics etc. as mentioned earlier Hampi is also not very far from Hospet. You get a wide range of hotels at Hospet from Budget to expensive ones. Use any of the booking sites such as www.Booking.com,  www.trivago.in etc.

You can find a cheaper guest houses across the river – “Virupapur Gaddi” it is also called as Hippie Island – I will cover this in a seperate post, we had been to this place quite recently. A lot cheaper guest houses are available here – I would not recommend staying here if you are on a short visit, you can avoid it since there is no road access from the archaeological site Hampi, only way to reach this place from Hampi is via the River, if the water levels are higher it might be too risky, there is road access via an alternate route which is 40Kms away – unless you intend to stay longer in Hampi for more than a week and explore all places nearby and would need a cheaper accommodation, you can look at this option, otherwise I would recommend staying at Hosapet/Hospet.

Taiwan moved up six spots on this year’s World Press Freedom Index. Here’s why that’s troubling.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

WorldViews

Taiwan moved up six spots on this year’s World Press Freedom Index. Here’s why that’s troubling.

May 3 at 12:18 PM

Taiwan appeared to make a sudden leap forward in press freedom this year, moving up six places to secure the 45th spot in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

However, its climb should concern people about the state of media freedom — especially in Asia, according to Reporters Without Borders, the media watchdog nonprofit that releases the annual ranking.

That’s because Taiwan’s jump “does not reflect real improvements, but rather a global worsening of the situation in the rest of the world,” the group said in a statement. In particular, it masks the decline of media freedoms in other Asian countries, as well as the growing threat of “press freedom predators” in the region, such as China and North Korea.

“In this area, the situation reflects the global situation that prevails in the 2017 RSF World Press Freedom Index: a world in which strongmen are on the rise and attacks on the media have become commonplace, even in democracies,” the group said.

The Paris-based organization (also known internationally by its French name, Reporters sans Frontières, or RSF) pointed to China exerting economic and political pressure to influence Taiwanese media. Taiwan is a self-governing democratic island that China considers part of its territory, and Beijing is extremely sensitive to questions about Taiwan’s status.

It is not unusual for some Taiwanese media outlets to take stances that echo Chinese Communist Party propaganda, Taipei RSF bureau director Cédric Alviani told The Washington Post by phone Wednesday, which the United Nations has declared World Press Freedom Day.

“In Taiwan, the Taiwanese tycoons also have their own businesses in China,” Alviani said. “It’s easy for China to put pressure on the business executives and say, ‘Okay, you have to be nice with the media you own. We want you to cover the story this way or we don’t want you to mention that.’ ”

Alviani also pointed to Apple TV recently allegedly blocking a satirical comedy show that is critical of the Chinese government — ironically titled “China Uncensored” — not only in mainland China but also in Hong Kong and Taiwan, which are not subject to Chinese law. Reporters Without Borders last month condemned the tech company’s move as setting a dangerous precedent for “international corporate submission to the demands of Chinese censorship.”

“This kind of self-censorship is much more serious than the one a single reporter would apply to himself,” Alviani said.

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told The Post “there was a couple day period” when the show was not available in Taiwan and Hong Kong but that it has since been made accessible there.

Despite the obstacles, Taiwan continues to hold the highest rank for press freedom among Asian countries, followed by South Korea (at 63rd place) and Mongolia (69th), according to this year’s index. Coverage of political scandals in South Korea — which led to the impeachment and ouster of Park Geun-hye this year — proved that the media there maintained its independence, the group said.

“However, the public debate about relations with North Korea, one of the main national issues, is hampered by a national security law under which any article or broadcast ‘favourable’ to North Korea is punishable by imprisonment,” the group pointed out.

It was Taiwan’s relative freedom that led Reporters Without Borders to decide this year to open its first Asia bureau in Taipei, rather than in Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia.

Hong Kong dropped four places on the World Press Freedom Index from 2016, coming in at 73rd this year. Media there continue to face challenges when covering stories that are critical of mainland China, and reporters have faced physical intimidation and oppression.

“This is the kind of thing that made us think twice, because if we open an office in Hong Kong, our communications and safety might not be ensured,” Alviani said. “To open an original bureau, you need to find a place that is stable, a place where you could foresee what is happening in coming years.”

Alviani said that RSF journalists have been reporting from Taipei since last month, in a sort of “soft opening” for the new bureau, and that it will be fully operational in the coming months.

Part of the bureau’s focus will be on the countries that hold “many of the worst kinds of records” for media freedom in the Asia-Pacific region, including:

  • The world’s biggest prisons for journalists and bloggers: China (176th) and Vietnam (175th).
  • Most dangerous countries for journalists: Pakistan (139th), the Philippines (127th) and Bangladesh (146th).
  • Second-biggest number of “press freedom predators” at the head of the world’s worst dictatorships: Laos (170th), China (176th) and North Korea (180th).

The group called out Chinese President Xi Jinping as “the planet’s leading censor and press freedom predator” and one of the biggest reasons China ranks 176th among 180 countries on this year’s index. Only Syria, Turkmenistan, Eritrea and North Korea are ranked lower.

On Wednesday, World Press Freedom Day, China further clamped down on the media, issuing regulations that go into effect June 1, according to Reuters.

The rules “apply to all political, economic, military, or diplomatic reports or opinion articles on blogs, websites, forums, search engines, instant messaging apps and all other platforms that select or edit news and information,” Reuters reported. “All such platforms must have editorial staff who are approved by the national or local government Internet and information offices, while their workers must get training and reporting credentials from the central government.”

The Chinese government’s censorship and restrictions on media and the Internet, combined with its growing economic and political power, have the potential to affect other countries and private companies, Alviani said.

“China’s philosophy is more like everyone is free to do whatever they want to report — but within a certain limit, and this limit is never very clear,” he said. “In philosophical terms, freedom has to be unconditional. If you’re free within certain limits, you are not free.”

The Washington Post Hosts Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom Index

 

Play Video67:57
The Washington Post and Reporters Without Borders held a conversation on freedom of press around the world. The program featured a presentation of the 2017 World Press Freedom Index followed by a conversation with Tom Malinowski, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and journalists from Syria, Turkey and Canada, moderated by The Post’s Dana Priest. (Washington Post Live)

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