International Papers

China and Russia, Best Friends  

The China-Russia friendship pact signed Monday pledged closer economic, security, and cultural links between the two countries and reiterated support for the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty, which the United States wants to abandon so that it can pursue missile defense. Russia also confirmed its support for “one China,” pledging to oppose “the independence of Taiwan in any form.” According to the Financial Times, the treaty is “a cause for satisfaction rather than concern,” but Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung declared, “America, be warned: for Russia and China to be united in political opposition is not a desirable goal.” (German translation courtesy of BBC Monitoring.)

Most papers interpreted the alliance as a response to the United States’ status as the world’s sole superpower. Spain’s El País claimed, “The Sino-Russian pact has more to do with fear of the new formulation of an uncontestable post-Cold War U.S. hegemony than with the eventual integration of two distant and distinct systems.” Dawn of Pakistan said the collapse of communism had created a world in which the United States “has been pursuing its national agenda under cover of such shibboleths as human rights and globalization.” The editorial hoped the treaty would make the United States “realize the folly of pursuing a unilateral world agenda.” An op-ed in the Moscow Times detected a “loud message to the Bush administration.” It said: “The Jiang-Putin joint statement proclaiming that the treaty is ‘not directed against third countries’ is a fig leaf that can be quickly discarded. The naked truth is contained in their hope for a ‘just and rational new order’ and in their opposition to numerous U.S. policies.” Still, it warned Beijing and Moscow not to overplay their hand:

Although both countries made clear that the friendship treaty is not a military alliance … closer Chinese-Russian military ties would tend to confirm the idea current with some Bush officials that a new cold war is eminent.

Resist globally, crack down locally:  Previews of this weekend’s G-8 summit meeting of industrialized nations in Genoa promise a major rumble. Following the violent protests at last month’s European Union summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, Italian authorities have mobilized a massive containment operation against the 100,000-120,000 expected demonstrators. According to Britain’s Observer, at least 15,000 police and 2,500 soldiers—including experts in nuclear, germ, and chemical warfare—will be on hand. Helicopters and reconnaissance aircraft will patrol the skies, and the Christopher Columbus airport will host ground-to-air missiles to foil airborne terrorist attacks. Genoa’s railway stations, airport, highway exits, and port will be closed, and metal barriers, concrete blocks, and police cordons will block off many of the entrances to the “red zone,” the downtown area where summit events will take place. The Financial Times said, “The red zone is likely to be the focus of the small band of violent agitators. The anti-globalisation movement has been split between the so-called ‘fluffies’ (non-violent activists) and ‘spikies’ (violent groups who tend to attack property).”

For the duration of the summit, the Italian government has suspended the Schengen Agreement, which guarantees free movement within the European Union, forcing travelers to go through passport controls and allowing the police to refuse entry to protesters. The Guardian reported that, under pressure from the French government, the French national railway company canceled a Genoa-bound train chartered by British protesters. The organizing group, Globalise Resistance, intends to sue the French authorities for restricting their movements within Europe. At least seven Berlin-based activists were forced to report to a local police station every day to prevent them from attending the summit. Die Tageszeitung said, “This is unacceptable because the freedom to travel and the freedom of movement are an elementary part of personal basic rights, as is the presumption of innocence.” (German translation courtesy of BBC Monitoring.) According to the Irish Times, three of Genoa’s McDonald’s restaurants closed Tuesday, fearing attacks by anti-globalization activists, while Toronto’s Globe and Mail reported that Genoese residents have fled their homes—among other disruptions, the transportation restrictions mean that no food deliveries have been made in several days. Canada’s National Post added:

The local council has asked citizens to refrain from hanging out their washing along the route used to whisk world leaders from the airport into the city, not for security reasons, but because it looks bad.

The substance of the summit barely rated a mention in any of the previews (the Financial Times provided one notable exception here), but the Guardian wondered how governments and world bodies can best respond to the globalization of protest:

Their options—apart from actually embracing the broad agenda being put to them—are to retreat behind even higher barricades, repress dissent further, abandon global meetings altogether or, more likely, meet only in places able to physically resist the masses.

Clowning around with lottery funds: The Independent reported that disadvantaged youth will learn circus skills thanks to a $1.4 million grant from Britain’s National Lottery funds. The program—which includes lessons on trapeze artistry, tightrope walking, and face painting—is designed to boost confidence and help the youngsters “come to terms with their deprived environment.”