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The best explanation I have seen why Steven Hu of Rio Tinto has really been arrested by the Chinese Government (smokescreen explanation: spying) is given by the World Socialist Web Site in a very good article “Arrest of Rio Tinto executive points to deepening economic crisis in China”

I think it is quite undisputed that Hu and Rio Tinto generally, are more than likely, as the Chinese allege, to have paid bribes to Chinese officials and businessmen for access to economic data. This is merely standard practice in Asian business-government relations.

Where Hu has run into trouble is that the Chinese government has only recently elevated sensitive econmic data to the level of ‘State Secret’. The rules have changed but Hu didn’t change his business methods.

The Sydney Morning Herald noted that the reason the Chinese have made economic data a state secret is that they are worried about the state of the global economy as much as anyone else. This concern was elevated following the collapse of two Chinese sharemarkets, weaknesses in exports (which have led to massive job losses in China) and capped off by the onset of the global financial crisis from September last year.

As WSWS explains Hu has got into trouble because of the central importance of the Chinese Steel sector and the very high prices China is being forced to pay for forward deliveries of iron ore. Chinese industry is highly dependent on low costs for inputs and insider knowledge, such as Hu obtained, disadvantages China in these very sensitive price negotiations.

The planets aligned badly for Hu and he has paid the price.

China is not picking on Hu because he is a foreigner. A Chinese national, the iron ore head of a large steel company Shouguan, Tan Yixin, was also detained (on July 7, two days after Hu) as well as Hu.

Same System New Masters

Recent comments from Julie Bishop that Kevin Rudd should not have permitted the visit of Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, supported by Phillip Ruddock, show that the Liberal Party sacrifice all principle at the altar of the great god, Money. Now that China rule the world, or are very much on their way to doing so, the Liberal Party would prefer, as they do for the United States, that China should remain beyond criticism.

Bishop’s comments hearken back to the silencing of Australian Green Senators by John Howard in regard to Chinese Human Rights abuses in Tibet when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Australia in October 2003.

The power dynamics of world politics are changing and interesting times are ahead for Australia. The principled stand of Foreign Minister Stephen Smith who allowed Rebiya Kadeer to enter Australia against vocal Chinese wishes, points to a distinct possibility that disobeying China will have painful ramifications for Australia in the future.

Under the hegemony of The US and the The West, the rest of the world had to obey or be punished. It might soon be our turn to eat the same humble pie albeit served with larks’ tongues and Hoi-Sin sauce.


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