NIGHTWATCH Extracts: China Rising, African Food Riots

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India-China: India conveyed its concerns to China on 3 September about an increase in the Chinese troop presence and activities in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Embassy officials said Indian Ambassador to China S. Jaishankar met China’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Zhang Zhijun in Beijing to discuss India’s concerns.  India news papers quoted government sources that 11,000 Chinese have been detected in the Pakistan-controlled section of western Kashmir.  In response to the Indian demarche, the Chinese said the soldiers were assisting with flood relief without further explanation.

NIGHTWATCH Comment: The Indian press indicates China stonewalled India on this and several other issues, especially those related to Kashmir. While not confirmed, the size of the Chinese contingent equals that of an infantry division. The location could be east of Islamabad … if confirmed. Earlier press reports indicated the Chinese troops were providing security for railroad construction, but the Chinese did not confirm those reports.  China appears to be dropping the nuances in its policy actions of the past ten years as to disputed regions of Asia. In doing so, it is siding openly and unequivocally with longstanding allies. This explains China’s open embrace of Kim Chong-il, which matches its equally open tilt to Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir.  China is asserting itself as the Asian hegemon from Northeast Asia, through Southeast Asia to Southwest Asia. This is a strategic challenge to the interests of the US, its allies and friends.

Mozambique: Update. News services reported no new food riots in Maputo and one small disturbance in Chimoio in central Mozambique, where 50 protestors were arrested.  One local commentator reported the riots began on Tuesday with an e-mail and SMS campaign urging people to protest against a recent 17 percent increase in the bread price as well as a rise in the costs of water and electricity. The source of the messages is not known. The increase in the price of bread in the past year has been 25%.  The government response to the riots is that the price increases are irreversible.

NIGHTWATCH Comment: New analysts need to pay special attention to increases in the price of bread, cooking oil and heating oil in any country in the less developed world because these are the triggers for most of the coups since World War II. Regardless of the country or culture, price increases in any one of these three commodities plus one or other utilities lead to uprisings and government overthrows.  In 2008 in Mozambique the trigger for rioting was increases in the fares for public transport, on top of food shortages. The increased price of bread and the cost of utilities indicate the riots were mostly a spasm of urban unrest that does not jeopardize the government, at least not yet.  Lying in background is the fact that Mozambique only grows 30% of the wheat it needs. The rest and a host of daily necessities are imported. Riots have ended for now, but they will recur unless prices come down.  People go hungry and get angry when a loaf of bread costs a nickel more, when 70% of the people live on $2.00 a day. No amount of extra labor can supply the extra nickel. That is the point when riots occur.

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