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April 17, 2006

Back to the Maoist Future

China's African ambitions

AMID FESTERING CONCERNS ABOUT CHINA'S burgeoning global power, Beijing has set its sights on expanding its influence in Africa. In a throwback to the Maoist revolutionary days of the 1960s and '70s, Beijing has once again identified the 53-nation African continent as an area of strategic interest. But this time it's not interested in exporting communism. Instead, it's wholly concerned with international trade.

Seeking new markets for its export-driven economy and unimpeded access to Africa's abundant natural resources, China lavishes African leaders with diplomatic pomp and circumstance as well as financial, commercial, and military assistance. Unfortunately, the policies of the People's Republic of China are aiding and abetting oppression, human rights abuses, poor governance, and economic stagnation, while shoring up some of Africa's most odious regimes.

April 03, 2006

Dump Trash, Add Scavengers, Mix and Get a Big Mess

Dump Trash, Add Scavengers, Mix and Get a Big Mess

Scavengers sifting through the trash recently at Shanghai's largest dump, which is bigger than Central Park

SHANGHAI, March 28 — Song Tiping, a peasant from rural Jiangsu Province, and Bernie Kearsley-pratt, an Australian executive, would not at first glance seem to have much in common, and they do not, except for one thing: both were drawn here by the unlikely financial promise of garbage, towering mountains of refuse that attest to this city's status as a raging boomtown. And now they spend their days in a cat-and-mouse game, Mr. Song joining throngs of poor Chinese scavenging in the trash and Mr. Kearsley-pratt, who manages Shanghai's largest municipal dump, trying to keep them out.

The Australian, who works for a French company that is helping manage this city's garbage, says his difficult job is made all the harder — indeed on some days he himself would say impossible — by the cruel fact that even in the heartland of a booming China, peasants can make far more money collecting plastic trash bags, tin cans and the rubber soles of shoes than they can as farmers or ordinary day laborers.

Most days Mr. Song, who came to Shanghai seeking a way to pay the hefty tuition fees for his eldest daughter, who had been admitted to one of the country's best high schools, spends several hours dodging monstrous earthmoving equipment in the landfill, one of the largest in Asia, to pick trash.

Were it not for dangers of the job, like being crushed by a bulldozer, inhaling noxious gases while wading knee-deep in fetid refuse or being beaten by warring gangs of scrap pickers for the mere prize of an unbroken bottle, it might even be considered a good job.