The rise of Egyptian-Chinese economic relations needs to be seen in the context of the Nazif cabinet which took office in 2004 and tries to orientate the Egyptian economy towards foreign trade. But it is also a political manoever, a message to the established partners EU/US. However, the reality does not live up to the bullish statements made by economy minister Rashid and others on the potential of Egyptian-Chinese trade. Up until early 2006, China was only the 29th largest foreign investor in Egypt. Now a few committees and investment zones were created, and Chinese investment as well as mutual trade is likely to grow.Personnally, I don't see a lot of trade potential for Egyptian companies here, other than production joint-ventures in Egypt, which could serve Chinese companies well to re-export to Europe and Africa, while creating desperately needed jobs for Egyptians. Other then that, Egypt will remain a market for cheap Chinese products (I guess nowadays few products under LE20 are sold in Misr which are not 'Made in China') which is smuggled into the country via the Gulf (much of Dubai's rise is down to smuggling). I heard from European diplomats that most of current Egyptian-Chinese trade takes place outside statistics, and I'd love to know how much Chinese companies are truly selling in Egypt (and elsewhere in the Middle East).
The conviction even prevails among Egyptians that US reform plans have evaporated and that the pressure the White House can exercise to achieve political and economic reforms in Middle East countries, headed by Egypt, are no longer operative and are unlikely to take place in the future. However, Cairo believes that the Americans are using some domestic Egyptian issues to blackmail the country's foreign policies and direct them on a path that satisfies Washington, as is the case with issues such as Palestine, Iraq, Sudan and Iran. Although Rice's visit to the region, which included Egypt, focused on the fall conference on peace and trying to reach a joint Israeli-Palestinian document that doesn't face Arab opposition, in addition to the request from Arab parties, including Egypt, to alleviate its criticism of the conference and try to make it a success, a "black cloud" continues to darken the sky of US-Egyptian relations and it will be hard to hide it. Adding to this is the official Egyptian sentiment about the conference and criticisms by officials, with President Hosni Mubarak at their head; the president was surprised at the lack of a clear agenda for such a meeting. If the Americans were busy preparing for the conference, the secretary of state avoided getting into a debate that might anger the Egyptians. She didn't raise the issue of Ayman Nour or the demands of the opposition, but this did not prevent her from expressing her rejection of joint Egyptian-Sudanese efforts to arrange a dialogue in Cairo between Fatah and Hamas, to treat the deteriorating situation in Gaza and achieve a reconciliation among Palestinians. Thus, another black cloud arrived to cover the skies of the visit and what took place during it. The Americans, who have rejected and continue to reject any dialogue with Hamas or on the movement's future role, have equated their position on Islamist Palestinians with Cairo's position on Egyptian Islamists. They believed that Cairo, which rejects any dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood, is asking the Americans to accept Hamas as a partner in rule over Palestine. Meanwhile, Egypt sees this link as further American blackmail and an absence of a realistic vision of conditions on the ground in Palestine. Thus, Rice visited Egypt and left, but it appears that the black cloud remains.Like an old married couple, (unevenly) co-dependent and set in their ways, two countries plod ahead in policies based on the denial of reality.
The 1992 law changed farmers’ lives profoundly. Average rent values have risen 10-fold, and now represent between a third and a half of gross annual income. Perhaps three-quarters of the farmers renting in 1996 have given up because of debts. Farmers have had to indebt themselves to pay rent, and households sell jewels and livestock, reducing expenditure (less meat in the diet, fewer children at school). As the number of very small holdings has declined, those over 10 feddans (4.2 hectares) have improved in number and surface area. It is clear that inequalities in the distribution of agricultural land are again rising, despite the advances between 1952 and 1980 and the relative immobility thereafter. Over the past 10 years there have been social explosions over land in the governorate of al-Minufiyya, where Kamshish lies. They are the result of manoeuvres by former landowners and have been ignored by the media. Dispossessed families used the new legislation to recover their previous holdings, or obtain more attractive parcels. There have been violent clashes between farmers and the police or hired agents working for these families. Villagers have been intimidated, illegally imprisoned (and tortured), or summarily tried and heavily sentenced. The Land Centre for Human Rights considers that between 2001 and 2004 there were 171 deaths, 945 injuries and 1,642 arrests.
Iâ€™ve been wanting to put up for a while this audio file of Ibrahim Eissaâ€™s speech at the massive press conference at the Journalistsâ€™ Syndicate on September 14th.Â HereÂ is one (poorly) translated excerpt.
â€œWe succeeded in saving the soul of this umma, which seemed about to die in the hospital of President Mubarak, and which has spent 25 years in the Emergency Room. Here she is [the umma], waking up from her coma, thanks to reforming judges, thanks to the Kifaya movement, thanks to Ayman Nour, thanks to the Muslim Brothehood, thanks to the opposition parties, thanks to liberal and socialist forcesâ€”and thanks to the independent press. The independent press, which has raised its voice as the conscience of Egypt, and has presented a model in the last few years of how to lower the president from the throne of a god-like pharaoh, and make him a human, elected president to whom we are capable of saying: no, no and again no.â€�
Â Eissa ends the speech by saying what an distinction it is to be considered the regimeâ€™s â€œnumber one opponentâ€� and â€œthe journalist that the president of the republic wants to jail,â€�Â and gives a warm personal thanks to the President for this honour.
When they're not actively attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction, 'Axis of Evil' countries such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea are busy enjoying their region's finest dishes. And their 'Axis of Somewhat Evil' cohorts, such as Cuba and Syria, are at it too. With over one hundred recipes, from soups and salads to meat dishes and desserts, this unique cookbook includes snapshots of each country as well as profiles of famous leaders. Regional recipes appear alongside dictators' favourite dishes - from Kim Jong-Il's ruthless appetite for shark fin soup to Saddam's celebrated rack of fresh roasted gazelle. Full of cultural anecdotes, political insight and delectable recipes, "The Axis of Evil Cookbook" is an intriguing and forbidden treat.Right now available at Amazon.co.uk, but not the US site yet.
Looking back over the past ten months, Lebanese can feel somewhat relieved. The massive demonstrations in December 2006, followed by a general strike and clashes between pro- and anti-government forces with strong sectarian overtones, as well as a series of assassinations and car bombs, brought the nation perilously close to breakdown. State institutions are virtually paralysed; the government barely governs; the economic crisis is deepening; mediation efforts have failed; political murders continue; and militias, anticipating possible renewed conflict, are rearming. Still, fearful of the consequences of their own actions, leaders of virtually every shade took a welcome step back. An important explanation lies in Hizbollah’s realisation that its efforts to bring down the government carried dangerous consequences. Facing calls for its disarmament and denunciations of its (allegedly foreign-inspired) adventurism in triggering the July 2006 war, the movement concluded that the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and its backers were hostile actors intent on cutting it down to size and further aligning Lebanon with the West. As a result, it carried the fight squarely on the domestic scene, removing Shiite ministers, taking to the streets and pushing for the government’s ouster. This resort to street politics was risky and ultimately self-defeating. At almost every social level, Shiite support for Hizbollah has solidified, a result of both the movement’s longstanding efforts to consolidate its hold over the community and a highly polarised post-war environment. Former Shiite adversaries are, for the time being, silencing their differences, viewing the movement’s weapons as their best defence in an environment where Shiites feel besieged from both within and without. But while the movement demonstrated its mobilisation capacity and enjoyed support from an important segment of the Christian community, its use of an essentially Shiite base to bring down a Sunni-dominated government reinforced sectarian loyalties. Sunnis and many Christians were alarmed at Hizbollah’s might and ability unilaterally to trigger a devastating confrontation; they increasingly saw it as a Shiite not national movement and as advancing an Iranian or Syrian not Lebanese agenda. In short, while the movement sought to highlight the conflict’s political stakes, the street battles quickly morphed into confessional ones, forcing Hizbollah into a sectarian straitjacket and threatening to distract it from its primary objectives.Some interesting stuff about the Aoun-Hizbullah relationship coming to a head over the presidential elections towards the end.
- The sun sets early on the American Century, by Philip S Golub (Twilight of empire)
- IntelliBriefs: Egypt: Security, Political, and Islamist Challenges (Long paper on Egypt)
- Iraq - Kanan Makiya - Saddam Hussein - New York Times (Dexter Filkins profiles Kanan Makiya)
- "Cervantes’s Golden Age" by Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine) (Don Quijote, early music, Andalusia)
- Bin Laden may be in city, not cave: ex-spy chief (Urban Osama?)
- "Facts and Darfur" by Ken Silverstein (Harper's Magazine) (Spinning Darfur)
- Comment is free: Land of the free? (Richard Silverstein on the Lobby)
- Inside Higher Ed :: Are You Ready for 'Islamo-Fascism Week'? (It's that time of the year again)
JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel has ordered the confiscation of Arab land outside east Jerusalem, the army and Palestinian officials said on Tuesday, reviving fears that the occupied West Bank could be split in two. Hassan Abed Rabbo at the Palestinian local government ministry said the late September order covers 110 hectares (272 acres) in four Palestinian villages between east Jerusalem and the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim. The land could create a bloc of settlements incorporating Maale Adumim and nearby Mishor Adumim and Kedar, he said, and "prevent Palestinian territorial continuity" between the West Bank and Jordan Valley.Most Israelis say no to sharing Jerusalem:
JERUSALEM (AFP) - Most Israelis oppose sharing Jerusalem with the Palestinians as part of a final peace deal, an opinion poll said on Tuesday after an Israeli minister sparked uproar by suggesting the idea. Asked whether Israel should agree to "any sort of compromise on Jerusalem" as part of a final deal to end the decades-old Middle East conflict, 63 percent said no, according to the survey in the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot. Sixty-eight percent oppose transferring Arab neighbourhoods in occupied east Jerusalem to Palestinian control and 61 percent said Israel alone should have sovereignty over the holy places in the Old City, revered by the world's three leading monotheistic religions.But then again this has been obvious for a while.
WSJ: You're interested in putting together an initiative aimed at the Arab world. Tell us why? Mr. Zoellick: This is a set of countries [that have] probably been underserved by the bank, and so what I'm trying to identify how can we work with some of these governments and the private sector to create additional opportunity and development. I think you have a changed approach among a number of these governments, that they're trying to pursue economic reforms to create opportunity, create jobs, but -- critically important -- also meet social development needs. If you look at Egypt, one of the challenges will be, can people create jobs and opportunity and have a sense that the government is meeting social needs? [If not], others will try to meet those needs, as you have seen elsewhere in the Arab world. WSJ: Does your work as U.S. trade representative inform your ideas? Mr. Zoellick: The U.S. Congress had created something called QIZs, qualified industrial zones, which Jordan used to great effect. What they permitted was duty-free access to the United States for goods produced in these zones. But the country had to work out with Israel a certain percentage of Israeli investment, and that was to be negotiated by the countries. Egypt had held off, and so one of the last things I did [as U.S. trade representative] in 2004 was to participate in an event in Cairo with [Israel's Ehud] Olmert, who was then the trade minister, and [Rashid Mohamed] Rashid, who was commerce minister, to create a number of these QIZs. What stuck in my mind is that as I was leaving for the airport, there were reports of two demonstrations. One was of about 300 intellectuals that were protesting Egypt's doing an agreement with Israel. The other was thousands of workers who were protesting that there weren't more QIZs, because they wanted the jobs. It's a good example of how economic development is not only necessary to drive jobs, but fits into hope and better relations as well.Also from the article that accompanied the interview:
Mr. Zoellick says he plans to focus more on the Arab world and encourage the kinds of reformers he met when negotiating free-trade pacts with Oman, Bahrain and Morocco and pushing for stronger trade ties among Egypt, Israel and Jordan. Boosting employment is a huge challenge in the Middle East, where the birth rate is high and economic growth isn't. Mr. Zoellick believes that focusing on labor-intensive export industries, like textiles, could help. His theory: The bank can help "create societal cohesion by giving people the chance to have opportunity and development." To come up with specifics, Mr. Zoellick has consulted his onetime economics professor at Swarthmore, Howard Pack, now at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Mr. Pack says trade liberalization won't work unless other changes are made too, including building better ports and roads and making customs systems less corrupt. Education and social mores are critical, too. When Asian nations in the 1970s and 1980s jumped into textiles and manufacturing, they began with workers trained in manufacturing and women willing to work outside the home. That is often not the case in Arab nations.One thing about Zoellick is that he was always one of the best elements (in terms of talent and ability to get things done) of the Bush administration, and appears to be a much more skilled, and tougher, operator than Wolfowitz. So this kind of initiative could really have legs, for better or worse.
- BBC NEWS - Egypt Bedouins in angry protest (the continuing Bedouin upheaval in Sinai)
- Asia Times Online - Memories of monarchies revived (King Farouk nostalgia)
- SyriaComment - Ticking Clocks and ‘Accidental’ War (Alastair Crooke on Iran/US/Israel)
- Rural Egypt returns to the ancien regime, by Beshir Sakr and Phanjof Tarcir (land reform in Egypt)
- The 1952 land reform, by Beshir Sakr and Phanjof Tarcir (history thereof)
- alif - Avec "Chicago", El Aswany signe son retour (review of French translation of Aswany's 'Chicago')
- et - ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL (interview of Egypt's first lady)
The media loves to attack the government and the cabinet. As far as the media is concerned, no Egyptian government has ever come that has done any good. Governments have only destroyed. Haram. Walahee haram, mish kedda. These people work 24 hours a day. They don’t even get a day holiday. And if they come to Alexandria for the day? The headlines declare “The Government Went on Vacation!” Haram alayhom. Even if they go to Alexandria to relax, so what? They’re still working around the clock. I really feel sorry for these people. Really. I’m an insider, I see how they work, and they make huge sacrifices of their time, then they get no credit? Who benefits from these stories? It’s not for Egypt’s benefit. And then they attack foreign investment. Without foreign investment, Egyptian investment, Arab investment, how are we going to proceed?
The problem now is that the authorities seem convinced that the private press, especially al Dostour, has more power than the state media machine in influencing public opinion. Otherwise, why would it drag its editor to court every few months in cases that always relate to the president? And why did the official news agency report plans to try him before an emergency court? The authorities later reversed that decision and referred him to a criminal court on 1 October under tight security measures, which adjourned the case to 24 October. Officially, Eissa’s crime is reporting on nation-wide rumours on the president’s health, or even death, in August. And in many ways what we’re witnessing is a crackdown on the independent press and an attempt to muzzle freedom of expression. This is why 18 independent newspapers have agreed not to publish on 7 October in protest. But this isn’t solely about curbing freedom of expression. A quick glance at the bigger picture shows an insecure and aged regime battling for survival through a series of procedures that include silencing the press. If Eissa and his colleagues who face prison sentences end up in jail, they shouldn’t be viewed as only victims of a press massacre, but of a police state consolidating its position.Meanwhile, I'd missed this long post over at Baheyya on The Death of Deference, which analyzes the press from a lot of angles. She recognizes that two personalities, more than anyone else, were responsible for the new oppositional tone of the independent press;
The two editors who more than any of their peers have created and promoted the contemporary adversarial model of Egyptian journalism are Abdel Halim Qandil and Ibrahim Eissa (though I must also recall the pioneering role of Magdi and Adil Hussein in the early 1990s). Both are consciously engaged in a systematic project of accusing, belittling, and criticising public officials, from the most hapless minister to the most powerful public official, the normally untouchable president. In light of the weakness of parliament and the fragmentation of citizen watchdog groups, both see journalism as a useful tool to extract a modicum of responsiveness from an unaccountable, unchecked imperial presidency. And both aspire to make a profound impact on the wider political culture, replacing existing norms of deference and decorum when addressing the powerful with a style marked by irreverence, profound scepticism, and a blunt, salty style. But though they’re fellow travellers in many ways, Eissa and Qandil come from very different backgrounds and are motivated by different impulses.I would add to that (Baheyya briefly mentions it too) the remarkable supplanting of al-Ahram, the traditional newspaper of record, by al-Masri al-Youm. Now, however, we need another al-Masri al-Youm style newspaper to give it some competition lest it rests on its laurels. That may come soon, because from a professional standpoint things are starting to move in the Egyptian press. A few nights ago I had dinner with a publisher whose newspaper will see light sometime next year; he spoke of creating a "convergence newsroom" with the print edition of the newspaper more organically linked to its web presence. There is yet an Egyptian newspaper who website acts as a forum in the way the al-Arabiya comments section do. The web may still have limited reach, but it can add another layer to the dialogue between readers and newspapermen that has taken place in recent years -- at least while emerging media moguls wait for the day when they can unleash their ferocious journalists onto the terrestrial TV and radio waves.