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Risky business in China

IHT: The US exerts its influence in Asia. Asia Times: EU sanctions provide opportunities for China in Iran. Foreign Policy: Sarkozy's policies fail to make a big impact.

US exerts its influence in Asia

Philip Bowring writes in the International Herald Tribune that the United States has shown a new concern for what happens in Northeast and Southeast Asia. He argues that most countries in the region fear Chinese hegemony more than American imperialistic behavior.

QUOTE: The United States, by declaring in Hanoi that it has an interest in freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and the settlement of disputed claims by international law, has put itself firmly in the camp of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and other nations with stakes in the outcome.

US elite become complacent about nation’s economic distress

Columnist Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times that many among the American elite are beginning to think that the nation’s economic distress and high unemployment are normal. He argues that neither the US Congress nor the Federal Reserve is doing enough to promote job growth. He fears politicians and officials might soon declare the unemployment is a structural problem that cannot be fixed.

QUOTE: Over time these excuses may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the long-term unemployed lose their skills and their connections with the work force, and become unemployable.

EU sanctions creates more opportunities for China in Iran

Antoaneta Becker writes in the Asia Times that the European Union's sanctions on Iran have created new business opportunities there for China. The piece argues that China has filled a void in Iran left behind by Western companies that can no longer operate there.

QUOTE: With China called upon to become a "responsible stakeholder" in the international system, Beijing has walked a fine line, trying to work in concert with the international community to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear weapons program, while preserving its vital interests in Iran.

Let Bush tax cuts expire to reduce America’s deficit

Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria writes in the Washington Post that the United States should allow the Bush tax cuts to expire in order to reduce the nation’s deficit. He argues that the tax cuts were never affordable and only led to over-borrowing and a large deficit.

QUOTE: In front of us is a simple, easy way to bring America's fiscal house in order, reduce our dependence on foreign borrowing, restore US credibility and power, and provide a stable revenue base from which to make key investments for future growth.

High demand for oil will change consumers’ habits

Trevor Houser, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, writes in the Financial Times that a likely rise in oil prices would have a deep impact on America’s energy consumption habits. Demand for oil in the developing world is up 7 percent since 2007, and there are few cheap and easy options for energy supplies left.

QUOTE: The only silver lining on a painful future for consumers is that expensive oil is just what is needed finally to kick-start the petroleum detox.

Journalism in China is still a risky business

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal welcomes recent moves in China to protect the rights of a journalist whose reports accused a company of insider trading. However, despite this case, the editorial argues that most journalists still face severe censorship, harassment and possible violence for writing about state or corporate wrongdoing.

QUOTE: It's encouraging that Chinese society affirmed the journalist's role as a watchdog and the local government backed down. But it's also an isolated case. The central government's repression of independent reporting is only growing fiercer.

BP should be held fully liable for all economic damages

Paul Rubin, Emory University professor of economics, writes in the Wall Street Journal that full economic damages should be sought in the case of the BP oil spill. The fisherman, hoteliers and others affected by the oil spill had no relationship with BP before the disaster and therefore never entered a contract arrangement with them.

QUOTE: There is little justification for limiting economic damages. And since most or all harms were economic, there is little scope for pain and suffering damages.

Russia and Europe continue tricky relations

Joschka Fischer, Germany’s foreign minister and vice chancellor from 1998 to 2005, writes in Beirut’s The Daily Star that Russia needs Europe as it attempts to modernize its economy. Similarly, Europe needs Russia for security reasons. And yet, there are great differences in how the two sides perceive their relations.

QUOTE: Today’s Russia avowedly seeks to reverse the post-Soviet order in Europe that emerged after 1989-1990, at least in parts of its neighborhood, while the Europeans and the West want to maintain it all costs.

Sarkozy makes big announcements, but they have minimal effect

Gero Von Randow, France correspondent for the German newspaper Die Zeit, writes in Foreign Policy that French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s latest austerity measures are another example of his failure to implement policies that make a real impact. The piece argues that Sarkozy continues to make “A big announcement, followed by minimal effect.” His attempts to reform the economy, justice system and urban ghettos have all failed.

QUOTE: Sarkozy seems to have abandoned hope that France's trying circumstances can be overcome with optimism and audacity. He might try repression and retrenchment instead. But it's possible that the reactionary, radical right are in the best position to profit from extended turmoil.

Weak dollar is at the root of America’s troubles

Columnist John Tamny writes in Forbes that one of the biggest challenges facing the American economy is the weak dollar. Housing became unaffordable in the 1970s, for example, because of the weakening dollar, which drove up the cost of commodities. 

QUOTE: There are no jobs without investment, but with the dollar merely the least weak among a world of weak currencies, there's little incentive for those with means to invest.