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Week of February 17, 2004

Program 0407


Iraq Ammo Dumps | Transcript | MP3

Iran Earthquake Relief | Transcript | MP3

Borneo Dam Project | Transcript | MP3

African Health Train | Transcript | MP3

Atrocities Conference | Transcript | MP3

China-North Korea Relations | Transcript | MP3

China Entrepreneurs | Transcript | MP3

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

US ARMY CAPTAIN ALEX URSEL: The locals want it, we want it, you know, other military forces want it. Yeah, it’s definitely a threat to both the Iraqi populace as well as coalition forces.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, the US struggles to secure Iraq’s ammunition dumps.

KEITH PORTER: Plus, Iran’s devastating earthquake transcends tense US-Iran relations.

UNIDENTIFIED IRANIAN WOMAN: [via a translator] We would like our message to reach the American people, to say to them, the Iranian people has no enmity with the American people.

PORTER: And South Africa’s health train.

LILLIAN CINGO: It is crucial because the people we see perhaps don’t have a chance of seeing a doctor or a nurse at all. And some of the people like we have seen, have never seen a doctor or a nurse at all.

MCHUGH: These stories—coming up next.

[Musical interlude]

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Iraq Ammo Dumps

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MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. As the US and its allies continue to try and restore peace and security in Iraq, they’re facing an ongoing threat from loyalists to Saddam Hussein and possibly Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda organization. Car bombs and IEDs—improvised explosive devices—are being used in an almost-daily terror campaign. The targets—US troops and the Iraqis who are working with the US-led coalition. But where are the bombers getting their explosives? Common Ground‘s Simon Marks has this exclusive report from just outside Baghdad.

[The sound of vehicle driving into a military compound]

SIMON MARKS: It doesn’t look like much today, but Al Musayib, 25 miles south of Baghdad, used to be one of Saddam Hussein’s best-guarded military facilities.

[The vehicle honks its horn]

MARKS: Now, it’s in ruins. A visiting reporter can drive straight through the once closely-guarded main gate. And throughout the 10-square mile compound the remnants of war litter the roadside. The burned out shells of Iraqi army tanks and the destroyed barracks where the Republican Guard used to sleep all testify to the US-led targeting of Al Musayib when the war the unseat Saddam began.

US ARMY CAPTAIN ALEX URSEL: Looks like a fricking mortar round.

MARKS: But the scorched-earth policy that destroyed Al Musayib did not destroy everything here. Troops with the 82nd Airborne patrol the base on an occasional basis—and every time, they find yet more of the unexploded ammunition that litters the site. Today, Al Musayib could still pose a dangerous threat to the US military, its allies, and to ordinary Iraqi civilians, because the enormous ammunition storage facilities here are still full of live ordinance. We ran into Captain Alex Ursel of the 82nd Airborne during our visit to Al Musayib.

CAPTAIN URSEL: It’s just a huge ammo dump. And the locals want it, we want it, you know, other military forces want it. So yeah, it’s definitely a threat to both the Iraqi populace as well as coalition forces.

MARKS: A threat because anyone can do what we did—drive through the gates, come to the base, and quickly find explosives that could be used in terrorist attacks. In one abandoned storage facility we found enough propellant to fuel several large explosions—certainly enough, according to experts in explosives, to bring down a handful of Baghdad hotels. There are storage facilities like this all over Iraq—hundreds of them—and US forces acknowledge that many have already been looted.

CAPTAIN URSEL: Well, when our forces came in they just moved right through, took out all the bad guys and left the ordinance. And then, and so it was kind of a free-for-all for a while here.

MARKS: A free-for-all that could make life easier for the bombers who are targeting Baghdad. The explosives they need can be found right on their doorstep, and US officials say there’s simply too much unexploded ammunition on Iraqi soil for troops to secure all the ordinance all the time. But local officials argue the Americans and their allies simply aren’t doing a good enough job. Police officer Ali Hamsa Sultan, who guided us to Al Musayib, says the US needs to do more to secure the site.

ALI HAMSA SULTAN: [via a translator] All we want is security. We don’t want anyone of our fellow citizens to get killed. With the fuses that you saw over there, you could fill a car with two bags of that stuff, light a fuse, and you’d have a car bomb. Just from the materials you saw over there. Iraqis are not happy about this situation. We want the US military and the coalition to clean this up. It’s a danger to our children, it’s a danger to us, it’s a danger to everyone who comes to Iraq.

MARKS: But even if Al Musayib were put under lock and key right now, the ammunition that has already been stolen from the base could keep bombers in business for years to come. And if they run out of explosives and need some more, right now, all they need to do is drive 25 miles south of Baghdad and through Al Musayib’s gates.

[The vehicle driving through the base honks its horn]

MARKS: For Common Ground, I’m Simon Marks in Al Musayib, Iraq.

[Musical interlude]

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Iran Earthquake Relief

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MCHUGH: A destructive earthquake in Iran has set off tremors in tense US-Iran relations. Washington has not had diplomatic ties with Tehran since just after Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. But in the quake’s aftermath, the Islamic Republic has accepted American relief workers, while turning down another US offer to send a humanitarian mission led by Senator Elizabeth Dole. These steps are prompting both calls for a renewed dialogue and accusations of political maneuvering. Roxana Saberi reports from Bam, Iran.

[Sounds from the aftermath of the Iranian earthquake—people crying and wailing]

ROXANA SABERI: An earthquake that killed and injured tens of thousands of Iranians brought members of a country Tehran has called “The Great Satan” into a devastated scene—fraught with political consequences.

[The sound of American rescue workers unloading trucks, telling Iranian earthquake victims, “Just here to help, happy to help out.”]

[The sound of American rescue workers setting up tents]

SABERI: These American relief workers—from Fairfax County, Virginia, and Boston—recently set up a temporary camp in the southeastern Iranian city of Bam, joining an international effort to help earthquake victims. One of them, Dewey Perks, said his trip came at an important time.

DEWEY PERKS: So it’s a great honor to be here and it’s a great honor to be with the Iranian people, particularly during this tragic time. I mean, this is the biggest disaster we’ve seen.

SABERI: The US and Iran have had shaky relations since Washington cut ties with Tehran shortly after Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. The move came after Islamic militants took dozens of Americans hostage at the US Embassy in Tehran. But many of the Americans here, like Mr. Perks, said they simply came to help the people of Bam recover from the earthquake.

PERKS: We don’t do politics, we do humanitarian relief. And I think that’s what the important thing, is that we’re here as US citizens but we’re also here as responders to the international community.

SABERI: Since the disaster, Washington has temporarily lifted some economic sanctions, including a ban on sending US funds to Iran. It has also said the earthquake created some opportunity for dialogue, as long as Iran sticks to its international commitments. President Bush has listed the tasks Iran must fulfill to win more goodwill from Washington: extradite Al Qaeda members in its custody, end its alleged support for terrorist organizations, abandon its nuclear program, and, as he said, listen to the voices of those who long for freedom. Iranian leaders have reacted in various ways. Many have thanked the international community, including Americans, for their humanitarian aid in Bam. But several are also suspicious of Washington. Indeed, the Bush Administration has called Iran a member of an axis of evil and accused it of pursuing nuclear weapons, suppressing human rights, and supporting terrorism—all charges Tehran has denied.

[Sounds from an Iranian government cabinet meeting]

SABERI: Iran’s president Mohammad Khatami has told reporters that he foresees no change in tense US-Iran relations unless Washington changes its tone and behavior.

IRANIAN PRESIDENT MOHAMMAD KHATAMI: [via a translator] I hope the conditions that have occurred recently provide a reason for America to make some fundamental changes in its erroneous policies and to retract the baseless accusations it has made.

SABERI: Indeed, some Iranian leaders have argued Washington is trying to take political advantage of the situation. That’s one reason Tehran says it turned down a US offer to send a humanitarian mission headed by Senator Elizabeth Dole to Iran. But some analysts say it’s the powerful conservatives in Iran who are for now blocking efforts to reconcile with the US, worrying this would increase the popularity of reformists in government.

[The sound of US rescue workers setting up a portable hospital]

SABERI: Politics seem far from the relief efforts in Bam. As the Americans set up their temporary hospital, a group of hardliner Basiji women watch curiously. The women say they would like to exchange a few words with Dr. Susan Briggs, one of the heads of the American teams.

UNIDENTIFIED IRANIAN WOMAN: [via a translator] We would like our message to reach the American people, to say to them, the Iranian people has no enmity with the American people.

DR. SUSAN BRIGGS: It is my pleasure as an American and a doctor to once again be friends with Iran. I wish I were here when they didn’t have a tragedy, and I know it has been hard, particularly on the women, with their families and children, and I hope this helps a little bit.

[The sound of Dr. Briggs talking with the Iranian woman]

SABERI: The women thank one another and shake hands. It’s these impressions, many here hope, that will last between the people of the two countries, transcending international politics during a time of devastation and recovery. For Common Ground, I’m Roxana Saberi in Bam, Iran.

[Musical interlude]

PORTER: Malaysia’s controversial Bakun dam, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

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Borneo Dam Project

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PORTER: In 1998, 15,000 indigenous people were evacuated from their land in Malaysia to make way for the controversial Bakun dam. Government officials resettled most of them in model communities away from the dam’s future floodwaters. Residents there now complain, however, about difficulties earning a living and social problems such as crime and substance abuse. Meanwhile, other tribal people created their own village, where they continue to practice traditional culture and self-government. Common Ground correspondent Reese Erlich visited the area to find out whether people can maintain their cultural integrity even when their society is physically uprooted. His report is part of Worlds of Difference, a documentary series on global cultural change.

[The sound of a noisy town area]

REESE ERLICH: Twelve thousand of the indigenous people who lived above the Bakun Dam ended up here, in the twin towns of Asap and Koyan. The government built the towns from scratch, including a small number of shops now bustling with early evening shoppers.

[The sound of a noisy town area]

ERLICH: Five years ago, few of the locals wanted to move here. But now many acknowledge there were some benefits from leaving their isolated villages. Asap and Koyan have electricity, running water, and primary schools. Fifty-five-year-old farmer Laan Kulleh says now everyone has access to medical clinics.

LAAN KULLEH: [via a translator] When we lived in the old village, it was very difficult for women giving birth. Everyone was worried about safety of the mother. There is another advantage to living in the town. In terms of the young girls looking for husbands, it’s also easier here. We are not just one tribe from one village, but many different kinds of people mixing with each other.

ERLICH: Kulleh notes that change had been coming to her tribe, the Kenyah, even before the move. They had voluntarily stopped the tradition of long ears, for example. When Kulleh was a young woman, the elders had slit her earlobes and over many years allowed them to hang down 12 inches, weighted with jewelry.

KULLEH: [via a translator] We don’t cut the young girls earlobes like we used to. Some children are active in sports. They can’t run the 200 meter race with long ears! [laughing] On special occasions, we put the jewelry on a long piece of cloth and hang it over the ear to represent the old tradition.

ERLICH: But Kulleh and others say voluntarily changing traditions is one thing. It’s quite another to be forcibly moved by the Malaysian government. In the process, she says, they lost the unity and cultural traditions that had sustained their people for hundreds of years. It’s not that the government didn’t try to accommodate the tribes. It paid compensation. It provided farmland and built traditional long houses on stilts with wide verandahs.

[Sounds from a family’s busy long house]

ERLICH: But plenty went wrong, says farmer Nyagang Tapa. He sits cross legged on his verandah. Tapa complains that here in town alcoholism and glue sniffing have become major problems because people don’t have jobs.

NYAGANG TAPA: [via a translator] The young men, they abuse this alcohol and being fighting with others. The problem like glue sniffing; it’s not common in our old homes. It’s only here that we found glue sniffing.

[Sounds from a family’s busy long house]

ERLICH: People here in Asap and Koyan have maintained the traditional tribal system of elders and headmen. They try to resolve disputes among neighbors and punish minor offenses with fines. But residents can ignore tribal rulings and go straight to local courts and police. And, says farmer Kong Enchuk, the authorities aren’t very helpful.

KONG ENCHUK: [via a translator] To me personally, I don’t expect the police can solve the problem. Because whenever I see a problem, cases that they brought to the police, the police can always say that, “You people are always like that. You always argue between each other. That is the way of living you have here in Asap. We cannot do anything.”

ERLICH: Enchuk says lots of things have contributed to the social problems here. The compensation money is running out and people complain they can’t live off the government supplied land. A few entrepreneurs have benefited by setting up businesses, but Enchuk says most indigenous people would have preferred to stay on their original land near the Bakun dam.

KONG ENCHUK: [via a translator] In coming here I wanted to test the government. How true is the government to develop us? I want to see that.

[The sound of traditional Kenyah dance music]

ERLICH: Five years ago, another group of Kenyah rejected the move to the towns. They decided to establish a new village on tribal land high above the Bakun Dam, a three-hour journey from Asap and Koyan. It’s called Long Lawen. As a welcoming ceremony for visitors, villagers don beautifully embroidered straw hats and special vests to perform traditional dances. People gather here at the house of the headman.

[The sound of traditional Kenyah dance music]

ERLICH: An old woman moves slowly, arms curved and back arched to show beauty. Then a man takes the floor, stomping fiercely to simulate attacking the enemy. After a few hours, something unexpected happens. The dancing stops and villagers form an impromptu community meeting.

[People talking loudly in Kenyah]

ERLICH: Translator Sem Kiong explains what happened last night when one woman got drunk on home-made rice wine.

SEM KIONG: The lady drink and turning violent, she becoming so violent that everybody is running away from her. And this one lady, hit by her. Now, come to the attention of the elders in the community and now the community want to enforce the law of fine 500 ringgit because this is the second offense.

ERLICH: Five hundred ringgit, or about $130, is a lot of money in rural Malaysia. Sem says the village headman, Gara Jalong, has offered her a compromise.

SEM KIONG: Gara is also expecting that lady to come and apologize for what she has been doing. If she comes to apologize, they will reduce the fine, even to 50 ringgit.

ERLICH: Running a justice system, especially a traditional one based on consensus, is not easy. Some village elders want to enforce the 500 Ringgit penalty because they themselves paid fines in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED VILLAGE ELDER: [summarized by Sem Kiong in both first and third person] “I would like to challenge the elders here. You must go. Because I have been, I have paid mine,” he said. Because he has once been fined because of drinking. “So you have to chase them,” he said.

ERLICH: Just then, as if in a scene from a courtroom drama, a messenger who has met with the offender, walks up the steps to the longhouse verandah.

[The sound of a conversation between the messenger and the elders]

SEM KIONG: [summarizing the conversation] She accepts the fine, “But at the moment I don’t have any money to pay. I admit that I’m wrong so I accept to pay. But I cannot pay now.”

[roosters crowing]

ERLICH: As dawn breaks the next morning, it seems likely that the community will accept the apology and impose a smaller fine. Traditional justice is alive and well. Long Lawen villagers may have rejected the government’s resettlement plan, but they haven’t rejected modernity. Three years ago two American groups teamed up to bring light to the village. Green Empowerment of Portland, Oregon and the Borneo Project of Berkley, California developed a mini hydroelectric project to provide the village with power. Water from a small waterfall flows past a turbine.

[Sound of the humming turbine]

ERLICH: Villagers are trained to run the power station and install and maintain the wires to every longhouse. A man throws the switch and the longhouses light up.

[Sound of the humming turbine]

ERLICH: Liau Anyie, who was headman of the village when the project began, explains that the village collectively owns and maintains the system.

LIAU ANYIE: [via a translator] When the vines or tree branches grow over the electric lines, we are all responsible for trimming them back. From the very beginning to this day, there is no individual ownership of this mini hydro project. It is owned by the community as a whole.

[The sound of a man strumming his guitar during a rainstorm]

ERLICH: At night, people gather at the former headman’s longhouse, sometimes to play guitar, other times to watch soap operas. Long Lawen has only 400 people, so its problems are easier to handle than those in a town of 12,000. But villagers here say their decision to maintain democratic, traditional ways and not follow the government model was key. The villagers plan to continue operating their own power grid and governing themselves, while seeking assistance from the Malaysian government for an elementary school and medical clinic.

[The sound of a man strumming his guitar]

ERLICH: Then there’s the Bakun Dam, the construction of which led to the evacuation of the indigenous people in the first place. The $5 billion project that will flood 172,000 acres of primeval rain forest was originally scheduled for completion by 2003. But problems with financing and contractors have pushed that date to the end of 2007, at the earliest.

[Traditional Kenyah music]

ERLICH: For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich, Long Lowen, Sarawak State, Malaysia.

[Traditional Kenyah music]

PORTER: Worlds of Difference is a project of Homelands Productions. For more information about Long Lawen, visit our website at

[Traditional Kenyah music]

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African Health Train

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MCHUGH: In the 10 years since apartheid came to an end in South Africa the country has experienced many radical transformations and challenges, none more so than providing healthcare. Under apartheid the white population was given most of the resources and rural communities often received no healthcare at all. To help right these wrongs a health train was introduced. The train, called Phelophepa , train travels throughout the country and provides healthcare, education, and counseling to hundreds of thousands of South Africa’s rural poor. The driving force behind the train is two very determined women, who recently they traveled to New York to help raise funds. Nathan King reports.

[The sound of a cocktail reception]

NATHAN KING: It’s about as far away from rural South Africa as you can get—a cocktail reception in a stylish Manhattan venue. But this night was all about introducing wealthy American donors to a remarkable service run by two remarkable women. Lillian Cingo and Lynette Coetzee are a partnership that spans the racial divide that was South Africa and together they have run the Phelophepa health train. Phelophepa means good clean health in South Africa’s native Tswana and Sotho languages, and the 16-coach service travels 15,000 miles across South Africa’s vast rural areas providing much needed healthcare to tens of thousands of people. Lynette Coetzee says even after the Phelophepa train leaves a community its effects can be felt for years afterwards.

LYNETTE COETZEE: We train volunteers from the community in basic healthcare education. Now since we started in mid-1996 they have already reached another 3 million people with this message of good clean health

KING: The train is also about education and counseling. Traditional community leaders are educated on the safest way to conduct male circumcisions and as South Africa continues to be ravaged by the AIDS epidemic the train plays a vital role in HIV/AIDS education. Lillian Cingo says the train’s message of hope just keeps on spreading.

LILLIAN CINGO: What we have further done also is to make sure that we have got AIDS educators who go to the communities and stay there. Once the train moves they are there, they work with the people who have been trained; they make sure that the orphans are catered for, they see the people who have come out as having HIV and AIDS and support them.

KING: Of course, the train is expensive to run and so potential US sponsors were shown a video presentation of just how the train operates.

[The video plays at the reception: “The Phelophepa has grown to 16 cards. It offers a pharmacy, a classroom, consulting rooms, clinics for eye care, dentistry, psychology and counseling, and special outreach programs for the neediest people in South Africa.”]

KING: Phelophepa is staffed by volunteers. Many are student doctors who get their first experience of rural practice on the trains. Lillian Cingo.

CINGO: It is crucial because the people we see perhaps don’t have a chance of seeing a doctor or a nurse at all. And some of the people like we have seen, have never seen a doctor or a nurse at all. So we do education for people in the community so that when we leave those people at least can continue what we educated them on.

KING: South Africa has had a big internal debate about healthcare. The government has for years balked at the cost of providing AIDS drugs to the nearly 5 million people infected with the virus. Then there is the ongoing argument with the global drug companies over the cost of HIV/AIDS medicines. But the Phelophepa train is one healthcare solution that all can agree on and in New York the CEO of global drug giant Roche, Dr Franz Humer, announced that he was upping sponsorship of the health trains.

ROCHE CEO FRANZ HUMMER: There is enormous pride to see how it is grown and what it does today. From 3 wagons to over 16 wagons, treating nearly half a million of people who otherwise would not have access to healthcare. That’s a fabulous achievement. If we can build on that and make that grow we are doing something really fundamental.

KING: The women who run Phelophepa’s train aim to expand the service and get at least 70 percent of the costs met from outside sponsorship. Judging by the reaction to this remarkable train in New York, much needed money to keep the service going will be forthcoming.

[Loud applause from the fundraising reception]

KING: For Common Ground, I’m Nathan King in New York.

PORTER: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: I’m Kristin McHugh.

KEITH PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, working together to prevent genocide.

UNITED NATIONS ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS JANE LUTE: The challenge of governance has become so difficult that one can see how governments have turned to each other to help with their governance burden. They have developed a well-tuned ear to listen to each other.

PORTER: Plus, China’s influence on North Korea. And, China’s newest business trend.

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Atrocities Conference

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MCHUGH: When 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust during World War Two the international community vowed “Never again.” But atrocities and mass killings did not end there. Cambodia, countries in Africa, and regions in the Balkans are still reeling from their own genocides. And the world is still trying to find a way to prevent these kind of events. Not long ago, the State Department sponsored a conference to explore how governments can work with NGOs and businesses to do just that. Judith Smelser reports.

[Sounds from a refugee camp]

JUDITH SMELSER: In 1994, some 800,000 people in the African nation of Rwanda were murdered in a systematic campaign against the Tutsi ethnic group. Around two million people fled the country and ended up in sprawling refugee camps like this one.

[Sounds from a refugee camp]

SMELSER: International humanitarian aid groups were operating in the country during the lead-up to the genocide, but they never sounded the alarm.

FATHER BILL HEADLEY: We had been in Rwanda for about 30 years.

SMELSER: Father Bill Headley is with Catholic Relief Services.

FATHER HEADLEY: Relief and development, that’s what we did. And we saw the tensions that were there, but it wasn’t part of our mandate, so we really did not address that. And then the awful genocide happened, and it caused a very deep soul searching within the agency itself.

SMELSER: As a result of that soul-searching, Catholic Relief Services decided to integrate what it calls peace building efforts into its mission. Father Headley gives the example of the small loans his organization gives to support local economic projects.

FATHER HEADLEY: You might say to yourself, well, we’ll give it to this ethnic group or that ethnic group. We might, informed by peace building skills, say no, the best thing to do is to get a mixed group and to give them the funding and work with some of these tensions within a small, micro-type of situation.

SMELSER: Some State Department officials hope to find a way to coordinate the Department’s own conflict prevention efforts with programs like this one in the private sector. The keynote speaker at the Department’s atrocities prevention conference was the United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jane Lute. She says the public and private sector each have important roles to play.

UNITED NATIONS ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS JANE LUTE: Governments have the advantages of scale. They can do things that very, that cost a lot of money in a very big way, especially if they involve troops, for example.

SMELSER: And the private sector?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL LUTE: It has the advantage, in my view, of intimacy. It comes to know very well people and leaders themselves in crisis, the attributes of a particular circumstance under which mass violence might be imminent.

SMELSER: Lute says governments are starting to develop a culture of listening to and respecting the opinions of nongovernmental organizations, in part out of self preservation.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL LUTE: Over the past, you know, perhaps 100 years, but certainly the past 50 years, the challenge of governance has become so difficult that one can see how governments have turned to each other to help with their governance burden. They have developed a well tuned ear to listen to each other. They are increasingly listening to the private sector, and in part because private sector individuals are now rotating through government in many more countries than was previously the case and because the governments must look for fresh ways to try and deal with the problems they confront.

[Sounds of combat from the 2003 civil war in Liberia]

SMELSER: Last summer, tensions were running high in Liberia, as the insurgency against President Charles Taylor was heating up. There were demands that the international community—and particularly the United States—should intervene. This time, the NGO voice was heard. Again, Father Bill Headley of Catholic Relief Services.

FATHER HEADLEY: The Archbishop from Liberia, Michael Francis, came to the States and tried to make a passionate plea for United States troops to come and just sort things out there in a very containing sort of way, peace-making sort of way. And we managed, worked with him to see that he saw appropriate senators and spent some time with administration leaders, and then we went up and we spent some time with the Secretary General of the UN.

SMELSER: A small contingent of US troops was subsequently deployed to Liberia. President Taylor resigned and went into exile, and the rebels agreed to a peace deal. Some say that deal is tenuous, but an immediate escalation of violence was averted. In addition to NGO involvement in conflict prevention, the organizers of the State Department’s conference believe business also has a role to play. In recent years, there’s been a growing consensus that multinational corporations have a duty to strengthen and protect the societies they profit from. This has evolved into business involvement in setting standards for fair labor, human rights, and economic accountability. Conference participant Jonas Moberg is with the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum in London. He says corporations have also contributed to conflict mitigation efforts. He points to oil giant British Petroleum’s involvement in Colombia.

JONAS MOBERG: Since they started to work more strategically with the community and government—and local government—I think we’ve seen a stabilization around their operations, so I think that, that is a good example. I think also, if you look at DeBeers, the big mining giant, it engaged with a number of nongovernmental organizations and governments on a scheme to certify diamonds and to make sure the diamonds are mined in the right way. And I think that has stopped funding of a number of guerrilla groups and so on in Africa.

SMELSER: It’s just that kind of cooperation that the State Department wants to explore. But Moberg warns that, while businesses recognize their self-interest in doing this kind of work, other players in the conflict prevention game must respect the corporate culture.

MOBERG: Governments and academics and NGOs have to remember that the private sector is very result-oriented. You can’t hang around discussing too much. You have to see where it is leading. Also, it has to be relevant to the company. Don’t ask a company that isn’t active in Nigeria to sponsor something there.

SMELSER: Moberg believes that if those concerns are taken into account, businesses will be happy to do their part towards preventing conflict and atrocities. There are obstacles to public-private coordination on these issues. Some NGOs, for example, are wary of cooperating too closely with any one government for fear of losing their perception of neutrality. But many at this conference believe that pooling the resources and skills of governments, NGOs, and businesses may be the best, and possibly the only way, to keep sounds like these from being heard again and again.

[The sound of Liberian women wailing during their civil war]

SMELSER: For Common Ground, I’m Judith Smelser in Washington.

[Musical interlude]

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China-North Korea Relations

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PORTER: Earlier this year an unofficial delegation of Americans was allowed to peek behind the curtain of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But on the official diplomatic front, the United States and China, along with Japan and South Korea, are still trying to persuade North Korea to resume talks on dismantling the program. A six-way set of negotiations, which also included Russia, was held in Beijing last summer, but ended without an agreement. North Korea admitted more than a year ago it was developing a secret nuclear weapons program. China was finally able to persuade North Korea to meet with the United States last spring for a first round of negotiations. Recently, Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman asked East Asia expert Bradley Babson about China’s strong influence on North Korea.

BRADLEY BABSON: The most important reason is that China provides North Korea with about as much economic assistance as the rest of the world combined, both in the form of subsidized trade and direct aid. And after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, China became the only of its previous supporters to continue to support North Korea in those ways, as North Korea began to turn to the international community for help on the food problems and through CATO on the oil deficit that they experienced after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the reality is that China is a major benefactor for North Korea and that’s one reason why they listen to China. Now, historically of course, China intervened to help them in the Korean War and as a result they have had a very important security relationship from the very beginning. This was diminished somewhat when China decided in 1993—early 1993, to recognize South Korea and to pursue a two-China policy. And so since then there has been a certain awkwardness in the relationship. But the reality is that China still has provided the economic support that has helped North Korea through a very difficult period in the last decade as their economy has experienced major shocks due largely to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

CLIFF BROCKMAN: How would you characterize China’s North Korean relationship, then?

BABSON: I would characterize it as awkward. The Chinese are the first to say that, don’t expect that they can deliver North Korea, that it’s a difficult relationship for them even though it is a deep relationship over many years. North Koreans have a habit of doing things their own way and a recent example of that was when about a year ago they created this special administrative zone in Sinuiju, on the China border and appointed a Chinese citizen as the administrator without really consulting China. And the Chinese subsequently put him under house arrest because he was under investigation for tax problems in China and I think that incident illustrates a kind of level of communication and awkwardness in the relationship that exists.

Now the other major issue at the moment is North Korea’s declared nuclear program. China clearly does not feel that it is good for China for North Korea to proceed to develop its own nuclear program and has made that very public in the recent months. And for that reason China has decided to play a much more proactive role in trying to bring the various countries concerned about the nuclear problem together and through this six-party talk process to try to find negotiated ways to solve the problem. So China’s willingness to play that role is important for North Korean-Chinese relations in helping North Korea to feel willing to come to that kind of a framework and relying on a certain kind of competences in their relationship with, with China to do that. But at the same time the Chinese are pushing them and in, I think it was in last April, China experienced technical problems in oil deliveries to North Korea for a couple of days, to, which is the first time they’ve been willing to sort of send a signal through their economic relationship that they really wanted some good behavior on the part of North Korea. So I think we’re seeing an evolution of the relationship between China and North Korea, one that probably is very good from the point of view of American interests of finding ways to work with China to address issues that both we and China feel are important to be accomplished and dealt with. But it is a period of change in North Korea’s relationship with China.

BROCKMAN: The talks, what is the ultimate outcome that China hopes to see. What would be the perfect ending for them?

BABSON: I don’t think perfect is a word that China would use. But I think that what they would hope for is an ending where there is an end of North Korea’s declared nuclear capabilities and a comfort for China as well as other countries that this was not going to reappear. I think China would also like to see the reconciliation process of the two Koreas proceed in a stable way, not instantaneous reunification with a lot of destabilization. They certainly would not want to see refugees flowing across the border in large numbers. But they would like to see the economic problems of North Korea being addressed because they are contributing to the refugee issues now and they are an undercurrent of destabilization in North Korea. So I think out of this process China would very much like to see not only a resolution of this nuclear problem but also ways to help North Korea get back on its feet, to become more integrated in the regional economy with its help and with South Korea, Japan, and the international community, to have a multilateral support system pout around this process of helping North Korea transform itself into a more normal member of the international community. And to have support of the international community in dealing with some of the overflow issues like the refugee problem so that they don’t add to an already burdened China situation on the Chinese border.

BROCKMAN: Speaking of the refugees, earlier our program carried a story about the kind of underground railroad that’s developed to help North Koreans escape into China. How does China view that and how are they likely to deal with North Korea on that, that issue?

BABSON: China is quite concerned about this because they have to deal with the impact both in terms of their population on that side of the border and the groups that are coming in to try to facilitate this and the way they behave and the way that various countries deal with asylum questions. Ultimately many of these people end up back in South Korea after traveling to third countries and China has supported those kind of efforts. But in any scale, the scale has been growing. And this is obviously of concern and they would not like to see a large scale evolution and recently moved to move some of their army units onto the border to strengthen border control. And I think that can be taken as a signal that China would like to not make it any easier for the North Korean problem to become a China problem.

BROCKMAN: What might we expect to see China do in the future to advance their agenda on this issue of their relationship with North Korea?

BABSON: It’s very important that China decided to take a proactive role in shuttle diplomacy to get the six-party talk process off the ground. The fact that they were willing to send senior officials to Pyongyang and to Washington and to work informally with all of the countries concerned—Russia and South Korea and Japan as well as North Korea and the United States—the activism of China in bringing everybody together and helping to orchestrate understandings that would bring people bring people to the table I think is a new development. Very significant beyond the North Korean issue, that they’re stepping up to the plate and taking some leadership on problem solving among countries in the region. I think that beyond that and their continuing effort and the prestige now that they have put on the line in this six-party talk process, the question is how does North Korea continue to influence or create incentives for this process to go forward? Are they, and to what extent are they willing to use pressure as well as positive incentives. I think everyone is expecting that if North Korea continues to find reasons not to move forward, certainly in the United States there are people who would like to put more pressure on them. And the question is, “Is China going to be willing to do that?” As I mentioned, there is a significant economic relationship and we’ve seen that China’s support for North Korea has increased in the first six months of 2003 to make up for some of the shortfalls—loss of the CATO oil, the shortfall in the UN food assistance. China is making up some of those differences. So a big question is how China decides to use its economic leverage in the dynamics of encouraging the negotiation process to go forward.

BROCKMAN: Bradley Babson is retired from the World Bank and is currently an independent consultant on East Asia. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.

MCHUGH: Coming up next, China’s entrepreneurs. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

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China Entrepreneurs

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PORTER: If you want to predict the next big thing in China’s business world, many analysts say that you should look to the grassroots of the mainland’s thriving economy. As Celia Hatton reports from Beijing, more and more of China’s best and brightest are shunning the chance to work at government-run corporations in order to start their own small businesses.

[The sound of Chinese entrepreneur Jennifer Nie chatting with her customers]

CELIA HATTON: Jennifer Nie has caught the entrepreneurial spirit. A young mother who has worked at several foreign companies in Beijing, she’s now choosing to invest her money in her own business—a small embroidery shop. She says that many young people are choosing to work as their own bosses.

JENNIFER NIE: They invest their own monies into their own small business immediately. The purpose is not only for earning the money. I think the purpose is they can realize who they are, what they are doing, and they can satisfy themselves.

HATTON: More and more young Chinese are rejecting the chance to work in the huge state-owned enterprises that dominated their parents’ generation—a time where most people spent their whole careers working for a single employer.

[Sounds of people talking at an office]

HATTON: At the offices of China Entrepreneur magazine in Beijing, Chief Editor Niu Wen Wen says that many young people in China don’t have the patience to pay their dues in a state-owned company while the booming Chinese economy passes them by.

NIU WEN: [summarized by Ms. Hatton] “They don’t want to carefully seek a company where they have to move up level by level,” he says, to wait 10 years before they are promoted. “Instead, they want to do it by themselves, using just two or three guys. They want to take the chance to see whether they will succeed or whether they will fail.”

HATTON: One of the magazine’s recent editions named 21 rising entrepreneurs in China, the majority of them in their thirties. Judging by the data available, Mr. Niu predicts that China’s private sector will soon be dominated by up and coming entrepreneurs.

[The sound of people talking and a clacking computer keyboard]

HATTON: At the offices of this startup technology company in Beijing’s computer district, no one seems to be over the age of 30. This growing business was founded by a group of friends who had just graduated with advanced degrees in computer science. The 28-year-old general manager, Sun Xiao Bin, says they were worried their creativity would be stifled in a big state-owned company.

SUN XIAO BIN: [summarized by Ms. Hatton] He says “People think, ‘Since I’m capable and since every job is stressful, why not strike out on my own?'”

HATTON: Government red tape still makes starting a new business difficult. Most Chinese entrepreneurs have little control over their own intellectual property and have trouble getting financing from state-owned banks. Nonetheless, in the past 20 years, about 30 million private enterprises have started in mainland China. A study by Beijing’s Tsinghua University estimates that 12 percent of Chinese citizens now own their own companies.

[The sound of Chinese entrepreneur Jennifer Nie chatting with her customers]

HATTON: Jennifer Nie’s small shop has tripled in size since it first opened two years ago, although the store was hard hit by the SARS epidemic last spring. However, she remains confident that she is on the right career path:

JENNIFER NIE: I think that I know what I want to do. That’s the most important things.

HATTON: It seems that for this business owner, it’s not the size of the business that’s important, it’s the pleasure of working for herself. For Common Ground, I’m Celia Hatton in Beijing.

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security

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