Global economies unite! You have nothing to lose but your export tariffs! That was the message from Vice Minister of Commerce Jiang Zengwei, who claimed that Beijing’s economic stimulus plans do not include “Buy China” provisions. This is, of course, in contrast to the pork-stuffed American stimulus plan, and unlike the captains of India’s trade policy, who are manning the ramparts to protect India from Chinese toys … and penicillin, hot-rolled steel, linen, and so on. But does this magnanimous attitude earn foreign gratitude? Not much. Rio Tinto’s chairman-in-waiting declared he would prefer to be former-chairman-in-waiting than accept Aluminum Corp of China’s help in working off a trifling US$39 billion in debt. To add injury to insult, the Democratic Republic of Congo is reconsidering a US$9 billion contract with China to exchange infrastructure (built by your friendly neighborhood Chinese state-owned enterprise, of course) for minerals. The Congolese got cold feet when Western donors threatened to withhold relief on the country’s US$11 billion in historical debt unless financial guarantees made to the Chinese were axed from the deal. Put simply, they won’t help out with one debt while Congo potentially runs up another. In protest against small-minded, niggling foreign trade officials, or in celebration of the Lunar New Year, or out of a pathological passion for gunpowder, it looks like Chinese fireworks aficionados have managed to burn down an unfinished, Rem Koolhaas-designed ziggurat hotel in Beijing. Early reports say no one was seriously hurt.
Update: Reports from sources including the Shanghai Daily now indicate at least one person may have been killed in the blaze.