Archive for the 'China' Category
Posted by Jonathan on 31st January 2015 (All posts by Jonathan)
From “Raw Materials for War” by John Steele Gordon:
Still, many thought that globalization made war between the great powers impossible. In 1909, the British journalist Norman Angell wrote an internationally best-selling book, “The Great Illusion,” that argued that financial interdependence and the great growth in credit made war self-defeating, since it would result in financial ruin for both victor and vanquished.
Angell was dead wrong. (Oddly, it didn’t prevent him from winning the 1933 Nobel Peace Prize.) Extensive trade and financial relations did not stop Germany from declaring war on both Britain and Russia, its two largest trading partners, in 1914.
(Gordon is reviewing When Globalization Fails by James Macdonald.)
A couple of thoughts:
-“When globalization fails” might not be the best title. The real theme of the book appears to be complacency and overconfidence.
-The fact that China holds large amounts of US debt and is economically intertwined with the West may not be proof against war.
Anything is possible, and sometimes the odds aren’t what they appear to be.
Posted in Book Notes, China, Current Events, Iran, National Security, Predictions, Quotations, War and Peace | 2 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 6th January 2015 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
The world weighs on my shoulders, but what am I to do?
You sometimes drive me crazy, but I worry about you
I know it makes no difference to what you’re going through
But I see the tip of the iceberg, and I worry about you …
– Neil Peart, Distant Early Warning
But wouldn’t it be luxury to fight in a war some time where, when you were surrounded, you could surrender?
– Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
Reading through background material on the UN’s recent request for $16.4 billion in humanitarian aid in 2015, I find that the number of displaced people was already at its highest since World War II at the end of 2013, and has risen by several million since then. Nearly all are somewhere inside or on the perimeter of the Muslim world, with Ukraine the only sizeable exception. My sense, in which I am hardly alone, is that we are reliving the mid-1930s, with aggression unchecked and chaos unmitigated by morally exhausted Western institutions. That “low dishonest decade” ended in global war with a per capita death toll around 1 in 40. A proportional event a few years from now would kill 200 million people.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Americas, Anti-Americanism, Book Notes, China, Christianity, Current Events, Ebola, Elections, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, India, International Affairs, Islam, Latin America, Libertarianism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Predictions, Society, Space, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 31 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 31st December 2014 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
It is my assertion that over the last few decades since the fall of communism a lack of understanding of how markets actually work has become commonplace around the world. When it was capitalism vs. communism (or socialism, or even fascism), you generally knew where you stood. To wit:
- Capitalism said that the free market would provide the best outcome for society, while communism / socialism felt that capitalism had to be tempered and / or that key assets should be owned by the state
- Capitalism said that government should be small, and stick to a few areas of logical focus such as security and foreign affairs, while socialism / communism celebrated government and government jobs as a way to employ the citizenry and achieve social goals
Subtly, the growing attraction of jobs that were primarily in the government sector (environmental jobs, education jobs, health care jobs, and outright government work) and the basic thought that you could build a nice, steady career there with assured benefits and pensions while “doing right for the world” became commonplace. These jobs were often seen as “nicer” and “better” than the ruthless corporate jobs that are continually vilified or parodied on television (such as “The Office” or virtually any thriller set in business).
On a parallel scale, the idea that “State Owned Enterprises” (SOE) could be a significant part of the world economy, and compete effectively with private sector companies, became widespread. Let’s leave aside the companies that fell into the US governments’ hands during 2008-9 like the banks and car companies; I am focusing on the world wide companies, often country “champions”, that are in our midst and whose performance has now been hit with the usual causes of failure of these sorts of entities, including:
- Politically motivated investment
- Forced government subsidies or protectionist behavior
The “poster child” for this negative outcome is Petrobras
, the Brazilian oil company, which is 64% owned by the state. Petrobras was briefly the 4th most valuable company in the world after their 2010 IPO; now it is barely in the top 100. Petrobras hits all these typical failure points with a vengeance. The government forced them to purchase goods and services from inefficient Brazilian suppliers, subsidized their citizens with Petrobras funds, pushed them to invest in deep offshore finds which were risky relative to the company’s capabilities, and finally just engaged in simple corruption to fund their political party candidates. All of these actions weakened the company and now a downturn in oil prices and a heavy debt load put the company in a seriously bad state.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Business, China, Crony Capitalism, Economics & Finance, Education | 20 Comments »
Posted by T. Greer on 30th December 2014 (All posts by T. Greer)
This post was originally posted at The Scholars Stage on the 27th December, 2014. It has been re-posted here without alteration.
|Shandong is the red one.
Map by Uwe Dedering. Wikimedia.
Things are looking up for President Xi Jinping. Arthur Groeber sums things up well in a challenge he recently gave China File readers: “Name one world leader with a better record.”  Mr. Groeber has a point. All those who predicted that the Hong Kong umbrella movement would prove an impossible crisis for President Xi have been proven wrong. The protestors are gone, but Xi is still around, signing energy deals with Russia, launching new international development banks, and even shaking Shinzo Abe’s hand. He has restructured the Chinese Communist Party’s most important policy bodies, and if the recently concluded 4th Plenum Communique is anything to judge by, more reforms are coming. One domestic rival and crooked official after another has fallen to his anti-corruption campaign, which having felled 200,000 “tigers and flies” is now tearing into the once unassailable PLA. To top things off, sometime this summer Xi Jinping’s countrymen began calling him “Big Daddy Xi.” The term is a compliment: President Xi is now the most popular leader on the planet.
|Aesop’s portrait of Xi Jinping
“The Frogs Who Desired a King”
Illustration by Milo Winter (1919). Wikimedia.
For all of these reasons and more Xi Jinping is considered to be the most powerful leader China has seen since the days of Deng Xiaoping. Yet the real test of Xi Jinping’s power isn’t found on the foreign arena or in struggles to cleanse the party of graft. Grand standing on the international stage and stoking up nationalist feeling is not hard for any leader–especially in China. The attempt to centralize the Communist Party of China and purge the corrupt from its ranks is a much more impressive display, but in many ways this entire campaign is more a means than it is an end. What end? An obvious answer is that the good President pursues power for power’s sake, as leaders the world over are wont to do. But there is more to it than this. This man did not attain his high position through will-power alone. He was selected to accomplish a job that needs doing. And while the frogs may regret crowning the stork to be their king, it is worth our while to ask why the frogs desired a king in the first place.  In China’s case the answer is fairly simple: If Beijing does not want to see its own Japan-style “lost decade” then economic reform is needed, and it is needed urgently. Xi Jinping has been trusted with the power to reshape the Party because that is the kind of power that is needed to defeat the vested interests that stand in the way of economic liberalization.
I won’t get into a full discussion of why reform is so urgent here–if you are curious I strongly recommend Michael Pettis‘ September essay, “What Does a ‘Good’ Chinese Adjustment Look Like?” which lays out the essential points in detail. More important for our discussion is the pace and scale that these reforms take. The 2013 Third Plenum was devoted to this question; financial analysts have been abuzz ever since discussing how well the Plenum’s directives are being implemented. Of particular concern are the financial happenings at the county, city, and provincial levels. It was infrastructure spending by these governments that rode China through the recession, and that effort has left many of these governments over leveraged and left others liable for a host of non-performing loans. Reforming this system is necessary. It is also difficult, for it means slaughtering the favorite cash cows of powerful men and forcing China’s wealthy and connected to face the risk inherit in their poor investments instead of shifting losses to the state.
Two views of China’s local debt, by province.
Taken from Gabriel Wildau, “Half of Chinese Provinces deserve junk ratings, S&P warns,”
Financial Times (20 November 2014)
Any attempt to liberalize markets and end China’s financial repression must start here. By extension, any attempt to assess the power Xi Jinping has over the Party must also start here. We will know that Xi Jinping has the level of control over his country that everyone says he does when local government finances see substantive reforms. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in China, Economics & Finance | 8 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 30th November 2014 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
For many years I’ve studied the Russian front during WW2, where the Germans and their allies battled the Russians (and their empire) in some of the largest and deadliest battles on earth. The war went far beyond the battlefield, with the Russians taking over the ancient German capital of Prussia, evicting / killing all the (remaining) citizens, and turning it into today’s Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. This is fair desserts; the Germans planned to turn Moscow into a reservoir. That war was about annihilation, a complete extermination and permanent subjugation of their foes.
In recent years I’ve tried to turn away from this focus, since I didn’t think that this conflict, ancient by modern standards, had much to teach us anymore, and just following along a well-worn narrative was teaching me nothing. And I did move on, reading about more modern conflicts, and today’s volunteer and high-tech military as opposed to the “old world” of conscripts, artillery, heavy armor, utter destruction of cities and the civilians trapped inside them, and political control superseding military objectives.
The Russian armed forces also seemed to be gliding towards irrelevance, other than their ubiquitous nuclear weapons. Their performance in Chechnya was poor until they basically razed (their own) cities into ruin with heavy artillery fire; to this day I don’t understand why this wasn’t called out as a giant atrocity. In Georgia they were able to beat a tiny, poorly armed adversary, but their motorized divisions seemed to be driving by compass and they did not cover themselves in military glory. Their military transitions from conscript forces with older weapons and tactics also seemed to be foundering in the face of objections from old-line military-industrial complexes.
When Ukraine slipped out of Russia’s orbit and the vast presidential compound of the ex-president was paraded on TV worldwide, Putin obviously viewed this as a direct threat to his authority. The Russians historically had been at odds with the Ukrainians over natural gas prices and on other topics, but it wasn’t obvious that this was going to move into a warlike situation. Ukraine is rich with agricultural resources but these resources aren’t prized by the Kremlin; they need easily extractable resources like oil, natural gas and various iron ores that they can pull out of the ground and sell for hard cash overseas. John McCain’s recurring joke that Russia isn’t much more than a gas station with nuclear weapons in fact has a lot of merit. Other than around Moscow, parts of St Petersburg, and in “showplace” locations like Sochi and Vladivostok Russia in fact was falling into ruin and shambles.
But something was happening; the Russian forces that invaded the Crimea (even though they were never formally identified as Russians) appeared to be well organized and well armed. It was not the “Keystone Cops” group that I might have expected. They handled themselves with relative distinction, fulfilling their objectives with limited civilian casualties and using discretion against the Ukrainian military forces they encountered. This was the complete opposite of the blundering incursions into Chechnya.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in China, Economics & Finance, Military Affairs, Russia | 59 Comments »
Posted by Helen on 18th November 2014 (All posts by Helen)
The lunchtime meeting today had been organized by the Henry Jackson Society, the Left’s particular bugbear, in the House of Commons (luckily in one of the committee rooms where the acoustics were good and the mikes worked). The guest was the eminent academic and commentator, Professor Walter Russell Mead and his topic was an obvious riff on a once highly influential book by Professor Francis Fukuyama: The Crisis in Europe: the Return of History and what to do about it.
As one would expect, Professor Mead gave a very cogent and exhilarating analysis of the many problems the world is facing today but, as a journalist from Die Welt pointed out, we have all heard a great many depressing talks and read a great many even more depressing articles of that kind recently. What did Professor Mead think were some of the answers?
Professor Mead’s main solution was (and, to be fair, we were coming to the end of the session but, to be equally fair, that was supposed to be part of the presentation) that the US should restore its interest in Europe and re-engage in a dialogue with its European partners. Or, in other words, as he said the Lone Ranger, having ridden away, should now return (no word of how Tonto might feel about that).
The European Union, Professor Mead explained, was American foreign policy’s greatest accomplishment; it had been one of the aims of the Marshall Plan (some stretching of history here), had been supported diplomatically and politically throughout its history but has, to some extent been left to its own devices in the last few years. The US underestimated the difficulties European weakness and lack of cohesion will cause to it. Having, as it thought, defeated the bad guys (twice, presumably), knocked all the European heads together, the US announced that it will do what the European had always said they wanted and that is leave them all alone. Apparently, that is not what the Europeans wanted deep down and it is time to recognize this fact.
We’ll be over, we’re coming over
And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.
Well, that’s fine, except that it would appear that it is never going to be over, over here. We saw that when Yugoslavia disintegrated into a series of wars in the nineties, the EU though the egregious Jacques Poos announced that “this was Europe’s hour” only to plead with the Americans to come back and sort the mess out after all. It seems that they will have to come back again in the sense of taking greater interest in this pesky little continent and its pesky problems.
Is that really the answer? Obviously, as an Atlanticist and an Anglospherist I want to see a continuation of the existing links between certain European countries and the United States, adding Canada, Australia and New Zealand into that network. But would a greater involvement by the US in the EU’s problems really help anyone? Somehow, I doubt it.
I got a little carried away with my blogging and had to put up two posts on Your Freedom and Ours on the subject of Professor Mead’s presentation, the discussion and my own opinions. So here they are: Post 1 and Post 2.
Posted in Britain, China, Europe, Iran, USA | 15 Comments »
Posted by T. Greer on 6th October 2014 (All posts by T. Greer)
Originally posted at The Scholar’s Stage on 6 October 2014.
Note by the author: I cannot take credit for most of the ideas and observations I present below. The protests in Hong Kong are now in their eighth day. Since they began last week a great amount has been written about why these protests are happening and what their eventual outcome may be. It has been disappointing to see astute voices and analysis drowned out by fairly insipid primers and listicles. This post aims to remedy the situation by blending the best insights from the best China hands into one essay. If you would like to explore the material that inspired this post (or follow this story more closely in the future), I invite you to consult the “Further Reading” section at the bottom.
At the time of this writing Hong Kong has returned to a semblance of normalcy. The protests may flare up again before the week is over, but we can take advantage of the present lull to assess what has been accomplished thus far and what hope the movement has of compelling the government to meet its demands in the future. The last eight days have been an emotional affair. Most of the discussions I have had about the protests have also been emotional affairs—especially when someone from the mainland or from Hong Kong is participating. This post is different. I am not interested in arguing about which side is right or wrong but in assessing the probability of either side forcing the other to cede to its demands.
Lets start with the protestors.
What are the protestor’s demands?
- When the protests began the protestors rallied around two demands:
Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying (hereafter CY Leung) will step down.
- Hong Kong will institute a democratic system where candidates for popular election are chosen by voters, not a committee selected by the Communist Party of China.
The original body of protestors who demanded these things were organized by two groups, the Hong Kong Federation of Students (香港專上學生聯會, abbrv. 香港學聯, or just 學聯), composed of Hong Kong university students, and Scholarism (學民思潮), headed by 17 year old Joshua Wong and mostly composed of youth about his age. The famous photos of umbrella clad youth being pepper sprayed as they charged government lines were of these folks.
They were joined by a third group, known as Occupy Central with Peace and Love, or Occupy Central for short (讓愛與和平佔領中環, abr.佔中), on the second day of the protest. Occupy is a different sort of beast than the other two organizations; it is run by seasoned political activists and university professors who have been planning a civil disobedience campaign to protest the 2017 election reforms since early 2013. They had planned to start the protest on October 1st (the PRC’s National Day, the closest equivalent China has to the 4th of July), but when the clashes between students and police escalated on Friday (Sept 26th) they decided to abandon their original plan and join the protestors. Had they been in charge of the show from the beginning I am not sure they would have made the same demands—at least in the beginning—that the students did. But they came late to the party and have to deal with what the students’ demands hath wrought.
There are two important things about these groups we must remember when assessing the protestors’ strategy and the government’s response to it: Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in China, Elections | 8 Comments »
Posted by T. Greer on 7th September 2014 (All posts by T. Greer)
|A modern depiction of Huo Qubing’s cavalry charging a surprised Xiongnu force.
The 3,000 years of recorded Chinese history are full of bloodshed and war. In times of strength and union the Chinese warred with ‘barbarian’ peoples on the frontier; in days of disunion they fought bitter wars against each other. Very little of this history is known by Western readers, and to be frank, there are not many books English speakers can pick up to fill this gap in their education. Narrative accounts of most of China’s famous conflicts simply do not exist–not in English anyway. Getting a handle on any of these wars usually requires reading numerous works on narrower topics that mention Chinese military campaigns and grand strategy in passing. There is a pressing need for treatments of these wars (to say nothing of the broader history of Chinese strategic thought) that can be understood by Westerners not versed in Sinological conventions.
A few months ago Edward Luttwak published an essay on one the most significant wars of Chinese antiquity, the eighty year conflict between the Han Dynasty and the Xiongnu steppe confederation (133-53 BC). This was the first war in Chinese history between a nomadic empire of central Asia and a centralized Chinese dynasty. The scale of this conflict had no precedents in world history and was one of the most extraordinary events of the ancient world. The Han dynasty’s victory required the mobilization of 12 million men, campaigns in theaters 3,000 miles apart, and eight decades of fighting on the steppe.
Mr.Luttwak’s essay, which contends that this experience left an enduring impact on the Chinese psyche that can be seen in China’s foreign policy today, presents a deeply flawed account of the war. In response I have written a more accurate account of Han-Xiongnu relations and the first great barbarian war of Chinese history. ChicagoBoyz readers interested in military history, the ancient world, or contemporary Chinese strategy will find it of interest.
The first part, which summarizes Luttwak’s essay and sketches the Han’s antebellum strategy for dealing with the nomads, can be read here.
The second part, which narrates the course of the war itself and analyzes the tactics the Han used to defeat the Xiongnu, can be read here.
I welcome comments from ChicagoBoyz readers on the contents of either post.
Posted in China, History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 7 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 25th July 2014 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
This Friday column on Chicago Boyz is normally reserved for the unknown stories of the End of World War 2 (WW2) in the Pacific, aimed at answering the question of “How would the American military have fought the Imperial Japanese in November 1945 had the A-bomb failed?” Today’s column, takes a completely different tack from any previous History Friday column. Rather than deconstructing the P-51 narrative, being a book review — See this link and this link — or exploring the moral character of the IDF’s Barak Brigade on the Golan Heights in 1973, this column will use the military geography of the past to explore the near future. And in specific, it will use the military geography of the 1945 Okinawa campaign and the proposed invasion of Japan, to explore the patterns of “future history” between Japan and China in the coming age of Unmanned Warfare. It is a column about China’s coming “Days of Future Past.”
The U.S. Air Force has deployed two of the unarmed Global Hawk aircraft to Japan for the first time at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. This move greatly enhances the U.S. military’s efforts to monitor nuclear activities in North Korea, Chinese naval operations in the region and respond to natural disasters and assist in humanitarian aid operations.
To begin at the beginning, see this Defense One column and this AP Column on the arrival of American Global Hawk Drones in Japan and Japan’s announcement that it is now a “Normal Power,” one that is able to sell arms internationally.
And in particular pay close attention to this passage from those links:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in China, Current Events, History, Japan, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 27 Comments »
Posted by T. Greer on 19th July 2014 (All posts by T. Greer)
This post was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on 19 July 2014 and has been reposted here without alteration.
Recently in a discussion at a different venue I wrote the following:
I am extremely pessimistic about the near term (2015-2035) future of both of the countries I care most about and follow most closely, but very optimistic about the long term (2040+) of both.
I was asked to give a condensed explanation of why I felt this way. The twelve thousand words or so I wrote in response proved interesting enough that participants in the discussion urged me to re-post my speculations here so that they might receive wider circulation and discussion.
Below is a slightly edited version of my response:
The demons that afflict the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China are legion, and every pundit that turns their eye to either country seems to have their own favorite. Some of these difficulties are more alarming than others.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Book Notes, China, Politics, Predictions, Society, USA | 43 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th July 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Hamas has attacked Israel, first with the kidnapping of three teenagers, now with rockets aimed, for example, at Tel Aviv and its airport.
GAZA: Islamist Hamas’ armed wing has warned airlines that it intends to target Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport with its rockets from Gaza and has told them not to fly there, a statement by the group said Friday.
So far, Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile system has been successful in intercepting those that are a risk to populated places.
Israel’s astonishingly effective Iron Dome air defense has prevented Hamas from killing Israeli Jews and spreading terror in the civilian population. Ironically, though, the better Iron Dome works, the less sympathy the rest of the world has for a nation that remains under rocket attack.
That sentiment is to be expected as even the Presbyterian Church is anti-Israel.
David Goldman, who has been writing as “Spengler” for years, reports on the situation in Israel.
the thumbnail version is that Hamas is making a demonstration out of weakness. Money is tight, 44,000 Gaza civil servants haven’t been paid for weeks, and the IDF did significant damage to its infrastructure on the West Bank after the kidnapping-murder of the three yeshiva boys. Netanyahu will look indecisive and confused, because he has to deal with an openly hostile U.S. administration on one side and his nationalist camp on the other. Time, though, is on Israel’s side: economically, demographically, strategically. The proportion of Jewish births continues to soar. The fruits of a decade of venture capital investing are ripening into high-valuation companies. And the Arab world is disintegrating all around Israel’s borders.
Israel has been in mortal danger for 50 years. They have survived and thrived. The Arab countries are collapsing into chaos. Iran is still a threat but its demographic future is grim.
There will be no Intifada on the West Bank: the Palestinian Arabs are older, more resigned and less inclined to destroy their livelihoods than in 2000. Syria and Iraq continue to disintegrate, Lebanon is inundated with Syrian Sunni refugees (weakening Hezbollah’s relative position), and Jordan is looking to Israel to protect it against ISIS. Egypt is busy trying to survive economically.
Israel is becoming a huge economic success under Netanyahu. Just think of our future had we elected his friend, Mitt Romney.
Obama promised a “pivot to Asia” but Israel may in fact be the one doing the pivot, leaving us in the dreary Socialist past.
Richard Fernandez notes that in the view of the world press and elites being rich makes you “white.” Everybody knows that white people, even if they are Asian like John Derbyshire’s Eurasian children, are the root of all evil.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in China, Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Obama, Terrorism, War and Peace | 38 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 20th June 2014 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
When I started writing my “History Friday” columns, one of my objectives was to explore the “military historical narratives” around General Douglas MacArthur, so I could write with a better understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. Today’s column is focusing on an almost unknown series of Documents called “The Reports of the Pacific Warfare Board,” and in specific reports No. 31 and 50. This professional lack of interest by the academic history community in these reports represents a huge methodological flaw in the current “narratives” about the end of World War 2 in the Pacific. These two reports amplify and expand an earlier column of mine hitting that “flawed narrative” point titled History Friday: Operation Olympic – Something Forgotten & Something Familiar. A column that was about a WW2 “manned UAV” (unmanned air vehicle AKA a drone), an L-5 artillery spotter plane with an early vacuum tube technology broadcast TV camera, pictured below.
Brodie Device with L-4 and L-5 Spotter Planes In Land and Sea Based Configurations, 1944-1945
Dr. Vladimir Zworykin of RCA’s Block III Broadcast TV Surveillance Equipment
These Pacific Warfare Board (PWB) reports have been classified for decades and unlike their more well know, examined by many researchers, and posted on-line European Theater equivalents. Almost nothing from them has made it to the public since their mass declassification in the 1990’s. There are good reasons for that. The National Archive has a 98,000 file, 80 GB finding aide. One that isn’t on-line. Until recently, the only way you can get at archive files like the Pacific Warfare Board Reports is to learn that finding aide and make your own copies using National Archive equipment. This was usually time consuming and cost prohibitive to all but the most determined researchers or hired archivists.
Thanks to the cratering costs USB flash drives and increasing quality of digital cameras built into even moderately priced cell phones over the last few years, this is no longer true. And as a result, the academic history profession is about to have its key institutional research advantage outsourced to hobbyists and bloggers.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Aviation, China, History, Korea, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, War and Peace | 10 Comments »
Posted by T. Greer on 30th April 2014 (All posts by T. Greer)
This post was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage, 30 April 2013.
A great divide separates the worldviews of the average Chinese and American. The most profound description of this divide I have ever heard came from the mouth of a friend who has never been to America and who was neither a historian nor accustomed to deep political reflection or debate. She concluded that Americans lived in a different world than the one she and her countrymen knew on the strength of a single observation: “In America all of your most exciting movies are about the future. In China, our blockbusters are all about the past.“
Her mundane observation points neatly to a paradox of modern Chinese culture. The people of China are steeped in history. Places, figures, and sayings from most ancient times fill their cinemas and televisions, inspire their literature and music, and find their way into both their daily conversation and clever turns of phrase. One cannot study the Chinese language or befriend the people who speak it without realizing how proudly the Chinese people trace their identity some three thousand years into the past. It defines who they are and what they want their country to be. When China’s heavy laden allow themselves a hopeful glimpse into the future they see first the glories of the past.
Thus the dreadful irony: despite the high esteem which they hold for history and the strong affinity they feel with the triumphs and humiliations of their civilization, few Chinese feel any connection to–and in many cases, have no real knowledge of–their country’s more immediate past. As a society they honor the stories and glories of tradition, but have abandoned headlong the social order from which these stories sprang. This was not all intentional. Seven decades of war, famine, and revolution ripped Chinese civilization apart at its seams. The old order of family and clan, official and elite, emperor and loyal subject, is gone. The patterns which held Chinese civilization together for a millennium are acknowledged, but honored mostly as the creation of some mythical past whose connection to the present is more a matter of style than of substance. In between this golden past and frantic present lies a gaping hole. A swirl of confused details, loathsome slogans, and obscured calamities lies in this abyss, little talked about and, in the minds of many, best forgotten. The grim episodes of those days are but a dim image in a mirror, only tethered to the present with fading memories of tumult and terror.
I did not fully appreciate how deep a gash and great a gulf this separation from the past has torn in the Chinese mental landscape until I read a newly translated set of essays and meditations published under the name Hard Road Home. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Book Notes, China, History, Morality and Philosphy | 11 Comments »
Posted by Zenpundit on 25th March 2014 (All posts by Zenpundit)
cross-posted from zenpundit.com
A Sinocentric view of the maritime world courtesy of The Policy Tensor (hat tip Historyguy 99)
An amigo who is an expert on China pointed me toward a couple of links last weekend. Here is the first:
Japan-China COLD WAR 8 / CPC decisions made under layers of veiled obscurity
….Whenever a crisis occurs, diplomatic authorities typically attempt to assess the situation by contacting their counterpart of the country concerned to investigate, if any, what their intentions are. For example, the incident could merely have been an accident or a calculated act sanctioned by those at the center of the administration. But when the Chinese become involved, such diplomatic approaches may no longer be a possibility.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which is supposed to be the equivalent of the U.S. State Department or Japan’s Foreign Ministry, is “merely an organization which carries out policies decided by the Communist Party of China (CPC),”a senior Foreign Ministry official said.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi is just one of 205 members of the Central Committee of the CPC, and is not even included in the 25-member Politburo, which is regarded as the party’s leadership organ.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in China, Current Events, Human Behavior, Military Affairs, National Security, USA, War and Peace | 13 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th January 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
UPDATE: I don’t seem to be the only one worried about a 1914 situation.
China’s current coercion of Japan over the islands is but a symptom of a larger illness in the international system. China has been leveraging its naval modernization to increase its movements through the seas and choke points surrounding Japan to break out into the Pacific. Last November, for example, flotillas of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy destroyers and submarines backed by air power encircled Japan for the first time, as PLA officers bragged about splitting and demolishing the first island chain. China is changing the regional balance with little resistance from the United States. Counter to Chinese public claims of surprise at a U.S. “overreaction,” recent discussions with Chinese officials over Beijing’s December air defense identification zone announcement suggests that the United States’ response was much weaker than the response the Chinese leadership had expected.
This is worrisome.
Last month I posted an observation that another world war may be coming. I noted that this summer is the 100th anniversary of the First World War and that the present situation is similar to that which preceded the 1914 war. I may not be the only one.
I concluded last month’s post as follows: The “two Ps” are Pakistan and the Palestinians. We live in an incredibly dangerous era and we are seeing an American president who does not understand geopolitics. God help us.
A recent column provided from someone attending the Davos Economic Forum discusses yet another potential fuse that is sputtering.
During the dinner, the hosts passed a microphone around the table and asked guests to speak briefly about something that they thought would interest the group.
One of the guests, an influential Chinese professional, talked about the simmering conflict between China and Japan over a group of tiny islands in the Pacific.
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Posted in China, Europe, History, Middle East, Obama | 20 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th January 2014 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
The NY Times recently had an article about the high levels of pollution in India’s capital city, Delhi.
Beijing’s air pollution has reached such toxic levels recently that the Chinese government is finally acknowledging the problem – and acting on it. But in New Delhi on Thursday, air pollution levels far exceeded those in Beijing, only without any government acknowledgement or action.
When I was in India in late 2012 I too was overwhelmed and amazed by the level of smog and pollution in the capital. When you blew your nose, particulate matter came out in your snot. This photo taken below is out the window of our tour bus and you could not see large office buildings along the roadside a few hundred feet away.
The tuk-tuk in the photo (it is a three wheeled semi-motorcycle used as a taxi) is green and yellow because those are the official colors of vehicles using CNG, designed to reduce pollution, which are also used for city buses. Unfortunately the streets are clogged with traditional gas powered vehicles and myriad ancient looking diesel trucks which more than make up the difference.
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Posted in China, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, India | 7 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 27th December 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
Herman the German by Gerhard Neumann
This is the autobiography of a man who was born to a Jewish family in Germany, apprenticed as an auto mechanic, attended engineering school, moved to China in 1938, was interned by the British as an enemy alien in 1939, transferred to the American forces, joined Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers, repaired the first Japanese Zero fighter to be captured in potentially-flyable condition, became a U.S. citizen by special act of Congress, and went on to run GE’s entire jet engine business, which he played a major role in creating. (The preceding may be the longest single sentence I’ve ever written in a blog post.) The book should be of interest to those interested in aviation, technology, management, social history, the WWII era, and/or China.
Gerhard Neumann was born in Frankfurt/Oder in 1917, where his father was owner of a factory that processed feathers and down. Gerhard’s parents were Jewish but nonpracticing–a Christmas tree was traditional in the Neumann home–and their approach to child-raising was closer to stereotypically Prussian than to stereotypically Jewish: “You did exactly as you were told by your parents. There was no such thing as saying no to them!…You were not to have a hand in your pocket while talking to grown-ups…Showing any emotion in Prussia was considered sissyish. There was no kissing between parents and children–only a peck on the cheek before going upstairs punctually at nine o’clock; and there was absolutely no crying.”
On the other hand, Neumann could do pretty much what he wanted with his spare time. In 1927, at the age of 10, he rode his bike out to a grass strip where someone was giving airplane rides for 5 marks, which he paid with money from his piggy bank. His parents weren’t angry at him for taking this flight without permission; indeed, they were so entranced with his description of the way the town looked from the air that they soon took an airplane ride themselves! At the age of 13, Neumann bought a folding kayak and, with some camping gear and a 12-year-old friend, took long journeys on the Oder River, all the way to the Baltic Sea. Few parents in America today–or in Germany either, I’d bet–would now allow this level of independence to a 12- or 13-year old.
Neumann had no interest in the family feather business; he wanted to be an engineer. A 2- or 3-year machinist or mechanic apprenticeship was mandatory for admission to any German engineering academy: Neumann’s father asked the 10 cab drivers of Frankfurt/Oder to recommend the garage where they thought the boy would learn the most, and the answers were unanimous: Albert Schroth’s. So began Gerhard Neumann’s apprenticeship, which, other than the technologies involved, could have been something out of the Middle Ages. “In winter my hands were frozen purple. Wear work gloves? ‘What’s the matter, boy, are you a girl?’ When my hands were bleeding, Herr Schroth pointed to the large bottle of iodine in the backroom and mumbled something about faules Fleisch (lazy flesh.) No Band-Aids, no pitying, no time out.”
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Posted in Aviation, Business, China, Germany, History, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 22nd September 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
Bruce Springsteen, 1983:
They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they aint coming back to
Some of them are
Posted in Business, China, Tech, USA | 10 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 22nd September 2013 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
Historically art in the West exists and has monetary value because our country has wealth and buyers who want to collect it. Recently buyers in China have been on the rise, along with a corresponding value on what “they” would perceive as art (i.e., Ming vases, and a lot of modern Chinese artists, as well). This article describes their growth:
Chinese spending on art remains robust in 2013. That’s despite a dip in the market last fall and an economic slowdown that recently knocked the Asian nation off its perch as the art world’s biggest spender and back behind the former perennial leader, the United States.
In a broader sense, there is a question of what drives art, and why some situations with incredible pathos don’t receive the attention they deserve (or much attention at all). For instance there are 1 million children who have been displaced or made into refugees in Syria due to their ongoing civil war. Can you imagine the stories, paintings, movies and television that this story would drive in the West? While we watch “reality” shows about dancing and singing and our “serious” fare covers meth dealers in New Mexico, why aren’t the amazing stories of war (and sometimes redemption, or bitter relapse) grist for “art”?
As I follow the Congo wars and civil wars, I am also amazed by the dearth of real or fictionalized accounts of either the war itself or its impact on civilians. There is little even though the scale of suffering and conflict is so wide, and the participants so varied.
For instance, imagine yourself as a writer in Syria or in the Congo. You have all the grist for art all around you. And yet… no one cares, because it doesn’t matter (much) to those that buy and produce art of all types, since they are in the West or part of the growing contingent in Asia.
It is interesting to me because artists and liberal arts types often view commerce with distaste, and act as if the world would somehow be better if we all dropped our focus on money and attended a play or modern dance or something like that. They believe that there is a “choice” and they can pursue their dreams, even though their dreams are subsidized and provided for by the wealth that is generated by the world of business, and protected by our force of arms, which they also despise.
Without wealth and military power (or the cover of someone else’s military power, as much of Europe and Asia shield under the US umbrella), art itself is a tiny, meaningless cry in the night. There is no intrinsic “value” in art unless the culture can support and (often) export it. Countries can support their own culture, as France and Italy work hard to do, but this is also tied to their value in the tourism trade and linked to their economic value as “open air museums” since little is actually manufactured or driven from these countries anymore. French literature, which made large impressions in the past (Sartre, etc…) is effectively invisible in the US today, although we’d gladly go visit and tour and drink wine and partake in the fabulous views.
Another facet of this phenomenon is the growth in “blockbuster” films that are populated with aliens, comic book figures, or supernatural events. These movies sell around the world, while indie-type movies (or even movies with relationships) are relegated to third class citizenship. If it can’t be explained or viewed in a generic manner understandable across cultures, then it isn’t wanted by our major studios. Certainly the Oscars don’t agree with this model, as they continue to hand out awards to movies that 99.999% of the world wide movie population doesn’t see, while ignoring the giant comic-book based movies taking over the screens. The “artists” there are being subsidized by the money-making tent-pole films, although the studios are extremely profit focused and at some point they won’t be be throwing those artists crumbs anymore (after all, they have to pay for expensive mansions and lavish lifestyles and the “cloak” of artistic merit is only worth so much).
Cross posted at LITGM
Posted in Arts & Letters, Business, China, Economics & Finance | 7 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 10th August 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
In a BOOKWORM post about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Book’s mother was in a Japanese concentration camp at the time–read the link), the discussion turned to the Japanese maltreatment of prisoners. I noted that Japanese treatment of Russian POWs in the Russo-Japanese war (1904) seems to have been quite decent, in strong contrast with their abominable treatment of just about all prisoners in the period…only 30 years later…beginning with the invasion of Manchuria and continuing through the Second World War, and I said:
“It is interesting and frightening how quickly a culture can change. If you were looking for a place to live in Europe in 1913, Germany would have looked pretty good…even (especially?) if you were Jewish. Only 20 years later, a significant % of the population was barking mad, and almost all of the rest were clueless or cowed into submission.”
Commenter Danny Lemieux, agreeing with the point about culture change, cited a Cherokee legend: the story of the two wolves.
One of the main reasons why Barack Obama is such a disaster as a leader is that he always chooses to feed the Bad Wolf.
Posted in China, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Japan, USA, War and Peace | 16 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 7th July 2013 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
China is a massive force in the global economy. According to Bloomberg,
China is the world’s largest producer of steel. It accounted for 49.18 percent of worldwide crude steel production in May, according to the World Steel Association. Japan, the second-largest producer, accounted for 7.06 percent, the data showed.
And the USA? We are the third largest producer of raw steel, behind Japan, producing less than 15% of what China makes each year.
What does China do with all this steel? It produces a giant, modern nation with an enormous urban infrastructure. I recently bought this excellent book (a few years old, but it was $3.99 / used plus shipping) called “Shanghai: The Architecture of China’s Great Urban Center“. Shanghai has an immense number of skyscrapers – so many that there are debates about the exact count – but the list per Wikipedia shows that Shanghai held the title of world’s tallest skyscraper until beaten by Dubai and there are an immense number of very tall structures in the city, all built in the last 20-25 or so years.
This article in today’s NY Times about a bicycle service that is thriving in Portland, Oregon due to its lower carbon footprint shows the “dream” view of capitalism held by those in the left in the USA.
However, while the bucolic bicyclist delivery driver making his rounds to fair-trade coffee shops seems like a worthy economic topic, it is in fact the opposite of efficiency when compared to the real-world efforts in China which dwarf our physical economy components. The US can compete in services and in software but we are getting blown away in the physical world which China’s steel production and immense cities sprouting from the ground show clearly.
The small-scale craft economies have an absolute place in the world, but there also is room for world-class efficiency which only can come from large-scale investments in steel, construction, and advanced building techniques, which also include time-to-market. The US is losing our ability to compete in these spheres while the Chinese continue to innovate – the evidence of which is all too visible for anyone traveling through their new cities when compared to their US counterparts.
Cross posted at LITGM
Posted in China, Economics & Finance | 12 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 2nd June 2013 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
The NY Times had a solid article called “China’s Expanding Economic Empire” in today’s paper. It describes how China is using its’ state owned companies to expand globally, particularly in Africa, South America, the Middle East, and Asia.
Ultimately, thanks to the deposits of over a billion Chinese savers, China Inc. has been able to acquire strategic assets worldwide.
In addition to using their savings and financial discipline to acquire companies, China has infrastructure capabilities honed from building out their country and is able to bring staff locally to complete projects such as pipelines, railroads, mines and factories, thereby re-cycling their financial investments back into their own service companies.
The article discusses Greenland, where China has proposed to come in and develop their vast resources in return for access to commodities only if the local government by-passes wage laws and other restrictions to allow the Chinese to being in their own labor. Since no one else is offering to develop Greenland and their native workforce is ill-equipped to meet the challenge of modern infrastructure development and operations, it will be China’s by default.
However, the article does not mention anywhere the key variable that keeps Western countries non-competitive in these regions – our own laws against corruption and bribery which are likely the only way to win bids throughout most of the developing world (the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act). China has no compunction about working with anyone and doing whatever it takes to win these bids.
In addition, China doesn’t care about its reputation with the local workforce, unless things get really bad (i.e. people start getting shot). China brings its own value chain end to end, from the initial financing, to awarding bids to Chinese companies, to China pushing their surplus (skilled) labor and their own infrastructure even to support their staff (i.e. bringing in their own food). Western companies try to bring in the local work force and are sensitive to local suppliers on a relative basis.
While the article is generally full of relevant facts and analysis (except for the critical omission of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which basically gave the world to China on a platter), it ends on a completely false two paragraphs.
As China becomes a global player and a fierce competitor… its political system and state capitalist ideology pose a threat. It is therefore essential that Western governments stick to what has been the core of Western prosperity: the rule of law, political freedom, and fair competition… giving up on our commitment to human rights, or being compliant in the face of rapacious state capitalism, will hurt Western countries in the long term. It is China that needs to adapt to the world, not the other way around.
I am frankly astonished that the editor let them add these paragraphs to let the article end on such a false note. There is no evidence that our methods of not complying with local practices is working; in fact the entire article proves that our Western methods are failing.
If a country is led by a strongman you need to deal with a strongman or you won’t be in business; this is obvious, the Chinese know it, and we don’t have a chance in h*ll of competing with it. As a result, we are handing the Chinese the world on a platter. We will ultimately adapt to China, not the other way around.
Cross posted at LITGM
Posted in China, Leftism, Media | 11 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 14th February 2013 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
A few things have happened recently that have the hairs on the back of my neck standing up in economic terms. It feels like it did right before the crash in 2007-8, when we were still in the end stages of the bubble.
One – Japanese and Venezuelan devaluation
Japan (a thoroughly modern economy) and Venezuela (a semi-dictatorship oil economy) both recently devalued their currency. Japan was warned by the G7 (fat lot of good that will do) here about it:
The official said: “The G7 statement signaled concern about excess moves in the yen. The G7 is concerned about unilateral guidance on the yen. Japan will be in the spotlight at the G20 in Moscow this weekend.”
Venezuela did more of an “old school” devaluation, where the “official” rate is moved closer to what it really is trading for in the black market, and Bloomberg writes about it here.
Venezuela devalued its currency for the fifth time in nine years, a move that may undermine support for ailing President Hugo Chavez and his allies ahead of possible elections later this year… He ordered his government to weaken the exchange rate by 32 percent to 6.3 bolivars per dollar… A spending spree that almost tripled the fiscal deficit last year helped Chavez, 58, win a third six-year term. The devaluation can help narrow the budget deficit by increasing the amount of bolivars the government receives from oil exports. Yet the move also threatens to accelerate annual inflation that reached 22 percent in January.
I kept that whole paragraph in the block quote because it encapsulates all the elements of fiscal ruin so succinctly – profligate government spending, impact on commodities imported or exported (that move opposite of currencies), and the impact on inflation.
Two – The Chinese and Russians Aren’t Buying Our Debt – We Are
I had thought that the Chinese and other countries were big buyers of our debt which funds our budget deficit. But I was wrong. Per this WSJ article:
China’s holdings of $1.17 trillion in U.S. Treasurys in November 2012—the most recent date for which we have a figure—are virtually unchanged from two years earlier, when they stood at $1.16 trillion. Beijing has purchased a lot of Treasurys over this period but many have been redeemed. Net new investment is essentially zero.
But if the Chinese aren’t buying our debt, who is? The answer – the US government.
The largest buyer of new U.S. Treasurys during the past three years has been not China but the U.S. Federal Reserve. In fiscal year 2011, for example, the Fed bought more than three-fourths of all new Treasury debt.
Here’s a challenge for you – try explaining to a child or someone unfamiliar with economics how it is that we can spend money that we don’t have, issue debt, and buy it back ourselves.
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Posted in China, Economics & Finance, Russia | 8 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 14th November 2012 (All posts by David Foster)
…on the US election results.
Janet Daley, in The Telegraph: “So Europe got the American president it wanted – the one who would present no threat to its own delusions. The United States is now officially one of us: an Old World country complete with class hatred, ethnic Balkanisation, bourgeois guilt and a paternalist ruling elite. And it is locked into the same death spiral of high public spending and self-defeating wealth redistribution as we are. Welcome to the future, and the beginning of what may turn out to be the terminal decline of the West.”
Melanie Phillips: “The greatest satisfaction today over the re-election of Obama is not being felt in the Democratic Party. It is not being felt among the media…No, the greatest satisfaction is surely being felt in Iran.”
The Dissident Frogman: “Hear this final prophecy America: only one man can kill the Republic, and it isn’t Barack Obama. The one man who will kill your Republic is the one man who will last give up and renounce it. Don’t you dare be that man.”
Read them all.
Also, here’s something interesting: Li Keqiang, China’s next premier, has been advising his associates to read Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1856 book The Old Regime and the French Revolution.
Posted in Britain, China, Civil Society, Education, Europe, France, History, Middle East, USA | 56 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 19th August 2012 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The Newsweek cover for next week is astonishing.
The lead article is by Niall Ferguson and is devastating. The fact that it is the cover story is an even bigger surprise. It’s interesting to speculate on the reasons.
Welcome to Obama’s America: nearly half the population is not represented on a taxable return—almost exactly the same proportion that lives in a household where at least one member receives some type of government benefit. We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.
On foreign policy, one of Obama’s few strong points in polls, it is even harsher.
For me the president’s greatest failure has been not to think through the implications of these challenges to American power. Far from developing a coherent strategy, he believed—perhaps encouraged by the premature award of the Nobel Peace Prize—that all he needed to do was to make touchy-feely speeches around the world explaining to foreigners that he was not George W. Bush.
In Tokyo in November 2009, the president gave his boilerplate hug-a-foreigner speech: “In an interconnected world, power does not need to be a zero-sum game, and nations need not fear the success of another … The United States does not seek to contain China … On the contrary, the rise of a strong, prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations.” Yet by fall 2011, this approach had been jettisoned in favor of a “pivot” back to the Pacific, including risible deployments of troops to Australia and Singapore. From the vantage point of Beijing, neither approach had credibility.
His Cairo speech of June 4, 2009, was an especially clumsy bid to ingratiate himself on what proved to be the eve of a regional revolution. “I’m also proud to carry with me,” he told Egyptians, “a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalamu alaikum … I’ve come here … to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based … upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.”
Read the whole thing, as Instapundit says.
Posted in China, Economics & Finance, Elections, International Affairs, Obama | 12 Comments »