Thursday, 29 January 2009

Hype(r)power

One of the things which left me quite surprised when I first encountered it in China was the level of esteem existing in some quarters for George W. Bush. Whilst there is a certain part of the Chinese population which is very much in awe of the United States, the people who gave Bush a grudging admiration were often not otherwise inclined to praise that much about America. I remember one person, a rather straight-laced university student, said that he was a fan of Bush because "He is a strong leader, he is not afraid of war".

It is therefore not surprising to see this recent article by co-author of best-selling nationalist screed, China Can Say No, Wang Xiaodong, expressing great doubts about the prospects of Barack Obama. In his essay, entitled "Unfortunately, History
Might Show Obama
Inferior to Bush Jr."
(English translation available here), Wang Xiaodong describes how he believes that Obama is over-reaching himself, and will unleash a racist backlash amongst the white population of the United States. Naturally when his economic schemes fail Obama will be forced to invade other countries to seize their wealth, Wang Xiaodong's proof for this? Read on:

One of my friends, who has an American boss, left words on my blog: “One time, my American boss talked about America’s financial deficit and the big American bonds. I told him that there are a lot of natural resources in Alaska, and the U.S. can mortgage it for paying the debts. The boss said without any thought that the U.S. has such a big military force that they can be sent overseas to grasp money back if the bad time comes. It is unnecessary to sell the property.” It seems that this American was outspoken, telling his first thought is to use military forces to get money when an economic crisis happens. I feel that it is a typical point of view among American people, just people like reporters, professors and politicians will not tell it in this frank way.


Of course, the fact that it might be some idiot expat shooting his mouth off doesn't seem to have crossed Wang Xiaodong's mind. It would be foolish to dismiss this opinion, as Wang is a popular author in China, not dissimilar to certain American authors - Mark Stein comes to mind. Here's what one of the commenters said:

Last year, in July/August, I went to Bangkok with my family. At the Democracy Memorial I felt a sudden swell of emotion, I pulled out my note book and wrote "Wang Xiaodong is a prophet"


Of course plenty of people are critical of his position, and no one should imagine that these are the views of the majority, but they are the heart and soul of the Chinese nationalist (small 'n') movement.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

It was twenty years ago today . . .

Whilst reading this article by Andrew Anthony explaining how the Salman Rushdie affair helped create the current British Muslim identity (as opposed to Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Egyptian, Persian and so on), I was struck by this passage:

Muslims in all their myriad variety and differences have morphed, or been corralled, into a unitary socio-economic-cultural block. To take vocal exception to one aspect of Islam or one particular leader or sect is, almost by definition, to be an opponent of all Muslims. . . [Inayat Bunglawala, spokesperson for the Jamaat-i-Islami-influenced Muslim Council of Britain] was, in his own words, "elated" when Khomeini delivered the fatwa. "It was a very welcome reminder that British Muslims did not have to regard themselves just as a small, vulnerable minority; they were part of a truly global and powerful movement." . . . "It was a seminal moment in British Muslim history," he told me. "It brought Muslims together. Before that they had been identified as ethnic communities but The Satanic Verses brought them together and helped develop a British Muslim identity, which I'm sure infuriates Salman Rushdie."


The desire to be part of a 'powerful movement' rather than a small minority amongst millions is hardly limited to British Islamists, but the way in which an over-reaction to an 'insult' can forge a new identity, even when the leaders of that movement later recognise that the response was an over-reaction, is surprising.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Reality calling Daniel Drezhner . . . .

I'm no fan of the Chinese Communist Party, but I also try to avoid speculation about its impending demise, as wishful thinking is too likely to creep in. Check out this quote from a recent post by Daniel Drezhner for a classic example of said:

So, it would appear that the Chinese government and the Charter 08 dissidents do agree on one thing: a dialogue between the two sides is not going to happen. Absent that option, will there be a mass social movement. Could it topple the communist government? . . . is 2009 the year that China's government collapses? Or is it just another year in which there will be a crackdown of a mass uprising? Because those may be the only two options.


This argument only makes sense in the same way the average Robin Williams film makes me laugh: not very much. The original Charter 77 came out when the economic decline of the communist nations of Eastern Europe was already very much in effect, and the reaction of the Czech government was harsh - but even then the Czech Communist party (supported by the Soviets) remained in firm control for another 11-12 years. Charter 08 has come out at a time when the Chinese growth in GDP looks to be slowing, but is still likely to be greater than 8% this year. The CCP has responded to it by arresting a few of the drafters and otherwise ignoring it completely. No doubt if it does start to receive attention, they will do their best to distract people with the kind of antics we saw directed against France this year. A mass movement is equally far off. There is no reason to believe anything other than that China is a long way from being rid of the communists.

I could go on, but exiled dissident Wan Runnan did a much better job of explaining why the CCP is not likely to disappear any time soon in his 2006 article "Why The Chinese Communists Are Not Doomed To Finish Yet". Here's his summing up (trans. by ESWN):

1. From the lessons of the former Soviet Russia and eastern Europe, the Communist Party is more firm and clear about suppressing the opposition;

2. After forming alliances, the Communist Party has established a relatively stable international environment;

3. The continuous economic development has provided adequate resources for improving their ability to govern;

4. Under the pretext of "we won't argue," the Communist Party has actually totally abandoned their former ideology;

5. The Communist Party has become a political party that represents wealthy people and the social elite. This newly created middle class is the foundation of stability in Chinese society today;

6. The confirmation of their model for power succession has eliminated the concerns about their ability to maintain government.

It is said that the existence of something includes two aspects: the existence of the spirit and the existence of the body. Then, in terms of spirit, the Communist Party no longer exists. It is finished because it has killed itself. In terms of body, it is still there but without a soul. They can now speak of "being based on people" and "eight honors and eight shames", but most of these spiritual resources can be readily found in the governing philosophy of various Chinese rulers in history. In the predictable future, I do not see any likelihood for a sudden collapse of the Chinese Communists.


The CCP isn't going away any time soon, because it no longer believes in communism, because it has co-opted the leading elements of society, because it has muzzled all potential sources of opposition, and because its policies have allowed economic growth on a scale never before seen.

Monday, 5 January 2009

The Devonshire-Ellis saga continues.

It seems that everybody's favourite sino-charlatan, Chris Devonshire-Ellis has been at it again. Someone sent me this quote from a post by CDE on his website, posted just after the Mumbai terror attacks:

The fate of one American client of Dezan Shira & Associates staying at the Taj Hotel remains unknown with local staff unable to contact them or establish any verified presence of the individual concerned with either the city hospitals or police. The firm remains in close contact with his US head office and with US consular officials and the emergency services and is providing support for other clients who remain in the city. All Dezan Shira staff are accounted for and safe, although the local office, sited just behind the Taj Hotel has suffered “extensive” damage.


No knowing who that "quote" is supposed to be from, but he then went on to say this:

The Dezan Shira & Associates administration offices for China inbound investment at Raheja Center Point in Mumbai have thankfully escaped damage, however the practice offices, dealing with Indian investment will remain closed for the next week while damage - that fortunately is largely superficial - is repaired. We'll try and get some photos up probably on the 2point6billion site when the area around the Taj, which is still being sanitized is open again to traffic and pedestrians.


For the record, according to Dezan Shira's website, and all other available information, Dezan Shira has only one office in Mumbai, that being the one at the Raheja Center point, and that one is way out in the suburbs near the airport and miles from the scene of the violence. A quick check on the internet shows that the office actually belongs to Regus - a temporary/virtual office rental service. An associate of mine called the office to check whether they had suffered any damage and had the following conversation:

Trrring trrring. "Regus Mumbai how can I help you sir?" Yes this is . . I am calling to check, in the light of the Mumbai attacks, if we can come to Mumbai in January as we have read on the Dezan Shira website that their office was seriously damaged. "No Sir, no damage here at all, we are open for business" "Dezan Shira is one of our virtual clients, can I book a meeting room?" "No I will let you know once we have booked our tickets". "Thank you for calling Sir and have a nice day"


So there you have it, no damage whatsoever to the offices according to the people who work there. It's been more than two months since the attacks and no pictures have been posted and no answer to our enquiries as to why has been received from Dez Shira. Plus, it seems that Dezan Shira only has a 'virtual office' in Mumbai - otherwise known as a letter box.

Mr Ellis, you have some s'plainin' to do!

FOARP Sinotard of 2008

Wow. There was so much material to work with last year that I genuinely have had trouble making my mind up about this one. However, I finally managed to make my mind up - and the winner is . . . .

BianXiangBianQiao's article on this year's Sanlu tainted milk scandal!

It is heartening to observe that foreign elements and forces have little influence over the Chinese authorities, on either their legitimacy or policy preferences. The rabid anti-China freaks/activists hurling insults on the Chinese during the Olympic torch relays indeed “hurt our feelings” but at the end of the day can do little damage, no matter how hard they try. Events since the beginning of this year tell us that the dynamics of the Chinese social and political lives are insulated from the outside, although China is by no means isolated. The Chinese society, including its authorities, responds to the Chinese, not foreign powers or activists.


That's right, a company which produced tainted milk powder for years on end, and which was eventually exposed by the Chinese government after being tipped off by the New Zealand authorities is an example of how the Chinese government responds to the Chinese, not those dirty foreigners.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

FOARP Sinopundit of '08

Has to be James Fallows. As much as I believe you have to be able to speak Mandarin to get a good grip on China, he seems to have managed without total fluency. His article on the trade deficit was probably one of the best things I've read on China in the past year, and given the volume of Sinopunditry we've seen in this Olympic year (a lot of it pretty awful and cliche-ridden, it has to be admitted), that's saying something - not much, but something. He's also a prolific writer and answerer of letters and emails, something which is worth a lot in my book.

A mention also must be made of Steve Dickinson, he doesn't write as much for China Law Blog as he might, but what he does write is always good. His piece on China's new anti-monopoly law was particularly good.

Before anyone says it . . . .

Israel and Palestine are once more at each other's throats, this time, perhaps more than ever, this fight takes on the brutal logic of a civil war, or any war between people's who live cheek-by-jowl with each other and where tit-for-tat is automatic and unavoidable. I therefore wholly endorse any moves to end the violence, I do not believe that Israel an achieve its goals through anything but a total occupation of the Gaza strip, I also know that the people of Gaza will not accept this - peace is therefore the only operable option. I whole-heartedly condemn Israel's refusal to allow foreign journalists entry to the Gaza strip, and have no illusions as to the reasons for this, indeed, we need only think of last year's violence in Tibet to know why this is being done.

Blog of '08

Has to be Fool's Mountain. I waste way too much time on that blog, but the discussion is always lively and usually polite.

What about '08?

I guess this seems a little late, but I don't believe in getting on with a year-end review until the year is already over and done with. For some reason my internet connection has been unbelievably slow of late, so the photos are going to have to wait, but the rest can got on with now.

FOARP Lesson of '08

Don't mess with Italy.


FOARP Discovery of '08

Fresh donuts and champagne! You seriously haven't lived until you have woken up to a plate of freshly cooked sugar-coated donuts and bottle of fine champagne - try it if you don't believe me.

Fine in '09 . . .

Well that's it for '08, and what a drag it was. Both personally and more generally, not a great year - friends and relatives losing jobs, tough exams and even tougher interviews - and as yet no pay-off. All I can say is this year can only be better . . .