Saturday 24 May 2008

And the 2008 award for wackiest conspiracy theory goes to . . . . .

Whoever made this video explaining how the US caused the Sichuan earthquake by manipulating the ionosphere using the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). Keep taking the meds boys . .

Monday 19 May 2008

Why an invasion of Burma is impossible

A very interesting piece on the death of liberal interventionism from the Acumulating Periferals Blog. Money Quote:

These kinds of interventions had an extremely mixed record in the ’90s. All were complicated, drawn-out messes. Even the successes, in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor, resulted in countries that are still pretty much basket cases, though they’d be worse off without the interventions. But this model of international action, holding summits, setting deadlines, making coordinated demands, and holding out the vague threat of military action in the background, was a big step forward in establishing an international norm that countries can lose their presumptive sovereignty when they persecute or fail to protect huge numbers of their citizens.


The Iraq War torpedoed that project.

All people who supported the project of creating an international system in which the rulers of a country are no more entitled to infringe the rights of their own citizens than they are to infringe those of neighbouring countries will recognise that this project has been almost totally destroyed in the past five years. This destruction was wrought through hubris, slipshod planning, and above all, a sense of being above the law. And I supported it at the time.

Tuesday 13 May 2008

The Earthquake

7.8 on the Richter scale, an incredibly powerful earthquake, luckily China is perhaps better prepared than other nations of similar size and economic development to cope with this disaster, and the army has, no doubt, already swung into action. I experienced an earthquake that was 6.4 at its epicentre when I lived in Taiwan, but my experience amongst the earthquake-reinforced buildings of Taipei does not even begin to allow me to imagine what it must have been like in the towns and cities of Sichuan.

"There are certain places in the original text which are incompatible with Chinese sensitivities"

A fascinating look into the translation process that foreign books undergo from Paper Republic. Here's a snippet from an interview with the translator of "The Kite Runner":

In China, Political Correctness (政治正确) is the utmost concern. The original text’s description of the Afghan Communist Party could easily bring to mind earlier actions of the Chinese Communist Party. The publishing house feared that if the translation were published unaltered, the authorities might see it as a form of innuendo.

Sunday 11 May 2008

"Foreigners pose risk to stability, says academic"

Setting aside the fact that this could even be a headline in a serious newspaper like the Hong Kong English-language South China Morning Post, this story on the increasing influence of foreign lobbyists (which I read via Victor Shih's excellent China Politics Blog), shows once again the nationalistic tone that the Chinese government is encouraging nowadays. The academic quoted, one Jiang Yong (江涌), director of the Centre for Economic Security Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, went on to say "Under the protection of local government departments, some multinational companies have long ignored the lawful rights of Chinese labourers ... which resulted in the soaring number of mass incidents among their workers,". Now, having worked for an MNC in China I can attest that there is much truth to this, but it is likewise true that Chinese companies behave in (on average) much worse fashion. But I'm going to hold off from making any more comment until I've read through the whole thing properly and made a proper attempt at a translation, which is going to be a few days because I've got exams to worry about at the moment.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Holy S**t!

If you haven't seen this photo of the ash-plume of the Chaiten volcano in Chile being struck by lightning - go take a look. Sometimes Mother Nature just wants to show off, thank God for those times!

The CCP's war on reality continues . . . . .

China's ruler are now attempting to impose their world view on online maps services like Google maps by insisting that they depict China's borders 'correctly', as well as checking to see if locations that the government would rather keep secret can be viewed. No doubt they'll get their way and Google and the others will have to provide a different set of maps for their Chinese users, leading to the inevitable situation where Chinese folk go overseas and suddenly discover that our maps 'lie'.

I am reminded of how up until 2003, Chinese maps still showed Sikkim as an independent state - I had in fact never heard of Sikkim until I saw it on a Chinese map. This grotesque spectacle of a dictatorship insisting on the continued independence of a state which had been voted out of existence by its own people thirty years before was thankfully ended when, in 2003, China finally recognised the annexation of Sikkim by India in an apparent exchange for India's recognition of Tibet as an integral part of China.

The same insistance on controlling reality is displayed in this instance - no doubt in future all un-blocked online maps will show Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin, the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands as being the indisputable parts of China that the Chinese people have always known them to be - with no indication that there is even any conflict as to their ownership. However, re-drawing lines on a map will not make them so.

Monday 5 May 2008

"Should I start worrying now?":

A question I never asked myself during the 2003 SARS crisis until I rolled home from a going away party to find a notice on the door of the Nanjing hotel I was staying telling me (and everyone else in the building) that we had to be out by 10:00am the next day as the hotel was going to be used as a quarantine centre. Up until a few days before this the Chinese government had been trying to prevent a public panic, then first came the news that the May holidays had been cancelled, and then the special checks on travellers and the news that universities were being put under quarantine - but I hadn't taken any of it seriously until seeing the sign on the hotel door.

Now comes today's news that more than 9,700 people have caught hand, foot and mouth disease, an intestinal infection (and thus presumably not airbourne). It appeared at first to be localised - with all the cases appearing in Fuyang in Anhui province, but has now spread to all neighbouring provinces, as well as Guangdong and Beijing. Given the current atmosphere, and the way that rumours spread quickly during the SARS crisis of the disease being a form of biological warfare initiated by the CIA, it seems likely that the foreign population in China will come under further suspicion.

At what point should foreigners start getting worried? So long as you eat in restaurants where a good standard of hygiene is maintained - not yet, but it would be a good idea to keep a weather-eye on the news.

Memories of the labour camp . . . .

Followed a link from the latest War Nerd piece to this utterly fascinating site written by a former Japanese soldier who was captured by the Russians at the end of the second world war. Humorous cartoons interspersed with the sad (but not at all bitter) details of day-to-day life in a Soviet prison camp, definitely worth a hour of anyone's time.