Tuesday 23 June 2009

"The model is cracking because it must "

[A country road on Jiangxin Island, Nanjing]

"China cannot build its economy for ever on a savings rate of 40 per cent of GDP, or exports growing at such a rate that by 2020 they will constitute half of the world's merchandise exports. The model is cracking because it must."

- Will Hutton

My question here is "why?". Not, of course, why Will Hutton believes these trends cannot continue forever - because they cannot (although they might go on for quite a long time), but why does he think that the slowing of growth in exports and the loosening of savings necessarily spells the end of Chinese growth? Exports make up a third of the Chinese economy, but domestic consumption is not growing so much more slowly than the rest. Savings act as a safety-net in absence of a proper welfare state, so until a welfare state is properly constituted they will remain high, and once this happens taxation is likely to step in to absorb the money which would otherwise be saved. All of this seems good reason to believe that Chinese GDP growth will slow from its 10% yearly average, not that the west will draw ahead of "a China facing political turmoil and increasing economic difficulties".

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Is this for real?

[Above: The front page of yesterday's Beijing Daily, showing (left-to-right, top-to-bottom) Hu Jintao meeting with the presidents of Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and the Prime Minister (mislabelled 'Premier') of India]

Anyone familiar with the Chinese print media will be used to seeing front page stories like these. They all follow the same pattern:

"Today [insert CCP official here] met [insert foreign toady here], agreeing that [insert propaganda spiel here] the two said that Sino-[insert country name here] relations and mutual friendship are unbreakable"

Indeed, if you can be bothered to read all of these stories (doing so gave me a headache though) you will see President X reaffirming his country's commitment to principle Y and the peaceful development of Z. But why print them out in this obviously ridiculous fashion? Is it a joke? Or is it impossible to relegate any of these meetings to the inside pages?

Thursday 4 June 2009

Thoughts for 6/4

Go where those others went to the dark boundary,
for the golden fleece of nothingness is your last prize

go upright among those who are on their knees,
among those with their backs turned, and those toppled in the dust

you were saved not in order to live,
you have little time, you must give testimony

be courageous when the mind deceives you, be courageous
in the final account, only this is important

and let your helpless Anger be like the sea,
whenever you hear the voice of the insulted and beaten

let your sister Scorn not leave you,
for the informers executioners cowards — they will win,
they will go to your funeral, and with relief will throw a lump of earth,
the woodborer will write your smoothed-over biography

and do not forgive, for truly it is not in your power
to forgive in the name of those betrayed at dawn

beware however of unnecessary pride,
keep looking at your clown’s face in the mirror,
repeat: I was called — weren’t there better ones than I

beware of dryness of heart, love the morning spring
the bird with an unknown, name the winter oak

light on a wall, the splendour of the sky,
they don’t need your warm breath,
they are there to say: no one will console you

be vigilant — when the light on the mountains gives the sign — arise and go,
as long as blood turns in the breast your dark star

repeat old incantations of humanity fables and legends
because this is how you will attain the good you will not attain
repeat great words, repeat them stubbornly
like those crossing the desert who perished in the sand

and they will reward you with what they have at hand
with the whip of laughter, with murder on a garbage heap

go because only in this way will you be admitted to the company of cold skulls
to the company of your ancestors: Gilgamesh Hector Roland
the defenders of the kingdom without limit, and the city of ashes

Be faithful - Go

Zbigniew Herbert, "The Envoy of Mr. Cogito"

Translated by Bogdana and John Carpenter

Worse things have happened in the twenty years since the massacre in central Beijing. Thousands were killed by terrorism in Northern Ireland and New York, thousands more died in genocide in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and yet more thousands are dying still in warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet I still cannot bring myself to forgive the Chinese Communist Party for what its leadership did. Yes, I know people in the party, a long-term girlfriend of mine was even a member. This does not mean that I will ever forget the character of that organisation, or forgive what they have done. I do not have the right to do so.

[Update: Thanks to the Telegraph's Shanghai correspondent Michael Moore for the picture of the Tiananmen vigil in Victoria Park, Hong Kong. The organisers estimate that 150,000 people gathered there to commemorate the massacre, whilst the authorities place the number at just over 60,000]

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Self Pwnage Redux

China just blocked Twitter. As Kaiser Kuo said in an interview today:

"The whole Twitter community in China has been exploding with it," said Beijing-based technology commentator Kaiser Kuo.

"It's just part of life here. If anything surprises me, it's that it took them so long."

Here's Twitter's reaction:

As one Chinese Tweetnik put it:

其实,fuck 墙不重要。重要的事情有两件:1.告诉周围的人有GFW的存在。 2.传播翻墙工具,甚至开发翻墙工具。 化愤怒为智慧,才有力量。

Really, fuck the great fire wall isn't that important. There are two things which are important: 1. Telling everybody that the great fire wall exists. 2. Spreading knowledge about devices for getting around the great wall, even hastening development of devices for overcoming the great fire wall. Spend anger to gain knowledge, this is the only way to be effective

You can follow Twitter users protesting the block here.

Monday 1 June 2009

Gun Law

For anyone who thinks that widespread ownership of guns is a good idea, read this and tell me that you cannot possibly imagine it happening to you:

"It started with a dinner party which was thrown for my grandparents' fortieth wedding anniversary. Towards the end, we all had a lot to drink and our guests had left and I told me Dad I wanted to leave the army. He disagreed with me and started to outline his reasons for disagreeing with me. It was obviously set for being a long discussion so my mother, my sister and grandparents went to bed. We had a couple more drinks while the discussion went on and I was very drunk, and I suspect he was as well. At this point I have to become vague because the conversation came round to personal prowess and in particular with a shotgun. Me Dad claimed that he could not only outshoot me but outload me, outdraw me, i.e. he was faster than me, and claimed even with a crippled left arm he was still faster than me. I disagreed with him and said: 'Don't be silly' or words to that effect. In fact we were swearing at each other at this time. So he said: 'We'll prove it. Go and get two of the shotguns.' He has four, I have one. So I went upstairs and got my shotgun and I got his shotgun. I gave him his shotgun and he told *916 me to get two cartridges out of a box in the cupboard. I gave him one and took the other myself. He opened his gun and started to remove his snap caps. I opened my gun and removed two empty cartridges which I use as snap caps as I don't have any. I inserted the cartridge in the right hand barrel, closed the gun, took off the safety catch and pulled the trigger of the left hand barrel, and told him he'd lost. By this time I don't think he'd even cleared his barrel of the snap caps. He looked at me and said: 'I didn't think you'd got the guts, but if you have pull the trigger.' I didn't aim the gun. I just pulled the trigger and he was dead. I then went and called the police and told the operator I had just murdered my father, and that's the story."

R v. Moloney [1985] A.C. 905, P. 915-916

Moloney knew how to use guns, and had lived around them all his life. He had no mental problems, no criminal history, and no animosity towards his father. But he still killed him.