Prime Directive

As a science fiction fan Star Trek was one of my favorite, especially the “Prime Directive” which prohibit interference of other cultures and their developments. Of course it was a doctrine more in violation than its strict adherence since this was entertainment. Recently there was an outcry in Weibo when China joined a few others in voting against an U.N. Assembly motion on Syria. China has been following a Prime Directive like policy in against interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Of course this policy is somewhat defensive and ridiculed by West, but let me expound this a little more here.

China historically has been a non expansionary power. With deserts north, oceans east, mountains west, and south jungles and diseases, China prides in calling herself The Middle Kingdom. Geography maybe a limiting factor, yet at the height of power in Ming Dynasty, admiral Chen Ho with his mighty fleet visited various kingdoms south and west not for conquest, but more as curiosity gatherings. Philosophically, Taoism preaches harmony with nature, and Confucianism morality within. China has been defensive power since Han dynasty more than 2,000 years. It maybe psychologically better to gain pyrrhic victories with punishing expeditionary forces north, but much better for treasury and society by marrying off some women dressed as princesses or even some real princesses to tribal Hun chiefs and the use of the Great Wall.

With the Opium Wars China was forced to face the outside world and the resulting century of humiliation. Mao was a military genius in securing the surrender of local warlords from Xinjiang and ruling aristocracy from Tibet, both outside forces tried to pry away even today. Today with the market reforms and freer movements of internal population I suspect it’s only a matter of time modernization will resolve those problems to the disappointment of West. As for South China Sea, the name should have tell West something. When West stirred up nationalism in China, it should expect blowback. If Vietnam and Philippines are willing to negotiate seriously with China rather than wasting treasury to arm race with China, I expect China will be willing to settle Spratly Islands to status quo for join controls. Philippines especially is unwise to confront China, with the climate warming and yearly increasing exposure to typhoons, most of those islets will be under the sea, and rentals from former Clark Airbase or Subic Bay Naval base will gain her little.

For the last 60 years, even during the height of Cultural Revolution, China has a policy of none intervention of internal affairs of other nations. It may be a necessity before, but China still adheres to it now she’s strong, and from the experiences of U.S. in Middle East, bankrupting treasury while generating enemies all over, I suspect Prime Directive is more than a wise policy in real world.



US’ creation and blowback from the ISIS’ plague.

Ever since Obama has became president in 2009, Obama has taken a different stance towards maintaining its global hegemony.  Bush II’s tactics is to take over countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and rebuilding the countries.  Obama’s tactics is to fund or promote 3rd parties to do their work for them.  Obama’s Asian Pivot policy is to promote other countries like Vietnam, Philippines and Japan as a bulwark towards China to maintain US’ influence in the Pacific.  In the Middle east however, Obama’s policy is different than Bush’s policy to fund terrorist/extermists groups to do their dirty work.

Just like America funded the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets in the 1980’s, Obama’s tactics is to fund radical Islamists to overthrow or destabilize countries in the Middle East like in Libya and Syria but Obama is short sighted in its consequences.  Unlike Bush, Obama wants to change unfavorable regimes on the cheap and has no desire to rebuild those countries.  As the result, this created a flood of new refugees from these war torn regions coming to many Western countries.  Many European were open to this option but increasing number of terrorist attacks in their cities like the recent one in Paris and now trying to stop this ISIS plague from spreading to its countries by stopping immigration to their countries.

America on the other hand has no problems letting ISIS operate because of all the oil revenue they generate from Syria, Libya and Iraq.  America was ‘bombing’ ISIS for a whole year but ISIS operated openly in relative calm in Raqqa, Syria.

That is until Russia intervened (against US wishes) and bombed these very oil trucks.

Now these very same Western Politicans start waking to the notion of trying to stop terrorist attacks from coming to its shores and realized the blowback they have created.  Many people in European and the US now start to rethink their strategy of fighting ISIS rather than trying to fund these very same terrorists to try to get rid of Assad.

China’s Animation Industry

I think it is about time for some lighthearted subject matter. I have written awhile back that China’s so-called censorship does not stop creativity, rather it is the lack of “environment” that is the biggest bottle neck. One can talk about innovation, creativity, freedom etc but without a viable market there would be no cutting edge artistic commercial creation. My favorite for 2015 is Monkey King: Hero is Back (西游记之大圣归来).

If you guys have kids, you should watch it with them. You will not regret it. Either way enjoy the trailer here which is in English:

Continue reading China’s Animation Industry

China’s New 2 Childs Policy

When China recently announced change in 1 child policy, it was a total surprise to western observers and China experts. Some interpreted it as due to slow down in economy, labor shortages, or aging of the population. Others crowed triumphantly as failure of the population planning program, and human rights triumph over the authoritarian government. It would be pointless to rebut them here as different value systems preclude any logical meeting of mind. For example, the question of human rights for China differs from the western liberals. Here I just want to express my view over the years.

When I left China in summer of 1959, Great Leap Forward was all but over. Shortages and rationings were in full effect. I remember each has coupon entitled each adult 2 ounces of cooking oil per 10 days even in Shanghai. While one has 4 ounces of meat coupon the meat was sold out by daylight. I and other children usually wait in lines at 3 AM as adults have to work. We learned that meat lines didn’t guarantee it has meat to be sold in morning, so we usually waited on the beef stall as usually there were some supplies for Muslims as government policy favored minorities. When I was in Hong Kong during the next 2 years I read about possible famines in the newspapers. About some economist proposed population control and angered Mao. Over the years I have read about Malthus and Paul Ehrlich on zero population growth.

When China announced the 1 child policy I was fully supportive. To me it was obvious the benefits to the society, and the experience of the past 35 years validated it. It would be difficult to enforce and some tragedy was inevitable, such as forced abortions as when one is forced to live under rules they were eager that other were also. There can be no human right if people are starving, and society takes precedence over individual. I also do not want China to beg for help from the West, as advertising on TV asked donations for Care packages for famine victims in Africa which solves nothing except maybe relieve the conscience somewhat. Most people in the West consider the 1 child policy to be barbaric and violation of human rights. Yet looking at Chinese philosophical debates, even Western philosophies the society always takes precedence over individual.

When the 1 child policy was announced, it was understood that change will be necessary in 30-40 years as population stabilizes and ages. So now it comes to pass and West again trumpets the experience of India over China, democracy over authoritarianism. China growth under 7%, while India with fudging of numbers seem to better China. Green Revolution may have temporarily retarded the population problem India will face, but in 30 years I think China will stand as a shining example for all to emulate, and no one will bother to compare India to China again except maybe as a cautionary tale.



Military Surveillance under “Freedom of Navigation”, China can outdo US too. (Be careful what you wish for).

In follow up to Allen’s question,, I thought it only appropriate to show what is already happening.

US, by claiming the right of conducting military surveillance under “freedom of navigation”, escalated the provocation by essentially the logic of “We are here with guns, what are you going to do about it?”

Yet, already after, US defense experts and policy makers are already answering their own question:  China is arming fishing boats and turning them into Militia Navy, in a strategy US is calling the “Little Blue Men”.

Continue reading Military Surveillance under “Freedom of Navigation”, China can outdo US too. (Be careful what you wish for).

U.S. S. China Sea Provocation … What Next?

Missile Guided Detroyer LassenThis story has been brewing for a while.  The U.S. has been saying for months that it is going to challenge China’s “increasingly assertive claims” in the S. China Sea … militarily – by sailing warships through some of the most sensitive parts of the S. China Sea. Many have bemoaned when the U.S. appeared to deliberate and delay and delay.  But yesterday, the U.S. finally sailed a destroyer right through an especially “sensitive” area of the S. China Sea – the waters surrounding Zhubi Reef – a site where China has been dredging and building artificial islands over the last few years.

Here is how the NYT – in a article titled “Challenging Chinese Claims, U.S. Sends Warship Near Artificial Island Chain” – reported the story: Continue reading U.S. S. China Sea Provocation … What Next?

“China 2015 – Leading Global Innovation”: a World Economic Forum debate

I recently saw a debate I wanted to share, regarding a topic of particular interest for me: innovation in China. A few takeaways I got from this video:

  1. The myth of what I call the “freedom-innovation nexus” is still alive & well.
  2. China is already surpassing the West in some aspects of innovation.
  3. Just as there are no one-size fits all political models, there are no one-size-fits-all innovation models.

Enjoy the debate everyone.

Opinion: U.K. – the Bridge Between East and West? Not So Fast.

U.K.-China Toast
U.K.-China Toast

President Xi is visiting the U.K. this week.  There are pageantry … and some $60 Billion US worth of deals.  British Prime Minister has made a big commotion calling it as the “Partner of Choice” in the West for China.

I am sure the British Leadership, Cameron personally, believes that it is in the long-term interest of Britain to mend relationship with China.  But I don’t believe Britain is really a “Partner of Choice.”  It may be a “Partner of Convenience,” but I believe it still cares little for – has little respect for – China … except to make a buck. Continue reading Opinion: U.K. – the Bridge Between East and West? Not So Fast.

The Ouster of Hung Hsiu-chu

Over the weekend, the KMT nullified Hung Hsiu-chu’s nomination and selected party chairman Eric Chu to lead the ticket in the Jan. 16 election.  George Koo wrote a piece about it last week.

I typically don’t comment that much on populist politics since they are fleeting, shallow, and often end up, when on look back, just dust in the wind.

Here are some of my takes: Continue reading The Ouster of Hung Hsiu-chu

New research dispels western myths about PRC aid to Africa

New research, based on China’s aid track record from 2000-2013, shows that much of what the western media propagates about China’s intentions & practices, when it comes to providing official development aid (ODA) to Africa, is simply NOT true. “Coincidentally”, this latest research published by AidData has garnered little (if any) attention in US mainstream media outlets.

Here are a few of its findings. Those who are interested in the details should check out this new report in its entirety.

  1. African states that align with the PRC’s stances in the UN tend to receive more development assistance.
  2. Internal political system is not a factor for ODA allocation; the PRC does NOT favor either authoritarian or democratic governments.
  3. For China, humanitarian need is a stronger determinant of ODA destination than natural resource development opportunities, given that Chinese ODA is more focused on poorer African countries.
  4. Chinese ODA does NOT favor countries with higher levels of corruption.

Turning a Nobel Prize to a Chinese for Artemisinin Into a Eulogy for Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Chinese herbal medicine and tea set
Chinese herbal medicine and tea set

A couple of weeks ago, Tu Youyou became the first Chinese national to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine “for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria.”  (Tu had already won the Lasker Award a few years ago for the same work, and had described her work this way.)  There were cheers and hopes that with the prize, more people would become aware of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and the tremendous amount of work being put in to update the ancient arts with modern science and technology.

But very soon in the West, I see popping up everywhere “straw man” arguments 1.

First, there is the line of attack that goes something like this: so what if Dr. Tu found one drug from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that turned out to work. That per se doesn’t validate the whole tradition.  As this Daily Kos post noted: Continue reading Turning a Nobel Prize to a Chinese for Artemisinin Into a Eulogy for Traditional Chinese Medicine?


  1. From a wikipedia entry, a straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument which was not advanced by that opponent.

What’s Up with Abe’s Egging China On to War?

Mr. Abe has done a lot to put Asia back on the path to War: what with re-arming Japan, making a mockery of Japan’s Pacifist Constitution, and overflowing rhetoric about the dangers of a rising China.

Just last week, I was perusing through Asia Times, reading an article by Peter Lee on the TPP, when I noticed the following picture, and a comment from a reader.

Abe in cockpit of Japanese air force aircraft
Abe in cockpit of Japanese air force aircraft

Reader Jack Temujin astutely noted: Continue reading What’s Up with Abe’s Egging China On to War?

A Land China Loves and Hates?

On the Opinion Pages of New York Times of October 13, 2015, there was a piece by Murong Xuecun, pen name for Hao Qun, who used to be a big V on Weibo, and whose account was closed by the Chinese government, titled “A Land China Loves and Hates”, which I used as a title here, but with a question mark. I did so to show my disagreement with his premise, and since my response to him on the comment section was censored, as comments are moderated and usually only those showing approval are published, I would like to expound on the topic here.

His article concerns the attitude of Chinese, ordinary people and officials’ ambivalent attitude toward America. If he stopped there I would whole heartily agree with him. Yet he used an example trying to distort and blacken China to serve his purpose to demonize China which I find abhorrent. He used the example of some unspecified documentary from unspecified TV station which interviewed some Chinese after 9/11 showing glee at the tragedy and suffering. I questioned with 1.3 billion Chinese you can surely find someone with that attitude. Certainly official Chinese government does not take that attitude and any such Weibo postings probably were deleted. Why Mr. Hao wants to show Americans that Chinese were such horrible creatures except to serve the purpose to alienate Americans from China and serve the purpose of neocons which he although profess to be a liberal democrat was truly really a neocon himself.

America translated to Chinese means Beautiful Country. Despite discrimination most Chinese have a positive feeling toward U.S.. I have lived here for more than half a century and certainly do not hate her. I do not agree with U.S. governmental policies in Vietnam War and present morass in Middle East. When 9/11 happened my heart sank and grieve with fellow New Yorkers. Mr. Hao Qun presently resides outside China and taking pot shots at China from Hong Kong. To him China is probably the land he loves and hates.

Nations Agree on the Trans-Pacific Partnership … and My First Take of Its Significance

U.S. vs. China?
U.S. vs. China?

Yesterday, the U.S. and the eleven other nations announced that they had finally – after rounds and rounds of delays – an agreement.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have been controversial and widely criticized, with secret negotiations taking place behind closed doors.

Even the ultra liberal and Western brain-washed readers of the New York Times see little to like about the agreement.  For example, within a day of the announcement of the agreement, the top 10 comments (as voted by the readers) in the piece in which the NYT reported read: Continue reading Nations Agree on the Trans-Pacific Partnership … and My First Take of Its Significance

The “follies” of Russia’s pivot to China

Recently, there has been no shortage of highly pessimistic commentaries published & republished, pointing out the supposed “follies” of Russia’s eastern pivot, by highlighting this year’s decline in Sino-Russian trade, China’s stock market volatility, and its supposed economic “weakness”. The conclusion implied by these articles is clear: “Russia’s economic pivot to China is failing, because increased economic cooperation has not mitigated Russia’s recent economic woes, or the effect of sanctions. China cannot save Russia, and the latter must continue depending on the West.”

This is essentially a straw-man conclusion. One thing should be plainly apparent through even a casual examination of Russia’s biggest recent commercial agreements with China: most of these arrangements with China were NEVER INTENDED to offset the impact of Russia’s current recession, but rather to position Russia’s economy for greater long-term diversification and upward mobility on the global economic value chain.

Continue reading The “follies” of Russia’s pivot to China

Obama lecturing China about hacking and snooping? Shameless!

cyeberhacking1_3077109bOne of the key conflicts – at least in U.S. view – between U.S. and China over the last few years has been “cyber attack” and “cyber espionage.”  During President Xi’s recent visit to the U.S., Obama has scolded Xi very publicly – and with much fanfare – that Chinese cyber espionage against U.S. government and companies must stop.  Obama told reporters:

“I raised once again our very serious concerns about our growing cyberthreats to American companies and American citizens,” Obama said. “I indicated that it has to stop.”

“The U.S. government does not engage in cyber-economic espionage for commercial gain, and today I can announce that our two countries have announced a mutual understanding on the way forward,” he added.

The U.S. has long tried to distinguish between economic and political espionage, and tries to claim the high-road that it does not engage in the former.  But as I have commented before, that distinction never held any water under closer observation.

In the lead up to Xi’s visit, there has been much posturing in U.S. media that the U.S. will hit back against China for recent attacks against U.S., including one against the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that allegedly compromised the social security numbers of 21 million Americans, finger prints of 5.6 million Americans, among others.

China has long protested that it is the victim of wide-spread espionage … not a perpetrator.

Last week, Obama and Xi finally reached an agreement.

But there was no retaliation.  Why?  Continue reading Obama lecturing China about hacking and snooping? Shameless!

Indonesia’s Hidden Holocaust

Joshua Oppenheimer is an Oscar-nominated American film director based in Denmark. He recently produced two award-winning documentaries on the genocide perpetrated by the Indonesian government against ethnic Chinese and others throughout Indonesia in 1965-69.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning that atrocity. Joshua penned what I think is a great op-ed in the New York Times about Indonesia’s continued silence about that event … as well as U.S. complicity of that crime against humanity.

Here is a copy of the op-ed. Continue reading Indonesia’s Hidden Holocaust

Hillary’s Tweet about China Regarding Women’s Rights … and What it Reveals…

Women hold up half the sky.
Women hold up half the sky.

As China and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon get set to co-host a U.N. meeting of world leaders on gender equality and women’s empowerment, Hillary Clinton decided to crash the party.

On Sunday, Hillary tweeted:

Xi hosting a meeting on woman’s rights at the UN while persecuting feminists? Shameless.

This came as a surprise to many Chinese, including me.  Women’s rights is one of the most important achievements of the communist revolution.  Mao has famously pronounced:

Women hold up half the sky.

Since the founding of the PRC, freed of religious ideological baggage, the Chinese Communist Party quickly and successfully integrated women as an important part of modern Chinese society.  Continue reading Hillary’s Tweet about China Regarding Women’s Rights … and What it Reveals…

Q&A with a Russian friend (see download links or attached PDF)

PDF attachment: Q&A with a Russian Friend

Sometimes it is helpful for the Hidden Harmonies audience to remember that China is not alone in being demonized by the mainstream western (primarily US) media. Any country that doesn’t “fit” neatly into the US “liberal-democratic” ideological dogma will naturally be painted as some kind of morally degenerate rogue state out to undermine “good” and “normal” countries. In fact, recently, no country is more demonized than Russia (not even the PRC).

That said, one of the major problems I see is that while we may recognize that we’re not alone, due to potential language/cultural barriers, lack of awareness, our Sino-centric mindset/attention span, and a host of other possible reasons, we often do not truly understand the perspectives of others (e.g. Russians) who are demonized. This is especially the case if our primary source of information about these other countries is the western media. I hope the contributors at Hidden Harmonies can begin to fix this problem, and I’ve taken a small step to start. Continue reading Q&A with a Russian friend (see download links or attached PDF)

Case Study on Democracy and Rule of Law: Japan and the World at a Crossroad?

Massive Protest Against Abe's New Security Law
Massive Protest Against Abe’s New Security Law

Recently, the Japanese Parliament passed controversial legislation pushed by Abe to allow Japanese forces to fight abroad for the first time since 1945.  Here is how Reuters reported it:

Japan’s parliament voted into law on Saturday a defense policy shift that could let troops fight overseas for the first time since 1945, a milestone in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to loosen the limits of the pacifist constitution on the military.

Abe says the shift, the biggest change in Japan’s defense policy since the creation of its post-war military in 1954, is vital to meet new challenges such as from a rising China.

But the legislation has triggered massive protests from ordinary citizens and others who say it violates the pacifist constitution and could ensnare Japan in U.S.-led conflicts after 70 years of post-war peace. Abe’s ratings have also taken a hit.

The legislation “is necessary to protect the people’s lives and peaceful way of living and is for the purpose of preventing wars,” Abe told reporters after the bills were approved by the upper house. “I want to keep explaining the laws tenaciously and courteously.”

Japan’s ally the United States has welcomed the changes but China, where bitter memories of Japan’s wartime aggression run deep, has repeatedly expressed concern about the legislation.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the move was “unprecedented”.

“We solemnly urge Japan to learn the lessons of history … uphold the path of peaceful development and act cautiously in the areas of the military and security, and do more to help push regional peace and stability rather than the opposite,” it said.

Not surprisingly, this has incensed a large number of average people in China … and both Koreas … but also (take note!) the people of Japan.  Continue reading Case Study on Democracy and Rule of Law: Japan and the World at a Crossroad?

Where Did Lei Feng Gone?

During the last year I have read quite a few articles on people being indifferent to others in distress. For example a little girl ran over by a car and recording of CCTV showed pedestrians and cars ignored her for a long time until a poor woman searching for recycled bottles stopped to help and asked for help. Another case of an old man fell off a motorbike in flooded city street and drowned in a few inches of water because nobody offered to help. Of course there were other articles on elderly fell down and Samaritan offering help and was instead blamed for causing it and financially held responsible until some were cleared by surveillance TV showing their innocence.

From some of the comments I read blaming either the elderly for being greedy and demand Samaritan laws be passed or decline of traditional Confucian morality, or legal system should issue harsher punishments for false accusations. It got me thinking where did Lei Feng gone? The problem I described is much more than just the legal dispute between accuser and accused, greed, or superficial lack of humanity.

During the past few years there were periodic attempts at reviving the spirit of Lei Feng, from articles in People’s Daily to exhortations from leaders, yet the reaction is pretty pro forma and even cynical. For someone like me who were teens during the late 1950s, that spirit is what we aspire to be. Slogans like “Serve the People”, “To Where the Motherland Needs Us the Most”, and examples like Norman Bethune, and Edgar Snow whom I saw again on the montages of documentaries during the performance celebrating the 70th anniversary over Japan were inspirations. So what has changed? And how do we bring back Socialism/Maoism morality?

During the last 40 years China has been richer immensely, hundreds of millions were lifted from poverty. Yet the chasm between rich and poor has also widened, for the middle class they aspire to be rich yet afraid of falling back into poverty. Those afraid to intervene gave the excuse of afraid to be involved and falsely accused, in other words they have something to lose. While the garbage collection woman is poor, and have nothing to lose other than her humanity. Instead of playing the blame game and excoriate those who failed to get involved or those falsely accusing Samaritans, we should examine the real problem, the privatization of medicine and associated costs. For the elderly jostled and fell mostly are from the poorer sectors of society, they need someone to blame for the medical cost even if sometimes unfairly. Similarly the patents whose outcome of treatment didn’t meet expectation and resulting clashes against health workers speak volumes about alienation due to the high cost of medicine.

When Szechuan earthquake occurred, the central government spare no efforts and costs to alleviate suffering, and people donated to the relieve efforts to show their sympathy and unity. Recent announced reforms in SOE split them to profit and non-profit parts. I would suggest that China consider hospitals and medicine be part of that reform. Nationalize all privately owned hospitals and socialize the cost of medicine. No one should have to worry about the cost of medicine so people will not hesitate to give aid and comfort to the unfortunate. I think Xi is working in that direction anyway by medical insurance. The cost can easily be covered by cracking down on all the tax evasion going on by the middle class or additional tax.

Global Times recently commented on Mao being evaluated by Deng as 70/30, and they have not been talking about the 30%, yet to me they have also avoided talking about the 70%. For returning Lei Feng back into the hearts of common people we need to study those 70% and learn to continue them.


When Ideology and Racism Combine Caustically to Provoke Fear … and When that Fear Burns to Enslave and Ultimately to Kill …

Professor Xi Xiaoxing
Professor Xi Xiaoxing

A few months ago, a long-time Jewish friend of mine and I sat down for dinner.  We chatted about many times: family, career, politics, history and ideology.  One of the inevitable topics we discussed was the Holocaust.

I brought up the fact that China’s mentioning of Nankin massacre in the West evoked mass fears of China while Jewish bringing up of the holocaust evoked sympathy and condolence … even self reflections on humanity.

It’s true that six or so millions Jews died in WWII, but what about the 35 millions Chinese died as a result of the Japanese invasion, and some 27 million Soviets died in WWII?

He thought I had a point … but ventured that perhaps the reason is because the Chinese and Soviets casualty were results of WAR, which was sad, but to some extent “understandable.”  War had always been terrible, and modern weaponry only made it that more unbearable.

But Jewish holocaust was another thing.  It was the result of ideology and racism.  When Ideology and Racism Combine Caustically to Provoke Fear … When Fear Burned to Enslave and Ultimately to Kill … that is something that must be remembered.

Today we have the U.N. that work actively to avert world wars.  Anyone with some knowledge of history understand that war is to be avoided at all costs.  But while we can collectively actively look to avert hot wars, it is much harder to defend against ideological errors and racism.  Ideology and racists attitude are pervasive, and sneaky.  It’s the wild grass that is always growing … that must be incessantly pruned.  Grass that might at first appear tame … before anyone notices … has become a wildfire. Continue reading When Ideology and Racism Combine Caustically to Provoke Fear … and When that Fear Burns to Enslave and Ultimately to Kill …

Privacy, National Security, Human Rights, Social Value, Whatever – It’s Whatever the West Says

Microsoft, Privacy, and Rights over Ex-territorial Servers

The Economist today had an article on a case involving Microsoft’s alleged refusal to turn over documents stored on a foreign server to FBI. The article can be found here (archived here).

According to the Economist:

SUPPOSE FBI agents were to break into the postbox of an American company in Dublin to seize letters which might help them convict an international drug dealer. There would be general uproar, if not a transatlantic crisis. But that is essentially what the FBI wants to happen, albeit in the virtual realm: it has asked a court to order Microsoft, in its capacity as a big e-mail provider, to hand over messages from a suspect in a drugs case which are stored in a data centre in Ireland. On September 9th an appeals court in New York will hear oral arguments on whether Microsoft has to comply.

The case has many wrinkles … But at the core of the case is one of the most knotty legal questions in the age of cloud computing: how to give law-enforcement agencies access to evidence when laws remain national, but data are often stored abroad and sometimes even at multiple places at once?

This article rightfully brings up conflicts in law in the Internet arena within the West. Over the last few years, certain very public and passionate debates have flared up with Europe and the U.S. regarding privacy, right to delete, and censorship on the Internet.

A few years ago, as early as 2008, when I noticed Google Streetview growing to incorporate the streets of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other Asian regions, I realized that everyone there simply took it for granted that it’s ok. What Google did must be the right, enlightened, and forward-thinking. Continue reading Privacy, National Security, Human Rights, Social Value, Whatever – It’s Whatever the West Says

The Humanitarian Crisis Spewing into Europe from the Middle East

eu-migrant-crisisThe last week or two, we have seen a great humanitarian crisis building in Europe with waves and waves of refugees pouring into Europe from neighboring Middle Eastern countries … with many dying along the way … and even children washing up on resort beaches.

The debate in Europe appears to focus primarily on how should the various nations shoulder the responsibilities of accepting the refugees.  Germany by far has been the most open-armed, although there are anti-immigrant feelings spewing in the nation as well.

Germany should be applauded for taking leadership for Europe to accept these refugees … but in some ways, it is also the least they can do.  Why? Continue reading The Humanitarian Crisis Spewing into Europe from the Middle East

Beyond the Pathetic Complaints about China’s 70th V-Day Anniversary Parade

1200x630_312860_we-love-peace-china-s-presidenI have been watching, reading, and observing events leading up to China’s 70th V-Day Anniversary Parade.  Festivities are still on-going, and I definitely feel proud that China is on the right track.

I do hear however a lot of bitter snickers and derision that to me seem way off point…

For example, in the U.S., I hear some Americans snicker at the parade saying, oh … but all that military might is useless outside China’s borders.  Just how does China plan to take that force to Japan … or Philippines … or any place further than that: China’s navy will be outgunned and the PLA is doomed from the start. Continue reading Beyond the Pathetic Complaints about China’s 70th V-Day Anniversary Parade

A short caricature on politics …

japans-imperialismIn the lead up to China’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in WWII, I thought I’d do a little personal aside … that might explain why Japan can be so delusional about so many things.

Politics … in many ways … especially politics in the democratic sense (i.e. at the level of the people) … is about caricatures … about simplifying (over-simplifying as the case may be) the issues.  Politics is about setting narratives – about burnishing worldviews – through selective highlighting (and de-emphasis) of reality … to present a particular view of the world that sometimes resembles some aspects reality … but that can some times also be completely in contravention with any sane view of reality.

There is a reason why people often avoid talking politics and religion in polite settings.  People can try to use logic and reason … but the problem is that underneath iceberg tip of logic and reason are mountains full of unspoken – and sometimes even unconscious – presumptions.  It’s why reasonable people can disagree vigorously and get so worked up about political disagreements. Continue reading A short caricature on politics …

What Academic Freedom?

Hong Kong “politics” has decomposed into a tiny repertoire of elemental clichés. Nonetheless, they can cause disproportional disruptions when deployed vociferously by ardent sloganeers with singular determination. By far the most overworked slogan is — of course — freedom and democracy. It’s become licence to do practically anything without consequence. Well, freedom is pointless if fettered by legal constraints, isn’t it? Other banners in the arsenal include, in order of perceived popularity, social justice; freedom of press/speech/expression, academic freedom, and a few other simplistic beauties.

Freedom and democracy, having worked overtime during Occupy Central, is taking a break. Academic freedom has taken centre stage, with the University of Hong Kong (HKU) as backdrop. Continue reading What Academic Freedom?