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Obama Asia tour: US-Japan treaty ‘covers disputed islands’ – A Case of Dipping into One’s Savings to Live Large?

April 25th, 2014 4 comments
Obama makes toast to Emperor and Empress of Japan

Obama makes toast to Emperor and Empress of Japan

It’s never good to dip into one’s savings just to live large.  Gluttony and largess – when one can ill afford it – is foolish … and a sign of decadence.  To me, the U.S. so-called pivot to Asia – emblemized by President Obama’s trip to Japan – represents just that.

The New York Times – even with its usual spin PR in over-drive – already calls the trip a “setback.”  In an article titled “Obama Suffers Setbacks in Japan and the Mideast,” the Times reported:

TOKYO — President Obama encountered setbacks to two of his most cherished foreign-policy projects on Thursday, as he failed to achieve a trade deal that undergirds his strategic pivot to Asia and the Middle East peace process suffered a potentially irreparable breakdown.

Mr. Obama had hoped to use his visit here to announce an agreement under which Japan would open its markets in rice, beef, poultry and pork, a critical step toward the trade pact. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was not able to overcome entrenched resistance from Japan’s farmers in time for the president’s visit.

This trip was supposed to show that the U.S. is back – and that the pivot is back on track.  Yet, on the Washington Post, you will not see any article on Obama’s Japan trip on the top (home) page.  On New York Times Home Page, you see just one (the one linked above) – with that one lamenting the visit’s failure.

If the “pivot” is back, it seems hard to tell.  The U.S. seems distracted by other world events in Middle East Ukraine. Read more…

Helmut Schmidt: won’t sell Democracy to China

April 23rd, 2014 9 comments

The following link is an interview of Helmut Schmidt. It’s rare and refreshing to see a Western politician speaking so freely and honestly about Democracy. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/01/china-democracy_n_5067120.html
 
Based on the above interview, Bill, a thoughtful friend of mine, pretends to be an interlocutor shadowing Herr Helmut Schmidt with his own comments, excerpted from the interview. The result is well worth sharing:
 
Schmidt:

I think it is astonishing and encouraging that you are required to change the leadership every 10 years and that you replace the elder leaders by younger ones. Nobody stays in power any more as long as Mao of Deng.
On the other hand as a foreigner, as the European as I am, I really have no in depth knowledge of Xi Jinping, and I don’t know what kind of people he has surrounded himself with.

Bill:
 
One can compare China leadership selection and term limits with the world largest democracy India and world’s most powerful, the US. Even when a leader is voted out of power, the political dynasties of Ghandis, Longs, Roosevelts, Rockefellers, Kennedys, Harrimans, Bushes, etc. continue to exercise power. Family dynasties dominating established democracies morph into ossified institutions as enterprises, foundations and think tanks. They never have to share power with voters or pay attention to their grievances of social inequality. Someone like Sheldon Adelson and Koch brothers give hundreds of millions every two years to hire and fire politicians to consolidate their personal and family influence.  One-man-one-vote is often just environmental noise in democratic politics.
 
China tries hard not falling into this trap. But her chance of success is also in doubt. Xi Jinping’s chooses his own advisors. However, all leaders, democratic or authoritarian, are beholden to kingmakers and the most powerful stakeholders. They could make or break Xi, though to a large extent he is less vulnerable than Western politicians. The 10-year term limit is meant to give Chinese leaders a longer leash to experiment. However well intended and altruistic, Mr. Xi must move the country forward in the next 10 years. That means he is still constrained by many rules of the perpetual power game. History may glorify leaders’ selflessness. Yet human condition and initial conditions of nations to a large extent define all leadership and social agendas.
 
Getting real on my end is not the same as being cynical. Mr. Xi’s leadership effectiveness should be determined by a 10-year report card, not by the propaganda of Western media. Read more…

Malaysia Airline MH370 – American Media Fanning the Flame Wars

April 22nd, 2014 5 comments

MH370 SearchApril 15 is tax day for most Americans.  It is the deadline for Americans – rich or poor – to file and pay their taxes.  But this year, it appears, it is also smear China day.  You may think with so much things going on in the world, things to do, that perhaps for this one day, China might be spared unnecessary smearing.  But it is not to be so.

Last week, on April 15, both New York Times and Wall Street Journal ran two underhanded articles on China, assigning the blem for the unfruitful search for missing Malaysian airline MH370 squarely on China.  Both papers reported that China was in big on the search for MH370 not necessarily because a majority of the victims were Chinese citizens, but really because Chinese leaders wanted to show off their new technology wares – to grab the International spotlight to to show off.  Unfortunately, the Chinese bumbling not only made China look bad, but may have actually stymied the search. Read more…

Taiwan’s Student Mob?

April 9th, 2014 8 comments

Taiwan ProtestThis is a belated post.  I have been busy with a project at work the last couple of weeks…  Still, I believe what I have to say is still relevant.

It appears that the student protest occupying the Legislative Yuan the last 2-3 weeks is coming to an end.  Depending on which media you read, the significance of the protest meant different things.

Some think this is just a purely economical issue.  The Taiwanese students are not happy with the trade agreements agreed upon but not yet signed into law between the Mainland and Taiwanese side.  This is understandable.  College graduates in Taiwan has had a tough time getting (good) employment this past several years (decade?).  Many – unfortunately – have come to feel protectionism – legal protection from globalism – is the best way to “compete” in the global economy.

However, this is oversimplification.   If you listen to the speeches and talks within the protest, you have no doubt this is about partisan politics between KMT and DPP – and also emotional politics invoked against the Mainland.  As I noted earlier in a comment in another thread, the main impetus of the protest is not about economics, but about the uneasy unsettled status of Mainland-Taiwan relations.  The real reason is unification/independence politics.

But if this is all there is to the protest, I’d not write this post – as there is not much for me personally to write about.  It’s just about normal democratic politicking – built upon base politics, misinformation, distortion, emotional rants, hateful or divisive rhetoric, and what I might call ethno/religious/identity politicking. Read more…

Fact Checking US Government Propaganda On Maoming PX Protest Death

April 3rd, 2014 5 comments

It is often said Chinese government propaganda like Xinhua, People’s Daily, are highly agendaed and utterly unreliable. But how about America’s government propaganda? Here’s a recent example as illustration.

Recently, news of protesters killed in Maoming over a chemical plant made suspicious rounds – only in the usual propaganda outlets, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, and ancillary outlets like Epoch Times, Boxun. These accusations of Chinese government killing protesters were accompanied with photos of citizen laying on the ground bleeding. However, a quick Google image-based search revealed these photos are not from the PX plant protest, but were victims of violent crime elsewhere in China:

RFA used a photo from a hacking attack that occurred in 2012, and was subsequently regurgitated by Falun Gong outlets like Epoch Times:

RFAprop Wenzhoutruth

VOA used a photo from a hacking attack that occurred in 2013 that was then Echo Chambered by Boxun:

VOAprop Qinhaitruth

As a loyal tax payers I am completely disappointed by how my hard earned tax dollars are misused.

What is a Holocaust?

April 1st, 2014 6 comments

Earlier today, I stumbled upon a curious article in the Washington Post titled “This is why Germany doesn’t want China anywhere near Berlin’s holocaust memorial”.  According to the article, President Xi was (in short) barred from visiting German’s Holocaust memorial in Berlin because Germany was worried about embarrassing Japan.

Here is a copy of the article in full:

Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Germany for the next two days, meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German officials. It’s the third leg of Xi’s European Union trip, and an important one – as Deutsche Welle notes, Germany is China’s most important trade partner in Europe.

There is, however, once place that Xi isn’t wanted during his time in Germany: Berlin’s famous Holocaust memorial. Der Spiegel reported this month that German authorities had refused a request from Xi’s entourage for an official visit to the site. While the Chinese president may visit the site on his own, it will not be a part of the official itinerary and Merkel will not accompany him.

Visits to the Holocaust memorial, officially known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), are a key part of a trip to Berlin for many visitors. Why wouldn’t Xi be granted an official visit? Read more…

Taiwan’s opposition to the CSSTA = trade isolationism?‏

March 28th, 2014 5 comments

With the recent Student protests in Taiwan reached to a breaking point where the Students occupied the Legislative Yuan and Executive Yuan, it seems that the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) might be open for renegotiation or disband it in its entirety.  While it is within their right for the student to protest against the government about this Trade Agreement, but is it in their best interest to do so?  The bigger question is if the student protesters don’t want to be ‘annexed’ by China, are they in danger of trade isolation because of protectionism in their country?

In 2010, China and Taiwan have agreed on the ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement) and has brought a lot of benefit to Taiwan.  It has allowed many companies for cheaper exports to China and Taiwanese companies to set up presence in China, but there are consequences to this trade agreement.  This means that if a talented Taiwanese wanted a prospect for a decent job they will have to move in China to work, which cause this kind of brain drain away from Taiwan.  Also, Taiwan have put much restrictions on Chinese citizens to allow them to work in Taiwan so Chinese companies are not as willing to set up presence in Taiwan.

Morever, even with the ECFA signed, it still needs more FTA’s with other countries, namely to compete countries like Japan and South Korea which already have global Conglomerates which Taiwan does not have.  China is already following South Korea and Japan’s lead in developing giant companies and set up presence in many 3rd world countries, but faces many restrictions in Western Countries like in Huawei’s case.  In CSSTA, it allows Taiwanese companies to start setting up presence in China and in doing so, they can go global.  However, CSSTA must go the other way and allow less restrictions for Chinese companies to set up presence in Taiwan.

My fear is that if CSSTA is not passed, Taiwanese companies would be even less competitive and many of these Taiwanese companies would simply wither away leaving Taiwan dependent on Western Companies to set up their presence in Taiwan.   This is what is happening in many of the ASEAN countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.  Even worse, if the radical right in Taiwan decides to cut off ties with China would be bad for China and worse for Taiwan.

Categories: Analysis, Uncategorized Tags:

Yet another myth about democracy: “democracy+capitalism = prosperity”

March 15th, 2014 8 comments

When I wrote my first commentary on this blog, I outlined three common myths that people frequently believe without question when they think about democratic governance. Obviously, an idea as blindly and fervently worshiped as ‘democracy’ will have far more than just three myths associated with it. I continue my exploration of this ideology by discussing another myth that is frequently accepted without critical examination. Read more…

The Cultural Revolution and Free Speech

February 6th, 2014 14 comments

PBS’s Frontline recently aired a documentary of behind the North Korea scene.  Among all of the images of the expected misery, poverty, hunger, want, there was 1 segment which I thought was greatly overlooked.  A quick exchange between a few North Koreans behind closed doors.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/foreign-affairs-defense/secret-state-of-north-korea/transcript-55/

NARRATOR: Behind closed doors, even members of the North Korean elite have voiced unhappiness with the regime, like this businesswoman filmed at a private lunch.

[subtitles]

1st MAN: All we’re saying is give us some basic rights, right? We don’t have any.

WOMAN: It’s not like that in China. In China, they’ve got freedom of speech, you know. They went through the Cultural Revolution.

2nd WOMAN: We North Koreans are wise and very loyal. An uprising is still something we don’t understand.

1st MAN: But even that’s only to a certain point.

WOMAN: There can’t be a rebellion. They’ll kill everyone ruthlessly. Yes, ruthlessly. The problem here is that one in three people will secretly report you. That’s the problem. That’s how they do it.

2ndMAN: Let’s just drink up. There’s no use talking about it.

The Western Net users picked up on the line, and laughed at the irony of what they could only attribute to as ignorance of a North Korean.  But the real irony is, the North Koreans may have the better understanding of “Free speech” and “cultural revolution”, as do the Chinese who experienced it.

“Freedom of Speech” through “Cultural Revolution”.  It couldn’t happen in North Korea, because the regime would “kill everyone ruthlessly”.  Need to digest that a bit more.

Read more…

Avoiding the Dirty Business of Justice and Politics is Not a Good Solution

February 5th, 2014 1 comment

Politics and Law is the business of Justice.  And the Business of Justice, law and politics, is a very dirty business.

Periodically, whenever I feel safe and secure in the knowledge of my place in the world and in my profession as a lawyer practicing somewhat boring law fields, I go visit a court or a jail for a field trip.  If you have never done it, in whatever country you live in, you should.  Because the experience will remind you of the complexity of morality and fairness.

Read more…

Categories: Analysis, culture, General Tags: , ,

A Brief Note on Elections – that Bedrock of Modern Democracy…

February 2nd, 2014 5 comments

This is a brief note on elections – that bedrock of modern democracy.

A key and indispensable pillar of modern democracy – heck modernity – is the notion of elections.  Elections, many believe, are a fundamental way for people to express their voice, and some believe even for people to engage in self-determination as envisaged in the Charter of the United Nations.  Without elections, there can be no political accountability, no political legitimacy.  Oh yes, there might be, once in a while, a government such as the one in China today that gains popular approval without elections, but such a political structure cannot be sustained.  Over time, bad leadership inevitably arises.  Non-democratic political orders provides no means for the people to get rid of a “bad emperor.”  Over the long haul, the only way to rid governments that don’t serve the people is elections.

This may sound all fair and good except in real life, elections don’t work that way.  In real life – elections rarely project a “people’s voice,” too often detracts from the routine act of governing.  And the world has never witnessed – nor do I expect to witness – elections to overturn a truly unjust order.

Let’s pierce the facade using a real example to see how things add up. Read more…

Perceptions of corruption in the US and PRC – not exactly what one would expect

January 20th, 2014 3 comments

I was casually browsing through Transparency International’s website, and noticed something peculiar – even though citizens of the Republic of Georgia have a much higher opinion of their country’s ability to deal with corruption in their country relative to their counterparts in the US, and a much more optimistic outlook on the future of public institutions, Georgia ranks 55th on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), whereas the US ranks 19th (see 2013 rankings). Given the inherent difficulty in measuring actual levels of corruption, I understand why PERCEPTION of corruption is widely considered the best available proxy. But IF public perception is so important, I still didn’t understand why Georgia is 36 places lower than the US, when its citizens have a far more positive perception about their country’s ability to contain corruption in virtually every category measured.

I did a little digging and asking around, and I found that CPI rankings actually place LITTLE, IF ANY weight on public perception within the countries being ranked. If Wikipedia is accurate, CPI rankings are actually based on aggregates of “expert opinions” from select institutions that Transparency International (TI) deems “credible”:

“Transparency International commissioned Johann Graf Lambsdorff of the University of Passau to produce the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The 2012 CPI draws on 13 different surveys and assessments from 12 different institutions. The institutions are the African Development Bank, the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Economist Intelligence Unit, Freedom House, Global Insight, International Institute for Management Development, Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, Political Risk Services, the World Economic Forum, the World Bank and the World Justice Project.”

On the other hand, there is a section in TI’s website that covers public opinion, known as the “Global Corruption Barometer” (GCB), from which I noticed the peculiar results in Georgia and the US. This inevitably made me curious about Chinese public opinion of their own institutions compared to that of Americans, so I found the latest dataset (2010/2011) in which both the US and China were included, and here are some excerpts of the survey results, along with my personal interpretation thereof. What I found so far is that IF public perception is supposed to be a good proxy for actual corruption, then one CANNOT conclude that corruption is somehow worse in China than the US, at least not if you’re to believe the citizens of each country.
Read more…

A Tribute to Run Run Shaw

January 8th, 2014 1 comment
Run Run Shaw

entrepreneur, filmmaker, philanthropist

It is with sadness that we learned that Run Run Shaw – entrepreneur, investor, filmmaker, philanthropist – died Tuesday in his home in Hong Kong at the age of 107. There are few men in modern China – anywhere actually – with the stature, reach, and heart of Run Run Shaw. People who don’t pay attention sometimes may associate Shaw with just low-budget Chinese action and horror films, or just kung fu movie flicks, when in truth, his impact is much broader.   As Neda Ulaby of the NPR recently noted:

A world without Run Run Shaw would’ve meant a world without Quentin Tarantino…

Or the Wu Tang Clan…

Or “The Matrix.”

That global pop culture vernacular came from a Hong Kong media mogul who dominated the industry for decades. Read more…

Categories: Analysis, media, News Tags: ,

Errors of Soft Power, a Year-end Review

December 29th, 2013 6 comments

As 2013 comes to an end, we draw upon some lessons of this past year, particularly in regards to the concept of “soft power”, which is discussed often on this forum and in the Western media.

Read more…

China “Withholding” Visas From Foreign Journalists. Plenty of Self-Censorship At Home.

December 10th, 2013 16 comments

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/china-withholds-visas-nyt-bloomberg-reporters-21144608

This is apparently a continuation of an old story of how China is “expelling” foreign journalists en masse.  However, there are some conflicting details in the story itself.

“Withholding” visas means they accepted the applications, but won’t issue the the visas.  However the article later explained, “Chinese authorities had initially accepted resident journalist visa renewal applications from The Times’ reporters. But they stopped doing so — and in some cases returned applications to reporters — after the newspaper ran a report last month detailing ties between JPMorgan Chase and a consultancy in China run by Wen’s daughter.”

If they won’t accept the applications, or return the applications, that’s not “withholding” the visas.  The Applications were just REJECTED for some reason, usually technical.  As previous story on this noted, the Chinese government had explained that the applications were rejected for technical /formality reasons.

Read more…

African Economist Dambisa Moyo: Is China the new idol for emerging economies?

December 1st, 2013 26 comments

Dambisa Moyo – Is China the new idol for emerging economies

It is refreshing to see public intellectuals other than Eric X Li speak openly against the blind faith that most westerners place in their own brand of democratic governance and market capitalism (a faith that they attempt to impose on the rest of the world). However, I wanted to voice my skepticism on two of Moyo’s assumptions that I noticed in this linked video.

Read more…

Making a Mockery of China’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) – and the Precedents it Sets?

November 29th, 2013 28 comments

Wow, here is an update on the China ADIZ and the recent aftermath.  While I did expect U.S. and Japan to express some kind of reservation over China’s recent establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Seas, I had not anticipated the full sound and fury of the storm!

Within hours after China’s public announcement of the ADIZ, the U.S. decided to send two B-52s (unarmed) to the edge of China’s ADIZ on a putative long-planned, routine “training mission.”  When China did not scramble jets, the U.S. celebrated and congratulated themselves on a job well done!  Not to be outdone, Japan and S. Korea then publicly announced that they have also sent military (purportedly surveillance) planes into the area without properly alerting the Chinese side without incurring Chinese interception.  The Japanese also went to the extent of ordering its airlines (its two main airlines and all members of the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan) not to comply with China’s ADIZ (although Japan seems to have done a “U-Turn” for now).

One can find much written about China’s ADIZ.  In this post, I want to focus my commentaries on the indignation and concerns that many in the U.S., Japan – even S. Korea – have expressed toward China’s establishment of an ADIZ.

Before all that, I think it’s useful to provide some further clarification on China’s ADIZ.   First a better map than what one might find typically online. Read more…

Is China Escalating Tensions in the East China Seas By Creating an Air Defense Identification Zone?

November 25th, 2013 58 comments
Air Defense Identification Zone of China and Japan in the East China Sea

Air Defense Identification Zone of China and Japan in the East China Sea

Recently, one sees again a torrent of articles in the Western press about how China is escalating tensions in the the East China Seas By Creating an Air Defense Identification Zone.   The response from the U.S. and its lackey Japan has been swift.  NYT reports:

China’s announcement appeared to be the latest step in what analysts have called a strategy to chip away at Japan’s claims of control of the islands. Japan has long maintained a similar air defense zone over them.

The Japanese foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, called the Chinese declaration a dangerous escalation that could lead to what many military analysts most fear in the tense standoff: a miscalculation or accident that could set off an armed confrontation and drag the United States into the conflict.

“It was a one-sided action and cannot be allowed,” Mr. Kishida told reporters, according to Japan’s Kyodo News. It could also “trigger unpredictable events,” he warned.

In a statement on Saturday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that the American government viewed the Chinese move “as a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region.” He also reaffirmed that the United States would stand by its security treaty obligations to aid Japan if it were attacked.

By setting up a competing air defense zone, China may be trying to show that its claim to the islands is as convincing as Japan’s, Japanese officials said. They said China appeared to have a similar objective last Thursday, when Chinese coast guard officers boarded a Chinese fishing boat near the islands.

Ahh … how one-sided and myopic is the NYT report (surprise!).  

Peter Lee wrote a timely response to such shenanigan in the Asia Times today, which I quote in its entirety Read more…

Categories: Analysis, News, politics Tags:

Another Housing Bubble in US? (Under the Cover of China’s Housing Bubble)

November 21st, 2013 3 comments

http://www.nbcnews.com/business/housing-sales-drop-worrisome-signs-west-2D11624125

Apparently, the lure of money makes people forget lessons of the past.

So when recently the housing prices started to rise again in the Western regions of US, People are starting to dump houses, hoping to cash in on the higher prices.  (either that, or just trying to get themselves out of the market with little loss as possible).

Read more…

Categories: Analysis, economy, General, human rights, politics Tags:

“Capitalism Has Gone Nuts!”

November 18th, 2013 13 comments

That’s what I said to my parents-in-law who asked me to explain the “market” behavior that turns on every bit of news.

To the ordinary people, American or Chinese or anyone else, the “market” is hard to explain/understand.  That’s because it really is nuts/bonkers/crazy/insane/irrational.  This is NOT some “rational market”, because this “market” of today responds to opinions of those who claim to know.  But do they really know?  Or are they merely seeking to influence the outcome with their opinion?

Read more…

China Will Relax its One-Child Policy to Increase its Population Growth

November 16th, 2013 3 comments
1986 one-child poster

1986 one-child poster

The on-going Third Plenary Session of 18th CPC Central Committee has handed down several important decisions recently.  One of them involves the relaxation of the one-child policy to spur China’s population growth.

Xinhua has a good report.  An excerpt is provided below:

BEIJING, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) — China will loosen its decades-long one-child population policy, allowing couples to have two children if one of them is an only child, according to a key decision issued on Friday by the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The [change in policy is part of China’s continual adjustments in policies] step by step to promote “long-term balanced development of the population in China,” ….

To ensure coordinated economic and social development, the population size for China should be kept at about 1.5 billion, said Guo, citing the results of a study sponsored by the State Council, China’s cabinet.

China should keep its total fertility rate at around 1.8, and the current rate is between 1.5 to 1.6, allowing the country to maneuver its population policy, according to Guo. Read more…

Categories: Analysis, News Tags:

Typhoon Haiyan’s Destructive Path

November 12th, 2013 39 comments
Survivors waited to board a military plane at the airport in Tacloban

Survivors waited to board a military plane at the airport in Tacloban

The news is still enfolding on the destruction Typhoon Haiyan – now barreling its towards Vietnam and on into southern China – left in the Philippines. For those with the means, it appears the best way to help for the public now is to donate money. Two organizations with the capacity to help on the ground are:

Categories: Analysis, aside, News, Opinion Tags:

New Internet Economy Puts Dent In “Boycott China”

November 11th, 2013 3 comments

I have long maintained that boycotts rarely work well as a tool of political protest.  Even when mobilized as a collective national action like a trade embargo, history has not shown much effectiveness in causing political change, other than merely increasing bitterness (like the Embargo against Cuba).

Against a much larger target, with even broader scope, such as “boycott China”, the sheer size of lunacy of such a proposition is immediately apparent.  Chinese economy is not pinned down in a few special economic sectors, it’s large and diverse, and most importantly international.  It produces final products and components and material.  It’s not merely economical for businesses, it’s necessity of businesses to buy Chinese products.

But even more interestingly, the increase in the internet economy has shown that it’s not just companies like Walmart that dictates the improbability of “boycott China”, it’s increasingly the end user purchasers who are making it impossible to “boycott China”.

Read more…

A look back at Hillary Clinton’s 2011 “Internet Freedom” speech

November 9th, 2013 18 comments

Still recall former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech on “Internet Freedom?” Our first reaction on this blog was that America wanted unfettered access to citizens around the world. From a propaganda perspective, that idea enables the U.S. State Department to bypass foreign governments in reaching their citizens directly. Clinton herself has said the Internet would be a more viable means to reach into certain countries than, say, Voice of America (VOA), which often gets its signals jammed. This is also good business for the likes of Google and other American Internet services companies. The more users on Google, the more advertising dollars. And, it was no surprise at the beginning of that speech, Clinton pointedly acknowledged contributions from Google’s Chairman, Eric Schmidt. She affectionately described Schmidt, “co-conspirator from time to time” for that policy formulation.
Read more…

The Justification of Violence and Terrorism?

November 7th, 2013 5 comments
Shohret Hoshur

Radio Free Asia Uyghur service broadcaster Shohret Hoshur, gold medal winner at the 2012 New York Festivals radio awards in the category of best coverage of a breaking news story.

Today, I came across an article in Asia Times titled “Tiananmen Crash Linked to Xinjiang Mosque Raid” by Shohret Hoshur, originally published via Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service.  In the article Hoshur appears to justify violence and terrorism committed last week by presenting what must appear to him to be legitimate motivations for plowing a car into the guardrails in Tiananmen Square (which resulted in an explosion) last week .

For Hoshur, this event was less about terrorism – as the Chinese government asserts – and more about the desperate acts of another politically disenchanted Uighur.  While Hoshur is careful to say this is not organized violence (this would hurt the cause for Uighur independence), he also elevated it from mere spiteful acts of pitiful personal grievance (this would be uninteresting) to a symbolic peoples’ revolt (this is the happy, sweet medium).

Hoshur’s article is copied below: Read more…

Opinion: Is It Time Magazine that doesn’t understand Capitalism or China?

November 4th, 2013 6 comments

consumer powerTime recently published an article titled “How a Starbucks Latte Shows China Doesn’t Understand Capitalism” on the attention the Chinese government appears to be bringing to the practice of foreign companies overcharging Chinese consumers. According to Time, the government in doing this shows it doesn’t understand capitalism, ought to back off, and let the market reach a proper price.

The article asserts:

The bottom line is this: Companies will price their products based on what the consumer is willing to pay. That’s nothing illicit. It’s simple supply and demand. If Starbucks lattes were truly overpriced in China, the Chinese wouldn’t be buying as many of them, and the American firm would not have been able to build a successful network of over 1,000 shops in the country.

If foreign companies are engaged in illegal practices, then they should be stopped. But meddling in the pricing decisions of independent private companies is another thing altogether. China’s leaders persistently promise to make the Chinese economy more market-oriented, liberalized and fair. Premier Li Keqiang recently committed the government to “steadfastly pursuing reform and opening-up with priority given to the stimulation of the market.” Interfering with the prices private firms charge Chinese consumers suggests that China’s officials believe that they should make economic decisions, not free markets. Read more…

Opinion: On Bo Xilai and Rule of Law

September 24th, 2013 3 comments
Chief Judge Wang Xuguang reads the verdict. Photo: AP

Chief Judge Wang Xuguang reads the verdict. Photo: AP

This past weekend, the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court found Bo Xilai guilty bribetaking, embezzlement and abuse of power.  The trial has been widely publicized and discussed in China, with netizens on the blogsphere commenting from almost every angle, some in support of Bo, some in disgust of his alleged actions, and others neutral and looking at the bigger picture (see e.g. also this report).  South China Morning Post has this short summary of the court’s point-by-point verdict against Bo.

The Jinan Intermediate People’s Court accepted just two of the points former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai made in his defence as it jailed him for life yesterday. The court, in a transcript released on its official weibo account, set out its point-by-point rebuttal of Bo’s defence. It also detailed ways in which he abused his power after the crimes of his wife, Gu Kailai, and the attempted defection to the US by his key lieutenant, Wang Lijun.

Rejected argument

Bo’s claim: I confessed under duress.

The court said: Under Chinese law, the use of corporal punishment, corporal punishment in disguised form, or spiritual torture to interrogate and extort confessions is illegal. The “pressure” Bo faced did not involve any such act.

Bo’s claim: I did not know that [Dalian -based billionaire] Xu Ming was paying the expenses for my wife and son [Bo Guagua].

The court said: Bo’s denial in court is invalid as his written statements before the trial matched the testimony of Xu Ming and others, showing he not only knew that Xu Ming was financing Bo Guagua’s study abroad but also understood well their deal – exchanging power for money. Whether Bo knows the exact amount or not makes no difference.

Bo’s claim: I had no knowledge of the villa in France [bought on behalf of Bo’s family with cash from Xu Ming].

The court said: Bo mentioned the villa in his statements before the court heard evidence and testimony from others, ruling out the possibility that he was forced to confess on the point. Read more…

The Chinese Order and Putin’s Comment on American Exceptionalism

September 15th, 2013 25 comments

As part of the interesting discussion between Black Pheonix, ersim, ho hon and others in this recent thread, Black Phoenix made this insightful comment:

Sun Tzu definitely wrote not so much about “just war”, as he admonished rulers against War, using costs of war as arguments.

Sun Tzu was not concerned with what would justify war. His solution was to end wars as expeditiously and with minimum cost as possible.

He was in a time, about 550 years of continuous warfare in China. There was serious debate in that time about what would be considered “just war”, but there were no good conclusions.

In the end, the only solution was “unification”, as the ultimate solution to end all wars.

Thus, I would argue that from China’s unification, the ONLY valid justification for war were to repel invasion or for unification (both are to protect China’s sovereignty).

Other moral justifications are simply excuses.

This is an insightful comment when viewed in context of how so many Westerners today mock China’s stance on unity and sovereignty.  Sovereignty and unity is deemed an excuse to skirt its moral obligations to (Western created and controlled) ideals such as human rights.  Both are  deemed as pretexts for the government to do things that are substandard by the West’s reckoning.   Read more…

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Case Study on Democratic Self-Governance: NSA Oversight, a Straight Game of Poker?

September 7th, 2013 9 comments

poker_2661772bIf there is a religion in the modern world, it is the fanatic belief in democratic self-governance.  From a philosophical perspective, the legitimacy of democratic self-government requires the notion of a public forum – a democratic corpus, a public sphere formed by citizens, if you will – to frame, debate and discuss political issues and events, free from “government interference.”  This might be called a public sphere of privacy (privacy from government), rather than a private sphere of privacy (privacy from other citizens), and is essential to the working of a democratic government. It is of utmost importance to keep this public sphere vibrant and pure because in today’s paradigm, all governments have a tendency to to intrude, dominate, and control for its benefit at the expense of that of the people.  And a democratic government means little if people’s thoughts and voices can be manipulated, coerced, manufactured, or censored.  A belief in the vibrancy of the democratic corpus to deliver good governance (with that, justice, prosperity, “freedom,” and peace) represents the very soul of the modern democracy religion.

Yet, when you look around you and think for a minute – things just don’t add up.  The latest NSA revelations provides a useful case study. Read more…

Putting BBC’s propaganda against Vietnam to the test

September 2nd, 2013 13 comments

Is it possible to stop people from discussing news or current affairs on the Internet? The answer is easy: obviously not. I can’t see how that is possible without shutting the Internet down completely. And, what does it mean to be an “enemy of the internet” anyway? To qualify for that, wouldn’t a nation state be engaging in destroying Internet infrastructure globally or doing everything possible to shunt the productive potential of the Internet for humankind? Read more…