Time 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. Continue reading →
I wanted to share a video that has gone viral on Youku, and has gotten the attention of western outlets such as Time Magazine, which will no doubt attract ample amounts of sneers and visceral comments from the West. I’m posting both the English (Youtube) and Chinese (Youku) versions, for everyone’s convenience.
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.
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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
One of the main reasons I wanted to contribute to the success of this blog is my desire to dispel ideological myths and dogma that exists in western discourse, and if I’m lucky, reach out to a few people in my age group back in China. One of the myths, against which I voiced skepticism in “Rethinking the Freedom-Innovation Nexus” is the supposed causal link between political freedom and scientific innovation.
I wanted to follow up on this with a McKinsey discussion on the Chinese model of innovation. I think this is podcast yields useful insights on the current state and characteristics of modern day Chinese innovation at the enterprise level.
A couple of highlights:
– Chinese companies embrace change and adaptation at a faster pace relative to their other Asian counterparts at a similar stage of development in their respective countries.
– Chinese companies are more willing to import talent from abroad, China’s ‘richness of talent’ comes in part from returnees who received education and worked in the west, as well as state funding of world-class academic research institutions.
If 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. Continue reading →
During my teenage years, I dreamed of becoming a jet fighter pilot. Believe it or not, I was accepted by the U.S. Air Force Academy, and had I opt for that career, I would certainly have seen my share of war. Anyways, few days ago, my family visited the U.S.S. Midway aircraft carrier in San Diego. The ship and the airplanes on it have been decommissioned for couple of decades now, but being in their presence still rekindled the excitement I had many years ago. Below is a frontal view of a Phantom F-4 on USS Midway. These two pieces of arsenal made a formidable duo during the early years of the Cold War. The fighter is capable of speed faster than mach 2 (two times the speed of sound). It can carry a variety of missiles and bombs, including the nuclear bomb!
I think Citizens of the UK should start familiarizing themselves with the phrase “being invited for tea” (请喝茶). Democracy at work, folks. Oh by the way, for those extolling the righteousness of “rule of law”, this is all legal under current British law.
EDIT: One more note, at least Chinese security doesn’t rob you of your video games when they invite you for tea.
China is often regarded as a nation without Freedom of Speech – or at least a nation that disrespects Freedom of Speech, or a nation with serious infractions of Freedom of Speech. I have often argued that such disparaging conclusions rarely turn out to based on Freedom itself, but a disrespect of China’s social, historical, and political contexts and current interests. I will use recent events to further demonstrate my thinking.
For those of you paying attention on issues surrounding “Freedom of Speech” on the international stage, you might have noticed that France caused quite a stir last week by finally abolishing a law against insulting its president.
On Sunday, Abe and his party secured a victory to win landslide victories. According to Foreign Policy,
Riding a wave of stimulus money to the voting urns, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party secured a majority in both of the country’s legislative houses, delivering a stamp of approval for his economic policies and possibly setting up Japan for its most significant constitutional revision since World War II.
A man with deeply nationalist roots, Abe has embarked on a twin project of national renewal, launching an aggressive stimulus program – better known as “Abenomics” and which has injected a measure of dynamism to the sluggish Japanese economy – while also floating the idea of revising the country’s pacifist constitution. Abe’s military initiative comes in response to what many in Japan see as the danger of a rising China to the country’s west and the need for Japan not just to have a self defense force but a bona fide military to counter that threat. On Monday, Abe linked those two projects. “Economics is the source of national power. Without a strong economy, we cannot have diplomatic influence or dependable social security,” he said. “I want to make Japan’s presence felt in the world.” Continue reading →
It has been two weeks since “cross-straits” team Peng Shuai (彭帥) (mainland) and Hsieh Su-wei (謝淑薇) (Taipei) won the women’s title at Winbledon. Moments after their win, a Japanese reporter has already created a lasting stir within China. The controversy went as follows, according to Phoenix News Media Ltd (in Chinese):
After the game, a Japanese reporter asked Hieh Su-wei, “Being the first to win a grand-slam as a ‘Taiwanese,’ can you talk about what it means for your ‘country.’ After a short exchange between the two, Peng Shui interrupted. She said, “Excuse me. I am still sitting here. I cannot accept Taiwan is a ‘country’ type of talk. Tennis is sport. We don’t want to bring politics into this. We don’t want to discuss this type of issue. Furthermore, since when we were young, we have always thought of ourselves as a ‘cross-straits’ team.
By the answers, I am hoping to gauge people’s attitude toward Snowden. For me, I am neutral. I personally have nothing against government “snooping.” I have nothing to hide in general. As long as they don’t pick on me for little trivial things (I trust governments generally enough that they wouldn’t), I have nothing against government tapping, government cameras, government sucking of emails, etc. So what Snowden has revealed does not hit me in the stomach on that level.
However, I believe what Snowden has revealed is important in a geopolitical context. Previously, we thought of the Internet as “free” – run by innovative Stalwart companies devoted to freedom, free from government interference. Now we know the vastness of what we consider to be “free internet” is merely a very nationalized network space that is compatible with one specific set of values and that is at the core of 21st century geopolitical competition.
That’s an important insight for humanity to know.
So – should China…?
[Editor's Note: clarification added 2013-07-09]: From the above write-up about “geopolitical context,” one might misunderstand me as saying that what Snowden has to say has no relevance to Americans and relevance only to the rest of the world. That’s not what I meant. To the extent Americans are world citizens, they should care. They should understand so they understand why the information they get online in the so-called free internet (and also why the information they get in the so-called free media, why their very perspective about the world, about history) may be so biased and American (or Western)-centric. And then perhaps they may understand why so many things they had taken to be Universal may just be American (or Western)-centric. What Snowden revealed, and he may not even understand it, is to change the paradigm by which we view the world by revealing a blindspot we had universally taken for granted. Others have noted the dangers of relying on “google” for all information on the net – because that essentially allows one entity – which is not beholden to the “people” per se – to define our knowledge, our worldview, our identity… It is equally dangerous to rely on the falsehood of a universal, free internet for our information because there is no such thing as a universal internet. Language and cultural barriers would have fragmented it fr0m the start – though now we see politics from the U.S. already set it up to fragment from the very beginning, too.
Eric X. Li, whom both YinYang and I know personally, recently gave this TED presentation on the ideological worship of two political systems – communism … and electoral democracies. As usual, I find Li’s perspective insightful and interesting. It certainly takes guts to stand up and speak against the predominant religion in the world! Now I appreciate even more how Galileo must have felt in confronting the Catholic Church!
I do want to make a quick note about one of the two questions the host at Ted asked of Li at the end of the talk. The host asked about how a non-elected government can legitimately set the agenda without feedback in the form of contested elections. Li talked about how the Chinese government – at all levels – takes surveys of the people on all types of issues, from what people think of the garbage collection at a local level to what people think about the direction of the nation on a national level.
This exchange reminded me of the adversarial vs. inquisitorial approach to resolving legal controversies. Continue reading →
For the last week or so, Hong Kong has been (very publicly) celebrating the “rule of law” that it claims it has exhibited in letting Snowden leave the country despite strong U.S. pressure to arrest and extradite him. The Hong Kong government made this official statement after Snowden left Hong Kong.
The US Government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR Government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden. Since the documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR Government has requested the US Government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government’s request can meet the relevant legal conditions. As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying later cited the government’s action as “a good example to illustrate the rule of law and the procedural justice that we uphold.” The people of Hong Kong for the most part do back Leung’s sentiments. Even those who suspects illicit political motives seem to concede that Hong Kong did right following its laws, protocols and procedures.
While I am proud of Hong Kong in standing up to U.S. in the Snowden affairs, I urge caution that this is a triumph for rule of law. Rule of law connotates an absence of arbitrariness, an objectivity that is devoid of human whim and of politics. But if the public thinks the Snowden case resulted from an objective, fair and impartial application of rules, I urge them to think twice. Continue reading →
Have you thought to yourself, “man, this talk about freedom, God, human rights, and we are for good while people we don’t like are evil has become so trite and boring?!” I actually thought the following round-table of Vladimir Putin dishing out his views on America refreshingly interesting. I have my opinions, but I often wished American politicians would be equally willing to be frank about how they feel towards certain issues in practical terms rather coated with so much righteous non-sense.
The American Left hates China, the Right hates China, and Chen Guangcheng is stuck in the middle of two very passionate groups gunning to be the thought leader of America’s democracy battles and the war on China’s soul (or lack of):
Peter Lee wrote an interesting piece at Asia Times titled “India places its Asian bet on Japan” today regarding his take of India’s recent rapprochement with Japan. Before reading this piece, I had regarded Singh’s recent trip to Japan as nothing much more than two second-rate power trying to form a second-rate alliance against a perceived first-rate power. But perhaps there is something more…
Here is an excerpt of Lee’s article:
In a dismaying week for the People’s Republic of China (PRC), India turned away from it, and gave further signals that it is ready to move beyond the narrative of Japanese World War II aggression that has informed China’s Asian diplomacy and anchored the US presence in Asia for over half a century in favor of a view of Japan as a leading and laudable security actor in East Asia.
I don’t know if there is a term in the diplomatic lexicon for “deep tongue kiss accompanied by groans of mutual fulfillment”, but if there is, it seems it would be illustrated by the encounter between Indian President Manmohan Singh and Japanese PM Abe Shinzo in Tokyo on May 27-29, 2013. Continue reading →
The Chinese blogsphere is rife with indignation on how Michelle Obama pulled a Political Snub On Peng Liyuan. Apparently, Michelle decided to attend her daughter’s 12th birthday party in Washington instead of be in California to host Liyuan for the pivotal bilateral meeting between presidents’ Obama and Xi.
A friend of mine who lives in Shanghai wrote a quick WeChat update today:
which roughly translates to:
“Today is June 4th. Let’s pay homage to those young Chinese who perished in the cause of freedom and democracy.”
(For an in-depth article on June 4th, read “Let’s Talk About Tiananmen Square, 1989” and in Chinese, “且谈1989年的天安门事件.”)
Many of our readers’ reaction might be: “oh no, another idealist who is sold on the ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ religion!” Not so! In fact, there are many in China who use these two terms as a way to solidify grievances they have with Chinese society. They mainly see China as more backwards compared to richer countries like the United States. When asked what China is more backwards on? Many a response come as, “we have less freedom and democracy.” Continue reading →
North Korea is the most vilified nation in the world. But in truth, it should be considered the shining city on top of a hill as far as human spirit is concerned. HOW???
You wouldn’t think that by what you typically read in the international news (dominated by Western media). Oh, the people in North Korea are so wretched. They eat dirt, have no freedom, live in a police state (I’ve argued it is the U.S. that is the reigning police state), and are constantly bombarded with suffocating, stale state propaganda. Poor North Koreans. Look to the South – see how free, how happy, how prosperous they are! Continue reading →
After getting their communist hands caught in the cookie jar with cyber espionage and covert theft of our technology and IP, the sneaky Communist Chinese are shifting tactics and resorting to overt acquisition of our safe, efficient pig husbandry and processing technologies to save their crumbling communist pork industry rife with disease, contamination, poison, censorship, lack of freedom.
They have to be stopped. Write to your congressman, boycott Communist-China-made products and turncoats who sell out to the communists. Burn all your possessions contaminated with Communist-China-made parts, like you and your neighbor’s cars (especially if they are ChiComs.) The evil Communist Chinese even force-feed Tibetan babies rotten pork (Tibetans abstain from pork as muslins) while wrapping them in flea blankets infested with smallpox.
Communist China is evil, we are great, USA, USA, USA…
Freedom loving, patriotic but not nationalistic, America
Recently, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, a prominent Japanese politician, raised a storm in Asia when he pronounced that the “comfort women” Japan enslaved during WWII as “necessary.” According to this BBC report, Hashimoto said:
In the circumstances in which bullets are flying like rain and wind, the soldiers are running around at the risk of losing their lives…. If you want them to have a rest in such a situation, a comfort women system is necessary. Anyone can understand that.
On May 8, Japan’s government lodged a “strong protest” with the Chinese government over an article that had run in the People’s Daily in which two academics questioned the basis of Japan’s sovereignty over the Lewchew 琉球 (in Japanese, Ryukyu) islands. The Chinese side of course rejected the protest, and opinion columnists the world over have been weighingin. The current press furor has produced exciting developments in Lewchew’s main island of Okinawa, where in May 15 two professors have founded the “Association of Comprehensive Studies for Independence of Lew Chewans”. Already, there exists in Lewchew rising tensions between natives and nationalist Japanese, a latent history of cultural and linguistic abuse of Lewchewans, and a culture of protest upon which independence campaigners can piggyback. The only missing ingredient in this karmic tinderbox of anti-Japanese sentiment is international diplomatic support for Lewchewan separatists, which does not seem to be forthcoming from China. The Wall Street Journal soberly notes that “individual commentaries”, such as those in the People’s Daily, “don’t necessarily reflect the views of top political leaders, and Beijing officials on Wednesday gave little indication that the commentary represents a potential shift in policy.”
Once in a while one runs into articles that seem to fly against convention wisdom, that seem to tear at the veil of world injustice, that seem to open one’s eyes to provide insight into the causes of so many of today’s ills. This article titled Why There is So Much Pro-War Reporting from “the Big Picture” blog is one of them.
In reading this article, I note how the article also parallel a lot of what Norm Chomsky (Manufacturing Consent) and David Swanson (War is a Lie) have written about pro war sentiments. Yet, I still feel that this article is flawed in so many ways. We are only scratching at the surface of, not diving deep into, the problem.
The article points to 5 major reasons why free media is not so free, and why it’s so pro-war. Continue reading →
For some time, I have been on a hiatus from the blog. That does not mean that I was tuned off from what’s going on in the world. Despite my temporary leave of absence, I till end up devoting non-trivial amounts of time to corresponding over emails with friends … and editors on this blog about current events.
I was just about to send another email when I realized that instead of not blogging, and just emailing, perhaps I can do some short posts (taking less than 20 minutes each, say) and share my thoughts here and there. It’s not the way I usually blog, but maybe I can do a few of those before I get time to get back to the way I used to blog.
STUPIDITY, a formidable globalised trend, is gaining momentum. Living in Hong Kong, I can feel its pressure wave on my face each morning I wake up. This 21st century bliss seems a Darwinian mystery at first.
Idiot genes don’t serve any obvious evolutionary purpose, yet are present in prodigious abundance. How did that happen, I wonder? Perhaps people supported imbeciles because they’re cute, or pathetic enough for charity? After all, plenty of garbage DNA, such as those that make pooches, are bred for their adorably lack of intelligence.