Category Archives: politics

Revisiting “Tiger Mom”, and where “Individualism” failed (with a Sleeveless Pineapple)

Recently, I had an interesting debate about the “Tiger Mom” culture in Asia, against the backdrop of a Chinese American mother who criticized the Tiger Mom’s suppression of children’s “autonomy”.  So, since we had lively discussions of this subject here, (http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2011/01/13/the-truth-is-out-amy-chuas-chinese-moms-attack-on-american-moms-is-actually-a-wall-street-journal-creation/), I thought we should visit with some updates.

First, it’s actually amazing how many people criticize “Tiger Mom” without actually reading what she wrote.

More details on this later, but let me just say that Chinese children are not born or brought up to be mindless robots.  Plenty of them get into trouble, plenty grow up to disobey and challenge authority.  Tiger Mom is about challenging a child’s autonomy.  Amy Chua’s own 2 daughters questioned everything she made them do.  In challenging the child’s autonomy, the child must struggle to strengthen his/her own will and discipline.  Without self-will and self-discipline, autonomy/”individualism” is weak and useless.  My parents never tried to “suppress” my autonomy.  On the contrary, they always insisted to push me to learn to do the right things on my own initiative.

Second, I’m yet again reminded of how non-individualistic Chinese kids are, and how creative and individualistic Western children are.  Beyond the obvious (and somewhat racist) stereotype that such assumptions are based on, I came across this rather interesting story:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/21/nyregion/standardized-testing-is-blamed-for-question-about-a-sleeveless-pineapple.html.

Continue reading Revisiting “Tiger Mom”, and where “Individualism” failed (with a Sleeveless Pineapple)

U.S. Irresponsible Acts in S. China Sea

Recently, the news has been ablaze with growing tension in the S. China Sea.  First, the U.S. held military drills with Philippines near islands Philippines disputes with China in the S. China Sea.  Then Japan passed and the U.S. welcomed a new law that allows Japanese military to support U.S. air patrols and directly even carry out its own patrols in the S. China Sea.  Then Japan and Philippines announced they would conduct their first military drills in the S. China Sea.  And most recently, the U.S. decides to publicly challenge China’s assertion of rights on disputed islands by flying through those areas and releasing tapes of the verbal responses between the military.

There is no question among observers that the U.S. is ratcheting up the pressure on China in its assertion of sovereignty in the S. China Sea. (see e.g. some of our posts).  But this latest round of military provocation is completely irresponsible. Continue reading U.S. Irresponsible Acts in S. China Sea

Washington whips up fog of war in South China Seas

The Emperor in Washington has no clothes, laid bare by his naked lies and soon without a feather to fly with.

Well, maybe he has P8-Poseidons to conduct provocative flights around Beijing’s South China Seas islands, and a giant nuclear-powered fig leaf spread over 800 known global bases to cover his, uh, security.  But navel-gazing American politicians have already been lobbed a big punch to their guts by Vladimir Putin who flashed his own missile-laden cojones at Obama et cie over Ukraine.

China really should thank Victoria “Eve’’ Nuland for sparking off the crisis that has pushed Beijing and Moscow closer than ever expected.  Was that cookies – or apples? – that she was handing out to Maidan protestors in Kiev with the temptation of a champagne `n’ roses lifestyle just like f**k-the-EU Eden? Continue reading Washington whips up fog of war in South China Seas

Behind the Great Western Firewall Is the Ugly Truth

I came across this article on the Vineyard of the Saker blog, which I think is worth reading (both the article and the blog in general). I don’t know what fellow Hidden Harmonies bloggers think of other works by Jeff Brown (especially those related to China), but his description of information control methods in the West seems to be pretty spot on.

By the way, my fellow bloggers should be proud of the fact that Hidden Harmonies is listed as a source of good alternative media, in the same mention as Asia Times and CounterPunch no less.

I choose not to copy and paste this essay in its entirety, given that there are multiple hyperlinks in it, which are necessary components that enrich the narrative. While I’m sure there are some automated ways to copy over these hyperlinks, I figured an extra click wouldn’t be too hard. 🙂

Behind the Great Western Firewall Is the Ugly Truth

The Myth of a Chinese takeover in Siberia – Continued

As an avid follower and enthusiast of modern trends in Sino-Russian relations (and media coverage thereof), I saw this “jewel” of an op-ed in the New York Times earlier this week, titled “Why China will Reclaim Siberia“. This type of Sinophobic fear-mongering is nothing new in the western media. With amusement, I read through it with the slight hope of finding some new, compelling arguments other than the same old rhetoric of “there are so many Chinese and so few Russians”. Unsurprisingly, there were none. I have written on this subject previously, and demonstrated why the so-called “invasion by mass migration” from China into the Russian Far East is a myth. Ethnic Chinese consists of 3% of the Russian Far East regional population, and most of that 3% are seasonal migrants with no intention of long-term settlement. Another noteworthy nuance is that these ethnic Chinese are concentrated largely in Russian urban centers where they have no chance of attaining a numerical majority. Reality aside, I understand that in the realm of propaganda and misinformation, facts and data-driven logic are optional conveniences.

Nevertheless, I will pose another question that few, if anyone, has asked in the discourse over this topic – is it actually in China’s strategic interests to seize sovereign control of the Russian Far East (RFE) or any part of Siberia? It seems like few, if anyone, has done any basic, high-level cost-benefit analysis from a Chinese strategic perspective. When we put forth even a casual effort to weigh the costs and benefits, the answer becomes quickly apparent – NO, it’s not. As usual, for those who do not want to read too much, the bolded text provides an adequate summary. Continue reading The Myth of a Chinese takeover in Siberia – Continued

Why did China ban Google? And why do the West try to shut down the Confucian Institute?

The common western narrative is that China’s government is oppressive and fear that its citizens would discover freedom and democracy through those websites. On the social-economic level, they imply that China’s leadership lack confidence when dealing with the western world. The underlying message is that that those rich multi-billion corporations are somehow purveyor of freedom and democracy. Google even used “Don’t be evil” as its formal corporate motto. Continue reading Why did China ban Google? And why do the West try to shut down the Confucian Institute?

The True Face of “Occupy Central With Peace And Love” Western Media Self-Censored

Besides the romantic, simplified “freedom” Official Narrative that framed the biblical David against Goliath story onto the Occupy Central protesters, seemingly for the purpose of indoctrinating media consumers in the West – is anything being left out?

Here, not so elegantly, are some raw YouTube clips – Occupy Central’s “peace and love” our supposedly free and objective media has choose to self-censor.

(Note: if youtube doesn’t work for you, scroll down to the bottom of post to get the videos we hosted here).

Foul-mouthed protester threatening people who disagrees:

Continue reading The True Face of “Occupy Central With Peace And Love” Western Media Self-Censored

On China’s 9-Dashed Line and Why the Arbitrational Tribunal in Hague Should Dismiss Philippine’s Case Against China

December 15 was the deadline the Arbitration Tribunal for Philippine’s “arbitration” of its S. China Sea disputes with China had set for China to respond to Philippine’s claims under the UNCLOS.  According to this VOA report:

Monday is the deadline for China to submit a counter-argument in the Philippines arbitration case that questions China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea. But China shuns arbitration and will not respond, while challenges to its position continue to mount.

Just days before the December 15 deadline, Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Bin said his government told the Permanent Court of Arbitration that Vietnam fully rejected “China’s claim over the Hoang Sa [Paracel] and Truong Sa [Spratly] archipelagoes and the adjacent waters.”

In a statement, the Philippines called Vietnam’s position “helpful in terms of promoting the rule of law and in finding peaceful and nonviolent solutions to the South China Sea claims.”

But China’s Foreign Ministry urged Vietnam “to earnestly respect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.” The ministry reiterated China’s position that the tribunal does not have jurisdiction over the case.

In a paper Beijing released a week ago, China argued the Philippines was essentially taking a territorial dispute to the tribunal and that the question of territorial sovereignty was not something addressed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Spokesman Charles Jose said his government has “taken note” of the position paper.

I had done some research and written an article on the subject earlier this year.  The plan was to publish it somewhere with Eric’s help, and through Guancha’s affiliates. However, by the time I finished, in mid-late August, the S. China Sea issue had drifted from the main media attention and Eric thought it was best to wait.

As it turned out, the “news” would not focus on S. China Sea again this year (fortunately), as the West attention seems to be focused now on ISIS, Ukraine, Russia, and Japan and Europe’s continuing economic problems…

If the news flare up again, I will see about writing something pertinent to that occasion.  But for now, I think it’s too much of a waste to just let my research this year lie dormant.  So below is my paper.   It might seem long and dense because it’s meant to address all the major legal arguments I hear Philippines officials and Western anti-China “legalists” publicly making.  I hope it’s educational for all here. If people have any feedback, I welcome them.  They will only make our position – and my future articles (if they are needed) – that much stronger.

Second Enlightenment – Debunking Democracy

More people (even Professor Francis Fukuyama) seem to be waking up to the fact that populist democracy controlled by money (let’s call it Democracy with a big dee) is a political cul-de-sac. However, just as otherwise enlightened individuals such as Galileo and Newton dare not deny the existence of God, modern-day Democracy skeptics are hesitant to challenge its sanctity. Without God, one’s doomed. Without Democracy, life’s unthinkable. That’s the mantra since childhood. Don’t ask why.

Democracy bears many resemblances to its religious predecessor. It’s also upheld by faith rather than reason, analysis, or benchmarked assessment — virtually a replacement of God in most of ex-Christendom. Consistent definition is not necessary. Politics in the USA, France, Italy, Greece, Japan, India, Switzerland, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya etc. differ in form, substance, and spirit. Even buddies like the US and UK have markedly different political structures. But as long as they hoist the Democracy banner, all is fine. Like God, Democracy’s good by tautology. Details are unimportant.
Continue reading Second Enlightenment – Debunking Democracy

Taiwan’s Recent Local Elections

The Taiwan elections last week may have many in the West – and some perhaps on the Mainland – thinking if politics in Taiwan is yet turning another corner with its independence movement mounting a comeback?

The following comment by a Taiwanese reader on guancha caught our attention.

作為一個贊成統一的台灣人,針對這次選舉結果,想跟觀察網的朋友做如下分享:

1. 這次選舉雖然國民黨潰敗,民進黨大勝,並不意味著多數台灣人趨向支持獨立;根本影響這次選情的原因是:一、馬英九當選總統六年以來的執政無方,政策傾向財團與既得利益階級,根本罔顧台灣多數中產階級與基層民眾的需求與感受。二、連戰所代表的國民黨政商既得利益階層推出自己的兒子連勝文出來競選台北市長,更是加深台灣民眾對國民黨壟斷瓜分兩岸和平紅利的印象,一般老百姓根本無法從中得利,但卻看到這些遊走兩岸的政商人物每個都賺得肥油油的,自然會反彈不願意將票再投給國民黨,這也是為何國民黨連在居絕對優勢的台北市都會選輸的原因!

2. 北京需要重新檢討對台政策,特別是調整目前透過國民黨及富商階層作為對台政策代理人的做法。我之前有建議過,今晚還是要在這邊呼籲,希望中央能考慮是否直接在台灣發展基層組織,聯合台灣左統派,發展在台灣的統一力量!

3. 如果民進黨不能在兩岸關係上給台灣民眾一個放心穩妥的答案,2016的台灣總統選舉綠營未必就能再次獲勝,泛藍勢力也會在島內安定的訴求下,再次集結整合,台灣走向獨立的可能性微乎其微。

4. 在台灣島內,多數人民的首要矛盾問題是經濟與民生問題,但這6年來國民黨在馬英九的領導下完全無能無所作為;統獨問題作為次要矛盾問題,在我的認識,許多台灣人都抱持著鴕鳥心態 — 既或是傾向獨立的綠營支持者,很多人心底也都知道或默認,統一是遲早與無法抗拒的,只能持著消極抵制心態應對。而對大陸人來說,在台灣問題上,統獨是首要矛盾問題,台灣的經濟與民生問題是次要問題。而當台灣人因為自己的首要矛盾問題票投綠營時,會讓許多大陸人認為台灣走向獨立之路,或是刻意想與大陸對抗,這是許多大陸人不了解台灣社會實際情況所產生的誤解與誤讀,希望觀察網的朋友對此點有重新的認識。

Here is my quick translation: Continue reading Taiwan’s Recent Local Elections

Umbrella Revolution and Authoritarianism with Chinese Characteristics

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Freedom Fighters can’t possibly be fighting for “freedom” in one of the most indulging communities on earth; it’d be like fish keep asking for more salt in the ocean. If succeeded, it’d turn them into anchovies.

A popular reason cited by supporters is that China’s an authoritarian state, therefore to be loathed unconditionally. Anyone who reads mainstream newspapers would know that much. If this fear is indeed the real cause, I’d like to take this opportunity to examine China’s authoritarianism by reviewing some known facts:

1) In 1949, when the Communist Party took over, average life expectancy in China was about thirty-five, illiteracy was 80%, and GDP was lower than Qing Dynasty’s. After a century of pillage and plunder by colonial powers, the country was struggling to recover from near-fatal wounds inflicted by opium, corruption, barbaric invasions and civil wars. Sixty-five years on, it’s the world’s second largest economy. In the past thirty years, the miraculous transformation (GDP growth, productivity, urbanisation of population etc.) of this continent-sized country is comparable to (relatively tiny) Britain’s evolution after the industrial revolution, which took about 200 years. Martin Jacques’ book contains a lot of hard data for comparison, in plain English (<a href="http://www.martinjacques.com/books/when-china-rules-the-world/"). However, economic development isn’t everything. It shouldn’t be.
Continue reading Umbrella Revolution and Authoritarianism with Chinese Characteristics

Are the Occupy Protesters really about “Democracy”?

false_godsAs the Occupy protests continue in Hong Kong, articles, editorials and op-eds in the Western press continue to characterize the conflict as one between those in Hong Kong demanding “real democracy” and Beijing reneging on its promise of “universal suffrage” under “one country two systems.” Western media and leaders – including the New York Times Editorial Board and President Obama, for example – have all but argued that “universal suffrage” in Hong Kong means that Beijing should have no say in determining which candidates are eligible to run for elections … that the system China has proposed is but a “charade” of democracy.

But does this narrative hold any water?

A quick glance at history and Article 45 of the Hong Kong’s Basic Law is revealing. Continue reading Are the Occupy Protesters really about “Democracy”?

Democracy Mission – A Conspiracy Theory

This is a reprint from an old post that I think readers of this blog might find interesting.

Whatever the merits of democracy, I’m more curious about its evangelical preachers.

Democracy is a vague term, like “Christendom”, “Islamic World”, or “the West”. Besides the democratic banner, the political landscapes of the USA, Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, India. . . don’t share many common features. In the end, I suspect Democracy could be fantastic for some, at some point in time, and disastrous for others, under different circumstances. Any system, like its human inventors, would age, turn insufferable, then die one day. Some reincarnate, others don’t.

The brute force and passion with which democracies export their faith is bewildering, reminiscent of colonial missionaries. Is the missionary complex simply a hangover from the religious past? Could there be an element of altruism in their uncontrollable urge to share a great social discovery with the rest of humanity? But. . . come on, these are ruthless invaders, operators of 21st Century torture camps and lynching drones so. . .
Continue reading Democracy Mission – A Conspiracy Theory

Why Asia Should Say No to Mr. Abe’s Vision of International Law for Asia

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe[Editor’s note: the English version of post was first posted on Huffington Post and can be found here; and the Chinese version can be found on Guancha.cn here]

SHANGHAI — A few weeks ago at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Shinzo Abe made a bold pitch to Asia to buy in on a new type of Japanese leadership. According to Mr. Abe, the peace that is at the foundation of the Asia Pacific’s unprecedented growth can no longer be guaranteed. Without naming China by name, Mr. Abe warns of a new danger that looms on the horizon. The Asia Pacific needs Japanese leadership and a new affirmation of “international law.”

These are heavy words for uncertain times. But should Asia buy in? In his speech, Mr. Abe talked extensively about The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, declaring his government’s strong support of the Philippines and Vietnam in their claims against China.

From China’s view, this was a provocative and dangerous articulation of law. China has never taken any actions or made any claims in the South China Sea that limits the freedom of passage. That is made abundantly clear with China’s ratification of the UNCLOS in 1982 and its signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in 2002 reaffirming its “respect for and commitment to the freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.” Continue reading Why Asia Should Say No to Mr. Abe’s Vision of International Law for Asia

Deconstructing Japan’s Claim of Sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands

In addition to our post on “The Inconvenient Truth Behind the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands” by Han-Yi Shaw, the article “Deconstructing Japan’s Claim of Sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands” by Ivy Lee and Fang Ming in Japan Focus is also worth reading.  The Shaw article focuses more on the political history surrouding the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands while the Lee-Ming article focuses more on the legal history.

Here is a link to Lee and Ming’s article.

Below is a pdf we archived on our site.

If China and the U.S.-led Hegemonic Block Ever Gets into a War, the War Started this Way … with a Lie…

The U.S. is know for lying about everything to start wars that destroy lives, peoples, nations… (see e.g. the book titled “War is a Lie”).  That has been clearly the case for Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria… perhaps also Sudan.

But is the U.S. also sowing the seeds, planting the lies, to justify it going to war with China?  With all my heart, I certainly hope not.  But here is an article in Forbes by Stephen Harner, written in response to New York Times’ recent editorial titled “Roaring on the Seas China’s Power Grab Is Alarming”, that brings up how the U.S. may be planting seeds of lies everywhere to pave exactly the path.

I have to say, I agree with most of what Harner has to say.  I hope most Americans understand that there is much good will among ordinary Chinese for the U.S., but I hope the American public will also understand that if the U.S. continues to hype China as the enemy, it will inevitably be pushed to become one.  Here is a copy of Harner’s article: Continue reading If China and the U.S.-led Hegemonic Block Ever Gets into a War, the War Started this Way … with a Lie…

Chinese Government Tightens Constraints on Press Freedom

Oh no … the Chinese government is at it again.  The New York Times is running on its front page today an article with the ominous title “Chinese Government Tightens Constraints on Press Freedom.”  Here is the full text of the article.

HONG KONG — China introduced new restrictions on what the government has called “critical” news articles and barred Chinese journalists from doing work outside their beats or regions, putting further restraints on reporters in one of the world’s most controlled news media environments.

Reporters in China must now seek permission from their employers before undertaking “critical reports” and are barred from setting up their own websites, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television announced in new rules Wednesday.

Continue reading Chinese Government Tightens Constraints on Press Freedom

5 Popular Misconceptions about the Sino-Russian Gas Deal

The conclusion of a 30-year, 38 BCM/year Sino-Russian gas deal has gotten considerable attention in the media recently. Not surprisingly, much of the coverage – especially in the western media – was emotionally charged, given that Putin’s visit to China & the deal signing coincided with the unfolding crisis in Ukraine. There was no shortage of rhetoric about Putin “making Russia a resource appendage of China” for “good PR”, as if being a resource appendage of the West is so much better. The tirade of rhetoric against this deal reminds me of the type of propaganda we saw when China started boosting trade and investment in Africa. This post will address some of the biggest misconceptions being propagated in the western (& even Russian) mainstream media, and seek to draw conclusions based on facts, rather than anti-Chinese xenophobia. This is a lengthy post, so for those who are not interested in the details, the bold text will give you an adequate summary.
Continue reading 5 Popular Misconceptions about the Sino-Russian Gas Deal

Tiananmen and Freedom of Speech

FreedomIn the lead up to the “25th Anniversary” of the Tienanmen Square Incident of 1989, we are hearing everything again of how a great sad chapter of Chinese history has been – and continue – to be covered up. A politically activist museum even opened in Hong Kong earlier this month. Old, tired politically activists are freshly interviewed by the major Western media outlets again (Guo Jian by FT, for example). New books are published, as reported, for example, in this Washington Post piece.

Even though times have changed, the narrative has not. As 1989 fades ever back further to memory, Western pundits try to re-frame the issue more and more as a current freedom of speech issue. In the Washington Post piece linked above, for example, it is reported:

The contours of today’s brash, powerful China were shaped by decisions made in the immediate aftermath of the Tiananmen crackdown.

China’s leaders are personally vulnerable because they trace their lineage to the winners of the power struggle that cleaved their party in 1989. … The party’s ultimate goal is ensuring its own survival, and it has clearly decided that it needs to keep a lid on discussion about Tiananmen in public, in private and in cyberspace.

China’s online censors are busy scrubbing allusions, no matter how elliptical, to June 4. As the anniversary nears, judging by precedents set in recent years, the list of banned words and terms will grow to include “64,” “today,” “that year,” “in memory of” and even “sensitive word.” History is apparently so dangerous that China’s version of Wikipedia, Baidu Baike, does not have an entry for the entire year of 1989.

Just days ago, I stumbled across “Tiananmen,” written by the British poet James Fenton less than two weeks after the bloody repression. A quarter-century later, his words are still true, perhaps more so even than before.

 “Tiananmen

And you can’t tell

Where the dead have been

And you can’t tell

What happened then

And you can’t speak

Of Tiananmen.”

Continue reading Tiananmen and Freedom of Speech

A New U.S. China Diplomatic Row a la Devyani Khobragade?

uncle-same-espionageYesterday, the U.S. Justice Department indicted five Chinese nationals of the Chinese military, living in China, with cyber espionage in the U.S. against American companies.  China has reacted emphatically, calling the allegations trumped up and hypocritical (see, e.g., this xinhua article).

According to this Washington Post Report,

The Justice Department has indicted five members of the Chinese military on charges of hacking into computers and stealing valuable trade secrets from leading steel, nuclear plant and solar power firms, marking the first time that the United States has leveled such criminal charges against a foreign country.

The landmark case paves the way for more indictments and demonstrates that the United States is serious about holding foreign governments accountable for crimes committed in cyberspace, officials said at a news conference Monday.

The Obama administration “will not tolerate actions by any nation that seeks to illegally sabotage American companies and undermine the integrity of fair competition in the operation of the free market,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said.

The criminal charges provoked a response from Beijing, which said Monday that it was suspending high-level cyber talks with the United States that began in June.

China has summoned the U.S. ambassador over the hacking charges. According to an online notice posted Tuesday by state-run Xinhua on Weibo, Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang summoned Abassador Max Baucus to complain that U.S. authorities published their indictment ignoring the strong protests by Chinese authorities. Continue reading A New U.S. China Diplomatic Row a la Devyani Khobragade?

On the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) Between the U.S. and Phillipines

 

Obama and Aquino Toasts
Obama and Aquino Toasts

The U.S. and Phillipines leadership would like to portray their new relationship as rosy, strategic and deep.  On the street though, talking to the average Joe, one might get a very different impression.

Billed as the cornerstone of growing US and the Philippines strategic partnership and of the U.S. pivot back to Asia, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the U.S. and Philippines has been touted as the highlight of the meeting of President Obama and President Aquino in Manila this week. The official line is broadcast to the world even though many in Philippine vehemently oppose the agreement (see e.g. this response from BAYAN).  Many Filipinos still remember the 1.5 million or so who died during the brutal US conquest of the Philippines in the early part of the 20th century, and they do not want the U.S. to have any military presence on Philippines soil again. Continue reading On the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) Between the U.S. and Phillipines

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

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

Helmut Schmidt: won’t sell Democracy to China

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. Continue reading Helmut Schmidt: won’t sell Democracy to China

Malaysia Airline MH370 – American Media Fanning the Flame Wars

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. Continue reading Malaysia Airline MH370 – American Media Fanning the Flame Wars

Questioning Democracy Goes Mainstream?

What’s going on? Criticising the occult of Democracy has suddenly gone mainstream?

Just within the past few weeks, I’ve read, with utter disbelief, first in The Economist, then The Washington Post, warnings that Democracy could collapse unless reformed. Even Professor Francis Fukuyama, writer of “The End of History and the Last Man” who declared liberal democracy to be the ultimate political model of mankind, has joined rank. It’s like witnessing the Vatican expressing doubt over the Genesis.

I’ve listed the links of these incredible but excellent essays, plus a couple of my old blasphemous pieces which questioned the viability of Democracy, especially when coupled with extreme capitalism and mass petulance. Hey, these “eccentric and cynical” views are now kinda mainstream! I still find it difficult to take in, and wonder what the catch is. . .

IN RESPECTABLE AND PREDICTABLE MEDIA

1) Democracy in Trouble? (The Economist)
http://www.economist.com/news/essays/21596796-democracy-was-most-successful-political-idea-20th-century-why-has-it-run-trouble-and-what-can-be-do

2) American Democracy Headed to Extinction (The Washington Post)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-american-democracy-headed-to-extinction/2014/03/28/f8084fbe-aa34-11e3-b61e-8051b8b52d06_story.html

3) 弗朗西斯·福山:美国政治制度结构特征的问题
http://www.guancha.cn/fu-lang-xi-si-fu-shan/2014_04_08_220260.shtml

A COUPLE OF MY OLD PIECES

4) Democracy Mission — A Conspiracy Theory
http://guo-du.blogspot.hk/2011/02/democracy-mission-conspiracy-theory.html

5) Democracy Debate and Chinaman’s House (a satirical flash fiction)
http://guo-du.blogspot.hk/2012/11/democracy-debate-and-chinamans-house.html

Taiwan’s Student Mob?

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. Continue reading Taiwan’s Student Mob?

The Winter of Obama’s Discontent

Into every life a little rain must fall – even that of a behemoth superpower.

Picture the President of the United States and his masters of the universe – more formally known as the American Cabinet – with Ukraine-driven nuclear umbrellas unfurled against a downpour of unexpected setbacks in foreign policy lately.

In the winter of his discontent, Barack Obama must be yearning for the new hope of spring heralded by cherry blossoms of Washington’s Tidal Basin. But he should also heed the Japanese proverb: “ “Though on the sign it is written: ‘Don’t pluck these blossoms’ /it is useless against the wind, which cannot read.”

Indeed, the winds of change have blown against American directives, and scattered its best-laid schemes, from the South China Seas to the West Eurasian plains. Continue reading The Winter of Obama’s Discontent

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

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