At the age of 10, Mr. Unknown immigrated to the US from China with his parents. He has had an unusual combination of experiences ever since - a 4-year enlistment in the US Army after high school, and a business development job in Russia after college. These experiences prompted him to reexamine the political dogmas that are pervasive in modern western societies. Mr. Unknown completed a dual masters program in business and environmental science, and currently works at a tech company. He hopes to advance his career in China and/or the former USSR in the near future.
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I recently published this opinion piece on the Saker website, & it was republished in Russia Insider. I also wanted to share it here as well (with a few minor grammatical corrections). Apologies in advance if the pictures turn out blurry, please refer to one of the links above.
Not All Silk Roads Are Created Equal
The Trans-Caspian International Transport Route is unlikely to see high-volume PRC adoption in the near term due to insufficient business and geopolitical value prop
Several months ago, there were quite a fewnews/analysisreports lauding the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) as a new path for trade along the Silk Road, which is being revitalized by China and its regional partners under the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project. The TITR is highly attractive to Russia’s geopolitical rivals, such as Georgia and post-Maidan Ukraine (& no doubt the US too), for it is a potential Sino-European trade route across the Eurasian continent that completely bypasses Russian territory. However, there is little/no incentive for China to actively promote or use TITR for large-scale trade in the near future. To expand on this conclusion, this article will cover the following: the basic business value proposition of the land-based Eurasian Silk Road, an outline of the TITR path, a side-by-side comparison of a comparable route (Chongqing-Duisburg, also known as ‘Yuxinou’), and the geopolitical factor.
I’m glad to see the Chinese media FINALLY starting to explicitly outline the hypocrisy of American human rights rhetoric, but I think it doesn’t go far enough to illustrate the sheer scale of US human rights violations & issues, such as:
The lack of respect for equal rights not just by the US government, but BY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, as demonstrated by the popularity of xenophobic, & particularly islamophobic rhetoric among presidential candidates.
I think CCTV’s exclusion important details such as the aforementioned may create the misconception that the US human rights problems they outlined are somehow “small & isolated”, and inadequately highlights the widespread nature of their lack of respect for human rights. But nevertheless, this is a good start.
New research, based on China’s aid track record from 2000-2013, shows that much of what the western media propagates about China’s intentions & practices, when it comes to providing official development aid (ODA) to Africa, is simply NOT true. “Coincidentally”, this latest research published by AidData has garnered little (if any) attention in US mainstream media outlets.
Here are a few of its findings. Those who are interested in the details should check out this new report in its entirety.
African states that align with the PRC’s stances in the UN tend to receive more development assistance.
Internal political system is not a factor for ODA allocation; the PRC does NOT favor either authoritarian or democratic governments.
For China, humanitarian need is a stronger determinant of ODA destination than natural resource development opportunities, given that Chinese ODA is more focused on poorer African countries.
Chinese ODA does NOT favor countries with higher levels of corruption.
Recently, there has been no shortage of highly pessimisticcommentariespublished & republished, pointing out the supposed “follies” of Russia’s eastern pivot, by highlighting this year’s decline in Sino-Russian trade, China’s stock market volatility, and its supposed economic “weakness”. The conclusion implied by these articles is clear: “Russia’s economic pivot to China is failing, because increased economic cooperation has not mitigated Russia’s recent economic woes, or the effect of sanctions. China cannot save Russia, and the latter must continue depending on the West.”
This is essentially a straw-man conclusion. One thing should be plainly apparent through even a casual examination of Russia’s biggest recent commercial agreements with China: most of these arrangements with China were NEVER INTENDED to offset the impact of Russia’s current recession, but rather to position Russia’s economy for greater long-term diversification and upward mobility on the global economic value chain.
Sometimes it is helpful for the Hidden Harmonies audience to remember that China is not alone in being demonized by the mainstream western (primarily US) media. Any country that doesn’t “fit” neatly into the US “liberal-democratic” ideological dogma will naturally be painted as some kind of morally degenerate rogue state out to undermine “good” and “normal” countries. In fact, recently, no country is more demonized than Russia (not even the PRC).
That said, one of the major problems I see is that while we may recognize that we’re not alone, due to potential language/cultural barriers, lack of awareness, our Sino-centric mindset/attention span, and a host of other possible reasons, we often do not truly understand the perspectives of others (e.g. Russians) who are demonized. This is especially the case if our primary source of information about these other countries is the western media. I hope the contributors at Hidden Harmonies can begin to fix this problem, and I’ve taken a small step to start.Continue reading Q&A with a Russian friend (see download links or attached PDF)→
I want to share a GREAT analysis from the Valdai Club (see links below), outlining the opportunities for the PRC & Russia to jointly promote development and stability in Central Asia, by integrating the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) & Eurasian Union initiatives. I find it an insightful counter-narrative to the mainstream (mostly western) rhetoric of China & Russia “at each others’ throats” in a zero-sum competition for hegemony in Central Asia – such as this one. It illustrates the magnitude of the opportunity for collaboration, and recommends a framework for execution. To date, I think there is no better scholarship than this one, in terms of clearly articulating the Russian perspective on, and response to, the Chinese SREB project.
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. 🙂
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 textprovides an adequate summary. Continue reading The Myth of a Chinese takeover in Siberia – Continued→
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→
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 PERCEPTIONof 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 placeLITTLE, IF ANYweighton 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. Continue reading Perceptions of corruption in the US and PRC – not exactly what one would expect→
I wanted to follow up on YinYang’s previous post about racial privilege by providing an example of another form of privilege in the US justice system – class privilege. I posted this story (reported through a different source) under the comments section in his post. But since more details have surfaced, I wanted to highlight this story in its own post because it reinforces YinYang’s point in another way. Unlike the bicycle incident, this is not some media experiment, this actually happened in REAL LIFE under a judicial system that promises “liberty and justice for all”.
Remember all that talk in the US media about judicial injustice in China? I wonder how the Chinese public would react to the type of “justice” meted out in this US court:
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.
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.
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.
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.
In light of President Xi’s latest visit to Russia, it would be appropriate to provide a nuanced perspective to the current state of Sino-Russian relations. It is understandably difficult for the western media to deliver this kind of nuance; this difficulty stems not only from western biases against both Russia and China that obstructs objective analysis, but also the complications inherent in bilateral relations. For the sake of brevity, I will make just two observations which is inadequately emphasized in modern-day discourse on the Sino-Russian bilateral relationship – incentives for cooperation and Russia’s true value as a “comprehensive” strategic partner. Continue reading A proper perspective on Sino-Russian relations→
The following is a re-posted review (find the original on Amazon.com) of the book “Bend, not Break” by Ping Fu. For those who don’t know the context, this book is an “autobiography” detailing the horrors Ping Fu supposedly faced during the Cultural Revolution (a summary of her side of the story is on Wikipedia). When Chinese netizens started to investigate and voice skepticism about the accuracy of her stories, Ping Fu and her defenders in academia and media labeled these actions “online terrorism”. This is not surprising, given that anyone – especially someone believed to be ethnic Chinese – who supports the Chinese government and the PRC, or simply voices skepticism about western political/ideological dogmas, is immediately labeled as part of the “fifty-cent party” or a “brainwashed fool”. Well, here at Hidden Harmonies, we have some of the most infamous “brainwashed online terrorists” around, so we could hardly let this one go without giving it some proper attention. Enjoy the book review, everyone (for those who do not wish to read such a lengthy review, I’ve bolded some parts of the text to draw attention to the key issues).
Despite all the flaws of the US aviation industry (as illustrated by the 787 post below), the US and the West remains many years ahead of China in just about every part of the aviation value chain. However, this gap just got smaller yesterday with the maiden flight of the Y-20, a Chinese counterpart to the Russian Il-76 and the US C-17. Upon entering service, the Y-20 and variations thereof will have three primary civil and military applications: long-range heavy airlift, mid-air refueling, and airborne early warning & control.
Bravo to the engineers, scientists, management, and support staff of the Xian Aircraft Company.
I recently had to write an essay about energy trends affecting China, so I thought I’d share here as well, with a few details modified:
While China has actively expanded its use of renewable energy and fostered innovation in the clean-tech space, planning on the renewables development and deployment front has been suboptimal in the face of present realities. To advance China’s twin goals of modernization and security in the energy space, China should place greater emphasis on renewable capacity utilization rather than capacity expansion in the next five years. China should also find ways to increase the proportion of non-maritime energy imports in its overall import portfolio. Continue reading Chinese Energy Strategy in the Next Five Years→
A lot has been discussed on this blog recently with regards to censorship, most of the discourse so far have revolved around the justice and standards of censorship. I want to take a different but related direction, and discuss yet another myth propagated by the democracy/freedom advocates – the notion that “free” societies are always more innovative than their “non-free” counterparts. To what extent is this actually true? More fundamentally, where does innovation come from, what actually stimulates innovation? How does innovation come about? I won’t pretend that I have all the answers, but here are some of my observations so far. Continue reading Rethinking the Freedom-Innovation Nexus→
This is a good start, but we need more articles like this in the Mainland press, not just HK:
West has no reason to be smug Graeme Maxton says Western leaders who lecture the rest of the world about democracy, human rights and the free market should first practise what they preach, then learn to respect other ways.
Unlike most other myths about China that are created and perpetuated by the West, this myth – the notion that China does not ever interfere in the internal affairs of other sovereign nation states – was created by China itself. It is perpetuated primarily by China’s historical record of non-intervention. Consequently, over time this principle of non-intervention has unnecessarily taken on an absolutist and unilateral character, while casting aside one small but vital element of Premier Zhou’s original doctrine: 互.
I stumbled upon a rather entertaining Reuters article a few days ago, reporting Russia’s latest move to supposedly defend against a so-called “soft invasion” from China – in which massive yellow hordes from China’s over-populated Northeast will systematically migrate into and outnumber the dwindling Russian population in the Russian Far East (RFE), and eventually assume de facto control. This article includes some very comical anecdotes, including the not-so-subtle hint that Russia recently deployed two additional submarines to counter Chinese influence in the Russian Far East, while making no mention whatsoever of recent Russo-Japanese maritime territorial disputes over resource-rich islands in the Sea of Japan. If I were a five year old, I might be led to believe that submarines are far more useful in guarding sparsely-populated land against illegal migrants, than showing resolve in a maritime dispute… which would inevitably make me wonder why the US Navy does not deploy SSNs in the Rio Grande against illegal Mexican migrants. Continue reading The Myth of Chinese Mass Migration into Russia→
@DeWang already addressed this topic, but I felt it appropriate to add a more visual perspective on this, and a simple commentary to the last blog entry simply does not suffice. I did an image search on the term “Hong Kong education protest”, and here are just a few of the numerous pictures that appeared. The question that comes immediately to my mind is: Anyone notice all those little kids that came out to protest?