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(Now the Official China thread)
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Author name #76
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In reply to post ID 3535
There's a United Nations report that's been cited in several news articles lately, but I can't find the source to see it for myself. Apparently, over the next 25 years, China will lose 400 million people from its population. Owing to a rapidly aging workforce, gender equity, natural disasters, poor health care and emigration, China's population is predicted to drop by a third. I wait to observe the effects of this population drop with dread.
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I have trouble with that figure, since China's death rate hovers at 7% and has been stable for the last eight years

Reading into it further, I'm finding all kinds of conflicting numbers, and I can't help but wonder if this kind of variation suggests a lack of hard facts.  I've got one report saying the 65+ demographic was 4.91% in 1982, and another says it's 7.64%.  That's a huge difference.

As for the projection, I've got a 2001 projection that suggests the population's going to increase significantly, a 2007 projection that says it'll drop to 1.2b by 2050, and the UN 2001-2050 projection that says it might skyrocket past 1.6b or it might drop to below 1.2b (from just over 1.3 today).

Well, that's not a 400m drop, though the spread between high and low is 400m.  I wonder if your source confused the concept of 'error margin' and 'population drop' of 400m?

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/throwaway/china-pop-1.png]

A 400m drop would be what, 25% of the total population?  I've no idea how that could happen in such a short time.  400m deaths, sure, but a collective total drop?  I'd like to see that data.
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The recent Chinese high speed rail crash has proven to be as illuminating as crashing a probe on the moon.  Crashing two things into each other is newsworthy, but the shit that swirls around it is much more interesting.

A recent Economist blog talks about the repercussions of this crash, compares it with Japan's system, and puts it into a world-wide perspective.

The Chinese PR flacks in the comments are incredibly worrisome, as they reveal the sort of fervent close-mindedness you get from the most zealous political and religious believers from every country.  They ignore the point, seize on tiny facts, and try their best to redirect the conversation to anything that's not China.

There's definitely something different about China when I see bone-headed arguments in the comments and assume they're paid-by-the-post Chinese hacks.  When I see the same thing on events in Australia I just assume every other person in this country is an idiot.  It's not a government plot, the government isn't any smarter.  =/
BLEARGH
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Wired magazine has an interesting take on Chinese military strength. In a nutshell, China is believed to be a proverbial paper tiger, without the support structure or resources to properly deploy their giant military in a competitive manner:

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/07/china-plan-to-beat…

I find the bit about the in-flight refueling planes really illuminating. When you consider that the United States has literally 300 times as much capacity, and that China can't send their fighters or bombers any great distance and have them return safely.

The whole article has me breathing a little easier, honestly. China behaves the way superpowers generally behave, rattling sabers but not really being interested in starting any trouble.
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That's a very good point.  China's generally too wrapped up in everyone else's economy to start any big fights.  I often think that the biggest argument against wars in our future is the intricate trade and financial entwining that keeps our interests more aligned than not.

While in Japan recently there was a lot of China news, and I've got a bit of a backlog to get through.  The more I read about the goings on there, the more I'm convinced it's a schizophrenic basket case of ego and dishonesty.  If China ever does rise up to superpower status, it's not going to be soon, there's just so much work to be done on the population's mindset before they're, you know, ready.

Of course that's gotta be something I say viewed through my standard Western mindset, so I cannot confidently say I'm not just reacting to things that are different to my standards...  But then, I see shit like this whole thread, and the following...


It's hard for me to get my head around what the Chinese really think, but this article suggests that the Chinese look down on Westerners for being honest and forthright, instead of devious and vague:

To many Chinese, Americans don’t have xin-yan (心眼, meaning,  literally, eyes of the mind; or figuratively, calculating, wily), they trust what you say, and they believe you are doing what you say you are doing. For that, they are dumb.

I saw a couple of young British men on a Japanese train last week, who seem to have a similar attitude towards the Japanese.  These two loud, rude and animated louts were annoying everyone on the train as if to say the Japanese are quiet and don't want to cause a scene by chastising us, so we will take advantage of their weakness and be assholes as much as we like.  What I perceive as a virtue, these two seemed to see as weakness.  The Chinese view of honesty and forthrightness seems very similar.


Generally speaking, I do not believe it is particularly likely that China can become a superpower with its current government and mindset.  Societies with authoritarian governments tend to fail...


From Chinalawblog:

Unlike the world’s other most populous nations, the Chinese do not acknowledge or seek a multiracial character. The Han Chinese, comprising a majority of some 92%, believe themselves to comprise a distinct race whose superiority, when a long view is taken, they regard as self-evident. In this view, Western ascendancy is a recent and brief anomaly, following which China will return to its natural position at the centre of the world.

This sort of thinking is, to my Western mind, nearly exactly wrong.  Racial superiority?  And you're calling Americans childish?  Pot, meet kettle, geez.

This next bit is very interesting however, and certainly makes sense to me.  In fact, this is more or less how I see the world, not as a bunch of divided spaces with arbitrary borders, but as one continuous area where some places are simply more awesome than others:

Until its engagement with Europe in the nineteenth century forced it to operate more according to the rules of nation-states, China thought of itself as the centre of the world -- it was the middle kingdom or the "land under heaven."  It did not even need a name. Unlike, say, the United States or Israel, it was not said to be the land chosen by a God, but rather the chosen land by virtue of the sheer brilliance of its civilization. 

[...]

Unlike those of a nation-state, China’s frontiers were, until relatively recently, never carefully drawn or policed, but instead regarded as zones tapering from civilization into barbarism.

The problem of course is that China sees itself as the centre and doesn't really seem to allow that there are other similarly awesome zones...


This just floors me.  I've highlighted the relevant bit:

Many years ago, I used to think China's quality issues were "an emerging market thing" and not "a China thing." I thought that we were constantly reading of China quality issues because China is such a large producer. I thought that until I spoke at a China-focused product liability conference and had lunch with a super high level official with the United States Consumer Protection Agency who told me that year and year out, China's product safety record is at least six times worse on a percentage per product basis than any other country in the world. "Pakistan," I asked. "Yes," he said? "Cambodia?" "Yes." "Sri Lanka?" Yes. "Laos?" "Yes."  "How can that possibly be," I asked. "I don't know," he said, "but it is."

And that, right there, is a big part of the problem.  (From Chinalawblog again)


I love the way Chinese weapons manufacturers met with the old Libyan government and made arrangements to sell hundreds of millions of dollars to the government, and now that the rebels are nearly in placeas the new government, China's looking to lose out on Libya as a source of oil...  Tom Lasseter says:

When I lived in the Middle East, I often heard a variation of this statement about why regimes there liked China: The Chinese come to do business, and they don't meddle with domestic politics.

That sort of ambivalence will come back to haunt your ass when your comrades get the boot.  =D


And so on.  What a show.
BLEARGH
Author name #81
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Quote by NFG:
It's hard for me to get my head around what the Chinese really think, but this article suggests that the Chinese look down on Westerners for being honest and forthright, instead of devious and vague:

To many Chinese, Americans don’t have xin-yan (心眼, meaning,  literally, eyes of the mind; or figuratively, calculating, wily), they trust what you say, and they believe you are doing what you say you are doing. For that, they are dumb.

I saw a couple of young British men on a Japanese train last week, who seem to have a similar attitude towards the Japanese.  These two loud, rude and animated louts were annoying everyone on the train as if to say the Japanese are quiet and don't want to cause a scene by chastising us, so we will take advantage of their weakness and be assholes as much as we like.  What I perceive as a virtue, these two seemed to see as weakness.  The Chinese view of honesty and forthrightness seems very similar.

Watch as I seamlessly draw together disparate threads of culture. :)

There's a story about Odysseus that I particularly like. As he disagrees with the purposes of the Trojan War, he decides to feign insanity in order to avoid being sent into battle. He lashes two different animals to his plow so that it can't be properly steered, and he starts enthusiastically planting salt, all the while cackling and babbling. Achilles is the only one who knows the score, and so to sabotage the scheme puts Odysseus's son in the path of the plow. When Odysseus quite sensibly avoids the infant in the dirt, all the world then knows that he's quite sane and just faking.

The Greeks love Odysseus. They admire his cunning and his scheming. By contrast, the Romans hated the character as it was told to them in the translation we would come to know as Ulysses. To the Romans, Ulysses was a selfish shirker, an undeserving slacker who didn't understand honor or duty. Whereas the Greeks interpreted the struggles of Odysseus as the acts of capricious gods, the Romans saw the same burdens of Ulysses as just punishment for his deceptive and uncharitable ways.

It's interesting to view this cultural difference through the prism of history. The Greeks are famous for giving us democracy and complicated mathematics, and more recently for being a scapegoat for European financial ruin. By contrast, the Romans are famous for their roads and their civilization, their spectacular rise and fall, the broad reach of their empire and the lasting impact of their language and standards (Latin in medicine, highway lanes, legislative process, units of measure, and so on.) In this particular comparison, China thinks of itself as Rome. But they value cleverness and smug self-satisfaction over transparency and neighborly behavior. If it is that China is culturally closer to Greece, does that explain why they don't have the influence that the old empires had?
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I'm starting to think they won't have the same influence 'cause they're unable to see the value of long term relationships over short-term gains.  You said once that this was, at least partially, a result of never really knowing if the government was going to take their shit tomorrow so they valued profits today...  Which makes sense.

But it's frustrating when I think the next big empire might be a bunch of selfish assholes who don't care to play nice.

Very nicely done with the multicultural comparisons BTW.  =)
BLEARGH
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The Hukou, or residency registration paper, is starting to get mentioned a lot more in the western press. Essentially, China limits personal mobility by tracking where you and your parents were born. By dividing all workers into rural and urban categories, the People's Republic reserves the right to move workers around at will, and more importantly make them go home in times of distress. More worryingly, the Hukou system also prohibits people from living in the city if they're classified as a rural worker, and in most cases there is no freedom to relocate. At any time, Chinese authorities are allowed to demand any citizen's papers, and detain them if they're walking around some place that they don't have any business being. The Hukou system is why so many Chinese died in the 1960s, because failed farmers living in poverty were not permitted to migrate to cities to find work, as occurred in western countries under similar circumstances.

I was looking for a good primary source for the Hukou system and stumbled upon the blog of Wang Jianshuo, a Shanghai native. English is not his first language, but he valiantly chronicles his experiences so that western readers can get a sense of what life in China is really like. Please be forgiving of his grammar and spelling. Here's the relevant link:

http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/20060610_hukou_syste…
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That's a very interesting read.  I'm sort of ambivalent about the hukou system, 'cause it seems to be both necessary to keep people from flooding the cities and a system that's evidence of governmental control that I can't happily accept.

At what price personal freedoms, eh?  It ain't easy.
BLEARGH
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In reply to post ID 3464
Quote by NFG on 2011-05-22, 07:55:
I saw a similar article talking about the general's words, but I never once thought that it meant China was establishing bases in Africa.  Instead, it seems to me that China's launching assaults on pirates, a mini-invasion police action.

It has begun. Wired has an article up about a leak from Islamabad. China has asserted the right to establish permanent military bases in Pakistan:

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/10/china-pakistan-bas…

The author of the article actually gives it a positive spin, in that allowing China to flex its military muscle in western Asia is actually in the best interests of all the parties who have been involved. Anybody China kills there is likely an enemy common to both China and the United States, and a lot of international diplomacy players think it's high time that China was more willing to get its hands dirty anyway.

And that brings me back to China: Are they going to be a power for good, an empire like America that ostensibly tried to do the right thing?  Or will they act only in their own interests, like it seems America increasingly does?

I've been reading about Pakistan, and specifically about the Sunni/Shi'a split. Pakistan is pretty representative when it comes to Muslim diversity, about 75 percent Sunni and 25 percent Shi'a. Problem is, there are more Shiites in Pakistan than there are in Iraq, Iran, and Syria put together. It's an oversimplification to say that Shiite extremists are more often overtly hostile. What is arguably more accurate to say is that where there are Shiite extremists, Iran's influence is always present.

China and Iran are friendly on paper. They have similar views when it comes to battling internal dissent and centrally planning an economy. But China has strong and immutable ties to the west, and economic investments that they're not willing to abandon any time soon. What happens when China and Iran must become opponents?
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In reply to post ID 3458
Quote by Kendrick on 2011-05-18, 17:30:
Quote by Kendrick on 2010-03-29, 17:30:
When you look at those numbers, you need to think about the "average" yearly income of the Chinese, which works out to around USD$2,000 after conversion. I put quotes around the word because the average has dirt-poor farmers at one end, and absurdly wealthy real estate tycoons at the other. That means that in real terms, $160 a month isn't the actual average.

And now, somebody noticed. I didn't know about the Hurun Wealth Report, which is an NGO publication that enumerates the worth of the richest Chinese. A Time Magazine blogger has noticed that the list is breeding discontent in China, and causes the wealthiest to be investigated (or at least publicly disliked.) Here's the link:

http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/05/17/to-be-young-ri…

And now a view of the other side of that math. China doesn't really have a middle class, and the misconception has been that western companies would be able to benefit from Chinese prosperity by selling their products there. Adam Davidson of the New York Times sums up the problem pretty succinctly:

The first time I visited China, in 2005, an American businessman living
there told me that the country was so huge and was changing so fast
that everything you heard about it was true, and so was the opposite.
That still seems to be the case. China is the fastest-growing consumer
market in the world, and American companies have made billions there.
At the same time, Chinese consumers aren't spending nearly as much as
American companies had hoped. China has simultaneously become the
greatest boon and the biggest disappointment.

Full article is here. Note that the NYTimes.com website requires registration, but the usual URL substitution tricks work to get around it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/magazine/come-on-china-b…
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Over on the China Law Blog, an interesting post about the Chinese legal system.  While the CLB has regularly written positive things about the rule of law in China, this post sort of exposes a rather significant weakness in the system.

Basically, while court cases are reliably seen to follow the written law, no matter who it favours, the courts may not accept cases that may be harmful to the greater powers.  There's an appeal process, but when the acceptance refusal is often informal or verbal, the plaintiff cannot appeal.  Official written refusal is required, so the case just languishes and eventually everyone dies.

This sort of reminds me of the Japanese system with its amazingly high conviction rate.  They simply won't initiate prosecution unless they're certain of guilt.  This means, in practice, that once a person is charged with a crime, they're virtually proven guilty and the trial is a mere formality.

What is the point of a legal framework if the gatekeepers are the ones who arbitrarily decide the results?
BLEARGH
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China's incoming leaders are children of parents who were persecuted during the cultural revolution.  The linked article concludes:

It would be impossible for Xi and Li to not have been affected by their own experiences in the cultural revolution, but it is also impossible to divine precisely how such experiences will shape their governing philosophy and the future of China. 

----

China's method of enforcing tax honesty is brilliant and efficient.  Bunnie Huang calls it 'crowdsourced tax enforcement' and, in a nutshell, that's exactly right.

In a recent blog post he writes:

Riddle me this: how does a government enforce tax collection in a cash-only society?

[...]

A solution to the problem is to go with a tax pre-payment system. At the beginning of every month, every business is required to pay an estimated tax. Proof of tax payment is issued in the form of “fapiao” (发票).

So basically, a business buys a bunch of fapiao from the government at the start of the month, and is supposed to issue them to customers along with their receipts for every transaction.  At the end of the month, they claim a refund for any remaining fapiao.

The rather clever key to its success is the extra fapiao feature: a scratch-n-win device on each one where the receiver (customer) has a chance to win some money back, as a sort of free lottery ticket. 

This generally means that customers are going to demand their fapiao from the business more frequently than they would if there was no chance of winning money back.  So the businesses are forced to pay tax at the start of the month, and can claim a refund only for the fapiao their customers don't demand with every purchase.  I am impressed.

It's not perfect though:

Of course, with every new system, new problems come in. One is that the waitstaff might nick a couple of fapiao en route to the customer. So now, to get your fapiao you usually have to go in person to a special counter that manages its distribution. And, of course, the restaurant can offer a bribe in place of the fapiao. Just this past month when I was visiting Harbin, I went to collect my lottery tickets and the lady at the register glanced at my 80 quai receipt and offered to pay me 4 quai instead of giving me fapiao! I was a bit surprised at how brazen the offer was, but in retrospect, I clearly was not from around there, and thus unlikely to be an auditor.

----

China's looking to enforce real-name registration for internet users, in a move (obviously) designed to control online public sentiment and discussion.

All of this may change in the face of real name registration–a new, more stringent policy designed to clamp down on free expression where other methods have been less successful. We have no doubt that netizens will find creative ways to circumvent the chilling effect of this policy. Many have already begun discussing possible strategies. Even so real-name registration will almost certainly limit the spread of politically sensitive messages, as it will be easy to trace their origin.

From wired.com
BLEARGH
This post was edited on 2012-04-04, 12:39 by NFG.
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The China Law Blog reports an increase in violence over financial disagreements in China.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend of mine who works in China for a leading international risk management/security/hostage negotiation company. I was telling him that we had been seeing a big increase in Chinese companies making veiled (and not so veiled) threats against our clients over alleged debts. This friend then told me that his company was getting three business hostage takings a month, up from about one a month in the last few years.

Yikes.

I am not saying that China is a violent country and I do not think it is. But it is still a developing country with an inchoate legal system. What this means is that frustrated people are a lot more likely to “take things into their own hands” than in most Western countries. What this means for you is what I said above: at minimum, if you are in any sort of dispute with a businessperson in China, do not go to that person’s turf to try to resolve it.

Instead, he advises, meet in very public places in the daytime.  Big hotel lobbies in big cities, for example.

There is a lot of talk about the poor economy and I think that is helping to increase violence. Ten years ago, the Chinese were afraid to beat up a Laowai but that has changed.
BLEARGH
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I hate to say it, but even this is old news. When the Subway restaurant chain initially did business in China, they encountered quite a bit of personal violence over business interaction. Here's the relevant quote from the CNN article describing the experience of their representative Jim Bryant:

His second spot, which opened a year later in the foreigner-friendly Chaoyang district, was almost as cursed. With six months left on the lease, the landlord locked the doors with a bicycle chain. Bryant waited half a day for the landlord to return, then cut the lock. That turned out to be a mistake: Within minutes the landlord showed up with eight "associates," who, Bryant says, beat him up and kicked him off the property. (Bryant ended up with a fat lip and a broken toe.) Bryant says he learned later that the landlord had found another tenant who was willing to pay two years' rent up-front. (As it turned out, the building was demolished within a year anyway.) The lesson, he says: Sign leases only with business entities, never with individuals. "Too often there's corruption involved," Bryant says. "And they don't get in trouble--they just get rich."

Whole article is here:

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fsb/fsb_archive/2005/03/01/…
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