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Forum: Our World The World RSS
(Now the Official China thread)
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Author name #31
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In reply to post ID 2237
Great Wall is evocative without being Engrish. And it's a sight better than India's 'Tata' brand. As I understand it, the most widespread brand in China is the 'Cherry' auto, which is problematic only because of conflicting trademarks all over the west.

My spin on Chinese exports is pretty positive. Once they have to compete on a global market, then they have to deal with all tarrifs and labor problems that the States has had for 50 years. It can only loosen them up , in the long run.
Author name (Administrator) #32
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: Oblivious China boosting.
Yeah, 'Great Wall' is a better name than "Fresh Greens China Horseless Carriage Co." but it's still a ridiculous cliché isn't it?  I'd sooner buy a refrigerator from Haier, a company with a name than something from a company that simply chose the most recognizable Chinese thing as their company name.


Der Spiegel has recently posted an interview with a pair of authors trying to put forward a rather unusual view of China.  They posit that China has "developed a new political and social system -- and may be more democratic than the West."

The core of their argument seems to be that since China is always trying new theories in special regions, to assess their effectiveness before rolling them out country-wide, they're somehow more 'democratic' than governments like America's which have a constant tug of war between political parties.

Quote by John Naisbitt:
What does democracy mean? Rule of the people. In China, they respond to the people's wishes. You may not believe that, but a study done by the Pew Research Center found that the Chinese government has an 89 percent approval rating. There is a lot of openness and freedom. The entrepreneurs and the artists, they love it. The energy it releases is palpable in China.

Oh come on!  If a large percentage of people don't really mind being controlled, you can't say that's evidence of democracy, nor can you suggest that means the government is responsive to the wishes of the people.  It doesn't follow.  I hope the book they're promoting isn't as nonsensical as this.

Quote by John Niasbitt:
The biggest problem we have in the West is this mindset that it's still the communist party over there. They keep the name, but there are no communists there. There is no ideology. China is a country without an ideology. It doesn't have capitalism. It doesn't have communism. It has a pragmatic, step-by-step-progress to build a new, prosperous society.

I can agree with this.  It's not Communism as we typically know it.  To reiterate my belief, ChinGov is trying very hard to shepherd their people from mud huts to steel towers.  They're too busy being scared of, trying to control and trying to protect their people to subscribe to any kind of ideology.
BLEARGH
Author name (Administrator) #33
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Subject: The mood in China's changing.
The mood in China is rapidly shifting away from the foreigner-friendly attitude that many companies were used to, or expecting.  In a marked contrast to Japan, where the infatuation with all things foreign continues to this day, China seems to be ready to boot the foreign businesses to the curb as soon as they can.

ChinaLawBlog mentions a few recent articles that reinforce the point. 

One thing I found particularly interesting is the idea that ChinGov is favouring state-owned enterprises, so that independent businesspeople are finding it tougher going.  The idea seems to be that ChinGov prefers to deal with companies directly under its control, rather than the squirrely and unknown entities that are China's entrepreneurs.

China is, of course, expected to do exactly this.  As always, though, attitude counts for a lot.  It's not hard to imagine China getting too aggressive and causing more friction than they expected.
BLEARGH
Author name (Administrator) #34
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Found a rather interesting quote regarding the recent Stern Hu trial.  He's the man facing some nasty punishment from ChinGov for his alleged role in accepting/giving bribes while representing the interests of Rio Tinto (a mining giant) in China.  Check it out, and enjoy his detailed analysis of Chinese law, and how it seems to be ignored here:

Quote by Chinese Law Prof Blog:
Finally, it's worth looking at what the Chinese government has to say about this. Regrettably, it has offered no serious, reasoned defense. On March 18th, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Qin Gang addressed some of these questions...

When asked again about the matter, he responded, "Please don't mix up the relationship between a country's sovereignty, particularly its judicial sovereignty, and the Chinese-Australian Agreement on Consular Relations. The Chinese-Australian Agreement on Consular Relations must be premised on respect for China's sovereignty and judicial sovereignty". Um... I hate to be the one to break the bad news, but the right to do exactly as you please is precisely what you give up when you enter into an international treaty.

Indeed!

This is my fundamental problem with authoritarian rule: there's no system.  China's making great progress on a system of workable laws, but it's still a country where your freedom depends very much on the whims of your rulers.

The China Law Prof Blog goes on to wonder why Australia rolled over so easily on this, a trial of an Australian citizen in a foreign country that has not given a legal excuse for holding a closed trial, with no Australian consular representation or presense.  They're trying this man in secret and Australia doesn't mind!?  They released a complaint one day, and the next said it was all just fine.

Once again, there's something going on we don't know about.
BLEARGH
Author name (Administrator) #35
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: China Controls the Conversation
Two interesting things came to my attention this morning, both going into some detail about China's attempts to control the conversation.  The first seems entirely legitimate, the second a little dodgy.

First up, Official ChinGov Instructions for reporting the China/Google thing:

Quote by Ministry of Truth:
A. News Section

1. Only use Central Government main media (website) content; do not use content from other sources
[...]
4. Do not produce relevant topic pages; do not set discussion sessions; do not conduct related investigative reporting;
[...]

B. Forums, blogs and other interactive media sections:

[...]
3. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which attack the Party, State, government agencies, Internet policies with the excuse of this event.
4. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy

Not content with that level of control over the nation's media, China also, apparently, employs nearly 300,000 people to effectively spam the internet with pro-ChinGov dialogue:

Quote by Rebecca MacKinnon:
In 2008 the Hong Kong-based researcher David Bandurski determined that at least 280,000 people had been hired at various levels of government to work as “online commentators.” Known derisively as the “fifty cent party*,” these people are paid to write postings that show their employers in a favorable light in online chat rooms, social networking services, blogs, and comments sections of news websites.

I have trouble with that number.  Three hundred thousand people?  Even if they only made a dollar a day, that's a staggering amount of money to pay out every week to control the message.  She goes on to say:

Quote by Rebecca MacKinnon:
Many more people do similar work as volunteers—recruited from among the ranks of retired officials as well as college students in the Communist Youth League who aspire to become Party members.

I have trouble with these numbers.  China is hard for me to really wrap my head around - a billion people is a huge amount.  And, though this 280,000 number comes from a Western source (You can't read the original 'cause the Wall Street Journal is retarded), I'm not really prone to believing a lot of numbers about China.  Remember when they said there are 330 million internet users in China?   The math just doesn't add up.

Even if we believe there are 330m netizens in China, (nearly exactly 25% of the population of the whole country) can we really believe that fully ten percent of those are government mouthpieces?  Really?

* It turns out the translation is '50 cent party' but they're actually getting 50 mao per post, which is about seven cents.  You'd have to make a lot of posts to earn that daily dollar, and that makes me more suspicious of the idea: Can you really find 280,000 computer literate people in China who would work for so little?  Computer, monitor, net connection, electricity, and wages, for 280,000 people?
BLEARGH
Author name #36
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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.

Most consumer goods in China are priced to match the local economy, and since a lot of that crap is manufactured locally anyway it's not like a three-cent roll of toilet paper is all that strange. But then you have items like DVDs and video games, which have value parity with western markets. Can you imagine paying three percent of your yearly income just to buy one game? When western economists worry about losing access to the Chinese consumer market, they don't understand that there simply isn't a level of economic prosperity that's yet worth pursuing. Maybe some day, but China's threats about locking out vendors ring pretty hollow in my ears.

This is all by way of saying that I don't disbelieve the 280,000 number. It's not a regular job, and anybody they recruit is thrilled to have the extra income.

I feel compelled to cite World Bank numbers for Chinese economic estimates, including yearly income:

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/EASTASI…
Author name (Administrator) #37
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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I still find it too much to believe there are 280,000 people whose full-time job is posting booster comments about ChinGov.

That said, I failed to notice no one's saying they work full time at this.  That changes a lot: It's very, very easy to believe there are 280,000 people who collect a bit of cash, in addition to their regular pay, to do this.

China's value to western companies comes as a direct result of its population, IMO.  Sure, they mostly make peanuts, but there's 1.3 billion of them making those peanuts.  That is, to the delight of elephants everywhere, a shitload of peanuts.

Those world bank stats are depressing. 

Quote by WorldBank:
China's economy has a high energy intensity. The country uses 20-100 percent more energy than OECD countries for many industrial processes. Automobile standards lag behind European standards by ten years. And China has 20 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, largely due to high coal use and motorization.

The amount of coal they're burning is nigh criminal (same with Australia).  <sigh>
BLEARGH
Author name #38
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I find China's coal industry very interesting as an exercise in inefficiency. American coal workers, on average, can each pull seven thousand times as much coal out of the ground as any one Chinese worker, simply because they have all this heavy equipment and machinery to help them. It costs the Chinese about a fourth of what it costs America to mine the same amount of coal, only the difference is they deploy seven thousand workers at peanut-level pay. When 153 coal miners are trapped in a wet, airless collapsed cave, nobody even blinks any more. It's how they mark the passing of the seasons.
This post was edited on 2010-03-30, 09:53 by Kendrick.
Author name (Administrator) #39
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Subject: China swings!
Found on SiliconHutong, something that reinforces what I've been noticing for a while: Chinese pride is rapidly replacing all other sentiments they held towards other countries.

Quote by SiliconHutong:
here is nothing wrong with a sense of national self-confidence. It is, after all, long past the time for China and the Chinese people to take deserved pride in the positive things the nation and the culture have accomplished. Unfortunately, we appear to have moved well past that.

This was in response to a Washington Post article where John Pomfret quoted a Chinese right-winger:

"The Chinese people are no longer embarrassed about being Chinese," said Wang Xiaodong, a leading nationalist writer who has co-authored a series of popular books with titles such as "China Is Unhappy," which capitalized on the growing anti-Western trend. "The time when China worshipped the West is over. We have a rightful sense of superiority."

A rightful sense of superiority!?  How charming.

China may well be proud of their accomplishments, but I believe it is the sheer size of their machine that makes these things possible, and is likely to be responsible for continued success in the short term.  This giant machine however is driven by paranoid and corrupt control-freak government with no ability to respond to the unexpected.

The boom and bust cycle of empires is ever increasing.  China's size will skew the results, but I don't see their empire being a long-lived one unless they start making some attitude adjustments.

(And I should point out that I feel our Western society's fall is a foregone conclusion, so I'm not saying 'China will fail' because I think the West will succeed.)
BLEARGH
Author name (Administrator) #40
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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It's been a while since I updated this thread.  Haven't had much to say, most of the news from China's been the same as we've seen before.

Today I read something interesting however:

This was one of my first major lessons about how different China really is.  There is no “moral code” no “generally accepted morality.”  Not even an overly trite “Confucian values” system in place here, really.  I believe that one of the lasting legacies of the current government will be that they amoralized an entire country.   I’m not talking about the vilification of organized religion I’m talking about the creation of a system that punishes honesty.

That's a very interesting way to look at it, but I imagine it's true.  How can a system of control not create this sort of environment?

The rest of this Silk Road International post is equally fascinating, with first-hand experience and some great stories.
BLEARGH
Author name #41
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That's an interesting read. The only bit I don't agree with is the notion that this lack of independent thought is unique to modern Chinese society.

Richard Feynman is the famous physicist who is best known for his plain talk about the Challenger space shuttle disaster. He told a story in one of his books about being a guest professor in Brazil, and being astounded by the rote memorization skills of his students. But when he challenged them to do something to synthesize that information into a practical application, they were unable to do so. Worse still, when one of their number attempted to ask a question to improve his own understanding, the others would berate him as if he were blocking the education process of the others. It sounds exactly like the situation described in that article about Chinese students.

Western education is undeniably tied to the success of western business and industry. But replicating its mechanisms does not reliably also produce the same results. In China in particular, there's a strong current of cargo cultism that drives the education system, and the fear of the unknown is what makes teachers and students unwilling to deviate from what they think is a measured and repeatable success. This, more than any poverty or disease or disaster, is why the world still views China as a developing nation and not as a world leader.
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You're right, it's certainly not unique to China.  Sadly, I think it's the default position for the average person in all societies.  The older I get the more often I realize I am not a normal person, and my experiences and beliefs are not often applicable to most people.  For example, when people ask me a question I answer it, and can offer the rationale behind it.  My argumentative streak is one facet of my love for explaining myself, sorting out my belief system and giving it a little shaking out once in a while.  This tends to stun people, which I find funny, but it also distresses me that so many people just answer by reflex, and when pressed cannot explain why they feel a certain way.  They just do, and isn't that enough?

I haven't yet decided whether it's a fundamentally physical thing (ie: good or bad genes) or an environmental thing or what, but it really seems as if the vast majority of all people have no interest in challenging themselves, thinking outside the norm, or changing anything in their lives.

The Chinese aren't unique, they've just institutionalized it a little better.
BLEARGH
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Subject: Two interesting China topics
Two interesting things hit my feeds today:

Having skipped the tumultuous teenage years, Chinese are forever doomed to live as teenagers all their lives. Whereas Americans may be stubborn, moody, quick to anger, insecure, impetuous, condescending, extreme, and paranoid in their teenage years, Chinese may suffer from these psychological issues all their lives.

Everyone who talks about China says exactly the same thing.  I've noticed it with the Chinese I've dealt with (admittedly few) and I know Chinese tourists have an exceptionally bad reputation, so this sort of thing is easy to believe.  Source: The Diplomat by way of Danwei.

The other thing came from ArmsControlWonk.

One of the things that consistently surprises me about China is their apparent lack of statesmanship.  I want to believe that they're deep thinkers and are simply operating on a different level, or that they're working with such a fundamentally different set of goals that their actions only seem bumbling and short sighted...  But it's hard to maintain that belief when they keep doing stupid shit.  No one can dare criticize their pollution output - they'll fuck us right off with a 'but you guys did it!'  They played funny games at the recent Copenhagen climate change summit, basically skewering any chance at an agreement.

And just the other day it seems a Chinese diplomat raged at his Japanese counterpart at a meeting in South Korea, when the Japanese dared press for a reduction of China's nuclear arsenal.  His excuse: Your grandad killed my grandad.   No matter who you ask, it seems the Chinese come across as undignified and, bluntly, childish:

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi became enraged by his Japanese counterpart Katsuya Okada’s repeated calls for a reduction in China’s nuclear arsenal when they met Saturday and nearly walked out of the talks...  Kyodo

According to people familiar with the exchange, Mr. Yang became so upset that he started yelling at Mr. Okada. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman later called Mr. Okada’s remarks “irresponsible.”  Wall Street Journal

China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, erupted at his Japanese counterpart, Katsuya Okada, after Okada suggested that China cut its nuclear arsenal. Yang almost left the talks in the South Korean city of Gyeongju, according to diplomatic sources, and screamed at Okada that his relatives had been killed by Japanese forces in northeastern China during Japan’s occupation of China during World War II.  Washington Post

That last one is especially damning.  But the sum of these recent posts seems to point to one scary thing: A giant country full of impetuous, emotionally stunted people with no moral compass.

That's terrifying, actually.  I hope it's not true.
BLEARGH
Author name #44
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I disagree with the characterization of Chinese as perpetual teenagers, although I agree with every other adjective in the source you quoted. I think it might be more accurate to say that the Chinese are grumpy old men. They're impulsive and condescending and want things their way unconditionally, and worse still they're willing to wait longer than you are.

When England signed the lease on the Hong Kong colony, their thought was "Wow, ninety-nine years! That's forever!" Whereas the Chinese were thinking "Ninety-nine years? That'll be over before you can blink." In the long run, over 10,000 years of written history, China thinks it's been right every time. Have you ever tried to talk an old person out of driving, or tell them that they otherwise aren't capable of something? Ever try to get an old person to meet you halfway or otherwise come to a compromise? They're done being gentlemen and statesmen and good neighbors. In their eyes, they've served their time and outlasted all their rivals. The Mongols are almost gone, Rome fell, England's empire is a gutless commonwealth, Japan is technically still occupied by the US, and speaking of America how are their banks doing?

To be clear, I absolutely do not agree with this viewpoint. But I understand it and I'm frightened by it.
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It's not really difficult to hold an empire together for a thousand years when you're not doing anything.  China would have more respect for for their long and fascinating history if they weren't intent on rewriting it and paving over it at every opportunity. 

It was really nice believing that America was the righteous giant that could be held up as a beacon of honesty and advanced cultural thinking, but they've completely fucked that hope up the ass.  No one's using a bunch of greedy self-centered short-term-thinkers as a good example for anything.  =(

I'm scared of China, but taking a long term view of things, I'm not too worried.  Empires rise, empires fall.  China's mud-hut empire hasn't really been impressive so far, so IMO their modern rise is the start of a new one, no the continuation of the old.  Every time they've built themselves up, they've thrown it away, and I'm pretty confident that their current attitude problem will see an unnecessarily quick end to this newest empire's rise. 

Added to that, each new empire rises faster and falls sooner than the last.  China, by virtue of its population, will have more momentum and will take longer than most, but they'll fall too.  Potentially within my lifetime, but I'm not really going to make prognostications to that effect.  ;)
BLEARGH
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