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Forum: Our World The World RSS
(Now the Official China thread)
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Author name #106
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In reply to post ID 4003
We've previously observed how China doesn't really have rule-of-law in its day to day existence. Like its neighbor Russia, in China your status trumps legality. The powerful have been able to violate rules with impunity, and the weak are unprotected and trust nobody.

If Newsweek is to be believed, this may be changing under the new party head Xi Jinping. Link:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/12/30/china-s-g…

In a nutshell, Xi seems to be aware of a national exhaustion with general bullshit. He's all about streamlining official functions, reducing government waste, enforcing laws consistently, and even expanding civil rights a little. But all of this is being done with the purpose of building a stronger and more stable nation, which seems to make China's regional rivals a little worried:

Indeed, a stronger mandate for China’s new mandarins could make its neighbors even more nervous, not less. Mushrooming grassroots nationalism has prodded Beijing to become more assertive in territorial disputes with Japan and a number of Southeast Asian countries over islands in the South and East China Seas.

It occurs to me that the United States didn't have this same problem as a growing superpower. Certainly there were brushes with Canada and Mexico (the latter having more reason than the former to be grumpy about it) but in the long run a stable status quo was reached that everybody is living with now. No such stability exists in eastern Asia, where even the borders are still under dispute.
Author name #107
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Time commented on the recent criminal case in India, and saw fit to mention China as a similar bad example. This quote relates back to our previous conversation about gender imbalance in China, and succinctly sums up the problem at a global level:

The imbalance has squeezed poor and uneducated men out of the marriage market in particular, so there is a surplus of young men who are unable to find partners and assume standard adult roles in their societies. According to the Economist, China has nearly as many unmarried young men, known as ‘bare branches,’ as the entire population of American men. Ironically, the men themselves are harmed by the gender preference shown to them: unbalanced sex ratios may also increase the odds of ill health and early death in men. Something similar has been observed in a number of animal species: it is stressful to compete for mates and this stress can shorten lives.

Imagine 350 million young men in China, all of whom are deemed unfit for marriage because women are scarce and can be choosy. It's pretty much the frat house of the damned. Whole article is here:

http://ideas.time.com/2013/01/04/rape-in-india-a-result-of…
Author name #108
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For the past decade or so, it's been common knowledge that China has organized and institutionalized hackers attempting to break into western computer networks. I run an SSH server here at my house, and the logs show at least half of the daily attempts to connect are from Chinese IP addresses who are all doing script-based brute force password attacks. More worryingly, China recently and successfully broke into the networks of a few major American corporations, including the New York Times and a number of industrial firms.

The notion in the press is to call this sort of activity cyber-warfare, which is both sensationalist and misleading. Thomas Barnett, of Time, finds the correct context to call China's hacking industrial espionage, which makes it less of an Internet bugaboo and more of a centuries-old survival tactic. Writing for Time's military blog, he makes an interesting point about China's own justification for its hacking:

If I’m China, and I’m honest about my challenges, I can readily justify this vast industrial espionage campaign. Hell, I’m running the world’s biggest Ponzi economy (propped up by public investment and vast, hidden local government debt) and I know it. I’m also running a single-party dictatorship that will inevitably be blamed when the economy hits the S-curve slowdown that afflicts all rising powers (a.k.a., the middle-income trap). Simply put, there is no end to what I feel I have the right to steal in the near term. Everything is fair game.

I like the succinct description of China's financial status as a 'Ponzi' economy. China has taken a lot of shortcuts while shooting for parity with other superpowers, and their metaphorical credit card bill is coming due. Whole article is here:

http://nation.time.com/2013/02/22/putting-chinas-hacking-a…
Author name (Administrator) #109
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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That was a very interesting article.  The second last sentence really nailed it for me:

Again, we can mistake this for “power” and “confidence” and “aggression,” but it’s mostly about a nation running on fear.

Aside, that site messes with my copy-paste, inserting a link that wasn't there when I highlighted the text.  I'd heard of this rubbish before, but this is the first time I've actually seen it.
BLEARGH
Author name #110
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Whenever I get tired of reading about Chinese politics, a story or two about Chinese sociology rears up out of the muddy river Yangtze to amuse the world.

The juvenile video game blog Kotaku has a regular feature called Culture Smash, whereby they take some aspect of Asian culture and make it into a fetish for their largely American audience. Today they're talking about the widespread practice of public defecation in China, which is largely related to the notion that proper sanitation is still a relatively new concept there. Also, there really aren't enough toilets to service 1.5 billion people, in or out of the cities.

http://kotaku.com/5987786/why-kids-keep-crapping-in-public…

Over in the New York Times, there's a boilerplate wire piece that reports the facts of a Chinese television show that essentially functioned as a state-sponsored snuff film. The execution of four drug dealers was treated more as a sports event than as a documentary or news item, causing all the usual parties to object. What the western press hasn't picked up on is the notion that these Burmese criminals are foreign to China, and are therefore (in the eyes of the Chinese government) not worthy of the same humane treatment as ethnic Han Chinese people would be.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/02/world/asia/chinese-tv-sp…
Author name #111
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This year's Hurun wealth report is out:

http://www.hurun.net/usen/NewsShow.aspx?nid=418

China has 317 billionaires, when measured in US dollars. The United States has 409, and between them half the world's very richest people live in those two countries. The next country with the highest number of billionaires is Russia, with only 88.

The complete statistics aren't there, but one interesting aspect of the report is that the majority of western billionaires inherited their assets, whereas the Chinese ones are mostly self-made and of their own generation.
Author name #112
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The Atlantic has republished the latest Reuters piece from Zachary Karabell regarding the Chinese economy. Specifically, he's making the argument that China's economy is so tied to western prosperity that their success should trump any patriotic competitive urge to see China fail.

http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/03/if-you-wa…

I find one statement near the end pretty interesting, where Karabell points out that China's current housing crisis is a different flavor from the western ones and has different effects. Because most Chinese bought their homes with liquid cash, the housing crash isn't paired with a credit crisis. Bizarrely, Chinese distrust of banking created a built-in safety release valve that Britain, Italy and the United States didn't have under similar circumstances.
Author name #113
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I love learning things about China that I didn't know before. For all that I love about Chinese culture, there are certain recently-created bits of it that are completely alien to me. The more artificial it is, the more potential for comedy I find.

Lei Feng is the name of a Mao devotee who died in 1962. His life was extensively recorded and photographed by Chinese propagandists, who strove to portray Lei's life as some sort of ideal to which all Chinese could aspire. It's easy for a westerner to look at the details of the media around Lei Feng as somewhat phony (if not thoroughly fraudulent) but in China it took a little longer to remove the wool over their eyes.

The New York Times reports that three films about Lei Feng distributed in China have done very poorly, and the confluence of awful ticket sales and some real life media coverage have disrupted China's carefully coordinated propaganda push.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/12/world/asia/in-china-unpo…

One interesting detail of Lei's life is that he died when a telephone pole fell on him. That's the sort of thing they write for Charlie Chaplin films, not for communist narrative.

I'm struggling to think of a western equivalent to Lei Feng, somebody that we hear about in history classes or in bedtime stories we're meant to emulate in our lives. Johnny Appleseed? Emiliano Zapata? I suppose this illustrates a major cultural difference between east and west, that we are free to choose our own heroes rather than having them force-fed to us by the government.
Author name #114
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The Huffington Post is known to be skewed in a couple of ways, but in general their international coverage is pretty balanced. So when they're the ones putting Chinese air pollution numbers into the permanent record, it's worth sitting up to take notice:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-a-finamore…?utm_hp…

It's often said that China's development parallels that of the United States in the 1970s, during which time the US faced its own social upheaval, environmental issues and accusations of international overreach. The difference is that in the States, there was enough of a sense of rule-of-law and civic responsibility that normal citizens effected change in their system to clean up the water and the air, as well as reigning in a military that acted out of turn. In China, there is no such wellspring of moral action, so it's questionable whether or not they'll have a clean water act or any sort of air quality standards.

Something else bothers me too, in that we're just now starting to see the effects on American children born in the 70s who were exposed to so many pollutants. Cancer, respiratory ailments, multiple sclerosis and plain old anti-social psychosis are all tied to environmental factors in one way or another. Will China be seeing an epidemic of sociopaths and autism forty years from now? I don't know that anybody is drawing those particular parallels at the moment.
Author name (Administrator) #115
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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That's a pretty sobering story.  I don't know that anyone really doubts that pollution is bad, but you're right, in China there does not seem to be this core civic-minded foundation in the general populace...  Or at least, it's outweighed by the startlingly large sociopath demographic.  There are a lot of bad apples in China, so it seems.

I have hope for China.  The people as a whole are getting a little bit noisy about this constant assault on their health, and the government is not unaware of the problem.
BLEARGH
Author name #116
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Ooh, this one's neat. David Kang of foriegnpolicy.com observes that among all the east Asian countries of note, China is the only one whose military expenditures have grown over the last three decades. That's when measured as a percentage of GDP, rather than in absolute currency, which is an interesting way of looking at it:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/04/25…?page=0…

Kang poses an interesting question with no easy answer. Why aren't its neighbors afraid of China, and if they are why doesn't that cause military preparation?
Author name (Administrator) #117
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That's a very interesting article.  The first thing I see is probably heavily influenced by my existing feelings on the matter: China's spending a ton of money on their military because they're the little kids with something to prove.  The attitude of persecution they appear to harbour seems, to me at least, to be the most dangerous issue with China.  It's like the short kid in school, even if he's grown up and is treated like an equal, he still thinks he's gotta fight someone to prove himself.

I'm not sure if my view on this is to be trusted.

The second thing that comes to mind is that China's gotta keep a lot of people happy, and how better than by enlisting them and paying them and giving them new toys?  Keeping the generals happy is a pretty good way to prevent a coup.  But this is also a pretty dangerous thing to do: when someone specializes in war, and you keep him in the money and tools of his trade, he's gonna do what he does best, right?  Like fomenting anti-japan sentiment, you can't keep fueling the gears of mayhem without expecting to get some.

As for their neighbors...  Is it trust?  Or a foregone conclusion that fighting China is a total waste of time and money?  The outcome is pretty much assured, isn't it?  Even if China had only catapults with which to launch their soldiers into the fray, any neighboring country would be under six feet of Chinese grunts in a matter of days.

The last thing that comes to my mind, and again this is assuredly cognitive bias in action, is that all the other Asian countries are populated by people who are nicer, more mature and less prone to irrational acts than the Chinese.  Maybe they just don't have an interest in war, so much as happiness?

Again, not sure my thoughts on this are any accurate reflection of reality.  ^_^
BLEARGH
Author name #118
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In reply to post ID 3484
About two years ago we examined Australia's conflicted relationship with China

Quote by Kendrick on 2011-06-08, 17:31:
It's Time again. Not to shill for them or anything, but they like to do analysis of the China situation where many others are simply content to report statistics:

There are few countries in the world that have benefited more from China's rapid economic growth than Australia. The boom in exports Australia has enjoyed due to surging Chinese demand, especially for raw materials, is a key reason – perhaps the determining factor – why the country avoided a recession after the 2008 financial crisis. Trade with China is also spurring investment and creating jobs. But simultaneously, Australians are becoming uncomfortable about their growing relationship with China. They fret that the economy is becoming too dependent on China for its growth.

Full article is here:

http://curiouscapitalist.blogs.time.com/2011/06/07/why-do-…

Time has reported on the news that Australia has quietly joined the American naval deployment in Japan, and interprets this as an indicator that the Australian government has made its diplomatic preferences clear.

HMAS Sydney will spend the next several months operating in the Asia-Pacific as an integral part of the USS George Washington carrier strike group. The Sydney’s responsibilities will include providing air defense for the GW and its fleet of escort vessels. It is only the second time in recent memory that an allied warship has joined a carrier group here for purposes other than scheduled exercises.

It's unlikely that China will view this as a provocative move. As with the United States, China has invested too much capital into Australia to give it all up over any sort of misguided nationalism. But can anybody really claim to be surprised by this development? I'd be interested to know how China's expenditures in Oz compare to that of the US and the UK over similar time periods.

Full article is here: http://nation.time.com/2013/05/06/aussies-choose-sides-and…
Author name #119
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In reply to post ID 1523
It is a little funny to me that we've gone on for 118 posts about China and haven't yet broached the subject of martial arts.

CNN reports on Lam Chun Fai, a kung fu teacher who make the argument that the longevity of his particular martial art requires that it be taught outside of China.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/20/world/asia/hongkon…?hpt=hp…

This is sort of a weird topic for discussion among westerners, most of whom assume that all martial arts are accessible to anybody with a spare weekday and some disposable income. I happen to know from first-hand experience that most Chinese martial arts teachers are intractably, comically picky about who can and can't study kung fu. Koreans and Japanese are not so discriminating about who gets to learn tae kwon do or karate, and so there is a misperception that all of the martial arts are equally accessible. The result of this imbalance is that truly Chinese kung fu is in decline, whether you measure the number of active teachers or students.

This arbitrary exclusivity is, of course, another symptom of the isolationist philosophy that still manages to separate China and its culture from the rest of the world. The CNN story doesn't go into that very much, but I was prompted to remember it from my very brief days studying wushu. It also makes me wonder what other unique parts of Chinese culture have been lost because somebody foolishly imagined that only ethnic Chinese people were worthy of it. How many Chinese Alexandrias have there been that we never noticed because there wasn't a fire?
Author name (Administrator) #120
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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That was a central component of Bruce Lee's story, wasn't it?  The other Chinese were opposed to his teaching to all who wanted to learn.

It's absolutely true, IMO, that you preserve something by disseminating it.  When you lock it down you only ensure its destruction.

As for the popularity of it, I must have a skewed view here with a half dozen friends and acquaintances who train in it, seriously enough to go to China and learn from the pros.  As a result, I thought it was pretty popular.
BLEARGH
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