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Tag: China

China: The brutal and corrupt hegemon

Monday, 23 July, 2018

Nothing seems to delight a certain section of the chattering class more than the vision of China replacing America as the global hegemon. Out with jeans, peanut butter and bourbon and in with…? Exactly. What will China offer its admirers in Brussels and Silicon Valley: vast markets, cheap labour, re-engineered IP? Beijing offers all these and more and the more includes “a complete and utter lack of respect for the individual or person in China.”

Says who? Says Christopher Balding, an associate professor of business and economics at the HSBC Business School in Shenzhen and author of Sovereign Wealth Funds: The New Intersection of Money and Power. After teaching in China for some years, he’s now returning to the US and his parting shot is a blogpost titled Balding Out. Snippet:

“I rationalize the silent contempt for the existing rules and laws within China as people not respecting the method for creating and establishing the rules and laws. Rather than confronting the system, a superior, or try good faith attempts to change something, they choose a type of quiet subversion by just ignoring the rule or law. This quickly spreads to virtually every facet of behavior as everything can be rationalized in a myriad of ways.

Before coming to China, I had this idea that China was rigid which in some ways it is, but in reality it is brutally chaotic because there are no rules it is the pure rule of the jungle with unconstrained might imposing their will and all others ignoring laws to behave as they see fit with no sense of morality or respect for right.”

For cossetted fans of communism, such as the Guardian columnist Owen Jones, China may offer a more appealing ideology than the one that nurtured Lincoln and Ford, Rosa Parks and Jimi Hendrix, but one suspects that he’d tire very quickly of typing about the glories of the Belt and Road Initiative for the People’s Daily.


The binary technology universe: USA & China

Monday, 9 July, 2018

Here’s an infographic from Visual Capitalist, which “creates and curates enriched visual content focused on emerging trends in business and investing”, that’s doing the rounds.

Binary tech

And who are those Top 20 tech companies? From top, with Apple valued at $915 billion, to bottom, with Meituan-Dianping valued at $30 billion, here’s the list:

Apple (USA), Amazon (USA), Alphabet (USA), Microsoft (USA), Facebook (USA), Alibaba (China), Tencent (China), Netflix (USA), Ant Financial (China), Salesforce (USA), Booking Holdings (USA), Paypal (USA), Baidu (China), Uber (USA), JD.com (China), Didi Chuxing (China), Xiaomi (China), eBay (USA), Airbnb (USA) and Meituan-Dianping (China).

Note: The German software company, SAP, is valued at $140 billion and targeting $270 billion so its absence from the list is puzzling. Why is Salesforce in 10th position and not SAP? Let’s see what Visual Capitalist has to say.


#Tankman2018

Monday, 4 June, 2018

Today, the world remembers and celebrates the lone man, armed with two shopping bags, who stepped in front of a row of tanks rolling through Beijing in 1989. Known as “Tank Man”, he remains the most poignant image of China’s vicious suppression of democracy. This is the 29th anniversary of that crackdown and protesters are commemorating the face-off with the hashtags #Tankman2018 #Tankmen2018, a campaign started by Chinese political artist, Badiucao.

Quote: “Tank Man is very relevant today and people should see it. Society has not changed much since the massacre for the oppression has never stopped.” — Badiucao

#TankMan2018


Commodity City in China

Tuesday, 15 May, 2018

Jessica Kingdon says: “Commodity City is an observational documentary exploring the daily lives of vendors who work in the largest wholesale consumer market in the world: the Yiwu Markets in China. The film explores moments of tension between commerce and individuality, between the goods for sale and the humans who sell them.”


Murderous Marx @ 200

Saturday, 5 May, 2018 0 Comments

They’ll be celebrating the 200th birthday of Karl Marx in his hometown of Trier today and, no doubt, many fancy speeches will be made praising his “relevance” to our 21st century. Naturally, the enormity of the crimes committed in his name will be ignored and the millions of Marxism’s victims will not get a mention. A classic example of this dishonesty was provided earlier this week by the New York Times, which published “Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!” by Jason Barker, an associate professor of philosophy at Kyung Hee University in South Korea and author of Marx Returns. Snippet: “The idea of the classless and stateless society would come to define both Marx’s and Engels’s idea of communism, and of course the subsequent and troubled history of the Communist ‘states’ (ironically enough!) that materialized during the 20th century.”

Note there the use of “troubled”. No one would ever say that genocidal fascist dogma had a “troubled” history, but ideologues like Barker get away with praising Marxism as a virtuous philosophy, detached from the nightmares of the GULAG and Pol Pot’s killing fields. In his summary of the estimates in The Black Book of Communism, Martin Malia suggested a death toll of between 85 and 100 million people, and all this murder and suffering was done in the name of Marx’s theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, violence as the midwife of history and individual rights as a bourgeois crime.

The most surreal defence of this evil was served up yesterday in a Reuters article titled “No regrets: Xi says Marxism still ‘totally correct’ for China.” It’s totally fitting that the autocratic leader of a country where a ruling class ruthlessly exploits the masses and where no labour movement is allowed legitimizes his hegemony with Marx.

Karl Marx belongs in the rubbish bin of history. Our thoughts today should be with the innocents murdered in his name.

Marx and his pupils


Utopia, Dystopia, Heterotopia and, now, Bettertopia

Friday, 23 March, 2018 0 Comments

Did you know that Björk used 12 flutes on her Utopia album? She has decided, however, to employ just seven flautists in her upcoming concert in Reykjavík on April 12th.

So much for Utopia in Iceland. In China, by way of contrast, they’re moving rapidly towards the opposite. “China’s Dystopian Tech Could Be Contagious” warns Adam Greenfield in The Atlantic. Beijing’s Dystopia is terrifying: “Known by the anodyne name ‘social credit,’ this system is designed to reach into every corner of existence both online and off. It monitors each individual’s consumer behavior, conduct on social networks, and real-world infractions like speeding tickets or quarrels with neighbors. Then it integrates them into a single, algorithmically determined ‘sincerity’ score.”

And Heterotopia? The term was used in 1984 by Michel Foucault (who else?) in a text titled “Of other spaces” that was published in Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité.

Which brings us to Bettertopia. “Welcome to Bettertopia,” says Panasonic, the Japanese multinational electronics corporation headquartered in Osaka. “This dream city is always filled with smiles and vitality. Panasonic’s products and services, using current and future advanced technologies, are supporting people’s lives and businesses here.”

Love this bit on what happens when sports fans visit the Bettertopia Stadium:

“Thank you for coming. I’m the manager here, so let me show you around. First, come this way to the entrance gate. Where’s the line? There is no line to enter. We don’t have such a thing in our stadium. You’ve already registered with a photograph of your face, and the face recognition system does the job. So you can get in quickly. You can pick up your pre-ordered meal and drinks here. Merchandise and food can be purchased without cash or credit cards. Your face is all you need.”

If you dream of Panasonic’s dream city, note: “Your face is all you need.”


Window on the world above the Yellow River

Sunday, 11 March, 2018 0 Comments

There’s only one Chinese photographer among the World Press Photo nominees this year, but Li Huaifeng’s image of two elderly brothers delighted by a laptop in their yaodong dwelling on the Loess Plateau is really beautiful. Those who say technology is destroying society should check their privileges.

World Press Photo


Emperor Xi: Sensitive Words

Tuesday, 6 March, 2018 0 Comments

Background: A total of 21 proposed amendments to China’s constitution are expected to be adopted by the National People’s Congress in Beijing, and the one with the greatest impact on the future of national and regional politics deals with paragraph 3 of article 79, which would end the current limit of two five-year terms for the president. Deng Xiaoping introduced the two-term limit to prevent the madness that marked Mao Zedong’s reign, and with its removal, President Xi Jinping will be able to rule for life.

Once news of the impending change became public, China’s censors got to work and they’ve been particularly busy removing “sensitive words” from Sina Weibo, a popular platform with some 400 million users. So what’s being banned? Sample:

  • to board a plane: homophonous with “to ascend the throne”
  • Hongxian: Reign title of the short-lived monarchy led by Yuan Shikai, who declared himself the Hongxian Emperor. After popular disapproval and rebellion, Yuan abandoned the empire after 83 days
  • emigrate: Baidu searches for the word reportedly saw a massive spike
  • Another 500 Years for Heaven: Theme song for the CCTV series Kangxi
  • crooked-neck tree: The tree which the Chongzhen Emperor is believed to have hanged himself from

China Digital Times offers a rolling list of “Sensitive Words” that highlights the ones blocked from Sina Weibo search results. As well, there are links to media coverage of this expansion of Chinese tyranny. Example: Emperor Xi’s censors have no clothes by Fergus Ryan at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute blog.

Once upon a time, John Milton wrote, “With loss of Eden, till one greater Man Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat.” The desire for the “greater Man” will not bring bliss to the people of the People’s Republic, however. A new wave of repression is being enacted by a regime that increasingly resembles the one which now rules North Korea.

The emperor with feet of clay


The Fogh of war and peace

Saturday, 17 February, 2018 0 Comments

The annual Munich Security Conference is one of those events where you’ll hear interesting words being used. Take “revanchist”, for example. It’s defined as “seeking revenge or otherwise advocating retaliation against a nation that has previously defeated and humiliated the other side in war.” The word comes from the French revanche (“revenge”) and it originally referred to French indignation over losing Alsace-Lorraine to Germany in the Franco-Prussian War.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark and Secretary General of NATO from 2009 to 2014, regularly uses “revanchist” when referring to Russia and China and his candour is most refreshing.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen


Don’t know which Chinese newspaper to read?

Friday, 27 October, 2017 0 Comments

Don’t worry. The Party does. Telling the truth is now a revolutionary act in China.

Chinese newspapers

“Even despotism does not produce its worst effects, so long as individuality exists under it; and whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called, and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.” — John Stuart Mill, On Liberty


China is driving the electric car

Tuesday, 10 October, 2017 0 Comments

“There is a powerful reason that automakers worldwide are speeding up their efforts to develop electric vehicles — and that reason is China.” So begins the story by @KeithBradsher in today’s New York Times. According to Bradsher, China feels it has little choice in pushing forward to an EV future. “While it is true that electric vehicles fit neatly into China’s plan to become the world leader in sci-fi technology like artificial intelligence, the country also fears a dark future — one where its cities remain cloaked in smog and it is beholden to foreign countries to sell it the oil it needs.”

China Hastens the World Toward an Electric-Car Future does not gloss over the many contradictions involved in the country’s drive for automotive independence. Nearly three-quarters of China’s power comes from coal, which emits more climate-changing gases than oil and, as Keith Bradsher puts it: “Even on electricity, China’s cars are still burning dirty.”

It’s a long road, comrades, as the Great Driver Helmsman would have said.