Cameron and Putin, both over the weekend. Interestingly, they don't just both like their respective established churches, but like them for broadly the same reasons: morality, good works, inclusiveness, an expression of national identity etc.
Last week, British Pathe dumped practically all their old newsreels on to Youtube, so I thought I'd dig out a few China related items - and maybe a few others. Here's one from 1922 Beijing. Warlord armies! Warlord funerals! Sun Yatsen in a penguin suit!
Right, here's a few of the more recent corruption stemwinders. No analysis, just enjoy:
First up, the story of how a couple of sharp characters established a network of mobile app companies connected to China Mobile as a framework for pursuing a series of sweetheart deals with one another, before foisting the whole mess off on Tesltra.
Next, the purge of the Sichuan apparat rolls on. Here's the story of Guo Yongxing, former Sichuan vice Governor and a man
...very experienced in officialdom," one official said. "He always had smile on his face and was willing to do small favors."
Also, of course, a former protege of Zhou Yongkang.
Here's one I missed from January: the fall of Lieut. General Gu Junsheng. A fascinating tale of how to carve out a personal business empire within the PLA.
Sources said that as a rule developers who bought land with help from the Gu family had to pay him 60 percent of their profits. "The reason that he took so much money is because many people under him had to be fed," said a source close to Gu. The source said that Gu also wanted to continue his ascent, meaning he needed to give more expensive gifts to foster ties.
Ain't it the way. Lastly the exposure of Song Lin, formerly head of the giant China resources organisation. And quite an exposure it was:
On Tuesday, Mr. Wang used Sina.com Weibo, a popular Chinese microblog service similar to Twitter, to share a picture of Mr. Songcuddled up on a bed with a woman who, Mr. Wang asserted, transferred Mr. Song’s ill-gotten money into concealed investments and offshore accounts...He alleged that the woman, under her own name and that of her relatives, had accumulated more than 100 million renminbi, or $16 million, in assets.
In light of the new online porn-cleaning campaign, many Chinese book-sharing or book-hosting websites took off their slash collections, including jjwxc.net, the biggest and most popular self-publishing website in China. Websites dedicated to slash content, such as dmxsw.com, were shut down entirely. Twenty or so writers of slash fictions were reportedly taken away by police, all of whom were female.
Yes, female. The majority of readers, as well as writers, of slash in China are straight young girls who identify themselves as “rotten women (腐女).” A popular saying among netizens goes “The one who can win over rotten women will rule the world of online publishing” – that’s how big and important the group is.
So what do 'rotten women' have in common with Chinese Christians? It's not as if Wenzhou's Jesus folk are taking to writing mucky stories about celebrities in their spare time.
It's important to note here that the churches targeted in this campaign for the most part belonged to the official Protestant three selfer church, rather than the illegal house churches. There's obviously no official group for slash fiction writers. More likely they were able to get by - and indeed prosper – because they never got on to the fairly rigid authoritarian radar grid and so were immune to previous anti-porn campaigns. Imagine being an understrapper at the Relevant Organ thinking of explaining to your boss about slash fiction. No. Let it go by. Just do the usual crackdown. Enough so the boss can tell his boss that we're on the job.
Likewise, the authorities in Wenzhou never seemed particularly bothered by the unusually prominent edifices of local Protestants. They're a big part of the local tax base, they bring in a lot of money, so we'll just refuse them permits, they'll just build illegally and everybody's happy.
What I'm getting at here is that for different reasons both the rotten women and the three selfers were tolerated heterodox tendencies in Chinese society. This is what appears to be changing under Xi.
I don't know how much of this comes from the centre. Ultimately, of course, a system is what it does, and in the general crackdown culture the new regime has instituted, authoritarian mission creep is a sufficient explanation for what is happening. Crackdowns were bound to extend from the corrupt and dissident to the simply unorthodox. Now is the time to finally tell the boss about slash fiction. Now there is more to gain from knocking down churches than from tolerating their existence.
If this does have an origin in central government policy I suspect it may be in the campaign against 'formalism' ie against going through the motions. If you're an official, you have to do more than simply not turn a blind eye. You have to actively seek new directions in which to establish who is in charge.
So who's next? There's obviously no visible connection between them and the other two groups, but another prominent, heterodox and fairly successful group in Chinese society is the unofficial trade union movement...
We've covered Ossuaries before here. Now, and in the spirit of blogging something vaguely topical for Easter, let us enter the Putridarium. Among other things, it's the Ossuary's manufacturing process:
This idea of death being a really long process with different phases is acted out in the rituals that start in the putridarium. The fresh corpse is brought down and seated on one of the chairs with a hole in the center. There’s a strainer over the hole that ensures all the bones are saved as various goos and fluid drip out of the body and into the vat below...
...Within these Catholic death rituals, the bodies in the putridarium are tended to and dressed in new clothes as they rot. Sometimes public masses are said down in the crypt. And praying for the dead in purgatory is an important spiritual obligation for the living. But even if you take the religious aspect out of it, this adds up to taking a year or more to acclimate to the death of a loved one and in some cases actually watching their body change from someone you knew to an anonymous skeleton. Now confronting death slowly but in a real, visible way might remind you of the promise of eternal reward and inspire you to be a better person. Or it could remind you of the impermanence of life and inspire you to go paint a masterpiece or pet a dog. Either way, confronting death can be all about life. You don’t have to believe in anything to appreciate that.
Putridariums fell out of use in the 17th century, perhaps partly because people realised that they could do all of the above without actually watching uncle Fred melt into a green puddle.
I watched pro-Russian militiamen doing wheelies in captured Ukranian APCs on Channel 4 news tonight. This puts it in context:
The 40 or so soldiers BuzzFeed found being held captive behind city hall in mid-afternoon, however, said they had not defected and refused to explain how they had wound up under the guard of ragtag militiamen with machine guns. “It’s a long story,” one of them said, shrugging his shoulders as he reclined against his pack. Eventually, rebels ordered the men to line up and marched them to two decrepit buses waiting by the square. A few dozen locals, many of whom were evidently not observing the dry law declared the day before, formed a tunnel for them to walk through, cheering and clapping. Humiliated and disarmed, the men filed onto the buses and drove off.
They were from the 25th Airborne, which is apparently what Ukraine has for an elite military unit. There's a lurking subtext to this that the troops being sent to Eastern Ukraine on purported anti-terrorist missions don't have much appetite for the job because they feel that they're being sent against their own people by an interim government stuffed with the same crooks that prospered under Yanukovych and his predecessors. In other words, their patriotism has been leveraged against them. The basic problem here is maybe that the Ukranian nation is a different entity from the Ukranian state and that the two are at odds. We saw the Ukranian nation in action at the Maidan. It happens to occupy much of the same territory as the actually existing Ukranian state, which was sleazed out of the former Soviet Union as a means for local power holders to steal more conveniently. The Ukranian nation tried to replace the actually existing Ukranian state with something better in 2004 and failed. Ms Nuland and confreres thought it would be an excellent idea to use renewed public agitation for a genuine Ukranian nation to flip the Ukranian state into the pro-Western column. But all they got was a piece of obsolete political technology and a radically distrustful public. Putin understands this and is busy exploiting the situation. The West is still relying on what passes for a Ukranian state.
I've always wanted a copy of Charles Reznikoff's Testimony, a book length poetry cycle taken from US police court records around the turn of the 20th century. Here's a sample:
When his wife asked for the quinine
she used as a medicine
he went to the mantlepiece
where he had placed a package of quinine
bought the day before
and poured some of the strychnine into a spoonful of cold coffee
She thought the powder had a peculiar look
and tried to dissolve it
by stirring it with her finger
he assured her it was quinine
bought where he had always bought it
and she drank it
Anyway, the whole book appears to be out of print and goes for a ridiculous amount of money secondhand. So as a partial substitute I decided to do the same thing myself, using the Bailii reports of cases before the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court.
In the case of Macleod versus the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police
heard before Justice Mckenna
The claimant asserted
that after a convivial evening at el-Vino's wine bar
(better known to officionados of Rumpole of the Bailey as Pomeroy's)
he was cycling home to Southgate
when he was rear ended by a police car
as it sped over a mini roundabout
while hurrying to a firearms incident
Ever since he first saw one at the age of eighteen
it has been Mr Andrew Olins' dream
to own a Bristol 405D drophead coupé
is the plangent opening to the case of Dany Lions Ltd versus Bristol Cars Ltd
it seemed for a while that Mr Olins' dream would be fulfilled
but instead it was gradually crushed
under spiralling restoration costs
and a welter of disagreements over contractual liability
Interesting piece over here based on research by Andrew Chubb of the excellent South Sea Conversations to the effect that China is not being driven to expansionism because it has to respond to nationalist domestic opinion, itself a product of a highly propagandised education and media system:
Chubb’s survey data provides a very different perspective on the narrative that often emerges in meetings in Beijing. Chinese analysts and officials are willing to encourage and cultivate—or at least not contradict—the notion that nationalist sentiments are strong enough to constrain China’s foreign-policy options. One prominent example of the nationalist-constraints narrative appears in Susan Shirk’s Fragile Superpower, where many of her footnotes indicate interviews with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials as the source for this narrative.
I suspect that a major source of this narrative is the fact that the idea of a regime in thrall to the demons it has unleashed and the idea of a China threat generally is politically and journalistically useful and appealing right now: it appeals to what many foreign observers want to believe about China and it's an excellent pretext for exciting landfill analysis like this. It's the Chinabollocks version of Britain's own Faragebollocks problem. Of course, it's easier to imply, as the above does, that the whole thing is basically a product of oriental cunning and manipulation rather than admit that wishful thinking might have substituted for an analytical framework.
So why are there so many Chinese wingnuts frothing away in the local media? For the same reason there are so many frothing away in ours. Shouting gets you noticed, especially shouting for the home team. Part of the takeout here is that a commentariat is not an adornment of democracy. It's perfectly compatible with dictatorship, at least of the Chinese type.
A bunch of people yakking on the Chinese internet get the whole China in the world thing about right:
This peace-loving, harmony-promoting rabbit is not always as innocent as it looks. The word that most often goes before “the little white rabbit” is fu hei (腹黑), a word that literally means “black belly” in Chinese, and can be loosely translated into “cunning” or “scheming.”
The story started with a famous quote from former Chinese president Jiang Zemin: “Keeping quiet helps you make a fortune.” Many Chinese believe that the priority of their “little white rabbit” is to make a fortune, quietly. To achieve the goal, the rabbit needs to stay low, but at the same time, constantly scheme to seek maximum benefits.
“China is a soft and cute little rabbit with a mouth of iron teeth.” Commented one netizen.
It certainly beats imaginary charismatic megafauna. I'm getting my book proposal in right now. Sample chapter: it doesn't matter whether the rabbit is carnivorous or herbivorous, so long as it keeps nibbling.
You have to give George W Bush credit. David Icke only talked about lizards from outer space colonizing positions of power on earth. Bush actually painted their heads and put them on a wall, though a wall seems a less appropriate place for some of them than, say, a stick. And here they are.
It's the mouths, really. Like a lot of amateur artists he can't do mouths very well. But then he decides, dammit, he was POTUS and he'll do mouths any damn way he pleases. Blair's mouth looks like it's covered in invisible flies. The rest look like variable slashes and cuts inflicted by an especially disorganised serial killer.
But how evocative they are. Calderon, sucking brains through a straw. Putin's skull trying to chew its way out. The curiously pursed, bee-stung Dalai Lama. He met these people and this is how they looked to him.
For the past three days, residents of this City in Southwest Guangdong have been protesting against a planned PX plant:
After sunset, furious crowds gathered again in front of the government building and burned what they said was the mayor's car. People also set fire to a police car and the security stand near the gate of the government building.
Mr Dong said police dispersed protesters with tear gas and pepper spray. He said one man fell off his motorbike and died while being chased by police, and an entire floor of Maoming People's Hospital was taken up by people injured in the protests.
Over the last day or so, the protests have spread to Guangzhou, the provincial capital. Anti-PX protests are a distinct sub-genre of the mass incident, having taken place in recent years in Xiamen, Dalian and Kunming. The difference is that those protests were studiedly non-violent and generally conducted in a way aimed to get round censorship to rally wider popular support across China as a whole. Global Times gives us a clue to why things might have exploded in what is apparently known as the 'Oil City of the South'.
...some residents reached by the Global Times on Tuesday regard the response as a delaying tactic. Others claimed that a public approval letter, which urges support for the project, has been allegedly circulating in the city since Friday, with many workers and students forced to sign their approval...
"To maintain stability in Maoming, authorities must on the one hand listen to public opinions on the PX project itself. But more importantly, they should work to solve the anger among people, which would be hard with its poor credibility," Han noted, suggesting Maoming should cancel the project.
Han pointed out that Maoming is no longer suitable for a PX project due to its notorious management on pollution control of local enterprise and long-existing corruption issues, even though the city is known for its petrochemical industry.
So you have a notoriously corrupt and polluted oil boom town with presumably high ambient levels of public anger which tries to pre-empt peceful protest by forcing residents to sign a letter approving the project. Instead of that, they got a riot and related protests in the provincial capital. Bad 'social management' there.
This may be politically consequential because Guangdong is the current fiefdom of Hu Chunhua, 'little Hu', protege of Hu Jintao and the leading up and comer in the Party's Communist Youth League faction. Hu has something of a fondness for crackdowns, presumably becuse he thinks it reflects the current zeitgeist. But if he's held responsible for an ineffective bout of headbreaking that leads to several days of riots and protests outside his own government offices, it won't do his prospects much good, unless he chooses to make a public example of the Maoming city government. That may be why the protestors decided to take to the streets in Guangzhou.
I said downpage that I wasn't sure the students occupying the Taiwanese legislature could get the numbers on the street to support their action. Looks like they can:
More than 100,000 Taiwanese marched in Taipei to protest a trade deal with China, challenging President Ma Ying-jeou’s plan to improve economic relations between the political rivals.
The 100,000 is the police figure. If we split the difference between that and the organisers' figure we get maybe a quarter of a million, which is a) genuinely impressive and b) makes it specifically the mosty successful Occupy type movement we've seen yet. They may not have got what they want, yet, but they've got a fair proportion of the population mobilized behind getting it.
One question is what China would do if the Occupiers succeeded in their demand to derail the services treaty between China and Taiwan.
Hu Jintao's policy was basically strategic patience. He reined in the PLA with a committment that China would invade if Taiwan actually declared independence ( the previous policy was that China would invade at any time it felt like doing so), waited out the DPP administration and then let Ma and the KMT move towards China at their own pace and in negotiation with the Taiwanese electorate. Indeed it offered certain inducements to make that easier. The agreement under dispute, for instance, opens up more of the mainland economy to Taiwanese business than vice versa and the difference can be seen as a kind of downpayment on the support of the local business classes for gradual economic merger.
Now that this policy may have reached at least a temporary high water mark, we'll have to see if Xi's more diplomatically aggressive regime decides to take a different tack. This would probably be ill-advised, given that Beijing's main medium term goal in Taiwan has to be the re-election of the KMT under a different but presumably just as friendly president in 2016.
The Maoist Internationalist Movement is now defunct, but has done the broad masses the incalculable favour of putting all its film reviews online. Here, the comrades consider the virtues or otherwise of Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific:
The danger of this latter result is greater in this film than in films of stark heroes and villains
often seen in Chinese socialist realism led by Jiang Qing. For example, the Navy nurse is attractive,
athletic, talented on stage as a dancer and singer; has men following her around giving her favors;
seems friendly and calls herself a "cock-eyed optimist." These aspects of her character may overwhelm