OK, what with one thing and another I think it's time to take a break for a while. I'll be back, but not necessarily in this format. Meanwhile, I'll post links when I'm lucky enough to have something published elsewhere. Later.
of the blog and all round fearsome literary dude Brendan O’Kane isn’t so much
leaving China as nipping out for twenty Bensons
and a four pack of Stella. From his departing interview:
Do you ever wish the
current party wasn’t in power?
Doesn’t everybody? I
think everybody, probably including the current party, wishes the current party
wasn’t in power. Would you want that job? I wouldn’t. What do you get out of
it? Some great watches, 18 mistresses and a hell of a comb-over, but what a nighmare
of a gig.
As it goes, I think the current incumbent probably starts
each morning throwing the windows wide open, taking a huge lungful of smog and
bellowing “Chinese communism! Fuck, yeah!” If only to convince himself.
On the other hand I’m reminded of a story I once heard about
a couple of Red Action squaddists kidnapping a prominent local fascist here in
Manchester: because, basically, it seemed like a good idea at the time. So they
did it. The problem was that they hadn’t worked out what they were going to do
with him once they’d got him. So they drove round Manchester
all night trying to figure out what to do with this man who was banging and
yelling away in the boot of the car.
One version of the story has it ending when they decided to
go to the drive-through Macdonalds in Fallowfield, where the woman behind the
counter asked what the man in the boot wanted before phoning the cops. Another has
them leaving the car outside a police station and going home. At any rate, they
were caught and went to prison.
Obviously the Party knew what it wanted to do when it came
to power. And when that went horribly wrong it could focus everyone on
rebuilding the economy. But now that process has more or less topped out, you
do sometimes get the distinct impression of the Party driving around aimlessly
with one and a half billion people safely tucked away in the boot of the Audi but
not much sense of either direction or destination. Hence, partly, Comrade Xi and his ‘Chinese
dreams’ and ‘great renewals of the Chinese nation.’
The latest version of Alex Wellerstein's NUKEMAP is out, including a 3D version for people who want actual mushroom clouds with that graphic representation. Obviously, one gains a more profound understanding of what is actually involved in the use of nuclear weapons as well as having hours of morbid fun.
Xu Zhiyong is possibly the most moderate activist you can
imagine: a Decembrist, basically (with a slightly weird emphasis on ‘love’
which sounds a bit like it came from Vaclav Havel’s latterday mystical period, or maybe direct from Jesus).
He was arrested recently for leading a campaign for mandatory asset disclosure by
officials. This is an entirely mainstream and much discussed issue in China,
but not for people who form groups outside official or officially approved
contexts. The Party wishes to control ‘reform’ territory. Therefore anyone
occupying it independently must desist, submit or be crushed. It’s also, I
think, partly an ongoing response to the Arab uprisings and the disastrous attempts
to replicate them with a ‘jasmine spring’ in China.
In retrospect, that was a really bad move.
Anyway, here’s a two part account of a conversation between
Xu and a senior securocrat which apparently took place shortly before he was
taken into custody. I’m not entirely confident that this is how things actually
went down. I’m reading it more in the spirit of classical era history, of Thucydides
having Pericles and his opponents say the things they were supposed to say to
each other, with everyone striking the appropriate attitudes: a formal laying
out of the issues on both sides from a particular point of view. As such, it’s
very much worth your time.
The Economist explains the general reform paradox:
to Ira Belkin, who runs the US-Asia Law Institute at New York University, the
seeming contradiction between a crackdown on activists and genuine moves
towards reform is, in fact, “bizarrely consistent”. The key, he says, is the
focus by the Communist Party on social stability—ie, not only the risk of
social unrest, but of any challenge to its authority. Stability depends upon
public trust in the legal system, which is likely to improve when wrongful
convictions are stopped.
At the same time, Mr Belkin says, when
the authorities identify people as troublemakers, “they show no mercy in order
to deter them and others”.
Xu is in jail - if he is out of the picture - he can’t take the credit for freeing anyone. Nothing bizarre
about that from the Party’s perspective; it’s actually necessary. Also, the CPC
has a long tradition of creating enemies. In the wider context we see the borg presenting
itself as the ‘sane alternative’ between rogue cadre like Bo Xilai and positionally mild reformers like Mr Xu. This is a centrist play, in a Chinese context. It’ll be interesting to compare the sentences both
Joseph Needham used to make a big thing of how the Chinese used gunpowder for centuries to make fireworks before Europeans adapted it to blowing each other up. A little naive, perhaps. But on the other hand:
a local cake factory is using drones to deliver cakes in Shanghai! And China's civil aviation authorities are not too happy about it.
The factory used remote-controlled aircraft on five different occasions to "fly" cakes across the Huangpu River to customers in downtown, claimed Men Ruifeng, the marketing manager of the Incake company, which only accepts orders online.
Given what occasionally happens to wedding parties in Afghanistan, that's kind of ironic.
The official Xinhua news agency quotes a court in Jinan, Shandong province, as saying that Mr Bo has been charged with bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.
As soon as the news was announced by China Central Television and Xinhua news agency, support for the Communist Party's crackdown on both "tigers and flies" - or powerful and minor corrupt officials - have been pouring in from state media websites.
Trial is probably the wrong word here: 'Rollout' is better, since BXL's judicial-flavoured process is clearly part of Xi Jinping's wider Party rectification campaign.
Since we can assume that both the outcome and the verdict have been decided, we're left with the question of what this pre-determined verdict will be, according to what we think Xi and the Standing Committee's calculations are about what impression they wish to generate amongst both the public and Party members, especially the aforementioned 'tigers and flies'.
Bear in mind here that the leadsrehip could have let Bo slide into the same kind of twilight world of permanent house arrest that the late Zhao Ziyang was subjected to after 1989. It was also floated that Bo had 'heart trouble' while in detention. This is something that someone can quite conveniently die from without bothering the judges.
Thus far, the official anti-corruption campaign has been framed on classically Leninist lines. In other words, it's basically been about scaring officials into compliance. We can assume that Bo's public trial and sentence will be part of this process. It would send an enormous signal if they decided to execute him. But then there's a limit to how much they can scare Party members without the whole machinery of Party rule seizing up: a death sentence also runs the risk of turning factional competition, which at certain times can actually be quite productive, into factional warfare.
What we're looking for here is an outcome here that reinforces the idea that 'you can run but you can't hide' but doesn't go quite as far as 'when we catch you, you're dead.' So I'm going for life in prison with suspended death sentence.
Child trafficking within and from China is one of those issues that sometimes bubbles up in international media but never seems to break properly. Here is maybe one reason why:
It is true that many in America’s adoption community do not want to talk about trafficking in China. I contacted nearly a dozen American adoption agencies that specialize in China adoptions for this story; all but one of them refused to comment or ignored the request entirely. The one person who did respond was Lisa Prather, executive director of A Helping Hand Adoption Agency, who said that “the term trafficking should never be used in the description of an adoption [and by using this term] the media is perpetuating erroneous propaganda,” since adoptions don’t meet the TVPRA definition of the term.
Of course, another reason the issue isn’t widely discussed is money. U.S.-China adoption is big business; U.S. Adoption agencies make thousands—Candis said it cost her nearly $20,000, and many adoption agencies publicly list prices in this range—for each child adopted from China, and Chinese orphanages generally receive a donation of at least $5,000 from the adoptive parents; Candis paid $3,000 but the mandatory fee has since been raised to $5,000 nationwide. On the American side, shutting down the China adoption program would lead to a big drop in revenue for many adoption agencies, and would shut down others completely. In China, orphanages make money for each child placed with adoptive parents, and since trafficked children often cost an orphanage around $500 to purchase, a quick overseas adoption can bring in a tidy profit.
Logistics considerations alone make me sceptical of this:
An official from Jiangsu province has set what is believed to be a record after authorities revealed that he had had more than 140 mistresses, including a mother and daughter, reports the Chinese-language Qingdao Financial Daily...
...Some observers, however, are not impressed by Xu's record, claiming that Xu was merely into "quantity" whereas most other officials focus on "quality." Zhang Zonghai, the former chief of Chongqing's propaganda department, had three requirements for his mistresses: must be a university graduate, single and pretty.
Don't know about you, but I'm imagining an update of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, with Chinese Communist Party characteristics. "140 mistresses! Nay lad, that's nowt. When I want to see t'women in my life I have to charter a 747." "A 747? so what! I Every woman in China is my mistress, and half the lasses in Vietnam too." "I've got so many mistresses, when you put them all together they're visible from outer space. I've got a Great Wall of mistresses".
Despite the vast political and cultural gap separating Donovan from Neumann and his team, the spymaster trusted the radicals with the vital security task of providing advice about the Nazis. In the words of John Herz, another young refugee assigned to Neumann’s office (and later a major figure in postwar international relations theory), “It was as though the left-Hegelian World Spirit had briefly descended on the Central European Department of the OSS.”
From a review of what looks like a great book on Frankfurt School alumni advising the OSS during World War II, though the reviewer's evident surprise that leftwingers played an important analytical role in defeating Nazism grates somewhat. The funny thing about it is that you could see the Decents fitting themselves up for the same role over Iraq, at least in their dreams.