They hung on to it for a while, but the National has finally published my review of Evan Osnos' Age of Ambition, which amongst more important things captures the pecuilair mental state of China watching well. Over here.
Remember when I said that the Hong Kong suffrage fight pitted capitalists and Communists against Democrats? Well, you can't get more explicit than this:
On Thursday while visiting Hong Kong, Tsinghua University School of Law dean Wang Zhenmin said China needed to protect the interests of the city’s pro-Beijing tycoons.
“Universal suffrage means the redistribution of economic interests amongst society,” he said. “The business community’s slice of pie will be shared by others. Their interests must be taken into consideration.”
While the business interests that currently dominate Hong Kong politics are “a small group of people, a small group of elites,” he said, “they control the destiny of Hong Kong.”
Looked at another way, maybe this is what you get when you call your leader the 'Chief Executive'. I'm not sure that Dr Wang has any direct connection to the people who will be deciding whether and by how much to vet candidates, but i think itgives a pretty clear general idea of their priorities.
I failed to notice the 200th anniversary of the burning of Washington by British troops during the war of 1812. So, a bit late: here is Admiral Cockburn's declaration of intent to apply booted feet to anterior parts and inscribe nomenclature, following the ravaging of Toronto, or what would be Toronto someday.
Sir – Having been called upon by the Governor General of the Canadas to aid him in carrying into effect measures of retaliation against the inhabitants of the United States for the wanton destruction committed by their army in Upper Canada, it has become imperiously my duty, conformably with the nature of the Governor General’s application, to issue to the naval force under my command, an order to destroy and lay waste such towns and districts upon the coast as may be found assailable.
I had hoped that this contest would have terminated without my being obliged to resort to severities which are contrary to the usage of civilized warfare, and as it has been with extreme reluctance and concern that I have found myself compelled to adopt this system of devastation, I shall be equally gratified if the conduct of the Executive of the United States will authorize my staying such proceedings, by making reparation to the suffering inhabitants of Upper Canada, thereby manifesting that if the destructive measures pursued by their army were ever sanctioned, they will no longer be permitted by the Government.
I have the honor to be, sir, with much consideration, your most obedient humble servant..
etc, etc. They really knew how to make burning, pillage and looting classy in those days.
Nice to see the 'disruptors' disrupting each other. A lot of money got put into what amounts to a global minicab slapdown, so I guess it's time for the bullshit about competition to take a walk. Here's to them both ending up a pile of smoking rubble and final victory to Aardvark Cabs of Ardwick, with Ray, Mohammed and the lads at the controls and 40 a day Lil dispatching. But then maybe the people taken for a ride here are Venture Capitalists, dotcom bubble style.
I've been chatting to local minicab drivers about Uber's operation in Manchester. They don't feel threatened, or tempted. Prices here start at £1.50, and wages are hard for even those VC types to undercut. Uber have allegedly been trying to do this with the bogus guarantee technique: drivers around here are apparently on £10.00 an hour, anything above that gets kicked back to Big Minicab. They don't fancy the deal. Even in slack times, when they're not being robbed of their reward moments, there's always the hope that a fare to the airport will show up, and that's part of what keeps you ferrying people around all day. It means you can fuck off home a bit early, which you can't do if you're on Uber's clock.
Uber, Lyft, Hurnya and whatever don't seem to realise that there's such a thing as a minicab work culture, intensely local and adapted both to the people who work in it and their customers. For one thing, cab driving in the UK isn't about young proto-entrepreneurs learning a bit about life as they ferry fantastic partygoers to fantastic places. It's family-age family guys (mainly) driving old folks to and from the supermarket. That's your bread and butter there, and so far as I know the Uber people haven't bothered to get one supermarket taxi freephone up and running. Also, what's their Estate capacity? You know that thing where every cab company runs a bunch of estate cars as cabs so you can shift a bit of furniture in a hurry or get the second hand cooker back from the charity shop? I don't think Uber do.
We have a number of minicab drivers locally. Remember that petulant rant from one of the 7/7 bombers in his suicide murder video about 'so called Muslims lying under their minicabs instead of Allah, Palestine yadda yadda'? It's like that round here. Three brothers up the road run a cab 24/7 on an informal shift system, sharing the proceeds from slack and busy times. There's another guy who sleeps in the morning, cabs in the afternoon, and pulls on a security guard uniform to do his nightshift. I suspect his life could do with a bit of disruption, though not in the way that Uber & Co mean, to the extent that they are aware that such people exist.
So, anyway, I'm here to tell you that our local ferriers of persons and things are, to quote another modern asinine buzzword, resilient. It's not a great life, but disruption offers nothing better and they have built capacity. Sadly, they are not innovating, but the wankers will just have to live with that. Until, inshallah, they finally run out of money and die.
Hu Shili, Caixin's chief editor, reportedly has a good relationship with Wang Qishan, Xi Jinping's purgemeister general. So we can take this from the top:
While Zhou Yongkang and his relatives were rising to power in the 1990s, the family's ancestral burial ground became a common place for solemn visits by a variety of government officials...
...The stream of visitors seeking to pay respects – and hoping for favors or a career boost – strengthened as Zhou's political career rose. Long lines formed every Tomb Sweeping Day, an annual holiday for remembering ancestors. So many people visited that the local government opened a parking lot outside the village in 2009.
Most visitors were party and government officials. They came from not only nearby Wuxi, but from other Jiangsu cities and Shanghai as well. Some cadres were members of the People's Armed Police. Before leaving, most would ask a Zhou family member to "give a word to senior officer Zhou" on their behalf.
Well, China is an opaque place and more generally the precise power centre of the business/politics/crime nexus constantly shifts, so it's almost reassuring to see something so suggestively Sicilian.
For obvious reasons, there'll be no sitcom about corrupt Chinese officials. Which is a shame, because the material's there:
Mr. Xiao stole from pandas, the court heard. While he worked at the zoo, he diverted outlays for construction to a company that he controlled, including funds meant for a refurbished panda enclosure. Of 30 million renminbi in construction outlays, about 10 million renminbi ended up in his company’s account, the prosecutors said.
Mr. Xiao countered that the new panda enclosure was perfectly good and so there was no reason to split hairs about who got what. It “was finished on time and added luster to the opening of the Olympic Games” of Beijing in 2008, he said at the trial.
Mr Xiao, who was Deputy Director of Beijing Zoo, also said he made money by moonlighting as an unlicensed taxi driver. For some reason possibly connected to paying untaxed wages into a bank account held by your dog, he makes me think of Harry Redknapp. Same kind of dodgy geezer, scoping out the angles.
The Wall Street Journal wonders why China state media has been fairly quiet on Ferguson coverage:
A more likely explanation, however, is that officials feel events in Ferguson are a little too similar to what’s happening in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, where ethnic tensions between the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic group and Han Chinese authorities have increasingly boiled over into violence.
“The concern is that, if they report it too much, it might set off a response domestically,” Mr. Qiao says. “The situation is similar to Xinjiang. They don’t want to attract any fire.”
It's interesting that a Chinese scholar sees the situation in Ferguson as that of an occupying power dealing with a restive minority. But I'm not sure that fits, if only because it's a bit superfluous: the Ferguson uprising looks like an absolutely classic mass incident of the kind blogged about here over the years. Fatality caused by abuse of power? Check. Persistent and escalating demonstrations? Check. Massive show of force by authorities? Check. Ferguson is a classic mass incident at the small town level, although the demonstratiors there have shown considerably more restraint. If this was a town of comparable size in China there'd be open combat illuminated by piles of burning police cars. The whole thing would have probably been over by now, too, with demands partially met, compensation incompletely offered, a fatality or two and official vengeance cooling in the fridge before service. I'm going out on a limb here but it just may be that the parallels between Ferguson and the ongoing conversation of violence between the Chinese authorities and the Chinese public has struck Beijing's information managers in a fairly profound way, or at least that it's something they want to chew over beyond the point of churning out boilerplate yah boo propaganda. Coverage of this kind of incident is usually attendant on a decision by the relevant organs. Maybe they're still thinking about it.
And since government everywhere is tending towards the managerial and technocratic – tending towards stability management, in other words - there might even be a kind of genuine fellow feeling in Beijing towards the Ferguson Police Department, Governor Nixon and all those involved in suppressing the disturbances. Governing is difficult. The people are unruly. If only our American friends could acknowledge this. Let's not make their task any harder.
Ensuring we Remember is a campaign by various Chinese groups in the UK to erect a permanent memorial to the 96,000 Chinese volunteers who served in the Chinese Labour Corps during world war one - digging trenches, repairing tanks, erecting barbed wire, bearing stretchers and generally making themselves useful while in harm's way. Some 2-3000 died in the process. Here's the petition. Here's some more background. And here's the campaign video.
This chap is committing the secular sin of having a go at the Kurds, or at east their suitability as recipients of military aid and support. It seems a bit churlish in the circumstances.
The Kurds have to do a lot of ducking and diving in their self-presentation, seeming to be a number of contradictory things at once. Kurds are rugged and self-reliant. At the same time, they are vulnerable and in constant need of help. Kurdish Peshmerga must be seen as basically invincible. Yet if they perform too well, no one will feel the need to supply them with arms. They are very much their own men – and women, too! At the same time, they are representatives of Western values in a hostile part of the world – we may be war weary, but they are on 'our' front line, despite being dedicated anti-imperialists. Or perhaps becauseof that. Their claim to nationhood is based on cultural and historical values and identities. At the same time, it is faultlessly modern and secular in outlook. The Kurds are simultaneously on the verge of statehood, at the edge of oblivion, and the least dysfunctional part of a multi-confessional Iraqi state. They are both the forerunners of a truly modern Middle East and What We Can Salvage from this Horrible Mess.
You have to sympathise. They need us to meet their objectives and we demand so many different and often incompatible things from the Kurds that we're effectively forcing them to live permanently inside a Tony Blair speech. Still, it seems to be working. A bit.
Note: title robbed and recontextualised from here.