So being part of the senior management at a gigantic Chinese state oil company has become opertionally akin to being a member of some forlorn partisan band arranging a rendezvous in a distant forest
CNPC sources said that high-level managers are so worried about these investigations that they have drawn up a contingency plan for filling any position left vacant after a CDIC inspection. As part of the plan, all mid- to upper-level company managers must contact department heads daily. Anyone who does not report is considered gone, and replaced the next day by a pre-approved successor.
.It's fairly safe to say at this point that the stability question in Chinese politics has changed from 'how safe is the Party from external challenge' to 'is the Party beginning to put itself under destabilizing internal strain'. There must be at least several hundred thousand people in important or significant jobs in China now wondering if this is going to happen to them. So how well do these jobs get done?
There are not many curently metrics available by which we can judge this - fluctuations in London property prices might be one - though it might be worthwhile examining this in the light of China's ongoing attempts to extinguish the last remnants of anything conceivably definable as dissident activity. If the Party feels the need to subject itself to internal pressure it won't tolerate even the most rudimentary external challenge.
The saga of Gove’s downfall is fascinating because it’s a real-life parable about politics, media, education and the general public. If you had been consuming the media in the past few years, you could be excused for thinking that Michael Gove was tremendously popular because the overwhelming majority of commentators in the press presented him as the saviour of our schools. Possibly this slavish devotion made Gove and the government think that while there may be a few grumbles, everything was going along swimmingly.
This was the same mistake the Gang of Four made in the succession battle around Mao's death. They thought they were safe because they controlled the propaganda organs and came to believe their own story as it was reflected back at them. There's a similar tale in the way Gove politicised Ofsted beyond repair, much as the Gang thought the institutions they controlled were simply instruments of their will. And in the way that both the Gang and Gove surrounded themselves with sycophants, while writing off the professionals as enemies of the revolution.
In both cases, everybody hated them. The Gang of Four woke up to this after the demonstrations at Zhou Enlai's funeral, but by then it was too late. There's no sign Gove woke up to it at all, though even Sky were mumbling over whether the whole Free schools thing had got a bit out of control around the time of the so-called "Trojan Horse" scandal.
A day onwards, I still think Mark Galeotti has the best explanation for what happened to flight MH 17.
More generally, the whole situation in Eastern Ukriane reminds me of stuff like this (selected at random) that we see from time to time:
He told the Mail: "We have let down boys over the years. The school system does not value enough of the traditional male things like competition. Boys are finding it increasingly difficult to cope where things are uncertain for them, specifically around competition or the use of physical strength.
"They have found the skills have been feminised. What seems to have been beaten out of them is any enthusiasm for anything. Some boys are resorting to gangs, which present a world where basic male instincts hold sway."
Mr Sewell recommends more outdoor adventure. But anyway, if you want to see the consequences of a properly masculinized culture at work, head over to the Donetsk People's Republic, where young men have the opportunity to be competitive in masculine company under masculine leadership, pursue outdoor adventures, and demonstrate their physical strength and mastery of various forms of technology, including those pertaining to shooting down airliners. I mean, it's Sporadically Lethal Top Gear over there. Yet despite the grip of firm masculine virtues on local society, they still seem to like forming gangs.
It transpires that the theorist of the Proptestant work ethic was a right laugh when he was pissed:
It transpires that as a young professor Weber ‘suffered from obsessional thoughts and, especially after nights of drinking, sometimes imagined for the whole day that he was Jumbo the elephant and lived in a zoo’. This was fairly often because ‘alcohol-tinged male company, even without deeper friendships, seems to have been what excited him par excellence’. According to those who knew him best, there was ‘a quite elemental kind of sociability in Weber: he was a buddy with all his soul, a buddy for the moment thought capable of creating happiness; a drinking pal, a song mate, an accomplice in furious story-telling and boasting’.
I suppose you could argue that there's a Protestant Drink Ethic going on here. At any rate, he really seems to have worked at getting drunk and then playing the big-I-am with all the 'furious story telling and boasting'. And none of it seems to have had much to do with pleasure.
So how does Chinese e-commerce communicate with the Chinese peasantry? Basically, it does the old time rural Communist Party thing, ie it gets a pot of paint and heads to the nearest village wall. In some cases, what it does is adapt the old CPC technique of designating 'model villages'
As of 2013, there are officially 20 “Taobao villages” in China. To be on the list, at least 10% of the village’s households need to be operating online stores, and the total annual village e-commerce revenue must exceed $1.6 million.
China's controlled media culture hasn't stopped it developing a phenomena familiar in Western media, namely the celebrity anchor:
At just 31 years old, Rui Chenggang has emerged as the media face of Chinese capitalism: young, smart and, to the dismay of some, deeply nationalistic.
His nightly financial news program attracts 13 million viewers on China Central Television, the nation’s biggest state-run network, where Mr. Rui puts tough questions to Wall Street chiefs and Chinese economists while also delivering a dose of optimism about China’s outlook.
That was from 2009. Here's Rui profiled by the BBC in 2012:
At 35, he's already a veteran of the annual Global Economic Forum in Davos.
He's been going every year since he was 22. His book is filled with photos of him with people such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. His private conversations contain references to them, too: "Rupert (Murdoch) told me... Henry (Kissinger) said..."
If he comes across in all of this as being a bit of a dick, that's also his reputation in China. But anyway, Rupert and Henry can't help him now:
Quoting an unnamed insider, Caixin.com said on its website that prosecutors took Rui away directly from the workplace without notifying the news program. Caixin said Rui had been scheduled to appear on the nightly newscast Friday, and his absence was conspicuous, as a second microphone remained on the set. The show is usually anchored by two people.
This is connected to the Guo Zhenxi affair, which I blogged about here, in which the director of CCTV's business coverage stands accused of using it to fuel a huge extortion racket. Presumably the Discipline Inspectors suspect Rui of having some role in the caper.
His last book, by the way, was called Something for Nothing.
UPDATE: The NYT quotes a local journalism professor to the effect that Rui was arrested for economic crimes committed in a professional capacity, ie by the ordinary police, not by the Discipline Inspectors, though the case still seemns to be connected to Guo.
More importantly, it seemsto revolve around a PR company Rui founded in 2002, which was later bought out by the Edelman Group: The co-founder of the company went on to head Edelman's China operations and to work closely with CCTV. I've seen other reports that if you wanted to get onto CCTV then you hired Mr Rui's PR company, and, perhaps, Edelman. It may also have been a good way to protect yourself from negative publicity by the channel, but we'll see. That being the case, it'll be interesting to see how many foreigners and foreign businesses took part in the caper. Also, this:
Pegasus found a studio for CCTV 2 that was 200 yards away from the main venue during the winter 2009 session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and that was apparently praised by Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, for being “the most cozy and comfortable studio in all of Davos,” the report said.
Adam Cathcart shows us the men and women who sit at Kim Jong-un's right hand. The fellow at second right on the front row is intriguing; either that or there's a highlander's severed head on the desk for some reason.
It seems that one does not dick around with a country whose football team just beat Brazil 7-1:
Diplomatic relations between Germany and the US plunged to a new low after Angela Merkel's government asked the top representative of America's secret services in Germany to leave the country.
Given that Germany has assumed de-facto political leadership of Europe I can sort of understand why it has become an intelligence target. Without getting all fourth reichy about it, I'd quite like to know what Germany plans to make of its new eminence.
But you get that kind of intelligence the old-fashioned diplomatic way; by getting prominent Germans mildly drunk in a confidential setting and asking them. I'm sure conservative Germans in particular would be pleased to drone on at great length to their attentive American friends about the constructive role Germany intends to play, etc, etc.
I notice that the current US ambassador to Germany seems to have got the job because he funnelled a lot of money Obama's way and I wonder if the trend to appoint campaign donors rather than professional diplomats to major Embassies may be a contributing factor to snafus like this. For one thing, they're less likely to know what's actually going on in their own mission. For another, they are less likely to have any specific knowledge of the country they're posted in or have experience in leading a classic open source diplomatic intelligance gathering effort. Instead of finding someone who could talk to the Germans and listen to them, Obama rewarded a donor. Instead of gaining inside knowledge by generating a rapport with informed local actors, they hired some local doofus to spy for them and bugged the Chancellor's phone.