Irish American’s Chinese Blog Receives Highest Honor Imaginable

This must be the happiest day in Brendan O’Kane’s life. Read about how he causes car accidents, creates racial awareness among mynah birds and gets mistaken for a Uygur. Congratulations, Brendan. Savor those 15 minutes whilst they last!


Olympics’ water diversion threatens millions

In trying to make it look good to the world in August 2008, it appears China is willing to make itself look like an utter jackass in the here and now.

The diversion of water to Beijing for the Olympics and for big hydropower projects threatens the lives of millions of peasant farmers in China’s north-western provinces, according to a senior Chinese government official.

In an interview with the Financial Times, An Qiyuan, a member and former chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee for Shaanxi province and former Communist party chief of Shaanxi, warned of an impending social and environmental disaster because of overuse of scarce water resources.

Predicted water shortages in China by 2010

In a critical tone seldom heard from Chinese officials, Mr An called on Beijing to provide compensation to the provinces that have been told to pump their cleanest water to the capital in order to ensure potable supplies during the Olympics.

Beijing will need an estimated 300m cubic metres of additional water just to flush out the polluted and stagnant rivers, canals and lakes in its central areas to put on a clean, environmentally-friendly face for Olympic visitors, according to municipal officials.

“In order to preserve the quality of Beijing’s water we have to close all our factories. But we still need to live. So I say the government needs to compensate Shaanxi,” Mr An said. “If you don’t compensate the masses then how can they survive?”

Will anyone really be fooled in August? Will anyone believe they are seeing “the real China,” with potable tap water, blue skies, no traffic and lots of happy smiling volunteers?

Another quickie with no time for depth. Apologies.


When will China overtake the US?

Not as soon as some would think. An intelligent article debunks some myths:

According to Friday’s China Daily (and a host of other newspapers around the world), a just published Gallup survey claims that most Americans think China will be the world’s largest economy within 20 years. We obviously need to take these opinions with a grain of salt since, according to the same survey, 40% of Americans believe the China is today the world’s top economy, compared to 33% who believe it is the US. Since the US economy is currently more than four times the size of China’s, it is a little hard to understand why 40% of Americans think China’s is the world’s largest, but there you have it.

I suppose it is the combination of China hype and US paranoia that explains these bizarre opinions. To their credit, it doesn’t seem that informed opinion in China takes the results of this survey very seriously. The China Daily article pointed out that Chinese experts are a lot less confident about the validity of these predictions than their American counterparts, and I suspect they are right.

I suggest you look it over. The list at the end of what would have to happen for China to actually overtake the US anytime soon is especially interesting.

I don’t like putting up articles with practically no commentary, but it’s all my schedule will allow. Plus, this will allow me to put an end to the last open thread, which became unusually noxious.


Open Thread II

The last thread spun a bit out of control. Maybe we can talk about something less stroke-inducing than Darfur, like Chinese propaganda. It’s a great article.


Open thread?

I put the question mark in there because I got kind of disillusioned with the open threads here after they became popular (so much random banter) and I just want to test whether I should start it up again, especially considering how insane my schedule already is, and how it’s only going to get worse in late March, to the point of possibly forcing me to close the blog altogether.

One commenter in the previous thread suggested I start this up again, so let’s see how it goes. Another commenter in the same thread said I should get a discussion going on this opinion piece by my dear friend, Philip Cunningham. I know, we already have two active threads going on Spielberg, so please feel free to bring up whatever you want – just try to keep it relevant to this blog. And do read the Cunningham column – he makes some fair points.

Do you want an open thread, and if I leave one up will you use it?


China, Please

China Please.jpg

This will have to be a super-quickie. The caption to the photo in this article reads, “Demonstrators gather outside of the Chinese Embassy in London, on February 12, calling on China to intervene in the Darfur crisis before the Olympic Games in Beijing.”

Expect to see a lot more images like this in the months ahead. The Darfur movement is picking up tremendous steam thanks to Spielberg’s unfortunate decision. (I encourage you to read an excellent new post about that decision over here.)

Finally, before I disappear again, I want to direct readers to an interesting article from Foreign Policy magazine that puts this issue into a slightly different perspective. Many indignant protesters lay all the blame on China. I lay a lot of the blame on China, too, but is it so black and white? What are America and its allies doing themselves to step up to the plate to create change in Sudan? Should the outrage be directed mainly at China and the 2008 Olympics?



Every once in a while, even I am wrong

I never thought Obama would do this well, and he now appears more invincible today than Hillary Clinton appeared six months ago. I truly believed she was going to wipe him out, and I was completely wrong. Of course, now that his star is in the ascendant it is only a matter of time before the honeymoon ends and the media and the Republicans go after him with everything they’ve got. This is a familiar refrain in US politics. Let’s hope Obama gets through it in one piece, and with enough strength left to beat McCain, the only Republican who could conceivably win in November.

I am in another crunch period where posting will be next to impossible, at least for the next two days. Apologies for the unanswered emails and relative silence. No choice. And big thanks to Jeremiah, Sonagi and Raj, etc., for filling in.


The Peking Duck Photo Caption Contest

Part of an irregular series here at The Duck. Ideas for a suitable caption?


Source: That’s Beijing


Liang Qichao, Mao Zedong, and political tutelage: Are we ready?

I thought you all might get a kick out of a passage from a longer reading I (Jeremiah) assigned to my history class this week. It was written by Liang Qichao in 1903 after a trip to the United States.

Now, freedom, constitutionalism and republicanism mean government by the majority, but the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people are like those in San Francisco [the behavior of the Chinese workers in Chinatown horrified Liang]. If we were to adopt a democratic system of government now, it would be nothing less than committing national suicide. Freedom and constitutionalism and republicanism would be like hempen clothes in winter or furs in the summer; it is not that they are not beautiful, they are just not suitable for us. We should not be bedazzled by empty glitter now; we should not yearn for beautiful dreams. To put it in a word, the Chinese of today can only be governed autocratically; they cannot enjoy freedom. I pray and yearn, I pray only that our country can have a Guanzi, a Shang Yang, a Lyucurgus, a Cromwell alive today to carry out harsh rule, and with iron and fire to forge and temper our countrymen for twenty, thirty, even fifty years. After that we can give them the books of Rousseau and tell them about the deeds of Washington…”

A few thoughts:

1) It’s now been almost 60 years of authoritarian rule, clearly Liang’s timetable was a bit off in terms of seeing the benefits of a strong state. So, what’s the new schedule? CCP ideology also called for a period of ‘tutelage,’ part of which was a stage of democratic centralization.* At this point should we completely forget about it: the CCP can scrub the whole ‘political tutelage’ part of its ideology and simply admit that it wants to rule unchallenged forever? Or is Liang’s optimism shared by others and progressive liberalization of the political system is a desirable course for both state and party? Will there be a day when Rousseau takes the place of Lenin as a political model?

2) Along those lines, I hear sentiments similar to Liang’s, both in today’s China and on this very site, to the effect of ‘most Chinese couldn’t handle western-style freedoms/political systems’ it would be ‘unsuitable because it might lead to chaos.’ And I’ve heard this in many places: from people in villages all the way up to professors at universities and businesspeople in Beijing. Here’s the kicker: No matter whom I talk to it’s always other people ‘who aren’t ready.’ Nobody says, “I’m the problem.” The professor blames the businessman, the businessman blames the peasants, the peasant blames his neighbor, the mingong blames her old uneducated uncle, the uncle blames his less-educated wife. But I’ve never heard anybody say, “Yeah, I’m an idiot and I can’t handle freedom. Please keep the Party ruling in perpetuity lest I pull a nutty.” Everybody’s afraid of chaos, but nobody thinks they would be the cause of the chaos.

3) If, as so many commenters here suggest, the CCP is doing such a fine job these days, better than the US government even, why not relax controls on speech, media, unblock the internet, etc. in China? What’s the downside? And I mean this as a sincere question: If CCP support is so widespread among Chinese (and Tibetans and Uighurs) inside and outside China, as some here have maintained, then the Party shouldn’t have anything to worry about, right? Some might argue, “well, they don’t want the debate because it would be divisive.” How would it be divisive if the Party is so universally acclaimed?

These are questions that I think about a lot. I’m not throwing any bombs here, I’m simply interested in learning the rationalization behind some of the rhetoric that I’ve heard and read, and hope to understand better the thought process. Finally, I am not advocating any one position, all I’m doing is looking for some perspective.



Defence firms go for Clinton – wary of McCain

Interesting article from the Guardian:

McCain pro-military, but worries defense firms

Sen. John McCain, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, strongly supports the war in Iraq and those in uniform, but his investigations of major weapons deals have defense industry executives uneasy.
Privately, some defense company officials say they are backing Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, one of the two remaining contenders for the Democratic nomination, who they see as a better ally for the industry in the longer-term.

Do firms see Clinton as being able to keep the gravy-train running and turn an eye to dodgy-deals? Certainly if there is evidence it would prove useful to McCain in a show-down against his colleague from New York. At the least McCain can use his past investigations to buff his own defence credentials. Few would vote against someone because they cleaned up procurement, and veterans/servicemen and women would like the idea of money going to buy them more equipment rather than boost company profits.

On the other hand the fact Clinton clearly leads the field in donations from defence firms could raise voter suspicions, especially if this were to increase after the Democrat nomination closed.