Open Thread?

[Note: Moving this up to keep it on top.]

Big question mark in the headline. Things have been slow, it’s the Holidays, comments have been relatively thin. But I’ll be in classes most days and want to offer a space for posting links, random thoughts and whatever, especially to keep extraneous comments out of the threads.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 38 Comments

Why does the US Embassy in China hire Chinese nationals? The odds that such people will be wearing 2 hats in the US embassy are 100%.

December 22, 2008 @ 11:24 am | Comment

I Believe A Strong Military Is A Nececessary and Sufficient Condition For a World Power.

Sufficient condition means if a country is militarily strong, then it can be called a world power, even if it’s weak in other areas. For example, the USSR was unanimously agreed to be a world power. The Roman Empire, the Arabian Empire, the Mongolian Empire. They all had a very very strong military. They may have a lot of problems with the economy, social tension, environment, or maybe even starvation. Yet, all historians refer to them as world power, as long as they have a strong military.

Necessary condition means in order to be called a world power, you must have a strong military. If your military is not strong, then no matter how rich you are, how peaceful your society is, how happy your citizens are, etc, you cannot be called a world power. China’s Song Dynasty’s GDP and its citizens quality of life and its amount of poets and philosophers all surpassed the Mongolian empire several times over, but Song did not have a strong military and did not spend in the military. And as a result, all of its wealth, its delicious food, its beatiful architecture, its great books, its great poets and philosophers, all of those were useless when faced with the arrows and horses of the Mongolian military. Song Dynasty fell to the Mongols led by Ghengis Khan, and China was then occupied by a foreign power for the next almost 100 years. Historians today refers to the Mongolian Empire as a great power, but very few call the Song dynasty a great power. Likewise, no one today calls Sweden a great power, no one calls Denmark a great power. Even though they both have very rich citizens, very healthy society, very clean environment, very friendly policies, etc. But Russia today is still called a great power, why? You think it’s because it had become “democratic”, because it has great health care, because it has great environmental protection, because it has great religious freedom? No, it’s because it still has a formidable military inherited from the USSR. Without that, who cares about Russia? If you look at the 5 UN Permanent Security members today, what is in common about all 5? They all have nuclear arsenals, and they all have a formidable military, no question.

The view of Democracy lovers and Rightists is that China must adopt democracy and open elections immediately, just like the USSR. What is happening to Russia today? Is Russia’s citizens better off than it is in 1987? Vladimir Putin said “The Fall of the USSR is the biggest tragedy in the 20th century”. And Vladimir Putin is extremely popular amongst the Russians, most of whom, according to a recent poll, most of whom think the fall of the USSR was bad for their country, and they voted to restore the old Soviet national anthem. Democracy lovers, how do you explain that?

December 22, 2008 @ 1:15 pm | Comment

It’s funny, Buck – I just had dinner last night with someone who works at the US embassy who explained the excruciating process for getting clearance, including extensive background checks and interviews with people you’ve known in the past, etc. They don’t just hand out badges to anybody. Of course, there’s always going to be a mole in just about every organization so the system isn’t water-tight.

December 22, 2008 @ 1:44 pm | Comment

@math
“The Fall of the USSR is the biggest tragedy in the 20th century”.

For the likes of Putin, of course

For many others…
The raise of the USSR was one of the biggest tragedies of the 20th century… and of their lives. And not only in Russia.

Have you ever considered what could have happened if Russia had held until the end of WWI? The boost of prestige after the victory against Germany would have prevented the “revolution” and Russia and many disastrous events would have been prevented. Hell, it could even had prevented WWII.

But the “revolutionaries” were more interesting in advancing their own ideas, which they considered more important that their own country, and created a great havoc to achieve their goals.
Of course when they had to fight WWII they (the faction that won the civil war and the struggle for power) behaved quite differently.

You may argue that the revolution provided better life and enlightment for the population. I disagree. That is the common mythology of most revolutionary movements. One myth upon which much of their legitimacy is based. One mtyh they they actively promote, and in order to do it work hard to hide or distort the facts to support it.

More often than not, living conditions after revolutions change from bad or very bad to worst or much worst.
I recognize fewer revolutions than many: agricultural revolution, medicine revolution, computer revolution, internet revolution,…. oh yes… sexual revolution too ;-)

December 22, 2008 @ 4:03 pm | Comment

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne ?”

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081217/bs_afp/financeeconomychinausbonds

December 22, 2008 @ 4:44 pm | Comment

Richard,

But the US Embassy does hire Chinese nationals, lots of ‘em. 100% guaranteed to be wearing 2 hats, 100% guaranteed, backed by the full faith and credit of the US government!

http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/vacancies2.html

December 22, 2008 @ 4:46 pm | Comment

“It’s funny, Buck – I just had dinner last night with someone who works at the US embassy who explained the excruciating process for getting clearance, including extensive background checks and interviews with people you’ve known in the past, etc. They don’t just hand out badges to anybody.”

But isn’t the whole idea of a background check on Chinese nationals vetted for working in the US Embassy in Beijing somewhat ludicrous since even if a Chinese national “passed” such a “background” check it would be inevitable that once the Chinese national started working in the US Embassy that he/she would be sought out and recruited. And being in China such Chinese national would be unable to refuse. It’s what the Chinese national is going to do that the yanks should be worried about, not what he/she did in the past.

December 22, 2008 @ 5:13 pm | Comment

@buck

That they wore two hats is not so much of a problem if you know it. It may be even useful. ;-)

The problem arises when you do not know it.

December 22, 2008 @ 7:03 pm | Comment

Buck, I don’t know what the background check is like for Chinese nationals at the US embassy here. Do you know how many Chinese nationals have clearance at the embassy? I don’t (though I could probably find out). Do you think the US is making a big mistake in hiring them…? Just trying to figure out where you’re coming from on this, and what brings this topic up.

Ecodelta, you might as well find a wall to slam your head against. Math will not engage in any rational discussion.

December 22, 2008 @ 7:47 pm | Comment

“Do you think the US is making a big mistake in hiring them…? Just trying to figure out where you’re coming from on this, and what brings this topic up.”

The Americans’ thinking seems to be rather interesting over at the US Embassy. They seem to be undertaking background checks of Chinese nationals vetted to work at the US Embassy in Beijing, seemingly in denial of the obvious reality that such Chinese nationals will be subjected to outside pressures which they cannot resist. And yet the US Embassy hires these people anyway. Why?

It reminds me of the stories during the Vietnam War of the employment of Vietnamese to work in the US military bases. At the time, the US couldn’t figure out why VC artillery targetting the US bases was so accurate. It also appears that the US hires Iraqis to do the menial work in US bases in Iraq today, with seemingly similar outsomes as during the Vietnam War. Why this problem repeats itself is rather interesting? Why undertake a vetting process (i.e., background checks) seemingly designed to keep from shooting oneself in the foot, and then, nonetheless, deliberately shooting oneself in the foot?

I guess that somebody’s got to do the work, and the locals are relatively cheap?

You can put rational, normal people in organizations/bureaucracies and cause them to act in very irrational, dysfunctional ways. Crazy.

Who knows how the bureaucracies will act in the midst of a very dangerous financial crisis?

December 22, 2008 @ 8:12 pm | Comment

Impossible for me to comment for now – how do you know this is going on at the US embassy?

December 22, 2008 @ 8:35 pm | Comment

The US Embassy in Beijing hires “locals”. There’s a process for hiring locals.

December 22, 2008 @ 8:44 pm | Comment

Yes, but why are you now bringing this up? Is this something new, has there been a violation, or maybe you heard something bad just happened because of this policy? I mean, what information did you hear that’s impelled you to raise this topic, or did you just hear about the US hiring policy for the first time, or…? So you’re saying the US hire Chinese people to work at its embassy, but they hire nationals in every country. I mean, the sun will rise tomorrow, in all likelihood, but it’s kind of strange to post about the sun rising, don’t you think? Or maybe I’m not understanding something, in which case I’m sorry, I can be awfully obtuse.

December 22, 2008 @ 8:54 pm | Comment

This week’s conspiracy case: Michael Connell

http://www.atlargely.com/2008/12/one-of-my-sources-died-in-a-plane-crash-last-night.html

“I don’t usually reveal sources, but I think this is incredibly important. Michael Connell died in a plane crash last night. He was a key witness in the Ohio election fraud case that I have been reporting on. More importantly, however, he had information that he was ready to share.

You see, Mike Connell set-up the alternate email and communications system for the White House. He was responsible for creating the system that hosted the infamous GWB43.com accounts that Karl Rove and others used. When asked by Congress to provide these emails, the White House said that they were destroyed. But in reality, what Connell is alleged to have done is move these files to other servers after having allegedly scrubbed the files from all “known” Karl Rove accounts.”

That was probably part of Bush’s farewell tour… Dirty, dirty, dirty world…

December 22, 2008 @ 9:56 pm | Comment

Bao, I saw that earlier. Raw Story was covering it. Seems awfully convenient, but I don’t want to get all conspiratorial, at least not until we know more.

December 22, 2008 @ 10:12 pm | Comment

“Yes, but why are you now bringing this up? Is this something new, has there been a violation, or maybe you heard something bad just happened because of this policy?”

So you’re saying that we can’t talk about problems/issues unless they are first raised by the mainstream media? Problems don’t exist unless the lunatics in charge say that they exist? The Great Leap Forward is a success until declared otherwise by the “leadership”?

Our institutions/systems have basically collapsed. Across the board failure of our institutions, educational, financial, the media, legal institutions, etc., etc. And no one talks about it—the calm before the storm. Humpty Dumpty Sat on the Wall…. The hiring of Chinese nationals by the US Embassy in Beijing is just a case in point. It’s MAD and no one sees how MAD it is.

December 22, 2008 @ 11:41 pm | Comment

So you’re saying that we can’t talk about problems/issues unless they are first raised by the mainstream media?

Not at all. What is the problem or issue, though? I have never said you can’t talk about whatever you’d like. That’s what these threads are for. I am just asking what exactly it is you are talking about. I mean, maybe the hiring of Chinese nationals by the US embassy does signal trouble to come, but if so, I still don’t see why or how.

December 23, 2008 @ 8:17 am | Comment

What I am pointing out generally is that our systems/institutions are collapsing around us and people generally don’t see it. The hiring of Chinese nationals by the US Embassy in Beijing is an example of this madness. The US Embassy folks seemingly do extensive background checks on Chinese nationals who will inevitably be recruited and cannot resist outside pressures given their situation in China as Chinese nationals. The folks at the US Embassy hire them nonetheless, perhaps, simply because the yanks need somebody to do the work and clean the toilets. This is madness.

Our systems/institutions are breakdown:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2008/12/22-2

December 23, 2008 @ 10:31 am | Comment

Societal breakdown in Mr. Rogers’ neigborhood:

http://www.poormojo.org/pmjadaily/archives/024514.php

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…
A beautiful day for a neighbor…
Won’t you be my?
Would you be my?
Won’t you be my neighbor?”

December 23, 2008 @ 12:53 pm | Comment

Interesting if you combine that with the Brigade homeland tours.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/radio/2008/10/27/hafetz/

“3rd Infantry’s 1st BCT trains for a new dwell-time mission. Helping ‘people at home’ may become a permanent part of the active Army”

“I don’t know what America’s overall plan is — I just know that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are standing by to come and help if they’re called,” Cloutier said.

“It makes me feel good as an American to know that my country has dedicated a force to come in and *help* the people at home.”

December 23, 2008 @ 1:35 pm | Comment

A Bible in one hand (the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution) and a gun in the other hand (the 2nd Amendment).

Pray!

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=2G551KpNnA0

December 23, 2008 @ 2:31 pm | Comment

Interesting point Buck raises.

Do Chinese missions overseas hire local staff?

I have never seen non-Chinese working in an overseas Chinese mission. Mind you I never see non-Chinese employees in a Chinese restaurant either.

December 23, 2008 @ 3:22 pm | Comment

It makes sense that the military is standing by in America, considering where our economy is heading.

There are 4.7 million homes for sale representing an 11.2 month supply, the highest in history. Home prices have fallen 16 percent in the last year according to the Case Shiller Index. Prices are expected to fall at least another 15 percent by 2010. Foreclosures totaled 1.2 million in the 1st 6 months of 2008, a 100 percent increase over the prior year, and are accelerating at the fastest pace in three decades. Option ARM mortgage and Alt A mortgage delinquencies will be accelerating in 2009 based upon their date of issuance. This will lead to more foreclosures and lower prices. Unemployment is accelerating and will not peak until 2009, probably north of seven percent. People without jobs can’t make mortgage payments or buy HDTVs at Best Buy.

We are in a recession that is being driven by consumers with too much debt. Enormous consumer spending reductions will bankrupt over-leveraged retailers, mall developers, and commercial developers. A slow soft depression is a distinct possibility. The continued bailout of the reckless financial firms by the taxpayers, while their top management received titanic pay packages borders on immorality. The average American has the right to ask for a similar response.

So few Americans fully understand where we are. There are reasons for keeping the troops ready and nearby.

December 23, 2008 @ 3:35 pm | Comment

I have a question for the readers:

Am I the only one that doesn’t see anything else possible than a brutal return to protectionism for next year (2009) if the recession and the worldwide trouble deepens?

Of course this can only spell bad news, but honestly, what are the other options for a declining America / Europe / ?

The official discourse is one hailing and praising the free trade market, economists from all around the globe say that nowadays, our economic world is too intertwined to roll back, etc.

But how strong would that discourse stands in front of let’s say (hypothetically) millions of American with no jobs, hammering at the doors of the White House asking for a return of their industries and jobs in their home country?

And where does it end? As I understand, for many years the developed economies have been rushing to find cheaper place to produce, manufacture and now even develop IP’s related content.

In the long term, what is the balance in all this model? What happens when all the countries are relatively developed? Where do we outsource? Will it happen one day? Is it sustainable? Or is it just an extension of the magical Capitalist System and the endless growth economic model?

With such a Darwinian model, are we doomed to eternally shift from one side of the world to the other, once one side reach a power peak?

December 23, 2008 @ 11:18 pm | Comment

@Buck

Why does the US Embassy in China hire Chinese nationals? The odds that such people will be wearing 2 hats in the US embassy are 100%.

The last time I went to the German embassy in Beijing – two years ago, we were getting the visa for my wife – we didn’t even speak to a single German person. I saw a few – when we entered, at the gate, and some guy passing by while we were waiting, but behind the counters where all the paperwork was done – only Chinese people. I remember seeing one door with a sign that indicated that the office behind was supposed to deal with German nationals and their problems or paperwork, but it felt sort of strange to get a German visa for my wife in a German embassy and only be talking to Chinese officials (I’m not sure if official is the correct term in this context).

But the US Embassy does hire Chinese nationals, lots of ‘em. 100% guaranteed to be wearing 2 hats, 100% guaranteed, backed by the full faith and credit of the US government!

I’m afraid I have to agree with you and the same is true for the German government.

It’s what the Chinese national is going to do that the yanks should be worried about, not what he/she did in the past.

Spot on!

I guess that somebody’s got to do the work, and the locals are relatively cheap?

Exactly, but they forget the price they (actually I should say WE) will have to pay in the long run.

I have never seen non-Chinese working in an overseas Chinese mission. Mind you I never see non-Chinese employees in a Chinese restaurant either.

I also have never seen a German working in any Chinese embassy or consulate in Europe. The Chinese government knows how to protect their interests while our governments seem to enjoy shooting themselves in the foot.

December 24, 2008 @ 6:04 am | Comment

Happy Holidays Richard!

I have put up an archive of sinocidal.com for anyone interested.

December 25, 2008 @ 7:41 pm | Comment

Jesus, this is incredible… I first read this article, thinking, OK, the usual bla bla. And then at the end… That beautiful punch line.

Oh boy…. For those that had the patience to read me and my crazy ideas and my Economic war scenario on this blog since 2-3 months, etc. I said it, I’ve foreseen it. And now it’s in the news finally. Was longer than I expected.

Ok I have to catch up my breath now… Richard this is for you…

It’s my 2008 Christmas Gift….

http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2008/s0789_12_12.asp

“…he found many OFFICIALS and ordinary Chinese who believed in one of those 9/11 conspiracy type theories: the United States purposely triggered a global financial crisis to thwart China’s growth. ”

Expect more about this in the coming months, 2009.

Wow, I’ll sleep well tonight, I’m not so crazy after all.

December 26, 2008 @ 2:22 am | Comment

Wow, I totally missed out on this in the last week, while it was finally picking up steam in the media.

Sorry for the spam…

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/12/09/asia/letter.php
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&sid=a8RcQQDb19c0&refer=asia
http://news.yahoo.com/s/bloomberg/20081208/pl_bloomberg/a8rcqqdb19c0_1/print

Am I still a clown now ?

December 26, 2008 @ 3:21 am | Comment

@Bao

There is always someone crazier than oneself… ;-)

December 26, 2008 @ 3:32 am | Comment

So, since I am on a roll as we say I’ll throw in the 2009 predictions: Ultra protectionism on a worldwide scale, Obama unable to get out of the mold that his predecessor has forged for him (Obabush) and a very dangerous trend toward a global war, China and Russia being the top contenders, a possible nationalization of Gold.

My wish tonight, is that we don’t go this road… of course.

This whole thing is just becoming too real. Sometimes I wish the wackos could just be wackos and not bother us. But as ecodelta just said (a twist on it), nowadays, it’s hard to tell who’s crazy and who’s not…

December 26, 2008 @ 3:42 am | Comment

Admiral, great to see you resurface! You are missed. If I held another dinner, would you come?

December 26, 2008 @ 7:31 pm | Comment

If I were in China most definetely. The dinner was good, the company exceptional… I am currently back in the US.
I have a job, and I guess I should be grateful for that. But I have a newborn (day of the ChengDu earthquake) there and want to get back as soon as I can.

Though I haven’t posted, I do attempt to keep up with your travels.

Wish you the best this Holiday Season!

December 27, 2008 @ 11:52 am | Comment

Let me know when you’ll be in town. I knew you were back in the USA, but am sure you’d fly back in a heartbeat for one of those famous dinners.

December 27, 2008 @ 12:51 pm | Comment

Cracks in U.S.-China Relations Are Widening Again in Crisis

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/29/business/economy/29paulson.html?_r=1&ref=business

American businesses, unions and lawmakers are already gearing up to force Mr. Obama’s hand…

And new Democratic congressmen like Larry Kissell of North Carolina and Dan Maffei of New York have pledged actions to stop jobs from being shipped to China…

American companies are preparing trade complaints that could lead to increased tariffs.

Protectionism signs already, just before the end of the year… Great.

December 29, 2008 @ 12:33 pm | Comment

Army phone links China and Russia

“Put simply, the Chinese can now pick up the phone when there is a crisis and ask the Russians what is going on and what they are doing about it.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7803028.stm

December 29, 2008 @ 11:43 pm | Comment

Here’s another toy to play with, the sea rise simulator.

http://flood.firetree.net/

Shanghai current elevation is about 4 meters above sea level. Now put the simulation to 7 meters, and see the effect.

If the current worldwide predictions are true, doomed is this city.

December 31, 2008 @ 1:09 am | Comment

As trade slows, China rethinks its growth strategy

“I’m not sure they can compete with us again by moving down the ladder,” Boediono said, “because I think they have already moved up the ladder.”

http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/01/01/business/01exports.php?page=1

2009, spelled out in neon letters: Catastrophic year.

India ? Indonesia ? The next cheap labor market? OF COURSE NO!

January 1, 2009 @ 5:51 pm | Comment

Let’s use the New Year’s thread for the open thread.

January 1, 2009 @ 6:42 pm | Comment

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