Catching up

I don’t know why things feel so slow in China news-wise. Looking over the blogs, it seems the most interesting posts aren’t dealing with breaking news, but rather with advice (always carry your passport and don’t co-habitate – a kind of scary post, and a great one, too); a discussion on the tendency of expats to live in a world of other expats and an extraordinary response to that argument; and an excellent discussion from the same blog on why there is no such thing as freedom of speech on blogs or other sites that are private property (a week old, but a good read, especially for those who still believe my blog and others’ are their personal soapbox to say whatever they’d like).

As far as news over here, this seems to be the slowest period I’ve seen in China in 8 years. My quick observations on the undertone of Chinese stories as I comb the news:

1. China is going all-out to smooth over past frictions with Japan and is going way out of its way to stress that they must work together to form a new paradigm of government and finance now that the US model has been “discredited.” The crash, caused entirely by the fiscal irresponsibility of the US, is being used like the descent of Russia into corruption and near anarchy in the early 1990s, as proof of the failure of democracy and the Western model. Asia will have none of that; it’s time to create something new and forge our own path. Japan and China will do the leading. Mainly China.

2. The South China Sea is the next big hotspot, and some in the military are actually itching for war. China has been robbed of its rightful offshore territory by plunderers in both the South and East China Seas, who’ve stolen oil and natural gas that belong to China. That big recent display of China’s blue water navy was strategic and intended to carry a message, perhaps a provocative one. On the other hand, I hear from my trusted sources that while the military’s lobbying and making all the noise, there’s little support from those in the seat of power. For now, and for some time to come, the noise about the offshore plundering will be exactly that. Noise.

3. Nearly every story that involves Western media coverage of China will claim the West is actively seeking to tarnish China’s image and make them look bad. The Jackie Chan storm in a teapot was just the latest example, and the Associated Press’s choice of words amounted to nothing less than a conspiracy that can be related to how the West deifies the Dalai Lama and misrepresents Chinese history. (For an excellent bit of insight on the general topic of Western coverage of China, check out this fine post.)

4. China has overcome the financial crisis. It’s real estate market is reviving, unemployment is in check and the government’s stimulus package was an unqualified success, untouched by corruption or mismanagement. You wouldn’t know that walking through The Place or the Solana graveyardsmalls, but if the media say so, there must be something to it.

On a more mundane note, the lease on my Beijing apartment expires in mid-July, six 10 short weeks away. Time for me to make another of those life-altering choices. Stay in Beijing, move to Yunnan for a change of pace, go back to Phoenix…. I believe, and all my colleagues tell me, if there was ever a time to live in China this is it. Especially when jobs in my industry are nonexistent, especially in a city like Phoenix. The next few weeks may be full of ruminations about this as I use my blog as a cathartic device to figure out what to do with this inexplicable albatrossblessing we call life.

The Discussion: 9 Comments

Listen to your inner voice when making a decision. No body can be a better guide than your own heart.
And on body has the right to force their own wants and likes on you out of selfishness, because it is unfair and will not work anyway.
Last but not least, whatever your choice, best wishes and good luck for you.

May 3, 2009 @ 7:08 pm | Comment

Why would you say life is an albatross?

May 3, 2009 @ 7:13 pm | Comment

Conscience, thanks for the encouragement – no one’s trying to force me to do anything, but I’m having a hard time making a decision.

Xu, I was being partly humorous. Life is a blessing and it’s an albatross, with lots of joy and wonder, and lots of tough choices and pain.

May 3, 2009 @ 7:36 pm | Comment

Time to start thinking about getting that permanent visa for China, Richard…

May 3, 2009 @ 9:02 pm | Comment

Some days it feels like a heavier albatross than others…

Are there any reliable sources for province level unemployment statistics out there? It would settle the debate a little more. And in America when people can’t find a job they often start their own small business. Is that culture growing in China during this recession?

May 3, 2009 @ 9:45 pm | Comment

A mini-Introduction to Marxism

This is to introduce many Marxism-illiterate people to the basic foundation of Marxism. I feel that many of you do not understand Marxism well, and it is helpful to know it. I do not know if I am a Marxist or not, and I am also not a member of the Chinese Communist Party, and I do not plan on joining it.

First, I think there are first 5 basic rules of Marxism, I list them here:

1) Marxism discovered a very simply rule about human society: humans need to first eat, clothe, and live, and only after those 3 things can then participate in politics, culture, or other advanced activities.

2) Both humans and animals need to meet those 3 basic demands. But the difference is, humans gain the materials for those 3 demands through their own labor.

3) In order to produce the materials through labor, humans need to interact with nature, and need to control nature. This type of control is called “productive force”. And humans society’s productive force is always increasing, and human lives are always improving as productive force improves.

4) During the production, there must be some division of labor and some cooperation. This type of labor divison and cooperation is called “productive relations”. Generally, productive relations are determined from productive force. In other words, different productive force will result in different productive relations.

5) Now, productive force and productive relations combine to form a productive system. This system is called “economic foundation”.

Ok, those are the five rules. There are also some relations in society that is not always prodution-related. For example, artists, bishops, etc etc. Those people participate in high-level activities like culture, religion, politics, etc. The system formed by those people is called “Upper Structure”.

So now, we have “economic foundations” and “upper structure”. Now, let me introduce the most important concept in Marxism. You can take notes if you want:

Economic Foundations determine the Upper Structure

In the beginnings of human development, or primitive society, there was not much excess productions. So there was no special “high level” occupations like culture, religion, politics, etc. But as productive force improved, there was excess production, and there exited a group of humans who can live more comfortably than the rest. And from this point on, classes developed. The society consisted of two big classes: the rich and the poor. The rich is also called the “exploitive class” (because they take the fruits of the laborers’ without putting in any labor themselves), also called “oppressive class”, also called “ruling class”.

These two classes fought constantly in the course of human history. Of course, the “fight” is not always physical and not always “life-and-death”. This fight sometimes even involved mutual-dependence, that is, sometimes those two classes established alliances and peace even during their fight. This concept is called “Opposition and Unity”: there were both opposition and unity during the fight.

In order to prevent these two classes from fighting too intensely as to cause social chaos and disrupt production, a new structure formed in human society. This new structure was called the “state”. The state adopts an attitude that seems to be very netural and fair, and rules on the social status and operations of those two classes. Any class that disobeys the rules set by the state will be punished. Therefore, Lenin said that “state is a tool used to harmonize between classes”. But the rules set by the state, in essense, is advantageous to the rich and disadvantageous to the poor. Therefore, Lenin also said “State is a tool used by one class to oppress the other class”. State is a type of organizational structure that is based on violence, including the police, the army, jails, courts, etc. Without these violent tool, the state cannot even survive for one day.

Now, as productive forces developed, human society experienced the slave society, the feudal society, and the capitalist society. In a slave society, the rich class was called the slave owner class, and the poor class was the slave class. In a feudal society, the rich class was called the land owners, and the poor class called the farmers. Before the capitalist society, the poor class can never win against the rich class, and all the resistance and revolutions of the poor classes ended in failure.

But as humans entered the Capitalist society, the rich class became the Capitalist Class (the class that owns and controls social capital and resources), and the poor class became the Working Class, or the Proletariat class (the class that owns no asset). But the sitation has changed: the Proletariat class suddenly had a chance to win against the Capitalist class during their fight. Ok, this is the end of this session of the Primer. If you want, I can continue the next session on how the Proletariat has a chance against the Capitalist.

Finally, note that Marxism only gives a very general outline of human social development, but the real situation is more complex, and you cannot be inflexible and use Marxist theories blindly. For example, Marxism does not have too much to say about the uneven development between different countries. For example, in China, after Mao Zedong’s investigation, he realized China’s rural areas were still a feudal society, but after the Emperialist invasion, some urban areas developed proletariats and capitalists. So it was a scenario where China was a semi-feudal and semi-capitalist society. Also in America, according to Marxist theory, it should’ve been a Capitalist country in during 1776, but it still had the Slavery System in the South. So be smart in applying Marxist theories in your analysis.

May 4, 2009 @ 2:50 am | Comment

every one is chasing their dreams, how can we stop them? what we can do is to bless them

May 4, 2009 @ 1:45 pm | Comment

Good luck with that Albatross!

A little selfsih aside.. Hope you’ll find time to update your blog regularly, just because I really appreciate you cherry picking noteworthy stuff on the internet. Keep it up!

May 6, 2009 @ 12:00 am | Comment

was that a reference to Coleridge?

May 12, 2009 @ 10:48 am | Comment

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