Outrage! Empire State Building “goes PRC” on October 1

China has done bad things, and it’s done good things, like all countries. China has its fair share of atrocities, injustices and a considerable legacy of repression and injustice. But China is not Nazi Germany, they are not a nation of deranged Maoists, and they happen to be one of the linchpins in the global economy that keeps America afloat. They happen to be moving in the right direction, despite some infuriating steps backwards. We all know the story, we all know the bad stuff and the good stuff.

So when I see Americans go insane over the Empire State Building turning red and yellow to mark the 60th anniversary of the PRC, I have to say it’s simply nuts. We recognize China, we trade with China, we work with China – our fates are tied together, perhaps inextricably. Seeing the outpouring of hate and paranoia from the right-wing blogs, while predictable. is a good reminder of the prejudices many in America bear toward our No. 1 trading partner, and of our ongoing inbred stupidity when it comes to scare words like “Red China.”

The Village Voice today rounds up some of the hysteria, and here are some samples:

Empire State Building, Drenched in Blood!

China Rape

In celebrating The Peoples Republic of China’s 60th anniversary the Empire State Building in New York City will be lit up with both yellow and red lights on Wednesday. I find this most appropriate since red will represent the blood of the millions of innocent people China has murdered or thrown in their Gulag System. The yellow will represent the cowardly conduct of a nation who has chosen to rape and murder Falun Gong members as well as the Uyghur People of Turkistan.

When Chinese consul, Peng Keyu, and other officials take part in the lighting ceremony there should also be a laser light show depicting the people who’ve been tortured and used for organ transplants. The light show should also focus on U.S. Industries who have profiteered from China’s lucrative slave labor and absents of environmental laws. The laser show should also depict the million or so peasants who were displaced for the Olympic Arena. They should show the innocent people who were killed or silenced so as not to reveal what China did to them.


Celebrating COMMUNIST CHINA’s 60th birthday??!!!

What’s next, Marx, Lenin and Trotsky’s birthday’s too?

What about Allah while we’re honoring our enemies under the “Commie Obammie” administration?

First it was the flying of the Commie flag of China right next to the Stars and Stripes right in our own Rose Garden of the White House last week we blogged and bi*&^%$ about here, now they’re gonna honor the birth of Communist China by turning the lighting on the Empire State Building Commie Red and Yellow???!!!!


Tune in next week when the Empire State goes Red & Black to honor the Nazis


Former Bush attack dog Jules Crittenden also has to get into the act, of course:

Let’s hear it for putting labor camps to good use! Controlling the means of production rocks! Kleptomaniacal post-Marxist autocracy, yeah!

I know, the Chinese blogs and message boards aren’t always overflowing with nuanced, compassionate, thoughtful dialogue about the US, but really, this is absurd. The hypocrisy is beyond belief as these bloggers pound on their made-in-China keyboards.

I’m all for constructive criticism of any autocratic regime. I’m for calling China (and the US, etc.) out for their crimes and misdemeanors. But this is not only ridiculous when you consider how innocuous the actual event it – this hyperbolic, coordinated reacton is much more sinister than that. It is being used as a tacit attack on “Obama’s America,” as Rush Limbaugh has proudly called it. What these ignoramuses are saying has almost nothing to do with China, a country they know virtually nothing about. It is all about smearing Obama, because this is happening here, in “Obama’s America,” an America that encourages palling around with terrorists and coddling dictators and appeasing madmen, the new socialist communist fascist Muslim America. Of course, none of these gasbags had a word to say five years ago when we saw this:


Now the sky is falling. And, by the way, some liberals, I am sure, will also get into the act – misperceptions abound on all sides about China (I cringe when I read certain lefty blogs I usually like when they go on about Tibet, blithely unaware of even the most basic facts). It’s embarrassing and it’s stupid. The PRC plays a vital role in America’s interests, it’s here to stay (at least throughout our lifetimes), it sucks in many ways but the extension of this courtesy, lighting up the Empire State Building, is not an act of appeasement or treason. This is diplomacy, whether it’s done by Bush or Obama. Grow up and get used to it.


I love a parade


A total must-read – the NY Times on the 60th anniversary preparations. Anal-retentiveness has been totally redefined:

Performers have been carefully screened. Even the workers who are decorating the city with tens of millions of flowerpots had to undergo “political inspection,” according to news reports. Soldiers have practiced endless hours to hold their rifles at precisely the same level. Photos show their instructors holding threads as rifle guides, or sticking needles in soldiers’ shirt collars, pointed at their necks, to correct poor posture.

They have trained to stand motionless for a solid hour, to refrain from swaying during the second hour and not to collapse after three hours, reported Xinhua, the state-run news agency. They have been schooled in shouting phrases in perfect unison: “Serve the people!” and “Hello, senior leader!” They are also expected not to blink for 40 seconds at a time.

Chinese news media have reported that the government has limited parade participants in Beijing’s celebration to 187,000 — at least 300,000 fewer than in the last decennial celebration. Performers have been carefully screened. Even the workers who are decorating the city with tens of millions of flowerpots had to undergo “political inspection,” according to news reports.

Mental-health professionals have been called in to help those whose performance is not up to snuff. As of Sept. 12, 1,300 soldiers had received counseling, Xinhua reported.

And then there’s the paranoia concerns over security.

Knife sales have been banned in at least some stores. Beijing’s international airport will be closed Thursday for three hours. Along the parade route, the authorities have forbidden parade-watchers from opening windows or standing on balconies.

Three journalists from the Japanese Kyodo news agency said that when they stood on a hotel balcony to cover a Sept. 18 parade rehearsal, the authorities stormed into the room and assaulted them. A spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the journalists ignored explicit instructions not to report the event, apparently out of concern that details of the spectacle would be revealed.

Another, more provocative article I read today, paints an even more bizarre picture:

Black-clad Swat teams of police will be deployed at key intersections and thousands of agents will stage a security clampdown exceeding anything seen for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Dissidents have been shut up at home or arrested. Police have banned peasants from coming to the capital to present their grievances as petitions, a tradition that dates back thousands of years.

Counter-terrorist squads, backed up by informers, are prowling the districts where Muslims from China’s restive far west live. Peaceful Tibetan Buddhists are also under surveillance in their incense-filled temples. Internet users say censorship has never been so restrictive. Facebook and Twitter are among the sites that have been blocked.

At the last parade 10 years ago, diplomats were able to watch from balconies in their compound. This time residents have been warned that if they step out they may be shot.

“We must abide by Deng Xiaoping’s instruction that China must be under the leadership of the Communist party,” declared the People’s Daily on Friday. “If this fundamental principle is altered, China will go backwards, split and fall into chaos.”


I can kind of see doing this for the Olympic Games, which were, of course, a magnet for many thousands of visitors who had never been to China before. But the 60th anniversary celebration of the birth of the PRC is something of a mystery to many China watchers I know, all of whom have essentially the same reaction to the big day, namely, Who cares? I understand, any anniversary date ending with a 5 or a 0 is seen as a big deal in China (and in many other countries, though usually to a lesser extent; in the US, the 50th and 100th and 200th anniversaries of the birth of America, for instance, were super-big deals, while the anniversaries in-between were not), and I understand it from China’s perspective. But are they aware, on the other end, how mystifying this whole exercise looks to those on the outside? I know, they don’t really care about that, and maybe they shouldn’t. This is their party. But I do hope readers realize why Americans write about the preparations and the event itself with an air of amazement. The 60th anniversary of the PRC doesn’t mean much to anyone outside China, especially since the principles on which the nation was founded in 1949 have been drastically diluted if not discarded altogether.

The aggravation that this celebration has generated in terms of getting a visa, in terms of disruptions of daily life in Beijing and in terms of general anniversary-fatigue are nearly all that the foreigners I know bring up when the anniversary is mentioned. (This was true six months ago as well.) Along with a general sense of mystification: What other country would put so much money and effort into a parade like this, in the midst of an economic crisis? And let me reiterate, I do understand from the Chinese perspective why they are doing this, even if I believe they are not going to score many points in the court of global public opinion with this event. Then again, just as with the Olympics, the parade isn’t being held for the outside world. It is being held by China, it’s about China, and it’s for China. They don’t care if we’re pissed about not getting our visa. And I understand that.


Note: Link via a tweet by this blogger.


World Bank Head: Dollar will lose its place to the euro and renminbi

Funny that we talked about this just yesterday in regard to a relatively obscure article, and now it is the 2nd leading story on the front page of the NY Times. Get a load of this:

The president of the World Bank said Monday that America’s days as an unchallenged economic superpower might be numbered and that dollar was likely to lose its favored position as the euro and the Chinese renmimbi assume bigger roles.

“The United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency,” the World Bank president, Robert B. Zoellick, said in a speech at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. “Looking forward, there will increasingly be other options to the dollar.”

Mr. Zoellick, who previously served as the United States trade representative and as deputy secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said that the euro provided a “respectable alternative” for financing international transactions and that there was “every reason to believe that the euro’s acceptability could grow.”

Over the next 10 to 20 years, he said, the dollar would face growing competition from China’s currency, the renmimbi. Though Chinese leaders have minimized their currency’s use in international transactions, largely so they could keep greater control over exchange rates, Mr. Zoellick said the renmimbi would “evolve into a force in financial markets.”

Read the article. It is beyond extraordinary that the US-appointed head of the World Bank would be so in-your-face provocative, casting doubt on Obama’s strategy to lead us to financial recovery under the supervision of the Fed (as opposed to the Treasury) and openly questioning whether we can pay our debts without igniting inflation. I personally don’t think so, and it’s clear Zoellick doesn’t, either. All of these points were discussed here yesterday, and it’s clear Zoellick read this site before presenting at Johns Hopkins.


Peyton’s Place

I was standing in my kitchen during a visit back to the US about a year ago when a rather sinister-looking black snout suddenly burst through the pet door used by the cats. I would soon learn that the creature was a pot-bellied pig that, for reasons too complex and uninteresting to go into here, is now living in my backyard. Her name is Peyton, and she’s actually fearsomely smart (way smarter than any cat). That said, she rolls in dirt all day long, eats like a vacuum cleaner, makes all kinds of strange noises and isn’t really my ideal type of pet. Maybe I just need to get used to her. Meanwhile, this blog wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t share a couple photos of my new housemate. (She’s actually a yard mate at the moment, but when winter comes she moves into the house. We’ll see how cute I think she is then.)

Peyton scarfs down beef stew from the pot.

Peyton scarfs down beef stew from the pot.

Peyton takes a bath.

Peyton takes a bath.


“The dollar is dead – long live the renminbi”

That’s the headline from this new article, one of many I’ve been seeing on the inevitable arrival of the post-dollar world. This one sees the current economic upheaval as a sort of gigantic correction that will restore equilibrium to a global economy knocked out of whack by huge trade and capital imbalances.

A seminal shift in behaviour is being forced on the deficit nations where, despite massive fiscal, monetary and financial system support, there is a continuing scarcity of credit and a growing propensity to save. Neither of these two constraints on demand will reverse any time soon.

This, in turn, is forcing change on surplus countries, whether they like it or not. Export-orientated nations can no longer rely on once profligate neighbours to buy their goods. Against all instinct, they are having to stimulate their own domestic demand.

The most startling results are evident in China, where retail sales grew an astonishing 15.4 per cent in August. Fiscal action has succeeded in boosting consumption in Germany, too, despite mistrust of what one German politician has dubbed “crass Keynesianism”.

…The challenge for a developing nation such as China is a rather different one. In China, the propensity to export and save is driven by an absence of any meaningful social security net, in combination with the legacy of its oppressive one child policy, which has deprived great swathes of the population of children to fall back on for support in old age.

What’s more, most Chinese don’t earn enough to buy the products they are producing, so in what has become the customary path for developing nations, they export the surplus and save the proceeds. Yet even in China the establishment of a newly affluent, free-spending middle class may now have gained an unstoppable momentum. In any case, the country can no longer rely on American consumers to provide jobs and growth. It needs a new growth model, which means ultimately adopting the Henry Ford principle that if you want a sustainable market for your products, you have to pay your workers enough to buy them.

How China actually goes about doing that – adopting Henry Ford’s model – is anybody’s guess, but I’d say if it ever happens it’s generations away. (It reminds me of hopes that Afghanistan’s poppy-growing peasants will adopt democracy in short order, become a second Vermont and work out their most pressing problems in civil town halls over chardonnay and quiche.) That’s the flaw in this article, glossing over just how excruciatingly difficult such a sea-change would be to implement. Its observations about the fate of the dollar and the new balance of power, however, seem to me spot on:

These trends – all of which pre-date the crisis but which, out of necessity, are being greatly accelerated by it – will eventually drive a move away from the dollar as the world’s reserve currency of choice. As China takes control of its economic destiny, spends more and saves less, there will be less willingness both to hold dollar assets and to submit to the domestic priorities of US monetary policy.

This is still a couple of years off, but China is preparing for it now. The dollar will spurt up periodically between now and then, but its general trend has to be downward. It is literally inevitable that the value of the dollar will be slashed over the next couple of years. The government needs to lower the value of the dollar, but is hoping to do so slowly. The problem is, those holding dollars, like China, are hardly stupid and know what’s going on, and will not cheerfully stand whistling on the deck as the Titanic goes down. And if there’s a panic and a global dumping of the dollar, it could mean havoc. For a good description of why this is so, and why the dollar simply must go down, check out this clip from CNBC (scroll down). Highly recommended, especially toward the end.

For the record, i have no background in economics and make no claims that I have even the slightest idea what I’m talking about. I just like to write about money and politics. What I do know, however, is that I first recommended buying gold here in the closing days of 2006. Here’s where it was when I recommended it then compared to now.



Happy Birthday, PRC!

Check out these delightful videos. No one can fault them for a lack of creativty. Where else but China?


Last post on FGM, for now


For whatever reasons, the topic of female genital mutilation always brings out an odd type of commenter, always male (of course), usually someone who insists on seeing it as the equivalent of male circumcision (which is like comparing what Van Gogh did to getting one’s ear pierced) and/or who vigorously defends multiculturalism, a warped argument because you cannot defend torture and trauma. And even if the procedure is carried out antiseptically and with plenty of pain killers, the procedure itself constitutes a trauma by its very nature. Of course, the mutilation is usually not performed antiseptically.

We went through all of this in the at-times painful thread below. The post was noticed by an organization that alerted me to their new film on this topic, and I’m posting this let you know where you see the film. If you want to argue further about this topic, first go to this site and download the file. (It’s kind of long, so be patient.) Then watch it. It is not hysterical or emotional. It explains the deep roots of the practice and how many girls look forward to it as a right of passage, celebrated by the community. But the filmmakers then make it clear that the procedure leaves every victim traumatized and in pain, and it has life-long consequences. As a girl who refused to be mutilated explains, if the other girls had the slightest understanding of what it actually entails. they would refuse as she did.

Surf through some of the links over there. You’ll see that this is not about intolerant Westerners sneering at an honored cultural tradition. Those objecting with the most passion are either victims of the mutilation or girls who have refused to undergo it. The protests are coming from African women, not arm-chair snobs blogging from their air-conditioned living rooms.

The issue raises all sorts of questions of freedom – the freedom to choose what is done to your body, the freedom to observe your thousand-year culture, the freedom to be left free of meddling from outsiders. And I don’t claim to have answers to all of these issues. What I do know is that if men in their teens had to undergo similar mutilation, they would be a lot less enthusiastic about the “cultural” argument. And if more of the girls knew exactly what was being done to them and all the grief it would cause them in the future, they too would be a bit less delighted to stand there while the knife is sharpened and… Well, watch the film.

There is a reason why all these groups have formed and why so many African women are speaking out. Maybe those who want it done should be permitted to preserve their tradition and choose their own path. But since it is mainly done in a state of ignorance, I would argue that we should do everything possible to at least educate them as to the reality of their choice. And again, that’s not the arrogant belief of a snobby white guy looking down at disgust at something in another culture he finds disconcerting. It’s what thousands of African women and global health workers are fighting to do. It’s about saving lives, about protecting women from unbearable pain and suffering.

As we are seeing in Iraq, there is a deep-seeded cultural attitude toward gays that justifies murdering them (my US tax dollars at work). “It’s their culture.” Same with honor killings. Does the mantra, “It’s our culture” excuse all behavior no matter how sadistic and unjust? Tough call. What is not a tough call is what Western nations should do when their citizens wish to participate in these activities in any way, whether it’s on their soil or during weekend trips home. The answer must be “No, that goes against the social contract you made with this country when you sought its citizenship. And some things are non-negotiable.” It’s not like getting annoyed at someone for spitting watermelon seeds on the restaurant table. It’s about cruelty to and subjugation of women.

Thanks for your patience. This has been a subject that has bothered me for years and I can’t be silent. Now, I’ll try to get back to China and the US.


Scandinavia stands up to female genital mutilation

Norway, Sweden and Denmark do the right thing.

Scandinavians — rather than quietly recoiling as immigrant mothers take their Europe-born daughters on vacation to Africa be circumcised — are fighting the traffic in female genital mutilation (FGM).
Sweden, Norway and Denmark are doggedly pursuing perpetrators of FGM, practiced by African and Middle Eastern cultures. Those perpetrators are mostly the immigrant mothers of the young girls.

Jail sentences, record damages and controversial immigration laws are Scandinavia’s weapons in this war. Meanwhile Africans — who have immigrated with their families for a better life in northern Europe — wring their hands, imploring Westerners to understand that they are doing what they think is best for their daughters.

“The reasons given for female circumcision are traditional, cultural and religious. It is believed to encourage cleanliness, to control promiscuity, enhance the males’ sexual pleasure, preserve virginity and protect against unwanted pregnancies,” said Timnit Embaye of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Kenya.
But Scandinavian leaders refuse to interpret tolerance of female circumcision as politically correct.

FGM “is a very serious assault on children,” said Norway’s Secretary of Justice Knut Storberget. “It is important that they will be given a chance to value this independently when they are old enough to understand.”

Excellent. I know, these people want to do what is best for their children. But the countries in which they have chosen to live won’t succumb to the moral relativism argument and I salute them for it. If you wish to be a citizen of these countries, female genital mutilation is non-negotiable – it is inhumane and intolerable. I hope the entire world takes note and realizes there is no room for political correctness when it comes to this act of barbarism.

I know, I’m outspoken, but I see this as a crime – and a heinous one at that, on the same level as honor killings. That argument that it’s a “cultural thing” that requires our “sensitivity” won’t wash. Murder is murder. Mutilation is an assault of the most devastating variety.

I’ve always had a great admiration for the Scandinavian countries, ever since as a boy I read about how they responded to Hitler’s demands for them to hand over their Jews. (And yes, I know about Sweden’s ambiguous relationship with the Reich, but also know they accepted Denmark’s Jews after they were ferried out of the country.) I see this response to an evil act as a continuation of this spirit of humanity, and this article reaffirms a belief I’ve always held that there is a lot we can learn from them.


Photos of PRC’s 60th Anniversary Rehearsals



NY Times: China’s economy is back while US bleeds

This is the most outspoken article I’ve seen to date in a non-Chinese media proclaiming the bounce-back of China’s economy, in sharp and painful contrast to the ongoing mayhem in America.

Just eight months ago, thousands of Chinese workers rioted outside factories closed by the global downturn.

Now many of those plants have reopened and are hiring again. Some executives are even struggling to find enough temporary staff to fill Christmas orders.

The image of laid-off workers here returning to jobs stands in sharp contrast to the United States, where even as the economy shows signs of improvement, the unemployment rate continues to march toward double digits.

In China, even the hardest-hit factories — those depending on exports to the United States and Europe — are starting to rehire workers. No one here is talking about a jobless recovery.

Even the real estate market is picking up. In this industrial town 90 miles northwest of Shanghai, prospective investors lined up one recent Saturday to buy apartments in the still-unfinished Rose Avenue complex. Many of them slept outside the sales office all night.

“The whole country’s economy is back on track,” said Shi Yingyi, a 34-year-old housewife who joined the throng. “I feel more confident now.”

The confidence stems from China’s three-pronged effort — a combination of stimulus, liberal bank lending and broad government support for exports.

For those of us, like me, who wondered out loud hw China could possible come back so strong so soon when it’s economy was so dependent on exports to the US, the article says not to worry.

…American trade data shows that imports from China only eroded 14.2 percent in the first seven months of this year while imports from the rest of the world plunged 32.6 percent. China’s trade surplus, already the world’s largest, was $108 billion for the first seven months of this year.

No, the article says, China isn’t entirely out of the woods, and the heavy stimulus spending today could be sowing the seeds for trouble tomorrow. But the fact remains (the reporter says): China’s economy is roaring ahead while America’s appears more moribund than ever.

In a style unusually flippant for the NYT, the reporter notes the concerns about all of the fast and loose loans being made by China’s banks, to which he replies in the closing line, “But such concerns are so 2008.”

Maybe it’s all a show, a mirage. But I wouldn’t put any money on China’s economy crashing anytime soon, or on the US economy getting better. I’m here in America, and I can safely say that the mood here is grim, bordering on hopeless. And our suite of very special problems – trillions of dollars of toxic debt, the new wave of upcoming home foreclosures and the steady drop of the US dollar – have yet to deliver their wallop. (Which begs the question, what am I doing here? I’ll let you know once i figure it out.)