Troll Fest

I want to apologize to everyone for the mess the comments have become. I’ve never seen it quite this bad. I am closing the two threads below, and if you have anything else to say you can leave it here. It’s difficult finding a balance; I want Chinese people to comment here, but obviously I don’t want the threads to deteriorate into shouting matches or worse. Deciding what is or isn’t a troll comment is difficult when they don’t break specific rules, but it’s also obvious certain commenters want to take over threads and wreak havoc.

I am working on a huge project that will demand my full-time attention through the end of February (and yes, it’s China-related). So I can only check on the comments intermittently. But I will do everything I can to keep the comments from deteriorating. If anyone has any ideas on how best to moderate the comments let me know.

Happy Thanksgiving, even to my trolls who, of course all live in the US, and who should be grateful for what they have here, even if all they can express is scorn for America. Deep inside they must like it here, or else they’d vote by foot. Happy Holidays.


Taiwan Matters — A Guest Post

Below is a contributed post from my friend in Taiwan Bill Stimson. This post was printed yesterday in the Taipei Times.

Taiwan Matters

by William R. Stimson

For the U.S. to stop defending democratic Taiwan from China’s military in return for the $1.14 trillion of America’s debt that China holds? That so harebrained a scheme made it onto the op-ed page of the New York Times this past week shows that there are those who really believe the myth that with China looming ever bigger on the horizon, Taiwan assumes less and less strategic importance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

That China is on course to becoming tomorrow’s superpower is not the issue at all. The issue is that if this super-powerful China of tomorrow thinks and acts anywhere near the way it does today, it is on a collision course with the interests of the rest of the world – and, as we can already see beginning to happen today, the rest of the world can very easily come out the loser. China does not play by the same rules as everybody else. It cheats on everything, bullies everybody, and demands that far and wide the lies it defines as truth be seen as true. Its Nobel Peace Prize winner sits in jail – as do so many of its noblest spirits who have dared to fight illegally polluted lakes, censorship, official corruption, and the like. The line we hear from China’s leaders, not too different from what we hear from dictators everywhere, is that these reformers and protestors seek to impose on China alien outside ideas and norms that have no place in a Chinese society or a Chinese culture. Taiwan’s existence as a real free market Chinese economy, thriving Chinese democracy and two-party Chinese system – a sovereign and independent Chinese republic whose Chinese people enjoy all the basic human rights and freedoms as do those who live in America or Western Europe shows China’s party line to be a lie and by doing so lights the way for another path of development China might pursue. For this reason, Taiwan matters.

It is very much in the world’s and in America’s strategic interest to protect Taiwan’s right to determine its own destiny. Whether Taiwan becomes part of China or not is much less important than that the Taiwanese themselves, and only the Taiwanese, make that decision. This is what China actually fears more than Taiwan’s independence – that the example might be made, the idea might get out, to the far-flung corners of the People’s Republic that the power can come, should come, and deserves to come from the people themselves. This idea very badly needs to get out if the culture, economy, and political system of tomorrow’s super-powerful China is to more closely resemble a global leader that can be a co-operating partner and friend to the world and to America, not a more powerful, selfish, and conniving adversary than it is today. And so Taiwan’s strategic importance is out of all proportion to its small size and unfairly marginalized role in today’s world. Like a catalyst, it has the power to change everything all around it.

Trade this possibility in for a piddling $1.14 trillion? The idea of ditching Taiwan for money is absurd. By publishing the piece the New York Times did us all a wonderful service by showing the festering depths of the economic determinism that has crept into and corrupted America. Were America to ditch Taiwan, it would be ditching just about the only thing it has left – its core values. Because of a narrow-minded focus on material gain on the part of more than a few, it has already ditched its own economy and that of the free world, ditched the future of the promising young men and women pouring out of its universities and universities everywhere, ditched its worker’s jobs and with them its competitive edge in so many manufacturing technologies, and even ditched the pretense that it is a democracy as the very bankers it bailed out spend the billions given them to buy up its elected officials.

It’s time Americans as a whole stood back and took a look at their currency. The faces on it are those of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln. The vision of these men, not money, is what America primarily stands for, and what America has to give, not just to the disenfranchised and downtrodden in China and everywhere – but, as the Occupy movement demonstrates, to those at home as well.

In Asia, Taiwan stands in a unique way for everything America’s founding fathers believed in and it deserves America’s support, today and in the future.

* * *

William R. Stimson is an American writer who has lived in Taiwan for nine years now.


My country

I know, the story and the photo and the video are everywhere. But I have to express my horror.

A friend in China tells me CCTV is playing this again and again, and I don’t blame them. They want to make the US look bad, and in this case they don’t have to try very bad; the US hasn’t looked this awful since Abu Ghraib. Heads should roll over this atrocity.


The Confucius Peace Prize lives on, and the winner is….Vladimir Putin!

Only a few weeks ago it looked like the Confucius Peace Prize was going to be scrapped by the government. This would have been a fine idea, since the prize had attracted only ridicule ever since its first recipient, former Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan, refused to accept his prize.

Now, apparently in defiance of the CCP’s order not to award the prize again, the Confucius Peace Prize organizers are at it again, awarding their equivalent (in their eyes) to the Nobel Peace Prize to Vladimir Putin who, they say, “brought remarkable enhancement to the military might and political status of Russia.”

You really can’t fault the prize’s sponsors for lack of courage:

The award’s sponsors are professors and academics who say they are independent of the government.

The authorities’ hostility to the prize appears rooted in its desire to retain control over civil society and prevent independent players from seeking a role in Beijing’s foreign relations.

While the government has enthusiastically embraced the need for more robust cultural links to enhance China’s “soft power,” it wants that charm campaign to stay under the firm direction of the ruling Communist Party.

The group hopes to present a gold statue of Confucius, the ancient Chinese sage, at next month’s ceremony, but if forced to call it off, will simply begin planning for next year’s prize…

It should be interesting to see how the party reacts, and even more interesting to see whether Putin accepts his statue (why do I suspect the winner’s seat will be as empty as that in Oslo?). As the article notes, Putin is a rather bizarre choice for the award given his repressive tactics and willingness to throw political enemies in jail.


Dump Taiwan

Paul V. Kane is a former international security fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of government, and a Marine who served in Iraq. His op-ed in today’s NY Times is a stunner. No, really. A stunner.

WITH a single bold act, President Obama could correct the country’s course, help assure his re-election, and preserve our children’s future.

He needs to redefine America’s mindset about national security away from the old defense mentality that American power derives predominantly from our military might, rather than from the strength, agility and competitiveness of our economy. He should make it clear that today American jobs and wealth matter more than military prowess….

There are dozens of initiatives President Obama could undertake to strengthen our economic security. Here is one: He should enter into closed-door negotiations with Chinese leaders to write off the $1.14 trillion of American debt currently held by China in exchange for a deal to end American military assistance and arms sales to Taiwan and terminate the current United States-Taiwan defense arrangement by 2015.

This would be a most precious prize to the cautious men in Beijing, one they would give dearly to achieve. After all, our relationship with Taiwan, as revised in 1979, is a vestige of the cold war.

Today, America has little strategic interest in Taiwan, which is gradually integrating with China economically by investing in and forming joint ventures with mainland Chinese firms. The island’s absorption into mainland China is inevitable.

But the status quo is dangerous; if Taiwanese nationalist politicians decided to declare independence or if Beijing’s hawks tired of waiting for integration and moved to take Taiwan by force, America could suddenly be drawn into a multitrillion-dollar war.

There will be “China hawks” who denounce any deal on Taiwan as American capitulation, but their fear of a Red China menacing Asia is anachronistic. Portraying the United States as a democratic Athens threatened by China’s autocratic Sparta makes for sensational imagery, but nothing could be further from reality.

The way this Harvard scholar talks you’d think Taiwan is on an inevitable track to integrate with mainland China. I see it differently; I think they’re going to grow a lot closer, but “reunification” is not in the stars. Not for many years, if ever.

This is an extraordinary piece. The author believes that ditching Taiwan (“slowly and gradually”) will help turn the US around and boost Obama’s standing everywhere. It would, he said, immediately eliminate 10 percent of the US’s national debt (which could well be true.) Taiwan would be a super-bargaining chip, giving us leverage to get China to agree to stop supporting terrorist states and to write off our $1.4 trillion debt owned by China.

The only thing missing from this op-ed: the Taiwanese. I lived there for nearly two years. This “solution” would be met by abject horror, and not just by the Green fanatics. (And not all Greens are fanatics; I know some splendid ones. But I also know a few fanatics. And when I say fanatics….) I know plenty of politically apathetic Chinese who emphatically say Taiwan will never accept being ruled by the CCP. And they really mean it.

Read the whole column. You can’t criticize him for not being bold enough. But does bold equal bright?

Update: James Fallows goes after Kane, and you have to go there.


Behind the curtain of the Global Times

If you’re curious, you’ll find everything you need to know here. Yes, it quotes me, and also Jeremy Goldkorn, Michael Anti and others. I especially like the headline. But doesn’t it apply to nearly all Chinese media?

Update: Wow, we’re on a roll today. Don’t miss this follow-up.


The “Bi” word

An American translator in Beijing reflects on the word niubi and what makes it so difficult to translate, and it’s a delightful read. A taste:

On the face of it, niubi is not untranslatable at all: the characters niu and bi can be rendered into English with great precision by the words – and I beg your pardon – ‘cow pussy’, niu being the zoological reference, bi the anatomical. But though the denotation of niubi is embarrassingly plain, it’s connotations are far from obvious.

Niubi is a term of approbation, perhaps the greatest such term in colloquial Chinese. Niubi is an attitude, a lifestyle: a complete lack of concern over what other people think of you, and the resulting freedom to do whatever you please. It is knowing exactly what you’re capable of, making the decision to act, and to hell with the consequences. It is the essence of ‘cool’, but taken to the nth degree, and with a dirty word thrown in.

Of course, like all great philosophical concepts, niubi has an inverse side – an excess of niubi leads to self-importance, arrogance, hubris, imperiousness, and very dangerous driving.

His examples of what makes someone a niubi alone are worth the price of admission. Don’t miss it.