China Censors Hillary Clinton Memoirs

According to the Washington Post, the U.S. publisher of Hillary’s memoirs is demanding a recall of the book in China, where the local publisher has exorcized considerable chunks:

Clinton’s memoir, “Living History,” runs 466 pages in Chinese and contains at least 10 segments where sensitive topics have been changed or deleted. They include material on Harry Wu, a Chinese-American human rights activist, and the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.

Such retooling is a common practice by Beijing’s authoritarian communist government, which tightly controls all media and the Internet despite promises of growing openness in an increasingly free-market economy.

Defending the censorship, the Chinese publisher lamely insists, “We have made technical changes to the content in some parts of the book in order to win more Chinese readers.” And if you believe that….


Chinese Cyber-Gestapo ramps up Internet oppression

I was flying from HK to Singapore this morning when I saw the Asian Wall Street Journal headline: Beijing Cracks Down on Political Debate; authorities close Web sites, accuse foreigners of fueling discourse on banned topics.

The article (which I can’t link to) describes a new policy issued by the central committee of the CCP stating that those promoting politcal reforms are actually attacking the Communist Party leadership and China’s political system. This is one depressing article.

Now there’s another article “on the arrest of a 32-year-old Web “activist:

A Chinese dissident who expressed his views on Internet bulletin boards and chat rooms has been arrested on charges of conspiring to subvert the government, a U.S.-based human rights group has said.

The case of Li Zhi, a 32-year-old city government official, is the latest in a string of detentions and convictions of dissidents that critics said betray China’s stated pledge to promote the rule of law.

We are going to be hearing of a lot more stories like this in the coming weeks I suspect.

I remember how so many optimists pointed to the CCP’s sudden embrace of openness during the SARS crisis (when they had no choice) as proof of fundamental change, a move toward greater freedom and transparency. Ha.

So the next big question is, why the new crackdown, and who is behind it? Hu Jintao had positioned himself as being in favor of greater openess and a freer media. The AWSJ , quoted at the top, says many believe that Jiang Zemin is the instigator, “while others say the moves couldn’t have happened without Mr. Hu’s approval.”


Bashing Wes Clark goes into overdrive

It’s started. It looks like the Republicans are scared shitless of this guy. Already, Web sites have popped up to poke holes in what he says, any inconsistencies they can scrape up.

Once again, I marvel at the Republicans’ ability to sing together from the same songbook, always staying “on-message” as Karl Rove taught them to.

Sully, not surprisingly, is leading the pack of half-crazed wild dogs. Four posts over the past 48 hours with titles like THE CYNICISM BEHIND CLARK and CLARK FLOPS. Another post begins:

“CLARK AGAIN: This is getting dizzying. See from this FAIR report, how many positions Wesley Clark has had on the Iraq war over the last twelve months. He changes his mind every five minutes.”

But is it really Clark’s alleged inconsistencies that are “dizzying,” or is it the breathless, rapid-fire, 24-7 attacks on whatever he says? Leave it to Josh Marshall to shed some badly needed light on this topic:

According to the prevailing chatter, Wes Clark has been waffling on his position on the war. CBS said as much: “Clark Waffles On War.”

Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite so stupid.

The idea seems to be that there are really only two positions on the war, the Dean position and the Bush position.

Either you were against the war from the beginning, against even threatening force under any and all circumstances, soup-to-nuts, or you were for it, more or less under the same range of conceivable circumstances. If you have a position that falls between these two monochromatic options, you’re indecisive, a waffler or a trimmer.

Marshall looks at the same FAIR report cited by Sullivan and comes to vastly different and far more intelligent conclusions:

The fact sheet goes on to catalog various of Clark’s statements over the last year and argue that he’s stated contradictory opinions at different times. One of these contradictory statements, according to FAIR, was one praising the audacity of the original war-plan notwithstanding his disagreement with launching the war in the first place.

This last criticism goes to the heart of the matter — the difference between thinking that this war was ill-conceived and poorly planned (which I think is Clark’s –and my –position) and being ‘anti-war’ in the sense of some broader political ethic (which seems to be how FAIR is defining the phrase.) Expecting a retired four-star general to fall into this latter category seems a bit much to expect.

The truth is that Clark’s position on the war is at least as consistent as any other candidate in this race. He is one of the few candidates who strikes me as having given any serious thought to the question — outside the context of the politics. And he is the only one who’s written extensively on the national security challenges which face the country, Iraq, and the strategic and diplomatic shortcomings of the president’s policy.

I’m expecting the chorus to sing louder and louder on Clark’s “waffling” and “inconsistency.” And, of course, the fact that Bill Clinton seems to be supporting him. So get ready for lots of mud slinging, an area in which Republicans have infinitely greater expertise than their opponents.

All I can say is, “Bring ’em on.” Bush must be sweating bullets.

Update: The NY Times’ William Safire is grabbing the baton and committing every conceivable journalistic sin as he paints Clinton as the Antichrist (in regard to backing Clark). Amazing. Absolutely incredible, how the Clinton loathing turns Republicans into deranged automatons, discarding all critical faculties and running on pure white-hot hatred. Luckily, Josh Marshall catches Safire in the act and calls him to task for spouting idiotic, irresponsible conspiracy theories.



One of the funniest things I’ve seen on the Net, ever. What are you waiting for?

Link via an unlikely source.


Hong Kong

I had forgotten just how exciting Hong Kong is. For all the despair over its economy, it is still a happening place and people look happy, at least on the surface.

In terms of neighborhoods and variety and choices and intensity it’s got Singapore beat hands down. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to live in three major Asian cities, but this trip reminds me which of those is my personal favorite.


On the road again

I leave for Hong Kong on business tomorrow, returning on Wednesday, and won’t be able to post as prolifically as usual. But I won’t be invisible either, so please stick around.


Is John Derbyshire Evil?

In a word: Yes.

I know I’m a day late with this, but I just read Andrew Sullivan’s description of a repellent article by Derbyshire in which he refers to AIDS as “a fashionable venereal disease” that he goes on to describe as “chic.”

Please see Sullivan’s post. You really won’t believe it. What Derbyshire writes is worse than repellent; it is blatantly evil, a frightening example of a man throwing away even the pretense of human decency.

Sullivan makes this point eloquently. So why doesn’t he realize that among Republicans, Derbyshire’s twisted thinking isn’t seen as repellent at all, but rather as an obvious truth?


China’s economy unstoppable?

Our local rag today features a glowing opinion piece penned by a Yale professor on the rosy state of the the Chinese economy, at least for the next five years.

It makes some good points, and balances the enthusiasm with a few notes of caution:

Rising rates of unemployment in the cities and growing inequality threaten long-term growth at societal and household levels. And if the Chinese government fails to mobilise the health-care system to curb the spread of Aids, the disease will divert scarce welfare funds from education and infrastructure investments. Such a scenario would undoubtedly undermine the strengths of China’s population, and therefore of its growing economy.

However, given the continuing improvements in China’s human software, the core fundamentals for macro-economic growth remain strong. In the immediate future, therefore, even with little or no growth in rates of global trade, it is unlikely that China’s economy will burst like a bubble.

Still, I am amazed that the writer can come to this cheerful conclusion without once mentioning what is at the heart of the bubble argument, i.e., the out-of-control banking system and the nearly 200,000 unproductive, money-bleeding SOEs that keep so many of the Chinese working class employed. This is a lose-lose scenario that simply must be taken into account if you’re going to make sweeping predictions of China’s economic health.

And if UNAID predictions are anywhere close to accurate, AIDS will definitely affect the “core fundamentals” of China’s economy. 10 million infected mainlanders by 2010….Unless they just leave them to die, someone’s got to pay the bills.


The Blog Teacher

In KL yesterday I actually taught a seminar on writing copy for the Internet, and I included a few slides on blogs. I was amazed to learn that Malaysians have no idea what blogs are; these were all communications professionals, and none of the 40 attendees had ever heard the word “blog.”

This may have been a big mistake, but I told them the most popular Asian blog was The Gweilo Diaries, and I wrote the url on the whiteboard as everyone in the room giggled at the name. (I only hope on the day they check the site out, Conrad isn’t posting about how his latest Asian femme fatale has messed up his bedlinens again.) In retrospect, this was probably a mistake and I should have sent them to Flying Chair.

I also encouraged them to start their own blogs. But they seemed utterly mystified as I tried to explain to them how interesting and fun blogging is.


The Singapore Phenomenon

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the Singapore government’s new campaign to instill in its people a spirit of boldness and entrepreneurialism has been slow to take off, for the simple reason that they’re trying to teach an old dog new tricks.

I think a lot of people would be surprised to see just how deeply rooted this sense of complacency bordering on passivity really is here. I’ve come to notice little hints that actually say quite a lot about The Singapore Phenomenon.

Take u-turns. Nearly everywhere I’ve ever been, there are signs that tell you where you cannot make a u-turn. In Singapore, you are only allowed to make a u-turn where signs say that you can. In other words, it goes without saying that you cannot make a u-turn anywhere in Singapore except where The Government tells you you can.

That’s a good metaphor for the Singapore psyche, at least the way Lee Kuan Yew molded it over the past 30 years: If the government does not explicitly tell you that you can do something, you are to presume it is forbidden. The government makes the decision, and you always assume the government knows best.

Just today, I asked a client what she likes most about Singapore, and she replied proudly, “I love the way the government always takes care of me, and I never need to worry.” And the prime minister is wondering why the people are risk-averse and disinclined toward making bold decisions?

It was only a couple of days ago that I got another hint. I noticed the day I arrived that whenever I get into a taxi and give my destination, the driver automatically says, “Do you want me to taxe XYZ Road, or should I take ABC Street?” Every time.

It was only recently that I realized this is not a matter of politeness, but is rather one more bit of fallout from what Lee Kuan Yew hath wrought: the drivers will not choose the best route, even though they are the professionals and know best. No, instead they wait for you to tell them which way to go. They wait for your permission. I usually reply, “Look, I don’t know how to get around in Singapore — that’s your job, so take me there the way you think is best.”

Usually that works well enough, but last week I had a taxi driver who was absolutely petrified when I told him to make his own frigging choice. He literally couldn’t do it. He turned and started to explain, “Well, if we go this way, we have to drive through blah blah blah, and if we go that way, we might run into traffic because blah blah blah….” I almost lost my temper and I finally told him to just get me home and stop explaining the Singapore highway system to me.

Part of my enthusiasm about coming to Singapore was a mistaken impression that it was basically another Hong Kong, just a bit hotter and wetter. I had a lot of learning to do. Honkies may just be the world’s most cut-throat, entrepreneurial money-driven businesspeople on the face of the earth. They are the opposite of Singaporeans. They are hard-driving, hard-partying, preternaturally motivated ueber-capitalists. No one tells Honkies where they can make their u-turns.

Don’t get me wrong; I still love Singapore. I’ve just had to adjust my expectations of what life here is all about. It lacks the dynamism and excitement of HK. But then again, maybe after my year in China, it was time for me to live a less exciting and dynamic life. No complaints. Just lots of observations.