Washington vs. Beijing

A new congressional study questions whether China is ready to wear the mantle of world leadership. It smells of yet another attempt to get us worried about “the China threat.”

Despite its rising power and wealth, China may not be willing or ready to play a responsible role in an international system aimed at encouraging peace and stability, a commission set up by the U.S. Congress said in a report released on Monday.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission accused China of failing “to meet the threshold test of international responsibility in the area of non-proliferation” by aiding Iran’s nuclear, missile and chemical programs and refusing to effectively use its leverage to bring North Korea back into nuclear weapons negotiations.

It said China in recent years has allowed the transfer of weapons and technology across its territory from North Korea to Iran and even if Beijing wanted to control such transfers, this would be very difficult.

Beijing’s adherence to World Trade Organization obligations remains “spotty and halting” five years after attaining membership while its hunt for oil and gas holdings overseas could “substantially effect U.S. energy security,” the report added.

This is the fourth annual report of the commission, created by Congress to examine the national security implications of the U.S.-China bilateral trade and economic relationship. The commission has been controversial because of concerns its members tend to be overly critical of China.

Sorry, but I’d be more willing to give credence to reports like this if I had any faith left in the current US government’s ability to tell the truth about anything, anything at all. China is looking out for its own interests, and its success in doing so is the one area where I give Hu a lot of credit.

Honestly, how much credit can we give our own government for playing “a responsible role in an international system aimed at encouraging peace and stability”? Which country has contributed more greatly to today’s state of chaos and insecurity? Physician, heal thyself.


Public Remembrance of Communism’s Victims

From today’s Moscow Times:

Rights activists on Monday commemorated the victims of Soviet-era political repression and claimed that even today people were being prosecuted on political grounds.

“Today in Russia we are seeing the rebirth of authoritarian methods of governing the country,” said the organizers of Monday’s rally, including the rights organizations Moscow Helsinki Group and Memorial, and the liberal political parties Yabloko and Union of Right Forces.

“Everyone should remember this, know this, so that no one will ever have the slightest desire to bring back even the smallest elements of the past to the present or future,” Putin said in televised comments.

Now, can anyone tell me how similar opposition political parties and Human Rights organisations are dealt with in Beijing whenever they engage in any similar public remembrances of Communist Terror, or whenever they make any similar statements critical of the CCP’s authoritarian methods?

Oh wait, the don’t! Because in Beijing, opposition parties don’t even exist, and public commemorations of the Cultural Revolution are a one-way ticket to prison.

Now tell me which nation has truly been “rising” since 1989.


Sliced duck or opium?

This issue of whether the Chinese characters you see on this site when you click the time at which an entry is posted came up years ago – and the perpetrator allegedly repaired the maliciously incorrect character. So today I get the following email (apologies in advance if the hanzi comes out as gibberish):


What is the obsession with opium, if that is what you
really mean right next to the time stamp of each
entry? Did you recently change it from Š›Žq to Š›•�,
cause I’ve never noticed it in my past visits. If by
Š›•Ã? you mean “sliced duck” – the way Peking ducks are
served on the dinner table, it may sound reasonable,
but I’ve never heard it termed this way. Just curious.


Now, this was supposedly fixed back in the dark ages. Is Yando right, is my site being used to transmit drug-friendly messages to the unsuspecting, or does the hanzi indeed say “sliced duck,” as it should? Thanks to all my Chinese scholar readers for your insights.


Tales of a Push Pollster

I usually avoid posts on US politics, it’s far too depressing, I’d much rather blog about cheerier subjects like the Opium War and the Great Leap Forward…but this article from Mother Jones on push polling and the GOP was just too fascinating to pass up.

“It starts with one of those cheery robo-voices asking if you’ll participate in a 45-second survey. If you don’t slam the phone down at that point, you’ll soon get to a question like this one: ‘In America when a person dies, the IRS can take up to 55 percent of the inheritance left for family and friends. Do you want Congress to permanently eliminate this unfair tax?’ Next, you’ll be told that the Democrat running for Congress in your district “voted to keep the death tax in place and refused to vote to make permanent the tax cuts that have caused record economic growth in 2001.”

Claiming to reach more people than television, radio, and print combined in a single day, Gabriel Joseph III’s FreeEats Advertising can lay claim to such high water marks of political discourse as the anti-Kerry swiftboat campaign. His automated calling banks are in high gear for this campaign season on such issues as gay marriage and the above mentioned death tax. And I thought that the CCP was in love with their propaganda machine…they’re babes in arms compared to this guy.


Halloween Korean Mafia Mammoths!

Somebody ought to have a costume based on this:

Disgraced South Korean stem cell scientist Professor Hwang Woo-suk says he spent private donations for research to pay the Russian mafia for mammoth tissues to clone extinct species.

Or hey, dress up as a Dr. Moreau-esque Half-Hwang Half-Mammoth. The possibilities are endless. Happy Halloween!


Monks Rock

CSR in China can’t say enough good things about China Dialogue, which apparently boasts not only bilingual posts, but they’ll translate your comments as well. Damn. Mark at CSR in China points to one particular post, Religion and the environment in China, saying:

It shows just how much has been, and is, going on quietly behind the scenes in many parts of China. It struck me particularly because I just hadn’t heard or appreciated what has already been achieved: the government has its media, the NGOs have their websites and newsletters and the corporations have their sustainability reports and PR departments. The Buddhist and Daoist monks just have their monks and the one-by-one approach of speaking to worshippers and visitors.

The article points out the Daoist monks are grassroot – literally:

Putting it simply, most park wardens clock in at 8am and go home around 5pm. The illegal loggers and poachers tend to come when the wardens are not around. On a sacred mountain, it is quite likely that a Daoist monk will be running up the mountainside at 3am or meditating in the middle of the forest at midnight. The active presence of religious people on a mountain helps to protect it.

In 1998, this study helped the management committee of Hua Shan to agree to return most of the temples on the mountain to the CDA in order, in part, to better protect the mountain’s environment.

The success of this work led the Buddhist Association of China to undertake with ARC a similar programme on their sacred mountains and the same conclusions were drawn about the importance of active life on the sacred mountains.

Today, these developments have gone even further. The CDA and ARC, assisted by the Dutch group EMF, have rebuilt a key temple on the sacred mountain of Taibaishan in Shaanxi, destroyed in the Cultural Revolution, as a Daoist Ecology Education Temple. Here, Daoists are being trained in environmental management of sacred mountains, environmental education for pilgrims and visitors and will develop information and education packs for use throughout China, but especially in urban areas. A set of wall posters on Daoism and Ecology have already been produced. In June this year a new network came into being, the Daoist Temples’ Alliance on Environment and Education, designed to coordinate and develop projects across China through the medium of Daoism.

In Buddhism, a similar movement is under way with plans to develop a Buddhist ecology temple centre in Wutai Shan and to develop Wutai Shan as a model of integrated environmental management.

The author, Martin Palmer of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, says the government is backing them up now:

Hence, in April this year, the Buddhist Association of China, in conjunction with the Chinese government, held a unique gathering of Buddhists from all over the Chinese world on the theme of social issues, and the environment was one of the key topics. Arising from this is a new range of projects and commitments by Buddhists across China to address issues such as deforestation, urban sprawl, waste, energy and moral values related to the environment. Next year, a similar forum will bring Daoists together, again to address these social issues.

And Palmer is having his translation of Zhuangzi published by Penguin Classics in November. Hey Sam! Get out of that stuffy Confucian postmodern conference and haul over to Wutaishan or Hengshan! Maybe the Chinese classicalism meets postmodernity thing is actually living and breathing over there!


Interested in the Cultural Revolution and the evils of Mad King Mao?

Then run, do not walk, to read this book review. Money quote (nothing new, but so well stated):

But as Deng pragmatically observed, discrediting Mao “would mean discrediting our Party and state.” And so, in the end, Mao’s legacy as grand progenitor of the Chinese Communist Revolution was left largely intact, despite the horrors of this last revolutionary paroxysm.

And so the huge portrait of Mao looming godlike over Tiananmen Square must remain, no matter how revolting it is to idolize a man whose evil was eclipsed only by Hitler’s. The statues will stay fixed on all the unversity campuses. The mummified corpse swimming in formaldehyde will be displayed to gawking tourists. In a world of so many true heroes and saints, Mao is certainly a peculiar choice for such deification. But the Party has no choice; to do otherwise would be to admit to its own failings, and that is one thing it cannot do. The Party is infallible, omniscient and foolproof. Just ask anyone being interviewd on CCTV.


China’s wikipedia ban lifted?

True? Not true?


Dismantling the Cheney administration

A strategy and a framework for ending the Cheney tyranny and handing authority back to the people of the United States. Winning the House is a given. After that is when all the hard work will need to be done.


Vegas, Baby

Okay, I don’t get Vegas. I’ve never been interested in gambling (and can someone please explain to me what poker is doing in ESPN? On what planet does this constitute a sport?), and the whole sort of tacky aesthetic of Las Vegas only amuses me in small, infrequent doses. I mean, I got a pretty good giggle out of Caeser’s Palace, when I saw it a couple of years ago, but as a vacation destination? I don’t get it.

A lot of Asians apparently do, according to this LA Times report, and Las Vegas is going all out to make them welcome:

In almost every way, Las Vegas is catering to Asians, offering Asian entertainers, high-stakes baccarat tournaments and rice congee by room service. The festivities and decorations for Chinese New Year have become second only to those for New Year’s Eve…

…In part, Vegas is reacting to the success of gaming in Macao – and hoping to capitalize on it. The Chinese territory’s 22 casinos, with their proximity to the sheer wealth and population of China, are viewed as competitors and appetizers for Vegas’ allure. This year casino gambling revenue in Macao is expected to edge past that of Las Vegas. Each locale brings in more than $6.5 billion.

“There’s no question in our minds that as more and more Chinese customers experience Macao, their natural curiosity is going to make them find out what the major leagues are like in Las Vegas,” said MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman. (An MGM Grand is scheduled to open in Macao in 2007.)

“If you go to Macao and you really like it, the next thing on your list is going to be to come to Vegas.”

As tourism markets go, China is a jackpot in the making. Within five to 10 years, overseas travel will lure an estimated 100 million Chinese annually, a figure that will dwarf every other market in the world, tourism officials said.

One Vegas tour operator is quoted as saying, “For China, in their mentality, this is the ultimate destination.”

Like I said, I don’t get it. But who am I to argue with slot machines in restrooms and a pina colada-scented volcano?