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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Another anniversary date has come and gone (at least in China). The media frenzy in the west with its coverage of human rights in China will slowly fade away and become forgotten for another year.  The thousands of protesters in Hong Kong will go back to working, eating, fucking, and sleeping, their candlelight commemoration of the massacre brought up only in casual conversations and uploaded pictures on the MSN Spaces. Tiananmen Square will become just another place for tourists to visit, to pose in front of the martyrs and gawk at Mao’s decaying body.

Peace be with those who died and those who suffered. It is important to remember what happened this day, at least for one day a year. To expect more would be unrealistic. To want less would be cruel. Let us harbour no hatred in our hearts, nor should we forgive those who do not ask for forgiveness. And then, tomorrow will be another day.

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I’ve read a couple of Orville Schell’s books and some other collected works that he edited, like ‘The China Reader’, so I was really excited when I heard he was being interviewed on NPR. For the most part, I like NPR. ‘This American Life’ is a pretty awesome, ‘Prairie Home Companion’ has made me a fan of bluegrass music, and ‘Forum’ usually has interesting guests being interviewed. At the same time, I find myself cringing every time there is a show about China. Right before the Olympics, there was a ton of specials about all this poverty and human rights abuses with a little vague note tacked on at the end about some random positive aspect about China, usually from the point of view of a migrant worker or peasant. Now that June 4th is coming around the corner again, I guess it’s time for some more noise to come up about China and human rights.

First, I have to note that I’m much more ‘pro China’ when I’m in America and very ‘anti China’ when I’m in China. The reason is obvious of course: when I’m in the United States or China, I am much more aware of the assholes that inhabit that geographic area than when I am far away. For example, when I think of China today, I drool at the thought of eating Nan Chou Rou, I think of playing frisbee in the parking lot with my friends, and I reminisce about all those nice folk I met on the trains as I traveled around the country. When I was in China, I dreamed of carne asada super burritos, going for a nice long run with my friends at the shoreline, and those long road trips down to San Diego to visit my sister. It can’t be helped, so please excuse me as I sound uncharacteristically like a Panda Hugger.

What prompted me to write his blog entry after many months MIA is this guy who called in to the show asking about boycotting Chinese goods. He went on to rant about human rights abuses, wanting to boycott Chinese products and how that would impact China, how China would retaliate if that happened, and how much he hated Chinese goods because they all break really easily even though he can’t find shoes or iPhones that aren’t made in China. He was incoherent and forgot what he was talking about half-way through, but I can’t help but respond.

That caller just reminded me of the nationalistic students I had to deal with who would stand up in class and shout anti-Japanese slogans in class, despite the fact that their ‘English’ name is actually a Japanese anime character with orange hair. What I don’t understand is how people can hate a ‘country’. I mean, a country is an idea that is made into existence by the people who live within those borders.

So what would happen if there was a successful boycott of Chinese goods? Well, the working class people in America would be hurt the most. The poor depend on cheaper products from China and they work at retail stores that sell mostly Chinese-made goods. So all the so-called ‘liberals’ who want to boycott Chinese goods should also say that poor people are poor because they’re lazy just to stay ideologically consistent. How would China retaliate? The guy on the radio thought China would sell off all of America’s debt. Why would they do that? They bought those government bonds as a form of investment. Abandoning all their investment, as well as the political leverage, would be suicide. Sure, Chinese nationalists would throw rocks at McDonalds and boycott Buiks, but let’s face it, American boycott of Chinese goods is damaging enough to the United States as it is.

But as Mr. Schell stated, a boycott is unrealistic and would probably never happen. People maximize their utility in life. If hurting China is a big part of their utility function, then sure, they’ll boycott Chinese goods. But how many people actually care? Even people who go to Free Tibet protests are usually only part-time China haters, just like those kids who boycotted Carrefour were back in that French supermarket to buy toilet paper a week later.

Politics… so dirty… I’ll try to refrain myself from writing about such subjects in the future, but this time, I just couldn’t help myself.

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…well, a lot of good can be done in preserving the CCP’s hold on power (as well as making the lives of its people better). I mean they’re using around $500bn right now, but where would we get the most ‘bang for the buck’? I’ll write a few of my own thoughts in a series of blog posts… so in no particular order…

1. Infrastructure Projects

The water system can definitely use some investment.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao ordered all-out efforts to fight the drought, allocating 400m yuan ($58m, £40m) in relief assistance.

So there’s a pretty awful drought right now and China is spending $58m to fight it. Imagine they had $580m to spend. There could be improved irrigation systems, deep wells, water purification plants, pumps, improved piping in rural areas, and the spread of running water to some of the poorer areas in the west. This would definitely help China’s economy, increase legitimacy of the CCP, and make millions of lives better.

Improving internal transportation would also be a good thing.

Police had seized more than 40,000 scalped tickets, with a total face value of about 5 million yuan (730,000 U.S. dollars) since Jan. 14 when the Ministry of Public Security launched a nationwide campaign to curb illegal ticket deals.

Compared to many other developing countries, China actually has a pretty good internal transportation network. They have airports in most medium sized and up cities, many roads even in countryside towns are paved, and serviceable bridges cross over the major waterways. However, China has a lot of people (duh) so there’s a much higher need. Better and more fuel efficient buses in the cities, more and faster trains on the tracks, subways systems in the major metropolises, and all these other ‘people moving’ systems would enable a freer flow of labor (oh, and Hukou reform would be good too).

Freight transportation networks into the west would also be nice. Improving canals in places where river transportation is key, building more tracks and roads that reach townships previously neglected, and decreasing tolls for roads would do nicely in encouraging development in the west where labor might be even cheaper. This will also have the effect of lowering pressure on coastal urban areas.

Power generation would also need to be improved and expanded.

Wang forecast that China’s power use will grow about 5 percent this year although the contraction in consumption seen late last year will extend into the first half.

China’s currently using a lot of coal because they have a lot of it, but environmentalism is a rising trend in China and ‘green’ is the new ‘red’. The CCP also has been open to green energy so I think that using a stimulus plan to invest in renewable power generation would be a great thing. Solar panels in the western deserts would create much needed investment, wind turbines in the mountains would make Free Tibet folk and tourists angry about the ruined scenery, but as long as they keep them off the beaten track, it’ll benefit the local communities greatly. I would stay away from hydroelectric since most rivers have been damned (haha) to hell and water pollution is already high.

But most importantly, China should focus on flying cars.

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I’ve been off-topic since the Olympics ended, so I guess it’s time to bring China back into this blog. But what should I write about? There’s just so much!

The Financial Crisis and China’s Bailout Plan

I’m not a big fan of the government jumping in and ‘spending’ a country out of a recession. I mean the government is inefficient and though the CCP gets things done faster than the American Congress, they’re also a little corrupt so who knows how many pockets will be lined when this bailout plan is implemented. However, with that said, China’s economic growth has long neglected the western half, so maybe it’s necessary for the government to step in, build infrastructure, and ‘spread the wealth around’. I mean 16% of China’s GDP is a lot of money… it can’t all be wasted on government official banquets and tacky landmarks, right?

Gong Li is a Traitor!

So Gong Li changed her nationality to Singaporean. I remember during the Olympics, the ethnic Chinese Singapore ping pong team got some praise because they were ‘second tier’ players exporting Chinese culture to the outside world. So why are they hating on Gong Li? I mean she’s been making pretty shitty movies since ‘To Live’ came out so it’s not like they’re ‘losing’ somebody awesome like Yao Ming. Jeez, they’re not even losing her. It’s not like she’s changing her ethnicity to Japanese or something…

Longnan Protests

A bunch of people are being moved out of their houses because the government is building something shinier on top the land so people decided that they don’t like that and they got a bunch of people to join them to protest and a lot of people came to watch and the police came and then there was yelling and shouting and possibly some singing and then after it was over the local government said that the incident was caused by a few trouble makers because 99% of the residents love them. Yay.

Chinese Girls Get Beat up and Videotaped While Walking Around Naked

There has been a few posts on the internet with schoolgirls getting beat up and humiliated by other schoolgirls. This is pretty rare in the US, not because it doesn’t happen, but because it’s usually not put up on the internet since they’re afraid of getting identified and charged for sexual assault. These schoolkids are too naive and for some reason put it out there and now they’re all getting arrested and stuff. If only they listened to their parents and retained the Cultural Revolution mentality… though I guess it’s better that they didn’t since now they’ll get caught and will get punished for not playing nicely.

Eh… writing about the news is kind of boring. I’ll think of something more interesting to write next time.

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First I lost faith in Marx. Now I’m losing faith in Keynes. Marshall, Humes, Mill, Smith and all them classical folk that I used to dislike are turning me towards the dark side. I had no idea those guys were so subversive.

I’m politically liberal so I was always big into the government intervening. When I first studying political economy, I fell for Marx and his awesome beard. I wanted there to be global revolution, an egalitarian society, and witness the inevitable collapse of capitalism that Marx predicted. I mean the working people having nothing to lose but their chains? That’s one helluva pick up line.

My love for Marx slowly dissipated when I met other Marxists who turned out to be pompous elitist assholes who were more interested in showing off their intellectual superiority and how ‘down with the people’ they were with their communist-chic style of dress instead of actually contributing anything to society. So instead, I turned to Polanyi who said there was a big role for the government in protecting the people from the market. I liked that idea because I saw in my mind this image of the corporate machines and the invisible hand crushing the life out of poor starving children before Uncle Sam and Captain America swoop in to save them with social safety nets and injections of liquidity.

And from that, I naturally became a Keynesian. I mean all the economics that we learn as an undergrad,  unless you got to one of them special schools that teach neo-classical stuff, is based on Keynes. You know, all those IS-LM curse, AS-AD stuff. The reason why I liked Keynes was because he was so cool. Like he didn’t give a shit about what the social norms were. I mean he pissed on the grave of all those dead white classical economists AND he was an equal opportunity employer of sexual partners. Oh, and instead of telling an unemployed hardworking Mexican in the Central Valley that he was gonna be unemployed because there’s a economic downturn and that’s just the way the market worked, he would have said that the market is fucked up and the government should do something that helped that Mexicano y su familia. That was pretty cool in my eyes.

However, the more I learn about Keynes, the more I begin to see him as someone who just had a personal grudge against the classics instead of someone who truly found error in the old market theories. Just a couple examples that have been pointed out by my professor is that Keynes believed that ‘capital’ in the classical sense meant industrial goods and machinery. He also believed that savings = hoarding. And then there was his argument that changes in credit supply or demand would lead to changes in  income instead of the proportion of income saved/consumed. He didn’t have a basis for what he was arguing. He just said that the oldies were wrong and he was right. When other people tried to tell him he was interpreting the literature wrong, he just brushed them off and gave these half-assed excuses.

Now I still think Keynes’ idea hold strong in times of major economic crisis. Like during the Great Depression, massive money creation by the central bank might have been able to dampen the crisis in the short run. But his overly-quoted statement that we’re all dead in the long run is kind of short sighted. It’s like instead of building a good house and ensuring that it’ll last for a thousand years without much maintenance, you build a shoddy house and constantly patch it up.

I haven’t finished all my re-reading of Keynes yet, but after reading Humes and Mill, I’m starting to turned more and more towards the dark side of economic liberalism – which is usually associated with rich white folk like that duck that swam in piles of gold coins and gun-toting libertarians like Moses. Scary shit.

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So a lot of people have been saying that the economic crisis has helped Obama while foreign policy is McCain’s strength. For me personally, it’s kind of the opposite.

First let me say that I have already voted absentee for Obama for reasons I mentioned in a post a few days/weeks ago.

I dislike McCain mostly for his foreign policy views, mainly the Iraq war. I don’t like war for many reasons. First of all, it leads to people dying, obviously. But on top of that, there’s the increase in government spending that would cause increased inflation (if they are printing money to pay for it) or shoot up interest rates (if they are borrowing from the public). Then there’s the strained international relations that comes from war, which can negatively impact trade. Productivity is decreased as skilled mechanics, tenchnicians, or engineers are taken out of the work force and sent to a foreign country to repair tanks and launch missiles. Some people would argue that war leads to a ramp up in industrial productivity, but that usually takes place only during a total war (where the entire country is geared towards war, not the computer game series) so during wars like Iraq, it’s just a shift in productive power from the domestic to the government sector. And on top of that, I don’t think going into Iraq is protecting America.

As can be inferred from above, I’m not a huge fan of government spending, though I’m far far FAR from libertarian. For example, public goods like education, parks, and infrastructure should definitely be maintained by the state (as well as defense I guess since it’s necessary to prevent Bermuda from invading). In the area of ‘steering’ the economy, I’m a bit iffy, though in areas such as encouraging the use of more fuel efficient cars through government rebates and improving technology through government investment, I think the positive externalities that result from such actions can outweigh the costs of bureaucratic inefficiency.

Which is why I don’t like Obama’s economic policy too much, though McCain has also played the populist card as well. I mean why should homeowners be bailed out by the government? Why does ‘main street’ (damn, I hate that term) deserve to be helped any more than ‘Wall Street’? As for more regulation, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were both government institutions. It was the government that encouraged private banks to give risky loans to consumers, so how can it be believed that a new government institution in charge of overlooking credit markets will do any good?

However, I came upon the belief that while I’m more Republican in terms of my economic thoughts in that I like freer markets, I’m voting for a politician and politicians just don’t know much about economics. So I am forced to vote based on my political ideology and as a result, I’m voting for Obama.

Though if Glenn Hubbard ran for president, I would vote for him.

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With Our Powers Combined!

Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have signed a global code of conduct promising to offer better protection for online free speech and against official intrusion.

The Global Network Initiative follows criticism that companies were assisting governments in countries like China to censor the Internet.

The guidelines seek to limit what data should be shared with authorities, in cases where free speech is an issue.


I wonder if this will actually do anything… eh… probably not, but at all talk is better than no talk I guess…

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