29 August, 2005

monday links

Red Herring reports that the crackdown on Sister Hibiscus is less than promised.:

there’s been pressure on Sister Hibiscus from on high, it comes as news
to Bokee.com (formerly BlogChina.com), which hosts her blog. A
spokesman for Bokee.com flatly denied that any such instructions had
been handed down. “No one from the government has said anything to us
about Sister Hibiscus,” said Mai Tian, director of Bokee.com’s
Interactivity Center.
Mai noted that her blog, at furongjiejie.bokee.com, is still being
updated several times a day and remains, by far, one of Bokee’s most
visited blogs.
A Beijing Youth Daily
reporter who covers society, Internet, and entertainment also said she
had heard nothing about a government pronouncement on Sister Hibiscus.
Jeremy Goldkorn, Beijing-based publisher of Danwei.org, a web site devoted to media in China, compares
Sister Hibiscus to Gary Brolsma, the Saddle Brook, New Jersey man who
rode to unwelcome fame when a self-shot video of his lip-sync and dance
routine to Romanian dance-pop tune “Numa Numa” hit the web.
“That kid is conspicuously absent from Hollywood and the American news media today, and that certainly isn’t because of
some clampdown,” said Mr. Goldkorn. “The whole idea of a Furong Jiejie
clampdown is absurd.”

Rebecca McKinnion has some words for the sister.

Now the important thing to understand about Sister H., who is plain and
not very talented, is that her stardom was basically the result of
bloggers and chatroom denizens making fun of her - a situation which in
her egotism and lack of sophistication she herself failed to
understand.  The plot only thickens from there.

And also for Reuters:

Usually, when somebody claims to have been cracked down upon, a
responsible journalist will make the effort to get at least
off-the-record confirmation from official Chinese contacts (even if
indirectly via friends of Chinese officials or people who work in
Chinese media organizations who tend to know about crackdowns) that
such a crackdown has in fact occurred. When I worked as a journalist in
China, I myself ran across situations in which artists and writers
claimed to have been censored when the reality was they just weren’t
very talented - but were trying to salvage their careers by claiming
political victimhood and getting buzz with Western journalists. The
tactic works surprisingly often, I’m afraid.

In other Asian fraud news, Jeff Ooi has outed a photographer who wasn’t what he claimed to be:

Natgeo_evan250There is a far bigger question to the fraudulent claims made by Natgeo photographer wannabe.
The integrity of photography website PhotoMalaysia.com,
which allows the fraudster prominent visibility in its online space and
on-ground activities distinctively related to it, is now severely in
is a live story of how a popular web forum has been found to condone a
fraud, and despite the fact that its administrators have been notified
of questionable claims made in their website, had chosen to endorse the

You know your blog is influential when state media plagiarizes it:

China Economic Net, which is is a website under the state-owned Economic Daily (经济日报), has pirate-published a Danwei article verbatim:
China Economic Net: The final week of super voice girls
Danwei: The final week of TV sensation Super Voice Girls
Socialism is the best!

Big news in Malaysia, Dr Mahathir has returned his Protons, the national car that was part of his legacy.:

ProtonIn a move that shocked many, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
has returned all his official vehicles belonging to Proton, in what
seems to be his latest show of displeasure. It is by far the loudest
show of protest that the Proton advisor has undertaken.
In a story so hot that Wong Chun Wai penned it for
The Star, where he reported sources as saying that Dr. Mahathir has
taken to using his personal vehicle to get to work, adding that he was
‘deeply hurt’ with the recent developments within Proton.

From Virginia Postrel, signs that China’s legal system is improving.:

The WaPost’s Philip Pan reports
on an extraordinary development in China: a class-action suit by rural
villagers forced into abortions and sterilizations. The key argument in
the case, which was organized by Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught legal
activist, is that these coercive measures violate a 2002 law
guaranteeing Chinese citizens "informed choice" in reproductive
matters. The country’s population-control policies are now supposed to
rely on financial incentives, not physical threats and coercion.
The lawsuit is not just a human-rights crusade. It’s a crucial test
of China’s commitment to the rule of law–a commitment that matters
greatly to the country’s economic development as well as its civil
society. Pan’s reporting suggests that central-government officials are
at least saying the right things. Toward the end of the piece, which is
well worth reading in its entirety, he interviews a central-government population-control honcho:

Yu Xuejin, a senior official with the national family planning
commission in Beijing, said his office had received complaints about
abuses in Linyi and asked provincial authorities to investigate. He
said the practices described by the farmers, including forced
sterilization and abortion, were "definitely illegal."

Lucia has some questions for the HR department running Malaysia’s space program.:

Astronautahh… so malaysia is now in the process of selecting the right person to become the country’s first astronaut.
854 people applied for the post! didn’t know there were so many people
that interested in going to the moon. however, it is not that easy to
get selected. there will be a series of rigorous tests going on to
short list the applicants….
well, malaysia’s vision - destination moon by 2020.
but what i don’t quite understand is the applicants are mostly in late
20s or 30s. let’s say a 32 years old is selected, and malaysia only
hope they’ll be able to send their first man as astronaut in 2020, this
means another 15 years time… by that time the 32 years old will be 48!
*blur blur*

Thailand’s government is regressing.:

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has extended his offensive
against journalists to his own press conferences, using a hand-held
buzzer to ridicule (and refuse to answer) questions he deems
"destructive." This undignified behavior has aroused considerable anger
in the international journalistic community. Combine this with the
bizarre cabinet meeting last week where Mr. Thaksin grilled his
ministers on which of them had a penis-enlargement operation, and it
looks like the Thai government is regressing back toward infancy.


More Here!

A test on the Great Firewall.

Monday’s gratuitous shots of the female body comes to us via Japundit.:


In case you missed it, Saturday was Samba day in Tokyo.
Samba dancers from Japan and other countries gathered for the Asakusa Samba Carnival parade where they strutted their stuff to drums and whistles before hundreds of thousands of spectators.

From the Marginal Revolution a China Fact.:

…in China, where government regulations severely limit distribution
and piracy is common, Hollywood studios took in a grand total of $1.5
million (slightly more than one-tenth of a penny per capita) from
theaters in the first quarter of 2005.

In spite of that, as noted at Keywords, Hollywood sees the Chinese market as a potential cash cow.:

Writing in the Asia Times, Zafar Anjum explores why China’s film industry has netted so much love from Hollywood, while India hasn’t produced a single art-house hit since Lagaan
won the best foreign language film Oscar in 2001. Part of his answer is
that the Indian film industry is content to live off of its loyal

India’s bright directors at home don’t
give a damn about the global entertainment market. For them, netting in
the desis (natives) everywhere generates enough moolah.

Gateway Pundit informs us of the passing of a Bishop in China.

Chinesemartyrs1Bishop Xie was arrested for "loyalty and obedience to the Pope."
This painting commemorates the 120 Chinese Martyrs canonized in the year 2000 by John Paul II.
An elderly Chinese Catholic Bishop who had been jailed for 28 years because of his faith has died of leukemia in China:
Xie Shiguang, the bishop of Mingdong, died of leukemia on Thursday.
Xie, 88, was first arrested in 1955 by Chinese authorities "because of
his loyalty and obedience to the pope," and released a year later,
Vatican radio reported late Saturday.
He was arrested
again in 1958 and jailed until 1980, Vatican Radio said. Xie was also
imprisoned from 1984-1987, and finally for two years starting in 1990,
and was kept under surveillance by authorities until his death, the
radio report said.

North Korea may or may not return to the six-party talks. Via the Marmot, an argument from Cato that stopping getting North Korea from getting nukes :

Ch1605The most recent round of six-party talks (involving China, Russia,
Japan, South Korea, North Korea and the United States) made, at best,
incremental progress toward a solution to the crisis. Throughout the
negotiations, the U.S. goal has remained the same: a complete,
verifiable and irreversible end to North Korea’s nuclear program.
growing number of influential Americans are dissatisfied with such a
“narrow” agenda, however. Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas,
Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution and Michael Horowitz of
the Hudson Institute are among those who demand that the United States
add North Korea’s human rights practices and the issue of regime
“transformation” to the list of topics the next round of six-party
talks must address. Congressional passage of the North Korean Human
Rights Act last year points to a similar strategy.
That approach would be a profound mistake.

I’ve said before that no one in Washington should be losing any sleep over the Sino-Russian wargames the same can’t be said for Pyongyang.:

Yellow_seaUnless this isn’t a “War game”, but the preparation for staging for a lightning invasion of North Korea.
Not by us, but by the Communist Chinese and the Russians, who both
share a border and an unfortunate history with the Hermit Kingdom.
There are only three routes out of North Korea into China. The
Chinese have spent the last 4 years building elaborate fences to
control those three exits. The very last thing the Chinese want is
millions of famine suffering refugees streaming into China, and the
same goes for Russia.
And the very last thing either of these countries wants is one more
place where the United States has allies sharing a border with their
country. One way or another, North Korea is going to fall, its just a
question of will it be a “controlled fall” or a total catastrophe. If
nothing is done, catastrophe is assured, therefore, something must be
done, but the question is “by whom”. China has a great interest in
seeing that it’s a “controlled fall”, and so does Russia, and they both
have an interest in seeing that we stay out of it.

For more, check out Martyn’s latest post at the Peking Duck.

Finally, Mr Miyagi has new digs and his very own niamod!


by @ 9:50 pm. Filed under Culture, Japan, South Korea, Blogs, China, India, Taiwan, Malaysia, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Media, South Asia, Weblogs, Censorship, North Korea, Film

china economic roundup (xi)

AsiaPundit must give a tip of his akubra to CSR Asia for introducing me to Brian Schawarz’s blog
and to this article by Schwarz in The American Thinker.

In recent months
the mainstream media has been overflowing with articles discussing the
economic threat that China poses to the global economy in industries
ranging from textiles to autos. In response to these anxieties and
fears, many politicians on both the left and right are pressing for
ill-conceived tariffs on Chinese exports and limitations on Chinese
investment into key industries.
While it is true
many Americans and Europeans face the possibility of layoffs and lower
wages caused by intense Chinese competition, I have watched this
growing backlash against China with a mixture concern and dismay.  As
an American instructor of business management in Beijing and Shanghai
for the last five years, I’m becoming increasing convinced that the
Chinese economy in the years ahead will not be as strong as many
so-called Western experts would like readers to believe.
Westerners get carried away with irrational exuberance about the number
of new Shanghai skyscrapers going up or the millions of new cars
clogging the streets of Beijing, foreigners would do well to gain a
greater understanding of the massive economic challenges its Communist
leaders need to tackle in the next few years.

I’ve long argued that the hype about China’s promise - as well as the hype on the China threat - is all overdone. Schwarz has a good round up on why. On a similar theme, another must read is this MacLean’s article reproduced by Shanghai’s NYT bureau chief Howard French.:

At its apex, Japan’s economy crumbled like a house of cards. The yen,
which had been kept weak to promote exports, was engineered upward to
rein in fast growth, igniting a speculative real estate bubble. When it
burst, the banks, which had lent money to companies based on their real
estate equity, were left virtually bankrupt. Trillions in personal and
corporate wealth disappeared overnight. The implosion revealed
structural rot beneath the economy’s seemingly ironclad exterior. The
upshot was 15 years of stagnation that Japan is only just now emerging
China is, in many ways, following in the footsteps of Japan’s early
success. Nobel prize-winning economist Robert Mundell recently compared
China’s ramp-up to Japan’s beginnings as a low cost manufacturer in the
1950s and ’60s. And now, like Japan was in the 1980s, China is focused
on expanding into international markets and on developing its own
technology for sale to the world.
But other similarities are more disturbing. Andy Xie, chief Asia
economist with U.S. investment bank Morgan Stanley, points to the
US$350 billion in speculative “hot money” that has poured into China in
recent years on the expectation that its currency, the renminbi (or
yuan), would appreciate. Much of that money has been parked in real
estate as the recently privatized housing market goes through an
unprecedented boom. In Shanghai, prices skyrocketed by 28 per cent last
year, with sleek condo towers, office high-rises, hotels and malls
being thrown up at a breakneck pace. The vacancy rate officially stands
at 2.7 per cent, but anecdotal evidence suggests up to 40 per cent of
the new space sits empty.

And with those cheerful thoughts in mind, this week’s comment from Morgan Stanley’s Stephen Roach has left me feeling a bit more bearish than usual.:

Non-Japan Asia… which accounts for fully 28% of world GDP as
measured on a purchasing power parity basis — is likely to be hit
especially hard by the combined impacts of its inefficient energy
consumption technology as well as its excessive dependence on the
American consumer.
is the most obvious case in point.  Its oil consumption per unit of GDP
was double that of the developed-world average in 2004.  China, like
many Asian countries, tends to subsidize the price of retail energy
products. While that means the cost of higher oil prices is deflected
away from
Chinese consumers, the impact falls more acutely on its government
finances.  At the same time, in the face of
soaring energy costs, China’s subsidy structure has already caused
serious disruptions to retail supply — resulting in long petrol lines
that are strikingly reminiscent of those experienced in the 1970s.
Moreover, about a third of China’s total exports go to the  United States.
That means one of China’s largest and most dynamic sectors — exports
currently account for more than 35% of Chinese GDP and were still
surging at close to a 30% y-o-y rate through July — is very much a
levered play on the staying power of the overly-extended American
consumer.  That’s a tough place to be for any economy in an energy shock — even China.
With the possible exception of Japan and India, the rest of Asia may not be in much better shape.

Also oil-related, Ben Muse looks at China’s energy security, and exposes part of the reason why it’s looking at Central Asia and nearby sources. Currently, about 80 percent of China’s oil has to travel through the Malacca Straits, if Canada’s oil sands become viable they’ll have to pass through an area that’s free of pirates, but closer to the US military.:

Grt_circ_rte_2_2Because the earth is round, the shortest route from Canada’s west coast
to East Asia passes  across the Gulf of Alaska and through the
Aleutians into the Bering Sea at Unimak Pass, returning to the North
Pacific through the far western Aleutians.  Once past the Aleutians,
shipping would still have to pass around or between the Japanese
Islands, and between Japan and Korea.
It’s hard to imagine the U.S., Japan, or Korea interfering with the
rights of innocent passage through these waters.  But the Chinese can’t
be entirely comfortable about this source and route.   Canadian oil
would certainly be vulnerable in the event of a conflict over Taiwan.

AsiaPundit earlier agreed with Bingfeng’s analysis that the problems with healthcare in China are not caused my the growing privatization of services, but that market-oriented services are still developing. Sun Bin has further evidence.:

Shanghaihospital"When Gao Qiang, China’s health minister, responded to scathing
criticism of his country’s health system this month he turned his ire
on local hospitals, saying they had put profits ahead patients. Mr Gao
raged that patients were being billed for drugs to cover the cost of
everything from wages to building maintenance, leaving an increasing
number of citizens unable to afford to see a doctor.
From the hospital’s perspective, however, the picture is very
different. A squeeze on government funding and strict price controls on
most services mean they are forced to rely on drug sales for up to 70
per cent of their budgets.
"The problem with hospitals centres on the draconian capping of
doctors’ fees and in-patient beds," said a foreign pharmaceuticals
executive. "The result is that they run these services at a loss and
have to make up the money elsewhere." The cost of a bed in China’s
hospitals, even in large cities, can be as little as Dollars 1 a day.
Prices are kept low in the name of maintaining what the government
calls "social stability".

Peking Duck guest blogger Martyn really should have his own site. The latest offering takes a look at China’s swelling foreign exchange reserves.:

Some Chinese officials argue that the money would be better spent
recapitalizing the state banks or to import oil and build up strategic
reserves, of which it has none. Others say the money should be used to
fund overseas acquisitions by Chinese firms.Conservatives want to keep
the money in financial instruments. They say, quite rightly, that the
inflow of hot money is only a temporary phenomenon and point to the
billions of dollars of liabilities in bad loans held by the state
banks, pension and welfare liabilities and debts owed by securities
firms.There is also the possibility of trade disputes or a trade war
with the US or the EU, which would sharply reduce the trade surplus, or
a financial crisis at home or in Asia.

Further on China’s reserves, Brad Setser points to some useful posts on the end of Bretton Woods II.

It seems like some in Asia are a bit worried that so much of the
world’s wealth is denominated in the currency of the world’s largest
debtor. Cynic’s Delight highlights their concerns well in a recent

"Chalongphob Sussangkarn, president of the Thailand
Development Research Institute, a Bangkok based think-tank, said, "It
is quite hard to understand why the world’s largest debtor (the United
States) is the one that controls the world’s financial system. We (East
Asia) always monitor what the US Federal Reserve says about interest
rate movements. (East Asian) creditors should be the ones who determine
the world’s fate."
Frankly, the United States’ Asian
creditors should be worried.  The Fed has made it clear that its
preferred solution to the US trade deficit is a big dollar
depreciation.  And the required depreciation could be large indeed.
See Rogoff and Obstfeld.


Yu Yongding is always worth listening
to as well
- and while his voice is only one of many that matter in
China, the fact that he think China already has too many reserves is

The New Economist points to a Bank of Japan paper on China’s revaluation, which endorses the PBoC’s cautious approach.:

YuanWe analyze the impact of Japan’s exit from its peg
on exports and investment.  The results point to sizeable effects of
the yen’s revaluation on both variables, especially investment.  While
our analysis suggests that a rapidly-growing, export-oriented economy
can operate a heavily managed float despite the presence of capital
controls and the absence of sophisticated foreign currency forward
markets, it underscores the importance of managing the exchange rate
with domestic conditions in mind and avoiding the kind of large real
appreciation that would sharply compress profits and damage investment.

For China this suggests starting with a modest band widening and
a limited increase in flexibility, and not with a large step
revaluation which could have a sharp negative impact on investment and
growth.  Our results thus provide support for the kind of measures
taken at the end of July

The Economists View and the Globalization Institute both point to a WaPo item on China’s stock market reforms.:

Prosper Analysts emphasized that the plan should not be construed as an
indication that the government has embraced wholesale privatization.
The majority of the companies that trade on the Shanghai and Shenzhen
exchanges are small arms of giant firms that remain wholly controlled
by the state, or inconsequential and poorly managed firms … The
government’s decision to put more of these shares into private hands
does not signal an intent to relinquish control over the largest and
most strategically important state-owned firms, which still dominate
key sectors of the Chinese economy such as steel, auto-making,
telecommunications and commercial aviation. "This is basically a
mechanism to get the stock market to function, which it has not done in
four years," said Arthur Kroeber, managing editor of the China Economic
Quarterly. "This is the state privatizing junk that it’s not interested
in but retaining control over the core companies.

Also of interest: Tyler Rooker looks at China’s GDP and purchasing power parity; Danwar ponders a link between China’s bank bailouts and the revaluation; and Logan Wright examines recent statements from the People’s Bank of China, and tries to weigh how much the central bank is intervening in the currency market.:

by @ 1:32 pm. Filed under China, Money, Asia, Coming collapse, East Asia, Economy, North Korea, Economic roundup

philippines monday roundup

The bombing of a ferry in Basilan  results in the government pushing anew for an an ant-terrorism law, and suggestions there are terrorists on the loose.

The comedy of errors concerning today’s quasi-holiday aside (sarcastically commented on by Peter Wallace), the weekend has been spent by the contending forces marshaling their strength for this week’s confrontations in the House. The Socialist opposition has been busy using pets for political propaganda; last Saturday the de la Salle community held another forum and meeting (no word yet on the consensus, if any, that emerged from that exercise: former NEDA chief Cielito Habito, Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, myself and Prof. July Teehangkee were the speakers); the group I belong to, Citizens for TRUTH held a candle-lighting ceremony at the foot of the Ninoy Aquino Monument in Makati City (JB Baylon has an account of the activity);  civil society has sent out yet another call for people to go to the House on Tuesday; and former DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman and Friends (the "Hyatt 10") will be holding a press conference at the Metropolitan Club near Rockwell from 10 am to noon pm on Tuesday, to begin unburdening themselves of some of the wrongdoings they observed as members of the cabinet. The Palace, too, has to contend with bad press: Newsbreak today unveils the means by which the manipulation of election-related documents allegedly took place in the premises of the House of Representatives. PCIJ publishes an expose on how agriculture funds were diverted for election-related purposes (there’s also a story on the gift that keeps on giving: Xerox machines, and one on how some army officers helped the President in the elections). There’s also this article, which gives a hint or two about the sort of information the Hyatt 10 has up its sleeves.

The idea of all these activities (which the bad press won’t hurt) are that they’re meant to derail the perceived Palace-determined schedule for throwing out the impeachment complaint.

Newsstand has blogged on why he’s not surprised the opposition seems to be playing perpetual catch-up; the opposition is rushing to clinch the deal, and scuttlebutt is the Nacionalista Party is waiting in the wings, hoping it will achieve the distinction of being the group that made the difference (it can then glory in being more effective than the divided Liberal Party was). I can’t quite explain it, but it seems to me dangerous for the opposition to go hell-for-leather in so obvious a manner (as the Inquirer editorial clearly explains), and with the risk of so obviously failing, at this point. It would be better for the opposition to keep things in committee at least for the duration of the recess, when a political commentator I talked to suggests the opposition (of whatever stripe) could focus on building momentum in the streets and in the provinces, and thereby have better chances for a real slam-bang of a showdown after Congress resumes its session in October. The President and her people might start feeling the pinch by then, and the usual suspects who can dole out informal cash might begin to tire (or run out of money) to keep financing efforts to retain the loyalty of congressmen.

But then again I think Ricky Carandang’s observations two weeks ago about the Speaker’s problems, remains valid: my column today, The Speaker’s Position, I addresses precisely that question. If the Speaker’s sole concern is what will help him establish parliamentary government, I suggest he’s better off letting the impeachment proceed to trial at the Senate.

Of course enough time has passed to influence the senate. The President needs only eight votes to keep her job. The resignation of SBMA Chairman Francisco Licuanan III is being touted as a the result of a deal between the President and Senator Richard Gordon (which Gordon denies, but which Max Soliven thinks might have some truth to it). Whatever the truth, the President may have the numbers: Angara, Recto, Gordon, Enrile, Santiago, Lapid, Revilla are often confidently named as the ones who can be expected to vote to acquit (that only leaves one more needed). As it is, the Speaker is sending mixed signals. Sec. Rigoberto Tiglao, however, argues that impeachment, even if it reaches the trial stage, doesn’t have a leg to stand on as far as the charges are concerned.

In the blogosphere, there are some new blogs worth noticing. First is Prof. July Teehangkee’s spanking new blog, in which he discusses "a continuing crisis of legitimation." The second is the first authentically pro-administration blog of note, ever: Rational Views (naughty comments about the great Sassy Lawyer to the contrary notwithstanding). As an aside, Edwin Lacierda (who guests today at 10 am on Karmina Konstantino’s morning show at ANC) pointed it out to people: Newsstand credits Lacierda with lighting a light bulb over the administration’s head; in an e-mail, Lacierda says I was the one to point out the curious absence of a pro-administration blog; perhaps it’s all serendipity! The third is one found by way of New Economist, the blog of a London-based macroeconomist, who noticed and pointed out Go Figure, the blog of Filipino economist Roehlano Briones.

Also, there’s Big Mango with part three of his series on Understanding Nation Building; and Howie Severino on why local government officials like the President.

In the cultural sphere, too see & log has reproduced a paper by Prof. Jaime Veneracion on Rizal’s Madrid: The Roots of the Ilustrado Concept of Autonomy which makes for an interesting read, indeed; Adel Gabot isn’t amused by AXN channel turning a TV show with black humor into slapstick comedy in its ads; Cogito Ergo Sam writes on Fado music.

The punditocracy has Randy David takes an optimistic look at young politicians; Fr. Joaquin Bernas explaining his views on impeachment (one can detect increasing frustration and even irritation, on his part, with the House); Jojo Robles has a bone to pick with Imee Marcos; Jose Sison examines the curious refusal of the Armed Forces to explain why they accompanied a police raid; Marichu Villanueva examines diplomatic posts being traded for political support; and Iraqis Should Draft Constitution Without US Interference was my Arab News column for last week.

by @ 12:38 am. Filed under Culture, Blogs, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Weblogs, Terrorism

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