AsiaPundit is amazed by this latest piece of bio-technology news, while not specifically Asia related, this could have great applications in Cambodia and, eventually, in a unified Korea…. a plant that can detect landmines.:
Danish scientists have made a scientific discovery with significant humanitarian and environmental potential. They have shown that it is possible to produce plants which change colour in the presence of specific compounds within the soil, opening the way for the first bomb and land-mine detection plant.
Danish Company Aresa Biodetection has been working on the plant for several years but has now developed the plant to the stage where it is a becoming commercially viable biodetection system and can change colour from green to red within 3-5 weeks of growth.
Singapore is set to execute an Australian drug trafficker who was caught in transit at Changi Airport. The man who will perform the job has been revealed and profiled in the Australian newspaper (via Omeka Na Huria).:
The hangman who will execute Australian drug trafficker Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore has been revealed as a semi-retired 73-year-old grandfather.
In a matter of weeks, Darshan Singh will place a rope around the 25-year-old’s neck and say the words he has spoken to more than 850 condemned prisoners during his 46 years as Singapore’s chief executioner.
"I am going to send you to a better place than this. God bless you."
Nguyen’s hopes of escaping the gallows receded further yesterday when the Singaporean Government confirmed that it would not make an exception for the Australian.
Mr Singh has officially retired from the prison service but is called upon to carry out executions, for which he receives a fee of $S400 (Au$312).
Until now, his indentity has been a closely guarded secret in Singapore.
Officials rarely comment on capital punishment, which is carried out without publicity behind the walls of Changi prison.
But The Australian can reveal today that the 73-year-old grandfather, who lives in a modest, government-owned apartment near the border with Malaysia, has been asked to execute Nguyen unless the Singapore Government gives an unprecedented last-minute reprieve.
Mr Singh told The Australian yesterday that under the Official Secrets Act he was forbidden from speaking about his work.
A colleague and close friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Australian that Mr Singh wanted to give up his hangman’s responsibilities and live quietly in retirement but the authorities were having trouble finding anyone to replace him.
"He tried to train two would-be hangmen to replace him, a Malaysian and a Chinese, both in the prison service," the colleague said.
"But when it came to pulling the lever for the real thing, they both froze and could not do it.
"The Chinese guy, a prison officer, became so distraught he walked out immediately and resigned from the prison service altogether."
If the city state needs another executioner to replace Mr Singh, I would recommend raising the salary to above US$236 per execution. Better still, abolish the position.
Technorati Tags: asia, east asia, singapore, southeast asia
Kidnapping for profit is not something you associate with China, especially not Shanghai. That’s something for smaller economies and with smaller criminal classes. Via China Law Prof blog, a Forbes item on the dangers of doing business in China. Entrepreneur David Ji alleges that he was held hostage, had his life threatened and was forced to sign over his multi-million dollar business to a state-owned supplier.:
The video is dull and grainy, but it shows a real-life drama: A comeuppance for David Ji, a celebrated U.S.-bred entrepreneur who built a billion-dollar business importing dirt-cheap DVD players from a booming China, where he was born, and selling them at Wal-Mart and Circuit City stores in the U.S., his adopted home for two decades. As the camera rolled last December, Ji–a U.S. citizen held against his will in Shanghai by the authorities–glumly says he has signed over control of his company, Apex Digital, to a government-owned supplier that has accused him of a massive fraud.
In the video (an exclusive copy of which can be viewed by clicking here), Ji, age 53, is surrounded by his accusers in a spare condominium owned by the supplier, Sichuan Changhong Electric. A Changhong representative helpfully prods him along. The supplier insists Ji has waffled on paying $470 million for millions of U.S.-bound DVD units and TV sets it shipped to Apex, further charging that he kited $85 million in bogus checks.
What the video doesn’t show is this:The day before, an uncooperative Ji, flanked by guards, was taken to see Changhong’s senior management, Ji’s lawyer says. Inexplicably, agents snipped the buttons off of Ji’s shirt and pants, and as he stood there, humiliated and barefoot and holding on to his trousers so they wouldn’t fall down, a Changhong senior executive told him: “I decide whether you live or die.”
A Forbes report including video of the incident is here. There were obviously missteps on the part of Ji. However, the question of whether he was involved in fraud should be decided in the courts, not (if he is to be believed) through extortion.
Technorati Tags: asia, china, corruption, east asia, northeast asia
The Inquirer headlines Palace paranoia concerning the President’s praetorian guard, while the Palace also says they’re “steadfastly loyal”. The Manila Times perceives it as a symptom of a deeper unease between the President, former President Ramos, and the USA. The Manila Standard-Today has a curious story: Lotto winners kidnap swindler who duped them.
In the punditocracy, my column for today is Remembrance of books past. The Inquirer editorial takes a cue from Edwin Lacierda’s view that the disappearance of a Department of Agriculture undersecretary (accused of funneling fertilizer funds to the President’s campaign) is a black eye for Rotary International: add to this the view of online columnist Billy Esposo, that de la Salle University’s athletics woes represents the perils of a “win at all cost” mentality, and we really do have a crisis in all our institutions, as I pointed out abroad.
Dan Mariano points out the recent conviction of terrorists was done without the benefit of an anti-terror law.
Marichu Villanueva says the Secretary of Finance is having nightmares about the VAT; Fel Maragay wonders if the law can’t be softened a bit.Today, of course, is the last day of life as we know it, or before the implementation of the VAT increases that begins tomorrow. And as for Fidel V. Ramos planning (or having planned) a coup, Patricio Diaz says it’s madness.
In the blogosphere, Newsstand is irked by the President’s not-so-subtle declaration of war on ABS-CBN, using Inquirer columnist Mon Tulfo (in the words of a colleague) as her guided torpedo: Philippine Commentary is a little more skeptical about everyone’s motives (the media included); journalist Ellen Tordesillas has been blogging for some days now (hoorah!); The Unlawyer has returned (and is no longer anonymous); PCIJ delves into the Reform Agenda of the Black & White Movement (full disclosure: I am one of the convenors of B&W); Newsboy complains that the opposition simply isn’t helping (who? what? when? where? why?); Ricky Carandang, after pointing out the problem of the country is that we have a low-trust society, delves into the reasons behind our not having trust: our dependence on servants (to which reader Manuel Buencamino cleverly replies that having servants teaches management skills, and I agree); reports on an effort by young radicals to set up some Google bombs, by linking the phrase “pekeng pangulo” to the President’s website (see? that was easy). Incidentally, my favorite Communist blogger has penned an eloquent justification of why she’s a Communist
From tests using Shanghai- and Beijing-based trace route servers, it seems China has again extended its censoring of TypePad blogs to those that are hosted on ‘name.typepad.com’ sites and on domain-mapped sites such as this one. Typepad blogs hosted as "blogs.com" sites have been blocked since earlier this year.
The blocking of blogger/blogspot services has also been restored.
Just in time for next week’s bloggercon in Shanghai.
Technorati Tags: asia, blogs, censorship, china, east asia, northeast asia
Via the Horse’s Mouth, a Clinton adviser says that China will have an economic collapse.:
China’s economy faces a "collapse" over the next decade owing to a high savings rate and over-investment in industrial capacity, according to a former economic advisor to previous US president Bill Clinton.
"At this moment China is saving too much and is investing too much in factories which the world does not need. Like this it is certainly heading for a great fall, a collapse," former advisor Robert Wescott told the Portuguese business daily Jornal de Negocios on Monday.
"It could be in 2007, maybe in 2014, I don’t know. But what I know for sure is that China will have over the next ten years a great fall in economic activity," he added.
AsiaPundit agrees. There are serious bubbles and imbalances here that are not being corrected rapidly enough and there will be a day of reckoning. The open question is what will happen after the ‘collapse.’ There are many possibilities. When the Indonesian economy imploded there was regime change. When Japan’s bubble burst there was stagnation. South Korea re-emerged stronger and improved.
As well, one interesting difference between China’s ‘coming collapse’ and the humbling of South Korea and Japan is that this will have implications that are much more global. The South Korean and Japanese problems were domestically created - but China’s overcapacities are often due to excess foreign investment. Korea’s crisis meant the end of DaeWoo, but when China falls General Motors and Volkswagen will be feeling the pain.
Technorati Tags: asia, china, east asia, economy, northeast asia
Bingfeng, who has given AsiaPundit the honor of being his star blog of the week, suggests that free speech and anti-censorship advocates who criticize the actions of internet companies in China, “do something more important and constructive.“:
As we all know, the blocking of these web sites, in its worst situation, influence the life of a few thousands in china, while at the same time, the corrupt journalists/media taking money from firms and various organizations and writing misleading articles to fool the public is a everyday story in china, as i know, the norm of taking money from firms to make favorable media exposures was cultivated by many MNCs in china, which bribe chinese journalists in the name of “media PR” or “marketing PR” activities, and bribe them when they have a “PR crisis”. such collusion affects the lives of millions of people and you could do something to change it, especially a lot of them are related with MNCs in china.
couldn’t you do something more important but less satisfying for your moral superiority? i just wonder.
AsiaPundit, who is a journalist by day, was recently offered an envelope containing 500 yuan (a little over 60 usd) while covering a telecommunications event sponsored by European companies. I can’t say whether any of the firms knew the cash was being offered, so I won’t mention any of them by name. I refused the cash, although the three local reporters who were at the event accepted.
As blogging flack Imagethief wrote earlier this year, it’s common practice to offer a “transportation allowance” to journalists. It should be noted that this is done for the local media and not usually for the foreign press. Foreign journalists have different ethical standards and rules that forbid us from accepting bribes (plus, a 200 yuan bribe would be is so low in terms of comparative salary that it could be offensive).
Bingfeng is correct that this is a serious problem for China - a 2003 study by the Institute for Public Relations puts China dead last in a list of 66 countries in a study on the acceptability of bribery for coverage.
Still, by citing the existence of this problem as a criticism of free-speech advocates he is making a common fallacy of argument by evading the issue.
This is also known as the Chewbacca defense.
That last link is from the blocked-in-China Wikipedia. I regret that readers here won’t be able to access it without a proxy.
The problems of censorship in and press bribery in China are related issues, both shape the content of news here. But to say that censorship of a website is something that only affects a “few thousand” is a gross understatement. While it may be only a handful of residents who are affected by a block on a single blogspot site, the control of information in China promotes ignorance, retards democratic development and prevents the building of an educated civil society. This affects 1.3 billion.
Technorati Tags: censorship, china, corruption, east asia, northeast asia
More from the evil mouthless one from Sanrio. AsiaPundit is glad that this wasn’t reported before his summer wedding (Mrs AsiaPundit may have gotten some bad ideas).:
In a move that caused mass fainting fits across Japan (and audible gasps in neighbouring countries) the Hankyu-Daiichi hotel chain launched its Princess Kitty wedding package. For a pretty penny you can spend your wedding day immersed in Hello Kitty tweeness, from the ring pillow to the seating cards to the flowers. What better way to be the envy of your single friends by snaring a man and out Sanrio-ing them at the same time!
Worse follows, a line of Hello Kitty wedding gowns.:
AsiaPundit again notes that Kitty has been a cause of violence, riots and mayhem. I expect a higher-than-average percentage of Kitty-related weddings will result in divorce. And remember, cats are not monogamous. (h/t Simon)
Technorati Tags: asia, hello kitty, hong kong, japan, northeast asia
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is said to be a fan of Lee Kwan-yew. AsiaPundit is a bit of an LKY fan himself, specifically of the mentor minister’s strong free-trade and anti corruption policies. It seems that Thaksin is an admirer of Lee’s other less-favorable qualities (via Magnoy’s Samsara).
The increasing number of defamation lawsuits being filed by government figures and their corporate proxies against critical media organizations is a “dangerous trend,” international media groups said yesterday.
And Thailand’s sinking image abroad will be reflected in a soon-to-be released index of press freedom across the world.
The day after Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra filed criminal and civil lawsuits against Manager Media Group, which publishes Phoojadkarn Daily, several international free-press groups repeated yesterday that recent lawsuits are diminishing Thailand’s time-honored status as the “country with the freest press in the region.”
Representatives from Reporters Sans Fronti?res (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Southeast Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA) joined the Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR) at the Thai Journalists Association yesterday.
Technorati Tags: asia, censorship, east asia, southeast asia, thailand
Via the Taipei Kid.:
Thank goodness the MRT authorities have posted these bilingual signs telling commuters not to bring poultry into subway stations. Taipei’s English-speaking community, mostly made up of North Americans, Europeans and South Africans, have a terrible habit of bringing live birds onto the subway.
Vietnam’s new anti-corruption bill is facing difficulty in the national assembly, Diacritic reports. Plus, it seems that the existing anti-graft agency has been somewhat less than effective.:
Vietnam’s anti-corruption chief has been arrested over allegations he took bribes and abused his position, in an embarrassing setback for the country’s fight against rampant graft. Luong Cao Khai, head of Vietnam’s anti-corruption inspection taskforce and deputy director of the government’s inspection department, was arrested at his home here on Thursday October 20, an investigative police source told AFP.
Police later uncovered several cases of serious wrongdoing.”He is accused of receiving money and land from some oil and gas officials to use for private purposes and abusing his position to provide his relatives with jobs in oil and gas sector,” the Tuoi Tre daily reported.
Technorati Tags: asia, corruption, east asia, southeast asia
Look out Alibaba, China’s People’s Liberation Army has set up a procurement website
The website represents another (small) step in a long-running effort by the Chinese leadership to marketize and rationalize (in David Shambaugh’s parlance) its defense procurement to make sure its soldiers get the equipment they need.
China’s defense R&D sector has been fantastically corrupt since the late 1950’s, when Deng Xiaoping asked Marshal Nie Rongzhen—an old buddy from their student days in Paris—whether he wanted to be mayor of Beijing or run the country’s scientific programs. Nie chose the latter, becoming the first head of the China’s Commission of Science Technology, and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND), eventually stacking COSTIND with enough family members and cronies to make Dick Cheney blush.
Well, maybe not Dick Cheney.
The Chinese leadership finally got around to tackling this empire in the 1990s, forcing Nie’s daughter, General Nie Li, and her husband, COSTIND Chairman General Ding Henggao, into retirement in 1994 and 1996.
In 1998, China reorganized COSTIND as a civilian enterprise with administrative and regulatory responsibilities and created the General Armaments Department as a military procurement entity. (Although COSTIND was stacked with military officers, COSTIND’s bureaucratic interests historically have clashed with the wider PLA).
Technorati Tags: china, east asia, northeast asia
Due to the relocation of Global Headquarters, AsiaPundit was remiss in not blogging the quake in South and Central Asia. But I would be doubly remiss if we didn’t mention Blog Quake Day. Buy a T-Shirt.
When first graders are going to canvas their ‘hoods for charity, when victims of the South Asian Tsunami are giving after losing almost everything, when nearly every person who is reading this can afford to do even more than the two groups I just mentioned in this sentence, then yes, we have no excuse.
I wrote that accusatory sentence a few days ago, as I posted about those selfless Tsunami-survivors. I asked, “What if we could do good?”, specifically in the context of our blogging, since we had all come together in a breath-taking, powerful way to stand up for truth, freedom and justice. Could we also unite to fight apathy? Disaster fatigue? Inertia?
I think we can.
Thankfully, people with more energy than me seized my flicker of an idea and ran with it. They heard the tentative call I put out after a fold. And they are doing good.
DesiPundit, predictably, is at the center of this movement. Sepoy at Chapathi Mystery was a pioneer when it came to quake relief. Even Instapundit, the big, bad, brand-name blog I quoted, along with TTLB, picked up on Blog Quake Day.
Now, it is our turn and after you read this, it is your turn. Today is Blog Quake Day. Do something. Give. Write. Post. Comment. Link. Give some more. Think. Do. Tag (“Blog Quake Day”).
Now, it is our turn and after you read this, it is your turn. Today is Blog Quake Day. Do something. Give. Write. Post. Comment. Link. Give some more. Think. Do. Tag (“Blog Quake Day”).
Technorati Tags: asia, india, pakistan, blog quake day
Via Boing Boing, the first professional Sumo-wrestling blogger to have come to my attention. The Japanese site is here and a translation of select posts here.:
Hi, this is me at the Kanazawa New Grand Hotel.
I arrived here to spend the night at 6:30 or so.
At a little after 7, my friend got here and after I finish some stuff up, we’ll be headed to get something to eat.
…various topics of conversation…
So I talked with my classmate about Athlete’s foot… His athlete’s foot.
It would seem that after his recovery, he relapsed. Take care man.
From tomorrow, it’s time for training!!! Yeah!!!
Oh yeah! You know “MEZAMASHI TV”?! Well, they are gonna broadcast about me and my blog on Tuesday, Oct. 25th at a little after 7:20.
I hope for your support in this as well. *bow*
…which means they are still gonna come take pictures, huh?
The Hindustan Times reports that China is going to help stamp out Maoism - at least outside of China. The Chairman’s corpse will stay in the mausoleum, but China will contribute to India’s counter-insurgency campaign, the Chinese ambassador to New Delhi says.
China ready to help India crush Maoists
In a significant announcement, China’s top envoy has declared that his country is ready to help India to crush its nagging Maoist insurgency that it once actively supported.
Chinese Ambassador Sun Yuxi said at an interaction here that Beijing did not even know why the Maoist guerrillas in India called themselves followers of the man who led the communists to victory in China in 1949.
“If there is any help (you expect) from us to India to get rid of them, we will try to do our best,” the top diplomat said candidly.
“We are also wondering why they call themselves Maoists. We don’t like that. We don’t like that at home. We don’t have any connection with them at home.
“If they call themselves Maoists, we can’t stop that way. But definitely it (the Maoist movement in India) does not have any connection with the government of China.”
Danwei, citing a blogger, says that China’s block on collaborative on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia is to be lifted by tomorrow.:
A Chinese blogger named shizhao writing on CNblog.org says that he has information that Wikipedia will be unblocked by Wednesday this week. He also has some suggestions for complaining about the Nanny’s nefarious blocking activities: complain directly to your ISP.
Apparently, the ISPs cannot reveal the reasons for a website being blocked because such decisions are usually taken by Public Security organizations and the ISPs do not usually know the reason themselves, but they can nonetheless pass on applications for a site to be unblocked.
Below is a link to a map of the Chinese Internet, showing how the ISPs connect to the backbones and to other countries. Clicking on the icons for each ISP takes you to their websites, where you can usually find an online form or an email address to use for your complaint. You should submit the IP address as well as the domain name.
So fellow Internet users in China, start complaining about the shoddy treatment we receive from the Nanny! Report blocked sites! El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!
We’ll wait and see if the Wiki block is lfted, a single unverified source in the blogosphere isn’t a confirmation. However, it struck AsiaPundit last week that the Chinese authorities could do worse than block the open-source encyclopedia… they could simply employ some of the alleged tens of thousands of cyber propagandists to edit entries that don’t follow Beijing’s official line.
Technorati Tags: asia, censorship, china, northeast asia
Chief Morgan Stanley economist Stephen Roach, one of AsiaPundit’s favorite Cassandras, is again warning that debt- and asset-inflation driven US consumer spending is unsustainable and that China is oblivious to the risks.:
The current energy shock is a very different threat to a wealth-based consumer than it is to an income-supported consumer. That’s especially the case since it hits US households when they are running a negative saving rate. In the three previous energy shocks — 1973, 1979, and 1990 — the personal saving rate averaged about 8%. US consumers had a cash cushion they could draw upon in order to support lifestyles. A negative saving rate offers no such cushion. Dick Berner has estimated that higher energy product prices are the functional equivalent of an annualized tax of around $130 billion on US consumers, or about 1.4% of total disposable personal income. With a negative saving rate, a significant portion of that tax will undoubtedly be funded by a retrenchment of discretionary consumption. The world’s consumer is now facing major cash-flow pressures heading into the all-important holiday buying season.
Meanwhile, halfway around the world, nothing seems to be stopping the Chinese producer (see my 21 October dispatch, “Wrong on the China Slowdown”). With GDP growth holding above 9% through 3Q05 and industrial output growth continuing to run north of 16%, a seemingly impervious Chinese economy seems all but oblivious to potentially ominous developments in its external sector. This could be an accident waiting to happen. In an energy-shocked environment, China’s export-led growth dynamic is at growing risk of decoupling from its major source of end-market demand — the American consumer. If US consumption slows as I suspect, an inventory overhang could quickly emerge in China that would undermine production support in the months ahead.
The threat of US-China imbalances is a common theme for the Morgan Stanley crowd, and it is one worth noting (Cassandra was, after all, right).
In a separate note. not yet on the Morgan Stanley website (though I am posting it here under the impression that it will be), Roach offers his impressions on the man (pending confirmation) who will have to deal with the possible downturn, nominee for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke:
It’s easy to celebrate the man and his pedigree. We all know that Ben Bernanke is a solid MIT-trained economist. What we don’t know is his ability to provide institutional leadership for a central bank that is facing a unique confluence of domestic and international imbalances — the asset-bubble-current-account nexus.
Every Fed chairman that I ever worked with or observed over the past 33 years has had to face unique circumstances that he was unprepared for — Burns (inflation), Miller (everything), Volcker (the cost of disinflation), and Greenspan (the legacy of the Asset Economy and the imbalances it has fostered). And each of those past four chairmen were challenged repeatedly by problems outside their comfort zones. Burns was a business cycle expert unprepared to cope with inflation. Volcker was a financial expert who struggled with a wrenching recession. Greenspan was a business consultant who was quickly thrust into the thicket of financial crisis management. Ultimately, Volcker and Greenspan learned to adapt and cope — but not without initially going through wrenching financial market corrections — bonds for Volcker and stocks for Greenspan.
Why should we presume that Bernanke will be spared the same test that his predecessors faced — especially given America’s monstrous current account deficit? Why should we also presume that Bernanke will be challenged by the one problem that is in his comfort zone — namely, inflation? Markets have an uncanny knack of finding the weak link in the new guy’s chain. That remains the risk for the Fed and its new chairman, especially since the origins and funding of America’s external imbalances challenge central bankers still steeped in a pre-globalization, closed-economy mindset.
Bottom line: Like his predecessors, Bernanke’s skillset has not prepared him for the challenges he faces. It will be "learning by doing" — and quite possibly indoctrination under fire. It wouldn’t be the first time either.
Bernanke is considered a top-choice for the Fed position. But it’s worth noting that a change at the Fed right now itself presents a risk. As the Economist noted last month, even Maestro Greenspan had a rocky start (link may be premium content).:
Financial markets are typically more volatile during the first year after the handover to a new chairman than during the rest of his tenure. In October 1987, barely two months after Mr Greenspan took office, the stockmarket crashed. Current conditions for a handover are hardly ideal. America’s economy has never looked so unbalanced, with a negative household savings rate, a housing bubble, a hefty budget deficit, a record current-account deficit and rising inflation. Figures due on October 14th are expected to show that the 12-month rate of inflation has risen above 4%—its highest since 1991.
Although Bernanke comes from the White House, he is a respected Economist and was tipped as the front-runner for the Fed by the Economist and other sources. This is not like the recent nomination of GWB’s personal lawyer for the Supreme Court, and AsiaPundit hopes that partisan attempts to paint him as a crony will not emerge to shake market confidence.
(For what it’s worth, and for TTLB, "I oppose the Miers nomination for the Supreme Court.")
Technorati Tags: asia, china, east asia, economy, northeast asia, bernanke
The mouthless one from Sanrio continues the expansion of her evil empire.:
Apparently the Hello Kitschy sightseeing bus was not enough!
Taiwan airline Eva Air has painted one of its Airbus A300-200 with the big-headed cat and her family members. The plane will fly daily between Taipei and Fukuoka.
The plane’s interior features Hello Kitty-related items as well, ranging from boarding passes, baggage tags, dining utensils, and lavatory papers to flight attendant uniforms.
From MSN-Mainichi. Press Release.
Given Hello Kitty’s record with violence and mayhem, I putting the chances of a crash within the next two years at about 40 pct. The odds would be much worse if it were an Air China plane.
Technorati Tags: asia, east asia, japan, hello kitty
Reforming China’s currency is not a new problem, Alex Baumler at group history blog Frog in a Well posts a poem from the 1350s.:
The Great Yuan—how grave and dignified,
Its authority by the crafty and duplicitous monopolized.
‘Repairing’ the Yellow River dikes ,
paper currency ,
These calamities set off the Red Turbans by the host.
Too many laws, punishments too harsh
the people’s wrath.
People eating people, cheap money buying out dear
Nothing like this seen in former years.
Bandits in office, officials in gangs;
Alas! What a pity,
Muddling together the worthy and the dumb.
While AsiaPundit will not pretend to be a long-time student of Chinese history, the history of money is something that I’ve long had more than a passing interest in. Baumler notes the application of Gresham’s Law and how Chinese views on monetarism and the use of coin as a store of value differ from contemporary thinking.:
The thing that really struck me about this one was the fairly clear statement of Gresham’s Law in the fourth line from the end. Actually, a bit of googling quickly showed that Gresham’s law (Bad money drives out good) is older in the West than I had thought. More interestingly, this does not really seem to be Gresham’s Law, or at least it was not understood that way by the Chinese authors who wrote about it. According to wikipedia Gresham applies when two forms of money are available, one (bad money) with a larger spread between the face value and the commodity value. This was not how Chinese economic thinkers looked at it, however. According to von Glahn Fountain of Fortune: Money and Monetary Policy in China, 1000-1700 California U.P. 1996 Chinese monetary theory usually assumed that “the purchasing power of the medium of exchange was solely a result of its quantity, in the form of money, in relationship to the supply of all other commodities.”(p.33) That paper money had no intrinsic value was not a problem, since Chinese money was usually seen as fiat. This explains why the Chinese started using paper money so much earlier than anyone else.
There were strains of metalism, the idea that the value of money was based on the metal in it, in Chinese thought, and apparently especially among the commoners. Keeping the volume of money appropriate and making paper convertible to coin were the mainstays of policy when the paper currency was functioning well. I get the impression that convertibility was seen as more of a sop to the commoners, who favored coin as a better store of value, a use of money that the state was not as concerned with. So yes, the currency was collapsing, and yes the quote seems to be Gresham’s Law, but the understanding of money is completely different.
Technorati Tags: asia, china, east asia, economy, northeast asia, money
Via Friskodude comes news of a new blog providing coverage of a previously untreaded part of the Asian blogosphere, with the PNG Life blog. Author JCD notes that the Island nation will soon be getting some regular attention from US network television.:
The post-courier reports today that there is a two man team from the popular American show, Survivor, scouting the coasts of Madang and New Ireland provinces for uninhabited islands to use for a new version of the show.
Good news for PNG, bit of extra exposure in the world. People outside of Australia may actually learn where the place is (although a lot of Australians could do with a touch up as well).
But come on, using another island for the show, is a soft mans Survivor. They have done the island to death. Most of the shows, apart from Survivor: The Outback, have been on islands and it is now a given, you can survive on a bloody island. Coconuts, bananas, etc - easy life.
If they want to make a Survivor: PNG, let the contestants do it hard. Stick them in a patch of the highlands between two warring tribes and see how they go when they come in with their machine guns. Make them catch and kill wild pigs and cuscuses to eat. Get them to plant kau kau and carry bilums full of garden food on their heads up mountains. Let them walk for days to get to the nearest aid post when they get injured.
Now that is trying to survive! … oh wait, there are over a million people in this country doing that every day, day in and out, already. I guess this has been done to death too.
Technorati Tags: east asia, blogs, png, southeast asia
John at Sinosplice has launched the new and much improved China Blog List, including a new filtering feature and other welcome enhancements:
Having a very specific location for each blog is useful because the location filter is hierarchical. A blog listed as based in San Francisco, for example, will show up in the listings for (1) All locations, (2) Outside China, (3) USA, (4) California, and (5) San Francisco. A blog listed as based in Hangzhou will show up in the listings for (1) All locations, (2) Greater China, (3) mainland China, (4) Zhejiang, and (5) Hangzhou. Including the specific location of each blog is to that blog’s benefit.
John provides greater detail on the site’s revisions here.
Former Taiwanese President Lee ripped apart the Mainland’s Communist government in Los Angeles, his last stop on his American trip, as reported by the Taipei Times:
In an explosive speech in Los Angeles on the last leg of a 13-day US tour that has infuriated Beijing, Lee called for capitalist nations to shun investment in China, which he likened to the 1930s appeasement policy towards German dictator Adolf Hitler and later Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
"As long as the capital from free countries continues to pour into China, China’s already oppressive practices will become more entrenched and the ensuing and ever-expanding militarism will make the likelihood of transition to a peaceful country ever more unlikely," he said.
Lee is known for being hypercritical of the mainland government, and when I read this I was preparing a moderate defense of the CCP, noting recent reforms and changes of rhetoric in favor of democracy. Then I came across some commentary over at Shanghailist on a recent white paper, "Building of Political Democracy in China," (full English text here) which suggests that rhetoric may be a new way for the CCP to legitimize its own authoritarian power. A Financial Times editorial lays out the best analysis I’ve found:
The 74-page government policy paper entitled "The Building of Political Democracy" seeks to justify autocratic Communist party rule in much the same way that Asian dictators have defended their regimes since the 1950s.
Genuine democratic demands are portrayed as "anarchic", in contrast to the party’s paternalistic guidance of the people towards prosperity and harmony. Echoing the "Asian values" popular with authoritarians in the 1990s, the paper says "China’s socialist political democracy has vivid Chinese characteristics". It shamelessly defines democratic government as the Communist party ruling on behalf of citizens with a view to perfecting "the people’s democratic dictatorship".
The fact of publication - this is the first such paper on this subject to be issued by the Chinese government - is of greater significance than the rather predictable contents. One theory is that the report was, like previous white papers, a response to foreign criticism and an attempt to explain China’s position to the outside world; the theory was lent weight by the coincidental presence in Beijing this week of Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary.
Seems to me that Lee is right that democratic reforms are not imminent on the Mainland, at least in the short term.
For some more background, see this NY Times summary piece. A Taiwanese take is here.
Slate via Oranckay, Koreans skill with the most-challenging chopstick design in Asia has not just given the country an advantage in women’s golf, but also in stem-cell research.:
The Chopstick Theory of Scientific Supremacy goes like this: Koreans eat with narrow, metal chopsticks. Nabbing grains of rice with slippery, steel sticks requires a surgeon’s dexterity. That’s why Koreans have mastered extraordinarily precise “micromanipulation” of eggs and embryos required for stem-cell and cloning research. Westerners with their clunky forks—and even other Asians with their thick, grippy wooden chopsticks—can’t hope to compete with the dexterous Koreans.
The Chopstick Theory is how Hwang Woo-suk, the world’s greatest cloner, accounts for his nation’s stem-cell success. The theory has undeniable appeal: It’s exotic, it’s funny, and it’s even partly true. But it only begins to explain a peculiar anomaly of global science: how South Korea, a nation of only 48 million people and no history of biotech accomplishment, has emerged as the world capital of stem-cell and cloning research.
Technorati Tags: asia, east asia, korea, south korea
Via Agam’s Gecko, a pointer to an investigation of illegal timber trade on the Burma-China border.:
On Tuesday this week at the Bangkok Foreign Correspondents’ Club, the environmental watchdog group Global Witness launched a major report into the massive illegal plundering of Burma’s remaining hardwood forests by Chinese logging companies, aided by the complicity of both Chinese officials and the Burmese military dictatorship, and the disinterest of much of the world. More than 95% of the timber shipped across the Burma - China border is done illegally with a nod and a wink, causing a loss to the Burmese people of around a quarter of a billion dollars per year.
As the great forests of teak and other hardwoods nearest the Chinese border are depleted, the Chinese logging companies are moving deeper into the interior of the country. The Chinese Foreign Ministry , claiming that China does not allow its citizens "to conduct illegal deforestation activities and trade across the border." The photo above is only one of many contained in the report which belie that claim. Global Witness also cites the EU for failing to follow through on commitments made a year ago to come up with initiatives to help save some of the last remaining old growth forests in Asia, considered as the most richly bio-diverse temperate areas left on earth. China also made promises in 2001 to address the illicit timber trade, but has done nothing about it. In fact, the virtual theft of this natural resource has increased by 60% since then.
China has been concerned about trade across the border and has been cracking down on drug trafficking and migrant ‘labor’ (specifically prostitutes), so it may seem odd that China is unable to enforce its borders on a trade that is a lot harder to hide.The report notes that China sees illegal timber trade as somewhat of a solution to the growing drug problem."
Technorati Tags: asia, china, corruption, burma, myanmar, southeast asia
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Mao: The Unknown Story - by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday:
A controversial and damning biography of the Helmsman.
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