Something sensible for a change

April 23rd, 2019

Instead of the usual BS in rambling sentences with little to no specificity, di Genova spoke relatively clearly. How rare!

Ghoulish? Or Goulash?

April 23rd, 2019

This is dense but interesting. NYRB

Although the party never ruled over a golden age of free speech in China, it was possible to argue that for a decade up until the late 2000s China was getting freer. The combination of economic reforms and proliferating new media appeared to be permitting citizens more personal autonomy and freedom of expression. That began to change slowly soon after Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics. First came the detention of Liu Xiaobo for helping to organize “Charter 08,” a document calling for modest constitutional reforms—a stand later recognized by the award of a Nobel Peace Prize. Then the overthrow of autocracies during the Arab Spring in 2011 fed into party neuroses about secret plots and uprisings, and this last decade has seen the end of meaningful public debate of almost any kind.

Enter Xu Zhangrun. A fifty-six-year-old professor of constitutional law at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, Xu is well known in Beijing as a moderate and prolific critic of the government’s increasing embrace of authoritarianism. Since 2012, he has published and spoken widely about his concern over China’s course. Some of his essays are mentioned in “China’s Moment,” translated by David Ownby, a University of Montreal history professor who, with several other scholars, started an invaluable website called “Reading the China Dream,” which makes available leading Chinese thinkers in English. Others are translated by the scholar Geremie Barmé and collected on this page of the China Heritage website.

While most of Xu’s earlier writing was couched in fairly dense language, he decided last July to make his message much more explicit. Writing for the website of the now-shuttered Unirule Institute of Economics, Xu issued what amounts to a petition to the emperor in the classical style. He bluntly explained that the government’s ever-tightening grip was leading the country to disaster, and he demanded measures to reverse course.

Xu’s original article last year, called “Our Immediate Hopes and Expectations,” was republished by The Initium, an independent Chinese-language website based in Hong Kong. That already helped to make it one of the most widely read recent articles critiquing the government; then it was translated as “Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes” by Barmé, who added an invaluable preface explaining the long tradition of petitions or memorials to the throne.

Xu writes that ever since the Cultural Revolution, China’s rise has been based on four basic principles: an end to political campaigns; permitting private property and wealth accumulation; tolerance for some personal freedoms; political term limits to prevent the return of dictators like Mao. All of these, he implies, have been breached by Xi; the violation of the fourth principle enables Xi to serve beyond the end of his two five-year terms in 2022.

Xu then sets out eight expectations—in effect, demands of the government—that include the abolition of special privileges for Communist Party cadres, the disclosure of leaders’ personal assets, the end of what he sees as a personality cult around Xi, and a return of term limits. Most incendiary of all, he calls for the overturning of the official verdict on the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Massacre, which was that the use of deadly force was justified because the protests were a “counter-revolutionary rebellion.”

To get a measure of Xu’s bluntness, here is how he describes (in Barmé’s translation) the privileges enjoyed by party members, including health care:

On one side of the hospital Commoners face the challenge of gaining admission for treatment, while everyone knows that grand suites are reserved on the other side for the care of high-level cadres. The people observe this with mute and heartfelt bitterness. Every iota of this bottled up anger may, at some unexpected moment, explode with thunderous fury.

Also worrying for Xu is the state of Sino–US relations, which he sees as threatened by leaders on both sides of the Pacific. In the US, he says “a crowd of the Ghoulish Undead, nurtured on the politics of the Great Game and the Cold War” is pushing mercantilist politics that are “shortsighted and avaricious.” China, meanwhile, is run by Xi, referred to simply as “the One”:

The One is blind to the Grand Way of current affairs and is scarred indelibly by a political brand from the Cultural Revolution. Overweening pride and official competence leads this One to bend his efforts to serve the wrong ends; talented enough to play the bureaucratic game, and doubtlessly masterful at achieving high office, but as for Guiding the Nation along the Correct Path, [what the One does] is worse than arrant time-wasting for there is something perverse at work.

Xu followed this up with several other articles warning about silence and complicity, as well as an extensive three-part critique of the party since reforms began in 1978. Although all of Xu’s articles were immediately censored, Xu himself initially escaped official criticism—until this year, when in March he was suspended from teaching and placed under investigation.

That led to a series of courageous essays from Chinese public thinkers. One leading voice was Guo Yuhua, a colleague of Professor Xu’s at Tsinghua who has herself been sidelined by the university while her critique of the government has been censored and suppressed. (See the NYR Daily’s 2018 Q&A with her here.) Guo wrote that the university was destroying its reputation by attacking Xu.

Here’s the Dream website referred to above. We don’t have time to think about this now, but we’ll come back to it.

For future reference

April 22nd, 2019

It looks like VDH is going to do a new book on the collusion nonsense. Can’t wait for it all to come undone.

2025, not 2525, and RE news

April 22nd, 2019

SCMP

“Made in China 2025” began in 2013 when the Chinese Academy of Engineering initiated nationwide research on what was then called the “Strategy of Innovation Design”. This project involved interviews with 153 firms in 32 cities, over 50 seminars with local governments and design organisations, as well as a dozen academic lectures, and culminated in a report that was a clear challenge by the academy and its partner, the Ministry of Information and Industrial Technology, to the reform programme. The report was submitted to Beijing in 2015, and then endorsed by Premier Li Keqiang.

“Made in China 2025” has two main goals. First, transform China from an assembler of hi-tech products into a manufacturer for advanced industries, such as robotics, advanced information technology, aviation and new energy vehicles. China’s share of processing exports has steadily declined from almost 50 per cent in 2009, but as of 2016 was still almost 35 per cent.

Second, by fostering indigenous innovation and subsidising state-owned enterprises to import foreign hi-tech, China hopes to move up the value chain and avoid the middle-income trap (where less developed countries rapidly reach per capita gross domestic product of between US$8,500 and US$18,500, only to see growth drop and never achieve high-income status). According to the World Bank, out of 101 middle-income economies in 1960, only 13 became high-income by 2008.

China says these goals are merely aspirational. But semi-official documents set concrete targets and funding has followed. An advanced manufacturing fund, worth 20 billion yuan, and an Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund, worth 138.7 billion yuan, funnel money into Chinese state-owned enterprises. Provincial funds complement these funds. While the Chinese strategy has been likened to the German government plan Industrie 4.0, the German funding of 200 million euros (US$225 million) is less than a 10th of the total Chinese investment.

The victory of “Made in China 2025” over the 2013 reform programme has significant implications. Rather than expand the market, Xi’s government has helped state-owned enterprises take over private firms by merging large state firms into even larger ones, thereby enhancing their monopolies in pillar industries. In 2015 and 2016, 11 extremely large state-owned enterprises merged, creating monopolistic national champions in the energy, railway, steel, shipping, mining and food sectors, whose technological strengths enhance their global competitiveness.

Xi may feel he has made the right choice. Upgrading China’s exports, rather than remaining the assembler of the world, should help the country avoid the middle-income trap. Reportedly, Xi never bought into the 2013 reform programme – he only asked if it would undermine the Communist Party and weaken state firms, and when told “no”, he signed off on the plan. Xi’s Chinese dream, his “Belt and Road Initiative” and his goal of making China a world power by 2049 all depend on state-owned enterprises and a powerful Communist Party, hence “Made in China 2025”.

These two visions of China’s future present stark choices and different outcomes. At the recent National People’s Congress meetings, Li insisted that banks increase lending to small companies by 30 per cent. And while China no longer discusses “Made in China 2025”, it still tries to implement it and the policy has generated pushback from the West. Chinese purchases of German firms could be a thing of the past, for one thing.

“Made in China 2025” was at or near the top of the list of complaints that the US presented to China in the current trade negotiations. It was mentioned in the United States Trade Representative’s Section 301 report on China’s unfair trade practices 116 times! In retrospect, the 2013 reform programme, which was heralded by the West and leading Chinese economists, might have prevented today’s trade and tech war.

Also if you’re looking for a new apartment: “A city in north China is offering half-price homes or two years’ free accommodation to recent graduates in a bid to attract fresh talent and breathe new life into its economy. According to a document published on Thursday by the municipal government, authorities in Hohhot, capital of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, are planning to build a range of new flats”

Preferring narrative to reality

April 21st, 2019

The Godfather is a fine movie, but it’s not close to reality in many of its parts. So, had all the staff really left the hospital that night when Vito was there? Or best of all, exactly how many people would have to have been involved in the horse head scene? (1) Killing the horse. (2) Cutting off its head. (3) Drugging Woltz and many others, like Tony. (4) Dragging the horse head up flights of stairs with nobody noticing. Etc, etc.

Godfather 2 also strongly prefers narrative to reality, e.g., Mueller. And it’s not just the D’s who have this disease. We’ll refer back to this in a couple of weeks, after some additional facts may appear, and we’ll see if we’re right or wrong about the groupthink in the establishment.

Happy Easter!

April 21st, 2019

We’ve mentioned our HBS classmate Roy Schoeman on several occasions (e.g., here). Given that it’s Easter, we’ll link to the highly detailed and dramatic story of his conversion from Judaism to Christianity. But that’s not all. We had a roommate at Yale who also converted from Judaism to Christianity, Lou Pressman. We recall that Lou’s experience was also dramatic, some unanticipated vision when he was out walking as a junior at Exeter. Lou went on to be a teacher and chaplain at Hotchkiss. Hmmm. Two classmates, similar stories. Maybe someone is sending us a message…

Hmmmmm

April 20th, 2019

(1) We just speculated on how Russia and China work to get politicians under their thumbs in matters vital to them, but it hadn’t occurred to us then that they probably use the same tricks on selected media people; (2) Mayor Pete’s Pence remarks expose him as a seriously bad guy; (3) We’re shocked to learn that those nice von Trapp’s that lived a few miles from us were really Nazis; (4) imagine what shirt Che wears; (5) NPod: “we have miseducated a whole generation, two generations by now, about almost everything;” (6) but what about the Arawaks? To conclude on a nice note, here’s Glenn Miller.

A little fun and a question

April 20th, 2019

For fun, try the climatistas. For the non-fun, try Andy McCarthy. Here’s the question: if you were Russia or China, and you wanted to fiddle around with elections and candidates, wouldn’t you try to get dirt on both candidates, and also provide some indirect back-channel compensation or favors to their family and friends? (Hey FBI and DOJ, we can save you two years and $35 million.)

Save the date

April 19th, 2019

12/11/14. We’ll see…

Define idiocy upwards please

April 18th, 2019

As you know, when George Washington became president there wasn’t a lot to the job. For much of the morning he’d eat coffee cake and watch the NBA on TV. We hear it’s different today. Thus anyone on TV now who gushes about someone under 40 running for president should be branded with a big I in the middle of the forehead for his own and future generations to see.

Rename the chromosomes!

April 18th, 2019

Here’s a list of chromosomes. There’s no reason they should have their silly names. We propose renaming XX “he” and XY “she.” If that’s too complicated, you could always do the reverse.

Forget the Facebook silliness. Everyone should be addressed by their chromosomes.

Repeat again and again and again until they learn or give up

April 18th, 2019

Conservative professor Harvey Mansfield can’t speak at some Canadian college because he’s too disgustingly retro for the Super-Moderns.

We’d repeat the two-part question that none none none ZERO ZERO ZERO of the SMs can answer correctly.

(Number 1) out of 1000 people, how many are “transgender”? – answer ZERO. They are all XX or XY. (Number 2) out of 1000 parts of air, how many are the horrible and destructive carbon dioxide? – answer ZERO ZERO ZERO.

Treat the idiots like idiots until they quit or learn. No weakness, no “dialogue.” We know of no other way.

Mixed signals

April 18th, 2019

WSJ:

A 6.4% expansion in China’s economy during the first quarter reported on Wednesday matched the pace of last year’s final quarter despite widespread market expectations—and a good deal of evidence—that growth would decelerate. economists said the quarter’s rebound in activity such as factory production indicates Beijing is unlocking cash to slow the descent.

Instead of shrinking sectors such as steel production and real estate that were responsible for pushing debt to 300% of the economy, China is again relying on some of these sectors to power a rebound, the latest data show.

During the quarter, Chinese factories churned out crude steel and primary aluminum at a rate rarely seen at the beginning of a year, when Lunar New Year holidays normally slow such activity. New money also went into real-estate construction and apartment purchases. Retail sales of products such as household appliances grew, along with restaurant receipts. China’s long-battered stock market even reversed.

“Right now supply and demand are both booming,” said Wang Guoqing, an analyst at Lange Steel Information Research Center. Ms. Wang said crude steel and primary aluminum output was the highest on record for a first quarter. Authorities scaled back antipollution controls, she said, allowing crude steel production to jump 10% in the quarter.

Not every indicator improved in the first quarter. While an 8.5% gain in manufacturing output boosted headline GDP, private-investment growth lagged behind at 5.6%, a possible cautionary signal from individual business owners. Electricity production slumped compared with the final quarter of last year. Import growth of just 0.3% suggests weak demand in China. Car sales fell again, though down 4.4% compared with 8.5% in December. Developers bid less for land, with transaction volumes sagging more than 30% in March from the year earlier.

First quarter government spending was probably front loaded, economists said, meaning tomorrow’s money was being spent yesterday.

A dozen years ago, the Bear Stearns conference call was a leading indicator of the terrible troubles credit markets and the economy would have a year later, capped off by the government’s idiotic decision to let Lehman go down. China’s massive increases in leverage since that time could foretell big problems, but it’s hard to know since so much of it is a closed system.

Bummer

April 17th, 2019

VDH:

Socialists and hard progressives believe that they already have won about three-fifths of America, defined not by population, polls, or political office, but by cultural clout. They assume that such control will inevitably end in final victory. Entertainment and Hollywood are mostly all left-wing and missionary in their progressive zeal.

few leftist revolutionary cycles ever halt in mid course, whether in 1789 France, 1917 Russia, 1946 China, or 1960 Cuba. The philosophy is always that today’s radical is yesterday’s sell-out to be replaced by tomorrow’s genuine far harder leftist — until the limits of reality are reached and the movement either implodes or leads to an authoritarian Napoleon, Lenin, Mao, or Fidel.

The current socialist trajectory is divorced from reality, whether reality mean the critical role of fossil fuels in maintaining civilization, or the historical record of tribalism destroying nations from Rwanda to the Balkans, or the usual story of soft socialism inevitably turning hard and ending in the mass poverty of a North Korea, Venezuela, or Cuba.

Being left doesn’t make you happy or smart. Exhibit A: MIT library lady who doesn’t seem to like libraries. Exhibit B: another university lady. Exhibit C: Sweden’s parliament, getting lectured by a 16 year old.

Hard to see how any of this ends well.

Okay then

April 17th, 2019

SCMP

China’s central bank, which has been pumping funds into the nation’s fragile economy over recent months, has suggested it will not flood the market with excessive liquidity, in a quarterly monetary policy document released on Monday.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) summarised its first quarter monetary policy committee meeting, during which the PBOC said it would block the “general valve” of money supply

The statement came after the country’s financial system pumped a record 8.2 trillion yuan (US$1.22 trillion) in credit into the economy in the first quarter of this year, including 5.8 trillion yuan worth of bank loans.

Excavator sales are way up, apparently so that there will be somewhere to bury the bad loans.

Miscellany

April 16th, 2019

(1) Kind of an odd piece on RBG. (2) They like Pete at MSNBC, duh. (3) We’re really not sure why Andy McCarthy wrote such a long piece on Barr and spying – everybody knows the drill by now, at least those who want to know it. (4) Funny Gorka on Candace, whom some people don’t like. (5) On our jog we heard someone call our pal Pete “Booty-Judge”, ewww. (6) Finally, “Chinese and Malaysian executives in Beijing signed an agreement that cuts the cost of the East Coast Rail Link project to 44 billion ringgit ($10.7 billion) from 65.5 billion ringgit ($16 billion).” Big holiday savings!

The Notre Dame fire should get a lot of people fired, or worse

April 16th, 2019

We went to Notre Dame many times when we lived in Paris during the summer of 1980. The destruction of the cathedral is extremely bizarre. Here’s why:

French news outlets reported it as the confiscation of a car filled with seven propane tanks on a street near Notre Dame cathedral. No detonators or other explosive devices were found inside, but documents in Arabic were. The vehicle, a Peugeot 607, raised suspicions in the 5th arrondissement because it had been parked improperly with its lights still on and the license plates had been removed, possibly because the car had been listed as stolen. Then, late Tuesday evening, two unnamed suspects, a 34-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman, both known to France’s domestic intelligence service, as BFMTV reported, “for espousing the ideology of Daesh”

That was 2016. 2016. Three years ago. ISIS tries to blow something up and fails in NDI. Do you think they’re just going to go away? WTCI led to WTCII after all. Importantly, we’re not saying that the fire today is a terrorist thing, but if such an attempt were made in the past, wouldn’t ordinary common sense dictate preparing for a possible NDII – looking at the structure’s ability to deal with fires, and if they were found wanting, to repair, replace, or provide them? Who are the idiots who saw an obvious problem and did precisely nothing to prevent NDII?

Oh yeah Pete?

April 16th, 2019

Pete “Buttigieg is looking into expanding Pell Grants to low-income students, loan forgiveness programs and interest rates to refinance loans.” Oh yeah Pete? We got a Pell Grant, while performing as front-window man at Steve’s Auto-Magic Car Wash when the Senator’s car came in. The windows were spotless after we finished them. You’d think that the Pell Grant for that would be more than a quarter – ha ha. (Actually the Pell Grant in that case was zero.)

A question or two re Pete

April 16th, 2019

This fellow Pete appears extremely articulate out of the gate in this speech. Quite impressive. But fifteen minutes in, the nonsense surfaces big-time. You think you’re watching CNN and MSNBC together at once. At twenty minutes in, the “greatest security issue of our time,” you guessed it: climate change. Do they really believe this crap or is it just on the checklist? We really wonder about that. Hucksters are one thing; too dumb to breathe is quite another. “Our lives are on the line.” Puh-leeze.

To conclude, here’s a love note from the NYT in 2016. And here’s David Horowitz. As usual, two universes that don’t overlap. Bonus fun: Pete wrote a book that got gushing reviews from the usual suspects. Based on the first few minutes of the speech above, we thought it might be interesting. Given the boring PC nonsense fifteen minutes in, it has no purpose but as kindling, and not of the Amazon variety.

First transistor radio

April 16th, 2019

Just in time for My Boomerang Won’t Come Back and Ahab the Arab at recess. Different world.