Kaixin's Daily OpEd
The Wall Street Journal 30/4/2011
China’s One-Child Plan Scrutinized - VIDEO
China's latest census data show the nation's population is aging rapidly. This means a shrinking labor force which could stutter the nation's economic growth. Is it time to revise China's one-child plan?
Kaixin OpEd – Much to Kaixin’s surprise, this is a well-reasoned discussion of the issue as it relates to the latest census in China.
Too often the issue is mired down in emotional arguments that do not consider the whole picture and show very little to no understanding. The issue makes great Mills & Boon fiction, but it is a serious issue that addressed a very real problem in China, overpopulation.
Mao had encouraged large families and to his credit had improved the health conditions in China. These two measures combined led to burgeoning population growth.
The solution went again millennia of tradition in China. It may come as a surprise to many in the ‘west’, but the Chinese people in general understood the problem and they accepted the solution. However you do not wipe a tradition where the male child is a necessary part of maintining the family lineage in an edict.
Also, as Kaixin has often pointed out, there is a vast difference between rural China and urban China.
Many in Rural China, particularly in isolated very poor areas, never really accepted or understood the policy. It is from these areas that the horror stories come from (mostly).
In the poor areas of rural China having a female child was a burden on the family, so a bucket of water was placed beside the birthing bed. Depending on the circumstances of the family, if the baby was a boy it was given a bath, if it was a girl it was drowned.
That is not a result of the one-child policy, it is from millennia of tradition. It is not a feature of modern rural China and it certainly is not a feature of Modern China. It came out of grinding poverty and the need to survive.
That aspect of rural China is changing rapidly and it is hoped that soon the imperative to take such measures will diss-appear forever.
A looming problem associated with the one-child policy is an aging population without enough young people to support them. This it is an issue for the ‘west’ as well as China.
China has the advantage in that it is accruing wealth at an unprecedented rate.
It is moving its economy from one based on unskilled labour to one based on technology. Therefore it will not need such a large unskilled workforce.
China also has a surplus of graduates.
As Rural China benefits from the next 5-year plan, it will need to retain its young people and they will not be available a source of low priced labour.
That is where the change to technology and a large pool of graduates will ensure the transition of the economy.
China cannot suddenly change from the one-child policy to a policy of populate or perish. China is probably on the limits of its environment to cope with the population. Therefore it needs to maintain or even reduce slightly the population.
Beijing has known all this for some time and has been taking steps to ensure the balance between economic growth, social improvements and the environment is maintained.
You may not agree with the politics of how, but it has been effective to date and supported by the majority of the Chinese people who live in China. Ignore any noises from Hong Kong; they still think they are British.
The media in the 'west' like to find a Chinese face and suggest that any comments made by that 'face' represents the voice of the average Chinese people. It does not, it represents the voice of that person only, or a very small group. To understand the full message, you have to know that person's background. Hence, the comment on Hong Kong Chinese. And you really have to peer into the entrails of any Chinese living overseas. They definitely do not speak for the average Chinese.
It would be like the Chinese media finding a diss-satisfied American 'face' living in China who completely opposed the politics, economics and social norms of America and suggesting that any comments made by that 'face' represents the views of middle America.
A Positive Take on China’s Food Safety Scandals
Is China’s latest series of confidence-shattering food scandals an indictment of Beijing’s ability to keep consumers safe, or a sign that health authorities are doing their job?
Kaixin OpEd – This is an issue that is discussed by everyone we speak to in China. They fully support the government initiative to crack down on these practices.
They are a hangover from Old China and a product of rapid economic transformation.
China is now rich enough to deal with these problems.
Bad Tiding in Election for China-Taiwan Ties?
While it would be folly to project a winner at this point in the race, security analyst say one likely outcome of the election, regardless of who wins, is a cool down in China-Taiwan ties.
Kaixin OpEd - …. and we wouldn’t want America’s little aircraft carrier just off the coast of China to sail into the sunset of a united China, now, would we???
Global Times 30/4/2011
Labor strikes do not herald revolution
Some truck drivers in Shanghai went on strike last week to express their discontent over rising costs. The Shanghai municipal government responded by cutting the fees over the weekend and quickly defused the tension. Trucks laden with cargo containers are operating as usual once again at China's busiest port.
This is a typical event with clear labor interests at play. It can be assumed that similar incidents will continue to occur.
Due to the broadening of China's market economy, interests will be further differentiated, and it will become tougher to avoid clashes among various interest groups. Such conflicts will essentially become a normal part of China's social make-up.
Some Western media outlets have paid close attention to the Shanghai strike, and linked it to the "Jasmine Revolution." Over the past months, more than a few Westerners have politicized any mass event in China, and interpreted it as a fuse to spark a "revolution." Nevertheless, such comparisons have consistently proved to be invalid.
Kaixin OpEd – Kaixin heartily agrees.
Kaixin has observed the ‘western’ media try to push, shove and prod the so-labelled ‘Jasmine’ revolution onto China.
It clearly demonstrates both the agenda of the ‘western’ media and the limited understanding of the journalists and editors.
China Daily 30/4/2011
'Human rights overriding sovereignty' only a mask of hegemony
Some Western countries recently have been claiming the "human rights overriding sovereignty" in high-sounding.
However, it is only a public mask for some western clowns to hide their true faces of hegemonism and a public excuse for them to pursue their own national interests and carry out their values behind.
Apparently, they are holding the moral flag for safeguarding the human rights of all people on this planet, but for doing that, they violate other countries' sovereignties optionally, interfere with their internal affairs, overthrow governments in other countries, attack with military forces and even operate "Decapitation Action" to other countries' leaders.
Covering the mask, they act like "preachers of human rights," and issue the so-called Country Reports on Human Rights to criticize the "terrible" situations of human rights in more than 190 countries, excluding themselves.
Using the excuse, they disrespect other countries' laws when on the talk of human rights, and turn the mutual dialogue into single pressing.
Kaixin OpEd – Kaixin has oft likened America to a male teenager.
Full of hormones, aggression and the implacable certainly that in all things it is RIGHT …
Once again, the teenager has jumped into its souped-up V8 Chevy and roared into town scattering people, chickens, dogs and assorted goldfish while loudly proclaiming its views on everything.
“If I’m right, then you can’t be”, seems to be this teenager’s mantra.
Oh well, the 21st century will be interesting indeed.
The New York Times 29/4/2011
Policy or Not, Many Urban Chinese Only Want One Child
BEIJING (Reuters) - For many young Beijing parents, debate about China's restrictive "one-child" policy is far less pressing than the task at hand -- how to afford the cost of bringing up even one child.
Kaixin OpEd – That is the clear message Kaixin is getting from the people we talk to in China. It is driven both by economic imperatives and by lifestyle choice.
Urban China is educated, sophisticated and generally has a high disposable income.
Middle-China is finding out what everyone in Middle-‘West’ has found out. They get squeezed economically, with aspirations and income seldom equating.
As Kaixin has often noted, to understand China you have to understand the vast gulf between rural China and urban China.
Educated Urban China accepted the one-child policy from the beginning and got on with it.
Un(ill)-Educated Rural China clung (and cling) to tradition and has never really accepted the policy. Most of the problems that are associated with the policy originate in rural China. Though from the beginning rural China has been able to have two children.
‘Western’ Kaixin was at first surprised at how rural China was viewed by urban China. In Australia, as in America, we see the rural life as a form of nirvana.
The divide between urban and rural in the ‘west’ is not as wide or deep as in China.
This is mainly due to education and opportunity.
Which is why the focus on rural development in China is so significant, economically and socially.
The New York Times 27/4/2011
A Worry for Beijing That Goes Beyond Cities
In short, China’s vast rural economy, home to more than 700 million people, seems to be doing well.
But urban China is doing much better, and the resulting inequality is a nagging concern for the ruling Communist Party.
In places like the countryside around Zhucheng, that spells a growing risk of flare-ups. A rising tide is lifting all boats for now, but Shi Xiongmin, who leases 50 mu of corn and wheat, hinted at an undercurrent of mutual resentment.
Referring to neighboring farmers who have stuck with their small plots , Mr. Shi said, “They’re very jealous, but they couldn’t make money if they tried.”
Kaixin OpEd – The focus of the next 5-year plan is rural China.
Rural China has been an indirect benefit of government policies for some time.
One central aim of the Communist Party is stability.
This is supported by the Chinese people. They had enough instability in the last century and want some peace and quiet.
Xiaosui argues strongly that stability in China can only be delivered by a strong central government in control. She argues that a multi-party democracy would only lead to instability and a weak China. Which is why most Chinese see the call by America and the ‘west’ for multi-party democracy as a way of de-stabilizing and weakening China.
Remember, Xiaosui and her family coped it in the neck during the Cultural Revolution, so she owes the communist party no favours.
Dissidents, particularly overseas ones, are dismissed as simpletons who are generally only after a PR, a Nobel Prize (and the $mill bucks) or self-promotion.
So the rise and rise of rural China is a happening thing and will help to define China for the first 50 years of the 21st century.
It is not driven by a quivering government in Beijing. It is driven by a pro-active policy to spread more evenly the wealth that China is creating.
See Also for a detailed economic analysis:
Caixin Online - In China, Fear Not Wage Inflation's Impact
A new era of rising wages is dawning in China, but consumption and productivity will minimize the effects
Demands for higher wages have attracted a lot of attention from investors closely watching China's inflation rate. China will soon enter a period of wage inflation, but wage increases will come too quickly.
The Wall Street Journal 27/4/2011
Chinese Billionaire Hasn’t Paid for $80 Million Vase
Remember the heart-warming story of British family that found a valuable Chinese vase in the attic? Well, it hasn’t had a happy ending.
Last year, the U.K. auction house Bainbridges sold a Qing Dynasty vase for more than $80 million–the highest price ever paid at the time for a Chinese antiquity.
Kaixin OpEd – Oh, these tricky Chinese billionaires with links to the communist party.
During the colonial era Britain and Europe stole 1,000’s of art works from all round the world. They looted them by force of arms.
It is an axiom of British Common Law that stolen property remains stolen property and ownership of the property does not pass with possession. Hence, the severe penalties for receiving stolen goods. The owner of those goods can rock up and take them even if you paid someone for them (that someone obviously being either the thief or the receiver).
When items are the spoils of war then other legal niceties come into play.
However the morality does not change.
A vase of that kind can only have come from a Palace and must have been owned by the Emperor. Only the Emperor was allowed to use yellow in Old China.
That is why it commands such a high value.
There are calls from many nations that were the victim of this looting for the stolen items to be returned.
Britain, for all its moral posturing, resists strongly.
All these items should be treated as stolen property and returned to their rightful owners. In this case the Chinese government as representative of the Chinese people.
If it has been the other way round and China had possession of the Crown Jewels, can you imagine the howls of indignation?
“We’re not paying for ém, no bloody way, their ours! Send over the Falkland’s Fleet!
China Daily 27/4/2011
China, Australia ties get trade boost
Wen and Gillard sign deals to increase economic cooperation
BEIJING - China and Australia signed a series of cooperation agreements on Tuesday as Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard attempted to boost ties and smooth over recent spats with China.
Kaixin OpEd – It looks like we’re flavour of the month (Aus Kaixin).
Which raises some questions about where all the money from the decade long and continuing Chinese led resource boom ……….. WENT
Certainly not infrastructure since that is one area where the Chinese are looking to invest.
Australia has been the lucky country since it was able to ride on the sheep’s back for a couple of centuries, then when the sheep became tired, we found all we had to do was dig up our back yard and sell it.
However, we have been less than lucky in our politicians and leaders. An unimaginative, uninspired and somewhat lazy bunch who have been content to let Australia look after itself while they did very little of real benefit for Australia.
So we do not innovate and we have not taken advantage of our unique location to Asia, except to reduce the freight for resources shipped into Asia.
Still, we have a bloody big backyard, so “she’ll be right mate.”
The Diplomat 26/4/2011
Bo Xilai has a reputation as a rising political rock star. But do his ‘Red Culture’ policies in Chongqing really offer a viable model for China?
But the significance of Chongqing runs much deeper than socialist gimmicks—Bo has tried to rewrite the social contract of Chongqing with an attack on economic inequality, an expansion of the state role in the economy, and political moves taken straight from Mao Zedong’s playbook.
Kaixin OpEd – Stasis is the death of reform.
Political philosophy in the ‘west’ has changed and evolved continuously.
This is what China is doing.
The China of today is not the China of the 1960’s. The China of tomorrow will not be the China of 2011.
Surely it is healthy that China questions and debates the philosophy that guides its politics.
What is wrong with trying to balance economic equality with economic growth?
Socialism has not worked to date, but is that a reason to give up and stop working on a philosophy that tries to make it fair for all?
'The Chongqing model has been hailed by New Left thinkers as a bona-fide example of home-grown political reform—proof that China can improve its government without copying foreign models. Yet Bo, the son of revolutionary elder Bo Yibo, is an unlikely Maoist. He spent much of the Cultural Revolution in prison when his father fell out of favour, and is noted for his own lavish lifestyle, sending his son Bo Guagua to England’s exclusive Harrow school and Oxford University.'
Xiaosui spent much of the Cultural Revolution in prison with her family. She has moved on and is fiercely proud of this New China and supports the Communist Party (of which she is not a member).
Xiaosui simply says that the China of today has moved on and you can't cling to the past.
As noted above, stasis is the death of reform.
Oh, and she does not pretend that all is perfect in China, just that China is moving forward. Maybe not as the 'west' would wish, but as the majority of Chinese are happy with.
The Wall Street Journal 26/4/2011
Great China Debate Continues: How Fast, How Long?
Three Morgan Stanley analysts are the latest to weigh in on an old question that has lately resurfaced among China-watching economists: How much longer can China continue to grow at a 10% a year and provide a rocket-ship-sized engine of growth for a sputtering world economy?
Not much longer, say the three, but the deceleration will be slight, to an 8% annual growth rate through 2020. That would be a growth record that nearly any country would envy.
China optimists and pessimists agree on certain propositions:
Kaixin OpEd – Hmmmm, Kaixin is unsure of the economics but it sure that all this pondering and peering into the entrails of something dead (probably ‘western’ economics) is perhaps a little premature.
Yes, 10% growth is a new phenomenon, but then again, so is the New China.
Kaixin watches daily as China diversifies its international markets and sources of raw materials. Kaixin watches daily as China snaps up the Bonds of struggling European democracies who pigged out on GREED, egged on and supported by their democratic electorates.
As every economist knows, if you have a tight grip on a country’s B … Bonds, you control the country.
Kaixin watches as Rural China is unlocked.
Kaixin watches as China pushes its education system to innovate.
As Kaixin is fond of ‘saying’, 30 years is but a sneeze for a Dragon.
See Kaixin's - ECONOMIC CHINA
Shanghai Truckers' Strikes Fizzle Out
SHANGHAI—Strikes by truckers around Shanghai's large container handling ports fizzled out Monday as authorities pledged new relief in the government's latest effort to suppress the pain of inflation.
Kaixin OpEd – Large scale strike, peaceful protest, Government listens.
The cynics will view it negatively, Kaixin views it positively.
The cynics will say that the Government has conned the workers. Kaixin will ask them to look closely at how the Governments in the ‘west’ handle labour disputes and what they promise as opposed to what they deliver.
Probably not much difference ...
Why China Struggles with Food Safety
Ink, dye, bleach, wax and toxic chemicals: These are just a few of the substances that have been found recently in food products in China, reigniting fears over food safety despite repeated government pledges to crack down on tainted eats.
Why is China having such trouble making its food safe?
Kaixin OpEd – It is about farmers and manufacturers trying to make a buck and bureaucratic oversight, which is far from an exact science in China, and prone to little red envelopes.
Combined, it is a large and complex hydra that Beijing is trying to tame. As the article notes, it will take some time.
China Daily 26/4/2011
'New funds considered' to protect reserves
Move aims to reduce threat of exposure to US debt and inflation
BEIJING - The central bank is planning new investment funds to diversify holdings in the nation's $3 trillion foreign exchange reserves, to hedge against depreciation and inflation risks, according to a news report.
The proposed funds will invest some of the foreign reserves in energy and precious metal markets, the New Century Weekly said on Monday, citing unnamed sources close to the People's Bank of China.
Kaixin OpEd – The difference between America addressing its economic woes and China addressing its economic woes, is that China has money in the bank. America just keeps on counterfeiting more and more $US’s, thus exacerbating the problem.
Note to America, true economic wealth comes from hard work and thrift. Not from Wall St ponzi schemes or a Central Bank bereft of ideas.
See Caixin, below, for an informed analysis by Andy Xie.
See Kaixin's - ECONOMIC CHINA
As Inflation Surges, Central Banks Run Amok
By Andy Xie
Super heroes for the world economy they're not, as the Federal Reserve's inflation-stoking policies prove
Inflation is rising around the world, and none of the major central banks have shown serious interest in containing it. To prosper now, under these inflationary conditions, one needs thick skin.
An alternative explanation is that Bernanke is playing a game against China and he intends to win. In other words, he is patriotic. China's monetary policy amplifies the Fed's policy impact on inflation due to its currency linkage to the dollar. In such a dynamic, China has a far more serious inflation problem. Hence, it could see a hard landing before inflation becomes a serious political problem in the United States.
So the Fed's policy is, at best, designed to buy time. I'm afraid it's mainly aimed at helping vested interest groups saddled with debt. Negative real interest rates can save them by giving them more time. The sad truth, though, is that many of these people should go to jail. The United States needs a jasmine revolution.
Kaixin OpEd - An insightful analysis
The Age 26/4/2011
Gillard honoured the 32 Australian soldiers who lost their lives at Kapyong but didn't say a word about more than 300 Chinese who lost theirs.
If the cause of common humanity is not enough to prompt a more broadminded view of a tragic war, then crude economics and national interest should.
Kaixin OpEd – What a pejorative headline.
It has been interesting watching young John find his feet in China.
At first he seemed to understand China a little, then he was obviously told by his editor that positive stories about China do not sell newspapers and will do his career no good at all.
Though the two paragraphs quoted show that there is a glimmer of journalistic integrity in there somewhere.
So young John skates along the surface and churns out the familiar ‘western’ xenophobia.
Kaixin knows young John has a brain and is capable of understanding the complexities of China.
Still, I suppose he has to make a living.
Oh, and Julia Dillard ….. what an embarrassment.
The New York Times 25/4/2011
China Detains Church Members at Easter Services
BEIJING — The authorities stepped up a three-week campaign against an underground Christian church on Sunday, detaining hundreds of congregants in their homes and taking at least 36 others into custody after they tried to hold Easter services in a public square, church members and officials said.
Kaixin Oped – Jeez, lots of buttons being pressed here.
Easter time and Christians being martyred by those heathen Chinese.
Kaixin made two observations in recent OpEds:
The first was that it was possible to hold a protest gathering in China.
The second, that both the ‘west’ and China had a way to go before they understood each other.
The caveat to the first is that Beijing will not tolerate what it considers to be a challenge to its power.
The reason for this is that Beijing considers that a threat to its power is a threat to stability in China. Most Chinese support this stance and are content to let such things a democracy evolve at its own pace. Kaixin has often opined that the people’s voice is being heard more and more in China and that ‘democracy’ in China will come from the people and be of China, not the ‘west’. Democracy cannot be stamped on a country; it must evolve and be of the country for it to be strong. This takes time and sacrifice. It has its advances and its setbacks. However, logically, democracy must come because it is the will of the people.
At this time in history, after 300 years of being kicked about by colonialist GB and Europe, after the turbulence of the first half of the 20th century, after being raped by Japan (Kaixin wonders if America ever considered this when it took Japan under its wing, bit ironic really given America’s Christian heritage), after the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese people just want stability and peace & quiet. Hence, America running around and yapping at its ankles is bloody irritating. Particularly since this annoying little terrier could morph into a savage Rottweiler at any time.
Hence, the Falun Gong being banned. The Falun Gong started off as a non-threatening gathering of people doing ‘tie-chee’ (my spelling) exercises in the park. Then the bloke who kicked it all off got an Emperor Complex and started to make a nuisance of himself and his, by now, substantial movement. So Beijing cracked down. The ‘west’ of course picked him up, dusted him off and took him around in a circus wagon to show how evil the Chinese were.
The second observation is well illustrated by how Beijing has handled this issue.
The reason it is cracking down is that it does not want a repeat of the Falun Gong. This evangelical group are getting too visible and too vocal. If you consider how China was treated by the Church during the colonial era, you can understand Beijing’s suspicion. Christianity is not banned, large congregations of people are. It is Christianity that has to show it is benign, give its history in China, not Beijing that has to pander to this ‘western’ religion.
‘The church, Shouwang, or Lighthouse, an evangelical Protestant congregation that was evicted from its rented quarters this month, has been at loggerheads with the government since announcing plans to gather outdoors rather than disband or return to worshiping in private homes. The authorities have repeatedly stymied Shouwang’s efforts to lease or buy space for its 1,000-member congregation, one of the largest and most prominent so-called house churches in the capital.’
Evangelical Christians have a habit of stepping on toes given their absolute belief in their mission.
However, Beijing showed little understanding of the ‘west’ when it cracked down on this congregation at Easter.
Not that the Shouwang did not plan this. They would have known Beijing’s response to their gathering, and how the ‘western’ media would pick it up.
For Beijing to respond as planned at Easter was asking for trouble.
The ‘west’ does not understand Chinese New Year, Beijing obviously does not understand Easter.
In Kaixin’s opinion, Beijing should have let the Shouwang have their service. Photos should have been taken, the ‘western’ press invited and this service held up as an example of Beijing’s tolerance to all religions.
After all, that is how the ‘west’ does it.
The dispersal of the congregation could have been done quietly at a later date.
Before the cries of outrage, consider that the Christianity is not banned; the people are free to believe what they will and are free to worship. However, they are not free to do it in large gatherings.
So, Kaixin puts it to you, what is the problem with small gatherings in homes. It is still worship, but it does not have any political overtones. Kaixin thinks God would approve.
“Render unto Ceasar …”
Global Times 23/4/2011
Authorities tight-lipped over Confucius statue removal
Speculation has been rife over the reasons for the overnight disappearance of a 9.5-meter-high bronze statue of Confucius located in front of the National Museum of China near Tiananmen Square Wednesday.
A Global Times reporter found only a deep pit surrounded by construction screens Thursday where the statue had stood.
"It was still there Thursday evening when I got off duty," a security guard at the museum told the Global Times Thursday on condition of anonymity. "But it was gone this morning." Another guard said the same thing, but neither was able to say why the 17-ton bronze sculpture had been removed or to where.
The statue was erected in front of the north gate of the National Museum of China on January 10.
"The statue was designed as a monument to display the characteristics of traditional Chinese culture," its designer Wu Weishan told the Beijing Daily in January.
Wu also claimed his work "blends in well with" the Russian style square, according to the newspaper.
The museum head Lü Zhangshen told the Yangcheng Evening News on March 9 that the statue had nothing to do with politics, but was intended to be a cultural icon.
"The great museums in Western countries usually have statues in front of their entrances," Lü said, adding that the Chinese museum should have one too.
Kaixin OpEd – Kaixin is vastly disappointed.
Kaixin believed that the statue represented a connection with all the philosophies that guided China, not just Confucianism.
Mao had tried to wipe Confucius from history.
So it seemed apt that the two would eye each other off over the square.
Kaixin also believed that China in general and the youth in particular needed a guiding philosophy, other than capitalism (greed is good), to guide them.
If the statue has been removed with the sanction of the government, then it tells clearly that in the governments opinion Confucius has nothing to contribute to modern China.
The reason Mao wanted to wipe Confucius from history was that it represented the old China.
Yet Kaixin believes that Confucius can be applied to modern China and used as the basis for a guiding philosophy that fosters respect for elders, respect for family (both small and large), respect for wisdom and respect for learning.
In Kaixin’s understanding, Confucianism had become rigid and constraining in old China and those elements had to be addressed, a little like the to and fro of great religions in the ‘west’.
Kaixin awaits with interest further developments.
The Wall Street Journal 23/4/2011
BEIJING—Chinese Internet users are finding inventive ways to bypass Internet controls, as Beijing intensifies its efforts to stifle political dissent online, especially on popular microblogging sites.
Web censors have worked hard to delete almost every reference to dozens of dissidents, including artist-activist Ai Weiwei, who have been detained since appeals for a "Jasmine Revolution" in China began circulating in mid-February. They also have stepped up efforts to prevent access to virtual private networks and proxy servers that wealthier, more tech-savvy urbanites use to access Twitter, YouTube and other sites blocked in China.
But as fast as the government blocks words, ...
Kaixin OpEd – As Kaixin has oft pointed out, if you want to know in China, you know.
If you want to get around the censors you do what you do in the ‘west’, you ask a passing 3 year old.
The Wall Street Journal 22/4/2011
Chinese Truckers Protest Over Costs
SHANGHAI—At least hundreds of truckers held protests over rising costs in China's commercial metropolis, prompting a police response and illustrating the potential for inflation to fuel unrest in the world's No. 2 economy.
Kaixin OpEd - As Kaixin has pointed out before, and will undoubtedly do so again, this is a tussle between Command and Control v Free Market Capitalism.
In the ‘west’ the tussle between capital and labour evolved over 300 years or so, and it is still evolving.
This is similar.
The truck drivers have been caught in the capitalist squeeze of rising prices and fixed returns for their labour/enterprise.
Part of the problem is the American central bank spewing out $US’s to pay for everything without having to work.
China has to pay more for commodities in a world market awash with counterfeit $US’s.
Within China the unskilled worker is finally gaining industrial power and demanding a larger share of the pie.
The middle class in China have become very wealthy indeed, and a lot of yuan are chasing limited goods.
Plus, plus, plus …
Hence, the tussles.
As Kaixin has also pointed out, China is evolving a new form of economics for the 21st century, Economics Yi Ling Yi.
Gallup: Chinese People See Themselves Struggling
The Gallup results are also surprising because they clash with Pew Research’s Global Attitudes survey, which finds Chinese people feeling significantly more optimistic about their lives.
Kaixin OpEd – Long gone are the secure days of the ‘Iron Rice Bowl’.
It has been replaced with capitalist concepts of individual wealth and the devil take the hindmost, rather than collective wealth.
The concept of collective wealth was embraced by the Chinese people in 1949 and they marched with enthusiasm into the 1950’s.
Only to have their idealism and hard work perverted and dissipated by Mao’s extreme miss-management.
Could a socialist system have worked if that enthusiasm had been well directed and encouraged?
Graeme, who did not experience the China of the Cultural Revolution, ponders and wonders if it could.
Xiaosui who did experience the Cultural Revolution and the disillusionment of the Chinese people is sure that it cannot.
What will Capitalism with Chinese characteristics look like by the end of the 21st century?
China Battles Drunk Drivers
Despite already having tough laws against drunk driving, China’s leaders are now considering whether to make the penalty for drinking and driving even stiffer.
Kaixin OpEd – This issue is inextricably linked to power and politics.
If you know someone high enough up then a simple phone call sends the police officer on his way.
If you kill someone then the penalty seems to be significantly reduced if you have power.
This has to change.
It cannot do so until the judiciary is independent and well paid.
The Wall Street Journal 23/4/2011
Chinese student sentenced to death over murder
XI'AN, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Yao Jiaxin, a university student who murdered a young mother after accidentally running into her with his car in October 2010, was sentenced to death on Friday by a court in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.x Yao, 21, a student at the Xi'an Conservatory of Music, ran into cyclist Zhang Miao while driving his Chevrolet Cruze at around 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 20 last year. Fearing that Zhang would remember his license plate number and cause trouble for him, he stabbed her to death, according to the Intermediate People's Court of Xi'an.
The court also handed down a life-long revocation of Yao's political rights in Friday's first instance judgment and ordered Yao to pay 45,498.50 yuan (about 6,983 U.S. dollars) in compensation to Zhang's family.
Kaixin OpEd – ‘Western’ Kaixin, Graeme (who has studied law) has always been opposed to the death penalty. Law is not an exact science and with the possibility for error ever present, the death penalty left no room for further evidence.
The other reason was that, in my opinion, it bought the State down to the level of the murderer.
Yet, in a clear-cut and brutal case such as this, I wavered.
Is there room for the death penalty in such case?
The simple answer is ‘yes’.
However, when the death penalty is on the statue books the first reason for my opposition becomes relevant.
On the newspaper reports, this is a clear-cut case.
We then go to the second reason for my opposition. One that is much harder to reconcile in this particular case.
Have I taken myself down to his level when I call for his State sanctioned murder?
So, reluctantly in this case, I consider my original opposition to the death penalty.
The penalty for this crime, in my opinion, should be a life long prison sentence. In effect, banishment from society for the term of his natural life.
Not from pity or some notion of human rights. I strongly feel that he violated the young woman’s most fundamental human right.
No, it is because I, and the State, must be above this primeval instinct for vengeance.
Yes, there is a cost to society to keep this piece of excrement in jail, but that is the price we pay as a civilized society.
One that I am prepared to pay here in Australia, one that all countries should be prepared to pay.
The trouble with my solution, jail for the term of his natural life, is that the do-gooders start baying for his release. I do not support that under any circumstances. He forfeited his right to live in society when he murdered the young woman.
Xiaosui points out that my argument is not grounded in reality.
The reality is that people are let out of jail and it is not a deterrent. Therefore society is not protected from these people. Therefore the human right of someone to live will inevitably be taken away if the law is not strong enough.
This means that society has to accept that some innocent people will be caught up.
I therefore accept Xiaosui’s argument. It is all very well to be noble and idealistic, however society as a whole is entitled to feel safe, it is societies' human right.
The Wall Street Journal 21/4/2011
Security Solution for China’s Rich: Emigrate
As people from around the globe flood into China in search of riches, more than 50% of China’s rich are considering leaving the country.
Kaixin OpEd – Xiaosui told me this morning that the news in China last night had a story about how the Chinese Government (Beijing) is looking to address two problems in respect to its citizens living abroad and looking to emigrate.
The first problem is highlighted by the WSJ article. The rich and the upper middle class in China are wealthy enough to be able to purchase an overseas visa. $500,000 is well within reach for many. This is a segment of society that has both contributed to and benefited from the rise and rise of China in the last thirty years.
Most are in their early fifties and have four things on their mind:
The first is retiring. They have worked very hard to get where they are and they are getting tired. They want to hand on the baton.
The second is their child. They want to ensure a safe and comfortable life for their child. They are the parents of the first generation of the one-child policy. This means they have a lot of money to ensure the happiness and well-being of that child.
The third is how to retain their wealth. This is both and investment problem and a trust issue related to the fourth item.
The fourth is the Cultural Revolution. This generation grew up during the Cultural Revolution. They experienced a government that could change the rules at whim. There is still some way to go before the government in China overcomes that inherent miss-trust and suspicion.
The solution to all four is thought by many to be a move overseas.
Fresh air and freedom.
Fresh water and secure wealth.
However, many are finding that living overseas in a strange and new culture is not the nirvana they dreamed of.
Many who have moved overseas pine for China.
If they feel they can trust the government, with their wealth and with their freedoms, they will willingly move back to China.
The second problem is attracting students back to China who have been educated overseas.
Their parents are from the families described above. Famillies who can afford to have their children educated overseas.
Many of these children want to return to China. However to do so, they must first convince their parents that it is safe (see issue four above) and second they need a job.
Beijing has recognised all this and is implementing laws and policies to either attract these people back to China, or encourage them to stay in China.
One major political reform has been in place since the early 1980’s, a fixed four year term for the President. Deng wanted to ensure that another Mao could not cling to power. Hence the enforced transition of power now taking place.
Many in the ‘west’, including western Kaixin before he met Xiaosui, are not aware of this and believe that another Mao is hovering in the wings.
Over the last thirty years the voice of the Chinese people has become louder and louder. It is still a long way from a clarion call, but it does mean the government has to listen to the people now, unlike in the Mao era.
It is possible, but unlikely that Beijing can still ride roughshod over the Chinese people.
Kaixin is often bemused by the insistent calls for democracy for China and in particular the comment that the Communist Party has only been driven by a desire to cling to power. It appears the ‘west’; America in particular, believes that multi-party democracy will somehow change things for the better in China.
Indeed there is an article on this very theme just penned recently.
Does it matter if the Communist Party in China works for the Chinese people to retain power, rather than some ‘pure’ altruistic reason implied by the commentators in the ‘west’.
Kaixin wonders what is the difference between the major parties in the ‘western’ democracies and the communist party.
The major parties in the ‘west’ do everything they can to cling to power, and Kaixin can detect no altruistic reason behind it. Indeed many ‘western’ countries have been sent broke in the GFC by a major party spending far more money than the country had to cling to power.
Many people in the ‘west’ comment on the fact that there is little difference between the major parties, and bemoan the lack of real choice at an election.
It is Kaixin’s opinion that democracy has become a sop to the people and has long since lost its real purpose in the ‘west’.
We vote, but the same people/type of people retain power it seems.
The major difference is that the Chinese people as a whole do not go to an election every few years to pass judgment on their leaders.
This, in Kaixin’s opinion, has its good side.
In the ‘west’ we see the un-edifying spectacle of the major parties holding an auction before each election, trying to buy our votes. We have become very cynical of this exercise in political expediency.
At least Beijing can concentrate on governing the country and not be distracted by having to buy votes to stay in power.
This is why the four-year term in China is so important. If you have good leadership, one party rule can be very beneficial, if you have bad leadership then you can well have another Cultural Revolution era.
To rise to the top in Chinese politics you have to have real talent now. As a princeling you can get a good leg-up, but you will not rise very far unless you have talent.
You have to secure the support of many people and convince them to vote for you.
Isn’t that just micro-democracy?
How do politicians in the ‘west’ get to power? In the majority of cases they gain the support of enough people in the local party branch to gain pre-selection. Once pre-selected, election is almost assured in a safe seat.
If you have real talent, the party will find a safe seat for you.
Yes, there is still more checks and balances in the ‘western’ system, but it is not so different.
Still, for all that, the Communist Party in China has real power.
In particular the lack of the separation of powers in China is of concern if abuses of power are to be curbed.
So the Communist Party has a way to go to convince its people that it is benign. The parents in their fifties still remember the dark days and for most they do not want to see them return, or be around if they do.
Some however had a great time during the Cultural Revolution, the children of politicians, officials or army officers. They got to lord it over everyone and could inflict real harm by running to daddy.
They certainly would like to see a return of the old days. However, fortunately, they are a minority and the voice of the Chinese people will drown out their bleats ……… Kaixin hopes (see point four above).
The Wall Street Journal 20/4/2011
China Responds Cautiously to U.S. Debt Move
BEIJING—China called on Washington to adopt "responsible" measures to protect its bond holders, in a cautiously worded response to Standard & Poor's decision to lower its outlook on U.S. government debt that reflects Beijing's awkward position as America's biggest creditor.
China has "taken note" of S&P's move, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on the ministry's website late Tuesday. "U.S. government debt is a reflection of the U.S. government's credit, and is an important investment product for institutional investors in the U.S. and internationally," he said. "We hope the U.S. government earnestly adopts responsible policies and measures to protect the ...
Kaixin OpEd – Given Washington’s track record to date, the world community will have to drag it kicking and screaming to the table of responsible economics.
America has systematically abused its responsibilities as the caretaker of the world’s reserve currency, ending in an orgy of self-interest that created the GFC.
Giving the young America those responsibilities was like giving a supercharged V8 to a young teenage male …. with the inevitable results.
The young teenager was able to buy all the toys and weapons it liked and use them to ride roughshod over the world.
There was no-one to stand up to this over-hormoned teenager.
Now China, and the nations that make up BRICS, are gaining enough power to reign in the rampant teenager who has become drunk on power.
Kaixin just last week received an email from one such American who showed a breathtaking ignorance and aggression. He berated Kaixin for taking China’s side, which Kaixin undoubtedly does. However, this particular OpEd simply suggested that Economics was not a science, it was an art, and in the 21st century it will be interesting to see if China will evolve a new economics.
His email suggested that Kaixin would not be so pro-China if we spent some time in Chinese prisons.
I (Graeme) replied that is what Xiaosui’s family did spend a lot of time in prison during the Cultural Revolution. Xiaosui has seen the worst of China. She also lived in China as it transformed itself after Deng Xiaoping took the reigns in the late 1970’s (after Mao’s death in 1976).
Xiaosui has moved on. The China of the 21st century is not the China of the Mao era.
There are many problems to be addressed, but it is not the grey China of the 1960’s.
Kaixin suggested that he had shown a profound ignorance.
Kaixin was upset, so I suggested that it is a pity that such ignorant people are in control of such a powerful country.
His reply to that was very abusive.
Perhaps I should not have used the term ignorant and tried to argue the point. However it does highlight a tendency of some Americans to be aggressive and inward looking.
That certainly does not describe all Americans.
However, the ‘west’, America in particular, has a long way to go before it reaches out the hand of friendship to China, rather than the hand of avarice.
China has some way to go before it understands the ‘west’ and shows it’s growing power is not the be feared.
Kaixin tries to be a drop in the ocean in that process.
The New York Times 20/4/2011
Trial of Defense Lawyer Opens in China
BEIJING — In a case that has galvanized lawyers across China and provided a window into how the next generation of leaders may view the country’s fragile legal system, a defense lawyer went on trial Tuesday charged with fabricating testimony in favor of his client.
Kaixin OpEd – Kaixin has found that these stories are seldom as reported in the ‘western’ media.
The media in the ‘west’ always put a negative spin on the story, and always manage to dig up an activist or an international watch organisation to pour a little petrol on the fire.
There is still much wrong with the legal system in China, and this story may well be true in the bare details. However, Kaixin suspects there is much more to it under the surface.
The central government in Beijing is trying to manage the problem of corruption in China. However an edict in Beijing becomes a suggestion in regional China and can be circumvented if the official is amenable.
Chongqing (which is a long way from Beijing) has been notorious for the corruption in the officials and organised crime. If the lawyer has a track record of defending organised crime figures and corrupt officials, then he would be in the sights of Beijing.
China’s legal system is evolving and has a long way to go before it becomes above politics.
However, there is a will to improve the system both within Beijing and within the legal community. However, there are many toes to be stepped on before an open and transparent system can be achieved.
The China Daily Report:
China Daily - Beijing lawyer stands trial on additional charges
CHONGQING - Beijing lawyer Li Zhuang stood trial on Tuesday in a court in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality on additional charges of falsifying evidence and jeopardizing testimony.
Global Times - Imprisoned lawyer back in court
Public debate over the condition of the country's legal system reached a crescendo on Tuesday at the onset of a new trial for an already imprisoned former lawyer.
Li Zhuang, a disbarred former criminal defense lawyer, attended his hearing on Tuesday at the Chongqing Jiangbei People's Court, facing new charges of fraud and inciting others to bear false witness.
Kaixin OpEd – See the New York Times report, below, and the China Daily report, above.
Note that it is being widely discussed and debated within China.
The Wall Street Journal 23/4/2011
China Drops Charges Against Lawyer
BEIJING—Chinese authorities dropped the prosecution of a prominent defense lawyer days after releasing two other detained attorneys, in an apparent attempt to deflect criticism of a crackdown on dissent ahead of human-rights talks with U.S. officials in Beijing next week.
The Wall Street Journal 19/4/2011
Shell Shock: Chinese Demand Reshapes U.S. Pecan Business
Pecans are as all-American as anything can be. Washington and Jefferson grew them. They are the state nut of Arkansas, Alabama and Texas. The U.S. grows about two-thirds of the world's pecans and chews most of them itself.
For generations, pecan prices have fallen with bumper crops and soared with lousy ones. But lately, they've only been going up. A pound of pecans in the shell fetched $2.14 on average last year, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture, nearly double what they brought three years earlier.
The reason: The Chinese want our nuts.
Kaixin OpEd – Stop laughing, this is serious.
Perhaps the headline should have been ‘The Canary in the Cage!’
From the news yesterdy: Global food crisis "one shock away", says World Bank chief
It is not just a simple as pointing the finger at China or any one nation, it is a global problem …..
There is simply not enough food being produced for it to be available at a reasonable price to everyone in the world.
So, inevitably, in our capitalist world, the food will go to those who can afford to pay the most for it.
Bring in population growth, bring in the rising wealth of the BRICS nations and you have a looming problem.
Bring in one major environmental disaster and you have a world crisis.
cheap, cheap …… cheap!!!
Though, cheap is not what the price of food will be.
Age: Global food crisis "one shock away", says World Bank chief
The global economy is “one shock away” from a crisis in food supplies and prices, says World Bank President Robert Zoellick.
Yuan's Role in China Trade Grows Quickly
BEIJING—About 7% of China's foreign trade in the first quarter was done in transactions denominated in yuan, up from 0.5% a year earlier, illustrating the Chinese currency's rapidly growing—though still small—international role.
Kaixin OpEd – Perhaps America should ponder that there would be no real demand for the Yuan if America had shown integrity in its role as the guardian of the world’s reserve currency.
Instead, from the time the $US was de-linked from gold in the early 1970’s, America has systematically debased its real value, and printed it at will to pay for its military.
Regan used the printing presses to defeat the USSR who could print their own money but easily not use it in the world.
Whether the defeat of the USSR was a good thing, or not, will be decided by history, it is far too soon to tell.
Then in 1987 Greenspan opened the printing presses to full speed and miss-priced the $$$’s spewing out.
Every financial crisis was met with the same response, more $$$’s and lower interest rates …… until the ultimate economic lunacy, a flood of $$$’s and 0 interest rates.
The world could only look on and take cover.
Kaixin almost cried with laughter this morning (well, I think it was laughter, it was hard to tell, perhaps there was a touch of hysteria).
Standard and Poors threatened to downgrade America’s credit rating.
Not once leading up to the GFC did they blink. Subprime debt was given AAAAAAAAA+++++++++ ratings and flogged to the world. Not once did they blink.
Now, when America is just struggling to its feet (with a long way to go) they downgrade its credit rating.
The economists at Standard and Poors have a grip on something, but it is not reality.
Geithner says with confidence that Congress will lift the debt ceiling.
And how do you think America will pay off its debt …. you guessed it! Print more and more of those $$$$$’s.
No wonder the world is eyeing off alternatives, in particular the BRICS.
Which country came out of the GFC with money in the bank and with the capacity to nurse its country through the crisis using money, not debt?
Which country will become a leading economy in the 21st centre?
The Yuan is looking better and better, while at the same time the $US is looking worse and worse.
Caveat: America is a great country with enormous potential. It will get through all this by going back to the basics of hard work and thrift …. just as soon as the American people take away the power from the spivs on Wall St and take back control of their democracy.
The Age 19/4/2011
It's the season for price-fixing chastity
Investors and central bankers may be fretting about Chinese inflation spilling into global markets but Beijing officials are relaxing into their evenings with bottles of fixed-priced baijiu. The China National Liquor Association was one of 24 industry associations that last week ordered its members to "stabilise" prices.
Kaixin OpEd – Kaixin will watch with interest this tussle in China between Free Market and Command & Control.
Mounting US debt a fast-growing risk to China
US TREASURY Secretary Timothy Geithner has it backwards. The real question is whether Beijing is willing to double down on a nation whose balance sheet makes Italy look good. Holding $US1.2 trillion of US debt is a fast-growing risk to China. Traders have a theory about why the euro is reasonably stable amid a broadening debt crisis: Asian central banks are converting proceeds from recent intervention moves into other currencies. ''Asian central banks'' has become a euphemism for China, whose reserves now exceed $US3 trillion.
Kaixin OpEd – This is an issue that Beijing is well aware of, Kaixin is sure.
Well, if we all know about it, then it is probable Beijing has an inkling …
America is till the largest global economy and still the most powerful country on this planet.
America has an enormous capacity.
America will not go broke.
During the first half (probably the first quarter) of the 21st century there will be adjustments and glitches, but America will survive, of course, and continue to be a major world economy.
However, it is unlikely that America will retain the dominance it had in the second half of the 20th century.
It will have to share the stage with BRICS, Europe, Africa.
This, in Kaixin’s opinion, is a good thing.
One dominant power is a bad thing.
Xinhua News 16/4/2011
College graduates-turned-village cadres urged to better serve rural people
NANJING, April 15 (Xinhua) -- A senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has encouraged college graduates serving as village cadres to devote themselves to rural prosperity.
Li Yuanchao, head of the Organizational Department of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks in a letter of congratulations for the publication of a special newspaper for college graduates-turned village cadres.
Over 200,000 college graduates are currently working as village officials across the country. Li, a member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, applauded their active service to agricultural development and rural people's prosperity.
Kaixin OpEd – The growing numbers of Graduates in China is an untapped resource.
Many cannot be gainfully employed in the cities, so China is now deploying them to the rural areas.
This will help the current economic strategy of developing rural China, which will in turn boost domestic consumption.
The New York Times 15/4/2011
For Many Chinese Men, No Deed Means No Dates
Last year, he said, this deficiency prompted a high-end dating agency to reject his application. In recent months, half a dozen women have turned down a second meeting after learning that he had no means to buy a home. “Sometimes I wonder if I will ever find a wife,” said Mr. Wang, who lives with his parents, retired factory workers who remind him of his single status with nagging regularity. “I feel like a loser.”
A billboard promoting real estate in Beijing. Amid a real estate boom, men are finding themselves lovelorn as women hold out for a mate with property.
Kaixin OpEd – Not too far off the mark.
Many women in China are indeed putting a high price on their favours.
Not all, but a reasonable proportion, enough to notice.
Three years ago we met a young male taxi driver, around twenty-eight, who bemoaned the fact that he could not find a girlfriend. Girls in Nanning at the time had sent the benchmark at 3,000 yuan a month and he only made a little over 1,000 a month.
Also, young women tend to be well educated and independent and are not all that interested in losing that independence.
Still, Kaixin believes that you can’t get rid of love that easily.
Money might buy a lot of things but love and happiness are not two of them.
See Kaixin's - Marriage in China: Ancient & Modern
The Wall Street Journal 15/4/2011
China Struggles With English
Mandarin lessons may be the trend in the West, but the push in China is to study English.
Now, two language-teaching companies have given China poor marks for its English abilities.
Kaixin OpEd – This is where, I, western Kaixin (Graeme) am somewhat of an expert.
Neither Xiaosui or her son could speak English when I met them. They are now both fluent and more than functionally proficient.
I lack the time or the need to become fluent in Chinese, however I am reasonably proficient. I have the foundation to be speaking functionally within six months when we go to live in China, after her son finishes university.
Xiaosui studied some basic English at school and then at university. That meant she had some foundation to build on when I met her. She had never spoken English, and had no need to speak English, which is why she could not speak it when I met her.
Other Chinese friends or hers, of a similar age living in Australia, who did not study English are finding it very difficult as they have no foundation to build on.
Xiaosui’s son was learning English at primary school when I first met him. He had studied it quite intensively for years but could not speak it. He had not need to and no real opportunity. He was not a diligent student with me, but he was thrown in the deep end when we moved to Australia. We speak English at home. He is now fluent. He has many friends who are Chinese and who do not try to use English, preferring to mix with other Chinese students. Hence, their English is very poor.
The point of all the above, is that China is laying the foundation for all its young people to be able to speak English.
Those that need to will quickly be able to build on that foundation.
Those that don’t, won’t.
For the last thirty years it has been important for Chinese people to learn English.
Kaixin believes that the 21st century will be China’s century.
So learning Chinese is not so silly.
FYI – there are two main languages in China: Mandarin (pu tong hua, common language) and Cantonese.
Mandarin is now the common language and is the best one to learn.
Cantonese is from the south (and is spoken in Hong Kong). Most of the early emigrants from China came from the south, and spoke Cantonese. Hence, many words that are now in the English language, came from Cantonese, not Mandarin.
See Kaixin’s - Learn how to Speak & Write Chinese
The Wall Street Journal 14/4/2011
Industry Associations Back China's Inflation Program
BEIJING—Twenty-four industry associations in China pledged Wednesday to practice pricing restraint, a sign that pressuring private companies continues to be one of Beijing's inflation-fighting methods.
See Kaixin's - ECONOMIC CHINA
Kaixin OpEd – Economics is not a science, as the economists of the world would have us believe, it is at best an art.
You only have to look back over the 20th century to see the convolutions, changes, distortions and complete failures of economics.
Nobel prize winning theories crashing and burning at regular intervals, like Sopwith Fighters in WWI.
And that arch practitioner of the dark art, Greenspan, stirring the slurry and causing the GFC at the beginning of the 21st century, as if to prove it is all bunkum.
Hence, Kaixin will be interested to see the economics that China will evolve in the 21st century.
At the moment it is a tussle between command and control and free market theories.
Kaixin suspects that out of it will come a new economics, Economics Yi Ling Yi.
Economics with Chinese characteristics ...
From the opinion pages: Exiled Tiananmen Square student leader Wang Dan argues that Ai Weiwei’s detention shows the brutality of what he calls the “party of princelings.”
The arrest of artist Ai Weiwei was ordered at the highest levels, and it suggests that a new dark era has begun.
A year ago I was asked my opinion on the anointment of Xi Jinping as vice president and leader of the "party of princelings," as the new generation of Chinese Communist Party leaders is derisively called by some in China. I replied: "A dark era shall soon arrive, a dark era shall soon end." The April 3 arrest of the respected Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei illustrates this point.
The Chinese word that best describes the party of princelings is heng (brutal). Many top Communist Party officials, including Mr. Xi and Bo Xilai, the party chief of Chongqing City,
Kaixin OpEd – Well he is not going to admit, particularly to himself, that in the great moment of his life he was a pawn not a king.
So you have to take what he says with a fair amount of salt.
The Washington Post
Chinese editors, and a Web site, detail censors’ hidden hand
The list of do’s and don’ts opens a window on how the party and government pay close attention to even the most seemingly routine news stories and how they might affect Chinese opinion.
Hu Xijin is chief editor of the Global Times, a tabloid-size daily in English and Chinese owned by the Communist Party. “I’ve been appointed by them — they can remove me. So they have influence on me,” he said of the paper’s owners. “And the market has some influence on me. I live between them. But the market has a bigger and bigger influence.”
“We’re not as free as the American media,” Hu said. “But we are becoming freer and freer every day.”
Kaixin OpEd – Xiaosui tells me that the grapevine works extremely well in China.
Even during the dark days of the Cultural Revolution information and news filtered through eventually.
Not as open as the west, granted, but still a conduit.
The government censors are fighting a losing battle against the Tech revolution.
As Kaixin continually points out, everyone we know seems to know just about everything that goes on. They find out one way or another.
Mind you, there is a distinct lack of revolutionaries among the people we talk to.
Kaixin seems to be blocked in China. It is hosted in Canada and on an American platform so maybe that is it.
Kaixin suspects that it is because we trigger the wrong key words.
This, in Kaixin’s opinion, reveals the limits of the Chinese censors, whose first language is not, we suspect, English.
After all, you could not accuse Kaixin of being anti-China.
Our theme is constant, clear and deliberate. However, we feel that it is important to also publish other and at times opposing views.
This leads to more, not less, understanding of an issue.
The Wall Street Journal 13/4/2011
Has the Communist Party Abandoned Reform?
Whether Mr. Xi or any of his comrades wish to explore that route is not clear. But they may have to start to be, for the desire by some in the Party for a return to real reform is not going away. The coming challenge for the Communist Party is not how it handles revolt, but what does it really want to do with reform.
Kaixin OpEd – Who do these people talk to??
The western media in general seems to see seething discontent in China, bubbling along just below the surface.
Anyone in China who is not seething with discontent is labelled middle class (only interested in money) and suppressed (unable to tell that the State is controlling the flow of information, therefore their thoughts …. just like the good old days under Mao).
Kaixin suspects there is a small group of earnest bankers ( spelt with a ‘w’) who the western media go to for their information.
Kaixin used to wonder if they ever talked to the everyday person in China.
Now we don’t. We realise that they do not want to disturb their carefully nursed prejudices, so they label anyone who is not seething with anger and just itching the have revolution, 'middle class' (see above).
As Kaixin has noted in many OpEds, we talk to the everyday Chinese, and not one is seething with anger, not one is remotely considering revolution. They are all a bit fed up with the professional dissidents, the ‘bankers’, but try to ignore them.
Yes, there are many problems in China.
Going from pre-industrial to, in effect, post industrial in thirty years does throw up its share of problems.
Going from having their collective heads sat on by Mao, to relatively free speech and much, much more say in how they are governed, is a challenge. The direction China takes in the 21st century will be determined by the Chinese people, not the western media and politicians yapping and snarling at their heels.
So the people Kaixin talks to luxuriate in the freedom of sitting around and bitching about the government over a beer or three. Most are middle-aged as well as middle class, so they grew up under Mao, they have seen the changes.
Kaixin has noticed that most of the professional bankers scurried off overseas for years and years and did not experience the profound changes in China. Most seem to mouth western values as though they have discovered something new. They have been to the ‘west’ and they want to bring its values to their unenlightened brothers.
They are egged on by the western media who hold them up as examples of enlightened Chinese.
Kaixin wonders if they have ever stopped to think and wonder why the western media loves them so much, and why most people in China have not heard of them and are not interested.
Note, Kaixin said most …. you can have a large following in China and it is still a drop in the bucket of 1.4 billion people.
So Kaixin does not expect revolutionary change any time soon. There has been in effect a revolution over the last thirty years. Change and reforms will continue into the 21st century. It may not by what the western media wants, it may not be what the ‘bankers’ want, but it will be what the majority of Chinese are happy to live with.
The majority are wise enough to know that what you want and what you need are two different things.
Foreign Policy Research Institute 12/4/2011
Understanding Chinese Society
By Thomas B. Gold Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley
So I thought I would start this presentation on “understanding Chinese society” with an exercise of trying to put myself in the shoes of China’s leaders, who just completed two big political meetings—the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference—where they defined how they see themselves and the tasks ahead. They, too, were also observing and analyzing the turmoil in the Middle East, North Africa and Japan while keeping an eye on their own rapidly changing society.
What conceptual tools do China’s leaders draw on to understand their own society? I see three main components:
Kaixin OpEd - 'So putting this together, as China’s leaders see it, theirs is a large, populous developing society without a tradition of Western-style democracy, but rather a population which requires and looks to a strong central authority to provide order, set an example, and take care of their basic needs.'
Agree, that is how Xiaosui and our friends in China definitely see it. They have no use for western style democracy at this stage.
'It is the twenty-first century version of the movements which brought down communism in Eastern Europe (and almost China) from 1989 to 1991.'
Disagree, the student movement in China was weak and soon dissipated. The students were being used. People in China at first supported them, but soon realised what was going on behind the scenes. It was a complex time in China and not at all how the 'west', in particular America, would like it to be, a grassroots uprising and a clarion call for democracy. Not at all ...
Kaixin has read the full article and thinks that Prof Gold knows very little about China. He may know a lot about western sociology, but very little about China. He seems to regurgitate the same old, same old ...
The Wall Street Journal 12/4/2011
Political Rumblings Increase in Hong Kong
HONG KONG—A recent spate of demonstrations here highlights growing political disquiet in one of Asia's wealthiest economies.
Kaixin OpEd – The venerable WSJ’s drum on this wishful thinking must be wearing out by now.
bang, bang, bang, bang
I can hear faintly, in the background, a song floating over from the Disneyland theme park at Shanghai, “When you wish upon a star …”
The New York Times 11/4/2011
China Tells U.S. to Quit as Human Rights Judge
BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States is beset by violence, racism and torture and has no authority to condemn other governments' human rights problems, China said on Sunday, countering U.S. criticism of Beijing's crackdown.
Kaixin OpEd – Memo to the US who likes to point the finger ...
Comments like “People in glass houses” & “ …. casting stones” spring to mind.
The trouble with closets is that your skeletons rattle around too much and interrupt your self-satisfied homilies.
Xinhua News 9/4/2011
China to recruit 100,000 graduates to serve at grassroots levels in next five years
BEIJING, April 8 (Xinhua) -- China is planning to recruit 100,000 college graduates to work in grassroots units for periods of two to three years by 2015.
The effort is part of the new round of a national campaign to support education, agriculture, medical care and poverty alleviation in China's rural and less-developed regions. About 20,000 graduates will be recruited each year, said a statement issued after a special working conference on Friday.
The recruitment will take place after graduates submit voluntary applications and undergo public selection procedures, according to the statement.
Kaixin OpEd – Graduates are a fast growing resource in China.
Many cannot find work in the cities.
In Beijing they have been labelled the Ant Tribe.
The historical move in China has always been from rural China to the cities. It was the way of advancement.
China is currently experiencing a watershed in its history. Rural China is being developed and starting to share in the prosperity of the New China.
However, deep within the Chinese mind is the idea that rural China means banishment, city China means advancement.
Many of the graduates are from rural China. Their parents have usually sacrificed a lot to give their children the opportunity of a tertiary education and a chance to move to the city.
There is therefore a lot of pressure on these graduates not to return to rural China.
However, as rural China advances economically and socially it will become an option.
For the moment the first initiative of the central government is to entice these graduates to move to rural China and harness the resource of their education.
Kaixin predicts this will be an escalating trend.
As the rural China develops, more and more graduates will be attracted to live and work there, which will mean further development of rural China ….. and so on.
The economic potential of this trend is enormous and will see the growth of domestic consumption in China continue well into the 21st century.
People's Daily 8/4/2011
Strong public diplomacy vital for China
China needs to look for better ways to convey its stance on various issues to the global community, said Zhao Qizheng, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Kaixin OpEd – Kaixin agrees.
Western Kaixin (Graeme) has opined to Xiaosui for some time that Beijing is still learning to come to terms with the hydra that is the ‘western’ media.
From complete control of the media under Mao, to the premier holding on-line ‘chats’ is a long way.
The ‘western’ media is indeed foreign to Beijing.
Since Western Kaixin has been preparing this daily news update, he has observed that Beijing is becoming increasingly adept at handling the hydra.
It is learned that it is a waste of time lopping off one of its heads; that sometimes it is best to ignore it and wait for the news cycle to finish; that the attention span of the great unwashed in the ‘west’ is very short, and mostly it is best to let them have their little izzy fit, they will soon move on to the next ‘major’ news story; sometimes it is best to take a strong stand; mostly, Kaixin opines, it is best to quietly argue your case and let the logic slowly seep in.
Most of all, it is vital not to take the ‘western’ media personally.
The ‘western’ media is about selling advertising, not about news. Certainly it is not about journalism any more. News is a way of getting the attention of consumers.
Isn’t that right, Rupert?
The New York Times 8/4/2011
Chinese Artist Suspected of ‘Economic Crimes’
BEIJING — Chinese security officials are investigating Ai Weiwei, the detained celebrity artist and social critic, for “economic crimes,” a Chinese official said Thursday, despite growing condemnation by foreign nations and liberal Chinese of the detention.
Kaixin OpEd – So, he might just have had his hand in the till.
Not that anyone in the ‘west’ is going to believe it, preferring to believe that the ‘evil empire’ has him in its clutches.
Kaixin is more interested in this comment in the article:
‘He had been presumed by many people to be somewhat shielded from retribution by the central security apparatus because of family connections. The order to detain him was almost certainly approved by someone at the top level of the government.’
He has had an easy run in China through his family connections, so why bite the hand that feeds you?
Kaixin suspects that it was all about self promotion and being a prize banker ….. woops, sorry, that should have started with a ‘w’.
He obviously got carried away with all his fame and glory and thought he had something new to say.
Instead, he is unheard of in China by the people Kaixin talks to and all he has done is gather round the naïve and perennial whingers, and really, really p… off those who have sought to shield him from his own self importance.
He has been used by the ‘west’ as a Chinese face to heap criticism on China. He thought it was because of his brilliance. No, he was just being used.
Kaixin does not understand modern art in general. There is the occasional flash of brilliance, but mostly it is muddled self-indulgence.
Though, the Bird’s Nest stadium was brilliant.
The New York Times 6/4/2011
An Artist Takes Role of China’s Conscience
The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who disappeared into police custody in Beijing after he was arrested on Sunday while trying to board a flight for Hong Kong, is a fully 21st-century figure, global-minded, media-savvy, widely networked. He is also the embodiment of a cultural type, largely unfamiliar to the West, that dates far back into China’s ancient past.
Kaixin OpEd – Kaixin tries to ignore these professional dissidents, but as the NYT has made it a leading headline we feel we must respond.
Ai Wei was part of the establishment.
Yes, his father was banished during the Cultural Revolution, but a return to Beijing in 1976 indicates rehabilitation long before the rest of those banished. Xiaosui is an expert on this, as her family was at the rough end of it. It took until the early 1980’s for them to find their place again, but they were an average family.
Ai Wei went to America in the early 1980’s.
‘…a late-1970s free-speech agitator, later a member of renegade art movements, and a full-time resident of New York from 1981 to 1993.’
As Xiaosui points out, it was generally very difficult to leave China in the early 1980’s unless you were well connected.
That he was well connected is illustrated by the commission to help design the ‘bird’s nest’ Olympic stadium.
After that, he seemed to want to become a career dissident.
Yet, he had missed a lot of China’s transformation from 1981 to 1993. He certainly did not contribute to it.
Plonked back into Beijing he started to show off his ‘western’ thinking (pretentious prick).
A good way to promote his art (and Kaixin often wonders at the rear-end gazing that goes on in modern art) was through a successful Blog.
A good way to have a successful Blog in China is to whinge about the government.
The powers that be probably tried to ignore him, but he had struck a chord.
Kaixin was in China at the time of the Sichuan earthquake. It was a triumph for the Chinese people who reflected that they were able to respond quickly and effectively to the emergency.
Xiaosui was immensely sad about one aspect. She remembered the Tangshan earthquake that occurred in 1976 and how China was unable to effectively respond because it was too poor.
Kaixin witnessed the outpouring of grief and the generosity of the Chinese people.
Kaixin also read about the substandard buildings.
The Chinese people were appalled and demanded that something be done. Beijing responded and those responsible were sought out and building codes revised.
It would have been better if it had not happened, but it was the result of the rapid economic transformation of China and the entrenched corruption that is still being addressed.
If Beijing had not done anything, then people such as our modern artist would have had reason to complain.
There were many problems in China in the 1990’s and still are.
Perhaps our modern artist could help to address them, rather than make a career out of complaining about China for the sake of selling his art.
The main thing he is selling is himself.
The ‘western’ media love to take up the cause of these people and use a Chinese face to heap criticism on China.
Perhaps our modern artist might like to ponder that he is being used by that media.
He has done well out of China, isn’t it time he gave something back?
See Global Times Editorial above.
*The Tangshan Earthquake also known as the Great Tangshan Earthquake, was a natural disaster that occurred on July 28, 1976.
Growing old in China: The business of going grey
It is not just Western societies that are going grey. Developing countries are ageing even faster than developed societies, says a United Nations study. Taking care of the elderly is becoming a global problem, says reporter Danwei Zhang.
Kaixin OpEd – Yes, this is a looming issue for China.
The traditional family support has been broken apart; parents and grandparents can no longer rely on their family to care for them in their old age.
This is one of the downsides of rapid economic growth, increased mobility and the one-child policy.
It leaves some Chinese scratching their heads and wondering what is the point of all this money if it does not buy happiness.
This is something the ‘west’ learned long ago.
That money certainly does not buy happiness.
You can have money and be happy, but it is not the money that makes you happy, that comes from within.
It is interesting that yesterday there was a report of China’s uber-rich descending on Hainan to frolic and display their obscene wealth.
Kaixin wonders if they are any happier than the average person in China.
The wealthiest person Kaixin knows in China is his brother-in-law. He lives in a basic apartment and does not have much money, but he enjoys life to the full, has friends bursting from his apartment at any one given time and he has a strong and united family.
But that is now.
Will he have such strong support in his old age?
China will have to address the issue of an ageing population. It is unfortunate that it is unlikely the old values of family are probably not an option.
The Wall Street Journal 6/4/2011
Pew: China Not Ripe for Revolution
With artist Ai Weiwei the latest dissident to be officially detained or simply disappear into the widening maw of China’s security crackdown following anonymous online calls for a “Jasmine Revolution,” a new report from the Pew Research Center bolsters arguments that Beijing is overreacting.
Kaixin OpEd – ‘The report starts off acknowledging that it’s difficult to get a clear read on the appetite for democracy in China, as: “Unlike in the Arab world, where opinion surveys have demonstrated public support for such basic democratic rights as free elections and freedom of speech, in China it is not possible to ask citizens about their views on democracy. The government won’t allow it.”’
I suppose this may be the case in a formal survey, but Kaixin discusses such things in China all the time.
All Pew had to do was have an informal discussion with a few normal people.
Not the career dissidents or the grey desperates lurking in dark corners.
Certainly not young students, and certainly not young students living overseas who are finding it difficult to absorb western concepts of things like democracy, etc, and tend to regurgitate what they hear and read uncritically.
It’s also a fact that the young students living overseas are just about all from rich families, otherwise they could not afford to study and live overseas, so it is curious that as soon as they land they start criticising China. Oh well, the right of passage for young people, I suppose.
No, walk down the street and find some day-to-day people and ask them.
You will find they do understand democracy, they do understand the concept of human rights, but they also understand that China has been exceptionally well run for the last 30 years or so.
They do understand that their standards of living and their freedoms have steadily increased in that time.
They do understand that their voice is being heard more and more.
They do understand that they do NOT want to become another America.
They do understand that there are still many problems in China, which have to be addressed, but that over time these problems will be either addressed or minimised.
Kaixin has asked Footrot for the final word on Pew …
“Pew’s got views?? … aww, go-on”
The New York Times 4/4/2011
Casualties of China’s One Child Policy
A shocking account of family-planning attitudes and practices in China.
In 1989, the Chinese writer and broadcaster Xinran was in a remote mountain village in Shandong Province having dinner with the headman when she heard cries from an adjoining room, where his daughter-in-law was giving birth. A while later, as the midwife collected her fee, Xinran noticed a movement in the slops bucket. “To my absolute horror,” she recalls, “I saw a tiny foot poking out of the pail.” But she was the only one who was shocked. “It’s not a child,” the headman’s wife told her. “If it was, we’d be looking after it, wouldn’t we? It’s a girl baby, and we can’t keep it.”
A complex moral dimension
Kaixin OpEd – A breathtakingly shocking account of the effects of the one-child policy in China.
Kaixin reflects, though, that the same thing is happening in abortion clinics throughout the ‘west’. The major difference is that the one-child policy was implemented out of necessity; abortions in the ‘west’ are usually a lifestyle choice.
Or do you argue that killing a child at 6 weeks is different to killing a 38-week-old newborn child?
There is a complex moral dimension to this issue.
The one-child policy was implemented after the Mao era, when people were encouraged to have as many children as possible and where improvements in health meant that many more lived.
This uncontrolled growth in population had to be curtailed and the one-child policy was implemented in the early 1980’s.
It went against millennia of tradition but was accepted and implemented by the vast majority of people in the cities as a matter of necessity. These people were generally well educated and did not need a large family.
People in rural China were either un-educated or ill-educated and for millennia large families were a way of ensuring survival. In particular, male children ensured the survival of the family and the parents in their old age.
The one-child policy was soon changed to allow for two children in rural China.
However, the tradition of having a large family could not simply be legislated away. The powerful imperative to have a male heir cannot simply be legislated away.
The complex reasons behind the one-child policy were not understood by the vast majority in rural China who, as noted above, were either un-educated or ill-educated.
Hence, almost all of these horror stories will be about people in rural China.
The killing of new-born children or abandoning them is not supported by the educated people of China, who also see it with horror and disdain, and is certainly not supported by the government in China. However, as noted above, you cannot wipe away millennia of tradition with legislation.
One of the major initiatives of the government has been, and is, to educate the people from rural China as to the need for limiting the number of children.
Another initiative has been the banning of the results of a scan, so the sex of the foetus remains unknown (of course this is open to corruption, but the penalties for doctors or anyone who breaks the law are severe).
This does not excuse the killing of newborn babies. It does, perhaps, bring a little understanding as to the driving forces behind it.
Before people in the ‘west’ point their collective fingers in righteous indignation, perhaps they should ponder on the moral dimension of killing a new life at six weeks contrasted killing a new born child.
One, as life-style choic, the other, the taking of life driven by the practical imperative of curbing population and by millennia of tradition.
Stories of Loss and Love
Translated by Nicky Harman
"Real China is made by Chinese mothers and grandmothers, from each individual family's hard work," says Xinran.
Where ‘Jasmine’ Means Tea, Not a Revolt
Middle-class Chinese, enjoying a much better standard of living, are in no mood to bring down their own autocracy.
Kaixin OpEd – Kaixin thought at first, “oh, good, this journalist has finally got it!”
But no …. the article soon descended into the usual drivel about how western style democracy will save China, about how millions of Chinese are too stupid to think for themselves, about sound bites taken out of context, about Tiananmen 1989, which the ‘west’ just does not understand (it was a power grab, not a revolution, the students were naïve pawns, not initiators).
The Wall Street Journal 4/4/2011
Beijing's Price Fears Stay Unilever's Hand
BEIJING—Ramping up efforts to rein in inflation that has fueled widespread public discontent, China is pressuring companies that sell food and daily necessities—including global giant Unilever PLC—to avoid price increases.
Kaixin OpEd – Command & Control v Supply & Demand
A competition or synthesis??
Can China evolve a new model of economics in the 21st century?
Kaixin's Daily OpEd
Graeme has been using ChinesePod since 2007
"I highly recommend ChinesePod, I haven't found any Online teaching programmes that come close."
Set in Zanzibar in 1910, it is the story of two people from different worlds falling in love. Susan immerses herself in Zanzibar. Asim falls in love with this woman from the nation that killed his wife. Susan is a spy. Asim is the chief advisor to the Sultan of Zanzibar. Germany and France are holding secret negotiations to form a Pan European alliance, which would isolate Britain and destroy her power. Susan and Asim are caught up in all this and their love is finally dashed on the cold, hard reality of international high politics.
'A maharaja’s ruby cast on a Persian carpet by the blackest of hands'
Their souls danced, honouring his promise.
The ancient dhow stirred in the soft morning breeze. Like a sleepy lion, it began to move through the water, snuffling about the other boats on the harbour; some scurrying, some at anchor, some darting before a brief gust of wind. The lateen sails a bustling panorama of blood-red and sun-bleached white.
Aft, the woman's eyes searched the skyline, drinking in the architecture of Stone Town, the heart of Zanzibar; its jagged, cluttered silhouette so familiar, so much a part of her soul.
Abruptly, her eyes ceased their restless searching, jagged by an invisible hook, transfixed by the grand buildings on the northern shore, Beit-al-Ajaib, the House of Wonders, Palace to the great Sultan of Zanzibar. The distinctive architecture captured in the tropical light: coconut white outlined by contrasting shadow plays of pepper black.
A smile, ever so slight, started to play on the edge of her mouth then disappeared. A memory that should have been fond instantly turned to sharp unbearable pain. Her eyes hardened and moved on.
Without warning the captain threw the rudder over. Stumbling, the woman barked her shin on a wooden box, a rough-hewn coffin. She recoiled, knocking over an untidy stack of cane baskets. Imprisoned in the baskets, rusty cockerels, their scruffy heads straining through the latticework, snapped at her, cried out to her; their raucous din overwhelming her, drowning her.
Dimly, through the fog of noise, the strident swearing of the sailors in Kiswahili seeped into her conscious. Understanding, she smiled mirthlessly.
The coffin had been carelessly stowed, a chore, rather than a labour of respect or love.
“Hello, who are you? I am Oliver, is Edward at home?”
The words were spoken by a tall, impeccably dressed young man as he rushed into Edward’s flat shaking off surplus water and calling for whisky while shoving his umbrella into a stand. It was a blustery, grey, bitterly cold February afternoon in the heart of London. He brushed a curl of soft auburn hair from his forehead and smiled charmingly.
Susan laughed, her hazel eyes dancing with the exhilaration of the new. “Yes, he is having a bath. I think he is trying to get warm. I’m Susan, Susan Carey, his sister.”
“Ahhh yes, from Australia. How do you do?” said Sir Oliver, smiling broadly and offering his hand. He noticed the laughter in her eyes, and the depth, particularly the depth, intensified by jade flecks that made them striking and alluring. “So, you have arrived, good trip I trust.”
“I am very well thank you, and yes, it was a good trip,” replied Susan.
He laughed and glanced at the sitting room, “whisky?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, please come in…….. that was silly of me, after all, it is your flat.”
Oliver smiled and gestured for Susan to lead the way. He followed her into the room, and after helping himself to a generous portion of whisky, walked over to the fire.
Shortly after, Edward, wrapped in a huge ruby-coloured dressing gown and wiping soap from his ear strode into the room. He was of similar age to Oliver, late twenties, well built, if slightly podgy, with dark auburn hair and a full moustache. Susan looked up and smiled to herself, she could see now where he had picked up some of his new mannerisms.
“Thought I could hear voices. I see you two have met, no need for introductions then.”
As he was speaking, Edward walked to the side table and grabbed a whisky decanter by the neck. He glanced at Oliver who nodded. A long finger snaked into one of the tumblers followed by the distinctive clink of crystal. He swept the decanter off the table and carried it to where Oliver was sitting. After pouring the whisky, he sank into a lounge chair and sipped from his glass, enjoying the warm glow as it spread through his body.
Suddenly he sat up exclaiming, “Sorry sis, would you like something to drink?”
“Kind of you to remember, but no thank you, and yes, Oliver has already inquired.”
Edward nodded and sank back into his lounge chair.
They chatted, tentatively at first, getting to know one another. Edward had not seen Susan for two years and was unsure how his sister would take his new relationship. Oliver was intrigued by Susan. An attractive, self-assured young lady of high intelligence with a degree was a rare find. And, as fate would have it, she was also a trained and experienced teacher. He suggested a picnic at Oxford, which was met with ready acquiescence. Arrangements were made for the following Sunday.
“I’ll see if the Rolls is available,” mused Oliver. “Must ring father, haven’t spoken to him in ages.”
Oliver, Sir Oliver Marchmaine, was an unaffected young man of intense intelligence who saw life as a great adventure to be lived to the full. He was also unyieldingly loyal to his country, England, which is why he had joined Military Intelligence on leaving Oxford.
It was 1910 and Europe was stirring. It was a time full of interest, intrigue and danger. The European chessboard was becoming increasingly complex, the moves more subtle. A time when an unexpected move or feint could have profound consequences.
Regaining her balance, the woman’s eyes were drawn, hesitantly at first, resisting back to Beit-al-Ajaib. She wondered if it was still the same. Still the same centre of power and intrigue that had been so much a part of her life all those years before; that had defined her life.
She remembered those first few moments, remembered standing in the foyer of the palace, .………… remembered the breathtakingly beautiful Persian tapestry ........
The sea breeze stirred her clothes. She smiled a little sadly, and in her mind the tapestry gently swayed. Two small apparitions ran giggling up the stairs: two small exquisitely rich burkas disappearing along the first floor landing. Childish squeals of mischief and joy left in the air.......
“Move to seaward, you accused of Allah! Move!”
Her thoughts were clawed back to the dhow, the captain crashing the tiller over to avoid another boat on the crowded harbour. The woman instinctively ducked her head to avoid the heavy boom as it swung over her, the rusty cockerels squawked their raucous indignation, their heads straining through the latticework, relentless.
The collision avoided, the dhow continued on its way. The cacophony dying down to the occasional command by the captain or the cry of a seagull.
The woman's thoughts returned to Beit-al-Ajaib
…………. laughing and giggling, girls of seven or eight. A door on the first floor slammed and all sounds of them disappeared. Silence. The woman smiled. She could see herself, a young woman, dressed plainly, unselfconsciously, her sexuality tantalisingly just out of reach, hidden beneath the thin veil of her clothing. She remembered standing alone in the foyer, looking around, perplexed. Asim came through a door to the left of the tapestry.
The woman started and looked around. Then, realising, was cold again. Alone again. Alone, rocking to and fro to the rythm of the sea. Alone, beside a rough-hewn coffin.
Graeme has been using ChinesePod since 2007
"I highly recommend ChinesePod, I haven't found any Online teaching programmes that come close."