Archive for April, 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Economist: Ma Runs against the Economy

The Economist (latest edition) sees  tough months ahead for Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou. The paper emphasizes DPP presidential nominee  Tsai Ing-wen‘s role in “reinventing” the DPP, and her past governmental experience regarding China.  Ma would be running against a Taiwanese economy which, despite booming trade with China, shows stubbornly flat wages and high inequality:

Unlike members of the DPP, Mr Ma is able to talk to China. Increasingly, though, Taiwanese see this as a weakness rather than the strength he hoped for. Perceptions are growing that Mr Ma’s economic policies, including a cross-strait pact on free trade signed last June, benefit large corporations more than ordinary folk.

Both the presidential elections and legislative elections are scheduled for January 14, 2012, pending approval by  the Central Election Commission (CEC).

____________

Related
Tag: Tsai Ing-wen »

Friday, April 29, 2011

Campaigns and New Media: Government by Facebook?

One day after Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had won her Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) nomination poll, Taiwan’s special relationship on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, issued a short reaction. It didn’t sound exactly congratulatory, and either way, it was a political, rather than a personal message.

From A-Gu‘s translation of the People’s Daily article:

People’s Daily, BEIJING  — The Democratic Progressive Party recently held its fourth televised policy session as part of its primary process for selecting a candidate in the 2012 presidential*) election, and Tsai Ing-wen and Su Chen-chang both brought up cross-strait relations.

In response, Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi said at a TAO press conference today that if a cross-strait policy is built on the splittist “Taiwanese independence” position of “One side, one country,” no matter how clever the packaging of the policy, it will inevidably disturb cross-strait exchanges, impact cross-strait negotiations, destroy the peaceful development of cross strait relations and effect the stability of the situation in the Taiwan Strait. (人民网北京4月27日电(记者刘洁妍 方晔云)日前民进党就2012年的选举,党内初选部分举行了第四场政见发表会,蔡英文和苏贞昌谈到了两岸关系。对此 国台办发言人杨毅在今天上午举办的国台办发布会上指出,如果把两岸关系政策建立在“一边一国”的“台独”分裂立场上,不管作了多么巧妙的包装,都势必干扰 两岸交流合作、冲击两岸协商、破坏两岸关系和平发展,影响台海局势稳定。)

The BBC’s Cindy Sui believes that the presidential race – Tsai vs. Ma – will determine Taiwan’s ties with China over the next four years.

The Wall Street Journal quotes Shelley Rigger, a professor of political science at Davidson College, as saying that

“Fundamentally, the KMT always has an advantage on the China issue because they have credibility as being the party of reason and prudence. [...] Ms. Rigger said that if the DPP can “hit a golden mean” on the China issue, the debate could shift to economic issues, where the KMT is much more vulnerable.

Huang Shunjie (黄顺杰), the Morning Post‘s (早报, Singapore)  correspondent in Taipei writes that Taiwan’s some one million first-time voters (or 1.2 million, according to a ministry of the interior’s estimate) have become a key target group for both the ruling KMT’s and the oppositional DPP’s presidential and legislators’ campaigns. New media and social media had therefore become the latest battlegrounds. Given that some eighty per cent of first-time voters had participated in previous presidential elections, this was a group of voters which couldn’t be taken lightly by the campaigners.

Dennis Peng Weng-Jeng (彭文正), associate professor at the National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Journalism, is quoted by Morning News as noting that neither incumbent president and KMT nominee Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), nor DPP chairperson and presidential nominee Tsai Ing-wen, had yet made full use of the new medias’ strengths (未充分发挥新媒体的特长), and their language had so far been too conventional (制式) and official (官方化), and therefore not sufficiently familiar for the internet users. Facebook was no longer the best way to garner votes there, and more mobile platforms such as smartphones (智慧型手机), and more interactive tools [this blogger has no idea what 游戏软体传播信息 means] could be more effective.

The Morning Post cites statistics according to which there are some 9.19 million Taiwanese Facebook users, 29 per cent of whom are eighteen to 24 years old. Ma Ying-jeou had attracted some 610,000 fans there since its start in January. However, after criticism by the Liberty Times (自由時報) that Ma appeared to be “ruling by Facebook”  (靠面簿治国) and a corresponding inquiry by the paper, presidential spokesman Luo Jhih-ciang (羅智強) clarified that the president wasn’t solely relying on netizens’ views in his decision-making.

Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) had accumulated some 240,000 Facebook fans to date, and Tsai trailed both Ma and Su, with only some 200,000 fans. Fortunately, the numbers are expected to pick up now, that it is a double-(y)ing race (双英 – Ma Ying-jeou / Tsai Ing-wen) race.

If either Ma or Tsai should take the new media experts’ advice to heart, the public should prepare for embarrassing performances. Neither of the two candidates seems to be good at “laid-back” forms of communication – and neither of them should take the interaction at the – supposed – young-voter terms too far. Huang, the Morning Post reporter himself, ends his report by quoting a 22-year-old first-voter student who hopes that the campaigns will be about politics, rather than about packaging.

Meantime, a United Daily News survey reportedly suggests that

(t)he category in which Ma fared most poorly was in “resolve to put policies into practice, ” with Tsai obtaining 36 percent support against Ma’s 21 percent.

Maybe Facebook – or smartphones – won’t matter that much after all.

____________

Note
*) [Update, April 30, 2011: As you can probably tell, People's Daily referred to the presidential elections as elections, not as presidential elections.]

Related
Democracy over Idolization, March 11, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Interview with an Expert: the too-friendly Maikefeng*)

The too-friendly Maikefeng

The too-friendly Maikefeng

Wolfgang Kubin, a sinologist of Bonn university, a professor, translator and a lyricist, was interviewed by German weekly Die Zeit, apparently this week.  The interview was published on Tuesday. Asked if the current German show at the National Museum of China in Beijing – The Art of Enlightenment – should have been scheduled in China at all by the Germans, given the case of Ai Weiwei, Kubin replied that this wasn’t the age of the Cold War:

“we need to work with each other. We must keep holding conversations, no matter if we like our counterparts and arguments, or if we don’t. Every severance of talks will only lead to even bigger, unnecessary complications. Relations between Germany and China are traditionally very good, and we should make the most of them (Die Beziehungen zwischen Deutschland und China sind sehr gut, das ist ein Pfund, mit dem man wuchern kann).

Kubin suggested that Chinese state security were “a state within the state”, which “does what it wants to do”, and which “can’t be controlled”. Ai Weiwei’s arrest had in fact been a loss of face [apparently a loss of face inflicted on the CCP leadership by the state security, in Kubin's view - JR]  – and “completely unnecessary. One could have solved things differently. If he really evaded taxation, one needs to question him, but one must not make him disappear.”

Die Zeit: For 2012, China plans a China Cultural Year  in Germany. Should we allow for that, given the public opinion which is taking shape in China? (Für 2012 plant China ein Kulturjahr in Deutschland. Sollen wir das zulassen, gerade in Anbetracht der öffentlichen Meinung, die sich derzeit in China bildet?)

Kubin: After all, it isn’t as if political censorship existed only in China – it exists over here, too. It’s just that we don’t talk about it, or it is presented in a different way. The ways of thinking in terms of black-and-white must end. ( Es ist ja nicht so, als gäbe es die politische Zensur nur in China – die gibt es bei uns ja auch so. Nur reden wir nicht darüber oder sie wird anders verpackt. Das Schwarz-Weiß-Denken, das hier in der Presse und auch in Diskussionen immer mehr um sich greift, muss ein Ende haben.)

The Die Zeit reporter didn’t follow up here, which is something I don’t understand. Whichever way you look at it, this doesn’t make the paper look good. If Kubin had explained in more detail as to how censorship exists in Germany, it would help to understand that China isn’t “that bad” after all, and it would address a genuine grievance in Germany. It would be useful to two ends at least. And if he had been unable to offer a convincing explanation, readers would have learned something, too. Did Die Zeit  know which kind of censorship Kubin was referring to, and therefore avoided the topic? Or didn’t they dig deeper out of respect for the professor? Either way – they avoided an issue which many readers would have liked to have answered, as the commenter thread following the article shows. Some commenters speculate, but noone claims to know the answer.

When it comes to China itself, rather than to German views on it, the core of Kubin’s message seems to be one about fear, envy, and loyalty.

Die Zeit: Is it for fear that the intellectuals don’t speak out, or doesn’t it matter to them?

Kubin: I know what you would like to hear: for fear. But the matter is more complex. There is a certain negligence, a certain disinterest, a lack of preparedness to get involved when it comes to people who aren’t doing that fine. Chinese history and cultural history isn’t taken into consideration sufficiently. There is hardly any Chinese intellectual, artist, writer who would say something positive about a Chinese colleague. There is a long tradition of that.

[...]

Die Zeit: All the same, this Chinese intelligentsia lives under an authoritarian regime.

Kubin: There aren’t only Chinese people in China, but in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and America, too. Why is there no press which would be similar to ours? Why no manifestations of protest? Nobody would get punished there. The reason is simple: because Chinese people, basically, identify themselves with the state, with the nation – and especially when they draw material benefits from that. The other side, intellectual liberties, don’t seem to matter as much there, as they do here. Apparently, people are willing to make sacrifices. That is hardly understandable for us. But it seems to be a fact which is rarely reflected upon here.

Kubin doesn’t deny that fear may play a role in many Chinese intellectuals’ behavior – see the second line of his first answer within the above quote -, but he is leaving fear as a factor completely out in his actual answer. If people don’t protest in Hong Kong, or Taiwan, or America, why then should the Chinese government use repressive tools at all? Is he unfamiliar with the Taiwanese press? Again, no follow-up questions from the interviewer.

While Kubin agrees that Ai Weiwei’s detention is illegal, he questions the German mainstream press, too:

How can we be sure that Ai hasn’t evaded taxation? In Germany, it is blindly believed that the accusations brought forward by the state must be 100 per cent wrong, and only constitute a pretense for his arrest.

And how will we ever know? Does Kubin expect that, once specifically accused, Ai can still expect an acquittal when in court, even if not guilty? Again – no follow-up question by Die Zeit.

A sinologist who defends the way China is ruled is no surprise to me – although there are sinologists who are much more critical than Kubin. But I’d expect Die Zeit to be more professional when asking questions – or at least to explain as to why the interview had been so meek.

After all, maybe Kubin simply filled in a questionnaire, and faxed it back to the paper’s central editorial department. But that would be something  readers need to know, to understand the interview’s background.

____________

Note
*) What’s a maikefeng? Look it up here.

Related
» Der Übersetzer “in Klammern”, Deutsch-Chinesisches Kulturnetz, April/September 2009
» Hermit: Kinakännaren, November 3, 2009

Updates / Notes
I added Deutsche Welle as a tag, as it has become a topic within the commenting thread. On another note, while I highlight changes to the wording of an already published post, I have a habit of changing tags or categories without extra notice. Links may change, too, if old links become dead links.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tsai Ing-wen wins DPP Nomination Poll

There is no formal announcement from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yet, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle (SFC),

Taiwan opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen, who has moderated her party’s policies toward mainland China, secured its presidential nomination Wednesday by narrowly winning an island-wide telephone poll.

The benchmark was about who among the candidates for the DPP’s presidential nomination would be the most likely one to defeat president Ma Ying-jeou (KMT) in the presidential elections next year.

Some objections to the SFC report’s accuracy can be found on Michael Turton‘s blog.

President Ma himself was nominated by the KMT’s Central Standing Committee as his party’s presidential candidate, also on Wednesday, reports Radio Taiwan International (RTI).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tiananmen: Confucius Relegated?

Just as the sage, in his later years, travelled from court to court to offer his advice (more often than not in vain, or so the tale goes), so – apparently – does his statue, originally unveiled near Tian An Men Square, next to the National Museum of China, in January. The statue disappeared under cover of darkness early Thursday morning, April 21, the New York TimesAndrew Jacobs reported on April 22, and nobody seemed to know where it had gone. It may now be found somewhere else within the museum or its vicinity, or somewhere in a park. Or somewhere inside a nearby museum.

According to a famous quote, Mao Zedong might have buried the sage alive. Consequently, Maoists gloat, and Confucianists grieve, according to the New York Times, while Zhang Qianfan (张千帆), of Beida Law School and of the university’s Constitutional and Administrative Law Research Center, may silently smile. After all, he had challenged the unveiling of the sage (or His Likeness) at the National Museum entrance early on, in an opinion for Caijing , on February 24.

Zhang, however, is no Maoist, and he is probably not the only intellectual who opposed the statue’s location for other than Maoist reasons. Zhang’s case had been that the state had to be neutral toward religion, according to the PRC constitution, chapter 2, article 36. Zhang had also questioned what is still put forward by Confucianists now cited by the New York Times – that only Confucian teachings could rescue China from what he described as a moral crisis.

Guo Qijia, a professor at Beijing Normal University who helps run the China Confucius Institute:

“Students come home from school and tell their parents, ‘One of my classmates got run over by a car today — now I have one less person to compete against,’ ” he said. “We have lost our humanity, our kindness and our spirit. Confucianism is our only hope for becoming a great nation.”

Confucianism, on the other hand, should not fear competition, Zhang had suggested in his Caijing opinion, just as true gold didn’t need to fear to be refined by the goldsmith (真金不怕烈火炼). As a state doctrine, Confucian orthodoxy hadn’t done Confucian thought any good. And, turning Voltaire’s famous statement around:

“Even if I agree with what you say, I’ll fight with my life to stop you from monopolizing the discourse”  (我即便同意你说的每一句话,也要誓死反对你垄断话语的权力).

There are many Confucianists in China – especially among the academia. Some of them probably liked the statue and its location. But just as likely, others didn’t.

The authorities didn’t explain their decision to remove, or to relocate, the statue. Did they oppose a Confucian scheme to monopolize the discourse? Or does the Mao Zedong Thought matter more after all?

Either way, Mao’s mausoleum on Tian An Men Square now has one competitor less.

____________

Related
Konfuzius Verschwunden, Ethik Gesucht, Sinica, April 27, 2011
Wen Jiabao’s Endgame: Neither Law, nor Order, April 21, 2011
Does Confucius matter outside Asia, December 12, 2010

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Statistics: Digital and other Divides

Zhongguowang / Dongbeiwang – An imcome tax law amendment draft currently under discussion plans to improve an existing principle which makes certain basic living costs (居民基本生活费用) deductable, given that citizens’ basic costs of living 基本生活所需的费用), according to a Zhongguowang article (republished by Dongbeiwang).

[Main link: http://internal.dbw.cn/system/2011/04/25/053127704.shtml]

[What is referred to as deductible expenses (减除费用) in the article, should basically signify a tax allowance or tax exempt amount.]

Previously, changes in the amount deductible had been made at least twice, from 800 to 1,600 Yuan RMB per month on January 1, 2006, and from 1,600 to 2,000 Yuan RMB on March 1, 2008.

The National Bureau of Statistics material is quoted as stating that in 2010, urban citizens’ (城镇居民) consumption expenses per person and month – including both life necessities and expenses beyond basic costs of living – were at 1,123 Yuan RMB, or, based on the assumption that every urban employee shoulders the expenses for 1.93 persons [this apparently refers to family people - JR], monthly consumption expenses per urban employee would have been at 2,167 Yuan RMB. In 2011, their latter expenses had increased by 10 per cent, to 2,384 Yuan RMB.

All factors considered, the current draft would raise the amount deductible from the existing standard of 2,000, to 3,000 Yuan RMB per month. The percentage of employees (wage- and salary-earners) who would have to pay income tax would be down from 28 to about twelve per cent.

Netizens can make their own suggestions about the draft until May 25, according to the Zhongguowang article, through the National People’s Congress’ website. The idea suggests itself that the costs of internet access should be included in the basic living costs’ category. The article makes no mention of other ways to make suggestions to the NPC’s standing committee.

她的拖拉机是否在阿里巴巴买的?

她的拖拉机是否在阿里巴巴买的?

Maybe Xinwen Lianbo will provide the wider public with a postal address, too. But then, the deductions won’t make a great difference in rural areas anyway. According to a China Daily article of March 2, 2010, the urban per capita net income had stood at 17,175 yuan ($2,525) one year earlier, in contrast to 5,153 yuan in the countryside, with the urban-to-rural income ratio being 3.33:1.

An article published by People’s Daily Online’s English edition on Monday  would suggest that it was mostly urban citizens who called for larger cuts in their tax burden during the first round of suggestions.

Income tax is reportedly no great source of income for the Chinese state. People’s Daily quotes a UBS paper as saying that personal income taxes accounted for only 6.6 per cent of overall tax revenues.

____________

Related
Wen Jiabao’s Endgame: neither Law nor Order, April 21, 2011
German Labor Market to Open to Poles, The Warsaw Voice, March 31, 2011
Chongqing: Steps toward total Urbanization, Chengdu Living, December 9, 2010
Shenzhen: Here to Stay, May 11, 2010
Household Registration Reform, Recent History, March 2, 2010

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Net Nanny: Every Joke they Make

Only hours ago, I overheard a very strange remark by a comrade who is an online listener to a British radio station: “The theme tune of The Archers reminds me of  Monty Python.”

Now, Monty Python is a British dancing troupe with a decadent kind of “humor”. Of course it doesn’t matter, because The Archers is nothing serious, but  just a decadent soap opera without inspiring heros. Soap operas should have remained banned in our country, but unfortunately, they are no longer banned because Comrade Mingzhao is a wussy.

Up with People: Net Nanny and the Sacred-Motherland Dragonfly Choir

Up with People: Net Nanny and the Sacred-Motherland Dragonfly Choir

We have seen the consequences. Our teenagers have become addicted to shallow stuff which doesn’t create the right political attitudes. Soap operas which promote decadent luxurious lives and worship money send a very wrong message to our underlings. Only good cadres can handle luxury and money, and good cadres, not their money, should be worshipped.  The lame excuses a Taiwanese producer made, at a time when the renegade province was led by even more renegade people than now, is still worse. That retard suggested that

the series sets out to encourage young people to search for ‘true love’ and to remind them that power and money will never buy happiness.

Happiness isn’t important, and love? Love for what? This stuff is lacking definition, but it seems to refer to love between individuals which involves sex! Same as The Archers. Romances! And

Kenton Archer gets some stick for attempting to control Jolene.

Caroline Sterling gets plenty of sympathy from listeners

Caroline Sterling gets plenty of sympathy from listeners

Obviously, as this is a decadent soap, it has to wrongly suggest that control would be wrong. This kind of stuff alone is designed to sow discord within society. Historic soaps can also be problematic, because they may stir mislead feelings, and romantic concepts of so-called “justice”, but they aren’t quite as bad as The Archers or Meteor Garden because at least, only the imperial court and its serfs – although the imperial court wasn’t only bad, and we must emphasize its positive aspects, too – are shown in their decadence, as a shocking example what happens without correct guidance.

I encourage all comrades to lead by example and to listen to songs which show love for the motherland, and vigilance against imperialist foreign forces, at least once a week. Those of you who cadres who confiscate the MP3 players of their daughters and then secretly listen to them yourselves must stop this degenerating habit.

We have seen the corrosive effect of so-called “humor” on Western societies. Western politicians already hate us because our people aren’t as self-indulgent as theirs, because at least we do plan our radio and television programs, and don’t simply leave it all to the sleazy desires of the small people. Even the British prime minister had a hunch of that recently. But of course, his judgment is clouded with liberalism, because his road isn’t that of socialism with characteristics. A “much more active, muscular liberalism” – hehe. Liberalism per se spells indifference for the motherland. And now they try to use Monty Python and Mr. Bean as Trojan horses in their cultural-hegemony schemes  to drag China down to their own level!

I encourage all comrades to go to the revolutionary opera more frequently again. The Me-and-my-Heavy-Machine-Gun dance is a recommendable production from a truly friendly brotherland which adheres to socialism, even if with some remaining feudal, rather than Chinese, characteristics. To listen to choirs singing patriotic songs is very inspiring, too.

让世界知道我们都是中国人

让世界知道我们都是中国人

And if you think you absolutely have to, just go and watch that German “Enlightenment” show at the National Museum. At least, it isn’t dangerous, because it isn’t meant to be fun. It’s mostly about old furniture, and “Enlightenment” can only corrode foreign societies. Science will strengthen ours.

Shikezhunbeizhe!
Net Nanny

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Related
Charlie Sheen is not Filial, Global Times, March 7, 2011

Update/Related
[added 2011-04-24] We can Stop the Music, October 20, 2008

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Breakfast with Tsai Ing-wen

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairwoman and one of the contenders for her party’s presidential nomination*), had a morning tea meeting (早茶會) with foreigners  – not least press people – at the Breakfast Club in Taipei on Saturday morning local time. There was no need for translations, as Tsai’s address and the following questions-and-answers session were all held in English. TWIMI Television posted a video recording on youtube – the first video clip is embedded on the TWIMI website; the following ones (‘#2 – #6) can be found directly on youtube.

For readers whose Chinese is better than their English, an executive summary – between the video and photos – is also provided on the TWIMI website.

One consideration to hold that meeting may have been to raise Tsai’s profile in international news, with possibly positive publicity within Taiwan. Another seems to be that a president who easily (and informally, if need be) communicates with the international community could be an asset for the island republic which is diplomatically isolated, given that no country can maintain official diplomatic ties both with Beijing, and Taipei.

Main topics of her talk

  1. Video 1/6 – 03’50” Relationship with China, use of  multilateral WTO framework in ECFA and other negotiations
  2. Video 1/6 – 13’14”  Economic policies / job creation, continued on video #2.
  3. Video 2/6 – 02’15” – how Taiwanese investment in China affects job quality in Taiwan / importance of R&D.
  4. Video 2/6 10’10” – Rural areas: farming as an opportunity, rather than a burden – continued on video #3.

Tsai’s talk might have come across better – on video – if it had been a short statement instead, even if the talk probably came across more effectively among the group of people at the Breakfast Club than it does on video. The subsequent Q&A is much more lively and instructive than her talk. The longer the Q&A went, the more quick-witted and spontaneous Tsai seemed to become. On issues like the death penalty, she offered both a roadmap to its abolishment, and an explanation for the public mood which favors the death penalty.

She made no secret of the difficulties a DPP government may face if Beijing tries to make life difficult, but explained Taiwan-Chinese relations – and her approach to them – in an international context, in a relaxed and even humorous way.

The compère and moderator wasn’t exactly neutral – see video 3/6 – 05’48” / 12’33”.

Q & A

  1. Video 3/6 – 07’01” – Science: aren’t the humanities and the environment important for development, too?
  2. Video 3/6 – 13’03” – The Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co. naphtha cracker complex in particular, and environmental policies in general. Continued on video #4.
  3. Video 4/6 – 03’45” – How will a Tsai administration deal with Beijing accusations against a DPP-led government, and how will she make the US state department her ally (basically)? – the DPP’s path from revolution to diplomacy.
  4. Video 4/6 – 11’15” – Restoration of trust between the DPP and Washington so far / think-tank diplomacy.
  5. Video 4/6 – 15’26” – Is a vote for Tsai Ing-wen a vote for Chen Shui-bian and his clique? Would she pardon Chen? Continued on video #5.
  6. Video 5/6 – 02’08” – Given Tsai’s emphasis on R&D, the questioner doubts that R&D and the kinds of jobs that have been moved to China are connected, and wonders how Tsai would create an environment which foreign talents would like to move into.
  7. Would there be a moratorium on the death penalty if Tsai gets elected?
  8. Video 6/6 – 00’04” – is the best survival strategy for Taiwan to be as different from China as possible, and does Tsai have a vision for the country Taiwan should be?
  9. Video 6/6 – 05’00” – what are the three things Tsai would want to have accomplished after a first term in office, in Taiwan-Chinese relations?
  10. What is Tsai’s deepest criticism of Taiwan’s educational system?

____________

Note

*) Tsai has reportedly taken a leave of absence, with the presidential nomination caucus chief Ker Chien-ming being acting chairman for the time being.

____________

Related

Tsai Ing-wen’s Presidential Bid: Democracy over Idolization, March 11, 2011
Creative Destruction or Development, March 15, 2010

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