Archive for December 3rd, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fake Joke

This poor farmer bought some seedlings. But after weeks of waiting, only weed started growing.

He realized he was cheated and the seedlings was a fake.

He got upset, in a fist of rage , he committed suicide instead by gobbling down the last remaining bottle of weed killer.

He survived because the weed killer was a fake and he was not poisoned.

The wife was very happy because the husband did not die and bought some rice wine for the whole family to celebrate.

Ended up the whole family was poisoned because the rice wine was a fake.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Who’s afraid of the New World Order forecasted by the NIC?

NIC stands for National Intelligence Council, a center for mid-term and long-term strategic thinking and advising the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). It published a document that caught a lot of global attention – sfgate carries a review of press reactions to it on November 20.

Global Trends 2025 – A Transformed World – comes in during interesting times. When reading the reactions to it to date on the internet, it looks to me like if many people read it like some Nostradamus stuff – predictions about inevitable developments. The report itself makes it clear on page four that it isn’t about prophecies:

Among the messages we hope to convey are: ‘If you like where events seem to be headed, you may want to take timely action to preserve their positive trajectory. If you do not like where they appear to be going, you will have to develop and implement policies to change their trajectory.'”

Global Trends 2025 was compiled before the Financial Crises hit with full force (although it has been with us in a less dramatic shape for some twelve to fifteen months). Either way, the European Union seems to present itself in this crisis pretty much the way the report describes it: as

“a hobbled giant distracted by internal bickering and competing national agendas, and less able to translate its economic clout into global influence.”

The Economist of this week gives an overview of the reactions of major economic players to the financial crisis so far:

America is apparently contemplating a fiscal boost worth $500 billion to $700 billion, or 3 to 5% of GDP.

“So far the only other big country to conjure up sums on this scale is China (and its huge stimulus keeps on having to be revised downward as the figures are checked).”

Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer laid out tax cuts worth 1% of GDP, and while the European mission suggested some bold plans, the Euroland member states don’t appear in the least as daring – Germany which has both the heft and the money to loosen budgetary policy” has only passed a boost worth about 0.25% of GDP.

Former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer painted a much more flattering picture of the European Union’s ability to react to the challenge of collapsing markets:

“Europe and its national governments are basking in their new capacity to act – and not without reason. Who would have dared, even a few weeks ago, to predict that in the end it would be the divided Europeans, not the United States, who determined how to contain the global financial crisis?”

It’s true – in the end, America followed Europe’s example and injected capital into its banks, rather than just buying rotten assets.

But even if you’d choose to think that Europeans are acting like prudent bankers (and exercising some more caution than America did in the past is paying off here at the moment), Germany’s fiscal conservatism in particular is hardly an adequate answer to the challenge. If governments here aren’t willing to go several steps further, you can’t expect China to do more than to maintain “the sound and steady development of its own economy”. Its officials will have to keep their economy growing – the stratagy has been to lift China to more high-tech levels, but that won’t ten million migration workers who still move to the cities every year, according to Der Spiegel of December 1 (p. 100).

Germany would certainly be in no good position to criticize China’s guarded position when it comes to reviving the global economy. Many European governments suspect that the Germans are waiting for their stimulus packages, and then to continue exporting to them as the freeloaders of European (or global) cooperation.

Paris is working on [the economic revival plan], Berlin is thinking about it, French president Nicolas Sarkozy jeered after discussions with German chancellor Angela Merkel in November:

“Paris y travaille, Berlin y réfléchit.”

An optimistic prediction for 2025 could be that the challenges of the future will drive Europeans to becomemore enterprising, and more coordinated, while the constraints also painted by the NIC report – Europe’s ageing population and its weak common institutions – could still mean that we won’t change that much after all. If there won’t be massive economic decline (in Germany, trade associations and labor unions have been more innovative and pragmatic than politicians recently, and in some other European countries, politicians do better jobs than here), the world may actually view Europe as a pretty predictable stakeholder.

“Growth projections for Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the BRICs) indicate they will collectively match the original G-7’s share of global GDP by 2040-2050.  China is poised to have more impact on the world over the next 20 years than any other country.  If current trends persist, by 2025 China will have the world’s second largest economy and will be a leading military power”,

says the NIC report.

On the one hand, countries like China and India, with more than one billion inhabitants respectively, are poised to become bigger economies than any Western country, or Japan. On the other, if China in 2025 will be as nationalistic and politically unidirectional as events this year suggest, and if Peking will try to determine our leaders’ appointment diaries (see comment thread there) as it is trying right now, the West will still be led by America, rather than by Europe. I’m not even sure that America will play second fiddle after China then, because I doubt that China, under such circumstances, will look like an attractive model to the rest of the world.

This only started to dawn on me this year, with the Olympic fuss. If I go by the African, Latin-American, and even South-Asian media and people I know, China’s view of itself and the world is rather exceptional. Sure, people and governments all over the world are likely to find a global setting with more than just one superpower more attractive than the current status. When the West, China, and possibly Russia compete for natural resources, developing countries can pit one of them off against the other. But before China becomes a model of social development, China itself will have to make further changes – maybe more fundamental ones than those of the past thirty years.

China probably has a “non-democratic advantage” (political consistency) when promoting its international position, as the Taipei Times has put it. But a multi-polar world offers opportunities of its own. In future global differences, good arguments will probably count much more than in the past, and much more than mere economic and military weight. China without political change will have little else to offer than weight itself.

Former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, allowedly not a suspect of, umm, cultural relativism, conducted democratic experiments on Chinese soil for five years, and with quite some success. His former post as a UK secretary of state for overseas development in the 1980s probably also makes him a European politician with an unusually broad horizon.

In an interview with RTHK on November 3, he appeared optimistic about democracy’s survival:

“I think that if China offers a challenge to the model of welfare democracy and the combination of rule of law, of capitalism, of elections, of freedom of speech and so on […], I don’t think it’s a model which is going to get huge and sustainable support.”

Hong Kong isn’t democratic yet. But nobody needs to convince Hong Kongers that free speech is important. They are probably more aware than that than people living in established democracies.

The most efficient thing which economically developed democratic countries could do to promote human rights worldwide is to safeguard these rights at home. A second important factor is to be decent trading partners for developing countries. 

“If you like where events seem to be headed, you may want to take timely action to preserve their positive trajectory. If you do not like where they appear to be going, you will have to develop and implement policies to change their trajectory.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ai Jing: Yanfen Jie

Thirty years of Reform and Opening-up in China. Ai Jing is a popular Chinese singer who was born in Shenyang in 1969. Once in a while, she sings a Russian song with Chinese lyrics, and some of her songs are about childhood memories – Once upon a Time in Yanfen Street is one of those memory songs.

What do the reform policies and songs like Yanfen Street have to do with each other? I’m not sure. Probably I’m just wondering what kinds of songs Chinese mainstream performers will sing in 2038.


Update: If the link to the audio clip above doesn’t work, try this mofile clip (and be patient. It takes minutes to load here, but runs smoothly then).

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