Archive for China

Choking Dog

What we consider an insult to athletes who fail at decisive moments…

China considers a delicacy:

Last one is a rotten egg! Or is that just the air?

The 34th Beijing International Marathon has gone ahead despite concerns about bad air quality.

Many of the 25,000 runners wore face masks or used sponges to battle the smog. One resident in the city told the BBC that the air smelt like burnt coal.

The organisers warned runners to expect slight or moderate smog, but the US embassy said the air was so bad, it represented a hazard.

On a positive note:

Beijing resident Neil Holt told the BBC that although the air quality was better than last year, “it was still very polluted”.

Anyway, if you think the marathons are bad, you should see the triathlons!

China, get your s**t together.


Occupy Hong Kong

How long till Elizabeth Warren claims to be their intellectual foundation?

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong remain on the streets for a fourth day Tuesday in an unprecedented show of civil disobedience. Both sides are refusing to back down.

The protest was sparked by anger over China’s refusal to allow the open selection of candidates for Hong Kong’s leader — called the chief executive — in the city’s first democratic election scheduled for 2017.

A statement on Twitter from the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement said it set an Oct. 1 deadline for Leung Chun-ying to meet their demands for genuine democracy or for him to step down as Hong Kong’s leader.

The group said it would soon announce new civil disobedience plans if no action was taken to meet demands by Wednesday. However, Leung said Tuesday that neither he nor China’s communist leaders in Beijing would back down.

“The central government will not rescind its decision,” said Leung, rejecting one of the protesters’ demands.

They call it the “umbrella revolution” because the protestors use umbrellas to disperse the pepper spray and water cannons. They wear goggles and wrap themselves in plastic to protect themselves from the burning chemicals.

That’s fine, as long as it lasts:

The smug schmucks of our Occupy movement should take note: when there’s really something on the line—and not just lame posing—you find a way to stay in the field, even if it’s a killing field.


With Two Political Prisoners You Get Egg Roll

It’s not often I praise the Obama administration, much less its State Department.

It won’t become a habit, trust me:

The street holding the Chinese embassy in Washington DC could be renamed after a noted Chinese dissident.

An amendment attached to a state department budget bill would make the embassy’s address 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza.

Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion in China.

The Chinese foreign ministry has called the proposed change of address – which now requires Congress approval – “nothing more than a sheer farce”.

“Some people from the United States have used so-called human rights and the Liu Xiaobo case to engage in this meaningless sensationalism,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

Choke on it, China.


We’re Number Two!

President Obama’s Greatest Achievement:

China is set to overtake the U.S. as the world’s number one economy, while India has jumped into third place ahead of Japan, according to a new study from the world’s leading statistical agencies.

The 2011 International Comparison Program (ICP), which involves the World Bank, assesses economies based on purchasing power parity (PPP), an estimate of the real living costs. The results revealed on Wednesday paint a new and different picture of the global economy compared with the last update in 2005.

The research puts China’s gross domestic product (GDP) at 87 percent of the U.S. in 2011 and says the Chinese and Indian economies have more than doubled relative to that of the U.S. In the 2005 study, the ICP believed China’s economy was less than half the size of the U.S., at 43 percent.

China’s economy grew an annual 7.4 percent in the first quarter of this year, slowing from a 7.7 percent increase in the final quarter of 2013. Still, its economic growth continues to outpace that of developed world economies.

They grew at only 7.4%? Eat our dust, China! Zero-point-one percent and going strong!

Investors know the Rule of 72, which is a handy way of estimating (very accurately) how quickly an investment will grow. Divide the interest rate into 72 and the answer is the time it will take for the the investment to double. For example, $100 invested at 4% will yield $200 in 18 years (72/4 = 18). At China’s average growth (7.whatever), their economy doubles every decade, easily. At 0.1%, ours takes 720 years.

Pocahontas’s wampum would still have 60% purchasing power in today’s economy. (As long as she pays her fair share.)

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Truth and Reconciliation

Twenty-five years later, those concepts are as foreign to China as dairy and flatware:

During a Harvard University conference Saturday marking the 25-year anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, students stood, gave their names, and posed questions to a panel of former protesters.

But one young woman, a freshman from China, would not give her name.

“I took this class because I am the generation that’s being brainwashed,” she told the packed auditorium. “Everything I knew about June 4, 1989, was the fragments I heard from my dad.”

A quarter-century after tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled into Beijing to suppress a student-led prodemocracy movement, fear persists. The Chinese government has only minimally acknowledged its crackdown, which killed hundreds of the protesters and possibly thousands, and heavily censors media references and Web searches related to the 1989 protests.

“I wanted to know more about this part of history that was hidden from my people, that was a taboo for decades,” the student said, explaining why she enrolled in a class on the Tiananmen uprising.

What happened in Tiananmen 25 years ago? You asked:

“I’m very reluctant to tell what I saw and experienced,” said Liane Lee, a former student journalist who traveled from Hong Kong to Beijing to document the protests. “But I don’t think I have a choice, because I was rescued by those people. They are so courageous, so brave. They are good people.”

Lee spent nearly an hour describing in vivid detail her experiences in Tiananmen. She recalled trying in vain to restrain a hysterical, bereaved protester who wanted to attack soldiers he said had killed his brother. Lee later fainted when she saw the man later being carried away, suffering from a severe gunshot wound.

She also recalled being shepherded into an ambulance by an insistent doctor as Chinese Army units firing guns moved into the square.

“She told me, ‘My child, please get in the ambulance and leave the square safely. Go back to Hong Kong . . . tell the world what our government has done to us,’ ” Lee said, as another panelist wept.

Also at the conference was Jeff Widener, the photographer who captured the iconic image of a Chinese man standing in front of a column of tanks. Widener shook his head as he listened to Fang Zheng, a student whose legs were crushed by a tank as he tried to lift another protester to safety, describe how Chinese officials tried to use the photograph as evidence that tanks would not have run over protesters. The officials were warning Zheng, a paralympian, not to tell Western news media outlets how he sustained his injuries.

Isn’t it interesting how the one thing the Chinese despots are afraid of is the truth? More than having committed these atrocities, they fear being discovered. Still.

[Professor] He said some of her students drew parallels to the Boston Marathon bombings last year, which occurred on April 15, the same date the Tiananmen protests began in 1989.

“They felt like they could identify, understand what it was like to lose legs,” she said.

As He watched television coverage of memorials for Marathon bombing victims this month, she lamented that China never had a similar opportunity to mourn and reflect.

“People here got the counseling. They can openly talk about it; they can mourn together,” she said. “I felt like, why didn’t we get a chance to heal?”

China teaches us that if revolutions are violent, permanent revolutions are permanently violent. What happened in Tiananmen 25 years ago is part of a continuum of bone-crushing and oppression unbroken from 1949 through the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward to this very day. The only thing that unnerves such totalitarian regimes is the truth. Which is why they teach even their victims (especially their victims) to fear the truth.

The only mildly surprising thing about the events of a quarter-century ago was that it took the Chinese tyrants so long to act.


Got Peat?

Boy, they ain’t kidding about global warming, huh? That’s some pretty bad [bleep].

Good thing enlightened people are taking the threat of greenhouse gases seriously:

Japan is turning into a rare bright spot in the world coal market, stepping up coal-fired power generation to replace nuclear plants that went offline after the 2011 Fukushima accident.

Plans by Japanese companies to spend billions of dollars on new coal-fired plants offer a striking contrast with the U.S., which has effectively blocked new coal plants using existing technology over concerns about global warming.

If the plans all come to fruition, Japan’s coal-fired power capacity would increase to around 47 gigawatts over the next decade or so, up 21% from the time right before the Fukushima accident.

It’s understandable that Japan might shy away from nuclear power (wrong but understandable), but do they really think coal is a safer bet?

The bodies of six miners trapped after a rock burst at a coal mine in central China’s Henan province were found by rescuers Friday.

What do the Japanese care? They still get their coal.

As somebody says, I’ll take global warming seriously when people act like it’s serious.

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Kung Fool

Some say President Obama has been beaten up for his lunch money by Vladimir Putin. We reject that charge.

Beating him up for his lunch money is what China is doing:

China is waging political warfare against the United States as part of a strategy to drive the U.S. military out of Asia and control seas near its coasts, according to a Pentagon-sponsored study.

A defense contractor report produced for the Office of Net Assessment, the Pentagon’s think tank on future warfare, describes in detail China’s “Three Warfares” as psychological, media, and legal operations. They represent an asymmetric “military technology” that is a surrogate for conflict involving nuclear and conventional weapons.

The unclassified 566-page report warns that the U.S. government and the military lack effective tools for countering the non-kinetic warfare methods, and notes that U.S. military academies do not teach future military leaders about the Chinese use of unconventional warfare. It urges greater efforts to understand the threat and adopt steps to counter it.

“The Three Warfares is a dynamic three dimensional war-fighting process that constitutes war by other means,” said Cambridge University professor Stefan Halper, who directed the study. “It is China’s weapon of choice in the South China Sea.”

The study concludes that in the decade ahead China will employ unconventional warfare techniques on issues ranging from the Senkaku Islands dispute in northeast Asia to the disputed Paracels in the South China Sea.

For the United States, the Three Warfares seek to curtail U.S. power projection in Asia that is needed to support allies, such as Japan and South Korea, and to assure freedom of navigation by attempting to set terms for allowing U.S. access to the region.

The use of psychological, media, and legal attacks by China is part of an effort to raise “doubts about the legitimacy of the U.S. presence.”

Let us amend our assertion that China is beating up Obama for his lunch money. He’s handing it over of his own free will, saying they deserve it more than he does. Besides, China is just a “regional power”, acting “out of weakness”.

If this were a good world in which everyone could be trusted, there might be no need for the US to project its strength around the globe, But his is a world with China, Russia, Iran, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, etc. in it. There are consequences for weakness, perceived or real, but unless the Russians lob a nuke onto the 17 green at Andrews Air Base, Obama will never have to face them.


Michelle Obama’s Chinese Vacation [UPDATED]

Some might say that a First Lady who reports on herself has a fool for a subject.

Michelle Obama, rather, believes: FLOTUS, report on thyself:


First Lady Michelle Obama and Malia and Sasha visit the Great Wall of China. March 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Today we drove about an hour north of Beijing to a village called Mutianyu to visit a section of the Great Wall of China, which was simply breathtaking. The scenery on the way there was beautiful – a wide vista of mountains and trees – so the car ride alone was a treat. But then, running along the highest ridges of the mountains, you see it: The Great Wall – one of the great marvels of human history.

Sound familiar?

PRESIDENT [NIXON]. I can only say to the media, who, like myself, have never seen the Great Wall before, that it exceeds all expectations. When one stands there and sees the Wall going to the peak of this mountain and realizes that it runs for hundreds of miles, as a matter of fact thousands of miles, over the mountains and through the valleys of this country, that it was built over 2,000 years ago, I think that you would have to conclude that this is a great wall and that it had to be built by a great people.

Why’d they build it again?

“…to protect the Chinese Empire or its prototypical states against intrusions by various nomadic groups or military incursions by various warlike peoples or forces…”


Anyhow, back to the State Media travelogue:

To get to the Wall, we rode a cable car up a mountain (and we later rode back down on a long slide!). The section we visited is one of the more popular parts of the Wall for tourists, and it’s easy to see why. At Mutianyu, the Wall is roughly 20 to 25 feet tall and full of stairs, and there’s a watchtower every 100 yards or so. Those watchtowers serve as a reminder of why the Wall was built in the first place – to defend against attacks from armies descending from the north. Throughout its history, the Great Wall has gone through decades, even centuries, of ruin and disrepair. But it has always served as not only a physical barrier, but a psychological one to intimidate potential invaders.


A long slide, huh?


First Lady Michelle Obama takes a toboggan ride after visiting the Great Wall of China with Malia and Sasha. March 23, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Who needs Pravda when the Kremlin—sorry, White House—can report on itself?

I have been laboring under the impression that this junket is media-rein, but I stand corrected:

From a Q&A Mrs. Obama had today with CaixanOnline, a China-focused news site.

Never mind what bilge she spewed, or that she spewed it to state-run media organ (much like AP, NPR, NBC, et al), Mrs. Obama did sit for an interview. I regret the error.


No Tickee, No Diploma

In yesterday’s blog post about Michelle Obama’s private visit to China on the public’s dime, I noted she said this:

About 800 students attend the Beijing Normal School, and of those, roughly one in four are international students – including some Americans. All the classes are taught in English (one room even has a map of the United States on the ceiling), and the curriculum prepares students to study internationally once they graduate. Many students here hope to one day attend college in America.

To which I retorted:

Which opportunity will be denied to them to make room for affirmative action students. (Am I wrong?)

Looks like I was (and I couldn’t be more proud):

Democrats claim to be a multi-ethnic “coalition of the ascendant,” but identity politics has inherent contradictions. Witness the victory this week by three liberal Asian-American lawmakers in blocking Sacramento’s Democratic supermajority from trying to overturn California’s ban on racial preferences (Prop. 209).

“In the past few weeks, we have heard from thousands of people throughout California voicing their concerns about the potential impacts,” the senators wrote Assembly Speaker John Perez last week, adding that “as lifelong advocates for the Asian-American and other communities, we would never support a policy that we believed would negatively impact our children.”

Their concerns are well founded. In 1996, California voters approved Prop. 209 to block public institutions, notably state universities, from discriminating by race. Asian-American freshman enrollment at the University of California’s 10-flagship universities has since climbed to 40.2% from 36.6% and to 47% from 39.7% at Berkeley.

Admissions rates for Asian Americans relative to other minority groups have also soared. In 1996, Asian Americans were about two-thirds as likely to get into Berkeley as blacks or Hispanics, not controlling for other factors. Today Asian Americans stand a 50% better shot of being admitted. Prop. 209’s ban on racial preferences has helped Asian Americans by forcing admissions officers to focus on such academic qualifications as high-school grades and test scores.

What do grades and test score have to do with getting into Berkeley?

Of course, doing good often comes by way of doing well:

Democratic leaders say they are merely delaying the referendum for discussion, but they know that pushing for Prop. 209’s repeal risks alienating the growing block of Asian-American voters in the same way Republicans have alienated Hispanics. Asian Americans were 11% of California voters in 2012 compared to 6% in 2008, and nearly 80% of them voted for President Obama.

Asian-Americans were in danger of becoming the Jews of the 21st Century (the likes of Jonas Salk and Richard Feynman were rejected from Ivy League schools due to strict quotas), and that would be as wrong today as it was then.


Michelle Obama’s Chinese Vacation

I would try to count the days, but who can tell which day it is when she’s a world away?

It’s the nights you need to count:

First Lady Michelle Obama is staying with her daughters and mother in an $8,000-per-night suite in Beijing, according to Chinese media.

Don’t worry. I’m sure the dozens of support staff and Secret Service rooms don’t cost a penny more than two grand.

The total cost of this excursion, which is heavy on tourist stuff, is likely north of $1 million, given that Judicial Watch was able to peg her 2010 trip to Spain at $467,000. This voyage has far more flying time – a major piece of the cost – and much more demanding security requirements, as well as lots of staff.

“Heavy on the tourist stuff” it may be, but she’s speaking in an official capacity, too:

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama has told students at Beijing’s Stanford Center of the prestigious Peking University that access to information – especially online – and freedom of speech are universal rights.

On her second day of a five-day trip to China, Mrs. Obama told American and other students on Saturday that freedom of expression and worship, and having open access to information are universal rights that are the “birthright of every person on this planet.”

Good for her. I mean it. And what speaks of modern diplomacy better than a selfie?

Sadly, FLOTUS hasn’t updated her blog since the state dinner and “performance” hinted at yesterday (the day before?) Did she have the Moo Goo Gai Pan or the Egg Foo Young, I wonder?

She did have a great time in the Forbidden City, you’ll be happy to know!

PS: Aggie noted yesterday Michelle’s pitch-perfect Midwestern Nice tonality. She’s still got it:

The Forbidden City is far too large to fully experience in a single visit, but highlights include the following: The Hall of Union and Peace has almost 14,000 ornamental dragons. The Hall of Supreme Harmony is where the emperor viewed birthday celebrations and coronation ceremonies from his Dragon Throne. And then there are the Imperial Gardens, where you can walk along the paths and pavilions, admiring the beautiful rock arrangements, flowers and cypress trees.

While we loved our visit to the Forbidden City, we only wish we had more time to see everything. But then again, I’m not sure there could ever be enough time to fully appreciate all of the art and history within this extraordinary place.

You can take the girl out of Chicago, but I guess you can’t take the Chicago out of the girl!

PPS: We’ll continue to put our efforts into covering this trip, since the press won’t (can’t).


Michelle Obama’s Chinese Vacation

The Obama/Robinson women are in China now, without a man and without the press, so how’s it going so far?

Obama, who is visiting China with her mother and two daughters, is expected to forgo discussion of trade, human rights and the tangle of other issues that have weighed on U.S.-China relations. Instead, she plans to focus on building goodwill through soft diplomacy.

Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan accompanied the visitors on a visit to the Beijing Normal School attended by elite Chinese students and American teenagers from prestigious schools such as Exeter, Andover and Sidwell Friends on study abroad programmes.

Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer, wore wide-legged black slacks and a loose black vest.

Good to know! Of course, if that sentence isn’t a non-sequitur—two, actually!—I don’t know my non-sequiturs. (What relevance do her slacks have to her law degree? What relevance does her law degree have to her family vacation on the public’s dime?)

Peng, dressed immaculately in a cornflower-blue skirt suit, with a red leather clutch and matching stud earrings, appeared to speak limited English, but gamely ventured a few comments to foreign students and the Obama family.

Is that a shot at Michelle’s frumpy outfit?

Deserved, if it is.

But if we’re to get the real story of the First Lady’s Beijing junket (no press), we’ll have to go to the source:

After a long flight from Washington, D.C. – one that took around 20 hours – my mother, my daughters, and I arrived in Beijing to begin our official visit to China. Our first stop was at the Beijing Normal School, where we were hosted by Madam Peng Liyuan, the First Lady of China.

Madam Peng (her name is pronounced “Pung”) first became known to the Chinese people long before she was First Lady.

Pronounced “Pung”? Who knew? Betcha NPR wouldn’t know that.

As my family and I can attest from our time together at the Beijing Normal School, Madam Peng is a warm and gracious host. And this visit was a perfect opportunity to highlight the themes of my trip: the value of education and the importance of cultural exchanges between young people in different countries.

About 800 students attend the Beijing Normal School, and of those, roughly one in four are international students – including some Americans. All the classes are taught in English (one room even has a map of the United States on the ceiling), and the curriculum prepares students to study internationally once they graduate. Many students here hope to one day attend college in America.

Which opportunity will be denied to them to make room for affirmative action students. (Am I wrong?)

Madam Peng and I first visited a class where students were actually building their own robots, and they were kind enough to do a demonstration for us. The first robot we saw could actually walk over obstacles. Another one, which was shaped like a triangle, was referred to as “bad boy” by its student creators (one of them explained to us that this robot is “really naughty”).

It holds up little signs that say “I’m Falun Gong!” and “Free Ai Weiwei!”

I jest. But Nixon went to China in 1972 and we’re still playing ping-pong diplomacy 42 years later?

After the robotics class, we stopped by a ping pong practice session where I got some tips from the instructor and then had the chance to play with one of the students. She was excellent (though I think she may have gone easy on me, just to be nice).

Isn’t that sweet?

Look, there’s a role for this sort of thing, I guess. But isn’t it fair to say that Michelle’s personal ambitions (not least wanderlust) are covering up some very real problems? China’s human rights abuses; its support of North Korea; its territorial ambitions; intellectual property theft—one could go on. And her insistence that she be the only reporter with direct access to the participants in the trip is disturbing, dare I say Chinese, in its authority. It’s like Jay Carney asking questions of himself in a news conference. (Oh wait.)

Can’t wait for tomorrow’s dispatch from the front lines: dinner and a show.

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I think I made a crack the other day about Michelle Obama and the girls (and their grandmother) visiting China, but also allowed that First Families often serve as American ambassadors.

But this?

First lady Michelle Obama will not take questions from reporters or give interviews during her tour of China that begins today, and members of the press corps who usually follows the first family everywhere can’t travel with her entourage.

And although she will make a few speeches with reporters in the room, the picture is largely one of an expensive, taxpayer-funded tourism exercise for Mrs. Obama, her two daughters, and her mother – not the official trip the White House has projected.

And limited information made available to MailOnline suggests that only two out of 22 scheduled events on the trip will afford journalists a chance to do any significant reporting – including a solitary speech – but still without interviewing Mrs. Obama.

‘How does this comport with the standards of an “official” trip that uses government resources?’ MailOnline asked. ‘Doesn’t this look more like a vacation at taxpayer expense if she’s not going to interface with the media?’

White House travel can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars since members of the president’s family must take a phalanx of Secret Service agents with them wherever they go. Those agents and their staffers need hotel rooms, rental vehicles and per diem meal expenses.

A vacation? Dude, she’ll be working! Doing the job the American press won’t (be allowed) to do:

I’ll be posting a daily travel blog, complete with videos and photos, and I’ll be taking – and answering – questions from kids across America as I go.

I hope you’ll join me – all you have to do is get online:

Go to to check out my travel blog, and you can even sign up for a daily email update delivered to your inbox.

Who needs the Fourth Estate when you have the First Lady to tell you what’s going on?

And she’ll be worth every penny:

First Lady Michelle Obama plans to pack in an exciting week of sightseeing during what is definitely NOT a vacation excursion with her daughters, who are on spring break, and her mother, who likes to go on Michelle’s trips.

The White House refuses to say how much it will cost you, according to the New York Times.

Well, I can reveal it here:

A lot!!

But this is not a vacation. Please repeat to yourself. This is not a vacation.

I’ll give you a moment.

This is just the Sister Sledge of the Second City, the Jeffersons of Georgetown:

[A]ccording to Tina Tchen, Mrs. Obama’s chief of staff:

I will say this as a Chinese American — of family and of three generations of family traveling together, which I think the Chinese will appreciate, and will appreciate the ties and the bonds that the Obama family have with one another across generations. And this is a great opportunity for the Obama family to experience that, and I think for the Chinese to see that as well in an American family.


Stupid enough to return them to power, without any restraints on their behavior. He’s not running for a third term—though he might find the office too much to his liking to leave.

I say without rancor: this is a family vacation at your and my expense. A state trip would permit a role for the press, a private trip would not.

Now with rancor: They wanna go, they can pay their own way. Freeloaders.


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