Posts Tagged ‘china’

To Open or Not to Open

May 5, 2020

To open or not to open, that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler to suffer to open up

And suffer the slings and arrows of COVID-19

Or shelter in place against a sea of viruses

And by opposing end them.

Okay, so I am no William Shakespeare. Still, the question remains, how long must this quarantine and sheltering in place last? We cannot remain closed down indefinitely. Small businesses and the people who they employ are suffering badly. Before too much longer, they will not be able to reopen. Every day that we remain closed down presents a greater risk of a recession or even a depression occurring later in the year. Yet, if we open everything too soon before the pandemic has run its course, we run the risk of suffering a second wave of coronavirus resulting in more sickness and deaths. Shutting the economy down again late this summer could do more damage to the economy than keeping things shut down a little longer this spring. This is not an easy decision, no matter what some people who are not in the position to make the actual decisions and be responsible for the consequences might believe. I wouldn’t want to be the person who has to decide.

Hamlet pondering on whether to reopen Denmark after the coronavirus pandemic

You wouldn’t think that responses to the coronavirus epidemic would be along partisan lines, but then what isn’t along partisan lines these days? I have noticed that Democrats and leftists generally seem to be in favor of extending the lockdowns for as long as possible and seem to favor stricter guidelines for social distancing, while Republicans and conservatives generally seem to want the lockdowns to end as soon as possible. Perhaps the Democrats tend to be more concerned with the population’s health while the Republicans are more concerned with the nation’s economy. Or maybe Republicans have actual jobs and would like to get back to the business of providing for themselves and their families. I think everyone not on the fringes is starting to get a little frustrated.

Out on the fringes, the lunatic right seems to believe that the Wuhan virus is some sort of false flag operation by the government to impose socialist tyranny on the country. All of the lockdowns and shelter in place orders are just to prepare the sheeple to follow the government’s orders no matter how negatively they affect their lives and circumstances. When the blue-helmeted UN ‘peacekeepers’ arrive in their black helicopters after the disputed election of 2020, most people will be conditioned to do as their told and offer no resistance to the invaders. I wish I were making all of this up.

On the other hand, the idiot left does seem to be taking advantage of the disruptions in everyday life to push their agenda. Now is the perfect time for work stoppages, rent strikes, gun safety measures, freer access to abortion, a wealth tax, open borders, and who knows what else. None of this has anything to do with the pandemic, though I imagine that a country in the sort of economic collapse that would ensue if the left’s policies were adopted might find it more difficult to protect its citizens from disease.

Some governors, especially in the Blue States seem to be enjoying the power which the crisis has given them. They seem to relish having the power to decide which jobs and businesses are essential and telling people how they can interact with one another, setting up snitch lines, getting the police to note the license plates of people who have dared to attend religious services, threatening the Jews, etc. I wonder if these governors will ever reopen their states. They seem to be having too much fun unleashing their inner authoritarians. Besides, if we end up in a Greater Depression, it might cause Trump to be defeated in the upcoming election. Tens of millions of Americans permanently out of work and without hope is a small price to pay for defeating the bad orange man, and it is a lot easier to set up the new socialist America if people have to depend on the government for every necessity. We can’t have a free people who rely on themselves. That’s racist or something.

For my part, I think there has been a lot of overreaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chinese coronavirus just doesn’t seem deadly enough to justify the lockdowns and the general panic. Still, better safe than sorry and I would prefer to err on the side of doing too much than too little. After all, when this crisis started, we had no way of knowing how bad it might get. The Chinese government has not been too helpful in providing the information we needed. I think we need to start opening things up now, not just because of the economy, but because I sense the American people are getting impatient and frustrated. I think the nation’s governors are going to have to plan to start opening things up right now before people start simply ignoring them and opening up on their own. Already we read of protests. That’s the signal for our leaders to get out and lead, or we’ll just start leading ourselves.

Quarantine China

April 6, 2020

If it were not for the criminal negligence of the government of the People’s Republic of China, the world would not be suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. They lied about the extent of the pandemic in their own country and punished medical authorities who dared to tell the truth. Their incompetence permitted the spread of COVID-19 beyond Wuhan.  The Chinese government is still not being truthful or responsible about events in China and has even permitted the wet markets, where the disease began, to reopen.

All of this could be forgiven if it were a one-time event, but the recent history of pandemics originating in China reveals that the spread of this latest pandemic is part of a pattern. The Chinese government was just as incompetent and dishonest in its reaction to the SARS epidemic of 2002, the Swine Flu epidemic of 2009, and the Bird Flu epidemic of 2013-16. It must be obvious by now that the People’s Republic of China is unable or unwilling to maintain the minimum standards of public health or fulfill its obligations as a good global citizen. It is time to quarantine China.

We need to cut off our trade with China as much as possible. We certainly should not rely on a potentially hostile trading partner for our military or economic necessities. Wherever possible we need to bring our manufacturing back to America. American companies need to come home. When it is not feasible to locate a factory or other facility in the United States, we should at least locate it in a friendly country. There are many places with cheap labor. We do not have to rely on a country with values hostile to our own to make our stuff.  We should also restrict travel from the People’s Republic of China until they can show that they are capable of establishing public health protocols that will prevent the next pandemic from spreading outside of China. Unfortunately, these proposals will cause hardship for the citizens of China who have no control over the actions of their government, but we have to put the health and welfare of our own people first.

We also need to investigate the Chinese Communist infiltration of American and Western institutions. In recent years, the Chinese have been leveraging their increasing economic prosperity to gain influence over our universities, research laboratories, entertainment industry, and judging by their eagerness to parrot Chinese propaganda even our news media While the Democrats have been fretting over alleged Russian electoral interference, it is China that has been expanding its efforts to influence public opinion in Western nations and even donating to preferred political parties and candidates. All of this needs to be stopped, particularly the self-censorship that Hollywood imposes on itself to gain market share in the vast Chinese movie-going public. We need to ask ourselves what does it gain us to get cheap stuff and profits from China if we lose our nation, our freedoms, and perhaps even our lives?

While we are decoupling economically from the Communist Chinese state, why don’t we reverse the terrible decision President Carter made in 1978 to recognize the People’s Republic of China as the legitimate government of China and sever diplomatic ties with the Republic of China in Taiwan. The Communists are the de facto government of the Chinese mainland, but that doesn’t mean we ought to recognize them as being in any sense the legitimate government. The Communist government of China is nothing more than a band of corrupt bandits who shot their way into power and then proceeded to murder and starve tens of millions of their own citizens. The economic reforms of the last few decades may have allowed some economic freedom for the people of mainland China and some degree of prosperity, but China remains a totalitarian state that denies its people the most basic civil rights. Even if the Communist government of China was, in any sense, the legitimate government of China, it surely lost its legitimacy when it sent soldiers to gun down its own citizens at Tiananmen Square for asserting their right to be free. It is time to stop pretending we are dealing with a civilized power and re-establish diplomatic relations with the free and democratically elected government of the Republic of China in Taiwan.

Whatever we decide to do after this present crisis is over, we had better make sure that we take steps to make sure something like the COVID-19 pandemic does not happen again. One thing that we can certainly do is to decouple ourselves from China until they show that they can get their act together and keep their citizens and the world safe and healthy.

Coronavirus

March 16, 2020

Maybe I shouldn’t bother to write anything about the COVID 19 virus since I don’t really have anything to say that has not already been said, but since I am off work, vacation, my place of work has not been closed, yet, I suppose I might as well say what’s on my mind.

First, despite what the media is saying, I actually think that our officials, from the president down, have done a fairly good job of containing the spread of the virus here in the US. Nobody is perfect, and I am sure they could have done a better job, but then they could have done a far worse job. I think that much of the criticism directed at President Trump is unfounded and counterproductive. He doesn’t seem to have taken the crisis seriously enough at first, but he did manage to turn around quickly and come up with a plan for managing the crisis. I have noticed that Trump has made a lot of mistakes while in office, particularly in the first year of his presidency, but he never repeated his mistakes. Trump is capable of learning quickly, unlike some other occupants of the Oval Office.

On the other hand, the media generally ought to be ashamed of themselves for needlessly spreading panic. Yes, the coronavirus is a problem. It could kill thousands if it is not contained, but this is hardly the second coming of the Black Death. There is absolutely no reason to panic. We are not going to see someone driving a cart shouting, “Bring out your dead!”

Yet, this is the impression that a lot of media coverage is generating. Even worse, some in the media, or the Democrats but I repeat myself, are indulging in speculation that the coronavirus could be Trumps’s Katrina. These people are actually hoping that Trump is not successful in containing this outbreak so that a Democrat will be elected in November. They hate Trump so much that they are willing to see thousands of Americans dead just to get him out of office. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to see this. They were also rooting for a recession. Despicable.

Also despicable is the overreaction from some members of the general public, particularly the idiots who have been hoarding.  What is the matter with you people? As I said, this is not a matter for panic. Just keep your hands washed, and avoid large crowds and you should be fine. This is not a zombie apocalypse. Civilization is not on the brink of collapse. All of the necessities of civilization will still be available unless idiots like you keep emptying the store shelves. Just buy whatever you need. There is no reason to stock up a six month’s supply. And what is with the toilet paper hoarding? Coronavirus is a respiratory illness. I have not heard that it causes dysentery. We do not get our toilet paper from China, and even if we did, I am sure they are going to keep shipping it over here. If worse comes to worst, use old newspapers.

Speaking of China, no, it is not racist to refer to the coronavirus as the Wuhan virus. The virus came from Wuhan. I also do not think it is racist to point out that this country with its huge population and poor sanitary standards has been the source of many of the pandemics that have plagued the world in recent years. If the Chinese are bothered by the “Wuhan flu” then maybe they should clean up their standards and stop producing these diseases. In the meantime, maybe someone should build a wall around China. We should also look into producing more of the stuff we import from China here in America. It might cost a little more, but maybe it is worth it. At least, we can stop helping to fund one of the most evil governments in the world.

If there is any silver lining to the corona crisis, it is that is has exposed the folly of the globalist vision of a world without borders.  Better controls on the movement of goods and people between nations might have curtailed the spread of the virus. There may be a time for the utopian idea that movement between nations should be as easy as movement within nations, but that time, if it ever comes, is not now. The spread of the coronavirus from nation to nation has demonstrated that we need borders, and yes, we need walls. In light of recent events, any candidate for office who advocates opening the borders to illegal immigrants and abolishing ICE ought to be disqualified.

One more thing. Some states have been postponing their primary elections and this has caused some people to fear that President Trump will use this as a precedent to postpone or cancel the election in November. He can’t do that. There is an important difference between general elections and primaries. General elections are handled by federal law. Primaries are a matter for the states and the parties. No state has to have a primary at all. Primaries were only introduced during the so-called Progressive Era in the 1900-1910s and it wasn’t until the 1970s that enough states held primaries for them to become decisive in choosing a party’s candidates. There is no reason why we couldn’t go back to the time when candidates were chosen by party leaders in smoke-filled rooms, except that they probably wouldn’t allow smoking in the rooms. On the other hand, the date for the general election has been set on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November by federal law since 1845. It would require legislation by Congress to change the date of the election. Moreover, according to the constitution, the president must be inaugurated on January 20. It would require a constitutional amendment to change that, I don’t see that happening. So, again stop panicking. Trump is not going to use the coronavirus to cancel the election and set himself up as president for life. Although, seeing who his opponents are, a man suffering from dementia and a Communist who wants to turn the US into Venezuela, I’m not sure that would be the worst thing that could happen.

A Tale of Two Occupations

December 14, 2014

In June of 1967 the government of Israel had good reason to believe a war with its neighbors was imminent. Egypt’s leader Gamel Abdel Nasser had been making increasingly belligerent public statements calling for the destruction of Israel. Jordan and Israel had already clashed the previous year and tensions with Syria were increasing. In May of 1967 Nasser expelled the UN peacekeeping force from the Sinai Peninsula and began massing troops. On June 5, the Israelis made the somewhat controversial decision to launch a preëmptive strike against the Egyptian air force. This might seem to be an act of aggression, but Israel is a small country and cannot afford to lose much territory in the course of a war. In any event, the Egyptian air force was decimated and fighting broke out between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, with much of the Arab world supporting the war against Israel.

The war only lasted six days. By June 11 the Israelis had easily defeated the coalition against them and had occupied enemy territory, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. Since that time, Israel has annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 for strategic reasons, but has been willing to negotiate the status of the other occupied territories. Israel has returned the Sinai peninsula to Egypt following the Camp David Peace accords, even clearing out the Jewish settlers. The Israelis ended the military occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005, again removing the Jewish settlers, only to have Hamas take over and use the Gaza Strip as a base for war against Israeli civilians. Israel has been obliged to blockade the Gaza Strip, limiting the supply of goods into the region in order to protect the Israeli targets of Hamas’s rocket attacks. Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and has tried to negotiate some sort of settlement with the Palestinians. I think that the great majority of the people of Israel would prefer that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank end and that Israel have a peaceful, prosperous Palestine as a neighbor. The Palestinians have shown that they are not interested in anything but the destruction of the Zionist Entity, so Israel remains a state under siege.

After the fall of the Qing Dynasty in China in 1912, Tibet regained its independence, lost when the Chinese Empire invaded and conquered the country in the eighteenth century. This independence was short lived as the Communist government annexed Tibet in 1950, granting the country autonomous status and permitting the Dalai Lama to remain as the ruler. During the 1950’s Mao’s government began to export his Communist ideology to Tibet and the Tibetans rebelled in 1959. The People’s Liberation Army invaded and ruthlessly crushed the rebellion, driving the Dalai Lama into exile. During the Cultural Revolution,the Chinese government led by the fanatic Red Guards tried to destroy Tibet’s cultural heritage, vandalizing and destroying many monasteries. While conditions have improved in Tibet since China has begun to open up and embrace free markets, Chinese rule in Tibet has continued to be oppressive with the Tibetan language and culture marginalized. Ethnic Han Chinese are encouraged to emigrate to Tibet with the idea of making the native Tibetans a minority in their own country.

Tibet is a sparsely inhabited country with few natural resources and a harsh climate. It poses no conceivable threat to China’s security. The Chinese invasion of 1950 was entirely unprovoked and justified only by the notion that any territory in Asia that was ever part of any previous Chinese dynasty’s inheritance must be under the control of the People’s Republic of China, even if the people of that territory have a culture and nationality of their own.

Now, of these two occupations, which is routinely condemned by the United Nations and by the world’s media as well as Leftist groups everywhere, and which is largely ignored? Why is there no BDS movement against the Chinese government for its atrocious treatment against Tibet, and for that matter against its own people, for despite some reforms China remains a totalitarian dictatorship? Why is democratic Israel attacked for trying to keep its people safe while the aggression and oppression of Communist China is ignored? For that matter, why are the territories occupied by Israel of so much concern to the whole world while Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus, the Western Sahara by Morocco, South Ossetia and Transnistria by Russia, and many others are ignored? What is it about Israel that makes its actions somehow uniquely obnoxious?

I could be wrong, but I get the impression that the critics of Israel may be motivated by something other than a desire for peace and justice in the Middle East, or why do they criticize the only democratic country in the region while ignoring the evils of the tyrants and terrorists who rule everywhere else, not to mention the worse human rights abuses in so many countries around the world.

 

 

China, A History

September 26, 2014

Perhaps nowhere is the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same” more appropriate than in China. China has the honor of being the civilization with the longest continuous history on Earth. China was not the first or the oldest civilization, but while ancient Egypt and Sumer have long since vanished from history, China remains. In that long 3000-4000 years of history, China has undergone many changes. Dynasties of rulers have risen and fallen. The country has been united into an empire, only to break apart and then be united once again. The Chinese Empire has expanded its frontiers into Central Asia, and has been restricted to northern or southern China, while foreigners have ruled other sections. China has been conquered and has regained its independence. Through all the revolutions and changes, China remains China.

The Communists under Mao Zedong were determined to remake China into a modern, socialist country, yet they went about their goals in a characteristically Chinese fashion. Mao condemned Confucius and sought to end that sage’s influence on China. So did Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China (previous rulers were referred to as “kings”). The Communists enforced a rigid Marxist conformity on China intellectuals. The Song Emperors enforced a rigid Neo-Confucian ideology. China, under Mao limited its contacts with foreigners. So did the Qing Emperors. The present rulers of China have converted China into a major trading nation. So did the Tang Emperors. The Communist Party does not tolerate any rival parties. No imperial dynasty was ever comfortable with parties or partisanship. Like the Emperors of old, the Chinese government thinks more in terms of taking a paternal interest in the lives of its subjects rather than in protecting human rights.

Yet, one must not think China as being unchanging or Chinese history as being boring. China has seen drastic changes throughout its history. One might think of this history of change and continuity in terms of the Chinese philosophical ideas of Yin and Yang, opposites that work together. Passive, feminine Yin might represent the periods of imperial unity and strength while active, masculine Yang might represent the chaotic periods of war and disunity that were, nevertheless, the most intellectually productive periods of Chinese history.

I think there are few resources which explore the grand sweep of the Yin and Yang of Chinese history in one volume better than John Keay’s China, A History. In his book, John Keay tells the story of the Chinese nation from its Neolithic beginning up to the modern age. Keay does not, as many writers of history books do, spend too much time on recent events while neglecting past centuries. Every dynasty gets the proper amount of attention, as do the periods of disunion. If I have any complaint at all about China, A History, it is that at 611 pages it is simply too short. Six hundred pages are hardly enough to give an outline of Chinese history. I am not complaining, however. If you want a general outline of Chinese history, China A History serves the purpose admirably and if you want to know more about any topic, there is the bibliography John Keay provides.

China

General Tso’s Chicken

September 21, 2014

The other day, I was eating at a Chinese restaurant and I noticed that one of the items at the buffet was called “General Tso’s chicken“. I started to wonder who General Tso could be and why he has a chicken dish named after him. Was he, perhaps, the Chinese equivalent of Colonel Sanders? Naturally, I consulted that infallible fount of knowledge and wisdom that is Wikipedia.

Well, as it turns out, General Tso was a nineteenth century Chinese military leader who helped to suppress some of the rebellions that were endemic in the last century of the Qing  Dynasty. His name was actually Tso Tsung-T’ang, or Zuo Zongtang using the Pinyin system of romanization. Zuo Zongtang was born in Xiangyin County in the province of Hunan in the year 1812. His family was poor but he was ambitious so he took the Imperial civil service exam seven times, failing each time. This was no cause for shame, the vast majority of candidates did not pass, but it did limit his options for advancement. Discouraged, Zuo Zongtang retired to his family farm to raise silkworms and study. The world was changing and new ways of rising in China were opening up. It was becoming increasingly obvious that China had fallen behind the European nations in science, technology and military power.  Zuo became aware of China’s increasing backwardness and he was one of the first Chinese to study Western science and culture. Zuo became known and respected as an expert in the new, foreign learning.

Zuo Zongtang

The Man(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the Taiping Rebellion broke out in 1850, Zuo became an advisor to Zeng Guofan, the governor of Hunan, who was tasked with raising an army to defeat the Taiping rebels after they had fought and destroyed the regular Qing armies in the region. By 1860 Zuo was given command of an army and he managed to clear the rebels out of Hunan and Guangxi provinces. He and Zeng captured Nanjing in 1864, ending the Taiping Rebellion at last. In 1865 Zuo was appointed Viceroy over the provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang. He was also made Commissioner of Naval Industries and opened China’s first modern shipyard and naval academy in the city of Fuzhou.

province-english

In 1867, Zuo became Viceroy of Shaanxi and Gansu provinces and was ordered to put down the Nian Rebellion which had plagued northern China the same way the Taipings had been in the south.  He accomplished this task by the following year and was then sent out to the west to deal with the Muslim rebels in the autonomous region of Xinjiang.  By 1878, Zuo Zongtang had crushed the rebels, converted Xinjiang into a province of China, with himself as the first governor and had persuaded the Russians to withdraw from the border regions they had occupied in the chaos of the rebellion. Zuo Zongtang has seen to it that his troops were armed with modern weapons and so was able to credibly threaten war against the under manned Russian outposts. This was one of the few times in the nineteenth century in which the Chinese were able to resist a foreign power.

Zuo Zongtang was promoted to the Grand Council in 1880. Zuo was not really a politician or bureaucrat and didn’t much like the post so in 1881 he was made governor of Liangjiang. His last military commission was as Commander in Chief of the Army and Inspector General of coastal defenses in Fujian when the Sino-French War broke out over the status of  Vietnam in 1884. Again, the Chinese army under Zuo performed somewhat better than they had against European armies previously and they managed to give the French a hard time in Vietnam and southern China. The French won the war, however, largely because the French Navy could bombard the coastal cities of China at will. Zuo Zongtang died in 1885, just after the war ended, a national hero.

That explains who General Tso was, but how did he get a the chicken named after him? Did he work as a chef when he wasn’t leading armies? Was sweet, spicy deep-fried chicken a particular favorite of his?

PS GeneralTsosChicken1

His chicken(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The truth is that nobody seems to know how General Tso’s chicken came to be named after General Tso. He couldn’t have possibly eaten it. The dish was actually invented in America, by Chinese immigrants who had fled China after the Communist takeover in 1949. The Shun Lee Palace in New York City claims to be the first restaurant to serve General Tso’s chicken in 1972, but that claim has been contested. Peng Jia was Chiang Kai-Shek‘s chef when Chiang fled to Taiwan and in 1973 he opened a restaurant in New York. Peng claims to have invented the dish while experimenting with ways to make Hunanese cuisine more palatable to non-Hunanese, mostly by adding sugar and sweetening it. Whatever the case, General Tso’s chicken was unknown in China before the Chinese government opened China to foreign trade and contacts. Since then, Chinese chefs have successfully introduced the dish to China although it is not a favorite in General Tso’s native Hunan. Most Hunanese consider General Tso’s chicken to be too sweet.

 

 

Looking Out the Window

September 17, 2014

I caught this article in Rolling Stone about the looming threat of climate change and what can be done about it. As you might expect from a magazine that usually covers music, it is short on science and reason and long on alarmism. There are only a few points here and there in the article I want to mention, so I am not going over the whole thing. Feel free to follow the link if you want.

After 25 years of failed climate negotiations, it’s easy to be cynical about the upcoming talks in Paris. But there are at least three factors that make a meaningful agreement next year possible.

The first is that climate change is no longer a hypothetical problem – it’s happening in real time all around us. Droughts, floods, more destructive storms, weird weather of all sorts – just look out your window. In the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s top scientists called the fact that the Earth is warming “unequivocal” and stated that humans are the cause of it. Without dramatic action, the planet could warm up as much as 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 F) by the end of the century, which would be catastrophic. As Kerry said of a report last September, “The response must be all hands on deck. It’s not about one country making a demand of another. It’s the science itself demanding action from all of us.”

If I look out my window, I would see two relatively mild summers in a row with a brutally cold winter between them. Ought I to conclude that the planet is getting cooler? Of course not. Looking out my window tells me nothing about the state of my local climate, much less the climate of the whole world. Looking at the weather for the past year or two also doesn’t tell us very much. In any case, we have not, in fact, been having more floods, droughts, more destructive storms, or weird weather over the whole world for the last decade.

I want you to look at this graph from the Paleomap Project. It shows how the Earth’s temperature has varied over time.

globaltemp

 

The Earth’s average temperature is presently around 17° Celsius or 61° Fahrenheit. Notice that the Earth has warmed, and cooled, quite a bit more than the four degrees that is supposed to be catastrophic. Contrary to what the global warming alarmists seem to believe, the Earth has not existed at a delicate equilibrium temperature for millions of years only to be disrupted by man. The Earth is a dynamic system, which is why it is so difficult to figure out what is actually going on and to what extent human beings are responsible.

The second factor is that until now, the biggest obstacle to an international agreement to reduce carbon pollution has been the United States. But that’s starting to change. Thanks to Obama’s recent crackdown on pollution, as well as the boom in cheap natural gas, which has displaced dirty coal, carbon emissions in the U.S. are on the decline. “What the president has done is very important,” says Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements. “It allows the U.S. to look at other countries and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing?'”

Well, yes. No previous president has been as willing to disrupt the American economy as much as President Obama has. Don’t look for many other world leaders to be as foolish as he is, however.

The final reason for hope, paradoxically, is China’s relentless demand for energy. China is in the midst of a profound economic and social transformation, trying to reinvent itself from an economy based on selling cheap goods overseas to an economy based on selling quality consumer goods at home, while keeping growth rates high and cutting dependence on fossil fuels. Energy demand is expected to double by 2030, and at that pace, there is not enough oil, coal and gas in the world to keep their economy humming. So China’s ongoing energy security depends on the nation developing alternative energy sources in a big way. “We need more of everything,” says Peggy Liu, a sustainability leader who works across China. “Wind, solar, a modernized grid. We need to leapfrog over the past and into a clean-energy future.”

China’s leaders are also waking up to the fact that recent decades of hypergrowth, most of it fired by coal, have exacted a steep price. Air pollution in China’s big cities is among the worst in the world; one recent report found that poor air quality contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010. As Hank Paulson, former Secretary of the Treasury and longtime China observer, has put it, “What is another point of GDP worth, if dirty air is killing people?” Earlier this year, a riot broke out in Zhongtai, a town in eastern China, when protests against a new waste incinerator turned violent, leaving police vehicles torched and at least 39 people injured; in southern China, protests erupted over the construction of a coal-fired power plant. Similar clashes are increasingly frequent in China as pollution-related illnesses rise.

And it’s not just the air that’s a problem in China. More than 20 percent of the country’s farmland is polluted. Sixty percent of its groundwater supply is unfit for human consumption. Rivers are industrial sewers. Last year, 16,000 swollen and rotting dead pigs were found dumped in the Huangpu River near Shanghai.

The Chinese are not going to stop using coal. They may invest in alternative sources of energy to supplement their fossil fuel but they are not going to let their economic growth slow down just to appease Barack Obama and John Kerry. The Chinese do have an awful lot of work to do towards cleaning up their environment and actual anti-pollution laws that are actually enforced would go a long way towards improving the quality of life in China. China cannot afford to be distracted by global warming alarmism.

The second revelation is that the Paris agreement is likely to be more about money than about carbon. That is not inappropriate: Climate change is, at its base, an environmental-justice issue, in which the rich nations of the world are inflicting damage on the poor ones. One question that has always haunted climate agreements is, how should the victims be compensated? In past U.N. agreements, developed countries have promised aid to poorer nations. But in translating these general commitments into hard numbers, says Elliot Diringer, a climate-policy expert at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, “the cash flows really have never been enough.”

In Paris, they will try again. The delivery vehicle of choice is called the Green Climate Fund, which was one of the few concrete accomplishments to come out of Copenhagen. The idea is simple: Rich countries pay into the fund, the fund’s 24-member board examines proposals from developing countries for clean-energy and climate-adaptation projects, and then it awards funds to those it finds worthy.

The Green Climate Fund was born in the closing days of the Copenhagen negotiations, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to lure China and other developing nations into a deal by promising that, in exchange for agreeing to a binding cap on carbon pollution as well as outside monitoring and verification of pollution rates, rich nations like the U.S. would pledge a combined $100 billion a year to help poor nations. Many negotiators thought it was a clever (or not so clever) ploy by the U.S. to make China take the fall for the collapse of the Copenhagen deal, since it was clear that China considers emissions data a state secret and would never allow outsiders to pore through the books. But regardless of the intentions, the deal fell apart. The $100 billion promise lingered, however, and was codified in later agreements. (Although $100 billion sounds like a lot, it’s a small part of the $1 trillion a year that will be necessary to transform the energy system.)

Right now, developed nations have a long way to go to live up to Clinton’s promise. The Green Climate Fund has taken four years to get up and running, and still nobody knows if it will primarily make loans or grants. So far, only Germany has come through with a meaningful pledge, offering $1 billion over the next nine years. Stern says the U.S. is putting “a lot of blood, sweat and tears” into getting the fund set up right, and that the $100 billion a year will come from a variety of sources, including private investment. But if the point of the fund is to demonstrate the commitment of rich nations to help the poor, it will need them to make real financial commitments. “Big new public funds are not viable,” says David Victor, a climate-policy expert at the University of California, San Diego. “This could be a train wreck of false expectations.”

Here we get to the real motive behind all this, money. This is not really about climate change or the future of life on Earth. This is about “environmental justice”. Like every other time that the noun justice is modified, environmental justice has little to do which justice and more to do with a left wing agenda, in this case the transfer of money from rich nations to poor nations.

This post is getting to be too long but there is only one more paragraph to highlight.

A few hours later, Kerry and his team jet off to Afghanistan. The world is a big, complicated place, and everyone – even the most committed climate warriors like Kerry – has a lot of other things to think about beyond how much carbon we are dumping into the atmosphere. And that, in a way, is always the problem: There is always something more urgent, more immediately catastrophic to seize the attention of policymakers – and in the coming years, many of the crises that will distract us from dealing with the realities of climate change will largely have been caused by climate change. Through all these short-term emergencies, the Earth will keep warming, the droughts will get worse, food will grow scarce, ice will vanish, the seas will rise, and starting around 2030, climate change will emerge from the background and eventually become the only thing we talk about. It will be the story of the century.

We’ll see what actually happens in 2030. My guess is that we are going to be told that there is some catastrophe looming around the corner and if we don’t take immediate action, the Earth will be uninhabitable by the year 2050. I also predict that the immediate action will consist of more government control over our lives and a willingness to accept a lower standard of living. Their rhetoric hasn’t changed in the last forty years and it won’t change in the next forty years, regardless of actual events.

 

Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom

June 17, 2013

The Taiping Rebellion was the bloodiest civil war in the history of China, and quite possibly the most destructive war in the whole sanguine history of war, yet few outside of China know very much about the course of this titanic conflict, or even that it happened.

The Taiping Rebellion began as a religious movement led by Hong Xiuquan, a man who had had a nervous breakdown after failing the very difficult civil service exams that were the path to success in Imperial China. After reading some tracts given to him by Christian missionaries, he conceived the idea that he was Jesus’ younger brother and began to form a cult, which became a Chinese nationalist movement against the Manchu Qing dynasty that ruled China. The Manchus did not care for this movement and their persecution sparked a rebellion that, at its height, involved almost half of the Chinese Empire.

Contemporary drawing of Hong Xiuquan, dating f...

Roughly contemporary with our own Civil War, there were a number of striking similarities between the American Civil War and the Taiping Rebellion, a fact noted by both Chinese and American observers. Both conflicts involved a rebellion by the southern regions of their respective countries against a government controlled by the north. Both were the most destructive civil wars ever fought by

either nation. Both wars threatened the prosperity of the British economy, which depended on trade with both America and China. In both cases foreign powers, especially Britain and France believed they had an interest in intervening. In both cases, the north won.

The differences between the two wars were greater, however. The Taiping Rebellion lasted longer, from 1850 to 1864. It was fought far more cruelly than the American Civil War. Imagine instead of a pleasant conversation between Grant and Lee at Appomattox, Grant seizing the surrendering Lee and having him tortured to death. Or, Sherman deliberately massacring Confederate civilians when he burned Atlanta. The United States was also spared the complication of having British or French troops invading to fight on either side, or having the British Navy burn down the White House to force America to trade. China was not so fortunate. While fighting the rebellion, the Chinese were also forced to fight the Arrow War against the British who burned down the Xianfeng Emperor’s Summer Palace in retaliation for the Chinese government’s mistreatment of their representatives.

The outcome and legacy of the two wars were also much different for the two nations. The United States emerged from the Civil War stronger and more united. In the decades following the Civil War, America became an industrial giant and a world power. Again, China was not so lucky. The Qing Dynasty managed to cling to power for the next half-century, growing ever weaker and less capable of defending China against the encroaching foreigners.

Extent of the Taiping Rebellion (French). 中文: ...

Extent of the Taiping Rebellion (French).
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I said, little is known of this conflict in the West. There have been a couple good histories of the Taiping Rebellion written by Western historians, including Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom by Stephen R Platt. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom is not so much a comprehensive history of the Taiping Rebellion, that would take several volumes to do it justice, but a story of some of the leading players would were caught up in the great events. Platt tells the story of Hong Rengan, the preacher’s assistant and cousin of Hong Xiuquan, who felt obliged to join the Taipings to help his cousin and who became Hong’s most trusted advisor. There is Zeng Guofan, the Chinese Confucian scholar who reluctantly became the general who crushed the Taipings. There were James Bruce, eighth Earl Elgin, who led the British in what he felt was an unjust war to force the Qing to allow the trade in opium, and his belligerent brother, Frederick Bruce who hated the Taipings and slanted his reports to encourage the British and the French to send forces to China to fight them. There were many Europeans, especially missionaries who sympathized with the Taipings and hoped that they would create a new, Christian China. There were others, like Frederick Townsend Ward, who sensed that fighting as mercenaries for the Qing could be very profitable.

This emphasis on some of the leading actors in the drama makes Platt’s account interesting and readable. In fact, it reads almost like a novel and I found it hard to put down. The only weakness in his approach that I can see is that he barely mentions the beginnings and early years of the Taiping movement and the history only really begins when Hong Rengan decides to join the Taipings in 1858. The story also ends with the end of the Rebellion, and it might have been nice to read a little more about how China’s “reconstruction era” turned out. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom is a worthy book about a somewhat forgotten war and I can heartily recommend it for anyone interested in China.

China Wants to be Us

June 3, 2013

I have mentioned before that claims that the twenty-first century will be the Chinese Century in which China will rule the world may be premature. It may be that the leadership of China is beginning to realize that they will have to make some major reforms to their system if they want to remain in place, much less rule the world. Where should they look for inspiration and ideas? Why, the US, who else? Yahoo News explains why China might want to be more like us.

China’s Communist leaders like to point out that American-style democracy is chaotic, and that western capitalism causes manic booms and busts. Yet they’re borrowing heavily from the American playbook as they remake China’s huge, state-dominated economy.

China recently announced a series of reforms meant to speed the transition from a fast-growing yet still-spottily developing nation to a wealthier and more mature economic powerhouse. Among other things, new policies are meant to scale back Beijing’s role in the economy, open state-run industries such as finance and energy to more private businesses, and provide more ways for foreign investors to participate in the Chinese economy. Eventually, market forces would set interest and exchange rates, which are now controlled by the government.

Chinese companies–often owned or partially controlled by the government–have also been splurging on western firms lately. Chinese meat processor Shuanghui International Holdings announced it is buying Smithfield (SFD), the big U.S. pork producer, for $4.7 billion. And the Chinese investment firm Fosun International is part of a group buying the French resort company Club Mediterranee (CU.PA), allowing the troubled travel firm to focus more on upbeat Asian travelers rather than Europeans besieged by recession.

China has tried before to liberalize its economy, with varying degrees of success. It has clearly become integral to the global supply chain, making it the world’s leading producer of many goods. Virtually every big multinational company has operations in China, with some of them earning impressive profits there.

But China still remains handicapped by shortcomings more typical of a banana republic. “There’s no guarantee China is truly going to become a developed economy along the lines of South Korea or Japan,” says Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at forecasting firm IHS Global Insight. “For China to continue to evolve, they’ve got to make some major changes and become a freer, more market-based economy.”

The government’s role

The Chinese government’s role in the economy makes Washington look like a laissez-faire paradise. It controls banks, railroads, oil companies and many other conglomerates, using those companies to advance what it feels are national priorities. By managing a quasi-capitalist economy more closely than other governments, Communist party leaders are able to harness wealth creation for political purposes.

But state-run capitalism can also cause major disconnects between supply and demand, along with other distortions that undermine the whole economy. China, for instance, lacks many of the legal protections consumers and businesses have long demanded in the West. Theft of intellectual property is rampant, which makes many western companies reluctant to develop new technology or do proprietary research in China. That’s why the nation is considered far better at stealing other people’s ideas than generating its own.

Corruption within the ruling Communist party is widespread, leading to deep distrust of the government. Choking industrial pollution is the dirty little secret of a muscular manufacturing sector. Wrenching poverty is common in the countryside, where pre-industrial subsistence farming still sustains millions.

An exaggerated ‘might’

Few outsiders see those problems, however, which might explain why Americans have an exaggerated sense of China’s economic might. In polling by Pew Research, 42 percent of Americans said China is the world’s leading economic power, compared with only 36 percent who said the United States is. Yet China’s GDP per capita is just $9,100, which ranks 122d in the world. U.S. GDP per capita is $49,800, tops among large countries (unless you include Norway and Switzerland). The size of China’s economy could eclipse that of the United States in a few years, yet even then China would be nowhere near as rich as America.

China’s leaders realize that, which is why there’s an aggressive new push to embrace reforms Western experts have been advocating for years. Some economists argue that China is heading for an economic phenomenon called the “middle-income trap,” in which fast-growing economies suddenly stagnate, unable to evolve beyond a seemingly fixed level of prosperity. China may be encountering that now. After several overheated years when China’s GDP grew by more than 10 percent per year, growth has fallen back to less than 8 percent. Some economists think it will fall further as efforts that worked economic miracles before – such as massive government-financed infrastructure projects — enter a phase of diminishing returns.

Annual income growth, meanwhile, peaked at nearly 23 percent in 2008 but has since drifted down to about 17 percent, according to World Bank data. Even with several years of fast-rising incomes in China, American workers remain far better off. Income per capita is nearly $49,000 in the United States, compared with about $5,000 in China.

It’s well understood that to become more prosperous and evade the middle-income trap, China has to rely less on exports — consumption by other countries — and more on consumption by its own middle class. It must also unleash more entrepreneurs driven by the profit motive, while cracking down on cronyism and bureaucratic corruption. Yet a vast network of party mandarins will no doubt try to undercut reforms, since they profit handsomely from the status quo. In that regard, China already resembles America, where politicians often stand in the way of what’s best for the country.

I didn’t mean to quote the article in its entirety, but there wasn’t anything I wanted to leave out. I would like to note that the fact that the Chinese government can harness economic growth for political purposes is actually a major part of the problem. When economic decisions are made for political reasons you tend to get rent-seeking rather than entrepreneurialism, not to mention the usual misallocation of resources, corruption, and stagnation that are so much a part of any command economy. This holds true in America just as much as it does in China and those pundits who believe that China’s system of authoritarian semi-capitalism is the wave of the future had better take a closer look.

Obviously, the Chinese do not want to turn their country into a carbon copy or clone of the US, nor should we wish them to, but a more open and democratic China with adequate protection for intellectual property rights would benefit both our nations.

 

 

 

Obama is no Nixon

May 23, 2013
President Nixon meets with China's Communist P...

President Nixon meets with China’s Communist Party Leader, Mao Tse-Tung, 02/29/1972 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I ran across this defense of Richard Nixon by William Kristol at the Weekly Standard, via The Virginian, via Instapundit.

The thoughtful Carl Cannon has written a piece, “Richard Milhous Obama,” concluding that our current president has more in common with our 37th than President Obama’s partisans would like to acknowledge. The estimable Victor Davis Hanson has weighed in, defending against liberal dissents the proposition that “Nixon Is a Fair Comparison” with Obama.

I protest. Will no one stand up for Richard Nixon? Richard Nixon was a combat veteran, a staunch and brave anti-Communist, a man who took on the liberal establishment and at times his own party’s as well, a leader who often thought for himself and had the courage of his convictions, a president who assembled a first-rate Cabinet and one who—while flawed both in character and in policy judgment—usually tried to confront the real problems and deal with challenges of his times. Richard Nixon led neither the country nor his own administration from behind.

I worked for Richard Nixon (well, I worked for two months in the Nixon White House in 1970 as a summer intern). I voted for Richard Nixon (in 1972, my first vote, against George McGovern—and one about which I have no regrets). I knew Richard Nixon (very slightly—I met him on a few occasions in groups in the late 1970s and the 1980s, and then a couple of times when I worked for Vice President Quayle). And so I feel obliged to rise to Richard Nixon’s defense, and to say, with all due respect, to our current president: Barack Obama, you’re no Richard Nixon.

If Richard Nixon had had the kind of fawning media coverage that Barack Obama has had, he would be considered one of our greatest presidents. If Barack Obama had had the hostile media coverage that Nixon had, I doubt he would ever have been elected president. Nixon had his faults and even though he was considered a conservative, he was far too big-government oriented for my liking, still I think he deserves a little better legacy than he has gotten. I have to disagree with the Virginian’s comment, though.

Keep in mind that on the international front, Richard Nixon single-handedly pried the Communist alliance between the USSR and China apart. The Nixon IRS never actually went after Nixon’s enemies. And Nixon didn’t plot the Watergate break-in. Barack Obama is not fit to tie Richard Nixon’s shoes.

The first sentence is not quite true. In fact the alliance between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China was strained from the beginning. Stalin didn’t really want Mao to take over China. He preferred a weak China divided between the Nationalists and the Communists to a united China that might be a threat on the Russian border. After Stalin died, the Soviet Communist Party under Khrushchev became somewhat more pragmatic while the Chinese Communists under Mao still retained their revolutionary ardor. The Russians became alarmed at Mao’s casual attitude on nuclear war with the rest and were dismayed by the insanity of the Great Leap Forward. Mao thought that Khrushchev and the Russians were appeasing the  West. The alliance ended by 1959 and in 1969  there was a brief border war between the two Communist powers.

Nixon deserves credit for opening relations with China but he hardly did it single-handedly and Mao was just as interested in opening relations with the United States for his own reasons.

 


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