Wednesday, 30 June 2021

More “appalling old waxworks “

 

Twice in three days front page photos of leadership line ups. Shades of Prince Charles comment on the 1997 handover ceremonies. “Appalling old waxworks”.

And more charming headlines today:
Just to protect us from Covid, mind you…
(July 1 is “Handover Day” holiday. Usually street
gatherings/protests

Is it too obvious to say: “No. They should reflect the LAW”?

Stories of people leaving Hong Kong for good


Tuesday, 29 June 2021

They called it a conspiracy theory. But Alina Chan tweeted life into the idea that the virus came from a lab. | MIT Technology Review

Virologist Alina Cham
For sake of balance I'm posting this story about the possibility that the Covid origin might have been a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. 
And the opposite, from an Aussie virologist, Danielle Anderson, who spent time at the WIV, who believes that it was “highly unlikely” the virus originated from a lab leak.
Both hypotheses — (i) natural origin and (ii) leak from WIV — are so far unfalsifoed. 

Police have list of suspects who may try to flee

Front page today’s South China Morning Post 
Shades of June 4, 1989.When Beijing’s pursuit of students who’d been involved in the Tian’anmen sit-in seemed bitter, and twisted, and vengeful. Does this “list” show confidence or malice
ADDED: 4,000 Hongkongers are seeking refuge  abroad. And self-censorship kicks in. And foreign China watchers are wary of visiting China, not cause Covid but cause jail. Which reveals Tom Plate’s sly moral equivalence as disingenuous.

We had 6 inches of rain in 24 hours! Flooding in our basement… While California burns. West Coast sweltering in record heats.

ADDED: And now I read that our (HK) government is planning an “anti-fake news” law. Great. Just great.

Monday, 28 June 2021

Our very own appalling old waxworks

 

I remember when Prince Charles called the Chinese leadership “appalling old waxworks”. Now w have our very own. Not a good look for Liberty lovers among us. Lining up the apparatchiks for a photo op is something they do in North Korea, in China… and now in our beloved but battered Hong Kong. 

Friday, 25 June 2021

Should we celebrate the first transgender athlete in women’s Olympics?

Women weighlifters. Lauren Hubbard is the tall one...

That "first" is New Zealand's Lauren (née Gavin) Hubbard, who will compete in the Women's 87kg weightlifting in the Tokyo Olympics. 

Who thinks we should celebrate this, as a blow for social justice, as a step forward in diversity and inclusion?

Personally I won’t say what I think. After all, I'm part of the white cis-normative patriarchy, so that’s toxic White Privilege right there -- I have no right to an opinion. So, I won’t say. Others however, have made their views clear on both sides of the issue:

Who does NOT support transgender in women's sports?

Answer:

  • Most people (of either sex, or both): polls show 70% to 80% of people globally don’t support transgender folks participating in women’s sports (let’s be clear that the concern is with women’s sports where the transgender woman was born in a male body and is perceived to have an advantage over women born female. There is not the same angst about transgender men competing in men's sports)
  • Athletes generally: Major sports stars speak out against transwomen in women's sports, here.
  • Female athletes: like Olympic gold medallist Sharron Davies who says "all my friends feel the same", but have been silenced. ADDED: "Fair Play for Women" has Davies' letter to the IOC, signed by over 60 Olympic medallists. Here. The Samoan weightlifter Iuniarra Sipaia, says Hubbard's "strength and everything is still male". The Belgian lifter Anna Vanbellinghen  calls it "unfair" and "a bad joke".
  • Transgender women: the likes of Caitlin Jenner (winner of an Olympic gold medal as a male), and Debbie Hayton, here talking about the ban on transgender women in NZ women's rugby.

And who DOES support the entry of transgender women in women’s competition?

Answer:

  • The Mainstream Media: just Google "Transgender weightlifter olympics". They're all there, CNN, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters. ..[ADDED: and the SCMP]
  • Transgender Athletes chosen for the team: Like Hubbard herself
  • Radical transgender activists: Like Chase Strangio of the ACLU
  • The New Zealand Olympic Committee: Kereyn Smith said it was an "historic moment in sport for the New Zealand team"

In sum: radical trans activists have pressured sports bodies to accept trans women in women’s sports, cheered in by mainstream media, all against pretty much everyone else in the world.

Hubbard lived as "Gavin" for the first 35 years of his life. Gavin became "Lauren: in 2013. She has lived and trained as a man for 82% of her life. She is now allowed to compete as a woman provided her testosterone is below a specified level for at least 12 months. (10 nano-moles per litre of blood)

However, her body mass, as a man, was created in the twenty post-puberty years and has not vanished by transitioning to a woman, and keeping testosterone low. (By the way, I've heard, but not confirmed, that that required testosterone level is well above that naturally occurring in women).ADDED (28 June): I did the research. The Olympic requirement for trans woman athlete is testosterone below 10 nano-moles per litre of blood for longer than the immediately preceding twelve months. The average testosterone in a female is between 35 and 70 milligrams per decilitre. Note that that is a different measure, but luckily there’s a conversion chart online — 10 nano-moles per litre equals 135 milligrams per decilitre.Thus, the allowed testosterone that weightlifter Lauren Hubbard can have in her blood is between 3.8 and 1.9 times as much as that of her female competitors

Somewhat surprisingly, given its robust pro-trans stance, it’s in The Guardian we find a note that male advantage does not decline much even after hormone suppression therapy: 

Last year, the scientists Emma Hilton and Tommy Lundberg found that the male performance advantage in weightlifting was 30% when compared to women. Their research indicated that even when transgender women suppressed testosterone for 12 months, the loss of lean body mass, muscle area and strength was only around 5%. [Ref

Hubbard is 43 years old. The average age of women weightlifters is 24. That alone strongly suggests the benefit of her male body. How else could she credibly be competitive at that age, nearly twice the average?

Looking at Olympic weightlifting records: Overall Men lift between 25% and 48% more in the same weight class, as women.

By the way: important to note that Hubbard has met the IOC entry requirements. In no way is she “cheating”. What seems to have happened here is that the IOC in trying to be "diverse and inclusive" has included one small group — a fraction (the sports elite) of a fraction (about 0.5% of a population identifies as trams) — at the expense of the bigger group of women, of female athletes and the general public. Is that fair? Surely not. It is “diversity and inclusion” only if you exclude women from your calculus. Something needs be done to meet the legitimate concerns of the many -- like the Labour tag "for the many not the few". Something like an "Open" category, in which men, women and transgender could compete. Would that do it? 

If Hubbard wins in Tokyo, this issue is going to blow hard on the world stage. 

ADDED (4 July): There is no science on the side of including Hubbard in the women's team for the Olympics, which is why her proponents call critics "transphobes", ie ad hominem instead of science. This article I just saw today has more of the science. It's clearer than ever that it is simply not right that biological males should compete with biological females. It's a case of "For the Few, not the Many", in contrast to Britain's Labour Party slogan last time around of "For the Many, not the Few"....

Hold the front page

Today’s back page of SCMP memorialising 
Apple Daily shut down

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Apple Daily’s final edition

And I’m feeling a sick pit in my stomach. Fear not for us but for the families of the Apple Daily staff and those in other local media. We had little to do with the Apple Daily. Twenty years ago we ran some ads for our new Wall Street Institute business in it. And at one stage I wanted to write a letter to its Editor, but found they had no Letters to the Editor page. Nor an op-Ed page. It was pure trash tabloid, of sex drugs and Canto-pop They were major ambulance chasers: gruesome in-the-scene photos of car crashes, splashed across the front pages. At least that was the content whenever I did pick up a copy. With that formula they did very well financially (as Rupert Murdoch has shown!). They should have stuck to that instead of going all political in 2019. But they didn’t. And when I dipped into the Daily from time to time over the years just to get a feel for what’s being read by locals, I came across articles bemoaning the “tightening control” of Beijing, a trend not obvious to me.

So it’s not that the closure of Apple Daily affects me or us personally. It doesn’t. But it’s a loss to our city. A very popular paper, gone, and  mourned. It will be missed. And it will surely scare others into line. If they don’t, they may suffer the fate of Daily Owner Jimmy Lai and ten of his staff. Jimmy in jail, his staff arrested. 

Jimmy Lai’s “crime” was not just to support the 2019 riots, it was to go to Taiwan and call for involvement of third parties (aka America) for the purposes of “liberating” Hong Kong. Calling for other courier to sanction China. That was a very silly thing to do — and we thought so at the time — but surely not deserving of the rest of his life in jail. Is it relevant here — or just a case of moral equivalence, of whataboutism — that Spain, an exquisitely democratic member of the EU, jailed nine people who had called for Catelonian independence?  They let some out yesterday which is what reminded me. China could quote that as mitigation. Then again, Madrid is saying they can “talk” to the secessionists. No way Beijing is going to “talk” to Jimmy Lai. They are not such gentil españols. They’re not out to “mitigate” what they take to be a necessary and lawful act.

Jimmy Lai’s arrest and that of his staff is all being done at the direct behest of Beijing. It’s pretty certain he would have personally infuriated Xi Jinping with his antics. Our C-E, Carrie Lam, meantime, stands by, with an almost-but-not-quite embarrassed look on her face. 

I’m wondering what happens if Hong Kong gets to my own Red Line: Firewalling the Internet. If I can’t post in this blog, or freely read blogs and Google stuff. Will I have to up sticks and move? That would be a huge wrench as it remains — still — very cosy here for a comfortable old white guy. We have friends who live by choice on the mainland. And we’ve lived there ourselves.  Still… Hong Kong is different. And the mainland different enough that we don’t want live there. I prefer here to anywhere else, at the mo.  I’ll wait and see.

The other worrying news is that the fellow charged with secession, for running  a motorbike into a group of police back in 2019, while carrying a “Free Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times” flag, is going to have a trial in front of three judges. No jury trial. This is unprecedented and a break from Common Law. Thing is, apologists for Beijing and of the crackdowns here in Hong Kong, have assured me all along that there’s “no way” Beijing would mess with Hong Kong’s Common Law system as they wanted to keep studying it and valued it for international trade. Well: way.

ADDED:

Top Left: “Apple Daily” Banner. Whiteboard: “Quality is our promise”
Bottom: Jimmy Lai escorted to prions; empty AD offices
This is my photo of the inside spread of today’s  South China Morning Post 

So far, our daily, the South China Morning Post is keeping up credibly independent coverage.  They’ve avoided the ire of Beijing, perhaps, because they didn’t out-and-out call for independence, as did the AD, or for foreign governments to sanction China, again, as the AD, or at least owner Jimmy Lai did (in Taiwan!). Not to excuse Beijing here, just that these people did know they were dealing with tyrants. That’s what they called them, after all:”tyrants”. Well, tyrants are gonna do what tyrants do. No surprise there. And this is not hindsight. Many of us were warning of this way back. Keep the freedoms we have, we urged. Those freedoms are precious and what many countries would die for. But no. They challenged the tyrant in the name of freedom and democracy and in doing so damaged both. 

ADDED AGAIN: The Hong Kong stock market is up today and recent housing release have been sold out at record levels. Financially at least, no one seems much to mind about the Apple Daily. Its print run today was a million copies, three times normal and all sold out. Hong Kong people have a thing for collectibles…

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Where would you rather live: Beijing or Tokyo?


Gregory Moulinet answers "neither", but if pressed would choose Beijing.

Profile photo for Gregory Moulinetlived in Beijing, China (2009-2014)

I lived in Tokyo for about 12 years and in Beijing for about 5. I left Tokyo for Beijing. I currently live in Shanghai. My answer to your question is ‘neither’… but if my choice was limited to these 2 cities and my work/life offering being perfectly equivalent, I would probably select (again) Beijing.

As most people pointed out, the biggest drawback living in Beijing is the pollution. That is the key reason I moved to Shanghai. Beyond that, the 2 cities are so different you will find good and bad things on both side and your choice will be determined by other factors than the cities’ features.

Choosing Tokyo instead of Beijing may seems a no-brainer considering the quality of services, internet ‘freedom’ and the visual/culinary esthetics of Japan. Talking Japanese is far easier to learn than Chinese among many other advantages that I am certain many will point-out and I used to appreciate greatly.

But…

These capital cities and their respective countries are currently taking a very different trajectory. China is generally progressing while Japan is taken into a slow spiral of regression which is painful to watch.

It’s easy to live well in Tokyo if you create your own comfortable bubble and blind yourself from the massive pile-up of social and environmental issues Japan is stacking against itself. By all means, choose Tokyo if you plan to live this way.

I personally prefer to be surrounded by optimistic Beijingers who have witnessed rapid positive changes and have become accustomed to try and integrate new ideas.

Beijing is not the rest of China and many massive, morally challenging (to say the least) problems are left to be addressed. The question is, do you prefer to be living in a place climbing rapidly upward or moving slowly downward? [Link]

*************


My comment: born in Tokyo, lived in Beijing and had frequent visits to Tokyo for business: I agree with Moulinet. One city is living (whatever horrid things that its government does), the other is dying but doesn't seem to know it

What a shame on Australia for not treating our supporters in Afghanistan quicker and better

The Taliban are threatening to kill interpreters who helped Australia
I've just heard on UK radio that the first of the interpreters who helped the British troops in Afghanistan have already arrived in the UK. They are, like their counterparts who helped Austrfalia's troops, in deadly danger from the resurgent Taliban.  

And yet Australia is still dragging its feet. Shame on our government. Lots of talk, but still none arrived in Oz. Though we managed to resettle 280 in 2014. [Update: ABC666 Canberra just said that there's a list of 9 interpreters helping Australia who have already been killed by the Taliban. And former Oz soldier Stuart McCarthy is saying that the window to evacuate them is closing quickly]

The danger is wider than just the interpreters. As William Maley of the ANU, author of The Afghanistan Wars says that all the Afghani who helped implement Australia's aid projects, are also in deadly danger. [ABC666 Radio Canberra, 21 June 2021, 10:20 am HKT]

It's so depressing that after two decades, the allies in Afghanistan are about to leave nothing behind of value. It will all be retaken by the Taliban. Who will re-implement their severe Islamic society. The Afghanis don't want it either, it seems. I've seen farmers interviewed. They hate the thought of the allies leaving. The Taliban love it. The wrong people are hating and loving the departure of allied troops.

Here's a letter from many old-time workers in Asia, to the PM:

Dear Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration,

The undersigned are a group of Australians who have worked in the Indo Pacific in government, business and the media from the sixties until the present day.

We would ask you and your ministerial colleagues to arrange residence visas for those Afghan staff who have worked for the Australian Government in Afghanistan.
Most of us recall vividly when in 1975,  the Whitlam Government failed to evacuate our Cambodian and Vietnamese staff when Phnom Penh and Saigon fell to the Khmer Rouge and the North Vietnamese army respectively. Some of us were in the Indochina theatre at the time. Others spent substantial periods there.
This omission was in stark contrast to the actions of the United States, and of other countries which had been involved in the Indochina wars on the side of the United States.
It was assessed in 1975 that locally engaged staff would probably be safe in Saigon and Phnom Penh.  That assessment was wrong. Only two of some 80 staff and their family members survived the takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge. After the fall of Saigon, a large proportion of our employees were sent to re-education camps.
Put simply, we failed to repay loyalty to Australia.
We appreciate that the situation in Afghanistan differs in important respects to that of Indochina in 1975, one of which is that Kabul and some other areas of Afghanistan are not in imminent danger of capture by the Taliban.
However the situation in Kabul has been deemed too unsafe for Australia based staff. It follows that Afghans who were in our employ must also be endangered.
We would argue that if there is a possibility that our Afghan staff could be killed or mistreated because of their employment with the Australian Government, their security should be taken as seriously as that of those Australians with whom they worked.
Moreover history shows that there is often little or no time to process permanent residence applications on a case-by-case basis – as was one argument in 1975 for lack of action regarding our employees.
We note the positive approach to permanent residence which is being taken in relation to those Afghans who have worked closely with the Australian Army. Australia’s other employees should be accorded the same consideration.
The signatories of this letter do not propose to release it as a public document. [PF: odd that it appears in the "Pearls and Irritations" then]
Yours sincerely
David Armstrong
Michael Brogan
Alison Broinowski AM
Richard Broinowski  AO
Penny Burtt
Jocelyn Chey AM
Prof. Peter Church OAM
John Connor
Mike Courtnall
Jim Crowe
Rawdon Dalrymple AO
Ross Dalrymple
Mike Davis
Bruce Dover
Hon. Gareth Evans AC                   
Steven Fitzgerald AO
Carrillo Gantner AO
Cavan Hogue
Malcolm Hudson
Prof. John Ingleson
Miles Kupa
Christopher Lamb
Dr. Simon Longstaff AO
Michael Mann AO
Ian Macintosh
Ian Macphee
John McCarthy AO
John Menadue AO
Geoff Miller AO
Prof Tony Milner AM
Carl Robinson
Glen Robinson
Michael Ryland
Tim Storer
Peter Varghese AO
Sue Walker
Patrick Walters
Trevor Watson
Grahame White
Mack Williams; James Wise

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

And so it begins …?

 

Front page South China Morning Post
Well done China! Not that all critics of Jimmy Lai, the owner p, really wanted this, bit that’s why you get when you piss off an authoritarian dictateial government. You’ve already called them tyrants and Nazis. What did you expect they’d do?

So far, this paper, the South China Morning Post seems to be getting along ok. Still reporting and stil critical. I’ve thought that perhaps that’s because it’s English language and Beijing is not worried by expats playing in their little sand pit. Then again, the obsession with national security, secession, and all, is focussed on foreign influence. So that’s a slight puzzle. 

Monday, 21 June 2021

"The Tiananmen Square massacre: the one sided story"


An occasional reader brings this article to my attention.  

Gregory Clark's "valuable service" is to advise that a Google search of "Tiananmen Square massacre" no longer brings up photos of Chinese army soldiers who were killed by protesters. They were killed on June 4 1989 and the hours immediately before the crackdown on the students in the square. I haven't tried the search, but I'll take his word for it. That there were soldiers killed in the square is well known, at least to those of us who were there or taking note at the time. Which includes me, and J, who spoke to the soldiers on the tanks immediately before. We certainly knew that soldiers had been killed and burnt and hung up, in horrific ways. And Clark does further good work to preserve the photos on another site, here. [This is Google Drive, and one wonders if they might in time be "disappeared" from there as well]

If Google now censors those horrid photos as an attempt "to further demonise Beijing", as Clark claims, well maybe. 

Does the killing of soldiers excuse the killing of students that followed? Of course not. Though Clark's line appears to be that since soldiers were the first ones killed this somehow mitigates student deaths. 

Which deaths, by the way, remain unknown. Soldier numbers killed? Maybe in single figures. Student numbers killed? Don't know. Figures of "thousands" are quoted. Then, "thousands" is a real lot and would surely have shown up in media even well before Social Media days. There were plenty of international journos there, most of them most of them, I imagine, sympathetic to the students, yet we see no footage of anywhere near "thousands".  My own guess is somewhere in the hundreds, perhaps even high hundreds, but unlikely "thousands".

That's still a lot. And does nothing to mitigate the crackdown and especially the brutal followups with widespread arrests of student leaders and sympathisers throughout the country that followed for months and years after June 4th. 

I remember at the time many saying that China would pay for the crackdown. Many thought that the student movement would go underground and continue. Neither of these things happened. 

So it's interesting to consider the counter-factual. What if Zhao Ziyang, the then premier, had prevailed and a soft line had been taken with the students? What if Zhongnanhai had given in to some or all of the student demands? What then? Where would be today? 

The problem with this counter-factual is that it is far more uncertain than most. And there are some who say "counter-factuals are bs". I don't know. I rather like them. Like the ones on "what would have happened if Hitler had won?" That's led some great books and films. But Tiananmen? No so clear. Would nothing much have happened, and China just muddled through? Or would there have been a gradual spread of democracy? Or would there have been chaos? Cases and Netflix series could be made around any of these counter-factuals. But then look back at some of the student leaders. The highest profile, perhaps, Wu'er Kaixi, in his pyjamas (he'd been on hunger strike) in a chair facing the Chinese leadership and lecturing them on what they needed to do. He came across, to me at least, as an entitled shit. Arrogant, condescending and preening. Just the sort to make a great little apparatchik. None of the others gave any sense of comfort that they could run China instead of Deng Xiaoping, who'd only recently regained power and used it with brutal effect in Tiananmen. So, while it's a most uncertain counter-factual, the reality, 32 years later, is that China, the majority, the government, has not suffered. 

None of which is to mean I'm any fan of today's government in Beijing. I'm not. But as to whether China would have been better off if it had given in to student demands, that's surely doubtful. 

The buzzwords reflecting the frustration of China's young generation | BBC


An occasional reader brings this article to my attention.

I wrote about this in May, but it was earlier in the China watching site Whats On Weibo, here in April.

Question is: does this threaten China's productivity? Is it a thing? Short answer: I don't think so. Friends and colleagues long-term living in China say the same. 

The idea is that young people in China are facing "involution" (horrid word...), 内卷, nei juan: which I'd rather translate as "rat race", running harder and harder for meagre return. So they choose to "lie down" (躺平), tang ping, rather than get out and work. Most doing this Tang ping, are the progeny of the single-child era. The sons and daughters -- princelings -- of rich folk. The rest can't afford to "lie down". That's a whole other story, by the way, the overworking of gig workers in China, and the punishments of those who try to fight for fair wages and conditions. But the rat race-fearing zoomers who are now lying down, perhaps just a minority.

And perhaps they the Chinese equivalent of similar trends outside China. There's the "stay-at-home phenomenon" in Japan, young Japanese males, not moving out of their apartments. There's the (often?) lackadaisical attitude of Zoomers in the US, UK, Australia.... In my time, in the sixties, it was "turn on, tune in, drop out". Yet we survived and prospered. 

But then again, what do I know? I've been wrong in many of my predictions, including the hope that Xi Jinping would be a moderate leader, when he's turned out to be a re-born Mao.

Then again, again: there is indeed a problem in China with wage levels. It's true that China's working class has gained huge increases in wages over the last forty years. Since 1980, they've grown over 10% per year, every year. That means they double every 7 years. No other country comes near this performance. But it still means incomes well below those in Hong Kong, at around $US1,800 per year. This needs to change.

Some other links relevant to this:

The Concept of Involution

Annual list of China's buzzwords 

My own posts under label "Slang"

Sunday, 20 June 2021

“…fears over the use of vaccines have remained high”. Right. Because of headlines like this…

Front page today’s South China Morning Post
That’s the front page of today’s paper. No context. No mention that that’s just 0.002% of all jabs and that “few have resulted serious side effects”. And if you read down, you find that of those 90 cases doctors are not even sure they’re due to the vaccination. Talk about a beat up in the headline. And not in the tiniest bit helpful. The online version of the headline has a bit more context. But some people will photo the print headline and pass it around in social media. Not helpful. 

Vaccine hesitancy is a thing here in Hong Kong with only 25% having had a jab. (Though within Asia, that’s not too bad). A big reason is scare stories in mainstream and social media. The US and UK are outliers with their high rates.

We had a big chance to up the rate with the forthcoming $HK 5,000 give away to all Hong Kong residents. Couldn’t they have tied this to having had a shot? They didn’t though. Handouts begin in August.

Friday, 18 June 2021

SCMP - Coronavirus: How news media and politics drive the lab leak theory

Shi Zhongli (aka “Batwoman”) welcomes lab-leak investigation …
178 days ago
With zero evidence for natural origin of the virus, Alex Lo goes all-in for it anyway. While the circumstantial evidences for the lab leak hypothesis builds up and gets trashed as "political". The political,was all in trying to suppress it since early 2020.
My comment at the site:

The two main hypotheses are: (A) natural origin (B) Lab leak. Evidence for either is only circumstantial as China has been unhelpful.

Additional (circumstanrial) evidence for hypothesis (A) since Dec 2019 = Zero. China has tested over 80,000 animals, none showing virus origin.

Additional (circumstantial) evidence for hypothesis (B) since 2019 keeps piling up. WIV doing GOF research on exactly this coronavirus; Lab Director Shi Zhongli rushing back to check if there's been a leak then hewing to the party line; first Covid infections were in hospitals along the subway line to-from the WIV.

There may be no *smoking* gun, but it sure smells strongly of cordite.

Had the Chinese not been so obstructive, perhaps the WHO investigatiin team might have had a closer look at theory (B), instead of going all-in on theory (A) with exactly Zero evidence, circumstantial or otherwise.

The "politics" was all in trying to *suppress* the lab leak hypothesis, which to date has not been falsified.

BT, I wonder if Lo even read the Wade article

Police raid Hong Kong newspaper offices

Chilling the media

 Not a good look. Though there will be some, maybe many, who will cheer this, because they think the owner, Jimmy Lai, is a dick. He is a bit, but shut down a paper because of it? Only authoritarian governments do that. Of course the new National Security Law is used as the cudgel. And Jimmy is in jail already —on sedition charges, iirc.

Cathay Pacific foreign staff are not having visas extended. They say it’s because there’s unemployment locally. Maybe. Or maybe just punishing Cathay cause its staff were vocal in the 2019 demos.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Document 9 vs the Enlightenment


/Snip: 

China may not have been at the G7 summit in person, but it was very much there in spirit. We will look back at this long weekend in Cornwall, England as the moment when there was more than just a tacit recognition that China has become our era’s agenda-setting country.

In the eyes of many Western policymakers, China was supposed to become more like the West. The United States was to carry on ruling the waves, while simultaneously crafting the international rules. Yet, in many cases it is now China making the waves – if not the rules – with its ideas and others reacting to them.
Someone called Mark Logan, who seems to fancy himself on China, makes the argument that China is setting the world agenda. Though where the "still" in "... still setting the agenda" comes from is not clear.
Two items are offered: (1) that the west's push to set up an infrastructure fund for poorer countries emulates China's Belt and Road (BAR) initiative. And (2) promoting the virtues of western values is a reaction to China's Document 9. 
I wrote about D9 in 2013, then not again till yesterday. And here it is again, twice in two days! Spoiler alert: Document 9 is a repulsive document, written by hardline communist functionaries, for their boss Xi Jinping early in his presidency. He's using it as his authoritarian guidebook.
It may be that some or all these moves by the west, as represented by the G7, are indeed a reaction to what China's been doing. Then again the west made it WW2 when they reacted to what the new Reich had done. And all that came out of the war -- United Nations, WTO, Marshall Plan, etc.... all were reactions. 
For poorer nations it must be better to have more avenues to infrastructure development, whether or not in reaction to China being irrelevant.
As for western values vs Document 9: check it out and see which you'd rather was running your life, your country. What's set out in Document 9 has no allure for me. Long live Western Values!

PS: just thinking what's going on this week: the G7 meeting in Cornwall. Biden meets Putin in Geneva. NATO has a summit meeting and targets China as its main challenge. France reopens after Covid, while Boris bottles it again. Busy week.

ADDED: But what will Joe (or the west) do if Russia or China test their mettle? Nothing much say Shapiro in “Old Joe Meets the Bond Villain”. Shapiro is crazy in some stuff and plain wrong on other stuff, but I think this reading of the Biden-Putin summit is pretty much spot on. The battle of the autocracies vs the democracies goes in too at personal level, by people voting which their feet. One doesn’t see many clambering to enter Russia or China. 

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Poor Tom Hanks: gets hammered by Critical Race Theorist...

... amongst other things for portraying men who are just too damn heroic, too damn good, too damn capable. For that's White privilege, now morphing into White Supremacy. That's right, White Supremacy: what was once the domain of the KKK and of tattooed, muscle-bulging bikers who "hate fags and n***ers", that White Supremacy -- we are asked to believe -- now resides in the shopworn face and balmy platitudes of dear old Sully, Forrest Gump Tom Hanks. 

Hanks tried to say "I get it". But instead he got it. Contumely from on high, from Ibram X. Kendi acolyte Eric Deggan.

The redoubtable Charlie Cooke tells us "This is your brain on Critical Race Theory". 

A Snip from Charlie's conclusion:

In the grand scheme of things, Eric Deggans’s view of Tom Hanks is not going to have a profound effect on the future of the United States. But the degree to which the country adopts the ideology that motivated that view most certainly will. Like Ibram X. Kendi, Deggans has adopted a Manichean worldview in which each and every person is placed on either the wrong or the right side of a set of inchoate and ever-shifting lines. That Tom Hanks, of all people, has been found wanting should tell us all we need to know about the integrity, the efficacy, and the conceivable consequences of this most peculiar and destructive of ideas.

By the way, Cooke & Co well worth listening to on their weekly National Review podcast. They are at the sane end of conservative thought.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Decoding the Chinese Internet

A glossary of Chinese political slang, by China Digital Times, pdf here. (It may be you need Adobe Acrobat, I'm not sure).

I thought I'd posted this years ago, but maybe not, or I just can't find it, so herewith posted, with a new Label "Slang". This seems to be the latest edition. It's a fun read and what can be done to avoid the censors in China, the Great Firewall, by clever word play.

It's to do with what's going on in China at the moment, with Tang Ping (躺平) , "lying flat", doing nothing, an activity (or rather inactivity) of the Zoomers in China, worrying those in charge. And the thought that there might be a link between Tang Ping and Tang poetry an implicit criticism of Xi Jinping's regime vs the splendours of the Tang Dynasty. 

ADDED (a bit nerdy): Re the final para above, I don't think so. That is, I don't think "Lie Flat" or "Tang Ping" is a coded message referring to Tang poets, some of whom, some of the time, were known to speak truth to power -- ie, to criticise the political leadership. Thus, according to this thought, Tang Ping is a subtle message of criticising the government. 

The reason I don't is not because Chinese netizens don't obliquely have a go at the leadership. They do. As the Glossary of Political Slang above shows. It's more to do with the language for which we need to refer to the Chinese. Tang Ping, meaning lie flat is the two characters 躺平, pronounced Tǎng píng (third tone, second), while the meaning of "Tang (dynasty) crticism" is the characters 唐评, pronounced Táng píng (second, second). Usually, when you make a political pun in Chinese, it's the same tones.  Then, there's "criticism" which is 批评, pronounced Pīpíng, the short form of which is usually "Pi", not "Ping". 

All in all, I don't think "lying flat", Tang Ping, is a word play referring to Tang poetry criticism. It is, as they say, what it is. Namely "lying flat", doing nothing, Tang Ping, 躺平.

I would, though, like to see more mention of its possible link to the venerable Taoist philosophy of Wu Wei, "do nothing". 

And all in all, while the leadership does seem to have some worries about the trend, it may not be much more than what well-off zoomers do everywhere. Many/most young Chinese don't have the wealth to sit around doing nothing.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Dragon Boating

Searching for “the science “
Dragon boating used to be fun here in Hong Kong. 

We’d have dragon boat races right here in Discovery Bay, and an international regatta out at Stanley beach that we’d sometimes go to watch in our very own boat to drink and laze and gawk and bet on outcomes and swim. 

Now the best this pusillanimous place can do is land-based “racing”. All the science would tell us it’s much safer to be out in the water, with breezes dispersing any lurking virus. But no. We’re land bound, apparently because of a “surge of cases”. Surge? Our Seven-day moving average is 2 cases a day. That’s up from 1 a day a month ago so I guess one could spin that as a doubling of cases. A surge! While deaths sit stubbornly at zero. Never mind, we’ll keep on locking down. 

They don’t have the guts, our officials, of the upright official that today’s festival celebrates — the life and untimely death of the upright civil servant Qu Yuan of the Warring States period around 300BC.  Qu Yuan, the senior official in the court of the Chu Kingdom, disagreed with a policy of appeasement to the rising Qin province, by his king.  In frustrated desperation Qu chose suicide, by himself into the river. He was pursued by his adoring fans who tried to save him in their “Dragon Boats”. Too late. He drowned. So they threw glutinous rice cakes on the water to feed his soul. I guess it made for Happy Fish. If not a happy soggy body. And that’s what continues to this day. Except today in Hong Kong. Where caution reigns.

Qu Yuan’s bravery, standing up to the Man, as echoed centuries later in the Tang Dynasty, when the Confucian ideal of the honest and brave courtier, and poets, was something of a fad.

I’m also reminded of a post recently wondering if the current phenomenon in China of youth “lying down”, in Chinese Tang Ping (躺平), might be a sly way of Chinese contrasting Xi Jiiping’s China with the China of the  Tang Dynasty. Maybe. But probably not. 

The “maybe” is that Chinese do love word play, Chinese being particularly good for it, with so many more homonyms than most languages. More here.

[Whoops, interrupted; more to come]

Whoops again. Turns out I was wrong: purveyor of fake news. There was indeed Dragon Boating in Hong Kong, all over the place, including Stanley Bay, where we used to go to watch. 

SCMP front page 15 June 2021

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Fabulous Fungi

An Ode to Fungi
Watching an ABC Australia Landline program about soil carbon sequestration. Seems that fungi are crucial. They may be only 10% of the biomass in any particular soil, but account for 75% of the carbon dioxide sucked out of the atmosphere. Yay fungi.

I first heard of carbon sequestration decades ago. But it seems to have been disappointing and nowhere near fulfilling early hopes. 

Now maybe it’s within the dirt at our feet. And Aussies are at the forefront of research. 

Go farmers’ fabulous fungi!

ADDED: Now it’s Penny Wong, Shadow Environmental person, and she is startlingly like ex PM Kevin Rudd in speech a amd manner. Like, she’s totally the female version of Rudd! Scary…

Saturday, 12 June 2021

China is seeking to promote its world view and roll back Westernisation. Can it succeed? | Shirley Ze Yu

 


I rather like the writings of Shirley Ze Yu. An ex anchor on China's CCTV, now in academe in the west. A thinker and writer of power and insight. She threads a fine needle here in this piece, such that both critics and fans of China's system can find solace. 

For me, it's the observation that it doesn't matter if one million people say the same thing. Or one billion. If it's the same message, then it's boring. 

I remember years ago someone made a point that has stuck in my mind: America has a one-word ideal, Freedom. China has no one-word ideal. Xi Jinping's "China Dream" doesn't cut it. What's the one word that China would draw us with? Repression?

Would you rather a China-dominant world or a US-dominant world? For me it's the US, every time. And I live in a part of China, aka Hong Kong.  I wrote about what China was about, under the leadership of Xi Jinping,p in Document 9. It's grim. Document 9 should be more widely known. A summary:

It [Document 9] identifies seven threats in a “fierce” struggle, and the first threat on the list is “Avocating Western Constitutional democracy. Seeking to negate the current leadership and the government system of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
The document describes the offensive Western ideals as “the separation of three powers, a multiparty system, a system of universal suffrage, independent judiciary, a military belonging to the nation, etc.”... [some] threaten the system by "holding up the banner of 'defending the constitution' and 'governing the country in accordance with the law' to attack the party leadership..."

Friday, 11 June 2021

Aussie Alps / Hongkie Hydro

 

An occasional reader sends this lovely moody photo, taken yesterday in Aussie’s Snowy Mountains. It’s a colour photo! The dog (lab?), is the giveaway. Thanks, friends! Enjoy the wonderful white stuff.

While we go to the pool. Summers and winters inverted. The wonders of the Earth’s 22 degrees of obliquity. Thanks Theia!

ADDED: it’s T1 typhoon signal, predicted to skirt us later tonight.

America’s Cultural Revolution

Majdi Wadi & family in better times. Podcast here
From Bari Weiss’ Substack. A guest podcast from a Palestinian America family, who had their lives and lifelong successful livelihood ruined by cancel culture and the BLM movement.

Note as an aside: that Wadi, a Palestinian, born in Kuwait, was not allowed to take Kuwaiti citizenship, not allowed to go to college there, to vote, or to take any meaningful part in civic life. Because he was Palestinian. He says it’s the same in every Middle East country. No right of abode, no citizenship. Such is the love and care and concern that Arabs have for their Palestinian brethren. But it’s only Israel that’s the apartheid state. Where 20% of the population is Arab. And where an Islamist is in the new government coalition. Right.

But that’s not the point of this podcast. Weiss:

What the public shaming of Palestinian immigrant Majdi Wadi — and the boycott of his Minneapolis business — says about who we are 

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Bulver

And Bulverism. Of which much on Twittersphere

From Bulver

Why I never use Facebook

New York Times: The Day Facebook Ruined the Internet
I used Facebook just enough at the beginning to know: “this is not for me”. I wondered then, as now: why would anyone want to have someone else, or some thing else, choose what you read? Huh? I still don’t get it. 
I read and watch, widely, every day, from left and right. But if you’re in FB Newsfeed, the algorithms, the AI, choose what to show you based on your past history. Talk about recipe for disaster. And it is. The movie The Social Network also revealed it, so the NYT is kinda late to the party. 
I think it was that movie, The Social Network that gave this example: a young mum, nursing her baby, decides to join a FB Group of nursing mums. They talk about all sorts of organic and natural medecimes and supplements. AI watches; sees everything. Next, in her  NewsFeed, the young mum sees recommendations on nutrients and supplements, soon a video on vaccines and whether they might harm her newborn, next, naturally, vids from anti-vaxxers… you can see where this is going. Not too long before she’s down some pretty weird rabbit holes, all a step at a time, from her friendly Newsfeed.
The vid above shows that the initial reactions to NewsFeed were universally negative. People hated it. But they used it. Double compared to what they used to. And so now they’re addicted. 
Thing is: we own FB stock. Bought in early days when we weren’t aware of the damage it might do to our world. I’ve been wanting to get rid of the stick for some time: I don’t like Zuckererg and I don’t like what I now know FB does. Like the vid above. But we’ve never got around to selling. In which time it’s tripled.  Sigh…
h/t to prof Ann Althouse.