News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The New State Capitalists - Governments are getting back into the business of business: Led by China and Russia, state companies are both consolidating control at home and expanding aggressively abroad, in some cases effectively reversing the privatization campaigns first unleashed in the West a quarter century ago. Singapore, Dubai and Venezuela practice variants of the same strategy using a new kind of multinational: aggressive state companies that can leverage their lucrative home-turf advantages to expand overseas.
American suspicion of government ties to business has boiled over repeatedly in recent months, forcing a Chinese state company to abandon its bid for Unocal, and a Dubai state company to give up newly acquired U.S. port facilities. But that has hardly slowed the trend. Just last week, China Construction Bank was compelled to deny Wall Street Journal reports that it is in talks for a 10 percent stake in Bear Stearns, worth up to $4 billion, in what would be China's first big buy on Wall Street.
...Within China, state conglomerates hogged the vast majority of new bank loans given in 2005, for example; of the 1,600 companies listed on the country's domestic stock exchanges today, fewer than 50 are private. Beijing's real agenda since the late 1990s has been "corporatization," or creating state giants that can compete with Western multinationals, says Donald Clarke, an expert on Chinese law at George Washington University. "I don't see the leadership talking about large-scale privatization," says Clarke. "They don't always say what they're planning to do, but if they're not saying that privatization is their plan, we have to take that seriously." Biff- I'm in favor of whatever works. If socialism worked, I'd be for it. But it hasn't in the past and I see little reason for optimism now. The conflation of politics with economics is almost always a fiscal disaster.
'PROGRESSIVE' MEDIA STALLS: 'AIR AMERICA' IN AUDIENCE PLUNGE NYC, 'DAILY KOS' BOOK SELLS ONLY 3,600 COPIES: [NIELSEN claims only 2,062 copies of DAILY KOS have been purchased at the retail level; the rest coming through 'discount' outlets. The NIELSEN figures do include online sales from AMAZON.COM, and others.]
The China Hype: (Biff- From down in the comments) This is highly destabilizing and has emerged particularly in pervasive rural social unrest. I think those who observe the successful urban economic scene in China (as most expatriate “business” types are) are discounting this explosive discontent, mostly because they don’t see it and also because it does not affect their short-term bottom line.
Another concern is that as the economic rationale for CCP’s monopoly on power suffers, there is greater likelihood of emphasizing the “unity” angle, which unfortunately translates to hyper-nationalism and even external aggression to redirect tension away from the ruling elite (somewhat akin to the Saudi model). Biff- The Saudi model... If you're not up on this, it's worth checking into how Saudi Arabia has succeeded and then failed with its own socialist model. Great stuff for perspective on China.
Japan pins hopes on 'speed dates': At one event in central Tokyo, run by a firm called Exeo, 20 men and women cram into a small upstairs room in the hope of finding somebody special. Each pairing gets two minutes, before everyone swaps partners. Some couples seem to hit off instantly, while others are shy and conversation is muted. Biff- Makes sense to me. I usually know within thirty seconds of a phone conversation whether I'll get on with a potential date. Schools that were once full of baby boomers are now being closed down owing to a lack of children - more than 2,000 over the past decade alone.
Surviving a Tibetan gulag: "We had to denounce his Holiness the Dalai Lama and were not allowed to engage in religious practice." This answer is a measure of her commitment to her Buddhist beliefs and helps to explain her behaviour in jail. Ms Sangdrol repeatedly defied the prison authorities, including singing revolutionary songs which were taped and smuggled out of jail, and this earned her ever-extended prison sentences. She said the sacrifice was worth it. "Even when I first went to prison I knew this sort of torture was taking place... (but) I was even angrier that an invader would come to our country and persecute our people," she said, referring to China's invasion in 1950, and its subsequent rule. Biff- Religion and nationalism. Without these two charmers, she might have been out of jail years ago. Worth it she says. Methinks not. Dissidents are often pathological cases. It's often this, not heroism, which makes them stick with the cause when common sense would indicate otherwise. Many people are heroic. It takes much more than that to be a dissident.
The Unpleasant Side of an Unpleasant Business: Officially, China holds Japan responsible for the riots, and associated damage, based on the premise that Tokyo 'provoked Chinese citizens into action' through its own irrisponsible behaviour. As such, Beijing has cited the 'root causes' of the riot as being public anger caused by; Tokyo's highlighting of China's poor record on Human Rights; The continuation of Sino-Japanese territorial and maritime boundary disputes; Tokyo's stance towards Chinese-Taiwan, including its refusal to bar pro-independence leaders from entering Japan; Tokyo's attitude towards disputed areas of Sino-Japanese history ... Unofficially though, the two primary causes of the riots are though to be Tokyo's refusal to ban a controversial school textbook - published by Japan's discredited nationalist minority, and used by a humiliatingly low 0.39 percent of schools - which refuses to accept the full extent of Japan's wartime crimes against China, and an aborted attempt by Tokyo to gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council; a move which would have put Japan on an equal footing to China within the governing body.
Soldiers in North Korea These Days, ‘No’ To Joining The Party, ‘OK’ To Making Money : For men, the military duty is for 10 years, and for women, it is 6~8 years. Between 1987~1998, the military duty was for 13 years, but after that, it was reduced back to 10 years. The reason for such a long military duty has to do with the maintenance of the military force and the physical strength of soldiers. ...North Korea had a hard time reinforcing the military power because of the food difficulty in the 1990s. The students were stunted from lack of food, and some became “Kotjebi(begging children)” and wandered around, which caused their physical strength to remarkably reduce. Men used to have to be taller than 148cm and heavier than 48kg, but now they only have to be 145cm and 40kg.

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