Teaching Political Theory in Beijing: Academic publications are surprisingly free: there aren’t any personal attacks on leaders or open calls for multiparty rule, but particular policies, such as the household registry system, which limits internal mobility, are subject to severe criticism. In 2004, state television, for the first time in history, broadcast the U.S. presidential elections live, without any obvious political slant. (I suspect that the turmoil surrounding the 2000 U.S. presidential elections, along with the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, discredited U.S.-style democracy among many Chinese, and the government has less to fear from the model.) More surprisingly, perhaps, I was not given any explicit (or implicit, as far as I could tell) guidance regarding what I could teach at Tsinghua. My course proposals have been approved as submitted.
...However, I also made some comments about the ancient thinker Mencius—I argued that he justified “punitive expeditions” that were functionally similar to modern-day humanitarian interventions—that were not published. The Chinese government does not support any infringements on state sovereignty, and the newspaper probably worried that readers would draw implications for contemporary debates. To my surprise, the editor of the newspaper phoned me to apologize, explaining that the article was “reviewed” by a party cadre and that he had no hand in the matter. He also offered to publish the interview in full in an academic publication that would not be subject to the same sorts of constraints.
Fujian woos a skeptical Taiwan: "Fujian has a reputation of failing to implement market-economy polices, instead it emphasizes politics," explained a senior official at Taiwan's semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Corruption is another issue. The Yuanhua case is just one [example]," the official added. In that notorious case, broken in 2000-01, the Yuanhua Group smuggled cars, luxury goods, oil and other goods into Fujian's Xiamen city, cheating the state of about $4 billion.
Thousands of government officials were involved: Lai Changxing, the chairman of Lianhua group, had corrupted them by such means as wining and dining them, hiring their children, or secretly filming them cavorting with hostesses at his "underground palace", known as the "Little Red Mansion". Allegedly, Lai even attempted to bribe then-premier Zhu Rongji to the tune of $2 billion. But Zhu responded by sending hundreds of police investigators from outside the province to Fujian, and dozens of officials were shot in the ensuing crackdown.
Complaints about local government corruption are widely circulated among Fujian-based Taiwan businessmen. The chairman of the Fuzhou Chamber of Trade, Hsu Jiun-Da, was arrested and interrogated for a week in 2002 after he publicly criticized the local government's performance. Hsu, a Taiwanese businessman who once operated a textile factory and invested in a hospital there, has been withdrawing his investment from the province.
End of the road for Japanese village: This mountain village on the west coast, withered to eight aging residents, concluded recently that it could no longer go on. So, after months of anguish, the villagers settled on a drastic solution: selling all of Ogama to an industrial-waste company from Tokyo, which will turn it into a landfill. With the proceeds, the villagers plan to pack up everything, including their family graves, and move in the next few years to yet-uncertain destinations, most likely becoming the first community in Japan to cease to exist voluntarily.
...academics have coined a term - "villages that have reached their limits" - to describe those with populations that are more than half elderly. Of 140 villages in Monzen, the municipality that includes Ogama, 40% have fewer than 10 households, inhabited mostly by the elderly.
...Ogama lies in a valley in a mountain facing the sea, reached by a single-lane road that winds its way through a deep green forest where foxes and raccoon dogs - forest-dwellers that, in Japanese myth, trick human beings by shifting their shapes - are spotted regularly. The road ends here.
Biff- you cain't have it both ways: high population density and a pristine environment. The hollowing out isn't just taking place in Japan but also in parts of Europe and in the US Mid-west and the Plains. For all the guff about disappearing forests, the hollowing out phenomenon has been ongoing in the US since around the Great Depression. Forest cover has been growing steadily nationwide.