Idle Thought           last week in January, 2019

What if this past weekend were the beginning of the end for the orange haired baboon?  And, in the process, the GOP were so damaged that even a Pence presidency couldn’t do much harm, and we gained a president in 2020 who was smart, thoughtful, respected intelligence and loyalty to allies and was up for repairing the extraordinary damage, domestic and international?

Someone who might say something that would remind us of these lines -

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Update on Peking U Ideological Battle    January, 2019

In a recent post, The Ideology of Occupation, I described an ideological struggle being played out last month at Peking University, the combined Harvard-Yale of China.   Now, a followup on what has happened to the "Old Marxist" students who questioned the manner in which CCP has been providing leadership of the proletariat.  Spoiler - they are in jail.

Life in School - and Beyond             November, 2009

 

note:  This was written more than ten years ago, when I began teaching full time in China. Some slight editing and updating.  My students were all undergrads in business, marketing, civil engineering, or urban planning.  These notes are early observations on student life at ZUST in Hangzhou.  I can't say this email feels inaccurate years later.   Life goes on, in and out of school, but the beat goes on, too - stress upon stress, and not stress of one's own making.   Smoking and environmental cancer are big contributors to early death.  But stress is also an environmental constant.

The middle class Chinese diet is full of the stuff that doctors in the US tell us we should eat- lots of fish, lots of vegetables, fruit, a little liquor (ok, maybe not a little), a little meat, nuts, grains.  But adult Chinese die at about the same rate as Americans, and now, from mostly the same causes - heart, and cancer.  Why don’t Chinese people live forever?

The National Day Singing Competition - Zhejiang University of Science and Technology, September, 2009

note:  this post is from 2009, a few weeks after I came to ZUST to teach full time and I was still awed by most everything.  As it turns out, there were no more singing day competitions. This one was part of the celebrations of 60 years since the founding of the PRC.  Still, an impressive event.

One of the emcees wore a black tuxedo with diamond -  I wanted to say rhinestone- studs along the collar and piping.   The other wore a white tux with black piping.  The women emcees wore serious prom type dresses, or serious I-am-a-grownup-take-me-out-dancing dresses- a slinky reflective gold long dress for one, a more demure white for the other. 

An Evening in Middle Class Life        October, 2009

There is a pattern in the west of seizing on negative China stories as definitive proof than revolution, or collapse, or the Second Coming are just around the corner.   Debt and moral vacuum and lack of trust and cheating.  But China is a big country, with a big middle class that is vested in ongoing stability.  This is just a dinner story from ten years ago, with government friends from Hangzhou and Shaoxing.  This is just middle class people relaxing and enjoying the holiday. 

This story is also about middle class CCP members, and such an observation seems sorely overlooked in most discussions of China's future.  I have no systematic data, but my educated guess is that a Venn diagram of Chinese middle class - however you wish to define them - would show great overlap with CCP membership.  There are about 90 million CCP members.  With some dual member households, let's speculate that comes to 60 million households.  These are the people holding nearly all government jobs, heading up non-government organizations, teaching in high schools and universities, and owning many small and large businesses.  Let's give those 60 million households one child and a grandparent or two, or four, and that is roughly the same as the size of the middle class.  CCP is the middle class, and when writers talk about emerging democracy and civil society and middle class demands for voice, we should remember who we are talking about.  The CCP is the bourgeoisie.

The Ideology of Occupation   January, 2019

In the last couple of weeks, two student groups were battling at Peking university, one of China’s most prestigious institutions.  These were battles of words, not fists, but all the more intense for that.

Some might dismiss the conflict as a minor student skirmish over ideology. But the Chinese government reaction suggests that there is a lot more going on – that occupation by a ruling elite can have a light touch, except when it finds itself threatened.   Existential threats, even small ones, must be put down.

To be sure, the conflict at Peking was not a contest for student body president, or a fight over which gendered pronoun to use in addressing a classmate.  It was an ideological fight over who gets to interpret Marxism, and the fight illustrates the extent to which CCP, like every dynasty before it, can be understood as an occupying force.  SupChina has the story-  One Marxist student group is backed by the Party.  The other's WeChat account is blocked

Source:  Socialist Worker - A Time of turmoil shaped Karl Marx’s ideas

Recent

  • Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

    Abandon all hope, ye who enter here   New Year's Eve, 2020

    My wife is in the other room right now, crying. She has been reading Wuhan stories, those that get through before they are blocked.

    Even now, with the panopticon state nearly complete, some individual wechat messages do get through for a while.  The stories are too long to relay here. I can only give you a sense of the despair – doctors, nurses, people of Wuhan.

    It is The Plague (1).  People lined up at hospitals by the hundreds, carrying their x-rays with them, hoping against hope for someone to see them.  In most cases, people will not leave the hospital, or their place in line, so they sleep – without food, without shelter – on the floors, outside, anywhere that preserves their intention to see a doctor.  People dying on the floors untreated because there are no beds, no medicines, doctors cannot leave hospitals, people traveling - now by foot or bike, since buses are shut down - to five or six hospitals hoping someone will do the final checking that will allow them to be treated.  People who are seen by a doctor and deemed not sick enough yet are sent away.  There are certainly hundreds of those patients.  At least some deaths are not reported as virus related. Masks and hazardous treatment clothing are in short supply.  Some other provinces have sent teams of doctors to Wuhan, but it is not nearly enough. 

    The government in Wuhan comes in for special hate.  The provincial governor told everyone two days ago - after the quarantine was instituted - that all is well, don’t worry.  In his annual New Year’s speech to residents, the Hubei Party leader made no mention of the coronavirus at all. As of Wednesday, the 22nd, the first mention of the virus in People’s Daily was a small item on page 4.  The first two pages of the paper were all about Xi’s trip to Yunnan.    Mr. Xi’s New Year’s Message, reported from Xinhua, made no reference to Wuhan at all.

    No hospital is permitted to make announcements about contagious diseases – all such announcements have to come from the government.  The crisis leader is an 87-year old doctor who led the SARS crisis treatment (2).  Only when he announced that the virus could be transmitted from person to person did the government agree. 

    All public forms of transportation are shut down to Wuhan and now ten other cities in Hubei.  No intra- or inter-city buses. No air traffic or expressway traffic.  If your license plate has a Wuhan letter indicator, you cannot cross the border on the expressway without special permission. The only way to get around inside Wuhan is to walk, bike, drive, or take a taxi.  You know how many people don’t have cars.  People are significantly weakened by fever and lungs filling up with virus.  People have to make choices between staying with a sick parent in line or on the floor at the hospital for dozens of hours and taking care of their own children at home.  Hospitals have been told to report zero infections among staff, so doctors and nurses who might be infected are not reported.

    I haven't heard this yet, but since the whole city is shut down, there will be food shortages in a day or two.  Supplies will certainly be allowed in, but not likely in sufficient supply. 

    Doctors at hospitals in Wuhan said they expect the total number of infected to be more than 6000.  My own personal guess is that is a low number, based on nothing more than the severity of the foreign reporting, the paucity of Chinese government reporting, and the anguished stories on wechat. Doctors are reporting that some of those infected do not show any fever, so using temperature as a diagnostic is not completely effective, and the incubation period for the virus could be up to two weeks. Today, Friday, January 24, at the moment of writing, there were 900 officially reported cases, an unknown number of unreported cases, and reports are that the virus tripled over last weekend and has spread to 32 of 34 provinces. The Wuhan lockdown is unlikely to be effective, first of all because a lockdown of a huge area of 11,000,000 people has never been tried before, and the window for controlling spread of the virus had already closed before the lockdown was announced on Wednesday.  Not to mention the number of cases officially not reported.

    Thursday, January 23, central government mouthpiece People’s Daily sent out a cheery message.  The Chinese people are united in their support for Wuhan.  This is unspeakable. 

    Wuhan, hang in there! You have the support of all people across the country. The more difficult the situation is, the more united the Chinese people are. This has been constantly proven by both history and reality.

     

    人民网评:越是艰难险阻,愈益众志成城

    苏秦

    2020年01月23日11:18  来源:人民网-观点频道

    分享到: “1月23日10时起,全市城市公交、地铁、轮渡、长途客运暂停运营;无特殊原因,市民不要离开武汉,机场、火车站离汉通道暂时关闭。”武汉市连夜发出公告,传递明确信号:武汉正在采取更细致、更深入、更扎实的防控举措,全力遏制疫情扩散蔓延。

    非常之时,非常之举。这昭示了一个基本逻辑,为了守护人民群众的生命安全:不怕兴师动众、不怕“劳民伤财”、不怕十防九空!

    传染病防治有其复杂性,更有其规律性,必要时候必须采取非常之举,这于情于理于法都有坚实支撑。非常之举,必然要打破常规、影响常态。武汉市民的生活将不可避免地受到影响,我们向武汉市民的付出致敬!打赢这场防疫硬仗,每一位武汉市民都值得感佩,每一名积极参与者都值得我们呈上敬意。

    非常之举,更需要政府部门遵循全心全意为人民服务的常理。积极回应民众的合理诉求,最大限度减少应急措施带来的不利因素,也是当务之急。这是对我们治理体系的测试,是对我们治理能力的检验。除了武汉,没有哪一座城市可以作壁上观。这不仅是因为疫情的联动效应,更是因为我们对人民的庄严承诺。

    疫情来得迅疾,目前一些地方、一些环节面临挑战,做好药品、消毒、器械等防控物资的储备供应,显得迫在眉睫。需要看到,中国作为世界工厂,并不缺少物质生产力,补上物资缺口并非难事。一些地方出现物资短缺属于结构性的,只是“地域错配”,加上春节工厂放假因素而导致缺货。我们呼吁,口罩等物资的相关厂家能急疫情之所急,开足马力生产;全国各地也能紧急驰援、相互支持。

    只要全国一盘棋,统筹安排,协调推进,相信很快就可以解决物资短缺等难题。在这个时候,我们就是要把长期培育的社会动员能力和制度优越性充分释放出来。我们的党员干部在危机面前尤其要发挥先锋模范作用,引领大家增强必胜的信心,打赢这场硬仗!

    武汉加油,全国人民支持你们。越是遭遇艰难险阻,我们愈益众志成城。这是被历史和现实不断验证的中国逻辑。

    相关评论

    人民网评:抗击疫情,人人责无旁贷

    人民网评:疫情面前要算大账

    人民网评:面对疫情,任何侥幸都可能夺人性命

    No one trusts the government, among other problems.  When you have a single source of authority, of power, no one can act on local knowledge to do better.  That is what Hayek said in The Road to Serfdom and James Scott said in Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed.   Scott calls this a failure of high modernism, and Chinese governance most certainly is an example of that in every aspect.  Engineering efficiency demands that nothing stand in the way of official action.  But official action does not respond quickly to local knowledge (3)  Combine with a hierarchical government system in which bad news does not want to flow up the chain of command, there is extreme media censorship, and you have the sort of place over which that motto might fit well – abandon all hope.

    Happy New Year.

     

     

    (1) from the Wall Street Journal, January 22 -

    China’s cabinet-level National Health Commission said Monday it would treat the new coronavirus as a Class A infectious disease, meaning it would be handled similarly to cholera, the plague and to how it handled the SARS outbreak. Both SARS and the new virus are officially categorized in the more benign Class B.

    (2) from Caixin, about January 20 –

    A prominent virologist who helped identify the source of the deadly SARS coronavirus nearly two decades ago told Caixin that Wuhan’s spike in new cases “shows that the (new) virus can spread from person to person.” Guan Yi, who heads a laboratory for emerging infectious diseases at Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health, said that while the virus had seemingly not initially passed between people, the rise in cases over the past several weeks meant “we should no longer be playing word games about whether or not this constitutes human-to-human transmission.”

    He can afford to speak up.  He is 87 years old.

    (3) from South China Morning Post, January 20 - China's post-SARS reporting system may explain long delays in announcing new cases of Wuhan virus

    “… Actually it only takes a short while to get virus results in local hospitals with the test kits. What is time-consuming is that suspected cases are required to wait for a second positive result from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention [in Beijing] before a panel of experts can go ahead with clinical diagnosis. Only after these three steps are completed can we publicly declare any confirmed case,” the official said.

    Well done!  One of the early cases was dated January 3.  His viral status was not announced until the 19th.  Most people at hospitals are turned away or simply leave without seeing a doctor at all.

     

     

     
  • Remember Hong Kong

    Remember Hong Kong

     I've written quite a bit about the Hong Kong protests - here, on learning from Hong Kongers and here, on the end of soft power and here, with some sympathy for the Hong Kong police. 

     It feels like we are approaching the end.

    Read more ...  
  • Crash out (2)

    Crash-out (2)

    update at November 13, 2019 to Crash out -

    Crash out may not happen.  We will find out in January.  But the wounding of the British economy is happening as we type, and this piece in Foreign Policy - Chinese Firms Can't Avoid Being Party Tools - is a good example of how and why Brexit is great for business ... in China.

    Read more ...  

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