Archive for January, 2013

Reviewing the Gulag #5

January 18, 2013

Where better to begin than Peking Duck’s anniversary post SARS Ten Years Later. While not diminishing the significance of the virus or downplaying the initial deceptions orchestrated by Beijing, Richard’s reflections are on the high melodramatic side. A sort of holiday in hell narrative saturated with enough Medieval Grim Reaper imagery to match the Black Death which decimated Europe in the 14th century.

“Being there in the thick of it in 2003, I enjoyed a bird’s eye view of how the government operates. It wasn’t pretty, but in retrospect I am glad I was there to experience it. The entire incident including the censorship and propaganda and the citizens’ distrust and the cover-up, provided a microcosm of life in China at the time, one that I will newer forget”.

There are other narratives and here is one. I landed in Fujian in January in January 2002 and some weeks later we (12 western types of many nationalities) began to suspect something was amiss, and by the time the government fessed up, we were stuffed in terms of pissing off. No one really panicked during the lock down when classes were suspended. Even a couple of truly deranged Americans, who later departed in hilarious circumstances, took the situation in their stride.

Recall the really big staff meeting where some po-faced cadre took the chair. We were told that the local military hospital had just developed a successful vaccine – eye rolls all round – and were then each given a bottle of really cheap vinegar to sprinkle outside the doors of our apartments. Right out of the Middle Ages. Basically folk had a good time. Lots of quiet partying, watching HBO box sets till dawn and sleeping in very late. I even got to play nurse when work resumed, recording everybodys temperatures twice daily. Fun role plays.

This was not the end of the Middle Kingdom as were were beginning to experience it. Three hundred and sixty eight causalities in China including one in Fujian. There were probably more Western virologists, immunologists and epidemiologists (their pc’s loaded down with predictive software….10% morbidity blah blah) advising the Health Ministry than actual victims. After getting their cv’s punched with flying visits to HIV/AIDS Africa, SARS was the next big thing.

Now for some faux statistics on the tabloid end of the blog gulag in terms of Global Ranking, China Ranking, Big In, Daily Page Views, Daily Income and Estimated Worth in USD. **

ChinaSmack: 18,954, 16,082, Finland (8%), 56,584 , $172.20, $125,706.

Shanghaiist: 40,641, 28,579, France (5.4%), 35,457, $106.37, $77,650.

Beijingcream: 157,338, 99,884, Poland (7.7%) Indonesia (6.0%), 7,085, $21.26, $15,519.

By contrast, check what India’s top ten bloggers earn per month, and also get the feeling that this is a very inexact science.

RFH’s post on BJC about bespoke bicycle bling among the noveau riche and vulgar in China resonated in tubbyland. The very staid Melbourne Age joined the lazy bastard approach to reporting on China HERE. I’m quite sure if the power progeny of the super rich started poncing around Beijing’s malls and clubs on upmarket push bikes in the past few weeks, their families would have had them certified.

Now, its a natural fact that Japan is noted for its super hot surfing babes. As if that is not sufficient, it is now producing quality Sino-commentators, namely the equally hot Manani Funakoshi, who writes for Tea Leaf Nation. You will recognize the homeless story, as it was taken up by numerous sites including ChinaSmack and BJC.

** Lots of programs for this sort of stuff, but I wouldn’t bet on their precision. However, they do provide a good approximate.

Apol: Will finish this tomorrow.

While it has been up for awhile, Sinostand’s piece Southern Weekend’s Stand: What It Is and What It Isn’t was the best summation of the issues involved in this staff-management standoff, and sure enough the views expressed were generally confirmed by Maria Repnikova’s article in the WSJ Journalists Are No Revolutionaries.. The glare of publicity simply dazzled some commentators: the first dawn of real press freedom in China, etc. The agreement reached with Party officials will be short-lived, and will end up like Wukan as soon as the sillier end of the West’s punditocracy identifies a new ‘challenge’ to power.

The only lesson here is that the real decision makers in China – some 80,000 key office holders out of 80 million something Party members – have learned to play a tactical game when the situation calls for a smart response. One can best liken them to a Long Firm fictionally described by Jake Arnott: when the time comes they will pull the second passport out from under the mattress and join their overseas bank accounts. Whatever, you can bet the farm that the journalists at the Southern Weekly will come to a shitty end down the track. Relocated to some dust bowl like Gansu or Hohhot.

Democracy doesn’t make the world go round. Rather, the real determinant is access to energy and mineral resources. China Oil Trader, a relatively new blog by academic Gabe Collins, is up there with Chovanec etc in terms of tres serious analysis. After reading his mission statement HERE, go exploring. After doing so, follow up by clicking on China Sign Post lorded by Dr Andrew Erickson for a second dose of serious analysis. If you have the big Sino-engineering mentality, these are the sites for you.

Finally, a bookend to the above two recommendations. Meet China’s Genghiz Security Advisor GSA, a firm “which offers protection for China’s wealthiest citizens from attacks and kidnapping at home and abroad — a service analysts say could push the government in Beijing into unwanted foreign entanglements……A senior foreign affairs advisor for China’s government said last year that Chinese security companies should be “allowed to head abroad”.

Han Fangming told the 21st Century Business Herald that China should “seriously discuss” creating an equivalent to America’s Blackwater security firm “to provide armed security for overseas institutions and enterprises in high-risk areas”.

Crikey, given that Blackwater has virtually eluded all forms of US Congressional oversight to date, the neo-colonised in Africa really need a Sino-version of the same, especially given China’s existing shotgun approach to labour management issues in Zambia etc pace The Lusaka Times.

Anyway, even babes can sign up for this serious security detail: 22-year-old Wang Wenwen, one of several women training at the academy, has no doubts about her choice of profession.

“The training is torture, but I can still take it,” she said.

“Women have certain advantages… your opponent will overlook you, and you can grab a pen from a desk and stab it here,” she said, pointing at her neck. “It has a high rate of success”
You can get a slide show of our Middle Kingdoms Claude and Claudette Van Dammes HERE.