Monday, June 27, 2005

Super-rising China vs. Captain America

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China's rise is extraordinary. At an amazing rate China is quickly becoming the world's next superpower and the speed of China's rise seems to be surprising the US according to some recent reports. Combined economic and military growth is rapidly propelling China into a position which the US is increasingly uneasy about and perhaps downright fearful of since China is still tightly controlled by a camarilla of the CCP.
The new strength of China has been recently demonstrated in business by recent high profile aquisitons and attempted aquisitions. Chinese computer maker Lenovo acquired the personal computer division of IBM, while in the appliance realm, China's largest appliance maker Haier has put in a bid to buy Maytag. China oil company SINOPEC has also recently bought into the Canadian Oil Sands. This last move is a clear demonstration of the voracious appetite China is continuing to develop for energy and resources to fuel its growth. In further effort to secure oil China's most recent move has been to put in a bit for the american oil company UNOCAL. This last move has forced the US into a tough position.
The 18.5 billion dollar UNOCAL bid by China National Offshore Oil Corporation is forcing some tough questions for US. There is pressure to scuttle the deal based on national security reasons as oil is becoming a an increasingly scarce and high priced resource. The US has its hands on the taps in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, areas of the Caspian basin and the ability pipe oil through Afghanistan and use Afghanistan as a base to pressure Iran. China by no means has the security of safe and reliable future sources of oil which it will need. The CNOOC deal would certainly be great for China in establishing a greater presence in the world oil market. With the US committment to 'free trade' policies and its declared position as a 'friend' of China and NOT a strategic competitor the US will be hard pressed to scuttle the deal without having some heavy repurrcussions for the US-CHINA relationship and the way they view each other.
On the military front China has been rapidly expanding its forces with the recent acquistion of sea-based nuclear missile firing capability, a new long range cruise missile and recent weapons purchases from Russia. The Chinese military is modernizing at an astonishing rate instilling greater fear in Washington. The Taiwan situation of course is the potential spark that could set of the potential US-CHINA powder keg. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
The US must reconsider its current position. Can the United States really pursue a security policy which will not allow for another nation to reach it's capabilities as declared in its most recent Bush National Security strategy? Can the US expect to deny the ability of another nation to enjoy the same security apparatus as the US enjoys. China does not want to superpower second fiddle and rely on others for security. The US has great independence as a by-product of its might and why should China not expect the same right. The US cannot expect other nations to simply fall in line and blindly accept the US as a benevolent superpower. The notion of the US being the guardian of truth, justice, democracy and all the other fabled falacies the US myth stands on have been eroded too far. China's history and an inability to put any trust in the US will certainly lead China to increasing military build up and pursuit of independent strength. Does this come as any surprise? It shouldn't.
China's conversion to capitalism was a pragmatic change to the world situation. China knew if they did not modernise they were doomed to future intrusion and perhaps subjugation once again by foreign powers. The change to capitalism and the massive market that China commands has now brought the riches that China needs to modernise and return the fore of the global competition between nations. How will the US keep them down and but keep them contented?


ny times unocal story

Gertz story on threat from China
more from Gertz and the washington times
People's Dialy Op-ed on US Preaching Chinese Military Threat

piece on diminishing oil

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Weddings, puppets and ghost money

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Last weekend Cindy and I had a quiet weekend down at her parents house. Saturday was fairly uneventful. We relaxed at Cindy's house with Xiao Shong during the day and in the evening we sort of crashed a wedding.
Cindy's parents were invited to a wedding but did not want to go. Saturday was the day Cindy's brother finished his military service and they had to go bring him home. While me and Cindy were trying to decide on what to do for dinner Cindy figured we could just take a red envelope to the wedding and eat there. At a wedding here it is customary to give a red envelope or 紅包 with some money in it. We hit the wedding as did about 500-600 other people.
As most Taiwanese weddings it was just a feast. Everyone goes in, eats and then heads out complete with their grab bags of food leftovers and whatever alcohol that was not drunk. Guests often grab complete bottles of wine and tuck them under their seats before the meal even begins! Cindy and I made off with some fishballs, pork, 2 bottles of Taiwan beer and a bottle of red wine. As we were leaving some very lean looking old folks came in to grab what leftovers they could before the main wedding organisers chased them away.In, out and home all in an hour and a half. Truly efficent!!
Sunday was guan di's b-day. I took xiao shong swimming and then we hung around the house, watched a bit of the puppet show for the gods (complete with eight-track soundtrack) and later we burned some ghost money with Cindy's mother and Aunt before lunch. After lunch I headed back to Tainan for soccer. If you care to see all the pics you can go here.

Friday, June 17, 2005

A god's B-day and some older a-typical Taiwan shots

At bottom are a couple of old shots which are not your typical tourist in Taiwan shots, but I think respresent Taiwan quite well.
This weekend I am off to Cindy's parent's house. Her little brother finishes his military service (21 months!!!) and it's her family's god's birthday tomorrow. Their family's god is 關帝 (guan di). He is a god of war and literature, worhsipped by both gangsters and the police. I am not sure what the celebration will entail, except for the usual burning of ghost money and eating large amounts of food, but I will post when I return.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled sea of thought.--J.K.Galbraith

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Lately I have had an interest in economics. This interest has brought me to J.K.Galbraith and Adam Smith.
Today’s world seems more and more brutally governed by economics in a fashion that has little regard for morals or civic duty. From what I have been reading of John Kenneth Galbraith, he is a man that has conscientiously attempted to connect economics to the people it effects. Galbraith has distain for the others involved in his chosen profession and regards those that follow the "conventional wisdom"(a phrase he coined)as perpetuating in a myth. Galbraith views people who believe the market still functions much the same as the classical Smithian idea as perpetuating a dangerous myth and perpetrating a fraud over others.
I also sought out the bible of all economists "Wealth of Nations" but currently have no real desire to go through the complete text. The treatise on the socially beneficial effects of self-interest is the sacred text of all neo-liberal, modern-globalisation, and conventional wisdom adherents. Adam Smith is their adopted deity. Smith’s name and “Wealth of Nations”regularly spew forth from the mouths of all defenders of the neo-liberal faith in their defense of the effectiveness of markets and their desire for freer trade. 99% of these people, like me, have never made an effort to actually read the whole of Smith's work, and they never make any mention of the only other book he wrote.
While I haven't made an effort to dig into the “Wealth of Nations” I have been reading about his other work "A Theory of Moral Sentiments"(TMS). I am reading a critical reassessment of TMS by Leonidas Montes. Montes reassessment is an attempt to understand Smith’s less famous work not from a literal standpoint polluted with current modern thought, but rather a historical, contextual understanding of what Smith was likely thinking by understanding how he was influenced. From what I have read so far, I understand that in TMS, Smith lays out Self-command, prudence, justice and beneficence as moral virtues. These virtues are very similar to older greek virtues which Smith was certainly aware of. Montes’ viewpoint on Smith does not seem to generate the purely self-interested character that the neo-libs would have you believe Smith championed.
Montes points to Smith words in TMS VI.ii.3.3p.235,

"The wise and virtuous man is at all times willing that his own private interest should be sacrificed to the public interest of his own particular order or society. He is at all times willing, too, that the interest of this order or society should be sacrificed to the greater interest of the state or sovereignty, of which it is only a subordinate part. He should, therefore, be equally willing that all those inferior interests should be sacrificed to the greater interest of the universe, to the interest of that great society of all sensible and intelligent beings, of which God himself is the immediate administrator and director."

I doubt any neo-lib will have those words of Smith's grace his tongue.

Galbraith I believe would have been a good friend of Smith. Galbraith has great moral sense and takes a practical view of markets and their limitations. He as most economists applauds Smith's analysis of the functioning of markets and the role of self-interest being beneficial to society. However, Galbraith (as perhaps Smith would likely feel today) does not view today's corporate-controlled marketplace as having any semblance to the classical market idea that Smith was writing about over 200 years ago. The invisible hand of Smith has changed its form from the impartial actor that it once was. The invisible attribute no longer denotes the impartiality of this hand but rather the invisibility of the prevalence of manipulation of the market and the wilful ignorance of those followers of conventional wisdom.

If only Smith were alive to see today and how “Wealth of Nations” is viewed, used and abused today.

I implore anyone to read some Galbraith. 96 years old and still writing. Most can only wish.

watch a panel discussion on galbraith
Montes reassessment
A review of Montes
A review of another book which deals with the "the Das Adam Smith Problem" (reconciling TMS with WN)

Sunday, June 12, 2005


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Cindy and I went out for some local delicacies yesterday out near the salt flats in Qi Qu. After selecting some fresh shrimp and mussels, getting them cooked in a rather decrepit-looking shack across the road we had a great meal. All for about 25$ Canadian!!
After dinner we drove through Qi gu and the surrounding area and happened along an old beach resort outside of Jia Li. I was astonished (and a bit embarrassed) to see ridable waves when we arrived. I have lived in Tainan for 3 years already and not known you can surf here. I am now in the process of trying to find myself a surfboard.
I see globalisation has even brought the predominently handicraft manufacturing of surfboards to asia as well. A number of Taiwanese companies manufacture "pop-out" moulds in China much to the disgrace of any surfing purist. There are also some smaller scale factories making handcrafted custom boards. I e-mailed a couple of companies today and hopefully will get a prompt reply telling me I can get a cheap custom longboard!!


Well it is no June and what has come of my blog. NOTHING!! ha ha. I have spent the last while stuck in the books. I had exams in May and of course was cramming as much into my brain as possible so I avoided the blog. However now with new vigour I shall rise again and throw some words back on this page.
Here is a letter to the editor i threw at the halifax clique that is the coast, which is also Bruce Wark's personal claque.