Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A zero-sum game?

An interesting article on the current political economy. Although the photo seems to be a bit irrelevant to the article..

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I’m back! And so is America in Asia.

It’s been a while since my last post and quite a bit has happened since then.
Gaddafi is gone, Europe is scrambling for credit lines, and US was downgraded. However, what spurred the greatest interest for me within the political sphere is the recent APEC meeting, where the US with its stronger than usual stance announces its return to Asia with a bang.

From the Trans-Pacific partnership, with the obvious and deliberate exclusion of China, to the deployment of marines in Australia and America’s reengagement with a host of Asian countries, sparked a series of commentaries on the “Chinese threat” and repercussions of America’s recent actions.

Obama declared that “The US is a Pacific power and we are here to stay” says much about its intentions but also its lack of confidence lost during the last decade spent on its misadventures in the Middle East. (Imperial overstretch anyone?)  And now, reengaging Asia both economically and politically will no doubt bring a whole new dimension into play especially for Asian countries whom have forgotten the US as China became their largest trading partner.

For the past decade, China was able to cultivate relationships and climb the economic rankings as US were busy finding Saddam and Osama. When it was all over, China became the second largest economy in the world, their first aircraft carrier and stealth fighter on their way and more significant in symbol than substance was EU asking China for money. America has realized this and through its formidable soft power, reengaged Asia in one quick strike, banding all East Asian countries to isolate China. Now, whether this will last or what the repercussions are, has yet to be seen. But what is certain is that China is now on the back foot again as the US army got another foothold in the Asia Pacific region, this time out of its missile range in Darwin.  

On a side note, Australia is now officially a colony of the US, joining the ranks of Japan and Korea.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Aftermath

The train crash in China has become much bigger news and I sense something is brewing underneath all the heat that’s been going on regarding the aftermath of the crash.

Despite all that has happened in the course of the week, one factor stood out above the rest. The media. The communist mouthpiece who ordered media outlets to limit talking about the topic had seen orders defied by most major newspapers and TV stations, with the most drastic coming from CCTV news itself.  Unusually critical of the handling of the government and even linking to other topics such as unsafe food and infrastructure really reflected the peoples’ contempt over government corruption and inability to heed grievances.  

I think what this train crash has developed is something more than just a call for an overhaul of the high speed rail system, but also a rethink of how fast China is going at the cost of quality and safety. The main force behind all this is the people on the ground, the netizens who’s been posting around the clock new information and the feelings of the people.

If I was the government and for the sake of the long term stability and credibility of itself, I’d listen to them, and listen to them seriously.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chinese government in a train wreck – Pun (and anger) intended.

The train crash was a tragedy, but what followed was a much greater tragedy. The response and handling by the government was disastrous to say the least. From not doing a complete search and rescue operation to an apparent attempt to cover the magnitude of the disaster up (reports of bodies falling out of carriages as its being taken off the viaduct) has sparked outrage in China. With news now being censored by the Propaganda Department, the “real” news coming out are mostly from blogs and witnesses, where most reflected the anger in the public sphere.  

The actions of the government are perplexing to say the least. Dealing with so many disasters in the past like the SARS outbreak and tainted milk scandal, we would have thought the government has learnt a thing or two about being open and upfront to its people. However, with the recent tragedy, the government seems to have backtracked on its actions on opening up to the public and holding itself accountable to the problem.

This phenomenon could be the result of a couple of deciding factors in my opinion; political infighting and the political sensitivity of the entire high-speed railway project. 

Top leadership like Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao has called for “an all out effort to rescue and save the injured”, while at ground zero, trains are being moved, and lines reopened within 36 hours even before a real rescue effort has been mounted. This shows the contrast between the priorities between the two “governments” as they pursue different agenda. While the central government is trying to do the right thing (kind of) to save people, the local government is trying to contain the fallout of the event to save their own jobs and deny responsibility.   

The second factor leading to the aftermath of the disaster was the very fact that the high speed trains was suppose to be a status symbol for China’s rise to the top. However, albeit all the boasting on the record breaking speeds and “indigenous” designs, this was overshadowed by this very disaster. Just several months before, China was even on the verge of exporting this business to overseas market. And now, as I read on Bloomberg, Chinese train suppliers may have “Zero’ Chancein train exports.

And now for some ranting:
What is the point of breaking speed records and building up the largest rail network in 5 years if you can’t offer a safe transportation system that the masses can rely upon?! Now that this event has happened, people’s faith in the high speed rail network and government’s sincerity to address numerous problems has crash and burn.  However, having said that, hopefully this event will serve as a painful lesson for the cost of fast growth over quality and hubris of Chinese manufacturers, government and last but not least, its people.

Bloomberg article
Aftermath of the accident:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nationalism Rules

Interesting article by Walt on Nationalism.
Whether you buy it or not, is another question.

Nationalism Rules - By Stephen M. Walt | Foreign Policy

Some rather diverging defintions of nationalism by famous people..

“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.” - Albert Einstein
“Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception.” - George Orwell
“We have a secret is called Nationalism”  - Ho Chi Minh

New post coming soon!