No Minister

Archive for the ‘China’ Category

The perfect Blade Runner shot

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All that video needs is music by Vangelis.

A long time ago the Soviets had a tightly controlled network of internationalists used to promote their communist model to the world. They were called the Comintern.

But Communist China has far exceeded that idea. They’ve got a group called the WEF (World Economic Forum) that’s composed of capitalists and Big Thinkers who have startling proposals for the future of humanity, such as owning nothing and eating bugs.

And you will be happy.

And they’ve got a multi-millionaire named Klaus Schwab to extoll their virtues:

World Economic Forum founder and Chair Klaus Schwab recently sat down for an interview with a Chinese state media outlet and proclaimed that China was a “role model” for other nations. 

Schwab, 84, made these comments during an interview with CGTN’s Tian Wei on the sidelines of last week’s APEC CEO Summit in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Schwab said he respected China’s “tremendous” achievements at modernizing its economy over the last 40 years. 

“I think it’s a role model for many countries,” Schwab said, before qualifying that he thinks each country should make its own decisions about what system it wants to adapt. 

How nice of him, but that last claim rings hollow given that the system he’s advocating for the West explicitly requires a party elite to do all the choosing for the people they rule over with an iron fist. 

Of course if you’re going for images of SF dystopias you need a human who fits – and Klaus fits perfectly:

“To understand events around the world today, one must think in terms of the class struggle.”

But the New Class isn’t limited to communist countries, really. Around the world in the postwar era, power was taken up by unelected professional and managerial elites. To understand what’s going on with President Donald Trump and his opposition, and in other countries as diverse as France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, it’s important to realize that the post-World War II institutional arrangements of the Western democracies are being renegotiated, and that those democracies’ professional and managerial elites don’t like that very much, because they have done very well under those arrangements. And, like all elites who are doing very well, they don’t want that to change.

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Dodging bullets

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ISS over New Zealand

You might think it difficult to dodge a bullet that’s traveling at 18,000 mph!

But it’s a lot easier when you’re also traveling at that speed.

The International Space Station (ISS) has had to change its orbit quite a few times over the last twenty years to avoid a collision with some piece of space junk, and it did so again a few days ago:

In order for ISS to avoid one of the approximately 585 pieces of space junk still in orbit that were produced when Russia destroyed its defunct Cosmos 1408 satellite in a November 2021 anti-satellite test, engineers fired the engines of a docked Progress freighter yesterday for just over five minutes.

Without the burn the debris would have flown within three miles of the station, too close for comfort or anyone’s margin of error.

The ISS had to do the same thing for the same reason just on a year ago, except then it was because of a Chinese anti-satellite test in 2007:

Earlier this week, the International Space Station (ISS) was forced to maneuver out of the way of a potential collision with space junk. With a crew of astronauts and cosmonauts on board, this required an urgent change of orbit on November 11.

Over the station’s 23-year orbital lifetime, there have been about 30 close encounters with orbital debris requiring evasive action. Three of these near-misses occurred in 2020.

That last is a key point. As the article points out, things are getting more crowded in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and it’s not helped by what the Chinese did a few years ago:

This week’s incident involved a piece of debris from the defunct Fengyun-1C weather satellite, destroyed in 2007 by a Chinese anti-satellite missile test. The satellite exploded into more than 3,500 pieces of debris, most of which are still orbiting. Many have now fallen into the ISS’s orbital region.

At these speeds even tiny particles can be lethal because Energy = Mass x Velocity2 Kinetic Energy = 1/2xMass x Velocity2 (H/T Andrei).. In May 2021 the ISS was hit: a tiny piece of space junk punched a 5mm hole in the ISS’s Canadian-built robot arm, the junk was probably less than 1mm in size.

You would think people would learn. Even Hollywood has. In the 2013 SF thriller movie Gravity, the Space Shuttle, while servicing the Hubble Space Telescope, gets hit by debris created by the Russians testing an anti-satellite weapon against one of their own satellites, leaving Sandra Bullock’s astronaut character as the sole survivor who has to try and get back to Earth. It’s a 90 minute thrill ride of a movie, so long as you ignore things like orbital mechanics which would make it impossible to get from the Hubble orbit to the ISS with just a jetpack device!

Which brings us back to that 2021 Russian anti-satellite missile, which was predicted then to endanger the space station crew:

An anti-satellite missile test Russia conducted on Monday generated a debris field in low-Earth orbit that endangered the International Space Station and will pose a hazard to space activities for years, U.S. officials said.

The seven-member space station crew – four U.S. astronauts, a German astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts – were directed to take shelter in their docked spaceship capsules for two hours after the test as a precaution to allow for a quick getaway had it been necessary, NASA said.

I would think the two Russian cosmonauts may have had a few choice words for their military compatriots when they returned to Earth at the end of their mission. However there is some more recent news that’s good:

According to a report in September, of these 585 pieces, most will burn up in the atmosphere by 2025, with only 38 pieces left afterward to pose a threat to other operating satellites and manned spacecraft.

Written by Tom Hunter

October 28, 2022 at 7:30 am

The chilling effect of China authoritarianism

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Why we will never be sure Covid was a lab leak.

Scientists seeming to care more about the professional opportunities presented by collaboration with China than with truth.

https://twitter.com/Biorealism/status/1580397245525942272

We should not forget US pharma not wanting to admit the Covid vaccine was needed for them to make money rather than effective but out of patent and safe treatments like Remdesevir.

Written by Whiskey&Pie

October 14, 2022 at 8:52 am

Posted in China, Science, USA

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Who’s in charge of the USA?

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Because it sure as hell does not seem to be “President” Biden.

Last week he got interviewed on the long-running American current affairs show, 60 Minutes on CBS, by one Scott Pelly, one of the friendliest Democrat interviewers around.

Predictably Pelly asked lots of softball questions and crucially, did not follow up on the answers – especially after delicately raising the matter of Hunter Biden, where Pelly allowed the President to put only his spin on it (it’s just GOP trouble-making)!

Yet even with such a soft touch, Biden got himself repeatedly in trouble.

First, with dismissive snark about the rate of inflation, denying that it’s a problem (“You’re acting like all of a sudden ‘my God it went to 8.2%’”). When it comes to bad economic news, there are two ways to handle it as a president. The right way is to admit the truth and then lay out a plan – preferably one with numbers – for how you’re going to improve things. Americans are very forgiving of politicians who speak plainly to them, as the likes of JFK, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton knew. On the other hand, the wrong way is to simply pretend that everything is just peachy and that anyone who doesn’t think so is an idiot. Guess which strategy Biden has chosen?

His skin is so thin you can see through it.

He also bragged about using the oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is at its lowest level since 1984, and which was established after the Second Oil Crisis (1979/1980) for strategic defense purposes – not to lower gas prices to ease the pain for the Democrat Party during elections.

Biden says he’ll refill it once things have improved, but that’ll be at $80 barrel. It should be noted that when Trump wanted to top it up at $24/barrel the Democrats stopped him in Congress.

But, incredible as it may seem, those weren’t his worst gaffes. He had two doozies.

Taiwan

Pelly: But would US forces defend the island?

Biden: Yes. If in fact there was an unprecedented attack…

Pelly: So unlike Ukraine – to be clear, Sir – US forces, US men and woman, would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.

Biden: Yes.

Holy shit! The Whitehouse rapidly walked this back, making it clear that US policy has not changed – and that policy is one of strategic ambiguity where they officially will not say whether they would, or would not, defend Taiwan.

The thing is that the WH had the opportunity to wave a big stick at China almost two months ago when Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the House and basically the third-most powerful US politician) visited Taiwan (Nancy Pelosi is doing the right thing)- resulting in a flurry of threats from China, one of which implied that they might shoot her plane out of the sky.

That last was always an empty threat, but still, in the world of diplomacy it’s harsh and should have been condemned by the Biden Administration – but it wasn’t,

John Kirby (National Security Council): “The Speaker has not confirmed any travel plans and it is for the Speaker to do so, and her staff. We won’t be commenting or speculating about the stops on her trip…Congress is an independent branch of government…the Speaker has a right to visit Taiwan.”
============================
CBS’s @NancyCordes: Why was the Speaker being urged not to go [to Taiwan]?
Kirby: I don’t know that she was…Who urged her not to go?
C: [Biden] said on July 20 that the military doesn’t think it’s a good idea for her to go.
K: [She] makes her own decisions.
====
Reporter: “Why did the president bother w/ this drama…why not call the Chinese bluff or tell them to pound sand?”
Kirby: “What’s the drama?”
R: “Have you watched the [Chinese] briefings the past couple weeks?”
K: “I haven’t seen any drama…you’re manufacturing it with your question.”

So weak as dishwater back then – now yammering about US troops defending Taiwan against a Chinese invasion. It’s schizophrenic.

Admittedly Pelosi was not much better; with her back-and-forth media announcements and initial hesitation in the face of the Chinese threats, she added to the strategic confusion at the White House and Pentagon who opposed her visit, and she never really explained why she was visiting, saying that as a child she used to like China and at the beach would dig in the sand to reach Beijing. Seriously? As historian VDH summed up, her diplomacy was childlike:

In other words, in her eight decades since infancy, Pelosi has not yet learned the difference between Chinese Taiwan and the Chinese Communist mainland and has come up with no greater affinity with the Chinese than remembering as a child vainly digging in the sand to reach them.

The internal administration discord reminded the Chinese that the Biden Administration can still become even more inept than it has been since its inaugural humiliation in Anchorage, Alaska. 

And lastly, Pelosi showboated with loud freedom rhetoric while carrying a mere twig.

So, yes, ostensibly, it was silly for Nancy Pelosi to freelance in foreign policy by going to Taiwan. She has no record of any foreign policy accomplishment. Ever since her first speakership 15 years ago, Pelosi has always seen foreign policy as an arena to embarrass her political opponents.

We remember her dishonest post-9/11 public reversals about enhanced interrogations, and her all-but-rooting-for the surge in Iraq to fail.

We remember her lunatic visit and glad-handing with the murderous, children-killing Assad government in Syria (i.e., “The road to Damascus is a road to peace.”)?

While in Damascus in 2007, Pelosi legitimized the Syrian dictatorship right after it had helped start the 2006 Lebanon war, right during the U.S. surge in Iraq, and right during the influx of Syria’s jihadists across the open border to Iraq to kill Americans. 

The cherry on top was getting snubbed by the South Korean president when she dropped in to visit there.

But Pelosi’s incoherence is no excuse for that of the Biden Administration’s, so the South Korean snubbing of her should not be a surprise. It was aimed at the whole US government.

Covid-19

The other remark that got him in big trouble was his declaration that “the pandemic is over.”

Aside from totally pissing off that part of the Democrat base that never wants to see an end to mask mandates or any other aspect of government control for the disease, it also threatened to blow up his recently announced Student Loan forgiveness program.

Why? Because that relies on an existing piece of legislation, the 2003 HEROES Act, which was passed to relieve the loan burden from university students who might get called up for military service during their studies (these are people already signed on to the military and who have likely done training or even service but are studying at present).

Obviously it was a stretch to use that Act for all students, but the key word was “Emergency” written in the Black Letter law; as long as the Chinese Lung Rot is an “Emergency” the loan forgiveness plan might stand up to court challenges.

But if “the pandemic is over.” then the whole thing collapses. Not a good look with the Mid-Term elections coming up fast. So the The Powers That Be had to throw Biden under the bus on that one too.

You feeling all that experience and competence yet? All the stuff that Biden supporters screamed that Trump had none of but Biden had in spades? Back to “norms” – and no Mean Tweets.

Ace of Spades had a good take on what’s actually going on here:

It is clear to me that he is not fronting any one person or even a small, tight-knit cabal that is actually in charge. What he’s fronting appears to be an enormous complex of competing committees. There have been many examples, but the two big ones in my mind are the Afghanistan withdrawal and the COVID wind-down.
….
COVID has been slower-motion but similar. What I call the “COVID is over” faction starting sending up trial balloons just before Delta hit. The “COVID forever” faction won that round. The “over” faction tried again in December(ish) of last year, just as Omicron was hitting. They were more successful and went harder at it. They have ultimately won the war, though the occasional battle is still being fought.

And Biden has been right there saying that both sides are right all the while. Sometimes COVID is over, sometimes COVID is never over. Sometimes Afghanistan was just bad luck and Trump’s fault. Other times, it all went according to plan and was the Afghan government’s fault. It likely depends on which faction is feeding him his talking points.

That sounds about right. You see such faction fights in all parties, and when the leadership is lost the fights are obvious and destabilising (see Labour 2008-2017 and National 2020-2022).

But being that New Zealand is such a pipsqueak of a nation such things only hurt us. When it’s a US Presidential Administration a lot of people around the world could get hurt badly.

Hunter Biden and the corruption of Washington D.C.

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Actually that’s not the latest. The latest is video showing the bastard coaching one of his whores to keep saying that she’s “okay,” and keeps asking her to affirm that he never hit her – on camera. Then he paid her off. Looking at other language in the video – “I didn’t hurt you.” “I didn’t bruise you.” “I’m offering you water. Who are you calling?” “I treat you better than other clients do.” – It’s pretty clear that he physically abused this woman and is trying to coach her into saying “he never hit me, your honour, and if he did, I was asking for it.

All this is just more stuff from the laptops that Joe Biden’s drug-addled, boozehound, prostitute-using ne’er-do-well  son, Hunter Biden, in his permanently trashed state, abandoned after he dropped them off for repair. It adds to the emails, photos and recently even a voicemail from dear old Dad himself.

But before we get to the rest of the news of America’s premier political crime family – the Clinton’s having fallen far behind (Ethics Experts Alarmed By 93% Decrease In Clinton Foundation Donations Since $250 Million Peak In 2009) – take a look at this list.

Once those folk are out of politics I’m sure Wall Street will want to snap them up as traders. But maybe they just had a good year. It’s year-on-year consistency that truly tells how good you are.

Here’s another example of the corruption: Former head of the Federal Reserve and now Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen was paid $7.2 million in total for speeches given to financial firms. Due to the lockdowns they were all done via Zoom. Nice work if you can get it.

But you need to understand that this is not exactly secret. Yellen disclosed these as part of her applying for the job of Treasury Sec. It’s transparent, and was met with a shrug of the shoulders by GOP and Democrat alike, because they’re the same (see above), or hope to be one day.

And it’s systemic corruption rather than just a few people: that’s what makes it so bad. Yellen is already paying off for the Biden family:

Suspicious Activity Reports (SARS) are generated by banks whenever there are suspicious transactions from shady people — usually foreign criminals, terrorists, or gangsters. In case you’re wondering, “Maybe people routinely get hit with a lot of SARs,” Rep James Comer, (R-Ky) who has a background in banking, says it’s very unusual for an American citizen to get hit with “more than one” SAR in his lifetime. And he says that if someone gets multiple SARs, the bank usually tells the client, “Find another place to do business.” They don’t need the problems associated with providing banking services for criminal enterprises.

Hunter Biden and Joe’s brother James have racked up one hundred and fifty SARs in the last few years, most of them tied back to transactions with Ukrainian, Russian and Chinese businesses. This is known because the Treasury department had to hand them over to the Senate Finance Committee and the House Oversight Committee when they were controlled by the GOP. But now the rules have been changed; to get the SARS requires majority consent in Congress – meaning the Democrat Party has to approve.

Who put this rule in place? Janet Yellen of course.

Back to the laptop contents. More important than the sex and drug videos were emails showing that Hunter and his family were and are up to their eyeballs in crooked deals with Ukranians and Chinese businesses, who paid Hunter a fortune for nothing but his family name and access to his dad. In Miranda Devine’s book is this exchange:

As [Joe Biden’s brother] Jim talked, [Hunter’s business partner Tony] Bobulinski marveled at the political risk to Joe’s career if his family’s flagrant influence peddling during his vice presidency came to light.

“How are you guys getting away with this?” he finally asked. “Aren’t you concerned that you’re going to put your brother’s [2020] presidential campaign at risk? You know, the Chinese, the stuff that you guys have been doing already in 2015 and 2016, around the world?”

Jim chuckled and looked knowingly at Bobulinski.

“Plausible deniability,” he said

No wonder that Democrat allies reacted as they did. In one of the most extreme example of media bias in US history, the rest of the US MSM simply refused to cover the story. In this they were aided by the New Media of Facebook and Twitter, which did everything they could to bury what was undoubtedly a story that could have killed Joe Biden’s election chances.

Moreover they went to the extent of pushing back on the news, even bringing back the old Russian Collusion bullshit, claiming that the whole thing was Russian disinformation, a claim made courtesy of 51 former Intelligence officials.

As none other than former Rolling Stone editor and reporter (and solid lefty) Matt Taibbi said about the belated confirmation that the laptop and its data was real (read that entire TownHall article):

In a just world this would be career-altering news for the parade of media figures who spent months loudly insisting the opposite, cheered the unprecedented decisions by Facebook and Twitter to restrict access to the story, and repeated the Langley-driven fiction that it was a Russian smear. The fact that none of them are bothering to comment on any of this shows that the line between the intelligence community and commercial media has blurred to the point of meaninglessness. They know everyone knows they screwed this up and are long past pretending to care.

Of course, as former Democrat Senate leader Harry Reid said years later of his 2012 smear job about Mitt Romney’s taxes: “I don’t regret that at all. Romney didn’t win did he?”

Liberal reporter Michael Tracey had much the same reaction at the time of the original story:

As he points out in that series of Tweets, reporters used to condemn censorship whereas they now demand it from the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

They also went after the man that Hunter had abandoned the laptops with and who had given them to the FBI, foolishly thinking they’d investigate the contents.

As big an outfit as NBC went after the relatively minor Right-wing media site RedState when they released an equally explosive report based on other investigations (separate from the laptop) of the Biden clan’s connections with China:

The week before Election Day, RedState published a series of articles about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, based on a 64-page report from researchers who combed public records to reveal how compromised the Biden family is to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). You can read Part 1 here. The four-part series lays out deeply disturbing connections between Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, John Kerry, and the CCP.

The pro-democracy news outlet Apple Daily, based in Hong Kong, used an earlier 40-page version of the report and was the first to report on its findings. In response, NBC News launched a coordinated attack on one of the publishers of the report, Christopher Balding. This attack had all the appearances of being coordinated with the Biden campaign and it had the effect of benefiting the CCP.

The report goes into intimate detail about the deep connections between the Biden family and the CCP. In fact, Hunter Biden’s company BHR is listed as a subsidiary of the Bank of China, owned by the CCP.

There’s a massive amount of detail at that link but, like the NYT/WaPo approach to the NY Post, NBC simply went after the one of the publishers and ignored everything else.

But that was before the election. The truth can start to be allowed to leak out, courtesy of the announcement that Hunter is under criminal investigation by the Delaware AG for tax problems and other financial fraud. Understand that this is more than just tax, which would be handled by the IRS if it were. No, there’s a lot of heat here for Hunter, and by extension his father. Hence this cartoon’s joke about the phone call from dear old Dad to Hunter talking about an NYT report on some aspects of the China links and how Hunter is now “in the clear”.

Joe Biden has said repeatedly that he never spoke to his son about his business dealings. In particular, he denied that his son ever made money related to China.

We’ve shown in the past how both of those statements were lies.

Joe met with several business partners of Hunter’s while he was vice president. That included when he met with business associates from Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan at a dinner at the Cafe Milano in Georgetown, in 2015.

The voicemail is thus merely the latest evidence showing that President Biden has long known all about these business deals between China and his son. But even the Delaware AG-IRS investigation stinks:

Last summer [2020], federal officials in Delaware investigating Hunter Biden faced a dilemma. The probe had reached a point where prosecutors could have sought search warrants and issued a flurry of grand jury subpoenas. Some officials involved in the case wanted to do just that. Others urged caution. They advised Delaware’s U.S. Attorney, David Weiss, to avoid taking any actions that could alert the public to the existence of the case in the middle of a presidential election.

“To his credit, he listened,” said a person involved in the discussions, reported here for the first time. Weiss decided to wait, averting the possibility that the investigation would become a months-long campaign issue.

To his credit? Are you fucking kidding me? AYFKM? To make this even juicier Weiss was appointed by Trump and although such people are usually fired by incoming administrations, Biden has left this Solid Citizen in place.

Trump sure has great instincts when it comes to personnel, doesn’t he? FFS!

Miranda Devine (author of The Laptop From Hell) sees the Politico piece as a guide to where this will go:

Hmmm. Politicized inaction is now a virtue? Tigani case went nowhere and not because Delaware is squeaky clean. Politico the go-to outlet for regime Hunter Biden narrative: eg John Brennan’s letter trashing laptop as “Russian disinfo”. Prelude to whitewash

She thinks that the they’ll come to some arrangement with Hunter that sees him pay IRS fines – while also sealing the investigation so that nobody can see all the other stuff they would have found. The sort of stuff that RedState and Apple Daily found and that investigative reporter Peter Schweitzer’s new book, Red-Handed, has dug up more of:

The Biden family scored $31 million from five deals in China, all with individuals with direct ties to the Chinese spy apparatus…Multiple financiers with direct ties to Chinese intelligence partnered with Hunter Biden during and after his father’s time as Vice President — including the former head of the Ministry of State Security and the head of foreign intelligence recruitment — and some of those relationships remain intact… Schweizer explains that Beijing saw a financial relationship with the Bidens as an opening for “elite capture,” which allowed Hunter Biden to secure meetings and score major deals with people in the highest levels of Chinese financial institutions and the Chinese Communist Party — and in return they would be able to leverage the Bidens’ power for their interests.

The same type of influencing crap that the CCP has tried to pull here in New Zealand with both the National Party (Jian Yang) and the Labour Party (Raymond Huo).

To that end I find I found this final paragraph from that TownHall article sad in its optimism:

There’s only so much you can sweep under the rug, and even if you cover it, the stench of the crap fills the room. It’s unavoidable. Joe Biden and his son did dirty deals. The emails shine a light on this web of deceit and corruption. Recently, we learned that Modest Joe is rolling in it with $5.2 million in undisclosed income. So many questions will rope in Hunter Biden and eventually lead once again to the emails on his laptop and the deals that were reportedly hashed out. 

You can’t keep this game up forever, guys. 

Oh I think they can – because so many of them are up to their armpits in this shit.

The CCP backs down?

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Hard to believe but apparently it’s true, according to Bloomberg, whose business reporting mean they have pretty good, largely non-political, contacts in China:

Beijing’s stout city leadership rolled out China’s first Covid-19 vaccine mandate last week. The policy made boosters mandatory for some professions, while entry to busy public venues like movie theaters and gyms was restricted to the vaccinated. The public reacted quickly, with many residents turning to social media to declare the mandate an illegal usurpation of their rights. Beijing’s response was just as quick: Less than 48 hours after announcing the policy, the city government rescinded it.

It seems this may have something to do with the CCP’s monitoring of social media, which I’ve always assumed was for purposes of censorship, and tracking down people who “threaten” the CCP, but which may actually be working as a two-way street:

In 2014, the Communist Party-owned Beijing News reported that public and private Chinese entities employ more than 2 million public opinion “analysts.” Among other roles, they “collect the opinions and attitudes of netizens, organize them into reports, and submit them to decision makers.

So it’s also a good way of heading off a populist revolt before you have to roll out the troops and the tanks, which is what seems to have happened in this case.

In addition, as another article points out, Xi Jinping is building up to the impending 20th Party Congress, to change the rules and put him in power for good, and having massive unrest in the streets might screw that up.

Almost sounds democratic!!

Written by Tom Hunter

August 25, 2022 at 4:13 pm

Walking through a curtain of falling blood

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Even the most obtuse of the Western pro-China crowd seem to have now recognised that the efforts of the last twenty years to “liberalise” the place via FTA’s and cultural exchanges, has failed.

It’s hardly the only place in the world that so-called “Liberalism” has failed, but in this case the failure is creating problems that are immediate, combined with increasing worries about the long-term.

China’s growing assertiveness – I’d call it outright bullying – of various smaller nations in its vicinity has, in turn, resulted in pushback from those nations. The pushback has ranged from Vietnamese protesting and burning Chinese businesses – leaving American businesses alone even though they were the enemy fifty years ago and China a “friend” – to the Philippines and India moving closer to the West, especially towards the USA and especially in matters military.

But two nations in particular stand out among the others; Japan and South Korea. Both have been objects of ire for the Chinese for decades now, both are heavily industrialised, developed countries, both have substantial, well-trained militaries on sea, land and air.

But both also have a deeply rooted history of antagonism and sometimes outright hatred that goes back hundreds of years so the question is, Can They Overcome Their Divisions?, starting with an obscure, yet famous, work of art in an obscure Japanese museum:

And just in front of the Tokoyuni shrine, almost completely wrapped in a mantle of clouds, we can just make out another, much smaller shrine, called the Mimizuka, an unassuming edifice, little more than a heap of earth surmounted by a stone monument — or so it would seem to the casual observer.

The English historian Stephen Turnbull has called this unassuming shrine “Kyoto’s least mentioned and most often avoided tourist attraction,” and indeed the Mimizuka seems still to be under something of a pall, just as it was 400 years ago when the Rakuchū rakugai-zu painter discretely concealed it beneath a clouded veil.

There is a very good reason, mind you, that the Mimizuka shrine is not just ignored but actively avoided, and it can be found deep underground, where below the grassy hillock are entombed the remains of some 38,000 Korean and 30,000 Chinese noses, cleanly sliced away from their original owners during the catastrophic Japanese invasion of the Korean Peninsula that took place between 1592 and 1598. 

The noses are there because they weigh less than the heads, which were supposed to have been sent back as proof of conquest. The article goes through all the other horrors that Japan inflicted on Korea from the the late 19th century to 1945 and discusses how even seeming resolutions of past injustices agreed upon by the respective governments, such as the so-called “Comfort Woman”, have fallen apart:

It did nothing of the sort, alas, and only two years later, the subsequent South Korean President Moon Jae-in was arguing that “the reality is the majority of our people cannot emotionally accept the comfort women agreement” before moving to shut down the Japanese-funded comfort women foundation.

But the article finishes on a hopeful note, even if that hope is driven by acts of deliberate memory loss driven by modern fears, rather than true understanding and forgiveness:

Japanese and South Koreans will likewise quickly forget disputes over comfort women or the contested sovereignty of the Liancourt islets when faced with China’s increasingly overweening geopolitical and ideological ambitions. Nothing focuses the mind or puts things in perspective quite like an existential threat

Perhaps, but as the author himself quotes from a Japanese novelist:

“History knew the truth. History was the most inhuman product of humanity. It scooped up the whole of human will and, like the goddess Kali in Calcutta, dripped blood from its mouth as it bit and crunched.”

Written by Tom Hunter

August 5, 2022 at 11:40 am

Posted in China, History

Tagged with , ,

The delicious bite of reality

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Let’s start with the good news before getting into the bad news.

Investment Giant BlackRock Loses $1.7 Trillion In Six Months

BlackRock lost $1.7 trillion of its clients’ money since the beginning of the year — the largest sum ever lost by a single firm over a six-month period, according to a Wednesday report from Bloomberg analyst Marc Rubenstein.

Blackrock are one of the largest fund managers in the world, controlling trillions of dollars of their clients’ funds – which is often the retirement and pension savings of typical American investors.

So why is this good news? Because BlackRock have been one of the leading proponents of the bullshit known as ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), insisting that companies it invests in use this method of measuring themselves rather than boring old crap like revenue, profits, dividends and ROI (Return on Investment):

By adopting ESG goals — or, in the case of BlackRock, pushing portfolio companies into adopting ESG goals — executives commit themselves to pursuing green energy, appointing a certain number of minorities to serve as managers, or otherwise blending profitability with progressive politics.

BlackRock have been bullying bastards on this matter since they have so much financial power. They even managed to place three environmental activists on the 12-person board of Exxon Mobil. That’s how much power they have.

Or perhaps had. You’ve all heard of luxury goods, things you can buy when you have a lot of money. Well there are also things called luxury ideas; electric cars in a world of $NZ 20/litre petrol; a world of organic farming and 100% renewable energy, But also very gauzy academic ideas like ESG or White Privilege and Critical Race Theory.

Which is to say that when times get tough, when the food, the petrol and the money start running out and that Bachelor in Environmental Gender Studies just ain’t pulling in the big bucks, luxury ideas tend to get jettisoned, and right quick. BlackRock is not at that stage yet; more pain must be inflicted on them.

However, an exclusive Daily Wire poll conducted by Echelon Insights showed earlier this year that 64% of respondents believe “individual investors whose savings are being invested” should ultimately decide whether retirement funds and pension plans are allocated according to ESG criteria. A mere 20% believe that “Wall Street asset managers” should make such decisions.

As an old varsity buddy cum investment manager in Wellington told me in the wake of the 1987 share market crash, regarding some clients who’d ignored his warnings, “People don’t react until the blowtorch is applied to the goolies”.

Goolie burning is a nasty business, as Sri Lanka has found out and which deserves its own post. But for the moment let’s note this:

“But the underlying reason for the fall of Sri Lanka is that its leaders fell under the spell of Western green elites peddling organic agriculture and ‘ESG,’ which refers to investments made following supposedly higher Environmental, Social, and Governance criteria. Sri Lanka has a near-perfect ESG score (98) which is higher than Sweden (96) or the United States (51).”

Michael Shellenberger, from his article ‘Green Dogma Behind Fall Of Sri Lanka

It’s a tempting idea to kidnap the BlackRock execs and dump them in Sri Lanka where they’ll have, shall we say, direct contact with the joys of near-perfect ESG score. Assholes.

Meanwhile in China….

Because nothing says “Your bank is safe but you can’t get your money out” than encountering a Main Battle Tank blocking the front doors.

Could be worse; in the future they’ll probably be using these instead – and this is not from the well-known firm, Boston Dynamics that pioneered these things: this is a Chinese model.

A run on Chinese Banks

with 6 comments

My co-blogger Nick K had already flagged one of the first signals of a China bubble bursting when he wrote about the problems of one of their giant property developers, China Evergrande, in September of last year, all $US 300 billion worth of it.

Where’s there’s one there’s bound to be more if the underlying problem is not fixed, and so…:

Multiple sources contacted by Asia Markets, have confirmed deposits at the following six banks have been frozen since mid-April.

  • Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank (located in Xuchang City, Henan Province)
  • Zhecheng Huanghuai Bank (City of Shangqui, Henan Province)
  • Shangcai Huimin Rural Bank (Zhumadian City, Henan Province)
  • New Oriental Village Bank (City of Kaifeng, Henan Province)
  • Huaihe River Village Bank (Bengbu City, Anhui Province)
  • Yixian County Village Bank (Huangshan City, Anhui Province)

It’s understood the banks with branches across the Henan and Anhui Provinces successively issued announcements in April, stating they would suspend online banking and mobile banking services due to a system upgrade.

At the same time, clients reported their electronic deposits in online accounts, mobile apps and third-party platforms could not be withdrawn.

This led to depositors rushing to local bank branches, only to be told they were unable to withdraw funds.

The report includes various videos of long lines at banks and protests so it appears to be a real thing and not just a rumour. The real question is whether the authorities can stop it, and that comes down to two questions to be answered: the degree of authority that can be exerted and the trust people have in the system. Nobody should doubt the power of the central Chinese State but when a people’s faith in institutions begins to waver there’s no force that can impose it:

Some depositors such as Xu have already lost trust in the system. The 39-year-old said he had withdrawn all of his deposits from 10 other small banks that had promised him an annualised yield of more than 4 per cent.

The Chinese Communist Party probably does not accept that last point, as can be seen in this sad article, The Dismantling of Hong Kong, by one Karen Cheung, who is approaching the tipping point of escape:

After the national security law passed in June 2020, friends began leaving Hong Kong every few weeks. One by one, they disappeared from the camera reel on my phone, leaving me with things they couldn’t take with them: an oven, a Sodastream, a sous-vide machine, a stone diffuser, and five bottles of ground cinnamon. From 2020 through 2021, it was reported that 116,000 residents had left, often departing for countries like Britain and Canada…

This has been coming for a long time; certainly since the first mass protests in 2014 but only really since the Great Chinese Sinus AIDS Pandemic hit:

Under the guise of pandemic social-distancing, public gatherings were banned, and protests disappeared from the streets. Later in 2020, a teacher had his license revoked after showing his class a documentary featuring a pro-independence activist; in the years since, prominent commentators, including Apple Daily writer Fung Wai-kong and academic Hui Po Keung, have been arrested at the airport while attempting to leave the city. New election rules implemented in 2021 now dictate that only “patriots” can administer Hong Kong. By early 2022, at least 50 civil organizations have disbanded in the ongoing crackdown, including a pro-democracy trade-union coalition and an activist group that commemorates the Tiananmen massacre.

My, how convenient is the claim of Public Health for tinpot dictators to exert minute control over the lives of their subjects. And as she outlines, the end result was a massive increase in cases and deaths anyway, plus the usual scenes of empty supermarket shelves and a failing public health care system:

Health officers would sometimes appear on your doorstep to inform you that your building had been locked down for mandatory testing; should you test positive, you would have to undergo quarantine at an isolation facility, which Hong Kong residents have described as a “madhouse.” A Hong Kong woman told a local news outlet that despite two negative rapid tests, she was not told when she could leave; some in quarantine attempted suicide inside the facilities, according to local media reports. The uncertainty and severity of the measures made me feel like the city was collectively being punished.

I’m absolutely sure it was. In that world it’s hard to tell the difference between political prisoners arrested for leading protests or writing articles and people who failed the dreaded C-19 test, since there seems little difference in treatment between the two.

I last visited Hong Kong in 1990 and it was great: a vast, teaming, lively city with beautiful views, whether from the waterfront or The Peak. But when the British handed back control to China in 1997 I knew the place was doomed, even if it might take years to show it. The CCP and their One Country: Two Systems always smelled like propaganda to me, but I relied on the CCP’s self-interest in hanging on to a rich crown jewel, especially as Communism became more honoured in the breach in China itself, hence more than two decades of peace, relative freedoms and prosperity. But I always knew that if a clash between the “Two Systems” ever occurred then the system of Chinese Communism would prevail and be imposed, whatever the cost.

Between the rise of Xi Jinping and the return of his cult of personality as well as the re-empowering of the Central State, the myriad little Cultural Revolution touches appearing again, the Hong Kong protests and finally the C-19 disease, it’s obvious that Hong Kong will soon be no more than another grim Chinese metropolis.

Something was fundamentally broken: If Hong Kong could botch the handling of a pandemic outbreak it had two years to prepare for, what does that say about future governance? Hong Kong used to be a city that understood its capitalism depended upon appearances; ever since the national security law was enacted, however, it no longer cared about the mask slipping.

Survivors guilt and all, it is time for Ms Cheung to get the hell out – and time for us to cut as many cords with China as we can afford.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 16, 2022 at 4:14 pm

Engaging with a Foreign Business Culture

with 5 comments

Our family have bought rather a lot of electronic equipment from PB Tech here in NZ over the years, in my case mainly small stuff, in my son’s case, everything required to build a computer.

They’re well-known and New Zealand’s largest chain of stores that specialise in computer gear. This gushing Spinoff article (gushy mainly because it raved about their policy of demanding vax passes from customers before they entered a store) explains the “PB” in their name:

“In the early years, [Pat] Huo was supported in the accounts department by his wife Brenda Yu, hence the company name PB Tech.”

That would explain all the Chinese immigrants running the store in Penrose. I may have seen the occasional Indian or White chappie but they’ve been rare. I guess you go with the culture you know.

According to the blurb in the link above, they deliver lower prices by “cutting out the middleman”, doing direct deals with manufacturers and so forth. Then there’s this:

Being able to support the products we sell in-house gives PB Tech a huge advantage when it comes to rectifying faulty hardware quickly and painlessly for our customers. The scale of our in-house service operation and our team’s vast experience are the reasons why we’re an authorised repairer for leading brands such as HP, Samsung and LG, as well as top insurance companies within New Zealand.

Oh really? About six months ago my son’s two year-old PB Tech supplied monitor began glitching so he contacted them since it was still under warranty. Bit of a run-around but he finally was able to drop it off.

Then silence. No response to emails or phone calls where he left messages. Buck passing as to who to talk to and just a general run-around.

However, a couple of months later a box appeared at the door. It was “a” monitor: not the original one repaired but a replacement. No contact made to say it was on the way. Before opening the package he tried to find out via email and phonecalls what the story was. Same run-around again but worse.

Finally he opens the package and this is what he found.

They sent him an identical, replacement monitor – that’s damaged.

By now – seriously pissed – he went looking for reviews of PB Tech to see if he was an exception. He wasn’t. Click on the image to read.

There’s plenty more where those came from, and you can read about the $77,000 fine here.

I don’t understand how a company can continue to remain in business while pulling this shit on its customers – even in the wake of that fine, although given that the company is worth $280 million perhaps they don’t give a shit about such a number. Perhaps it’s simply that they sell a lot of tech gear to companies that chuck it quickly before it even hits the depreciation age and operate at such volumes that they don’t care about the occasional failure? Perhaps such business customers have … replace and fix arrangements with PB Tech that the latter accept because they’re not individual customers? Although I see some small business owners also getting screwed in those reviews.

But it’s this one that gives the clue as to the real problem with that third point.

I know a number of companies that have dealt with Chinese businesses, both here and in China, and that last one is a symptom of the real problem with their business culture:

They just assume everyone is lying and trying to rip off everyone else, so why are you complaining? In fact you’re probably lying to us now about your “problem”.

Which is exactly the experience several reviewers talk about and which my son is now experiencing; they’ve accused him of damaging the monitor. At first this might seem shocking, but that just how it be in Chinese business. Next stop is the small claims court: it seems they do respond to legal threats – which is also another aspect of Chinese business culture.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 7, 2022 at 2:49 pm