|November 07, 2011||There you go again, Senator Schumer||1 評論|
|September 13, 2011||The Diverging Trajectories of China and America Since 9-11||無評論|
|September 13, 2011||Like Father, Like Son--Taiwan's Long Running Saga of Shame||無評論|
|September 13, 2011||Nouveau Art is Thriving in Tibet||無評論|
|August 09, 2011||non Book Review: Tiger Trap by David Wise||1 評論|
|August 09, 2011||America narrowly missed being a deadbeat--this time||無評論|
|July 18, 2011||Zatoichi's legacy is beautiful||無評論|
It’s hard to know if you have any other ideas about what ails our country but you sure know to put the hurt on China by calling them currency manipulator. You started to accuse them of currency manipulation when the renminbi was 8.3 to a dollar. Somehow you figured that yuan was 40% undervalued. Now that the exchange rate is 6.3 to a dollar, or nearly 30% appreciation since China took the yuan off the peg, you believe that the yuan is still 40% undervalued. That’s the kind of dogged insight we admire in our elected officials.
It looks like you didn’t let House Speaker, Congressman Jim Boehner, in on your joke. He simply dismissed your attempt to brand China a currency manipulator as “not the way to go.” Apparently Mr. Speaker believed there are more urgent matters to deal with. But congratulations to you because this means there won’t be any downside consequences such as a trade war and you get to jerk China’s chain for free.
Has it occurred to you that the one manipulating the currency is our very own Fed, weakening the dollar by design? Paying off our massive debt with dollars of declining value is so clever on the part of our Fed, don’t you think?
As for China taking jobs away from America, you should have talks with the major multinationals headquartered in your home state. Ask them why they are sitting on the sidelines with their billions of cash and not investing at home to create new jobs.
Maybe they will tell you that the wage rate and cost of doing business in New York is just too high. Maybe they will say that the incompetence and impotence of Congress evokes so much uncertainty of the future that they are afraid to invest.
Actually China is losing jobs too. Many of the low-end, labor intensive jobs such as in textile and shoes are leaving China. Faced with economic reality, the Chinese companies in the labor intensive industries are taking the lead and locating their plants in nearby lower cost countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
No way, of course, that such low paying jobs could hope to come back to America—does water flow uphill—but Chinese companies sitting on ample cash reserve would like to invest in America to take advantage of certain comparative advantages available here. As you probably know, investments of virtually any kind are good for the local economy because they really do create jobs.
However, Chinese investments face such a dauntingly hostile reception in America, thanks in no small part to creatively fanciful objections from members of Congress. As a revered member of this august body, you really can help stimulate the US economy by becoming more welcoming of direct investments from China.
Up to now, American multinationals have been the major beneficiary of trade surplus enjoyed by China. That’s because most of the inputs that goes into their plants in China are from the outside and most the profits earned when exported from China though credited to China's account ended up in the bottom line of the multinationals.
But, dear Senator, that’s about to change. Native Chinese companies, not foreign invested enterprises, have learned to move up the value chain and make products with better profit margins that are not as labor intensive. They may not be making products that can directly compete with an iPad or Tesla yet, but they can make price attractive products to sell in less demanding markets.
The Chinese companies will learn from their experience selling lower end products just as Toyota had and Hyundai had with lemons before they became fierce competitors that almost put GM out of business. The Chinese companies can count on endless supply of well trained and highly motivated graduates to fill their ranks and they can count on a government that supports their goal of becoming global companies.
Dear Senator, with all due respects, you should be concerned about the future of America but calling China the currency manipulator isn’t going to fix the problem.
Before September 11, 2001, China looked at the U.S. with a bit of awe, envy, admiration and even affection that was rooted from the days of being comrade-in-arms against the Japanese Imperial Army. Some of the positive vibes could be traced even further back to the 19th century when the western powers were carving up China and the Americans were the least rapacious.
After 9-11, China’s attitude gradually turned skeptical tinged with condescension as China along with the rest of the world saw America embark on a path of self-destruction.
Immediately after the tragic implosion of the twin towers, China’s then president Jiang Zemin immediately called the White House to express his concern and sympathy. Then China watched with amazement as the U.S. used the tragedy of 9-11 to launch a war against Iraq.
As if reasserting American values over Al-Qaeda were sufficient pretext, the Bush Administration became obsessed with the so-called liberation of Iraq. The search for fictitious weapons of destruction became the excuse to hunt for Saddam’s head.
Sadly, America’s subsequent fumble at nation building in Iraq was for the world to see. The gross incompetence, waste, and corruption severely eroded the U.S. prestige and credibility. Mao used to call the U.S. a paper tiger; many in China began to think he may have had a valid point.
Even so, the lesson for China was to witness the American war machine in action. American advanced weapons, especially the missiles and drones remotely controlled by former video game jockeys safely ensconced in bunkers thousands of miles away, were not to be trifled with.
Confrontation with the U.S. was never in China’s national interest; after 9-11, staying out of the way of the American ire definitely was. Rather than casting the veto at the Security Council over issues where they disagreed such as Iran or North Korea, China was more likely to abstain than openly disagree with the U.S.
By surprising an American flotilla surrounding the Kitty Hawk with a quiet running submarine and shooting down one of its own satellites, China demonstrated enough military capability to send an occasional signal to the U.S. that the cost of any arms conflict would be too dear to contemplate.
China also began to actively practice soft power around the world, making investments in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America. Those investments not only made economic sense but also benefitted the local economy and made friends with the people. There were no strings attached such as imposition of moral values or insistence on what constituted acceptable forms of government.
The day that truly jolted China was September 15, 2008, the day Lehman Brothers collapsed. Suddenly the prospect of holding onto trillions of dollars of questionable value confronted China’s central bankers.
Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in the waning days of the Bush Administration had to fly to Beijing to reassure the Chinese leaders that the value of the dollar would be protected. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at the beginning of Obama administration had to do the same.
Most recently, Vice President Joe Biden had to make the pilgrimage to Beijing to once again reassure the Chinese that their dollars will continue to have value even after Congress nearly put the U.S. in default of its sovereign debt.
Of course both sides understood that the grand gesture of reassurance while necessary for appearances sake was an empty one. Until the U.S. economy recovers and the government can generate a budget surplus, the only way the federal government can repay its debt obligations is by printing more money. Printing more money will cheapen the value of the dollar. There is no way to defy this law of fiscal gravity.
The manner in which the U.S. federal government handled the debt crisis offered no assurances to China that the U.S. will find a way out of their financial quagmire. What China has seen was the incredible pettiness of Congress and the inability of the Obama administration to accomplish anything.
Ironically the only time in recent memory that the U.S. Congress unanimously rallied in support of the president (except for one dissenting vote) was to go to war in Iraq. All the other times, politics and paralysis ruled.
Since that fateful 9-11, the value of the dollar has fallen by nearly 20%. The aftermath of the home mortgage induced financial collapse and the flirting of U.S. default have not evoked confidence that a done-little, changed nothing President can find a way to work with the do-nothing Congress and turn the American economy around.
When China began its economic reform more than 30 years ago, the U.S. was the gold standard to aspire to. In the decade since 9-11, the U.S. by any measure has found itself on a downward spiral with no prospect of reversal in sight.
China, on the other hand, has found its own way up. During the recent decade, China has surpassed Germany to be the leading export nation and its economy has surpassed Japan to be the second largest in the world.
China built the Qing-Zang Railway at an elevation that experienced Swiss engineers said couldn’t be done. Then China built the largest network of high speed rail in the world and is now offering their technical expertise to the world.
In face of budget cuts, the U.S. has discontinued its space exploration program. China is just beginning theirs. Perhaps this is an apt metaphor for the future of the two nations.
Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's first freely elected president that served two full terms, freely helped himself to any under the table gold he can grab and is now in jail serving time for his many convictions.
Throughout Chen's ordeal leading up to his final court appearance and sentencing, he fought his case publicly. Rather than covering his face from public view, he relished every public exposure into attempts to turn the proceedings against him into a farce.
He even boasted that all the tainted funds he was alleged to have in Swiss bank accounts would magically reappear in Taiwan within days of his release from detention. No shame, no slinking away for this man.
It appears that Chen Chih-chung is taking a page from his father's book. Chen junior the son has been convicted of perjury and sentenced to three months in jail. He fought the conviction all the way to Taiwan's Supreme Court and lost.
Chen Jr. promptly went public and unabashedly proclaimed that his sentence was politically motivated. He thought the Supreme Court of Taiwan should have cut him a deal where he could perform public service and pay a fine in lieu of going to jail.
According to Taiwan's law, a felon cannot hold a government post and Chen Jr. was stripped of his seat on the Kaohsiung City Council. Chen Jr. protested that said law was full of loopholes--no doubt he knows them all--and he should have received some sort of exemption.
The people of Taiwan are probably relieved to know that Chen Jr. will not run for the legislature upon his release from jail. This family does not know impropriety from their personal holes in the ground and is constant reminder of disgrace to the embarrassed people of Taiwan.
Most people get their information on Tibet based on declarations from Dalai Lama or his exiled followers residing in the west. Since these sources have not been to Tibet for decades, people can be expected to have at best a partial idea of what today's Tibet is like.
Those that have visited Tibet are likely to have a more well-rounded impression of what Tibet is like today. By touring various temples and souvenir shops, visitors would have been exposed to the richness of traditional Tibetan art embedded in religious objects and takeaway thangkas.
Very few, however, would know that there is such thing as modern Tibetan art and the art is dynamic and evolving in dramatic directions. My good friend, Dr. Cyrus Hui knows. A PhD economist and former banker, he became fascinated with Tibet, its culture and people, and he visits there often. He has written a historical fiction based on his Tibetan experiences.
He got to know some of the artists and had decided to help promote the new Tibetan art by opening an art gallery in Lhasa in late June 2011. See his eloquent discussion of the evolution of Tibetan art on the website of his gallery.
Many years ago, Cyrus was the first to recognize the universal appeal of paintings from Vietnam by artists trained in French impressionism. He bought the first collection of paintings back to Hongkong that became the seed for Galerie LaVong, the first gallery to launch its business exclusively on Vietnamese art.
Owned and operated by Shirley Hui, Cyrus' wife and good friend, the gallery in Lan Kwai Fong, has become the place where trendy new art is first unveiled. Prior to opening of the Lhasa gallery, a selection of Tibetan art was shown at Galerie LaVong with a gala in mid June. A selection of Tibetan art depicting its versatility and diversity can be seen at the end of the blog.
By opening an art gallery on Tibetan art, Cyrus is doing more than introducing today's Tibetan culture to the world. He is also explicitly saying: "Look, Tibet is a thriving place where its artists are free to experiment, innovate and create." Can we say the same for the residue of Tibetan culture eking out an existence in Dharamshala?
This is the first time I am reviewing a book I have not read. Instead my review is simply based the author's willingness to espouse the same ludicrous assertion that China conducts espionage differently from other countries by relying on the so-called grains of sand approach. This approach alleges that instead of relying on professional spies and dastardly derring-do, China collects tidbits of data from the millions of cooperative Chinese in America. Putting all the scrapes of information together and incredulously, China gets the design of the latest multihead missile system or some other equally devastating secrets.
The FBI has been claiming this theory for decades to justify their indiscriminant and racially prejudiced actions taken against Chinese Americans in America. No one has seen fit to challenge the notion that bits and pieces of information could possibly add up to the secrets the U.S. holds dear. Since J. Edgar Hoover first made this claim as a cattle prod to hit over the heads Chinese Americans, this bit of racist rant has persisted within the law enforcement community.
Whatever the merits of his book, that the author would continue to promote this myth about the Chinese way of spying calls to question as to his intelligence and integrity. Some years ago, I have written a summary of the well known bias of the FBI towards Chinese Americans.
The last time the world faced a financial tsunami in 2008, smart money looked for safe harbor and that was to buy U.S. treasury bills. Even though it was the American financial market running amuck that led to the financial collapse, everybody remained convinced that the dollar as the safest place to be. So much money piled into the U.S. that, for a while, the dollar actually rose in strength relative to other currencies.
After the latest fiasco from Washington, will the rest of the world continue to have faith and confidence in the value of the dollar? After watching Congress played politics and care not a whit about upholding the honor of United States, can the world assume that America is not about to become a deadbeat to beat all deadbeat nations in history?
Even if the US Treasury honors its obligations this time after undergoing the tortuous exercise between House, Senate and the White House, can any investor feel assured that there would be a certain outcome the next time? Who is to say that some fringe group won’t successfully hijack the government and decide to renege on the government obligations?
China holds more US federal debt than any other foreign country. What has China done about this situation other than wringing the collective hands in Beijing? Actually, quite a lot.
On the one hand, even at the outset of the financial crisis, Beijing asked Washington to keep the value of the dollar from sliding. Members of the Obama administration serially assured China that the US will uphold the integrity of the dollar, maintaining as deadpan a demeanor as possible all the while knowing that printing more money is inevitable.
Of course, no one in Beijing took the U.S. assurance to the bank. Instead, China has been actively investing declining dollars into hard assets, such as oil fields and mineral deposits in Africa, Australia and Latin America. (China would make more investments in the U.S. as well except for Washington's generally frosty reception.)
Since the activity of China’s central bank is not transparent to outsiders, we can only speculate that China has also been diversifying their foreign exchange holdings into other currencies. However, no other currency has large enough circulating volume to allow China to fully divest out of dollars by exchanging into it.
The other means of not depending on the dollar is to conduct bilateral trade based on bilateral currency swap agreements that would allow the use of Chinese yuan rather than the dollar to settle the trades. China has entered such agreements with selected countries such as Brazil, Russia and South Korea. This is considered a step towards internationalizing the Renminbi.
In May, I attended an international conference on global financial security in Beijing. All the speakers from outside of China as well from inside China expressed concern on what action the U.S. will take to stabilize the world financial market. None anticipated that the American politicians would play political chicken and brinksmanship with the U.S. national debt and throwing America’s prestige and image down the sewer.
Since America’s financial collapse that drag the world down, which China side-stepped with its own considerably more effective economic stimulus plan (one that does not require bailing out banks), China has been looking at the U.S. with skepticism. Now that China has seen America’s much touted democracy in action, China is even more certain not to follow the U.S.
China’s economic stimulus meant more superhighways and bridges as well as a high speed rail system becoming the envy of the world, recent accident notwithstanding. In contrast, America’s superhighways need repairing and bridges that threaten to fall down.
Since 2008, China has formulated a national development plan that placed reduced reliance on export, especially away from labor intensive, low cost goods but aimed for higher valued added manufacturing. Recent Wall Street Journal article reported that multinational corporations are placing their high value manufacturing investments near foreign markets where they are making profits, not in the U.S.
China has continued to invest in education and allocated more of the national budget for R&D. Hundreds of thousands of graduates, mostly in technical disciplines, have gone overseas for graduate education. Many have returned to China to found companies that are competing on the global market such as Baidu, Huawei, and Suntech.
These companies compete on their proprietary innovations. With a pipeline of well trained technologists, there will be more coming from China. The U.S. with an increasingly dilapidated education system will need a steady infusion of foreign students to keep pace.
It’s not at all certain that the eventual accord reached by Congress will create jobs and restore the dignity of the millions of Americans seeking employment. The next time the U.S. lectures China about human rights, the spokesperson should be careful lest he/she is accused of wearing no clothes.
The U.S. is mired in two wars it doesn’t know how to win. Now the dysfunction of Washington has been laid open for all to see. While China is too diplomatic to question America’s vulnerability, will the rest of the world continue to see America as the sure footed hegemonic power that can be counted on to step in as the ultimate peacemaker?
There are pundits that still insist that America remains a great power and that eventually the country will pull out of this downward spiral. I would like to know how.
When I was more or less a young man, I was introduced to the Japanese screen character, Zatoichi. The basic premise of Zatoichi films was that though blind, he could see right and wrong with faster clarity than the sighted; with heightened sense of hearing, he ably compensated for not seeing as he cut down his opponents in massive scale; and, with his bow legged gait and plain face, he was decidedly unheroic.
On a recent flight to Asia, I was surfing through the menu of films selections when "Ichi" caught my attention. The film began with a woman in rags stumbling alone in a blinding snowstorm. It was not immediately apparent that she was connected to Zatoichi.
As the story unfolded, the woman turned out to be a beautiful blind young girl who had been kicked out of the “goze” troupe. In medival Japan, goze troupes went around northern Japan entertaining gatherings with their singing and while strumming the shamisen. In flash backs, it was revealed that the manager of the troupe who was male and not blind had raped her. When he tried again, she accidentally killed him with her sword sheathed in her cane.
The movie actually started with her wandering in the countryside and ended up in a temple. One of three members of gangsters had sex with another blind goze woman and did not pay as promised. When she protested, they beat her and then they saw Ichi and started to harass her with obviously evil intentions. This is when a young good looking samurai came along and offered money to the gangsters in exchange for leaving Ichi alone.
Make long story short, the young samurai, Toma, had a psychological block and cannot pull out his sword from the scabbard and Ichi had to killed the three gangsters herself. The villagers thought it was Toma who killed the gangsters that had been terrorizing them. The rest of the gang of bandits too thought it was Toma who killed their comrades.
Ichi has been searching for a blind masseur (the film implied that this was Zatoichi but never said so) who raised her and taught her how to fight. She wanted to know if he was her father. Banki, the gangster leader, before defeating her and taking her prisoner told her that the blind masseur was the one person he wanted to meet who had died of natural causes.
Toma who was hired by the village to defend them was a colossal disappointment because he never could pull his sword from the scabbard. Banki was rejected by society because of his severely disfigured face. Everybody suffered from psychological problems.
There was a final bloody, sword-play confrontation between the villagers led by Toma and Banki and his gang. Of course, having fallen in love for Ichi, Toma was finally able to unsheathe his sword but the climatic ending is typically Japanese and not western.
The cinematography was exquisite and the story line more complex than the old Zatoichi stories. I hope we will see more of Ichi in the futre.