The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: China

Always returning home to Asia

By the way, I have started on my job as an editorial fellow at Jing Daily, a publication about China’s luxury business. While not exactly at the top of the list of things I dreamed I’d be writing about, it is a start for my journalism career, I suppose.

There, I write things like:

Sotheby’s World-Record Jadeite Necklace Primed For Top Chinese Bidders

and

Luxury Pushes Hong Kong’s Sky-High Retail Rent To Top Global Spot

It seems that I often write about very Asian-related thing; on this blog a lot about Japan, and now at work, exclusively about China. At one of my previous internships, it was also at Asia Society, which I enjoyed enough, writing about Asian current affairs to an American public.

For a person that took such pains to leave Asia, it seems it has come full circle to bite me in the back by having me write so much about Asian issues. As much as I don’t wish to sell myself as the “That Asian guy writing about Asian news,” that’s what I seem to have been doing lately.

Is that necessarily a bad thing? I’m not sure. I mean, is it a bad thing that I have access to Asian news and understanding, having actually hailed from thence? Maybe one day I’ll get to graduate from writing about Asian news.

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Reblog: This suave chap is apparently a girl! Don’t believe us? We don’t believe our eyes either

I swooned

SoraNews24

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We’ve seen way too many beautiful guys who look like girls. Hell, some of them even look prettier than real girls. We know some of you are starting to get bored with looking at “traps” all the time, so here, the tables are turned this time! This handsome face belongs to a girl! It’s still some time before April Fool’s Day so you can be assured that we’re not kidding you!

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The New Yorker’s guide to playing Nostradamus for 2014

Want to sound like you know what’re you’re talking about, when prompted for opinions on the outlook for 2014 when at a dinner party? The New Yorker provides a cheat-sheet on world events that will matter in 2014 based on the developments of the previous year, so that one can make impressive-sounding informed predictions for the year.

1. Can Obama recover? Sure he can. After all the troubles of the past couple of months, his approval rating is already rebounding a bit. According to the Gallup daily tracking poll, he ended 2013 with a forty-four per cent approval rating. That’s not great, but it’s higher than his numbers throughout much of 2010 and 2011. Surprisingly enough, it’s also higher than his ratings in the summer of 2012, just before he waxed Mitt Romney in the general election. How high can Obama go? That depends upon the answers to the next two questions.

2. Will the economy accelerate? Yes. Barring some great cataclysm, this should be the year when G.D.P. growth finally rises above three per cent—a rate of expansion it hasn’t seen since 2005. According to the latest figures, all the major sectors of the economy are picking up, withmanufacturing and construction leading the way. Job creation has increased, and economic-policy decisions are helping. The Fed remains committed to keeping interest rates at record lows, and the recent budget deal between Democrats and Republicans means that fiscal policy will be a bit less restrictive than it was last year, when it reduced growth by about one and half percentage points.

3. Will Obamacare work? Yes, but there will continue to be problems. On New Year’s Eve, the government announced that six million Americans had already signed up for health coverage. About 2.1 million have found private insurance policies through the online exchanges operated by the federal government and the states; another 3.9 million have signed up for the expanded Medicaid program. So much for the idea that the Affordable Care Act was unworkable.

The potential problems are threefold. Enrollment through healthcare.gov, although it has picked up sharply, remains below the Administration’s projections. And it’s not clear who is signing up. If, as some observers suspect, it is mainly older people and folks with preëxisting conditions, then this will create problems for the insurance companies, who will be tempted to raise prices for 2015. That could lead to more complaints about people losing their existing policies and being forced to buy more costly plans.

4. Can the Republicans take the Senate in the midterms? It’s not out of the question. To gain control, the Republicans need to gain six seats, which is a big swing. But the Democrats are defending seats in seven states that Mitt Romney carried in 2012: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Early polls show the G.O.P. candidates leading or close in all of these states. Democrats will be hoping to hold at least a couple of them. Two of their best bets may be Louisiana and North Carolina, where the Democrats, Mary Landrieu and Kay Hagan, have plenty of money and strong organizations. In Georgia, Democrats also have hopes that Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former senator Sam Nunn, will take the seat being vacated by G.O.P. senator Saxby Chambliss. Throughout the country, much depends on whether the Republicans can put up mainstream candidates, or whether, as in 2012, they will be burdened with Tea Party extremists.

5. Will Hillary Clinton launch a second bid for the Presidency? Yes. In a recent interview with Barbara Walters, she said that she would decide in 2014. She has a lot of support in the Democratic Party; her poll ratings, although they have slipped back over the past twelve months, are still decent; and, since she is now sixty-six, this is probably her last chance to become the first female President. Not long ago, I spoke to somebody close to Hillary who said that the chances of her running were seventy-thirty. I reckon the real figure is about ninety-ten.

6. Will the Iranians agree on a permanent nuclear deal? Only Ayatollah Khamenei and his fellow mullahs know the answer. So far, they have supported President Rouhani’s outreach to the West, which resulted in an interim agreement that suspended nuclear enrichment in return for limited relief from sanctions. But talks on a broader agreement have already run into difficulties,and reaching a deal would necessarily involve the Iranians making a series of concessions that they have hitherto stoutly rejected. “It remains uncertain if Iran recognizes the extent to which it will have to roll back its infrastructure to reach a deal,” Robert Einhorn, a non-proliferation expert at the Brookings Institution, told the Wall Street Journal.

7. Will the civil war in Syria end? No. Now that both the Obama Administration and many of the Islamist rebels have effectively given up on the Free Syrian Army, the only victor in the war is likely to be Bashar al-Assad and his government forces. But the United States, along with Assad’s traditional enemies Turkey and Saudi Arabia, will be loath to accept this reality. Together, they’ll provide enough weapons and logistical support to keep a hodgepodge of anti-Assad forces in the field, while the international community tries to cobble together some sort of face-saving peace deal. The likely result: more bloodshed and more refugees.

8. Will John Kerry produce a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians?No. With its security policies working, and Palestinian terror attacks greatly reduced, the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu sees no need to make the sort of compromises that a peace treaty would entail. Earlier this week, as Kerry arrived in Tel Aviv to try and revive the peace process, Ze’ev Elkin, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, said, “The Jordan Valley must be under Israeli sovereignty forever.” He added that “the 1967 borders are Auschwitz borders.” A great many Palestinians, meanwhile, see the 1967 borders as the basis for a negotiated solution.

9. Will the Chinese economic miracle continue? Yes. After thirty years of rapid growth, the Chinese economy is now threatening to overtake the U.S. economy as the world’s largest, according to some measures. But there’s still plenty of scope for so-called “catch-up growth.” In terms of G.D.P. per person, the United States is still about five times as rich as China. Even middle-income countries such as Latvia and Chile are twice as rich. But with the formerly Communist nation still spending close to fifty per cent of its G.D.P. on infrastructure projects, education, and other forms of investment, the gap is likely to keep closing for some time. That’s what happened in other fast-growing Asian economies that industrialized earlier, such as Japan and Korea, and there’s no reason to expect China will be different.

10. Will the bitcoin bubble burst? Perhaps. In recent months, the online currency has gone from a cult object to an economic phenomenon that governments and investors are starting to take seriously. Even Ben Bernanke said that such currencies “may hold long-term promise.” But that doesn’t mean that bitcoins are worth their current price in the market. Underlying all the hype and discussion is a bit of a contradiction. If bitcoins are the next-generation means of payment for global online commerce, which is what some of the currency’s techie boosters believe, we are going to need a lot more of them in circulation. But once there are lots more of them going around, their scarcity value will diminish, and so will their price.

11. Will the stock market crash? Over the long term, U.S. corporations are a much safer bet than bitcoins, but this year could be a tricky one for the market. It’s not just that prices have gone up a lot—in 2013, the Dow jumped thirty per cent. The bigger problem is that long-term interest rates are rising, which often portends trouble for stocks. Paradoxically, the biggest danger is from a strong economy. If G.D.P. growth accelerates dramatically, investors will start to worry about the Fed shifting back to normal faster than expected, and this could lead to a sell-off in stocks. Wall Street is hoping for the “Goldilocks” recovery to continue, with growth strong enough to boost corporate profits, but not strong enough to spook the Fed.

12. Will Brazil win the World Cup? No. With an experienced coach in Luiz Felipe Scolari,and gifted young stars like Neymar (Barcelona)Oscar (Chelsea), and Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk), Brazil has the talent to match anybody. But in such a soccer-made nation, and with a relatively inexperienced team, the pressure of winning at home will prove too much.

An order of Chinese puns, stuffed with conspiracies

It’s an interesting day when the president of China eating lunch sparks off a wave of conspiracy theories.

Chinese President Xi Jinping got in the queue with the lunch crowd and bought six steamed buns filled with pork and spring onions, a bowl of stir-fried liver, and a plate of vegetables, for a cost of 21 yuan.

On Weibo, some were marvelling at how the President himself was getting in the line, paid for the food himself, carried the trays himself, and obtained the food himself. Others wondered if his public obtaining of food had any symbolic meaning.

The New York Times reports:

While photos of the presidential lunch fill pages of Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media site, users are trying to “crack the code” of the three simple food items for signals regarding the president’s anti-corruption campaign.

According to one theory, the name of the steamed bun shop, “Qingfeng,” which means “celebrating the harvest” but sounds like the Chinese words for “clear wind” and evokes an honest government official who never takes bribes, suggests the qualities Mr. Xi wants all government officials to uphold as a standard.

Another says the stir-fried pig liver means that any government officials who demonstrate pig-like greed will be “fried,” which can mean to be fired in Chinese.

The green vegetables Mr. Xi ordered, called “jiecai,” sound like the Chinese phrase “beware of wealth” — a possible warning to all officials to resist the temptation of financial gain.

The translucent filling of fatty pork and spring onion signifies transparency. And it is no coincidence, says one theory, that the meal cost 21 renminbi, the sum of three times seven. This is because the Chinese saying “It doesn’t matter if three times seven is 21” means that whatever is going to happen is going to happen.

“President Xi is saying government officials must stay clean and transparent, otherwise they will all get fired!” concludes this theory.

“If you are a corrupt official, the president will finish you like he did his lunch!” said another Weibo user.

So basically, the essence of Chinese conspiracy theories lie in… puns? Wow.

Which is not that surprising, given that the language is full of homophones.

Are You Qualified to Be a Journalist in China? Take the Test

Previously, China was last seen refusing to renew the visas and press passes of nearly two dozen foreign journalists from American news organisations, leaving them uncertain as to whether they can continue reporting China’s issues from the ground. This has prompted chastisement from Vice President Mr. Biden himself.

Now, it seems that China has made its decision: for foreign journalists to remain in the country, they must show themselves understanding of what is expected of them and of journalism in the country — that the role of journalism is not to the truth, but a service to the people? The Chinese government has decided that foreign journalists will have to take tests to show they they know these concepts. From the New York Times:

What is the essence of the Chinese Dream? What did Marx and Engels ask of newspaper reporters? How do Chinese and Western views on journalism differ?

Those are some of the questions Chinese journalists can expect to be quizzed on when they renew their press cards in early 2014.

This is the first time that all Chinese reporters have been required to take a test as part of the annual press card renewal process. In theory, journalists need the press card to work legally in China, although some commercial media companies employ reporters without the certification. Those who fail will be permitted to take it again.

The goal of the test is to “educate and lead news gatherers to uphold the Marxist journalistic ideals more consciously, to better serve the people, socialism, the work of the party and the country,” according to the General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Can you also be a journalist in China? Take the test to find out! Answers at the end.

1. What is the essence of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”?

a. Social harmony.

b. Comfortable standard of living.

c. Comfortable standard of living for all.

d. The Four Modernizations.

2. Comrade Xi Jinping has said that the Chinese Dream is essentially the dream of __?

a. The people.

b. The working class.

c. The Communist Party of China.

d. All Chinese people around the world.

3. Comrade Xi Jinping said that, in order to realize the Chinese Dream, we must take the road of __?

a. Socialism with Chinese characteristics.

b. Modernization.

c. Peaceful development.

d. Opening up and reform.

4. Comrade Xi Jinping said that, in order to realize the Chinese Dream, we must unite the power of China, which is:

a. The power of the leadership of the Communist Party of China.

b. The power of the unity of all ethnicities of the Chinese people.

c. The power of the unity of the working class.

d. The power of the unity of all Chinese people around the globe.

5. The ultimate mission of socialism with Chinese characteristics is:

a. Opening up and reform.

b. Improving economic structure.

c. Raising GDP.

d. Emancipate and develop social productivity.

6. Comrade Xi Jinping points out that, in order to realize the Chinese Dream, we must carry forward the Chinese spirit, which includes: (May choose more than one.)

a. The spirit of the nation with its core in patriotism.

b. The spirit of the our time with its core in reform and innovation.

c. The spirit of rule of law with its core in democratic politics.

d. The spirit of tradition with its core in honesty and honor.

7. How can news and media workers improve their ability of leading public opinion? (May choose more than one.)

a. Insist on principles of the party.

b. Insist on being people-oriented.

c. Keep on innovating and reforming.

d. Strengthen cultivation of talents.

8. “Prime Minister Zhu Rongji looked stern, and pointed out solemnly: ‘Whoever promotes Taiwan independence will not end up well!’ His words rang in our ears and shook our hearts.” What is good about this quote?

a. It vividly sums up the speaker’s view.

b. It gives the facts in a nutshell.

c. It is concise.

d. It provides a smooth segue.

9. What is the most basic principle of news ethics in our country? What is the most basic principle of Western news ethics? (May choose more than one.)

a. The principle of social responsibility.

b. The principle of serving the people.

c. The principle of journalistic professionalism.

d. The principle of freedom of the press.

10. What is the most important difference between our news ethics and that of Western developed countries?

a. Our news ethics belong to the theoretical system of socialism ethics; news ethics of Western developed countries belong to the theoretical system of capitalism ethics.

b. The most basic principle of our news ethics is wholeheartedly serve the people; the most basic principle of news ethics of Western developed countries is freedom of the press.

c. Our news ethics emphasize the people; Western developed countries emphasize the media’s social responsibilities.

d. Our news ethics emphasize the principles of the party; Western developed countries emphasize that individuals should be independent of political parties.

Answers:

1. a; 2. a; 3. a; 4. b; 5. d; 6. a, b; 7. a,b,c,d; 8. a; 9. b,d; 10. b

Read the full article on the Times here.

What’s in a name? Government regulation, that’s what

I was researching names that have fallen into disuse, and suddenly the regulation of names came up in the search. I decided to look up how China and Japan regulates what names are permitted for newborns, trying to find out what is or isn’t permitted.

China

Apparently there’s no restriction to what names can be used, as long as a computer is able to reproduce the character. Thus, according to Wikipedia, “(it) is not illegal to name a child after a famous celebrity, company, or product, as copyright and trademark laws do not apply to personal names.”

However, while there are over 70,000 Chinese characters available to choose from, only 32,232 are supported for computer input. Thus people with characters that fall outside of this 32,232 have names that run into problems when these people try to register for ID.

Japan

Japan takes a more stringent approach to naming one’s newborn, and restricts character usage based on readability and taste. “Only kanji which appear on the official list may be used in given names. This is intended to ensure that names can be readily written and read by those literate in Japanese. Rules also govern names considered to be inappropriate; for example, in 1993 two parents who tried to name their child Akuma (悪魔, which literally means “devil”) were prohibited from doing so after a massive public outcry.”

 

Brave New Korea

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Image taken from T-Shirt shop, The Affair

It has been reported for a while that the North Korean government has been manufacturing methamphetamines, also known as ‘crystal meth.’ In fact, due to the fact that they are a government-led effort, extremely high quality meth is produced, and they are highly-sought after overseas, according to defectors. In fact, North Korean diplomats have even been made to peddle these drugs, tasked to sell 20 kg (about 44 pounds) and raise $300,000; money that the country desperately needs to fuel its nuclear programs as well as its ruling elites’ lavish lifestyles.

Newsweek reported in 2011, when China, North Korea’s main target of its meth exports, tightened its border security on drugs, North Korea suddenly found itself with a surplus of meth that it couldn’t sell, and thus they started selling it within its own borders.

Inside North Korea, observers say, many use meth in place of expensive and hard-to-obtain medicine. “People with chronic disease take it until they’re addicted,” says one worker for a South Korea-based NGO, who requested anonymity in order to avoid jeopardizing his work with defectors. “They take it for things like cancer. This drug is their sole form of medication,” says the NGO worker, who has interviewed hundreds of defectors in the past three years.

A recent study in the journal, North Korea Review, suggests that about 40-50% of the people in the area bordering North Korea and China are addicted to meth. People in the north of the country have apparently started cooking their own meth to feed their addiction.

The idea of state-produced drugs turned on its own people to keep them docile, or otherwise benumbed to the pain, hunger, and suffering brought about by dismal living conditions from a dysfunctional economy is strikingly similar to Aldous Huxley’s ‘soma’ in his novel Brave New World.

“..there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon…”

“I don’t understand anything,” she said with decision, determined to preserve her incomprehension intact. “Nothing. Least of all,” she continued in another tone “why you don’t take soma when you have these dreadful ideas of yours. You’d forget all about them. And instead of feeling miserable, you’d be jolly. So jolly,”

”Hug me till you drug me, honey;
Kiss me till I’m in a coma;
Hug me, honey, snuggly bunny;
Love’s as good as soma.”

Like in Huxley’s London, meth abusers in North Korea see their drug as non-lethal — merely recreational, even medicinal. However, while people in Huxley’s London consume soma on a daily basis with no side effects, other than a strict addiction, Kim Jong Un’s North Korea cannot continue to see sustained use of meth in the long term, not without repercussions.

While it was reported that Kim Jong Un has ordered a crackdown on drug abuse in 2011, which remained largely unsuccessful, when the drug, which he has sanctioned the production of, is responsible for putting money into his coffers, and funding the state’s military program, what incentive does he have to stop? Furthermore, the surplus of meth being used as a substitute for more expensive medicines and painkillers help reduce the state’s healthcare costs. One’d imagine that the reclusive Brave New Korea is headed in a euphoric direction away from the rest of the world, its head wrapped up in its never-ending haze of drug-riddled poverty,