Cambodia 1979

An excellent account of what happened in a Cambodian town in 1979, when Vietnam invaded Cambodia. Part one and two. Can't wait for part 3 next week.

Insight into the Cambodia lives pre and post invasion, general sentiment toward the Khmer Rouge, the invader, the occupation, and even the repercussion of the China-Vietnam border war. Perhaps even a lesson on the 'economic of occupation' for Iraq of today.


Maybe there is no conspiracy

China sacked the head (party chief) of its largest municipality(*), amid corruption investigations. As usual, rumours are afloat that it is related to certain political struggle between ex-party-boss Jiang's Shanghai Gang and new boss Hu Jintao's Youth League Gang. (update WaPo)

Most of all so-called China observers (even BBC, and NYT**) are eager to speculate, except very few rational minds

  • 郎咸平说,“我是不希望把反腐的事情跟各地领导班子换届的关系扯到一起。我不认为他们有必然关系,我认为反腐就是反腐倡廉,对于腐败官员要有严刑峻法的方式严加处理。但是,不要把这两个事扯在一起。我认为反腐跟政治斗争不应该扯在一起。这是两回事。所以我今天所强调的中央政府的反腐的力道必须加大。”
  • Lang Xianping said, "I do not hope to see the anti-corruption matters to be linked to the sucession of the [CCP] leadership matters. I do not think there is necessary connection between the two.

Conspiracy theories are interesting. There are media values in them. Conspiracy theories are also easy to fabricate. All one needs is some 'confidential source' which may not even exist, and an audience who refuse to accept the simple (but often factual) explanation. "Look, how can the CCP have any intention to do anything morally right?"

When Beijing Mayor Chen Xitong was caught, the same conspiracy emerged. It was said the Jiang's Shanghai Gang used corruption as an excuse to oust the Beijing Gang. Back then, I have my own little conspiracy theory as well:

  • Chen was so corrupted in 1989 that he feared that he would be caught once the student movement in 1989 succeeded. He then plotted and misled Deng Xiaoping and engineered that tragedy in June that year. This is, of course, not the full story. But if we look at history, the overwhelming examples of anti-democracy suppression, from Marcos to Ceausescu, have been plotted by corrupted officials. Because the corruptors are those who fear the consequence of a transparent system the most.

What I believe to be more likely, is that the CCP leadership has realized by now that it is impossible to continue the economic reform without tackling the corruption problem. Because corruption leads to unfair competition and discourages business innovation. A more sophisticated economic system, as China is developing into gradually, requires a fair system and infrastructure. Corruption hinders such development. As most people can now agree, the first priority of CCP is economic development (some said it is the only way to continue the 'legitimacy' of its rule). It is only logical that they are focusing on anti-corruption now. The motivation for anti-corruption can be very simple, i.e., economic.

Aside from the above discussion. I do not care if Hu Jintao (or Wen Jiabao) is a black cat or a white cat, if he has caught the corrupted mice, he is a good cat, at least at this particular job.

P.S. more in the comment section.

* in China's bureaucratic system, head of province and the 4 municipalities, together with the Ministries, are one rank below Deputy Prime Minister. Shanghai is one of the most important province/municipalities, making Chen Liangyu among the top of the promotion list among these provincial chiefs. i.e. Chen is only 2 steps from the Premier Wen and Party Boss Hu.

** NYT is even worse. Joseph Kahn reported, "It is exceedingly rare in China for members of the ruling Politburo to face legal trouble, even when the authorities have evidence of corrupt activities by them or people close to them. Mr. Hu almost certainly would not have approved of the action unless he considered Mr. Chen an obstacle to his political control or his policy agenda." 1) It is rare because it is hard to collect evidence 2) How about "Mr. Hu almost certainly would not have approved of the action unless he considered there is sufficient evidence for the charge"? 3) It is also rare because the more senior the criminal is, the more careful (and harder it is) the investigation needs to be.



Outline of post-war new world map (1941)

This is a very interesting map, created by Maurice Gomberg in 1941 (published 1942).

You can download a hi-resolution (14MB) map through this link in the lower left corner of the link above,. The format is jp2000, and a viewer can be downloaded here. I have used Kakadu View and it works fine (open with kdu_show.exe).

If you don't mind the hassle of zooming online (less user-friendly, and often subject to internet delay), you can also zoom the map here.

This is the short introduction given by most web-sites
  • 1942 world map. "Outline of post-war new world map" by Maurice Gomberg,
  • Philadelphia, Feb. 25, 1942. Shows protectorates and peace-security bases.
  • Includes quotes from President Franklin Roosevelt's message to the 77th Congress on the State of the Union, including the Four Freedoms and the Moral Order.
  • SOURCE: Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington DC.
A few sites have summarized the "new order" outlined by Gomberg, note also that the map was completed in October 1941, before Pearl Harbor. The full text of the "order" is listed here. A few highlights relevant to the world order today -- as paraphrased by penncrier.com, emphasized by yours sincerely. I have also skipped the outdated notion of commodity nationalization (globalization and amrekit efficiency seem to be quite effective in solving this problem) and demiliatarizing the "war-mongering" Europe (Europe has quietly evolved past that phrase)
  • The U.S.A. must, altruistically, assume the leadership of the newly established world order.
  • The U.S.A., Britain, and the U.S.S.R. will undertake to guarantee peace to the nations, which will be permanently disarmed and demilitarized.
  • The U.S.A. will become invincible as a military, naval, and air power.
  • A world common monetary system will be established.
It is interesting to compare this to the pre-WWII, WWII map, and the order created immediately after WWII.

Here are a few obvious notes when comparing this map with that of 1950. (Critique on the flaws of this map does remind me of Kaplanistic foot soldier "I surrounded you, Ha!" march)
  • the whole of Germany and Austria given to the Great USSR, Iran also a Sovier SSR.
  • Korea, Indochina, Thailand and Malaya given to China
  • Burma and Afghanistan to Federated Republic of India (Pakistan was not carved out)
  • USA expanded, naturally, not only to include the rest of North and Central America (Canada, Mexico, Greenland, Carribean), all islands in North Atlantic as outposts (Iceland, Bermuda, Azores, Canary Is, Cape Verdes), all of the Pacific islands, Sulawesi(Celebes), Taiwan and Hainan -- the 3 Guyana's were said to become a USA state in the text, but not shown in the map
  • British Commonwealth to give up Africa and South Asia, but retaining Australia/NZ and taking out some of Dutch East Indies (Indonesia)
  • Other notes: note how Arabian FR and Hebrewland was drawn, Albania with Greece, Northern Ireland with Ireland, Madagascar and Sri Lanka stayed with British Commonwealth
As to how the "world order" should be modified under today's world, I would leave that to our intelligent readers (perhaps a better way to discuss is to open a thread for each one of Gomberg's lines). Some questions to ask/ threads are (especial in the post Kuwait-Iraq world)
  • One hegemone ("Invincible") vs multiple leader
  • How crucial is genuine altruism/neutrality of the hegemone? (which also leads to the question of single vs multiple hegemone)
  • Is there any medium/small nation that owns meaningful (offensive) weapon today? Is there a need for the smaller nations/federates to own meaningful weapon?
  • If smaller nations do not own meaningful offense/defense, what should the hegemones' commitment to the small be?
  • How similar/different is Gomberg's new order compared with Thomas Barnett's PNM?
  • What assumption of Gomberg become (or close to) reality in today's world? How would this change (or not change) the order of 1950s (vs the order Gomberg proposed)?



Quick note: Yau vs New Yorker

You have probably noticed that I have a particular interest in the Yau Shing-tong vs Beida controversy. A while earlier I found a New Yorker article (via ESWN, the cartoon is shown here) about the newest Field Medalist Perelman, the Poincare conjecture, and Prof Yau. The article was quite informative, except that it was highly ignorant of the research environment in China, or how research was conducted in general, and the whole Yau Shing-tong vs Peking University/Tian Gang controversy. I wondered if the reporters had talked to Yau at all.

It turned out that they did talk to Yau and communicated with him for some length, and basically ignored the story from his side (or mostly other knowledgeable poeple). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Professor Yau is preparing for taking legal action against the New Yorker this week. (via inmedia). Yau's rebuttal echoes my first reaction when I read the New Yorker report, I am pretty sure Yau would win this one. If that is the case, New Yorker may have to donate a few million dollars to a mathematics institute in New York or in China.

Update (Sep 23):
1) commentator LW pointed to a report that New Yorker stands by its story, looks like that leaves Yau with no other option than filing a law suit.
2) (Sep 24) AMS's account of Poincare conjecture (PDF)
3) Yau's lecture in Beijing about Poincare conjecture
4) Scientific American points to Scott Aaronson's blog and new post
5) Testaments of other mathematics professors (from comments on Aaronson's blog)
  • a Clarification from MIT mathematician Dan Stroock:

    I, like several others whom Sylvia Nasar interviewed, am shocked and angered by the article which she and Gruber wrote for the New Yorker. Having seen Yau in action during his June conference on string theory, Nasar led me to believe that she was fascinated by S-T Yau and asked me my opinion about his activities. I told her that I greatly admire Yau's efforts to support young Chinese mathematicians and to break down the ossified power structure in the Chinese academic establishment. I then told her that I sometimes have doubts about his methodology. In particular, I told her that, at least to my ears, Yau weakens his case and lays himself open to his enemies by sounding too self-promoting.
    As it appears in her article, she has purposefully distorted my statement and made it unforgivably misleading. Like the rest of us, Yau has his faults, but, unlike most of us, his virtues outweigh his faults. Unfortunately, Nasar used my statement to bolster her case that the opposite is true, and for this I cannot forgive her.
  • State University of New York at Stony Brook professor Michael Anderson's email to Yao:
    Dear Yau,
    I am furious, and completely shocked, at what Sylvia Nasar wrote. Her quote of me is completely wrong and baseless. There are other factual mistakes in the article, in addition to those you pointed out. I have left her phone and email messages this evening and hope to speak to her tomorrow at the latest to clear this up. I want her to remove this statement completely from the article. It serves no purpose and contains no factual information; I view it as stupid gossip unworthy of a paper like the New Yorker. At the moment, the print version has not appeared and so it might be possible to fix this still. I spent several hours with S. Nasar on the phone talking about Perelman, Poincare, etc but it seems I was too naive (and I'm now disgusted) in believing this journalist would report factually.
    I regret very much this quote falsely attributed to me and will do what
    ever I can to have it removed. I will keep you informed as I know more.
    Yours, Michael
  • Michael Anderson's further announcement:
    Many of you have probably seen the New Yorker article by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber on Perelman and the Poincare conjecture. In many respects, its very interesting and a pleasure to read. However, it contains a number of inaccuracies and downright errors. I spent several hours talking with Sylvia Nasar trying to dissuade her from incorporating the Tian-Yau fights into the article, since it was completely irrelevant and I didn't see the point of dragging readers through the mud. Obviously I was not successful.
    The quote attributed to me on Yau is completely inaccurate and distorted from some remarks I made to her in a quite different context; I made it explicit to her that the remarks I was making in that context were purely speculative and had no basis in fact. I did not give her my permission to quote me on this, even with the qualification of speculation. There are other inaccuracies about Stony Brook. One for instance is the implication that Tian at MIT was the first to invite Perelman to the US to give talks. This is of course false - we at Stony Brook were the first to do so. I stressed in my talks with her the role Stony Brook played, yet she focusses on the (single) talk Grisha gave at Princeton, listing a collection of eminent mathematicians, none of whom is a geometer/topologist.
    I was not given an opportunity to set the record straight with the New Yorker before publication; this was partly because I was travelling in Europe at the time this happened, and there was a rush to publish; the publication date is the same as the announcement date of the Fields Medals I think. I was not sent an advance copy of the article for checking. I spoke with Sylvia on the phone this morning, to no avail. I've also had some email correspondence with Yau on the matter over the last day. I apologized to him and expressed my anger and frustration about what was done, confirming to him the quote attributed to me is false and baseless. The email to Yau is now already posted on a Chinese blog site!).
    I've learned my lesson on dealing with the media the hard and sour way and am still considering what path to pursue to try to rectify the situation, to the extent still possible.
  • Princeton Professor Joe Kohn's email to Yao:
    Dear Yau,
    I learned from Andreea that you were very hurt by my remarks quoted in the New Yorker. I did not mean to hurt you. You are universally recognizd as one of the foremost mathematicians of our times, which explains my first remark. I know how deeply you care about Chinese mathematics and therefore I assume that you would like to be as effective as possible in your leadership of the Chinese mathematical community - and this explains my second remark.
    Best regards,



Polarization of market share and "difficulty" in China market

1) the stories of Google and Baidu (NYT article also cached here).
2) Google aground in China, MySpace sailing for trouble? (via ESWN)
3) Google losing traction in China - China Herald
4) Economist on Alibaba

Trend in search engines market share in US and China

In both charts a bi-polarization trend is observed, i.e. the market leader is widening the gap. This is quite typical in the technology industry, as was demonstrated since the Win-tel era, and reached a susperstitious peak in the dot-bomb era when everyone rushed to reach #1, at all costs, with the MBA-student-naive superstition thinking first mover advantage. Of course, not all sectors follow this rule. There are a few pre-requisites

  • The market leader need to be a well-run company, continue innovation is a must (e.g., google, microsoft)
  • A well defined sector where similar business rules applies for all competitors (hard for the challenger to innovate)
  • Users are fairly sticky and lazy to switch
  • A highly scalable business model for all, such that the leader continues to have more resource to invest (due to its larger starting scale of revenue) -- a positive feedback cycle (borrowing the concept in electronic science)
  • Shift in market rules is either slow, or inter-related with the choice of the market leaders. i.e. market leader has the clout to influence the shift in market place

The second question is related to one that NYT asked, what is so special about China?

  • China is the largest (or potential largest) market outside USA (or larger than USA), scale-wise -- just see the number of internet users, so that much of the US model which could not be replicated elsewhere (e.g. smaller European and Asian countries) could be make profitable in China
  • China market may have many aspects which are different than the US market (e.g. credit card and payment, consumer segmentation, geographic fragmentation), but it also has a lot of similarity. There is NO fundamental difference IMO.
    • e.g., Consumer behavior in China also bears a number of similarities with the US: Chinese are more receptive (than Europeans) of tested models in US such as Walmart and Disneyland
    • e.g. the importance of branding is doubly magnified in China market, as a result of inadequate consumer protection by the government
  • The difference in these MNC cases boils down to one key factor, people. In all cases cited, yahoo, ebay and google alike, multinationals did not have the talent to manage the China business. No doubt Kaifu Li is a great scientist. But I am not sure if he is a great business executive, or that he was given such mandate by the people in CA. Google China may churn out some very innovative product for google worldwide, but it is much less likely to win the China market for google. (Ludington's said "running Google China from Mountain View, CA" here, in that Li was hired for running a research institute, not a real business)
  • The google/yahoo phenomenon is not alone for the internet business. Other industries, such as PepsiCo (Consumer goods), pharmaceuticals (mostly all except Jansenn and SKF, especially Glaxo), had all experienced a long learning cycle (a decade) before turning profitable. A HK/Taiwan/Singapore ethnic Chinese manager, though fluent in Mandarin Chinese and familiar with western management skills, may not be the best choice. (e.g. Yahoo, Unilever, Glaxo, Microsoft in late 1990s). A reluctant ex-pat is the worst choice.
  • How to succeed? Do not use the particularity of the internet industry as an excuse. Yes, times have changed, the Chinese managers are more competitive today than 10 years ago. I insist there is no fundamental difference. and
    • Study the success stories of Janssen, KFC and P&G. Study the failure lessons of Yahoo, eBay, Glaxo and Whirlpool.
    • Hire the right people. It does not necessarily have to be ethnic Chinese or Mandarin speaking (think Ghosn). Though experience in mainland and MNC are very important, many MNC have confused language ability (e.g. manager from Singapore, Taiwan) with experience in China market. The person needs to have the will and ability, and a clear goal to achieve.
    • Do not micro-manage. But set very objective and measurable milestones to monitor progress. Change the China CEO before it is too late.



    Taiwanese now fans of Chairman Mao

    It seems that Chairman Mao has taken over Taiwan, according to DPP Chairman SK You and pro-DPP FTV. First SK You (and others) accused the Red Camp of chosing the color red (he forgot to mention Manchester United and Coca-cola) and started the protest on the anniversary of Mao's death (Is this the way Chinese honor the dead?).

    Now it went from bizarre to bizarreR. FTV alleged the Red Camp's campaign of being inspired by an old CCP Red Army adapted folk song in 1930s:
    • Osmanthus Flowering Everywhere in August (or here)
    • Lyric:

    Evidence? again, the color red, and the coincidence of the pretty common Chinese phrase "flowering everywhere" (see bold characters in the lyric).

    FTV went on further to interview a self proclaimed CCP specialist hack called Lin Baohua. Lin found an album called "100 years of Chinese Song" where the song listed right after this one is called "All under the sky for the public 天下为公", which is synonymous to Red's next campaign "All under the sky go seige 天下围攻". Lin seems to be a prophet, picking out from hundreds of albums which includes this folk song this special collection album as the delphi. If the red is indeed following the delphi, it is probably invincible? Wait, isn't this a confucius saying, and repeated many times by Dr Sun Yat-sen? (大道之行,天下为公). In fact, Bill Clinton also quote this line in his speech given in Xi'an. The Red said its theme was actually inspired the synonym of the Confuscius phrase (大盗之行也,天下围攻), by changing Confucius' "When the great Way prevails, a public spirit will rule all under the sky" into "When a great thief prevails, the public all under the sky will siege [the city]".

    There are only seven colors in the rainbow. Blue, Green, Orange were taken by DPP, KMT and PFP. New Party took Yellow. If the Red is to use another color, it would be Violet or Indigo, which would probably be accused as a cousin color to Blue.

    A desperate attempt by the Chen apologists, which is usually a sign of showing weakness.

    The Red is also quick to countered the accusation. They pointed out that there are plenty of CCP party songs about "We stand here facing the sun 我們站在向陽的地方", which was the title for the pro-Bian demonstration on Sep 16th.

    Hmmm, it seems both the Green and Red are Mao's fans. Next time I am going to claim a rainbow flag and use the solar eclipse as my totem, so that I can claim everyone in Taiwan as my fans.

    Update: "林保华说,连倒扁集团所提出的礼义廉耻,都几乎跟胡锦涛所推动的「八荣八耻」,在意识形态上也是类似的。为什么满脑子都和共产党目前的号召和宣传碰在一起?令人不解". According to Lin Baohua, Hu Jintoa even monopolized confuscius' 4 moral pillars of a country (courtesy, loyalty, frugality, awareness of shame - 礼义廉耻,国之四维) by his generalization to 8honors+8disgraces. Therefore, anyone who follows Guan Zhong's 4 pillars is also following CCP's 8+8.

    (Sep 26) There is now a video clip compiled by a pro-Bian netizen. Trying hard to make the connection, he made one mistake of linking "天下围攻" with "粉碎蒋贼大围攻", as the lyric means the "Siege" would be defeated.


    Economic solution to a political deadlock

    A year ago, I wrote a short proposal to solve Iran's nuke problem, advocating an IAEA managed nuclear fuel stockpile.

    I am glad to see now that it is finally becoming a solid plan.
    • "Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, CNN creator Ted Turner and former Sen. Sam Nunn pledged $50 million to the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency Tuesday to create a uranium stockpile.
    • The aim is to discourage countries from developing their own nuclear programs. The reserve would ensure supplies of low-grade fuel for nuclear power plants around the world. One example of a program they hope to discourage is in Iran, which critics fear is ultimately aimed at developing weapons."
    Yes, I am aware of the fact that for the cases of Iran, nuclear power is probably just an excuse. For Pyongyang, even though it has declared nuke capability and intention, it is dying for energy. To provide them with affordable nuclear fuels in the form of low grade purified uranium and plutonium isotopes may not be the full recipe to dissuade them away from the nuclear program, but it removes a major excuse they could use. It would be useful to delay, if not suspend, their current project.

    Much more important is that we should expect more countries (of which most will be on purely economic motive) expressing interests in developing their own nuclear program, especially when the price of fossil fuel (oil, gas, coal, etc) is becoming more and more expensive. Even if fossil fuel is abundant and cheap, nuclear energy, counter-intiutively, is a lot more cleaner option...
    • Several life cycle analyses show similar emissions per kilowatt-hour from nuclear power and from renewables such as wind power [75]. According to one life cycle study (van Leeuwen and Smith 2001-2005 [source 1]), carbon dioxide emissions from nuclear power per kilowatt hour could range from 20% to 120% of those for natural gas-fired power stations depending on the availability of high grade ores.
    ...provided that proper safety management is exercised, both on the power plant construction and operation, and that of the fuel rods.

    Since fossil fuel can only provide us for a few centuries (the number of depending on different estimates), and nuclear energy would provide us for many BILLIONS of year. So it is a matter of sustainability and inevitability that we have to switch to nuclear, sooner or later. (see also Wired Magazine and FAQ from Stanford Professor John McCarthy) Regarding the melt-down of a nuclear power plant (Chernobyl) vs damage from fossil fuel plants, a good analogy would be comparing the total casualties in accidents in flying a plane vs accidents in crashing a car.

    Unfortunately, nuclear power should have been much cheaper than it is today, if more competition is introduced to the market. The new international stockpile effort will introduce new competition to the fuel rod supply, and hence boost the market size and scale of power plant construction, which will in turn lower the cost of building and operating a power plant. Since the fuel rods from this international stockpile will be more affordable than those available on the market today, an attached condition to the buyer could be a strict safety operating standard. This will ensure the safety of the plants.

    All these benefits are, on top of what it will achieve for non-proliferation.


    "Nightmare on Beijing Street"

    Read UCLA Professor Tom Plate's insightful essay: Nightmare on Beijing Street. (via Michael Turton)

    For those who are not familiar with Taiwan matters, Josepg Wu is the Chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), appointed by Chen Shui-Bian. His preference and his enthusiasm in his job is well discussed in Plate's essay.

    As usual, Michael has DPP spin defends his party line on the matter . His solution sounds like a legitimate alternative, but it assumes at least 10 "if's" and alliances with a dozen countries. The probability chain breaks down when any one of those "if" fails to turn up. I believe Michael himself have also written about the Taiwan Relation Act, showing that it is just an option (not an obligation) for US, not to mention that Japan's remilitarization (and another big "if" to interference on the Taiwan strait) is still far from the horizon.

    Plate is insightful in the reality of an arms race
    • "[Taiwan]try to match the mainland missile for missile -- that's just not feasible..."
    I have actually been able to backed up his claim with solid numbers a year go. It is 21st century already. I can't imagine anyone other than Kim Jong-il is still obsessed with the idea of arms race. Plate is spot on in suggesting the "killer peace offensive".

    1) The same strategy is applicable to the mainland side as well
    2) (Update) See also Chu Shulong interview. According to Chu "Beijing's priority is economic development, and will be happy as long as there is no crisis in Taiwan". That is pretty much what the world (except the Green in Taiwan) see it. Therefore, even Professor Plate seems to have asked the wrong question, as Taiwan is not under any real security threat at this moment, or at least in the next 30 years.
    • 北京倒不關心台灣會亂,北京關心的是陳水扁會不會在兩岸關係議題上作文章,例如以改變台海現狀來轉移焦點,改變他的處境。 問及北京是否擔心呂秀蓮繼任總統時,楚樹龍說,最壞的情況都在李登輝和陳水扁執政時發生了,沒什麼好擔心了。
    • 北京已理解到,統一是長期目標,急也急不來。胡錦濤上任後,把施政重點放在經濟建設,提出戰略經濟.....台灣問題仍然重要,但已不是第一重要,只要海峽相安無事,北京就會把關心重點擺到其他地方


    A parody of a parody of a parody 恶搞徐志摩

    《原来 - 我也能写新诗》








    MSN Parody

    iwillipo 12:29:57

    DaemonMagic 12:30:15
    iwillipo 12:30:25
    DaemonMagic 12:30:37





    … 是成千上万的网民!


      《傻瓜灯——我坚决不能容忍》  赵丽华


    1) 在大众被"诗坛芙蓉姐姐"---赵丽华 恶搞之后
    2) 女诗人作品网上遭嘲笑 (“她的诗还是有趣的,但是毕竟只是小聪明。”诗人徐勇韬如此表示,他认为“诗歌不仅仅只是去关注那些虚弱的风花雪月和玄幽的精神痛苦”。对网友的反应,他表示“她的诗本身是对经典文本和经典诗意的一个反讽,而网友则又对这种反讽进行了反讽”。 )
    3) List of Parody^2

    Thai coup succeeded?

    I was chating with a friend in Bangkok on MSN.

    He said the army has controlled the TV stations now. It seems the coup succeeded. Earlier there was rumour of the coup and tanks in the city. Thaksin delivered a speech of emergency on Thai TV (from UN in NY), but Thaksin's speech was suspended in the middle. All TV stations seem to be under military control now.

    It was said that the trigger was that the army was pissed when Thaksin tried influence the promotion of some army officials.

    Keep an eye on google news.

    Update: it has been more than 12 hours now, I guess we all know what happened. It was reported all major media had theri website closed. Apparently the Chinese newspaper World Daily (I think it is affiliated with UDN of Taiwan) is not one of the major media.


    Sohu censors Taiwan protest - 四面楚歌 or 风声鹤唳?

    While casually looking at my referral site stats, I found this sohu-hosted blog (thanks for the link). It is all about music and culture, pretty innocent citizen who would never draw attention from the internet police, one would think?

    IT's a slow weekend, I looked at the referring stats again a few hours later, I found one of his posts deleted by his blog host, Sohu. What was that post about? As I can recall, He embedded the ETTV music of the Red Protest in Taipei (on youtube) which I also blogged previously, "圍城之歌 Song of Siege (See lyric here)". I do not recall he said anything on his blog other than "I liked this music." and "Taiwanese are quite humorous people" and a reference to the Chinese proverb "四面楚歌 Surrounded by Songs from Home Province"(comparing this song about Chen's palace being surrounded by protestors to the historic story of Xiang Yu's army being surrounded while enemy singing the songs to make them homesick and destroy the morale of Xiang's army - of 200 BC). Just no one would ever think of anything that could deserve any censorship.

    What about the song? You can see the picture in Youtube. Just a lot of demonstrators in red. The ROC flag was forbidden explicitly by the protest organizers to avoid the Blue-Green dichotomy allegation.

    The lyric? nothing that could stir up the censor's as far as I can see. I translated it roughly below. Note also Premier Wen Jiabao said Taiwanese people should solve the problem among themselves (这是应该由台湾人自己解决的问题). and Wang Zaixi went on step further in calling this is Taiwan people's rights and freedom 王在希指出,倒扁在台湾同胞当中已形成了广泛的共识,台湾的人民公开地表达反对他的政府贪污、舞弊的行为,是正义的,这也是台湾人民拥有的权力,也是他们享有的自由.
    • 下台下台下台,step down x 3
      公元兩千年 歷史大轉變 in 2000 AD, change in course of history
      新的總統 陳水扁 欺騙全世界 new president, chen shui bain, deceived the world
      曾經的希望 如今都破滅 the hope of the past, all vanished today
      美麗寶島 看不見 痛苦不能言 beautiful island can be seen no more, so painful we are unable to talk

      不要怕 伸出指尖 一起來倒扁 don't be afraid, show your fingertips, depose Bian together
      歷史 見證一切 history, witness all
      大家一起 心手相連 let's together, hands and hearts joined
      倒扁才能展笑顏 only able to show our laughing face if Bian deposed

      不要怕 伸出指尖 一起來倒扁 don't be afraid, show your fingertips, depose Bian together
      歷史 即將改寫 history, will soon be re-written
      大家一起 肩併著肩 we together, should by should
      一擊推翻阿扁 one strike and overturn Bian
    I scrathed my head trying to understand what went through the mind of the Sohu police. They must be psychics, able to read something we couldn't.

    So perhaps Ming Pao is right after all. So was my innocent comment in my previous post ("...this is a good lesson for those in power on the other side of the Strait.")

    Or, maybe, "四面楚歌" has described (or revealed the state secret of) the precise situation of these desperate internet police? I thought the word should have been 风声鹤唳.

    Update: The blogger re-posted the video, citing CCTV already showed exactly the same video in braodcast TV. Let's see if the video got removed again, and that the Sohu busybody was overenthusiastic or it was due to some other more generic directive from above (e.g. against Youtube, or against this particular event)

    Ming Pao commentary here
    中國評論﹕台北圍城 震撼大陸 (2006-09-17 05:05:00)


    與倒扁靜坐行動連發 4稿不同,新華社前日對圍城行動隻字未提,不過,大陸民眾還是通過各種渠道,獲悉這一令許多台灣人流下熱淚的壯舉。對於台灣人可以自由地表達自己的政治訴求、可以大聲地要求陳水扁總統下台,大陸人既欽佩又羨慕。過去,台灣的民主政治,予許多大陸人的印象就是議會中的暴力、藍綠群眾的衝突與攻訐。然而,百萬台灣人的圍城大遊行,令大陸民眾的印象完全扭轉﹔對台灣民眾表現出來的民主素養,許多大陸人表示感動與敬佩。對於台灣人的遊行、集會、言論等政治自由,大陸人發出「台灣人可以倒扁,我們可以倒什麼」的感慨,流露出既羨慕又無奈的情感。大陸人為什麼會徒嘆無奈,從他們「可憐」陳水扁、「哀嘆」扁「生不逢地」、「不如我們一個副局長」就可見一斑。

    百萬台灣人圍城大遊行和平、理性進行,堪比 03年 50萬香港人大遊行,均可寫入世界民主史冊。不過,如果據此就斷言台灣民主制度已經成熟,也為時過早。由民進黨前主席施明德發起的百萬台灣人倒扁行動,展開尚不到 10天,能否達至「阿扁下台」的目標撇開不說,本周在南部陳水扁老巢開展的倒扁行動,聲勢如何、是否會觸發衝突,尚待考驗。昨日親綠台灣社發起的挺扁行動,倒扁與挺扁群眾發生的小衝突,已經敲響了警鐘。至於挺扁民眾佔據電視直播台、追打紅衣人的舉動,亦顯示仍有許多台灣人依然停留在由民粹、統獨意識支配自己行動的階段,尚不可語「我不贊成你的觀點,但誓死捍衛你的言論自由」。年底台北、高雄市長選舉,尤其是 08年總統大選,善打選舉戰的民進黨又會使出什麼計謀,在政權爭奪下是否還能如圍城行動那樣超越藍綠投出寶貴一票,這都需拭目以待。




    Taiwan protests

    Tens of thousands of Taiwanese protesters took to Taipei's streets in a bid to step up the pressure on embattled President Chen Shui-bian to resign over alleged corruption. They marched a 5.5-kilometer route circling Chen's office and nearby residence amid downpours caused by an approaching typhoon.

    I love the melody of this song "圍城之歌 Song of Siege"

    Apple Daily commentary (Pu Dazhong)

    • 看到倒扁、挺扁雙方的領導人都誠懇呼籲和平、反暴力和互相尊重,令人十分欣慰。這才是台灣的未來、台灣的希望,才是有資格質疑總統的高格調現代公民。
    • Seeing the leaders from both sides sincerely appeal for peace, non-violence and mutal respect, we are both happy and relieved. This is Taiwan's future, Taiwan's hope. These are the high calibre modern citizens who deserve the right to question the president.

    From the pro-DPP Liberty Times: 台上激情 台下冷靜 一堂成功的民主教育課 A Successful Lesson in Democracy

    • 不管你支不支持倒扁,這是一堂成功的民主教育課程!...政治活動情緒可以激昂,暴力衝突更可以避免!學會了不同政治訴求的人互相尊重,這是台灣民主進程的驕傲,也是未來各項政治活動的指標!政治訴求能否達成,或許已不是最主要的重點,所有參與活動者展現的成熟民主素養,讓全台灣共同接受一堂成功的民主教育洗禮,才是最令人激賞的內涵。

    Yes, this is democracy and freedom of expression. Whether KTGL will become EDSA III, this is a good lesson for those in power on the other side of the Strait.

    So here are the beautiful citizens in the island of Taiwan.

    Singer/actress Vivian Hsu wore red in a separate occasion, allegedly showing her support for the protest.

    And more

    Related videos:
    1) Huang Xinjie, ex-DPP president who inspired Fan Keqin.
    2) 鋼鐵的心
    3) 倒扁圍城之夜實錄 (All the video on that night)
    4) Ms Meng Guangmei marched 孟广美也倒扁

    Update: See ESWN's great analysis on the lesson of popular movement in Taiwan this week. I have been skeptical of Shih Mingteh's and the whole campaign, and avoided to reach conclusion or side with either camp. But this is such a brilliant executed campaign, and the 360-1000k people just cannot be wrong. I mean, how can 1M people in an urban area of less than 2.6M (+4M if including Keelung, Taipei County) be "anti-democratic"?
    As HK political analyst said, "Democracy is not about party politics, it is about the power of people. If HK people can depose Tung Chee-hua by showing our foot-voting, it is democracy for HK."

    Geo-stats Sep1-14

    After the unblocking of blogspot in mainland China, we have more reliable site stat data. Below is the numbers for Sep 1-14. See also previous data (Apr-Jul) and (Apr-May) for comparison.

    Apr-Jul Diff

    37.0% 8.1%
    China (PR)

    0.4% -14.2%
    HK SAR

    14.7% 1.0%

    5.5% -0.5%

    5.8% 1.7%

    4.4% 0.5%

    3.5% 0.1%

    4.6% 1.3%

    3.5% 1.6%

    1.8% 0.0%
    11 S Korea
    1.4% 0.0%

    1.6% 0.2%

    1.7% 0.7%

    1.0% 0.2%

    0.5% -0.4%

    As can be seen, the opening of GFW in the mainland has spared at least 8% of the readers the trouble of detouring via proxy based in USA, and maybe via Canada, Singapore, Japan as well. This confirmed my hypothesis earlier.

    The language system (OS) are aligned with the geo-stats now.

    1 English
    zh-cn (Chinese simplified)

    zh-tw (Chinese traditional)

    ja (Japanese)

    en (English)

    ko (Korean)

    es (Spanish)

    de (German)

    fr (French)

    ru (Russian)


    • One small surprise is that zh-cn % almost exactly equal that of mainland visitors. (I expected a significant number of visitors inside PRC use English OS, apparently I was wrong.)
    • For traditional Chinese OS (HK+Taiwan), the numbers are also consistent, with about 4% all visitors (i.e. 1/4 of HK+Taiwan) using English OS.
    Total number of countries/areas reached 136 (124 in Jul 25, but the number below is not 12, as there maybe some redefinition such as Montenegro, Europe, "not set" and "satellite ISP", -- see previous post). Welcome new readers (most of them probably come here on google search or wiki link to my GDP/pop-scaled map post):
    • Bahamas, Nicaragua, Zambia, Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), Gambia, Guyana, Mauritius, Pakistan
    Of course, there is map.



    Some cool Japanese Commercials

    In our neighboring countries in NE Asia, I love N Korea Mass Game, S Korean movies, and Japanese CM (commerical). I think the Japanese are among the most creative nation in marketing and commerialization in this world. The Tarako phenonmenon is the most recent example. I don't have to tell you about Tamagochi and Hello Kitty, product and CM innovation of TOTO Toilet, and more recently, creative teaching of Zuiikin English. See how to market a simple innovation of Mentaiko Spaghetti (Spicy cod Roe - represented by the little cuties in the videos. Its success is probably more a result of the hypnotic Young Pioneer hymn like theme song) here

    We all have something to learn from Japan, one of the most fascinating nation in this world. Yeah, they committed big crimes from 140 to 60 years ago. There are still perhaps quite a few of bigots, some even running its goverment. But this country has a lot of stuffs you would love.

    Here are a few of my fav's, each representative of its own class, brilliant, innovative, humorous, creepy, anti-authority/unconventional/breaking taboo.

    The classic: Hungry? Cup Noodle!

    More in the series
    1 Mammoth, 2 Rhino, 3 Giraffe, 4 Seafood, 5 Ostrich, 6 Monster?

    Gatsby Hair-dye -- "life is colorful... men also colorful...." (in Japanese the word "colorful" also means "many different types"

    Fanta -- helplessness of pupils in each class in the 3rd grade with their teachers, each flavor of Fanta comes to rescue

    Wacoal, Up! Up!

    I'm loving it!

    Related link:
    1) TV in Japan's CM collections
    2) 20 Asian video clips (Not all are from Japan, and not all are CM. I have also seen better ones. But this is a decent sampling.)


    US-China Trade balance and RMB

    Tyler Cowen has a nice piece on NYT today (cached below), speaking out the obvious about RMB and US trade balance.
    • "The United States should not be spending its international political capital on yuan revaluation, which is at best a nonevent."
    Harvard's Greg Mankiw's agrees. Brad DeLong commented on a highly hypothetical worse case what-if scenario of China stop buying US treasury. He perhaps worried too much.
    • 1) Where else would China realistically put the cash? The weight of US Treasury in China's portfolio may drop gradually. But it will not be abrupt nor it will be.
    • 2) As Mankiw and DeLong both agreed, equoted, China is doing a big favor to the US, both by selling at a very low price and financing the US at very low interest rate. Even if you take the latter away, there is still the former. China did that not for charity, but because US provided what China needs: an opportunity to practice its capitalism and technology upgrade, and a low-risk option for investment. Fair trade in free market.
    • 3) Cowen is right in that, the revaluation, is therefore, a non-event for US. (Hence not worth the wasting of its political capital
    In an ideal world, US may be able to assist or micro-manage China's economy, as Brad DeLong hoped. In reality, even the PRC government cannot control the rhythm of dragon heartbeat! Therefore, Cowen is spot on in that US should not try to micro-manage China. Instead, what US should do is to offer technical advice and warning to help China handle the challenge. In a globalized world economy, China's success in managing its economy has positive impact on US, and vice versa.

    Brad Sester diagrees. But I do not think Cowen's conclusion and proposal contradicts with any of the facts in Brad's testimony. Because,
    • Brad's 4 points in his testimony
      1) "RMB significantly undervalued." I think RMB is undervalued. But how significant it is is a debated question, some said 40%, some said 10-15% a year ago. With the drift in the past 14 months it is now 5-10% vs 35%. The more relevant question is, what to do with it? or does it really matter what is done (to China, vs to US, vs to the world)?
      2) "China has 'heavily' intervened". Yes, any system other than free floating requires quite heavy intervention, if that is what "heavy" means. Again, I would say most of the impact/consequence (and risks) of the intervention are on China itself. If the world should worry, it should worry that China destabilizes itself and the consequence ripples through the world system
      3) "China's surplus generated impact on US financial system." Yes, low interest rate kept down by high demand on Treasury notes by China, Russia, OPEC countries, in the same order of magnitude. China isn't alone in this. Why picked China?
      4) "China's current account surplus need to be reduced for the sake of global economy". It is not obvious why china's current account surplus is neccessarily a bad thing. it certainly represents an inefficient allocation of capital/resource on china's part. It is not good for China. But the implication on US or the world is not that clear-cut. I think this is one of Cowen's key points.

      My take on Cowen is that his view is probably is similar to mine regrding the 4 points above, no fundamental disagreement, but somewaht different interpretation. The conclusions are
      1) taking into account the total impact (i wish someone with good access to the data can do a quantitative sum up) of US export, price inelastic segment of the import vs price elastic segment to US, the net effect of RMB reval on US-China merchandise trade may be quite insignificant, even though it may be in the same direction as Brad predicted
      2) as commentator Dor (in Brad's blogpost) pointed out, the job loss in US is tiny, 150k/150M =0.1%; if one takes into account the job creation/retention in Boeing/etc, it is even smaller.
      3) taking into account US business stakes in businesses in Chinese (eg eg iPOD produced in China sold to EU/Japan, KFC's profit in China market) and hence ths profit repatriated to US, the trade balance could narrow significantly. It is important to differentiate total "trade" (cashflow, including merchandise, service, investment, expatriate, etc) vs the often discussed "merchandise trade"

      a) is it worthwhile to waste US political capital on an issue that is questionable to the overall US business/economic interests?
      b) it is not efficient for US to micro-manage China's economy, and micro-management from a distance often get things wrong or drive things opposite to one's original intention.
    (To be continued)

    China Is Big Trouble for the U.S. Balance of Trade, Right? Well, Not So Fast


    Published: September 7, 2006

    CONTRARY to popular opinion, China may be good for our trade balance. American consumers seem determined to spend money, and Chinese businessmen have made the bill cheaper.

    It is not the case that China is simply draining the United States of money. Most of the growth in Chinese exports to the United States has come from switching manufacturing and assembly from other, more expensive, Asian countries. In 1985, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea accounted for 52.3 percent of America’s trade deficit. By 2005, this percentage had fallen to 40.9 percent, in part because of cost savings from buying Chinese.

    From 1986 to 1988, Taiwan and South Korea accounted for 60 percent of American footwear imports; China was only 2 percent. By 2001, market positions had reversed; China produced about 60 percent of the total and Taiwan and South Korea about 2 percent. Toys and sporting goods show similar gains by the Chinese, again driven by lower prices. (For these and related figures, see “China’s Embrace of Globalization” by Lee Branstetter, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, and Nicholas R. Lardy, senior research associate at the Institute for International Economics, at http://www.nber.org/papers/w12373.)

    American policy makers are nonetheless concerned about cheap Chinese imports. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. will visit China this month, in part to pressure the Chinese to allow their currency, the yuan or renminbi, to rise in value on world markets. C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Center for International Economics, has been calling for a revaluation of the yuan for years, in the hope that a more valuable currency will make Chinese exports more expensive.

    The belief is that if the dollar has less value in China, Americans will spend less on Chinese products to offset the prices they pay per item. But even if the numbers work out so that the flow of dollars to China diminishes, American consumers will pay higher prices and see fewer goods from China. Yuan revaluation is unlikely to benefit the United States, even if it does lower its trade deficit.

    The trade effects of a revaluation of the yuan are unlikely to be large, in part because many Chinese exporters specialize in assembly. China sends out money buying components like semiconductors and turns them into finished goods, thereby running a trade deficit with East Asia. A new and higher value for the yuan would largely be a wash for these activities. With a stronger currency, China would have a harder time selling its electronic goods, but this would be offset by its greater purchasing power over the semiconductors. It would not do much damage to the Chinese competitive position.

    The Chinese keep the yuan low, relative to the dollar, by buying up United States Treasury securities; as of early 2006, the Chinese central bank held up to $470 billion in Treasury securities. This huge accumulation of relatively low-yielding assets is the investment strategy of risk-averse bureaucrats, but it may bring longer-term benefits. Those assets can someday be sold or otherwise transferred to underdiversified Chinese financial institutions. The accumulation gives the Chinese a stake in American prosperity and signals that the Chinese are committed to long-term participation in the global economy. On the American side, the Treasury market is more liquid and the budget deficit can be financed at lower cost.

    The yuan should not, as matters stand, float freely with free capital movements. Large quantities of Chinese savings, currently restricted to the domestic currency, would probably flee the country, worsening the serious solvency problems at Chinese banks. The Chinese must first clean up their banking system before they can have free capital markets. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, a market-determined value for the yuan might well be lower than today’s exchange rate, not higher.

    To the United States, the primary gains from yuan revaluation would come from the increased spending by Chinese consumers on American exports. But the Chinese are, and should be, extremely cautious. In addition to saving about 50 percent of their incomes, they are spending most of the rest on local basics, like food, cheap cars or education. Health care is a probable growth sector. China is still a poor country, and its potential to drive American export success is modest for the foreseeable future.

    Revaluation advocates claim that the Chinese need a stronger currency to prevent their economy from “overheating.” China may indeed not be stable. But it is unlikely that the United States government can successfully micromanage another country of 1.3 billion people into a soft landing. Chinese economic data is very poor and Americans do not have a good record in advising transition economies. The Chinese recipe for economic growth, which encouraged exports, seems to be working, although it ran counter to efforts by American economists and policy makers to promote the privatization of state-owned companies.

    The climb of the Chinese economy out of Communism and into prosperity has brought the world, and the United States, a free lunch. Consumer goods of many kinds are cheaper and the Chinese are likely to generate many scientific and technical innovations. Steering the value of the Chinese currency — from Washington — is unlikely to increase those gains. The United States should not be spending its international political capital on yuan revaluation, which is at best a nonevent.

    Tyler Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He is co-author of a blog at www.marginalrevolution.com. He can be reached at tcowen@gmu.edu.



    "Feeling the China elephant" phenomenon 盲人摸象

    The illustration is from the MOP discussion forum, a commentator posted in repsonse to Jessey Meng Guangmei's toilet-gate controversy (more details in Chinese).

    The comic illustrates the Chinese proverb "Blind men feeling the elephant 盲人摸象" (which probably originated from India, and spread to China with Buddhism)
    • It was six men of Indostan
      To learning much inclined,
      Who went to see the Elephant
      (Thought all of them were blind).
      That each by observation
      Might satisfy his mind.

      The FIRST approached the Elephant
      And happening to fall
      Against his broad and sturdy side
      At once began to bawl:
      'God bless me, but the Elephant
      Is very like a wall!'

      The SECOND, feeling of the tusk,
      Cried 'Ho! What have we here
      So very round and smooth and sharp?
      To me 'tis mightly clear
      This wonder of an Elephant
      Is very like a spear.'

      The THIRD approached the animal,
      And happening to take
      The squirming trunk within his hands,
      Thus boldly up and spake:
      'I see, 'quoth he, 'the Elephant
      Is very like a snake!'

      The FOURTH reached out his eager hand,
      And felt about the knee,
      'What most this wondrous beast is like
      Is mightly plain, 'quoth he:
      'Tis clear enough the Elephant
      Is very like a tree!'

      The FIFTH, who chanced to touch the ear,
      Said: 'E'en the blindest man
      Can tell what this resembles most,
      Deny the fact who can,
      This marvel of an Elephant
      Is very like a fan!'

      The SIXTH no sooner had begun
      About the beast to grope,
      Than, seizing on the swinging tail
      That fell within his scope,
      'I see, 'quoth he, 'the Elephant
      Is very like a rope!'

      And so these men of Indostan
      Disputed loud and long,
      Each in his own opinion
      Exceeding stiff and strong.
      Though each was partly in the right
      And all were in the wrong.

      So, oft in theologic wars
      The disputants, I ween,
      Rail on in utter ignorance
      Of what each other mean
      And prate about an Elephant
      Not one of them has seen!
    The comic above shows Meng saying this
    • "The elephant, YOU KNOW, is jut one rope...
    • And, it feels very rough to my hand...
    • Judging from my many years of modeling, talk show hosting, and acting experiences, the elephant, is just like a rope and nothing more."
    I do not have anything more insightful to say about the constroversy around Ms Meng than already discussed in sites like the Mop, except these minor tidbits,
    1. Meng handled the response extremely poorly (threatening to sue) for something which could have been dealt with much easier (the more vicious host Li Jing simply apologized and no one picked on her);
    2. There are some inconsistencies which illustrates Meng's carelessness (e.g. She said People's Square when mentioning the toilets on July/1/1997, but earlier said she went to Beijing on that day. The Chinese poster concluded she meant to say TAM in BJ) - the original videos are quite hilarious, though the facts discussed often dated and even wrong, but what do you expect from a cheap talk show;
    3. For netizen comments from both camps see Mop, which also asked commentator to identify themselves on the 2 opposite camps (optionally) and selected/organized representative arguments from both sides. I think this approach is ingenious and will be adopted by many content sites, forums and even blogs which draw a lot of comments.
    4. To be fair to Ms Meng, when the host Li Jing pressed about rumours of artists being kidnapped or coerced by 'triad gangsters' in mainland, Meng and the other 2 guests spoke the truth in defense of the mainland, saying this never happens in major cities such as Shanghai/Beijing, and that even in smaller cities it is unorganized coercion or business disputes at worst.
    What I want to talk about here is the ubiquitous phenomenon in China-related internet forum and blogs written in English, the phenomenon of "Feeling the China elephant". Such phenomenon is understandable, given Ms Meng, who has spent over 10 years in mainland China and HK, and a native speaker in Chinese, still makes confusing mistakes ranging from names of locations to the sensitivies of mainland Chinese audiences.

    China is an enormous country, both geographically and demographically. Everyone watching China, including this blogger, is trying to feel his elephant with a partial view. In the controversial talk show Meng starred, there is a discussion about how each province has its own celebrities, and a provincial celebrities is hardly recognized in other part of China. This illustrates the fragmentation pretty well.

    It is also very easy to reach an absurd conclusion if one is not careful. An example would be the Koguryo history controversy. While a simple minded reader may react to China's incorporating Koguryo into its own national history as a sign for soveriegnty ambition on the whole of Korea peninsula, the reality is that PR China was only being defensive on the current boundary in which there are a few millions of Korean minorities and a few very important ancient Koguryo heritage sites, using a rather clumsy backward projection of its current geography and demography as one of its historic views.

    Therefore, it is important to remember how incomplete our eye sights are, and always look for different POV for comparison. In addition, we need to note everyone, this blogger included, is biased in his/her own way, given what s/he saw, read, heard, and experienced. (related quote: as Thomas Barnett said, "Chinese like the Western look because it's rare there, but the same logic holds true for China's appeal to the rest of the world.")

    There are, of course, people who push their own agendas, by presenting distorted/selected facts, decorated with subjective false logic. They are trying to tell you the elephant looks like a rope even though they themselves see more than that. The often used trick is to quote isolated and unsubstantiated cases and try to mislead readers into over-generalization. Examples are revealed in the following posts/comments 偉大的反共文豪, 文化郭芙, Quacking Canard.


    Perturbation theory, diversion vs dam-building

    Professor Steven Cheung wrote in his new piece "Buddha-Mountain's attempt in making Buddha headache" 佛山试制大头佛 describing how the new policy in Foshan (literally, Buddha-Mountain) City in Guangdong, in an attempt to cool the property market, could backfire (in Cantonese, creating a headache for the Buddha).

    I will first summarize Cheung's essay, [inserting my own opinion in square brackets]. Then I will make a few brief comments

    Cheung's essay

    1) Case of Foshan and Guangzhou

    Background: Foshan and Guangzhou recently imposed a price cap on housing projects in certain areas in their cities. RMB3000/m2 for Foshan and RMB6000/m2 for Guangzhou. Granted, the price cap is above the current market prices. But there is still consequence to the market, as the market is not static.

    Quiz: If the price is capped below market, what will be the consequences?

    1. Auction price for land will be lower, because developers will calculate the price of land they are willing to pay based on the price of apartments they can sell for. However, the auction price will be higher than the theoretical price (i.e. using the cost model, discount rate, assuming the same profit margins, using selling price as input to calculate the cost of land). This is because developers will squeeze the cost of construction/development, including labor, materials, etc. Such "cost control" will very likely lead to low quality of the buildings, perhaps to an extent that safety parameters are compromised
        [Another example of price manipulation: if developer wants to price above market, it would have to inject many freebies, such as HK0.5M restauurant/spa coupons in Bel Air Projects of PCCW in HK -S]
    2. Since second hand apartments are not under price control, when the market goes up, it is likely that second hand apartments will be priced higher than the caps. However, if the market stays flat, second hand apartment price will not go up. This is because the new units are priced at the market already- the value matches the price as a result of "cost control" in point (1)
        [In the former case, developers and insiders may set up affiliate companies and sell all the apartments to these affiliates. The the affiliates will sell to the public at market price. Alternatively, there may be a coupon market for queuing position and right to buy (筹) such that the net price paid by consumer (i.e. including the right to buy) is the market price. In these situations, the prices of the units are slightly higher than the market price had the price cap regulation not been imposed. Because the consumer also pay for the cost of the affiliate/agent arrangements - precsiely the opposite of the intention of the regulators - S]
    3. Since the information channel/mediator of the market (i.e. price) has been distorted, the market is not functioning at its optimal efficiency. There will be waste and inefficiencies everywhere
    2) Case of Beijing

    Background: Beijing is contemplating restricting the number of large size units built, i.e. only 30% of new units can exceed 90m2. In guangzhou, 2 newly auctioned lots already specified that the areas of units cannot exceed 90m2. [Apparently an effort to ensure more supply with the same amount of floor size -S]

    1. Price drop in medium and small units (under 90m2); rise for large units [supply distorted]
    2. Descrease in land price (so will overall wealth of the nation), because the market is distorted and land use is not optimal
    3. More units of 90m2 will be build (less of 70-80m2), also more at 130-250m2 cannibalizing on 90-120m2 market segment.
        [(a) this illustrates point 2 above of sub-optimum land use (b) developers will respond by building adjacent units of, e.g. 80m2 and 40m2, separated by a cheap and easily torn down wall, and sell them in bundle. Another way that waste of resources is resulted (c) This phenomenon has already be demonstrated by HK's world record in Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz, in per km road or per capita measures, as tariff (and gasoline tax) deems cheap cars less desirable, like the 90-120 m2 units - S]
    4. Social stratification more pronounced, as the boundary of social class is characterized by more pronounced market segmentation and is highly visible

    Cheung illustrated in these cases why one should be careful in intervening the market. To be sure, intervention is almost always a bad thing, as you are trying to counter the force of nature, and distort the natural equilibrium/optimum points of the market. Therefore, all directives by human beings are, in reality, perturbations. Once we realize how limited our power is, we know where our strategy should focus on, i.e., "leveraging". This applies to economic, business and even political and military maneuvers.

    A good analogy is illustrated by the lesson of Dujiangyan, "Diverting the water flow is always a better solution than building a dam when it comes to flood control". I would illustrate this principle with 2 examples below
    1. Cheung's earlier suggestion of a lesser-evil option for discouraging speculative activities with a tax imposed on un-used and un-leased empty apartment unit. The measure is very specific and does not affect the normal market functions, it only discourages profiteering by changing hands, but does not penalize normal transactions based on "need" (i.e. shorting holding period before changing hands, with no tax penalty). However, as Cheung said, it is only a less-evil/second-best option because some of the changing-hand transaction (that could be held ,unexpectedly, longer than planned) are legitimate market activities.
    2. China's commodity negotiation strategy (souce: FT): FT reports that China was trying to leverage its volume to bargain for a better price in commodity market. However, volume is only a secondary factor in determining price. i.e. it only works if you have a credible alternative (or if the sellers are really divided). Such tactics are as good as dam building. One plausible "diversion" tactic would be top tackle the issue from another facet, e.g., first negotiate for long term commodity contracts in US$ and then let the RMB appreciate. (but there are side-effects/implications for RMB appreciation)