Amid harsh rhetoric, Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Zhong Shan and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sounded some conciliatory notes on Wednesday.Mr. Zhong, making a 30-hour visit to the U.S. to try to ease bilateral tensions, expressed confidence that politicians from the two countries “have the wisdom and ability to resolve existing problems.“Mr. Geithner said he be- lieved China would allow its currency to appreciate over time, according to a CNN interview transcript. While the U.S. “can’t force them to make that change…I think we can work through the tough things we have together,“ Mr. Geithner said.The stakes are high for both sides. The U.S. and China are among each other’s biggest trading partners, and numerous U.S. companies have investments in China. The U.S. is increasingly looking to China to cooperate on international strategic issues, such as nuclear nonproliferation and the fight against terrorism. (via WSJ ON YUAN – China and U.S. soften tone on yuan).
Let the games begin!
The Dragon and the Eagle are squaring off! An experienced US stalks China, waiting behind high walls of US$2500 billion foreign exchange reserves.
The US-China game has started in earnest. US, egged on by ‘macho’ voters and a cheering media, will:-
- Act tough
- Behave in a morally outraged and indignant manner
- Commentators will prescribe a trade war and sanctions
In parallel, analysts, academics, think-tanks, journalists will talk-up China. Like Greenspan talking-up the US dollar or Dow Jones. They will: -
- Hold up China an nation-exemplar
- Write books analysing on China. Such books will start pour out of our ears
- Make movies and novels about the ‘dominant’ Chinese in the US
- Study, extol Chinese culture /tradition /history, and hold forth as a shining example.
And China will be ‘uncompromising’! Act as though, they have a choice.
The change in dollar-yuan exchange ratio will happen. Peacefully, or with violent side shows. Assuming that the dollar-yuan revaluation will happen smoothly, is fraught with risk. That it will happen, without any significant disruption, is one, big, huge, slippery assumption. What will follow the Chinese moment in the sun?
What remains to be seen
What could set off economic mayhem in China? Crime in China (a simmering threat), terrorism in Xinjiang (remote possibility), real estate bubble (a real scenario)?
Will the Chinese Government be able to ride this storm? Without a war with India? Which side of the fence will China fall? Answers to these questions will be worth waiting for! And prepared with!
Last time …
It would do well to remember that last time when China had a problem, it resulted in the India China War of 1962. Just after the disastrous Great Leap Forward and before the equally disastrous Cultural Revolution.
The Great Leap Forward began in 1957-58, saw famine and hunger across China. After the Communist takeover of China, land seized from land owners, was given to peasants in 1949. Ten years later, in 1959, the Chinese State took away the same land from the same peasant. Food shortages, starvation followed. Western (questionable) estimates are that 30 million people died during this period. War with India followed in 1962 – a diversion from the domestic Chinese catastrophe.
What will it be this time?
At the same time he seriously plays down the horrors of Mao’s tyrannical rule, writing that “he remains, even today, a venerated figure in the eyes of many Chinese, even more than Deng Xiaoping” and that the Communist Party “succeeded in restoring its legitimacy amongst the people” and fostered “extremely rapid economic growth,” “despite the calamities of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.” In addition he diminishes the importance of the pro-democracy Tiananmen demonstrations and dissident sympathies, arguing that there is an “apolitical tradition” in China and that “the Confucian ethos that informed and shaped it for some two millennia did not require the state to be accountable to the people.” (via Books of The Times – The Dragon vs. the Eagle in Martin Jacques’ ‘When China Rules The World’ – Review – NYTimes.com).
For this one insight …
The Dragon versus the Eagle analogy is just hot air! A lot of hot air. China is too busy playing footsie with the USA to challenge! But the bit about China being ‘apolitical’ is a gem.
This bit about, China’s “apolitical tradition” in China and that “the Confucian ethos that informed and shaped it for some two millennia did not require the state to be accountable to the people.” This one observation by Martin Jacques’ explains so much about world history – and modern Asian history.
The axis of Confucian-Platonic authoritarian, ‘wise’ rulers, who were not accountable, was (and remains) the overwhelming model for the world. Property rights remained with less than o.1% of the people. Under the CRER principle, (cuius regio, eius religio, meaning whose land, his religion; CRER) even the most personal religious beliefs of the individual were subject to State approval, as per law.
Pareto’s principle … Ha!
Yes – Pareto was wrong.
Rarely (do they at all?) do 20% of the people get to own 80% the national wealth. It is usually about o.1%. Look at America. Less than 300,000 people (from the Forbes /Fortune lists, the Government and the academia, media) who control the US – a population of more than 300 million.
The West scorns the Chinese one-party rule. But how does one more, collusive party in the national polity, in a ‘democratic set-up, become the paragon of political virtue. Did it ever occur to its defendants, that a two-party polity just an illusion of choice and change. But, it was the same lack of accountability – in a more invisible manner?
The only exception to this was the Indic system of polity – where property rights were vested with the user, justice was decentralized (did any Indic king dispense justice?), religion was maya and dharma was supreme. The modern Indian State has acquired the Desert-Bloc-Platonic-Confucian authoritarian principles of the State as parens patriae. So, the power of the Indic ideas is something that India seems to have forgotten, missed and lost!!
In Greater China
In Hong Kong Chinese movies, till the 1990’s, a recurring theme was the Buddhist monk. Until the modernist Jackie Chan goes to America versions started coming out, it was always the wise Buddhist teacher who taught the Brave ‘Chinaman’ to fight against feudal oppression. It was always the Wise Buddhist Teacher who showed the way.
Lee Kuan Yew – a Confucius bhakt
Now this explains why Lee Kuan Yew extols Confucian virtues of Greater Chinese. Is it surprising that the ‘modern’ Chinese Government is so afraid of Buddhist revival that they have put restrictions on the Falun Gong followers from doing breathing exercises in the open. Falun Gong which attracted nearly 10 crore followers in the last 15 years, seems to have made the Chinese Government nervous.
Contrast the faith that the Chinese have in Buddhist teachers with the representation of Church and priests in Hollywood and you will see the contrast. One set has been able to maintain trust and faith for more than 2000 years – and the other set seems to have lost it in less than a 1000 years.
Is it any surprise that the common Chinese loves and venerates the Buddha – and the Chinese Government lays so much emphasis on Confucianism?
- Beijing marks Confucius’s happy return, aged 2,561 (guardian.co.uk)
- Falun Gong wins Vancouver court battle (cbc.ca)
- U.N. envoy defends Falun Gong, “evil cult” for China (reuters.com)
- The Ancient World | China (guardian.co.uk)
The director’s sister-in-law Mathilde Seigner hinted that the leader has been instrumental to the recent development.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is thanks to the President that Roman has been freed, but he has been super. The President has been very effective,” Times Online quoted her as telling Le Parisien newspaper.
Sarkozy had earlier expressed his views on the director being held on a US warrant for having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. (via Nicolas Sarkozy ‘helped’ Roman Polanski get bail).
Joseph Wambaugh on Hollywood
For years now, I have been avid reader of Joseph Wambaugh – a policeman turned writer. His comedies, wrapped in (mostly) LA or (sometimes) New York milieu, are in the style of Raymond Chandler under halogen lamp. The darker areas get better light. The chrome glints more. Glamour quotient gets mixed with large doses of warmth and understanding. Unlike Chandler, Wambaugh’s is never judgmental – which make his characters very real.
I read Wambaugh’s Glitter Dome, and twenty years later I remember one of his interesting observations on Hollywood,
Parking, not pussy, is at a premium around these parts, they said.
Sex, Cinema and Fashion
Hollywood, Bollywood (a patronizing name by which Indian film industry calls itself), haute couture businesses have a rather blase attitude about sex. Hence, to hold Hollywood to ordinary behavioural norms, has a puritanical air about it. In the Polanski affaire, the alleged victim, Samantha Geimer, wants the case closed.
But anyway, coming to why this story gets me curious, is why did Anand Jon, a haute couture designer get such a harsh sentence. Unwilling /semi-willing /actively willing sex in Hollywood /Bollywood /haute couture businesses is what (I have been given to believe is) normal. I mean these days, stars /starlets ‘leak’ sex tapes on the internet.
And no one has ever been seriously prosecuted, convicted and sentenced – as Anand Jon has been!
Where is the balance
I am assuming that Anand Jon is guilty. Is it the first time that models have tried advancing their career by sleeping with designers? Has it not happened before? I wonder what is it that Anand Jon did, which brought down the entire American judicial establishment onto him like ton of bricks. The case of the Sri Lankan Rajarathnam has similar smell to it.
The US prosecuting authority, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the Galleon Fund made some US$20 million out of this insider trading. I am sure that Galleon Fund (more than US$5 billion in assets under management) spent more than US$20 million on tea, coffee, espresso, soda, Evian and paper napkins. Rajrathnam’s own net worth was estimated by “Forbes” to be US$ 1.3 billion.
Is there any sense, any balance to these cases. Is Preet Bharara, indulging in reverse ‘affirmative action’ by prosecuting Rajarathnam? Is Preet Bharara trying to prove that he is colour blind?
“If you’re a wealthy trader, you aren’t special,” Bloomberg quoted Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as saying at a press conference. “Knock on our door before we come knocking on yours.”
If you ask me, he should investigate Hank Paulson, the Former Treasury Secretary, under whose watch many bankruptcies happened conveniently in favour of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.
India’s biggest money-spinner film was a Tamil film—Sivaji, starring none other than the superstar Rajinikant. Of course, there is the fact that the Aamir Khan starrer Ghajini is a remake of a Tamil film.
Even at debated figures, Sivaji’s gross of over Rs 100 crore was unheard of for Indian films, leave alone any regional cinema. India’s status as the largest film industry in the world comes from the combined forces of 22 languages, including Hindi which released 1,146 films in 2007 (according to the Ficci Frames PwC E&Y report 2008).
Of the over 1,000 films, only 257 were Hindi with Telugu coming close with 241 and Tamil in third place with 149, Kannada with 111 and Marathi with 97. The figures changed to mostly lesser numbers for regional yet the order remains more or less the same. Even if Hindi films muscle in with more commerce making up approximately 45% of the total Rs 96 billion filmed market (apprx), the other 55% cannot be ignored. (via What regional film industry should expect in ’09?- Business of Bollywood-Features-The Economic Times).
A few interesting aspects: -
1. The English media in India and the Westernized Indians snidely refer to the Indian film industry as Bollywood (Mumbai), Tollywood (Telugu film industry) Mollywood (Madras, Malayalam) Kollywood (Kodambakkam, Kolkatta) – as one would refer a poor country cousin.
2. Fact is the Indian film industry is driven by a completely different idiom, ethos when compared to Hollywood. In fact, Indian film industry itself is actually about 4-5 centres of film making (for different languages) – spread all over the country. Each of these centres have different film styles. So, the Indian film industry owes nothing to Hollywood – and Indians have difficulty in believing that. Hollywood is singularly unsuccessful in India.
3. The State is possibly the biggest drag on this industry – which is weighed down by heavy taxes.
4. The Mumbai industry remains dominated after a 70 years, by Punjabis and Muslims. There is something about (their cultural mix which enables) this dominance.
5. Isolated international success and limited (international) distribution organization of the industry, has stopped this industry from competing in the world markets. The completely different idiom and the creative mix, will create its own separate market.
6. Till about 10 years ago, Indian film industry was considered too ‘infradig’ to be studied, analysed or even understood – by the academia. That is slowly changing. Some interesting books and writers have emerged in the last 1 decade.