In order to be successful in Asia, Trump will have to reassure allies, create common ground with potential partners, and not cede any ground to our main challengers. Doing so does not necessarily mean dramatically changing U.S. policy or suddenly forcing a crisis with China. It does, however, require having a clear policy and placing the maintenance of Asian stability at the top of U.S. policy goals.
The following is an expanded version of an essay that first appeared in the Nikkei Asian Review.
Michael Auslin writes: The shock from Donald Trump’s stunning upset victory will eventually wear off, but the world will continue to obsess over his planned policies as he begins to lay out his governing agenda. For the nations of the Asia-Pacific, perhaps the biggest news was Trump’s reiteration of his vow to quit the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his first day in office next January. Given the expectations that TPP would help create a new strategic architecture for America in Asia, fears once again abound that Trump will reduce America’s position in the broader Indo-Pacific region.
“Despite the longevity of these relationships, Trump will inherit an alliance system that is under strain. First, his campaign rhetoric singled out both Japan and South Korea, our two main Asian allies, for not paying enough to support the U.S. forces that are based in their countries.”
Yet how well President-elect Trump deals with Asia will be a major factor in determining whether his presidency is a success or not. If he chooses to try and isolate America from half the world, then he may well find himself dealing with serious and unexpected crises that will shake the global economy and change the balance of power.
“He suggested that he might “walk away” from the alliances, if they do not increase their contributions. Moreover, Trump mused openly about letting both Japan and South Korea develop a nuclear weapons capability, thereby ending the decades-long U.S. policy of extended deterrence that prevented a nuclear arms race.”
Despite the attention paid by the Obama Administration to the Asia-Pacific, the regional geopolitical environment has deteriorated since 2009. China has become bolder, and has changed the balance of power in the South China Sea, at the same time that it is facing growing economic and political risk at home. North Korea continues to develop its nuclear and missile capabilities. America’s allies have become less convinced of the credibility of U.S. commitments, while other Asian nations have sought to avoid being drawn into a competition between America and China.
“Yet surprising some of his critics, just a week after winning the election, Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in New York. The meeting came at Abe’s request, and after an equally important phone call with besieged South Korean president Park Geun-hye, seemed to indicate that Trump recognized the importance of close ties with America’s Asian allies. “
In order to be successful in Asia, Trump will have to reassure allies, create common ground with potential partners, and not cede any ground to our main challengers. Doing so does not necessarily mean dramatically changing U.S. policy or suddenly forcing a crisis with China. It does, however, require having a clear policy and placing the maintenance of Asian stability at the top of U.S. policy goals.
Trump and US Allies
America’s postwar policy in Asia has had the overriding goal of preventing any one power from dominating the region. It has pursued this goal by maintaining an open, rules-based system that encourages trade and exchange, and creates norms of behavior that lead to greater cooperation. The primary means of ensuring the stability of that system has been the six decade-old U.S. alliance structure, often referred to as the “hub-and-spokes.” Centered on Japan (whose treaty was signed in 1960), along with South Korea (1953), Australia (1951), the Philippines (1951), and Thailand (1954), the alliance system is not merely about U.S. commitments to protect its treaty allies; rather, it has evolved over time into a way to facilitate a permanent, forward-based U.S. presence in Asia. This, in turn, has made the U.S. commitment to maintaining stability more credible than it would be otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »
Our nation faces many existential challenges that our politicians refuse to address.
Victor Davis Hanson writes: The Greek city-states in the fourth-century BC, fifth-century AD Rome, and the Western European democracies after World War I all knew they could not continue as usual with their fiscal, social, political, and economic behavior. But all these states and societies feared far more the self-imposed sacrifices that might have saved them.
“We seem to be reaching that point of stasis in postmodern America. Once simple and logical solutions to our fiscal and social problems are now seen as too radical even to discuss.”
Mid-fifteenth-century Byzantium was facing endemic corruption, a radically declining birthrate and shrinking population, and the end of civic militarism—all the last-gasp symptoms of an irreversible decline. Its affluent ruling and religious orders and expansive government services could no longer be supported by disappearing agrarians and the overtaxed mercantile middle class.
Returning to the values of the Emperor Justinian’s sixth-century empire that had once ensured a vibrant Byzantine culture of stability and prosperity throughout the old Roman east remained a nostalgic daydream. Given the hardship and sacrifice that would have been required to change the late Byzantine mindset, most residents of Constantinople plodded on to their rendezvous with oblivion in 1453.
We seem to be reaching that point of stasis in postmodern America. Once simple and logical solutions to our fiscal and social problems are now seen as too radical even to discuss. Consider the $20-trillion national debt. Most Americans accept that current annual $500 billion budget deficits are not sustainable—but they also see them as less extreme than the recently more normal $1 trillion in annual red ink.
“Race relations pose comparable paradoxes. Inner-city Chicago has turned into a war zone with over 500 murders so far this year alone.”
Americans also accept that the Obama administration doubled the national debt on the expectation of permanent near-zero interest rates, which cannot continue. When interest rates return to more normal historical levels of 4-5% per annum, the costs of servicing the debt—along with unsustainable Social Security and Medicare entitlement costs—will begin to undermine the entire budget.
“Illegal immigration, like the deficits, must cease, but stopping it would be too politically incorrect and painful even to ponder. The mess in Europe—millions of indigent and illegal immigrants who have fled their own failed states to become dependent on the largess of their generous adopted countries, but without any desire to embrace their hosts’ culture—is apparently America’s future.”
Count up current local, state and federal income taxes, payroll taxes, property and sales taxes, and new health care taxes, and it will be hard to find the necessary additional revenue from a strapped and overtaxed middle class, much less from the forty-seven percent of Americans who currently pay no federal income taxes.
The Obama administration has tried to reduce the budget by issuing defense cuts and tax hikes—but it has refused to touch entitlement spending, where the real gains could be made. The result is more debt, even as, paradoxically, our military was weakened, taxes rose, revenue increased, and economic growth remained anemic at well below 2% per annum.
“…there are few multiracial societies of the past that have avoided descending into destructive ethnic chauvinism and tribalism once assimilation and integration were replaced by salad-bowl identity politics. Common words and phrases such as ‘illegal alien’ or ‘deportation’ are now considered taboo, while ‘sanctuary city’ is a euphemism for a neo-Confederate nullification of federal immigration laws by renegade states and municipalities.”
Illegal immigration poses a similar dilemma. No nation can remain stable when 10-20 million foreign nationals have crashed through what has become an open border and reside unlawfully in the United States—any more than a homeowner can have neighbors traipsing through and camping in his unfenced yard. Read the rest of this entry »
China has failed to curb excesses in its credit system and faces mounting risks of a full-blown banking crisis, according to early warning indicators released by the world’.
A key gauge of credit vulnerability is now three times over the danger threshold and has continued to deteriorate, despite pledges by Chinese premier Li Keqiang to wean the economy off debt-driven growth before it is too late.
The Bank for International Settlements warned in its quarterly report that China’s “credit to GDP gap” has reached 30.1, the highest to date and in a different league altogether from any other major country tracked by the institution. It is also significantly higher than the scores in East Asia’s speculative boom on 1997 or in the US subprime bubble before the Lehman crisis.
Studies of earlier banking crises around the world over the last sixty years suggest that any score above ten requires careful monitoring. The credit to GDP gap measures deviations from normal patterns within any one country and therefore strips out cultural differences.
It is based on work the US economist Hyman Minsky and has proved to be the best single gauge of banking risk, although the final denouement can often take longer than assumed. Indicators for what would happen to debt service costs if interest rates rose 250 basis points are also well over the safety line.
China’s total credit reached 255pc of GDP at the end of last year, a jump of 107 percentage points over eight years. This is an extremely high level for a developing economy and is still rising fast.
Outstanding loans have reached $28 trillion, as much as the commercial banking systems of the US and Japan combined. The scale is enough to threaten a worldwide shock if China ever loses control. Corporate debt alone has reached 171pc of GDP, and it is this that is keeping global regulators awake at night. Read the rest of this entry »
Animal rights activists are seeking to shut down an annual summer dog meat festival in southern China blamed for harming the country’s international reputation as well as fueling extreme cruelty to canines and unhygienic food handling practices.
Christopher Bodeen reports: Activists from a coalition of groups said Monday that they will continue press for the festival to be banned as well as legislation outlawing the slaughtering of dogs and cats and the consumption of their meat.
While an estimated 10 million-20 million dogs are killed for their meat each year in China, the June 20 event in the city of Yulin has come to symbolize the cruelty and lack of hygiene associated with the largely unregulated industry.
Yu Hongmei, director of the VShine Animal Protection Association, said China needs to follow the example of the vast majority of developed nations that have banned eating dog and cat.
Restaurant owners say eating dog meat is traditional during the summer, while opponents say the festival that began in 2010 has no cultural value and was merely invented to drum up business. Since 2014, the local government has sought to disassociate itself from the event, forbidding its employees from attending and limiting its size by shutting down some dog markets and slaughter houses.
A man lights a cigarette as dogs roast at a restaurant in Yulin in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Animal rights activists are seeking to shut down an annual summer dog meat festival in southern China, which they call extreme cruelty to canines. AP
“China needs to progress with the times,” Yu said. “Preventing cruelty to animals is the sign of a mature, civilized society.”
Still, as many as 10,000 dogs, many of them stolen pets still wearing their collars, are slaughtered for the festival held deep inside the poor, largely rural Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Some are trucked in hundreds of miles stuffed six or seven to a crate or small metal cage without food or water. Slaughtering takes place in front of the animals, usually with a club to induce the pain and fear that restaurant owners claim makes their adrenaline-rich meat tastier.
A fifth person affiliated with a bookstore that sells books critical of China’s government went missing last week, raising concerns over Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Fiona Law reports: Hong Kong police are investigating the disappearance of the co-owner of a bookstore specializing in works critical of the Chinese government, that has prompted local lawmakers to voice fears that mainland Chinese law-enforcement agencies crossed the border to detain him.
Hong Kong and foreign media have reported that the wife of Lee Bo, a shareholder of Causeway Bay Books, told police on Friday that Mr. Lee had gone missing and that four people who worked for the bookstore or a publisher affiliated with it have gone missing in recent months, including one who disappeared in Thailand.
The late kelvin tang – photo source: hkVCRBase group @ 24dec 2015
Senior television journalist Kelvin Tang King-fai, once dubbed as Hong Kong’s ‘News Prince’, fell to his death the day before Christmas.
scmp.com reports: Shock among local journalists who knew Kelvin Tang from his heyday as a popular ATV news anchor during the 1990s
Senior television journalist Kelvin Tang King-fai, once dubbed as Hong Kong’s “News Prince”, fell to his death the day before Christmas.
Police said officers received a report at 7.12 am on Thursday that a man had fallen from a residential building on Tai Yue Avenue in Tai Koo Shing, Quarry Bay. The man was unconscious when paramedics arrived and he was brought to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Tang graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism in the 1980s. He joined KTSF Television in San Francisco in the United States after graduation and returned to Hong Kong in 1992 to join Asia Television. Read the rest of this entry »
Mark Potter and Elizabeth Chuck report: A dramatic spike in unaccompanied children and families trying to slip in across the U.S.-Mexico border may be “the new normal,” officials say, with some believing the surge is linked to a federal ruling that ended long-term detentions.
“The word is, come on ahead and the border is open, the Obama administration is going to take good care of you.”
The number of apprehensions of unaccompanied minors and family units — legal guardians with children under 18 — rushing the nation’s southwestern border peaked last year, then fell off as Obama tapped the Federal Emergency Management Agency to figure out what to do about the young refugees.
“Many Border Patrol agents and officials believe there may be a link between the current surge and a federal court ruling over the summer, when U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ordered federal officials to change how long they detain the thousands of mothers and children who are caught crossing illegally into the U.S. while fleeing violence in their home countries.”
But in recent months, apprehensions have proliferated again: More than 10,000 undocumented children have been stopped in just the last two months, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The 10,588 apprehensions are a 106 percent increase over the same Oct. 1 through Nov. 30 period from last year, when 5,129 kids were picked up.
A large group of Immigrants, guided by two “coyotes” or guides, walk on the desert of Sonora bound for the border with Arizona. This group consisted of 37 border crossers, from four different countries- They included people from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and one Brazilian. Sasabe, Mexico. 01/23/05
“We could very well be seeing the new normal.”
— Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Apprehensions of family units have jumped too, with 12,505 detentions in those two months, representing a 173 percent increase from last year’s 4,577 seizures in the same time frame.
“We could very well be seeing the new normal,” Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told NBC News.
Sources told NBC News that many Border Patrol agents and officials believe there may be a link between the current surge and a federal court ruling over the summer, when U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ordered federal officials to change how long they detain the thousands of mothers and children who are caught crossing illegally into the U.S. while fleeing violence in their home countries.
In a scathing ruling in which Gee said it was “deplorable” that families and young migrants are languishing in detention centers, she argued long-term detention is also in violation of an 18-year-old court settlement that restricted how long the government could house migrants while they pursue asylum. She gave federal officials until Oct. 23 to change the policy.
Under the new rules, an unaccompanied minor must be released from a federal detention center to a relative elsewhere in the U.S. after no more than five days, and their parent should be, too, so long as officials have determined they are not a flight risk. In rare exceptions, migrant children and families can be held up to 20 days, Gee ruled. Read the rest of this entry »
“The free-trade zone’s rules make it easier for foreign companies to run e-commerce operations, for example. But they have little benefit when it comes to activities such as Internet search and e-mail, which are dependent on the location of the server and the storage of data”
Google, of Mountain View, Calif., set up a company in Shanghai’s pioneer free-trade zone last year, according to online filings reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Companies such as Amazon and Apple use Shanghai’s free-trade zone to run some of their value-added services in China, due to the area’s looser rules on foreign capital and greater freedom in terms of industries that foreign businesses can participate in.
The free-trade zone’s rules make it easier for foreign companies to run e-commerce operations, for example. But they have little benefit when it comes to activities such as Internet search and e-mail, which are dependent on the location of the server and the storage of data, according to people familiar with the matter.
The right to privacy is usurping the public right to know in Asia’s financial hub.
Financial hubs depend on the free flow of information, and nowhere more so than in Hong Kong, gateway to the opaque China market. So a recent case in which an appeals board upheld the censorship of a court judgment to protect the supposed privacy rights of the litigants sets a bad precedent. The territory is following Europe’s lead toward extreme privacy protection at the expense of access to information.
“The right to be forgotten affects more than media freedom. It prevents investors and entrepreneurs from conducting due diligence and managing business risks, and helps people hide from public scrutiny. That may be good for the reputations of the rich and powerful, but it will hurt Hong Kong’s reputation for transparency.”
Luciana Wong Wai-lan, who now serves on several government advisory panels, participated in a matrimonial case in the early 2000s. In 2010 Ms. Wong requested that the court remove the judgments from its online reference system. The court made them anonymous, but hyperlinks to the judgments placed on the website of local shareholder activist David Webb still revealed her name.
Ms. Wong wrote to Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner for personal data in 2013, and the commissioner ordered Mr. Webb to remove the links pursuant to Data Protection Principle 3 (DPP3) of the Personal Data Privacy Ordinance. Read the rest of this entry »
Jeremy Page reports:The head of the secretive bodyguard unit that protects Chinese President Xi Jinping made a rare foray into the public spotlight on Friday, being put on the guest list for the state dinner at the White House.
Maj. Gen. Wang’s appointment to the bodyguard post has never been announced publicly by Chinese authorities, although Hong Kong media reported it in March, citing anonymous sources. The White House list confirms Maj. Gen. Wang’s position within an inner circle of trusted aides and advisers to Mr. Xi who see him almost every day and play an increasingly important role in Chinese politics.
The Central Security Bureau, also known as the Central Guard Bureau, is thought to command several thousand elite troops who protect top leaders and their families, according to experts on the Chinese military.
Its commander has always occupied a politically sensitive and influential position, given the bureau’s access to the top leadership. The post is considered to have become more so since Mr. Xi launched an anticorruption campaign that has led to the detention of more than 30 generals and several senior civilian Communist Party figures. Read the rest of this entry »
“I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without.”
‘When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past,’ the Roman Catholic pontiff said. ‘We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us.’
“Francis told lawmakers that the ‘Golden Rule … reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.'”
Speaking in English – a language he has learned only recently – Francis also dropped coded messages to conservatives about gay marriage and abortion, and made an impassioned plea for a left-leaning approach to capital punishment in an unprecedented visit to Capitol Hill by a sitting Pope.
‘I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without,’ Francis told a packed House chamber filled with legislators, Supreme Court justices and multiple presidential candidates.
Pope Francis on Thursday morning became the first-ever pontiff to address the US Congress
Francis took the opportunity to lecture lawmakers on a variety of topics ranging from social to environmental issues. Known as a forceful advocate, he did not disappoint
Francis about to be introduced at the door to the House chamber
Francis’s address was heard by an audience of several hundred, including lawmakers, Supreme Court justices and presidential candidates
“Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.”
And without mentioning abortion by name – or the name of the embattled domestic Planned Parenthood organization – Francis told lawmakers that the ‘Golden Rule … reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.’
Francis spoke calmly but emphatically, never raising his voice as presidents often do in their State of the Union addresses to joint congressional sessions.
In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.
He was greeted by polite applause at certain points – particularly when he began reciting the Golden Rule but was interrupted before he could finish – ‘do unto others as you would have done unto you.’
Also, notably, applause broke out after these words: ‘The Golden Rule reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of development.’
But the applause was never raucous, a sign that members heeded party leaders’ directive not to applaud effusively or ‘glad-handle’ Francis if they got close to him.
Behind him on the raised speaker’s dais, close watchers got a different show during the speech, as both Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner – both well-known emotional men – proved to be almost as watchable.
“Francis’s speech was sprinkled with references to American history, as the pontiff repeatedly referenced and occasionally quoted from President Abraham Lincoln, civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., Catholic Worker Movement founder Dorothy Day and Cistercerian monk Thomas Merton.”
Throughout the speech, Biden gravely nodded his head and looked down as if in serious thought. But Boehner appeared to tear up at several points, and was openly crying later on the Speaker’s Balcony after the address.
Francis’s speech was sprinkled with references to American history, as the pontiff repeatedly referenced and occasionally quoted from President Abraham Lincoln, civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., Catholic Worker Movement founder Dorothy Day and Cistercerian monk Thomas Merton.
The pontiff made clear his firmness on the sanctity of human life, not only the veiled reference to abortion but also his opposition to the death penalty.
Francis and House Speaker John Boehner meet for the first time near the House of Representatives chamber
Biden, a Roman Catholic who co-presided over the Joint Session of Congress as the constitutionally appointed president of the U.S. Senate, caused a stir this week by declaring that he believes life begins at conception.
But it’s Francis’ comments about immigrants that will be most sharply felt as the U.S. deals with the twin crises of Syrian refugees and an immigrant invasion from Mexico and Central America, both of which the Obama administration has taken steps to pacify by loosening America’s borders as a show of compassion. Read the rest of this entry »
Hungry for some pizza? Just print it out with a click of the mouse.
Taiwan’s XYZ 3D printer layers the ingredients before the food can be baked in the oven and gives space-age chefs the ability to choose their own shapes and upload files of their snacks.
The printer can currently accommodate up to three tubes of printing ingredients — for example, a cookie dough-like mixture, chocolate for decorating biscuits, or dough, tomato sauce and cheese to form a pizza, a spokesman for the Taiwanese firm told MailOnline.
Chefs can also decorate their own baked goods before pressing “Print” on the touchscreen.
Currently, the gizmo can print out pizza, cookies and cake — but the company is working on developing other dishes, while also obtaining licenses for ingredients from food companies.
The printer sells for a bit more than a slice — $2,035. It’ll be available soon in Asia.
In early August, China’s foreign minister said the country had stopped land reclamation projects in the South China Sea that were worrying neighbors and irking the U.S. With Chinese President Xi Jinping gearing up for a state visit to the U.S., a Washington-based think tank has published satellite images that cast doubt on that statement.
Netflix just dipped its toes into Asia with a launch in Japan this month, and now the U.S. video streaming service has revealed plans for a major expansion that will see it hit four more countries…(read more)
Chun Han Wong reports: Is Beijing doubling down on its longstanding threat to reclaim Taiwan by force? That’s a concern for some Taiwanese after China’s state broadcaster showcased a recent military drill that featured soldiers storming an apparent replica of the island’s presidential palace.
“The Chinese Communist Party hasn’t given up on armed assault on Taiwan, and their military preparations are still geared toward the use of force against Taiwan.”
— Major Gen. David Lo, spokesman for Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense
Officials in Taipei have denounced the drill as harmful to the rapprochement of recent years between Taiwan and China, after decades of hostility following a civil war in the middle of the last century. Political and military experts, meanwhile, say the apparent targeting of an important political symbol for Taiwan marks Beijing’s latest bid to sway Taiwanese voters ahead of a key presidential poll next January.
“Militaries routinely practice fighting in combat scenarios based on their operational priorities and strategic realities. For the PLA, this would mean missions in the South China Sea, in the East Sea, and of course Taiwan.”
— Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military scholar
The newsreel in question, first aired by China Central Television on July 5, featured dramatic footage of an annual military exercise in northern China—spanning fiery artillery barrages, imposing armored columns and infantry assaults on a mock-up city. The video went largely unnoticed until Wednesday, when a Shanghai-based media outlet said it demonstrated how Beijing “would use force to solve the Taiwan issue.”
A screenshot of the CCTV report, which shows soldiers storming a structure that bears a resemblance to Taiwan’s presidential palace. youtube.com
The CCTV report swiftly struck a nerve in Taiwan, where President Ma Ying-jeou’s engagement policies with China have proved divisive, compounding the declining public support his ruling Nationalist Party is experiencing over economic and social fairness issues.
Many commentators on Taiwanese media directed their ire on segments from the newsreel that appeared to show Chinese troops advancing toward a red-and-white structure that closely resembled Taiwan’s Presidential Office—built in a distinctive European-style in the 1910s by Japanese colonial administrators.
A photo of the actual presidential palace. Bloomberg News
“By making the threat more recognizable and immediate than missiles fired off Taiwan’s northern and southern tips, or drills simulating an amphibious assault, Beijing may hope to engage ordinary Taiwanese not at the intellectual and abstract level, but on an emotional one.”
— J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior fellow with the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute
Most of the monarchies in Europe are constitutional monarchies, which means that the monarch does not influence the politics of the state: either the monarch is legally prohibited from doing so, or the monarch does not utilize the political powers vested in the office by convention.
Isaac Stone Fish writes: On a cool evening in late April, I watched a performance of Shen Yun, the two and a half hour variety show organized by the religious sect Falun Gong. Artistically, it was pleasant: The dancers are professionals, emotive and lithe. The emcees — one American, one Chinese — who introduce the acts and offer a bit of historical commentary, banter amicably if a bit awkwardly. Unsurprisingly for a performance held at Washington, D.C.’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and at flagship theaters around the world, the show and the orchestra are technically superb.
But Shen Yun, which ended its annual run at the Kennedy Center on April 26 and has performed in dozens of cities across the world since its founding in 2006, is not about the arts. It’s not about “reviving 5,000 years of civilization,” as the show’s ubiquitous fliers proclaim; nor is it a Chinese version of the wildly popular Canadian circus company Cirque du Soleil, as the older gentleman sitting next to me at the performance expected.
Rather, Shen Yun exists to transmit a message: that heavenly forces will destroy modern-day China, obliterating the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has ruled the country since 1949.
Falun Gong was founded in China in 1992 by qigong (energy cultivation) practitioner and former grain clerk Li Hongzhi. Emphasizing the three principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance — values seen as lacking in modern China — the organization quickly grew in popularity. At its peak in the late 1990s, it had millions of practitioners across the country.
“An unknown but presumably very small number of people continue to practice Falun Gong inside mainland China.”
Practitioners perform breathing and movement exercises thought to improve health and extend one’s life. More serious members may subscribe to some of the organization’s religious beliefs, which borrow from the Buddhist notion of the cycles of rise, flourishing, decline, and death, says Benjamin Penny, author of the 2012 book The Religion of Falun Gong.
“They’ve always had this notion that there was this physical end point coming, and that practitioners, or those that cultivate good to a certain level, will survive to the next cycle,” notes Penny, who’s also the deputy director of the Australian Centre on China in the World. Read the rest of this entry »
It may be hard to measure just how much Singapore’s famed spitting crackdown helped – but it certainly didn’t hurt.
The governing philosophy of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew contained multitudes: a belief in the enriching power of the free market; a development agenda implemented by a strong central government at the expense of personal freedoms. Alongside these well-known themes, however, there was also this: absolutely never, under any circumstances, would there be public spitting in the Lion City.
“Many of the biggest admirers of Singapore’s rise have since followed in its footsteps and stepped up anti-spitting measures. In 2003, in the wake of the regional SARS outbreak, Hong Kong announced a “no-tolerance” policy, tripling the penalty for spitting to $300.”
In Singapore, anyone caught expectorating can be hit with a hefty fine of up to $1,000 and $5,000 for repeat offenders. That law is part of a raft of legislation that Lee put in place — on gum chewing, bird feeding, and flushing public toilets — that reached deep into citizens’ daily lives and that remain a part of Singapore’s legal code today.
Lee’s strictures on spitting were designed to curb a habit fairly thoroughly ingrained in traditional Chinese culture. Here, for example, Deng Xiaoping meets with Margaret Thatcher with a spittoon in the foreground. The Chinese reformer was a lifelong spitter.
“The Shenzhen ban comes at a time when the politics of spitting as a dividing line between the ‘civilized’ and ‘uncivilized’ world have grown increasingly fraught, given the growing clout of mainland China, a country of rampant spitters.”
Spitting has long been against the law in Singapore, a vestige from the days when, as the New York Times put it in 2003, “British colonialists tried in vain to quell what the port’s Chinese immigrants once considered as natural as breathing.” The city-state didn’t begin enforcing laws on the behavior until 1984. But when Singapore did decide to crack down, it meant it: The government fined 128 people for spitting that first year and another 139 in 1985. Read the rest of this entry »
‘The regulators require the birth system in our games to meet the regulations of birth-control policies.’
Let’s say you load up The Sims (China Edition). You make your little character. What’s the first thing he should do? Register for a hukou, of course. And then get a national ID card. A bit down the road, if he gets married, he’d better not think of having a second child without paying a social-compensation fee. Aren’t video games fun?
According to an article on MarketWatch, this scenario isn’t as ridiculous as it seems. The folks at MarketWatch spoke to a Chinese game developer who ran into issues with authorities who believe that video games should reflect the laws and regulations of the PRC.
“The regulators require the birth system in our games to meet the regulations of birth-control policies [in China],” says the developer, who had to make changes after his game originally allowed for characters to have multiple children. Read the rest of this entry »
Kristen Ang and Dean Napolitano report: The third edition of Art Basel Hong Kong kicks off March 15, with artists, collectors, gallerists and others descending on the city for the three-day fair. The event, which was held in May the first two years, was pushed up to March this year.
“May was a real obstacle in terms of trying to realize the full potential of the show in Hong Kong. I think we’ll have a higher quality of works because these are galleries that have access to better material. I think that even the galleries who were here in the previous years will continue to bring better and better material as they feel like the market becomes more and more sophisticated.”
— Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s director
WSJ’s Wei Gu and Paolo Bosonin give a preview of the must-see works at this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong.
“Jagland’s ejection from the chairmanship marks the first time that a sitting Nobel Peace Prize committee boss has been demoted in the history of the prize — since 1901”
Jagland, 64, was serving his first year as Peace Prize chairman when his committee conferred the international award upon Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
The committee announced that Obama would receive the award in October 2009, just over eight months after he became president.
“The war in Iraq officially ended more than two years later, in December 2011. Since that time, the political situation has deteriorated markedly. A new entity called ISIS currently controls a portion of Iraq and Syria which is, in total, twice the size of Pennsylvania.”
In response to a barrage of criticism, Jagland proclaimed that the Nobel committee’s goal was to hail Obama’s oratory about removing nuclear weapons from the world. Jagland also said he hoped to symbolize “the spirit of the times, the needs of the era,” according to Deutsche Welle.
When Obama received his Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, the United States was engaged in wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The war in Iraq officially ended more than two years later, in December 2011. Since that time, the political situation has deteriorated markedly. A new entity called ISIS currently controls a portion of Iraq and Syria which is, in total, twice the size of Pennsylvania.
The American-led coalition in Afghanistan officially ended combat in December 2014. However, U.S. forces continue to skirmish constantly with militant Islamic radicals. Read the rest of this entry »
On November 7, 2013, Pope Francis gave his personal blessing to Golden Rice (GR). Why is this significant? Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is responsible for 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness and up to 2 million deaths each year. Particularly susceptible are pregnant women and children. Across the globe, an estimated 19 million pregnant women and 190 million children suffer from the condition. The good news, however, is that dietary supplementation of vitamin A can eliminate VAD. One way that holds particular promise is the administration via GR, which had been engineered to produce large amounts of vitamin A. A 2012 study by Tang et al published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 100-150 g of cooked GR provided 60% of the Chinese Recommended Intake of vitamin A. Estimates suggest that supplementing GR for 20% of the diet of children and 10% for pregnant women and mothers will be enough to combat the effects of VAD.
Unfortunately, public misconceptions about genetically modified (GM) organisms have prevented GR from being available to the countries most affected by VAD. One such country is the Philippines, where more than 80% of the population identifies as Roman Catholic and field trials of GR are nearing completion. An official blessing of the church, therefore, could do a great deal to build support, allowing the Philippines to serve as a model for many of its neighbors on the potential health impacts of widespread availability and consumption of the golden grain.
Regrettably, the church did not provide an official endorsement. It turns out that there is quite a distinction between the pope’s personal blessing and an official statement of support from the Vatican. To understand the nature of that distinction, we turned to the person who elicited the blessing, GR coinventor and ASPB member Ingo Potrykus. At the time of the blessing, Ingo, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, had been attending a meeting at the Vatican on the interaction of nutrition and brain development.
At the end of the meeting, he was able to meet Pope Francis and took the opportunity to share a packet of GR. In response, the pope offered his personal blessing. (If an official blessing of the Holy See was given, it would come from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.) From Ingo’s perspective, the pope is concerned that genetic modification technology primarily benefits big business and not the poor. Read the rest of this entry »
By the close of trading in Hong Kong Monday, Mr. Li and his family’s stakes in Hutchison and Cheung Kong were valued at US$19.9 billion combined, up 14.5% from US$17.4 billion Friday. Cheung Kong soared 14.7% to close at 143.2 Hong Kong dollars (US$18.47) Monday, outperforming the benchmark Hang Seng Index’s 0.5% gain, while Hutchison Whampoa jumped 12.5% to close at HK$98.35.
Mr. Li, 86 years old, said Friday the real-estate assets of Cheung Kong and Hutchison will be carved out into a new company listed in Hong Kong, to be called CK Property. Read the rest of this entry »
Twelve people were killed on Wednesday when police in Paris said three gunmen attacked the office of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The terrorist attack sent shock waves through the global media community, prompting an outpouring of support for the victims as officials condemned the violence and authorities hunted the assailants. Here is a selection of front pages, set for publication Thursday, that led with the tragedy…(see more)
Movie lovers in Hong Kong won’t have to travel all the way
to Park City, Utah, to catch the best in American independent films. The Sundance Film Festival is coming to Hong Kong in an abridged edition that will screen eight films from this year’s film bash.
The festival kicks off on Friday with “Whiplash,” which grabbed the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic competition, about a young drumming prodigy and his overbearing teacher. Other highlights include “The Skeleton Twins,” a comedy-drama about a suicidal man that’s won rave reviews, and Mark Ruffalo as a manic-depressive family man in “Infinitely Polar Bear.” Read the rest of this entry »
The combined wealth of the world’s billionaires increased by 12 percent to $7.3 trillion, higher than the combined market capitalization of all the companies that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average
For CNBC, Ansuya Harjani reports: The world economy is going through a rough patch, yet the world’s billionaire population is at an all-time high.
“The fastest growing segment of the billionaire population, in terms of wealth source, are those who inherited only part of their fortunes and became billionaires through their own entrepreneurial endeavors.”
A new survey shows that 155 new billionaires were minted this year, pushing the total population to a record 2,325 – a 7 percent increase from 2013.
Credit goes to the United States – home to the most billionaires globally – where 57 new billionaires were recorded this year, according to the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census 2014 released on Wednesday.
Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean were also large contributors, with 52 and 42 new entrants, respectively.
“The fastest growing segment of the billionaire population, in terms of wealth source, are those who inherited only part of their fortunes and became billionaires through their own entrepreneurial endeavors,” the report said, noting that 63 percent of all billionaires’ primary companies are privately held. Read the rest of this entry »
The territory’s citizens must not give up demanding full democracy—for their sake and for China’s
Chinese officials have called it a “leap forward” for democracy in Hong Kong. Yet their announcement on August 31st of plans to allow, for the first time, every Hong Kong citizen to vote for the territory’s leader has met only anger and indifference. Joy was conspicuously absent. This is not because Hong Kong’s citizens care little for the right to vote, but because China has made it abundantly clear that the next election for Hong Kong’s chief executive, due in 2017, will be rigged. The only candidates allowed to stand will be those approved by the Communist Party in Beijing, half a continent away.
“Xi Jinping, the party chief and president, had the opportunity to use Hong Kong as a test-bed for political change in China. Had he taken this opportunity, he might have gone down in history as a true reformer. Instead, he has squandered it.”
At its worst, this risks provoking a disaster which even China cannot want. Democrats are planning protests. It is unclear how many people will join in, but the fear is that the territory’s long history of peaceful campaigning for political reform will give way to skirmishes with police, mass arrests and possibly even intervention by the People’s Liberation Army. That would disrupt one of Asia’s wealthiest and most orderly economies, and set China against the West. But even if, as is likely, such a calamity is avoided, this leap sideways is a huge missed opportunity not just for Hong Kong but also for the mainland. A chance to experiment with the sort of local democracy that might have benefited all of China has been missed. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the many things I love about being in HK is the discovery of novel flavors. Like osmanthus! Its fragrant, sweet-smelling flowers (native to east Asia) are often dried and gently folded into florally nuanced desserts like osmanthus jelly, which also often contains wolfberries (goji berries – so it must be healthy!) and usually serves as a finishing touch after a belly-swelling dim sum session. Think of it as a refined, prettier, tastier Jell-O…(read more)
Does this sound familiar? You’re wrapping up a great meal at some fantastic restaurant – stuffed, maybe even overstuffed. Feeling the food coma creep in, you sense your brain struggling to maintain consciousness as your body desperately attempts digestion. Seeing you slump slightly in your chair, the waiter walks by with the dessert menu but passes you by, assuming you’re down for the count.
“Take the Hong Kong egg tart, for example…Best when freshly baked and still a tad warm, these little tarts are like a sweet hug for your stomach.”
Mere moments before he’s out of reach, you eagerly snatch the menu from his confused fingers. There’s ALWAYS room (and energy) for dessert! As my friends (and dentist) can attest, my sweet tooth is relentless.
“Maybe it’s bold for me to say, but I do believe they can melt even the staunchest Asian dessert cynic.”
You know how cows have 4-chamber stomachs? I must have bovine tendencies, since no matter how full I may be, I appear to magically grow a separate stomach chamber just in time for dessert! Are you with me?
Much to my surprise, Hong Kong is brimming with bakeries, pâtisseries, cafés, and cha chaan tengs (Chinese tea restaurants). Sometimes, these are more local shops, serving local desserts. Despite the somewhat negative stereotype that clouds western perceptions about Asian desserts, some of the local sweets here really do hold their own. And there is a fun element of novelty, at least to Chinese-dessert-virgins (you get what I mean).
Justifiably famous, mouthwatering Hong Kong egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery in Wan Chai
Take the Hong Kong egg tart, for example – all creamy, custardy, buttery/flaky crust goodness. Best when freshly baked and still a tad warm, these little tarts are like a sweet hug for your stomach. Maybe it’s bold for me to say, but I do believe they can melt even the staunchest Asian dessert cynic.
Hong Kong residents are hard-core egg lovers – as proven by yet another famous egg-y sweet, the egg waffle. Humble in appearance, when prepared properly, they are slightly crispy on the outside, tender and airy on the inside – sort of the ‘bubble wrap’ of desserts, with the flavor of vanilla cake. The fun, bulbous shapes make tearing off a golden sphere (or 5, or 10) almost impossible to resist!
Preparing to chow down on an egg waffle – puffy, crispy, tender sweetness!
The perennially-busy Lee Keung Kee stall outside the Wan Chai MTR station, serving up some of Hong Kong’s finest egg waffles
Another iconic HK treat is the slyly named ‘pineapple bun’, containing no pineapple (false advertising alert!) but reflecting just the pineapple-like appearance of that extra-golden, puckered, crunchy top that never fails to crumble into a delightful mess. In case you seek a cholesterol boost (beyond the lard that is part of the crunchy top – good luck wiping that from your memory!), most cha chaan tengs serving these local treats can’t leave well enough alone – but instead insert a slab (not a sliver) of butter to melt inside. Try this WAY before your next visit to the cardiologist! Read the rest of this entry »
Casino companies are betting on Hong Kong’s equity markets to raise funds for expansion. Photo: Grand Emperor Hotel Macau
Gambling Firms Aim to Raise Funds for Macau, Overseas Casino Operations
HONG KONG— For WSJ, Kate O’Keeffe & Yvonne Lee report: China’s international financial hub, located a quick ferry ride from the world’s casino capital, has seen a throng of gambling companies rush to its equity markets over the past year.
“The Asia gaming industry should be one of the fastest-growing sectors in the next decade.”
— CLSA analyst Aaron Fischer
Since July 2013, at least six casino and VIP gambling companies have unveiled plans to list in Hong Kong, often through so-called backdoor listings. These companies are either hoping to raise funds to expand abroad or to bolster business at home in Macau at a time when the enclave’s $45 billion gambling market is suffering its first revenue declines in five years.
Most recently, Nasdaq-listed Iao Kun Group Holdings Co. last month filed a formal listing application to go public “by introduction,” where no new funds are raised, hiring Rothschild (Hong Kong) Ltd. as its sponsor. The company is part of Macau’s junket industry, which brings high-spending gamblers from mainland China to Macau, issues them credit and collects players’ debts in exchange for commissions from casinos. Read the rest of this entry »