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Welcome Traditional China? February 27, 2007

Posted by koda7 in China.
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I realize that most posts on this site relate to Business and Politics but as I am a homegrown anthropologist I’ll be taking a differrent spin on the East. Please be patient with me as I’m an anecdotal poster.  Japan and its cultural innovation tomorrow!

Welcome traditional China

 

About two years ago I played badminton at a university. When waiting for a court I liked to discuss with my fellow players about culture, business and school. I always found a strange situation arising: whenever the conversation turn to spirituality and philosophy my Chinese friends had very little or nothing to say. I always assumed that they didn’t understand my English.

 

One day after one of my unsuccessful attempts to discussing religion and philosophy, a good friend of mine, Sharon (understand that’s her English name, I can’t properly pronounce her Chinese name), she turned to me and said, “Kids from China don’t understand that.” I probed further, and she explained that there was a spiritual vacuum in China. People cared about success and money to the point where spiritual culture was not really practiced or learnt.

 

I’ve often thought of China as a human machine that manufactures and reproduces worldly innovation. I haven’t seen anything original come from China in my lifetime. That is not to say that there has been none merely that it seemed not to be an important aspect to the Chinese social structure.

 

 

So when China began “opening up” to the western world I thought there would be a 2nd cultural revolution. Now I think I realize why there won’t be. Historically, China has been the tortoise not the hare, to borrow and western parable. China has slowly climbed to the front of the economic and political stage; where as the US has made a relatively quick jump to power. All this to say China is not a machine any more. The individual appears to be resurfacing.

I came across an article recently that brought me to think about this. In an article entitled “The return of Confucius” (Spectrum – Standard Weekend – China’s Business Newspaper, February 24, ), there appears to be a thirst; a very real and powerful thirst for identity in China; a spiritual identity which is truly Chinese. The world can not, in this modern age, survive with a China as it currently exists. The cultural vacuum that is China will never be satisfied with Western culture. A nation can not adopt a culture or a way of life from another and survive.

 

The article speaks of a strange phenomenon that occurred with the presentation of a female academic’s understanding of Confucius’ teaching. This academic/author Yu Dan is breaking records both in personal appearances at book signings and lectures, and in books sales. In fact her book What I Have Learnt From The Analects has sold over 3 million copies in China. She has become celebrity re-interpreting Confucius’ teachings in a modern tone and the thirst for it seems real, even fanatical.

 

During the Chinese cultural revolution much of the Confucian teachings were abandoned and disregarded; primarily being viewed as soft. Now that China is placed front and centre is it time for its rebirth?

 

Confucius’ teachings revolve around rules of behaviour and high ethics. While China excels in rules of behaviour, the nation on whole would benefit greatly from Confucius’ ethical teachings. Many western societies often mistaken one of Confucius’ teachings with their own “Golden Rule”. It was Confucius who said, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”. If China feeds itself of its own rich tradition and heritage the world will benefit. Western culture may only create more consumers in China but Chinese culture has the potential to create more ethical humans.

 

Replacement February 22, 2007

Posted by David in General.
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As previously mentioned, someone else will be posting on canexafish.wordpress.com for the next week-and-a-bit. I’m not exactly sure what topics will be covered but they will be relevant to North-East Asia, as originally intended when I started this blog.

Enjoy!

Humiliation February 22, 2007

Posted by David in China.
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The ongoing love-fest with China’s economy and its potential has been getting on my nerves lately. Yes, it’s true that China will be a super-power one day, and it is also true that their economy is super-hot at the moment. It’s a capitalist’s wet dream.

However, I just thought I would take the time to remind people of the obvious, that China is still a very repressive, Communist (ish) state, unwilling to address its human-rights record, and in many ways absolutely backwards in the methods they use to run the country.

The latest example that comes to mind is (China Daily 16-02-2007) the public humiliation of two boys which recently took place in China. Municipal bylaw enforcement officers in Chongqing (South-western China) “stuck confiscated paper advertisements all over the bodies of two boys and paraded them after they were found dispensing the ads” throughout the city.

Now although there was public outrage, the fact remains that this type of punishment occurs frequently in China.

On December 8, 2006 The International Herald Tribune reported on “Shenzhen’s public humiliation of sex workers”. It was actually broadcasted on television, “a chilling flashback from 30 years ago.”

“In this case prostitutes and a few pimps, were paraded in front of a jeering crowd, their names revealed, and then taken to jail without trial.” Were these people “sent to work camps for re- education?”

That particular throw-back to the Cultural Revolution also met with opposition from the people who expressed “their outrage at the incident in one online forum after another.” Still I doubt the authorities pay much attention to online forums, or to what the people want in general.

My point?

All financial benefits aside (as great as they may be), the free-world should never forget exactly what type of people govern and impose rules, and regulations in China.

There is great potential in China, but they have a long way to go.

Raising Interest in Japan February 21, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North-East Asia.
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In the West, when the average person thinks of the Land of the Rising Sun, not much comes to mind except the typical stereotypes, myths, a few cultural aspects, and an extra-ordinary amount of absolute BS about the society in general (Usually from returning English Teachers or just plain idiots).

Other-than-that, not much consideration is given to Japan, its role on the international stage, and how its general welfare can have a direct effect on all types of people throughout the world.

As the world’s second largest economy, Japan plays a key role in the over-all health of the global economy. Therefore, keeping that in mind, what’s good for Japan is good for the world. Which is why, learning that “Japan’s central bank has raised interest rates to 0.5%” is welcome news. Their economy is improving day by day.

According to a 21-02-2007 BBC News article, the decision to raise the rate was made because of the “steady growth in the economy”, and the fact that “Japan’s recovery was likely to continue.”

However, although the rate hike lifted borrowing costs, it was “not enough to interrupt the huge but potentially volatile flow of cheap yen out of Japan that now helps prop up global stock and real estate markets.” (International Herald Tribune 21-02-2007).

“The flow, known as the yen carry trade, is the product of the yawning gap between Japan’s rock-bottom borrowing rates and the much higher rates in other countries.” It also serves as an example of Japan’s importance to the world economy.

Think of the mess that would be created if that trade was to suddenly stop.

There are many other examples that demonstrate how and why Japan is such an important player in the world. But to list them here would take too long.

However, I would ask you to consider the following, in another BBC News story (21-02-2007) it was reported that during US Vice-President Dick Cheney’s recent talks with Japanese leaders, Japan was praised as “one of America’s closest allies”. It was also stated that their alliance was for “Asia and for the world”.

I couldn’t agree more. Especially, when the words are coming from the biggest player around. In fact, I would go so far as to say Japan is the USA’s greatest ally.

Obviously I am not an expert on Japan (and my writing skills are limited) but I think it’s important that we get to know more about this particular country, and not just the old war stories, manga, or crazy TV shows. People like Shingen are a great source of information on all sorts of Japan-related matters, and there are tons of reading material out-there.

Go read.

Second Largest Automobile Market February 20, 2007

Posted by David in China.
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According to a Xinhua report (19-02-2007) China’s automobile industry made a profit of approximately US$10 billion in 2006, “up 46 percent from the previous year”. These figures, and those following, are “from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).”

“In 2006 China’s auto industry sold 7.22 million auto vehicles, increasing 25 percent over 2005, and the country overtook Japan for the first time to become the world’s second largest auto market.” No doubt a huge population and an ever increasing number of Chinese people with higher (and disposable) incomes have been of great help to the industry.

The report goes on to state that “China’s auto industry has been developing rapidly in recent years, mainly driven by sharply increased individual buyers. In 2006 more than 100 new sedan models hit the country’s market, including 36 home-grown brands.”

However, it’s not all good news. “China has about 1,500 registered auto producers, of which fewer than 100 sold more than 10,000 vehicles last year. Many small manufacturers sold only 300 to 500 vehicles.” Still this entire market, and related sectors, has great potential. This is why so many foreign companies are quickly entering China.

For example, as mentioned in Taipei Times (20-02-2007) “Japanese transportation provider Nippon Express has linked up with a logistics subsidiary of Chinese automaker Dongfeng Motor”.

They are “targeting the growth in the Asian economic powerhouse,” and recently “started transporting auto parts for a venture firm jointly created by Dongfeng Motor Group Co and US engine manufacturer Dongfeng Cummins Engine Co. ” They will “initially offer shipping services for 13 autoparts suppliers in Hubei Province and expand the operation to other auto-related sectors in China.”

This is Nippon Express’ “first full-scale tie-up with a shipping company affiliate of a Chinese automaker,” and if all continues to go well with China’s economy (and the relationship between both states) not likely their last.

FYI – Filling In February 20, 2007

Posted by David in General.
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Since I’ll soon be taking the family on a Disney vacation I will not be able to post anything for the next little while. However, luckily for me, another individual has kindly agreed to fill in for me, beginning 23-02-2007.

More on that in the next few days.

Japanese Sex Slaves February 19, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North-East Asia.
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In war, all parties involved do things that can be considered atrocities and/or just-plain-awful. During the Second World War Japan committed its fair share, as it sought to increase and maintain its sphere of influence throughout Asia.

Officials and representatives, of different levels, have also apologized for Japan’s “aggression” to a variety of groups, organizations and governments numerous times since the end of the war. However, their apologies (and loads of money paid out) don’t seem to be enough, and they’re always being asked to “formally acknowledge, apologise and accept historical responsibility.”

A 19-02-2007 BBC News article talks of the latest call, this time by the Americans, for Japan to apologize for one of those terrible things they did during the war, the use of Comfort Women.

“A resolution before the US Congress is calling on Tokyo to apologise for the country’s use of sex slaves in wartime.” This after they heard some of the victims tell their stories.

In all honesty, I don’t recall if Japan ever did apologize explicitly for the use of Comfort Women, but I know that in 1993  Japan acknowledged “that the imperial army set up and ran brothels for its troops during the war,” and in 1995 “the government set up a special fund, which relies on private donations, to provide compensation.” It should be enough, “but many former comfort women reject the fund and want formal compensation from the government.”

This seems illogical to me because it doesn’t matter which entity forks out the money, it all comes from the Japanese people anyway. Where do you think the government would get the money?

Besides, although I am not attempting to take anything away from all the pain and suffering these women had to endure, I think it is now time to let it go. All that should have been said and done has been said and done.

Furthermore, I do understand why China constantly brings up these types of issues but I don’t understand why the US would choose to upset its strongest ally in North-East Asia with that above mentioned resolution.

Maybe a visit from “Prince Pickles” is in order. That “perky cartoon character with saucer-round eyes, big dimples and tiny, boot-clad feet” (The International Herald Tribune 16-02-2007) is Japan’s military mascot, and apparently “very endearing”. A word or two from him would do the trick.

Too childish?

Maybe the Americans should keep in mind “a new report (The Japan Times 18-02-2007) by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage”, in which he “calls the U.S.-Japan alliance the United States’ greatest strategic asset in Asia and encourages Washington to support Tokyo as a growing global power.”

The report says “the alliance should remain at the core of U.S. strategy in Asia”. Congress better recognize that Japan “stands as a powerful model for the region of what leadership based on democratic values means.”

Doing things that you know will anger your friend, and is not required, is not wise.

China’s Policy Toward Japan February 16, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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This coming Spring, the Chinese Prime Minister will “deliver a speech to the Diet detailing Beijing’s policy toward Japan”. A Japan Times (Friday, Feb. 16, 2007) story mentioned that according to China “there are three main pillars for Sino-Japanese relations: to cement the base of the two countries’ political ties, including issues related to history; to recognize each other as a diplomatic partner; and to maintain friendly relations to contribute to peace and stability in Northeast Asia as well as the whole world.”

Encouraging words!

Another encouraging bit is (Taipei Times 16-02-2007) Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing’s comment that China “understood Japan’s concerns over North Korea”, and it would co-operate. I’m not sure what form of co-operation they have in mind but in return, the Japanese are asked for “understanding over China’s satellite-killer test last month.”

All-in-all the warming relations between China and Japan is good news. Even more good news is that in his upcoming trip to Japan, Prime Minister Wen will “bring ideas to Tokyo on how to resolve one of the most bitter disputes between the two nations — how to mark the maritime border in the gas-rich East China Sea.”

The Japanese may hope for something like this… China realizes that the area in question belongs exclusively to Japan. Therefore, China will no longer attempt to lay claim to it, in exchange China would appreciate a steady supply of gas from said area, at a reasonable price.

Way Being Paved for Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao February 15, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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As part of the on-going efforts to improve Japan/China relations, China’s Foreign Minister, Li Zhaoxing arrived in Tokyo on February 15, 2007 (China Daily 15-02-2007). This trip is “the highest-level visit by a Chinese official since the two countries began repairing tense relations last year.”

The visit’s aim is to “lay the groundwork” for Premier Wen Jiabao’s April trip to Japan. Of course, the two sides will most likely discuss (as mentioned in a related 15-02-2007 BBC News article) the Yasukuni Shrine, Japanese school textbooks, gas field exploration rights, and the ownership of Senkaku islands.

However, I think another important point of discussion will be the deal recently reached with North Korea.

There is little doubt that Tokyo’s refusal to give aid to the DPRK will be brought up more than once. After-all the deal is a direct result of China’s efforts to make the 6 Party Talks a success. But I don’t think this will be an easy discussion.

According to a February 15, 2007 Japan Times article, the DPRK has already started to whine about their new deal. What a surprise!

The article mentions that a “North Korean Foreign Ministry official said that Pyongyang was unhappy with Tokyo’s refusal to give aid as part of the six-party deal struck this week in exchange for the North’s denuclearization.” The official goes on to say, “Japan must fulfill its commitment as a member of the six-party talks.”

Yes, that’s correct. The hermit-state is lecturing others on the importance of fulfilling commitments.

“Japan has refused to provide energy aid to North Korea until the abductions issue is resolved,” and that angers Pyongyang since it “considers the abductions of Japanese by its agents in the 1970s and 1980s an issue that has already been settled.”

What will also be a topic of discussion between Li Zhaoxing and his counter-part (and eventually anger ‘Dear Leader’) is that Tokyo “has no plans to lift economic sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests in the past seven months.”

The US may have backed down in its dealings with the DPRK, but for the moment, at least, Japan has not. Unfortunately, this “hawkish” stance may not last much longer (Asahi Shimbun 15-02-2007). “It is just a matter of time before Japan takes part in the assistance measures. With Russia and possibly other European nations participating, it will not be possible for Japan not to take part.” Sadly the comment does hold a certain amount of truth.

Killing Whales February 15, 2007

Posted by David in General.
4 comments

I’ve never been one to pay much attention to the whole “Save the Whales” movement. In my opinion, just because you don’t eat whales doesn’t mean you have the right to stop others from eating whales. Have you ever heard of Hindus ramming into trucks on their way to the slaughter-house and setting the cattle free, in an attempt to stop people from eating cows?

That’s what the anti-whalers do. They get on their boats, seek out whaling ships and ram them. A February 13, 2007 BBC News story describes how a fleet of Japanese whalers were “tracked down by ships belonging to conservation groups,” which eventually resulted in a “collision between Japan’s Kaiko Maru and a vessel operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society”. The Japanese ship was rammed and its propeller was damaged, which will mean it needs to head back to port. Luckily no one was hurt in that incident, but it hasn’t always been the case.

Time for a reality check?

In an effort re-examine the IWC’s 21-year global moratorium on commercial hunting and bridge “the divide between pro- and anti-whaling members which has bedevilled the IWC in recent years,” Japan organized a meeting in Tokyo. However, very few members showed up.

“Japan’s IWC commissioner, Minoru Morimoto, opened the meeting by expressing disappointment at the non-attendance of nearly half the whaling body.” He went on to explain that one of the goals, of the meeting, was “to improve the atmosphere of the IWC, which has become one of confrontation, and to improve dialogue.”  Most anti-whaling nations chose confrontation.

I’m not sure how productive the meeting in Tokyo was, I’m not even sure the IWC is a worthwhile organization, at least not for pro-whaling countries. But the following quote did come out of the recent Tokyo discussions, and I think it makes a valid point.

“Imposing moral and ethical judgements that affect our right to use resources in spite of scientific evidence is imperialism.”