Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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- Steve Davies talk last night
- Emmanuel Todd links
- the Norlonto Review is back!
- There are cranes and there are cranes
- Savoy cat
- Spot the Samsung connection
- Stairs Thing outside St Paul’s
- Cassette iPhone photographer
- Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
- Testing again
- BMdotCOM insult of the day
- Views from the Hackney Wick station footbridge
- BMdotCOM mixed metaphor of the day
- Wedding photography (5): Photography!
- Phablet news
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Category archive: China
My thanks to my next Last Friday speaker Rob Fisher, for the link to these photos:
My inclination is not to discuss the matter of supposed overcrowding, more to note that here we have more Art without Artists. Although perhaps photographer Michael Wolf would say he is an artist.
The idea of that category of photo is that here is a photo of something real, which resembles (reduces the thing to?) abstract art.
Were all those abstract modernists prophesying the inceasing rectangularity of regular life to come?
Bosses moving three of the world’s largest quay cranes cannot give an exact arrival date as they could be delayed en route from China.
The 138m tall, semi-automatic cranes are taller than the London Eye and weigh 1,848 tonnes.
Semi-automatic? Does that make them assault cranes?
They are to go here. I smell photo ops.
At his talk chez moi on Friday Feb 22nd (see below) on How globalisation has made the world less rather than more homogenised, Michael Jennings intends to show us some photos. Indeed, he will be dropping by earlier in the week to make sure that the relevant technology can be guaranteed to work properly on the night. This may also require some creativity with the seating.
Here, in the meantime, are a few photos that he has emailed to me, together with commentary. Enjoy.
This is in Sukhomi, Abkhazia, a breakaway non-recognised state that is de jure part of Georgia (and is supported by Russia). Mango is a fashion label that grew out of a stall in the Ramblas market in Barcelona, and is now to globalised retail what the sub-prime market is to home ownership.
An interesting phenomenon occurs when there is a market for a particular international business, and that international business does not operate in that particular market for whatever reason: because the market is too small, too distant, too poor, too corrupt, or there are political problems. Clones of the business will often spring up. These can be particularly entertaining in places where there is no trademark law, trademark law is weak, or where it can be legally difficult to pursue claims from the owner of the trademark. This burger place in northern Cyprus in no way resembles Burger King. Obviously.
One of the most extreme cases in which this phenomenon occurred was in South Africa under apartheid. Many international companies boycotted the country, which in some ways was a modern country with a sizeable middle class, economy and legal system. (In various other ways, it wasn’t and isn’t.) South Africa in 1990 was therefore full of quite good clones of international businesses, that until then were constrained as to where they could operate, but faces competition only from one another at home. Post 1990, the international businesses that they were clones of entered South Africa in a big way, and the South Africans themselves were subsequently able to compete in the wider world. The South African clones weren’t good enough or rich enough to compete in the home markets of the major internationals, and have subsequently expanded into countries that are poorly served by the internationals for a variety of reason - this means Africa, parts of Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, parts of the Middle East. Politically dubious markets of questionable legitimacy a lot the time. One often finds South Africans and Russians side by side.
One could write an entire book about fake Apple Stores. The ones in China (this one is in Tianjin) are the most awesome. The entire story of international brands in China is itself fascinating. Everyone is there, because of the perceived size and importance of the market. Yet the country is far more chaotic, far more unstable, far more corrupt, for more authoritarian, has weaker copyright and patent laws and a weaker rule of law in general than many of the markets these companies would generally consider operating in.
India is more problematic in some ways: bureaucratic beyond words, and culturally difficult in ways that make foreign business models work less well, or at least require a lot more adaptation. (Imagine you are McDonald’s, and you are told that you are not permitted to use either beef nor pork in the food you sell). There have historically been limits on foreign investment. Supermarkets are only now in the process of being legalised. Very large companies can find entry to the Indian market - car makers or mobile phone companies. Medium sized companies - which is where most of the interesting stuff happens - find it much harder.
It’s going to be an interesting evening.
Well, I near enough hit the nail on the head with my previous prophecy about the Obama v Romney debates, certainly as far as Debate One was concerned. Deep thanks, again, to Natalie for telling the world. (We’ve yet to see if I am right that Romney will win the whole thing, which is what my posting is really about - the debates were only part of it, but I am more than ever optimistic about that.)
I said Romney would surprise many with his debating excellence, and that Obama would have no answers. Debate one went exactly like that.
At first, everyone said: Who saw that coming? I did!
Then they said: That was actually very predictable! So, why didn’t they predict it? I did!
Let me now throw all my winnings back on the table and hazard some more predictions on the same subject. Romney has a 1-0 debate lead. I now expect the final result to be 3-0.
In response to the claim that Obama is arrogant, lazy, uninvolved, and behaved in Debate One as if he had only to show up to win - in other words to the accusation that he did not show up - Obama will not so much lose his cool as set it to one side. He will argue “passionately” that he must be allowed to finish the job he has started, in other words he will turn up the frenzy nob. He won’t say that what he wants to do is finish off America as most Americans know it and love it, but by the time Romney has explained it back at him, that’s how it will sound. That will be the story of Debate Two.
Debate Three, one way another will be an even greater catastrophe for Obama. He will either go completely berserk, i.e. dial the frenzy nob up even higher, perhaps even to the point of melt-down or just give up, or maybe a bit of both. By the end of Debate Three, he will not just be (pardon the racism) toast. He will be obvious toast. And then he will really be in trouble.
The Mainstream Media are already turning against Obama, as I predicted in that Samizdata meltdown piece already linked to above. This will not improve his mood one little bit.
But it’s not a stampede yet, nothing like. As of now, their story is mostly that Obama failed to present Obama-ism properly, and most are already saying that next time, he’ll be back, and will present it brilliantly in Debates Two and Three.
Apparently Reagan got a bit of a pasting in his first re-election debate with whoever it was. And he then stormed back in the later debates. Obama will do the same, say those still backing him.
But Obama-ism is a crock, see the graphic, which Instapundit found here. I hasn’t worked, it won’t work and it can’t work. Obama’s problem is that while he can perform all he likes, he has now, just as in Debate One, nothing persuasive to say. (As many are now pointing out, the only thing Obama has done for the last two years has been to perform.)
As the above few links illustrate, I am not the only one saying this kind of thing, to put it mildly. But, for what it may be worth, I am now saying it.
It really doesn’t help Obama that his foreign policy has now blown up in his face. This was an area of strength for Obama, because he at least wants to reduce American assertiveness in foreign parts. So he says, anyway. America wants this too, so far as I can tell. (So, I rather think, do I.) The Repubs don’t even pretend to believe this. But now, foreign policy isn’t a story that Obama will find it easy to talk about either.
Oh, and whereas the Rise of Obama was paid for by Arabs, the re-election of Obama is being financed by the Chinese. As the US Mainstream Media desert the Sinking Ship Obama and start trying to suck up to About-To-Be-President Romney, these sorts of stories may get a bit of serious notice, and sink SS Obama some more. That will only add to the impression that Obama’s foreign policy is for foreigners, rather than for Americans.
Incoming (click to get it slightly bigger) from Michael Jennings, taken during his recent expedition to China.
Which seems to have been very interesting. I have already urged him to write it up, or down if that is preferable, at greater length.
Photoed by me this afternoon, on the outside of Tate Modern. Click to get slighly more of Tate Modern, but not very much more. It used to be a power station.
Google google. Here we go:
Leading British artists launched a campaign Wednesday calling for the release of prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was detained last month amid a major crackdown on dissent.
Damien Hirst and Indian-born Anish Kapoor were among those who joined a campaign launched by The Times newspaper demanding the release of Ai, penning messages of support which were printed on a double-page spread in the paper.
“Today The Times calls for the immediate release of the Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei,” said the paper.
“So far international calls for his release have been ignored by the Chinese authorities.”
And I don’t suppose it helps much that the Times website now hides behind a paywall.
I wonder what the Chinese Government have done to Rupert Murdoch to make him permit a campaign like this. I seem to recall him sucking up to China, so he could do telly there. Indeed. Has that deal gone sour?
Still, whatever the media machinations behind this campaign, I agree with it. Release Ai Weiwei.
Is quoting yourself allowed? It is if you are me, here:
The state of the world is now such that, if you want to be optimistic about your own country, don’t whatever you do look at your own country. Look at all the others.
I do want to be an optimist, today and every day. Happy Easter everybody.
I have nothing very original to say about the World Cup Final yesterday. (I’m talking about cricket, of course.) I enjoyed it very much, and I particularly admired the batting of Mahela Jayawardene for Sri Lanka and of Mahendra Singh Dhoni for India, as did millions of others.
Yuvraj Singh also batted calmly at the end for India to help Dhoni see them home, and in general Yuvraj had a great series, being named Man of it. I also enjoy Yuvraj’s default facial expression, which appears to be, in about equal measures, a mixture of anger and shock. Strangely, he looks much more good humoured in most of these pictures.
Antoine Clarke has just emailed me to say that his Norlonto Review is back in business, and that he also had things to say about this wondrous sporting event, including this, which is a slightly more acute observation than anything I can manage:
I’m guessing this is the biggest celebration of a sporting win by anyone at anytime in any sport.
I guess that’s right. It certainly was fun listening to excited Indian commentators talking about India winning “the world cup”, without it seeming to cross their minds that there are any other world cups in the world of any significance.
Now, if those Chinese were ever to get seriously interested in cricket ...
How about this (and I do really recommend clicking on that to get it bigger) for a stunning picture of a great and growing city?:
I am fond of saying that skyscrapers are as much a fact of nature as a wasps’ nest or a beaver damn or a corral reef. This picture says that loud and clear, don’t you think?
To be more particular, it has the look, to me, of a forest that has been burnt, but is now starting to recover. Soon, some of those skyscrapers will be thousands of feet tall.
Via the ever-entertaining, reliably ephemeral, David Thompson.
I of course liked this:
I get a real sense of globalisation when I check out the lists of skyscrapers around the world that are under construction.
It seems that not everybody has been told about the Credit Crunch.
Here’s a link showing proposed buildings and those under construction. A quick run through struck me with how few are in Europe (apart from Russia). I’m sure Brian Micklethwait has linked to this site before.
Yes, I must have, because I regularly go there. But never to this particular bit of it, I don’t think. I tried to turn the big picture into a graphic that I could shrink and put here, but failed.
If not, he will now!
Another striking thought is how many are in cities that most sophisticated multiculturally-correct do-gooders of the sort that support green campaigns but drop trash in parks couldn’t place on a map, such as Hyderabad, Incheon, Pusan, Tianjin, and Wuhan, to only name some of the first 25 listed. It reminds me of this list, of Chinese and European cities with over 2.5 million inhabitants.
The East is on the up and up.
If you want further proof of that, in Mumbai, there’s this guy who lives in his own billion dollar tower. And yes the b at the start of “billion” is not a bisprint, like that was. Bigger and closer-up picture here. Picture showing surroundings, and article, here.
My problem (one of my problems) is that I accumulate open windows, to things I don’t want to forget about, and which I am hence reluctant to shut. But these open windows, and all the advertising shite they come with, clog up my computer, or so it feels to me.
Now I am sure there is a better answer to this problem than the one that follows, but for now, my answer, today, is to stick a few such links here, where they won’t vanish in half a day and where anyway I know my way around.
The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet. Note, incidentally, the disastrous headline punctuation. Punctuation in headlines says you can’t have a full stop at the end of a headline, but that you can have whatever punctuation you like in the middle of the headline, fullstops included. Bizarre. (Not that that’s why the piece interests me.)
That Codevilla piece about the American ruling class. Actually I think a major part of this story is that it isn’t only the American ruling class. It’s a global, or at least beyond national, class. The entire West that was is starting to be ruled by a united gang of interconnected people. Rulers of The World Unite. You have nothing to lose but the love of your dreary little voters. (To “love”, should I add “consent”?)
On the Validity and Necessity of Atheist Criticism of Islam. I like Edmund Standing a lot. Mostly I agree with this. But, I think he makes too little of the differences between Christianity and Islam. Christianity is bonkers but Islam is downright evil. (Although, I do admit that Christian anti-semitism is deeply embedded in it.) The problem I have with Islam is not only that it is so false. It is that it so nasty. Allah does not exist, but if Allah does exist he should be opposed. This is somewhat less true of the various Christian versions of God, especially nowadays.
The Vanity Fair Sarah Palin piece. I want to read this to see if it actually says anything more than: she’s a politician! Is she going to run for President? If she gets to be President will she be a quite good one, as Reagan (won the Cold War - only talked about stopping the US state spending rise) was. Will President Palin, that is to say, actually stop the US state spending rise?
The Chinese state media global offensive. Were a time traveller from a hundred years hence to invite me to guess what sparked the Big War of 2037, I’d guess China versus someone, rather than Islam versus anyone. Islam has the will to Big War, but looks unlikely at all soon to command the means to wage it. (I include Iran in that judgement. There is more to having a Bomb than just having a Bomb. You must also have the means to attack the other guy’s Bomb, and to defend your remaining Bombs, which you must also have.) And I have long believed that being able to fight wars is more important in their causation than merely wanting to. I mean, few great powers unambiguously want to fight major wars, because they have too much to lose. But, from time to time, they still did, and might one day again. Hopefully The Bomb will continue to work its terrifying magic, and Great Wars Between Great Powers will continue to not happen, but how long will that last?
I want to do a Big Piece on Samizdata about all that, Real Soon Now. Globalisation as we now know it, i.e. the version where we don’t fight global wars against one another, is more caused by The Bomb (which first happened in 1945) than by Modern Electronic Communications (which first happened in 1842). See Global Ruling Class, uniting of, above.
That should clear out my computer’s tubes a little.
Just done a bit on Samizdata about the Three Gorges Dam, which is having, er, teething troubles (e.g. earthquakes and landslides), and which happens also to be a fine excuse for a vertically challenged picture:
All the categories below refer to my thoughts at Samizdata, which rambled somewhat, as you can see.
I never actually knew what this thing looked like until now. I googled my way to an enlarged version of the picture here.
I found the story immediately below, about the imperfectly constructed bridge, at something called Weird Asia News, and, liking that name, immediately went looking for more stories. And I have now nearly finished a Samizdata posting about China’s lunatic and hideously cruel one child per family policy, which is still being viciously enforced. Which is more horrific than weird, I would say.
Here is a poster that glorifies this horrificness:
Am I imagining it, or is that one spoilt little brat? He looks like he takes himself very seriously, and she looks like it’s this huge honour to be carrying him. Well, maybe it is. At least she was allowed one.
As I will (probably - I promise nothing) be asking at Samizdata, is this maybe the worst decision in all of human history?
Time for some more bridge news. And this time, news of a bad bridge. Here (and with pictures to prove it):
… residents of Shanghai got the surprise of their life when earlier this month a major new bridge collapsed, revealing its components to be mostly rubbish and not concrete!
Completed in 2009, the bridge replaced a much older one with a more modern design. It began to collapse after being in operation only a short period; just after Christmas, when cracks appeared in the structure. Some thought the ground might have become unstable or that it might have been the result of the inefficiency of the original construction company.
Subsequent inquiry revealed the latter to be the case. Styrofoam, bags of garbage, scrap wood and plastic waste were used as construction materials in the structure.
I once had a job working on a building site. As a result of that experience, I have always been rather surprised that you don’t read about this kind of thing more often. But my job was only doing houses. I suppose everyone involved fusses more about bridges being built properly, both the workers and the checker-uppers, because a badly built bridge might collapse pretty much immediately, like this one did, when they can still remember exactly who built it and who was supposed to see that they built it right, and, er, as it were, get back to them. Houses, on the other hand, provided they stay up while you’re building them, will probably only reveal their unsoundnesses more gradually.
I still worry about those houses.
Found it here.
This kind of thing makes me suspect Photoshopping, but it seems to be real.
It seems to be very knowing and deliberate. It says “PORN QUEEN” in the logo, where it merely says “COFFEE” in the original. That’s no confused Chinese accident. That’s someone who knows just what he’s doing.
Which makes me wonder why Coffee is missspelled (sssp?) Coffe. I seem to have spelling on the brain just now.