Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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- Face recognition – face disguise – the age of pseudo-omniscience
- More South of France bridges
- Played 6 – Won 0 – Drawn 3 – Lost 3
- I want to write more here about music
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- Keeping up appearances at One Palace Street
- Goodbye PhotoCat – hello PhotoPad
- Incoming imagery from Antoine
- A bridge in Narbonne
- South of France electronic clutter
- Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
- Bird takes off from a TV aerial
- Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
- Horizontal French signs
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Category archive: China
City A.M. Is so excited that the headline writer, as of now, has decided that there is only one i in ambitious:
That headline is recycled here in case they correct it. Thereby establishing that the (more) mainstream media behave just as I do, when it comes to correcting their mistakes. Or else, alerting you to a permanently wrong headline, whichever. And I’m guessing that even if they do correct the headline, they may feel obliged to keep the link spelling as it started out.
But more to the point, this ambtious plan refers to driverless flying cars, driverless flying cars that look like this:
When I first set eyes on that picture, my reaction was: That’s not a car, that’s a drone. City A.M. agrees:
The futuristic, if slightly terrifying sounding vehicle, has been unveiled by Chinese tech company Ehang and manages to combine the top two trends predicted to dominate this year’s biggest tech show - drones and driverless cars - and claims to be the first Autonomous Aerial Vehicle in the world. Or, in other words, a driverless flying car.
Are you sceptical? I am. But City A.M. continues:
Ehang claims the 184 is already at the point of becoming a commercially selling vehicle, albeit with a £130,000-£200,000 price tag. Belive it or not, it’s not just a concept - it’s already preparing for pre-orders and plans to ship to customers this year.
Well, I’m not sure that I do “belive” it, but I would be fascinated to be proved wrong.
Bizarre new forms of transport are definitely the Thing of the New Year, here at BrianMicklethwaitDotCom. I haven’t been especially looking for such things. They have merely presented themselves to me. But now, perhaps (although I promise nothing), I will start looking for such things. Anyone come across any other crazy transport stuff lately?
LATER: I googled “ambtious”, and was informed of a horse called “Ambtious Dragon”. So, some kind of Chinese neologism? But it turned out that this was a headline misprint also.
Consider the reform of China’s economy that began under Dfen Xiapeng in 1978, leading to an economic flowering that raised half a billion people out of poverty. Plainly, Deng had a great impact on history and was in that sense a ‘Great Man’. But if you examine closely what happened in China in 1978, it was a more evolutionary story than is usually assumed. It all began in the countryside, with the ‘privatisation’ of collective farms to allow individual ownership of land and of harvests. But this change was not ordered from above by a reforming government. It emerged from below. In the village of Xiaogang, a group of eighteen farmworkers who despaired at their dismal production under the collective system and their need to beg for food from other villages, gathered together secretly one evening to discuss what they could do. Even to hold the meeting was a serious crime, let alone to breathe the scandalous ideas they came up with.
The first, brave man to speak was Yen Jingchang, who suggested that each family should own what it grew, and that they should divide the collective’s land among the families. On a precious scrap of paper he wrote down a contract that they all signed. He rolled it up and concealed it inside a bamboo tube in the rafters of the house. The families went to work on the land, starting before the official’s whistle blew each morning and ending long after the day’s work was supposed to finish. Incentivised by the knowledge that they could profit from their work, in the first year they grew more food than the land had produced in the previous five years combined.
The local party chief soon grew suspicious of all this work and this bountiful harvest, and sent for Yen, who faced imprisonment or worse. But during the interrogation the regional party chief intervened to save Yen, and recommended that the Xiaogang experiment be copied elsewhere. This was the proposal that eventually reached Deng Xiaoping’s desk. He chose not to stand in the way, that was all. But it was not until 1982 that the party officially recognised that family farms could be allowed - by which time they were everywhere. Farming was rapidly transformed by the incentives of private ownership; industry soon followed. A less pragmatically Marxist version of Deng might have delayed the reform, but surely one day it would have come.
This one (number 9) is among the most vivid:
What (I think) makes this such a remarkable image is that, by showing how totally the cars have all been wrecked, the nature of what hit them is, as it were, permanently recorded, the way it might not have been registered by mere empty ground. And because they are cars rather than buildings, each one a regular and very small distance from the ground, every ruined car is clearly visible, the way wrecked buildings might not have been. It’s as if each car is a fire-sensitive cell, like digital cameras have inside them for nailing down light.
Fireball. Nothing else could have done that.
However much the government of China and its various offshoots and local manifestations might have wanted to keep this amazing event under wraps, modern media, including digital photography, still and video, meant that they had no chance.
I took this snap of a sign, in Chinatown (London manifestation of), just off Charing Cross Road:
What I like about it is how they had to add the English language explanation of what hair “magic” actually involves. Presumably the oriental characters make it clear to orientals what’s on sale here. But at first, the English weren’t buying. I mean, “magic”? Could be anything or nothing. Hypnosis? Pills? Herbalism? Magic mud of some sort? Clearly the English needed further elaboration, however much it spoiled the original splendour of the original sign.
But alas, the nature of the service on offer, once explained, descended in one word from the transcendental to the commonplace.
The biggest cat news right now is that a tiger is causing an international incident, between Russia and China:
Chinese media claims the feline in question is Ustin, one of five electronically-tagged Siberian tigers released by Russian authorities in May and June 2014.
The big cat has since wandered into northeastern China where, national news agency Xinhua reports, he entered a farm, killing fifteen goats over two nights and leaving another three missing.
Xinhua claims Ustin was among the first group of tigers released in May by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia denies this claim, suggesting that he was released in June, by Russian conservationists.
Apart from that, the only decent cat story is about a place in America that smells of cat piss. They don’t yet know why. They may never know.
I just heard someone say in an American TV sitcom (I love American TV sitcoms) that they’re not going to answer the phone without knowing who it is, “like it’s 1994”.
I still do this, with my old 1994 style phone, which I greatly prefer to mobiles, because when I am out and about, I don’t have to answer it, and because phones connected to your house with wire cannot be lost, and because I know exactly where it is when it rings, and because that ring never changes.
Quite often, when I do answer, it’s a junk phone call, offering to extricate me from a financial error that I personally have not made by urging me to commit another financial error, and as soon as I realise it’s junk, I put the phone down. Does this constitute some sort of “success” for the junk phoning enterprise? Look, they answered! Because obviously they knew who we were, this not being 1994, and yet still they picked up the phone! Hey, we’re getting through!
Much of life these days seems to consist of doing many futile things, but contriving for these things the appearance of non-futility. These days? I suspect all days that have ever been, with humans involved, and no doubt many other species also, both before and now during the human epoch. Only the futile things and the means of contriving a non-futile appearance for them change from time to time.
I don’t mind junk phone calls. If they were more frequent, they would annoy me. As it is, if there is a pause in incoming phone calls lasting a few hours, it is soothing to be informed, even if only by a robot actor voice spouting nonsense, that my phone is still working. The pause was because nobody wanted to talk to me.
When answering junk phone calls, I pause any music that may be playing. I do not mind this. There is a part of my brain (yours too?) where you remember the musical phrase you were listening to when you last paused the music, and when you unpause it you carry on listening just as you would have done normally. I even suspect that pausing deepens my response to particular pieces of music, by fixing particular moments of them in my brain more firmly than might have happened otherwise.
Since I am now rambling like the really old person that I am rapidly becoming, let me ramble some more. In connection with none of the above, here are the wheels of a big mobile crane that I photoed in Victoria Street a while back. Click on it to get the crane:
I like cranes. That one is, I think, the Spierings SK599-AT5. I love how you can find out about things like this, these days. And this time it really is these days, rather than all days.
Here is a link to a toy version of this crane. Do contractors use toys like this to plan their jobs, I wonder? As well as just to decorate their offices or amuse their spoilt children?
It is now late morning on Sunday. Are sermons like this, when the priest is getting old, but is too well liked for anyone to want to sack him? With a blog you can ramble anyway, because nobody can sack you.
Follow the link above, and you’ll read the headline “China build the World’s Longest Bridge - Jiaozhou Bay Bridge”. But bridges like this, across huge chunks of sea and with hugely long approaches over that sea, are fairly common now, even if this particular one happens to be the biggest in this genre, for the moment. The photo has it right. The bridge is just another bridge, and is rightly stuck away in the distance. The motorway junction is in the foreground, and quite right too. Is there, anywhere else on the planet, a motorway junction resembling this one, all at sea?
Ordinary bridge, astonishing approach. Reminds me of this.
But for where? Would you believe, Iraq? No?
Built in China, apparently.
Incoming from Michael J (where would this blog be without incomings from Michael J?):
London already has many interesting bridges, but might be about to get another:
Changsha on the other hand, a place I had never heard of until today, and going only by the picture below, has rather little by way of visual excitement, or will have until they build this bridge, as it appears they definitely intend to:
Architect John van de Water says the form is also intended to reference traditional Chinese crafts. “It refers to a Chinese knot that comes from an ancient decorative Chinese folk art,” he explained.
Ingratiating bullshit being a core architectural skill.
Not that this makes it a bad bridge. On the contrary, it looks like a lot of fun, that will cheer the place up no end.
And I agree with Heatherwick, and with his celebrity booster Joanna Lumley, that the exact part of the Thames (the north end would be at Temple tube station) where they have put their proposed bridge could indeed do with some further livening up.
I have, very belatedly, made Roof clutter a new category, and now face lots of backtracking to do justice to that innovation. So far you only get a few entries if you click on that. But it’s a start.
And, as a devotee of roof clutter, I can’t ignore this:
A Chinese man who built a rock-covered roof-top villa on top of a high-rise building has told the BBC he will comply with an order to demolish it.
The villa, surrounded by fake rocks but real trees and bushes, sits on top of a 26-storey building in Beijing.
State-run China Daily says it was built without the proper permissions.
Ooh dear. Can’t do anything without the proper permissions.
Here’s what it looks like. Let us celebrate it while it lasts, and never allow it to be forgotten:
I am actually a tiny bit angry with this Chinese man, because I fear that by drawing attention to the top of his particular building, he may have provoked control freak bureaucrats everywhere to take an interest in the tops of buildings, with a view to putting a stop to All That Sort of Thing, which until now they have largely neglected to do. The Golden Age of Roof Clutter is not about to end immediately. But might this perhaps be the beginning of its end?
And as an addition (one of the joys of blogging is that you google your subject and find more great stuff) feast your eyes on this:
Presumably, for that, they did get the necessary permissions. It has that look about it, doesn’t it?
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.