Monday, April 30, 2012

We don't spell too good.

Unless City doesn't beat Newcastle next week and Queens Park Rangers the week after in which case I commit suicide.

FULL TIME: Manchester City 1, Manchester United 0.

My life is now complete. 

City 1, United 0. Goal by Kompany, 45'.

Right now the biggest game in world soccer so far this year, the second leg of the Manchester Derby, kicks off. The result virtually guarantees the English Premier League title.  If City loses I commit suicide.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chen Guangcheng.

Los Americanos are still not acknowledging that Chen is in the American Embassy in Beijing or otherwise in safe American hands.  Chinese officialdom says the Americans have him and those have been the reports in all media, mainstream and tributary, since Friday.

Maybe the Americans don't want him.

Both the New York Times and Washington Post have reported that Chen's flight has caused some gastrointestinal upset in the Obama Administration because the Obamas recent strategy has been to encourage good relations by not getting on China's case about human rights and because Secretary of State Clinton is due in Beijing this coming week for the Strategic...something. It's very strategic and having the well-known blind Chinese human rights lawyer hiding under the bed was not part of the strategy.  Clinton likes to be prepared and this was not in her review notes.  This Obama strategy played out when Wang Lijun fled to the American consulate in Chengdu in February and told that Bo Xilai had been responsible for the sinking of the Titanic and had been on the grassy knoll in Dallas and the Obamas turned him over to the Center where he has since been receiving "vacation-style medical treatment."

So when "the Chen Guangcheng case" is brought up in the upcoming Strategic-something discussions it won't be the Americans who bring it up.

I say, I have a bone to pick, well maybe a piece of cartilage, no a bone, with Chen here if the reports are true that he is not seeking asylum.  Dude man, don't put the Obamas in that position.  What position even are you asking them to assume?  If you were asking them for asylum, a la Fang Lizhi, that causes them lower g.i. distress, a la Bush41, but that's ok.  They would take their Tums and welcome you to America and they would get you safely out of there. The Obamas may be woolly in the knees but this is what America is for.

But if the reports are true that Chen does not want asylum, that he wants to negotiate his release and better conditions upon release with the Center from the safety of the American Embassy and stay in China?  No.  I wouldn't do that and in the interminable list of offenses I will be read by St. Peter being woolly in the knees will not be among them. You can't put any foreign country in that position.

Psst, Chen, what's the plan?

Chen Guangcheng

He-he-he-he.  Chen so completely flummoxed the People's Liberation House Arresters that his Sunday escape wasn't discovered until Thursday.  He-he-he-he.

Chen Guangcheng

I just emailed the Washington Post's article yesterday to about a dozen people in China. I'm sure they won't tell anybody else about Chen.

Image: Whispering Angel, Agostino Carracci (16th c).

Friday, April 27, 2012

We Did It.

It can now be revealed that the elite I.T. staff at Public Occurrences is behind the recently reported bugging of Hu Jintao’s phone calls. We provide pageviewers with an exclusive transcript of a phone call placed by Shandong authorities to Hu concerning the escape of Chen Guangcheng:

Ringtone:  “The East is Red, the sun has risen!  China has brought forth…”

Hu: Hola.

Shandong: Comrade Hu, this is Shandong police.

Hu:  What do you want, Shandong?

Shandong:  Chen has escaped.

Hu:  What!

Shandong: No, What's on second.

Hu:  What? Who has escaped?

Shandong:  No, Who's on first. Chen Guangcheng has escaped!

Hu:  Chen Guangcheng has escaped?

Shandong: How did you know?


Shandong: I just told you.

Hu: That’s how I know! You just told me, Chen Guangcheng escaped!

Shandong: Yes, comrade…Paramount Comrade…Paramount Leader…

Hu: How did Chen Guangcheng escape, comrade?

Shandong:  He climbed over a wall…sir.

Hu: He climbed over a wall?

Shandong: How did you know?

Hu: He is blind, no?

Shandong: Yes, comrade.

Hu: You were guarding the blind man, no?

Shandong: Yes, comrade.

Hu: The blind man was in his house?

Shandong: Yes, comrade.

Hu:  You were guarding the house?

Shandong: Yes, comrade.

Hu: How did you let a blind man climb over a wall and escape!

Shandong: Well comrade, he plays a mean pin-ball.

Hu:  Are YOU blind!

Shandong: Well sir, I do wear contacts.

Hu: Where is he now?

Shandong: I don’t know, sir.

Hu: What do you mean, you don’t know!  Go find him!

Shandong: Do you realize it’s dark out and we can’t see anything?

Hu:  You want to go home?   It’s dark out, so you want to go home? Are you related to Francesco Schettino?

Shandong: Well, distantly. He’s my third cousin on my mother’s side.

Hu: Get back on board and find that blind man?

Shandong: Who?

Hu: Yes! This is Hu. Now find that blind man!

Shandong: Yes, comrade.

I wouldn't want to mess with Chen's little girl.*

Changed from boy, April 28, per reference to Chen's daughter in the Guardian.

Chen Did It.

He escaped.

Chen Guangcheng, the blind "barefoot lawyer" and Chinese human rights activist who had been on house arrest, scaled a wall at his house in Shandong and was driven by friends almost 300 miles to Beijing where he's in a safe-house, some reports have it as the U.S. Embassy.

Oooh doggie, the Center is not going to be happy about this. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bo Did It.

Boy oh boy, murder cases sure are more complicated in China than in America.

This is still a murder case, right?

Last night at 7:11 pm the New York Times led its newspaper-of-record coverage of humanity with a story that Bo Xilai had been wiretapping in Chongqing and even bugged Hu Jintao's phone calls.  That sounds like something an arrogant, ambitious, up-and-coming Chinese politician might do. It’s paranoid and Chinese are paranoid, it’s power-hungry and ditto. It sounds more plausible than murder.

The Times report was based on interviews with “nearly a dozen people with party ties, speaking anonymously…”  Uh-oh.

 “According to senior party members, including editors, academics and people with ties to the military…”  Is that the same as “nearly a dozen people with party ties speaking anonymously?”  I don’t know.  “According to”... them, Bo had been wiretapping for years. 

Then why didn’t the Center can Bo years ago? Here’s where the Times reporting, and it’s sourcing, becomes fishy. The Times says “for years” Bo had been trying to tap the phone calls of almost every high-ranking official who came to Chongqing.  Says who?  Says “one political analyst with senior-level ties, citing information obtained from a colonel he recently dined with." I did not make that up. One political analyst who had dinner with some colonel.  

Who says Bo tapped Hu?  (What’s on second?)  There are two incidents of Hu-bugging according to the Times, one between Hu and Liu Guanglei. When that happened is not revealed in the article beyond “last year.”  The sources for that incident are “two journalists.”  Okay, I can believe journalists; I do believe journalists most of the time. How did the two journalists find out?  The Times doesn’t say.  So two carpal-tunnel afflicted wretches tell two NYT carpal-tunnel afflicted wretches, that’s all we have.  Is it carpal-tunnel afflicted wretches all the way down?  I can’t believe that incident without better corroboration. The second incident of Hu-bugging is not clearly sourced but it is better dated, August, 2011, and also names the person on the other line with Hu, Ma Wen.  Well, I believe the New York Times, two Times reporters believe their sources, I believe Times editors vetted this story before publishing it…The wire-tapping angle is more plausible than murder…

So what happened to the murder case?  Has anyone heard one God…blessed detail of how Gu Kailai murdered Neil Heywood?  Actually, there has been one detail: BoGu’s housekeeper did it, on Gu’s orders. The murder case, according to the Times, remains “the official narrative” (God, I hate that phrase, “the narrative.”  Reporters started using that phrase “the narrative” during “Arab Spring.” (God, I hate that phrase, “Arab Spring.")) because it is “more easily grasped.” 

We can grasp wiretapping, what’s so hard to grasp about that? Who amongst us cannot grasp wiretapping?

“Party officials, however, say it would be far too damaging to make the wiretapping public.”  It just has. “Party officials,” made the wiretapping public as of 7:11 last night as the lead article in the New York Times.  That is a nonsensical justification that is being fed two carpal-tunnel afflicted wretches of the New York Times by party officials.  Does the New York Times believe that Chinese party officials think the Great Firewall is going to prevent this from getting into China?  No.  The Times was told this by party officials because the party wanted the wiretapping to become public.
Bo did it.

Monday, April 23, 2012


No, it has not been a very good couple of weeks for Americans.

Americans are a violent people--is it fair to say that so generally?  Our crime rate has always been higher than that of other "mature" societies; Okay, Americans are a more violent people than other "mature" peoples. I think that's fair.

The above photo wouldn't merit comment as a "public occurrence" normally;  It's an truly was a vicious, unprovoked elbow to the head, that resulted in a concussion, during a basketball game, yeahyeahyeah, but come on, we're Americans, "no autopsy, no foul."

No, what elevates this to the "status" of a public occurrence is the name of the perpetrator.  He was born Ron Artest and as Ron Artest he was truly one of the biggest knuckleheads in America. Bigger knuckleheads. Then he changed his name. Ladies and gentleman, Jersey-ites, Reunionoids, say hello to...Metta World Peace.

Only in America

It has been an embarrassing couple of weeks for America. First, there was yet another outrage by American troops in the Middle East: some soldiers were photographed with body parts of Taliban fighters. And then, Secret Service agents made sexy time with some Colombian ladies of the night.

There seems to be a lack of discipline in the American military--hell a U.S. Congressman, that great statesman Allen West, "retired" from the Army after being accused of assault for firing a gun near the head of an Iraqi police officer. That was in 2003.  There have been other incidents similar to the current one, photos of U.S. soldiers humiliating enemy dead and alive. There have been Koran burnings and Koran toilet dumpings. Some antedate the Obama administration, certainly. The U.S. military has been on President Obama's watch--and Secretary Panetta's and Secretary Gates'--for three years now.  Whatever the cause, discipline, "culture," the administration hasn't stopped it.

"Culture."  The culture of the Secret Service has to change according to some.  Or, there were just a few--about a dozen actually--"rogue" agents in Cartagena...Nah, it's a culture thing.  If power is the ultimate aphrodisiac then the Secret Service guys, with their earpieces, shades, serious expressions, weapons, charged with protecting the lives of political elites, are sex appeal incarnate.

So why did they have to pay?

The Secret Service may not have "lost," as they put it, a president since 1963 but they have lost their place on the pedestal of heroes for many Americans, this one included. It's not just rogue agents. It's the culture, and undisciplined personnel. I would have thought the vetting of applicants for Secret Service positions would have weeded out men who would hire prostitutes while on assignment.  I think a lot of Americans would have thought that.

Image: Hercules, Deianeira, and the Centaur Nessus. Bartholomaeus Spranger (1580).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

T.I.P.O. (This is Public Occurrences)

Inn-teresting Search Keywords

леброн джеймс [Lebron James, in Belarusian]
勒邦占士 [Lebron James, in Chinese]
ستالين [Stalin, in Arabic]
Κιριμπάτι [Kiribati, in Greek]
how to maintain a puppy dog’s hair [how to maintain a puppy dog's hair, in English (12 times)]

hot Korean gays
uniform female soldiers short skirt
black hot guys
chinese military women
chinese woman soldiers
chinese women soldiers
gay Chinese soldiers
hot guys nu
candid skirt street
candid skirt
women or girl or lady or ladies in Russian or Ukrainian or kor…[phrase cut off]
Chinese women army
hot body guy
female soldier skirt
public up skirt shots
chinese female soldiers
hot guy model

Inn-teresting Countries of Pageviewers

Kiribati [4 pageviewers!]
Jersey [Joisey?  That's a country?]
Réunion [Reunion? Arena or a country?]

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Since the onset of my Obsessive China Disorder affliction, the Bo Xilai/Gu Kailai…thing is the first major current event I’ve followed.

I remember MacFarquhar and Schoenhals’ dedication to all they talked to, including the “liars.”  I remember how bad the first books on the Cultural Revolution were because accurate information was so hard to get out of China at the time.  I remember a later author, maybe Kristof, writing that we could see in retrospect that the best information at the time came from Hong Kong refugees.  I remember Lin Biao; maybe the closest parallel to the Bo/Gu thing is the “Lin Biao incident.”

The Lin Biao incident was a bridge too far for ordinary Chinese.  Mao’s designated successor was plotting to assassinate Mao?  Planning a coup d’etat?  Fleeing in a plane, trying to defect to the Soviets, crash-landing, killed?  Chinese—and the world—were asked to believe six impossible things before breakfast. This official history of the Lin Biao incident was written by…Zhou Enlai.

I don’t believe Gu Kailai murdered Neil Heywood. (Poison?  That is so medieval. China will never join the ranks of modern nations with "poison" as an explanation for political murder. "Disappeared" is good.).  I remember Neil Heywood’s mother dismissing the idea to a reporter as “just Chinese politics.”  I remember China's first cause of death announcement:  "overconsumption of alcohol." Since I don’t believe Heywood was murdered, I don’t believe Bo Xilai was ousted because he tried to stop Wang Lijun’s investigation of Gu Kailai for the murder of Neil Heywood.

I believe Bo Xilai was ousted in a power play, a power play that has been played out similarly throughout China’s dreary history of succession. I believe the reason for the ouster was because Bo was too “red;” he was doing things in a way that reminded the Center of the way things were done during the Cultural Revolution, and the Cultural Revolution is the third rail of Chinese politics. I believe the murder accusation against Gu, and now the criticism of their son, Bo Guagua, are a kinder, gentler variant of the “Nine Exterminations.”

I believe these things, and don’t believe the other things, because the sources for so much of the reporting have been official, anonymous but official; because I doubt Chinese officialdom; because Chinese officialdom is above Chinese law contrary to what Chinese officialdom said when announcing Bo’s ouster; because this has happened in a transition year in Chinese officialdom; because murder of a foreigner—and by the “Jackie Kennedy” of China—is so beyond the pale.  And because this--even murder--would not threaten the “legitimacy,” the “survival,” of the Chinese Communist Party.

That is what is being said by serious people, journalists and China-watchers; the legitimacy, the survival of the CCP is being tested here.  I find these two explanations to be inconsistent.  If this is a murder it truly is a shocking murder, but “only” a murder. The damage would be limited to Gu (the wife of a “rogue” official) and to Bo, a “rogue” official, for covering up. There would be no crisis for the CCP; the CCP didn’t have anything to do with it. If the legitimacy/survival of the CCP truly is at stake, then it’s not a murder, or not “just” a murder.

It says here it’s not a murder.  It is a crisis for the CCP, Hu Jintao would not have sent that message to the military if it wasn’t, but CCP survival is not at stake, the People’s Republic of China is not going to collapse over this. Survival is not at stake, but legitimacy has been further eroded.  Going  back at least to the Lin Biao incident, Chinese have lost a lot of faith in CCP officialdom. A crisis in legitimacy can plausibly threaten state survival, but China is not there yet, and I don't think this is the beginning of the end. 

So say I, but maybe I'm wrong.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

From a 20-something friend:

"Have you ever heard of Reddit?"

"Yeah, I have heard of it. Don't know what it does."

"I was hanging out with Doug on Saturday and his sister had a birthday party so I went.  There were like 17 people there and Heather only knew three.  They all got there through Reddit."

"Sorry, I was sharpening my quill, she only knew three people at her birthday party?  How did they get there?"

"I don't know, through Reddit.  I was talking to some girl and asked her how she knew Heather and she told me she didn't, she had seen a notice on Reddit that Heather was having a birthday party and showed up."

"How do you do that through Reddit?"  

"I don't know, I guess you post 'I'm having a party' and give the address.  It's bizarre."

"What? This was at Heather's parents house?"


"WHATT?  So 14 unknown people show up to your house for your daughter's birthday party?"

"Yeah, it really weirded me out."

"That is totally bizarre. I've never heard of anything like that. I thought maybe Reddit was an online book club, like, 'I read it.'"

[mocking laughter]

"I can't believe her parents would allow that.  They could have been cleaned out!  Anybody could show up--Orkin, the town rapist could show up."

"I know. It was weird."

"Nope, didn't know that's what Reddit did."

"Me neither."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Liar, liar, your underpants are in flames.

Things I do not believe:

-Gu Kailai murdered Neil Heywood.
-The rioting in Chongqing was over "redistricting" and unrelated to Bo Xilai's ouster.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Allen West, above, is an American politician, a Congressman from Florida. Congressman West told a group of his constituents Tuesday evening,

"I believe there's about 78-81 [congressional] members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party."

Trayvon Martin, cont.

George Zimmerman was arrested last night.  Prosecutors charged him with second degree murder. Evaluating the facts listed in previous posts by existing Florida law it is my personal, legal opinion that Zimmerman should have been charged with either manslaughter or second degree murder.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Look at these pictures!  I am utterly shocked. Dr. Weimen Mo forwarded these to me from China Digital Times. These are street scenes in Chongqing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012



Bo Xilai's wife...Mrs. Bo, was "held," I guess arrested, by the gendarme today in what the gendarme are saying is a murder investigation in the death of Neil Heywood, a British national.  Mr. Bo was stripped of all party posts today, too.

Robert Ballard, in conjunction with National Titanic magazine, found the wreck of the Titanic what seems like 100 years ago too. Ballard took lots of photos of the Titanic, showing it a rusting, crumbling hulk in two pieces. Ballard found no survivors. 
There was a tremendous loss of life. The Titanic hit an iceberg and sank very quickly.  A lot of passengers lost their lives.  It was a tremendous tragedy.
Continuing our wall-to-wall coverage of the Titanic we can report that 100 years ago today the ship left Southampton, England. It sunk.  Five days later it sunk.  

Omg, even the New York Times.  Three articles yesterday.  That goddamned ship won't stay sunk.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Americans, question to you:

Q: As Commander-in-Chief, has President Obama had to send a message to the troops because of Mitt Romney like Paramount Leader Hu Jintao sent to the PLA because of Bo Xilai?

A: Nooooo.
God, I'm funny.


American politics is bipolar.  So, is Chinese politics Bo-polar?


A few months ago a friend in Beijing asked me to check on how Fang Lizhi was doing, if there was any new news on him. I checked and there wasn't much and I sent my friend what there was.

When Fang died over the weekend I sent him the following email:

"Hi Chang,

Fang Lizhi died yesterday, as I am sure you know.


I was sure he knew. I felt a little sheepish sending the email.  His response:

"No, Ben, there is no news and I understand why---the so-callled "people's servants" here fear and hate such a brave, good man, and they also fear their "master"!!! 
If you have more news about his passing away and the comment on/feedback to that event in Western society, please send it to me. Thanks!"
They don't know.  The Chinese people don't know that Fang Lizhi died.

Sunday, April 08, 2012


"Excuse me soldier, heard any good coup rumors lately?"

Is there something more than the usual paranoid nonsense going on behind the "Gate of New China?"  There appears at least to be a shortage of Imodium.


"This website is under maintenance..."             

That was the message we neo-Maoists started to get yesterday when we tried to access our favorite website (other than, the neo-Maoist “Utopia,”

The Center has turned its censorious eye from pro-liberalization websites to neo-Maoist websites. It has shut down 17 of them recently. But isn’t China, like, Maoist?  Isn’t that, like, Mao’s mausoleum in the middle of Tiananmen Square?  What’s the prob?

“Utopia” was one of the favorite haunts of supporters of Bo Xilai who was purged a few weeks ago; Bo was popular among the people of Chongqing, where he was Party Secretary, for fighting corruption there; the Chongqingers sang the old Cultural Revolution songs of which Bo was so fond; China is in the middle of a “transition” of power this year (How is that going?); transition by “consensus” (of the ruling elite) is the Chinese Way; popularity is not an approved method of transition.

The initial run on Imodium was caused by Bo’s taste in music.  The Cultural Revolution scares the shit out of the Center.  So, they purged him, he’s outta there, what-is-the-problem?  China-watchers are not sure.  Indeed there were coup rumors on the Chinese internet the last two weeks. But that’s the internet, you can find anything on the internet, except Utopia right now.  To this amateur China-watcher the most significant indication that something more than the usual paranoid nonsense might be going on is the Center’s directive to the military yesterday in the “Liberation Army Daily:” 

"[R]esolutely resist the incursion of all kinds of erroneous ideas, not be disturbed by noise, not be affected by rumours, and not be drawn by undercurrents, and ensure that at all times and under all circumstances the military absolutely obeys the command of the Party central leadership, the Central Military Commission and Chairman Hu."

Was that really necessary?  China watchers don’t know. Bo knows.

Happy Easter.  Christeean gentleman above.  Of the Rooski persuasion.

The name of the divine is Patriarch Kirill I.  Head of the Russian Orthodox Church.  On his left wrist in the photograph at left is a divine Breguet watch, or "timepiece" as it's probably called.  That particular timepiece set God back $30,000. Our brother Alexsei Navalny and others went nuts at the Church's excess.

We Americans know what Patriarch Kirill I should have done.  Pat should have called Mitt Romney who would have told him that Navalny, et al were just jealous losers attacking success. But this church is Russian so they didn't do that. They airbrushed the $30,000 Breguet out of the photo (at right).  Who would notice?

Now this is the detail that makes this so quintessentially Russian:  When the Church was caught airbrushing, their explanation was that indeed airbrushing had occurred; some unbeliever had airbrushed the $30,000 Breguet onto Pat's wrist.  The Church, the Church said, hadn't airbrushed it off Pat's wrist; someone else, a Jew?!, had airbrushed it onto Pat's wrist.

We here at Public Occurrences do not know how the Russian Orthodox Church differs from other Christeean churches but we assume that they recognize the Ten Commandments, number nine of which is "Thou shalt not lie."

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Fang Lizhi, In Memoriam.

Fang Lizhi, the great Chinese patriot and human rights activist, inspiration to the June 4 martyrs, died today in Tucson Arizona.  Mr. Fang immigrated to the U.S. after seeking refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on June 5, 1989. He was granted asylum but remained in the embassy for over a year until the Chinese government let him leave for America.

The Soul of China.

Hmm.  A yellowed photograph lying in a lifeless bare left hand with a (bullet? nail?) hole in the palm, and an elegantly-gloved right hand grasping a better preserved photo. 

The Soul of China.

The Soul of China.

The Soul of China

Soul as screw:

"A man's usefulness to the revolutionary cause is like a screw in a machine. It is only by the many, many interconnected and fixed screws that the machine can move freely, increasing its enormous work power."
                         -The Diary of Lei Feng.

Contemporary art is an effective medium for alternative visions and criticism of the established order.  It works that way in China. Oblique messages are more likely to be missed by the censors than direct, written dissent on websites and blogs. There's also a double message in contemporary Chinese art that throws the censors off. 

In general of course Chinese art is something the Center wishes to promote. The powerful frequently want to be surrounded by art.  The rich want it on their walls at home; banks want it in their lobbies--even if they don't "get it."  Art tends to confer--and confirm--elite status. Hu Jie's film Red Art was able to escape the censors initially because it conveyed one message on the surface, that Cultural Revolution "art" was worthy. To further this surface message Hu interviewed that art's "creators" and supporters, who spoke at length in the film.  But nested in the film, in comments made by Hu during interviews, in brief flashes of imagery,  was the second, "real" message of critical irony. The powerful, whether rich Westerners and bankers or red censors, are more likely to miss irony. 

Maleonn's photographs convey this same double message: they are "indigenous" art; they are ascetically pleasing to view; they contain photographs from the Cultural Revolution with no surface criticism. They are art "of the people, by the people, for the people" and the People's Republic likes that. The sub-surface messages though are (1) individual expression (2) of themes: memory of suffering, and of a painful period, that the Center doesn't want expressed.

The Soul of China

The individual is blotted out in the Center's conception of the soul.  Below, the soul as nail, hammered relentlessly. What a vision!

"How can nails, nail up a perfect board which has no holes? Because we exert pressure on the nails, so they can squeeze into the board, from this point, the nail has two strong points, one is squeezing and the other is drilling. After examination we should promote the nails spirit and learn from it."
                                                                                                  -The Diary of Lei Feng.

Every March 5 is celebrated in China as "Learn from Lei Feng Day."

The Soul of China

"During my 11 years of art education, there was never a lesson on soul, inner thoughts, emotion or love," he said. "How can an artist not talk about these things?"
                                                                     -Maleonn, BBC interview.

The Soul of China.

Survival as soul is bleak, it is the minimum that human beings can be. But the soul is mutable.

Great artists create, they do not imitate.  The great contemporary artists of China are creating conceptions of the soul that compete with the Center's soul as survival.

This image and those to follow are by Maleonn (Ma Liang) in a series called "White on White."  Old photographs, and the memories they recall, fade to white over time. The Center wants memories of the Cultural Revolution to fade away.  Maleonn's parents were artists during the C.R. and suffered.  He has taken still-vivid photographs from the Cultural Revolution period and placed them against all-white backgrounds. Maleonn wants China's history to be remembered, against the Center's intent to white-wash it.

The Soul of China

"It's more than a power struggle.  It's a corresponding interest to maintain the legitimacy of the Communist Party-to survive."
                                    -Cheng Li, Brookings Institution on Bo Xilai, New York Times, April 7.

Image: Painting by Maleonn for "China's Soul" exhibition, Shanghai, 2010.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Spot the Difference in the Two Pictures.

It is Good Friday and Christeeans worldwide,and those of us raised as Christeeans, celebrate the day.  I didn't do too good in Sunday School so as I sit here now decades later I misremember why we Christeeans celebrate the day that Christ was crucified.  This was the day, right?  Easter, I can understand. Christ rose from the dead, that's never happened before--or since.  Maybe it would be more accurate to say that we "observe" today but when I googled "Good Friday" images and procured the Signorelli at top Google prompted me with the suggested search "Happy Good Friday."  Maybe it would be more accurate to say that Jews "celebrate" today and Christeeans "observe" it but that always infuriates Jews and makes them paranoid and makes them go hide under the bed so we won't say that.

However all that may be it is not a good Friday for Americans, especially American Democrats whether Christeean or Jew.  Since it is the first Friday of the month this is also the day that the Labor Department releases it's monthly jobs report. They did that at 8:30 today and told us that 120,000 jobs were added in March. Consistent with our monthly practice, 120,000 is the size of the city of Charleston, South Carolina, Charleston take a bow,

thank you, and that SUCKS!  Charleston won't cut it, they're still in the horse-and-buggy era as we can all see. No, 120,000 is too little, we need at least Chula Vista or at the very, very least Garland, to be able to say that the recovery is really continuing, and we ended up with dang Charleston. We economics scholars were predicting Chula Vista or Garland also and so there's the additional, dreaded "adverse psychological effect" attendant to unmet predictions confidently made.

What really sucks is that, according to the New York Times, the Federal Reserve Bank (the "Fed," to us insiders) believes that even a Chula Vista per month is too anemic for a "recovery" after 2 years of stimulus. Interest rates are about as low as they can go, have been about as low as they can go for some time, that's been the Fed's strategy to stimulate the economy, and so when the Feds met this week, before the Charleston disaster,  they asked themselves the question, "What do we do if we don't start seeing Chula Vista+ numbers?"  According to the Times the Feds were going to consider redefining what "full employment" meant and raise interest rates. ? It seems to us here at Public Occurrences that the Feds need to have another meeting.

On the other hand Mitt Romney had an orgasm today.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

American Presidential Politics.

American politics is "polarized."  That's the conventional wisdom;  wise normal people think that, Chinese think that, idiot bloggers think that. It's true. America has always been bipolar...maybe in both the political and psychological meanings. In politics we have two parties.  That's "bi," duh.  That's not what people mean though. They mean when they say American politics is polarized today that there is an unusual breadth and depth of hatred among partisans of one candidate towards the other. I think there is hatred in American politics today. I think some people really hate President Obama. A lot of people really hated President George W. Bush.  A lot hated Bill Clinton. I don't understand the hatred but I agree it's there.  Is this hatred unusual in American politics though?  Some people hated Richard Nixon, some hated FDR.  And then there are these.  These are actual campaign slogans of actual candidates for the actual presidency:

"Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine," Grover Cleveland-AND-"Ma, Ma, Where's My Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha," James G. Blaine (1884). Editorial note: Cleveland fathered a child out of wedlock. Can these ever be topped?  No.

"Cox and Cocktails," Warren G. Harding (1920).Ed. note: James M. Cox, the Democrat, was a "Wet," i.e. against Prohibition, i.e. for drinking. If I had been alive in 1920 Cox would have gotten my vote.

"In Your Heart, You Know He's Right,"  Barry Goldwater-AND-"In Your Heart, You Know He Might" (over a picture of a nuclear mushroom cloud), Lyndon Baines Johnson (1964).

Dishonorable mention:

"Reannexation of Texas and Reoccupation of Oregon," James K. Polk-AND-"Who is James K. Polk?," Henry Clay (1844).

Monday, April 02, 2012


China holds my interest. Those closest to me say I'm obsessed.

The New York Times prominently reports today And they don't mean that as a compliment on a new Brookings Institute study, "Addressing U.S.-China Strategic Distrust."  The study gets prominent reporting because a co-author is Wang Jisi, an adviser to the Center, and thus reveals what PRC officials really think.  Although I have downloaded the study this post is based on the Times article summarized below because I am impatient as well as...interested.

1. China is more assertive in the world. 
2. That's because the Center is more confident of China's capabilities based on post-Deng economic growth.
3. The Center is not impressed with the U.S. as a model for China.
     A. The U.S. is in decline economically and in world influence.
     B. Internal U.S. politics is increasingly polarized.
4. Americans are nosey people with a bone in their brain and should not be raising human and political rights issues with China.
5. The Center has no intent to liberalize human and political rights. 
6. Sino-American economic and world influence competition is zero-sum.
7. China will win the sum and the U.S. will win the zero.
8. Sino-American competition is likely to develop into hostility, maybe into military conflict but not necessarily.

The entire outlook is of course plausible, Mr. Wang and co-author Kenneth Lieberthal are rational, informed analysts. Numbers 1 and 5 are factually true and obvious. 

Number 3 is also true as far as it goes. That is, China does not see the U.S. as a model. 3A and 3B are undoubtedly the reasons China does not see the U.S. as a model.  3A is not true in my opinion and 3B, while true, is not relevant if one believes that America is not in decline. 3B is relevant to those who are paranoid and see a one-party state as the best way forward.

I don’t find the analysis in number 3 particularly cogent. This strikes me as boilerplate. It was said America was in decline in the 1960’s and ‘70’s during and after Vietnam. Henry Kissinger believed America-as-Athens might succumb to Russia-as-Sparta. In the, what was it, the ‘80’s, there was a book by some guy—Paul Kennedy?-- that was all the rage.  The cover imagery was the thesis: it showed a platform with three steps, like in the Olympics. John Bull was stepping off the platform entirely; Uncle Sam was stepping off the “gold medal” top step, and a figure carrying a Japanese flag was ascending to the top step.  And I bought a lot of stock in a mutual fund called the “Japan Fund” and lost a lot of money.  But “past success is no guarantee of future success.”  Nothing lasts forever and China is a plausible candidate to be next up on the winner’s step. But I don’t think so.  And that’s because of number 2.

Number 2 surprises me: “confident,” the Center is confident.  I don’t see “confidence” in China’s soul.  China was dysfunctional for 3,000 years; they have been functional for 30 and Chinese are a very history-conscious people. As the People’s Republic, China was as dysfunctional, incompetent, and murderous as any regime in human history from 1949-1976.  Now they’ve had economic success for 30 years and they’re confident?  No.  Or at least not the people; the Center may be confident but not the people. Historically they have never competed. Chinese have a slavish mentality. They obey. When the Center tells the people to go do something they do it. This works particularly well in the catch-up phase of economic development, which is the phase China is in.  "See that stuff over there?  Go make stuff like that."  They will do it. Look at the Beijing Olympics. They figured out what Hollywood did and out-did Hollywood.  They're great at working off blueprints; blueprints are orders and they obey orders. Here's what pains me:  it's imitation and imitation is fake. This is why I say China today is not real.  China is not real.   Imitation is not creation.  To move to the next phase of economic development, Chinese have to create. A modern post-industrial economy must continually create: new products, new ideas to stimulate demand for new products.  Chinese have the ability to do this by virtue of being human just like Americans.  Historically they haven't done it and the slavish mentality is one key reason.  But history need not be destiny.

I see pain, so much pain, in China’s soul, so much sorrow. I look in those eyes and I see it; I hear it in their voices. The Chinese population is still half rural. All of those huge cities and half the people still live in the countryside*  The West, and I certainly, know virtually nothing about rural Chinese. For three millennia the peasants of China have survived, little more. In my oft-stated view Chinese are survivors, not achievers, not competitors. For these reasons I do not believe Number 7.  I don’t believe number 8 on this ground either and because China historically has not been nearly as imperial as many other nations, nor as aggressive. Nor even interested.  China did not explore. If the authors are correct that China and America are locked in competition and that competition may turn “antagonistic,” I am confident as China’s American competitor and antagonist. I am more confident that my antagonist is confident. 

Number 6 puzzles me. Economic competition is hardly ever zero-sum. That was at the root of Harry Truman’s desire for a “one-handed” economic advisor.  There’s almost always an “on the other hand.”  Even with the enormous trade deficit the U.S. runs currently with China, there’s some benefit to the U.S., more supply, cheaper goods (but see below). Maybe it’s because the Center fundamentally doesn’t understand economics. Wouldn’t be the first time. There is something though about this view that I’ve read somewhere, maybe in Kissinger’s book.  If survival is at your soul, do you not see more than one winner possible?

Number 4 causes schizoid thinking in Americans, from bloggers to policy makers, even in Henry Kissinger, the champion of realpolitik in Sino-American relations.  Last year (I think it was) when Hu Jintao visited Washington I wrote here that the Administration should not talk human rights with Hu, that America had made the decision to play with China and should accept the repression as something we can and should do nothing about.  Except decide not to play with them. The latter no one seriously advocates.  I wonder.

Human rights are important values to Americans.  That’s why they’re part of our foreign policy sometimes.  We really believe in them and we really don’t like to see people slaughtered or repressed, even in far-away China.  And when we “play” with another country, we feel guilty if that other country slaughters or represses its people because then we have “enabled” that slaughter and repression to some degree.  All for money (trade, “play”).

What if we think of it this way:  how much money has America made from playing with China, and is that enough to offset our guilty feelings (everything has a price; guilty feelings are a thing).  At the macro-economic level, we’ve lost money. Our trade deficit with China last year was $295 billion. So we’ve paid the Center $295 billion (last year) for them to repress their people.  I think it is factual that if the U.S. decided, “You know what, you disgust us, we’re not going to trade with you anymore,” China would be hurt economically more than the U.S. would.  Actually, it’s factual, it is undeniable.  That would throw off Lieberthal’s and Wang’s predictions. I have thought about this.  I have thought about this as seriously as an idiot blogger can. After I read Kissinger’s On China, I re-read parts of Margaret Macmillan’s Nixon and Mao. Macmillan asks the question whether Nixon, Kissinger, and America gave up too much in 1972 and thereafter.  My recollection is she didn't answer the question.  She was troubled by it.

I’m troubled by it. I have found myself turn away in disgust at times. China’s assertiveness in the last few years has annoyed me. I have found myself sometimes wistful for those pre-1972 days when China was closed. Maybe it is always thus with obsessions.

*Changed April 7, 2012 from "The Chinese population is--60%? 70%?, some astonishing figure—rural. All those huge cities and China is still largely a rural nation," based on the CIA estimate of 53% in 2010, and Wikipedia's estimate of 48.7% at the end of 2011.