By Nancy Macdonald - Saturday, November 17, 2012 - 0 Comments
The biggest buzz from the Communist Party’s meeting was around the yawns
Photos of bored Chinese Communist delegates at a pivotal party meeting went viral last week, before quickly disappearing from social media. Yawning party loyalists, after all, don’t fit with the official excitement surrounding Beijing’s once-in-a-decade leadership turnover.
In fairness, the 18th party congress, which ended Thursday, was hardly heady stuff. Decisions were made months in advance, and the names of the top leadership—including Xi Jinping, who replaces Hu Jintao as head of the Chinese Communist Party—have been known for years. Apparatchiks were just going through the motions.
But that didn’t stop an aura of paranoia from sweeping Beijing. Officials, spooked by falling growth rates, corruption scandals and the children of Communist politicians crashing Ferraris, ramped up security ahead of the handover. The sale of knives was banned in the capital. Buying a toy plane—which could have seditious messages attached to it—required a police chief’s permission. Cabbies were ordered to lock their back windows to prevent passengers from handing out political pamphlets. And in Tiananmen Square, guards carried fire extinguishers to stop Tibetan monks from lighting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule. Still, in places, dissidents did turn out to protest; scores of them were hauled off by security agents. Continue…
By Jane Switzer - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Anger is mounting over the antics of the upper class’s privileged offspring
The latest report of drag racing and violence between two Beijing playboys has angered residents who criticize the sense of entitlement among China’s nouveaux riches. On Sept. 2, Beijing real estate developer Wang Shuo, 29, was charged with illegal possession of weapons and destruction of personal property, stemming from a Dec. 17, 2010, showdown with Wang Ke, 30. According to China Daily, Wang Shuo and Wang Ke were drag racing through the popular Wangfujing shopping district when they both crashed near an intersection. Wang Shuo allegedly pointed a “gun-shaped object” at Wang Ke, reversed his car into Wang Ke’s Audi and fled the scene, leaving the luxury car burning in the busy street. The men are known as two of Beijing’s so-called “capital playboys” or fu er dai, the second-generation rich: offspring of China’s wealthy and political elite—who capitalized on Communist party leader Deng Xiaoping’s reform toward a market economy—with reputations of being above the law. Released on bail, Wang Ke defended himself on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo against the damning “capital playboy” label: “I’m not what people think I am,” he wrote. “Don’t put a feudal hat on my head.”
By Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 15 Comments
China is flexing its trade and military muscles. What does it mean for the West?
In the world of prized metals, dysprosium lacked a certain star power. It lies deep in the so-called f-block of the periodic table—that free-floating part near the bottom you never used in high school chemistry—along with the other so-called rare-earth elements with tongue-twisting names like neodymium and lutetium. No one ever set out with mule and pick-axe to find dysprosium. It occurs only as a constituent part of other mineral compounds, which explains why its name derives from the Greek for “hard to get at.”
But in recent months, dysprosium has shed its obscurity to prove that, like oil or diamonds, it can serve as leverage in an international dispute. Its debut took place shortly after Sept. 7, when Japan seized the crew of a Chinese fishing boat that had rammed two Japanese coast guard vessels near the Senkaku Islands, a string of barren rocks jutting from the East China Sea that has been a source of tension between the two countries for centuries. Infuriated by Tokyo’s refusal to turn over the skipper of the trawler, Beijing retaliated in a way no one expected: it cut off Japan’s supply of dysprosium, along with 16 other rare earth metals. Dysprosium and its chemical cousins are the lifeblood of Japan’s vaunted high-tech industries, used in everything from iPhone screens to the electric motor of the Toyota Prius. China, it turns out, produces 93 per cent of the world’s supply of them, having gotten into the market 25 years ago, then flooded the globe with cheaply mined product during the late 1990s. Today, if you want a shipment of dysprosium, you buy it from China.
By Nancy Macdonald - Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 4:29 PM - 2 Comments
South Africa’s new president is proving his critics wrong
By now, Jacob Zuma’s South Africa should be careening toward the ranks of failed African states. Eight months ago, after an election anointed him president of the continent’s proudest democracy, editorialists everywhere drew thinly veiled comparisons to Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, who turned Africa’s shining light into a country that rivals only Somalia for sheer dysfunction. Even the most generous assessments had Zuma—once described as an “embarrassment” by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu—shackled by “suspicion” and “doubt” about his shambolic past, and ﬁtness to lead Africa’s biggest economy. Yet under Zuma, South Africa has made pragmatic, positive strides in many areas, including health and the economy.
Early indicators were not good. Zuma, a former goatherd with no formal schooling and a stable of wives, has also twice stood trial. In April, the fraud, corruption and racketeering charges he’d been ﬁghting for almost a decade were dropped, and in 2006, he was acquitted of rape (despite the acquittal, the case revealed “shocking” judgment, according to noted South African journalist Mark Gevisser: “He had unprotected sex with an unstable HIV-positive woman who regarded him as a ‘father.’ ”) To the chattering classes, Zuma seemed to embody the “rottenness” that famed novelist André Brink described as having befallen the country in A Fork in the Road, a memoir published in the weeks running up to the election.
By Andrew Potter - Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 9:20 AM - 10 Comments
The Liberals have benefited hugely from the confusion of the ‘Liberal’ and ‘Canada’ brands, both proudly red and white
The craziest thing I learned from the coverage last month of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China was that the People’s Liberation Army still belongs to the Communist party. Six decades after Mao’s victory in Beijing, the army is still under the command of the party, not the state, and the Ministry of National Defence exercises no authority over it.
That’s as sure a sign as any, I figure, that China has a long way to go before it joins the civilized world. After all, here in the multi-party democracy that is Canada, we make a clear distinction between the private interests of a political party and the public interests of the state, especially when a party happens to find itself temporarily in power. Continue…