From the Wall Street Journal today:
A $91 billion industrial project here, mired in debt and unfulfilled promise, suggests part of the reason why China’s economy is wobbling – and why it will be hard to turn around. The steel mill at the heart of Caofeidian, which is outside the city of Tangshan, about 225 kilometers (140 miles) southeast of Beijing, is losing money. Nearby, an office park planned to be finished in 2010 is a mass of steel frames and unfinished buildings. Work on a residential complex was halted last Christmas, after workers completed the concrete frames. There is even a Bridge to Nowhere: a six-lane span abandoned after 10 support pylons were erected.
“You only need to look around to see how things are going,” said Zhao Jianjun, a worker at a plant that hasn’t produced its steel-reinforced plastic pipes for months. “Look north, west, east,” he said, gesturing to empty buildings. Chen Gong, chairman of Beijing Anbound Information, a Chinese think tank, says Caofeidian shows the flaws of the Chinese economic-growth model, in which the government plans investment and companies are expected to follow suit, regardless of market conditions. Chinese local governments are “driven by the blind pursuit of GDP,” said Mr. Chen.
There are reasons why I have doubted much of this “China will overtake the US and dominate the world” stuff and the details referred to above are part of it, though goodness knows state-driven mal-investment is hardly the preserve of China. Far from it. But there has been enough evidence around to suggest that vast sums of money poured into Chinese projects of this type will not bear fruit. And there will be a reckoning.
Mongolian neo-Nazis rebrand themselves as environmentalists.
Young, ambitious, Chinese officials are being required to read Tom Friedman if they want to get ahead.
I knew the Chinese government was cruel, but until now I had no idea just how cruel.
The blogger and economist Charles Steele, whom I read regularly – glad to see him back in action after a period of illness – has this to say about a US national sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour for the sin of preaching the Christian gospel. Mr Steele is not happy at the mealy-mouthed approach of, among others, the New York Times:
Sometimes the apparent helplessness and lack of courage of the “progressives” is hard to fathom. North Korea has us “in a bind?” My first reaction at seeing how NYT is framing this was to think of the following response the U.S. could give. Barack Obama could announce, publicly, that the United States is giving Kim Jong-un 24 hours to release Mr. Bae. Otherwise, starting 24 hours from now, each day the North Koreans keep Bae in custody, the United States will sink a North Korean merchant vessel on the high seas or in North Korean waters. And if the North Koreans kill or otherwise harm him, we will sink every North Korean merchant vessel on the high seas or in North Korean waters, and if they ever get a new one we’ll sink it, too. We don’t care what Jong-un says, if he likes he can denounce Bae and the U.S. in the strongest terms and claim it is from his from magnanimity that Bae is released — but release him or else.
A question is how far can or should a state go in dealing with such cases. Very recently, two UK nationals were jailed after being convicted for drugs offences in Dubai. They could have faced the death penalty. No doubt there are plenty of other cases, such as when foreigners fall afoul of Singapore’s tough approach to petty crime, and so on.
I take the view that it would be foolish to endanger more lives – including those of our own military – to enforce a harsh penalty on a nation such as North Korea unless – a big if – it could be shown that North Korea’s actions presented a direct and credible threat to ourselves…. which is the reason given, say, for toppling Saddam. Also, it would need to be shown that such action, given the risks, would be effective in establishing a clear principle that says governments cannot treat foreigners without regard to any norms of civilised behaviour. That doesn’t mean passively shrugging shoulders at its barbarism and if means can be found to make life even more unpleasant for the cretins who rule North Korea, well good.
It is not being weak, however, to point out that anyone who goes to this totalitarian state and who chooses to promote, say, Christianity, or classical liberalism, or anything else that is on the shit-list of the folk in North Korea, is taking an enormous risk. It is rather like a person choosing to climb Mount Everest without decent clothing and footwear.
North Korea is, judging by its behaviour in recent weeks, a country run by lunatics. Anyone who goes there without understanding this is acting at great danger to himself or herself. By all means turn the screws on this vile nation as hard as possible, but bear in mind that military action poses considerable risks that need to be considered. It is not being evasive or mealy mouthed I think to point that out.
The ever alert Mick Hartley links to this story:
A mosaic wall erected in the North Hamkyung Province town of Musan to idolize Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il collapsed shortly before the April 15th “Day of the Sun” festivities for the birth of Kim Il Sung, sources from the region have reported to Daily NK. They claim that corruption led to poor construction, and this left the mosaic unable to withstand recent high winds.
This is the first known occasion whereupon a piece of state construction for the idolization of the North Korean leaders has collapsed in this way. Given the rarity of the event and the seriousness with which the North Korean leadership takes the idolization project in general, serious censure is thought likely for those deemed to have been responsible.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Well, I know what I’m thinking. Who gives an expletive deleted about some ridiculous wall of worship that collapses, when people in North Korea are starving in their hundreds of thousands, and probably millions?
The answer, of course, is: the rulers of North Korea. A key moment in the history of a tyranny comes when the tyrannical system in question no long works even by its own tyrannical standards, and instead starts making the tyrants themselves appear ridiculous, even to themselves.
I therefore consider this a significant story. Not the least significant thing about the story being that it got out:
“A lot of people witnessed the collapse because it was built in the town center, so this news will spread rapidly and could easily become political.”
By the sound of it, it already has become “political”.
I read this and I must say I was a bit perplexed:
As tensions continue to escalate on the Korean peninsula South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said today that the North’s regime could be in danger of collapse “without change,” prodding Kim Jong-un to end his brazen threats of provocations and reform.
And North Korea collapsing would be… bad… why exactly?
Samizdata lurker Mike Ritchie has an observation to share:
John Sweeney’s undercover report on North Korea for Panorama on the BBC contains this steaming turd of a quote from a contributor – one Bryan Myers – a “Professor”, we are assured:
“…so I think it’s much more accurate to look at North Korea as a far-right state, an ultra-nationalist state”.
North Korea Undercover from 4:00 to 6:00 if you can bear it – do not feel compelled to watch the whole thing, it is superficial pap.
Another witless bozo who can not seem to grasp the logical outcome of putting the state in the driving seat, whatever the superficial branding/flag colour/exact nature of dynastic succession.
Of course, the Panorama editorial team seem more than happy to include this statement – you would almost think they worked for a state broadcaster
“The North Korean government has issued haircut guidance for its citizens and chosen 28 hairstyles it deems “appropriate” for members of the single-party state. According to the WantChina Times, photos of the 28 haircuts recommended by the totalitarian regime (pictured below) have been issued to salons around the country. The cuts were chosen for being comfortable and resistant to Western influences.”
Via The Register.
It is always interesting that when newspapers cover Chinese news, mentions of history’s most prolific mass murderer just get reported baldly without much comment:
Players won points for acts of selfless Communist spirit and the winners were greeted, on screen, by Chairman Mao in Tiananmen Square. Points were deducted, however, each time a player had to be taken aside by his local Party secretary for a “corrective chat”.
- China embraces online gamers
Yet somehow if a German videogame maker (let alone a government sponsored one) were to feature that also-ran mass murderer Adolf Hitler ‘greeting’ players on screen in a video game, I suspect the reportage might be… a tad different.
My son always wants to watch motorbikes on the telly. While watching an old episode of motorcycle adventurer Charley Boorman traveling through India by various means, I took note of Charley’s description of the ambulance service in Mumbai. He said that until recently there were no ambulances, so a group of entrepreneurs set up a service.
It is called Dial 1298 and it provides scheduled and emergency medical transportation. Even the poor are catered for:
The principle of cross subsidy is used wherein:
- Full charge to a patient going by choice to a private hospital.
- Subsidized charge to BPL (Below Poverty Line) patient going by choice to a government / municipal hospital.
- Free service to accident victims, unaccompanied, unconscious individuals and victims of mass casualty incidents.
One of their investors is Accumen Fund, who say: “We use philanthropic capital to make disciplined investments – loans or equity, not grants – that yield both financial and social returns.”
All good, voluntary stuff. Socialists hate it.
Last year, for the first time, sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those for babies.
- Here. I found it here.
In China, the government wanted to build a road where there were some flats. Instead of evicting the residents, they lured them away with money. But for one couple the money was not enough, so the rest of the building was knocked down and the road was built anyway. The couple who refused to move now live in the middle of the road.
The article does not mention whether they still have water and electricity, but it does give some other examples of similar situations where utilities were disconnected.
This is China, so it is likely that there is more going on than meets the eye. But on the face of it no property rights have been violated. The land the road sits on was bought fair and square. This situation demonstrates that compulsory purchase and eminent domain are not necessary to solve the problem of recalcitrant landowners: if all your neighbours sell it is likely that your property is about to lose value and you would be wise to sell also.