2ndlook

1900-2000: How much change can 100 years make!

Posted in China, Desert Bloc, European History, History, India, politics, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on July 5, 2012

A little over a hundred years ago, Western power, wealth and technology seemed overwhelming. How a hundred years can change everything. Everything.

Russia, Japan, Germany and England as Shylocks gather round a kneeling China (Antonio) and demand their pounds of flesh for the Boxer Rebellion, while Puck urges the US to step in as Portia and rescue China. by John S. Pughe for Puck Magazine / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection; Subtitle on the cartoon reads:

Russia, Japan, Germany and England as Shylocks gather round a kneeling China (Antonio) and demand their pounds of flesh for the Boxer Rebellion, while Puck urges the US to step in as Portia and rescue China. by John S. Pughe for Puck Magazine / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection; Subtitle on the cartoon reads:

The Dark Before Dawn

In the year 1900, China, seen as an effete, weak nation, could be bullied into submission. The West, suddenly rich, with wealth from piracy, slavery, sugar, tobacco, gold from America and Australia and Africa was in a position of supreme power.

In Cahoots

Ancient civilizations like India and China seemed to be in an interminable grip of the West. In the year 1900, the Chinese kingdom saw its 1857 moment. When the Chinese nation rose as one against the Western powers – under the leadership of Society of Right and Harmonious Fists (- 義和團 I He Tuan or I Ho Ch’uan; Boxers in English).

Empress Cixi, A Manchu Queen, who ruled over Han China.

Empress Cixi, A Manchu Queen, who ruled over Han China.

At the turn of the last century, with the European “Scramble for Africa,” as it was known, only recently completed, three assertive new major powers were fast emerging: Germany, Japan and the United States. Most of the world had already been claimed by more established actors. But decrepit, late Qing Dynasty China, with its hundreds of millions of people, centuries of accumulated wealth and vast territory, loomed as the final big prize on the imperial frontier. The New York Times at the time called China “the greatest potential market of the world,” and circling foreign powers, old and new, were drawn by its weakness and misrule.

The Boxer Rebellion. The war was the last of the West’s repeated armed confrontations with the Qing, but compared with other Chinese conflicts of the era, notably the midcentury, overlapping Taiping Rebellion and Second Opium War, it was a far smaller affair, both in duration and scale, essentially lasting through the long summer of 1900.

The war in a tradition that he says was long familiar to the British but brand-new to the Americans, one where empire is created “on the scene, and to the surprise of the mother county,” by free-lancing representatives of faraway Western capitals. In the case of the Boxer Rebellion, this meant a conflict that pitted the assembled forces of the world’s major powers against China. The unforeseen result, soon after the defeat of the Qing, was the end of thousands of years of dynastic rule and arguably the beginning of the end of the imperial age itself.

The Boxer Rebellion—its name derives from the uprising’s practitioners of martial arts—had its roots in China’s 19th-century demographic explosion, as well as crop failures and drought, which served as a catalyst for one of the era’s many Chinese peasant uprisings. What was different this time was the target. The Boxers, who arose in Shandong Province, were not mobilized against the Qing state but rather against the large Western presence in the country, especially that of Christian missionaries, who were attacked by the rebels in the summer and fall of 1899.

The Boxers’ problem was not with the Westerners’ religion per se. The rebels were incensed because, in the vacuum left behind by a failing Qing administration, the foreign church-based organizations were becoming local administrators. As such they were direct competition for the Chinese secret societies, like the Boxers, that were also moving to fill the void.

The Boxers were leaderless, largely illiterate peasant militants whose alliance in loose, improvised networks made them hard to stop. The movement quickly gained momentum in 1900, when spring rains failed to arrive: Unable to plant their crops, peasants were idled, frustrated and receptive to the Boxers’ recruiting efforts. In May, rallying under the slogan “Support the Qing. Exterminate the Foreigners,” the Boxers descended on Beijing and laid siege to the foreign quarter. Forced to choose sides, the Empress Dowager Cixi ordered foreign legations to quit the capital.

The war that ensued was fought by an uneasy but eager eight-nation coalition, including Austria-Hungary and Italy, who pushed to reach Beijing from the port of Dagu. Strange pairings were forged between rivals soon to be mortal enemies: the British and Germans, the Japanese and Russians, each eager to outdo the other.

China’s defeat—the country was forced to pay onerous reparations—marked the end of “a disastrous two years, part of a disastrous decade, [and] the end of a disastrous century,” Mr. Silbey writes. But the defeat also marked a turning point. British India, which had sent many troops to suppress the Boxers, was soon gripped by its own revolutionary movement. The Japanese learned from the war that “they held the whip hand in Asia” and would soon defeat Russia and later take over China.

Putting down the Boxer Rebellion had been a successful, coordinated display of imperial power—and a last hurrah. The new century had other plans for the victors.

From America’s recent, brief moment of unipolar pre-eminence, we have suddenly stepped into a new and uncertain age, with big, fast-growing new actors, China and India chief among them, rising to claim a place on the world stage. (via Book Review: The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China – WSJ.com; Links supplied).

Boxer rebels, 1900 photograph. From Tōgō Shrine and Tōgō Association (東郷神社・東郷会), Togo Heihachiro in images, illustrated Meiji Navy (図説東郷平八郎、目で見る明治の海軍), (Japanese),   |  Source Wikipedia.  Click for image.

Boxer rebels, 1900 photograph. From Tōgō Shrine and Tōgō Association (東郷神社・東郷会), Togo Heihachiro in images, illustrated Meiji Navy (図説東郷平八郎、目で見る明治の海軍), (Japanese), | Source Wikipedia. Click for image.

Soon after the Boxer War, China’s ruling dynasty, the Qing fell in 1911.

Civil war followed.

This civil war lasted until Communist forces under Mao Zedong’s gained control over China in 1949.

Looking for a pattern.

There are a few things in common between War of 1857 and the Boxer War of 1900 in China.

One – No Leaders They Say

Western historians have a knack of describing all anti-Western uprisings and wars as leaderless. The War of 1857 was Mutiny. The War by the Boxers too was an Rebellion.

Even though the West did not rule over China, yet it was rebellion. Even though the War of 1857 saw major engagements across India, over 18 months, it was a Sepoy Mutiny.

Leaderless.

Killing Over Spoils

Just 15 years after this China’s Boxer War, the same 8 nations that had made an unholy alliance to subjugate China, were at each others throats.

More than 10 million people died in World War – I.

15 years before China’s Boxer War, billed by the hosts as the Kongokonferenz, or the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) in English, was organized by the Chancellor of a newly formed nation, Germany. Otto von Bismarck, Germany’s Iron Chancellor called for this conference to demarcate Africa between European Powers (plus the Ottoman Empire & USA).

These eight European powers could unite when it came strategy for undermining target-populations – and were equally capable of unprecedented slaughter when it came to sharing the spoils of loot.

A point though mentioned last,  as important as any preceding points, is how European residents in China could easily act and call upon their national Governments for aggressive military actions. European Tai-Pans in China or the Company Bahadur in India could easily switch roles from being traders to an extension of the European State.

Even today?

When you get up again

Looking back over the last 100 years, the most edifying observation that can be made is about India and China.

In 1900, it would have appeared to most that China and India would never recover. Today, both India and China have recovered.

But the real question today is – Will former colonial powers like Spain, Portugal, Britain and France go the way of Rome, Greece and Egypt.

Never to rise again.

A Troublesome Egg to Hatch by J.S. Pughe  |  1901 cartoon as Industrial powers’attempt to exploit China. US & Japan look on.  Image source & courtesy - historytoday.com  |  Click for larger image.

A Troublesome Egg to Hatch by J.S. Pughe | 1901 cartoon as Industrial powers’attempt to exploit China. US & Japan look on. Image source & courtesy – historytoday.com | Click for larger image.


2000 years Of World Manufacturing History

Posted in America, Business, China, European History, India, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on June 28, 2012

Till 200 years ago, India was the dominant industrial power in the world. It has regained a place in the Top 10 again in the space of the last fifty years.

Western manufacturing starts its dominant phase after slave-revolts in Hiati and Caribbean. These revolts coupled with the capital-concentration allowed the Industrial Revolution to spread across the West - and later the world.  |  Creative credits embedded. Additional animation at source. |  Click for image.

Western manufacturing starts its dominant phase after slave-revolts in Hiati and Caribbean. These revolts coupled with the capital-concentration allowed the Industrial Revolution to spread across the West – and later the world. | Creative credits embedded. Additional animation at source. | Click for image.

Western Invention of China

Gunpowder or silk, China has long been credited by the modern West as the inventor or innovator. Thin Chinese evidence in the face of overwhelming balance of convenience favoring India has been overlooked – largely the work of one man, China-Champion Needham.

Even with this bias, India emerges as the historical champion in manufacturing. With technology monopolies in gunpowder, sugar, wootz steel, dominance in silk, cotton, textiles, fabrics, India was an unmatched industrial power till 200 years ago. India’s de-centralized manufacturing made it a lead innovator and manufacturer for the longest period in human history – thanks to भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra.

Recent DNA analysis of fibre has revealed that Saraswati-Indus Valley urban centres processed silk much before China. India produced 1000% more gunpowder than China.

Yet, China gets the credit.

Mehrgarh Statuette; Courtesy - Wikimedia Commons; Source: Denis Biette

Mehrgarh Statuette; Courtesy – Wikimedia Commons; Source: Denis Biette

Saraswati Plains – Indus Valley Pioneered Silk, Cotton & Copper

On the plains of Saraswati River and in Sindhu River, (Indus Valley as per modern history) there is archaeological evidence that Indians were the first in the world to use silk, cotton, copper and bitumen (tar) – called daamar डामर/अलकतरा in Hindi (also daambar in some parts).

The metallurgical analysis of a copper bead from a Neolithic burial (6th millennium bc ) at Mehrgarh, Pakistan, allowed the recovery of several threads, preserved by mineralization. They were characterized according to new procedure, combining the use of a reflected-light microscope and a scanning electron microscope, and identified as cotton (Gossypium sp.). The Mehrgarh fibres constitute the earliest known example of cotton in the Old World and put the date of the first use of this textile plant back by more than a millennium. Even though it is not possible to ascertain that the fibres came from an already domesticated species, the evidence suggests an early origin, possibly in the Kachi Plain, of one of the Old World cottons. (via ScienceDirect.com – Journal of Archaeological Science – First Evidence of Cotton at Neolithic Mehrgarh, Pakistan: Analysis of Mineralized Fibres from a Copper Bead).

This topic has come to the fore again.

An infographic (on top) by a British publication badly represented the fact that between 1AD-2000 AD, for 1800 years India was either a dominant or a significant manufacturing centre in the world.

This infographic at first glance seems to show Western manufacturing prowess as long-term development – and not a short-term blip in the last 200-years.

Not surprisingly, it coincides with India’s eclipse – now a 200-year old phenomenon.

What does the future look like.

China will rival the US as the country with the biggest potential to develop key technology breakthroughs with a big impact on the business world, according to a survey of more than 650 executives in industries such as computing and electronics.

According to the poll, organised by the KPMG consultancy, Chinese companies and researchers are beginning to develop expertise.

In the study, 30 per cent of the executives asked to give their views said that China will be the single biggest “global hotspot” for innovation within the next four years, with the US in second place attracting 29 per cent of the votes.

India, Japan and South Korea came next in the poll, with 13 per cent, 8 per cent and 5 per cent of the respondents to the survey naming these countries.

The executives who answered questions in the survey work in technology-based businesses around the world, mainly in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. (via China to rival US tech knowhow, say execs – FT.com).

This survey, overplays India manufacturing prospects and ignores Germany.

More than India, Japan or Korea, it is Germany which is likely to be the Top-3 industrial and innovation power stakes in the next 25-50 years.

While Indian prospects are indeed worthy of mention, it is unlikely that India will provide the concentration of wealth and power to become a global ‘innovation’ leader in the next 25 years.

We can check this ‘prediction 13 years later.

A date in 2025 , then!


Bated Breaths: Government-Change Across The World

Posted in America, China, Current Affairs, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on June 18, 2012

Probably never in history have so many government changes happened in unison. To this add the global crisis in leadership.

A ballot box as a defibrillator?  Revive the Egyptian economy?  |  Cartoon by Luojie from China, Politicalcartoons.com  |  Click for image.

A ballot box as a defibrillator? Revive the Egyptian economy? | Cartoon by Luojie from China, Politicalcartoons.com | Click for image.

Between April 2012 and March 2013, four of the five P5 nations with the Security Council veto at UN, will have a change in government. This probably more than in any similar period in history.

For a world, in the middle of The Great Recession, with a global leadership crisis, this period of uncertainty and change, does it mean hope? With empty agendas, greater resentments and despair is more probable.

Take Russia for instance.

A wooden-faced Putin, probably after a botox treatment, has become President amid street protests and allegations of vote rigging – purportedly, engineered by the US.

Vladimir Putin was sworn in as Russian president on Monday in a glittering Kremlin ceremony that took place less than 24 hours after protesters opposed to his rule had battled police in downtown Moscow.

Putin’s motorcade had sped through empty streets locked down by a heavy security presence on its way to the Kremlin State Palace, where some 2,000 guests had gathered to witness his inauguration for a six-year term.

Those assembled included Putin’s predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev, and Patriarch Kirill, head of Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church. The patriarch later blessed Putin’s inauguration in a Kremlin service. Former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was also in attendance.

Police made 120 arrests as some 200 people, including Yeltsin-era deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, protested Putin’s return to the presidency at separate locations near the Kremlin.

Over 400 people were arrested and scores injured as Sunday’s rally against Putin’s rule turned violent when protesters briefly broke through police lines in a bid to take their protest to the Kremlin walls.

Putin was forced to step down in 2008 by a Constitution that forbids more than two subsequent terms, but is silent on further presidential stints. He shifted to the post of prime minister after installing Medvedev in the Kremlin, but remained by far Russia’s most powerful politician.

Russia’s Constitution was amended in 2008 to increase the presidential term of office from four years to six.

The amendment means that Putin could remain in power until 2024, longer than any Russian or Soviet leader since dictator Joseph Stalin. (via Putin Returns to Kremlin Amid Protests | Russia | RIA Novosti).

Soon after Vladimir Putin, it was the turn of France to have a new head of State. Right in the middle of a Euro-zone currency and banking crisis, a new French President has taken over.

Unlike the earlier German-French consensus over austerity, Hollande has made some noises against the austerity-led agenda. This opens a new wave of uncertainty across Europe – and the world.

What can embattled Euro-bankrupts expect? A taste of austerity? A helping hand with growth? What will Euro banks get? A haircut or a debt-cut? Euro-Corporations are left struggling with an over-valued Euro-currency, a stagnant home market and a weak global market.

In the meantime France and Germany are discussing how to manage European crisis.

Socialist Francois Hollande has defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in the French presidential runoff by just over 1 million votes. He won 51 per cent of the vote against his rival’s 49. The president-elect has already pledged “to finish with austerity.”

Hollande will be the first French socialist president of France since 1995. He will be sworn in as new president of France on May 15.

Francois Hollande capitalized on France’s economic woes and President Sarkozy’s unpopularity. He has also promised to raise taxes on big corporations and people earning more than €1million a year, and lower the retirement age to 60.

Sarkozy, who has been in office since 2007, had promised to reduce France’s large budget deficit through budget cuts. It is only the second time an incumbent president has failed to win re-election since the start of France’s Fifth Republic in 1958. (via Hollande wins French presidency with 51.7% of votes — RT).

But Angela Merkel’s problems at home may make her more accommodating – or indecisive.

At the recent State elections, in May 2012, for North Rhine-Westphalia or “NRW” region, Europe largest state, also Germany’s most populous (13m), said a resounding ‘nein’ to Merkel’s party – the Christian Democrats.

This could either mean that Merkel becomes more flexible or worse, diffident. Soon after this wave of government changes across the world, Germany itself will be facing elections – between 27 August-27 October 2013.

These elecxtions are likely to be less than likely to be stabilizing  |  Cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen of DryBones at Politicalcartoons.com  |  Click for image

These elecxtions are likely to be less than likely to be stabilizing | Cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen of DryBones at Politicalcartoons.com | Click for image

But the Egyptians don’t have wait for so long. On Saturday, 16th June, Egyptians voted

in the first free presidential election in their history to make what many find an unpalatable choice between a military man who served deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak and an Islamist who says he is running for God.

Reeling from a court order two days ago to dissolve a new parliament dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, many question whether generals who pushed aside fellow officer Mubarak last year to appease the pro-democracy protests of the Arab Spring will honor a vow to relinquish power by July 1 to whoever wins.

“Both are useless but we must choose one of them unfortunately,” said Hassan el-Shafie, 33, in Mansoura, north of Cairo, exasperated like many who picked centrists in last month’s first round and now face a choice between two extremes.

With neither a parliament nor a new constitution in place to define the president’s powers, the outcome from Saturday and Sunday’s run-off will still leave 82 million Egyptians, foreign investors and allies in the United States and Europe unsure about what kind of state the most populous Arab nation will be. (via Egypt makes stark choice for president – Yahoo! News).

Free and fair elections? Secret ballot? | Cartoonist - Marian Kamensky from Slovakia; source & courtesy - cartoonblog.msnbc.msn.com | Click for image.

Free and fair elections? Secret ballot? | Cartoonist – Marian Kamensky from Slovakia; source & courtesy – cartoonblog.msnbc.msn.com | Click for image.

Reports are Egyptians are already missing Hosni Mubarak.

While the Egyptian vote will be talking point in the Islamic world, for the Euro-zone, the election in Greece is more important. The day after the Egyptian election, on Sunday, June 17, 2012, the Greeks voted

in an election that could decide whether their heavily indebted country stays in the euro zone or is forced towards the exit, potentially unleashing shocks that could break up Europe’s single currency.

Opinion polls are banned in the final two weeks of the campaign but party officials’ own estimates on election day showed the radical leftist SYRIZA bloc, which wants to scrap the punishing austerity package demanded by international lenders, neck and neck with the conservative New Democracy party, which broadly supports it. (via Greek voters to decide euro future – Yahoo! News).

The one change in Government that is the most difficult to call is in China. The Chinese duo of Hu-Wen, who have presided over the biggest expansion in China’s economy, are at the verge of retirement.

Though they won’t be saying zai jian 再见 – good-bye, see you soon! Sometime between September 2012-November 2012, 3000 delegates of the Chinese Communist Party of China (CCP), will be meeting

For the new nine-member Politburo Standing Committee to be endorsed at the congress, which marks a transition of power after 10 years of rule under President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

People’s Daily, the CCP’s flagship newspaper, said on May 3 that “at present, the elections” of the 2,200-plus deputies to the 18th party congress are going as scheduled. By April 27, 12 provinces including Beijing, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Jilin and Shandong have already decided on their deputies (who in fact are not really “elected” democratically but nominated by grassroots party organs and decided by higher authorities).

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily also reported that deputies to the 18th party congress representing the PLA and the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) have been nominated for the final approval of the Central Military Commission (CMC). There is no problem for other “constituencies” to complete their selections of deputies before June 30 – the set deadline.

The 18th party congress will be held “in autumn of this year”, in contrast to the official announcement of the CCP Central Committee that it would be held “in the latter half of 2012”. In China, autumn is generally considered to run from September to November.

It will be held in autumn or before the end of November following the party’s tradition. According to party rules and adopted practice, the current central committee will hold its last plenary session to endorse the agenda of the 18th congress shortly before its convention. (via Asia Times Online :: Rumor aside, a smooth transition is assured).

It is the economy stupid!  |  Caetoonist:  Nate Beeler of The Columbus Dispatch at Politicalcartoons.com  |  Click for image.

It is the economy stupid! | Caetoonist: Nate Beeler of The Columbus Dispatch at Politicalcartoons.com | Click for image.

Definitely, the most widely covered government-change in the world, the American elections in November has set off an avalanche of speculation in world media.

Speculation has been let loose.

A nuclear deal with Iran? An organized retreat from Afghanistan? The eurozone picking up a little bit of steam? Stable oil prices? Forget it. The crucial foreign elector recruited for Obama II at the White House is one Osama bin Laden. Call it the “Obama nails Osama” winning strategy.

No wonder the winning strategy has been subcontracted to the Hollywood/Pentagon combo. Washington lost the Vietnam War, but won it in on screen. Oscar-winning director Kathryn Hurt Locker Bigelow had already started the process of “winning” the Iraq War on screen – at least morally. Now it’s time for her new project – an as yet untitled movie – on the “Get Osama” May 2011 Abbottabad raid and the events leading up to it. With POTUS (that’s president of the United States) as the hero of his own action movie. (via Asia Times Online :: How Osama re-elects Obama).

Obama is definitely worried about an asteroid like Euro-zone crisis derailing his campaign  |  Cartoonist: Christopher Weyant of The Hill, Politicalcartoons.com  |  Click for image.

Obama is definitely worried about an asteroid like Euro-zone crisis derailing his campaign | Cartoonist: Christopher Weyant of The Hill, Politicalcartoons.com | Click for image.

Hollywood has been roped in. The hottest of Silicon Valley ‘brains’ have been called in. But, even then,

If the European crisis explodes or an attack on Iran drives up oil prices, the U.S. economy may tank and render moot all of Messina’s careful planning. Or the recovery could pick up steam, or the old gaffe-prone Romney could return and hand Obama an unexpectedly easy win. (via Messina Consults Jobs to Spielberg in Crafting Obama’s Campaign – Bloomberg).

Analysts have been reading the election-motive in the Chicago-Summit or the G* summit that Obama called for , in Chicago.

It believed that a worried

Barack Obama is to press German chancellor Angela Merkel to support a growth package to help bail out Europe at the G8 summit this weekend amid fears in the White House that the eurozone crisis could damage the president’s re-election chances.

Obama is scheduled to meet Merkel, the new French president François Hollande, the Italian prime minister Mario Monti and British prime minister David Cameron at Camp David on Friday evening.

But foreign affairs analysts said that Obama’s leverage with the European leaders is minimal on this issue. Although the US has the economic muscle to help Europe out of its mess, the Obama administration took the strategic decision not to become involved directly.

Instead, Obama is to use the Camp David summit for some quiet diplomacy, hoping to sway Merkel to endorse some immediate actions to help growth. The problem for Obama is that most of the initiatives being discussed in Europe are medium-term or longer, too late to help him if the European crisis impacts on the US economy in the fall, just ahead of the election in November. (via G8 summit: Obama to press Angela Merkel on eurozone growth package | World news | guardian.co.uk).

Soon after the US President is sworn-in to office by February, Pakistan will go for elections. Unless there is an army coup. Or a US invasion.

Probably, Pakistani Government is the only Government in history, which has taken the help of a foreign government, to invade its own country. It all boils down to

cessation of drone strikes is one of the two preconditions of Pakistan for ending the present standoff that has gone on for more than six months and has caused much tension. The second pre-condition is an apology by the US for the November 26, 2011, airstrike at Salala in North Waziristan that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. After this ghastly “friendly fire”, Pakistan had closed the transit route for supplies to Nato troops in Afghanistan. It remains shut because US President Barack Obama has refused to apologise, and it is doubtful that in an election year he can change his mind.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also faces election some four months after the presidential poll in the US. He is in no position, therefore, to give up either of the two preconditions prescribed by an all-party committee of Pakistan’s Parliament. The man most pleased with this intractable situation must be the all-powerful Army Chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani. Ever since the US attack on Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden 13 months ago, the Pakistan Army has felt humiliated but has successfully turned the public anger over its failure to prevent the incident against America. The anti-American feeling within the Pakistan Army may not be as strident as among the public, especially the jihadis, but it is strong enough. The general can, therefore, sit back while the weak President is left holding the baby.

It is in this context that one must view also the big blow at the Nato Summit on Afghanistan in Chicago last month to the heavily fraught US-Pakistan ties. The US had seen to it that the invitation to Mr Zardari was delivered at the last minute, when it seemed to Washington that Nato supplies through the southern route would be resumed by the time the Pakistani President arrived at the summit.

When this did not happen, Mr Obama gave Mr Zardari a cold shoulder. At the opening of the summit, he did not even acknowledge Mr Zardari’s presence while welcoming Afghan President Hamid Karzai and even “officials” from Russia and Central Asian republics. Moreover, he denied Mr Zardari a one-to-one meeting. In Chicago, there was understandable concern that the widening gulf between the US and Pakistan might “complicate” the planned exit of Western combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

From then on, bilateral talks between America and Pakistan — which have not broken down even though there are senior members in both establishments who would like to end them — are focused on inducements to Pakistan to reopen the supply line. (via US-Pak: Separated, not divorced | The Asian Age).

On most matter, finally, Pakistan has the last word. Here also we will let Pakistan have the last word.

And a very important word, it may turn out to be.


Tagged with: , , , ,

China’s ‘naked’ officials

Posted in China, Current Affairs, Media, politics, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on June 8, 2012

The Chinese media ‘bares’ its soul on ‘naked’ officials. Western media triumphalist. Reality is the victim.

Cartoon rendition of China's naked official  |  Cartoon on July 26, 2010 on the 'naked' officials phenomenon in chinahush.com; artist credit not available at source  |  Click for image.

Cartoon rendition of China’s naked official | Cartoon on July 26, 2010 on the ‘naked’ officials phenomenon in chinahush.com; artist credit not available at source | Click for image.

Indian Tales

Indian media usually limits China coverage to three themes.

Progress Theme: China is progressing; has become a world-player; will it replace USA as the economic and military super-power.

Threat To India: China’s threat to India; The China-Pakistan axis which will ‘finish’ India.

Ape The Chinese: What India must learn from China; How India must be more like China.

Nearly all of Indian media coverage can be slotted into these three categories.

Are the Chinese also on the same page? Especially ‘ordinary’ Chinese?

Stories from China

The Chinese?

They, but have, different stories.

Sex: Non-existent sex lives of Many versus overactive sex-lives of the few. What must the State do about the non-existent sex lives of many Chinese.

Executions: The unresponsive State wishes to show itself as sensitive to public-opinion by pandering to public demand for killings and punishments of ‘corrupt’ officials.

Western media is equally busy:

Predicting: The down fall of China;

Drooling: Over ‘horror’ stories from China; to be fair, Western media drools over horror stories back at home too.

World Domination: If it is not these two themes, then China is taking over the world.

If US leaders do not peddle the China-threat story, how will Obama win an election?

Birathers – take a 2ndlook!

‘Naked’ Officials

Not what you think.

Over the last 2 years, an interesting story has built up in China – the story of 裸体官员; (pinyin) luǒtǐ guānyuán, often shortened to 裸官 (pinyin) luǒ guān. ‘Naked’ officials.

What or who are these ‘naked’ officials? The English language edition of People’s Daily Online, in an article some time back, defined these bureaucrats and officials as,

rogues in government have become the latest target that commentators, and the public, love to hate. With a wife or husband and children overseas, little money in the bank here and no home of their own, the often high-flying thieves of the public purse have earned the euphemistic nickname “naked official.”

Even though this topic has been active in media and the Chinese internet, recent incidents have revived interest and coverage even in the Western media. From Britain, The Economist writes

THE phrase “naked official”, or luo guan, was coined in 2008 by a bureaucrat and blogger in Anhui province, Zhou Peng’an, to describe officials who have moved their family abroad, often taking assets with them. Once there, they are beyond the clutches of the Communist Party in case anything, such as a corruption investigation, should befall the official, who is left back at home alone (hence “naked”). Mr Zhou says the issue has created a crisis of trust within the party, as officials lecture subordinates on patriotism and incorruptibility, but send their own families abroad.(via Moving the family abroad: Hedging their bets | The Economist).

The naked official (wearing the traditional hat of an official) is putting "public funds" into a bag labeled "corruption." The official is in China and his wife and daughter are abroad.  |  Image source & credit - chinadigitaltimes.net  |  Click for image.

The naked official (wearing the traditional hat of an official) is putting “public funds” into a bag labeled “corruption.” The official is in China and his wife and daughter are abroad. | Image source & credit – chinadigitaltimes.net | Click for image.

How deep and how wide is this problem?

Zhou Peng’an, a member of China Democratic League, one of China’s Non-Communist Parties and a popular blogger, asked “How many corrupt officials are naked?” in July 2008.

The answer to Zhou’s question varies widely.

Lin Zhe, a well-known anti-corruption expert, speaking angrily at last year’s legislative session, estimated that almost 1.2 million officials went naked between 1995 and 2005.

A report by People’s Bank of China in June last year suggested corrupt officials had smuggled an estimated 800 billion yuan ($124 billion) out of China between 1995 and 2008. The bank said research by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences indicated that between 16,000 to 18,000 government employees, including police officers, judicial officers, senior managers of government institutions and State-owned companies, had fled abroad during that period.

The bank’s report, which was posted on its website but has since been taken off line, was widely reported in the media. (via Naked and corrupt – People’s Daily Online).

The Chinese Government is unsure about the methodology of an earlier report – now withdrawn. Official media has no hesitation in covering this topic – and only rampant speculation, rumor-mongering is being controlled.

The People’s Bank of China last year inadvertently made public a confidential study stating that 800 billion Chinese yuan ($126 billion at today’s exchange rate) had been siphoned overseas by thousands of officials in the government and state-owned companies from the mid-1990s until 2008.

Another report by the Washington-based watchdog Global Financial Integrity, which tracked illicit outflow of money by all people, not just officials, found China led the world with $2.7 trillion (five times as much as runner-up Mexico) illegally taken out of the country from 2000 to 2009. (via China steps up efforts to keep officials from leaving country – latimes.com).

So, what events have revived interest in these ‘naked’ officials?

One man is all it takes

The scene – US Consulate at Chengdu.

On the evening of Feb. 6, a vice mayor of a major Chinese city who had a reputation as a crime fighter turned up at the American Consulate in Chengdu in an agitated state, telling a tale of corruption and murder that has ensnared the Obama administration in a scandal it wants nothing to do with.

The official, Wang Lijun, sought asylum, fearing for his life even as Chinese security forces quickly surrounded the building and asked the American diplomats inside to turn him over.

Instead, after a frantic debate that reached the White House, Mr. Wang stayed until he could arrange for an official from a Beijing ministry to come 36 hours later and escort him past the local security cordon. The authorities from Beijing took him into custody, and he is now under investigation for divulging internal Chinese affairs to the Americans. If charged with and convicted of treason, he could face a death sentence.

The information Mr. Wang possessed involved Bo Xilai, who was the Communist Party chief in Chongqing until last month and Mr. Wang’s onetime patron before a falling-out led Mr. Wang to seek refuge in the consulate (via Frenzied Hours for U.S. on Fate of a China Insider – NYTimes.com).

With Wang Lijun in the US Consulate, the story took a life of its own. It could no longer be suppressed. Chinese discussion forums, chat rooms, message boards exploded. Wang Lijun patron-in-Chief, Bo Xilai was put out in the cold. His wife was arrested.

Was this entire incident engineered?

at the Communist Party’s 18th five-yearly Congress in the autumn, Hu and other leaders will retire, forced out by age limits, and up to this week the seven vacancies were being contested by up to nine current Politburo members, including Bo. (via INSIGHT – With Bo Xilai down, nine leaders who may soon run China | Reuters).

One American ‘think-tank’ seems to be confirming that this entire fracas was engineered. Was this an intricate power-struggle within the Chinese communist party? A faction feud? Was it a case of Dengist-Reformers taking down a Mao-Loyalist?

This is a particularly delicate time in Chinese politics. A new-generation of leaders are expected to take over from retiring leaders in November this year.

Zhou Yongkang, who turns 70 this year, will step down from the standing committee along with Hu and Wen after the 18th National Congress to make way for Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang and the younger generation of party leaders. The Chinese government requires politicians 68 and older to step down during leadership changes. (via Politburo Standing Committee to be reduced to seven: Boxun|Politics|News|WantChinaTimes.com).

Whatever, it was,

The issue of official corruption has risen to the top of the government agenda this year with the ouster in March of Politburo member and Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai. Among the myriad accusations swirling around Bo is that his wife moved the couple’s money out of the country through trading companies set up abroad with an Englishman, Neil Heywood, whom she is accused of killing. In addition, the couple’s son, Bo Guagua, was sent overseas to school, first to Harrow, then Oxford and more recently Harvard’s Kennedy School, where he graduated last month.

The practice has become so endemic in China’s officialdom that the Communist Party’s top disciplinary body is enacting an “anti-flight” program to keep people in place. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection last month reviewed ways to keep people from moving abroad, including confiscating passports and registering family members living overseas as a way to monitor who might be kept out of high positions.

Chinese prosecutors say 18,487 officials, including executives from state-owned companies, have been caught during the last 12 years while allegedly trying to flee overseas with ill-gotten gains, according to this week’s issue of China Economic Weekly. The magazine described the typical “naked official” as a man in his 50s who was approaching retirement and had accumulated at least $13 million. (via China steps up efforts to keep officials from leaving country – latimes.com).

Bo Xilai, son of Bo Yibo, one of the Eight Elders of the Communist Party of China, was already a member of the 25-member Politburo (2007-2012). The 25-member Politburo is itself drawn from the 150-member Central Committee chosen by the party congress.

One of the “princelings” from Chinese politics, Bo Xilai was widely expected to be elevated up from the 25-member Politburo to the 9-member Politburo Standing Committee in November this year.

On Jan. 16, Bo Xilai, who then still ran the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, has been ousted first from his position as Chongqing party secretary, then his seats on the Communist Party’s Politburo and Central Committee. His wife Gu Kailai has been arrested for murder in connection with the death of Neil Heywood, a British businessman with a long connection to the Bo family who died in Chongqing last fall.

A former Bo deputy, ex-Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun, revealed his suspicions over Heywood’s death in a visit to a U.S. consulate in February before being taken into custody by state security officers.

Bo’s purge has been labeled the biggest leadership upheaval in China since soldiers crushed the Tiananmen movement on June 4, 1989. But that comparison is more an expression of how tightly the party has managed politics over the past two decades than the potential for similar upheaval today.

Bo had been a front runner for elevation to the Politburo Standing Committee, the top ruling body, and his downfall creates a significant political vacuum others are vying to fill. But officials of his status, if not outsize personality, have been toppled before, including Beijing party secretary Chen Xitong, who was ousted in an anticorruption campaign in 1995, and Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu, who was dismissed in 2006 and later sentenced to 18 years in prison for abusing the city’s pension fund.

Unlike those of disgraced Chen Xitong and Chen Liangyu, Bo’s case involves a murder allegation. The other major difference between Bo and his fellow fallen officials is the way he cultivated a public following through his popular campaign against organized crime — which many critics have said trampled the rule of law — efforts to revive Mao-era “red culture” and an emphasis on social benefits for poorer Chongqing residents. His popularity makes his removal that much more complicated.

Likewise, the Chinese military, with which Bo had cultivated close ties, has been ordering anticorruption study sessions that emphasize the disgraced Chongqing leader’s case, the People’s Liberation Army Daily reported on Friday. But while those public messages indicate a wariness of Bo’s residual influence, there is little sign that his removal will cause waves of the magnitude felt in 1989. “This was a major takedown of an extraordinary figure by the party apparatus,” says Russell Leigh Moses, a Beijing-based political analyst. “It’s thus far been done with little political fallout and very little, if any, reaction in the streets.

Most every day sees a new revelation in Bo’s case. Reuters reported on Monday that Heywood had been poisoned in a hilltop guesthouse the news agency identified as the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel after threatening to reveal Gu’s plans to send money abroad. And U.S. officials, who had been silent over Wang’s visit to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, a city about 200 miles (320 km) from Chongqing, have finally begun to talk, telling the New York Times on Tuesday that Wang entered the consulate “telling a tale of corruption and murder.”

Those developments have been widely discussed online in China, despite efforts to block posts containing sensitive information and rumors, including a three-day shutdown of comments on Chinese microblogs. Those conversations will be uncomfortable for China’s leaders, particularly as they consider how someone like Bo came so close to the country’s highest echelon of power. But they’re far happier having people talking online than taking to the streets. (via How Bo Xilai Will Affect China’s Leadership Transition | Global Spin | TIME.com).

After all this action, the Chinese leadership is left with options on how to close the Bo Xilai chapter.

China’s leadership faces a knotty choice in how to finish off fallen politician Bo Xilai without further damaging the Communist Party’s image: Purge him the old-fashioned way — in secret — or run him through a public trial. The challenge is to prevent lurid allegations that Bo abused his power and that his wife was involved in the murder of a British businessman from upsetting a once-a-decade leadership transition just months away.

After months of investigation and high-level deliberations, leaders believe a trial will have more public legitimacy. While the unproven allegations against Bo range from illegal wiretapping to illicit sexual liaisons, the ones that likely reflect worst on the party involve graft and flouting basic laws.

Many Chinese see those vices as endemic among their leaders, despite repeated avowals by the party to end them. His popularity makes Bo’s case particularly tricky and bolsters the chance for a trial, analysts said. Both Bo’s sympathizers among communist conservatives and their more liberal rivals are demanding one.

State media raised expectations for a trial in the wake of Bo’s ouster by repeatedly declaring that no one is above the law and that the legal process must run its course. (via China Mulls Public Trial for Ousted Politico – TIME).

Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?
Thanks Bob Marley for this line.

With an impatient populace breathing down its back, the Chinese Government had to be seen as taking some action.

The central government and the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China issued a regulation last May calling on “naked officials” to draw up reports about their emigrated family members in 60 days or be prepared for punishment.

“We have to be more aggressive and active in managing naked officials,” Zhao Xiaoqing, a press officer of Beijing Municipal People’s Procuratorate, told the official media. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China directed the procuratorate and other related authorities to participate in the campaign, he said. (via China’s ‘naked officials’ come under closer scrutiny – Times Of India).

The Chinese Government publicized a series of actions across China, to control the situation – and assuage public anger.

The Communist Party of China’s (CPC) disciplinary body last week announced its latest victory in the fight against corruption, declaring that efforts to tighten the net on “naked” officials – or those who remain in the country while their spouses and children live abroad – had yielded success.

“A number of officials who have attempted to run away have been stopped, while some officials already overseas have been brought to justice,” the Ministry of Supervision declared in a statement posted on its website.

Authorities have implemented various measures including monitoring the whereabouts of officials’ family members, scrutinizing their travel, controlling their passports and investigating the source of large sums of money transferred overseas.

Authorities in Guangdong, another pilot province, have also kept a close eye on officials’ travel to and from the Chinese mainland.

Liu Xiaohua, Party head of Zhanjiang, Guangdong, revealed in January that the planned promotion of an official was scrapped after it was revealed he visited Hong Kong, where his family had moved to and settled, more than 20 times within a year.

In many local governments, officials’ passports are kept by administrators and only given out after strict personal assessment or for formal overseas tours.

Nevertheless, some corrupt officials manage to fly under the radar. Liu Defu, a former bureau chief in Guangzhou, filed for 20 days’ leave in 2010 and went to the US with his passport on a “personal” trip. He never returned and today lives with his family, who emigrated to the US years earlier.

One of China’s most infamous “naked” officials is Pang Jiayu, the former mayor of Baoji in Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. Pang’s wife and son emigrated to Canada in 2002, but before the corrupt ex-mayor could join them he was arrested and sentenced in 2008 to a 12-year jail term for bribery and dereliction of duty. His family is reportedly still living a life of luxury in Canada.

The flagship Party magazine, Qiushi, or “Seeking Truth,” will publish an article today by He Guoqiang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

He wrote in the article that China will take further steps to combat corruption and build a clean government in order to benefit people and gain people’s trust. (via Anti-corruption measures clamp down on ‘naked’ officials eyeing an escape).

Like oil on water

In much of this reportage in the Chinese and Western media there was much that was superficial.

All this raises many doubts and some questions?

Can and should the State have restrictions on education abroad? Limitations on travel abroad? Or a long-term stay abroad?

Some of these reports talk of life of luxury abroad. What luxuries can you get in Canada or USA, which are not available in China?

Does the defection of these few thousand corrupt bureaucrats, signify a loss of faith in the future of China? Like some Western media reports suggest. What could be so deeply wrong with China that makes some of these bureaucrats plan this defection so many years in advance?

The fact that people send their spouses and children abroad does not necessarily mean they are corrupt — many Chinese prefer a foreign education, for example — but when an entire family leaves, authorities presume that an official does not envision a future in China. Chinese officials, including executives of state-owned companies, often have two passports, one for business and the other for personal travel.

“It’s very hard for the government to control this. They might hold your official passport, but most people will have a private passport as well and they can slip out of the country with that,” said He.

For every new restriction implemented, people come up with loopholes. The fake divorce, for example.

“The Chinese Communist Party is very strict about officials and their families having green cards or foreign passports. If they find out, that’s the end of your political career, but people will do a divorce on paper and then remarry,” said Ding Xueliang, a Hong Kong-based political scientist. (via China steps up efforts to keep officials from leaving country – latimes.com).

Cartoon depicting the capture of a fleeing naked official  |  Image courtesy & source - chinadigitaltimes.net  |  Click for image.

Cartoon depicting the capture of a fleeing naked official | Image courtesy & source – chinadigitaltimes.net | Click for image.

You do not have to be corrupt to be “naked”, however. Sending your family abroad is simply a state of maximum readiness. It does not suggest huge confidence in a stable Chinese future. Many wealthy businessmen have also been preparing exit strategies. One of the most common legitimate routes involves immigrant-investor programmes in America, Canada or Hong Kong, typically requiring an investment of up to $1m. Chinese nationals have rushed to apply for these. Three-quarters of applicants for America’s programme last year were Chinese.

The less well-heeled obtain passports from other countries—in the South Pacific, Africa or Latin America—at more affordable prices (as low as $20,000). Li Chengyan, director of the Centre for Anti-Corruption Studies at Peking University, says countries that do not have an extradition treaty with China are particularly popular among corrupt officials. One crooked former governor of Yunnan province was found to have five foreign passports. “No need to wait for a visa if they have to run,” says Mr Li. (via Moving the family abroad: Hedging their bets | The Economist).

What exactly are they fleeing from?

Looking at how some of these ‘naked’ officials are rushing to the South Pacific, Africa or Latin America, it is no indictment of future of China.

But it probably, is an indictment of the judicial system in China.

Is it China’s liberal use of the death sentence, which has created the disquiet. While 30-years of death sentences have not reduced corruption, it has certainly triggered the search for an escape from this random kind of justice.

Naked and in plain sight.


Story so far

There are many other elements to the Chinese puzzle.

Earlier posts examined the Chinese economy without the support of a cheap yuan that boosted exports for the last nearly twenty years. Will China go the Japan way? The mysterious manner in which the Buddhist monk has disappeared from Chinese movies is an ominous feature. Especially when the Buddhist monk has been replaced by gangsters.

Tibetan protests in the form of self-immolation by priests and nuns have unnerved the Chinese administration. Even in the past, in the 1965 and the 1971 India Pakistan Wars, China had maintained a distant attitude towards Pakistan. Indian Navy in the South China Sea, in alliance with Vietnam, is a significant counter-measure to posturing in the Indian North East by China.

China’s liberal use of the death sentence, has created disquiet in its bureaucracy – giving rise to the ‘naked’ officials. While 30-years of death sentences have not reduced corruption, it has certainly triggered the search for an escape from this random kind of justice. China’s implementation of the population dogma peddled by the West has emptied the lives of Chinese – created masses of people who have solitary sex.

2ndlook – Catching on and catching up on the emerging China picture.

Tagged with: , ,

Film Industry: American Muscle To Chinese Skeleton

Posted in China, Desert Bloc, Film Reviews, Pax Americana, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on May 27, 2012

US and China gang-up to save their film industries.

Piracy by China on IP rights of Hollywood. Cartoonist Clay Bennett takes a swipe at China and Hollywood. Sourece & courtesy - claybennett.com  |  Click for source.

Piracy by China on IP rights of Hollywood. Cartoonist Clay Bennett takes a swipe at China and Hollywood. Sourece & courtesy – claybennett.com | Click for source.

Davids & Goliaths

The two biggest economies in the world, US and China have at least one ‘threat’ in common. And the threat is actually from much smaller economies.

US and China have allied to ensure that the threat is ‘managed’.

The Chinese and the US film industry have no answer for old warhorse Bollywood and the upstart Nollywood.

Between Bollywood and Nollywood, they occupy the Top-2 positions in the world film industry. Bollywood with little support from mainstream banks, and Nollywood with no support at all have left Hollywood and the Chinese trailing far behind.

Boom Time In China

Even though

Cinema in China is booming. In 2010 box-office revenues grew by 64% to just over 10 billion yuan.  |  Image source & courtesy -  economist.com  |  Click for image source.

Cinema in China is booming. In 2010 box-office revenues grew by 64% to just over 10 billion yuan. | Image source & courtesy – economist.com | Click for image source.

Cinema in China is booming (see chart). In 2010 box-office revenues grew by 64% to just over 10 billion yuan. More than 520 films were made—about as many as in America. Only India produces more. (via China’s film industry: Kung fu propaganda | The Economist).

What The Economist does not mention is that India alone produces as many as China and US together. And that Nollywood comes in at No.2 position.

Globalized and organized Hollywood is finding that Bollywood and Nollywood is increasing their leadership in viewer and production numbers – without the advantages that Hollywood has.

The only relief that Hollywood has, is from China.

Hollywood is already doing well in China. Blockbusters like Avatar have been hugely popular and foreign films – usually big-budget Hollywood fare – account for about half of the country’s box office takings.

For the past decade, China has only permitted 20 foreign films to be shown in cinemas. A new deal agreed last month allows a further 14 movies to be shown in cinemas, provided they are in Imax or 3D formats.

China is certainly rich in potential. Box office takings surged 29% to $2.1bn (£1.3bn) in 2011 and are expected to see similar growth in 2012. While that’s only a fraction of the $10.2bn taken at the US box office, US ticket sales are declining. (via BBC News – Hollywood plays China card as audiences dwindle at home).

In the last ten years, mainland China has promoted its domestic industry – and taken control of it. Using various front companies, the Chinese Government has bought out and put up studios that will increase production along Party lines.

Along the way, Chinese actors and directors have found traction in Hollywood. And Hollywood blockbusters have gained significant market share in China.

Where the Japanese have gone before

In turn China, with its bulging foreign exchange reserves has decided to take a stake in Hollywood. Much like the Japanese bought in Hollywood back in the 1990s. Sony into Columbia Tristar (1989) and Matsushita (in 1990, Matsushita Electric bought MCA+Universal Studios for $6.5 billion)

BEIJING — Hollywood studios, facing steep challenges in the North American movie market, are taking more interest in China.

The Walt Disney Company and Marvel Studios, a division of Disney’s Marvel Entertainment subsidiary, are producing “Iron Man 3” in China. An agreement with Chinese authorities will allow more American companies to distribute more movies and reap a greater share of the box office in China, the world’s fastest-growing economy.

But at least one billionaire businessman is betting that the American movie market is still the ticket to international success. And he is Chinese.

Wang Jianlin, a rags-to-riches tycoon, is taking over AMC Entertainment, North America’s second-largest movie theater chain behind Regal Entertainment. And he is promising to integrate it into a new, made in China, global brand called the Wanda Group.

Wanda is a private company in a nation dominated by state-owned enterprises. But the AMC deal is closely aligned with the Chinese government’s priorities, which include encouraging Chinese companies to “go global,” pushing an overhaul of Chinese media and entertainment properties and placing greater emphasis on consumer spending. Policy makers in Beijing also want to bolster China’s “soft power” capabilities to extend its cultural influence internationally, and the film industry is considered one of the most promising avenues for doing so.

Which raises the question: Why invest in the United States cinema market at a time of weakness, when box office receipts are sluggish and American film producers are looking to China?

Some analysts have suggested that Mr. Wang’s acquisition of AMC was political, an effort to curry favor with Chinese leaders, who are pushing their nation to enhance its influence by exporting cultural products. Others contend that Mr. Wang is eager to establish himself as China’s first global corporate chief.

But to pull off the deal, Wanda needed plenty of that: more than $3 billion in cash, including $500 million it has promised to invest in AMC in North America. In the end, much of the cash came from China’s big, state-controlled banks. (via China Tycoon Places Risky Bet on U.S. Movie Market – NYTimes.com).

Soft Power – China?

China’s expected rise as a global soft-power has been beset with unexpected difficulties and slower if not zero growth. From the time that Joseph Nye coined the term soft-power, China has been positioned, by Western media as the challenger to American (& Western) soft-power. To Western media, India, seemed like an unlikely candidate as Emerging Soft-Power, has been ranked highest among emerging economies.

But curiously, the more China tries to become a soft-power, the more incapable it finds itself. Most recently, the Chinese President, Hu Jin Tao, lamented the lack of Chinese soft-power – and cautioned the Chinese nation of the dangers from Western culture.

To add heft to China’s quest for soft-power, the Chinese film industry has been significantly supported by the Party and Chinese banks. Investments into construction of film exhibition theatres, studios, animation labs, have been liberal and copious. At the same time, severe restrictions have been on import of films – to twenty in a year, from all sources.

On left y-axis read the zero at top as 100. On the right y-axis, percenetages are based on 2005 as base year with 1 deal.

On left y-axis read the zero at top as 100. On the right y-axis, percentages are based on 2005 as base year with 1 deal.

In 2009, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television promulgated the Interim Provisions on the Qualification Access for Operating Film Enterprises, Interim Provisions on the Administration of Chinese-foreign Equity and Contractual Joint Ventures of Radio and Television Program Production and other policies in succession. In the capital operation process, Chinese film industry ushered in the market reform, mitigating the problem of capital shortage and vitalizing the market.

There has been a continuous increase in the number of Chinese home-made films since 2003. In 2009, the number hit 456, up 12.32% on a year-on-year basis. The year 2009 has been a banner year in the output of home-made films since 2006. In certain sense, the year 2009 was a critical period of development for Chinese film industry. In the very year, the gross revenue of the Chinese film market reached RMB10.67B, up 26.47% compared with RMB8.43B in 2008.

Huayi Brothers Media Group and Beijing Polybona Film Distribution Co., Ltd. (Polybona Films) are the leading private film bodies. Take Huayi Brothers Media Group as an example, under the flagship of Huayi Brothers Media Group, Huayi Brothers Pictures Co., Ltd. realized the complete industrial chain system from screenwriting, direction, filmmaking and marketing to distribution.

The films, including the Rabe’s Diary and The Message, which Huayi Brothers Media Group invested in and participated in the operation in 2009, acquired good box-office takings in succession. Furthermore, the film, such as Tangshan Earthquake and You Are the One 2, which Huayi Brothers Media Group invested in 2010, are expected to obtain the good box-office takings and worth waiting for.

On Oct. 30, 2009, Huayi Brothers Media Group listed on Shenzhen’s ChiNext Board. The rapid development of the private film bodies, including Huayi Brothers Media Group, Orange Sky Entertainment Group (International) Holdings Ltd. and Polybona Films, not only aggravated the market competition between state-owned film enterprises and private film bodies but also vitalized Chinese small-and-medium-budget film-making market.

The Chinese film-making market showed a sound development gradually. PE/VC took a wait-and-see attitude towards the Chinese film-making market in general. According to the latest China Film-making Industry Investment Research Report 2010 issued by Zero2IPO Research Center, there were 28 investment deals in Chinese film industry from 2005 to 2009, including 26 deals whose investment amount was disclosed with a total investment of US$256.00M and US$9.85M in average. There were nine investment deals in Chinese film industry in 2009, which has reached the peak since 2005. (via Investment in Chinese Film Market Strong in Words but Weak in Action – PEdaily.cn – Zero2IPO Group).

Since 2004, the number of Chinese animation production enterprises has been on the rise, with the number of enterprises engaged in the production of TV cartoons rising to 200 in 2010 from 15 in 2004. Meanwhile, a host of registered animation film production institutions have emerged, with the figure increasing to 68 in 2010 from 25 in 2008.  |  Caption & image via researchinchina.com

Since 2004, the number of Chinese animation production enterprises has been on the rise, with the number of enterprises engaged in the production of TV cartoons rising to 200 in 2010 from 15 in 2004. Meanwhile, a host of registered animation film production institutions have emerged, with the figure increasing to 68 in 2010 from 25 in 2008. | Caption & image via Global and China Animation Industry Report, 2011 – ResearchInChina.

Echoes from Japan

Interestingly, animation films in China have been a big success – unlike India. Vastly different from the traditional lines of Chinese films.

Keep in mind, that Japan is a big consumer of anime, gaming, cartoons. 

Kung Fu Panda, a 2008 American computer-animated action comedy film is enough proof of this.

“Kung Fu Panda,” the animated movie about a bear named Po with a passion for martial arts is a huge hit in China.

The film, from DreamWorks Animation and Paramount Pictures, has already grossed more than $12 million after less than two weeks in release.

Globally, the movie has brought in $275 million (via ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is a success at the box office in China – The New York Times).

Was the success of Kung Fu Panda and its sequel, in China a flash in the pan?

Kung Fu Panda and its sequel are arguably the most successful Chinese-themed Hollywood movies to date, and the movie’s screenwriter, Glenn Berger, says Hollywood’s China infatuation is not necessarily a passing fad. (via BBC News – Hollywood plays China card as audiences dwindle at home).

Quiet Flows Buddhism

For long the Chinese needed and used Buddhist story props and ideas in Chinese films – especially made by the centurion Shaw Brothers – Run-Run and Run-Me. Based out of Hong Kong and later Singapore, the Shaw Brothers was the global face of Chinese cinema from 1950-2000. Devout Buddhists, their story-lines incorporated Japanese colonialism, Buddhist monks, great belief in the Chinese identity. Some Chinese dynasties like the Manchu, Ching and Mongol Yuan dynasty of the 14th century was a favorite target.

But in the last 10-15 years, the Buddhist monk has disappeared. Instead gangsters and underworld have become dominant themes in Chinese films.

The pre-occupation of Hollywood with death, war, violence, crime is well-known. Is that the way Chinese will ‘progress’?


%d bloggers like this: