A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘globalization

[LINK] “What Is China’s Navy Doing in Mediterranean?”

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Noah Feldman of Bloomberg View notes the geopolitical and economic rationale behind China’s naval exercises in the Mediterranean.

[T]he Chinese-Russian exercises also look like a symbolic response to U.S. efforts to strengthen security relationships with China’s Asian neighbors. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Washington is a case in point. Abe has begun a genuine discussion within Japan about whether to amend the pacifist constitution, transforming the country’s self-defense force into something more like a standard military.

The impetus for this change is China’s increasing security threat to its Asian neighbors — and a nagging uncertainty on the part of Japanese about whether the U.S. would go to war to defend Japan in a pinch. Abe’s visit is part of an attempt by the Barack Obama administration to reassure the Japanese, but also to implicitly to lend credibility to Abe’s defense initiatives.

[. . .]

Yet this geopolitical angle doesn’t necessarily explain why the Mediterranean. Naval exercises almost anywhere could’ve expressed the same thing, perhaps even more strongly, because China’s naval assets in the Mediterranean aren’t particularly significant.

The better explanation for why the Mediterranean is much more local. China has twice in recent years had to send its ships to rescue and evacuate significant numbers of Chinese workers who fell into danger as a result of regional instability. The first time was in Libya, where 35,800 Chinese workers had to be evacuated after the 2011 uprising and subsequent bombing campaign to bring down Muammar Qaddafi. The second time was in late March and early April, when Chinese ships helped offload several hundred Chinese workers from Yemen as the situation there further deteriorated and Saudi airstrikes escalated.

These episodes brought home China’s evolving role in the Middle East and North Africa. So far, Chinese policy makers have shown no interest in inheriting the traditional U.S. role of maintaining hegemony in the Middle East to create stability and facilitate the flow of oil. However, China has to some degree included the Middle East in its strategy of building infrastructure projects in less-developed countries and establishing substantial settlements of Chinese workers there.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 20, 2015 at 10:49 pm

[LINK] “Set to land in Cannes, The Little Prince reigns in Turkey”

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CBC’s Nil Köksal had a nice article about the popularity of The Little Prince in Turkey on the eve of the film release.

An international bestseller since 1943, the film version will likely introduce many young film fans to the story for the first time. It already has a huge following here in Turkey, which savvy publishers have rushed to take advantage of.

“There was great excitement among Turkish publishers” on Dec. 31, writer Kaya Genç tells me. That was the moment when the copyright on the book expired in many parts of the world.

[. . .]

One reason Turks love the tale is probably because of the Turkish character early in the story. In the fourth chapter, Saint-Exupéry writes of a Turkish astronomer wearing a fez, a traditional Ottoman hat.

Genç, though, thinks there’s more to it. “My theory is that there are some parallels between Ottoman poetry…and The Little Prince. They use similar imagery — the rose, the nightingale, the garden … the lover and the beloved. We have these parallels in Ottoman poetry and I think it’s in our genes in a way,” he says.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 19, 2015 at 9:41 pm

[LINK] “Twitter Riles Irish Catholics as Companies Favorite Gay Vote”

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Bloomberg’s Dara Doyle notes, in the context of Ireland’s upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage, one consequence of its economic policy aimed at becoming a business hub: Big business is interested in the outcome.

When Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny rallied support for gay marriage ahead of a referendum this month, he got a little more than the usual help from Twitter Inc.

As well as disseminating the message through its social media, the company is backing the “yes” campaign, which is leading the polls before the May 22 vote. It says allowing wedlock for two people of the same sex is good for the economy. Other public declarations of support have come from Google Inc. and EBay Inc., which also have European headquarters in Ireland.

“Marriage equality is as good for our value as it is for our values,” Kenny said at an event last month among the stripped-down brick walls and bare floorboards of the Digital Exchange, a home for startup technology companies.

Just as the issue of gay rights in the U.S. has pit big business against a conservative opposition, in Ireland it’s the government supported by some of the world’s biggest Internet companies versus the tax friendly nation’s past as an upholder of Roman Catholic values.

[. . .]

“Twitter’s clear implication is that if we vote no it will be bad for business and bad for our international reputation,” said Ben Conroy, a spokesman for the Iona Institute, whose stated mission is to promote marriage and religion in society. “The most powerful economy in Europe, Germany, does not have same-sex marriage, so the idea that voting no would be bad for business is clearly ridiculous.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 13, 2015 at 10:47 pm

[LINK] “Cash-Strapped Latin American Countries Turn to China for Credit”

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The Inter Press Service’s Mario Osava notes how, following Angola, many Latin Americans needing credit have turned to China.

[S]everal Latin American countries in financial difficulties have recently turned to China as a sort of lender of last resort. Argentina and Venezuela, for example, lacking access to international credits, obtained large loans from Chinese banks.

For China, it makes no sense to refuse loans to countries with strong agricultural production or that possess plenty of commodities, especially oil and gas. There is no need to be concerned about their solvency if their products guarantee their loans, whatever the reasons for their difficulties.

Brazil’s state oil giant Petrobras announced on Apr. 1 an injection of 3.5 billion dollars from China to relieve its finances, which have suffered from the corruption scandal that has rocked the economy, the government, large companies and several political parties in the country since 2014.

The loan from China Development Bank is helping Petrobras weather a storm that also includes gross management and planning mistakes which raised the cost of constructing two refineries, of the purchase of another plant in the U.S. city of Pasadena, Texas, and of other projects by tens of billions of dollars.

The crises faced by potential Petrobras suppliers provide opportunities for China, but are not seen as indispensable. China Development Bank previously loaned Petrobras 10 billion dollars in 2009, when the oil company appeared prosperous and had recently discovered vast reserves in the pre-salt layer off the Brazilian coast.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 13, 2015 at 10:44 pm

[LINK] “For Chinese Tourists Behaving Badly, A Government Blacklist”

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At NPR’s Parallels, Anthony Kuhn notes how the Chinese government is clamping down on badly-behaving tourists. The worst may not be allowed to leave the country.

Not only are the Chinese bemoaning their rudeness at home and abroad, the government has responded with new rules that took effect this week, aimed at keeping loutish travelers in check.

And in a major innovation, the government has named four tourists to a new blacklist, which could affect their credit ratings and freedom to travel for years.

There was considerable competition in the airborne category.

Travelers Wang Sheng and Zhang Yan earned special recognition for their performance on a Bangkok-to-China flight last December. When they did not immediately get the seats they wanted, they threw hot instant noodles at a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane. The pilot then made a U-turn and headed back to Bangkok, where police detained the pair.

Another traveler was blacklisted for opening a door on his flight as it was about to take off. Another was photographed climbing on statues of Chinese civil war-era soldiers.

Last year, Chinese tourists took 109 million trips overseas, 20 percent more than in 2013. Many host nations may be inclined to overlook misbehaving Chinese tourists because China now contributes more money to the global tourism industry than any other nation.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 12, 2015 at 11:31 pm

[LINK] “Death in Venice: Eighteenth Century Critiques of Republicanism”

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Barry Stocket at New APPS Blog has an interesting piece noting how the decadence of the republics known to late 18th century Europeans discouraged them from considering the republic as a suitable form of political organization for those interested in implementing Enlightenment thought.

The idea of democracy was even more anachronistic looking before [the late 18th century revolutions, which in any case did not lead to full implementation of democracy and certainly not its normalisation, but did take steps in that direction. Earlier in the eighteenth century, even Rousseau did not think of democracy as the ideal. Even allowing that his advocacy of elective aristocracy is in accord with representative democracy, it does not look as if he expected republicanism to sweep through Europe. His text on a constitution for Poland was for an aristocratic state on the verge of extinction as Prussia, Russia, and Austria arranged its complete partition between 1772 and 1795. It was not a model for European republics, nor was it any more democratic than the existing aristocratic commonwealth with a limited monarchy. Montesquieu, Smith and Hume looked upon republicanism as a form of government appropriate to liberty, but not as necessarily superior to monarchy, and maybe less desirable than monarchy in the circumstances of most modern states.

What was wrong with the republican model for eighteenth century thinkers about liberty, if they themselves have sometimes been taken up as republican, or at least partly republican, thinkers? The answer can be summarised with reference to a city state where Rousseau himself spent time as a secretary to the French ambassador, Venice. Those looking for an example of a modern republic in the eighteenth century were likely to look at Venice. Another possible example was the Dutch Republic, but at least for Montesquieu (who I will take it was not deviating far from any prevailing judgement) it was a more a confederation of city republics which struggled to achieve unity in times of danger. By the eighteenth century the glory of the Golden Age, of Rembrandt and Spinoza, of recent independence after a long war from Spain, of a model of financial and commercial progress, was in the past, and no one thought of the Dutch Republic as a major European power.

Furthermore its relative youth, going back no further than the 1560s, mattered to eighteenth century thinkers who though that successful model states are states that maintain themselves over centuries, preferably with a largely unchanged constitution. That Athens had only a couple of centuries maybe as an independent and democratic republic was important compared with the much longer life of Sparta’s oligarchic republic. That Roman republicanism gave way to a thinly disguised version of monarchy in the Emperor system after five centuries mattered, as did the apparent weakening of republicanism and democratic life after the defeat of Carthage.

Two centuries of republican life in the United Provinces was small compared with about one thousand years of the Venetian Republic, which like the Dutch Republic was past its greatest period of influence, but could be taken as more of a model with an apparently little changed constitution over a long life by the standard of any European state. By the tine of Enlightenment political writing Venice was a museum of a glorious past as a dominant commercial and naval power, with an eastern Mediterranean empire. Montesquieu comments unfavourably on a constitution which he thought allowed the aristocracy to act as government executive, legislator, and judiciary, with the special powers of secret committees to defend the state undermining liberty.

His criticism is more than justified by the greatest Italian witness of the time, Giambattista Vico (whose thought anticipates much in Rousseau and Montesquieu). Vico thought of Venice as the model of aristocratic republic in which the aristocracy regards itself as more than human and the common people as less than human. It precedes the situation in which democracy encourages the spread of an idea of a common humanity, an idea that Vico thought could only maintain itself through democracy giving way to a human monarchy, legislating and judging with regard to the welfare of all.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 12, 2015 at 3:59 am

[LINK] “China’s Meteoric Box-Office Rise”

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Bloomberg’s Malcolm Smith describes the growing economic–and, perhaps soon, cultural–impact of Chinese audiences on the movies. How long will it be before content starts to shift to accommodate the major market?

`Avengers: Age of Ultron’, debuting in China on May 12, is poised to overtake `Furious 7′ as the Asian nation’s top-grossing movie, based on pre-release bookings. That’s no small feat since the latest chapter in the car-themed series was almost 14 percent bigger at the Chinese box office than in the U.S. and Canada, with $385 million so far.

`Avengers’ reservations have been double those in the run-up to `Furious 7′, according to Shanghai-based ticketing agency Gewara.com. The superhero sequel would be the sixth film to exceed $200 million in China, data compiled by Bloomberg from EntGroup Inc. and Box Office Mojo show.

“American audiences have diversified tastes and a lot more choice,” said Peng Kan, an analyst in Beijing at Legend Media Co. “But Chinese favor Hollywood films because they deliver more action, surprises and better special effects.”

China’s potential has surged with a quadrupling of theater screens since 2010, to more than 24,300 at the end of 2014, versus 43,300 screens in the U.S., according to EntGroup and the Motion Picture Association of America’s website.

Expansion, growing incomes and urbanization helped boost China’s total box office by 34 percent last year to $4.8 billion. The U.S./Canada total fell 5 percent to $10.4 billion, according to MPAA.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 11, 2015 at 10:58 pm

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