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Henry Thornton - SMERSH: A discussion of economic, social and political issues This week in China - 30 January 2010 Date 30/01/2010
Member rating 4.4/5
Henry's virtual China expert sums up the week.
By Graeme Mills Email / Print

Father's wisdom: "You must remember the Chinese words “she de”. Why put ‘she’ first and put ‘ de ’ second? This means that if you want to have something, you must first lose something, you must be willing to part with something. So when you are doing business, you must show people your big heart, give first.”

Gossip from the forest: The Central Government is to embark on an extensive programme of building low cost housing to sell. It will be means tested and targeted at low to middle income (not that low have much hope anyway). This will take some of the heat off the market. It is quite clever as it addresses the issues of affordability and price while leaving the private sector development to do what it does. Mei points out that the government housing will be sold at a substantial discount to the market. It will be means tested and properties cannot be immediately re-sold. Much better than First Home Buyers Scheme which simply put the price of housing up.

The Local Government of Nanning (a medium city of around 4.5 million people which is soon to become the hub for Asian Trade with China, hence demand in the city has grown enormously in the last year on simple supply and demand factors alone) has changed the local banking rules on Pre-Sales in order to curb price increases. Mei’s friends are in sell mode at the moment, anticipating a pull back in house prices.

Mei is having a bit of a legal issue there at the moment. She commented that when she entered into an agreement 20 years ago, the subject of this legal issue, the law was not strong and clear cut. You were basically at the whim of stony faced bureaucrats and could be duck shoved from pillar to post. Now things have changed considerably and the rule of law will be upheld. It is not perfect and still has a way to go, but it is certainly getting there. This will give the Chinese people security and peace of mind, which in turn will probably enable them to spend a little more of their savings.
CCTV-9: CCTV-9 is the English Channel for CCTV China that is broadcast by satellite worldwide. Each night is has a half hour programme called Dialogue which has two experts, usually one from China and one overseas if relevant. The major issue of the day is discussed in depth.

This week there was a discussion on whether President Obama’s stated objective of a closer relationship with China is being achieved. There was an American on the panel, a Chinese Professor and the programme crossed to two commentators from America. The Chinese Professor noted that given the arms sales to Taiwan, the Giggle Issue (Google is now being referred to as Giggle in China), President Obama’s planned meeting with the Dalai Lama, and the protectionist murmurings from the Reps and Senate, not much is being achieved. He made the interesting comment that President Obama made speeches about what he would like to do, and then gets bogged down in politics, while the Chinese government just does what is required and sometimes gives a speech later.

The American in China expressed confidence that President Obama’s objectives will be achieved over time. This was met by almost open hostility by the overseas American commentators. The panel chair asked the first commentator who had firsthand experience of the Administration about President Obama’s stated objective of engaging with Asia in general and China in particular. The reply was that this was wrong. Asia and China remained a side issue. The major focus was the wars followed by engagement with Europe and Russia. It was a deliberate snub.

The second commentator, an experienced journalist, was asked about the issues of Taiwan, Google and the Dalai Lama. He said they were minor issues and dismissed them. This was in itself demeaning and insulting. I can assure you, for the Chinese these are not “minor” issues. Overall there was distinct tension which seems reflect the current relationship between the U.S. and China which is being picked up in the press.

On another Dialogue, the theme was China’s growing responsibility as an emerging power. The general consensus was that China has to take up that reasonability and bear the cost. The loss of eight Chinese UN Peace-keepers in Haiti was felt deeply by the Chinese nation. Related to this was how China actions were often misunderstood or misrepresented by the world media. The conclusion was the China had to continue to open up to the world media and to quietly and patiently argue its case. It was recognised that as China took centre stage it would be increasing open to comment which will range from support to criticism. China has to accept this and not over-react to the criticism.

On the Giggle issue, they are just basically pissed off.

There was an interesting discussion on how China had to become a green economy. It was agreed that China had to move to a greener economy. The question was how and at what cost. The most interesting comment was that it was not realistic for everyone in China to aspire to the same lifestyle as the west, the environment could simply not withstand it. China is taking their environment very seriously both from the perspective of economic growth, but also to improve the living conditions and standard for all Chinese.

The show addressed the vexed issue of the Chinese Soccer Team, which despite all the money thrown at it just can’t win a game …….. anywhere ….. ever. Mei tells me that her husband got so frustrated one day, he threw an ashtray at the television. On the serious side, there is rampant corruption and match fixing which is being addressed as part of China’s drive to address this pervasive issue in its society.
Last night focused on President Obama’s State of the Union Speech. It was noted that he only made two references to China. There was an interesting OpEd piece in the New York Times which was a bit of a rant, but it bought up on point I had touched on before. New York Times, ‘Exit America’: ‘China, in its “peaceful rise,” has had no such distractions. Commentators on Chinese TV made much of how the Haiti sacrifice of the eight “heroes” was part of being “good global citizens.”But I found my mind wandering, fast-forwarding to 2040. I tried to imagine a time when such images would be frequent, when China could no longer freeload on a declining America and was obliged to step up to great power status with the attendant cost and sacrifice.’
It is a good point. The Dialogue discussion mentioned above concentrated on the fact that China is aware that it will have to shoulder a growing responsibility in world affairs. The basic consensus was that it was prepared to do so.
Watching Dialogue is like watching the 7:30 Report. The discussions are open and far-ranging. Certainly not the China of grey people mindlessly accepting the party line.
For further coverage of news items relating to China, see Kaixin.

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