Lam Wing-kee knew he was in trouble. In his two decades as owner and manager of Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay Books, Lam had honed a carefully nonchalant routine when caught smuggling books into mainland China: apologize, claim ignorance, offer a cigarette to the officers, crack a joke. For most of his career, the routine was foolproof.
Thin and wiry, with an unruly pouf of side-swept gray hair and a wisp of mustache, Lam was carrying a wide mix of books that day: breathless political thrillers, bodice-rippers and a handful of dry historical tomes. The works had only two things in common: Readers hungered for them, and each had been designated contraband by the Communist Party’s Central Leading Group for Propaganda and Ideology. For decades, Lam’s bookstore had thrived despite the ban — or maybe because of it. Operating just 20 miles from the mainland city of Shenzhen, in a tiny storefront sandwiched between a pharmacy and an upscale lingerie store, Causeway was a destination for Chinese tourists, seasoned local politicians and even, surreptitiously, Communist Party members themselves, anyone hoping for a peek inside the purges, intraparty feuding and silent coups that are scrubbed from official histories. Lam was an expert on what separated the good banned books from the bad, the merely scandalous from the outright sensational. He found books that toed the line between rumor and reality.
Other retailers avoided the mainland market, but through years of trial and error, Lam had perfected a series of tricks to help his books avoid detection. He shipped only to busy ports, where packages were less likely to be checked. He slipped on false dust covers. Lam was stopped only once, in 2012. By the end of that six-hour interrogation, he was chatting with the officers like old friends and sent home with a warning.
By Harvey Thomlinson April 2, 2018
HONG KONG — China is a sea of labor unrest. During the first 10 weeks of this year there were more than 400 publicly reported strikes, more than double the number during the comparable period last year. President Xi Jinping’s government has responded with a firm hand: Labor activists are being arrested and assaulted simply for demanding their wages.As China’s rate of economic growth has slowed over the past few years, China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based organization. . .
“HONG KONG — China is a sea of labor unrest. During the first 10 weeks of this year there were more than 400 publicly reported strikes, more than double the number during the comparable period last year. President Xi Jinping’s government has responded with a firm hand: Labor activists are being arrested and assaulted simply for demanding their wages.
As China’s rate of economic growth has slowed over the past few years, China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based organization, tracked a surge in reported strikes — most likely a small measure of all the actual strikes — from fewer than 200 in 2011 to 1,256 in 2017. Government data indicates a 38 percent increase in the number of labor dispute cases heard by Chinese courts, from 589,244 in 2011 to 813,589 in 2015.”
Trump Hits China With Trade Measures as White House Exempts Allies From Tariffs – The New York Times
“President Trump said he would impose about $60 billion worth of annual tariffs on Chinese imports on Thursday as the White House moved to punish China for what it says is a pattern of co-opting American technology and trade secrets and robbing companies of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.
The measures come as the White House grants a long list of exemptions to American allies from steel and aluminum tariffs that go into effect on Friday, including the European Union, which has lobbied aggressively and publicly for relief from the trade action.
“The word that I want to use is reciprocal,” Mr. Trump said in announcing the tariffs in the Diplomatic Room of the White House. “If they charge us, we charge them the same thing.”
The China tariffs are his strongest trade action yet against a country he has branded an “economic enemy.” They fulfill one of his core campaign pledges, to demand more reciprocal deals with trading partners around the world.
But coupled with the administration’s decision to exempt the European Union, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico from the tariffs on cheap metals, the action demonstrates how much Mr. Trump’s nationalist trade agenda is really targeted at a single country: China.”
“The tariffs, which the United States trade representative will publish within 15 days, will target 1,300 lines of Chinese goods — everything from shoes and clothing to electronics, administration officials said.” I understood the the argument for steel and aluminum, but what is the argument for these other 1,298 products? All the mainstream economists that I learn from, say that tariffs are toxic. The Chinese are famous for their intelligence, work ethic and pride. If they feel insulted, and have lost face, they will be forced to retaliate. Can Boeing stay on top without one of their biggest customers? Or did their stock price just drop almost 4% for no reason?
A five or ten percent tariff on just Chinese steel and aluminum might have been a more prudent test of the waters. Rejoining the TPP asap, would probably do more for the US economy and economic defense, than the steel tariff. The Chinese play like a people at war with the West, and they probably are, since they still have a score to settle over the bombardment and destruction of the Spring Palace, and its mulitude of treasure buildings and libraries, in the 1840’s, during the ugly opium war. The civilization that invented, paper, writing, gunpowder, history and literature, should be courted with carots as well as with sticks.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at here and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com
No foreign photographer spent more time in Vietnam than Horst Faas, who oversaw photographers in Saigon for The Associated Press, who was based there from 1962 until late 1970 and then regularly returned until the withdrawal of American forces in 1973. Despite being heavily wounded just before the Tet offensive — which did not stop him from going to the office on crutches during the attacks on Saigon — he survived the war thanks to a cocktail of fearlessness, Germanic common sense, good luck and wry humo
Thomas Friedman is great in this column. He writes that China is a big problem, but the Trump steel tariff hurts our allies and not China. Then:
“So what would a smart American president do? First, he’d sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord. TPP eliminated as many as 18,000 tariffs on U.S. exports with the most dynamic economies in the Pacific and created a 12-nation trading bloc headed by the U.S. and focused on protecting what we do best — high-value-added manufacturing and intellectual property. Alas, Trump tore it up without reading it — one of the stupidest foreign policy acts ever. We Brexited Asia! China was not in TPP. It was a coalition built, in part, to pressure Beijing into fairer market access, by our rules. Trump just gave it up for free.
Once a smart president restored participation in TPP, he’d start secret trade talks with the Chinese — no need for anyone to lose face — and tell Beijing: “Since you like your trade rules so much, we’re going to copy them for your companies operating in America: 25 percent tariffs on your cars, and your tech companies that open here have to joint venture and share intellectual property with a U.S. partner — and store all their data on U.S. servers.” “
The world’s largest refugee camp, a temporary home to more than half a million people that sprawls precariously across barren hills in southeastern Bangladesh, faces a looming disaster as early as April when the first storms of the monsoon season hit, aid workers warn. “It’s going to be landslides, flash floods, inundation,” said Tommy Thompson, chief of emergency support and response for the World Food Program. “It’s going to be a very, very challenging wet season. That’s if we don’t have a cyclone.”
“But then, in a matter of weeks, as refugees poured in by the tens of thousands, trees were hacked away. Canals were dug. Bamboo-and-tarp shacks went up. More trees were cut as refugees scrambled to find firewood.
The hills, where elephants recently roamed, are now bare. Even the roots have been pulled out, leaving nothing to hold the parched soil together as rainwater washes downhill, potentially taking tents and people with it and quickly inundating low-lying settlements. The United Nations says 100,000 refugees are at acute risk from landslides and floods.
The early rains — known in Bengali as kalboishakhi, which translates loosely as the storms of an “evil summer” — are a precursor to the full-on monsoons. They strike when the soil is still dry and especially susceptible to mudslides. The only warning of their approach is usually hot winds that send the dry earth of summer swirling through the air.”
DL: It is too bad that these 600,000 Rohingya refugees were forced or allowed to deforest the area they were placed in. Now they have turned that piece of dessert into a probable death camp when the monsoon rains appear. I need firewood now, versus, I need these trees to prevent flooding later, is a choice I hope that I never have to make.
Fifty years ago next week, Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota scored a near-upset in New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary, setting in motion Lyndon Johnson’s announcement, three weeks later, that he would “not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.” It was a jaw-dropping series of events, one that gave McCarthy a near-mythic status in American political history.
Just weeks earlier, the longtime campaign reporter Theodore White observed, it had been “unthinkable that a sitting president of the United States could be unhorsed within his own party either by primaries, conventions or riot in the streets.” But McCarthy galvanized popular opposition to Johnson’s foreign policy and, seemingly overnight, turned the election into a referendum on America’s continued involvement in the Vietnam War. At least that’s how it is popularly remembered.
In fact, commentators then and since have misinterpreted McCarthy’s upset performance in New Hampshire in a way that sharply misread public opinion and unfairly saddled Johnson with sole responsibility for a war that most Americans — and most American political leaders of both parties — still strongly supported on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. To understand how it happened, it’s helpful to wind the clock back to the fall of 1967.
This piece is full of new information for me, and shows that I might be better off with one blog instead of three.
SANTIAGO, Chile — A trade pact originally conceived by the United States to counter China’s growing economic might in Asia now has a new target: President Trump’s embrace of protectionism.
A group of 11 nations — including major United States allies like Japan, Canada and Australia — signed a broad trade deal on Thursday that challenges Mr. Trump’s view of trade as a zero-sum game filled with winners and losers.
Covering 500 million people on either side of the Pacific Ocean, the pact represents a new vision for global trade as the United States threatens to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on even its closest friends and neighbors.
Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from an earlier version of the agreement, then known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a year ago as one of his first acts in office. It will undeniably be weaker without the participation of the world’s biggest economy, but the resuscitated deal serves as a powerful sign of how countries that have previously counted on American leadership are now forging ahead without it.
“Only free trade will contribute to inclusive growth of the world economy,” Taro Kono, Japan’s foreign minister, told a group of ministers from Southeast Asian countries in Tokyo on Thursday. “Protectionism isn’t a solution.”
“While American beef farmers will have to pay 38.5 percent tariffs in Japan, for example, members like Australia, New Zealand and Canada will not.”
I’m sure that most in the beef industry voted for Trump. Well guess what, More expensive steel is going to mean your costs are going up and the tariffs mean your income is going down. America First? Much more of this and it will be America Last.
“BEIJING — Some 200 senior Communist Party officials gathered behind closed doors in January to take up a momentous political decision: whether to abolish presidential term limits and enable Xi Jinping to lead China for a generation.
In a two-day session in Beijing, they bowed to Mr. Xi’s wish to hold onto power indefinitely. But a bland communiqué issued afterward made no mention of the weighty decision, which the authorities then kept under wraps for more than five weeks.
That meeting of the party’s Central Committee was the culmination of months of secretive discussions that are only now coming to light — and show how Mr. Xi maneuvered with stealth, swiftness and guile to rewrite China’s Constitution.
The decision was abruptly announced only last week, days before the annual session of China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress. The delay was apparently an effort to prevent opposition from coalescing before formal approval of the change by the legislature’s nearly 3,000 members.”
Will this be good of bad for Vietnam? My gut tells me it will be bad. As China moves away from becoming more democratic, and moves towards becoming more fascist, it will perhaps become more dependent, or willing, to take on outside foreign wars, to distract its people. No one has more to lose in such a development, than the Vietnamese, who have had to repel Chinese invasions and occupations, at least seven times by 1789, when Nguyen Hue and his 200,000 troops deffeated a Qing army of about 300.000. I am pleased that the Trump administration has sent one of its aircraft carriers to visit Vietnam this month, at the deep port of Danang. This is an important message, that we in the United States agree with the Vietnamese, that the South China Sea, or the East Sea in Vietnam, does not belong to China, but should be shared by all the nations that live around it, or send their ships through it.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com