“BEIJING — One day last winter my mother sent me an odd message over WeChat. “Has Laolao said anything strange to you today?” she asked.
I immediately sensed that something was amiss. My mother is a typical Chinese parent. She always feels obliged to withhold bad news from me until she has no other choice. Why was she worried about my grandmother?
I thought back to my most recent visit to Laolao’s shabby apartment here. She had just turned 88, and other than the usual age-related forgetfulness and grumbling about kids these days, she was her usual self.
My mother’s next message unnerved me even more. “Was she of sound mind?”
“You have to tell me what’s going on,” I messaged back.
I fought the urge to berate her and began to scour the internet for information on bank scams that involved sworn secrecy. My heart sank when results filled my screen, describing our situation exactly. I was in an airport, on a business trip, so I messaged Laolao’s assistant at her office and told her to freeze all my grandmother’s bank accounts. But it turned out the bank couldn’t do anything unless Laolao herself requested it.”
“With regard to Cambodia, the illegality of Nixon’s behavior was clear-cut. The potential fourth article of impeachment referred to the fact that for 14 months, before the United States’ invasion, the president approved hundreds of B-52 strikes on that country. The covert mission first came to light in July 1973, when retired Maj. Hal Knight testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that in his capacity as the supervisor of radar crews in South Vietnam, he had helped falsify the records of at least two dozen missions by disguising American airstrikes in Cambodia as attacks inside South Vietnam.
By the time the Judiciary Committee was considering impeachment, the tragic consequences of America’s military intervention in Cambodia were clear. The relatively stable government of Prince Sihanouk had been overthrown, the society was consumed by civil war, an insurgent Khmer Rouge had morphed into a major force and thousands of Cambodian civilians had been displaced or killed.”
“A Chinese banquet can be many things, but it is never a gastronomic occasion.
It is more like a sport, one in which the primary goal is to drink a toast with each individual sitting around the table, in a rigid successive order, starting with the most prominent and proceeding clockwise. If that sounds straightforward, it isn’t: Bear in mind that everyone at the table is playing the same game simultaneously, which means just as you’ve homed in on your target and are ready to make your move, he could be raising a toast to another guest, who could very well be looking to drink with someone else.
Other rules: Make sure to turn the shot of baijiu bottoms up with every encounter; say flattering words in your toast, but nothing too flowery; appear cordial and personable; smile, but avoid inappropriate body contact. Finally, while you’re busy circling the table, don’t forget to eat.
At a Chinese banquet, the eating is the least important part. The problem, though, is that Chinese food is irresistibly delicious, especially if you’re someone who’s lived outside China for the last four years. And so this summer, when I returned to my home city of Chengdu for a visit, and a friend called to ask me to meet up at a local restaurant, I said yes without any hesitation.
On the day of, I arrived late. The restaurant had been revamped since the last time I’d visited, six years ago. A slim hostess in a red qipao welcomed me while I stood dazzled by the colossal crystal chandelier suspended from the high ceiling. I told her my friend’s name and was escorted to a private dining room at the end of the hall.”
China Cracks Down on Fentanyl. But Is It Enough to End the U.S. Epidemic? – By Steven Lee Myers – The New York Times
“XINGTAI, China — An online pharmacy advertising itself as a seller of “high purity, real pure” fentanyl still responds right away to potential customers.
“Which products do you want to buy,” a salesperson replied within a minute to an inquiry in English on WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging service.
But when contacted from an American telephone number and asked about the availability of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid fueling an epidemic killing tens of thousands of Americans a year, the seller demurred.
“I don’t sell any more.”
Until recently, much of the illicit fentanyl that found its way to the United States came like this: easily ordered online from a source in China and seamlessly shipped by international delivery companies, including the United States Postal Service.
Fentanyl sourced from China accounted for 97 percent of the drug seized from international mail services by United States law enforcement in both the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Now, China’s Communist government is taking steps to stop the flood, as the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, promised President Trump he would do.
After the two leaders met in Buenos Aires at the Group of 20 summit at the end of last year, the White House released a statement saying that “President Xi, in a wonderful humanitarian gesture, has agreed to designate fentanyl as a controlled substance.”
Amazon just put this department store out of bussiness in Baltimore, and its largest hardware store, both owned by the same family.
“. . . Ms. Black said she quit after two written warnings that she wasn’t meeting productivity standards, knowing a third would get her fired.“The machines determine so much,” she said. “You’re clocked from beginning to end. They grind through people.”
When another employee told the National Labor Relations Board that he had been fired for complaining about working conditions, the company said he had it wrong: He had been fired for working too slowly.
In fact, an Amazon lawyer wrote to the N.L.R.B. last year, it had fired “hundreds of other employees” at the Baltimore warehouse for failing to make their numbers. The letter, obtained by The Verge, listed more than 800 workers fired in the previous year, but the company now says the correct number was 309.
Automated dismissals are a feature, the letter said, not a flaw. “Amazon’s system,” the lawyers wrote, “automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors.” Amazon says termination decisions are ultimately made by managers.
Workers at Amazon who run into that kind of trouble have no unions to represent them — a shift from Baltimore’s past. G.M. employees were represented by the United Automobile Workers. At the second warehouse, on the old Bethlehem Steel site, United Steelworkers held sway. At both plants, the pay was adequate to support a family.
Credit…Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
In the G.M. plant’s final years, line workers made an average of $27 an hour, equivalent to more than $35 today. G.M. workers could make $80,000 annually with overtime, according to contemporary news reports, equal to $102,000 in 2019 dollars.The vehemently anti-union Amazon has raised its lowest hourly pay to $15.40, which is a little over double the federal minimum wage, the company points out. But even a veteran worker at its BWI2 warehouse would have to put in considerable overtime to get to $40,000 a year, less than half of what a G.M. worker could make in the past.
Nor are the job numbers comparable. The G.M. plant employed 8,000 at its peak; Bethlehem Steel employed 30,000. Amazon has a total of 4,500 workers at the two warehouses.”
“SINGAPORE — One of the most negative byproducts of the Trump presidency is that all we talk about now is Donald Trump. Don’t get me wrong: How can we not be fixated on a president who daily undermines the twin pillars of our democracy: truth and trust?
But there are some tectonic changes underway behind the Trump noise machine that demand a serious national discussion, like the future of U.S.-China relations. Yet it’s not happening — because all we talk about is Donald Trump.
Consider this: On Nov. 9, European leaders gathered in Berlin to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an anniversary worth celebrating. But no one seemed to notice that almost exactly 30 years after the Berlin Wall fell, a new wall — a digital Berlin Wall — had begun to be erected between China and America. And the only thing left to be determined, a Chinese business executive remarked to me, “is how high this wall will be,” and which countries will choose to be on which side.
This new wall, separating a U.S.-led technology and trade zone from a Chinese-led one, will have implications as vast as the wall bisecting Berlin did. Because the peace, prosperity and accelerations in technology and globalization that have so benefited the world over the past 40 years were due, in part, to the interweaving of the U.S. and Chinese economies.”
Opinion | Let’s Not Take Cues From a Country That Bans Winnie the Pooh – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times
“What happens when China’s enforcers come after Winnie-the-Pooh?
Will we reluctantly hand over Pooh Bear? Really sorry about this, Winnie, but China’s an important market!
Winnie-the-Pooh has been banned in China online and at movie theaters because snarky commentators have suggested that he resembles the portly President Xi Jinping. But these days Xi doesn’t want to censor information just in his own country; he also wants to censor our own discussions in the West.
That’s the backdrop to China’s hysterical reaction to a tweet by Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets’ general manager, sympathizing with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations.
When the N.B.A. moved into China in the early 2000s, it made a plausible argument that engagement would help extend our values to China. Instead, the Communist Party is exploiting N.B.A. greed to extend its values to the United States.
China is also forcing American Airlines to treat Taiwan as part of China, and it bullied Mercedes-Benz into apologizing for quoting the Dalai Lama. It made Marriott fire an employee for “wrongfully liking” a tweet by an organization that favors Tibetan independence.
There’s not much we can do about a dictator like Xi bullying his own citizens, but we should not let him stifle debate in our country.
Let me interrupt this diatribe, however, for important context. Those of us who criticize Xi must also have the humility to acknowledge that child mortality is now lower in Beijing than in Washington, D.C., that China has established new universities at a rate of one a week and that Shanghai’s public schools put our own school systems to shame.
So, yes, let’s stand up to Chinese bullying — and speak up when China detains at least one million Muslims, in what may be the biggest internment of people based on religion since the Holocaust. But let’s also note that China has helped lift more people out of poverty more quickly than any nation in history. With China, it’s always helpful to hold at least two contradictory ideas in our heads at the same time.”
Xi’s anxiety about the internet, religion, Hong Kong protesters, even Winnie-the-Pooh underscores his own insecurities. Xi seems terrified that real information will infiltrate the Chinese echo chamber, undermining his propaganda department’s personality cult around a benign “Uncle Xi.”
“TOKYO — An outside law firm investigating problems at Nissan, the troubled Japanese automaker, this summer discovered some potentially explosive information.
Hari Nada, a powerful Nissan insider who was behind the ouster last year of Nissan’s chairman, Carlos Ghosn, over compensation issues, had been improperly overpaid himself, the firm found. A second insider involved in the corporate coup was responsible, the firm said, and had briefed Mr. Nada on what he had done.
A senior Nissan compliance officer planned to share the findings with the company’s board of directors, according to people familiar with the situation.
But the full board never heard the details of the findings, according to people who attended the board’s last meeting on Sept. 9. Moments after the meeting ended, Nissan issued a statement that cleared an unnamed group of executives of misconduct.”
“Carlos Ghosn, the man who created what was effectively the world’s largest carmaker, has been released on bail after spending more than three months in jail.
Mr. Ghosn once oversaw the alliance of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi and was the consummate high-flying executive. On Wednesday, he walked out of a Japanese detention center disguised as a construction worker to prepare for a trial on charges of financial misconduct. Under the terms of his bail — set at 1 billion yen, or almost $9 million — he cannot leave Japan.
Here is what has happened since his arrest and what he faces now.
Why was he arrested?
Mr. Ghosn has been accused of underreporting his compensation and shifting more than $16 million of personal losses to Nissan. He was in jail, questioned by prosecutors, for 108 days.”
“In 2001, Gordon Chang, an American lawyer who had spent many years in Hong Kong and Shanghai, published a book forebodingly titled “The Coming Collapse of China.” At the time, the thesis seemed improbable, if not preposterous.
It looks a great deal less improbable now.
China — or, rather, the Chinese regime — is in trouble. Tuesday’s gigantic parade in Beijing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic looked like something out of the late Brezhnev era: endless military pomp and gray old men. Hong Kong is in its fourth straight month of protests, marked and stained by this week’s shooting of an unarmed teenage demonstrator. The Chinese economy is growing at its slowest rate in 27 years, even when going by the overstated official figures.
Meantime, capital is fleeing China — an estimated $1.2 trillion in the past decade — while foreign investors sour on Chinese markets. Beijing’s loudly touted Belt-and-Road initiative looks increasingly like a swamp of corruption, malinvestment and bad debt. Its retaliatory options in the face of Donald Trump’s trade war are bad and few. And General Secretary Xi Jinping has created a cult-of-personality dictatorship in a style unseen since Mao Zedong, China’s last disastrous emperor.
Remember the “Chinese Dream” — Xi’s vision of China as a modern, powerful, and “moderately well-off” state? Forget it. The current task for Chinese leadership is to avoid a full-blown nightmare of international isolation, economic decline, and domestic revolt.”