Thursday, October 28, 2010

Romain Rolland/Jean Christophe in China

Need to be in office early and have been up too late tinkering with mixing software, but I am in the middle of trying to crack this mystery.
That is, not really any mystery, but the seeming centrality of Romain Rolland's Jean Christophe to a generation of Chinese intellectuals that came to age in the 60s and 70s.
Above,  RR chilling with Gandhi. Word.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Government Waste", G20, Quantitative Easing

Quick note on a video that's been circulating the web. Citizens Against Government Waste portrays a Chinese professor lecturing in some not so distant future about the downfall of great societies, and lo and behold there's Lincoln and an American flag up there after Rome and Atlantis etc etc. The classroom titters as he pronounces that America now works for China. And the reason for the epic downfall? DEFICIT SPENDING. Oh right, duh.

As far as I understand it, the seeming reliance of the Fed now on quantitative easing - basically making more money - has been an enormous sore point for China in the middle of the heightened tension over RMB appreciation, and the "currency war" fear that looms at the core of the current G20 meetings. An article in the NYT last week explicitly pointed to the confusion and frustration of high level Chinese officials that direct stimulus programs weren't a stronger part of the American recovery plan. But, fiscal stimulus?! Off the docket of conversation as we face a hard wave of Democratic losses in midterms. [Detailed destruction of the ad from Matt Yglesias here.]

In short, the cutting irony for a lefty/Keynesian etc watching this is that the video's purpose itself (successful Tea Party and the likes rallying against government spending) is a far more likely cause of the dystopic future envisioned therein.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

GDYE October 16

Mild wonk alert.
  • UNIVERSE: Out of the many things to think about, one of the strands I've gravitated towards in the discussions of Liu Xiaobo's Nobel has been the resurrection of a debate on universality of values in the Chinese Academy. The Economist had a really excellent review of this, with many links to original Chinese language articles I'm hoping to go through this weekend.
  • FIVE YEAR PLANS: Everyone in their mid-20s needs one, especially me, but the CCP is putting out a new one soon. Between projects I finally read the big work of last year, Yasheng Huang's Capitalism With Chinese Characteristics, that deftly maps out rifts within the 80s and 90s party leadership. He marks the current leadership as much more in line with the 80's, rural-oriented reformists - consistent with many of the comments made by Wen Jiabao on CNN recently, which faced media blackout at home.
  • NOXIOUS FUMES: Ai Weiwei's sunflower seed exhibit  -awesome. Ai Weiwei's exhibit's noxious fumes leading to shutdown of said exhibit - not so awesome. He'll be speaking at Hong Kong University on October 26th, 6:30 PM.  

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Things Which Have Eluded Me

Events I have sadly missed in Hong Kong so far:

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Jia Zhangke - Beijing BC MOMA Speech Translation

While sick and dazed I read through the last few months of the Modern Chinese Language and Culture (MCLC) emails and found a Chinese transcript for a speech Jia Zhangke had delivered mid-July in Beijing, detailing some of his feelings about the Sixth Generation of filmmakers. An abridged version appears here in Chinese [Southern Weekly] and dGenerate films had translated excerpts here. I took a quick stab at translating the full speech, though it's a bit patchy and enigmatic at various parts. With The World, these were the precise sentiments that I think many saw him wrestling with - juggling multiple audiences, and the prerequisites for commercial appeal. There it was implicit in his stylistic transitions - here its quite explicit.

I Wish I Knew will be showing at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival on October 29 and 31st. 

I Don’t Believe You’ll Predict Our Ending
Jia Zhangke
July 21, 2010

Personally, I hadn’t known what the category of “Sixth Generation” really marked, what it meant. Speaking purely in terms of age, I’m 7 years younger than Zhang Yuan, who released Mama in 1990. And I’m half a year older than Lu Chuan, who self identifies as a “Seventh Generation” director. It was after I directed Xiao Wu at the age of 28 that people gave me the tag “6th Generation,” and that was in 1998.

I’ve always thought that fervent emphasis on this generational affiliation and fevered opposition to it were in some ways one in the same. At core, its about wanting to avoid being labelled into a certain set, and of course to some degree, its about retaining your sense of individuality, or avoiding the negative connotations or what-naught carried by having such and such label. For instance, to be “Sixth Generation” was basically synonymous with having awful box office sales. But, I thought, if other people were willing to have that tag, I may as well too.


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Monday, October 4, 2010

Rare Earth Metals

As some readers will know, China recently successfully pressured the Japanese into returning a wayward captive sea-captain by threatening to withhold rare earth metals, which would have devastated the Japanese electronics industry.

My first point is that this seems like a scenario that I played once in Civilization IV or perhaps the subplot of a movie that also includes mega Gundams and space colonies.

My second point is that reading more broadly on the rare earth metal monopoly China's developed (nearly 97% of the global supply - link is to a Bloomberg piece), I asked myself who was in THIS meeting:
"A generation after Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping made mastering neodymium and 16 other elements known as rare earths a priority, China dominates the market, with far-reaching effects ranging from global trade friction to U.S. job losses and threats to national security."
It doesn't matter what color the neodymium is, as long as it helps power your laser mouse.

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Treacherous Treis, A Treacherous Move

1. Relocated to Hong Kong, so as I hope to start posting regularly again, they'll likely be crass commentary on local exhibits, shows, and films peppered in.  文化沙漠?(A prominent Chinese scholar spat that Hong Kong was a "cultural desert" a few years ago, which has prompted countless millions of dollars being injected into "cultural" events throughout the city, special immigration schemes for artistic talent, and of course, the hype around the mega development the western parts of Kowloon.)
2. Edison Chen has bounced back from a rocking sex scandal and gone the way of James Franco, attempting to restyle himself as a pop artist. A choice work from his exhibit, "The Treacherous Treis," showing now in Singapore, Maona Lisa. I want to see him climb through the ranks and get caught in flagrante behind the curtain at some Sotheby's auction.
3. Delicious pop-up books as profiled in the New York Times. See and touch Yunnan in three dimensions, and also two dimensions, then three again.
4. Takashi Murakami X Versailles!
5. Matt Yglesias has quite a good post that ties together two recent pieces of major news in the Asian philanthropy  world (my new world) - first the seemingly enormous failure of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates' recent trip to China (where they hoped to bring a good slice of wealthy PRCers into their  donating pledge). Second is the recent set of rumors that Jet Li's ONE Foundation may pull out from operations from the Mainland, given the series of administrative and bureaucratic trip wires they've run into in their tenure.  As Yglesias points out, charity is in some senses illegal in China - only a very small percentage of organizations can formally fund-raise at all, which is often forgotten when people discuss the seemingly vibrant sector of civil society constituted by an emerging network of grassroots NGOs.

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