Guest Post: The Newest Counterfeit Craze

Sometimes, it’s good to have a fresh perspective around here. In that spirit, we bring you the first of what we hope will be many guest posts. This one is by Josh Johnston.

As you may or may not have heard, an apartment building (luckily still unoccupied and under construction) in the compound “Lotus Riverside” in Shanghai’s Minhang district fell over in one big piece on Saturday. Below are some pictures. You can find some more high resolution photos at EastSouthWestNorth

Toppled Building
Toppled Building
Toppled Building
Toppled Building

This really comes as no surprise, given China’s long and cherished history of building cheap, fake crap. For the most part, the creation of fakes and counterfeits is relatively harmless and provides millions of impoverished Chinese citizens with an equally fake sense of fashion and being with the times, not to mention all of the tourists that can buy a fake LV bag to bring home that will provide them with an equally fake sense of being “down to Earth” and “of the people”. Recently though, China’s craze for producing fakes has become more and more dangerous. A fake pair of Adidas will at worst result in a painfully itchy case of Athlete’s Foot, but fake milk kills babies, fake drugs make sick people sicker, fake pet food kills animals, etc. But this…this is a whole different kind of scary. You can change your milk brand, you can import brand name drugs, but it’s not so easy to just up and change your home. Looking at these pictures, it’s obvious that these buildings had basically no foundation whatsoever. I’m not an engineer, but buildings of these size it seems should go down underground at least one or two stories with a solid foundation. There are ten other buildings in this compound. What about the people who bought homes in the other buildings? What about people living in a building anywhere in this country? How can you ever be sure that you aren’t living in a fake death trap ready to pile over because a baby sneezed in the wrong direction?

How does this happen? Aren’t there inspectors to prevent this kind of thing? Well, it just so happens that I used to date an interpreter, and one of her jobs was actually negotiating between foreign real estate buyers and a State-owned property development firm. She had some interesting things to say about the issue. Note that the following is just speculation, and I don’t have any inside connection or anything, but I’d wager this is probably pretty close to what actually happened.

The district government decides to bulldoze an older community and replace it with some brand new luxury high-rise apartments. Minhang is qutie a developed area, and there are numerous subway projects under development. It will soon be a downtown commuter’s dream location. High-rises bring in shopping malls, shopping malls attract wealthy tax-paying brands. Yadda yadda yadda. But what about the people living on the land already? Most of them can be bought off for a relatively small amount of money. A few will resist, but the government will hire some faceless brutes from Sichuan to go in at 2:30 in the morning and “forcefully remove” any stragglers. If anybody complains, the government will disavow any knowledge of the incident, maybe one or two straw men will be punished for show, but the show will go on. Then, a “public bidding” process will begin to choose a developer for the land. Actually, the government will have already decided who the developer will be. In this case, that developer was “Shanghai Meidu Real Estate Company”, which wasn’t even a real property developer because their license had expired in 2004. This won’t matter though, because nobody will check the records anyway. They are chosen likely for reasons of family connections, or because the company recently opened a “gift account” at the bank for some key government officials, the details of which were exchanged in some private room at a KTV somewhere in the suburbs in between bouts of “singing” with the many ready and willing “singing girls” provided by the establishment.

The public bidding will continue, but this is mostly for show…to hide the fact that the developer has already been chosen, though everybody knows it’s happened anyway. In fact, most of the bids will not even be real, but will come from State-owned shell companies who serve no other purpose than to make fake bids in public land auctions. After the formalities are done, the developer will be announced, and plans will be made. Actually, two sets of plans will be made. One set of plans are private, shared only amongst the developers. They will call for using the cheapest possible materials on the planet (of course, all made in China), mostly from Brother Wang’s cousin’s company “Henan Cheap Shit Concrete” and Second Brother Wang’s uncle’s sister-in-law’s boyfriend’s company “Yunnan Rust-a-Lot Steel”. The second set of plans, the public set, will announce how the property developer will use only the highest quality American-made and European-made imported steel and concrete, providing a lush and rich environment in-line with Shanghai’s harmonious nature of “Better City Better Living”. With these public plans, the developer can then start pre-selling the apartments on the market, even though the (non-existent) foundation hasn’t even been laid, and sell the apartments to willing buyers for over 14,000 RMB per square meter. For those of you using the Imperial system, that’s about $200 / square foot. Thus, a 100 square meter apartment (about 1070 square feet) will cost 1,400,000 RMB, or over $200,000. That’s pretty expensive, even by American standards (not including Manhattan or San Francisco obviously). Considering that doesn’t even buy you any land, and it’s dubious whether or not you really “own” anything at all (technically, you own the airspace, but if your building falls over, can you sell some empty airspace?), it doesn’t seem like that great of a deal. But China’s population is huge, and people need a place to live, so housing is quite competitive.

But wait, you say. What about when the government inspector’s come around to check the building? Won’t they notice that the buildings actually use sub-par materials? Or won’t they notice that there is no foundation? Well, it’s likely the inspectors won’t even make it to the site at all. Here we complete the perfect circle. For you must remember, this developer was chosen for the express reason that it had good connections with the government. Instead, the developers and the “inspectors” will likely have a party at the very same KTV (most likely they keep a special room reserved at all times for just such purposes), and the “inspectors” will literally be “blown” away by the project.

99% of the time, none of this will matter. The building won’t fall down, people will happily go about their lives not knowing that their quarter-of-a-million dollar apartment is actually a hollowed-out shell, but they will probably just sell the apartment three years later for double their original investment anyway. And so the system works. Well, except for the occassional bridge collapse, train collision, earthquake…I’d better just stop now before I run out of sarcastic quotation marks.

So what happens to the property developer in the end? Well, in this case, hundreds of people are already protesting outside of their offices demanding refunds. But, if you will remember, most of the apartments were pre-sold. Thus, a lot of the money was already used up in the construction. Not all of it though, obviously, because you will remember they bought the cheapest materials possible. Well, some of the money went into the government’s coffers. Other parts of it went into the developer’s overseas bank accounts, and the remaining few 100-RMB bills were stuffed into the panties of a KTV girl. Basically, there’s no money left, and the people will not get any of their money back. They could take the case to court, but then the court is a part of the very same government that hired this developer-without-a-license in the first place. If the government gave money to the people, it would be an “admission of guilt”, and we can’t have any of that. The government will claim to go after the developers, but they will already be sitting on a beach in Southern Florida thanks to their newly-filled offshore bank accounts that nobody will be able to touch. Perhaps, as the forumites at Shanghai Expat predicted, we will soon see on the market “Luxurious Lotus Riverside Single-Story Townhomes for sale” at the low-low price of 30,000 RMB per square meter. Now that’s a steal.

0 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Newest Counterfeit Craze”

  1. Thanks again for posting the article. Just to add a little update to this…Shanghai Daily has pretty much confirmed my assumptions. According to this article (http://www.shanghaidaily.com/sp/article/2009/200906/20090629/article_405779.htm) there was a lot of suspicious stuff going on. First of all, the land was purchased by the developer at an extreme discount of only 640RMB per square meter. Other developers in the area paid over three times that amount for similar developments. Suspicious connections much? As well, the developer, which did not have a license, was granted a “temporary license” by the gov’t for the express purpose of joining the public bidding, which the gov’t has confirmed was not truly public. Color me completely unsurprised.

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  2. This must be a part of that harmonious society I keep hearing about.

    I was with a Chinese friend yesterday and he was showing me a BBS forum he likes and they had these pictures plastered on it. He told me he’s really angry about it because he thinks that this most assuredly wouldn’t happen in other countries. I told him about how this reminds me of a story about another guy I know. This older gentleman from England that I’ve met a few times here is now married to a Chinese woman and wanted to help his brother-in-law build a house. Since, before teaching English, he was an engineer by trade, this should be easy for him, right? Wrong. When he went to his brother-in-law’s village and designed the house, they had to show it to the village leader before they could actually begin construction. The village leader immediately denied their request because the new house would’ve looked different than the other houses.

    That was when the Englishman, Chris, lost his temper. Since we live in Tangshan, a solid foundation in buildings is extremely important, lest we forget the 1976 earthquake. He exclaimed that after only a brief glance at the other structures in the village, one didn’t even need to be an engineer to see that they would fall if another earthquake came, that they were all simply made out of brick with no foundation, but just walls built up out of the ground. And even the roofs weren’t actually tarred together, but rather just sheets of of ruffled metal lain on top of one another with stones on them to press them together. Finally, he said, that earthquakes aren’t something that happen one time and never again, but rather go in cycles and that another earthquake in Tangshan will almost certainly come again, and when it does, people will die again. Alas, the leader of the village was unconvinced and still denied their request to build. After all, admission that maybe an engineer with over 30 years of experience, 12 of which were building structures in China, might know a bit more about construction than a person working in the lowest possible level of government would be just unconscionable.

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  3. Two questions:
    1) How many buildings are in China? Five? Five thousand? Five million?
    2) How many have fallen like this without an earthquake? Five million? Five thousand? Five? Or one?

    Those responsible must be punished, and I support capital punishment in this case, but this schadenfreude and I-told-you-so’s are like vowing never to fly again because we’ve had two consecutive crashes in the past month. Then again I’m sure bridges and buildings have never ever ever collapsed outside China in the entire universe.

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  4. Josh,

    Read this :

    http://www.nytimes.com/1987/01/05/world/shanghai-journal-erasing-the-slums-the-64-square-foot-question.html

    I bet if Shanghai had been like it was 22 years ago, you wouldnt have complained, like no westerners talk about the situation in Mumbai.

    I dont know which country you are from, but remember, the richness in Europe was built on the misery of people in other countries like India and China, and America built superpower on the misery of Europe and black slaves. So save your arrogance for your ancestors.

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  5. wooddoo,

    I think the bigger issue here is not so much how China has a rather shoddy track record over the past several years of poor production standards on a vast variety of consumer goods and seemingly little official oversight into the actual production of those goods, but rather the fact that developers of this sort have gotten away with this before, are going to get away now, and will probably get away with it in the future.

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  6. http://blog.taragana.com/n/part-of-parking-deck-collapses-in-downtown-atlanta-crushing-cars-no-report-of-injuries-95145/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/15/new-york-city-crane-colla_n_91710.html

    http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=94575

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/19/japan.rice

    There are lot of problems in China, but dont try to use those problems to show off your superiority, cuz if your ancestors hadnt built the strong industry on the misery of people in India, China and other countries, your country might have been producing cheaper goods, and lot of more buildings might have collapsed.

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  7. @ Woodoo,

    Those might have been rhetorical questions, but it would indeed be interesting to know how often buildings fall in China. My guess is that the relevant statistics would be hard to come by, though, not because they are “state secrets” or anything, but just because they are related to a mundane if brutal reality of life that tends to be settled, if at all, informally and out of court.

    Do buildings fall elsewhere? Of course. Do they fall in the U.S. and Europe and Japan? Yes. But my guess is that they do more so in China, India and other places where there’s this combination of businesspeople basically doing what they want, alongside a whole bureaucracy of procedures that builders must technically go through. Part of the problem is, of course, corruption. But I think a lot of it is just laziness on the part of officials, who would prefer for their work to proceed without too much incident—gambling that they’ll never face a much bigger “incident” like this.

    I also come closest to feeling OK about capital punishment when it comes to officials like these (closest, that is, not yet actually accepting that a government should have that power)—I mean, how are they to be deterred?

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  8. Wahaha,
    When I initially read your post, I thought up a retort to tell you how dare you try to ascribe the crimes of “my ancestors” (for your information, since you seem so intent on assuming that I’m the descendant of slave owners, I happen to be Jewish. You may have heard of people like me. You know, the most persecuted people in history?) to me just as I would never lay upon you responsibility for those Chinese who traded African slaves from the Portuguese. I thought that I should remind you that it wasn’t from slaves who primarily did field work in the unindustrialized, agrarian south more than 150 years ago, that America became rich, but rather from the fact that it emerged as one of the two most powerful victors from world war II, having again fought a war that wasn’t on their soil. I thought I should add to this that this fact is clearly evidenced by the fact that England was the world’s superpower in the early 20th century, that America’s economy was actually very similar to China’s at that time with a high trade surplus, and with the fact that America was actually in extreme crisis due to the Great Depression leading up to the second world war, with the times before the 1920’s (again, about 60 years after the abolition of slavery) a story of occasional war, westward expansion and genocide, poverty, corruption, and lawlessness the further west you went.

    I thought I should say all this, but then I remembered that you’re doing the same thing you always do: setting up straw men. Typical of the fenqing, you’re trying to deflect the argument away from the issue actually being discussed and shift the topic back to the crimes of the big, bad West. There’s a key difference to be noted here between you and wooddoo. Wooddoo, despite his opinions sometimes disagreeing with mine, always knows how to stay on topic, and that alone earns him my respect. This concept apparently eludes you, however.

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  9. Josh,

    I was talking about the country you are living in. (If you are a Israel citizen, then I am sorry.) I was talking about why the products made in your countries have higher quality. That is cuz your country has better technoloy, hence better product. China has been built upon nothing, OK ?

    Read following (just look at the titles)

    http://blog.taragana.com/n/part-of-parking-deck-collapses-in-downtown-atlanta-crushing-cars-no-report-of-injuries-95145/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/15/new-york-city-crane-colla_n_91710.html

    http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=94575

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/19/japan.rice

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  10. Custer, what happened ? I thought you were deleting my posts. Please save the 9th and delete the others.

    Josh,

    I dont know if you will see the links I posted.

    Enjoy your sense of superiority, that happened in China 300 years ago, and made China weak. again, I was talking about the country you are living in. (If you are an Israel citizen, then I am sorry.) I was talking about why the products made in your countries have higher quality. That is cuz your country has better technology, hence better product. China has been built upon nothing, OK ?

    You have no concept of whatever. You dislike the government in China or dislike China, hence you collect all the evidence to prove it is bad, like Al Sharpton. The less developing a country is, the more bad things you can find in that country. THAT IS COMMON SENSE. Obviously, the common sense always pass you by.

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  11. @ Wahaha,

    Wait… what does Al Sharpton have to do with any of this? Did he build shoddy buildings in Shanghai… or even New York? Leave him alone! What has he ever done to you? Haha.

    Comparisons are useful, of course. Your comparison with India in this case makes sense, I think (along the lines of Woodoo’s point). But you can’t just go on bringing up Mumbai whenever a problem is mentioned in China. Flesh out your point a little—how exactly does corruption or poor oversight of businesses vary from China to India? Why are there these differences? How do ordinary people deal with collapsed buildings or other preventable tragedies in China and in India? What does this say about polices that should be adopted in developing countries? And don’t just bring up democracy or the lack thereof as an answer!

    If your point is just that people should talk more about India on a China blog, then that’s silly. The Economist is always ragging on India’s infrastructure—go comment there instead. Or leave comments on Indian blogs. If your point is that it’s mean to talk about bad things in China, without first assuring everyone that those bad things are entirely normal and that, anyway, other countries have hideous histories… then that’s not much of an argument. But if you want to make a real comparison, do that.

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  12. Just yesterday evening the Shanghai television news reported again on this incident, specifically analyzing the reason for the collapse, specifying those who approved the building and past practice in the construction industry, and pointed out one individual in government who occupied position with the construction company. From first to last, a good piece of continuing investigative journalism that clearly shows people are outraged by this incident of shoddy construction, are disgusted with the collusion of construction companies and local government, demand accountability and compensation, and to their credit the press is going after it tooth and claw. Some of the comments here seem wilfully ignorant of the local news content and tenor save for pictures of the building. I give the local press credit, they hit where they can, and that space is ever widening in the public’s interest.

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  13. OTR,

    Al sharpton : he is victim cuz he is black.

    for someone : there is such such bad problem cuz of chinese govenrment.

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  14. @ ScottLoar,

    That’s interesting. I find that coverage encouraging, too. Properly “political” discussions may be hampered in the Chinese media, such as discussions parsing out the motivations of different politicians and the origins of different policies, but investigative journalism on business or corruption matters seems, in some ways, to be a step ahead of the U.S. in terms of looking through photos, tracing things on the web and, most of all, relying on popular input. Good to see that’s the case here.

    @ Wahaha,

    I still don’t get your point. I mean, I get that Al Sharpton is black and that therefore he is a victim… but what does that have to do with buildings in Shanghai? Is the point that people are victimized in different countries for different reasons? If so, then that’s not exactly a revelation.

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  15. NoNoNonononono, OTR,

    I am talking about the logic these people use when they analyze the problems (or did they ever analyze problems ?).

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  16. Wahaha,
    I’m not sure why you persist on with this idea that you know me so well. I gave a personal anecdote that happened to me which was completely vicarious. I don’t exactly see this as “gathering evidence to prove that China is bad because I have a sense of superiority.” You’re right: I don’t like the Chinese government. When people ask me why, I’m not afraid to tell them. I’m not going to water down my arguments by saying, “But it’s okay! It happens in India also!” I am an American citizen, yes, but the point I was making which you apparently missed, is that American technology is so advanced mainly because America was one of the victors of World War II, and then the Cold War. It is NOT because of slavery, and Al Sharpton most assuredly has little to do with this.

    You seem to be missing the bigger picture here. A building fell over in Shanghai. Does that say something about India? No. Does it say something about America? No. Should no one talk about it because it might hurt the feelings of the Chinese people? Well…

    But maybe there is a point buried in your posts, which Old Tales Retold seems to have a knack for uncovering. If there is a point, then make it clear and visible, but don’t harass me because I was born in America and am willing to comment on China, because it seems that’s your only complaint against me.

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  17. @waha… China was built up from nothing? What about the 5000 years of civilization? So what is it, the 5000 years means nothing (pretty much every part of the planet has 5000 years of history) or is it that the Chinese are slow learners?

    I tend towards the former- the 5000 year old tradition is bunk. Not even the Greeks go on and on about how old their culture is, because they realize the current culture has pretty much jack squat to do with the ancient one.

    At least the modern Greeks have a shot at reading text written > 2000 years ago. How well does the average Chinese read anything written > 200 years ago?

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  18. Custer,

    My apology.

    Randall,

    I shouldve spoken more clearly.

    To pull the poor in China, China needs to be industralized. The 5000 years of history has done little help that, that is what I mean.

    Josh,

    I dont know you very well, but I think I know you dont like Chinese government or China. cuz you dont sound like an idiot, but the way you look at the problems in China is idiotic, in my opinion. You china-lize the problems in China, like if it was US government, or Russian government, or Indian government, or Malaysia government, such things wouldnt have happened. That is not the intelligent way to look at the problem, and you sound intelligent, so the only explanation is that you dont like the government or China (hope that is not the case).

    Sorry for offending you (no sorry if you dont like China), but I believe such way of talking is very destructive, not only in China, but also in United States. You live in America, you know what is going on now in California and New York states. America is becoming a big political circus, people are audience watching those politicians and activitists blame each other, economy becomes an after-thought.

    In New York, people keep yelling “give me the f@#$ing money.”, if government cant give them the money, there will always be some so called activitists bashing the government for not “caring the people”. What is more annoying is that those activitists always say the “right” things, like “how can you cut the money for those elders?” “how can you cut the school bus ?” ” how can you shut down that fire department ?” but they dont DARE to challenge the big problems, like the MTA, ridiculous benefits for government workers.

    Are they human right activitists ? not in my mind, politics becomes a game for them, they may solve several small problems but cause much much bigger problems as they never really care about the BIG PICTURE, all they care is expanding their influence and gaining more political power. This is bad for economy, in US and China, in any country.

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  19. To the poster above,

    Yes, it is, just like SAS, and there will be more.

    Remember: 100 years ago, Lenin predicted the inevitable collapse of capitalism, and capitalism was a laughing stock for like 10 years.

    BTW, read this :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_People's_Republic_of_China

    Capital punishment in China can be politically or socially influenced. In 2003, a local court sentenced the leader of a triad organization to a death sentence with two years of probation. However, the public opinion was that the sentence was too light. Under public pressure, the supreme court of China took the case and retried the leader, resulting in a death sentence which was carried out immediately. [5]

    Whether you like it or not, Chinese have totally different view on criminals from Westerner’s.

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  20. It’s hard to dodge all the spit wads but some of what is said is clearly wrong.

    Randall, I seriously doubt an educated Greek can easily read archaic Greek as it appears on steles, monuments and extant texts, but I assure you an educated Chinese – and those of us who studied Chinese as a major at university – can read much of the 史記 in classical Chinese although. like all ancient texts, annotated editions are a big help; certain passages like 項羽本紀 are as familiar and legible to Chinese as Pericles funeral oration (Pericles in the original? I doubt so) is to educated Greeks. The average mainland Chinese is literate, can recite poems from 唐詩三百 and read popular stories like 紅樓夢 centuries old.

    Much of what Wahaha says is fair comment, especially on US activists’ narrow and self-serving agenda and the Congress which has become an ineffective political circus regardless of which party claims to represent the people. Moreover, “(w)hether you like it or not, Chinese have totally different view on criminals from Westerner’s”, which outsiders will just have to accept. The Chinese believe convicted criminals must undertake confession, contrition and return to the good, but that some crimes cannot be answered by any other than death. This is their country and their tradition.

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  21. @ ScottLoar,

    I think the difference is more in the role of institutions in China versus in some other countries.

    Though I think the case Wahaha cites happened a couple years ago, the way it was decided was very much in keeping with the line pushed by the new head judge of the Supreme People’s Court, namely that courts should bow in to public opinion when possible. In this case, public opinion meant public anger and a thirst for vengeance; in the Deng Yujiao case, it meant public sympathy (or anger at the officials involved).

    This line represents a conundrum: a government that says it represents the will of the people but will not submit itself to a vote cannot afford independent institutions because it must constantly prove itself to the people, prove that it hears them. To bring things back to the original subject of the post, the Shanghai government may have to deal with people marginally involved in the building collapse much more harshly than a liberal democratic government would, as it has to prove that it has things in charge, that it’s listening even as it’s censoring (I mean in general, no censoring so far of this case to my knowledge).

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  22. P.S. I respectfully disagree with Wahaha’s (and ScottLoar’s) point about “activists” and spoiled federal employees being at the root of America’s problems. The real problem that poisons America’s political discourse and therefore its relationship with the world is its brutal wealth inequality. Some human rights advocates may be blowhards, but calling them that doesn’t get to the heart of things any more than complaining that Ai Weiwei is rude resolves questions of censorship or the fate of quake zone parents.

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  23. Old Tales Retold;

    Courts at the federal and local level in the US are not insensitive to public opinion, examples from Dread Scott on down to the Miranda Rule, Roe versus Wade, etc. show so; institutions are subject to changes in public opinion, no matter China or the US. Moreover, a good magistrate understands that conforming to the letter of the law does not necessarily equate to justice, that’s why judges issue opinions. The Shanghai government’s dealing with this incident was no doubt prompted by public opinion but I doubt that liberal governments (why restrict it to the US?) are immune to political expediency. I do not confuse the US government with the Chinese government run by the Party; I do allow that both are subject to change in popular attitudes.

    I disagree that “brutal wealth inequality” “poisons America’s political discourse”: I do not see America defined between the have’s and have-nots, I do not see political platforms arguing for wealth redistribution, I do not see a popularly elected President and his appointed Cabinet defining the problems of the day as “wealth inequality”, I do not see columnists, editorialist or opinions in the popular press asking for wealth distribution but I admit some people find stark dichotomies convenient and simple as explanations.

    I also don’t think activists and spoiled government employees are at the root of America’s problems, no more than I grant your simplistic “brutal wealth inequality”. Are we clear?!

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  24. ScottLoar,

    Interpretation of U.S. law can certainly be quite influenced by public opinion. But the Chinese SPC’s explicit commitment to a populist line of justice seems unique to me, not only in relation to America but in relation to a lot of justice systems in the world. I’m not sure that China’s route is entirely a bad thing—your point about substantive versus procedural justice makes sense. But I do think it is a result of the government having to go an extra mile to show it is responsive, lacking other mechanisms to reflect popular input.

    As to why I compared China to the U.S rather than to other countries… I think Wahaha made the original comparison, but regardless, I suppose I tend to compare things to America because it’s somewhere I’ve spent a lot of time. So, personal prejudice, I guess.

    I do find America’s problems at the heart to come down to stark dichotomies. It’s true that these dichotomies don’t dominate popular discourse. Activists who have spent time in communities affected by poverty, though, seem to get it—at least to my mind. That may be why I was defensive of them. You and Wahaha may have been talking about other activists for all I know!

    Anyway, no offense intended. I don’t think we’re really that far apart on things. And I’m completely on your side in terms of the Greek – China debate!

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  25. Wahaha,

    I still don’t understand where you see that I don’t like China from what I’ve written. The only thing that I’ve written in relation to this post was a personal anecdote that contained someone else’s story. And yes, I am an American citizen, but I live in China, have a Chinese girlfriend, speak Chinese, and as the semester is ending here, I opted to do another year here voluntarily. If I didn’t like China so much, I’d probably have gone to Korea or Japan. Nevertheless, because I haven’t actually given my own personal opinions on China or the Chinese government here, I don’t see how I am “China-lizing” the problem and I don’t see why I should say, “yeah, this would definitely also happen in India/Russia/Malaysia” because this is a blog about China. Nevermind the government having nothing to do with what I said.

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  26. Old Tales Retold;

    I suggest you look to the Gini Coefficient, a measurement of income inequality, as reported by the UN 2007/2008 Human Development Report for example, which lists the US at 40.8, Singapore – hardly a state seething under “brutal wealth inequality” – at 42.5, and China at 46.9. Sure, like any statistical measure this coefficient cannot limn the whole truth but it is a starting point to understanding.

    At least we agree ancient Chinese cannot only be read but understood and appreciated, even by outsiders.

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  27. ScottLoar,

    Well, I’d say that the U.S. and Chinese society are similarly corroded by their level of inequality. Of course, there are other factors at work—other inequalities, too, not just of wealth (influence, respect, access, etc.). But I think the ability of one group to jet ahead and to dominate cultural understandings of success breeds a lot of resentment and unease, which can spill over into people’s conceptions of their country’s place in the world, too. I’ve never been to Singapore nor read that much on the country, so I won’t comment on it—but I am surprised that their Gini is that high.

    And we do agree on that last point!

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  28. Josh,

    I didnt say you dont like China, I said you dont like chinese government OR China ( I didnt know which one.)

    I have lived in US for over 10 years. Sorry to say, but I hate those activitists who have no idea how to plan economy, all they have done is summoning up some lazy bones to get money from government. No offense, the tone used in your post is just like that : collecting the bad things to prove your point, ignoring the whole picture and no comparison to the history and the situation in other countries.

    I dont mind westerners bashing China and pin the problems on chinese government, for example, the fake singing in Olympic opening ceremony, the environment, the judicial system, the death of hundreds of coal miners each year, the child labors, the green dam, the police violence, no open court, no public information about how a plan is made, no public information about about budget plans for projects, no public information about government’s official’s income. But lot of time, some incidents are obviously not unique in China, it is more like if you buy a basket of 100 apples at cheap price, you cant expect all of them good; it is more like when one kingdergarden teacher has to take care of 100 children, it is very likely one day a kid is injured.

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  29. Wahaha,

    I agree that if someone wants to present a whole picture of China, they should include the country’s successes as well as its challenges. But if the focus of an article is a particular problem—which is a completely reasonable focus as far as I am concerned—then there’s no reason to make sure first that China is the only country that has that problem and only then report on it or, alternately, to highlight for readers other countries who experience that problem… unless you are clear about what a comparison illuminates.

    Each of the issues you list (with the exception of the lip syncing) is quite serious. To take the example of just one of them, coal mining deaths: is it necessary in an article about coal mining to reassure readers with easily-hurt feelings that South Africa’s mines are also dangerous, just not as dangerous as China’s? No, in an article about China’s mines, you talk about China’s mines.

    That doesn’t mean that there aren’t useful comparisons to be made. What causes more mine deaths in one country versus another? Is it something geological? Is it a question of company management? Government oversight? The presence or absence of labor unions?

    For an activist in a country the whole point, hopefully, is to fix some problem (I still don’t know which activists you are talking about in the U.S. context, so I can’t really dispute or support your accusations that they are shielding lazy people; if you are talking about the Club for Growth, then I’m inclined to agree, but if you are talking about the AFL-CIO, I’m inclined to diagree—personal ideological preference, I guess) . So it is natural that they focus largely on the negative. Do we want activists whose goal is to propagandize gains in GDP growth? Do we want activists who are dedicated to protecting their country’s image? That would be bizarre.

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  30. …. But if the focus of an article is a particular problem—which is a completely reasonable focus as far as I am concerned…..”

    OTR,

    Unfortunately, that is ALWAYS what activitists focus on. And most times, there are lot of possible reasons for something bad happen, these activitist only present only one reason that can sell his agenda or gain popularity. Therefore, it is no long about free speech, it is about freedom of misleading other people.

    Do you know that in New York, a black youth was shot 50 times and killed ? you know what New York people said ? they said ” thank God, there was black cops involved !!” otherwise there might be a riot like 1992 Los Angles rioit in New York.

    Misleading people by focusing on a particular problem is a serious problem in democratic system, cuz usually it sounds great to people, but the potential damage is huge, especially long term damage, like the California proposition 13.

    Like in China, almost all the human right problems were caused by land acquisition, some individuals demanded unreasonable money and then were dragged out from their homes. Human right activitists ALWAYS use several incidents to prove how cruel the government is, NEVER mention those steps are necessary to build infrastructure, and how millions of people would benefit from that. (What is stupid about Chinese government is that they couldve explained everything to people why they did that, like why they have to relocate those people, and it chose not to.) and in India, cuz of those activitists, infrastructure lags far behind China cuz those activitists organized people to block anything government wanted to do.

    You must know the anti-US protest in south korea for beef import. I asked a south korean what else was on the treaty besides beef import, he didnt know. I read from CNN that US gave South Korea lot of benefits in exchange for beef import, but those so-called activitists never mentioned that, they just fanned the nationalism to cause trouble.

    So, you should give people the right to complain and free speech, but you cant give people the right of misleading people, which happens too often in democratic system. The damage is too much.

    Like

  31. Wahaha, I have no idea what the thing about New York has to do with your point anyway, but if you’re referring to the Diallo incident (and I assume you are), you are grossly misrepresenting the response to that. It was a HUGE deal; there very nearly were riots and I don’t recall much discussion about one of the cops having been black.

    I suppose perhaps you’re talking about a different incident, but I very much doubt it.

    Like

  32. Custer,

    If there had been no black cops involved, it wouldve been an issue “he is victime cuz he is black.” Activitists wouldve jumped into front like sharks smell blood.

    Like

  33. @ Wahaha,

    In that instance, he was a victim precisely because he was black, regardless of the race of cops involved. Would a white man been shot like that? I doubt it. The incident was a big deal because it was representative of the almost complete lack of accountability of cops during that period in New York. If a riot had happened, I would have looked to the root causes, rather than sobbed over property damage or condemned rumor mongers or muttered about hostile outside forces or blamed mean, ungrateful ethnic minorities.

    As to your point about infrastructure… the problem is that people in rural areas are not properly compensated. And that the infrastructure in question is not always needed or is not infrastructure at all (luxury villas, etc.) and is arranged through crooked deals like the one described above. And criminal elements coordinate with local governments to intimidate farmers. That is not “development” but a transfer of wealth from people just barely scraping by to people who have plenty already.

    China’s farmers aren’t stupid and don’t just need things explained to them better. They need to see a material advantage in their administrators’ schemes.

    Like

  34. Wahaha,

    “I dont know which country you are from, but remember, the richness in Europe was built on the misery of people in other countries like India and China, and America built superpower on the misery of Europe and black slaves. So save your arrogance for your ancestors.”

    What’s with the “your ancestors weren’t perfect, so don’t criticize me” attitude? What’s the connection between a person and what their ancestors did? How does the ignorance of the past, by anyone, excuse the blatant disregard for health, safety, etc. by anyone else now? I see someone do something bad now, but I can’t criticize them cause my great-great-grand-dad did something bad?

    “Sorry for offending you (no sorry if you dont like China), but I believe such way of talking is very destructive, not only in China, but also in United States.”

    Americans and foreigners alike criticizing America is what made it change and become a better place. Ridicule and criticism about slavery, civil rights, etc. was a good thing for the USA. Similar ridicule and criticism might help change any country for the better. Why is China special?

    “and in India, cuz of those activitists, infrastructure lags far behind China cuz those activitists organized people to block anything government wanted to do.”

    How and why does China compare to India? If India is so bad compared to China, why do more Chinese move to India than Indians move to China? Where do Indians rate according to quality of life and happiness compared to China? If you enjoy religious freedom, freedom of the press, vibrant politics, etc. over fancy high rises and shopping malls that sprout up in months on the carcasses of hutongs and don’t care for all the shiney trappings of China’s shanzai material culture then India with it’s activists protecting the people and the slow conservative pace of change might seem like a far better place. I’d personally rather live in a run-down free place than a shiney pretty un-free place.

    “So, you should give people the right to complain and free speech, but you cant give people the right of misleading people, which happens too often in democratic system.”

    I’d much rather be allowed to figure out how and why I’m being misled, on my own, than give away my rights to do so to my “over-protective” government.

    Like

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