Michael Jennings on China – as seen from Nepal and from Australia

I have one of my Last Friday of the Month talks at my home tomorrow evening. See the next posting for news about that. Meanwhile, here are some thoughts that Michael Jennings jotted down, concerning the talk he’ll be giving in the same series on October 25th. While writing this, he didn’t know he was writing a blog posting. That only happened when I asked him if I could stick it up here, and he said … okay, yes:

In April and May this year, I spent a month in Nepal. I spent a fair portion of this in very remote areas – places (such as the region of Upper Mustang) that were almost literally medieval kingdoms only 30 years ago. These places are no longer medieval and no longer kingdoms, but they are still very poor, agricultural communities. At least, the ones without roads connecting them to the outside world are very poor, agricultural communities. Communities with roads connecting them to the outside world are different. Still poor by international standards, but much richer. The roads are being built with Chinese money and expertise.

These places are also very close to the border with Tibet. These places have always been close to the border with Tibet, but of course, these days this means the border with China. As China has become economically more powerful in recent years, the Chinese influence on these places has become stronger. The locals have mixed feelings about that. The Chinese have resources and get things done, whereas governments of Nepal – and governments of their nearer and friendlier neighbour India – are not known for this. On the other hand, if you cross the border you had better not be carrying a picture of the Dalai Lama, and if a Chinese policeman tells you to do something, you had better do it. (Nepali policemen are fairly amiable, mildly corrupt, and not people to worry about that much). The Chinese are building roads and power stations, which is making people richer. This is generally considered to be good. The Chinese bring money and wealth, but they also bring an extremely authoritarian political model with it, and you can see this in one small, poor country of a very different culture to theirs

This is one relatively small, poor country case of the interactions that a rising China is having with much of Asia and much of the world. At the other end of this are things like the interactions of my native Australia with China. Australia was always rich, but is now very rich due principally to selling iron ore and coal to China for the last 20 years. Australia has a large Chinese community, that has arrived in the country mostly in the last 50 years. 30 years ago, Australia would have been unequivocal in its support for the present demonstrators in Hong Kong, if events such as that had been happening then. These days, the Australian government says nothing. Meanwhile, Chinese students in Australia are spied on by Chinese secret police, Chinese language newspapers in Australia – there are many – are intimidated into taking a pro-Beijing line, and other similar things. Do Australians like this – not much, although Australians do generally like Chinese people and Chinese immigrants individually. Australia is now in an uncomfortable position of gaining much of its prosperity from people with an extremely authoritarian political model that we don’t particularly like.

Two extreme examples, but a great many countries in Asia and Africa (and elsewhere) face the same questions, to varying degrees. I will be giving a talk in which I discuss what this means for the world and where this may all lead.

There’ll be another talk about China on the last Friday of November, which is November 28th, by Hong-Konger-now-based-in-London Katy Lau. No apologies whatever for the “duplication”. First, it won’t be. These will be two completely different takes on China. And second, could any subject in the world be more important just now, or more vast in its scope and significance?

Safety advice in Nepal

As regular readers of BMNB already know, the BMNB Senior Foreign Correspondent is currently Michael Jennings. His latest item of foreign photo-fun is this:

I know. Ho ho. Johnny Foreigner getting the English language somewhat wrong. My interest is more respectful and serious, which is that it is not just British workers who have become more expensive to kill. This is happening everywhere. Workers are everywhere becoming more skilled and more productive, and employers everywhere are becoming ever keener on them not being killed. Hence all the urging to them to take their own safety seriously.

I bet that in Nepal, scaffolding has recently been getting more abundant and better made.

Google google. Yes, here we go: Nepal Has Been Announced That the Training in the Scaffolding Industry is Showing Improvements. Look at that picture there.

Does Nepal have an edge in the scaffolding trade on account of its expertise in mountaineering? This would make sense.

Pakistan parallels

Incoming from Michael J:

This is amusing.

Backing England in this World Cup, as I am, being English, I must get my World Cup entertainment where I can.

Pakistan are playing NZ today, and they made a great start, getting four early wickets, and then the key wicket of Kane Williamson, making it NZ 83-5. So, Pakistan are on course to win this World Cup. But NZ are now 150-5 and by no means out of it just yet.

I often like to do my sport blogging during games and during tournaments rather than when everything has finished, because it’s the middles of games and the middles of tournaments that you tend to forget. Yet they are fascinating at the time. Or in the case of England just now, excruciating.

LATER: And the parallels continue parallel. “?” turns to “WON”. The “Pakistan are playing NZ today” link (see above) turns to “Pakistan beat NZ”.

Singapore architecture

Recently I have become included in the Libertarian Boys Curry Night gang. I know them all. I just hadn’t been having curries (or in my case biryanis) with them every now and again, until rather recently.

During the latest such Curry Night (at an Indian Diner near to me (which turned out to be a good choice (I had a biryani))), one of the Boys showed me some photos of Singapore he’d taken with his mobile, of that huge thing that looks like a set of cricket stumps, for a game of cricket played in hell and painted by Bruegel.

I said, send me one of those, and he did, twice:

I show these photos here, because whatever you think of this Thing, it is certainly of architectural interest, in a misshapen and off-putting sort of way (or so I think).

But more, I show these photos because they actually are rather informative, especially the one on the left. That one especially shows context, in the form of nearby places and other nearby buildings. In general, you get a feel for what sort of place Singapore is.

In Real Photographer photos, you get buildings like this looking super-cool and super-glamorous, in other words not how they actually look like when you get there.

I’ve said it before and will say it again now. Real Photographers photo photos that are super-nice. Amateur photoers often photo photos which tell you more about what a place is actually like. So it is, I think, with these photos that my mate Tom took.

My low opinion of this Cricket Stumps Thing is perhaps shared by whoever compiled this list of 10 Super Cool Buildings in Singapore You Might Not Have Noticed Before, because The Stumps are not included. That’s because you’ve probably already noticed them, rather than because it’s ugly. But the implied point of the list is: we have other and cooler buildings, besides and unlike The Stumps.

One of the Cool Buildings in this list is something called the “Interlace” Apartments, which is that pile of blocks of flats, all rectangular and each very boring, but piled up like a child’s set of big wooden bricks, all at angles to each other. There’s a photo of this Pile of Bricks in the list, of course. But I prefer this aerial photo of it, that I found elsewhere, and which I’d not seen before:

Once again, you get context. So I’m guessing: photoed from an airplane by an amateur photoer.

Tom’s photos of The Stumps were not photoed from an airplane, but rather from a nearby building. You can tell this because both were photoed from the exact same spot, but the clouds are different. Ergo, he was still when he photoed them.

Fency

Incoming from BMNB’s Blogmaster Michael Jennings, a while back now, from Foreign Parts:

Like I say, it’s a while since this got here, but it deserves the immortality that is conferred upon photos when they are exhibited here at BMNB.

“Fency” is either a very posh way of saying “fancy”, or it is an indication that a lot of the goods in the store were stolen. Which means they’ll be cheap, which means that you can shop at this store with absolute frugality.

I cannot recall if the accompanying email said where this is. Michael?

Excellent wires!

LATER: Ah, it wasn’t “incoming from Michael”. It was at his Facebook page. Kathmandu, Nepal. I just nicked it. Hope Michael doesn’t mind.

Other creature news

In among all the vile bile, Twitter continues to serve up good Other Creatures news, especially in video form.

Here, for instance, is evidence that when it comes to shifting stuff around, while simultaneously showing a bit of common sense, robots would appear to have some way to go before they will be entirely replacing the working class.

Here is a delightful photo of two pigeons, who are checking out a photographer who is trying to photo a ceiling.

And, in otter news, here are otters doing something very strange, under a tree, in what turns out to be Singapore.

Meanwhile, via (the rest of) the blogosphere (David Thompson to be exact), an amplified cat and dogs who ate bees. The dogs look so happy, especially given how very unhappy they must feel.

On a more melancholy note, Mick Hartley tells of the Soviet whale “decimation” of the middle of the twentieth century. Decimation however, is surely the wrong word. It was far worse than that. The writer whom Hartley quotes seems to think that decimation means killing nine out of ten, because he talks of whale species being “driven to the edge of extintion”. But decimation wasn’t killing nine out of ten members of a Roman legion. It was killing one in every ten. It was to punish, not to extinguish, a legion. That verbal quibble aside, there can’t be too many reports of what an insanely destructive economic system the USSR imposed upon all its victims. And its victims were not only human.

Black Drongo and Crested Serpent-eagle + snake

Taiwan Birds (well worth a long scroll down there (some truly amazing birds (I think))) yesterday featured this remarkable photo …:

…, and has this to say about it:

Congratulations to Chen Chen-kuang … for winning the Hamdan HIPA Prize for his shot of a …

… see above.

And there was me thinking that “Drongo” was just a word made up by Australians to describe … drongos. Apparently drongos really exist, and presumably drongos behave in a way that Australians disapprove of.

Taiwan Birds adds:

Never leave your camera behind! And spend years refining your skills …

Indeed.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A bridge held up by giant hands

Not really, I don’t suppose. But that’s how it looks.

I can’t recall how I came across this amazing bridge, but I think it was my Twitter feed. My first reaction was that this was some very high class Photoshopping. But no. Here’s a report from July of this year.

This Thing is for real. It is in Vietnam:

I found that photo here.

Given that the flood of big and impressive new bridges now seems to have receded (and given that big “new” bridges are now starting to collapse), the emphasis has switched to small and impressive new bridges. Of which this one is by far the most impressive, in my opinion.

These giant hands are going to trigger a flood of similarly inventive small bridges, with sculptors and engineers collaborating to outdo each other. Not all will be beautiful, but all will very recognisable and distinctive, which is the next best thing, I think.

People love bridges. It’s not just me. Look at all the people on that bridge.

Does the bridge have a giant figure beside it, who is holding the bridge, or are there just hands? If not, maybe that will happen soon. A statue holding a bridge. Why not?

How about London getting the man who did these sculptures (LINK TO THE OLD BLOG) to design a London footbridge, somewhere, in which two more such guys are holding it up? Or four? Or six? I’ll leave that to him and his engineer. But, London, do this.

All over the world, now, people – people like me – are seeing the bridge in the photo above, and are saying: Why can’t we have something like that?

And others are saying: Oh no, how ghastly. But to hell with them. Put the first such bridge in your area somewhere really ugly, where there’s nothing to spoil. That should silence the grumblers.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A better way to package bananas

I can’t remember how Twitter caused me to arrive at this, but it did:

Bananas that are either not ripe enough or too ripe are a constant irritation to me. This – bananas sold in sets of bananas of different stages of ripeness – looks like a rather good answer.

A commenter immediately joins in and makes this into an argument about plastic in the oceans, the latest Green obsession that replaced the fading fear of climate catastrophe, except that the recent heatwave has now got them back going bananas about how the climate has now changed. Like there have never been heatwaves before. The climate presumably is changing, because it always does, but that’s no reason for humans to stop selling stuff to each other. Or for them to stop thinking of clever and helpful stuff combinations.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog