Is Communist China now losing its future?

If even slightly true, this, by David Archibald, is remarkable:

Lawyer Dan Harris writes that Chinese companies are now acting very short-term in their dealings with foreign companies. The situation reminds him of Russia in the 1990s. The Russians then, straight out of communism, would sign a deal but then immediately renege and run off with the cash, foregoing a large future benefit for a much smaller immediate gain. They did so because they did not expect there to be a future.

Harris’s words: “I am writing about this now because China today is feeling a lot like Russia in the 1990s. I am getting the sense that many Chinese companies are pessimistic about their futures and they are acting accordingly.”

And: “On top of the economic issues, many Chinese companies have become both wary of and angry at the West, particularly the United States. This too makes things riskier for foreign companies. We are seeing the results of all this in many ways.

Practically every week, one of our China lawyers will get an email or a phone call from someone who bought product from China and received nothing in return or nothing even approaching what they actually ordered. This sending of ‘junk’ instead of real product has spread to pretty much every industry in China.”

Further from Harris: “Sinosure is China’s state-owned export insurance company that pays Chinese manufacturers that were stiffed by their foreign buyers and then seeks to collect from the foreign buyers that allegedly failed to pay. … We are now seeing Sinosure cases where the Chinese manufacturer has made what we think are fraudulent policy claims to Sinosure because they are desperate for cash and they don’t care about maintaining their relationship with their foreign buyer.”

Yet more: “Lastly, our China lawyers are dealing with an increasing number of situations where the Chinese side of a China joint venture has essentially taken over the joint venture and stops communicating with its foreign joint venture partner.”

So Chinese companies are burning their bridges and attempting to monetize the last scraps of goodwill left in the system. They are effectively eating their seed corn. …

In the 1980s I and some mates based around the then Alternative Bookshop – in Covent Garden, a short walk from the Opera House – ran a little thing called the Anti-Soviet Society. We said that Russia should stop being communist and should become a liberal democracy. One-and-a-bit out of two (Russia is now a democracy of sorts but hardly a liberal democracy) ain’t bad. You can never know about such things, but this little enterprise may have shortened the Cold War by as much as a few fractions of a second. I think I still have some pamphlets that it dished out around then.

Time for something similar to be done to the Chinese Communists, who look like they may now be losing the mandate of heaven. Or to put it another way, time for me to find out about such enterprises that already exist, if they do.

To those who say that the Chinese economy now is far more impressive than the Soviet economy ever was, I say: True, but what matters is the direction in which things are heading, or feel like they’re heading, rather than the absolute level of affluence (or lack of it). These Chinese Communists feel to me like they’re losing the future, just as the old USSR did.

A tyranny collapsing always seems impossible. Until it collapses.

LATER: On the other hand … How China Sees the Hong Kong Crisis. He reckons they’re pretty relaxed about it.

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.

How Twitter works

Or maybe that should be: How Twitter rots the brain.

Instapundit is a daily destination for me, and yesterday, there’s a posting about a piece at Quillette by Cathy Young about Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

So I read that, and am impressed. Solzhenitsyn was a hero of mine when I was at school and university, and like Young, I was puzzled by his subsequent opposition to Western liberalism and fondness for Russian nationalism, along with all the nasty baggage that is liable to bring with it, like anti-Semitism.

At the bottom of the Cathy Young article is the suggestion that I should consider following Cathy Young at Twitter. I do so. I scroll down, and soon find myself smiling at otter jokes, all the otter jokes being based on the fact that “otter” is only one letter away from “other”. Significant otters. In otter news. (Yes, Happy New Year again.)

And: Why did the otters cross the road? To get to the otter side.

This didn’t take long at all.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Confessions of a preemptive pessimist

I was asleep when England got their first goal. My urban locality erupted with honking and shouting. I looked at my bedside clock, and it was just after 7pm, when the game was due to begin. Sure enough, when I cranked up the telly: CRO 0-1 ENG. (You don’t need any links. You surely know what I’m talking about.)

I recall this phenomenon happening before, this time right at the end of a game of this kind. It was 0-0 at the very end of extra time, and about to be a shoot-out. Against Belgium, I think it was. And then someone called Platt, I think it was, scored a goal for England, when I was in my toilet. The noises that I heard from my neighbours could only mean an England goal. So it was with Trippier’s early goal this evening.

I am and remain a preemptive pessimist about England’s chances in this tournament, because this will soften the blow when the blow does fall, as fall it surely must. An early goal, such as England have just scored, is often a mistake, because it gets the opposition stirred up. It makes them forget any nerves they feel and really play, because they have to really play. The early goal-scorers on the other hand, are tempted to defend too much and let the other fellows into the game. And then when the other fellows equalise, they are the ones with the momentum. Sure enough, as half time nears, England are getting sloppy and Croatia now have a chance. Well, it’s now half time, but I still back Croatia to win this.

Now, they’re saying that England had lots of chances and should be further ahead. Indeed. So when Croatia do equalise, England will be very depressed, and will lose.

Roy Keane, a fellow pre-emptive pessimist by the sound of it: “England got a bit sloppy.”

Oh, the torture of hope.

And the further torture of feeling like a idiot, for taking such events far, far more seriously than anyone should.

In particular, I feel the difference between someone like me, who refuses to get his hopes up, and “real” fans, who do get their hopes up. I “contribute” nothing to the success of any team I support, as in: like to see winning but don’t get hysterical about. Yet in truth, the hysterics contribute very little more than I do. Just the occasional encouraging bellow. But if England never do get eliminated from this World Cup (I shun the w word) I feel that I will not have deserved it, but that the hysterics and the bellowers will have deserved it. If you suffer, you deserve to succeed. If you shun suffering, you do not. Even if the suffering accomplishes nothing.

LATER:

A cleverly chosen name, wouldn’t you say?

For “first” at the start of this, read: early. And only.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Now you see it – now you don’t

Here is a recent Scott Adams Dilbert cartoon, although Dilbert himself is not involved in this particular one:

I’ve always thought that one of the many things that won the Cold War for Civilisation and doomed Bolshevik Barbarism to defeat was stealth stuff. By its nature, stealth stuff is undetectable, and the better it is, the more impossibly undetectable it is. So, if you cannot detect it at all, it could still be there, and really really good at being stealthy. Hell, it could be anywhere. It could be right outside the Politburo’s front window.

Of course, it probably isn’t this clever. But, how would you be sure?

This was why, when the Americans had got these contraptions working reasonably well, they revealed their existence. They took lots of spooky photos of these spooky things, and made sure the whole world could see them. Where, at any particular moment, they were, for you to photo, they did not reveal.

How can you defeat an enemy like that?

Same with Star Wars. Shooting down all incoming nuclear missiles with all-powerful death rays. Bollocks, right? But, again, how could you be sure.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

I need a link dump

Twitter is causing ever more interesting things to pile up on my computer screen, and slow everything down. (I know, “bookmarks”. Hate them.) So, here is a blog posting consisting of such links. Which I can come back to and follow through on but probably never will, but possibly just might.

Eyebrows – we all have them, but what are they actually for?

The Kremlin has a Reckless Self-Image Problem.

Via 6k, how to take bizarre photos by stuffing wire wool into a egg whisk, setting the wire wool on fire, and swinging all that around on a rope. Do not try this at home, unless you want to burn down your home.

Next, a Twitter posting about cactus patterns:

So frustrating! My cactus patterns are going viral on FB, but the person who posted the photo of them a) didn’t credit me and b) deletes any comments I write responding to people asking for the patterns.

But what if she made that up? As a ruse to get the world to pay attention to her cactus patterns? Or, what if she hired, in good faith, some sleazy “internet marketer” who deliberately posted her photos on some faked-up Facebook site, minus any credit, told her about it, and then blocked her complaints? The sleazy internet marketer then advised her to complain about this to all and sundry, knowing that all and sundry would sympathise. She seems like an honest person, doing honest business, which is why I pass this on. But a decade of internetting has made me cynical.

Next, a Spectator piece about someone called Scaramucci, who is writing a book about Trump. The piece says more about Scaramucci than it does about Trump, but his book sounds like it will be quite good. Scaramucci sounds like he has his head screwed on right, unlike a lot of the people who write Trump books.

Also in the Spectator, Toby Young realises that his wife is smarter than he is. And she chose to stay at home and raise their kids because that’s what she wanted to do. You can feel the tectonic plates of Western Civilisation shifting back towards stay-at-home mumhood, even as mere policy continues to discourage it. Jordan Peterson, take a bow. That man is already raising the birth rate in rich countries, by encouraging both fatherhood and motherhood. The only question is: By how much? Trivially, or significantly? My bet, with the passing of a bit of time: significantly.

George Bernard Shaw tells it like it was and is about Islam. I lost track of how I chanced upon that, but there it is. These days, GBS would probably get a talking-to from the Thought Police, a talking-to which might well include the words: “We’re not the Thought Police”. If the Thought Police were to have a go at her, they just might get an earful themselves.

Mike Fagan liked this photo of Mont Saint Michel with sheep in the foreground. I can’t any longer find when he liked it, but he did. Reminds me of this Millau Viaduct photo, also with sheep in the foreground.

Boaty McBoatface got turned into David bloody Attenborough, but Trainy McTrainface proudly rides the railway lines of Sweden. As usual, You Had One Job supplied no link (so no link to them), but here’s the story.

Thank you Paul Marks for telling me about someone telling me about Napoleon’s greatest foe. His name? Smith.

The sun is now spotless, or it was on April 11th.

David Baddiel has doubts about the bloke who said “gas the Jews” rather a lot, to a dog. As do I. It should be legal, but don’t expect me to laugh.

Tim Worstall:

All of which leads to the correct Brexit stance to be taking. No deal. We’ll go to unilateral free trade and the rest of you can go boil your heads. We’ll give it a couple of decades and we’ll see who is richer, OK?

Quillette: The China Model Is Failing.

The three temporarily separate Elizabeth lines.

Wisdom.

Anton Howes on Sustained Economic Growth.

John Arnold made a fortune at Enron. He is now spending some of it on criticising bad science.

Human genes reveal history. This book is number (about) twenty on my to-read list.

Philip Vander Elst on How Communism Survived Thanks to Capitalist Technology.

And finally, Bryan Caplan still thinks this is pretty good.

I now feel much better. And more to the point, my computer seems a lot sprightlier than it was. This has been the computerised equivalent of cleaning my room. The job is not done, but I have taken a big bite out of it.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Adriana Lukas tells Libertarian Home about the experience of communism

Earlier this evening at the Two Chairmen, Westminsters, Adriana Lukas, who grew up in the old Czechoslovakia as was, gave a most eloquent talk about this experience. She didn’t bang on at length about the usual horrors – prison camps, executions, purges, and so on – although of course these were mentioned. Rather did she focus on the minutiae of life for the rather less unlucky victims of communism, the ones who got to stay alive. People adjusted, basically. Or if, like Adriana’s family, they were dissidents, they learned to be extremely distrustful of almost everyone but their closest and most trusted loved ones. Being a dissident wasn’t about overthrowing the regime; it was merely about staying sane.

Here are four photos, that I picked out from the dozen or more that I took, and that I just sent to meetings organiser Simon Gibbs, who is to be seen in the first one, introducing Adriana. The photos I sent to Simon were rectangles, but I actually prefer these square cropped versions.

As you can see, this excellent talk was videoed. Videos are far harder to edit than merely to … video. So you may have to wait a bit before seeing this one. But, for those who did not attend this talk and for many who did, it will be worth the wait.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Me and Patrick Crozier talking about WW1: If only?

A few weeks ago, Patrick Crozier and I recorded a conversation about the First World War. Patrick’s short intro, and the recording, are here. (It would appear that Croziervision is now back in business.)

The “If only” of my title is because we talk about the question of “what if” WW1 had never started. What might have happened instead? The unspoken assumption that has saturated our culture ever since is that it would surely have been far, far better. But what if something else just as bad had happened instead? Or even: something worse?

We discuss the reasons for such pessimism. There was the sense of economic unease that had prevailed since the dawn of the century, resulting in a time not unlike our own. And, there was the fact that Germany, Austria, Russia and Turkey were all embarked upon their various journeys from monarchy to democracy, and such journeys are always likely to be, says Patrick, bloodbaths. Whatever happened in twentieth century Europe, it surely would not have been good.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog