Democracy, Authoritarian Capitalism, and China – Crash Course World History


Or maybe not.

At least we aren’t stuck in gridlock. But moving ahead, I feel like there needs to be change, not just for the sake of it, but to rid government of any complacency that might be lurking around the corner. Because no matter how much we try to avoid it, complacency sets in oh-so-easily.


Hong Kong Government Cancels Talks With Student Protesters

My parents have expressed their ambivalence about the protests, and it’s here that I’ve noticed the generation gap more acutely than ever before. The reports about people being unable to return to work has incited some measure of annoyance from my parents, who think that the protests have gone too far. They think it needs to be scaled back, and they need to accept the terms put on the table by Beijing.

But as a student myself, I believe that if the protests are small, they’ll be too weak to force Beijing’s hand. And how can you possibly stage a large-scale protest without affecting commerce and business? And isn’t that a good thing? If all these services are affected, that’ll draw even more attention to the situation, which may accelerate change. Furthermore, the protests are necessary if there is going to be change; you can’t just snap your fingers and hope that the Chinese government will eventually grant Hong Kong some measure of democracy. Not when Xi Jinping is in change and strengthening his grasp on power.

Beijing clearly loathes to lose Hong Kong to democracy, but the students are not stupid, and won’t stand for a facsimile of democracy. Will the students just give up? I doubt it, not at the rate things are going. Will Beijing relent? Nope, doesn’t seem likely either. Is another Tiananmen Square incident about to erupt? I really, really hope not. But that looks increasingly likely to my eyes as Xi’s new government has not been shy in using force in other areas of China, including earlier during this set of protests.

Will another Tiananmen be any good? The students will be hurt physically for sure. Mainland Chinese might not be fully aware of the extent that the crackdown has hurt people. China will regain control over Hong Kong. But the world will see, and I wonder if China can afford that. On the flipside though, can the world afford to criticise and condemn China? Can we do anything from the outside to force China’s hand? Sanctions will hurt everyone, and I’m not sure they will do anything in the long run either.

The political fallout for these protests is something far beyond what I can predict. But I can say for sure: my parents aren’t correct. Diplomacy is not going to work with this Chinese government. Tibet and Xinjiang’s routine protests and violence have always been crushed ruthlessly, but they were too remote to be reported on extensively. But Hong Kong is different. It’s high time for China to change.


The Hong Kong government on Thursday night cancelled talks with student protest leaders, saying that the students’ refusal to accept anything less than free and open elections was “against public interests and political ethics.”

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who was due to meet with leaders of the Hong Kong Student Federation on Friday, said at a press conference that student protest leaders had violated the terms of talks in insisting on tabling Beijing’s electoral stipulations. Those call for the vetting, by a pro-Beijing committee, of all candidates for Hong Kong’s top job in the next elections in 2017.

“Unfortunately, the protesters rejected the rational proposal and went back to their old position,” said Lam. “This is sacrificing public good for their political demands.”

The students and other pro-democracy groups want the Chief Executive, as the head of government is called, to be directly elected from a pool of candidates nominated…

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China May Be Heading for a Japanese-Style Economic Crisis

Learning about Japan recently thanks to an elective, and knowing about the Chinese property bubble on the verge of bursting is not doing my confidence in the immediate future much good. We could be in for a serious global financial meltdown…


The economic system East Asian policymakers have put in place over the past 60 years has had both spectacular successes and equally spectacular failures. On the positive side, the “Asian development model,” as it is often called, generated what is probably the greatest surge of wealth in human history, wiped out poverty on an unprecedented scale and built industries at a spellbinding pace. On the downside, however, the model — by effectively subsidizing investment — also produces dizzying levels of debt, burdensome excess capacity and enfeebled financial sectors. That has resulted in severe financial crises, like the one suffered by 1990s Japan (the inventor of the Asian development model), from which it has still not fully recovered.

China, too, has followed this same model. In fact, Beijing has put it on steroids, by adding in a degree of state control that the Japanese would never have dreamed up. So that…

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Chinese Grand Prix 2014


It’s the 3rd of 4 wet qualifying sessions, and once again Hamilton shows his class in the slippery conditions. He had a ridiculous 6 tenths on Ricciardo for Q3, which landed him pole with barely a sweat. On the other hand, Rosberg was a chasm behind. 1.2s is a huge gap, and he was under huge pressure to match his team-mate; he then promptly messed up his final flying lap with a big spin just before the finish line, and is thus P4.

Ricciardo out-qualifies Vettel again, for a 3-1 edge to him. Despite having posted less points than Vettel, the general performances show that Ricciardo is matching and beating his illustrious teammate on a regular basis. The question now is can the two Red Bulls, so good in the wet thanks to their aerodynamics and chassis but lacking on engine power, keep a rampaging Rosberg behind them if it’s dry tomorrow as forecast?

Alonso, in his typical bullish manner, dragged his horrid Ferrari over the line in 5th. Other top 10 qualifiers include Massa and Bottas; Williams seem to have fixed their rear grip issues and enabled them to qualify higher in the wet. Bad news for Lotus at the start as Maldonado has issues and couldn’t enter qualifying, but Grosjean made it into Q3 for the first time this season, which is fantastic for them.

I believe Hulkenberg and Jean-Eric Vergne make up the last of the top 10 runners; good for them. Their teammates didn’t fare so well, particularly Perez; he saw the red lights at Q2 and decided to slow down when he had actually made the cut-off time for one last flying lap. Hulkenberg had posted a P2 time in Q1, so there is pace there to be exploited. Not enough for anything more than Q3, but just enough to squeak in.

McLaren continue their slump as both cars didn’t make Q3, and Raikkonen didn’t make it either. During the qualifying session, Hulkenberg’s engineer told him that the rain had gotten heavier, and that slowed Raikkonen and Button. Given they were a tenth and 2 tenths off Hulkenberg’s Q2 time, that would surely have given Raikkonen a shot at Q3.

Beyond them, there really wasn’t much to this qualifying. The backmarkers filled up the back of the grid and Sauber seem unable to replicate last season’s results.

My predictions? The race, if dry, is going to end up an epic battle between the RB10s and Rosberg, with Hamilton flying away into the distance. We’ll see.


Well, it wasn’t a classic like Bahrain, but as a Hamilton fan, it’s a great race to watch. He pulled away cleanly at the start, and no one could catch him afterwards. The only moment of worry was when he went off track as his tyres died, but he was already 10s ahead by then and could afford a quick trip off the tarmac. His lead at the end over Rosberg was a whopping 18s.

Rosberg had a horrid start, overtaken by Massa and Alonso, and had a big bump with Bottas. But he made his way through the field with his (superior) car, all the while with no telemetry and having to report his fuel use back to the pits. He complained about it being annoying, and that’s understandable. But it was a good race in the end for him, even if his lead over Hamilton was cut to 4 points (even though that lead is due to Hamilton’s mechanical failure at Melbourne more than driving ability).

Alonso drove a huge, huge race for Ferrari for the last spot on the podium, jumping into 3rd and despite having a big bump with Massa who cut across too quickly, managed to hang on and kept 3rd place most of the way. He was initially behind Vettel, then later he was in 2nd until Rosberg finally overtook him. He managed to match Ricciardo’s pace all the way through the last stint bar the last few laps, and kept just ahead for Ferrari’s first podium of the season.

Ricciardo and Vettel, ooh boy. Vettel was told to let Ricciardo through for the 2nd race in a row. Vettel asks about Ricciardo’s tyres, and when he knew they had the same tyres, Vettel refused to let him through. Only when he was told that Ricciardo was on a 2-stopper did he finally yield to Ricciardo. Then he got switched to a 2-stopper as well, and even got overtaken by Kobayashi in a Caterham, and promptly vented his frustrations.

In the end, he came in a huge distance behind Ricciardo despite being in the same strategy. It’s clear he’s struggling in a car that isn’t as quick as his championship-winning ones. It’s been said that he developed his driving around the blown diffuser that Red Bull had perfected over the years, which gave him the edge over Webber, a traditional driver. Now, without the blown diffuser and that rear downforce, he just can’t keep up with Ricciardo who is speculated to be more used to driving around problems due to his recent experience with Toro Rosso.

Who knows? It just gives ammo for those who think that Vettel is only a 4-time world champion because of his dominant car. I’m a bit in that camp in the sense that he’s probably a great driver, but he’s not as fast as Hamilton and not as good an overall driver as Alonso. But we’re going to see a lot more of Vettel being frustrated, and it’ll be good to see him prove that he can drive around a bad car, and that he is a great driver who deserves those championships.

Behind them was Hulkenberg with another good race, managing to keep Bottas behind him right up to the end. Force India have been doing a solid job behind the frontrunners, and as the best Mercedes-engined team (after Mercedes themselves of course), they can take pride in that. Williams…well, didn’t fulfil that promise from testing, but they probably aren’t that quick in all honesty. Massa had his contact with Alonso, then had a horrible pit stop where the rear tyres were swapped mistakenly and cost him any chance of chasing down the frontrunners.

Behind Bottas was Raikkonen, who just can’t get that Ferrari going. He apparently had a bad Friday and so couldn’t set up the car the way he wanted to, but looking at how Alonso muscles his Ferrari around, he must be feeling a bit disappointed in himself. Frankly, I think the Ferrari is nowhere near 3rd, but is not really an 8th place car either. So improvements to be made there; Raikkonen getting schooled by Alonso so far.

Perez was quite far back at the start, but managed 9th ahead of Kvyat, who scored yet another point and upstaging Vergne. Button and Magnussen in 11th and 13th respectively; worst of the Mercedes customer teams, and really nowhere at this stage. All that promise during testing, and that (eventual) podium finishes in Melbourne have turned into a nightmarish mid-table scrap for the multiple-championship winning team. The sight of Perez overtaking his former teammate, and then Hamilton lapping Button must be really galling.

Maldonado kept his nose out of trouble and managed 14th after starting at the back, and poor Grosjean was doing so well in 8th until 4th gear died, and then the rest of the gearbox started to go and he had to retire. But it’s a day of positives for Lotus, as their car has some pace despite ongoing reliability issues. Gutierrez came home in 15th, and Sutil had to retire with some engine trouble. Sauber have been struggling since the start of the season, and it’s not a surprise to see them only just in front of the backmarkers; just disappointing given their performances the end of last season.

Finally, Kobayashi pulled an overtake on Vettel in the middle of the race, then pulled one over Bianchi for 17th place. It’s great to see him back in F1; he’s such a feisty racer, and I remember him at Suzuka as he charged his way up to a home podium.

It’s pretty clear that Red Bull’s domination has only just given way to Mercedes’ domination, but the rest of the teams are closing the gap quicker than they had during the days of Red Bull’s domination, so we could see closer racing as the season goes on. But I’m not an impartial fan, so I’m going to root for Mercedes. Hypocritical of me, I know, given how I didn’t like Red Bull’s domination, but it’s really just my dislike of Vettel and his somewhat immature actions at times. I like Webber, so Vettel being an arse to him really got to me.

Now then, onward to Barcelona!

China’s Doctors Are Overworked, Underpaid, and Now They’re Getting Beaten Up

Erm…wow. I always figured medicine will be a favoured course for any student to take, especially demanding Asian parents. To have your life at a literal risk for a job that’s already tough as hell…that’s just insane.

To get stabbed because a patient was mad with another doctor’s work…who the hell will have the altruistic heart to enter the healthcare industry at the risk of bodily harm? Even I wouldn’t. Or I would go overseas to practise instead.


The young doctor weeps as he is pulled before the crowd. The night before, he treated a patient for excessive alcohol consumption. That patient later died. And now he is being accosted by a mob that includes members of the deceased’s family. “That’s the doctor who killed the patient,” someone yells. It takes 30 minutes for the police to break things up, according to a press report in the local Guangzhou Daily. The doctor lives.

A week before, in the city of Nanjing, Jiangsu province, a married pair of government officials were filmed beating a nurse with an umbrella until she lay motionless on the hospital floor. They were reportedly furious that their daughter, a patient, was being forced to share a room with a male. The nurse survived, but may be paralyzed. The umbrella-wielding Mrs. was detained.

Variations on these scenes play out with alarming regularity in…

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China’s Smog Is So Bad They’re Now Calling It a ‘Nuclear Winter’

Wow. And I thought the smog from Indonesia’s slash-and-burn farms was bad. I’m glad I managed to visit Beijing and the Great Wall years ago, before the country descended into a post-apocalyptic state.

At least it’ll be easy to find the next filming location for zombie flicks. China provided the spectacular scenery for Avatar. Now it can do the same for Silent Hill.

P.S. I think I read somewhere that China and India’s pollution problems aren’t any worse than what the Earth experienced back during the Industrial Revolution. While I can accept that it’s an unfortunate by-product of industrialisation and modernisation, surely more can be done? It’s getting pretty ridiculous.


On Wednesday morning in Beijing, we fitted our two boys with their minimasks and sent them off to school. Air pollution, according to the U.S.-embassy index, had hit a dangerous particulate concentration of 497. (The World Health Organization warns against daily exposure to PM 2.5 — fine particulates above 25.) At 500 on the Beijing scale — which the U.S. embassy has dryly dubbed “beyond index,” because who would think air pollution could climb so high? — school would be shuttered. Three index points were all that were keeping our kids in class.

By the time our children, ages 6 and 4, were starting school, the U.S. air-quality index had hit 512. By 11:00 a.m., it had reached 537. The air is off-the-charts bad. The U.S. embassy cautions that at this level, “everyone may experience more serious health effects.” Even the Chinese government, whose own air-quality monitoring often records pollution…

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