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Many of the best books take us into ourselves and outside into the world, facilitating journeys we might not otherwise have taken either in thought or reality. This sense of adventure and possibility is one of the reason’s why I’m so passionate about books in translation and why I was delighted to hear about the bestselling Chinese children’s novel Bronze and Sunflower (青铜葵花) by Cao Wenxuan hitting English-language bookshelves for the first time this year, thanks to its translation by Helen Wang.
Cover art by Meilo So
Sunflower and Bronze, two children who are isolated and lonely for different reasons befriend each other. Following the death of Sunflower’s father, Bronze’s family unofficially adopt Sunflower and the story then follows the two children’s friendship, adventures, and experiences living in a very poor but very happy and generous family. Although not without times of grief and real hardship, Bronze and Sunflower’s lives are full of so much loveliness, happiness and kindness that this book, this story came as a welcome breath of fresh air, full of hope and a reminder that warmth and generosity can make for powerful storytelling just as much as angst and dystopia.
Although set in rural China during the Cultural Revolution Bronze and Sunflower has a timeless quality about it; yes, there are references to Cadre schools (a feature of the Cultural Revolution) but nevertheless it felt as if this story could have been set in almost any time period. It has a folktale-like quality in its focus on simple everyday events and challenges. The ingenuity of Bronze, the determination of his entire family to provide the best they can for Sunflower, and the fierce love between adoptive brother and sister are moving and enchanting.
This exploration of aspects of every day simple life reminded me at times of the Laura Ingalls books in the best possible sense and thus I believe Bronze and Sunflower would make a great read aloud from around 6+, as well as being enjoyed by older independent readers. This quiet and gentle story woven through with thoughtfulness and bright love will stay with me for a long time.
Captivated as I was by this Chinese novel, I took the opportunity to interview its translator, Helen Wang, about her work and – more broadly – Chinese children’s literature. First I asked about the process Helen goes through when translating a book, where she starts and what “tricks” or routines she makes use of.
Helen Wang: This is only the second book I’ve translated, so I don’t really have any “tricks” or routines. It takes a few months to translate a novel, and it seems to take between one to two years for a translated book to appear in print. It’s quite a commitment for everyone involved. So I like to take some time at the beginning to read the book and play with it, and work out whether we’ll get along – a bit like browsing in a bookshop or a library. One publisher was very keen for me to translate a particular book, and was so anxious when I turned it down. She wanted to know what was wrong with the book! There was nothing with the book, it was just that I didn’t feel I was the right person to translate it. Actually, the experience reminded me a bit of Daniel Pennac’s book “The Rights of the Reader” (translated by Sarah Ardizzone).
Playing by the book: Yes, translators have rights too! How interesting that you felt your style or approach didn’t somehow match a given book. That makes me wonder…what were the most challenging aspects of translating Bronze and Sunflower?
Helen Wang: When the editor at Walker Books sent me the Chinese edition of Bronze and Sunflower, I was staying with my mother and sister, and I would read a chapter at a time and then tell them what had happened. At first it seemed as though I was telling them about one brutal disaster or trauma after another, and it was not easy to show how the story would work in English. As the written translation progressed, it was lovely to see the human story coming to the fore.
We often think about language and culture when translating, but the story-telling is just as important. Things like timing, tension, suspense, length, rhythm, humour and dialogue are crucial elements of a story. We learn these when we are very young, and we all know how little children will complain if you don’t tell the story properly. Chinese stories often provide more information, and more repetition, than the English reader is used to. It doesn’t mean that one style is better than another, but rather that we have different expectations and tolerances. For example, when Sherlock Holmes’ stories were first translated into Chinese, they were given spoiler-titles like “The Case of the Sapphire in the Belly of the Goose”. Part of the challenge of translating is working out the storytelling!
Two Chinese language editions of Bronze and Sunflower
Playing by the book: I find it really interesting that you talk about the impact of the disasters when you were first reading Bronze and Sunflower. Whilst there’s definitely hardship and trauma I didn’t find them overwhelming. What shone through was the compassion and thoughtful human relationships. There were whole stretches I wanted to underline! So tell me, what is your favourite passage in Bronze and Sunflower – your favourite bit of narrative?
Helen Wang: I think one of my favourite lines in the whole book has to be in the last chapter, when the authorities come to talk to the head of the village about moving Sunflower back to the city. We’ve followed the family through all the hardships, and like the family and the villagers, we can’t bear the thought of the authorities taking her away. The head of the village, playing for time, sums up the situation so succinctly: “It’s difficult”. It’s perfect!
Playing by the book: Ah yes, that’s a great scene. My personal favourite (without giving too much away) is the one which involves fireflies…. But now perhaps a much harder question: In what way is Bronze and Sunflower typical (or atypical) of 21st century Chinese children’s literature? I read recently that Chinese children’s literature tends to have what Westerners might call a strong Famous Five flavour, and that lots of what gets written would be considered a bit old fashioned for success in Western markets.
Helen Wang: Well I’ve already mentioned the fact that in Chinese stories there can be a different tempo, tension or tolerance of certain linguistic devices such as repetition.
I’ve heard English people say that Chinese children’s books can be overly moral or too didactic. And I’ve heard Chinese people complain that English stories lack firm morals and instruction! But these were adults talking, and it would useful to have some feedback from younger readers too!
A Monster Magic title by Leon Image
One way to get an idea of what’s popular in China now is to look at the list of the 30 bestselling children’s books. The last available list is for February 2015.
By far the most popular children’s author at the moment is Leon Image (a pseudonym), who has ten books in the Top 30, and is one of the richest authors in China. Leon Image is the creator of the phenomenally successful Charlie IX series. Charlie IX is a dog with royal pedigree and superpowers, who, together with his schoolboy owner DoDoMo, goes on amazing fantasy adventures that involve working out clues along the way. The books come together with a magnifier, stickers and puzzles. The latest book is the series is no. 24: Charlie IX, Empty City at the End of the World, and there are currently eight books of this series in the top 30!
Leon Image has also produced the very popular Monster Magic series, and two of these (nos 13 and 14) are in the top 30. I don’t think any of the Leon Image books have been translated into English. However, there are four authors on the list whose work has been translated into English fairly recently.
The first in the Mo’s Mischief series by Yang Hongying
Yang Hongying is the creator of several very successful series. She started writing children’s books as a young primary school teacher in the 1980s, and after a few years left teaching to concentrate on writing. Her ‘Mo’s Mischief’ series is about a lively little boy, Mo, who keeps getting into trouble (some of these are available in English: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mo’s_Mischief). ‘The Diary of a Smiling Cat’ series follows the adventures of Mo’s cousin’s talking pet cat. ‘Girl’s Diary’ is about a girl in her last year at primary school.
Shen Shixi is China’s “King of Animal Stories” and he has written lots of them! His current bestseller in China is ‘Wolf King Dream’. His book Jackal and Wolf is available in English (translated by me) – it’s about a jackal who raises an orphaned wolf cub and the hair-raising adventures they have hunting, surviving, finding mates, having cubs – with the added complications that wolves and jackals don’t get on, and that they have a mother-daughter relationship.
Wu Meizhen is well-known for her Sunshine Sister series. She also wrote An Unusual Princess, which is available in English, translated by Petula Parris-Huang, and has a few twists in the tail.
Cao Wenxuan is Professor of Chinese Literature at Peking University, and writes for both adults and children. He currently has two books in the top 30: Bronze and Sunflower, first published in 2005 and still one of the bestselling children’s books in China; and Straw Houses (tr Sylvia Yu et al). Both of these are available in English now, and I hear a third – Dawang Tome: The Amber Tiles (translated by Nicholas Richards, Better Chinese, California, 2015. ISBN 978-1-60603-707-2) – will be launched at Book Expo America 2015, in May, where China is the guest of honour this year.
There are several commercial titles tied in with TV series, such as the Happy Lamb, Little Pig and Carrot Fantasy series. And there are six well-known translated titles on the list too: Totto-chan, Little Girl at the Window (Tetsuko Kuroyanagi), Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White), Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren), Fantastic Mr Fox (Roald Dahl), The Cricket in Times Square (George Selden) and Guess How Much I Love You? (Sam McBratney, Anita Jeram).
A Chinese Life by Philippe Otie and Li Kunwu. This graphic novel is set in 1940s onwards, under Mao Zedong.
Playing by the book: It’s interesting to see what’s been translated and sells – both in terms of being translated from and into Chinese. What other Chinese children’s literature would you like to see available for English language audiences?
Helen Wang:I’d like to see a wider range of titles that show us different aspects of the Chinese experience from a child’s point of view. How about a Chinese version of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”? Something that tells us what it’s like being a child in China today?
The Ventriloquist’s Daughter by Man-chiu Lin
From the list of bestsellers, you can see that there are school stories, animal stories, naughty boy stories, and stories about children having adventures, just like there are here in the UK. I’d like to see some more stories that are about what it’s like to be a young person growing up in China or in the Chinese diaspora. I recently read The Ventriloquist’s Daughter by Man-chiu Lin, which is a wonderful story of a young girl’s struggle to establish her own identity as she grows up – I think this would work very well in English. You can read a sample of this (translated by me) in the new Found in Translation Anthology here on pages 57-71.
Playing by the book: Thank you so much Helen. My reading list has grown exponentially! I’m very grateful that you’ve shared your knowledge of Chinese children’s literature today, and I especially want to thank you for enabling – with your translation – the story Bronze and Sunflower to to find another fan, another home inside me and no doubt many other English language speakers and readers.
World War Two was the most devastating conflict in recorded human history. It was both global in extent and total in character. It has understandably left a long and dark shadow across the decades. Yet it is three generations since hostilities formally ended in 1945 and the conflict is now a lived memory for only a few. And this growing distance in time has allowed historians to think differently about how to describe it, how to explain its course, and what subjects to focus on when considering the wartime experience.
We were working in Baga Oigor II when I heard my husband yelling from above, “Esther, get up here, fast!” Thinking he had seen some wild animal on a high ridge, I scrambled up the slope. There, at the back of a protected terrace marked by old stone mounds was a huge boulder covered with hundreds of images. Within that maze of elements I could distinguish a hunting scene and several square patterns suggesting the outlines of dwellings.
The third floor also has a mezzanine, double-stacking some meeting rooms. Also, there’s an outdoor roof garden.
Expansion into China Marks Steady Growth Around the Globe Following Additions in India, France and Australia
NEW YORK, March 11, 2015 – ReedPOP, the world’s largest producer of pop culture events, is continuing to blanket the world with amazing fan events as it marks its entrance into the biggest consumer market on the planet – China. Today, the company announces the debut of Shanghai Comic Convention on May 16-17, 2015. This singular event will bring the worlds of comics, cinema, television, toys and videogames to fans from all across Asia. As with all ReedPOP fan events, Shanghai Comic Convention will be a place to meet creators, stars, and actors while discovering exclusive content and the latest pop culture news from around the world. The inaugural event will take place at the Shanghai Convention & Exhibition Center of International Sourcing (CECIS).
“China is a massive frontier for ReedPOP, a huge market and boundless community of fans that we are eager and enthusiastic to build events for,” said Lance Fensterman, Global Senior Vice President of ReedPOP. “This is a huge opportunity for the millions of fans in the country who haven’t experienced a ReedPOP event and we can’t wait to see how they respond. Geekdom is a universal language and we’re sure that the Chinese people will celebrate fan culture in their own unique and amazing ways.”
In recent years, ReedPOP has turned its attention internationally, recognizing new pop culture audiences emerging throughout the world, where it has produced once-in-a-lifetime experiences for these fans and connected exhibitors to hungry, unexplored markets. ReedPOP’s previous global events have been set in London, Paris, Germany, India, and Singapore, and the company planted its biggest global flag in Australia. ReedPOP created an Australian team to launch PAX Australia — bringing the US’s largest consumer video game festival to the continent with a sold-out event — and partnered with Oz Comic-Con, spreading the pop culture event series out over six cities around Australia.
Since ReedPOP’s first event in 2006, the sold-out New York Comic Con, the group has sought to dually produce exceptional experiences for passionate audiences and grow the industries surrounding these passions, and this philosophy has led to burgeoning attendance, the support of major creators and publishers, and partnerships with leading entertainment brands including Lucasfilm (Star Wars Celebration), UFC (UFC Fan Expo), Twitch (TwitchCon) and Penny Arcade (PAX).
There are some stories that are SO tender that you finish them and want to pick it up and start over. That is what A. L. Sonnichensen's Red Butterfly was to me. It is a very touching story of Kara - a baby abandoned at birth and taken in by an american woman living in China. What we find out a ways into the story is that Kara's "mama" is not legally in China and Kara has never been officially adopted. Kara is immediately taken away, at age 11, and sent to an orphanage to start over with her life. Her emotions are tender and raw and her anger and hurt is real. When another family, from Florida, is chosen to be her new family, Kara doesn't desire to be a part of their family and her confusion and frustration are so real that I ached right along with her. The novel is told in prose and I loved literally EVERYTHING about it - tender, touching and oh so wonderful!
Cocoa and chocolate have a long history in Central America but a relatively short history in the rest of the world. For thousands of years tribes and empires in Central America produced cocoa and consumed drinks based on it. It was only when the Spanish arrived in those regions that the rest of the world learned about it. Initially, cocoa production stayed in the original production regions, but with the local population decimated by war and imported diseases, slave labor was imported from Africa.
The ‘First Great Chocolate Boom’ occurred at the end of the 19th and early 20th century. The industrial revolution turned chocolate from a drink to a solid food full of energy and raised incomes of the poor. As a result, chocolate consumption increased rapidly in Europe and North America.
As the popularity of chocolate grew, production spread across the world to satisfy increasing demand. Interestingly, cocoa only arrived in West Africa in the early 20th century. But by the 1960s West Africa dominated global cocoa production, and in particular Ghana and Ivory Coast have become the world’s leading cocoa producers and exporters.
Not surprisingly, given the growth in trade of cocoa and consumption of chocolate, governments have intervened in the markets through various types of regulations. The early regulations (in the 16th–19th centuries) focused mostly on extracting revenue from cocoa production and trade through, for example, taxes on cocoa trade and the sales of monopoly rights for chocolate production.
The world is currently experiencing a ‘Second Great Chocolate Boom.’
More recent regulations have focused mostly on quality and safety. With growing demand for chocolate in the 19th century, chocolate producers substituted cocoa with cheaper raw materials, going from various starchy products and fats to poisonous ingredients. Scientific inventions of the 18th and 19th centuries allowed better testing of the chocolate ingredients. Public outrage against the use of unhealthy ingredients (now scientifically proven), led to a series of safety regulations on which specific ingredients were not allowed in chocolate – and in countries such as France and Belgium also in a legal definition of ‘chocolate’.
Chocolate consumption has many fascinating aspects. It is bought both for the pleasure of consumption and as a gift. It has been considered a healthy food, a sinful indulgence, an aphrodisiac, and the cause of obesity.
For much of history, chocolate (or cocoa drinks more generally) was praised for its positive effects on health and nutrition (and other benefits for the human body). As people were poor, hungry, and short of energy, chocolate drinks and later chocolate bars became an important additional source of nutrition.
In recent years, chocolate consumption is often associated with negative health issues, such as obesity. Recent research has shown that its health potential is closely linked to the composition of the final product and, not surprisingly, to the quantity consumed: darker, lower-fat, and lower-sugar varieties, consumed in a balanced diet are more likely to be healthy than the opposite consumption pattern.
In today’s high income societies where hunger is an exception, food is cheap, and obesity is on the rise, systematic overconsumption of chocolate – often associated with impulsive consumption and lack of self-control – is more associated with health problems. New research in behavioral engineering is targeted to help consumers deal with situational influences, and change behavior in a sustainable way, i.e. by ‘nudging’ them to change their consumption behavior and resisting the lure of chocolate.
One of the intriguing aspects of chocolate is its ‘quality’. Different from many other foods (such as cheese or wine) perceived chocolate quality is not related to the location where the raw material is grown or produced, but to the chocolate manufacturing process and location.
Some countries, such as Switzerland and Belgium are associated with prestigious traditions of chocolate manufacturing. However, perceptions do not always fit reality. ‘Belgian chocolates’, such as pralines and truffles, are now world famous but until 1960, Belgium imported more chocolate than it exported. Since then its “Belgian chocolates” have conquered the world – while the world has taken over the Belgian chocolate (companies). Most “Belgian chocolates” are now owned by international holdings – and a sizeable amount is produced outside the country.
Moreover, consumer perceptions of ‘quality’ are strongly influenced by consumer experiences with their local chocolate – this includes the smoothness of Swiss chocolate from long conching, the milkiness of British chocolate, and the preference of American consumers for chocolate that Europeans consider inferior.
In fact, the integration of the UK, Ireland and Denmark into the (precursor of the) European Union, which included France and Belgium in 1973 resulted in a ‘Chocolate War’ which lasted for 30 years. Disputes between the old and the new member states of the definition of “Chocolate” (and its ingredients) made that British chocolate was banned from much of the EU continent for three decades.
Ethical concerns about chocolate have been triggered by the specific structure of the structure of the global cocoa-chocolate value chain. For most of the past century, the value chain was characterized by a South-to-North orientation, with most of the raw material (cocoa beans) produced in developing countries (‘the South’) and most chocolate manufacturing and consumption in the richer countries (‘the North’). Another characteristic is that cocoa production in the South is almost exclusively by smallholders, while cocoa grinding and (first stage) chocolate manufacturing processes are often dominated by very large companies.
The cocoa-chocolate value chain has undergone significant transformations in recent years. First, in the 1960s through the 1980s the cocoa production and marketing in developing countries was strongly state regulated, often dominated by (para-)statal companies and state regulated prices and trade, etc. In recent years there has been substantial liberalizations of these sectors and the market plays a much larger role in price setting and trading, often resulting in new hybrid forms of ‘public-private governance’ of the world’s cocoa farmers.
Second, these new regulatory systems are reinforced by consumer awareness around labour conditions and low incomes in African smallholder production related to structural imbalances in the value chain. Consumer concerns and civil society campaigns around poor socio-economic conditions of producers (such as child labor) have affected companies’ strategies and responses. These involved (a) sustainability initiatives with civil society and governments, (b) certification initiatives including Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and Utz, and (c) various forms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.
The world is currently experiencing a ‘Second Great Chocolate Boom’. Rapidly growing demand is now not coming from ‘the North’, but from rapidly growing developing and emerging countries, including China, India and also Africa. The unprecedented growth of the past decades, the associated urbanization, and the huge size of their economies have turned China and India into major growth markets for chocolate. While consumption is highest in China, and the growth is strong, the country with – by far – the highest growth rates in chocolate consumption is India. In addition, significant African growth of the past 15 years is now also translating into growing chocolate consumption on the continent where most of the cocoa beans are produced.
Headline image: Fresh Cacao from São Tomé & Príncipe, by Everjean. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.
Chinese authors have a tradition of using pen names, particularly when writing about controversial subjects. The government wants to put an end to this practice for authors publishing online.
China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, has released new guidelines requiring all authors that publish literature online to register their real names with the publishing platforms they use.
Under the guidelines, creators of online content will still be allowed to publish under pen names. But unlike before, when some writers registered accounts under fake names, websites will know exactly who is publishing what.
It’s in the grip of North American winter that I often dream of escape to warmer climates. Thanks to the WordPress.com Reader and the street photography tag, I can satisfy my travel yen whenever it strikes. Here are just some of the amazing photos and photographers I stumbled upon during a recent armchair trip.
My first stop was Alexis Pazoumian’s fantastic SERIES: India at The Sundial Review. I loved the bold colors in this portrait and the man’s thoughtful expression.
In a slightly different form of care-free, we have the muddy hands of Elina Eriksson‘s son in Zambia. I love how his small hands frame his face. The gentle focus on his face and the light in the background evoke warm summer afternoons at play.
Photo by Elina Eriksson
Heading to Istanbul, check out Jeremy Witteveen‘s fun shot of this clarinetist. Whenever I see musicians, I can’t help but wonder about the song they’re playing.
Arresting in a slightly different fashion is Rob Moses‘ Ski Hill Selfie, taken in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The juxtaposition of the bold colors and patterns in the foreground against the white snow in the background caught my eye.
From Hafei, we go to Havana, Cuba, and Edith Levy‘s beautifully ethereal Edificio Elena. I found the soft pastels and gentle shadows particularly pleasing. They lend a distinctly feminine quality to the building.
Photo by Edith Levy
And finally, under the category of beautiful, is Aneek Mustafa Anwar‘s portrait, taken in Shakhari Bazar, Old Dhaka, Bangladesh. The boy’s shy smile is a wonderful representation of the word on his shirt.
Photo by Aneek Mustafa Anwar
Where do you find photographic inspiration? Take a moment to share your favorite photography blogs in the comments.
Late September and October 2014 saw Hong Kong experience its most significant political protests since it became a Special Administrative Region of China in 1997. This ongoing event shows the inherent creativity of language, how it succinctly incorporates history, and the importance of context in making meaning. Language is thus a “time capsule” of a place.
China, which resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong after it stopped being a British colony in 1997, promised universal suffrage in its Basic Law as the ‘ultimate aim’ of its political development. However, Beijing insists that candidates for Hong Kong’s top job, the chief executive, must be vetted by an electoral committee made up largely of tycoons, pro-Beijing, and establishment figures. The main demand of the protesters is full democracy, without sifting candidates through a selection mechanism. Protesters want the right to nominate and directly elect the head of the Hong Kong government.
The protests are a combination of movements. For instance, the “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” movement is a civil disobedience movement that calls on thousands of protesters to block roads and paralyze Hong Kong’s financial district if the Beijing and Hong Kong governments do not agree to implement universal suffrage according to international standards.
The humble umbrella has become the predominant symbol of the 2014 protests – largely because of its use as protection against police pepper spray. I’m sure you will have seen the now-iconic photograph of a young student holding up umbrellas while clouds of tear gas swirl around him. Thus, the terms “umbrella movement” or “umbrella revolution” came into being.
Yellow or “democracy yellow” as the colour became known, became the symbolic colour of the 2014 protests. As the protests wore on, yellow ribbons have been tied to fences, trees, lapels and Facebook profile pictures as indicators of solidarity with the “umbrella movement”.
How yellow and the crossed yellow ribbon became the symbol of the campaign for democracy in Hong Kong is unclear. The yellow ribbon often signifies remembrance (“Tie a yellow ribbon round that ole oak tree”, a hit song from 1973 about a released prisoner hoping that his love would welcome him back). Perhaps it relates to the fact that in 1876, during the U.S. Centennial, women in the suffrage movement wore yellow ribbons and sang the song “The Yellow Ribbon”. Interestingly, one political party in Hong Kong’s uses the suffragette colours (green, white, and violet) as its political colours.
From previous colour revolutions, we know that colour is significant (Beijing saw it as a separatist push, and the interchangeable use of “umbrella movement” and “umbrella revolution” did not help). Historically, in imperial times only the emperor could wear yellow. Nobles and commoners did so on pain of death. Yellow has now become a colour for the masses.
A blue ribbon movement also arose, signifying support for the police and against the action of the occupiers; the “blue ribboners” were also known as the “anti-occupiers”. Currently, Hong Kong society seems divided between the pro-occupiers and the anti-occupiers. Subsequently, there has been massive “unfriending” of people on Facebook. Thus arose a new verb: “to go blue ribbony”; as in “my friend said the group chat [FB] has gone blue ribbony so she left.”
Numbers have always been important in Hong Kong’s recent history. In 1984, with the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the year 1997 became important as that was the date of day Hong Kong “reverted” to Chinese sovereignty. The first opportunity to ask for universal suffrage was 2007 (denied), and then 2012 (also denied).
“689” is the “the number that explains Hong Kong’s upheaval” (quipped The Wall Street Journal). Invoked constantly in the streets and on social media, “689” is the protesters’ nickname for Hong Kong’s leader. The chief executive is elected by a 1,200 member Election Committee made up mostly of elite, pro-Beijing individuals after first being nominated by that committee. C.Y. Leung, the current chief executive, was elected by 689 members of that committee. This small circle election is at the heart of protesters’ frustrations, so they use “689” as an insult that emphasizes Leung’s illegitimacy. When they chant “689, step down!” they indict Mr. Leung along with the Beijing-backed political structure that they see threatening their city’s autonomy and freedoms. There is an expression “689 冇柒用” (there is no 7 in 689), where “柒” means “7” and “7冇柒用” means “(he is) no fucking use.” Interestingly, “689” could be read as “June 1989”, the time of the Tiananmen protests in Beijing.
In addition to protest songs such as ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna (naturally), ‘Do you hear the people sing’ from Les Miserables, and John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, just to name a few, a very mundane ditty served as a tool of antagonism. This was the song “Happy Birthday”. Employing the happy birthday tactic was used by protesters when others shouted abuse at them. Singing “happy birthday” (sàangyaht faailohk, in Cantonese) to opponents, which served to annoy and disorientate them no end.
Chinese characters are made up of components called ‘radicals’. After the now iconic photograph of a young student holding up umbrellas while being tear-gassed, an enterprising individual came up with the following character扌傘, a combination of two ‘radicals’: 手 for “hand” → becoming 扌 on the left and the character for “umbrella” (傘) literally, a hand raising an umbrella. The definition for this character is to “to protest and persevere with peace and rationality until the end”, explaining that “with the radical ‘hand’, the word symbolizes the action of opening an umbrella”. The character ultimately has the meaning of “withstanding, supporting and not giving up the faith”.
The protests in Hong Kong are an ongoing phenomenon. The outpouring of linguistic and semiotic creative has been breath-taking.
Feature image credit: Hong Kong Protests, by Leung Ching Yau Alex. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 via Flickr.
China has all but overtaken the United States based on GDP at newly-computed purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates, twenty years after Paul Krugman predicted: “Although China is still a very poor country, its population is so huge that it will become a major economic power if it achieves even a fraction of Western productivity levels.” But will it eclipse the United States, as Arvind Subramanian has claimed, with the yuan eventually vying with the dollar for international reserve currency status?
Not unless China battles three economic foes. One is well-known: diminishing marginal returns to capital. Two others have received less attention. The first is Carlos Diaz-Alejandro. Not the man, but the results uncovered by his research on the Southern Cone following the opening up of its capital account that culminated in a sovereign debt crisis and contributed to Latin America’s lost 1980s. If the capital account is liberalized before the domestic financial system is ready, the country sets itself up for a fall: goodbye financial repression, hello financial crash. The second is the “reality of transition”: rejuvenating growth requires hard budgets and competition to improve resource allocation and stimulate innovation, counterbalanced with a more competitive real exchange rate. This is the principal insight from the transition in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), which was far simpler than anything China faces.
China was able to raise total factor productivity (TFP) growth as an offset to diminishing marginal returns to capital, especially after joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, and faster growth was accompanied by a rising savings rate. But TFP growth is hard to sustain. Any developing country targeting growth above the steady state level given by the sum of human capital growth, TFP growth and population growth (the latter two falling rapidly in China) will find that its investment rates need to continually increase unless it can rejuvenate TFP growth. China’s investment rates have risen from around 42% of GDP over 2005-7 (prior to the global crisis) to 48% in recent years even as growth has dropped from the 12% to the 7.5% range. Savings rates have hovered around 50%, reducing current account surpluses (numbers drawn from IMF 2010 and 2014 Article IV reports).
This configuration has forced China to choose between either investing even more, or lowering growth targets. It has chosen the latter, with its leaders espousing anti-corruption, deleveraging, environmental improvement and structural reform to achieve higher quality growth. The central bank, People’s Bank of China (PBoC), has reaffirmed its goal of internationalizing the yuan and liberalizing the capital account.
China’s proposed antidote is to “rebalance” from investment and exports to domestic consumption. But growth arithmetic would require consumption to grow at unrealistic rates, given the relative shares of investment and private consumption in GDP, even to meet scaled-down growth targets. Besides, households need better social benefits and market interest rates on bank deposits to save less and consume more. Hukou reform alone, or placing social benefits received by rural migrants on a par with their urban counterparts, could easily cost 3% of GDP a year for the next seven years as some 150 million additional people gain access to such benefits—quite apart from the public investment needed to upgrade urban infrastructure, according to calculations shared by Xinxin Li of the Observatory Group. And the failure to liberalize bank deposit rates has led to the rise of “wealth management products” in the shadow banking system. These “WMPs” offer higher returns but are poorly regulated and more risky.
Indeed, total social financing, a broad measure of credit, has soared from 125% to 200% of GDP over the five years 2009-2013 (Figure 2 in the July 2014 IMF Article IV report, with Box 5 warning that such a rapid trajectory usually ends in tears). Local government debt was estimated at 32% of GDP in mid-2013, much of it short-term and used to fund infrastructure projects and social housing with long paybacks. Housing prices show the signs of a bubble, especially away from the four major cities. Corporate credit is 115% of GDP, about half of it collateralized by land or property. While the focus recently has been on risks from shadow banking, it is hard to separate the shadow from the core. Besides, WMPs have become intertwined with the booming real estate market, a major engine of growth yet the centre of a “web of vulnerabilities” (to quote the IMF) encompassing banks, shadow banks, and local government finances. A real estate shock would ripple through the system, lowering growth and forcing bailouts. The gross cost of the bank workout at the end of the 1990s was 15% of GDP in a much simpler world!
2014 began with fears of a hard landing and an impending default by a bankrupt coal mine on a $500 million WMP-funded loan intermediated by a mega-bank. The government eventually intervened rather than let investors take a hit and risk a confidence crisis. And starting in April, stimulus packages were launched to meet the 7.5% growth target, a tacit admission that rebalancing is not working. But concerns persist around real estate. Besides, stimulus will help only temporarily and China is likely to be facing the same questions about growth and financial vulnerability by the end of the year.
With rebalancing infeasible, and investing even more prohibitively costly, virtually the only remaining option is to spur total factor productivity growth: China is still far from the global technological frontier. This calls for a package that cleans up the financial sector and implements hard budgets and genuine competition, especially for the state-owned enterprises (SOEs), while keeping real exchange rates competitive. The real appreciation of the past few years may have been offset by rising productivity, but continued appreciation will make it harder for the domestic economy to restructure and create 12 million jobs a year to absorb new graduates and displaced SOE workers.
In sum, China must heed Diaz-Alejandro. No one knows what the non-performing loans ratio is in China and few believe the official rate of 1%. If the cornerstone of a financial system is confidence and transparency, China is severely deficient. This must first be fixed and market-determined interest rates adopted before entertaining hopes of internationalizing the currency. China must also accept the reality of transition; the formidable remaining agenda in the fiscal, financial, social, and SOE sectors reminds us that China is still in transition to a full-fledged market economy.
The combination of a financial clean up and the policy trio of hard budgets, competition, and a competitive real exchange rate will improve resource allocation and force innovation, boosting total factor productivity growth. But doing this is hard—that’s the essence of the “middle-income trap”. Huge vested interests will be encountered, evoking Raghuram Rajan’s description of the middle-income trap as one “where crony capitalism creates oligarchies that slow down growth”. Dealing with this agenda is the Chinese leadership’s biggest challenge.
The era of cheap China is ending, while the ability of the government to virtually decree the growth rate has fallen victim to diminishing returns to capital. Diaz-Alejandro and the reality of transition are no less important as China seeks a way forward.
Headline image credit: The Great Wall in fall, by Canary Wu. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
I received some great news from my publisher that all of my books are going to be available for sale in China and other Asian markets. Guardian Angel Publishing has finished negotiating with an agent to distribute English language books. This is coupled with a mandate in China that all school children should learn English. So I’m really excited that my books will be open to such a huge market. Also in the works is distribution to India and other emerging markets where my books are not available. I’ll keep you posted on any further developments. But I couldn’t wait to spread the word. How cool is that?
Animated Fragments is our semi-regular feature of animation tests, experiments, micro-shorts, and other bits of cartoon flotsam that doesn't fit into other categories. To view the previous 25 installments, go to the Fragments archive.
Therapy reading dogs are helping millions of kids to loose their fear of reading and opening the door to a world of imagination and learning
We believe that dogs can also teach kids about unconditional love...
Kids can learn about courage and loyalty from dogs.
Dogs have healing qualities that reach people of all ages.
These incredible abilities of dogs are the foundation for the Planet Of The Dogs Series
Aesop and the magic of words...
The magic of words for children has been part of children's lives since Aesop, over 2,500 years ago.
"Ever since there were children, there has been children's literature. Long before John Newbury established a first press devoted to children's books, stories were told and written for the young, and books originally offered to mature readers were carefully recast or excerpted for the young, and books originally offered to mature readers were carefully recast or excerpted for youthful audiences. Greek and Roman educational traditions grounded themselves in reading and reciting poetry and drama. Aesop's fableslived for two millennia on classroom and family shelves..." -excerpted from SethLerer's book, Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter.
600 Fables and the Creative Tradition
Laura Gibbs, author, blogger and scholar, has translated 600 of Aesop's Fables into English. The first translation from ancient Greek to English was published by Caxton in 1484. This excerpt is from Gibbs' blog...
" As folklore, Aesop’s fables are always shifting and changing in their various retellings, and the images used to illustrate the fables, just as much as the words, are part of that creative tradition. The images are not simply extras added on to the story. Instead, these images can contribute their own distinctive elements to that endless mix-and-match process by which new versions of the fables are created — a process which has kept the Aesop’s fable tradition going strong for three thousands years, and counting."
It seems remarkable to me that probably everyone visiting this blog has read or heard, at some time in their life, Aesops fables.
The website, Aesopica, offers Laura Gibbs' translations of 600 of Aesop's Fablesin English...plus Aesopin Latin and Greek. Aesop lives on.
"No act of kindnessss, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
―from the Lion and the Mouse, Aesop ................................
Aesop and ASAP...a pun/smile posted by Pigeon Weather Productions
"This reminds me of a short-lived series I did some time ago called ASAP’s Fables:A dog was wandering in the woods when he came across a bear. The dog said to himself, I’d better get out of here ASAP!"
Paws For People
Paws for people is dedicated to helping people in need. These excerpts from their website can only outline the wonderful work they do.
"PAWS for People is a nonprofit 501(c)3 pet therapy organization that recruits, trains, certifies, and places therapy teams in over 150 sites in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey...
Whether it be helping a child with autism learn new social skills, aiding an injured youngster with physical therapy, comforting a hospice patient, distracting a child during chemotherapy treatment, assisting a struggling reader, or being a familiar reminder to an Alzheimer’s patient, a visit from a PAWS’ therapy team makes a difference."
The therapy team in this photo is one of over 350...Paws for People was founded in 2005 by Lynne Robinson after 23 years as a public school teacher.
To see a first hand video example of this program at work, let Jen Delgado, librarian at Mote Elementary school in Wilmington, DE, show you the Paws for People Program bringing the joy of reading to fourth and fifth graders. Here is the link: Paws for Reading
The Treasure Trove Continues
Big Box Office Bucks are expected in May from new movies with versions inspired by classic children's literature. and sucessful YA books. Meanwhile, the movie versions of Divergent, Mr Peabody and Frozen -- the reimagined version of Hans Chrisitian Anderson's The Snow Queen -- continue their International popularity.
Combined, they have grossed over one and a half billion dollars.
Coming in May...
OZ revisited on May 9
Sony is releasing an animated version of a return to OZ entitled:
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return.
The film is based on the book Dorothy of Ozby Roger Stanton Baum, great grandson of L. Frank Baum, the author of the original Wonderful Wizard of Ozbook.
Maleficent opens May 30...This version ofSleeping Beautyis unlike the sweetness and light Disney movies that prevailed for many years...there is a darkside in this film from the Magic Kingdom...not unlike the darkside that prevailed in the earliest versions of the story.
Before the Brothers Grimm rewrote the tale as written in the 17th century by Basile and Perrault, it included the story of the Prince's cannibalistic mother and her suicide leap into a vat filled with reptiles and snakes. I doubt if Disney will go that far, but the trailer is dark, forboding, and has very engaging graphics...more wonders of computer graphics.
If you follow this link to the trailer, you will see for yourself: Maleficent.
The illustration above of Sleeping Beauty and her Prince is by Henry Meynell Rheam.
No Magic Words for this Snow White
Angelin Preljocajhas created a modern dance-ballet based on the fairy tale of SnowWhite. Here are excerpts from Gia Kourlas' review, Trying to Outrun Age, in Spiky Heels, in the New York Times...
"A staggering lassitude defines this production of nearly two hours, presented by the Joyce Theater Foundation. Created in 2008, “Snow White” features a Prince (Sergio Diaz), but Mr. Preljocaj’s (pronounced prel-zho-KAHJ) sinister tale has less to do with true love than jealousy, or what the French choreographer has termed the Snow White complex: women who refuse to look their age...
Snow White, it turns out, is not as pure as the driven snow, as a seduction scene with the Prince proves. (In case you’re confused, she knew him long before taking a bite of the poisonous apple.) Her stepmother, the Queen (Anna Tatarova), appears as a dominatrix in thigh highs and spiky heels; it’s the Halloween parade, not couture..."
This link will take you to a ten minute excerpt of the dance wherein the prince awakens Snow White from her sleep: Snow White
The Planet Of The Dogs series is going to China
The revised publicatrion schedule by the Beijing Chongxianguan Book Company for the Chinese versions of The Planet Of The Dogs Seriesis for the latter part of May. The illustrations have been redone for the Chinese market. Our thanks to Deanna Leahof HBGwho represents the foreign rights for our books. She introduced our books to, and contracted with, our Chinese publishers.
The Magic of Words...Phillip Pullman
I adored Superman,” Pullman tells us, and, as a boy, he was “intoxicated,” “enthralled” and “dizzy with passion” while reading his graphic adventures. Then came Batman and the beginning of the storytelling instinct. The young Pullman did not want to be Batman, but, rather, write about him. Years later, he read Miltonand became aware, like other synesthetes, that words had “weight and colour and taste and shape as well as meaning.” That was when he began to play with words, like “a little child putting coloured marbles into patterns. - Maria Tatar, reviewing Pullman's Twice Told Tales in the New Yorker
Circling The Waggins...
Here is the Amazon review (unedited) by Bob Tarte, author of the delightful "Kitty Cornered," "Enslaved by Ducks," and "Fowl Weather"...Read more reviews and a synopsis...Here is the link: Circling The Waggins
"There's a lot more to living with dogs than wet noses and going walkies. Cayr Ariel Wulffentertainingly chronicles the rocky flip side of pet care in "Circling the Waggins," a heroic tale of triumph over turmoil and exhaustion. Wulff and her companion Dalene take in the misfits that have defeated lesser souls, including genius behemoth Waldo - a 75-pound golden/boxer mix with equal parts brains and brawn - an exuberant but mentally challenged Shih-tzu/Chihuahua named Rocket Boy, plus three more dogs, aging cats, and way too many accidentally acquired pet mice. Despite the challenges presented by this demanding and eccentric crew, Wulff's chronicles may still send you to the animal shelter to do a bit of rescue on your own. You'll want to reap the rewards of love and joy which "Waggins" so beautifully describes.
PAL...People and Their Dogs Helping Others
A PAL Reprise
We first learned of PAL (Washington,DC)and the wonderful work they do, through Ginny Rawls a Young Adult Librarian, in Alexandria, VA. This excerpt from the PAL website describes their work..."Compassionate and friendly pet owners visit with their dogs, bringing joy to people in mental institutions, assisted living, nursing homes and homeless shelters. Libraries and schools are always eager to help children gain a love of reading, to introduce young readers to learning with creative methods. The Pet volunteers visit libraries and schools for avariety of reading with dog programs..."
Here is an excerpt from the information sent by Librarian Ginny Rawls...
"In our central library we have the Paws to Read program for kids in grades 1-6. Currently, we have 4-5 dog volunteers who come twice a month with their humans to listen to the kids read. The children are excited, happy, and love reading to dogs.
Sometimes, they want to expose the dog to their favorite stories or have asked if it's ok to read to them about cats and tigers. I tell them that it's a good idea for dogs to know as much about cats as possible. Sometimes, they do read about dogs, though. I display several dog books in our storyroom during the program and each dog has a bookmark with a photo and information about the dog breed, favorite foods, activities, and the dog's favorite book..." The photo of the Cub Scounts and the therapy reading dogs was taken by PAL volunteer, Tracy Baetz
It was a cold, dark night when the howling dogs awakened Prince Ukko from his sleep. It was a sound he had never heard before, and caused a cold feeling of fear to move through his body. After a few minutes, the howling stopped, but now Prince Ukko was unable to sleep...
Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore or via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's...
Librarians, teachers, bookstores...Order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.
Therapy reading dog owners, librarians, teachers and organizations with therapy reading dog programs -- you can write us at email@example.com and we will send youfree reader copiesfrom the Planet of the Dogs Series...Read Dog Books to Dogs....Ask any therapy reading dog: "Do you like it when the kids read dog books to you?"
"The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over." - Aesop
We received this important notice from Elizabeth Bird of the NYPL's excellent Children's Literary Salon announcing their next free event on Saturday, May 3rd, at 2:00 p.m.
The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations
Join us for a screening of the stellar documentary The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations, presented by editor and director Hannah Jayanti. Through interviews, animation and archival materials, the documentary traces the friendship between author Norton Juster and Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Jules Feiffer, and the wit and wisdom of the novel over half a century. The documentary runs at 56 minutes. There will be a Q&A with Ms. Jayanti after the showing.
This event will be held in the South Court Auditorium in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (the main branch of NYPL on 42nd Street & 5th Avenue).
PLEASE NOTE: ATTENDANCE IS ON A FIRST COME FIRST SERVED BASIS. WE CAN ONLY ACCOMMODATE 175 ATTENDEES FOR THIS EVENT. WE ARE NOT TAKING RSVPS. PLEASE COME ON TIME IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SECURE A SEAT... If you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This photo by Annof her dog dog, Shiner, accompanied by her warm review (and Giveaway) of Planet Of The Dogs, truly brightened my day. Shiner is reading Planet Of The Dogs, and Ann reports that, "After reading through the book a little, Shiner informed me that she'd most like to visit Biscuit Town on the Planet of the Dogs...
Planet Of The Dogs is a fictional story perfect for young readers and adults alike...The main characters in the story are two children - Daisy and Bean. They even get to travel to the Planet of the Dogs themselves. I personally think it would be awesome if such a world did exist. I'd love to visit some of the places in the book. There's Shepherd Hill, Poodletown, Retriever Meadows, Muttville, Hound Dog Hamlet, and Shaggy Corners...
Simply put, there is a lot that us humans can learn from our furry canine companions. This book is great at showing just how compassionate dogs really are."
Ann Staub, after working five years as a veterinary technician, retired to be a full time mom (two daughters), dog and pet owner, and blogger.
E Book Comprehension Study
This excerpt is from Annie Murphy Paul'sMotherlodearticle,
Students Reading E-Books Are Losing Out, Study Suggests
"While young readers find these digital products very appealing, their multitude of features may diffuse children’s attention, interfering with their comprehension of the text, Ms. Smith and the Schugars found. It seems that the very “richness” of the multimedia environment that e-books provide — heralded as their advantage over printed books — may overwhelm children’s limited working memory, leading them to lose the thread of the narrative or to process the meaning of the story less deeply...
More on Books and Ebooks ...excerpted from Bookkends in The New York Times, in a Q and A with author Moshin Hamid...How Do E-Books Change the Reading Experience?
..."I crave technology, connectivity. But I crave solitude too. As we enter the cyborg era, as we begin the physical shift to human-machine hybrid, there will be those who embrace this epochal change, happily swapping cranial space for built-in processors. There will be others who reject the new ways entirely,...
In a world of intrusive technology, we must engage in a kind of struggle if we wish to sustain moments of solitude. E-reading opens the door to distraction. It invites connectivity and clicking and purchasing. The closed network of a printed book, on the other hand, seems to offer greater serenity. It harks back to a pre-jacked-in age. Cloth, paper, ink: For these read helmet, cuirass, shield. They afford a degree of protection and make possible a less intermediated, less fractured experience. They guard our aloneness. That is why I love them, and why I read printed books still."
Mohsin Hamid is the author of three novels: “Moth Smoke,” a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award; “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” a New York Times best seller that was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and adapted for film; and, most recently, “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.”
"I was so excited to hear that this book was being written. After purchasing it I sat down & read the whole thing the same night. This book is a great read for anyone who is into animal rescue or anyone who is just an animal lover who feels like there is nothing they can do. VERY informative & VERY well written. I will be keeping this book close by to refer back to for the amazing resources. One person CAN make a difference!"
How To Housebreak Your Dog Without Breaking Your Home
Though it may not seem like it sometimes, especially when they are a puppy, dogs have a natural instinct to keep their living space clean — especially in close headquarters. Learning how to housebreak your dog with some help from you, through patient and gradual housebreaking, will help your dog learn happily how to do their business outside. This will not only improve the health and happiness of your dog, but also preserving the cleanliness of your home. The housebreaking process can be a messy business—expect several accidents to happen before your puppy or dog gets it—but it doesn’t have to destroy your home or your relationship with your dog....Here is the link to read it all: Housebreak
"We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace."
—Albert Schweitzer, "The Philosophy of Civilization" -
I found this quote on Sunbear Squadwhere guidlines, free wallet cards, and "how to" save a dog in distress information are available at no cost for all good people.
"MY father was a St Bernard, my mother was a Collie, but I am a Presbyterian. This is what my mother told me. I do not know these nice distinctions myself." -- Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Development thinking in the second half of the twentieth century can hardly be credited for “manufacturing” development success stories. It is difficult, if not impossible, to claim that either the early structuralist models of the Big Push (financing gap and basic needs of the 1950-70s), or neoliberal ideas of Washington consensus (that dominated the field since the 1980s), have provided crucial inputs to economic miracles in East Asia or elsewhere. On the contrary, it appears that development ideas, either misinterpreted or not, contributed to a number of development failures. The USSR and Latin America of the 1960s-80s demonstrated the inadequacy of import-substitutions model. Later every region of developing world that became the experimental ground for Washington consensus type theories, from Latin America to Sub-Sahara Africa to former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, revealed the flaws of neoliberal doctrine by experiencing a slowdown, a recession or even a severe depression in the 1980s-90s.
Neither development theories nor policies of multilateral institutions can be held responsible for engineering development successes. Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, South East Asia, and China achieved high growth rates without much advise and credits from International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Economic miracles were manufactured in East Asia without much reliance on development thinking and theoretical background — just by experimentation of the strong hand politicians. The 1993 World Development Report “East Asian Miracle” admitted that non-selective industrial policy aimed at providing better business environment (education, infrastructure, coordination, etc.) can promote growth, but the issue is still controversial. Structuralists claim that industrial policy in East Asia was much more than creating better business environment, whereas neoliberals believe that liberalization and deregulation should be largely credited for the success.
It is said that failure is always an orphan, whereas success has many parents. No wonder, both neoclassical and structuralist economists claimed that East Asian success stories prove what they were saying all along, but it is obvious that both schools of thought cannot be right at the same time. There is a lack of understanding why government intervention sometimes results in spectacular failures and what particular kind of government intervention is needed for manufacturing fast growth (2000 – onwards).
Why did a gap emerge between development thinking and development practice? Why were development successes engineered without development theories? Why did development theoreticians fail to learn from real successes and failures in the global South? It appears that development thinking in the postwar period went through a full evolutionary cycle — from dirigiste theories of Big Push, to neoliberal deregulation wisdom of “Washington consensus” (1980-90s), to the understanding that catch up development does not happen by itself in a free market environment.
The confusion in development thinking of the past decade may be a starting point for the formation of new paradigm. Without mobilization of domestic savings and industrial policies there may be no successful catch up development. National development strategies for countries at a lower level of development should not copy economic policies used by developed countries; in fact, it was shown more than once that Western countries themselves did not use liberal policies that they are advocating today for less developed countries when they were at similar stages of development.
Most development economists share the general principle that good policies are context dependent and there is no universal set of policy prescriptions for all countries at all stages of development. But when it comes to particular policies, there is no consensus. The future of development economics may be a theory, explaining why at particular stages of development (depending on per capita GDP, institutional capacity, human capital, resource abundance, etc.) one set of policies (tariff protectionism, accumulation of reserves, control over capital flows, nationalization of resource enterprises, etc.) is superior to another. The art of the policymakers then is to switch the gears at the appropriate time not to get into the development trap. The art of the development theoretician is to fill the cells of “periodic table of economic policies” at different stages of development.
The emerging theory of stages of development would hopefully put the pieces of our knowledge together and will reveal the interaction and subordination of growth ingredients. A successful export-oriented growth model à la East Asian tigers seems to include, but is not limited to:
Building strong state institutions capable of delivering public goods (law and order, education, infrastructure, health care) needed for development
Mobilization of domestic savings for increased investment
Gradual market type reforms
Export-oriented industrial policy, including such tools as tariff protectionism and subsidies
Appropriate macroeconomic policy – not only in traditional sense (prudent, but not excessively restrictive fiscal and monetary policy), but also exchange rate policy (undervaluation of the exchange rate via rapid accumulation of foreign exchange reserves).
If this interpretation of development experience is correct, the next large regions of successful catch up development would be MENA Islamic countries and South Asia – these regions seem to be most prepared to accept the Chinese model. Eventually Latin America, Sub-Sahara Africa and Russia would be catching up as well. If so, it would become obvious in the process of successful catch up development that the previous policies that the West recommended and prescribed to the South (deregulation, downsizing the state, privatization, free trade and capital movements) were in fact hindering rather than promoting their development.
Vladimir Popovis an adviser in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations and professor emeritus at the New Economic School in Moscow. He is the author and editor of 12 books and numerous articles that have been published in the Journal of Comparative Economics, Comparative Economic Studies, World Development, Post-Communist Economies, New Left Review, and other academic journals, as well as many essays in the media. His most recent book is Mixed Fortunes: An Economic History of China, Russia, and the West.
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Image credit: “Money coins currency metal old historically pay” by Weinstock. Public domain via pixabay.
At least one DreamWorks animated film has lost money for the past three years in a row: "Rise of the Guardians" in 2012 had an $87 million writedown; "Turbo" in 2013 resulted in a $13.5 million writedown; and this year's "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" caused a $57 million writedown. This is rather obviously not a sustainable trend from a business standpoint, and investors are beginning to worry about the studio's long-term prospects.
Issues concerning Imperial Japan’s wartime “comfort women” have ignited international debates in the past two decades, and a number of personal accounts of “comfort women” have been published in English since the 1990s. Until recently, however, there has been a notable lack of information about the women drafted from Mainland China. Chinese Comfort Women is the first book in English to record the first-hand experiences of twelve Chinese women who were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese Imperial forces during the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945). Here, author and translator Peipei Qiu (who wrote the book in collaboration with Su Zhiliang and Chen Lifei), answers some questions about her new book.
What is one of the most surprising facts about “comfort women” that you found during your research?
One of the shocking facts revealed in this book is that the scope of military sexual slavery in the war was much larger than previously known. Korean and Japanese researchers, based on the information available to them, had estimated that the Japanese military had detained between 30,000 and 200,000 women to be sex slaves during the war. These early estimations, however, don’t accurately reflect the large number of Chinese women enslaved. Investigations conducted by Chinese researchers suggest a much higher number. My collaborating researcher Su Zhiliang, for example, estimates that between 1931 and 1945 approximately 400,000 women were forced to become military “comfort women,” and that at least half of them were drafted from Mainland China.
Although it is not possible to obtain accurate statistics on the total number of kidnappings, documented cases suggest shockingly large numbers. For instance, around the time of the Nanjing Massacre, the Japanese army abducted tens of thousands of women from Nanjing and the surrounding areas, including over 2,000 women from Suzhou, 3,000 from Wuxi, and 20,000 from Hangzhou. These blatant kidnappings continued throughout the entire war, the youngest abductee’s being only nine years old.
Chinese and Malayan girls forcibly taken from Penang by the Japanese to work as ‘comfort girls’ for the troops. The Allied Reoccupation of the Andaman Islands, 1945. Lemon A E (Sergeant), No 9 Army Film & Photographic Unit. War Office, Central Office of Information and American Second World War Official Collection. IWM Non Commercial Licence. Imperial War Museums.
What impressed you most deeply when you heard the stories of these women?
What struck me most deeply were the “comfort women’s” horrendous sufferings. I felt strongly that their stories must be told to the world. Many of the women were teenagers when the Japanese Imperial Forces kidnapped them. They were given the minimum amount of food necessary to keep them alive and were subjected to multiple rapes each day. Those who resisted were beaten or killed, and those who attempted to escape would be punished with anything from torture to decapitation, and the punishment often included not only the woman but also her family members.
The brutal torture was not only physical. These women confined in the so-called “comfort stations” lived in constant fear and agony, not knowing how long they would have to endure and what would happen to them the following day, worrying what their families went through trying to save them, and witnessing other women being tortured and killed. During research and writing I often could not hold back tears, and their stories always remain heavily and vividly in my mind.
I was also deeply impressed by their resilience and faith in humanity. These women were brutally tortured and exploited by the Japanese imperial forces during the war, and when the war ended, members of their own patriarchal society discarded them as defiled and useless. Many of them were ignored, treated as collaborators with the enemy, or even persecuted. Yet what the survivors remember and recount is not only suffering and anger but also acts of humanity – no matter how little they themselves have witnessed. Wan Aihua, though gang-raped multiple times and nearly beaten to death by Japanese troops, never forgot an army interpreter who saved her from a Japanese officer’s sword. She told us, “I didn’t know if the interpreter was Japanese, but I believe there were kind people in the Japanese troops, just as there are today, when many Japanese people support our fight for justice.”
What motivated you to write this book?
In part, I was shocked by the lack of information available. In this day and age, it feels like every fact or story to be known is easily at our fingertips. However, in this instance, it was not the case. Even after the rise of the “comfort women” redress movement, most of the focus was on the “comfort women” of Japan and its colonies, and little was known about Chinese “comfort women” outside of China. This created a serious issue in understanding the history of the Asia-Pacific war and to the study of the entire “comfort women” issue. Without a thorough understanding of Chinese “comfort women’s” experiences, an accurate explication of the scope and nature of that system cannot be achieved.
In the past two decades, how to understand what happened to “comfort women” has become an international controversy. Some Japanese politicians and activists insist that “comfort women” were prostitutes making money at frontlines, that there was not evidence of direct involvements of Japanese military and government. And they say telling the stories of “comfort women” disgraces the Japanese people.
One of the main purposes for me to write about Chinese “comfort women” is to help achieve a transnational understanding of their sufferings. To understand what happened to the “comfort women,” we must transcend the boundaries of nation-state. I hope to demonstrate that fundamentally confronting the tragedy of “comfort women” is not about politics, nor is it about national interests; it is about human life. Dismissing individual sufferings in the name of national honor is not only wrong but also dangerous, it is a ploy that nation-states have used, and continue to use, to drag people into war, to deprive them of their basic rights, and to abuse them.
Peipei Qiu is the author and translator of Chinese Comfort Women: Testimonies from Imperial Japan’s Sex Slaves, which she wrote in collaboration with Su Zhiliang and Chen Lifei. She is currently professor of Chinese and Japanese on the Louise Boyd Dale and Alfred Lichtenstein Chair and director of the Asian Studies Program at Vassar College.
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A 10-year-old boy in Guizhou, China scored a victory for animation lovers everywhere when he sawed through a construction worker's safety harness rope, leaving the worker dangling 11 stories above ground. The boy had a perfectly reasonable defense.
To understand China, it is essential to understand Confucianism. There are many teachings of Confucianist tradition, but before we can truly understand them, it is important to look at the vision Confucius himself had. In this excerpt below from Confucianism: A Very Short Introduction, Daniel K. Gardner discusses the future the teacher behind the ideas imagined.
Confucius imagined a future where social harmony and sage rulership would once again prevail. It was a vision of the future that looked heavily to the past. Convinced that a golden age had been fully realized in China’s known history, Confucius thought it necessary to turn to that history, to the political institutions, the social relations, the ideals of personal cultivation that he believed prevailed in the early Zhou period, in order to piece together a vision to serve for all times. Here a comparison with Plato, who lived a few decades after the death of Confucius, is instructive. Like Confucius, Plato was eager to improve on contemporary political and social life. But unlike Confucius, he did not believe that the past offered up a normative model for the present. In constructing his ideal society in the Republic, Plato resorted much less to reconstruction of the past than to philosophical reflection and intellectual dialogue with others.
This is not to say, of course, that Confucius did not engage in philosophical reflection and dialogue with others. But it was the past, and learning from it, that especially consumed him. This learning took the form of studying received texts, especially the Book of Odes and the Book of History. He explains to his disciples:
“The Odes can be a source of inspiration and a basis for evaluation; they can help you to get on with others and to give proper expression to grievances. In the home, they teach you about how to serve your father, and in public life they teach you about how to serve your lord”.
The frequent references to verses from the Odes and to stories and legends from the History indicate Confucius’s deep admiration for these texts in particular and the values, the ritual practices, the legends, and the institutions recorded in them.
But books were not the sole source of Confucius’s knowledge about the past. The oral tradition was a source of instructive ancient lore for him as well. Myths and stories about the legendary sage kings Yao, Shun, and Yu; about Kings Wen and Wu and the Duke of Zhou, who founded the Zhou and inaugurated an age of extraordinary social and political harmony; and about famous or infamous rulers and officials like Bo Yi, Duke Huan of Qi, Guan Zhong, and Liuxia Hui—all mentioned by Confucius in the Analects—would have supplemented what he learned from texts and served to provide a fuller picture of the past.
Still another source of knowledge for Confucius, interestingly, was the behavior of his contemporaries. In observing them, he would select out for praise those manners and practices that struck him as consistent with the cultural norms of the early Zhou and for condemnation those that in his view were contributing to the Zhou decline. The Analects shows him railing against clever speech, glibness, ingratiating appearances, affectation of respect, servility to authority, courage unaccompanied by a sense of right, and single-minded pursuit of worldly success—behavior he found prevalent among contemporaries and that he identified with the moral deterioration of the Zhou. To reverse such deterioration, people had to learn again to be genuinely respectful in dealing with others, slow in speech and quick in action, trustworthy and true to their word, openly but gently critical of friends, families, and rulers who strayed from the proper path, free of resentment when poor, free of arrogance when rich, and faithful to the sacred three-year mourning period for parents, which to Confucius’s great chagrin, had fallen into disuse. In sum, they had to relearn the ritual behavior that had created the harmonious society of the early Zhou.
That Confucius’s characterization of the period as a golden age may have been an idealization is irrelevant. Continuity with a “golden age” lent his vision greater authority and legitimacy, and such continuity validated the rites and practices he advocated. This desire for historical authority and legitimacy—during a period of disrupture and chaos—may help to explain Confucius’s eagerness to present himself as a mere transmitter, a lover of the ancients. Indeed, the Master’s insistence on mere transmission notwithstanding, there can be little doubt that from his study and reconstruction of the early Zhou period he forged an innovative—and enduring—sociopolitical vision. Still, in his presentation of himself as reliant on the past, nothing but a transmitter of what had been, Confucius established what would become something of a cultural template in China. Grand innovation that broke entirely with the past was not much prized in the pre-modern Chinese tradition. A Jackson Pollock who consciously and proudly rejected artistic precedent, for example, would not be acclaimed the creative genius in China that he was in the West. Great writers, great thinkers, and great artists were considered great precisely because they had mastered the tradition—the best ideas and techniques of the past. They learned to be great by linking themselves to past greats and by fully absorbing their styles and techniques. Of course, mere imitation was hardly sufficient; imitation could never be slavish. One had to add something creative, something entirely of one’s own, to mastery of the past.
Thus when you go into a museum gallery to view pre-modern Chinese landscapes, one hanging next to another, they appear at first blush to be quite similar. With closer inspection, however, you find that this artist developed a new sort of brush stroke, and that one a new use of ink-wash, and this one a new style of depicting trees and their vegetation. Now that your eye is becoming trained, more sensitive, it sees the subtle differences in the landscape paintings, with their range of masterful techniques an expression. But even as it sees the differences, it recognizes that the paintings evolved out of a common landscape tradition, in which artists built consciously on the achievements of past masters.
Featured image credit: “Altar of Confucius (7360546688)” by Francisco Anzola – Altar of Confucius. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.