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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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.
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)
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.
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?
This unique and charming alphabet book uses rhymes and fact snippets to introduce Chinese words to a pre-schooler. The words are written in Pinyin, a sound system using Roman letters to write Chinese sounds. Words introduced are significant in Chinese culture, but relatable in any culture.
I’m finally done with Peter the Brazen, and I feel I can say definitively now that it is the worst. The worst. I hardly know what else to say about it, or how to catalog its various failings.
I thought I was going to enjoy this book. Peter Moore is a wireless operator, and he’s the best wireless operator. He can hear things no one else can hear, and other wireless operator recognize…I don’t know, the inflections of his Morse code, or something. And he doesn’t have a lean, sardonic countenance, but he does have a tendency to smile inappropriately, which practically amounts to the same thing. So, all of that boded well. And I was prepared for some racism, because this is the kind of book where the existence of actual Asian people is completely irrelevant to the glamour of Asia. But in general I thought that this book wouldn’t be very good, but that I would enjoy it.
I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.
We can start with the racism, which is of the “protagonist who supposedly knows China like the back of his hand can’t tell the difference between people from Asian countries” variety. There was a Eurasian girl who wasn’t evil, and maybe one or two Chinese people who were well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful, but as a whole, George F. Worts paints the entire population of a continent as pretty much worthless. Not that he has a very high opinion of humanity in general — I saw here the same kind of cynicism that made me uncomfortable in Girl Alone. He also gets in some jabs at Dutch people – no discernible traits besides being boring and liking to eat — and Mexicans — the “fiery gladness” of knocking a “greaser” into the ocean. There’s not anything in particular I can pick out to take issue with, just grindingly awful racial determinism throughout.
As bad as the racism and xenophobia were, the misogyny was worse. Peter Moore is apparently irresistible to women, but I’m not sure why. I mean, if two women have similar coloring he can’t tell the difference between them (even if he’s in love with one of them), and if they’re “exotic” he makes up stories about them for his own amusement, and if a woman tells him her husband beats her, he doesn’t believe it until he sees the bruises and then asks her why, as if she must have done something to deserve it. Which I guess makes sense, since he mostly views women as men’s possessions anyway.
Worts credits him with “quaint, mid-Victorian views regarding woman,” and if mid-Victorian views regarding women consist of distrusting them and treating them as objects then, yeah, he does, but I don’t know why we’re supposed to like him for it. I kept thinking of a quote from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: “I’m told the women literally bow down before him, if that’s what women do.” Women do literally bow down before Peter Moore in this book, but no, that’s not what women do.
Then there’s the writing, which is terrible on two levels. At the sentence level, it’s hideously flowery. People who refer to guns as “blue steel” already have a mark against them in my book, but that’s just the beginning of Worts’ excessive reliance on colors for description. I think my favorite bit was the number of synonyms for “red” he used in describing a cinnabar mining city. Here is a bit of it: “And instantly he was obsessed with the flaming color of that man’s unappeased passion. Red—red! The hovels were spattered with the red clay. The man, the skinny, wretched creature who begged for a moment of his gracious mercy at the gate, dripped in ruby filth. The mule sank and wallowed in vermilion mire.”
There are a lot of bits like that.
My favorite sentence, though, was one of the less flowery ones: “And Peter was all alone, although his aloneness was modified to a certain extent by the corpse at his feet. “
The language is hilariously terrible, but everything else is just terrible. I don’t know what to call the other level on which the writing is terrible. Plot? Character development? Basic logic? It’s probably all of the above. The way people act just doesn’t make sense. The omniscient third person narration says things that exist in an alternate reality where it does make sense. Peter spends a lot of the climactic action scenes unconscious, although I guess that’s for the best.
And nothing is ever resolved or explained. Like, Peter spends the entire book trying to figure out why the guy who rules the city of Len Yang keeps kidnapping beautiful young women to work in his mines. And I would still kind of like to know why, but I suspect that there isn’t actually a reason. If there is one, Worts certainly doesn’t let us in on it.
There were moments, even halfway through the book, when I though the whole thing might genuinely be a joke, it made so little sense. It’s not just the usual thing where an author ascribes to a protagonist all sorts of qualities that they don’t actually seem to have. It’s a more far-reaching version of that, where you can tell the author is ascribing to the narrative all sorts of things that aren’t there. I mean, it’s also got the thing where the protagonist is supposed to be super competent but in practice is terrible at everything, but that’s sort of commonplace compared to the whole story’s weird, disjointed, “does George F. Worts understand how events are supposed to follow each other” quality.
So, uh, yeah. This book is objectively terrible. It’s also subjectively terrible. Don’t read it. The bits that are terrible in a funny way aren’t worth it.
After growing up in China, my parents immigrated to America in 1946. My brothers and I were born in the Northeast, and then we moved to the Midwest when I was three years old. So I grew up far from the land of my heritage.
But every summer we drove from Kansas City to Toronto for reunions with our extended family. (My father's parents and siblings had also immigrated to the USA or to Canada.) There I was aware of belonging to a large family, a long history, and a complex culture beyond my everyday life. I was surrounded by my grandparents, uncles, and aunts chatting in Cantonese while I played with my cousins. I was introduced to dimsum—small plates of juicy dumplings, steamed buns, and other mouthwatering treats—plucked from carts rolling between a restaurant's giant round tables. I remember my grandfather giving me candy from a secret cache high on his closet shelf, but I also sensed that the entire family treated him as the most honored member.
When I was a mother with two young children, my own mother died. My parents always being there had been my secure foundation, but that shifted with her death, leaving a hole of grief and vulnerability in my life.
In November 1999, I traveled with my father to Taiwan and China. Serendipitously I stumbled upon a special exhibit of Han dynasty artifacts at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. This was the first time I had ever heard of the three tombs of Mawangdui, but I was immediately hooked on learning more about them. Who were the mother, father, and son buried in the tombs? Why would their family bury them with so many treasures, including personal items like the mother's cosmetics case, the father's signature seals, and the son's zither?
The next week, we journeyed to the southern Chinese village where my father's family has lived since the late 1500's. Along with two dozen relatives living in or near the village, we visited the cemetery where four generations of our ancestors are buried. In front of their niches, we lit candles and incense, offered food and drink, and burned mock money and paper clothes—modern versions of rituals performed for thousands of years. I was struck by the realization of being connected to these people whom I'd never met, yet were literally part of me.
After lighting candles and incense, we set out food and drink in front of our ancestor's niches.
Three years later in June 2002, my father took me, my brothers, and our families to visit his homeland. We entered the Forbidden City, inspected the First Emperor's terracotta troops, sailed down the Yangzi River, and saw where my parents had lived and been schooled.
I took a side trip to Changsha to see the Mawangdui tomb site and the many artifacts in the Hunan Provincial Museum. By then, I had studied enough about Mawangdui to be completely agog at seeing the silk-draped body of Lady Dai and the cavernous tomb of her son.
The following day twenty-one of us from America and ten of us from China met at the same cemetery I had visited before. My daughters, nieces, and nephews participated for their first time in the traditional rituals of lighting candles and incense, offering food and drink, and burning mock money and paper clothes. I marveled at the continuity of life that bound us together across centuries and continents: four generations of living descendants paying our respects to four generations of ancestors. As I watched the smoke from the burning paper rise into the sky, I saw an image in my mind of an endless queue of our ancestors winding across the cemetery.
It is believed that burning mock money and other paper goods sends them to the ancestors.
Through seeing artifacts from the Mawangdui tombs and performing rituals at my ancestors' graves, I could imagine the family of Lady Dai expressing their love and respect in creating an elaborate tomb for her. I could identify with her family through my experiences of missing my own mother and of honoring my ancestors. And through learning about Lady Dai and her world, I understand more of the history and meaning behind the rituals my family performs to commemorate our loved ones.
He's my favorite author and he's had Nobel hype for years. It's so exciting that he finally won!
The first book of his that I read was Red Sorghum. It was assigned for a Chinese Literature in Translation course. I was only auditing the class and could only read part of it before I had to turn my attention elsewhere. But, I liked it so much that I went back and finished it after the semester was over.
I prefer is earlier stuff to his later stuff. The shorter works are tighter and more accessible. His later works seem like a Nobel bid, but are still very good. Overall his writing is marked by a visceral lushness that I'm not used to seeing from Chinese prose, which is usually sparse in its descriptions. Many of his works are touched by a magic realism that brings to mind Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
AND! When writing up this blog post I see that many of his works are available for FREE for Amazon Prime members through the lending library and many are priced at bargain prices to own the Kindle version. Take advantage while you can, especially of the three titles I mentioned in this post.
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There’s a strong wave of indie animators emerging from Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, and China. The latter country’s indie scene is the focus of the documentary The Beginning directed by Jess Zou of NeochaEDGE. The film, which debuts in NY next week at the China Institute (125 East 65th Street, NY, NY 10065), features profiles of twenty Chinese animators and studios who are pursuing a more independent approach in their work. The 100-minute film is in Mandarin with English subtitles. Tickets are $8 and pre-registration is required on the Institute’s website.
Artists and studios featured in The Beginning include: Ray Lei (Beijing), Sun Haipeng (Shenzhen), Liu Jian (Nanjing), Mao Qichao (Magic Animation Studio, Chengdu), Pi San (Beijing), Anytime (aka: ANI7IME) Animation Studio (Zhang Chunli, Pu Junhan, Li Weikun, Su Jingxin: Guangzhou), Seen Studio (Zhang Naowen, Aspirin, Zeng Xun: Beijing), Song Siqi (Henan)/Wang Qing (Suzhou), Li Dongzhen (Beijing), and Beijing Film Academy student animation group (Sun Yiran, Wang Xingchen, Chen Xi, Zhang Yi, and Zhang Xiadian).
In a Chinese village, Bamboo, a simple farmer, falls in love with a peasant girl, Ming, and soon they are married. To celebrate the wedding, the newlyweds plant a grove of bamboo. When Bamboo goes to the New World to seek his fortune, his new wife is left behind to till the fields. Ming soon discovers that the bamboo she brought as a gift to her new husband is magic...
About a year ago, I reviewed Allen Say's autobiographical work Drawing from Memory and the effect World War II had on his life growing up in Yokohama, Japan. Ed Young's The House Baba Built is also an autobiographical work and describes his life in Shanghai, China during the war.
Ed Young's father was an engineer and realizing that war was coming to China, he decided he needed a safe place for himself, his wife and five children to live in. The safest place would be around the foreign embassies in Shanghai, known as the International Settlement. But land there was expensive and so Baba (an affectionate term for father) made a deal with a landowner - Baba would built a house on his land with the proviso that his family could live in it for 20 years. The family moved into the house in 1935 and for the first few years that they lived in Baba's house, life was good. There was a lovely swimming pool, where friends and family would gather in summer, there was lots of pretend playing, lovely gardens and even a roof that made a great roller skating area. Life wasn't rich in goods, but it was rich in so many other ways.
But when the Japanese invaded Nanking in 1937, Baba had to build an apartment where the kids roller skated because relatives from there had escaped to Shanghai to live. After that, the effects of the war began to be felt more and more. And in 1940 a family who had escaped Hitler's Germany, the Luedeckes, also moved into Baba's house.
The three families living in Baba's house were very fortunate. Even after things changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the loss of British and American protection, the house that Baba built was able to withstand the war, and even when bombs were being dropped directly on Shanghai, they missed the house completely.
When the 20 years were up, the Young family honored their contract and turned the house over to the landowner. By then, most of the children had grown, married and gone their own way.
It was during the war, living in Baba's house, that Young discovered his talent as an artist. Given crayons and paper to use while recovering from a cold, his first attempt at drawing was a cowboy that didn't quite match what was in his mind. But he sought guidance and the rest is history. For The House Baba Built, he used a mixed media, which gives it depth and texture. Young's family is shown in an interesting combination of old photographs and drawings, there are all kinds of collages (my favorite art form), and some of the pages fold out to reveal even more of the life of the Young family in Baba's house.
Most of the book consists of vignettes that are put together to resemble the collages, rather than a linear history of Young's early life. However, there is a timeline at the end which can help orient the reader if needed. And there is an extended section at the end of the book of later photographs, including Baba's house, as well as a diagram of the house and some facts regarding how the house was built to bombproof it.
All in all, The House Baba Built is an interesting book for all kinds of readers, but especially a reader who likes to explore each and every page of an illustrated book. This is a work that proves itself to be an insightful look at some of the early influences on a beloved author/illustrator.
This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was borrowed from the Webster Branch of the NYPL
Facts First! Nonfiction Monday is hosted this week by ProseandKahn
Growing up with no special interest in China, one of the few things I associated with the country was mix and match meal creation. On airplanes and school cafeterias, you just have “chicken or beef” choices, but Chinese restaurants were “1 from Column A, 1 from Column B” domains. If only in recent China debates, a similar readiness to think beyond either/or options prevailed!
I thought of this when Reuters ran an assessment of Xi Jinping’s first weeks in power last months that in some venues carried this “chicken or beef” sort of headline: “China’s New Leader: Reformist or Conservative?” Previous Chinese leaders have often turned out to have both reformist and conservative sides. Even Deng Xiaoping, considered the quintessential reformer due to his economic policies, held the line on political liberalization and backed the brutal 1989 crackdown. Mightn’t Xi, too, end up ordering from the reformist and conservative sides of the menu?
A Valentine’s Day for the books: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of a Chinese delegation in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012, several months before Xi became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize win last fall, which continues to generate controversy, led some foreign commentators into a similar “chicken or beef” trap—or, rather, an “Ai Weiwei or Zhang Yimou” one. The former is an artist locked into an antagonistic relationship with the government, the latter a filmmaker who has been choreographing spectacles celebrating Communist Party rule, including both the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Games and a 2009 gala staged to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. Since they are two of the only internationally prominent Chinese creative figures, some Westerners assumed Mo must be like one or the other.
In fact, the novelist shares traits with each but isn’t all that similar to either. Like China’s best-known artist, Mo has a penchant for mocking the powerful. And like the renowned filmmaker turned state choreographer, Mo works within the system, serving as a Vice-Chairman of the official writer’s association and recently agreeing to be a delegate to the Chinese People’s Consultative Political Conference. Unlike Ai Weiwei, though, Mo skewers only relatively safe targets, like the kinds of corrupt local officials that the central authorities don’t mind seeing satirized, and instead of railing against censorship, he has likened it to an inconvenience akin to airport security protocols. And unlike Zhang Yimou, one of whose best films was based on the novelist’s story “Red Sorghum,” Mo has consistently produced iconoclastic works.
If Column A choices signal compliance and Column B ones criticism, the artist and filmmaker now stick to opposite sides of the menu, while Mo Yan keeps choosing from both—and he’s not alone in this. Yu Hua, an author whose political choices I find more admirable, does this as well. He belongs to the official writer’s association and his novels, like Mo’s, generally satirize relatively safe targets. But Yu also pens trenchant essays on taboo topics, including the 1989 massacre. He’s frustrated that these can only be published abroad, but glad that they end up circulating on the mainland in underground digital versions.
A third debate, centering on the competing predictions made by “When China Rules the World” author Martin Jacques and “The Coming Collapse of China” author Gordon G. Chang, makes me think not of the value of combining Column A and Column B choices but of a different feature of Chinese restaurants that I only learned about as an adult. If you don’t like the options on the English language menu in some Chinatown eateries, you can ask to see a Chinese language one that lists additional dishes the proprietor doubts will interest most customers.
My problem with the Jacques vs. Chang debate is that I find neither pundit convincing. Jacques’ vision of China moving smoothly toward global domination glosses over the fissures within the country’s elite and the many domestic challenges its government faces. Chang continually underestimates the Communist Party’s resiliency and adaptability. His 2001 book said it would implode by 2011. Late in 2011, he told Foreign Policy readers that he’d miscalculated and they could “bet on” his prophecy coming true in 2012. In 2013, the Communist Party is still in control and somehow Chang’s still being invited onto news shows to make forecasts.
When asked whether Xi Jinping is a reformer or a conservative and whether Mo Yan is a collaborator or a critic, I can craft an answer that draws a bit from both Column A and Column B Being asked whether I side with Jacques or Chang is different. I’m left feeling like a hungry vegetarian who has been given a list made up exclusively of chicken and beef dishes—and hopes desperately that there’s another menu hidden in the back with some acceptable choices.
How can we outline the discussion on the law and practice of international arbitration? What is the legal process for the drafting of the arbitration agreements or the enforcement of arbitral awards? Long-time international arbitrators Constantine Partasides, Alan Redfern, and Martin Hunters — co-authors of Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration: Fifth Edition with Nigel Blackaby — sat down with the OUPblog to discuss the latest developments in their field. Watch the following videos to learn more about current views on international arbitration and what changes they expect to see in the future.
Nigel Blackaby, Constantine Partasides, Alan Redfern, and Martin Hunter are the authors of Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration: Fifth Edition. Nigel Blackaby is one of the partners of the international arbitration group at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Washington, DC. Constantine Partasides is a one of the partners of the international arbitration group at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London. Alan Redfern is the barrister and international arbitrator at One Essex Court Chambers in London. Martin Hunter is currently a barrister and international arbitrator at One Essex Court Chambers.
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DreamWorks Animation is moving into live-action. At a Beijing news conference last week, Jeffrey Katzenberg announced a co-production agreement between Oriental DreamWorks and the Chinese state-owned China Film Group Corp. The deal will result in a movie franchise based on the bestselling Chinese book series Tibet Code.
Katzenberg said that the film will become “China’s Indiana Jones,” while China Film Group chairman Han Sanping proclaimed that the film’s “characters represent traditional Chinese culture and Chinese morality.”
A man plus an ice cream cone is not the recipe for tension-filled drama unless the film is Stammer. This playful experimental piece by Chinese animator Shen Jie (b. 1989) reveals its story through a single repeating action that builds incrementally. The sound design adds the right touch of humor to complete the idea.
A hallucinatory short that follows a doe-eyed protagonist on a quest through an imagined world, and was created using vintage book covers, a motif that director Lei Lei inherited from his graphic-designer father. “No plots, storyboards, or scripts were involved,” says the director.
Last week DreamWorks revealed the first renderings of the Dream Center, a 40-acre, $2.4 billion development in Shanghai, China. Scheduled to open in 2017 (or early-2018), the site will house the Oriental DreamWorks production studio, which is currently working on "Kung Fu Panda 3," as well as the world's largest IMAX screen, eight outdoor plazas, hotels, restaurants, theaters, galleries, and tourist attractions.