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China's Bad Loans

This analysis by two highly respected economists says that up to 46% of Chinese loans may be at risk of default. This, dear readers, is a gut-wrenching statistic.

This graphic is like a user-friendly x-ray image of Stalinist capitalism.

President Xi has a lot of work in front of him. He still has to reform the state-owned enterprises.

For classroom purposes, students, you may download the graphic by going to the Tom Orlick twitter address, below. His credentials are excellent. He is an authoritative source.

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Luxury Goods in China: Strippers at Funerals

The sales of Gucci and Hermes are down among the newly rich in China but the sales of brands that appeal to the young, such as Prada are up. The crackdown on corruption continues. Apparently hiring strippers for funerals is all the rage in China. Is this what is called "dancing on someone's grave"? The Chinese government is trying to discourage the practice. Go figure!

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The Pope Visits Mexico: An Example for the Chinese in Tibet?

I watched the Pope give his Mass on Telemondo, in Spanish. What an astonishing event.

There in Mayan traditional costumes were hundreds of the faithful. On the platform where the mass was to be held, women came and spoke to the Pope in indigenous languages.

The music was not the high church music of Europe, nor the Gregorian chant of the monastic tradition in Europe, but the music of Popol Vuh, the peoples, with a little of the mariachi tradition of guitars and clarinets thrown in. This was the inclusive church. It was the church of liberation theology.

The pope spoke with an awareness of history. The Mayans addressed him with the Mayan word for Father, Totec, not Papa, as is the custom in Rome.

The Faithful came to the altar and read the liturgy in indigenous languages, alongside the Spanish liturgy.

It was quite amazing and it made me think of Tibet. There the indigenous people, the Tibetans, have been outnumbered by the in-migration of Han Chinese and the Chinese language has replaced the Tibetan language as the official language. History repeats itself on the other side of the world, in Asia.

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A Woman President for Taiwan

In all of Chinese history, there have only been two women who functioned as heads of state, including an empress who ruled as a man and the Empress Dowager of the last empress.

Woman have always influenced emperors as wives or concubines.

Last week, in Taiwan, in a democratic election, a woman was elected to be the president of Taiwan.

And the first thing she did was tell Xi Jinping that Taiwan would not be threatened for mentions of independence.

To think that a century ago, footbinding had to be banned as a cruel and unusual practice.

It has always amazed me as a scholar, and in my work on the Mongol Empire, that the Mongol Khans thought of their principal wives as excellent counselors in matters of statecraft. This was true for the mother of Chinggis Khan and for his principal wife, Bortai.

Khubilai Khan went so far as to include his principal wife, Chabi, in counsels of state with his cabinet of Confucian advisers, even though the presence of a woman in counsels of state, horrified the Confucians.

Mongol women owned horses and property, including herds of the five snouts, the animals that the Mongols kept for sustenance and livelihood. They engaged in trade on behalf of their own camps, and they ruled while their men were away making war. They also rode horses. This was the difference between the nomad culture of the great horsemen of the steppes and the women who were closest to the rulers of civilization, meaning settled agricultural society.

Congratulations to Tsai Ing-wen, of the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan. In her first speech, she warned that threats from the PRC would damage relations with the mainland. You go, girl.
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The Puzzle of the Chinese Middle Class

On a recent trip to New York, I interviewed on of the world’s pre-eminent experts on China, Professor Andrew Nathan of Columbia University.

Nathan has an uptown role as a China specialist at Columbia, but downtown, he is a human rights advocate and is on the board of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Apart from the United States, China is likely to be important in determining the global advancement of democracy because of its population, perhaps a quarter of humanity.

Another reason for China’s importance is its economic and military strength, but also its advancement of the so-called “China model.”

The China model is the combination of authoritarian government with capitalism.

As Nathan points out, China has offered its model as an attractive alternative to the Western model of liberal democracy to undemocratic regimes around the world.

The Chinese proclamation of its discovery of a new way to harness the energies of capitalism with a top-down government is the subject of multiple works over a period of decades by Professor Nathan. This piece is a small slice of the analysis.
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Oh Those Naughty Reds: The Chinese Communist Party Publishes a List of No-Nos

Skulduggery in high places has been the stuff of literature for centuries: the jealousy and paranoia of Othello. The licentious behavior of the pillars of French society in Voltaire. The hypocrisy of the French establishment in the Absurd Theater of former convict Jean Genet, a man familiar with human weakness at the bottom of society.

The common folk relish lifting the veil on the folly of queens and kings. The foibles of love has been a hot topic, from Henry VIII and the beheading of wives who could not be divorced to the lovers of the virgin queen, Elizabeth I of England to the scandalous rumors about the love life of the Empress Catherine the Great of Russia to the rivalry between Julius Caesar and Marc Antony over the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra.

The hypocrisy of those who project an image of moral rectitude, the elite of the Chinese Communist Party, provides ample opportunity for a good laugh.

In China, corruption takes many forms. The outrageous privilege of princelings, the children of the party elite, has been making headlines for decades. But something new is happening in China. The anti-corruption campaign of President Xi Jinping reprimands the daddies, the men at the top of the power structure, shaming them publicly in the state-owned media.

Dare one say it: this seems like a class structure with privilege at the top. This is heresy! That is why the present leadership has made a religion of punishing corruption. The party elite cannot be caught behaving like capitalist roaders. The communist party has been preaching against class for sixty years. Lo and behold, it looks like they are part of an emerging class structure. If this is true, what does it say about party rule? I ask you, reader.
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The New LaoGai Museum: The Two Faces of China Policy

I urge visitors to Washington to make a trip to see the Lao Gai Museum in its new quarters, at 1901 18th St. N.W.

Here is a warning: your visit will be emotionally upsetting. It will not be an afternoon of dim sum and jasmine tea. Be prepared to have your gut wrenched and go.

The museum's founder, Harry Wu, is a witness to an ugly dimension of modern Chinese history. He knows what he is talking about. He was incarcerated in the Chinese prison system for more than a decade.
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On Reading "The Hundred Year Marathon" by Michael Pillsbury

This is a really smart book by a man who has been in the CIA and the U. S. government for decades, and has met the Chinese leadership and military leaders frequently.

It has something rare: the ability to explain Chinese strategic thinking to a Western audience. The book is based on Pillsbury's experience in discussions with leaders backed up by a close reading of classics of Chinese strategy and Chinese literary classics that embody Chinese strategic thinking. This is anything but boring. It is riveting. It is fascinating. It is dynamic. It is the aerobics of strategy. It involves a study of key Chinese concepts that are unique in the world.

It is meant as a warning, the idea that the China foreign policy community has had a consensus about China's peaceful rise that may not be accurate. It is an attempt to explain the point of view of the military men at the upper reaches of the government of the PRC, those who might be described as hardliners.

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Crazy Fresh Chinese: A Website for Those Who Want to Learn Hip Chinese

After I published my book on Chinese writing decades ago, I had mothers writing to me asking where their kids could learn Chinese language, mostly Mandarin.

I had Chinese-American kids writing to me thanking me for helping them to learn how to read and write their ancestral language. Only in America.

During the 1990s, I reviewed language learning software in all excitement at  Read More 
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The Chinese Hack Attack

This analysis was originally written for ChinaFile at the Asia Society in October, 2014.

It was written because of the New York Times and Sony hacks, when the cybersecurity firm Mandiant was called in to trace the breaches. Mandiant issued a report presenting the forensic evidence that the Chinese were behind the break-in. Mandiant felt the evidence was important enough to issue a report that was available to private companies, government agencies and the general public.

For various reasons, the size of the shop and the need for technical expertise to do the fact-checking, my piece went unpublished by China file.

In the wake of the recent cyber-attack on the United States government agency, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), this piece became relevant. I thought it was important enough to post this on my blog. I will follow up this piece with more on China's accession to ICANN and its recent call for imposing a "code of conduct" on the internet (Washington Examiner). Given China's track record of censorship on the internet, I feel this deserves reporting.

The world of technology moves very fast. This piece is meant to be a snapshot.


In January of 2013, the New York Times went public with the story that it had been the victim of a hack attack that had been traced to the Chinese. They were the first of U. S. media company to go public. The victim list would later include the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

The Chinese dismissed the accusations.

In February of 2013, the Mandiant Company released the “APT 1 Report: Exposing One of China’s Espionage Units."

(The acronym APT stands for Advanced Persistent Threat and refers to cyber attacks by a nation-state actor, the most advanced level of threat category. APT 1 is considered a Tier One threat, higher than a non-state player, a criminal entity or an individual player.)

Mandiant, a computer security firm headquartered in the greater Washington, D. C. area, had a track record of investigating security breaches of all types and at all levels of threat at hundreds of organizations around the world.

Mandiant had been following breaches of more than 20 groups with origins in China and APT 1 was one of them, “a single organization that had conducted cyber espionage against victims since at least 2006.” (Mandiant Report, 2)

The groundbreaking element of the report was that for the first time, the forensic evidence tracked back to a specific location and to specific hackers. There was no doubt that the advanced persistent threat came from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The report included photographs of the real world buildings and gave their street addresses.

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