Sunday, October 23, 2011

Deng, the man, and his work, in and on China - Ezra F. Vogel

The New York Times Book Review, October 21, 2011

How Deng Did It


By Ezra F. Vogel
Illustrated. 876 pp. The Belknap Press/Harvard University Press. $39.95.
Two mighty rhetorical questions conclude this enormous biography of Deng Xiaoping (1904-97): “Did any other leader in the 20th century do more to improve the lives of so many? Did any other 20th-century leader have such a large and lasting influence on world history?” The answers emerge from this comprehensive, minutely documented book, but not as predictably as Ezra F. Vogel, a Harvard University emeritus professor of social sciences, assumes.
After Mao’s death in 1976, Deng became the champion of the economic reforms that transformed the lives of many, but not most, Chinese. (Vogel observes that Mao’s immediate successor, Hua Guofeng, was the initiator of the reforms.) Deng had long been a central figure in the Communist Party. Vogel rightly says that “for more than a decade before the Cultural Revolution” — 1966-1976 — “no one had greater responsibility for building and administering the old system than Deng Xiaoping.” Yet, most of Deng’s life and career takes up only a quarter of Vogel’s 714 pages of narrative.
By 1978, Deng had become China’s “paramount leader.” It follows, therefore, that apart from his long period of house arrest and banishment during the years 1967-73, and during another year in 1976-77, when Mao again removed him from the political scene, Deng must share the blame for much of the agony Mao inflicted on China and the Chinese. He certainly bears the major responsibility for the Tiananmen Square killings in 1989.
It is a curiosity of “Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China” that Deng the man is almost invisible. There is a well-known list of his personal characteristics: he played bridge; liked bread, cheese and coffee; smoked; drank and used spittoons. He was unswervingly self-disciplined. Though Deng left no personal paper trail, Vogel ably relates what is known.
Deng came from a small-landlord family in Sichuan Province, yet his formal education, apart from his time at a local school when he was a child, consisted mainly of a single year, 1926, of ideological indoctrination at Sun Yatsen University in Moscow. For five years before that, he lived in Paris, where he received a practical, and enduring, education inside the infant Chinese Communist Party, serving under the leadership of the young Zhou Enlai.
After Paris and Moscow, Deng went back to China, and before long had ceased being “a cheerful, fun-loving extrovert.” He commanded a small force against warlords, was defeated and may have run away. Eventually, he joined the “Mao faction,” rising and falling with its inner-party fortunes. During the Long March of 1934-35 Deng attended the meeting where Mao took supreme power, and after the Communist triumph in 1949, he served as party commissar for the army that occupied Tibet, although he seems not to have set foot there. In the southwest Deng organized the land reform program of 1949-51 “that would wipe out the landlord class.” Mao praised Deng “for his success . . . killing some of the landlords.” (As part of a national campaign in which two million to three million were killed, “some” seems an inadequate word.) In 1957, Deng oversaw the “anti-rightist campaign,” a “vicious attack on 550,000 intellectual critics” that “destroyed many of China’s best scientific and technical minds.” As for the Great Leap Forward of 1958-61, when as many as 45 million people starved to death, Vogel provides no evidence that Deng objected to Mao’s monomaniacal policies. Frank Dikötter’s well-documented book “Mao’s Great Famine,” however, shows that Deng ordered the extraction of grain from starving peasants for the cities and export abroad.
In late 1966, Vogel tells us, Deng was accused of “pursuing the capitalist road.” Under house arrest in Beijing until 1969, he was transferred to Jiangxi Province to work half days in a factory. Red Guards harassed his five children, and the back of one of his sons was broken when he may have jumped from a window after the guards frightened or bullied him. Mao permitted Deng to return to Beijing in 1973.
Vogel contends that during his internal exile Deng concluded that something had gone systemically wrong with China: it was economically backward and isolated from the international scene; its people were poorly educated. China under Deng became an increasingly urban society. And following Deng’s view that corruption crackdowns limit growth, many officials, Vogel writes, “found ways not only to enrich China, but also to enrich themselves.” The result, he says, is that China is more corrupt than ever and its environment more polluted.
While Deng believed that science and technology were important — as have many Chinese reformers since the late 19th century — he feared that the humanities and social sciences could be seedbeds of heterodoxy; he never hesitated in punishing intellectuals, whose divergent views could “lead to demonstrations that disrupt public order.” It is telling that for Deng perhaps the worst development in the Communist world after Tiananmen was the execution on Dec. 25, 1989, of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife. Ceausescu was the only Eastern European leader whose troops had fired on civilians.
Vogel calls Tiananmen a “tragedy,” and quotes Deng brushing aside doubts from colleagues that using troops to smash the uprising would disturb foreigners; “Westerners would forget.” Actually, it is young Chinese for whom the demonstrations in over 300 cities are a dim fact absent from their history lessons. Vogel’s account of the crackdown is largely accurate, although he omits the shooting down on Sunday morning of many parents milling about at the edge of the square, searching for their children. In this, as in other parts of this narrative, Vogel could have spoken with journalists who were there, and not just read their accounts. (I declare an interest; I saw these events.) What is disappointing is Vogel’s comments about why “the tragedy in Tiananmen Square evoked a massive outcry in the West, far greater than previous tragedies in Asia of comparable scale.”
Part of the answer, Vogel correctly says, citing another scholar, was the real-time television in Tiananmen. Then he perplexingly adds that viewers “interpreted” what they saw “as an assault on the American myth that economic, intellectual and political freedom will always triumph. Many foreigners came to see Deng as a villainous enemy of freedom who crushed the heroic students.” Furthermore, Vogel contends, for foreign reporters the Tiananmen uprising “was the most exciting time of their careers.” Such comments are unworthy of a serious scholar. He states flatly that “Deng was not vindictive.” If he means Deng didn’t order his adversaries and critics killed, that is true — as far as individuals are concerned. But Deng never shrank, either in Mao’s time or his own, from causing the murder of large numbers of anonymous people.
The most valuable part of Vogel’s account is his survey of Deng’s economic reforms; they made a substantial portion of Chinese better-off, and propelled China onto the international stage. But the party has obscured the millions of deaths that occurred during the Maoist decades. In the end, what shines out from Vogel’s wide-ranging biography is the true answer to his two questions: for most of his long career Deng Xiaoping did less forChina than he did to it.
Jonathan Mirsky is a journalist and historian specializing in China.
A version of this review appeared in print on October 23, 2011, on page BR18 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: On the Capitalist Road.

The Rape of Nanjing - a (true historical) novel

Recreating the Horrors of Nanjing

Ha Jin has a talent for first lines. Consider these, from his latest novel, “Nanjing Requiem”: “Finally Ban began to talk. For a whole evening we sat in the dining room listening to the boy.”
Jerry Bauer
Ha Jin


By Ha Jin
303 pp. Pantheon Books. $26.95.
We do not know who Ban is, why he should have taken so long to speak or why his story has so compelled his as yet unknown audience. As he tells that story, we plunge abruptly into the horrors of the Japanese occupation of Nanjing, then the capital of China’s Nationalist government. It is December 1937. Ban is a Chinese teenager, a boy seized while on an errand for his American employer and forced to serve as coolie to a band of Japanese soldiers who are looting, pillaging and murdering their way across the city, with Ban a terrified witness to their atrocities.
Equally abruptly, the novel then takes us back to the previous month, to the frantic preparations for an evacuation of the government to Chongqing, following the retreating forces of Chiang Kai-shek. For the civilians who will be left behind, a safety zone is hastily organized. Madame Chiang’s piano is loaded into a truck and left for safekeeping in the institution at the heart of Ha Jin’s narrative, Jinling Women’s College.
This is fiction, but fiction that draws heavily on the historical record and in which many of the characters actually lived the events described. The narrator, Anling, a middle-aged Chinese woman, may be Ha Jin’s invention, but she serves as assistant to a well-documented real-life character, Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary from Illinois who served as acting head of Jinling College. Vautrin also figures in Iris Chang’s best-­selling account, “The Rape of Nanking,” one of the inspirations for Ha Jin’s portrait of the doomed city.
When Chiang Kai-shek abandoned Nanjing to the Japanese, a few Western nationals chose to remain. The Americans who stayed were mostly missionaries, among them the formidable Minnie Vautrin. Also present was John Rabe, the German representative of Siemens in Nanjing, a member of the Nazi party who led the extraordinary effort to set up the safety zone in which Jinling College and similar institutions became refugee camps, tenuously protected by the presence and personal courage of a tiny group of foreigners. It is to them that we largely owe the documentation of the rape, pillage, arson and murder that followed.
As a novelist, Ha Jin brings a cool, spare documentary approach to this rich trove of material. His narrative centers on Jinling, an attractively landscaped campus in the heart of the city. The college itself becomes a character, the early hope of its founders that it would be a premier seat of learning as much despoiled by the war as are the lives of those who love and labor within it. The college represents humanity and civilization, repeatedly violated and nearly destroyed.
Ha Jin begins with a fast-­moving accumulation of horrors as some 10,000 refugees cram into Jinling, which was prepared to receive around 2,500. The safety it offers is fragile: Chinese citizens are dragged off and killed by marauding Japanese troops, and young women are attacked on the campus itself. The occupants of the college struggle to find enough food, fuel and shelter for everyone in need, living in constant fear that the Japanese will overrun the place.
The Nanjing Massacre remains a highly controversial topic. Some in Japan still deny or play it down, and its re-­emergence in the 1990s as a prime example of wartime barbarity has been used by the Chinese government as it constructs a highly nationalist version of its history. But Ha Jin is more interested in nuance than polemic. He shows us the Christian Japanese officer who brings supplies for the refugees; the Nazi who saves a quarter of a million Chinese; the Chinese worker who admits that, under torture, he made a false accusation of collaboration against two Americans from the Red Cross; the Chinese doctor, consumed by self-­loathing because of his association with the Japanese, who helps Vautrin rescue Chinese prisoners.
Ha Jin also shows us how the family of Anling, the narrator, is torn apart — with a son-in-law fighting in the Nationalist army, a husband who still admires the Japan in which he once studied, an only son drawn into serving in the army of occupation because of his love for a Japanese woman.
Ha Jin also reminds us that heroism carries its own heavy price. Minnie Vautrin was to die by her own hand, burdened with guilt over those she had failed to save. This emotional turmoil is personified in the character of Yulan, a young woman who goes mad after being raped by the Japanese and accuses the missionaries of collaboration. Vautrin’s struggle to rescue Yulan doubles as a struggle for her own sanity.
The novel does contain some awkward phrasing. Ha Jin writes in his second language, English, a remarkable achievement but one that demands editorial vigilance. The reader is surprised at times to find contemporary slang in the mouths of Chinese characters speaking more than 70 years ago. Early on, for example, a Chinese man seeking shelter for his family is offered a job at the college and blurts out, “For real?”
This is the sort of misstep that can provide an unfortunate distraction in the course of an otherwise fine novel, a book that renders a subtle and powerful vision of one of the 20th century’s most monstrous interludes. The closing section, “The Grief Everlasting,” underscores Ha Jin’s message. There will be no happy ending here, and precious little healing.

Isabel Hilton edits the bilingual news, environmental and analysis Web site Chinadialogue​.net. Her most recent book is “The Search for the Panchen Lama.”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cradle of Confucianism - Shanghai Daily

Cradle of Confucianism

By Mark Melnicoe  |   2011-10-17  |     NEWSPAPER EDITION
Shanghai Daily, October 16, 2011

The entrance to the Confucius Temple.

TO begin to understand Confucius, one really should visit Qufu, where the sage was born, died, and taught his philosophy that would shape China. Mark Melnicoe makes the pilgrimage.

Everyone knows Confucius. The philosopher/teacher/sage is pre-eminent among China's ancient thinkers, and his teachings have profoundly impacted the development of Chinese history and left a deep imprint on the national psyche. 

To really get to know Confucius, one should make a pilgrimage to Qufu, Shandong Province. For it is here that the master was born, died and spent most of his 73 years, including the decisive period when he preached to his disciples, who then carried forward his ideas. 

To honor its former resident, Qufu boasts three main sites - the Confucius Temple, Kong Family Mansion and Confucius Cemetery - which together take most of a day to see. In 1994 they were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites for their outstanding historical, cultural, scientific and artistic value. 

Beyond these, vestiges left by Confucius can be found all over Qufu. He was born about 20 kilometers away in Nishan, grew up in the area, preached his philosophies at the Xingtan Pavilion, also known as the Alter of Apricot (part of today's temple), got involved politically and became an official in the ancient state of Lu, and was buried by the Zhu River. Lining the roads in the old city are shops and stalls selling Confucius trinkets and replicas - wooden statues, fans, screens, coins, vases, boxes, canisters, paintings, stones, tablets and more. If you want any kind of souvenir related to Confucius, you will find it here. 

Confucius Temple

The temple, the oldest and grandest of more than 2,000 Confucian temples worldwide, is really the heart of Qufu. Lying within the impressive old city wall, it started as a humble establishment two years after Confucius' death in 471 BC. Though the master's ideas were not so grandly received in his day, Confucius' many disciples were committed to his ideals and built the temple not far from where he was buried. 

Over the dynasties, it was expanded by succeeding rulers, gradually mushrooming into the second-largest historical building complex in China. Only Beijing's Forbidden City is bigger. In fact, the temple's appearance is not unlike that of the Forbidden City, as its last major revision took place during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) after a fire in 1499. The temple has 466 rooms aligned along a north-south axis that is more than a kilometer long, and contains nine courtyards. 

Within are countless trees, beautiful halls containing paintings, tablets and sculptures, and stone bridges crossing tiny waterways and gardens. Historic tablets, numbering some 1,000 of various kinds - small ones, towering ones, oddly shaped ones, some crumbling, some in remarkably good condition - lie throughout the temple complex. These tablets, along with manuscripts, contain much written information about ancient China and are still used by scholars today. 

Going through the temple from the entrance, one gets the feeling of going backward in time. That's because the entrance is near the "youngest" part of the temple complex, and as you go further in, you head through the dynasties. Thus you enter through Qing (1644-1911) and Ming dynasty stone gates, find Ming architecture everywhere, come upon Song Dynasty (960-1279) halls such as Tong Wen Gate and Kuiwen Pavilion, then hit the huge Hall of Integration, built in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), before coming to the oldest, ancient areas of the complex. Most buildings have been built and rebuilt over the ages because of fires or deterioration.

Investindo em portos, na China e no Brasil: covardia comparar...

Para mim, a matéria, e mais ainda, o esforço em atrair esses investimentos chineses, são altamente representativos de quão patético é o Brasil no plano do investimento internacional.
Nós somos verdadeiros caipiras.
Sorry folks, mas é verdade.
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

Brasil tenta atrair investimentos chineses em portos
Seminário organizado pelo Itamaraty em Xangai apresentou projetos em Pará, Espírito Santo, Bahia e Amazonas

No porto de Santos, a licença ambiental para o terminal Embraport, ainda em obras, levou oito anos para ficar pronta. Em Xangai, o porto de Yangshan, que movimenta dez vezes mais contêineres do que o congênere brasileiro, foi construído em apenas dois anos e meio.
A comparação desanimadora é de um dos integrantes da comitiva do porto de Santos após visita a Yangshan (28 milhões de contêineres/ano).
Ontem, o grupo participou de um seminário organizado pelo Itamaraty em Xangai para atrair investidores chineses a portos brasileiros.
"O porto aqui fica numa ilha que tinha 2,5 km2. Aumentaram para 15 km2 com aterro e construíram uma ponte de 32 km em dois anos e meio. A licença ambiental ficou pronta em seis meses. Em Santos, foram oito anos de espera para a licença ambiental de apenas um terminal", disse o presidente do Conselho de Autoridade Portuária do Porto de Santos, Sérgio de Aquino.
O diretor-presidente do porto de Santos, José Roberto Serra, disse que uma das explicações para a diferença é que o governo chinês detém todo o poder de decisão na área de infraestrutura. No Brasil, diz, há o fracionamento das autorizações entre diversas instâncias.
"Os investidores perguntam sobre o modelo brasileiro e ficam assustados com o prazo da Lei de Licitações, que é de um ano e meio."
O executivo disse que a China tem uma presença crescente em Santos: desde o ano passado, é o país que mais movimentou cargas no porto. No cais, praticamente todo o maquinário foi comprado da ZPMG. E duas empresas do gigante asiático prestam serviços de dragagem e implosão de pedras.
No seminário de ontem foram apresentados projetos em quatro Estados: Pará, Espírito Santo, Bahia e Amazonas. Realizado num hotel, o seminário reuniu cerca de cem pessoas, com uma presença maior de brasileiros do que de chineses.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Rise of the Renminbi as International Currency : Historical Precedents - Jeff Frankel

The Rise of the Renminbi as International Currency : Historical Precedents

All of a sudden, the renminbi is being touted as the next big international currency.   Just in the last year or two, the Chinese currency has begun to internationalize along a number of dimensions.   A RMB bond market has grown rapidly in Hong Kong, and one in RMB bank deposits.   Some of China’s international trade is now invoiced in the currency.  Foreign central banks have been able to hold RMB since August 2010, with Malaysia going first. 
Some are now claiming that the renminbi could overtake the dollar for the number one slot in the international currency rankings within a decade (especially Subramanian 2011a, p.19; 2011b).   The basis of this prediction is, first, the likelihood that the Chinese economy will surpass the US economy in size and, second, the historical precedent when the dollar overtook the pound sterling as the number one international currency during the period after World War I.   
It used to be thought that international currency status was subject to much inertia (e.g., Krugman, 1984).  There was said to have been a long lag between the date when the US economy had passed the UK economy with respect to size (1872, by the criterion of GNP) and the time when the dollar had passed the pound (1946, by the criterion of shares in central banks’ holdings of reserves). 
The “new view,” represented in particular by Eichengreen (2011)and Eichengreen and Flandreau (2010), is that the lag was in fact rather short.  It took until World War I for the dollar to fulfill the criteria of an international currency.  Furthermore, the date when the dollar is said to have come to rival the pound in importance has now been moved up to the mid-1920s.   The first point is right. If trade is the measure of size, the US first caught up with the UK during World War I.  The US did not even have a permanent central bank until 1913.  The other important criteriacame soon thereafter:  creditor status for the country; the perceived prospects for the currency to remain strong in value; and deep, liquid, open financial markets.  (I have discussed the criteria in earlier papers.  Chinn and Frankel, 2007, evaluate them econometrically and give further references.)  The second point seems a matter of whether or not one wants to distinguish between the concept of “coming to rival” / “catching up with”  the pound (1920s) versus the phenomenon of definitively “pulling ahead” / “displacing” the pound (1945).  Under either interpretation, the dollar’s initial rise as an international currency was indeed rapid, once the conditions were in place. 
The dollar is one of three national currencies to have attained international status during the 20th century.  The other two were the yen and the mark, which became major international currencies after the breakup of the Bretton Woods system in 1971-73.  (The euro, of course, did so after 1999.)  In the early 1990s, both were spoken of as potential rivals of the dollar for the number one slot.  It is easy to forget it now, because Japan’s relative role has diminished since then and the mark has been superseded.  In retrospect, the two currencies’ shares in central bank reserves peaked as the 1990s began.
The current RMB phenomenon differs in an interesting way from the historical circumstances of the rise of the three earlier currencies.  The Chinese government is actively promoting the international use of its currency.   Neither Germany nor Japan, nor even the US, did that, at least not at first.   In all three cases, export interests, who stood to lose competitiveness if international demand for the currency were to rise, were much stronger than the financial sector, which might have supported internationalization.  One would expect the same fears of a stronger currency and its effects on manufacturing exports to dominate the calculations in China.
In the case of the mark and yen after 1973, internationalization came despite the reluctance of the German and Japanese governments.  In the case of the United States after 1914, a tiny elite promoted internationalization of the dollar despite the indifference or hostility to such a project in the nation at large.  These individuals, led by Benjamin Strong, the first president of the New York Fed, were the same ones who had conspired in 1910 to establish the Federal Reserve in the first place.
It is not yet clear that China’s new enthusiasm for internationalizing its currency includes a willingness to end financial repression in the domestic financial system, remove cross-border capital controls, and allow the RMB to appreciate, thus helping to shift the economy away from its export-dependence.  Perhaps a small elite will be able to accomplish these things, in the way that Strong did a century earlier.  But so far the government is only promoting international use of the RMB offshore, walled off from the domestic financial system.  That will not be enough to do it.
[This perspective note summarizes the argument in "Historical Precedents for the Internationalization of the RMB," a paper that I have written for a workshop directed by Sebastian Mallaby, organized by the Council on Foreign Relations and the China Development Research Foundation.]

Chinn, Menzie, and Jeffrey Frankel , 2007, “Will the Euro Eventually Surpass the Dollar as Leading International Reserve Currency?” in  G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, edited by Richard Clarida (University of Chicago Press).  
Eichengreen, Barry, and Marc Flandreau, 2010, “The Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Rise of the Dollar as an International Currency, 1914-39,” BIS WP no. 328, Nov.
Krugman, Paul, 1984, “The International Role of the Dollar: Theory and Prospect,” in Exchange Rate Theory and Practice, edited by J.Bilson and R.Marston (University of Chicago Press), 261-78.
Subramanian, Arvind, 2011b , Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance (Petersen Institute for International Economics), September.