Buckle Down and Link!

After several weeks of travel, and one Presidential visit, it’s time for me to buckle down and write; the deadlines loom. But before I go underwater, some items that I found interesting.

  • Like many bloggers, I was taken by Yang Hengjun’s response to President Obama’s town hall, “Why I blog,” as translated by ESWN. It contains, I think, the best explanation and defense of free speech rights that I’ve read in a long time (and that goes for you – US first amendment scholars). Highly recommended.
  • Forbes has a concise primer on why – despite all of the “China owns the US” talk that has fluttered around the run-up in US government debt – China doesn’t really own the US.  The US does: American citizens are still the largest holders of US debt, by far.
  • Jeremiah Jenne of the Granite Studio reminds us that there’s nothing new under the sun, and that the nifty “Nine Nations of China” map over at the Atlantic has a wonky 1977 predecessor: “The Nine Macroregions of China.” Jenne writes: “Originality aside, the basic idea behind both maps is an important one to bear in mind when looking at China.  We tend to fixate on political boundaries, even when those boundaries and borders are drawn more for administrative convenience or for other, even more arbitrary, reasons.” [UDATED: Patrick Chovanec, author of the aforementioned “Nine Nations of China” map responds to Jeremiah Jenne, here, and he comments on his own blog about the intellectual antecedents of the map, here. For the record: I believe Chovanec had an obligation to cite his antecedents, if only via a link (that wouldn’t add length to the piece). I’ll leave it at that, and suggest that readers take a look at comment #1, by Jeremy Goldkorn, to Chovanec’s post. My thoughts precisely.]
  • Shanghaiist reminds us that the US pavilion for Expo 2010 still hasn’t raised its budget, and that forced Hillary Clinton to include a fundraising pitch in her comments at the rainy, muddy site on Monday (right about the time that President Obama was telling a group of students that he’d have to check his schedule when they asked whether he’d be attending). To an extent, this shouldn’t be surprising: The US pavilion suffers from a design so uninspiring (think: outlet mall) that it might be the only one that the Shanghai authorities haven’t plastered to a subway wall, multiple ethics and conflict-of-interest questions, and a fundraising team that’s deeply unpopular in Shanghai’s expat business circles. Here’s a question: at what point will (or has it already?) the State Department lift restrictions on pavilion fundraising from companies on its “black list? (for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other matters)?” More on this soon.
  • And finally, Jon Huntsman, the new US ambassador to China, has earned a permanent  place in my heart for speaking truth to pow – I mean, the self-proclaimed China experts (you know who you are):  “… those who consider themselves to be China experts are kind of morons. So you take what you can, you learn what you can, and you begin to pull all the pieces together, and still it kind of remains sometimes a somewhat confused environment.” That’s right.

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Above, an image snapped of an impromptu lunch hour card game played by workers at a Qingyuan factory a couple of weeks ago. No reason – except that I like it. Click to enlarge … and I’ll be back in a few days.