Readings from the Waiting Room

I’m out on a long reporting trip right now – which means that I get to spend extended periods of time waiting in hotel rooms for people to call and say that I can come and see them, now. Hard to do much in that situation but read bite-sized blog candy, and that’s what I’ve been doing. So, a few of the things that I’ve enjoyed these last few days:

  • Ever wonder what happens when police officers with little to no training in the firing of weapons, much less in hunting, get to do both? The mighty China Smack provides some insights with this magnificent account of a sort-of boar hunt. I know the US is falling behind China in just about everything these days, but I feel quite confident that an American police officer – especially one from a region where hunting is popular – would have required fewer than 13 shots to prepare the roast.
  • I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Amy Chua mania. I had my say (on the book, no less), and others have had theirs. But I think no response has been quite so apt as Christine H. Tan’s satire, Why Chinese Girlfriends Are Superior. Tan’s post, like Chua’s, has become something of a phenomenon, racking up some 50,000 visits in one recent 12 hour period (my sourcing is impeccable, trust me). It is, indisputably the most popular English-language post in the China blogsphere in some time.
  • Of the so-called news that came out of Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States, nothing struck me as quite so dispiriting as the accounts of American members of Congress whining to the Chinese leader, in a private meeting, about all of the bad things that he’s been doing to them lately. And the best account of that sorry episode comes from the LA Times. Why US congressional leaders would want to present themselves to the Chinese leader as a bunch of complaining supplicants escapes me entirely. I sincerely hope it has nothing to do with John Boehner’s claim that the United States “has a responsibility” to hold “China to account. He may believe that but, problem is, Hu Jintao probably doesn’t.

Relevant to nothing here, but worth posting: 3 AM at an ice cold Chinese scrap yard …

  • And just what are we to think of a summit that was all symbol but for whatever was happening behind closed doors? I think Forbes’s Gady Epstein summarizes the event’s important/non-importance better than anyone. Nothing more need/could be said.
  • Via Bill Bishop’s (@niubi) must-subscribe twitter feed, I read this very important, well-reported article from Caixin on the rapid re-nationalization of steel mills in China’s Hebei Province. In a sense, this not a new story: I’ve been reporting on it for the raw materials trade for five years now. Basically, China’s steel industry regulators have spent that much time publicly stating that they don’t want a steel industry comprised of many small, privately-held companies that compete fiercely against each other. Rather, they want a steel industry comprised of industry behemoths that compete abroad, but not with each other. Lots of whispers about who benefits from such an arrangement, but the regulators suggest that it’s not about money, but rather bringing order to the industry and – this is probably true – some regulation in the environmental area. A few behemoths are easier to regulate than a bunch of wild-catters. Not that I’m defending anything here.
  • On principle (ie, probably not rational), I’ve never been a big fan of publicly-funded journalism. But Lee Bollinger’s interesting essay for FP on the global threat to press freedom, made me think twice. Specifically, this passage: “It is understandable that those of us who have grown up with an unmatched level of freedom may believe that censorship in other countries is morally wrong, but does not directly affect us as citizens in a democracy. But the fact is that globalization and new technology — two of the defining developments of this era — have fundamentally blurred the distinction between us and the rest of the world when it comes to free speech and free press.”
  • I get the strong sense that much of the media – or, at least, the media I follow – has lost interest in Cablegate ala Wikileaks. That’s a pity because – despite the problems with many of these cables as journalistic devices – there’s still some great material being dribbled out (though I wish somebody could explain why the vast majority of cable are still originating from Brasilia). Anyway, of these cables, I found a February 2010 cable from the embassy in Jakarta, to be particularly fascinating. In it, an FSO with near childlike enthusiasm “requests $100,000 immediately in order to reach a goal of 1 million Facebook fans in just 30 days.” On the one hand, I’m thrilled to see this kind of public diplomacy happening  (public diplomacy matters!); on the other hand, this cable stinks of somebody wanting to spend someone else’s money, profligately. One blogger’s opinion.
  • And finally, via Virginia Postrel, Ladies Home Journal, circa 1900, earnestly predicts what the year 2000 will look like: “Oranges will grow in Philadelphia. Fast-flying refrigerators on land and sea will bring delicious fruits from the tropics and southern temperate zone within a few days. The farmers of South America, South Africa, Australia and the South Sea Islands, whose seasons are directly opposite to ours, will thus supply us in winter with fresh summer foods, which cannot be grown here.” A great, great read. [UPDATE: And here, via Paleofuture, is a facsimile of the article as it ran in LHJ.]