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Information Processing: Beijing 2019 Notes
Trump, the trade war, and US-China relations came up frequently in discussion. Chinese opinion tends to focus on the long term. Our driver for a day trip to the Great Wall was an older man from the countryside, who has lived only 3 years in Beijing. I was surprised to hear him expressing a very balanced opinion about the situation. He understood Trump's position remarkably well -- China has done very well trading with the US, and owes much of its technological and scientific development to the West. A recalibration is in order, and it is natural for Trump to negotiate in the interest of US workers.

China's economy is less and less export-dependent, and domestic drivers of growth seem easy to identify. For example, there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit in the form of "catch up growth" -- but now this means not just catching up with the outside developed world, but Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities catching up with Tier 1 cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc.

China watchers have noted the rapidly increasing government and private sector debt necessary to drive growth here. Perhaps this portends a future crisis. However, I didn't get any sense of impending doom for the Chinese economy. To be fair there was very little inkling of what would happen to the US economy in 2007-8. Some of the people I met with are highly placed with special knowledge -- they are among the most likely to be aware of problems. Overall I had the impression of normalcy and quiet confidence, but perhaps this would have been different in an export/manufacturing hub like Shenzhen. [ Update: Today after posting this I did hear something about economic concerns... So situation is unclear. ]

Innovation is everywhere here. Perhaps the most obvious is the high level of convenience from the use of e-payment and delivery services. You can pay for everything using your mobile (increasingly, using just your face!), and you can have food and other items (think Amazon on steroids) delivered quickly to your apartment. Even museum admissions can be handled via QR code.

A highly placed technologist told me that in fields like AI or computer science, Chinese researchers and engineers have access to in-depth local discussions of important arXiv papers -- think StackOverflow in Mandarin. Since most researchers here can read English, they have access both to Western advances, and a Chinese language reservoir of knowledge and analysis. He anticipates that eventually the pace and depth of engineering implementation here will be unequaled.

IVF and genetic testing are huge businesses in China. Perhaps I'll comment more on this in the future. New technologies, in genomics as in other areas, tend to be received more positively here than in the US and Europe.

...

Note Added: In the comments AG points to a Quora post by a user called Janus Dongye Qimeng, an AI researcher in Cambridge UK, who seems to be a real China expert. I found these posts to be very interesting.

Infrastructure development in poor regions of China

Size of Chinese internet social network platforms

Can the US derail China 2025? (Core technology stacks in and outside China)

Huawei smartphone technology stack and impact of US entity list interdiction (software and hardware!)

Agriculture at Massive Scale

US-China AI competition

More recommenations: Bruno Maçães is one of my favorite modern geopolitical thinkers. A Straussian of sorts (PhD under Harvey Mansfield at Harvard), he was Secretary of State for European Affairs in Portugal, and has thought deeply about the future of Eurasia and of US-China relations. He spent the last year in Beijing and I was eager to meet with him while here. His recent essay Equilibrium Americanum appeared in the Berlin Policy Journal. Podcast interview -- we hope to have him on Manifold soon :-)
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july 2019 by nhaliday
Donald Trump has ushered in a new global order. Here’s how Canada can protect itself -
JANUARY 21, 2019 |The Globe and Mail | COLIN ROBERTSON.
SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
PUBLISHED 21 HOURS AGO
UPDATED
Colin Robertson is vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
building_codes  bullying  Canada  climate_change  maritime  multilateralism  new_normal  post-WWII  rogue_actors  rules-based  Thucydides  Donald_Trump  international_system  self-protection 
january 2019 by jerryking
What Thucydides Knew About the US Today | by Edward Mendelson | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
Historians argue among themselves whether Thucydides is a moralizing philosopher or, in a common phrase, “the first scientific historian.” What is radical about him, and gives him his unerring clear-sightedness, is that he is both. He understands morals, not as a set of arbitrary rules imposed or wished upon reality, but part of the fabric of reality itself, in the same way that Greek philosophy had begun to understand physical laws as inseparable from reality. Thucydides came to the same insight that Ludwig Wittgenstein recorded centuries later when he wrote that ethics “must be a condition of the world like logic.”

In Thucydides’s morally coherent universe, moral action is also, inevitably, practical action, and immoral action is inevitably impractical, no matter how insistently short-sighted strategists pretend that it isn’t. He records a debate over capital punishment between Cleon, who was “remarkable among the Athenians for the violence of his character,” and the sober-minded Diodotus. Cleon wanted Athens to kill the captives it defeated in rebellious Mytilene. An empire, Cleon said, rules by fear; it must never be moved by pity. Diodotus responded by urging clemency, but insisted that he urged this choice not because it was the moral one, but because it seemed to him “the best thing for the state.” If Athens killed its captives, he said, cities that rebel in the future would have no motive to surrender, and Athens would waste its resources defeating opponents whose only practical choice was to fight to the death. If, however, Athens spared the defeated, they might even find reason to become its allies. After the debate, Athens for once made the moral and practical choice to spare the Mytilenians, though the vote was close—only for Athens, years later, to make its immoral and impractical choice to conquer Sicily
Thucydides  populism 
october 2018 by lukemperez
A Historian For Our Time - The Atlantic
Thucydides may have been the more trustworthy historian, but Herodotus would have been more fun to share a wineskin with—and is a better guide to the god-filled geopolitics of the current era.
strategy  Herodotus  Thucydides 
april 2018 by darnton
Christianity in China | Council on Foreign Relations
projected to outpace CCP membership soon

This fascinating map shows the new religious breakdown in China: http://www.businessinsider.com/new-religious-breakdown-in-china-14

Map Showing the Distribution of Christians in China: http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Oct/18/map-showing-distribution-christians-china/

Christianity in China: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_China
Accurate data on Chinese Christians is hard to access. According to the most recent internal surveys there are approximately 31 million Christians in China today (2.3% of the total population).[5] On the other hand, some international Christian organizations estimate there are tens of millions more, which choose not to publicly identify as such.[6] The practice of religion continues to be tightly controlled by government authorities.[7] Chinese over the age of 18 are only permitted to join officially sanctioned Christian groups registered with the government-approved Protestant Three-Self Church and China Christian Council and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church.[8]

In Xi we trust - Is China cracking down on Christianity?: http://www.dw.com/en/in-xi-we-trust-is-china-cracking-down-on-christianity/a-42224752A

In China, Unregistered Churches Are Driving a Religious Revolution: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/china-unregistered-churches-driving-religious-revolution/521544/

Cracks in the atheist edifice: https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21629218-rapid-spread-christianity-forcing-official-rethink-religion-cracks

Jesus won’t save you — President Xi Jinping will, Chinese Christians told: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/11/14/jesus-wont-save-you-president-xi-jinping-will-chinese-christians-told/

http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1001611/noodles-for-the-messiah-chinas-creative-christian-hymns

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-china-exclusive/exclusive-china-vatican-deal-on-bishops-ready-for-signing-source-idUSKBN1FL67U
Catholics in China are split between those in “underground” communities that recognize the pope and those belonging to a state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association where bishops are appointed by the government in collaboration with local Church communities.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-42914029
The underground churches recognise only the Vatican's authority, whereas the Chinese state churches refuse to accept the authority of the Pope.

There are currently about 100 Catholic bishops in China, with some approved by Beijing, some approved by the Vatican and, informally, many now approved by both.

...

Under the agreement, the Vatican would be given a say in the appointment of future bishops in China, a Vatican source told news agency Reuters.

For Beijing, an agreement with the Vatican could allow them more control over the country's underground churches.

Globally, it would also enhance China's prestige - to have the world's rising superpower engaging with one of the world's major religions.

Symbolically, it would the first sign of rapprochement between China and the Catholic church in more than half a century.

The Vatican is the only European state that maintains formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It is currently unclear if an agreement between China and the Vatican would affect this in any way.

What will this mean for the country's Catholics?

There are currently around 10 million Roman Catholics in China.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/china-vatican-deal-on-bishops-reportedly-ready-for-signing/2018/02/01/2adfc6b2-0786-11e8-b48c-b07fea957bd5_story.html

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2018/02/06/china-is-the-best-implementer-of-catholic-social-doctrine-says-vatican-bishop/
The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences praised the 'extraordinary' Communist state

“Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese,” a senior Vatican official has said.

Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, praised the Communist state as “extraordinary”, saying: “You do not have shantytowns, you do not have drugs, young people do not take drugs”. Instead, there is a “positive national conscience”.

The bishop told the Spanish-language edition of Vatican Insider that in China “the economy does not dominate politics, as happens in the United States, something Americans themselves would say.”

Bishop Sánchez Sorondo said that China was implementing Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ better than many other countries and praised it for defending Paris Climate Accord. “In that, it is assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned”, he added.

...

As part of the diplomacy efforts, Bishop Sánchez Sorondo visited the country. “What I found was an extraordinary China,” he said. “What people don’t realise is that the central value in China is work, work, work. There’s no other way, fundamentally it is like St Paul said: he who doesn’t work, doesn’t eat.”

China reveals plan to remove ‘foreign influence’ from Catholic Church: http://catholicherald.co.uk/news/2018/06/02/china-reveals-plan-to-remove-foreign-influence-from-catholic-church1/

China, A Fourth Rome?: http://thermidormag.com/china-a-fourth-rome/
As a Chinaman born in the United States, I find myself able to speak to both places and neither. By accidents of fortune, however – or of providence, rather – I have identified more with China even as I have lived my whole life in the West. English is my third language, after Cantonese and Mandarin, even if I use it to express my intellectually most complex thoughts; and though my best of the three in writing, trained by the use of Latin, it is the vehicle of a Chinese soul. So it is in English that for the past year I have memed an idea as unconventional as it is ambitious, unto the Europæans a stumbling-block, and unto the Chinese foolishness: #China4thRome.

This idea I do not attempt to defend rigorously, between various powers’ conflicting claims to carrying on the Roman heritage; neither do I intend to claim that Moscow, which has seen itself as a Third Rome after the original Rome and then Constantinople, is fallen. Instead, I think back to the division of the Roman empire, first under Diocletian’s Tetrarchy and then at the death of Theodosius I, the last ruler of the undivided Roman empire. In the second partition, at the death of Theodosius, Arcadius became emperor of the East, with his capital in Constantinople, and Honorius emperor of the West, with his capital in Milan and then Ravenna. That the Roman empire did not stay uniformly strong under a plurality of emperors is not the point. What is significant about the administrative division of the Roman empire among several emperors is that the idea of Rome can be one even while its administration is diverse.

By divine providence, the Christian religion – and through it, Rome – has spread even through the bourgeois imperialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Across the world, the civil calendar of common use is that of Rome, reckoned from 1 January; few places has Roman law left wholly untouched. Nevertheless, never have we observed in the world of Roman culture an ethnogenetic pattern like that of the Chinese empire as described by the prologue of Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義: ‘The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.’1 According to classical Chinese cosmology, the phrase rendered the empire is more literally all under heaven 天下, the Chinese œcumene being its ‘all under heaven’ much as a Persian proverb speaks of the old Persian capital of Isfahan: ‘Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast,’ Isfahan is half the world. As sociologist Fei Xiaotong describes it in his 1988 Tanner Lecture ‘Plurality and Unity in the Configuration of the Chinese People’,

...

And this Chinese œcumene has united and divided for centuries, even as those who live in it have recognized a fundamental unity. But Rome, unlike the Chinese empire, has lived on in multiple successor polities, sometimes several at once, without ever coming back together as one empire administered as one. Perhaps something of its character has instead uniquely suited it to being the spirit of a kind of broader world empire. As Dante says in De Monarchia, ‘As the human race, then, has an end, and this end is a means necessary to the universal end of nature, it follows that nature must have the means in view.’ He continues,

If these things are true, there is no doubt but that nature set apart in the world a place and a people for universal sovereignty; otherwise she would be deficient in herself, which is impossible. What was this place, and who this people, moreover, is sufficiently obvious in what has been said above, and in what shall be added further on. They were Rome and her citizens or people. On this subject our Poet [Vergil] has touched very subtly in his sixth book [of the Æneid], where he brings forward Anchises prophesying in these words to Aeneas, father of the Romans: ‘Verily, that others shall beat out the breathing bronze more finely, I grant you; they shall carve the living feature in the marble, plead causes with more eloquence, and trace the movements of the heavens with a rod, and name the rising stars: thine, O Roman, be the care to rule the peoples with authority; be thy arts these, to teach men the way of peace, to show mercy to the subject, and to overcome the proud.’ And the disposition of place he touches upon lightly in the fourth book, when he introduces Jupiter speaking of Aeneas to Mercury in this fashion: ‘Not such a one did his most beautiful mother promise to us, nor for this twice rescue him from Grecian arms; rather was he to be the man to govern Italy teeming with empire and tumultuous with war.’ Proof enough has been given that the Romans were by nature ordained for sovereignty. Therefore the Roman … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Remarks on the Decline of American Empire
1. US foreign policy over the last decades has been disastrous -- trillions of dollars and thousands of lives expended on Middle Eastern wars, culminating in utter defeat. This defeat is still not acknowledged among most of the media or what passes for intelligentsia in academia and policy circles, but defeat it is. Iran now exerts significant control over Iraq and a swath of land running from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. None of the goals of our costly intervention have been achieved. We are exhausted morally, financially, and militarily, and still have not fully extricated ourselves from a useless morass. George W. Bush should go down in history as the worst US President of the modern era.

2. We are fortunate that the fracking revolution may lead to US independence from Middle Eastern energy. But policy elites have to fully recognize this possibility and pivot our strategy to reflect the decreased importance of the region. The fracking revolution is a consequence of basic research from decades ago (including investment from the Department of Energy) and the work of private sector innovators and risk-takers.

3. US budget deficits are a ticking time bomb, which cripple investment in basic infrastructure and also in research that creates strategically important new technologies like AI. US research spending has been roughly flat in inflation adjusted dollars over the last 20 years, declining as a fraction of GDP.

4. Divisive identity politics and demographic trends in the US will continue to undermine political cohesion and overall effectiveness of our institutions. ("Civilizational decline," as one leading theoretical physicist observed to me recently, remarking on our current inability to take on big science projects.)

5. The Chinese have almost entirely closed the technology gap with the West, and dominate important areas of manufacturing. It seems very likely that their economy will eventually become significantly larger than the US economy. This is the world that strategists have to prepare for. Wars involving religious fanatics in unimportant regions of the world should not distract us from a possible future conflict with a peer competitor that threatens to match or exceed our economic, technological, and even military capability.

However, I'm not sure that OBOR (One Belt One Road) and a focus on the "world island" of Eurasia will be a winning strategy for China. Mackinder's dream of a unified or even fully economically integrated world island will have to overcome the limitations (in human capital, institutions, culture, etc.) of the under-developed middle...

The belt-and-road express: China faces resistance to a cherished theme of its foreign policy: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21721678-silk-routes-are-not-always-appealing-they-sound-china-faces-resistance-cherished-theme

The staggering scale of China's Belt and Road initiative: https://www.axios.com/staggering-scale-china-infrastructure-142f3b1d-82b5-47b8-8ca9-57beb306f7df.html
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Richard Ned Lebow - Thucydides the Constructivist (2001) | American Political Science Review on JSTOR
The most superficial level of Thucydides' history examines the destructive consequences of domestic and foreign policies framed outside the language of justice. His deeper political-philosophical aim was to explore the relationship between nomos (convention) and phusis (nature) and its implications for civilization. Thucydides concludes that nomos constructs identities and channels and restrains the behavior of individuals and societies. Speech and reason (logos) in turn make nomos possible because all conventions depend on shared meanings. The feedback loop between logoi (words) and ergoi (deeds) created Greek civilization but also the international and civil strife (stasis) associated with the Peloponnesian War. International security and civil order depend upon recovering the meanings of words and the conventions they enable. Thucydides should properly be considered a constructivist. -- Downloaded via iphone
ancient_Greece  article  constructivism  Thucydides  IR_theory  downloaded  ancient_history 
july 2017 by dunnettreader
The good, the bad and the ugly aspects of Thucydides in the Trump administration
deja vu ... "This is hardly the first time a White House has discovered the history of the Peloponnesian War. The reason this text is used so much in international relations courses is because some aspects of the war between Athens and Sparta usually resonates with current foreign policy dilemmas. Of course, the problem is that sometimes readers take away the wrong lessons from the text."
intlrel  thucydides  peloponnesian-war 
june 2017 by arsyed
SPIEGEL Interview with Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew: "It's Stupid to be Afraid" - SPIEGEL ONLINE
SPIEGEL: How so?

Mr. Lee: The social contract that led to workers sitting on the boards of companies and everybody being happy rested on this condition: I work hard, I restore Germany's prosperity, and you, the state, you have to look after me. I'm entitled to go to Baden Baden for spa recuperation one month every year. This old system was gone in the blink of an eye when two to three billion people joined the race -- one billion in China, one billion in India and over half-a-billion in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

SPIEGEL: The question is: How do you answer that challenge?

Mr. Lee: Chancellor Kohl tried to do it. He did it halfway then he had to pause. Schroeder tried to do it, now he's in a jam and has called an election. Merkel will go in and push, then she will get hammered before she can finish the job, but each time, they will push the restructuring a bit forward.

SPIEGEL: You think it's too slow?

Mr. Lee: It is painful because it is so slow. If your workers were rational they would say, yes, this is going to happen anyway, let's do the necessary things in one go. Instead of one month at the spa, take one week at the spa, work harder and longer for the same pay, compete with the East Europeans, invent in new technology, put more money into your R&D, keep ahead of the Chinese and the Indians.

...

SPIEGEL: During your career, you have kept your distance from Western style democracy. Are you still convinced that an authoritarian system is the future for Asia?

Mr. Lee: Why should I be against democracy? The British came here, never gave me democracy, except when they were about to leave. But I cannot run my system based on their rules. I have to amend it to fit my people's position. In multiracial societies, you don't vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion. Supposing I'd run their system here, Malays would vote for Muslims, Indians would vote for Indians, Chinese would vote for Chinese. I would have a constant clash in my Parliament which cannot be resolved because the Chinese majority would always overrule them. So I found a formula that changes that...
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june 2017 by nhaliday

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