Asia


Mozambique’s new energy reserves may not be pretty or clean, but they have two advantages that trump everything else: they are lucrative, and, unlike the unicorns that the global climate movement insists will descend from the Misty Mountains any minute and solve all our problems while saving us money, they are real.

Walter Russel Meed, Via Meadia

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Adapting one’s product and advertising to the local culture is a key strategies for entering new global markets.

The Israeli arms firm Rafael takes the show to Bollywood with this marketing video shown at Aero India 2009 held recently in Bangalore.

Attractive women and flower festooned Spike-ER anti-tank missiles, an effective combination, I’d say.

I have a hard time understanding some Republicans.  The same people who don’t trust the government to do, well, anything somehow find it perfectly acceptable for that the same government to lock people up and throw away the key (no trial, no due process) as long as those people are “terrorists.”  Because that isn’t a system susceptible to abuse.

WASHINGTON [08 Oct 2008]—An appeals court in the U.S. capital has blocked a lower-court order to release 17 ethnic Uyghur detainees held at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay camp without charge since 2001.

The ruling Wednesday, by the U.S. Appeals Court here, temporarily freezes an order earlier this week by a federal judge who said the Bush administration was wrong to keep holding the men because it lacked evidence against them.

The men, all members of the Muslim Uyghur minority concentrated in China’s northwesternmost region, Xinjiang, were cleared for release in 2004 but could face persecution if they are repatriated to China, according to U.S. officials and human rights groups.

If you missed it, these men were cleared for release four years ago, but they are still in custody.

And, just in case you thought you needn’t worry because you’re an American citizen and not part of some Chinese ethnic minority whose name you can’t pronounce.

The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, the state police chief acknowledged yesterday.

. . .

[Police Superintendent] Sheridan said protest groups were also entered as terrorist organizations in the databases, but his staff has not identified which ones.

. . .

“I don’t believe the First Amendment is any guarantee to those who wish to disrupt the government,” he said.

There was “no evidence whatsoever of any involvement in violent crime” by those classified as terrorists.  I think we have been stretching the definition of terrorist for some time, but now, apparently, protesting the Iraq war or the death penalty is enough to get you labeled with the “T” word.

You’re probably still OK though.  These were “fringe people,” and you’re not a “fringe person” are you?

[An audio recording of the oral arguments in the Supreme Court case, Boumediene v. Bush, is available for download at the Oyez Project or on iTunes.]

In One Man Caravan, Robert Edison Fulton, Jr., heir to the Mack Truck fortune, recounts his rather spontaneous round-the-world motorcycle journey, undertaken solo in 1932-33 on a Douglas twin.  Fulton’s narrative is insightful and relevant, while maintaining the eclectic, rambling flavor of a good travelogue and generally avoiding the monotony of a bad one.  I would definitely recommend it.

Fulton’s journey takes him through lands very much in our minds today, recovering in a Baghdad hospital, camping with the British Army in Waziristan, and trekking into a hostile Afghanistan.

On Afghanistan (pp. 169-70):

    When the star of Afghanistan first rose on my horizon, little did I realize what a large and truly important part it has played in world affairs.  Even as the present name implies, the country is the “place of the Afghan.”  Wild nomadic tribes made it their stamping ground at the dawn of history, each stamping on the other, fighting for existence.
    Alexander of Macedonia; Timur, the lame Tartar of Smarkand; Mahmud of Ghazni; Nadir Shah, the Persian–all came and saw and conquered; exacting a vague submission from the Afghans.  But the tribes bowed down only until the current conqueror’s death.  Then they would be free again until the next conqueror came along.  They knew no law in their allegiance, and became masters at straddling the proverbial fence.

I think we can add Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States to the list.

From a discussion with a bazaari in Baghdad (p. 74):

    “No, but I have been to England,” he explained.  “I have read much about America.  A very fine land.”
. . .
    “Someday, someday we too shall have a country like yours, but we have far to go; very far, many centuries.  Things move slowly with us here in the East.  We have our customs and formalities and, do not misunderstand me, our ideas of what is right and wrong are very different from yours.”

I also think Fulton’s description of pre World War II Japan is important.  On many occasions, I have commented about the Bush administration’s arrogance in thinking that we would be able to wipe the Iraqi slate clean and build a functioning liberal democracy from nothing, especially given our track record at nation building.  Inevitably, someone mentions Japan as an example of success.  But, Fulton’s account of Japan shows the fallacy of this argument.  Pre-war Japan seems nothing like the Iraq of then or now.

On Japanese infrastructure (p. 260):

On other roads, other muscles had ached, but the roads of Japan, from Nagasaki to Tokyo, were a dream and for one who had spent many months on practically no roads at all, Japan was a bit of heaven’s highway.  Dirt or paved, they were well-marked and kept in tip-top condition.

On the press (p. 264):

    “Where did you learn all this?” I asked.
    “We read it in our newspaper!”  They were surpised that I did not know.  The Japanese, even more so than the Americans, are a nation of newspaper readers, their principle papers having a daily circulation running into the millions.

Fulton’s account of Japan is an anecdotal travelogue, not an intelligence briefing or a policy whitepaper, but he shows us a picture of a society and culture far removed from Sadam’s Iraq.

Professor Don Boudreaux of George Mason University has an excellent post about exchange rates and politics over at Cafe Hayek.  He makes an eloquent argument about the implausibilities and inefficiencies of currency manipulation that I couldn’t improve upon.

However, I am reminded of the discussions I had with my International Law professor.  He was convinced that China is actively and successfully strengthening the Yuan against the dollar by buying U.S. bonds and that the resulting trade deficit is disastrous for the U.S.  After he raised the issue for the forty-third time, I pointed out that if the Chinese government was in fact propping-up the Yuan, the end result would be a transfer of wealth from poor Chinese to wealthy Americans.  And why, I asked, would Americans think this was a bad thing?  His response was essentially, “Well the Chinese aren’t stupid, are they?”

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a witty response to complete this anecdote, but I have given some thought to the issue.  I think the correct response may well be, “No, Chinese politicians are not stupid, but they are beholden to special interests just like American politicians.

It is striking to me that we ascribe such a superior level of knowledge, wisdom and focus to foreign leaders.  The near hero worship of Soviet leaders during the Cold War by some, especially among the academy, is one example.  Then, during the ’70s and ’80s others imagined a concerted effort by the Japanese to conquer America economically.  People never saw individual Japanese companies competently competing in a global market place.  Rather, we were afraid of “the Japanese” invasion.

We see U.S. politicians enacting measures that benefit politically connected minorities at the expense of the majority of Americans, but we don’t assume a visionary effort to dominate the world sugar market.  Why then do we assume that Chinese politicians are so much more strategic?  Every government must appease a certain constituency in order to stay in power, even nondemocratic governments.  If we assume that the Chinese are successfully manipulating the currency market, isn’t it more logical to assume that the goal is to appease a powerful domestic manufacturing lobby?  The alternative is to assume that China plans to dominate the West by giving away its wealth.

Note:  Brad Delong sees the deficit as the result of U.S. exports of international liquidity and wealth preservation services, and Tyler Cowen notes that revaluation of the Yuan would likely have negligible effect.

Working in patent law, I somehow got on the mailing list for Intellectual Property Today.  In the back of the magazine each month is a Classified Services section.  This section contains, among other things, classified ads for Positions Available and Situations Wanted.  Typically, the Situations Wanted section includes ads from practitioners looking for overflow/contract work or patent search work, but the December issue had an ad that caught my eye.

US/China Position

Attorney with 12+ years experience as Corporate Legal/IP (primarily biotech & pharma) Counsel, seeking position with U.S. company having operations in China (or vice-versa).  Initially relocate to China to intensively learn Chinese language, business customs and operations; and then travel to China on as needed basis.  Email: (removed)

I guess there is something to be said for knowing what you want and going after it, and he plans not just to learn Chinese but to learn it intensively.