Modernizing Chinese villages or a robbery?

In the name of “socialist new village” movement, China’s provinces, such as Jiangsu, have been confiscating peasants’ houses and lands without giving them reasonable compensation since 2006. In these provinces, peasants were mandated to move to the concentrated residence, assigned a unit of the government-built apartment building, and given a pathetic amount of monthly stipend in exchange of their old houses, lands and traditional life style.

Many peasants refused to leave their homes. The local governments, in return, played all kinds of dirty tricks on them. Mr. Chou Lin, for example, experienced man-made black-outs, water supply cut off, and noisy fireworks outside of his window during night, because he rejected the government’s notice to move. Mrs. Jin, a 60 year-old lady from Nantong, was beaten up by the gangsters hired by a government-supported developer, and they broke her ribs.

For those who moved the “concentrated residence,” they were disappointed. Mrs. Zhao Meilan, a homeowner of a 200-square-meter house and a 0.4 acre land, was reallocated to a transitional apartment less than half the size of her old house. She was given a 25$ monthly stipend, which covered less than a fraction of her living expenses.

Here is more.

A Chinese blogger uploaded detailed descriptions and photos on some cases. Please see here.

Life or death test for Chinese developers?

媒体近来风传未来100天是房地产企业的生死考验。传言的源头是一家房地产企业大亨,他认为“现在中国国内是从紧的货币政策,国际资本市场这条路又被堵死了,”而房地产企业一向靠“股市融资、圈地,再融资、再圈地……”这样左手圈钱、右手圈地的“把戏”赚钱,一旦资金不足,必定有公司倒闭。

今天传来华程房产顺利融资的消息,似乎表明了这个预测的失败。如果预测者不是有意误导大众的话(不排除其为达到商业目的而利用媒体炒作),那么他首先低估了全球化时代海外金融市场对中国经济的敏感度,其次高估了中国金融监管的力度,再次看错了监管者要达到的目标。 海外金融市场对中国市场的利润增长点有清晰的认识,既然为房产业目前是最赚钱的行业,为房产企业提供融资可以分享其利润,它当然不会错过机会。中国金融监管当下致力于收紧银根,但力度只及于国内银行,还不致完全掐断房产业的融资。监管者的目标是避免国内银行继续介入房产业导致房产泡沫,而不是强制目前的房产业洗牌。

当然,失败不表明预测者的不明就里。相反,只有精通行内规则、了解中国金融监管的明白人,才能做得出这样的判断。事实上,中国金融监管确实有能力让整个房产业重新洗牌。一旦收紧银根,恒大等房产企业巨幅扩张的脚步立即停顿,资金数日不畅就会立即罹于破产。而此前,由于国内银行对地产的贷款不限量,房产企业可以凭空造出巨大财富–国内可不止碧桂园一家走出了世界级的亿万富翁。

中国国家权力对财富分配的决定性影响,在房产业表露无遗。

附:有关华程房产

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China: a New “Peaceful Transformation” agent for less democratic countries?

Recently China’s economic diplomacy has caused much criticism from the international community. While rich democratic countries emphasize human rights and environmental standards when they pursue their development agendas in Africa, the Middle East, etc., China is viewed to be taking a strategy that focuses primarily on trade, investment and infrastructure without any concern for human rights. Consequently, China’s bids earn favor, far exceeding those of the West. Seeing this happening, politicians from the US figure that China’s approach may be more appealing to the elite in less democratic countries, and they have launched a campaign of criticizing China’s economic diplomacy.

For readers who have some knowledge of American diplomatic policy, they should not be surprised by China’s economic diplomacy at all. It is actually very similar to the strategy that the Reagan administration took in the 1980s. Reagan, in the heyday of communism, believed that the communist countries would all be transformed to capitalism democracy if they were involved in world capitalist economic system. Reagan believed that despite the bad human right records, when the economies developed, their inclination towards democracy would grow, and ultimately lead to regime change. Reagan therefore promoted trade and developing aid in those countries–hence the famous “peaceful transformation” strategy was formed. Regan’s diplomacy succeeded. The year 1989 saw his predictions realized.

Now, if Regan had used a similar policy which seemed successful, why should China’s policy be criticized so much? Shouldn’t China be viewed as a new “peaceful transformation” agent? After all, if economic development would lead to democracy, does it matter whether the Western countries or China push for development?

Of course US politicians nowadays are not following this reasoning. They have rejected Regan’s strategy and rationale. “Peaceful transformation” seems too good to be true, particularly after seeing the non-democratic China’s rise in recent years. A typical challenge to Regan’s rationale is given by James Mann, former LA Times Beijing Bureau Chief and a distinguished China researcher.

In his recent book The China Fantasy, Mann challenges the conventional wisdom that has guided American policy toward China, which is with increasing prosperity and with the arrival of McDonald’s and Starbucks, China will move inevitably toward political liberalization and democracy. While this view is taken by many people, there is also a set of warnings flashing around, indicating that China is more fragile than it seems to the extent that it could collapse into chaos any time. The two drastically different understandings, however, only lead to the same consequence: in political speeches and in mass media, China is given less and less critical observation, and critics of China’s human rights abuses become less outspoken. The reason is simple—if it is the former, there is no point to make troubles for the US by criticizing Chinese government, given China will naturally be transformed to democracy; if it is the latter case, it will only hurt the US before the Communism actually collapse.

To Mann, this misleading strategy towards China has relieved outside pressure to China and helped it to grow without caring about human rights. The faults lie in the US and other Western courntries’ side. The American political elites—aided and abetted by big business, the media and think tanks—have misguided the public. Mann brings out an alternative understanding. What if there is a third alternative between the rise of democracy and the collapse of China’s political order? What would it mean for the United States—and, indeed, the world—if 20 or 30 years from now China becomes much richer and more powerful while still maintaining an authoritarian state and bad human right record? Mann thinks that scenario highly likely. The position of Mann’s towards China has influenced Washington DC politicians increasingly, whom now naturally care more about political reform and human rights in development–even to the extent that they set them as preconditions for any development aid. In other words, Regan’s “peaceful transformation” strategy has been abandoned.

Now that “peaceful transformation” strategy lost its market, politicians of course would not view China’s efforts as something inherently good. Their opinion is lowered when the US economic interests are in conflict with such efforts. Most obviously, when China set out to secure oil supply, the US politicians feel threatened, most of whom therefore change to an even more critical position.

美国2008大选观察(六):三一教会:奥巴马的牧师莱特所在教会

纽约客最近发表一篇长文介绍了奥巴马参加二十余年的三一教堂,就是在这里,莱特牧师发表了引起轩然大波的“反美”布道。该文详述了成为美国全国关注中心之后三一教会复活节的系列讲道。三一教会的举动表明,莱特牧师在该教会影响深远并广受尊重,该教会的系列讲道也力图澄清媒体对莱特牧师讲道的误解–如果不算是有意扭曲的话。

Obama, Wright

“Thank you for engaging in one of the biggest misrepresentations of the truth I have ever seen in sixty-five years,”莱特牧师在后来发表的声明的开头写道。种族问题是美国长久以来一直面对的根本问题之一,奥巴马在费城的演讲前所未有地在政治领域触及该话题。这也许才是这次选举真正不同寻常之处。

Regulating Multi-national Companies

China’s Anti-trust Law is going to take effect in August 1st. Recently there have been quite a few articles discussing its implications on multi-national companies in China. Media in the US have been speculating, for instance, whether Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo would be effectively blocked by the Anti-trust Law. (e.g. NYTimes article)

There have been plenty of comments and critics, and will be more. They are, however, surprisingly similar. Commentators argue that the regulations of multinational companies such as Anti-trust Law, while damaging them, also harms the local economy. Such an argument is reflected in the following text from a recent New York Review of Books article Gloomy About Globalization.

The emphasis of his [Stiglitz’s] book is on the damage multinational corporations do, and he wants them to reduce this damage by forcing them to pay for it, that is, by limiting their property rights in poor countries. This is a defensible position if one believes that the social value of entrepreneurship has declined. This may be the case in already developed countries, though if one looks at the revolutionary effects wrought by the development of cell phones and Internet corporations like Google, one may doubt it. But the one place it is surely not true is in the developing world, which requires more entrepreneurship, not less. Although Stiglitz recognizes the importance of good domestic institutions for economic success, the focus of his book is too resolutely on the external sources of failure. This fuels the natural tendency of the unsuccessful to claim they are victims of the successful.

It is unclear how regulating multi-national companies harms the “social value of entrepreneurship.” Maybe, if I could complete the argument for the author, he wants to claim when a developing country regulates multi-national companies–or, to use the author’s words, forces them to pay for the damages–the country infringes property rights, which surely harms all entrepreneurs including local ones. Harming local entrepreneurs equals to harm the local economy. If the regulation harms the local economy, he would then conclude, a developing country should not regulate multi-national companies at all.

The author assumes–without much warranty–that an alliance has been formed between the local entrepreneurs and multi-national companies. If there were ever a regulation, multi-national companies weep–not for themselves, but for their weak local allies. Absurd. The alliance is no more meaningful than the slogan of “local interests” by colonialists in the 19th century, but is surely more misleading today–the crocodile’s tears are never true.

Developing countries do see through the crocodile’s tears. The alliance is often denounced by the local entrepreneurs, who undoubtedly know their interests, which are far from those of their self-claimed allies. [跨国公司,反垄断法,微软,雅虎,公司并购]

美国2008大选观察(五):奥巴马的“牧师言论“危机和新美国主流价值

奥巴马一度因他过去的牧师莱特的过激言论而受到负面影响,但在他发表关于种族问题的演说后,显然该影响已经消失。民意调查显示,奥巴马重新得到选民的拥戴。

说来似乎不可信,为什么奥巴马选举会受到他过去的牧师的言论影响?且不说莱特牧师的言论深究并没有什么根本错误,就算是有,难道奥巴马就该为别人做的错事顶缸?其实,无论是奥巴马、还是那些天天用放大镜找他茬的竞争对手,都知道之所以如此,是因为事关重大。奥巴马竞选的核心主张之一,就是他可以让美国重新团结起来。莱特牧师的话显然并不为所有人接受,竞争对手就是要给奥巴马个烫手的山芋,让选民看看他怎么个团结法。奥巴马于是被希拉里.克林顿阵营和媒体置入了这个“牧师言论”危机。

危机是危险,同时也是机会。奥巴马受到挑战后不几日就公开发表演讲,首先表明自己对该言论的不接受的立场,同时通过亲身经历等指出了其合理部分,呼吁理解。演讲果然成功。毕竟民主党向来把平等看作是根本价值,其主流言论也对种族歧视有特别关切,奥巴马的演讲是民主党价值和言论的自然延伸。希拉里阵营缺乏表明立场的机会,在这个问题上显然失分了。民意调查很快把奥巴马重新推回到民主党候选人榜首,自然在情理之中。

当然,这里所表明的接受最多只是民主党选民的接受。 共和党选民和独立选民能否接受奥巴马的立场,尚属未知。纽约时报最近的文章Obama’s Test: Can a Liberal Be a Unifier?指出奥巴马要完成使命还任重道远。

纽约时报文章指出,在过去的15年里美国党派、意识形态战成为政治的主流,奥巴马要超越它们团结美国人民,需要的是重新诠释美国价值。 奥巴马认为当今人们已经认识到,美国要前进,就应该抛弃过去的党派、意识形态标签。(Mr. Obama, in an interview that was conducted on March 15, in the midst of that controversy, said he was confident that Americans were eager for a new kind of politics and were convinced that “a lot of these old labels don’t apply anymore.”)奥巴马声称对党派教条不感兴趣,他所关心的是人民的利益。(“I’m interested in solving problems as opposed to imposing doctrine,” he said. “I see a lot of convergence of interests among people who in traditional terms are considered to be divided politically.” )奥巴马认为美国需要的新政治,团结民众和渐进进步的政治–现在听起来空洞,不过等到真正总统选举的时候,这些口号会变成政府预算、施政纲领等等具体的问题解决方案。

奥巴马如施政实现他许下的诺言的话,也许会开创一个再造美国价值的新时代。所有美国价值,如果阿克曼教授所言的人民立宪理论解释的话,都是在超越党派政治的基础上确立的。当然,并不排除奥巴马只是嘴上说说–政客们嘴上说说很正常,听到一位年长的教授评论说以前克林顿也这么说过,没见有什么大变化。但目前为止的两党候选人提名战中,提出再造价值这样大问题的,还只有奥巴马一个,也无怪乎选民对他青眼有加。

附: 关于美国种族问题的演讲

奥巴马 3月18日,奥巴马在费城就美国种族问题发表演说。

3月18日,美国联邦参议员巴拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)在费城(Philadelphia)就种族问题发表演讲。以下是讲稿的译文,由美国国务院国际信息局(IIP)翻译。讲稿由奥巴马竞选团队提供。
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美国2008大选观察(四):圆谎的尴尬

希拉里不久前在演讲中描述自己在某国遇险经历,后被媒体指撒谎。电视台调出当时拍摄的录像,结果所谓遇险–根据希拉里的描述,自己和女儿不得不在枪林弹雨中逃脱–根本是子虚乌有。希拉里近来领先优势消失,这次又损失公信力,可谓是雪上加霜。

Clinton under fire

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