Original season episode 1 here.
November 18, 2011
For those inclined to worry overmuch about the rise of China as a world power (as opposed to merely as an economic competitor):
The real importance of this story does not, however, have much to do with Brazil’s jittery nerves about Chinese investment. It is to remind us about a key Chinese vulnerability that is often overlooked by pundits: China’s growing dependence on natural resources located far from its frontiers.
Beijing’s chosen national strategy — to achieve great power status by becoming the industrial workshop of the world — locks it into a complex and difficult set of dependencies and relationships with countries and markets all over the world. Access to those resources traps China in complicated geopolitical tradeoffs that can blow up in unexpected ways — as when China had to scramble to protect its citizens in Libya. Chinese companies become the object of public anger if they are seen to be economically exploitative, unwelcoming to local labor, or environmentally destructive. And, of course, in the event of a confrontation with the United States, China’s entire supply chain and overseas investments are helpless hostages.
Strategically, the only way out of this trap would be to build a blue water navy and air force that could threaten US command of the seas. But a build up of that kind would not only trigger a massive US response; other countries like Japan, India and Australia would join together to ensure that China did not overturn a maritime status quo that is well trusted by other world powers.
H/T to Jon, my former virtual landlord, for the link.
Ah, Brussels! What would we do without you and your panels of experts on quiet news days?
Brussels prompted a flood of abuse this week by apparently banning bottled water vendors from promoting their products as a counter to dehydration.
The European Food Standards Agency was asked to consider its “opinion on the scientific substantiation of a health claim related to water and reduced risk of development of dehydration and of concomitant decrease of performance”.
The request for clarification was submitted by two German professors in 2008, in a bid to determine what health claims could be slapped on bottled water. A panel deliberated on the issue for three years, before the adjudication was delivered back in February, in time to hit the UK’s Euro-sceptical media yesterday.
Of the various British papers I link to on a regular basis, the Guardian is the most liberal. It can generally be depended upon to come down on the liberal side of any question except for one:
. . . on the broad subject area of sex and sexuality, the Guardian, more often than not, comes down on the side of repression. The paper comes very much from the liberal, middle-class, English tradition, and the one subject the English middle-classes have always had trouble dealing with is sex. The Guardian also tends to take anti-sex campaigners more seriously if they adopt the “feminist” label than if they crusade under a more old-fashioned “morality” banner. On this subject, the Guardian’s coverage can swing from liberal to deeply conservative in the blink of an eye.
I blogged recently about the UK Government’s steps towards Internet censorship, using the excuse of “protecting children from pornography”. The Guardian, normally a warrior against censorship, lost its mind in an editorial on the subject, using Daily Mail-type phrasing such as “…bombarding of people’s homes and children by pornography…” and “…the destructive effects of pornography on relationships and values…“. The editorial also mentioned a recent government-commissioned report on “sexualisation”, neglecting to mention that it came from a Christian lobbying organisation. The idea that anyone who doesn’t want to see porn is “bombarded” with it is of course laughable, and serious research on porn has yet to reveal the harmful side effects claimed by conservatives of various shades.
And this wasn’t a one-off: on the icky subject of sex, the Guardian is often deeply conservative. I recently interviewed strippers who are defending themselves against campaigners who threaten their right to work in the London boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets (podcast coming soon). These women are articulate, well-paid and belong to trade unions. Yet, the Guardian is apparently convinced that stripping is bad, and refuses to take seriously the voices of the women themselves who earn a living that way; instead, they give a platform to “feminist” (aka sexual morality) groups who use fascist-style propaganda methods (such as claiming a non-existent link between strip venues and rape) to attack the venues and the people who work in them. While women who strip have offered to write for the Guardian about their experiences, only one ex-dancer, Homa Khaleeli is published, because she tells “the truth about lap dancing” — in other words, she makes the “exploitation” and “objectification” noises that Guardianistas want to hear.
The Guardian has a confused idea of defending sexual freedom. While Gay, Lesbian, Transgender issues are treated with the appropriate straight-faced correctness, other forms of sexuality and sexual freedom have Guardian journos giggling like school children. Fetishes, swinging, polyamory, BDSM, open lifestyles, bisexuality and sex work… these aren’t causes for free speech but excuses for the Guardian to pander to middle-England prejudices (and have a good, Carry On giggle in the process).