Quotulatiousness

February 19, 2018

Genghis Khan – Temüjin the Child – Extra History – #1

Filed under: Asia, China, History — Tags: — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 17 Feb 2018

As a child, Temüjin was afraid of the world, saddened by its cruelty and an outcast from his own tribe. But his mother, Hoelun, passed on her risk-taking personality to him, a boy who would one day become the famed conqueror Genghis Khan.

February 17, 2018

How a Concubine became the Empress of China – Wu Zetian l HISTORY OF CHINA

Filed under: China, History, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

IT’S HISTORY
Published on 5 Aug 2015

Wu Zetian was the first and only Empress of China. Skillfully, she worked her way up, entering the imperial court of Emperor Tang Taizong as a concubine. After his death she would marry his son, Emperor Kaozong. Later she would ruthlessly dethrone two of her own sons and take power herself, effectively introducing an interregnum to the Tang dynasty. During her very own Zhou dynasty she was known as a kind and fair ruler and made Buddhism state religion. Learn all about the Biography of one of the most popular and at the same time merciless women in Chinese history in today’s episode of IT’S HISTORY.

February 15, 2018

HMS Sutherland to conduct Freedom of Navigation exercise (FONOPS) in the South China Sea

Filed under: Britain, China, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Gareth Corfield on the current voyage of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Sutherland (F81):

HMS Sutherland (F81), a Type 23 frigate of the Royal Navy
Photo by Vicki Benwell, RN and released by the Ministry of Defence.

A British warship has set sail for the South China Sea, paving the way for aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to do the same thing in three years’ time.

HMS Sutherland, a Type 23 frigate, will sail through the disputed region on her way home from Australia, as much to fly the flag in foreign climes as to carry out a dry run ahead of the nation’s flagship doing the same thing in 2021.

The South China Sea is one of the world’s naval choke points. Very high values of trade (the total value was estimated by the Daily Telegraph as £3.8tn) either originates in or passes through the sea. The region is under dispute chiefly because of China, which is trying to extend its territorial limits (and thus the area it can directly control) by building artificial islands to embiggen its borders.

Sutherland will be carrying out a freedom of navigation exercise, which is where a warship sails through a disputed bit of sea to send the message “you can’t stop us doing this”. The idea is to reinforce the notion that international waters, where anyone has right of free passage, can’t be unilaterally claimed by one country.

January 30, 2018

The Three Teachings – Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism l HISTORY OF CHINA

Filed under: China, History, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

IT’S HISTORY
Published on 1 Aug 2015

The Three Teachings Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism have been a backbone of Chinese society and culture since the bronze age. The Three teachings are still intertwined strongly with today’s China. There are different interpretations to China’s chore faiths. Over time, different dynasties favoured different faiths, if only to define themselves against their predecessor. Ultimately though, its all about the philosophy of combining spirituality with every day life. All about the Three Teachings now on IT’S HISTORY.

January 29, 2018

Cheng I Sao – Pirate Queen – Extra History

Filed under: China, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 27 Jan 2018

She was the most ferocious pirate China had ever known. She was a powerful fleet commander, a sharp businesswoman, and a consummate strategist. She was Cheng I Sao, leader of the Pirate Confederation, and she lived her life on her terms.

January 21, 2018

Sun Tzu – The Art of War l HISTORY OF CHINA

Filed under: Books, China, History, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

IT’S HISTORY
Published on 8 Aug 2015

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is a book on military strategies written around 500 BC, between the collapse of the Zhou dynasty and the rise of the first emperor of imperial China. Today Tzu’s guidelines are still as applicable as ever. They are still being read by military commanders, politicians and businesspeople all over the world. Also known as “Master Sun’s Military Methods”, the book explains basics like the “Strategy of Attack”, “Moving the Army” and even “Employing Spies” in 13 short chapters, restricting itself to general principles rather than detailed instructions of strategy and tactics. Learn all about this timeless and influential military masterpiece on IT’S HISTORY.

January 14, 2018

QotD: The Cultural Revolution of 1966

Filed under: China, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was proclaimed by Chairman Mao Tse-tung (as he was then spelt) on the 16th of May, 1966. […] It continued ten years, until its author’s death. It was one of the greatest continuing massacres of history — a work of incredible destruction through which most of the surviving cultural monuments from China’s civilized past were also wiped out. The Chinese Communist Party, which still rules this immense nation or empire, no longer wishes to talk about it. The anniversary has been suppressed, and even in Hong Kong, where media retain some fraction of the freedom they enjoyed under British colonial rule, Internet links to the anniversary have been frozen.

Led by young, psychopathic Red Guards, it was an unrestrained obliteration of what Mao called “The Four Olds” — old habits, old customs, old ideas, old culture. His satanic dream was of a “perpetual revolution.” His principles were ultimately those of the French Revolution — “improved” by the models of Leninism and Stalinism, the Hsin-hai Revolution of 1911 (in which the Chinese emperor was deposed), and the imagination of a petty bourgeois from a rural backwater in the province of Hunan (Mao himself). At this day, nothing like an adequate historical accounting can yet be attempted of the Cultural Revolution; nor of Mao’s previous iconoclastic essays; nor of the ways in which subsequent economic accomplishments have depended on them. Crucial sources for such a history remain under the control of the Politburo; and travel within their empire is still regulated by their “guides.”

The personality cult Mao launched, for the worship of himself as living god, exceeded that of Hitler or of Stalin. (At one point nothing was allowed in print that was not either by or about him.) I note that his image yet adorns Chinese banknotes.

[…] I had skirted China by then in my own travels, and read other newsy-historical works, and chatted with more than one acknowledged “China expert” in my quasi-vocation as a hack journalist; and thereby been fed almost entirely with lies. I knew that Maoism was evil, but could not begin to compass how radically evil. A growing appreciation of the grandeur of the ancient Chinese civilization accentuated this. For what was destroyed, in addition to the bodies corresponding to tens of millions of human souls, was of tremendous value, not only to China but to the legacy of the planet.

To my mind looking back, the Cultural Revolution may be the most sustained and thorough exercise in the cause of “progress” that men have yet performed.

David Warren, “Creative Destruction”, Essays in Idleness, 2016-05-16.

December 27, 2017

India’s Geography Problem

Filed under: China, Economics, Education, History, India — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Wendover Productions
Published on 5 Dec 2017

December 21, 2017

Manufacturing model trains in China

Filed under: Business, Cancon, China, Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Jason Shron (who glories in living the “hoser” stereotype) runs a small Canadian company that manufactures 1:87 scale model trains, doing the majority of the actual manufacturing in China. Even there, rising standards of living mean that small companies like Rapido Trains need to be on the lookout for ways to economize, as illustrated in this short video:

The bloody 20th century and the leaders who helped make it so

Filed under: China, Germany, History, Military, Russia, WW1, WW2 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Walter Williams on the terrible death toll of the 20th century, both in formal war between nations and in internal conflict and repression:

The 20th century was mankind’s most brutal century. Roughly 16 million people lost their lives during World War I; about 60 million died during World War II. Wars during the 20th century cost an estimated 71 million to 116 million lives.

The number of war dead pales in comparison with the number of people who lost their lives at the hands of their own governments. The late professor Rudolph J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii documented this tragedy in his book Death by Government: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900. Some of the statistics found in the book have been updated here.

The People’s Republic of China tops the list, with 76 million lives lost at the hands of the government from 1949 to 1987. The Soviet Union follows, with 62 million lives lost from 1917 to 1987. Adolf Hitler’s Nazi German government killed 21 million people between 1933 and 1945. Then there are lesser murdering regimes, such as Nationalist China, Japan, Turkey, Vietnam and Mexico. According to Rummel’s research, the 20th century saw 262 million people’s lives lost at the hands of their own governments.

Hitler’s atrocities are widely recognized, publicized and condemned. World War II’s conquering nations’ condemnation included denazification and bringing Holocaust perpetrators to trial and punishing them through lengthy sentences and execution. Similar measures were taken to punish Japan’s murderers.

But what about the greatest murderers in mankind’s history — the Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin and China’s Mao Zedong? Some leftists saw these communists as heroes. W.E.B. Du Bois, writing in the National Guardian in 1953, said, “Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature. … The highest proof of his greatness (was that) he knew the common man, felt his problems, followed his fate.” Walter Duranty called Stalin “the greatest living statesman” and “a quiet, unobtrusive man.” There was even leftist admiration for Hitler and fellow fascist Benito Mussolini. When Hitler came to power in January 1933, George Bernard Shaw described him as “a very remarkable man, a very able man.” President Franklin Roosevelt called the fascist Mussolini “admirable,” and he was “deeply impressed by what he (had) accomplished.”

December 9, 2017

The Trudeau sideshow in China

Filed under: Cancon, China, Economics, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh on figuring out why Justin Trudeau’s trip to China didn’t end in the glory he and his handlers were clearly anticipating:

My favourite part of the fair has always been the sideshow. And when it comes to Justin Trudeau’s official visit to China, the sideshow definitely turned out to be the most interesting part of the proceedings. Interpreting the outcome of the visit involves a certain amount of old-fashioned Kremlinology, applied to both sides, but it seems fairly clear that Trudeau was gulled into providing Chinese leadership with some celebrity glamour in exchange for a big pile of nothing on Chinese-Canadian trade.

He came to China with hopes for progress on a future trade deal that would involve China accepting new labour, gender, and environment standards. But he collided with the newly aggressive Xi Jinping doctrine — a change in the official Chinese mood that insists on the country’s superpower status. China-watchers know that over the past year, in a process that culminated at the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress in October, China has become more explicit, and more chauvinist, in claiming to pursue an independent, indigenous alternative model of economic and social progress.

[…]

Western commentators on China have, for a long time, had an implicit vision of a re-emerging bipolar world, with China in the old place of Russia as an ideological challenger to Western democracies. Xi is taking them at their word. China’s aspirations are no longer to follow or imitate the West, but to out-compete it on its own terms, without any of the untidy, politically dis-unifying elements of Western life — independent universities, newspapers that aren’t trash, multiple political parties, and the like.

Given this background, Trudeau arguably arrived in China at exactly the wrong moment. Formal talks on a China-Canada free trade agreement would have been the first ever between China and a G7 country. It turned out that there was more value for Xi in slapping the hand of friendship. The Global Times, an organ of the party’s People’s Daily newspaper network, published a cranky English-language editorial in the midst of Trudeau’s visit.

The editorial attacked the “superiority and narcissism” of Canadian newspapers, as an alternative to jabbing the prime ministerial guest in the eye personally. But it is easy enough to read between the lines. “Trade between China and Canada is mutually beneficial, more significant than the ideology upon which the latter’s media has been focusing,” wrote the tabloid’s editor, Hu Xijin. “When Canada imports a pair of shoes from China, will Canada ask how much democracy and human rights are reflected in those shoes?”

If Trudeau had been hoping to wipe away memories of his embarrassing stunt at the TPP negotiations by a Pierre-Trudeau-like Chinese breakthrough, the Chinese government clearly saw him coming a few thousand miles away and ensured that no such PR coup would be allowed.

November 27, 2017

China discovers that there’s a (very) limited appetite for shared bikes

Filed under: Business, China, Economics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the Guardian, Benjamin Haas reports on what at first might seem to be a vast modern art display:

At first glance the photos vaguely resemble a painting. On closer inspection it might be a giant sculpture or some other art project. But in reality it is a mangled pile of bicycles covering an area roughly the size of a football pitch, and so high that cranes are need to reach the top; cast-offs from the boom and bust of China’s bike sharing industry.

Just two days after China’s number three bike sharing company went bankrupt, a photographer in the south-eastern city of Xiamen captured a bicycle graveyard where thousands have been laid to rest. The pile clearly contains thousands of bikes from each of the top three companies, Mobike, Ofo and the now-defunct Bluegogo.

Tim Worstall draws the correct conclusion from the provided evidence:

We want, irrespective of anything else about the economy, a method of testing ideas to see if they work. Does the application of these scarce resources meet some human need or desire? Does it do so more than an alternative use, is it even adding value at all?

Bike shares, are they a good idea or not? The underlying problem being that expressed and revealed preferences aren’t the same. There’s only so far market research can take you, at some point someone, somewhere, has to go out and do it and see.

Excellent, the Commie Chinese have done so. Vast amounts of capital thrown into this, competing bike share companies, hire costs pennies. And no fucker seems very interested. That is, no, large scale bike share schemes don’t meet any discernible human need or desire, they don’t add value, spending the money on something else will increase human joy and happiness better.

And this is excellent, we’ve tried the idea and it don’t work. Now we can abandon it and go off and do something else therefore.

Which is the great joy of market based systems. They’re the best method we’ve got of finding out which ideas are fuck ups.

Long live markets.

November 4, 2017

The death toll of a century of Communism

Filed under: China, History, Politics, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Yuri Maltsev on the human cost of the Russian Revolution and its follow-on upheavals worldwide:

The horrors of twentieth-century socialism — of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, and Pol Pot — were the offspring of 1917. Seventy years earlier, Marx and Engels predicted the overthrow of bourgeois rule would require violence and “a dictatorship of the proletariat … to weed out remaining capitalist elements.” Lenin conducted this “weeding out” using indiscriminate terror, as Russian socialists before him had done and others would continue to do after his death.

The late Rudolph Rummel, the demographer of government mass murder, estimated the human toll of twentieth-century socialism to be about 61 million in the Soviet Union, 78 million in China, and roughly 200 million worldwide. These victims perished during state-organized famines, collectivization, cultural revolutions, purges, campaigns against “unearned” income, and other devilish experiments in social engineering.

In its monstrosity, this terror is unrivaled in the course of human history.

Lenin’s coup on November 7, 1917, the day Kerensky’s provisional government fell to Bolshevik forces, opened a new stage in human history: a regime of public slavery. Collectivist economic planning led to coercion, violence, and mass murder. Marx and Engels had defined socialism as “the abolition of private property.” The most fundamental component of private property, self-ownership, was abolished first.

[…]

The Marxists’ biggest targets have always been the family, religion, and civil society — institutional obstacles to the imposition of the omnipotent state. With the Bolsheviks in power, Lenin set out to destroy them.

Murder of children became a norm after he ordered the extermination of Czar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their five children. Millions of families were rounded up and forcibly relocated to remote and uninhabited regions in Siberia and Kazakhstan. Hundreds of thousands of children died of starvation or disease during their journey into exile and were buried in mass unmarked graves.

In 1935, Stalin introduced Article 12 of the USSR Criminal Code, which permitted that children age twelve and older be sentenced to death or imprisonment as adults. This “law” was directed at the orphans of victims of the regime, based on the belief that an apple never falls far from the tree. Many of these kids, whose parents had been jailed or executed, were commonly known as bezprizorni, street children. They found themselves living in bare, dirty cells in a savagely violent gulag, where they were mixed with dangerous criminals and were brutalized and raped by guards and common criminals.

On a lighter note, here’s a review of The Death of Stalin from Samizdata:

The Death of Stalin opened recently across the UK. It is an excellent black comedy, 5 stars. The film opens with a musical performance for Radio Moscow, Stalin likes it, and asks for the recording. There is none, so, in true Soviet style, the recording is ‘faked’ by the terrified producer, who resorts to desperate measures. The backdrop to this is nightly NKVD raids, roaming through apartment blocks with the citizenry knowing what to expect, Beria adds his own touches to the minutiae of the raids. We see Stalin’s inner circle, all desperately keeping track of what they have said, and striving to please their master.

Then Stalin collapses, with a little sub-plot device thrown in. Beria is the first to find him, and gets his head start on the race for power. The others in the Praesidium arrive, and the plotting begins. Efforts to get a doctor for Stalin are complicated by the consequences of the Doctors’ Plot, with the NKVD rounding up whoever they can find instead. But it becomes clear that Stalin is in a terminal condition and he then dies.

It should be noted that the film is by the writers of The Thick of It, something, not having a TV, I have never seen, but it has the flavour of a much coarser version of an Ealing Comedy. Beria’s raping and torturing is a major theme, and anyone who sits through the first 15 minutes should by then be under no illusion about the nature of the Soviet Union and socialism. Another excellent aspect of the film is the use of various accents, Stalin is a cockney (perhaps he should have been Welsh, an outsider, emphasising his Georgian origins). Zhukov a bluff Lancastrian (or Northerner), Malenkov and Khrushchev have American accents.

June 4, 2017

Intro to the Solow Model of Economic Growth

Filed under: China, Economics, Germany, Japan — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 28 Mar 2016

Here’s a quick growth conundrum, to get you thinking.

Consider two countries at the close of World War II — Germany and Japan. At that point, they’ve both suffered heavy population losses. Both countries have had their infrastructure devastated. So logically, the losing countries should’ve been in a post-war economic quagmire.

So why wasn’t that the case at all?

Following WWII, Germany and Japan were growing twice, sometimes three times, the rate of the winning countries, such as the United States.

Similarly, think of this quandary: in past videos, we explained to you that one of the keys to economic growth is a country’s institutions. With that in mind, think of China’s growth rate. China’s been growing at a breakneck pace — reported at 7 to 10% per year.

On the other hand, countries like the United States, Canada, and France have been growing at about 2% per year. Aside from their advantages in physical and human capital, there’s no question that the institutions in these countries are better than those in China.

So, just as we said about Germany and Japan — why the growth?

To answer that, we turn to today’s video on the Solow model of economic growth.

The Solow model was named after Robert Solow, the 1987 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Among other things, the Solow model helps us understand the nuances and dynamics of growth. The model also lets us distinguish between two types of growth: catching up growth and cutting edge growth. As you’ll soon see, a country can grow much faster when it’s catching up, as opposed to when it’s already growing at the cutting edge.

That said, this video will allow you to see a simplified version of the model. It’ll describe growth as a function of a few specific variables: labor, education, physical capital, and ideas.

So watch this new installment, get your feet wet with the Solow model, and next time, we’ll drill down into one of its variables: physical capital.

Helpful links:
Puzzle of Growth: http://bit.ly/1T5yq18
Importance of Institutions: http://bit.ly/25kbzne
Rise and Fall of the Chinese Economy: http://bit.ly/1SfRpDL

May 26, 2017

Puzzle of Growth: Rich Countries and Poor Countries

Filed under: China, Economics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 16 Feb 2016

Throughout this section of the course, we’ve been trying to solve a complicated economic puzzle — why are some countries rich and others poor?

There are various factors at play, interacting in a dynamic, and changing environment. And the final answer to the puzzle differs depending on the perspective you’re looking from. In this video, you’ll examine different pieces of the wealth puzzle, and learn about how they fit.

The first piece of the puzzle, is about productivity.

You’ll learn how physical capital, human capital, technological knowledge, and entrepreneurs all fit together to spur higher productivity in a population. From this perspective, you’ll see economic growth as a function of a country’s factors of production. You’ll also learn what investments can be made to improve and increase these production factors.

Still, even that is too simplistic to explain everything.

So we’ll also introduce you to another piece of the puzzle: incentives.

In previous videos, you learned about the incentives presented by different economic, cultural, and political models. In this video, we’ll stay on that track, showing how different incentives produce different results.

As an example, you’ll learn why something as simple as agriculture isn’t nearly so simple at all. We’ll put you in the shoes of a hypothetical farmer, for a bit. In those shoes, you’ll see how incentives can mean the difference between getting to keep a whole bag of potatoes from your farm, or just a hundredth of a bag from a collective farm.

(Trust us, the potatoes explain a lot.)

Potatoes aside, you’re also going to see how different incentives shaped China’s economic landscape during the “Great Leap Forward” of the 1950s and 60s. With incentives as a lens, you’ll see why China’s supposed leap forward ended in starvation for tens of millions.

Hold on — incentives still aren’t the end of it. After all, incentives have to come from somewhere.

That “somewhere” is institutions.

As we showed you before, institutions dictate incentives. Things like property rights, cultural norms, honest governments, dependable laws, and political stability, all create incentives of different kinds. Remember our hypothetical farmer? Through that farmer, you’ll learn how different institutions affect all of us. You’ll see how institutions help dictate how hard a person works, and how likely he or she is to invest in the economy, beyond that work.

Then, once you understand the full effect of institutions, you’ll go beyond that, to the final piece of the wealth puzzle. And it’s the most mysterious piece, too.

Why?

Because the final piece of the puzzle is the amorphous combination of a country’s history, ideas, culture, geography, and even a little luck. These things aren’t as direct as the previous pieces, but they matter all the same.

You’ll see why the US constitution is the way it is, and you’ll learn about people like Adam Smith and John Locke, whose ideas helped inform it.

And if all this talk of pieces makes you think that the wealth puzzle is a complex one, you’d be right.

Because the truth is, the question of “what creates wealth?” really is complex. Even the puzzle pieces you’ll learn about don’t constitute every variable at play. And as we mentioned earlier, not only are the factors complex, but they’re also constantly changing as they bump against each other.

Luckily, while the quest to finish the wealth puzzle isn’t over, at least we have some of the pieces in hand.

So take the time to dive in and listen to this video and let us know if you have questions along the way. After that, we’ll soon head into a new section of the course: we’ll tackle the factors of production so we can further explore what leads to economic growth.

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