Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cherry Blossom and What not

It's not about the Japanese restaurant I used to eat out. It's the latest internet buzz of public debate in China. A twosome of mom and daughter was chastised and booed away by students of Wuhan University while posing for photos with cherry blossom, wearing Japanese Kimono. And public debate ensues.

Cherry Blossom and Kimono make great photo ops, since Japan is known as country of cherry blossoms. The beautiful backdrop of Wuhan University campus provides an enticing make-do for those who can't afford a trip to the east. (*Blossom forecast for D.C. is currently at April 1st.) Unfortunately Wuhan is also a city endured intense battle during Japanese invasion in WWII, and the animosity still runs high for a host of historical reasons. For this very reason, the university has a standing regulation that prevent students to pose with kimonos during the blossom season to ensure public safety. The poor mom and daughter wouldn't be able to hang the "same as there" picture in their sitting room, but good thing no one is hurt.

Consider what has been fueling the internet in the U.S., from AIG bonus scandals to newest bailout plans, life is relatively good in China if unpleasant treatment by radical students can cause public buzz. American press is so preoccupied by domestic messes that some border hot-spots in South China sea and skirmish in Tibet have not generated much fanfare.

However, it's one thing to grab the chance to preach forgiveness, and promote individual rights; it's quite another to stretch it to something far beyond. China is quite unique, with its political system and all - I busted a chuckle watching Obama prime time press conference when a reporter uttered "communist" in mentioning China - but some has gone far as to suggest Chinese are different people. Brainwashed is something you hear often. Perhaps they are wired differently emotionally - how can they hold their grudges for so long! It's not always the foreigners who suggest that. Some Chinese actually buy into that. Those folks, somehow, have the wonderful abilities of not counting themselves. Their crystal ball apparently doesn't inform them that there are loons and radicals everywhere, and public anger, even unfounded should be handled with caution. Not to mention, we are all from trees in Africa and are all going to die. Many AIG employees don't deserve the public anger that thrust their way, some even receiving threat mails, after all, many of them don't give out bonuses to themselves. But hey, people are angry.

Some folks have asked me if Chinese are easy to catch public fever. Idolization of Mao was often cited as evidence. I would cast my glance onto images of Obama on the sidewalk. I've seen his artistic contour on the sidewalks, on windows, on graffiti-filled bridges...you name it. If that's not idolization, I don't know what it is. People like to look up to someone in tough times, it's in our human nature. And, unlike Obama, who hasn't achieve anything significant so far, Mao actually achieved something.

Speaking of AIG and what America is up to, you can read by starting with this rolling stone article. You should get a pretty good idea of why the system failed, and why it's so difficult - it's often pick your poison - to fix it. The U.S. government is proposing using tax payer money, 1.3 trillion of them, to buy up toxic assets, with plenty room for corruption and back-dealing. That's precisely what the Chinese government did to their big banks and financial companies, circa 1998-2000, when they cleaned up balance sheet by absorbing bad assets. In addition, the U.S. seeks to seize too-big-to-fail firms, essentially turning them into state-majority-owned companies. Alas, that again, is precisely the Chinese system, where government controls key big firms and let the smaller ones swim on their own. What has this world turned into?

The doomsters would say apocalypse will arrive sooner or later. But I like Keynes' take: in the long run, we are all dead.

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