China ended the old year and kicked off the new one with all sorts of candid statements and record-breaking figures.
On Monday, The National Audit Office showed the world how much local Chinese governments had been spending on credit. Since 2010, legions of cigarette-puffing cadres in local governments around the country have added more than US$1 trillion to the national debt. Some of the biggest expenses included regional projects to travel back in time (which is banned) as well as the construction of a suspension bridge that was planned to stretch from Henan province into London’s shopping district (which is fine).
This is the first time China has ever published total government debt levels. The National Development and Reform Commission said it will try to handle the problem by transporting the debt back in time.
Another revelation was that 2.5% of China’s soil is contaminated with heavy metals and unsuitable for growing crops. Farmers protested the statement, saying that the years of industrial waste that has permeated their field has led to giant, often-glowing fruit varieties. In fact, some of the farmers even glow now.
It was the first time since 1996 that the government had made any comment on soil conditions. CER thinks Chinese vegetables are a great source of vitamins and heavy metals.
Despite some of the problems at home, China still has no qualms with funding nuclear power operations in unstable country’s such as Pakistan. China will put up US$6.5 billion for reactors in Karachi, the lovely port city on the Indian Ocean known for its treeless promenades and kidnappings.
That was the most China has ever put up for a single project in Pakistan, but it will keep the cash coming as long as the chaotic South Asian state continues to play the world’s two biggest economies off of each other.
Japan couldn’t help but jump into the limelight this past week. Tensions between China and Japan were beginning ease so Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to visit the Yakusuni Shrine, home to the remains of some of the world’s most hated war criminals. To that, China said Abe wasn’t welcome on the mainland. To which Abe reportedly replied: “Fine.”
That was the first time since 2006 that a standing Japanese head of state has visited the shrine but they promise to visit more as long as China keeps coming up with new zones in the East China Sea.
Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed the new year by delivering a televised address directly from his office (well, probably a bunker a kilometer deep within the earth). He no doubt said all sorts of interesting stuff but watchers were mainly captivated by the two red “doomsday” phones on his desk. One likely connected to his favorite dumpling restaurant. The other, we can only guess, connected to the office of 17-year-old North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, where he was giving a cheerful New Year’s address entitled “How I Killed My Uncle.”
Xi’s speech was the first ever from a Chinese leader to be shot in such an intimate location but not the last to included phrases such as the “Chinese dream” and “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” which we all know is about 65.3% rejuvenated.