What with all the economic doom and gloom, we at CER have been getting a bit down of late. But this week, our morning dances in the conference room seemed to take effect; the news gods rained a much-needed respite down upon us. Even the most sober among us couldn’t help but be distracted from more pressing issues, what with Jiang Zemin coming back from the dead (just in time for Halloween!) and the US Congress putting on a such a show. On Tuesday, the Senate voted yay! on a bill that would permit new tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing does not hike the renminbi further. The bill passed despite fervent Chinese lobbying; the only notable voice of opposition to the bill was House Speaker John Boehner. He argued that the bill would only bring on a trade war, fueling widespread suspicion that he is the Manchurian Candidate (our sources suggest he was lured into this arrangement by the offer of his own tanning bed). But putting aside the lurid complexion, Boehner may have a point: Beijing showed its readiness to bite back on Wednesday, when it allowed the value of renminbi to drop slightly against the dollar. With the upcoming elections, the Chinese question will be a one tricky for US presidential candidates; Damien Ma of Eurasia Group (see his stuff for the Atlantic here) recently pointed out that the approaching presidential primary in Iowa means there may be political ground to gain by making nice with the Chinese. Farmers lose huge amounts of money through China’s ban on imports of poultry and some pork products, and conversely reaped big profits when China opened the floodgates to US corn earlier this summer.
All we are saying is give Mao a chance
Speaking of pork, it turns out that actually everybody everywhere hates Wal-Mart. The retail giant tripped into trouble this week in Chongqing, where it was accused of classing up its normal pork as “organic.” Police happily took 37 Wal-Mart employees into custody. But it wasn’t just foreign companies that were feeling the heat this week. State media said merchants were “rioting online,” whatever that means, over huge hikes in fees charged by Taobao Mall. Perhaps the Taobao merchants had taken their cue from their brethren in New York; Evan Osnos points out in an interesting piece that Chinese media have taken a rather sunny view of those denouncing the excesses of capitalism on Wall Street. If only Obama would take things one step further. Now that’s a protest a Chinese patriot can really get behind.