Of leather seats and lawn mowers
In the US, everyone loves a good government car auction. You crowd into a sweaty little trailer next to the impound lot with some hairy guys wearing gold chains and bid on that that 1995 Ford Taurus you’ve had your eyes on all these years. But in China, those looking for some junker to run dope across state lines will be sorely disappointed by the flashy offerings brought to you by your friendly local cadres. It seems every sub-assistant-vice minister of lawn mowing, or whatever it is they bribed their way into, from Wenzhou to Nanchang will have to give up that sweet Audi A8 parked in their garage for the sake of the public good. So much for rolling up to that forced abortion in style. Not to worry though, local cadres can still pine for the days when they’ll make it into the big time of central government, where their pockets remain as deep as ever. State-council-controlled China Development Bank is looking to buy its way into some waterfront property in Old Gold Mountain. And in this project, unlike in the 1800s, the Chinese are coming to the West Cost looking to run the railroad and make the Americans do the work for them. Who knows, if all goes well, the project might even help some Chinese buy an Audi or two.
The Celestial Empire strikes back
Reading Thomas Friedman on China is sometimes like the opposite of reading Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky. The meanings of individual words are pretty clear, and even some paragraphs. But the entire thing put together makes no goddamn sense. Either this guy’s way smarter than you, or way dumber; there’s no in-between. Ditto watching China flex those famed soft power muscles in the South China Sea – and was it ever on a roll this week. Best part of the show was CNOOC’s decision to let foreign oil companies start bidding on projects in the South China Sea. Take a peek at the map they provided (seriously, it’s worth the look). Interestingly, the land area just adjacent to those blocks up for grabs is apparently a (now separate) country called “Vietnam,” which impudently claims the water for itself. And just in case anyone missed what the easily-damaged feelings of the Chinese people are towards the sea, the country’s ships went back into the Scarborough Shoal area, a move almost guaranteed to anger Manila. Pissing off two countries simultaneously in the sea? Beijing might be cynically looking for some high-fives, chest-thumps and butt-slaps with people at home at the expense of foreign policy. OR it’s playing a long game. So long that us mere mortals can’t possible fathom it. The Celestial Empire is juggling these balls because it’s child’s play, while dithering American politicians put their country on a wifi-less Acela train and run it into the ground. And Thomas Friedman is the only one who knows.