Tag Archives: china

The Great Wall is a fun film showing us a great Chinese-American future

Summary: The Great Wall is a powerful film misunderstood by critics. It is masterfully produced and acted, with a vision we need to see — about working together for something greater than ourselves, and about the promise of America and China working together as partners.

The Great Wall - poster

“The Great Wall”

Now in theaters. Directed by Yimou Zhang.
Staring Willem Dafoe, Matt Damon, Tian Jing, and Andy Lao.

“The Great Wall” tells the story of European mercenaries searching for the secret of gunpowder who become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China by an elite force against a horde of monsters. The first English-language production for Yimou is the largest film ever shot entirely in China.”

I grow sad reading the critics’ reviews with their inability to be reached by simple emotions and stories. They get excited by films embodying Leftist ideology or post-modern sensibilities (almost overlapping categories). They like especially fine CGI, and nice children’s films. These are people that would hate most classic films, if they saw them for the first time without knowing their reputations. We see this in their reviews of “The Great Wall”. They hated it (a Rotten Tomatoes score of 35%); many appeared to have watched it blindfolded.

A Taotei

It is a simple film the key to a great story. As in the best monster films (e.g. The Thing, in both the 1951 and the 1982 versions), the monsters provide an existential challenge to the group. In this case, an endless horde of monsters (the Taotie) from a meteor attack China. If China falls, so will the world. They are fought at a re-imagined version of the Great Wall by the Nameless Order, an elite force of China’s army of awesome skill, wielding impressive (but appropriate for the time) weapons.

The film has many strengths. The cinematography is fantastic, with skillfully shot combinations of gripping panoramas and close-in shots of the battles. Unlike many films these days, I could always follow the action — knowing who was where, and what they were doing.  The many small touches gave it texture seldom found in American films. Some of these were visual, such as the stack of bloody harnesses of the dead Crane Soldiers. Some were plot notes, such as the monsters’ adaptive tactics (like Afghanistan insurgents, not as dumb as believed).

The settings showed imagination on a scale rarely found in Hollywood. The actors portrayed exception people, but avoided the rug-eating so popular today. Instead they respond to events as actual people do.

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Stratfor: Trump risks a trade war with China that cannot be won

Summary: Trump’s big promises won him the Presidency, much as Obama’s promises of “hope and change”. Here is a second article by Stratfor looking at Trump’s ability to do better than Obama at delivering on them. Will Trump fail gracefully, like Obama, or catastrophically?Stratfor

A Trade War That Cannot Be Won

Stratfor, 11 January 2017.

Forecast

  • Protectionist trade policies toward China would do little to achieve the incoming U.S. administration’s stated goal of reviving U.S. manufacturing.
  • Beijing would use various means — in particular, harassing U.S. companies that operate in China and depend on the country’s growing consumer market — to retaliate against protectionism in the United States.
  • President-elect Donald Trump’s administration will likely focus on curbing Chinese steel imports, a policy that could boost U.S. manufacturing without doing much damage to China’s economy.

Analysis

The trade relationship between the United States and China is a cornerstone of the global economy and a linchpin of the economic, social and political order in both countries. But in recent years, and particularly during the runup to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the partnership has come under fire in the United States. Leaders such as President-elect Donald Trump have criticized Washington’s trade ties with Beijing as unfavorable, since China’s exports to the United States exceed its imports from it. Trump has decried the negative effects of this trade imbalance and promised to correct it, for instance by imposing a 45% tariff on Chinese imports. Despite the backlash that such a drastic measure would invite from Beijing, Trump argues that the United States is better poised to weather a prolonged trade dispute than is China, thanks to their lopsided trade relationship.

A closer look at U.S. trade activities with China casts doubt on this idea, however. Changes in the composition of Chinese exports to the United States, the structure of manufacturing supply chains and the aims of U.S. corporate investment in China have evened the field between Washington and Beijing. As each side tries to achieve increasingly contrary political and economic goals, neither would be immune from the fallout of a trade war. China has just as many options to retaliate against protectionist U.S. policies as the United States has to punish Beijing. The challenge is to understand which tactics the countries’ leaders are likely to choose — and to what end.

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Stratfor: China’s Economy is Living on Borrowed Time

Summary: Ripples of Trump’s win rock the boats of

Stratfor

China’s Economy: Living on Borrowed Time
Stratfor, 21 November 2016.

Forecast

  • Barring a decision to loosen government controls on credit, investment and home purchases, China’s housing and construction sectors will slow in 2017.
  • Industries that hold the bulk of China’s outstanding corporate debt, including commodities, building materials and other sectors related to construction, will bear the brunt of a sustained housing slump.
  • Sluggish construction growth and skyrocketing debt, coupled with sharp reductions in debt maturity periods, could cause corporate defaults and bankruptcies to spike next year, testing Beijing’s legal and institutional abilities to cope with them.
  • Meanwhile, increasing U.S. protectionism and other international developments could put even more pressure on the Chinese economy, forcing Beijing to trade its economic reforms for greater spending to keep the economy afloat.

Analysis

Next year is shaping up to be a decisive one for China’s economy. In the eight years since the global financial crisis struck, the vitality and importance of low-cost exports — the kind the Chinese economy used to rely on — have steadily declined. Scrambling to prop up the country’s growth and protect its near-universal employment, China’s leaders have embraced monetary and fiscal stimulus measures, causing the country’s outstanding debt to balloon to almost 250% of gross domestic product. Corporate debt, by far the largest share of China’s total debt, has likewise surged by more than 60% to top 165% of GDP. Now, a nationwide debt crisis looms at Beijing’s doorstep amid business defaults and bankruptcies, low industrial profits, winnowing returns on investment and the very real prospect of yet another slowdown in the real estate sector. How well Beijing manages these problems in the months ahead will, to a great extent, determine China’s economic, social and political stability for years to come.

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The real reason for America’s hostility to China

Summary: Americans who read the news know that China is a designated bad guy, which justifies the full deployment of US power to contain it. Efforts by China to resist (or even defend itself) show its malevolent intent. Here is the rest of the story — the true story.

Globe and China Flag

What is America’s strategy to manage China? To discover the opinion of US elites, I first turn to The Economist (or Stratfor): “They have returned“, 12 August 2010 — “China should worry less about America’s ‘containment’ strategy and more about why the neighbours welcome it.”  The Economist’s attempt to distract us from the containment program shows that China should worry about US efforts to contain it. To understand this conflict, we begin with the previous global struggle.

“The ‘Long War’ is a term for the conflict that began in 1914 with the First World War and concluded in 1990 with the end of the Cold War. The Long War embraces the First World War, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the War in Vietnam and the Cold War.  The Long War can be understood as a single conflict fought over the constitutional issue of what form of the nation-state — fascist, communist or parliamentary — would succeed the imperial states of the 19th century.”

— Interview with Philip Bobbit, author of The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History (2003).

I believe the Long War as won by “market-based States”, not “parliamentary” states. Now the US attempting to retain its hegemony over the other market-based nation-states — especially China. From 1950 to 1972 one of the top goals of American foreign policy was to contain China. This culminated in the Vietnam War, as described in the memorandum from Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson, dated 3 November 1965. The opening of the memo is clear (red emphasis added).

“The February decision to bomb North Vietnam and the July approval of Phase I deployments make sense only if they are in support of a long-run United States policy to contain Communist China. China — like Germany in 1917, like Germany in the West and Japan in the East in the late 30’s, and like the USSR in 1947 — looms as a major power threatening to undercut our importance and effectiveness in the world and, more remotely but more menacingly, to organize all of Asia against us.

“The long-run US policy is based upon an instinctive understanding in our country that the peoples and resources of Asia could be effectively mobilized against us by China or by a Chinese coalition and that the potential weight of such a coalition could throw us on the defensive and threaten our security. This understanding of a straightforward security threat is interwoven with another perception — namely, that we have our view of the way the US should be moving and of the need for the majority of the rest of the world to be moving in the same direction if we are to achieve our national objective.”

After Nixon went to China, from 1972 -2001 the US pursued a policy of engagement. But China’s unexpected hypergrowth transformed it from a trading partner and distant threat into a current rival — and after 2001 US policy changed from cooperation to quiet containment.

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Stratfor: China builds a new Silk Road for the 21st century

Summary: As we watch the candidates babble in the Campaign2016 circus, we can look across the Pacific to see a rational geopolitical strategy, something America has not had for decades. Here’s a note about China rebuilding its fabled Silk Road — revised for the 21st century.

Stratfor

The Grand Design of China’s New Trade Routes
Stratfor, 24 June 2015.

Forecast

  • Over the next several years, China will devote significant resources to the construction of Eurasian trade routes under its Belt and Road Initiative.
  • As transit routes come online, the proportion of Chinese maritime trade passing through South China Sea chokepoints will shrink.
  • The new infrastructure built as part of the Belt and Road Initiative will support China’s economic rebalancing by opening new markets, generating demand for higher value-added Chinese goods and helping China build globally competitive industries.
  • Improving transit routes will lead to new security and political risks, and China’s efforts to mitigate these threats could create frictions in the very areas where Beijing is trying to diversify its trade routes.

Analysis

In 2013, China’s President Xi Jinping proposed a plan to stimulate development in Eurasia by constructing what he called the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road — revivals of the overland and maritime trade routes that once connected China and Europe. Since then, the “Belt and Road Initiative” has become a fixture in official Chinese discussions on both foreign and domestic policy. Nonetheless, the initiative is still loosely defined. Beijing claims there are about 60 Belt and Road countries, but there is no public listing of these countries.

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Stratfor: China Is Building Its Future on Credit

Summary: China, like the US, has surprised the bears by the resilience of its economy. Here Strafor examines one source of its economic strength, one that might haunt its future — massive and imprudent accumulation of debt.

Stratfor

China Is Building Its Future on Credit
Stratfor, 20 July 2016

Summary

As China tries to overcome slowdowns in its industrial and trade sectors, the country’s banks have continued to increase the pace of lending, issuing 1.38 trillion yuan ($205.8 billion) worth of loans in June. The figure confirms some economists’ expectations that lending will keep rising as China’s central government attempts to revive economic growth and boost property markets that showed signs of another slump in May. It also indicates that despite Beijing’s repeated pledges to reduce the economy’s reliance on credit and state-led investment, the easy flow of financing from state-owned banks remains the country’s primary bulwark against widespread debt crises among corporations and local governments.

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China takes the lead in supercomputing while America sleeps

Summary: The Apollo program demonstrated America’s superpower status in the 1960’s. Today’s contests are more diffuse, such as the race to build the most and largest supercomputers. China has moved into the lead in this, another milestone in its quest to again become the Middle Kingdom. Helping in their quest is America’s unwillingness to invest in itself, preferring to fund the 1%, a massive military, and foreign wars.

Sunway TaihuLight Supercomputer

China’s New Supercomputer Puts the US Even Further Behind

By Brian Barrett, Wired, 21 June 2016 — Excerpt.

“This week, China’s Sunway TaihuLight officially became the fastest supercomputer in the world. The previous champ? Also from China. What used to be an arms race for supercomputing primacy among technological nations has turned into a blowout.

“The Sunway TaihuLight is indeed a monster: theoretical peak performance of 125 petaflops, 10,649,600 cores, and 1.31 petabytes of primary memory. That’s not just “big.” Former Indiana Pacers center Rik Smits is big. This is, like, mountain big. Jupiter big.

“TaihuLight’s abilities are matched only by the ambition that drove its creation. Fifteen years ago, China claimed zero of the top 500 supercomputers in the world. Today, it not only has more than everyone else — including the US — but its best machine boasts speeds five times faster than the best the US can muster.

“…Its 10.6 million cores are more than three times the previous leader, China’s Tianhe-2, and nearly 20 times the fastest U.S. supercomputer, Titan, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. ‘It’s running very high rates of execution speed, very good efficiency, and very good power efficiency,’ says University of Tennessee computer scientist Jack Dongarra. ‘It’s really quite impressive.’  {Its peak power consumption under load (the HPL benchmark) is 15.37 MW, or 6 Gflops/Watt. It would have taken the #2 spot on the November 2015 Green500 list.}

“…TaihuLight is faster than anything scheduled to come online in the US until 2018, when three Department of Energy sites will each receive a machine expected to range from 150 to 200 petaflops. That’s ahead of where China is now — but two years is half an eternity in computer-time.

“…The other significant TaihuLight achievement stings US interests even more, because it’s political. China’s last champ, Tianhe-2, had Intel inside. But in February of 2015, the Department of Commerce, citing national security concerns — supercomputers excel at crunching metadata for the NSA and their foreign equivalents — banned the sale of Intel Xeon processor to Chinese supercomputer labs.

“Rather than slow the rate of Chinese supercomputer technology, the move appears to have had quite the opposite effect. ‘I believe the Chinese government put more research funding into the projects to develop and put in place indigenous processors,’ Dongarra says. ‘The result of that, in some sense, is this machine today.'”

—————————- End excerpt. —————————-

The operating system is a Linux-based Chinese system called Sunway Raise. Bloomberg gives more detail about this remarkable achievement by China.

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