The end of export-led growth?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:03 am

I don’t post much about current affairs1 but the current Chinese stimulus package seems worth talking about. To forestall the possibility of an economic downturn, China is planning a Rmb4,000bn ($586bn) stimulus package. This number may be a bit exagerated, but that is still a lot of simoleons. If this does come about it will be a pretty decisive shift in Chinese policy. Partly it will be China really becoming the world financial leader it would like to be. One reason they are announcing it now is to have something to brag about at the upcoming G20 meetings. More importantly, though, it may been seen in the future as a decisive point where China turned to domestic demand to drive its economy. This has been going on for a while, of course, but this seems an important new step. It also seems like a good time to retro-fit a social safety net. The money is supposed to go to “low-income housing, rural infrastructure, roads, airports, water, electricity, the environment and technological innovation” at least some of which seems to indicate that the cash may be used to fix some of the festering problems of rapid growth. Who knows where the money will end up, of course, and there are some bad signs here (like an emphasis on trying to continue the real estate boom). The plan supposedly “offers an opportunity to push forward the long-waited revision of oil and natural gas prices by linking them with global markets.” Raising gas prices would not be very stimulative, but apparently the idea is if Beijing is handing out all this money it would be a good time to quit subsidizing gas prices. Half a trillion dollars is a lot of money, and spending it will give Beijing a good chance to show what sort of economy they want to be running ten years from now and the extent to which they would like that economy to be run from Beijing.

  1. despite what they do to our hit counts []


Online China Maps at the University of Texas

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:08 am

While I’m sure there are a lot of similar resources that deserve equal mention, I wanted to post a link while it is fresh on my mind. There are a great collection of online maps of China available for direct viewing via the website of the University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection. They include a number of contemporary maps and many maps from earlier in the 20th century, in particular, especially from the U.S. Army Map Service. The only criticism I have is that the date of the maps is not always clear.

China Maps
Historical Maps of China

See also its wonderful Japan topographical and city plan maps from the US army occupation period.

If you agree that this is a great resource, consider leaving them a comment thanking them for making it available online via the U of Texas library comment page.


Virtual Forbidden City

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:00 am

Imagethief has been discussing the Virtual Forbidden City. Basically this is something that looks a lot like a Second Life site but you have to download the whole thing. You get a little avatar and you can bop around the Great Within and look at stuff. Imagetheif’s readers seem to mostly be divided on whether or not lack of crowds is a good thing or a bad thing.

Frankly I think it is a pretty bad thing, in the sense that visiting the Virtual Forbidden City is simply not a substitute of any sort for visiting the real Forbidden City, reading a book about the Forbidden City, or even looking at some photos of the Forbidden City (hereafter FC).

This is not something that all of my colleagues would agree with. Some of them are real big on the value of new technology like Second Life for teaching. Oddly enough, despite the fact that I have one of those blog things, I am not sold on this. Virtual Forbidden City (hereafter VFC) is a good example of the weaknesses of all this gab about new paradigms of virtual learning. (more…)


Guangxu poisoned!

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:51 pm

Update on this breaking story here and here

I’m not sure how important this will turn out to be. I always thought it was fairly obvious he had been bumped off, but even now it is hard to know who did it. Still, it is nice to see this apparently cleared up. Now if we can just find out exactly what happened to Lin Biao all of history’s mysteries will be cleared up.


Mountains, Vikings, and Chinese Poetry

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 3:42 pm

Lots of people seem to like Chinese poetry. The latest NYRB has a review of a reprint of A.C. Graham’s Poems of the Late T’ang by Eliot Weinberger.1 The book was first published in 1965. A review now may seem odd, but it seems like its always a good time for people (everyone from Ezra Pound to Kilgore Trout) to talk about Chinese poetry. Part of the reason for this is that a lot of Chinese poetry, and especially Tang stuff, sounds very much like modern poetry once you translate it. I assume some translator of Chinese poetry has expressed this as well, but I take an example from Jane Smiley’s introduction to The Sagas of Icelanders.2 The Sagas have been tremendously popular (in literary terms) in the twentieth century just like Tang poetry because they are both modern (more a novel in the case of the Sagas) and medieval at the same time. As Smiley puts it.

And yet, these stories are so clearly medieval
And yet, they are not
This is their fascinating paradox

Chinese poetry turns out to be much the same. Weinberger says that when Graham’s translation first came out “most of the poets I knew avidly read it.” One of the poems he brings up is Han Yu’s The South Mountains (南山) It is a very long poem, and he only cites a few lines out of a much longer section of similes describing mountains.

Scattered like loose tiles
Or running together like converging spokes,
Off keel like rocking boats
Or in full stride like horses at the gallop;
Back to back as though offended,
Face to face as though lending a hand

Weinberg says that this “combination of trance-inducing repetitive rhyme and hypersimilitude would not be attempted again for another 1,000 years, until the Chilean poet Vincente Huidobro’s modernist extravaganza Altazor”

As this is a blog an I have unlimited electrons, I can give you the whole section on mountains.3


  1. Graham, A.C. Poems of the Late T’ang. NYRB Classics, 2008. []
  2. The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection. 1st ed. Viking Penguin, 2000. []
  3. This is from the Charles Hartman translation in Liu, Wu-Chi and Irving Yucheng Lo eds. Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry. Indiana University Press, 1990., so it is a tad different []

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