今日中国 China today

Today a short post, but focused on current China- specifically, China after the new leadership took charge.

I know that the title sounds like something else, but it has nothing to do with Chinese newspapers or Chinese news agencies: I had a look at the magazine in a library, but it is way beyond my current Chinese language reading skills 🙂 Stay tuned…

Obviously, as my self-defined purpose is to share learning material, I will get through something better than just my own commentary, but I was inspired to write this post by my dissatisfaction with an article on China within the current issue (Nov-Dec 2014) of Foreign Affairs.

As you would expect from me, I will first share the link, then my feed-back: “China’s Imperial President”, by Elizabeth C. Economy http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/142201/elizabeth-c-economy/chinas-imperial-president (have a look at it, before continuing with this post).

So, I will assume that you already read that article, and now I can share few ideas and links 🙂

I had already considered writing about the changes in China, as over the last few months almost on a daily basis I saw announces of a new agreement between China and other countries, including Member States of the EU, future Members, and countries that have had a long history of economic and cultural relationships with the EU (yes, in most cases due to our past as colonialists).

I wish I had better Chinese reading skills, but for the time being I will have to read tea leaves (and online newspapers), and rely more on my past business experience and political analysis on change and information through mediators (foreign newspapers, local material published for foreign consumption, etc.) than current material in Chinese from China.

As an example, let’s just have a look at what I shared this morning and this evening on @robertolofaro :
#Iceland and #China sign #Free #Trade #Agreement http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2014-11/01/c_133759290.htm #incentives attracting #production #hubs #diplomacy #Arctic
#China, #Qatar announce #strategic #partnership http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-11/03/c_133763382.htm #diplomacy #business

Elizabeth Economy reports some skepticism about the anti-corruption drive, and it might well be part of the “power adjustment”: if this routinely happened in Italy since Ancient Rome, why shouldn’t happen elsewhere? As a kid, I studied Cicero, so I was used to see an anti-corruption campaign as a political tool well before the 1990s “Clean Hands” in Milan that paved the way for a different political balance (still to be stabilized).

There was some lingering doubt, after reading that article, considering also the long list of book on what’s changing in China (mostly looking at business and institutional changes) that I read since early 2014, as part of my journey through the Chinese language, so, with the help of my limited skills in reading Chinese, I ventured on the Chinese side of Xinhua, and picked up two articles, reading them (for the time being) with the help of translate.google.com (I am doing the same each working day with Russian, and, less and less often as my reading skills improve again, German).

The two articles? Well, I worked a lot in banking, and therefore the first one that I selected is about corruption (one of the highly visible initiatives) on a specific case involving management: 中邮储银行原行长陶礼明涉受贿超千万元 将择期宣判 http://news.xinhuanet.com/legal/2014-11/03/c_1113098261.htm

I learned a new “action verb” that I did not learn in my books, i.e. 受贿 (shòu huì), “to accept bribes”- and the second character is relatively easy to visually associate with the concept (but that’s probably my idea, that isn’t matched by anything real within the etymology of the word “bribe”), as it includes the verb “to have” and “something valuable”.

The other article? 经济学家如何发现问题、研究问题——评《21世纪资本论》 http://news.xinhuanet.com/book/2014-10/31/c_127162012.htm, a commentary on the Chinese edition of Piketty’s (or… 皮凯蒂 Pi Kaidi – the stem of victorious skin? :D) book.

The interesting part? This article doesn’t really talk about the book- but about China and its economic policy development.

I must confess: as I learned about economics macro through politics, and micro through business (number crunching for senior managers since the 1980s), before I even opened a first book on the theoretical side of economics in the early 1990s (or slightly earlier), I am usually biased and more inclined toward a “behavioral” approach, and while I had to develop number crunching models for a quarter of a century but within real business environments, I have always been skeptical of the obsession with models based on historical data and assumptions made out of thin air.

So, I read that article, and I was more than inclined to both confirm my feeling that it was promoting a shift in economic model, and support the conclusions of the article.

As for Piketty… so far I read only interviews with him, or reviews, but not his book- albeit read a couple of decades ago quite a few books on, for, against Marx “Das Kapital”- including re-reading the first book of “Das Kapital” to support the university thesis of a friend; so, I will added it to my reading list.

Back to the Foreign Affairs article: the author adopts obviously an American perspective, but I am less negative, as I think that, while expanding abroad, the campaign against corruption is also a useful tool to consolidate power and a tool (a stick) to keep on a short leash potential dissent within the elites about reforms, while some of the announced reforms (e.g. the Hukou reform http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2014/08/04/chinas-hukou-reform-plan-starts-to-take-shape/) are both an economic development tool and a carrot to the people.

Opening the country through increased exposure of future managers and leaders to other cultures thanks to expanded cultural exchange programmes (e.g. Italy is currently having a significant influx of Chinese students in its top universities) could alter the social balance, in a decade or two, as well as the direction of change.

It reminds me the end of the movie “Le Serpent”, when Yul Brynner returns to the DDR (have a look, it is available on YouTube).

I cannot forget that the first time that I read Sun Tzu I had got through an Italian translation of an English one, and I found it shallow, and eventually settled for… a translation written by a Chinese officer, Huang Jialin, who studied in Italy at a Military Academy, and published by the Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito- I liked that edition so much, that I bought few copies that I gave away (while working in organizational change, I was used to give “inspiring books” as gifts to my customers), and then in Rome at the publisher’s office I bought what I was told to be the last copies available 🙂

So, from what I read, it looks like reforming while keeping at bay potential dissent from the top and from the bottom (in any change initiative resistance to change comes in both varieties, and the two don’t necessarily converge), and this could imply that, in the short-term, there could be a consolidation of power to keep the boat steady- more or less what happened more than a decade ago, but adapted to different times.

For the time being… have a nice week!

PS Please read the introduction to understand how to use this website 🙂

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