Six months after the 18th Communist Party Congress, debate and bickering over reforms in China rages on. Both inside and outside the country, opinions
remain divided over whether Beijing will strategically push forward an ambitious economic reform agenda or squander the opportunity once again. A corollary
is that even assuming Zhongnanhai will take on a reform agenda, it is usually an assumption riddled with caveats about the scope and extent of such
reforms. For many of the skeptics, whatever reforms that may emerge will be weak and perhaps too little too late.
But for internal champions of economic reforms, things may in fact be looking up. According to the estimable John Garnaut of the Sydney Morning Herald, some potentially serious changes are in the works, a point corroborated by the New York Times as well. Garnaut writes:
China is drawing up a blueprint for sweeping reforms aimed at averting an economic crisis, sources with close ties to the leadership say.
The reforms are aimed at revitalising the world's second-largest economy amid deepening fears about a trend of rising corruption, wasteful investment and
local government debt.
Liu He, who leads the party's Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs, has been given the task of preparing a seven-point blueprint
for the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party Congress, which is due in about October, according to a source with close ties to several members
of the Politburo Standing Committee.
A few points are worth noting. First, appointing Liu He to the task of creating a "reform plan" should generally be interpreted as a positive sign. Liu
is no stranger to such herculean efforts, having been widely rumored as a leading architect of China's 12th Five-Year Plan, a blueprint that most
observers laud as a formidable, if overly ambitious, plan to achieve China's economic transition. Second, the timing of the Third Plenum, if true,
reaffirms previous speculation that the new leadership is hoping to imbue their reform rollout with historical import. As Evan Feigenbaum and I wrote recently in Foreign Affairs:
If Chinese leaders do choose the third plenum as the place to announce new reforms, it will be because it is pregnant with political symbolism: it was
at another third plenum, in 1978, that Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China's market reforms, won consensus around the vision that set China on its
course to becoming the world's second-largest economy.
For casual China observers, something as obscure as a Communist Party event such as a plenum may mean absolutely nothing. But it in fact carries
considerable historical weight. At the time in 1978, Chinese patriarch Deng understood clearly that simply having an economic reform plan was necessary but
insufficient. What also was needed was an enduring political consensus to move the plan forward to the execution stage. The politics of that time were
decidedly more complicated. The entire Chinese nation was barely coming to grips with the post-Mao Zedong era and awakening from a decade of the brutish
politics of the Cultural Revolution. It was a toxic environment in which to even suggest market reforms, and it could have easily been derailed. As one accountfrom Bao Tong, a former high level party official and close confidante of Zhao Ziyang, has it:
Sometimes, history resonates with itself. In 1969, as the Communist Party was preparing for the Ninth Party Congress, Lin Biao put forward the view
that the process of continuous revolution should be stopped, and the Party should turn its attention instead to ways to develop productivity. If Mao
had been receptive to this idea, then maybe Lin Biao would have gone on to become the next Deng Xiaoping.
But the opposite occurred, because the suggestion angered Mao deeply, causing the rift between them. Fast forward to 1978, and the Third Plenum, where
Deng Xiaoping thought the same thing, that the continuous process of revolution should be stopped, and that the whole Party should turn its attention
to building a modern China. Luckily, Hua Guofeng wasn't Mao, and fortunately he accepted Deng's suggestion.
Hua and Deng agreed ahead of the Third Plenum that it would look forwards rather than backwards and avoid getting tangled up in "problems left over by
history." (By this, they meant that it wouldn't concern itself with debating the issue of all the trumped-up or mistaken political charges against
people.) They decided that what was needed was "unity to face the future."
That unity wasn't preordained nor was the political equilibrium easily maintained. It took Deng and his supporters considerable political acumen to
sustain the momentum and justification behind reforms. At the time, Deng seemed to fully grasp that the grandiose task of Chinese "modernization",
however defined, would take longer than his lifetime. His solution? Personally select two generations of leaders -- Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao -- that would
continue the nation-building he began for another 20 years.
When Deng passed away in 1997, the Chinese economy was just under $1 trillion. It is now an $8 trillion-plus behemoth with far-reaching global
interests. The reforms of today, whatever shape they make take, will necessarily be different from those more than 30 years ago, because China itself has transformed dramatically. The expectation of change must also be tethered to the reality of today's institutional interests and political dynamics. Under the initial burst of reforms, changes were profound both in their scope and speed, largely because China was starting from such a low base.
That said, a new leadership appears to once again seek to instill historical purpose
into their reform agenda, in large part to shape the political environment in which these reforms must be carried out. They have appealed to national rejuvenation and greatness -- a time-honored tactic to mobilize a popular mandate -- to continue the project of Chinese modernization.
Can the new leadership now relieve the pressures that it, deliberately or not, has created by making a closing argument on reform at the Third Plenum? Either way, the fall conclave just got a whole lot more
Damien Ma is a fellow at the Paulson Institute, where he focuses on investment and policy programs, and on the Institute's research and think-tank activities. Previously, he was a lead China analyst at Eurasia Group, a political risk research and advisory firm.
The social network learns more about its users than they might realize.
Facebook, you may have noticed, turned into a rainbow-drenched spectacle following the Supreme Court’s decision Friday that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right.
By overlaying their profile photos with a rainbow filter, Facebook users began celebrating in a way we haven't seen since March 2013, when 3 million peoplechanged their profile images to a red equals sign—the logo of the Human Rights Campaign—as a way to support marriage equality. This time, Facebook provided a simple way to turn profile photos rainbow-colored. More than 1 million people changed their profile in the first few hours, according to the Facebook spokesperson William Nevius, and the number continues to grow.
“This is probably a Facebook experiment!” joked the MIT network scientist Cesar Hidalgo on Facebook yesterday. “This is one Facebook study I want to be included in!” wrote Stacy Blasiola, a communications Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois, when she changed her profile.
The second episode of the new season was a slow burner with a dramatic twist.
Let’s start at the beginning, with Frank in bed with his wife, Jordan, discussing water stains on the ceiling and childhood entombments. I don’t know about you guys, but I found this whole bit slack and familiar. Maybe there was a two-minute scene in there, but five? Maybe a more charismatic actor could have pulled off that lengthy monologue. But Vince Vaughn is no Robert Shaw, and his childhood basement is no U.S.S. Indianapolis.
The historian and Knesset member Michael Oren accuses the president of distancing the U.S. from Israel, and calls out left-wing Jews and Israel’s Jewish critics in the American press.
In a recent post, I suggested that the intervention of two men, the former U.S. national security advisor Tom Donilon and the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, might help improve the dysfunctional relationship between the Obama administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
At the time I wrote this, both men had reputations as people who were concerned about preserving the extraordinarily complicated, and extraordinarily close, U.S.-Israel relationship, and both had spent a good deal of time calming the waters between Obama and Netanyahu. Today, Donilon maintains that reputation. As for Oren …
Put it this way: If Goldblog readers would allow me to withdraw the suggestion, I’d be much obliged. Oren has created a new role for himself: acid critic of the Obama administration and of left-leaning American Jews (especially in the press and in the White House) who, he believes, are trading on their Jewishness when they criticize Israel. Oren’s critique, at its heart, is simple: Obama, in part because he wanted to reconcile the U.S. with the “Muslim world” (a very large, ill-defined, and politically complicated concept, in Oren’s mind), decided to distance the United States from Israel; to surprise Israel by altering U.S. Middle East policy without prior notice; and to negotiate with Israel’s most potent enemy without alerting Israeli leaders.
Over the last two weeks, Republican presidential candidates have repeatedly missed opportunities to demonstrate that they care about communities outside of their traditional base.
After Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012, the Republican National Committee published an “autopsy.” “When it comes to social issues,” the autopsy declared, “the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming. If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people.” The autopsy also added that, “we need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case. We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too.”
The last two weeks, more than any since Romney’s defeat, illustrate how miserably the GOP has failed.
Start with June 17, when Dylann Roof, a young white man enamored of the Confederate flag, murdered nine African Americans in church. Within three days, Romney had called for the Confederate flag’s removal from South Carolina’s capitol. Four days later, the state’s Republican governor and senators called for its removal too. But during that entire week—even as it became obvious that the politics of the flag were shifting—not a single GOP presidential candidate forthrightly called for it to be taken down. Instead, they mostly called it a state decision, a transparent dodge politicians deploy when they don’t want to make a difficult call.
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
1. Youngstown, U.S.A.
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.
For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.
The president delivers his single most accomplished rhetorical performance, and it’s one you should watch rather than read.
I think Barack Obama’s eulogy yesterday for parishioners of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston was his most fully successful performance as an orator. It was also one that could have come only at this point in his public career—and not, for instance, when he was an intriguing figure first coming to national notice, as he was during his celebrated debut speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston 11 years ago; or when he was a candidate fighting for political survival, as he was when he gave his “Race in America” speech in Philadelphia early in 2008.
I’ll explain why I say so, but first a word about the odd circumstances in which I’ve heard and learned about the speech.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Twenty-five percent of Americans are spending more than half of their income just to keep a roof over their head.
If you’ve gone through the painstaking process of renting a new apartment in the past few years, you probably faced some sticker-shock. Vacancy rates are low, really low. And despite ever-present scaffolding, construction in many cities is still slow, as new tenants move in but few move out. The result is that in almost every major metro area, the rent is, in fact, too damn high.
Basic wisdom (which was largely established by rules governing public housing eligibility) warns a healthy bank account means that one’s housing costs shouldn’t exceed about one-third of a person’s take home pay. While that might be a prudent suggestion because, after all, people do have other bills and savings goals, it’s become virtually impossible to adhere to for many who live in major metro areas.
The meaning of the Confederate flag is best discerned in the words of those who bore it.
This afternoon, in announcing her support for removing the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley asserted that killer Dylann Roof had “a sick and twisted view of the flag” which did not reflect “the people in our state who respect and in many ways revere it.” If the governor meant that very few of the flag’s supporters believe in mass murder, she is surely right. But on the question of whose view of the Confederate Flag is more twisted, she is almost certainly wrong.
Roof’s belief that black life had no purpose beyond subjugation is “sick and twisted” in the exact same manner as the beliefs of those who created the Confederate flag were “sick and twisted.” The Confederate flag is directly tied to the Confederate cause, and the Confederate cause was white supremacy. This claim is not the result of revisionism. It does not require reading between the lines. It is the plain meaning of the words of those who bore the Confederate flag across history. These words must never be forgotten. Over the next few months the word “heritage” will be repeatedly invoked. It would be derelict to not examine the exact contents of that heritage.
Eight out of every 10 lawyers are white. Social scientists and architects are probably in need of some diversity too.
Earlier this year, Deborah Rhode, a professor at Stanford Law School, lamented the state of diversity in the legal profession. Rhodes wrote that despite what it looks like from the outside, statistics show that there are few lawyers who aren’t white. Data from the U.S. Census supports this claim, showing that 81 percent of lawyers are white, down from 89 percent in 2000. Further, only 7 percent of partners at law firms are blacks, Hispanics, Asians, or Native Americans. Rhodes attributes the problem partly to the lack of diversity at law schools, but also to unconscious bias and lack of access to networks.
These days, criticisms about the lack of racial diversity are perhaps most focused on the tech sector. But usually, these criticisms of diversity at top tech companies exclude Asians and focus on the low percentage of blacks and Hispanics in the tech industry. Data from the Census bureau shows that while blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in the computer workers category, Asians are overrepresented (Asians make up 5.3 percent of the U.S. population). In the spirit of transparency, companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have all revealedinternal data about the racial makeup of their employees, but in general information about the racial composition of many companies can be difficult to come by, and is often incomplete. The best guess is data compiled by the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.