All of them spent their formative years in American education institutions (not to mention Parisian debutante balls) and seem to have entered high-power private sector professions
Over Thanksgiving, the Wall Street Journal's Jeremy Page wrote an excellent piece on Chinese royalty 3.0, replete with a neat interactive graphic. It immediately became a buzz on Twitter and Weibo. The article featured Bo Guagua prominently, the son of standing committee aspirant and former Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai, and led with a vignette of Guagua pulling up to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in a red Ferrari. To me, that was the least surprising part of it. I would be surprised if he wasn't behind the wheels of a Ferrari or some ultra luxury brand equivalent. Who do we think he is, U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke?
I won't dwell on what this phenomenon of "princelings with money" means for the Chinese political economy, since the WSJ page explains it in more detail. While it is understandable that Guagua commands most of the attention because he has not exactly been shy, in this Web 2.0 world, it is difficult for any of the notable progeny of Chinese politicians to escape notice. In fact, many of these "red princes and princesses" are on Facebook or Renren, the Chinese equivalent. A quick search turned up Bo Guagua's page:
Apparently, Guagua considers himself a "public figure" and displays a photo of what is presumably his NGO work. But I didn't notice any way in which you can "friend" him. His status updates, which I doubt he manages himself, offer an interesting selection, including a Global Times piece titled "Why Bo Guagua is so popular in China", in which he is described as a "good-looking and outstanding young man" who studied at Oxford. There is also another linked Chinese piece titled "Bo Guagua: Hoping for understanding, but relishing misunderstanding," perhaps a snide riposte at the kind of coverage that has been lavished upon him. Exhibit A below are two photos from the China Digital Times:
Yes, he has had a tough time shaking the image of a partier frat boy who hangs with celebrities like Jackie Chan. But it's not so uncommon for a western-educated Chinese elite to engage in typical college revelry such as hook ups and booze. He does drive a red Ferrari. But he may have already given up the bachelor lifestyle if the speculation of his engagement to Chen Xiaodan -- the daughter of second-generation princeling Chen Yuan, the head of China Development Bank -- turns out to be true. Rumor of their engagement first broke in the British press, which treat it somewhat like another royal wedding. Since then, more photos have emerged that seem to confirm that Bo and Chen are a pair:
They could be called the "William and Kate of China" -- an Oxford man tying the knot with a Harvard Business School grad who now works at Morgan Stanley, according to Chen's Facebook and Linkedin pages (she goes by Sabrina Chen). It's little surprise they're making it into the tabloids -- their seeming transparency contrasts greatly with their politically connected fathers' relative opacity.
It's not just them, even though they attract a disproportionate amount of intrigue. There's also Jasmine Li, the granddaughter of Jia Qinglin, who heads the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee and is currently number four on the nine-man standing committee. Li attends Stanford and debutante balls in Paris -- an honor she shares with Sabrina Chen. Apparently, becoming a red princess requires an appearance at the Paris debutante ball. Perhaps the least high profile red princess is Alice Yang, the daughter of Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and a Yale grad. And last but not least, there is of course future Chinese president Xi Jinping's daughter Xi Mingze, who is attending Harvard as an undergrad.
Their pedigrees are not so different from those of elite children anywhere else, and are all products of prestigious prep and boarding schools in the U.S. (Sabrina Chen, Tabor Academy; Jasmine Li, Hotchkiss School; Alice Yang, Sidwell Friends, which makes sense given that her father previously served as Chinese ambassador in D.C.). All of them spent their formative years in American education institutions and seem to have entered high-power private sector professions. It is far from clear whether any of them will have political aspirations in the future, and if they do, whether their experiences will decisively shape their world views. The average Chinese -- actually, average anybody -- would struggle to identify with what they represent or to determine whether they will be forces for change or stasis in China over the next decades.
(On a personal note, there was a remote possibility that I could've
tasted the "sweetness" of the exclusive princelings club, as I
recently learned that my grandfather survived the infamous "Long
March" with Mao Zedong during the civil war. Alas, I went to public
schools, dislike cars in general, and have nary a clue what a debutante ball
is, all disqualifying me from entry. In any event, to paraphrase Groucho
Marx, I, too, wouldn't want to be part of a club that would have me as a
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.
Some spoiler-y speculation on the final three episodes
With only three episodes left to go, Game of Thrones looks as though it once again has a lot of ground to cover before wrapping up a season. And so, for the curious and impatient among you, I’ll do my best to offer some quasi-informed speculation about what we might reasonably expect in these final weeks.
Note: I haven’t seen any of the remaining episodes, but I have read the books. The first five items below are spoiler-y, but the predictions in them do not derive from the George R. R. Martin novels. Rather, they’re guesswork based on what’s already happened on the show and on tidbits scattered across the web: a behind-the-scenes photo here, a close-read of a trailer there. (They could all, of course, turn out to be completely wrong.) The last four items, however, are based at least in part on events that take place in A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, so non-book-readers may want to skip them. And obviously anyone, book-reader or not, who’d prefer to go into these final episodes without preconceptions—who doesn’t want to know at least some of what will (probably) happen—should stop reading now.
A challenge based on four words of the law amounts to little more than politics dressed up as a legal argument.
The Supreme Court is about to decide another blockbuster case arising under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The specific issue is whether federal-tax subsidies are available to people who purchase health insurance from exchanges operated by the federal government or instead whether such subsidies are available only from exchanges established by the states. A decision in favor of the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell would most likely cripple the ACA in over thirty states and deprive millions of people of health insurance.
That the Supreme Court even agreed to hear the case is the result of an improbable conjunction of events. Two committed opponents of the ACA seized upon four words of the law out of almost 1000 pages, and through their persistent and energetic work, created a powerful soundbite that appealed to die-hard opponents of the ACA. They then took that sound bite and dressed it up in highly technical arguments about statutory interpretation that might well change how healthcare is paid for in the United States. But the soundbite is inaccurate, and the technical window dressing shouldn’t obscure the fact that the argument is based on a faulty reading of the text of the entire law as well as a misleading account of how and why the law was passed. At bottom, King v. Burwell is a political challenge to the ACA dressed up in legal garb.
People look to Amy Schumer and her fellow jokers not just to make fun of the world, but to make sense of it. And maybe even to help fix it.
This week, in a much-anticipated sketch on her Comedy Central show, Amy Schumer staged a trial of Bill Cosby in “the court of public opinion.” Schumer—her character, at any rate—played the role of the defense. “Let’s remind ourselves what’s at stake here,” she argued to the jury. “If convicted, the next time you put on a rerun of The Cosby Show you may wince a little. Might feel a little pang. And none of us deserve that. We don’t deserve to feel that pang.”
Her conclusion? “We deserve to dance like no one’s watching, and watch like no one’s raping.”
Ooof. This is the kind of thing that gets Inside Amy Schumer referred to as “the most feminist show on television,” and her act in general called, in a phrase that reveals as much about her craft as about Schumer herself, “comedy with a message.” But while Schumer’s work is operating at the vanguard of popular comedy, it’s also in line with the work being done by her fellow performers: jokes that tend to treat humor not just as an end in itself, but as a vehicle for making a point. Watch like no one’s raping.
We're all going to die and we all know it. This can be both a burden and a blessing.
In the heart of every parent lives the tightly coiled nightmare that his child will die. It might spring at logical times—when a toddler runs into the street, say—or it might sneak up in quieter moments. The fear is a helpful evolutionary motivation for parents to protect their children, but it's haunting nonetheless.
The ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus advised parents to indulge that fear. “What harm is it, just when you are kissing your little child, to say: Tomorrow you will die?”he wrote in his Discourses.
Some might say Epictetus was an asshole. William Irvine thinks he was on to something.
“The Stoics had the insight that the prospect of death can actually make our lives much happier than they would otherwise be,” he says. “You’re supposed to allow yourself to have a flickering thought that someday you’re going to die, and someday the people you love are going to die. I’ve tried it, and it’s incredibly powerful. Well, I am a 21st-century practicing Stoic.”
To be far from home in a major, diverse metropolis such as New York or Los Angeles is one thing. But those who have landed in small cities across the Midwest face a whole other sort of isolation.
CINCINNATI—When they were deciding where to settle down and raise a family, Lorena Mora-Mowry, a lawyer from Venezuela, and her husband Paul, a mechanical engineer from California, performed extensive research. Based on reports they read in magazines and brochures, they decided that Cincinnati, with its low cost of living, access to arts and the outdoors, and strong schools, would be a good place to live. They moved here in 1995.
It was a difficult transition from (relatively) open-minded, Latino-heavy Southern California to Cincinnati, where just about everybody was either white or black, and where immigrants were a rarity. Mora-Mowry tried to speak to people in stores, but they could never understand her accent, and she hated the long, cold winters.
The former speaker of the House is charged with lying to federal agents and evading financial reporting requirements in what appears to be a case of blackmail.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been indicted on charges of lying to FBI agents and evading federal financial-reporting requirements.
Hastert, an Illinois Republican, was speaker from 1999 to 2007. BuzzFeed’s John Stanton, who first reported on the indictment, notes that there were several high-profile congressional scandals in those years. Illinois is also a notorious hotbed for political corruption, as Roland Burris, Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, and Jesse Jackson Jr. can attest.
But reading between the lines of the indictment against Hastert suggests a darker story than political corruption. In or about 2010, according to the indictment, Hastert—a former high-school teacher and coach—met with an unnamed individual from Yorkville, Hastert’s hometown. They “discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.” In effect, Hastert fell victim to blackmail, the indictment alleges: He “agreed to provide Individual A $3.5 million in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A.” (Since leaving the House, Hastert has become a highly paid lobbyist.)
Can a political system be democratically legitimate without being democratic?
The flaws in China’s political system are obvious. The government doesn’t even make a pretense of holding national elections and punishes those who openly call for multiparty rule. The press is heavily censored and the Internet is blocked. Top leaders are unconstrained by the rule of law. Even more worrisome, repression has been ramped up since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, suggesting that the regime is increasingly worried about its legitimacy.
Some China experts—most recently David Shambaugh of George Washington University—interpret these ominous signs as evidence that the Chinese political system is on the verge of collapse. But such an outcome is highly unlikely in the near future. The Communist Party is firmly in power, its top leader is popular, and no political alternative currently claims widespread support. And what would happen if the Party’s power did indeed crumble? The most likely result, in my view, would be rule by a populist strongman backed by elements of the country’s security and military forces. The new ruler might seek to buttress his legitimacy by launching military adventures abroad. President Xi would look tame by comparison.
The danger of uploading one’s consciousness to a computer without a suicide switch
Imagine a supercomputer so advanced that it could hold the contents of a human brain. The Google engineer Ray Kurzweil famously believes that this will be possible by 2045. Organized technologists are seeking to transfer human personalities to non-biological carriers, “extending life, including to the point of immortality.” My gut says that they’ll never get there. But say I’m wrong. Were it possible, would you upload the contents of your brain to a computer before death, extending your conscious moments on this earth indefinitely? Or would you die as your ancestors did, passing into nothingness or an unknown beyond human comprehension?
The promise of a radically extended lifespan, or even immortality, would tempt many. But it seems to me that they’d be risking something very much like hell on earth.
Caves and tunnels have always been part of human life.
Caves and tunnels have always been part of human life. We've grown more adept at shaping these underground shelters and passages over the millennia, and today we dig for hundreds of reasons. We excavate to find both literal and cultural treasures, digging mines and unearthing archaeological discoveries. We use caverns for stable storage, for entertainment, and for an effective shelter from natural and man-made disasters. And as the planet's surface becomes ever more crowded, and national borders are closed, tunnels provide pathways for our vehicles and for smugglers of every kind. Collected below are more recent subterranean scenes from around the world.
Our roundtable on "Mhysa," the 10th episode in the HBO show's third season.
Every week for the third season of HBO's fantasy series Game of Thrones, our roundtable of Ross Douthat (columnist, The New York Times), Spencer Kornhaber (entertainment editor, TheAtlantic.com), and Christopher Orr (senior editor and film critic, The Atlantic) will discuss the latest happenings in Westeros.
Orr: It seems only fair. After Arya's brutally aborted reunion with her family last week, tonight we were offered a few literal and metaphorical homecomings. In descending order of satisfaction: Sam and Jon find each other once again at Castle Black; Daenerys adopts a city's worth of new dependents; Davos is accepted back into Stannis's embrace about five minutes after the latter sentenced him to death; Jaime (or most of him) reunites with a less-than-entirely-ecstatic Cersei; and Theon (or at least his self-described "best part") is delivered to his dad in a box. Oh, and Tywin Lannister is restored to his rightful place as the man in Westeros on whose bad side you least want to be, king or no king. (Paying attention, Joffrey?)
We've been here before, of course, in both Seasons One and Two: The penultimate episode overturns the Game of Thrones playing board—Ned loses his head, the Lannisters turn the tide on the Blackwater—and the season finale picks up the remaining pieces.