From Bo Xilai to Helen Keller: Today's China-News Roundup

1) The Atlantic's own Helen Gao has a very interesting look at the interplay among rumor, fantasy, official "fact," and forced revisions to those facts, in the riveting Bo Xilai drama in China. Part of her story is based on following Chinese social media feeds, including this message from Weibo, the counterpart to Twitter:

"Why does the U.S. not censor rumors?" asked one Weibo user last November. "No matter how wild they are, nobody bans them, and the creators of rumors do not worry about getting arrested. Perhaps for places where truth persists, rumors have no harm. Only places that lack truth are fearful of rumors."

2) Reuters has an attention-getting story today on this topic. It's an answer to this question: If Bo Xilai's wife really did order the killing of a British businessman (as she has now been accused of), why on Earth would she have done that? Here's the Reuters headline. Thanks to Clement Tan, formerly of the Atlantic, for the lead.


UPDATE: In the WSJ, Minxin Pei has an excellent essay on "what have we learned about the Chinese system??" via the Bo Xilai case.

3) This story, which is played at the top of the front page of today's WSJ (and has been rumbling around for a while), has potentially large real-world and also political-world significance.


The real-world ramifications, as discussed over the years, involve the effort to "rebalance" the Chinese economy in various ways -- exports vs domestic growth, investment vs consumption, region vs region, etc. Everyone agrees that a more flexible value for the Chinese yuan RMB will make that process easier.

Political-world ramifications: the main thing I've heard Mitt Romney say about China is that on Day One he would slap on tariffs to stop their currency manipulation. I suppose now it's time to ask what he'll do on Day Two. Also: if the U.S. is finally getting what many politicians (notably Sen. Chuck Schumer among Democrats) have been asking for, we're not going to like all the results. These will inevitably include a shift of more world trade from dollar-based to RMB-based pricing and settlement. This will have both good and bad effects from the U.S. perspective. More another time.

4) A friend in China sends this screen shot of an ad at the bottom of a China Daily story.

MiracleWorker.pngThe Chinese state media never disappoint. My friend writes:
If they only used Google [eg, to research possible brand names], they would know, but instead, they use Baidu so they end up with this.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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