Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rick Mercer: Canada's Leading Analyst of Canada-China Relations

An excerpt of a monologue delivered on The CBC Program "Rick Mercer Report" on Nov. 21, 2006:

There's no doubt about it: The major economic superpower on the block these days is China. So it's no surprise that a lot of people freaked out when they heard that the president of China wouldn't even meet with Stephen Harper at the APEC Summit.

But before anyone starts to think that Harper's screwed up one of the most important economic relationships that Canada has, let's be clear on one thing: It was the president of China who asked Harper out in the first place, and then when Harper said yes, China said no and then they said yes again.

It's like China asked Harper out on an Internet date but then changed its mind once he showed up and didn't look like his picture. Hey, that's no swimmer's build! Then when China realized how shallow it would look, it agreed to a date, but drinks, no dinner. Clearly, China is a very fickle mistress.

Now, to be fair, the Liberals were masters at this relationship.
Chretien spent more time in Beijing then he ever spent in Alberta. But that was then, this is now and Canada is definitely off China's Christmas list. Not that Christmas is legal in China -- but you get my point. And so what has the Harper government done that was so bad'
Believe it or not, they've been too critical of China on human rights.

Basically, a bunch of Tories went off to Vancouver and met the Dalai Lama, and China went crazy.

And you know what' Who cares' Last time I looked, Canada was a free country. And the Chinese economy can grow as fast as it wants to, but that does not change the fact that we can meet with whoever we want. We can worship who we want, vote for who we want. Heck, for the time being we can even go out and get married to who we want.

So China's little hissy fit is their problem, not ours. And sure we'll do business with China, but we're not going to act like China. Harper has done nothing wrong here; in fact, when it comes to China, for the first time in a long time, Canada's done something right.

Excerpted from Rick Mercer Report: The Book, Toronto: Doubleday, 2007

Vaclav Havel's Warning

In the course of my reading this morning by coincidence I have come across this quote by Vaclav Havel in 3 different sources:

"Totalitarian societies always appear strong. It looks like everyone is loyal and the regime will be here for centuries, that nothing will ever change, and it's easy to believe that. At some moment, though, the regime's invincibility facade cracks, people gain confidence that they can change things and soon it is all over. Without anybody organizing a demonstration, the passersby had turned into demonstrators who filled the main square in Prague."

There are minor variations in each, but even though one of them is in a book published by Random House in 2001, none of the 3 provide attribution beyond "as Vaclav Havel said." If anyone knows the primary source for this statement by Mr. Havel, I would like to know what it is.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Canada's Developmental Aid to China and Deep Shame at Our Incompetence

I just read Geoff York's report "Arrested Development: Museum latest example of Canada's difficulty in finding useful purposes for funds" in the Globe and Mail issue of November 27 page A23 (it can be read here). It is a devastating critique of the problem of CIDA not having enough people in China with the high level of language and cultural knowledge skills and commitment to "get down and dirty" to make sure that Canadian tax payer's money is effectively used in our developmental aid. The project in question was funded at $16 million. With that kind of money at stake, it is a travesty that we cannot get this right. My feeling is that this Inner Mongolia project had so much money at stake, if desirable to ensure it was not wasted, a CIDA officer should have relocated to the site living in a yurt and eating the local diet. But that at a minimum the officer should have learnt Mongolian to be able to understand and communicate with the local people. But hell would likely freeze over before any of those CIDA people would consider that as the right way to proceed

This sort of thing really makes me ashamed to be a Canadian. There are a lot of things Canada could be doing to redress pervasive systemic injustice that makes life so difficult for the Chinese underclass. But this CIDA-funded Museum does not even let in local people as they cannot afford to pay the admission.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Gail Asper invoked the words of former prime minister John Diefenbaker last night as she explained why she's spent thousands of hours fundraising and promoting the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The managing director of the Asper Foundation and champion of the museum said she found a succinct answer in this Diefenbaker quote: "I am Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On Not Having Much Understanding of China

I was chatting with a friend in England currently attending an international meeting on China that includes some Mainland officials and academics. Evidently whenever a non-Chinese participant presses a point that the Chinese Government cannot adequately defend, the Chinese delegation's retort of last resort is "you do not much understanding of China's situatiom" (dui zhongguode qingkuang bu da liaojie). But no further explanation is forthcoming, beyond "you are hurting the feelings of the Chinese people" (that one always make me cringe at such debasement of the nobility of the character of the Chinese people at large). The Chinese Government representatives regard this as the final word on whatever it is.

It seems to me that this retort of last resort is typically employed when the non-Chinese person has in fact too much understanding.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Ugly Chinaman" Concept

Lately one of my Chinese friends has been despairing over China's political future and citing Bo Yang's 1985 essay that was later put out in English as a book entitled The Ugly Chinaman and the Crisis of Chinese Culture.

I am not much taken with this essay. To my mind, the concept "Chinese" is actually highly diverse and dynamic, so it is hard to fairly characterize "Chinese culture" as a fixed and unitary category. Anyway these "ugly" aspects are less important than the so many "beautiful" aspects to Chinese culture.

In my own case, my study of ancient Chinese thought at Fudan University in the 1970s has permanently enriched my life. I experienced some ugly and unjust things then, but I attribute them as largely due to the circumstances of the remnants of the failed proletarian cultural revolution. The imposition of an oppressive false ideology had forced people to be dishonest with each other.

Under conditions of openness and freedom the inherent goodness of Chinese culture would surely prevail. "Ugly" aspects would be transformed by the fresh air of new democratic political institutions.

I hope I live to see that day.

Monday, November 12, 2007

My Work Consigned to the Remainder Bin

Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2007 15:01:33 -0500 [03:01:33 PM EST]
Subject: Jen, Agape, Tao with Tu Wei-Ming

Dear Prof. Burton,

Global Academic Publishing at Binghamton University has a book entitled "Jen, Agape, Tao with Tu Wei-Ming" in which you contributed. We are currently in the process of reducing our inventory. At the moment there 48 copies in our possession. We would like to know if you have any suggestions as to where these books could be sold. Large discounts will be available for any buyer. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, we can offer them for $3.00 each plus shipping and handling. Thank you for your time.


Freddy Aguero
Marketing Assistant
Global Academic Publishing

Large Cash Payments and the Burden of Proof in Mulroney's $100,000 envelopes

I have a lot of indirect knowledge of corruption and cash transactions in the People's Republic of China. A lot of that sort of thing goes on there. Can't say I have any direct knowledge as so far no one has invited me to a hotel room to slip me a thick envelope of cash. When I have done some consulting work it has always been paid by cheque after the fact and those modest cheques tend to be rather slow coming in the mail.

In Canada all reasonable people would assume that anyone in receipt of a cash payment of $300,000 (even if spread over 3 envelopes) is up to something illegal. The issue in the Mulroney-Schreiber dealings is it is likely that everything was arranged in meetings with no written agenda or minutes taken. So based on my China experience, as long as Mr. Mulroney and the others present in the hotel rooms, parliamentary office, and cottage on Harrington Lake, where Mr. Mulroney met with Mr. Schreiber stick to the explanation that nothing untoward was going on, then Mr. Mulroney will not end up serving time in prison.

But my heart laments.

Friday, November 09, 2007

"Democracy" Section of Foreign Minister Bernier's Address to the House of Commons on October 19


As the Prime Minister has noted, Canada provides a model, a model built on constitutional democracy and economic openness—economic openness combined with social safety nets, equitable wealth creation, and sharing across regions.

Canada will play a dynamic role to strengthen and promote our fundamental values. All Canadians benefit when our neighbours embrace freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Letter to the Globe and Mail about November 6 article "Dalai Lama's welcome angers Chinese delegation"

The China Tibetology Research Center is subsidiary to the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee United Front Work Department. It's primary function is to engage in "soft diplomacy" to make outsiders sympathetic to Chinese Government claims that Tibet has been subject to rule by the Han Chinese since time immemorial and therefore Tibetan demands for autonomy are illegitimate. But the interpretation of history that they present does not stand up to scrutiny. This is not a delegation of scholars and researchers. It is simply a delegation of propagandists for Chinese nationalism. The Tibetologists's sponsor, the China International Culture Association, is indeed, strictly speaking, not a Government organization. It is funded by the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's Ministry of Propaganda.