Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tuesday Morning Blues

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

"Only the question of Outer Mongolia remained"

The Qing state continued to grant Chinese merchants licenses to trade throughout Mongolian territories, and this trade continued to be dominated by several large firms based in Shanxi province that manipulated exchange rates between Mongolian raw materials such as fur, hides, and wool, and Chinese finished products such as tea, house wares, and luxury goods. Their control over these rates allowed them to claim that with each transaction, the Mongolian purchasers had acquired further debt. This drove down the cost of the raw materials, while simultaneously increasing Mongolians’ debt. Debt was commonly distributed throughout the banner, causing many Mongolians to submit petitions to Qing officials pleading for the reduction of their financial burdens.
Sara L. Jackson and Devon Dear. "Resource extraction and national anxieties: China’s economic presence in Mongolia." Eurasian Geography and Economics (2016): 1-31.

What the Mongols fear most is the attempt of the Chinese to colonize their country, and they see with alarm how the tilled fields of these thrifty agriculturists are already encroaching on the steppe.
“The People of the Wilderness: The Mongols, Once the Terror of All Christendom, Now a Primitive, Harmless Nomad Race” by Adam Warwick, National Geographic Magazine, 1/1/1921, Volume 39, p. 551

Энэ бол мөн л онц сонирхолтой торгон агшин. БНМАУ-ын Ерөнхий сайд Ю.Цэдэнбал БНХАУ-ын үндэсний баярт ганцаараа хүндэт (дээд) зочноор очоод цэргийн парад хүлээн авч байгаа түүхэн зураг. Мао Зэдун, Жоу Эньлай нарын дунд ёслон зогсоо бүрх малгайтай цэл залуу Ю.Цэдэнбал. БНМАУ-ын тусгаар тогтносон улс болохыг Хятадын ДИУ 1945 онд манай бүх ард түмний санал асуулгын дараа арга буюу хүлээн зөвшөөрөөд 1946 онд дипломат харилцаа тогтоосон бол 1949 онд түүний халааг авч шинээр байгуулагдсан БНХАУ нь БНМАУ-ыг шууд хүлээн зөвшөөрч Элчин сайдын хэмжээнд дипломат харилцаа тогтоогоод удаагүй байх үеийн гэрэл зураг энэ байна.
Д.Баярхүү - "Хоёр их хөрштэй тэнцвэр тогтоосон торгон агшин"

During the same conversation Liu Shaoqi added that the Chinese people allegedly are very deeply pained by the fact of Mongolia's secession from China. He noted that when the Soviet Union was celebrating the 300-year-anniversary of reunification of Ukraine with Russia, [some people] said in China that 300 years ago Mongolia already was a part of China and asked the question whether it could be re-united with China. The Chinese, Liu Shaoqi continued, consider Mongolia, like Taiwan, a part of their territory.
"Information Memorandum, 'About the Claims of the Chinese Leaders With Regard to the Mongolian People's Republic'," January 30, 1964, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive.

Chairman Deng: Yalta not only severed Outer Mongolia from China, but also brought the Northeastern part of China into the Soviet sphere. [Now] only the question of Outer Mongolia remained. We raised the question of Outer Mongolia, but the Soviets didn't respond [...]

Mr. President [George H. W. Bush], you are my friend. I hope you will look at the map to see what happened after the Soviet Union severed Outer Mongolia from China. What kind of strategic situation did we find ourselves in? Those over 50 in China remember that the shape of China was like a maple leaf. Now, if you look at a map, you see a huge chunk in the north cut away; the maple leaf has been nibbled away. I hope Ambassador Lord will show the President a map of China. It's very interesting.
"Memorandum of Conversation between George H. W. Bush and Chairman Deng Xiaoping in Beijing," February 26, 1989, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive.

Хамтдаа түлээ цуглуулбал гал өндөр бадарна. Хятад улс Монгол Улсыг оролцуулаад хөрш орнууддаа хөгжлийн боломж, хөгжих орон зайг олгоно. Та бүхнийг Хятадын хөгжлийн галт тэргэнд суухыг урьж байна. Галт тэрэг хурдан ч бай, удаан ч бай бид Та бүхнийг урьж байна. “Ганцаар явбал хурдан явна. Олуулаа явбал хол явна” гэж үг байдаг.
Монгол Улсын Их Хурлын хүндэтгэлийн хуралдаан дээр БНХАУ-ын дарга Си Зиньпиний хэлсэн үг. 2014 оны 8 дугаар сарын 22-ны өдөр.

This could well be just another period of Chinese charm that will be followed by another round of coercion. That’s certainly been the pattern of Chinese behaviour before, and it is difficult to see why Beijing would change now.
"China tries chequebook diplomacy in Southeast Asia" from Financial Times, Monday, November 7, 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016

That is Teaching

My greatest debt, though I did not fully appreciate it at the time, was to Dunn, then a very young college Research Fellow, now a distinguished professor emeritus. It was John who--in the course of one extended conversation on the political thought of John Locke--broke through my well-armored adolescent Marxism and first introduced me to the challenges of intellectual history. He managed this by the simple device of listening very intently to everything I said, taking it with extraordinary seriousness on its own terms, and then picking it gently and firmly apart in a way that I could both accept and respect.

That is teaching. It is also a certain sort of liberalism: the kind that engages in good faith with dissenting (or simply mistaken) opinions across a broad political spectrum.
from Tony Judt's “The Memory Chalet

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Prayer is Not an Option

My advice, minister, is that you:

■ Disregard any debt sustainability analysis that assigns a greater than 50% probability to the occurrence of the second coming of Christ before the next bond maturity.

■ While avoiding unrealistic optimism, do not careen to the other extreme of soul-destroying despair. A request for financial assistance addressed to the executive board of the IMF should not begin with the sentence: “The last camel died at noon.” Panic is as infectious as yawning. So, however, is a sense of composure and control.

■ Once it becomes clear that the debt stock must be addressed, get on with it. Creditors may not like the prospect of having to write off a portion of their claims or defer repayment dates, but they positively loathe prolonged periods of indecision and dithering. Efficiency, discipline and fairness, even in carrying out a disagreeable task, will be remembered by markets long after the financial pain of a sovereign debt restructuring has been forgotten.

A sovereign debt crisis is just that: a crisis. It does not have to become a catastrophe.
"An open letter to the minister of finance of Ruritania" by Lee C Buchheit

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Only one idea per article

I once offered an editor an 800-word article. I told him various brilliant points I wanted to make. He pretended to listen patiently, and then said: “Most readers can remember only one idea from an article.” Just make one good point, he said, and buttress it with facts and anecdotes. If an hour later the reader can remember your point, that’s a triumph. Since then I have tried to make only one point per article, though not today.
Simon Kuper - Lessons from the Field

Thursday, October 20, 2016

An Existing Niche Where they Overlap

It’s not whether you get knocked down, but how — or whether — you get up. In today’s professional environment, you can’t just be smart and driven. You need to be flexible and resilient too.

So the question is: do you go ‘deep’ and master a discipline, or ‘broad’ and take on a whole slate of pursuits?

In my experience, the answer is neither. It’s not enough to have a wealth of knowledge in one area, or to be a keen generalist with limited knowledge in many — it’s critical to establish multiple areas of passion and expertise, and find — or develop! — a space that combines them.
"If I Were 22: Apples or Oranges? Choose Both for a Creative Career" by Ian Bremmer

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Embracing Buddhism as a Society

Claudia Dreifus: Many Westerners have wondered why it is that nations with such large Buddhist populations have so often had such terribly violent rulers--Cambodia, Burma, Tibet?

Aung San Suu Kyi: Sometimes I wonder if the countries that embraced Buddhism did so because they needed it: because there was something violent in their societies that needed to be controlled by Buddhism.
The Passion of Suk Kyi

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Today's Free Lunch

As Paul Krugman taught us all more than 20 years ago, it makes little sense to apply the concept of competitiveness to countries, which can’t go out of business, unlike companies, which can. National prosperity depends not on competitiveness but on productivity.
from "Get real about competitiveness" by Martin Sandbu

Monday, August 08, 2016

High-Cultured Barbarism

Hans Hotter’s outstanding 1942 recording of Schubert’s Winterreise seems to call for an intentionally anachronistic reading: it is easy to imagine German officers and soldiers listening to this recording in the Stalingrad trenches in the cold Winter of 42/43. Does the topic of Winterreise not evoke a unique consonance with the historical moment? Was not the whole campaign to Stalingrad a gigantic Winterreise, where each German soldier can say for himself the very first lines of the cycle:

“I came here a stranger,
As a stranger I depart"?

[...]The obvious counter-argument is that all this is merely a superficial parallel: even if there is an echo of the atmosphere and emotions, they are in each case embedded in an entirely different context: in Schubert, the narrator wanders around in Winter because the beloved has dropped him, while the German soldiers were on the way to Stalingrad because of Hitler’s military plans. However, it is precisely in this displacement that the elementary ideological operation consists: the way for a German soldier to be able to endure his situation was to avoid the reference to concrete social circumstances which would become visible through reflection (what the hell were they doing in Russia? what destruction did they bring to this country? what about killing the Jews?), and, instead, to indulge in the Romantic bemoaning of one’s miserable fate, as if the large historical catastrophe just materializes the trauma of a rejected lover.
from "Lenin As a Listener of Schubert" by Slavoj Zizek

In my diary I called this phenomenon Goethe Oak, after the ancient oak tree on the Ettersberg, near Weimar, under which Goethe had supposedly written his sublime “Wanderer’s Night Song,” but which was then enclosed on the grounds of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Goethe and Buchenwald, the highest and the lowest in human history, together in one place. A place called Weimar. A place called Germany. A place called Europe.
from Timothy Garton Ash - "The File: A Personal History"

Addendum: Bach or Mozart? - a scene from Schindler's List

Friday, August 05, 2016

On Practical Political Reality

I had the sense that [Ignatieff] could not emphasize enough to an outsider—or, in another sense, entirely explain—how practicing politics was utterly unlike philosophizing about it at the front of a classroom or, for that matter, in the back seat of a car: there are no philosopher-kings, or even philosophical prime ministers. To praise something for being “undertheorized” was to address it in all its practical political reality.

“It’s a completely different role,” he said. “The thing that politics most strongly resembles is being on soccer teams and hockey teams when I was a child. It’s not a lonely writer in his den thinking thoughts. You’re mostly listening all day long to people, trying to take the measure of their personalities—their strengths, their weaknesses. It’s much closer to being a journalist. You sit with other politicians: what does this person really want? You hear what she’s saying. But what does she really want? That’s a political moment. You’re in a town hall with two hundred and fifty people, and you’re trying to get a sense of the room, of what makes these people tick. It’s a very different skill from being a writer. Isaiah himself was fascinated by the question: what is it that a great politician knows? What is that form of knowledge? Last night, Zsuzsanna and I were watching the Detroit Red Wings goalie, and he knows something: what is it that he knows? What is it that a great politician knows? The great ones have a skill that is just jaw-dropping, and I’m trying to learn that.”

Had it been a steep learning curve? I wondered out loud.

“Vertical!” He exploded in laughter. “Face of the Eiger!” Then he said, “As an intellectual, you can speculate, you can ruminate, you can muse about things. Can’t do that in politics. They want to know what you think, what you do. A lot of the time, intellectuals are engaged in the business of showing how clever they are. The public isn’t interested in how clever you are. It wants something very different, which is, Can I trust this guy? Does this guy understand me and will this guy be with me when times are difficult? There’s a totally different relationship between the politician and his audience and the intellectual and his audience.”
"The Return of the Native" by Adam Gopnik (the first article I read by him). And of course, let's not forget the "fire and ashes" that resulted from Ignatieff's leadership.