Thursday, May 21, 2009

Copenhagen, ho!

NEVER MIND. The Guardian took some liberties with its reporting, and the talks were neither so "secret" (just "off the record") nor monumental as the article made them out to be. Aargh, the sensationalizing press! It was 1 a.m. and I was too eager to hear optimistic news (I guess skepticism wanes in the early morning hours), so I just posted the links and went to bed. I guess I should have waited until the blogosphere and news agencies weighed in.

Thanks for the tip-off, Bobby!


Huge news on the environmental front! According to the UK newspaper The Guardian, the US and China held secret negotiations on coming together to help fight climate change (even as the world criticized them for inaction... a criticism that wasn't unwarranted, because we still need action).

From the source:

China and US held secret talks on climate change deal

• Negotiations began in final months of Bush administration
• Obama could seal accord on cutting emissions by autumn

Key points from the article:

  • The first communications took place in autumn 2007 and were initiated by the Chinese. “Xie Zhenhua, the vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's central economic planning body, made the first move by expressing interest in a co-operative effort on carbon capture and storage and other technologies with the US.”...
  • “The two sides began discussing ways to break through the impasse, including the possibility that China would agree to voluntary -- but verifiable -- reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. China has rejected the possibility of cuts” which “it sees as a risk to its continued economic growth, deemed essential to lift millions out of poverty and advance national status.”

  • During the second trip to China by the Americans, Xie suggested a memorandum of understanding between the two countries on joint action on climate change. William Chandler [of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace] and Jon Holdren [now Obama’s chief science advisor] drew up a list of three points including:
1. Using existing technologies to produce a 20% cut in carbon emissions by 2010.
2. Co-operating on new technology including carbon capture and storage and fuel efficiency for cars.
3. The US and China signing up to a global climate change deal in Copenhagen.

  • By the time Xie visited the US in March, the state department's new climate change envoy, Todd Stern, and his deputy, Jonathan Pershing, were also involved in the dialogue. But the trip by Xie did not produce the hoped-for agreement. Those involved agree it was premature to expect the Obama Administration to enter into a formal agreement so soon in its tenure.” But they “believe the effort will pay off in a more comprehensive deal between the two governments.”
So it’s just the start and it’s looking optimistic that there will be a real climate deal coming soon! Anyhow, I am just ecstatic and amazed.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I'm a Gilman Scholar! Are you?

Above is an interview that I did with the Institute of International Education about my experience as a Gilman Scholar. I discussed my Gilman experience as an NYU in Shanghai study abroad student in China and offered advice to current applicants for the Gilman Scholarship. Wish I was more interesting! I need to start reading a dictionary!

I mentioned that I had just been accepted to FACES, as well!

To learn more about my time abroad, check out my China Adventure website.

Post by Erica Swallow

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dani Rodrik on China

One of my favorite economist/writers is Dani Rodrik, who is currently a professor at Harvard's JFK School of Government.  He has a new blog post out about sustaining China's growth rate while simultaneously relaxing the exchange rate peg, which is accompanied by a more general paper on the topic.

The reason that I like his writing so much is because he makes everything seem so simple.  The whole knot of interacting economic factors falls apart under his analysis, as if he found that magical thread that, when pulled, unravels it all.

Also, in related news, The Economist has a story about China's first quarter GDP growth of 6.1%.  Not quite 8%, but definitely not bad compared to the Euro Zone's -2.5%.

Monday, May 11, 2009

National Palace Museum

Here is an intriguing piece on the National Palace Museum(國立故宮博物院)in Taipei. If you ever get a chance to visit, you should definitely go. The museum, which counts the Louvre and the British Museum in London as peer institutions, houses the world's finest collection of Chinese cultural artifacts, including jades, bronzes, ceramics, paintings, ancient books and documents, and calligraphy scrolls. Fortunately, the collection was saved from the Japanese during WWII and then from the ravages of the Cultural Revolution in later years on the Mainland.

The museum itself is also a wonderful place. It is situated against an idyllic, forested mountain backdrop, and the building follows the style of classical Chinese architecure. Upon entry, visitors step into a calm, tranquil atmosphere charged with the beauty and grandeur of China's 5000 years of civilization. Much care and deliberation was put into the displays that showcase the ingenious, the intricate, the intellectual, the innovative. I remember that as I walked through each display, somehow the past became much more real -- I gained a palpable sense of connection with our history and traditions. Wandering through the exhibits, one feels wonder and amazement, and an immense pride that this is our culture.

National Palace Museum official Zhuang Yan reviews art from the collection, in Taipei in 1948. (Courtesy of the Zhuang family via AP)

Full article available here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

One year after earthquake

We went to Sichuan a couple days ago and interviewed people in different places for their life after one year. At the places that we went, most of the people still live in the temporary houses and wait for the loans of the bank to start to build their new houses.

In Zundao Village, Deyang city, people need at least 50,000 yuan to build a one floor house but they only earn 5000yuan a year and because they don't have the ability of paying back the loan from bank, it's hard for them to apply the loan and only when the new house is ready, they can get the subsidies from the government.

In Beichuan county, Mr.Mu started to sell the pictorials and vedios 12 days ago to the tourists who went to visit the village which will become a museum of earthquake afterwards. Everyday before going back to his temporary house, he offers three incenses to the three family members that he lost in the earthquake.

We found a father who lost his only daugher in the earthquake, and here below is the reply of the interview about his point of view on the silence of the government on the quality of the school buildings:

The catastrophe taught me that the goodness of human being is the most valuable and important thing! The ugliness of human being is the most outrageous! The tragedies of those beautiful kids in the tiles can not be described! Most people have saw the excruciations in TV programs, but the sufferings of those kids at that day are way more cruel. Every kid is cultivated by the love, hardship and painstaking efforts of his family and parents, maybe also by the society, facing the disaster, in front of the humanity (someone under the sunshine, someone in the corner, someone in the shade), maybe everybody will feel the same thing, at lest be reflecting. But as parent, we only have tears in the eyes and blood in the hearts.

That week was very hard.....C'est trop dur pour le moral.....


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Welcome Taiwan to the WHA! — a calm and neutral comment

Welcome Taiwan to the WHA!
— a calm and neutral comment

Recently the World Health Assembly announced that Taiwan will be admitted into the organization as an observer under the title “Chinese Taipei.” As a citizen of Taiwan (officially the Republic of China, and in the subsequent content I will alternatively use either R.O.C. or Taiwan) I am extremely excited about such invitation, and this is especially meaningful to us when now the world is facing a new pandemic.

As many would know, the R.O.C. has always been eager to return to or to participate meaningfully in all international organizations for decades since it withdrew from the United Nations in 1971. However in the previous 8 years under former President Chen Shui-Bian and his aggressive pro-independence Democratic Progress Party (DPP) administration, the cross-strait relation was in a stalemate and there was practically no constructive dialogues between Taipei and Beijing. Such harsh situation first reached a climax when the outbreak of SARS, both Taiwan and China were serious victims of that disease, yet during the crisis the Chinese Communist regime rejected any involvement of Taiwan in relevant WHO meetings, also blocked essential information on the pandemic for Taiwan. Accompanied by even more harsh and cold-blood comments from Chinese officials, the public in the nearly helpless and isolated Taiwan was upset by China’s hostile gesture. And the rest of A-Bian’s term, we saw more difficult times in cross-strait relations.

Yet when now the world is fighting with a new flu altogether, there is also a new condition between Taipei and Beijing. Taiwan under pro-unification Kuomingtang (KMT) President Ma Ying-Jeou has accelerated the negotiation with China on a wide range of issues from economic cooperation, promoting tourism, and of course, Taiwan’s participation in international organizations. President Ma’s foreign policy is based on “外交休兵”, or in English, cease fire in the diplomatic arena, which suggests that both Taiwan and China won’t work on luring countries currently maintaining official diplomatic relations with the other side, and such policy has proven to be effective (at least as of this moment). The improvement of cross-strait relations contributes to the admission of Taiwan into WHA, which Taiwan needs most urgently and is the most important test for Ma’s foreign policy. President Ma puts cross-strait relations above foreign affairs, which even the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the R.O.C. Mr. Ou Hong-Lian admitted that publicly. Yet from my point of view, as a normal independent nation (the Republic of China is de facto independent from the People’s Republic of China yet somehow not deemed as a de jure independent state due to the lack of abundant official diplomatic recognition), Taiwan of course should put foreign affairs above the relation with any other fellow member of the international community, and the cross-strait relations should only be a part, albeit it surely would be an important one, even the most important, in Taiwan’s overall foreign affairs.

After a series of debate and careful negotiation, we see Taiwan and China finally reached a consensus for Taiwan’s participation in the WHA under Chinese Taipei, which is acceptable and does not harm Taiwan’s important national interests (although for the R.O.C. its national sovereignty is surely damaged for it is not allowed to retain its official title). Yet it is somehow doubtful on Taiwan’s other efforts to either “rejoin” or “meaningfully participate” in other international organizations. For example, speaking of Taiwan’s attempts to participate in the UN, it is a sensitive issue for the P.R.C. and with a very nostalgic sentiment for the R.O.C. The Republic of China was a founding member of the UN and was one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, yet in 1971 all of it just changed in favor of the PRC. Now that Beijing would not likely to let Taipei be a full member of any international organization whose membership is limited to “sovereign states,” whether Taiwan will still be admitted to other coveted organizations or be offered observer status is not at all cheerful from my perspective. WHA is less political when compared with the UN, which nevertheless also invites observers in its general assembly, and most of all, Taiwan has demanded observer status even more strongly after being harmed by China in the SARS crisis, and Taiwan’s efforts are supported by friendly US, Japan, and the EU. Therefore Beijing, always seeking to make Taiwan public feel more positive towards itself, may think that WHA is a better option to offer to Taiwan as part of the “exchange gifts” for the improvement of the cross-strait relations. However, when there are rumors that a few Taiwan’s friends are seeking to establish diplomatic relationship with China, it is really unlikely for Taipei to persuade its friends not to embrace a huge market and of course also huge foreign aid likely to be provided by the PRC or for Beijing to continuously dissuade others from befriending it. Sooner or later those who seek to establish an embassy in Beijing will seal their deals anyway, and on the other hand Taiwan’s involvement in other international organizations might still be blocked or limited by China, for example PRC won’t open the path for the R.O.C. to be a full member of the WHO, so from my perspective (i.e. a calm citizen of Taiwan), receiving an observer status to WHA is worthy of our praise and brief celebration, yet we should not look forward too eagerly on other victory in the main battlefield of diplomacy in the struggles between Taiwan and China.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Science and Democracy

Happy May Fourth, student friends!

Today, we can give a rousing cheer to the spirit of 5-4 and 民主與科學.

Say "hello" to the gentlemen「德先生 + 賽先生 」.