Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Panic at the top in China

South China Morning Post

Lanxin Xiang says a game-changing moment has arrived: either the Communist Party finds a way to rejuvenate and lead China towards prosperity and stability, or it prepares for a near-term hard landing

As the 18th Communist Party congress fast approaches, the leadership in Beijing is trying to do everything possible to stimulate popular enthusiasm and public spirit. But nothing seems to be working. The Bo Xilai affair continues to haunt the process of the upcoming power transition.

Few party members deny that this affair has done equal, if not more, damage to the image of the Communist Party as the 1989 Tiananmen affair. But in 1989 the students merely protested against price inflation and the corruption of some officials, which triggered panicky reaction from Deng Xiaoping . Now the consensus is that sending military troops to suppress a student protest is one of the biggest mistakes the party had ever committed.

Today, the Bo Xilai affair has exposed a pseudo-socialist system rotten to the core, since official corruption through the power-money marriage has become so ostentatious and widespread that the population has begun to compare the communist regime directly with the Kuomintang regime under General Chiang Kai-shek before 1949.

One popular story concerns Madam Chiang. In 1946, General George Marshall – president Harry Truman’s personal envoy, chosen to mediate a peaceful solution between the communists and the KMT – tried to persuade Madam Chiang to urge her husband to eliminate official corruption and launch serious democratic reforms. Marshall used the Chinese communists as a positive example, as the latter were propagating “new democracy” in China at the time. Madam Chiang reportedly replied: “The problem is, the communists have not tasted power yet. If they do, they will behave the same.” Madam Chiang is considered prophetic.

Another story concerns a book about the origins of the French Revolution of 1789, written by the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville, and widely circulated among members of the top leadership. Widespread psychological insecurity about the country’s future and the official obsession with “pre-revolutionary” conditions – reflected by social instability – seem to converge. They point to a simple consensus that serious political reforms can no longer be postponed.

The problem is, interest-group politics has become deeply entrenched today, as happened with the Chiang Kai-shek regime in the 1940s. Few inside and outside of the communist party have confidence that political reforms can work without cracking the party itself.

Since everyone recognises the existence of pre-revolutionary signs, the question is how to prevent an eruption.

There are two schools of thought on this. On the one hand, those about to retire from the leadership argue that a “stable” power transition should take absolute priority this year. On the other, many among the “fifth generation” elite believe that a major political shake-up is necessary for tackling the root of the problem. But a “trust deficit” between the party and the people has grown so big that either approach could result in enormous political risk.

If the leadership does not deal with corruption and interest-group politics, the state will be ruined, but if the party tackles the issue seriously, it will be destroyed. This unbearable psychological dilemma makes the party leaders panicky.

The external conditions for China do not help either. For the first time since economic reform started in 1978, complacency about national security and peaceful existence is dissipating. Ten years ago, when President Hu Jintao first proposed the concepts of a “harmonious world” and “peaceful rise”, the world responded with enthusiasm. Today, the China Threat theme returns with a vengeance.

It is true that the US is largely responsible for the worsening geopolitical condition of China, because it has determined that China is the only challenge to its “second to none” status in the world and has designed and executed a brilliant diplomatic campaign to rally support for its new cold war strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. But Chinese missteps have also contributed to this apparent diplomatic isolation. The nationalistic attitude with neighbouring countries over disputed territories and vehement refusal to engage in multilateral diplomacy over maritime problems in the South China Sea do not help improve China’s image or inspire confidence in countries outside China to take its “peaceful rise” seriously.

But, ultimately, a harmonious world depends upon a harmonious society at home. This year, therefore, presents fundamental challenges to the Chinese leadership. A game-changing moment has arrived: either the party finds a way to rejuvenate itself in order to lead the people towards sustained economic prosperity and social stability, or it has to prepare for a hard-landing in the near future.

If the 18th Communist Party congress turns out to be a new game of interest-group politics, the leadership can hardly avoid a deepening crisis both at home and abroad. Time is in fact running out rapidly.

Lanxin Xiang is professor of international history and politics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva


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論壇 > 論壇



英國BBC的Knowledge頻道最近因倫敦奧運而播放很多介紹倫敦的Series。6月時有一套3集介紹倫敦地鐵的Series。當中介紹到倫敦地鐵為了乘客及員工的安全,因而很小的事故也會全線停駛。例如6月份有一集介紹晚上繁忙時間一個女人在倫敦唐人街的Leicester Square站被狂徒刺了一刀,坐在月台上等待施救,整條地鐵線便停了一個多小時,沿線很多車站為控制人流,不容許乘客入站,地鐵公司不宣布是什麼事,乘客也習以為常,沒有怨言。


10號風球第二天在家看電視,BBC Knowledge頻道又是介紹倫敦地鐵,說自從引入了新的列車後,車門感應度很高,只要是乘客背包的帶夾在門中整列車便不能開離車站,要待車長下車查究。那集介紹的Tottenham Court站乘客背包帶夾在門中的事故結果使列車停了10多20分鐘,停在沿線的其他車站的列車也不能動。當進入車站聚集的人愈來愈多,為了安全,控制室便指示月台員工關上車站閘門,不讓更多的乘客進入車站。


















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C04 | 品味旅遊 | 劍河長篙 | By Alan.C |

天高氣爽,夏風拂面, 在蒙古草原漫步, 由南往北,盤旋的公路,肥沃的田野,成片的果園,棕色的石崖,宛如色彩斑斕的織錦,加上眼前河面寬闊,流勢平緩,浩浩無涯。隨友人到內蒙古烏蘭察布盟察右前旗考察,至元朝集寧路故城,據說此處的元朝文物藝術品不只千百,現大多珍藏於內蒙古博物館中。其中在一大元古墓中早年出土過兩件形狀奇特的盛酒瓶子,俱有遼金時代的紋飾,其瓶身纖細而高,形狀酷似一條雞腿,跟同年代中原酒用器皿設計風格截然不同。





當時呼倫貝爾以北有遊牧西伯利亞草原的蒙古人,因天氣寒冷,瓶裏的葡萄美酒均已結冰,據說一次不經意之下使節帶冰飲下,然後發現葡萄酒加冰比蒙古馬奶酒和江南白酒更甘甜清爽。南宋使者出使蒙古時曾言,「金帳中嘗回回貢來之葡萄酒,盛以玻璃瓶,一瓶十餘小盞,味為甚甜。」(回回國指河中的花剌子模國,其時已為蒙古所滅,只是舊稱繼續沿用葡萄牙傳教士Giovannida Piandel Carpine 於大概公元1245 年受教宗Innocentius IV所托出使蒙古,在覲見窩闊台的長子元定宗貴由,在他的金帳中品嘗過東方的葡萄酒,讚歎不已,誇獎其比他們歐洲的還勝一籌。


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Hong Kong Economic Journal
C04 | 品味旅遊 | 回眸英倫 | By 毛羨寧 |


按照胡適的說法,那是他的康乃爾大學老師布林(George Lincoln Burr)所說的:「我年紀愈大,愈感覺到容忍比自由更為重要。」(The older I get, the m ore I feel that tolerance is more important than freedom.)句中「tolerance」也可以譯為寬容。



五十年後,我乘汽車進入中研院,見到兩旁綠樹成蔭,建築物井然有序,四周充滿了書卷氣,卻不禁想像胡適晚年的情── 1949 年,毛澤東擬定了五十七名戰犯名單,胡適的名字排為第五十五名,次子思杜更公開發表文章《對我父親──胡適的批判》,之後自殺身亡。胡適曾經回到美國,無論以文人或是外交家的身份,也不如舊日般呼風喚雨。他由蔣介石及學界權威推舉為中研究院院長,可算是無奈的結局。

現在台北的胡適紀念館,由故居、陳列室和墓園三部分組成。陳列室展出胡適使用過的物品,例如他生前常戴的黑圓圈眼鏡和長衫,以至西式修鬍子的剃刀用具,可見他對外形儀態一絲不苟。牆上掛着他和韋蓮司(Edith CliffordWilliams)的合照,暗示了他經歷過愛情和遵守孝道的矛盾。館內還有列出很多胡適在政治方面的影響,尤其仔細寫出他和《自由中國》編輯雷震的關係。




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Europe is on its own

South China Morning Post

Steve Tsang says for all the talk of global integration, neither the Americans nor the Chinese have the incentives to dive in and rescue the debt-crippled euro zone. Instead, Europe will have to rely on itself

The euro zone crisis rumbles on. Just when European policymakers reach a semblance of consensus, further twists emerge, rendering each action one step behind the rapidly unfolding events.

At a recent meeting of the Integrating Global Society Priority Group at the University of Nottingham, several academics warned that European policymakers are unlikely to resolve the crisis without the assistance of non- European states. What role then, if any, will the major powers outside of Europe be prepared to play?

For all the talk of globalisation and integration, awareness of the global reach of a full-blown euro crisis is not sufficient to galvanise a global effort to pre-empt it. The political barriers to American or Chinese intervention are high and few other countries have the capacity to make a significant contribution.

China has become a disenchanted supporter of the European Union. Its criticism of the EU focuses on the region’s perceived pursuit of policies designed to secure short-term gain at the expense of long-term security.

It does not accept that developing countries should subsidise wealthy Europeans for their extravagant and irresponsible lifestyles. China sees the EU’s commitment to unsustainable entitlement programmes, namely generous pension schemes and unemployment benefits, as prime examples of this, blaming them for the erosion of the region’s economic efficiency and competitiveness.

And the Chinese government is yet to be truly persuaded that common global interests are sufficient for China to risk its hard-earned reserves to bail out the euro zone.

Academics at the priority group’s meeting agreed that China has a considerable stake in the resolution of the current crisis – the European Union is its biggest trading partner – but political realities present considerable obstacles to Chinese action.

There is a sense that China lacks political incentives to act. Without the existence of a single European authority, any financial intervention would fail to meet with the political recognition China craves. If China is to invest in distressed European assets, it must receive something in return that can be cashed in at a later date, which is in alignment with its long-term strategic objectives.

This approach was on display at the recent G20 summit in Mexico where China offered US$43billion to the International Monetary Fund’s crisis-fighting reserves. Here, China allied itself with the emerging world as part of a wider bid to secure greater voting rights within the IMF, further evidence that when China offers financial assistance, it expects its pound of flesh.

Political considerations aside, China faces considerable economic challenges of its own. Recent economic data points to growth declining towards 7per cent and Premier Wen Jiabao has spoken of the large “downward pressure” on the national economy. The ability of China to deploy reserves to stabilise the European economy is limited. Savings generated by large trade surpluses have already been invested and are held in a form that cannot be realised for swift deployment.

Perhaps the biggest role China can play in resolving Europe’s economic woes is to address trade imbalances through monetary policy, rather than through the provision of direct financial assistance.

At the roundtable at Nottingham University, consideration was given to the role that Brazil, as representative for a number of developing countries, might play in any co-ordinated action. The overwhelming conclusion was that Brazilian support would be limited. Its funding capacity is small, economic growth has slowed to 4per cent and intermediation costs in Brazil are high, making the country an unlikely source of cheap credit.

Moreover, Brazil’s aims when setting aside funding for international financial stability are, similar to China, primarily political. Funds are channelled entirely through the IMF as part of its efforts to secure greater voting rights.

So what of the world’s only superpower? Again, any role the United States might play will come with a high degree of conditionality. The dynamic between the US and the euro zone is on a parallel with the relationship between Germany and Greece: no money can be expected by the latter without agreement on conditions set by the former.

A significant political intervention by the United States is unforeseeable in the short term. It will only come about should the euro crisis generate a degree of contagion that imperils the US financial system and, at present, US officials believe the EU has sufficient policy tools at its disposal. The US is also in the midst of an election cycle, weakening the likelihood of financial support for European governments or institutions.

And while the effect of an acute financial crisis in the EU could affect Wall Street, it would have a more limited effect on the US “real economy”. The EU as a whole is America’s largest trading partner, but this statistic misrepresents the nature of US economic links. Individually, America’s major trading partners are Canada, China, Mexico and Japan, with Germany fifth.

This dynamic reduces the likelihood of the US judging that the economic benefits of providing funds to the EU outweigh the negative political consequences of authorising such a move.

US action, or lack of it, is intertwined with that of China. If China proves resistant to providing financial assistance, the US will argue that the responsibility should not fall on its shoulders alone.

There is also concern in Washington that if the US offers its public support for a particular course of action, it could make EU member states less willing to adopt a plan deemed to have been “made in America”, and, in turn, China would be less willing to support it.

Global economic interdependency may be at its height but, if Europe is to pull through this crisis it has little option but to find the strength within.

Steve Tsang is professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies and director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham