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Posts Tagged ‘China’

An Identity Crisis?

Confucius was waiting in the Hall of Thousand Moons at the Palace Grounds on Yu Island. The Emperor of China had come on an expedition and expressed his desire to see him. So Confucius was at the appointed hour at the palace and settled himself to be called in. A man in splendid robes peered at the sage and frowned. When he was told that it was Confucius he became so glad and said that he had always wanted to meet so illustrious person as he. Introducing himself as the Keeper of His Majesty’s Seals he asked: “How is every one in Hoon Chow?”
“Hoon Chow?” Confucius was perplexed.
“Come, come,” said the fellow in the courtly dress. “I am so honored to see the man who discovered Hoon Chow.”
Confucius was all the more confused. “Didn’t you describe the land where men walk on all fours and women sported tails? They even eat grass. Do they not?” The nobleman chuckled.
Confucius wondered if he were dreaming or talking to one who had lost all his senses. Confucius strained to speak but the man said that from his travel books he imagined him to be different. “No matter, at last I have met the man who made Hoon Chow popular in the Court. The emperor also is taken by your book.”
“But I…” Before the sage could explain the mistake the Keeper of the Seals smoothly said: ”I expected you to belittle your great achievement, so modest just as I had expected.”
As the King’s First Minister approached them, the Keeper murmured, ”The Emperor is weighed down by various affairs of the state and as a friendly advice, royalty takes ill of modesty from one of such merit. Do not correct the messenger of the Sun and the Moon. He is apt to lose temper.”
“But I am the other Confucius” Confucius explained but the Keeper with a wave of his hand seemed to say, ‘Tell it to the birds!” With a quick courtly bow he went out.
Before he could recover his astonishment a gong sounded and he looked up to see the inscrutable face of the First Minister who with his entourage bowed before the sage. “The emperor will receive the Incomparable Master of Hoon Chow!”

Illustration: Pen and ink

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“What is the meaning of life?” one asked Confucius. They were passing through a hill country. It was spring. As they climbed down the philosopher said,” It is in the spirit of that old man down there, in his gaiety…see him on a spree, with the butterflies overhead and worms stirring about his feet..”
“I don’t believe your eyesight is sharp enough to see all that from here.” The man was skeptical.
“Perhaps you are right. But my spirit could move into that of the old man and know.” Confucius replied. “Still it doesn’t explain the meaning.” The man murmured.
Next they moved through the plains. They came across a large crowd weeping about a dead body. The widow was almost a child and curiously enough the philosopher thought her smiling inwards as if death came as deliverance; later in the evening the man who was with the philosopher asked, “What is the meaning of life? We were among the dead today.”
Confucius said,” Life holds mysteries and death is merely letting the youth free from the yoke of the old.” The man again asked the master, “What is the meaning of life?”
Confucius pretended as if he didn’t hear him. He said,” I have to go to the City on an urgent business. You may come if you want to.” He nodded.
Before they entered the City they had to pass through a village, which was almost deserted except for the womenfolk and children. Upon enquiries they were told that a great prophet had come to the nearby village holding sermons about the life after death. Meanwhile a man came into view. When the philosopher was told that he was the only one who stayed back, he wanted to speak to him.
Confucius asked if he weren’t interested in the life after death? The man said, “First things first. Being poor I must look after the needful things first, my family needs me. Who will look after them in this life if I were to run after a life which neither the prophet nor anyone else has seen, let alone lived it?”
Turning towards the man who was constantly pestering him as to the meaning of life, the philosopher said, “If you really want to know the meaning, here is the man for you.” With these words he pressed on towards the City.
* Riddle of your life no one can solve but yourself. If you have succeeded you may be pointed out by many as a pioneer. There are so many ways of doing it. To be a pioneer it must be self-evident and can throw light on many knots people needlessly make. Don’t take my word it. Try it yourself.

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Rise of humans on the earth is a chronicle of mass migrations. Among these a road is surely a consequence of choices people make to reach their destination. In times of famine they sought places where food was in abundance. Later trade between peoples connected by roads. Road is the straight line between two points where geography has a say. In terms of geography we consider unfordable rivers, lakes and insurmountable mountains as features that stretch roads about. Of these we shall look at two roads in particular. These serve as locus for entire history of Europe and Asia to fan out. It brought about changes that none could have realized. Silk Road is one and the other is Appian Way which includes Roman road system as one whole.

The region separating China from Europe and Western Asia has Taklimakan desert, known as `Land of Death'; caravans throughout history have skirted its edges, from one isolated oasis to the next. The land surrounding the Taklimakan is equally hostile. To the northeast lies the Gobi desert, almost as harsh in climate as the Taklimakan itself; on the remaining three sides lie some of the highest mountains in the world. To the South are the Himalaya, Karakorum and Kunlun ranges, which provide an effective barrier separating Central Asia from the Indian sub-continent. Only a few icy passes cross these. Coming from the west or south, the only way in is over the passes.
On the eastern and western sides of the continent, the civilisations of China and the West developed. The western end of the trade route appears to have developed earlier than the eastern end, principally because of the development of the empires in the west, and the easier terrain of Persia and Syria.
In the west, the Greek empire was taken over by the Roman Empire. It is often thought that the Romans had first encountered silk in one of their campaigns against the Parthians in 53 B.C, and realised that it could not have been produced by this relatively unsophisticated people. The Romans obtained samples of this new material, and it quickly became very popular in Rome, for its soft texture and attractiveness. They reputedly learnt from Parthian prisoners that it came from a mysterious tribe in the east, who they came to refer to as the silk people, `Seres’. The Parthians quickly realised that there was money to be made from trading the material, and sent trade missions towards the east just as Rome sent their own agents out to explore the route, and to try to obtain silk at a lower price. In short this trade route to the East was seen by the Romans, as a route for silk rather than the other goods that were traded.

The name `Silk Road’ itself does not originate from the Romans, however, but is a nineteenth century term, coined by the German scholar, von Richthofen. The description of this route to the west as the `Silk Road’ is somewhat misleading. Firstly, no single route was taken; crossing Central Asia several different branches developed, passing through different oasis settlements. The routes all started from the capital in Changan, headed up the Gansu corridor, and reached Dunhuang on the edge of the Taklimakan.
In addition to silk, the route carried many other precious commodities. Caravans heading towards China carried gold and other precious metals, ivory, precious stones, and glass, which was not manufactured in China until the fifth century. In the opposite direction furs, ceramics, jade, bronze objects, lacquer and iron were carried. Many of these goods were bartered for others along the way, and objects often changed hands several times. There are no records of Roman traders being seen in Changan, nor Chinese merchants in Rome, though their goods were appreciated in both places. ( To be Cont’d)

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The euro zone has been looking to China play a role in supporting its rescue fund by investing some of its $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves — the world’s largest. China cannot barge in and flash wads of money and say, ‘help yourself, folks’ So Hu Jintao has to play a subtle game. In politics a Good Samaritan has one hand extended to pick you from gutter and with the other to chain you forever play second fiddle to his whims. Morality of the parable and hard reality of politics are altogether different. When the Chines finance minister announces ‘China has always supported Europe’s response to the international financial crisis and its economic recovery efforts,” already there are fellows back in Beijing toting up for how much Europe has to pay for China’s help.
Europe can sit back and think of the adage.’Beware of the Geeks bearing gifts.’ EU member Greece has tossed its problem into the lap of Euro block and is now the crisis of eurozone. China has to make moves carefully. If Europe is bruised and cannot afford its melamine laced milk, cough syrup cereals, meat products and toys with deadly paints where would it dump all the shoddy goods? Africa is one place where it can but there is still surplus that must be got rid of. Perhaps Europe? Sure China has now made some sounds tuttutting its sympathy at Europe’s crisis. Let us watch how a nation with poor record of human rights will crack its bullwhip.
It is worthwhile to study how superpowers go out in ignominy or watch the pretensions of a nation in a hurry. China has the USA for a debtor. Now Europe. Here is a chance to score a point where Europe is bending backwards to come up with some solution.
PS. Italy Portugal,and Spain are now watching how they shall make their crisis the crisis of Eurozone.These also shall come. A global economic meltdown seems to be in the cards. Am I being pessimistic? Only time will tell.
benny

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(continued)
On 1 May, a series of austerity measures was proposed. The proposal helped persuade Germany, the last remaining holdout, to sign on to a larger, 110 billion euro EU/IMF loan package over three years for Greece (retaining a relatively high interest of 5% for the main part of the loans, provided by the EU). On 5 May, a national strike was held in opposition to the planned spending cuts and tax increases. Protest on that date was widespread and turned violent in Athens, killing three people.
In the early hours of 27 October 2011, Eurozone leaders and the IMF came to an agreement with banks to accept a 50% write-off of (some part of) Greek debt, the equivalent of €100 billion. The aim of the haircut is to reduce Greece’s debt to 120% of GDP by 2020.
On 31 October 2011 Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou announced his government’s intentions to put the acceptance of the terms under which the haircut is to take place up for a referendum, which is to happen as soon as the plans have been finalized in 2012.(wikipedia)
The tragedy of Greece is that it has let the workers down by the manner it handled the crisis. Austerity measures shall not paper over cracks of corruption;neither will Government apathy to generate wealth and collect the back taxes from the defaulters (who as I fear are in collusion with the powers that be) the Eurozone debt crisis will go away. Eurozone is better off without unwilling partners. In short it is the deluge Greece need to stave off by all its resources. Greek politicians seem to play politics still. They want to look good and the blame is not laid at their door. Instead of pulling the country together from looming deluge each party is playing politics with an election around the corner.
iii
Let me quote Yahoo blog on finance: ‘The headlines coming out of Europe are filled with talk of a banking and sovereign debt crisis in Europe. The problems which had their origins in Athens, have now spread to Rome — and have become much larger in the process.
Why we should Americans care? It’s simplistic to say, but we’re all connected. U.S. banks — and probably the one where you have an account — have billions of dollars of Greek, French, and German government and private sector bonds on their books; many are active direct lenders in those countries. The Euro zone, taken together, is one of the largest economic forces in the world. Behind Canada, the European Union is the largest destination for U.S. exports, accounting for about 18 percent of the total. If you work in an industry that exports — agriculture, airplanes, tourism — a demand shock from the world’s largest markets would be very bad news. In addition, European companies are big employers in the U.S. On Monday, Mercedes announced it would invest $350 million in a plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to enable it to build a new crossover. If the home markets of the big European employer collapse, they’ll have to retract. Like it or not, we’re all in this together.
First, there’s the continuing tragedy of Greece. The government, unable to stay current on its debt and shut out of bond markets, sought an international bailout and enacted austerity programs — only to find that the economy shrank, which caused deficits to rise and the nation’s debt as a percentage of GDP to soar. And that triggers a need for fresh bailouts. It’s long been obvious that Greece has little hope — and not that much interest — in paying the debts the government incurred to private investors. It can’t hope to repay the bailout funds it has used to remain current on the debt. In July, banks accepted a 21 percent haircut on Greek government bonds. Now there’s talk that investors will have to accept a 50 or 60 percent reduction in the value of their Greek debt.
This prospect is transforming the Greek crisis into a European banking crisis. Ordinarily, banks rely on their colleagues, competitors, and customers for loans and deposits. But when fears arise that banks may not be solvent — due in part to large reductions in the value of assets like Greek debt — banks have to turn to their shareholders. They have to raise new capital in order to make up for the holes that Greek debt will open in their balance sheet. Which is why European bank stocks took a big hit on Monday. In order to withstand this stress — and other stresses — European authorities have determined that European banks need to collectively raise about $150 billion in new capital.
In theory, that’s not so awful. But the European banking crisis, caused by a Greek sovereign debt crisis, now threatens to create sovereign debt crises elsewhere. Banks that have exhausted their shareholders’ assets and patience will have to call upon their governments. Dexia, the French-Belgian bank, last week sold itself to state-controlled companies in Belgium and France. Of course, there’s likely to be more where this came from. If large banks all need to raise capital at the same time, they’ll have to turn to their government.
That’s what happened in the U.S. with the TARP in the fall of 2008. But this likely next step leads to a new problem, which markets are already anticipating. Governments will have to borrow lots of money to backstop their own banks — even if, as with the TARP, the taxpayers end up getting the money back. But given their high levels of existing debt and low levels of growth, there’s no guarantee that, say, France will be able to increase its borrowings without harming its own credit rating.
The next step, after banks have exhausted the patience of their fellow banks, their shareholders, and their governments, is for banks to call on their central bank or some other authority. In the case of the U.S., the Federal Reserve in the fall of 2008 effectively guaranteed large asset classes, bought up chunks of other assets and provided unlimited short-term funding, all in an effort to bolster confidence, stop banking panics and provide some breathing space.
But here’s where the analogy to the U.S. breaks down: The European Central Bank simply isn’t capable of acting in the same way that the U.S. Federal Reserve did. It doesn’t have the authority, the license or the independence to inject itself into markets the way the Fed does. The ECB won’t print money in huge quantities in order to help ward off a financial crisis. Knowing this, in May 2010, the European Union created the European Financial Stabilization Fund, funded by governments, which would perform some of those bank-of-last-resort functions. But its funds are limited at about $600 billion, and it has to act with consensus.
That would be enough to stabilize Greece. The problem is that Greece has caused investors to cast a jaundiced eye on countries with high levels of debt and problematic political systems. And that has caused them to look across the Ionian Sea to Rome. Italy has about $1 trillion in debt that will need to be refinanced in the next three years. Bond markets have signaled their concern about Italy’s dysfunctional political system by driving interest rates up. The European Central Bank in August began buying small quantities of Spanish and Italian bonds in an effort to instill confidence. But these purchases are like bringing a pea shooter to a bazooka fight. Controversial on a small scale, the efforts aren’t likely to be expanded.
The ECB, which can print money, isn’t willing to bail out or guarantee Italy, and the EFSF, which has to ask European taxpayers for money, isn’t big enough. Meanwhile, Italy’s politics, dominated by Silvio Berlusconi, are something of a farce. The markets are continuing to fret that Italy, like Greece, simply may not be able to or interested in staying current on its debt at some point in the not-too-distant future. As the Financial Times reported, at the EU’s big debt summit last weekend in Brussels, Berlusconi, “according to diplomats, pretended to doze off.” At a press conference after the summit, French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel practically rolled their eyes when they were asked if they thought Italy was capable of stepping up.
The European Union was designed to avoid the sort of sudden, traumatic political moves that made life in the continent so miserable for much of the 20th century. The policy architecture means that, in the 21st century, there can’t be quick fixes to big problems’.
(Ack:Daniel Gross is economics editor at Yahoo! Finance.)
Politics is about power and wealth also means the same thing. Naturally both converge. Eurozone crisis shows off the clout of USA and China hold. Don’t you see China looming larger than ever, while the USA is looking more pale and specter thin by comparison? What shall China do in this crisis? Are they going to make capital out of the European crisis?( concluded)
benny

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