Opinion | My Grandmother’s Favorite Scammer – By Frankie Huang – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Huang is a writer and illustrator.

“BEIJING — One day last winter my mother sent me an odd message over WeChat. “Has Laolao said anything strange to you today?” she asked.

I immediately sensed that something was amiss. My mother is a typical Chinese parent. She always feels obliged to withhold bad news from me until she has no other choice. Why was she worried about my grandmother?

I thought back to my most recent visit to Laolao’s shabby apartment here. She had just turned 88, and other than the usual age-related forgetfulness and grumbling about kids these days, she was her usual self.

My mother’s next message unnerved me even more. “Was she of sound mind?”

“You have to tell me what’s going on,” I messaged back.

I fought the urge to berate her and began to scour the internet for information on bank scams that involved sworn secrecy. My heart sank when results filled my screen, describing our situation exactly. I was in an airport, on a business trip, so I messaged Laolao’s assistant at her office and told her to freeze all my grandmother’s bank accounts. But it turned out the bank couldn’t do anything unless Laolao herself requested it.”

Opinion | The World-Shaking News That You’re Missing – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“SINGAPORE — One of the most negative byproducts of the Trump presidency is that all we talk about now is Donald Trump. Don’t get me wrong: How can we not be fixated on a president who daily undermines the twin pillars of our democracy: truth and trust?

But there are some tectonic changes underway behind the Trump noise machine that demand a serious national discussion, like the future of U.S.-China relations. Yet it’s not happening — because all we talk about is Donald Trump.

Consider this: On Nov. 9, European leaders gathered in Berlin to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an anniversary worth celebrating. But no one seemed to notice that almost exactly 30 years after the Berlin Wall fell, a new wall — a digital Berlin Wall — had begun to be erected between China and America. And the only thing left to be determined, a Chinese business executive remarked to me, “is how high this wall will be,” and which countries will choose to be on which side.

This new wall, separating a U.S.-led technology and trade zone from a Chinese-led one, will have implications as vast as the wall bisecting Berlin did. Because the peace, prosperity and accelerations in technology and globalization that have so benefited the world over the past 40 years were due, in part, to the interweaving of the U.S. and Chinese economies.”

Opinion | Is China Heading for Crisis? – by Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“In 2001, Gordon Chang, an American lawyer who had spent many years in Hong Kong and Shanghai, published a book forebodingly titled “The Coming Collapse of China.” At the time, the thesis seemed improbable, if not preposterous.

It looks a great deal less improbable now.

China — or, rather, the Chinese regime — is in trouble. Tuesday’s gigantic parade in Beijing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic looked like something out of the late Brezhnev era: endless military pomp and gray old men. Hong Kong is in its fourth straight month of protests, marked and stained by this week’s shooting of an unarmed teenage demonstrator. The Chinese economy is growing at its slowest rate in 27 years, even when going by the overstated official figures.

Meantime, capital is fleeing China — an estimated $1.2 trillion in the past decade — while foreign investors sour on Chinese markets. Beijing’s loudly touted Belt-and-Road initiative looks increasingly like a swamp of corruption, malinvestment and bad debt. Its retaliatory options in the face of Donald Trump’s trade war are bad and few. And General Secretary Xi Jinping has created a cult-of-personality dictatorship in a style unseen since Mao Zedong, China’s last disastrous emperor.

Remember the “Chinese Dream” — Xi’s vision of China as a modern, powerful, and “moderately well-off” state? Forget it. The current task for Chinese leadership is to avoid a full-blown nightmare of international isolation, economic decline, and domestic revolt.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment
Bret writes well, but doesn’t seem to know much about China. In reading the comments, I am reminded that most Chinese do not care about democracy, but getting out of poverty, and they are pleased with their government.
One astute writer this summer, pointed out that China doesn’t need Hong Kong’s market anymore. The Chinese market makes China independent financially from Hong Kong. That writer suggested that the dissidents of Hong Kong are doomed. I am impressed that the CCP has announced a $500 billion push over the next five years into solar and sustainable energy. They have announced that all cars will be electric by 2030, and now have 42 companies making electric cars. The News Hour showed last night that you have to join a lottery to get a automoblie license, and it getting harder and harder to get a license for gas vehicles.
A Vietnamese professor teaching at a universtiy in the USA, recently reported that the top government officials of Vietnam have been bought out by the Chinese CCP, and are quietly not fighting China’s take over of the South China Sea. There is a question among my friends about whether a democracy like the United States, is capable of dealing with the existencial threat of the climate crisis.
If the oil and gas companies continue to control our politics for their short term profit, we might be the biggest threat to our own future.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Opinion | Trump and Xi Sittin’ in a Tree – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“I was glad to see the stock market get a boost from the news that Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators were talking again and that President Trump blinked a bit and pulled some of his planned tariffs.

But don’t be fooled. Trump and President Xi Jinping of China are still locked in a cage match over who is the true big dog in today’s global economy. Both are desperate not only to “win,” but to be seen to win, and not be subjected to the scorn of their rivals or critics on social media.

Precisely because neither leader feels he can afford that fate, both have overplayed their hands. Xi basically believes that nothing has to change — and all can be made to stay the same by the force of his will. Trump basically believes that everything has to change — and all can be made to change by the force of his will.

The rest of us are just along for the ride.

Let’s look at both men’s calculations and miscalculations. Trump was right in arguing that America should not continue to tolerate systemic abusive Chinese trade practices — intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, huge government subsidies and nonreciprocal treatment of U.S. companies in China — now that China is virtually America’s technology equal and a rising middle-income country.”

Opinion | Where the Cold War Never Ended – By Ian Buruma – The New York Times

Japan and South Korea stir up an old, odd rivalry.

By 

Mr. Buruma is a writer and a professor at Bard College.

CreditCreditOleksii Liskonih/iStock, via Getty Images Plus

“In a rational world, South Korea and Japan ought to be the best of friends. Their cultures and languages are closely linked. Their economies are deeply entangled. And as the only liberal democracies in East Asia (along with Taiwan), they have to contend with the threat of North Korean belligerence and Chinese domination.

But the world is not so rational, and so the two American allies have recently become engaged in a flaming economic row, ostensibly sparked by historical wrongs. Late last year, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that Japanese companies should compensate Koreans who were forced to work in Japanese factories and mines during World War II. Assets of major Japanese companies, such as Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have been seized in South Korea, and they could soon be sold. The Japanese government protested that this matter had already been resolved in 1965, when the two countries reached an agreement claiming to settle “completely and finally” all colonial-era claims in exchange for financial aid and loans from Japan worth $500 million.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan retaliated last month by slapping controls on vital exports to South Korea. He cited reasons of national security, but few believe that. Demonstrators in Seoul then protested against a Japanese “economic invasion,” and the South Korean government threatened to stop sharing military intelligence with Japan.

This latest spat follows many others to do with history: the alleged lack of sincerity in official Japanese apologies for having subjected Korea to brutal colonial rule between 1910 and 1945; fights over revisions to school textbooks that downplay Japan’s wartime aggression; the refusal of conservative Japanese governments to admit that Korean women were systematically recruited to serve as sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army.”

Opinion | How Trump and Xi Can Make America and China Poor Again – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“If you think that the United States-China trade dispute is going to be easily resolved, you’re not paying attention. It’s so much deeper than you think — and so much more dangerous.

If President Trump and President Xi Jinping don’t find a way to defuse it soon, we’re going to get where we’re going — fracturing the globalization system that has brought the world more peace and prosperity over the last 70 years than at any other time in history. And what we’ll be birthing in its place is a digital Berlin Wall and a two-internet, two-technology world: one dominated by China and the other by the United States.

This will be a much more unstable and less prosperous world. Trump and Xi should drop everything and sit down to resolve this crisis before it becomes a runaway train — fueled by populists and nationalists, and amplified by social media, in both countries.

How did we get here? Two things converged: The character of U.S.-China trade changed — it went “deep,” and both President Xi and President Trump overplayed their hands and freaked each other out.”

Opinion | Hong Kong Has Nothing Left to Lose – The New York Times

By Louisa Lim

Ms. Lim, the author of “The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited,” is writing a book about Hong Kong.

A protester in the Hong Kong legislative chamber on Monday.CreditAnthony Kwan/Getty Images
ImageA protester in the Hong Kong legislative chamber on Monday.
CreditCreditAnthony Kwan/Getty Images

HONG KONG — After breaking into Hong Kong’s legislature, protesters left a message for Carrie Lam, the city’s top government official, spray-painted on a pillar: “It was you who taught me that peaceful protests are futile.”

To the young activists, the storming of the Legislative Council was an act of desperation. Three times in the past month, tremendous numbers of Hong Kongers — at one point estimated to be more than two million — marched peacefully to protest against a controversial extradition bill with China, which they fear would undermine Hong Kong’s judiciary and its freedom. The government suspended but did not withdraw the law. It did not even meet representatives of those who marched.

I was among the journalists covering the break-in of the building, and I watched as protesters ripped metal bars from the side of the building to smash their way through the windows. Their actions seemed like a breathtaking act of defilement of one of Hong Kong’s institutions.

Opinion | Why China No Longer Needs Hong Kong – By Eswar S. Prasad – The New York Times

By Eswar S. Prasad

Mr. Prasad is a professor at Cornell University and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The national flag of China, left, and the Hong Kong flag this week. The size of China’s financial markets now dwarfs that of Hong Kong’s.CreditVivek Prakash/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“For many years after regaining control of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, China mostly respected the territory’s institutions. That is no longer the case, as Beijing’s heavy hand during the recent protests in the city has made obvious.

So what changed? In 1997, China needed Hong Kong. China had not yet been allowed to join the World Trade Organization, so Chinese exporters had limited access to the global market. Hong Kong was the solution: It served as a channel for entrepôt trade — goods from China could enter the territory’s ports and then be sent as exports from Hong Kong to the rest of the world, thus evading the trade restrictions imposed by member nations on nations outside the organization.

When China became part of the trade organization in 2001, entrepôt trade through Hong Kong lost its importance. By some estimates, nearly half of China’s trade went through Hong Kong in 1997, today that figure is less than 12 percent.

In terms of total size and wealth, Hong Kong has also shrunk relative to China, which has experienced more than three decades of astoundingly high economic growth. In 1997, Hong Kong’s economy was one-fifth the size of China’s, and its per capita income was 35 times higher. By 2018, Hong Kong’s economy was barely one-thirtieth the size of China’s. Hong Kong is still richer, but the gap is narrowing, with its per capita income now five times higher than China’s.”

Opinion | Trump Takes On China and Persia at Once. What’s to Worry About? – The New York Times

 

Thomas L. Friedman

By Thomas L. Friedman

Opinion Columnist

“If you’re keeping score at home on the Trump foreign policy, let me try to put it in a nutshell: The president has engaged America in a grand struggle to reshape the modern behavior of two of the world’s oldest civilizations — Persia and China — at the same time.

Pressing both to change is not crazy. What’s crazy is the decision to undertake such a huge endeavor without tightly defined goals, without allies to achieve those goals, without a strong and coherent national security team and without a plan on how to sync up all of President Trump’s competing foreign policy objectives.

After all, Trump is unilaterally breaking the 2015 denuclearization deal with Iran’s dictator while trying to entice North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, into a denuclearization deal that he’s supposed to trust the U.S. president will honor. Trump is sanctioning China on trade while trying to enlist its help to denuclearize North Korea. Trump is imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on America’s European allies while needing their help to confront China on trade and Iran on nukes.

And last week Trump came within 10 minutes of bombing Iran — but wisely pulled back — in retaliation for its shooting down of a U.S. drone, at a time when we cannot stabilize Iraq, or get out of Afghanistan without leaving chaos behind, absent the cooperation of Iran.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment.
Thank you Thomas Friedman, great essay, and great points. I don’t have the space and time here to repeat all those points, but it is interesting how the commentors criticize and attack you for thinking that Trump can listen to or take good advice. I’m not a fan of Drumpf, but he is brilliant as a con artist and crook, who has shown that he can dominate the press like few ever have. Furthermore, he has a brand to protect. I agree with your main point, that we can settle with Iran and should, extending the nuclear treaty by more years, for lifting the sanctions and maintaining a long, awkward peace. Your points about China are equally cogent. China poses a serious threat to the United States and the world, as well as a fine opportunity. I share in your unspoken grief. We had the beginning of a plan of action, with the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, and we will have to return to such a proactive and intelligent diplomacy, even it it is to be called, at least temporarily, the Trump Pacific Partnership.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.net. He performs a folk concert of songs and stories about Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction.

Opinion | Hong Kong and the Future of Freedom – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

Bret Stephens

By Bret Stephens

Opinion Columnist

Protesters faced off against the police in Hong Kong on Wednesday.CreditDale De La Rey/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Imagine if in 2018 the Trump administration had proposed legislation that would allow the government, on nearly any pretext, to detain, try and imprison Americans accused of wrongdoing at secretive black sites scattered across the country.

Imagine, further, that 43 million Americans had risen in protest, only to be met by tear gas and rubber bullets while Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan rushed the bill through a pliant Congress. Finally, imagine that there was no effective judiciary ready to stop the bill and uphold the Constitution.

That, approximately, is what’s happening this week in Hong Kong.

An estimated one million people — nearly one in seven city residents — have taken to the streets to protest legislation that would allow local officials to arrest and extradite to the mainland any person accused of one of 37 types of crime. Political offenses are, in theory, excluded from the list, but nobody is fooled: Contriving criminal charges against political opponents is child’s play for Beijing, which can then make its victims disappear indefinitely until they are brought to heel.

In 2015, mainland authorities abducted five Hong Kong booksellersknown for selling politically sensitive titles and held them in solitary confinement for months until they pleaded guilty to various offenses. In 2017 Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua was abducted by Chinese authorities from the Four Seasons in Hong Kong. He hasn’t been seen publicly since, while his company is being stripped of its holdings.”