Creeping Socialism

Posted on February 27th, by matt_schiavenza in China. No Comments

Long ago, one of my Dad’s more conservative friends observed what he thought was "creeping socialism" in The United States.  Of course, this was during the halcyon days of the Clinton presidency when such a charge wasn’t absurdly risible like it is now.  Alas, even the staunchest conservatives in the US know in their heart of hearts that we’re quite a ways from real socialism.

Not so in China.  For a country ruled by a Communist Party and known as a "People’s Republic", China seems to surprise people by not being as capitalist as it reputation suggests it is.  Cue a column in the Hong Kong Standard noting the repeal of a market-economy law:

China has shelved the legislation of its first
law on real property rights for the protection of private property,
after a Marxist law professor slammed the draft for "violating
principles of socialism." And an outspoken property developer has
sparked public uproar by advocating social inequality. He claims it’s
only natural for "rich" and "poor" residential areas to be

The column, written by one Wu Zhong, goes on to note the inherent contradiction between a country attempting to modernize its economy while still retaining a nominal commitment to socialism. 

Zhong’s focus in this piece is narrow, but the problem he touches on is emblematic of the problem of China as a whole.  China’s economic growth results from free-market policies that exacerbate the gap between the rich and the poor.  The gap, then, causes the inherent risk of political upheaval, which the CCP fears the most.  So what can China do?  Either rein in the economy by pursuing more socialist policies, or risk mobilizing the hundreds of millions of poor peasants who have been losers in the great Chinese road to riches. 

Neither option is good, which is why I think all of the articles that regard China’s rise to super-power status as a fait accompli are premature.

Anyway, to know what I think of socialism (vis a vis liberalism),  here’s a quote from Winston Churchill I stumbled across just today (hat tip- Coming Anarchy):

Socialism seeks to pull down wealth. Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty.

would destroy private interests; Liberalism would preserve private
interests in the only way in which they can be safely and justly
preserved, namely by reconciling them with public right.

Socialism would kill enterprise; Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference.

Socialism exalts the rule; Liberalism exalts the man.

Socialism attacks capital, Liberalism attacks monopoly


Just A Few Notes…

Posted on February 25th, by matt_schiavenza in Personal. No Comments

I haven’t felt like commenting on anything in the news lately, so as a result this blog has fallen silent since early last week.  I don’t have enough material for one whole post, so here are some brief notes to tide you over:

  • I’m getting very, very excited about baseball.  There’s an oft-quoted saying that the most beautiful sentence in the English language is, "Pitchers and catchers report".  Amen. I’m not a particularly devout basketball or hockey fan so the winter months tend to be quite fallow sports-wise.  What’s more, the usual coterie of baseball pundits and experts have begun weighing in with pre-season predictions.  The Giants appear to be the favorites of the weak NL West, with the enormous proviso that Barry Bonds stays healthy.  Good to hear.
  • I’m trying to find a weekend to go to Hong Kong, sort of as a way to celebrate having lived 25 years on this planet (the big day comes in less than a month, by the way).  Does anyone- anyone!- have recommendations as per hotels, guesthouses, hostels, restaurants, neighborhoods, sightseeing?  I’ve got Lonely Planet with me but as we know it’s a poor substitute for word-of-mouth hints.  Leave a comment here or e-mail me with tips and suggestions.

The Kooks of SF

Posted on February 20th, by matt_schiavenza in US Affairs. 2 comments

A town in San Bernardino County has apparently prohibited the expenditure of public funds for trips and seminars to San Francisco due to the latter city’s decision to bar military recruitment from its schools.  Amusing.  Don’t miss the snooty reaction of SF Stupidvisor Tom Ammiano, quoted in the middle of the piece.  Funny.

I personally oppose the ban, but I can’t imagine why it’s caused such a furor.  San Franciscans keen to enlist can surely manage to do so without meeting with on-campus recruiters.  It’s only one city, after all.…

The Saga of Chinese Wikipedia

Posted on February 20th, by matt_schiavenza in China. No Comments

Here’s an interesting account of the struggle to revive Chinese language Wikipedia, currently blocked by the CyberNanny for publishing content critical of the Communist Party.  It turns out Wikipedia’s biggest supporters on the mainland are not dissident students but rather ordinary citizens who feel Wikipedia is a beneficial resource for the nation.…


Posted on February 20th, by matt_schiavenza in China. No Comments

Just got in about an hour ago to Fuzhou after three days in Jiangsu Province.  Some notes:

- I had forgotten how cold it gets there.  It even snowed on Saturday morning, reminding me why I wore a ridiculously puffy blue winter coat around last year during the winter.

- The seminar itself was more fun than I expected.  Yes, it did have its share of dull moments, but it was good seeing everyone again and hearing stories about their semester.

- The more people I spoke to, the more I felt lucky to be in Fuzhou.  I heard so many horror stories about dull, ugly cities, terrible climates, tyrannical coordinators, draconian school policies, unfair schedules, and dreadful colleagues.  We have absolutely none of those problems here.

- I delivered (with my Fuzhou colleagues) a short presentation that went pretty well.  I also heard plenty of good ideas from fellow teachers.

So it wasn’t bad, all things considered.  I’m happy to be back, though- tired of traveling for now.  Work again tomorrow.…


Posted on February 17th, by matt_schiavenza in Personal. No Comments

I am flying to Shanghai this afternoon to attend a work conference for three days, during which I have been asked to participate in a seminar on teaching reading.  I know you all wish you could be there, but alas, participation is limited.

Unfortunately, I won’t be in Shanghai at all- from Hongqiao airport we shall be driven to a city in Jiangsu Province, Changzhou, utterly devoid of any life, culture, or beauty.  I’ll mostly be trapped in a hotel, so I doubt I’ll have a chance to post anything or respond to any e-mail.  Back Monday evening.…

Trip Photos

Posted on February 16th, by matt_schiavenza in Photography, Southeast Asia 2006. 1 Comment

I’ve joined Flickr and have thus far put about half of my trip photos up, including all of the ones I took in Cambodia.  You can view these shots by clicking here.  Also included are the handful of photos I took in Pai, Thailand.  When March rolls around and I get some more space, I’ll upload the rest. 

For now, I’ll leave you with a typical Sihanoukville sunset (click to enlarge).  Enjoy:


You Just Shot Me, Dick!

Posted on February 15th, by matt_schiavenza in Current Affairs. No Comments

So apparently the Vice President has shot a 78 year old man in a hunting accident.  The man has subsequently suffered what doctors referred to as a "minor heart attack" and remains hospitalized.  Such a situation seems ripe for the warped satirists of The Daily Show, and Jon Stewart and Co. do not disappoint (via Daily Kos):

Jon Stewart: "I’m joined now by our own vice-presidential firearms
mishap analyst, Rob Corddry. Rob, obviously a very unfortunate
situation. How is the vice president handling it?

Rob Corddry: "Jon, tonight the vice president is standing by his
decision to shoot Harry Wittington. According to the best intelligence
available, there were quail hidden in the brush. Everyone believed at
the time there were quail in the brush.

"And while the quail turned out to be a 78-year-old man, even knowing
that today, Mr. Cheney insists he still would have shot Mr. Whittington
in the face. He believes the world is a better place for his spreading
buckshot throughout the entire region of Mr. Whittington’s face."

Jon Stewart: "But why, Rob? If he had known Mr. Whittington was not a bird, why would he still have shot him?"

Rob Corddry: "Jon, in a post-9-11 world, the American people expect
their leaders to be decisive. To not have shot his friend in the face
would have sent a message to the quail that America is weak."

Jon Stewart: "That’s horrible."

Rob Corddry: "Look, the mere fact that we’re even talking about how the
vice president drives up with his rich friends in cars to shoot
farm-raised wingless quail-tards is letting the quail know ‘how’ we’re
hunting them. I’m sure right now those birds are laughing at us in that
little ‘covey’ of theirs.

Jon Stewart: "I’m not sure birds can laugh, Rob."

Rob Corddry: "Well, whatever it is they do … coo .. they’re cooing at
us right now, Jon, because here we are talking openly about our plans
to hunt them. Jig is up. Quails one, America zero.

Jon Stewart: "Okay, well, on a purely human level, is the vice president at least sorry?"

Rob Corddry: "Jon, what difference does it make? The bullets are
already in this man’s face. Let’s move forward across party lines as a
people … to get him some sort of mask."




Posted on February 15th, by matt_schiavenza in Personal. No Comments

I’m sad to report than an acquaintance of mine was murdered last Saturday here in Fuzhou.  Richard was 23, a native of Australia, and a frontman in a rock band that played gigs around the city.  I didn’t know him well, having only met him twice, but he struck me as a friendly and good-natured guy.  He had been in Fuzhou for a year and a half, working first as an English teacher and then supporting himself through his music.  Prior to coming to China, he had worked as a chef in Melbourne, so he had extensive knowledge of food and wine.

Violent crime involving foreigners is exceedingly rare in China, so Richard’s death came as a shock to us all.  I am not entirely certain what happened, but I do know that he was stabbed outside a popular Fuzhou bar when trying to help a friend involved in a fight with some Chinese men.  I read in an Australian newspaper that the police have apprehended four Chinese men and are looking for a fifth, all complicit in the stabbing incident.

It’s difficult thinking of anything intelligent or sensible to say after such a tragedy occurs, so I’ll just wish his friends and family well and Richard to rest in peace.…


Posted on February 14th, by matt_schiavenza in Personal. No Comments

I’ve actually been back in Fuzhou since Saturday, but haven’t found time until now to post about it.  Work has begun again- with a vengeance.  I should be far busier this semester than last due to a curriculum change.  On the other hand, I’m teaching a higher-level course now so most of my students are motivated and intelligent.  I’ve kept all of my favorite kids and stolen a few from my colleague, Paul.  Couldn’t have asked for a better group.

On Friday, I will be traveling up to Changzhou, Jiangsu Province for a two-day work conference.  I’ve been asked to prepare a short presentation detailing techniques in teaching reading skills.  I’ll mercifully spare you the gritty details.  It will be nice seeing old friends and colleagues, though.

So expect my usual blogging content to resume shortly.  …