Yet Confucians disagree on the nature of human beings

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Photo by Shane Young on Unsplash

The Chinese idiom, 江山易改,本性难移 (jiangshan yi gai, benxing nan yi), tells us: while nature as in rivers and mountains (jiangshan) changes, though very slowly, human nature (benxing) is difficult to change. It’s more difficulty to change human nature than nature to change the course of a river or move mountains. Yet there is another closely related interpretation.

Jiangshan can be read as the territory representing what Chinese dynasties of the past have accomplished. …


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Photo by Chastagner Thierry on Unsplash

Despite much of the current discussion about China’s “dual circulation” strategy centering on increasing domestic consumption and developing indigenous technologies, particularly chip-making, I think, in order to get a better understanding we would have to treat both domestic consumption and exports as one process of circulation. The “dual circulation” connotes the transformation of one flow into another. The basic idea of Chinese dialectics, for example, the transformation between Yin and Yang (阴阳), or the rising of the moon and setting of the sun, is that each action constitutes its opposite, forming a cycle, or circulation.

China’s “dual circulation” strategy is to link increased domestic consumption with Chinese exports, with implications for foreign exporters that want to sell into the large Chinese market. If Chinese consumers have the ability to spend more, for example, with a strengthening Yuan, this won’t just benefit local Chinese businesses. In a global supply chain, intermediate Chinese components often arrive in places like the US and Europe to be part of a larger or more advanced production. These high-value finished goods will be in more demand in China if Chinese consumers can buy them. Increasing domestic consumption benefits both the domestic economy and Chinese and foreign exporters. …


The obsession stems from a weakened faith in democracy

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Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

Since they began in June, Hong Kong protests are regularly making front-page news in the West. However, the endless coverage of the protests has nothing meaningful to say about Hong Kong Chinese or the People’s Republic of China or their delicate historical relationship. The West’s infatuation with the protests in Hong Kong has more to do with the declining legitimacy of democracy within Western nations.

In the West, especially America, nothing is so cherished as much as the idea of one person, one vote, however irrational or barbaric or devastating such a system could lead to the crowning of a rich, corrupt and depraved individual. But in getting to where he is now, Trump has realized the divisive spiritedness of democratic politics, in which it is both profitable and possible to manipulate the mistrust and envy of the citizenry. Since getting elected by the people, Trump has used the office of the presidency to exacerbate social divisions, engendering hatred between blacks and whites, between women and men, and between natives and immigrants. Indeed, however flawed such a system, Western nations like America continue to promote democracy overseas, like Hong Kong. …


The neoliberal equates American dream to an endless cycle of work

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author’s sketch of the myth of Sisyphus

In an op-ed early this month in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, the author of The World Is Flat, sees the biggest threat to America is Americans themselves, particularly you and me, who are apparently disgruntled and disillusioned, because we have failed to achieve the American dream. This dream is predicated on “doing better” than our parents.

Only we can ensure that the American dream — the core promise we’ve made to ourselves that each generation will do better than its parents — is not fulfilled, because we fail to adapt in this age of rapidly accelerating changes in technology, markets, climates, the workplace and education. …


Heirs of America and a new American identity

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Photo by Rob Jaudon on Unsplash

A few days ago, US President Donald Trump was reported to have told several Congresswomen to go back to their countries. The response to the Trump’s verbal assault has been just as strong. Paul Krugman of The New York Times denounced the President’s behavior, calling it “Racism Comes Out of the Closet.” As many have questioned whether Trump’s claim was indeed a factual one and applicable to the Congresswomen themselves, I wanted to talk about a related but broader question of who are the heirs of America — to whom does this country belong and who can chart its course. …


A note on increased global competition, weakened unions and massive mergers

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Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

Recently, Quartz posted an article, “The short but destructive history of mass layoffs”, writing that mass layoffs are a recent phenomenon and that the media tend to focus on the struggles of the employers rather than those of the fired workers, who are often treated like lepers to be removed from sight.

the layoffs are often discussed more as an indicator of a company’s struggles and strategic turns than as a life-changing disaster for huge numbers of human beings.

This is the case because the mainstream media are often corporations themselves that report layoffs to inform investors and the business community. Newspapers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have no accountability to workers unless the worker dissatisfaction affects the bottom line. …


Moving beyond the mainstream race discourse

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Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

James Baldwin, the most prolific writer of black-white relations in America, once made a contrarian but crucial observation about racism:

It has been vivid to me for many years that what we call a race problem here is not a race problem at all: to keep calling it that is a way of avoiding the problem. The problem is rooted in the question of how one treats one’s flesh and blood, especially one’s children. — from “No Name in the Street”

Baldwin saw American streets as one vast orphanage because, in a way, blacks were abandoned by their white fathers. The blacks, then, are the bastards of America. But these are not like your typical bastards of Westeros who, with some talent and luck, can become lords of the realm. The problem in America was, and I still think is, the great denial by the majority that blacks are not Americans, denying them as rightful heirs of the great American family. American racism, along with the country’s exceptional wealth, was built on centuries of enslaving black bodies. Therefore, the problem in America is about power and wealth. …


Seeking primarily to dethrone Trump, the rich’s proposed wealth tax is unlikely to radically alter massive wealth inequality

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Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Recently, a small group of ultra-wealthy individuals, including Chris Hughes, the co-founder of Facebook, has issued a missive asking the American government to increase their taxes.

Eli Broad, an American billionaire, in The New York Times op-ed, also joined in the public relations campaign, writing:

I simply believe it’s time for those of us with great wealth to commit to reducing income inequality, starting with the demand to be taxed at a higher rate than everyone else.

But this effort by the ultra-wealthy raises some questions: What about taxing overseas assets; why not simply close existing tax loopholes or prosecute tax evaders; how genuine is this call to reduce wealth inequality in America; how much would this wealth tax is supposed to generate in additional tax revenue. …


The relative decline of Hong Kong’s economic status

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Source: Author

The recent protests in Hong Kong over the extradition bill are not just about the “fear and anger over the erosion of civil liberties”, as reported by the international media. If one argues for the rights of dissidents, it must be done for both Chinese and non-Chinese political dissidents. Hong Kong has always been known as a safe haven for the former but not for dissidents like Edward Snowden, an American whistle blower who exposed the mass surveillance program of the US government. Sometimes the rhetoric of democracy and liberties used by Western observers can obscure other factors.

I argue that the “fear and anger” of the protests stems more from the relative decline of economic status of Hong Kong Chinese compared to their mainland counterparts. Until the 1997 handover, the city’s fortune was tied to that of Britain. The British Empire made Hong Kong as her main place for the exchange of capital in Asia. The legacy of imperialism is evident in the number of British multinational financial service firms like HSBC that still have a major presence in the city. …


A worker’s story of work

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Source: https://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/1995/05/03/

You’re always working for someone, an American diplomat told me on the phone. The interview took place shortly after Donald Trump, to the surprise and shock of many, was elected to the White House. I was in graduate school and looking for summer work.

By saying, you’re always working for someone, the interviewer was perhaps suggesting to me that, yes, he is a foreign service officer and has one of the most prestigious jobs out there, living overseas and proud to represent America, but still has to follow orders — orders from Trump and his political hires. …

About

Dat T. Nguyen

PhD candidate of politics and philosophy at ECNU.Shanghai | Of Rivers and Mountains @ jiangshan.substack.com

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