J. Maarten Troost Via Youtube Via Althouse Discusses His New Book: ‘Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid.”


(Q & A starts at about minute 6:20)

This blog is still trying to better understand China.  Troost traveled for months around the country, went with the flow, and wrote about his experiences.

The book comes highly recommended.

Some takeaways:  China’s undergoing rapid, almost seething, sociological, economic, and some political change (we’ll see how that pans out given the old Communist state structure and involvement in the economy).  It’s got over a billion people, a huge landmass, and a long history, and can make individuals feel very small indeed.

Interview with Troost here (via Althouse).

Fascinating piece here.

What’s life like in Beijing for an American editing an English-language Business Magazine?

Interesting quote on author Eveline Chao’s censor:

‘I understood then the mundane nature of all that kept her in place. A job she didn’t like, but worked hard to keep. A system that would never reward her for good work, only punish her for mistakes. And in exchange: Tutors. Traffic. Expensive drumming lessons. They were the same things that kept anyone, anywhere, in place — and it was the very ordinariness of these things that made them intractable.’

World Bank overview here.

Related On This Site: Kissinger says our relations with China are incredibly fragile, and that due to its own past, it may not fit as easily into the Western models of statecraft as some would think: From The Online WSJ: ‘Henry Kissinger on China. Or Not.’

From The WSJ-Exclusive: ‘Eric Schmidt Unloads On China In New Book’

From The China Daily Mail: ‘The Cultures Of North Korea And China: Conflict Escalation Explained’

Over a billion people and a culturally homogenous Han core.  Rapid industrialization atop an ancient civilization.  There is state-sponsored hacking and espionage, a good bit of corruption and a lot of young men floating around fast-growing cities.   There are people fighting for their freedoms, better laws, and making their way forward.  There is an often lawless, ruthless capitalism (and hefty State involvement and cronyism) and it will take smart leadership to maintain steady growth. Can they do it?  TED Via Youtube: Martin Jacques ‘Understanding The Rise Of China’From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Geography Of Chinese Power’From Via Media At The American Interest: ‘History Made; Media Blind’From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’

Via Circa: ‘US And Russia Reach Agreement On Seizing Syria’s Chemical Weapons’

Full post here.

‘After 2 days of talks in Geneva, Sec. John Kerry and Russian FM Sergei Lavrov have agreed a framework for Syria handing over their chemical weapons — a move which looks likely to avert a military strike. Kerry said the agreement will be backed by a Security Council resolution that could allow for sanctions if Syria reneges on its obligations.’

From what I’ve heard, read, and been able to piece together:

Addition: Avik Roy interviews Eli Lake At Richochet about who we might be able to support, and how.

What we can hope for is that this is really buying Obama time to hopefully regroup and come up with a strategy.  We’re seeing an exercise in what a lack of American power, strategy, and leadership would look like in the region and sending signals more broadly in the world that we’re not necessarily on top of things (think of it as..ahem…an exercise).

This has given Putin a chance to take advantage of our weakness and advance his interests, like continuing to supply the Assad regime and the Iranians with arms, and get back at us for trying to assist democracy in Ukraine.  He sees any U.S. strikes, anywhere, as something of a threat.  His interests are ideologically and practically opposed to ours, for the most part.  Vlad’s been shrewd and played us like a mob boss plays a flailing mayor.  The mob boss doesn’t even live in the city.

Assad has been thrown a lifeline but it’s not that much, as he is in a bitter, sectarian, Civil War in which defeat likely means death for him, his family, and many Alawis in high government and military positions.   He’s got chemical weapons and they, pretty much, are not likely to go anywhere.  The conflict rages on, and it includes:

A brutal dictatorship meeting the high youth population and the ‘Arab Spring.’

An ethnic, sectarian patchwork of loyalties and alliances

Redrawn colonial maps and a familiar split between Islam and Arab nationalism, between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular, semi-socialist Baathists

The VERY bitter Sunni/Shia divide

The backdrop of the Iran regime’s aim to have deliverable nukes and be the big dog in the region, (they really do state-sponsor terrorism for leverage and to mess with everyone else).  Russia and the U.S. still are still playing chess in the region, the Russians using Iran and Syria as their leverage.  Israel is watching all of this closely.  Saudi Arabia has turned toward Moscow.


This may sound a little harsh, but what if you held an ‘international community’ rally promoting peace with the possibility of war, and only Putin and Assad showed up?  You didn’t even know what to write on the banner.  The U.N. was too disorganized to show up.  No Britain.  No Australia.  No Canada.  No Europe.  No glorious moment where ‘moderate’ Muslims sweep the terrorists away amidst cheers of solidarity and peace and everybody feels good.  The socialist Francois Hollande calls and says he likes your ideas and may want to participate.

During the rally you may get Putin and Assad to sign in at the front table and you try to take a picture with them in front of the Geneva Conventions, but that’s about it.

Here are two quotes from Henry Kissinger:

The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems.  A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution.  If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation.  Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”


“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at.  Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”

Kissinger, Henry. American Foreign Policy:  Three Essays.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.  1969.

Positive suggestions?  At least show leadership for the ideals we’re claiming to believe in, like assisting with the humanitarian crisis and trying to help all countries ringing Syria deal with the flow of refugees.  Keep trying to maintain a lifeline with that group of Syrians stuck in a Civil War who aren’t radicals, or at least will have to live there when it’s over.  No, we don’t need relocate them here, necessarily.  Keep reassuring Israel.  Try and make the most of the situation with the Turks.  Offer the arms and black and spec ops that we are.  Keep trying to maintain our alliances, with you know, our allies…


Related On This Site:  A Few More Syria Links-’Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

More Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others