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Feb052011

Kaixin OpEd - February 2011

 

 

 

 

Kaixin's Daily OpEd

 

 

The New York Times   28/2/2011

Call for Protests in China Draws More Police than Protesters


BEIJING — A call for protests on Sunday in more than 20 Chinese cities resulted in a tiny turnout but an enormous law enforcement presence that led to police clashes with foreign journalists in Beijing.

Kaixin OpEd – Kaixin suggest two alternative headlines for this article:

‘What if you threw a party and no-one turned up?’

‘Flogging a dead horse’

Kaixin is gob-smacked, but resigned ….

As there was no-one to clash with, there had to be a clash with the journalists.

Jeez … don’t the NYT’s journalists every wonder why the world looks like their lower colon.

There was no-one there because no-one in China is interested.

That poor dead horse just wont move.

 

The New York Times   25/2/2011

Letter from China

Arab Revolts as Viewed From Beijing

By Didi Kirsten Tatlow

BEIJING — The popular uprisings in the Arab world are shaking China.

Kaixin OpEd – Horse twaddle …

Kaixin could easily russle up someone in China to complain about the government, and then edit it.

Kaixin watches the Chinese media daily, via satellite, as well as compiles this News Journal. Kaixin talks to family and friends in China every day. They are all middle-class and well educated. Certainly no talk of revolution and taking to the streets there.

Yes, they bitch and moan about the government over beer or tea, but they are not looking for change any time soon.

Kaixin previously talked about a German journalist who has resided in Beijing for thirty years. She said that at first she reacted to all the people who took her to one side to bitch and moan about the government and tell that the people’s voice had been crushed.

She soon gave up reporting all that, as she found it was mostly garbage.

She has made a career out of responsible journalism. Reporting the facts, as far as she could ascertain them, and trying to present a balanced view. She also criticised when it was called for.

She soon found that China was blossoming, and the colour was coming back to a country that had become grey under Mao’s last years as leader.

So, it is best to take the scribblings of people like Ms DiDi with a grain of salt, in same cases, a whole bag of the stuff.

 

The New York Times   22/2/2011

‘Dirty’ Energy Dwarfs Clean in China and India

Many experts agree that for the world to rein in rising greenhouse gas emissions, the galloping economies of China and India would have to figure out how to base their future economic expansion on technologies and fuels that are “cleaner” than the fossil fuels the United States and Europe used in their own industrial revolutions long ago.

We hear a lot about how China and India are becoming world leaders in clean technology, producing and installing solar factories and wind farms at a breakneck pace. Problem solved? Well, no.

Kaixin OpEd – If China found a way to solve all the environmental problems of the world, and implemented it free of charge as a service to the world, the WSJ and the NYT would still find a sinister motive.

China is leading the world in Green Technology. China does not have a magic wand, but it is seriously addressing environmental issues, while trying to balance economic growth.

The ‘west’ had a free ride at the expense of the environment for a few hundred years. The ‘west’ became accustomed to trashing the environment in search of economic growth. It is time the ‘west’ stoped talking about addressing environmental concerns and actually did something, other than complain about how developing countries are trying to manage the issue.

 

The Wall Street Journal   22/2/2011

China Co-Opts Social Media to Head Off Unrest

BEIJING—China's domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang, added his voice to calls for tighter Internet controls as censors ratcheted up temporary online restrictions, a day after a failed attempt to use social-networking sites to start a "Jasmine Revolution" in China.

Kaixin OpEd – Ummm …. there’s no unrest

The only unrest close to this report was in the journalists fevered imagination.

Yes, Beijing is keeping an eye on things, but Kaixin can report there is no unrest to speak of.

The freaks and fairies all come out, along with an intellectual and a dissident or two, but no unrest.

Kaixin has a lot of respect for the people on the street in the Middle East. They have courage and a legitimate grievance against America …. woops, sorry …. I meant their rulers ….. no, I was right … America.

Kaixin sighs in resignation at this favoured attempt to spread the unrest in the Middle East to China.

America even going so far as to plant a call for revolution into the blogosphere in China. A call that was ignored, and the only picture the trembling American media could get was of a man who went for a Big Mac talking to a policemen who had also gone for a Big Mac and fries.

Kaixin can fully understand a revolt against that kind of American food.

This is where the language barrier is significant. The reporter asked the men if they were revolting. They said, "yes". However, the men thought the reporter had asked, "Is it revolting?".

 

The Wall Street Journal   21/2/2011

Call for Protests Unnerves Beijing

BEIJING—Chinese authorities detained dozens of political activists after an anonymous online call for people to start a "Jasmine Revolution" in China by protesting in 13 cities—just a day after President Hu Jintao called for tighter Internet controls to help prevent social unrest.

Only a handful of people appeared to have responded to the call to protest in Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other cities at 2 p.m. Sunday, a call first posted on the U.S.-based Chinese-language news website Boxun.com and circulated mainly on Twitter, which is blocked in China.

Kaixin OpEd – Doubt it …

Beijing is being cautious, yes, but Kaixin doubts they are seriously worried.

See Global Times Editorial above, and Kaixin’s OpEd’s on the subject.

Basically, the Chinese people are happy with their lot and where China is heading: economically, socially, politically …

So why rock the boat.

Yes, in every society there are the discontented who call for change. They actually believe they know what is best for China. They have a different view, yes, but it is undoubtedly no better than the status quo and could be worse. Why rock the boat, is the opinion of the majority of the Chinese people.

The professional dissidents all have their eye on the million bucks from the witless do-gooders on the Nobel Committee.

The little call probably came from America in a feeble attempt to create a headline.

Unless, of course, they are stupid enough to believe it would resonate in China.

The Middle East is completely different to China.

The US backed governments and ruling families have screwed the people for decades, and they have had enough.

It’s interesting that America’s call for democracy does not go as far as replacing the regimes they hand pick.

See Kaixin’s opinion of democracy as it is currently practiced in the ‘west’ in Kaixin OpEd.


 China Daily   21/2/2011

Official calls for better social management

BEIJING - Senior Chinese official Zhou Yongkang Sunday reiterated the necessity to improve and innovate social management so as to "ensure the country's long-term peace and stability".

Zhou's call came a day after Chinese President Hu Jintao stressed the need to maximize factors conducive to harmony and minimize those detrimental to it.

At a high-profile seminar attended by provincial and ministerial-level officials, Zhou underlined the need to build a socialist social management system with Chinese characteristics, consolidate the ruling status of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and safeguard people's fundamental interests.

Zhou, a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, urged officials to put "improving social management and innovations in this regard" as their "top responsibility".

It is necessary to "detect conflicts and problems in time" and "take forward-looking, active and effective measures to improve social management", he said.

Kaixin OpEd – There are two ways to look at this.

The positive way:

It is a government responding to an international situation and looking to ensure the society remains stable.


The negative way:

A repressive government trying to cling to power.

A little like the Australian Labor Party responding to negative polls and booting their leader (Rudd) out.

… not so much repressive, as incompetent.

Still, it worked, and we went from Rudd the dud to Gillard the dillard.

Ain’t politics fun!



The situation in the Middle East is bringing out all the crazies and wannabes … they are like matches being thrown about.

In the Middle East they fall onto the dry tinder of genuine diss-content.

In China they fall onto a well-watered layer of social and political harmony. Something the ‘west’ has a hard time getting its collective mind around.

 

For Second Time This Year, China Raises Bank Reserves

BEIJING (AP) — China ordered its banks on Friday to hold back more money as reserves in a new move to curb lending and cool a spike in inflation.

Kaixin OpEd – cf that with Greenspan opening the spigots and giving all his mates on Wall Street a bucket.

“Bubble … what bubble??”

After all, it was going to be the America tax payer who was going to pick up the tab.

 

Where Are the Chinese Cars?

CHINESE goods, from textiles to tools to toys, have been flooding into America for years. But despite their repeated promises, Chinese automakers haven’t begun to make a dent in the car market in the United States.

Kaixin OpEd – They’re coming, little impatient boy, they’re coming.

Bet you could ‘t wait for Santa either …

 

The New York Times   19/2/2011

Court Considers Revising China’s Marriage Law

Under a draft interpretation of China’s marriage law, expected to be issued in coming weeks, mistresses would not be allowed to sue their married lovers for reneging on promises of money, property or goods, said legal experts who have reviewed the language. Nor would wayward husbands be allowed to seek the courts’ help in retrieving money or goods that they bestowed upon mistresses.

Kaixin OpEd – You don’t get rid of millennia of tradition in just one edict and a decade or two.

In China, one of the perks of being rich and/or powerful was having several wives and a mistress or two.

Mao got rid of all that and bought in monogamous marriage.

This worked in general because no-one could afford a mistress anyway, except high officials and Mao … but we will pass on from that.

Many people in China have become rich and one of the traditional perks of being rich was a mistress or two.

This is mostly new money, but the thinking of how to spend it is old. There is no point in being rich if you don’t get a perk or two.

However, in old China, before Mao, the women had no say in just about anything. Women in China now have redress to the courts and the women are finding their voice.

For some reason, not fully understood by men, the women are not too fond of this particular perk of the rich.

After the Cultural Revolution, around 1976, the universities in China were thrown open to anyone who would pass the entrance exam. Traditionally, only people from the cities went to University, or could afford to go.

Deng Xiaoping realised that the way forward for China was to develop the intellectual potential locked up in the young people of China. He threw open the universities to young people from all over China.
A university education became achievable for people from the country for probably the first time in China’s history.

To understand China, you need to understand the deep divide between city and country.

The two had never mixed in China and lived in different worlds.

The young people of China, from both the city and the country, were thrown together for the first time in China’s history.

Young people being young people and hormones being hormones, there were many marriages that simply could not have occurred before.

Differences were shed like unwanted skin and these young people mixed as equals, for the first time in China’s history.

Most parents resisted the marriages, they knew that the deep divide between city and country had not disappeared, the young people had merely acquired a veneer.

However the parent had lost a lot of their authority and were generally ignored.

Young people being young people.

In China, you do not just marry the person, you marry into a family.

The families of the young people from the country were not university educated and often had not lived outside their village or town. They were steeped in tradition ways.

The partners, usually women, from the city found themselves in a strange and unfamiliar place, that of old China were the wife was considered little more than a slave and an extra mouth to feed.

University educated young women who had experienced a new open exciting world did not accept this straight-jacket, they rebelled.

There were many divorces.

The young women were often left with a child. In the China of the one-child policy, these young women were unwanted.

Men still demanded a child, preferably male, from a marriage.

Men were able to find another young woman who had not had a child.

Many of the women who had children were forced into the role of mistress. The men were steadily becoming richer in this new China and could afford this particular perk of the rich.

The women were, however, not subservient and tended to demand some rights. They went to the courts and created no end of havoc for the men.

Hence, the new laws.

However, it is not that simple.

The law should deal with the world that ‘is’, not with a world the powers that be, mostly men, want to portray; one of a happy monogamous marriage.

The one-child policy is supported by Kaixin and most people in China. However one of its consequences has been to in effect throw a woman with a child on the street.

Finally, the men who made the first wave of money and had stayed married were generally in their late 40’s or early 50’s. So were their wives.

A young pretty thing found it easy to take the eye of a rich bored businessman.

Many marriages were broken as old wives were traded in for new ones.

In a country were the wife still has little real protection from the law, this often left the women in financial difficulty.

All in all, a toxic mix that is not the fault of anyone in particular. However, to single out the mistress as the one to blame does seem a little unfair. Anyone should have a right to take their matter to court.

See Kaixin's - Marriage in China Ancient & Modern

 

The Wall Street Journal   19/2/2011

New Data, But No New Light, on China Property Prices

With all this attention on China’s real estate sector, it is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, that the quality of the data is so weak. Data on national property prices from China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has been widely criticized – by experts and the public – for understating the true level of increases.

Kaixin OpEd – What we at Kaixin are trying to get our heads around is, where was the venerable WSJ when the bubble in America’s real estate was brewing? (yes, I know I mixed my metaphors, but it is early and I’ve only had one cup of coffee)

The WSJ and most economists and commentators in the ‘west’ seem to believe that the Chinese real estate market is going through the same thing as that crazy ride to the top of the roller coaster as America did (and most of the ‘west’).

It’s not, as a glance through Kaixin’s OpEd’s and more importantly Kaixin’s ‘CHINA REAL ESTATE’ will confirm.

Yes, there are little pops here and there, but there is not the gargantuan bubble forming that President GW and his witches presided over, in particular the really ugly witch who kept stirring the pot, throwing off steam, Wall Street Bonuses, counterfeit $US’s and CDO’s (which should be re-labelled BO’s Bum-o’s), while the rating agencies nodded and smiled and chanted AAA+++.

As Kaixin has pointed out many times, in comparison, China is a model of rectitude. It is managing the surging demand for real estate in China, rather than throwing lots and lots of paper (counterfeit $US’s) on the embers.

The WSJ is making the same mistake as most commentators in the ‘west’ who are looking back and trying to find patterns. They also seem to miss the point that when you have over 1 billion people beavering away and getting richer every day, the money has to go somewhere.

Then again, the comfort zone for most to the media in the ‘west’ is criticising China. It’s probably where most of their readers are. So, most to the media is content to be lazy and follow (mostly un-informed) public opinion rather than lead it with responsible and quality journalism.

Thanks a lot Rupert!

Where was I?

Oh yes.

China Real Estate is not a bubble. Price increases are driven by organic demand in general, not speculation (which Beijing is addressing), and fuelled (in general) by prudent lending policies.

 

The Wall Street Journal   18/2/2011

U.S. Boosts Web Freedom Efforts in China, Iran

Amid turmoil in the Middle East, the U.S. intensified efforts to pierce government barriers to social networking in China and Iran.

A day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's pledge to promote Internet freedom, efforts by U.S. diplomats to generate debate on the issue on Twitter-like microblogs in China—which has the world's most Internet users—ran up against the country's sophisticated censorship system.

Kaixin OpEd - … and Egypt?

Oh, that’s right, Egypt is a friend of America, or at least the democratically elected military leaders are.

Woops, sorry …

Oh yes, where was I?

All our friends in China, yes all, have absolutely no problem using Chinese social networking sites.

Their interest in American networking sites …. nil

Our 16 year old son uses these networks from Australia constantly and into the wee small hours … issues arise with sleep, school and homework, but never censorship.

Not that we look too closely at what 16 year old boys say to each other.

The tinsy minority of earnest Chinese who are angling for the million bucks from the Nobel Prize Committee might bitch and moan, but it is best to look for their hidden agenda.

Oh yes, and America, the brave, the free, the uncensored …. that would be a good title for a book by Julian Assange. He could write it when he holidays at Guantanamo Bay.

Glass houses, stones and all that …

See the Global Times Editorial above, 'The Internet belongs to all, not just the US'

 

China Daily   17/2/2011

Beijing issues new rules to limit house purchase

BEIJING - Beijing Municipal Government Wednesday issued new rules limiting the number of homes each family can buy as the government steps up efforts to cool the property market.

The new rules ban Beijing families who own two or more apartments and non-Beijing registered families who own one or more apartment from buying more homes.

Non-Beijing registered families who have no residence permit or documents certifying that members of the family have been paying social security or income tax for five straight years are also banned from buying apartments.

Beijing families who own just one apartment can only buy one more apartment, according to the new rules.

Kaixin OpEd – As a close follower of events in China, it occurred to Kaixin that these controls on property in China, while laudable in their intent, are perhaps flawed.

It is important to identify where demand is generated and how.

Demand for real estate is either organic or speculative.

In the major cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, there is an element of speculative demand, some froth and bubble.

This has spilled over to many of the second tier cities.

This type of demand dilutes quickly as you go down the tiers of cities and into rural China.

However, it is Kaixin’s observation that the demand for real estate in China is primarily organic, not speculative.

The wealth of all Chinese has increased enormously over the last 30 years.

The Chinese know that putting your money in a bank deposit is a sure way to erode its value over time.

The best investments are the traditional ones of real estate and gold.

For the last thirty years the place to invest in real estate was the three first tier cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Gunagzhou.

Over the last five years that has spread to the second tier cities.

As rural China is developed, which is the focus of the next 5-year plan, investment in real estate will spread further throughout the country.

(As an aside, the very wealthy in China have already diversified and invest heavily overseas).

Over the last five years there has been an increasing willingness to borrow to finance an investment in real estate.

Before that there was little borrowing and many people payed cash for their home or real estate investment.

This provides a sound floor under the price of real estate in China.

The move to borrowing increased demand for real estate.

As prices went up an element of speculation crept in.

Kaixin sees it as a tide that washed into the capital cities and will wash back out into the rural areas of China.

The prices in the cities will not fall back dramatically as they have a sound floor, unlike in the 'west'.

Lending on real estate in China has tended to be prudent (yes there are always exceptions).

The surge in prices in the ‘west’ at the turn of this new century was all based on froth and bubble. Lending practices in the ‘west’ (in particular America) ranged from lax to obscene.

Prices of real estate in the west were far above the floor of organic demand. There was a long way to fall.

Prices of real estate in China are either at the floor of organic demand, or in the major cities (first and second teir) just above. There is not a long way to fall.

This is where Kaixin’s observation that there is perhaps a flaw in the approach of using legislation in an attempt to control property prices comes in.

If, as Kaixin suggests, demand is organic, then it will only build. It will not go away.

It may find an outlet in a second tier city or eventually in rural China, however the bulk of the organic demand is for real estate in the tried and tested first tier cities.

The ‘west’ let prices run way past their value.

China has kept a semblance of control through prudent lending and capital controls on banks. This, in Kaixin’s opinion, is effective as it does not try to suppress organic demand, rather it controls it.

 

Wall Street Journal   16/2/2011

WSJ’s Chinese Readers Not Proud to Be No. 2

How happy were Chinese people to hear that they now live in the world’s second-largest economy?

If a reader poll on WSJ’s Chinese-language website is any indication, the answer is: Not at all

One particularly unimpressed reader made an appeal for humility based on history: “There’s no reason to feel proud. Over the last few thousand years, the vast majority of the time China has been No. 1. Now we’re No. 2 in total GDP and in the lower half in per capita terms. What’s there to be proud of?”

Kaixin - This picture is well chosen. China is not a developed country, as the high rise buildings suggest, nor is it an un-developed country as the people in the foreground suggest. It is a developing country with a way to go.

Kaixin OpEd – The venerable WSJ manages to put a negative spin on this news. Sniggering that China spent millions advertising in Times Square, but has yet to convince its own citizens.

The WSJ seems to think that China was promoting its power in Times Square. Kaixin thinks it was just promoting China and trying to garner a little better understanding of this complex dragon in America.

The point was well made by one respondent.

China has been the world's leading economy for most of recorded history. It is now No2 after struggling back onto its feet after centuries of rape and pillage.

It has come from being on its knees in the 1970’s to the second in just thirty years of so.

It will continue that rise in the 21st century.

As Kaixin often opines, this is an opportunity for the world, not a threat.

Will the teenager (America) learn to live peacefully with the old man (China) or will it pick an un-necessary fight?

 

Chinese Savings Binge to End?

For years, China has been the world’s champion savers, putting away yuan worth more than 50% of the country’s rapidly expanding gross domestic product. Government, industry and households all contributed to the savings glut.

It wasn’t always that way ...

Kaixin OpEd – If you don’t save, then you become dependent on the Emperor or the government.

The Chinese learnt, over a long history, that it was a mistake to rely on the government.

Governments and Emperors can be fickle.

It was best to rely on family and savings.

This mindset developed over millennia, it can’t be changed in a mere thirty years.

The average Chinese are now learning to borrow a little, a habit developed in the ‘west’.

If done prudently, it helps all concerned. If not, it leads to a disaster.

The generation of only children born from 1990 are generally spoilt and heavily influenced by ‘western’ models of consumption and borrowing.

This will unlock huge economic potential in China.

 

Asia Times Online   15/2/2011

EGYPT IN CRISIS
Under the (Egyptian) volcano
By Pepe Escobar


Forget about the Egyptian army swiftly handing power to a civilian-led interim government. Its leaders are United States-enabled stakeholders of a vast dynasty controlling the economy. There's no way a new Egypt may be born without overthrowing this whole system. The street has to take on the army. Expect major fireworks.

Kaixin OpEd – That is how Kaixin reads it also.

There is a long way to go before the ‘Street’ in Egypt takes control.

America backs the status quo. Oh yes, it will let a leader be thrown to the pack, but it will not relinquish de-facto control of Egypt.

To do that, you have to beat the army (which is backed by the US) and seize control.

Mao did that to seize control of China. He defeated the KMT (which were also backed by the US, but a US weakened by WWII) and marched into Beijing to fill the political vacuum left by the fall of the Qing Dynasty and around 40 years of internal fighting.

Mao was not suited to civilian power and he made a hash of it until his death in 1976. Deng Xiaoping took control of China and governed for the people, unleashing their potential.

Deng Xiaoping did this at a fortuitus time in history for China. America wanted to stick it up the nose of the USSR and a good way was to woo Communist China into the fold.

This gave China a market, and the rest is history.

The ‘Street’ in Egypt is not an army and has no power. Will the ‘Street’ be strong enough to stage a ‘colour revolution’?

Time will tell …

Though, Kaixin doubts it.

 

The Wall Street Journal   15/2/2011

Massive Population Lifts Nation's Growth

BEIJING—China's rise as the world's second-largest economy highlights a new postindustrial reality: Population counts as much as productivity in determining economic power.

Kaixin OpEd – Kaixin has been saying this for some time ….. size matters.

The western nations were the leading economies because of productivity per worker. They had less workers but higher productivity.

China is still far behind on a per head of population basis in terms of productivity. It is the No2 world economy because of the sheer size of the population. Hence, it can be argued that it is still a developing country. In particular, the rural areas can be classed between under-developed and developing.

China is addressing this issue in its current five-year plan. This is where the driver for domestic consumption in China will come from.

It is best to think about China in terms of the 21st century, not just the past thirty years.

For most of history, China has been the largest economy in the world. It’s economy was not matched by its aggression so it was easy prey for the European colonialists.
Colonialism ate at the very heart of China and bought about the demise of the Qing dynasty. Britain ruthlessly pushed opium onto China, which further weakened it.

An interesting fact was that Mao eradicated opium from China. He had a direct approach. If you used opium you were shot. Mao had his faults, but he knew how to get your attention.

China will probably regain the status of the worlds leading economy in the 21st century.

This spot may be shared with America and India, but China will be one of the leading economies.

Why?

The productivity of the Chinese population will continue to increase. It does not have to match the productivity of the west, it just has to increase.

If you wonder why China is being so protective about its national security and integrity along the way, then ponder over what the European powers did to China over the last couple of hundred years. Ponder over what Japan did to China during the 1930’s and early 1940’s. Ponder that America seems to have the same colonialist mindset of the Europeans.

 

Global Times   15/2/2011

Democracy is more colorful than imagined

The worldwide shift toward democracy is unstoppable. However, with globalization, democracy has become more like a Russian doll: you always see the one on top, but not those hidden inside.

From the perspective of history, the global wave of democratization will remove a Western-focused center of interest.

The beginning of the Egyptian revolution is like a constitutional revolution. There seems to be a wide gulf between Egypt and Western cultures, with some external influences blocked out and some allowed in.

In the future, the US-backed Egyptian military and democrats will compete with the Muslim Brotherhood. It is still too early to assert that Egypt and the Middle East will embark on an anti-American road.

But it is even more foolhardy to conclude that the Egyptian revolution was a victory for the West. The current world order is unfair, just as a nation's richest city is filled with affluent Western influences while many live on in poverty. They will ask: Why?

The late American scholar Samuel P. Huntington wrote in The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century that elections in non-Western countries often induce politicians to come up with the claims that can win the most votes. These often have racist, religious and nationalist hues and will aggravate divisions, leading to more support for anti-Western rhetoric and policies.

For some Muslim countries, Huntington's conclusion is that people there can only choose between anti-democratic secularism and anti-Western democracy.

Huntington's judgments will undergo testing in decades to come. In the past few years, a sweep of left-wing governments have been elected in Latin America, in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and more. They are more anti-American and anti-Western than previous military governments.

Many pro-Western regimes brought by democratization occurred in former Soviet Union countries, such as Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic countries, which were under Russian influence in the last century. Democracy in East Asia did not bring anti-American regimes and the rise of China and India seems to ease the pressure on the West.

The more globalized democracy is, the more complex its performance will be and the more difficult to distinguish its benefits and drawbacks. But one point is certain: democratization will not lead to global "Westernization."

The attractiveness of Western countries is not their political program, but their lifestyle, partially obtained on global resources.

However, the dream of imitating emulating Western countries will shatter for many. The ballot box must reflect the characteristics of different countries, lands, regions and nationalities.

After the Egyptian revolution, the West joined in cheers with Iran and Hamas, an all too rare phenomenon. But history will prove that some of them were laughing bitterly.

Kaixin OpEd - As Kaixin has constantly argues, Democracy is neither generally understood or defined in the 'west'. It is seen as a political utopia.

Just what does the right to vote deliver to the average person in the west?

At the beginning of the 20th century it gave a voice to the man on the street in the west. It delivered real power to the man on the street.

By the end of the 20th century that power had been highjacked and the man on the street was once again without effective power.

The right to vote is not, in itself, democracy, though used properly it can be very effective. It theoretically allows for a revolution, a change of government, with bloodshed.

Now, the voice of the people being heard by the powers that be, is closer to real democracy.

For democracy, however defined, to succeed in a nation it must grow out of the very soil of that nation. It cannot be imposed, and the western model of democracy evolved for those countries. Not for China, not for Iraq, not for Afghanistan …

The ‘Street’ is calling for democracy in Egypt. However, it is likely that if you asked the average person on a Cairo street what he or she means by democracy and just what they want democracy to achieve, you would be many different answers.

 

China Daily   14/2/2011

Bosses battle it out for workers

Firms set up at stations to target travelling workers

CHONGQING/GUANGZHOU - Coastal and inland cities are fiercely competing to attract migrant workers as China's labor shortage spreads to less-developed central and western regions.

In Southwest China's Chongqing, many firms have set up booths at railway and bus stations to persuade workers to stay home instead of returning to the coast. Tens of millions of migrant laborers travel by train or bus during the Spring Festival break, which ends on Feb 17.

At the city's North Railway Station on Friday, about a dozen workers told China Daily that they will stay in their hometown if they can get similar wages.

A recruiter holds up a sign listing vacancies at a job fair for private enterprises in the city of Haining, Zhejiang province, on Friday.

Kaixin OpEd – There are two important messages in this article.

The first is the pressure the labour shortage must be putting on wages. This has to translate to hight prices for widgets produced in China.

The second is that, like most people, the workers would prefer to stay at home. For the last thirty years of so they have travelled to the city to obtain work. They have lived in very basic conditions far away from their home town and often far away from their families.

The world gorged itself on this cheap labour and eventually threw up … the GFC.

The workers now want to go home.

China is now focusing its immense wealth on rural China.

As conditions improve, both economic and social, the works will no longer have to leave their hometowns.

For China, this will probably result in the regionalisation of industry. If the workers wont come to the factory, then the factory will have to go the workers. Perhaps this is one of the reasons behind the massive spending on transport infrastructure, particularly rail.

See Kaixin's - ECONOMIC CHINA

 

The Wall Street Journal   14/2/2011

Much Ado in China About Fannie and Freddie

Chinese regulators have issued a rare denial of a local media report that the country could lose up to $450 billion on its investment in securities issued by U.S. housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The denial was given prominent treatment by state media Friday evening, even appearing on the main evening news broadcast, a reflection of political sensitivity that surrounds Beijing’s foreign exchange reserves within China.

Kaixin OpEd – The somewhat patronising tone of this article is fairly typical of how many American’s, including those in power (political, financial, industrial), see China.

It is like a teenager who can’t quite get its head around the fact that the old man sitting on the bench feeding the pigeons might actually know thing or two.

If China loses on American bonds it will probably be because many of the bright young things in China who made decisions on such debt were indoctrinated (educated??) in American universities teaching economics, finance and the like.

China is evolving Economics Yi Ling Yi (101) for the 21st century.

America and China are joined at the hip on issues such as these, unwanted by both sides, but a reality none the less.

An institution in America is bankruptcy. It is an accepted norm and holds no fear or social stigma. It is deep in the mindset of Americas and founded on the sound idea that sometimes an idea does not work but that person/company should be given another chance. Henry Ford would agree.

That mindset was at the fore in 1972 when America defaulted on its international gold obligations and managed to wriggle into the biggest con game of all, the $US as the reserve currency un-governed by gold reserves.

Since then America has not need to declare bankruptcy, it just prints more dollars and fiddles with the exchange rate.

Oh, and puts pressure on satellite countries like Japan to allow their currency to rise.

Greenspan was the master at this, and Bernanke his acolyte is busy flying helicopters and banging the “Re-value the Yuan” drum like a banshee on speed.

So, America does not have to declare bankruptcy while the $US is the reserve currency.

Still, a rose, and all that. In this case, it is not a rose and certainly does not smell sweet.

Unless America continues to service the interest on the bonds and then pays them back in full, it is in effect declaring bankruptcy. (Actually, the looming inflation will effectively devalue the value of the bonds by the time they are due for payment).

Democracy and floating the Yuan are both designed to weaken China, politically, socially and economically.

If Kaixin can work that out, then the powers that be in Beijing have definitely worked it out.

 

The Age   11/2/2011

Asian buyers snap up local sites


Asian investors are filling a construction gap on the city's apartment skyline created when Australia's big four banks tightened credit restrictions on local developments after the global financial crisis hit in 2008.

Big Asian property groups are not subject to the same financial constraints as local developers and are often able to invest larger amounts of capital in projects and source funding from overseas.

Kaixin OpEd – Australia sells its backyard to China for a few $$$’s a tonne. China makes widgets with the iron (and builds the occasional apartment complex) and sells those widgets to Australia for quite a few $$$’s more.

Thus the $$$’s Australia sold its backyard for are sent back to China ++

The Chinese bring that money down and invest in Australia.

Their only serious competitors are other Asian companies.

There is a message in that, don’t you think??

See Kaixin's - CHINA REAL ESTATE

 

The Guardian - SLIDESHOW   11/2/2011

The price of success: China blighted by industrial pollution – in pictures


A Greenpeace report has called on the Chinese textile industry to clean up its processes after finding high levels of pollution in the southern industrial towns of Xintang – the "jeans capital of the world" – and Gurao, a manufacturing town 80% of whose economy is devoted to bras, underwear, and other clothing articles.

The report said the pollution is emblematic of textile manufacturing in China and the industry must review its practices.

Kaixin OpEd – In Kaixin’s opinion China’s Green Credentials are without doubt.

However it certainly allowed the environment to bear the brunt of its rapid economic growth over the first 30 years, from 1979.

The focus was not the environment, it was economic growth.

However the Chinese people are not stupid, nor are they mindless grey automons of the State. The Chinese people know a problem when they see it, and for many, breathe, drink and eat it.

Kaixin spoke to an American engineer in Li Jian in 2006. He had been living in China for many years and made the observation that much of the technology to clean up the environment in China had already been developed in the west. When China decided to focus on the environment it would not take long to address the problems.

From 2006 to 2011 China has certainly decided to focus on the environment. It is now a world leader in many areas and challenging the west.

However, after 30 years of environmental pillage and lax controls, there are still many areas to address.

Also, China is certainly wrestling with the problem of corruption ( as defined by the west). It was the way things were done in China for millennia, so it will take some time.

It allows instances like that reported to occur.

The central government is serious about controlling it (Kaixin does not believe they can stamp it out, and do they really need to follow the western model??).

The Chinese people on the street certainly are.

They are fed up with the vagaries of officials who respond to bribes. The Chinese people are using what Kaixin defines as Tech-Democracy (the www & mobile phones) to bring instances of corruption out into the light, to be dealt with.

However, the west has to have a little patience. China is a large densely populated country and the further you are removed from Beijing the less effective is central government control.

The government in Beijing is often portrayed as all-powerful. It is very powerful, but it is not all-powerful.

Also, NGO’s such as Greenpeace can play a role when they highlight problems.

See Kaixin's - GREEN CHINA

 

China Daily   11/2/2011

Chinese FM: Leave internal affairs to Egyptians

ABU DHABI - China believes that Egypt has sufficient wisdom and capability to overcome difficulties and realize national stability and development, visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told his Egyptian counterpart in a telephone conversation Thursday.

Yang, who was on a visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), told the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit that China pays close attention to the situation in Egypt, adding that Egypt, as an influential country in the Middle East, is vital to the region's stability.

Egypt's internal affairs should be resolved by Egyptians themselves and should be free of outside interference, he added.

Gheit briefed Yang on Egypt's situation, saying his government was taking measures to safeguard social stability and return the country to normality.

Both sides also expressed satisfaction with the development of China-Egypt relations in the past year, saying the strategic cooperation between the two countries has great potential and broad development prospects.

Yang arrived in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi late Wednesday for an official visit to the Gulf nation.

Kaixin OpEd – No way say’s America! Say’s who? Says me!

After all, America believes it knows what is best for the whole world, and if you don’t agree it will come over with a bloody big army and persuade you to agree.

Kaixin has likened America to a well meaning bumbling teenager before.

Like a teenager, America is absolutely sure it knows everything. Like a teenager it is prone to fits of irrational anger and at time violence. Like a teenager it is impatient.

Kaixin likens China to a wise old man who is content to be patient and wait for things to evolve in their own time.

Everyone knows what your average teenager thinks of ‘oldies’ …. has-beens who simply don’t understand …

Kaixin is unsure about the rulers of Egypt. Their rule smacks too much of the repression China suffered under Mao.

Maybe all this strife will throw up a Deng Xiaoping in Egypt.

So, the Chinese FM is probably right. Egypt will work a way through its own problems.

What Egypt does not need is a solution forced upon it by a well meaning teenager.

HEAR!! HEAR!! … does Kaixin hear faint shouting coming from the direction of Iraq and Afghanistan??

Oil! … what oil?? I don’t see any oil.

 

China Daily   10/2/2011

Labor market hot as Spring Festival holiday ends

Employers look for migrant workers in Yiwu, East China's Zhejiang province

Kaixin OpEd – Did you pay attention?

This is a picture of Employers looking for employees.

Not, workers looking for jobs.

Go figure ….

See Kaixin's - ECONOMIC CHINA

 

China Daily   9/2/2011

Google exec behind organization of Egypt's protests

CAIRO - A Google Inc. executive was behind the Facebook page which has helped spark the mass protests in Egypt.

Wael Ghonim, 30, a marketing manager said in a television interview broadcast on Monday after he was released from days of detention that he was behind the organization of the anti- government protesters.

Internet services such as Facebook and Twitter were believed to have played a key role for the organization of the mass protests in Egypt.

Internet service was cut off on January 28 in Egypt, apparently in a bid to stop protesters from using it to spread information. The service resumed on Feb 2.

Opposition demonstrators protest at the Tahrir Square in Cairo

Kaixin OpEd – What!

The darling of the democratic west, in particular America, shuts down the Internet and we hear next to nothing.

The Street in Egypt raised its voice and the powers that be …. suppressed it.

Washington remained stonily silent on the issue, preferring instead to concentrate on criticising China and blaming China for its economic woes.

Readers of Kaixin’s OpEd will know what Kaixin thinks of that.

Food scarcity is stalking the globe.

Riots in Egypt, droughts in China, the world’s poor finding it harder and harder to afford basic food (see below) … are these the first rumblings of an event that will threaten International Peace?

It is commonly believed that access to water will be the cause of the next major conflict.

Perhaps it will be food.

America needs food, China needs food, and Europe needs food. What will they do if they do not have enough?

Oh yes … the poorer nations need food also, but who really gives a toss.

   
Asia Times Online

'Sheik al-Torture' is now a democrat
By Pepe Escobar


If French philosopher Jean Baudrillard were alive, he would say revolution in Egypt never took place except on the world's television screens. The regime was never shaken to the core - because the army remains in charge and it is comfortable with "acting president" Omar Suleiman (aka "Sheik al-Torture") running the show. So are the democrats in Washington.

 

The Age   8/2/2011

Central planning is high on China's agenda
John Garnaut


The Chinese Politburo is unlikely to give up its partiality to organising the economy and workers in every detail.

Cai isn't game to say whether China's control-obsessed leaders will follow the Japanese path to stability by loosening their grip and giving workers authority to organise themselves.

But at least they are listening. 

Kaixin Oped – Awww, I dunno …

Kaixin sees definite signs that the unskilled migrant labour market is starting to flex its bargaining powers.

Kaixin also sees definite signs that industrial unions are becoming stronger.

Remember, just 30 years ago China was under the repression of a Mao led China. It has come a long way in that time in many areas including labour reform.

Kaixin is not saying it has got there yet, but it is moving in the right direction.

The fact that such a senior figure as Professor Cai Fang is promoting the issues would seem to indicate that it has standing.

A recent report said that migrant works now receive more income per month than first year graduates. Indeed, there is a shortage of labour and a surplus of graduates in China.

Naturally, where there is a shortage, the bargaining power of the commodity – in this case, unskilled migrant labour – increases. This trend will only continue as conditions in rural China improve under this current five-year plan. Workers will not want to, or need to, move to the city.

An interesting factor in this transformation of rural China is the surplus of graduates. They have lost their bargaining power. Beijing is encouraging them to move to rural areas to find work. This will lead to more and more opportunity in rural areas and less and less need for people to move from those areas to the city.

Hence, the price of unskilled labour will inexorably rise, along with their industrial bargaining power.

The free ride the west had on the backs of those workers is now over. This will be reflected in increasing prices for goods made in China.

It’s a pity the west squandered that window of economic opportunity.

China did not.

The west has huge deficits, where as China has trillions of dollars.

Back to basics, fellas, hard work and thrift.

 

The New York Times   7/2/2011

Op-Ed Columnist
China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN


Of course, China per se is not fueling the revolt here — but China and the whole Asian-led developing world’s rising consumption of meat, corn, sugar, wheat and oil certainly is. The rise in food and gasoline prices that slammed into this region in the last six months clearly sharpened discontent with the illegitimate regimes — particularly among the young, poor and unemployed.

...

The Arab world has 100 million young people today between the ages of 15 and 29, many of them males who do not have the education to get a good job, buy an apartment and get married. That is trouble. Add in rising food prices, and the diffusion of Twitter, Facebook and texting, which finally gives them a voice to talk back to their leaders and directly to each other, and you have a very powerful change engine.

Kaixin OpEd - In China Kaixin calls it Tech-Democracy.

In Egypt it is the voice of the people shouting to the small group of people in control that they have had enough.

Is this a call for democracy?

This is where it is important to define just what 'democracy' means.

Define clearly what it means to each person, to each group of people, to each stratum of society ...

Define what each person hopes democracy will achieve for them as individuals.

Define what benefits democracy will bestow on a country and the various social stratum within that country.

You see, Kaixin believes that most people do not have a clear idea what democracy means. Oh yes, they have a hazy notion that it means the right to vote, but it goes little further than that. Such notions as the finer points of democracy do not mean much to the majority people in the west who live very comfortable lives.

It is when you life ceases to be comfortable that you look around for an effective voice.

The Internet and mobile phones have provided an effective platform for everyone to voice their opinion. If that opinion resonates then it spreads quickly and cannot be stopped by governments or rulers in any country.

Kaixin defines democracy as the voice of the people being heard. Kaixin considers that in the west that voice has been smothered for some time, however life is still too comfortable, so the voice of the disaffected does not resonate.

In China Tech-Democracy has given a strong voice to the people, a voice that was lost under Mao but has slowly emerged over the last 30 years. It is interesting, and frustrating to many in the west, that the voice in China does not call for 'democracy'. Tech-Democracy is being used to address specific issues in China, but those issues do not provide a basis for revolution. Life is becoming more and more comfortable in China .... why rock the boat?

Egypt has clearly shown that the voice on the street has not been heard for many years. It is now demanding to be heard and is questioning the legitimacy and effectiveness of the current system of government. A system propped up by the 'west, in particular America, for its own ends. The voice on the street now has Tech-Democracy. The issues in Egypt do go to the heart of people's concerns and do resonate, hence the mass riots.

The small ruling elite in the Arab world are doing a Marie Antoinette, "Let them eat cake", and shovelling money at the voice .... money they don't have it would seem.

It has worked before, will it work this time?

Kaixin has noted for some time the emerging crisis in food supply for the world.

While the world has been distracted with other issues, this issue has been slowly heating like a pot of boiling water. It would appear it is near boiling point.

It this the first signs of the pot boiling over?

The price of food (and water) will come down to simple economics, supply and demand. The price will rise as demand outstrips supply.

Those who can pay, will, those who can't, will go hungry.

No .... of course it is not that simple.

Will a country let its food be exported if it cannot feed its own people?

What if foreign countries or nationals own the land on which the food is produced? Is it not their food?

Will governments see their people go hungry or starve rather than take control of that land?

Will foreign countries with very big armies allow that to happen?

I fear the world is headed for what the Chinese saying warns against: "May you live in interesting times"

 

China Daily   5/2/2011

Graduates build careers in rural areas

HEFEI - Guan Luofei has worked in rural areas of East China's Anhui Province for almost three years since graduating from college. He is now at a crossroads -- should he go back to the city to look for a job or continue his career in rural Anhui?

Guan graduated from Anhui Communications Vocational and Technical College in 2008, when the urban employment situation for graduates was grave and the Chinese government was encouraging graduates to work for grassroots organizations in rural areas.

After graduating, Guan began work in Mulan Village, Feixi County, as an assistant to the head of the village. The term of employment was three years.

Without his parents and the urban life to which he was accustomed, Guan initially felt lonely. But he soon got used to rural life and began to build his own social network in the village.

"I came here hoping to serve the locals. Over the past two years, I have forged friendship with many villagers my age. I have also learnt much that one could never read in a textbook," he said.

China launched its nationwide campaign to encourage university graduates to work in grassroots organizations in rural areas in 2008.

Currently, there are 200,000 university and college graduates, just like Guan, working in the rural areas.

Kaixin OpEd – This is a significant step for China.

Traditionally the way to advancement in China was to move from the country to the city. A move to the country was seen in effect as banishment.

Over the last ten years in particular, there has been a shifting focus in China, from development of the cities, to development of the country.

During that time the number of graduates has steadily increased. Now there is not enough work for them in the cities.

The obvious move is to the country, however there is centuries of bias to overcome.

The current five year plan focuses squarely on the country areas of China: social, economic, welfare, infrastructure, medical, aged care, agriculture, transport and so on.

The vast wealth that China accumulated over the last 30 years is now being directed into the country areas of China.

Living conditions and economic opportunities are improving in leaps and bounds … the new great leap forward??

This will unlock the enormous potential of rural China, both human and economic.

It will drive domestic economic growth well into the 21st century.

It is a watershed in China’s history. No longer will the country areas of China be seen as banishment, they will be seen as an opportunity.

If companies in the west stop and think about it, it is also an opportunity to be pursued with vigour.

 

The Wall Street Journal   4/2/2011

U.S. Firms, China Are Locked in Major War Over Technology

A titanic battle is under way between U.S. business and China, a battle reflected in President Barack Obama's State of the Union address last week and destined to dominate relations between the two countries for years.

At issue: Innovation.    

Kaixin OpEd - China is actively putting in place the legal, intellectual, academic and industry infrastructure to become a world leader in innovative research & development.

This is a challenge to the world in general and the U.S in particular.

It is a threat if the world sits on is collective hands and just complains. It’s a challenge to be met if the world goes back to basics and competes.

The major ‘western’ democracies have let science fall by the wayside. This is a wake up call.

Xiaosui was at a conference for Australia’s top scientific organisation, the CSIRO. She said that over half the scientists working at the CSIRO were Asian and most of those were Chinese.

The educations systems and the governments overseeing education in the west have only themselves to blame.

As to the complaint that China is stealing the technology. If that is the case then the companies from the west have to ask themselves how they put themselves in that situation. They want to be located in China. It is their choice. They could stay in their own countries and the issue of having their technology inspected at the border goes away.

China has a huge pool of talent within China. It also has a diaspora of talent spread throughout the world’s universities and industries that it is actively seeking to bring back to China.

Kaixin’s mantra is that China is an opportunity and a challenge, not a threat.

The west prides itself on the capitalist principle of competition.

Where is that spirit now?

 

CCTV9 Dialouge 4/2/2011

Filial piety as law

See Kaixin's - Tiger Mum - Amy Chua 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother'

 

 

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Set in Zanzibar in 1910, it is the story of two people from different worlds falling in love. Susan immerses herself in Zanzibar. Asim falls in love with this woman from the nation that killed his wife. Susan is a spy. Asim is the chief advisor to the Sultan of Zanzibar. Germany and France are holding secret negotiations to form a Pan European alliance, which would isolate Britain and destroy her power. Susan and Asim are caught up in all this and their love is finally dashed on the cold, hard reality of international high politics.

 

 

Available on Amazon's Kindle $4.99 - Over 400 Pages

 

 

 

 

 Chapter One

Zanzibar

'A maharaja’s ruby cast on a Persian carpet by the blackest of hands'

 

 

Their souls danced, honouring his promise.

The ancient dhow stirred in the soft morning breeze. Like a sleepy lion, it began to move through the water, snuffling about the other boats on the harbour; some scurrying, some at anchor, some darting before a brief gust of wind. The lateen sails a bustling panorama of blood-red and sun-bleached white.

Aft, the woman's eyes searched the skyline, drinking in the architecture of Stone Town, the heart of Zanzibar; its jagged, cluttered silhouette so familiar, so much a part of her soul.

Abruptly, her eyes ceased their restless searching, jagged by an invisible hook, transfixed by the grand buildings on the northern shore, Beit-al-Ajaib, the House of Wonders, Palace to the great Sultan of Zanzibar. The distinctive architecture captured in the tropical light: coconut white outlined by contrasting shadow plays of pepper black.

A smile, ever so slight, started to play on the edge of her mouth then disappeared. A memory that should have been fond instantly turned to sharp unbearable pain. Her eyes hardened and moved on.

Without warning the captain threw the rudder over. Stumbling, the woman barked her shin on a wooden box, a rough-hewn coffin. She recoiled, knocking over an untidy stack of cane baskets. Imprisoned in the baskets, rusty cockerels, their scruffy heads straining through the latticework, snapped at her, cried out to her; their raucous din overwhelming her, drowning her.

Dimly, through the fog of noise, the strident swearing of the sailors in Kiswahili seeped into her conscious. Understanding, she smiled mirthlessly.

The coffin had been carelessly stowed, a chore, rather than a labour of respect or love.

 

 

 

 

London 1910

 

“Hello, who are you? I am Oliver, is Edward at home?”

The words were spoken by a tall, impeccably dressed young man as he rushed into Edward’s flat shaking off surplus water and calling for whisky while shoving his umbrella into a stand. It was a blustery, grey, bitterly cold February afternoon in the heart of London. He brushed a curl of soft auburn hair from his forehead and smiled charmingly.

Susan laughed, her hazel eyes dancing with the exhilaration of the new. “Yes, he is having a bath. I think he is trying to get warm. I’m Susan, Susan Carey, his sister.”

“Ahhh yes, from Australia. How do you do?” said Sir Oliver, smiling broadly and offering his hand. He noticed the laughter in her eyes, and the depth, particularly the depth, intensified by jade flecks that made them striking and alluring. “So, you have arrived, good trip I trust.”

“I am very well thank you, and yes, it was a good trip,” replied Susan.

He laughed and glanced at the sitting room, “whisky?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, please come in…….. that was silly of me, after all, it is your flat.”

Oliver smiled and gestured for Susan to lead the way. He followed her into the room, and after helping himself to a generous portion of whisky, walked over to the fire.

Shortly after, Edward, wrapped in a huge ruby-coloured dressing gown and wiping soap from his ear strode into the room. He was of similar age to Oliver, late twenties, well built, if slightly podgy, with dark auburn hair and a full moustache. Susan looked up and smiled to herself, she could see now where he had picked up some of his new mannerisms.

“Thought I could hear voices. I see you two have met, no need for introductions then.”

As he was speaking, Edward walked to the side table and grabbed a whisky decanter by the neck. He glanced at Oliver who nodded. A long finger snaked into one of the tumblers followed by the distinctive clink of crystal. He swept the decanter off the table and carried it to where Oliver was sitting. After pouring the whisky, he sank into a lounge chair and sipped from his glass, enjoying the warm glow as it spread through his body.

Suddenly he sat up exclaiming, “Sorry sis, would you like something to drink?”

“Kind of you to remember, but no thank you, and yes, Oliver has already inquired.”

Edward nodded and sank back into his lounge chair.

They chatted, tentatively at first, getting to know one another. Edward had not seen Susan for two years and was unsure how his sister would take his new relationship. Oliver was intrigued by Susan. An attractive, self-assured young lady of high intelligence with a degree was a rare find. And, as fate would have it, she was also a trained and experienced teacher. He suggested a picnic at Oxford, which was met with ready acquiescence. Arrangements were made for the following Sunday.

“I’ll see if the Rolls is available,” mused Oliver. “Must ring father, haven’t spoken to him in ages.”

Oliver, Sir Oliver Marchmaine, was an unaffected young man of intense intelligence who saw life as a great adventure to be lived to the full. He was also unyieldingly loyal to his country, England, which is why he had joined Military Intelligence on leaving Oxford.

It was 1910 and Europe was stirring. It was a time full of interest, intrigue and danger. The European chessboard was becoming increasingly complex, the moves more subtle. A time when an unexpected move or feint could have profound consequences.

 

 

Regaining her balance, the woman’s eyes were drawn, hesitantly at first, resisting back to Beit-al-Ajaib. She wondered if it was still the same. Still the same centre of power and intrigue that had been so much a part of her life all those years before; that had defined her life.

She remembered those first few moments, remembered standing in the foyer of the palace, .………… remembered the breathtakingly beautiful Persian tapestry ........

The sea breeze stirred her clothes. She smiled a little sadly, and in her mind the tapestry gently swayed. Two small apparitions ran giggling up the stairs: two small exquisitely rich burkas disappearing along the first floor landing. Childish squeals of mischief and joy left in the air.......

“Move to seaward, you accused of Allah! Move!”

Her thoughts were clawed back to the dhow, the captain crashing the tiller over to avoid another boat on the crowded harbour. The woman instinctively ducked her head to avoid the heavy boom as it swung over her, the rusty cockerels squawked their raucous indignation, their heads straining through the latticework, relentless.

The collision avoided, the dhow continued on its way. The cacophony dying down to the occasional command by the captain or the cry of a seagull.

The woman's thoughts returned to Beit-al-Ajaib

  …………. laughing and giggling, girls of seven or eight. A door on the first floor slammed and all sounds of them disappeared. Silence. The woman smiled. She could see herself, a young woman, dressed plainly, unselfconsciously, her sexuality tantalisingly just out of reach, hidden beneath the thin veil of her clothing. She remembered standing alone in the foyer, looking around, perplexed. Asim came through a door to the left of the tapestry.

“Salaam.”

The woman started and looked around. Then, realising, was cold again. Alone again. Alone, rocking to and fro to the rythm of the sea. Alone, beside a rough-hewn coffin.

 

 

 

 

 

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