Re: Guest Post - Pollution in China

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When I was a kid, pictures of China always had shitloads of bicycles in them. I feel like Chinese were associated with bikes even more than the Dutch.

I don't see that in pictures anymore. I can't imagine trying to pedal a bike while breathing that air.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 7:47 AM
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I had black snot after visiting China for 10 days. Also became less uptight about smoking-- if anyone can live in those cities and reach old age, I refuse to believe thta a few smokes a week are all that.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:29 AM
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1: I'm told that bicycles are considered both old-fashioned and a vaguely unpleasant reminder of the early Mao years by most Chinese under 50.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:31 AM
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I'm surprised people don't expect the Chinese middle/upper class to start developing enough of an environmental movement to take action. This sounds excruciatingly unpleasant enough to get people motivated.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:36 AM
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Someone trying to convince me to visit an institute in Beijing for a month claims that they're starting to impose strong constraints on the number of cars allowed in the city and that soon the air quality will be back to the state it was in for the Olympics, which was a marked improvement. The article suggests he's just lying?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:37 AM
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I refuse to believe thta a few smokes a week are all that.

I'm not positive, but I don't think studies have ever indicated that a few smokes a week are all that. All studies are conducted on much heavier smokers than that.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:39 AM
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Yeah, I have the impression that tobacco-related science is somewhat distorted by a reaction to the true evil of the tobacco companies. Any research that might indicate that any tobacco use in any format is less harmful than the most harmful possible tobacco use gets ignored because that's what the tobacco companies would want you to think.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:42 AM
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I think the reason it gets downplayed is because the addictive nature of nicotine means that infrequent smokers are almost always just heavy smokers in transition or people who are about to quit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:45 AM
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5. Constraints are being imposed, I think odd-even license restrictions. Solution: buy an extra car with the other plate parity.

6. No, secondhand smoke studies indicate some harm for not much smoking. They only address mortality rather than morbidity though. My rough estimate is that the risk of driving and the risk of living in a zip code with a lot of traffic is comparable, true for the risk of death, not sure about the risk of various pulmonary diseases late in life. None this week so far, v. good!


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:45 AM
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I've heard several doctors say that two or three cigarettes per week are almost entirely negligible. Then again, I smoke a lot and just repeat that because it somehow soothes me.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:46 AM
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8. I don't think this is true. There's a lot of polymorphism in nicotine receptors between individuals, and there are definitley lots of people who can smoke occasionally. I think but don't know that these facts are related.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:48 AM
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secondhand smoke studies indicate some harm for not much smoking

Do they? I thought they indicated some harm for regular heavy exposure to secondhand smoke.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:48 AM
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I'm amazed that people can live in the pollution. I was there last January for a week and a half and I was sick the entire time. The only time I could breathe was on the top of Mt. Emei in Chengdu above the smog. Our flight from Beijing to LAX was cancelled because the pollution was so bad the airplanes couldn't land. It looked like a movie about a post-apocalyptic wasteland.


Posted by: LizSpigot | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:49 AM
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Filter it to test whether drinking your own pee will be safe.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:49 AM
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I go to a bar that allows smoking, but I try not to sit right by smokers unless they appear to have something interesting to say.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:49 AM
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Or unattended french fries.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:50 AM
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14 to 12, joking.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:50 AM
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I'm surprised people don't expect the Chinese middle/upper class to start developing enough of an environmental movement to take action.
I remember this was one of the ways neoliberals dismissed concerns about free trade back in the '90s.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:01 AM
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I used to believe 8, but since it's been so hard to smoke indoors most places, it seems as if everyone I know who smokes is a fairly light smoker (say, five cigarettes a day or less?). Not that I know exactly how much anyone smokes, of course.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:01 AM
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Any research that might indicate that any tobacco use in any format is less harmful than the most harmful possible tobacco use gets ignored because that's what the tobacco companies would want you to think.

Or so the tobacco companies would have you believe.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:02 AM
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I'd guess that they are smoking and using nicotine replacement at the same time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:03 AM
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2 -- the presence of old people in, say, Pittsburgh didn't persuade you?

Actually does anyone have a sense of how the Chinese cities are doing with air pollution vs major US cities in, say, 1950? Is it basically the same stuff (unleaded gasoline, I guess) or different?

People forget how recent the changes are and how much work had to go into them. When I was a kid, not all that long ago, there were always a few weeks in August-September when you'd cough from playing outside, and we'd regularly hit "Stage II" smog levels, where kids would have to stay inside at recess. Now we haven't even had a "Stage I" for about 10 years.*

*the awesome "Stage III" involved mandatory orders for everyone to stay inside, but I don't think had been hit since the 50s.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:03 AM
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Wasn't London epically bad in terms of air quality until coal went out of use? I thought the thick fogs were largely coal smoke, and would kill you.

21: My mother certainly is. I think this is probably a bad idea, health-wise, but influencing Mom's behavior isn't something that happens much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:06 AM
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Is it basically the same stuff (unleaded gasoline, I guess) or different?

You mean leaded gasoline?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:07 AM
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22.1: Pittsburgh has lots of old people, but epidemiologically the effects of past and present air pollution are readily apparent.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:07 AM
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re: 23

Until the Clean Air Act, yeah.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Air_Act_1956

You can still use coal, it just has to be smokeless.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:13 AM
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25 -- no, I know, I was making some attempt at pointing out a flaw in LW's presumably jokey logic which was a GOOD USE OF TIME.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:15 AM
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My mother started flying to London in the early sixties, and reports the air quality there as noticeably horrible by NYC standards her first few years, becoming unremarkable by the mid-late sixties. But I have no idea how reliable her recollection is.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:15 AM
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I'm waiting for M/itch to weigh in.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:18 AM
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When I lived in Beijing (better than ten years ago now) the air pollution wasn't especially bad and there were lots of bikes - most people biked at least some of the time. I mean, it was polluted, certainly, but I rode all over the place and didn't have any respiratory problems. I only recall one day where there was anything out-of-the-ordinary in terms of smog. It was a lovely city and I adored living there - I've missed it ever since. There was absolutely nothing like going out for my daily bike ride (~10 miles round trip) and tooling around the Forbidden City or along the edge of Tiananmen Square. And I loved seeing the mountains! And the clear bright days in the winter! I think I was there during the transitional part of the boom, just before things got really really car-heavy and polluted, and just before inequality really took off. The nineties were giant days in coastal China, I have to say - things really did seem to get better and better for a lot of people and there didn't seem to be too many down sides, plus there was still enough of the old medical and educational infrastructure around to support ordinary people.

It is particularly depressing when you think at what a high, high cost China's former medical and educational systems were constructed under communism, and now they've just been thrown away again. You might as well not have had the revolution, since it's just the same old "peasants can't get into good schools and you'll just die if you can't pay for your health care upfront" like we're back in the thirties.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:22 AM
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We were still having stage 3 smog alerts in Southern California when I was little. I can vaguely recall one day when it literally hurt to breath (there were warnings on TV to avoid working outdoors if possible).

Good times.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:25 AM
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23, 26: Said Clean Air Act being prompted by the Great Smog of 1952 which killed thousands of Londoners.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:29 AM
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Here are some pictures of Pittsburgh in the 40s and 50s that look awfully similar.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:31 AM
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30: If nothing else, the revolution radically altered the status of women in China.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:33 AM
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Dumb science question: are the kinds of pollution that make Beijing noxious and the kinds of pollution that cause global warming exactly the same, only it's concentrated in a city and thus detectable by sight/smell?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:36 AM
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35: I think not. Smog is (largely) particulates, that (I vaguely believe) actually have a cooling effect on the climate. CO2 and other greenhouse gases aren't particularly perceptible to humans.

But people with real knowledge should correct me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:38 AM
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The particulates and the CO2 are both from burning fossil fuels, I'd think.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:40 AM
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Of course, both particulates and greenhouse gases happen when you burn stuff (generally, kind of), so the presence of one indicates the other (usually).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:41 AM
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Moby-pwned.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:41 AM
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35, 36: Carbon monoxide is both a nasty pollutant on the ground and a contributor to global warming in the upper atmosphere.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:43 AM
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when you think at what a high, high cost China's former medical and educational systems were constructed under communism, and now they've just been thrown away again.

Yeah, it's almost like starving those forty million people to death was completely pointless.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:48 AM
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Ground level ozone is also too a thing from pollution that is bad.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:49 AM
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It cracks me up that the early 20C attitude toward ozone was that it meant fresh, clean air. Ozone Park in Queens was a developer's name for a community with pure country air.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:53 AM
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At least in the US, the most common kind of lung-choking smog is ozone, which is invisible, but is in turn caused largely (but not exclusively) by burning hydrocarbons and having those react with sunlight, but which obviously is chemically distinct from CO2. The other big ones are carbon monoxide and NOx, both of which are visible and responsible for that brown layer, and particulate pollution, which may or may not be visible depending on the size of the particulate. Coal creates tons of NOx and CO, and also thick particulates.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:55 AM
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Indeed. Wiki deadpans "Seaside air was considered to be healthy because of its "ozone" content but the smell giving rise to this belief is in reality that of rotting seaweed".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:56 AM
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Heavily pwn'd but in fairness I am driving.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 9:57 AM
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At long as you're paying enough attention to the road that you're pwned, I think safety experts say that's fine.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:01 AM
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I can remember in the 80s latterday London smogs which stung the eyes and skin, and affected my asthma: this was (I understand) mild nitric acid formed by nitrous dioxide and water in the atmosphere. Googling -- the best kind of chemistry lesson -- informs me that nitrous dioxide is even worse than carbon dioxide, as greenhouse gases go.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:04 AM
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Googling -- the best kind of chemistry lesson -- informs me that nitrous dioxide is even worse than carbon dioxide, as greenhouse gases go.

Quite a few things are. Methane, especially. But a) there's a lot more CO2 being produced, and b) methane at least breaks down pretty quickly under exposure to sunlight.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:09 AM
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I assume the nitric acid thing is under control as far as London's concerned -- the eye-stinging smogs don't seem to happen as much, if at all, as they did 30-odd years ago. But it might feature in China's urban pollution.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:29 AM
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People survived in Upper Silesia before post-communist deindustrialization. You combine a very concentrated and antiquated coal and steel industry with the ubiquitous use of primitive coal ovens for heating and the winter air quality is really remarkable. I remember grey snow falling and that whenever I wiped my dripping nose I'd see a grey-black smear. But again, people survived, and they all smoked liked chimneys as well. Speaking of smoking, LB does know someone who smokes more than five cigs a day. I should really try vaping.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:31 AM
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My neighborhood is about to get a store that just sells electric cigarettes. At least, that's what the sign says.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:37 AM
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Yeah, it's almost like starving those forty million people to death was completely pointless.

I mean, yes, it was "completely pointless" - but I try to imagine some revolutionary change that was possible for China in the late forties, and it's hard to envision one that didn't have a lot of pointless and horrible aspects. Maybe if we could roll things back to, like, 1895 and run some simulations and make sure that the best of the radicals weren't killed by the Nationalists, or bolster the labor movement or something - but honestly, when I was living in China in the nineties, when you could talk about the Cultural Revolution but you couldn't talk about Tiananmen, I met a number of very, very smart kids from the countryside who'd fought like hell to succeed and get into school in Shanghai and who understood that having this opportunity was not a historical accident. People I did not actually meet in China? Fiery-eyed democrats who wanted nothing more than a US-style government and who saw it as mere random bad luck that they'd gotten Mao instead of some Dale Carnegie with guns.

Of course it would be much better if there'd been radical social change in China without, like, Maoism. But given that Maoism has already happened, it seems particularly bitter to see its few advantages thrown away hand over fist. The kids I taught in Shanghai? Those kids would not get into a coastal school now, because the recruitment that benefited them has been largely halted in favor of the already-wealthy coastal elites.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:38 AM
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Dale Carnegie with guns

Andrew Carnegie?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:40 AM
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Googling, it looks like the last Stage 3 in Southern California was in 1974, in San Bernadino county. There's also been stage inflation, so a Stage 1 in the 1950s (old people and kids advised to stay inside) would be a Stage 3 (entire city shuts down, everyone ordered to stay inside, governor can order out national guard to enforce) today.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:42 AM
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people survived
For how long?
44: Carbon monoxide is clear and not present in significant quanties in the exhaust from modern cars, being a product of incomplete combustion. I don't think it's a contributor to smog, although I was surprised by rob's fact above about it contributing indirectly to the greenhouse effect so what do I know.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:45 AM
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Aaand according to Wikipedia I'm wrong.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:46 AM
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People I did not actually meet in China? Fiery-eyed democrats who wanted nothing more than a US-style government

You'd have met quite a lot of them, quoting Lincoln and Jefferson all over the place, in Beijing in early 1989, before they were all murdered or locked away for life by the Communist Party. Since then, not so much. If I was a student in China in the 1990s, I'd have been really vocally keen on the CPC and not at all given to expressing admiration for US-style democracy.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:47 AM
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According to wikipedia, you're a species of nightshade.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:47 AM
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59 to 57.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:47 AM
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Of course it would be much better if there'd been radical social change in China without, like, Maoism. But given that Maoism has already happened, it seems particularly bitter to see its few advantages thrown away hand over fist. The kids I taught in Shanghai? Those kids would not get into a coastal school now, because the recruitment that benefited them has been largely halted in favor of the already-wealthy coastal elites.

Hard to argue with this.


Posted by: Cryptic bned | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:50 AM
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A wrong species.
The two footnotes on Wikipedia don't at all back up the claim that CO contributes, so I'm going with my initial claim.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:52 AM
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I was wondering. I've always believed that CO was dangerous precisely because it was colorless and odorless, so you died without warning.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 10:55 AM
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Looking up, car commenting was wrong in that CO, as opposed to NOx, is invisible. But Eggplant is very wrong in that CO is a major omponent of smog, especially in the wintertime when it stays trapped on teh ground . Oxegenated gasoline and catalytic converters convert CO to CO2 to reduce CO pollution, but it's still around. NOx in its various forms, together with particulates, are primarily responsible for the visible smog, and both NOx and CO can cmoe together with sunlight to create ozone.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 11:11 AM
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See e.g. here. CO pollution has very largely been tamed in the US but at significant expense and is a big component of smog.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 11:14 AM
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I don't think CO is involved in ozone production; I think that's NOxs and hydrocarbons. I agree that it is still present in car exhaust of course, just not significantly so, but your link does nothing to establish a relationship with smog, and after some googling I couldn't find much. (A few old papers about it being involved in some secondary smog-related reactions) Stop maligning our odorless, colorless, poisonous friend, Halford.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 11:31 AM
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That was me, obvs.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 11:32 AM
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You'd have met quite a lot of them, quoting Lincoln and Jefferson all over the place, in Beijing in early 1989, before they were all murdered or locked away for life by the Communist Party. Since then, not so much. If I was a student in China in the 1990s, I'd have been really vocally keen on the CPC and not at all given to expressing admiration for US-style democracy.

See, I actually met some people who were at Tiananmen and they became friends of mine, and I knew a girl whose brother had been at the parallel demonstrations in Shanghai. My point was not that people didn't want democracy, sort of, but that Westerners routinely frame this as "China wants Western-style government and everyone secretly rejects all aspects of communism in their hearts". Neither of those things is remotely true. It's one of the huge misreadings of Tiananmen that the image of the statue of liberty, for instance, was about wanting a US-style government. There are small-d democratic and various traditions of government in China that don't map neatly onto Western ideas about democracy (for instance, the idea of students as a group having a certain moral authority and standing in critiquing the regime - something that was appealed to and crushed at Tiananmen), and many, many people have some engagement with the communist party, some of which is positive, some negative, some just "there is this huge fucking bureaucracy". I mean really, since the late 19th century at least, people in the West have attempted to explain deeply embedded Chinese stuff as if it were just, I dunno, Western traditions with mustaches.

I get the impression that you think I'm saying "hey, it would have been totally okay to kill lots of people if you only got full communism out of it", which is not what I'm saying at all.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 11:48 AM
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66 -- You are just wrong about this, and may not know how to use google. The EPA has been regulating Carbon Monoxide as a component of smog since, basically, the passage of the Clean Air Act, and it has been viewed as a key component of smog ever since. Start here and read on, if you don't like Wikipedia.

Here is one of a number of explanations, all easily googleable, of how CO interacts with also helps lead to the creation of tropospheric O3. Basically, ozone as smog is created through a reaction between NOx, a VOC or CO, and sunlight.

Generally, all of the pollutants are somewhat interconnected -- tropospheric O3 can react with particulate matter to create haze, NOx is also a component in creating O3, etc etc.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 11:51 AM
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Anyhow, I'm sorry that bad sentence construction above suggested that CO is itself a component of visible smog, but CO is very much a part of the national and global smog problem (though it's been getting a lot better in the USA).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 11:58 AM
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Or, I should say, that CO by itself creates visible smog. Through a bunch of secondary atmospheric reactions, CO emissions in combination with other emissions can help to create visible smog.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 11:59 AM
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On China, this

Of course it would be much better if there'd been radical social change in China without, like, Maoism. But given that Maoism has already happened, it seems particularly bitter to see its few advantages thrown away hand over fist. The kids I taught in Shanghai? Those kids would not get into a coastal school now, because the recruitment that benefited them has been largely halted in favor of the already-wealthy coastal elites.

seems totally right, but this:

ut I try to imagine some revolutionary change that was possible for China in the late forties, and it's hard to envision one that didn't have a lot of pointless and horrible aspects. Maybe if we could roll things back to, like, 1895

seems pretty nuts. I mean, for example, Taiwan went through some pretty revolutionary social and economic change, including in the status of women, as did pretty much every other East Asian country.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:05 PM
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72.last: And a lot of fucked up things happened in those countries. Maybe not on the scale of the PRC, but pretty bad nonetheless. As I've argued before here, I have a hard time believing that a victorious KMT on the mainland would not have had a huge amount of blood on its hands as well. Maybe it wouldn't have been in the form of big famines, but a huge amount of social disruption was inevitable in the project of rapidly modernizing China. Maybe it would have been a bit more Dickensian and less Stalinesque, but there still would have been plenty of premature death.

https://secure.pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=375


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:13 PM
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I mean, for example, Taiwan went through some pretty revolutionary social and economic change, including in the status of women, as did pretty much every other East Asian country.

In addition to what Nat says in 73, it seems pretty implausible that the various social and economic reforms in SE/E Asia that were implemented by non-leftwing regimes were completely independent of the threat/example of Communist China/Vietnam/NKorea. Hasn't that been part of the institutional-leftists-vs-neoliberals argument, that capitalists only reform when they're forced to by credible threats from below (or, in this case, next door)?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:19 PM
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69: Yeah, I finally came across information the tropospheric ozone chemistry (it turns out to have been much more productive to look for CO and ozone than CO and smog), and CO is a critical step.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:19 PM
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Well, pointless and horrible things did happen in Taiwan at that time.

Taiwan experienced stability only because the losing army moved in and was supported by a leading world power. I doubt that could translate to China as a whole, especially in the power vacuum at the end of World War II. Even though the specific horrors of the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward wouldn't have occurred if the Nationalists had won, given the quality of their governance during the Civil War, I don't see reason to believe things would necessarily have been better.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:25 PM
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73: 40-70 million excess deaths? That's the scale you'd have to get to to rival Mao, or rather Mao's totals due to famine and killings alone.

74: I think that one of the most important lessons of Marx is that capitalism is itself a revolutionary force. I can't imagine that capitalism would not have led to pretty dramatic social changes in East Asia in the period 1945-1985 in China even if Mao had not existed, as it did in almost every other part of the world.

I will grant that some redistributionist aspects of postwar capitalism, most of which I support, were imposed in reaction to communism, but (a) these were far less important in East Asia than elsewhere, with some exceptions such asland reform l (b) were not, for the most part, primarily motivated by foreign policy concerns, but rather by domestic ones and so (c) even if Maoism had ended in total defeat in the civil war one would almost certainly have expected very revolutionary social and economic change in East Asia.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:28 PM
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76 also seems pretty nuts to me. I mean, if you assume that a civil war would have continued then a civil war would have continued. Fine. But Mao was not the only possible victor in a civil war and it's certainly not impossible to think that China could have consolidated around a non-Maoist government, except, of course, that the nationalists lost.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:32 PM
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Also, without lionizing the quality of the Nationalist government of China in the 20s and 30s, it was nowhere near as bad as Maoism. I mean, not even remotely close.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:34 PM
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How would the KMT (or other, hypothetical, better Nationalists) have accomplished modernizing China's economy bloodlessly? Regardless of what flag was flying, there would still have been mass migrations from the countryside to the city, inflation, disruptions to communal life, and other hallmarks of industrialization. Likewise, millions of Communists and fellow travelers would almost certainly have been purged. And it's hardly as though a Nationalist mainland would have been all about peace and prosperity for the rest of Asia. As rough as things got between the USSR & PRC and India & PRC, don't you think they might well have been just as bad or worse with the Nationalists in charge? I don't know what would have happened with Vietnam and Korea, perhaps Chinese hegemony would have headed off those conflicts. But I have a feeling Ho Chi Minh would not have simply thrown in the towel.

If you want to ascribe a special category of moral turpitude to internal (vs external) policies that cause the death of many people within a nation's own borders, fine, but a KMT China would have been pretty brutal, and people are just as dead either way.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:44 PM
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78: I don't think it's improbable for the Nationalists to win (modulo the military situation in '46, which I admittedly only have a hazy idea of), I just think that after the experience of the 10's-40's you had a population that was much more accepting of state horribleness than it was of instability. Comparing the situation of the Nationalists in the 20-30's to the Communists in the 50's-70's is a bit apples and oranges as you're comparing the Nationalists operating with a clear competitor to the Communists with absolute, unchecked power. Admittedly we're getting into the problem with counterfactuals where we're comparing known evils against possible evils. (And to be clear, my goal wasn't to say that the Communists were super awesome then, but rather was just agreeing with Frowner's claim in 53 that you'd have to go back at least to the fall of the Qing to end up with a China that didn't have a horrible mid-20th century. )


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:45 PM
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Regardless of what flag was flying, there would still have been mass migrations from the countryside to the city, inflation, disruptions to communal life, and other hallmarks of industrialization.

Agreed, and that's in the best-of-all-possible-worlds, with competent, humane administrators. 30 years of continuous war and a global ideological power struggle don't really encourage those rising up.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:48 PM
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NOx in its various forms, together with particulates, are primarily responsible for the visible smog

But people couldn't be bothered to complain, because they were laughing too hard.

(Yes, I know that NOx is not nitrous oxide. It's just a cheap urple-inspired joke, so step off, little-bitch chemists.)


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:52 PM
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Regardless of what flag was flying, there would still have been mass migrations from the countryside to the city, inflation, disruptions to communal life, and other hallmarks of industrialization. Likewise, millions of Communists and fellow travelers would almost certainly have been purged.

OK, let's grant that. Does that help your argument? I don't think we're talking about deaths or misery remotely on the scale of what happened during Maoism. Instead, we're talking about something that looks more like where China was in the 90s through today which, as Frowner suggested, looks (relatively, without minimizing the enormous problems) pretty good. You're not talking about anything near the scale of murder or starvation that was experienced during Maoism.

To crisp up the hypothetical, I think one could reasonably ask what would have happened if the CPC had been totally defeated during the Long March, or maybe if they'd been wiped out due to bad strategy/tactics at the beginning of the resumption of the civil war in 1946, neither one of which is unthinkable. It's hard for me to see a vision for a result in China which is anywhere even remotely approaching as bad as what happened with Mao.

In any event, you would almost certainly have had radical social change, regardless.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 12:56 PM
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little-bitch chemists

I am this close to synthesizing the littlest, bitchiest bitch!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 1:43 PM
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What about the Nationalists makes you think we couldn't have seen mass famine after a Nationalist victory? Nationalist China seems ripe for a mass famine if anything went wrong -- China was already a very poor country, and you had a system of landlords that dominated the countryside. A capitalist economy would have oriented agricultural production to export. A China-sized equivalent of the Irish potato famine seems like a plausible outcome.

Taiwan worked out as well as it did because the KMT instituted land reform. This is because they were basically invaders who didn't give a shit about the local landlords. An equivalent land reform would never have happened in China.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 1:48 PM
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A relevant counterfactual is what happens if Mao drops dead of a heart attack in 1950. Mao was an effective guerilla leader, but completely incompetent as the leader of an industrializing country. The Great Leap Forward was a terrible idea that only a woo agricultural mystic like Mao would support. So no Mao, no Great Leap Forward. It was so obviously incompetent that he was basically pushed out of power behind the scenes. The Cultural Revolution was Mao's countercoup, so no Mao no Cultural Revolution.

As soon as Mao was out of the picture, the other CCP leaders proved to be effective managers of the economy who put China on a path for the most rapid economic growth in the history of the world.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 1:55 PM
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86 -- I don't think there was a comparable famine anywhere else in the noncomminist world post-1945, including in India, so it seems pretty unlikely that this would have been the result in China.

Also, land reform wasn't only an invader thing; lots of "Western" or noncomminist countries did it post 1945.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 1:56 PM
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Jesus Christ, "comminist"? Fuck you IPhone, Steve Jobs, and thumbs.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 2:07 PM
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I would have guessed that 1868-1920 Japan was the fastest economic growth.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 2:22 PM
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I'd also have pegged South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan at faster economic growth.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 2:23 PM
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87 -- I dunno, that's interesting but it seems like with a CPC takeover followed by the death of Mao in 1950 you're more likely to get hardcore orthodox Stalinism plus some starvation plus massacres than you are likely to get the post-1978 reforms. I doubt that, say, Liu Shaoqi in 1950 would have pursued a strategy that looked like Deng Xiaoping's much later. Although this one really is a big "who knows" and I totally agree that Mao was definitely a particularly remarkable kind of bad.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 2:42 PM
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So this totally straightfaced alternate history of China is ignoring the effects of Godzilla nearby in the early fifties, I don't think you all are allowed to skip that. Please revise and resubmit

Also, this fellow was a capable survivor in the event, would have been nice if he had not been reeducated in the countryside:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hu_Yaobang


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 2:50 PM
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Come on, I was hoping for some intense, contentious 1950s Chinese communist party alternative history commenting. Someone step up to the plate. Does fucking Peng Dehuai have to write a modern love column to get attacked around here?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 4:42 PM
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Haven't we already had the "was Mao really bad?" discussion here before? And it was super-contentious and awful?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 4:44 PM
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Yes! Let's do it again.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 4:48 PM
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Deng's move toward allowing private industry was in the context of Japan and the other Asian tigers' booms. I doubt you can simply push the same thing back 25 years in a post-revolutionary China, Mao or no Mao.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 4:50 PM
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Nice work Minivet, but you failed to accuse Walt of implicitly supporting the death of millions under a barbarous tyranny. Since you didn't, I will.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 4:54 PM
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Threads about hypothetical scenarios with only a vague resemblance to reality are hard for me to follow. Too close to my day job, I guess.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 4:55 PM
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"Mao and Me" by Calvin Trillin is all the alternative history Mao the world needs.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 4:55 PM
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I'm not going to ask him about it, but my father gives the Communists a lot of credit for keeping China from becoming a pawn during the Cold War. He thinks it was better that they made their own mistakes, rather than suffering from other people's (cue lingering resentment over colonialism, even though he liked the English). Also, the Communists were tremendously popular after WWII, and my parents adored Zhou Enlai. Besides being a disaster, the Great Leap Forward was also a huge disappointment for a lot of people.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 5:00 PM
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I'm going with "Yes, Mao was really bad."


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 5:03 PM
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NYTimes: "Some Say Mao was Really Bad"


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 5:07 PM
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Some say Mao, he is a river.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 5:15 PM
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Hell, my parents like ruthless dictators. "At least he wasn't spineless like the rest of them."


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 5:20 PM
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Waist deep in the Yangtze and the big fool says swim on.

(One of the weirder political stories of my youth.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 5:31 PM
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This is deeply off-topic, but since 103 mentioned the NYTimes, I just want to say that this article is hilariously awful.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 7:53 PM
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95: I did World War I, so it's someone else's turn.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-30-13 8:09 PM
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I wander around shanghai for a day and miss the china conversation. To tired/on an iphone, so no in depth counterfactuals. Random thoughts:
1) UMC beijingers are very concerned about pollution, and stuff is going to happen. Any remaining factories will relocate somewhere poorer, maybe the gov will demand cars adhere to euro-American standards of pollution control. This might be optimistic. Anyways, the gov has gone in 110% on their environmental awareness campaigns, maybe it will rub off on people.
2) anhui had the highest death rate in the Great Leap Forward (over 6 million), but Mao's still more popular with poor peasants than, say, Jiang zemin. A lot of people I know wish for a return of Mao to kick some corrupt official ass.
3) the kmt really sucked at running china. My guess is best case scenario, china would be something like India, though without the religious tension. Worst case, low level endemic civil war among various warlords vying for power. Obviously best best case would be taiwan, but that probably would have been impossible, given china's size and poverty. For death rates, it's hard to do an overall comparison. People were starving to death under the kmt, though not at great leap levels. Death from malnutrition and curable infectious diseases kill lots of people in India every year, and probably would in a kmt china as well.
4) gender issues are much better in china than other East Asian countries. Taiwan seems better than Japan and Korea though, so maybe it would be ok in kmt china.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 6:14 AM
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107: Yuck. That's quite a headline. At least nobody got quoted too awfully.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 6:47 AM
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China is behind Japan and Singapore and the Philippines and Vietnam in gender issues, according to the UN, which actually came up with a Gender Empowerment Measure and worked out figures for every member state. No ranking for Taiwan.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 6:53 AM
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I think that urban and rural China differ pretty sharply in how women are treated. Most of China is still rural, and China is one of a very small number of countries where the suicide rate for women is higher than the rate for men. I don't have any firsthand experience of rural China.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 6:56 AM
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I loved the previous Mao argument.

I'm not saying that I support the deaths of millions of people, but you've made an omelette, right? You got to crack those shells to get to the gooey stuff inside.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 7:06 AM
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China (like almost every country) has a lot to improve on. But I'm curious under what metrics Japan outperforms china? From what I've heard Japan has a pretty terrible glass ceiling and an very ingrained sexist business and professional culture, and women are supposed to do all the housework. There's also that kind of obnoxious kawaii infantilization thing that doesn't really exist in the same way in china. In china the rural urban divide exists, but is disappearing rapidly. I would say class is exacerbating sexism, with the rise of karaoke hostesses and other other poor, mostly rural women who travel to cities to serve the needs of wealthy men. Women migrants to cities in general are also at risk of harassment or sexism bc of their precarious economic position. Son preference is a problem in certain rural areas.

China seems to have similar problems to the west: women in entry and mid level positions, but not at the top. More Chinese women get tertiary degrees, but women earn about 67% of what men do. Domestic violence is hard to find accurate statistics on, but def an issue. Public sexual harassment is almost non existent, and stranger sexual violence is less common than in the west.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 7:43 AM
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107, 110: What's wrong with it? I mean, aside from the ambiguity between detecting nothing, i.e. not detecting anything, and detecting Nothing, i.e. detecting that which has nothingness as an attribute. But that's inevitable in headlines where you capitalize every word anyway.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 7:48 AM
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I mean, if they detected Nothing, that would be pretty awesome (and scary), but a negative result is worth reporting too.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 7:50 AM
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NOTHING THREATENS MORREION


Posted by: Xexamedes | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 7:52 AM
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If it had been a good article, I think the headline would actually be awesome. Attached to a crummy article, though, it's just misguided and a waste.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 7:59 AM
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116: TERRIFYING INDEED.


Posted by: OPINIONATED KLAPAUCIUS | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 8:01 AM
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But I'm curious under what metrics Japan outperforms china?

It's apparently based on "Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments, percentage of women in economic decision making positions (incl. administrative, managerial, professional and technical occupations) and female share of income (earned incomes of males vs. females)". Japan is ranked 54, China 57.

The Chinese Politburo and Central Committee are still almost entirely male. There's one woman on the Politburo, one in the State Council (health minister).


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 8:17 AM
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120: Yeah, it makes sense to give more weight to "real political power" than to "creepy degrading weird porn"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 8:42 AM
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115: For one thing, it was a lot worse yesterday, and then they replaced it with a still not very satisfying but much better version. (E.g., they removed a sentence that said something about the "futility" of trying to detect dark matter.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 10:02 AM
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anhui had the highest death rate in the Great Leap Forward (over 6 million), but Mao's still more popular with poor peasants than, say, Jiang zemin. A lot of people I know wish for a return of Mao to kick some corrupt official ass.

It's interesting that really horrible dictators retain a high level of popularity -- some of it (clearly in Mao's case) is continuance of the official propaganda cult, but some of it is just ongoing admiration for great strong men of history, strongly tinged with nationalism. Stalin is still very popular in Russia even after communism's collapse, and one assumes that Hitler would be quite popular in Germany (we got a new Volkswagen!) if the Germans hadn't made it basically a crime for him to be so and gone through 65 years of really intense reeducation on the topic, and would certainly still be popular if Germany hadn't been conquered.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 11:45 AM
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I'm not saying that I support the deaths of millions of people, but you've made an omelette, right? You got to crack those shells to get to the gooey stuff inside.

Zombies of the world unite!


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 12:10 PM
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You have nothing to lose but your brains?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 12:17 PM
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Sexism in Japan feels more jarring than sexism in China, because Japan is so modern in other respects.

Also, the NY Times article on dark matter is annoying because of the tone: he is describing a serious and well-motivated experiment like it is a random fishing trip.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 4:52 PM
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120
How much of this reflects that Japan is a democratic country where china isn't? I'm skeptical of % of women in parliament as reflecting actual experience of gender discrimination for women. It seems like it could, but doesn't necessarily, and a reflection of actual policies and their implementation would be more accurate. India and Pakistan have had female heads of state, but this doesn't make them better places to live for women than, say, the US. Japan has a lower birth rate than china, mainly because women have to choose between a family or a career, whereas this isn't an issue in china. Can't check right now, but I think women are represented fairly well in the party, except they dominate lower level leadership positions, which is a problem, obviously. I know almost nothing about Japanese politics, so I can't really say much there. People I know who've spent time in both countries have said the sexism in Japan is worse, but I'd be interested in hearing more from people who've spent time in both places.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 6:06 PM
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China also has an issue with selective abortion of girl fetuses as a result of the One Child Policy. That probably doesn't help their score.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10-31-13 6:36 PM
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How much of this reflects that Japan is a democratic country where china isn't?

Well, that probably has a lot to do with it: Japan being democratic probably does mean that women have a better deal there than in China, which is run by an unelected cabal of (almost entirely) men who select (almost entirely) other men to succeed them in the top jobs. But that kind of proves my point, doesn't it?

Part of the problem may be (wild speculation here) that the only salient historical examples of women with serious political power in China are also examples of absolutely terrifying tyrannical incompetence: Cixi and Jiang Qing. They haven't had a Good Queen Bess or a Queen Victoria or an Eleanor Roosevelt or an Indira Gandhi to look to; they've had deranged, paranoid, murderous autocrats.

I'm skeptical of % of women in parliament as reflecting actual experience of gender discrimination for women.

The index also looks at women in "administrative, managerial, technical and professional" jobs, and at women's income as a percentage of men's. Put all those together and you probably get a reasonable idea.

Japan has a lower birth rate than china, mainly because women have to choose between a family or a career, whereas this isn't an issue in china.

It's interesting that you say that, because it's only just still true. Japan's TFR is 1.39. China's is 1.55 and falling fast. Both, of course, well below replacement levels. The Chinese population is aging rapidly as a result. And if Japanese women are having to leave the workforce to have kids, Chinese women are going to have to drop out to look after their parents (if they aren't already).

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2012/04/07/business/japan-like-fertility-rate-aging-population-pose-threats-to-china/#.UnN2GxATuu8

I'm not trying to defend Japan as some kind of enlightened paradise of equality; I'm sure all that you say about sexism and so on in the country is true. But the end result still seems to be that they're slightly ahead of China.

128: that wouldn't show up on the scale, but it's noticeable that Japanese parents don't seem to have the same horror of giving birth to a daughter that Chinese parents do. And they treat them better: ISTR hearing that if a five-year-old Chinese girl fails to do well in school, she gets her school textbook smashed into her face over and over by her mother.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 2:46 AM
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I might have said that sexism was worse in Japan and Korea, while knowing little about Taiwan and next to nothing about China.

Someone said recently that sexism is so bad in Japan that they have to talk about it.

But another way to read that is that the discourse, practice, or manifestations of sexism (and maybe feminism) are more open and apparent in Japan than other East Asian countries.

There is also obviously a brashness in Japan, a willingness to be confrontational, especially among youth.

So you have moe, and a whole lot of interrogation of moe, and yes, they are in dialogue.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 4:10 AM
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Honne and tatamae

One important thing to note is that Japan is one of the most openly self-conciously performative societies. Performance as performance is considered a mark of "sincerity."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 4:16 AM
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They haven't had a Good Queen Bess or a Queen Victoria or an Eleanor Roosevelt or an Indira Gandhi to look to; they've had deranged, paranoid, murderous autocrats.

I'm not an expert, but based on my limited knowledge I'm surprised to see Indira Gandhi placed on the good side.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 4:47 AM
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Elizabeth I wasn't a picture of virtue and kindness either... point remains, people don't look back at Indira and say "look what a pig's ear she made of it, this is what happens when you let women run the shop". Certainly not on the scale of Cixi and Jiang Qing.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 4:58 AM
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Indeed, Elizabeth Tudor probably wasn't deranged, but as a paranoid murderous autocrat she was right up there with her father and sister.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 6:45 AM
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Elizabeth I is about to start a completely unprovoked war with Germany to get coal because in Civ world, Britain has no coal and but the region surrounding Cologne still does.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 6:52 AM
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Certainly not on the scale of Cixi

As fine a piece of rattle I've ever had the pleasure of. And the most beautiful face I've ever gazed upon - along with Lola Montez and my dear old Elspeth. Deranged? Well I wouldn't exactly call her mad and she was certainly no Ranavalona, but then who was? But she had an appetite for cruelty to match and that put me in mind of Queen Masteeat's for food. And insatiable in the saddle too.


Posted by: Opinionated Sir Harry Flashman | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 7:00 AM
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people don't look back at Indira and say "look what a pig's ear she made of it, this is what happens when you let women run the shop". Certainly not on the scale of Cixi and Jiang Qing.

My knowledge (?) of this is entirely from 2 novels Midnight's Children, and A Fine Balance, but they both gave the impression that Indira Gandhi was pretty much a monster.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 8:13 AM
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129.3: They're probably also still nursing a grudge against the TrĘ°ng Sisters.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 8:16 AM
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137: she's pretty popular in India still, I believe.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 8:21 AM
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Sometimes I wonder if the fact the Japan produces a lot of creepy tentacle incest cartoons isn't due to some deep dark weirdness in the Japanese soul but just due to the fact that they have a first mover/industry cluster advantage in the creepy tentacle incest cartoon market. I mean does straightforward porn reflect the dark soul of the San Fernando valley? Maybe I guess but not really.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 8:35 AM
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140: This sounds like a question for Adult Krugman.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 8:40 AM
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Are the women related to the squid or is the incest separate from the tentacles?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 8:45 AM
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the Japan produces a lot of creepy tentacle incest cartoons isn't due to some deep dark weirdness in the Japanese soul

This where the American privilege matters.

I mean, you had Zeus and the Swan, and walls of Pompeii, and Tantric India, and Africa etc etc.

The question should be, why is there so little freedom and choice and sexual variety, so little bestiality and bondage and fantasy pron in America? Sersly. Really seriously.

Extendable to a more general impoverished imagination in US cultural production. Tentacles are by no means exclusive to pron.

This is not to say there isn't a deep dark weirdness in the Japanese soul.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 8:58 AM
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I mean does straightforward porn reflect the dark soul of the San Fernando valley?

I thought it expressed the vacant soullessness of the San Fernando valley.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 9:14 AM
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139: Probably not so much if you are a Sikh though.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 9:25 AM
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This amazing cultural product shows that one thing we can still do better than China is make the movie "Top Gun." (via LGM). I want enough people to see these screengrabs so that I can start reference-quoting them in public.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 10:06 AM
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As poetry:

I am playing the game of air cobras.

Yes, I haunt the enemy airplanes;
Do you take female things?
Enemies are always staring at you.

Division 903 is still a heroical group.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 10:09 AM
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one thing we can still do better than China is make the movie "Top Gun."
This won't be tested until we see a reboot directed by Michael Bay.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 10:19 AM
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As far as Chinese action movies go, I liked Drug War. I thought it was different from recent American movies in interesting ways. Obviously it's a movie about law enforcement in a pretty different society, and there are some political and moral aspects of the movie that may have been adjusted to please the government censors. But the tone also seemed different from a modern American action movie, in that it both celebrates individual agency (because it's an action movie), and has an ending that suggests that none of those actions was sufficient to avoid a pretty tragic outcome.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 11- 1-13 12:44 PM
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This comparison from 146 is brilliant:

"The commissar isn't like some nosy, Tokarev-waving, grim-faced Marxist-Leninist fanatic in the Red Army. Instead he's a plump, dumpy man whose broad face expresses concern at moments of key decisions. He doesn't seem to actually do anything. He's kind of like Counselor Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation."


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11- 2-13 10:16 AM
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Sometimes I wonder if the fact the Japan produces a lot of creepy tentacle incest cartoons isn't due to some deep dark weirdness in the Japanese soul but just due to the fact that they have a first mover/industry cluster advantage in the creepy tentacle incest cartoon market.

My understanding is that it's at least partly due to the strict Japanese censorship laws which mean that penises have to be pixellated in porn (even animated) but tentacles don't.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11- 4-13 5:36 AM
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Speaking of covering penises, are pleated pants just completely out of style anymore? I need some new khakis.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 4-13 6:35 AM
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152 How do they fit on you? They always balloon on me, even when I was thin.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 11- 4-13 6:43 AM
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I need to find a bigger mirror.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 4-13 6:50 AM
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Just get a convex one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 4-13 7:01 AM
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