The John Batchelor Show

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Air Date: 
September 25, 2013

Photo, above: DEATH TOLL AND MASS KILLING FROM CULTURAL REVOLUTION  The Cultural Revolution claimed the lives of several million people [over years: 70 million Chinese people killed by the regime]  and inflicted cruel and inhuman treatments on hundreds of millions of people. However, 40 years after it ended, the total number of victims of the Cultural Revolution and especially the death toll of mass killings still remain a mystery both in China and overseas. For the Chinese communist government, it is a highly classified “state secret,” although they do maintain statistics for the so-called “abnormal death” numbers all over China. The Communist Party has consistently discounted the significance of looking back and reflecting on this important period of Chinese history. They even forbid Chinese scholars from studying it independently and discourage overseas scholars from undertaking research on this subject in China.  [more]


Hour One

Engraving, below: The second defenestration of Prague, 1618

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 1, Block A: Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania, in re: Bo Xilai to be imprisoned for life. Honchos are disappearing – one jumped out a window and died.  A purge?  Disintegration of the regime?  The first comparison is Stalinist USSR; bt  in China, billionaires are being stripped of their money and positions, heading to Club Red.  But if you have  a purge, who's purging whom? Stalin always had a group such as Kaganov, Beria, and the likes, with him till the end. As soon as Stalin was gone, someone shot Beria. In China today, different.  They haven’t decided who get to make what decisions. Are resorting to direct murder or judicial murder, Starting to turn nasty.  Deng lowered to cost of struggles; Xi seems to be increasing it.   Rectification campaigns; prosecution of Zhou, violating a sacred rule of CCP politics.  They’re going after each other – but one is trying to introduce a set of ideas and slogans that everyone thought had been ditched in Sept 1976 when Mao dies.  As for Bo, revulsion vs his reviving the Communist mottos.   Most productive entrepreneurs are paying; set the tone that it’s not safe to accumulate wealth.   Known that a land developer is in the business of stealing land from peasants; road –builders appropriate land and bulldoze homes. Appearance: if you look fair, you’re respected; if you're despotic, no real calm in society.  I've often visualized the end of this regime in a huge fistfight.

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 1, Block B: Fraser Howie, co-author of Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China's Extraordinary Rise, in re: Defenestration in China.  CNPC exec leaves window, People fleeing – sending families abroad, pulling money out.  The economic numbers remain relatively strong "don’t worry," some say. However, the smart money realizes it’s an unstable society and the problems aren't going away quickly or merely with ec growth of a half or one point.    pain in the state-owned sector; Xi's rhetoric and belligerent attitude, esp toward Japan, is extremely worrying.  News: Murdochs are backing out of China and moving investment into India. Murdochs have totally failed in China; cuddled up to the dictators and it didn’t work.   What's underneath China is Murder Inc – governance based on mass murder [Mao killed seventy million Chinese people]. I see this as a slow grind over five years to a crisis point; after that, it’s anybody's guess.

On the northern reaches of the Caspian Sea, not far from this old Soviet town known for its oil and sturgeon, lies a vast new oil find, the biggest outside the Middle East. China was rebuffed when it asked for a stake 10 years ago.  But when the pumps finally started this month, the China National Petroleum Corporation had won a share in the project, known as Kashagan, and President Xi Jinping was in the region recently to celebrate, another indication that China’s influence has eclipsed even Russia’s across the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

China’s urgent quest for energy is the main driver of its strategic interest in a region whose proximity allows huge reserves of oil and gas to be moved overland through Chinese-built pipelines rather than  . . .   [more]

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 1, Block C:  Hotel Mars, episode n. Dr. David M. Livingston, The Space Show, and William Harwood, CBS space news, in re:     New Expedition 37 Crew Launches to Space Station  The Soyuz TMA-10M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25 at 4:58 p.m. EDT (2:58 a.m. Kazakh time Sept. 26) carrying Expedition 37 Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov, NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins and Russian Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy to the International Space Station. There's an Olympic torch for a photo op on one of the transport vehicles.  One crew takes it up, does spacewalk & photo op for Sochi; another crew takes it back. Usu three persons go up in one rotation, another three on a later craft later; this time they’re sending three Soyuzes in order to accommodate the torch and press conference. Orbital Sciences Corp's Cygnus (cargo capsule): second unmanned craft NASA's paying for; the other is SpaceX (cargo capsule).  Need two to make up for loss of NASA launches. There are four contracts out now - Dreamchaser; Boeing;  SpaceX, and _____. The concern isn’t technology but funding; will NASA be given the reserves it needs?   . . .  Cost of a seat on a Soyuz is $70mil, whereas on a NASA rocket is hundreds of millions.

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 1, Block D: Bob Collins, former senior Pentagon analyst now based in South Korea, in re:  US commitment to South Korea overall slipping away?  Note esp effectiveness of PRK chem weapons as seen in Syria.

The annual ROK-US Military Committee Meeting later this month.   Lawmaker calls for flexibility in OPCON transition timeline - It is still premature for South Korea to adhere to a specific target date for the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) of its troops from the United States, a visiting South Korean lawmaker said Monday.  Rep. Ahn Hong-joon, chairman of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, called for flexibility in the timeline, which has again emerged as a key alliance issue.  "It is not appropriate to set a date (for OPCON transfer) as before. It should be decided . . .  [more]

STRATEGIC RISK VS. STRATEGIC VISION: OPCON TRANSITION WITHIN THE ROK-U.S. ALLIANCE   . Strategic risk and strategic vision have posed difficult decisions for Korean leaders for millennia.  Developing alliances and selecting allies have always been decisions of paramount importance in seeking a strategy that allows Korea to survive as an independent state.  That risk versus vision calculus has not changed in the twenty-first century and is just as important and complicated for South Korean leaders today as in past security dilemmas during Korea’s 5,000-year history.  The scheduled transition of wartime operational control (OPCON) from a U.S. lead to a South Korean lead in 2015 is just such a dilemma.   When Republic of Korea (ROK) President Roh Moo-hyun stated in 2006 that he wanted the South Korean military to take the lead in defending its own country, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was only too eager to say yes.  President Roh’s position was nationalistic, rooted in pride, and lacking adequate assessment of whether the ROK military had, or could acquire, the capabilities necessary to make this shift. Furthermore, Roh’s position fundamentally lacked . . .  [more]

Hour Two

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 2, Block A:  Stephen Yates, CEO of D.C. International Advisory and former adviser to Vice President Cheney, and Christian Whiton,  Smart Power, in re: the UN General Assembly meeting. Bo Xilai channeling the Red Guards; has all the skeletons on Xi Jinping – not safe to leave your enemy in jail as he'll come and get you. Have to kill him. Chengdu developers are disappearing. A purge is under way: beginning element, Politburo dominant view "had it in" for Bo. Chengdu may have got a little too Wild West for Beijing.  CW:  I was expecting the death penalty – "If you’re going to shoot, shoot."  The mounting political troubles in the CCP – scale of corruption where officials have squirreled away hundreds of millions . . . Bo represented Red Guardism; his son is at Columbia Law. (Brezhnev showed his mother around the Kremlin, she wept; "What if the Reds come back?")  There's a hole in the Chinese soul . . . when you stamp out religion and freedom . . .  If Xi consolidates his position, maybe he actually believes all this Maoist stuff.  SY: I don’t believe he's a strong leader, or that China puts strong people in charge.  CW: 100% certain that  . . .  [You’re impolitely introducing the Truman Doctrine!]

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 2, Block B:  Perry Link, Chancellorial Chair for Innovative Teaching Comparative Literature & Foreign Languages at UC Riverside, and Stephen Yates, CEO of D.C. International Advisory and former adviser to Vice President Cheney, and Christian Whiton, Smart Power,  in re: Roots of Chinese Officials' Lies  To understand China's politics you have to learn how her officials speak. "Official language on steroids" – less about what's true and false; it’s a tool for getting what you want.  Officials use it for  . . . whereas citizens have to flatter and weasel with the prescribed vocabulary.  Foreigners never understand – big problem in diplomacy, Foreigners naively take it as ordinary language when it's really playing chess.  Brooking s presentation by Wang Yi – was he backing off on Taiwan policy? The real question is, Why is he saying it??  The language cannot lie – there's always a reason why it' In the 1950s when this language became obligatory, esp in the anti-rightist campaign, people liked it: we’re becoming genuinely egalitarian, After he Mao disasters, everyone knew it was empty, but still had to play the shell game.  Leaders could demand only that you pretend being sincere.   There's a lot of internal decay here, it’s a fragile system. Some day, people will say, of course, it was hollow. But people are still going to prison; a two-level consciousness; your thoughts inside  and your external expressions.

Princeton Professor Emeritus Perry Link draws on 30 years' worth of notes about the Chinese language's quirks to construct a revealing picture of how Chinese involved in politics think. The country may have been torn apart by a century of ideological struggles, but the maddeningly malleable manner of expression known as guanhua or "official language" has united the warring factions.  Mr. Link dissects the mechanisms by which the modern rulers of China both consciously and unconsciously use language to club the populace into submission. There are important lessons here for those who deal with China on any level.  Take for example the tendency to lapse into sloganeering. Chinese signs recommending caution when . . .   [more]

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 2, Block C:  Gardiner Harris, NYT, in re: Amid Violence, Returning to Elections in Sri Lanka After a Void  The house of a Tamil candidate in the first provincial elections in 25 years was attacked on Thursday, according to the accounts of several witnesses.  . . .  In Sri Lanka, it’s the Buddhists against everyone else. There's an emerging Buddhist strain of virulent nationalism in Burma and Sri Lanka. Tamils are mostly Hindus, although a surprising number of Christians and Muslims, incl fervent Protestant sets, Pentecostals.    Centuries of good relations among all of these, but the rise of Sri Lankan nationalism is accompanied by violence.

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 2, Block D:  Heather Timmons, Quartz, in re:  A-listers skip the Emmys to follow the real Hollywood money to China via @qz  In Tsingdao, a new enterprise: ambitions to be the world's biggest film studio – and the most important American actors (Travolta, Kidman, MacGregor, etc.) abandoned the Emmys and appeared in Tsingdao.  Have their eyes on where the money is?  Hmm – can the Communist Party make a global movie that the entire world wants to see? China's richest man - $14.2 bil, property dvpr – Mr Wang, bough AMC movie theaters last year.  He wants to get in to the bz.    Wang has the biggest theater chain in the world in China; buys AMC, whose bz is shrinking – he's probably trying to get his money out of China.   Were this Berlin in 1938, could be uncomfortable.  Reporter asks the Americans: Censorship?  - "Oh, not my problem."  Nobel Peace Prizewinner in jail for 11 years: not their problem? In China, once you get to the top of the Chinese rich list, the Party puts you in jail. Murdochs leaving China.   

Hour Three

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 3, Block A:  Gordon Chang,, in re: China’s economy worse than data suggests, says survey.  Business conditions in the mainland are worse than the latest economic data suggest, with bank credit a particular worry for firms across a swathe of heavy industry and construction where growth momentum has slowed in the last three months, according to a new nationwide survey.  The China Beige Book survey of more than 2,000 mainland firms signals that the return of stability to the world’s second biggest economy is built on fragile foundations, despite official data depicting a gradual recovery from the slowest period of growth in three years that has triggered a raft of upward revisions to economists’ forecasts.  This release represents perhaps the most surprising – and important – data that we have released in seven quarters of polling, with results that undercut the conventional wisdom that Q3 saw both significant stimulus and a significant recovery. Both appear to be a fiction.  Leeland Miller, President of CCB International  “This release represents perhaps the most surprising – and important – data that we have released in seven quarters of polling, with results that undercut the conventional wisdom that Q3 saw both significant stimulus and a significant recovery. Both appear to be a fiction,” Leeland Miller, President of CCB International, which published the survey, told The South China Morning Post.   Manufacturing and real estate activity slowed, mining and transportation growth sank and services and retail activity managed only slight upticks after a poor Q2, the survey found.   . . .

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 3, Block B:  Jeff Bliss, The Bliss Index, in re: America’s Cup. Oracle's stunning comeback: from a deficit 8-1.  Changed boat personnel: tactician, the fellow who reads the waves and the rest, gives directions to the skipper. Adjusted eqpt – tore the boat apart and reassembled it under the vigilant eyes of the officials.  Upwind leg was too high, needed to angle down the nose – so they got on their hydrofoils and rode consistently till they cd go downwind at 50mph.  Today came from behind because of all the changes incl foiling.  Today, there were tens of thousands of people on the quay.  Cold bring a billion dollars in to San Francisco, Larry Ellison will be given sainthood by the city – not only this, but also 60,000 Oracle users happen to be in town right now at an Oracle conference.  

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 3, Block C:  Mona Charen, NRO, in re: THE NAVY YARD SHOOTINGS America’s Psychosis  The conversation we should really be having.

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 3, Block D:   Fouad Ajami, Bloomberg View  and Hoover, in re: How Obama Was Checkmated by Iran

Hour Four

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 4, Block A:  Margot Kiser, Newsweek, in re: Attention Switches to Investigation of Kenyan Mall Siege  Investigators began sifting through rubble, studied closed-circuit television footage and brought in more resources to identify the militants who laid siege to an upscale mall in Nairobi.

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 4, Block B:  Robert Zimmerman, behindtheblack, in re: The uncertainty of science: The Antarctica icecap is now grown to be the largest it has been in 35 years.  Antarctic sea ice has grown to a record large extent for a second straight year, baffling scientists seeking to understand why this ice is expanding rather than shrinking in a warming world. On Saturday, the ice extent reached 19.51 million square kilometers, according to data posted on the National Snow and Ice Data Center Web site. That number bested record high levels set earlier this month and in 2012 (of 19.48 million square kilometers). Records date back to October 1978.   Uh, maybe the world isn’t warming as predicted?

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 4, Block C: American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character by Diana West (1 of 2)

 Wednesday  25 September  2013 / Hour 4, Block D: American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character by Diana West (2 of 2)

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Hour 1 :  Shaolin, Star Trek

Hour 2 :  Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Hour 3 :  Hotel California, Snow White & the Huntsman 

Hour 4 :  Green Zone, Michael Clayton