Saturday, 22 November 2014

Mongolian Democracy, Chinese Dictatorship (1989–2014)

In both symbolic and economic terms, 21st century Mongolia is defined by the railway that links Russia to China.  This railway was created by a handshake between Joseph Stalin and Zhou Enlai in 1952, (Rossabi, 2005, p. 226) and it is a strategic connection that Russia and China are still competing to control today ("A new Great Game has started between China and Russia to control the direction and route of Mongolia’s railway lines," Bulag, 2010, p. 100).  In this interstitial economic position, Mongolia is always in danger of coming under the overweening influence of one or the other of its two neighbors, if not both.  In contrast to the Soviet period, Mongolia has effectively avoided such domination since 1989 through what we could call "a democratic gambit" that has paid off.

There have been some remarkable political events in Mongolia just within the last few months of 2014, but they are, perhaps, remarkable for being unremarkable: they affirm what Western Democracies would consider to be "normal politics", in stark contrast to what passes for normal in the rest of post-Communist Asia.  Reuters reported an orderly parliamentary vote to remove the Prime Minister, with 14 days of debate ensuing to select a replacement. (Reuters, 2014)  This deliberative transition-of-power may be favorably compared to recent events in the would-be democracies of Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar (dare we say Laos?); and, of course, it is an even stranger contrast to Mongolia's immediate neighbors, Russia and China.
One quite attractive thing about the Mongolian transition [to democracy] was that we made the political and economic transitions side by side. Some skeptics say that it’s impossible to make dual transitions, political and economic transitions, in Asian countries. But Mongolians broke that stereotype. We proved that it can be done in every country, in every corner of the world; it can be done. We proved that… Imagine—just 20 years ago we had a North Korea-like society and today we are chairing the Community of Democracies…  (Elbegdorj, 2011, p. 179)
In asking when and how Mongolia made its transition to democracy, we have a useful metric provided by the Freedom House rankings of political rights scores.  We can see at a glance in figures 1 & 2 that Mongolia underwent momentous change of some kind in the years 1989–1991, in a transition punctuated by elections in 1990 and 1992.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

[大躍進] Mao Zedong's "Smoking Gun" Quotation [黑金政治學03]

"…the emperors the Chinese people most reviled —Qin Shihuangdi, Emperor Zhou, and Sui Yangdi— were the ones Mao most admired…" (Li Zhisui, 1994, p. 296)

Some further discussion of the great leap forward [大躍進] and great famine [大飢荒]. In a controversy between two current historians, a famous quotation (used to attribute blame to Mao) turns out to be spurious. The controversy reveals more of interest than just the question of how to lay the blame.

On Youtube:

Monday, 27 October 2014

Devil's Advocate Amongst Atheists: Thunderf00t vs. Richard Carrier

Atheist vs. atheist; here's my response to a long-simmering dispute between two public intellectuals from opposite ends of the academic spectrum… but, wait, who are you calling an academic anyway?

On Youtube:

Saturday, 25 October 2014

From Kunming to Kyaukpyu (Colonialism Lite?)

There is a striking resemblance between China's current plans to connect Yunnan to the coast of Myanmar (by train, road and oil-pipeline) and one of the greatest colonial fantasies of the 19th century: Holt S. Hallett's expedition of 1876 sparked a race between the British and the French empires to see who would be the first to build this railway connection. (Mazard, 2008)  In the end, neither one of them ever did it.  In contrast to the plans drawn up in the 19th century, the 21st century fantasy has a fairly good probability of being realized.  Although there are doubts surrounding the viability of the project, China's ambassador to Myanmar confirmed that the railroad is still underway as recently as July, 2014, (Wang, 2014) and the creation of oil-pipeline infrastructure for the route is already fait accompli, according to reporters who visited the site. (Robinson, 2014)

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

On Youtube, China's Great Famine & the Great Leap Forward [黑金政治學02]

On Youtube: An overview of new publications including Tombstone [墓碑] by Yang Jisheng [楊繼繩], Mao's Great Famine by Frank Dikötter, and The Xinyang Incident [信阳事件] by Qiao Peihua [喬培華], with a rapid introduction to the general subject of the Great Famine & the Great Leap Forward.


Saturday, 4 October 2014

One of the greatest titles in the history of peer-reviewed articles

The article doesn't live up to its title, but then, what could?

"Why Most Published Research Findings Are False."

Now just imagine if this type of analysis were applied to articles on politics, religion or (even worse!) the overlap between politics and religion… I don't think anyone even wants to measure what percentage of research findings are false in the social sciences and humanities.

Another amusing article in the same vein: Research paper publishing sting reveals lax standards.

Shout Out to Young Droog, Shout Out To Myanmar.

In an art-form defined by non-sequiturs, this one was genuinely unexpected.

The line appears in the midst of a track called Hoodie Weather (click), and no, it doesn't otherwise comment on the politics of Southeast Asia.