Thoughts Before China’s Moon Festival Tonight

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panda mooncake.jpg
A giant panda eats a special-made mooncake in Guangzhou, capital of south China’s Guangdong Province on Sept. 21, 2010, one day ahead of China’s Mid-autumn festival this year. (courtesy of Xinhua; photo credit: Liu Dawei)
While the Mandarins of Washington and Beijing square off over the yuan-dollar exchange rate, China’s trade in mooncake vouchers is at its peak today.
Walking around Beijing this week, I have seen evidence that there are indeed mooncakes for sale and gifting everywhere. I’ve received several bags of mooncakes myself. But as I wrote a short time ago, the currency — the vouchers — that one can gift these sugar, butter, bean paste, jelly, and flour treats with seem to far exceed the real number of mooncakes that one would think underlie their value.
Mooncake vouchers may eventually replace the dollar as the global reserve currency. You heard it here first. :-)
On a more serious front, I have been spending a lot of time in China over the last three months — back and forth between China and a lot of places in the world. I have had my eyes opened about China in surprising ways and am incredibly impressed with the vision that China has for itself and its determination to get there.
There are problems in China — and concerns about the behavior of a rising state, sort of the Google of Nations today, disrupting some of the polite, more Western norms of the global system.
China expects tough negotiations ahead — and the rest of the world, particularly the United States, should be prepared for serious arm-wrestling matches with what today is really an adolescent great power with a few thousand years of history in its DNA. America, which is a young country, nonetheless is behaving too much like an octogenerian nation and has to reinvent itself.
I think James Fallows, who just spent three years here, and I are in agreement that America won’t get far using China as an excuse for its current malaise — even though the massive infusion of direct investment from the US into China that has displaced a significant part of the American manufacturing base is a “manifestation of economic lunkheadedness” in the US political and business communities.
America has to take responsibility for its own policy decisions and needs to do the things that rebuild its capacities to innovate, to make things, and to bolster its middle class working families. China is not to blame for maximizing its interests. The U.S. government writ large, in contrast, is guilty of dereliction of duty in how it has managed America’s economic portfolio and allowed the financial sector to skim off the work and productivity of the other stakeholders in the economy.
With that thought — it’s a magnificent day weather-wise in Beijing today, the best I’ve seen yet — and it should be great for thinking big thoughts and looking at the moon tonight.
Mooncake anyone?
– Steve Clemons

Comments

7 comments on “Thoughts Before China’s Moon Festival Tonight

  1. Don Bacon says:

    The full moon isn’t until tomorrow (23rd) here in the US of A — but even lacking a moon cake I’m ready. “The moon cake is the food for the Moon Festival. The Chinese eat the moon cake at night with the full moon in the sky.”
    Will a moon so bright ever arise again?
    Drink a cupful of wine and ask of the sky.
    I don’t know where the palace gate of heaven is,
    Or even the year in which tonight slips by.
    – Shui Tiao Ko Tou

    Reply

  2. 1stLt Prescott Paulin, USMC says:

    Steve, skip the mooncakes and go for the frozen Rambutan with
    pineapple inside. They just brought one poolside. I’m in Southeast
    Asia and I think you can decipher which country I’m in. Hope all is
    well– keep up the good research and post some photos of your
    own! That’s the beauty of having a blog after all.

    Reply

  3. paul_lukasiak says:

    ‘even though the massive infusion of direct investment from the US into China that has displaced a significant part of the American manufacturing base is a “manifestation of economic lunkheadedness” in the US political and business communities.’
    while I agree that the current situation is evidence of “lunkheadedness” on the part of the US political establishment, the question of businesses is completely different. Businesses don’t exist to improve the nation as a whole, but simply to enrich their owners. If that means shipping jobs overseas, so be it. This is the nature of capitalism, and is the reason why the capitalist impulse must be tightly controlled for genuine economic progress to occur.
    Indeed, one of the most toxic companies in terms of trade with China, Walmart, does BETTER when the US economy is in decline. The more people who have no access to high paying jobs, the more Walmart customers there are. Walmart literally forces companies to shut down their US plants, and ship jobs overseas, in order to gain access to their shelves. Absent strict regulation and “protectionist” measures, there is no way to stop what Walmart is doing….

    Reply

  4. Paul Johnson says:

    I agree that the greatest threat to the U.S. is its
    leadership. Our challenge lies in redirecting that
    leadership, not an easy task with so much apathy

    Reply

  5. Steve Clemons says:

    BEN….lol. OK. And my reward if I succeed?
    You have a good point — but I have been remembering Francis Crick lately..
    best, steve

    Reply

  6. Don Bacon says:

    SC: “I have had my eyes opened about China in surprising ways and am incredibly impressed with the vision that China has for itself and its determination to get there.”
    “Determination.” That reminds me — one of the memorable things that happened to me when I lived in China (Taiwan) was when I briefly dabbled in Chinese painting.
    A tutor came to the house and instructed me. (We’re talking over forty years ago here so please cut me some slack.)
    First came the decision had to be made as to which school I would paint in. I chose bamboo.
    First the solid ink stick had to be rubbed in the concave stone mortar to make the black ink at just the right consistency. Then, when that was done properly, one took the horse-hair brush in hand and applied the ink to the brush.
    Now came the difficult part. That’s an understatement. With a controlled predominant vertical stroke one could make a representation of the bamboo stalk and at the end of it with just the right wrist movement a slight horizontal movement to make the bamboo joint. On up the bamboo stalk. No mistakes!! And then the slender branches. And the narrow leaves. IT HAD TO BE RIGHT. There are no do-overs in Chinese painting.
    Self-control. Patience. Lots of patience. And yes, determination is essential. The determination to “get there.”
    I suspect that even if Steve didn’t take up Chinese painting he acquired a sense of what I’m getting at here. It’s inbred in the Chinese people who may not have taken up painting but possibly calligraphy, which is similar, or just by being Chinese.
    My advice? Think of Chinese painting the next time an American makes demands of a Chinese.

    Reply

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