The Birth of Tragedy

gibbon

Charlie Chaplin said, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.”

Reading chapters from Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, and Trump’s press conference, you will conclude that a nation’s decline is the reverse – it is a close-up comedy and long-shot tragedy. Trump has turned White House into reality comedy shows.

Factionalism in War and Peace

In Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Prince Andrey enumerated the factions within the Russian high command during Napoleon’s invasion. You usually see the full range or a subset of these dynamics as a group responds to situations.

  1. Rigid military theorists
  2. Non-planners favoring spontaneous actions
  3. Courtiers reconciling the first two groups
  4. Advocates of surrendering to Napoleon
  5. Adherents to Barclay de Tolly
  6. Adherents to Bennigsen, calling for Barclay to be replaced
  7. Devoted worshippers of the Tsar
  8. Place seekers chasing crosses and promotions (the largest group)
  9. Older politicians who can withdraw from conflicting opinions and take an objective view

The Political Logic of China’s GDP Growth Target

I’m a political analyst, not an economist. But in many situations, it’s more than enough for me to understand the logic behind the Chinese economy.

As an important example: in the March 2016 National People’s Congress session, why did Xi Jinping set 6.5% as the GDP growth target for the next 5 years?

This number has nothing to do with economics. It’s all about politics and the logic is as follows:

  1. In October 2015, the Fifth Plenum of the 18th Central Committee set itself the ambition of doubling the 2010 GDP by 2021.
  2. Why 2021? Because it is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Doubling the GDP so that China becomes a “moderately well-off society” will fulfill one of the “two centenary goals” of the CCP, very key to sustaining its legitimacy.
  3. Take a look at the realized GDP growth rates for the past 5 years: 2011-9.5%; 2012-7.8%; 2013-7.7%; 2014-7.3%; 2015-6.9%.
  4. If the average growth rate for the next 5 years from 2016 to 2020 is 6.5%, the 2021 GDP will be exactly double that of 2010. Mathematically: (1+9.5%)*(1+7.8%)*(1+7.7%)*(1+7.3%)*(1+6.9%)*(1+6.5%)^5=2.

On Posture

Posture

In politics, posture is very important. This includes physical posture. The picture shows Japan’s surrender to China at the end of WWII. Standing on the left and right are the Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese (Ho Ying-chin) and the Japanese (Yasuji Okaruma) Army respectively. It looks as if China was bowing to Japan. The relative heights of the two generals, the length of the table, coupled with the fact that Japan first handed over the surrender document, led to this awkward situation. To achieve a favourable posture, you first need to get the details and the order of actions right.