A man tried to smuggle his pet turtle through security in Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport by hiding it in a KFC hamburger.
The incident occurred on the morning of July 29, when a man, surnamed Li, was about to board China Southern Airlines flight 345 to Beijing, Guangzhou Daily reported. As Li passed through airport security, X-ray screening machines detected a few “odd protrusions” sticking out of a KFC burger that the man had packed in his bag.
Airport staff determined that the protrusions looked suspiciously like turtle limbs, and asked to inspect Li’s luggage.
“There’s no turtle in there, just a hamburger,” Li reportedly insisted. “There’s nothing special to see inside.”
Li finally acquiesced to an inspection after repeated requests from airport staff, who uncovered the pet turtle hidden inside the burger. When asked why he had devised this strange idea, Li said that he had only wanted to travel together with his “beloved” turtle.
After staff patiently explained that turtles could not be smuggled on board the plane, Li reluctantly agreed to allow a friend to care for his pet while he was away.
Certainly, one more piece of evidence that we live today in a world over-regulated by nincompoops. Why is it really a problem if a fellow carries a pet turtle on board an airplane, after all? The only problem is in the mind of the regulatory bureaucracy which reflexively takes the position that whatever is not compulsory must be forbidden.
Today, the famous 30-year-old cuts a pathetic figure, presumably still marooned in the transit zone in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. He has, we are told, remained there since June 23, when he arrived, without passport or Russian visa, on an Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong. Snowden, through the assistance of the WikiLeaks organization, has filed a reported 27 requests for asylum. Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, offered him refuge on Friday, and Bolivian leader Evo Morales followed suit on Saturday, but China has yet to welcome him.
Beijing’s refusal to accept Snowden suggests he is not a Chinese agent, at least if we accept the premise of his argument outlined for the readers of the Guardian. Nonetheless, there are aspects of his relationship with the People’s Republic of China that are, at the very least, unsettling.
As an initial matter, China may have helped him gather information from the National Security Agency. Sources in the American intelligence community suspect the famous “leaker” was really a “drop box,” receiving information from others in NSA who were working for China. It was his job to act as the courier.
This theory explains how Snowden could possess information to which he did not have access. It is possible he figured out how to bypass barriers in NSA’s systems, but it is more likely he had help. Eli Lake of the Daily Beast reports that the FBI is investigating whether Snowden obtained documents “from a leak inside the secret FISA court.” Similarly, Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, has suggested Snowden probably had an accomplice in the NSA who gave him information.
Beijing may also have encouraged Mr. Snowden to leave Hawaii. One of my sources indicates that Chinese intelligence, either directly or through FBI personnel working for China, tipped Snowden off that NSA investigators were closing in on him.
There still is no proof of this allegation, but it is telling that Snowden chose to run to Hong Kong. At first glance, that city is a curious choice for someone trying to avoid American justice. It has the equivalent of an extradition agreement with the U.S.—as a non-sovereign it technically “surrenders” suspects, not extradites them—and a well-known history of close cooperation with American law enforcement. The Guardian, referring to Snowden, stated that “he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the U.S. government.” In view of Hong Kong’s record of regularly turning over suspects to America, this had to mean Snowden thought Beijing would step in to protect him.
Why would he ever think that? It seems clear that Snowden, if he did not actually work for the Chinese, at least did their bidding. He insisted, for instance, that the Washington Post time its initial disclosures so that they would occur on the eve of last month’s “shirtsleeves” summit between President Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. When the Post refused to give a guarantee—we learned this from Wolf Blitzer’s June 10 interview with the paper’s Barton Gellman—Snowden dealt mostly with the Guardian, which evidently proved to be more pliable. The timing of the Guardian’s disclosures benefited the Chinese enormously, changing the global narrative from Chinese hacking to American surveillance. ...
The Chinese then did their best to make sure that American officials did not get the opportunity to interrogate Snowden. The last thing they wanted was for the U.S. to have the opportunity to learn the extent of China’s penetration of the NSA and the FBI in Hawaii. Therefore, they ensured he left Hong Kong before the city could “surrender” him. Albert Ho, one of Snowden’s attorneys, has publicly stated that Beijing approached him through intermediaries who said his client should leave Hong Kong. And as we know by now, this is exactly what Snowden did.
By that time, there was no point for China to give him a Beijing palace where he could pet phoenixes. Ministry of State Security agents had been in contact with Snowden while he was in Hong Kong and probably obtained all they wanted from his four laptops and one thumb drive. Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon reports that U.S. officials say Russian and Chinese intelligence operatives obtained access to, in the words of Gertz, “highly classified U.S. intelligence and military information contained on electronic media” held by Snowden.
At this moment, we do not know whether Snowden, during his time in Hong Kong, actually traveled to China, as some believe, and we do not know the extent of his dealings with the Chinese. Yet the information we do possess—and the suppositions we can reasonably make—point to troubling conclusions.
Multi-thousand foot drops, a one-foot-wide walkway comprised of wooden boards nailed together 700 hundred years ago, the Daily Mail profiles China’s Chang Kong Cliff Road on Mount Hau. The path was made by Taoist hermits in search of contact with Chinese Immortals.
Pacific Standard gets the scoop from Sebastian Acker and Phil Thompson, who traveled to China to document the Copy Town phenomenon in a new book.
Hallstatt, Austria, is in China. So is the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, Christ the Redeemer, and a soon-to-be-completed Manhattan. There are others, too, and it’s all part of this weird (at least to us Westerners, or this one Westerner who is writing this) proliferation of what are being called “copy towns.” They’re villages and buildings and cities in China that are being constructed as replicas of non-Chinese places from around the world—and people are living in them. Hallstatt, China, has an artificial lake, and they imported doves to make it more Hallstatt-like. ...
There are many different reasons as to why these towns exist. No one reason seems to be fully responsible, rather it is culmination of many different circumstances. One of the main reasons is China’s developing middle and upper classes; a significant portion of people have become very wealthy, very quickly, and these people want a way to showcase their wealth. They are allowed to do so in modern China, but under the Mao regime public shows of wealth would not have been possible. However, given China’s recent history, it does not have a societal model for prosperity. Under Mao, class divisions were squashed and declarations of wealth were not usually allowed, and so they have turned to the West for ways in which to display their new-found fortunes. This adoption of Western styles may be an attempt to pick up an already established ready-made social attitude.
Another reason for the towns could be the huge building bubble that is taking place in China. Vast numbers of new buildings are being built, many of which have never been filled. In order to attract residents to their developments, the construction companies may be creating copy towns so that they stand out amongst the myriad buildings opening every day. Ironically, it is their copied nature that makes them unique in the market.
But generally China has a long history of copying, especially within architecture and the arts. For centuries the emperors would replicate lands that they had conquered within their own palace gardens. These constructs would often include fauna and plants from the conquered regions. This ability to replicate and maintain the distant land demonstrated the emperor’s control over the original region.
Then there is also China’s desire to replicate the West and become a first-world country. A lot of Chinese people look up to the West as an ideal, so the construction of these towns could be seen as a way of accelerating their progress; a quick way of achieving through emulation.
Thamestown: “a new town in Songjiang District, about 30 kilometres (19 mi) from central Shanghai, China. It is named after the River Thames in England. The architecture is themed according to classic English market town styles. There are cobbled streets, Victorian terraces and corner shops.”(photo: triplefivechina.)
2,000-year-old 100-layer sword, reputed to have been owed by Lui Bang (fl. circa 200 B.C.) first Emperor of the Han Dynasty, found originally covered with blood rust. The pattern shown in the bottom photo is known as leopard spots.
Collectors Weekly visits swordmaker Francis Boyd, learns the difference between Damascus layered and wootz steel, and gets to see a sword gifted in China by Marco Polo (or a close relative).
When I got this sword, it was completely covered in blood rust.” Sword maker Francis Boyd is showing me yet another weapon pulled from yet another safe in the heavily fortified workshop behind his northern California home.
“You can tell it’s blood,” he says matter-of-factly, “because ordinary rust turns the grinding water brown. If it’s blood rust it bleeds, it looks like blood in the water. Even 2,000 years old, it bleeds. And it smells like a steak cooking, like cooked meat. I’ve encountered this before with Japanese swords from World War II. If there’s blood on the sword and you start polishing it, the sword bleeds. It comes with the territory.”
Blood rust: I hadn’t thought of that. I guess it would turn water red, but the steak comment is kind of creeping me out, as is the growing realization that if these swords could talk, I couldn’t stomach half the tales they’d have to tell.
The Next Web describes an ingenious solution adopted by a Chinese father to a widespread parental problem.
What would you do if your adult son was playing video games all day instead of looking for work? Well, one Chinese father resorted to desperate measures when he reportedly hired in-game hitmen to attack his son whenever he logged on to his favorite game, according to the People’s Daily.
After being killed repeatedly in an online game, 23-year-old Xiao Feng figured out that the high-level griefers had been put up to the task by his dad, who says he hoped the trick would cause his son to lose interest in the game. Xiao Feng maintains that he’s not going to settle for just any job and that he hasn’t found the right fit yet.
Dan Greenfield has another of his intelligent essays full of unpalatable truth.
[T]he West has been headed out of the territory of reason for some time now. Its truths have become ideological beliefs. Its goals have become the self-worship of its own symbols, size for the sake of size, and centralization for the sake of centralization. There is a mingled horror and longing for the savage and the barbaric, as civilization appears to have lost its meaning. The leadership cries “Onward to a united world” on the one hand, and “Back to the caves” on the other. That confused melange boils down to a cultural intelligence which has lost the awareness of its own contradictions. High tech environmentalism, soft wars and valueless money are all symptoms of that same intellectual degeneracy.
The rise of China is directly tied to our own irrationality. The People’s Republic of China has become rich and powerful by serving as the reservoir of our contradictions. We wanted cheap products, no pollution, high wages and generous benefits. All these things are not compatible, so we outsourced our manufacturing to China and pretended that we could have it all. But all we got were cheap products, and the country we outsourced them to got the jobs and the national prosperity. We wanted to spend money without worrying about where it came from. Again we turned to China. And like the grasshopper and the ant, we sang and played all summer, while the ants worked and prepared for the winter.
We used China to escape the limits of reality, but there is no escape. Only temporary vacations from consequences.
Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, is protected in the afterlife by an army of teracotta warriors.
Here’s an interesting item from Gizmodo, essentially translated from the Spanish-language paper El Pais:
(some typos corrected
After discovering a secret palace hidden in China’s first emperor massive burial complex, Chinese technicians are nervous. Not because Qin Shi Huang’s tomb is the most important archeological discovery since Tutankhamun, but because they believe his burial place is full of deadly traps that will kill any trespassers. Not to talk about deadly quantities of mercury. ...
Talking to Spanish newspaper El Pais, the archeologists working at the excavation said that “it’s like having a present all wrapped at home, knowing that inside is what you always wanted, and not being able to open it.” But, at the same time, nobody wants to be the first to get inside because of the mausoleum’s dangerous traps—they’re detailed in the same texts that recount its abundant riches.
It’s not clear if the traps are really there, even while many texts describe them. ...
[L]et’s assume that the Chinese … really installed booby traps that triggered deadly crossbows in the emperor’s tomb. Even if the old Chinese texts are correct, they might not still work after two thousand years. Perhaps the mechanisms are so rusty that the bolts won’t fire. Maybe the wood and the cords used the in the traps have long since been destroyed by bacteria.
Chinese historian Guo Zhikun argues the contrary. He is one of the main experts on Qinshihuang’s burial site, and says that it’s very possible that the traps are still active. He claims that the use of chrome in the figures may indicate that the traps received a similar protective treatment. He is sure that “the artisans who built the traps installed crossbows that will fire if any thief tries to get inside.”
Even if the traps don’t work, there is still the matter of the high, deadly concentration of mercury inside the tomb. On-site measurements indicate dangerous levels, which may come from another feature described in the scrolls: Imperial engineers created large rivers of quicksilver inside the tomb. So much that the level of mercury inside could be deadly for any unprotected adventurers.
The Chinese government hasn’t decided what to do with the hidden complex yet. The authorities will wait for some time because they believe that, with the current technology, you can’t get inside the tomb without destroying some of its contents.
If the Chinese archaeologists are indeed afraid of two-thousand-years-in-the-ground working crossbows and alleged “rivers of mercury,” I’ll be glad to enter the hidden palace first and take a look around for them. All they have to do is cover my expenses.
David Petraeus wore regularly a lot more awards than Dwight Eisenhower did many years ago.
Marines have long remarked humorously on the proliferation of awards, badges, and decorations worn by members of the US Army. General Petraeus’s resignation as CIA Director recently even provoked comment from left-wing commentators, like Andrew Sullivan, on the questionable taste of contemporary doggie custom.
The Marines, of course, are a lot better qualified to criticize in areas of this kind than are foreign poofter journalists who make professional careers of Dolchstoß-ing those who protect them from big bad sand monkeys who would do them harm.
I was reminded of the criticism of General Petraeus’s uniform’s collection of shiny hardware by a photo of even more heavily be-medalled Chinese officers that has been floating around on Facebook. The original was sufficiently profuse with badges that it provoked some wag to use Photoshop to multiply them, and even to extend the medals to some Chinamen’s trousers. (see below)
The legitimate, original photo of Chinese officers.
Photoshopped parody. There are medals even on the sleeves and trousers.
Mark Kitto studied in China, lived in China for many years, married in China, built two businesses in China, but he has now decided to leave.
Death and taxes. You know how the saying goes. I’d like to add a third certainty: you’ll never become Chinese, no matter how hard you try, or want to, or think you ought to. I wanted to be Chinese, once. I don’t mean I wanted to wear a silk jacket and cotton slippers, or a Mao suit and cap and dye my hair black and proclaim that blowing your nose in a handkerchief is disgusting. I wanted China to be the place where I made a career and lived my life. For the past 16 years it has been precisely that. But now I will be leaving. ...
Deng had promised the Chinese people material wealth they hadn’t known for centuries on the condition that they never again asked for political change. The Party said: “Trust us and everything will be all right.”
Twenty years later, everything is not all right.
I must stress that this indictment has nothing to do with the trajectory of my own China career, which went from metal trading to building a multi-million dollar magazine publishing business that was seized by the government in 2004, followed by retreat to this mountain hideaway of Moganshan where my Chinese wife and I have built a small business centred on a coffee shop and three guesthouses, which in turn has given me enough anecdotes and gossip to fill half a page of Prospect every month for several years. That our current business could suffer the same fate as my magazines if the local government decides not to renew our short-term leases (for which we have to beg every three years) does, however, contribute to my decision not to remain in China.
During the course of my magazine business, my state-owned competitor (enemy is more accurate) told me in private that they studied every issue I produced so they could learn from me. They appreciated my contribution to Chinese media. They proceeded to do everything in their power to destroy me. In Moganshan our local government masters send messages of private thanks for my contribution to the resurrection of the village as a tourist destination, but also clearly state that I am an exception to their unwritten rule that foreigners (who originally built the village in the early 1900s) are not welcome back to live in it, and are only allowed to stay for weekends.
Fake electronic components from China have been discovered in thermal weapons sights delivered to the U.S. Army on mission computers for the Missile Defense Agency’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missiles and on military aircraft, including several models of helicopters and the P-8A-Poseidon, according to federal investigators.
Suspected electronic parts were found in the Forward Looking InfraRed, or FLIR, Systems being used on the Navy’s SH-60-B. The counterfeit parts were delivered by Raytheon, which alerted the Navy.
The new evidence comes reports that the problem with faked Chinese electronic components being installed in U.S. military systems is far more widespread that originally thought. ...
The Senate panel tracked some 1,800 cases of suspected counterfeit parts through the supply chain. It found that U.S. defense contractors had purchased many of the critical components from U.S. companies who in turn obtained them from Chinese firms but never subjected them to testing before handing them over to the U.S. military as part of their contract.
The Senate unit, whose investigators were denied access to Chinese firms by Chinese authorities, said that the evidence “consistently point(s) to China as the epicenter of the global trade in counterfeits.”
To put the growing problem into perspective, Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said, “We do not want a $12 million missile defense interceptor’s reliability compromised by a $2 counterfeit part.
The world’s waterways are of themselves neutral and without a preference for the state that governs them. Different states bring their own order of governing the seas, and the US brings with it liberal economics. It is difficult to imagine serious discussions of international maritime law, or treaties that establish a law of the seas, had the Soviet Union emerged victorious in the Cold War.
America’s allies in the Pacific are currently being pressed more immediately by the Chinese than we are. They see, as Americans tend not to, that the US is in a long-term competition with China, and recognize, as we don’t, that the Chinese desire slowly to push US sea power out of the international waters close to them. The only force standing in the way of such a transition, which would destroy a complex web of alliances for the US in the Pacific, is our current sea power.
Alfred Thayer Mahan offers the intellectual arguments that address what the US stands to lose economically and militarily—and all that China will gain—if there is a profound shift of power in the Western Pacific. Commerce, he believes, plays to the natural advantage of an enterprising people who are largely free to act upon their judgment and enterprising spirit. But commercial advantage and our enterprising spirit relies equally on the ability to keep open the oceanic arteries through which commerce must be able to flow. This equation is set on its head when prosperity becomes an important instrument to justify single-party rule—as in China, where freedoms of commerce are restricted by the state’s pressing requirement, for example, to employ millions; by an understanding of commercial freedom that is wholly separate from political freedom; and by a parallel view of sea power that sees the interruption of commerce as a personal threat to those who rule the state.
Mahan saw correctly that American greatness depends on dominant sea power. He understood the close connection between domestic prosperity and maritime preeminence. The acceptance of his ideas at the beginning of the twentieth century helped immeasurably in encouraging both, the condition of which is the only one in the memory of Americans alive today.
Bo went after the corrupt head of the local Communist party’s judicial branch, Wen Qiang, former deputy chief of the local police. Wen was found guilty of protecting the gangsters, taking bribes, and rape: he was duly executed. At the time, the Peoples’ Daily, the official voice of the Communist Party, praised these actions, but the central party leadership was not happy. Here was a charismatic and – worst of all – populist figure, who was gaining public support on the strength of political campaigns that, they say, resembled the dark days of the Cultural Revolution, when the country was enveloped in chaos.
Bo’s various campaigns, however, also resembled the efforts of a political party, such as one might see if China allowed multiparty democracy. Here was Bo offering up his own “Chongqing model” – in implicit opposition to the “Guangdong model” favored by the party’s Eastern elites, which emphasized exports over targeting the huge domestic market. Bo’s initiatives were bold, in stark contrast to the timid “reforms” preferred by “pragmatic” party leaders. In the days before his ouster, Bo declared China was ready to move toward a multiparty system: “We need to take the road to democratic rule.” A week later, he was ousted, his whereabouts unknown. ...
Having been stripped of his post, it appears he will lose his seat on the Politburo, and the lesson here is clear for any other aspiring populist leader who dares challenge the Beijing bureaucrats: don’t do it. What Western observers should take away from all this is that the Chinese gerontocracy is as brittle as an over-baked fortune cookie, and living in fear of the populist giant that shows worrying signs of restlessness, especially in the still-impoverished countryside.