A spinoff in proper "Rhoda" style of my patented e-mail blastograms, this blog was created with the intention of keeping friends and family updated on and amused by my life.

Friday, September 28, 2007

OK, Seriously Folks

For whatever foolish reason, I went to check the CNN webpage to see what it had to say about what's happening in Burma. For fun I selected the 'US Edition' and had to scroll more than half way down the page to see a mention of Myanmar. Is this actually not big news in the US?! Then I went to the USAToday just to see if I could give myself a coronary, and only found reference to Myanmar with regards to new US sanctions thereon. What's the big news at MSNBC.com? The 10 dying businesses. And not surprisingly, FoxNews wasn't any better.

Um, hello? Is anyone home in there?

Even in the UK Myanmar has managed to surpass stories about Madeline sightings in Morocco (though only barely). Seriously, any of you in the US, what is the coverage like? The fact of the matter is that what is happening now in Burma has the potential to be one of the defining moments of this decade. If you don't know what's going on, learn!

You can start with my personal fav, the IHT. And even the BBC has had some interesting and in-depth coverage of what's going on there. And if you're still want for information, guess what the feature story is in this week'sThe Economist.


Quick Kunming Roundup

Kunming seems to be in the news a lot recently, so I thought I'd do a very quick roundup.

First, a brief aside. I still have lots of posts sitting in my head, but no time to write them it seems. Suffice it to say that Myanmar is at the front of my mind, and has been for about the last week. I only wish I knew how to help in a way that felt real (instead of blogging or wearing red). If you have any good thoughts, please share.

Anyway, let's cross the border from Myanmar, wander up past Ruili, mosey through Dali and end up back in Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan Province.

The New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly and Newsweek have all run recent articles highlighting the joys of Kunming. The NYT focused on nostalgia for the Kunming of the past in a place that's kinda like China, but really just China Lite. The Atlantic Monthly was actually from way back in July, but gives a good traveller's guide to the land South of the Clouds. Newsweek prefers to skim over it with a suggestion for how to spend Four Hours in Kunming. If you do happen to find yourself in Kunming, my friend Even offered a brilliant repost to Newsweek and suggested two different and exponentially better uses of four hours in Kunming.

And if you're wondering what's actually going on in Kunming these days, check out the excellent blog GoKunming's post on the mayhem of Kunming's first 'No-car Day'.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The PRC Meets the DRC

The IHT seems to be almost entirely dedicated to happenings in China today (22 September 2007). From the appointment of a new Catholic bishop in Beijing, to Mattel apologising for recalling more toys than it needed to and thus damaging China’s reputation, it appears to have been a busy couple of days in China. The article that particularly caught my eye, though, was by Howard French, one of my favourite reporters out there. He is currently the Bureau Chief for the New York Times’s Shanghai bureau, though he has a long history elsewhere in Asia (before Shanghai he was in Tokyo) and around the world (he’s covered the Caribbean, but he got his start in Africa). If there is a reporter out there that knows his stuff about the world, it’s certainly him.

His article, The Chinese and Congo take a giant leap of faith, which interestingly follows nicely from my last post, is both provocative and excellently written. The article looks at a recent agreement struck between the governments of China and the Congo offering US$5 billion (an amount that seems to be worth less and less these days…) worth of loans to be granted for infrastructure development in the Congo.

In theory, the deal is win-win for both countries. The Congo gets important infrastructure, such as over 3,000 km each of new roads and rail tracks. China, in turn, gets access to Congo’s vast mineral wealth. Of course, contracts for building the infrastructure will also probably go to efficient Chinese companies who import their own Chinese labour. In other words, China is lending money to the Congolese government so that they can in turn hire Chinese (state-subsisdised?) companies to go in and use Chinese labour to build roads. This not only allows the Chinese government to get kickbacks from companies bidding on projects, collect taxes on their profits, and charge interest on these loans to the Congolese government, but also to find employment for some of the millions strong eligible workforce. I can’t help but think the Chinese got the better end of this deal.

Part of me really hates to pull it into this discourse, but several have already started to question whether the Chinese development model is just a new colonialism. I’m sceptical of yet, but as I’ve already mentioned, China is certainly changing the face of the development sector. I just attended the Development Studies Association’s Annual conference down in Brighton on Wednesday and even stumbled upon a fascinating book published by Zed Books: China in Africa by Chris Alden. I’ve only had a chance to skim the book, but it’s certainly very topical and relevant given developments like these!

NB- More posts to come shortly about my recent trip to Norway among others. My Internet has been down since the end of August, and so it’s been difficult finding time on the net to be able to post. Having said that, NEVER EVER get Orange broadband! Their customer service is reprehensible and their technical support is laughable!!