19th May Highlights

Mercantilism is great, Prospect is good, meat rocks are charming, Xinjiang is terrifying, and international opinion seems to be changing on the Belt and Road.

Photo credit: Break Bulk

I’ll keep this brief because I’ve got a busy one this weekend (unrelated to royal weddings).

Academic View: Markets or Mercantilism

Markets or Mercantilism: How China secures its energy supplies. The title says it all really. I found this article fascinating, especially since it makes the more provocative argument that mercantilism makes sense and everyone does it to some extent…

Are policies of energy mercantilism outdated and illogical, or do they offer a coherent strategy for enhancing a country’s energy security? This article argues that there is a strategic logic to energy mercantilism (meaning, efforts by the state to enhance national power by securing access to energy supplies). Far from being anachronistic or irrational, policies of energy mercantilism are a logical and potentially effective response to vulnerability.

Again, if you can think of better ways to spend $72, don’t despair… spend a few minutes on Google and find out how to read academic articles for free.  Knowledge is power, and power to the people, etc.

Article Series: Prospect Magazine

A series of great long form articles were published in Prospect this week. They’re worth checking out. A nice historical walk through on China’s “illiberal turn” and global ambitions by Isabel Hilton titled “When China Rules the World”; A really interesting piece by Kerry Brown titled “Want to understand China’s ambitions for Britain? Look to Australia“; and a piece by Kishore Mahbubani called “The Coming Renminbi Revolution“, which I disagree with, but which serves as a nice counterpoint to the others.

Isabel Hilton also has a really great piece in UnHerd on UK-China relations out this week. UnHerd is doing a whole China thing at the moment. Aside from the Hilton article and an article from Bruno Maçães (which I fundamentally disagree with, but which is a good piece), it’s a poor show. I particularly enjoyed hate-reading a supremely reductive article by Henry Olsen called ‘It’s time the West tackled China’s dangerous rise’, which contains the *excellent* paragraph:

Ancient Rome used its network of roads to tie conquered lands together and permit its military to move quickly to suppress any dissent. Russia used its control over a crucial natural gas pipeline to influence European and Ukrainian policies earlier this decade, and its proposal to create a new pipeline has raised legitimate fears that Russia could use this to further influence EU policies. At the very least, the One Belt, One Road initiative would give China’s military the capability to move vast distances and influence events far away from Asia should it choose to. Why should this not trouble the West?

News: Islam and BRI

I could go on forever on this topic, so I’ll keep it really brief… There’s been a lot on Xinjiang recently, prompted by a study that comes up with the goods in terms of providing evidence about re-education centres in Xinjiang. This is really troubling stuff. Aside from that, I’ve seem some other good articles on Islam in China. Here’s a link to the article version of the study (both by Adrian Zenz), here’s a link to a good NYT piece on the issue, and here’s a link to an SCMP article on the CCP’s Islam with Chinese characteristics.

There also seems to have been a real sea-change in attitudes on the Belt and Road recently, and a number of developments that might be troubling from Beijing’s point of view. All this is neatly surveyed by Jon Hillman in this article.

Sunday Reading: Meat Rocks

Yup, you’ve probably seen this recommended already, but it is rather good. I mean, what a charming paragraph:

“Everyone can appreciate meat rocks,” says Yuan Ziming, a collector from the northeast city of Tianjin who, like many, prefers to photograph his treasures on plates with real vegetables to boost their verisimilitude. (He also has a favorite stone that resembles a potato.)

It’s paywalled unfortunately.



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