Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | July 5, 2013

China, India, Brazil, Russia

1. A new law in China mandates that grown children visit their elderly parents. According to the BBC: “China’s new “Elderly Rights Law” deals with the growing problem of lonely elderly people by ordering adult children to visit their ageing parents. The law says adults should care about their parents ‘spiritual needs’ and ‘never neglect or snub elderly people’. The regulation has been ridiculed by tens of thousands of Chinese web users. Many across China are questioning how the law could be enforced, since it fails to spell out a detailed schedule dictating the frequency with which children should make parental house calls. ‘Those who live far away from parents should go home often,’ it says.”

(I for one am a little surprised to hear the Marxist government of the People’s Republic admit that people can have “spiritual needs”; I wonder if there is something lost in translation here.) (H/T: Tyler Cowen.)

2. The Atlantic has an article on China’s shadow banking system. Also, Douglas J. Elliott and Kai Yan at Brookings have an introduction to and overview of the Chinese financial system (pdf, 44 pages). (H/T: Tyler Cowen.)

3. Raj Chetty: “Indians are surprisingly under-represented in PhD programmes in economics and other pure academic disciplines at the leading US universities. Every year, we receive hundreds of applications for the Economics PhD programme at Harvard from students in Europe, South America and China, but only a handful of applications from Indians. As a result, there are far fewer Indian professors relative to doctors, engineers and computer scientists.” (H/T: Tyler Cowen, again.)

4. China and Russia are conducting joint naval exercises. As Luke Skywalker would say, I have a bad feeling about this. See also this post on some energy deals between Russia and China.

5. This blogger seeks to explain the protests in Brazil: “it’s not the economy, stupid”: “If you are violent in Brazil you write a blank check for the police to do whatever it wants. It isn’t right, but it is what it is. Until last Thursday the movement for free fares in public transport was losing. Badly. They started winning when they proved the violence was coming from the police. That is the main reason more and more people are supporting it. Other topics are surely in debate, but the main one, no doubt, is the police.” (Lot’s of short videos at the link – some strong stuff.)

6. Land reform and sex selection in China: “Following the death of Mao in 1976, abandonment of collective farming lifted millions from poverty and heralded sweeping pro-market policies. How did China’s excess in male births respond to rural land reform? In newly-available data from over 1,000 counties, a second child following a daughter was 5.5 percent more likely to be a boy after land reform, doubling the prevailing rate of sex selection. Mothers with higher levels of education were substantially more likely to select sons than were less educated mothers. The One Child Policy was implemented over the same time period and is frequently blamed for increased sex ratios during the early 1980s. Our results point to China’s watershed economic liberalization as a more likely culprit.” (Graphs at the link.)

7. María Helga Guðmundsdóttir in the Quarterly Conversation reviews the fiction of U.R. Ananthamurthy. An excerpt:

Born into the highest rung of the caste system, Ananthamurthy has produced a body of work that has established his reputation as a scathing critic of his own community, its biases and superstitions. Yet he has elected to document them in his own vernacular, the South Indian language Kannada—forgoing the ideological power and prestige of English in India.

In “Ghatashraddha,” an early story by Ananthamurthy, a little boy enters the woods at night to search for a friend, accompanied by a man who bears a burning torch. In the brooding darkness, he wants to hold the man tight to dispel his fear. The man dissuades him, saying “You cannot touch me.” Overcome with fright, the child runs away. The story frames one of the most complex and stereotyped aspects of Indian culture, the practice of untouchability. The boy, a Brahmin, reaches out to his Dalit companion for comfort, in poignant violation of the strict ban on physical contact between them. Despite his position in the social order, the older man becomes the arbiter of ritual and purity to a child of the priestly caste, forbidding the touch that would ‘pollute’ the boy.

The theme of touch recurs throughout Ananthamurthy’s work with a frequency bordering on obsession—one he has himself acknowledged, and attributed to an abhorrence of untouchability dating back to his childhood days. The power of touch to twist destinies, and the symbolic transformations that such a gesture can undergo through desire, fear, and denial, hold real experiential meaning in his fiction. It is the outgrowth of the author’s own early experiences. Growing up in an orthodox community as a priest’s grandson, Ananthamurthy’s childhood was spent in an environment where religious rituals and taboos—including those of untouchability—were very much a living reality.

(H/T: 3 Quarks Daily.)

8. Zahir Janmohamed in the Boston Review has an outstanding review of Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay’s biography of Narendra Modi, “current chief minister of Gujarat and the official candidate from the Bharatiya Janata Party to contest next year’s elections for India’s prime minister.” Apparently, this was not an easy biography to write, in no small part because people in Gujarat are terrified of facing retribution if they speak any ill of Modi. From the review:

How do you understand a man like Modi who has convinced nearly everyone around him to remain silent about his life? …

Mukhopadhyay is a respected senior journalist who has lived in Delhi for the past 34 years. He is an unlikely choice to become a biographer granted access by Modi to interview him. Mukhopadhyay reported on Gujarat during the riots and wrote an article in The Pioneer that compared Modi to Ariel Sharon, then Prime Minister of Israel. Mukhopadhyay said that while Sharon had “the tag of having a ‘blood tainted past’ the Chief Minister (Modi) is in the process of picking up a similar label.”

So why would Modi agree to sit down with a critic like Mukhopadhyay? For Mukhopadhyay, the answer is simple—if Modi wants to become prime minister, he has to find a way to put his past behind him, especially his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

But Modi has never been fond of speaking to the press. In 2008, Modi removed his microphone and walked off camera during a nationally televised interview when he was asked about his role in the Gujarat riots. In fact Mukhopadhyay spends the first part of the book quoting journalists who warn him how difficult it is to interview Modi. …

Modi is afraid for good reason: there are court cases, both within Gujarat and at the national level, about Modi’s role in the 2002 riots and in a series of extrajudicial assassinations that occurred on his watch in his state, and so he is hesitant to reveal anything that may implicate himself. This is the curious course ahead of Modi: in a year’s time he could end up in the prime minister’s office or — and admittedly this is unlikely — in jail.

I liked this bit on India’s immediate post-colonial politics (emphasis added):

Modi also developed, as Mukhopadhyay writes, “a strong hatred towards the Congress,” the political party that has rule India for most of its post-1947 independence. Modi tells Mukhopadhyay that the anti-Congress sentiment in the mid-1950s was so intense that it “impacted even the mind of the child that I was at the time.” This is the unique thing about Modi—instead of speaking about his poor childhood or his blue collar roots, Modi often talks about his childhood being framed by the trauma of being ruled by the Congress party. For Modi, the problem with the Congress party is not that it is pro-Muslim but that it is not pro-Hindu. Modi has also never forgiven the Congress party for side stepping one of its members, Sardar Patel, a native of Gujarat, in favor of making Jawaharlal Nehru India’s first prime minister. It is partly for this reason that today Modi is erecting [a] statue of Patel in Gujarat that will be taller than the Statue of Liberty. For Mukhopadhyay, it is Modi’s way of announcing a not so subtle message: Gujarat’s proudest son is Sardar Patel, not Gandhi.

Because if there’s one thing that India really needs, it’s a 600-foot statue of Sardar Patel.

Modi’s tailor says that the politician never wears green because it is the color associated with Muslims. In 2005, the US denied Modi a visa “because of his role in failing to protect his citizens during the 2002 riots. It was the first time in U.S. history that a person has been denied entry based on religious-freedom violations.”

Oh, and apparently Modi is quite popular with the Hindu youth, “who see him as a politician unafraid of cutting to the front of the line to get things done. After all, India’s youth see the alternative to Modi as the Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, the 43 year old the son and grandson of Indian prime ministers, and a person coddled since birth in government-funded palaces.” [sic]

So, the choice before the Indian voters may be between a party led by a religious fundamentalist who makes Sarah Palin look positively moderate – and a party that seems devoted principally to electing the descendants of Motilal Nehru. The Fanatic Party or the Nepotism Party. Awesome.

The review makes for a fascinating and frightening profile. (H/T: 3 Quarks Daily.)

9. Free school under the bridge: two teachers have been running a free school under a metro bridge in New Delhi, India for the last 3 years. Their students are about 30 children from the nearby slums. (Photos at the link.) To echo the OP at the link, God bless the teachers, Rajesh Kumar Sharma and Laxmi Chandra.


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