Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Retaining Social Progressivism as a Goal for Last Year of the 20s

There is one trend that has often been proven to be true in the field of political science.  That is the idea that older members of a particular society, when holding everything else constant, tends to be more conservative in ideology compared to more youthful counterparts.  In fact, even when looking at any particular neighborhoods, as the population grows older, political leanings move to the right.  On economic issues, older people tend to, as compared to youths, oppose in greater numbers high taxes and income redistribution, while on social issues, they oppose homosexuality, abortion, and marijuana legalization.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Japan as the Cheap Place to Live?!

Growing up in Japan, I have always had the impression that the island country is one of the most expesive places in the world.  Friends and family members always complained how for the same price as one would pay for something in Japan, one can get much bigger and more of the same thing.  Research data tend to confirm such anecdotal impressions.  The city of Tokyo has consistently ranked as one of the most expensive places in the world, and its high rank on the costliness has changed little in the past decade.  Both professional and personal evidence point to Japan being an expensive place compared to most other parts of the world.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

How Private Specialist Clinics in Japan Allow for Medical Services Much More Efficient than Hospitals

One of the greatest advantages of living in Japan is its high-quality affordable medical services.  National insurance cover 70% of all medical costs incurred in any clinic or hospital, while the insurance itself costs a fraction of what the same would cost in the US.  Medical facilities often have the most advanced medical equipments anywhere in the world, while the skill levels of nurses and doctors are top-notch.  Medical accidents are few and far in between, while even the smallest illnesses are dealt with meticulously without any occurrence of careless dismissal.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Jet Lag Becomes Worse as One Becomes Older

Intercontinental travel is something I do quite frequently.  Just in the past two years, I have flown multiple times between Asia and Africa, Africa and North America via Europe, and between the Americas.  For all of these aside from the inter-American flights, the time difference between the origin and the destination is big enough to separate night and day.  But with so many experiences under the belt, I generally is able to grind through the time difference, often by ensuring that no sleep is taken during the long flights across the continents, so that exhaustion means immediate sleep upon arrival at the accommodation at the destination.

Friday, August 25, 2017

How Overt Muslim Assimilation Policy Prevents China from Disrupting US Global Hegemony

In recent years, Chinese official policy toward Muslim citizens has firmly shifted to one of active assimilation.  In Xinjiang, Muslim public servants have been told to forego fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, headscarves and long beards have been banned, and Mandarin is gradually becoming the only language of instruction in schools populated by Muslim minorities.  Who gets to go on the Hajj, not to mention long-term studies and residence in the wider Muslim world, is being strictly controlled by selective granting of passports and other travel documents.  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Can A Non-Academic Become Academic on a Short Notice?

Despite having done my degrees at Yale and LSE, I am rather hesitant to consider myself academically inclined.  A year in London was mostly spent traveling around Europe and drinking in pubs, with pitifully little time spent on actual reading and writing as stipulated by the courses.  Having graduated with low grades that is unenviable for anyone pursuing career academic jobs or further studies, I took off to the business world even before the final grades were finalized and the diplomas passed out.  For the next five years, apart from a short six-month stint in Taiwan doing political search, there has been nothing academic in my resume.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Why Greater Openness to Immigrants in the Rich World Will be Disastrous for the Developing World

A couple of weeks ago, the Economist published a headline article calling for greater openness to immigrants.  True to its name, the magazine argued that a person with desirable skills is dozens of times more productive in the (rich) immigrant destination country than s/he would ever be in the (poor) home country. The increase in productivity makes sense in a multitude of ways: the dramatic increase in living standards for the immigrant, overall economic productivity for the immigrant host country, and the corresponding increase in tax revenues that come from the economy having a higher productivity.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

It is Easier to Become Acquainted with a Foreign Culture in One's Home Country than in the Foreign Country Itself

For many people, one of the primary reasons to travel to foreign lands is the ability to see those lands for themselves, in the process becoming familiar with the local culture and people.  By being there and experiencing everything they possibly can, people think they will, over time, become familiar enough with local realities that they can assimilate into local life, whether or not that was the original intention.  However, in many cases, stepping directly into a foreign land with the sole purpose of understanding local life can be counterproductive, as practical obstacles hamper productive efforts to absorb local knowledge.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

How Incessant Desire of Waiters Cause Endless Increase in Tips Over Time

After eating in dozens of restaurants in countries where tipping is the norm, one figures out a pattern: Waiters, if one ever bothers to look at their expressions after receiving tips, are often never happy about the amount of tips received.  It does not matter if one tips 12%, 15%, 18%, or 20%, the expressions are often completely blank or laced with a slight frown, indicating that the amount could have been more.  They obviously cannot show negative attitudes outright, but the underlying unhappiness is all too clear.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lack of Rural Whites' Economic Self-Confidence as a Source of Ethnic Tensions

The continuing protests in Charlottesville, where two groups of opposing protesters slug it out over issues on race, should concern all minorities in America on exactly what their places are in America.  If sometimes violent protests by white supremacists become political norms backed by supposed freedoms of assembly and political expression, minorities in the country will face more and more legitimate political opposition from such fringe groups when fighting for equal rights.  There is no doubt that political rights of white extremist groups must be restricted in order to secure peace among minorities in the country.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Belonging as Identity and Interest as Belonging

We all have those moments.  Sometimes we show up in a social gathering with supposedly close friends to talk about major events in their lives, yet as the conversations go on, one just finds oneself drifting away, aloof, staring into the space.  It is not that the conversations are boring.  In fact, they might be humorous, full of exciting details, drawing interest of everyone else involved in the conversations.  But even as everyone else laughs and ask follow-up questions, one cannot do much beyond weakly laugh along without understanding the context, just to be polite.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Group Travel Can Weaken Social Relationships with Friends and Family

Many backpackers travel alone, not because they have no friends or inherent distaste of other people, but they find solo travel to be much more carefree than if the travel had conducted with others.  Traveling by oneself means there is no need to consult others when making decisions on where to go, what to do, where to eat, and where to stay.  The travel plan can be executed so much quicker, and changes in the itinerary can be made much more flexibly.  The freedom of traveling independently comes from the fact that there is no restriction of others having different opinions, who needs to be persuaded otherwise.

Friday, August 11, 2017

the "Final Solution" of Chinese Debt Problem: a Grand Sell-off of State-Owned Assets

In the recent years, business news outlets and analyses websites have been keen to present the rapidly increases Chinese debt pile as one of the biggest risks facing the global economy today.  The numbers are certainly scary.  The debt levels, less than 80% of the GDP less than a decade ago, recently surpassed 300% on official estimates.  The numbers would be much higher if grassroots level "shadow banking" of informal community loans are accounted for.  Given the size of the Chinese economy, the amount China owes as a collective is definitely not a small number.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ethnicity-Based Immigration System as the First Step toward Open Borders

In the previous post, this blog argued that nationalism, in the form of openly supporting people from a particular nation at the expense of often negatively stereotyped foreigners can be a huge obstacle for true globalization where people can freely move, work, and live across national borders.  Unfortunately, the fact remains that most people (never mind state governments), educated in a context of patriotism, cannot simply become open to the idea of rendering nationality as irrelevant in order to achieve freedom of movement.  The concept of nation, and the state-level polity, associated with it, remains far too strong today to alter.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Blind Nationalism as a Mortal Enemy of Globalization

One of the staples of Hollywood blockbusters is disaster movies.  In these high-expense, high-action,-high-computer graphics films, disasters strike our planet, in the form of natural disaster, alien invasion, or unstoppable epidemics, leading to global humanitarian crises of scales unimaginable to modern human society.  In most of these films, Hollywood unequivocally uses US assets, whether it be the military, political leadership, or individual heroism, to defend the planet from the disaster, ultimately achieving victory for the world (and for America) after great sacrifices and prudent actions.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Current Border Row Should be Downplayed for the Sake of Future Sino-Indian Relations

In previous posts, this blog has noted how mutual ignorance has continued to plague the relationship between China and India, the past and future superpowers of Asia (and the world), and how the ignorance ensure that bilateral relationships, especially at the grassroots level, remain highly underdeveloped and susceptible to mutual suspicions.  Unfortunately, the recent (re-)flaring up of the Doklam border issue has only further entrenched the mutual suspicions, threatening to take the relationship a step back and wipe out positive results from nascent efforts at cooperation through the BRICS framework.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Why Democratic Legitimacy is a Double-Edged Sword for Political Stability

Whether democracy is universally applicable is perhaps the political, ethical, and philosophical question of the past decades.  From the confidence of democracy as the logical "end of human history" in the immediate aftermath of Soviet collapse, to the failure of newly installed democratic structures to bring prosperity and peace to post-dictatorship Iraq and Afghanistan, democracy has only divided opinions in its implementation despite the fact that no credible alternative has emerged in the recent years to challenge its moral authority in the eyes of liberal internationalists.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Lack of Variety in Vocabulary as Lack of Language Proficiency

For those who know, I am a freelance translator who translates all sorts of different things in Japanese and Chinese into English.  However, I rarely translate in reverse, from English to the two Asian languages.  As someone educated almost entirely in English, I have much more confidence in writing in English than I am of Chinese or Japanese.  And in the past week, I again had to put that confidence up to the test, by first working on an assignment translating a research report in English into Chinese, followed by a school guide in Chinese into English.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Major Investments as a Company's Way of Ensuring Policy Stability

From his candidate days, Donald Trump promised to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US and save the Midwest Rust Belt.  For that Trump, the past few days finally brought a major victory that he can publicize.  Foxconn, the manufacturing contractor for Apple (and main other electronics brands) announced the biggest single investment by a foreign company ever in the US, launching a manufacturing facility in Wisconsin that will bring tens of thousands of jobs to the middle of that Rust Belt.  Major news outlets did not shy away from putting on their front pages pictures of smiling Trump next to Foxconn boss Terry Gou.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Does China's Latest Blocking of VPNs Spell Another Defeat for Internet Freedom?

For anyone who spends significant time in China, getting a working VPN is almost part of the common routine.  With the authorities blocking many foreign websites that foreigners love and have came to rely on, VPN is a necessity for many to go about their daily business on the Chinese Internet.  For these people, the recent news that Apple China has decided to pull all VPNs from its China App Store, no doubt due to government pressures, should be a sign of worry.  Making VPNs less accessible to the general public should foretell a further tightening of Internet censorship in a country that is already known for it.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

If Language is Not an Obstacle to Universalizing a Song, Then What is?

In my nearly one month of travels across South America, there was one thing that was commonly done in every country and city that I set foot in.  That is, the bars and restaurants repeatedly played this summer's (or in South America, this winter's) smash hit, Despacito.  While the Spanish-language reggaeton dance number is just as popular in the US and many other countries around the world, in South America, the craze is at a whole new level, with the song played as part of the pop music hit list so frequently that it is impossible to not go anywhere that plays music without hearing it at least once (if not more).