Sino-Robotics

Somewhere deep in the task-queue here (at UF) is a post, or article, exploring the resonances between phobic Occidental responses to Orientals and robots (as promised, unreliably, in this post). Some grist for the mill:

Last week, the giant Chinese internet and gaming company Tencent published an article on its news portal about the rising price of consumer goods in China – not exactly earth-shattering news, except that the article was written by a robot called Dreamwriter. […] Dreamwriter wrote the 1000-word article, using algorithms that search online sources and data, in just 60 seconds. The article quoted economists and highlighted trends in a style indistinguishable from a human financial reporter. […] According to the South China Morning Post, Dreamwriter’s article was the first robot-written news article in the Chinese language.

The Morning Post quoted a Chinese journalist who said China’s state-run media doesn’t give reporters much creative license, which makes them easily replaceable by robot writers: “You know, many reporters working for government-run newspapers across the country usually copy and paste the statements and news press. They are not allowed to express doubt or really investigate reports against the authorities. So robot reporters could easily replace a lot of Chinese reporters like this nationwide.”

Big Plans

Whatever else this might be, it’s big.

For decades, China’s government has tried to limit the size of Beijing, the capital, through draconian residency permits. Now, the government has embarked on an ambitious plan to make Beijing the center of a new supercity of 130 million people. […] The planned megalopolis, a metropolitan area that would be about six times the size of New York’s, is meant to revamp northern China’s economy and become a laboratory for modern urban growth. […] “The supercity is the vanguard of economic reform,” said Liu Gang, a professor at Nankai University in Tianjin who advises local governments on regional development. “It reflects the senior leadership’s views on the need for integration, innovation and environmental protection.” […] The new region will link the research facilities and creative culture of Beijing with the economic muscle of the port city of Tianjin and the hinterlands of Hebei Province, forcing areas that have never cooperated to work together.

The integrated ‘supercity’ would have a population larger than Japan’s (and larger than all but eight countries in the world, excluding China itself).

Rorschach China

James Palmer thinks Western pundits are using China as a projection screen:

… because China is so vast, its successes can be attributed to whatever your pet cause is. Do you oppose free markets and privatization, like John Ross, former economic policy adviser for the city of London? Then China’s success is because of the role of the state. Do you favor free markets, like the libertarian Cato Institute? Then China’s success is because of its opening up. Are you an environmentalist? China is working on huge green-energy projects. Are you an energy lobbyist? China’s building gigantic pipeline projects. Are you an enthusiast for the Protestant work ethic, like historian Niall Ferguson, who describes it as one of his “killer apps” for civilizations? Then credit China’s manufacturing boom to its 40 million Protestants — even though they’re less than 5 percent of its 1.3 billion people.

CCP and Stability

Within a climate of sensible discussion, this wouldn’t even need to be said:

The CCP’s liabilities are well known. … The party’s advantages are less often discussed, but these bear reviewing if one is to evaluate the viability of CCP rule. One of the most overlooked, but important, assets is a lack of any credible alternative. The party’s repressive politics prevent the formation of potential candidates, so the alternative to CCP rule for now is anarchy. For a country still traumatized by its historic experience with national breakdown, this grants the party no small advantage. To truly imperil its authority, the CCP would need to behave in so damaging a manner as to make the certainty of political chaos and economic collapse preferable to the continuation of CCP rule. A party that attempted to return to extreme Mao-era policies such as the catastrophic Great Leap Forward could perhaps meet that threshold. But despite the numerous superficial comparisons in Western media, little about the current administration policy agenda resembles classic Maoism. […] … Beijing will continue to face massive political, economic, ecological, and other challenges. The party could well fail to carry out needed reforms and ultimately collapse at some point. But with China on the cusp of achieving a centuries-long ambition of national revitalization, observers would be well served to exercise caution in once again assuming the nation’s leadership and people would so readily scuttle such an historic opportunity in favor of a return to the humiliations and agonies of national dissolution that the country has struggled for so long to escape.

Four Comprehensives

A tradition revives:

Connoisseurs of Chinese political numerology can finally take a breath: After more than two years in office, Chinese President Xi Jinping has uncorked his own ordinal political philosophy.

In the past, Chinese leaders have tended to fall into two camps when expounding their theories of development: those who favor numbered lists, and those who opt for more conventional proclamations. Late Premier Zhou Enlai and former President Jiang Zemin were in the former camp, pushing the “Four Modernizations” and “Three Represents,” respectively. Meanwhile, Deng Xiaoping (“Reform and Opening Up”) and former President Hu Jintao (“Scientific Outlook on Development”) opted to eschew the integers.

Questions have loomed about what slogan Mr. Xi, who replaced Mr. Hu at the helm of the Communist Party in November 2012, would use to represent himself in the party’s theoretical pantheon. For a time, some thought he might follow his non-numeric predecessor and go with the “Chinese Dream” of national rejuvenation, a notion he put forward shortly after taking power. It now appears he has decided otherwise.

On Wednesday, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily and other Chinese media gave blanket coverage to what Mr. Xi has taken to calling the “Four Comprehensives,” a set of principles emphasizing the need to “comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society, comprehensively deepen reform, comprehensively govern the nation according to law and comprehensively be strict in governing the party.”

Drone Business

Whatever the administrative obstacles on the path of the Chinese Internet, the basic infrastructure of the coming robot-facilitated e-commerce system seems to be coming together remarkably smoothly. For instance, this.

(This might be UF’s favorite advertisement of all time.)

More here, and here.

Telecommercial drone-logistics (and the idiots wanted flying cars).