Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Race Relations In America

Late May 2020 witnessed an outburst of protests and violence in cities around the United States in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd.  Racial protests and race riots are not new or unique to America. They have occurred throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, East Asia, South Asia, the Pacific, and the Caribbean.

Countries have their own unique causes of racial and ethic conflict, but they also have features in common.  My co-author and I have chronicled these episodes in several dozen countries in our book, Politics in Plural Societies:  A Theory of Democratic Stability (Second edition, 2009).  It is available for free download.

I invite you to read this comparative study of racial and ethnic violence, the lessons learned, and proposals for ameliorating the hostilities.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Getting Back To Business With China

Is it time for the U.S. to move on from the blame game over who did what on Covid-19, and get back to doing business with the Chinese Communist Party, China’s Government, Chinese universities, business firms, and social organizations?

Perhaps.  But doing business with China requires adherence to its rules. What are those rules in practice?  (See list below.)  If you doubt them, apply for a visa to visit China.  On arrival, exercise your freedom of speech criticizing Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party the same way that are free to criticize Donald Trump and the Republican Party in the United States.  Watch what happens.  If you are lucky, you’ll be deported.  If not so lucky, you’ll be detained, perhaps for an indefinite period of time, or worse.  If you are President of Harvard, you may be allowed to talk about academic freedom to an audience of students and faculty at a leading Chinese university, but you still better not criticize any aspect of Xi Jinping Thought.

Here is a list of no-no’s that constrains doing business with China (and applies to your local Chinese employees):

No freedom of speech.

No freedom to dissent.

No freedom to criticize Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party, and China’s government.

No academic freedom in the humanities and social sciences.

No freedom of the press.

No religious freedom.

No freedom of the people to peacefully assemble.

No freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

No security of persons in their houses and their papers and effects.

No protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.

No “rule of law.”

No presumption of innocence.

No right to equal protection under the law.

No trial by an independent jury of one’s peers.

No protection against seizure of private property without just compensation.

No protection from excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishment.

No practice of democracy, i.e., free and fair elections.

No freedom of travel by train or airplane without an acceptable government-determined social credit score.

No protection from arbitrary arrest, detention, and exile.

No universal freedom to leave the country.

The individual freedoms that are summarily disregarded by China’s leaders are enshrined in China’s Constitution.  But they are on paper, not in practice.

Chapter II of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (2018 Edition) is titled “The Fundamental Rights And Duties Of Citizens.”  They are stipulated in Articles 33 through 56.”

33.  All citizens of the PRC are equal before the law.

34.  All citizens aged 18 and over have the right to vote and stand for election, unless deprived of political rights according to law.

35.  PRC citizens have freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration.

36.  PRC citizens have freedom of religious belief.  Citizens cannot make use of religion to disrupt public order or interfere with the educational system of the state.

37.  No citizen may be arrested except with the approval of a people’s procuratorate, a people’s court, or public security organ.

38.  Citizens shall be secure from libel, false accusation, or false incrimination.

39.  Citizens shall have freedom from unlawful search of, or intrusion into, a residence.

40.  Citizens shall enjoy freedom and privacy of correspondence, except to meet the needs of state security and criminal investigation.

41.  Citizens have the right to criticize and make suggestions regarding any state organ or functionary and make complaints against those that violate the law or fail to perform their duty.

42.  Citizens have the right and duty to work.

43.  Citizens who work have the right to rest and take vacations.

44.  Citizens who are retired are guaranteed livelihood by the state and society.

45.  Citizens are entitled to material assistance from the state and society if old, ill, or disabled.

46.  Citizens have the right and duty to receive education.

47.  Citizens have the freedom to engage in scientific research, literary and artistic creation, and other cultural pursuits.

48.  Women shall enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life.

49.  Freedom of marriage is protected by the state.  Both husband and wife have the duty to practice family planning.

50.  The PRC shall protect the legitimate rights of Chinese nationals residing abroad, family members of Chinese nationals residing abroad, and lawful rights of returned overseas Chinese.

51.  Citizens, in exercising their rights and freedoms, must not infringe upon the rights of the state, of society, of the collective, or lawful freedoms and rights of other citizens.

52.  Citizens have the duty to safeguard the unification of the country and the unity of all its ethnicities.

53.  Citizens must abide by the Constitution and other laws, keep state secrets, protect public property, observe labor discipline, observe public order, and respect social ethics.

54.  Citizens have the duty to safeguard the security, honor, and interests of the motherland and must not commit acts detrimental to the security, honor, and interests of the motherland.

55.  Citizens have the duty to defend the motherland and resist aggression.  Citizens have the duty to perform military service and join the militia in accordance with the law.

56.  Citizens shall have the duty to pay taxes in accordance with the law.

These rights and duties would be reasonable if they were honored in practice.  A major problem is that the Preamble and Chapter I in the Constitution, which specify the foundations of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” provide justification for violating constitutional rights.

Here is a partial list of constraints on the exercise of individual rights stated in the Preamble and Chapter I.  (My comments in italics.)

The People’s Republic of China is a Socialist state.  Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the Communist Party.  Any disruption of the socialist system by an organization or individual is prohibited.  (This statement eliminates democracy, dissent, free and fair elections, criticism of the Chinese Communist Party, and disobeying any other CCP dictums.)

The state upholds the Socialist legal system.  (The Socialist legal system does not provide the individual protections embedded in the Common Law and Civil Law.)

The basis of the Socialist economic system is socialist public ownership of the means of production.

All mineral resource, waters, forests, mountains, grasslands, unclaimed land, beaches, and natural resources, and urban land are owned by the state or rural collectives.

Non-public sectors of the economy (individual and private sectors) are protected, but under the oversight and control of the state.  (Individual and private sectors are subject to the whims of the CCP and the state.)

The state protects both public and private property, but may requisition or expropriate private property for public use with compensation.  (The state, not an independent tribunal, determines compensation.)

The state maintains public order and penalizes activities that endanger public security or disrupt the socialist economy.  (This provision means that China can punish any individual or organization that does not comply with official ideology or policy, without any appeal.)

What must be understood in these lists of rights, freedoms, and duties is that the Chinese Communist Party and its subsidiary state organs have the exclusive right and power to interpret and apply the Constitution and laws of China.  There are no appeals to any independent constitutional or statutory authority.

No country is perfect in always applying its stated principles of governance.  There are degrees of variation of adherence to human rights.  By any measure, the United States is high on the list of countries that give credence to human rights and China is far down.

Do you want to understand Chinese rules?  Ask residents of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Chinese exiles in the West what the “Rule of Law” means in practice in China, and what China’s promises to abide by written agreements means in practice for Hong Kongers.

The United States does business with many countries that violate their constitutional principles and legal guarantees.  But none pose the same economic and political threat to the United States as does China.  Burundi is not China.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Red Flag Over Hong Kong: China's Broken Promise To Hong Kong

Read the following book (free download) for a thorough understanding of China's broken promise to Hong Kong that its residents would enjoy a high degree of autonomy for 50 years to maintain their separate political, economic, and social systems.

The book was an English language bestseller in Hong Kong from its publication in 1996 until June 30, 1997, when China resumed sovereignty from Britain over Hong Kong.  Copies of the book disappeared from the shelves of Hong Kong's English language bookstores immediately thereafter.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Coming Great Disruption In Higher Education

During the past decade, most universities and colleges, large and small, have set forth vision statements for the future along with timetables for achieving their goals.

Here, for example, are the guiding principles of Stanford’s long-range vision

*  Renew our commitment to Stanford’s founding purpose to promote public welfare by exercising influence on behalf of humanity 

*  Anchor our efforts in integrity, ethics, inclusion, and human welfare 

*  Advance our mission as a research university to serve as a place of enlightenment and freedom of thought and expression

(details:  https://ourvision.stanford.edu/)

Most vision statements includes the following objectives:

Increase minority student enrollment
Increase first generation student enrollment
Increase low-income student enrollment
Increase student financial aid
Construct new campus facilities
Increase endowment and annual giving
Increase faculty/staff diversity, equity, and inclusion
Increase research activities
Increase international programs
External engagement to help local, state, national, and foreign governments solve problems
Revamp core curriculum to address social injustice
Increase residential education
Reduce sexual violence on campus
Increase mental wellness

Enter The Coronavirus

The Wuhan Coronavirus has disrupted these carefully prepared visions and timetables.  Some schools, with more to follow, have assembled task forces to deal with the impact of the coronavirus,  These task forces will have to consider cuts in current academic programs to offset reductions in endowment income, gifts, and state appropriations.  Without an effective vaccine for a year or more, and to prepare for the possibility of another disruption, universities will have to consider changes in current operations.

Fearing a second wave of the coronavirus in autumn, which a number of prominent epidemiologists has predicted, some universities and colleges that are scheduled to begin instruction in mid-August might choose to remain closed to undergraduates.  Most dorms are rows of rooms with common bathroom facilities and communal sitting areas.  A single student could potentially infect dozens.  The liability of students infections and deaths may be too high to risk reopening dorms, not to mention the moral opprobrium that would fall on university administrators.  Moreover, many parents may be reluctant to trust college administrators with their children’s safety.

Mental health illness, already a large problem on campuses, would intensify as students spend every waking minute worrying about catching the coronavirus from fellow students, staff, and faculty.

It is questionable whether fall 2020 sports will resume with football stadiums seating 50,000-100,000 spectators.  Several infected fans would create panic among students and other spectators.  Athletes would need to be tested daily given contact on the field and close proximity in locker rooms.

Social distancing will continue after the corona virus has abated.  It will become ingrained in our  behavior to minimize the transmission of colds, flu, and other infectious diseases.   Social distance will curtail social life, to wit, the college experience.  Absent social life, more students may choose to enroll in lower-cost, online degree programs already in place at many universities.  

All foreign study and research programs will likely remain suspended, lest students get infected and stranded abroad.

Many universities and colleges boast that their incoming first-year class includes students from 40-50 states and dozens of countries.  Each of those students will have to be carefully examined for the presence of the coronavirus.  If a second wave breaks out and students are again forced to evacuate campus housing, some may find it difficult to return to their own countries if inbound flights are terminated.  These students then become the responsibility of the university.

In the 2018-19 academic year, about 370,000 students from China were enrolled in American colleges and universities.  Many pay full tuition, room and board, and help support local economies, amounting to about $12 billion a year.  If flights from China remains banned, or severely restricted, many Chinese students will be unable to enroll, or return to their studies, in American universities.  Many Chinese parents who foot the bill may not want their children to attend school in America for fear of catching the virus in a second wave.  Ditto for students from India, the second largest source of international students, Italy, Spain, and other countries.

Now that universities have experienced a quarter or semester of online instruction, the hard work of learning the technology is largely complete.  Except for laboratory classes and research, it will be much easier to put the entire curriculum online for the fall semester or quarter.

How will the high school and college experience with online education change the landscape of higher education?

Without the college experience, students do not need thousands of universities, colleges, and community colleges to learn a subject and earn a degree, or even complete a degree course.  Why pay Yale or Stanford for distance learning from their limited faculties when online courses from a multitude of sources are available at lower cost.  Nor do students necessarily have to spend four years on a high-cost campus to earn a degree.

Entrepreneurs have already created certificate or degree programs from a pool of faculty that  can offer online courses and recruit thousands of other active and retired academics to serve as tutors and grade papers and exams.  Physically-defined universities will slowly give way to cloud-based universities.  Current organizations include edx, Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, and the Khan Academy.  Arizona State University offers 200 degree programs online. Other universities are doing the same.  Firms will post job descriptions for various careers and cloud-based firms and schools will supply and certify the necessary education. 

This reorganization of higher education may be slow to start, but technological innovation has the potential to overwhelm traditional education in short order, as it has done to many industries and professions, especially if revenues substantially decline in the 2020-21 academic year and beyond.

Many schools have paused new staff hiring and faculty searches.  The 2000 dot.com crash and the 2008-09 financial crash led to large-scale buyouts of faculty and staff.  This time the financial impact could be greater and last longer.

Appeals to trustees and donors will not make up lost revenue. Most wealthy persons and philanthropists serve as trustees of several non-profit institutions and donate to others.  Every non-profit will ask donors for more money to make up lost revenue, even as donors’ wealth declines.  Too, donors are likely to shift a higher percentage of their giving to biology departments, biotech programs, nursing departments, and medical schools.  Less money will go to general university funding, such as humanities and liberal arts.

Cost-cutting to rebase budgets to a lower sustainable level will be the order of the day.  Ramping up online teaching activity may be the only source of new revenue, similar to the way ebooks first complemented, and then steadily supplanted, print books.  Faculty and staff salaries consume the lion’s share of university expenditures.  Even tenured faculty will be pushed or bought out as took place in the 2000 dot.com crash and the 2008-09 financial crisis.  Ph.D. programs cranking out new faculty will be cut back for lack of money and diminished opportunity for graduates to get academic appointments.  Even schools with multi-billion dollar endowments will face hard choices.

Universities have added large number of non-teaching staff in recent years to foster diversity, equity, inclusion, mental health wellness, reduce sexual violence, support transgender persons, and so on.  Many of these academic jobs will disappear in a world of remote education.  Students will shop for courses and skills, not ethnic empowerment and social justice certificates.

Is this future inevitable?  Not necessarily.  Perhaps the virus will fully or almost fully abate sometime in mid-summer, with good treatments available to cure those who are sickened by it.  Under these conditions, universities may gamble on reopening in the fall.

If a second wave occurs this fall, or if the virus does not adequately respond to treatment, reopening and then closing mid-term a second time would be catastrophic.  Covid-19 should teach us that nothing is certain except death (and taxes).  Perhaps a vaccine can reestablish the old normal by fall 2021.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps it will be too late as remote education rapidly expands.  To quote Mao Zedong, “A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire.”


Widespread cancellations of events illustrate the response to the coronavirus.

The 2020 Japan Olympics has been rescheduled to July 2021.

On March 31, 2020, Wimbledon canceled its tennis tournament for 2020.  It will not resume until 2021.

On March 31, 2020,, Scotland announced the cancellation of the August Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals for the first time in 70 years.  The Military Tattoo, the Edinburgh Art and International Book Festivals were also cancelled.  These festivals, attended by 4.4 million people, attract 25,000 artists, writers, and performers from 70 countries who take part in 5,000 events.

On April 1, 2020, the United Nations Climate Change Summit was postponed until 2021.

On April 1, 2020, Justin Bieber canceled all tour dates for 2020.

On March 17, 2020, the Rolling Stones postponed its tour.

On April 1, 2020, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival scheduled for June 24-August 30 was canceled for the first time in 88 years.

On March 26, 2020, the New York City Governors Ball was canceled.

On March 17, 2020, Glastonbury scheduled for June 4-8 was canceled.

Hundreds of postponements and cancellations have been announced for other Launches, Premiers, Screenings, Films, TV shoots, Theater Productions, and Sporting Events.

The first college or university that announces it will remain closed to on-campus learning and stick with remote learning will probably set off a tidal wave of closures around the country.  Similarly, if any school that reopens experiences a second wave of the coronavirus, it and other schools will quickly implement closures.  No school wants to be first to set off the avalanche, but time is fast running out.  We should have an indication before the end of May.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association and The National Institute of Mental Health define Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder, consisting of recurring thoughts, ideas, and obsessions that drive people to engage in repetitive behaviors.  About 1.2% of Americans have OCD, slightly more women than men, and typically show symptoms around age 19.

A diagnosis of OCD requires the presence of obsession and/or compulsions that consume more than an hour a day.  OCD causes distress and impairs work, social, or other important functions.  OCD thoughts cannot be settled by logic or reasoning.  It is typically treated with medication, psychotherapy, or both.

The most prominent example of Obsession:

 Fear of germs or contamination.

Examples of Compulsions:

Cleaning:  excessive hand washing and cleaning surroundings
Ordering and arranging things
Check your environment to reduce the fear of harming oneself
Binge eating

Health experts in both the private and public sectors have issued a list of Instructions to the entire American population to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Protect yourself from germ-carrying individuals
Wash your hands for 20 seconds frequently
Wash all delivered packages
Clean and disinfect your house daily
Keep a distance of 6 feet from another person
Stay home
Avoid social interactions

If the above measures are faithfully followed, the entire American population will become afflicted with OCD.  With the fear of another pandemic just over the horizon, these behaviors and thoughts will become ingrained in the population.

OCD will become a virtue, not a disorder.

Who knows how many other psychiatric disorders will be transformed into virtues.  Something to think about!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

2020: What's In and What's Out

What’s In                              What’s Out

Sinophobe                            Sinophile
Trust but verify                    Trusting China
Cold War 2.0                        Chimerica
Sovereignty                          Internationalism
America First                       Spreading democracy
Withdraw troops                  Invade foreign countries
Strategic stockpiles              Low-cost outsourcing
Borders                                Xenophobia
Remote learning                  Classrooms
Tele-learning                       Less political indoctrination
Social distance                    Social justice
Home schooling                   Public schools
Virtual conferencing            Conference rooms
Work from home                  Office buildings
Less travel                           Global warming
Less driving                         Air pollution
Staycations                          Foreign adventures
Self-reliance                        Social mixing
Victory gardens                    Discrete shopping trips
Self care                              Routine trips to doctor
Homemaking                        Nannies, cleaners
Homemaker                         Trophy wife
Stay home                            Street murders
Logic                                    Psychobabble
Facts                                    Ideology
Mental toughness                  Victimhood
Caring                                  Selfishness
Truth                                   Lying
Whatever it takes                 Fiscal prudence
Stagflation                           Three Percent Growth
Epidemiology                        Economic modeling
Robinson Crusoe                   Hillary’s “Takes a Village”
National unity                      Racism, sexism, homophobia
Self-improvement                Blaming others
Private enterprise                Calcified bureaucracies
Puzzles, board games           Bars, clubs
Factual reporting                 Schools of Journalism
Sweats                                 Business dress
Monogamy                            Hookups