Het Westen: hypocrisie of kortzichtig?

Zie hier in  Knack 17 July 2016

Mijn kommentaar:
“We verdrinken in politieke correctheid en verslikken ons in de vrijheid van godsdienst, terwijl ongelovigen onschuldig geslacht worden met de halsnede van een achterlijke religie, of met een vermaledijde truck. “. Zeer goed gezegd. Mijn religie is atheisme en ik duld niet dat mensen rondom mij geen biertje samen drinken, geen varkensworst eten, geen goede steak eten en de vrouwen volledig verpakt rondlopen. Die fidels moeten verdwijnen. Hoe klinkt dat? OOOO ja, de olie, het geld, de politieke stemmen van de immigranten, de schijnheiligheid van “onze” gelovigen. Sorry, ik was stomweg aan het dagdromen.

Muslims worldwide struggle to comprehend a violent Ramadan

As said, China Daily took over the details from AP, see China Daily 7 July 2016, “Muslims hit hard during Ramadan”. By Associated Press In Beirut (China Daily):

And here: 6 July 2016, by ZEINA KARAM and SARAH EL DEEB – AP

Terror attacks killed 350 people across several continents this Ramadan.

Terror attacks killed 350 people across several continents this Ramadan.

As Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan, many are struggling to comprehend a wave of attacks that killed 350 people across several countries during the holy month and raised the question of what drives the militants to ever more spectacular violence.
Most Muslims regard the month as a time for introspection, peace and piety, but militants and hard-line clerics have been touting it as an opportunity for jihad, or holy war.
Weeks before Ramadan, IS urged its supporters to strike wherever possible, and those calls appear to have found resonance.

Fake Muslims offend the true spirit of Ramadan

See overview dated 6 July 2016 – A look at bloody attacks around the world this Ramadan by The Associated Press:
China Daily carried much the same overview. I quote here the full list. It is also a pity that the many deaths reported in the Middle East do not get the same attention as when terrorists hit in Europe. They are all human beings and innocent bystanders


A series of attacks, most linked to the Islamic State group, has killed nearly 350 people in eight countries during the holy month of Ramadan. The attacks are widely seen as an attempt to distract from a string of battlefield losses suffered by the extremist group in Syria and Iraq, where the borders of its self-styled caliphate are shrinking.
Here is a list of the major attacks carried out during Ramadan.

On June 12, A gunman opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing at least 49 people in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Police say the slain shooter had pledged allegiance to IS, which hailed him as a “soldier of the caliphate,” but there is no evidence he was in contact with the group prior to the attack.

On June 21, a suicide car bomb struck a Jordanian army post along the Syrian border, killing seven soldiers in the deadliest attack in the kingdom in years. IS claimed the attack.

On June 27, an IS affiliate carried out a series of attacks in Yemen’s southern port city of Mukalla, killing 43 people, mostly intelligence and security troops. In one attack, a bomb was concealed in a box of food delivered to soldiers to break their dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast.

On June 27, eight suicide bombers struck in two waves in a small Christian Lebanese village on the border with Syria, killing five people. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

On June 28, three suicide bombers armed with assault rifles stormed Istanbul’s international airport, one of the world’s busiest, killing 44 people and wounding nearly 150. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Turkish officials say they believe it was carried out by IS.

On June 28, a grenade was lobbed at a bar outside Kuala Lumpur as patrons watched Euro soccer matches, wounding eight people. Authorities said it was the first IS attack in the Muslim-majority country, and that the attackers received orders from a Malaysian man fighting alongside the group in Syria.

On July 1, men armed with knives, automatic rifles and bombs battled police before storming a popular restaurant in an upscale Dhaka neighborhood, taking 35 hostages for hours before killing 20 of them, including nine Italians and seven Japanese. Witnesses said the attackers let Muslims go but tortured hostages who could not recite the Quran. IS claimed the attack.

On July 3, a suicide truck bombing in a bustling Baghdad shopping district killed at least 175 people in one of the deadliest attacks in 13 years of war and insurgency. IS claimed the attack, saying it was targeting Shiites.
Update 7 July: (CNN)The death toll from a devastating ISIS truck bomb in Baghdad has risen to 292 after dozens more of the wounded succumbed to their injuries, Iraqi officials said Thursday.
A further 200 people were injured in the attack, according to Ahmed Al-Redaini, spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Health.

On July 4, suicide bombers struck in three Saudi cities, including outside the mosque where the Prophet Muhammad is buried, one of the holiest sites in Islam, killing four security personnel. A Pakistani resident struck outside the U.S. Consulate in Jiddah, lightly wounding two security guards, and a third bomber struck near a Shiite mosque in the country’s east. No one claimed the attacks.

On July 5, a suicide bomber struck outside a police station in Solo, Java, wounding one policeman. Police say the attacker was linked to a leading figure among Indonesians fighting with IS in Syria.

The West still closes an eye on slave work

See: “The true cost of your cheap clothes: slave wages for Bangladesh factory workers” (11 June 2016)

“Everyone loves a bargain but the true cost of that latest wardrobe addition is pitiful wages for Bangladesh’s legion of factory workers”.

My comment posted on SCMP:
Sad reality and the hypocrisy of the West. In my book “Toxic Capitalism” I denounce the excesses of consumerism, driven by too cheap prices of goods. Consumers don’t want to know how the garments were made (as shown here), or how leather belts and jewelry are made in countries like China (toxic fumes and dust). They only want cheap cheap. The consumer is weak, complains but in the end only goes for the lowest price. Then they attack countries like China, Bangladesh and others for workers’ rights and pollution.

More sports for the old – and the young

“Sport for all: China’s plan to cope with ageing society”
See the article 24 June 2016 in SCMP:

“It is a shift in mindset as encouraging exercise is seen not only as a route to Olympic glory, but to a healthier and economically more productive nation.”
Not only seniors need more exercise, the young people are becoming more and more obese (and with bad eyesight).
Still sports are not so popular as parents do not encourage their kids to participate: they should just keep to studies, 7/7. As a result sports such as soccer, rugby and other fail to take off. Just pumping money in soccer is not enough.
Seniors are actually often exemplary as they do exercise on the streets and I see grannies coming back on their bikes, loaded with vegetables bought on the market.
I normally only use bicycle (or subway) in Beijing but as I have said publicly, riding a bike is tough with the traffic chaos and the total lack of enforcement of traffic rules, a sad joke.

See my comment on SCMP:
First China needs to change its typical “face problem” and jump on a bike or walk instead of taking the car. I am told it is “loss of face” to go to an important meeting on a bike, or to visit a 5-star hotel. I ignore it completely but most Chinese have this (stupid) issue, while even ministers in Europe use a bike. Then obviously we also need traffic police in a city like Beijing, to enforce the traffic rules. Now they are non-existent and totally useless. On the other hand hold up a protest sign and in 10 sec ten security people jump on you.

At the same time, while schools are trying to promote sports, there are wide-spread reports of toxic running tracks and fake grass making children sick, as reported also in the mainland media. In China anything goes to make quick money and purchasing methods are often riddled with shady deals and total lack of oversight. As I always say, don’t mess with kids because Chinese parents cherish their children and become ferocious if one tries to harm them.

See more about this:
“China halts construction of synthetic running tracks in schools after report alleges some were made using industrial waste”

Children have also fallen sick, with tests confirming some tracks and playgrounds contain high-levels of noxious chemicals.
And, in China Daily 23 June 2016:
“School’s artificial grass found to be highly toxic”.
“Kindergarten sued over running tracks”.

How much is the amount of construction waste in China?

In my book Toxic Capitalism I looked in detail at all kinds of waste. That
turned out to be really complicated as there are different definitions of the different types of waste (e.g. municipal waste, domestic waste
and more). One number I could not find was the estimate for construction waste in China. In my book I do mention the enormous waste due to
constant renovations or tearing down rather “new” buildings. Well, I finally got a figure:

In 2013, China saw construction waste reach 1 billion
tons, 26% of it from the process of building and 74% from demolition, according to a 2014 report on resources utilization released by the
National Development and Reform Commission.
Only 5% of construction waste is recycled, which amounts to around 30 million tons annually, the
report said.
The utilization rate of construction trash could reach 95%, as is the case in many developed countries.

The cultural gap in biking: China versus Europe

How many times was I told: “Gilbert, it’s a loss of face to go to an official meeting or a 5-star hotel on a bike. You are a boss, you cannot do this”.
So, why not? Many Chinese still have this attitude, brainwashed by their “loss-of-face” obsessions and the prestige to have a car. No thanks, we Europeans don’t think that way, leave the cars to the Americans with their automotive addiction. Now more and more European cities switch from cars to bikes and in many cities cars are the enemy – much like in my home town Ghent (Belgium). In several EU countries even ministers use a bike.
I also brought up this “loss of face” during my speech for the  Exclusive Dialogue with Vice Mayor of Beijing Ms. Cheng Hong.
Our Swedish friends showed the example in China Daily:
“Swedish Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport Gabriel Wikstrom (second from left), along with Swedish Ambassador to China Lars Freden (first left) and World Health Organization Representative Bernhard Schwartlander (right), ride bikes to a meeting at the WHO offices in Beijing to promote good health and environmental protection. More than 80% of Chinese adolescents do not get enough physical activity, a major risk factor in obesity and the development of chronic diseases.”

In polluted and congested Beijing, biking is the solution to get somewhere on time and to unclog the traffic. Also, I can have my beer(s) and bike home. With a car, zero drinking, plus no parking etc. On the positive side, the city government is increasing the outlets for rental bikes and media such as The Beijinger promote it nicely, see also their explanation of Chinese terms.
Yes, biking is a hazard as Chinese respect nothing and traffic regulations are a joke. Traffic police does not exist so Chinese do whatever suits them. Cars and arrogant pedestrians occupy biking lanes, all while looking at their mobiles and/or smoking. One traffic rule seems to be that under no circumstances should a driver keep his eyes off the mobile.
Anyway, I always bike. Cold, hot, rain, snow, sunshine. I am happy to have found in a U.S. supermarket a great rain outfit. USA, the country of cars has this stuff, China no. Get that.
Of course I look like coming back from Ebola country but I could not care less. The set is super light and compact and I can put it over my shoes, trousers etc. And unlike the Chinese rubbish clothes, it does stop the water.
See the pics. With and without on 27 April. And my friends on WeChat showed massive support…
As for my little funny red bike, well, I have it nearly four years. Rather of poor quality I have persevered in repairing it, in the spirit of “Toxic Capitalism”. Many parts have been changed but I always return to the same bike shop on Dongdaqiao Lu where the more-than-retired staff serve me well and cheaply. Once they worked on it one hour and was billed … 25 RMB.

Embassy of Canada: a view on the Arctic

On 18 March I had the privilege to attend an interesting overview on what Canada is doing and planning for this enormous region, called the Arctic.
Ambassador Guy Saint-Jacques invited us all you to a “Canada in Conversation event” featuring guest speaker, Dr. David Hik, Board of Directors Member, Canadian Polar Commission in conversation with
moderator, Dr. Yang Huigen, Director General of Polar Research Institute of China on “Canada’s Arctic Science in an International Context: Innovations for a Changing Arctic in the 21st Century”
The new Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) Act is expected to come into force soon, making it the focal federal government organization for coordinating Arctic research in Canada. This will present on a number of opportunities to strengthen international cooperation in Arctic scientific research, and specific possibilities for enhancing Canada-China collaboration. Science, technology and relevant knowledge underpins all four pillars of Canada’s Northern Strategy – environmental protection, social and economic development, governance, and sovereignty. In addition, given the devolution of some federal responsibilities to local governments and various land claims obligations, the way in which Arctic research is conducted is changing, including greater involvement of Northern communities in decision-making. As China is strongly commitment to Arctic research, though a variety of ongoing university, laboratory and institute activities, the conversation will examine the structure and plans for facilitating international collaboration within the new CHARS and the possibility of implementing joint Canada-China research focused on changes in Arctic sea ice conditions, as well as
other areas of potential collaboration.
A networking reception followed the talk at the Official Residence.

The Arctic merits indeed a lot of attention for many reasons, due to Climate Change, Warming of the Planet, the melting of the ice cap, the impacts on fauna, flora, fishing, coastal lines, shipping and so on. China is very interested in the subjects and is looking forward to work with Canada on further research.
I had also the pleasure to hand over my book “Toxic Capitalism” to the ambassador. The book also mentions the issues affecting the arctic.
It had been quite some time since I visited the embassy. I particularly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and cordiality.
See here the biography of the main speakers:
Dr. David Hik
Dr. David Hik was appointed to the Canadian Polar Commission’s Board of Directors in November 2010, and reappointed in November 2013. He has conducted research in Northern Canada since 1984, and his interests are focused on the ecology of tundra ecosystems in Arctic and mountain environments, social-ecological resilience, and the interface between science and policy. Dr. Hik is currently a Professor at the University of Alberta, and also a visiting guest professor at Polar Research Institute of China. He recently completed a four-year term as President of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) where he championed engagement of early career researchers, international partnerships, data management, and long-term planning for research coordination.
Dr. Hik currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Arctic Council’s ‘Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON)’ initiative; Chair of the 3rd International Conference on Arctic Research Planning (ICARP III); and Co-Chair of the International Polar Partnership Initiative (IPPI). Previously, he held the Canada Research Chair in Northern Ecology (2002-2012) and was Executive Director of the Canadian International Polar Year (IPY) Secretariat (2004-2009). He is a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and was awarded the Society’s Martin Bergmann Medal for Excellence in Arctic Leadership and Science in 2013.
Dr. Yang Huigen
Huigen Yang is the Director General of the Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC). Over his career, he has spent significant time carrying out Aurora observations at Syowa and Zhongshan Station in the Antarctic and Yellow River Station on Svalbard. During the 2007-08 International Polar Year (IPY), he acted as Chief Scientist of the IPY China Program. Dedicated to international cooperation, he is the Vice-President of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), and the national representative and council member of both the Science Committee of Antarctic Research (SCAR) and International Council for Science (ICSU). Dr. Yang was the leader of the 25th Chinese National Antarctic Research Expedition, 2008- 2009, during which the Kunlun Station at the top of Dome A was established. He also led the 5th Chinese National Arctic Research Expedition to traverse the Northeast Passage. He has built up intensive cooperation with Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Norway, United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries in the area of polar sciences, logistics cooperation, and education and outreach. Dr. Yang obtained his PhD in the field of the space physics in Wu Han University and completed a Post-Doctorate at National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR) in Tokyo.
(information all provided by the Embassy)

The Bookwork Literary Festival: I took part!

Now in its 9th year, the Festival has become not only a tradition, it also has become … huge. From 13 to 29 March some 120 authors from anywhere in the world attend the events in the three locations: Beijing, Chengdu and Suzhou, all under the watchful eye of Peter who happens to be a Rotarian from the Chengdu club, see the pics when we first met at the upper deck of The Bookworm.
This year I attended the kickoff event on the evening of 13 March, for the talk “Celebrating Writers and Readers”. On the panel were: Chan Koonchung, Linda Jaivin, Sheng Keyi, Xu Xi and Lijia Zhang. A fully packed room. Followed by music and more drinks – one of our Rotaractors was at the piano…
For more on the Festival: http://bookwormfestival.com/

On Saturday 14 March I was fortunate to be at the following panel:
How does one reach beyond cliché to unearth the root causes of China’s environmental problems? Start by assembling a panel that rivals those you’d find at international summits: Ma Jun, possibly China’s preeminent environmentalist, selected by Time magazine as one of its 100 most influential people in 2006; Dr. Husayn Anwar, with more than three decades of experience, who founded the first private environmental services firm in China in 1992; Gilbert Van Kerckhove, author of the thought-provoking book Toxic Capitalism; and Xizhou Zhou, honored by Forbes in 2011 as one of the “30 Under 30” young leaders in energy. Moderated by Jonathan Fenby, who sits on the Board of Trustees of the environment-focused Chinadialogue.net. This event was in English and Chinese (thanks to a super translation…).
See the announcement: http://bookwormfestival.com/events/2015bw14c/
The debate was interesting and lively and the room was fully packed… Then some say the environment issue is “passé”? It was clear most agree the water problems are underestimated, the air pollution is indeed serious, implementation of the environmental laws are still a major challenge and we as consumers have to change our attitudes.
It was an honor to have Ma Jun on the panel, he is featured in my book and he is probably the most famous pioneer in environmental issues here in China. I mostly commented on the well-know documentary “Under The Dome” by Chai Jing. Somehow my book already addressed all the same issues and much more. She came at the right time and adds to more awareness on the environmental problems. And she is a former CCTV host, a lady who spent a lot of money on the documentary and – did it all in Chinese. I can‘t compete with that!
Seems all my books in stock at The bookworm were sold out…

Where is The Forbidden City? Can’t see a thing! Pollution nightmare and what to expect

On 15 January, after leaving the Great Hall of the People I crossed Tiananmen
Square. Pollution was horrendous, one of the worst days in months: well over AQI 500. See the pictures.

Beijing has a big big challenge really to clean that up.
As I explained to the European Chamber, the Beijing Government is under severe pressure to solve the pollution problems. Targets to reduce PM2.5 have not been met and the Central Government is starting to pressure Beijing: solve it, otherwise you will get in BIG trouble (won’t say here what they actually meant by that…)
Both SCMP and China Daily reported on the issue. In short, the only way to solve the problem:
–       reduce the population now estimated (officially) at 21.52 million (my estimate is much higher);
–       make Beijing an expensive city to live in: expensive subway, expensive housing, no relaxation of home ownership;
–       reduce polluting traffic;
–       remove as much industry that requires a lot of manpower and is polluting;
–       close down 36 large markets including wholesale markets for clothing (near Beijing Zoo);
–       increase green and agricultural belts around the city;
–       in short make the city unwelcoming for migrants, industry and “others”.
For a taste, read this:
24 January 2015 – Beijing to limit population growth this year
There is more about that on China Daily.