China in Ethiopia, a stepping stone into Africa

There were plenty of hotels — even new ones — had once been grand but had declined due to lack of maintenance.

Ethiopia and China shake hands Source: CNN, 2015

My good and brilliant friend Catbird, who I’ve known for a long time and has no political ax to grind, wrote this to me in March 2018. I thought it should have a wider audience, so I’m posting here with her permission.

When I spent six weeks traveling in Ethiopia in late 2016, it looked like China was using the country as a stepping stone into Africa. They’d built important trade roads (Addis Ababa to Djibouti and Kenya), a light-rail system in Addis that’s quite heavily used, and a new railroad to Djibouti, which, although it’s not actually in Ethiopia, is Ethiopia’s port after it and Eritrea separated and Asmara was no longer available.

My impression was that the Ethiopian government had been blinded, or maybe just seduced, by money from China. There were also lots of factories with their little company towns that looked more like prisons with their walls, razor wire and distance from the highway. This and other foreign investment has happened much to the consternation of the populace: every once in a while there’s an uprising with riots, buses (and sometimes trucks) turned over and set afire and so on. I saw that, too. If my trip had been for government business, I wouldn’t have been allowed to go.

However, this gifts/flattery strategy may not work out in the end. I observed that Ethiopia as a whole basically doesn’t do maintenance, which, when it comes to infrastructure, will eventually lead to huge inefficiencies. There were plenty of hotels — even new ones — had once been grand but had declined due to lack of maintenance. I also saw jaw-dropping soil erosion in rural areas.

A burned-out bus from the 2016 unrest in Ethiopia

Apparently the government believes that it owns all the land and can take it at any time. My guides told me it was that, for instance, if you improved your land, the government could just kick you off of it at any time, so there was no point in improving anything.

IMHO, this is an unfortunate artifact of communism. That regime (the Derg) murdered hundreds of thousands of people.

I also learned that Ethiopians don’t think much of the Chinese, and say things like “those people will eat anything—even scorpions!” because they eat pork. Muslims don’t eat it because the Koran forbids it, and Christians believe pigs are just unclean.

I was particularly interested in this after reading that the American ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley wants to cut aid to poor countries who challenge the U.S. It’s as though the regime thinks the United States is the only game in town, which it is not.

April rambling #2: Smartest place on earth

A World Awash in Purple

Librarian.gang

The 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winners, with links to many of the written pieces!

The Vlogbrothers — John and Hank Green — summarize the tax proposals of the folks who want to be your next President.

John Green: Here’s to civil discourse and David Kalish: Comparing Facebook to a pee-soaked lamp post.

Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy.

Mississippi Interracial Couple Evicted For Being In An Interracial Marriage. In 2016.

Michigan mechanic refuses to serve people from the ‘ghetto’ — but insists he’s not racist – he was a bit coarser than that. “But Jim S. insists he’s not racist — which is exactly what racists usually say. ‘Race has nothing to do with this, let me clarify,’ Jim S. told Mic. ‘What we’re trying to avoid is people who number one can’t afford service.'” In 2016.

Michael Rivest: Thoughts on White Privilege and Colorblindness.

Why You Should Care about Felon Voting Rights.
Continue reading “April rambling #2: Smartest place on earth”

The Chinese lesson

It was interesting that, along with their titles, I was given the delegates’ dates of birth.

Delegation at NYS SBDC, March 18, 2013
A couple months back, I was asked to speak to a Chinese delegation from Shenzhen province about these aspects in the United States: “statistics system in government organizations (structure, operation, management, what they do, etc.)” and the “government division responsible for business registration (when the division established, its history, etc.)” and “a brief overview of the business registration file or database establishment (industry categories, quantity, geographical distribution of industries, employees, etc.)”

I dutifully prepared some remarks. Some of the questions were lost in translation, I feared. Others were quite overlapping. On the other hand, I DID discover Continue reading “The Chinese lesson”

Past perfect: Gore Vidal, Mike Doonesbury and the Olympics

Once upon a time, I was an avid Olympic watcher, but all the dustups this year has vaguely soured me on it all.

I haven’t been reading the comic strip Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau as regularly as I once did, 40, 25, even 10 years ago. I own three hefty early volumes of collected strips which I used to reread frequently. However, I’ve never cottoned to it appearing on the op-ed page of my local newspaper. So I managed to miss the great announcement in Sunday’s paper Continue reading “Past perfect: Gore Vidal, Mike Doonesbury and the Olympics”

April Rambling: Ads about Rape, and Media

“To be able to catch genius when it’s just beginning, just starting out; when it’s in its embryonic form, or in its very nest. It’s an unforgettable experience.”

In response to her strong poem, Reflector Babe, Amy at Sharp Little Pencil received a link from Anna at HyperCRYPTIcal. It is to a UK ad considered the most shocking ad ever? Rape campaign aimed at teens to be shown. It’s sexually explicit (no ‘bits’ are shown), but it is powerful. This could not air in the US, I’m fairly certain, but the problem it addresses is very much an issue here.

What the New Sgt Pepper Cover Tells Us About Modern Britain.

And speaking of the UK, How news coverage evolves. Imagine how the Guardian “might cover the story of the three little pigs in print and online. Follow the story from the paper’s front page headline, through a social media discussion and finally to an unexpected conclusion.”
Continue reading “April Rambling: Ads about Rape, and Media”