Billionaires in one country

Lots of new billionaires are cropping up in China – with a catch:

The Chinese mainland added an average of two new billionaires to its super-rich list every week last year, according to new report, helping Asia replace the U.S. as the world’s most fertile cradle for individual wealth.

The report released Thursday by the investment firm UBS AG and consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said 101 of the 162 Asians whose personal wealth passed the $1 billion threshold for the first time in 2016 were Chinese citizens.

China’s new billionaires helped boost Asian membership of the ultrawealthy club to 637 last year, compared to 563 in the U.S., according to the firms’ annual Billionaires Insight Report. It marked the first time that Asia could be called home to more billionaires than the U.S.

The report covered 1,542 billionaires residing in 14 markets worldwide. They account for about 80% of all individual wealth held by the world’s super-rich.

The catch is pointed out by economist Christopher Balding:

Comrade Balding‏
This omits one key issue: if you are a billionaire in China, you are only a billionaire in China. You are not a global billionaire

Woke Charles Bingley‏
why is that?

Comrade Balding‏
Officially, you are allowed to move $50k per year out of China. Unofficially you can move a little more but definitely not enough

Woke Charles Bingley‏
Wow I did not know that!

Comrade Balding‏
If you really wanted to you could find ways to move more than that but no where near tens or hundreds of millions

Ian‏
Some seem to be able to buy English Football Clubs and American film studios though.

Comrade Balding‏
Those deals haven’t happened for a while

Ian‏
They have tightened up a lot recently. It’s like Greece & Russia the smart or connected ones have already got their money out

Comrade Balding‏
assets are still on the Mainland. Just because its owned by a Cayman holding corp doesn’t mean the asset is out of the country

Ian‏
Like Wolverhampton Wanderers or Birmingham City or Aston Villa all owned by Chinese “businessmen”

Graham White‏
It’s only $50k of personal wealth. If you are a Chinese billionaire your company can buy overseas assets, eg London property, and sell on.

Comrade Balding‏
2017 has really cracked down on any movement and definitely not enough to move significant portion of wealth if desired

Robert Wishart 魏罗斌‏
Because you cannot move your money abroad?

Comrade Balding‏
Exactly. Not any material amount

“Captive billionaires” might be a better term for people who are billionaires within the borders of China, but millionaires everywhere else.

Coming right up

What do you do if you’re working a crane in Bangkok and your dinner is on the ground, 13 stories below? The question answers itself:

Crime in Hong Kong

This is about as bad as it gets in the Big Lychee:

A suspected Hong Kong triad member accused of making an elderly man drink a can of Coke at knifepoint was arrested in a police raid on Monday.

The 44-year-old man with a pigtail was picked up at a Portland Street guest house in Mong Kok at about 10.30pm and arrested for possessing an offensive weapon.

In the early hours of Tuesday, officers escorted the hooded and handcuffed suspect to his public housing flat in Wong Tai Sin for a house search.

The Hongkonger – believed to be from the Sun Yee On triad – is a part-time bouncer at a Tsim Sha Tsui entertainment venue controlled by a gang leader nicknamed “Sai B”, according to a police source. […]

Police are still looking for the elderly victim who was allegedly stopped on the street by the suspect and ordered at knifepoint to drink a can of Coke at the junction of Arran Street and Canton Road in Mong Kok at about 5pm on Friday.

Ok, I’m being a little facetious. Sometimes the other kind of coke is involved, as in this recent drug bust:

Hong Kong police have broken up a crack cocaine factory at a luxury flat in Yuen Long, seizing the largest haul of raw drug materials in 10 years and arresting four men, one of them Peruvian.

The ingredients – thought to have been flown into the city from Peru – could have made batches of the drug worth HK$59 million, officers said on Sunday. […]

Police said they believed it was the first time a luxury flat had been used as a base for making drugs.

“One of the reasons the syndicate chose to rent rather luxurious premises was that it provided a front to make it less suspicious and more difficult for us to detect [the factory],” Chief Superintendent Ma Ping-yiu, of the Narcotics Bureau, said.

Still, it’s a pretty safe city overall, even when you account for the risk – which, let’s face it, is present in any large metropolis anywhere in the world – that you may occasionally be forced to consume a refreshing but very high-calorie beverage at knifepoint.

Preemptive cross-border censorship

A particularly disturbing milestone:

LINDA MOTTRAM: Allen & Unwin’s decision to abandon publication of Clive Hamilton’s book is possibly a first. It seems no other Western publisher has previously, pre-emptively halted publication of a book in a Western market, because of pressure from China’s Communist Party.

Allen & Unwin say that threats of retaliation from China forced it to cancel plans to print “Silent Invasion: How China is Turning Australia into a Puppet State”.

So what is China’s motivation?

I spoke earlier to Professor Rory Medcalf, who’s head of the National Security College at the Australian National University in Canberra.

RORY MEDCALF: Well I think the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese leadership, is determined to reduce and supress criticism of its policies and of its authoritarian rule in other countries, particularly in other countries that are either allies of the United States, as Australia is; in other words, a country that can potentially band together with other countries to resist Chinese influence on the region.

But also, more importantly, countries like Australia where there is a large, diverse, dynamic Chinese population. China – or the Chinese Communist Party, I should say – is seeking to suppress criticism and dissent among those populations. […]

LINDA MOTTRAM: And so, you mentioned earlier this seems to have been a pre-emptive move.

There’s a suggestion of a legal threat of some sort over this book that Clive Hamilton has written, but there doesn’t seem to be anything specific.

Are they wanting to tie publishers up in court? […]

RORY MEDCALF: […] But if the details that we read today are true and that Allen & Unwin has taken this pre-emptive decision, it’s possibly the first time a Western publisher has pre-emptively chosen to stall or edit or censor what it’s doing in a Western democracy because of perceived Chinese Communist Party pressure.

And that would be a very worrying precedent for civil liberties and also for national security.

Just a couple of weeks ago we had the outcry over the Springer censorship in China, but this appears to go a lot further.

What’s happening with Allen & Unwin actually seems to be more along the lines of this case from last year, but without the mitigating circumstance that the publisher in question is simultaneously trying to run an NGO in China.

LinkedIn chronicles

This made me chuckle:

I wake up every morning at 4 AM and go for a 10 mile run followed by an hour lifting weights.

I try my best to read the local newspaper and at least 1/4 of a book before I leave for work at 8.

I have completely cut out meats, veggies, and fruits from my diet because I don’t want to damage anything on earth. I eat 100% Soylent.

During my lunch break I build houses for the homeless and then hire them at my job as a public service.

I answer no less than 300 emails an hour… all personalized.

Before I leave work I remind my friends that LinkedIn isn’t a dating site in case they forget.

After work I instruct hot/cold yoga in a room-temperature room… right before I head off to provide my spiritual advice to local religious leaders.

I am currently writing my 10th book.

I also created the Fidget Spinner.

I am the most interesting person on LinkedIn.

The good life. In fact, the best life that one can aspire to. Right?

Happy 100th birthday

…to one of the greatest disasters in human history:

On the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik seizure of power, we need to remember that Lenin was not just a proponent of mass terror, but also a man who wanted to turn moral values on their head. For him, as for his heir, Stalin, the dead were just numbers. Human life counted for nothing next to the distant, all-important goal of a Communist future. “Our morality is new,” Lenin said in 1918. “To us, all is permitted. … Blood? Let there be blood … for only the complete and final death of th[e] old world will save us from the return of the old jackals.” As it turned out, the new revolutionary jackals were worse than the old czarist ones.

Lenin pioneered the use of mass terror for political control. A post-truth leader, he invented fake news. He proclaimed dazzlingly simple solutions: Destroy legal and institutional norms, expropriate the property of the rich, and Russia would be on the path to Utopia. “The peasants must seize the estates,” Lenin announced in the spring of 1917. “They must be masters now.” “Break the resistance of a few dozen millionaires,” he added, and workers could take over the factories. It was that simple. […]

Lenin wasn’t greedy, vain, or addicted to luxury, the usual motives that most of us attribute to the power-hungry. Lenin dressed shabbily, in a peaked worker’s cap and heavily worn suit. He and his wife, Nadya Krupskaya, lived frugally, unlike most of the Bolshevik inner circle. He enjoyed power. As Trotsky admitted, Lenin was in effect the dictator of Soviet Russia until a stroke incapacitated him in 1922. He wanted, and got, supreme power, convinced that he was the mind of the revolution. Rosa Luxemberg discerned in him, accurately, “the sterile spirit of the overseer,” rigid and fanatical.

Terrorist assassination seemed to Lenin an undisciplined and aimless tactic despite its popularity among Russian revolutionaries, who killed nearly 20,000 czarist officials during the last 25 years of the Romanov dynasty.

As it happens, this is far more than the number of people executed by the czars in the 92 years through 1917.

The Germans brought him from Zurich to Petrograd in April 1917, trusting that a Bolshevik victory would knock Russia out of the war. In the sealed train heading to the Finland Station with its cargo of 60 Bolsheviks, the impatient Lenin flew into sudden rages—his fits of anger, like his insomnia, were characteristic. He banned smoking in the train and issued tickets so that his followers could line up to smoke in the bathrooms: the first instance of Soviet bureaucracy, as Sebestyen notes.

This is pretty funny, for a couple of reasons.

The day after the Bolsheviks took power, Lenin began censoring newspapers, just a few days after he had proclaimed that the new regime would uphold press freedom.

Communists always lie.

On the Ukrainian famine:

Stalin had the eager help of Western journalists in his engineering of mass death. His key apparatchik was The New York Times reporter Walter Duranty, who had a luxury apartment and a mistress in Moscow. Duranty, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his political journalism, wielded influence: FDR carefully read his dispatches from the “progressive” Soviet state.

Heckuva job, Western journalists.

As a rule, no matter how bad you think Communism was, it was actually much worse. Let’s spare a thought for the 100 million victims of Communism on this somber centenary, and by all means read the whole article here.

All of creation

This is quite cool:

The universe is so vast it’s almost impossible to picture what it might look like crammed into one field of view.

But musician Pablo Carlos Budassi managed to do it by combining logarithmic maps of the universe from Princeton and images from NASA. He created the image below that shows the observable universe in one disc.

Our sun and solar system are at the very center of the image, followed by the outer ring of our Milky Way galaxy, the Perseus arm of the Milky Way, a ring of other nearby galaxies like Andromeda, the rest of the cosmic web, cosmic microwave background radiation leftover from the big bang, and finally a ring of plasma also generated by the big bang.

Free money

Man is given $1.3 million in free money, and it ends badly:

A debt-ridden student blew $1.3 million on sports cars, speedboats, strippers and cocaine after a bank error gave him an unlimited overdraft.

Wannabe playboy Luke Moore lived the high life for two years before he was caught by cops and jailed on fraud charges.

The Australian treated himself to luxury holidays, an Aston Martin, a Maserati and a boat while living the ultimate bachelor lifestyle.

But he was slapped with a four-year jail term last year after the banking glitch came to light.

Moore, 29, went free last week after winning an appeal of his conviction on the grounds that his actions were not deceptive.

I’ll say. What could be the basis for charging him with fraud? He took what was given to him.

Interesting that this went undetected for two years. That’s what happens when everything is automated and the element of human judgement is removed. Would your local banker allow you to withdraw a million bucks over two years because of a “glitch”?

He is now broke and living with his mother in Goulburn, New South Wales, ironically while studying to become a criminal lawyer.

But he told the Daily Telegraph he did not miss his multimillionaire lifestyle “besides the cocaine, the strippers and fast cars.”

This is the type of thing that makes me think that a universal basic income (UBI), instead of bringing about a great flourishing of the human spirit, would actually lead to the swift collapse of society.

Bangkok dialogue

I am apartment-hunting. The landlord of the place I’m looking at points to a sign in the lobby of the building.

Landlord: This building also has a shuttle bus, it can take you to the BTS [elevated metro system], only 15 minutes.

Me: It takes 15 minutes to get to the BTS?

Landlord: Yes, very convenient.

Me: But the nearest BTS station is a 5-minute walk from here.

Landlord (laughs): You know, Thai people don’t like walking.

Me: You don’t say.

No articles for you

This appears to have touched a nerve, judging by the comments below the article (and elsewhere):

Springer Nature, the German group that bills itself the world’s largest academic book publisher, has blocked access in China to at least 1,000 articles, making it the latest international company to succumb to intensifying Chinese censorship demands.

Research by the Financial Times shows the publisher has removed more than 1,000 articles from the websites of the Journal of Chinese Political Science and International Politics, two Springer journals, in the Chinese market.

All of the articles in question contained keywords deemed politically sensitive by the Chinese authorities, including “Taiwan”, “Tibet” and “Cultural Revolution”. […]

The decision by Springer — which owns Nature magazine and Palgrave Macmillan books, and produces periodicals such as Scientific American — prompted anger from academics. It comes two months after Cambridge University Press acceded to similar pressures from Beijing, before reversing course after an intense backlash against its surrender of academic freedom. […]

Similar controversy has flared up over LexisNexis and Apple’s Chinese app store. Western organizations that deal with China in any capacity face an increasingly stark choice…