The New York Times and every other newspaper in the United States reports:
The official Chinese Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily reran a story from The Onion that they headlined: ”North Korea’s top leader named The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.” They did not realize it was satire.
Quoting The Onion’s spoof report, the Chinese newspaper wrote, “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true.”
“Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile,” the People’s Daily cited The Onion as saying.
There IS a serious point here. Satire that mocks authority obviously is not allowed in an authoritarian system. Having never seen satire, and instead receiving nothing but fawning praise themselves, the autocrats are incapable of recognizing satire. It’s very funny, but it’s also very sad.
HT Mari Kuraishi @mashenka
Inspired by this NYT story on beach behavior in Qingdao, China to say I’m glad that economists are starting to work on social norms, culture, and development.
It’s moved way beyond the primitive circular reasoning whereby any poor people were assumed to have a “bad” culture. Culture is partly an endogenous choice; for example, parents decide how much effort to exert to pass their culture on to their children. For a good intro, check out the work of my NYU colleague Alberto Bisin.
PS the relevant cultural norms relevant in the picture are apparently how much female beauty involves pale skin, and on how much extreme measures are acceptable to achieve that.
Here at DRI, we must concede our longstanding strenuous effort to get the individual who has been World Bank President to say the word “Democracy” has ignominiously failed. His term ends this weekend.
Alas, this is more than a game. Yesterday, the peaceful Ethiopian blogger Eskinder Nega was convicted of “high treason” and “terrorist acts” for such nefarious activities as noticing there was an Arab Spring. (Nega should have followed the World Bank President’s exemplary speech on the Arab Spring that omitted the word “democracy” even in a purely descriptive sense. ) The World Bank has given Ethiopia’s government more than $2.5 billion (2007-2010) during Robert Zoellick’s term.
Of course, President Zoellick did have to obey
China the 1944 Articles of Agreement, which forbids interference in “the political affairs of any member.” But when Ethiopian rulers use the aid to give food relief to supporters and starve opponents, according to careful documentation by Human Rights Watch (HRW), one begins to wonder if aid itself is political interference? Wouldn’t suspending aid be more consistent with the Articles in that case?
At least the Development Assistance Group for Ethiopia (which includes the US, Canada, the UK, and the EU, together accounting for another $6 billion to Meles Zenawi over 2007-2010) sternly commissioned a field investigation into the HRW charges. Which has since quietly been cancelled. A 2009 secret US cable released by Wikileaks said that donors to Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi were already “keenly aware that foreign assistance … is vulnerable to politicization.”
Mr. Zoellick, you still have two whole business days to use some word form of democra____. Maybe you could just casually mention the official name of North Korea?
Chris Blattman featured yesterday the new paper by Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg, How Deep are the Roots of Economic Development?
The paper is a great survey of the exploding literature linking today’s development outcomes to ancient roots. ( I denote the survey as “great” based on the usual criteria: frequency of citation of my own research.)
The Spolaore and Wacziarg paper also allows yet another angle on the debate of the last few days on China’s rise. China’s middle income position today at least partially reflects long-run factors: two favorable and one unfavorable . The two favorable historical factors are very long experience with (1) technology and (2) organized statehood. The unfavorable factor (3) is a long history of autocracy and violence.
China’s remarkable rise in the last 3 decades could just be the intersection of favorable historical factors (1) and (2) with increased globalization. In other words, China’s miracle could just be overcoming previous miserable under-performance relative to its own long-run potential. Further rise could then require finally changing the adverse factor (3): autocracy.