It lacks only a little

January 6th, 2015

For all the talk of cultural differences, it’s amazing the similarities that can be seen if only you look. One could be forgiven for thinking New Zealand’s national motto is “she’ll be right”. China has a similar saying – “差不多/chàbuduō”.

It is always dangerous to break down a Chinese word into a character-for-English-word translation, but done carefully in the right circumstances it can help us understand a word. 差不多/chàbuduō I would break down as “lacks (差/chà) not (不/bu) much (多/duō)”, giving you the range of meanings in that MDBG entry linked to above. It starts out as “almost” or “nearly” as in “we’re only a couple of kilometres short of our destination” or “we’ve done nearly enough to graduate”, but then gets dragged out to mean “good enough”, “it’ll do”. Still, embedded in the word is the idea that no, actually, it’s not quite enough.

Many years ago I used a Chinese reading textbook I have long since misplaced that had as the main text for one lesson the story of 差不多先生/Chàbuduō Xiānsheng/Mr Closeenough. In this story, the title character bumbled through life blithely settling for second-rate work with a breezy “chàbuduō”. Then one day he was due to catch an intercity train for a business trip. He arrived at the station just in time to watch his train depart without him, and greeted this sight with glum, incomprehending surprise: “The train was scheduled to leave at 11am, I arrived at 11:02, isn’t that close enough?”

This has always reminded me a lot of New Zealand’s traditional “she’ll be right” attitude.

“So you’re going to transport that hungry lion in a rusted-out cage held together with No. 8 wire on the back of a truck with bald tyres and dodgy brakes through a heavily-populated area at rush hour? Do you really think that’s a good idea?”

“No worries, mate. She’ll be right.”

What could possibly go wrong? Or perhaps a little more realistically:

“Shouldn’t you be wearing life jackets when you go fishing in that aluminuim dinghy? And did you check the forecast? It looks like the weather’s going to change.”

“Nah, she’ll be right.”

The consequences of ‘she’ll be right’ can be just as disastrous as those of ‘chàbuduō’.

The trouble is, though, that neither ‘she’ll be right’ nor ‘chàbuduō’ are wrong. Or should I say, in the right time and the right place, applied with reason, these attitudes can be the healthiest to adapt. Perfection is not possible. Compromises have to be made, and sometimes that means trading off one value for another. Imagine if in 1978 Deng Xiaoping had said, “Yes, China wants foreign investment, but only the best, highest tech, most advanced kind.”

And besides, life tends to be a rather risky business. Imagine if Richard Pearse had sat pondering his plans for powered flight and thought, “Nah, seems a bit dangerous.” Or if Bill Hamilton had said, “Nah, that river really is a bit too shallow, and golly, we don’t want to go too fast, now, do we?”

You’re never going to get perfect. Unless you’re mega-rich you’re probably never going to get the best. Whatever you do is going to involve a certain amount of risk. You’re just going to have to settle for the best you can get in the circumstances you find yourself in.

But it’s a time and place thing. Given the sensitivity of food safety in China, especially the safety of products aimed at Chinese children, I firmly believe that New Zealand’s exporters of agricultural and horticultural products can not afford even one millisecond of “she’ll be right”, nor can they allow their Chinese business partners even a glimmer of “chàbuduō”. As for the field I’ve been working in, another of New Zealand’s big export earners, education, the complex mix of ‘chàbuduō’ and other potentially dangerous attitudes perhaps deserves its own post. Suffice to say, for the time being, that this is a problem New Zealand’s educators also need to be well aware of, and wary of.

But for now, my question is, whether it’s “she’ll be right” or “chàbuduō”, are you using that as an excuse to settle for second (or third or fourth) best? Or are you saying that this is the best that can be achieved under the current circumstances?

Yesterday morning I read this article by Gordon Orr at McKinsey on what could happen in China in the coming year to two groups whose members I thought would find it interesting. It covers a pretty wide range of economic issues, and it most certainly does not proclaim the use of gold paving stones on China’s roads, but the very small section that really grabbed my interest was the two paragraphs headed “Students reinvent themselves for the jobs of 2015”. It paints a depressing picture for China’s university students, but the prospects for those soon to graduate have not looked particulary good for some years now.

There are two particular points in these two paragraphs that I want to look at. I’ll title one “The System” and the other “Changes”. I also see an opportunity here.

The System:

Let’s look at the third sentence of the first paragraph:

Indeed, many will find what they learned and how they learned at university has done little to prepare them for the 2015 job market in China.

Now, part of me wants to fly off on some wild rant about how the fundamental assumptions underlying that statement are all wrong…. but that’s a topic for another day. Grumble and grouch as I might, the world expects university graduates to be ready for work, and for universities to prepare students for work. And I see two key components to that sentence:

  1. …what they learned…
  2. …how they learned…

I don’t think there’s much reasonable, rational or helpful that can be said about the “what they learned” component, as that’s going to vary so wildly across academic disciplines, and for vastly different reasons. But it is fair to say that universities could ask themselves some hard questions about why they are requiring students to take many of the classes they grudgingly sit through. One problem is the sheer rigidity of the system. It is not uncommon to hear students complain that they have no interest in what they are studying and that they’d much rather be studying something else. There are a variety of reasons for this – their grades on the College Entrance Exam/Gao Kao and parental demands are two of the more common – and, of course, what they would prefer to be studying can change through the course of their undergraduate career as they learn more about the world and themselves. But they find themselves in a very rigid system in which they have very little control over what they study and they find it very difficult to change majors or otherwise pursue their real interests.

“How they learned”, well, there is a point that really needs some good, hard thinking and far-reaching reform. What follows is gross generalisation to be taken with an appropriately-sized grain of salt: Chinese education is still very teacher-centred, still very much about a teacher standing at the front of the room presenting information for students to memorise and regurgitate in an exam.

A common complaint I hear, something I seem to see evidence of as I walk past classrooms, something I have experienced on a course I took nearly two years ago, is “PPT-itis” – the over-reliance on powerpoint presentations, even to the extent of substituting actual planning and preparation for a powerpoint, perhaps even one borrowed from somebody else, and then simply reading that out. In one extreme case, students told me of one teacher sight-translating English-language presentations she hadn’t even looked over before class and having to stop mid-lesson and run words she didn’t know through Baidu Translate. But hey, the information is being presented to the students, isn’t it? So isn’t the job being done?

But there’s a third point missing from Orr’s analysis: Credentialism. Very many students are worried less about learning anything and far more about getting their degree, or passing the CET Band 4 and 6 exams being held this weekend, or the many other exams out there, because they know that when they are out looking for work, many potential employers are going to be more interested in seeing their credentials, the piles of magic pieces of paper officially proclaiming they have passed this or graduated from that, than their actual abilities.

Remember, those are gross generalisations about a large, diverse country. Of course, I can think of plenty of counter-examples. But they hold as true as generalisations can – those are common problems in Chinese education.

So back to Orr’s point – an awful lot of graduates are woefully underprepared for actual work. But how could they be prepared by a system so teacher-centred and so focussed on the accumulation of credentials?

Changes:

Here are the final two sentences of the second paragraph:

Growth in vocational schools is being boosted by many newly graduated students who realize they need to gain more work-relevant skills. Those students still in school will become more vocal in demanding change in what and how they are taught.

It’s a pity that Orr does not seem to distinguish between universities, which were not founded to train people for jobs and should not be required, or even requested to, and vocational schools, but again, that’s a rant for another day. Here he offers a solution: Vocational schools.

But are student demands really going to drive the change? My impression is that students enter university all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed looking forward to all the freedom they’re about to get to experiment and explore and generally just do what they’ve been wanting to do for years, but well before they graduate they’re hardened and cynical and just playing the game because these are the rules and this is the system they’ve found themselves in. Are employer demands going to drive the change? Complaints about graduates being incapable of actually doing anything have been around for years, and yet nothing seems to have changed.

An opportunity?

New Zealand universities, polytechs, and schools generally have been recruiting students from China for many years now, yet for all the importance of export education to the New Zealand economy, and despite China’s position as the number one source of international students to New Zealand schools, I think that in this mess of issues with Chinese education there are still some important points for New Zealand schools to remember.

New Zealand’s universities generally offer a much more flexible, student-centred education, and this needs to be emphasised. Students have much more freedom in New Zealand to explore a wider range of subjects and disciplines, much more freedom to change their majors, and much more freedom to mix and match subjects into double majors and double degrees.

New Zealand’s polytechs/institutes of technology focus on vocational training, actually preparing students for work, developing a set of skills that will set them on a path to a solid career. This, too, needs to be emphasised.

And the quality of this education and training needs to be emphasised, too. No amount of beautiful, clean, green scenery is going to cut it. Chinese parents are not parting with huge sums of money so their kids can enjoy a stereotypical New Zealand lifestyle. They’re investing in their kids’ future, and they want to be sure that investment is going to bring good returns.

But there is a challenge: New Zealand, even though its most populous island is the biggest fish ever caught by any fisherman, is a very small fish in a very large pond stocked with many very large fish. New Zealand is easily lost and overlooked in this crowded, noisy environment. Over the years many students have asked me about studying in New Zealand and almost all of them have been coming from a position in which all they know about New Zealand is that it’s the very beautiful homeland of their teacher. On one quite memorable occasion a student who was about to graduate and head off to a much larger, better known country to do her masters told me that when she started university she thought of New Zealand as a place to go when you’re old, and not as a country for young people, and she now kind of regretted that, having since learned a little bit more about the world.

My problem now is that I can’t tell you how New Zealand can do any better at getting its message out there. I can tell you that an awful lot of people are marketing New Zealand education. Many schools have official Weibo accounts. I know people in the industry. For years New Zealand schools have been doing deals with Chinese schools. I have a Baidu news alert for 新西兰 (Xīnxīlán, New Zealand) emailed to me each morning and a huge proportion of its contents are some variation or another on “study in New Zealand”.

But I can also tell you that this widespread dissatisfaction with China’s education system still represents a huge opportunity for New Zealand.

how long until we learn?

October 17th, 2014

This morning I sat in the classroom reading as I waited for students to arrive for their spoken tests. Among other things, I read chapters 3o and 31 of the Dao De Jing:

30: 以道佐人主者,不以兵強天下。其事好還。師之所處,荊棘生焉。大軍之後,必有凶年。善有果而已,不敢以取強。果而勿矜,果而勿伐,果而勿驕。果而不得已,果而勿強。物壯則老,是謂不道,不道早已。

He who would assist a lord of men in harmony with the Dao will not assert his mastery in the kingdom by force of arms. Such a course is sure to meet with its proper return.
Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring up. In the sequence of great armies there are sure to be bad years.
A skilful (commander) strikes a decisive blow, and stops. He does not dare (by continuing his operations) to assert and complete his mastery. He will strike the blow, but will be on his guard against being vain or boastful or arrogant in consequence of it. He strikes it as a matter of necessity; he strikes it, but not from a wish for mastery.
When things have attained their strong maturity they become old. This may be said to be not in accordance with the Dao: and what is not in accordance with it soon comes to an end.

31: 夫佳兵者,不祥之器,物或惡之,故有道者不處。君子居則貴左,用兵則貴右。兵者不祥之器,非君子之器,不得已而用之,恬淡為上。勝而不美,而美之者,是樂 殺人。夫樂殺人者,則不可以得志於天下矣。吉事尚左,凶事尚右。偏將軍居左,上將軍居右,言以喪禮處之。殺人之衆,以哀悲泣之,戰勝以喪禮處之。

Now arms, however beautiful, are instruments of evil omen, hateful, it may be said, to all creatures. Therefore they who have the Dao do not like to employ them.
The superior man ordinarily considers the left hand the most honourable place, but in time of war the right hand. Those sharp weapons are instruments of evil omen, and not the instruments of the superior man; – he uses them only on the compulsion of necessity. Calm and repose are what he prizes; victory (by force of arms) is to him undesirable. To consider this desirable would be to delight in the slaughter of men; and he who delights in the slaughter of men cannot get his will in the kingdom.
On occasions of festivity to be on the left hand is the prized position; on occasions of mourning, the right hand. The second in command of the army has his place on the left; the general commanding in chief has his on the right; – his place, that is, is assigned to him as in the rites of mourning. He who has killed multitudes of men should weep for them with the bitterest grief; and the victor in battle has his place (rightly) according to those rites.

And it occurred to me that in similarly ancient times at the opposite end of Eurasia from where Laozi sat somebody said:

Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

— Matthew 26:52

And yes, Laozi was writing circumstances very different to those in which Jesus was speaking, but the two sentiments are similar and not unrelated.

And it occurred to me that if people living 2000 and more years ago in places as diverse as Roman-occupied Palestine and Warring States China could come to such similar conclusions as to the value of weapons and violence, then surely, just like the Golden Rule, it must be a principle and a value so universal it can be found in one formulation or another in many different cultures, many different philosophical and religious traditions, many different times from ancient to modern, many different places.

Apparently people have done studies counting up deaths and their causes through history and have concluded that as time has marched on, people’s chances of dying early from violent causes have gradually trended downwards. Our species has been getting less violent, not that you’d know it from watching the news (so don’t watch the news). There is evidence that we are in fact slowly evolving from barbarity into something approaching civilisation. But for all the painfully slow cultural evolution over the four or five thousand years for which we have some form or another of written records (of varying and frequently dubious quality), some things about our species remain stubbornly the same. And so the writings and ramblings of ancient prophets, loudmouths, poets, madmen, sages, rabble rousers and philosophers remain as relevant now as when Socrates was handed his cup of hemlock.

And yet for all of our slow evolution into finding less drastic, more civilised methods of dispute resolution than grabbing the nearest weapon and lashing out and for all the people who have read the two books just quoted over the last couple of thousand years, our leaders still seem awfully eager to bellow their bellicose rhetoric, beat their drums, and march us off to War.

The Ancients warned us: War may sometimes be necessary, but it is never good, and really should be avoided if at all possible.

How long will it take until we learn?

naive?

July 4th, 2014

Well, I’m kinda hoping for David Shambaugh’s sake that there’s a bit of misreporting going on here, quotes being taken out of context, or something like that, because:

“Google is down. Yahoo is own Bing is down. You can’t access the outside world.”

And that, dear friends, is

BULLSHIT!

I have my gmail open in another tab, I just googled David Shambaugh and opened the Wikipedia article on him and his page at the George Washington University website, and all of that without a VPN or any other jiggery pokery to get me outside the tender embrace of Nanny and her Great Firewall.

Yes, censorship exists, and yes, many websites are blocked. No NY Times, Youtube, Vimeo, Le Monde, Guardian or Blogspot. And now Flickr has disappeared (at least, for me) since Tuesday. Gee, I wonder what could’ve happened somewhere in China on or about Tuesday, pictures of which the CCP would prefer people not to see? But news of the birth of the Great Chinese Intranet, though long rumoured, is still most appropriately filed in the “grossly exaggerated” basket.

I’m not quite sure what to make of Shambaugh’s reported comments on China’s foreign relations. I would’ve thought somebody who’s been coming to China very regularly for 35 years and makes a living studying China’s international relations would have a more nuanced view of things. But this article gives the impression he takes a Cold War-tastic Us vs. commie Them view, and he expects (as so many North Americans and Europeans do in that, “Oh, we just assumed…” kind of way) New Zealand to fall very firmly in the Us camp. Then he discovers New Zealand isn’t quite toeing the expected line:

“Australia is doing it, Asean countries are doing that, India is doing that, Japan is doing that, the United States is doing that so it seems to me that New Zealand is a bit of an outlier in terms of regional relations and even global relations with China.

“To have good relations is not a bad thing but you have to have multi-faceted relations. You can’t just have relations with a country based on economic interests alone.”

Well:

  1. I don’t see the necessity for any particular country to jump on the “arm ourselves up to counter China” bandwagon. I don’t have a problem with countries that have active territorial disputes with China keeping their militaries up to date with a view to countering the perceived China threat, but I don’t see why Australia or the US need to join in, and I don’t see how their taking sides helps matters at all. I’m also growing rather tired of the automatic assumption implicit in this and so much reporting of China issues that China must be in the wrong. So far as I can tell, China’s territorial claims are just as in/valid as everybody else’s. There are no Goodies or Baddies here, just a whole lot of waving about of historic documents of dubious origin and relevance and chest-puffing buffoonery.
  2. Yes, I would agree that John Key’s government seems to focus international relations on trade relations to a rather excessive extent, but I can’t help but feel Shambaugh has focussed on that excessive focus to a greater extent than warranted.

As for the more serious of Shambaugh’s reported claims:

He said the repression was the worst it had been for 25 years

Well, I don’t know how you quantify such things. There certainly is much to worry about. But the article goes on:

He noted positively some reforms including the loosening of the one-child policy, an enhanced role for the market in determined resource allocation, making Government budgets more transparent, more fully funding public welfare and establishing agencies such an a super environmental agency.

There were also suggestions from the plenum that there could be other reforms in the financial sector, the banking sector, an improved foreign investment climate, enhancement of property rights, the tax system and legal and judicial reform.

He said there was real potential for policy break-through but he anticipated great bureaucratic resistance.

“It is not very common in world history for those who have wealth, power and privilege to voluntarily divest it in the broader interests of the nation.”

He suggested the party itself could now be the greatest impediment to reform.

Which suggests to me that Shambaugh’s views actually are considerably more nuanced than it first seemed. Now, I need to run off and print a couple of things before lunch, so let me keep this short:

Yes, there is a lot I’m seeing, on the streets, on billboards and banners and posters, in the media, and online that has me, shall we say, concerned. But there is, as suggested in the above slightly too large quote, plenty going on that gives cause for hope. I’m finding it really hard to figure out how things are going. But the idea that “multi-faceted relations” means “beefing up the military to contain China while still trading with China”, as this article implies, seems to me to be only marginally less simplistic and considerably more dangerous and less responsible than simply trading with China.

well, well, well

June 19th, 2014

And now that I have access to Blogtown again…. This post at the Repatriates I would’ve preferred to put here, but wound up posting over there thanks to a crapped out connection yesterday.

And now over at Public Address Russell Brown has weighed in. I find myself agreeing with him.

in which I rant a bit

June 7th, 2014

I didn’t quite know where to put this particular rant, as it doesn’t quite fit on any of the little online projects I have going. So I put it over here. Short version: I find the idea of requiring foreigners to pass a test before being allowed to drive on New Zealand roads obnoxious and ridiculous.

xenophobia?

June 4th, 2014

*note: This was written yesterday, but my connection to Blogtown crapped out so I couldn’t post it, so I posted it over here instead. Now that Blogtown is accessible again, I’ll post it up here where it belongs:

Xenophobia of many kinds seems to be a fairly common weapon in politics, and New Zealand is no exception. But what’s got me interested is the talk of foreigners in NZ politics this year, what with the election coming up. You’d think it’d be the same old Winston Peters hating on Asians, but no.

First up is National’s apparent inability to stop its ministers from having their relationships with Chinese business people revealed. Potentially dodgy relationships, like Judith Collins and Oravida, or relationships with possibly dodgy people, like Maurice Williamson with Donghua Liu. And apart from bashing his partner and apparently using his political connections to ease the residency and citizenship process, it turns out Liu was involved in a corruption case back in Chongqing. He wasn’t charged, it seems, but gave evidence as a witness. But look at this:

According to a court judgment obtained and translated by theHerald, Liu – as general manager of real estate development company Chongqing Tianlong – sold real estate to the political leader and his wife at heavily discounted prices, purchased some back at inflated rates and waived debt to a total benefit of $375,000 to the couple.

In return, the Chinese politician used his position to support Liu’s construction and cement businesses by approving projects as well as land permits and mining licences.

[……]

“Although Liu didn’t make a specific request in exchange for the gift, the intention was clear that as a county party secretary Ping Ma would have the power to benefit the companies in the future,” said the verdict of the Intermediate People’s Court of Chongqing.

[……]

“Although the behaviour is different compared to directly receiving properties, it is only a different method of covering their criminal acts of bribery.”

Aha. And:

Liu’s Auckland-based lawyer, Todd Simmonds, said that neither Liu nor his company was charged with any alleged offending.

“The involvement of Mr Liu in these proceedings was simply that of a witness,” Mr Simmonds said.

“Mr Liu does not wish to make any further comment in relation to this matter.”

It would be useful if he did make further comment. Because it certainly seems as if even if his business practices were legal, they certainly seem to have been unethical. Otherwise why would he have been a witness in a trial whose decision mentions his business practices in such an unfavourable light? “Although Liu didn’t make a specific request in exchange for the gift, the intention was clear that as a county party secretary Ping Ma would have the power to benefit the companies in the future” certainly seems to make it clear the judges considered Liu’s behaviour to be something other than squeaky clean.

And somehow Liu was granted first residency then citizenship against official advice. How and why? And what was that official advice? What were the reasons given recommending his applications be declined?

Of course, a major problem for Labour in all of this is that some of those dodgy decisions made against official advice were made under Labour’s watch. But those two big questions remain: Why did the relevant officials recommend Liu not be granted residency then citizenship? And why were so many Labour and National politicians so keen to help him out despite the advice of their own officials?

And what does this have to do with xenophobia? Well, nothing, directly. Whether it’s Oravida or Donghua Liu, it’s business people apparently getting favours from politicians. That reeks of corruption. Trouble is, they all involve Chinese business people, which would seem to play right into the hands of those crying Yellow Peril from whatever soapbox they can find.

But then there’s the fuss over Labour’s new questioning of immigration and threats to limit the number of immigrants. There’s good discussion, as always, over here at Public Address, and as Russell says, there are real issues that need discussion without people immediately reaching for the xenophobia card. But something is bugging me about all this. Maybe I’m reading too much into it all. Maybe it really is just an odd series of coincidences. Maybe I have too much invested in all these issues to see it clearly. But I’m just not comfortable with Labour’s questioning of immigration. But, there are, as noted, real issues to be discussed, and the case of Donghua Liu seems to highlight one of them, which apparently Labour wants to look at:

Labour is looking “very closely” at changing the rules for foreign investors who can get residency in New Zealand by paying $10 million.

[……]

Immigration spokesman Trevor Mallard said yesterday that one of the categories Labour would consider changing was business migrant schemes, introduced by National in 2009.

[……]

The Investor Plus scheme allowed an applicant to get residency if they invested $10 million in New Zealand and committed to living in the country for 44 days a year, even if they spoke little English and had no business experience. The Investor scheme required a $1.5 million investment but had stricter language, age and travel tests.

Now, this does not seem to be a very smart way to dish out visas, not to me. So they’ve got money. So they might agree to spend a tiny fraction of each year in New Zealand. Woopdedoo. Start a token business and fly in either for a Northern Summer ski holiday each Southern Winter, or flee the Northern Winter to enjoy Christmas and New Year at a more civilised time of the year. But of course, going to the Immigration website and finding out the actual rules is the smart option. Now look at that table. Yes, indeed, as the Herald article states, for an Investor Plus visa you only need to invest NZ$10 million for three years and spend at least 44 days of each of the last two years of that investment period in New Zealand. That’s it. You don’t even need any business experience. Contrast that for the requirements for the regular Investor visa, which are not especially stringent – overall band 3 in IELTS, wow, so you need to be competent enough to handle buying your own groceries – but do at least include some minimal business experience, and therefore proof that you may have actually earned your money and might know one or two things about investing and doing business.

Of course, there are health and character requirements for both Investor visas. But check out character. Based on the little publicly known about Donghua Liu, it’s only on that last bullet point that Immigration would’ve had grounds to recommend he not be granted residence. And that is a rather vague bullet point.

Tangent: This Entrepreneur Work Visa seems much more robust. I’d much rather be working for or with somebody who’d entered NZ under those requirements.

But this brings us to some numbers from that article on Labour’s rethink of the Investor and Investor Plus visas:

Immigration New Zealand data showed the number of successful Investor Plus applicants jumped from nine to 21 between 2010 and 2013, and from 30 to 99 people in the Investor category over the same period.

So we’re not talking a large number of people, which is strange because in all articles I’ve seen so far on Labour’s thinking on immigration, we see this, from earlier in this particular article:

The party has said it would place further controls on immigration after Treasury predicted net migration would soon increase to almost 40,000 a year, but it has not given details about cuts.

Uh huh. So how, precisely, is a review of two visa categories that apparently allowed a grand total of 120 people into New Zealand in 2013 going to have any affect on this predicted spike in net migration to forty something thousand? And if, as the government claims, a large part of the predicted net migration spike is due to Kiwis not jumping on planes to Australia and Kiwis facing an economic downturn in Australia jumping on planes home, then how is tinkering with immigration policy going to realistically affect anything?

So yeah, I can’t shake the nagging suspicion that at least some in Labour are cashing in on the happy confluence of National’s apparent ([ahem] Chinese) corruption problem, stubbornly skyrocketing housing prices and this predicted spike in net migration to try and drum up a little more support. “Oooh, look at the people National’s letting in! And they‘re buying up all our houses, driving the prices up so real Kiwis are priced out of the market! We’ll crack down on them!”

And then I read things like this piece by Lew over at Kiwi Politico, and Labour’s new focus on immigration just rings even less true.

proper schools

February 23rd, 2014

A department of China’s Ministry of Education and China Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) have announced a list of over ten thousand “standard” or “regular” overseas schools so that Chinese people looking to study abroad can make sure they choose “proper” schools and not be fooled by diploma mills.

An aside: “diploma mill” in Chinese is “野鸡大学” – yějī dàxué – pheasant/unregistered and illegal/prostitute university.

The list of proper schools covers 44 countries, including the USA, UK, Australia and Canada. Sina’s repost of the Beijing Times article says the purpose of the list is to protect Chinese students travelling to study overseas at their own expense. The article says three problems have appeared with the rise of such students in recent years: The appearance of poor quality private schools in certain countries, several of which have gone bust; the poor abilities of some of these students to study abroad, especially their inability to live independently, meaning they have a hard time adjusting after they leave China; and “black agents” – agencies getting up to all kinds of shenanigans, passing out fake information or not living up to their responsibilities.

The article also says there are two ways prospective students can get information about studying abroad: One is through the website of the above mentioned department of the Ministry of Education or the website of the CSCSE, the other is through the Ministry of Education’s Study Abroad Service Centre, Chinese diplomatic missions abroad or through the diplomatic missions of foreign countries in China. The problem I have with that is that the website of the above mentioned department of the Ministry of Education I can not persuade to open in Firefox, Maxthon or on my phone, nor by Baiduing it. And a Baidu search for “Ministry of Education’s Study Abroad Service Centre” (in Chinese, of course), is not overly helpful – the best results are for CSCSE. And the links at the bottom of the article to the four lists of schools deemed genuine? Well, they’re on that Ministry of Education website I can’t persuade to open.

Naturally, my first reaction is to try and see where New Zealand’s universities are on these lists – or, perhaps, if they’re on the lists. Trouble is, with websites that don’t open, I’ve had to poke around the CSCSE website. A lot of the information  on that site is a tad out of date – especially the English version. But I did find this list. It has all eight universities, many (most? all? things have changed while I’ve been in China…) polytechs, Te Kura Toi Whakaari o Aotearoa: New Zealand Drama School (what is its status? I honestly don’t know. And why “Te Kura”, which Toi Whakaari does not seem to use?) and some of what were called Private Training Establishments (PTEs) last time I was in NZ for any extended period of time. But again, I’m not sure how up to date that list is, because it includes Tairawhiti Polytech, which apparently merged with EIT in 2011.

Curious, and perhaps a story to keep an eye on.

Alright, so have a read of this. It’s a fine argument, isn’t it? Trouble is, it’s bollocks. Why?

It all started with the Roast Busters, then the treatment meted out to a friend of one of their victims by two radio hosts with…

…a record, shall we say.

And the response to those two shock jocks.

And then the response to that response.

And then Edgeler weighs in in the article linked above, and continues in the comment thread.

Now, I’m certainly not going to rehash the whole Roast Busters saga. Among many reasons why not, one thing the world does not need is yet another privileged white bloke spouting on about rape culture – but more on that later.

Nope, Edgeler has got me a bit riled up. See, reading his essay left me thinking “That’s all well and good, but there’s something fundamentally wrong with your argument, now what is it?… ”

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oh for crying out loud

August 11th, 2013

DCD, shipments of meat held up at port apparently because MPI didn’t adequately inform AQSIQ of changes to its documentation (although I think there may be a bit more to that…), botulism in the whey protein…

…and now this.

240 workers sitting at home twiddling their thumbs wondering if they’ve still got jobs all because:

Alliance general manager of processing Kerry Stevens said the Ministry for Primary Industries suspended Pukeuri’s certification for exports to China last month because cartons in the container were incorrectly labelled.

Chinese regulations demand a label on both the inside and outside of a carton.

And in Otago, too. I note the south seems to be having a tough time of it economically. And wow, this news must have the locals worried, to say the least.

But, once again, I have to wonder what went wrong. This doesn’t seem difficult: your export market requires your product to be labelled a certain way, so you label it that way, and provided you’re doing everything else right, particularly regards quality, hygiene, and safety generally, everybody’s happy, right?