Nudging, you’re doing it wrong

Despite my blog title, I don’t think this motivational trainer in China was actually trying to nudge his clients.  Even so, the idea that this trainer was trying to provide “motivation” is pretty funny.  Here are some of the details:

“A motivational trainer in China beat eight rural bank employees with a stick, shaved the heads of the men and cut the hair of the women after they performed poorly on a training weekend.”  

Employees around the world who have bitterly complained about having to go through training weekends are rejoicing that they didn’t get this fool as their “motivator.”

What does Jiang Yang, the fool in question, have to say for himself: “‘Spanking was a training model I have been exploring for many years.’”   Dude, you are really not helping your case!

 

 

“We Shoot! We Kill!” The PLA tries its hand at rapping

From the BBC, I learned that the People’s Liberation Army has a new high-budget, “action-packed rap recruitment video.”  Seriously! It includes memorable lyrics such as:

“Are you afraid? No! Are you afraid? No! Just need the order to kill kill kill!”

“We Shoot! We Kill! We’re Loyal to the Party!”

I’m sure it sounds catchier in Chinese.  I love how the PLA claims loyalty to the party, not the people or the nation!  Of course, the party would say “what’s the difference?”  Here’s the video and it’s well worth checking out.  I just wish I could understand all of the lyrics.

Replacing one bad idea with another

The BBC has an interesting report on ambulance services in Beijing.  Up until now, ambulance drivers could decide themselves how much to charge people for their services.  I’m assuming these weren’t listed or known beforehand either.  This seems ripe for abuse given that the patient will be desperately wanting to get to the hospital and in no state for bargaining.  According to the article, most Chinese on social media didn’t even know that ambulances charge at all.  That must come as a big shock then when they get hit up by the driver.

So what did authorities decide to do?  Decree that ambulances “be fitted with taxi-style meters in an effort to allay public concerns about overcharging.”  Hmm, this doesn’t seem to be the most incentive compatible policy either.  As one social media cynic (read: realist) pointed out, “Don’t rule out ambulances taking a detour when using the meter.”  At least when you’re in the backseat of a cab, you can watch where the driver is going.  In the back of an ambulance in an emergency situation, that’s not going to be very feasible!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way advocating free ambulance services, but there has to be a better policy than this.

Irony overload, China edition

This news piece on China is almost stranger than fiction.

First, a gigantic (121 feet tall), gold plated statue of Mao appears in the empty farm fields of Henan.  This is terrifying and bizarre in itself. Imagine seeing this every morning on the way to farm your crops:

mao_yikes

Second, what a spectacular waste of money.  Who in the world, besides a corrupt government, would spend almost a half a million dollars on such a monstrosity?  It’s so bad that I think we should rename the term “white elephant” to “gold Mao”.

The AFP reports that it was local entrepreneurs!  Seriously.  This is funny in a couple of different ways: (a) how did said local entrepreneurs make so much money if this is the way they think is a good way to spend it; (b) Henan is the “the centre of a famine in the late 1950s resulting from Mao’s economic policies estimated to have killed as many as 40 million people.”  Hmm, maybe the entrepreneurs are trolling the Chinese public?

Lastly, the Chinese government just decided to demolish the statue and the reasoning is awesome:  “Mao’s likeness was not registered or approved” by the local government.  It took 9 months to build the frickin monstrosity!  You think the local government might have made their decision before now.  Obviously we are not getting the full story but I’d love to hear it.  Sounds like a good one.

“A” does not equal “A”

In a nice Orwellian move, China’s top censor has denied the fact that there is censorship in China!  To wit, he stated that “China does not censor but ‘manages’ internet content.”

He goes on to helpfully clarify that “the Chinese government blocks some foreign websites because it ‘has the right to choose friends.'”  So…censorship then!  Indeed in Freedom House’s ranking of countries by internet freedom, China comes in dead last at #65.  All that “management” is taking a toll.

 

It’s not easy being green

“Oh China, you are not a clean energy powerhouse, are you.”

“LOL no Angus we are not. We’ve been burning the shit out of some coal lately.”

People, check out this graph comparing China’s previously reported coal use and its currently reported coal use:

Screenshot 2015-11-04 07.51.04

“Illustrating the scale of the revision, the new figures add about 600 million tons to China’s coal consumption in 2012 — an amount equivalent to more than 70 percent of the total coal used annually by the United States.”

Who knows people, maybe someday, they’ll release accurate GDP statistics too!

“A Billion Lives Are at Stake!”

Every few years I teach a class at OU called Comparative Economic Systems. One of the things that often surprises students is the fact that many countries still have industrial planning, and that this wasn’t solely the reserve of the communist world.  Advocates for this type of planning (called indicative instead of command) argue that it is the process of creating the plans that is important, that there is value in having prolonged discussions between government, employers, labor unions, and farmers about the state of the economy and where it should go.  The claim is that whether the economy actually moves in the direction of the plan is somewhat irrelevant.  I’m not convinced by this argument but it came to mind when I saw the following video from the Chinese government about their new 5 year plan:

This video is amazing in so many ways that it is hard to know where to start, so here are just a few thoughts:

a.  The Chinese 5 year plan is much more indicative than command like it was in the past.  You can see how they trumpet the participation of all levels of government and all types of people in the discussion process. The big question is who they are trying to convince.  Anyone who knows about 5 year plans is already pretty cynical about how they really work (or don’t as the case may be).  This video, with its animation, upbeat music, and breathtaking idealism, seems aimed at young students, but again, which students?  The video is in English, so are they trying to create a gentler, softer image of industrial planning among the minds of American students (and do American students have any image of industrial planning to begin with?)

b.  I’ve seen communist countries promote 5 year plans with brutal slogans about the Year of Working Hard, etc. but I’ve never seen a country try to take this route:  of making economic planning seem both fun and totally successful and also vitally important.  There is an actual line in the video about how a billion lives are at stake with the planning process. Wow, that is some hubris!

c.  While the video is easy to mock, it is at least a lot more catchy and slick than the ham-fisted and embarrassing promotional video the Mexican government aired recently.