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Author Topic: Japan Out of Recession
Phanto
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A major economy out of recession.

That was faster than expected. Still a long road, but exciting.

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James Tiberius Kirk
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And Germany, and France.

None of this really matters until the jobs come back, though.

--j_k

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Synesthesia
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Yay them.

Now if we could get out of recession and I can get a nice job
Close to home.
And make money.

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James Tiberius Kirk
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Oh, also:

The BBC article on Japan

quote:
The economy - the world's second-largest - had shown four consecutive quarter-on-quarter contractions.

Correspondents say the rise is due to a huge stimulus package and it is unclear whether the momentum will be sustained.

and the WaPo article on France and Germany:

quote:
Though a host of other European economies -- including Britain, Italy and Spain -- are still mired in one of the worst recessions in generations, contractions are moderating even in many of those nations, an indication that they too may be close to rebounding. It underscores, analysts say, how ramped-up government stimulus spending around the globe appears to be having at least some of its desired effects.
I think the Administration will try to hammer that point home in the coming days.

--j_k

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by James Tiberius Kirk:

None of this really matters until the jobs come back, though.

So it doesn't that you're out of the wheelchair until you can run again? I'd say a) job loss can have a positive long term economic effect, and b) in order for jobs to come back, the businesses that employ people need to be doing business again.

Perfect example of why a) is important is the Soviet Union and republics. Everyone had a job if they were physically able, but the economy still sucked. It takes getting rid of a lot of jobs (some of which are useful) in order to weed out the ones that aren't useful when you get to rebuilding your worker base. Why hire back that person that was never missed? Of course, we've taken that to an extreme that can also backfire with outsourcing manufacturing and service jobs and importing labor, because your economy also requires skilled people to be employed in order to afford to buy the products that they themselves are making. Just like communism draws the entire workforce to a grinding virtual standstill, hyper-capitalism drives itself completely off the rails if not controlled.

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The Pixiest
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Jobs are a trailing indicator. If you want to see how things are going, watch the market. (been up lately; tanking today.)

When the market goes up, jobs are sure to follow. When the market starts trending down, plant narcotics in your co-worker's desks so they're the ones who get laid off.

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Strider
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quote:
When the market starts trending down, plant narcotics in your co-worker's desks so they're the ones who get laid off.
that way at least they'll have something to ease the pain of job loss.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Strider:
quote:
When the market starts trending down, plant narcotics in your co-worker's desks so they're the ones who get laid off.
that way at least they'll have something to ease the pain of job loss.
Not to mention the tools necessary to start a new vocation immediately.
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Blayne Bradley
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by James Tiberius Kirk:

None of this really matters until the jobs come back, though.

So it doesn't that you're out of the wheelchair until you can run again? I'd say a) job loss can have a positive long term economic effect, and b) in order for jobs to come back, the businesses that employ people need to be doing business again.

Perfect example of why a) is important is the Soviet Union and republics. Everyone had a job if they were physically able, but the economy still sucked. It takes getting rid of a lot of jobs (some of which are useful) in order to weed out the ones that aren't useful when you get to rebuilding your worker base. Why hire back that person that was never missed? Of course, we've taken that to an extreme that can also backfire with outsourcing manufacturing and service jobs and importing labor, because your economy also requires skilled people to be employed in order to afford to buy the products that they themselves are making. Just like communism draws the entire workforce to a grinding virtual standstill, hyper-capitalism drives itself completely off the rails if not controlled.

I'ld think that the economic problems with the Soviet Union are not so simple as to be simplified into a single sentence, it worked perfectly fine when at war, efficiently as well. It would actually be far more accurate to blame their economic woes on a dragging agricultural sector of the economy rather then the assertion that "everyone" was employed which I am nearly certain is an incorrect myth.
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Orincoro
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I was only writing about the workforce in relation to the economy. It was as much a symptom of the deeply flawed economic policies of the Soviet Union as a cause of further problems.

To illustrate, you're perfectly right that poor agricultural performance led to large shortfalls in productivity and economic growth. However, Russia, especially at the time, was blessed with vaster than vast tracts of some of the best agricultural land in the world. However, production was so inefficient, as with every sector of the workforce, and innovation was so stagnant, that this massive economic jewel was squandered for decades. Partly this was because demand was defined by the government, along with nominal pay, so agricultural production didn't ever really respond to consumer demand, nor was it allowed to become, as in the United States, a highly profitable and diverse export industry.


As for employment, I did not say that "everyone" was employed. My personal experience only relates to people I've met and worked with who lived in the former Soviet republic of Czechoslovakia. Here, especially in service and other "white collar" work, jobs were indeed arranged mostly by local government bureaus, and people were employed according to set contracts that were mostly non-reflective of job performance, had little or even no room for advancement, and encouraged minimal productivity, and in many cases alcoholism, graft and other abuses. I'm not claiming it's as simple as, yes, the myths that abound about Soviet states and work, but I've had students who lived as communist bureau appointees, and I can assure you the stories they represent as the norm for their experiences are startling. Offices that employed up to three times the number of workers necessary, including many people who simply did no work at all, supervisors who were perpetually drunk, and organizational schemes so laughable and useless that it boggles the mind to hear the stories. The damage done during that time to the work force, even in blessed and largely independent areas like CR, is plainly obvious even today- I have no trouble at all spotting communist appointee relics who have yet to surrender the positions assigned to them decades ago, and who have perhaps cruelly been allowed to languish in their former positions. A friend of mine who works as a multi-lingual document translator, formerly involved in post communist Czech intelligence, describes these remaining outposts, such as the Czech/Slovak foreign police bureau, and the labor ministry, as "the shame of our nation." I assure you the people you encounter in these offices are really comically incompetent.

And this is the farthest west and the most developed of all the former republics, with the slight exception of Slovakia, with which CR is very close politically and economically. Can you imagine what went on in places where there was even less free market activity, deeper behind the iron curtain where friends and relatives from outside couldn't see what was happening? Czechoslovakia got off remarkably easy in the Soviet Union, and things still aren't right twenty years later. Having now been in personal contact with a lot of people from Russia proper, Ukraine, Belarus, and other parts of the former Soviet Bloc, I'm more convinced than I ever was that what Russia once called communism is just about one of the worst ideas, and one of the most dangerous, ever hatched by man.

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Blayne Bradley
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Actually the GDR had the highest level of development of the Warsaw Pact not counting the Soviet Union, which by having more people and more resources developed more.

My readings point out two major problems, 1) the overcentralization of the agricultural sector and thus became inefficient with sufficient urbanization (net exporter to net importer during the 70's) and Khrushchev's de-centralization of the Soviet Unions industry and delegated it to the Oblasts, something they haven't really recovered from until now.

But the Satellites are NOT a good way to judge the performance of the Soviet Union's economy by proxy, only by analyzing the Soviet Unions economy directly can you figure out what the problems actually were and not just assuming that just because it happened a certain way in Romania it must be that way in Russia. And Czechoslavakia only got off "easy" in the first decade more or less, it became more tightly aligned with Moscow after the Prague Spring.

For example Paul Kennedy makes it clear that of the Soviet economy its military-industrial complex did very well and its economy did extremely well during its portion of WWII. The Soviet economy as such as far as Command Economies go isn't bad, but rather it needs a high degree of maintenance and corruption control to keep it going effectively.

Russia today is also not a good way of determining how good/bad its Soviet economy was, "Shock Therapy" is just about the most ruinous and worst macro economy policy ever conceived to attempt to jump start a market economy.

Its a shame they didn't follow the Chinese example and do some open market reforms to shake up the establishment and slowdown/tune down glasnost, sure they'ld be out the Baltic's either way but Ukraine and Belarus would have stayed.

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Nick
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I sure hope this means more cars in the shop at work soon if the U.S. is to follow suit.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
Actually the GDR had the highest level of development of the Warsaw Pact not counting the Soviet Union, which by having more people and more resources developed more.

Post soviet Union, and I'm talking only about the first republics to enter the fully developed world. CR and Slovakia were first, iirc.

GDR doesn't exactly count because it was dissolved following the collapse of the USSR, meaning it never faced redevelopment alone following the collapse, whereas Czechoslovakia and then the two republics separately were outside the EU and USSR for nearly a decade and a half.


quote:
And Czechoslavakia only got off "easy" in the first decade more or less, it became more tightly aligned with Moscow after the Prague Spring.
Not exactly. Yes, the public face of the central government was more present following Prague Spring, but there remained a number of economic freedoms not present in other republics, such as export shops, the ability to receive personal aid from the west, and other aspects of local autonomy that were greater than within, say, Ukraine or Belarus.


quote:
Its a shame they didn't follow the Chinese example and do some open market reforms to shake up the establishment and slowdown/tune down glasnost, sure they'ld be out the Baltic's either way but Ukraine and Belarus would have stayed.
They might as well have stayed if you ask Belarusians and Ukrainians. Russia keeps an iron fist over their relations and their imports, especially energy, but is responsible for no actual support.

Besides, you're ignoring the reason why "shock therapy" was really applied. It doesn't take an economist to see thousands of ridiculously wealthy Russians living in places like Karlovy Vary, Minsk and Kiev, figure out where they got all that money (control over privatized industries, mostly to do with natural resources), and figure out where all the power really went after the fall. Russian political culture carries a sense of personal entitlement so pervasive, they would (and did) train wreck their own economy to strike it rich in oil speculation. I know it's not *that* simple, but it's also not that complicated to figure out why they didn't take a more measured approach to reform.

[ August 18, 2009, 10:56 AM: Message edited by: Orincoro ]

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Blayne Bradley
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I mean that according to polls in 1990' roughly 70% of Ukrainians and Belarussians polled would've agreed to stay in a reconstituted Soviet Union.

But in any case I'm fairly certain that Shock Therapy was applied due to a mistaken belief that the "Washington Consensus" was somehow a good idea, it wasn't.

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fugu13
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This would be the Belarus that has been governed by the world's most despotic dictator since the fall of the USSR, yes? Such an excellent comparison -- "The USSR wasn't worse than the world's worst dictator!"
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Blayne Bradley
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
This would be the Belarus that has been governed by the world's most despotic dictator since the fall of the USSR, yes? Such an excellent comparison -- "The USSR wasn't worse than the world's worst dictator!"

World's Worst? I though Kim Jong il won that award.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
This would be the Belarus that has been governed by the world's most despotic dictator since the fall of the USSR, yes? Such an excellent comparison -- "The USSR wasn't worse than the world's worst dictator!"

World's Worst? I though Kim Jong il won that award.
Depends on your criteria. In terms of longevity, I think Kim wins. In terms of sheer numbers of people made to endure deep levels of misery, I think Mao wins.
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fugu13
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Not of all time, just currently. Though there's certainly a lot of dispute -- there are just so many contenders! He isn't as flashy as a number of dictators, and is much more effective at suppressing people than the ones who go out and kill people wholesale, so he doesn't rate high on a lot of people's lists.

However, think about what it is necessary to do to remain the last dictator in Europe.

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
This would be the Belarus that has been governed by the world's most despotic dictator since the fall of the USSR, yes? Such an excellent comparison -- "The USSR wasn't worse than the world's worst dictator!"

World's Worst? I though Kim Jong il won that award.
Fine, and so what? This is the second time just in this thread you've done this: "X was the worst Y", someone says, and you respond "No, Z was even worse!" without any attempt to address the substantive point being made, namely that X was very dang bad for such-and-such reasons.
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Rakeesh
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I'm just going to say that the notion that the Soviet economy was ever a model of efficiency and thrift is controversial, and leave it at that.
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Blayne Bradley
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
Not of all time, just currently. Though there's certainly a lot of dispute -- there are just so many contenders! He isn't as flashy as a number of dictators, and is much more effective at suppressing people than the ones who go out and kill people wholesale, so he doesn't rate high on a lot of people's lists.

However, think about what it is necessary to do to remain the last dictator in Europe.

Being friends with a Authoritarian Democracy thats bigger then the democracies?

quote:

Depends on your criteria. In terms of longevity, I think Kim wins. In terms of sheer numbers of people made to endure deep levels of misery, I think Mao wins.

I dispute this as A) You probably get this from reading Jung Chiang whose attempt at scholarship is laughable, and B) The man's memory is still very popular and venerated today by a very large proportion of people in China especially those who feel left out and left behind the economic boom and upset with the growing gap, alot of rural farmers.

"Fine, and so what? This is the second time just in this thread you've done this: "X was the worst Y", someone says, and you respond "No, Z was even worse!" without any attempt to address the substantive point being made, namely that X was very dang bad for such-and-such reasons. "

Without looking back in the thread I'm fairly certain I didn't, I said "GDR's economy was better" not that it was worse.

"I'm just going to say that the notion that the Soviet economy was ever a model of efficiency and thrift is controversial, and leave it at that. "

I don't think it needs to be said that it is historical fact that during World War II the Soviet economy WAS efficient http://english.pobediteli.ru/flash.html?DR=0 mentions this at some point, as well as the book "History of the Second World War" by Basil Liddel Hart and "The History of the Soviet Army" can't find the exact name but Cpt. Hart wrote the forward to it.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:

Without looking back in the thread I'm fairly certain I didn't, I said "GDR's economy was better" not that it was worse.

In response to the assertion that Czech Republic was the first developed former republic, so your response was still a negation. Not that it mattered, because GDR didn't exist long after the Soviet Union anyway, so it didn't follow the point of the initial assertion.

KoM's point seems to be that the details about how bad the Soviet economy was, and exactly why it was x degree of bad as opposed to y degree of bad, and for N and not Z reasons, is forming an ellipsis around the fact that the soviet economy was undeniably an under performer, and that the blame for that could not possible be diverted completely from the communist ideology, whatever form it took in actual application.

For me, it's not that I can argue against the idea that communism or pure socialism has never really been tried in an ideal way. However, one can clearly see that there is something inherent in the philosophy that causes its supposed students to essentially sabotage it whenever it is tried. I would say just about the same for free market capitalism- there just doesn't seem to be a way to both be society among other societies, and actually following a coherent set of political or economic ideals. The solutions end up either being the suppression of foreign influence, or the corruption of the system in place, or usually both.

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Blayne Bradley
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Well I thought we were referring to pre 1991. Which was why I mentioned GDR, I was not sure how mentioning how CR recovered first was relevent.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
quote:

Depends on your criteria. In terms of longevity, I think Kim wins. In terms of sheer numbers of people made to endure deep levels of misery, I think Mao wins.

I dispute this as A) You probably get this from reading Jung Chiang whose attempt at scholarship is laughable,
Not really. It is just simple math.
Kim could kill/oppress every single person in North Korea twice before even starting to reach the number of people affected by the land reforms, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution.

Hell, there are probably any number of "minor" figures in Chinese history such as the leader of the Taiping Rebellion or the Mongols that would have killed/oppressed more than Kim.

Its not really a useful comparison since China will invariably dominate either the low end or high end of any measure where the number of people plays a big role *shrug*

quote:
B) The man's memory is still very popular and venerated today by a very large proportion of people in China especially those who feel left out and left behind the economic boom and upset with the growing gap, alot of rural farmers.
The truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress, uh, when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns ... and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced 'em. And they fell through the Deng administration, and the Zemin administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate, and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to their religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or ... uh, anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
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Blayne Bradley
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Roughly 200 billion $ a year though is being funneled into the interior and remote provinces through to close the gap between the rich coast and and the poorer interior, point is it is not simple math, sure more people had hard time at certain POINTS of Chinese history but it is undeniable that living standards improved greatly after 1949 with the end of the Civil and the ending of strife and disunity that made living in China at the time an unsettling prospect.

But only 21-25 million people died in the great leap forward with some real advances in the economy despite the wasted effort into "communal forges" and only ~1 million died in the Cultural Revolution but these are only moments in history, Mao was leader from 1949 to the 70's the periods of history he is infamous for maybe make up 9 to 11 years in total between that and his VERY real accomplishments from unifying China, setting the foundation for its modernization, restoring national pride, its space program, becomming a very real if albeit regional Great Power it is not hard to imagine people NOT JUST in the rural undeveloped areas as genuinely remembering him in fondness as objectively at the very least as the Man who United China.

Putting it as "well they only like him because they "cling to guns and religion"" so to speak I think is dishonest. They can very well remember him fondly BECAUSE his administration actually did REAL good for them when he was alive.

Looking at is as how much human suffering did Mao cause you have to look at it on a per capita basis and keep in mind what things were like before he came to power, though I might add, popular support, you don't end up with 4 million enemy soldiers defecting to you without you offering something better.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
But only 21-25 million people died in the great leap forward with some real advances in the economy despite the wasted effort into "communal forges" and only ~1 million died in the Cultural Revolution but these are only moments in history, Mao was leader from 1949 to the 70's the periods of history he is infamous for maybe make up 9 to 11 years in total between that and his VERY real accomplishments from unifying China

In the sense that these "moments in time" comprised half of the time he ruled China, and in the sense that "only 21-25 million people died" as a result oh his actions, which is on par with Stalin and Hitler, then you are correct. In the sense that these should be considered acceptable or forgivable errors, I couldn't disagree more.

He unified China in blood, and fear, and misery. He destroyed the lives of untold millions, and presided over the persecution of untold thousands. He also murdered lots of people who he didn't manage to kill with his policies. How this in a man you admire is hard to understand. It's easy, in relative terms, to do destructively what it takes a genius to do constructively. Yeah, he unified China. Good job.

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BlackBlade
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Blayne:
quote:
I dispute this as A) You probably get this from reading Jung Chiang whose attempt at scholarship is laughable,
A person who lived through the aftermath of the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution, who became the first Chinese woman to obtain a PHD from a foreign university since the ROC was founded, and who spent 10 years researching her book on Mao, and you want to pit your scholarship against her?

Beyond that, The Great Leap Forward is universally accepted as a disaster. You must be the only person who thought it was a success in anyway, even Mao himself was forced to read a self criticism to the party congress in the aftermath of that failed plan. Mao may have unified China, but you are assuming he was the only one who could have done the job. Try not to ignore the fact that he murdered and chased out of town every single intelligent Chinese communist that couldn't be bought.

China's major economic reforms were mostly the work of Deng Xiao Ping and Liu Shao Qi, Mao punished them for stealing his prestige while simultaneously pretending to be the originator of their policies. He managed to snuff out Liu but he could never get rid of Deng as Deng was too competent. Once Mao died, Deng immediately made huge changes that are principally responsible for China's economic recovery.

quote:
The man's memory is still very popular and venerated today by a very large proportion of people in China especially those who feel left out and left behind the economic boom and upset with the growing gap, alot of rural farmers.
You do not know what you are talking about. You cannot yet ask the Chinese people how they feel about Chairman Mao as his history is completely shrouded in myth for them. The aftermath of Mao's programs like The Hundred Flowers campaign where people were encouraged to speak up and were then violently punished or where people were tortured until they could identify somebody else as a class enemy still keeps most Chinese people from really saying what they think politically.

It's getting better, but you have no idea how tight the noose in China still is in many places.

Even if we ignore the millions Mao persecuted, murdered, and starved, he also practically obliterated a 6,000 year old culture. It astonishes me every time I think about how much was lost in the cultural revolution.

The cultural revolution was completely unnecessary, Mao created it so he could consolidate power after the disaster that is The Great Leap Forward. Instead of admitting his mistake and letting good Chinese men take some of his power back and actually fix the country, he co opted the youth of the country, and used them to wreck the entire country rather than step down.

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Rakeesh
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I can almost, almost, if I squint and look sideways and it's foggy and dark out, get with you when you say 'only 21-25 million' people died in the 'Great Leap Forward', Blayne. Even though most of the planet regards it as an ironic name for such a failed endeavor.

I can almost get with you because you think it accomplished good things, so in that sense and in only that sense, it could be said that those deaths helped accomplish something-if you grant the extremely unlikely premise that it accomplished things worthwhile of the sacrifices.

But when you write off the hundreds of thousands dead in the 'Cultural Revolution', it's a shameful thing to do, Blayne. Even the bloody CCP views the Cultural Revolution as something to be avoided, though they have some pretty odd reasons for that.

How you can claim so stridently that Chinese people in the PRC love him so much when expressing feelings to the contrary often invites, shall we say, trouble, is strange as well.

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King of Men
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quote:
Without looking back in the thread I'm fairly certain I didn't, I said "GDR's economy was better" not that it was worse.
And once again you attempt to twist words so as not to have to make a substantive response. The point is that whether GDR was or was not more developed than the Czech Republic has utterly nothing to do with whether the relative prosperity of the Czechs was caused by their freer economic policy. The statement "The CR was the best-developed nation in the Eastern Bloc" was not the substantive part of the comment; the implication that its development was due to freedoms that didn't exist elsewhere, was, and you completely failed to respond to that. You do this so consistently that I must conclude it is a deliberate debating tactic, to avoid acknowledging points you don't like.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
... But only 21-25 million people died in the great leap forward ...

There are "only" roughly 22 million people in North Korea. Given that you've accepted that Mao has killed that many in just the Greap Leap Forward, it fairly simple to note that Mao has undoubtably caused "deep levels of misery" (as BB put it) to that number again, even if only in the form of the parents and the siblings of those involved.

It really is quite simple.

quote:
Putting it as "well they only like him because they "cling to guns and religion"" so to speak I think is dishonest. They can very well remember him fondly BECAUSE his administration actually did REAL good for them when he was alive.
*shrug* I'm sure that those clinging to guns and religion in American small towns sure think that those things did good for them. (Or perhaps REAL good?)

But it doesn't necessarily mean that it is true.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
[QB] Blayne:
quote:
I dispute this as A) You probably get this from reading Jung Chiang whose attempt at scholarship is laughable,
A person who lived through the aftermath of the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution, who became the first Chinese woman to obtain a PHD from a foreign university since the ROC was founded, and who spent 10 years researching her book on Mao, and you want to pit your scholarship against her?

First, a nitpick, I seriously doubt that. Given the fairly large number of Chinese people immigrating from Hong Kong, I can think of any number of people that would qualify before her, even in my own family. In fact, Googling an interview with her, it states that she claims that she is merely the first Chinese woman from "Communist China to receive a doctorate from a British university" which is a much more limited claim given the large numbers of Chinese people in the US and Canada compared to the UK.

quote:
You do not know what you are talking about. You cannot yet ask the Chinese people how they feel about Chairman Mao as his history is completely shrouded in myth for them.
Hardly. There are any number of overseas Chinese of various stripes in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and North America. Futhermore, Jung Chang is herself part of this process of immigration.

Even in China proper, the most that can be said is that Chinese people don't like speaking about Chinese politics with white people on camera. This is perfectly understandable because thats probably the best way of getting caught by the authorities.

That said, there are many academics (Western OR Chinese) that have very large issues with Jung Chang's book. Off the top of my head, there was a scathing review of it by Jonathan Spence (I think you may have read his book on the Taiping Rebellion).

I think John Pomfret sums up my thoughts on both the academic issues and the current (at the time of the book) scholarship in China. The whole review is worth reading but are some excerpts.
quote:
But unlike in the West, where the view of Mao has remained petrified, scholars in China are battling over the meaning of the man. For a growing group of them, who have published their books and essays in out-of-the-way or overseas publishing houses, Mao was a tyrant. In recent years, historians writing in mainland China have made enormous contributions to the study of Mao's life -- showing how his particular brand of cruelty helped fashion China's peculiarly successful brand of totalitarianism, dissecting his debauchery and sexual deviancy, detailing his sadism, his disastrous policies, the famines he caused and the lives he destroyed. Another group has shown how Mao's crimes have devastated China's culture, creating a broken snitch society absent a moral compass.

Against that backdrop arrives the extraordinary Mao: The Unknown Story , by Jung Chang and her husband, the scholar Jon Halliday, who last collaborated on Chang's bestselling family portrait, Wild Swans . Their 814-page tome relies heavily on new Chinese scholarship; indeed, it probably could not have been written without it. The biography also benefits from solid research by Halliday in newly opened Soviet archives.

When it sticks to the new Chinese and Russian sources, the book shines, providing readers with the most detailed portrayal of the "Great Helmsman" to date. But when it pretends to tell us what the chairman is thinking and feeling, the book veers toward magical realism. Finally, its tendency toward hyperbole damages its otherwise persuasive case against Mao.

In short, if you're hoping for staid, balanced scholarship, don't read this book. It's not history; it's a screed, albeit a screed on the side of the angels. Chang writes with the zeal of the converted. As a youth, she, like millions in her generation, was intoxicated with Mao and viewed him as a god. But he ravaged untold lives, including hers. Chang obviously figured she didn't need to get mad; she got even.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/08/AR2005120801641.html

(His own book, Chinese Lessons, provides good examples of Chinese people talking about Mao off-camera. Another good one is Red China Blues by Jan Wong)

[ August 19, 2009, 04:53 PM: Message edited by: Mucus ]

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Orincoro
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Mucus, what books do you recommend for a reader who is only really familiar with American Chinese fiction and biographies, and not modern history? Perhaps a biography of Mao, but also your favorite 20th century histories of China. My favorite book on American Chinese immigration is not very academic, it's On Gold Mountain, by Lisa See. I recommend it, but to be clear it is a fictionalized biography of a single successful Chinese family in California, and only glosses the big picture of immigration starting around 1880.

I'd like to read something engaging about modern Chinese history for the relatively uninitiated reader. The only Chinese history I've really studied has been limited to history classes and random wiki-hopping, unfortunately.

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BlackBlade
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Mucus: I think you are confusing my castigation of Mao as also a defense of Jung Chang. I confess I did not do a good job drawing a distinction.

From your post,
quote:
When it sticks to the new Chinese and Russian sources, the book shines, providing readers with the most detailed portrayal of the "Great Helmsman" to date. But when it pretends to tell us what the chairman is thinking and feeling, the book veers toward magical realism. Finally, its tendency toward hyperbole damages its otherwise persuasive case against Mao.
This perfectly sums up how I feel about Mao: The Untold Story.

quote:
Even in China proper, the most that can be said is that Chinese people don't like speaking about Chinese politics with white people on camera. This is perfectly understandable because thats probably the best way of getting caught by the authorities.

Exactly, getting caught by the authorities. People can speak frankly amongst family and close friends, but you would never have a group of students meet together and discuss what Mao did wrong. People don't publish editorials criticizing him in Mainland China. In school when they learn about Mao, the curriculum still more closely approaches Mao's myth rather than true history.

quote:
Googling an interview with her, it states that she claims that she is merely the first Chinese woman from "Communist China to receive a doctorate from a British university" which is a much more limited claim given the large numbers of Chinese people in the US and Canada compared to the UK.
Ah, that's what I was going for, I thought it might be a bit more narrow than what I said, but I could not recall how. In either case, she is still a primary source of information when it comes to the cultural revolution, whereas Blayne is simply a man with an opinion.
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Mucus
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Orincoro: Hmmm, engaging...
Honestly, while I've had general modern Chinese history texts and stuff lying around the house/from courses, I can't say I've found them particularly engaging, so I'll defer to others there. The scope might just be too large.

I'll note two biography-like books that I have found engaging recently.

I mentioned Chinese Lessons earlier because I'm familiar with the author's work in the Washington Post. He's usually quite on the ball and can be pretty insightful.

It is a factual biography (although I believe some names and places have been switched around to protect identities) about his classmates and its quite engaging. There's a interview with him about the book here. This was on sale very recently, so it might be a good deal in the financial sense too.

I also recently read Red China Blues. I think it is about as close as we'll get to reading about what would happen if Blayne went back to Cultural Revolution China [Wink] (But seriously, its an excellent book)

quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
I think you are confusing my castigation of Mao as also a defense of Jung Chang. I confess I did not do a good job drawing a distinction.

To the former, yep. To the latter, sorry.

[ August 19, 2009, 07:52 PM: Message edited by: Mucus ]

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Blayne Bradley
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
I can almost, almost, if I squint and look sideways and it's foggy and dark out, get with you when you say 'only 21-25 million' people died in the 'Great Leap Forward', Blayne. Even though most of the planet regards it as an ironic name for such a failed endeavor.

I can almost get with you because you think it accomplished good things, so in that sense and in only that sense, it could be said that those deaths helped accomplish something-if you grant the extremely unlikely premise that it accomplished things worthwhile of the sacrifices.

But when you write off the hundreds of thousands dead in the 'Cultural Revolution', it's a shameful thing to do, Blayne. Even the bloody CCP views the Cultural Revolution as something to be avoided, though they have some pretty odd reasons for that.

How you can claim so stridently that Chinese people in the PRC love him so much when expressing feelings to the contrary often invites, shall we say, trouble, is strange as well.

While I am reading the rest of the thread (got back from work) I have to respond to this.

A) I did not say the Cultural Revolution was a good or justifable thing in anyway (though I must say IT WAS "positive" in the sense that Henry Kissinger thought it was positive (the Party encouraging the people/intellectuals to tear down party institutions) and viewed it as an argument as to why America should seek Relations with China.

Beyond that the very first things I read about the Cultural Revolution aside from it being a fascinating time and unheard of in any Stalinist country but anyways the first thing I read about it is that it completely delayed China's modernization back an entire generation due to its damage to University and technical institutions that were forced to work in completely counter productive ways if not closed down completely for the duration.

That said I will reiterate I am not defending the Cultural Revolution and I view it with disappointment as Mao's reputation would be easily salvageable without it. I am only saying maybe at most 1 million people died during it by the Red Guards to show that in total a 30 million mark is reasonable total death toll which in all frankness doesn't backup the assertion of how "bad" China was under Mao in consideration of everything else.

Quick round point, Mao was the only COMPETANT man at the time who could Unify China, Chiang Kai Shek was by all accounts the far worse choice.

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Blayne Bradley
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I reccoment "Mao A Life: By Philip Short" which a quick read through (merely the first half, never managed to finish the second half) pretty much disproves much of what I've read of Jung Chang and 100% of all internet arguments back on perspectives.
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Blayne Bradley
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A WELL READ man with an opinion, on the internet I should point out, your also a man with an opinion if we go that route.
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"I should start with why I like and recommend this book. Jane Wong tells a fascinating story, and I found this book to be extremely hard to put down. Her descriptions of life in China during the latter part of the cultural revolution, the gradual reopening of the country following Mao's death, and the crackdown at Tiananmen are first rate, emotionally powerful, and give you a sense of what it would have felt like to "be there" during those momentous events in recent Chinese history. I almost didn't read this book because I have read so many other books on China over the past years (in addition to a brief visit and many conversations with Chinese friends) that I didn't think this one would have much to offer. I couldn't have been more wrong. I would rate this book in the top two, along with Steven Mosher's "Broken Earth; The Rural Chinese".

My disappointment with the book is due to the remarkable lack of depth in Jane's own spiritual journey. I was surprised to learn that she never really breaks with Mao."

I should get this book. And meet this person.

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Blayne Bradley
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
But only 21-25 million people died in the great leap forward with some real advances in the economy despite the wasted effort into "communal forges" and only ~1 million died in the Cultural Revolution but these are only moments in history, Mao was leader from 1949 to the 70's the periods of history he is infamous for maybe make up 9 to 11 years in total between that and his VERY real accomplishments from unifying China

In the sense that these "moments in time" comprised half of the time he ruled China, and in the sense that "only 21-25 million people died" as a result oh his actions, which is on par with Stalin and Hitler, then you are correct. In the sense that these should be considered acceptable or forgivable errors, I couldn't disagree more.

He unified China in blood, and fear, and misery. He destroyed the lives of untold millions, and presided over the persecution of untold thousands. He also murdered lots of people who he didn't manage to kill with his policies. How this in a man you admire is hard to understand. It's easy, in relative terms, to do destructively what it takes a genius to do constructively. Yeah, he unified China. Good job.

Incorrect, vastly incorrect, incredibly incorrect and easily dismissed by a quick google search.

a) the GLF deaths only happened in a relatively short period of time 4-5 years probably less I don't know off the top of my head, so moment in time and would be forgotten in time.

b) he unified China in a civil war that he and his party time and again offered a compromise backed by BOTH the USA and USSR that Chiang repeatedly refused. China was chalk for of misary already that you cannot possibly blame Mao for, the Japanese invasion of China, the warlords who kept China unstable, Chiang's mismanagement of the economy and corrupt nepotism government that sold out China's interests for short term gain!

Compared to the Hundred Years of Hell (actual Chinese opinion of the time PRIOT to 1949) Mao uniting China and bringing a stable and competant government to the land, unity and order is ONE HELL of a good job!

fear? What are you talking about!? The soldiers say the Maoists as the better choice then the Nationalists how is that "uniting by fear"? Crazy and misinformed!

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
... My disappointment with the book is due to the remarkable lack of depth in Jane's own spiritual journey. I was surprised to learn that she never really breaks with Mao."

To make it clear, I provided the Amazon links as background information for the books, not necessarily because I agree with what is said on those pages.

I actually noticed that review before and I think it is clear that he is bringing a lot of baggage to his review and is essentially co-opting the book in order to make a point about his political opponents in America.

Thus, I think he rather misses the forest for the trees and picks rather irrelevant bits to make his rather dubious points about the author.

quote:
I should get this book. And meet this person.
Indeed. I may note that as a Canadian, you may already have heard of her in a totally different context. She's quite a provocateur, doing some pretty wacky stunts and rocking the boat in pursuit of a story (which I would honestly prefer more of).

This backfired in the Jan Wong controversy. Personally, I thought it was shameful the way in which the political class interjected itself into the discussion in order to get cheap points/votes from Quebec, but that is where you may have heard of her.

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Blayne Bradley
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Fascinating, I think I agree with her, if I think what she means if what I'm reading I'm not sure though.
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Rakeesh
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quote:
A) I did not say the Cultural Revolution was a good or justifable thing in anyway (though I must say IT WAS "positive" in the sense that Henry Kissinger thought it was positive (the Party encouraging the people/intellectuals to tear down party institutions) and viewed it as an argument as to why America should seek Relations with China.
I didn't say you said it was a good thing, though frankly I'd be surprised if you thought it wasn't - a million or even a score of millions of Chinese deaths honestly don't appear to weigh much in your evaluations of modern Chinese history. I said it was shameful to say that 'only' ~1 million people died in the 'Cultural Revolution', for the reasons I gave.

quote:

Beyond that the very first things I read about the Cultural Revolution aside from it being a fascinating time and unheard of in any Stalinist country but anyways the first thing I read about it is that it completely delayed China's modernization back an entire generation due to its damage to University and technical institutions that were forced to work in completely counter productive ways if not closed down completely for the duration.

You're right, Stalinist countries hardly ever had massive purges of undesirables within their own borders. However, it's good - not to say stunning - to hear you say something that's unequivocally critical of a PRC policy, past or present. Though how you can say that and also say 'only' ~1 million died is beyond me.

quote:

That said I will reiterate I am not defending the Cultural Revolution and I view it with disappointment as Mao's reputation would be easily salvageable without it. I am only saying maybe at most 1 million people died during it by the Red Guards to show that in total a 30 million mark is reasonable total death toll which in all frankness doesn't backup the assertion of how "bad" China was under Mao in consideration of everything else.

And then you say stuff like this. 'Disappointment'? By all accounts the Cultural Revolution was a major disaster. As such a fan of the PRC you shouldn't be 'disappointed', you ought to be devastated - at least, in the sense of viewing historical events - that it happened.

quote:
a) the GLF deaths only happened in a relatively short period of time 4-5 years probably less I don't know off the top of my head, so moment in time and would be forgotten in time.
They haven't forgotten it yet. For some crazy reason.

quote:

b) he unified China in a civil war that he and his party time and again offered a compromise backed by BOTH the USA and USSR that Chiang repeatedly refused. China was chalk for of misary already that you cannot possibly blame Mao for, the Japanese invasion of China, the warlords who kept China unstable, Chiang's mismanagement of the economy and corrupt nepotism government that sold out China's interests for short term gain!

'Chiang was worse!' is not, no matter how often you repeat it or in how many ways Blayne, a defense of Mao. 'It could've been worse' is true, of course it's true. It's always true. It can always be worse.

So what?

quote:
Compared to the Hundred Years of Hell (actual Chinese opinion of the time PRIOT to 1949) Mao uniting China and bringing a stable and competant government to the land, unity and order is ONE HELL of a good job!
Look, just say 'it could've been worse' and save yourself some typing, because that's what these arguments amount to.
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Orincoro
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I've never gotten how Blayne became not only a communist, but an actual Maoist. It's such a weirdly difficult thing to justify to others- and Blayne has never really struck me as the revolutionary type.
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Samprimary
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quote:
That said I will reiterate I am not defending the Cultural Revolution and I view it with disappointment as Mao's reputation would be easily salvageable without it.
It's kind of like how my reputation would be easily salvageable if my regime hadn't resulted in the tragic and unnecessary deaths of multiple millions of people due to my disastrously incompetent rule. But because I'm one of the worst butchers in history, it's only difficultly salvageable.

Life's so unfair that way.

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Blayne Bradley
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
That said I will reiterate I am not defending the Cultural Revolution and I view it with disappointment as Mao's reputation would be easily salvageable without it.
It's kind of like how my reputation would be easily salvageable if my regime hadn't resulted in the tragic and unnecessary deaths of multiple millions of people due to my disastrously incompetent rule. But because I'm one of the worst butchers in history, it's only difficultly salvageable.

Life's so unfair that way.

To paraphrase the Prime Minister of Singapore:

"If Mao died after 1952 he would have been considered a God beyond rapproch, had he died after 1960 he would have been seen as a Great man who made some mistakes, now that he has died after 1979 who knows?"

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Rakeesh
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Heh. 'Who knows?' Well, some people know that if you've got a death toll attributed to your policies in the dozens of millions, you screwed up pretty badly and were a crappy leader.

Some people don't seem to know that, though.

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Orincoro
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If Hitler had died in 1920 he would have been known as a vegetarian amateur artist. One who by all appearances had nothing against Jews either, I might add.

If Shakespeare had died at the age of 30, he would have been known as a local actor.

If Reagan had died in 1960, he would have been known as a B list actor.

If Osama Bin Laden had died at the age of 25, he would have been known as an oil baron's son with unusually conservative politics.

But these people all lived long enough to show the world what they were capable of becoming.

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Godric 2.0
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Ah... You missed: If Jesus had died at 30 he would have been known as a carpenter's son with a slightly off-kilter mom (virgin birth? yeah, right).

[Razz]

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King of Men
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quote:
The GLF deaths only happened in a relatively short period of time 4-5 years probably less I don't know off the top of my head, so moment in time and would be forgotten in time.
Quite so. How long were the death camps running in Poland? Only a few years. They'll be forgotten in time, and Hitler's legacy will recover from this minor blemish.

quote:
I'd think that the economic problems with the Soviet Union are not so simple as to be simplified into a single sentence, it worked perfectly fine when at war, efficiently as well.
No. The Soviet economy in wartime was effective, that is, it produced a lot of dang tanks. That is not the same as being efficient, producing many tanks per man-hour of labour and kilo of steel.
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Mucus
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Blayne and/or BlackBlade:

You may find the trailer for Founding amusing, albeit for different reasons.

As far as history goes, likely to be on the level of U-571 or Pearl Harbour. But as far as mass celebrity cameos and pretty explosions, yep.

(I personally think the casting is even a bit subversive, but I don't think many people will feel the same way)

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