Tiredness is an odd narcotic. Once it’s gripped you and entered the blood stream, as it were, the pull horizontal remains for some time afterward. So if you nod off and then jump up and walk across the room and talk to someone and pour a glass of juice, there is still that siren song grip, nursing you back to surrender. Listening to the trombonist Bob Brookmyer yesterday on his 1957 track “Arrowhead” from the album “The Street Swingers”, the slow pulse of the valves sliding up and down, the sleepy embrace got its fingers sunk in deep. Not long after, I turned to face the music and lay down for a quick nap. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Brookmeyer
And I stirred up about an hour later and I was refreshed. I wasn’t feeling groggy or cheated but rather, topped-off. And later that night when it was time for the evening ritual of reading to the girls before they headed to bed, I strode forth with confidence that I wouldn’t be a sleepy mess. But as soon as I saw my daughter’s bed, I could feel the sleepy fingers reasserting control. If I snuggle up next to her and read while in bed, I will be off to sleep after a page or so. So I nearly always sit and read from a chair where I have more hope of remaining lucid. I told my daughter; “move over, I’ll read next to you.” “No Baba. You’ll fall asleep.” Wise words from the nine-year old. OK. We’ll do it from the chair.
And she, lying in bed, fell asleep before I did, barley. And I moved over to her older sister’s room to read to her. But by now the pull was much greater. Sleep was mid-flush in my blood. I felt robbed. My whole nap investment had come to naught. I was just as tired as any other night. And it showed as I read more of “A Brave New World” set 500 years in the future with all its mis-guessed anachronisms like books that people read, that are already becoming irrelevant a mere 80 years after the book was written. My reading was dispirited, dry, tired. I guess I need to get further in, as the fictional modernity of odd irony on top of odd irony, largely mis-predicted thus far feels devoid of human narrative.
A good old-fashioned rise and fall human narrative is underway here in the PRC. Xi Jinping has been touted as a leader of a different sort, having taken control of both the military and the Party from the outset of his term, unlike his predecessors. He has already made moves at the former Standing Committee ruler tarred with the Bo Xi Lai affair, Zhou Yongkang. I mentioned last week that he was going after the former Premier Li Peng’s daughter as well. This, as part of his brave pronouncement of going after both “tiger and flies.” (One recalls the former Premier Zhu Rongji’s announcement to get 100 coffins ready, 99 for corrupt officials and one for himself). And now we see that Xi is going after what is arguably the biggest tiger of them all, the P.L.A.
On Monday prosecutors formally charged the high-flying Chinese General Gu Junshan with “bribery, embezzlement, misuse of state funds and abuse of power.” From his perch in charge of military procurement with he managed to amass a remarkable fortune, worth perhaps more than US1$B, and in the process some important enemies. Now he is apparently naming names in a broad investigation that is assumed will involve quite a few other military tigers. But once the hunt is on, its hard to know how to stop, gracefully when effectively everyone is 为虎作伥.
Rhetorically the CCP is in charge of the PLA. As Mao’s dictate suggested: “revolution comes from the barrel of a gun, but the party controls the gun.” That is a comforting thought. But in the days of Jiang Zemin (the self described “northern Jiangsu pig”) or Hu Jintao who had no formal military ties, one could never be sure. Party officials have arguably amassed more wealth over the last few decades than the military. Xi Jinping is asserting his authority early by taking down a particular stem of relations within the army. Can that be done without weakening the overall tree? A line of investigation around corruption stemming from the procurement department could theoretically lead to any and every official in uniform. So how do they decide where to cut and how effective will it be when they sew up the wound?
The world’s second largest economy and the world’s largest military are still run with medieval organizational principles. As one academic once quipped “the religion of the Chinese people is being Chinese” and this has all the transparency and predictability of waiting for Papal smoke signals. A small group of people still decide who will live, who will flourish and who will fall. And for now, China remains a place where the Party still controls the gun.