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Australia’s New Prime Minister Came from Humble Beginnings

Rod McGuirk wrote . . . . . . . . .

Australia’s Prime Minister-elect Anthony Albanese is a politician molded by his humble start to life as the only child of a single mother who raised him on a pension in gritty inner-Sydney suburbia.

He is also a hero of multicultural Australia, describing himself as the only candidate with a “non-Anglo Celtic name” to run for prime minister in the 121 years that the office has existed.

His friends pronounce his name “Alban-ez,” like bolognese. But having been repeatedly corrected over the years by Italians, the nationality of his absent father, he introduces himself and is widely known as “Alban-easy.”

He shared the stage during his victory speech with Senator Penny Wong, who will become foreign minister. Her father was Malaysian-Chinese and her mother European Australian.

“I think it’s good. Someone with a non-Anglo Celtic surname is the leader in the House of Representatives and … someone with a surname like Wong is the leader of the government in the Senate,” Albanese said.

Australia has been criticized for its overrepresentation in Parliament of offspring of British colonizers. Britain is no longer the major source of Australia’s immigrants since racist policies were dismantled in the 1970s. Around half of Australia’s multicultural population was born overseas or has an overseas-born parent. Chinese and Indians are now immigrating in large numbers.

Albanese has promised to rehabilitate Australia’s international reputation as a climate change laggard with steeper cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. The previous administration had stuck with the same commitment it made at the Paris Agreement in 2015: 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Albanese’s Labor Party has promised a 43% reduction.

His financially precarious upbringing in government-owned housing in suburban Camperdown fundamentally formed the politician who has led the center-left Australian Labor Party into government for the first time since 2007. He is still widely known by his childhood nickname, Albo.

“It says a lot about our great country that a son of a single mom who was a disability pensioner, who grew up in public housing down the road in Camperdown can stand before you tonight as Australia’s prime minister,” Albanese said in his election victory speech on Saturday.

“Every parent wants more for the next generation than they had. My mother dreamt of a better life for me. And I hope that my journey in life inspires Australians to reach for the stars,” he added.

Albanese repeatedly referred during the six-week election campaign to the life lessons he learned from his disadvantaged childhood. Labor’s campaign focused on policies including financial assistance for first home buyers grappling with soaring real estate prices and sluggish wage growth.

Labor also promised cheaper child care for working parents and better nursing home care for the elderly.

Albanese this week promised to begin rebuilding trust in Australia when he attends a Tokyo summit on Tuesday with U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Albanese said he will be “completely consistent” with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s current administration on Chinese strategic competition in the region.

But he said Australia had been placed in the “naughty corner” in United Nations’ climate change negotiations by refusing to adopt more ambitious emissions reduction targets at a November conference.

“One of the ways that we increase our standing in the region, and in particular in the Pacific, is by taking climate change seriously,” Albanese told the National Press Club.

Biden’s administration and Australia “will have a strengthened relationship in our common view about climate change and the opportunity that it represents,” Albanese said.

Albanese blamed Morrison for a “whole series of Australia’s international relations being damaged.”

He said Morrison misled the United States that a secret plan to provide Australia with a fleet of submarines powered with U.S. nuclear technology had the support of Albanese’s Labor Party. In fact, Labor wasn’t told of the plan until the day before it was announced in September.

Albanese also accused Morrison of leaking to the media personal text messages from Emmanuel Macron to discredit the French president’s complaint that Australia had given no warning that a French submarine contract would be canceled.

In November, French Ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thebault described the leak as a “new low” and a warning to other world leaders that their private communications with the Australian government could be weaponized and used against them.

Labor also has described a new security pact been China and the Solomon Islands as Australia’s worst foreign policy failure in the Pacific since World War II.

As a young child, to spare Albanese the scandal of being “illegitimate” in a working-class Roman Catholic family in socially conservative 1960s Australia, he was told that his Italian father, Carlo Albanese, had died in a car accident shortly after marrying his Irish-Australian mother, Maryanne Ellery, in Europe.

His mother, who became an invalid pensioner because of chronic rheumatoid arthritis, told him the truth when he was 14 years old: His father was not dead and his parents had never married.

Carlo Albanese had been a steward on a cruise ship when the couple met in 1962 during the only overseas trip of her life. She returned to Sydney from her seven-month journey through Asia to Britain and continental Europe almost four months pregnant, according to Anthony Albanese’s 2016 biography, “Albanese: Telling it Straight.”

She was living with her parents in their local government-owned house in inner-suburban Camperdown when her only child was born on March 2, 1963.

Out of loyalty to his mother and a fear of hurting her feelings, Albanese waited until after her death in 2002 before searching for his father.

Father and son were happily united in 2009 in the father’s hometown of Barletta in southern Italy. The son was in Italy for business meetings as Australia‘s minister for transport and infrastructure.

Anthony Albanese was a minister throughout Labor’s most recent six years in power and reached his highest office — deputy prime minister — in his government’s final three months, which ended with the 2013 election.

But Albanese’s critics argue that it’s not his humble background but his left-wing politics that make him unsuitable to be prime minister.

The conservative government argued he would be the most left-wing Australian leader in almost 50 years since the crash-or-crash-through reformer Gough Whitlam, a flawed hero of the Labor Party.

In 1975, Whitlam became the only Australian prime minister to be ousted from office by a British monarch’s representative in what is described as a constitutional crisis.

Whitlam had introduced during his brief but tumultuous three years in power free university education, which enabled Albanese to graduate from Sydney University with an economics degree despite his meager financial resources.

Albanese’s supporters say that while he was from Labor’s so-called Socialist Left faction, he was a pragmatist with a proven ability to deal with more conservative elements of the party.

Albanese had undergone what has been described as a makeover in the past year, opting for more fashionable suits and glasses. He has also shed 18 kilograms (40 pounds) in what many assume was an effort to make himself more attractive to voters.

Albanese says he believed he was about to die in a two-car collision in Sydney in January last year and that was the catalyst for his healthier life choices. He had briefly resigned himself to a fate he once believed had been his father’s.

After the accident, Albanese spent a night in a hospital and suffered what he described as external and internal injuries that he has not detailed. The 17-year-old boy behind the wheel of the Range Rover SUV that collided with Albanese’s much smaller Toyota Camry sedan was charged with negligent driving.

Albanese said he was 12 when he became involved in his first political campaign. His fellow public housing tenants successfully defeated a local council proposal to sell their homes — a move that would have increased their rent — in a campaign that involved refusing to pay the council in a so-called rent strike.

The unpaid rent debt was forgiven, which Albanese described as a “lesson for those people who weren’t part of the rent strike: Solidarity works.”

“As I grew up, I understood the impact that government had, can have, on making a difference to people’s lives,” Albanese said. “And in particular, to opportunity.”

On election day, before the vote counting started, he spoke of an advantage from his upbringing.

“When you come from where I’ve come from, one of the advantages that you have is that you don’t get ahead of yourself. Everything in life’s a bonus,” Albanese said.

Source : AP

Video: Against All Odds – Elon Musk

Will Xi Jinping’s ‘End of Days’ Plunge China and the World into War?

Gordon G. Chang wrote . . . . . . . . .

When truckers took over Canada’s capital, Ottawa, and shut down border entry points to America, some called it a “nationwide insurrection.” Mass demonstrations have occurred across the democratic world. People have had enough of two years of mandates and other disease-control measures.

Not so in the world’s most populous state, which maintains the world’s strictest COVID-19 controls. There are no known popular protests in the People’s Republic of China against anti-coronavirus efforts.

Yet China is not stable, and Xi Jinping is facing his “End of Days,” as a recent essay by opposition figures (see below) puts it. The revolt is not in society at large but at the top of the Communist Party. As Gregory Copley, president of the International Strategic Studies Association, told Gatestone, Xi Jinping, China’s mighty-looking leader, has an “enormous array of domestic enemies.”

Xi created that opposition. After becoming China’s ruler at the end of 2012, he grabbed power from everyone else and then jailed tens of thousands of opponents in purges, which he styled as “anti-corruption” campaigns.

Xi also used the disease to great advantage. As Copley, also the editor-in-chief of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, points out, “Xi’s ‘zero COVID’ policy is, indeed, less about stopping the spread of COVID and more about suppressing his internal enemies, both in the public and in the Party.”

The “enormous array” is now starting to strike back. Xi is most vulnerable on his handling of the country’s stagnating economy. For one thing, the draconian campaign against COVID—massive testing, meticulous contact-tracing, strict lockdowns—have of course undermined consumption, which Beijing has touted as the core of the economy.

Beijing is panicking, adding nearly a trillion dollars in total new credit last month, a record increase. Chinese technocrats have also become sneaky, embarking on what the widely followed Andrew Collier of Global Source Partners terms “shadow stimulus”—stimulus provided by local governments and their entities in order to allow the central government to avoid reporting spending.

China needs a vibrant economy to service enormous debts, largely run up as Beijing overstimulated the economy, especially beginning in 2008. When the so-called “hidden debt” is included, total debt in the country amounts to somewhere in the vicinity of 350% of gross domestic product.

Not surprisingly, Chinese companies are now defaulting. The debt crisis is so serious it can bring down China’s economy—and the country’s financial and political systems with it.

For three decades, a Chinese leader was essentially immune to criticism because all decisions of consequence were shared by top figures in the Communist Party. Xi Jinping, however, as he took power also ended up with accountability—in other words, with no one else to blame. With things not going China’s way in recent years, Xi, often called the “Chairman of Everything,” is taking heat.

There are signs of intensifying discord among senior leaders. In the most recent hint of distress, “Fang Zhou and China”— “Fang Zhou” is a pseudonym meaning “ark”—wrote a 42,000-character essay titled “An Objective Evaluation of Xi Jinping.” The anti-Xi screed, posted on January 19 on the China-sponsored 6park site, appears to be the work of several members of the Communist Party’s Shanghai Gang faction, headed by former leader Jiang Zemin. Jiang’s faction has been continually sniping at Xi and now is leading the charge against him.

Fang’s piece incorporates previously voiced criticisms but does so in a comprehensive fashion. Fang blames Xi for, among other things, ruining the economy.

“Xi will be the architect of his own defeat,” writes Fang at the end of the rant, in a section titled “Xi Jinping’s Denouement” or “End of Days.” “His style of governance is simply unsustainable; it will generate even newer and greater policy missteps.”

Fang notes that Xi was able to take advantage of a feeble opposition but has not been able to accomplish much. “Xi’s policies have been retrogressive and derivative, his successes minor and his blunders numerous,” writes the Asia Society’s Geremie Barme, who translated the essay, summarizing Fang’s thoughts. Fang believes Xi “deserves a score of less than zero.”

Xi is not one to let a decade of zero scores get in the way of his continued rule. Communist Party norms require him to step down at the 20th National Congress, to be held sometime this fall if tradition holds. He obviously wants a precedent-breaking third term as general secretary so that he can become, as outsiders say, “Dictator for Life.” Most observers expect he will get that new term.

Maybe. Fang Zhou’s essay shows Communist Party leaders are risking stability by airing disagreements in public. Xi Jinping therefore, now realizes he is in the fight of his life.

Xi’s problems, unfortunately, can become our problems. He has, for various internal political reasons, a low threshold of risk and many reasons to pick on some other country to deflect elite criticism and popular discontent.

In 1966, Mao Zedong, Communist China’s first ruler, started the decade-long Cultural Revolution to vanquish political enemies in Beijing. Xi is doing much the same thing now, especially with his “common prosperity” program, which could return China to the 1950s.

Unlike Mao, however, Xi has the power to plunge the world into war, and he has reason to lash out soon.

Xi is targeting the United States. On August 29 of last year, People’s Daily, China’s most authoritative publication, accused America of launching “barbaric” attacks on the Chinese nation. On the 21st of that month, Global Times, a tabloid controlled by People’s Daily, insinuated the U.S. was working with China’s “enemies.”

The Communist Party of China has always believed its struggle with the United States is existential—in May 2019 the official People’s Daily declared a “people’s war” on America—but the hostility has become far more evident in the past year.

Virulent anti-Americanism suggests Xi Jinping is establishing a justification to strike America. The Chinese regime often uses its media to first warn and then signal its actions.

America has now been warned.

Source : Gatestone Institute

Long Read: 客观评价习近平

作者: 「方舟與中國」 . . . . . .


















这些人都得到了相应的赞赏,而其他人也唯恐落于下风。习近平在 2016 年视察新华社后,该社编辑立刻写了一首诗:《总书记,您的背影我的目光》,以表达对领袖的深情缱绻;而一位学者仿照中国著名的训蒙作品《弟子规》,创作了一篇《习子规》,以赞颂习的深思见解;同时中国最权威的姓氏名谱《百家姓》,被民间作者改为以“习”为首的《新百家姓》;俄罗斯歌谣《要嫁就嫁普京这样的人》,被改编为《要嫁就嫁习大大这样的人》及姊妹篇《做人就做习大大这样的人》,甚至还有儿童版的:《我家有个习大大》。




这段时期的主流媒体,几乎都在颂扬习近平的读书故事。但中国有句老话:“饭不宜饱,话不宜多。”在一件事上见好就收,往往还能留一丝余韵。然而媒体的吹嘘却助长了习近平的胆量,让他走上了一条覆水难收的路。或许他看到此举成效显著,便忍不住把这个话题扩展到了外交场合;2014 年初,习近平出席俄国冬奥会时向采访者说:“读书已成了我的一种生活方式”,并列举了自己所读过的俄罗斯作家,有戈里,莱蒙托夫,普希金,克雷诺夫,奥斯特洛夫斯基等,并表示书中的许多精彩章节仍记得清楚。

而在同年 3 月,习近平参加中法建交 50 年大会,他拿出一张诡异的稿件,面对镜头开始逐条念出他所读过的法国名著,以及他赞赏的法国艺术。这和俄罗斯的场景如出一辙,只是名单换了法国人,有蒙田,拉封丹,司汤达,到福楼拜,大仲马,乃至于凡尔纳等;而艺术领域则包括莫奈,塞尚和罗丹等。

这场演讲的气氛有些异样,显然法国人对此感到不解;不过习近平此番演讲的效应还没有扩散,而这也让他一鼓作气;在 2015 的英国国事访问中,他在参加伦敦晚宴时习惯性地拿出稿件,如法炮制地开始念书单;这次的讲稿较长,整个讲话也几度间歇。他从古希腊名人念到了近代艺术家,当然也特别突出了英国。













观察这些人设策略,其实可以看出习近平的团队中有人留过学,喜好从国际视角来创造亮点。人民日报曾经在外网发布了一个短视频“ Who is Xi Dada?”,在其中借洋人之口去宣传习近平,在对外国青年的采访中,大家都表示习近平“富有才干”,其中的女青年还认为他颇具男性吸引力。

这个视频是习近平访美前发布的,和念书单有异曲同工之效。这些受访者的奉承被外界强烈质疑,人们声称在其中嗅到了朝鲜的宣传气味。同时,为推行习近平的一代一路,媒体制作了一首童谣:“ The Belt and Road is how ”,并聘用外国儿童进行演唱。但这首歌在网上遭遇恶评,许多国家的网友留言指责,其中有人说:




上述这些宣传,显示出一种洋墨水的成分,但这个墨水显然经过了封建色彩的过滤。习近平的团队希望在国际舆论中做出尝试,但他们没能把握国际文化的脉搏;人们认为这些宣传十分低俗,并对儿童作为政治工具感到反感;有人就此制作了一首反讽歌曲:“ This is China Xi ”,同样以童谣的方式,揭露习近平在国家治理中的阴暗面。




虽然习近平在上台的两年内就打掉了大部分敌对势力,让权力前所未有地集中,但他一直陷于一种深刻的不安和自我缺失中;这种情绪在他登基的第三年,中国举办抗战 70 周年大阅兵时表现得尤其突出;这是习近平第一次阅兵,按惯例来说,正是展示领袖权威的重要场合。他坐上观礼车,巡视三军;但在整个过程中,习却没有展现出掌权者的从容,反而显得神情僵硬,意气消沉,似乎笼罩在一片焦虑中。

这是一种深层不自信的表现,是个人权威尚未稳固的状态;这在过往的领袖身上很少见,况且习近平年富力强,不过 60 出头;而回顾 1984 年的阅兵式,邓小平已 80 高龄,却依然显得精神矍铄,踌躇满志。













虽然习近平上台后取消了任期,以让自己具备长期执政的条件;但其实任期制并不是问题,问题是他不具备服众的特质。他创造了很多概念,但一直没能找到一个可依附的内核;他时常说出自我标榜的话,但具有浓烈的假大空色彩。在历任领导人中,他是言辞最空洞的一个。在 2016 年的二十国集团峰会上,习近平说要给世界经济和全球治理指明方向,这种言论就毫无意义。他传达给世界的印象和他本人大相径庭,但他却相信这些手段能赋予自己魅力,以至于不可自拔地投入到一种自我编织的幻想中。


纵观习近平执政十年,会发现他性格比较强势,在政策上也比较激进。但从人格上来说,他却是一个被动者。从头至尾,他都很少坦然地自我表达,而更像被人推动一般,显得亦步亦趋;并且在幕僚们粗暴的推波助澜下,还一路走得跌跌撞撞。这些因素都在积累他的不自信,也让他表现得越发拘谨。——在 2021 年 7 月的世界政党峰会上,习近平按照惯例读稿,但在近尾声时,却重复念了之前的稿件;有人从旁将后续稿件递过来,习近平浑浑噩噩地问了句:“我这说完了吗?”——这显示出他的精神状态很不稳定,且注意力不足。




这刺激到了习近平对权力的执念,为稳固权威,他让幕僚们为其编写了《习近平时代中国特色社会主义思想》,并在 19 大时将其写入党章,又在次年的 13 届全国人大会议上将其写入宪法;与此同时,全国把习思想纳入学校的教育课本,同时也将其开发成移动应用,以让公务员们定期学习。








大国内政 1:重塑权威







在中南海的一条条政令下,大家看到违背主流意识的媒体在网络中消失,网信办封禁了“影响青年人意识形态”的 APP,并发布了《互联网信息服务算法推荐管理规定》,要求算法推荐的互联网内容符合主流价值。此外文旅部加强了娱乐场所的管理,规定 KTV 传唱的歌曲不得存在危害国家统一等九项内容。



早在胡锦涛时期,中国就形成了打压宗教的风气;而到了习近平这里,更是认为下手宜重不宜轻;自 2014 年开始,政府以”三改一拆”的名义开始拆除各地的基督教堂和十字架;这场活动自浙江福建开始,逐渐推进到北方和内陆。仅浙江两年间就拆除了上千个十字架,而安徽半年间拆除了九百个十字架。并且为了防范宗教活动回潮,政府将大部分宗教集会定义为非法活动,并在教堂内安装了监控。

拆除宗教标志被上升为国策,除基督教外,习近平也掀起了新一轮的灭佛运动和去伊斯兰运动;——山西仙堂山的世界最大坐佛像,河北皇安寺 60 米的观音像,辽宁庄河市的千佛洞佛像等,都在习近平任内以各种理由炸毁或拆除。在云南巍山县,政府对伊斯兰教展开了系统性打击,官方以非法宗教场所为由,派出警察去突袭清真寺;而其实这些清真寺早已有所警觉,他们在此前给寺庙挂上了国旗,只是这未能成为宗教的保命符。




大国内政 2:君威与法制





2015 年 7 月,政府发动了著名的“ 709 维权律师大抓捕”,当局在 23 个省份系统行动,对上百位律师,维权人士和公民记者进行了传唤逮捕。这次事件中一些律师以“煽动颠覆国家政权”入罪,一些人被失踪。政府在媒体上宣称律师是社会事件的幕后推手,和访民与犯罪团伙相勾连,炒作敏感事件,扰乱社会秩序。


习近平很忌惮这一点,他把抓捕异议人士定为了国策。而且他有一个根本的看法,就是中国的人权抗争实际来自于于西方的自由思想,这种思想正是资本主义刻意给中共制造的威胁。早在抓捕律师前,西方就点燃过其中一个导火索,就是在 2013 年,彭博社一年间数次报道包括习近平在内的中国高官的海外财产,并列举了详细数据和资料来源。



而一旦赶走外国媒体,政府打击维权的行为就会更少受到关注,让习近平可以肆无忌惮;据“保护记者委员会”的调查,中国 2020 年连续成为世界关押记者最多的国家,仅在这一年就抓捕了 117 名记者,尤其是疫情期间前往武汉的记者。


习近平的危机 1:破灭的金缕衣




这是个很蹊跷的现象,因为以前的中国一度吏治昏乱,执政野蛮;但民众竟愿意回到过去也不愿要习近平。这并不是因为之前的时代有多好,而是那时仍看得到希望;大家更愿意由坏变好,而不是由好变坏。而习近平的执政给人带来一个越来越窒息的环境;所以当 2018 年媒体宣布他修宪取消任期时,很多人立时就感到前景黯淡。








习近平的危机 2:溃败的蚁穴







但在习近平来说,他的政治押注过大,几乎从一开始就断了自己的退路,因此不能轻易言退。在他的危机与日俱增之时,只能凭借民粹的东风去加强政治整肃。他多次强调道:“永远不能停止党内的‘作风建设’ ”,并且“要纠正党内不良风气”。——他借鉴了 30 年代的整风运动,以此清洗官场,在他上任以来落马的官员很多,其中不乏一些任意编派的政治罪名,如“野心膨胀”“妄议中央”或“拉帮结派”。






习近平的危机 3:绝对不忠诚








这可能让习近平感到政道沧桑,人心难测,也让他在人事任用上颇有顾虑;因为很多人都是前任元老的走卒,虽然对他表了忠,但他担心这些人二次变节。习近平曾公开表示自己憎恶“两面人”,他一再提出“绝对忠诚”,强调“旗帜鲜明地反对‘伪忠诚’ ”。他担忧身边出现苏秦那样善于纵横术的阴谋家,而他又拿不准谁是这个人,因此时刻提防着身边人勾结和密谋。








这些因素会营造出一种对他不利的氛围;因为中国传统观念认为,皇帝受命于天,必然受到上天眷顾;所以国家风调雨顺,才能证明当政者是天选之子。然而习近平上台后,国家的内政外交却连番受挫,经济也陷入全面性的衰退;而且近十年来频现天灾人祸,甚至在 2016 年出现荧惑守心这种罕见的凶象;这足以让任何一个皇帝感到恐慌,但习近平却又遭遇了中国百年难遇的疫情,而这种规模的瘟疫往往预示着王朝的衰败;上一次遭遇大瘟疫的领袖是慈禧,而再上一次是崇祯。







综述:习近平和薄熙来 1 同代传承














综述:习近平和薄熙来 2 迥然不同的中国

从个人起点来说,薄熙来显著高于习近平;他得天独厚,凡事都喜欢拔得头筹;不过在专制体制下,最难容的也是这种人。就这个意义来说,习近平要更幸运一些;而这种幸运在一定程度上是源自他的家族。——在文革浪潮中,习仲勋和薄一波都被打倒;薄一波在 1978 年获得平反,习仲勋于 1980 年平反。两人都回到了中央,但薄一波在大小事务上都支持邓小平。而习仲勋的性格更率直一些,也不太官僚化;他在 89 年学潮中为受到批判的胡耀邦仗义执言,这并不符合邓小平的意志,也造成了两个家族权位的分野;薄一波一直是党内决策的重要人物,而习仲勋的成就则更多在经济建设上。

习仲勋于 2002 年逝世,这时习近平是浙江代省长,薄熙来是辽宁代省长;但此时薄的光芒转盛,他的家族也在为他的升迁造势;薄一波直到 2007 年逝世,都在为儿子的政治前途奔忙;而薄熙来敢于行为出格,也大多是由于家族的庇佑。




而在经济理念上,两人更是存在根本的差异;薄熙来很重视经济,因为他清楚经济是执政之本。在这一点上,他可以局部地抛开政治立场,采取务实的态度。但在习近平这里,经济倒像是权术的延伸;他在很多概念上效法薄熙来,但都是一种障眼法;——他宣布要改善民生,平抑房价,但却在上任后掀起了最疯狂的房地产炒作;他提倡脱虚向实,但却热衷于庞氏经济和资本游戏;他声称要挤泡沫,但却将债务扩张到 GDP 增长的两倍,并在执政的十年内将货币发行量翻倍。




























就他的现状来说,已经很难在从政之路上持续走下去;2022 年将会是他最大的转折点,即便他能用某种魔术式的手段获得连任,他也会面临满途荆棘,并在 2027 年前迎来全面的破败。他陷于强烈的自我偏执,以至于把政治过度理想化;他的处境和袁世凯当年相似,整个统治期都处于一种反差的时空中。他可能在内心上把自己奉为千古一帝,但最终会明白这不过是黄粱一梦。而这种理想和现实的落差,往往会成为一个执政者最致命的伤口。


Source : 留园网

Can the World’s Most Connected Doctor Cure Cancer?

Joel Stein wrote . . . . . . . . .

We all know connectors, that archetype that Malcolm Gladwell described in his 1999 New Yorker essay. They know everyone because they go out every night, throw parties, raise money for causes, and tell new friends they must absolutely meet someone they know.

Dr. David Agus doesn’t do any of those things. He doesn’t go out to dinner. He eats at home with his family. Lunches at the office.

Agus is not a connector. He’s an attractor. He’s genius Forrest Gump, a soft-spoken and menschy cancer researcher and doctor who can always be found at the most cutting-edge places. So when powerful people get cancer, he’s the doctor they often come see.

Larry Ellison, the Oracle founder and one of the ten richest people in the world, encountered Agus twice early on. Once when his nephew needed treatment and, later, when his best friend, Steve Jobs, came under his care. After that, Agus, a professor of medicine and engineering at USC, was having breakfast at Ellison’s house, when Ellison asked how much it would cost to build Agus’s dream research facility. Agus did some quick math and made up a number: $200 million. Which was fine with Ellison.

What you get for $200 million is the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC, which looks nothing like the place you picture cancer might be cured. The new, 79,000-square-foot building in West L.A., designed by the architecture firm RIOS, looks less like a lab and more like a Sedona spa. It’s an airy glass-and-wood building with both a sculpture garden and a raked-gravel Zen garden. Yes, there are scientists in white coats with beakers, but they do their work in labs behind big glass windows, like EPCOT attractions. It’s far more “namaste” than “eureka.”

It is definitely the only cancer research center to throw an opening party where Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher were interviewed by Entertainment Tonight on the red carpet while Judd Apatow and Eric Garcetti stood nearby. It’s also the only one that will soon host a pop-up restaurant from Copenhagen’s Noma.

“This is a lot nicer and more grand than what we pictured,” says Agus, sitting in an office under a Picasso painting, not far from sculptures by Jeff Koons, Ai Weiwei, and Robert Indiana. “When Larry does things, he gets intimately involved. So the color white on the wall? Larry chose that. It’s much more relaxing to the human brain than other shades of white.” (In case you’re wondering, it’s Dunn-Edwards Suprema Eggshell, and it’s a damn nice white.)

Agus, 56, is perhaps the only top research doctor who is also something of a pop-culture bon vivant—imagine if Dr. Phil had written Civilization and Its Discontents. He’s penned best-selling books (such as A Short Guide to a Long Life), has been a contributor to CBS Mornings since 2013, and appears on Howard Stern so regularly, he has his own theme song (his name sung to the tune of “Rock Me Amadeus”).

He has, improbably, turned himself into a brand. He was taught by Jobs, who insisted he wear the same nondescript, serious-but-nonthreatening outfit every time he appeared in public. So Agus has found a way to make a thin, black V-neck sweater over a white button-down shirt look iconic. “If I wear a gray or white sweater, people don’t recognize me. It’s an amazing thing to be able to turn on and turn off,” he says.

Agus’s talent for communicating with the public didn’t come naturally. He was a studious kid from a studious family. His grandfather, Jacob Agus, was a writer and rabbi with a Ph.D. from Harvard. “We would read Charles Darwin. He would teach me Arabic and Latin and Greek. Most kids are out playing baseball, so I didn’t really appreciate it,” he says.

At 10 or 11, Agus left his Philadelphia home to spend the summer at a science program at the University of Florida. By high school, he had designed an experiment with rodents that went on the Space Shuttle. (It didn’t go well. The mice died.) Though his father was a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Agus preferred the molecular biology program at Princeton. He paid for part of school by cofounding a company called the Munchie Agency, which delivered soda and snacks to college kids too stoned to leave the dorm.

Agus did eventually end up at the University of Pennsylvania for medical school, and then John Hopkins for his residency. Though he was a cancer researcher, he took a job as a doctor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to learn firsthand from patients. That’s when the attracting began. He was working in a lab at Sloan Kettering when someone knocked on his door. “I look up, and it was the Time Man of the Year, Andy Grove. I was like, ‘Holy shit!” Agus recalls.

The Intel CEO had prostate cancer and was getting a tour of the hospital’s labs. After they talked, Grove decided that Agus was a genius but sucked at conversation. Over the next year, Grove took it upon himself to teach Agus how to present his ideas, setting up more than 150 presentations to force him to improve. Then Grove decided Agus needed to move to California.

“He said, ‘You stay on the East Coast, you hit singles. You go to the West Coast, you swing for the fences. If you strike out, you start again.”

Agus got a job at Cedars-Sinai, with Grove acting as his unofficial agent. “You know what a hospital is like when Andy Grove is negotiating your contract? They thought I was psychotic. They couldn’t understand who or what I was,” Agus says.

One of the reasons Agus attracts tech moguls and other industry titans is that he specializes in prostate cancer, which is a disease that attacks older men. This affords more access to powerful people than treating cleft palates. Among his famous patients: Lance Armstrong, Ted Kennedy, Neil Young, Sumner Redstone, Eli Broad, Dennis Hopper, Johnny Ramone, and former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Tom Shera.

For six years, Agus took care of Paramount CEO Brad Grey, who, despite Grove’s boot camp, thought Agus could still use some help on talk shows. Grey got two focus groups to watch Agus’s presentations as if they were TV pilots. One thing Agus learned from them was that most people were actually turned off by his long list of celebrity patients, assuming that the doctor treated only VIPs, not folks like them. “So now I’m very conscious to say, ‘Everything I say is achievable by everybody,” Agus notes. “This is not just care for the rich.’” He adds that most patients at the clinic pay via Medicare.

Agus also includes a phone number on his Twitter account where just about anybody can text medical questions. He pulls out his phone to show me about 100 messages waiting for his reply, including one from a woman asking Agus to make a video announcing to her fiancé that she’s pregnant.

“Sure,” he says.

Even Agus’s house is an attractor. A 1959 midcentury modern in Beverly Hills, it was first owned by Armand Deutsch, the grandson of the CEO of Sears. Frank Sinatra used to sing in Deutch’s living room, and Ronald Reagan threw his L.A. presidential inauguration party there when he owned it.

“When we bought it, I was taking care of Merv Griffin,” Agus tells me in his backyard. “So Merv told Nancy Reagan, and she goes, ‘The house is going to fall down. Don’t tell your doctor.’ Griffin told Agus anyway. “And literally, as I got this note from Merv, I saw a squirrel go right through the roof.” Agus put a tin roof on the house because he was house poor and tin roofs were cheap. A few weeks later, a fire burned down both of the other houses at the top of his driveway. The tin roof saved his home.

Until two years ago, when she died at 101, his next-door neighbor was Sinatra’s former wife, Nancy, who acted as an extra grandmother to Agus’s two kids with his wife, Amy Povich, Maury Povich’s daughter.

Being an attractor has its challenges in politically polarized times. Agus has worked with both Joe Biden, when he was vice president, and Donald Trump, when he was president, doubling his chances of pissing people off. Like some other doctors in March 2020, Agus publicly expressed interest in hydroxychloroquine. It was subsequently proven ineffective. And a month before that, he guessed on TV that COVID-19 wouldn’t be a major problem for America—which Trump later edited into an anti-media video he showed at a press briefing. “It got really scary,” Agus remembers. “I mean, the president of the United States put a video of a cancer doc with five words of a long sentence taken out of context.” Still, despite the video and the criticism it understandably generated, Agus continued advising the Trump administration. “It’s hard to swallow. But my job is to help. You rise above that. We work with all kinds of governments.”

The Ellison Institute is designed to be a catalyst for the kind of serendipity that’s propelled Agus’s career. Those scientists are in full view of patients so they can ask each other questions. The halls are also walked by people with no connection to cancer: an astrophysicist, an artist, a statistician. That’s Agus’s big idea—to cross-pollinate brains from wildly different fields—which he came up with after Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann suggested he study rougher-grain data to find the big theories that cancer research lacks. Ellison recently bought five houses nearby to put up visiting experts from fields other than cancer research. “You call a mathematician from Ukraine and say, ‘Listen, I’m going to give you three months in L.A. and a car. And they’re here,’ ” Agus says. And, yes, that car will be a Tesla. Because Agus knows Elon Musk through Ellison.

“We haven’t cured this disease at all. So by definition, my people—cancer docs—have failed. That’s why we need to bring in other people,” Agus says. “We brought in a cryptographer, and he gets all these crazy ideas of how to look at the data differently and compress it into an algorithm. It was this gold mine of a conversation.”

Because the institute is built with Silicon Valley money, all of that interaction gets tracked. Location-tagged badges tell the institute who stopped to talk to whom, allowing Agus to determine if everyone is being interdisciplinary enough.

But it’s also purposely un-Silicon Valley. A permanent display on the fourth-floor walls was built to show visiting high schoolers the history of cancer treatments through the ages. In another room, huge wood doors part to reveal a collection of John Hopkins Medical School cofounder William Osler’s old medical books, his original wood stethoscopes, and a tin of cocaine candies he liked to suck on.

“I want to say we’re standing on the shoulders of giants,” Agus says of the mini cancer museum. “The Silicon Valley attitude of ‘We’re reinventing the future’? We’re not that.”

In addition to treating patients, the building has a wellness component on the fifth floor, complete with an outdoor deck with amazing views of the city. “We have people from across the globe. Some fly in with their doctors, and we give them a plan for the year,” Agus says. The program filled up before it officially opened.

Because he deals with both patients and scientists and because he ran the Munchie Agency, Agus focuses as much on implementation as discovery. And that’s an approach that he and his team believe will spread to other treatment centers in L.A.

“I think L.A. is the next big biotechnology hub. It’s really fertile,” says Dr. Anna Barker, the former principal deputy director of the National Cancer Institute and now the Ellison Institute’s chief strategy officer. “We’re on our way to bringing all these disciplines together and rewriting how medicine should be done and how patients should be viewed as whole organisms.”

Agus has been an L.A. pros-elytizer since Grove first sent him here. He seems fully immersed in it even if he never goes out. Sitting in his yard, the world’s calmest dog greets him. Povich comes outside with a wood tray of cappuccino she’s made with a new machine from Café Lux, which provides coffee at the Ellison Institute. An old Porsche convertible and a Vespa sit
in the driveway.

“Here, the elite are the artists, the actors, the writers,” he says. “They value creativity in a scientist. In New York, it’s bankers. We just didn’t fit in as well as we do here.”

Inside their house, which is decorated with an impressive photography collection, he shows me his latest acquisition. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff sent him five of physicist Murray Gell-Mann’s medals, though not his Nobel, which Benioff stopped bidding on after it more than doubled its Sotheby estimate amount and sold for $625,000.

Benioff FaceTimed last night and asked why Agus wasn’t wearing Gell-Mann’s engraved 1993 Lindbergh Award Longines Hour Angle watch. “He said, ‘It’s meant to inspire you when you’re having a bad day,’ ” Agus says.

It’s still in its case.

Source : Los Angeles Magazine

President Xi Jinping, China’s ‘Chairman of Everything’

Joe McDonald wrote . . . . . . . . .

The last time the Olympics came to China, he oversaw the whole endeavor. Now the Games are back, and this time Xi Jinping is running the entire nation.

The Chinese president, hosting a Winter Olympics beleaguered by complaints about human rights abuses, has upended tradition to restore strongman rule in China and tighten Communist Party control over the economy and society.

Xi was in charge of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing that served as a “coming-out party” for China as an economic and political force. A second-generation member of the party elite, Xi became general secretary of the party in 2012. He took the ceremonial title of president the next year.

Xi spent his first five-year term atop the party making himself China’s strongest leader at least since Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s. Xi was dubbed “chairman of everything” after he put himself in charge of economic, propaganda and other major functions. That reversed a consensus for the ruling inner circle to avoid power struggles by sharing decision-making.

The party is crushing pro-democracy and other activism and tightening control over business and society. It has expanded surveillance of China’s 1.4 billion people and control of business, culture, education and religion. A “social credit” system tracks every person and company and punishes infractions from pollution to littering.

Xi’s rise coincides with increased assertiveness abroad following three decades of China keeping its head down to focus on economic development.

Xi wants China to be “the greatest country on Earth, widely admired and therefore followed,” said Steve Tsang, a Chinese politics specialist at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

“The world where China is top dog is a world where authoritarianism is safe,” Tsang said. Democracies will ”need to know their place.”

Born in Beijing in 1953, Xi enjoyed a privileged youth as the second son of Xi Zhongxun, a former vice premier and guerrilla commander in the civil war that brought Mao Zedong’s communist rebels to power in 1949. At 15, Xi Jinping was sent to rural Shaanxi province in 1969 as part of Mao’s campaign to have educated urban young people learn from peasants. Xi was caught trying to sneak back to the Chinese capital and returned to Shaanxi to dig irrigation ditches.

“Knives are sharpened on the stone. People are refined through hardship,” Xi told a Chinese magazine in 2001. “Whenever I later encountered trouble, I’d just think of how hard it had been to get things done back then and nothing would then seem difficult.”

Beijing is pushing for a bigger role in managing trade and global affairs to match its status as the second-biggest economy. It has antagonized Japan, India and other neighbors by trying to intimidate Taiwan — the island democracy that the ruling party says belongs to China — and by pressing claims to disputed sections of the South and East China Seas and the Himalayas.

The party has ended limits on foreign ownership in its auto industry and made other market-opening changes. But it has declared state-owned companies that dominate oil, banking and other industries the “core of the economy.”

Beijing is pressuring private sector successes such as Alibaba Group, the world’s biggest e-commerce company, to divert billions of dollars into nationalistic initiatives including making China a “technology power” and reducing reliance on the United States, Japan and other suppliers by developing processor chips and other products.

That, combined with U.S. and European curbs on Chinese access to technology due to security fears, is fueling anxiety global industry might decouple or split into markets with incompatible auto, telecom and other products. That would raise costs and slow innovation.

Xi, 68, looks certain to break with tradition again by pursuing a third term as party leader at a congress in October or November. He had the constitution’s limit of two terms on his presidency repealed in 2018. That reversed arrangements put in place in the 1990s for party factions to share decision-making and hand over power to younger leaders once every decade.

Even before Xi took power, party officials complained that group leadership was too cumbersome and allowed lower-level leaders to ignore or obstruct initiatives. Officials defend Xi’s efforts to stay in power by saying he needs to ensure reforms are carried out.

Xi led an anti-corruption crackdown whose most prominent targets were members of other factions or supported rival leadership candidates. The campaign was popular with the public but led to complaints that officials refused to make big decisions for fear of attracting attention.

Xi has called for a “national rejuvenation” based on tighter party control over education, culture and religion. Many of the changes are hostile to ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, pro-democracy and other activists and independent-minded artists and writers. Social media groups for gay university students have been shut down. Men deemed insufficiently masculine were banned from TV.

An estimated 1 million Uyghurs and members of other mostly Muslim minority groups have been confined in camps in the Xinjiang region in the northwest. Activists complain Beijing is trying to erase minority cultures, but officials say the camps are for job training and to combat radicalism. They reject reports of force abortions and other abuses.

Xi oversaw the 2015 detention of more than 200 lawyers and legal aides who helped activists and members of the public challenge official abuses.

After the coronavirus emerged in 2019, Xi’s government suppressed information and punished doctors who tried to warn the public. That prompted accusations Beijing allowed the disease to spread more widely and left other countries unprepared.

Beijing extended its crackdown to Hong Kong following 2019 protests that began over a proposed extradition law and expanded to include demands for greater democracy.

A national security law was imposed on Hong Kong in 2020, prompting complaints that Beijing was eroding the autonomy that had been promised when the former British colony returned to China in 1997 — and ruining its status as a trade and financial center.

Pro-democracy figures have been imprisoned. They include Jimmy Lai, the 73-year-old former publisher of the Apple Daily newspaper, which shut down under government pressure, and organizers of candlelight memorials of the party’s deadly 1989 crackdown on a pro-democracy movement.

A big potential stumbling block to achieving Xi’s ambitions is the struggling economy. Growth is slumping after Beijing tightened controls on use of debt in its real estate industry, one of its biggest economic engines. That adds to the drag from politically motivated initiatives, including tech development and orders to manufacturers to use Chinese suppliers of components and raw materials, even if that costs more.

“Xi himself weakens the economy rather than strengthening it,” Tsang said. “If you mess up the economy, he’s not going to make China the dominant power in the world.”

Source : AP