Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries Tagged as 'China'

A Tough New Front

March 26th, 2013 · No Comments

There’s no question that the animal-rights movement has successfully altered America’s attitude toward fur; coats composed of pelts are no longer a de rigueur status symbol for those with too much money on their hands. So why, then, is mink production ramping up to virtually unprecedented levels? Because the newly affluent Chinese covet fur coats […]

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Espionage Made Easy

January 9th, 2013 · No Comments

The Department of Justice rarely indicts people it has no genuine hope of prosecuting, but an exception was recently made in the case of two Chinese nationals, Wan Li Yuan and “Jason Jiang” (true name unknown). The men, who will surely not be foolish enough to travel to these shores again, are alleged to have […]

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The Tongasat Affair, Cont’d

November 29th, 2012 · 1 Comment

We last wrote about Tonga’s unusual space enterprise, Tongasat, back in December 2010, when we focused on the alleged religious motivations of Princess Pilolevu Tuita, the firm’s majority shareholder. After a long quiet spell, the controversial company is now back in the news, as a pawn in a political tug-of-war between a Tongan opposition leader […]

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How They Saw Us, Cont’d

July 5th, 2012 · No Comments

Quite some time ago, I posted about classic Soviet animation that hilariously stereotyped America as a Darwinian nightmare. As someone who grew up thinking that life in Moscow was accurately portrayed by that Wendy’s fashion show commercial, I was strangely pleased to learn that my Soviet peers were similarly duped into thinking that human happiness […]

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Poetry Lives!

May 29th, 2012 · No Comments

I spent part of the long holiday weekend catching up with Evan Osnos’s account of Macau’s casino scene, a story gorgeously stuffed with details of nouveau riche excess. The mind reels at the thought that Macau’s high rollers require stools upon which to place their handbags, or that they rock $12,000 mobile phones. But the […]

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End of Act One

May 4th, 2012 · 3 Comments

As you read these words today, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on my book manuscript—an 84,000-word tale of a young couple that pulled off an amazing heist many moons ago, then went roaming about the world. Tough to believe I’ve reached this point in the process; I started working on this project nearly three […]

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For Research Purposes Only, Of Course

September 27th, 2011 · 2 Comments

When President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, his hosts treated him to a performance of The Red Detachment of Women, a “revolutionary ballet” in which girls with guns dance en pointe to music about the evil of landlords. When Nixon expressed his admiration for the production to Madame Mao, she replied with a ready-made […]

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Made in America

March 18th, 2011 · 9 Comments

I somehow went almost an entire month without pimping my latest Wired feature, which appears in the March issue (alongside Joel Johnson‘s excellent cover story on the Foxconn suicides). The piece is a deeply reported essay that tackles a tricky business proposition: For companies that make products out of atoms, does manufacturing in China and […]

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Rabbit in the Moon

February 28th, 2011 · No Comments

Just one of those days, alas. Back tomorrow with a post on mercury mining in Kyrgyzstan; ’til then, bone up on the history of China’s space shuttle, one of my favorite pieces of aeronautic vaporware.

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“Champ of the Ivories”

February 4th, 2011 · 7 Comments

I have done my earnest best to keep self-promotion to a minimum on Microkhan, while also refusing ads in order to preserve the pristine reading experience you’ve (hopefully) come to know and love. But, alas, I’m going to ask you to endure a bit of jersey-popping on this cold winter morn, as I try once […]

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Pilolevu in the Sky with Diamonds

December 13th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Somewhat lighter-than-usual posting these next three days, as I hack through yet another killer Wired deadline—the last major work task of an exhausting 2010. I was tempted to just toss up a few YouTubes between now and Thursday morning, but that wouldn’t be very sporting. So I will instead offer some quick hits about topics […]

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Bobbing Along

October 14th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Just one of those dour days here in Atlah, with the brain creaking along so slowly that the firing of each synapse sounds like the bursting of a soap bubble. Classic ZZ Top will have to see you through for the moment. And if you have a few spare moments over lunch, it’s worth checking […]

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Let It Grow

March 1st, 2010 · No Comments

Whenever we find ourselves wandering around a massive Chinese supermarket, we inevitably gawk at the price of dried abalone. The delicacy has never crossed our lips thanks to its exorbitant cost. But millions of Asian consumers are willing to fork over the pretty penny, in part due to the marine snail’s reputation as an aphrodisiac. […]

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Thorned Bonanza

January 19th, 2010 · 9 Comments

We’re certainly all for the Czech Republic’s willingness to step up to the plate and become a laboratory for drug-policy reform. But in their haste to craft decriminalization legislation that could kick in with the New Year, Czech lawmakers appear to have done a grave disservice to a rising agricultural sector: the cactus industry: A […]

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Bulletproof: The Boxers

November 24th, 2009 · 6 Comments

It is to the turn-of-the-century media’s great discredit that they referred to China’s quasi-Luddite rebels as “Boxers.” Had the minions of William Randolph Hearts been more adept at understanding Chinese, they would have realized that the rebels’ secret society translated more literally as “Fists of Righteous Harmony,” a far more poetic moniker for an organization […]

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Mark of the Least

November 9th, 2009 · No Comments

Want to ruin your chances of attending a Chinese university? Simply get tattooed: At the National Entrance College Examination of 2009, Zhong was accepted into a major university in Chongqing. But after the physical examination, the university ultimately refused to accept him because of the wolf head on his chest. Zhong’s university dream was broken. […]

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Beyond Burma Shave

September 15th, 2009 · No Comments

A valued Friend of Microkhan informs us that GMC is running a new crop of ads that refer to the Burma Road, where the company’s trucks did fine work plowing through the monsoon muck. This campaign obviously harkens back to one from the thick of World War II, when GMC touted its vehicles’ performance in […]

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The Grain Curve

August 27th, 2009 · No Comments

Inspired in part by the “Meat is the new bread!” daring of the much maligned KFC Double Down, we recently found ourselves keen on learning more about the history of America’s love affair with flour. There is, of course, good reason that one of our most patriotic songs goes out of its way to shout […]

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The Fog of Plague

August 6th, 2009 · 1 Comment

With the Chinese town of Ziketan locked down on account of pneumonic plague, it’s worth looking back at a similar incident from 15 years ago: the Surat plague of 1994. The Indian city ended up recording approximately 5,150 cases of pneumonic plague, which resulted in a shade under 60 fatalities—by no means a major epidemic, […]

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The Flag Racket

July 21st, 2009 · No Comments

Once again, we’re gonna use our platform here to highly recommend The Snakehead, Patrick Radden Keefe’s non-fiction account of the 1993 Golden Venture disaster. The book would be awesome enough if it just told the tale of Sister Ping‘s rise and fall as the tsarina of human smuggling in New York’s Chinatown. But The Snakehead […]

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The Western Union Economy

July 13th, 2009 · No Comments

As we continue to plow through Patrick Radden Keefe’s excellent The Snakehead, we’ve been giving tons of thought to the impact of immigrant remittances. We never cease to be amazed by how much working-class immigrants are able to save and then contribute to the families they left behind—so much, in fact, that some economies become […]

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Holy War in China

July 8th, 2009 · No Comments

In getting up to speed on the Uighur riots in China, we’ve been spending appreciable time delving into the history of the nation’s numerous Muslim rebellions. No 19th-century history of China is complete without an extensive section about these uprisings, which were eventually put down in the most brutal fashion imaginable. We’re particularly enamored with […]

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Left Behind

July 7th, 2009 · No Comments

One of our great journalistic mentors taught us that every saga is about money, at least on some level. That axiom certainly appears to hold true in Xinjiang, the western Chinese province that has suffered through days of deadly riots. As the Financial Times explained last year, Muslim Uighurs are incensed not only with the […]

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Explaining the Fujian Conundrum

July 6th, 2009 · 6 Comments

Over the holiday weekend, in addition to bidding farewell to our dead-tree labor o’ love, we found a few spare moments to start reading The Snakehead, the new book from Chatter author Patrick Radden Keefe. We’re only 50 pages in, but so far this tome gets Microkhan’s equivalent of an Ebert-ian “thumbs way up” rave. […]

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Elbow Grease and Lots of Kevlar

June 2nd, 2009 · 8 Comments

We’re a sucker for unintentionally wry headlines, so we were delighted to come across this gem last night: “Demining efforts to make Taiwan’s Kinmen island more tourist-friendly.” Why, yes, that seems quite logical—few tourists are fond of vacationing amidst landmines. Yet once we stopped chortling, we couldn’t help but become engrossed in Taiwan’s project. Kinmen […]

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An Obscure Flashpoint

May 20th, 2009 · No Comments

Today’s NtHWS Extras installment will have some modern flavor, as we look at one of the planet’s most obscure—and potentially most lethal—territorial disputes: The Sino-Indian tussle over Arunachal Pradesh, where a fair chunk of Now the Hell Will Start is set. The enormous Arunachal is arguably India’s most remote province, populated largely by tribal groups […]

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Thoughts on Lithium

April 29th, 2009 · 3 Comments

So there’s a fresh stir over Bolivia’s massive lithium reserves, which a French industrialist hopes to tap virtually all by his lonesome. This isn’t news to Microkhan, since we helped coin the term “the Saudi Arabia of lithium” last fall. But the object of our interest back then was Chile, currently the world’s leading lithium […]

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The Somalia of 1855

April 21st, 2009 · No Comments

A dispatch (PDF) from the pirate-filled waters off Canton (present-day Guangzhou). The parallels to modern accounts from Somalia are pretty eerie, especially when you consider that China was undergoing its own brand of internal turmoil during this period: The pirates, who have always been very numerous and very formidable in these waters, have lately increased […]

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The Epic Fail School of Espionage

March 31st, 2009 · No Comments

The full story’s yet to be told on why David Yen Lee, a longtime employee of Valspar Paint and Coatings, allegedly decided to betray a whole bunch of trade secrets to a Chinese competitor. Perhaps he’s suffering through a messy divorce, or he’s saddled with gambling debts. Or perhaps he’s just a greedy so-and-so who […]

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Turtle Farming on the Bayou

March 23rd, 2009 · 3 Comments

Our nation’s turtle farming industry recently received some rather unwanted attention, courtesy of Operation Shellshock. The multistate investigation uncovered a clandestine network of reptile smugglers, whose dastardly deeds included the peddling of rare turtles to both collectors and Chinese diners. The scheme was allegedly abetted with “the help of a corrupt Louisiana turtle farm,” which […]

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