Monday, October 1, 2018

The lack of comprehensive political economy goals will create concurrent pecuniary and environmental disasters for the U.S. Gen X and later generations

Part 3. About China's most recent 4000 years

The "illusion of knowledge" regarding the three quotes above is that
  1. The Art of War (孫子兵法) is traditionally attributed to Sun Tzu from the late 6th century BC even though its earliest parts probably date to at least 100 years later;
  2. The closest expression to the "knowledge is power" quote in Bacon's works is "knowledge is His power" as the context of the latin sentence refers to the qualities of God and is embedded in a discussion of heresies that deny the power of God; and
  3. the third quote is routinely misattributed to Stephen Hawking and Daniel J. Boorstin.
However, one can learn from the fact that the Chinese philosopher general Sun Tzu was born about
  • 1600 years after the establishment of the Xia dynasty, China's first reported dynasty;
  • 2000 years before the English philosopher Francis Bacon (at the time of the Celtic immigration to the British Isles);  and
  • 2400 years before the American physicist Stephen Hawking (at the time the Pre-Columbian Native American Adena culture thrived in an area including parts of present-day Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland). 
Those timespans should offer a comparative sense of perspective about the maturity of the continuous Chinese, British, and U.S. 21st Century cultures during the time of Brexit and of Trump.

The three quotes offer considerable wisdom, particularly when our nation's leader says his aggressive political economics policies are not a war...

...but says trade wars are good and easy to win...

As noted in the introductory post in this series, to be able to assure that our grandchildren will survive and thrive we Americans must
  1. have some knowledge of the history, culture, government, and political economy of China;
  2. have a realistic awareness of the differences between 21st Century China versus 21st Century U.S. in terms of the mixed socialist-capitalist political economies and autocratic governments of both countries; and
  3. be aware of the Chinese commitment to their grandchildren to use an adaptive, evolving national strategy to achieve their goals for 2020, 2035, and 2049, including the evolving Chinese strategic plans for climate change adaptation to assure that future generations of Chinese will survive and thrive.
It must be noted that this post cannot repeat everything written in the two-dozen-plus posts in this blog related to the subject of China but this post necessarily will be long.

China's History, Language, Culture and Government are not European

It would be fair to say that the Chinese have never viewed the world with a European bias which makes gaining an understanding harder for non-Asians.

To begin with, the native language spoken by Chinese President Xi Jinping and most of China's 1.4 billion people is not an Indo-European language. No influence from Abrahamic religions permeates Chinese history and culture, unlike American history and culture.

Think about that.

Words in the basic spoken Chinese are not derived from Latin or Germanic sources. For someone whose native language is English, to master communications and thought patterns in Chinese requires absorbing a new pronunciation system, a new writing system and a totally different approach to grammar. And more recently brain scientists have discovered that learning Chinese involves a different brain development as explained (emphasis added):

    One group of researchers identified three areas in the left hemisphere (or side) of the brain that are used when reading in all orthographies studied. These researchers combined the results of 43 different fMRI and PET studies of reading in several different languages, including English, French, Italian, German, Danish, Chinese, Japanese Kana, and Japanese Kanji. The three brain regions used in all orthographies were a region at the top of the left temporal lobe toward the back of the brain called the temporal–parietal area, which may be involved in phonological decoding, a region along the bottom of the left frontal lobe called the inferior frontal gyrus....
    The same group of researchers also identified several areas of the brain that are used only when a specific orthography was being read. For example, the fusiform gyrus in the right hemisphere (side) of the brain was active when reading Chinese, but not the other languages. This pattern of brain activity means that, when reading Chinese, the fusiform gyrus in both the left and right hemispheres is used, but when reading any of the alphabetic orthographies, only the left hemisphere fusiform area, the VWFA, is used.

Further, our culture is permeated with thinking based upon the 31,102± verses of the bible. When you "escape by the skin of your teeth" you are quoting Job 19:20. To make matters more confusing, our days of the week are named for old European gods. Which brings us to something seemingly as simple as having a common history for the calendar - you  know, birthdays, holidays, etc. Well, maybe not holidays because many holidays are religious, or associated with important people, or some other such nonsense. In any event, you likely don't look forward to the Shangyuan Festival (上元节, 上元節) (Lantern Festival) each year.

The traditional Chinese calendar still governs traditional activities in China and in overseas Chinese communities though China's political economy now officially uses the Gregorian calendar. You know all about the Gregorian Calendar that you depend on for, you  know, birthdays, holidays, etc., plus paying your bills on time, right? Sure.

As you must know as an American who knows your culture, the Gregorian Calendar was adopted to replace the Julian Calendar, the previous predominant calendar in the Roman world, most of Europe, and in European settlements in the Americas and elsewhere, a calendar proposed by Julius Caesar in 46 BC.

Pope Gregory XIII (you know all about him being familiar with Catholic history) introduced the Gregorian Calendar in October 1582 which was adopted initially by the Catholic countries of Europe and their overseas possessions. Over the next three centuries, the Protestant and Eastern Orthodox countries also moved to what they called the Improved calendar though the Julian calendar is still used in parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church, in parts of Oriental Orthodoxy, and by the Berbers.

The traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hindu and Hebrew calendars which reckons years, months and days according to detailed astronomical phenomena.  But to simplify, sort of:
  • Days begin and end at midnight although, colloquially, people refer to days beginning at dawn. We won't even get into how over thousands of years how they changed breaking the day into parts like hours or minutes.
  • Weeks consist of nine- or ten-day weeks, called xún (旬). Months were divided into 3 xún. The first 10 days was the early xún (上旬), the middle 10 days was the mid xún (中旬), and the last 9 or 10 days is the late xún (下旬). During the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), officials of the empire were legally required to rest every fifth day (沐; mù, from 休沐; xiūmù; "wash rest"), a day of rest, sort of a weekend though one of the days is a "weekmid."
  • Months are defined by the time between new moons, which averages to 29 ​17⁄32 days. Instead of using half-days to balance the months with the lunar cycle, every other month of the year has 29 days (short month, 小月) and the rest have 30 (long month, 大月).  Dateq, when a day occurs within the month, are numbered in sequence from 1 – 29 or 1 – 30. Years start on a long month and alternate short-long-short-long until the year ends.
  • Years come in two types. The lunisolar year starts from the first spring month, called Zhēngyuè (正月; "capital month") and ends at the last winter month, called Làyuè (臘月; 腊月; "sacrificial month"). All other months are named for their number in the month order. The solar year (歲; 岁; Suì) is the time between winter solstices. In general, there are 11 or 12 complete months—plus 2 incomplete months which border the winter solstice—in a solar year. The complete months are numbered from 0 to 10, and the incomplete months together are considered to be the 11th month. The first month without a mid-climate is the leap month or intercalary month which is too confusing to explain here except to say that leap months are somewhat like our leap years. In 2017, the intercalary month after month 6 was called Rùn Liùyuè, or "intercalary sixth month" (閏六月). When writing or using shorthand, it was referred to as 6i or 6+. The next intercalary month occurs in 2020 after month 4, so it will be called Rùn Sìyuè (閏四月) and 4i or 4+ will be used as shorthand.
We won't take up subjects such as 7 Luminaries, Great Bea, 3 Enclosures, 28 Mansions, nor heavenly stems and earthly branches which match together and form 60 stem-branches. Let's just say that unless you spent your first 30 years in China, it is unlikely you're going to even be familiar with what traditions, information and lore about just the calendar a Chinese person learned growing up.

Think about it.

For the first 18,000 years or so, beginning with the Neolithic age, no significant European interaction with Chinese culture is evidenced, until 166 AD when the-mostly-indirect Sino-Roman relations began to be recorded. It really wasn't until the 13th century Silk Road trade reached its height that one could say true cross-cultural influences affected China.

In China's 4000± year history of empires a different civil perspective exists than in the United States, a country that has existed less than 250 years. Evidence indicates that in China a form of writing began around 7000 BCE, the first empire dynasty emerged around 2100 BCE, and the Shang Dynasty from the 17th to the 11th century BCE created oracle bone script which is a direct ancestor of modern Chinese characters.

To make a long story short, around 220 BCE the state of Qin established the first unified Chinese state. Its King Zheng enacted legalist reforms throughout China, notably the forced standardization of Chinese characters, measurements, road widths (i.e., cart axles' length), and currency. His dynasty also conquered the Yue tribes in Guangxi, Guangdong, and Vietnam.

The Han dynasty emerged to rule China between 206 BCE and CE 220, creating a cultural identity among its populace still remembered in the ethnonym of the Han Chinese. The Han expanded the empire's territory considerably, with military campaigns reaching Central Asia, Mongolia, South Korea, and Yunnan, and the recovery of Guangdong and northern Vietnam from Nanyue. Han involvement in Central Asia and Sogdia helped establish the land route of the Silk Road, replacing the earlier path over the Himalayas to India. Han China gradually became the largest economy of the ancient world.

In 1644, at about the time of the first European settlements on the American Continent, peasant rebels led by Li Zicheng conquered the Ming dynasty capital, Beijing, leading to the establishment of the Qing dynasty (/tʃɪŋ/). Subsequently, China continued to be an oligarchy led by a Qing emperor until 1912 after nearly a century of interference by the British Empire and other western countries plus invasion by Japan left the country in turmoil until 1949 when peasant rebels established a Communist Party oligarchy led by a paramount leader selected by the Party (instead of a dynastic emperor).

In other words, the traditional Chinese form of national government has been an oligarchy with a touch (sometimes a heavy hand) of autocracy led by an emperor or a paramount leader.

With regard to government, it would be fair to say that China not only does not view the world with a European bias, but also views the idea of government through the lens of 4000+ years of experience with variations on a form of power structure in which power rests with a relatively small number (actually thousands) of people not ostensibly democratically elected, led by a paramount leader who is currently Xi Jinping.

And it is this subject which leads to the misunderstanding that represents the greatest danger to Trump's "easy-to-win" approach to a trade war with China.

China's Government is Imperfect Like Ours

One of the problems with amateurs in American politics is they come with a what might be called a prejudiced view based on false ideological concepts.

Consider the simplest of definitions governmental structures at the right.

While there might be a few towns in New England that have town meeting forms of government that meet the definition of democracy, the United States - the More-Perfect-Union government - is not a democracy. It's an oligarchy that offers some democratic elements in its structure. And since 2016 it seems to have an autocratic element.

Also, despite what many Americans want to believe, China's government is not an autocracy, but rather also an oligarchy with an autocratic element and a touch of a democratic element or two.

Americans want to argue that China is not free - that freedom of speech, assembly, and religion in particular are absent. Of particular current concern are the tight government controls on the internet within China and the "re-education camps" for Muslims in Xinjiang. These two are interesting.

The internet is a curious example. Many Americans, including members of Congress, are concerned about the evident harm lack of any control of the internet has permitted, harm which has not come to China.

And Xinjang Uyĝur Aptonom Rayoni 新疆维吾尔自治区 is
  1. a provincial-level autonomous region of China in the northwest of the country bordering the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Mongolia, and Russia;
  2. the largest Chinese administrative division and the eighth largest country subdivision in the world and home to about 24 million people , including 14 million Muslims; and
  3. larger in land area than the largest U.S. state Alaska, more populous than any U.S. state except California and Texas, and home to a Muslim population that is larger in total than any U.S. state total population except California, Texas, Florida, and New York - more people than 14 least populous U.S. states combined.
Exactly how would the U.S., a "Christian" country that refuses to take Muslim refugee children, handle a Muslim population that size which includes terrorists? If it were a state in the United States, Xinjang would be the third largest state with a 60% Muslim population which, if only ½ of 1 percent were terrorists, would include 70,000 active terrorists living among a generally sympathetic state population.

How well has the United States dealt with the post-Civil War population differences? How well have we dealt with our indigenous population?

The world frequently points out to the United States that it has the highest rate of incarceration, making it the nation with the least free population. What exactly do Trump's Deplorables and urban liberals think are the benefits of freedom of speech, assembly, and religion to an imprisoned population???

As with economics, government and politics are not simple despite what some in both countries want people to believe. But Americans really don't know their society well enough to understand the truth of their own governments.

Some American's get hung up on the issue of freedom. The goal of these posts is to discuss cultures and economies, but if myths like "truth, justice, and the American way of freedom" are going to get in the way....

Pretend for a moment that you are among the Han Chinese population which is about 92% of China's population and about 18% of the global population (compared to 16% of the global population that is white), a citizen of China who has received a decent education, perhaps even having spent some time in the United States. And you are fluent in reading English. You know that Xi Jinping is the President of China, the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Perhaps you think that at a minimum Americans should know that President Xi is the first General Secretary to have been born after the Second World War, was exiled to rural Yanchuan County as a teenager following his father's purge during the Mao's Cultural Revolution, and lived in a cave in the village of Liangjiahe, where he organized communal laborers. At best, you know Xi's respect for Mao has more to do with such events as The Long March and less with Mao's governing skills.

Recently the term limit on the Chinese President was removed. Instantly, much of the popular U.S. news media erroneously declared that President Xi had appointed himself President for life grossly misleading the American public.

The real political power in China is the Communist Party’s General Secretary and Chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission, neither of which have term limits.  President Xi holds both those positions and derives his political power from them. But even that is not a clear indication of China's power structure.

The man who led China after the death of Mao, from 1978-89, was Deng Xiaoping. He never held office as the head of state, head of government or General Secretary. His official state positions were Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (essentially analogous to an advisory legislative upper house such as the British House of Lords) from 1978–1983 and Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China from 1983–1990, while his official party positions were Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1977–1982 and Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China from 1981–1989. Despite being the head of state, head of government or General Secretary, Deng nonetheless led his country through far-reaching market-economy (Capitalist!) reforms including opening China to the global economy.

China's political structure is deliberately complicated or, to use a stereotypical trope, seemingly inscrutable to Americans:
  • The President of the People's Republic of China, held by Xi Jinping is the head of state of the People's Republic of China; under the country's constitution, the presidency is a largely ceremonial office with limited powers.
  • The Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, a position currently held by Li Keqiang, is the highest administrative position in the Government of the People's Republic of China. 
Perhaps 1-in-15 Americans would recognize the name Xi Jinping. The name Li Keqiang would be unrecognizable to 98% of Americans; if you do a Google News search you will find many articles on him except in U.S. news sources, of course.

If you are that Chinese person, from your perspective any ongoing American news coverage of China caters to a knee-jerk reaction in too many Westerners, as we shall see. Perhaps Americans start writing about the horrors of Marxist ideology because "proper" American thinking about freedom begins and ends with getting rich, with a side thought of being able to criticize others without retribution.

The American idea of a "big picture view" is a 72-inch TV screen. They freely express concerns about authoritarian rule in China while being ignorant of their own country which was built on the pain of native Americans - the largest population in world history to be subjected to government-sponsored genocide.

And it is as if Americans don't understand that Capitalism, which has an "-ism" at the end of the word. It is an economic ideology every bit as much as is Socialism and the evils of both ideologies when rigidly applied are real.

In much American writing, a government implementation of Socialism is an attack on freedom while the impacts of the U..S. government's implementation of Capitalism is not even acknowledged.

Most certainly most white Americans do not acknowledge what "authoritarian" means or how it has been carefully implemented by governments at the federal and state levels in the U.S. to support Capitalism.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary authoritarian means "favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom."

As noted the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. The reason for this policy Americans understand clearly. The United States has a set of government implemented laws that are based on a very subjective morality that has deliberately selective racial and religious bigotry components that would have been unacceptable in all other countries of the West during the Clinton Administration.

The "Black Lives Matter" movement didn't arise because the United States offers the least authoritarian government possible to its people.

If you're a black American, you live in a fearful world created by a police state not unlike Nazi Germany. If you read that as an overstatement, you are an "in-denial, probably-white American" or participant in the police state culture.

If the enforcement of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom is what defines "authoritarian", then the United States is the most authoritarian country in the world. The People's Republic of China (PRC) doesn't even come close with an incarceration rate somewhere between Canada and Luxembourg.

Of course, in China the expression of opinion regarding political, economic, and social issues is subject to government restriction. And that includes a lack of freedom of the press. Whether within the United States today that is considered good or bad depends on
  1. whether people think that the press is an obstacle to their objectives and
  2. whether people believe the myth that entertainment can be defined as the press.
But one has to wonder about a people...
  1. who know their country has the highest incarceration rate in the world,
  2. who know that most of the incarcerated are black and brown males,
  3. who know that "a." and "b." were the result of a deliberate choice by the white majority who elected government officials at all levels, and
  4. who, without acting to stop it, know that their police are killing people (mostly black and brown males) at a rate not seen in any other "first world" country but frequently is seen in the most backward of countries engaging in genocide,
...but who still think that the United States does not have an authoritarian-element in its governments at all levels. Although they are worried about government infringement on the internet....

Pretend for a moment that you are that Chinese person who has received a decent education, perhaps even having spent some time in the United States.
  • Would you think a system built on Capitalist ideology that imprisons many thousands of people - the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world - is much better than your own country, which imprisons a relative handful of people for being outspoken against government policy?
  • Would you think a system built on Capitalist ideology that has uniformed police killing more people in the street than any country in the world because of their race is much better than one built on Socialist ideology that kills people who actively engage in and advocate revolution?

If you are any well-educated Chinese citizen, you know that your current government structure is about the same as it was for the past 4000 years, except of course for the peculiar interruption of Western intervention that occurred between 1911-1949 (see timeline above).

Of course the socialism/capitalism ideological argument between ideologues always becomes extreme as indicated in the graphic at the right.

And the U.S. myth is that it is a capitalist state while the Chinese myth is that it is a socialist state.

But you know that the reality is neither the U.S. or China is capitalist or socialist enough for an ideologue. You know that for a Capitalist ideologue the discussion of freedom involves the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual through institutions. For a Socialist that discussion of freedom requires the addition of the subject of equitable economic conditions that make freedom possible. And you know that these issues regularly are taken up within the political institutions of both countries.

The question for an American becomes one of what are the economic goals of each country at this point in the 21st Century? And the problem is the U.S. has no national long-term economic goals while China does.

In the face of Trump's aggressive political economics in the context of Climate Change, that is a problem which we will explore next. Make no mistake about it. It is a problem and we may be condemning our grandchildren to a far less fulfilling life than enjoyed by Trump's generation.

China's Long Term Political Economy Goals

It is important to lay out a simplified explanation of China's long term goals, generally known as the Chinese Dream, a term likely derived from the idea of "The American Dream" and promoted by President Xi Jinping beginning after becoming the Party General Secretary in 2012. Expanded upon by Xi when the Five-Year Plan for 2016-2020 was announced, the Dream is to completely transform China from a feudal economy to a modern economy.

In summary, after an economic period of relying on low-cost exports and transforming the peasantry into a modern work force in manufacturing and service industries, the goals were the Two 100s:
  • the poverty-elimination goal of China becoming a “moderately well-off society” by about 2020, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, and 
  • the modernization goal of China becoming a fully developed nation by about 2049, the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic.
The Chinese Dream has four parts:
  1. a Strong China (economically, politically, diplomatically, scientifically, militarily); 
  2. a Civilized China (equity and fairness, rich culture, high morals); 
  3. a Harmonious China (amity among social classes); 
  4. a Beautiful China (healthy environment, low pollution).
The curious question is what kind of American would find this threatening enough to start a trade war with China? And does such an American think the team led by Trump understands the American, as well as the Chinese, political economy thoroughly enough to win such a war? And what is it they think they are going to win? Will not the likely outcome leave both economies poorer with fewer jobs for the non-tech working class?

Of course, the devil is in the details. Literally dozens of plans exist to support the broader Chinese goals.

Many believe that the Made in China 2025 (中国制造) strategic plan announced by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in May 2015 is the core of the trade war between the U.S. and China. In China Donald Trump’s bluster about the trade deficit is considered propaganda since the issue could have been resolved by accepting China’s offer in early June 2018 to buy $70 billion in additional American goods in a year.

Trump Administration officials and many foreign companies see the initiative as predatory because of long-standing grievances against the Chinese government for past intellectual property theft, coerced (or nearly coerced) technology transfer, and China’s stubbornly protectionist market.

The problem with this narrow view is that from its beginning the Made in China 2025 plan was based upon Industry 4.0 which, as explained in Wikipedia, originates from the Industrie 4.0 high-tech strategy of the German government. The German economic development agency Germany Trade and Invest describes it as a “strategic initiative to establish Germany as a lead market and provider of advanced manufacturing solutions. Industrie 4.0 represents a paradigm shift from centralized to decentralized smart manufacturing and production. Smart production becomes the norm in a world where intelligent ICT-based machines, systems and networks are capable of independently exchanging and responding to information to manage industrial production processes.”

The German government is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into Industrie 4.0-related activities including academic research and industrial trials.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told attendees to the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “We must…deal quickly with the fusion of the online world and the world of industrial production. In Germany, we call it Industrie 4.0. Because otherwise, those who are the leaders in the digital domain will take the lead in industrial production. We enter this race with great confidence. But it’s a race we have not yet won.”

In 2016 during a speech at the Hannover Messe industrial exposition, Merkel said, “We have reached a critical moment, a point where the digital agenda is fusing with industrial production. This period will determine the future strength of the world’s leading industrial centers.”

You, unlike Trump and his Deplorables, now have a critical piece of political economy information which, though it dates back to 2015, is important in the competition with China and Germany. It likely underlies all of the objections to the Trump actions filed in September by tech companies such as Apple and Intel. In its documents Intel said:

    U.S. ICT (information, communication and technology) industries… are heavily dependent on global supply chains to produce goods and deliver services cost effectively and according to local needs. We are puzzled as to why the Administration may be using tariffs in part to re-engineer global ICT supply chains that have served U.S. companies so well.

The problem with the United States is while Germany and China have government funded plans for their 21st Century political economy, the U.S. does not even have broad goals. Now maybe it seemed ok to leave the long-term planning to the private sector, such as Apple and Intel which have plans.

But when The Deplorables govern and screw around with international markets using assertive political economics, Americans and maybe the world, will lose.

Keep in mind that China's Xi Jinping in 2009 when he defined China's greatest accomplishment was "to prevent its 1.3 billion people from hunger." Currently his goal is to end poverty in China as explained in Why Xi Jinping cares so much about ending poverty in China: the political significance behind the campaign. Whether China's Rural Vitalization Strategy (2018-22) will succeed is unknown, but this official explanation is more heartening than a trade war:

    ...Farmers will be given more sense of gain, happiness and security as the rural vitalization strategy is carried out. Giving the people more sense of gain will also be the priority as the country seeks to lift 30 million people still mired in poverty during the next three years.
    To make the development of rural areas and agriculture a priority, the country will accelerate the modernization of the rural governance system and capacities and take a path of rural vitalization with Chinese characteristics.
    The goal is to make agriculture a promising sector, farming an appealing profession and rural areas a beautiful home where people can live in peace and contentment, the statement said.
    Different methods should be adopted for different areas to better adapt to village conditions and farmers' wills. The government, society and market must make concerted efforts, and farmers should be encouraged to play the principal role.
    The meeting also highlighted challenges the country faces in its battle against poverty, and called for an enhanced sense of responsibility and urgency. Ensuring that poor people and poor areas enter a moderately prosperous society together with the rest of the country will lay the foundation for the rural vitalization strategy, the statement said.

Americans, of course, understand this as well as their own government's farm policy. Uh, no they don't. It is doubtful that even all members of Congress understand either country's farm policy. 

Sun Tzu's observation "if you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle" raises serious questions. Does the U.S. know itself and does it know China?

One thing is certain. China as a nation has been tested for 4000 years and now has 1.4 billion people. The U.S., the more-perfect-Union, has existed for only 6% of that time and has 25% of that population. Both countries occupy about the same area on the surface of the globe. And the U.S. President is engaging in a trade war with China.

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