In which I want to have my dumplings and eat them too

About two years ago I spent spring break at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and I started in theory as a way to chronicle the trip to a handful of friends, and let them know what I was eating. Since then, I have been writing about what I ate in other cities as well, and about movies, Italy, math, and even theory.

Tomorrow, I am going to Beijing to spend once more spring break over there, and to talk about dense subsets of pseudorandom sets and about integrality gaps for vertex cover.

Not that anybody has asked me, but I reject and denounce the lack of freedom of religion in Tibet (and elsewhere in China), the crackdown of the recent protests, and the way government media is covering the events (focusing only on the damage suffered by Han Chinese because of the riots). And since I am on the subject of denouncing and rejecting, I am going to add the “settlements” approach of diluting the Tibetan population with a heavy influx of Han Chinese, which will only make any future autonomy agreement more complicated, and the ethnic stereotyping (which, in the West, we prefer to call “racism,” unless it is directed at Muslims) which sees Tibetans as lazy people who live off welfare, and are still unhappy.

On the other hand, I approve and accept of the great vibe at the ITCS, with a number of very smart students interested in all aspects of theory, of Beijing, which is an awesome city that reminds me of Rome in a number of deep ways, of the food (of course), and of the feeling of witnessing historic change, because China will surely be very different in ten or twenty years.

So how does one reconcile these feelings? One doesn’t. Without meaning any moral equivalence, I also reject and denounce the war in Iraq, the torture, the rendition, and many other things that I have funded with the taxes I have paid in the past eight years; the taxes that I have chosen to pay by choosing to live here. And I reject and denounce many other things, which I indirectly enable, or of which I take advantage. (I may denounce and reject racism, even as I live with a number of privileges, such as driving around and not being stopped by the police, because I am white.) So maybe, as most people in San Francisco, I could become a vegan who buys only sustainably grown vegetables and fair trade products, and bikes around town on his way to anti-war protests. And, concluding my straw-man argument by offering a false choice, I instead prefer to try to be morally sound in a smaller scale, in my interaction with friends, neighbors, and colleagues, to try to cause as little direct harm to others as I can, and to enjoy the xiaolongbao.


7 thoughts on “In which I want to have my dumplings and eat them too

  1. “integrality gaps for vertex cover” – that’s of course impossible to get what exactly you proved for Lovasz-Schrijver relaxations by reading the abstract, but as my dumplings counts depend upon citation count, let me humbly point out to an old paper of ours, where we proved such lower bounds for Lovasz-Schrijver relaxations applied to LP-formulations of PHP:
    Complexity of semi-algebraic proofs. Moscow Math. J. 2(2002) 647-679

    just in case, Dmitrii

  2. While Dima’s work doesn’t really address integrality gaps, just refutation rank, it has always seemed to me that analyses of static positivstellensatz degree has at least one advantage over analyses of LS+ rank — closure under simple reductions. The lack of closure under reductions is a frustrating thing when proving LS+ rank based integrality gaps.

    Of course, there are no real integrality gaps per se for static positivstellensatz degree, but maybe we just haven’t tried hard enough.

  3. Hi Luca,

    I’ve been a reader of your blog from the start and up to now, it is my favorite. Just quoting you, “what I ate in other cities as well, and about movies, Italy, math, and even theory”, we share food and movie taste, and I like the kind of theory & math that you are doing. Even our political views are similar.

    About the political contents of this post – I have the same view on China. I like (love) visiting China, but I don’t like the political system there. While I am happy to visit cities like Shanghai, Xiamen, Zhuhai and Beijing, I would not imagine living there. Fortunately – to have your dumplings and to eat them too, you can live in Hong Kong, Taipei or Singapore. Even if I have my grudges about the politics in Singapore, I prefer Singaporean political system to many other systems in existence… And Singapore is still my favorite city by far, even after spending considerable time in Hong Kong.


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