So Sharon, please keep going. And would you like a bigger shovel?
PS: Could anyone explain to me why Google News, when the term “Sharon Stone” is queried, would return a top ranked link titled “Actress Stone Contrite Over China Comments” whereas the referenced NYT article is actually titled “Actress Stone and Dior Differ Over Apology”?
In the deluge of earthquake news, something like this that affects daily life in China has managed to slip under the radar.
This article describes a situation that people in China are already aware of. At least in Shanghai, it’s said that an extra charge will be imposed to get your goods in those familiar plastic grocery bags.
The Chinese government is set to ban the manufacture and force shopkeepers to charge for the distribution of bags thinner than 0.025 millimeters thick as of June 1.
The Chinese government is banning production and distribution of the thinnest plastic bags in a bid to curb the white pollution that is taking over the countryside. The bags are also banned from all forms of public transportation and “scenic locations.” The move may save as much as 37 million barrels of oil currently used to produce the plastic totes, according to China Trade News. Already, the nation’s largest producer of such thin plastic bags, Huaqiang, has shut down its operations.
The effort comes amid growing environmental awareness among the Chinese people and mimics similar efforts in countries like Bangladesh and Ireland as well as the city of San Francisco, though efforts to replicate that ban in other U.S. municipalities have foundered in the face of opposition from plastic manufacturers.
The last sentence is ironic. China is no stranger to big government regulations, of course, but one can’t argue with the efficiency with which it can operate.
A volunteer has posted a gorgeous collection of images of the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake on Tianya. There are equally beautiful stories attached to these images, but I can’t possibly translate them all.
Tens of thousands of average citizens have driven into the disaster zone, bringing food, water, and moral support. There has been so much traffic that tourist style road-maps have been setup. Along the way, they’ve seen suffering, but also great courage. And here are some of the signs the volunteers saw as they drove:
Nick Kristof continues his quest in search of topics that should be “sensitive” to Chinese by heading to Xinjiang where he found little to write about. This follows earlier editorials on Tibet that we discussed here and here.
On his blog, he tries to incite commentary with these questions:
Especially for those of you in China, do you expect the Olympics to go smoothly? Do you worry about the terror threat from Xinjiang?
My response (submitted as a comment on his blog) is here:
This article from the IHT inspires me to write about a topic that’s been on my mind in recent months. The article is about the well-known Tibetan-Chinese writer Woeser. The title of the article alone gives you a pretty good idea of what its going to say: “Tibetan writer alleges harassment by Chinese police…” Woeser lives in Beijing, and is the daughter of a Han Chinese People’s Liberation Army general and a Tibetan woman. She also happens to be wife of Wang Lixiong (discussed previously). She has written extensively about Tibetan issues for years, both in print and on her blog.
A more detailed feature on Woeser comes to us from the Washington Post, which has also kindly provided a platform for other Chinese voices: Wang Qianyuan, Yang Jianli. I don’t think it takes too much brain-power to guess the criteria by which the Washington Post selects its Chinese guest editorialists. Of course, I think it’s fair to say these three voices represent probably millions of Chinese voices, so I certainly understand the Western media’s right to feature their stories. My only question is… when will they give print real estate to Chinese voice that can speak for the other hundreds of millions of Chinese that disagree with them fervently?
All of this adds up to one question about the status of political dissidents in China: is the glass half-full, or is the glass completely empty?
And the newest expression sweeping the Chinese internet: “I don’t give a $@*&; I’m just here to buy soy sauce.” (关我鸟事，我出来打酱油的)
It comes to us from Guangzhou TV last December, when an average man on the street was asked his opinion about a pressing social issue (the Edison Chen photo scandal if you must know). He gave a very, uh, candid and straight response.
This works very well with the Chinese sense of humor, and has just exploded in usage over the past few months. It’s taken on other meanings now without a clear definition… but I’d summarize it as: “I’m cynical as hell.” As rumors of official corruption after the earthquake were swirling, the emotional young Internet crowd often turned to this phrase when they felt frustration, but had little else to add… at least without having their post deleted by censors. (“More corruption? Whatever, who gives a $@*%, I’m just here to buy soy sauce.”)
Many in the West appear unaware that the Chinese political system is reforming itself… (it might be more accurate to say many in the West see the political system in China as old Communists waving their hands and issuing imperial edicts.) The truth is, although the pace of this reform is painfully slow compared to economic reforms, it is happening.
One of the more significant chapters in Chinese political reform might be opening in front of us.
The city of Shenzhen has recently released a document providing an overview of political reforms over the next few years. It’s not detailed enough to be called a plan, but it’s a strategic road-map of what Shenzhen hopes to achieve. It doesn’t look like Western (or Taiwanese) democracy, but it’s a step towards finding compromise reforms without risking instability. And at the end of this road-map lies competitive elections for the position of mayor. Other positions to be competitively elected along the way include district-chiefs, bureau-chiefs, and representatives to the People’s Congress.
Wu Boxiong, chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), has landed in Beijing. The Chinese Nationalist Party currently controls both the presidency and the legislative yuan in Taiwan, giving his visit special weight.
He earlier visited the southern-capital of Nanjing, the original capital of the Republic of China (now in Taiwan). As is tradition for all KMT visitors, he paid his respects to the grave of Sun Zhongshan. Sun Zhongshan remains recognized as the “father of our nation” (国父) in both the mainland and Taiwan, and his presence is a constant reminder of that which unites both straits.
In Beijing, Hu Jintao responded to Ma Yingjiu’s inauguration speech by explicitly re-stating that the issue of Taiwan joining the WHO would be solved as the first priority in upcoming negotiations.
“I’m stunned,” said Simone Aspis, a parliamentary campaigner at the UK Disabled People’s Council. “It’s not just the language but the perception that in 2008 we are considered a race apart. ”
So what is it in that guide that caused such negative reactions? One example offered in the news report is the following abbreviated quote lifted from the guide:
“Some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial, and introspective. They can be stubborn and controlling . . . defensive and have a strong sense of inferiority.”
[EDITED TO ADD A NOTE] I probably should have noted that the “…” in the quote above spans fully three pages in the guide and the separated parts are placed in completely different sections. Yet, the next quote listed in the report follows almost right after the “They can be stubborn and controlling” part.
Hmm, I must admit such writing, as reported, sounds inartful. (As an aside, I am a bit sensitive to inartful language nowadays.) It’s understandable that some may even find it insulting. Nevertheless, is there some contextual information that was lost in the reporting? I decided to read through the guide and see for myself. And the following is the full paragraph containing the offending quote.
Physically disabled people are often mentally healthy. They show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorization and thinking mechanism from other people, but they might have unusual personalities because of disfigurement and disability. For example, some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial, and introspective; they usually do not volunteer to contact people. They can be stubborn and controlling; they may be sensitive and struggle with trust issues. Sometimes they are overly protective of themselves, especially when they are called “crippled” or “paralyzed”. It is not acceptable for others to hurt their dignity, so volunteers should make extra efforts to assist with due respect.
This touching blog entry was referred to us by long-time reader Bing Ma Yong. Thanks, BMY.
After interviewing on the front lines for more than 10 days, I’ve seen too much tragedy, I’ve witnessed too many touched moments, I’ve seen too many shocking pictures. But there is one more thing that has really moved me with an indescribable sense of sadness mixed with pride: the farmers I saw laboring in the rubble of their destroyed homes (in Pengzhou).
It has now been more than 2 months since the Lhasa riots, and weeks since the Beijing government met with the Dalai Lama’s personal envoys in Shenzhen. The passions aroused by the protests associated with the Torch relay has cooled a little. Now, we can turn to deeper, less emotional consideration of the Dalai Lama and what he stands for.
The Dalai Lama’s recent trip to Europe is giving us a new opportunity to evaluate exactly what his position is, and whether he’s a potential partner for peace. A previous blog entry discussed the possibility of a new bargaining position for the Dalai Lama, and clearly positions have changed dramatically over recent weeks.
For the lack of a better option, we’ll have to rely on the Xinhua state news agency to ask the questions that are on the minds of many Chinese. Below is the translation of a blog entry from a Xinhua news reporter, about his experience at a Dalai Lama news conference in Germany.
Roland at ESWN provides this translation of an excellent Southern Metropolis story about the local government’s promises to fully investigate school collapses in the area.
Many Chinese netizens in recent days have aimed a flood of scorn and vitrol towards local Mianyang party secretary Jiang Guohua, accusing him of being involved in local corruption, and then trying to cover up the scale of the disaster from higher levels of government. The picture of him kneeling will bring cheers from many people.
I don’t know the truth of these accusations, and I will not convict Jiang Guohua on the basis of accusations alone. But if the Deyang city government (one level up from Mianyang) follows through on its promises, then China will have taken another major step forward in the long march towards rule of law.
This year has so far been confusing and surprising for many Chinese.
We’ve been faced with a number of challenges none of us expected: January snowstorms, Tibet riots, Olympic torch protests, and then the devastating Sichuan earthquake. But surprisingly, one potential flashpoint that many of us have been worried about for a decade seems to be settling down into an orbit that most of us appreciate and support.
I’m speaking, of course, of Taiwan. On May 20th, Ma Yingjiu (a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party) was inaugurated in Taipei as President of the Republic of China.
While being interviewed at the Cannes film festival, Sharon Stone shared some candid words on her reactions to the Sichuan earthquake, which to date is estimated to have killed more than 80,000 (including confirmed fatalities and those missing) and left millions homeless. I would strongly urge everyone to listen for yourself at this YouTube link. The following is a transcript I took down from the video clip as precisely as possible. The capitalized words reflect her own emphasized tones.
[EDITED to break the transcript into more readable parts]
Sharon Stone: … Well you know it was very interesting because at first, you know, I am not happy about the ways the Chinese were treating the Tibetans because I don’t think anyone should be unkind to anyone else. And so I have been very concerned about how to think and what to do about that because I don’t like THAT.
And I had been this, you know, concerned about, oh how should we deal with the Olympics because they are not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a good friend of mine.
And all these earthquake and stuff happened and I thought: IS THAT KARMA? When you are not nice that bad things happen to you.
And then I got a letter, from the Tibetan Foundations that they want to go and be helpful. And that made me cry. And they ask me if I would write a quote about that and I said, “I would.” And it was a big lesson to me, that some times you have to learn to put your head down and be of service even to people who are not nice to you. And that’s a big lesson for me.
Over the past three decades, hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese have emigrated to Western countries. In the United States, many enter using a graduate student or lab researcher visa, and after several years of hard (nearly unpaid work), most eventually stay on in their host country after graduation. Those who stay apply and receive the right to work locally, and many eventually formally emigrate and take on citizenship. In Canada, the path to emigration is even easier.
However as the standard of living in China has steadily improved in the last 5-10 years, this trend shows signs of changing and perhaps even reversing. Some of those who now come to the West show little interest in staying after their studies are over; even some of those with successful careers in the West believe their opportunities are even greater within China.
The Red Cross corruption story yesterday was only the tip of the iceberg. A number of subsequent stories have since floated to the surface; in some cases, there have been been clashes between police and angry citizens.
The Chinese internet has been filled with literally thousands of stories of individual heroism from the recent earthquake… from victims, to PLA soldiers, to doctors, to volunteers, there are far too many for us to count or translate.
But this story in particular got the attention of many Chinese. It’s about a small group of poor Chinese peasants who drove across all of China in a rickety tractor in order in order to help in the disaster relief. For this reason, they’ve earned the label “the most bad-ass rescue team”.
Take the little quiz below, and find out what kind of Chinese you are (politically). The questions and answers give great insight into the common points of conflict that divide the “left” and the “right” amongst Chinese.
Increasingly, self-determination is used as a rallying cry for separatist movements around the world, from Kosovo to Tibetan independence. Many separatist movements have leveraged symbols of European Imperialism to cast their cause as a fight for freedom.
On the one hand, such use of self-determination seems to be appropriate. The West conquered a large part of the world over the last 500 years, causing wide devastations and detriments to many peoples across the world. Calls for self-determination by former colonies in the aftermath of WWII rightfully became a rallying cry for all dispossessed people in the world.
For the many Chinese critical of their government, their number one concern isn’t “human rights” or “freedom of expression”… instead, it’s corruption pervasive throughout Chinese society. In the aftermath of the earthquake, this issue is again on prominent display.
The Chinese Red Cross is playing a critical role in managing relief donations for victims of the earthquake. However, along with great authority comes great responsibility. The Red Cross is now being hit with allegations of corruption from every corner.
China’s crackdown on Falun Gong (FLG) is frequently cited in the west as evidence of human rights abuse and suppression of religion. On the other hand, some of the FLG followers make it really difficult to sympathize with their cause.
Case in point, there are reports of FLG followers publicly cheering the Sichuan earthquake as a karmic response from heaven on the Chinese Communist Party. ESWN provided a translation of a report from Ming Pao dated May 21, 2008:
The confrontation between Queens county residents and the FLG practitioners is now on its fourth day …
Yesterday at 10am, several dozen FLG member appeared in front of the Flushing Public Library. Just like the past three days before, they unfurled banners that pronounced “The Heavens destroy the Chinese Communists,” “Experts sent Sichuan earthquake prediction report confidentially to authorities” and so on to show the passer-bys. Some of the FLG members said that they have been criticising the Chinese Communist regime and they thought that the Sichuan earthquake revealed the evil nature of the Chinese Communists. Some FLG members even said that the Sichuan earthquake was the result of the violent rule of the Chinese Communists.
Tsinghua University is one of the most prominent universities in China. Current President Hu Jintao and former premier Zhu Rongji are both Tsinghua alumni. So it’s naturally intriguing to know what current Tsinghua students are like, since they are probably China’s future leaders. Daniel Bell, a Professor of Political Philosophy and Ethics at Tsinghua University in Beijing, provided an insider’s view today at The New York Times.
Insightful editorial from the Sydney Morning Herald, discussing the issue of Tibet, China, and the Olympics.
The recent demonstrations in support of Tibetan independence have been a carefully co-ordinated boutique public relations operation rather than an outbreak of mass demonstrations.
Video records of demonstrations in Tibet show an ugly, racist side to the unrest as ethnic Tibetans (but not monks) kicked, beat and stabbed Han Chinese, along with the ransacking and looting of Han-owned businesses. The Government had no choice but to intervene with force.
China has a long history of civil war. For more than a millennium, it has lived under a sequence of dictatorships, absolute monarchies and uncompromising feudalism. To move so vast a culture so quickly has required the Government to retain a firm grip on the centrifugal forces that could tear the country asunder.
The idea that China can simply jump from ingrained feudalism to a plural democracy in a single generation cannot coexist with the real world.
It also includes details on past Olympic boycotts I wasn’t aware of.
Few Australians even know that the 1956 Games in Melbourne was boycotted by Spain, the Netherlands and Switzerland over the Soviet invasion of Hungary, and by Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Cambodia over the occupation of the Suez Canal by Britain and France. In 1976, 21 African nations boycotted the Montreal Olympics because New Zealand had not been banned for playing rugby union against South Africa. In 1980 the United States and some allies boycotted the Moscow Games over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1984 the Soviet bloc boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics in retaliation for the 1980 boycott.
None was effective. None achieved more than transient symbolism. To throw the 2008 Olympics into chaos over Tibet would thus be overkill, disproportionate and counterproductive, in support of a dubious moral argument.
Zhang Ya (张雅) (UPDATE: New name, see more below) has become the latest target of the Internet lynch mob. She is a 21 year old girl from Liaoning, and probably receiving far more hostility than even Grace Wang.
So Tibet is very similar to the European colonies. Researching this is my day job so I can provide you more references if you want. And I’m disappointed that you would deny it because you think “its dangerous” to do so. I thought you were interested objective reality?
My point here is not that Tibet should be independent, or even that it should be more autonomous: after all the Maori now have very little autonomy in New Zealand. But I would have liked to have seen some honesty regarding Tibetan history from Chinese netizens. Happily, there are Chinese scholars who are more honest about Tibet’s colonial past and present though. I suggest you check out 王力雄, a Beijing based researcher, whose work presents Tibetan history from a fairly neutral perspective.
Your “suggestion” that we read Wang Lixiong’s works is not only patronizing, but also misguided. I’ll respond to this below.
Some Chinese have spoken of their disillusionment after watching Western press coverage after recent Tibet riots, and others have spoken of how their opinions changed after they have actually *lived* in the United States… but even so, many Chinese have a deep love affair with all things American. For many, the United States government can do no wrong (while the Chinese government can do little right).
In an effort to add some depth to Western knowledge of Chinese voices… here is the translation of a thread celebrating the American government’s support given to China, after the recent earthquake.
China is defiantly in mourning today. To those who lost their lives last week: you are in our memories, rest in peace.
Faced with a disaster of biblical proportion, the vast majority of Chinese stood still at 2:28 PM (local time) on Monday to memorialize those who lost their lives in last week’s earthquake. The Chinese government and Chinese businesses are taking extraordinary steps to participate in this memorial, including basically shutting down all entertainment in the country for three days; Shanghaiist gives a detailed overview of some of these measures.
The year 2008 might go down in history as the year that has again united China. I’ve had several Chinese of my parents’ generation tell me that many of them had lost faith in the Chinese as a people after the Cultural Revolution, that a decade of mutual persecution and incrimination had destroyed even basic morality. I’ve had other Chinese tell me that they had lost faith in the Chinese as a nation after 1989/6/4, that a country which used force on its people could not possibly survive. I’ve heard from younger Chinese that they felt abandoned by the new market economy, that the growing wealth gap meant we were growing more separated by the day.
But many feel a sense of renewal this year. We’ve seen the wealthy reach deep into their pockets to donate to the victims; we’ve seen young peasant soldiers give their lives, give every inch of their souls in fighting for every last life in Sichuan; we’ve seen (some) admirable government officials go sleepless nights trying to solve every last problem. All of the pain that we’ve shared (from the snow storm, to Tibet, and now to the Sichuan earthquake), and all of the good that we’ve done to fight back are re-establishing in many Chinese a broad love for China that hadn’t existed for decades.
This is no longer the red hot, testosterone-driven lust for a stronger China many of us (including myself) exhibited after the Olympic torch was attacked on foreign soil. This is a deeper, determined, unblemished love for a China that we will rebuild.
I was very moved by this video of the crowds that spontaneously formed in Tiananmen Square (and many other Chinese cities) following a 3-minute period of silence; the video shows tears, anger, sorrow, and hope in the hearts of a billion plus Chinese of all ages and backgrounds.
This blog site is intended to be a collaborative effort; it doesn’t belong to any individual.
We welcome all voices representing the Chinese mainstream speaking in English. I’ve come across examples of wonderful, insightful writing from Chinese on other blogs, letters submitted to English newspapers, etc… and I really hope this site could act as a central clearinghouse for sharing and saving this material. Many of the comments left on this blog are also wonderful.
For those who write material (or just happen to find some), please let us know. You can email the email address in the “About” page above. If you think you have the time to be a regular contributor, please contact us about joining us as an editor as well.
A regular poster asked me to talk a little about myself in a previous thread.
I don’t want to get into a long discussion of my history, life, and professional resume (or at least not at this time). But I do want to explain why I’m active here, and why I’m contributing to this blog.