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Archive for June, 2008

The Weng'An Riots: "How hard is it to give the masses the real picture?"

June 30th, 2008 80 comments

In the aftermath of the Weng’An (Wengan) riots, most newspapers are running with Xinhua’s short three paragraph report on the issue. I believe in keeping with recent trends, we will hear a much more detailed analysis and explanation from Xinhua shortly. In the mean time, there have been several online editorials from various newspapers, in some cases perhaps bending official rules on independent reporting by highlighting netizen comments rather than their own story. Many of these editorials are focusing their attacks on the local government, while insisting that the central government desires something else. I hope their interpretation proves to be the case. I translate two editorials below.

First, an article from the online site of the Jiangsu Communist Party newspaper Xinhua Daily, which is not directly related to the national Xinhua: (“How hard is it to give the masses the real picture?”, 原文)

… Article begins with a repeat of the first paragraph of the Xinhua story on the incident …

The incident’s cause is simple; it’s all because of dissatisfaction with the county public security office’s determination on “cause of death” for a female student. Emotionally, it’s very difficult for people not to place their sympathies with the weaker party. The majority of people are logical and rational, and that’s a point that no one, not even the national leadership or officials of every level would try to argue. So, unless it’s reached the point of extreme desperation, no one would risk everything to surround and attack the government. And from a logical point of view, it’s not difficult to determine that the people might have had good reason to rush into action.

Read more…

Categories: News Tags: , ,

The Weng'An Riots – Online

June 30th, 2008 22 comments

The Chinese internet is up in arms over the story of riots in Guizhou province over the weekend.  For the most comprehensive news we know so far, I refer you to ESWN’s very detailed coverage.  There’s nothing I have to add.

Roland at ESWN mentions that an article at Xinhua forum (连接) has been left open to netizen discussion, in contrast to much tighter standards at Tianya and MaoYan.   It’s also interesting to note that the Strong Country forum (连接) run by the People’s Daily has also been running very loose standards, if any.  See attached snapshot showing the most frequent discussions on Strong Country, many of which refer to Weng’An by name.  (If you click into a post, a side-bar showing the most current posts are almost entirely all about Weng’An.)

Popular threads on Strong Country right now include:

  • Guizhou Province Weng’An Prefecture Has Hitting/Smashing/Burning Incident (连接)
  • I support the people of Guizhou – Weng’An (连接)

Read more…

Categories: News Tags: , ,

The Prospects of Democracy in China

June 28th, 2008 166 comments

Our guest Youzi has given us a kernel for further discussion in one of his comments:

And even within China, between different provinces and peoples are tremendous psychological differences, perhaps even greater than those between two countries. As time has passed, as the people’s living standards have grown and as awareness of personal rights has woken… if the traditional methods of political pressure and thought control are used, it’s already become very difficult to maintain the China unity and a sense of belong to the Chinese people. The government has observed this point, but unless it implements effective political reform that respects and tolerates the interests of different groups of people, it will not resolve this fundamental problem simply by waving the worn-down flags of patriotism and nationalism.

I don’t think we disagree on this point, but I think Youzi goes a bit far to berate some of us for suggesting that an “awareness of personal rights” alone and a shallow understanding of “fighting for personal rights” without civic values and respect for law is a recipe for disaster. It’s a two way street. What makes “Western-style democracy” tick isn’t the prescription of “freedom, democracy, and rule of law”, but the deeply ingrained sense in every single citizen that their interests lie in their responsibility to and stewardship of the country, its institutions, and values, of which such rights are a part — in short, true patriotism. That prevents people from ripping the constitution apart when they don’t get their way. Sad to say, China isn’t there yet.

So what are “effective political reform that respects and tolerates the interests of different groups of people” at this stage? Well, there is a model and there is dynamics. Nobody is sitting idly on their hands. I want to direct our readers to this article in Foreign Affairs earlier this year titled

Long Time Coming – The Prospects of Democracy in China.

I posted it weeks ago in a comment but it really deserves its own highlight here.
Read more…

The Chinese debate – Part 2: Democracy and the economy

June 28th, 2008 102 comments

Thanks to one our visitors (Traveler, Youzi, 游子), a debate about fundamental issues that divide many Chinese has been brought to our blog (see comment in earlier thread).   In this post, I want to express my opinions on the economy, democracy, and the Chinese government.

I also want to send a few sentences to Mr. Wahaha: please do not so easily “represent” the Chinese or the Chinese government. I don’t know if you’re an oversea student or overseas Chinese, but regardless of China is strong or small, it doesn’t have anything to do with you having greater face and authority in the face of Westerners. Furthermore, China’s economic growth is the result of hard work by Chinese citizens, and not the government’s charity; our lives are improving, because these are the returns from our own work, not because of a government or certain political party has bestowed them on us.

Now, we get to a topic that has nothing to do with Western media and being overseas.  Now we get to a topic that has to do only with being “left” or “right”, being a supporter or opponent of the current Chinese government.  This topic should be kept separate from the topic above.

Let me start by sending a few sentences to you, Traveler: please do not so easily assume that we hope for a strong China because we need “face”.  I will not speak for Wahaha, but many of us are extremely successful, and do not need to borrow face from anyone.  We can silence ourselves on China tomorrow, and we will not suffer for it.  We can cut ourselves off from China tomorrow, and no one in the United States will force us back.  Here’s a bit of advice for you if you ever come to the West, and are embarrassed by an association with the Chinese: if nothing else, we can always pretend to be Japanese.  No one in the West could possibly know the difference

Read more…

Categories: Letters Tags: ,

The Chinese debate – Part 1: The West

June 28th, 2008 37 comments

One of our myriad goals for this blog was to make one simple point: the Chinese debate politics. The Chinese community debate eloquently and foolishly, intelligently and blindly, informed and uninformed, left and right, China and West… the Chinese are not brain-washed robots living in a closed society; we often disagree, often very passionately. To make this point, we talked about the divide between “old and little generals“; we talked about the Chinese that love America; we talked about Tianya, one of the bastions of online debate in China; and we of course had a long series about the deeply divisive issue of Six Four

Debate is important, because debate is the foundation of true knowledge and true conviction; without opening yourself up to true debate and reconsideration, any knowledge or conviction is suspect. Most in the West have never seen the Chinese debate political issues, so our conclusions are often ignored for exactly the reason. The more that we explain what the Chinese debate about, the more we will gain respect (if not agreement)… and gradually, we can erase Western bias and ignorance. And even more importantly, the better we’ll know what we want from our own country.

Thanks to one our visitors (Traveler, Youzi, 游子), this debate has been brought to our blog (see comment in previous thread).

In terms of the problem with Western media’s “bias”, different Chinese can have different feelings. For overseas Chinese, because they exist in a different cultural environment, it’s easy for them to develop some isolation while interacting with locals. Minorities will often feel more sensitive about mainstream media’s criticisms. In reality, the same reaction can be seen in China’s interior as well. Furthermore, outsiders always feel discriminated against by locals, and the most basic reason is a cultural gap. This sort of discrimination due to the cultural gap is a very common phenomenon, and can only be erased through integration. Clearly, any sort of specific discrimination that causes injury or loss, can be rectified through a lawsuit seeking economic compensation. Therefore, the discrimination due to cultural differences in the West should be resolved by law if effective rule of law exists; cultural problems can only be resolved through cultural interaction.

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Is Fiat too clever?

June 27th, 2008 44 comments

The story of Fiat apologizing to China for its Richard Gere and Tibet themed ad for a new car was first reported on June 20. At that time, I quickly dismissed it as nothing but another blunder by the marketing department of a global company that should have known better. The ad itself wasn’t problematic per se. But it was clearly created with Richard Gere’s Tibet oriented activism in mind. Somebody should have foreseen that it would be perceived as provocative by some (or a lot) people.

So my first impression was quite similar to how Stan Abrams reacted in his China Hearsay blog.

Someone should get fired for this, and not because of the political overtones themselves. No, someone should be fired for incompetence. Through the whole vetting process for this ad, no one thought this was a bad idea? Really?

But interestingly, the story didn’t just die. I keep seeing reports of this matter in the English based media, perhaps because Fiat was also rather loudly insisting that the commercial would continue to air. “That’s odd,” I thought, “What’s the point for Fiat to apologize in the first place?”

Tim Johnson, in his China Rises blog, offerred an explanation.

Maybe it is a new corporate strategy. Mount an ad campaign. Anger Chinese. Capture lots of newspaper headlines. Issue an apology. Keep the ad campaign running anyway.

Read more…

The misnamed Dalai Lama

June 26th, 2008 89 comments

What should we call the Dalai Lama? It might seem like a silly enough question… but if you look deeper, there lies a more substantial issue of basic respect and mutual understanding. On Davidpeng’s blog (in an article linking to one of our entries)… an interesting discussion has developed (原贴) on that exact topic.

One commenter (Flatfish, a frequent Tibetan visitor) reacted to part of the original discussion when the term “the Dalai” was used:

In reference to the proper name for the Dalai Lama, let me talk about a few related things that have touched me deeply.

After the end of the Second World War, a court sentenced Mr. Hideki Tojo to death by hanging. Mr. Tojo immediately stood, and with perfect manners bowed deeply to the judges; he didn’t say another word. When the Tibetan uprising (in 1959) expanded, quite a few Tibetans were executed. Before they were shot, they politely said “T’oo-Je-Che” (Tibetan term of thanks). Later, when the families of the executed were charged expenses of 200-500 RMB, they again said “T’oo-Je-Che”, and nothing else.

For the Dalai Lama, the respectful way of referring to him in English is: His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In Tibetan, the respectful way of referring to him is Jiawa Renbuqie (嘉瓦仁布切,Gyalwa Rinpoche), Kundun (昆顿), or Yixi Loubu (益西罗布, Yeshe Norbu). Tibetans would never use the name Dalai Lama, because that’s actually equivalent to a title, and not a name.

My point is, if any group or government investigates and finds the Dalai Lama guilty of a crime, then all of these details could be revealed to the public, and they could proceed to trial and conviction. And if anyone, including Han, have doubts or criticisms of him, that’s also not a problem. And for those who are not Buddhists and not Tibetan Buddhists don’t necessarily have to refer to him by his courtesy title. But all should respect basic human rights, and do not casually shorten the title Dalai Lama to just “the Dalai”.

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Categories: culture Tags: , ,

"True Pride" – Time magazine

June 25th, 2008 210 comments

Ah, wonderful article published in Time. Of course, I’m biased as her perspectives very much mirror mine. If only we could convince Ms. Liu to submit an article for us once in a while… I’m tempted to paste the entire article here, I find it that compelling. Instead, you can read it here: Time – True Pride.

Money quotes:

Just a few weeks ago, the west’s view of china was dominated by thuggish torch guards, hypersensitive nationalists and a repressive government. But since the earthquake in Sichuan, the immense state-led rescue effort and the outpouring of charity from the Chinese people has taken center stage. Has the country really changed that much? Not really. The two phenomena on display — nationalism and compassion — are related facets of the vast, multidimensional nation that China is. When it comes to my homeland, I feel them both.

Read more…

Categories: media Tags: ,

On China and Religion

June 25th, 2008 68 comments

For different cultural, political and historical reasons, the Chinese government officially recognises Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism as religions. As in the realm of commerce, medicine, the legal profession or any other human endeavours, China, like many nations and for her own reasons have chosen, as it is her right, to lay down a legal and regulatory framework within which religions are practised.

Within the above five religions, the government does not prefer one religion to another and neither does it care about ecclesiastical or inter-faith doctrinal differences. It does not care whether Jesus is the Son of God, one of the Prophets of Allah or just a mere rabbi. It does not care whether the Virgin Mary or the Saints ought to be worshipped and much less whether the Quakers are pacifists who live according to personal beliefs. Like any other governments in the world, what it does care about are whether they break China’s laws while in China and whether a belief system contravenes the public interest.

In no countries are the clergy or religious institutions free from or above the temporal laws of the land. An American Catholic priest convicted of paedophilia, fraud or mere speeding in America is still guilty and may suffer the appropriate judicial consequences, irrespective of the fact that he is a priest. Should the Church as an organisation in any way be involved, it too is liable to criminal as well as possible civil lawsuits.

Just as there is no such thing as absolute political and commercial freedom, neither is there such a thing as absolute religious freedom. There are only varying degrees of religious freedom that is regulated in turn by ecclesiastic rules, doctrines, temporal laws, social customs and traditions in accordance with the demands of the relevant state and society. For example, many in the UK believe in Fengshui, but nevertheless in a test case before the English Court of Appeal, the Judges, as it is within their remit, chose not to recognise it as a religion, just as they do not recognise any religion that is not monotheist as a matter of policy. By contrast, because of its Chinese community Indonesia recognises Confucianism as a religion when China only sees it as a school of philosophy, so that just because something is lawful in one country does not make it so in another.

Read more…

A Discussion On Religion in China

June 25th, 2008 30 comments

This is a continuation of the discussion from the June 14th 2008 blog entry “Chocolate City” – Africans seek their dreams in China“, an article originally published in The Southern Metropolis Daily Jan 2008. Because of axes and grinding the discussion morphed from a debate about race relations in China to one about religions in China. As I have been invited to turn it into a blog entry and the issue of religions in China appears topical, I am posting the extract from my comments and other posters’ responses and questions, sans editing (apart from my own extract’s typos).

Please Note: I am a newbie at blogging and nor am I a full- time blogger. Any perceived expletives occurred in the heat of passion(ate) (debate), as these things are wont to happen and I beg readers’ indulgence.

Read more…

Categories: Analysis, culture, q&a Tags: , ,

Prices in the Mao era – a peasant's view

June 24th, 2008 14 comments

The vast majority of Chinese favor and support the “opening up and reform” period started in 1978. But many are also very nostalgic for the Mao era, a time when equality was guaranteed, a time when socialism in China was far more than just a hypothetical. One simple example is translated below.

This article has been spread around numerous Chinese forums, actual origin not clear. (原贴)

I was born in 1954, in a village in Shandong province. I have a sister, and our parents are also peasant farmers. I want to start by talking about the prices of agricultural goods, starting with wheat as an example. From 1970 – 1980, the market price for wheat was: 0.35 RMB/shijin (ed: 0.5 kg), later growing to 0.35 RMB/shijing. The cost of things didn’t really change, it was very stable during this period. So the problem I want to discuss is, when a farmer sells a half kilogram of wheat on the market, what can he do with that money?
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Categories: Analysis Tags: , , ,

Political unification and China’s Grand Union ideal

June 23rd, 2008 53 comments

On this site, we’ve come back to the question of secession several times. The news a week ago that Ireland, with less than 1% of the EU’s population, single-handedly derailed the second EU attempt at political centralization (Lisbon Treaty) strikes me as the perfect opportunity to talk about the flip side of the coin: the ideology of unification.

Because let’s face it, unification is an ideology.

The EU prides itself on moving towards unification only through debate, consensus, and democratic decision-making. But increasingly, it finds itself in the impossible position of trying to convince every member state that there is something to be gained, when in many cases, the benefits are uncertain, long-term, or abstract. The EU leaders had high hopes of being written in history books when they signed this and the last treaty. In the aftermath of this episode, however, we have seen ideas seriously floated like ignoring Ireland’s vote, of procedurally maneuvering around it, of making them vote again and again until passed, even of expelling Ireland from the EU! If this isn’t the unification ideology working, I don’t know what is.

To Chinese people, the existence of such ideologically driven motivation seems only natural. Human history is one of successively larger units of cooperative society. Without pre-commitment (generally founded on an ideological faith), there is nothing to guarantee cooperation among actors, no matter what their best intentions are. If you want gains, you have to put your chips in, even as you don’t know what you will get out of it for certain. The only thing to make people realize this is a negative consequence for not participating, which often means war. Chinese thinkers have figured this out thousands of years ago, when they faced the kind of calamitous warfare like the two World Wars that finally drove Europe to embark on its current path…
Read more…

Don't indulge our "race complex"

June 23rd, 2008 48 comments

Many are now aware there are 56 different nationalities in China. There is another lesser known community, however, that sometimes refer to themselves as the 57th nationality. (Some in the community actually hate that term… but we’ll get to that later.)  These are the Minkaohan (民考汉), ethnic minorities raised in Han-language schools alongside Han classmates. The term Minkaohan literally means “minority testing using Han”. With their perfect grasp of putonghua and numerous Han Chinese friends, Minkaohan are often the best economic achievers in their community, and a successful model of the Chinese government’s policies towards minorities. But with their non-Han faces, and with their inability to read/write their own language, they often find themselves uncomfortable in both communities.

Their fate, their experience is critical in understanding the future of multi-ethnic China.  Their support, their contribution is critical in building a China that lives at peace with itself.

This post (原贴) is from a regular Uygur poster at a Chinese forum dedicated to Minkaohan (民考汉论坛).  Most posters to the forum are Uygur and Kazakh.

Don’t indulge our “racial complex
I’ve been silent for several days; I’ve maintained my silence out of doubt.

These few days, I’ve been thinking a lot.  I’ve been thinking of my childhood; at the time, I was the only minority student in my class, and all of my friends were Han.  We went to school together, went home together, and played together.  In the alley where our home was, the left side was entirely Han, while the right side was entirely Uygur.  During hot summer evenings, everyone sat together cooling off in the courtyard, talking about every day things.  The alley was filled with harmonious laughs and chatter.

Read more…

Categories: Analysis Tags:

Yellow River in Beijing

June 21st, 2008 5 comments

Let’s have a quick flashback to a happier time, when all of us thought 2008 would be a simple year full of celebration. Below is the Chinese piano prodigy Lang Lang, performing the Yellow River Piano Concerto on Tiananmen Square.  The date is 08/08/07, one full year before the start of the Beijing Olympics.

Categories: culture Tags: ,

Dalai Lama tries speaking to the Chinese

June 21st, 2008 69 comments

If there’s one thing we’ve consistently criticized here, it’s that the Dalai Lama (and “clique”) has largely failed to reach out to the Chinese people directly. For every interview he provides to the Chinese-language press, it seems he’s done fifty for foreign language press. And even when he makes an attempt to speak to the Chinese (as with an open letter released earlier this year), his ignorance and lack of familiarity shows through.

But he is at least making an active effort to change this. He has met with individual Chinese in the United States and Germany in recent months. And in his just completed trip through Australia, he met with the Chinese-language press, and also hosted an open Q&A session targeted at overseas Chinese. (Unfortunately the session was organized with a dissident group with links to the FLG… but that’s not the point here.)

Here’s what he had to say in Australia, courtesy of the International Campaign for Tibet (原文):

Dalai Lama: … Problems related to Tibet must absolutely be resolved between the Han and Tibetan races, no one else can deal with this type of problem. And precisely because of that, the Chinese, the Han in inland China, you must understand the real situation, this is very important.

So, what is the real situation in his opinion? Read on for more.

Read more…

"Pressure" for injured athletes

June 20th, 2008 45 comments

Today’s New York Times is running an article titled China Presses Injured Athletes in Quest for Gold. The article starts by discussing diver Hu Jia, who suffered from a detached retina several years ago, putting him at risk for permanent injury. This paragraph about sums up the message behind the article:

Pressured by the national athletic system and tempted by the commercial riches awaiting star performers in the 2008 Games, China’s athletes are pushing themselves to their limits and beyond, causing some to risk their health in pursuit of nationalist glory.

Seems to me the reader is supposed to feel pity for the Chinese athletes (and some outrage towards the Chinese sports authority), for risking their health for a goal as dubious as “nationalist glory”.

Five years ago, NBA player Alonzo Mourning was diagnosed with a serious kidney disorder, with doctors telling him he risked cardiac arrest every time he stepped on the floor. And yet, he risked his life to continue playing… in fact, even after an eventual kidney transplant, he still returned time and time again. The New York Times ran an article with this title at the time: Mourning’s Dedication Won Him Admiration. The Times didn’t seem too concerned, apparently, that Mourning’s agents and employers were pressuring him into risking death, all just in order to sell basketball shoes and entertain basketball fans.

I can’t dispute the facts that the New York Times have laid out in today’s article… I suspect many Chinese athletes do indeed face pressure to win, just as athletes around the world face pressure. But for those Chinese athletes who are fighting through injury to win gold in front of their countrymen this summer, I just want to say: you don’t deserve pity. Your dedication is winning our admiration.

Categories: News Tags:

"Down with the Dalai Lama" – Western criticism

June 19th, 2008 41 comments

Well, we are a little behind the curve here at Fool’s Mountain. An article titled “Down with the Dalai Lama” was published* by the Guardian a few weeks ago, and I was completely ignorant of it until the Chinese translation began to be passed around. (*Was it actually published in print, or is it only available online?)

Here are a few choice snippets from that article:

The Dalai Lama says he wants Tibetan autonomy and political independence. Yet he allows himself to be used as a tool by western powers keen to humiliate China. Between the late 1950s and 1974, he is alleged to have received around $15,000 a month, or $180,000 a year, from the CIA. He has also been, according to the same reporter, “remarkably nepotistic”, promoting his brothers and their wives to positions of extraordinary power in his fiefdom-in-exile in Dharamsala, northern India.


He poses as the quirky, giggly, modern monk who once auctioned his Land Rover on eBay for $80,000 and has even done an advert for Apple (quite what skinny white computers have got to do with Buddhism is anybody’s guess). Yet in truth he is a product of the crushing feudalism of archaic, pre-modern Tibet, where an elite of Buddhist monks treated the masses as serfs and ruthlessly punished them if they stepped out of line.

Read more…

Categories: Letters Tags: ,

Has the Chinese government sold out China?

June 18th, 2008 19 comments

The news this morning is of a new resource-sharing agreement in the East China Sea that represents the start of a new era in east Asia. Japan and China has agreed to ignore territorial demarcation for now, and instead focus on extracting oil and gas from fields in the area.

Many Chinese see in the agreement a government desperate to buy international peace before the Olympics, at any price. One post (原贴) from Tianya:

The Olympics is only a game, how can it be used to kidnap China; how can it lead to such a heavy loss in Chinese interests?

China has 100% sovereignty over the East China Sea continental shelf, this is our most fundamental principle. Once China makes a mistake on this basic principle, then the consequences are long-lasting and severe. This naturally implies China will fall into the hopeless situation of having to negotiate. Once China accepts Japan’s demand for “joint development”, it inevitably dilutes China’s sovereignty over the East China Sea continental shelf.

The Chunxiao natural gas fields have already been fully developed by mainland China, why is there any talk of joint development? Japan’s is using its claims of sovereignty to request a taste of Chunxiao’s rewards. I absolutely can not accept this perspective.

If China agrees to sharing the East China Sea oil and gas fields, this is equivalent to recognizing Japan’s sovereignty over the continental shelf. This is a very serious strategic mistake, with unimaginable consequences.

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Categories: News Tags: , ,

Young & Restless in China

June 18th, 2008 10 comments

With the Olympics only months away, the spotlight is definitely shining on China now. There have been many talks and documentaries on China and Chinese society like we mentioned. Here is another one. PBS’s Frontline just released a new documentary called Young & Restless in China, which bills itself as

An intimate look into the lives of nine young Chinese, coming of age in a society that’s changing at breathtaking place.

You can view it online. It is worth a look, even if it offers a few limited cut-away views, rather than a cross-section, but they did try to pick “ordinary” people.

Categories: culture Tags: , ,

Maimaiti's 2008

June 17th, 2008 6 comments

Today’s news is that the Olympic torch has arrived in Xinjiang province. As widely reported in the Western press, the Xinjiang government encouraged people to watch at home on TV due to security concerns. In addition to schools and offices that organized groups to support the torch, many private Chinese still chose to come on the streets. Tianya has reports from some excited eyewitnesses.

In honor of the torch’s visit to Xinjiang, let me introduce a domestic movie that combines three of our favorite topics: football, Olympics, and minorities! Maimaiti’s 2008 is a movie about a group of kids in Turfan, on the edge of the Taklamakan desert. In order to inspire them, their young football coach Maimaiti tells them a little lie: a win in the district finals will translate into a visit to the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.

Here’s the trailer:

Read more…

Categories: culture Tags: , , ,

Chinese Men's Soccer – Nothing left to say

June 17th, 2008 11 comments

In a year when so many unexpected and abnormal events have struck China… one thing has remained the same. The Chinese men’s soccer team has failed in its attempt to qualify for the 2010 World Cup after losing to Iraq, a pathetic legacy that just can’t be explained. Soccer remains the most popular sport in China (with basketball catching up quickly)… a country of 1.3 billion people, millions are invested in the players, the best coaches/facilities… so, why are we so bad?

Guangzhou’s “New Culture” newspaper was literally at a loss of words. It ran a 84-font headline with no other content after this weekend’s loss:

Men’s Soccer Loses Again – We Have Nothing Left To Say

Categories: News Tags:

America opens its doors, slightly, to Chinese tourists

June 17th, 2008 18 comments

Ever since China flung open its doors in 1978, many Chinese have wanted to visit the United States. There’s a great deal of fascination with the world’s greatest superpower. But unfortunately, the door has almost always been closed. Initially by tight Chinese standards that restricted who could have access to a passport, but over the past decade, by tight American visa standards.

This issue has been discussed before (Washington Post article, 2006), although not many in the West are fully aware how difficult the visa issue has been in years past. The only Chinese who’ve entered the United States in the last two decades have been here to study, work, or to visit family. And even in these cases, after presenting an entire library of supporting documents to an often hostile consulate officer, a significant percentage (majority?) are denied visas for no obvious reason. It’s ironic to me that even as the United States government funds dissident groups in China in an attempt to spread the word on democracy, it keeps out hundreds of thousands of average Chinese willing to pay for the privilege of visiting.

But China’s economic growth has finally led to a change. Starting this fall, Chinese tourists will be given the opportunity to visit in groups. Chinese tourists will still have to appear at consulates for a face-to-face interview, but the indication is that visas will now be granted to the vast majority of qualified applicants.

Below is an article (文章) with a few early details:

Read more…

Categories: Announcements Tags:

"Two Million Minutes" – High school in US/China/India

June 16th, 2008 7 comments

This seems like a thought-provoking movie.

This LA Times articles provides the basic details:

But one faculty member, Compton recalled, told him that “we have nothing to learn from Third World education.” Another, renowned education theorist Howard Gardner, took him to task for comparing the U.S. with China.

“His point was: How can you have a great educational system when you don’t have freedom of speech?” Compton said. Compton saw the remark as missing the point: America may not have anything to learn from China’s one-party political system, but it might want to know why Chinese students do better in math and science.

The full story on this situation isn’t quite so simple; there are many in China deeply unsatisfied with the Chinese education system.  But the topic is certainly worthy of debate (see earlier thread on 50 years of gaokao).

Categories: education Tags:

"Chocolate City" – Africans seek their dreams in China

June 14th, 2008 134 comments

This feature article (文章,published Jan 2008) from the Southern Metropolis Daily provides a candid, street-level view of the lives of African traders in China. I translate this article to provide some depth to the discussion of racism in China, as seen in this previous thread. In an era when China-Africa relations are making headlines in Western newspapers, it’s time to hear the story from a Chinese perspective. If the 20th century was defined by the American Dream, what can China bring to the world in the 21st century?

In Guangzhou, a 10 square kilometer area centered around Hongqiao has been given the name “Chocolate City” by taxi drivers.
Read more…

Categories: culture Tags: , ,

Chinese opinions of the Internet

June 13th, 2008 5 comments

While looking into the Pew Global Attitudes Survey (which deserves a blog post of its own), I came across these interesting results highlighted by Pew, with the title ‘Few in China Complain About Internet Controls‘.  This survey was conducted in 2007:

  • Over four years of tracking user reaction, trust in the reliability of online content has fallen by one-half, from 52% in 2003 to 26% now.
  • Only about one-third of internet users (30%) said they considered online content reliable.5
  • An overwhelming number of Chinese, almost 84%, agreed that the internet should be controlled or managed.
  • Since 2005, the percentage of users who say that online content about “politics” should be controlled or managed jumped from 8% to 41%, by far the biggest increase of any items tested.

It’s fair to wonder whether the survey is fully representative. After looking at the methodology in detail (pdf) (which polled 2000 urban residents in 5 cities), I think these numbers do give us at least a fuzzy picture of common trends.

This all tells me that perhaps we shouldn’t expect much liberalization online in the near future. There’s just too little popular demand for it.

Categories: News Tags: ,

So China is responsible for the sub-prime loan crisis as well?

June 13th, 2008 38 comments

[Update inserted at the end]

The U.S. Fed chairman Bernanke gave some amazing recycled remarks to the International Monetary Conference on June 3, 2008. In that speech, he offered some gems of wisdom such as:

In the financial sphere, the three longer-term developments I have identified are linked by the fact that a substantial increase in the net supply of saving in emerging market economies contributed to both the U.S. housing boom and the broader credit boom. The sources of this increase in net saving included rapid growth in high-saving East Asian countries and, outside of China, reduced investment rates in that region; large buildups in foreign exchange reserves in a number of emerging markets; and the enormous increases in the revenues received by exporters of oil and other commodities. The pressure of these net savings flows led to lower long-term real interest rates around the world, stimulated asset prices (including house prices), and pushed current accounts toward deficit in the industrial countries–notably the United States–that received these flows. … The housing boom came to an end because rising prices made housing increasingly unaffordable. The end of rapid house price increases in turn undermined a basic premise of many adjustable-rate subprime loans–that home price appreciation alone would always generate enough equity to permit the borrower to refinance and thereby avoid ever having to pay the fully-indexed interest rate. When that premise was shown to be false and defaults on subprime mortgages rose sharply, investors quickly backpedaled from mortgage-related securities. The reduced availability of mortgage credit caused housing to weaken further.

As Mike Whitney so nicely summarized for Bernanke: “It’s all China’s fault. Really.”

Whew. That’s a pretty long-winded way of saying the Chinese are to blame for everything that’s gone wrong in the markets for the last 10 months.

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Can those "putting it on the tab" go on a diet?

June 12th, 2008 7 comments

For average Chinese, one of the most common complaints about the Chinese government is the pervasive spread of “gray income” corruption in many government departments. At all levels of government, officials have opportunity to benefit themselves using public taxpayer money. Many officials eat and drink outrageously with public funds. Some officials are given the right to a government car plus driver, and use them regularly to run personal errands.

Because these stories surround us every day, it’s a constant reminder of special privileges for officials, and increasingly a source of real public anger. The most recent example comes from Holhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia. This story has drawn attention in the state press, which probably implies some sort of punishment will be coming to the officials involved.

This column (文章)comes from Rednet:

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Taiwan and Diaoyutai

June 12th, 2008 10 comments

Two different Diaoyutai’s are front-page news today.

First, Diaoyutai islands: a Taiwanese fishing ship collided with a Japanese patrol ship off of the disputed Diaoyutai islands. One man was slightly injured as the boat sank; the passengers have been repatriated, but the crew remains held under Japanese custody.

The sovereignty of Diaoyutai is disputed by all sides on the basis of conflicting history; it’s either part of mainland China, Japan, Okinawa, or Taiwan depending on who is doing the talking. Wikipedia has the details in English. It certainly remains a potential flashpoint. Chinese nationalists (from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland) have at different times made attempts to plant Chinese flags onto the island. Japanese nationalists have done the same.

These pictures come from an attempt in 1996, during which a Chinese activist (David Chan) tragically drowned.

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Olympic torch arrives in Shangri-La

June 11th, 2008 105 comments

The Olympic torch has arrived in its first Tibetan Autonomous county, and will arrive in Lhasa later this month.

Reuters gives us this report of the torch’s visit to Shangri-La in Yunnan province, with responses both positive and negative from Tibetans in China:

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Tent Donation Campaign

June 11th, 2008 4 comments

According to government forecasts, up to 3 million tents are desperately needed in the earthquake zone.  Every available tent in China has been redirected to this effort, and other international donors have done their best to help as well.  (Pakistan, notably, has apparently donated every tent it owns to China.)  

Not satisfied with just donating money to a nameless charity, a group of US-based Chinese on MITBBS have formed a group to take direct action.  They are purchasing tents in the United States and shipping them directly to Sichuan.  Below is their story (文章), and an opportunity for you to help.

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