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Archive for June, 2008

Relief effort unites ethnic minorities

June 10th, 2008 19 comments

Hong-Kong-based South China Morning Post (and perhaps East Asia’s leading English language newspaper) gives us this article (courtesy of Bill Savadore in Qingchengshan):

Bai Liqun still remembers the stories told by the elders about a time when her people slaughtered “Red Army” soldiers who entered the homeland of the Qiang ethnic group around 1949 because they feared the communist government would take away their land.

In the ensuing decades, the Qiang have become increasingly assimilated with the Han majority in Sichuan province through intermarriages and government-funded education for their children.

Relief efforts after the earthquake in Wenchuan county, a centre for the Qiang people, have bolstered the image of the government among ethnic minorities after a security crackdown against Tibetan protests in March.

Read more…

Categories: News Tags: ,

Essay topics: 50 years of Gaokao

June 10th, 2008 36 comments

As many might know, this weekend was the 3-day university admissions test (gaokao). For decades, all Chinese children have studied for this test as if their life depended on it… and for decades, it really did. For those living in a culture that has long treasured the value of academic study, and a country with a planned economy, receiving a university degree has meant literally everything. If we look back even further in history, ever since the Tang dynasty (700 AD), education has been the primary method for advancing yourself in society.

With the help of a post from Tianya (原贴, originally from Xinhua), here are the national essay topics used over the last 50 years. Read the questions and the years carefully enough, and you’ll get a hint of Chinese society as it has dramatically changed over the last 60 years:

1951: My work outside of the classroom; discuss advantages of increasing production and conservation.
1952: Remember a new person’s new event; throwing myself into the motherland’s embrace.
1953: Write about a revolutionary cadre you’re familiar with; remembering the person I’m most familiar with.
Read more…

Categories: education Tags:

Beijing considering a Speaker's Corner?

June 10th, 2008 13 comments

A report out of Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper suggests that as a form of political liberalization, Beijing is considering the establishment of a “petitioner’s district” zone in Beijing, a free speech zone similar to London’s famous Hyde Park. The intent is to manage possible public dissent during the Beijing Olympics. The report (文章, translation below) only mentions an anonymous source in Beijing, so take it with a bucket of salt.

For those not familiar with the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, it is by tradition an area where anyone can speak publicly on any subject at any time, without requiring government permit or approval. Perhaps someone more familiar with British politics can fill us in on details; Wikipedia mentions a previous attempt to block an Iraq War protest?
Read more…

Categories: News Tags: ,

Briefs on Tibet: Action and Reaction

June 7th, 2008 102 comments

Just as the earthquake shook China last month, the ground has also shifted under the Tibet issue. It seems the protests and counter-protests did not go into a black hole, but are having some effects on the media. But the exiles and their supporters aren’t ready to pass up on such a good chance in this Olympic year yet. They are elevating the profile of a different lama. Between now and the Olympics, we may also see more Tibetan disturbances should the talks not “work out”, as the Dalai Lama advised/threatened. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. Inside are a few articles in the recent news on these two cross-currents, action and reaction:
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Six Four: A simplistic view

June 5th, 2008 20 comments

This one-liner also comes from MITBBS.

In the end, it was simply a case of an immature government using immature suppression tactics against immature students. It could have been no big deal if rubber bullets and high pressure water canons were used instead of [the guns and tanks].

就是一个不成熟的政府对一些不成熟的学生动用了不成熟的手段进行镇压,要是换成橡皮子弹和高压水枪,估计屁事没有.

Categories: Letters Tags:

Six Four: 1989 and Falun Gong

June 5th, 2008 39 comments

This article is another one coming from MITBBS. Because the original post at MITBBS seems to have been edited into a truncated version, the full Chinese text is presented along with the translation.

To be honest, it seems out of place to discuss 6/4 and FLG together. But after seeing the “antics” of FLG followers in the last few years, I cannot help reflect on the way the government handled 6/4.

说实话,把六四和FLG放在一起似乎有些不合适,但近年来F LG在全球范围内的“表现”不由得引发了我对当年政府处理“六四”的方式作一点思考。

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Categories: Letters Tags: ,

Six Four: The early morning bus

June 4th, 2008 No comments

This poem comes from a different forum, WanWei.  It’s written by a student remembering his escape from Six Four.

how I spent tens of hours on the edge of life and death, I was already
unable to remember clearly, but

the “pai-pai” sounds of the assault rifles I could remember;
the bright purple flames of fire from the assault rifles I could remember;

Read more…

Categories: Letters Tags:

Six Four: Remembering the victims of Six Four

June 4th, 2008 8 comments

This article comes from another self-professed moderate “middle” general. He views the government and the students in a negative way, but most of his criticisms are aimed at the government for the violent suppression.

Let’s take the recent topics of debate, one by one:

1. Why should we commemorate Six Four?

This was supposed to be the last topic, but after finishing I decided to move it to the beginning. I want to use this article to memorialize all of the students, average city folk, and soldiers who died 19 years ago. They are all innocent, and there were no Six Four winners.

Read more…

Categories: Letters Tags:

Six Four: Glad the student movement didn't succeed

June 4th, 2008 115 comments

This article comes from a self-described moderate who wasn’t old enough to participate in the Six Four movement. Instead, he’s one of many of his generation who is “glad” the student movement didn’t succeed. Some “old generals” of the movement might refer to him derogatorily as “young” and “immature”… but keep in mind, this man is now in his mid-30s, and has lived in the United States for 10 years. It can be argued he represents the mainstream opinion.

I went to university in 1991; I’m not an old general or a young general.

1. Even as early as 1992, my opinion was that the Six Four student movement should not have been allowed to succeed. Primarily because of a comparison against the Soviet Union.

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Categories: Letters Tags: ,

Six Four: A shift in attitudes

June 4th, 2008 48 comments

After translating numerous other perspectives, here is my take.

It’s hard to say what a “moderate” position on Six Four should be. In the early days and years after Six Four, it’s no exaggeration to say that the vast majority of Chinese were united in a single consensus: the students were heroes, and the government had behaved like fascists.

But as the years have moved on, as China’s economic and social development moved on from those early failed chaotic days… life has gone on, and attitudes have gradually shifted. I think this is perfectly understandable. Remember, the college students of 1989 are now approaching their 40s. This year’s entering class of university students were not even born during that fateful summer. The man who stood with Zhao Ziyang as he apologized to the fasting students on the square, now happens to be the beloved Premier of China.

Today, 19 years later, there’s a wide range of passionately held opinions. Many have argued that the goodness in today’s China would not exist if the student movement had succeeded; others argue the badness in today’s China would not exist if the government hadn’t suppressed the student movement. I can start by describing what the extreme positions are; these may be “extreme” in attitude, but it’s no exaggeration to say that many Chinese support each side. (Remember the “What kind of Chinese are you” quiz..?)

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Categories: Letters Tags:

Six Four: A Personal Memory

June 4th, 2008 6 comments

This woman participated in the Six Four protests as a young college girl. She will never forget her memories, including the terrible sights of violence and death. Fortunately, it has not marked her life or twisted her outlook. She has moved onto a successful career in government, eventually coming to the United States to study and work.

In 1989, I was studying at a university in Beijing. I personally experienced the marches, the fasting, and all of the important events on the square. I’m going to briefly talk about my background. Everything below is my personal experience.

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Categories: Letters Tags:

Six Four: The person I admire the most is myself

June 4th, 2008 36 comments

It is early June, and the minds of many Chinese again return to the tragic political upheaval of 1989. Over the next few days, we will translate a number of messages that tries to capture our conflicted feelings towards that violent summer.

This message also comes to us from MITBBS; the translation is below.

Of course, in the face of all those who died… whether students, city people, or People’s Liberation Army soldiers… I don’t dare claim to be superior.

I was always participating in the marches and protests, but I never lost my ability for independent thought. Although, I was still too young, and wasn’t very clear what I should’ve been considering… regardless I was there at the critical juncture. On the night of June 3rd, with the help of others I rescued two soldiers, and helped bring them to a safe spot.

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Categories: Letters Tags: ,

Six Four: A rational review of history

June 4th, 2008 13 comments

It is early June, and the minds of many Chinese again return to the tragic political upheaval of 1989. Over the next few days, we will translate a number of messages that tries to capture our conflicted feelings towards that violent summer. We especially welcome submissions from those with first-person memory of 1989.

This article comes to us from MITBBS, and represents just one of many personal opinions. Because of the great depth and well considered tone of this article, however, it has gathered great support (and of course criticism) from many other readers. I describe this opinion as the moderate view, embraced by many Chinese who have reviewed all of the historical material on this issue… without actually being personally involved.

During 6.4, I was in Beijing. I wasn’t an adult at the time, but I witnessed the entire process, and saw part of the actions of both the students and the government sides.

Read more…

Categories: Letters Tags:

Six Four: He Xin's 1990 speech at Beida

June 3rd, 2008 17 comments

It is early June, and the minds of many Chinese again return to the tragic political upheaval of 1989. Over the next few days, we will translate a number of messages that tries to capture our conflicted feelings towards that violent summer. We especially welcome submissions from those with first-person memory of 1989.

He Xin (何新) is a noted Chinese scholar from the ’80s, variously labeled as “neo-conservative” or “ultra-nationalist” by Western analysts. Before and after June of 1989, he was attacked from both the left and the right: the left accused him of fomenting a coup alongside the students, and the right attacked him for being a “running dog” of the Communist Party for opposing the protests.

Below is a translation of the speech he delivered to the 1990 graduating class at Beijing University. He was received in a very hostile way, but spoke candidly of the reasons why he opposed the Tiananmen protests. Everything from this transcript is interesting; keep in mind the timing of the speech, and the (hostile) reactions of the Beida crowd… it gives us a flavor of China during the late 80s. Nineteen years later, a significant number of young Chinese believe He Xin made excellent points about the protests.

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Categories: Letters Tags: , ,

Internet Lynch Mob gets their Fan

June 3rd, 2008 9 comments

Roland at ESWN gives us this excellent account of the Internet Lynch Mob again blindly rushing after a target… and sadly, this time, it’s gotten the wrong person.

Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) produced the official statement form the Mianzhu Communist Party Committee: “Comrade Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) has not been to Mianyang since May 12. She has not been to the May 1st Plaza of Mianyang. Mianyang and Mianzhu are not the same place. Comrade Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) and her family did not have any tents since May 12, so they could not be staying in one. Each night, Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) and her colleagues slept inside cars. Comrade Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) and her family have never owned a car. The Mianzhu city Communist Youth League car has license number Sichuan F70034. The Sichuan BD3732 license plate has been found to belong to Fan Xiaohua (范小华) of Jiangyou city who is not Mianzhu Communist Youth League secretary Fan Xiaohua (范晓华).

After Fan Xiaohua was involved in first stealing a disaster tent and second assaulting an old woman, arguably, he/she deserved some amount of public scorn. The problem with the Internet Lynch Mob is that it spreads rumors blindly. The Internet Lynch Mob has become judge, jury, executioner in one, and operates with little rational thought and discourse. I increasingly believe it’s becoming a scourage on modern Chinese society.

Roland provided a translation of part of a Southern Metropolis article on this. I’ll translate the rest; I completely agree with its sentiment:

Read more…

Categories: Analysis, News Tags: ,

China's forex reserves larger than those of G7 combined

June 3rd, 2008 11 comments

Today’s Xinhua article brings to our attention that China’s forex reserves have ballooned to $1.76 trillion as of the end of April. To put this number in perspective: it is about 15% of the US annual economic output.

Before people get carried away, allow me to explain what the forex reserves is not: it is definitely not the government’s money, so there is no sense in talking about the government spending it. It is also not some kind of surplus money sitting around with no purpose. The forex reserves is part of the collateral that backs RMB-denominated debt obligations of China, and that includes all Chinese money and government bonds.

According to this Xinhua article, which quotes AFP, which got its information from a “Chinese media source” (got it?), China’s forex reserves increased by $74.5 billion in the month of April, or $100 million per hour. (The article and all the English ones that copy it say $10 million, but they all did their math wrong!)

China’s (mainland) forex reserves is followed in size by Japan’s at $1 trillion, Russia’s at $548 billion, India’s at $316 billion, and Taiwan’s at $287 billion. Of course, only Japan is part of the G7 in this group, so it is an exercise for the reader to figure out how much the remaining 6 of the G7 have.

A large forex reserve gives currency stability and can be a defense of a country’s credit-worthiness. On the other hand, its rapid increase adds to the inflationary pressure in China. Besides trade surplus and foreign investments, nobody has a good idea for where all this extra money is coming from — from Chinese expats, perhaps? I know many of them have sent money back as the RMB rises something like 8% a year against the USD. (On a side note, isn’t it interesting that the shrill rhetoric of Congress to make China revalue the RMB or face punitive tariffs has all but vanished…)

Something to ponder, where is this all headed?

Grace Wang wins "Chinese Youth Human Rights Award"

June 2nd, 2008 101 comments

Grace Wang Qianyuan has apparently been awarded the 8th annual Chinese Youth Human Rights Award. This award is granted by a select group of dissidents (veterans of Tiananmen in 1989), and includes with it a “minimum $1000 cash award”.

Her acceptance letter firmly plants her in the corner of the dissidents, and dashes the insistence of some that she was a “moderate” voice. After all, she chose to end her acceptance letter with a quote from Patrick Henry’s famous speech:

There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable–and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come. It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!

I think it’s notable that she leaves out the last and most famous sentence from that speech: “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” I guess that’s one choice she isn’t quite ready to adopt.

Many of Grace Wang’s earliest critics described her as the next Chai Ling, a student dissident leader of the Tiananmen protests now widely pilloried and hated. The description now seems surprisingly accurate.

Categories: News Tags: ,

"Running Fan": The freedom to be selfish

June 2nd, 2008 38 comments

Here is how one of the most controversial Chinese blog posts in recent memory begins:

“I have been engulfed in sadness that I was not born in a country like the United States, a country which respects freedom, democracy, and human rights!  This is due to the pain I’ve suffered in the 10+ years since graduation, and it’s also due to the 17 years of pathetic education that I received before that.  I’ve repeatedly questioned God: why did you give me such a freedom, and truth loving soul, but then force me to be born in a dark, authoritarian China?  Why are you forcing such suffering upon me?”

These are the words of earthquake survivor Fan Meizhong (范美忠), a man who has also been given the moniker “Running Fan” (范跑跑).

Read more…

Categories: culture Tags: ,

"Communist-inspired" Chinese language teaching

June 2nd, 2008 13 comments

Many Chinese speak of “anti-China” sentiment being behind some of the criticism that China receives.  Many Western critics, in turn, argue that Chinese are being too sensitive.  Articles like this column published in the Vancouver Sun, however, will go to reinforcing the opinion of many Chinese that the West is still gripped by anti-China fervor.

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Categories: education Tags: ,

An open letter from a Chinese NBA fan

June 1st, 2008 38 comments

An open letter to NBA commissioner David Stern, and former Cleveland Cavalier Ira Newble.

Dear NBA commissioner David Stern, and Ira Newble of the Los Angeles Lakers:

As a long time fan of NBA basketball, I can tell you unabashedly: I love this game. I have followed the league since Michael Jordon’s first MVP season in 1988, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching NBA basketball in person in nine different arenas from coast to coast.

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Categories: Letters Tags: ,