Archive for July, 2008

Chinese Exceptionalism -义理和人情

Before switching from posting immature opinions on things I know unprofessionally to the work I do for a living for a few weeks, there are some thoughts I really want to get out of my chest. I hope these thoughts will help non-Chinese understand some puzzling phenomena in the Chinese social and political life.

1. My English translation of the key terms (义理, 人情, 隐忍) might be a bit off. Suggestions are welcome.
2. If you disagree, please trash, ridicule, tear it apart or ignore. Don’t worry about me committing suicide out of shame. Read more…

(Letter from Joel) Tianjin’s LaoBaiXing on the Olympics

July 20th, 2008 13 comments

(This is excerpted from: Tianjin’s “Old Hundred Names” on the Olympics)

Here’s what some of our neighbours and others from our daily routines in the city think about the Olympics. I asked them, “What do the Olympics means to Chinese people?” (奥运会对中国人有什么意义?) and “Why are they doing so much preparation?” (我听说中国为了奥运会作很多准备。为什么是这样?)

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How to greet properly in traditional Chinese style

July 19th, 2008 22 comments

On July 18th, Beijing released a set of official Olympic and Paralympic posters and graphics. A sharp eyed reader quickly pointed out a mistake in one of the smiling face photos:

Read more…

Categories: culture Tags: ,

Senior judges discuss "human search engine"

July 19th, 2008 5 comments

As the Internet has gained in influence in China, the “human search engine” and “internet mob” has also made itself increasingly known.  We’ve discussed several such stories here, including the case of Wang Qianyuan.  In the past, some unknown government bureau might have simply issued an edict banning this behavior… but in a hopeful sign of the maturing legal system in China, senior judges are discussing how to deal with a lawsuit related to one such incident.

ESWN provides background on the case of Jiang Yan, and her husband Wang Fei.  Jiang Yan committed suicide in the last few days of 2007, and that’s where the story begins.  The full story of her husband’s affair and cruelty was described on numerous internet sites by Jiang Yan’s sister and friends.  The human search engine and internet mob went into action, harassing Wang Fei and family at work and at home. 

Rather than just disappearing, Wang Fei has filed a lawsuit against three Internet sites and one of Jiang Yan’s friends.  I’m not going to get into the titillating details, but here’s an update from the China Youth Daily on the lawsuit (连接):

This reporter has learned that after the third hearing on the “first human search engine case”, the Beijing Chaoyang District Court has called a conference of senior judges.  54 senior judges have begun heated discussions on the topic.

Read more…

Categories: News Tags: , , ,

(Letter from oldson) “China is such a threat to the U.S”??

July 19th, 2008 8 comments

I was having an online discussion with a business associate about U.S. export controls. She made the following statement:

“China is such a threat to the U.S…we must be extremely careful of what they get their hands on…China and other non U.S. friendly countries will do practically anything to steal our knowledge for our weapons and military equipment.”

Notwithstanding that she has certain valid points I was still offended. I responded:

“I must admit that I take offense at the prejudiced statement because not only is my family Chinese, Chinese foreign policy for 5,000 years has been one of nonintervention & nonaggression (with a few exceptions). I realize that China does not take a Western style proactive approach to certain “hot” international issues, yet China on the other hand doesn’t directly interfere with other countries through military intimidation & conflict. China, like many other countries, has its own way of doing things and just because it is not the American way does not make them a threat.

China definitely does pose a serious geopolitical challenge, but calling China a ‘non U.S. friendly country’ is cold war thinking and detrimental to building a harmonious international community. Just because an individual is an American doesn’t give that person the right to demonize other strong countries which do not cower before America’s violent foreign policy. The world would be a much better place if countries spent more time mutually controlling and sharing technology through recognized international bodies, rather than demonizing each other and creating a world of fear and hate.”

It just bothers me that people always demonize China as a rouge state without ethics or values. I fully understand that the CCP has its share of corruption and violation of human/civil rights. I understand that China is building up its military and engages in constant espionage. I also understand that China does not share many American values. For example, the American values of…

Foreign policy: forcing poor countries to accept democracy and capitalism through military invasion.
Politics: politicians waste their time fighting amongst each other and waste the people’s money. Chinese politicians do the same but without the media coverage.
Military: China’s military personnel are usually only deployed for disaster relief
Diet/Food: gradual obesity through over consumption of over processed unnatural foods.

I am having a hard time deciding where my exact values stand because I share both American and Chinese values. Am I wrong by taking such a stand? Due to the fact that my ancestors were on the Mayflower should I take a more patriotic stand? How do you draw the line between where your values/ideology stands with statements like above?

Carnegie Endowment calls for rethink on rising China

July 18th, 2008 67 comments

A report titled China’s Economic Rise—Fact and Fiction published earlier this month takes an optimistic view of China’s future prospects: “Beijing now seems likely to overcome potential stumbling blocks such as economic instability, pollution, inequality, corruption, and a slow pace of political reform.”

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The danger of categorically accusing others of prejudice

July 18th, 2008 65 comments

Tom Miller of the South China Morning Post has generated somewhat doubtful outrages with an article alleging Beijing ordered bars not to serve blacks. For now, however, Beijing Boyce seems to have seriously deflated the credibility of Tom Miller’s work. (H/T Danwei) Read more…

Why are most of the advertising models in China Caucasian?

July 18th, 2008 46 comments

This is a follow up to DJ’s post on the Official Chinese Olympic Fashion, but from a different angle. Instead of mutual respect between the host and guests, I have some introspective and soul-searching thoughts about the Chinese identity fantasy in the context of a global culture.
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Categories: Analysis, media Tags: , , , ,

Make guests feel at home and follow the customs of your host

July 18th, 2008 26 comments

There is a heated debate going on regarding the lack of Chinese characters on China’s official Olympics uniforms in contrast with those on German’s sportswear.

Personally, I see no point in not printing Chinese text on China’s official uniforms. But for this post, I will purposely play the role of a “CCP apologist” and try to put these things in positive terms. 😉 Besides, I will explain two frequently used Chinese phrases and hopefully cast some light on a particular aspect of the Chinese culture.

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Is there xenophobia in China? If yes, what is it like?

July 17th, 2008 57 comments

Chinese people (like all people) have stereotypes about different groups. Within China, Northerners view those from the south as sneaky and lack sincerity. Southerners believe those from the north are lazy and unintelligent. Chinese stereotypes are held more strongly and more widely spread. The Chinese tend to over-generalize from a few individuals’ behaviors to the individuals’ group.

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Images from a mass incident in Huizhou

July 17th, 2008 62 comments

There appears to have been a clash involving riot police in Huizhou. I will provide these images and early hearsay reports, but I want to remind everyone: be careful with any unconfirmed reports. As the Weng’an riots proved, rumors are not only often wrong, they are also potentially very dangerous. As soon as we have credible media reports (and I expect that we will), I will make sure they are included in this story.

UPDATE: About 12 hours after this post first went up, the Chinese media is delivering the first official version of events, see here.  This version is different from the initial rumor in one specific detail: local police confirm the driver died, but insist it was in an accident.  Very similar to the Weng’an riots in that sense.  I trust we’ll see a thorough investigation from the province; Wang Yang, the party secretary for Guangdong, is known for his liberal take on government and politics.

Huizhou is a city in Guangdong province. The rumors (连接) tell us traffic police blocked a private minivan-bus, and asked for 100 RMB in toll. The driver refused to give any, and a confrontation followed, leading to the driver’s death. Rumors say local police offered private compensation to the victim’s family, but they refused and are demanding public investigation. Subsequently, a group from the driver’s home village in Hunan province, including alleged organized criminal gangs from Hunan, arrived in Huizhou. There are rumors of two police officers killed, in addition to the property damage seen below:

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Categories: News Tags: , , ,

Why the Beijing Olympics are already a success

July 17th, 2008 39 comments

Despite all of the predictions of doom and concern, I believe the Olympics are already a success.  The WSJ reports world and business leaders are crowding China’s red carpet in an unprecedented way:

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Categories: General, News Tags: ,

Another statistic

July 17th, 2008 8 comments

Anton Lee Wishik II wrote about an interesting statistic while discussing polling in China: Read more…

I know China has a lot of good food, but …

July 17th, 2008 7 comments

Tim Johnson dished out an interesting statistic of Beijing’s preparation for English speaking Olympics visitors: Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Lee Kuan Yew lashes out at critical human rights groups

July 16th, 2008 78 comments

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore has never been shy in defending Singapore’s political system or his own legacy. During the recent Economic Society of Singapore’s annual dinner, Lee gave a stern rebuke to some human rights organizations that frequently picked on Singapore for not being a liberal democracy.

Mr. Lee charged such criticisms as “a conspiracy to do [Singapore] in” because Singapore was viewed a threat by those critics.

Explaining why these groups regarded Singapore as a threat, he said it was because they saw that the Russians and Chinese have been coming and studying Singapore’s success story and picking up pointers.

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Categories: News Tags: , ,

(Letter from oldson) Chinese and American Culture

July 16th, 2008 20 comments

Culture, Society and Business

The principles of business transactions are based on cultural values. To define culture we must first know where culture comes from. Culture comes from a mutual interaction between individuals, groups, subcultures and societies. Values, ideas and ideology are passed down from one generation to the next. Gradually over time they adapt to change and outside influences.

A more sociological technical definition of culture is as follows: “the total, generally organized way of life, including values, norms, institutions, and artifacts, that is passed on from generation to generation by learning alone”. Thus culture includes tangible and non-tangible things where are passed down through the years.

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Categories: culture Tags: ,

(Letter from deltaeco) The people´s republic of capitalism

July 16th, 2008 6 comments

This is an excerpt from Inside-Out China blog. Which again is an excerpt from Ted Kopple’s 4-hour documentary, “The People’s Republic of Capitalism.”
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Categories: media Tags: ,

Guiyang party secretary selection has a democratic flavor

July 16th, 2008 19 comments

Southwestern Guizhou province is again in the news, but this time for a good reason. Roland at ESWN translates a Xinhua article on China’s on-going experimentation with political reform as seen in the city of Guiyang. Guiyang is trying to appoint party secretaries to four districts and counties, and chose to do so in a more transparent, democratic way.

What exactly is the experiment? It’s not Western democracy, but it’s also not business as usual. A CCTV report (video below) explains the process:

  • 82 candidates were publicly nominated for the four positions; 81 of them passed the initial screening process.
  • a conference made up of “responsible figures” in the Guiyang city government, and Party representatives from different industries select five candidates for each position, 20 candidates in all.
  • these 20 candidates appeared at a public conference, widely broadcast via TV and internet, and were graded for their performance. The candidates gave speeches, debated, and answered questions posed by the public.
  • the 8 candidates (two per district) with the highest grades were selected to go on. The grading is broken down this way: “democratic nomination” (20%), “research report” (20%), “public speech and debate” (20%), “public opinion” (30%), “estimate of leadership capability” (10%).
  • the final selection between these two candidates per district is made by the local People’s Congress.

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Categories: News Tags: , ,

(Letter from Joel) Cultural differences: Let’s be brutally honest…

July 16th, 2008 59 comments

Let’s be brutally honest… it’ll be both funny and enlightening!

The reality of culture stress applies to any kind of foreigner anywhere, though obviously different people have different experiences. I have no doubt that Mainlanders in North America are just as easily annoyed by Western culture as Westerns living in China sometimes are by Chinese culture. I assume they could easily whip up a list based on their own experiences of how culturally annoying different things are, and provide lots of personal examples. In fact, that’s what I’m hoping some of our Chinese readers will do.

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"You are quite Americanized."

July 16th, 2008 67 comments

I am thinking about writing a piece on “searching for a Chinese identity”, not just at the individual level, but also at a collective cultural level. The heart of the controversies surrounding the Beijing Olympics is the building of a collective Chinese identity, who we are, what we stand for, how we present ourselves to the outside. There are a lot of confusions in this aspect.

Here is a case of individual experience with cultural identity for Chinese living in the West. After years living and working in the environment, you acquire the language, behavior structures and subtle mannerism of the people you work with, simply out of necessity. In my line of work, you can’t survive a week if the students do not understand what you are talking about; they tear you apart limb by limb. Many Chinese individuals in America have encountered this type of situation. Your acquaintance looks at you and gives you a compliment: “you are quite Americanized.” My reaction depends on the way he or she puts it. Most of my acquaintances deliver this compliment out of innocence. I just have a vacant feeling of irrelevance and let it pass. Once in a while someone gives me this compliment in a patronizing and condescending manner, awarding me an alien identity that is supposed to be better than my original. Then I am quite pissy about it. As a Chinese, how would you react if an American tells you that you are “quite Americanized”?

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Categories: culture Tags:

Mark of a gentleman – the calligraphy of Chinese leaders

July 16th, 2008 30 comments

Although some aspects of Chinese culture has been severely neglected and abused over the 20th century, other aspects remain eternal in Chinese society. One enduring trait is appreciation for traditional calligraphy.

While no Chinese political leader can point to penmanship as being the source of power, it’s no exaggeration to say cultivated writing attracts attention and admiration, while poor writing form invites suspicion and scorn. Here is a collection of calligraphy from notable Chinese leaders of the 20th (and now 21st) century, in chronological order:

Sun Zhongshan, founder of the Chinese republic (here with his earlier name, Sun Wen). “Everything for the public.”

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Categories: culture Tags: , ,

Chalk it up to the list of toxic exports from the U.S.

July 15th, 2008 31 comments

Rebecca MacKinnon concluded her blog entry on Chinese media control following the Weng’An riot with the following line:
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Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

The Chinese Olympic Journey

July 15th, 2008 45 comments

“We went out to swim in the big pond, but ended up finding ourselves. The ocean did not drawn us, just made us wiser and better”. This was a bit of sentimentality I shared with an undergraduate classmate who also came to the United States for graduate school and spent years trying to “make it” out here. The same sentiment parallels the Chinese experience with the Olympics in particular and their transactions with the world in general, since Deng Xiaoping opened the window on the world (allowing the flies to come in, along with some good stuff).

Two recent Western comments on the Chinese preparation for the Beijing Olympics caught my eye. 1. According to James Fallows, the Chinese authorities’ tightening of control over the situation was defeating their own purpose of impressing their audience – the West, especially its media. 2. Meanwhile, Richard Spencer at the Daily Times started to wonder aloud over his fish pond in his Hutong residence who the games’ intended audience really was. Could it be that the Olympics were designed as a reward for the hardworking Chinese, instead of a “coming out party” to entertain foreigners? My first reaction was Spencer had a more astute grasp on the Chinese psyche. Then I realized both comments could be right, but apply to different stages of the Chinese experience with the Olympics.
Read more…

Categories: Analysis Tags:

A freak of nature – the savior stone

July 15th, 2008 15 comments

I don’t really know what to say about this. So, I’ll just jump right to the pictures:

In 2002, this rock formation was found in Pintang county, in Guizhou province. This rock face is apparently one half of a larger boulder that split about 500 years ago. The local government began to insist that the formation, itself approximately 270 million years old, reads “Chinese Communist Party” (中国共产党). If you believe local press reports, local villagers have started calling the stone the “Savior’s Stone” (救星石). Conveniently, it has become a tourist destination in Guizhou province. (See promotional video.)

Ironically, it’s not the Communist Party or the mainland press that focuses on the “savior stone” these days. Even though Guizhou, also the site of the recent Weng’an riots, is one of the poorest, most backward regions in China… I think the mainland public is way too sophisticated for this kind of nonsense.

Instead, it’s the Falun Gong that finds the topic most interesting. Why? Because with completely seriousness, it insists the rock formation actually has another character to the right: “dies” (亡). See FLG-produced video for the full, comical story.

The art of PR: lying without technical falsehood

July 14th, 2008 38 comments

Reacting to reactions to a campaign that went too far, Amnesty International put the following disclaimer on its home page:

Amnesty International would like to make clear that it was not involved in the dissemination of a series of images that have been circulating on the web in relation to the Beijing Olympics. Amnesty International’s global website address is

The statement is not untrue per se. But some details were conveniently left out:

  • Amnesty International commissioned TBWA\Paris to produce those photos
  • It further granted permission to TBWA\Paris to run the ads once and enter them in the Cannes
  • The visuals were not final versions, and Amnesty International knew the wrong web address was a minor error

Try to view Amnesty International calmly (translated)

July 14th, 2008 170 comments

An advertising campaign commissioned by the human rights group Amnesty International has raised flames of anger throughout China. For previous discussions, see ESWN and Danwei.

Wall Street Journal has more details on the backlash, reporting:

Weeks before the Olympics put Beijing and the Games’ corporate backers on the world stage, an advertising heavyweight has stumbled over the divide between how some view China and how the nation views itself…. Word of the human-rights campaign is now spreading through China, and TBWA and Amnesty International are disavowing the ads.

Chinese bloggers, spurred by a report in state-run media of the Amnesty campaign last week, are now calling for a boycott of all TBWA ads, among other measures.

And many in China are indeed very angry. But there are other voices as well; below is a translated internet post from Xinmin Net: (原文):

Read more…

In Taiwan, DPP politicians get more familiar with the mainland

July 13th, 2008 25 comments

Tourists from mainland China aren’t the only ones taking advantage of direct cross-strait flights.  Taiwanese politicians from the DPP, known for its traditional insistence on Taiwanese independence, are also beginning to take trips to the mainland.  Yunlin county commissioner Su Zhifen, a member of the DPP, is leading a trade commission to Beijing. 

This article from the Southern Metropolis Daily (连接) gives us more.  Partial translation is below:

“I’m going to the mainland in my role as a county commissioner.  So, my perspective is anything that benefits the interests of the people in my county, then I will do it.  If I complicate my thoughts on this issue too much, then many things won’t get done.” 

Ma Yingjiu’s defeat of Xie Changting’s was critical in allowing the Mainland Affairs Commission to change policies towards the mainland.  On July 3rd, the law was revised relaxing restrictions on Taiwanese county commissioners and mayors visiting the mainland.  Su Zhifen will be the first DPP member to take advantage.  (Ed: KMT mayor of Taizhong, Jason Hu, has also been to Xiamen following this change in law.)

Today (July 12th), Yunlin county commissioner Su Zhifen will lead a delegation aboard a cross-strait weekend charter flight, headed to Beijing.  They are going to “find a route for Yunlin county’s farmers”, pushing quality agricultural products.  Su Zhifen will be the first DPP county or city head to visit the mainland since 2000.  Although this trip is based on economic needs, everyone has noticed the change in political path implied by the trip.

Read more…

Categories: culture, News Tags: , ,

Can smog be used as a smokescreen?

July 13th, 2008 41 comments

Claire Fox is rather perceptive in her blog entry “Beijing Olympics: China’s green critics should get a grip“: Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

Loongson Lives: Release of Linux PC with Chinese processor

July 11th, 2008 32 comments

One of the most controversial high-tech projects in Chinese history took a respectable step forward this month, with the commercial release of an actual shipping PC based on the Loongson 2F processor.

And here she is, the 1800 RMB ($262 USD, 167 Euro) Fuloong Mini computer:

Read more…

Ted Koppel on the People's Republic of Capitalism

July 10th, 2008 10 comments

Most Chinese and Sinophiles are probably already aware of this, but here’s a reminder that Discovery channel is broadcasting a 4-part series, hosted by Ted Koppel, on the People’s Republic of Capitalism. (Part 2 will be broadcast tonight, Thursday July 10th.) The general consensus (from both Chinese and overseas viewers) seems to be: interesting, reasonably well-done, but not especially shocking or ground-breaking.

Courtesy of the Shanghaiist, here is Ted Koppel talking on Charlie Rose:

UPDATE: Courtesy of AC, here’s the full video of Ted Koppel on Charlie Rose. I believe his interview and comments are very interesting, probably better than the actual Discovery documentary itself.

Categories: media Tags: