Monthly Archives: July 2012

Why U.S. “Soft Power” Is Fake and Losing

A little while ago, U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton wrote a book about her understanding of “Smart Power”, which in a nutshell is the new way of U.S. foreign policy of “balancing” Hard powers with “Soft powers”.

Much of the US switch toward “soft powers” is being discussed in recent Obama years.  But as more of it is exposed to actual PRACTICE, US (and Western) “soft powers” is looking more and more like the Hard powers that they are supposed to balance, and thus some thing of a forgery and pretense are being exposed, and less credibility and “influence” will surely follow. Continue reading Why U.S. “Soft Power” Is Fake and Losing

Ye Shiwen, the 16 year old dreamy girl superstar, and the ugly world

As a sports enthusiast, I follow a lot of less known athletes, of which some eventually became superstars, but far more just faded.  A superstar example was Liu Xiang.  I started following him in 2002 after he clocked 13.12” at age 19.  It takes knowledge and experience to link up 13.12” and 19, and figure out the potentiality – or quite frankly just a lot of time waste nurturing a hobby.

The first time I watched Ye Shiwen swimming in a live race on TV, was the 200 meter Individual Medley (IM) in the 2011 FINA World Championships held in Shanghai.  I had started following Ye Shiwen since 2010 but had never actually watched her swim.  In the 2010 Asian Games, she won 3 gold medals and ended the year ranking #1 in 200m IM, and #2 in 400m IM in the world.  2010 was in the middle of two Olympic Games, and sometimes the rankings don’t mean nearly as much as in an Olympic year – but she was only 14!
Continue reading Ye Shiwen, the 16 year old dreamy girl superstar, and the ugly world

The Tragicomedy of Errors: China, British Imperialism, and the Opium Wars

  Julia Lovell, in her new book The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China, finds something funny in the tragedy

Great Britain has many reasons to feel great about itself. Its empire was the largest in history and covered over a fifth of the world’s population. It had more Asian and African colonies than any other European power. It came, it saw, it divided, and it conquered. It raped and it reaped, gleefully slaughtered millions of people, joyfully massacred entire populations, regularly caused civil wars, flattened countless cities and towns, and destroyed whole civilizations and dynasties with pleasure. It sucked the life out of its colonies and reduced them to what we now call third-world nations. It drew and redrew boundaries and created whole new countries randomly on a whim. Most of the conflicts in the world today can be traced back to British Imperialism – the Kashmir issue and India-Pakistan rivalry, the Sino-Indian border dispute and India-China rivalry, the Tibet issue, the Israel-Palestine conflict, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Sudan – the list goes on.

Yes – Great Britain had reason to feel greatly proud about itself. It had the largest empire in the world. It had managed to keep it’s European competitors in check. There was no known threat to its global dominion. It seemed that Great Britain was destined to rule the world.

And then it all came tumbling down. Sometime in the past century, the great Island Story crumbled to pieces, and the empire followed. Slowly but surely, the empire on which “the sun never sets” went out like a cigar puff. Today it finds itself with as much geopolitical influence as an American missile base. Once great, Great Britain is now America’s top bitch – a tart of a nation that can be ordered to suck America’s coattails whenever required. The relationship between the two countries is much like that between a dog and its master, or as they call it in public, a “special relationship“. Continue reading The Tragicomedy of Errors: China, British Imperialism, and the Opium Wars

From Guiyang (贵阳) to Liupangshui (六盘水)

Few days ago, we traveled to Liupanshui by train via Guiyang. Knowing the region is mountainous (and poor), I knew the landscapes could be spectacular. Well, weather really didn’t cooperate much. Below are images I captured along the way. Hardcore landscape photographers will cringe at what I did, because I had to break every landscape photography rule in order to get these shots on a moving train; telephoto lens with high shutter speed. Continue reading From Guiyang (贵阳) to Liupangshui (六盘水)

The Shaolin Temple (少林寺)

The 1982 Jet Li movie, “Shaolin Temple,” was really something out of this world. As a boy, I was mesmorized by the feats of these kungfu monks. Never have I ever seen anything like it in my life. One of the scenes showed monks practicing the horse stance in a training hall in unison, with punches and feet pounding the brick floor, shouting out, “ha, haha” in rhythm. Where the monks held their stance, the brick floor gave and deformed into the ground. Dusts stirred at each strike. The monks were molding their bodies into instruments of force while nature gave way, more visibly from generations of monks pounding against it.

(Pictures I took within post below)

Continue reading The Shaolin Temple (少林寺)

Zhengzhou Street Market

The Yellow River flows through Henan Province, and this region is considered the cradle of Chinese civilization. Besides Luoyang, the province is home to a number of other ancient capitals of past dynasties. We were in Henan mainly to see the Shaolin Temple (which I plan to blog about later). Below are pictures I took while roaming a local street market in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital. Local street markets show a grittier side of China, one that is inhabited by the majority of the people today. Yes, there were little ones with slit pants roaming around which I have decided to not show. Mentally, the distance between what those creatures produced and what I ate were too short for comfort. Continue reading Zhengzhou Street Market

Aggressive Culture?

Interesting perspective from American University Professor Emilio Viano on CCTV America, explaining Colorado shooting violence has something to do with America being an aggressive culture. Tough call in my personal opinion in linkage to the Colorado shooting, but I do agree with Dr. Viano’s observation that America has a propensity to use violence in tackling problems. When such behavior is sustained for a long period of time, then by definition, it becomes culture.

My Reflections on Shanghai

I have now spent a week in Shanghai roaming around and mingling with friends, relatives, and locals. Lately, I have asked myself what were the most revealing this past week.  Looking at Luzhiazui’s seemingly endless number of artfully designed skyscrapers and noticing a sea of stylishly dressed Chinese pouring through Shanghai’s modern subway system, I can honestly say modernity has arrived.

That’s a great thing, because it says that China is inspired, and places like Shanghai serve as great role models for the rest of the country.
Continue reading My Reflections on Shanghai

Aspen Ideas Festival Debate between Eric X Li and Minxin Pei on “China and Democracy” (Video)

Aspen Institute has just released the debate between Eric X Li and Minxin Pei, moderated by James Fallows. See my earlier reaction to JJ Gould’s take (who was in the audience), when this video was still not yet available. Now that I have watched it, I think it is clear that Li trounced Minxin Pei. (JJ Gould clearly ignored many great points Li made; a reminder we should be getting our news more directly rather through journalists.) Li’s arguments were much more grounded in reality whereas Pei’s were – well, often times religious. Notice at the very end when Fallows polled the audience, more people changed their minds following the debate in siding with Li. People also applauded Li when he explained that a system must fit the country’s unique history, culture, and current circumstances. It was in response to whether China’s system is exportable. That particular question struck me once more that Americans tend to think in black and white terms; if you don’t follow my religion, you must be against my religion. Our world need not work in that dichotomy. Another person asked what China could teach America. Li essentially said, accept and tolerate other forms of government. By the way, being tolerant is very much what true democracy strives for, isn’t it?

It’s about family at the Shanghai Zoo

When at a zoo, what do you think is likely the more numerous? At the Shanghai Zoo today, I think children outnumbered animals. The place is massive, perhaps one of the largest zoos anywhere around the world. Rides and children activities are abound. While observing the kids, my thought was that they all should grow up to never see strife, at least not what their parents or grandparents have experienced. The tough lesson for the Chinese is to not let themselves become weak, because if they do, it is the plight of 1.4 billion people at stake. Below are pictures I took while at the zoo with my observations.

A boy having his picture taken by his friend. Many kids have their own compact digital cameras, an indication of difference between Shanghai and other tier 1 cities versus the rest of China in terms of affluence.
Continue reading It’s about family at the Shanghai Zoo

Mighty Gears Found Around Olympic Venues in London as Olympics Near

As DeWang busies himself shooting lilies and other flowers around Shanghai, I think people ought to check out some of the pictures of heavy duty military gears around Olympic Venues in London as Olympics Near.  Truly amazing stuffs!  However it’s not just the serious gears, but also the many precautions that have been taken – including the deployment of of an army in London that is bigger than the one Britain has in Afghanistan, the use of orders used to pre-emptively ban protests, the “total policing” of all Olympics and surrounding areas, the training of aggressive goons that double as security guards, etc.  I’m sure they are all necessary. The duty to defend humanity’s right to a Free, Happy, and Festive Olympics deserves nothing less…



Lotus and Water Lily from Shanghai People’s Park

Hello from Shanghai! My family arrived yesterday. We were expecting Shanghai to be hot and humid, but the recent rain has made the weather more pleasant. We had a moment to stroll through 人民公园 (People’s Park) this morning, and, to our pleasant surprise, were met with a pond where lotus and water lily are in full bloom! Rain drops are still clinging on to the flowers. We saw old Chinese folks exercising at the park. An old man with a Nikon film camera was happy to see me with my Canon 5D Mark 2. He kept asking me to try various shots – so he doesn’t have to go through his films as quickly. I was more than happy to oblige. The whole place is rather lush. It’s a contrast to the many high rises and other man-made stuff that crowd Shanghai.

Lotus in full bloom at Renmin Park (Shanghai)

Continue reading Lotus and Water Lily from Shanghai People’s Park

To the Victorian British Empire, Hong Kong was a ‘notch’

Every June 4th, the British press tries to indoctrinate the view that Hong Kong was a grand and benevolent design in “freedom and democracy” under threat from Mainland China. There was never such a design. As perspectivehere points out for us in the book, “Collaborative Colonial Power: The Making of the Hong Kong Chinese,” by Law Wing Sang, who teaches at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, the Victorian British Empire saw this territory very much as a ‘notch’ in a great oak. Below, he explains. Continue reading To the Victorian British Empire, Hong Kong was a ‘notch’

Fog entering San Francisco Bay at Golden Gate bridge

Often when returning from Asia, I will look out the window as the airplane descends into San Francisco. Invariably, I will see fogs entering the San Francisco Bay, some times completely engulfing the Golden Gate bridge. I have always wanted to make a time-lapsed video, so decided the fogs over the bridge would be a perfect subject. So, here it is, shot with my Canon 5D Mark 2 using the 16-35mm F/2.8L II lens. It was a beautiful day yesterday. Footage was taken from Hawk Hill, a vista point north-west to the bridge. Music is courtesy of Yoyo Ma, performing Bach’s cello suite #1’s, “Prelude.” Make sure to view it full screen at 1080p!

(Watch this on if the following is inaccessible.)

Fine line between journalism and activism

Yesterday I tweeted this Global Times article, “Do not foment youngsters to protest,” and to my surprise, I got a retweet response from Tom Lasseter, who is currently Beijing Bureau Chief for McClatchy Newspapers. Now, I can understand it is human nature to agree or disagree with truths. But, the central tenet to freedom of the press is to make sure there is balance in narratives. So, Lasseter tweets back with, “! RT,” telling his Twitter followers to ignore the Global Times article. What do you think? Is this crossing the line between journalism and activism? Some may argue he is simply expressing his opinion. Twitter is mass media isn’t it? [July 6:Updated per response from Lasseter] Continue reading Fine line between journalism and activism

Human Flight and Dreams

I am a fan of Devin Graham, who is all about positive energy in his videography. Below is a video he made of human in flight. When I think about the American dream, this is one of the things I have in mind: a rich society that accords its people all sorts of pursuits. When your society is not rich enough where you are on subsistence farming or working in the factory, you are much more limited to what you can pursue. Still, here is a toast to Devin Graham: for showing us the dreams, even $1/hr workers in China could dare dream in the coming decades. When you are poor, racists will tell you that you are a sick man with no dreams. So, work hard, crawl out of poverty, and dream big!

Open Forum

Our Open Forum has gotten to be a slow load for some of you. This is a new open forum thread. The previous one can be found here. Remember, this is an area where we welcome readers to give us feedbacks, tell us what they want to read, or to simply share off-beat thoughts with each other.

China modernizes, “Democracy” faith wavers

I am now anxious to watch the debate between Eric X Li and Minxin Pei at the recent Aspen Ideas Festival, where the topic was “China and Democracy.” Once the video is available, I’ll post. The debate was moderated by The Atlantics’ James Fallows, who actually admits himself here biased. So, perhaps the debate was 1 vs 1 where Pei having gotten a partial referee on his side. Interestingly, J.J. Gould, a deputy editor from the same paper, was in the audience and recounts some key arguments put forth by the three. Not having had access to the actual debate yet, I decided to weight in on Gould’s recount. For Americans, and Westerners in general, there is a great deal of anxiety when it comes to China modernizing. China’s rise challenges their notion that modernity must be predicated on “Democracy.” Actually, if you think about it, why must China’s success challenge that notion? The simple psychology there is, as Henry Kissinger recently observed in his book, “On China:” America (and the West which she leads) pursues her “values with missionary zeal.” They see China as not a “Democracy.” Hence the title of the debate is what it is, isn’t it? I wager there are many Westerners who are sincere in wishing for what the best is for Chinese society. However, much of the anxiety really stems from zeal and intolerance for any other way. In that light, I am countering Pei and Fallows’ assertions.

Continue reading China modernizes, “Democracy” faith wavers